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Rivers of Light, Bowers of Gold

Chapter Text


***

"And so the Simurgh took Rostam
in the embrace of her great wings
until they became one,
as the warp and the weft
on a raiment of gold."

--Shahnameh

***

Once upon a time there lived in the court of Baghdad two princes, two brothers already great in fame at the tender ages of fourteen and fifteen. Barely had the Great Harem's doors closed behind them, barely had the fragrance of milk evaporated from their lips than were their names whispered all across the Muslim lands, from al-Andalus to the Sindh.

For their father was a mighty statesman, head advisor to the Caliph, and already were his sons rushing up to follow in his footsteps: the older of them having amassed great fame for his bravery and his manliness, the brother younger for his wisdom and his eloquence. Already had the senior brother slain a great Byzantine general in battle; already had the junior astounded theologians and philosophers with his lucid exegesis of Quranic verses.

But it was also whispered that one brother's heart was as black and as cruel as the winter's night, and that the other's as warm and as kind as the spring sun; that in secret, one of them was like unto a scorpion and that the other was as noble as the Simurgh. Yet none knew which was which: the courtiers debated this among themselves and the harem twittered in its gossip for months on end, yet none could ever come to a satisfactory agreement as to which heart belonged to which.

For the older brother--while he had a touch of the brute to him, and already liked his carousing and his amours a little too much--was a straightforward fellow; more honest, even, than most youths of his generation at court. And the younger brother, while he knew his Scripture and recited his prayers with the most melodious of tongues, he also terrified all those who had seen his face close by: for his eyes were as vast as the sky, vast and vertignious and wide. And within them, there blazed an unholy pale fire, an incandescence that seemed to see through hearts and through minds; those who had seen him in the flesh swore this was the self-same blue fire God had fashioned djinn of. Oh, the younger brother was very beautiful, the most beautiful of youths indeed, but perhaps it was the beauty of Iblis, some whispered; yet was not his earthier brother, with his Roman tyrant's nose and long, sneering face the one of them that truly looked like a demon?

Thus, the court went on, and so the days went on, until once more the month of Ramadan was upon them. All prepared to make an effort to put ill speculations aside in favour of being kind to one's fellow man--at least for the month to come. The sots drank their last, the debauchees indulged in their last great orgies before all settled down to fast; even the warlike Caliph laid down his blood-drinking sword for a while.

And so it came to pass that the last day before the fast, in a mood both festive and solemn, the brothers emerged from their prayers in the Great Mosque, each in his own fashion.

The older brother held his great profile high, knowing all eyes were upon him and the new robe he had worn for the occasion. There were gasps in the crowd as they saw it was made of silk and embroidered with gold: both luxuries forbidden to men, even if this was a time when the great families danced around this law, pretending that it was only jewellery that counted as feminine ornament, and that golden thread was from this law exempt. But even then, the libertines only defied this law in private, in their own quarters, wearing such garments only during their own merriments--for a man to wear gold and silk in a mosque surely counted as laughing in God's face! Appalled, the pious murmured prayers and made the sign to ward off the evil eye.

But then the most pious had to make that sign once more, for now it was the djinn-eyed younger brother that followed upon the proud prince's heels: yet behold, he was clad in a robe of plain white wool like a pilgrim, his turban loosely wrapped about his head, and he was barefoot. He staggered and he laughed as he danced his way down the street, his voice high and his face streaked with tears, his eyes turned towards the sky.

"God! God!" he cried to the clouds and pointed there, as if he had just caught a glimpse of Him there; "God, God!" he cried to his fuming, embarrassed brother; "God, God!" he cried even to a passing dog, pointing at it in turn.

"He is drunk," the older prince's drinking-companions said.

"He is in a state of divine ecstasy," the old wives gasped and clutched their mantles about their faces.

And you know how it is said that there is no telling the difference between the two? For the wine of God's sweetness, too, makes its drinker stagger in his steps, makes him lose his inhibitions and utter confounding words. Many are the Sufis who have lost their heads for the things they have cried out in such states, things that to the uninitiated sound utterly blasphemous. Many are there those, too--you have heard of the dire Qalandars--who in their chasing of ecstasies deliberately defy customs and mores, behaving like lunatics with their shaven heads and pierced bodies, drunkenly copulating even with animals! And all this because they shun the world, declaring it and its laws meaningless, and God to be the only thing that has ever been real: they want to be shunned by the world in turn, want to be martyred so that they would be brought to communion with God more swiftly.

Rare is the sane man among the true friends of God, it is said: and now all thought insanity had taken hold of the beautiful young prince as well. And there was mourning in the people's hearts, for this proved to many what they had always known: that it was this prince who had the kinder, gentler heart, for could a scorpion's scaly heart ever be pierced with God's arrows thus? No, no; this was proof of the younger prince's goodness, but now it was too late, they bemoaned as they saw the boy kneeling in the dust to pet the dog he had just been addressing as God.

And this was the ugliest, most vile of dogs, too, with squinting, red eyes and a puffed body full of mange-scabs; an old, lame bitch with grotesquely protruding teats and a wrinkled, blotchy, red and pink face like that of an old drunkard. Yet now, wonder of wonders, the white-clad youth played with this dog, laughed gaily and even bought food from a hawker, a great many sausages which he now proceeded to share with the dog. There, he knelt, chatted with the dog as if with an old friend, swaying to and fro, seemingly trying to teach the dog spiritual songs.

Yet the older prince was disgusted, appalled; they had hundreds of finely liveried servants with them, were supposed to mount their fine Arabian horses and leave for the Caliph's palace in a grand procession! And now his little brother was bringing shame upon the family with his behaviour, bringing them all to ruin.

The older prince's face became redder and uglier than that of the dog's; furiously, he kicked his brother's backside. "Get up!" he cried, kicked his brother again until the dust was sent billowing; yet this was to no avail.

Finally, his rage having reached boiling point, he drew his sword. This was a sword long and vicious, curved like an eagle's talon, fashioned of the finest Indian steel; these swords were unknown in Baghdad then, and many thought the older prince a sorcerer for this strange, new, alien weapon he now slashed the air with, his great red cloak billowing behind him like a demon's tongue.

"I said, get up, you infidel wretch! Or I'll behead you where you stand!"

"But I'm not standing, brother dearest, brother mine," the younger prince laughed, twiddling his toes. "You, too, should kneel in the presence of the Lord," he said and petted the dog's head, a delirious laughter still dancing upon his voice.

"Are you insisting that that filthy, foul beast is God?!" the older brother shouted, thick spittle flying onto the beginnings of his beard. "I should slay you right now for your blasphemy!"

"Can you not see? God's light emanates from her! As it emanates from you, from every--"

"Enough!" And his eyes wide from rage, the older brother raised his sword high, ready to bring it down upon his brother's neck: yet the younger brother but closed his eyes and swayed, swayed.

The women covered their eyes, the children gasped: for a moment, it looked as if they were indeed about to witness a summary execution--but whether it was that of a saint or a heretic, none could tell.

But at the very last moment, the older prince let out a pained cry and let his sword clatter onto the ground.

"Brother--" he groaned and fell to his knees beside him, shaking his head. "I will not let you do this."

His little brother but looked at him, his eyes brighter than the sky: he said nothing. He but knelt there and shone there, shone bright in his white and his blue, smiling radiantly, still swaying back and forth in his ecstasy.

And it was then that his older brother struck him, with such force that he fell down unconscious.

"Carry him home," the prince barked to his servants as he got up and wiped dust from his silk and his gold. Soon, he was upon his horse, not waiting for his retinue as he rode home swiftly, his shame hanging upon him like a black cloud.

But even the people knew not whether this shame was due to the dishonour his brother had brought upon him, or from his having hit a man who might have been a saint, or both. And to this day, they say, the older prince does not know. Was he right to defend his family's honour? Or does the curse of God now hang upon him for having treated one of His friends thus? Still, he broods upon this, an old man in his castle far away, and still he has not found an answer.

"But Father, was the younger prince a saint?" Anwar now asks. "That's all it hangs upon, surely?"

Jaffar gazes into the flames of the fireplace. "The story does not tell us that. But what we do know is that the younger brother made a full recovery, and the very next day, he forgave his older brother."

"He must have been a saint to be so noble," Salsabil murmurs, staring into the flames herself. "If Anwar tried to interrupt my worship, I would punch him, too."

"I would never do that!" Anwar cries, indignant. It is true Salsabil prays the most in the entire household, to the point of neglecting her studies. Yet, while Anwar always keeps telling her that the five decreed prayers are enough and that God might not even be listening if it isn't prayer time, he's never tried to interrupt her additional supplications or rituals.

"We know you wouldn't," Yassamin says and ties Anwar's hair back with a leather thong, kissing him on the head. "But, my little saints, it's almost midnight. Time for prayer and bed."

"But Father, wait! What happened next?" Salsabil asks, tugging on Jaffar's sleeve. "Did the brothers just... go on like that? Or was one taken down to Hell and the other one up to Paradise?" she asks.

Now it's Jaffar's turn to kiss Salsabil's hair. "This is a true story. They do not always have neat endings, like fairytales do. Both princes are still alive and we do not yet know what their final destinations will be. Who knows, perhaps the older brother has repented and has become a saint himself? And perhaps the younger brother has descended into terrible debaucheries?" he asks and looks at Yassamin over the children's heads, his eyes twinkling with mischief.

"Well, I think the younger brother must be a great shaykh by now, if he is so good," Salsabil says and nods firmly. "Perhaps he's the head of a monastery, or he's living in a cave somewhere, his life dedicated to God. And when his time comes," she says, lifting her cupped hand to the heavens, "God will pick him up in the palm of his hand and lift him to the highest circle of Paradise!"

Jaffar bursts into a laughter-moan and hugs Salsabil tight, so tight she squeaks; sudden tears glitter upon his eyelashes. "I am sure he lives in isolation, all right," he murmurs. "Perhaps even with a family. With a pious wife and sweet little children, all like unto angels."

"But what about the older brother?" Anwar asks and plucks at the rug, now he the one staring into the dancing flames. "Shouldn't someone who's that close to a saint not... well, become good himself?"

Jaffar and Yassamin exchange glances.

"I am sure he is trying to become a better person in what little time he has on this earth, just as we all are," Jaffar says and gets up. "But from what I hear, he was a very proud man, so it will take quite a while for him to tame his lower self. And besides, I doubt his brother was a complete saint. People exaggerate these things these days, wanting to declare every fanatic a martyr, every rebel leader an infallible imam. Perhaps this younger brother was no saint after all? Perhaps he was merely a man who received mystical insights every once in a while," he murmurs. "All of us can do that, if we but listen to our hearts closely enough."

"Well, the bad brother could go and see other saints!" Salsabil interrupts. "To speed him on his way."

"Well, who knows? He might be doing that right now, as we speak," Yassamin says and laughs. "But now, enough of his soul; you should be taking care of your own. To prayer!"

And together, as one family, they perform their ablutions, spread out their rugs and say their prayers. After, with many kisses and caresses, Jaffar and Yassamin tuck the children into bed.

As Yassamin closes the door and steps out into the corridor with Jaffar, she sighs quietly. "You'd never told me that story before. Was it all true?"

"Aren't you going to ask me how it ended?" Jaffar asks her playfully, the full moon's light glittering through his irises as he watches Yassamin heading towards the grand bedchamber. Now that they have set that particular room aside for love and only love, her even taking a step in its direction is a flirtation, carrying with itself its own erotic frisson, making all of Jaffar's nerves spark with delight.

Yassamin glances coquettishly at him over her shoulder, knowing exactly how excited he now is: it is a full moon's night, after all, its light always carrying with itself the promises of their greatest, deepest fulfillments. "You can tell me after," she says and makes a come-hither gesture with her finger, then makes a run for the bedchamber door.

With a delighted falcon-shriek, Jaffar spreads out the wings of his robe and swoops in after her.

***

"I'd better tell you now," Jaffar murmurs as he and Yassamin slip underneath the bedcovers, naked.

"Mmm?"

"The ending of the tale," he says and strokes her arm. "Lest I forget. And I feel I should tell you now, before we begin. For it touches upon something I have been thinking of a great deal lately."

And she, too, is still in a mystical mood, even if the desire in her is rising: however, to her and Jaffar, the erotic and the spiritual are never mutually exclusive. Indeed, it would be blasphemous to insist their lovemaking wasn't spiritual, every time: and these special nights when they move between bodies, souls and sexes are the most mystical, the most alchemical, the most soul-nourishing of all. It is a slow night, a holy night and they have plenty of time, having made sure with their magics--as they do every month for these three full moon nights--that the children and the servants, and even the animals, will sleep tight until late morn, extremely sound and tight.

"Tell me, then, my love," she says and kisses Jaffar's hand. "What happened to my young princes dark and light?"

"Well. Father was furious at Fadl for having struck me so in public," Jaffar smirks. "Mother even more so, as I had always been her favourite, and Fadl had already started to behave badly around that time--drinking and leching to the point where foul rumours had started to spread about him, most of them true. Our parents did not exactly approve of my falling into ecstasies in public, either, but at least they knew there is little one can do when those arrive, particularly if one is still young and inexperienced."

"Is that why you took up magic?" Yassamin asks. She has heard of many saints receiving the gifts of spirit at puberty, only then beginning to display their special natures through strange behaviours; this is not unusual. "To learn how to control it all?"

"Aye, that was one of the reasons. I had always been a religious child, but it was around that time that magic truly awoke in me, just as my manhood did, and I learned to see with the eyes of the spirit. That day, I had been so lost in the holy atmosphere that once I emerged out of that mosque, I saw through all the veils of Nature and beheld the Divine Spirit that moved through all; even that mangy dog truly was glowing with God's light," he says and now he shivers, shivers with awe.

"The Unveiling," Yassamin whispers, having known that awe-filled state herself, of realisation terrible and sublime: she, too, has shaken with the tremendous vastness of it all, wept as she has stood witness to God's Beauty and Majesty even in a speck of dust dancing upon a sunbeam. Yet, from all her mystical studies, she knows that God draws these veils of mundane existence over human eyes exactly so that they don't go around staggering drunk from God-intoxication at all times. For God had given mankind stewardship over the earth, a duty to till the land and to govern it and to protect it; one can hardly sow and reap and suckle babes when swooning over in ecstasies.

Jaffar squeezes her hand and smiles, glowing from his gladness; even after all these years, it still astonishes him that he finally has someone to converse with who understands these things deeply, exactly as he understands them. "Yes. I did not want to let go of those ecstasies at first--who would? But I knew I had to, if only to stay sane. Therefore, just as Fadl's growth into manhood meant he became an expert fighter, mine meant embarking on a mystical career--alongside that of a civil servant," he smirks wryly. "Father knew from the start I was never going to be a great warrior, but he'd still hoped for me to become a vizier, you see."

"So what did he tell Fadl?"

"After he had given him a severe tongue-lashing, he decided we both needed spiritual discipline. I, to control my spirit-gifts; Fadl, to learn how to respect spirit in the first place. I remember it well. 'What have I done to deserve sons like these?' he said and tore at his hair, shoving my mother aside when she tried to calm him. 'One cares for nothing but the pleasures of the flesh, being too much of the flesh; the other would leave his body entirely!' he raged, then finally turned to face us. 'Yet I would have sons with both bodies and souls, sons worthy to govern this land when I am gone. Do you hear me?'

And thus, he decreed that we should spend all of that Ramadan in a Sufi monastery. So that we would have spiritual masters watching over us, so that neither of us would go overboard in either the nightly feasting or the daytime penances. I was overjoyed at this; Fadl, of course, groaned and rolled his eyes."

"I can imagine," she grins.

"Between you and me, I think that was the only Ramadan in his life he truly managed to keep the fast for the entire month, the sexual fast in particular. I saw him try and fondle a beautiful young monk, but the older monks separated them before he could get his relief. Famous as we were, all eyes were on us, and they kept a stricter watch over us than any of their own brethren."

"You must've enjoyed a full month without being molested, too," she laughs.

He nods and kisses the laughter from her lips, chuckling into her mouth. "Oh, yes. My arse needed that rest from his horse-prick!" he laughs. "I think he began to bind it in the end, actually, to keep it down; that's how miserable he was, the old goat. Although I suspect that this frustration was, in fact, one part of what propelled him into such a great change during that month. By the end of it, he, too, had discovered divine ecstasies."

Yassamin's eyes fly wide--she could never have imagined such a thing. "Fadl? Ecstasies?"

"Mmm," Jaffar nods, and now his smirk is gone, replaced by an expression grave, melancholy; his voice becomes soft, quiet. "I was so happy for him, but I could not speak--I should have talked to him," he now says and shakes his head; his eyes shine from unshed tears. "But I was too happy, too ecstatic myself. So I sat there and rocked as the others did, repeating God's most beautiful names, watching Fadl, too, being swept away by the trances. He would sway there and moan God's name like a lover stabbed through the heart by his beloved; I saw tears running down his face, Yassamin, true tears. He wept, having finally been embraced by God's Beauty and Majesty.

But I... I knew those states frequently while I was there, too, and will never forget those moments, but I discovered something even sweeter: the state of abiding. Not the most explosive of ecstasies--the orgasm of God-realisation, as it were--but the state between mundane awareness and that highest ecstasy, a sort of prolonged state of spiritual arousal, if you will. The joy of the path itself rather than its goal--the sweetness of but lingering in that state of yearning, travelling on and on up the mountain of joy and nevermind the peak.

You see, this is what I'd meant to talk to you about: for it is not at all unlike lovemaking. You have often mocked my love for delayed gratification, for elaborate rituals, for long, hard and exhausting play, yet you know that it's these I take the greatest joy in, rather than the orgasm itself--the male orgasm, at least, the way it exhausts the body. In a similar way, divine ecstasies exhaust a man's spirit and often drain him of power, whereas I would rather keep on swaying, singing on and on and on, spinning: keeping that power ever humming, saturating each limb. To be quite honest with you, I do not know which one of these came to me first, the raptures religious or the erotic, both ecstasies being but different faces of the same coin of Love."

"I understand it," she says immediately, squeezing his hand. "I have felt you often enough." The joy of the rolling hips, of long play and of entwining, rather than the quick and sharp spasm, the all-too-short surge of climax: she knows the feeling intimately from her own experimentations with a male body. And she has read his books by Indian magicians who declare that for a man, there is no spiritual position greater than to but lie beneath his woman and to abide in this state of being embraced by Woman. Thus, one reverses one's own birth and with it, his mortality, becoming forever a child of Mother Time, perpetually nestled within her womb. Jaffar has known this state, Yassamin has known it when she has, in turn, taken her rest inside his womb. Therefore, in some sense, the One God must have a womb of sorts, too--or is she blaspheming in thought this very moment?

"Not blaspheming," Jaffar murmurs, a soft cat's meaow. "Or perhaps if it were an imam you were talking to, and not--"

She raises her eyebrow. "Someone who thinks he knows better?" she asks, but in jest. "But come, tell me. What happened at the end of Ramadan?"

"Well. After the Eid celebrations, when Fadl and I were saying our farewells to the brotherhood, the master took me aside and told me to take good care of my brother. He told me he had marked our progress and that while I had reached--according to him--some of the highest stations upon the path by having discovered the joy of abiding, he had taken care not to compliment me on them, so as not to let pride hinder my progress. He told me that abiding was indeed the key to the soul's evolution, and that I should cultivate that state, to keep on doing what I was doing and all would be well.

But my brother was a different matter, he said. For in Fadl's eyes, behind the pride Fadl took in his visions, our teacher had seen a hunger, a hunger desperate in its greed. Immediately, he had seen that there was a deep, dark, angry wound within my brother's heart, such as you'll find in the hearts of all those who have not been loved enough: a yawning black cavern that in its need to be filled, would suck everything into its black maw.

Fadl's pain was real enough, the master told me: that desperation with which Fadl had called out to the Heavenly Father had earned him His pity. Therefore, God had given him a sip of the divine nectar, so as to ameliorate his pain. But the trouble with such seekers--and there are many who turn to mysticism in the hopes that God or a spiritual master will take the place of a parent who had never loved them, a beloved that had never returned their love, or a loved one they'd lost--is that their hunger is never sated, and they keep on reaching out for the explosive ecstasies, no matter what the cost.

In their hunger, they are trapped at the mental level of that hurt child and never move onwards upon the rocky, but ultimately rewarding path towards the true, unconditional love that could finally set them free. Such love is only reached through surrender--but full surrender, as you know, requires spiritual maturity and a complete lack of selfishness. And the child-soul, just like a real child, acts selfishly for a reason: it is too young to fend for itself yet, still needs constant nourishment, and therefore, clings. To God, to teachers, to lovers, to ecstatic states.

And therein lies the danger that such a person remains forever a child, or a convalescent, never healing enough to build up the bravery and the strength to face the difficult road ahead: the master told me it was not unlike the progress of a man addicted to opium. He had seen it many times, with many a novice: 'Just like with your brother here, God gives the seeker a spoonful of His Love's opium, the way a doctor gives such a spoonful to his patient to relieve his pain. But just as happens in hospitals, many such patients refuse to get out of bed and linger willfully in their illness, asking for more and more opium. And sooner or later, the opium no longer alleviates their pain and they become dependant on the substance itself, for without it they now grow so ill they cannot spend a day of their lives without at least that one spoonful. There are no more ecstasies, but the emptiness has gone nowhere: in fact, it has become worse with the introduction of a new craving the person did not possess before.'

And this is what he had seen in us that Ramadan, our teacher: he said he saw one who had left his cradle and had developed in himself a resolve to begin the long journey towards the Divine, and the one who, even when enwrapped in God's love, had kept looking at the master with a hunger in his tear-filled eyes, begging to be acknowledged with spiritual compliments and initiations, titles, dying of thirst even as his chalice was being filled to the overflowing.

My eyes were overflowing that moment, in sorrow for Fadl: was there nothing I could do for my brother? If I had reached the higher stations, as the master had said, was there not a way for me to transmit, transfer some of my own spiritual strength to my brother? Surely I could offer him a helping hand, and together we could pull him up and dust off his weaknesses and then he could walk the path with me, side by side.

But it was not a mere matter of dusting off a child; this, the master told me as he wiped away my tears and kissed me tenderly. He said that I knew the answer already: that Love can and will help such a person, but that he absolutely has to recognise his situation and to decide he has had enough of it. 'He has to be completely and utterly tired of being a child, tired of being a convalescent, tired of being that yawning black wound. He has to get up himself, with a firm resolve to be an adult, and only then can he take your hand.'

And thus it has been for Fadl ever since: a constant battle between the anxious, hungry child in him and the grown man who would leave behind this child and heal. At least now, he has been able to take my hand," and now Jaffar takes Yassamin's, "and with yours, and dare I say Zainab's, we have begun to pull him out of his sick-bed, his cradle, his mire."

As Jaffar has been telling her his tale, the moon has journeyed high in the sky, now shining through their bedroom window, bathing them both in its silver light. For long moments, they lie there, silent; yet an unpleasant thought enters Yassamin's mind, through the keen understanding she has of her own spiritual weaknesses.

Her eyes flicker back and forth as she gazes upon her husband, determined to tell him the truth. "Then I am a child, my love, and freely do I admit this. I am not a saint. I need you too much," she whispers, ashamed.

"As I need you," he says and hugs her close; his voice creaks from his care as he covers her face in kisses. "And I am not going anywhere. We are each other's abiding, my love; think of it as that," he reassures her. "My abiding, my abiding, my sweet abiding."

Chapter Text

For a long while, Jaffar and Yassamin lie there embracing each other, stroking each other with a tenderness unhurried; yet finally, Jaffar casts a pointed glance at the moon.

Yassamin glances at it, too, knowing what he means. They have only just begun their sex-changing practices anew, the birth of the children not having given Jaffar enough time and freedom to take on his female form as often as he'd like. But now that the children are little older and Jaffar and Yassamin have secured this bedchamber with their magic, have they dared experiment again. And every full moon, she can hear Jaffar's desperation in his thoughts, his haste in his heartbeat: always, he fears he will die without having lived as a woman enough, these three days each month barely enough to sate his twin-sexed soul's deepest needs and desires. Therefore, each full moon, they make sure to set aside as much time in private as possible, so that he can make the most of the precious treasure that is his femininity; never is he sated until he has loved them both to the point of soreness, to a full and complete exhaustion.

"It's time," she murmurs and reaches between his legs--but to her surprise, she still finds a prick there, and one hardening at that.

He but purrs and nestles the soft skin of his cock into the soft skin of her belly. "It is, but later. For I am greedy tonight. I would have you in this form, first... and perhaps then, the abiding."

She chuckles and cups his sack tenderly. "I am not protesting," she whispers huskily into his mouth.

"Mmm. But you see, I have a plan," he says and dives down between her legs, kissing her cunny with an exaggerated passion, nipping at her and lapping at her until she yelps and shrieks in delight. "I know how energised you always are after you've come, and how fatigued I... therefore, well. I thought it'd be the most perfect of preludes for the full transformation, you see."

So that she will ravish him with more vigour! This is what he means, she knows it. Yet now she groans as he begins to suck her clitoris: she is not sure if she can offer him the ravishment he needs tonight. "I would remain female tonight," she mumbles, ashamed of herself even if they both know she prefers the female body. "I would take you with the harness instead. I'm sorry, I--"

"Shh. I would love that," he purrs. "Have I not told you to never apologise for your true desires?" he asks and slaps her cunny playfully, then begins to rub it with great tenderness and delight. "My desires are as Sapphic as yours," he murmurs and returns his mouth between her legs.

And now, like a maiden of Lesbos he sets out to worship the cunny, the deep muscles within his hips already mimicking its clenching as he adores what he, too, shall soon become. Woman, Woman; already with the skill borne of his sex-changing experiments, of his listening to Yassamin's body and mind does he take her with his mouth like another woman.

Oh, but she is always such a wondrous discovery to his tongue that every time he performs this act, it's like the first--

No. It's not like the first time, he admonishes himself. Those first times he had taken her with his mouth, he had been full of vainglorious, masculine pride: he had thought he had been such an expert cunny-sucker, such a master at undoing a woman, any woman--and should the woman be unresponsive in body or mind, he'd always had his magic to cheat with, as a last resort.

Like a weapon, he had wielded his power as a lover, but never in the way he now gives to Yassamin in his loving of her, even with his canings and his lashings: no, no; even in his tendernesses, the younger Jaffar had only used his skill to conquer.

But now, the mature Jaffar, the Jaffar who is now as fully woman as he is man--every time he makes love to his Yassamin, he discovers her beauty anew, is awed by the sweetness of her soul anew, and in turn he sings to her their love anew.

Indeed, with his tongue upon her cunny he eulogises her anew, with new opening verses each time, never letting her quite guess where he will begin the melody of his touches this time. With new curlicue flourishes does he enhance his caresses: now, a rare dip of the tongue deep inside of her sex, a finely tuned thumb upon her clitoris's bud. And whenever, like now, he leaves her wailing upon the brink of coming, cut off at the last moment, with the skill and cleverness of Scheherazade interrupting her tale--

"Please, Jaffar, you are impossible!" she cries, perfectly on cue. "If you will not take me now, I will--"

"Ooh, what will you do?" he purr-laughs out a pitying croon, churrs a pard deep in his chest. "Unman me?" he coos and rocks his hips like the vainest, prettiest of young eunuchs.

"I shall be forced to behave in a manner most unladylike," she hisses and sinks her hand into his hair, gifting him with the trill of pleasure-in-pain that always, always, always runs high and close to the surface of his skin whenever he enters his female days.

And now this pain flickers forth from his loins, makes his prick strain upon the sheets, stain upon the sheets, yet he tarries still, tilting his head and closing his teeth around the lips of her cunny, so that her clitoris is trapped between them.

"Jaffar!"

Yassamin has had enough. Swiftly, she slides down upon the bed so that she is underneath him; she pulls him up and takes the taste of her sap from his mouth into hers. She guides him inside of her cunny, too fast for comfort, but when she is burning the way she is now, no entry could be swift enough. "Take me, I said," she groans as she struggles there, his prick pushing up her guts, her lungs, making her words stutter; "please, Jaffar, please."

"Use your hand," he breathes in her ear; "come, let's see how fast you can do it," he laughs. "You're close, I can tell."

It's unfair--he is looking into her mind this very moment; it's not difficult at all for him to glean such things. But he's right: the brief pain of his entering her has already moved her hand to her cunny to alleviate the discomfort. She focuses her entire will on softening herself, opening herself, warming herself further; she rolls up all of her heat, awakens all of her flesh as she wraps her legs about his waist and rocks herself back onto him. And a part of this fervour comes from her desire to show him, to prove herself to him, now that she knows he is within her mind, observing her; the way he smiles when she's managed to impress him--oh, there, there, that disgusting, gleaming red leer--

"Good girl," he purrs, rolling his hips back into her, brushing the backs of his fingers down her cheek, her neck, her breast; and it is this sound, this leer, this caress that sends a shock of pleasure to her cunny greater than any she has herself now engineered. She howls as her cunny clenches around his prick, squeezing it so violently his breath stops in his chest; she rubs her clitoris so frantically she is making wet noises, wet noises to accompany those made by his balls against her cunny's lips as he begins to give to her of himself faster, harder, more.

