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At midday on the last day of summer the Hall of the Hearings of the Royal Palace of Ios was pooled in light, reflecting impossibly white against the polished marble.

It was challenging to keep watching Theomedes-Exalted, sitting high on his throne against the light of three perfectly symmetrical windows. Yet Nikandros persisted. Paying his due respects was his honour, but branding his mind with every second of this announcement was his selfish need.

Though not born aristocratic, the wealth and status of Nikandros’s family came from military prowess. All the men in his family had held roles in the Akielon army, and the women were regarded as trusted field healers, and it had been so for a good four generations. Yet neither of his two brothers, and none of his abundant cousins, had been entrusted with service at the Kingsmeet.

Halfway through his seventeenth year, Nikandros listened to his name echoing among the chosen ones, and knew that his father stood somewhere in the same Hall, and that he would be proud of him.

The temporary service at the Kingsmeet was only bestowed on the eight best young soldiers that came of age within the prior summer. The Kingsmeet stood in a site more ancient than the Capital itself, a keep and a temple at the same time; it was square and perfectly angled, and from each of its four terraces one could stare North, South, East and West, a compass to the country at the centre of which the Kings will always meet, strictly unarmed. As the Kingsmeet presided over the four corners of Akielos, two recruits would join the delegation for each corner of the keep. They would hone their skills and learn the most treasured history and traditions of Akielos, from the beginning of one fall to the same day two years later. A permanent service at the Kingsmeet was the highest honour for a soldier of no status, and it was exactly what Nikandros’s great-great-grandfather earned for his services, what established their family; a temporary service, however, was somewhat subtler, aimed to shape future generals, advisors, even kyroi.

Nikandros promised himself he would be grateful and worthy of all the opportunities that had been granted to him.

Publicly, he bowed down to the marble floor at Theomedes-Exalted’s feet and swore his service.

The day before his departure, he spent the night with Damianos, in the luxury of the Prince’s quarters and the welcoming span of his bed. With a warm body to share between them this was surely a moment for Damianos to be Damen, though the Prince had always been open to familiarity with Nikandros after the first month of Nikandros’s permanent residence in Ios.

In retrospect, Nikandros had been little more than a kid when his father was relocated as head of guard for the Capital, a role that involved coordinating what was, in all effects, a whole division of the army at the constant disposal of the Exalted. Yet Nikandros felt much more mature than his eight years, he strived to comport himself as such, and the young Prince — the heir to the throne — had been more than eager to interact with Nikandros, to test their skills in the field, almost to impress him. It was and had been easy to love Damen.

It wasn’t much different now, with Nikandros halfway through his seventeenth year and Damen just a month away from his fifteenth birthday — which Nikandros would not get to celebrate with him, this year and the next.

Damen lay in a carefree nakedness on the white linen, flopping with an exaggerated huff against the pillows. Even while still growing into his full height and strength, he was startlingly handsome — all bronzed skin and lean muscles and the line of curls falling messily behind while he stared at the ceiling. It would be a honour — and in some regards a struggle — to see him as a grown man, one that could possibly realise how far above in status he was in comparison to Nikandros.

“The Kingsmeet,” Damen reiterated, with a deep sigh. “I’m so envious, Nik, it will be so good. Will you write me about it?”

Nikandros leaned more heavily against his elbow, turned to his side to watch his Prince. He was glad for the weight of the slave plastered against his back, equally naked and sleeping off exhaustion. It was easy, like this, to run a hand over her bare forearm and relish in the physicality without having to reach over Damen, pushing boundaries that always looked perilous.

“I will, of course,” Nikandros assured him, smiling easily. “At least once a month. And in turn you can update me on your progresses with Master Rhodestrus’s longbow.”

He laughed, as Damen groaned, complaining under his breath about how more than the practice it was the aftermath, with all his joints hurting. Nikandros had been told how limited contacts were supposed to be while serving at the Kingsmeet, but there was no point in sharing with Damen that writing him would mean sacrificing letters to his own family; it was Nikandros’s choice to make, and he made it gladly. Still, the sole fact that Damen asked pooled warmly against his sternum.

The slave girl hummed sleepily, rubbing her face against the skin of Nikandros’s back, and the movement seemed to catch Damen’s attention.

“Do you think we overdid it?” He said it grinning, a bit sheepish, and seemingly unaware of how much mischief he got away with by how charming he managed to be. The dimple on his cheek was difficult to catch in the half-shadows cast by the candles, but Nikandros knew it by heart.

“Maybe just a bit more than usual?” Nikandros smirked back. They had her plenty, and Damianos was generous in letting Nikandros having the most of her — once in the front, once in the back. They had her together, too, which Nikandros was markedly fond of. “You can pamper her a bit once I’m gone, I know you like it.”

She was a pretty little thing, with long limbs and soft hips and her long brown hair fell in an endearing curtain around her head when she knelt and bowed. She had eyes as green forest moss. Undoubtedly, Damianos would enjoy every excuse to spoil her.

Damen seemed to know himself well enough, in this regard, that he just turned to his side, smiling without comment or defence. He reached over and stroked the slave’s hand lightly; his touch brushed on Nikandros’s abdominal muscles as well.

Behind Damen, the long curtains swayed slightly against the faintest wind, almost chilly now that the autumn was properly entering even in the temperate climate of Ios. The sky, barely visible at times between the gaps of fabric, was slowly turning from black to dark shade of blue. Dawn was likely approaching, and Nikandros was due to depart as soon as the sun had passed the walls of the capital.

“Let’s wake her up,” Damen murmured, sliding even closer. “Give you a proper goodbye.”

A more sensible person, mature and proper, would likely argue that some sleep was needed for the travel ahead.

Nikandros looked at Damen, green and lively and so very dear to him.

“Yes, let’s,” he said, instead.

Having spent the best part of his formative years within the imposing wall of the Royal Palace made it so that the Kingsmeet, in itself, was not an overwhelming experience for Nikandros. The grounds were big but well tended, the structure remarkably symmetrical: the centre of the keep served mostly for ceremonial purposes and it would be generally guarded by permanent members of the delegation; the four corners mirrored each other perfectly — north with south, east with west — and knowing the way through one of them would mean orienting sensibly through the others. Where the other young recruits — coming from all over the Kingdom — struggled, Nikandros fell into rhythm easily.

Yet, the Kingsmeet had its way of shaking the core of Nikandros’s confidence, of the preconceptions that accompanied him through his life. The very air in the keep was permeated with history and tradition. From the daily routine of the guard, to the archives attic, passing through low reliefs running through the hallways, the Kingsmeet was a testament to the Akielos that was, and a promise of what it would be.

The privilege felt enormous, and Nikandros strove to let the feeling sink into his memory, to shape him and remind him what he should stand for should the time of need come.

