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Al-Cid holds little interest in a barbarian queen-to-be. He charms her, as is habit, but he watches her only passively as he takes her hand.

When Al-Cid is seventeen he is magnificent, or so it is said behind silken fans and piping giggles. He is shyer than he will grow to be.

Al-Cid is in love. He speaks to the boy in his orchid, or rather his family’s. Whenever he can escape the politics, youth used as an excuse, he knows there will be an apple and a smile waiting for him.

When Al-Cid is eighteen he rides to the orchid to find his lover. He finds him dancing a gallows jig from a hastily erected frame, born of his absence.

“Sin” is all anyone tells him, he is confused until he sees one of his brothers watching him, silver smile flashing a stark smugness. Al-Cid presses an apple into his lover’s cooling palm, and is gone.

Now Al-Cid is older he hides wandering eyes behind opaque glass, and when he takes the hand of a barbarian queen he kisses it, does not gaze at her lovely bodyguard or firefly pirate. He knows, now, what damage a sinner can do.

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July 2012

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