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Weather the Storm

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Nasir returns from a final survey of their section of the camp shivering and miserable, to find Agron stalking towards him through the blowing snow.

“You fool,” he chides as he pulls Nasir close, urging him towards the flimsy shelter of the tents. “I worried I’d find you frozen in the snow.”

Normally Nasir would shove him off, mocking fondly at his overbearing concern, but the cold wind steals all his breath and energy, and he lets Agron drag him beneath his cloak without even a token protest. “Saxa had ventured out again in search of Gannicus. It took much persuasion to drive her back.”

Agron mutters a harsh curse in his own tongue. “They stand equal fools in this. He shall not freeze, nor she forgive him if he does not!” he shouts into Nasir’s ear over the howling storm, and he musters a smile at Agron’s succinct summary.

The shelter is crowded in ruthless practicality, tent canvas hastily sewn and bodies stacked like logs of firewood. The few camp beds and makeshift pallets have long gone to the most severely injured. Agron ushers Nasir towards a corner and snarls at their neighbours to make room.

Outside, the day has darkened. It’s only late afternoon, but the sky is heavy and grey with clouds and the snow is falling fast, whipped almost sideways by the wind. The wounded moan, and while Agron sets up their makeshift bed, Nasir turns towards the sounds automatically, tightening a bandage here, applying a sponge dipped generously in poppy juice there. The medicus, a portly man freed from a rich master in Sinuessa, nods his appreciation as he passes, piled high with blankets and supplies. Nasir’s fingers numb as he sees to dressings and dispenses herbs. He would have gone on if Agron had not dragged him back eventually, one arm locked tight around his shoulders.

“Enough,” he says hoarsely against Nasir’s temple, “You’ve spent yourself all day without regard. They’ll keep, or die, as the gods see fit. Seek rest.”

Nasir would rage and protest, pitching his capabilities against those of the gods, if he did not hear the ragged edge in Agron’s voice, did not feel the exhausted tremor of the arm that pulls him close. Those arms have spent hours dragging the wounded from the collapsed tent, seeing them to new shelter, raising new poles attached to poorly patched-together fabric. He’s not the only one, he thinks, who’s given of himself without regard to caution.

He lets Agron pull him to their corner of the tent, where he has heaped their spare clothing – such as it is – upon the ground and spread a blanket on it, creating the barest, lumpiest kind of mattress on the frozen ground. He urges Nasir down with him and pulls another blanket over both of them, spending long minutes in tucking it all around Nasir, then draping himself close, arranging the blanket over both their heads. It’s coarse-woven and smells strongly of horse, but there are worse things in this camp it could smell like, and at least it keeps out the wind and provides some small semblance of privacy.

He huddles close against Agron, holding his icy fingers curled in the space between them. He’s reasonably sure they’ve only been on Melia Ridge for a few days, but he can’t recall the last time he was warm. “I have not known cold such as this,” he rasps. Agron’s body is as chilled as his own but there’s comfort in the familiar tight wrap of his arms.

“Nor I, for a long time,” Agron replies, “and when I did, we were better fortified against it, in the north.” He wriggles to shrug out of his cloak and drapes it over them as well, then starts undoing his leathers.

Nasir yelps in protest when Agron’s fingers start fumbling at his own clothes, pulling off his treasured layers of protection. “What madness is this?”

Agron huffs amusedly while he undoes the buckles at Nasir’s belt and pauldron. “Cease wriggling. Skin against skin creates more heat. Trust me.”

Nasir snorts, even as he relents to Agron’s cold touch, letting him peel him clumsily out of trousers and pteruges. “Poor fable inspired by insatiable cock.”

Agron laughs in earnest at that, blowing blessedly warm air across Nasir’s face. “Stirred as ever by allure of your body, even in fucking cold and ice,” he admits, hips tilting briefly against Nasir’s while he piles up discarded armour between them and their neighbours. He tucks the blanket around it, creating a makeshift, slightly raised shelter around their heads.

“But truly, heat of bare bodies provides better shield from cold than blankets. I learned when I was young. Here.”

He shifts to pull Nasir close, their legs tangling. Nasir grimaces and wriggles when Agron’s freezing hands come to rest against his bare back.

“If we are suddenly called to arms and find ourselves fighting naked in storm and snow, I shall hold you responsible,” he warns.

Agron nudges the top of his forehead with a cold nose. “Roman shits will not venture into weather such as this. Seek rest while we yet may.”

