The Earl's Folly
by Rana Eros

Written for the Yaoi Challenge Anonymous Fic Exchange under the pseudonym Compass Rose, for Vom Marlowe. I had a blast writing this story, and the headers, which I will now reproduce here.

Rating: Dear reader, were you to acquire this tale in a collection from a bookshop, I can assure you the proprietor would tie it up in a plain brown paper parcel and advise you not to undo the twine until such time as you reach the sanctity of your own home. As its author, I must urge you to have a care in who might be about as you peruse its pages.
Warnings: This tale contains descriptions of acts of the rough trade, including that peculiar deviance among men, pleasure in physical surrender through the binding of the limbs.
Author's Notes: Reader, be assured that, were it not for the unflagging courage and tender mercies of several worthy individuals, this tale would not now contain any coherence for the enjoyment of the learned. The nature of this publication compels me to withhold the names of these kind souls, but let it be known that I look upon them with all humble gratitude. What foibles you find in these pages are entirely my own doing, and thus it is I alone who should suffer your disapprobation should you find the tale lacking.

And now that our esteemed Admin has removed the mask of anonymity from each member of our circle, I may put forward the names of Eliza, Spring Green, and Phoebe Zeitgeist as deserving all praise for any measure of elegance to be found within this tale.

The summer after his young half-sister came to live with him, Earl Hargreaves had a folly erected in the gardens of his house in town. There were some who said the Earl had enough folly connected with his name, and thought themselves very clever, but they were always careful to say it discreetly, to those who did not share the Earl's confidence. For all the foolishness they wished to assign to him, the strength of his displeasure was demonstrable fact, and nobody wished to court it.

The folly in the Hargreaves garden was a tower of suitable medieval appearance, though nothing like the turrets of the Hargreaves ancestral home. It was rather larger than common for such constructions, but that was to be expected of the scion of such an eccentric family. There was room inside for a chamber at the base of the tower, large enough to hold a dining table for eight, should Miss Hargreaves wish to hold an intimate party. A stairway wound up and around the circular wall to a trapdoor that opened onto the roof, where Miss Hargreaves could look down on the gardens from behind the safety of a crenellated barrier, though the tower was not tall enough to let her see past the house, nor several of the trees marking the boundary of the property. The Earl had felt the view would suffer by including the grounds of his neighbors, over which he had no province, and so scaled the folly accordingly.

When construction was complete, the Earl took his sister, Merryweather, into the folly, with his man in attendance. Merryweather examined everything with minute attention. She disapproved of the darkness of the place, relieved only by arrow-slits placed high up the walls, and she only looked at her brother with pursed lips when he suggested the idea of dinner parties. The Earl was not known to entertain, and his sister had doubts about his willingness to host for her. Indeed, she was correct in this regard; rather than begin an argument about the point, however, she turned toward the twisting staircase and set her foot on the lowest step.

"Let's go up and see the gardens."

The Earl and his man had already seen the gardens, of course; they'd inspected and tested every part of the folly before Merryweather was allowed near it. Though the natural daughter of his hated father, Merryweather had become the light of the Earl's existence, and he would stop at nothing to protect her from all harm. Nor would his man, Riff, for that individual was so devoted to his employer that what the Earl loved, Riff of a surety took into his own heart, and though there were those would would whisper of a darker side to such loyalty, it could not be denied that there was no better servant in the town.

Thus it was that Riff stepped forward and said, "If you please, Miss Merryweather, I'll go ahead with the torch, so that you can see your way up."

"And I'll come up behind," the Earl stated, drawing Merryweather gently back so that Riff could pass her, reaching up to take down one of the torches from the wall. "So that if you slip, I'll catch you."

"I won't slip," Merryweather declared. "You worry about me too much. Who will catch you if you fall?"

It was a question that had concerned Riff when it occurred to him they would go up this way. Then, as now, the Earl produced a length of bright-colored silk and smiled. "We'll make a game of it. We'll tie this around all our waists, so none of us will fall."

