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[personal profile] siphraniax3
Author-- AnonymousAvatar
series -- A Distant Soil
Disclaimer -- Colleen Doran owns all
Rating -- NC-17
Characters/Pairing -- Seren/ Kovar, D'mer/Seren
Summary -- The Avatar and his Shield Kovar must face a conspiracy that threatens everyone and everything they love. Kovar and Aeren get to know one another a little better. Comedy and Drama Ensues.

PART I PART II PART III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII Part VIX Part X Part XI Part XII Part XIII Part XIV Part XV Part XVI Part XVII Part VXIII Part VIX

Aeren insisted on the full measure of his time allotment on the comm with Seren. Kovar just wanted to get some sleep.

The boys were as silly and giddy as Kovar had come to expect of them, full of gossip, and endearments, and banal chatter. Kovar could not fathom how they could generate so much to talk out of so little substance. There was a great deal of commentary about some clothes the Heir didn’t like, and whether or not Aeren would approve of them. And plants. And the Heir wanted a pet, but Etan said no. This was a great injustice.

Though Aeren was the elder, he regressed and babbled boyish nonsense until he seemed no more senior than the Heir. He giggled. He cooed. He sighed. He delighted in every trivial utterance.

Kovar’s eyes rolled back in his head so many times he feared they’d get stuck there. He tried hard to ignore them, and put his effort into studying the sanitary issues that had cropped up in the lower quarter of the city of Morita. Aeren made periodic kissing noises. Kovar did not enjoy pondering sewage, but anything to take his mind off the gooey drivel next to him.

Mercifully, Aeren summoned a game on his tablet, and he and Seren played quietly together until the time was up on their nightly liaison. Then Aeren kissed the face of the tablet, which Kovar thought from the other side of the screen must make him look like some sort of underwater creature gasping for breath. The sound of Seren’s delicate kiss in return signaled the end of the twee torture.

Aeren was glowing with happiness and he smiled broadly at Kovar when all was done.

“Saveris wants to talk to you,” he said. He passed Kovar his tablet, and the Prince shut down his own system and accepted it.

“I knew you’d end up in bed together,” said Saveris archly at the sight of them.

“Oh, shut up,” said Kovar.

“Piss off,” said Aeren. He pulled up a furry blanket and rolled onto his side, back to Kovar.

“He let you into one of his bolt holes? Kovar, he must really like you.”

“I am in the abode of some sort of modern primitive,” said the Prince. “We are reduced to making our own fire and clothing ourselves in animal skins. Soon we will find a woman for breeding.”

“Ha. Fucking. Ha.” Aeren’s retort was muffled under the covers.

Kovar jerked his thumb at Aeren. “I will teach the boy the ways of our ancestors. Then I will put him out to reap the fields of war. We will bay at the stars and eat the flesh of our enemies.”

Saveris howled with laughter.

“Sounds like an average week on Teramis to me,” said Aeren, once again muffled from under the covers.

Saveris laughed all the harder. “What the hell are you doing out there? Everyone thinks you are holed up in the palace screwing each other like animals.”

“We are not,” said Kovar primly. “As well you know.”

Aeren groaned and Saveris’s eyes danced. “You are a free man, my Prince,” he said, coyly.

“This free man just wants to get some sleep,” said Kovar.

Saveris smiled and studied him. “Dark circles around your eyes. Are you all right?”

Kovar rubbed his face. “Fine, just tired. Long trip out here.”

Saveris smiled again. “There is something you are not telling me that you will, perhaps, tell me later.”

“He never lies. Oh, no, not the Prince. He’ll lie and smack you if you say so,” droned Aeren.

Kovar frowned at him and Saveris raised a golden eyebrow. “It’s nothing,” said Kovar. “Got a scratch.”

“A scratch…that is your code for ‘Something nearly blew my arm off,’ ” said Saveris, worriedly.

“His leg, but all the same…” said Aeren.

“I’ll thank you to stay out of this conversation as I stayed out of yours,” said Kovar with brittle precision. The blankets shifted as Aeren shrugged.

“Kovar…” Saveris’s voice was tight.

“I’m fine, really, we’re both fine,” sighed Kovar. “Aeren, why do you not have an ear plug for private conversations for this thing?” He waved the tablet.

