AN: Long time no see. Sorry. No excuses for the long hiatus outside of lack of motivation and ideas.
Also, I apologize for this being a rushed and shit chapter. I wanted to do a more gradual break with Seto, but at the same time, I'm a shit writer and I am lazy. Maybe I'll fix it at some point, maybe I won't.
"You can decorate absence however you want- but your still gonna feel what's missing."
Shada looked out over the horizon. He landed in Rome a week ago and all he found was the remains of Seto's ship. Several bodies had surfaced during that time, none of which belonged to the priest or his blond husband. The fishermen he had talked to told him that the ship had hit a submerged rock over a month ago and sunk as a result. Of course...none of this would explain all the dead crew. These were seafaring men, all of which knew how to swim away safely from a sinking vessel.
No...it was clear to anyone with sense that something far more malicious had been the cause of the sink. Shada clenched his fists, staring out at the rolling sea.
Someone here had threatened Seto's life and had killed his men as a result. Whether or not he succeeded in his plans...was still unknown.
"Do not think that way," Shada muttered to himself. "Seto is smart...he's outsmarted assassins before." He let out a low breath, thinking. What would Seto do?
Well...he would not have stayed in the ports for long while sitting upon the knowledge that someone wanted him dead. The question then remained: where would he flee to for safety? Jono had a few friends in Rome, but for all they knew, their attackers were Roman. No, Seto would want to leave the country and head back to Khemet. But he would have been home long before Shada left to find him if that was the case.
Were there other places to hide? Places he had not yet considered?
Shada looked to the West before shaking his head. Too hostile, too many enemies. North was also immediately ruled out as it would take them too far from the coast...
Too far from any chance of sailing home.
So that left East. But where could they go?
Shada bit his lower lip and closed his eyes. He needed more facts and less speculation. There were a hundred places he could search and all of them be wrong. He could not do this alone. If only he had Isis' foresight, Kaliem's judgment, or Mahad's magic. Any one of their skills would find the lost prince long before he could.
That thought made him pause and he straightened. The Pharaoh had sent him here for a reason. He trusted him to find Seto.
Shada nodded to himself and stood. There had to be records of which men Jono traded with in the wreckage of the ship. One of those men might have more information.
Time to investigate.
"Your arm is healing well now, my lord. This rest has been exactly what you needed."
Looking over the scarred twisted flesh, the priest nodded. At least he was no longer feverish and weakened...or being force fed by Jo. His gaze drifted out the window where the sea rolled against the horizon. Across that sea was home...where he belonged.
"Am I well enough for travel?" he asked softly, wincing as the more sensitive parts of the stump were poked and prodded. The doctor looked up from his work and shook his head.
"I would advise against travel for another month, perhaps longer. Your spirit is strong, but the body is less so. No man walks away from this kind of injury easily."
Seto pursed his lips and scowled. Another diagnosis, another warning against getting on a ship. Jono seemed all too content to be here and have him at his mercy. Pegasus too almost delighted in the extended stay. Was he the only one who cared for Atem's safety?
Seto felt his chest tighten at the thought. Leaving Khemet as a teenager had been easier...he and Atem had been less amicable and more strangers than anything else...but correspondance over his years in the South and extended isolation...made him long for what little family he had left.
Save for his father.
The mere thought of that insane old man made him snarl. The doctor blinked and pulled back. "I'm sorry, my lord! Forgive me!" The priest shook his head.
"It was not you. I am...reflecting on some rather unpleasant events." He exhaled, closing his eyes and going back to the soft mud of the Nile, the heat of the sun against his back, the linen of his bed, golden wheat of the fields. Khemet...he would never leave home again if he ever made his way back to her shores...only he knew that was not true.
He was a prince, an ambassador in his own right. Khemet needed him to come and go as consistently as the river floods.
He was once again driven from his thoughts as a familiar hand passed over his bare back. "Hey...how are you doing?" Jono smiled and settled next to him. "Good news, doctor?"
