|[||music|||||The Temptations-Ball of Confusion||]|
Title: For It Is Madness To Do Otherwise
Disclaimer: It's not real. Nope, not at all. If tried to say it was I'd probably be slapped with a law suit for slander and defamation.
Summary: Darren and Daniel are young men bound by the expectations of their time. When they meet, everything changes, and the boundaries begin to break.
Pairing: Darren and Daniel
Genre: so AU it's mind-boggling
Rating: pg (one minor kiss)for now
acknowledgments: Thank you Linda, for doing a wonderful job betaing this. Don't know what I'd do with out you, start banging my head on the wall, perhaps?
Daniel Jones, future Lord of Whittenstahl (due to the slight matter of entailed estate on his mother’s side), and resident god of Leeds Academy had panache. Everything he did, he did with flair. Headmaster Charles Norland saw boys such as him appear every generation or so. They were, in fact, quite ordinary in their extraordinariness. Except that Daniel did violate one usually vital tenet of deification at Leeds: he did not suffer from a consuming sense of self-entitlement, which had so irked the headmaster when dealing with previous such cases.
The young Master Jones wasn’t the richest, or the smartest, or even the most well-connected boy currently enrolled. Daniel got caught up in mischief perhaps rather more than the regular student Leeds turned out, but never out of any sense of meanness. Headmaster Norland almost wished the youth was one of the rakish fops he so despised. Although the smile young Jones was currently attempting to suppress worked to absolve some of that guilt.
Sighing and looking at the written complaint on his desk, Norland sighed. His head rose to stare at the handsome young man who so often decorated his office. Daniel had schooled his face into a polite mask as was required of the social elite, but the headmaster knew what lay beneath that façade.
“Jones, why did you do it?” Norland finally stated in a tone that indicated long suffering at the hands of the numerous pupils he had to deal with every day.
“Well, it’s not like I have any real malice for Carvey, it’s just Malcolm Steele is a mate. I couldn’t very well let Carvey get away duffing him up. Malcolm wouldn’t have done anything about himself—”
“Jones,” the headmaster interrupted, his face stony. “Did the incident with Malcolm Steele require you to dye the entirety of Alexander Carvey’s wardrobe a pale mauve?”
“Well,” Daniel paused to consider, a mournful expression crossing his face. “It wasn’t one of my best schemes. But you know, it’s not like I had a lot of time at my disposal.”
Norland gritted his teethe. “Jones! This is the third time you’ve been called into my study in a month. Last for the beet juice incident and before that for the dispensation of lewd pamphlets of the uncensored Ovid.”
“I still maintain we should be reading it as he wrote it!”
“It is not for you to decide the curriculum at Leeds,” Norland admonished. The aged and venerable master leaned back in his chair, waiting whatever it was Daniel was going to say in his defense. The blond young man only stared back at him.
“Well?” Norland ended the long silence.
Daniel feigned innocence, “Well what, sir?”
“Agh!” Norland lost his patience. “You’ll be the death of me!”
Daniel tried his best to look like he was taking Norland seriously. “You, Jones, will lose village privileges for a month, you will refurnish Alexander Carvey with a wardrobe, and you will write me an essay on the merits of showing respect to your peers.”
“Yes, Headmaster Norland,” Daniel got to his feet and dipped his head in the required show of respect.
“You’re very lucky I don’t believe in the lash.” The headmaster glared at the delinquent student.
“Oh, just get out, Jones!” Norland growled.
Darren unpacked the trunk in his room. Whoever his roommate was he was an absolute slob. There were shirts, waist-coats, breeches, and boots strewn about the room as if the armoire had exploded. Darren attempted to navigate his way through the room without stepping on any of it, but it was a nigh impossible task.
As he hung up the last shirt in his wardrobe, he wondered if the students would be very difficult here at Leeds. His father had said English boarding schools were very different, but when Darren had been lead to his quarters past the rows of classrooms he really didn’t think so. The boys seemed just as bored and anxious here as they did back in France.
