Dino arrives home amongst much cheer and fanfare, welcomed by Athenian soldiers as they approach the city. The Spartan set of twelve he has traveled with for the last two days leave him with brief nods of acknowledgment; he sends them off with a word of thanks for their lovely young King.
His set is calm and fortified as they ride into Athens, but inside, he is grim and despairing, already pained by the sudden separation from his newfound addiction. When he closes his eyes he still can see flashes of pale white skin, ripples of soft red cloths, and dark, dark eyes of the most precious molten ferocity. He longs to be back in Sparta, back within the Spartan King's bed.
Back to Kyouya.
He meets his father at the steps of the palace, and as he is engulfed by a mad frenzy of overjoyed hugs and overenthusiastic greetings, he mourns for his loss.
~ with it or upon it~
( dio )
protectiveness; "can't you see he's heartless?"
It is Romario who first notices his odd behaviour. He had expected as much; it is Romario who takes personal care of him, and has done so since he was but a babe. Romario has been paying rapt attention to his movements ever since his return, and despite how many times he reassures the man, Romario refuses to take his word for anything. Blaming himself for Dino’s fall into the hands of the Spartan hoplites, Romario insists upon watching Dino like a hawk, waiting for the most minute sign of aberration or wrong. Suffice to say, Romario finds it rather quickly.
“Say, Romario,” he begins by way of conversation, “do you think there will ever be a long-lasting peace between Athens and Sparta?”
Romario’s hands hover still above the food he has been preparing for the young Athenian prince. Dino’s most trusted general and confidant—who still insists upon doing the chores for him, as if Dino was a young boy and Romario was still the retainer—looks all sorts of suspicious, distressed, and anxious all at once.
“There is no need to be so alarmed, my friend, I am only curious,” but Romario does not listen.
Instead, Romario takes his young liege by the shoulders and squares them eye to eye. “Listen to me, Dino,” he says. “Sparta is Athens’ foremost rival and enemy, and has been for long before your father’s rule, and will be for long after yours. It is a hatred rooted deep into the people, into society, into their politics, into their families when they lose a relative in the war. It is a hatred rooted into the very fabric of each person, Dino, and you will do well to remember that.”
Dino looks Romario in the eye, and in the same manner as one of the (in)famed philosophers from his city, he evenly declares, “But you did not answer my question.”
Romario stays still for a moment, and then sighs. Dino feels the pressure lessen on his shoulders, feels it disappear altogether as Romario retrieves his hands and sits back to fold them in his lap. The older man is a trusted soldier and servant of Dino’s father, the King, and has been through a lot in order to earn and deserve such trust. Dino believes there is no one else in this palace holding as much secrets as Romario does.
So Dino pushes, “I want to know if it is at all possible. Don’t you, Romario? Don’t you despair at the dead we reap from every battle? These are our men, Romario, good men! And Sparta’s men as well—don’t you think they too have families?”
It is then, Dino believes, that Romario is alarmed of his behaviour.
Romario never had answered his question that day, but Dino persists in finding it. He asks his father’s generals whenever he sees them, asks them questions but with much more finesse and subtlety. They all give him the same sidestep, and the few who give answers give him unsavoury ones. They do not think of peace, he realizes. These men never think of peace.
Perhaps it is because of the glory war brings. There are, after all, only three principal causes of quarrel: competition, diffidence, and glory. The third one is the most powerful and rarest of all commodities.
Dino walks around the agora (1), watches the men and women of Athens conduct their business. As he looks into their faces, he sees the same mothers and sisters and brothers he had seen in Sparta. Sparta, too, have families like these, businesses like these. He does not understand how men can go to war against similarly beautiful, industrious men. Simply because they come from a different city does not justify their death, does it?
He is quiet in his thoughts even as the people greet him when he passes by. He is aware that there are rumours of his strange behaviour running about in town. They are worried for their young Prince, rightly so. His capture had been a sudden thing, and he had been kept captive in Sparta for a solid month and two days.
