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Not By Arrow But By Aim

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When the single stone point of the church ruins appears from the emerald foliage, Mickey knows he’s almost there. With each stride closer, the thick moss covering the crumbling stone becomes clearer, revealing the tattered feathered tail ends of arrows fired over the years.

Mickey pauses amongst a patch of Daylilies, stooping down to brush his fingers against the bright orange petals. Smiling, he plucks a single flower and tucks it into his satchel. He pulls a fresh arrow from his quiver, sliding its pliant body down the smooth belly of his [oak] bow until it rests against his knuckles wrapped around the intricately carved grip. He hooks the arrow onto the thin bowstring and pulls it back, rearing the weapon until the sharp [stone] head of the arrow points directly at the top of the old church archway.

When he fires, the arrow sails through the air with a sharp whistle before landing in the thick dark moss at the tip of the ruin with a dull thwack. Satisfied, he slings the bow across his back and continues eagerly towards the overgrown path through the arch.

No one ever goes any further than the church ruins. The surrounding villages have all heard the tales of dark twisted trees that grow tall and menacing, powered by the insidious magic that is said to run through their roots. There are countless stories of the witches that have supposedly called the deep forests their home since the first trees reached for daylight, terrible tales of glowing eyes and raging hands filled with spheres of destructive fire, men disappearing and reappearing days later carrying a horrifying curse that follows them back home, hexing all those they love.

These stories have kept this land free of hunters and foragers and explorers alike, all of them deterred by the stories from shaken villagers who knew someone who knew someone else who strayed too far never to return or be seen again.

Mickey first entered these forests near a decade ago as a desperate and broken teen, wanting to get lost and let the darkness of whatever lay beyond the ruins claim him. His village had nothing for him but bitter disappointment and an angry father he couldn’t stand to look at since marrying off his younger sister (and only friend) to the brother of the owner of the pub to pay off his debts, taking his beloved sister more than three day’s travel away.

In his desperation, he’d climbed a strong tall tree until the height made him queasy, perching on a thick branch with the intent of staying there until evil claimed him or he plummeted to the ground with exhaustion.

It was seconds later an arrow had ricocheted off the branch, the flimsy and poorly made projectile snapping against the strength of the old tree, followed by a disgruntled “Ahh fuck” from below.

Red hair, green eyes, the softest face and the most terrible aim. That’s what was waiting on the ground below him, and when he’d clambered down from his tree, Mickey’s life had never been the same again.

“Took you long enough.”

Mickey stops in his tracks, memories dissipating as a familiar voice breaks through his thoughts. He grins and turns, leather boots twisting in the dewy grass until he’s facing his beloved.

Ian leans smirking against a nearby tree, lace up cotton shirt stretching wonderfully across his broad shoulders and toned chest, a smattering of red hair peeking through the low neck as well as covering his sharp jaw that wasn’t there when Mickey last saw him some six months ago. His long sword hangs from his hip and his leather armour is slung loosely over his shoulder as he regards Mickey with a growing want that smoulders in those hypnotic green eyes.

Mickey’s spent every second of the last six months waiting for this moment, hoping and dreaming of this moment, scared that it may never come. He swallows thickly, resisting the urge to pinch his thigh on the off chance he’s dreaming again.

“Hi,” Mickey says softly, hands clammy at his sides.

Ian licks his lips and Mickey aches to be the one wetting them. He pushes himself away from the tree and takes a step towards Mickey with a gruff “C’mere.”

Mickey rushes forward as the tension snaps, colliding with Ian’s body after just a few steps in a heated kiss. Ian’s mouth opens to him immediately, tongue plundering the warm wet cave as Ian’s strong arms encase Mickey’s shoulders. Mickey clings to the front of Ian’s rough shirt, using the grip to pull their bodies tightly together. He feels Ian’s large hand cup the back of his head, melting their mouths as the kiss becomes more important than breathing; this is better than breathing, and Mickey needs it more. Ian’s lips are reviving him, bringing him back to life like his kisses have been doing for years.

Pulling back from the kiss with a slick noise, Ian keeps their faces close, long fingers deep in Mickey’s hair, their noses brushing softly as they grin childishly at one and other.

Mickey’s eyes flicker over Ian’s face, memorising every subtle change since he saw him last. “So, you survived your battle then?” Mickey says lightly, like he hasn’t been wrecked with worry for months, desperate for any scrap of news.

