by tanarill


These are the things which happened in the years after the Gods of Atas blighted the land, and compelled the Atasan to flee lest they starve to death, and set in the stars the writ message that the Atasan were to learn humility before they would return. And the Atasan at that time wept, and when the hearts of the gods remained hard, marched to the land of the Mecede, where they settled in the hills.

And when they fled Atas, the kings of Mecede were strong and vibrant and prospered under the will of the gods, and they conquered and welcomed new peoples and new ideas and flourished greatly. In time, the kings grew complacent, and drew in and looked down upon first the farmers of the land, and then the craftsmen of the city, and finally the priests of the gods. And they grew prideful and did not offer unto the gods the correct tithing in the correct season, and their gods turned away their faces, and the kingdom of Mecede grew weak, and faltered, and was conquered by the people from the north, who were called the Parshas.

The first king of the Parshan was a wise man and knew that the people of Mecede would not accept his rule lightly, for they were a proud people, and so took unto him the daughter of the last king of Mecede for his wife. She bore him two sons, who were Darsis and Artaksis. All the people of Parshas and Mecede marveled at the power and wisdom of Darsis, who would be king, and his brother Artaksis. But in his sixteenth year, Darsis was with his father in battle and was slain, and the Parshas became enraged and great and were victorious, but Darsis was dead. And thus it came to be that in the years which followed, Artaksis led his father’s army against that country and many others, and conquered them, and when his father ascended to the gods, became king of Parshas.

In each country that he conquered, Artaksis made a treaty, and to seal each treaty he took unto himself a prince of the formal royal family for his concubine. And among all of these men there was none he loved so much as Vashti the Harkem, who was not merely his concubine but his consort and his follower in all things. In a certain year, Artaksis marched to war, and his beloved Vashti was slain in battle. Artaksis took those people unto the sword, and slayed them, and robbed them of their cattle, and sold their women and children as slaves, and scattered their name to the winds, so that none would ever speak of them with honor again. But this did not bring Vashti back, so when he was finished, he went back to the city of Sosu, the capital, and withdrew unto himself.

And the Parshan wept to see their king brought so low, and offered him gifts, rich and poor, each man according to his means. The king did not stir from his rooms. So the people contrived to hold a great festival in the streets of Sosu, and make the heart of the king glad. The party lasted a full week, and then the king heard the noise of it in his room and sent a messenger out to find what had happened. And the messenger returned to him and told him that a great festival was being held in his honor. To which Artaksis grew very wroth; for how should he celebrate and be merry while his Vashti was dead? And the people were saddened, because their king was not glad.

Then the priests came down from the temple, and met with the advisors, and there they related that which the gods had revealed to them. They must go to each province, and from these go to each city and town and village and homestead, and seek out the most beautiful and breathtaking of all the boys, and bring them back to Sosu, and show them to the king. Perhaps one of these boys would gladden his heart and bring joy back to Parshas. The advisors of the king agreed, and so took this to Artaksis the king, who did not give his seal.

And then the most high priest came to Artaksis, and told him that by omens and portents, the gods had shown that he would again find for himself a companion, but only if he acted before midwinter. So the king sealed the plan, but the sound of his sighs still echoed in the palace.

Now, in the province of Hasufi, which was in the hills of Mecede, there was an Atasan woman by the name of Mettechai, who was a widow but right in all things and faithful and so the gods blessed her with prosperity. With her lived her cousin, whose name was Shahab. And Shahab worked as a shepherd and cared for his cousin’s sheep, for she could not. He walked the wilds and the hills and the edges of the blight which remained of Atas, and grew strong and beautiful under the sun.

When the messengers of the king came to their homestead and saw this, they took Shahab to the city of Hasuf, and then Sosu when he showed that he was beautiful among all the boys of Hasufi.

He was taken into the harem in the palace, where the hard calluses from tending sheep were soaked in oil and scrubbed away, and he was washed in expensive scents to make him fragrant, and fed only of the best fruits of the land to make his body soft and pleasing to the king. But each day, Shahab set aside a portion of the foods and said the old prayer and offered it to his gods.