Aeren rolled over and looked at Kovar as if he had asked the stupidest question of all time. “Because no one but me has been down here in years and I’m the only one who uses it.”

Kovar frowned in response.

“From the looks of the décor…and I use the term ‘décor’ loosely…” mused Saveris.

“Go to hell.” Aeren rolled himself into a furry mound.

“…you must be in the Wametta valley mine. It’s not far from here, I will have a healer out in 15 minutes.”

“No!” Aeren sat bolt upright and grabbed for the tablet, angrily. Kovar smacked him away.

“It’s not necessary, Saveris, it’s a scratch, I swear it,” said Kovar.

“Liar,” said Saveris.

“Fine. It’s not a scratch, but we handled it,” growled Kovar, shoving Aeren to the side with his foot.

“Not a scratch,” repeated Saveris, tersely.

“Someone,” said Kovar, “has booby trapped this valley, trying to snare this barbarian.” The barbarian was glaring at him, arms folded crossly.

“Are you truly all right?” Saveris asked, softly.

“I am. I swear it.” Kovar smiled. “And the barbarian,” he continued, gesturing to Aeren, who had begun to relax, and was pulling covers over himself again, “is taking good care of me. He handled the issue with the snares, and he gave me medical attention. Then he fed me and put me to bed. Just like you always do.”

Aeren rolled over and cast Kovar a look that clearly indicated he was holding back a rude comment. Kovar ignored him.

“I am very grateful Aeren has been so attentive,” said Saveris, generously, “But I wish I was there with you. Will you…will you not make your way to Pevara? I could meet you there and…”

“No,” said Kovar softly. “It wouldn’t do. Not yet. I don’t want you to leave the Heir alone. Not for a moment.”

“Understood,” said Saveris, inclining his bright golden head.

“I read your report,” said Kovar. “I’m concerned about the behavior you’ve described. I don’t want the heir left alone, not even to make water. I want a quad with him at all times. And the entire household needs a security review. Again. I don’t care if you have to do it every week. No one gets in or out and no one gets near that child unless they’ve been cleared. Every. Single. Week. His tutors as well, I don’t care how deadheaded they are.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” said Saveris. “The child is…the child is shy of his body. There will be problems with bathing and the like, with security around. He doesn’t care to be seen.”

“He doesn’t mind being with you.”

“No, he does not.”

“Then if you have to be the one to watch him while he takes a piss, then you do it. Don’t leave him alone,” said Kovar, sternly.

“What behavior? What are you talking about?” Aeren took in a light shuddering breath, his blue eyes large and round and frightened. He’d moved close to Kovar again.

“Sere never meant to hurt Seren’s chances of becoming Avatar,” said Saveris, echoing his conversation with the Prince of but a few nights before. “She wants him to be an Avatar she can control. Weak. Needy.”

“I want to see this report!” interrupted Aeren.

“It’s nothing you don’t know, Aeren,” said Saveris. “I decided…I decided Kovar should know my perspective, since he’s heard yours. There are few secrets to keep from him on this matter, considering. The Avatar wishes Kovar to oversee your lands and property dispersal, as well as to take a greater hand in security here. He should also know as much about the Heir and his habits as possible.”

“What is it,” said Aeren carefully rephrasing the matter, “that you observed that concerns you? About Seren’s behavior, I mean.”

“Oh Aeren, don’t be dense. What isn’t a concern?” Saveris sighed.

“I should never have left,” said Aeren in a small voice.

“It is for the best. You cannot be here,” said Saveris. “You must understand…Your love is a target. You must stay away.”

Aeren took in a sharp breath.

“Aeren,” said Kovar, “there is massage oil in my pack. Get it.”

Aeren looked sharply at Kovar as Saveris gazed coolly through the tablet screen. “My feet are chilled and stiff,” said Kovar. “Squire, attend me.”

Aeren swallowed, and withdrew, sitting up and fetching the oil from Kovar’s toiletry pack as he’d been ordered.

“That’s my job,” said Saveris, softly, with a lilt of amusement. “And I see now that the squire in your bed is naked.”

