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It had been Cinder's idea to end it.

Naturally, Kai was hesitant to agree. He really loved Cinder. Ten months ago, he might have pushed for them both to find a compromise, to keep trying to make the work... But Torin had warned him that long-distance relationships don't always work out. Kai now understood why.

Ten months into Cinder's reign, into their relationship, and they were already encountering the tribulations of couples married for several years. The difference was that both Kai and Cinder had kingdoms to rule and people to care for. And they were both still very young. Despite cabinets of advisors and the wisdom of their elders to guide them, they were both under far more pressure than a vast majority of teenagers would endure. And it had been taking a huge toll on their relationship, far before either of them had realized it.

According to Cinder, they were over before they'd even called it quits. Kai didn't know how to feel about that. And now, their biweekly netscreen chats were growing increasingly more awkward and tense. While they'd both agreed to remain friends and uphold their alliance, nothing was harder than trying to pretend they didn't still have leftover feelings for each other.

Kai leaned back in his chair after Cinder had hung up, his last glimpse of her being a small, bittersweet smile, and sighed deeply. She wanted Kai to speak to President Vargas about speeding the process for granting rights to cyborgs. Since their breakup (which had leaked to the media within days and been broadcasted everywhere), the other Earthen leaders had become more transparent about their dislike for Cinder as their feigned diplomacy faded away. It wasn't fair to her, but Kai couldn't control the actions of the other leaders... Cinder seemed to think he was on better terms with them, which he wasn't. Not necessarily.

"Your Majesty," Kai heard Nainsi say. "Captain Carswell Thorne requesting—"

"Entry granted."

Kai spun in his chair as Thorne entered his office, Cress not on his arm as he'd expected. He stood and walked across the room to greet Thorne, who shook his hand.

"Your Majesty."


They nodded once to each other before Kai invited him to sit down on a couch. Thorne sat first, Kai beside him.

"What brings you here, Thorne?"

Thorne folded his hands in his lap and stared out the window before meeting Kai's gaze. "Well, we just got back from trekking the Amazon, where we discovered a new species. You'd think after so many years we'd have found 'em all. Apparently not." Thorne snorted to himself and leaned back, letting his arms adorn the armrests. "We also encountered some albino wolves by the Himalayas. That was something."

Kai studied the former fugitive, noting he was not all charming smiles or as egotistical as usual. Something wasn't right.

"Thorne, why are you really here?"

Thorne looked away from him again, turning into one of disbelief, almost. "Cress thinks I'm gay. Can you believe that?"

Kai's eyebrows shot up. That was the very last thing he would've expected to hear. "Well, are you?"

"No!" Thorne practically shouted, responding too quickly and defensively. He seemed to realize how his defensiveness might have sounded and continued. "I mean, I like girls, right? And I can appreciate a good-looking guy—I'm not blind—but I'm not gay. I happen to also find guys attractive but that doesn't make me gay."

"Well, what made her think that?"

"I don't know! She started asking me about all the girls I'd been with and, of course, I didn't want to answer. But she made me. So I answered. Then I mentioned that I had never been with a guy and she started to but two and two together." After a moment, Thorne's eyes widened at his own words. "But I'm not gay."

Kai stifled a laugh. "Thorne." He glanced at Kai. "Why are you going to me about this?"

Thorne's eyes drifted to his lap, his normal charisma disappearing as another emotion settled. Kai watched him carefully, waiting. Then the older man lifted his eyes back to Kai, cheeks aflame, and he understood.

"Oh." The air stilled around them as realization sunk in. Kai drew his eyebrows together in confusion. "But what about Cress?"

Thorne waved his hand at the question. "We broke up months ago. Cress realized, naturally, that she could do better than me and ran off with some Brazilian hunk."

Kai must have looked horrified because Thorne burst into laughter, the charisma quickly returning.