Each night, the advisors sent one of the boys to the king, and each morning he would be sent to live with the other royal concubines, to wait on the king’s call for them. And there was much time in the lazy days, for Artaksis rules one hundred and thirty-seven provinces, and the most beautiful from each province were sent first, one to each day, and then the cycle of provinces would begin again.

So Shahab went to Hega, mistress of the harem, and requested that his cousin be allowed to come to Sosu and see him, for they had no family but the other. Hega took pity and sent for Mettechai, and Mettechai came to Sosu. Because she was lettered, she became a scribe in the service of the king, and was allowed to see Shahab in the evenings, when the sun was low, and he would show her his skill with the sling and listen to her stories of Sosu. And thus the seasons passed.

In the sixth year, it came time for Shahab to go to the king. This is where the record must truly begin.

Shahab waited nervously outside the king’s rooms. That’s what they called him–the king. Never Artaksis. Just the king. He’d done his best to stay himself, here in this place of softness and decadence, to be the wild child who promised to avenge himself on the hill cats that took his father and brother and had come back, three months and fourteen lions later, bleeding and half dead and triumphant. They’d wanted to make him soft and white for the king, and it was sheer will that had him out in the sun everyday, running laps through the harem garden and using the fine lambswool clothing for slings, which were invariably taken before he could get the fine balance. At least before they realized they could give him a proper sling or have him ruin another tunic every other day. He gave himself a smile for that, at least.

Even Hega hadn’t wanted to send him in tonight, but the fact was that the slow bureaucracy of Parshas would have made changing him out at this late date, or any date after his arrival in Sosu, impossible.

But he’d be fucked if he went in as anyone other than himself. He was fucked anyway, but at least he’d do it his way, which was why he was wearing a simple woolen cloak, one that Mettechai had made for him in the last year and smuggled in today. Any earlier, and they’d have found and taken it. Wearing the garments of his youth, he felt much more like himself. Let the others wear jewels and fine clothing and scents. He was Shahab.

The door opened, and he saw a brief look of horror on the attendant’s face, far too late. Shahab smiled, and followed him into the small reception room, to meet the king.

Is this at all possible? was his first thought. The man was, every inch of him, a king, and he was hurting, like Shahab hurt before he killed the pride and came home to Mettechai and let himself cry. He’d barely been human then. The king had been like this for eight years now.

“Shahab, son of Mattechai the Scribe, an Atasan,” announced the attendant.

“Cousin,” corrected Shahab, and was rewarded with a venomous glare from the man as he departed. To the king he said, “Mettechai’s my cousin. Everyone keeps saying I’m her son. I mean, legally she’s my guardian, but my mother was her aunt.”

The king was looking at him in a mixture of amazement and outrage.

“Not,” continued Shahab, obliviously, “that I’m not grateful. She raised me, after my father and brother died. My mother died in childbirth. I just wish people would stop assuming that just because we’re clearly related she must be my mother. Close your mouth, you’ll catch flies.” This last because the king’s mouth now gaped open, and he was still staring.

“Who are you? How dare you come here?”

Shahab smiled brightly. “Shahab. I’m here because someone decided that I was one of the ten most beautiful youths in Hasufi, although I think that’s a load of shit. And you’re King Artaksis. Any other burning questions?”

The king’s outrage was dimming. His amazement was not.

“Hega let you in here wearing that?”

“No.” He rolled his eyes. “Hega doesn’t know. Mettechai made it for me. I changed into it after Hega approved of my ensemble.”


“Because the person Hega approved isn’t the person I am, and if all you ever see is people she approves, then it’s no wonder this hasn’t worked. You don’t like her kind of boys.”

“Come sit here,” commanded the king, patting the cushion beside him, “and tell me what kind of boy I like.”

Shahab walked forward, and rather than walk around the low table, kicked it away before sitting. In the king’s lap. “You don’t like this,” he waved his arm, “softness. If you liked softness, you’d go in for girls.” He leaned in against the king’s chest. “You want someone who can keep up with you. You want someone who can watch your back, who you will be able to protect in kind.”

The king snorted.

“Tell me I’m wrong,” challenged Shahab.

