I swore I would wait, but I cannot resist! The History Channel's new show, Vikings, has me in its grip and it won't let go. As if I didn't have enough shows to write fiction for! Ah well, who am I to deny the call of fandom? This story is written for Sarah and Ali, my beloved shippers of Ragnar/Athelstan. They encourage me in a probably blasphemous love of the most freakin' attractive monk on the planet (even if he is only a character) and now I wish to pay them back. Be warned, there is internal conflict of a religious nature (because Athelstan is a priest in a Norse community that favors a pro-sexual attitude and threesomes. That's obviously gotta mess with him a little) and lots of slash of an M nature. I tried to balance Ragnar's calm treatment of everyone and gentler side with his warrior's instinct and quick to anger nature. I hope I succeeded. As he's shown with Lagertha, he can be incredibly tender but also rough and ornery. I thought the same would go for how he interacts with Athelstan. As for our priest, I wanted to let his off-balance views of the world drive his questioning. He is a man of reason, and truth seems to outweigh his own beliefs in the show. If someone brings a valid point to his attention, he internalizes it and does a lot of soul searching. In this, he must wonder if intimacy is truly something to reject, and his conclusion certainly made me happy ;)

And for the very first time…I am angry with you, Lord.

It had been so difficult to say then. He had thought, perhaps foolishly, that God would strike him down then and there, leaving his corpse to rot away in this foreign land that was slowly, slowly and with increasing fervency, sinking into his very bones. This new place where evil lurked and savages roamed had eventually turned into a land where love dwelt and kin walked beside him.

He had thought God turned his face away as surely as Lagertha said, and would damn him for his doubt. Athelstan found, on the contrary, that perhaps his off-kilter life had always been this side of uncomfortable because he had not been where God needed him most to be.

With my family.

When he found himself thinking of the Lodbroks as his family, it was an out of mind experience, but it was a notion he found he could settle into comfortably. Though their rituals and customs and gods were altogether different, they were people through and through. Bjorn reminded him of Brother Artur; always fighting the Father tooth and nail on the ways of the Scriptures, and Gita was a dear one he would not hesitate to perish for. The same went for Lagertha, though with that came a healthy dose of respect and not so little fear. Ragnar…

Ragnar.

His eyes inevitably wandered from their task of stacking wood to travel along the visage of the new Earl. How troubling, that a man may be so striking and so beautiful all the same, he mused tiredly. He didn't believe these thoughts would ever come without a slight tremor of hesitance or fear of God's wrath, but more and more the thoughts came with another tremor not altogether unpleasant. If God had any punishments against his interest, He had not struck him down yet. Instead, He had given as much rest as the priest could expect in his new life. Athelstan still struggled on a daily basis to maintain faith, though not belief. Surely as the sun rose, there was something that drove the earth and the wind and rain and the beating of his heart and the hearts of those around him. The question that remained was which God. Was there one as he had always believed, or many as Ragnar and his family claimed. If there were many, were they merciful and loving, cruel and greedy, or a blend of these? What are their names? And how will I re-learn everything I once thought to be absolute? These were the questions that plagued his mind, but they were easy to forget during the day.

During the light hours, he had his chores and then he helped the family with theirs. Gita favored him with her sweet smile and would sit aside to chatter for hours and tell him stories of her people. Bjorn would pass by to make a joke or add to the tale every so often, while answering his many questions. Then supper would be served; far heartier now that winter was passing into its bitter rage. Lagertha has warned him that the fare would thin once more as the season kept on, but for now they dined well. He knew Ragnar would not let his people go hungry as Earl Heraldson did. It was a testament to that truth that he got any food at all. His portions were equal to that of the Earl himself, and Ragnar always confided that he would give his own meal away first should the need arise. "An Earl must fall before the people. Leaders can always be replaced, but what is a leader without a people to guide?" the warrior had said with a cryptic smirk and a wink. Athelstan didn't feel the need to dwell too deeply at the way his cheeks had heated at the playful nudge he'd received.