"So close, so close," he croons and with his palm still upturned, he takes her right nipple between a few fingers, as if in a stray, lazy caress; she shrieks through her nose and convulses upon his cock. "Such a lovely little cunny," he coos, lisps; "such a pretty little cunny; you see, I couldn't do without it, I couldn't, couldnt; this little cunny I just had to fuck--"

Oh, but she hates him and loves him, loves how easily he undoes her with his filth; his words now pour down her ears and down her chest and into her cunny as heat, making her toss underneath him, toss her hips down onto him so fast it is she who is dictating the rhythm of their joining. And he lets her, chuckling, that chuckle, too, rippling down her body as liquid fire, and now he takes both of her nipples and pulls, twists--

And perhaps he is saying something filthier still, but now she cannot hear him for her own cries, for her own howls, for his meeting her thrusts so perfectly, hitting the very root of her cunny each time. She sobs in disbelief as he takes each one of her tremors, each one of her convulsions from her and rolls his hips according to their rhythm; between each tremor there comes a blow, the blunt head of his prick hitting that space behind her womb that turns her blind. So violent are his blows that she is pushed back on the bed, back to where she'd moved down from, her head now hitting the pillows as she arches there, up; he moving her easily as if it were but his cock he was lifting her with. His cock, his cock, all of her now impaled upon it, convulsing around it; her very self become but ripples of delight around him, her body crowning him, garlanding him in her pleasure, its might.

And the way he gathers all of this into himself, so that none of it spills, oh--he licks her moans from her lips, moves into her and never stops, never, not even when her ripples slow down and ebb; forever he lets her womb flutter against his loving flesh, all of her surrounding him with her love. It is moments like these when she becomes but the cunny, the womb, all of her a loving, pulsing sex; even if she knows this to be but the beginning, she still yearns to embrace him entire, to make for him a home in her flesh.

And he obeys and falls into her--why not? And with a laughing sigh, he lets himself sink into her, soak into her like rain. So strange to think that it is the female that is the one moist and cold, the physicians say, like rain, but that it is the husband who now sinks into her like cooling water to soothe down her hard and red and dry heat. Even if his very name means a spring and hers a flower, she never ceases to marvel at this, their turning of Nature itself upside down and around in their love-dances; she swims in delicious aftershocks as he flows into her limbs a cooling stream.

"My wellspring, my wellspring," she sighs and pets his hair as he lies upon her with his full weight, his head nestled into her shoulder. And he was right: she feels nourished, energised, now; far more awake than she'd been when they had started. There is a clarity to her thoughts, now, an increased alertness and awareness of everything about her, as if she were now more alive. And she wonders if this is but the physical effect of her orgasm itself, or if it is indeed Jaffar's washing her clean that's done it, as if taking in his love was like drinking a cup of coffee or chewing upon an invigorating herb; an aliveness in the form of a man gifting to her his love. But then, are not Jaffar and Life itself to her now the one and the same?

He groans and rolls them over so that she is lying on top of him; she makes a noise of regret as he slips out of her--did he not come yet?--but he swallows this, too, in a kiss.

"I have barely even started yet," he whispers and clasps her back, adoring her soft skin with his palms, showing to her with his thoughts how he is even now taking in her glow, her vibrance.

Yassamin, my night-blooming Yassamin. Your satisfaction is mine; you know it. And never has this been as true of any couple in the history of the world, I'll wager, he thinks at her, sighing in delight as he inhales her fragrance, her perfumes now emanating from her more strongly with her increased body heat. That felt most wonderful, my dear. In fact, I am surprised you feel so... sated. From something so fast and so wild.

"You almost sound like you're surprised, and not boasting," she laughs and twiddles her toes.

He lets out a dragging, nasal laugh. "I am surprised, believe it or not," he says and brushes her hair back from her face. "Which harness is it that you want tonight?"

She rolls her eyes. "Got there in the end."

He but chuckles and kisses her nose. "I can read your thoughts; you are in a rush to get there as well. I can feel that part in you awakening, my child. Don't lie."

As Jaffar slides out from underneath Yassamin--with a smack on his arse from her as he makes his way to the foot of the bed--he is so happy he is whistling.

"Whistling is bad luck!" she cries. "Don't invite djinn into our bedchamber."

But he trills out a tune nevertheless, making a show of it, rocking his woman's hips from side to side so that his prick sways with them, slapping across his belly; not until she is laughing again does he stop. Besides, now he has to stop whistling in order to get at the toys: the chest at the foot of the bed requires several runes and spell-sigils to unlock it, containing as it does some of their most precious love-instruments.

"There we are," he says and lifts the lid. "Now, tell me. Which one? The Halima model?"

"We are calling it the Halima model, now?"

"What else?"

"The Yassamin model, I should've thought," she says, raising her eyebrow pointedly. For he'd made the original device for Halima, that is true enough; yet the one he means is an improved version, one he'd engineered according to Yassamin's particular anatomy, according to her likes and dislikes, so that it will pleasure her the most in the positions she enjoys the most. "But yes, that's the one I want."

He lifts out the harness and the artificial prick attached to it. "Here we are. The Yassamin model," he says and kisses the prick, then throws it into bed for her to catch.

It is indeed much improved from Halima's version: while Halima's had been made of leather, this one has been fashioned of an entirely new, elastic material Jaffar has himself engineered. He'd said this substance was obtained and refined from the milky gum of various plants, and unlike any other material, it is not entirely hard or entirely soft; it is solid and yet flexible, a little firmer than real flesh--the reason Jaffar himself finds its feel preferable to that of a real prick. Already has he made several toys for them from this new material; she, too, has enjoyed them greatly, preferring them to the now too-hard toys made of jade or ivory or metal. And unlike leather, this material can be washed and will not wear out, and will not droop the same way leathern pricks often do when loosened from too much use, their cotton or cloth stuffing becoming soft or lumped with age. The only flaw of the material is that while its feel is addictive, it can rub one raw more easily, especially when ridged toys are concerned.

And this one has ridges all across its surface: the prick is flesh-coloured, about the same size as Jaffar's own, topped with an elegant glans that is only flared enough to feel pleasant, but not so large as to bring discomfort, Yassamin herself having shown Jaffar the vast difference between the sensations brought on by the minutest changes in contours. The root part that cups Yassamin's cunny is covered all over in ridges and nubs, too, as is the smaller prick that slips inside of her cunny, taking her as she takes Jaffar.

She begins to buckle it on, but already Jaffar is there to help her. "Let me," he murmurs and kisses her until she is lying down on the bed once more.

"I thought you wanted me to take charge," she laughs.

"Mm. Tonight, I am in the mood to pleasure you," he purrs and kisses her clitoris as he begins to ease the smaller prick inside of her cunny.

"You always are," she sighs and ruffles his hair, warm from love. But now, she winces a little--already she is a little sore from his loving, and has to breathe deep and to tell herself to relax as the smaller prick settles inside of her cunny. He can feel Jaffar thinking at the toy--it responds to thought the same way his living silver does--even as he sucks her clitoris to soften her, gently taking her with the toy.

For every woman's womb shifts a little, tilts a little according to the time of the month: she is always more open when she is in the middle of her cycle or nearer to her bleeding, but right now, at the beginning of the month, the back of her vagina feels more closed and it's not as easy for her to accommodate a prick, whether real or artificial. Her womb presses down upon her vagina so heavily she has at times felt it tries to stop her from feeling pleasure altogether: as if this were some strange punishment for her enjoying sex even during the parts of the month she is not fertile.

"Not a punishment," he murmurs, lifting his face to kiss her belly, now using his thumb to stroke her instead. "It's my fault for not remembering; I should have taken you from behind. I'm sorry."

"It feels good, now," she says, the toy warming inside of her, moulding itself to her anatomy better than a real prick ever could; she gasps and arches off the bed as it slips behind her womb, pressing her there. "I'm ready," she breathes; the suddenness of the stimulation, the intensity of it so powerful it's nauseating. "Hurry."

"All right," he says and buckles the straps of the harness around her hips, gently guiding the toy's root to cup her cunny so that it moulds itself against her sex, forming a perfect seal; again, she arches off the bed as the toy sucks upon her clitoris, taking it into a firm little mouth, as it were.

"I'll never get used to this," she groans and shakes her head. "It's insane."

He raises his eyebrow, his hand already clasping the outer prick in a stroking grip. "Would you like me to help you with that?" he asks with a wicked twinkle in his eye.

But he doesn't wait for an answer before he is already fellating her cock. Her cock, her cock, her cock fucking her husband's mouth; oh, but she jerks and gasps and croaks out a helpless cry as Jaffar's mouth closes around her shaft. For now, the artificial prick has become an extension of her clitoris, sending each one of Jaffar's touches into her body as if it were a prick of real flesh; as Jaffar begins to suck on the glans, she feels her clitoris is being sucked out, fellated in turn. Oh, but he is such an old sodomite, such an old pervert, such an old whore and she adores this, adores: her cunny clutches and squeezes around the inner part of the toy as he swallows her into his mouth.

"Such a greedy old tart," she hisses, trying to look down at him, but the pleasure is too great and as the inner cock begins to move against her womb, her head falls back on the pillows. "Oh, God, Jaffar. Oh, God."

"You are absolutely right," he says and strokes his own cock, moaning around her length in adoration, a heathen priest performing worship to a holy phallus. "I made it taste like salt, too," he rasps, his voice already thick from phlegm, from when he's swallowed its tip into his throat. "Salt, and cunny, and cock," he moans in his greed, then slurps her into his mouth once more, shameless, rolling his head back and forth. Now that her most sensitive part is wider, longer, he can perform more elaborate caresses upon it, having to hold her hips down as he pleasures her with throat and tongue; from time to time, he frees her hips just to let her take his throat with the roughness he desires.

Irrumatio, she thinks as she ruts into his throat, making phlegm burst out from between his lips, turning her husband into a red-faced grotesque; trust him to turn a punishment, an act meant to humiliate into a pleasure! She whimpers as she sees his eyes spilling over with tears, his choking around her length so incredibly pleasurable she thinks she might die, or come, or both, or--oh--

She has to pull her cock free from his mouth; she squeezes it, hisses, again howling as the inner part still undulates against her womb. "Stop, stop!"

Jaffar pulls back and gasps; his kohl is smeared around his eyes, his entire face wet from spittle and tears. "All right," he growls and pulls back to kneel before her. And to her great surprise, he still has a prick: he holds it in his hand, stroking it very slowly, his knuckles covered with its glistening sap.

"Why have you still got that?" she asks, now in a voice commanding, more masculine. "I would have your cunt," she snaps and squeezes her cock, willing the toy to slow down inside of her so that she is not undone just yet.

"Oh, but my sweet," he leers and leans down on top of her, kissing her; he spreads her legs and slides the tip of his cock against her slickened anus. "It's so that I can do this," he grunts and slides inside of her arse.

She gasps, all of her stiffening from shock, her entire skin covered in goosebumps. She cannot even speak as he so enters her, with such swiftness; with only their own fluids, and to think that the artificial prick is still inside of her! Oh--God--

"There," he purrs and rolls his hips, gathering her legs onto his shoulders. "You were looking distinctly unsodomised, I thought," he croons and licks the cold sweat from her breastbone, rolling into her mercilessly until he is completely inside of her, his hips touching her buttocks.

"You s-son of a b-bitch," she stutters, twitching underneath him. If she'd thought she'd felt impaled before, it's nothing in comparison to this: all of her is jerking with a liquid pleasure, a pleasure mixed in with the poison of pain, hopeless, helpless as she is pinned down into the mattress by his blows. And she detests how good it feels, how fantastic; this feels so unlike the previous times she had been doubly penetrated, stretched far too much to enjoy it. For now, Jaffar can command the toy to shrink inside of her so that it only brings her pleasure, banishing from her all pain: so that it but curls against the front of her cunny and the back of it, massaging her greatest pleasure-centres, while not giving her any discomfort whatsoever.

"I hate you," she hacks out from between clenched teeth, with her fingers scraping, scratching up his back; "I hate you!" she howls as he begins to take her with such pleasure it makes her entire body spasm and toss, her teeth chatter.

"I love you, too," he chuckles and takes her mouth, his own voice reedy from his pleasure as he begins to move into her faster and faster. "You see, I thought to take you like a lad," he says with a slam of his hips, "with this pretty little prick you had, this pretty little prick you had," he coos and takes her into his hand, his own hips jerking from his words as he lets them fall from his lips, again the effeminate eunuch's lisp. "To fuck you like a lad, to make you come like a lad," he groans and moves into her ever faster. "That's what this pretty little prick is for, isn't it?" he laughs as he pumps her cock in his fist, his hair falling onto his face, sticky from sweat. "For playing with other men. What are you going to do to me with it, my lad? Hmm? Tell me."

And he sends to her his adoration, the sight of her cock rising between her legs, the excitement from his being able to watch the bob and sway of that which will soon take him; to have that which will soon penetrate him pulsing in his hand, the silken heat of her arse clutching around his cock, her cunny flooding down between her buttocks to slicken his balls. She sees herself, smells herself, the fragrances of her cunny and her sweat now overpowering those of her perfumes; her breasts as they point up even as she's bent in half, her face lost and drunk in its pleasure, this pleasure to her hitherto unknown.

"Tell me, Yassamin," he rasps, each one of his blows sending near-painful shocks of pleasure through her clitoris, her womb, her vagina, her arse--

Yes, I had thought to pleasure all at once. And now, I've succeeded perfectly, even if I say so myself!

Oh, Jaffar. You are a man so vain, still!

Thank you, my dear! he chuckles into her mind, then her ear. "But tell me, Yassamin," he meaows, purrs, that disgusting croon that never fails to stir her. "Tell me what you'll do to me with this prick."

She can barely speak for her pleasure cresting this way, each one of his strokes sending white flashes through her body and into her eyes, like one becomes blind in the desert from the white sand, the glare of the sun. But she has to, has to pull herself out of this, has to come if only to spite him--oh--

"I'll fuck you with it," she groans from between her still-chattering teeth.

He but tilts his head and rolls his hips. "Is that so? Hmm? Is that what this pretty little princess's--forgive me, a pretty little prince's prick is for? Hmm?"

"Yes!"

"Just like this? Fucking is what it's for, and not pissing, is that not right?" he lisps. "Just like this arse is not for shitting," he mocks and now lets her legs fall onto the sheets, fucking her so hard and so fast she knows he is near the peak. "It's for me. It's for me to fuck, like this, like this. Is that not right? Hmm?" he asks and now he is trembling, trembling, his sweaty hair drawing streaks down her neck, her face, her breasts.

"You disgusting bastard, you beast!" she howls. But she adores it, and as pleasure-ripples higher than any she has previously felt tonight take over the entirety of her hips, she screams hoarse from the bottom of her throat. "It's for you, for you, oh, I'm going to fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, oh," she sobs, howls as he swats her hand away from her cock, still pumping it in his fist, dictating the rhythm with which she'll come.

And it is now that all of her bursts forth from her cunny, herself become a wellspring: with each blow of his cock, of the toy, her orgasm spurts out of her a wetness, gushes out of her through the artificial cock a fountain. She shrieks in disbelief as she watches herself orgasming with such violence that she sprays both herself and Jaffar: for a delirious moment, she wonders if he had filled the prick with some fluid beforehand.

But no, no: he seems as surprised as she is, now letting out a high cry of delight as she sprays his hand; at the last moment, he dives down and drinks it all from her cock, her ejaculate spraying all over his face. And it is this sight that plunges her into the deepest part of her orgasm, her entire body arching and tossing with the contractions of her womb as she watches herself wetting her husband's face. On and on, she shrieks and she comes and comes, drenching him; droplets of her fluids dangle off his hair, his eyebrows, his eyelashes, his moustache; disgusting, wonderful, adorable, he laps at, snorts and sucks and bathes in her ejaculate as if it were a sacred spring, moaning high in his throat at his delight.

"Oh, God, Yassamin, oh, God!" he, too, cries: his hips jerk and he is coming inside of her, letting out noises of regret as he cannot hold that crouched position in which he'd be able to still drink from her: he lifts up, throws back his head and he is gone. And it is his unravelling that plunges her into the last great tremors of her release, his expressions, his erratic hip-thrusts: all of her clutches and pulses around him and the toy as she feels his sperm flooding her guts. As he leans over her again he is sobbing, weeping dry tears; a madman, he continues to stroke her cock, continues to move into her, as if to make sure he does not stop while she is still orgasming, he so lost in the enormity of his own pleasure he cannot even look for hers.

And with a last jerk, a last cry, she surges into him, takes over him, mounting his consciousness with hers. "Down," she moans; even if her every limb is shaking, she pushes him out of herself, her lungs burning as she straddles him so that she is sitting over his face, facing his wet genitals. I will not wait a moment longer, wife, she tells him: she has to have him, now, at last.

Chapter Text

And it is through Jaffar's consciousness that Yassamin feels the effects of what she does next: his cry rings in her throat as she purses his sperm out of her arse into his mouth. She shivers in his perverse ecstasy as he bathes in this, the warm, wet seed splashing onto his lips, smearing his tongue: again like a cruel man, a ravisher, Yassamin takes him as he needs to be taken, smearing his face with his own seed. It is a perversion of the exact sort he loves, and now she uses it to dominate him, to subdue him: as she takes him into her mouth, he whimpers helpless as if slain, his cock pulsing in its last, dwindling twitches of delight.

But now, she has had enough of the cock. Jaffar mewls as she begins to suck him, magically shrinking his prick with each suck; he shivers--in aftershocks or terror, he cannot tell--as she makes it sink down into his pudendum, between two plump cunny-lips that once were his balls. She licks him, sucks him, kisses him into bloom: a cunny she makes for him with each one of her kisses, caresses. Quietly, reverently he watches as she turns around and takes her place between his legs: it is clear she has been starved of the cunny for a long while, now taking her time tasting the one she has presently created.

And he wonders if she has made his different this time, a cunny that matches Yassamin's own ideal: what is her ideal cunny like?

"Very much like this," she says and licks her lips, sending to him what she now sees.

And of course, he is beautiful; would they ever allow him to be otherwise? For his is a cunny not unlike Zainab's; fat and plump on the outside, with a full mound and round, delicious lips, like a giant mouth expecting to be kissed. But it is not unlike Yassamin's either, in that its folds are smaller than Zainab's protruding ones: just like Yassamin's own, these petals only peek out from his slit when he is truly aroused, engorged with a flush of blood. In the moonlight, the paleness and the pinkness of his sex seem almost fragile, ghostly, unreal: a porcelain smoothness, were it not for the wet streaks of sap and spit Yassamin's kisses have anointed it with.

And suddenly, he fears being hurt. "Please be gentle," he asks her with a voice soft, a voice far more feminine than before, no longer a sodomite's caricature of a woman's; his chest heaves, and upon it now tremble two breasts, with two pink nipples crinkled as if curled up in fright.

"I shan't hurt you," Yassamin promises, herself a ghost in the night; she, too, seeming unreal to him for the vastness of pleasure she has already brought him, a pleasure he had forgotten was even possible for anyone to experience. And he has to wonder what his shivering now is, this trembling that has taken over his flesh, this fear that has now slithered into his mind: is he this emotional because his body has now taken on the female humours?

"Well, you are still just as vain as Jaffar the man," Yassamin laughs as she leans over to cup his breasts, to kiss him. "These are needlessly enormous, for a start," she grumbles.

And it is only now that Jaffar realises she might feel hurt about this, insulted: her own breasts being much smaller, even after her having suckled two children. Does she now feel inadequate, second best?

He couldn't bear it if this were to be the case. Embarrassed, he wraps his arms around her, letting her sink into his new softness, breast nestled into breast, hugging her tight. "They are not a comment on yours, my love: yours are perfect as they are. Besides, they aren't needlessly large: I need them."

"Aye. I'd say you were most definitely overcompensating," she laughs. "It's because you don't have to carry them around all month--had you ever experienced premenstrual soreness, you would have left yourself flat-chested!" she groans. "But you'll pay the price soon enough; just wait for the back-ache after," she grins and slaps his breasts playfully. "But come; how would you have me take you, my sweet?"

And in her voice, he can hear the calm only receptive sodomy can bring: he no longer fears her, no longer fears he has hurt her. Yet she must have heard his nervous thoughts, sensed them: she pulls back to kneel between his legs, stroking her cock softly in her hand, and sends to him the Jaffar she now sees, the love she feels for him.

She shows to him the beauty of him sprawled out upon the pillows and rumpled sheets the way he is now, his hair sweaty and clinging to his face in now-thick, now-ebony whorls; the traces of Yassamin's ejaculate and his own sperm still glistening upon his now-fuller lips. The lushness of his breasts as they rise and fall with his breathing; the way his eyes are still exactly the same sky-bright as they always have been, their irises transparent in the moonlight. The way his limbs are still so long and so slim, but now softer, the softness of peaches the way they are now covered with down instead of coarse hair; that peach-softness reminds her of his cunny and she takes a step back to admire it.

She makes to spreads his legs, but it is now he who takes up his thighs with his hands, spreading them for her on and on, open, wide open; shamelessly, he now exposes himself to her adoration.

But it is his face she is now looking at. "That moustache doesn't quite fit the picture," she smirks.

Jaffar rolls his eyes. "I've told you! I don't want people to talk."

She tilts her head, pretending to consider as she moves her thumb to Jaffar's cunny, finding his clitoris with ease. "Perhaps I could grow used to it. It does, in fact, emphasise your femininity somehow."

"There you are," he laughs and looks at her, still holding himself open. "Would you kiss me?"

"I would do more than that," she whispers and leans over him, guiding her cock to Jaffar's cunny, leaving it poised just there upon his entrance, just there. "If you like," she whispers onto his tongue, drinking in his tremors, his little whimpers; he is sure she can feel his cunny clenching around her glans and that she revels in it, the bitch.

"I heard that."

"I love you, you ridiculous bitch," he says and captures her waist with his legs. "Don't you dare go anywhere," he says and pulls her head down, taking her mouth in a kiss. "Fuck me."

"Language," she purrs and rolls her hips, running her fingertips down his ribs; he yelps and squirms underneath her, clenching around her again and again.

"All right then, my lady. Would you please, please be so kind as to let the donkey run wild in the basil-bush?"

She bursts out into laughter. "Is that what they call it these days?!"

"You may laugh, but that's the phrase some women insist on! Come. What would you have me say?"

She takes his legs around her shoulders and bends him in half, now moving just a little deeper inside of him so as not to slip out. "Mm. Find out."

"My beloved," he says, now clasping her face in his hands and kissing her deeply; he knows how to project such warmth from his eyes as to melt his Yassamin's heart even when she is feeling wicked, like this. "My beloved, beloved wife. Would you make love to me?"

"I would," she breathes onto his lips, moving with slightly longer strokes, now.

But he can sense she wants him to articulate it: therefore, he makes himself as open, as yielding, as beautiful as he can be, giving himself to her whole. "Take me," he whispers with all the femininity in him, all of that in him that wishes to surrender, all of that in him which yearns to be taken, devoured, consumed. "Please, Yassamin. Take me."

"Like this?" she says tenderly, her hair now falling around his head a perfumed curtain as she braces her hands on the bed, again learning how to take her lover like a man, again learning how to move into him in the way that gives them both the most pleasure. She hesitates a little before she finds the right roll of the hips, the right distance, the right angle from which to move into him; but oh, the cries of delight they both let out as she finds it!

"Ohhh..." he moans, his hair a cloud of calligraphic curlicues upon the moonlit pillows; his voice so soft it is close to breaking. "I will never get used to this," he says with his voice high in his nose, near tears; "the love, the love. How--how can you feel more in love with a womb?!" he sputters, for again, each time she touches the deepest reaches of his sex, an unspeakable, unbelievable flood of love and affection spreads into his entire self from his womb, making his heart stumble in his chest. "How is this possible? Men have been robbed, Yassamin, robbed."

She but nuzzles his face with hers, dropping a soft kiss upon his nose. "I never know what to say to that, my love," she says and nuzzles him once more. "It is but the normal response for a woman in love." She raises her eyebrow. "And it explains why all too many men can approach the act so mechanically; how they can so detach their hearts from it. Whereas I am told that in the body of a female, there is a nerve going straight from the womb into the heart! In short, my sweet: there is no stopping it, the love."

He shakes his head, blinking tears from his eyes; he swallows as those tears slide into his hair, his ears. "That's why I need this," he whispers. "It's as if I had a hollow place there, where that nerve travels, my Yassamin, believe me, believe me; it's what sodomites try to find in their games, but never truly reach. But that you should understand this in me--that you should give this to me--" and now he sobs openly, hugging her tight; his cunny squeezes around her cock and he throws himself against her violently. "Let me feel it, Yassamin; let me feel it. Rub me raw, my love, raw," he chokes with spittle dangling between his lips; "ravage me. So that I will not forget."

And as Yassamin begins to thrust into him with all her strength and her might, he mewls underneath her as he is undone in the heart, in the soul; that undoing of love that in a woman does not require the orgasm, only the presence of the beloved to unfold. Oh, but he yearns to hurt, to burn long after tonight, to still feel this nerve within himself as he walks the corridors of their house a man: he wants to feel the memory of all these red and white pulses and ripples and sparks each one of her blows sends up this nerve, wants to remember them for all time.

"Touch yourself," Yassamin murmurs against his mouth, with a little smile playing upon her lips. "Come, let's see how fast you can do it," she laughs, a perfect imitation of Jaffar's own cadence earlier that night. "You're close, I can tell."

He chuckles, that chuckle unravelling into a laughter full and bold as he realises the vibrations of it feel wonderful inside of him, each noise he makes multiplying the pleasure of Yassamin's thrusts and fanning it out to encompass his entire body. "I don't believe this!" he hisses underneath her as he slips his hand to his cunny.

But oh, he had forgotten, had forgotten the magic of the combined pressures of penetration and a hand on the clitoris. He jerks underneath her as those twin pressures, those twin heats meet inside of his body and make his pleasure louder, a maddening din; his arm trembles as he strokes himself there, whimpering through his nose. And there, he feels a woman's panic, of not being sure of whether he'll be able to come--that fear he has often sensed in Yassamin, it being so much harder for a woman to reach release, particularly if it's the man deciding the rhythm. Does she remember his trick of waiting, of leaving gaps between the thrusts for a woman's orgasm to flow? Does he have to tell her--

"You are as nervous as a woman, too," she says and shakes her head, and not with a little sadness. "Of course I know. Is this the rhythm you want? The depth?"

"Yes," he says, his eyes now fixed on her, not only pleasure but awe and gratitude and humility flowing out of him to embrace her. It's difficult for someone as proud as him, as stubborn as him to surrender, but he must, or else he will not reach release: he has to trust Yassamin, has to trust that she can carry him to the other side. "Take me, my love, take me, take me," he whispers, focusing all of himself into his sex, making himself as deeply aware as he can of his clitoris and his vaginal muscles that now tighten and flutter around Yassamin's cock.

And as she pounds another deep moan out of him, he again remembers the power of pleasure inherent in his voice, in his lungs, of all that travels through his body with each noise he makes, each breath he takes. He must remember to breathe deep, he must remember to moan with abandon; he must alternate noises guttural and nasal, high and deep, to vibrate them inside of his body--just as he had done with his laughter--in order to reach release. With his own ripples, he must trigger the natural, involuntary ripples of his muscles--and he can swear he can hear her thinking how he is approaching this like an engineer, still, and that but sends him laughing once more.

And it is that laughter that finally unravels him, unfolds him, his eyes flying wide from the shocking intensity of even the first, shy ripples of the female orgasm. And above him, Yassamin smiling in delight, glowing with the power of her being able to give him this, the power she wields as with every new blow, she now sends more of those ripples flickering out of his womb, washing over him a flood of colours, heat. The colours of the female release never cease to amaze him, either, as they now take over his every muscle, surging up and outwards from his hips: she is turning me as if a kaleidoscope, oh, a neverending unfolding of prismatic, rainbow iridescence--

But that is his final thought before his body is so consumed there is no space left for thought at all. The colours, the sparkling waves of colours toss his body, wrest his control of it from him so completely that he is now but ecstasy unfolding upon Yassamin's prick, but convulsions of glittering waves, cascades. Faintly, behind all of this, the mystic in him remembers a vision he'd had during his time in the monastery as a young man: the master had told them everything in the universe was but an emanation of God's light, refracted in millions and millions, nay, infinite ways, all shapes and forms carrying with themselves a spark of this divine light. And how, at his realisation of this, Jaffar had fallen into a cascade of light just like this, into a vision of the world itself as a kaleidoscope in God's hands, Him turning it at will to create endless patterns of beauty, beauty, beauty; infinite beauty and might.

