This is set a couple of months after On Wings of Song and was written for the 2015 Valentine’s Day LGBT Blog Hop.
“Penny for them,” Aiden Foster said softly. He threaded his fingers through Jochen’s hair, smiling when Jochen leaned into his touch.
Aiden sat on the floor, his back against the couch. Jochen had positioned himself between Aiden’s legs, his head resting on Aiden’s chest. He’d worried about it hurting Aiden’s injured leg, but Aiden had assured him it didn’t. His leg only protested if he put his weight on it for extended periods of time, and he enjoyed being close with Jochen like this.
“I wasn’t thinking that loudly,” Jochen Weber protested, “and keep doing that, although I’ll have to get up soon and put more wood on the fire.”
“The fire can die down a bit more before you have to move.” Aiden sighed contentedly. He loved the afternoons they spent together at Lavender Cottage. It was a safe haven for both of them—somewhere they could enjoy each other’s company properly without worrying about being caught. “Another couple of hours and I’ll need to catch the train back to London.”
Jochen sat up, and shuffled along so he was sitting next to Aiden. “What if you didn’t have to?”
Aiden frowned. “I have to go back to London, Jochen. It’s where I live. You know I can’t stay here.”
He often found himself thinking back to that day a few months ago at the Avery Theatre. Aiden had not only found his voice, but discovered that the feelings he’d had for Jochen were reciprocated.
Even so, they’d taken their relationship slowly. Some exploring and touching in front of the fire, and kissing of course. Aiden loved kissing Jochen. He tasted wonderful, his lips moist, and his scent—Aiden couldn’t describe it, but had decided it embodied everything he’d come to think of as this man he loved. Gentle, yet strong. Caring and passionate. Jochen had told Aiden that it was fine if Aiden preferred to take things slowly. He was content with what they had, and they had the rest of their lives for their relationship to grow into whatever they wanted it to be.
At least in private. No matter how they felt about each other, they’d never be able to be a couple anywhere else.
If someone caught them together like this, they’d both be thrown into prison, or worse. Any hint of more than friendship between them was not only dangerous, but illegal. No one suspected their true feelings for each other and that was the way it needed to stay.
Jochen kissed Aiden softly, and took his hand. When he spoke his German accent was stronger than usual—it grew thicker when he was emotional. “I want you to be the last person I see when I close my eyes at night, and the first I see in the morning. I’m not suggesting we tell anyone about our relationship.” He swallowed. “I might be an idiot at times, but I’m not crazy or suicidal.”
“You’re not an idiot, Jochen.” Aiden squeezed Jochen’s hand. “You’re one of the most intelligent men I’ve ever met, even if you are an incurable romantic at times. But I like that about you. I love it when you read poetry to me, even when it’s not in English. The sound of your voice carries me with it, like a pebble on the tide.”
“A wintertide,” Jochen said, referring to a Tennyson poem they both loved. It was apt, considering the thick snow outside. “It’s not my intention to suggest something you’d be uncomfortable with, but on days such as this, I do worry about you navigating the snow on your way home.”
“That’s very sweet, my love, but—”
“The cottage has a spare room. You’ve used it before on the odd occasion.” Jochen interrupted before Aiden could speak further. “It’s quite acceptable for two bachelors to move in together. You’ve often said that you can’t stay at Mrs. Hamilton’s forever.”
“It was only ever met to be temporary,” Aiden agreed. He’d lived there for over six years, but Mrs. Hamilton wouldn’t hear of him moving out he was ready to do so, and he’d never considered it until now. For so many years he’d clung to his routines like a life line. Being with Jochen had given him the courage—and desire—to finally start living again. Besides, she liked Jochen and had confided in Aiden that she was beginning to consider him as family. After all Jochen had no family of his own in England, so someone had to take care of him. “Wait a minute. You expect me to move into your spare room?”
“Ah, yes.” Jochen chuckled at the disbelief in Aiden’s voice. Aiden couldn’t tell if he was teasing or not. “Did you have something else in mind?”
“Are you asking me to share your bed?” Aiden asked quietly. Surely that was what Jochen meant? Or had he got it completely wrong? Oh hell. Heat rushed to his face. “I… that was what you meant, wasn’t it?” He tried to lighten his tone, but was too aware of the familiar hoarseness trying to edge its way back in. “I’d be happy in your spare room too. I….” He trailed off, mortified.
It was difficult enough having to leave at the end of each visit knowing he would have a lonely night ahead of him. Knowing Jochen was on the other side of the wall… He wasn’t sure he could do it.
“Yes, that was what I meant, and … you want to sleep in the spare room?” Jochen looked as horrified at the idea as Aiden felt. “Of course if that’s what you want, that’s fine,” he added although Aiden knew him well enough to know it wasn’t really.
“No,” Aiden said quickly. “I don’t want to sleep in the spare room.” He swallowed, wishing they’d made another pot of tea, as his throat felt suddenly as dry as sandpaper.
“Good.” Jochen sounded relieved. “But that’s what we’ll have to tell everyone of course. You’d have to keep your belongings there, so it looks lived in. Everyone in the village knows you love it here, and they keep asking when you’re coming to visit next, so I doubt they’ll be surprised that you’ve decided to stay. Mary at the pub says you have quite the colour in your cheeks now compared to the first time she met you.” He stopped to catch his breath, his babbling a sure sign he was nervous.
“You’ve been talking about me with Mary?”
“She’s been talking to me about you,” Jochen corrected. He grew silent, his attention taken by the waning flames of the fire in front of them. “I’ve found a home here at Lavender Cottage, Aiden, but it only really feels like it when we’re here together. I’ll keep you safe. I promise. I’d never put you in danger. I love you.”
“Yes,” Aiden said.
“Yes?” Jochen looked up at Aiden, puzzled. “Yes, what? Yes, you know I love you, or that I’ll keep you safe?”
Aiden smiled. “Yes, I know, but more than that, yes I’ll move in.” He linked their fingers together. “I wish we didn’t have to hide what we have, but as long as I don’t have to hide how I feel with you, that will be enough. I’ve spent so many years hiding, Jochen, not just from life but from myself. I don’t want to do it again. I need somewhere, someone with whom I can be myself. I need you, but more than that, I love you.”
“Stay with me tonight,” Jochen whispered. “I need that too.” He leaned into Aiden, their foreheads touching. “The snow’s getting heavy out there. We can telephone Mrs. Hamilton so she doesn’t worry.”
“You’re right, it is, and it would be foolish to venture out in it tonight,” Aiden said. “Come on, I’ll help you bring in more wood for the fire. It’s going to be a long night. I’m very much looking forward to it.”