Losing My Religion

"Forgive me, O, Lord, for I have sinned. I have lusted for another man." He sighed and shifted, loosening one hand's tight grip on the other before resting his head on them again. "Not only this, but he is also immoral and of heathen faith, worshipping idols in full view. No punishment that I have alotted to myself have quelled these adulterous thoughts, O, Lord, and I prostate myself before you to give me proper penance."

There was silence.

Damien frowned and lifted his head, silently looking around the empty room. Nothing felt different; nothing felt blessed. He sighed and and rose from lying on his stomach, shrugging into his jacket once more. Cursed, I remain...

Elenian leather boots, made to be useful if not comfortable, echoed through the abandoned stonehalls of the Sedition headquarters. Damien walked, silent, head bowed in shame and thought.

"You're looking lonely."

Damien winced at the cheerful, accented voice - God, give me strength... - and looked into the face of his desire. "Spymaster," he greeted coldly. "Is it not condemned in your culture to walk about like so at night?"

Lakado blinked at himself, barefooted in wollen sleeping clothes, and shrugged. "Not really. Isn't it frowned upon in your culture to be awake in the Demon's Hour?" A rogueish grin spread over the dark face, and he hoisted a jug of water into his arms.

"You don't know anything about my culture," growled Damien sullenly.

"Likewise," informed the nomad him cheerfully. "So let's not get in a tizzy about it."

There was a short pause. "I fear to ask... 'Tizzy'?"

"Nevermind, nevermind," chanted Lakado cheerfully, turning on his heel. "Seriously, though, shouldn't you get to bed?"

"Shouldn't you?" Damien shot back, following.

"Oh, I'm getting there." He lifted the jug briefly. "But, you know, if I get thirsty."

Damien made a neutral sound of sincere apathy, then frustration as he realised he had all but mentally undressed the spymaster.

Lakado stopped and blinked owlishly at him. "What?"

"Nothing," sulked Damien, glaring at just that. "Just remembered I forgot to do a sword routine. Have to do it tomorrow."

"Ah." Lakado headed off again, craddling the jug and humming a nomadic tune, off-key to Damien's ears yet still oddly harmonious.

Damien followed silently, eyes down and hands behind his back.

"You know, it's not the end of the world. I mean, I can see how it might be - you being a control freak and all - but I promise, it isn't."

Damien gave him a dark look and folded his arms. "What do you know? You can't even fight with proper discipline."

Lakado grinned and winked cheerfully. "I could kick your ass, should I feel so inclined. G'night, Sol." The door closed, and he was gone, leaving the warrior to stare at where he had been.

"Good night, Ferany," he sighed and walked on, into his own, spartan quarters, settling down to sleep.

~

'God...'

'What?' Amused and knowing, hands roaming down his body gently.

'Y-you are not--'

A kiss to silence him. 'Now I am.'

'Please don't--' A hand reaches its goal, and he gasps, arches.

Still amused, still smug. 'Don't what, my love?'

Moves against him, seeking his mouth desperately, pleading.

'Shhh...' He caresses gently, lips and tongue teasing. 'What are you afraid of?'

Stutters, 'You.'

'Why...?' Kisses his chest, biting, licking.

'You condemn me.'

Chuckles, disbelieving. 'In whose eyes?' Disbelieving...

'I... I don't know.' Hesitates. Moans. 'Lakado...'

Kisses and smiles, continuing. 'Surely not in mine.'

Gasps for air, pulls him closer.

'I thought not.' Kisses. 'Let yourself enjoy it. There's no punishment here.'

He clenches the covers in his fists and squirms. 'Please...'

'No shame...' Kisses gently, demanding.

Moans.

'There is...

...no god.'

~

Damien believed firmly in discipline of the tough kind. Up at dawn, work all day, always improve. There were just mornings when this seemed more difficult than one could hope. He felt that way when he woke, and a cold shower and a few incinerated sheets later, it hadn't changed much.

"O, God, our lord, Ruler of Heaven, guide me and protect me from the corruption of demons, even as they tempt me--" And how they do... "--so I shall stand with you in Paradise." He stood and fitted on a jacket before moving to the cantina, seeking out his brother.

Xavier Sol, twin and colleague of Damien, sat by himself, reading a sheet of off-white paper.

"Brother," Damien greeted in their native Elenian as he sat. "Who has sent you a letter?"

"Zelda," the shorter haired twin told him, all but beaming. "She says her parents have almost finished preparations for the wedding. I cannot wait."

Damien allowed one of his rare smiles to cross his face. "She will be a fine wife to you."

Xavier nodded, holding the paper to his chest. "I have not seen her for a month. God, I miss her."

Damien's attention strayed to Lakado as the spymaster entered in his ridiculous, multicoloured jacket.

"And what of you, brother?"

Damien snapped out of it, blinking at Xavier. "Pardon?"

"When will you take a wife? It does not feel right for me to start a family when you are still by yourself."

He frowned and looked away. "I was thinking I might take an oath of celibacy."

"Oh. That is... a commendable path; approved of by our Lord." He could hear the disappointment in his brother's voice.

"I know you want to see me start a family and share your joy, Xavier, but so far I've met only one woman worthy of my affections, and she's all ready engaged to my brother." He smiled wryly at Xavier's chuckle.

"All right, all right, I won't bother you about it. I took a portion of breakfast for you as well; I hope you do not mind."

"Of course not." He looked over the food items in dismay. "Mountain nomads and Lemanians - they've no concept of what to eat. What is this? Horse meat?"

Xavier nodded, biting at a Weneshkian sugar bread. "Mm-hm... The only use nomads see for them."

"Barbarians," Damien snorted, but ate it still.

Xavier smiled. "I will not argue that, my brother." Once again, he turned his attention to the letter and the thoughts of the woman - hundreds of miles away - who'd written it, leaving Damien to his own devices.

He really is a flamboyant fool, the warrior thought sullenly, watching Lakado more focused on holding an animated conversation with the spymistress Nasha than eating his breakfast. Both his jacket and the shirt underneath were still unbuttoned, and the ceremonial band he used to tie up his long hair was wrapped around his wrist. He's beautiful.

Xavier looked up at the sudden exlamation. "Brother?"

Damien threw back the gazelle milk in front of him and stood shakily. "I lost my appetite. Forgive me."

"All forgiven," responded Xavier, watching in puzzlement as Damien rushed from the room.

~

"Lord forgive me," whispered Damien frantically, falling to his knees before the shrine in his brother's quarters. "Forgive me."

The lifeless eyes of the chestnut wood statue stared at him, holding no answers.

He curled up before the shrine, shaking frustration. "Please, forgive me..."

end of chapter one