“We are huddled together for warmth,” said Kovar with a sigh. “The burrowmite has not seen fit to install modern heating in his hole.”

“I’m sure his hole is plenty warm, Kovar,” said Saveris, amused.

“Oh fuck off!” barked Aeren as he slid toward Kovar’s feet.

“Shocking mouth on that boy. No respect. I’m astonished,” said Saveris. “But not nearly as astonished as I am by the rumors the tabloids are spreading about the two of you.”

“You are about to tell me something distasteful,” said Kovar.

“Stories on what you and Aeren are doing together. Right now.”

“We are in a rather untidy furry bed, which is, thankfully clean. We have had unexpectedly tasty frozen food. It is poorly lit and it is not as warm in here as I would like. There is only a coal fire, and soon we shall be reduced to pulling water from the depths of a well with a bucket.”

“That awful gossip Hemetia, the one with the tabloid. She says she has all the news on just how often, how hard, and how deeply you are fucking Aeren right now.”

Aeren groaned. “Oh, God, shut up.”

“My feet,” said Kovar precisely, “are not getting any warmer with you sitting there doing nothing to them, Aeren.”

Aeren flushed angrily. Then he picked up a pair of cleansing wipes and pulled the covers from Kovar’s feet. “Your feet are like ice,” he complained.

“Which is why I requested a massage, squire,” said Kovar.

“I can’t say as it entirely pleases me to read how much fun everyone thinks you are having with someone else,” said Saveris.

“Then why do you read it, you ass?” Aeren smoothed the wipes carefully over the Prince, preparing him for the oil.

“She also says,” said Saveris carefully, “that you paid a ransom for that lump you call a squire. A big one.”

Aeren paused at his task and Kovar raised a thin black brow. “Did she now?”

“And did you pay?” asked Saveris.

“The settlement between me and Lady Sere was confidential. So,” said Kovar, she probably couldn’t wait to leak it.”

“Quite a sum,” said Saveris. “Is he worth it?”

“I’ll let you know after he massages my feet,” said Kovar.

“You have lovely feet,” sighed Saveris. “Beautiful, slender white feet, with the palest, most translucent skin imaginable. I love your feet.”

“I’m going to be sick,” said Aeren, as he massaged one of the pale and slender objects of rapture.

“I must say,” said Kovar, “that Aeren was remarkably useful this afternoon in clearing that valley of traps. That’s worth something, at least.”

“I am impressed,” said Saveris. “He secured an entire valley by himself?”

“He did not,” said Kovar. “That will take a considerable amount of work,” he said carefully, knowing that he would have to have the discussion about the security matter with Aeren later, which would, no doubt, upset Aeren a great deal. He was quite protective of his mine territory, and a few squads stomping around his secret lair would be unwelcome. The bright blue eyes of his squire peeked at him with curious intent from across the bed. Rough, workman’s hands kneaded Kovar’s sore feet. The Prince suppressed a luxurious groan. “Aeren is able to spot snares and avoid them, and now that we know they are there we should be safe getting out.”

“No worry. We can get to Pevara underground,” interrupted Aeren. “These caves spread more than 500 miles. And they pass below the tram system. We can walk right under the city and come up through the transit.”

Kovar raised a brow and looked at Aeren, surprised. “Good to know,” he said.

“Aeren,” said Saveris, “A burrowmite, always has been. If it’s underground, he’ll find it. By the way, have you got anything new for the Heir, crystalcutter? He’ll expect something nice.”

Aeren crawled up the bed, his hands slick with oil, earning him a scolding look from fastidious Kovar. He leaned over the tablet set on Kovar’s knee so he could look into the screen. “I have something very special,” he said, earnestly. “No one else will have one like it. And there will be something to help pay for the gardens. Assuming the Avatar doesn’t mind me plundering the mines he stole from me to buy Seren a present,” he said, with a touch of bitterness.

Saveris smiled. “I can’t think that will be a problem,” he said.

“This is,” said Kovar, “my time with my lover, Aeren.”

Aeren looked sheepish and then scuttled back to the end of the bed to continue the massage.

Saveris grinned. “You. Him. In bed.”

Aeren snorted.

“No,” said Kovar.

Saveris shrugged. “Suit yourself. Wish I was there.”

