Title: Scotland the Brave

Rating: NC-17 (sex & language)

Summary: Nevin’s experiences at Celtic festivals usually include losing in Scottish games and picking up the cutest bagpiper there

Kinks: Sneeze fetish, explicit consent, blowjobs, guys in kilts, bagpipers



Scotland the Brave




I’ve been to hundreds of Celtic festivals over the years. Some are big. Some are small. Some are badly organized. Some are incredibly planned out. Some are heavy on the music and light on the history. Some have the worst beer you can imagine. But I’ve seen ‘em all. No matter what kind of festival it is, I know just what to expect.


One of the nice things about Celtic festivals is that most of them happen in the spring and the summer. Occasionally that means rain or excessive heat, but generally the weather is just perfect for wearing kilts and drinking beer. Getting to soak up my heritage while sampling dozens of beers on tap is the perfect combination, as far as I am concerned. The loud music and eye candy certainly doesn’t hurt though.


Currently on the pub stage is a band that consists of a drummer, a basist, a guitarist, a lead singer, and the most amazing bagpiper I’ve seen so far today. There is just something magical about bagpipes, something enticing. If you have a little Scottish blood in you, bagpipe music just reaches inside you and sings to your soul. It fills you up. It overwhelms with beauty. Doesn’t hurt that this particular bagpiper is skilled at playing. Also doesn’t hurt that he is incredibly easy on the eyes. Hell, he is outright gorgeous. And, yeah, I have a type, but is that really such a bad thing? It’s not a crime to know what you like. When you combine those soulful, deep brown eyes with those sexy, puffed cheeks as he plays… I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I fall for him like a caber—I just tip right over the edge and hit hard and straight. Or not so straight, as it were.


“Nev! Nev! Nevin!


I glance over my shoulder to see Alasdair approaching the pub stage tent. I am getting ready to shush him and gesture toward the perfect specimen on stage when I realize what he is after me for. A quick glance at my watch confirms we are already five minutes late to the start of the afternoon round of games. Fuck!


I don’t even have a chance to glance over my shoulder for a last look at the bagpiper as I bolt from the tent. Right on Dair’s heels, we navigate through the sea of lines at beer wagons and food trucks as quickly as possible. We trudge up the incline leading to the games field. And, out of breath by that time, we jog the rest of the way to the far corner where the other athletes are already doing warm-up stretches.


Any hope that we might sneak right in without being noticed fades as soon as I hear the announcer chuckle into her microphone. “Looks like they made it after all, folks. Bring the search parties back in. Now, now, boys, no need to run. You’re lifters, not sprinters.”


Dair is red in the face, and not from the embarrassment of arriving late in front of the festival attendees. Playing to the crowd, he immediately slows his pace, puts his hands on his sizeable thighs, and doubles over, panting. It is so exaggeratedly dramatic, even I crack a smile. There is a sharp stich in my side that makes it hurt when I breathe, so I don’t dare laugh at him. But I clap him on the back and pass him. I quickly melt into the group of other athletes, pretending I’d been there the whole time. There is laughter from people in attendance, but I block it out as soon as I catch sight of the cabers.


There are a few of different sizes waiting there for us. I am tempted to warm with the smallest of the logs, but I really need to get a sense of the one for my class. The log I am going to have to use is over thirty feet long. The thing is massive; I can’t wait to get my arms around it.


I’m not a musician. I’m not a dancer or a crafter or a baker—though I’m not too bad at cooking when I have the time for it. I prefer the eating part of cooking, though, if I’m honest. But I can slam down drinks and I can lift heavy logs into the air. That’s what I’m good at when it comes to these festivals. At least, that’s what I’m usually good at.


As I stretch, one arm bent at the elbow, over my head, hand at the back of my neck, that’s when I start feeling it—a far off tickle way in the back of my nose and throat. Fuck, fuck, fuuuuuck. Sometimes I have the absolute worst luck in the world. First I don’t get to finish watching that cutie’s set, then my hay fever chooses to hit just a couple minutes before I have to flip a giant tree trunk in the air in front of a hundred people. Well, this is just peachy. 


I scrub my nose into the rough linen fabric of my shirt sleeve, and my nose gets the message. Usually the two of us have an agreement. If it behaves itself during the Highland games, I’ll let it sneeze all it needs to afterward—preferably not while I’m drinking, but even that’s all right so long as it gives me a proper heads-up so I can swallow.


The beginners are up first. These are the guys in their first year of competing, so you get a whole variety of types and sizes and skills. They get to use a caber that’s only about seventeen feet tall; it’s like a little branch, really, and some of the guys still can’t flip it end over end. I’m not throwing shade here; it’s the truth. But we all have to start somewhere, and I remember how nervous I was during my first couple games. If you’d told me then I’d still be doing it ten years later—at the semi-professional level, I never would have believed you.


‘Cause tossing a caber isn’t easy. In fact, it’s just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And that’s what I love about it. It’s the challenge that makes it fun. I rotate stretches among various parts of my arms and legs as I watch the beginners. My limbs need to be warm. When you’re getting ready to toss a caber, there’s no such thing as too much stretching.


People think it’s all about strength—and it definitely does take a whole lot of that. But it’s also about coordination and balance and timing and luck, too. First you have to lift the thing, which is no small feat in and of itself, squatting and lacing your fingers together to ease it under the log. But you have to let the caber rest against your shoulders as you straighten your legs and get to a standing position. Usually your fellow competitors have to help a little to get you up; there’s no honor in letting your competitor throw his back out just trying to stand up. Then it’s all about timing. You have to get it centered and balanced and up high enough for you to toss it so it will do a full rotation, end over end. Many times, if you don’t have it balanced just right or you don’t move in just the right way or the wind hits you at just the wrong time, it will throw it off. The caber will tilt just a little, and that’s all it takes for it to overbalance in your arms. When you’re ready to throw it, you walk or run a few paces and, with all your might, try to flip it entirely and so that it lands straight in front of you.


The overbalancing is what this first guy up in competition is struggling with almost immediately. I watch the caber sway backward and watch him try to save it. But, too late, it rotates only about thirty degrees before it hits the ground. Bad luck, but he’s got two more chances to do it better. That’s the thing I like about this sport. Even if you fuck up once or even twice, all it takes is doing it perfectly one time out of three in order for you to come out with a win.


A couple of the beginners manage to flip the caber with pretty good form. I’m happy for them. I still remember what it’s like to flip a caber in front of an audience for the very first time. The applause is deafening. The satisfaction is intense. The only thing I can think of that might be more satisfying is competing at all seven events in the games and doing so well in the tally that you become the festival champion. I’ve never achieved that, never even come close. This time around, I’m only doing three of the events, so I don’t have a chance at winning the overall champion title unless something goes terribly, horribly wrong.