"Or we all will," Merryweather pointed out practically, "but at least this way I'll be able to pull you up," and she consented to allowing the Earl and his man on either side of her, provided she could check all the knots before they proceeded. Riff tied them under her watchful eye, and though he felt the heat of the Earl's gaze upon sliding the silk around his employer's waist, he did not look up, lest he draw Merryweather's attention where it was best she remain innocent of any suspicions.

The silk tied to everyone's satisfaction, Riff led them up the stairs, moving at a carefully considered pace in order not to jerk the young miss off-balance. Merryweather was visibly impatient at his accommodation, but as she was almost as fond of him as her brother, she said nothing, and did not tread on the backs of his shoes. She did, however, reach back to take the Earl by the hand and tug him forward, as he was dawdling far too much for her taste. Doubtless he didn't want her to feel rushed, allowing her time to look around the tower from her new perch, but in truth Merryweather's only remaining interest in the structure was whether the view of the gardens would be worth the long climb to the top. The dark and chilly inner chamber held no charms for her.

For the Earl and his man, however, the chamber presented a number of intriguing possibilities, of the sort to make the neighbors' tongues wag, should the neighbors ever dare to conceive of them; for even those who thought most ill of the Earl scarcely could imagine how very far into damnation he and his man had fallen. Even the pretty silk, tied so securely around their waists as a means of protection, might be put to such uses as none but the most depraved dregs of society would own to recognizing the potential for in its subtle strength, but which both men had experienced directly. Indeed, the Earl had had his doubts that his sister would enjoy the tower he had built, but he was certain his man would understand and appreciate the opportunity he had taken on their behalf. It was, in fact, only the slight chance that Merryweather might take to the folly that had stayed his hand in ordering the tower outfitted for his own pursuits; as it was, Merryweather might yet provide the means whereby he could safely equip the place without rousing undue suspicion, and install himself and his man there for at least the night.

Further consideration of that line of thought would have to wait at least a little while, however; they had reached the top.

While the tower afforded no views of the neighbors' outdoor activities, it had nevertheless been built within exacting parameters that neither allowed the neighbors a sight of what took place upon its turret, and as such was an ideal spot for watching the sky, picking out cloud or star or flock of bird, as well as providing an excellent vista from which to appreciate the layout of the gardens in their entirety. Unfortunately, it was within moments that Merryweather discerned what she considered to be the main shortcoming of the design.

"I can't smell the flowers from up here, brother," she said, as Cain handed her up the short stepstool that had been installed to allow her to see over the battlements. "It's very pretty, but I much prefer to be among them if I'm outside."

It was as the Earl had expected, and while Riff had already spoken to the gardener on his behalf about bringing up urns of Merryweather's favorite flowers, he had wished to see her impression of the folly itself, nor did he wish her to feel pressed to make use of it. There was but one more suggestion to be made in preparation for his own immediate plans for the tower, and he and his man now shared a look that meant they were in perfect accord, subtler than that which might have occurred over the silk, but no less heated. Riff cleared his throat, turning away with deliberation. They were not yet free of other obligations.

"Perhaps, Miss Merryweather," he suggested diffidently, "you would enjoy seeing the stars when it's too dark to enjoy the gardens?"

Merryweather's eyes lit; she liked the suggestion very much indeed, as both men had guessed she would. "Do you think they'll be very clear?"

"I'll spend the night out here to see," the Earl offered, helping her down from the stepstool. He smiled at her and added, "I can also determine if it might be warm enough in summer for a night or two sleeping out."

Merryweather clapped her hands, delighted with the idea, and caught her brother 'round the neck, and kissed his face. He submitted to these attentions readily enough, always craving the love and affection he'd lacked as a child, and it was only his man's stalwart nature that kept a most inappropriate smile off that worthy's face. Riff loved what he had of his master to himself, but he also loved that master enough to wish him all the joys of family that his very name had seemed to deny him for so long.

Still, when the Earl met his eyes once more over Merryweather's shoulder, it was not Riff who broke that gaze.