"Priest, are you enjoying the bite of frost on your hands or would you rather warm them by the fire?" Ragnar's voice shattered his quiet musings and he startled before he saw the grin on the warrior's face.

"It seems a fire lit would be more effective than the one I saw earlier today!" he jested. "Ashes can hardly warm a body." He smiled at the approving nod, delighted that his quips never failed to put Ragnar in a pleasant mood.

"Perhaps not," Ragnar pretended to ponder the point, before he sidled closer to the priest. Athelstan's smile wavered when the Viking brought his face far too near for comfort. "But ashes can be fanned into flame, true? And a fire is not the quickest way to warm a body." That voice. Sometimes he thought he'd collapse at the mere sound of it. Playful and heated and sinful and promising more than Lucifer had promised Christ in his hour of temptation. But this man was no devil, and no trickery tainted his tone. It was merely how things were here. Bodies were for using, and the pleasures people derived from them were something to be enjoyed rather than restricted. Athelstan couldn't help but envy that freedom, and attempt to turn his mind from the road it wished to travel. He had decided when Lagertha and Ragnar had asked him to partake with them that he would hold off until he could be sure of his faith or theirs. He would not stumble only to find out that the fall was too cruel to bear; he must be certain.

A drawn, disappointed sigh breathed along his neck, and Ragnar stepped away, taking his pensive silence for rejection. It was, in a way, but Athelstan felt the disappointment along with him more often than not, along with a pang of amazement at how different his new family was to the ones around them. He'd seen many men take full advantage of their slaves—men and women alike. They could be beaten and hurt beyond repair without recompense, but Athelstan was never so much as slapped, much less violated so brutally. The children shook his hand (or held it, in Gita's case, though he knew it had little to do with reassurance and more to do with how families here interacted) and Lagertha would fondly pat his cheek to show her amusement at his ignorance of the culture. She would also pull his hair—now fully grown in—if he displeased her, but her yelling was scary enough that he would usually flee to whatever task she'd had in mind in the first place. Ragnar respected his space enough that the priest felt confident that should he give an absolute refusal, the Viking would honor it. Perhaps he was naive to assume that safety, but the warrior had done nothing to prove otherwise thus far. He didn't want to think about the chance that he was wrong.

"Let us go inside. The wood can wait until the snow stops."

The priest nodded and picked up the axe to follow. There was a flash of wariness that never seemed to dim within Ragnar. He would eye the weapon in his slave's hand and gauge whether it was this time that Athelstan would seek to be rid of his master. Initially hurt by the mistrust, Athelstan had eventually learned that in this society, there was sometimes more to fear from the ones you were closest to than far off enemies. He understood that perfectly. The closer someone is, the more able they are to hurt you. The priest rolled his eyes and handed the axe over with a small smile, laying a hand on his leader's shoulder when he passed to go into the communal lodging. "Maybe next time," he murmured. "I'm too tired for a proper fight today." His smile grew into a cheeky grin to match Ragnar's and he laughed at the sheer absurdity of him attempting to best the man that had killed Earl Heraldson. Never mind attempting to harm the man he was beginning to think he might love.

xXx

By the middle of winter, Lagertha's words rang true and the food began to become problematic. The men hunted more often now, but the weather was unforgiving even at the best of times. Some days were so bad no one could set foot outside lest they wish to perish within minutes. On those days, everyone ate slowly and huddled together in the lodging they shared with their friends. Necessity to not lose heat outweighed most everything else, and the most accessible heat was within their own bodies. Nights found the families in a large group, huddled together to share and transfer the warmth as they slept with the wind howling its displeasure at their continued existence.

It was on a night like this that Lagertha slid beneath the furs beside Athelstan's freezing form. He turned his head to her in question, attempting to greet her against his chattering teeth. She smiled wolfishly. "You are shivering, priest. I could fix that, if you weren't so intent on wasting your body like an old maid." He raised an eyebrow in shock, glancing over to where Ragnar spoke with his friends, all bundled together on the other side of the room. "And he has always given permission, you know. Guests make use of house and home."

