To love another boy was the last, worst sin.

So Rab's father had told him when he was eight years old and confessed to loving Billy Tinker, the craftsman's son. The words had had the weight and bite of whipsting in them, and the marks had burned across his back for days before healing.

He was never blind to beautiful boys, certainly not to proud, pretty Johnny Tremain. But he had never forgotten the last, worst sin.

Until his world exploded in smoke and musket fire, until he felt the crushing, shattering impact against his chest, the earth and sky reeling, until he was propped in an armchair in some dim tavern, with every breath rattling on bright agony through his lungs.

When he raised his head and saw those blue eyes, huge and frightened, peering at him, he had to smile. The sheer, buoyant relief that flooded through him didn't feel like a sin. "You made it out, then," he managed, feeling warm, thick blood tickling the back of his throat.

"Yes."

Those eyes were so earnest, so bright, shifting with silver as the late sunlight glinted off unshed tears. It was not a sin to love those eyes.

His chest contracted, lancing with pain that was not from the bullet wound. To ease it, he spoke with effort of something innocuous, some empty memory, some wandering thought. But the ache wouldn't ease as Johnny walked slowly from the room another harsh throb of agony chimed through him, and he choked on blood and tears and laughter, because this really would be his last sin.

But not his worst. No, Johnny cast one last glance back, and in that final glimpse of those brilliant, tear-bright eyes, Rab knew his worst sin was his silence.