“I wish you were, too,” said Kovar. The Prince said it in such a wistful voice that once again, Aeren was compelled to peek at him from across the expanse of Kovar’s legs.

“I suppose it will be some time before we can be together again,” said Saveris, sighing.

“I’m afraid so. I confess I’m not…not quite…ready for love.” This also earned Kovar a look of interest from Aeren. “You’ll have to content yourself with Lt Legs a while longer,” said Kovar, not bothering to hide a touch of bitterness.

“Lt Legs?” wailed Aeren. “You mean Lt Yemutev? You’ve got to be kidding. Saveris, you and him? No, you can’t. Sure, legs up to his neck, but his face…”

“I don’t spend much time looking at his face,” said Saveris.

“Aeren,” said Kovar. “Go away.”

“What face can compare to that of my Prince?” said Saveris. “Look at you now, so beautiful. With your snowy skin against that fur and your hair a trail of night unbound. I love to see you naked against fur. You are carved out of alabaster, pure and translucent. Pull down the blankets so I can see more of you. Ah, thank you, that’s lovely. You still have that cloak, don’t you? The one with the fur and the silver embroidery…”

“I have it,” said Kovar in a low voice.

“When I see you next, I want you to wear it. And nothing else.”

Aeren groaned again.

“You’ve shocked the child,” said Kovar.

“I can’t think why. You know what’s really shocking, beloved?”

“You’re about to tell me,” said Kovar.

“What Hemetia says about how you fucked Aeren so hard you had to call in a healer. That he’s so tight you could barely get it all in.”

Aeren made a disgusted sound and Kovar took a drink of water. “I never liked her.”

“No one does. Would you care to read about it?”

“I can’t think why I should. But you read it if it amuses you.”

Saveris smiled. “You should read it, too. Everything she writes that you are doing to Aeren right now I am going to do to you when next I see you.”

“Ah,” said Kovar. “I’ll have a look then.”

“Seren’s not reading that trash, is he?” asked Aeren in a pained voice.

“God no, are you mad?” Saveris wailed. “I won’t let him near those things. Hemetia is the worst, she’s writing pornography.”

“And yet you read it,” said Kovar.

“Every word,” replied Saveris.

“Does she say,” said Aeren, interrupting from the bottom of the bed where Kovar’s feet were gripped in his strong hands, “how much the Prince paid for me?”

“I didn’t pay a ransom for you, Aeren,” said Kovar, “but for damages to her household for the loss of her lady.”

“It was a ransom,” insisted Aeren and Kovar did not argue because Aeren was right in this at least. “You might as well tell me, Saveris, I have just as much access to tabloids as you do.”

“She claims 20 million credits,” said Saveris.

“Fucking hell!” shrieked Aeren! “Dear God, did you really?”

“No,” said Kovar truthfully. “I did not.”

“Well how much was it?” Aeren wailed.

“I have already told you, brat, that it is my money and my business. Mind your own.” Truthfully, the amount was 60 million credits. But he wasn’t going to tell Aeren. The Prince pointed sternly to his feet. “Work.”

Aeren grimaced and resumed his task, running his hard hands over ankles and up firm calves.

“Is he good?” asked Saveris, genuinely curious.

“Very,” acknowledged Kovar, wondering where Aeren had gained the skill, or if, perhaps, it was part of his talent as a sensitive, to feel need and then to fill it. Aeren pressed strong fingers between each toe, separating and smoothing them. Kovar sighed.

“Glad you’re enjoying it,” growled Aeren.

“I think I’m going to like having a squire,” said Kovar, dreamily.

“I haven’t learned to like being a squire, yet,” countered Aeren, peevishly.

“You enjoy the greatest honor in all Teramis, ingrate,” said Saveris, not without amusement. “Thousands would kill to be where you are now.”

“Indulging your foot fetish by proxy? Maybe they need to raise their standards,” snapped Aeren.

After a moment’s hesitation Kovar burst into laughter, that peculiar and shocking high pitched bark that came from the unknowable depths of his baritone. Saveris joined him, his low chuckle resonating through the tablet.

“You do have the most beautiful feet,” acknowledged Saveris.