He couldn't help but frown. He was certainly no guest, but he let the comment pass. "And you don't disapprove that notion? Forgive me, but that has always seemed like such a terrible thing for a man to offer, for you are not a thing at all."

She laughed, rough and low, but beautifully. "Of course not, priest. I am no more a thing than any man in this room." Her voice turned roguish, and her hand snuck to his arm, tracing teasingly and making him a bit overheated. "But I am not without interest. I like to taste as much as he does. Do you not think it is with the utmost trust that a man offers his wife to a friend and his friend's wife to him? Better yet, he asked you upon your arrival. To join us both. My husband is many things, but trusting," she looked over to Ragnar. "Is not one of those things. You may see us fight, but we are strong together. He trusts you with me, with our home, with our children, and to do so he must see something very different." She looked at Athelstan again, making him squirm with her hard gaze and wandering hands. "I cannot say I see exactly as he does, but there is heart in you, priest, for all your stupidity." Athelstan thought he should not be so proud of the vague insult, but he couldn't help but smile.

"It is helpful for me to understand better how your family works, and I thank you for it," he replied.

She sighed and withdrew slightly, "But you will not have me. Pity; I could make it worth both of our time. Tell me, why is it you have never been with a woman?" She propped herself up on his covered chest, making him slightly more comfortable than before. He made to explain again about the laws of his faith, but she stopped him. "No, I know your god seems to always be awake, but why is it he does not want you to lie with another? Does that not seem silly to you?"

He opened his mouth to reply, but had to close it once more when he could give none. Why does God would not want man to sleep with a woman? Is there some innate evil in intercourse that He sees? Is it because man has corrupted a once perfect act? A terrifying thought sprang to mind. Have I blindly accepted too much? Is there a point to so much of what I think I know, or is it all to appease my own restless soul?

"I think it does seem odd, at the very least, to give humanity desire only to let it fester into sin," he finally agreed. "But we never spoke of it in the monastery. It wasn't done."

"Why do you only think of women? Is it not a 'sin' to lie with a man, then?" Lagertha asked curiously. She pushed her hair back from her face where it had fallen, and her expression was not so closed off as he usually saw.

"It-it is far worse to lie with a man." He barely managed to speak, as highly uncomfortable with the new topic as he was.

She eyed him with more fervency than before. "Ahh, but it is what you desire most. Your face gives you away. You believe it is a problem with your god to lie with a man, but really you should be more concerned with me." For one moment, Athelstan thought perhaps the shield-maiden would follow through with her threat of ripping out his insides with her bare hands. "I see how you've looked at my husband, and I understand now. Most often we join in threes with wife and men, but it is certainly not unheard of between men alone. Floki, I think, had more men than women until he met Helga." That was an image he hoped to scourge from his mind as quickly as possible. "But you needn't worry, priest. I would not begrudge you Ragnar, for I know his fealty lies with me and the children before all else. I trust him more than the earth I see around me, and there are few more handsome than him." She grinned in her husband's direction, though he was not looking. When she turned back to the priest, she brought her face closer. "If you ever decide to become less stupid, I could show you how to be with a woman. I doubt you'd think of your god much after that. Until then, though, my husband would be a good distraction. I grant you permission."

The stuttered thanks was more out of shock than actual gratitude, but at least the shield maiden turned her back to fall asleep after that and he didn't have her distracting hands adding to his frustrations.

Permission…what would it be like if I were to accept?

Sleep didn't come easily.

xXx

As many bodies as possible were needed for the next hunt, if only for safety in numbers. Athelstan was nearly drowning in furs and he was still frigid beneath the onslaught of freezing sleet that drove them on towards home after too meager a kill. Ragnar was in a foul mood, snapping at anyone who tried to talk to him, and the priest kept his distance, not wanting to anger him further with a request for the water skein the leader was gripping angrily by the neck. When they finally returned, Ragnar only sloughed off his weaponry before bitterly stalking back outside. Bjorn looked at his mother worriedly, but she shook her head and glared at the door her husband had left from. Athelstan crept over to the fire, trying to stem his own worry for his friend while he chafed his hands against the numbness brought by the cold. Still so strange to think of him as such, especially since it's untrue given my standing, but never unwelcome.

