Hi! I can't even begin to say how sorry I am that it's been so long (almost a year I think!!!) since I posted. This fic is not dead I promise! Its been because of all of you that my story lives on and I appreciate it so much that you care enough to write reviews and ask for more.

I also want to give credit where it's due, the idea of Vespian's 'duty' he must fulfill came from exchanging e-mails with Cordy, I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to get here

Back in the palace, another pair of men were alone together in the night, but their reason for being so was much different. Hunched over the same narrow desk side-by-side in silence sat the pair, pens quickly scratching away at the parchment rolls in front of them. The younger of the two glanced over quickly at the other then looked away and smiled to himself, completely content with the state of the world at that moment. It was Stephan's most favorite tradition, it had been the clockwork that held his weeks together since his promotion to second captain and he loved it. On the Thursday of every other week he and the General- would do paper work together. For him it was the stuff dreams were made of, sitting close by his idol, just the two of them, scribbling away at documents long into the evening. Stephan let out a contented sigh as he stilled his pen and looked over at the older man again. He wasn't sure he should tell the General this fact, that his favorite part of the week had been this menial task. He worried it might make him look a bit boring if his beloved knew. The General didn't seem to notice his gaze and Stephan moved his eyes back to his paper, but this only lasted a brief time as Stephan began to stare blankly off into space as he thought. It had been a week, well only five days really, since he and Victor had their night together. Actually, it had been five days and four nights since they had even kissed or acted in the least like they were more than just comrades in arms. Stephan knew full well that this was his fault. After the negotiations with the representatives from the kingdom of Maldi, which had taken most of the day, it had been so very easy for him to fall back into his old ways. His ways of bowing to Victor, calling him 'sir' and above all removing himself from the man's presence when he knew he was no longer needed. They went to drills and acted as they always had, yes there were a few times when Stephan caught the man's eyes lingering on him and they exchanged a knowing, sultry smile, but this was the extent of it.

Stephan felt guilty. He had no idea how to act in such ways, secret or otherwise. He didn't know when affection was appropriate, or how often he should try to attempt a kiss. He never could tell when the time was ripe and was much too afraid to risk trying when the time was not. In the end he took no action, he even knew he had blown many chances when Victor had attempted to draw him near. So here the pair was, alone, with no chance of being bothered or discovered, and Stephan did nothing. Then again, he was still with his Victor, so his mood was not bleak in the least, but he felt like he should do more. The problem was that he was content with just Victor's existence. He was having a fine time as things were, and his deeper desires were checked by a lack of courage.

The young captain looked over at Victor for a third time. The man was focused on his work and had a tight expression on his face which showed his deep concentration. Stephan decided to follow his example and turned back to his own paper, quickly picking up where he had left off. He soon became as engrossed as the General had seemed to be just moments before, so he didn't notice when the other man gently set his pen down.

"Stephan," Victor began, and the man in question's head shot up from his work to look over.

"Yes sir?"

Victor took a deep breath, closing his eyes in restrained frustration at the 'sir' he had just received.

"Stephan, do you think it's odd that now we are alone for a legitimate reason, with no fear of being disturbed, and yet we sit here and work?"

"Well," Stephan began tentatively, "I suppose it is, but-" he paused, biting his lip.


"Sir, I must tell you that," he rolled his eyes in submission then finished, "I truly . . . love . . . doing paperwork. With you, of course." Victor laughed.

"I adore your logic Stephan," he leaned towards the man slightly as he continued. "I completely believe that you do love this task simply for the purity of it. I also believe that you have always enjoyed being alone with me while doing it just as much."

"It's true sir," he smiled with a tint of a blush showing, "We have such a wonderfully comfortable silence between us, I relish it always."

"I wish I could relish you a bit more, Stephan," Victor said sliding his chair over just enough to be within range of taking Stephan's hand, which had been lying still on the table. Stephan's bit of blush now moved to a full shade of pink across his high cheeks.

"Victor, ou-our work." He stuttered as Victor moved his other hand to Stephan's, both of the man's thumbs rubbing across the back of it while all eight fingers could work at the palm. Stephan's flush intensified again as Victor massaged his hand, hunching to kiss it lightly then looking up at him, smiling.

"You blush so easily," he smirked, merciless to Stephan's rising embarrassment, "I sometimes wonder if all I would have to do is breath in your general direction to make you go red." Stephan just looked away at this comment, cheeks still ablaze but mouth rather annoyed. Victor just moved closer still, now leg to leg with the young man as he stretched up to let a small breath wisp by Stephan's neck "I think I'll try it some time, at a meeting or event where you wouldn't be able to hide it from anybody."

