.. | the walls of astyanax | chapter 7
Due to their hasty escape, they both had ended up riding bareback. The Spartan seemed not to notice or care, but by the fall of evening, Avicenna was wondering if someone had been skipping his horse on food; surely the backbone wasn't supposed be so prominent.
As Achatës had promised, they reached the outskirts of the small polis by sundown, but decided to camp outside of the city. The Spartan said he didn't know the town well, and he would feel better if they didn't submerge themselves in unfamiliarity so soon after their escape.
They found a small abandoned orchard far way enough to be hidden, but still close enough so that they could see the torch lights of the outer buildings. Avicenna was finding himself grateful for the Spartan's wariness, though he had a feeling that Achatës wasn't telling him the complete truth of why he didn't want to be seen in the city.
He felt Achatës' eyes on him as he slid down to the ground. Ignoring him, Avicenna spread out his outer cloak and sat his weary, aching body down to rest.
Achatës' seemed to hesitate, but then came into the clearing and sat next to Avicenna, keeping a respectful distance between them. Crickets had started chirping since the sun went down, and both of them sat and listened to the songs, content for the moment to rest otherwise in silence.
"I suppose we'd better make a peace between us then. I don't want you snapping at me every time I try to make conversation," Achatës said suddenly.
"I didn't figure your people to be big talkers," Avicenna answered dryly.
Achatës laughed outright. "We love to talk," he said. "I like to do anything any Athenian man would do."
Avicenna turned his face away. "They hold symposium, have arguments, talk of philosophy and history," he said. He turned back to the Spartan. "What do you know of history?"
"Nothing," Achatës admitted. "But I know of more useful things than that, like how to survive out here." He glared at Avicenna. "What good does history do when you're out of food and water in the middle of nowhere? Suppose I should leave you here. Could you survive?"
"Of course I could." He wished he was as sure as he thought he sounded.
"And if you ran out of food?"
"How would you find the next city?"
"Follow the road. It has to lead somewhere." Avicenna clenched his teeth. This was getting annoying.
"And if your horse foundered? Became lame?"
He leapt up. "All right, you've proven your point! What more do you want?"
Achatës blinked up at him. Then he smiled like a man who'd just won his first true victory.
"Peace, that's all," he said. "For this little while, when we have need of each other, let us at least be civil if we cannot be friends."
The Athenian sank back down onto the log, a stab of guilt washing over him. A Spartan had turned out to be more far-thinking than he.
Achatës cocked his head and said with a slight smile, "Humor this poor savage would you?"
"Fine," he said, not looking up. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out what need the Spartan had of him. He supposed it didn't matter. As long as Achatës didn't abandon him to the prey birds they'd seen circling earlier that day.
He took a deep breath. "I admit I have need of you. I will try to put our... differences aside."
"Good," Achatës said, standing up and stretching. "I still have the hare that slave of yours caught last night. Share it with me?"
Nighttime without a warm slave nestled close was hard. Where the day was roasting hot in the sun, the nights were bitterly chilly, especially since that woman had seen fit to take the thickest blankets with her for some reason.
Achatës had built a fire, but it did little to warm Avicenna from such a distance. The Spartan had usurped the clear spot nearest to it, just as he'd taken the one ray of sunlight in their mutual prison. He seemed completely unaffected by the cold- he was still naked to the waist.
Avicenna stared at Achatës' bare back, idly wondering how a man could be so dark and still be a man of some holdings and not a field slave. He had a warrior's body, as was testimony by the quick, defined movements of the muscles in his back and arms as he finished shearing the rabbit's hide.
"If we don't get to a town in the next couple of days, I'll find some pelt game for you if you like. Good furs would be useful on nights like these," Achatës' said suddenly, turning around to catch Avicenna's gaze.
Avicenna hadn't expected such an offer; it caught him off-guard. Enough so that he had even given a small smile in appreciation before he'd realized it. But the Spartan had already returned it and gone back to his rabbit pelt.
"It's warmer over here, you know," Achatës said, not looking up. "If you don't mind sitting next to a barbarian, that is."
Avicenna rolled his eyes and moved on his hands and knees towards the fire. He'd been waiting for such an offer, just so that he wouldn't have to ask or assume the move for himself.
"Just so long as you don't decide to use my skin for a cloak," he retorted, coming to sit next to the Spartan and immediately feeling the fire's warmth begin to penetrate through his skin.