But though the citizens’ worries are now assuaged with sight of his good health, his physical wellbeing is the least of the generals’ and Romario’s worries. They, in particular, are worried for his state of mind. They hold suspicions that he has been swayed by the Spartans; contrary to their belief, he is well-aware of this. He is more capable than he comes off.
In a sense, they are correct. In a sense, he has been swayed, except in a slightly different manner than what they think. Is that so evil? Yes, it is, to them. Because he is their Prince, and in the future, in the near future, he is to lead them to war against Sparta—against the very city wherein his heart now dwells.
He catches sight of a trader carrying jewellery from Piraeus, a port town south of Athens, a half-day’s walk away. There in the small wooden display tray of fine jewellery lay a golden ring, glinting underneath the bright Mediterranean sun. It is a simple band of gold, without any further ornament or design—Dino thinks it is most fitting for the purpose he has in mind for it.
Discreetly, he buys it, avoiding anybody’s eye as he walks away from the trader. He tucks the ring into a purse and tucks the purse into a fold of his robes. Should the women catch wind of this, they will not stop until they find the most fortunate soul his eyes have set upon, the surely beautiful girl the ring will be given to.
Dino does not wish to disappoint them, so he slips away into the alleys. It is better if they do not know.
For two days he waits, calmly and methodically preparing his stallion for journey. His stallion, a gift from his father when he was twelve, had been injured before he was captured, a good three moons ago. It had been from faulty handling; their stable handler had been drunk. Fired immediately afterwards, of course; Dino had not been able to forgive the old man (irresponsible and intemperate fool). But now, after much careful tending to and with the best medicine to heal the horse, his stallion is impatient for a gleeful flight.
“Just as I am, my friend,” his whispers are quiet, reserved for the stallion’s ears. “Just as I am.”
With care and affection, he brushes the stallion’s long white-and-blond mane, taking pleasure in the repetitive mechanical action. His mind is full of the conversation he had come upon this morning, a conversation between Romario and his father.
It seems that Romario is no longer able to hold his tongue, and had confided in the King regarding Dino’s odd behaviour since coming home. His father had been worried, so Dino had heard, but not too much—and his father’s explanation had been a solid one.
“Dino has a kind heart, Romario,” his father had said, “and you know how he is. He has now affection towards Sparta, because he is that way. His mother was the same, when she was alive. But it will pass, Romario. Affection can only stretch so far; it will snap when he sees a Spartan murder an Athenian in cold blood before his very eyes, as they have done and will do for centuries.”
A good excuse is what it is, Dino thinks, but it will not hold much longer, because Dino does not think he will stop loving Sparta anytime soon. He is not just affectionate to their people; it is more than that, much more than that. Nevertheless, he will play along with this excuse, because it will work, because it will cover his tracks and give him ample time to think up his next excuse.
However, with one thing, he will not agree. Sparta and Athens will cease the war, cease the bloodshed, and if he needs to devote his entire life to this cause, then he shall. It is a shame that the beauty of two cultures complementing each other will only ever meet on the battlefield. He has faith in his citizens; he knows that if they are given the opportunity to meet and mingle with the Spartans as he had been, they will fall in love, as he had.
He leads his stallion from the stables and meets with the party of three hundred men strong gathering before the palace, half into the agora (1). When he sees his father upon a grand white steed, he smiles and mounts. He had always admired his father’s strength and conviction; today, that admiration remains pulsing within his veins.
They are headed for Corinth, where his father is needed to repair their tarnished relations. It is rare that the entire royal guard with the King rides out of Athens for a simple negotiation, but it is imperative that good relations be restored between Corinth and Athens. The Corinthians had been alarmed when Athens had granted the Spartans access and ownership of Argos and the neighbouring territories, thinking that Athens had finally turned face and betrayed them.
