iesika: (chan)
[personal profile] iesika
Title: The Robin Wife
Characters: Bruce, Dick
Rating: This part pg-13 (non-explicit adult themes)
Summary: A lonely hermit's act of kindness earns him a devoted companion.
Notes: For au_bingo (prompt: Fantasy and Supernatural, Author's Choice). I went with animal bride folktale. This story was very much inspired by listening to The Decemberists Crane Wife, though it doesn't  follow the same plot as that Japanese folktale. Thanks as ever to [livejournal.com profile] kirax2  for reading it over for me, and to [livejournal.com profile] stalinglim  for reminding me this was in progress and needed to be finished, and to [livejournal.com profile] munnin_odanin  and her Latin-speaking-housemate for double-checking my use of the pluperfect <3.
Words: 1900

First part here.




When Bruce had lived alone in the big old manor house, every day had seemed to last an eternity. There were always repairs and maintenance to be done on the property, and in the evenings he'd kept his mind engaged, studying new texts and recording the day's minor events in his journal to keep his memory from bleeding away into monotone. There was the horse to care for, and the occasional hunt, and exercise to keep his body and mind strong.

Just a matter of days after Dick had come to stay with him, Bruce no longer knew how he'd managed to live alone for so long. There was something new and exciting to do every day - some new thing to teach and share, some game to play. He'd walked the same old halls every day for all of his life, but somehow, through Dick's eyes, they were new and interesting again. He noticed the cobwebs he'd been letting creep into the corners, the dust in rooms that, when he stopped to think about it, Bruce realized he hadn't ventured into in years.

There wasn't any gentling into it. From the moment he'd helped Dick up onto his horse, Bruce's life had changed startlingly and irrevocably. His empty house was full of laughter and motion, fires and candles lit long into the night.

Dick was bright and inquisitive, eager to learn and quick to master anything Bruce would take the time to explain. His penmanship was horrible, but he was taking to French and Latin. Within a few weeks, he could sit quietly at Bruce's feet in the evenings, working his way through the vast library as Bruce recorded each day's adventure.

Today they'd gone out in the pasture behind the house on one of their rambles, and Dick had found a pair of old apple trees more than half a mile from the house. He'd clambered up into the branches at once, and he was sitting, now, perched on a limb, tossing the fruits down one by one as Bruce quizzed him on Latin conjugation.

"What's the pluperfect even *for*?" Dick asked. He climbed a little higher into the tree and pulled an early apple from the limb. Most of the fruit wasn't even close to ripe yet, but there were a few, spread far apart, and Dick was determined to find them all. "I mean, when would you use it? Can't you just say 'ascendī in arborem?' Why's it got to be 'ascénderam'?"

Bruce caught the apple when Dick dropped it, and set it on the pile that was forming on top of Dick's discarded jacket. "It's used to indicate a past event occurring before another past event. You had climbed that tree before you threw the apple down."

"That's so confusing. A whole 'nother set of endings to remember... I want to learn Greek. Then I can read the Iliad myself, at night,  instead of waiting for you to finish with your papers and read it to me."

Bruce chuckled to himself and caught the next apple that fall. "If you think Latin is difficult..."

"I already know my letters!" Dick said, swinging down to land in a crouch on a branch a foot or two over Bruce's head, an apple in one hand. "I like the Greek stories better. All your Latin books are boring."

"You can start on Ovid tonight, then. You'll like him better. But only if you convince me you understand all your tenses."

"Ovid's more fun?"

Bruce did his best to keep from smiling, but the corners of his mouth tightened, anyway. "Achilles is in the Metamorphoses," he said, knowing the boy's weakness for heroic stories.

"Okay," Dick agreed. He sat down on the limb, his legs dangling, and took a bite of the apple. It was audibly crisp under his teeth. "Give me a sentence."

Bruce looked up at him, following the arc of his bare feet as they swung. He watched Dick take another bite of the golden fruit and get juice all over his face. "Solúeram solitudo donec ad mē venístī," he said slowly, careful to articulate clearly. There was a tight feeling in his stomach.

"Hm," Dick finished chewing. "'Solúeram', that's the pluperfect. 'I had been...um, oh, it's 'solēre'. I had been in the habit of-"

"Accustomed to," Bruce supplied.

"It's the same thing, right? 'I had been accustomed to...loneliness? Until you came to...oh." His voice went suddenly soft, and he flipped down until he was dangling by his knees and they were eye to eye. "Bruce."

"You did well," Bruce said around the tightness that had risen into his throat. "We should head back. We'll need to start the fire if we're going to have hot food for supper."

"Bruce," Dick said again. His dark hair hung down from his head, exposing his smooth forehead, his strong cheekbones. He sucked in a deep breath, and then, shaking himself, looked away and took a bite of his apple. Bruce watched his throat move as he swallowed. "Want some?" he asked, holding out the half-eaten fruit, exposed flesh stark white against the gold and blush of the apple's skin.

Bruce took it.