“Master Hayes?” The soft voice of a serving girl came through the door.
“Yes?” Darren replied, chucking a pair of shoes into the wardrobe haphazardly.
“I’m to escort you to the dining hall for supper.”
“All right.” He looked down at himself, straightening the black and white striped tie of his new uniform. He cast a disheartened eye about the room one more time. It would be his home until Christmas and he could see from the stack of bully-buster novels sitting on his roommate’s desk, along with the all-consuming mess that they were going to have issues. The dark haired young man sighed and exited the room.
The dining hall was loud and raucous. He felt like he’d heard it some four corridors away. There were long tables taking up most of the room arrayed in front of a high table for the professors. So far it was exactly like St. Antoine’s, the school he’d attended before this. The serving girl gestured him to his place with the Sixth Form. A seat was left gapingly open, so he knew it was for him. He eased himself into the high backed chair, hoping not to draw too much attention to himself. At this point he wanted to observe and learn a little more about the students before he exposed himself.
“Oy, you’d be the new boy then?” A large youth sitting next to him said around a mouthful of food.
Well, so much for the observing method, Darren thought dispiritedly. “Hard to believe you’d get more than one in the same day.”
“So, where you from then?” Darren could see the food he was chewing.
The dark-haired boy tried not to look too disgusted.“France.”
“You don’t sound like a Frenchie.”
“Hardly surprising, that,” the boy across from him interjected, “with a name like Hayes.”
Darren trained his sharp blue gaze on the boy who already knew so much about him. The boy was slender and frosty-blond, his features fine enough to be a woman’s. He leaned his chin in his hand, and lazily met Darren’s gaze.
“Don’t mind Doyle,” a kindly voice said to his left. Darren turned to see a freckled red-haired young man with a quick grin. “Little bastard knows everything.”
Doyle rolled his eyes, but he smiled anyway. “Not everything. Just a good deal more than you.”
The redhead chucked his napkin at the blond boy who only tossed it back again. Darren expected to get a napkin in his own face when the Headmaster rose from his seat and an instant hush fell across the room.
“We have a new student among our ranks, Master Darren Hayes. He has resided in France for the last seven years and has only just returned to our shores this month. It is my sincere desire that you do your best to show him what Leeds academy is all about.”
All the other boys at the table turned and stared at Darren, there were a few unyielding faces, but quite a few smiles as well. Darren figured it couldn’t be all that bad.
The boys sitting around Darren had decided to take him under their wing, or at least they found his stories of France interesting. They made their way to the House Common room.
“You’re lucky you ended up in E. F.1 with us. Ferris is brilliant,” The red-haired boy, George Moore, told him as they walked the halls. “We have the best group out of any. None of that rabble from M.H. with us.”
They entered a richly appointed drawing room that boys of all ages were situated about. Some read books, others were engaged in a game of cards. In a blue high backed velveteen chair a tall long-legged boy sprawled elegantly, various other boys standing or sitting around him. Darren thought he recognized him from dinner.
George and Doyle walked over, Darren in tow.
“ ‘Lo Danny, How did it go with Norland, today?” George asked the blond in the chair as he slumped into a couch, he gestured for Darren to sit next to him.
“Ah, nothing out of the ordinary, although, I will, apparently, be the death of him.” Daniel snorted. “Not soon enough to my mind.”
All the boys around Daniel laughed.
“So you would be the newly arrived Master Hayes?” Daniel asked, his handsome face showcasing a grin beautifully.
“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” Darren replied.
“Ah, yes, of course.” Daniel sat up straight in his chair and leaned forward to hold out a hand to Darren. “Daniel Jones, first rate lounger, and captain of the fencing team.”
Darren shook his hand, deciding he liked this boy.
“So, who are you rooming with, Darren?” Daniel asked as he eased himself back into his former sprawl.
“I’m not sure yet, someone who enjoys the somewhat questionable merit of bully-busters and placing their clothes anywhere but the wardrobe.”
