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“Leaving so soon?”

Alexios halted. Only the dim light of a setting evening sun slanted through the open door he was holding, leaving most of his face in shadow. Yet, Brasidas could see his eyes widen with surprise.

“I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

Brasidas shook his head and pushed himself up on his arm. Alexios had indeed torn him from sleep, though he could move awfully quietly for a man built for war wearing heavy armour to match. Brasidas was not mad at him, though, even as his head still swam when he raised it. He would have hated to have missed this visit.

“Where were you?” Brasidas asked.

“I was captured and brought to Athens,” Alexios sat, shutting the door to sit down on the ground by the side of Brasidas’ bed. “Kreon is going to be a problem. He is under the control of the Cult.”

“That makes Athens and us almost equal, then,” Brasidas murmured. They, too, had had a king this mysterious Cult had seized for control. Apparently, what had seemed to Brasidas like paranoia at first was not at all unfounded; this Cult really did spread out over the whole of the world like a net knotted by the most skilled fishermen, catching all manner of people within. “Are you alright?”

“I fared better than you,” Alexios said, glancing at Brasidas’ bandaged leg. “It’s still not healed?”

Brasidas grunted.

“It starts to, and then it grows inflamed again and I’ll be put down with another fever. Thrice now, but I hope I’ll make it through this time.”

Dying on the battlefield would have been one thing. Brasidas did not wish death, but it had been taught to him as the honourable way to go, if there had to be one. In theory, it was not so different, succumbing to a wound you had earned fighting. In practice, the idea of expiring laid up in a bed wrapped in damp sheets and oft-repeated regrets after weeks of staring at the ceiling felt very much like another issue altogether. Still, the priests told him he was past the worst for now, if Asklepios kept smiling on him.

But now that Alexios was here, he felt lighter already. To think of him dead in the mud under Athenian boots had been a constant source of fever-ridden nightmares. Strange, for while Brasidas had long grown tired of losing friends to the blade, he was not unused to it, and a friend was all Alexios was, in the end, despite the fact that they had laid together, was he not?

Brasidas glanced up at the sound of splashing. Alexios had noticed the bowl of cold water that had been sat by Brasidas’ bedside by a priest with some cloth for him to cool down when he needed to. He ran it over Brasidas’ forehead.

“You don’t seem to be out of the worst of it yet,” he noted. “Your face is as red as Spartan sails.”

“You accuse me of growing soft, but now here you are fussing over a sick man,” Brasidas murmured, as Alexios moved the cloth to his neck – but he did not speak too loudly because the touch against his hot skin was pleasant.

Alexios grinned.

“I plan to stay in Sparta for a bit, so get used to it,” he said.

“Truly?” Brasidas asked, cocking his head. “You don’t usually stay put.”

“No, but – I am supposedly at home here now, am I not?”

There was a trace of sarcasm in Alexios’ voice that Brasidas could not blame him for. Though a young man then himself, one with little voice that any elder would listen to, he’d been present to see Alexios be thrown off the cliff. It was difficult to love a place that had treated you like this. And yet, Spartan blood still ran in his veins.

“Besides, I have a few things to do,” Alexios added vaguely. “And it seems like someone needs to make sure you don’t laze around here forever.”

Brasidas laughed. “I’ll give it my best to get back on my feet. Maybe tomorrow I can show some progress.”

“No, you won’t. I have a feeling that getting up too much too early is the reason you’re still on your back now. I mean for you to leave the bed for good. You’re not twenty anymore, you know. You need to slow down.”

Brasidas rolled his eyes at Alexios’ playfully patronising tone.

“How would you know how I have been handling my recovery?”

“Because we’re similar enough.”

Brasidas gave a wry smile. He could not quite claim Alexios was wrong. He’d tried to be responsible, but there was always another task beckoning.

“It seems I must give myself into your hands, then,” he said in jest, grabbing on to Alexios’ shoulder to pull him down into a kiss. His lips tasted like dust and his armour was sun-warm as Alexios pressed against his naked chest.

“I mean it,” Alexios said into his mouth between two kisses. “I’ll not have you die here. It was bad enough to see you face-down on that fucking battlefield.”

Looking up, Brasidas saw the same anger and fear he’d felt when asking for Alexios for the first time, when he’d just remembered how to form words. Alexios gaze was heated and sat on him like a weight.

“Nobody could even tell me where you went, and I was stuck here, couldn’t even get up, when I should have been out there looking for you.”

Brasidas put his arms around Alexios’ broad back, pulling him in tighter with all the little strength afforded to him right now. Alexios kissed him again, harder this time, and Brasidas gave back in kind. He found himself hooking his good leg over Alexios’ thigh, desperate to keep him close. His mouth slid down from Alexios’ lips over his chin, feeling the bristle of hard stubble against his mouth even as he moved on to his throat. Under his mouth, Alexios swallowed.

