"We could go inside, you know," Hal remarked. "There is no need to sleep out."
Alan laughed quietly into the darkness. "Strange. So many times we camped together, each longing for a warm room and a soft bed; and now..."
"Ay. One last time.... Well, good night."
Alan lay on his back, blinking up at the Midsummer stars, unable to sleep. He knew he should; Hal was right that they shouldn't be tired on their wedding day. And what a day it would be! His thoughts strayed willfully, however, like unruly geese, from Lysse and his unexpected crown. No matter how he tried to direct them, they turned inexorably to Hal.
Name of Aene, how he loved Hal! And, oh, how gloriously Hal loved him in return.
They had avoided, in unspoken accord, discussing the physical side of that love tonight. He fervently wished now that they hadn't. The touching they had done before retiring had been reassuring, but nothing they couldn't have done in a crowd. Tomorrow — today — it would be too late.
He remembered the first time they kissed as if it were moments ago and the first fumbling, awkwardly tender time they made love....
Alan sighed silently, trying to will away the desire burning in both his heart and his loins. It was probably too late when they had learned they were truly brothers, not just belledas, but he didn't care. 'All things are in the One,' Hal had whispered once, his breath hot against Alan's cheek. 'All things, even this.' If it wasn't wrong before they knew, how could it be wrong now? What could it hurt to have Hal's love that way one last time before they married?
Alfie whickered quietly, Arundel snorted a soft reply, and across the remaining embers of their fire, Hal shifted position.
"Hal?" Alan murmured, "Are you awake?"
When he and Lysse finally reached their understanding, Alan had felt like the broken pieces of his life fitted together again. Now, with Hal's lips on his own and their hands eagerly working to remove each other's clothing, he felt as if his life had never shattered, the joins smoothing away as if they had never been. Like Veran's balm, Hal's touch made him feel as if he'd never known sorrow.
From Hal's expression as they paused to breathe, he felt the same. Hal had needed no convincing to join Alan on his side of the fire. It took a matter of moments for Alan to rekindle the flames while Hal moved his blanket. "By the Lady, I have missed this!" Hal's voice was as warm as the firelight that gilded his skin to a honey-tone that made Alan's mouth water. "Missed you..."
They had little need for speech after that. Naked at last, they communicated with touch and simple sounds, attuned to each other's needs. Hal was fierce and passionate in this lovemaking, yet let Alan take the lead, as was their habit. Their love was not equal, Alan thought suddenly, half-drunk with kisses, his fingers roughly gripping Hal's shoulders, and Hal's hips thrusting upwards against his own. It never had been, not in the Forest, the stable loft of Celydon, or the dark fastness of Caer Indel.
His hands knew Hal's scars, how they had changed over the years. He knew the tastes and scents of Hal's body as he knew his own. He knew what roused Hal, what made his breath catch and his strong limbs tremble with passion, knew the meanings of every grunt and sigh and moan as they rushed headlong toward completion. But he didn't know how it would feel if—
"No, wait. I want to feel you inside me."
Hal's body stiffened against his and, with a startled cry, Hal climaxed against Alan's hip. Alan snorted a laugh, soon joined by Hal's rueful chuckle. "At least I know," Alan said, "that you like the idea."
Alan rummaged through his saddlebag until he found a pot of salve Rosemary had made for their dry chapped skin the winter they'd stayed at Celydon. He held it out to Hal with a grin. Hal grasped Alan's wrist instead of taking the pot, tugging him back down onto the blankets and directing him to sit astride his thighs. Alan went willingly, a hint nervous but unafraid; he trusted Hal above any soul alive.
The position they were in was a particular favorite of Alan's, had been since the first time Hal had ridden him thusly in Celydon's hayloft, and he hoped he would feel as amazing to Hal as Hal always did to him. Hal smiled up at him, his eyes slightly troubled and his hands hot and teasing on Alan's spread thighs. "Alan, you need not prove anything to me," Hal whispered.
Alan smiled back calmly, all his nervousness fading. "I know." He removed the salve's lid, scooping some of the oily substance out. He began to smooth it onto Hal's mostly-erect penis, mirroring actions Hal had performed for him many times before, with steady fingers.
Hal slicked his own fingers with the salve, and then pulled Alan down for a soft, lingering kiss, which they didn't break while they prepared each other.
"Are you still certain, Alan?" Hal ran his right hand down Alan's back, his fingers parting Alan's buttocks further as he thrust gently upward. Their left hands were linked between them in their accustomed grip of brotherhood, arms pressed together from wrist to elbow.
"Ay, very," Alan gasped, resting his forehead on their joined hands. "Do it, please!"
Hal's hand left Alan's buttock and there was an increase of pressure against him. Alan held his breath, trying to relax into the burning stretch as Hal pressed gently inside. "Slowly," Hal urged. "Sink down onto me. Breathe."
Alan did so, his hand tightening on Hal's as he lowered himself inch by inch until they were joined completely. There was no pain, just a burning fullness. He had never experienced a sensation quite like it before, as if Hal were filling his soul as well as his body. "Hal... Hal...," he panted, "it's wonderful."
"I've dreamt," Hal murmured huskily, "of sharing this with you, mir belledas." He ran his tongue across the scar inside Alan's wrist, not releasing his hand, an act that never failed to stir Alan's ardor to a higher pitch.
Alan moaned, meeting Hal's eyes. "Mireldeyn...."
"Elwyndas..." Hal freed Alan's hand and grasped his hips tightly instead. "Move, brother...."
Alan obeyed. He let Hal guide him, raising and lowering himself gingerly at first and then with more confidence. Before long, Hal's hips were thrusting up to meet him as his came down. Then Hal changed their angle slightly and Alan froze a moment, his heart stuttering as incredible bursts of pleasure raced along his spine, then ground against Hal seeking that sensation again.
Every time Hal brushed that spot inside of him, he was certain he would die from the ecstasy. It built as they rocked together, sweating and straining, their bodies moving as one. Then Hal wrapped his fingers around Alan's shaft.
Alan cried out, the added stimulus too much to bear; behind his closed eyelids, light as searing as the rising sun's dazzled him, and he climaxed while his brother did the same inside him — then knew no more.
"I should have let you do that long ago." Alan carded his fingers drowsily through the sparse hair sprinkling Hal's chest. "Instead of waiting until..." He yawned.
Hal's fingers tangled with his own. "Until?"
"Until this one last time," he admitted unwillingly, the pain of giving up such loving gripping his heart. As much as he loved her, there was no physical way he could think of for Lysse to give him the same sort of pleasure Hal had just given him.
Hal tensed and didn't reply for several seconds. "Last time? Why?"
The amused tone of Hal's voice surprised him; he had expected regret to match his own. The ache in his heart intensified. "I... Lysse and Rosemary... We — Hal, we mustn't!"
Hal released his hand and sat up. "Hush, brother." He smiled down at Alan, eyes sparkling. "They are our mendors, but we will always be Mireldeyn and Elwyndas. They know we love each other and how. And we must."
"But..." Alan felt he must look as astonished and confused as when they had first met.
Hal's fingers brushed the sweaty hair off Alan's temple, and he trailed them down Alan's cheek and to the pulse at Alan's throat. "I forget," he murmured, his voice still redolent with amused affection, "that you haven't read Dol Solden."
"You mean...?" Alan's voice trailed off as his heartache shifted to joy. Veran had prophesized their love generations earlier in the Book of Suns along with their kingship. No one could deny it. The truth of it shone in Hal's eyes.
"Ay," whispered Hal. "This is not an ending. We shall always be one."