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a breath of ipomoea

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I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   

so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   

so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

 

— pablo neruda, one hundred love sonnets: xvii

 

 

His eyes, sour skin tangerine-ed by the sunset.

Holding hunger.

Holding hope.

Holding so much that the witch cannot dare to look back into them.

The drum of their fingers on the wooden table. It creaks under their feet this ground. The walls sway, weak-kneed. Unbecome in the naked of the night.

Darkness.

Everything is orange. The general’s fingers, clasped around the glass swirling amber. The sprig of rosemary on the table. And the hair falling into his eyes—warble-young, shower-soft.

“One more”, he whines, “you just let me have one glass, gimme more—”, grabby hands at him. The close and open of calloused fingers. They clutch like a child’s. Grabbing for it’s favorite toy. That has been snatched away.

The witch wonders if they’re calling for another shot of drink—or the hold of his hand.

“No—“, a whiff of sliced lime, home, “You need to wake up early, no more drinking”

A year ago he would’ve snatched up the bottle for himself. He would’ve never sat across him under whispering moonbeams and lowered his voice to match the sounds of the night. They weren’t friends back then.

The witch isn’t so sure, if they are friends now. It certainly feels like it—in the laughter that crackles between them, the casual peanut tossing and frequent clinks of their glasses—but there is so much more as well. Of the red-rimmed eyes that never leave him. The hunger in them apparent to everyone involved. The empty of the kitchen suffocating, sucking every sound unto itself until all that is left is the gong of his heartbeat ringing in the air.

How can the general not hear it?

The single bulb of light that hangs from the center of the ceiling is lit by his magic. It is the pulse of his strength. And it has never been less bright. Liquid amber rolling down the general’s skin, over the swell of his russet cheek. The magic in his blood gurgles—a ship rocking against the dock to enter a land it never can—straining against his seams to be let out and curl itself around the man. To sit like a kitten on his lap and be petted.

The witch breaths. He has never known peace. Born into a turbulent land with magic in his veins he was taught to believe his life was not his own to live. To learn the harness of his power before he could toddle. To learn the taste of metal under his teeth when he heals someone—feeling their cuts over his own skin like iron-blood.

There is a spell that can blind, knuckles brushed over brows and vision stolen. There is a way to fracture bones, pull at tendons from afar and devastate.

But that has always been too much for him.

As a creature with magic, his powers should come before his own desires. And yet, he has felt the ache of every bone he has broken, not desensitized still. When he heals, the pain closes with time. But with hurting it stays forever within.

The weight of what he took.

So he doesn’t do it. Doesn’t take anything.

He just gives. Gives away every last spell swirling within. Gives away every last cup of tea he can serve. The effects of this magic are little-er—raindrops against an ocean—take more time to be effective, and almost always treat smaller wounds. A scrape here and there. Tears upon waking from a nightmare. A child’s fever on a stormy night. But they drain him less, so he can help as many people as he can before the war calls him back one final time.

There is one last variety of magic too.

There’s a thin line between infatuation and love.

 

He had curved eyes, his frame smaller than any warrior he had ever met before. The man the people of the north had sent to him for asking for his cooperation, demanding a declaration of traitorship from him had turned out to be a boy. And the witch had never before done something more terrible. He had seen the boy swallow. Merely twenty, and made a captain of the regiment being the first son of the king—not ready yet for it. And he had seen the captain’s gaze skitter over his body. The want the boy hadn’t yet learnt to hide.

Felt the knife that would surely enter his body one day if he chose to go down this then. Finding his fingers reach to trace the inside of the enemy’s wrist before he could stop himself. Spelling his death onto the boy’s skin. Watching his eyes flutter shut at his touch.

The witch knew it was a dangerous game to be played.

But his life would be a small price to pay for what they would earn if he pulled this off.

It doesn’t feel like that now, however, caught in this clumsy conversation that adds up to nothing. Dreaming of greatness. But all it amounts to is small minutes.

The general smiles—the sudden leap of a tree frog over a lily pad—bright, arresting.

“I fell from a banyan once”, he grins, “Bust my knee, mae was not impressed”

“Sounds like you, khun walking disaster”

“I’ve lead this infantry for twenty years”, the light flickering, waiting to die, “And I shall lead us to victory—if anything I’m a walking inspiration!”

“O Inspirational one”, he snorts, “stop drinking.”

The man slaps his hand splayed over the table. It’s a light swat; a flicker of thumb that incites in him a summer. He jerks when they no longer touch.

I will die, he thinks, and never, ever hold your hand.

He rambles on. About a time he was a young soldier licking dust and learning to wield the iron sword that would come to be known all over the land as the brazen Wachira. Trading stories of their old lives. Never running out of things to speak of. There’s always so much to say and not enough time. Always, always running on empty.

The alcohol has loosened his tongue. A dart of magenta over his lips that makes him swallow. The witch watches, wonders how it would taste in his mouth.

Over unmeeting eyes he swallows the last gulp of fire. “Did you have a good week?”, the man whispers—sweater-warm and winter-sweet.

“There was tom-yum with mushroom”, his light splutters into blood-red. And he heaves in the scarlet, “But you weren’t there to—”

“I’m sorry”

The apology is verbena in his garden that never grow, something that should never exist, will never as well, after this night is over.

“It’s not your fault—”, his eyes implore. The flames in them shift in agony. He cannot do anything to help the situation, nobody can.

I missed you.

It is on the tip of his tongue.

I miss you.

He can never say it out loud.

He imagines it get lost somewhere in the north wind. Swirl with autumn leaves and leap over the valley; disappear forever—

“You smell nice”

“Huh?”

“Look nice too”, the general inches forward—a silhouette of pain in the tired night. Boops his nose and chuckles. It’s a throaty sound—wet and sunkissed.

He tries not to flush. He’s complimented all the time. By commoners and kings alike, trying to gain his favor. From admirers as well. But never this sincerely. Never this wondering.

 “You can’t even see me in the dark”

“Of course I can”—the general grins, boyish, handsome. The younger him would’ve swooned. He would’ve dreamed about this smile for days. “You’re fucking magical—I see you in every view that can ever be.”

“That’s not how magic works”, he swallows, thickened honey in his throat. “Park your ignorant ass in some other tea-house, general.”

“Teach me, then”, he winks, “Sweetheart”

“Fuck you”

He draws himself up. Turning away for a moment to catch his breath. Another stupid compliment from that stupid mouth and he really would plant his lips on them just shut him up.

“Wait!”

The general scrambles to rise, catching his wrist before he can turn away. “Have I offended you?”, a worried squeeze of knuckles over his skin. “I shall stop myself if it’s not to your liking”. And then softer, quieter, breathless, “Please don’t go.”

“No”, he forces himself to look back at the unabashed affection, “I am not offended—”

Because I am adored by you.

The general almost never smiles like he does now. Whole-hearted. His eyes curving into crescents. The witch is shocked by how beautiful he is.

“Shy?”, he teases, closing the space between them, holding out a hand.