“You’re rooming with me.” Darren turned around to see another tall boy, but one without Daniel’s presence. He had spectacles on his face and a scholarly air about him. “You can set your mind at ease, the novels are George’s.”
“Ah, Malcolm, where were you during dinner?” George asked, clearly unaffected by the jibe against his literary taste.
“Probably looking up more about crustaceans, or what is subject is it this week?” Daniel asked affectionately.
Malcolm rolled his eyes. “The only reason you’re passing history is because of me.”
“It’s true,” Daniel stated, completely unconcerned with this fact. He smiled and winked at Darren, who felt an answering grin pulling at his lips. It was a truly unorthodox feeling. Darren was not overly fond of smiling.
Malcolm and Darren went back to their rooms when the tower bell tolled. The boys who had “adopted” him were certainly good for a laugh. Doyle was a little prickly, but George was clearly a lot of fun, as was Daniel.
“So, how did you enjoy your visit with the Prince of Leeds?” Malcolm asked as he unlocked the door to their rooms.
“Pardon?” Darren, entering before Malcolm, shucked off his boots and lay back on the bed.
“Daniel,” Malcolm replied, furrowing his brow. “He rules this vaunted academy of learning.”
Darren made a sound of distaste. He’d certainly come into contact with boys like that in France.
Malcolm saw the look on his face and laughed. “He’s not like that. He’s great fun. If he’s got your back, you’ll be sitting pretty.”
Darren rolled to his side. “No mad initiation rules then?”
“Not in our set,” Malcolm replied. “If the white-cuffs decided to call you one of their own, maybe. Daniel’s idea of an initiation rule would be to make you eat chocolate until you burst.”
Darren looked at Malcolm who seemed to be laughing at some private joke. Darren shook his head at the other boy and rolled back onto his back. Who on earth were the white-cuffs?
“You cut a trim figure, how are you at the foils2?”
“Abysmal, at best.” Darren shrugged self-deprecatingly. “I’m an archer.”
“Excellent. Doyle has been trying to start the tourneys up for ages. We just need one more signature.”
Darren thought archery tourneys were an exciting prospect, and as he changed into his nightshirt his mind turned to the empty manicured lawns that Leeds had in abundance. They would be absolutely perfect for any such contest.
“Well, good night.” Malcolm said as he stepped in bed. “We have double Latin first tomorrow morning so get your rest.”
“Night,” Darren replied as he reached over and turned down the lamps.
Darren was rather ambivalent to his classes. English was all right, but he wasn’t nutty about the large Chaucer tome they were currently stumbling through. Darren had noticed during class that Daniel was slouched over his desk sleeping through most of the lesson. He certainly didn’t blame him. Doyle, who was admittedly bookish, sat next to him doodled various lewd drawings of Master Sheelings, Professor of English, the entire time.
When they left to move on for maths, a subject Darren very nearly thought should be obliterated, Darren ran into his first white-cuff .
“Meet the Royal Admiral’s son.” George surreptitiously pointed at a tall dark-haired boy completely surrounded by sycophantic goons of various ages. He appeared not to be paying any attention to any of them as he walked down the hall. His dark somewhat hawk-like features were enough to give Daniel a run for his money.
“That’s Admiral Tolwyn’s son?” Darren watched as the other sixth-former walked towards their little group.
“Mmmhm,” George nodded. “Daniel tutors him in maths although none of us are supposed to know that. When he’s away from the rest of those whities he’s a real laugh.”
James Edgar Tolwyn turned and looked at the boys as he passed. His austere face moving just slightly to wink at Darren. The tall boy then stopped to talk to Daniel who was still a few steps behind them.
“Well, I can see you’ve made an impression.” Malcolm stated dryly, his spectacles low on his nose.
“Darren doesn’t look like a man to be messed with, what with that solemn face of his.” George laughed at the blue-eyed young man. “Anyway, we’ll be late, and Master Tindall is fond of the switch.”