“If you go on like that, I’ll lay you in your sickbed,” he warned. “It has been too long.”

Too long between them, Brasidas wondered, or too long since Alexios had last been with anyone? He had to admit he had given up on other lovers. They tempted him no more since Alexios had stepped into his life. Alexios was a younger man, though, no stranger to taking opportunities for nights of pleasure if his tales were anything to go by, and they had made no promises to each other. He decided not to fish for an answer, realising that if it turned out he was one of many, the hurt would go too deep. It was not smart to deceive oneself with comforting lies, of course, but right now Brasidas was too weak and tired to resist.

“Well, where’s your courage, Spartan? I won’t break,” he teased instead.

“Are you serious?”

There was as much doubt in Alexios’ voice as there was hunger.

“I have a fever, but I am not at death’s door anymore. You won’t push me back to the brink,” Brasidas assured him.

Alexios leaned back down to kiss his exposed shoulder as Brasidas ran his hand through Alexios’ dark strands, pulled out the band, watched them fall freely around his strong neck and gave them a gentle tug, knowing how much Alexios liked it when he played with his hair. On his way downwards, Alexios’ mouth deftly avoided the faded bruises over his sprained ribs, the half-healed cuts and scrapes. Brasidas was naked under the sheet in the sweltering heat of the Spartan summer and Alexios brushed it aside, nuzzling against the inside of his good thigh and kissing Brasidas’ balls. Brasidas’ cock was already standing, despite the fact that his whole body ached with latent pain, from his bones through his flesh to even his skin. However, that discomfort could not stand up to Alexios swallowing the head of his cock down, holding the base of it enveloped in his hand as he sucked him in hard. Brasidas drew in air, heels digging into the sheets on the ground as he bit down on a louder noise.

“I think I’ll ride you,” Alexios said, after pulling off with a wet sound.

The image of Alexios fucking himself on his cock was certainly one that had played in Brasidas mind often enough while waiting for him to return from this or that journey, for he had always loved the sight. However, he knew that today it would be no good.

“I’ll come back to that offer,” Brasidas said breathlessly, “but I think you’d end up pressing down on the wound, and you wouldn’t want me to wilt while in you, would you? That would be quite the blow to my pride.”

“True,” Alexios said, glancing down at the blood-stained bandage on Brasidas’ leg and slowly moving his hand along Brasidas’ cock. “Just this, then.”

It was perhaps the most reasonable decision, but Brasidas wanted more. He didn’t care if it was him inside Alexios, Alexios inside him, but he wanted the connection to chase away the cold feeling in his core that still lingered from the days where he had wondered if Alexios had survived the meeting with his sister, the one Brasidas could not protect him from.

“It’ll be fine if I spread my legs.”

“That sounds like it could still hurt. Won’t I push against the wound?”

“It won’t hurt enough to stop me.”

Alexios licked his lips. Brasidas could see reason and want warring within him and was secretly pleased that Alexios seemed to be as little able to resist as he was.

“We stop if it gets too much,” he decided, looking about the room. “Is there anything...”

“Some olive oil on the table, I think.”

Alexios went to fetch it, already pouring it over his fingers as he came back. However, Brasidas nudged him with his knee when he went to push against his entrance.

“No need,” he said.

Alexios looked up, one brow raised.

“Really?”

Brasidas nodded. His body was too hot, too sore, too greedy for Alexios to deal with teasing now, and the fever had left him loose-limbed and weak enough to count for relaxed. Alexios’ his manhood was the kind you’d usually want to be prepared for, the thickest and longest Brasidas had ever had inside him, an amazing feeling that could turn to pain very easily. Still, he knew what he was doing.

Alexios rubbed his fingerpad against Brasidas’ entrance, certainly as much to make him shiver as to get some oil on him before taking himself in hand. Brasidas watched him run the wet palm along his thick manhood, which was as long as Alexios’ broad hand from the tip of his middle finger down to where the thin bones of his wrist hid under the muscle of his arms. With a little huff of exertion, Brasidas readjusted the seat of his hips and lifted his legs, draping them over Alexios’ shoulders.

The stretch of Alexios’ cock was a welcome distraction from all the fever-dulled thrumming in his bruised body, real sharp pain with a purpose. Brasidas took a deep breath and let him in, waiting for Alexios to push his advantage, plunge into him as he usually did, for they always played quite rough, but this time, it did not happen. Looking up, he saw Alexios watching him closely, likely for a sign of discomfort.