That piece of land had been the last buffer between Corinth and Sparta’s looming forces; it was seized by Athens long ago after one of the many battles between the city-states and provinces. Corinth had agreed to Athens’ presence, but Dino doubts they will agree to Sparta. Athens is known to be much more lenient and less... Spartan. Dino does not get the difference. Here is Athens, and here is Sparta, both with the same old farts for generals and the same businesses and the same men and women living within the city walls. Fellow human beings, his heart screams, are here killing each other and there is nothing he can do about it!
He remains quiet as they ride out of the city, westward. It takes them four long days of quiet and cautious riding, during which time he is kept firmly in between Romario and his father. It takes much effort to stifle his complaints and ride along obediently, but he finds his exertion well worth it when he arrives in Corinth and finds out that the Spartan King and his royal guards are staying at a fort in Argos.
Eagerness unbidden, he slips out to Argos on the first night of their Corinthian welcome. He does not notice—nor will he have minded, if he had noticed—Romario’s piercing stare as he rode into the moonlit darkness. The journey is swift and clandestine, as his stallion blends in with the monochrome scenery of the night. He flits in between fingers of shadows, and for a half-hour he rides this way, quiet but hasty.
He finally reaches Argos, a fire-lit fortress in the sea of black, but soldiers block his way into the city with heavy shields and tall pointed spears. He eyes the glisten of oil on the tips of the blades—poison, potent and strong, with full intent to immobilise and kill. He had seen these same soldiers smear the poison into their blades when he had stayed in Sparta, and he knows that every Spartan blade carries the same bite. They are truly an army to be feared.
But fortunately not for him—not tonight.
“Our King warned me that you would return,” it is, again, the nameless polemarchos (2) that had captured him before. “You truly are a fool.”
Dino only smiles from aloft his stallion. “Fools are as fools come, my friend.”
The polemarchos stands still, as if deciding upon something, and then abruptly turns about face. With a sharp cutting motion of a hand the polemarchos has his men retrieving their shields and spears, thereby opening up Dino’s way.
“The King awaits you in his chambers, Athenian Prince,” and it is all the man has to say to him.
Dino rides into the city, heart as high as the soaring nightly clouds above. When he steps off his stallion and into the fort, he is assisted by servants into the hall, now devoid of much furniture except for the bare necessities. All too Spartan. He is guided deep into the structure until he arrives within the biggest set of chambers, and in the very centre of the hall, reclined atop princely cloths, is the very item of his smitten heart.
With a broad smile he approaches and falls to his knees. With a reverent air he seizes the Spartan King’s hand and brings it to his lips, murmuring worshipfully and with a breath of the most profound kind joy:
Vividly behind the lids of his eyes he can still remember the night he first sighted the young and newly minted Spartan King. He had known from the very first moment that he was captured and owned, body and soul.
Tonight he succumbs as Kyouya descends upon him and sinks teeth into his neck, marking him as exclusive property. He drinks in the sight of Kyouya’s pale, naked skin underneath the palms of his hands. He engraves into the very fabric of his memory the slightest cadence of Kyouya’s waist and back as they ride together towards a peak of ecstasy he knows they both crave more than food or water or sleep.
He arches off the bed as the first—and most certainly not the last—climax of the night is wrung from his body. Kyouya, riding atop him, seizes his chin and aggressively claims his mouth, and they go lung to lung and tongue on tongue as he rolls them over and settles himself in between two long, delectable stretches of leg.
Closing mouth around and flattening tongue against a flat and rounded nipple, he savours the delicate bends of his lover’s body as he cradles them together in a slow and dragging heat.
Tonight he sacrifices good rest and sleep for Kyouya’s body, for Kyouya’s heat and company beside him, above him, around him, and as the rub of flesh against flesh drives the last shred of coherent thought from his mind, he grits his teeth and prays, prays most fervently to Aphrodite and whomever else listens within the realm of the gods to please let him keep this longer, because he does not think he can survive without it anymore, not after having had Kyouya’s skin and soul and breath to himself.