His hands were stilled by Lagertha's, and her eyes looked into his for a moment. "Can you help?" she mouthed silently.

"How?" he whispered back, wondering if even his humor could raise Ragnar from his childish tantrum.

"Make him laugh as you always do," she said lowly, seemingly reading his mind. "I have too much to see to here." He bristled slightly at his implied uselessness, but let it go and nodded.

He immediately regretted the decision to leave the lodging upon feeling the blast of air that awaited him, but he trudged on in the direction of the warrior's boot tracks, counting his steps to remember how to get home. Luckily, his trip was short-lived and he found the prints stop at the nearby barn where the livestock was bedded down for the remainder of the winter. He stepped inside the relative warmth and shook his hair free of snow clumps, breathing deeply.

"If you were any quieter, I might have thought an idiot had come to take the pigs," an ornery voice came from the loft. Athelstan sighed, relieved.

"Fortunately it's just an idiot who has come to make sure you are alright."

"I do not need you to check up on me, slave." It was said angrily now, and Athelstan flinched before he steeled himself into calm only achieved through years of being in the monastery.

"Of course you don't. I merely wished to spend more time in your happy company. You are so cheerful, after all," he said fondly. His efforts were rewarded with a snort of amusement. He took the following silence as permission to join Ragnar in the loft. His head peered over the edge of the rafter, alighting on the warrior's dejected figure. He crawled up, shuffling over on his knees to sit a short distance away. He stayed silent, knowing of Ragnar's propensity to the stillness while he thought. For a time he occupied himself with counting the strands of hay nearby. Soon his eyes drifted close, and he was very nearly asleep when Ragnar finally spoke.

"Why is it you do not seek to gain your freedom, priest? You pester me about it often enough."

A yawn escaped while he roused himself awake enough to answer. "You mean why do I not try and kill you at every turn? Simple: I would be without a friend in the world. Your family would hate me, you would be gone, and I would hate myself. There is little to gain in the way of freedom from the misery my existence would be without you in it," he joked, even if there was more than enough truth in it. "Also, I may be just a little afraid of your wife's wrath."

Ragnar barked a laugh, startled by the answer. "Any wise man should fear her." He trailed off into silence once more, breaking it more quickly this time. "Do you ever miss it?" Again, the question was not the true question.

"Not very often anymore. I was in my homeland there, but I was not home. I prefer these unforgiving mountains to the soft swell of the monastery's hill because I have family here," he answered honestly, shrugging. Let Ragnar decide if I may call his people kin.

"Did you not call them 'brothers'?" Only the barest notes of guilt laced his tone. There was little regret, but enough sympathy in his voice to quell the ache in Athelstan's heart when he thought of the others: all dead now. Are they in Heaven? Praising God with the angels? Or perhaps they feast with Odin in Valhalla? It hurts to not know.

"I did, but though I loved them each as a mind and a heart to share with God, I love your family far more." He did not add the 'I love you more', feeling no need to make things difficult. "You'll make a proper heathen of me yet." He chuckled, looking over sleepily to where Ragnar was reclined, but acutely awake, with eyes trained on him. His laughter tapered off into comfortable silence.

He was lapsing back into sleep when Ragnar spoke once more, much closer. "Your hair has grown in entirely. Why did you let it?" The hand suddenly carding through his curls was unexpected, but overwhelmingly pleasant.

He hummed softly, trying to prevent himself from leaning into the touch. "No need to shave it anymore. I am not at the monastery, and there is no one to do it for me. I don't want to wound myself again, and if there is no need, I do not need aid either. It is odd to feel hair there after so long, but I don't mind it."

"You look better for it. You looked like a crazy person before," Ragnar said absently.

Athelstan laughed outright. "Most of your hair is shaved. Just in different areas. But I wouldn't say you look like a crazy person," he pointed out.

"Of course not. I am exceedingly handsome because of it."

"If you say so," he teased, though he agreed wholeheartedly.

"You do not think me a god of good feature?" Ragnar gasped, mock-wounded.