When Merryweather felt she had expressed her gratitude sufficiently, she allowed her brother to straighten, keeping tight hold of one of his hands, her eyes bright with the reflection of promised stars. The Earl's own eyes shone with a different gleam as they settled on his man again, and though Riff did not need to hear the words, Cain uttered them for formality's sake, "Riff, you'll attend me tonight."

"Of course, sir."

Having arranged everything to his satisfaction, the Earl led them inside to tea. He left it to his man to make arrangements for outfitting the folly for the night, and Riff took the opportunity to have a word with the Earl's head maid, who immediately set her girls to gathering a feather bed and cushions from around the house in order to construct a kind of nest on the folly's roof for his use. While a small bed could be conveyed up the stairs for Merryweather's use, one of a proper size for the Earl would likely not fit through the trapdoor; Riff did not think the Earl would mind such outfitting. Indeed, he suspected the Earl would delight in the exotic eccentricity of it. For himself, he only hoped they would be sufficiently removed from prying eyes and ears that their activities would not impact the Earl's already maligned reputation and Merryweather's chances at future happiness.

The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough, if perhaps too slowly for either man's taste. Still, Merryweather was transported by the possibility of sleeping under the stars, and her excitement was so engaging, her manner so charming, that while they both hungered for those moments when they would be alone, they did not begrudge a moment in her company. After tea, she had lessons to attend to, and the Earl took the opportunity to inspect his maids' handiwork. A few of his burlier gardeners had been pressed into service bringing up the featherbed, and the maids were only now placing cushions and bedclothes upon it, turning the turret into a regular boudoir. The Earl exchanged more silent glances with his man, and Riff had to find distraction as a vivid image arose before his mind's eye, of the Earl supine among the gold silks, green velvets, russet damasks and brocades. He was glad the Earl was not in the mood to linger, but nodded his head curtly and left the maids to continue setting the stage for an assignation of which they had not an inkling.

Merryweather was still abrim with anticipation at supper, and where she was usually inclined to press for a later evening spent in her brother's company, this night she wished dearly for him to be out testing her potential new aerie. Cain did not have to feign to indulge her, for his own eagerness had risen throughout the course of the evening, and now he was determined to have his desire. He bade Merryweather a good night and sweet dreams, once more submitting to her childish kisses and innocent embrace, before remanding her into the care of the nurse he had engaged on her behalf, and commanding his man to be certain all was in readiness for his ascent of the folly that night.

Riff obeyed with alacrity, climbing the steps at a rate that would have alarmed Merryweather if she'd seen it, and flattered the Earl. He'd unearthed an old-fashioned brazier, likely collected by the Earl's late grandfather, and now set to stoking a small blaze in it, for while the summer night was not chill, he had concern for the Earl's health, given what they would do here and the Earl's fondness for shedding every stitch.

While he waited for the Earl to emerge from the house, Riff reflected upon his alarming need for these assignations, for while the Earl was free to display his mastery of his man in company, it was only at these times that Riff could feel free to indulge in his wish to possess Cain. That Cain submitted to his whims so willingly only seemed to strengthen them, and Riff thought someday the Earl might have to refuse him, as a means to help him keep his discipline and not compromise the family, for that outcome would utterly destroy him, so attached was he to both Hargreaves progeny.

At the sound of the great tower door banging shut below, he came back to himself with a start. He had allowed his attention to wander, and missed the sight of Cain exiting the house. Quickly, he made certain the fire was still burning and that the pillows and cushions were plumped in anticipation of the precious body soon to grace them; satisfying himself that all was in readiness, he lifted the trapdoor just in time to allow the Earl through.

Cain smiled at him from behind a candle's flickering flame, then murmured, "I apologize for keeping you so long."

Riff waited until after Cain had blown out the candle to reach for him; Cain came readily into his arms, pressing tight against his body, then growing pliable, allowing Riff to move him as he wished. This was what they both craved, Cain's surrender to his servant, the sweet illicit thrill of their roles reversed. Riff revelled in it, but he could not turn aside his trained servant's attention to his master's unspoken needs; nor did he wish to. While this was his realm by mutual agreement and need, his desire was to overwhelm Cain with pleasure rather than pain, to sate Cain's deepest carnal hunger.

