Jonathan raised his head and inhaled deeply, breathing in the soothing
of night air in the desert. It felt good, a soothing surprise after the
heat of the day. He'd come to crave the feeling of cool air after a day in
the sand. He spread his arms, letting the coolness surround his limbs.
"You look happy." The rich voice behind him was filled with amusement.
"I am happy," he said, turning around to smile at his lover. "Need
"You timed that question with your usual skill. I have finished."
gestured toward the blankets laid out over the sand, the fire crackling
nearby and the horses hobbled some distance off. Their temporary camp was
completely laid out and ready.
"Each person has his own talent. It's not my fault that yours
get you out of work." Jonathan grinned as he walked toward the other man.
It felt like old times, now - they were going to sleep out under the stars
like they had when they first realized they were in love and had become
involved. They'd gotten caught up in the details of living life in the past
couple of months and while the love was always there, deep and unchanging,
they hadn't had much of an opportunity to focus on each other. This was the
night when they were going to change that.
Jonathan stepped onto the blankets and into Ardeth's arms and was
immediately struck with a sense of homecoming. This was where he belonged.
He tilted his head back and kissed his lover, chasing down the faint traces
of the taste of tea that lay hidden in the nooks and crannies of his mouth.
He kept his fingers busy, seeking out the ties that held Ardeth's clothing
Once he had the robes loosened, he began pushing them away from Ardeth's
body. "Remember how long it took me to get the hang of these?" he asked
with a laugh. "I thought I was never going to figure out how the bloody
"You were most determined," the dark-eyed man said. "I rather
"And what we did once I had you out of your clothes."
"Yes," Ardeth agreed, shrugging out of his robes so they pooled at his
leaving him in loose pants, upper body bare to the night sky.
Jonathan leaned down and pressed a kiss to Ardeth's chest, right over
heart. "You're handsome in the moonlight," he said quietly.
"And not in the sun?"
"In the sun, as well. But I see you in the sun all the time."
"How quickly familiarity breeds contempt," Ardeth teased. He began
unbuttoning Jonathan's shirt. "Since you now understand the workings of my
people's clothing, why do you still wear these garments?"
Jonathan looked down at his dusty opened shirt and trousers, clothing
for a desert outing; by English standards, anyway. "I have to uphold
certain traditions. I may have gone haring off into the desert like a
madman to live in thrall to a mysterious nomad savage-"
"Savage?" Ardeth asked mildly.
Jonathan didn't slow down for a moment. "-but I have to maintain
loyalty to my homeland. I'm can't start wearing heathen robes without
tarnishing the honor of England and I will not do that to the land of my
birth. My clothes stay." He shrugged out of his shirt.
"Stay?" The taller man stopped trying to unfasten his trousers.
well." He stepped away from Jonathan.
Narrowing his eyes, Jonathan hooked his fingers into Ardeth's waistband
jerked him closer. "I meant in general, as you well know."
Laughing quietly, Ardeth went back to work on Jonathan's pants.
Englishman returned the favor and a few minutes later they were both naked.
Jonathan shivered. It wasn't exactly cold out, but the difference between
the temperature now and the baking heat of the day was drastic enough that
he couldn't help it.
Warm hands closed on his shoulders and he allowed Ardeth to pull him
and walk him over to the fire. His lover was always warm, even during the
coldest nights and Jonathan unashamedly took advantage of that, cuddling
closer as they lay down together on the soft blankets.
"You are handsome in the firelight," Ardeth said. "Softer than
the sun, but
it still turns you to gold."
"I wish," Jonathan said. "Just think of how much I'd be worth!"
"Would you then steal yourself?"
"It would be difficult to fit myself in my own pocket, but I could-"
words were muffled as Ardeth's lips closed over his end, putting an end to
that flight of fancy.
Not that Jonathan was complaining. He was under the stars and
lover's arms. Who would have thought that he would prefer the night sky to
a tent? Ardeth had changed his life in so many ways with his love and
Jonathan had almost no regrets. He wished he could see Evie and Rick more
often, but he knew that they'd be dragging young Alex into the desert as
soon as he got a little older.
