Shadow breathed a sigh of contentment as familiar stone walls of the Hawks winter camp came into view. The journey back to winter camp had been a leisurely one, but Shadow couldn’t help but feel relieved to see the immense compound of white stone come into view. It signaled an end to the campaign season, the end of traveling, at least until the next spring rolled around, but most of all it signaled home. Wintermoon was where his friends were, where he had time to study and learn, and a place for Sunhawk and him to spend much needed time together.
“Hey, what are you daydreaming about? Let’s get down there,” Sunhawk said as he pulled his chestnut stallion up next to Shadow.
“I was just thinking about how good it is to be home,” Shadow answered, looking over with a smile at Sunhawk.
“It will be even better to sit down in one of the hot springs,” Sunhawk said, nudging his horse into a walk down the rolling hill. “With us coming back so soon we have less than half of the men with us. The whole compound will be pretty empty for the next couple of weeks.”
“It wasn’t like that last year. Is it because you got back so late?” Shadow asked, moving his horse up next to Sunhawk’s.
“Yeah, last year was a bitch. I wasn’t even sure we were going to get back before the snow fell. This year makes up for it though. We actually could have taken on another job, but I thought after Soothbay everybody deserved a little extra time off. It’s not like we can’t afford it,” Sunhawk replied, looking out in the distance for a few minutes, lost in his own thoughts before turning attention back to the conversation.
“There’s about three weeks of good weather yet before the snow really starts flying, so the men will be out enjoying themselves on leave. They all have to report back by the end of the month. The only bad thing is when we have extra long leaves like this we tend to loose a few men,” Sunhawk said.
“Ariel was saying the Hawks is getting a little large anyway,” Shadow said with a shrug.
“So does that mean we’re on leave for the next two weeks also?”
Sunhawk looked over at him in surprise for a moment. Shadow kept his gaze firmly fixed at the Captain, knowing without a doubt if he didn’t speak up Sunhawk would bury himself in his work. Last year Shadow had been so busy learning healing from Corrin and weapon work from Ariel that he had other things to occupy him while Sunhawk worked. Yet this year Shadow was determined at least for the first two weeks that both of them spend a lot of time together.
“For the most part,” Sunhawk replied.
“Good, because if we weren’t then I was going to drag you back to Armath and spend the next two weeks there. I would rather spend our leave time here at Wintermoon, but not if it means you are going to work all the time.” Shadow said firmly.
“Shadow, I know it has been a rough few months, but I promise that we will have time this winter to talk and work things out, so maybe next spring will be better,” Sunhawk replied looking at Shadow.
“I know Sunhawk, logically I know it but I’m impatient,” Shadow said with a small laugh. “I haven’t got you truly alone since Keys, and part of that I know is my fault. I’ve been busy as well,” Shadow sighed shaking his head.
“That is another reason I decided to come back to Wintermoon early. I know that you haven’t complained but you need Corrin’s help. Kelas can’t help you, he isn’t a mind healer, and doesn’t have the training. None of our healers do.
Like it or not the Hawks isn’t a hardcore mercenary band. Yeah we do our share of killing, but not wholesale slaughter. We just don’t attract the bloodthirsty killers so jobs like Soothbay take a toll on our troops. Too many of them need help dealing with what we did there,” Sunhawk sighed, looking at the gates of the compound that were fast approaching.
“You said the Hawks didn’t need a priest of Mith, but you were wrong,” Shadow commented, thinking of the past few weeks.
As soon as the battles and hard traveling were over and the men truly had time to rest, the nightmares had began for many of the Hawks. One by one many of the men began to seek out Shadow looking for sleeping droughts to help them sleep through their nightmares. Unwilling to drug the men seeking help he began to listen to them. Seeking them out at the end of the day, walking with them away from the others where they could unburden themselves to the quiet, sympatric priest who knew exactly what to say.
Shadow began to ride Grey everyday when more and more of the men began to seek him out. As the day wore on silently they would approach him and start up a conversation that would slowly find its way to the death of Soothbay. Each one’s pain and guilt slightly different, but all of them caused by a battle none of them had ever thought would end the way it did.
The slaughter of Soothbay had taken its toll and each man that came to him was haunted by the ghost of the now dead city. Although Shadow had no clue as to what it really felt like to be a warrior, or a killer, he knew that the difference of killing an armed opponent and the helpless was a large one. As each man came to him he slowly began to understand if only a little the ethics of a mercenary that could kill for money but be haunted by the death of women and children.