“I’d always heard,” mused Aeren, as he kneaded and prodded Kovar’s extremities, “that men with tiny feet have tiny dicks. I now know that’s not true.”

“You showed him your dick? Fast worker,” said Saveris.

Kovar groaned. “You never stop playing matchmaker.”

“I just don’t want you to be alone,” said Saveris softly.

“If you didn’t want him to be alone, all you had to do was stay on,” said Aeren, bluntly. Kovar glared.

“I didn’t leave him, I took a new position. I assure you, when he wants me he has me. Every time,” snapped Saveris.

“No need to worry about him being lonely then, is there?” snarled Aeren.

“We have had this discussion, Aeren,” said Kovar in a low voice. “Ancients have different needs. Neither Saveris nor I have to justify our decisions to you. And I’d appreciate it if you would let me have my time with my lover.”

“Tell him to stop talking to me, then,” said Aeren, petulantly.

“He has a point,” said Kovar, looking at the tablet screen with a wry smile.

“I need you,” said Saveris, ignoring it. “I love you.”

Kovar sighed again. He shook his head. “Not just yet, I…I’m not quite…awakened yet.”

“I understand, love.”

“You are so tolerant of it. I am sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. It is what it is.”

“I’ll be ready. Soon. I can feel it.”

“I look forward to feeling it, too,” Saveris said, softly. “All of it.” He smiled. “Seren is calling me. Little tyrant.”

Kovar smiled. “I’ll be with you, soon. I promise.”

“I’ll be ready” said Saveris. “I’m going to have you so hard you will feel it for a week.”

Kovar chuckled, ignoring the wave of discomfort he felt from Aeren at the edge of the bed. “I look forward to it. And I will return the favor. I love you.”

“I love you.”

Kovar put the tablet to sleep.

“How long do you expect me to keep groping your toes?” asked Aeren.

“If I had my way,” said Kovar with a luxurious sigh, “you’d never stop. Aeren, you are really very good at that. Get a lot of practice?” Considering Aeren’s reputation, Kovar’s mind mulled scenarios of lavish boudoirs and ladies melting under the crystalcutter’s touch.

Aeren shrugged, smiling a little at the praise. “Not really, no. Etan…Etan doesn’t like to be touched by anyone but me, so I learned for him.”

“I see,” said Kovar softly. He gazed at Aeren, kneeling quietly as he firmly kneaded one of Kovar’s feet between two strong, rough hands. The crystalcutter was naked and pale in the firelight, clothed only in his flowing golden hair, and his angelic aura, utterly beautiful. The sight recalled nights with Saveris, his long powerful arms stroking Kovar’s body as they lay together in their dark campaign tent, golden hair flowing in waves over them both, radiant and soft and soothing. Leaning over Kovar, mounting him, sinking onto the Prince’s long, thick shaft, groaning with pleasure as he was filled…

Aeren looked up. Kovar looked away.

The Prince withdrew his feet from Aeren’s grasp, and gingerly rolled over onto his stomach, baring himself as he did so, the covers pulled down to rest upon the top of his buttocks. He swept the mass of his black hair aside. “Do my back.”

Aeren hesitated. Then he took up the oil again, and edged up the bed, kneeling over Kovar’s broad frame. He went to work, smoothing his hands over powerful shoulders, digging into firm flesh, seeking out tension knots and stress. “You’re as hard as granite,” he said. “You need massage more often.”

“I get one almost every day,” said Kovar.

“Really?” Aeren whistled. “You’d never know. You’re a mess.”

“I have a lot on my mind,” said Kovar, and he shifted his bulk on the bed.

“A lot on your shoulders, I think,” mused Aeren. He focused his touch on a spot under Kovar’s shoulder blade. The Prince winced. “Sorry,” said Aeren.

“I pulled that yesterday. Should have had a healer in.”

“Mmmm,” Aeren agreed. He hesitated and then he said, “I still don’t understand why you and Saveris are apart.”

Kovar sighed. “It’s not as if we can’t see each other when we want to. Sometimes we are together every day.”

“When you’re…in the mood,” Aeren ventured.

“Yes,” said Kovar matter-of-factly.