And he would rather die, he tells the goddess of love, than lose this one brilliant soul he holds within the arches of his arms.
Dino arrives home amongst a bustle of preparations for much cheer and fanfare, but he slips into the city unnoticed. Today is a festival for one of the gods, he realizes with a start, and he had clearly forgotten. But it is early in the morning; he successfully slips back into his quarters, disrobes and bundles up his worn clothes for travelling. He removes all of his clothing and slips in between his plentiful blankets, underneath which Romario finds him no more than ten minutes later.
He does not bother feigning sleep; he simply rises from the bed with a wide smile dripping of pure and truthful happiness. Between his fingers he can still feel the slick of Kyouya’s seed, the velvety warm texture of skin against skin; it is not there, it is merely a phantom sensation from his already wanting mind, but he feels it nonetheless. It distracts him from Romario’s heavy gaze.
“A beautiful day today, don’t you think?” he rises out of bed, his one moment’s worth of rest not even enough to cool his sore muscles. The tingle of tiredness still perches upon his bones; it had been a long night, but the payment was well worth it.
Romario stands by the door as he changes into casual day robes. As he dresses himself his general keeps quiet in wait, and only when they are walking the corridors to the dining hall does Romario finally let go of his words.
“You need not attend the entire of the day’s festivities,” the elder man mutedly says. “So long as you attend breakfast and participate in the midmorning religious rituals, you can step back into your quarters for some sleep. I shall make sure no one will look for you.”
Surprised, but only marginally alarmed, Dino turns to Romario with an inquiring eye, but he does not get to ask even just one question, because before long they are within the dining hall, and Dino’s attention is commandeered by his father and the Corinthian aristocrats. For now, he surrenders his ears to the merriment of these men, but he resolves to observe Romario, just as Romario observes him.
This impasse lasts for a fortnight of their one-moon stay in Corinth, until his fourth visit to Kyouya.
Languorously, he relaxes against the back of the grand divan, cradling in between his naked legs a lazy and very much satiated Kyouya. This is a brief respite before they spiral once more into a round of fiery passion and animal coupling. Dino makes the most of it by partaking of bread, cheese, and wine, once in a while feeding Kyouya little bites and sips.
Dino watches as Kyouya confidently shifts weight. He finds himself heartened when the turn of Kyouya’s limbs is shameless; Kyouya knows fully well that Dino will never betray confidence, not when they are this far entrenched into each other. Never once does Dino let a doubt into his mind, for he places utmost faith in his lover, and he knows that deep within Kyouya’s heart, there is love for him too.
“Do they not worry for you, you precocious little herbivore?” Kyouya leans forward and drags a tongue flat against Dino’s bottom lip.
Seeking, Dino attempts to capture Kyouya’s tongue, but fails when Kyouya leans back and takes a sip of wine. He smiles and replies, “Romario knows where I am, I think.”
Kyouya lifts a delicate eyebrow. “And he is fine with this.”
“I would not say fine,” Dino shrugs, gathering Kyouya back into his arms, “but there is not much he can do. I go where I wish to go, and nobody will stop me.”
Their lips lock in a slow, moist tango with each other. By now instinctive, Dino’s hand crawls its way up an arching, pitch-perfect spine, all the way up to cup a neck. He pushes harder against Kyouya, who gives an adorable little hitch of breath, and soon they are again a tangle of limbs and tongue. There is not a single shred of hesitation in Kyouya’s grip as the young King guides Dino’s member, and in deep it goes, smooth and perfectly natural as their bodies join once more.
“They say,” Kyouya begins as he shifts up and down, “that dogs are most loyal to their very first master.” Lewdly, Kyouya wets a finger and Dino watches it as it descends slickly down his own chest. “Domesticated dogs, tame just like you, never betray. Herbivorous to the very core.”
Taking the intrepid finger to his lips, Dino presses against it a gentle kiss of worship and says, “Only for you, my love.” The darkening of Kyouya’s eyes is enough to keep him preoccupied until he returns to Corinth the following morning.
