“Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of Will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.” – John O’Donohue, ‘Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom’
Hsu Danmei was never a man to outwardly show any sort of discomfort in even the deepest and coldest snow. Indeed, my friend, my Anam Cara*, was one of the Hsiung-nu, and he would tease me of my intense dislike of cold and inclement weather. I kept my eyes on him as we rode through the mountain pass, I could see my breath and the breath of both of our mounts and the two pack animals cut through the bitter cold air and the snow that now flew almost completely horizontally. He turned in his saddle and glanced back at me as I struggled with my wraps and my tack uncomfortably, trying to keep myself warm. He dismounted and trudged through the drifts toward me. His expression was stern but there was no irritation on his face when he reached my side. Only his words were mildly chastising.
“By the Gods, Frances,” he scoffed, glancing up at me. He refastened the ice-caked stirrup that I had knocked askew, and then pulled free the end of my all-too thin woollen cloak and tucked it beneath the front of the saddle to secure it and to preserve my body’s warmth, “You were born in Scotland, and the weather there is miserable all of the time. I can’t remember when I was there and the sun ever shone at all. You should be used to the cold by now.”
“Even we Scots have the good enough sense not to sleep in the cold in the heather, wrapped in nothing but our plaids and our skins,” I snorted derisively at him, “besides, it never snows on the Fortunate Island!” My skirts were heavy with the snow that had melted against my body heat, and I was beginning to shiver. I hated snow with a passion and I felt like a wet animal weighted down by yards of cloth that were refreezing and becoming stiff and heavier by the moment from the snow and freezing air. There was no respite from it and that made me even more irritable.
Hsu shook his head and gave my calf a slight squeeze through the folds of fabric before turning to go remount his own horse. “Well, we aren’t on the Fortunate Island now, are we?” he said as he swung back into his saddle, and then shot back over his shoulder, “with any luck we won’t be sleeping in the cold tonight either. There’s a village just beyond this pass.”
He said no more and reined his horse toward the rocky crag that now filled my entire field of vision. I knew that Hsu had wisely shifted my focus beyond my own discomfort in the snow, to a goal of a final destination. Unlike me, he had a much better built in ability to survive in this weather, it seemed. It was an understatement to say that I was grateful to have his accompaniment. There was no one I trusted more anyway, but in inclement and cold weather, there was also no one I knew of who was better than Hsu was on a trek. My mind wrapped around the now increasing warmth inside the folds of my gown and cloak and the tantalizing possibility of a warm place to sleep complete with down comforters and the warmth of a hearth nearby.
No more than two hours later we were in that village, in a cosy, yet a little overcrowded inn. We supped in the common room amongst curious glances but no one bothered either of us and left us to eat in peace. Somehow Hsu had managed, however to get us a relatively clean room with it’s own fireplace. I was sitting in my chemise near the hearth and arranging my soaked clothing so that they might dry before we set out the next day when the door opened. I pulled a blanket around me hastily until I realised it was Hsu. Relieved that it was him, I gave him a slight smile.
He set aside a roughly wrapped bundle he was carrying in the corner and then sat down on the bed with a relieved exhale. I turned back to the hearth to warm myself, when I felt him come up behind me on the floor. Hsu pulled me toward him, blankets and all and wrapped his arms about me. He smelled of leather, wood smoke, aromatic spice and with the slight tinge of some sort of alcohol that was both pleasant and comforting. Inwardly I wished that he and I could have shared a horse on our journey so that the shared warmth would have made it less disconcerting for me. Still, I thought as I leaned back against him letting out a soft sound that sounded something like a purr, there was absolutely nothing I could possibly complain about.
“You did not have to do this, you know,” I said softly, hoping that I did not sound anything other than grateful to him for deciding to take shelter where we did not have to search for some small bit of a wind break from the snow and the whipping mountain winds. “We could have continued on and made our destination that much quicker.”
