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the origins of wine

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234 AD, Ctesiphon, Mesopotamia 

When the white gold, effervescent morning sunlight floated into the room, it met the dull, drooping face of an exhausted Ardashir. His hands cemented themselves into his face, Ardashir peeking out between his fingers. The sleepless night had mocked him, but the sun was rubbing salt in the wound.

Breakfast was laid out neatly on the table, but no one was present except for Ardashir. He sincerely doubted the other two would be joining him anytime soon—walking quickly past their bedroom, telltale sounds meant Romulus and Min were already up and at it again.

Because of course they were. Elbows on the table, Ardashir sank down, thinking of all the sleep he had lost. Not only had there been the obvious sex and moans, Ardashir could hear every loud chuckle, and, for a period of time, maybe some crying? Maybe that was a new kink.

He hadn't been joking about being busy the next day. The shahanshah planned on on having the first wars with the Romans in the Sasanian dynasty written about immediately, and Ardashir was to help. Then, he had to circle the walls with Ardashir I’s son and a few generals.

Clearly, he did not relish the thought of leaving Romulus and Min alone in his house to have a sex marathon. He had no idea exactly what surfaces they would deface and how much cleaning up would be involved.

Ardashir sighed.

He picked at the figs and honey, brooding morosely in the silence. Even the slaves noticed the rain cloud hovering above Ardashir’s head and were stepping carefully around him. There were only so many rooms in his house—Ardashir didn't know long he could handle them both staying.

Sure, he had invited him here at the same time on purpose. Ardashir had been extremely interested in what had happened during their visit, since Min had shared no information.

Now, he felt like he got the gist.

Just as Ardashir’s head began to tilt to one side, he heard soft petal footsteps padding into the dining hall. He opened his eyes as fast as he could, lifting his marble-heavy head to look up. Surprisingly, Min was sauntering up to him in a casual silk wrap and slippers.

When Ardashir rubbed his eyes and sat up, Min was more disheveled than he first realized. His raven hair was unbound, tucked behind one ear. His hanfu opened in a deep-v, hung loosely on his frame, the sash at his waist barely even tied. This revealed an expanse of blinding skin littered in darker marks, left with possessive intent.

Only Min could turn being disheveled and half-undressed into a polished look. Though baby hairs puffed out messily all around his head, they caught the light and shone like gold thread. One arm rested on the side of Ardashir’s couch, Min leaning down, and the excess fabric pooled around his joints and hung low to reveal more of his chest. It was effortless. Ardashir felt his body tighten as he gave Min a wary look.

“Good morning,” Min cheered, his hair falling forward with the movement. Ardashir always wondered how it stayed so straight. After Min’s eyes squinted, he leaned forward even closer, invading Ardashir’s personal space. “Say, did you sleep alright last night?”

Ardashir tried hiding his bags with a hand. The question had sounded genuine enough that, if he didn't know better, he would have thought Min cared. “Where is Romulus?”

“Right here,” boomed his arguably least favorite Roman from the back of the room. He crossed in no time at all, yawning and stretching his arms freely. His tunic was wrinkled and half-off of one shoulder. Romulus stood behind Ardashir’s couch, and Ardashir began to feel he was being surrounded.

“We have a proposition for you,” Min eventually said as Ardashir glanced between them. His tone was unreadable, his eyes impartial.

Ardashir pouted. He couldn't let them get away with everything. “Why did you even bother putting on clothes?”

Apparently having the opposite effect, Romulus broke into a thundering guffaw. “Why indeed. Min, would you like to explain?”

Min nodded imperiously. “First off, I am a man of grace and chastity. But that’s not what we’re here for.” He waved his arms for emphasis, then extended one to point at Ardashir. “We wanted to ask you about having a threesome.”

Just as before, he would have been surprised if he didn't know Min as well. The vulgar things that sometimes came from the petite, porcelain man would surprise even a prostitute. To Ardashir—and maybe even moreso to Romulus—they were quite commonplace. The only thing that did surprise him was his inclusion.

He had only seen Romulus and Min’s relationship unfold for a single day, and in that time, it had appeared above him. It was on a level of ethereal passion, high in the clouds and reserved only for them, that Ardashir could only hope to achieve. If he had seen their reunion in the courtyard, it probably would have only confirmed his suspicions. However, he gave them privacy and then agonized over hundreds of versions of what could have happened in bed that night.

Ardashir sighed and set down the wine cup he had been holding. The noise rang in his ears louder than usual. “A threesome?” he asked, his voice far away.