"That is evil and unfair sir," Stephan huffed, eyes closed as his head still faced the opposite direction.

"What's evil and unfair is that I haven't so much as touched you for a week now!" Victor exclaimed in return, stopping the motion of his fingers over Stephan's hand. A silence fell over the room as Stephan opened his eyes and looked towards the ground, not sure how to reply.

"I- I'm sorry, I know I haven't been exactly- forthcoming-"

"An understatement," Victor quipped.

"I don't mean to thwart your attempts- Victor- I don't," Stephan now turned to look at him with pleading eyes, "I just don't know when or what to do, when it's right or not."

"You're thinking about it much too much," Victor replied, all harshness dropping away.

"It's our secret and I must keep it. I mustn't stop thinking ever," Stephan said with a shake of his head. "On the balcony I stopped thinking rationally, my mind was so overrun with missing you that I stopped thinking."

"I liked that Stephan, to be the one to make you forget yourself. I like that side of you, I told you it already."

"I must bear the burden of keeping our secrecy, I'll ruin you with the carelessness of emotion you stir up in me."

"Honestly Stephan, you won't ruin me," Victor now scoffed. "I can understand not always wanting to be in an uncontrolled state, but why not once and awhile? At times like this," he cooed and began to massage his companion's hand once more. "Come now, let's be brash and do it right here," he whispered in Stephan's ear. The young man didn't even try to let out a flabbergasted 'sir!' because he knew he had no say in the matter. He had forfeited his rights with his admission of not knowing when or where so Victor had been left no choice but to make a decision. These were also the exact words that ran through the General's own head, and it made him happy to not hear Stephan's vain protests as he went to lock the door. He saw Victor push the lock into place and it made his whole chest grow warm but he hid it with keeping his face still and stony.

"It's almost scary how well we understand one another sometimes Stephan," he chuckled as he walked back to the desk. Stephan still had the little mope on his pink face as he refused to look Victor in the eye.

"You're acting like you don't want me to even touch you," Victor said as he drew the back of his hand across Stephan's cheek. The young man's stomach was turning over faster than it had in days and his heart pounded so hard he thought it would make him sick. Nervous excitement pumped through his veins at the thought of Victor taking him like he had days before. He wanted it without a doubt, but he wondered if he would ever conquer this nervous even if they slept together for years.

His mind was clouded with thinking of the man's body on his, but he couldn't help but look down at his papers once more. He realized that he only had three more papers to sign, he could finish he knew it and quickly began signing them.

"Oh no! No more papers for you young man," Victor said as he put his hands on Stephan's shoulders. The young man knew it was futile, but he still flailed at scribbling his name on the last few paper that lay before him.

"I only have a few left sir, just one minute and then I promise-"

"I'm sorry Stephan but your allotment of excused has been used up," Victor explained as he batted the pen away from his hand, also knocking the inkbottle away with it. At the sight of the black liquid spilling across his last precious papers Stephan stood and protested in earnest.

"Now sir I really must clean this up!" he yelled as he quickly grabbed at the worst hit paper. The General in turn grabbed the paper away to look at it himself.

"We can re-write this tomorrow," he said simply tossing it to the ground and roughly pushing Stephan down on the desk. The man's hands went back to brace himself but slipped on the trail the ink spill had left, putting him flat with his back to the hard wood. Victor looked over him, leering at him as he pushed their hips together at the edge of the desk. Stephan gasped as the man leaned all the way over him, hands by his shoulders and more papers flying off the desk. Their faces were so close, and as it looked like Victor was again about to speak, Stephan raised his hand and ran it over Victor's cheek. The ink on his palm left a dark trail from the corner of the man's mouth to the edge of his eye, a perfect line up his face. A moment of silence passed, Stephan's hand just resting by Victor's ear, both of their lips parted and close. Stephan curled his fingers just slightly behind the older man's head and with the slightest pressure brought their mouths together, fierce and strong.

