Fortitude Part Three
“We’re going to sleep in there? It looks quite small.”
“It’s small apurpose. Our packs can only hold so much without weighing us down. Besides, it will keep us warm when the air chills at night.” I unlaced the top of my bag and pulled out a small brazier nestled into a fireproof box. “Care for some tea?” We’d had nothing but cold water in our flasks since that morning.
“Will. I need to use the necessary.”
“Now see, that’s a problem.” I snorted. I waved my hand at the trees around us. “Just pick any you like.”
Teddy blushed, but hurried over to a small sapling. He kept his back to me as he fumbled with his laces. I folded the sides of the brazier box down to form a nice stand. The handle straightened to a nice poker. I stirred the coals, feeding in twigs from around me on the ground, until I had a merry little blaze.
Soon our tea was steeping. I spread pungent, soft cheese across two hunks of bread and handed one to Teddy.
“Thank you.” Teddy uttered prayers over his meal. I bowed my head out of respect; I was not nearly so devout, so it sufficed that he said them.
“Do you think it will rain?” Teddy asked in a dreamy voice. He leaned back, staring up at the dark sky. “I can’t see the stars. Do you think they’re still up there, when the clouds hide them away?”
“Of course. The stars do not shine or fade based on the whims of the moisture in the air.” I poured the tea into small collapsible mugs. “Hold it by the handle, or the cup will collapse,” I warned him.
The soothing ritual of a quiet drink together in the evening took away some of the fear of the unknown. I enjoyed the fresh air—it’d been so long since I’d taken a breath not contaminated by coal smoke. “Time to set up a perimeter.” My father had designed the devices we set up in a circle around our tent and fire. Five of the flat cubes were enough, once we unfolded and snapped them together. I tapped the button on their tops, sending a beam of light from one side of a cube to a mirror on the next. It bounced off the angled surface, breaking the beam into multiple strands. Breaking the beams would trigger an alarm in the two boxes separated.
“Let’s take off our coats. We can fold them up for pillows.” I opened Teddy’s pack and pulled out the rolled up blanket. “We’ll share this.”
Teddy hemmed and hawed. We’d not slept in the same bed since we were boys, and he’d always been shy about putting on his night clothes. He stared up at the sky and then nervously around the small clearing.
“Are you afraid?” I asked him.
“Of course not,” he protested. “I’ve just never slept in a tent before.” Living in the city wasn’t conducive to outdoor explorations; it’d been nearly impossible to find an actual tent.
“It’ll be fine. Besides, it’s starting to sprinkle.” Small, cool drops began to smack down on the leaves and grass. One hit my forehead as I tilted my head back to see how the clouds had progressed. I wiped it away.
Teddy and I hadn’t been so close since the last time he’d stayed a fortnight while his little brother had arrived. That first morning we woke up touching. It was illicit, forbidden… and so tantalizing. I couldn’t understand why something that felt so good was considered wrong. It wasn’t like I planned to speak of it, but Teddy was too fearful of their secret coming to light.
Risk and reward. We had different ideas about that.
I knew Teddy didn’t really want to stop. If he did, I would have, but he just didn’t want to get caught. Well here we were, outside the city for the first time in our lives, and completely alone. And, however shy he acted, I’d always woke up with Teddy curled on me or around me.
To get him moving, I crawled into the tent first. I shuffled around, shucking my boots down at the corner of the tent. My gun and sword went across at my head where I could reach them if the perimeter alarms went off. I tucked my pillow made of my thick wool coat under my neck and rolled onto my side to make more room for Teddy to get in. “Come on.”
Teddy climbed in after me. He kneed me in the thigh as he scrambled on his hands and knees. “Careful, now.” I didn’t need a knee near my personal bits.
“Sorry.” A few grunts and squirms and then Teddy was on his side, facing away from me. His back was rigid and he kept space between us. That was going to get cold, later, if he didn’t fall asleep soon and relax.
It took some doing, but I got the blanket over us both. By the time we’d stopped moving around, rain was pelting steadily on the tent. I was glad I found it in time for our expedition.
I ruffled his hair. “Night, Teddy.”
Gradually Teddy’s breathing slowed. A sharp wind hit the tent. Teddy shivered. I put my hand on his shoulder, and he melted back into me. “Will, mmm,” he mumbled. He let out a cute little snore. I sighed and tucked my face against his shoulder, pulling the blanket up.
Outside the city walls, surrounded by strange trees and who knows what type of animals, I didn’t really expect to sleep well, but I did.
There wasn’t a speck of space between me and Teddy. He’d grabbed my arm and was holding it tight to his chest. It slowly rose and fell as he slept peacefully in my grasp.
This was what I’d been missing. This is why I’d asked for Teddy to come along.
Okay, who wants more of this story? Is Will sounding a little less cocky? Or would you still love to smack him? For more flash updates, follow the links below, and I'll be back next week with more!