Both of them nodded in sync. Apparently, it was simple.

Of course, he’d had sex with both of them before. Ardashir raised one brow. “When? Like… now?”

“Tonight, at the earliest,” Min shook his head.

That should have been the answer he expected. Though Min tried his best to make the sex appear equal when it was happening, it was really in his own favor. Min only came to him in the pitch black of night, secretly and stealthily and leaving before morning. Perhaps Ardashir couldn't guess his reasoning, but Min was just as human as the rest of them. Though the mythical Min could have higher reasons, ordained by the gods, Ardashir suspected he just didn't want to spend the night alone.

If that was the case, then what did he have to lose? If anything, this was probably an upgrade. They would most likely be forced to stay in the same bed together. Ardashir could use it to gain insight into their relationship and perhaps improve his own with them. He kept these thoughts in the back of his mind, using them to support his decision when he felt so shitty.

Ardashir grabbed the wine cup back up and downed the rest of it. He exhaled heavily. “I’m in.”

“Wonderful,” Min exclaimed, his hand worming its way up Ardashir’s arm. The palm’s skin was petal soft and impossibly cool for what he’d been doing all morning. “We really just wanted to repay you.”

Ardashir’s mouth twitched nervously. When he wasn't staring at Min’s hand massaging his forearm, he was staring at Min’s perfunctory smile. “For what?”

Romulus had shifted from the back to the side of the couch. In his preoccupation, Ardashir hadn't even seen him move. “For a lot of things,” Romulus chuckled, wrapping two stocky arms around Min’s thin waist. Min gasped in surprise, though his face barely changed. Pulling Min back taut against his body, Min’s hand left Ardashir’s arm. He watched it go as his face visibly fell dull again.

“Stop it, you,” Min huffed, gently pushing Romulus’ face away. “Romulus just means for bringing us together.”

Ardashir stared at them blankly. Any sooner, and he wouldn't have believed them. Any later, and he would have been completely maudlin from processing the information. “Oh.”

“So of course, we thought the best present was to—” Min stopped talking as his mouth opened in a little o. The short man had carelessly buried his face into Min’s neck to press loud kisses to the already marred skin. “Romulus!”

Romulus only laughed and continued his work. In his seat, Ardashir was squirming more than even Min. “I’ll be gone all day,” he choked out, afraid he would never get the chance. “Even for dinner. Lunch and dinner here are already assigned for you two, though.”

Min tutted, one hand buried in the side of Romulus’ hair. “Oh, you're too kind.” He reached out with his free hand, heading to cup Ardashir’s dark cheek. Before it landed, an impatient Romulus scooped Min up bridal-style into his arms. Min folded into a half-circle, fitting perfectly. His hair had swung towards Ardashir before now hanging freely off of his back and into the air.

“Romulus!” Min repeated again, an accusatory tone. Ardashir was genuinely worried for a moment before Min began to giggle. “I said, not in front of people! Remember last time—?”

Ardashir’s face fell as their backs turned to him, Romulus likely taking Min back to the bedroom. Wounded and lonely, he wondered idly if he had made a mistake in agreeing. It was just feeding into what Romulus and Min wanted. Whenever he did that, it never turned out in his favor. Drûgâskan, he had introduced the two, and look how that was turning out for him—completely scorned and appreciated only in jest.

When he didn't give the pair what they wanted, though, things turned out even worse.

After downing a whole pitcher of wine, Ardashir grabbed his outdoorwear for the day. Standing still as the slaves opened the front door for him, he brooded on how the only thing he had over Romulus was a beard, and now, not even that much was true.


The stars followed Ardashir home, and the sight of his doorman in the shadows reminded Ardashir of his agreement this morning. Legally binding, no doubt. Ironically, stepping out of the night and into his lit home cast a darkness on his heart.

Silence greeted him in his own home. The slaves had already cleaned up dinner—the table and couches were neat and tidy. The lamps burned low, quivering from fear and casting ominous shadows all over the room. It was pitch black past the row of columns, and Ardashir stood in the mottled gray alone.

How should he approach this? Did he want to do it today? He knew the answer was yes, since he had thought about it all day. Ardashir told himself not to because he knew not all of his imagined scenarios would come true—maybe not even one. That hasn't stopped him, though. Ardashir squirmed at the thought.

But did they want to do it tonight? Would they be in their bedroom? His bedroom?