As they kissed Victor drove his hands under Stephan's top, pushing the fabric up and moving his thumbs in fast, rough circles over his nipples. The young man moaned lightly as Victor moved from lips to neck, sucking madly and pushing him back all the way onto the desk. Stephan was now fully laid out on the desk, more and more ink smearing onto his flushing skin as the older man climbed onto the desk to join him. Victor pressed himself fully to his young captain, moving his mouth to nibble the now hardened nubs of Stephan's chest and the younger man cried out again. Victor then suddenly backed off, leaning up to look at Stephan in this state he was responsible for. Cheeks red, mouth open, panting for breath, legs shamelessly spread to either side of the desk as his obvious hardness demanded attention through his slacks.

"Worth every second of the wait," Victor stated before he dove back to rip the clothes off the man. In seconds they were gone, a memory as he lifted off his own shirt and returned to the waiting mouth of his lover.

It was enjoyable, pressed together on that small desk, ink mixing with sweat as they both, but Stephan most of all, acted on the desires they had repressed all week. In a momentary lapse in Stephan's usually ever-present sense of propriety, he whispered to Victor how he had dreamed once of a position he was desperate to try. Afterwards Stephan blushed and protested, but Victor insisted on it and Stephan was not disappointed in least. Stephan's back arched back as they sat up on the desk, his back to Victor feeling completely joined with him. The older man's hands were rough and Stephan loved that feel as they ran over his thighs and other, more sensitive places. The dream was now a pale comparison to his reality, and he cold not remember the last time that was true in his life. Sleep never came as morning drew near, and the pair now sat on the desktop, like an island surrounded by a sea of scattered documents. Victor was sitting up, shirtless and hunched over with his arms around his knees as Stephan lay back on the hard wood. Only a few garments spread over his pale body as one of his hands caressed the tops of his beloved's feet, the other arm lying still on his own chest. Victor smiled at him, his immaculate appearance ruffled and disheveled. Pieces of hair stuck out every which way, and both of their flesh was marred by randomly placed ink prints and smears. As a small sliver of early haze peaked through the narrow high window, Victor's expression took on a bit of concern as he looked off into the still space.

"What's the matter? Are you regretting our lack of care for the documents we'll now have to re-organize?" Stephan smirked.

"Do you know what today is?" Stephan's grin fell away as he thought but came up with no answer. Victor spoke again, "It's the Queen's anniversary."

"Oh dear," the younger man said while looking away, "I had forgotten."

Victor continued to gaze off towards the back of the room.

"It's going to be a very long day," he sighed, but then looked down at his young man's barely covered frame. He lifted the hand that still lay on the arches of his bare feet.

"I'll fix this mess, you go get cleaned up," then he kissed the hand as Stephan turned back to look up at him.

"Victor," he said in an even tone, one he knew Victor enjoyed, with deep and heavy eyes, "I know you're much closer to the royal family than anyone else, but don't give me a hint at your sadness then tell me to leave." Victor's face loosened and he ran his hands in circles over his young captain's.

"I knew her, but it was hardest on the boys, it's always been very hard," he began as the sun started to rise.

It was mid morning when Vespian's sandals tread over the spongy, mossy ground of the cemetery which lay at the inner corner of the city walls, the corner that faced a more temperate and foliaged climate, away from the other edge of the city where the desert began. Carnin had made very sure to wake him early, to pack up most of the tent decorations and vacate the oasis just as the sun was rising. Vespian nodded in and out during the ride, the rays of the sun not quite as entrancing or as easy on the eyes as the moonbeams had been. There was no way of avoiding it however, they needed to return before the horse, and more importantly they themselves, were noticed as missing. Vespian knew that Carnin, as his brother, would remember the yearly errand he needed to run even though it was the morning after his birthday, and what a birthday it had been. Forgetting himself in the supple den Carnin had created for them would have been easy, but he was sure it would cause him pain and regret for the whole year to follow if he shirked his obligation now. Morning had arrived and the young prince was understandably loath to the reality of removing himself from his love's tender grasp, but with a sigh he was able to arise and keep to his duty.

A few hours later he was standing before his destination. Over the course of their journey thick grey clouds had slowly blocked out the sun and a fine misting of rain was in the air. Vespian took his time before he raised his head to face the gargantuan grave dedicated to his departed mother. True, he always reminded himself, this was not his real mother, only the gods knew where that woman was now, but he'd loved this fragile woman all the same. He'd always felt wanted when he was with the queen, Carnin's mother, like he felt with no other person at first. Maybe it was a maternal connection she'd had with him, but with her help he soon grew to love and feel utterly at home with the king and especially his new, amazing and wonderful older brother. He chuckled to himself, she'd spoiled him for marriage, he was sure no other woman young or old could compare. Kind, soft and beautiful, her and the king together brought him such warmth when he came to live with them. He knew they, and Carnin of course, were the force that had brought him to life when he had felt- nothing.