“…I have not seen Dino,” and upon hearing his father’s voice from the hall, Dino halts his steps and quietly slips back into the corridor’s shadows. “He is waking up far later than normal. He loves the sunrise; this is unusual of him. Is there something wrong, Romario, something you are not telling me?”
Dino feels his heart stutter in his chest, almost seizing into a stop. Romario knows; Dino knows that Romario knows. And should Romario reveal the truth—
“To be truthful,” Romario begins, and Dino’s very breath arrests in his throat, “Dino has been slipping out of the palace at night. Last night was the fourth time.”
The King is quiet. Dino is quiet.
“And though you know of this, you do not stop him,” Dino’s father says. Dino can envision his face at that very moment; all stern and concerned and disappointed at once. As a child, he had hated it when his father gave him that face. “You are aware, Romario, that Dino is our sole heir. This city is full of peril for him, alliance with the Corinthians notwithstanding. And the Spartans are a mere half-hour’s ride away.”
Dino chances a peek past the drapes and into the hall; Romario stands with his head down, deep in thought. With all his mental might he wills a little cooperation into Romario, even just a little bit, and his lips begin to chant prayers to Aphrodite, because he does not want to lose this, he does not want to lose what he has now.
Do they not understand, do they not see, the extent of happiness Kyouya is giving him? Is it not evident from his smile, his movement, his eyes? He thinks Romario should be seeing the right signs. Dino thinks he will never be able to trust Romario again should his secret be revealed.
“He has personally asked me to keep his trips a secret, milord,” Romario kneels before the King, as if an advanced apology for a lie Dino knows is to come. “Please accept my humblest apologies.”
The King tilts his head in curiosity. Dino waits in anxious silence, hoping that what he is thinking is right, hoping that Romario will lie for him to the King for the very first time. “What is my son so ashamed of that he asks you to keep it from me, his father? He has never kept anything from me.”
“Well, milord,” Romario coughs, shifting on a knee, “Dino has been... ah, frequenting the brothels of the city.”
Dino’s leg jerks against the wall, upsetting a vase on a stand, but he catches it before it falls. The flush of blood underneath his skin tells him of the colour of his face; he does not need a mirror to know that at the moment, he resembles a beet root.
His fluster is only aggravated when the stunned silence within the hall is shattered by his father’s delighted laughter. Dino does not have to peek around the wall to know that his father his pounding on a knee in glee. “Finally! It took the boy long enough, I say. I was beginning to get worried! You are, of course, ensuring that he knows of and goes only to the cleaner brothels, yes? Good, good!”
He does not stay to hear more, though he knows his father will not stop regaling of this to the generals. He is thankful, however, of Romario’s effort to subvert his father their King. Later, he will have to talk to the elder man, but for now, he wants for nothing more than the quiet of his personal quarters.
“You must wake,” he hears as he swims upward into the realm of consciousness. “It is night, Dino; you must wake and have supper.”
Rolling over in his bed, Dino untangles himself from his cloths and arches his back in a languid stretch. The pops of his spine pleasantly releases tension he never knew was ever there. Glancing out the window, he watches the near-moonless night as the waxing moon climbs up towards its zenith. It is rather late, he realizes, even for him.
“This is unhealthy for you, Dino,” Romario motions a servant in, who sets down a tray of food on a table by the bed. Dino rises and robes himself, stepping towards the table. He first takes a sip of wine to water his throat, and turns to Romario, who is giving him stern, sad eyes.
“Thank you for protecting me from my father, Romario,” he gives the elder man a most sincere smile of gratitude. “I want you to know that I do appreciate it.”
He slides into his seat and begins eating, taking particular care to savour the ripe purple grapes with the cheese. In the back of his tongue he compares the taste to Sparta’s native food; Sparta’s chicken is far softer, but that is to be expected, for Kyouya only has the best, including his cooks.