Nasir doubts he can rest like this, crammed in with so many others and with the wind howling outside, but he is grateful for the solid bulwark of Agron’s body between him and the tent wall, and at least the storm covers the noises within the tent as well. They lie without speaking for long moments. Nasir fights the shivering deep in his bones, the bewildered struggle of his body against a chill deeper than he has ever known. He concentrates on the recurring cloud of his and his lover’s breathing, his own in the narrow space between their chests, Agron’s against the top of his head, damp but warm.

Briefly, he wonders whether Castus is safe and warm as well, or whether he yet huddles alone somewhere, shunned for his status even if he is no longer a prisoner. Probably not. Someone like Castus must find it easy to charm his way into new company, facing the storm and his fellows’ disdain with the same even temper and irreverent grin that he seems to apply to any new circumstance.

Nasir frowns and pushes the traitorous thought away. He’s done what decency and cautious friendship demand for Castus. Never mind the rest.

One of Agron’s arms is draped beneath him, pillowing his head against the lumpy ground and wrapping around his shoulder. His other hand rubs up and down Nasir’s arm and flank and hip, back and forth, gradually building friction, and with it, warmth. “Relax,” Agron murmurs close to his ear. “See cold shrink from heat of loving touch.”

He takes a deep breath and wills his body to settle and cease its uncontrolled shivering. To his surprise, he finds it easier than expected; the blanket is keeping out the worst of the cold, and Agron’s bulk provides additional insulation.

Agron’s skin seems to heat faster than his own. There must be something to his outlandish claim about bare skin, because gradually but surely, some warmth is building between them, spreading out from the places where they touch and seeping from Agron’s body into Nasir’s. Agron’s hands against him no longer feel frozen, and his own have started to thaw as well. The warmth spreading through his fingers tingles almost painfully after being numb with cold for so long. He bends and uncurls his fingers experimentally, then puts one hand on Agron’s side, tracing his ribs. Agron shivers briefly but makes no protest against the still-cold touch. Nasir sighs, deliberately breathing out the last of his tension, and turns his face into Agron’s neck. His pulse beats strong and warm beneath Nasir’s cheek. Strange, how the flow of blood can retain its heat, this close to the surface, even long after the body has gone cold and sluggish.

Agron is breathing steadily against the top of his head. “Better?” he asks quietly. Nasir nods and turns up his face to kiss him. Agron’s lips part eagerly, and Nasir makes an involuntary noise of pleasure at the sudden heat of his mouth. He moves his hands up to frame Agron’s face, thumbs brushing his cheekbones while he licks and sucks at Agron’s mouth, enjoying the contrast of soft lips and rough whiskers. His curling fingers find Agron’s chilled ears, and he instinctively covers them with his palms to warm them.

Agron smiles against his mouth and shifts, nudging a leg between Nasir’s thighs. Nasir sucks in his breath at the sudden groin to groin contact, then pushes back and deepens the kiss, thrusting his tongue inside Agron’s mouth. At first it’s more for warmth and habit, but the truth is with Agron habit itself has a habit of dispersing fast into something more heated, something new every time. Agron kisses back more leisurely than usual, his thigh moving slowly and provocatively between Nasir’s. They’re both breathing hard, and their small makeshift shelter is warming fast.

“Would that we were alone,” Nasir murmurs between kisses, moving restlessly, enjoying the slide of skin on warming skin.

Agron snorts, his hands fondling Nasir’s bare buttocks. “Even if not for present storm, time alone would be harder to come by than victory over entire Republic.”

“True. Yet sometimes even more desired.”

Agron pulls back a little to peer at his face. His mouth twists ruefully, though his eyes are intent and serious. He arches his neck to place a kiss on Nasir’s forehead, right between his eyes. “Apologies. I know you value privacy. I’d give it to you every day if such lay within my power.”

Nasir shrugs. “I do place value on it. But not more than on touching you at all.” He smiles, tracing Agron’s lower lip with his thumb to prove his point.

Agron’s lips curve in response, but a small frown remains on his face. “We could just sleep,” he offers, his hands moving up from Nasir’s buttocks to more neutral territory. “I would not see you uncomfortable with unwanted presence too close by.”