His origin was vague and fuzzy to him even now, after years of life at the palace. He'd lived in a house, in a lone room full of books that he seldom left. There was someone with him there, someone tall and perhaps feminine, but always standing back from him, towering over him with a shadow in the doorway. That was all he ever remembered, that long shadow, and he never really wanted to recall more, afraid of what could come back.

Vespian then sat by the huge carved stone, finishing his thoughts before he spoke.

"Hello mother," he began and smiled, the moist sheen on the monumental stone reflecting back at him. "I'm sorry I'm late and that the weather has turned a bit sour on us." The stone continued to shimmer at him.

"I only really have two pieces of news for you this visit, but they are quite important ones so please bear with me." He took a deep breath.

"Father and I," he stalled part way, "father and I had a sort of indirect fight. It's not really his fault, and it reflects badly on myself that I haven't spoken directly to him since. It's my grievance and I should be the one to go talk with him." He sighed, "but it's just so easy to put off." He let his smile return, "but I'm sure we'll be fine again soon."

He sat on the ground in front of the stone even though it was wet and seeped into his clothes with a sick dampness.

"The main thing I have to tell you is that, well I'm sure you already know," he blushed, believing that her sprit looked down upon him from time to time and knew long ago what he came to say. "My dearest wish has come true, I'm- I'm deeply in love," he leaned into whisper, "with your son. And I'm sure he loves me, we are so happy and I know you'd be happy for us dear madam." He sat silently for a moment, basking in the echo of his words and the dull noise of the misty atmosphere all around him. He was alone with the aging and decaying stones, but he felt very much at peace. Just as he thought he might stay and take a walk around the graves, he heard footsteps close behind him. He turned his head in surprise to see who on earth it could be, and saw his father, guards that always escorted him standing watch a few yards behind to give the man a bit of privacy.

"Vespian," he said softly as the young man stood. Vespian lowered his head, knowing he had to talk to his father but not sure how to start or how long he had been there, perhaps watching him.

"Father," he began and the king drew nearer, close enough to fold him into a warm paternal embrace.

"Oh son," he began with closed eyes, crows feet thick at the corners of them, "please forgive me. I have been a fool. I have done you wrong," the man shook his head and Vespian felt it against the side of his neck. "I have put a rift between us that I wish to the gods I had not."

"Father," Vespian sighed this time into his loving fake father's shoulder. He knew the man tried so hard, but being a ruler and a father were often at odds with each other. "I forgive you if you forgive me." He hugged him back tightly then. "I forgive everything because you are my father and I should have not been angry because I know you love me. Forgive me for my faith in you was not as strong as it should have been, you've earned better than what I gave."

"Vespian," the king kissed his son's forehead then pressed it to his cheek. "You are the light of my life." He released his son and smiled at him, a few tears caught in the corner of his old eyes. "Come, let's go home together."

Vespian smiled back but declined "Father, I no longer have any anger towards you, but today, I must stay a little longer. I'd like to take a walk with just my thoughts. Please permit me and I promise I will come to your study to talk as soon as I return, it won't be too long."

The king leaned in so he could hug his son again. "Alright, but don't catch your death out here and come straight home if it starts to rain in earnest."

"Yes sir," Vespian agreed happily and watched as his father turn to go back to the guards the way he had come. He was now completely content; all was as he could wish for in his life. He had abundant love and he knew he was truly blessed, so he kissed the cold stone of the queen's grave and walked in the opposite direction from his father.

As the king reached the point where his guards stood, his smile faded. The man was torn from the inside out. His joy at the forgiveness of his son filled him. But at the same time . . . what had the boy meant by his words to the stone? Fears he dared not even admit he had bubbled under his conscience and he was horrified to find his suspicions now undeniably real.

"Maxus," he said to the guard next to him."

"Yes your grace?"

"I want you to contact Gralis, the spy. I want-" he hated himself but it was too late, he had to know. "I want you to have him watch my sons."

Please forgive my typos!

Yeah, ok I'm not sure if you'll believe me or not, but I promise to post sooner next time. Major kudos the person who contacted me to try and light a fire under my ass (please note I expanded some of the passages you already read ) it was very much needed and appreciated. The next installment will finally deal with the mad king Marcus.