Is this the secret of the womb, then? he thinks in his ecstasy, keening out his joy at this revelation. That within the womb, as it is being made love to, this very process--of birth, of creation, of beauty--lies, and now he can touch it, come closer to God than he ever could inside a male body? For is it not within a woman's body that this turning of the kaleidoscope happens, this multiplication, this coming into being as the male and female seeds merge in the miracle of a new life being born? Love, and light, a darkness pierced, churned and within it, a new birth, a home for an entire new soul--a light, a light, God's neverending emanation of light--

"Shh, shh," Yassamin tells him and slips out of him, gathering him into her arms. For now, he is weeping, weeping uncontrollably, yet happily against her breast. She must have heard him, felt him, knows that it is joy and awe he is weeping in and not sorrow; so tenderly does the mother of his children now hold him, having now gifted him with but a touch of the magic she possesses within her body and her self, what she feels every time they make love.

"I was just thinking," he gasps, kissing her passionately, pausing to hug her so tight neither of them can breathe, "that now you have opened in me a way for a new soul to enter, somehow--a new Jaffar--what if an angel should come and place in me a new soul, like I was a babe in the womb?"

He can tell she wants to say he is delirious, but she, too, realises this for a state holy, and does not wish to mock it. Besides, it is not a state unknown to her. "I have felt that when making love to you sometimes, my love: that I have become an entire new human being as I have emerged from your embrace. The way you have taught me, the way you have changed me, made me grow... I have been born anew so many times. Yet I think it is but a new unfolding towards one's true self, the love burning away another veil that covers the heart-soul," she murmurs into his shoulder. "Another lower soul, another sheath being shed like a snake sheds its skin. The mirror of the soul being cleansed to better reflect God's light--whatever metaphor you wish to use."

"Perhaps," he says and strokes her arm. But within him, within the darkness of his hips, there still remains a restlessness, a stirring; as if this joining had been but the beginning, and that deeper ones still awaited him. Yassamin knows this feeling well--he is sure most women do--yet he can tell she is tired: therefore, he is hesitant to ask for more.

"I heard that, too," she says and now curls up behind him so that they are spooning. "Would this do?"

"Marvellously," he purrs to her over his shoulder and guides her cock inside of his cunny once more. He twitches a little, hisses from his soreness as he takes her inside of himself; now it is he who slides down upon her, moving his hips upon her slowly, indulgently. There's no hurry to their lovemaking, now; for long moments, he but undulates there and takes his pleasure of her, supping upon her kisses whenever he can reach her. He milks her prick with his muscles, examining his new body as he does so, now that they have dealt with the most fervent, urgent of his desires for release.

Now, they have time; all the time in the world, he thinks, and he luxuriates in learning his anatomy--discovering once more that if he is penetrated too deep in the front, in front of the womb, it's painful for him, but if the prick slips behind the womb, it is as pleasurable for him as it is for Yassamin. That deepest reach of the cunny, there at the very back, gives to him a far deeper pleasure than that other pleasure-spot right behind the clitoris, and he finds that all the love manuals have exaggerated the latter's importance. The front was where he used to always direct his fingers to before, presuming--thanks to the books--that there was only the one center of pleasure in a woman's body, and that stimulating that would suffice. Yet thanks to his women having shown him otherwise, he now knows to look for several such spots, and now applies this knowledge to exploring his own cunny.

And it is thanks to his having discovered this deepest pleasure centre that he moves upon her very little in the end, wanting to keep her deep inside of him, only pushing against that back wall of his cunny, the back of his womb. The best way to stimulate this spot, he finds, is with short strokes deep inside, strokes gentle and mild; ones that pleasure the woman deeply but will not make it as easy for a man to reach release.

"That's an Indian technique, you heathen swine," she murmurs against his back. "The short and slow strokes, the simmering heat."

"Mmm. Are you complaining?"

"It's quite maddening," she says and now thrusts into him with more force, making him yelp. "Greedy bastard."

"I have to say, I'm impressed by your stamina!" he chuckles, slowly stroking his cunny. "I am a slavedriver; I apologise."

"Yes, particularly as I would have more of you, still," Yassamin says mischievously. And it is now that she slips her hand to the ring of his anus, curling her fingertips there, making him yelp and howl; he curls up in a tight ball, his cunny clenching and clenching around her cock.

"Oh, God!"

"Yes, I thought you might like that," she laughs.

Jaffar whimpers through his nose. "Once more in the cunny. Please."

"Turn around, then, my love. Ride your hands."

And oh, the thrill he derives from this, being told to take himself in the position he always guides Yassamin to: one of the greatest positions, perhaps the greatest position when it comes to ensuring female pleasure. Even on those nights when she has been tired or has had a little too much of the wine, he has been able to push her into orgasm this way: just like Yassamin herself, he now clasps his hands together and straddles them so that his clitoris is pressing against the ball of his thumb. In but seconds, he finds just the right angle to ride his hands from, and then Yassamin is inside of him once more: this time, she slips easily into the very back of his cunny, touching him deeper in that perfect spot, deeper than she ever has done tonight. It feels so amazing that he howls, biting the cushions, his cunny fluttering uncontrollably around her sliding length; each time the glans of her cock drags sweetly against his vaginal surfaces, it sends sparks up his spine. He is already so close to coming, and to think that this is but ordinary sex, still! If she is to take his arse, will he not see angels? Leave his body entire?

"We'll just have to see about that, won't we?" Yassamin laughs and now lies on top of him, kissing his back; she hugs his shoulders and begins to undulate into him slowly, deeply, at that exact depth and pace he had so enjoyed before. "Do you like that?"

"Hnnngh!" is the only noise he can let out by now; now that she is so deep inside of him, the love and the heat in his body are tenfold in comparison to what he had felt before. He is drowning in love, enfolded into it as if into giant, lush and red rose petals; distantly, he thinks how strange it is that his clitoris now feels so enormously sensitive, more sensitive than his prick has felt at times. He remembers that first time had taken on a female body and what he had told Yassamin of his first impressions: that the clitoris may be much smaller than the penis, but the nerves in it are more concentrated. And that this was not unlike the miniscule drops of aromatic oils hidden within all of God's healing herbs: the way those tiny drops contain the entire essence of the plant, so that consuming one drop of such oil has a much stronger effect than eating the plant whole, the oils being much more diffused in its leaves.

And again he feels this, as if all of his pleasure were concentrated into that little bud of flesh at the front of his sex; each time he grinds down on it, curlicues and feathers of pleasure swirl into his vaginal muscles to embrace Yassamin's cock, her strokes flashing back into the front of his cunny in turn. That meeting of the two pleasures he so loves is never as strong as it is in this position, and soon he is pushed off the brink.

Yet this time, his orgasm is so very violent, so very physical that the angels do not come to take him up after all, but rather pour inside of him such radiant pleasure that all his flesh is become angel-flesh: he laughs madly inside at this. Each one of Yassamin's blows sends him tumbling, convulsing with a light that's now redder, deeper, harder than the light he had experienced before, his eyes flashing with blackness: the red and the black of the depths of flesh itself. If he had been journeying into the brightness of the soul and its God-essence earlier, now he is swimming in the darkness of the flesh, the earthly, making his blood and his bones glow like its molten core; he shudders in exquisite pleasure as the orgasm surges into his very marrow and radiates there, radiates with a darkness vibrant, saturating him whole. And now, every time Yassamin's cock presses deep inside of him, he feels a little trickle, a little spray upon his hands, but nowhere near as violent as Yassamin's ejaculation had been before; his hands slip a little, yet he continues to ride himself through this, riding her, sending to her his gratitude and his delight.

With a sigh, he lets go and falls lax underneath her, his hands trembling upon the sheets: he is replete, replete, whole.

And now, it is Yassamin whose turn it is to collapse upon the sheets, panting, her cock gleaming from Jaffar's sweetness in the moonlight as it sways over her trembling belly. Jaffar but lies there, smirking into the pillow, looking at her with one twinkling eye; for long moments, he cannot speak either and only basks there, adoring her. The glimmer of the stars from the window, the glimmer of his own nectar upon the ridges of Yassamin's cock, the strings of it glistening between her cock and her belly like spiderwebs wet with dew; the sheen of sweat upon the paleness of her body, the beads of it shimmering above her lip, glistening in her hair.

I have seen beauty like that of the moon, he recites, my beloved as luminous and as radiant. With the arrows of her glances has she pierced me; in her scorpion tresses has she captured my soul.

She turns to him with an exhausted, but glowing smile; she clasps his hand with hers. "I could say the same of you," she whispers.

He squeezes her hand. "We can go to sleep if you like."

"Nonsense," she says and glances down at herself. I would feel your release one last time; be taken up to the heavens with you. Else, I cannot rest. "Would you ride me?"

"You only had to ask," he says.

And soon he has scooped enough of his own wetness, of hers, to slicken Yassamin's prick enough for sodomy; he cries out in discomfort as he forces himself down onto her too fast, but he must have her inside of his guts, he must.

"Shh, shh," Yassamin says and cups his breasts. "Don't hurt yourself. We have time."

"I know," he winces. "But I need it--Yassamin--I need it so much," he says even as he struggles there, with a sudden despair crushing his chest; he fumbles as he balances over her, drawing yet more wetness from his cunny onto her cock. The ridges feel painful, now, the walls of his guts so sensitive, but he loves that pain, too; the shock of being taken by something so much harder than a real prick making his entire spine stiffen, as if a column of white light had been painted inside of it, lit--

"Shh," she hushes him still, clasping his hips to stay them. "I would look at you."

Trembling all over, he forces himself to stop; Yassamin's cock is still only halfway inside of him. With a pained groan, he braces himself on his hands on either side of her shoulders, his hair falling onto her face. "I'm sorry."

She kisses his nose. "I only meant to say that it is you who are like the moon here, my love," she whispers softly. "Rising above me, radiant," she murmurs, stroking his arms. And now I can feel your love simply by your presence; it radiates from you, from your skin like the moon's silver shimmer, she tells him telepathically, for spoken words would shame this moment.

"Yassamin," he croaks, now forcing himself to move upon her, and this is the moment the pain of penetration turns into a pleasure terrible, rising so fast it overtakes him, drowns him--crying out high in his throat, he brings his hand to his cunny and writhes on top of her, forcing his entire weight upon her. For now, he can feel every single ridge of the artificial prick, the flare of the glans as it drags across his innards, a chaos of pleasure-pain rattling his entire body; these overwhelm him so quickly that he is now coming hard and fast, a sharp orgasm that takes him by surprise. For no matter how many times he does this, no matter how well he knows this is not unusual with sodomy, it is always a shock to him how fast the mere stretching of the muscles at his entrance can do this. He spasms and sobs on top of her, knowing this to be but the start, the first wave that makes way for the ocean of pleasure he soon will be flooded by, and he trembles in the sweet terror of the prospect; yet never has he been more alive.

Yassamin hugs him, then clasps his arms as he again rises into a sitting position on top of her. "Does it not feel strange to you? Without the prostate, I mean," she says. "I always think men must enjoy this more."

He but shakes his head and rolls his hips, now luxuriating in the feel of her prick, the way it now moves inside of him far more easily. "It's different," he says and sends to her his sensations: how strange it is that the pressure of the gland is now gone, yes, but how just an inch or two deeper, he again feels the nerve-centres of the back of his womb, pressing against that curve where rectum turns to colon.

And it's even more pleasurable when massaged through here, he tells her; that magical spot behind the womb. I am sure it is the female analogue of the prostate-- "Ah!" he cries out loud as he now hits it for the first time, and immediately, his cunny trickles. "See? You're milking me just the same," he hisses and rubs his clitoris, groaning deep in his belly in delight.

"Engineer talk! But I asked for it, did I not?" she laughs and squeezes his arms, rolling her own hips as much as she can underneath his weight. "Then, ride me, my love," she murmurs. "My wellspring."

But he is doing so already, grinding his hips down on her, his thighs trembling as he lowers himself down upon her, then lifts himself again, seeking just the right angle, the right depth from which to both massage that sweet spot and the nerves around his anus to maximise his pleasure. Engineer thoughts or no, he is grateful for his training in that art, for now he can calculate exactly the amount of distance and pressure required to plunge himself down upon her cock so that he hits his womb just right. Oh, but she is opening him, now, opening; the way the glans of her cock now dips into the mouth of his colon is a sensation as sickening as it is pleasurable, making all the hair on his body stand on end. There's the familiar little spark of pain as he is so stretched, but then that, too, flashes out into pleasure, flaring out into his body like an iridescent peacock's tail; now, his cunny spurts with each and every stroke and he is but a howl, but one trembling sheath of flesh vibrating with his cries around his Yassamin's cock, her cock, her cock--

But it is not enough. "Please, take me lying down--please--it's not deep enough," he moans, dancing just upon the edge of that final release, knowing he cannot reach it perfectly on his own. He needs harder, deeper, longer thrusts, needs to be held down, needs to feel her weight slamming deep into his guts, needs to be taken to come. "Taken--please--"

Tenderly, easily, Yassamin turns him over and takes him in her arms. "What was that you said about abiding?" she asks him playfully as she guides herself inside his arse once more.

But now, at this angle, Jaffar is bent double and cannot breathe; as the glans of her cock again makes its way inside of him, brutally stretching the walls of his guts, he is struck wordless from the pain-pleasure-pain now whipping through his body. He cannot respond to her in words, barely in thoughts.

I only meant the male body! You know very well yourself that it's impossible to wait when you have a womb, when the blood packs into it; when that heat throbs in your hips and needs to be released, he thinks at her as he brings his hand to his clitoris. The way the female orgasm saturates the body is ten times more satisfying.

She blows hair from her face and laughs. "Now you know why I chose this thing instead of changing my sex!"

"And this is why I let you come first," he smirks, now finally able to breathe again as he rubs himself into heat and warmth once more, again turning pain into pleasure with the alchemy of this marvellous little organ, the strokes of his hand meeting those of Yassamin's in time. "It's my turn to return the favour," he says, his head already spinning as the whiteness in his spine rise and rises. Let me come, my sweet love, so that I might bathe you in my bliss; perhaps we shall both be taken up by the angels. Come.

She strains above him, shivering. It is you who are my angel, taking me up into the heavens, she thinks at him--he has been so overwhelmed by his own sensations that he has not been able to listen to hers. But now, she sends it to him, the silken, heated squeeze of his arse around her cock, his lifeblood surging around her, his very heartbeat sending shivers of pleasure up her cock, up her cunny, tingles from her toes to her scalp up her spine. Let me show you your beauty, beloved wife, she tells him as she begins to fall into release, ripple after ripple; let me show you, let me make you see what you mean to me, oh, my sweet love.

His breath stops and his chest tightens; his heart lurches as he sees himself through her eyes, her husband, her wife, the love of her life. He sees his own kohl-smeared eyes, staring at her frantic and pale and wide, like those of a ghoul as the moon lights them with its white; yet this is a ghost joyous, a human once dead now brought to life, to fullness by love. Yes, fullness, completeness: this is what both Yassamin and he now see in this female form of his, a vitality in the new lushness of his features, the softness of his body, his breasts and thighs as they tremble underneath Yassamin's movements.

And now it is Yassamin herself who shivers as he feeds back to her his sensations at now seeing himself thus: how his cunny tightens in narcissistic delight at the sight of this beautiful new woman splayed underneath her, offered, her delicious cunny and arse spread open wide. His cunny tightens, squeezes, flutters in pleasure as he looks at it with desire, shocks of delight rippling through his body as he sees how full and fat and wet it is now that he is being penetrated in the arse--

Just like yours does when you are sodomised, my love, just like yours, he laughs into her mind. Positively pornographic, he purrs, hisses as he rubs his clitoris, pulling it back, gasping as he watches his cunny trickling onto Yassamin's cock, as if inviting her in, come penetrate me, take me, fuck me, come, come; he wails as she speeds up her thrusts. He is already tumbling towards release, now, she picking up the rhythm of his ripples, his cries; with the abandon of a whore, he howls and roars, vibrates his flesh around her thrusts.

But it is the sight of her entering him, and what he sees upon her cock that pushes him over the brink.

The foam. The foam, the foam, the white glimmering strands of their combined fluids now glistening upon her prick; slick rings of it gathered upon the root of her cock--"Ah!" he keens as yet another spurt from his cunny anoints Yassamin, another following upon its heels, now so violent drops of it spray her belly. He keens through his teeth as even these drops he has just sprayed her cock with are now churned by her thrusts into further foam, thicker, and oh, how salty they must taste--saliva floods his mouth at the sight. He simply has to have its taste, he has to, or else he will not come; "Please let me t--"

But he cannot even finish the sentence before Yassamin has dipped her fingers below to scoop up this foam; already, she is stuffing his mouth with her slick fingers, fingers wet with salt and must. "There," she whispers, her voice barely audible, now, her every muscle straining; he howls around her hand at the salt-sweetness that now dissolves onto his tongue, trying not to bite her too hard with his teeth, but now he is taken up, up--

They become the moonlight. Neither knows which one of them falls first, each now vaulting into the other in an endless circle, soaring higher and higher; neither can tell where Jaffar ends and Yassamin begins, their flesh become but light. The whiteness of the moon, the whiteness of fire, the whiteness of sperm, the whiteness of jasmine, the whiteness of a gushing wellspring, white; but which one is which when the jasmine petal is carried by the water, the moon but reflecting the sun's fire, the husband playing the wife? As one consciousness, they lift and spin higher and higher, the way the moon draws up the waters of the sea; weightless, they soar for long moments until gravity makes itself known, until bodies make themselves known, aches and pains and burns slowly pulling them down to earth once more.

But it is no matter, my sweet, Jaffar whispers about her a caress, using his magic to swiftly remove from her the harness, to cleanse both their genitals so that they do not have to leave this embrace. He does not change himself back into a male form, not yet; he wants to sleep nestled against his Yassamin in this form all night, soft breast against soft breast, soft thigh entwined with soft thigh.

"And I do not fault you for that," Yassamin says and kisses his cheek--she has predicted his next thought will be that of guilt, his fear of her perhaps wanting the male Jaffar beside herself instead. "My poor pard," she says and holds him close. "You are the only woman I can sleep peacefully next to, do you know that? Even when I had maids climb into my bed during winter to keep my bed warm, I found their presence oppressing, disturbing, not giving me a moment's peace. Yet now, I sleep better next to you, and, well..." she smirks.

Jaffar opens one of his eyes and quirks his eyebrow. "Yes?"

She pokes him in the ribs. "I quite like having a softer version of you around from time to time," she grins. "Not all skin and bones for once."

He makes a mock-pout. "But I thought you liked me as I was. Why, just yesterday I heard you scoffing at Latifa when she made eyes at a muscled athlete! 'Not my type at all,' you said and looked at me instead!"

"Ah, yes, but that's men we were talking about. When it's women, I prefer the soft, curvaceous kind."

Now he opens both of his eyes. "You speak as if you have had thousands!"

"Only the ones my kind and understanding husband has seen fit to let me play with," she says and nuzzles his face, kissing him softly.

He glances down at his breasts and coughs. "Ahem."

"My kind and understanding wife. I apologise."

He sighs happily and nestles his face into her breasts. "I should cast a spell. Just let us stay like this, here, for all time."

She strokes his hair, lost in thought, gazing out of the window; the moon is already setting behind the cypress-tops. "We dreamt of that when we were just wed, didn't we, my love?" she murmurs. "Perhaps, one day, we will discover a book of magics that allows us to lead two lives: one pair of us in this world, another in but an eternal embrace of love."

He sighs. "Look at us. We have had a magical, divine joining, rest in each other's arms perfectly sated, and already worry about the moment being gone. Instead of enjoying it to the utmost."

"Aye," she says and slides down so that she is face to face with him once more. "Methinks it's time for that abiding you spoke of," she says and laces her fingers with his, pressing as tight against his body as she can. "Teach me," she whispers, sending to him her mood: a desire for a shared trance. So that with the power of our minds, we may dwell and abide in this moment for what feels a lifetime, and nevermind the world outside, she thinks at him.

"Truly, you are my wisdom," he says and kisses her hand in reverence. "All right."

And he joins minds with her as easily as their bodies now touch; he begins a slow lulling, rocking in the mind, the way a dervish sways in his seat, constantly calling out to God. The way a mother rocks a child in its cradle, the way God holds a soul in His palm; Jaffar picks up the shimmering remnants of bliss still lingering within their bodies, weaves them together and wraps them about them a cloak. This cloak, he now begins to rock like a hammock, and softly, they drift to sleep together, suspended in this nest of loving sweetness, immersed in a state of peace and deep rest, long past dawn.

Chapter Text

***

Later that week

***

"And so, children, reads the wondrous Verse of Light: but so many are its hidden meanings--and consequently, its interpretations--that we will be spending this entire week discussing them," Yassamin says, looking up from her richly illuminated copy of the Qur'an, placing a silver bookmark between its leaves. "Today, we will go over the individual elements of the verse, and later, your father will tell you more about the mystical meanings of each one."

She is, in fact, positively surprised at what she now sees before herself: she'd expected Anwar to roll his eyes, but the extraordinary beauty of the verse seems to have awakened in him a spiritual curiosity, a hunger. Perhaps like knows like: after all, they had named him after light, and it makes sense he would want to find out about the religious implications of his name. Salsabil, however, just as Yassamin had expected, is entranced, smiling blissfully; Yassamin can only hope she will not fall into ecstasies before today's lesson is over.

It is still winter, so Yassamin is still teaching the children indoors; however, today's been a sunny day and she has left the prayer room's doors open to the courtyard, to let in some fresh air and light. Beside Salsabil, Ishtiaq lazes in the wide beam of sunlight shining in through the great arch of the doorway, lounging upon his familiar rug. Oh, but how Yassamin wishes Jaffar were here with them, now, not wasting away the day toiling in the darkness of the shabestan: it is such a beautiful day, the high vaults of the room bathed in sunlight, the most perfect of days for discussing God's divine light.

"Now, Anwar," Yassamin says. "You seem particularly interested; it makes Mother very glad to see that. What was it that you found most interesting about the verse?"

But now Anwar's eyes fly wide as he sees something past Yassamin's shoulder: he gets up, but then lets out a scream and topples onto his cushion, passed out from fright. Salsabil springs to her feet, her hand flying immediately to the little dagger about her waist; with her other hand, she grabs the growling Ishtiaq by his collar.

"My lady."

Shocked, Yassamin turns around to see an armoured man staggering in through the doorway, a shadow framed by the sunlight, his shape so dark she cannot see his face: his clothes are in tatters and with each step, he leaves behind himself a smear of blood.

Yassamin bolts upright and raises her hand, casting a swift rune so that the air crackles about her fingers in warning. "Stay where you are! Or I will burn you!"

"It wouldn't be the first time," the man laughs as he emerges into the light, his voice rough, his lips spattered with blood.

And as he collapses upon the floor at Yassamin's feet, she recognises him for who he is by his goat's beard, by his obscenely tight trousers, by the green turban now unravelling from about his helmet: it's Fadl. In his hand, he is clasping a large stone amulet; there is a great gash in his side and his trousers are covered in blood up to his knees. He must be here from a battle--but how? There has been no news of war anywhere near.

"Salsabil, wake Anwar up, and go fetch your father!" Yassamin says as she leans down to inspect Fadl's wound. It doesn't seem to be too deep, but it is near his waist, the cloth of his tunic clinging to it: it might very easily get infected and kill him slowly and painfully from blood-poisoning. Swiftly, she unbuckles his mail-shirt, cuts his tunic off his body and whispers a rune of purification, a variant of the one Jaffar always uses after their love-games; but just to make sure, she also fetches a fresh jugful of water from the ablution well, whispers a spell over that, too, and begins to wash him.

It is then that Sonbol comes running in, spear in hand. "I am so sorry, mistress. We have no idea how he got in. We never saw him pass through the gate, I swear."

"I don't blame you," she says and looks at the amulet Fadl is still clasping in his hand. "I suspect he got here by magic. Hurry, fetch me some lavender oil. And some mastic, gum or whatever have you, to seal the wound."

"To hear is to obey, mistress."

No sooner has Sonbol left than Jaffar runs in through the door, the children following at his heels. "It's true..." he murmurs as he kneels beside the still-unconscious Fadl, shaking his head. "My fool of a brother. Who was it this time? Hmm?" he asks him, angrier now that he is sure Fadl cannot hear him. "Turks? Northmen? Or did you oppress the landowners once more, and they finally snapped?" he laments. "Always seeking to get yourself killed, always," he groans, even as he helps Yassamin take off the rest of Fadl's clothes, inspecting him for further wounds and treating him with the lavender oil Sonbol has now brought over.

"It's as I thought," Yassamin murmurs as Fadl's legs are exposed, showing the blood on his trousers and his boots was indeed not his own. "He's come from a battle somewhere, a great battle."

It is then that Fadl coughs, crinkling his great nose at the sharp smell of lavender. He glances down at his nakedness, then at Salsabil, who is now staring at his giant member with her eyes wide. "Hello there, little one. I suppose it won't hurt you to see that, seeing as we are as good as engaged anyhow," he says with a bitter leer.

"Never!" Salsabil screams in terror, her braids flying as she runs away.

Jaffar rolls his eyes. "Behaving like a bastard, as usual. With any other man, I'd say that was a good sign, meaning he wasn't at death's door; but since it's you, there's no telling."

Fadl coughs again and wipes mud and blood from his beard. "Aye. I'll be waving my prick at Satan himself when he comes to pick me up! Of that, you can be sure."

"Who gave you this?" Yassamin asks, tapping the amulet Fadl is still clasping in his hand.

"An old witch. Well. Some Sanskrit gibberish, he'd call her," he says and nods in Jaffar's direction, "but same difference."

"The Dakini?" Jaffar says, genuinely surprised. "She must be over a hundred by now," he murmurs as he daubs medicine into Fadl's wound.

"Aye, the Dakini," Fadl spits out the title in a mocking tone, waving his hand. "Whatever you want to call her, but let me finish. She told me to use it when I was in great peril--that it would fetch from my mind the memory of the place I had felt most loved in, most safe in," he laughs sarcastically, "and that it would transport me there in my hour of need."

Jaffar throws back his head and laughs. "I am honoured. Imagine what would've happened had you suddenly crashed into Zainab's bed."

Fadl winces. "I have been beaten enough. But yes, you may gloat. Go on. While I'm still too weak to strangle you."

Jaffar ruffles his brother's hair. "But you wouldn't. Come. Let's get you to bed. Sonbol! Help me."

Together, Jaffar, Yassamin and Sonbol move Fadl onto a rug and carry him to Jaffar's quarters.

Anwar remains sitting on the floor next to Ishtiaq, thoroughly perplexed by this turn of events.

"Ishtiaq, what do you make of all this?" he asks.

Ishtiaq but stares at the door and crouches, growls and swishes his tail.

"You're as bad as Uncle Fadl," Anwar huffs and toddles over to Yassamin's book-stand. Mother always tells him and Salsabil they should feel free to study independently if they are inspired to do so, and he wants to read the beautiful, mysterious verse again, to think about what it really means.

Determined, he opens the Qur'an and takes out the long, silver bookmark, pointing it at Ishtiaq. "Now. Listen very carefully. I saw you scritching your ear the last time."

"Mrr?"

Anwar raises the bookmark the way Father always does when he teaches the children how to recite Scripture, making sure they employ the right pronunciations and melodies when speaking the words of God. Baraka flows properly only when one uses the right intonations and rhythms, Father always says: the more beautifully you say the words, the more powerful they will be. Therefore, Anwar now clears his throat and looks at the verse, then at Ishtiaq.

"Ready? Now, repeat after me. God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth..." he recites, in a voice as beautiful as that of the angels.

***

"FUCK!" Fadl barks, swearing at the top of his lungs as Jaffar pours warm gum over his wound. "You son of a bitch! What are you trying to do? Cauterise it?! You'll burn my arm off, you bastard!"

As Fadl continues to turn the air blue, Jaffar sighs, wipes his hands on a towel and nods to Yassamin and Sonbol. "Leave him to me."

Fadl glowers at Yassamin and Sonbol's retreating figures. "At least they would've had softer hands," he mutters.

Jaffar sits next to Fadl on the bed, still inspecting the wound, making sure that the now-firming, white gum covers it and that none of the medicinal oils he's applied to it are leaking out. "I am saving you from a slow, painful death with the aid of the latest medical discoveries, and yet you grumble. I was about to say a spell to speed up the healing process, to help the tissues knit themselves together again, but if you're going to be like that..."

"Then, hurry!"

Jaffar but looks at him, the same way he looks at his children when they have been misbehaving.

Fadl rolls his eyes and sighs. "I apologise. Please, brother. I am grateful for your help. I truly am."

Jaffar feels for the gum with his fingertips. "I'll say the spell when the gum has solidified enough. It's a new material, very versatile, one I've developed myself--this is the first time I am using it for this purpose, in fact. Mostly, we have been but building pleasure-objects out of it; Zainab's already got half a dozen, so you would have been... introduced to the substance eventually, one way or another."

"Trust you to use a miraculous new invention for perversities first," Fadl snorts and shakes his head. "Is it those pricks of hers you use this for? What does she call them? Dillies?"

"Dildo, I believe is the vulgar Latin, and yes. It's marvellously flexible and easy to clean. Feels wonderful, too," he purrs and rocks his hips, to make sure Fadl will not miss his meaning.

"Please don't tell me this was once inside of you," Fadl groans and pokes at the gum-poultice.