After a few heartbeats, Ardashir crept his way to his room to freshen up. He took the long way around the other guest  bedrooms to avoid his companions. His hair was a wreck from being outside half the day, and his kohl, perfumes, and red cheek powder had just generally worn off. He thought it completely useless to retouch it since it was dark outside, but then Ardashir remembered Min, white face powder transferring to Ardashir’s fingers when touching his face in the middle of the night.

He added a bit more.

Instead of going immediately to Romulus and Min’s room, Ardashir’s feet carried him to the courtyard. They automatically did whenever he was feeling even a little bit anxious. It was his safe place, his pride and joy. He had even put a bit of slave-level labor into himself just to make it perfect.

He needed fresh air to clear his mind. Stepping down the few marble stairs, the foliage looked black and looming in the dark. However, he knew the paths by heart and never missed a step. Ardashir inhaled and exhaled the chilly, desert air loudly, attempting to calm his nerves.

This would prove to be a mistake. Coupled with his naturally loud footsteps, Ardashir was apparently completely oblivious to the sounds being caused by the other two. When he emerged from a side path, he encountered the small sandstone fountain surrounded by four benches, one of his favorite places to sit.

He also encountered Romulus and Min.

For his leisure, four lamps were always lit brightly in this area. The orbs of saffron light conjoined and highlighted the entire area. Ardashir grinded to a halt right in front of the ring of gold, his heart pounding.

Romulus sat upright on the bench, holding back Min’s loose hair with one fist. It probably hadn't been up all day. Min was kneeling on the ground directly in front of Romulus, crouching and leaning over his lap.

Ardashir’s eyes widened. Romulus’ tunic was hiked up, scrunched up to his abdomen. At first glance, Romulus appeared positively bored out of his mind. His free fist was propping his chin up from the couch arm. The angle, eyes tilted downwards, showed only an impartial brow ridge and a heavy frown. His curly hair sent shadows of dark spirals down his face.

When Min’s head tilted to one side, Romulus’ tilted up. Now facing the light, it hid nothing—even from feet away, Ardashir could see the wet sheen on Romulus’ face. The entire thing was sweating, enough to form droplets. His hand under his chin couldn't hold a fist anymore and fell uselessly by his side. With the newfound freedom, Romulus’ mouth fell open, its size increasing by the minute.

Ardashir shrunk back when Romulus moaned. His heart was pounding against his ribs. It had been about fifty years since they’d had sex, so that could have been why he didn’t remember it at all, but Ardashir knew better than to fool himself. It sounded deeper and lustier, but there was a tender, longing edge to it that made Ardashir’s heartbeat falter. He stepped back closer, his face settling into a frown.

It was only a few moments before Romulus was close. He’d gotten louder, though when speaking directly to Min, his whispers were infuriatingly quiet. Ardashir did not catch a single one. When Min’s head bobbed seemingly dangerously far down, Ardashir wasn’t imagining it was him. That was disrespectful. He was, separated and clinical, wondering if Min had ever given him a blowjob. He knew he would have remembered it, so the answer was no.  

The lights were strong enough that Ardashir could catch Min’s cheeks hollowing. Romulus wasn’t vocal when he finally came—instead, he uttered only a few final gasps, and lowered his gaze to stare straight at Ardashir.

Ardashir froze like he had been thrown head-first into the Tigris.

Romulus didn’t stop. Chest heaving, he curled a finger, motioning for Ardashir to come closer. By the grace of Ahura Mazda, the three tentative steps did not make Ardashir pass out.

Min finally emerged from Romulus’ lap to face the intruder, licking puffy lips. The sight turned Ardashir’s stomach inside out. Unaware of Ardashir’s own sheen of sweat and taut frame, Min casually leaned his head against Romulus’ knee. Romulus kept his hand in the man’s hair, running his fingers through it with a warning expression.

Min spoke first. He looked neither winded or used. “I thought you would join me earlier.”

Instead of the Tigris, Ardashir thought the entire fucking Mediterranean had just leaked from his ceiling. “What?” His vision was blurry. “In what? You knew I was there? The whole time?”

They had the social intelligence not to laugh, but Ardashir saw them give each other an amused look that spoke volumes. Did we know ? Please, you must be joking.

Ardashir crossed his arms. “...You knew I was home?”

Ardashir felt stupid. He had stomped around so loudly, of course they knew. Maybe military-worthy plots were the only way empires truly knew how to interact.

Min stood up, without support and graceful as a swan. If Ardashir inspected his knees, he wouldn’t be surprised to find no marks, as if the cobblestone knew who he was and moved out of the way in heavenly respect. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, flippantly, though without any rudeness. He moved forwards to Ardashir on light, slender feet. “Are you ready to join us now?”

