The term is going as expected. As you were no doubt aware, they placed each of us with a roommate. This has been an unwelcome adjustment for which I wish you had provided me time to prepare. I am more fortunate than others in that the young man with whom I must share chambers is somber and quiet. I fear my propensity for conversation is not much appreciated. He comes not of good breeding, but is here by the accomplishments of his father, a military man of some rank. I fear my attempts at drawing him out of his reserved nature may bring us to words, but his quiet arouses in me such curiosity that I cannot resist the attempt.
I hope you will not find it a weakness that I miss you, and all of our family. Please pass my regards on to the girls and to little Ethan as well.
With warm regards, your son,
Dear Colonel --
I have settled in to University and been placed with a gregarious lout of a man whose breeding is, I fear, so impeccable that I must not complain for fear of his influence. I know you had wished for me to enter the service of the nation more directly. If I am to be in service, I should wish to be an officer, as you are, father, and to mark the service with the stamp of our family. For that, you know, I need this education, which you have so kindly provided for.
Instead of the play to which my roommate and others seem to have given their free time, I have immersed myself in study and a certain physical regimen beyond that to which the other students are accustomed. I have no words to speak that can adequately convey the gratitude I feel for this favor, father. I will prove to you that this education is worth the sacrifices you are making for it.
"What are you writing, Mayer?"
"Do I disturb you while you write, Grimaldi?" came Noah's curt reply. "No, I think that I do not, and yet you find yourself constantly scribbling in your journals, blissfully undisturbed, and you would gleefully distract me from my errand. Paper and ink is not so inexpensive that I can afford your casual mistakes and fifteen drafts."
Luke shook at the rebuke. Even at school people gave him deference. As heir to both the Grimaldi and Walsh fortunes, his star, socially, burned brighter than any other at the school. His father would have been proud, but the attention chafed on the young Grimaldi. He envied Mayer a little bit, though he'd never admit it publicly. But Mayer was strange... always so quiet and somber, as though position meant nothing to him. Luke quieted, content to simply watch the other boy, casually stepping closer. Too close. A gregarious lout, was he? Mayer's penmanship was commendable even if the contents were less savory to read.
"Do you have some cause to stand so close, Grimaldi?" said Mayer, trying to keep his voice from catching. He was having those disturbing stirrings again, and they only got worse the closer the Grimaldi boy got to him.
Luke moved back to his desk. "I... Mayer, I am only trying to be a friend to you. I know you care nothing for my station, but it cuts me deeply that you would so casually insult my character."
"I did not..." Mayer looked away. "I am..."
"Speak to me plainly, Mayer. If I am truly that distasteful to you, I will ask the dean to reassign us. I know that Davis fights like a demon with his roommate. He's a decent fellow, Davis," said Luke quietly. It was true after a fashion. Davis knew things that would prove dangerous for Luke if they were generally known. "I would endure Munson as a roommate if it meant easing your difficulties with me."
"It is not," Mayer spoke slowly. Truly he would be horrified to lose Grimaldi as a roommate, and yet for the very reasons he wished Grimaldi to stay, he knew he should be pushing the boy to depart. Anyone would be better. "I... I would not wish that."
"Then why such insults?"
"It is what my father has need to hear from me," said Noah. "He would wish I never grow accustomed to the society that surrounds you."
"He didn't want you to come to University, did he?" asked Luke quietly.
Noah shook his head. "He would have me step up through the ranks as he did. Be a soldier. I... I love my father, for his great service to our nation, for his love of me. But I..."
"Are you so afraid of death?"
"That is but natural, Grimaldi. But I am not dissuaded by cowardice. My father believes there is no greater calling in life than to be a soldier. Do not think for a moment I don't value his sacrifices for this country. But I would rather live for a cause than to die for one, and while my father's career is a noble one, it is..." Noah's voice became hushed, "it is not a life I wish to lead."
"That's not what you told him," said Luke.
"And have you never written half-truths to placate your family?" asked Noah, turning to glare at the rich boy who he was forced to room with.
Luke caught the sparkle of the boy's eyes as he turned with such intensity and blanched white as a sheet, turning quickly away. No. Not again. Not after that disaster with Davis. He could only be thankful the boy owed him a life-debt and had so stayed quiet.
Noah grew suddenly concerned as an unhealthy pallor overtook Grimaldi. He stood and closed the door to their chamber, to shield him from the view of students moving through the halls, and then squatted next to the young man, moving to lift Grimaldi's chin to look at him. The brush of stubble on Luke's chin against his fingers struck Noah soundly in his heart, as a jolt of something unidentifiable and yet wondrous ran through his arm and into his soul.
"Are... are you quite well, Grimaldi..." Noah managed to choke out.
Luke looked him seriously in his eyes, luscious chocolate meeting perfect crystalline blue. Luke did not answer immediately but instead reached up to pull Noah's fingers from beneath his chin. As their hands met he felt again that feeling, that glorious feeling that had spread through his face at Mayer's touch. This time, though, he was looking right into the boy's eyes. There was no means to hide that Mayer felt it too. "I..."