"Relax. I'm kidding. We really did break up though. Sucked. But it's all good. We both kind of realized that we're still young. We need to explore... keep our options open, so to speak." Thorne paused. "Oh, I heard about you and Cinder..." Kai grimaced. "I don't mean to pry but... what happened there? You guys were so disgustingly cute. It made me want to vomit."

Kai decided to ignore the last statement.

"Just stress."

"You definitely look stressed."

"Gee, thanks. That's exactly what every young emperor wants to hear."

Thorne grinned and held his hands up in defense. "Hey, I'm just saying... Sounds like you could use some relief."

Kai sighed, resigned, and nodded. "Believe me, I do."

"Might I offer my services?" Thorne said. Kai quirked a single brow. "I've been told I'm an excellent masseuse."

"And this isn't an attempt to get in my pants?"

Thorne laughed, though his cheeks reddened with a dusty blush. "No, Your Majesty. Not unless you want it to be... You just look stressed. You deserve a distraction."

Kai's eyes raked over Thorne's appearance: his five o'clock shadow, glittering blue eyes, disheveled blond hair, and overall rugged handsomeness. He was taller than Kai and far more built. There was no denying that Thorne was incredibly good-looking. And Kai was, by no means, the perfect, straight emperor everyone assumed he was. Finally, he met Thorne's gaze.

"Alright. Let's find a room."



When they'd arrived to the wing of the palace in which they had masseuses, Thorne had joked that Kai would appreciate a full-body massage naked more than he would with his boxers on. Kai replied that he would only strip if Thorne did too. For a moment, he'd looked tempted but quickly moved on, ordering the young emperor to take off as much clothing as he wanted and lie down on the massage table. Kai undressed while Thorne went into the other rooms to grab massage oils. He climbed onto the table, draping a long piece of cloth over the lower half of his body.

"Found jojoba oil. Apparently, this stuff's really great. I wouldn't know, but I guess we'll find out."

Kai didn't answer, listening instead to the sound of Thorne's boots as he moved about the room. He allowed himself to shut his eyes and focus only on the senses of hearing, smell, and touch. Eventually, Thorne came to a stop on Kai's left side.

"What parts of your body do you want me to work on, Emperor Kai?"

"Um... Whatever you think is best."

"Okay, I'll start with your lower back. The oil might be cold. And if you're uncomfortable with anything let me know."

Two warm, wet palms pressed themselves into Kai's lower back and began to move upward, applying a gradual increase of pressure within each stroke. A content sigh left Kai's lips as Thorne continued the back and forth movements before switching between circular motions and horizontal rubbing from his shoulders to the end of his spine and back up.

Thorne rubbed Kai's sides, his hands dipping slightly under his body. Kai moaned softly before realized what had happened. His eyes snapped open as he tensed up, but Thorne either didn't notice or pretended not to, which Kai was grateful for. Thorne's sweeping, comforting hands coaxed Kai's muscles to relax.

The hands on his body paused and one disappeared, only to return on his upper left thigh after the sheet covering his legs lifted until his boxers were peeking out from underneath it. From there, both of Thorne's hands worked his legs in soothing, circular motions, travelling from his thigh to his calf and back up. At one point, Thorne gently rubbed Kai's inner thigh with his thumbs, eliciting another moan from the young emperor. Immediately, Thorne's fingers trailed back down to his calf. But they grazed his skin along the way. Moments later, they were back, rubbing his inner thigh, trailing closer to the spot he was growing increasingly more desperate to have filled.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Kai's subconscious was telling him that maybe he should stop and think about this for a minute. Maybe he should talk to Thorne about what was happening. Perhaps even consider the possibility that he was rebounding onto Thorne after having broken up with Cinder only recently. Or just think about how far this would actually go.

But as Thorne's fingers hooked into the waistband of his boxers and the sheets draped over his body fell away, Kai made no move to protest. He didn't dare look up, but heard Thorne pick up and put down the bottle of oil, presumably pooling more into his palms. Then, two hands cupped his ass and massaged gently. Kai moaned, completely forgetting about attempting to stifle it. Thorne continued his work, hands moving towards the parts of Kai's body that left him struggling to control the sounds that left him.