"I wouldn't dream of it," Achatës answered.
After eating in mixed silences and small conversation, they bedded down near the smoldering ashes of the cook fire. Avicenna lay with his back to the Spartan. He knew that Achatës was still awake and lying on his back with his arms behind his head.
"How old are you, Cenna?" he asked suddenly. His voice was deep and hushed.
"Sixteen," Avicenna answered softly.
"What of your parents?"
The Athenian froze at the question, then relaxed. Why not? No reason to tell him everything.
"My mother lives in Athens with my uncle, but he died."
He felt Achatës turn towards him to face his back. "And your father?" His voice was almost intimately soft. Avicenna tried not to think about how close Achatës was to him.
"He... died when I was younger."
The Spartan's proximity was almost tangible and the warmth emanating through the space between them was inviting. Avicenna shut his eyes.
"Ah." For some reason that simple reply sounded as if he'd just given the Spartan the answer to all of life's mysteries.
After a long silence, Achatës said, "We should reach Corinth in a day or two. If you want, we can go through the city and find some saddles. I have a bit of money."
He had noticed Avicenna's discomfort. The Athenian wondered why he would care. But the offer, like the one before, had caught him off-guard. Another sacrifice made towards a peace between them, he supposed.
"Thank you," he whispered.
An early afternoon two days later found them on the road, outfitted with new tack and supplies, as well as more travel-worthy clothing. The Spartan had opted for a white chiton that reached mid-thigh and was pinned over his left shoulder to leave his right shoulder and arm free. He tied it at his waist with a leather belt where he could keep a knife he'd also bought.
He'd also found a basin somewhere to wash his face and arms of road dust and dirt. In the morning sun, he was striking to look at.
Avicenna couldn't quite help but watch him as they visited a local farrier in search of leather goods and tack. The way he moved, the gestures he made as he spoke with the owner, the particular way he would stand while he waited... Avicenna realized he'd never really studied a man closely like this, other than his father of course.
And it fascinated him. Diocles had always taught him what the beauty of man was; the groomed athlete and soldier who was strong and handsome, quick witted on the field and in symposium. He'd said that the gods took pleasure in making man beautiful.
Was handsome demi-god Achilles not the ultimate warrior, or Ganymede not the perfect youth? Diocles had once asked him.
Avicenna snapped himself out of his thoughts when the Spartan turned to catch his gaze. Had he really been staring? As he feigned interest in the girths that hung from an iron peg, he knew Achatës was still watching him.
Avicenna's own odd fascination and Achatës' stare unnerved him for a good part of the ride out. It just wasn't... right for him to find the Spartan beautiful, was it? He was a barbarian, wasn't he? He was from a city that didn't believe in anything but war and thievery, a place as backwards as any barren civilization further up north.
Avicenna stole another glance at his traveling companion as they rode. Achatës was watching the rode in front of them, making a move only to brush back his hair from his face.
He didn't look like a savage.
And Achatës knew things, useful things, that would help them. Was it really bad luck to fall into the company of one who'd been so prepared?
Suddenly, he wondered how the Spartan could stand it, the culture he'd been born into. Because he'd never known anything else but war? That made Avicenna wonder what Achatës thought of the rest of life outside of Lacedæmon. It was half in his mind to ask, but the Spartan spoke up first.
"Did you know there's a story they would tell us when we were young?" he asked, his eyes following a bird across the sky. "It was about a boy who stole a fox once. A man was approaching and the boy hid the fox inside his tunic. And rather than be caught with it, he let the animal gnaw into his stomach until the man went away."
"You grew up on lore like that?"
Achatës nodded. "I was wondering what they taught you when you were young."
Avicenna raised an eyebrow. "Why do you care?" he asked.
"Why don't you?" Achatës returned, looking at him. "Your people are supposed to be the knowledge seekers. Why am I the one always asking questions?"
Achatës' vehemence surprised him. It sparked his own anger.
"My father told me enough about Lacedæmon for me to never be curious about it," he snapped back.
"Was that hatred all he taught you?"
Avicenna was stopped short. He merely stared at Achatës in silence as their horses obliviously kept walking. His mind flashed back to a night when he was twelve that he could never forget.
"He died before he could teach me anything else," Avicenna said, giving Achatës a hard look.