"Command me," Cain said, stretching up to press soft lips against his throat. "Use me as you wish. Riff--"

Riff turned his head to catch Cain's mouth with his own, silencing the voice that undid him so easily. Cain's mouth was sweet, flavored with peppermint and anise, and opened readily to Riff's tongue. Cain made a sound, pleased at the invasion, and Riff growled in response. Already his hands were busy pushing Cain's overcoat from his shoulders, difficult as it was to release Cain long enough for such a task. When it was done, he drew Cain in again with one hand at the small of his back, the other busily undoing the buttons on the waistcoat he had done up only that morning. Cain had already shed his shoes somewhere along his route, so Riff took care in stepping forward as he worked, coaxing Cain back toward the waiting makeshift bed. He felt Cain's own hands knot in the front of his shirt, and broke the kiss long enough to order, roughly, "Undress me, Cain. I will have our flesh bare against each other."

"Yes," Cain groaned, and shrugged impatiently out of his waistcoat when Riff had undone the last button, intent on his task. He had to pause for a moment, though, and clamp his hands down on Riff's shoulders when Riff unknotted his cravat, drew it free, then bent down to push his shirt aside and suck at his throat. Cain arched into the bite, his mouth falling open as he panted to the stars. "Riff. My God."

Riff could feel the evidence of Cain's arousal pressed against his hip, and it made him growl again and yank a little too hard on one of the buttons on Cain's shirt. It came free in his hand, and he let it fall to the turret floor; he'd sew it back on himself tomorrow, lest one of the maids ask too many questions. For the moment, all that mattered was baring Cain to his touch, his kiss.

His eyes, as Cain stumbled against one of the cushions, and Riff let go of him so that he could fall onto the featherbed without Riff's weight to crush him. Cain fell, and immediately came up onto his elbows, licking his lips and spreading his legs.

"Riff," he whispered, voice throaty and wanton, "please."

With a groan, Riff went to his knees, crawling forward over Cain's body to claim that sinful mouth. Cain twined his arms around Riff's neck and lay back, bringing their bodies into full contact and rolling his hips. Riff's breath caught and his heart stuttered, liquid heat flowing from his groin to every nerve ending. He tasted Cain's low laughter, and decided retribution was warranted. So he reached up to Cain's hands and untangled them, pressing them against the featherbed and dragging his mouth down Cain's body, over the point of Cain's chin, licking at his Adam's apple, drawing an invisible line down to one flat nipple, then circling it with his tongue. Cain squirmed beneath him, attempting halfheartedly to free his hands, but Riff held firm as he continued his course, across Cain's chest to the other nipple, then down his torso in licks and bites, until finally reaching his navel. There Riff lingered, darting his tongue into that shadowed crevice as Cain came undone beneath him, begging in broken sentences for a thing he never managed to find the breath to name.

"Riff, please. Please, for the love of God, please--"

When the words began to lose coherence, Riff relented enough to release Cain's hands. He immediately set Cain at the disadvantage again, however, turning Cain over and stripping him of his shirt, unbuttoning trousers and gathering Cain's wrists into one hand before drawing him up onto his knees in order to pump his cock with the other hand. Then Riff touched his mouth to the most livid of Cain's scars, and Cain cried out, though not yet in his extremity.


Riff released Cain's wrists to press his hand to Cain's mouth, drawing Cain back onto his bent thighs and whispering into one perfect ear, "Must I gag you? We're outdoors, Cain, someone might hear."

Cain twisted, bringing his arms up behind him to clasp Riff's hair, turning his head to catch Riff's mouth with his own, then pant against his lips, "Gag me, if you wish. Ride me in front of them all. I don't care, Riff. I don't care, just don't ever leave me."