And that’s not very likely with Steve in the competition. Steve is this burly guy who’s clearly the best of us all, which is why we all both admire him and hate him a little. He’s won more champion titles than I can count, and he’s scoring so well today he’s on track to win today’s. This morning, he’s already beat me in the stone throw and the Scottish hammer, even though I got one of my best scores ever with the stone. Go figure. But I’d love to see so many of us do well at the Caber that it bumps Steve down just a peg. There’s nothing wrong with keeping the guy humble.


He’s got everything going for him—strength, agility, crowd presence, looks—all right, he’s not my type, but I probably wouldn’t say no if he made a move on me. In all the games we’ve been at together, I’ve seen him pick up a lot of guys and never look at me twice. Guess I’m not his type either. Maybe beating him at the caber today would be enough to turn his head in my direction? Truthfully, though, I’d still rather track down that bagpiper. Those eyes… that mouth… I’m telling you… Yeah, I definitely have a type.


When it’s my turn, I swing my arms back and forth across me, keeping them warmed up and loose. I stare down the giant caber, as if intimidating it could actually do me some good. I get into position, and a couple of the guys help with that. Then I take a deep breath in and out. I probably shouldn’t have done that, because immediately I feel a tickle flare up in my nose.


I panic for a second, wiggling my nose, clenching my jaw tight, and trying to talk myself out of sneezing now of all times. And it works. I give it another second to make absolutely certain. Then I lift. I have to gather all my strength to get it up. The thing is massive, but I expect it to be. I’m ready for it. Even with the tree’s limbs and bark shaved off so there’s nothing to grab hold of or catch, it can still weigh up to 150 pounds, which is definitely nothing to sneeze at, as they say. I mean, I don’t say it, but some people do.


The heavy end towers high, high above me, but I stay in perfect control. Balanced right as it should be, I run and toss it forward into the air. The crowd ooooohs along with the caber’s movements. I don’t expect perfect, but it actually almost goes over. If the caber doesn’t turn completely, it’s up to the side judge to determine how far it did get, based on the angle. Hands on my hips panting, I wait for his number.


Eighty-give degrees. That… fuck, that’s good. I’m not just bragging here; it’s a good score. The highest you can get without turning the caber is ninety degrees. So an 85 wins me massive amounts of applause and pats on the back from the other guys.


“Wow!” the announcer calls. “Eighty-five degrees. That’s the best toss we’ve seen from this class yet. Good job, Nevin. Everyone, give Nevin Stewart one more round of applause.” They do, and I smile and raise my hand to wave at the crowd, though even doing that hurts a little. My arms have already been tested a lot today. I really don’t know how those guys who do all seven events are able to move at the end of the day. I used to regularly do the sheaf and the fifty-six pounds for height, but my body isn’t as young as it once was. The last time I tossed the sheaf, I tore a tendon in my bicep and my whole arm went purple; it wasn’t a great look on me. 


Alasdair is up next, and I pat his back as he gets into position, bouncing back and forth on quick feet and letting his arms go slack to stay loose. A couple of the other guys and I get the caber into place for him as the announcer does the intro.


She finishes with, “Alasdair, I dare you to do better than Nevin!” It is a terrible play on his name, and he makes a face, hamming it up for the laughing and cheering audience. They love that shit. Truth is, we do too. For us, the games are about proving ourselves, about showing off our strength and skills. But it is also a bit of a performance. Because that is what you do to have fun with your friends. And these fellow athletes are my friends. Not the way Dair and I are friends; I didn’t used to share an apartment with every competitor on the field. But we all show up at the same festivals and highland games, year after year. We all buy each other drinks after competitions and help each other strap ice packs on where it hurts. We all drunkenly crash on each other’s hotel room floors, and we all have to apologize to each other when we pick ourselves up from those very floors the next morning, too.


I stand a few paces behind the side coach to watch Dair’s attempt. He’s got good form, but he must be tired, because he gives it a toss and it only goes about forty-five degrees up. He underestimated it this time, but he’s got two more chances now that he knows the feel of it a little better. Everyone cheers for him anyway, and I join in with my applause.


“Pathetic,” I mutter as he walks toward me, but I’m smiling as I say it.


“Hey, that thing’s enormous!”


“That’s what she said.”


He’s exhausted, but he still makes a point of rolling his eyes at me. “That’s the best you could come up with?”


“That’s what he said?”


He looks at me for a second then nods in approval. “Better. Speaking of which, did I see you ogling another bagpipe—”


“Hang on a sec,” I cut him off, finally pleased with the timing of this tickle in my nose. It’d been faint all through the toss, but now it was making something of itself and I was pretty sure I was going to sneeze. I cupped my hand to my face and turned away. “Hah!” Yep. The breath in was sharp, desperate, and the tickle flared stronger. “Hahh-Hnnxxtt!” And it brought a friend. “Hah… hah-Hakkxxxx!” I pinched my nose then lifted my shirt sleeve, rubbing the edge at my nose with it. “’Scuse me. Bless me. All the usual whatever. Sniff! Sorry.”


“Hay fever?”


I nod. Of course it is. And of course he knows. You can’t live with someone who spends months out of the year sneezing his head off without noticing. “It’s not so bad today.”




I make a face that lets him know he should drop the subject. “Thanks for the support, Mister Forty-five Degrees. How’s that feel?” He punches my arm, so I drop that as well. We move back and to the side a little to watch the other athletes. It’s almost Steve’s turn, and everyone pays close attention to his movements, especially the other guys competing for festival champion.


I watch him get into position. I watch him lift the caber. And then I watch him toss it. I realize I have been holding my breath when the caber falls and I let the breath out harder than I’d meant to. He hadn’t flipped it, though he came damn close. I’d have given it an eighty, easily.


“Eighty-five!” the side judge declares. I have sudden suspicions about the side judge. Come on… that wasn’t as good as my toss. And, yet, now we’re tied. Damn it.


“A tie!” the announcer explains. “Oh ho ho! Looks like this is going to be a tight competition, folks! You’re getting your money’s worth today!”


Dair and I watch the remainder of the competitors take their first shot, but no one else comes close to beating me. Then round two begins. I jog in place a little, letting my arms go loose and then flexing them and then having them go loose again.


