“Do you think he knows?” Cyrus asked as he ran the towel over Teman’s hair.

Teman shook his head, earning himself a grunt. “Oops. No, I don’t.”

“Why stay back tonight, then?” Cyrus asked.

Teman sighed. “Lord Atherol has been increasingly annoying of late. There are a number of other nobles that sit nearby that have been making things difficult on Bathasar. Asking him the same questions over and over—things he’s already addressed at court—but they refuse to accept.”

Cyrus hmphed. “That would be miserable.”

“Yes,” Teman said, sighing as the towel was tossed aside and Cyrus picked up a hairbrush. “In fact, he’s still with the advisors now, trying to work out a few things so they’ll leave him alone.”

“Well, then, all the more reason to do this right. Do you have anything in particular in mind?” Cyrus asked.

“There are a few things we’ll use. But the red velvet robe is the most important. It was the one he had for me that same night last year. Wow,” Teman said, sucking in a breath. “It’s really been a year, hasn’t it?” He glanced over his shoulder at Cyrus, who nodded and smiled.

“Yes,” Cyrus continued to run the brush through Teman’s hair, and Teman’s eyes slid closed as he enjoyed the sensations. “I do believe your hair has a year’s worth of length added to it. Have you cut it at all?”

“No,” Teman whispered, opening his eyes. “Bathasar likes it long, so…” He shrugged.

“I like Nadir’s hair long, too. He likes it pulled, and it certainly makes it easier to grab if it’s long.”

Teman chuckled. “Bathasar pulls mine, too.” He sighed and glanced at the window, noting how low the sun was. “We should hurry. He’ll be back soon.”

“Of course.” Cyrus crossed the room to open one of the cabinets. “I think this,” he said, turning around and holding up a jeweled ring meant for Teman’s cock. It was one of Bathasar’s favorites.

Teman grinned. “Perfect.”

* * *

“Thank you for helping me get ready,” Teman said, hugging his friend.

Cyrus smiled. “Of course. Have a good evening.”

“Oh, I will.” He watched Cyrus hurry out of the room, and then he took a seat in the chair next to the fire and picked up his book. He’d never be able to concentrate on it, no matter how interesting it was, but he didn’t need to. It was just a distraction technique, anyway. He settled in to wait.

It didn’t take long. The servants brought their dinner through the room and out to the balcony, and he kept himself in his chair, focusing on his book, to stay out of the way. Then they were gone, and only a few minutes later, he heard the door. He worked hard not to look up, to keep his eyes on his book. He heard a chuckle, and a moment later, Bathasar’s lips were on his temple. “Hello, my love. I missed you.”

Teman’s smile spread into a grin. “It wasn’t that long,” he said with a soft laugh of his own. He set the book aside and turned his face up to meet Bathasar’s lips for a real kiss. His eyes slid closed and he let a soft moan go, knowing how much Bathasar loved his sounds. One hand came up to thread through Bathasar’s long, black hair as the kiss deepened.

When they finally broke apart, Teman had trouble breathing.

“What prompted that?” Bathasar murmured.

“Just… wanted to.”

Bathasar grinned. “I’ll never turn it down. Is the food ready?”

Teman nodded. “Yes, they just brought it a few minutes ago.”

“Good. Shall we?” He asked, holding a hand out.

Teman took it, stood, and moved around the chair. They kept their hands clasped as they stepped through the door and approached the table. Teman was careful with his robe to keep his surprises hidden as he sat on a cushion, but had a surprise of his own when he got a good look at the low table.

But before he could react, Bathasar sat down behind him and put both arms around him, brushing his ear with a light kiss. “Do you remember what today is, love?”

Teman looked up and blinked. “Yes, I… I didn’t think you did.”

Bathasar smiled. “Of course, I do. I couldn’t forget this night for anything. It was the night you became mine.”

Teman turned part way on his cushion and lifted both hands to cup Bathasar’s face. “The best night of my life.” He paused to frown. “Well, maybe. I… I was still so unsure, then.”

Bathasar reached up to brush a thumb over his cheek. “That is true. But we are here now. I think everyone who loves goes through similar trials.”

Teman’s frown deepened. “But I hurt you.”

Bathasar actually smiled. “Love… I understood, at least as much as was possible.”

Teman shook his head, and Bathasar’s eye widened, undoubtedly at the sheen in them. “I… never, I mean…” Teman fought with himself and the emotions stunned with the suddenness of them. “I… but…. No. I regret so much of what I did. If I… If I’d just…”

“Just what?” Bathasar shook his head. “If you hadn’t, you would still be wondering, now, a year later.”

Teman looked down, staring at a satin tie on Bathasar’s tunic. It blurred and he blinked to clear his eyesight. Would he? Would he still be wondering? He wanted to think he would have let go, that he would have accepted it, long before now.

