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Their majesties' invitation to Costis was hedged with unspoken rules that Costis nonetheless knew as instinctively as breathing. Keep it secret from everyone. Follow their majesties' lead in all things. Don't wish for more than they want to give. Don't fall in love, or at the very least, don't burden their majesties with that love.

It also had two spoken rules, both delivered by the king with a faint air of grievance, making Costis suspect that he was the messenger rather than their framer. The first was: You can leave whenever you want.

The second was: You can come back later.

The vagueness of the word "later" turned out to be significant. If Costis left the royal bedchamber for any reason, he might be able to return immediately, or the door might be barred to him when he tried. Not out of punishment (he didn't think), but because his king and queen were very private people, and what they were to each other wasn't the same as what they were in Costis's presence. They cared for him, they trusted him, but they didn't love him, and there were things about their relationship that they didn't want him to see.

He understood; some part of him even approved. He was a palace guard, after all. His greatest priority was the well-being of their majesties, even above his own life, much less his own happiness.

But it put him in a most unfortunate situation now, sitting in a chair angled towards the royal bed, his bladder an insistent pressure that rivaled the aching pleasure in his groin. He could leave--he should leave, very soon he couldn't help but leave. But he didn't want to. Perhaps just a few more minutes to enjoy the sight of his king and queen kissing deeply, their clothes disordered, and the unsteady clutch of their hands as they caressed each other. He'd never had the pleasure of their touch on these nights, nor the pleasure of touching them in return, but even this measured intimacy was painfully good. He couldn't bear to cut it short, not even for a more pressing need.

He squirmed, just as the king glanced in his direction, and the king's eyes sharpened alarmingly. "Do you need to relieve yourself, Costis?" he asked, though how he could know that was anyone's guess. Costis often did nothing but squirm when he was closeted with their majesties.

Costis felt his face heat, but he nodded. "Yes, my king."

The king opened his mouth again, and Costis could almost hear the words, "You can leave whenever you want."

Only instead the king said, "There's a chamberpot under the bed."

Costis blinked, certain he must have misheard. A glance at the queen showed her blushing even more deeply than usual, bright red in the face and neck and across the tops of her perfect breasts. Perhaps he'd heard correctly, after all.

"I don't..." He trailed off, not certain what, exactly, he didn't.

"Or you can leave whenever you want," the king said.

Somehow, Costis knew that this time the familiar words were a threat, or at the very least a promise. If he left now to use the privy, the door would be barred on his return. Not forever, but for the rest of this night, and perhaps even longer than that.

He fetched the chamberpot from underneath the bed while he dithered; doing so didn't require him to use it, after all. And then he knelt before it and his mind blanked. The king was staring at him expectantly, the queen darting quick looks at him. It was not unlike the times when he touched himself in counterpoint to their lovemaking: the same pattern of looks, the same feeling of self-conscious embarrassment that nonetheless made his blood burn hotter.

What made it different was that this time he couldn't bring himself to make the next move. He knelt there, aching and mortified and oddly aroused, and the only thing he could imagine himself doing was running away to escape the too intimate confines of the room, the too intimate gazes of their majesties.

"It generally helps to draw aside one's clothing," the king drawled. "Unless one wants to have an unpleasant conversation with the laundress."

Costis bristled faintly at the king's insouciant tone, which even after everything, still had the ability to make his fists itch. But the irritation was fleeting, and when it had passed he found his body shaking with frustrated indecision. He closed his eyes in despair.

There was a sound of fabric shifting on the bed, and a moment later a brief touch to his shoulder that made him startle. Barefoot, the king stepped as silently as a cat.

"You can leave if you want," the king reminded him softly.

Costis only shook his head. Soon, very soon, he wouldn't be able to help leaving, but he didn't want to.

The king touched Costis's other shoulder, and this time he grasped hold of it and used it to lower himself to a kneeling position behind Costis. "May I?" he asked.

Costis almost laughed: as though there were anything the king could want that he wouldn't permit him. "Yes, my king," he said hoarsely.

The king's hand slipped downwards and deftly rearranged Costis's clothes until he was exposed, not once brushing against Costis's bare skin. "Take hold of your cock," the king said, and Costis followed his direction.