There was, of course, training. Some of the drills were the usual ones that every experienced soldier mastered, but he was among new companions and adapting himself faster to the necessities of a group was a good teaching as well. Other techniques were deeply unfamiliar to him — whether because of the weapons employed or the way of handling them — and they required the full span of his concentration to avoid appearing sloppy at every turn.

Beside his obligations as a soldier, he also settled himself into his service. The Kingsmeet made no use of slaves, or servants, within its rank, and the necessities of the guard were met by the guard, in a strict rotation of duties. Within a month of his arrival, Nikandros had washed halls, cooked meals, tended to the latrines, scouted for wood in the nearby forest, done everything he would have on campaign and some stuff that, by virtue of his rank and status, he would have delegated otherwise.

It was good, structured in a way that was almost comforting.

Companionship was so readily available, and the rest of the guard so like-minded, that it was difficult to perceive loneliness. Peculiarly, it struck him more deeply when he sat down and used his resting hours to write to Damianos, and then again, nostalgic and writhing in his stomach like a live snake, when the missive with Damianos’s reply arrived.

The spinning wheel of routine meant that he was often too tired to address the lack of women on the grounds as a problem, especially at the beginning. After that, appreciating the companionship of his camerades extended easily beyond duty — or his duties naturally extended beyond strict practicalities.

The first time Nikandros mastered a complex wrestling maneuver enough to pin Iairos, two years his senior, down in the sand, he eagerly offered Iairos a hand to get up and felt elated by the familiarity in the vigorous pats on his shoulders — for which he knew his ways through respect and belonging among soldiers and recognised a solid step in. Nikandros accepted the offers of cleaning up from oil and sand just as gladly, and sat with Iarios under the stream of water dripping directly from the rock at the basement of the keep.

Nikandros dutifully dropped his chin to his chest when Iairos pressed with the cloth against his nape, to scrub him clean, and kept working on Iairos’s arms in turn. It was a routine that he recognised, though with some melancholy, as they were both silent and serious where Damen — who at Ios would often share the cleaning routine with Nikandros — would have chattered and joked and commented. The small distraction provided by Nikandros’s own memories dissipated in surprise when Iaiors pressed more purposefully on his shoulders, and with his eyes down Nikandros could easily see Iairos rousing between his legs. Perched on the rocks beside him, Nikandros had a moment of surprise, almost disoriented, as in his experience the training ground and leisure were to stay strictly separate; the Kingsmeet, however, was its own world, and in the solitude the two of them were sharing now Iairos was not commanding him as one would a slave. It felt more like being led where he could choose to follow, or not. But loyalty and belonging had a lot to do with taking the right turn on each unassuming crossroad, and Nikandros had committed himself to the mindset a long time ago.

He relaxed his shoulders and bent forward towards Iairos’s lap. The movement must have been well received, as the cock in front of him twitched closer to full hardness. Nikandros opened his mouth to welcome it inside.

The act always seemed effortless, when the slaves at the Palace or some very willing younger soldiers performed it. At the moment, Nikandros appreciated how much skill it required, but Iairos was a good teacher, grasping at the sides of Nikandros’s jaw at the right times to avoid the scrape of teeth and giving encouraging directions.

After, with his back to the stone and a foreign taste thick along his tongue, Nikandros gasped under self-assured strokes dragging him all the way to pleasure. In this, Iairos didn’t seem to look for any feedback from Nikandros, bold in a way no previous companions had been, as if here, too, he was teaching Nikandros something. A distant part of Nikandros’s mind, warm and supple, wondered if this was the way Damianos would do it — with almost an equal but not quite, arrogant but not quite. Then his abdominal muscles spasmed and Iairos jerked him through it until he had nothing spare to spill, and thoughts of Damen faded against the slow, conspiratorial grin on Iairos’s face, leaning his forehead against Nikandros’s.

This, too, felt very much like a step towards belonging.

When the winter had passed, the Kingsmeet began to prepare for the tradition of the Crossing, in which each kyroi and each general would lead a delegation towards Ios, and stop by the Kingsmeet to pay respect to the Kings that were. They would then ride forward to Ios and bend the knee for the Exalted that was.

The schedule was not set, and neither was the order, as it was generally understood that each leader should appropriately time the visit with the necessity of their land, or their military, without disrupting traditions or actualities.

The first two to pass had been the kyroi of the two provinces closest to the Capital, Kesus and Thrace. Nikandros, having witnessed this event from another point of view, so far — standing in the halls of Theomedes-Exalted and looking forward to all the talks and the story that would light up the festive dinner in the evening — knew that this almost went unspoken. It was a good moment for them to travel, the central regions had no relevant tensions to deal with and the fields would still be waking up, in a far cry from the buzzing agricultural activity of spring and summer.

Often, the delegation from Isthmia would follow, but according to Damen’s missive the previous month there had been some issues with unexpected storms. It was likely that the island was still thoroughly checking the King’s warships for damages, and setting up repairs, and that was certainly a good reason for a delay.

Most of guards of the Kingsmeet expected the kyros of Dice, or possibly Mellos, to follow. Instead, one chilly day after the break of dawn, a runner came to announce that a division of the independent army of the North was approaching the grounds, to honour the Crossing. They were led by Makedon, who was little more than forty years of age but raised to glory and command.

The delegation poured into the hall and the guest’s room, all in elated moods. The Kingsmeet men offered reprieve and then guarded the ceremonial halls while, one after another, soldiers of various ranks walked the procession that traced the history of Akielos — foundations, great victory, great losses, prosperity and calamities.

Later, they all regrouped in the dining hall, and though it was not the feast that would welcome them in the Royal Palace of Ios the meal that followed was full of the shared spirit between soldiers.

The arrangement in the room was inherently chaotic, as one might get called off a seat to join into a physical feat or provide a toast and by the time it was finished the seat would be long gone. As the hour passed, with some giddiness provided by the abundant flow of mead, Nikandros realised that he was edging closer and closer to General Makedon, even while he himself changed seats in a whirlpool.

After Nikandros wrestled a soldier's arm flush to the table five consecutive times, Melidos grabbed him by the clothing of his chiton and tossed him back towards the tables.

“There, go drink something and let the other have some fun. I have just the right passage of the Selicidies for everyone to enjoy,” Melidos said, already charging forward the middle of the room.

Nikandros laughed and sat down gladly, looking forward to more drinks and to hear Melidos's clear voice embellishing up Akielon epics.

A ceramic cup brimming with beer was slammed down the table in front of Nikandros, with an encouraging, “Here, boy, have some and know it's well deserved.”

The slippery vowels of the northern Akielon was instinctively familiar, as was Makedon's imposing figure, leaning on the chair beside him.

Even spending the best part of the last years in the King's court hadn't brought Nikandros just this close to the General. Or maybe, more importantly, he had never been this close while having ground for himself to hold a conversation. Now, inarguably, being one of the guards in temporary service gave him a story, if not properly a status.

