Ptolemy took Wash for the day to introduce him to the halls and keep him out of the way of the guards and staff while Nebra disappeared into the corridors of the palace. This left Seth and me to walk the grounds to quietly plot our next movement. The teahouse and the massive pond in the midst of my family houses sat, calmly waiting on us to decide to take up residence for the afternoon.
“You would have him use his fire in the temple?” Seth eased into my grasp, settling into a pool of his black robes while I propped myself against the gilded wall for us to watch the edge of the pond and the hunting park beyond it.
“What do you think of him?” I hedged his question.
“I thought him a mouse at first.” He traced cool fingers up my cheek, his dark eyes amused.
“Got a bit of a bite, doesn’t he?” I rolled into his hand to nuzzle at his palm.
“Sure doesn’t appreciate your forward approach. He’s not Ptolemy,” he chuckled.
“None of you are like Ptolemy.” I caught the edge of his thumb in my teeth as the tips of his fingers skimmed my jaw.
“Ptol’s good for you. Wash might be that nice counterpoint. Will have to see, huh?” He leaned closer, kissing my cheek. I let up on his finger to capture his mouth. He pushed for me to move from the wall. I slid down to the side, his hands splayed against my chest.
“What do you think of him? Of his dynamic in our house?” I twisted so he would find a more comfortable perch. He settled into the cradle of my hips. Heat snapped up my sides at his soft pressure.
“I’m not sure yet. Hard to assess in just two hours of talking to him. I don’t get bad feelings off his personality. If anything, he lacks a bit of faith in himself is all. He has no problem asserting boundaries. That’s at least good to see. Though physically attaining those boundaries concerns me.” He nipped at my chest, his eyes playing like that of a cat who had found his mouse.
“I did sort of tread all over his boundaries rather blatantly. I would probably have had the same reaction if somebody did that to me.” I found the crease of his thighs, slipping along ample curves to settle him a bit more fully, if only to ask for some other things to be resolved than just our conversation on the wab.
“Patience, pharaoh.” He wiggled to hear me groan.
“Are we doing something here in the teahouse or are you just teasing?” I flicked a glance to the open doors. He wasn’t usually partial to the possibility of being seen.
“Teasing. It’ll make things more interesting this evening.” He shrugged, the collar of his robes coming loose to give me a view I could die in.
“You’re being mean.” I fixated with a new curve, one that would yield to my touch in mesmerizing ways.
“And you had to bring the wab in.” The lace of his binding was a pure white and tickled against my chest.
“You don’t like him?” I ran the pad of my thumb along the line of lace to admire the texture.
“Not what I said.” His black manicured nails traced circles across my sternum.
“You found someone you want to play with?” I guessed. He slid against me and dammit, if I moved he’d be exposed to the whole courtyard.
“I have my doubts he’d be in favour of my methods.” His eyelashes drifted, gaze sliding away from me. Pink dappled his cheeks.
“Why doubts? It’s not that we’ve exactly given him much of a chance to show us his, how were we referring to it?” I thought back to our conversation from the morning.
“Needs and desires?” Seth sat back to run swirling patterns down my ribs. Heaven had to be real. Black silk robes and white lace made for a great combination. I cleared my throat, nodding. “Nebra makes him nervous. If she makes him nervous, I can only imagine his reaction to me handling him.” He pushed at his black waterfall of hair. Drawing my gaze up from everything I dearly wanted to touch, I caught that wistful look he got in his eye when he wanted to try something and was too scared to say.
“Nebra is a foot and a half taller than him. She’s the same height as me. Most men can be a touch intimidated with someone who can probably headlock them into the afterlife.” I inched my way up from his thighs to petite waist. His eyebrow raised at my motion. “What?” I tried to hide the smile trying to escape from the left corner of my lips.
“I know where you’re going.” His eyes were back to amused cat. He leaned into me once again and I found warm weight in my palms. Yes. Yes, a god exists. There’s this texture thing between that smoothness and silk dripping down my arms and that slight scratch of lace. Amused cat. He was practically purring. “One touch, pharaoh.”
“You’re daydreaming, aren’t you, Sparrow?” I slipped my hands around his binding, under his robes, to his back and tugged him down to look me in the eyes.
“He’s cute.” He didn’t flinch from my staring. A deep tourmaline, boarding on onyx shade returned my gaze, clear and honest.
“Agreed.” I left off my love affair with gemstones to nibble up the column of his throat.
“And I want to fuck him.” He flopped forward, spreading himself across me in dejection.
“Fuck him or be fucked by him?” I went hunting for the hooks of his binding.