Perhaps it should have hurt his pride, but all he felt was a warm glow of affection deep in his chest. He reached up and took Alexios face in his hands, pulling him down into a long kiss, thumbs brushing over his cheeks, and as they parted he thought Alexios’ face had grown a shade of pink. He wondered if the same was true for him. It was ridiculous not to be at all worried that a man was putting his cock in him, yet have his heart stumbling over a kiss.

Alexios began rocking into him, a motion neither very hard nor very deep. Some thrusts sent him a little further, others remained shallow. Brasidas found himself squirming to get closer and Alexios groaned quietly.

“I’m trying to take it easy on you here,” he murmured.

“You know you can’t say that to a Spartan and expect me not to be insulted,” Brasidas joked, hand wandering over Alexios’ back, touching the scars there, faded ones one could only just feel, twisted ones like thin ropes under the skin, never properly healed.

“I thought you were more reasonable.”

Alexios took hold of his good thigh, checking with a last look that Brasidas seemed fine, and put his back into the next thrust. Brasidas’ whole body shook, pain shooting up from the wound in his leg, but it was washed away by pleasure like driftwood in a stormy sea. He could feel sweat on his too-warm forehead, on his neck and chest. Over him, Alexios was panting and his breath seemed in synch with Brasidas’ own heartbeat, their bodies moving as one as Alexios finally chased his pleasure inside him, and though there was no steady rhythm to that, Brasidas found he still moved as easily as ever with him. When had they become so close that he could read Alexios’ body like his own, match it thoughtlessly? It seemed like their nights together had always been too few, but in truth the numbers had climbed high over the years. Alexios played him easily now, too, mouth on every spot Brasidas liked, fingers digging into his sensitive sides, teeth at his throat. Brasidas was sure that if it weren’t for the pain, he would have come before Alexios; but as it was, he also liked that his head was still attentive with arousal and greedy for every detail when Alexios spent himself inside him, taking in the feeling of himself growing wet with Alexios’ seed.

For a moment, Alexios leaned his forehead against Brasidas’ shoulder and Brasidas ran his hand over the back of his head, holding it there until he felt him resisting against it.

“You have a lot of stamina for an old man,” Alexios said, as he pulled out slowly. “Or is it something else? You should have told me if I was too harsh.”

“It was just right,” Brasidas said; maybe not for his wound, but certainly for his head. He stretched out his legs when Alexios moved, sighing when he took a hold of his manhood, but alongside the stroke came two fingers slipping inside Brasidas’ body, thick but nimble, finding the spot inside him that always had him coming apart, stroking and teasing just as Alexios sucked on the head of his cock, and Brasidas could not even warn him when he came, but Alexios swallowed it all without complaint. The sight of him leaning over his lap licking white liquid from his lips made sure Brasidas came down slowly, slowly, shuddering at the image and the fingers still moving inside him, until Alexios finally had mercy and took them out, too.

Alexios clambered up beside him to stretch out there. They laid in companionable silence for a moment. Brasidas had always liked it that Alexios wasn’t the sort of man who felt that he had to leave the bed as soon as the deed was done. Alexios reached over him for the wet cloth and cold water again and wiped his forehead with a smile.

“I’ve got to make sure that the damage I caused is taken care of,” he said.

“Very reasonable of you.”

Alexios wiped down his neck again, his shoulders, his arm. It was nice and cool and Brasidas’ eyes slid shut, his currently perpetual tiredness threatening to overtake him.

“Brasidas?”

He hummed a wordless assent that he was listening.

“Promise me, if you meet Deimos on another battlefield we three share – come get me. Do not engage her. Tell your men to run, too.”

Brasidas opened his eyes. This was not the turn he’d expected this moment to take. Alexios’ expectant, stern expression told him he may have been waiting for a chance to say it, though.

“You can’t ask a Spartan that.”

“You’re more reasonable than most Spartans I’ve met, including myself.”

Brasidas considered his request for a long moment.

“She may be out of my league, but when she goes around killing my men, I can’t just stand back.”

“I know. But you have to. She doesn’t fight with human means alone. Next time, she may well kill you.” He leaned over him. “Even if you succeeded – I need the both of you to live. She’s my sister and you are...” He halted, looking uncharacteristically timid for a moment.

“Your lover?” Brasidas suggested, heartbeat flying, but voice calm.

“I’ve had lovers, but if she lived and you didn’t, it...” He stopped himself, took a deep breath. “After all these years, it feels like then I’d still end up with a broken family. Not the one I used to have, but the one I wanted to build.”

Brasidas looked at him for a long moment.

“You better stay close when she is around. I will not run if she comes for me – but I won’t fight her of my own accord.”

“Thank you.”

Alexios kissed him, his weight bearing down on Brasidas, and happiness flooded Brasidas like a dark room opened to sunlight as he put his arms around him.