At luncheon the boys were assembled at the long table for their year and from there segregated into their appropriate house. Darren figured this was what it was going to be like for the rest of the year. George pointed out more white-cuffs3 and told him that they were generally fine as long as you stayed out of their way. They generally preferred to keep to their own and torment the younger boys when they got bored. Darren of course thought this a pretty despicable prospect, but he did not voice it. Instead he wondered why Daniel was the exception to this rule as he watched the other boy move between the groups at the table as no one else could.
Darren noticed that his own eyes strayed to the other boy a lot. He sighed and turned himself back to his food. He wasn’t quite sure what his fascination with Daniel was. Perhaps it was height and athletic stature, Darren himself was worried he’d never gain height.
The boy in question suddenly squeezed in between Darren and Doyle, taking up every last ounce of space. Darren shifted uncomfortably next to him. “So Darren, how are you enjoying Leeds? Complete and utter bore or the wonderful haven for learning that I myself so adore?”
Darren rolled his eyes at the other boy’s antics. “It’s fine.”
Daniel nodded and plucked a carrot off of Doyle’s plate. “Mmmhm, Malcolm tells me you’ll be the latest signature for the archery tourney?”
“Yes, I’m surprised you don’t have one already. Leeds certainly has the grounds for it.”
“Yes, the grounds, but not the stomach for it.” Daniel waved a hand at the professors sitting at the high table. “Anyway, I’m off. I have a match against Carvey in an hour. You’ll come to watch with the other boys?”
Darren shrugged and nodded his assent. Daniel grinned brightly before leaping off the bench, wishing everybody goodbye, and quitting the room.
“It’s bound to be a good one.” Doyle told Darren who was still staring at the doorway even after Daniel left. “Daniel one-upped Carvey earlier in the week. Carvey’s hopping mad and can’t wait to take it out on the courts.”
As Daniel went to the courts to get ready, he wondered why it was so important for the new boy, Darren, to see him fence. He desperately wanted to impress him. It was a little disconcerting. However Daniel couldn’t deny the very real magnetism he felt towards Darren.
He had stashed his gear a few hours earlier, so it was easy enough to go behind the curtained off changing area and start getting ready. Firstly he laid everything out and set it in its proper place. If there was one thing his Fencing Master had taught him it was that you had to show proper respect to your equipment.
Slowly he pulled everything on and made sure it was fully secure. It would be just like Carvey to use an unblunted rapier and then Daniel would really get it if his padding wasn’t in the right place. He waited to put on his mask because the itchy feel often made him sneeze. He heard the familiar trudge of feet as the boys arrayed themselves on the stands against one wall. It gave him the usual and reality inducing bout of nerves that he faced before every match. He wasn’t terribly worried though, he was a better and more disciplined fencer than Carvey was.
“Daniel?” Master Crenshaw’s head appeared through the curtain. “The Headmaster would like to start.”
Daniel nodded. “That’s all right with me.”
Crenshaw disappeared and Daniel turned back to his stuff. He picked up his two foils and then pushed past the curtain separating him from the rest of the school. One of his fellow members of the fencing team was standing as his second, and he handed this other boy, who was still dressed in his school uniform, the second foil.
Standing second was only a formality, as he wasn’t fighting a duel of honor, and Carvey would be in major trouble if Daniel somehow died, but Leeds was big on formalities and so they were observed. These formalities were something he, and his middle brother before him, attempted to disrupt at all costs.
Carvey stood across the mat, he was talking urgently with his second while he strapped on his mask. Daniel eyed the stands, hoping it was nervousness that made Carvey short with his second. He caught Malcolm arguing with George over something, Doyle was hidden behind a novel, and Darren was watching George and Malcolm with an amused expression. George arguing with anybody was pretty amusing, as he invariably lost, but never seemed to mind.
Daniel saw Norland signal to Crenshaw to start, even though nobody was paying attention or ready for a sudden start. Typical of the stiff headmaster: never do anything that everybody else wants. Quickly he shoved his mask on, hating the mesh in front of his face.