As my turn gets closer, Dair stands behind me, hands on my shoulders, massaging. “If you do this…” he says, squeezing my shoulders with every word for special emphasis. “If you beat Steve in this event, you’ll have your pick of any bagpiper in the whole festival.” My mind flits back to the one in the rock band, to that mouth and that smoothly shaven chin beneath it.


“Really?” I ask.


“Well, any of the gay ones you haven’t already had, that is. The straight lady pipers are all mine.” I know he’s joking about that. He’s got a wife he loves more than anything. Laura’s out there somewhere in the crowd now with their two kids in tow. He must be thinking the same thing, because he starts casually searching the crowd for the three of them.


I look out at the hundreds of people and wonder if the piper is watching. He’s probably sitting way in the back on that sloping hill with the rest of his bandmates, having a beer and watching the entertainment, but I don’t see him anywhere, so I can’t be certain. Everyone comes out to watch the caber toss, though. It’s the highlight of the games. “If I beat him?” I echo, eyebrow arched as I cast a glance over my shoulder at him.


He slaps my back in approval. “Get out there and do this.”


The announcer welcomes me forward. “Nevin’s up again, tied for first place. Can he do better than his first attempt, ladies and gentlemen?”


My goal, as I approach the caber for my second attempt, is to flip it. It’s not often ones of this size get flipped, and if I can just get it to turn over for me, I feel like there’s no chance of him catching me. I square my body in front of it and take a few deep, steadying breaths. That’s probably a mistake, as the nagging little tickle I feel in the very back of my nose intensifies a second later. I grit my teeth and worry about it for a second, and that’s all it takes for the sensation to back off again. Beautiful. Sometimes I have the absolute best luck in the world. I give an experimental sniff and, nope, not even a hint of a tickle.


I lace my fingers together, stretch my arms out, and then squat down into position. A couple of the guys get the caber into position for me. Then I lift. I lift like I haven’t ever lifted before. I feel in complete control as I sprint forward, holding then raising then propelling. And when I let it go, I watch it strike the ground at the perfect angle. It is so beautiful, I wish I could watch a slow motion replay of the whole thing. But the momentum I’ve given it carries it forward and there it goes, flipping and tipping and landing beautifully.


The back judge says it’s at two o’clock. That’s still far from perfect, but it’s better than anyone has done so far today and the crowd is just going nuts. Their roar of applause mirrors the way my heart is dancing. My limbs feel like jelly and my lungs burn and my lower back twinges uncomfortably. But I’ve done it. I’ve actually done it.


And then I have to sneeze. It hits me so fast I barely have time to get my tired arm up and bury my nose in the crook. “hahh-KIHxxxxh! Hah… hahh-Hxxxttt!” I’m nearly bent in half from the force, and the pain in my back strikes at me again. I’m not sure I have a third toss in me today, but right now all I care about is getting out from the spotlight without snot all over the lower half of my face.


The announcer is the least helpful person ever, drawing attention right to me. “Whoa. You all right there, big guy?” I cringe a little, as I hear that said into the microphone, echoing across the festival grounds. It’s not like I’m some lumbering giant. But she is pretty tiny, so in comparison… I guess…


Snuffling too softly for anyone else to hear, I scrub the itchy tip of my nose up and down with my palm. “I’m fine,” I lie to her, putting on a smile, because I know everyone’s still watching me. I give the spectators a wave and then head to the bench to get a bottle of water as an excuse to turn my back on everyone. ‘Cause my nose is still itching and tickling and, goddamn it, I feel desperate to sneeze again already. I slump down onto the simple wooden bench, around which everyone’s dropped their water bottles, sporrans, bags, and other personal items. I try to remember if I have anything in my sporran that can help, but I threw stuff into it this morning, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have so much as a single tissue in there.


So I just hunch over on the bench, pinch my nose between my thumb and forefinger, use my other fingers on that hand to cover my mouth, and I give into the sneezes.


hahh… ha-KTxxtt! Hah… hah-Htxxxxx! Hah… ha-Hnngxxx!


They’re not too strong, and they’re not too quick. But they’re also not stopping. 


hah hahKgxxxt! hah… ha-HKkxxxx!


I can’t open my eyes, can’t catch my breath, can’t seem to do anything but sneeze and sneeze.


hah… ha-KTxxxx! hah… ha-KIHxxxxt! hah… hah-IHxxxt! Hahhh… hahNnxxxxx! ha… ha-Inkxxxxxt!


There is a rhythm to them, and it’s a bit maddening that I can’t seem to break it. A quick inhale then a sneeze. Another quick inhale then another sneeze.


ha… hah-Pxxxxt! Hah… ha-Httxxxxxx! hah… hahh-Inngxxxxx!


And just when I feel like I’m just doomed to go on sneezing like this forever, I start to wonder if what my nose wants is just for me to let go. I’m holding back every time I sneeze, and the sneezes want out. Maybe letting go is the only way to stop them?


hah… hahhh-Ihxxxxx! Hah… hah-Ngxxxt!


Then I feel a hand on my shoulder, and I just know it’s Dair letting me know I’m up next. How can I be up next already? I just went! What happened to the others? What happened to Steve?


ha… ha-Nkxxxx! Hah… h’Hnxxxxt!


I feel him sit down next to me, patiently waiting the sneezing fit out. He has more faith that it will end than I have at this point in time.


hahh… ha-HXxxxtttt! Ha… hah-hptxxxxx! Hahhh… ha-Hnnttttt! Ha… hah-Nxxxxxt!


Finally, I feel the tickle ease off. “hah hah… hah… hhhh,” I breathe out this time instead of sneezing. My shoulders sag and body relaxes.


“You done for now?”


I give it a second, evaluating. But my nose actually feels a lot better. Doesn’t really tickle at all now. So I bob my head for yes. I squeeze my thumb and forefinger around my nose to catch any drips, and I wipe my hand on my kilt.


“You sure you don’t feel like you’re going to sneeze another time?”


Once again, I nod yes. Yes, I’m sure I’m not going to sneeze. At least, not right this second. That fit was enough to last me a while. In fact, that might have even been the worst of it.


“So you’re okay to go out there? You’re not going to hurt yourself again?”


I open my eyes and turn my head to look at him. “You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?”


“Not any time soon. I was the one who had to follow the ambulance to the hospital in the middle of nowhere driving your car. I was the one who had to sit up all night with you as they ran tests. I was the one who had to drive you to physical therapy for weeks after surgery until you could move well enough to drive yourself.” He makes it sound like I tore my quadriceps just to make life inconvenient for him.


“I’ll be safe,” I promise him.


He breaks out his patented smile. “Good man.” He claps me on the back. “Now you go take Steve down a peg.”


