“He seeks asylum, Tin,” Pete said putting the scroll down in front of Tin. “You owe it to him to help him.”
Tin simply took a sip of wine from his chalice while glancing at the scroll. The youngest prince of the Medthanan family would sooner die than let Pete see how affected he was that the son of royals in exile, was coming to him to seek asylum.
“You know as well as I do the policies behind that,” Tin said with a dismissive wave. “I can do nothing to help him.”
“And I know you.” Pete gently placed his hands down on the scroll, “You know he was young then, and so were you. Too young.”
“He made his choice!” Tin realized he had stood up and immediately sat back down, putting on a calm mask again. “I don’t owe Prince Kirakorn anything. Not anymore.”
“So you will refuse him.” Pete shrugged. “But what about his sister? His mother?”
“What about them?”
“Will you, Prince Tin Medthanan, the second in line to the throne, cast out entirely a line of royals that have served gracefully and with honor just because of a broken heart?” Pete tapped a finger on the scroll. “You, the prince who claims to do everything with logic and reason?”
Is it not logical to want to protect your heart?
Can came to the gates of the Medthanan’s country, devoid of all the riches his family once possessed. He carried little but the weight of his family’s expectations and his sword. The odds were not in his favor. He expected his petition had been turned away. Or more likely burned while Tin laughed.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find himself allowed to enter. More so to find himself taken straight to the castle, to Tin’s personal wing. Can was bathed in sweet smelling water, dressed in soft and fine clothes as had once befit his stature, and was left waiting in an office that was painfully familiar.
So many memories, Can had made in the palace of the Medthanans, but most importantly this office, this study. Tin’s office. And here he was again.
When Tin walked in, Can could feel words in his throat die and be replaced with new ones, dying just as fast. A clog of phrases and sentences where none seemed to pass the litmus test of being right. Tin was still handsome after all these years, Can hadn’t expected anything less. But Can would not allow himself to read into the sadness in Tin’s eyes.
“Prince Medthanan, you honor me by listening to my petition.” Can bowed. These were still not the best words Can could offer, but it was a start. “I humbly ask for your consideration.”
Tin raised an eyebrow. “So this is Prince Kirakorn of the South, now become a man. At least you’ve paid attention to your diction teachers at last.”
Can flinched but refused to rise to the bait. “I am glad your highness remembers me.”
“How could I not?” Tin stood from his seat and circled around. Can kept his posture and stance non-threatening. “Long has it been since we last met, but I have not forgotten the words you used in your… refusal.” Tin watched Can clench his fist. “But now here you are. And you have come to ask me for a favor.”
Can raised his head, but only a little. “Have you read my petition?”
“And will you help?”
Tin sat down again and rang a bell. A servant came with tea and served it before leaving. Can didn’t move from his position until Tin sighed and pointed at a chair. Can pulled it close as he sat before grabbing his cup of tea. It smelled of blueberries and elderflowers but it tasted surprisingly soft on the tongue.
“You know the rules and laws of my country, don’t you Prince Kirakorn.” Tin stared into his tea. “To be offered asylum, as a royal, even an exiled royal, you must provide something to the crown. Something that will make it worth it for me, and by extension my father, to grant you asylum.” Tin toyed with the delicate china of his cup. “So what will you offer me?”
And here was where Can’s words died on his tongue again. There was something he wanted to offer, was dying to offer. But Tin’s heart had clearly changed. The softly floral tea turned into bitter medicine when Can sipped it to moisten his mouth.
“I… I could…”
Tin looked out of the window to his left. “I have decided, that you will marry me and unite our families. And thus, I will grant you asylum.”
Can dropped his tea cup. At the very least the stain came out and the cup didn’t shatter.
It was a quiet and tasteful wedding. Tin’s father was obligated to be there. Tin’s brother Tul was also obligated to be there. Neither of them looked particularly happy, but Tul already had a son, Phupha, and when he was of age and Tul was king, he’d be declared Crown Prince.
Still, the wedding happened and in the space between heartbeats, Can was Tin’s husband. In one fell swoop, the exiled royals of the south were now united into the Medthanan family and granted safety behind their walls.
And now on their wedding night, stuck within the same bedchambers, Can realized what he had gotten into. Tin didn’t even look at him after the wedding. He had put food on his plate, filled his glass, but did not speak otherwise.
Here and now, on their bed together, Tin turned away from Can.