Achatës remained silent. After a moment, his face softened and he sighed.
"There is more to us, Cenna, than tricks and thievery. I don't know how you and I are to continue if you don't realize that," he said in that intimate way he had.
Avicenna looked askance in the other direction, unexpectedly feeling ashamed that he'd gotten so angry so suddenly.
"Then maybe we shouldn't continue," he whispered. But to leave the protection and wisdom that Achatës could offer was the last thing he wanted to do.
"Where would you go?" The Spartan sounded genuinely interested.
"Back to Athens I suppose. To find out what happened-" He cut himself off.
Achatës leaned slightly towards him. "And if they caught you again?"
Avicenna looked at him. He didn't want to go back. Not just yet.
But Achatës spared him that, perhaps sensing his distress. "I think it's better if we just stay together," he said with a slight smile.
They reached Corinth by the mid-morning of the next day. Phegeus, Sybil's cousin, greeted them with great hospitality and asked few questions as to why they had need of his spare rooms. Achatës had offered to work for the room and meals they would need, but Phegeus politely refused, saying he could never put the Spartan to work with the slaves.
He and the Spartan were to share a room and a bed. Avicenna, grateful enough that they would be put up here at all, did not complain. In fact, in a house full of strange and sometimes unfriendly faces, he would be thankful for a familiar one so nearby.
It took a while after he'd met her for Avicenna to realize that it was Phegeus's wife that was actually Sybil's cousin. But it took him only an instant of watching them to see that she and Achatës had known each other for a long time. Perhaps too long, and too intimately for his taste.
As night fell, Avicenna found himself in a particularly contented mood. The supper meal had been hot and filling and not spending the afternoon on horseback was welcome relief on his back and legs. The bed afforded them was stuffed with down and lamb's wool and as he sank down into it, he began to think that the journey may have been worth it after all.
Until Achatës laid an open-handed slap on his thigh to wake him up.
"There's a bath not too far from here. I say we both could use it," he said with a smile, his eyes glistening moistly in the room's torchlight.
Avicenna groaned his displeasure but a bath sounded too good to be true, even with the bed beneath him beckoning him back into the doze he'd been enjoying. Without a word, he heaved himself up and followed the Spartan out of the complex and into the already dark streets. Several boys running up and down the road were just lighting the street torches on buildings and fences.
"How do you know Phegeus' wife?" Avicenna asked suddenly as they strolled.
Achatës looked down at him, seeming surprised by the question.
"She used to live near us when I was younger."
"Were you lovers?"
Achatës cocked his head, as if trying to figure out what had made the Athenian ask. "Sometimes, yes," he said. "Ianessa and I used to wrestle in the street when we were children." He laughed to himself.
"A woman? Wrestling in the street?" Avicenna's shock only amused the Spartan more.
"Naked no less." He paused to watch Avicenna's face, then continued. "Women are trained as much as men are in Sparta. They're encouraged to be strong too."
Avicenna furrowed his eyebrows as he kicked a stone from his path. "But to what end?"
Achatës looked ahead of them, musing. "Healthy women give healthy babies. I had two brothers after me who were left on the hillside because they were not strong. I think my mother was too old by then."
Achatës stopped and turned to look at him seriously. "If they are not strong at birth, they will never be when they grow. At least, that's what my father always taught us."
Avicenna said nothing as he watched the ground as they continued walking. When he glanced up ahead he could see the laid stone walls of what he assumed to be their destination. Apprehension rose in him as he followed Achatës up the worn stone steps and into the dark building.
As they walked into the outer apodyterium, Avicenna unconsciously moved closer to his companion. It wasn't very crowded; most men where having supper at this time. Avicenna had never been to the baths in Athens, since his father was rich enough to have provided rooms in their own house for just that purpose.
Achatës seemed not to notice his unease. He found a spot near the corner of the large room and promptly began to disrobe and hand his clothing to the attendant that had come to meet them.
"Cenna?" he said, snapping the Athenian's attention away from the other patrons.
Avicenna turned back to see Achatës watching him with a lifted eyebrow, naked with his hands on his hips. "Are you planning on going in with your clothes on?"
Avicenna quickly turned his eyes downward and stripped off his own garments, telling himself that it was what was done, and he would be stared at more if he remained clothed. Truth be told he wasn't accustomed to so many nude bodies, and definitely wasn't used to being one of them.