That reminds me. I rub my nose and look around. Sure enough, the athlete before me is up now. I really am up next. For my last toss. “How did Steve do?” I ask.


Just from his hesitation, I can tell Steve did well. But, surely, he couldn’t have flipped it over. That was so difficult it was almost impossible. I’m not even sure how I managed to do it.


“One o’clock,” Dair replies.


“No way!” I groan. He’s kicked me out of first just like that. He flipped the caber and got just a little closer to a straight caber pointing in the direction of twelve o’clock. I can’t believe it.


All I’d achieved wiped out so quickly. And it’s true that any one of the others could do better than Steve… but this is the last round, the last chance, and I don’t want to squander it. If I make it to first, it’ll bump Steve out of the top spot in the ranking. Someone else will be champion again, finally.


This means I’ll need an almost perfect toss. The probability of that is so low it barely even registers. There have been times I can’t make a perfect throw even with one of the smaller, lighter cabers. This seems beyond impossible.


But I still try. I take several deep breaths in and out. Then I approach the caber.


Everything happens so quickly, I don’t even have time to think—I just act entirely on instinct. I lift the caber, cradling the base against my chest and shoulder. And that’s when I feel another tickle in my nose. It’s so sharp I know there’s no fighting it. It’s going to come out no matter what. So, resignedly, I drop the caber and step away. I safely give up, just like I promise Dair I will. My pride takes a direct hit, but that’s the only part of me that gets hurt.


And then I sneeze twice into the crook of my arm. “hah-IHmmtttt! Hnmphhtttt!”


Of course, Steve gets the win. I go get a beer. That was my last event for the day and after that pitiful display, I kind of just want to get hammered until the pain goes away. It takes a lot of beer to get a guy my size and with my stamina drunk, so there’s no time like the present to start.


So I stick around just long enough to give the audience one more wave before heading to the area of the festival where a sea of food trucks and tents are set up. I eyeball them for a second to determine which has the shortest line, and that’s when I spot him.


My bagpiper.


He’s all the way on the other side of the tents, moving off toward the living history display. He’s got glasses on and obviously no bagpipes in his arms, but I can tell even from this distance that it’s him. He wouldn’t be able to hear me if I called out to him. So there’s really only one thing I can think to do: I take off after him.


I might have covered this earlier, but I’ll just reiterate now: I’m not a sprinter. By the time I get to that part of the festival, he’s already gone. Maybe he’s weaving his way through the tents or maybe he’s gone into one of them? So I go one by one, looking at the reproductions of crafts and activities—everything from blacksmithing to candle-making, from cooking over an open fire to barrel-making. But I don’t see the piper anywhere. Shit. So close and yet… wait…


Something catches my eye and I turn, seeing him over by the craft tents now. At least, I think it’s him. As I take off again, I wonder if this is at all a good idea. Is this borderline obsessive? I don’t even know the guy, and here I am practically stalking him. But all I want to do is talk. And if he doesn’t want that, I’ll just head back to the booze, as I’d planned to do anyway.


There are about forty different craft tents, all lined up back-to-back in little rows selling everything from family crests to shortbread. I don’t see the piper anywhere. I pause at a tent selling bagpipe paraphernalia, sure that this would be the most likely place to find him, but he’s not here. He’s not anywhere. I stand at the end of one row, turning in a circle, but I definitely don’t see him.


I check the clan tents, the fencing demo, the dog breed tents. I check the other musical stages, thinking maybe he’s a fan of the acoustical or even the Irish dancing. I check the pub stage tent as well, as if expecting to see him back on stage, playing. But he’s nowhere. It’s like he’s vanished entirely. Maybe he headed out for the day? Maybe he’d had enough and is already on his way home? I imagine him crashing on his couch with a beer and a plaid blanket to watch some Netflix. Then I imagine his husband appearing from the next room, a steaming casserole in hand, and my heart sinks a little. Okay, yeah, maybe this isn’t so healthy.


With a sigh, I make my way over to one of the tents to get some beer. I’m hot and overheated. I’m disappointed and depressed. It’s indicative of how I feel now that I don’t even bother looking at the name on the stall; I just go to the first place that sells alcohol and hand my money over. The guy behind the counter checks to make sure I’m wearing a green wristband, and he tries to make small talk, because the line is short and there will be a bit of a wait while they pour the drink, but my heart isn’t in it.


The beer comes in a big, clear, plastic cup, foam overflowing the top. I take a quick sip as I squeeze the cup and spill a few, precious drops. Instinctively, I take a step to the right to grab a napkin from the dispenser. And that’s when I bump hips with someone.


When I look over, my face lights up with a smile. “Oh!” There’s a flutter in my chest I can’t control, but I tell myself to be cool and casual. I remind myself that all I want to do is talk to the guy and see if we hit it off. Maybe bears aren’t his type. Maybe he isn’t even gay. Maybe he’s married to a lady and has more kids than Dair has. I took a deep breath and try to play it cool and casual. “Well, if it isn’t the piper from the Wild Clovers.”


“Do I know you?” he asks a bit hesitantly.


“Not yet.” Was that cool? Or was that too cheesy? Too late now to take it back.


He grins, and I think he likes it. He takes the beer being passed over the counter to him. Then he gives me an obvious once over. “Let me guess… you’re one of the athletes.”


“How could you tell?”


“The Guinness. I’ve seen how you lads knock that stuff back.” As I laugh, he leans over a little. “Besides, I might have been watching the games earlier.”


He was there watching. I knew he’d been there watching. “Not exactly a guess then, was it?” Had he seen my strength? Had he seen me be the first to flip the caber? Had he seen my disappointing last attempt? I hope he’d missed that bit. “Did you see all the games?”


“I saw enough.” His being coy doesn’t exactly answer the question I was hinting at now, does it? “That one guy… Steve? He’s a real powerhouse, isn’t he?”


I nod. How’d Steve manage to beat me in the caber toss, win the title of Festival Champion, and wiggle into this conversation after just a minute? I was starting to really dislike the guy. Was the piper hoping I’d provide introductions? That would be just my luck. I finally manage to get him alone and the guy I’m into prefers someone else to me. “Yeah,” I say automatically, not sure what else to say. “He’s pretty tough.”


“Oh, I know how tough you heavies are. I know all about your kind.” And then he steps forward, holding his beer out to the side so we can be even closer to each other. I lift my own beer to my lips to take a nervous sip from it. “And I mean I know in the biblical sense, actually. Though I wouldn’t mind learning a little more from you, if you’re in the mood to teach.”


