It was full dark as Will picked his way across the stable yard. Earlier that evening it had rained and the cobbles shone wet and gleaming in the thin light of the lantern he carried.
The storms which had plagued the area all day were still prowling and Will could hear the ominous growl of thunder in the distance as lightning danced and flickered high above the clouds which had begun to cover the moon in filmy transparent blackness.
Reaching the stable, he quietly lifted the latch and eased open the door, and holding his lantern aloft he shone it into the gloomy exterior as the mixed smell of horse sweat, leather and the sweeter smell of hay greeted him.
‘Ned, it’s me, Will’, Closing the door behind him, he jumped violently when Ned’s face, eerily white in the gloom of the stable, appeared over the top of the wooden stall partition. ‘Will?’
‘God help us, Ned, you nearly gave me a seizure’, he held a hand to his chest and waited for the pounding of his heart to subside. ‘Christ’.
‘Ssh’, Ned hissed, holding one long finger to his lips, his face split in a wide grin, ‘keep your voice down and come round here’. His head disappeared behind the boards again and Will crept around the side of the stall, his shadow looming ahead of him as he moved.
Rounding the corner, it took a moment for him to register the scene before him. But when he did he gasped in shock and surprise. Edward, seated on an upturned pail, shirtsleeves rolled up as far as they would go extended a hand towards the far corner of the stall. ‘Look, Will, just look at that’, he whispered, his voice a mixture of pride and wonderment.
For there, in a softly lit tableau was Cybele, Edward’s beloved bay mare, and lying by her side and still sporting a portion of the birth caul on it’s back, was a foal.
Will’s eyes were nearly popping out of his head such was his astonishment at the swiftness of the foals appearance. ‘But…but, how? when?’ he stammered, ‘I thought it would be hours yet before she birthed’.
Edward chuckled, and standing up he slung an arm about his lovers shoulders, drawing him in closer, ‘Well, so did I Will, but Cyb had other ideas, and her son…’,
‘Oh, Ned’, Will interrupted, ‘a colt! Clever Cybele’. Will’s eyes shone with excitement and pleasure for his beloved. He knew it had been a wish of Edward’s, that his mare would present him with a male foal. ‘I’m so pleased for you Ned’, he said, as the two of them watched the tiny creature, all wide eyed innocence and knock kneed charm, struggle to its feet. And with unerring instinct, he wobbled his way to his mothers udder and began to suck vigorously, while Cybele, turning her head towards him, produced a low contented whinnying as she sniffed at her son.
‘I have another surprise for you, Will’, Edward said as he sat back down on his bucket, pulling Will onto his lap.
‘Another one, Ned? What?’ In the warm, sweet and drowsy contentment of the moment, and in the intimate shadowy half light of the stable, Will snuggled up to Edward, wrapping his arms around his lover, who held him all the closer. And for some moments, all thoughts of foals and surprises were forgotten as they kissed, gently at first, then with a growing urgency which nearly had them both on the floor.
‘Mmm, wait a while my little wanton’, Edward murmured, breaking the kiss, ‘and maybe there’ll be yet another surprise later, and one we’ll both enjoy’.
‘So, what is the one you have for me now, Ned?’ Will asked, shivering with delight at the feel of
Edward’s breath in his ear.
‘I want you, William, to name the foal’, Edward replied, ‘because I’m giving him to you’.
‘Me?’ For the second time that evening, Will’s eyes rounded like platters, ‘You’re giving him to me, Ned. But, I can’t… I mean…..Why?’ And he was lost for words again too.
Edward, his face wreathed in smiles, chucked his lover under the chin, ‘Now why do you think I’m gifting him to you, Will?’ he asked, ‘I want you to have the best mount possible so you can keep up with me eventually. You will have the training of him and see to his every need. You’ll nurture him, care for him and…….’
‘So there’s no other reason then, Ned?’ Will asked, knowing full well that there was, and knowing too that, except in there more intimate moments, Edward was never easy giving voice to his feelings.
Pushing Will off his lap, Edward stood up and taking his lovers hand, drew him wordlessly towards the ladder which led to the hay loft.
Once there, Edward pushed Will onto the fragrant pile of hay and laughing, threw himself down beside him, ‘Now, for my other surprise of the evening’, he said as he nuzzled into Will’s neck.
‘Ah, I see’, Will said, squirming with ecstasy under Edwards assault, ‘you’d rather show me than tell me why you’re giving me the foal’.
‘And why might that be my sweet?’ Edward asked.
‘Because you love me’.
‘Yes, I do’.
‘I love you too, Ned. And I’m going to call my foal, Cirrus’.
‘Cirrus?’ Edward propped himself up on his elbow, and looked quizzically down at the boy. ‘Why Cirrus?’
‘Ah, well, when I came across to the stables, the moon was covered by dark wispy clouds and it looked, well, rather romantic. So a fitting name for my boy I think’.
‘I agree, my love. A very fitting name’. Edward began to slowly untie Will’s shirt, ‘But I tell you one thing, Will’, he said as he did so, ‘I hope the moon stays behind those clouds for a while’.
‘Mmmm, I’d really not want anyone to see what I’m about to do to you, my love’.
And in the snug warmth of their hay filled stall, Cybele and her new son, Cirrus huddled up together, quite oblivious to the passion being played out above them.
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