Nasir hesitates, caught off guard by the offer and strangely moved by it. Unlike most of the rebels, he does prefer both his own body and his assignations with his lover shielded from idle observation and even the friendliest of passing comments. It’s a kind of retaliation against a lifetime of exposure, although rationally, he knows he can’t undo the years of being casually bared to anyone who cared to look. Nevertheless, he finds some comfort in wearing more clothing than is customary among the strutting bare gladiators; in placing walls and doors and curtains between his private pleasures and the eyes of others.

Their present surroundings could not be called private by any stretch, with other shivering bodies so close by, but at the same time they are as sheltered as they can be in circumstances such as this. The blanket and cloaks tucked around them protect them from view, and the mad howling of the wind shields them from the ears of others, even if any of their neighbours were inclined to listen to anything but their own misery.

He grins at Agron, grabs for his hands and pulls them back down to his rear. “I would yet delay sleep in favour of opportunity.” He rotates his hips slowly and deliberately, and Agron growls under his breath, hands tightening on Nasir’s ass. Half an hour ago, Nasir felt sure his balls were ready to retreat into his body, but here he is, wrapped close with Agron in the shallow tent of their horse-smell blanket, and his cock is swelling, pushing against Agron’s answering hardness. He lowers his head, mouthing along Agron’s jaw, rubbing his lips back and forth against the bristle there.

“Besides, I meant to offer gratitude,” he murmurs, close to Agron’s ear. “For freeing Castus.”

Castus, who doesn’t seem to deal with cold any better than Nasir does, but who is free now, and hopefully safe. Castus who offered allegiance to their cause as freely as he offered to turn his back upon the sea in exchange for nothing at all, as if he regularly overturned his entire life on a moment’s impulse to make a stranger smile.

Castus, on whose safety and unsought affections his mind ought not to dwell as long as it frequently does.

Agron growls, unconsciously echoing the sentiment. “Do not speak that shit’s name.” He pauses, then adds reluctantly, “Offer gratitude how?”

Nasir laughs and kisses him, deeper this time and a little desperate, diving into his mouth to drown any thought that isn’t here and now. He rolls, careful not to untuck their flimsy shelter, until he’s on top of Agron’s long, sprawling limbs. Agron’s hands trail down his thighs, his palms warm and rough, raising goose bumps in their wake. Nasir places his elbows on either side of Agron’s head and looks closely at him, relishing the familiar look of barely concealed hunger.

“Whatever way you please,” he purrs, then dips his head to kiss him again because damn cold or circumstance, Agron’s mouth is always irresistible. Nasir licks inside his lips, tempts his hot tongue to twine with his own, and opens up willingly when Agron crushes his mouth against his, one hand cupped around the back of Nasir’s skull. Gods, but he’s warm. “Whatever you desire,” he adds huskily, placing kisses against Agron’s lower lip, capturing it between his teeth.

Agron makes a growly noise and fumbles at the back of Nasir’s head, his hands clumsily undoing the leather tie that holds his hair. Nasir is all too conscious of how many days it’s been since he was able to wash it in more than freezing cold water, but Agron breathes in deep when the dark locks fall loose upon his face, and his hips buck up.

“You smell good.”

Nasir snorts. “You should see medicus. Icy storm appears to have frozen nose.”

Agron chuckles. “My nose is fine.” Again he nuzzles into Nasir’s hair, and this time it’s not the cold that raises goose bumps down his spine. “Whatever I desire?”

“Yes,” he manages, sinking his teeth into Agron’s shoulder to anchor himself.

“I desire your mouth,” Agron murmurs, breathing hard against Nasir’s neck.

Nasir smiles, deliberately ignoring Agron’s hands on his shoulders trying to nudge him further down. “Oh? Where?” he asks innocently, licking at a corner of Agron’s mouth.

Agron grumbles, all teeth and demanding lips. “You fucking know where.”

“I’d have you give voice to it.” Nasir dips his head to brush his mouth across Agron’s nipple, tongue darting out to circle the tight nub. “Do you mean here?” He uses his teeth for good measure, and Agron hisses, digging both his hands into Nasir’s loose hair. “You damned tease,” he snarls. “Were it summer and warm, I’d bend you over and smack your ass till it was red and throbbing, and then I’d fuck you senseless.”

Nasir laughs, delighting in the tremor of Agron’s voice despite the sharp spike of lust the husky threat inspires. “I shall hold you to blustering promise some other time,” he replies, hands roaming the dips and curves of his lover’s heaving chest, “but it isn’t summer now. My mouth, you said. Where did you want it?” He licks at the other nipple, sucks it lightly between pursed lips.