Jaffar laughs and pats his shoulder. "No, no. And I think it's sealed, now. Lie down and I'll say the spell."

Fadl does as he's told, glad for the warmth of Jaffar's bed. Even if Jaffar has given him a pair of warm shalwars and socks, he's still shivering and hopes this'll be over soon, so he can put a shirt on. Two shirts. Three shirts, he thinks, his teeth chattering from cold.

"That'll be the blood-loss," Jaffar murmurs as he lays his hand on Fadl's wound. "I'll ask them to cook some liver for you; liver and eggs and plenty of butter. That'll get you back on your feet in no time."

"That's very kind of you," Fadl whispers, and to Jaffar's great surprise, there's no sarcasm in his voice at all.

"Now, lie still. I am going to read a few prayers and then try the spell."

"Try?!"

"It's a new spell. It worked fine for one of Mohammad's elephants, so I see no reason why it shouldn't work on you. Elephants are much bigger, for a start."

"Do your worst," Fadl says and covers his eyes with his arm, falling limp upon the bed.

And it is a marvellous spell indeed: now that Jaffar has found such a great substance for keeping his medicine in place, flush against the wound without it evaporating through cloth or leaking past leather, he can manipulate the individual ingredients of the medicine better. He lays his hand over the poultice and mutters a rune, two, three: these agitate the herbal oils so that they now surge swiftly into Fadl's tissues and begin their work there.

Lavender oil speeds up the healing of tissues quite effectively on its own, but with these vibrations Jaffar now traps between the gum and the wound, Jaffar can hasten this process a hundredfold: already he can see Fadl's skin tightening around the gum's edges, and going by Fadl's now stilling in astonishment--probably because the renewal of the tissues is tingling--it should be working well. Next, Jaffar guides the cypress oil to shrink and tighten the tissues further, to squeeze out any dirt that might have entered the wound; with a few well-chosen power-syllables, he tells the camphor to swallow up those substances, to neutralise them and to prevent them from returning into the wound. Finally, with a last spell, he heats up the gum once more and commands it to suck upon the wound until it's dry, to absorb back into itself all the medicinal oils and the lingering remains of blood and dead cells.

Fadl winces as the gum begins to swell like a leech--it must be tingling more than a little, now--while Jaffar sits and waits until the once-white gum has turned brown and then black, finally having swallowed all excess matter into itself.

"There," Jaffar whispers. "I am going to peel off the gum, now--it will hurt a little, but try and keep from screaming, will you?"

"I'm not some babe--AAAAH!" Fadl shrieks, his entire body lifting off the bed as Jaffar rips off the poultice.

"There we are," Jaffar says and wrinkles his nose at the poultice: blood and dirt and dead tissue cling to it in an oily mess, and immediately he tosses the poultice into the fireplace where it begins to crackle loudly, exuding foul vapours. With a last banishing prayer, Jaffar sends the vapours on their way up the chimney, and turns to Fadl once more.

"I don't believe it!" Fadl, now having taken his arm off his eyes, stares at his side, blinking in astonishment. Where there'd been an ugly, deep gash before, he now sees only white, slightly damp and porous flesh, most of which is already shining and smooth, exactly the sort of thing you'd see after pulling off a scab from a wound that had almost completely healed.

"Don't touch it!" Jaffar says when Fadl tries to feel for it with his fingers. "It's almost done, now. Let me rub a little more lavender on it and let it dry, and you will be sorted out in no time."

"It's tingling," Fadl murmurs, still astounded.

Jaffar wraps a length of gauze about Fadl's waist. "There."

"But wait! So all of that is entirely new tissue?" Fadl asks. "So are you telling me that with this artificial... scab of sorts, you can grow new skin and flesh, just like that?!"

Jaffar laughs a little. "If you want to call it a scab. But, yes: this spell, combined with these substances, can restore entire muscles, even. And tendons. The elephant had injured his foot quite badly and they were about to put him out of his misery. The veterinarian thought there was nothing they could do, but when I treated the poor beast with this, it took what little remained of his muscles and rebuilt them entirely. But you do have to have some good tissue left for it to work from, at least a strip of that muscle you are going to rebuild--this technique can only multiply tissue, not create it out of thin air."

"So you mean I could just scratch off some of the skin on my arms and slap some of this on, and it'd give me great, new muscles in no time? You--I--instead of lifting weights for months and months, I could have the muscles of a Heracles, a Rostam in but a day!" he stares at Jaffar in disbelief. "And you've never used it for that?!" he sputters.

"Well, Yassamin prefers me as I am," Jaffar smirks. "And like I said, it is a new spell."

"Is that why you appear ten years younger than you are, you miserable old witch? Give me some of this! I insist!"

"I am giving it to you as we speak!"

"I want more!" Excited, he grins and grabs Jaffar by the arms. "Go on, show me!" he dares him, just like when they were boys. "Give me a little more. It can't hurt, can it?"

Jaffar raises his eyebrow. Perhaps it is time to teach Fadl a lesson indeed. "All right, then," he says mildly and sends a stronger blast right through Fadl's belly, enough to knock the wind out of him, sending him sprawling back on the bed.

For a few moments, Fadl but lies there, trembling as the ripples of power course through him, finally ebbing.

"Fuck," Fadl mutters when he can breathe again. He gasps for breath, staring at the ceiling--and his great nose is not the only thing in him that now points at the ceiling.

Jaffar pokes his erection with his fingertip. "Yes. That's one of the side effects. The energy surges through blood and nerve so fast that it tends to... invigorate the muscles, cause a kind of restlessness. A battle-readiness, if you will."

Fadl but stares at the ceiling still, shaking his head. "I feel as if I could run a marathon," he mutters. "Why did you do this?" he now huffs.

"Because you asked me to," Jaffar laughs and shakes his head. "Go on, then. Run that marathon."

"I have a better idea," Fadl says and grabs Jaffar, pulling him down onto the bed in a violent kiss.

Jaffar groans into his mouth and pushes back; as much as he enjoys this, he has to retreat. "Not now." Even if he had blasted Fadl as a joke, he had indeed expected Fadl would need some comforting, some physical closeness after what he had gone through; he had meant to love Fadl in some manner to help him heal, but not yet. "It's not that I won't," he says and cups Fadl's cheek, kissing him softly upon the lips. "And it's not that I don't want to, brother. Trust me. But Yassamin and I have indulged in some heavy love-games lately, and I am tired. Besides, I still have a doll to finish tonight."

Fadl squirms underneath him. "As a matter of fact, I wanted to rest myself. But what am I going to do now? With all this excess... energy you've just given me, you fool?"

Jaffar kisses his nose once more. "Use your hand. It's the safest, most relaxing, most satisfying form of sex, after all; right now, you don't want another person to worry about, and just want to let go, do you not? I think it would do you good, in fact--a good, hard stroke to tire yourself out and to get you to sleep. Treat yourself. Tomorrow, you can tell us about what brought you here, and I promise to comfort you accordingly. I am sure Yassamin will be happy to help, too. But today, you should rest--doctor's orders. A good stroke and a good sleep, there's a good lad."

"I suppose you are right," Fadl sighs and squeezes Jaffar's hand. "Thank you, little brother. I will not forget this soon."

Jaffar squeezes his hand back. "I am glad you are with us, brother. I do mean it. I have to go now, but there's some tincture of valerian in that green bottle over there, and a few pills of opium in that box beside it. Mix a couple of those into a glass of wine, and they should help you get some sleep, and relief from whatever pain that might linger."

Fadl looks around himself. "And shirts?"

"Hold on," Jaffar says and rummages in one of the baskets in the corner; finally, he finds a thick, long tunic made of green wool. "Here we are. It's even your colour! I got this from a Northman, one cold winter a few years back; I traded it in for one of my medicines. This should help you keep warm," he says as he tosses it to Fadl, then adds some more wood to the fire. Firewood is scarce, but this is exactly the sort of thing they have been saving it up for: this should burn all night, and make sure Fadl stays warm.

"Thank you," Fadl murmurs as he pulls the tunic over his head.

"There, I think that's it," Jaffar says and wipes his hands on a towel. "Do you need anything else?"

"I think that's all," Fadl says softly. For now, he is lost in feeling the fabric of the woollen shirt, its coarseness--Jaffar needn't peek into his mind to know he is thinking of a certain Northwoman this very moment. The memory of Zainab should help him drift off into pleasant erotic fantasies, Jaffar hopes.

"All right," Jaffar murmurs as he makes his way to the door. "Sonbol will bring over the liver once it's done. Otherwise, I'll see you tomorrow. God's peace upon you, brother. Sleep well."

"God's peace upon you, too, brother," Fadl murmurs, squeezing the shirt in his fist.

***

"But I must have you, Zainab! I must," Fadl cries, and he hates himself for the way he now kneels before this heathen bitch, hates himself for weeping at her feet, hates himself for having a heart, for now the pain he feels in that heart is crushing his chest. "I will divorce all my wives for you, cast out all my concubines, offer you all the fields and workshops of Balkh for dowry--"

Zainab nudges his groin with her sharp, pointed shoe. "But you won't. Besides, I am richer than you, Barmakid. I could live like a queen every day for the rest of my life, lavish my girls with golden ornaments," and she gestures towards her harem, her hateful harem of the most beautiful women, laughing at him even now with their hundred vixen eyes, "and still have mountains of gems left over."

"But you could live with me!" Fadl cries. "You could take all of them with you," he says, and loathes himself for saying such things, knowing he would hate every moment of it: he would loathe every knowing smirk from behind their veils, every moan he heard from the harem, knowing he could never fulfill Zainab's truest, deepest desires, directed as they are towards other women. But he is alone, miserable, so alone: he would rather have even morsels from Zainab instead of this horrible loneliness, this terrible emptiness in the chambers of his heart. "Marry me, Zainab, I beg of you. I want you to be the mother of my children, the mother of the kings of Balkh!"

Zainab scoffs. "You are not a husband or a father, Fadl; neither am I a mother or a wife. Why pretend otherwise?"

And now, Fadl surges up to his feet and embraces her, unwilling to let go of her no matter how much she struggles, adoring the way her ample flesh tosses in his arms--a mockery of the wrestle of love, but even this is better than nothing. "To hell with marriages and riches, Zainab! I speak of love," he moans and tries to kiss her.

"Either you let go of me now, Fadl, or you will not have even the fucking!" she spits in his face, coarse, vulgarity the only language he understands; oh, how well she knows him, he laughs inside.

But he has other plans. He flicks out a dagger from his sleeve and presses it to Zainab's back, her bare back, revealed by her thin, silken courtesan's dress; even with her clothing, she flaunts her freedom from men, how she belongs to none but herself. And Fadl cannot bear that; he presses the dagger deeper into her spine until she stiffens. "Zainab, I must have you," he whispers against her lips. "Only you. And if not--I would rather we were both dead. Do you understand?"

Zainab but pulls back and looks into his eyes, regarding him silently. Hers are full of coldness, scorn, and the worst of all, in their blue-gray desolation, he thinks he can now see the ashes of a passion that's died.

"And if you stab me now, son of Yahya... even if you were to slay yourself after, you would still die completely unloved and completely alone."

Completely unloved and completely alone.

Completely unloved and completely alone.

Completely unloved and completely alone.

Fadl wakes up screaming.

"Master?" Sonbol asks from the doorway.

Fadl but groans and buries his face in the pillow; he doesn't want Sonbol to see he is weeping. "Fetch me some fresh water for washing, will you?"

"Master, forgive me, but... perhaps you would prefer running water? There is a fountain behind the fireplace, behind the lattice. Master Jaffar has installed a washing alcove into every bedroom in the house, you see, including this one."

Fadl lifts his head from the pillow and glances at the back of the room. "Of course he has."

"Master, shall I tell your brother you will join them for breakfast?"

"I would rather join them after the noonday prayers," Fadl says and squeezes the bridge of his nose. "You are excused. Just tell no one to disturb me until then."

"Very well, master."

Fadl groans and staggers into the washing alcove.

***

Jaffar and Yassamin rarely receive guests; however, today, to lift Fadl's spirits, Yassamin has asked the maids to decorate the main entertaining-room, one they have not used in months. The women have hung native rugs along the walls in warm reds and greens and golds, and in lieu of fresh flowers, they have set peacock-shaped censers in the room to perfume it with pleasant scents, perfumes conducive to a meditative and calm atmosphere. Therefore, once Fadl arrives to meet Yassamin and Jaffar there, the entire room is suffused with the pleasant scents of oudh, sandalwood and roses.

"I must say I am impressed," Fadl says as he lies down on his cushions opposite his brother. He squirms a little, wearing as he is the thick Norse tunic still, and Jaffar's loose, satin shalwars--he has been wearing skin-tight clothes for so long that now he feels as if he is drowning in fabric. And since he has a reputation of uncouthness to live up to, he does not hesitate to adjust his genitals in the shalwars, now that it feels like they are constantly trying to travel somewhere, untrapped as they are by the slippery fabric.

Jaffar raises his eyebrow. "Should I have given you one of my studs' breeding straps?" he says and nods towards Fadl's groin. "Since you can't seem to stop playing with yourself."

"Brother, brother! I am not about to cover a mare," Fadl says and glances in Yassamin's direction, with the unsaid "yet" hovering there in the air as he leans over and pops a sugared almond into his mouth.

Now it's time for Yassamin to raise her eyebrow. "You seem to be yourself again, brother-in-law." She glances at Fadl's amulet, the one by which he had arrived here, now hung by a string around his neck. She is dying to ask him, but good manners prevent her from doing so--besides, they might need a little more wine until Fadl is ready to discuss such matters.

But Jaffar is curious as well, and less bound by modesty: he starts directing the conversation in the appropriate direction forthwith.

"How's Nawbahar?" he asks as he hands Fadl a bowl of wine.

"And here I thought you had a gift for subtlety, brother," Fadl says as he accepts the bowl and drinks deeply from it. But as soon as he's done that, he winces: for it is a mild wine Jaffar has chosen for them tonight, mixed with plenty of water. "I take that back about being impressed," he says and empties the bowl immediately, gesturing for Yassamin to refill it.

"I do mean it, Fadl. If you met the Dakini, you must have done so in Nawbahar."

"This is the Nawbahar, I take it?" Yassamin interjects as she hands Fadl back his cup. The great and fabulous Buddhist temple Balkh is famous for, already the stuff of fantastical poems and legends, the temple the Barmakid family had served as priests before their conversion.

"Aye, my lady, that Nawbahar. Imagine this--a dozen mosques have I built in the city to prove them my piety, and still the people think I worship idols there!"

"Do you?" Jaffar asks pointedly, smirking as he sips from his wine.

Fadl does not answer that.

Jaffar but laughs. "After all, what's the difference between circumambulating one pile of rocks and circumambulating another?" he says breezily, dangerously, a joke so blasphemous the fanatical Harun would have had his head cut off had he heard him speak it.

"I had forgotten about that legend," Yassamin says, glowing. For it is said that the Barmakids had, even before their conversion to Islam, held sacred a great black cube which they had draped in silks and circumambulated in honour of the Divine; that even before the Prophet's message had reached Balkh, they had already embarked on their journey towards discovering the truth of Islam.

Fadl rolls his eyes. "Don't tell me you believe that old lie! If he has convinced you that we somehow knew of the true religion before our grandfather embraced it, he's a scoundrel and a liar."

Jaffar shrugs. "It's what's called publicity, I believe. The polishing of untruths so that they may seem truths. But no, no. I did not tell you that, did I, my dear? It must have been someone else."

Yassamin mumbles, now, embarrassed, angry at Fadl and at herself. "It's what they told me at court. Is it wrong of me to have believed the best of you, then, husband?" she asks, hurt.

"They tell many legends about us," Jaffar says diplomatically, soothing her with a kiss on her cheek. "Others, as you well know, doubt we ever became true Muslims at all."

"I demanded to be let into the holy of holies," Fadl says. "There is nothing in there resembling the Kaaba, unless you count what they call stupas." He nods to Yassamin. "Piles of rocks. One very large one was in the shape of a cube, I suppose, but so are most buildings."

"I have seen those things here," Yassamin says, swallowing her pride, helping herself to some wine as well. "Is the temple as splendid as the poets say it is? Or have I been lied to about that, also?"

"In that, I will not have to disappoint you, my lady," Fadl says warmly. "It is indeed splendid, covered in golden tiles and gems, albeit it has been plundered many times, so it's not as brilliant as it once was, they tell me. There is still a giant golden Buddha in there, however; so enormous no army has been able to take him down yet. There are to the temple nine great domes, and underneath each dome there sits a smaller Buddha; but the rest of it is austere, making Samarkand look colourful in comparison. Nowadays, the monks know better than to display their wealth openly, and keep their fortunes--"

"--considerable fortunes--" Jaffar interjects,

"--in their coffers, split out around the city between various officials, all belonging to the same family."

"Exactly the same system our forefathers brought over to Baghdad," Jaffar chuckles and dangles a slipper off his toes, already a little merry from the wine.

"And the rest you know," Fadl grins, now a true smile spreading onto his face for the first time since his arrival. For whichever way you look at it, the Barmakids are still the richest family in all of Persia. Dunya could be removed from the throne today, but the entire civil service would still remain in Barmakid hands, as they are the only ones who know how to manage the affairs of the empire.

Now, Yassamin, too, laughs, the wine having warmed her belly. "I want to ask something. But I do not know if it is appropriate."

Jaffar puts his arm around her. "Go on."

She takes another sip for encouragement, then turns to Fadl. "How many Barmakids are there still at Nawbahar?"

Fadl lets out a scoffing laugh, throwing back his head. "You mean to ask how many of us are still pagans? Madam, none. Those of us who were too stupid to convert were soon blown to Nirvana. I am the only one of the sons of Barmak to have come back to Balkh, and as I said, I have to constantly keep giving them proof of my piety."

Yassamin looks from Fadl to Jaffar. There are so many questions she wants to ask--why did Fadl go back? And what about this old priestess they spoke of?

But it is Jaffar who plucks those thoughts from her mind and now nods towards Fadl's chest, at the amulet hanging there.

"Tell us. How did you come by that? Surely it was not by purely... orthodox means?"

Fadl refuses to answer that at first, and takes a long sip from his bowl to buy himself time.

"Tantric magic," Jaffar murmurs. "That priestess we spoke of, my sweet--her title means 'sky-goer,' 'she who walks the heavens.' They have the power to traverse great distances in but moments. My brother refuses to speak, but I know what I would go to such a priestess for: a spell of exactly that kind, if I knew I was going to be in danger. And of course, I would refuse to ever admit to such a thing before other believers, but..."

Fadl empties his bowl and smacks his lips, slouching back on his cushions. "And I feel a fool for even implying such things, even in front of a heathen magician and his Babylonian demoness," he says and suffocates a burp into his sleeve. "You never heard it from me, my lady. I am as pious as the great imams, peace be upon them."

But it is then that little Anwar rushes in, so fast his cap falls off his head and he has to stop to pick it up before he reaches his parents, clambering onto the dais they're sitting on with great haste. "Father! Father!" he cries and climbs into Jaffar's lap. "Are you going to tell us more tales of the great princes of old? Like you said?"

Salsabil has followed in tow, but she makes sure to sit beside Yassamin, as far away from her uncle as possible.

Fadl but chuckles into his wine. "Don't be afraid, little one. Would you like me to tell you a story?"

"If you promise to never speak to me of marriage, ever again!" Salsabil says, jutting up her little chin.

Fadl brings his hand to his heart and bows his head. "I promise."

"You needn't worry, sister," Anwar points out and nods sagely. "He's in love with Lady Zainab instead."

"Enough of that," Fadl says and winces. "It's not polite to speak of women matters like that in any case, my boy. You'll end up endangering the ladies' honour, or might find yourself in a fight. Speak of your women only with the women themselves, they say, and otherwise remain silent. For it is always best to keep such matters private, close to your heart."

Anwar has heard this from his own father often enough, and now casts down his eyes in shame. "I'm sorry, Uncle Fadl. I shan't do it again. I promise!"

"We believe you," Jaffar says and pats Anwar's back, then turns to Fadl once more. "Come. Our story."

"Yes, our story," Yassamin says and reaches out to fill Fadl's cup once more, smiling. "We would hear it."

Fadl sits up straighter and clears his throat, but now he looks none of them in the eye, swirling his wine in his cup instead, as if scrying it to summon visions. "There once was a great prince," he begins. "A prince born in Baghdad to the mightiest family in the entire Persian empire, a prince who possessed all the wealth and the power one could ever dream of. Entire mountains of gold did he hold in his treasure-chambers, cloven by oceans of the brightest gems; an army of elephants did he have at his service, and four hundred thousand men. In his stables neighed only the fastest and the most beautiful of Arabian horses, in his hands shone only the finest swords of Indian steel; and each night, his bed was warmed by a fresh new Chinese maiden, all of them as petite and as beautiful as golden pearls strung upon a thread.

Yet he was a prince unhappy, yea, the unhappiest of princes, for his true kingdom was that of loneliness. He ruled a great city in a distant land, but this city was far away from the land of his birth in Baghdad, far, far away from his friends and his family, from all he had ever known. And yet this land of loneliness was a realm of his own choosing: for he thought himself cursed, his heart so black from birth it was as if everything he did brought his family but calamity and shame. Therefore, when he had been but eighteen years old, he had chosen to exile himself in this distant city, leaving the ruling of it to his viziers, while he spent his days in sport and idle play."

Immediately, Anwar looks up at Jaffar. "It's the dark prince! The one who ran away!"

Fadl's eyelashes fly up; he looks from Jaffar to Yassamin to the children. In Salsabil's precocious little eyes, he can see a suspicion that chills him to the bone: immediately, he feels himself exposed. And here, he had thought to clothe a confession in a fairytale, using Anwar's request for one to explain to Jaffar and Yassamin things he found difficult to speak of in the first place. So much for his idea of letting this fictional prince bear the burden of his flaws and his trials and his tribulations, the glittering veil of a fairytale keeping him at a safe distance from the pain and the chaos and the conflict that was himself!

"So. My brother has been telling you tales, has he?" Fadl asks Anwar and raises his eyebrow. "What sorts of tales were these?" he asks, meaning to disguise his nervousness, but the undue harshness in his voice betrays him: from the way Anwar stiffens, it seems as if he is now being interrogated by a stern tutor.

Anwar but plays with a tassel upon his cushion, unable to look Fadl in the eye. "Only of two princes, brothers. One of them saw God shining through a dog, and the other got mad at him, almost killed him," he says, his lower lip wobbling. "But then he realised his brother was blessed, and in his shame, he ran away."

"That's not why he ran away," Fadl murmurs, again swirling his wine in his cup. "It was but one wrong of many he committed upon his brother and his family. But run away he did, you're right."

And now it is Yassamin who wonders, and Fadl, too, wonders how much she knows. What has Jaffar told her of that calamitous year, the year of their parents' death? Of what Harun had done, of what Zubayda had done, of his and Jaffar's wives and children, all of them slain and lost?

"And none would fault him for running away," Jaffar says, interrupting them gently but firmly. "Terrible things happened, things so awful they cannot be spoken of, and the entire empire was plunged into chaos. Yet know that this prince did not run away because he was wicked, or because he was a coward. It was only because he felt it was the right thing to do, the only moral thing to do."

Fadl does not look at Jaffar for a long while; Yassamin and the children are quiet, listening. What shall he tell them?

The truth, brother, Jaffar whispers to him in his mind, loving, kind; Fadl can feel the ache in Jaffar's chest, an ache that matches his own.

Finally, Fadl looks up, and this time, it is to Jaffar that he speaks. "Aye," he says softly. "The prince gave up his birthright, gave up his post as Grand Vizier because he knew that his brother was the only man who could rebuild Baghdad, to lift it out of its chaos. People trusted him. But the older prince had already gained such a bad reputation that he would only have harmed his brother had he chosen to stay by his side. He was a stain upon the brightness that was their family's name--" and now Fadl's voice chokes and his hand trembles, so much so that a little wine spills out of his cup onto his wrist, staining his cuff.

"Or so he told himself," Jaffar says gently; "and that's what fools told him, people who did not know that there was a great brightness hidden within his heart, a flame put in there by God, just as He has put his light in every human heart. But sin and shame and slander may obscure that light as if soot upon a lantern's glass, so that one may come to believe one does not possess this light at all. And once one's heart is tricked in such a manner, one is plunged into a great darkness, a great unhappiness. And it is only through the touch of another light--that of Love--piercing this darkness that this light can again realise its own existence. This is akin to holding a candle next to that darkened lantern, so that one might clean the soot from its glass by the candle's light. And only then can the light within the lantern be seen again--one light helping brighten another, until both shine so bright that they merge into one, becoming but the one light."

"Light upon light..." Salsabil murmurs the words of the holy verse.

"Indeed," Jaffar says. "That is one of the meanings of the great verse. For if one does not believe one can be loved, if one does not believe one is worthy of mercy, it is nigh impossible for that soul to receive mercy even if it were lain at its door. And for human beings, the easiest way to understand God's love is through loving another human being: this is why mystics write love poems to God and speak of God as the Beloved. God can come to a soul directly, of course, as He did with that younger brother, but it is far rarer. And that's why..." Jaffar pauses, now he the one staring into his cup. "And that's why the younger brother, his heart broken by all that had passed, himself turned into a tyrant, for he had no one left to love, no one left to trust. His entire family had been slain, his wives and his little children," he says, his voice breaking, his eyes filled with tears. "And now, even his brother was gone, and what's worse, they had parted in great anger," he whispers, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

"Jaffar--" Yassamin says, but he stops her, only squeezing her hand with his tear-stained hand; he clears his throat and continues.

"In his heartbreak, he vowed to never marry or have children again, for the pain of his loss had nearly slain him--but in doing so, he only began to slowly slay himself. So far away was he from Love's reach that little by little, his once-bright heart began to turn black: he turned his attention to statecraft, and soon realised he needed to be ruthless and merciless in order to rule efficiently. For years, he ruled the state from behind the backs of puppet kings, executing hundreds, all in service of the empire; and behold: soon enough, he had become a tyrant in the previous tyrant's stead."

Fadl but stares at Jaffar, his eyes alert, flickering, in awe. He knew the people had feared Jaffar, knew him for a ruthless bastard--although never as bad as himself, let alone Harun. But that Jaffar should have thought of himself as cursed, as black-hearted--now he knows Jaffar isn't but whipping him in saying all this, trying to somehow prove himself better, morally higher, purer, more pious.

"So, you see," Jaffar says and now finally looks at Fadl. "The younger brother was no saint, and the older brother was no demon. They both had lights in their hearts, but both lights were veiled by great sorrows. Even if God was right there, Love was right there, closer to them than their jugular veins, had they but allowed themselves to look."

"But didn't the younger brother turn good in the end?" Anwar frowns. "Didn't you say he had a family somewhere?"

"Indeed, he found the love of a woman, an angel of a woman. It was she who reached past the veils of darkness that covered his heart; it was she who again found his light," Jaffar says, smiling warmly at Yassamin, caressing her hand with his thumb. "I will tell you of it later. But it was the other prince whose story you wanted to hear, was it not?" he asks and turns to Fadl.

"His story is not yet at an end," Fadl murmurs. "He spent many years with the Sufis, trying to wash the stains from his heart; I hear he even reconciled with his brother," he says and smiles wryly, then looks at Yassamin with a flash of warmth, of gentle lust. "All thanks to the angel of a woman who unveiled his light; both the younger brother and the older did she so pierce with her love that even the sinful brother began to feel a little warmth in his heart."

"It is because women have faith," Yassamin says, smiling at Fadl. "Always, we want to believe in the innate goodness in the men we love, no matter how foolish they may have been. Just as a mother has to forgive her children and to guide them to the right path, so a wife has to have the same patience with her husband. And it is her own faith that she must always try and instill in her husband and her children, so that they will not lose hope either."

"Indeed," Jaffar murmurs, now putting down his cup and embracing Yassamin, kissing her head as she rests it upon his shoulder. "Where the world would be without the love of women, the agents of God's mercy in human form, I would not know."

Fadl is not so sure if this applies to all women, but he is too moved by the moment to let his cynicism ruin it. Perhaps even the pagan Zainab, in her cruelties, has been the agent of God's mercy, in her way--a harsher, more punishing kind of an angel, the exact sort Fadl deserves?

I'm sure she's exactly that, Jaffar chuckles into his mind. "But I would hear of what happened to the older brother after. Where is he now, do you know? Has he chosen to return to his exile?"

"He has a castle high up in the mountains, in a great city with hundreds of temples, mosques. For many years, he was the most impious of men, having turned his back on God even if God watched over him from all directions, in all the forms men knew Him through. He let those viziers of his handle his affairs while he lavished money on slave girls, horses, sumptuous wines and foods. And when he was not feasting, he would seek battles to prove himself, or perhaps because he carried within his heart a secret desire to slay himself. Unbeknownst to his court, he would disguise himself as a merchant or a dervish and slip past the city gates; in the very next town, he would advertise his services as a mercenary and serve whoever paid him best--or who could offer him the most dangerous of missions. He fought the mad axe-men in the jungles of Tabaristan, fought the berserker Northmen upon the shores of the Caspian, and under his own name and his own banner, he drove the Turks out of his kingdom three times. Yet nothing was enough for him: it was as if his sword were a blood-drinking, undead ghoul, always demanding more and more, always calling him to yet another fight."