Easing the troubled men seeking his help drained Shadow, but for the first time since coming to the Hawks he finally had a way to serve his Goddess. He had been at a loss when the first man had approached him, but he knew that he had to do something about the bright aura of pain that had surrounded him. Shadow had felt Mith pull on his consciousness as the man had stood before him, and knew her wishes instantly. Opening himself completely to her he felt the Goddess’s gentle presence flow through him as he comforted the man, helping to erase the guilt and pain of his job with the love and acceptance of the goddess Mith.
Lost in his thoughts he hardly noticed they had entered the compound until he heard Gretch’s familiar voice calling to him.
“Shadow get down here and give me a hug,” Gretch said, pulling a little on Shadow’s leg.
Looking down at the plump woman with a smile he slid off of Grey to wrap his arms around her shoulders and give her a warm hug. Smiling, he couldn’t help but be grateful to have such people waiting for him. He had missed Gretch’s mothering and home cooked meals more than anything.
“Have you lost weight?” Gretch asked critically as she pulled back to look at Shadow.
“Haven’t you been feeding him, Sunhawk?”
Sunhawk laughed, looking at Shadow being engulfed in Gretch’s ample bosom once again as she pulled him into another hug. He could tell how much it meant to Shadow to be back at Wintermoon. The young man was happier than he had seen him in months, he almost seemed to shine. It wasn’t only his men that needed Corrin’s help; it was Shadow himself who had need of someone to listen. Looking over at Shadow he once again wondered if he really belonged on the campaign trail, even though he didn’t know what he or the Hawks would have done without him.
“I can’t seem to feed him enough. I don’t know how you did it last winter,” Sunhawk replied, shaking off his uneasy thoughts.
“Hey you two, I don’t eat that much. You act like I devour everything in sight,” Shadow protested.
“No, no dear. You just have an exceptional appetite,” Gretch said, her mirth barely contained at Shadow’s wounded expression.
“You do eat everything in sight,” Sunhawk said teasingly. “Ok let him go Gretch, we have an appointment at the hot springs. I’ll bring him by later to feed him.”
“Now I sound like your dog,” Shadow said, shaking his head at his lover.
“I’ll take your horses,” Justin offered, shaking his head as he looked between his wife and his Captain. “Oh, Corrin went into Wintermoon today to get Shadow’s instructor, they should be back by the evening meal to meet you two.”
“He isn’t staying here?” Sunhawk asked curiously.
“He will as soon as he starts training Shadow, but right now there isn’t much for him to do here. Besides I get the feeling he isn’t comfortable here,” Justin said with a shrug.
“I hope it doesn’t cause problems, Still I don’t think Corrin would bring him here if it did. I’ll see you two at dinner,” Sunhawk replied as he put an arm around Shadow’s shoulders, leading him down the white stone path towards the hot springs.
“Sunhawk?” Shadow questioned as he steered them towards one of the smaller springs instead of the main one.
“I thought you wanted to spend some time alone?” Sunhawk said innocently as he flipped the occupancy tag on the door of the small white building.
“I did, but you know that this isn’t exactly private,” Shadow cautioned.
“Private enough, everyone is heading to the main hot spring and none of our female fighters came back with the main group,” Sunhawk countered, pulling Shadow into the small, white stone enclosure and closing the door.
Shadow watched for a moment as Sunhawk stripped out of his clothes and hung them on the hooks on the wall. He couldn’t help but stare at Sunhawk’s firmly sculpted body as he lowered himself into the warm water of the spring. He had to admit that he was glad that Sunhawk had chosen to come to one of the smaller, private springs instead of the main one. He was still very uncomfortable about being naked around others and although it would be embarrassing to be caught in the act with Sunhawk he was doubtful that anyone would disturb them.
After quickly undressing Shadow slid into the warm waters andSunhawk gently pulled him through the water to sit between his legs. Sighing in contentment he leaned back against Sunhawk’s chest as he felt Sunhawk pick up his braided hair.
“You probably should have put it up,” Sunhawk commented as he picked at the wet leather that bound the long, inky braid.
“I need to wash it. I really should just cut it off. When we’re traveling it is hard to keep clean,” Shadow replied lazily as he watched Sunhawk gently upbraiding it.
“There is no hurry. Take your time and think about it, after all we will not be traveling for a while. I’ll take care of it before we leave, hopefully it will dry out before supper.”
Shadow smiled, knowing in the end he wouldn’t cut it. For some odd reason Sunhawk had become attached to it and always talked him out of cutting it. Shadow was willing to put up with the hassle of the impossibly long tresses for Sunhawk, although there were times he wished that his hair was more manageable.
“I wonder who Corrin got to be my instructor,” Shadow said idly.
“Didn’t he tell you?”
“He had a few people in mind. He said he had an ideal teacher for me but he doubted that the man would be willing to spend the winter here. The man is a former pupil of Corrin’s, not only in staff work but as a healer as well. I really hope he is the one,” Shadow replied.