“You’re wrong,” said the king. “I just need a warm body. You will do.”

Shahab turn his head to look up at the king, and found his mouth promptly claimed in a kiss.

He’d never kissed like this before. He kissed and was kissed by Mettechai when she came, little pecks on his cheeks, but this was about as similar to that as Sosu was to Hasufi. This was powerful and demanding and the person he was kissing was, beyond a doubt, very male. A tongue licked along his lips, rough as the desert winds he’d left behind. He wondered if it tasted like home, and opened his mouth to find out.

It didn’t. It wasn’t sweet either, though, which was a relief after all the sugar of the harem. It tasted a little like a lambing and a little like leather and a little like warm male, and he pressed his tongue forward for more. He felt more than heard the king rumble his approval, and an eternity later they parted, breathing heavily. Slowly, deliberately, Shahab licked his lips.

The king was a full head taller than him and damn sight more muscular, seeing how unlike Shahab, he got to use his muscles. Nevertheless, Shahab was completely unprepared for what he did next, which was: bodily lift him up, and carry him, one hand under his knees and another supporting his back, through two rooms before dumping him on what was, presumably, the king’s bed.

It was big. There was a lot more that could be said about it, like how expensive it was and how many people could have slept in it, but the main point Shahab’s mind focused on was: it was big.

He smiled up at the king, and let the cloak fall open around him.

The king had not, he could tell, been expecting that. He was used to the dozens of diaphanous layers, which barely did anything to cover one but could be removed, bit by bit, teasing. He was not use to a single layer of comfortably worn (or even uncomfortably new) woolen clothing that was most often worn over something but did not have to be.

Shahab smirked, and found himself being kissed again, the warm weight of the king settling over him like a blanket.

This kiss lasted even longer than the first, a timeless passage of shared breath and sucking at the lips of the king, on his tongue, exploring, learning what was good and what wasn’t. He was fairly sure that the king was as wanting as he was by the end, the only real difference being that he was free and proudly erect, while the king was still trapped under layers of heavy brocade. He wished the king wasn’t, and the king probably wished it too given the way he was trying to get the clothing off. Shahab snickered.

“What’s so funny?” asked the king, giving him something that would have been a glare if Shahab couldn’t see the underlying lust.

“You,” he said, “can’t get out of your own clothing.”

This was true. The king had tried, and the end result was that he was not only trapped by his clothing, but tangled in it. “And I suppose you can do better?” snapped the king.

Shahab pushed himself up on his elbows, and then rolled sideways off the bed to stand up. “Hold still,” he said, and, “let me.”

He wasn’t quite sure how the king had managed to knot his sash like that, and then twist the clothing around the knot so that he couldn’t actually get at it. It took Shahab several minutes to undo the ornamental knot, occasionally learning up against the king or reaching down to stroke himself. Once the sash slid free, the king was able to shrug out of the entire outer layer of clothing. “Lift your arms,” he commanded softly, and after a few more deft movements the king was down to the fine linen undershift, and then nothing at all. “There.”

The next few moments happened quickly; the king spun him around and pulled him back, flush against the hard body, and tilted his head in to lick an ear. Shahab could feel the king’s interest against the crack of his ass, but did not resist. He started when the king said, “He’d have liked you.”

Shahab didn’t ask who he was, merely leaned back, trusting the king to hold him.

A finger came up and brushed against his lip, the other arm still holding him in tight. Instinctively, Shahab opened his mouth and sucked at it; it tasted of salt and sweat, and he nibbled a little. “So eager,” chuckled the king, warm and dark in his ear.

“Hmm,” replied Shahab, and then the king removed the finger and brushed moisture across his lips in a motion that was somehow incredibly erotic. Then the finger vanished and the hand dropped and Shahab gasped because the king was slowly running that wet finger up the underside of his cock, from head to balls. He held them for a moment, and then began massaging, just barely short of pain, until Shahab lost control and moaned.

“That’s right,” and the king walked forward, pushed him forward, until he toppled forward onto the bed, the king spinning him as he fell so that he landed face up. Before he had time to react to this, his legs had been forced apart and the king was between them. He had to push himself up on his arms to get a good look, for the first time, at the king’s phallus.