Regrets could wait. He had his lover in his arms, a fire beside
him and an
endless sky of stars turning overhead. He kissed Ardeth deeply, pushing at
his shoulders until the taller man rolled over and he could move to straddle
Ardeth smiled up at him. "You have plans?"
"Desires," Jonathan admitted. With one hand, he reached out and
line of tattoos on Ardeth's forehead, touching the skin with the lightest of
"Again?" Ardeth asked with mock weariness.
Jonathan smiled, but continued his tracing. "Did I ever tell you
hours I spent wondering where else on your body you might have tattoos? You
always wear so much clothing - who knew what treasures could be hidden
beneath those robes? I was fascinated by them."
"You still are, it seems." Ardeth tried to arch up into the light
his forehead. "You know where they all are now."
Yes, Jonathan knew now. He'd dedicated himself to memorizing those
He could read most of them, of course, but he'd begged his lover to tell
him their history and what they symbolized. He stored all that knowledge
away, treasuring it close to his heart because it told him about his lover's
life before they met.
Deciding to punish Ardeth for his impatience, Jonathan began to play
he'd started before with Ardeth but never finished. He continued tracing
the tattoo with his finger until he'd followed it to its end, then bent down
so he could begin again - this time with his tongue.
Beneath him, Ardeth cursed and grasped his thighs with big hands, squeezing
"Patience," Jonathan said, sending a hot gush of breath over the damp
He laughed as Ardeth shivered, then turned his attention to the markings on
his lover's right cheek. Again, he traced his finger over the design,
barely touching the skin but still aware of the heat that poured off the
other man. He bent down again and traced the marking with his tongue,
leaving a slick trail that he breathed on.
The next time he started laughing, Ardeth lunged upwards and caught
mouth in a kiss, sucking at his lips and tongue.
Jonathan gave in for a bit, tasting the want and need that fueled his
lover's actions. He would never get enough of Ardeth's mouth, never grow
tired of the sweet subtle friction of tongue over tongue, the surprising
scrape of teeth or the delicious brush of beard over his own clean-shaven
skin. It was hot and lovely...and it was distracting him from his purpose.
Breaking the kiss, Jonathan placed his hands on either side of Ardeth's
and turned it to the side, giving him access to the neglected tattoo on the
"Mmm?" He was busy licking; he couldn't give any other answer.
Ardeth reached up and grabbed Jonathan's wrists. "Enough.
You're making me
"Angry mad?" Jonathan rocked backwards, grinning at the erection
discovered waiting for him. "Or please get on with it so I can come mad?"
Ardeth scowled at him.
Jonathan leaned down and bit him gently on the tip of the nose.
scowl dissolved into a heated smile, he crowed with laughter. "I knew it."
"Drag this out much longer, and I could become angry mad."
Jonathan twisted his wrists about, turning the tables and catching Ardeth's
hands in his own. These hands had loved him and protected him, given him
pleasure, comforted him when he was ill and held him throughout long nights
together. "Could you now?" He released one of Ardeth's hands and
concentrated on the other, tracing his finger over the tattoos on the back
of his hand. "How much longer would be too longer?" He waited until Ardeth
opened his mouth to answer, and then began to use his tongue.
Ardeth sucked in a deep breath. His eyes glittered, but he said nothing.
As a reward, Jonathan lapped his way down the length of one of his fingers,
scraping his teeth over the tip before sucking the digit into his mouth.
Ardeth's other hand tightened on Jonathan's hip. "Love..."
Dragging the finger from his mouth, Jonathan asked, "Do you want me
"Don't even joke about it."
Jonathan brushed a kiss over the back of his knuckles and then released
hand, turning his attention to the other. Beginning with the tracing of
that tattoo, he set himself to worshiping that hand as well. He didn't
relent until he'd touched ever sword callous, until he'd treasured that hand
as he treasure the man it was a part of.
When he finished, Ardeth pulled him down for another kiss, then forcibly
shifted their bodies until their lengths were aligned and finally they could
thrust against each other.