He gulped down a third of the cup, and plunged into talking.

As a general rule, Nikandros prided himself on being self-contained and measured in his passions, and in the expression thereof. Thirty minutes later, enthralled in a detailed discussion on every tactical recollection Makedon would be willing to share, he caught Dalacius’s smirk from two seats down the table. Dalacius raised his cup at Nikandros but Nikandros was now too far down the conversation to backtrack in fear of excessive transparency about his interest. He just raised his cup back, and continued on.

An hour more went on after that, or possibly more. In the meantime, Makedon had pushed a bottle into Nikandros’s hand and urged him to drink up. An abundant gulp of liquid later, Nikandros's whole mouth was burning, the sensation spreading down his throat.

“Griva is good for your soul, good boy,” Makedon proclaimed while patting Nikandros’s back.

The heat spread more diffusely but it was all too easy to blame it on the alcohol.

When Nikandros took another sip, dutifully, Makedon laughed uproariously. His hand stayed in place, gripping Nikandros's nape.

When Melidos staggered forward for yet another passage — even though it was the fifth of the night and even his legendary voice was faltering — the hand still hadn’t moved. Actually, Makedon’s grip tightened on Nikandros’s skin and shook him around a bit, before he could turn around to listen properly.

“Come on, boy, you can keep me entertained somewhere else.”

Nikandros was several years away from that infamous moment when Lady Hypermenestra brushed his fingers — smiling elegantly and just as elegantly accepting the earring she had dropped and that Nikandros had rushed to recover for her — and from the furious way he had blushed. His own father insisted it had been Nikandros's best impression of a cooked lobster.

He didn't want to look like a cooked lobster for General Makedon, who might judge him overeager on one side, too inexperienced in the way of the world in another. It was difficult to discern if he was being successful, without a mirror to look at.

Still, they made their way out of the room, the fabric of Nikandros's chiton pulling under his armpit from the grasp of Makedon on the twist around his shoulders. In their path, some cups clattered loudly on the wooden tables, a good omen and a salutation. Nikandros briefly caught Haktor in the gesture — an auspicious recognition considering that Nikandros saw him leaving with Dorades, sycophant of the kyros of Kesus, just two weeks prior.

He might not be as experienced in the ways of the Kingsmeet as others, but he did not fail to notice how Haktor, permanent among the guards, had been excused from the drills the morning after, while the Kesian delegation departed.

For each and every man stationed at the Kingsmeet it was a honour to pay respect to men who held the trust of the Exalted. It was traditional to serve them as they would serve their King.

As Nikandros unpinned his chiton and let the fabric pool on the floor, Nikandros thought of how he fit in centuries of history — among all the people that performed the same ritual in this same room and all the people that would perform after him.

Then, as Makedon began perfunctorily washing himself at the pitcher in a corner of his guest rooms, Nikandros lost his higher meaning and thought of little that wasn't Makedon's strong body.

His hesitation was long enough that Makedon turned to watch him back, and yet it was difficult to tear his gaze away from the defined lines of Makedon’s abdominal muscles. The sturdy thickness around his hips promised a phenomenal swordsmanship with heavy weaponry. The grit of him when relaxed hinted to something else entirely.

Makedon laughed, open and unselfconscious. “Get on the bed, boy, we're not here to watch each other.”

It was likely in recognition of his own shape — lean and compact and getting stronger by the day but still not comparable to an established General — that Nikandros rushed to comply, tossing two vials of oil on the mattress before sitting down on it.

“I know, sir.”

“Do you, now.”

For all his hinted scepticism, Makedon sat down on the bed. His manhood swelled up with interest while taking in Nikandros's appearance. Nikandros was torn between displaying himself more and, uncharacteristically, shying away. His fellow guards at the Kingsmeet had, however, made sure that Nikandros did know, at least a bit.

Kneeling on the bed, he bent down and lowered his face to Makedon’s lap, his mouth opening to lick at the exposed cock.

Iairos had been a good teacher, fond of repetitions. Makedon hardening in mouth was far from unfamiliar and rather welcomed. The rhythm that followed was, however, telling on the difference between soldiers’ kinship and proper servicing.

The grip of Makedon’s hands cradled his head, from temples to nape. Rather than pushing down or guiding him, Nikandros was held in place while Makedon's hips canted upwards and downwards. The slide was deep and repetitive, like trotting on a familiar field. It was difficult to lick or suck through it, but Nikandros tried anyway, rewarded by a slow rubbing of fingers at the crown of his head, against the shortness of his hair.

Makedon made him gag a bit on his full length. Once, twice, and then easing the slides again with even more than Nikandros’s saliva go smoothen the way. When he did it again, Nikandros closed his eyes and relaxed more against the General's hands — enough to feel the push where his mouth felt so soft and the tip of Makedon's cock was so hard, enough to make an effort and not choke.

“Fast learner. Very nice.” The praise was clear but betrayed no urgency.

The thought of being held in this position until his mouth would not even suffer the invasion anymore made Nikandros’s own cock twitch, reflexively. He sucked on some excess spit and inhaled messily through his nose.

A slight slap in his hollowed cheeks beckoned him back to attention.

“Turn around, boy, but keep it up.”

It was a confusing instruction and Nikandros hovered unsure, with the tip of Makedon’s cock rubbing in the dip of his tongue. It took several awkward shuffling around on the mattress to reposition himself with his head in the General’s lap and his hips close to his shoulders. He was hesitant go move more, but with one strong hand on his head and the other gripping at his left knee there was little he could do but to follow his lead and straddle Makedon's face.

With one last pat on the head, Nikandros swallowed the full cock again. At this angle, the very shape of his mouth accommodated the slight curve of Makedon's manhood and he just needed to breath and suck and slide and suck.

The double grip moved along Nikandros's waist, then on his legs, then spread his buttocks and pulled the cheeks apart. He jumped, caught by surprise, and one hand came down with a startling smack.

“Down, boy,” Makedon spelled out for him. Another stinging smack landed, but this time Nikandros stiffened and relaxed, without twitching. “Good. Legs spread, head down.”

It wasn't a complex list of tasks but everything became more convoluted when something wet, and then soft, brushed against his hole. Makedon's tongue, then his lips.

Nikandros choked a bit on the cock and Makedon chucked, before angling Nikandros's hips better to kiss his hole more fully.

Makedon kept at it with leisured swirls of his tongue, until Nikandros could resume suckling without faltering at every new dampness. Rather, he felt himself relax, and was rewarded by a wet prodding and poking just at the centre of his hole. He felt softer, already more yielding, hyperfixated on the furling of his own skin at the entrance. He has never been this profoundly aware of them but now the tracing was highlighting them.

