© January 2009.
Aidan studied himself critically in the full-length mirror. He had inherited from his much-missed mother high cheek-bones, fine bone structure full, pouting lips and a slender physique. Raising his arms he performed a slow pirouette. There was only the lightest of dusting of hair under his arms. His body was smooth, his chest adorned with two large chocolate discs which haloed caramel nipples. A few dark wisps led from his navel to a modest nest that framed his sex. Like the rest of him, his manhood was smooth and slender. Although he did not remember his Papa as anything other than grey, he had been told by his Mama that his dark eyes and lush, chestnut tresses were from his father. It seemed that they were the only things he had inherited from his tall, masculine sire.
He gazed sadly at his image, wondering what it was about him that his Papa was so keen to be rid of him now he was of age. He had celebrated his birthday just four months before and now his father was hosting a Valentine Ball. He was expected to wear a white rose denoting purity and availability. His Papa making it clear he expected his son to choose or, equally possibly, be chosen as a suitable marriage partner. He sighed. He knew how happy his parents had been and that they had met at such a Ball. However, he had hardly set foot out of their home and its grounds in the five years since his Mama's death. He had no friends, no confidants; he had not experienced interrelating with people of an appropriate age to consider as marriage partners.
His last two outings at parties that should have begun his integration with others his age had been a disaster. He had been laughed at and ridiculed for his countrified manners and lack of dancing skills. Now his Papa was bringing a friend in to tutor him personally. He had a distant memory of Murron as a big, dark man, but nothing more. He did not want to be chosen, nor did he want to feel forced into choosing. At the risk of incurring his father's wrath, Aidan had a plan. He was going to hide one of his frockcoats in a tree's hollow by the wishing well. Then he would exchange it for the coat with the detested rose. No one would know him as the Ball was one where all wore full-face masks and wigs. He would change the coats once more before returning home.
There was one other matter that worried him. He was quite sure his Papa expected him to choose a wife and continue the long and noble blood-line of his family. He was equally sure it would never be. He felt nothing, no matter how attractive the young lady in whose presence he was, when in female company. His heart only fluttered when in the company of men. Aidan was convinced his Papa would be disappointed to find that their family line would end with him. However his Mama had always encouraged him to go with the convictions of his heart and, for the sake of her memory, it was his intention to do just that.
Murron smiled at the bellow of his name from Donal as he entered his friend's home. He had last been there for Isabel's funeral and, as he saw the older man striding towards him, he shook his head in amazement. Donal looked no older. He was still tall and powerful, his hair and beard the same grey. It was hard to remember there was twenty years between them as he was swept into a powerful hug.
"You look the same as ever, my friend," Murron said, admiration colouring his voice. "This county air must suit your constitution. Perhaps I should reconsider living in the city?"
"Aye, Murron," Donal laughed. "Your face does look somewhat pasty. Not enough good, clean, fresh air."
The two men laughed companionably.
"You asked if I would tutor Aidan," Murron said. "'Tis hard to believe your boy is now a man."
"Aye," Donal said, a note of sadness creeping into his voice. "He's grown so fast and I will not be around forever. I'm hoping that he will find his future at the Valentine's Ball I'm hosting. Someone he can care for and who will care for him when I'm gone."
"Donal, he came of age just a few months past. You are asking me to act as his tutor. Is he ready to choose?" Murron had not realised that Donal had arranged such a Ball so soon after Aidan's coming of age. It seemed to him that Donal was worrying a little prematurely.
The conversation stopped as Aidan came into view. Murron's tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth. This... this was the willowy, gangly boy he remembered? The duckling had indeed become a swan. Aidan was nothing less than heart-breakingly beautiful, with his mother's delicacy of features and his father's darkness of hair and eye. Murron could see both female and male alike competing for the young man's favours. However Aiden moved with timidity not confidence, stilted, not graceful. Murron instantly knew he needed first and foremost to teach the young man some self-belief.
"Aidan, please meet your new tutor. This is my friend Murron. Murron, my son Aidan," Donal completed the introductions as the two men simply stood and stared at each other.