Crenshaw shrugged at the headmaster, eyed the oblivious crowd in the stands, and turned back to the boys on the court. “Salute!” his booming voice carried across the room. Carvey snapped around, bringing his sword guard up. Daniel grinned lazily at him; he was already in position.
With a downward sweep of Crenshaw’s arm, the two players were given permission to start. Daniel eyed Carvey. He’d never fought the other boy, which was really something, given the fact that he was captain of the fencing team. However, he had seen him fight. Carvey wasn’t as tight as he should be on crescents so Daniel knew he needed to force him into those.
Carvey jabbed a few test thrusts at Daniel who easily parried, his rapier a wicked silver blur. Carvey was a little confused, Daniel could see it in his posture. Carvey knew that Daniel was not a defensive fighter. The stocky brunette jabbed again at Daniel, who knocked the blade aside as if it were a branch. He let Carvey attempt to get past his guard, leading him around the mats on a wild goose chase. Carvey was completely unaware of the complex mind game the other boy was playing. This was the part of the match that Daniel enjoyed best, especially against an oaf like Carvey.
Carvey came down with a wild upward stroke, an insult to any competent swordsman, and Daniel decided he had had enough. He easily blocked and then turned the tables. With speedy movements that made his foil appear like a whip, he turned to the offensive. Carvey was already tired. Daniel could tell as he watched his abdomen. It was all in the abdomen. The slight hitch of muscles underneath the padding told Daniel that Carvey was going into a backhanded crescent. Daniel whirled around to meet the blow, putting all the force of his spin into it. Carvey’s hand shook with the force of it.
The tall blond smiled behind his mask. He knew he had it now. In two more thrusts his sword point was at Carvey’s throat and Carvey’s own foil was lying on the floor, his right hand useless. The hall erupted into cheering, and Daniel pulled back his rapier. The two fighters bowed to each other, and then Carvey stomped off the mats. Daniel shook his head and unbuckled his mask. He wasn’t Captain for nothing.
Darren watched in something akin to awe as Daniel maneuvered Roderick Carvey around the courts, while the other boy let him. In what seemed like no time at all, Carvey had lost his foil and Daniel had him in a kill stroke. Everybody cheered and Daniel ripped off his mask, the face behind it grinning.
Darren clapped along with the rest, standing up with George who was practically dancing on the narrow bench. Darren realized then how close the other boys were to him, even if Daniel appeared to be friends with every one. At that moment, Daniel turned and looked at him, their eyes meeting across the hall. The blond young man’s smile changed into something private, something Darren felt was only for him. He could feel his cheeks heating up; he licked his lips and looked away, choosing to navigate the treacherous stands as a distraction.
George tugged his shirtsleeve pulling him out of his reverie. The redhead practically dragged him over to congratulate Daniel. As if he wasn’t already going to go. When they arrived Daniel’s hand was being vigorously shaken by James Tolwyn, who then leaned forward to whisper in Daniel’s ear. Something about it made Darren feel very awkward. He decided it was better not to think about it.
Daniel ran a hand through his sweaty blond hair causing it to stick up in all directions. George slapped him hard on the back.
“Good show, old boy! Good show!” George said enthusiastically, imitating the obsequious young man who’d last shook Daniel’s hand.
“Well, now, Mr. Moore, I couldn’t let you down,” Daniel replied in a high voice, continuing the joke.
“That’s the spirit!” George laughed. The group of five left the room, Daniel’s pair of foils held awkwardly in the crook of his arm. “Do it for England!”
“Now Carvey will really be smarting!” Malcolm stated as they walked down the long corridors nodding to the boys they passed.
Daniel sighed. “He should’ve let be.”
“That sure of beating him then, were you?” Doyle asked with raised brow.
“No, but now I’ve gotten him twice,” Daniel explained, “if he’d settled the score in some other arena, one I’m not so proficient in, he could have come out on top.”
“You know Carvey. He had to romanticize it. Prolly thought it a duel of honor, or some such nonsense,” George pointed out.