"He's recovering rather well now that the infection has died off."
Jono breathed a heavy sigh of relief and then looked to Seto, his smile dimming as he noticed the far off look on the priest's face. He paused and then cleared his throat, "You know there's going to be a play in town tonight...maybe we should go. Just to get out of the house. We can put on disguises and no one will be any wiser for it."
"Is this play going to be like the last one you forced me to endure?" Seto asked with a small glare. Such lewdness...
Jono snorted, "Probably not as bad. It's a tragedy. Supposedly that means it will be...what's the word...ca...cath-"
Both men looked up to see Pegasus' wife Celia. She smiled and said, "I did not know you read the works of our philosophers, Jono. Jono laughed and shook his head.
"Afraid not. I can barely read my own tongue let alone yours. But I've heard the phrase before. Means you just like...get everything out?" He said slowly. Celia nodded.
"It is a good way of releasing pent up emotions." She looked to Seto and said, "Are you both thinking of going to see a play?"
Seto exhaled, "Perhaps...I am not too keen on it, but Jono clearly wants to go." He looked to his husband who grinned sheepishly. The priest shrugged, "I do not care for these plays. Back home we have theater that honors and does not mock."
Jono rolled his eyes. "I'm sure there are one or two plays out there that fit your tastes, Seto. You can't hate them all." He passed his hand over Seto's dark brown hair, teasing his fingers over the nape. "Just try it. We can leave if you do not like it after a while. It is better than staying locked up with Pegasus for the entire night."
That made Celia laugh and shake her head, "My husband is really not as bad as all of that. He just enjoys playing games."
"Like a child," Seto muttered. Celia shrugged.
"Perhaps, but I have always enjoyed the company of men that can make me feel young and spirited." She flicked her long blonde locks for effect and then said, "You will die an unhappy old man, Seto unless you can find something to take joy in."
The priest frowned and averted his eyes from her. Jono took his hand and squeezed it. "Don't get upset now."
"I am not upset."
The blond sighed. The prince's eternal stubbornness was equally endearing as it was frustrating. "Anyway, we should go. Seto, you could use a distraction from all of this." He gestured to the priest's arm and Seto quickly hid it back under his sleeve. The doctor scowled.
"I need to bandage it before you go hiding it away again," he said, forcing the fabric up. Seto growled, but Jo grabbed his shoulder, keeping him from hitting the man for daring to manhandle a prince of Khemet. As soon as his arm was take care of, he pushed the sleeve down over the white wrappings and stood, stalking into his and Jono's shared room. Jo followed and watched as the priest went back to the writing desk that Pegasus had set up. The pages thus far were full of Seto's sloppy attempts to write with his left hand.
"Hey..." Jono settled behind the other man and stroked his scalp through his hair. He felt Seto tense before relaxing and he smiled. "I know it's tough...I want to go back home as well. My sis is waiting for me and probably ready to pop. I don't wanna miss my niece or nephew coming into the world." His fingers moved down to Seto's neck, wincing at the amount of knots he felt there. "You act like the entire dynasty will fall unless you are there...trust Atem. He was Pharaoh for years before you returned from the South you know. He's a fighter like you and just as responsible. Take this time to heal and relax a bit. We have Dartz' assassins and they can't hurt you anymore."
"He can always send more men," Seto said plainly. "There are always more men out there...who would be willing to take the head of a prince for coin." He glanced back at Jo. "You know nothing of the dangers I face nor the responsibility I hold."
The blond gave pause and he nodded, "Alright, I will give you that. I don't know...I've never been in your position. But at the same time, I've seen you heap the world on your shoulders. You are one man, Seto. A very sad man who has never taken the time out for himself since he was a boy." He cupped the side of Seto's cheek, rubbing over his jaw. He smiled and pinched the stubble, "A bit off topic, but you need another shave soon...want me to take care of it?"