He was rubbing the head of Makedon's cock in the dip at the roof of his mouth when an inconsequential shuffling around behind him was followed by a new pressure on his hole. Nikandros only had a vague impression of a finger catching at the rim of his ass before Makedon pressed it in all the way to the knuckle.

A warning pat on his cheeks reined in even the thought of squirming away. It would probably be pointless, the finger was slippery with the oil Nikandros had dropped on the bed and not likely to be dislodged. As it started to rock back and forth, Nikandros felt him deeper and wider than it could possibly ever be. It was just a finger, but it was also one finger more than he had ever taken in his ass.

He slid his head up and down, willing his jaw not to clench, and tried not to concentrate too much on what his own body was doing. In the dim light of the lanterns, Makedon's half spread legs were thick with muscles, deceptively solid in a way that was likely to hide their flexibility. With his knees close to the man's shoulders, though, it was impossible for Nikandros to see him. He could be anyone, and it would be exactly the same, but it was General Makedon.

The finger drew back to the first knuckle and a second one — the index or maybe the middle — pushed in alongside it. Without waiting for Nikandros to breathe against the concept, they thrust back all the way in. Once, then again, then once more, each time with a slight twist on it. More slickness was poured from the top of his crack and the fourth ministration pushed it in. The fifth thrust was squelching and all too easy, easy enough that Nikandros's hips jumped.



The low rumble went straight to Nikandros’s cock, and suddenly he was aware of his own erection, jutting between his stomach and the expanse of Makedon's chest. No amount of sucking the cock deep in his mouth could abide the thrill of it, and the steady movements against his asshole only heightened it.

The third finger went in just as matter-of-factly as the previous ones, opening him up. There was little doubt the rumors about Makedon’s drills being unforgiving for even the most undisciplined young recruits. While there was something vulnerable about being set into shape, Nikandros preferred the feeling of it as an exercise, a technique to master, rather than the pampering of a First Night as it would be reserved for a slave.

The fingers scissored wide, unforgiving, and then thrust in even deeper, up to the point when Makedon’s hand was pressed taut against Nikandros’s buttocks. When they curled, something beckoned his muscles to clench in a wave, and he choked on the cock in his mouth even though he hadn’t, in all honesty, been applying himself enough to it. He slipped his mouth free, startled, trying to catch his breath.

Makedon gave a huff behind him, and it was difficult to discern if it was haughtiness, or approval, or disdain. Still, under the wide spread and insisting penetration of the three fingers, Makedon leaned back in and resumed licking at his opening.

The oil made everything slippery, any resistance inconsequential and easily disposed of — it reminded Nikandros of wrestling and his cock jumped at the thought of Makedon doing this same thing to him in an open field, easily demonstrating how to hook your opponent on three fingers and make him like it.

The licking was even more wild, insistent and filthy, and Nikandros tried very hard to flick his tongue on the hard cock that kept dangling, spit-soaked, in front of his face. He moaned a half-startled protest when the tongue slithered through the spread fingers and flickered inside him. There was a low, rumbling hum behind him. His body bent reflexively to squirm out, or to chase it, and it didn’t matter because he got more of it anyway. He wasn’t sure if he was capable of handling it, it made his abdominal muscles jump and his cheeks clench, but at every movement he got an encouraging pat on his ass, prompting him to do it again, moving like a wave crashing on a particularly filthy shore.

He was lost in the rhythm of it and yet he was the one who broke it, suddenly and inadvertently. His hands clenched on Makedon’s thighs and he quivered on his straddling point, his back bending up and then arching back down. His cock jumped, untouched, at the pace of the fingers tapping inside him, and he came all over Makedon’s chest with a long keening sound.

The shaking was slow to subside, and the orgasm drew out impossibly long, drawn out by the still constant ministrations that had Nikandros convulsing. His shoulders dropped down and he leaned his forehead at the dip between Makedon’s hips and his thighs. Everything was impossibly hot, the air humid as it wavered in his throat. Sweat caught at his temples, at the dip of his nape, and still quickly cooled down in the winter temperatures, even though the windows in the guest room were solid, and closed.

A slow chuckle came from behind him, and Nikandros clenched uselessly against the wide spread of fingers still inside him. Another wave of sensitivity rushed through him, a reminder that pleasure didn’t necessarily equate to satisfaction in a way that was familiar, but fundamentally different to the times, years ago, in which masturbation was a newfound pleasure that he could indulge three times in a row.

Makedon’s cock rubbed close to the curve of his jaw, unyielding in its hardness even after all the efforts Nikandros had poured on it. The fact that they were constantly faced with each other’s reactions, in this positions, heightened every perception. Damianos would have liked how uncompromising this was, all black and white and insistent, Nikandros was sure of it, even though they never dragged any slaves into doing this. Maybe, when he would go back, he should suggest it. The thought of Damen asking him details of his current predicament, or maybe even a demonstration from Nikandros himself, made his cock twitch and his hips cant backwards towards the penetration. He licked a long stripe along Makedon’s cock, to ground himself back into the present.

Another encouraging pat on the back told Nikandros what he already knew: that they were not done, and he should apply himself better.

“That’s a good attitude you’ve got there, boy,” Makedon murmured behind him, while Nikandros sucked on a mouthful of his cock all over again.

Attitude might make up for a lot, but still the slow, circular movements of Makedon’s fingers inside, stretching him more and spreading the shivers around, were maddening. He landed a particularly nice rub and Nikandros choked and drooled out a profanity against the warmth of Makedon’s cock.

The roaring laughter that followed wasn’t much different from what had been the sign of Makedon being profoundly entertained during the dinner.

“Are we gonna put it in, boy? What do you say?”

Nikandros stared at the cock, well acquainted with his mouth, now, but still outrageously big, wet and long-lasting in its excitement. He took a deep breath, flopping his head down once again on Makedon’s thigh, and then nodded, silent but impossible to misunderstand.

The slide of the fingers out of his ass was marked by a wet sound, shameless against the pant of Nikandros’s own breath. He took it as a sign to move, even though his legs were almost stiff and there was a pang in his elbows after straddling Makedon at the imposed angle. If he were a maiden, it would be expected of him to receive his due on his back — spreading his legs at the knees, even, to welcome it. Nikandros wasn’t, and didn’t want to be, so he gingerly moved around enough to face the headboard of the bed, and went down to his hands and knees again. It didn’t feel fluid, one of his arms shook with the renewed weight, but he would make do, for sure.

“M-mhn,” Makedon gave a small tutting of mild disapproval. With a smooth and coordinated motion, he pressed Nikandros’s face on the bed and dragged one of his leg out from underneath him, to make him land prone on the bed. “Better already,” he proclaimed, and laid down beside him.