Darren looked at the other four. “Daniel, what is it exactly you did?”
Daniel chuckled and the remaining three started laughing their heads off. “I felt it my sincere duty to re-invent his wardrobe.”
Darren couldn’t contain the perplexed expression that ran across his face. “Uh, what?”
“When Carvey sent in his laundry Daniel had it died pink,” George burst out between fits of laughter.
“Good Lord! You didn’t!” Darren burst out. “I certainly hope the punishment fit the crime.”
The boys grew quiet. Malcolm leaned around Daniel to look at Darren. “Trust me. It was.”
The air became tense and Darren definitely wished he’d never said anything. Daniel brushed a reassuring hand down his forearm. Darren turned and looked him, his surprise evident on his face. Daniel only smiled reassuringly, telling him it was okay to question. Darren didn’t like to contemplate what it meant that he’d enjoyed that simple touch so much.
A few months went by. Darren was comfortable in the niche he’d carved out for himself. He spent most of his time with George, Malcolm, and Doyle. Daniel joined them frequently, but he was often busy—be it with mischief, or organizing events, or tutoring Tolwyn, or just being Daniel.
Darren often felt weird around Daniel. It was a slight fluttering feeling in his stomach, one he couldn’t or wouldn’t identify. It often intensified when Daniel looked at him with those unnervingly beautiful jade green eyes. In class the other boy often wrote him notes filled with jokes and little messages. He thought at first that Daniel did this to everybody, but after awhile he noticed he was the only one getting this attention. He tried to pretend it didn’t make him feel wonderful, but it did, no matter how uncouth the joke was.
So far they hadn’t made any progress with the archery tourneys. Norland absolutely refused to budge on the matter of sharpened projectiles, even if they were only being launched at bales of hay. Darren was making it his personal mission, however Norland didn’t pay him any more mind than he paid any of the other boys. He also seemed to be taking a personal stake against the petition as Daniel’s name was the first one upon the list.
“Hey, hey, care to join in a footie match?” Daniel slammed the door to Darren and Malcolm’s room open one day in mid-October. They were having a short dry spell, and most of the school was turning out to enjoy it. That is except Darren, who burned like paper over fire.
Malcolm grimaced and buried himself in a scientific text without even answering.
“A footie match?” Darren said from his recumbent position on the bed. His school shirt was unbuttoned and untucked and he had absolutely no desire to dress himself properly.
He never noticed Daniel’s eyes running down his chest under lowered lashes.
Darren sighed. “I do enough physical activity what with riding and helping out Master Spooner in the library.”
Daniel certainly noticed the lean muscles that defined Darren’s frame. “Ah, the library, yes that truly is stimulating.”
“Some of us actually can read, Jones,” Malcolm said snidely from behind his book.
Daniel rolled his eyes at his friend and Darren laughed. “No, he has me do all his heavy lifting. You try organizing all of the Greek classics. Very prolific those damned Greeks were.”
“Coming?” Daniel completely ignored Darren’s protests.
“No.” Darren shook his head. “I don’t even like footie.”
Daniel threw his hands up. “Ach, spoilsport.” He raced out of the door again, leaving it wide open behind him.
Malcolm peered around his book. “Typical.”
Darren rolled off the bed and kicked the door shut. He then threw himself back on the bed. From his perch he could see out the window at the tall blond boy running out onto the field, the others ready and waiting. They quickly kicked him the hide ball, and Daniel did a complex little piece of footwork before passing it off again. Darren couldn’t help staring. He enjoyed watching Daniel.
“You’ve got a schoolboy crush.”
Darren abruptly turned back to face Malcolm who was eyeing him over the top of the book.
“It’s fine,” Malcolm interrupted. “We all have them. Common at boarding school, as long as you don’t act on them.”
Darren started again, “Am I—”
“No, you’re not obvious. I’m just your roommate. I notice everything!” Malcolm said already turning back to his book.