"You're talking nonsense," Riff said, making his voice stern. "I will never leave you. You gave yourself to me, and you are mine. I don't leave what's mine."


"Say it, Cain. Say you're mine."

"And then you'll gag me?" There was a dare in Cain's voice. Riff answered it by tearing Cain's hands from his hair and holding him by the wrists again, loosening his own hold on Cain's cock.

"And then I'll ride you. But only then, Cain."

Cain pressed back into Riff, naked back to Riff's bared torso, clothed bottom dragging across Riff's painfully-clothed manhood. "Are you sure you want to dare me so? Perhaps I can hold out longer than you can."

"Do you think so?" Riff breathed, mouth pressed once more to Cain's ear. He didn't wait for an answer, however, but mouthed the shell of that ear before abruptly pushing Cain down back onto elbows and knees, bent over his back and loosing his cock completely to reach for the length of silk Merryweather had earlier insisted they use to go up the stairs safely. He used it to bind Cain's hands, which Cain obligingly clasped in the attitude of prayer. It would be but a moment's work for Cain to win free, but that would be a signal to end all of their activities, and Riff knew Cain had no wish to end things. They were going exactly as Cain liked.

Though Riff would never dream of hurting Cain, still he felt the urge to at least shock him, and so he jerked Cain's trousers down to his knees and turned Cain onto his side, drawing the excess length of the silk down to drape over Cain's cock. One hand cupped very lightly to hold the silk in place, he reached under a cushion to draw out a jar of balm he'd secreted away when carrying up the brazier. He'd loosened the cap so that it came out easily, and a light scent of almonds rose up onto the night air.

Cain, of course, detected it immediately, and twisted his head back over his shoulder, trying to see. "What is that?"

Riff left the jar where it was to set his hand against the nape of Cain's neck, baring it for his mouth as he gently, teasingly stroked his fingers across the silk separating them from Cain's body. He used a feather touch in each case, for Cain was as sensitive in nape as cock. Cain gasped and bucked, trying to gain more stimulation to both areas. Riff had anticipated the move, however, and while he let Cain feel his tongue, he drew his hand away, gathering the silk as he went to create another tormentingly teasing sensation for Cain. It was Cain's turn to growl, stymied in his desire, and that sound caused Riff to set his teeth against the back of Cain's neck, nipping just below the downy hair. Cain groaned, and tried to press back against Riff once again, but Riff had anticipated that as well. He set his hand against Cain's shoulder, holding him in place and bending forward so that only his mouth touched Cain, only lips and tongue and teeth, returning to the scars that criss-crossed Cain's back. Cain could not feel anything directly over the scars, but Riff had discovered that the skin around them was all the more sensitive for the deadened areas, and had no qualms about exploiting that sensitivity for Cain's pleasure, letting Cain feel only the edges of his touch.

"Riff," Cain moaned, undulating in his attempts to better feel the stimulation Riff was providing at both front and back. "Only you can do this to me, Riff. You're the only one I trust."

It sounded like flattery, but Cain was fully aware of Riff's weakness to his voice, and though Riff knew himself vulnerable to Cain in every way, still his sense of fairness had kept him from gagging Cain as well as binding him. Clearly, Cain felt no shame in using that compassion to his advantage.

Riff retaliated by moving downward on Cain's back, cupping cock and balls both in silk and squeezing them rhythmically to distract Cain as he drew nearer that sweet, small entrance to Cain's body. He felt it when Cain realized his goal, stiffening against both hands and drawing in a single, startled breath. Riff allowed himself a small smile, then pressed his hand to the small of Cain's back and turned him facedown, into the cup of Riff's hand, and into position to press tongue to cleft and delve for the taste of him.

And now Cain unravelled completely beneath him, voice rising breathless into the air, Riff's name spoken as a curse, a prayer, a soul-deep plea. Riff answered them all, lifting Cain up so that he could press deeper still, bringing both hands down to stimulate Cain from the outside as well, but judging it carefully, very carefully, so that he didn't give Cain quite enough for release. Only when the timbre of Cain's voice changed, so that he sounded nearly on the verge of tears, did Riff pull away enough to kiss him just above the cleft, and say just loudly enough to reach Cain's ears, "Only I can do this to you, Cain. Whose are you?"

