Title: By Candlelight
Summary: A prequel to 'Forlorn Hope'. Harris and
Hagman have remained in France after the war. Can they
manage to keep their love a secret or will they be
found out? Slash
Spoilers: None. Unless you're unfamiliar with the
'Sharpe' story arc.
Disclaimer: The characters of Daniel Hagman and Harris
are the creation of Bernard Cornwell and Eoghan
Harris. No infringement of copyright is intended and
absolutely no profit is being made from this.
Archive: If you're reading this, feel free.
Dedication: To Acassha. Happy birthday, love.
The sun had almost completely set as I made my way
towards the dark outline of what had been my home for
the past week. I had two hot bowls in my hands, given
to me by a suddenly unsmiling farmer's wife, and trod
Stephen was waiting for me in the barn as I came in
with our dinner, he was barely visible in the feeble
light cast by a candle stub, but his smile when he saw
me was enough to make the dark seem less threatening,
I handed him the bowl of rabbit stew and he inclined
his head in thanks, immediately setting to with his
spoon. The bowl in my own hands emitted a fragrant
aroma, hinting at herbs and spices, bone marrow and
all manner of tasty things but I could summon no
appetite. When he had wiped the bowl clean with a hunk
of freshly baked bread, I told him.
" We have to leave tomorrow. "
Slowly, deliberately he placed the bowl on the ground
and looked at me, bewilderment plain in his emerald
" Why, Dan? I thought we said we'd stay and help with
the ploughing. "
I sighed heavily.
" They're beginning to suspect us, love. They think
that there may be more to us than just two old
soldiers down on their luck. I could see it in their
faces tonight. "
" Damnit! " he raged. " We've been so careful. How did
they guess? How? "
" I don't know. " I replied. " But it's best if we
move on. There will be other places to find work. I
won't see that pretty neck stretched for my sake. And
I like my neck the length it is. "
All the fight went out of him then and he slumped
dejectedly, a lock of his flaming red hair falling
almost into his eyes.
" It's not fair. " he said quietly. " All I want is
for us to be together in peace, to be able to love you
without any need for this pretence, without fear of
the hangman's knot. It didn't use to be like this you
know, Dan. "
I settled myself beside my lover on the thick straw,
ready for another insight into the world he had
occupied before Fate had conspired to make him join
the British Army and become, like me, one of the
" Tell me. " I insisted. I could listen to his
cultured voice for hours, even hearing him comment on
the weather was enough to make my skin prickle. I put
my arm around his slender waist and he moved closer.
It was cold in the barn, the winter had been
particularly fierce, and my old joints ached for a
touch of spring sunshine. But it was a delightful
feeling, having him so close. The war had been a
terrible thing, and the sights I had seen would fuel
my nightmares for a good many years to come, yet had
it not been for the little Corsican general and his
dreams of empire, I would never have found Stephen
Harris or a love that I had thought was solely for
poets and dreamers.
" Thousands of years ago, " he began. " Homosexuality
wasn't considered to be a criminal act. Back in the
times of the ancient Greeks..."
" Homosexuality? " I interrupted, puzzled. It seemed a
long word. He grinned mischievously. " It's Latin.
'Homo' means 'same'. 'Homosexual' is someone who loves
someone of the same sex as themselves. "
" Okay, now I understand. I'm an old man who's not
used to long words like that. " I said teasingly, and
was delighted when he kissed me hard on the mouth.
" The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune. " he
said. " Shall I go on? "
" With the story, or did you have something else in
" The story, Dan. Honestly, you do have a one-track
" Carry on. " I said, grinning.
" The Greeks weren't the only ones. All the major
civilisations, the Romans, the Egyptians, all condoned
it. Then there was Alexander the Great, Richard the
Lionheart, all great men and all homosexual."
" So what changed? " I asked.
" Christianity. " he said bleakly. " Sex, if you
believe what they tell you in church, is a dirty,
base, animal instinct unless it is sanctified by the
vows of marriage for the production of children. Two
men cannot produce a child, therefore sexual acts
between men must be against God's Law and those who
did such things were hunted down and either boiled
alive or burned at the stake as an example. These days
the law is merciful. If we get caught, we'll merely be
I shook my head. I knew the risks, even before I had
claimed Stephen as my own. It had happened to a
redcoat just prior to us leaving with Sir John Moore's
army. The whole regiment had been paraded, the man had
been hanged and his lover forced to watch. Then they
had hanged him as well.
That was one of the reasons we had decided to stay in
France after the war rather than return to England
with the rest of the Chosen Men. Stephen spoke fluent
French and the natives regarded him as one of their
own. His sullen companion, who merely muttered, 'oui'
or 'non' to any question was disliked and ignored. Yet
every day we ran the risk of exposure neither of us
would have it any other way.
The candle flame guttered and went out.
" If we're moving on in the morning, we'd better get
some sleep. " I said.
He lay in my arms in the dark and with its concealment
I dared to ask him.
" Do you regret staying here with me? "
I felt him draw a sharp breath.
" How could I? " he replied. " I love you, Dan. And
with you is the only place I would ever want to be. "
There was still a nagging doubt that I worried at like
" I'm so much older than you are. If I die, what will
happen to you? "
" I couldn't survive without you now. " he said
solemnly. " Not after the love you've given me. I'd
pine away like one of those lovelorn swains and 'died
of a broken heart' would be engraved on my headstone.
I felt him tremble with mirth and smothered his
laughter with a rough kiss. As always I was delighted
with the enthusiasm of his response and felt only
ecstasy as he proved, yet again, that his mouth and
tongue were good for things other than speaking as we
made love, muffling our sounds of pleasure with each
other's mouths, biting deep to drown a scream of
Much later, sated and exhausted, he buried his head on
my chest and slept.
The following morning we emerged from the barn into
the weak February sunlight. The farmer was in the
stables and he turned as he heard our approach.
Much to our amazement, he was smiling and he and
Stephen gabbled on for what seemed like an eternity
before the man handed my lover a small pouch of coins
and waved both of us off.
When we reached the road I could contain my curiosity
" What did he say? " I asked roughly. " He looked
pleased with himself."
"I'm not surprised. " muttered Stephen. He looked at
me fully and I saw the shock and incomprehension in
" Dan, Bonaparte escaped from Elba two weeks ago. "
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