It hurt, to be so close to something Can had realized he wanted far too late, and now all he could have was this facsimile of it.
This level of attention continued for the months that followed their wedding. Can was given a position within the guards and royal army and he spent days training with and learning from them. At night, Can fell asleep easily in his bed shared with Tin, dreaming of phantom touches across his face and lips.
Can became friends with Ae, one of the captains of the guard. He met Pete, a prince from the Northlands, He even observed the relationship between Ae and Pete, so clandestine, but so pure.
Despite the pains in Can’s heart, it was a quiet time. Stable and secure. Can and his family wanted for nothing in their set of rooms in Tin’s wing of the palace.
But Ley was not an idle creature. And in her wanderings, she watched Pete and Tin meet to talk. It slowly became her new favorite pass-time. She always filled her dinner conversations with stories about how close the two were.
Can swore that if he didn’t know any better about who Pete was really seeing, his blood would be boiling. Sure, Tin and he were only married for this one thing. They had never discussed the old feelings Tin once had or the ones that Can only discovered when Tin was no longer next to him.
Still, hurt piled upon hurt until one day.
Tin returned from his meetings the next night to find Can waiting for him. Tin was finding it increasingly difficult to keep his hands off of Can. He had truly grown into a handsome man himself.
The old feelings Tin thought he could bury, just to offer Can this small protection, were beginning to sprout anew. The boy Tin had loved so passionately was tempered and forged into a new man. Still kind, still proud, still loud. But he could carry that weight, the feeling of expectation and position now.
And it was tempting. Too tempting. Tin wanted to run his hands through Can’s hair and pull him into a kiss. Wanted to trace his body with his fingertips and relearn how it had changed from their youth. Wanted to memorize the heat of Can’s body against his own.
But here and now… The smells of the bath oils on Can’s body were decadent, cardamom and sandalwood. Can’s shirt was open, tempting Tin with defined muscles and lightly tanned skin. But it was Can’s eyes that caught Tin. A look in them that he had not seen in so long.
“Are you attempting to seduce me, husband?” Tin walked forward, keeping his face still. “This is not necessary as part of our agreement.”
Can scrunched up his face. Less handsome now, but no less cute. “What if… I want to offer it to you, husband?” Can shifted forward, prowling on all fours on top of the bed towards Tin. “What if… I tell you that my feelings have changed. That they changed the moment I realized I might never see you again.”
Tin let no emotion escape as he grasped Can’s chin and stared into his eyes. “And what would prompt you to confess? I have done nothing to show I am interested.” He ran his thumb over Can’s bottom lip. “What will you tell me to convince me that I should trust you?”
“Prince Pete.” Can’s tone was practically petulant. “My sister keeps seeing you with him and I… I know there’s nothing there. I know where Prince Pete’s heart lies… But you…” Can takes Tin’s left hand and turns the wedding band on his ring finger. “Whenever Ley talks, I fight the urge to come here and beg you to keep me, to let me keep you.” Can presses Tin’s hand against his chest, over his heart. “Just as before, when I asked you for asylum, I don’t have much to give. But I have my heart, and I will offer it to you freely.” Can reached up to cup Tin’s cheek. “Take me as your husband. For real. Not a political marriage. Not just for asylum.”
“You haven’t called me that in ages Tin.” Can smiled. “I almost miss it.”
“That’s being generous.”
Tin chuckled before he traced Can’s lips again. “I won’t deny, my heart still remembers the feel of your lips, the emotions you cause.” Tin cupped Can’s cheek as Can leaned into the touch. “But how will I know you won’t hurt me again?”
“Because this time, I won’t run away. This time, my heart is yours, Tin. And you can offer me yours when you’re ready.” Can leaned back and pulled Tin with him. “But tonight… I want to give you this. We did not have a proper wedding night after all…”
Tin didn’t stand a chance against the shiver that ran down his spine. He hadn’t even touched Can yet, but he knew he didn’t stand a chance against him either. Tin kissed Can greedily, deeply, memories of Can’s taste and smell exhumed from where they lay buried.
As Tin kissed his way up Can’s neck, he whispered in Can’s ear, “My heart was already yours. I could give it to no one else.”
“I love you,” Can whispered back. “So much that I can’t stand it.”
Tin pulled away to look over Can once more. He hovered over Can’s lips before murmuring, “I forgive you,” and kissing him again.