Nikandros nodded again, because it undeniably was. It was even easier, at that point, to let Makedon drag him around some more, half turning him until they were both on their sides. Nikandros’s back touched Makedon’s chest, solid as a wall and almost as broad. Pressing up against it was a perfect fit, and it got even better when Makedon pulled one of his knees up and wrapped one strong arm around Nikandros’s neck. Nikandros’s cheeks were a bit spread like this, an easy target for the drag of Makedon’s cock along the abundant residual oil that slicked them. So easy that Nikandros found himself clenching against it, a reflexive squirm of his hips. The change of position didn’t seem to hinder Makedon’s aim, and the slaps that landed at the top of his thigh, pointedly, were somewhat heavier than they were before. They served their purpose, however, leaving Nikandros grasping at Makedon’s forearm, breathing heavily against the bronzed skin under his chin, and lax in every other regard.

It was somewhat inevitable, like this, to anchor his thoughts to the present, to the sensations, rather than questioning the act. The General’s gestures were nothing if not overcompetent and they enjoyed him without indulging him, without coddling. It was natural, to breathe and feel it and breathe.

A renewed rubbing on his hole, in slow circular motions among the slickness, made Nikandros’s eyes flutter. It took him as long as it lasted to realise that it was the tip of Makedon’s cock, and not a finger or a tongue this time. He felt himself gaping at it, and his rim was caught in making space. The pressure changed, and increasing, and then Nikandros gave in. The small clench that followed was pointless, he was already breached.

He gaped at Makedon, now so close to his face that batting his eyelids too fast would put him out of focus in the dim light.

The penetration stopped exactly where it had begun, with Makedon wrapping his arm more fully around Nikandros head to stroke away the sweat from his forehead, leading back towards the crown of his head. The man’s expression was intent and did very little to hide his glee, but it conveyed no derision even though Nikandros’s was sure his inexperience must be self-evident. With the other arm stretched along the side of his body, Makedon slid his hand up and down Nikandros’s thigh, until the muscled stop trembling.

Only then, holding Nikandros down in position by the bent of his knee, Makedon fucked his full length in with one decisive thrust.


The sound started like a yell but wound down in a moan, echoing foreign to Nikandros’s himself through the stone walls of the chamber. He wasn’t complaining, nor did he wish to, but there was something overwhelming about the whole ordeal. His hole was too well oiled to offer any resistance and gave in with just enough ease to engage a sort of reflex in his mind, the same that would guide him through the end of a wrestling match. Pointing his forehead against Makedon’s arm and his elbow on the mattress, Nikandros thrashed in the grip, instinctually looking for openings in it. There were none, though, and virtually no leeway, further reduced by the uncanny sensation of his body convulsing around a cock in the movement. It was effortless for Makedon to lock him back into position, the arm around the neck plastering Nikandros against Makedon’s shoulders, and the hand at the curve of the knee rising Nikandros’s leg upwards and sideway, a better leverage for the General that offered no purchase for his prey.

Makedon fucked him all the way through the struggle, for as little as it lasted. He fucked him after, also, the movement of his hips building up rhythm and depth as soon as the thrashing subsided.

Nikandros grasped mindlessly at Makedon's forearm, never tight enough to be suffocating but always present enough to be felt. He bit down onto it by reflex, with little sounds choked straight out of his throat to mark the pace.


Calling it the most challenging physical feat Nikandros has ever performed would be a blatant lie. He had worse, harsher, with no pleasant tingling rising up his spine, without a raging stiffness between his legs. He knew it. His body knew it. He would hope the General knew too, as he strove to be seen as a worthy addition to an army. If he could do drills, he could definitely do this. And Nikandros was, unquestionably, falling into rhythm and sinking down in the position chosen for him.

Gradually, Nikandros’s grip on Makedon’s forearm lessened. The sensations of it all were so distracting. In turn Makedon loosened up his lock, trusting Nikandros to not twist painfully. His cock kept pushing in and out, and in and out, over and over again, until Nikandros’s mouth went a bit lax. His mouth felt pooled with saliva and it was too difficult to hold his bite, and conversely too easy to find himself drooling. His own breath, heavy and hitching at every thrust, rasped in his throat. It was the perfect counter for the cock fucking him, the penetration accompanied by filthy slip, slack, slap that Nikandros swore must be audible all the way down the hallway.

Makedon chuckled again, grunting a bit in satisfaction in seeing Nikandros getting into it, inexorably. His lips rubbed on Nikandros’s cheek and stopped by the side of his ear. The same tongue that had been opening up his hole earlier traced the outline of the shell of his ear, and it was somehow just as filthy, making Nikandros moan with shut eyes.

“I will sport your bite, and you will sport mine,” Makedon promised, low and private. Then he bent his head down, suddenly, and bit on Nikandros’s shoulder, where his muscles felt tense and sweat threatened to slide down from his neck.

After all the smooth movements, almost sloppy in their wetness, teeth were a sudden counterpoint, solid and piercing and real in a whole different way. It made Nikandros jump again, but this time his back arched in a wave and he fucked himself on the cock breaching him.

There was not much deeper for Makedon to get, inside him, and yet something about the angle felt like the perfect fit, as if Nikandros had managed to arrange himself on the same curvature of Makedon’s cock. It made a shiver ricochet along his spine, vertebra after vertebra. He felt open wide and locked tight at the same time. Breathless, so breathless.

When Makedon’s hand let go of his knee, Nikandros kept in position with no will or necessity to move. A moan bubbled down his throat, but no protest, and the fucking proceeded, deep and good and steady.

Makedon caressed along his thigh, and teased along the bone of his hip to reach further, and further. Even blindly, getting between Nikandros’s legs was not difficult. His cock was shamefully hard, begging to be grabbed. The fingers that wrapped around him had a perfect grip, and calluses that spoke of familiarity with multiple sets of weapons. The jerking off that followed enforced a pace in counter of their fucking, tight and solid. Somehow, it was just like being another item at Makedon’s disposal, an instrument that had to behave to his wills, his whims, his desire. Respond accordingly and please his owner.

Nikandros gave up his bite completely and tossed his head back, against Makedon’s clavicles.

"Ohhh...ah! AH!”

He could feel himself clenching around the cock inside him, proprietarily lodged in as if it belonged. It was difficult to deny that it did, nice and snug, a pleasure even more well-rounded than the fingers had been before. Makedon crowded better against him and thrust in again and something blackened in a rush in Nikandros’s vision. It happened again, with not even a millimeter change in the aim, and pleasure sparked ten times wider, like a bonfire in a windy night, starting from deep inside him and making his testicles ache, his abdominal muscles and belly contract in waves. His legs spasmed around in a kick against nothing, pointless if not for the fact that he earned him another one of these glorious rammings. Suddenly, he was aware of the high-pitched moans cracking out of his gaping mouth at every delightful thrust.

"Good, boy?" Makedon mused, munching along the lobe of his ear.

"Ye...yes, sir...ah..."

