Chapter 67

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They stood on the porch's creaking wooden boards under lantern light, a cluster of guys and girls about their age smoking nearby.

"You haven't smoked tonight," Leithan commented, hands in his pockets.

Teshin leaned against the wooden railing beside him, and his face looked somewhat pale. Maybe he was cold, in that short-sleeved shirt.

"Don't feel like it tonight," Teshin said. "I try to do only one klar at a time."

Leithan nodded appreciatively, glancing at the gloomy, narrow street in front of them.

"When you get fucked up, you do it reasonably. I admire that," Leithan said.

Teshin just chuckled, shaking his head almost wistfully.

"What?" Leithan asked, amused.

"Nothing," Teshin said. He shifted along the railing, until their arms touched. Leithan could feel the cold of Teshin's skin through his sleeve.

Then, Teshin turned his head, observing him for a moment. His eyes lidded as he leaned closer, questioning. Leithan leaned in too, met him halfway. The kiss was softer, sweeter than before in the woods. Craving for more rushed through Leithan again, but he controlled it, kept it tame. Eyes closed, Leithan's hand found Teshin's back, then curled around it, comforting.

And when, for a short moment, they paused to catch their breath, Teshin whispered, "It's just like a klar."

Leithan gave a surprised, delighted laugh. "What's like a klar?"

"You are," Teshin said seriously. Then he instantly looked away, casting his gaze downward, as if he couldn't believe he'd just said that.

. . . Makes two of us.

Leithan bit down on a silly grin with some effort. The warm tingles in his chest transformed into a melting sensation. Fucking hell. The death of me, I swear.

His arm slipped from around Teshin, because he could feel him tense again. Leithan just leaned on the railing, and, eventually, nudged him with his shoulder. Teshin turned with questioning eyes.

"Want to walk me home?" Leithan asked.

Teshin nodded, and smiled, some of his poise returning.

"Let's go," Teshin said.

They leapt down the porch side by side, and along the dimly-lit street. Leithan recognized the old man seated at his usual spot, and – fishing down his pocket – Leithan tossed him a rister coin. He smiled at Leithan under the brim of his hat. Teshin seemed intrigued, but didn't comment.

On a whim, Leithan took Teshin's hand, lacing fingers together without looking at him. They drifted quietly past closed shops and dark houses. At some point, a black cat streaked across the street before them.

Apparently forgetting what he'd said earlier, Tesh eventually lit up a voss joint, as they passed Little Cheztrian to their right. Leithan thought he saw a few people lurking about the square.

He smiled as Teshin inhaled the smoke, then breathed out. It seemed to calm him. Leithan wasn't surprised, and he didn't mind. Plus he did always enjoy its cozy fragrance. But when Tesh offered, Leithan declined.

Silent moments later, as they crept closer to the Fashion District, Teshin admitted, "I'm no good with these things."

"What things?"

Teshin blew out voss smoke. Smiled at him with a sidelong look.

"Yaklizi things," Teshin said.

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