"Was this before he spent those years with the Sufis?" Jaffar asks. "And before this angel-woman?"

"Most of it, from what I have heard. This past year, they have said the strangest of things about him: it was rumoured that he had fallen in love with a pagan woman, and that he had spent time in one of his city's great Buddhist monasteries, studying their scriptures. But such rumours of impiety had always circulated about him, so I do not know if this is true. However, what I do know is that this winter, the Turks made advances once more, and that this year, he was even reluctant to go into battle. But his people pleaded with him, knowing only he could protect them. And for the first time in his life, he found himself riding into battle not to prove himself or to slay himself--but out of a sense of duty and of honour."

Yassamin, still leaning against Jaffar, murmurs quietly, now almost asleep from the wine. "What I wouldn't give to know the face of the woman he held within his heart as he rode out of his fortress that morning. As his horse stepped out of the gates, their breath frosting... whose visage would he have beheld in that frost?"

It is then that Fadl's voice breaks, and he sets down his wine bowl, now empty. "I do not know. But if I were he, I am sure I would have held more than one face in my heart of hearts. Not only that of my mistress, but of my brother and of his angel of wife," he says and kisses both Jaffar and Yassamin on the cheek. "And their sweet little rascals, of course," he says and ruffles Anwar's hair, managing to give even Salsabil a little tickle before she squeals and crawls out of his reach. "There, does that tale satisfy you enough?"

"But it hasn't got an ending!" Anwar complains. "Just like the last time."

"Don't you remember what Father said?" Salsabil says and adjusts her veil. "The brothers are still alive. Just like we are. So their stories haven't got endings yet."

"But now we know they are both good!" Anwar says, yet still seeks reassurance, looking from Jaffar to Fadl. "Is that not right, Uncle Fadl? That they both were touched by God's light in the end?"

"So it would seem," Fadl murmurs, feeling a little twinge in his wound as he sits back onto his cushion. "But I think what your father was trying to tell you is that even a seemingly saintly person can lose that light, if all he cares for and all he loves is taken from him. So one should always be careful, and never lose sight of that light."

Now it is Yassamin who bursts out into a laughter glad, like bells. "Never did I expect to hear such words from your lips, brother-in-law!" she says, but there is no true mockery to her words, only a deep happiness, a glow in her eyes that is not from the wine. "But, children, it is long past your bedtime," she says and gets up, taking both children by the hand even if they grumble. "You'll get to see Uncle Fadl again tomorrow. Now, give him a goodnight kiss."

Oh, but Fadl hates himself for the way his heart leaps and melts as he sees Yassamin's smile; the way it melts still as Anwar gives him an honest, innocent and enthusiastic hug, knowing nothing of his sins. And even Salsabil, after pecking him on the cheek, hugs him tight: in fact, she hugs him a little longer than necessary despite her fear of him, which proves to him she has recognised him for the prince in the tale all along.

"Don't forget your light either, Uncle Fadl," she whispers as she pulls back, looking so much like her mother as she smiles at him, so much like her father with that precocious knowledge and wisdom shining forth from her bright blue eyes.

"I shan't, my little lantern," Fadl says and kisses her hand. "God's peace and blessings be with you, little ones."

As Yassamin leaves to tuck the children into bed, Jaffar offers to refill Fadl's cup, but he declines. "No more wine tonight. My head is still sore."

"All right," Jaffar says. "Methinks we have all had enough," and he means not only the wine; the tale, too, weighs heavily upon their bodies and their minds. "I felt your dream last night," he says as he moves to sit closer to Fadl, putting his arm around his brother. "I can only hope the situation is not that awful?"

Fadl shakes his head. "I have not seen her since Mehregan. I am sure it was the valerian. It has a nasty habit of digging out your worst fears and turning them into the most real-seeming, most awful of nightmares."

"Aye," Jaffar says and squeezes his shoulder. "You should have chosen the opium instead."

But Fadl, only having taken it medicinally now and then, is not as familiar with the experience Jaffar speaks of. "Is it true what they say about opium, then? That you forget all your woes for a while, and see but the best in everyone and everything?"

"All that and more. Remember those ecstasies we had as boys? It will give you that, but without days of fasting and hours of prostrations. A philosopher once said it is the substance that connects man with his God-self, brings out the best in him, inclines him to do only good, strengthening rather than dulling his moral faculties: the exact opposite of alcohol. But as I am sure you are aware, taking it regularly comes with a price: that's why Yassamin and I only indulge once a month, during the time of her bleeding."

Fadl blinks, somewhat taken aback. "You stay with her even during her bleeding?!"

"Oh, come, brother! Surely you have known sins worse than that?" And he sends to Fadl his memories from those times he has comforted Yassamin in her monthly agonies: of lying spooned together in bed with her, holding her underneath thick blankets, soothing her pain with the warmth of his embrace until the opium begins to take effect and they both drift into sweet, warm waking-dreams.

I cannot think of many things more humbling than relieving the pains of someone you love, he thinks at Fadl. That is when I have truly felt God's spirit moving through my hands, God truly using me as His instrument upon this earth. And it is the least I could do for her, for all her patience with my flaws, my stubbornnesses, my madnesses.

And even if Fadl does not say it, Jaffar can now feel the sting of jealousy in his heart, the yearning this vision has now lit inside of him. And in that moment, Jaffar knows the perfect means through which to comfort him tonight.

"Take opium with us, brother."

Fadl sighs and rests his head upon Jaffar's shoulder, his eyes half-closed as Yassamin returns to the room. There is now a sensuality, a languidity to her walk, a new sway to her hips: she seems to be offering her body as she walks, her breasts, her buttocks undulating sweetly underneath her silken dress. "I was hoping for a different kind of recreation," Fadl murmurs with a little smile, devouring her with his eyes.

"What is this recreation you speak of?" Yassamin says as she takes her seat beside Fadl, laying her head in Fadl's lap in turn.

"I but asked Fadl to take opium with us."

She frowns a little, toying with the wool of Fadl's shirt. "I am not sure. Have you taken it before?" she asks Fadl.

"Only for my wounds. And I remember it had a... negative impact on my virility, shall we say. But then, I am not sure if it was the opium itself--I would not have been in any shape to copulate then, in any case."

"Opium has a dual effect on the sexual faculties, in fact," Jaffar says, even if Yassamin rolls her eyes at the engineer's tone in his voice taking over. "Some forms, particularly the Chinese, smoked forms, act as aphrodisiacs, sometimes allowing a man to have a series of powerful ejaculations one after another, as many as half a dozen within an hour. Pain-relieving preparations, on the other hand, dull the sensitivity of the genitals, making it harder to reach release, which is why I suspect Yassamin is frowning--we have tried making love under their spell, and rubbed ourselves raw before we've finally reached a weak, pitiful orgasm. Yet all forms of opium have one thing in common: they enhance the emotion of love and intensify it greatly, making one more open to giving and receiving love. I could concoct for us a preparation closer to the Chinese form, so that it would not dull the pleasure but enhance it? The form we sampled on our seventh anniversary but never tried since, my love, remember?"

"I remember," Yassamin says--she had herself bought Jaffar the pipe. After the orgy they'd had with Sarosh, they'd barely felt the aphrodisiac effects of the drug, but she does remember the ache she had felt in her cunny then, an ache akin to a man's erection. "It does sound worth trying. Only I insist on us making love sober first," she says and now looks up at Fadl. "I would love you both at least once, without any drugs in the way."

"You honour me, my lady," Fadl says and kisses her mouth, his heart warm with delight.

"That sounds but fair to me," Jaffar says and picks up Fadl's chin himself. "We shall do it in the shabestan," he murmurs and nuzzles his brother's nose. "Tonight."

Chapter Text

***

A few hours later

***

"Why do you keep building these things?" Fadl asks as he helps Jaffar move his latest pleasure-doll aside so Yassamin can spread out extra mattresses and cushions for them on the shabestan's floor. "I would've thought you had enough savings to live your life out comfortably here."

"We do," Jaffar groans as they haul the doll into an alcove and he pulls a blanket over it--he doesn't want his creations staring at them while they make love. "But a little extra doesn't hurt, and these creatures keep us well connected. That, and we have to pay our staff. You'd be surprised how much it costs to buy a servant's silence."

Fadl scoffs. "You could've just not manumitted them."

Yassamin throws a pillow at Fadl's head, flopping onto the cushions herself. "They've deserved their freedom a hundred times, and deserve more pay than we're giving them now, I feel," she says. "For their patience in the face of all the queer goings-on they have witnessed."

Jaffar laughs and takes his seat beside her, rocking his hips into the mattress with a sensual languor. "That's right. And to think that they've only seen a fraction of our games."

Fadl remains standing, lost in thought. "Do they know about... us?"

"I should hope not," Yassamin says and pours herself a glass of cream. "But why, Fadl, you look as pale as a ghost. Are you sure you wouldn't rather rest?" she asks, and there is no teasing to her voice, only a gentle concern.

"I am rather tired," he murmurs as he sits between Jaffar and Yassamin. "And restless. It feels as if I am still not out of that battle, if you know what I mean."

Jaffar nods. "It stays with you. For days. Weeks. Months. Years, even. Was it as bad as Anatolia?" he asks, then turns to Yassamin. "Harun took us on a campaign against the Byzantines when we were very young. To call it a disaster would be to glorify it."

Fadl stares at his feet. "Worse. But as you can see, I survived with but a scratch. If anything, I feel worse for... well. I feel a deserter, feel as if I have abandoned my men--and I still don't know who won. That's probably part of the reason why the amulet sent me here, and not Balkh. For all I know, my castle might be in flames this very moment," he says, all of him trembling as he lets out a long sigh.

Jaffar regards him silently for a long while, measuring him with his eyes. "I don't think you could ever be a deserter. You're far too stubborn for that. Do you know what I think?" he pauses for a while, a little smile pulling up the corners of his mouth, his eyes filled with a happiness tinged with melancholy. "I think you must have been in grave danger, knowing you were about to die, and realised that for the first time in your life, you did not want to die after all."

"One of their generals had thrown me off my horse, and I was lying there... his horse's hooves were about to crush my skull--" his voice breaks, now, his hands shaking as he takes a glass of cream from Yassamin, emptying it in one gulp. "I would rather not talk about it. Not now," he mumbles.

"I'm sorry," Yassamin says and strokes his back. "We should not have brought it up."

And now, it is Jaffar who gently pulls Fadl down onto the mattress, kissing him softly upon the lips. "I am glad you chose to live, brother," he says, his voice husky, his eyes filling with tears. "So glad that you are lying here, right now, warm and alive and in my arms."

Instead of the arms of the cold earth, Jaffar thinks at him, his tears falling onto Fadl's cheek. "Brother mine, brother mine," he sighs, his laughter high and soft in his throat. "God is great! I am so glad."

"You are a rank old sentimentalist," Fadl groans and wipes Jaffar's cheek, but now sinks his hand into Jaffar's hair and kisses him back wildly, passionately. He is alive, alive; with a great moan, he uses his other hand to pull Yassamin to himself, too, kissing her in turn, hugging both of them close to his body, feasting upon their love so freely offered.

"To life, then!" Yassamin declares, smiling against Fadl's mouth, her hand warm underneath his shirt, clasped against his belly. "Come, then, my princes. I would you loved me."

Fadl nuzzles her hair, inhaling her perfumes, sighing in delight. "On one condition."

"And that is?" Jaffar asks, sliding his hand to Fadl's groin, cupping his hardening prick through the silks of his shalwars.

"That you let me feel what she feels," Fadl says, kissing Yassamin softly upon the lips. "As you did on Mehregan."

"Greedy sod," Jaffar says and slaps him on the arse. "But I can't blame you. It is true what they say about a woman's pleasure being greater than that of a man's. I hardly take her these days without drinking from her pleasure as well."

Fadl ignores his brother, grinning at Yassamin instead, sinking his fingers into her hair. "That, and believe it or not, I would make sure I pleasure you rather than hurt you."

"He just wants to know how that demon-prick of his feels for a woman!" Jaffar whispers loudly at Yassamin over Fadl's shoulder. "The man's narcissism knows no bounds."

Yassamin but laughs and wraps her legs around Fadl's. "In that, you are two of a kind. Careful or I will call Zainab over to whip both of you!"

But it is then that Jaffar growls and climbs over Fadl to tackle Yassamin, biting her breasts, her arms playfully until she screams. "Methinks it is you who should be disciplined, woman!" he chuckles, himself hardening as Fadl joins him in nipping at Yassamin's buttocks, thighs, waist as they pull her shalwars off her legs.

"Mercy!" she cries, hiccoughing with her laughter. "I surrender."

"But a moment, my love," Jaffar says and hops off the bed. "I have something I've been meaning to give you for a while. Undress her while you're at it, will you, brother?"

"To hear is to obey," Fadl says and sends Yassamin into another set of squeals and giggles as he pulls off her tunic and her vest, throwing off his own clothes in a flurry of bright colours until he can finally pull her against his body naked, warm skin against warm skin. "I've missed this," he sighs as he rocks her in his arms, "oh, how I've missed this."

"Close your eyes, my prince," Yassamin purrs and turns him onto his back, kissing him softly, her breasts pressed against his chest. "I promise you you will be pleasantly surprised," she whispers and lifts his hands on either side of his head, dragging her fingertips down the soft skin of his forearms, making him shiver in delight.

"All right," Fadl murmurs and closes his eyes, leaning back in utter contentment. "I am at your mercies."

Again, Yassamin's laughter rings like bells, and Fadl feels his legs spread, his prick brushed against; but it is then that he also feels a strange tingle around his ankles and his wrists. And it is as he had suspected: with her magic, she has bound him to the bed.

"Why, you--!" he snarls and tugs upon his bonds in vain; he cannot even open his eyes, now, Yassamin holding them closed, too, with her spell. "I should have known," he grumbles.

"We will let you open them in a moment," Jaffar murmurs as he returns, his weight making the bed dip a little. "Excellent work, beloved, excellent," he purrs and from the sounds of it, he is now kissing Yassamin. "Would you arrange yourself on top of him?" he asks. "On all fours, so that you are facing his feet. So that he will have the best of views."

Fadl's prick jerks at that; perhaps he will enjoy this after all. He swallows as Yassamin does as she is told: all the hairs on his body stand on end as her hair brushes against his legs, as her thighs settle on either side of his armpits, nestling softly against him. Already he can smell her cunny, and not seeing it but enhances the sensation: his nostrils flutter wide and his mouth opens a fraction, the rich and heavy scent of her sweetness so thick he fancies he can drink it from the very air.

And it is now that his point of view flips, for Yassamin has entered his mind, sharing with him her own sensations: her thrill, her arousal at the play; the awareness of Fadl's face but inches from her cunny, his breath tantalising upon its wetness. And oh, how her cunny now clenches as Jaffar runs something down her spine--through Yassamin's eyes, Fadl can see his brother's wicked smirk, his cat-eyes slitted from lust.

Then, a jerk, a cry from Yassamin, a little discomfort as something is pressed into her arse: one of Jaffar's toys, Fadl realises, perhaps of this new material of theirs, the way it feels smoother than leather, yet harder than real flesh. It is a plug no larger than a man's thumb, only enough to stretch her a little, "To prepare you for bigger things to come," Jaffar now purrs at her, "far bigger," and Fadl's prick waves proudly at being so acknowledged.

But the strangest of sensations, now distracting him from Yassamin's penetration, is the tickling sensation he now feels drawn all around his head and arms, as if a soft curtain had descended around his head.

"Open your eyes," Jaffar murmurs to Fadl.

"Oh, my God."

For now, he can see what Jaffar is penetrating Yassamin with, dressing her with: the plug has now sunk fully inside Yassamin's arse, but what is attached to its base takes his breath away. For it is a giant peacock's tail, four feet long at least, now fanning out over him a green and blue and black canopy, shimmering iridescent in the lamplight. He laughs in delight as the feathers tickle his arms, shivers with the sickening joy of that little nausea as the plug settles inside of Yassamin's body; now, he can not only see but feel her cunny clenching and clenching as her arse squeezes around the plug. She cries hoarsely against his thighs, his knees; the tail so encloses Fadl's head that it forms a veritable nest of sex, a cloak of honour for the cunny itself, all heat and sweetness intoxicating to his eyes and his nose and his tongue.

Again, she cries, shivers and a little bead of wetness falls from her cunny onto Fadl's moustache: now, it is Fadl's turn to cry out, howl through his nose as he laps up the nectar, savouring it, smacking it in his mouth like the rare delicacy it is, offered to his tongue.

And Jaffar must be sharing in this, too, listening to Fadl's sensations: Jaffar moans in delight himself as he now kisses Yassamin, as he rubs at the root of the plug with his fingertips, purring his joy into Yassamin's mouth. "Most wonderful, most beautiful, most delicious a cunny, is it not? Hmm?" And at that, Fadl can feel Yassamin's thrill, too, of being commanded like this, displayed like this, manipulated like this, submitting to her master's pleasure.

"It is indeed," Fadl sighs and strains in his bonds; he jerks as Yassamin's breasts brush against his cock. "But I would taste it, my love," he hisses, "Let me taste it, let me taste it."

"He never says 'please,' does he?" Yassamin chuckles onto Jaffar's mouth, beginning to rub her cunny, her fingers immediately wet and gleaming from her arousal.

"Mm," Jaffar says. "I think we should have you dance for us, first. That's what the tail's meant for, and it's quite the perfect accessory, even if I say so myself," he says and lies down next to Fadl, stretching luxuriously, taunting Fadl with his freedom of movement as he lies down and clasps his cock. "Come. Show to us your beauty, my love."

And oh, the Babylonian flash in her eyes as she smirks at Fadl over her shoulder! With a roll of her hips, she tests the tail and indeed, it is stiff enough for her to now move it in perfect arcs across Fadl's chest, his face, his arms.

"Oh, my!" she laughs, purrs, rolling her hips with more vigour, now, whipping Fadl with her tail. "How do you like that, brother-in-law?"

"God!" Fadl sputters, spitting feathers out of his mouth, but he loves it, oh, he adores it; even now, the feathers waft the sweet fragrance of her cunny into his nostrils, making his cock pulse once more, pulse with her cunny as she takes her pleasure from his distress. "Please, my lady. Do not stop."

"Finally a 'please,'" she laughs and with the grace of a gazelle, lifts herself to her feet.

And she rises above them a goddess, sure in her beauty, stretching her arms as she turns to them, still swaying her hips, the feathers brushing across the men's legs; she groans lazily and dances to music only she can hear--that of his and Jaffar's heartbeats, Fadl fancies.

Yes, the heartbeats now pulsing through our pricks! Jaffar laughs into his mind.

"I heard that," Yassamin laughs and twirls, so that in one arc, she can brush her tail across both cocks, rejoicing in the men's cries of delight; and in her hips' lifting, they can feel she is dancing to the tightening of her cunny, too, the rush of heated blood as it swirls into her womb a dervish. She aches with each one of her steps as the impacts from her feet rise up to ripple into her sex, aches with each one of her movements as her innards press against her womb from above, her cunny swollen against the pressure of her thighs as they shift around it. She is desperate to be penetrated, all of her body yearning to be filled, the little plug not nearly enough for the hunger that now roars in her hips open wide: already she dreams of both cocks ramming into her, pounding this heat out of her womb and into an orgasm, to ripple out through her limbs as liquid fire.

Oh, but her desire is terrible, and it is a desire mixed with fear, too, as she now glances down at the monstrosity of Fadl's cock. How can I ever take it inside of myself again? she thinks. So much had it hurt the last time, but oh, how sweet it had felt, too, so wonderful, as if it would split her in two: nevermind a little pain! For she wants to be impaled by it, gutted by it a sacrifice, her lust now maddening her, blazing forth from her eyes. She even whips his prick with her tail a little, as if to subdue it like an unruly animal, to discipline this beast in advance so that it will remember not to hurt her as she rides it, just as Fadl had promised.

And at that, Fadl sends to her his intent, but he has to say it out loud, too: the devil in him insists. "My lady, you can be sure that I shall fuck you like a gallant," he purrs, revelling in his own uncouthness, the way he can feel her cunny clenching at the consonants snapping out of his mouth; he shifts so that he can move his prick across his belly, pleasure it a little in that manner, adoring her as she brings her hand to her cunny, unable to keep from stroking herself at the sight. "Let me see what I shall soon fuck, my love, let me see, let me see," he says; "please, my sweet Yassamin, please; come."

"Your manners have improved massively in the past few years, I have to say," she laughs.

"Come, my love," Jaffar says and now cards his fingers through Fadl's hair, kissing him with a slow hunger, open-mouthed, flicking his tongue against Fadl's. "Give him a look, a touch; perhaps even that taste he so desires. For good behaviour."

And she begins slowly, not wanting to rush this: she starts at the foot of the bed, walking between Fadl's legs with a soft sway, rocking her buttocks, swishing her tail across his legs. There is a wicked glimmer in her eyes as she reaches his waist, her feet planted on each side of it: oh, how gorgeously the blackness of the tail now frames the little peach-slit of her cunny as it swells between her legs, its petals already peeking out from between its plump lips. And the glimmering strands of her arousal now dangling between her thighs--instinctively, Fadl strains up once more, salivating, desperate to taste her sugar. "My lady--"

But it is then that she places her foot on Fadl's chest, and his heart stops. For a moment, their eyes meet, and there are no words, no thoughts: for long moments, she measures him with her eyes, and he measures his own bravery, his own desire. Would he let her? Could he let her? She is not as heavy as Zainab, not nearly as cruel, and surely she would step off him if she sensed she was giving him true pain?

Yet is not pain what he wants? A little punishment, a complete submission to Woman, to atone for his sins, to make up for his years of--oh, she knows, he knows, Jaffar knows, they all know what it is that he wants.

"Please," he whispers, croaks.

Carefully, oh, so very carefully she lifts her foot, then the other: the bed is so soft she has to use magic to balance herself, so as not to fall off Fadl as she climbs onto his chest. Yet it takes but a whispered rune, a whisper of feathers, a whisper of awe from him, and it is done: Yassamin of Basra stands upon his chest, her feet firmly planted over his heart.

Visions of heathen icons fill his mind: of raging goddesses dancing upon their husbands, of gods trampling demons, of demonesses sitting upon corpses, feasting upon their entrails: all of these the Dakini had shown him, had told him they represented a triumph of the will over man's bad qualities, sins, weaknesses. And in his realisation, he would wail if he could, if he could move his chest, but Yassamin's feet, her blessed feet are crushing the air out of his lungs: he only sobs quietly, in his mind, tears escaping from his eyes and sliding down into his hair.

Yassamin, he sobs into her mind, Yassamin.

The angel of a woman, Jaffar whispers to him, to her in his worship: he leans in to kiss her feet in adoration, he, too, looking up at her in astonishment, in awe. You are beautiful, shining, he thinks at her, at Fadl; both of you as if made of light.

Light upon light, she whispers unto Jaffar, unto Fadl; with a shiver, she steps off Fadl and now she is upon him, her cunny sliding onto his cock, and she cries out, shivering atop him.

The angel trembling upon him, fallen from the heavens, impaling herself upon his love: again, Fadl sobs, the sweet tightness of her cunny unbearable around his prick, so hot.

"I am going to come," he moans, in terror, in shame. "I am going to--"

It is then that Jaffar draws his fingertips across Yassamin's lower belly. "There. I have sealed her womb. You do not have to fear him getting you with child now, my love."

At the absurdity of this, at the madness of this all, Fadl throws back his head and laughs; this has drawn him back from the brink of orgasm, returned him from his heavens back onto earth, if only for a while. "I don't believe this! You must teach that trick to my concubines!"

And now it is Yassamin who laughs and laughs, leaning over him and kissing him, her hair curtaining his face. "Would you like me to stay your release? Like the last time?"

Fadl but shakes his head. "I think the danger has passed," he says and nuzzles her nose with his, yelping as she squeezes him with her cunny. "But come, do not let me interrupt your dance."

"All right," she grins and kisses him deep, licking his palate until his voice is strained and high; she licks his howls from his mouth as she milks him with her cunny, her tail swishing over his legs as she begins a vigorous ride. She hurts a little, he can tell, but that her desire should be so great that she can ignore this, breathing deep to open her body further, open it, open it, taking him inside of her so--oh, it makes him toss in his bonds, offering his body to her in abandon, glad.

Presently, Jaffar joins forces with Yassamin, seemingly to drive Fadl even further out of his mind. For now, Jaffar lifts her up into a sitting position and offers to Fadl her breasts: gifting him with the sensation of how they feel in his hands, Yassamin in turn offering to Fadl the pleasure of having them so squeezed, cupped. The way Jaffar knows to clasp them just right, from underneath and not from above the nipple; Jaffar's knowing, skilled squeeze that is mercilessly hard, making her fall back against him with a hoarse cry. And this, she gives to both men, the effect of each squeeze as it sends a shiver from her breasts straight to her womb, and how that in turn makes her cunny clench, convulse, squeeze violently around Fadl's prick, rippling with delight.

Again, Fadl has to laugh and shake his head. "My God! I did not know that trick. Or how good that could feel for a woman."

"Well, now you do," Jaffar chuckles and tucks his chin over Yassamin's shoulder, straddling Fadl's legs himself. "Shall I teach him some more, my dear?"

"Be my guest," she cackles, looking at Fadl with her demoness-eyes, ruffling Jaffar's hair with her right hand as she balances herself against Fadl's belly with the other.

"Hmm?" Jaffar murmurs, kissing her cheek, walking his fingers down her belly to her cunny, lifting its mound to show to Fadl her clitoris; now he takes both hands down there not to pleasure her but to display her to Fadl, to gift him with the pleasure of this sight. "It is a marvellous cunny," he sighs. "Did you ever see a cunny so beautiful, so tight?"

Fadl cannot respond; he is too lost in adoring the way she now shivers in Jaffar's arms, the mixture of slight embarrassment and sinful delight now swirling within her, flashing sharply within her flesh. And to his great sadness, he can feel the parts she is embarrassed of in herself, too: the great Caesarean scar across her lower stomach, the way her belly droops a little more than it used to; her knowledge that her cunny is not nearly as fat as Zainab's.

"My lady, it is the most beautiful, most wonderful of cunnies," Fadl says, determined, firm--he wishes his hands were free so that he could bring them to her waist to reassure her, but he tries to caress her cunny and her belly with his mind instead. Thankfully, Jaffar picks up these thoughts from his mind and follows them with his hands, delivering to her those caresses of comfort as Fadl continues to speak. "It's just as small as Zainab's on the inside; it's astonishing, considering how much taller you are," he says.

"There! Now you know I was not lying," Jaffar chuckles in her ear.

She lowers her head and laughs, a little embarrassed. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be embarrassed for being delicious," Jaffar says, slapping her cunny in mock-admonishment.

"And do not think I could ever hate my brother having saved your life with that cut," Fadl now says, serious, solemn; he moves his hips as much as he can to pleasure her. "It is a battle-scar; that of a great warrioress."

"That's what he always says, too," Yassamin says, astonished; she leans down and kisses Fadl upon the mouth. "But enough of play: I would have you take me properly. Would you like me to set you free?"

"Please," Fadl says.

It is then that Yassamin turns to Jaffar. "Would you take it out? It's beginning to hurt a little," she says.

"But of course," Jaffar says and removes the plug, but not without licking up her taste from it. Even now, the sight of it disgusts Fadl, but makes his prick twitch nevertheless: no matter how many times Jaffar, Yassamin and Zainab have forced the Byzantine perversion upon him, it still awakens in him the strangest mix of revulsion and arousal.

But now, finally, his hands and his legs are free from their bonds. As Yassamin shifts upon him, he can feel her thoughts once more: she means to apologise again for wanting him to take her from behind instead, not being able to accommodate his prick so well from the front.

"None of that," Fadl says and grabs her tight, pulling her into a deep kiss. "Turn around, then," he murmurs to her softly, but not before he has kissed her once more, reassuring her with his embrace. "I heard you dreaming of this," he says as he takes his place behind her, guiding the head of his prick to her cunny as she arranges herself to ride her hands, ready to be taken in the way she loves best. "Horse-cock, I think you called it?" he chuckles.

"Oh, God," Yassamin moans, burying her face into the pillows from her shame.

Fadl kisses her shoulder. "I am but honoured, my lady. And now, I insist you use me as your instrument, pleasure yourself with this... horse-cock the way you wanted to," he laughs. "Come. How would you have me?"

"Let me show you," Jaffar says and grins, taking his seat in front of Yassamin, gathering her head into his lap; this way, he can kiss Fadl, too, can stroke his own cock as he watches. "Slow strokes, deep into the back of her womb; listen to her body just as you did before."

And it is then that Yassamin lets out a high shriek, high: Fadl has, indeed, hit that very spot behind her womb, his own eyes flashing white with the sudden, sharp pleasure.

"That shriek is a sign you're doing it right," Jaffar says, matter-of-fact--as if Fadl hadn't realised it from the shudder that had passed through Yassamin's entire body, the way she is now rutting herself back against his prick in desperation!