"Not God, though we cannot see His face so I wouldn't know." He opened his eyes, finding the new Earl hovering over him, too close.

Not close enough.

"An argument could be made for an archangel, perhaps."

"What is an—" Ragnar's words were cut off by a swift kiss. It lasted a mere second before Athelstan drew back, eyes wider now and uncertain of himself. Everything I know. Everything is going to be gone and if there is a God in Heaven, please don't let there be nothing to fill the void. I beg of you.

"Athelstan?" It was a barely formed question, but the Viking answered it for himself when a moment later his lips challenged the priest's to battle. He savored his name on Ragnar's lips and decided to let nature take over when those lips opened his and a wet heat greeted him with pleasure. He sighed into the kiss, already liking the newness of it all. The warrior's tongue slid along his own, encouraging him to fight for the right to stay and be welcome, and he tried to imitate the glide of chapped lips over his. Ragnar drew back only to breathe before he descended again to brush their mouths together intimately. The harsh drag of air in his lungs made Athelstan's mind reel, hands seeking purchase on the wide shoulders braced over him. "What changed your mind?" He asked in a steady tone. Only the dart of his eyes across Athelstan's face betrayed any surprise.

Everything. This new reality, the need to anchor myself before I drift too far, the desire to know if you can erase the fear in my heart, your infectious, bright nature and protective arrogance, your understanding words in a harsh world…"You," Athelstan breathed, trying to find explanation between the muddle of new sensations. It seemed to be a good answer, too, because Ragnar didn't ask questions after that.

Kisses were sucked and bitten into his skin, along the column of his throat, and if Athelstan had doubted the pleasure of this act, he doubted no longer. He let out a soft moan of appreciation, and the Viking shook his shoulders a bit with a demand that he not hold back his voice. For a moment, he didn't understand, until a heated kiss was pressed to a spot behind his ear and the noise he made was far louder than the one before.

"That's—" he didn't know what he had been about to say, but it was lost to a sharp breath when Ragnar's hands began to unlace, unclasp, and undress him. Make me come undone. If I am to fall, I want every part of it. He stripped himself of the last fur until he was in nothing but the soft tunic beneath, and sought to divest Ragnar of his clothing as well. His hands were batted away with a mock scowl, and the warrior rid himself of his own outer garments until his chest was bared to the cold air. Athelstan's eyes were immediately riveted on the powerful expanse of muscle and skin, alighting here and there to take as much in as possible. He was proud that his hands shook only a little when he reached out to glide them along the newly exposed territory. Scars were etched in criss-crossing, mindless patterns; some deeper than others, but each one was earned in fierce battle to defend what Ragnar claimed as his. Beautiful…

His exploration was cut short by strong fingers wrapping around his wrists to draw them away. "It is not our way for a slave to have that privilege." The words were not unkind, and Athelstan reminded himself of that. He nodded, eyes down and slightly put out, but willing to let Ragnar lead as he had no experience in this area. His hands were suddenly kissed, one to each palm, and put back upon the Viking's stomach. Hard muscles rippled in invitation. "But, I have never let that stop me before," Ragnar finished cheekily, smirking with a mirthful glint in his eyes. The priest smiled with him, less hesitant, but still nervous. He resumed his careful exploration of the firm, undeniably masculine body, trying to decide if he ought to do the same with his mouth. He didn't get the chance once Ragnar grew impatient and he found himself pressed onto his back with that same body settled atop him.

It is comforting, I think. To have his weight pressing from above. His head tipped back and suddenly safety was the last thing on his mind, when Ragnar's tongue drew his back out once more. He could feel his desire quickly moving past interest and into fervency, and when Ragnar shifted just so to align their hips, he broke away with a keen of surprise, panting at the pleasure spiking his blood like heady ale. "Oh!"