Startled, I spit a mouthful of beer back into the cup, which is not exactly the most suave or attractive move to make in front of the guy you’re hot for. But he honestly seems amused and almost charmed that he caused such a reaction. “Ah…” I cough into my shoulder. “Do you… want to take a walk with me around the festival?”


He nods and turns, assuming a position at my side, quite close. “Lead on, MacDuff.”


“It’s Stewart, actually.”


“I know. That’s from Shakespeare. Though MacDuff ultimately ends up killing MacBeth in the final act, so maybe it’s not the best literary reference.” He takes a gulp of beer. “I’m rambling. I’m sorry. Sometimes I do that when… well, sometimes I do that.”


I smile and glance sideways at him. “It’s all right. I like it.” I’m not normally so talkative myself, so it’s nice to have the company of someone who is. “Ramble away.”


And so he does. I ask him about the band, and he tells me everything from the strengths of all their members to their most recent debate about today’s set list. He tells me how he got into playing the bagpipes and how he’d rather sell his car than his pipes if it comes to that. I hang on every delicious word.


I’m just meandering through the festival, leading him nowhere in particular with no destination in mind. We talk. We point things that catch our eye out to each other. We drink our beer. His arm occasionally brushes against mine. I feel like I’m twelve and this is my first crush. Every time I fall, it feels fresh and exciting. It feels like the first time. It’s more intoxicating than the Guinness.


The only down-side is when we pass a craft tent that makes handmade soaps, lotions, and balms. We don’t even go inside, just walk past too slowly, and that’s all it takes for me to catch a whiff. The scent tickles my nose worse than anything. I turn, pretending to be looking at a craft tent across from us, but really I just don’t want him to see me squeezing my eyes closed tight, pursing my lips, and pinching my nose between my thumb and forefinger. The tickle is so sharp and strong it makes me gasp despite my efforts. I pinch harder, but it’s no use. “h’Hnntttt! h’Pptttttt!” They’re soft, but he’d have to be deaf not to hear them.


So I’m not surprised when I feel his hand on my back, stroking. “Bless you.”


My nose is still feeling a little tickly, and I don’t know if it’s from the strong scents of the soap or my hay fever or just because I’ve got the worst luck of all time. But I nod and give him a reassuring smile. “Of course I’m fine,” I say as if I am. But a second later, my hand snaps back up again to my face. “hih! Hah-IPtxxxxxxx!


He waits to make sure there isn’t a second one coming, which there isn’t. Then I mumble an apology as he says another “Bless you.” He’s still rubbing my back. And I almost want to sneeze again just so he won’t stop touching me. But he gives my back a final pat and drops his hand as soon as it’s clear I’m not about to sneeze again. Then he waves his hand in front of us, and we move along again down the aisle.


We meander through the festival, checking out the charity raffle, the acoustic stage, the puppet show. I point out Dair and his children but we don’t stick around because I don’t want Dair seeing me all flustered and hot, and I don’t want to risk Dair’s wife or kids mentioning my spectacularly embarrassing sneezing fit earlier.


So we find ourselves back on the other side of the festival grounds near the food and drink tents again. And that’s when the heavens open up. Not in the destined to be together, angels with horns sort of way, but in the summer rainstorm sort. We feel the first couple drops of rain. I’m not sure who feels them first, because neither of us admit we feel anything until we hear a rumble of thunder and the rain comes down in sheets. Damn it! I curse my luck.


We stand there, getting wet, looking at each other, and wondering what to say. Do I invite him to my car? Do we head to the pub stage tent and squeeze in there with the other hundred people seeking shelter? Do we take it as a sign to go our separate ways? You can’t exactly get out your phones and exchange numbers in the middle of a downpour, not if you don’t want to give your phone a nice bath in a bowl of dry rice later that night.


He takes my hand. My heart races and mouth goes dry. “I think I know a place!” he announces, making sure I can hear him over the patter of rain. And when he tugs on my hand, I follow him. It’s automatic. I don’t even think about it. My piper wants me to go, so I go.


He leads me to a small tent I hadn’t noticed before, set back from the main festival a ways but not that far from the pub stage. Inside there’s a raised platform about waist-height that is packed with instrument cases, sound equipment, and various cases with band logos on them. It’s empty, apart from the two of us. And, most importantly, the place is dry.


He hops up, sitting on the edge of the platform, and I do the same. As soon as we’re sitting there, we hear the rain pick up, pounding upon the canvas tent and the ground outside. “Looks like we made it just in time,” he says, taking off his glasses and using his sleeve to wipe them dry. When he puts the glasses back on, he looks at me curiously, as if he hasn’t seen me before, as if we haven’t just been walking around for the past hour or so. Then he reaches up and runs a hand through my short, blond hair. My hair’s a little curly—wavy, I guess you could say, and he watches the wet waves stretch and fall back into place. “Is this…” he whispers “okay?”


I smile. “Very okay.” God, maybe he feels like he’s twelve again, too. He’s cautious and hesitant and, at the same time, bold and touchy. He’s a contradiction. He’s intriguing. He’s so damn sexy I almost can’t stand it.


I want to have him right here in the tent. I want to fuck him in the middle of the festival to the sounds of the rain and the far off, barely discernable Celtic music. “Scotland the Brave,” I murmur, picking out the familiar tune.


“Brave.” He echoes just that one word and runs his hand through my hair again. This time, his hand lingers by my ear. His fingertips find my ear. They slide from there to my cheek that he cups. And he leans forward, whispering so softly again. “Brave…”


And that’s when I know for sure that I have both the best and worst luck that a person can ever be said to have. The guy I spent all this time lusting after is actually about to kiss me. And I’m about to sneeze again.


This tent really is set back from the festival, right near a large, uncleared field where the grass grows tall, wild, untamed, and overrun with ragweed plants, apparently.


I turn away from him, my cheeks on fire. If I thought sneezing in front of a couple hundred audience members was embarrassing, it’s nothing compared to sneezing in front of a man about to kiss me.


I cover my nose, hoping that this time of all times I can will it away. I plead with my nose to just let me get laid today and I’ll let it sneeze all it wants tomorrow. But it wants to sneeze now. It has to sneeze now. The sensation is strong and undeniable, a deep, persistent tickle that fills me. “hehh… hahh… HAH!” I turn my head, trying to preserve what little dignity I might have left. “h’Hnkkkk!” The sneeze forces its way out, even though I have my thumb and forefinger pinching my nose tight. It gives me absolutely no relief and, in fact, the tickle feels worse afterward. “huh… huh-Nxkkk! H’nnkkk!” I passed my hand awkwardly under my nose, wondering if it would be gross to sniff right now. But things feel wet and I don’t really have much of a choice.


