The next morning, when Seymour awoke, huddled in a blanket on the cold, hard ground, the golden light of dawn fell across his eyes and the scent of autumn hung light upon the air.  Looking around, he saw that Simon was still asleep a few paces away, snoring gently.  Seoc, however, was gone, leaving his own blanket neatly folded on a stump.  He had apparently gone through the saddlebags, too, for they were tidier than Seymour had left them--plus, they were missing a few items, namely three strips of salted meat, an apple, the bar of soap, one set of spare clothing, a pair of scissors, and a razor blade.  Quietly, he followed Seoc's trail of bare footprints to the river.

         The set of spare clothes lay stacked on a flat rock, the core of the sour green apple propped beside them.  The razor blade and the scissors were there as well, glistening in the sunlight.  Judging by the droplets of water that still clung to the metal, both instruments had been used and carefully washed.    

      Seoc stood knee-deep in the gently flowing river, naked.  He had his back to Seymour, and thus had not noticed his presence.  Oblivious to his observation, the young man continued to scrub the layers of grime from his body, occasionally dipping into the water to rinse himself.  The water that ran off of him was grey-brown with dirt.  He had cut off his matted locks, leaving his hair shorn close to his skull.   

        Seymour knew that he ought to leave and give Seoc the privacy that he deserved.  He knew that it was wrong to stand there watching.  Yet, he couldn't quite manage to pull his eyes away.  It wasn't that he found the current sickly state of Seoc's body at all attractive, but rather he found himself fantasizing about how  Seoc might have looked had he been healthy.  His bones wouldn't jut out quite so much, that was certain.  And how cruel fate had been to allow the lash to mutilate the fair, soft skin of the man's back.  No, starvation and torture scars were not fetching, at least not in Seymour's opinion.  He knew others who felt otherwise, but he himself had put all of them safely behind bars, where they would do no more harm.   

           Seoc finished washing and started to turn around.  Quick as a wink, Seymour slipped silently behind a bush and was out of sight before Seoc had turned to face his way.   

            Shivering, Seoc hugged himself and bounced on the balls of his feet, standing in a patch of sun.  Seymour noticed the layer of frost on the edges of the leaves of the shrub he now crouched behind, and immediately sympathized.  Clean-shaven and minus the crust of filth, Seoc seemed younger.  Hardly much more than a boy, really.  This made Seymour feel exponentially  more guilty than he already had been.   

              The man pulled on his clean clothes, his skin still wet, and gathered up his things.  His teeth were chattering as he passed Seymour's hiding place, still completely unaware that he was being watched.  Once he was safely out of sight, Seymour emerged and took a long detour back to their campsite so that he would return from the opposite direction.

The End

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