“Hmph”, his downcast eyes, the burn that he can feel on his skin are answers enough. The bulb twinkles. The color of warm peaches and summer. “Yes”.

Something tender blooms in the man’s eyes—blue ipomoea unfurling at dawn.

“The kids are asleep”, he whispers, “Dance with me?”

He closes his eyes, slides arms around the man’s neck and breaths.

He does not expect the sharp gasp. Or the strength of the hands sliding down his back, and devouring his waist. His knees buckle—finding home in his arms. This is a place, he realizes, as they begin to sway, where he will be held and shielded.

Where he is allowed to rest.

“Here”—the clumsy general guides their feet. The floor area is small. And they cannot take beyond a step or two front or back. The witch lets him lead, amused at the concentrated furrow of his brow. And tries not to hit his hip against the counter. Or trip over his feet. Or not get stomped upon—

“Ow!”

“Oh no”, he looks up. They’re of the same height. When their gazes meet—it is as equals. “Did I hurt you?”

“Of course not”, his foot stings, “Your footwork is excellent, General”

“Really?”, he grins, “Did you just compliment me? Was that a compliment?”

“No!”

He kicks the man’s ankles. He is met with a laugh.

The moves grow bolder. The man tries to show off.

Swinging back and forth with hands held in between (They fail because the closeness is a drug. And staying even an inch farther than before is agony).

 Complicated twirls he claims he was an expert of in his youth as a nobleman’s son before he drafted himself in. (They’re hand holding is all wrong. Wrist-twisting. Arm bending the wrong way. Under the guise to correct the hold of his fingers—the general plants a kiss on his knuckles).

And the last, dangerous dip. (His back gives a violent groan. “Are you okay!?”, he rubs his back apologetically, after the spectacular, spine-breaking fall. He realizes it then, that when he fell—he did not fear not being caught.)

They stick to simpler steps after that. Swaying slow. Back to being nose-to-nose. When he blurts out a bad joke, the witch can almost feel the man’s giddy smile curve his own lips. When he scratches his nape. He sees the exact fall of dark in his eyes. Sees the molten gaze return. They promise devastation.

And he has been less afraid to be ruined.

“What should I call you?”

“Hmm?”

“You don’t like sweetheart”

He looks concerned. Like this is a battle formation or kingdom-saving. The laugh on the witch’s lips is stopped by the wool-warm lump in his throat.

How can he care this much and not tire of him?

“You can call me that—”, he ducks his head. So he does not have to face the man’s inferno-gaze, “—your sweetheart”

“Mine?”, he growls. Guttural.

 It thrills him, desire ambles down his body. His cock beginning to warm.

“Yours.”—a splutter in the wanton air.

He hadn’t realized it. When the kitchen slid into a filthy magenta. The air thick with his magic, with the lust that had taken root in his body the day he’d met that dark gaze over the threshold of his doorstep. Now too, as he’s pressed up against the man, chests flush against the other.

“But what do you like?”, he croons.

His fingers circling the small of his back slide down. Curving over his ass—lewd, squeezing them in greedy handfuls—obscene. But all he can feel in them is desperation.

“Wh-what do you—Oh—”

“Darling?”, a thigh pressed between his legs, pushing them apart. “You like that?”, the husky voice hot on his ears. And he burns. He finds himself curling around that leg, whimpering. The man’s hands hooked around his hips guide the grind. From gentle into vicious. Sinful in just how pleasurable it is even fully clothed.

“I-I-Hmphh”

“Not darling?”, the kisses sucked under his ear are plum-sweet. Caramel-warm and almost harmless. “How about dearest?”—looking into his eyes is a mistake. He looks fucking delighted. Watching him unravel like a spool of thread his deft hands. Licking lips. The predatory glint only brightening when he flushes further. Mortified to show off his erection like this, giving in to shameless thrusts against his thigh.

Whining when the grip on his hips tries to slow him down. And he tries to keep going anyway. His fingers grappling through the general’s hair. Dragging nails down his neck in frustration.

“Fuck”, the man growls, “Wish I could see you ride me.”

“Then let me”, he hisses. Captures his lips, pinning him back into the wall they’d cornered into. For a moment non-magical and ordinary—like anyone else, everyone else. In love. “Dearest”, he begs, cupping the man’s cheek. There is weakness in his eyes. Mesmerized. Aroused out his damn mind. He too—non-violent and non-broken and ordinary just then. So in love.

“Let me”, he breaths. Heart hurting for another taste of his lips.

“I—”

“Make love to me”, he croaks. “I want you”. Watching the last shred of his reserve melt away. He’s always been unsure of himself. It is non-apparent to his subordinates, non-apparent to the people. But the witch has heard him whimper in sleep on the kitchen table. The way he hangs on to his every word. Almost holding his breath when he praises another hard-won victory. Needing his reassurance. Needing him.

“Yeah?”, he sounds broken. Pushing him up on his knee, slipping mist-cool hands under his shirt. His hands are not soft, but they touch him as they would butterfly-wings. Treating him fragile, precious. Reverent. Like his skin is where he finds the god he has been chasing all his life—and his kisses are the forgiveness he was never given.

Yes”, the light flickers one last time—and goes out, “Please.”

The witch angles his head, cupping his cheeks and presses lips against his mouth. And the general growls again.

It doesn’t feel like the first time. Chasing the burn in their lungs from losing breath and not wanting to let go. The man bends his knee. Letting him rock against his thigh. His hips twitch on their own. Eager to be swallowed by the veined hands he used to drool over from afar.

He moans. When wandering fingers trace his cleave of his ass. The phantom feeling of having them inside him burns through him. And he deepens the kiss. It feels fever-hot—lost in the smacks and slicks of saliva rolling between their tongues. It sounds dirty to even his own ears. Who has wanted this for so long.

“Here”, he tilts his head, giving the man more access to his mouth. Responding to a press to his skin. “Oh—”

The arms around him are secure—gripping his hips in a hold so tight it would leave red finger-marks on them the next morning. A morning that cannot come. But even that thought is appealing. He lets himself go, his thrusts growing needier, and every time he can lose his balance, he does not because he is caught before he does so. Held in the arms that wield the Wachira and death, that hold him like they want to taste every last inch of his skin, and memorize his nakedness in themselves forever.

The general is caught on a fence.

On one hand there are sweet sounds. Fucking purrs when he pushes up his knee. Giving the man what he wants. And on the other there is that thought, of slipping of this bloody shirt off him. Spread him across the bed and lave over his body until he is shivering and wanton and broken in his hands.

He’s had visions of scarlet blossoming over his lovely chest. The shy turn of his mouth when he sits on him. Seeking his pleasure from above while he ogles him. The white of him melting into his caramel—the bend of his silken thighs wrapped around his hips. His eyes—those fucking eyes, watching him tentatively, pleased by the sounds he makes. Pleased to have him enter—smiling sweetly, serving his orgasm like sacrilege for his worship—like he is his. Watching the same want to be reflected back. Wanting to give, give, give until the other is spent. Overcome in pleasure. Made to feel how much they are wanted.

