He didn’t know what he expected after he accepted the mantle Fate had made for him; maybe a crash of thunder, a tingle down his spine, one of his Patrons showing up in the Healing chamber smiling benignly at him, something.
Instead all he got was a sense of a profound wrong finally being righted, at least to a degree, and that was it. It was rather disturbingly anti-climatic and he didn’t trust it for a second. But he wasn’t about to tempt Fate into giving him climatic response either. He had his moments of stupidity but he wasn’t suicidal.
The silence that had followed the end of Azriel’s recounting had lasted for only a few breaths before Anis had launched into questions which Azriel answered as best he could with Relyt adding his own thoughts to certain matters. Rhyshladlyn only half paid them any attention. He knew what it meant for someone to be qahllynshæ to a Qishir, he knew what it meant for the Qishir to grant them Acceptance or give them Rejection. It was an instinctual Knowledge that all Qishir ha upon the emergence of their heritage. Couple that with the Knowledge he was given by Maestrx Azhuriel during the vision that assaulted him in the library, and Rhyshladlyn could easily answer every question being discussed around him. Instead of joining their conversation, he allowed his mind to wander as he stared openly at Azriel as he spoke with Relyt and Anis who had relocated from behind him to beside him.
Nothing much had changed about the Anglëtinean in the nearly three years since Rhyshladlyn had last put eyes on him. He still had the same eyes he always did: silver-sheen-covered gold with no discernible sclera or iris right eye and the red iris with its black, cross shaped pupil and normal white sclera left eye; still had the same patrician nose, gentle sweeping forehead, high cheekbones that looked sharp enough to slice skin, strong jaw that swept down into an equally strong chin with the tiniest of dimpled indents that swept up into his full lips with the lower being the thicker of the two and just begging to be nibbled on. His neck was just as corded with muscle as it always was, those muscles sweeping down into broad shoulders, chiseled chest that sloped down into a narrow waist before rolling out and around his hips that on anyone who didn’t walk like the liquid love child of violence and sex would almost be feminine. All of it capped off with arms that had carried him with all the gentleness of a mother looking after her child and yet imparted destruction with the a detached sort of glee that made him a perfect warrior and legs that were just as muscled and powerful as the rest of him.
But what had always gotten Rhyshladlyn’s attention was the rich tenor of Azriel’s voice, at once deep and yet not, slipping back and forth as he spoke almost as though it was making up for the fact that Azriel, like most of the Anglë race, was tone deaf and it was made evident when he spoke in a voice devoid of tonal fluctuations. It had been hilarious to watch him meet Anis for the first time, let alone Alaïs. Much as he loved his brother and sister, they weren’t known for having a sense of humor, even if they were incredibly adept at making Rhyshladlyn snort in the most undignified way whenever their sarcasm would whip crack out with no warning. So when they had first met Azriel, toneless and tone deaf Azriel, it had been one of the most hilarity-inducing experiences of Rhyshladlyn’s life, one that saw him spending more time doubled over wheezing for air as his laughter stole his breath from him than actually contributing anything to the conversation.
He must have made a sound of amusement because suddenly three pairs of eyes were on him and silence had fallen, the conversation having stopped abruptly. Even as embarrassment threatened to send a flush spreading up his neck, Rhyshladlyn just regarded them all coolly, raising an eyebrow at their staring.
After several minutes of their staring Rhyshladlyn grunted, “What? Do I have something on my face?”
A chortle sounded to his left and he swung his gaze over to Relyt, eyes narrowing when the Soul Healer tried to hide his amused grin behind his hand, shoulders shaking with barely repressed mirth.
“Does a sappy smile count?” Anis piped up, saving Relyt from having to contain his silent laughter as Rhyshladlyn turned to look at Anis on his other side, his brother affecting an innocent look but his own shoulders were trembling. Rhyshladlyn’s eyes narrowed further.
“I did not have a sappy smile on my face,” he quipped. Another chortle sounded from Relyt, which he blatantly ignored.
“Looked that way to me, brother,” Anis replied smoothly, leaning forward with a mischievous smile twisting his lips and making his clear blue eyes sparkle. Because that wasn’t ever not suspicious as fuck. “Sappy and directed at our resident Anglëtinean.” That smile ratcheted up a few notches in intensity and Rhyshladlyn felt his face heat as he started to shake his head. But Anis was already in full let’s tease the younger sibling mode and there was no stopping him now. “Years later and you’re still pining?”
“Fuck you, Anis, I have never–I am not pining,” he stuttered in response, sounding insulted.
“Actually you have pined, Rhys,” Azriel spoke up and Rhyshladlyn turned a look that he hoped conveyed how betrayed he felt towards his personal guard who only laughed at him, the bastard. “After all, you may have denied my advances for years but that didn’t mean you didn’t want this,” he added with a wave of his hand that encompassed all of him. “Not that one could blame you. I am rather phenomenal.”