“Seems like you’d be in the mood more often if you were together,” Aeren pondered. “Every time I hear you talking to one another you seem to be about ready to drop to the floor and…well.”

“Saveris likes to talk dirty. Aeren, it’s no great hardship that Saveris is appointed as Shield. The Avatar’s palace is not an hour from Teramis.”

“I know but…” Aeren hesitated and then said, “Anyone can see how much you love each other. How can you bear to be apart even when you’re…I mean, you know, when you’re not…”

“When we’re not fucking.”


Kovar smiled into the pillow. “We’ve been together longer than you’ve been alive. We have our own ways, our own habits. Our own desires. Years of loneliness are hard to bear, Aeren, but so are years of togetherness, even when one is deeply in love. What is common and expected is sometimes not appreciated. And sometimes, people change even when love does not. In truth,” Kovar said with some strain in his voice, “I don’t want to be around when Saveris takes other men.”

He felt Aeren pause a moment in his ministrations. Then the squire said, “Jealous?”

“A bit,” Kovar admitted. “I don’t mind that he does it, but I don’t care to see it.”

“It wouldn’t bother me,” Aeren announced, with a tone in his voice that clearly indicated he thought this position very sophisticated.

“Oh, really?” said Kovar. “Tell me then, how will you feel when Seren takes a lover?”

“What? He’s a baby.” Aeren sniffed.

“Seren is so beautiful, if he were in the crèche, he’d have a hundred admirers at his feet. He is not a baby. He’s a boy. And boys make lovers of one another. Sometimes even boys as young as Seren.”

He could feel Aeren grow cold. “I don’t think he ever will,” he said.

“Won’t he?”

“He’s not…he’s…he doesn’t belong to me,” Aeren said quietly.

“When you’re in love, you belong to each other. True love, Aeren, is hard. Sometimes it is harder on you than never having known it,” said Kovar, gently.

“We’re not in love,” was Aeren’s quiet response. “He’s a child, he doesn’t understand such things.”

“Aeren,” said Kovar, “for a sensitive, you can be remarkably obtuse.”

Aeren was quiet, but Kovar could feel the tension flowing from him. “How do you think Seren will feel when he knows that you need women, no matter how much you love him? And how would you feel if Seren decided to take Saveris?” asked Kovar.

“That will never happen,” Aeren snapped. “Saveris is a brute.”

Kovar laughed lightly. “If you say so. Aeren, I love Saveris very much and yet I leave his side. You love Seren very much, and yet you leave his side. There is your answer.”

The kneading at Kovar’s back continued, steady and pointed, as Aeren worked the knot in the Prince’s shoulder with care. “This will take more than one session,” Aeren said clinically. “I’ll get hot towels.”

He withdrew from bed, pulling the covers over Kovar’s back as he did so. Then he padded on silent feet to the bath, and returned with an armful of towels he spread next to the fire. He picked up the heatwave and applied it as well. Kovar watched silently, his arms crossed, propping up his head. Aeren was pointedly not looking at him, pretending to be intensely interested in the state of the towels, which were quickly toasted and steaming with warmth. Aeren returned to the bed with them, baring Kovar’s back and spreading them over his flesh. Aeren had dampened them. The hot, steamy mass felt glorious. Kovar groaned with pleasure.

Aeren let the towels sit for a moment, then rubbed up and down, sinking therapeutic oil into the Prince’s pale skin, now pink from the heat and massage.

“I can do you next, if you like,” said Kovar. Again, he felt Aeren hesitate.

“No, you’ll muck up my work here.” He patted Kovar’s back with swift, sharp strokes. “Drink a lot of water, mind you.”

“Mmmf,” grunted the Prince.

Aeren ceased tapping Kovar’s shoulders and spread his palms wide to caress and calm the Prince with broad, soothing strokes. “May I ask a question?” he said, carefully.

“No, I will not tell you how much money I paid Sere,” groaned Kovar in mock irritation.

“It’s not about that,” said Aeren.


Aeren paused. “Does Saveris get jealous of you?”

Kovar raised a brow. “Not really. Not much. No.”

“Not much,” said Aeren.

Kovar shrugged. “Sometimes he is picky on my behalf, I should say. If he doesn’t approve, he lets me know.”

