"Would you look at that!" Tao exclaimed, rushing forward eagerly. "It's like a natural bathing pool!"

Dar grinned. "I know how much you like to soak in hot water, especially when we've been walking for a while. I remembered hearing about this and asked Ruh to scout it out yesterday."

Tao yanked off his shirt then stepped out of his pants, getting tangled in his boots as he did so. Dar reached out and steadied him, his grin getting bigger at his friend's eagerness.

As Tao moved into the steaming pool of water, he sighed deeply and closed his eyes. "Oh, yes, this is perfect!"

Dar shifted uncomfortably as his loincloth grew unexpectedly tight in response to Tao's moan of pleasure. Firmly telling his body to behave, which was a useless thing to do where a naked Tao was concerned, Dar said, "I'm going to go, ah, check the area. Make sure it's safe."

Eyes opening, Tao frowned. "This is nearly completely hidden, what with all the vegetation. I don't think we need to worry, Dar. Come on in, I promise that soaking in hot water won't hurt you. As a matter of fact, I've discovered over the years that it's good to relax and soothe any sore muscles that you might have."

Tao's mini-lecture, and the fact that the water hid him, helped decide Dar in favor of the bath. He'd accepted over the last few years that Tao wasn't interested in him physically. They were as close as two men could be aside from that, so Dar was content to leave things as they were.

Not to say that when he gave himself relief, he didn't imagine Tao's hands on his body, because he did. And he almost always had to stifle himself from calling out Tao's name when he came, as the other man usually slept close by. Here and now, however, Dar was happy to have Tao in his life any way that he could.

"What are you thinking about?"

Dar jumped, started by Tao's voice nearly in his ear. The ripples splashed lightly at Tao's bare abdomen and Dar stared for a moment, mesmerized by a single bead of water falling slowly down Tao's stomach. Clearing his throat, Dar answered, "Nothing."

Tao moved closer and trailed the back of his fingers over Dar's chest, looking up into Dar's eyes. "Do you want me?"

Blindsided by the question he'd never thought to hear from Tao, Dar gaped at the other man. When Tao moved even closer, putting them almost skin-to-skin, Dar instinctively moved back. "Tao, what are you…"

Tao put his fingers across Dar's mouth, stopping the words. "I'm not usually this slow to figure something out. All I can say in my defense is that we've been pretty busy over the last several years. First with defeating Balcifer, then setting your brother on the throne so you could keep helping the world at large. And then helping the world at large.

"I can't remember anyone catching your eye for more than a day or so and I've never seen you take someone to your bed. Not since Kyra. For a long time, I thought that you wouldn't let yourself fall in love with anyone because you didn't want to risk being hurt like that again. It never once occurred to me that you were already in love."

Smiling faintly, Dar said, "In my heart, there's been no one but Kyra and you. But Tao, I don't need more than what we already have."

As one dark eyebrow arched, Tao asked, "You don't?"

Dark shook his head. "I don't. I accept the fact that you don't desire men. So long as you allow me to remain at your side, I'll be content."

"Ah, but would you be happy?" Tao questioned seriously. "I want you to be happy, Dar. I love you."

Dar's heart started beating heavily in his chest at the words he'd so longed to hear. But then he realized that Tao meant love as a best friend. Cupping Tao's face, Dar smiled and said, "I love you. But I don't want you to change for me."

Tao reached up to grasp Dar's hand in his. "Too late. You changed me the moment we met. I've grown in ways that I never would have even contemplated, had we never met."

Staring into Tao's green-brown eyes, Dar hesitated, then leaning in closer and pressed their lips together. It was shy and awkward at first, but then Tao's lips opened and he sighed into Dar's mouth. That was all the encouragement Dar needed.

Sliding his hands down Tao's side, Dar pulled the other man flush to him as he slowly devoured his lover's mouth. Tao sighed deeply and Dar breathed it in, pleasure flushing through his body as he did so. In the water, the Eiron was even lighter than usual and Dar used that to pick the smaller man up. Tao's legs went around his waist and held fast as Dar half-walked, half-waded to the deepr edge of the pool.

Here, there were moss covered rocks for Tao to lean against, which he did, his arms spreading along the sides to hold on even as his legs remained around Dar's waist. Dar stared into his lover's dark eyes and smiled, feeling full and complete just like they were. His hands roamed eagerly over Tao's muscled midriff and he bent down, kissing the dusky skin with all the tenderness of his heart.

He heard Tao gasp in pleasure as he sucked the hardened nipples and the strong legs around him tightened, pressing their cocks together. He moaned against the skin in his mouth and hunched forward, provoking a similar moan from Tao. Dar's hands slid down and gripped the long, slender cock he'd been aching for, for years. Tao shuddered at his touch and Dar knew that neither of them would last long this first time. Already, Dar was close to the edge and his balls tightened further when Tao gripped the back of his head and pulled him up into a demanding kiss.

Dar crowded Tao against the rocks, wrapping his arms tight around his lover's waist and rubbing their cocks together. There wasn't much friction given their watery location, but it was enough stimulation, combined with Tao's deep, needy, sucking kisses to send Dar over the edge, jerking hard. He was barely aware of Tao groaning deep as he, too, came, his legs locking painfully tight around Dar.

They stayed there, panting and slowly growing aware of their surroundings. Dar finally drew back and looked into his lover's contented, dark eyes. Smiling, he asked, "You all right?"

Smiling dreamily, Tao nodded and pushed closer, wrapping his arms around Dar's shoulder as he answered, "Perfect. As long as you stay with me."

"Always," Dar promised, kissing him again to seal the vow.