Agron groans brokenly when Nasir rolls his hips against his. “Gods,” he complains, “you would murder me with taunting. Your mouth. Upon my cock.”

Nasir kisses him slow and hot, although actually hearing Agron say it out loud has him hard and aching, wanting nothing more than to rut and fuck as hard and fast as he can manage. “You only had to ask.”

He scoots down slowly, deliberately dragging his loosened hair across Agron’s chest and stomach as he goes. It’s probably not fair, but he’s all too aware of the unreasonable fascination his lover holds with his hair, and not above taking advantage. True to form, Agron hisses when the soft mass of it pools at his groin, dragging across his straining cock in silky caress. Nasir wraps his fingers in it, loosely wrapping handfuls of hair around Agron’s length and teasing it up and down, letting the ends tickle the sensitive skin of Agron’s inner thighs. Agron inhales sharply, his fingertips brushing at Nasir’s shoulders but not yet urging more.

The blanket is not huge, and Nasir is careful of how far its protection extends. He straddles Agron’s hips and curls himself close over his groin, knees tight on either side of his thighs, breathing warm air against his cock. His hair frames his face and mouth closely, forming an intimate curtain.

He starts out too gently on purpose, lips swiping across Agron’s wet tip in teasing caress, darting just briefly down the shaft and then away to mouth at the pulsing head again.

Not for the first time, he curses the lives they lead. It’s not that he abhors the fighting, or the necessity of it, but it’s in moments like this that he’d give anything for something calmer, something more normal. Something that would let him devour Agron at leisure, drawing gasps and moans and shouts from him with no thought for unwanted witnesses.

Then again, if things were more normal, he wouldn’t feel like this, frenzied and desperate and not actually caring all that much about circumstance or witnesses at all; at any rate, not enough to stop.

Somewhere outside, the storm mounts, howling its blood-chilling fury, but for now, Nasir is no longer cold, and the noise does provide a base sort of privacy, shielding them from the muted talk of their neighbours, and masking the strained noises they can’t help making.

He licks across the crown of Agron’s cock again, a little firmer now, back and forth, tasting his familiar flavour. When Agron moans, Nasir wraps one hand around the base of his throbbing shaft and slides his lips down at the same time, taking in as much as he can. Agron’s full girth is too much to fit all the way in his mouth and he’s not comfortable at the best of times with having his throat breached; but he is well familiar with all the touches Agron likes, so he uses his hands as well as his mouth, fingers stroking from the root of Agron’s cock to his balls, cupping and palming them firmly. They’re hot and pleasant to touch, taut and vulnerable in his hands. He explores every inch of their soft weight, darting every now and then to the sensitive skin behind them: a bare brush of fingertips here, a sudden firm press there. Agron’s hips shift restlessly and Nasir grabs at them, pinning him down with a warning nip of teeth.

Agron stills, but his hands spread out against Nasir’s skull, digging into his hair. He doesn’t push or pull – not yet – but Nasir can feel the thrumming tension in his body, every inch straining up towards his lips. He gives in at the unspoken plea and lets Agron have it, closing his mouth more firmly around his length and pushing down. He bobs his head, establishing a rhythm, delighting in the hard wet slide of Agron’s cock inside his mouth. Wrapping his lips around the head, he dips his tongue into the tender slit, then tightens his mouth around the shaft to suck him as deep as he can, his fingers squeezing around the base.

His own cock is hard as rock between their tangled legs, and he wishes again, fiercely, that they were alone and more at leisure to pursue desire: that he had oil to slick Agron up so he could fuck him thoroughly, or ride him, with no one to care or comment if they gasp or scream their pleasure.

Nasir tightens his lips, pressing his tongue flat against the underside of Agron’s cock, and Agron gasps. “Fuck.” He’s lifting his hips off their lumpy makeshift mattress, closer into his mouth, while his hands grasp at Nasir’s hair, winding it round his fingers, tugging just slightly. “Gods. Don’t stop.”

He has no plans to stop. He licks and sucks, getting his chin wet with saliva and not caring. When he raises his eyes to gauge how close Agron is, it gives him a jolt to see he’s lifted his head to watch Nasir. Between the storm-darkened weather and the blanket cover, it’s almost too dark to see, but Nasir can tell Agron’s pupils are wide, nearly swallowing the colour, and his mouth is open, although he isn’t making any noise.