"Mmm," Ragnar hummed in agreement, reaching to strip the priest of the tunic. There was a moment of tenseness, and Athelstan felt his breath become shallow. He counted slowly in his head before he closed his eyes and let the soft cloth slip off of him. He was now completely undressed, and unsure if that made it better or worse. It was worse because he had never been unclothed before another; not in this way at least. But it was better—so much better—when he felt the heat of Ragnar's flesh on his own. The sensation doubled and tripled further when the warrior removed his last bit of clothing and slotted their hips together. Neither could stop their voices this time, with their moans the only sound beyond the rustle of hay and shriek of the wind.

"Rag—nar!" His eyes widened when the Viking began to rut against him, gasping for air and letting his mouth go slack when the burning intensified. So good. It felt as though he was walking along the edge of an abyss, ready to plummet and pleading to be allowed to do so. His own hips undulated in an ancient rhythm, seeking satisfaction as old as time itself. "What—"

"Shh," Ragnar hushed him, bringing their lips together again, fierce and bruising in their collision. Athelstan drank deeply of his lover's kisses, not wanting to stop, but forced to when a hand snuck between their slick bodies to wrap around their lengths. For every thrust, Ragnar added a twist of his wrist and Athelstan nearly wept with the need to reach completion. He knew the blaze of rapture that was twisting his insides; despite the laws of their faith, he had never known a monk to resist so long that his own hand would not be utilized. Heavy penance always followed, but it seemed worth it for the bliss that cascaded over him when he could resist no longer.

"Please," he begged, wanting more and nothing and everything, but unsure of how much he wanted to ask for. He whimpered in disappointment when Ragnar slowed the pace, not allowing him to press up against his body.

"I would take you, Athelstan. But you will have to be certain. I don't wish you pain, and if you doubt me, there will be no pleasure in this. I need for you to have faith in me." The words struck him deep, and he knew Ragnar had chosen them carefully. He smiled, breathing hard, and quickly nodded his assent.

"I trust you," he replied. He was rewarded with a gentle kiss, followed by one to his neck, and then his forehead, with a few scattered along his shoulders and sides, tongue darting out to map each rib and the lines of his hips.

"Good. Then do the same for me," Ragnar murmured against his side, rolling and bringing the priest to a sitting position beside him. He stretched out his lithe body, smirking when Athelstan's eyes were drawn to his manhood in both fascination and trepidation.

"I don't—"

"Your experience does not matter. I can teach anything, and only practice can take away uncertainty," Ragnar answered before he could ask. Athelstan closed his eyes a moment, steeling himself, and slowly bent towards the Viking, watching the play of light along his face and eyes, darkened and heated with lust. I put this desire in him. It was an empowering thought. Forgive me my trespasses, for I will sin and sin again.

His hands found steadiness on either side of Ragnar's thighs, and he slowly brushed his lips along the glistening skin of his lover. He could taste the salt of sweat and musk of the terrain, and his tongue darted out, seeking more. He shivered when it wasn't unpleasant as he might have guessed, but served to drive his pleasure higher and higher. Confidence in place, he took a similar route as Ragnar, finding the places that could make the warrior sigh or groan or arch into his touch. His hands played and memorized the curve of strong biceps and the dip of his navel until they wrapped around heated flesh that dripped with need. Without thinking, his mouth joined the quest, curious to the taste. He nearly choked when Ragnar's hips stuttered up, and he had to back away to cough for a moment. A breathless laugh rang in the barn.

"You are a fast learner, priest. I did not think you would think of that so soon," the warrior grinned, pleased.

"I told you, I have traveled," Athelstan cleared his aching throat, trying and failing to keep the heat from his face. "Though I never indulged, that does not mean I know nothing."

"No, you have never been a stupid person," Ragnar agreed, and Athelstan nearly beamed at the praise. "Clever, clever priest. But there is no need to do everything today…" he slid over Athelstan once more, making the younger man moan when his own weeping arousal was gripped in a quick, blissful moment of friction. "Let me show you another thing."