Kai squirmed and whimpered as Thorne's fingers passed his puckered hole. "Please."

It came out as a desperate whine, but he was desperate, and Thorne knew exactly what he was doing.

"Sit up," Thorne commanded, and Kai scrambled to do so. He wasn't used to taking orders, but at this point, he couldn't care less.

Thorne was still completely dressed, much to Kai's displeasure, but the bulge of his jeans was clearly visible. Kai couldn't help but feel a little shy, sitting there with his manhood standing proudly against his stomach. Fortunately, Thorne was gazing directly into his eyes. Before he knew it, the distance between them disappeared, and Kai was melting in Thorne's arms.

A hand closed around his length, and he whimpered into Thorne's mouth. He tangled a hand into his hair and let the other to slip underneath his t-shirt. Then he began to undo Thorne's jeans. Thorne stepped backwards out of them, leading Kai to a nearby couch, and let his briefs fall along the way. He sat on the sofa and tugged Kai onto his lap. In response, Kai attempted to get the t-shirt off of Thorne,

"Aces," Thorne said, amusement and mischief twinkling in his eyes, "I didn't think you'd be so... eager."

Kai ignored Thorne and rolled his hips, desperate for friction. They moaned at the same time. Thorne's hands found Kai's hips, stilling him before he could try again.

"Allow me, Your Majesty."

He felt grateful when Thorne took over, as he was pretty sure he looked like he had no idea what he was doing, which was true. Thorne wrapped a hand, still slick with jojoba oil, around him once again. Kai whimpered at the mere touch, eyes fluttering shut. Then he realized Thorne was probably just as hard as he was, if not more, and reached out blindly for him. A hand encased his and guided him to Thorne's shaft.

They moved in time with the other, whimpering and moaning and gasping. Kai's free hand, which rested on Thorne's shoulder, moved up to cup his cheek. Fueled with desire, Kai pressed his lips to Thorne's. It was a kiss that started closed-mouthed, slow and sensual, but quickly became sloppy as their climaxes neared. Thorne's lips left to apply wet kisses to his jaw and neck, sucking occasionally.

The sensation was overwhelming. Kai didn't think it could feel any more incredible, but then Thorne's fingers guided his yet again until his hand was wrapped around both of them. Thorne's hands found his ass and used his grip to pull Kai impossibly close, causing his hips to roll against Thorne's. Kai threw his head back, waves of unspeakable pleasure rolling over his body. A slick finger pressed against his hole, drawing a gasp from the young emperor. Before Thorne could even finish his polite,

"May I?" Kai was already trying to push back onto it and begging.

"Fuck," Thorne said, using their close position to glimpse over Kai's shoulder and press the finger in. It slipped in easier than Kai was expecting, but he was too overcome with pleasure to care. He was lost, torn between pushing back on the one, now two, fingers inside him and thrusting his hips against Thorne's to bring them both pleasure. Fortunately, he didn't have to choose. Thorne's hips lifted to meet Kai's as Kai pushed back on the fingers inside him, their heads hidden in the nape of the other's neck.

Thorne's fingers curled just the right way and Kai gave a long, drawn-out moan as he came, his vision briefly going white behind closed eyes. Thorne grunted and moaned as he, too, met euphoria. They rode out their orgasms as they gradually came down, Kai practically collapsing on top of Thorne, until they were simply lying there, panting and covered in various fluids.

"As much as I would love to stay here," Thorne spoke after a long silence, "we only got this room for an hour and a half... and I'm afraid this room won't be ours really soon."

Kai smirked as he sat back, taking pleasure as he ran his hands over Thorne's sensitive nipples and down his slick, toned stomach. "Well, being emperor comes with its perks. I'm sure they can wait."