Aidan was certain his jaw was hanging open and, if it was, he did not feel he had the ability to shut it. This...this was the big, dark man he remembered? Murron was tall, at least as tall as his Papa and equally broad. His hair was dark and hung straight to his shoulders and a goatee adorned his chin. His eyes were a shade of hazel that almost seemed to shift colour in the light. It seemed to Aidan that not just his heart, but every inner organ he possessed was set aflutter by the handsome, powerful male.
At the discreet cough from Donal, both men remembered their manners and stepped forward, hands outstretched. However, Aidan's nervousness had once more taken away his coordination. He stumbled as he tried to move quickly and was caught swiftly into Murron's safe embrace.
Murron stared, almost entranced by the beauty in his arms, but rapidly remembered the boy's father was present. He set Aidan on his feet and held out his hand once more, a smile on his lips. The blush that stained the younger man's cheeks seemed only to enhance his exquisite features. Murron kept firm control as a frisson passed between them as their hands clasped together. He was here as the boy's tutor, Donal putting Aidan in Murron's care. The older man knew he would have to keep his libido under firm control for the duration of his visit.
Murron materialized by the old stone well an hour before sunset, surprising the dark-haired beauty polishing his manners. Aidan jumped in surprise and stumbled over his books, ending up on his knees before the smiling man.
"Looks like we'll have to add walking before dancing to the list of things you need to work on," Murron tried for a jest.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Aidan scrambled to his feet, blushing furiously. Now the older man must think him totally inept. He kept his head down.
"Well, the dance is as yet a couple of weeks away. I expect that we can get you perfected by then. Would you like some extra tuition?" Murron asked softly. He smiled his encouragement as Aidan peeked shyly at him. He smiled wider as Aidan nodded his agreement. He had a thought that perhaps outside of the classroom environment, the young man might feel less inhibited.
By the time they completed the preliminaries, Aidan was so tired that Murron escorted him into the house to retire to sleep and the older man then headed gratefully back to his room. They had covered such pleasantries as approaching a woman, kissing her hand, compliments, dining etiquette and strolling between dances. Murron had assured the obviously concerned young man that, apart from the kiss, there would be little difference if he wanted to approach, or was approached by, a man.
Murron decided he needed strong drink before trying to teach Aidan to dance, not simply follow in his steps, but to have the lithe frame in his arms. Aidan was devastatingly beautiful to the older man's eyes and he had seen many beauties of both sexes in his time. Aidan was actually trying to mimic Murron's every move, which the older man found endearingly captivating. From their conversations, it was apparent that Aidan had no real friends and no one who had ever taken the time to truly get to know him.
He stripped gratefully from his clothing, letting air from the open window cool his heated, furred body. Thinking of Aidan had caused his sex to rise. He reached for his manhood, stroking it to full hardness as he let the breeze play about his thighs and sac. He moved to the bed and stretched languorously, spreading his legs wide. He played with the thicket of fur surrounding his shaft and then tugged up the prominent treasure trail before playing with his nipples. He groaned and writhed as pleasure began to suffuse his body. He worked himself harder, faster, pre-come slicking the long, thick column. He slid his fingers to tease his perineum as he began to pant, his breath catching. A fingertip pressing at his entrance pushed him over the edge and pearlescent strands of his seed decorated his torso.
Desultorily, he reached for the towel he had thrown on his bed to clean himself. He was not surprised that Aidan's face had come to mind as he had reached his apex. Murron's last thought before he went to sleep was that he would like to take the time to get to know the young man.
Murron was surprised that Aidan was not with them for dinner as he joined Donal for the evening meal at the conclusion of his second day as Aidan's tutor. He looked at the two place settings.
"Donal, where is Aidan?"
"He has a meal in his schoolroom at the conclusion of his lessons. He is then free to walk in the gardens till the sun sets and then retire to his room," Donal replied.
"My friend," Murron said slowly. "You invited me here to polish your son's social skills, his etiquette and his dancing. You have told me that you are hosting a Valentine Ball at which you will send Aidan out, wearing the white rose, where he can be approached with a view to be taken in marriage with your approval. Yet you still have him completing a childish ritual, not even taking his place as an adult at your table. Have you truly thought this through?" He watched his friend's face as Donal digested what he had heard.
