Upon reaching his room, Seymour told the servant—as politely as he could—to go away. Then he located the bathtub, put a kettle of water over the fire to warm, and stripped naked.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he scolded the dog, which had followed him up to his room and was now sprawled out in his bed, watching his every move. “It isn’t polite.”
The dog paid his words no mind.
It was really quite remarkable how filthy he had managed to get over the course of one day. His skin was covered in grime, mostly from crawling out of the river, but also from the dirt, mud, and dirty snow that had been kicked up by the horses. As he washed himself, the bathwater quickly turned brown, and silt collected at the bottom of the tub. Furthermore, he stank of sweat—his own, Seoc’s and Wyrinther’s—and it took a considerable amount of soap and time to get rid of the smell.
Once he was clean and dry, he crawled immediately into bed, pushing the dog over to make room for himself, and fell asleep.
He was awakened, not long after, by the sound of knocking at his door.
“Coming,” he groaned, rolling out of bed and pulling on a pair of trousers.
Upon opening the door, he found Seoc standing on the other side. He too had washed up and changed into clean clothing, but his eyes were red and swollen in his tear-streaked face.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, sniffing. “Did I wake you?”
“No, no,” Seymour lied unconvincingly. “It’s fine, I was already awake. Come in!”
As soon as Seoc had stepped safely inside and the door was closed behind him, Seymour put an arm around his shoulders and sat him down on the edge of the bed. “What’s wrong, little fish? What happened?”
Seoc wiped his eyes on his sleeve. “My father…is a Rezyn-damned…crooked…nasty ald bastard!”
“What? Is he here?”
“No, thank the gods.” The human swallowed hard. “No, but he’s made my little brother afeared o’ me. Rezyn, ’twas a horrible scene! Be glad you missed it.”
“Weel, when I went over ta greet him, Duncan—he’s my brother, o’ course—he, weel…” Seoc trailed off, wiped his eyes again, and resumed. “Weel, I wanted ta hug him, y’ ken, ’cause he’s my brother, and I…I’ve been missin’ him dreadfully, and why wouldn’t I want ta hug my own brother? But when I tried, he…he went pale an’ backed away frae me, screamin’ at me not ta touch him. An’ then everyone was starin’ at me, as if I had done somethin’ wrong, an’ he was still screamin’ at me, an’ I…an’ I…”
The human’s body began to shake anew with grief, his breathing gasping and ragged. Seymour wrapped both arms about him and hugged him to his chest, rocking him from side to side to calm him.
“Shh, Seoc,” he murmured. “It’ll be alright.”
“I’m sorry, Sey,” Seoc choked. “I’m no’ usually like this.”
“There’s no need to apologize, little fish. You have good reason to be upset.” He ran his fingers through Seoc’s short, dark hair, stopping his hand on the side of his neck, just above the twin scabs left behind where Moriba had bitten him. He pushed gently upon the human’s jaw to tilt his head so that they were looking each other in the eyes. “It isn’t your fault. You did nothing wrong.”
They sat there in silence for a while, Seymour holding Seoc securely in his arms, Seoc resting his head upon Seymour’s bare chest. Unconsciously, they synchronized their breathing, and their heart rates fell into the same rhythm.
The dog kept a watchful eye upon them.
“I dinna want ta go back ta Iliathor,” Seoc mumbled eventually. “I hated it there.”
“Where would you want to live instead?”
He shrugged. “I dinna know. Maybe Sichtir. Uncle Alasdair has a house up there, I’m sure he would let me use it. Rionnag is nice, too. It’s where I was born, y’ ken, an’ Mam used ta take me there when my seizures would get bad, so I’m weel acquainted wi’ it.”
“Your seizures take location into consideration?” Seymour inquired, skeptical.
“Aye, or so it seems. They’d happen almost daily in Iliathor, an’ almost everywhere else I’ve been, but no’ in Rionnag, nor here in the Carvil Valley.” He furrowed his brow in thought. “Noo that I think aboot it, I wouldna get them often in Waelyngar, either. Perhaps I’ve started ta grow oot o’ them.”
“Perhaps,” Seymour agreed vaguely, thinking about what Carvil and Waelyngar had in common.
“But really,” continued Seoc, “I’ll probably end up stayin’ here. I ha’e no money an’ no way ta support myself. After all, who in the right mind would want ta hire a convicted homosexual wi’ epilepsy? I’m useless!”
“Don’t say that, little fish. It isn’t true.”
“It feels true,” Seoc countered. “The only skills I have are utterly impractical.”
“Every skill can be used for something,” Seymour pointed out.
“Yes, I suppose I could be a prostitute or a street musician,” Seoc conceded. “But I’d still starve.”
Seymour rested his chin on the top of Seoc’s head and stared off into the distance. “You sell yourself short. You’re very smart, you know.”
“No’ compared ta you an’ Simon, I’m no’.”
“Leave Simon out of it, Seoc. And no, I don’t believe I’m any more intelligent than you are.”
Seoc snorted. “Ye’re a detective.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m a fucking genius, little fish. I’m just…familiar with the minds of criminals.”
“Because you used ta be one?” the human suggested, raising his eyebrows.
The Aechyed smiled. “I think you’d make a better detective than me.”
“Really?” Seoc said, unconvinced.
Seymour leaned over and kissed him gently on the mouth. From the other side of the bed, the dog growled at them disapprovingly. The Aechyed ignored it. “You know, if you’re willing to consider Brysail on your list of potential locations, I’m looking to hire an assistant.”
Seoc kissed him back, also disregarding the dog, which was now trying push its way between them. “For how lang ha’e you been thinkin’ aboot hirin’ aforementioned assistant?”
“About a minute…”
“I’m special, then?”
“I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you.”
The dog gave up on its endeavors to break them apart and flopped melodramatically down on the bed.
“I ha’e heard those words before,” Seoc informed him. “More than once.”
“I’d never lie to you, little fish.”
“I dinna think ye’re lyin’,” the human said. “I just rather you no’ be comparin’ me ta other people.”
“Oh. Of course.”
Seoc smiled and threw himself backwards onto the mattress, pulling Seymour down with him. “I’ll think aboot Brysail. I just need ta sleep on it.”