“Hang on a moment…” He pops open his sporran, digs around inside, and then pulls out a neatly folded, thick handkerchief. One shake is all it takes to unfold the thing and make me lust after it. “Here you go.”


I stare at it. “You keepb a handkerchief ind your spborrand?”


He gives me a bashful smiley. “Of course. Never know when I’ll run into a handsome man with the sniffles who might need it. Go ahead and give your nose a good blow.”


I finally reach out and take it. I snuffle a little into the soft cloth, cleaning the wetness from the end of my nose.


The guy laughs. “I’m a bagpiper. I know a good blow when I hear one, and that wasn’t even close to one. Just let loose. I promise the hanky can take it.”


I’ve never used a handkerchief before, and the thick, soft fabric feels strange as I turn it over in my hands. It isn’t at all like a thin, flimsy tissue. In fact, when I finally work up the courage to blow into it, my hands don’t get damp. And that’s saying a lot, ‘cause I’ve got a pretty mighty blow. “I’m not sick,” I reassure him as I wipe the cloth back and forth under my nose one more time. “I’ve got terrible hay fever. It acts up in the summer, especially if I’ve been outdoors a lot.”


“Like today.”


I nod back. “Mmhmm. Like today.” I wrinkle my face around my nose. “It gets all itchy.” I lift the handkerchief to my nose again, feeling another sneeze coming on. “And tick… tihh… tih-ih-ihhhh IH-hxxnnk! Tickly.” I rub with the handkerchief that isn’t even half wet yet, and look over at him. His wide smile is a little off-putting. I rub the handkerchief quickly back and forth under my nose. “What? Do I have snot on my—”


“No,” he laughs, reaching out and stilling my arm. “It’s just that for such a big guy, you sure do have a tiny sneeze. Mine are… the opposite, I guess you could say.” His cheeks go redder than red as he says this, and the vulnerability that shows through now only makes him that much hotter to me.


And it makes me brave enough to tell him, “Yeah, well, I try to hold ‘em in as much as I can. Sometimes the sneezes just won’t stop when my hay fever really gets going, and the fits can get a little embarrassing.” I sniff and fiddle with the handkerchief in my hand, folding it over on itself, unfolding it, and refolding it repeatedly. His hand reaches out and covers mine, stilling them.


I look up to see him looking at me adoringly. “God, you’re cute.”


‘Cute’ is not something I’m called often. Hell, ‘cute’ is not something I’m called ever, really. The puppies over at the dog adoption tents are cute. Stuffed Nessie plush toys sold over at the craft tents are cute. Those little girls in Irish step dance dresses hopping about on stage are cute. A grown man of three hundred and five pounds with a bit of a beer gut and a pretty itchy nose? Decidedly not cute. Not at all. Not in the least.


His thumb strokes my hand, from fingers to handkerchief and back again. “I want to hear what one of your sneezes really sounds like.”


I quirk an eyebrow at him and he flushes even redder than before.


He draws his hand back immediately, tucking it with the other one, between his thighs. “Fuck, I can’t believe I just said that out loud!” He rocks forward and looks away, toward the side of the tent. And, for a moment, I think he might hop up and run for the opening, braving the rain and leaving me to wait through the rest of this thunderstorm alone. “Any chance you’d pretend I never said that?”


I’m not sure how to answer. I couldn’t forget something like that if I tried. An abrupt tickle in my nose keeps me from finding the words. Curious, I don’t do a thing to stop it. I just hold the handkerchief up, relax my shoulders and my jaw and my tongue and just “ihhhh-HURSCHOO!” I sneeze freely just to show him.


Beside me, the man nearly bounces in place in surprise. He turns to look at me, eyes wide, pupils dilated with arousal. He studies me carefully, chewing his bottom lip as he watches as I blow my nose into his handkerchief and wipe my nostrils dry. He pushes his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, then he trades his lip for mine, biting, sucking, kissing. He breathes heavily against my face and his arms wrap around my ample torso as far as they can go comfortably.


Then, just as quick as the kiss began, it stops. He has outstanding lung capacity and isn’t even winded. But he has a question in his eyes. I can tell he wants something. And at first, I think he wants me to sneeze again. But then, he speaks softly, his voice deep, his words selected carefully. “I’d really like to blow you right now, if you’d let me.”


Oh fuck. I hadn’t seen that coming. At the mere mention, little Nev stirs restlessly, needy under my kilt. “Uh…” I glance from one side of the tent to the other. Anyone might walk in on us at any second. “Yeah,” I hear myself saying before I’ve even really had a chance to think it through. “Hell yeah.” I lift the end of my kilt up a little.


Almost at once, he slides his hand from my knee to my thigh to my crotch, feeling. His whole face lights up when he discovers I am authentic under there. It sounds cliché, but real Scottish men really don’t wear anything under their kilts but their birthday suits. He touches me blindly for a moment, feeling the pieces out, getting familiar with my equipment. His fingers graze my balls to the base of my cock and then up the shaft. He cocks his head, finding I am uncut. Authentic indeed. But he doesn’t hesitate to roll back the foreskin to get to the head, running his thumb over the end just as he rubbed my hand a few minutes ago. He looks from my tartan-covered lap to my eyes. “You’re sure I can?”


He is treating it like a treat. I nod.


“I want to hear it.” Suddenly his fingers are both on the tip of his cock and softly squeezing my balls. He’d added a second hand under my kilt and I hadn’t even noticed. But now that it is there, I can’t imagine being without it. He knows just where to touch, just how to hold, how to stroke. I want more. “I need to hear you say yes.”


“Yes,” I breathe out heavily before a second passes. “Oh fucking hell, yes. Yes, yes, yes. I want your mouth ‘round my cock ten seconds ago.”


His face lit up with a grin. Then, slowly, he removes one hand from under my kilt in order to take off his glasses and set them down next to him. He hops down from the lip of the stage and faces me. As he meets my gaze, his grin fades, mouth going slack, jaw dropping open. He keeps his eyes fixed on me as he drops down to his knees, lifts my kilt, and ducks beneath.


There is nothing for one second. Two. Three. And I have the sudden worry that he’s seen what I have down there and thinks better of this idea. He has changes his mind, which is his right, albeit at a pretty shitty time.