"Yes." He meant it. He could trust Ragnar, and he would follow wherever this night led. Let it be on my head, then. Strong fingers ran through his hair again, rubbing gently at his temples and making him sigh and roll his hips into the body above him. "Ragnar…"

"Relax and breathe deep, do not forget to open yourself to me," he instructed once more, gliding fingers along Athelstan's bitten lips. He parted them softly and the younger male lapped at them, knowing the slick of his spit would ease the way. He felt a mixture of shame and gratefulness at his knowledge of these matters. In his travels to bring the word of God to distant lands and villages, he had ended up learning more than those he sought to teach. He did not speak of his acquired understandings, for they were forbidden in the house of God, but when his mind was too tired to fight, the thoughts would slip in, and speak with lilting tones to ask if he agreed with what he had always known, or if he longed for the things he had seen.

When Ragnar drew his hand away, and down, he stopped thinking, allowing his body to recognize his want despite his mind's misgivings. It would do no good to become frantic over something he desired more than anything else. If God damned him, so be it. He would live at Ragnar's side and depart only to descend to Hell. He was certain. He would accept whatever came after.

Long fingers began to work him open, and at the first touch, he stopped breathing, eyes wide at the foreign feeling. It was not quite a burn, and neither unpleasant or pleasurable, but a balance of the two. He concentrated on the wet kisses against his neck, letting Ragnar distract him until he could find breath again. A second finger joined the first, and this time he grit his teeth against a slight pain, trying to stop his body from expelling the intrusion. "Let me in, Athelstan. Trust me, as I trust you."

His heart picked up pace, and his belly burned with the beauty of those words. He trusts me, and I can do the same. Do not be afraid. He relaxed from the tense posture and drew his legs up to press along Ragnar's sides, nudging him in encouragement. When Ragnar crooked his fingers again, specks and stars scattered in his vision and he cried out in pleasure. "Ah!" The assault on his senses was repeated, making the fire burn out of control. He could hardly make sense of such need, but he pressed back against his lover's hand, seeking more. "Please!"

He was prepared mercilessly, reduced to a babbling mess until Ragnar took pity on him and drew him up to his knees, turning him. Athelstan thought to protest, wanting to watch Ragnar when they joined, until he felt that comforting weight settle along his back, their sweat mingling and the heat of another body pressing down on him intimately. Lips meandered along his spine, tonguing at the dip at the small of his back. He leant back, putting his head against his fists to rest only a moment. "Please…" he tried once more.

"Athelstan," Ragnar said it so fondly, with so much exasperated affection, and everything was worth it. His name sounded good like this. He felt good like this. This was home. This wilderness and people with all their faults and triumphs. Ragnar, Lagertha, Bjorn, Gita, Floki, Helga, Kauko, Leif, and the others…they were the blessings he had always sought and never thought he would find. He felt peace.

Warm hands steadied his hips and a voice ragged with want said his name again before Ragnar thrust into him, clamping his hands down on the priest's to still the violent jolt that rippled his spine. Athelstan let out a choked cry of mingled pain and desperate delight, not bothering to silence himself. He was given only a moment to memorize the stretch of his body to accommodate Ragnar within him before the warrior rasped his approval and began a steady pace, hardly letting Athelstan adjust. Even so, any pain was soon melted into a gut wrenching flame that had the younger man nearly sobbing; begging for his release. Broad hands previously twined with his now snaked along his chest and clenching stomach, making him throw his head back to request a bit of mercy. His neck was bitten, kissed, and worshipped with Ragnar's words of encouragement. "You shine Athelstan, like the halls of Valhalla. Never let your light be hidden again," the Viking commanded.

His neglected arousal was suddenly gripped and pumped on every other thrust, and Athelstan only seemed to burn hotter with every breach of his body, driving him back against Ragnar and forward into his hand, unsure of which he wanted most, but knowing he sought moremoremore until his vision blurred along with the trembling of his body, hovering at the edge, waiting until—

"Call my name for me, Athelstan. Let even your god hear," Ragnar whispered, laying a kiss on his shoulder, breathing hard against his back. His voice was broken, nearly a growl of lust, and Athelstan obeyed.

The wind devoured his scream of completion and whisked it along to travel with it, laced with the name of the one he loved most. His own name joined it moments after, dancing with the snowflakes through the woods of a new land. A new home.

A new life.

Finis

Read and Review! I look forward to when we meet again!