"Yours, Riff, yours. God, please, please let me feel you, please--"

"Hush, Cain. I'm here." Riff kissed that soft, sweet skin once more, freeing one hand to loose his own trousers and drag them down his thighs. He freed Cain of clothing entirely, then reached out to the jar and scooped balm up on two fingers, rubbing them with his thumb to soften and warm the almond-scented concoction. He straightened, pulling Cain up with him, until they were both on their knees. He had to release Cain's cock and brace him at the waist, for he swayed in an indication that he was reaching the end of his endurance.

Riff took pity and slid a single finger inside, unerringly finding the spot that would bring Cain to climax. He braced himself for a cry they might have to explain to the neighbors on the morrow, but Cain only sighed, a long, drawn-out breath as though expelling all the air in every part of his body, and spent himself against the silk still dangling between his thighs.

Riff very nearly drew things to a close at that, but his own body was primed, and he had promised; Cain would never forgive him if he broke that promise, even if the fulfillment caused Cain himself some discomfort. So Riff satisfied himself with moving deliberately, slowly, adding a second finger to open Cain with care, dropping more kisses onto the side of Cain's face as Cain's head dropped back against his shoulder. When he judged that he could enter with as little pain as possible, he withdrew his fingers, maneuvered Cain into position, and pressed up into him.

Cain's breath caught in Riff's ear, but he made no protest, only sighing again when Riff folded them both down so that Cain straddled his lap. Despite the desire to push up into Cain with wild abandon, Riff forced himself to keep to the slow pace, delaying his own release; it was a test of his control, but he felt it was worth it to have Cain draped against him, boneless and smiling, eyes closed, long dark lashes brushing moonlit cheeks with soft shadows. Riff reached up to brush his own hand against Cain's skin, pushing aside his forelock. Cain turned into the touch, and Riff drew his hand down the side of Cain's face, down his throat, down, down to where the flesh between his legs was stirring once more. The silk had dried away from Cain's skin, which allowed Riff to take Cain's cock into his naked hand, still slick and scented with balm. Cain's mouth fell open at the touch, and he stirred restlessly, his hips rocking as if to encourage Riff to press harder, faster. Riff did not succumb to the mute demand, nor did he give Cain enough leeway to push up into his fist. Rather, he kept the pace of hand and cock steady and slow, and Cain's skin grew feverish against him.

"Riff," Cain groaned, turning to press his face against the side of Riff's throat, and he startled Riff with a nip, just the threat of sharp teeth. "Riff, damn you--"

Riff turned his head, catching at Cain's mouth for a kiss as deep and fierce as he was otherwise refusing to be. Cain tried to prolong it, but Riff pulled away and said at his most harsh, "I could keep you like this all night, Cain. Don't test me."

With Cain's cock in his hand, he could feel how much Cain loved the threat, though he knew from experience it was only the threat and not the suggested course of action. In any case, he wasn't entirely certain he was being truthful, for he had never attempted to keep Cain at such a pitch for so long a time, and certainly not when he himself was so close.

"Would you keep me all night, Riff?" Cain's voice was only a husky whisper, but still Riff felt its power like a touch straight on every nerve ending. "We've never spent a whole night together, that's why I built this place. You can't leave me when we're done, Riff."

Riff drew in a sharp breath at the admission. He had suspected, but he'd never expected such confirmation. It demanded a gesture in reciprocation. He set his mouth once more to Cain's ear and breathed, "I told you I would never leave you. You can't escape me, Cain. You ensured that by building this place for us. For me. Don't think I won't use it, my love. Don't think I won't take you here whenever I can."

"Promise me--"

"I promise."