The Persian was half-tempted to refuse; that is, until Min grabbed his hand. His petal-soft thumb rubbed comforting circles on Ardashir’s palm. Both that and his warm smile had to be completely falsified, but Ardashir nodded automatically.

Romulus was now standing up behind them. He, too, had recovered too quickly for Ardashir’s liking. Ardashir’s eyes darted back to Min. “But not—not here—”

“Of course not,” Min assured him. “Our performance is over. My knees hurt,” he admitted in a rare moment of humanity. As soon as it surfaced, it was smothered, and Min clasped his hand hard and forcefully led them out of the courtyard, with no protests from either man following.

Depending on how he remembered it, the walk took either no time at all or Ardashir’s entire lifespan. The halls were straight shots of blackness, the company of foreign people making the journey disorienting. Ardashir’s body, especially the south, was straining. He remembered Min passing up their room in favor for Ardashir’s own. Not that he minded—it was much bigger with a larger bed to boot.

The first concrete feeling he remembered was plopping heavily on his own bed, the frame flying up to meet him. The lamps were still lit from his previous visit, though burning low. Ardashir looked around his own room, wondering why it felt so different.

“Undress me,” rang Min’s voice loud and clear. When Ardashir snapped to attention, the direction had been for Romulus. They stood in front of the bed together, borders illuminated. Ardashir was surprised to see Min had a full five- or six-layer hanfu on. It confused him until Romulus’ deft hands, obviously acquainted with the clothing like an old dog, blew threw the layers with a speed Ardashir could only hope for. He had even memorized their names and functions one time in an effort to improve—Min always had to remove some things himself. The layers sloughed off like water. He wondered idly if that had been a setup too or if he was just being paranoid. He would never know.

He was quite used to a naked Min, but the sight always surprised him, brought something new to notice. Even if all of Min’s humans looked like that, sinewy yet slight and smooth, he was clueless as to how they kept their frame. Min was fond of both food and alcohol—perhaps prone to overindulging, though Ardashir would never comment—yet his skin never dulled and his unique leanness never changed. The only thing Ardashir could see different from their nights together at the border were the marks Romulus had made. Dark, claiming, and everywhere. Ardashir’s mood darkened as well.

“Now you.” His tone was quick.

Romulus moved to obey. He took much less work, and his body took much less of Ardashir’s focus. They were virtually the same, only Romulus was compressed because of his height. Ardashir wasn't indifferent by far, but he wasn't jealous. On the other hand, Min looked completely smitten. He’d known Min for a long time—could analyze exactly what it was. Probably first and foremost was the hair, feelings doubled now since Romulus had grown a beard. Ardashir was still bitter. Instead of it being just the muscle, it was moreso shows of strength and feeling surrounded. Ardashir had all of those same positive qualities and had used them to the best of his ability.

With lightning fast steps, Min moved to the bed. Ardashir quickly slid to one side, trying to seem unassuming. Only he and Min were semi-hard, since Romulus needed time to recover. In one seamless motion, Min lifted himself onto the bed and laid spread out on his stomach, barely affecting the weight. Ardashir’s eyebrows raised high until the bed dipped much farther, and Romulus settled in comfortably between Min’s legs. Min raised his ass the same time he tilted his head at Ardashir, smiling brilliantly.

“Your turn. Try and be a bit slower,” he suggested, though his tone left no room for error.

If there was a scenario Ardashir got right, it was Min taking the lead. He could already count on himself submitting, but his hunch for Romulus rested solely on the fact that Ardashir had never seen a different emotion other than smug anger on the man’s face until he looked at Min yesterday. The shift to euphoric disbelief had been rapid. Ardashir wondered how long it had been.

He kept detached thoughts like these his main train of thought to keep his sanity. Since Romulus wasn't hard, he didn't understand the two’s position until Romulus began to crouch. For some reason, ass-eating hadn't been on his list of scenarios, though now it was completely obvious. Ardashir had vaguely connected the dots on Romulus’ focuses on mouths and body parts and mouths on body parts. Ardashir gulped and slowly pulled his heavy tunic over his head just as Min’s face began to slacken and tint rose.