Achatës let out a little laugh. "What are you blushing for? It's only a bath. Come on."
He followed the Spartan into the tepidarium where wafts of warm moist air hit them the moment they entered. Achatës placed a hand in the small of Avicenna's back to guide him to one of the empty divans and then left him there for a moment.
Sitting on the high couch, Avicenna observed several men reclining and being attended by servants. The room smelled of sweet oils that were being used to massage tense muscles and cleanse the skin. The thick aroma was drugging his senses.
"Here, lie down." Achatës had returned with a bowl and scraper. When Avicenna was slow to comply, he smiled and gently pushed his shoulder down. "Trust me," he said softly.
Avicenna, not seeing his alternative and not wanting to attract unwanted attention, complied with great misgivings. He rolled over onto his stomach and crossed his arms under his chin.
He started when Achatës touched him. Those large hands were warm and slick with oil and they began their massage with expert skill. Achatës began with Avicenna's shoulders, a spot that wouldn't threaten the Athenian.
"You are tense," Achatës informed him. "Do you ever relax?"
Avicenna looked up at him over his shoulder, but Achatës didn't meet his eyes. He merely went on with his work as if such comments were acceptable conversation.
His hands eventually hands slid down Avicenna's back to spread the oil more evenly.
"How is it that you've never been through a bath before?" Achatës asked.Avicenna turned to rest his cheek against his arm. "I told you my father died," he said softly. "He never took me with him, I wasn't old enough."
Achatës' hands had begun to work their way down his spine again. Avicenna closed his eyes with a sigh, noting the arch of Achatës' hip against his side as his companion leaned against the table. Avicenna tried to focus on the relaxing of his muscles but couldn't quite get Achatës out of his mind.
What did it matter that he was standing so close? Why did it matter if his hands were warm and, coupled with the thick air dripping with the smell of persimmon oil, that they were beginning to lure him into a doze? Persimmon oil; a scent he had long ago learned to associate with his father and... that night.
No, he decided it didn't matter as he let his eyes close again. He could easily forget that it was Achatës touching him and pretend that it was Pyrrhus, who had rubbed him down many times before.
But what was Achatës thinking as he stood there, Avicenna wondered. Did he realize that it was a rare thing for Avicenna to allow him such contact? Or did he just assume that their tentative peace before arriving here would put everything between them at ease so that he may take liberties like this?
And if so, what other liberties would he take..?
Achatës' hands had spread down his back to work the muscles on either side of his spine and finally down to his lower back. He kept his movements chaste however, and never strayed farther down than Avicenna's hips.
Another thought came to his head. Did the Spartan expect him to return this favor? If he did, he wasn't sure if he could do it. The last time he'd given a massage was to his father.
But it wasn't that the thought of touching him abhored him- it was actually far from that. Too far from that. The idea of being able to touch what Avicenna had already accepted as very near physical perfection left a strange unsettled feeling in his throat.
And yet, something had happened to his aversion to Achatës, something had changed in that prejudice that had caused Avicenna to instantly pull away the moment he learned of Achatës' birthright. It was confusing him even more with each of their arguments of the past few days. How was it that Achatës could be so forgiving? Avicenna had insulted him enough during the entire journey. Yet, the Spartan had not shown anger, even from the beginning when they had not really known each other.
Then it occurred to him that in the beginning, Avicenna would not have cared whether or not his insults caused anger or hurt. When had that part of him changed as well?
Achatës' deep voice broke into his thoughts. Avicenna raised his head.
"The calidarium, Cenna. We could go there now if you're ready."
Numbly, Avicenna slid off the divan and followed the Spartan around the other laying tables. He noticed that Achatës' flesh had begun to glisten with a slight sweat.
Billows of thick, hot air hit them as they moved into the next chamber, causing him to become lightheaded for a moment. The in-ground pools had steam rising like fog over a lake, and Avicenna found it difficult to breathe.
This room was busier than the last, and louder. Groups of men lounged in the corners of the pool, laughing or arguing, a few even singing. Others sat in pairs or three, talking in low voices as they splashed themselves with the soothing hot water. Others still were a bit more acquainted with each other, and sat close enough together to make Avicenna uncomfortable in Achatës' presence.
His companion was pushing his damp hair back with both hands. He gestured to the pool with his chin. "Want to go in?"