In a world that never wanted them. Just how much they are wanted by each other.

And how that much love is still more than enough. More than what the sum-total of whatever this universe can offer them.

Too much to handle even.

Challenged to be loved this much.

“I shall not die for you”, the witch croaks, ”Beloved.”, when the general makes his decision.

 Executing the last step of dance.

The carry.

He is frenzy. The storm feared by the land. Cradling him like he can shelter him from every monster that lurks to hurt him. He was the witch who turned against all the other witches for duty. The monster carrying him up the stairs would do the same for his own kind.

He would perhaps, the witch shivers. Under the heated gaze grazing his bare waist, as he lifts the shirt. Tracing his chest, licking his lips at the collarbones. He is needy and hardened already. The look is one more provocation he does not need.

The chances of seeing the general ever again would be very low. So he lets himself be rained upon. By the one who had desired him like no one else ever had. Could too.

Nobody would ever compare to him.

“I shall not die for you”, he whispers, burying his face in the cleave of the man’s bare chest. Sinking into his scent, resisting the urge to open his mouth and take one of his nubs into his mouth and watch him whimper, “For you, beloved, I shall live.”

The general’s chuckle reverberates through his body, and the witch lets himself be lifted by the hips. Be pushed down on the bed. Be draped by the skin he desires, the heart he loves more than the one beating inside his own body.

Why should something this good have to end?

The general kisses his mouth, rubbing his cheek against the single tear that escaped his eye. He is both—decadence and reverence—the one thing in his life he didn’t have to use his magic for. The one who he loves—and the one who loves him.

“Is that the one, then”, the general smiles, a copper god between his thighs, he is not a believer. But for this—he would give everything up in a heartbeat—“Beloved?”—and live.

               ______________________

 

It feels like he has been chasing Kao all his life.

And the springs have never been colder. Ghost-blue. Haunting.

He had slipped his shoes off. Slid in from the shallow end. Hadn’t been able to wait for the boy when he shed his clothes, want electric on his skin. He was afraid the boy would see through it all. Like he always has. 

Kao has seen him naked for more times than he can count. But today Pete is afraid to show his body.

He had accepted the invitation. A relaxing bath after a long day. Something they hadn’t had much time for these days. They used to go every evening once upon a time. Pete remembers. Stealing the boy’s towel under his own. Watching him turn beet-red in the pool even though he didn’t have to. Pete had been sure he would never look if Kao asked him to turn away.

But now, he is not so sure.

A familiar anxiety knots inside his stomach. Warbling mynah. Whistling wind. Bat-flaps and gibbon-hoots.

Would he be okay? Walking to the springs on his own? It has been years. But a small corner of his heart always hurts for Kao. Worrying about him. Tensed until it has learned the boy has eaten all his meals and is getting enough sleep. Rejoices when he smiles—cream-soft, delectable.

“Monster?”

He jumps. And if he could’ve fallen flat on his ass back down—nobody has to know that.

“Late again”, he barks. “State Apprentice Phanuwat”. Eyes speckled with the dying sunspots on the water. He does not dare to turn. ”You have kept your prince waiting.”

“Sorry”, he mumbles. He sounds so exhausted Pete almost feels guilty for inviting him out, “The delegate party were a bunch of pricks”

Water laps up his spine. Kao has stepped into the pool. Even over the barking-pattering-squawking forest, he can hear the boy.

His boy.

Two words that had flooded his body. Derailed all rational train of thought. Every minister he’d had a meeting with the entire day must have been ready to clobber him over the head considering how distracted he’d been the whole time.

Kao’s liquor-sweet smile stayed stuck on his lips all day. He found himself grinning like a fool all by himself. His reflection on the chamomile tea that he hates was sickening—he’d caught himself simpering. Simpering.

“Don’t be mad”, Kao wheedles. Congee-thick and muffler-warm. “C’mon your majesty, na na na

“You must pay me”, Pete croaks. Trying to sound normal. And not a lovesick idiot. “For my time.”

“I was doing my duty towards the state”, Kao whines. “I do not owe his majesty anything.”

He sounds sweet. Relaxed. Unwinding after a day of work. Pete wants to believe his brain when it screams that his voice doesn’t soften like that around anyone else.

“You must be punished”, he breaths. And turning sees the excitement sparkling in the boy’s eyes

They’re all grown up now. Fine freckles scattered over Kao’s chest. His collarbone-oars dipping into the milk-sea of his skin. Shifting as he moves. Skin lifting and falling. Rising. Stretched taut.

He wonders what it would feel like to trace the journey of a wave with a finger.

They’re all grown up now. And he was never ashamed to have that boy in his head. Pliant in his hands. He was never ashamed of how much the fantasy affected him. Making his heart twist within. Yearning. Yearning even after every last shock of pleasure rocked through him and ebbed away. In the two days that he has taken residence in his head, Pete has let him own it all—the broken of his bones and the barren of his heart.

The trouble is that there has been germination at last.

A little green shoot has raised his head. Charmed into living—from Kao’s soft giggling and drunken singing. It was not that one moment of a realization. Pete realized. It was one moment out of lifetime of others.

“Pete?”

In the pale glow of the fall on his back—the pink flush may have been a mistake. But Pete knows Kao’s voice better than his own. The syllable totters. A wobbling toddler. Not knowing what it’s next step will lead it.

Afraid.

“You’re gonna get it—”

A pebble-hard splash. Clapping his chest. It does not feel like pain. “Oops”, Kao grins. Starting to back away. He must have seen the feeling in his eyes grow. The smirk that curves over his lips. Pete has seen that white strip of skin a thousand times before. And wanted it.

He just had never realized that it was something he too, could.

“Stop!”, Kao giggles. Seven and choppy-haired again. He fell in love with too-sour soup that year. Still is. It has been years since Pete whined about it.

And they’ve done this chase for all their lives. Him with his arms raised. Gnashing his teeth together, his fingers splayed out. Reaching. Reaching. His heart a flutter-bug. Shaking on a grass-blade incline. Afraid to lose the only friend he ever had.

Afraid to be without Kao.

He can barely see through the water in his eyes. In the cavern in the other side of the main waterfall of the springs, light enters strangely. Inserting bright fingers of cerulean warmth through the cavernous roof. Caught in the blooming glow, the boy looks like something out of a dream. Bent over his back laughing.

“Grrr”, he snaps his teeth. “I shall have you”, eight-year-old again, small, “You cannot escape me, puny human.”

“Aaah”, Kao cries, flailing his arms. As he used to. He watches the boy’s exhaustion melt away. Caught in their silly little game that they could never trade for anything else. That they never grew out of. Splashing him as he moves closer and closer, trying to back him into a familiar corner. “Prince Phubodin! Save me from this monster!”

“Rawr!”

“Are you a lion now?”

“It’s a chimera fatty!”

"Okay", Kao used to chortle. Back when they were nine and behind masks at the fair and continued, "Ah! i'm so scared"

"That's the spirit!", he used to yell back, excited, "Rawr!"