“As long as you learn some staff work along with healing,” Sunhawk said as he kissed Shadow’s neck.
Shadow closed his eyes, ignoring Sunhawk’s admonishment and enjoying his gentle kisses on his sensitive neck. Shadow could feel large hands, unusually soft and smooth, move along his thighs yet staying away from the area that Shadow was dying for him to explore. Wiggling a little against the muscular body behind him he hoped to end the teasing of the slowly stroking hand and move it further up his body.
After a few moments of the teasing play Shadow turned to meet the Sunhawk’s lips with his own. Turning around fully and wrapping his arms and legs around Sunhawk he enjoyed the languid kiss. He felt Sunhawk’s hands gently lift him slightly to push his already erect organ into him.
“Ummm, you’re ready so soon?” Shadow asked teasingly as he pulled away from their kiss.
“Of course, having you wet and naked against me is too much of a temptation,” Sunhawk replied before continuing their slow kiss.
Shadow enjoyed the slow building of desire within him as Sunhawk continued to kiss him deeply, exploring his mouth slowly. Rocking slowly on the hard sex deep within him he could feel the tension building between them. The warm water softened Sunhawk’s normally rough, calloused hands that now stroked Shadow’s sensitive skin, making the experience all the more erotic for Shadow.
Shadow let out a deep moan when Sunhawk hit a pleasurable spot inside of him, and he began to quicken the pace of his movements as he clutched at Sunhawk’s soft hair. He felt Sunhawk pull away from him slightly, his breath heavy as he looked into his eyes for a moment. Sunhawk stood, picking Shadow, who continued to cling to him, up only to turn and put him down on the edge of the pool.
Sunhawk knelt down in the warm waters between Shadow’s thighs; his hands caressed the spread legs as he buried his face into Shadow’s lap. Shadow moaned in pleasure as Sunhawk’s hot mouth encircled him completely. The slow languid passion had burned away to aggressive assault on his now throbbing member. Sunhawk explored him with a fierce passion that he rarely exhibited.
Shadow’s eyes flew open at the sound of the squeaking hinges of the door even as he felt his whole body shudder in the tremendous pleasure coming from the mouth working so aggressively on him. He felt Sunhawk turn to look as well, pulling out of him as his body gave in to the pleasure, releasing thick hot jets of cream into the rather surprised face of Sunhawk.
In the doorway, framed by the red setting sun, Shadow saw a totally black man standing looking at them with a small smile. The man dressed in a worn hunter green shirt and sandy colored pants that clung to his narrow, small body looked nothing like any of the mercenaries that served under Sunhawk. The man’s warm dark eyes raked over Shadow’s wet naked body before fixing themselves on Shadow’s face as it turned from ecstasy to embarrassment. A wicked smile appeared on the man’s wide lips as his gaze drifted to Sunhawk’s face.
“Sorry to interrupt,” the man said smoothly, turning after a last, lingering glance at both of them.
“Who the hell was that?” Sunhawk growled after several moments of looking in shock at the closed door.
Sunhawk looked up at his furiously blushing partner as he slipped down into the warm mineral water of the spring, and cursed silently. The mood of the moment had been ruined and he knew that continuing was out of the question. Despite the causal atmosphere and lack of privacy of being a mercenary Shadow was still incredible body shy and embarrassed easily. Sunhawk doubted he would ever be able to convince Shadow to have sex in the springs again.
“Let’s wash your hair and get back to the house,” Sunhawk suggested after a few moments.
“Sunhawk you don’t think that could have been my new teacher?” Shadow asked in a small voice as he looked up at Sunhawk.
“No, I’m sure it was just a new recruit,” Sunhawk lied quickly. Shadow was embarrassed enough for the moment, he didn’t even want the boy thinking along those lines even if privately he thought the same thing.
“I hope so,” Shadow replied doubtfully.
Sunhawk pulled himself out of the pool and went over to the chest that keptcleaning supplies. Sitting on the edge of the pool he worked on Shadow’s long hair as he thought about their recent encounter.
The man had looked nothing like a mercenary, from his clothes to body build. He wasn’t some young eager kid but a man in his thirties at least, making it unlikely that he was anything other than Shadow’s new teacher. Sunhawk couldn’t help but have an uneasy feeling about the man. The way his eyes had lingered on Shadow’s body and the smooth smile raised a strange feeling in Sunhawk that he had never felt before, and did not like.
“Sunhawk, what are you doing?” Shadow exclaimed. pulling his attention back to the task at hand.
Looking at the massive amounts of soap bubbles floating in the spring, he quickly put the soap down.
“Sorry, it’s a good thing these springs continually refresh there water,” Sunhawk said sheepishly.