*

Dinner was excellent. Dick had taken to the chore much as he had taken to all of Bruce's lessons, learning quickly and, in just a short time, coming to surpass his teacher. Dick was, by now, a far better rider than Bruce had ever been, graceful and perfectly balanced in the saddle. The house was far cleaner now than it had been at any time since Alfred had first fallen ill, and his skill in the kitchen was leaps and bounds beyond what Bruce had become accustomed to.

The meal had been simple, just bread and stew, but so far above the quality of Bruce's cooking that he could hardly believe the boy had started from the same basic ingredients. Dick laughed as he ate, pleased with Bruce's pleasure. The sound was as warm and filling as the food.

They cleaned the dishes together, as they did every night. Repetitive chores were no longer tedious, instead becoming a comfortable routine. They talked as they worked, discussing plans for the future. Bruce was considering the purchase of a cow, or possibly a breeding pair. At the rate Dick was growing, he needed milk more than once or twice in a few weeks. 

And he was growing. When they left the kitchen and retired to the study, Bruce found himself looking the youth over. Surely he'd estimated incorrectly, when they'd first met, a few months ago. He'd thought then that the boy might be as young as fourteen, but that seemed absurd now. Dick claimed not to know his own age, but the top of his head was now level with the bridge of Bruce's nose. He was very nearly a man, now.

"Ovid," Dick said, sinking to his customary place on the floor beside Bruce's favorite chair. There were other chairs in the room, all perfectly comfortable, but Dick preferred the rug. "You said."

Bruce chuckled and handed the boy the volume, then bent to start a fire. By the time it had properly caught, Dick was lying on his side, one hand propped under his cheek, his full lips moving soundlessly as his eyes traced the page. Bruce smiled to himself, collected the papers that needed his attention, and settled back into his chair.

When he'd finished his meager work, he stood, nudging Dick's head from where it had come to rest on Bruce's slippered feet. He picked up his copy of the Iliad and glanced at Dick, who seemed totally engrossed in the Latin poetry before him. Bruce set the book down and chose a different one for himself before returning to his chair.

Dick's head moved right back into place the moment that Bruce settled into stillness.

*

That night, Bruce lay in bed, eyes closed, listening to the familiar rustling and splashing sounds of Dick preparing himself for bed. Dick should have been sleeping in his own room, by now, but he'd made it clear he didn't want that. Bruce was...disinclined to push the issue. Dick would move to his own bed when he was ready.

For now, he listened as Dick stoked the fire and padded back toward the bed on bare feet. The bed-frame creaked and the mattress dipped as Dick sat on the far edge. Bruce felt a tug on the covers as Dick slid in beside him.

And then Dick's weight was across his chest, his fine-boned hand resting on Bruce's cheek. Bruce's eyes flew open and his hands flew up. Dick was naked - and kissing him on the mouth.

For the space of a moment, Bruce was frozen. He felt the heat of Dick's mouth on his, soft as silk where their lips dragged together. Dick's skin was hot, too, under his hands, warm from the fire and...

"Stop," Bruce said, and pushed him away. Dick was so light that Bruce could lift him up and back with one hand pressed to his sternum. "What do you think you're doing?"

"You told me I couldn't be your wife," Dick said, and for the first time in Bruce's memory he almost sounded hurt. "But Jupiter loved Ganymede, and Phoebus loved Hyacinthus-"

"That isn't-"

"-and he took him and he taught him poetry and hunting and games and how to fight-" Dick struggled against Bruce's hold and managed, somehow, to dart under his arm and press the warm, bare length of his body to Bruce's. "And Patroklos and Achilles loved each other more than anything. Anything! You said!"

"Dick, those are just stories-"

"But that part's real! Not the parts about turning into eagles and flowers - you said yourself - a story might be made up but parts of it can be true. There are men who live together like we do, men who love each other like I love you. Bruce, that's why I'm here. Because I love you. Because you're kind and good and strong and lonely and -"

Bruce's hand cupped the back of Dick's neck and he tugged him down, stopping the argument in the only way he could think of. It was somewhat counterproductive. Bruce found he didn't care anymore.

*

When Bruce woke, Dick was sitting in a chair by the fire, still beautifully naked, basking in the glow of the low flames. He stopped reading when Bruce began to stir. "Patroklos died," he said, sounding sad, and Bruce realized with a start that the volume Dick was holding was Greek - a language Bruce had barely begun to teach him. "Achilles wouldn't go and fight, and Patroklos died."

"Achilles avenged him." Bruce said, feeling helpless. Dick's eyes were deep and sorrowful in the low light, and Bruce felt a pain. Did he have regrets?

Dick shook his head. "But Patroklus was still dead. Hyacinthus died, too."

"They're just stories," Bruce said, but something large and ominous seemed to loom in the shadows around them. It filled him with dread. "Dick...did I hurt you? Are you sorry that we-"

"No!" Dick cried, and just like that the book was forgotten. He sprang from his chair and into the bed, tackling Bruce to pin him in a tangle of bedsheets. "I loved it. It was wonderful. Like flying." He smiled broadly and nuzzled against Bruce's cheek.  "Can we do it again?"

tbc
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