Jonathan let him get away with it for a few moments, then grabbed him
shoulders and forced him to lay still. "I'm not finished." He ignored
Ardeth's strangled groan and picked up his lover's right arm. The
three-pronged design on the back of his hand was repeated again on his outer
arm and Jonathan traced over it with his finger and then his tongue. When
Ardeth relaxed a little, he scraped his teeth over the tattoo, just so he
could hear him hiss. Grinning to himself, he moved on to his upper arm,
where the design appeared yet again. This time, he settled for tracing it
with finger and tongue and moving on to the tattoo on his shoulder.
The squarish shape was deceptively complex and Jonathan didn't miss
detail. He made sure every part of the tattoo was touched and loved. When
he finished, he straightened up, wriggling a little as it shifted his cock
against Ardeth's. He waited for his lover to try to distract him again, but
Ardeth just shifted and offered up his other arm for Jonathan's touch.
"Such a good boy," Jonathan said. He repeated his journey up the
refusing to speed up the process. The fire and Ardeth's body were more than
enough to keep away the chill of the night air and the entire time of
darkness lay before them. Jonathan didn't intend to waste a moment of it.
Once he finished with Ardeth's arms, Jonathan braced his himself with
hand on Ardeth's shoulder and began tracing over the line of tattoos that
ran along the top of his pectorals. He teased each design with his fingers,
then bent down and repeated process with his tongue. When he finished, he
dipped his head quickly and placed a sucking kiss on Ardeth's nipple.
The other man cried out and arched upwards, hands closing convulsively
Jonathan's hair. "You!"
"Me," Jonathan agreed, gently pulling Ardeth's hands out of his hair.
not finished yet, you know."
Ardeth's eyes glittered in the moonlight. "I learned an interesting
"What would that be?"
"Payback is a bitch."
Jonathan laughed. "I'll take my chances." He bent down and
kissed him; he
couldn't resist. The sound of a vulgarity being spoken with that
accent...the effect was cuter than it was threatening, not that Jonathan
would tell him that.
He skated his hands down Ardeth's chest and stomach, smooth skin sliding
easily beneath his palms as he worked his way down. He slowly scooted
backwards, regretfully moving until he was kneeling between Ardeth's spread
legs. He bent his head and paused over Ardeth's needy erection. He stayed
there for a moment, breathing heavily over the leaking head.
"Jonathan, if you continue to tease me..."
"You'll what? Writhe about in an even more appealing manner?"
He blew a
cool stream of air over the head of Ardeth's erection. After his lover
jumped, he turned his attention to the three-pronged tattoo on his right
thigh. Longer than the one's on his arm, it took Jonathan more time to
finish tracing it out and scrape his teeth over the muscled skin. He
switched over to the other leg, rubbing the tense muscles even as he
lavished attention on that tattoo.
Finally finished, he rocked back onto his heels, admiring his handiwork.
Ardeth's skin was sheened with sweat and he was breathing deeply, his body
trembling with the effort to remain still. He was lovely in the flickering
firelight and Jonathan realized all over again how lucky he was. "Love you,
"I do know," Ardeth said, reaching out to touch Jonathan's cheek.
when you are attempting to tease me to death, I know and I love you in
Jonathan turned his head and kissed Ardeth's fingers. "Thank you."
his head and without warning laved his tongue over the head of Ardeth's
cock. His lover's gasp was music in his ears and he set himself to the task
of rewarding Ardeth for his patience. He slowly took more of his cock into
his mouth, bobbing his head slightly and flicking the underside of the hard
length with his tongue.
"Jonathan!" Ardeth's big hands slid into his hair, still gently
through their trembling.
Looking up, Jonathan took in the sight of his lover: his head
in pleasure, so the line of his throat was thrown into sharp relief, Ardeth
was panting, the muscled planes of his chest and belly rising and falling in
an enticing rhythm.
Unable to tease him any longer, Jonathan began to hum. Ardeth
shouting his to the stars. Jonathan swallowed steadily, not willing to give
up any part of Ardeth, needing to have it all for himself, within him.