His cock jumped when Makedon spread the wetness along the tip. The grip at the side was too dry but even the slight burn of every pull had his place in this picture, so overwhelming. He whined in desperation when Makedon let go of his cock, but the hand that had him came hovering close to Nikandros’s face.

“Spit,” Makedon ordered.

Somehow, that too made him moan. He wanted to comply — as he had wanted to comply with everything — but he got lost on a couple of more thrusts, in and out and in, before he managed to execute.

Makedon seemed unfazed by the wait, smirking and sliding his tongue directly in Nikandros’s ear. When he brought his hand back down, it was wet, and the new jerk was fluid and slippery enough to make him jump.

Nikandros’s moans devolved into full-on cries when, on top of his maddening strokes, Makedon started to fuck him even harder. Everyone in the closed quarters would hear, would know, and yet it was good, it was good and he couldn’t picture how to stop.

He came all over Makedon's hand suddenly, blindingly, and offered no protests and some more wet stripes when Makedon kept fucking him through it. His insides quivered as if he was being stuck by a lightning, and Makedon let him hide his face in the bend of the forearm around his neck, barely muffling his hitched screams of pleasure.

He was almost face down on the bed by the time Makedon’s thrusts became more shallow, dragging Nikandros up and down with both hands sliding to hold onto his hips. The General grunted under his breath, and everything felt already too wet and open to actually catch the difference of Makedon coming inside him. Still, Makedon fucked him through it, just as fast in the beginning in a way that made Nikandros’s spent cock tingle, and then slower, until his pleasure was spent.

Makedon slipped out and dragged the tip of his wet cock along Nikandros’s cheeks, making them spasm at the feeling. Makedon bent down once more, to nip against at the lobe of Nikandros's ear.

"There you go," he rasped out.

Nikandros was still panting wildly, spread legged and dripping, but he canted his head closer to Makedon's lips in a mindless movement. Spots kept dancing through his vision, so he kept his eyes closed.

"Yes, sir...Yes..."

A smirk widened against Nikandros’s skin at his mindless agreement, but there was some satisfaction in it. “Very good. You did well.”

The praise sent another shiver through him, one that not even Makedon dragging the bedsheets over the both of them could quench. Still, it would help when the sweat would start to cool down.

The candles at the bedside table went down with a couple of huffs. With Makedon’s arm returning around his waist and the room pooled in the natural darkness of a crescent moon, Nikandros fell asleep fast and helplessly, no thoughts left to hang onto.

Not even years of experience and military training could prevent Nikandros from feeling groggy the following day, though he still woke up very close to the break of dawn. He couldn’t exactly claim personal merit in the discipline, though, as it was a simple reaction to Makedon leaving the bed.

The rhythm of the previous evening had been easy to follow — a connivance of darkness, mead, and general expectations. In the rising brightness, with the passion consumed and just a mundane chirping of birds coming from the outside of the keep, Nikandros found himself lacking protocol.

He was already considering an obeisant retreat that would leave the General alone to his morning routines when Makedon called him forward. He stood awkwardly next to Makedon, beside the stone basin where lukewarm water from the subterranean springs had an outlet in every relevant room of the Kingsmeet. Every limb in his body felt vaguely stiff in unfamiliar ways — deeply satisfactory and profoundly discomfortable at the same time — and among the many things the fact that his chiton seemed lost in the room didn’t help a proper composure.

Makedon didn’t seem to pay him a lot of mind, and wiped his own hair with a towel before pressing a hand on Nikandros’s shoulder and turning him around.

“Sir?” Nikandros whispered, but still complied in facing the faucet and the water bubbling happily on its way to the drain.

“Open up, you don’t want to be late for your duties, do you?” It wasn’t really a question, and Nikandros’s legs were kicked apart in a wide stance.

Whatever he might have expected, in his sleep-deprived disorientation, it didn’t include the drag of Makedon’s wet towel between his ass cheeks. The movements were ample and the fabric was wetted in increment, coming and going and getting more focused around his hole at every iteration. Nikandros grasped on the edge of the stone basin and held tight, rocking back and forth on his heels to accompany the wiping. His cheeks pooled with heat while two fabric-clad fingers widened his hole. Water pooled and dripped out. He felt soft, almost bruised, and even more embarrassed while his cock twitched at the rubbing — a sneaky and improper reminder of how much he had enjoyed the same motion with the same focus and a totally different execution the previous night.

He gave a shaky exhale when Makedon pulled his hand away, but a low tutting noise told him to stay perfectly put, eyes down, while the General washed the cloth and rummaged through the supplies. The next swipe passed over Nikandros’s chest, where the remainder of his own come had to be softened by gentle circles before they could unglue completely. At some point during the process, while Nikandros’s eyelid had almost dropped in the combination of dizziness and care to which he was not expected to play an active part, two oiled fingers slid between his spread legs and thrust smoothly into his softened hole.


“Shush,” Makedon huffed indulgently, and rubbed around Nikandros’s opening with a salve that felt of a different consistency to yesterday’s oil.

Hooked in place once again by the span of two knuckles, Nikandros’s hands clenched wildly on the stone. By contrast, the towel wiping him clean on his chest, at the bent of his neck, along his arms, seemed inconsequential. It went on forever and it was done in a last drawn out second — with a cleaning around his cock and a sneaky tapping of fingertips inside that made Nikandros keen all too eagerly. Then, as smoothly as it came, all the ministration disappeared. The sound of the running water came back in focus, serene as usual away from the floating of Nikandros’s mind, unperturbed by his fragmented instincts.

In all this, it was impossible to argue that it didn’t feel better to be clean, and that whatever subtle burn he had been nursing deep in his asshole was defusing away, leaving him to clench around a pleasurable wetness.

“Thank you, sir,” Nikandros murmured, regrouping away from the basin.

Makedon smirked with just a hint of teeth showing. “Off you go, boy.”

A resounding slap landed on Nikandros’s ass, and he could hear it before he felt it, a sting running like a shiver and morphing into something else as his hole clenched around the sensation. His tongue pressed on the roof of his mouth to swallow down an embarrassing gasp and he conquered the door, almost missing the military straightening of his spine in salute that was the bare minimum to take his leave from the General.

Out in the hallway, he took the quickest route he could design to move from the guest’s chambers — traditionally placed somewhere adjacent to the centre of the keep — and the room he shared with his conscripts in the Northern corner. This close to dawn, the torches were still lit to guide the way, and Nikandros was intimately grateful of every cold draft of air howling through the stone and chilling his naked skin. Walking fast heightened the subtle slippery sensation between the crack of his ass, and — while nudity among soldiers wouldn’t constitute a novelty — Nikandros second-guessed every twitch or shiver down his spine as a blatant sign of an eagerness that had no place in public.