“ ’Doesn’t approve’ “

“He doesn’t always like whom I choose.”

“You said he likes to play ‘matchmaker ‘”.

“He does. It amuses him.”

“He says you’re lonely.”

Kovar shrugged in response.

“Is he trying to play matchmaker with us?”

Kovar chuckled softly into the pillow again. “You needn’t worry, Aeren, your virtue is safe with me.”

“I don’t mean that…”

“Yes you do.” Kovar sighed. “Aeren, I didn’t take you on to seduce you. If I wanted you that way, I could have had you the first night you came to me.”

“That was the plan…” said Aeren sardonically.

“Saveris cares for you, Aeren. I know you’ll find it hard to believe, but he loves you. He thinks you will be well served in Teramis at my side.” Aeren carefully wiped the remaining oil from Kovar’s back with the steaming towels. “Do you not agree?” asked Kovar.

“I suppose. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful…” said Aeren.

“You seem,” said Kovar cautiously, “like someone who is not accustomed to genuine intimacy.”

Aeren smirked. “I assure you, I’ve been intimate. A lot. With many people.”

“No, Aeren. You’ve had sex with many people. That’s not the same thing.”

Aeren pulled away, swatting Kovar’s back gently. “My arms are tired,” he announced with finality. He crawled off the bed, and Kovar turned over, pulling the covers up around him, gently guiding his wounded leg under the blankets and furs.

“That was wonderful,” he said. “You have nice, firm hands. They go deep.”

Aeren directed a wan smile at Kovar and nodded curtly as he gathered the towels and cleansing wipes, disposing of them in a laundry bin near the bath. “I’m tired,” he announced, redundantly. “Don’t forget to drink that water, your muscles will cramp if you don’t.”

Aeren’s habit of quickly changing the subject when he didn’t like the direction of the conversation was as predictable as Ovanan weather, which was always varying degrees of cold, with snow in the forecast. As Kovar drank a glass of water as he’d been ordered to do, Aeren puttered about the room with empty purpose, touching items, righting them, moving things from one spot an inch from where they’d been before. Then he looked to the bed, with Kovar in it, relaxing, amiably admiring his squire. “Aren’t you cold?” asked Kovar. Aeren was still clothed in nothing but his knee-length hair.

“I’m used to it.” He said, shrugging.

“Come to bed, Aeren,” said Kovar. “We’re both tired.”

Aeren dissembled a few moments more, stoking the coal fire, righting pillows. Then he climbed into bed next to the Prince, crawling over his long legs, mindful of Kovar’s wounds. He closed the bed curtains. The men were cocooned in warmth and darkness, visible to one another only by the light of their auras. Aeren burrowed under covers and furs, positioning himself against the wall, his back to the Prince. He went still, an unconvincing act of instant sleep.

“Good night, Aeren,” said Kovar, softly.

“Good night,” Aeren’s response was crisp and quiet. He did not move.

Kovar reached through the curtain to put his glass down on the table by the bedside, then slid deep into the comforts of the mattress, sighing as he did so, his eyes fluttering shut. The warmth of the bedchamber and the comfortable, soft furs lulled him quickly to sleep despite the aches of the day and the pain in his leg.

He awakened sometime later, hours it seemed, from a very deep slumber, to the sound of a soft, troubled voice and, to his great surprise, the grip of a warm naked body. Aeren had crawled from his side of the bed to curl against Kovar, gripping him tightly in his arms, one limb thrown across Kovar’s leg: the uninjured one, fortunately. Aeren was trembling, uneasy, crying out.

“No…no, don’t…no…”

Kovar lay next to him, still, listening in the dark. Aeren’s aura was pale and indistinct, drained. Kovar sensed fear and pain, sorrow and loneliness. Aeren’s leg clung tightly to him, his genitals warm and soft against Kovar’s hip.

“Don’t…” said Aeren, again.

Gently, Kovar reached over Aeren’s shoulders and held him carefully, his hand stroking golden hair and smooth skin. Aeren trembled at the touch.

“Etan…” he said, softly, “Etan…”

Kovar closed his eyes. Dear God, he thought. This poor boy…He sighed deeply.

“Don’t leave me,” said Aeren.

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