The snail’s pace had been from his inability to face Min, but luckily, Min had missed his stricken expression. When he was finally free, Min was resting his chin on both hands. Ardashir’s slowly revealed chest and stomach were in the direct path of Min’s roving, piercing eyes. His hair spread out across Min’s shoulders like a shroud. Maybe Romulus hadn't stolen all of Min’s interest in physique. Plain on his face, heavy-lidded eyes and thin smile, the desire to see more gave Ardashir a dangerous surge of confidence.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed dramatically to remove his trousers. Ardashir slowly peeled them off, kicking out one leg at a time. When he glanced back at Min, Min’s face had fallen neutral again. A twinge of anxiety hit him, and his hands stumbled, trying to figure out what to do next. He decided to speed up the process, eventually sitting with his legs crossed in front of Min. Thankfully, Min was grinning again. Ardashir felt light-headed, but he gave a shaky smile in return.

“Stop,” Min said suddenly, directed behind him. His voice was breathy and ragged, but it was still more in control than Ardashir felt. However, Romulus didn't lift his head. Min huffed indignantly and kicked Romulus in the stomach. Romulus came up laughing and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Sorry,” Romulus confessed, dramatically pressing a hand to his chest.

“No, you're not.” Min crossed his arms and sat up. His eyes settled on Ardashir’s frame. “We just need to move into a more comfortable position.”

Ardashir made himself smaller and tried to move back on the bed. Min’s head turned to him, a sharp gaze. “Not you. You're fine.”

Ardashir had no time to ask questions when Min slid back into a lying position and scooted up in the bed. Closing the space between him and Ardashir’s lap, Min closed a fist around Ardashir and smiled. Ardashir gasped.

“It’s only fair you get a turn,” Min singsonged, arching an eyebrow at Ardashir’s surprise. Romulus also scooted closer to continue his previous work. “Romulus will be a bit jealous, but he’ll get over it.”

Ardashir glanced down the white slope of Min’s back at the same time as Romulus looked up from Min’s ass. Romulus’ eyes were shrewd and near-black, and they had an intense staredown over Min’s figure.

It ended when Min finally went down. Ardashir gaped like a fish and threw his head back.

It wasn’t an ideal angle because, from above, Ardashir couldn’t see the details of Min’s face. Instead, Min’s oil slick hair trickled down his shoulders. Some fell to gently sway along Ardashir’s thighs, tickling the sensitive skin and causing pinpricks along Ardashir’s spine. His stomach hollowed further each time Min bobbed his head up and down. His fingers locked up, as if from cold, and dug deep into the blankets. A few times, his arms twitched forward, but eventually settled back uncomfortably by his sides.

Around the fifth time, Min pulled his mouth off with a pop and a few choice grumbles in Chinese. “Being ridiculous,” he huffed, eyes darting up darkly. His hand shot out to wrap around Ardashir’s forearm and bring it to his own hair. Ardashir heard a loud chuckle behind Min. He and Romulus continued their earlier staredown, Romulus now propping himself up on one elbow and lightly tracing his fingers around the swell of Min’s ass. Ardashir glowered at him, running his fingers through Min’s hair, and Romulus smirked.

Since Ardashir’s body temperature was blazing, Min’s icy grip haunted his wrist. Min was always watery cool to the touch, no matter what he was doing. However, he could tell Min wasn’t completely unaffected. His hair was warm and damp, but still perfumed, leaving Ardashir’s fingers tingling.

Ardashir would have liked to play with Min’s hair for eternity, an action he was almost never allowed to do. The oils, the integrity, Min would argue. He even slept in only a few select positions, his hair daintily positioned and away from Ardashir.

It was over far too soon. His chest had been heaving painfully for a long time now. When he felt the back of Min’s throat slam into him, Ardashir let out an embarrassing yelp. Just as soon as he had gotten that far, Min’s entire mouth was gone in a flash. Immediate anxiety filled his heart, worried Min was about to mock him. Instead, Min detached himself with one theatrically-placed strand of saliva. He unfolded with grace and a serene expression, dabbing at his mouth with acute precision instead of wiping it barbarically.

“Time for something different,” Min announced, as if he was reading from an itinerary. Romulus had gotten up too, sitting heavily on his haunches. Ardashir’s eyes widened in worry as Min slid back and left the spot between Ardashir and Romulus completely open. When they met eyes, Ardashir was met with unwavering Roman aplomb instead of a surprise equal to his own. Min was the link between the two of them; he’d only agreed to it for Min. If it was just the two of them, the mood would change entirely—to the rushed, violent sex full of poorly-veiled antagonism they always had. Except perhaps for the first time, when Ardashir had seduced a young Romulus based on charm and garden alone. His act had fallen apart almost immediately the next day, and he had inadvertently taught Romulus a lesson in dealing with empires.  