He crossed a few other guards in his paths, and did his best to stood tall and not give in to that slight falter that liked to accompany his steps, still supple on the inside in a way that showed on the outside. There were a couple of laughter and some good natured pats on his back, and somehow it felt, once again, more part of a familiar mechanism than an odd addition. More worryingly, Rhodian — his fellow temporary post for the Northern regions, born and raised near Kathras — was already leaving their room, fully dressed.

“Hurry up, Nikandros, or you’re gonna miss the leaving gathering!”

Another pat on Nikandros’s shoulders, with yet another good natured snickering, and the path through the door was cleared for him. For all the humour Rhodian might have found in the situation, Nikandros was thankful for the arrangement of clothing readied for him on the bed — in the right order for a quick dressing up. He smiled to himself and enjoyed the silent companionship of it all.

No silent support was sufficient for Nikandros not to be late at the leaving gathering. The ranks of the Kingsmeet guards were already in order when he rushed through the steps leading to parade ground between the entrance and the core of the keep. Not too late, though, as the delegation was finishing checking their horses. Makedon himself was conferring with one of the four First Guards.

“Come on,” Iairos hushered, letting Nikandros through at his designated place in the ranks. It had been left empty, waiting for him, and that, too, was a peculiar feeling.

The warmth Nikandros felt for Iairos faltered slightly as the guard slipped his left hand up Nikandros’s chiton and groped him firmly. It was unexpected and Nikandros gasped loud enough to elicit some snickering in the soldiers close to him. He felt himself flushing, blatant in the rising sunlight, just as Makedon planted his foot on the stirrup and mounted on his stallion, effortlessly unaffected by a night spent drinking, and feasting and fucking.

Their eyes met and Nikandros thinned his lips but kept his shoulders straight and his chin up. Makedon’s chest rumbled with his laughter, but his gaze was just as steady, appreciation rather than derision.

When the First Guards called for their salute, Nikandros moved as part of the wave, an uniform sliding into motion and a practiced clattering of their spears in one net sound — there and gone in a second.

As the sun started to peek out over the walls of the Kingsmeet, the Southern doors opened, showing the way to Ios. Makedon and his men left, and did not return for a full year.

The second and last spring of Nikandros’s posting at the Kingsmeet came with unexpected viciousness, the wind blazing hot from the south and shunning away any remnant of winter in the span of two weeks.

The Northern delegation arrived after Mellos and Dice, this time, and with extremely successful stories from the Vaskian border, of forcibly contained raids and skirmishes in the valleys.
General Makedon relayed them all with humour and a good degree of self-assured confidence. He drank, and ate and partook in the entertainments.

Nikandros had grown a hand’s width taller, and almost as much broader in the shoulders, in the last year. He was allowed to train with men ten years his senior for one-handed sword and wrestling, and had spent the last two months trying to master formations with the schiltron. Nevertheless, he still felt too small for his stance when Makedon shook him by the nape — just like he had the last year.

“To my room, lad?”

Lad sounded better than boy, and being recognised from one year to the other sounded even better.

Later in the night, Nikandros was glad of the firmness of the cots in the Kingsmeet, as he planted his shins on the bed and rocked up and down Makedon’s dick. He swallowed thickly around too much saliva, arms reaching backwards to grasp on Makedon’s thighs and use them as leverage for his own thrusts. Again, and again, until the combination of the angle of penetration and Makedon rubbing slow circles at the dip of his hip bones made Nikandros spasm and straighten, just to change position.

Makedon smirked and raised both arms, pressing the palm of his hands against Nikandros’s chest and giving him another solid point to lean against while Nikandros rolled his hips and tried to resume the rhythm in a different position. It was less maddening in the aim, but it was deeper, and Nikandros shivered at the stretch of it, more satisfactory than any long awaited exercise challenging rarely used muscles. Underneath him, Makedon was all dark muscles and even darker hair, and the dim light and long shadows made the bulk of him even more imposing, the strength of his body self-evident every time he bucked up against Nikandros to encourage a better movement.

Lolling his head, Nikandros moaned low. Then Makedon bent his fingers just so, and for every movement Nikandros’s nipples rub between them — getting stiff, and then stiffer, enough to hurt, the type of surreal not-pain that made his cock twitch against Makedon’s stomach. Nikandros moaned higher.

“Your First Guard did tell me,” Makedon rumbled, commanding attention and gazing up all too intensely, “that you are an excellent rider, Nikandros.”

Rolling with just the timber of Makedon’s voice, which would usually convey filthy praises that raised goosebumps, Nikandros took some seconds to register the exact sentence. When he did, the heat of his sudden flush was clear even in the humid warmth of the room and Nikandros squirmed mindlessly at the notion that the General knew him by name.

“Ha ha!” Makedon laughed, almost triumphantly, and sit up in an effortless ripple of abdominal muscles. “That’s a pretty colour, lad.”

Makedon circled Nikandros’s back with both arms and bounced him on his unfaltering cock, hard. One, two, three times until Nikandros had no choice but to grab onto Makedon’s shoulders, gaping soundlessly at the sudden change of pace.

As soon as he did, Makedon flipped them over, laughing low every time Nikandros felt a new startled expression paint on his own face. Makedon fucked him like this so long, and so thoroughly, that Nikandros clawed at his back and devolved into raspy sounds rather than moaning.

The following day, Nikandros’s improved training counted for nothing, and he was late to the leaving gathering again. Makedon’s right arm, left unclothed in the rising sun, sported three long scratches, and Nikandros didn’t hear the end of it from his comrades for two weeks to follow.

All things considered, it was an excellent last Crossing to spend as a member of the Kingsmeet’s guard.

Just as the spring had been warm, the summer of Nikandros’s last year proceeded to be scorching and clung defiantly into the start of the autumn. The rain had been interspersed enough that the harvest was actually abundant, and Nikandros rode back to Ios in a countryside buzzing with activities, refreshed by the strong winds blowing from the northeast.

He had left the Kingsmeet with luggage even lighter than he had brought there two years prior — having outgrown most of his original possessions in every possible way. He was coming back with more knowledge, more skills and more cameradie than he would have ever dreamt of. Leaving had been more bittersweet than anything, and that had been completely unexpected: he had joined the place as a stranger, but he had left it full of people that he knew by name, strengths, weaknesses and quirks.

The slight melancholy of it began to lift in a deeply anticipatory flutter at the back of his sternum while the scenery settled in a profoundly familiar landscape. The sea got closer, blue and tumultuous, enough for the smell of it to cling to Nikandros’s nostrils. The contrast between the expanse of water and the Capital, visible from leagues away in its imposing marble walls rising from the limestone cliff, was breathtaking. Pushing his horse to a faster trot, Nikandros’s mind was filled with the same awe that had overcome him when he was eight, and in his father’s retinue.

Nikandros was almost a mile away from the entrance to the outer wall when he distinguished someone galloping with free rein toward him. The horse was known to him, and Nikandros didn’t slow down while he squinted against the sunlight and strove to distinguish the rider.