“I heard of your orders to the servants and the stable boy,” still standing, Romario looms over Dino, but Dino does not listen. “You are leaving again. Tonight.”
Dino looks up at Romario. “Yes, I am,” and when he sights the worry and consternation in Romario’s face, he adds, “There is no need for worry, Romario, I will come back. They will not harm me; they are good friends. Good men, just like our men. Human beings.”
“That is not why you go there, child. Do not think you can fool me,” the corners of Romario’s eyes narrow, a sure sign of a rare flare of temper. “If you truly do appreciate my subversion of your father, Dino, then you will stay and never leave Athens for Sparta again.”
Jaw tightening, Dino says nothing.
“Two nights in a row, Dino,” Romario continues. “This is not helping you. You are putting yourself in direct danger by continuing this farce of a relationship with that—“
“Not one word, not one word about him,” and he does not want to do this, to say hurtful things to his good friend and retainer, but if they try to take this away from him, if they try to take Kyouya away from him—! He takes a deep breath and finishes his food, and then quietly begins to robe himself with tougher travel clothes. The sprint to Sparta is short, but the days are growing longer, and the nights colder.
Romario watches him as he prepares spare clothing into a sack.
“Please don’t do this to me, Romario. I beg of you.” Dino turns to his retainer with a hopeless look on his face. “He is my heart. Everything I have done I did for Athens, but this, Romario, is mine. This is the first time—I want this, please understand.”
Pushing a hand through his hair, he looks away with pained eyes and shifts uneasily on his feet. He wants now to mount his stallion and ride away from here, ride away from his responsibilities so he could be with Kyouya. The more time he spends with the young King, the farther he falls in, and he is helpless to fight against it. On the surface he is healthy, but inside he is grim and despairing, already pained by the sudden separation from his newfound addiction. When he closes his eyes he still can see flashes of pale white skin, ripples of soft red cloths, and dark, dark eyes of the most precious molten ferocity. He longs to be back in Sparta, back within the Spartan King’s bed.
Back to Kyouya.
“Dino,” Romario’s eyes are closed, and Dino can see that Romario too is torn. “Dino—this is not good. He is not doing you any good.”
“He is! Can’t you see, Romario?” Dino throws his arms out, as if to demonstrate. “I’m happy! For the first time in my life, I can say with full confidence that I am fulfilled!”
Romario shakes his head. “I only see a young man haplessly caught within a destructive addiction.” Dino finds that he has to clench his fist to stop himself from lashing out with brute force. He scrambles for words to strike down Romario’s accusations but before he can find them, Romario pushes forth, “Why can’t you see who he really is? He is Sparta’s King, Dino. Sparta’s King. Why can’t you see he’s heartless?”
“He is not heartless,” Dino’s jaw flexes with the effort to keep from shouting. “He is not heartless,” he repeats.
A moment of silence seemingly near-eternal stretches in between the two of them, until finally, Dino decides it is time for him to go.
He lifts the sack and steps around Romario. “I will be back tomorrow morning. Please keep my father occupied. Thank you, Romario; I do appreciate it.” All he can give Romario at this point is a smile of reassurance, a small, inconsequential thing, except for its sincerity.
He has absolute faith in Kyouya; he will not be harmed.
That night, he rides away towards the fort of Argos, heart galloping in delight and obsession with the same tenacity and force as his might stallion’s hooves. In the short duration of his stallion’s run, he rids himself almost ritualistically of the shackles of Athens, of his blood and heritage, of his responsibilities, of his land. Whenever he comes to Kyouya, he is no one but Dino, just Dino, just Kyouya’s lover, and that is enough for the both of them.
And, as with every night when he comes to the fort, he is welcomed by Kyouya’s eager heated gaze and the bite of that wicked, feral mouth.
From above them and below them the gods watch in fascination. They are a pair worthy of much more than humanity; they are a pair of two souls made to be one.
and remember when I moved in you
and every breath we drew was hallelujah