"I was so much older than Isabel," the older man sighed. "I did not expect that she would pass away first and leave me alone with our son. I became afraid to let him even leave the house. I'm not getting younger and wanted him to find the one to love him as Isabel and I loved. We found each other at a Valentine Ball."
"You and Isabel were very blessed," Murron said softly. "But you cannot simply expect history to repeat itself. Surely it would be better to let Aidan mix with some younger people for a year or two and in that way meet his wife-to-be."
"I very much doubt it will be a wife my son would choose," Donal said, watching from the corner of his eye to see his friend's reaction. He hid a small smile as Murron blinked, his mouth opening and closing silently as that information was processed.
"He would be more inclined to select a...husband?" Murron clarified, wanting to ensure he understood his friend.
"I believe so," Donal nodded. "Not that we have discussed such matters, but I have eyes and ears. It was not my son that told me of the jibes and jests at his expense. That is why I entrusted him to you, a friend who will treat him as he deserves. Perhaps I do need to rethink Aidan's future," he added thoughtfully. "However, I cannot cancel the Ball."
"Nor is there need to," Murron smiled, now recovered from the shock of Donal's unexpected revelation. "Just consider whether you want to chance Aidan's future and happiness on a masked Ball."
Aidan was surprised and nervous to find that he was to join his Papa and Murron for the evening meal after another session of extra tuition in the gardens. It seemed his feet were more agile on the grass and the ritual had already become one he anticipated with delight. He took a fortifying breath as he reached the dining room door and stepped inside.
The meal passed swiftly, his father and Murron engaging him in conversation that Aidan found most enjoyable. He was even invited into the sitting room afterwards to share in some port with the older men. He was given just a half measure in one of his Papa's crystal glasses. However, just a couple of sips in conjunction with his active day and nervousness about the meal had Aidan's eyes determined to close against the young man's wishes. He lost track of the conversation, listening instead to the sound and inflection of Murron's speech, a soft smile of contentment on his lips. His mind drifted to their lessons in the garden and he saw in his mind Murron bowing to him and asking him to dance.
"Yes please, Murron," he murmured, unaware he had spoken aloud until he heard the shocked splutter from Murron and a laugh from his father. His eyes flew open to see Murron's face tinged with pink and his father grinning broadly. His father supplied the answer to the question his lips refused to form.
"Murron noticed you seemed to be drowsing, my son," Donal said. "He asked if you wished to retire to bed."
Aidan's face positively glowed with embarrassment. What man would ever find him a suitable mate and what must Murron think of him? He mumbled his apology, not daring to meet the older man's eyes. He was therefore surprised to find his head tilted upwards by an insistent finger.
"Apology accepted, Aidan," Murron said softly, not wanting to put any barriers between himself and the painfully shy young man. "You have had a tiring day. Sleep well."
"Thank you," Aidan whispered. "You, too, Murron. Goodnight, Papa." Still somewhat disorientated from his faux pas, he bent to kiss his father, something he had always done when the older man had come to wish him 'goodnight', but which had stopped over the last year.
Donal felt warmth spread through his body. He had stopped going to his son's room, thinking the younger man getting too old. He was beginning to realise how little he truly knew of his son. His eyes flitted between Murron and Aidan as they smiled at one another. He was pleased they were getting on so well together. Very pleased.
Time seemed to fly past. Aidan had been an assiduous and adept pupil. However Murron felt that, in truth, the youth was simply proving an excellent mimic. The etiquette and dancing skills he now possessed, as perfect as they were, still seemed stilted and wooden and would remain so on the day of the Ball. The beauty's heart was not in either and Murron longed to see the 'real' Aidan.
Murron watched from the edge of the trees as Aidan practiced his bow and compliments and taking a few little dance steps alone. Away from the classroom, and other's eyes, the young man was possessed of grace and lightness of foot and Murron's heart ached to see Aiden so relaxed when thinking he was alone and unobserved. They had dined late that afternoon, as Donal had to travel into town for some last-minute arrangements, but Aidan had still requested the outside lessons.