But then I feel a wet sensation against the head of my cock. His tongue. It laps at the tip then slides all the way down the shaft to the base, where he wraps a warm hand. Then there’s stroking and licking and rubbing and squeezing and all manner of attention that makes me so lightheaded with pleasure I’m not even sure I can hold out for much longer. I start to rock forward with small thrusts then, when I realize he can take it, more powerful ones. He’s so eager to suck me off and I’m so eager to spill my load, and for a second it feels like the most perfect arrangement.


Until my nose starts to tickle again. This ragweed… shit… it’s just too strong. My instinct is to rub it into my sleeve and try to get rid of the tickle, but then I remember what he said and how he reacted. “Hey,” I gasp, reaching down and putting my hand on his head through my kilt to get his attention. “Sorry, I think I gotta sneeze again.”


He shakes just a little, so that I almost miss the movement, and he gives a small gasp of a sound before he pulls back, his head coming out from under my kilt. For a second, I worry all this is over. But that look in his eyes is all desire and excitement, and I realize we’re only just getting started here.


“I’m hahh… I’m gonna warn you when it c-comes,” I tell him. I don’t want to snap forward with a strong sneeze and poke him in the back of the throat with my dick, gagging or hurting him, after all. Besides, I’ve got a feeling he wants to watch. And I’ve got another feeling that he likes when I say things. “I just f-feel so snehh sneezy. It’s the rag-ragweed. I cahhh… I c-c-I cahhhh…” My eyelids slam shut and my mouth drops open. I sit on my hands to keep from covering my face and pinching my nose like usual. “I c-can’t… sniff! I can’t help it.”


His hands grip my knees, maybe just to touch me, maybe to hold on to something to steady himself. In any case, his palms are warm and damp, and just thinking about how they’d just been touching me makes my dick harder. “It’s okay,” he whispers. “I like…” he trails off, catching himself, then decides against restraint. “I like it when you sneeze.”


 Though my mouth is hanging open slackly, the corners twitch into a smile for just one second. “hahhh EPTSxxchhhh!” It comes out half-restrained, out of habit, and I try to relax further and remind myself it’s okay to sneeze. It’s okay. He likes this. And the more he likes it, the more he’ll repay the favor with that talented mouth of his around my dick. “hahh… hah-HEHSHOO! H’TCHOO!




I open my eyes to see him shake again. His hand’s under his kilt, playing with himself, and I realize he’s not trying to coax himself to orgasm; he’s closer than I am already and he’s trying very hard not to come. He stares up at me for a minute as I sniffle and wipe my nose with his hanky. Then he ducks back under my kilt. When he takes my dick into his mouth again, it’s my turn to shudder.


“Fuck…” I repeat back in a whisper, the sensations are nothing short of magical. Part of me wants to shoot my load right fucking now and the other part of me wants this to last forever. But I know it can’t. I’ll never last that long, not the way he’s sucking and lapping and licking. There’s this thing he’s doing with his tongue right now, for example, where my cock’s in his warm, hot mouth but his tongue is, like, massaging the sensitive underside of my dick that just… oh fuck fuck fuck that feels so good. “Don’t stop…” I mutter, petting his head through the kilt. “Don’t… oh… oh shit… I’m…” My breath catches as his tongue swirls around the head of my dick clockwise then counterclockwise, and he sucks in hard.


“I’m c-coming!” I warn him, expecting to pull back. I’ve given him time to do so. But he stays right there and keeps sucking. And swallowing. And massaging. And stroking. And doing all the things that just put me right over the edge. I come powerfully, emptying myself into him, and he happily takes it all.


When I’m done, I sit there awkwardly, not sure if he’ll want me to jump down off the stage and help get him off with a blowjob or hand job or whatever. Hopefully, he doesn’t want me to use my cock for anything, because Little Nev is spent. “I… um…” Even my breath sounds weak. Man, one good blowjob and all I want to do is lie down and bask in it. “


He emerges from under my kilt, shaking his head as if I’d actually managed to ask him a question. “Just sneeze,” he says without hesitation this time. “Just sneeze, and I’ll come. I swear, I’m so close already.”


So I take a couple deep breaths in and out through my nose. And when it stats tickling, I tell him right away. “I can feel my nose tick… tickling again now. It’s my h-hay feee… sniff hay fever. Hehhh…” Just before I close my eyes, I see his arm pumping away as he strokes himself. I think again about getting off my perch here and getting down to help him out. I could squeeze his balls or hold him close or I could sneeze right on his cock. I bet he’d like that. But it’s already too late for both of us. “HAH HPTSHOO! HEH… HEH-SHOOO! HRKSHOOO!” I think that’s going to be it, but a rare fourth barrels through a second later. “hah HAH-CHOO!


I blow my wet and runny nose into his handkerchief, and I look down to see him slumped over, winded and red in the face. His shoulders are rising and falling and his body rocking forward and backward. He’s just out of my reach, but my hand wants to run down the curve of his back so badly I almost jump down off the platform.


He gets to his feet a second later, though, finding his balance and steadying himself before hopping back up to sit beside me once more. His breathing slows, but he’s still got this blissful look in his eyes.  


“Hey,” I say softly, finding his hand resting next to mine and taking it. His fingertips are hard, callused from years playing, but the back of his hands are smooth to my touch, like he takes good care of them. “Can I ask you something about all this?”


He doesn’t look at me, but he nods yes. He watches his shoes swing back and forth in the air where they dangled as he sits on the edge of the wooden platform.


“You could have had the games champion tonight. You could have had that sword in one hand and his cock in your other. I know Steve, and he wouldn’t have turned you down. So did you pick me because of my hay fever?”


He nods again, still looking down. “I saw you out there on the field sneezing, and I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I know it’s a pretty weird thing, but it turns me on.”


“Yeah, I kind of noticed that!” I laugh. Imagine that. All that time I thought I’d been going after him, only to find out he’d been going after me, too. I watch him shift uncomfortably at my laughter and realize I’d made a mistake. “Hey, don’t worry. I have a couple weird things I like, too.”


Finally he looks up, eyes practically sparkling. There is wetness in them. I resist the urge to reach out and run my thumb at the corner to wipe it away. “Really?”


“Yeah. For starters, I’ve got a thing for bagpipers.”


With a laugh, he looks back down. “You’re joking.”


“Oh, I assure you I’m not. Ask Alasdair. Ask any of the other athletes. Hell, ask the bagpipers at St. Mary’s College or the ones in the County Police Pipes and Drums.”


“You slept with all those bagpipe players?”


“No… just a couple of them. Just the gay ones. But I tend to get a little flirty when I have a few too many pints. It loosens my tongue. If you get me drunk, you can ask me anything.”