It was just equally as likely that he hadn’t. Romulus was completely open and vulnerable to Min, most evident in how he was sitting here calmly, under Min’s orders. Ardashir tried to be a bit wary, but he knew he was vulnerable, too.

Min had been watching their nonverbal exchange with piqued interest—Ardashir felt the man’s eyes boring into him the whole time. Eventually, the bed shifted, and Ardashir watched Min lie down in one languid movement to become a casual observer.

"I've done enough work, so it's your turn now," Min sighed, pointing at both of them. "I'll continue Romulus' job myself."

When his fingers slipped below the crevice of his ass, Ardashir gaped. He looked at Min with bowl-round eyes. "Had we gotten that far?"

A deep rumble came from beside him. Ardashir jumped out of his skin, unaware of when Romulus had closed the gap. "You were a little occupied," Romulus sneered. One of his hands settled right below Ardashir's breast.

Romulus’ insolence inspired bravado in Ardashir again. Ardashir was the one to initiate the kiss, grabbing Romulus by the collarbone to force their mouths together. His eyes were shut so tightly Ardashir saw spots, so only the corners met, and a few teeth clacked. Romulus reacted like that was his intent, only purring as he fixed their positions. When their mouths were together and open for the first time, Romulus’ taste was a heady confidence boost—it was Ardashir’s own wine.

It was Ardashir’s turn to laugh deliriously. With a pang in his heart, Ardashir was reminded of the Persian myth of the origins of their wine. Her love rejected by the king, she drank the fermented juice from rotting grapes in a suicide attempt. Even if the king rewarded her for finding its pleasant taste and pleasanter effects, Ardashir scrunched his face up, furrowing his brows, his heart pounding. To hide his expression, Ardashir lowered his face to work on Romulus’ neck instead. His first bite was much harder than he’d intended. Moaning freely, Romulus noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

After a while, Romulus must have gotten tired of Ardashir gnawing on his neck. Two callused hands crushed Ardashir’s face, dragging him up by the cheeks. Romulus challenged him by dominating the second kiss, pushing his tongue’s way into Ardashir’s mouth. This was coupled with Romulus raising all the way up on his shins to tower over Ardashir. The action was laughable—Romulus would always the shortest of the three. But Ardashir let it happen, craning his neck uncomfortably.

Ardashir retaliated by digging his nails into Romulus’ side. Ardashir had forgotten where Romulus liked it, or if he liked it at all. But Romulus heaved as a good sign, pulling Ardashir closer roughly so that their exposed hipbones clacked together. Ardashir felt Romulus’ hands grip his ass, and he pulled away to give Ardashir a weird look. Romulus just shrugged.

They continued kissing passionately for a while longer. In one instance, Ardashir was kissing along Romulus’ jaw, and the presence of the beard scratching against his cheeks made him pout and squint. It did look good on him.

When Romulus had his face deep in one of Ardashir’s neck tendons, his head lolled to the side as he glanced back expectantly at Min. They’d both been aware of Min watching them the whole time—even if Min’s presence didn't single-handedly change any room, he had been making his own soft, feathery noises from the side. Realizing he had Ardashir’s attention, Min smiled encouragingly before nodding to Romulus’ dick. He knew what Min wanted—it had been long enough for Romulus to be basically hard again. Ardashir doubted it was ever a struggle to begin with. Closing his eyes tightly again, Ardashir reached down as instructed. His grip was tentative at first, but when Romulus jumped in surprise, Ardashir grinned and wrapped his hand around tighter. Romulus did the same thing, leaning his head up to glare at Ardashir.

“There’s no fun in doing it alone,” Min called out, waving a hand and wasting no time. “Together now.”

Both men shot Min a glance, Ardashir bemused, Romulus amused. Romulus was the first to set a firm hand on the small of Ardashir’s back and pull him forward until their dicks brushed against each other for the first time. It was too late to back down, so he pushed them even closer and wrapped one shaking hand around both.

Ardashir was wrung out and aching by the time Min’s silky hands touched them both on the shoulder. He was utterly exhausted, but the scent of Min’s Mandarin orange hand oils wafted towards him in a citrusy wave, bringing him back to life. “Mind if I get back in?” He had interrupted them at the most crucial moment, when both men felt like coming. But they broke apart immediately, parting and forgetting about their previous pain.

Facing Ardashir, Min sat between Romulus’ legs like he belonged there. He tilted his head, looking up at Ardashir. Ardashir had completely forgotten he was the tallest of the three.