They’ve done this chase for all of their lives. It is older than their age—than memory itself. Kao who squeals, ducking into the water completely. Burbling under the surface. His giggles bubbling up the water. Bubbling up to him. Unable to stop laughing at this shitty hiding strategy.

Still charmed.

Is this what it feels like to be charmed? Pete thinks. Watching the boy do the same move all over again. His bubble breath making his presence known. And he slows his legs to let his heart catch up with the way it’s beating. He slows. Because if he goes too fast, he will catch Kao.

And if he catches Kao, he would not be able to stop there.

It is apparent in the way he cannot keep his eyes off the water dribbling down his muscled back. The back Pete has lived with for all his life. He finds himself drooling at the shifting skin, the toned dorsal white of his waist. It is gossamer in the light—bright and flawless. Begging to be ruined.

He hears a whimper within Kao’s catching breath. And the boy in his head turns around. Nose-moled and pretty. And the sudden thought of what the water hides of Kao under her surface rips through him as heat. There is no mistaking what he is feeling.

The sight of Kao’s bare back from three meters away incites in him a desire absent even balls-deep in throes of pleasures from his most successful escapades around town. There is something about him. He thinks.

As he leans back, roaring with laughter. When he straightens up again. Running his hand through his hair and looking at him through his lashes—coy. His lower lip caught between his teeth. Breathless. Something burns in his eyes.

Pete has never seen need reflected back in anybody’s eyes like this.

Fucking beautiful.

When he leaps this time, he does not miss.

“Hey!”, Kao whines, as he jumps on his back, “No fair! It was only supposed to be water—”

“Here”, he draws the wet splay of his fingers down the boy’s chest and his abdomen, holding him tight against his chest, “Direct Contact”, he whispers, feeling the laugh falter. He has held Kao like this more times than he can count, never has it felt this good, he fingers itch to feel down the undulations of his body again, without seeming like he’d wanted to do it without any other reason than for it’s own sake.

He finds his hands reaching again, Kao trembling in his arms, “Not okay?”, murmurs, kissing his ear. It makes Kao shiver immediately.

“M-monster”, the boy croaks. “Wh-wh—oh”—the moan he earns for thumbing over a nub makes his knees buckle. He is used to hardening easily. Never has it been with the boy out of his head and in his arms. It feels strange now, a world turned on his head. All the thoughts that did him in, every lewd picture and every whimper.

Everything leading it’s way back to his Kao.

“I’m sorry”, he cries, gripping tight. The Kao in his arms is marble-warm, a solid weight. When he embraces him, he doesn’t feel alone anymore. “I’m sorry, Ai’Kao—”

“Pete—what—”

“I’m sorry for being a shitty friend”, he cries, “I’m an asshole”

The words are wrenched from him, his insides clenching—bitter lime squeezing.

They’ve been weighing him down all day. He hadn’t slept after delivering his drunk best friend back at the staff quarters. He’d never made his way back to his room, sitting on the outpost of their unit. Lost in the middle of red peonies and buzzing insects. He’d wished the owls would hoot a little more softly—so his Kao could sleep better. In the yellow moonlight he’d wondered how the ochre must color the slope of his nose.

Would he still be as handsome as he was in the dark of night?

Would he still be as handsome as he was in the day of the light?

How did the realization that he was in love with his best friend not shock him at all?                  

“I hurt you”, he whimpers, closing his elbows around Kao’s petal-soft waist. Pulling him close. Burying his face in his shoulder. Rubbing his eyes so the boy can’t see him cry. “I hurt you.” He had not realized how much he had been holding in all day.

“Pete”, Kao croaks, “Ai’Pete”

The boy turns in the embrace. Sliding his hands up his face. Forcing him to meet eyes. He doesn’t know why it burns. It could be the water they’d splashed. Or guilt. The stones they are surrounded by are dark in the evening, they look slippery, from the distance. Kao’s hands that cup his face are tender.

He is tender.

“Don’t leave me”, he croaks. He is not afraid to beg—

How could he ever have been audacious enough to think he could run a single hour of this kingdom without Kao by his side? The only reason he’d had tables in his proposals was because Kao taught him to present like that. The only reason he could even speak up in court because he had practiced with Kao the same thing a thousand times before.

How could he have been so foolish?

“I won’t”, the boy whispers. So close they are nose to nose. So close he can almost feel the brush of his soft pink lips. The broken in his eyes breaks Pete. The pain in them is heart-wrenching—it is not a day’s worth or a week’s—it is the pain of a lifetime, “I can’t leave you, Pete. I would’ve if I could.”, Kao breathes, “Why do you think I am still here?”

“Fatty—I—”

And it should have been obvious. The way Kao let him upend his makruk games and shared his dessert. Let him peel him away from work and let him lay his head on his lap. Let him into every aspect of his life. Gave all his time. Gave all of himself up within a heartbeat of asking.

He will never have to ask Kao anything, Pete realizes.

He already has it.

“Yes”, Kao croaks, “You’ve been an asshole. And I was waiting for your apology”

“Is that why—”

Yes”, the boy looks away. His hands sliding down to his neck. Pete misses the warmth on his ears. But when he starts playing with the back of his hair, he decides he can live with this too. This shy Kao with his hands around his neck. Devoid of any secrets. “Five cups of shitty alcohol”, he mumbles, “I didn’t know how to face you.”

“Well”, he chuckles, tipping his chin with an index, and lifting it so their eyes meet. “You know how to face me now.”

Pete finds his hands sliding around the boy’s waist once again. Relishing how smooth it feels under his fingers. How it makes Kao flush on seeing his contentment. Licking his lips like a cat who got its cream.

Pete”, his voice is small. Caught in the stalagmite glow of the waterfall, he looks almost unreal. “Pete”, he breaths again. And he thinks that he holds it. When his eyes flutter close there is such heartbreaking hope on his face, his stomach drops.

Is it really so hard for Kao to believe that he loves him too?

“Kao”, his voice trembles. He pulls the boy into himself. Their thighs knock together in the water. The feeling of them sliding against each other makes him shiver—silk and cream and breathtaking. “You are not in love alone anymore”, he can feel a hardening cock on his hip, twitching when their noses brush, “I’m sorry for making you wait for so long—”

“Love me”, Kao cries. And he never sounds like this—this needy, this broken. “Let me be the song on your lips and the weight on your lap and the body you wake up to every morning—“, his eyes are scrunched shut, it feels like he’s asking for every wish he was never granted by any floating light or shooting star, like he is the only miracle Kao has wished for. Ever.

”Ai’Pete!”, he cries, “Love me!”

“I do”, he rasps. And taking his face in his hands, presses his mouth to Kao’s. He is hot tongue and heady jasmine—rolling his hips when Pete angles his head to kiss him deeper. More. His fingernails on his back dig into his spine, sparking in him desire he has never felt before—older than his body, overwhelming. “I do”, he gasps, sliding his hands down so he can grip better. And steady the hip moving dangerously against his. Kao is lucent—birdsong and good-morning and sex all wrapped into one—love in his arms.