But he wasn’t so sure. He cleared his throat and blinked his eyes again, turning to look out over the city. The stars were bright in the night sky, the sun having finally fallen below the horizon. The moon was behind the palace somewhere, not in his line of sight. But he wasn’t seeing that sky. He was remembering another one, on a night not so long ago when he was alone, and the uncertainty of what he’d been doing then. That memory finally crystallized his current thoughts. “You’re right. I would have. Even now, as much as I love you, I wouldn’t be completely sure. I just… I wish I hadn’t had to hurt you to figure it out.”

Bathasar didn’t speak for a long moment. He simply tightened his arms around Teman. Soft kisses feathered over Teman’s temple and cheek before he finally spoke. “I think we’re stronger for it. We are much more secure in our feelings now, and if things happen in the near future as we think they might, we’re going to need to remember it.”

Bathasar’s arms tightened as Teman’s tears threatened to overflow again. Teman was having trouble breathing all of a sudden as the thought of losing this man, the one who had become his world, intruded. He buried his face in Bathasar’s neck, inhaling the scent he’d come to know so well as he fought with his fears and emotions. No, he wouldn’t lose this man. He’d just have to be good enough, strong enough, fast enough, just… enough. And if he wasn’t… he’d find someone who was. They’d been through enough. Put each other through enough.

He took a deep breath and shifted onto his knees, turning fully toward Bathasar. He put his hands up cupped Bathasar’s face again, and leaned in to capture his lover’s lips. He brushed them lightly with his own, teasing, just barely touching. He kept that up despite the moves Bathasar tried to make to take over the kiss. Finally, he gave in enough to nip at each lip, then nibble softly for as long as he could before Bathasar did take over, crushing their mouths together.

Their tongues touched and the kiss exploded into heat. Bathasar’s hands slid up Teman’s back, one threaded through Teman’s brown hair, fisting and pulling until his head was tilted back. Bathasar dove in and bit at his neck, dragging a loud groan from him, and then nipped a line along skin until the sensitive spot where neck meets shoulder was between Bathasar’s teeth.

Teman was yanked in until he was straddling Bathasar’s lap and he bucked, needing to grind, needing friction, his cock demanding attention thanks to the bites and hair pulling. One of his hands tangled in Bathasar’s hair, the other braced himself on a shoulder, and he tried to rock more, but then Bathasar’s arm was back around his waist and holding him still. Which only succeeded in making him want and need even more. Bathasar’s name came out on a long, low moan that was answered with a soft growl.

Bathasar pulled his mouth off of Teman’s skin and looked up, releasing Teman’s hair. They both panted hard to recover some form of normal breathing, thought that seemed impossible with the need rioting through Teman’s body.

“A year,” Bathasar said, still scrambling for air. “A year we’ve been together, and you can still almost turn me into an animal from a single kiss.” He flashed a smile that spread into a grin when Teman returned it.

“I wouldn’t have you any other way,” Teman managed, leaning forward and keeping this kiss soft and light. “We should eat before it gets too cold.”

“Yes,” Bathasar agreed. “See what I’ve had prepared?”

After another soft kiss, Teman turned around to settle in on the cushion again, but Bathasar simply pulled until his seat was a lap instead. He chuckled and turned his attention to the food. “Ohh!” The exclamation was soft, but happy. All the same foods he’d loved so much the year before: the lamb he’d nearly moaned over, the roasted vegetables, the couscous, and the wine. “How did you remember?” He asked, glancing over his shoulder.

“I had never in my life enjoyed watching someone eat the way I’d watched you that night. You took such pleasure in everything, each bite of food. I don’t think I will ever get the images of you eating out of my mind.” He shifted enough to reach out and put some of the lamb on a plate. “You might also notice the other bowls,” he said, pointing.

Teman’s eyes widened. “Oh my! Honey and sweet cream.” Images filled his head, memories as sharp and clear as if they were a painting or tapestry. Of the honey and cream covering him, of Bathasar’s tongue cleaning it off, of his cock coated in it and licked oh so slowly clean. Back in the present, his cock twitched hard at the thoughts. “Does this mean…”

“Yes, you’re not having dessert, my love. You are dessert.” Bathasar grinned, and Teman’s smile matched it.

“Then you might appreciate this, too,” he said, his fingers flying along the row of buttons on his robe, to show the tiny gold rings around his nipples, the larger, thick, jeweled one around his sac and hard length, and the thinner glans ring below his cock tip.

“Oh yes, that will go very nicely with dessert, indeed,” he said, kissing Teman again. “Well, then, we should get busy, hmm? We have an eventful evening ahead of us.”

“Mmm. Yes, we do.” Teman paused to touch Bathasar’s cheek one more time. “Thank you. I’m glad we’re here. I’m sorry I hurt you, but I think… I know it was the right thing. This year, this night, couldn’t be better.”

Bathasar set down the lamb he’d picked up and brushed the backs of his fingers over Teman’s cheek. “It is,” he agreed, nodding. “No more regrets. No more thoughts about it. No more worries about it. There are too many others to think about.”

Teman shook his head. “No more,” he agreed and smiled, knowing it was true.