As far as it went, it was big, but Shahab had seen larger in the harem. It was flushed darkly purple, curved slightly, a droplet of liquid gathering at the tip. It suddenly occurred to Shahab to wonder how it tasted, what it would be like to kiss that the way the king kissed him.

He swallowed, hungrily.

This did not go unnoticed. “Having second thoughts?”

“I want to suck you.” It visibly jumped when he said that, so he kept going. “I want to find out what you taste like, what you feel like inside my mouth. I want to suck you down until I can’t anymore, pleasure you, make you come, and then swallow your seed down like the gift it is–”

The king groaned, and said, “Maybe later, if you’re very good.” Shahab pouted at this, and then a finger prodded at his entrance and he went shock-still. “Right now,” said the king, “I want to be here.”

“Oh,” said Shahab. The finger withdrew, and then returned, coated in something that was warm and slick, began circling him and just dipping inside. The king was stroking himself with his other hand, and Sahab watched his hand vanish, reappear to coat himself in a shining layer. He stifled a whimper, squeezed his eyes shut. Reached down to stroke himself.

A hand grabbed his wrist before he’d made any but the smallest of motions. “No,” said the king, roughly. “You will not touch yourself. You will not hold back any noise. I want to hear every groan, every whimper, every shout. You will open your eyes; I want to see you when I’m buried in your body, when I fuck you so hard your entire body cries out from it–” Finally, the finger stopped tormenting him and slipped inside, and Shahab let his head fall back against the bed, pushed against the digit, wanting more and deeper, but the king only pressed in shallowly before removing it altogether.

Shahab keened the loss, and then the finger returned, slick with oil, and pressed in. “Ah–!!” he panted.

“Tight,” commented the king, pushing in further, removing his finger, pushing in again. Shahab whined. “Did you want something?”

It took Shahab two tries to regain enough cognitive power to gasp out the word “More!”

The finger withdrew again, but returned with a mate before Shahab could voice his protest. It hurt, only it didn’t, and the two fingers, oil-slick, thrust in and out, stretched, opened, played with him. Finger-fucked him, and Shahab rode them and writhed and wanted. Then one of the fingers grazed something inside that made him light up. “Guh,” he said, and then, “Please!”


“Please!” Another finger touched that spot, and his hands fisted the fabric beneath him. “In me!”

The fingers withdrew, leaving him empty and gasping like a landed fish and then a hard heat, larger than the fingers, was pressing against him and pressing into him and unavoidably it hurt, but he wanted it, he needed it, filling him. The king slid forward, and he pressed back as well as he was able, and too soon he felt balls resting against him.

He looked up with lust-glazed eyes, and demanded, “Fuck me!”

The king shuddered, withdrew–he whimpered, feeling empty–and then the king thrust forward again and that was good, that was right and perfect and, “Faster!”

The king complied, speeding his thrusts in time with the harsh rhythm of their breathing, and he bucked up when the king thrust down and twisted until he found that spot being stroked with every thrust and then there was nothing left to do but try to last two seconds longer, three seconds longer . . .

The king came first, filling him with more sticky heat than he thought a single body could hold, and twitching and shuddering inside him, and then pulling out, looking down on Shahab, flushed and panting, and said, “Good boy.”

Shahab wanted to scream in frustration, to ask if that was all he got, a pat on the back and a “good boy”? And then without warning, the king dropped his head on Shahab, and Shahab screamed for an entirely different reason altogether, and came.

When his mind returned, he found himself being kissed by the king, who was coaxing his mouth open, and without thinking he complied. And found himself with a mouth full of what it took him a moment to realize was his own seed, mixed with the taste of the king’s mouth. He swallowed; there was really nothing else to do, not with the king’s mouth hot and demanding on his, large hands running up and down his sides.

The first word out of his mouth, when the king stopped kissing him and he had enough breath to speak, was, “Fuck!” which captured his sentiments fairly well.

“Again?” asked the king archly, to which he gave a weak laugh.

