They sat down on the floor in the corridor outside of the door to the kitchens, letting the stifling heat wash out onto them. Seoc hugged his bent legs, rested his face upon his knees, and sobbed quietly. With a sigh, Simon put an arm over his cellmate’s shoulders and sat back to take watch. The rumble of footsteps echoed from an adjacent hallway as their fellow inmates set off for the mines.
“I d-don’t want to die in here, Simon.” He lifted his head, tears dripping down from his jaw. “Not without seeing the sun again. Or the stars at night. That’s all I want. A few minutes outside. Something beautiful to think back on before I go. Is that too much to ask?”
“No,” said Simon. “But I thought you were staying.”
“I’m doing my best. I can’t make any promises, though.”
“Look at me.”
Simon met his gaze.
“Your eyes are like the sky.” He reached over and placed his hands on either side of Simon’s face. “The sky on a summer afternoon. So pure a blue, even the shadows and the torchlight cannot muddy them. If I never again set foot outside this damned dungeon, if I’m never to look upon the actual sky again, then I can at least picture your face to remind myself that there is beauty left in this world. Yours and my knight’s.”
Simon looked away.
“Sorry.” Seoc withdrew his hands and tucked them into his pockets. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“You’re a poet.”
“What are you apologizing for?”
“I wasn’t.” The corners of Seoc’s mouth turned upward ever so slightly. “I was saying that I’m a sorry poet.”
Simon rolled his eyes and leaned back heavily against the wall. “What are you, then, Seoc?”
“I’m a whore.”
“You’re more than that, and you know it.”
“Of course I’m more than just a whore.” Seoc regarded him through the corner of his vision. “I’m a thieving, drug-dealing, money-laundering Iliathorian whore, dying in an underground prison. What more do you want, Simon?”
“You can be anything you want to be.”
“Not if you believe it.”
“Simon, I don’t need a motivational speech right now. I know what I am, and I’m not ashamed by it. My identity, my line of work—that’s not where my pain comes from. I have no desire to wish it away.”