Cain arched hard, his back curving away from Riff, and he pressed his own hands to his mouth as he came once again. Only Riff was close enough to hear the choked cry, and he closed his eyes as it ended on the gasp of his name. Cain slumped against him, utterly spent, and then he felt a touch at his cheek, soft skin and silk. He opened his eyes once more to meet Cain's, and the love in them was so overwhelming, the light of them under the stars so beautiful, that Riff's breath caught once more, tears startling to his eyes at the swell of emotion in his own breast.

Then Cain's lips moved again, almost soundlessly. "Riff...."

Riff's hips jerked sharply of their own volition, and he bit down instinctively to keep from screaming himself, the taste of blood and Cain's name mingling on his tongue as he climaxed. The night unfurled endlessly around him, all its brightness drawn into the man in his arms, still watching him with the most beautiful eyes in all the world. In the end, he found it was he who had to turn away, burying his face in Cain's neck and shedding his tears, secretly, against Cain's skin. Cain had to know how he undid Riff, but Riff was too well-trained to willingly break down in full view of his employer, even if that employer was also his lover, his beloved.

There was another touch to his cheek, however, and he could not refuse that silent request. He allowed Cain to coax his head up with still-bound hands, drawing in a breath and succumbing to Cain's examination, unable to read Cain's expression for a moment. Then Cain drew his fingers beneath Riff's eye, and murmured, "Why do you hide from me in these moments? Don't you trust me with your tears?"

Riff tilted his head to kiss the tips of Cain's fingers, raising both hands to begin untying the silk. "I trust you with all of me, but it wouldn't be proper--"

Cain husked a disbelieving laugh. "Are you really concerned about what's proper, given our current circumstances?"

"I'm concerned that you know you may rely on me. These tears are a weakness--"

"These tears are a strength." Cain twisted and raised free hands to thread them through Riff's hair, to cup his face. "It's your strong heart that first drew me to you, Riff. I rely on it more than anything else."

"It's yours," Riff whispered, bending forward to press his forehead to Cain's. "I'm yours. Cain."

"Yes." Cain kissed him, still hungry for his affection, if not his attentions. "You are mine, as I will ever be yours. I swear it, Riff. I swear."

Riff felt he should be alarmed at the dark thrill of triumph that arose at that declaration, especially now that Cain had family again, but he was too drained to care for the moment. He could only say, "As I swear that I will ever be yours, and never leave you."

Cain smiled again, the dangerous, sharp smile for which he was known and feared. "Even though I've dragged you along in my folly?"

Riff schooled himself very sternly not to laugh at the pun, but rather to return, "I see no folly but that beneath us, sir, and we've established that it's mine."

Cain's eyes widened a little, perhaps because Riff had never before commingled his two roles in such a fashion, and again Riff felt some small triumph at surprising his eccentric master. But then Cain's eyes narrowed again and he said, "Speaking of that folly, what do you think of the view of the stars from up here? And do you think it warm enough for sleeping?"

"I believe the view of the stars to be excellent, sir," Riff said, not looking away from Cain's face, "but I'm uncertain as to the suitability of the sleeping accommodations. Perhaps we should test them?"

"Excellent suggestion, Riff."

Still, Cain seemed somehow dissatisfied; knowing instinctively what was needed, Riff placed both hands on Cain's hips and, just before lifting him free of Riff's own cock, growled, "It wasn't a suggestion, Cain."

Cain gasped a little at the separation, but he was smiling again, sleepy and satisfied, as he turned to lay down on his back. "No, of course it wasn't. Forgive me for misspeaking."

Riff jerked his boots off and slid free of his trousers, spooning up behind Cain and drawing the covers over them both. Under their warm weight, he placed a possessive hand on Cain's belly and drew him back until their bodies were aligned from shoulder to toe. Cain settled against him readily enough, only relaxing more when Riff answered, "Sleep, and I'll think on how you can make amends."

"I don't know if I'll be able to sleep for very long," Cain admitted, sly and breathless, and Riff allowed himself a smile, raising his hand to cover Cain's eyes.

"Try for as long as you can. I'll be here when you wake."

It was another promise, and Cain knew Riff kept all of them.


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