Damen sometimes forgot how Laurent liked to talk. He remembered when he had first been introduced to Laurent, tied and pushed to his knees amongst the finery and opulence of the Regent’s court. His first impression had been that Laurent liked to talk and hadn’t been good for much else. Damen had been proven wrong many times in his underestimation of Laurent’s abilities, but he had been correct about Laurent’s loquaciousness.
Laurent especially liked to talk after sex. He had charming manners in bed, hovering in between tending to Damen with a shy sweetness and enjoying his power over Damen with an edge of gleeful cruelty. Damen had a habit of sleeping after bed play. At his home, when at leisure, his practice had been to retire to his bedroom with his partners when he was ready for sleep, and then to curl up with their warm bodies next to him to drift into dreams.
Yet with Laurent it was rarely that way -- there was too much happening for them to retire together to sleep uninterrupted. They stole private moments here and there: while off on a ride on patrol, amidst planning over maps in Laurent’s tent. Too frequently after the moment was over they had to pull their clothes back to rights before they were interrupted by servants or a guard returning with an update.
There was no danger of such an interruption this evening -- Damen had made it clear to the men that nothing should warrant any disturbances. So when Laurent rolled on to one side, propped his head up on his hand, and looked at Damen with a small smile, Damen simply smiled back.
Laurent extended one hand toward Damen and traced a finger along the engraving on the single golden wrist cuff that Damen still wore.
“What would it have been like,” said Laurent, “if I had been your slave, in Akielos?” His finger caressed the inside of Damen’s wrist.
Damen laughed, keeping his voice pitched for the space between them. “I am sure you would have taken over the entire palace within a matter of hours.”
Laurent seemed to ignore that remark. “Tell me how it would have been. How are new slaves presented to the king?”
Damen looked at Laurent for a moment. Laurent’s expression was intent but his face seemed free of concern, his brow smooth. His eyes were wide and blue and met Damen’s easily.
“You want to hear about slaves in Akielos?” said Damen. It was not necessarily a pleasant subject upon which to think. When Damen thought upon the slaves who had been presented to him in the past, he was forced to remember that they had all been killed when he had been loaded in a ship for Vere.
Laurent’s finger stilled but kept pressure on Damen’s cuff; his tone was light. “I want to know how it would have been if I had been your slave in Akielos.”
“Is this a game?” said Damen, because he could not always tell with Laurent.
“This is just talk.”
“Talk,” said Damen. He rested a hand on Laurent’s flank and he could feel Laurent breathing slow and steady.
Laurent raised an eyebrow at him. “You are not unfamiliar with the concept.”
“I am not sure that anything with you is just talk,” said Damen.
Laurent rolled his eyes, and shifted closer on the bed. “I am not laying some elaborate trick. This is two lovers, in bed, talking.”
Damen could not help but smile a little at Laurent’s reference to the two of them as lovers. He ran his hand along Laurent’s side, feeling the line of his ribcage and how it sculpted into the musculature of his back. “I love you,” he said helplessly.
“And would you have loved me if I were presented as the fruit of your harem?” said Laurent. He had edged close enough to Damen on the bed that Damen could feel the warmth of Laurent’s breath on his chest.
It was too hard to answer that question honestly -- would he have seen Laurent as he truly was in that circumstance? It was clear to Damen now that he had spent the first twenty-five years of his life quite blind to what surrounded him; it was hard to speculate.
“I am not sure how I would not love you,” said Damen instead, and Laurent made a pleased noise.
“How would a new slave be dressed?” said Laurent.
Damen wanted to be nowhere else than where he was at that particular moment, but Laurent’s words were sending him back to Ios.
“It would depend on the season,” said Damen.
Laurent moved his finger from Damen’s wrist cuff to Damen’s forearm, trailing light designs along Damen’s skin.
“In cool weather?” said Laurent.
“Silks,” said Damen. “Blue, perhaps, for your coloring.”
“And in warm weather?”
“Nothing,” said Damen. “Slaves go naked in clement weather.” His voice sounded lower than it had a few moments before.
Laurent pushed the sheets tangled around his waist toward the foot of the bed. “Like this.”
Damen raked his eyes over Laurent’s figure. Laurent liked to show off, and did not grow uncomfortable with being the center of attention when he wanted it. Yet sometimes he caught Damen staring in unpredictable moments and Damen could see the faintest hint of a blush on his features.
He wasn’t blushing now. He met Damen’s gaze squarely, with none of the submissiveness of a new slave.
Damen hummed, considering. “Lower your gaze,” he directed, wondering if Laurent was interested enough in the game to do it.
Laurent met his eyes for a moment longer, and just when Damen became convinced that Laurent would not, he cast his eyes down toward the bed.
“And so?” said Laurent.
Damen caressed Laurent’s side again, letting his hand move lower toward Laurent’s hip. He mouthed soft kisses on the top of Laurent’s head, feeling the soft strands of his hair.
Damen was ready to let go of the game of words in favor of more physical games, but Laurent persisted.
“How would a slave address the king?” said Laurent. He switched to Akielon. “Your grace?”
Damen made a considering noise. “In public, perhaps. In private a favorite might presume to say ‘my lord.’”
Laurent looked up again, losing the pretense of submissiveness. He tried out the phrase on his tongue. “My lord.” He tried it again. “I’ve not heard that before.”
Damen pressed his lips to Laurent’s forehead. “You wouldn’t,” he said. “It’s --” he searched for a word. “Private. Intimate.”
“My lord,” said Laurent again, still trying the words, and then he cast his gaze down again. His hair spilled into his face, and Damen brushed it behind his ear with one hand.
There was something hesitant in Laurent’s caress as he traced his hand up to Damen’s bicep, an echo of submissiveness.
Laurent ruined the illusion by looking up and meeting Damen’s eyes again. “Then what?”
Damen drew in a breath. He tried to picture it for a moment, if he had known Laurent only as one of the beautiful young men the slave master paraded in front of him, if their day had not involved drilling the troops for the afternoon but that they had spent it reclining in the orchards, Laurent peeling fruit and serving each of them pieces dripping with sweet juice. He liked the image of Laurent reclining in the warm heat of the Ios afternoon, no greater worry on his brow than the peach juice dripping down his thumb.
“I don’t wish you were my slave, Laurent,” Damen said.
Laurent tipped his head to the side. “You’ve not thought of it? Not a single revenge fantasy? Even when Radel had you covered in ridiculous gold paint?”
Damen let out a huff of air. “No,” he said, sounding rueful. “I was not nearly so creative.”
“You don’t miss your harem?” said Laurent. “Eager youths anxious to please you?”
Damen shook his head and pulled Laurent closer to him on the bed. “No,” he said. “I find my interests are otherwise occupied, now.”
Laurent wore an expression that Damen couldn’t read, and after a moment of waiting patiently for Laurent to find something in Damen’s face, Damen leaned in and kissed him softly. Laurent permitted it.
Damen kissed him for a long moment, and then teased Laurent’s mouth open with his tongue, still playful. After a moment he turned his attention to Laurent’s neck, kissing down it with gentle nips.
Laurent made a noise of enjoyment. “If you are so lacking in creativity,” said Laurent, “I have an idea where you are my slave again,” and they were both laughing as Damen pulled the sheet up over both of their heads.