Drawing back at last, he smoothed his hands over Ardeth's thighs in soothing
strokes, waiting for him to come down off the sensual high. He lapped
gently at the softened flesh, learning his lover's taste all over again. He
loved knowing that he was the one who could give him this pleasure, loved
that Ardeth chose him to relax and play and love with.
Strong hands clamped down on his shoulders and he was dragged upwards
Ardeth's mouth, which sought his with needy urgency. They exchanged long,
deep kisses, dreamy and wet. Jonathan humped against Ardeth's stomach, slow
thrusts that slowly brought him closer and closer to completion. Just as he
was finally getting there, Ardeth moved quickly, twisting and rolling so he
was on top of Jonathan.
"What's this?" Jonathan asked.
"I remember mentioning payback. Surely you have not forgotten?"
"I was distracted." Jonathan tried thrusting up against him.
Ardeth's gaze went soft and unfocused for a moment, then he shook his
and mock-glared down at Jonathan. "What were you humming?"
"I don't remember?"
Ardeth ducked his head and nipped at his throat.
"Ah! It was 'Rule Britannia'." He tried mumbling, but Ardeth's
still caught the words.
Dark eyes stared down at him. "Payback," he said decisively.
Jonathan continued to protest as Ardeth shifted so that he was straddling
him, reversing their former positions. "It's a good song! It's full of
history and tradition and..." His voice trailed away as Ardeth picked up
his right hand. "What are you doing?"
"Have you ever considered adorning your body with tattoos?" Ardeth's
had changed. It was quieter, darker.
"Me? No. Tattoos were never really me." They were
too outlandish, too
wild. Jonathan wasn't the most staid of English gentlemen - hell, he was
just barely able to pass as a gentlemen. Tattoos belonged to the heathen
and the savage, not to the sophisticated explorer.
"Could you reconsider?"
"I hear they hurt."
"I could find a way to make them worth your while."
"Them?" Jonathan swallowed hard. "As in more than one?"
"Not here, of course," Ardeth said, caressing his fingers. "Marking
fingers, these hands, would draw too much attention to them and you couldn't
have that. It would interfere with some of your favorite activities." He
brushed a kiss over the back of Jonathan's fingers. His lips were soft and
the contrast with the facial hair that surrounded them sent a shiver through
"Not on my fingers," Jonathan agreed.
"And not on your arms, not here," Ardeth said, turning Jonathan's arm
could run his tongue across the sensitive skin there. "Same reason. Too
"You mean not enough," Jonathan said, trying to arch up against him
Ardeth's weight was too much for him and he was pinned, helpless and lacking
the strength or leverage to change that.
"Patience," Ardeth said in that same dark voice. He dragged his
the inside of Jonathan's arm, chuckling a little at the sound of his lover's
whimpered protests. He paused when he reached the outside of his shoulder.
"Here, though. This place has possibilities."
"For what? Driving me absolutely insane?"
"I have no sympathy for you." Ardeth ran his fingers over his
out patterns that drove the fire inside of Jonathan higher. "I would mark
"Mark me with what?"
"The symbol of my family."
Ardeth touched his own shoulder, brushing his fingers over the tattoo
"I know what that is," Jonathan said. He reached up and tangled
with Ardeth's, touching the warm skin again. He knew every millimeter of
each tattoo, could trace them with his eyes closed if he wanted. He knew
this symbol stood for Ardeth's family, was a marking that told the world who
he was and who he belonged with. "Why put it on me?"
"Because you are my family," Ardeth said simply. His eyes glittered.
"Because you are mine." He turned his face into Jonathan's arm and sucked
and bit at the patch of skin until it stung and Jonathan knew that it would
be marked in the morning.
"Bastard," Jonathan said. "Let me move!" He thought about
adding 'let me
come' but that would be begging and he wasn't at that point yet.
Although in another five minutes, he likely would be.