“Gods, yes,” he replied. “Wait until I can move again–or don’t, I don’t care, as long as it’s–we have got to do that again. What?” The king was giving him a look.

“You want to do that again?”

“That’s what I said.”

“But you–they–”

“I’m not them,” said Shahab, seriously, and then on a lighter note, “Hey, I have an idea. You have nice, big baths, right?” The king nodded. “Good. Let’s go clean each other up. And have more sex.”

” . . . all right.”

“But I still can’t feel my legs,” replied Shahab, smirking.

“I’ll carry you.”

The king did not have big baths. The king had huge baths.

Of course, when you wanted to talk politics in a relaxing atmosphere, there was almost no better place to do it than the baths. Add to that the size of the party the King of Parshan would be forced to hold, formally or informally, in his private baths, and the result was . . .

Well, if he ignored the fact that the water only came up to his waist, he could have done laps in it. Only it was a weird shape, a big main open area and all sorts of little alcoves, complete with seats and places to put plates of food, along the outside. Every so often there were stairs in and out, but they weren’t really necessary because a ledge ran around the edge, so that a person sitting on it would find their shoulders and head above the water and two large steps would get a person out of the pool. The whole thing could probably accommodate nearly a hundred people in the water, with more lounging on the divans around the pool.

It would probably be some party.

But right at this moment, it was empty, the surface of the water smooth as a well-polished copper mirror. Shahab was curled against the chest of the king, not really sleepy because his schedule had been deliberately skewed in the past days and even really good sex couldn’t override nearly fourteen hours of sleep. He looked around, and then said, “Nice.”

“Nice?” He was using that why-aren’t-you-impressed tone again.

“Nice. Ostentatious, but that’s expected,” he squirmed a little, trying to get a view of the areas he couldn’t see.

The water was warm but not actually hot, as he found when the king walked down a set of stairs and sat in one of the many corners, then positioned his so that he was both sitting on the king’s lap and against a wall. “Like it?”

“Mmm,” Shahab slumped against the king, resting his head on his chest.

It was quiet for a moment, and then the king asked, “Tell me about yourself?



“What should I talk about?” Shahab wasn’t anything special, and wondered what the king could possibly be interested in. Besides, after tomorrow, he’d probably never see the king again.

“Anything,” said the king. “Your family. You have a cousin, but not a mother. Tell me about her. Where you grew up, in Hasufi. What you did, before . . . ” He let the question trail off.

“Oh. I was a shepherd. I didn’t really have any family other than Mettechai. My mother died giving birth to me, and after that Father kind of . . . lost the will to keep going. I used to think he hated me, because he was always so distant, but really I think when Mother died a part of him died too.

“He did his best, though. I mean, he didn’t fall to drink or women after that. He did his job, and raised me and Omid, and he took care of the sheep.” Something in his voice suggested that he could have forgiven his father neglecting him and Omid, but neglecting the sheep was something taboo. “And he took care of Mettechai too, even though he didn’t have to. She had nowhere else to go. So that was us. Our family.”

“What happened?”

“They died,” said Shahab. “Mauled by lions. I never found enough of their remains to bury, even. I was only twelve, so even though I got the inheritance Mettechai had to hold them in trust . . . the first year was the worst. I couldn’t take care of them, so we had to sell most of the herd, and then our ram caught sick and died along with half of what was left. We had to buy a new one at a loss. It was really Mettechai who kept us alive that year.” He was smiling fondly. “She can make a copper stretch a week.

“Anyway. The next year went better. Almost all the ewes dropped lamb in the spring with no problems, so we had a little extra from selling the male lambs. We got a goat, and that meant we always had some food. Dog kind of found us, and between Dog and the ram, I was able to manage the herd fairly well, so the next year we were almost fine again. And then there was you. Or the decree . . . ”

He felt, not saw, the king wince. He knew as well as Shahab that a single unmarried woman couldn’t hope to care for a whole herd. “What did you do?”

“I came here. What choice did I have? But Mettechai sold the herd and I got Hega to send her some money, and between the two she was able to make her way here. And there’s always use for a scribe in the city, even a female one.”

“She writes?”