Fuck”, Kao breaths, tilting his head back, when he starts kissing down his jaw, biting a soft patch of his cheek on his way down. (It is still softer than any fur belly.) He bends a little, when Pete noses down his neck, lapping up the ribbons of smooth white, feeling his cock throb at the thought of biting down on each and every nio of his skin. And leave a history of his presence there. So Kao cannot show his face in court without letting everyone know whose he is. “Pete”, he gasps, arching, when he reaches the clavicle. His body reacting on its own, knowing how Kao will moan when he nuzzles into it, the exact purr when he sucks the spot of his adam’s apple. The line of his sternum is an appealing one.

Pete miscalculates their desire.

Because when he presses a soft kiss to his left nub, a small affectionate gesture, light as a feather—Kao’s knees buckle. And they slide into the water like dominoes—Kao on his back, and him headfirst.

He falls before he knows it. Down to the wet bottom of the springs that saw them grow up.

The sand prickling his limbs and his ass is familiar. Kao’s wet hair pressed to his forehead is, as well. His own laughter too. Stars twinkle on the roof of the little cavern as they chortle.

Pete miscalculates his desire—because even doused in water and messed up Kao is attractive.

“You’re a menace”, the boy snorts, his laughter reverberating on the walls. “You should be jailed up for being this horny—”

“You pulled me in”, he growls, reaching for his wrist, at the place where they’re leaning against a smooth stone-bank to catch their breaths. “Truly a wolf in sheep’s disguise, I see—”

“Fuck you”, Kao laughs, “Your majesty, you dare accuse the best apprentice the court has had in—”

He shuts him up with another kiss, pinning him against the stone wall. This area is cleaned up for his frequent baths, the staff knowing his preferences, so he is sure there will not be some insect lurking there to startle his best-friend, and his lover.

Some words catch in his throat, when he slides his hands down Kao’s sides, down his curved ass and around his legs, over and over, unable to get enough of it. Kao’s fingers twist in his hair, caging him into fevered kisses, frenzied from years of holding them in. Their chests knock against the other and he feels a little ipomoea bloom inside, pressed flush against each other.

So close he is shocked Kao cannot hear the words bouncing around in his head like rubber balls.

“Mmph”, he groans, when he starts kissing down the sternum again. A successful attack this time, with no asshole-gravity to hold them down. “Gentle”, he cries, when he kisses the same nub again. This time daring to add a little tongue to it.

The effect it produces is delicious. Kao writhes against the dark stone, ivory pressed against ebony, shivering between his thighs. “I—Menace—”

He cannot dare speak. Lest he blurt those words out. He uses his mouth to voyage his chest instead, unable to reach under the water, turning delirious at the thought of bedding Kao upon soft cotton sheets. Hearing him cry his name out in his own bed.

In the bed for the king.

Kings, he wanted to shout. When Kao laughed about being an apprentice. You shall be a king Kao, my king. You will be a better one than I can ever be.

But he dared not. Scared to scare the boy away. Scared to show how much he was affected.

What would he do without Kao?

Because he sees it all now. The First Precept of Rule returning to him, as Kao hums, settled into his lap on the floor of his quarters, after they’d fished themselves out of the springs—pruned up and shivering—they’d kissed until he nearly twisted his ankle trying to lift up Kao by the hips on the bank and have a taste of his alluring thighs.

(He hadn’t twisted it. But that had been enough to mortify Kao. Suddenly coming to senses about their position. Shying away from meeting eyes by burying his face into his chest, mumbling something about Pete getting cold and they should change up first.)

He sees it all know, As Kao nestles his cheek into his hand like it is the most natural thing in the world. The soft-blue of his small, warm room where they’d spent a thousand evenings playing and napping leaking in through his ears and eyes and nose. Pooling into his heart like a yearning so strong he finds it hard to hold it in.

Duty.

Towards the kingdom.

Towards the people.

But first and foremost—to each other.

“Why do you think Wachira came home alone?”, P’Korn had whispered, that evening, when Pete had spilled the beans of his racing heart to him and P’Mon and P’Waan and P’Preeda.

“I-I don’t know”

“Of course”, P’Waan had sighed, her voice foam-soft, breathy—“You were too young, monster”

“It was never supposed to have returned”, P’Mon had cried, “Her majesty went into the last battle knowing it would not be won until she have her life—how else do you think the sword returned?”

“She—she—”

“Her majesty sent it back before the last battle”, P’Preeda sighed, “She sent it back for the king—her husband, because she knew she could no longer return to him.”

“H-He knew when it was returned?”

“Of course”, P’Mon breaths, “We are sorry, monster.”

He’d swallowed.

As he does now. All his instincts making sense now. Wanting to worry about the littlest of Kao’s well-being, from his meals to his clothes and his health. Wanting to always be the ear that listens to his problems, wanting to be shoulder he leans on, wanting to carry his umbrella, his books, him—everywhere.

Caring for Kao was knotted into his being as duty he has been glad to serve ever since he was seven.

“Menace”, the boy’s voice is muffled, big eyes shining when he looks up. He looks ruffled and soft and warm—drooping sunshine in his arms, “Why’d you stop?”

“Sorry”, he croaks. Resuming motions so gentle he had not thought he would ever me capable of them, trying not to cry. Kao giggles, when he wraps his arms around his waist, and pulls him back against his chest.

Pete is set afire. Watching his pink mouth parted when he breaths softly, after a warm bath, gathered up in the arms he has wanted for so long.

His heart is swells.

Fuck, he’s so in love.

               ______________________

 

Kao stumbles.

Paper planes and ink, scritch-scritch-scritch, tables. And Pete’s hands.

Raised veins and pretty wrists. His eyes are amber, the evening suits him. Kao trips up in his explanation.

“Fatty?”, the prince raises a brow, “is everything okay?”

Is it? he wonders.

They’re seated by the pavilion. He is green, the quake of magpie-babies and leaf-warm. Kao wants to hold the hands splayed in front of him over the plans they’ve been discussing. Wants to press his mouth over the knuckles and feel every little scar scattered over his skin under his tongue. Suck each finger until it is stickled with wetness, treat them as well as he wants to Pete’s cock when the prince will fuck his mouth.

“Kao?”

“Eh?”

Smirk rippling in the air, the prince leans in. Close. “State Apprentice Phanuwat”, that delectable hand shifting over the page towards him, “You have been found slacking”, sliding over his thigh. Dragging quivers down his skin. “What was the plan for the patrons of Sakda, again?”

Kao groans. Wiriya is deserted at this hour. The kids have classes in the morning, and the weekend means that most scholars have not gathered. And they’re the only ones left, out in the dusk.

A grave mistake.

“Can’t remember, hmm?”, the prince grins, slipping hands under his knees to lift, “Want me to remind you?”—in one swift motion he lands on his lap.

“Pete!

He slips hands around the boy’s neck to steady himself. The hard muscles of his back make him flush. Pete’s body have been trained all his life. And yet, this sudden display of strength makes him hot all over.