“Yeah, but still. Sunhawk are you thinking about that man?” Shadow asked.
“No, I was thinking about how to get you into bed when we get back to the house,” Sunhawk replied lightly, wanting to avoid the topic their voyeur.
“Sunhawk,” Shadow said with exasperation.
“What you don’t want to?” Sunhawk asked innocently as he finished working the soap throughout Shadow’s hair.
Shadow moved away to submerge himself into the spring, rinsing his hair out and not replying. Sunhawk smiled a little, knowing by the tone of his partner’s voice that his embarrassment had faded. Ironically Shadow was even more passionate about sex than Sunhawk, something that still amused him. It was another one of the dichotomies that constantly surprised Sunhawk, that Shadow could be so embarrassed about talking or being caught having sex yet be so lusty and passionate.
Once they dried off they headed back to their house, walking close to one another. He could feel Shadow’s happiness as they approached the small stone house and couldn’t help but smile a little. Countless times he had returned from a campaign, but never before had he had felt the contentment he now felt. He had never thought of the little house as anything more than a place to sleep during the winter. Now, without even realizing it, the house had become a home for Sunhawk and he knew that it was Shadow’s doing.
“Finally,” Shadow said, opening the door to their house.
“Looks like Gretch has kept the spiders from overtaking the place,” Sunhawk said as he looked around at the gleaming wood furniture that had recently been polished.
“More than that I think. She does a better job than what we do,” Shadow remarked.
Sunhawk went over to Shadow, unable to resist touching him. He couldn’t help wanting to continue where they had left off in the hot springs. It had seemed like forever since he had explored the white skin before him. Now that there wasn’t anything to distract him for the moment he wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of the day in bed with Shadow.
Sunhawk let his hand trail down Shadow’s back as he felt him relax against his touch. Shadow turned around to face Sunhawk with a small smile playing across his face,his eyes filled with desire.
“We should see if Gretch cleaned the bedroom,” Shadow suggested.
“Great idea,” Sunhawk replied as he felt Shadow lead him to their room.
Shadow pulled him down to the bed, his hands busy undoing the laces of Sunhawk’s pants even as he began to kiss him. Sunhawk relaxed, enjoying Shadow’s light touch on his now exposed skin, his own hands helping Shadow out of his own clothing. He let Shadow move slowly down body, teasing his skin with his tongue and lips, amazed how the gentle touch felt like fire on his exposed skin.
Soft white hands that contrasted to his own golden brown skin moved lower down his body to stroke his already erect organ, as Shadow’s tongue flicked over his nipple. Content for the moment to let Shadow enjoy his body, he stretched out on the large bed as Shadow’s questing mouth moved down his body, kissing the various scars that decorated his skin.
When the young priest finally reached his engorged sex Sunhawk could only moan in pleasure as he felt a warm, wet tongue replace the feather light fingers that had been teasing him. The teasingly light licking only made Sunhawk’s desire grow as he felt himself whimper, wanting more.
Unable to resist the teasing anymore Sunhawk pulled Shadow off of his throbbing member to kiss the boy deeply. His hands moved to Shadow’s own dripping member, stroking it a little before Shadow got to his knees on the bed. Unable to resist the inviting opening before him Sunhawk leaned down and circled his tongue around the tight portal as Shadow pushed back against him seeking more contact.
Shadow’s whimpers of pleasure turned into long, throaty moans as Sunhawk drove first his tongue and then fingers deep inside Shadow’s tight opening. Reaching around to grasp Shadow’s member Sunhawk began to work the hot shaft with slow strokes that brought a loud cry from his lover.
Unable to hold back any longer Sunhawk positioned himself against Shadow and sank slowly into the boy. Shadow leaned down on the bed to offer easy access to himself as Sunhawk began to thrust faster, unable to control his desire to be deep within his partner. Moving his hand under Shadow’s body he had barely touched the hot organ when Shadow almost screamed his release as hepushed back against Sunhawk’s hard his muscle, contracting around the shaft buried deep within him. Despite his desire to hold back, Shadow’s tight passage that seemed to almost massage him brought Sunhawk past the point of no return.
Sunhawk collapsed on Shadow’s narrow body, breathing heavily for a moment before gently moving off to Shadow’s side. Sunhawk brushed the hair away from Shadow’s back as he lay on the bed catching his breath. Sunhawk look down at the beautifull hawk spread out across the creamy white skin. His fingers lightly traced the sword clutched in its talons, bringing goose bumps to the delicate skin. He once again wondered why such a design was chosen for a priest of Mith. Even though he had come to love the beautiful boy spread out before him, he still didn’t understand him. He wondered as he looked at the mesmerizing hawk if he truly would be able to unravel all of the mysteries around the one who had unexpectedly stolen his heart.