The intensity of his lust-darkened stare shoots straight to Nasir’s cock. He makes a muffled noise around his mouthful, then pulls back until he’s got his lips wrapped only around the tip of Agron’s wet length. Slowly, he swirls his tongue around the head and hollows his cheeks for a hard, tight suck, looking straight into Agron’s eyes the entire time. He pictures himself like Agron must see him, wild-haired and flushed, swollen lips now slowly sliding down, taking in as much of Agron’s shaft as he can manage. Wanton and shameless, delighting in being watched.

He knows Agron is close when he feels the growing strain in his thighs, feels his hips start to buck up with less and less coordination. He slides a finger in his mouth alongside Agron’s cock to wet it, then uses it to probe behind his balls, nudging just lightly at his entrance. Agron snarls an almost voiceless curse when Nasir draws the slippery finger around his rim, barely breaching. His hands tighten in Nasir’s hair and his motions grow more jerky still. Nasir allows him to drag him closer, softens his mouth and lets Agron fuck it hard, thrusting in and out, though he stays careful of Nasir’s throat. His lips will probably be bruised come morning, but right now he doesn’t give a fuck; in fact, right now the knowledge that others might see his mouth and guess how it got that way only has him grinding harder against Agron’s knee.

Castus might see. Castus would know exactly why his lips look tender and well-used. Castus’s eyes might linger there and offer a joke, although his dark eyes would stay serious and heated. Not disappointed, as such. Intrigued, perhaps. Curious. Challenged?

Fuck. No. Stop.

He tells his mind to shut up, and focuses only on the slick drag and thrust between his lips, on tightening his mouth to offer better friction. His wetted finger remains between Agron’s buttocks, nudging gently but insistently.

When he feels Agron’s balls swell and draw up tight in his hand, he moves quickly, thrusting his finger all the way inside Agron’s hole. Agron makes a broken, strangled noise and convulses around the sudden intrusion. He shoves his hips up hard as his cock jerks and spurts, filling Nasir’s mouth with salty come. Nasir swallows as fast as he can, squeezing his free hand firmly around Agron’s base. Agron is never particularly loud, but there’s something gratifying about hearing him bite back the noises he does want to make, whispering nonsense and voiceless curses under his breath. Thighs tensing to hold himself back from coming just yet, he sucks Agron through his orgasm, thrusting his finger shallowly inside him and curling it to extend Agron’s pleasure just a little longer, to suck just a few more final spurts from him. When the strain gets too much, he simply opens his mouth and lets the last drops fall from his slack lips, not caring if he gets them on his hopelessly tangled hair. It’s not like it was exactly clean before.

Dizzy with satisfaction and need, he can’t help wondering, briefly, how Castus might taste. How he would hold himself when poised at passion’s edge; whether he’d curse or shout or strain in silence. He’d probably laugh, afterwards, Nasir thinks, and that thought is almost the worst, because that’s so much like Agron, and also so much not. With Agron, that laughter is private, a secret joy shared only with Nasir, whatever the occasion: the sticky aftermath of their desires, a moment of mutual awareness in battle, on the training grounds, or any sudden spark that reminds them: yes, I am here; and yes, I am yours.

With Castus, the carefree ring of amusement seems his response to whatever the world throws at him, be it pain or pleasure: if he can’t kill a thing, he’ll laugh at it until he sees it crumble to his charm, or until he graciously concedes defeat, smiling even in surrender.

There is appeal in both. Nasir has always held a weakness for laughter. There is a courage he finds difficult to resist in those who’d face the turmoil of the world head-on with mirth upon their lips; the ones who’d weather a storm laughing. It comes as no surprise, then, that he’d find himself drawn to two men so different, yet united in that one thing: the way they’d raise their chins and face the challenges of each day with a laugh, be it fierce and determined like Agron’s or wide and carefree like Castus’s.

No surprise, but that does not make the dilemma any less troubling.

Traitorous thoughts again. Nasir shuts his eyes tightly and concentrates on the familiar flavour of Agron on his tongue, the softening flesh between his lips. Eventually Agron shudders and lies still. Nasir lets his drained cock slip from his mouth and kisses it lightly before he moves up Agron’s body, placing more kisses on his taut belly and sweat-slick chest along the way.

Dimly, he wonders where the cold has gone. The blanket is still tucked around them, and the small space inside it is filled with the heat their bodies radiate. It’s messy and semi-dark and scratchy and sure, it doesn’t smell too fresh, but it’s warm.

