The Pains And Pleasure Of Agricultural Labour
by KindKit

Rupert thought it would be like something out of a picture, everyone shirtless and laughing. But picking grapes, it turns out, is fucking hard work. One day of it and he's aged about twenty years, like the victim of an especially cautionary fairy tale. His back and his knees hurt, and his hands are so blistered he can't close them. So much for the evenings he imagined, where he sat surrounded by admiring vendangeurs, playing song after brilliant song on his guitar, drinking the red wine and smoking the hash they offered him. Where, later, he and Ethan had a room to themselves, two good beds to choose from and all night to spend.

No, they're in a farm shed with a dozen other boys (the girls are in the house, lucky cows). Might as well be back at school. Of course, he's probably too tired to fuck anyway.

He looks up, and Ethan's just coming in the doorway from the toilet-shed. Lately, since they've been together all the time, it happens often, him knowing where Ethan is before he looks. "Magic rubs off," Ethan said when he asked. As though Ethan's covered with one of those paints you can only see under special lights, and every time Rupert touches him, a little more sticks to his skin.

"Come for a walk with me," Ethan says, standing at the foot of Rupert's bed. He doesn't sit. Some of the boys have already given them speculative stares.

"Christ, I'm knackered. Aren't you?" It ought to hit Ethan harder; he's only fifteen, after all. But from the look of him, he might have spent the day reading. More magic, probably.

"Layabout." Ethan drops his voice. "C'mon. Let's get out of here for a bit."

Outside, with that scorching, hostile sun well down, it's turned cool. Over the hills towards the village, a nearly-full moon is rising, almost as big and orange as the sun, but gentler. Some strange bird calls from the trees, and the dew has mellowed the afternoon smell of dust into greenness and fruit.

"All right," Rupert says, following Ethan up the hill towards the top field, where they picked today. "I'll admit it's pretty."

Ethan flops bonelessly down in the narrow space between the vine-rows and leans back on one elbow. "Fuck pretty. It's private." He stretches out a hand and Rupert settles next to him.

"Did I mention I'm knackered?" But touching Ethan, after a long day when they couldn't, feels as good as lying on the mattress did. Rest for some weariness Rupert didn't feel until now.

That's not magic, though. That's something else.

"Poor Rupert." Ethan nudges him down onto his back and throws an arm over him, cheek resting on his chest. His hair, already growing out of its short schoolboy cut, falls into his eyes, and Rupert brushes it back. Once it's properly grown, Ethan's going to look amazing. Like Marc Bolan. "Poor Ripper."

"Oh, god, don't." This morning some dim girl from Denmark or somewhere twisted 'Rupert' into that, and Ethan's been taking the piss ever since.

Ethan kisses him on the chin, then, not at all apologetically, on the mouth. "I like it. From now on, you're Ripper."

"Whatever you say."


Beyond the Gordian knot of grapevines and their heavy leaves, little slivers of moonlight glow. The light and traceries make Rupert think of the rose window at the Sainte-Chapelle, which he's only seen in pictures. But they're off to Paris after the grape harvest, and he'll see it then, at least if he can get Ethan to stop laughing at the mere idea of visiting a church. "Look."

Ethan cranes his neck, then turns, laying his head in the hollow of Rupert's shoulder, and watches the moon rise. He's silent for a good ten minutes, a long time for him, and then he says, "Are you glad we're here?"

Aches and blisters, dirty clothes, an outdoor toilet and a lumpy bed, another endless day's work tomorrow.

Ethan. "Of course."

"Really? Even though you could be at Oxford right now, surrounded by every dusty old book you've ever dreamed of and forgetting all about me?"

"No." Rupert grips Ethan's arm and pulls him back around, holding him. "No, I couldn't be." He presses his lips to Ethan's hair, so warm it feels as though it's held the whole day's sun, and works down to Ethan's mouth with little hopping kisses. Ethan's sigh slides from contentment to excitement, and he does that trick with his tongue, stroking the tip along the underside of Rupert's. Something else that's not magic, but is; Ethan's skin cools Rupert's sore palms, the rocking of his hips lulls Rupert's aches. Everything feels wonderful, better than it ever has.

They used to do in the woods on the far side of the science building, and now they're going to do it in a French vineyard, and there's a world of difference between then and now. Now they're free. Now they've got the whole world, and Rupert knows the world starts, life starts, where Ethan is. There's nowhere else he could be.


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