Rhyshladlyn giggled, unable to help it. Same old Azriel.
“I cannot tell if you are teasing, upset, or amused and it is rather disconcerting,” Relyt said, voice colored with his mirth however slightly muted as he regarded Azriel with a tilted head at his absolute lack of tone despite his very clear use of inflection and emphasis when he spoke. Rhyshladlyn only giggled harder, always amused when someone new spoke around Azriel long enough to pick up on his toneless speech.
“You’ll get used to it,” Anis said, implying that Relyt wasn’t going anywhere, that none of them were and Rhyshladlyn felt the smile slip off his face and the mirth bleed away.
Because they would be going somewhere. They couldn’t stay here. Azriel was all but exiled from Shiran City if his father’s attempt to have him put to death under the false charge of rape was anything to go by. Relyt was too new and too close to Rhyshladlyn already that, even with his Healer’s Contract protecting him, there wasn’t a guarantee that an “accident” wouldn’t see him dead in the streets. Even if they weren’t Oathed, they were still qahllynshæ and now that Rhyshladlyn had acknowledged that, even if not out loud, their deaths would still destroy a part of him that he couldn’t afford to lose any more than he could afford to lose them.
He may not shatter or die like he would if they were Oathed, but it would still weaken him considerably and the one thing he did not need was to be weakened.
“Has anyone found Azhuri?” Rhyshladlyn asked utterly non sequitur in an attempt to distract himself from the melancholy turn his thoughts had taken.
“She’s missing?” Azriel asked, head tilted to slightly to the side and Rhyshladlyn was reminded that he had been gone for so much and it made his chest ache.
“She’s been missing since Rhyshladlyn was taken by Father. No one has been able to locate her,” Anis responded, eyes clouded and Rhyshladlyn reached out a hand and squeezed his brother’s shoulder. While Rhyshladlyn may have denounced Azhuri as his mother, she would always be that to his older brother and so his worry for her was expected even if Rhyshladlyn didn’t share it.
“I feel as though I have missed something,” Azriel said, mismatched eyes seeking Rhyshladlyn’s and holding once he caught them, one eyebrow cocked in a clear question of what is going on?
Rhyshladlyn sighed softly, running a hand through his hair, the action making his body thrum with disapproval of how much he had moved in the last several hours.
“You have, unfortunately,” he replied, shifting where he sat, rolling his shoulders and letting out a soft huff of discomfort.
“You have been out of the pools for longer than advisable given your condition, your Majesty,” Relyt said, voice kind and soft as he stood and held out a hand to help Rhyshladlyn to his feet.
Knowing better than to argue with a Healer, no matter how much he wanted to, Rhyshladlyn took the proffered hand and allowed himself to be guided back to the pool where he slipped back into the water with a soft sigh as the magick in it eased some of the aching in his muscles and scars almost immediately.
“You should probably do the same, Azriel,” Relyt said and Rhyshladlyn watched as the Anglëtinean in question frowned, face shifting into a look of affront. “Give me not that look, qah’bròtr,” the Soul Healer huffed at him. “You said it yourself that your magick began eating at your muscles and skin in order to keep you alive when you were knocked off the Line. So take advantage of the pools while you can. They will Heal you faster than any Healer can, myself included.”
Azriel rolled his eyes but dutifully rose to his feet and removed his loose tunic as he walked towards the pool that Rhyshladlyn was in, seeming to forget that there were literally hundreds in the room but Rhyshladlyn wasn’t entirely surprised his personal guard had it in mind to share one with him. And secretly he was pleased, ducking his head to hide the small smile brought on by Azriel’s actions as he moved to the opposite side of the pool, once more sitting on the shelf, reclining back against the upper edge of the pool wall, the water lapping against his waist. Azriel dropped his tunic at the edge and his loose pants followed it, the faded grey of the fabric seeming to almost blend in with the near blackness of the flagstones that made up the floor. With a feline-like grace, Azriel descended the stairs into the circular pool, moving to sit on the shelf directly opposite Rhyshladlyn, mismatched eyes watching him with a look he wasn’t entirely able to decipher.
“I’ll be back in perhaps an hour or two, your Majesty,” Relyt said with a pointed glance and raised eyebrow at Azriel’s back. “I want to make sure your wings are recovering properly.”
Rhyshladlyn inclined his head, “As you wish, Relyt. I shall be here.”
*And hopefully far more relaxed once you can say hello to your Companion properly,* Shadiranamen said and Rhyshladlyn nearly choked on nothing but the air and his own spit.
My Companion? he spluttered across their connection.