Damianos’s smile was brighter than the cliffs themselves, and he waved his left arm wildly in the air, laughing already. Nikandros looked at him — taller, more muscled, just as bronzed, with slightly longer hair and a face that finally had grown completely into his nose while maintaining every well-loved feature — and felt like laughing too.

They slowed their horses to a stop and dismounted with the same eagerness. On steady ground, they rushed to each other. Damen’s embrace was fierce, and every growth-spurt Nikandros might have had, Damen must have matched it and some, because they didn’t really differ in height.

“Damianos, shouldn’t I kneel?” That would have been the appropriate protocol, but even while admitting it Nikandros was not about to follow through.

“You’re so ridiculous!” Damen laughed, lively as the wind. “By the skies, I missed you. Welcome back, Nik.”

Nikandros’s lips felt drier than they did before, as he clasped at the back of Damianos’s chiton, the lion pin that reminded everyone of Damianos’s appointment as the heir to the throne clear in his light of sight and glittering in the afternoon sun. Damen was sweaty from his improvised gallop in the heat, but that only highlighted the scent of bathing oils that only the baths attended by the Royal family sported, and the soap the servants only ever used for their clothes. Nikandros hugged him tighter.

“Thank you, Damen. It’s good to be back.” He murmured. And then after, as a more layered confession full of things said and left-unsaid, he said: “I missed you too.”

They walked their horses back instead of riding for what remained of the way. Damen was tactile and enthusiastic, holding onto Nikandros in a constant half-embrace and chattering of events that he had narrated in his letters, and others Nikandros had yet to hear. At the same time, Damen picked up with uncanny memory on details of Nikandros’s written records and asked more details. It was endearing, and disorienting, and Nikandros never wanted it to stop.

The Kingsmeet had been good to him, but Ios would always be sweeter, somehow.

Damen had been eighteen years old for two months when his father, among budding tension and rising winds of war whistling from Vere, had called for a military meeting that involved a good part of his kyroi.

It had been a week and the palace was still full of guests, and what had been interesting and almost exciting at the beginning was starting to feel restless and sour in Damen’s mouth. He was expected to preside over most of the meeting, as his father was adamant he grow into the King he was born to be in every possible way, especially if the way was hard on the nation, but sometimes the chatter was just inane and long winded. This time, at least, Damen had managed to leave Kastor as the token Prince in attendance, and Damen was free to roam the palace to clear his head a bit.

He went, naturally, to look for Nikandros, who Damen hadn’t seen for two days. It wasn’t just eagerness for companionship — which was always a given with his friend — but also the fact that there had been serious talks about appointing Nikandros as sycophant to the kyros of Delpha in these difficult times. The support from the Northern delegation had been explicit, and Damen desired to communicate the news informally and hear Nikandros’s views — always balanced and thoughtful — on the situation and its implications, possibly over lunch.

The quarters were guarded at their entrance, but not at every single room. Regardless, everyone would have made way for Damen, and he was used to coming and going from Nikandros’s rooms as if they were his own — Nikandros himself had insisted, years prior, and unless the Royal family was present inside he was allowed the same privilege for Damen’s own rooms.

Damen closed the doors behind him in the familiar entryway, just a couple of square meters of space before the curtains made way to the day section of the living quarters. It was a cloudy winter morning and the natural light was naturally diffused and greyish in quality. As he did, however, it became evident that Nikandros wasn’t alone. Damen heard some hushed exchanges, the content of which was impossible to discern. There was also some heavy breathing, some subtle drag of furniture on the marble floor, so possibly Nikandros was with a slave. It would be even better to join him, then.

When Damen barely parted the linen of the curtains, though, an imposing figure captured his attention, standing close to the table. Recognising Makedon, General of the Northern independent militia, wasn’t challenging; he wasn’t an easily dismissed man and Damen had seen plenty of him in the last days of talks. In light of the last developments, it wouldn’t have been unthinkable to see him in Nikandros’s company, either, but the actual scene before Damen’s eyes was remarkably unexpected.

Nikandros was leaning heavily against the table, his head dropped between his shoulders. The fabric of his chiton was rolled up to show the solid curve of his buttocks, and Nikandros canted his hips backward in irregular jerkings. Makedon stood behind him, one hand on Nikandros’s side and the other moving between Nikandros’s legs. The subtle wet sounds that echoed in the marble of the room, combined with Nikandros’s heavy breathing, left little room to misunderstanding on what that hand might be doing — pushing and retreating and circling.

“Sir...Sir, please...” Nikandros whispered, urgent.

For all the times the two of them shared bed companions and slaves, Damen had never heard Nikandros sound quite as he sounded now.

“Really, now?” Makedon mused, but then pulled both hands back.

The reprieve lasted just two seconds, interspersed by Nikandros’s panting. Then, Makedon raised and went down on Nikandros’s ass with a hard slap. There wasn’t any pause for underlying a point, or leaving time for a reply. The slaps just kept coming, in a steady rhythm marked by smacking noises, over and over, and Nikandros stood there to be spanked, again and again.

Nikandros yelped, gasped, sometimes moaned, but never really protested. He lost the steadiness of his stance in increments, sliding down on the table first with his elbows, then with bent arms, to the point that his chest touched the wooden surface.

Only at that point the spanking stopped, and for almost a minute only Nikandros’s heavy breathing remained. Damen stood frozen, an inadvertent and unsuspected witness, as Makedon dropped more oil on his hand and lifted the hem of his chiton to slick his cock, shamelessly hard and well-endowed. Then, the General spread Nikandros’s cheeks with one hand, and lined up, undoubtedly rubbing at the entrance.

When Makedon pushed in, Nikandros keened and dropped his forehead to the table. One thrust in, lean back, two thrusts in, lean back, three thrusts in, lean back. By the fourth time, Makedon was buried to the hilt and Nikandros swore under his breath, half raised on his tiptoes but perfectly compliant with being bent in half and split open. When Makedon grasped at his hips, Nikandros seem to know what was coming because he reached for the edges of the table. He held on tight, while Makedon started to fuck him in earnest.

“Ngh...oh!...yes...ah, yes…”

Makedon grunted his approval and something in the undertone of his rasping voice sounded almost endearing, or demeaning. It was difficult to discern.

Damen took one step back, letting the curtain fall, and then two more, to conquer the door, just as silently. The enthusiastic sounds of his best friend being ravished against a table accompanied Damen while he left the room, and stuck with him even in the quiet hallway.

He breathed in, and out, and the air felt warm and shaky in his lungs. He would have thought the visual had been just surprising — and it was, coloured with the aftertaste of taboo — if it weren’t for his half hard cock underlying how it had been, fundamentally, hot.

With a head full of thoughts — on Makedon, and Nikandros, and the act itself — Damen made his way back out of the quarters.