The boy hadn’t even flinched when he scooped him into his lap.

“Don’t look away from your prince”, he bares his teeth. Delighted. “Aren’t you giving a report, khun Phanuwat?”

“Shut up—”, his heart races from being caught red-handed. He’s become so used to hiding what he feels around the prince, that being treated with even one whit of romantic affection completely takes him out. “Uhm—”

“Kao?”, the boy whispers. Cupping his cheek in a hand. He finds himself keening into the touch—too-eager, sandalwood-warm, making him want to turn his mouth and have a taste. “Tell me?”

“I—uhm—your hands…”

“Yes?”

He finds himself blushing. Caught in the heat of the prince’s gaze. Making it hard to breath. Out here in the open, the cool wind and the leaves on their clothes, he feels too-exposed. Raw. Memories of the evening in the springs splutter through the air, a reflection of the same desire in the prince’s eyes.

It’s been three weeks since then.

And they haven’t been able to keep their hands off each other.

Warm hands. Closing his wrist after most meetings. And the nearest closet or alcove. Kao had never imagined he would end up being one of the annoying teenagers who made out behind curtains in the palace. He had not, however, ever broken into any of their little unions.

(With the exception of Rain and Manaow the last wet winter. But, in his defense, they were being rather loud right behind a library bookshelf. They were lucky he hadn’t kicked them out throwing the textbooks nearest to him at their heads. A juvenile response to a juvenile concept.

If there was a tiny bit of jealousy involved in the situation, well, they didn’t have to know that.)

All their escapades have not emboldened him enough, however. It was one thing to feel each other up between giggles in the dark. And one quite another to invite them into him.

“Hmm?”, Pete hums, peering into his eyes. Apple-sweet lips. Worried gaze. “Fatty?”

He leans. And bites his lower lip.

“Ow!”

“Stop teasing”, he hisses. When hands amble down his sides and wrap around his waist. And he is allowed to hold Pete’s face in his. The peck deepens, stealing his breath. He finds himself shifting, the dark of the night pooling to him. Making his heart twist in his chest.

He slides a leg over the prince’s hip and straddles him. Pushing him back against the pillar, pouring all of himself into the kiss. Finding courage in the root of Pete’s fingers on his skin. Spitting fire. Wanting him.

“I’m ready”, he gasps. When the boy mouths his jaw. Grabbing his soft hair in fistfuls to stop himself from shaking. The teeth over his skin make him mewl. “I’m ready”, he breaths, sweet. When Pete looks up at him, disbelieving.

His hair disheveled. In the library they’ve spent a lifetime growing up, they’re still mussed up like a bird-nest. Thistle and raven strands, wrapped around his fingers. A place for round warmth. A quiet little home made of his hands.

“Are you sure?”, he whispers. The words kissed over his collarbone. Fingers twisting his shirt-hem into little cyclones. Pete is as nervous as him.

Yes”. He cradles the boy’s cheek to his chest. The gravity of his words sinking into the them, shortening breaths. The moon has come up quiet. Without telling anyone.

He doesn’t know what was different today. Pete’s arms as welcoming, as loving as always. Gravel-crunch. Soft whoosh of impending rain through the banyan behind them. His mouth as needing. That always demand kisses when they meet. Delight in flustering him.

Kao can never get enough of it.

The last few weeks had been lost in a whirl of preparations.

There are lists to be made for contacting artists. There is arranging detailed meetings and collecting their views on what a good contract with a prospective patron might look like. Pete’s initial attempts had been good, Kao admitted, but they lacked so much of what more could be done.

References of from similar, older studies. Making rough estimates using existing data and applying models to predict prospective growth or downfall of revenue. Charting backup plans of action.

Pete had just laughed. “Just admit that you were jealous”, he would grin.

“Of course I was”, he would growl. The emotion exciting the prince considerably.

There wasn’t a black-and-white to what should be done with the funds. Whether it should be left for saving. Or be invested in the upcoming festival. He hadn’t even been that against the idea of it. Merely cautious, knowing what it would mean to the court if Pete phrased his intentions the way that he had.

Always cautious. Always careful not to overspend. His money. His attention.

He ended up slipping his heart up to the prince anyway.

His rejection to the proposing wasn’t met with much opposition from Kiet. But it raised every stakes considerably. Especially now, that Kao had agreed to help Pete.

Now that a suitor who had finally won the prince’s heart had been found.

“I knew it from the start”, P’Korn bragged. “Monster always stole the nice quills from the inventory for his fatty—”

“No!”, P’Waan crowed, “Kao used to sing to his majesty when he was ten, he’s been in love for years!”

“Shut it”, P’Preeda groaned, “I spotted it from the tree when I rescued monster. Climbing trees to steal eggs—smitten behavior right there!”

P’Mon smiled. Squeezed his shoulder. The thread between their lives before they’d even met. It felt like a blessing. The Chuenchai had never been warmer, the day they announced what had transpired in the springs. Their fingers twined under the table. Sticky with mangosteen.

The feast prepared in their honor didn’t have any eggplants. And Rain bought the alcohol from Ambhom. Sandee had arrived at their doorstep shouting at the gates and everyone had wondered whether the crown princess of Chirawan had been possessed by a malicious spirit when she cursed them both out soundly.

They deserved it.

And Kao was trying to make up for it. For everything.

It hadn’t been announced in the Kiet formally, but P’Waan had already starting training him for the requirements in serving as the Court counterpart for Chinthira. To be the other half of Combat, the other half of Pete.

He tries not to think that this is happening. Concentrating on the lessons instead. On the preparations for the festival. And for the desire that had lived in him for as long as he has known the prince.

Waking up in parts as he grew. He had known his heart since a young age. And beyond what was included in his studies, he had gone on to educate himself on how it was done between men.

Mostly for his own pleasure.

But it was never meant to be more than a blue dream, a passing fancy that could never come true.

Until now.

“Tonight?”, he blurts. His hands on Pete’s chest as the prince looks up at him. Kao doesn’t know what the boy sees in him. But he looks mesmerized. Poppy-red mouth. A freckle of moon across his nose. “Say something?”, he croaks. “you don’t want to?”

“Don’t play with me”, the prince growls. “And just so you know—”, The grip on his hip tightens. An ocean of want. “—I read all the books.”

“The only reading his majesty didn’t require a fifteen hundred reminders for—”

“What can I say”, Pete laughs. “The books have nothing on my imagination”, Resting his head on his collarbone. Kao loves this feeling. So close. Being his place to rest at, always. “You look delicious in my dreams”

“Do I, now?”

The kiss is answer enough. Coconut-milk sweet, tongue swirling around his mouth. A little press of the abdomen to the warming bulge against his pants. Inciting things that they shouldn’t really be doing out here in the open.

“Night”, he murmurs. Teeth sunk into his bitten lips. The thought of those hands opening him up making him delirious. He has tried finding pleasure with his own hands before. Has known what he likes for the longest time. He pulls away before the beg is wrenched from his lips. Before he asks Pete to take him then and there. “Night, my room”, he heaves, “I have prepared—mmph!”