"That's a lovely shade of blue. May I have this dance?" Aidan kissed an imaginary hand, unaware of the eyes that followed his every moved. He lost himself in the arms of his imaginary lover, knowing only that he would be tall and broad like Murron and wishing he would possess the same haunting hazel eyes.
"Very good, Aidan," Murron applauded briefly.
Aidan whirled and almost over balanced.
Murron put out a steadying hand and found himself once more with an armful of beautiful youth. The temptation to kiss the pink lips, open in an 'oh' of surprise was almost overwhelming. It took a feat of self-control Murron barely knew himself capable of not to give in to temptation. Donal had entrusted his son to him and he would not take advantage of the young ingénue.
As with previous nights, they added a late-evening class to the one in the classroom. The dancing went well. Murron found that Aidan remained light on his feet although his attention seemed to focus on holding onto Murron and watching his every move.
"Talking would be appropriate, Aidan. Your partner is going to expect a compliment or comment," Murron gestured with their clasped hands. "Something like; 'your eyes are as dark and majestic as the heavens'," he added. Although he used it as an example, Murron spoke the words from his heart.
Aidan looked up, a worried frown on his face.
"Talk and dance? At the same time? I can see a catastrophic event in the offing," Aidan smiled and blushed.
Murron laughed softly. The young man seemed happy to denigrate himself. It was as though he was trying to pre-empt and defuse potential criticism.
"Aidan, do not keep putting yourself down," he chided softly." I often find it appreciated when I am dark and brooding. Perhaps that might work." He knew it would not, the young male he held was too boyish to achieve such a feat, but something prodded the older man into seeing how the younger man responded.
"Oh, yes, Murron, you do it so well," Aidan sighed. He continued moving almost dreamily, looking shyly up at his dance partner.
They continued to practice, their movements flowing and they waltzed around the glade without a stumble. They stopped by the well and, for a brief moment, Murron felt a familiar stirring at his groin before quickly stepping away from the man in his arms. They practiced dining etiquette again and then it was time for Aidan to retire.
"Thank you, Murron," Aidan said sleepily, before hiding a yawn.
"It is my pleasure," Murron smiled, doffing a slight bow.
"No, 'tis mine," Aidan whispered as he wandered back to the house, unaware that the softly spoken words had been heard. He did not know how or when or even why, but his heart was filled with love for the quietly-spoken, reserved man. However, he was sure Murron only saw him as a pupil, or as his friend's son. He did not see him as a man or as a possible mate. Aidan was certain that when Murron finally left, his heart would shatter and yet knew not how to confess his feelings. His heart was heavy as he returned to his room.
Donal spotted his son hastening towards the windows that led into the garden and knew he was meeting Murron.
"Aidan, a moment if you please," he called.
"Yes, Papa?" Aidan asked as he instantly stopped.
"The Ball is but a few days away," Donal said, choosing his words with care. "Are you looking forward to it?"
"I...I do not want to disappoint you, Papa," Aidan whispered. He did not know how to answer truthfully that he dreaded it.
"Aidan," Donal said softly, his hand on his son's shoulder. "You are intelligent and graceful." He had taken Murron's advice and quietly observed Aidan dancing in the garden with his friend. It was quite a different Aidan from the wooden one he saw in the classroom and the sight had given him much to consider. "And even if, which I know will not happen, you stood on your dance partner's foot in each and every dance you had, you would still not disappoint me. I seek your happiness, Aidan. Always." He pressed a kiss to his son's cheek and another to the top of the dark tresses as he was impetuously hugged tightly.
"Thank you, Papa. I love you," Aidan husked from the broadness of Donal's chest.
"I love you, my son. Now go and exhaust Murron and have fun," he added. His smile turned thoughtful as Aidan scampered happily away.
Finally, it was the night of the Ball and Aidan was dressed and staring at his reflection and the image he presented. He wore well-fitting, black velvet pants, a white silk shirt with flowing sleeves and a simple black, sleeveless bolero jacket, in which was the requisite and detested white rose. His shoes were polished to a high shine and his hair tied in a ponytail with black velvet ribbon. He took a deep breath and went to his tutor's room. Tapping on it he stood and waited for Murron to answer. As the door opened, he turned slowly for the older man's approval.