Seto frowned and touched his opposite cheek. Indeed, stubble was rising again. "Get the knife and tell the servants we need cream..." Jo nodded and got up. Once he came back with both, Seto turned around and raised his chin. Jo smeared the cream over his jaw and throat, occasionally glancing at the mysterious scar that graced just under Seto's adam's apple before taking the knife and cutting it down the side of his face.
As Jo worked, Seto could not help but stare at his husband's face. Jo tended to stick out his tongue whenever he concentrated, his honey brown eyes following the movement of the blade as he worked. His hair caught the sunlight in such a way that it reminded him of the golden wheat grown along the Nile floodplains. Such a foreign and yet familiar color. He wanted to touch it and see if it was as course as the plants even though he already knew it wasn't.
He blinked, seeing a bead of sweat work its way down the side of Jo's temple. Seto reached up, wiping it away without hesitation. Jo paused, his expression somewhat confused. "Thanks," he said before he finished shaving the priest. He brandished the knife with a flourish and announced, "All clean!" He handed Seto a towel and the priest cleaned off the excess cream, his face smooth as linen.
Wiping the knife, Jo straightened and said, "So...now that that's done, are you going to come to the play with me tonight or are you going to stay in your room and sit in the dark? Whatever makes you happy."
Seto sighed and glanced back to his poor attempts at writing.
"I will come."
After donning some oversized cloaks, the two of them left the villa with little fanfare. It was easy enough to slip into the crowd heading to the play that night, handing over the fee before making their way down the massive steps.
The theater itself was incredible. Seto could not stop staring at the layers and layers of seats where literally thousands of men were being housed. The stage was not so large, but luckily they were close enough to see what was going on. Jono grinned from under his hood and said, "You are gonna have to translate for me. My Greek ain't so good." He stealthily brushed Seto's fingers with his own before turning back to the stage where the actors, all male were setting up.
"What is this called again?" Seto asked, seeing some of the men putting on distinctly feminine masks and clothes.
"Antigone. Supposedly it's really good. Really sad, but good." Jono shrugged and leaned against Seto. "I think you'll like it better than the one we saw in Rome at any rate."
Suddenly the audience fell mostly silent save for a few conversations here and there and the chorus took center stage, lamenting the terrible battle of brother on brother and the tragic deaths that would ultimately tear a family and kingdom asunder.
Occasionally Seto would hear Jono ask what the actors were saying and he would translate, but otherwise, the priest was transfixed. He found himself leaning forward a bit, almost removing his hood to get an unfettered look at the stage. He gripped his knee with one hand, shaking slightly as the final act started.
"Too late, too late you see the path of wisdom!" the chorus shouted to the actor dressed as King Creon. The audience made an audible gasp as Antigone's body was discovered and there is much booing at the mourning king. Seto did not join in their booing. He stared at the shamed man, the man who only tried to do what he thought was best and ultimately brought down everything he was trying to save.
He reached up and clutched at his heart, finding it difficult to draw breath.
"Seto...Seto are you ok?" The prince turned with some difficulty to look at Jono. The blond frowned and then wiped away the tears that Seto had not even realized had fallen. Seto sniffled and lowered his gaze. "Should we go?" Jono asked quietly.
Shaking his head, Seto turned back to the play, more tears falling as Creon weeped and the chorus sang.
"From suffering that has been, decreed no man will ever find escape!"
The priest heard these words ring in his mind even as the theater began to clear. Jono took his hand, covering the motion with their large cloaks. "Did you enjoy the show?" he asked softly, his gaze averted from the priest. Seto exhaled and looked down at their intertwined fingers. Jono's hand is warm like the sands he has missed so much. The land he has wanted nothing more than to protect.
Swallowing, the priest managed a quiet, "Yes...very much so." He squeezed Jo's hand and then pulled away before anyone could see.
Wiping his tears, they both turn to leave as the actors are given another bout of applause by the appreciative audience.
"Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying "yes" begins things. Saying "yes" is how things grow. Saying "yes" leads to knowledge. "Yes" is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say "yes'."