Pete laughs, smacking his lips. Pecking him every time he tries to get another word out. Joy is so simple here. Between the two of them, he has the entire world in his hands.

He doesn’t know what him say the words today. He has worried about bringing it up for days. But by just being who he is—as he has all this time—Pete makes him want to want. Try to take when it feels like all he should do is give.

“Mmmm”, A gentle bite of his cheek. “Where did you buy these, khun Phanuwat?”, the prince murmurs. “This dumpling is very tasty.”

He snorts.

Pete makes taking, so easy.

               _________________

 

When he climbs up the window, his hands shake.

He feels the weight of the world on his back. Sandpaper in his throat. The tea they’d drunk over dinner had had blue ipomoea in it. P’Som had winked.

He had trimmed his nails and bathed and hadn’t skipped evening meditation. The taste of Kao’s soft mouth stayed on his tongue everywhere he went. He was lucky Teacher Weeraporn had not been supervising. The visions swimming in his mind as everywhere around him aligned their meridians were anything but sacred.

Well, he thinks now, hooking his elbows over the ledge, Kao’s ass is plenty worshippable in it’s own right. It’s just a matter of perspective.

He is proved immediately correct, too. Because when he finally lands only the wooden floor, that is the very sight that greets him.

“Fatty!”

Kao hears it as a squeak. And buries his face into the pillow, trying to somehow rub away the blush that had been burning on his skin the last fifteen minutes. He had taken off from dinner early. Letting Pete attend his last meeting of the day alone. Had felt the gaze fixated on his behind until he reached his quarters. Shivering.

He had found himself re-arranging the same textbooks over and over. The Sutthiluck dynasty texts, the brand-new volumes of Precepts of Rule the phis had gifted him last week, and the Monster and the Mage—a decade old, still his favorite story of all time.

Truthfully, there was nothing left to do. He had prepared the lubricant and it was stored under the bedside drawer. The sheets were washed and scented. Blankets laid out in case Pete got cold. He had bolted the door and shed the chong-kraben, unable to bear the thought of being undressed by the prince. A vision so enticing he had curled into himself to prevent rocking into the bed before the boy even arrived.

Thuds on the wall. The pipes shaking. The prince would be he here within a minute. He had slipped the shirt off as well, and jumped into the bed. Laid on his chest, knowing he wouldn’t be able to face him in this state.

It didn’t feel like such a good decision now.

“Kao”, the prince breaths. He sounds hoarse. “Kao

Pete is paralyzed. It is ochre-warm, whisper soft. He can hear every sound. The creak of the floor under his feet and the sounds of night from outside. Kao’s body is laid out like a gift for him. Spread over the bed, legs parted. He had been turned on from their kisses in the library, unable to find a release just then. And it returns full force.

Something tender blooms in his chest, as he takes his shirt off. Kao’s pale neck is a warm pink. Arms hugging a pillow.

“Gimme a kiss”, Pete howls, pressing his mouth to his hip. “C’mon, Kao, quick”

“Monster”, he squirms. The muscles on his back are alluring. As they’ve always been. Unwilling to turn around and show his face. “Please

He is shy.

And when Pete bends his back to press kisses down his spine he trembles. He is a feast laid out for taking— White legs splayed over dark sheets. The curve of that sinful ass glints in the moonlight. His back arched, hips propped up by a white pillow. Designed to rouse him. Made for his hands. For devastation. And worship.

They’re not so different, perhaps.

He grabs the hips and pulls them into his lap. Aching to kiss the boy. But Kao is mortified. So he doesn’t.

Neither of them have done this before. He has learnt over the last few weeks that Kao has loved him for far longer than he knew of, for longer than he ever deserved. And he himself has never done it with a man before. Or more importantly, with someone who cared about. And Kao was the one he cared about the most.

The boy’s knees buckle around him, hugging him around the waist. And he bends, pressing his mouth to his hip in a chaste kiss. “Is this okay?”

“Mhhm”

He holds back from using teeth. Heart hurting inside him. The blanket is soft under him. And Kao’s thighs bruise easily. The red from the press of his mouth staying even after he’s moved onto a different area. “Pretty”, he whispers, nosing the lovely mole just below his ass, “You’re so pretty, Kao.”

He shivers. Kao doesn’t know why he is so nervous. Pete’s hands are caring, just like him. His mouth is reverent. He is barren earth in his hands, yearning for the wet press of his lips on his skin. But he can’t turn around. Something stops him.

What if he isn’t everything the prince wants? What if he is a poor substitute for what he might have had with a beautiful, scholarly, high-ranking woman?

Who is he, after all, but a boy who loved too much for his own good?

It would break him to not be enough for Pete.

“Can I?”, it is breathed. Copper-heat. Prayer-hummed.

Yes

He has never been afraid to be held by Pete. But when his thumb slides down the cleave of his ass, Kao finds himself clenching. An old fear rankling through him. He has been running all these years.

What if this really was the end? And Pete wouldn’t want him after this?

“Kao”, the prince whispers, “Are you okay?”

His voice gets stuck in his throat. He has never needed a lot of reassurance. Or encouragement. Happy to help around, loving just because he wants to. But he can’t relax his muscles, somehow.

His eyes burn. The more he worries about disappointing Pete, the tenser he gets.

Letting the prince know that he is not, after all, okay at all.

Fatty”, Pete croaks, “Talk to me—”

He shifts—sliding out of their earlier position. Without contact for a moment. And Kao is cold.

He is never cold.

“C’mere”, he growls. Turning him around. He can’t find it in himself to resist anymore. When the boy gathers him up into his lap, he snuggles into his neck. He finds himself gripping tight. Their ribs knock against the other. And the room is dark, but he can hear Pete’s worry.

“We don’t have to do this”, his prince whispers, “You have to know that being loved by you is my honor, State Apprentice Phanuwat, I don’t expect anything—”

“Why?”, he croaks, “you can have anyone, your majesty. Why me?”

“Really, fatty?”, Pete snorts, “you’re going to ask that”

Menace—”

“For someone who’s supposed to be the smartest brain in the court, beloved”, he smiles, “This is pretty fucking dumb”

Beloved.

Kao swallows. “Not just for you”, he croaks, framing Pete’s face in his hands. The same position from the library. But swathed in history. His old makruk set lies atop the cupboard. The little sandalwood sword lies on the bedside table. Surrounded by the blanket-fort that smells like the prince. “I want to, as well”, he tugs his earring, “to feel you in me.”

Pete growls.

This time, he lays him on his back. So they are face-to-face. “I love you, Kao”, pleading, “Let me take care of you”

And he remembers the first time. Showers. Sugar. Confusion.

But not anymore.

“I love you”, he blurts out, heart skipping. The sight of Pete arcing over him stealing his breath. The heat of his desire has always fueled his own. “So much”

“You don’t have to worry”, a hand thumbing over his cheek. His weight is firm on Kao. He has never felt fuller. “Let’s cross the bridge when we get there, okay?”