“Good to know. But can I ask you something now, without all that the beer in you?”


I shrug. I am definitely feeling the couple I’d had, but nowhere near that drunk yet. Besides, a mind-blowing blowjob tends to have a way of sobering you up. “Of course. S’only fair.”


“Is this all it is for you? Just find a piper you haven’t had already, let him blow you, and move on to the next?”


I go quiet for a while. Because, yeah, tha tis pretty much right on the mark. And, yet, it sounded so superficial the way he said it. It didn’t feel superficial when it was happening, though. When his mouth was on me, sucking expertly, it felt rich and satisfying and exciting. That’s the part I want to remember after all of this. Though I probably won’t forget the way he came, either. All I’d had to do was sneeze. I held his handkerchief out to him. “Do you want this back?” It isn’t an answer to his question. Not really. But he understands what I was trying to say.


“Keep it,” he says softly. With a sigh, he hops down from the edge of the stage. He shuffles slowly toward the tent opening.


“Hey!” I call out, jumping down as well. He turns, looking dejected, looking like his eyes might be tearing up again, though he is too far away for me to tell for sure. I wave the used handkerchief at him, almost like a white flag of surrender. “I’ll take this home and wash it so it’ll be clean for you when we see each other again.”


My nose feels a little ticklish again already, but nothing close to a sneeze; I’m not gonna lie. But I still hold the hanky up in case I do. I close my eyes, willing the tickle to magnify this time. It is kind of a nice feeling to finally embrace the sneeze instead of push it down. I let my face go slack, let my eyes close. The tickle is definitely there… but it is faint. “huh… hah…” I triy to draw it out, but I don’t get lucky. The tickle doesn’t grow. I am pretty sure that this particular sneeze isn’t gonna actually come out.


But then I feel his lips on mine. And if I’d thought his mouth was talented on the bagpipes or on my cock, it is nothing compared to what it can do against mine. I lose myself to the sensation entirely, kissing right back, matching his force and his explorations and his… his…


hahh-HIPTdshhhhhh!” I sneeze suddenly. My eyes fly open. His are closed still. I’d just sneezed in his face, but he doesn’t look disgusted. Quite the opposite, in fact. “Sorry,” I breathe, sniffling.


“Don’t be,” he whispers. His hand closes around mine and brings the handkerchief to my face. He guides it to wipe at my nose. And that shouldn’t be sexy. Not at all. In no way should wiping my nose clean of snot be remotely sexy to me. But he does it with such care and precision that I feel a fresh wave of arousal go through me. I feel charged up, like I might be ready to go at it again. Shit. What is this all about?


Maybe I already know. I wrap my arm around his middle and pull him in close. He is so skinny I am able to get it almost all the way around. He’s almost as thin as a caber. And he’s got wood of his own. I can feel his erection pressing into me. “M’gonna need your number,” I whisper to him.


“So you can return the handkerchief?” he asks, his breath catching from little bursts of excitement.


“Yeah. But also so I can call you up the next time my hay fever gets really bad. I mean, some days I wake up with a fierce tickle in my nose and spend the whole damn day sneezing my head off.”


“Get your phone out,” he hisses quickly through clenched teeth, and I realize he’s fucking close again. He’s trying not to go off. Jesus, this guy is insatiable. I reach between us, and my sporran jostles against his crotch as I plunge my hand inside to pull out my phone. He sucks in another breath and closes his eyes. “Tell me when,” he says, and I’m not sure if he wants me to tell him when I’m ready to put his number in or when I’m about to sneeze again. Then I realize he wants me to actually give him permission to come in his kilt again. He wants to hear the words.


I slip my hand under his kilt and find him, moist from sweat and come. He’s long and thick in my grasp, and he gives this guttural, needy sound as I wrap my hand around and give a tug. “Come for me,” I tell him, punctuated with a sniffle or two.


His whole body is shaking now. Then, as soon as my fist closes around the head of his cut cock, tight and reassuring, he starts thrusting. It really only takes a couple pulls before he comes in my hand. Some gets on the ground, some on his kilt, but honestly neither of us cares about that. I lean forward, resting my forehead against his as I let him catch his breath. “All right?” I ask, pulling my hand out and wiping it off as best I can. The encouraging warmth is fading into an uncomfortable stickiness already.


“I… yeah,” he answers. He opens his eyes and looks into mine. And, for a second, he looks like he’s going to apologize for that, for having the time of his life, for splattering me, for getting turned on by this weirdness. Instead, he recites ten numbers.


With my clean hand, I quickly type them into my phone before I lose them. Thing is, I’m not sure what to save this number under. I’ve honestly never had a fling’s number in my phone before. I can’t just call him ‘sexy bagpiper’ can I? “Hey, what’s your name?” I feel like I should know this. I feel like I should have picked up a damn festival program at some point today and looked up the band’s listing. I’m pathetic. I can’t even stalk a guy properly.


“John,” he says, and it’s such a common name I’m not even sure I should type it. But he goes on. “John the bagpiper who wants to suck you off when you’re sneezy… and also when you aren’t sneezy, if you’ll let me.”


I grin. “Think there might be a character limit. Not sure all that will fit.” I pause for a moment then type in John Sneezefucker. I show the entry to him when I’ve got it saved, and he grins back, flushed in the cheeks.


“Why do I feel like I’ve just made the best mistake of my life?” he asks, but we both know it’s too late. There’s no going back now for either of us.


 “Aren’t you glad now that it rained?”


 “It’s still going to be a sea of mud between here and the car park so… not really, to be honest. I liked these boots.”


I laugh and walk over to the tent flap. I pull it aside and look out. The rain had sounded like it was letting up, but it’s still a light drizzle out there. We’re going to get soaked making it over to the food and beverage section again, but somehow I don’t mind so much this time, not if he’s with me. I imagine the two of us drenched and dripping, sitting on a picnic table bench with our backs resting against the tabletop, beers in hand, him sniffling and me sneezing and him lusting and me pulling him onto my lap. I imagine driving home to my place after the Cèilidh, casting glances over at him in the passenger seat with his bagpipes resting on his lap and his dark hair still mussed from the rain. I imagine him standing naked in my bedroom, playing those pipes so loud the sound fills not just the room but the whole house while I take him from behind.


I don’t know what any of these daydreams means exactly. All I know is that I have a guy’s number in my phone and enough bills in my wallet to get us plenty beer so we’re both feeling good by the end of the night. What happens from here on out is uncharted territory. I’ve been to hundreds of Celtic festivals, but there’s never been one quite like this before. I have no idea what to expect now.