Darren just stared at his enigmatic roommate and sighed. Doyle and George probably wouldn’t have pointed it out so simply or kindly. Then again George would never have noticed and Doyle probably already knew himself. Darren sighed. Maybe he should stay away from Daniel for a bit.
Darren’s resolution to stay away from Daniel lasted for exactly two days. Darren was aimlessly doodling on his papers when Daniel burst into the room in his usual fashion.
“I need to analyze the scansion and meaning of a poem,” Daniel said like it was the worst punishment on earth.
“Yes?” Darren turned around in his desk chair.
Daniel sighed. “I’m absolutely dreadful at that sort of thing.”
Darren just stared at the other boy, waiting for the energetic blond to tell him what was going on.
“I have a poem, but help me please!” Daniel begged the other boy.
Darren was already planning to say yes, but thought he might as well torture the other boy for a bit. “Why me?”
“Because Malcolm is just as bad at poetry as I am, and Doyle would explain it in the most boring technical terms. You actually get this poetry stuff,” Daniel explained with a sweeping motion of his arms.
“Hmm.” Darren pretended to be considering.
“I beg of you, Darren.”
“Well, all right,” the dark-haired boy finally said, “but only for half of your chocolate stash.”
Daniel made a choked noise. “I don’t think so,” he finally managed in a strained voice. “I think I’d rather ask Napoleon himself for help than give up my chocolate.”
“You think the little corporal is a fan of poetry?”
Daniel blinked. “I—”
Darren chuckled. “I’m only teasing you.”
The tall boy sighed. “Of course you were.”
“All right, so what’s the poem?”
Daniel produced a thin volume of poetry from his coat pocket. He flipped open the book and looked over the pages, turning a few this way and that. Finally he nodded and stopped at the page. “Yes, this is it.” He handed the opened book to Darren.
Darren took it and began to read over it. He was barely five lines in when he choked on the very air. Sputtering and coughing he looked up at Daniel, his eyes round.
“What? It’s like Shakespeare!” Daniel answered Darren’s unspoken accusation.
“It’s quite a bit more direct than Shakespeare,” Darren pointed out.
Daniel merely smiled innocently and sat upon Malcolm’s bed across from Darren.
“Right, well, the first place to start is to read it out loud. So, I suppose I should do that.” Darren looked at Daniel for permission. The other boy merely shrugged. Darren stood up, the book in hand.
“All right then, To His Coy Mistress By Andrew Marvell 4 ,” Darren started. “‘Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness lady were no crime. . .’ ”
Darren looked up to see Daniel’s intense gaze upon him, he continued to read through the poem.
He stumbled over the fifteenth line. “Two hundred to adore each breast, but 30,000 to the rest. . .” Darren looked up again over the top of the book. The blond young man was staring at him intently. Darren felt his cheeks begin to heat as he continued on. Daniel’s eyes on him did funny things to his insides.
‘“Now let us sport while we may . . .’ ” Darren was fully blushing now over the bawdy lines of the poem. It was just like Daniel to choose something like this. He’d heard of the uncensored Ovid fiasco that Daniel had perpetrated sometime previous to Darren’s arrival at Leeds. He kept his eyes on the book, knowing that if he looked at Daniel right now he probably wouldn’t be able to go on.
However, he could feel the other boy’s gaze upon him, and hear the shift of Daniel’s clothes as he stood up.
‘“Let us roll all our strength and all our sweetness up into one ball, and tear our pleasures with rough strife . . .” Darren swallowed, painfully uncomfortable.
“Darren,” Daniel spoke quietly, his long elegant fingered hands grasping Darren around the wrists that held the book up. Darren breathed out slowly and still continued reading. “Darren,” Daniel repeated, his voice husky.
The dark haired boy looked up at the blond who loomed over him as he finished the last lines, “Thus, though we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we may make him run.”
Daniel’s green eyes were inscrutable as he leaned in and captured Darren’s lips. It was a chaste kiss, the book and Darren’s raised hands preventing any close contact. Daniel pulled slowly back and when he looked at the other boy he noticed Darren’s eyes were still shut as he savored that simple sensation. It was endearing.