Avicenna stared at him, undecided if he should want to share a pool in such an intimate atmosphere. Achatës' chest and neck shone with perspiration, distracting him so much that Avicenna didn't even acknowledge his own body temperature rising.
Achatës cocked his head slightly, his eyebrows furrowing. It was too dark to see the brilliant color of his golden eyes. "What's the matter?" he asked. "What are you staring at?"
The Athenian snapped himself out of watching the delicate tendons in the Spartan's neck when he turned his head. He murmured some lame reply and turned to slide into the steaming waters. He swam a bit away, half hoping that Achatës would not follow.
Unfortunately, he had now caught his companion's attention. The larger man followed him into the water all the way to the opposite edge where Avicenna had gone. He disappeared under the surface for a moment and emerged on the other side of Avicenna, flipping his hair back.
Avicenna cleared his throat. "When will we leave Elusis?"
"When do you want to leave?" Water ran down Achatës' cheek, down the contoured line of his jaw and dripped from his chin. "We've a long way to go."
Avicenna closed his eyes and leaned against the tiled side of the pool, letting his muscles relax and absorb the heat of the water and determined not to look at Achatës anymore. The voices of other bath patrons echoed loudly off the walls.
He knew Achatës was watching him.
"We can stay a few days more if you like," the Spartan said in that deep voice of his.
Avicenna lolled his head away to look off in the opposite direction, feigning disinterest. "I don't care."
A hand suddenly appeared in his vision and pushed wet strands of his hair back behind his ear. Avicenna's head shot up and he glared at Achatës, who was much closer than he remembered.
He knew something was coming before Achatës ever moved, and yet he remained frozen as Achatës framed his face with his large hands, leaned over him and touched his lips gently with his own.
It was innocent and close-lipped, but still a kiss nonetheless.
Finding the will to move his arms, Avicenna shoved him away, splashing loudly and attracting the attention of several nearby swimmers. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Why did you do that?!" he demanded.
Achatës smoothed his wet hair back and appeared unaffected. He shrugged. "You wanted me to."
"How dare you," Avicenna growled, climbing out of the pool. "Why would you ever think I would want your barbarian body anywhere near mine?"
Achatës gazed up at him from the pool, his large eyes curious and very obviously unashamed. He gave a slight smile and swirled his arms in the water around him as a child would.
"Come back into the water, Cenna," he said, splashing his fingers on the water's surface.
Avicenna shivered despite the hot, humid air and remained where he was.
"It was just a little kiss," Achatës said. When Avicenna still stood huffing silently, Achatës rolled his eyes and sighed, finally moving to the edge of the pool to get out. He flipped his hair back, spraying water everywhere.
"All right, we can leave if you want to."
Avicenna followed him out, still shivering. It was just a little kiss, he'd said. But it didn't escape Avicenna's notice that Achatës had not promised not to do it again.
They made it back to Phegeus' home by the time the moon was high and distant in the night sky. The streets had not quieted down much; men's voices wafted from every lit building, children played about in the streets and travelers were still making their way in from the open road.
Achatës had said nothing on their walk back. He'd walked ahead of Avicenna, exchanging polite greetings with the men they passed, and every now and then waving at the women who draped themselves in the doorways of their brothel houses. It was as if Avicenna wasn't even there to him.
When Avicenna had said goodnight to Phegeus and his wife and made his way to their room, he had begun to dread the bed he was to share with the Spartan. He approached the door with some trepidation, wishing silently for the company of Pyrrhus, still missing the strength of his father, and praying to the gods that by some miracle Achatës was already asleep.
However, Achatës was laying on his back on the bed, an arm thrown over his eyes. Avicenna remained in the doorway, watching him. The Spartan knew he was there, surely.
"Are you afraid of me now?" Achatës said, not moving his arm.
Avicenna stiffened. "Why should I be?"
Achatës sat up. He'd undressed for bed and sat there bare-chested amid the soft covers with his sun-darkened skin glowing in the torchlight. He'd thrown only a thin linen over his hips, as if on afterthought. When he sat up, it slipped down far enough to reveal the delicate line of dark hair that led down from his navel.
"I don't want you to be afraid of me," he said softly.
"I told you, I'm not!"
Achatës laughed. "Then why are you still standing there? Are you going to sleep in the bed? Perhaps you prefer the floor?"