“Close to what I’m about to do to you if you get my binding off,” he threatened. I found the eye closure and slipped the first hook. He rose up to give me that you-can’t-be-serious look he likes to throw around. “What? Nebra and Ptolemy had their moment and we’re both in agreement Wash is cute. Now I’m horny. Where’s your equipment when we both need it.”?I got the next hook undone.
“In my room. Reason I said wait until this evening.” He rested his chin in his palm and waited for me to figure it out.
Stopping, I waited for our conversation to replay. I caught the drift, kissed his forehead, and fought to get the hooks closed again. “I swear, your sleeves are deep enough you carry around books, how do you not bring along everything else?” I returned the last hook back to its rightful place.
“You’ve seen me drop my books out of my sleeves.” He leaned back once more, this time pulling his robes back across paradise.
“Alright, yes, I see how that could be awkward.” I crossed my hands behind my head to rest against.
“Ptolemy took an instant liking to him. Probably reminds him of a lost puppy. Nebra has gone completely big sister on him.” Seth slid off of me, his robes gracing me with somewhere to hide while I tried desperately to pull myself back together. That was not going to be achieved any time soon with the soft tops of his thighs giving me a glimpse of more white lace.
“Will there be jealousy, do you think? What if he’s a one-person type of person and doesn’t want to share? For all we know, he may have zero interest in any of us.” I offered up that thought.
“And what then, Henu? If he had no interest?” He rose, putting his wardrobe back in order.
“He has the freedom to keep to himself. I won’t take that from him. As I won’t take it from any of you.” I rolled to lean on my hand, regarding his delicate gracefulness.
“Then if there is jealousy, we work it through and see what the next best choice is for all of us.” He shrugged. Pulling a red lacquer comb from his sleeves, he settled on a low cushion to work his floor-length locks back into obedience. “These moments, off on our own, are nice sometimes. A little less coordination. But watching the dogpile that is you, Nebra, and Ptol is also fun. I have to wonder how long it would take, if he’s disposed to that kind of thing, before he gets in the midst of it all.” He watched the koi fish form patterns in the pond below the teahouse, but his gaze was half focused. He was off in his own world.
“For now, it will behoove us to just have him as my Heirophant. I’ve needed someone to take over the regency for too many years. Adom has needed to be replaced since his prejudices started leaking out. I just didn’t know any of the staff well enough to take over the spot, and it felt weird.” I leaned against the wall once more.
“You’ve seen him for three hours and you trust him more than the same staff you’ve seen for the last fifteen years?” His words held the lilt of skeptic amusement, but no ill intent.
“You should have seen him in there, Seth. He’s this gentle wave. He gathers, and there’s nothing ostentatious about his methods. Genuine concern and quiet. At first, I thought him timid, but then I found fire in his eyes. There’s a rod of silver in his spine.” I admired the flurry of clouds passing by the dome panels, sending sparks of scattering fuschia and lavender across the sky.
“You think he might be the one that can unite the classes?” His voice sank to a whisper, a note of concern warning me to keep the conversation constructed carefully.
“My people are dying keeping this sinking ship afloat.” The rain of sparks sent slithering ripples of orange bands across the panels.
“The mariners?” Seth studied my interest. I nodded mutely. The mariners. A scattering of outsiders, they were the detested of the villages.
Ramses had picked me up from the street, buying me from my dying mother when I was no more than a year. He brought me into the palace and put his faith in my abilities. Mariners were in my blood, though. The palace had no memory of where I had come from. Ramses, upon his deathbed, had left it with me, though, that I had come from the mariners, and that my mother had died. He knew nothing of my father. I was left to wonder what, if any family relations I had.
“You think he could traverse the hierarchies?” He turned to the low red table next to him, poured water into a pair of glasses, and handed me one.
I contemplated the cut glass, shards of orange and purple sparkling against it from the dome panel reflection. “Screw the attracted bit for the moment, Seth. I think he can. I really do. His fire is gentle. This is something that I can’t control. I’m bound to my role and so much of it is hinged on the role of religion that I just can’t wrap my head around. I have to work in these roles that make no sense. I still don’t understand what Ramses’s purpose was of me. But if I need a priest, I need one that can do what the other priests can’t. I need one that can work magic. So many of the Mubharaktan have been thrown out, that not very many in the temples, the common people, have seen them up close. They wouldn’t know what he’s doing. It would be real to them. It was real to us.” I sipped at the water.
“Then we will let the sticks fall and count our fortunes on the stars,” Seth reassured.
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