Ian closes his eyes and hums, sliding the tip of his nose along the bridge of Mickey’s. “My brother’s battle. Not my battle.”

“Your army. Your men.”

Ian rubs a thumb over Mickey’s bottom lip, eyes fluttering open as he pulls the plump lips apart. “The only man that belongs to me is standing right here.”

Mickey grins into the kiss he’s pulled into, devouring Ian’s mouth once more. As he tries to work a knee between Ian’s legs, their feet hook awkwardly, sending them both tumbling to the ground with a shriek of laughter. They land in the damp grass, Mickey’s knees either side of Ian’s hips, and waste no time in reclaiming their kiss.

“Fuck, I missed you,” Mickey breathes into Ian’s mouth, fingers pulling deftly at the buttons of Ian’s breeches. Before he can get them completely open, Ian grabs Mickey by the waist and flips them, Mickey landing on his back as Ian towers grinning over him. He lifts Mickey’s leg and starts pulling at his boot and sliding the now loose material of his trouser leg towards his knee.

“I missed these legs,” Ian murmurs, bringing his lips to the warm flesh as Mickey chuckles happily. The bristles of Ian’s short beard tickle along Mickey’s pale calf muscle, dragging roughly over the wet spots made from Ian’s kisses and sending delicious little zings all over Mickey’s body.

Mickey hooks his now bare foot around Ian’s side, capturing him between his legs. “They missed you too,” Mickey grins, wrapping both legs around Ian and tugging him down to kiss again.

The first time they make love that day is right there in the grass, pulling at each other’s clothes between breathless laughs and fevered kisses. Once naked, Ian pulls a vial of olive oil from his pile of clothes and pours it into his palm.

“The perks of wealth,” Mickey hums as he catches the familiar scent. “Lucky I fell for your noble birth ass.”

Ian smiles wickedly, smoothing the oil over his fingers for a few moments before gently sinking a single finger into Mickey, who immediately arches his back and groans.

When Ian finally slicks up his hard cock, Mickey’s thighs tighten around his sides in anticipation. His whole body tenses as Ian first thrusts inside, and for a moment the burn is wonderful until all discomfort melts into the ground beneath them. Ian’s body always knows just what to do to make Mickey’s vision blur, knows how to move in slow currents and rolling waves, crashing over Mickey again and again until it can’t possibly feel any better than this.

“Thought about this,” Ian grunts as he cups Mickey’s cheek firmly, thrusts becoming less and less coordinated. “Thought about your face,” he kisses Mickey’s forehead, his cheek, then slides his hand down Mickey’s arm until their fingers lace. “Your hands,” he presses their entwined hands into the grass as he fucks into Mickey with boundless energy. “Thought of nothing but you, Mickey.”

Mickey feels perfect. He feels held down and lifted up, vulnerable and safe and full, empty of thought and so utterly complete. He hooks his ankles at the base of Ian’s spine and lifts his ass off the ground so that Ian slides impossibly deeper.

It doesn’t take long after that. Ian’s already starting to come undone and he quickly wraps his fingers around Mickey’s leaking cock and strokes him until he’s shaking with the need for release.

“Kiss me,” Mickey demands and Ian complies instantly, kissing him through both their orgasms; Ian’s emptying into Mickey’s tight warmth and Mickey’s shooting over Ian’s fist and his own stomach in three thick spurts.

They kiss slows as the haze of sex gradually clears, and soon their noses are brushing feather light against each other as their eyes meet again.

“I love you,” Ian whispers, carding his fingers through Mickey’s dark and damp hair.

Mickey smiles warmly and reaches up to rub a thumb behind Ian’s ear. “I know,” he replies. “I love you too.”

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It’s a short walk to their destination, and after getting half dressed and gathering the rest of their belongings in bundles tucked securely under an arm, they walk hand in hand into the thickness of the forest.

It hadn’t taken them long in their adolescence to discover the stone cottage at the heart of the forest, and within those walls they’d discovered the true origins of all those perilous tales, as well as each other. Those had been the most exciting days of Mickey’s life, so comforting and revealing as the red haired boy showed him compassion, understanding and adventure.

When young Mickey and Ian first ventured into the abandoned cottage, amongst the cobwebs and decaying furniture, they’d found a book. A diary. An account of a fabulous life lived by three sisters, exiled from their village for suspected witchcraft. They’d built this cottage together and deviously set traps and played pranks on any villager who ventured too close, sending terrified people fleeing and the stories along with them. They’d spent many happy years here together, writing and researching, experimenting and expanding their minds and souls.