Agron’s chest heaves as he pulls Nasir close. With trembling fingers, he grabs Nasir’s jaw and stares at him from under half-lidded eyes. He swears under his breath. “Gods, look at your fucking mouth.”

He kisses him, sloppy and breathless. He must taste himself on Nasir’s lips but it doesn’t seem to put him off; to the contrary, if the fervent thrust of his tongue is any indication. His hand moves from Nasir’s jaw to his tangled hair, brushing it back from his face; the other one moves low between them, to close around Nasir’s still-aching cock.

He can feel the shape of Agron’s smile against his sore lips. “You’re dripping, Süßer.”

Nasir nips at his mouth, hips jerking forward as he finds himself encased in Agron’s warm, tight grip. “And you stand surprised? Fucking move.”

Agron chortles, struggling for breath still. “Move how? You’ve reduced all bones to nothing.” Nevertheless, he shifts his leg so Nasir straddles it, cock trapped between Agron’s stroking fingers and the strong muscle of his thigh.

He can tell it’s not going to take long at all: he’s so hard it almost hurts, and just the touch of Agron’s fingers is almost enough to set him off. Agron slides two fingers of his other hand into Nasir’s mouth; he gives them a brief suck but his jaw is sore and he’s exhausted. As if reading his mind, Agron slides his own mouth close and transfers his fingers from Nasir’s lips to his own, half-kissing him, half licking his own fingers, sloppy and wet, before he drags them down Nasir’s spine, trailing the vertebrae in ticklish caress.

Eventually he cups Nasir’s ass, wet fingers delving between his cheeks. Nasir moans and bites at his shoulder, unconsciously thrusting to meet the blunt pressure of Agron’s fingers. He ruts shamelessly against Agron’s leg while Agron fists his cock and thrusts two fingers in and out of him, making Nasir writhe back and forth between his hands.

“Curse this cold,” Agron murmurs into his ear while he works his fingers deep inside him, stroking and probing at the spot that makes Nasir’s cock jump and his teeth sink into his lips to keep from shouting. “And this fucking tent, and everybody in it. Would that I had you in a space for us alone, just for an hour. To taste, to fuck, to hear your passion given voice. Curse the fucking Romans and this fucking war.”

Nasir curses it too, though not quite for the same reasons. If not for the war, they would not be here, trapped on this icy ridge with no escape. If not for the war, he’d never have had to doubt himself, or Agron.

Then of course, the war followed the rebellion as a matter of course, and without the rebellion, they’d never have met.

It isn’t even so simple as doubting them, because he doesn’t. His body curls and throbs to Agron’s touch as ever, his heart as fully given as it ever was. But they are not alone upon freezing Melia Ridge, and he has never before now – not since the first time he noticed Agron looking at him with purpose – had to consider another gaze, the allure of a different offer.

There have been offers, to both of them, frequently declined. Ever since he became a free man, he’s almost come to treasure the knowledge that options are offered to him, because it’s always made the choice he’s made stand out as what he truly wants. Agron. His reckless, beautiful warrior, too rash to judge but equally quick to adapt, generous to a fault in both affection and resentment.

So far, he’s always been enough, and more than that. He will be so again. Nasir promises it silently into the weightless, heated moment when Agron’s fingers hit him perfectly, inside and out, and shatter him completely.

Pleasure washes fierce and hot through his body, momentarily blanking his vision. He shudders and slumps on top of Agron, struggling to regain his breath. For long moments, he can’t tell whether the rushing noise in his ears is the storm outside or his own racing blood. “Well,” he gasps into the damp space between Agron’s neck and shoulder. “At least bite of cold no longer holds sway.”

He feels the laughter rumble in the chest underneath his cheek. “And I shall keep it from you while I yet draw breath.”

Nasir leans up on his elbows to kiss him fiercely, offering his sore mouth to reclaim what it means to touch him, kiss him, hold him. To remind himself he doesn’t want to lose this, because he truly, truly doesn’t.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Castus smiles, inclines his head, and steps away. But ever since he was freed, Nasir has made it a point of pride to know his own desires and never lie to himself, no matter if the truth is painful, and the truth this time is this: Castus has placed a finger on his heart – no more, not yet, not quite – and Nasir doesn’t quite know how to unplace it.

For now, he kisses Agron, and holds on.