“So can I,” shrugged Shahab, “but not like her. She could listen to merchants babble at each other for an hour and then after another hour speak their language perfectly. She learns everything like that. By now, living in Sosu for five and a half years, she probably knows every language there is.”

“Really? I could probably use a scribe like that, woman or no.”

Shahab gave him an odd look. “She does work here.” He made a motion to indicate the palace. “Recording taxes from the more distant provinces, I think. Although why the king should care about a single scribe . . . anyway. Hega lets her visit me in the evenings, since she’s always in the palace anyway and she’s all the family I have left. Don’t tell Hega I told you, she’d get in trouble.”

“All right. I won’t. Do you think we’ve soaked long enough?”

Shahab lifted a hand and scrutinized it. “I’m getting all pruney. I suppose we should wash.”

“You were so enthusiastic before.”

“Still am,” he pressed down on the king for emphasis, eliciting a gasp. “Just . . . I like it here. It’s quiet. Peaceful.”

“Ah. Up,” the king pushed on his hip to help him stand. “There are washcloths over that way, and oil.”

“Oh, good.” His tone indicated he was not considering its intended use as body oil.

The washcloths were made of rough wool, so they’d literally scrub off dirt and the top layer of dead skin. He retrieved a couple, one for him and one for the king, and a medium-sized bottle of scented oil, and half walked, half swam back.

The king didn’t really give him a chance to do anything, simply picked up one cloth and turned him around and began briskly washing his back. It wasn’t exactly gentle–it would do no good without some force behind the motion–but it was soothing and Shahab relaxed into it, if it were possible to get even more relaxed than he already was.

“You’re like a giant cat,” chuckled the king behind him, sweeping the cloth down his left arm.

“I’m not,” said Shahab.

“Yes, you are.” The cloth moved to his right arm. “All golden and grace, and you like to be pet, and you make nice noises when you’re happy.” This was hard to deny, as he was practically purring at that particular moment.

“Well, maybe a lion,” conceded Shahab, as the king pushed him down on the bench and lifted a leg into his lap. “Gods know I spent enough time living like them.”

“You?” The king raised an eyebrow. “Live like a lion?”

“I had to.” Shahab almost said more, but caught himself in time. “It doesn’t matter now. It was a long time ago.”

The king said nothing, scrubbing dead skin off his other leg.

“Anyway, if I’m a lion, then you must be a dragon.”

“A dragon?”

Shahab nodded. “Teeth and claws and scales, breathtaking and deadly. Or you could be . . . the Dragon of Sosu.”

The first king of Parshas, this king’s father, had been the Dragon of Sosu. So too had Darsis, once.

The king set down his leg, and said, “You’re clean.”

Shahab pouted. “Oh, don’t be like that.” He picked up the other cloth, and began returning the favor, throwing his weight behind it, really working to get the king clean. “If you really wanted to, you could be.”

The king grunted.

“Fine. Believe what you like. When they start calling you dragon, I will laugh. Arm.” The king obligingly lifted it, and he went to work. He sighed. He’d probably feel all of this the next day. It was unfair; he used to be able to carry a fully grown sheep without even working hard.

” . . . if I were,” he said, emphasizing the word, “capable of being the Dragon of Sosu, why aren’t I now?”

“Because you’re like a baby bird,” answered Shahab promptly, moving lower on the king’s back and occasionally groping him through the cloth. “You haven’t fledged yet. Once you take to the sky and learn to fly, there will be no stopping you.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Shahab sat down, lifting a leg and beginning work on it, hard muscle shifting under his hands. It was quiet for long minutes as he washed first it, then the other leg, then the king’s chest and neck. By then Shahab was straddling the king, face mere inches from his, and the king’s neck was tilted at the perfect angle for access. He leaned forward impulsively and nipped the soft skin.

The king’s hand went around his waist, pulling him closer.

Encouraged, Shahab began sucking gently, moving gently, against the king. He was surprised when he found himself lifted entirely out of the bath, carried to one of the many scattered divans, and then sat down again. Still straddling the king, still kissing his neck.

“You realize we’ll just have to wash again,” commented the king, buzzing under Shahab’s mouth.