There was a feeling of movement behind him, the sound of the chamberpot scraping against the tile floor in front of him, and then the king was upright again, his chest pressed warmly against Costis's back.

"Whenever you're ready," he said.

Costis shook his head--if they waited until he was ready, he'd burst--and then the king's hand pressed low against Costis's belly, shockingly warm against his bare skin. The pain and pleasure of the touch was almost unbearable for a long moment, until the dam burst and Costis released with a shudder, piss flowing into the porcelain pot with a hard liquid sound that made him blush even hotter.

"Oh, Costis," the king murmured approvingly, his fingers still pushing rhythmically into Costis's belly and making the ache sweeter. "Do you see, my dear?" he asked, pitching the question louder.

"I see," the queen said from the bed, in a tone of voice that shuddered down the length of Costis's spine.

And all this time piss emptied from him, until he half-feared that he would overflow the chamberpot, though he cringed away from the thought of opening his eyes to check.

At long last, however, the stream slowed to a trickle and then to a stop. Costis could hear himself breathing harshly in the sudden silence, burning with embarrassment and growing dread.

"Finish, my dear," the king said, low in his ear.

Costis almost barked out a laugh--"finish" when he'd pissed for what felt like hours--when he suddenly realized what the king must mean. He shook the last clinging drops of piss from the head of his cock and then let his hand drop to his side, utterly spent and resigned to whatever may come.

The king's warmth withdrew from his back; there was the sound of the chamberpot being taken away, followed by a whispered conference by the bed that Costis couldn't bring himself to care about.

It was followed by another touch on his shoulder, and this time the king's hand slid down to grasp Costis's and tug him to his feet. "Over here," he said, and Costis followed blindly and incuriously, until the king drew him down onto the royal bed and Costis's eyes flew open.

"What--" he began, half-frightened, until he caught sight of the expression on the queen's face. She wanted him there with them in the royal bed--where he'd never before been invited--and she only worried that he might not want it, too. "Yes," he said instead, answering her unspoken question.

She smiled at him, even more beautiful at close range than from across the length of her bedchamber. Her clothing was still in disarray, one arm and both breasts on full display, yet he was the one who felt bared to her. Which didn't keep him from looking, of course; he wasn't dead.

She noted his distraction and her smile deepened. "You may," she said, taking one of his hands and cupping it over her breast as though she knew merely giving him permission wouldn't be enough.

He gasped at the feel of it in his hand, fingers flexing against the supple flesh and his palm tingling where her hard nipple brushed against it. As though bespelled, his right hand rose to fondle her other breast almost without his intending it.

The queen arched into the touch, biting her lower lip.

A slight shifting of the mattress was all the reminder Costis got that the king was there with them, and a characteristically impatient participant, before his neck was being lavished with wet, open kisses.

The queen watched with heavy-lidded eyes as her husband trailed kisses along Costis's neck and jaw and--finally--his mouth.

"Stay the night with us," the king said, with barely a pause for Costis to say 'yes' before the king pressed forward for another kiss.

A couple months later, on the Festival of Miras, after Costis and Eugenides had put away three full bottles of wine together and Irene a bottle of her own to celebrate the new year, Costis felt happy and relaxed enough to say, "I've always wondered why it was that night of all nights that made you want me for good. Am I really that attractive when I piss?"

Irene dissolved into indelicate snorts of laughter--she was more drunk than they were--and it was left to Eugenides to answer the question. "Of course you are, Costis. You're never more fetching than when you're desperate for release." (Costis ducked his head in embarrassed pleasure.) "But it's more that you were willing to expose yourself utterly to us that night, on what may have been no more than a whim of ours. We felt it was only fair for us to reciprocate."

"I'm yours," Costis said: both explanation and denial. They could do as they wished with him, no matter if he served up his entire body and heart to them.

Irene brushed a kiss against his cheek and settled her head on his shoulder. "You are," she said, "and we intend to keep you."

As though he could see the almost painful clench of Costis's heart at those words, Eugenides placed a proprietary hand on his chest and kissed his other cheek. "Remember, too, that we're yours as well."

His monarchs, his lovers, his...friends, if the enjoyment they took in quiet nights spent with him dicing or reading aloud or playing board games were any indication. His king had a sharp and subtle tongue, but in this moment, he only spoke the simple truth.