"Come, then!" Fadl cries and slaps her buttocks, now beginning to meet her movements, measuring the exact depth and speed of thrust that she seems to enjoy, smacking her again as he goes. "Take yourself."

"Please, please, please," she now groans, rolling her head in Jaffar's lap, spitting hair out of her mouth; she is so wet she is dripping down Fadl's balls, every impact of his prick's head against her womb sending a shock of pleasure up his spine.

"Fuck him," Jaffar growls in her ear, now, twisting her head back by the hair; she screams against his cock as he, too, begins to slap her arse, her back, her thighs. "That's an order!"

Fadl thinks to say something, to grab her in turn, but now, she is spiralling away into orgasm, toppling him off the brink with herself: it is as if the entire bed is pulled from underneath him as her release surges into his body, taking him by surprise. And yet, it is not the mere physical pleasure that so overwhelms him, but her gratitude, her enjoyment, her pleasure in him: she loves him for his goodness, his kindness, his gallantry. This is an entire new feeling for him, as no one has ever loved him for such things, no one: that flood of thank you, thank you, thank you that now pours from her soul into his a fountain is making him choke upon his sobs and shuddering, he is undone.

"I never--" he sobs against Yassamin's back, collapsing into her as he comes; she moans as he clutches her, now taking her violently, roughly, in complete abandon now that he knows she loves it, loves him. And Jaffar, his fool, his idiot of a little brother is now taking his mouth and clasping his arse, smacking it, laughing into his mouth, pouring his own tenderness and his sweetness into him, them surrounding him with their love. Oh, but Fadl is burning in their love, heating in their love, solidifying within its embrace: all that the battle had shattered in him now melts together again and he is made into a man whole, alive.

His pleasure peaks as he surges out into Yassamin, and around him, the one entity that is Jaffar-Yassamin ripples in myriad lights: they paint him with the colours of their love, fire him and glaze him with their affection; it is as if he had been blind to all colours and can now see again, the world dancing before his eyes saturated and bright. He is not alone, not alone, their touches calligraphing him with the holy verses of love, painting him and illuminating him as if he were a holy lantern to be hung in the night; in their heaven he burns the brightest star, alight.

In swirling hues, she keeps rippling around him, rippling, her very womb fluttering against him; Jaffar drinks the last of his cries from his lips, drinks into his mouth his soft sighs. And he does not know how--by magic?--but Yassamin has now turned around in his arms, never letting his prick slip out of her; she wraps her arms and her legs around him, letting him fall and nestle into the softness of her belly and her breasts.

"Did that satisfy you, my lady?" Fadl asks, his head resting against her shoulder, both of them in Jaffar's lap.

"Most perfectly," she sighs, squeezing playfully around him. "And you?"

Fadl shakes his hair back from his eyes. "Mm. It did, but I would not say no to a second round," he says and rolls his hips until she yelps. "Your fool of a husband blasted me with too much of his healing energy yesterday, you see. I felt as if I could run a marathon, but I think I have found a much more pleasurable sport to expend the excess energy through."

Yassamin rolls her eyes. "Engineer talk! You've caught it from him!" she laments and looks up at Jaffar, who is now cackling in satisfaction. "But I think..." Yassamin says and looks back at Fadl. "I think we should make you wait a little longer for that. Besides, I fear my beloved husband's long-suffering prick will burst if he doesn't soon get his fill."

And immediately, all three minds fill with the thought of them penetrating her at once: "A little later, perhaps," she replies to that, kissing Fadl upon his great nose. "You rest."

"Oh, all right," Fadl mock-grumbles, sounding so much like Jaffar himself that Yassamin has to wonder if they both learned that grumble from their father; so similar they sound.

To make up for her having so deprived Fadl, she never withdraws her consciousness from his; he can feel her vividly inside of his mind still as he lies down beside them to watch. So acutely does Fadl feel her, in fact, that he gasps at the suddenness with which Jaffar now enters her; that, and from Jaffar himself, the illicit pleasure he derives from sliding into his wife's cunny now full of another man's sperm, his brother's sperm.

"Yes, you always were a perverse little bastard, brother," Fadl murmurs in satisfaction, kissing Jaffar's shoulder as he makes himself comfortable, watching them at play.

But Jaffar is already lost in his taking of Yassamin, the beast in him alive and awake once more, curving atop her, beating his hips into her. "Fucking delicious," Jaffar snaps against Yassamin's mouth; already, he is taking her violently, roughly, now that she is already warm and soft from Fadl. "Do you like this, my love?" he asks her, gathering her legs around his waist, taunting her, wanting to hear her desire from her own lips.

"Yes!" Yassamin cries, now herself possessed by an altogether new wildness, a violence just as animal as Jaffar's, one that takes Fadl by surprise. Keening, she pulls Jaffar against herself with her legs, sinking her hands into his hair, pulling at it cruelly just as he had pulled hers. "Harder," she moans, devouring his mouth with biting kisses, throwing up her hips up to take and take his cock; now, Fadl can feel the reason why. For Fadl's sperm, combined with her own wetness, has made her a little too slippery for true pleasure, and now she seeks to rub out that slickness with a hard, rough rut.

Jaffar does not answer her in words: rather, he pulls back his hips and fixes her onto the bed with his gaze, and she shivers, shivers; only the head of his cock nestles inside of her cunny as he lingers there, a bow being drawn back, back, tensed--

As Jaffar drops his hips and strikes her with the full force of his body, her howl is that of a woman dying. With a low roar, he slams her into the mattress, mauling her brutally, so violently she is pushed back on the bed, her back burning; this alarms even Fadl, this being the very picture of what men do to women in war. Yet this is the exact opposite of such brutalities, Jaffar's violence wrought upon Yassamin's body so that his pleasure may enter her once more: he is beating his love into her, cleaving her with it, impaling her with it, making her into that sacrifice she had sought to become. And underneath him she tosses, her eyes rolling back in her head from the forces of his blows: even if he weren't holding her arms down, she wouldn't be able to stroke herself, completely helpless underneath his thrusts.

Yet she loves this, that secret harlotry she has always carried within herself rejoicing as her beloved husband brings it out of her, celebrates it once more: the moaning, panting whore underneath him keening "More, you beast, you pig, more!"

"Is it more that you want, more?" Jaffar lisps upon her lips in that disgusting eunuch-croon of his that makes Fadl's stomach turn, yet makes his prick leap in his fist. "More, hmm?" Jaffar coos, using her cunny to satisfy himself, his strokes just as short as when he is masturbating, just like when they were boys, Fadl thinks; "more, my sweet little trollop, more?"

And they all know what he means, know what he implies as he pulls her up to sit upon himself, smacking her arse, spreading it to Fadl in offering. "Then that's what you'll get, my love," he mocks her, with a most disgusting, terrifying, pitying croon slithering into her ears as he rolls his hips into her like a snake. "Then we'll get you fucked just right, my sweet, just right," he says and gestures to Fadl.

But Fadl is already upon them, kneeling behind them, his thighs trembling; his eyes fixed upon that little pink asterisk of flesh Jaffar now spreads out for him, gleaming from cunny-sap, sperm.

"Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God," Yassamin cries against Jaffar's shoulder, little hiccoughing screams escaping her throat as Jaffar claws at her back with his nails, as Fadl pauses to roll a thick handful of cream onto his cock, and he is there. He begins to push inside of Yassamin's arse, slipping at first as he balances there; yet with great determination, with Yassamin guiding him with her mind, he manages to slip the head of his cock past the tightest gates of her flesh in no time at all.

Yassamin grows stiff and cold between them, a woman made of ice and stone, this coldness now spreading into both men's bodies; in perfect unison, they both croon and stroke her, caress her, four hands rubbing, clawing, squeezing warmth back into her body, warmth. With soft words, with slow thrusts, by pouring their own pleasures into her do they summon up her own pleasure, raise it from her womb to blaze through her once more: with a wounded cry, she shivers between them, feeling nothing but their cocks. Cocks, cocks, two cocks thick and cruel penetrating her entire: delirious, she feels as if they are about to pierce her very lungs and push out of her choking throat; the way they push up her womb, push up all her internal organs with it, too, with such sickening pressure that all of her body mists with cold sweat. She is nauseous, overfull even as the rasp of Fadl's beard upon her ear sends a flash of pleasure straight down into her sex; nauseous even as Jaffar licks his thumb and brings it to her clitoris.

And yet I envy you this, my love, Jaffar thinks at her in awe. To be a woman, to feel this, the penetration of two cocks!

I knew you would think that! she scoffs at him in her mind, but her laughter makes her ripple so through her stretched flesh that now, for the first time, she can feel pleasure inside of herself. Now, her cunny cannot clench, filled as her entire pelvis is from all sides; she needs to find another way to come.

Help me, she asks Jaffar.

Is it the ripples you want? Jaffar asks, sending to her a little hum from his chest, balling it up and transferring it into her chest and from there, pouring it down, down her torso a cascade of golden pleasure; down until he is rolling it a wave inside of her hips, vibrating it a heat inside of her womb. "Like that?"

But already she is gasping, Fadl but marvelling as her head falls back against his shoulder: tenderly, he gathers her into his arms, yet still takes her hair in his fist, remembering how much pleasure she'd derived from having it pulled, and tests this with a tug. And her face, oh, her face! Now, she is lost in her ecstasies like a mystic witnessing his God; now, Fadl's balls jump from an altogether sadistic delight. "Shall I do that again?" he asks, lightly, dangerously, and brings his other hand to her throat, squeezing it a little.

"Please," Yassamin rasps, now so far gone her eyes flicker underneath her closed eyelids, her eyelashes fluttering against her cheeks.

And it is then that Jaffar lifts up his hips and thrusts; the golden ripples rise out from her womb a summer's heat and roll up her body, up, up, seeking a way out; immediately, Fadl squeezes his hand around Yassamin's windpipe, stopping the golden cry that was about to break out from her throat.

Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God-- Yassamin flutters around them both, in body and mind, all of her rippling in something that is beyond pleasure, something so light she fears she will leave her body, leave it entire. As Fadl lets go and allows her breath, her entire body spasms, heaves, cries; her very pleasure radiates from her body and Fadl can swear he can see it around them all, a soft golden shimmer.

"That's exactly it, my brother," Jaffar purrs, delighted. "You do know something of the play of the voice and the breath."

"I do indeed," Fadl murmurs and begins to take Yassamin, and immediately, he and Jaffar find a common rhythm, one pulling out as another thrusts in, both of them striking her womb with steady blows through arse and cunny. "Moan, my love," Fadl tells her; he has picked up from Yassamin's mind the realisation she cannot come without further vibrations of sound, without Jaffar's magic; but he'd rather she did most of it herself, abandoned herself to those whorish cries that had sounded so delightful when Jaffar had been taking her. This, Fadl tells her, pours into her mind with each one of his thrusts; "You danced for us, my love; now sing," he murmurs as he keeps on pulling her head back by the hair, "sing."

And it is at that that Jaffar blasts her with another series of golden ripples, sending them into her pelvis through his thumb on her cunny; Fadl lets go of her throat and they pour out in a series of the most delightful ululations, breaking into little mewls as she runs out of breath, as they pound the last of the air out of her lungs. Again and again Jaffar sends to her but these little ripples to trigger her own, to encourage her; Fadl, in turn, sends to her his own pleasure, sure that he is enjoying this the most out of them all, his position allowing him the most freedom of movement, her arse giving him the tightest squeeze of all with no discomfort whatsoever.

Oh, yes, his is a pleasure also golden, its heat like that of the sun: he sends to her the deliciousness of her arse, the tightness of it, the hot silk of it; the wonder of the heat of her body now having liquified the cream he had used to enter her, so that it now drips clear and sweet down his balls. And oh, how his balls now slap against his brother's, only a thin membrane of flesh separating their cocks, them taking her as one flesh--all of this, he tells her, tells Jaffar, wrapping them in his affection as he wraps Yassamin in his arms.

And it is then that Yassamin arches, her mouth open, so open that in his greed, Fadl has to take it, has to swallow her scream into his mouth; underneath them, Jaffar lets out a high, feminine cry of astonishment. For now, Yassamin is wetting Jaffar's belly, ejaculating so voluminously that her spray pools in his navel; Jaffar's laughter of delighted awe sending it rolling down in rivulets down his sides. Fadl has to open his eyes to look, watch, see; between them, Yassamin trembles, spasms as if in seizure as she is thus unravelled, undone. But what astonishes Fadl is that now, only as the spray ebbs does her release reach its highest peak, the waves of it now spreading out from her body to encompass both brothers.

Now it is she who is swallowing them up in her pleasure, wrapping her ripples about them as if a rope made of sunlight, squeezing them tight, just as she is milking them with her body as she rides them, roaring with all her might. So entwined they are now that Fadl cannot tell who it is that comes first, he or Jaffar: there is but the glorious foam of sperm, a sea of sperm, white fountains of it surging into her from his spine, from Jaffar's; all of them turned into white, mercurial fluid rising up and high and out, out, out to fill her, she again the vessel containing them and their loves, all of them entire.

Dimly, Fadl can even feel Yassamin throwing out a little of her balancing-magic so that they do not fall off, so violently they all now toss in their convulsions, her womb's spasms spreading into the men's bodies so that they feel her convulsions as theirs: all of them possessed of cunnies, wombs, cocks for but that one bright, shining moment of the highest peak before they all fall.

"My loves, my loves," Yassamin whispers about them, her joy heaving around them as if great gold and red wings of fire; she again their crucible, she the Simurgh's pyre from which they are both born anew. Is this what it is like for Jaffar, Fadl thinks, each time?

"Each and every time," Jaffar croaks underneath them as they all collapse into a trembling, cramping, sweaty pile of flesh and sap and laughter and delight; "each and every time, brother, each and every time."

With a great groan, Fadl falls back as Yassamin climbs off them, so that he and Jaffar lie there still with their legs entwined. It is a position uncomfortable, but neither brother cares: they lie there with their chests heaving, forming but one long line of sinewed flesh, still trembling from the exertions of love.

And this sight is such a pleasure to Yassamin's eyes, despite her soreness, her tiredness, that she has to drink from it, sup upon it, oh, she must: she leans in between the men and takes both their cocks in her hands and her mouth, sucking them, tasting herself off them. This even if she knows, or exactly because she knows how sensitised men are after ejaculation: it must be a punishment of some kind, Fadl thinks dimly, and Jaffar agrees, groaning out loud as she swallows them into her mouth.

She but chuckles around each prick in turn. Rather my greed, my loves, she hums around them, licking sugar and salt and metal and sap from around both shafts; she shows to them how she is shivering still, her cunny clenching in great pleasure even now as she relishes the taste of them all combined. And as a result of her chuckles, her tightenings, their sperm bursts out of her, sluicing out of her cunny and her arse; this, too, she rejoices in, sending to the men her perverse, stomach-turning delight as it all drips thick down her thighs, rich and abundant.

"It's fair enough," Fadl moans, himself still shaking too much to even ruffle her hair; he cannot even open his eyes.

"Aye, but that's enough, my love!" Jaffar now says firmly, pulling Yassamin off them half by force, disentangling his legs from Fadl's.

And now it is Jaffar's turn to spread his wings--but rather, Fadl realises, it is the soft, thick, crisp and clean blanket bundled beside them that he now draws over them for warmth. Rest, now, Jaffar whispers into both their minds, all their minds, even to himself, soothing his still-thundering heart: he mutters a phrase of some ancient language and all their limbs are weighed into the bed, their hearts and their lungs calmed, as if a great hand pressing upon them, petting them, caressing them all to a sleep gentle and kind.

Chapter Text

"I would say all these waterworks were excessive, if they weren't so wonderful," Fadl murmurs as they all clean each other with warm water in the washing alcove. To think that even for the shabestan, Jaffar has arranged running water, a shower! Just like in the Barmakids' palaces in Baghdad, only improved: the water does not seem to run cold even after three people have washed under the spray, and Fadl suspects Jaffar's magic is behind this as well.

"Mmm," Jaffar says and takes the sponge from him with a kiss. "You always were a man of excesses," he says and begins to wash himself briskly.

"You do have a reputation to maintain," Yassamin says and fills the enema syringe with warm water, having already cleansed herself thoroughly with it. "I remember when I first came here, and heard even the old ladies at the bazaar calling such and such a man 'as munificent as Jaffar', or 'as generous as Fadl'; and a magnificent wedding described as 'a Barmakid feast.'"

Fadl but grins wickedly at that, his tongue peeking past his teeth. "If only they knew of the Barmakid orgies!" he laughs, letting out a yelp as Yassamin now turns him around and begins to ease the tip of the syringe inside of his arse. "You really are spoiling me," he snarls into the tiles, now with a little more sarcasm.

Jaffar but drops a kiss onto his cheek. "Did you ever think you were going to leave our loving arms without a thorough prostate massage? Nothing is quite so wonderful for banishing melancholy humours," Jaffar sighs in exaggerated delight.

"I thought it was the opium that was supposed to be the best cure for melancholy?" Fadl winces as the plunger clicks against the body of the syringe and his guts are as full of water as can be.

"That's why I was going to say I envy you," Jaffar says as he dries himself with a towel, then wraps it about his waist. "You will soon be receiving both. You do know they say that it is exactly because of their practice of prostate massage that eunuchs live longer?"

Yassamin scoffs. "I would have thought it was because emasculation made them calmer, like geldings; less likely to get themselves into trouble," she says and smacks Fadl on the arse, pointedly. "The chamberpot's over there."

But as Fadl flashes them a black look, Yassamin knows she has teased him enough: they are meant to be drawing Fadl out of his bad memories, not plunging him back into their hells. Therefore, she remains silent for the next few rinses; indeed, it is with a ritualism and solemnity that they finish their washing, until all three are so clean their skin sings, all their orifices as empty as can be.

It's four years since Yassamin had bought them the opium pipe; she no longer remembers how to even prepare the little balls of opium for smoking, or how to arrange the bowls and lamps to vapourise the substance best. But Jaffar, while researching the most aphrodisiac formulation of the drug, had come to the conclusion that while smoking was the fastest way to experience opium's effects, it was in fact a certain type of powdered extract, mixed into strong wine, that produced the best results.

"Oh," Yassamin says, a little disappointed; she had liked the ritual of smoking the opium at least.

Fadl holds up the small, transparent glass box into which Jaffar has packed the pitiful little spoonful of powder. "It is a little... prosaic, I must admit."

"And it's extremely bitter--or that's what the pharmacopoeia said," Jaffar says. "The only alternative way to introduce it would be through the rectum, and while that can be pleasurable in and of itself--"

"You would say that," Fadl interjects,

"--The risk of poisoning is simply too high," Jaffar continues, ignoring him, now in full lecturing mode. "Medicines are absorbed through the gut at an extremely rapid rate, and unlike with the stomach, none of the medicine is destroyed by bile--hence, the dosages of all drugs must be smaller when administered through the back passage. That, and opium, as you well know, slows down the guts and at times stops them completely, so even an enema could not be used to rinse out the drug--the muscles would be unable to expel it the normal way. But if we swallow the substance, we at least have the option of vomiting it out with the help of an emetic, should we realise we've taken too much."

Yassamin looks at him, mortified; now, Jaffar is not so sure if he should have told them that. It's time to move on; he takes out another little glass box.

"I have made these to make it easier to swallow the powder; pray they do not break as they are quite fragile--" he says and snaps open the box; in it, glisten several yellow capsules. "Made out of beeswax and honey. Measure the powder and a little saffron into these and swallow them with the wine, as quickly as possible, and you should be able to avoid most of the bitterness." He looks from Fadl to Yassamin. "In theory."

Fadl rolls his eyes. "I am lucky enough to have survived with my life with all these 'experiments' he performed on us as youths," he moans. "There was this herb he said would enhance all the senses, particularly that of taste, he said, and it made me vomit my guts out for a week."

Jaffar rolls his eyes back at him and snatches the powder-box from him. "I have studied opium with great care, I'll have you know; all the physicians agree that this is the safest method of ingesting the extract. It is exactly beacuse of its potency that we have to do it this way. Smoke it or stick it up your guts and soon you'll be knocking at the gates of Paradise--"

"Or Hell--"

"Gentlemen!" Yassamin cries, lifting her hands. "You make my blood run cold. Jaffar, I suggest we take it now or never. Already I am starting to regret this."

But Jaffar is already murmuring spells over the powder-box, drawing a dozen runes over every capsule as he packs the same parts of opium extract and saffron into each--except he makes Yassamin's a little smaller, women needing less. And soon enough, Yassamin finds herself praying with him, with the utmost humility and sincerity, asking God to forgive her if this is indeed a sin--and Fadl is there with her, murmuring quiet prayers himself. As Jaffar continues to prepare the drug, Fadl and Yassamin both lift themselves into a kneeling position upon the bed, closing their eyes, their hands cupped to the heavens in prayer.

"Almighty God," Jaffar murmurs, gently, firmly, kneeling towards Mecca and offering the capsules up to the heavens. "Humbly, we beseech thee, ask for thy aid in this our endeavour of love and of healing. For it is for the sake of my brother's soul that we have now mixed this medicine, and as with all our words and actions, we now humbly ask for your help and your guidance. For it is you who, in your great mercy, have given us the miracle that is the poppy: help us now use it in the way you intended for man to use it, as a respite from the pains of the body and the mind. For we would use this medicine, along with our love, as balm for my beloved brother's broken heart, to ease the pain from his wounds; to bring his soul back to you, to Love, where each human soul belongs. Therefore, I humbly ask of you, o God: guide my hands so that I will give him not too little or too much, that I will give myself and my wife not too little or too much. So that we may all find healing, so that we may all join in love on this journey of the spirit we are about to embark upon. For you know best, and are the most merciful and the most clement of all."

"Amen," Yassamin murmurs, her heart pounding in her chest, all of her aching with love and care.

"Amen," Fadl whispers, his eyelashes glittering from tears. He feels a wretch, but a humbled wretch, a wretch loved: as he opens his eyes, Jaffar's smile is gentle, kind. "You are indeed giving me more than is my due," Fadl murmurs, his hands shaking from emotion as he takes from Jaffar the capsule, accepts from him his glass of wine. "In the name of God, the most merciful, most clement," he murmurs and swallows the capsule, downs the wine as quickly as possible, and lies down.

"In the name of God, the most merciful, most clement," Jaffar and Yassamin murmur in unison and do the same.

As they lie there, the air itself feels more cold, chilled, and Yassamin knows this is not merely because they have just washed, not merely because the shabestan is cooler than the rest of the house, not merely because they are wearing but thin night-gowns: it is nothing less than the fear of death that now clutches at all their hearts. She knows this fear not to be an undue one, for even as skilled a magician as Jaffar is, as accomplished a physician, they are still toying with an extremely rare preparation, one which they have no experience of.

Has Jaffar just poisoned them?

Jaffar, having heard her fears, takes her by the hand and kisses her face. "I made sure to use the smallest dose. And in any case--in addition to God's grace, which I am sure is with us--I have purging-spells. Let me know immediately if you feel there is something wrong," he tells Yassamin, tells Fadl over her shoulder as they lie there, she nestled between their bodies.

"Already I feel a little sick," Fadl murmurs, smacking his mouth; despite the capsules, a nauseatingly bitter taste has risen to his mouth. But he also knows nausea is normal with opium, even with the smallest, most harmless of medicinal doses; the sickness is not unbearable just yet.

"That's what these are for," Yassamin says and reaches for the table behind them at the foot of the bed, picking up a piece of candied ginger and popping it into Fadl's mouth. "Marvellous for nausea."

Jaffar is already munching on one, speaking with his mouth full. "It should take about twenty, thirty minutes for the drug to start working."

But that, for Fadl, is simply too long. He must find something to do to pass that half-hour, something pleasant, something that will distract him from his nervousness: he knows just the thing. Therefore, he leans into Yassamin and slides his hand up her leg, pulling the hem of her gown up to her thigh.

She captures his hand between her legs and smiles at him. "Already?"

"I thought to but find something pleasurable by which to pass the time, my lady," Fadl says and nuzzles her nose, adoring the way her eyes are even more crooked from this distance, when lust begins to stir in their honeyed depths once more. "Would you mind terribly if I helped myself?"

"Listen to him!" she laughs and cards her fingers through his hair, kissing him on the mouth. "You two are not so unlike; I swear Jaffar must have said the exact same thing to me once or twice."

But now she is yelping as Jaffar flips up her shirt from behind and kisses her upon the buttocks. "Surely it has been more often than that!" he laughs and pulls her shirt off her entirely. "Besides, my brother was always the greater strategist of us two; I think I shall follow his plan."

"I do not protest in the slightest," Yassamin says, she the most frightened of them all: even her skin feels cold underneath the men as they, too, undress and begin to sate their mouths with her flesh.

"My poor child," Jaffar says and embraces her from behind as Fadl begins to suck and lap at her between the legs; "you are trembling."

She makes to tell him of all her fears, of their children perhaps no longer having parents this time tomorrow, but it is then that Jaffar lashes her with pleasure like a whip's blow; she cries out and clutches Fadl's head with her thighs. And she deserves this, so grateful for this, seeing as it was Fadl they were supposed to be concentrating on: but he seems happy, feasting upon her cunny, and she has missed that great beak pressing into her mound, the grotesque triangle of it cleaving unto her as if a great ploughshare.

"I heard that!" Fadl groans. "Better than that dainty, woman's--why, his is hardly a nose at all!" he huffs.

But Jaffar is not listening. Instead, he snaps his fingers and blows into his hand: from his palm now emerges a little ball of fire the size of a pomegranate, which he now suspends like a lantern over Yassamin's belly. "To see her better by," he says. "Don't be shy, my love: we were cruel to deprive him of this pleasure before."

"I am grateful," Fadl says and kisses her folds, sighing at her in adoration.

"And he has many things to be grateful for," Jaffar says, gently: "I, too, remember those times I had come close to death, and the first time I got to kiss a woman's cunny after. It may sound heathen of me, but I cannot think of many sights holier than the female sex: it is the source of all life, is it not? All life, and of all pleasure and love; if there is one part in the human body corresponding to the prayer-niche--nay, the Kaaba itself--it is the vulva."

Yassamin groans. "If you keep saying things like that, God will let us be poisoned after all."

Jaffar but gazes at her. "You know I am serious, deathly serious," he whispers as he caresses her belly, lifting her mound a little with his fingertips as Fadl spreads her legs wide open, wide. "God gave us the Kaaba as an earthly sign of His presence, to remind us of how Creation always circumambulates about God: would you blaspheme in saying that God was not Love, Life itself? And here in the cunny and the womb, Love and Life dwell, more so than in any other part of the human body: therefore, I am not blaspheming when I say these things. Rather that, in loving Woman, I am remembering God."

And it is at that that she chokes, for he is right, right; she cannot refute his logic at this, understanding it for the truth, for a worship sincere, absolutely nothing filthy or vile or perverse about it. And just as this sense of awe rises in her, so she now feels the bitter taste of opium rising onto her palate: already she can feel it working, and it must be doing so for Jaffar, too, the way he now speaks in a voice entranced; the same way Fadl is now adoring her with a certain slowness, as if he were dreaming. A happiness, a joy as spiritual as it is sensual begins to unfurl deep in her belly; the same feeling now rises in Fadl's stomach and he pauses in his worship of her, looking up at her, his pupils pinprick-small.

"There is a hymn," Fadl says, his voice distant. "The one the Dakini used to sing," he says, and it is indeed from his using her title, of him speaking of her with such fondness that Yassamin knows his inhibitions to have fallen to the sweet embrace of the opium. "All the pilgrimage-centres of the world exist within a woman's body," she used to sing, and I remember being terrified by her barbarism as she worshipped this great stone cunny--" he laughs, tracing the soft petals of Yassamin's sex, "just as I am doing here. And now I understand her," he tells her, his always-sorrowful eyes heavy-lidded from happiness. "I had already begun to understand it as Zainab forced me to worship hers," he laughs. "As if the world were telling me the same lesson over and over, smacking me in the face with a great cunny, saying 'believe, you fool! Believe'!"

Jaffar bursts into laughter and kisses him, hugs him, moaning in delight as he tastes Yassamin's sweetness from Fadl's mouth. "God is great, and God is merciful. I am sure He is but glad we have found Him through such a harmless thing, such a beautiful thing."

"Harmless?" Yassamin scoffs. "You have never had to endure a menstrual period in your life!"

"And if it weren't for yours, we would never have discovered this substance," Jaffar counters and kisses her. "Let us give you release now, in case it becomes more difficult later; then, we shall lay siege to my brother," he leers at Fadl over his shoulder.

She does not even remember saying yes or no before they have turned her onto her side once more: she is curling up around Fadl in her pleasure, weeping in quiet, dry sobs as he takes her with his mouth. She had forgotten his skill at this, the shocking hardness with which he always takes the clitoris between his teeth and sucks it, so much more violent than Jaffar's gentle tongue-whips and sucks; Fadl pinches it so hard with his teeth he is all but biting her, yet each bite-suck sends through her a lightning-flash, a shock of pleasure so different to her usual sensations from this act that it turns her mind inside out.