“For being a wonderful participant,” Min began in a high, clear voice, “you get to choose what happens next.”

Ardashir raised a dubious eyebrow, his chest expanding with each breath. “Are there, like, options?”

Min crossed his arms and leaned back into Romulus. “Do you want to fuck me or not?”

The Persian weighed his options, since the answer was likely a very loaded one. Min had been having sex with Romulus all day, and Ardashir hadn’t slept with him since the border. Ardashir similarly crossed his arms. He didn’t want to seem too excited, whether it was the right or wrong answer. “I… suppose I do.”

“Alright then.” Min shrugged carelessly, a detached gesture. Ardashir supposed it was something better than a purely negative reaction.

Min quickly transferred from Romulus’ lap to Ardashir’s own. If Ardashir regretted his decision, any negative feelings were washed out of him when Min leaned against Ardashir’s chest and craned his neck to look up at him. Ardashir’s blood ran cold with dreadful expectation. When one of Min’s blossom hands came to rest on his cheek, Ardashir was surprised by the personability of it.

His eyes narrowed. “Don’t disappoint me.”


And then it was gone.

The three of them moved together to form a close, sweaty knot. When it was Romulus’ brutish hands guiding Min’s hips down instead of Ardashir’s own, the two men met eyes over Min’s shoulder. Ardashir pressed his hands over Min’s nipples and pulled him away from Romulus. When Min only huffed indignantly when Ardashir entered him, Ardashir immediately felt a rush of shame for being so puerile and taking so long.

In the end, Ardashir and Romulus’ might have been switched to the outside observer. They were completely arbitrary, and Ardashir had to fight tooth and nail for Min’s attention, despite being the one behind him. Min and Romulus were always pressed up against each other, sometimes so close that Ardashir attempted to pull Min back a bit. If he obeyed, it was only for a few heartbeats before gravitating back to Romulus like his life depended on it. They kissed wildly, and Ardashir swallowed the knot in his throats, wondering if he should be taking notes. He had always been gentle with Min’s hair on those rare occasions, but with Romulus’ fat fingers digging through it, it appeared that had been the wrong approach. As he listened idly to their wanton display, he pondered how they weren't tired of each other after being attached at the hip—quite literally, he blushed—for two days now. He tired of Romulus after less than an hour.

All this thinking had caused his hips to slow, which caused Min to turn his head to him with an accusatory gaze. His cheeks were dewy, his lips wine red.“Do not stop on our account.”

His voice could have been icier. Gritting his teeth, Ardashir sighed inwardly and tried to up the ante. He leaned up a little higher and heavier on his knees, which knocked Min out of his lap, but he now had the height on him.

Ardashir did not consider Romulus’ short stature an advantage, nor did Romulus’ himself, he knew. Mentioning his height was like poking an azhaha with a stick—best not. Though, if it was true that their snakelike skins could heal the wound of love, then Ardashir might take his chances. When Romulus was short enough to keep his face perfectly buried in Min’s neck even after Min had lost a few inches of lap, Ardashir’s stomach broiled.

His humiliation only lasted so long. Squinting and dead focused on his work, when Min moved to one side and shot an arm back to hook Ardashir around the neck, he made an incriminating noise of surprise. Min dropped out of their line of vision as he brought Ardashir’s and Romulus’ faces together.

Ardashir was much less willing emotionally this time, but that feeling was somewhere deep within him. Superficially, his heart was fine with it. His body was more than fine with it, shaking from tension, his legs aching from holding the stretched pose. That wasn’t to say Min didn't feel lovely around him, balmy and beguiling as he always did. But with Ardashir occupied, Min set the pace now, and a quick, bruising one at that. It subtly reminded him that the second taste present on Romulus’ lips was that of Min himself. Ardashir’s jumped in erratic flip-flops as he tried to come up with how he felt about that.

“You can put on a better show than that,” Min criticized the two men from below. Romulus rumbled like a coming storm with laughter. But Min wasn't even watching them—Romulus’ chest was coated in saliva and marks, and Min’s head returned to be pressed up against the muscle as soon as Min had said it. Elated, Ardashir considered the possibility that the calculated man had finally made a mistake. But when Romulus took the bait and crashed his teeth into Ardashir’s collarbone, Ardashir’s eyes fell shut, realizing a taunt was still a taunt.