“No,” I heard and felt the sound Hsu’s voice against my back, “I was of a mind to stop tonight the same as you were, Frances.” With deliberation he reached round me and tilted my face up to his and kissed my lips, then trailing down over my neck and my shoulders, moving aside the cloth of my chemise to reveal the skin beneath. I turned to face him and kissed him hard in return. Struggling from the wraps around me and pulling a little away from his touch, I let fall my chemise to stand naked before him. I was not certain if it was a slight draft blew through some chink in the stucco and beam walls of the room somewhere that made my nipples become as hard as stones, or the fact that I saw that familiar look of want in the eyes of my friend.
Hsu’s hands were sure and familiar has he pulled me back down on my knees in front of him. I wrapped my arms about his neck and I kissed him, my hands busied with unfastening his shirt sliding my hands over his shoulders and upper arms and then down over his chest. He pulled the garment the rest of the way off, over his head and threw it aside. My fingers stroked his nipples as mouth captured mine once more in another heated kiss. As he lay me back on the rug made from several thick-coated animals of one kind or another, I pulled at his belt, attempting to free him from his garments, his hands guided mine and the buckle unclasped at last. The warmth that I wanted, that I had craved all day, was that of Hsu’s skin against mine. He smiled and kissed me again and as my hands went down the length of his back, I could tell he was more than ready to indulge in that shared warmth. I breathed him into my lungs, wrapped my limbs about him as he parted my thighs with a knee. He held my face in his hands, for a moment as he pressed himself inside of me, filling me up deeper and deeper with each thrust. My hands groped his and I nipped at his throat. My eyes met his and I gazed at him through half closed eyes. Hsu drew my thighs up and eased himself deeper once again. A contented smile formed on my lips even as his cock was battering the roof of my womb, sending waves reverberating through my limbs.
Afterwards, nestled beside him, my body curled against his, our limbs entangled, the soft inhale and exhale tickled warmly against the back of my neck. It was moments like these when both of us could appreciate the benefits of our long and deep friendship where few words if any were needed. As I lay idly stroking his forearm that was wrapped around my waist, my mind went to a conversation we had just the day before.
“You know me as very, very few people do, Frances,” he had said rather matter-of-factly. “We have the same understanding of the ways of the world, and more importantly the ways of Power. Aside from the physical side of our friendship, which you know has always been most enjoyable,” Hsu paused and gave me that sidelong look that always made me smile, “The simplest way to put this is that I can talk to you of anything and know that I will get honest and intelligent answers in return – even if I don’t want to hear them. You also know how to handle my moods, something that can be a little disconcerting, but you can say more with a look or a touch that most people can in a full blown speech.”
“You are not getting sentimental on me are you?” I rolled my eyes at him.
However, what he said was true. I did know him better than most and I knew that even though he does not love me, or more accurately, cannot love me, he knows the full value of our friendship and the shared loyalty of that bond. I would be a liar if I were to say somewhere in my heart I do not feel a kind of love for Hsu, too. Others outside of our relationship have viewed it with both jealousy and suspicion and neither he nor I ever cared what they thought or said on the matter. If any of my paramours had ever objected to my friendship with Hsu Danmei, the man in question quickly found out just how much further down that they stood in the scheme of things.
Similarly, I was aware, Hsu had lovers and wives who had thrown tantrums and hurled ultimatums only to quicky find out that he would have none of that sort of nonsense. Many had tried to rend asunder Hsu’s and my friendship and none would ever succeed. A true and right friendship or love such as what exists between people such as Hsu and I, is not manufactured nor is it achieved by an act of Will or intention. Friendship is and always has been an act of recognition. And no matter what happened in either of our lives, Hsu and I would always recognise each other.
Muse: Fanny Fae / Faelyn
Fandom: Original Character / Folklore / Mythology
Word Count: 1771 (not counting quote)
*Anam Cara – Gaelic for ‘Soul Friend’.
Special thanks go to the Scribe and Muse of Hsu Danmei (civ_barbarian) for his appearance in this ongoing story.