Avicenna knew he was being tested as he sucked in his breath and made his way to the bed. Gods be damned if he was getting undressed though.
The blankets had been warmed already by the Spartan's lying on them. Avicenna pulled them up to his chin and rolled over on his side to face away from Achatës. This night, this entire trip was going to be unbearable.
He hoped that Achatës wasn't still lying there, his head propped up on one arm and watching him. Avicenna squeezed his eyes shut and thought of a bed he'd once shared similarly with a man older than he. He'd laid in the embrace of his father for one wonderful night so long ago and the child in him still wished for that security in this strange, frightening place he was in now.
Tears slipped down his cheeks and he struggled to remain quiet. He felt his resolve was crumbling. He was in a foreign place with a man he hardly knew and liked even less, he was wanted in his own city for the murder of his uncle and his own mother had herself convicted him.
Sighing as quietly as he could to try and calm himself, his mind revolved around the conclusion that he had no home to go back to, no family to protect him, and not even a friend or lover to help him keep his sanity. He wanted to die.
Behind him, Achatës lay awake, listening to the poorly disguised sounds of quiet weeping. Avicenna was trying so hard to preserve what was left of his pride that the Spartan couldn't bear to turn over and do something. He wanted to, truly he did, but he hadn't the faintest idea of how one would comfort such a complexity that would likely lash out at him anyway.
He knew he probably shouldn't have attempted the kiss, but in all honesty he believed that the boy had wanted it. He still believed it, but now realized that a direct approach was not the way to go about winning his companion's trust, much less anything more.
Achatës sighed to himself as he rolled over on his side to face away from Avicenna. That last thought had struck a nerve in him. He could not for the life of him figure out what it was about the boy that was drawing his interest. It wasn't like him at all to be the one pursuing.
Perhaps it was because life had always seemed so simple to Achatës. People had things to do and they simply did them; yet here was someone who seemed not to understand that at all and Achatës wanted to know why.
He stared at the wall. Avicenna had things in his past that he didn't speak of, and though they'd only spent a short time together, Achatës knew he should know more about his companion by now than he did in reality. Avicenna shared almost nothing except for clips of his background, like his mother and uncle in Athens and the death of his father.
Now there was a thought.
Achatës listened to the quieting sounds coming from the boy who lay next to him. Avicenna was merely a short distance away but somehow the gap between them seemed unfathomable. He hoped the boy would sleep soon, if only to ease his distress. He again considered rolling over to see if there was anything he could do, but something in him warned against it. Now was not the time.
He wanted, needed to know more about Avicenna. What happened to his father particularly interested him, since it seemed that Avicenna, by his manner and temper alone, had severely lacked in the proper teaching that a father, or at least an elder, should have provided at the most critical time. Achatës himself had had to take up that role to one younger brother after his own father died, and knew well the attachment that came with that position.
He listened again as Avicenna shifted behind him, finally quiet, but not asleep. Could it be that with a father gone a least several years, the boy was still grieving? So long after he should have been able to let go?
Achatës woke due to a small beam of sunlight escaping through the small window's coverings to shine right on his face. He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling for a moment and listened for sounds from outside. Not too much; it must still be early.
But this light in his eyes would never do. After a good full body stretch he sighed and rolled over, only to find Avicenna's nose nearly touching his own.
The boy was still asleep, but he'd somehow worked his way into the middle of the bed instead of staying on his side. Achatës remained where he was, enjoying the chance to get a good look at the boy when he was completely relaxed. He looked so young, almost childish.
How easy would it be to just reach out an arm and pull him near? Surely Avicenna had instinctively been drawn by Achatës' body heat already... But the same voice that hard warned against it last night once again answered his wont.
This time he ignored it.
Avicenna made only a soft, lazy noise as he was easily pulled closer into a gentle embrace. His body was heavy with sleep, supple and warm as he nuzzled his nose beneath Achatës' chin, heaved a sigh and was quiet again.
The robes Avicenna had neglected to take off last night had worked themselves loose, allowing flesh to touch flesh in the gentle warmth of the morning. It had been a long time since Achatës had held someone other than Sybil or Helanike and indeed, he'd actually missed his boyhood lovers.
There were some things one could never fully give up, he supposed. Achatës closed his eyes and pressed his lips into Avicenna's hair, which still held the smell of persimmon oil they'd used the night before.
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