Chapter 98

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When Teshin stepped out of the steamy bathroom, he had a towel clumsily wrapped around his waist, and his hair was dripping, darker and longer from being wet.

A bunch of snacks awaited him across Leithan's bed.

Teshin's face brightened in surprise, which made Leithan smile – pretty much the reaction he'd been going for.

While Teshin was taking his shower, Leithan had slipped out and snuck in the Chosen Café – empty and dark at this hour – so he could raid its cupboards. He came back with packs of roasted and salted nuts, those chocolate-coated coffee beans Teshin liked, some fruits, as well as a few pastries that had been snubbed by the chosen crew today.

That didn't usually happen – the pastries being the most popular items. But maybe finding out that their fathers had been abusing young women as a hobby hadn't been kind on their appetite.

"I thought you might be hungry," Leithan said.

Teshin sat, carefully, on the other side of the bed, with the snacks arrayed between them. Leithan had spread them across a copper platter and had brought some hand towels. He'd also placed a fresh jug of water on the nightstand.

It wasn't a feast, but it wasn't too bad either, considering the circumstances.

Maybe tomorrow he would take him to one of those nice West Harbor restaurants.

"Where did you get all this?" Teshin asked, incredulous. "Do you have a tank with snacks in the ceiling too?"

Leithan laughed. A bit of tension lifting, just like that. Especially when Teshin laughed, too.

Instead of giving him all the details, Leithan decided to steal Sunzar's line, "I'm resourceful."

Teshin's eyes glinted with amusement, if briefly. "I can see that."

The next few moments were spent eating.

They didn't talk much, at first. Except when Teshin told him how much he'd loved the shower. Tesh even claimed the shower had now surpassed the tram as his top favorite thing about New Rimar.

At some point, when he was no longer hungry, the reality of the moment slammed into Leithan. Teshin was here, in his bedroom. He'd just showered, he was naked under his towel, eating snacks on his bed – it was just a lot to take in, all of a sudden. It made him feel all nervous.

Leithan had always found him attractive, but there was just something about right now. Maybe it was the freshly-washed skin, glowing, tan and healthy, in cozy lamplight. The priyon were still there, albeit slightly faded, now. The shaipi dangled, as always, from his neck. Lean muscles flexed and stretched as he selected what treat he fancied next.

So, feeling quite apprehensive, Leith just started rambling, for some reason.

"That color looks good on you," he said, commenting on the leafy-green shade of the towel. "I'll lend you a green shirt tomorrow. I have like, a hundred of them. It was Veya's favorite color, and sort of the unofficial chosen uniform."

Teshin stared at him for a moment as he ate some roasted almonds. He didn't seem bothered by the sudden rambling.

"Your books, over there." He glanced at the tall and wide bookshelves beside the bed. "Are they all by Veya?"

"No, not all of them. But," Leithan admitted, "many of them are."

Teshin nodded. "As soon as you teach me your language, and how to read, I think I'd like to read them."

Something inside Leithan's chest threatened to burst.

"You have no idea how amazing that makes me feel," Leithan confessed, short of breath.

But then, Teshin's smile turned sly.

Leithan's eyes narrowed. "Or maybe you do. Still, it sounded like you meant it," Leithan mused, giving him a speculative glance. "But then again, you are good at pretending, Mister Trickster."

Teshin's smile faded, his eyes curious.

"What's that word?" he asked.

"It's your name," Leithan said. "In Rengleam."

"Trickster," Teshin repeated, trying out the word. "I like it."

After a pause, Teshin tossed the empty pack of almonds. Maybe he wasn't hungry anymore either. For now, at least.

Teshin then pushed the platter toward the end of the bed, clearing the space between them.

"But, ani," Teshin said, leaning forward. "I never pretend with you."

Leithan's heart kicked and raced. Still, he kept his cool. Well, he tried.

"Except when you give me fake amrin," he said.

Teshin gave a brief laugh. "Except that."

Although he leaned toward Leithan, propped on his hand, which occupied the spot where the snacks had been, the mattress was large enough that there was still quite a bit of space between them. Their hands nearly touched, but that was it.

"I did take real amrin, by the way," Leithan said.

Teshin's expression instantly changed, becoming upset, almost panicked. It made Leithan regret he'd brought it up. He hadn't wanted to ruin the mood. But it seemed too late for that, now.

"When?" Teshin asked, his voice matching the distress in his eyes.

"Yesterday," Leithan admitted. It sort of felt like a lifetime ago. Longer than a day, in any case.

"You got through the comedown already?" Teshin said, sounding worried.

"Yeah," Leithan said quickly. "It's over now. You were right, though. Once was enough. It's just . . ." He shuddered. "Not worth it."

Something else in Tesh's pale eyes now; compassion, maybe. Understanding.

"Ani," he whispered, concerned. "It must've been so horrible."

Leithan gave a sad smile, something breaking a little inside him. But it felt helpful, talking about it with someone who'd been there, who understood.

"It was," Leithan said simply, his voice low.

Teshin abruptly shifted on the bed, and leapt the rest of the way to Leithan so he could hold him tight. And, it was really sweet, Leithan totally appreciated the gesture – however, Teshin had kinda lost his towel in the process.

Leithan held him, but he couldn't stop himself from staring down the lean arch of his back, and the firm curve of his butt, it was impossible to look away. And the feel of his warm skin, which smelled so perfect after the shower—

"Tesh, I appreciate the hug but your nakedness is really distracting," Leithan breathed out.

"That's okay," Teshin said, nuzzling then . . . kissing Leithan's neck, causing hundreds of shivering sensations to run through him. Every one of Teshin's touches felt amplified, like he was high on some stimulating klar.

But he wasn't, he didn't need to be.

"It is?" Leithan asked, holding his breath. He wasn't even sure what he was asking, exactly.

Teshin nodded, pulling away, just slightly, so they could look at each other. Damp coppery hair brushed the side of Leithan's face.

"I thought . . ." Leithan swallowed, feeling nervous – and undeniably turned on. A part of himself, furiously hard already, would not let him ignore that fact. Still, he made himself say, "I thought you'd want – that you'd need . . . to sleep, or something."

But Teshin shook his head, slowly. He leaned in close, and their lips nearly touched, but Tesh drew back at the last moment, teasing. Leithan was left breathless – and they hadn't even kissed yet.

"I've done enough sleeping," Teshin said. "Don't you think?"

And this time, when Teshin leaned in for a kiss again, Leithan didn't let him get away. 

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