Noah turned away trying to pull his fingers from Luke's hand.
"This is wrong, Grimaldi."
Luke's heart almost stopped from pain as he heard those words. But he did not release Mayer's fingers yet, bringing them instead to his lips and kissing them gently. He could feel Mayer's body begin to tremble. Luke kissed his fingers again and let them go. "My name is Luciano. But my friends call me Luke." They had gone some months already never using their given names.
Noah stood only a single step away, not looking at the boy. "I..."
There was a clatter in the hallway and the sound of steps rushing closer. Luke turned back to his desk. Mayer did not move. The door opened and Munson, a dark haired boy with sharp features, stepped into the room. "Grimaldi, have you seen Davis?"
Luke looked down at the desk. They'd... if they'd been found, even something so... he took a deep breath. Mayer could betray him, even now.
"Can you not see that we are engaged in correspondence, Munson," came Mayer's curt reply. "Even now I am on the third draft of a letter, and my supply of paper and ink for such work is not limitless."
"You have no sense of fun, Mayer," said Munson. "Besides, I came to speak to Luke, not to you."
"William, extend some courtesy," said Luke quietly, still facing his desk. "Mayer requested quiet of me, and you have caused me to break my promise to give him some peace."
"I..." Munson stumbled over his words. Such a rebuke was uncommon for Grimaldi, whose own vivacity frequently spread into the chambers of friends.
"I will see you tomorrow for the equestrian training, William," said Luke, "I believe my father's horses have arrived, so we shall finally have proper steeds."
Will smiled at that and gave a quick nod before closing the door. Luke stood and walked the steps over to it to lock it. There was no real privacy, for the headmaster and the faculty had keys that would open the doors, but it would stop a casual interruption.
"Thank you, Mayer," said Grimaldi quietly. "An accusation from you..."
"An accusation of what? That you kissed me hand?" said Noah, his voice scarcely whispered. "How can I accuse you of that. How can I..." Noah looked down, "when I..."
Luke stepped up to the boy, leaning his head to rest on Mayer's shoulder blades as he reached one hand around to rest on Mayer's stomach. Dear god, the boy was cut as though chiseled from stone. Luke shuddered. He hardly knew this boy, it was dangerous. And yet, there had been no mistaking the desire in those blue eyes. And men of their sort... how could he not take the risk?
Noah spun around and looked again into Luke's eyes. Strong hands found perch upon Luke's narrow waist, sending electricity coursing through them both. Noah trembled. "We should not do this."
Luke's hand pressed against Noah's heart. "What do you want, Mayer. Shall we pretend? Find a way to forget the force of passion at the merest touch? Is that what you want?"
"This is dangerous. Even more for you, Grimaldi, than for me."
Luke took confidence from the fact that Noah had not moved away, and his hands still rested on Luke's hips. Luke pressed closer against him and leaned up. "I..." he breathed the word into Noah's face, "I want you." Noah trembled against him, and Luke did not move. But he could sense as much as see Noah's head tilt.
"Take me then," breathed Noah his lips already almost against Luke's face. And then the soft lips that had set his body stirring were against his own, the rich boy's tongue questing into his mouth. Noah had never felt such ecstasy coursing through his body and he knew any hope of hiding that desire from Luke had gone the moments their lips had met as their bodies made known to the other that they were prepared for far more than just a kiss. They stood together locked in a kiss for the space of many breaths before they finally broke apart to breathe.
"Shhh Mayer. Just breathe," said Luke, pressing a single finger against Noah's lips while trying to control his own trembling body.
"I..." Noah leaned his forehead against Luke's. "My name is Noah."
"Noah..." Luke's whispered his name, "I..."
Noah shook his head. "Save declarations that cannot be unmade for times when your body is not so close to mine that you might think them through."
"Do not think I wish to deny this... I feel it too. But if I am to take this risk... I would be sure of more than just vulgar carnal desires."
Luke smiled. "Then I am not alone in those..."
"If you cannot feel that you are not, then there is something very wrong," said Noah thrusting his hips just slightly so his aroused manhood pressed deeply into the flesh of Luke's waist.
Luke closed his eyes as Noah pressed against him. "I... Noah. Please."
"No. If we are to take this risk, this dangerous chance, both of us, I will be sure. And you must too, for even a disgraced man can yet be a soldier. You have position and power and a name to place in jeopardy."
"So what is this?" asked Luke opening his eyes to look at Noah.
"A mutual courtship," said Noah gently, leaning down to kiss Luke again. "One that I hope," he said placing a string of kisses down Luke's neck, "will eventually lead us to that carnal path."
"You... you really want that? With me?" asked Luke hesitantly.
Noah pulled away and turned around, his body still visibly trembling. "Pay court to me, my Luciano, and find out."