The sisters weren’t witches, they were just intelligent and as well as practical and amazing at stonework and carpentry.

The diary had ended not with an explanation on what had happened to the sisters, but with a message to whoever found it, to keep the stories alive and the cottage a secret place of refuge - and that’s exactly what the two boys did.

“After you, good Sir,” Ian smiles as he holds the door open, waving a hand towards the cottage in a dramatic flourish. Mickey slides by, jabbing his fingers into Ian’s side with a playful scowl as he passes. Ian winces and laughs and follows him inside.

The cottage has two floors, the first floor consisting of a cooking area, open fire with an iron pot and kettle, a table and three chairs and a dusty bare pantry. There’s a window with a wooden bench running beneath it, holding a broom and bowls, plates and goblets. Three of each. A narrow staircase leads to the second floor where an oak bed frame with worn down feet holds a thin, well repaired mattress and two feather pillows. There’s another bench and shelves lining the room as well as a fire pit beneath a pot which hangs from the ceiling.

The home has been a refuge for Ian and Mickey for many years, a labour of love they spent a whole summer repairing, and each time they enter it, no matter how long they’ve been away, it feels like the cottage welcomes them back.

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Mickey’s cutting up a loaf of bread and hunks of cheese when Ian drapes himself over Mickey’s back. “I missed you,” Mickey whispers as Ian wraps his arms around him from behind.

Ian smiles and nudges at the hair behind Mickey’s ear with his nose. “Mm, so you said.” He flattens his hands against Mickey’s stomach, dragging his shirt up his chest until the pale skin beneath is free to touch. Mickey lays a hand atop of Ian’s and squeezes softly. “Missed you too.”

When Ian’s hands start palming the soft flesh, Mickey chuckles and turns in Ian’s grip. “You need to eat.”

Ian leans forward and attaches his mouth to Mickey’s neck, teeth scraping over the warm skin. “Later,” he murmurs.

Later, your mouth will be busy,” Mickey smirks as he gently pushes Ian back. “Eat,” he instructs. “I brought ale too.”

They sit opposite one another at the small table, on the chairs they had repaired themselves years ago, eating and talking, telling tales of their lives over the last six months since Ian left for war. They laugh and reminisce until the words are all gone, then stare at each other as the excitement of their reunion begins to take them again.

Ian smiles gently, eyes casting down to the table as he shakes his head softly. “In all the places I’ve travelled to, I’ve never seen a face like yours.”

A whine escapes Mickey’s throat and as soon as it’s out he clambers onto the table, brushing bowls and breadcrumbs aside as he pushes himself into Ian’s lap, claiming his mouth in a biting kiss that’s full of purpose and promise.

Ian groans as Mickey claws at his face as if it will somehow further deepen the kiss, and reaches to grip at the firm globes of Mickey’s ass so he can lift him back onto the table. He quickly climbs on top of Mickey, refusing to give up the kiss as he settles between Mickey’s parted knees.

It’s a testament to their repair skills that the table survives their second round of love making, Mickey’s calves rubbing over Ian’s shoulders and hands gripping the table edge as Ian fucks slowly into his gasping lover.

After, when they’re dripping with sweat and their stomachs stained, they laugh breathlessly and feed each other the scraps of bread nearby with satisfied hums until their next kiss consumes them completely.

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“You’re going down, Army,” Mickey grins gleefully, widening his stance and shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he prepares his attack.

Ian grins wildly, boasting his skill by letting the handle of his wooden sword glide around his wrist and settle in his grip again. They pause to bow before circling each other, eyeing the other’s movements as they assess their next move.

They propel themselves forward at the same instance, swords meeting with a dull wooden clatter. After holding Ian’s gaze for a moment with playful amusement, Mickey ducks and swerves until he slips behind Ian gracefully.

“You’ve been practicing that,” Ian laughs as he turns back to face him.

Mickey grins. “Only for the last six months.” He rushes forward, mounting his next attack as he curves the dull blade around the tip of Ian’s sword in an attempt to disarm him. Ian spins out of the hold, looking momentarily surprised before his eyes glow with competitive arousal and instantly Mickey knows that now there’s no holds barred.