Min had been hard the longest but still came last. It was only appropriate, the only ending Ardashir could have foreseen. For once, he hadn't been given any instructions, so he finished half-in and half-out of Min. The white splatter on pearlier skin made for a nice view, one Ardashir would keep with him, but it also made for a more difficult clean up. Romulus was second, Min squeezing him cruelly until he got bored of lavishing attention on Romulus’ chest. Only then did he let Romulus come. And Romulus and Ardashir finished Min off together in a rare moment of teamwork. Romulus took the upper half, and Ardashir’s final handjob from behind was the only time he actually knew what to do with his hands.

It was supposed to be a cathartic moment, and it probably was for the other two, Ardashir thought. But there was still tightness in his limbs and a constricting feeling pressing down on his chest like a dead body on top of him. Restless and shivering, he threw on a wrinkled summer tunic that had been laying on the floor for a while. He stepped outside his room where one of the slaves on night-duty immediately appeared, having heard his master’s footsteps. Ardashir avoided the man’s eyes as he asked for wine and cups. The myth of the suicidal scorned lover was still vividly imprinted on his mind.

They handled the cleanup while Ardashir waited sullenly outside for the wine. Airy laughter bubbled up through the ajar door, the attempted mirth instead joining his dark cloud. He could hear their muffled voices talking and just prayed it wasn’t about his performance.

The slave returned promptly, either too fast or too slow for his tastes depending on how Ardashir looked at it. When he reentered, they were spooning on one side of the bed, so Ardashir poured and dispersed the wine himself.

He sat up with his legs crossed a few inches away from them. He was the only one who was going to be clothed. They made loud, reminiscing conversation over the wine, but Ardashir didn’t understand any of it. He hadn’t been there, nor had he gained any secondhand information about what Romulus and Min actually did on their visit, which had been his goal in inviting them both in the first place.

“You know what they say,” Min sighed. “The proverb. A thousand cups of wine do not suffice when true friends meet, but half a sentence is too much when there is no meeting of minds.” Blanking out and half-asleep, Ardashir hadn’t heard what came before it, but Min’s gaze was now directed at him.

“Who says that?” Romulus boomed, unaware of where Min’s gaze lied. “Is that why we drank so much at my place? I thought you were just trying to black out everything I said.”

“You do say such stupid things sometimes,” Min lamented, flipping his hair with his free hand. He snuggled himself under Romulus’ chin as he said it. “You wouldn’t last a day in court.”

Romulus stuck his free hand on his hip, pouting petulantly. “Maybe you wouldn’t last a day in Rome.”

“Sure I wouldn’t,” Min shot back, pinching Romulus’ cheek. “What was it you told me about, five emperors? In one year? This is why you have a Mandate of Heaven, or at least an empress dowager.” Min paused before smirking. “Oh, wait, none of them were boys.”

Ardashir listened their exchange with a glum expression, cognizant he could never change the subject or get a word in. He wished he had something to snack on, something to do with his hands. He had wanted to also ask for grapes to eat, but he wasn’t quite up to the task of witnessing Romulus and Min feed each other like lovebirds.

“Don’t look so disappointed it’s over,” Min finally spoke to him, some time later when they were all lying down. “It can happen again.”

There was an immediate flicker of hope, and Ardashir hated himself for it.

“We might be here a while,” Romulus whispered from the other side of the bed. Min was lying between the two, courteous enough to leave the same space on each side. Both of them began to laugh, and Min rolled over to face Romulus.

Or maybe not.

“Do I have to leave if I can’t walk?” Min pouted.

“If you can’t walk, can’t ride a horse,” Romulus pointed out with a pleased shrug. “Or camel or whatever. They’re all terrifying.”

When both men began to laugh again, it was grating on the ears and wrapping a rope about his throat. Ardashir rolled over on his own side to face away from them, instead giving the wall a blank stare.

The Persian was again half-asleep, his eyes leaden, when Min finally rolled over again and pressed his small, gelid body against Ardashir’s back. He could feel Min’s temperature even through the thin tunic. Min threw one arm about him, and Ardashir tried not to look back.

“I had fun,” Min whispered against his ear. After, his head lowered to rest somewhere below Ardashir’s shoulder. Shifting weight meant Romulus wasn’t close behind, moving close to sandwich Min comfortably in the middle.

If he was any less tired, their periodic giggles and kissing behind them would have kept him awake. Instead, Ardashir was still thinking about the myth.

Though she was rewarded for her find, nobody ever specified how she was rewarded. Did the king finally love her back? Harems were not popular back then, but did he at least sleep with her once? Ardashir closed his eyes despondently. That missing detail had always bothered him.

Maybe it hit too close to home.