“Mmm,” replied Shahab, trusting his tone to convey the fact that he didn’t really care. Then he pulled back, shifted a little, trailing light kisses around the king’s neck and down to where water had pooled in the hollow of his collarbone.

He licked at that pool, and then continued downward. He had to stop briefly, to move his legs and the king’s so that he could get at the skin he wanted. He had to stop to lick the king’s nipples, pebble-hard and flushed, to trace every one of those defined muscles with his tongue, to nip and taste and drive the king to the edge of desire. And beyond, so that by the time he was kneeling between the king’s legs and wetly kissing the inside of thighs, the king was breathless and hard.

“Tease,” said the king.

“What you get for not letting me do this earlier,” said Shahab, and ducked his head and opened his mouth and sucked.

The king tasted like salt and skin and musk, very male. Shahab flattened his tongue, moving against the underside, and sought that flavor, more a scent than a taste. Bracing a hand on one knee, he leaned forward, attempting to get more of it, and was surprised when suddenly he was choking because it was too big for his throat.

“Easy,” said the king, low and vibrating. Heavy hands rested on his shoulders, rubbing circles. “Relax.”

Relax? Shahab didn’t think he could relax if his life depended on it. It wasn’t anything like anything he’d ever experienced, and he could tell even now that time and practice would, must, make it even better. He wanted that practice.

He leaned forward again, more slowly, taking the time to taste and tease and appreciate. Above him, the king made a cut off, strangled sound. Gods, the man sounded so . . . there wasn’t a word. With his free hand, the one he wasn’t using to keep himself from falling over, he reached to play with heavy balls. The fingers on his shoulders momentarily tightened enough to leave bruises.

Shahab whined his annoyance, and the king made another one of those noises, so he whined again just because. Then he had an idea; with a wicked smirk, he pulled his head back so that just the head was inside his mouth, and hummed.

The king moaned, not stifling it in the least, and tried to buck his hips forward into Shahab’s mouth. Shahab pulled back, just a little, in response. He was still humming, and when the king settled back onto the divan, he followed, taking the king maybe half an inch deeper. The king was breathing harshly now, and Shahab loved it, drinking the little sounds as if they were the music of the spheres.

He went slowly. He went very slowly, as slowly as he could given the way his body was urging him forward. He took the king in only a little at a time, sucking and licking. At some point, the hands moved to rest on his head, to force him forward, only whenever the king tried to do that he’d pull almost all the way off and start again. He could hear the king protesting this, which only made him harder.

At about the time where going forward any more would have caused him to choke again, he stopped, and sucked. Hard, while his tongue moved as much as he was able and then the king was coming, in hot wet spurts down his throat. He swallowed four times, gave another experimental suck to see if there were anything more, and then pulled back and licked his lips, looking straight into the king’s eyes.

Whatever he saw, the king apparently liked it, because he found himself hauled up and the entire length of his body pressed firmly again the king while a battle-calloused hand sought out his erection, pumped it once, twice, while he whimpered and moaned and the king said, right in his ear, “Come for me.”

There was no choice after that. He did.

After a long period of silence, in which the king shifted him a bit and, limp as a rag doll, Shahab allowed himself to be moved. The king was gently petting him, from shoulder to wrist and back again, while Shahab let his head fall back against the king’s shoulder and lazed in the afterglow, the combined scents of warm male and water and sex.

It was the king who spoke first this time. “I’m never going to stop loving him, you know.”

Shahab snorted. “And I’m never going to stop missing my father and brother. What is your point?”

“I just wanted you to know. So that you don’t walk into this with any expectations.”

“It’s too late for that,” Shahab joked. “I already expect fantastic sex.” Then his tone deepened, became serious. “But I understand. I don’t want to take his place in your heart. I want to make a new place, just for us.”

” . . . I think I can live with that.”

Thus it came to pass that in his twentieth year, Shahab the Atasan clove unto the king, and became his, one to love and to cherish. And the king named him Consort, and delighted in his laughter and his anger; and it was to no great surprise when they went unto the priests and bound themselves together, one to the other, and the strength returned to Artaksis the king, and all of Parshas flourished.

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