Ian’s been teaching Mickey how to sword fight for years in return for archery lessons. It was this initial trade off that began this whole affair, meeting whenever they could to practice and teach, until the day they found the cottage. In the years that followed they repaired the home together and made each other better fighters, better people, and taught each other more about themselves than anyone else had ever done before.

They continue to fight in the clearing surrounding the cottage, weaving and turning like an eloquent dance, thrusting their swords forward for any chance to gain the upper hand. Ian’s the better sword fighter, of course. He’d always displayed an exceptional talent since a young age, and being the second in command to his brother, the army general, Ian had fought in many battles despite only being in his twenties. But what Mickey lacks in experience, he makes up for with enthusiasm and vigor, and soon they’re both panting as the sun beats down on them.

In an expert move, Ian disarms Mickey, sending his sword skidding across the grass. Mickey rolls his eyes and drops his arms. “Guess I’m dead now.”

Ian smiles and shakes his head. “You’re small,” he begins and Mickey quickly scoffs.

“Kick a man when he’s down.”

“It’s an advantage,” Ian explains with a gentle sigh. “You need to catch them off guard and get close.” He strides over to Mickey, sword loose in his hand as he reaches out to grab Mickey’s waist and pull him close. “You know how to fight dirty, so go low and get close enough so you can see the whites of their eyes.”

Mickey blinks, breath feeling thick in his throat like always when he’s so close to Ian. “And then what?”

“Then you take your dagger and you drive it straight into their heart,” Ian says with purpose, grabbing Mickey’s fist and jamming it against the left of his chest.

Mickey exhales warm breath over Ian’s face. “I don’t know if I could.”

“You must,” Ian urges, eyes wide and worried. “If anything happened to you, Mickey, my heart couldn’t take that dagger.”

“And if anything happened to you? What would I do then?” Mickey asks quietly, well aware that soldiers rarely make it to retirement. He doesn’t wait for Ian to respond, not wanting to hear another talk about Ian’s duty to his family or the kingdoms. Instead Mickey pulls Ian into a kiss, hands framing his face as he tries to use his mouth to convey his desire for a life with Ian without having to use the words he’s said so many times before.

Ian drops the sword and coils his arms around Mickey, and though it’s only a fleeting victory, Mickey will take what he can get while he can.

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After fighting for a little while more, they head to the nearby springs to wash the dirt and sweat from their skin. When they’ve stripped each other down, they slip into the cool pool of water that collects in the bowl shape carved into the rock by centuries of falling water from the above streams. It’s not a sizable body of water by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s plenty big enough and deep enough for the two men to float side by side at its surface.

They lie against the rocks to dry off in the sun, Ian resting his head on Mickey’s chest whilst Mickey follows the droplets of water that run down his shoulder with his fingertips. It’s grounding, like they’re a part of the forest, and Mickey wishes that if they stayed here long enough they could very well become just that.

The late afternoon brings a chill that has them reluctantly redressing. They gather fresh fire wood on the walk back to the cottage so that the two of them can make dinner before sunset, and while Ian chops the vegetables Mickey brought, Mickey starts the fire beneath the cooking pot.

When the meal is ready, Mickey sets the table. He takes the third goblet and puts it in the centre of the table before placing the orange day lily he’d picked earlier inside it. Ian looks over from where he’s lighting thick candles in the corners of the room and smiles. “You and those orange flowers,” he says with a playful sigh.

“Fuck off,” Mickey replies with a crooked smirk.

They eat with their hands touching, fingertips linked loosely as they discuss repairs to the cottage and tomorrow’s foraging trip to find the sweet purple berries that only grow this time of year. They’ll stay here together for a few weeks, maybe even a month before Ian’s leave is over and he returns to his brother’s side, leaving Mickey to return from his ‘hunting trip’ to his fruitless life in his home village.

All Mickey can do right now is hold on and hope that one day, Ian’s duty will be done, and these perfect weeks can finally be their forever.

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Ian’s already lounging naked on the bed when Mickey gets back from beating the linens at the window. He tucks an arm behind his head and smiles up at Mickey, his toned biceps flexing beautifully in the candle light. The amber glow makes his skin look so warm and inviting, and Mickey can’t resist shedding his shirt and trousers and climbing on top, straddling Ian’s waist so they’re skin on skin. Ian shifts slightly, moving his hands to grab gently at Mickey’s thighs, his cocky smile fading as Mickey leans forward and plants a hand either side of Ian's head.