Yet now all of this shock is absorbed and softened by the opium, the aphrodisiac qualities of the preparation already making themselves known in her flesh: she feels the walls of her cunny, the mouth of her vagina firming and swelling with blood, exactly the way her penis has hardened whenever she has been possessed of one. Quickly, she hides these thoughts from Fadl, disguising them as but theories, speculations: as if she were but wondering if this felt the same way an erection feels for a man. To further distract Fadl, she sends to him this as a question, the throbbing ache in her cunny, asking him to compare it to his own sexual aches.

"It's not too different," Fadl says and licks his lips as he pulls back for breath. "Would you have my fingers?"

"Please," she says.

"And mine?" Jaffar asks, brushing her anus with his fingertips.

"I think I hurt too much still," she says. "I am sorry. Perhaps later."

"You will not fault me for doing this, however, surely?" Jaffar asks her, now kissing her arse instead; she but answers him with a happy moan, spreading herself further so that he may continue.

"Please," she laughs, Jaffar's tongue and moustache tickling her more than anything else; but then Fadl's fingers are inside of her, deep inside of her and she forgets to breathe. Immediately, he knows to guide them to the very back of her sex once more, that nerve-centre from which he had extracted the greatest of shivers, tosses, screams; already, it is harder for her to feel sensation in there, but to her great surprise, her cunny is not completely numbed the way it often is by Jaffar's pain-relieving preparations.

"You may have to do it for quite some time," she warns Fadl nevertheless, apologetic.

"The strength to run a marathon, remember?" Fadl smirks and slaps her cunny's lips with his tongue, nuzzling them with the rasp of his beard until she squeaks. "I have not run even halfway, madam," he says and curls his fingertips, taking her clitoris into his mouth once more.

And it is in this cloud of pleasure that the poppy blossoms within their bellies, rising into their lungs, their spines, their limbs, flowering golden within their minds: again, Fadl thinks of the Dakini's teachings, of a thousand-petalled lotus bursting into bloom on top of one's head as one reaches the summit of a mystical state. But it cannot have been a lotus, no; surely it was a poppy they had meant? Or the rose of the cunny, he laughs in his joy as he sucks upon Yassamin's clitoris, himself rippling like petals in the evening breeze as the first tremors of her orgasm begin to pour through his body in turn.

But these are distinctly unlike the release-waves she had given him a taste of before: these ripples are now much gentler, sweeter, she flowing into him a perfume, the waves of it elongated, seeming to go on forever, on and on; against the back of his hand, he can feel Jaffar gasping as those waves wash over him, too, leaving him glistening from her love like sea-kissed rocks upon a shore, glimmering in the sunlight. Forever, she unfolds around them, rich and honeyed and dark, like a hot, scorching day followed by the blessings of a gentle, cool night: bringing with itself a renewed vitality, energy, a lust for love's revels. Intoxicated, they now all roll upon the bed, Yassamin riding the last, minutest ripples of her orgasm out upon Fadl's hand, even the ache in his jaw now but a pleasure sweet, sweet.

Oh, but breathing itself is a pleasure as Fadl now falls back upon the bed and gasps, she having finally set him free: he gazes at the dark brick vaults of the ceiling, the shimmer of Jaffar's fireball playing at the edges of his vision like a distant campfire. Already he is so full, so nourished; it is as if he has drunk his fill of a sweet, sugary drink, so heavy and so full are his limbs from a rich satiation.

"Like honey the weight of lead," Jaffar murmurs, poesying in his intoxication; Yassamin's cunny clenches sharply as Jaffar kisses the taste of her arse onto her own mouth, a little metallic salt still clinging to it, to his tongue even after all her rinses. "Let us show to him his beauty, Yassamin; let us show to my brother that even--"

"If you are going to make jokes about my nose, I am going to kick you off the bed--"

"That even such a majestic beak can be as glorious as the Simurgh's," Yassamin says and kisses him on the nose.

Fadl but lifts his hand. "But first, I would... I would you let me feel it, if I may? The opium."

"But of course," Jaffar says. "I apologise. We have done this so often, and it is your first time," he says and in agreement, he and Yassamin lie on either side of Fadl once more; Yassamin on his left, Jaffar on his right. Jaffar leaves the little fire-sphere hovering over them, lies down and together, they listen.

As soon as Fadl closes his eyes, he falls. A stone sunk into water he falls, falls; he is plunged into an ocean of soft gentle sweetness, yet just as the ocean, this sea possesses its own weight, a pressure that but increases the further he sinks: heavy, it now weighs him into the bed. Honey the weight of lead, he again thinks of the sweet and heavy sensation in all his limbs, his torso, astonished at how much he is enjoying this: distantly, he thinks he should perhaps feel terrified for the way even breathing becomes more laborious for him now, just as all movement now becomes more difficult, exhausting. He seems twice his normal weight in each limb, yet this pressure also feels sensual, voluptuous as if he were being pressed into the bed by a lover, embraced by a heavy mistress. He has to let out a little laugh at that, for of course, he now thinks of the great and mighty Zainab and her sea of rippling flesh, the way he had adored sinking into her, of her weight pressing him into the bed in turn.

Fadl does not even care if his eyes are open or closed, but he knows Jaffar is smiling, looking at him curiously. The sea, a lover... it is remarkable how similar the experience is for everyone, it seems, Jaffar tells him, ever the scientist observing phenomena. This is exactly how it feels for me and for her. The way the body sinks and yet floats, and the sensual, erotic pleasure of it.

Softly, Yassamin places her hand over Fadl's heart. "And here?"

Fadl would sob, but to his astonishment, he is too glad, too content to do anything of the sort. This, he tells her, shows to her, opening to her his experience just as he examines it himself from all sides, awed by it. It is most strange. You know me for a man who worries about everything, always angry at this or that; yet now, all my cares seem so... foolish and so trivial. Even if Balkh had fallen... he thinks, imagining his castle in flames, but even the part in his mind that is usually so good at bringing up horrors, painting the worst possible outcomes is now vanquished by the opium, the vision dissolving as fast as it had arrived. Yes, like smoke in the wind, it is blown away, banished, and again the light of love shines through this all, like spring sunlight.

Sunlight--he opens his eyes and immediately, squints them closed once more as the light from Jaffar's fire-sphere stings his eyes. Strange that it should do that, as gentle a light as it is, no brighter than candlelight; this, too, he can feel Jaffar jotting down in the notebook of his mind as but another characteristic of opium. This is why the Chinese take the substance in darkened bedrooms, he tells Fadl; this is why the dervishes who abuse it live in perpetual darkness in their cloisters. Darkness enhances the sensitivity of all the other senses--

"You're lecturing again," Fadl laughs, but now he is not even truly mocking Jaffar. "I only meant to say..." he murmurs and takes Jaffar by the hand. "I am safe now, am I not?" he says, just as he realises it himself, truly realises it for the first time. And to feel such happiness and gladness at this hour, at such a terrible time in his life, when he may have just lost everything--

"Not everything," Yassamin admonishes him.

"That's exactly what I mean," Fadl murmurs and now turns to her, taking her hand from his heart and kissing it. And it is the strangest thing to feel these emotions--such profound emotions--without trembling or weeping. There is but the calmness, and the love. Exactly what he had felt in his religious ecstasies as a boy, but far less sudden and violent: truly, he now feels as if he were being held in God's palm.

And there, the tears finally come: but even then, they are very light, happy tears, but a little wetness now glossing his eyelashes. I am alive, and I have you, and therefore, I have everything, he thinks, sniffs back those tears, laughs a little in the back of his throat. In this moment, I have everything. And this will soon be gone, will it not? I am beginning to see why so many poor wretches choose to remain in this state, to sup upon this nectar for all time, he sighs to himself. Tomorrow, he will surely be weeping and lamenting his fate, but now, he cannot even think of tomorrow: only the present, only this great happiness that is now making his chest all but burst.

"We, however, are real," Jaffar says and kisses his mouth.

"Yes; I am afraid you cannot awaken from us," Yassamin, too, grins as she comes to kiss Fadl in turn.

"I am glad," Fadl grins back into his mouth, hers.

But no matter how intoxicated he is by this happiness, never let it be said the greedy devil in al-Fadl, son of Yahya the Barmakid has gone anywhere: now, he takes both Jaffar and Yassamin by the hair and begins to kiss them both wildly, passionately. With an altogether new hunger, appetite does he begin to devour them: he can taste their individual flavours more keenly, now, loving the way they are all sharing in this new sensitivity, too.

Slowly, they all luxuriate in one another, tasting from each other's mouths the herbs they have chosen to freshen their breaths with, as is traditional before love: Jaffar hums sweetly as he tastes the ambergris upon Yassamin's breath, himself kissing mint into Fadl's mouth, Yassamin relishing the lingering taste of basil upon Fadl's tongue. And even now, Fadl chooses to take charge, chooses to be the one conquering; he clenches his fists in their hair and they let him. And oh, how he adores the way Yassamin mewls into his mouth, how Jaffar's cock now stirs against Fadl's thigh as Jaffar drinks from her pain and Fadl's relish!

When Fadl pulls Yassamin's head back from his mouth, her eyes are shimmering, her mouth glossy from saliva, her mouth open, panting, wide; his own prick, still soft, now twitches a little from the glorious sight. That mouth, that mouth: rarely has he seen a woman with lips so lush, a Cupid's bow so perfect, and he knows where he wants that mouth.

"Not just yet, brother," Jaffar chuckles and pins Fadl down into the bed with a kiss of his own, forcing him to let go of Yassamin. "We promised to show you your beauty first," he murmurs between kisses; "Yassamin, show him."

For a brief moment, Fadl thinks he is going to be sick--the nausea from the drug is now intensified as his point of view flips once more and he sees them through Yassamin's eyes. Dizzy, he reels there underneath Jaffar's kisses, the fire-sphere again stinging his eyes even if he is within Yassamin's gaze; for now Yassamin is floating it above the men's heads to better see them by. For a little while, Fadl struggles, out of old habit, even a playful wrestle with Jaffar feeling most exquisite as Jaffar pins him down onto the bed and holds him still, laughing into Fadl's mouth to show him to Yassamin.

Yassamin's eyes see a feast.

This is what she tells them, shows them: immediately, both men can feel the tightening of her still-wet cunny merely from the pleasure the sight gives her. And even if Fadl has known the desire of women before, the bold and frank lust of great courtesans, and even if he has himself at times looked at men with desire, it still astounds him to feel what she now feels. For now, she lets her eyes travel up and down Fadl's body, a shiver running through him as she so bathes him in her want: that a woman should take such delight in but the curve of a man's shoulders! This fascinates him. Jaffar even moves aside to better expose Fadl to Yassamin's gaze, but what fascinates Fadl the most is that it isn't merely because she wants to see his face: it is his neck she now adores, the long tendons of it, the strength of it. And that he is not like those men whose necks and shoulders resemble those of bulls, no, no: but--and she begs forgiveness from Jaffar--Fadl has what Jaffar lacks in that part of the body, Jaffar's neck and his shoulders being less well-defined.

So rarely has she looked at other men, in fact, that this is all new to her, too: she is realising things about her own desire, her tastes, what brings her arousal and pleasure as she so measures the two brothers. For in what Jaffar lacks, Fadl provides, and vice versa: Fadl giving her the masculinity she has so rarely experienced in her bed, while Jaffar gifts her with the femininity the Sapphic in her so adores.

"In short, gentlemen, I think you two, together, comprise male beauty itself to mine eyes," she murmurs, stroking Fadl's leg.

"I am glad," Fadl says. "I but thought my neck... well, just a neck!"

"It is the most handsome of necks," Yassamin says and leans down to kiss it, tracing the lines of it with her lips; it is extraordinary the way her touch now stirs Fadl's genitals in a very gentle fashion, when being kissed upon the neck has usually sent hard, sharp, violent flashes of heat into his prick.

Fadl but shakes his head. "I will never understand this about women. What has the neck to do with lovemaking? I do not thrust with it, I do not penetrate with it..."

Jaffar slaps him upon the belly. "It is often the only part they see of a man in addition to his hands and his face, you fool," he says. "That, and you do wrap a woman's legs on either side of it when you take her, do you not?"

Yassamin but shakes her head. "There has to be something else, but let us not ruin it by analysing it too much," she says, running her fingers down Fadl's chest to his belly. "I do not enjoy war either, yet I cannot fault it for the beauty it has given your body," she whispers in adoration. For Fadl's muscles are long and lean, toned from decades of archery and swordsmanship, a life spent on horseback: again so very unlike those men who build themselves into ogrelike grotesques by practicing with weights and clubs.

"And here?" Jaffar asks and gestures for Fadl to part his legs, so that Yassamin can see not only his genitals but also between his buttocks as she guides the light to hover nearer; again, Fadl shivers at being so exposed. It should not make him nervous to be so looked at by a woman, but this is no ordinary woman: years of marriage with Jaffar have taught Yassamin every perversion under the sun, Fadl is sure, and the knowledge with which she now looks at his anus--so flat and so smooth it seems virginal, she thinks, and oh, the way her cunny tightens at that in greed, the way the sight makes saliva swirl into her mouth--Fadl's prick twitches in both terror and adoration. This is a woman not merely content with being taken, but one who takes also, takes from a man's flesh her satisfaction: and it has to be the opium that now makes Fadl not scorn this, but spread his legs in shameless invitation.

"Look at you," Jaffar croons, running the backs of his fingers across the thick heaviness of Fadl's half-hard cock, chuckling into his ear.

"I have not forgotten about that wanton little mouth," Fadl says and raises his eyebrow in challenge, daring Yassamin with her own perversions, his arse now clenching in memory of her first conquest of him with her tongue. To think that the very first time they had made love, she had taken him in such a manner; through her eyes, he can now see his own nipples crinkling just as hers do, as sweet tension rises between them like a rope twisted, tightened.

But she is too clever, too clever to take his challenge as she shifts upon the bed, inspecting him, only touching him with her breath: she takes up this rope of tension in her hands and keeps on twisting. Now, she does not speak to them in words, only measures Fadl's legs with her eyes; by the flick of her lashes, Jaffar guides Fadl's legs down onto the bed once more so that Yassamin can see them better, adoring with her eyes the long muscles of Fadl's thighs.

"I should be jealous, perhaps, but having seen her ride these..." Jaffar murmurs.

"Oh, but he does not have these," Yassamin says and drops a kiss onto Jaffar's wide, woman's hips. "In that, I am afraid, Fadl loses to you, my beloved wife. Would you kiss him again?" she asks as she lifts onto her knees once more, raising the fire-sphere higher. "It would give me great pleasure."

Jaffar but chuckles and turns to Fadl, leaning over him, cupping his face with his hand. "Let us show her, then," he says, with a wicked twinkle in his eyes.

And it is at that that Fadl rolls Jaffar over and pins him down in turn: he lets out a groan of ecstasy into Jaffar's mouth at the shock of pleasure as their pricks finally meet, pressed together between their bellies. Suddenly, he is aware of a terrible ache in his cock, far more terrible than what he normally feels when he is aroused: this has to be the aphrodisiac property of the opium finally blossoming within him, now that he has been stimulated enough.

Fantastic, even if I say so myself, Jaffar purrs into his mind, thrusting against him with his harder cock; my ache is identical, he groans. In fact, Jaffar is a little alarmed at how painful his erection already feels. What about yours, my sweet? he asks Yassamin.

Quite painful from the very sight of you! she laments, now having to take her hand to her cunny: within her, there is a hollow, hard, terrible ache, she telling the men it feels as if a prick inverted: the walls of her vagina feel harder, flushed as they are with blood, she already desperate to have this pressure pounded out of her. But before she does, she gives to them what she sees, as they had agreed: and this time, it is not mere lust that moves her heart, but the very rareness of the sight, the preciousness of it not only to herself but to Jaffar.

Indeed, before her lie two beautiful men making love--a sight enough to stir her in its own right--but it is not the mere illicitness of sodomy, of incest that now cuts her heart. No, no; Fadl's heart lurches as he is exposed to her deep, profound knowledge of Jaffar's true nature, a knowledge deeper than he ever has himself had of his little brother's desire: how much this rare pleasure means to him, how much it hurts both Jaffar and Yassamin that he is not allowed this often enough. How, for Jaffar, this is a deep and innate need born from his natural twin-sexedness, something that is to him as essential as food and drink and breath; whereas to Fadl himself, sex has often been but a pastime, a release of pressure, particularly the easy and quick and soon-forgotten fucks with boys, the quick rubs and sucks from men huddled together in their tents upon the eve of battle.

But it is now thanks to Yassamin that Fadl realises Jaffar has huddled all of his life, has been starved of true male affection all of his life, ever since Fadl had walked out of it; his fool of a little brother, Jaffar the girl he had called him--oh, but it shakes him to the bone. With a pained cry, he pulls free from their kiss and hugs Jaffar close to himself, wrapping his arms and legs around his thin body, his half-female body, embraces him so tight he can feel he is hurting Jaffar but he doesn't care. He wants to make up for all those years lost, wants to sink inside of Jaffar's body, to take back his place in his heart and never leave again; "Brother, brother," he moans, hoarse, his voice thick from tears and phlegm. Damn the throne of Balkh when he would rather sit upon that seat Jaffar has kept for him in his heart for all these years, the seat he is exposing to him in his mind this very moment, clinging to him, weeping himself--

But it is then that their angel separates them, pulls them free from each other, and takes Fadl's cock into her mouth.

And as Jaffar buries his tongue into his arse, Fadl's cry echoes from the ceiling vaults; the light-sphere itself flickers from the force of his emotion as he surrenders his body to their love. Not only that, but now he also sees his body, all of their bodies from above--is Jaffar giving this to him, now, letting him see them all from the sphere's perspective? It must be that, it must, for there he lies, on his side as Yassamin and Jaffar take him with their mouths; strange, he thinks, that these relatively small organs can together bring about such an enormity of pleasure that it can swallow three bodies entire.

It is verily a constellation, Yassamin's voice murmurs into their minds; within it, their eyes, their glistening mouths, sexes flash the stars, fancies Jaffar. An entirely new constellation, Fadl thinks, for it matches none he has ever seen depicted; whoever heard of The Three Lovers? Or are we perhaps Gemini and Andromeda now entwined? he laughs.

But then he can no longer think, as Jaffar has slickened his cock and is pushing into him from behind. Even Yassamin is surprised by this, and it now seems to Fadl that they had not planned this, had perhaps only meant to massage him on the inside with fingers, toys; yet it is as desperation itself that Jaffar now seeks his way inside of Fadl's body. Fadl would normally grudge him this, mock him for it, but as Jaffar begins to slide into his body, so does he slide his own melancholy into Fadl's mind: all of his loneliness and his need now surges into Fadl, Fadl no longer sure if their entire souls have not swapped places. Was he not the one who had come here a man lonely, needing to be enclosed in loving flesh, he thinks? Was he not the wayward prince seeking shelter in his brother's arms? And yet to think that it is his little brother who now seeks a home inside of him, when Fadl here is the man homeless--oh, it breaks his heart.

But is it not in giving that one receives? Fadl thinks, dimly remembering having heard something to the effect of this from his spiritual masters, and there is nothing in this that doesn't make sense; therefore, he breathes deep and offers himself, trying to remember how to take a man inside of himself. He groans and clutches Jaffar with his hands, but the very next moment, he is unable to breathe as Jaffar begins to move inside of him; despite the opium, there is still a little pain to the act, particularly as Fadl has not been taken since their veritable orgy on Mehregan. But the physical pain is little in comparison to the pain Fadl now feels within his heart at Jaffar's complete silence: he can only feel his aching, but not his reasons for it.

"I am sorry," Jaffar says, wiping his hair away from his face against Fadl's shoulder. "The need... it overcame me. I meant to love you, and mean to still," he says and rocks his hips a little. "It's only that the ache is ridiculous," he groans.

"Why, I could swear you were loving me right now," Fadl says, his old sarcasm creeping back into his voice as he tries to look at Jaffar over his shoulder. "And it does feel wonderful," he murmurs.

But now, Yassamin is looking at them both askance; both men can feel she is feeling a little left out, not sure of what to do.

"Come here," Fadl says and wraps his arm around her. "Just let me hold you."

She glances between their bodies and measures him, his half-hard prick. "Let me try something," she says.

And it is not the most comfortable of positions, but she manages to take Fadl inside of herself nevertheless: his size alone allows it, and he marvels at this. From her mind, Fadl can feel the memory of her having done this with Jaffar sometimes: for there is indeed an exquisite tenderness, a tenderness that goes far beyond sex to having her hold him inside of her body in this manner. And as Jaffar begins to move inside of him once more, he suffocates a cry into Yassamin's shoulder; he can feel his cock pulsing a little inside of her, hoping that even now, he is alleviating her ache at least somewhat.

You are, she tells him and squeezes him, and when he reacts to that with a gasp and a hardening, she laughs and squeezes him once more, beginning a milking motion with her cunny. This was, in fact, what we had planned all along, she now smirks at him, her tonguetip peeking from past her teeth as she pulls back for momentum. Was it not, husband?

"Absolutely, and it is divine," Jaffar now snarls into Fadl's back; his melancholy has vanished as soon as it had arrived, now all of him swirling with a wonderful, loving heat once more, he rolling that heat into Fadl's body with the movements of his hips. There is nothing--or very little--of the vulnerable youth left in him, now; with but the friction of Fadl's body, not unlike kindling a fire, Jaffar the old lech, the old libertine has emerged once more.

"Now, how does that feel?" Jaffar purrs, proud. "Opium and prostate massage, just as promised," he says and smacks Fadl's arse.

But now Fadl is hanging onto Yassamin for dear life, clinging onto her shoulders, his cock slipping in and out of her, hard enough now for a true fuck; all thanks to the pain and discomfort in his arse now having melted away, having exposed his insides to Jaffar's loving blows entire. How is it that he is always so overwhelmed by being taken in this manner, always, even if Jaffar had done this to him but a few months before? He cannot speak with either his tongue or his mind, so are all his nerves afire, and he can swear he can see inside of his own body, see his own nerves flickering gold and white with this fire. Is this a vision from one of Jaffar's medical books that the opium has brought out, the way it embellishes his every sensation with a new illustration, a strange and wondrous new sight? For now, he can clearly see that giant tree of nerves that extends throughout his body through the trunk of his spine; only now illuminated in gold, the glow of molten metal rising up it, each nerve-ending sparking with sun-fire. And at the very roots of that nerve-tree, at the very root of his spine, Jaffar's cock sliding in and out of him so endlessly long, sending one lightning-strike after another up his body each time its wonderful thickness slides past the muscles of his opening, each time the blunt head of it slides past his prostate.

It is then that they turn Fadl around, easy, sweet, light, all heaviness now gone from his body: indeed, as Jaffar can now thrust into him with full force, so deep he is entering the bend of his colon, Fadl loses control of his body completely. Each one of Jaffar's blows sparks into him so that his fingertips twitch electric, so that his teeth chatter, so that he pulses hot sap inside of Yassamin, hot; helpless, he moans under this brutal, absolute, perfect assault of Jaffar's love.

He is helpless, and he loves his helplessness, something in his soul coming loose and shouting, cackling a maniac; Yassamin's cunny squeezes around him and he is in freefall. But the strangest thing of all is that as he is undone, it is a lifting of the soul, a rising, a rippling of the mind rather than that of the body. For a moment, he is lifted outside of himself, his body become but a hollow shell; he sees nothing, become but gold and white and blind. Dimly, as if from somewhere far away, he can feel himself reaching release, and he realises that this must be what they call an internal orgasm, the sort only eunuchs and receptive sodomites have learned to achieve. It is not unlike that of Yassamin's, albeit not nearly as powerful in that it does not toss his body in violent spasms; rather, he becomes completely still and it blossoms within him a gentler, redder, yellower fire. Perhaps this, too, is the poppy's doing: yet it astonishes him that he is not as irritated about his lack of ejaculation as he should be. In this, too, he feels this is an orgasm altogether feminine, in that it brings to his limbs but a tender and sweet calm; normally, after reaching the peak, he feels that similar restlessness he does after returning from a fight.

"Now you know what Jaffar enjoys best," Yassamin says; as Fadl opens his eyes, she greets him with a smile.

"But you did not come, my lady?"

"I tasted of yours," Yassamin says and squeezes around him.

"Yet I would have some more; give all of us more," Jaffar now meaows behind Fadl, yet decides to rest on top of them both for a while; neither Fadl or Yassamin protest his weight atop them.

"We have all night," Yassamin says, wrapping her arms around both men.

And indeed, they continue all night, pleasuring each other with hands, genitals, mouths. It is a marvel and a wonder to Fadl how the waves of lovemaking can rise and fall thus: now that the opium has turned his love inwards and he is not in as desperate a rush towards ejaculation as usual, it seems to him as if this but multiplies, intensifies the love he now feels. They are but three people, yet there are several Fadls, several Jaffars, several Yassamins that now step out into the lantern light, all of them performing their very own dances of love, all of them now joining each other in unique, wondrous combinations. First, Yassamin the ravisher takes both men until she is finally sated to the deepest ends of her cunny and arse; second, the dirty old men join forces take their fill of a more maidenly, sweetly submissive form of her, she sobbing like a trapped gazelle between them as once again the beast-brothers penetrate her as one. And here, at the very edge of the bed, Jaffar moans underneath Fadl's thrusts as Fadl takes him face to face, Jaffar's mouth so open, his eyes so open, his entire body so open in his shameless pleasure that he swallows Fadl into himself whole. All deliver bites and slaps and receive them; all penetrate and are penetrated, all embrace and are embraced, taking and giving love in equal measure.

On and on they love, until at the end of the night, the sated princess lies back and makes a wish, invoking with her own desire the one that lies at the deepest core of the brothers' hearts: that the two princes should emerge once more, make love as they would have done as youths. For all this time, they have been three, but she would behold the entity that is the two brothers as one: only in Jaffar's letters, his stories, in the sharing of his dreams has she seen them love each other thus.

She takes them both by the hand as they kneel there upon the bed, refreshed from food and drink, the opium's last kisses still lingering upon their bodies. They have all reached full release, now, so all desperation is gone from them, yet even now the brothers' pricks would touch, reaching out towards each other as if to kiss: Yassamin would see their final full joining. "Arise now and join each other in love, and let me be but the observer: I would see your brotherly love at its purest, as it was in that time I have heard so many legends of, before Woman stepped into your lives."

Jaffar lifts his hand and cups Fadl's cheek; naturally, instinctively, their movements now in perfect unison, Fadl cups Jaffar's cheek in turn. "Gladly would I satisfy your wish, my lady, and I am sure Fadl would, too," Jaffar says, "except on one condition."

"And that is?" Yassamin asks; Fadl raises his eyebrow, curious himself.

Jaffar but laughs. "That we join as the mature men we are now, and that you won't regress to the utter bastard you were before!"

"Why, you--!" Fadl growls and tackles Jaffar onto the bed and there they tussle, indeed like two youths, yelping in a pile of tangled limbs.

"I shall prove it to you," Fadl murmurs against Jaffar's lips, his eyes lazy as he takes both their cocks in his slickened fist; "I shall prove it to you once and for all."

And to Yassamin's surprise, it is now Fadl who insists on being taken; yet this is such a great beauty to her eyes that she could not possibly complain, adoring him as he rises above Jaffar in the lantern light. For now, he has chosen to ride his brother, this pleasure to him the rarest of them all. Even despite all their play tonight, he struggles a little to take Jaffar inside of himself, but once he has mounted him, he beams. Yassamin has never seen Fadl this happy, this relaxed; his eyes are now completely soft from only tenderness, their usual melancholy banished into the four winds by the pleasure and love he is now bathing in, dancing in. And his dance is a most wonderful sight to behold: as he throws back his head and exposes his magnificent throat and his shoulders to Yassamin's eyes, she knows that he is doing this as an offering to her also, he still genuinely touched by her finding his body beautiful.

Yes, an offering he makes of himself and all his miserable past selves, now slaying them upon Love's altar, Jaffar's prick the holy phallus banishing them from him once and for all. The little pain he feels as he settles upon Jaffar fully is a small price to pay, a mere copper for entry into the paradise of pleasure that awaits him beyond; with deep breaths, with deep and vibrating moans he opens himself for Jaffar's love. And there, finally fully astride, he dances all his demons out of himself, his sinewed arms straining as he laces his hands with Jaffar's; Jaffar's beautiful, long-fingered hands squeezing him back, making his long, lean belly ripple in delight.

It is as it should always have been, Jaffar tells them with his mind; before Harun's madness, before all those fools I wasted my time ruling behind from; before all these madnesses, wasted years-- and now a sob breaks in his chest, rippling from his ribs against Fadl's thighs.

"Not wasted," Fadl tells him with a kiss, beginning to ride him vigorously, nuzzling away his tears; "we are together now, and that's all that matters."

"That's all that matters," Jaffar says to him in turn, now extricating his hands so that he can take a good hold of Fadl's hips, guiding him to ride him faster, to beat his hips with his own. Already he is close, but both he and Fadl want to spin this last joining on as long as possible; as Fadl braces himself down on one hand and takes his prick in the other, he squeezes himself not to hasten but to stay his end.