“Okay”

“I’ll suck you off”, the prince hums, “if you can’t, you know…”

“Menace you don’t—”

“I want to”, he whispers. Breathing over his neck. “Let me admire you for now”, he looks up. “Can I, beloved?”

He lifts himself up, and captures the endearment in his mouth. Pete groans.

He breaths, burying himself in the scent of jasmine that his lingered in his dreams all this time. Mouthing between the bumps of his chest. Before moving up and again and kissing him. Kao pants against him. There is fire in his veins, wanting to make the love burning inside him without hurting him.

Without showing so much that he is scared away.

“More”, he whimpers. Angling his head to deepen the kiss. He finds himself buoyed on a hard chest. Kao’s erection digs into his abdomen. Aroused by so little his heart spins.

He moves down, taking his time to caress the smooth white before pressing his mouth and sucking. The sounds he gets as reward thrill him. “So pretty”, he murmurs, grazing his teeth over the meat of his shoulder, “Can I?”

Fuck”, it’s a soft bite, but Kao moans. Telling him this is something that he might like. He’s never done this with any of his previous lovers. Too eager to enter them, give and take the pleasure and go their separate ways. But he can hear these sweet sounds in his ears all night long.

Kao purrs, when he finally, finally gets to suck at his nubs without tripping over his feet or getting hypothermia. He can’t keep his mouth off them, addicted to the soft cries, the little tugs of his hair and the thighs wrapped around his hips. Holding him tight to rock into his abdomen.

“Beloved”, he gasps, “Gentle.”

The word stings at his eyes. Affection rolling through him in ocean waves. Unstoppable.

He swallows.

Reaching for Kao’s hips, squeezing his lovely ass a little to let him know his intention. “Is this okay?”

The look on his face stuns Pete for a moment. And he remembers. Years and years ago. Watching blue hills waiting to be rained upon. Almost eager.

A lesson in surrender.

The seventh precept of Rule.

Kao has given himself up in his arms. And when he slides his thumb down, opening him up, the boy moans. “Good?”, he croaks, pressing butterfly kisses to the soft meat of his inner thighs. His skin is even more tender here, more sensitive. The legs around him hitch when he claims the mole just below his cock in a bite.

Good

Pete works him open. Watching him with hawk-eyes. Breathing his sweet scent and going back up again to kiss him every few minutes. Starved as much for that petal-mouth as much as for the rest of his body.

He can’t believe how much he’s missed out on, all these years.

How much Kao has missed out on because of his dumb ass.

“This?”, he curls the two fingers. Like it was written in the book. The expression on Kao’s face is contorted. So he doesn’t get the difference of when he finds the spot than when he doesn’t until he does.

Oh

“Oh”, he breaths. Ears burning from the obscene sound that just left Kao’s mouth. His chest heaves. And he dares repeat the motion only after kissing him thoroughly. The sound ringing in his ears making his heart twist.

Pete”, the boy moans, “Menace, please”

He has never seen him like this. This needy. This wanton. For the first time, he is made aware of just how much passion Kao holds in him, for this, as much as he does. He stops stroking the spot for a minute. Swallowing dryly. This Kao is bad for his health. Splayed in his arms, begging to be fucked by his fingers over and over again. The lubricant is sticky between his fingers. And he finds himself delirious. Sweating in the cold weather.

“Want more?”, he croaks, “Tell me, pretty boy.”

“Your”, Kao heaves, “Your pretty boy”, sliding arms around his neck and pulling him into a fiery kiss, “So touch me”

A few more rounds of the same stroking, and Pete learns the exact curve of his spine when he arcs to match his pace. The red bruises blooming in the light when he shifts. He cannot believe he has made Kao into this.

The cock straining before him is already wet. And he hadn’t dared to touch it yet. Wanting to give Kao all his pleasure from his prostate. But the continuous whimpers get under his skin. Driving him crazy. “Fuck me, Pete”, he growls, demanding, needy. The want in his voice makes all his resolve crumble away.

The sweet Kao who never demands anything from anyone asking like this does him in.

And the temptation to see him come before his very eyes overtakes the rest of his desires. There is a moment, when their eyes catch. His jaw slack, fighting to catch his breath. Full of trust, full of love. He is transfixed, caught in a spell. Kao must have seen his surrender as well. Given himself up to this body. This mouth and this heart.

Because he smiles.

Pete’s heart leaps. And he closes his mouth around the head of his cock, and sucks.                  

The reaction is immediate. A shiver wracking through his bones, shaking through him as well. Near the brink of release. He tastes like heat, as Pete licks down the hardness, before closing his mouth around it again. Tastes like he has waited all his life to be laved over like this.

And he will be damned if he does not do it right this time around.

One final suck and Kao comes trembling in his arms. His eyes scrunched shut. Pulling for him blindly, his mouth puckered for a kiss. Reaching for him even through the aftershocks of pleasure. And Pete holds him tight as he comes. Rocking into the sensitivity well into the afterglow. He finds himself licking the saltiness split around his own lips.

So good”, Kao murmurs against his mouth, “Beloved, you are so beautiful.”

He can’t swallow the words anymore. And he is hardened and needy as well. But his heart races in an anxiety that had started in him the day they’d kissed in the springs and he finds himself voicing them in a rush. “Be my aubade”, he whispers, as Kao blinks open his eyes. Wondering, breathless, “Be my serenade and my nightsong, Kao, Marry me—”

I—

“You asked me to love you”, he cries, “I do. Love me back”, he finds himself capturing the fingers playing with his earring. Finds himself taking off the silver hoops, “Stay with me”, he pleads, pressing them to his hands, desperate. “Rule with me, Kao. The people will be lucky to be led by you, beloved.”

The boy breaths. His soft cheeks flushed and sweaty. Ruined by sex, his hair is disheveled. But in that moment. Pete needs a confirmation. Needs something.

He can’t spend the rest of his days not knowing he will never have this again.

“Menace”, he breaths, “Oh, Pete—”, the rest of the sentence is licked into his mouth.

There are no more words. But the earrings stay enclosed in the boy’s palms. And when his eyes gleam, rising to straddle him, sweetly promising to treat his erection just as well his own had been taken care of, the silver is laid carefully beside the sword on the table.

A token of their love.

A promise breathed onto his skin. Sewed into his lips. The tongue wrapped around his cock and the hands sliding over his chest. He has never doubted Kao’s love for him.

But to be held and to be told so—“I am as well”, he cries, when Kao presses a tender kiss over his hip, “Your boy”, it makes him grin, “Your beloved”

“Good”, he smiles, kissing him until he tides into his own release, “That is good to hear, menace.”

“No problem”, Pete smirks, “This citizen will do anything for His Majesty”

“Not yet!”

The swat on his chest makes his heart flutter. And he gathers Kao up in his arms. Their legs twined together. Catching their breaths for a moment.

He has always wanted to be wanted. And to be wanted by Kao, was the greatest wish of all.

And now, he has it.