“Can I help you, good Sir?” Ian says softly, lips twitching as he tries not to smirk. Mickey lowers his head to Ian’s chest and licks a hot stripe over his left nipple. Ian gasps and digs his fingertips into Mickey’s thighs.

“No, but you can fuck me,” Mickey replies before capturing the nipple between his teeth and giving a sharp tug.

Ian happily complies, pulling himself up as Mickey shuffles back, raising himself on to his knees. They wrap their arms around one another and kiss long and slow until they’re both hard and rutting rhythmically against each other. Ian’s fingers work their way over the supple flesh of Mickey’s ass, slipping between his cheeks to prod at his hole. Mickey bites into the kiss, gripping Ian’s hair tight, tilting his head back until he can mouth down his throat as Ian opens him up with two searching fingers.

When Mickey is finally sliding down Ian’s cock, Ian wraps his arms beneath Mickey’s armpits to keep him close. Mickey sinks his fingers into Ian’s shoulders and, when he’s fully seated, licks his way back into Ian’s mouth.

They move together until they’re trembling, exhausted from their day and from holding each other up as Mickey rocks himself back and forth, dropping down from his knees every now and then when he wants Ian closer, deeper. His thighs are burning, muscles sore from their constant slow bouncing, and he starts to whine with the effort.

“You’re so perfect,” Ian praises, lips pressing to the hollow of Mickey’s throat, taking Mickey’s neglected cock in hand and pulling. “You feel so good, Mickey. Fuck, you feel better than victory.”

Mickey can’t argue. Nothing has ever given him this thrilling feeling of pure bliss, or even come close. His skin tingles, and even though the deep ache in his muscles pains him, nothing is able to dull the perfect fullness he feels being completely surrounded by Ian. He lets out a tired sob in the shape of his lover’s name as he comes, and as soon as he’s spent Ian lays Mickey gently onto the bed, disconnecting just for a moment until he can crawl on top of him, pull Mickey’s legs around his waist and thrust back inside. It only takes a few rolls of Ian’s hips until he too is coming undone. Mickey takes Ian’s face in his hands and kisses him through it, refusing to let Ian go until the candles burn out.

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Mickey wakes to Ian’s nose tucked into the nape of his neck. He smiles sleepily as Ian breathes him in, arm slung loosely over Mickey’s waist as he pulls him into the security of his embrace. The morning sunlight is warm on their shoulders, and Mickey knows that if there is a paradise waiting in the afterlife, waking up next to Ian would be his.

“How long have you been awake?” Mickey asks, reaching back to brush his fingers through Ian’s hair as Ian kisses along his ear.

“Since sunrise,” Ian replies, breath tickling Mickey’s skin.

Mickey turns his head to kiss at Ian’s chin. “Dreams again?” It’s a normal occurrence for nightmares to plague Ian’s sleep after a battle. Regardless of the outcome, there will be lives lost on both sides, and Ian often sees their twisted faces writhing in pain, begging for mercy.

“One or two.”

“You should have woke me,” Mickey says as he rolls onto his back. Ian cups his face and kisses him carefully.

“I like watching you sleep.”

“You saying you prefer me unconscious?” Mickey grins and Ian ponders for a long moment until Mickey slaps him on the chest. “Moron,” he mumbles.

Ian swoops down to kiss him, letting Mickey into his sleep warm mouth as he lowers his body gently over Mickey’s, letting his morning wood press into Mickey’s hip.

“Someone’s excited to greet the day,” Mickey laughs into the kiss.

“Mm, only when I wake up with you.”

Mickey places both hands on Ian’s lower back, parting his legs and letting Ian slip between them with a low groan. “You’d be unbearably happy if this were your everyday then.” Mickey’s trying to lift his tone, hoping he can keep it light without his desperation for it to be true seeping through his smile.

Ian searches Mickey’s eyes and Mickey knows it’s useless to try and mask himself. Ian knows him better than anyone, knows the corners of his soul like they know this house.

“Mickey,” Ian whispers, and Mickey prepares to heat the duty speech before they’ve even had their morning romp. “I am going to spend the rest of my life with you. You’re one of the most important things in my life, and when my brother doesn’t need me anymore, you’ll be the most important thing and we’ll live the most deliriously happy life together, right here in this cottage.”

Mickey swallows thickly. “Just not yet?”

Ian brushes their noses together before confirming “Not yet.”

When they make love that morning, it feels like a promise.

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