Yassamin wants so much to cast a spell upon them both so as to force them into release, now, but that would mean depriving herself of the beauty of this sight: she is too tired to even touch herself, now only basking in the afterglow, feasting herself upon the men. She imagines them as youths, and that is not difficult, from the sweet smiles of awe and relaxation she can now see on both their faces: as she dreams thus, their wrinkles soften into smoothness, their thinning, gray hair falling onto their shoulders a jet black once more. Yes, that must be how the young Jaffar's eyes twinkled as he got a groan exactly like that out of the young Fadl; that has to be the way Fadl panted against Jaffar then, his great nose pressed exactly like that against his brother's shoulder.

"You're cheating!" Fadl now moans as he rises up again, riding Jaffar harder, faster. "I can feel you're using your magic."

"I assure you, I am not," Jaffar cackles and smacks Fadl's arse. "It's only that you love a prick up the arse more than you'd care to admit, you secret sodomite."

Yassamin has to laugh out loud at that--she swore not to interrupt them, but that sounds so perfectly like something they would have said as youths, too, that she cannot help herself.

Fadl but rolls his eyes. "Come. Let's turn around. I cannot bear that Babylonian's smirk."

Jaffar allows him this, but not until he has gifted him with a deep kiss, chuckling into his mouth as Fadl turns onto his back. "We'll come at the same time," he says; yet Yassamin can see his eyes fly wide. For now, the very moment he starts thrusting into Fadl in this position, Fadl's cock spurts a thick rivulet of sap onto his knuckles. Oh, but Fadl's body is made for this, surely; only his pride has prevented him from enjoying this act as much before. But now that they have played with him all night, made him truly aware of his glands, his nerve centres, the sensitivity of his anal muscles--all of this given an additional intensity by the opium--he is unravelling underneath Jaffar completely, and it is a sight to behold. He is staring up at Jaffar, his eyes as wide as Jaffar's own; that wonderful throat of his is bejewelled with glimmering beads of sweat. And his cock is still dripping, dribbling down over his fist, himself staring at it in astonishment; and here he had thought Jaffar the only wellspring here! Perhaps he himself does not know if he is already orgasming, and through their connection, Yassamin knows this to be thus: he has already reached that level upon which pleasure has become a plateau, each orgasm blending seamlessly into another.

But now, this silence is broken by a noise animal: Jaffar is howling through his nose, throwing himself curved upon Fadl so that his forehead meets Fadl's; their teeth clash as he crushes Fadl's mouth with his. He drives himself into Fadl so deep that Fadl stops breathing, completely bent in half underneath him; Jaffar's oil-smeared, gleaming balls slap tight against his buttocks. "Now, brother, now, now--!" Jaffar rasps, his spittle flying onto Fadl's beard; another deep, dark groan breaks from his throat as his hips slap against Fadl's arse and he is gone. So hard does he throw himself into Fadl it is as if he wanted to break him open and crawl inside of him, a sight terrible to behold; yet from between their bellies, Yassamin can see a splash of white, spraying onto Fadl's chest, Jaffar's. Keening through his teeth in triumph, Jaffar laps up Fadl's sperm as Fadl himself howls and tosses uncontrollably underneath him; Jaffar cackles in delight as Fadl sprays even his beard-tip with his release.

"Just like--when you were--fourteen!" Jaffar cries and collapses on top of Fadl, his own hips still jerking as Fadl's legs give up and fall onto the mattress; Jaffar but gathers him into his arms and rolls him from side to side, kissing him and kissing him. The only response Fadl gives him is an indignant honk through his nose; Jaffar kisses a droplet of sperm from its tip, too.

"Full marks for excelling in not being a bastard," Jaffar mumbles and takes Fadl's noise of outrage into his mouth with a kiss.

Yassamin but shakes her head.

Jaffar turns his head to look at her, ignoring the fact that his hair is now flying into Fadl's nose and mouth, Fadl sputtering at him. "How was that for a spiritual experience, my child?"

"You are both utterly ridiculous."

"Thank you, my dear," Fadl says and extricates himself with a groan; immediately, he begins to rub circulation back into his legs.

"That's another side effect," Jaffar mumbles from beside Fadl and stretches his own legs, twiddling his toes. "Pins and needles. But I take it that we can now declare this treatment a success?"

Fadl tosses the towel to Jaffar and stretches beside him. "I don't know; I still feel a little obnoxious," he says.

"But no longer unsafe or alone," Yassamin says and comes down to spoon him. "Is that not right?"

Fadl turns back to nuzzle her face, taking her by the hand. "Quite right, my lady."

"But you are still thinking of Balkh," Jaffar murmurs. "I cannot fault you. We..." he glances over Fadl's shoulder at Yassamin. "We could use the crystal," he says, wondering if he will regret this immediately.

"Could you?" Fadl asks him, his expression now serious. "Then do it, by all means! While my senses are still at least somewhat cushioned. They offer poppy tea to mourners, do they not?"

Yassamin closes her eyes and murmurs a prayer. "God is great and merciful," she whispers as she gets up from the bed, sliding on her gown. "Please let it be so that you have nothing to mourn," she says as she goes to fetch the crystal, her voice so steady it is not unlike her invoking a spell, commanding something into being with the force of her will.

"It's behind the ice cabinet," Jaffar calls out to her as the men, too, pick up their clothes. "I thought that was the best bet," he says and turns to Fadl as he pulls his robe down over his head. "Other parents have to hide sweet desserts from their children; we have to keep hiding the crystal. God only knows what they have seen in it already!"

"Here we are," Yassamin says and sets the velvet bag on the bed; she has also brought them fresh, cold cream from the ice cabinet and now powders some saffron into each glass with her fingertips. "The fat and the saffron will extend the opium's effects," she tells Fadl when he looks at her curiously. "This way, it will leave your body more smoothly as well, so you will not be completely miserable tomorrow."

Fadl but laughs bitterly. "Even if I am about to see my women slain?"

"Hush," Jaffar tells them, waving his hand: spiritual herb or not, the opium is making it more difficult for him to concentrate. "A moment of quiet, please."

And it is now that Yassamin severs her connection with Fadl: for the visions that now surge into her imagination are too terrible to torment him with. Not only the potential fates of his women, should the castle have been razed, but she also wonders if he does, indeed, have any children: he is so famous for his amorous exploits that surely, his harem must have had a few little Fadls running around in it?

"You were not quick enough," Fadl tells her, for the opium has affected her skill of controlling her mind, too. "None that survived infancy," he says. "Not since Harun."

"I am sorry. It was inappropriate of me," Yassamin says and takes him by the hand.

"I do not fault--"

"Would you look at that!" Jaffar cries, and now moves the crystal so that they can all see within it. "Methinks they are celebrating a victory," he chuckles.

For now, servants are busy decking the halls of Fadl's castle with colourful decorations, moving giant lion-shaped censers into the centre of the room and setting up tables for a banquet.

Fadl but blinks. "And none are mourning me?!"

"Do you want us to send them a message?" Yassamin asks.

"There is no need, my child," a crowlike voice cackles at them from the crystal. Jaffar is taken aback as the vision he'd summoned is pulled aside as if a curtain, now revealing a great, dark hall draped with red banners; on the furthermost wall, a giant golden Buddha smiles at them calmly.

Now, the vision turns a little, as if someone on the other end was watching them through a crystal, too, and was now turning that crystal around. "That's better," the croaking voice says, and now they see whom they are talking to: an old woman in saffron robes. She has shaven her head, and from her features, it is impossible to approximate her true age--only the lines of wisdom about her eyes and the intelligence in their twinkling depths tell them she is older than any of them can imagine, in both body and spirit.

"The Dakini," Yassamin gasps.

"Right the first time, my child," the old woman says, acknowledges Yassamin with a bow and then turns to the men. "I told them I had taken the rat-faced fellow here to safety, and that he would be returning soon. However, I suggest you scamper back forthwith, my good rodent; your viziers, as you have probably gathered, were not pleased at the news of your survival. The great eunuch in particular would have none of it; he tried to convince everyone of my lying. Therefore, you'd better hurry, my little rat-son, before the big fat cat gobbles you up."

"Umar..." Fadl growls, clenching his fists; he ignores her barbs for the time being. "Enspell him. Until I come back. I promise you riches unimaginable!"

She but shakes her head, smiling. "Protection for Nawbahar and the followers of The Three Jewels in perpetuity," she says, sealing the contract as soon as she speaks it. "No forcible conversions, no taxes beyond our means, no destruction of our temples."

Fadl rolls his eyes. "You have it!" he cries. For all of Balkh--hell, all of Islam already thinks him a heathen, does it not? "I shall pass a law to protect you and the temple--all the temples. This, I swear."

But he does not finish this declaration with an invocation to God, sure that the heavens are frowning upon him this very moment. But protecting the heathens is a small price to pay for his kingdom: the Dakini, too, knows Umar and the rest of Fadl's viziers for ruthless bastards, ready to exploit the natives under the pretext of Islam; in fact, Fadl has at times wondered whether she hasn't meddled in their affairs with her magic already, to make sure her temple stays standing. All pagans know the Barmakids for their reputation of tolerance, for their protection of the old monuments, for their opposition to the Caliphs that would raze heathen temples to the ground: the priests of Nawbahar have long allied themselves with the Barmakids, for no Barmakid would stand by and watch their old family temple damaged in any way whatsoever.

The Dakini closes her eyes and mutters a mantra. "It is done," she says as she opens her eyes once more. "And now, I suggest you hurry back."

"Can you ... fly me back?" Fadl asks, shifting in his seat, a little awkward. "With the amulet?"

She shakes her head. "The amulet only works once. But I am sure your accomplished brother can think of something," she says.

"But--"

It is of no use: she is gone. Again, it is as if a curtain is drawn and they are looking into Fadl's castle once more: Fadl stares at his empty throne, wonders who will sit upon it tonight in his stead, and his heart twists.

But it is then that they see a flicker from the latticed gallery above the banquet-hall: a tall, slim man in tight green clothes, a goat's beard and a prominent nose walks past the window set into the lattice. He glances at the hall, smiles, and then disappears into the shadows of the gallery once more.

"It's a phantasm!" Jaffar bursts out into laughter. "She has created a ghost-Fadl to rule in your stead. I am impressed. It is not easy to maintain such an illusion for more than a few minutes--I wonder how she will be able to do it for... however long it will take you to get back."

Fadl but stares, his face blank. "You had better have a spare flying horse in the stables, brother," he mutters.

Jaffar but laughs and pats him on the back. "I think I have... something we can use. But tomorrow. I will not be able to work such magic right now, and you will not be able to reclaim your kingdom if you are sleep-deprived."

Yassamin waves her hand and dims the crystal, then tucks it back into its pouch. "Amen."

With a long, weary groan, Fadl falls back onto the mattress. "I think I need a sleeping-spell," he murmurs.

Jaffar stretches and lets out a long yawn. "I was about to cast one. I prescribe that none of us get up before noon," he orders as he pulls the blanket over all three of them, Fadl now nestled between them.

"All is as well as can be, is it not?" Yassamin murmurs, her hand over Fadl's heart.

"It is," Fadl says and squeezes her hand; he regrets losing the sight of her honey-eyes as Jaffar dims the fire-sphere above them, too, so that it is only giving out the faintest of glows. "Thank you," he whispers and kisses her hand.

"I would not be able to sleep had we not found out," Jaffar says and rests his hand over Fadl's heart, too, lacing his fingers with Yassamin's. "Praise be to God," he murmurs and kisses Fadl's cheek. "Praise be to God."

"For he is most merciful, most clement," Fadl whispers in turn, embracing his two angels with all his might.

Chapter Text

***

The next day

***

Yassamin is planting herbs in the courtyard when a small, cloaked shape emerges into the gateway, remaining huddled under its shadowed arch, pressed tight against its brick wall.

"Old mother?" Yassamin asks. "Come closer; there is nothing to fear."

For this must be one of the poor women from the nearby village, come to beg for alms on her way home from the mosque. Yassamin herself has given the guards permission to let beggars through after the Friday prayers: after all, their house is so far from the city that beggars have not yet become a problem. In all towns and cities, however, they form human seas around the greater houses on Fridays and on festival days, demanding charity as is their due, even threatening to curse the indwellers lest they are given money and food. But here, Yassamin and Jaffar have been blessed with such peace that a beggar has become, to Yassamin at least, a welcome, pleasant sight: a chance for her to do something good, to atone for her sins--even those she has not committed, Jaffar often tells her wryly.

The woman does not move; she is bent low, trembling under her black mantle, and now Yassamin feels guilty for asking her to come closer--it must be difficult for the old woman to even walk. "Wait there, old mother," she cries out to her, gently, wiping her hands on her apron. "I shall bring some food forthwith."

When she emerges into the kitchen, the children are busy having a theological argument of all things, yelling at each other past Zahra's skirts, diving past her as they chase each other around the kitchen.

"Father was wrong!" Salsabil cries from behind the oven. "'Light upon light' does not mean the love of a person touching another! It's an earthly, stupid thing--I knew Father was blaspheming again! While I just read in an authoritative book that it meant the Prophet--peace be upon him--being a light for mankind, God having given him His light!"

"Stop calling Father stupid!" Anwar now cries, trying to snatch Salsabil's cap from her. "He loved Mother and he put his light into her light, and that's how I was born! Are you saying I'm not real?"

"There are many interpretations of that verse, children!" Yassamin says, she and Zahra now having to hold the children apart; while Zahra grabs Anwar by the collar, Yassamin holds Salsabil by her squirming shoulders. "Remember what we learned during poetry class," Yassamin now tells the children. "A poem is not a good poem unless it can be read in at least two different ways, with at least two different meanings. A love poem can be addressed to a living person, or it can be addressed to God, and both meanings are right. The same thing applies to the Verse of Light, and many others: God speaks in metaphors exactly so that we would think about their messages in depth, find their hidden meanings. Like turning a jewel in your hands, to see it refract light in many different ways."

"So I was right!" Anwar cries and looks up at Zahra. "And Father was not wrong."

"It's still stupid," Salsabil mutters.

Yassamin rolls her eyes. "They'll make a preacher out of you yet," she sighs. "They, too, would want everything to always be about God, forgetting His creation entirely. Now, your father and I believe they do not see the entire picture. One must remember God first and foremost, yes. But He has created this earth and us human beings in order to teach us His divine lessons, and we must always look for morsels of His wisdom not only in books, but in the living teaching that is the world around us. Including our fellow human beings. Now, apologise to your brother."

Salsabil sighs and stares at her toes. "I'm sorry, Anwar," she mumbles.

Zahra lets Anwar go. "Now, hug him and make up."

But it is Anwar who now hugs Salsabil tighter. "Can you feel that?" he asks, murmuring into Salsabil's braids. "That's my light, in my chest, trying to touch yours."

"You're silly," Salsabil says but hugs him back nevertheless; she closes her eyes and focuses, rocking her brother in her arms, trying so very hard to feel this light. "I think I can feel it. Just about."

"There we are," Yassamin says, then turns to Zahra. "Where did you put the leftovers from last night? There's a beggar-woman at the gate."

"As a matter of fact..." Zahra turns to one of the covered pots. "Your brother-in-law says he is sick of liver already, so there's plenty of the stew still left. Shall I heat it?"

"Yes, so we can cook a few eggs on top," Yassamin says. "At least she will be grateful!"

When the stew and eggs are done, Yassamin packs them tightly into a jar and the jar into a basket, packing a few flatbreads, a little bottle of oil and some vegetables beside it--who knows, the old woman might have a family to feed. When she returns to the courtyard, the woman is still there, not having moved an inch; she is still leaning against the wall for support, clutching her mantle tightly about her veiled face.

"Here you are, old mother," Yassamin says and hands to her the basket, smiling gently.

The woman takes the basket from her, but immediately sets it down beside her feet, mumbling what sound like thanks. Her hands are trembling and she is shaking, now; shaking from frantic sobs. "You are very kind, but--" and now, she collapses against Yassamin, weeping openly against her arm.

"There, there, old mother," Yassamin says, picks up the basket and leads the woman to one of the benches lining the courtyard. "Unburden your heart, my good woman; tell me what ails you. If I can help you in any way, gladly will I do it," she says.

As the woman lifts her eyes to Yassamin, they are red from weeping, ringed by dark circles of fatigue and smeared kohl: yet these are no beggar-woman's eyes, but eyes the pale gray-blue of Hyperborean skies.

"Zainab!"

"Hush!" Zainab hisses, then draws her mantle even more tightly about her face, even if her veil only reveals her eyes in the first place. "No one saw me come here. Allow me to at least mourn anonymously," she rasps, her throat raw from weeping: these are true tears, too, not some role she is putting on.

"Whatever for?"

Zainab's eyes flicker back and forth, furious, as if she thought Yassamin was jesting with her. "Do not mock me, girl! I have come to--well, I cannot very well go to Balkh myself!" she hisses. "I've come to ask you to show me his--" she swallows back tears, "his grave in your crystal, so that I may pay him my farewells," she says, and again, she breaks down in tears over Yassamin's chest, her round little body jiggling with her weeping. "Oh, Yassamin! I have dreamt of burying him as a queen his king; have him anointed with holy oils, his body dressed in rich raiments, of building for him a coffin of lead and gold, have it suspended between heaven and earth," she wails, now hiccoughing from her weeping, utterly hysterical from her grief. "To think that--to think that such a mighty lord, such a great warrior as Fadl, son of Yahya now lies in some unmarked grave in a battlefield somewhere!"

And as she lifts her face, her mantle and her veil--she so unused to wearing them--fall off her face, revealing her plump features twisted into an ugly mask, her famed beauty now tarnished by streaks of her tear-smeared face-paint. "I hate him, Yassamin! I hate him for daring to have done this to me, to have gone and died on me like this, the bastard!" she cries and clings to Yassamin's jacket, her plump little hands white from strain. "I loved him," she spits, "and I hate him!"

"But that sounds like a true believer's burial, nothing heathen to it at all!" a nasal voice cries out from behind them, with great surprise and glee. "I must say I am impressed."

It is, indeed, Fadl.

Zainab shoots up, all of her quivering, now no longer from sorrow. She looks as if she has--well, to all intents and purposes, she has just seen a ghost. She walks up to him and around him, measuring him with her eyes; as she comes to stand before him, she even pinches her own arm.

"You," she says, her eyes staring wide, her mouth gaping wide. "You--"

Fadl puffs out his chest and lifts his chin, bracing his fists upon his hips. "As alive as you ever saw me, my lady!" he beams, grinning widely.

Zainab punches him in the face.

"Don't you ever dare do that to me again!" she screams as he falls to the ground at her feet. Shrieking like a fury, she attacks him, her mantle and veil flying off as she kicks and slaps and beats Fadl, a man nearly twice her height; he but howls and laughs as he curls up there upon the ground, shielding himself from the blows of her little fists and feet. "Ever!" she screams, "Ever! Do you hear me, you son of a bitch?!"

But soon, Fadl has pulled her onto the ground with himself and into a wild kiss, rocking her in a passionate embrace. Moaning, screaming, still fighting, they tear at each other's clothes, uncaring that this is a place public; Zainab rips down Fadl's drawers and undoes her own.

Yassamin but sits there, in hysterics as Zainab pulls out Fadl's horse-prick and hops on it, squirming as she mounts it, yet riding him nevertheless--these two animals both need this, there is no doubt about it, and should anyone try and stop them, they'd surely tear them to pieces. Yassamin is laughing too much to even go and tell Zahra to keep the children out of the courtyard; she hangs onto the bench for dear life, bent double from her laughter as she watches this impromptu wrestling-match of love.

Yet, as Fadl rolls Zainab onto her back, it is all over in but moments: she screaming, he moaning, his thin hips slapping into her fat buttocks, they come in perfect, explosive unison.

Fadl groans and flops onto the grass beside Zainab, his cock rolling over his belly, leaving a white stain on his tunic. Yet he is beaming, his grin splitting his face. "Marry me."

"I said I hate you," Zainab groans and tries in vain to cover her drenched, heaving sex: yet her tunic is too short, her drawers are pulled down too low, and her little hands shake all too much. Moaning, she lets her limbs fall onto the grass, her giant cunny slick and bare; then she moans again as Fadl takes her by her sticky hand, squeezing it, clearly with no intention of letting go of it any time soon.

"Yassamin, what is that racket?" Jaffar moans, bleary-eyed as he peeks through the shabestan door. "I told you I wanted to sleep late--" and it is then that he sees Zainab and Fadl, sprawled in the grass, sees exactly what they have been doing. "Well. I am a little rusty when it comes to court etiquette, but you could have told me," he says and shakes his head. "He wasn't joking about the marathon, was he?"

Still grinning, Yassamin gets up and calls out in the direction of the kitchen door. "Zahra! Some tea, here in the courtyard," she shouts, "for four."

***

Fadl leaves them that very day; yet his primary concern today is not for his kingdom, but for his being able to spend a night with Zainab before leaving. That gives Jaffar the evening free, and he is glad for that, most glad indeed: he is still so exhausted from their orgies that he couldn't have engineered Fadl a flying horse tonight in any case.

Yet, to his great surprise, Yassamin awaits him in the love-chamber tonight: he enters it with not a little trepidation.

"I thought you were sore," he murmurs as he slips under the blankets with her, naked skin against naked skin.

"I am," she says and nuzzles his face. "But I wanted to try something tonight. That abiding you spoke of... would it be possible for us to do it without making love physically? Only holding each other, like this?"

"Most certainly," he says, yawning. "That's a relief."

She gives him the littlest, softest of kisses upon his lips. That's what I wanted tonight. My body is sated; beyond sated. Yet I would have you within myself tonight, husband; especially now that we have again played with others. I would have you all to myself once more, in the way we could never have others; that communion that is only possible between you and I.

And he replies to her not in words, or even thoughts: he but holds her close and begins to flow into her. Again, he takes that essence of himself that is the wellspring, and begins to pour himself into the roots of her jasmine: as soft mist, as light rain does he first caress her, flowing into her through her pores, as soft and moist breath upon her lips. She lets out a little moan, and now he flows into her a rivulet, then a stronger stream; finally, he surges through her a river, a river flowing wide.

And now, she returns him to himself, flowing back into him, his waters made fragrant with her love; she thinks of the red gold that is the precious oil of jasmine, its intoxicating fragrance, and as that red gold she now glides across his skin, steams into his lungs, pours into his veins, making him reel drunk in her embrace.

This is better than the opium, he sighs into her mind; so much purer, clearer, he thinks.

Why have we not done this more often? she wonders. Except upon the cusp of sleep?

"It's because you have to be such an attractive little minx," he says out loud, opening his eyes, and now he smacks her upon the arse, squeezing it hard, enough to wring out a clench from her cunny, a hardening from her nipples, an erotic shiver throughout her being. Even saints would have a hard time not fucking you, he licks these words into her mind, deliberately coarse, rutting against her in soul and in body.

"Oh, but you are impossible!" she groans against him. "I thought we were supposed to not do this--" but he sends through her another shiver, his desire whipping across her a rain about her back, her cunny, her buttocks; now, she is moaning into his mouth. "Impossible."

He chuckles. "I can force it to go down, if you like," he says, surprised himself at how proudly his prick is now pointing at her.

She thinks of it, stroking his back; as always, her fingertips meet the dread scars upon his back, those left by her father's guards. Each time, they are a reminder to her of how hard Jaffar had fought to win her love; again, she is ashamed of herself for suggesting things that might sound like rejection to him. He is an old man, and God knows how many years, months, days they have left together upon this earth: she could not bear it were she to go and meet her maker knowing she had not made love to Jaffar as much as he deserved.

"I'm sorry," she says, and takes her hand to his cock.

He pulls her hand off his cock and kisses her palm. "You are thinking of the scars again, thinking you owe me the services of a slave," he says, searching her eyes. "And as much as I love the slave girl..."

"Do not jest," she says.

"I am not jesting. If it was a mere cunny I wanted, I would have got myself a slave girl, hundreds. Do you know why I have not removed the scars? Because I could, now that I have the magics for it."

She thinks she does know, but she can sense he wants to tell her. "Why?"

"Because it'd be sacrilege. I thought them demons as they whipped me, but little did I know these were, in fact, the touch of an angel's wing. Erasing them would mean forgetting how much I loved you then; and to think that that was but a fraction of how much I love you now!" he laughs, his eyes glimmering in the moonlight. "That I was willing to submit myself to this--" and she knows he means the risk of infection and hideous death involved with all whippings, "for the love of what was but a thing imagined, a mirage: but the image of a beautiful princess in my heart."

"Jaffar--"

He laces his fingers with hers and shakes his head. "I loved you so much, then; and yet you were still but the seed, but a hope of the end of my loneliness. And even then, I dared not hope for much. I had hoped for but a wife I found desirable, but I dared not expect--" and now, he waves a hand at his crooked teeth and receding hair, "that she would desire this old, wrinkled demon back in turn. Believe you me, I would have been over the moon to have a wife who would have been kind-hearted enough to but tolerate me. Even that was a distant, far-flung, ludicrous dream! But then, you--"

And now, his voice chokes and his erection is again soft; Yassamin gathers him tightly into her arms, holding him in her embrace a babe. "Shh, Jaffar. I am here."

"And that's the miracle," he laughs, his voice light, like that of a child's. "The likelihood of you being everything," he swallows back his tears, "everything I could ever have wanted, needed and more; more than is my worth."

"Aye, a demoness!" she laughs through her own tears.

He weeps profusely from his happiness, now; his tears streaming down his face. Those same cheetah-streaks of kohl running down from his eyes to his cheeks that she'd seen upon the wizard who had dropped the incense bowl--"Oh, Jaffar."

He hugs her back, frantic, sobbing still, but now there is laughter mixed into their sobs: for they both think of that violent encounter of Fadl's and Zainab's they had witnessed earlier today, how this is the exact opposite of it, a tremulous entwinement of tender, soft and chaste love.

Jaffar but rocks her in his arms and murmurs into her shoulder, inhaling her perfume. "I must have known, somehow. I must have. I must have. How God ever thought I deserved someone like you--" he says, wiping his tears from his eyes, now willing himself into a seriousness solemn. "The mother of a thousand desires in me," he whispers and takes her hand to his heart; "a thousand desires that within me burn; feel them, Yassamin; how they burn."

"I do," she whispers huskily. She slides her arms around his neck and kisses his mouth, swallowing his sobs. "And every day, I thank the Lord on my knees for my sweet Jaffar," she says, and she knows that he knows: he has himself seen and heard her do this every day in her prayers. "The wellspring of all my desire," she whispers; "the home of all my desire, the end of all my desire."

"I am so confused, now," Jaffar says in the playful imitation of a child, sounding exactly like Anwar as he learns the world around himself; his hair is now falling into his eyes. "There's this," he says and lets her feel his half-hard cock against her belly, "but then there's also this," he winces and shows to her the twinge in his old back, the aches in all his limbs from the way they'd overexerted themselves last night thanks to the opium.

"Perhaps..." and now she does what she had done with Fadl: she takes Jaffar inside of herself when he is still half-hard, half-soft; Jaffar, too, is big enough to fit inside a woman even in this state. "Now, how's that for abiding?" she asks, squeezing around him a little.

"Marvellous," he says, nuzzling her nose with his.

You know, I don't think I need anything more than that, he whispers into her mind. For now, there is no desperation in him to come, none of that surging, galloping need that needs culminate in an explosion of the seminal fluids; it is quite curious, he thinks. But what about you?

First, I think you just ejaculated explosively as far as emotions are concerned, she laughs, swirling into his mind; I feel quite drenched in your love. And no... she thinks, trying to squeeze him a little, but her cunny is feeling lazy, most definitely not possessed of a desperate urge to be rubbed; even that one clench had felt like a huge, massive exertion for her. No, I don't think I need anything more than this, my love.

It's settled then, my sweet, he chuckles against her. Shall we try falling asleep like this?

Now, she has to squeeze him, if only out of mischief; yet he adores it, adores her laughter as it tinkles into his ears a rivulet silvern. We can try, she thinks.

Just pray that Ishtiaq will not jump into bed this time, he says, psychically inspecting the runes she has locked the door with, to make sure she has made it cheetah-proof.

"Shh, my old fool of a husband," she says out loud, pressing a kiss onto his lips. "Sleep."

And once more, he draws the veil of sweet rest over them, thick and warm: and within it, the abiding. They swirl into each other, suspended in each other as they are suspended in deep rest; them the twin white wings of a moth trapped in the amber of love. Heavier than opium, warmer than wine, they float there in a sea of their own making, a heaven of their own crafting until consciousness itself is dissolved and sleep reigns king.

There is but the light of the moon watching over them calmly, silver reflecting the gold of the sun; light upon light patiently smiling upon them; light upon light.

"Light upon light," Anwar whispers in his sleep, Ishtiaq grumbling as he presses into the cheetah's belly with his little feet.

"Light upon light," Fadl whispers in adoration as the moonlight paints Zainab's white flesh, she sleeping quietly beside him.

"Light upon light," Yassamin whispers as in the sunlight that is Jaffar, she spreads out her wings and takes flight.

***

END

***