"Not until I am finished," Ardeth said firmly. He lapped at Jonathan's
stinging flesh for a moment, soft soothing laps that were over all too
quickly. He moved on to Jonathan's collarbone, laving the ridge of bone and
then moving down to his chest, just above his nipples. "Here," he murmured.
"What, more tattoos? Making sure that no matter what direction
from everyone knows I belong to you?"
"It is a good thought, but it isn't what I intend. I would also
line of tattoos here," he ran his finger across Jonathan's chest, "and
here," moving his finger on the other side.
"What would it say? Devastatingly handsome?"
Ardeth ducked his head down and bit his nipple lightly.
Jonathan yelped and subsided.
"I could put that there. I would prefer to put your duties."
Ardeth's tattoos named him as guardian of the sands. The title
translate well; Jonathan preferred the sound of it in Arabic, strong and
lovely on the tongue. "What would you call me? Spender of gold? Despoiler
of lost cities?"
"Facer of evil, perhaps. One who shows the way." Ardeth
rolled his thumb
over Jonathan's nipple, firm and maddening.
The blue-eyed man shook his head. He would never understand the
saw him. "You are mad."
"I am not." Ardeth reached up and framed his face with his hands.
never see yourself as truly as you should." He bent and kissed Jonathan's
face. "It is why I would mark you, so that your skin would bear the truth
of your actions for all to know, including yourself." He delved into
Jonathan's mouth, tongue searching and forceful, slick and hot against
Kissing his way down the line of his jaw, Ardeth paused at Jonathan's
"You are braver than you will admit to yourself," he said, breath hot
against sensitive flesh. "Smarter than you let on. You have a generous
spirit and an indomitable will and you are handsome enough that sometimes I
believe the sun shines especially for you, that it might try to make you its
own. But it can't. You are *mine* and part of me would like to mark you as
Jonathan shuddered under the onslaught of words. This wasn't just
was it just love. Ardeth was claiming him, declaring an intention not only
to have him but also to keep him. No one had ever wanted to keep him
before. He threaded his fingers through Ardeth's hair, clinging to the
coarse locks and using them to bring Ardeth's mouth back to his own.
"Yours?" he asked against the other man's lips.
"Mine. As I am yours." Ardeth kissed him. "For all time and beyond."
A big hand wrapped around his cock and Jonathan shouted his pleasure
his lover's mouth. He thrust up into the hand that welcomed him and taunted
him and drove him deeper and deeper into a haze of pleasure.
"Almost...Ardeth...love you!" He gasped as he came, shuddering but
surrounded by his lover's warm body, cradled in his embrace. He closed his
eyes and relaxed completely, wrung out by the teasing and the force of his
Ardeth shifted, rolling to the side. He still kept his arms around
Jonathan, moving him so that they remained entwined. He nuzzled Jonathan's
throat. "I love you."
"Mmm. Even when you're trying to kill me, I can feel that in your
He opened his eyes. "I'm glad you're one of the good guys. I'd hate to see
what you'd do if you were evil."
Ardeth pulled him closer and brushed his lips over the still-sensitive
on Jonathan's shoulder. "I was sincere. I would see you marked, bearing my
sign for all to see."
Jonathan opened his eyes and read truth in his lover's eyes. "You
mean that, don't you?" He raised his hand and tangled his fingers in
Ardeth's hair, pulling his mouth down for a long kiss. "Perhaps..."
Tattoos were still outlandish, but then, so was his love and thought of
bearing a visible sign of their connection on his skin was interesting,
"Perhaps is enough for now." Ardeth kissed him deeply. "Sleep?"
"Yes." Jonathan twisted until they were spooned together, his
Ardeth's front. "We're turning into old men."
His lover bit the nape of his neck gently. "Speak for yourself."
wrapped his arms around Jonathan and pulled him close. One of his hands
came to rest on Jonathan's shoulder, fingertips brushing over the lightly
abused skin where Ardeth wanted to place a tattoo.
Jonathan sighed contentedly. He was warm and surrounded by his
close in a possessive curl that spoke of love and wanting and caring. He
was happy and even out under the stars he was at home because he was in