When Darren finally opened them, Daniel had an odd expression on his face halfway between a smile and absolute awe. The taller boy eyed Darren for a few minutes before grabbing Darren’s head and pulling him in for another kiss. Darren’s palms smoothed over the fabric of Darren’s starched black school uniform as he leaned into the kiss. Daniel’s tongue pushed insistently at his mouth and he parted his lips in response, enjoying the feel of Daniel’s tongue exploring his mouth. Daniel’s hand fisted in Darren’s black hair as the blond reveled in the sensations assaulting him. Darren tasted like menthol and licorice.
As they attempted to get closer together, their bodies rubbed together with a torturous friction. Darren made a sound in the back of his throat that almost caused Daniel to lose it right there. All the taller boy knew was that he wanted Darren to make that sound again.
Daniel lavished attention on Darren’s full lower lip at the same time that Darren ran his hands under Daniel’s coat to grip Daniel’s muscular shoulders. The blue-eyed boy’s hip came into contact with Daniel’s manhood and he could feel the blond’s intake of breath through the kiss. Darren angled his hips and did it again, liking the feel of taking control of the kiss. Daniel’s right hand came down and locked their lower bodies together, allowing Darren to feel the same pressure he’d been inflicting on Daniel. Darren was easing the coat off Daniel’s shoulders slowly, when Daniel’s hand that had been innocently placed upon the small of his back started to move lower.
At that very moment the dinner bell rang. It was a shock into reality. The two boys sprang apart. Darren’s hand flew up to his kiss-swollen lips and he eyed the volume of poetry in its position on the floor where it had been hastily dropped.
Daniel cleared his throat as he righted his coat. “Well, that was certainly edifying.”
Darren finally looked up at the other boy whose chest was heaving. Their eyes met and Darren was transported back to the feeling of their mouths clashing. His eyelids slid shut and he breathed in deeply.
Daniel looked at the flushed boy across from him for a few seconds longer before finally speaking, “Right, I had better go.”
Darren only nodded, sinking back into his desk chair. He heard rather than saw Daniel exit the room for dinner. Whatever it was that had just happened had been wrong on so many levels. Boys did not kiss other boys. That sort of thing was better left to Ovid and other licentious and completely unrestrained Greeks. Oh, but it had felt so good. Darren put his head into his hands. Now he knew he wasn’t going to be able to look at Daniel without thinking of the smooth glide of those skillful lips on his own, the press of the taller boy’s body into his own.
Darren rather supposed this went beyond the bounds of Malcolm’s “schoolboy crush”.
1 In English boarding schools houses were created to manifest a sense of camaraderie among the students. Unlike Harry Potter, the students did not reside within their house, it was merely an attempt to foster school spirit. The Houses at Eton, which my fictional Leeds is modeled after, are given the initials of the current heads of the houses. Darren, George, Daniel, Malcolm, and Doyle belong to E. F. named for Eldon Ferris, Master of Music. I only noticed later that this name is very similar to Jane Austen’s character Edward Ferrars. Oops.
2 All young men of the regency period, during which this story is set, are expected to know how to ride, fence, and shoot. Archery, which Darren is fairly competent at, is merely considered sport, an addendum to the classical education. Women are often taught to use a bow, because it is considered an outmoded weapon.
3 White-cuffs are the name I came up with for the gentlemen at the school who come from England’s first families and are expected to hold themselves somewhat apart from the other middle-class rabble at the school. They don’t like to dirty their cuffs by doing any real work. Yes, I know brilliant name.
4This is an actual Poem written sometime after Shakespeare. It’s a little ridiculous, but I doubted that Daniel could get his hands on a randier poem during the regency period at boarding school. You can read the entire thing here
In the next chapter: Darren and Daniel realize attraction doesn't just go away, Doyle decides his friends are idiots, George breaks a few things, and Malcolm plays in the cricket match.