He could see her eyes shifting from side to side as though she said too much far too soon even though she wasn’t physically in the room with them. *You didn’t know? That’s his Question, Rhys,* was the careful, slow reply.
Rhyshladlyn didn’t comment and his Other said nothing more.
“I’m going to go speak with Ero, let him know what is going on and see if we can figure out a way to keep you within the Palace, Azriel,” Anis was saying while he bent down to pick up the tray and wine skin he’d brought in hours ago. “Because I doubt highly that it will be as easy getting you out as it was getting you in. And frankly,” Anis cast a glance that held too much sympathy and far too much understanding at Rhyshladlyn who merely narrowed his eyes back at him, “I don’t think any of us want you too far away.”
Azriel hummed his agreement, head tilted back as he basked in the warmth of the water. Rhyshladlyn watched as Anis and Relyt left, the former stopping just before the doors closed and saying over his shoulder, “I’ll make sure Ero comes to stand watch at the door,” so that Father doesn’t come in and mess with you and find Azriel here was the unspoken part.
“My thanks, brother,” Rhyshladlyn responded and let out a deep breath when the doors closed, leaving him and Azriel and a thousands questions and far too many raw emotions than Rhyshladlyn knew what to do with alone in the large chamber with its ambient gold light and the warm water and their mutual nakedness.
Gods, I’m acting like he hasn’t been inside me, that I haven’t seen what he looks like when he’s distraught and angry and in the throes of release. Fuck. This is such a mess. He groaned mentally, dipping his hands in the water before lifting them to scrub at his face, eyes closed as he did his level best to ignore the way he wanted to cross the distance, thread his fingers through Azriel’s face and kiss him like he was dying and it was his last chance.
“May I,” Azriel started and trailed off, sounding uncertain, hesitant and Rhyshladlyn dropped his hands to find those eyes that nearly everyone else found difficult to look at but that he actually found enthralling looking up at the ceiling, lips turned down in a frown that pulled at his face until it looked almost like he was in pain. He sighed, frown deepening as he seemed to mentally berate himself. Rhyshladlyn raised an eyebrow at him, head tilting to the side in curiosity.
“May you… what?” He prompted when the other remained quiet.
“May I… may I say hello properly, your Majesty?” Azriel asked and Rhyshladlyn snorted at his attempt to mimic Relyt’s voice and title for him.
“What exactly is a proper greeting?” he asked, grinning as Azriel relaxed, that frown falling away as he smiled, slow and full of false innocence as those mismatched eyes shifted to regard him.
“Whatever your Majesty deems to be proper,” came the easy, teasing reply and Rhyshladlyn laughed, truly laughed, without reserve and genuine for the first time in what felt like a decade, head tossed back, the sound rumbling out from deep in his chest and echoing out around the chamber.
When his laughter had subsided and he was once more looking back at his personal guard, face aching with the smile that no doubt showed his fangs it was so wide, he found himself faced with a look that took his breath away.
Azriel’s eyes were glinting with a shimmer of his power dancing just under the surface, no longer looking so pale and exhausted but almost back to his full healthy sun-kissed glow, lips curved in a soft smile that Rhyshladlyn had never seen full on because before now it had only been directed at him when Azriel thought he wasn’t looking, an expression of an emotion Rhyshladlyn was too afraid to name properly making his face light up in a way that Rhyshladlyn had never seen.
“Uo’i y’dessim, Rhys,” Azriel murmured in Anglë’lylel, voice shifting around the syllables, the vowels harsh and yet sweet, consonants so quick they were nearly silent; when spoken by a native Anglë’lylel sounded like a bittersweet, tear-inducing melody that took one’s breath away.
“I missed you, too, Az,” Rhyshladlyn replied just as softly in Common solely because he didn’t want to risk fucking up by trying to respond in kind.
The way Azriel’s smile grew more sickly sweet said he understood and the sentiment made him even happier. That smile still firmly in place, the Anglëtinean slid off the shelf and slowly crossed the pool towards him, eyes making it clear that if Rhyshladlyn didn’t want him this close all it would take to have him back on the other side of the pool would be a shake of his head. But Rhyshladlyn couldn’t do that, couldn’t reject Azriel in that way, not when his skin was vibrating with the need to touch the other male, to feel the realness of him, to know he wasn’t a figment of his imagination and his loneliness, that he wouldn’t fly awake at any moment and find it had all been a dream. He couldn’t tell him to back off when all he wanted was to kiss that expressive, smiling mouth, sink his hands into his hair and tug in the way that made his wings explode from his back and then dance his fingers over the sensitive appendages just to hear him moan and feel him shake and shudder against him.
When Azriel was close enough that his movement displaced water against his lower abdomen, Rhyshladlyn let out a shaky breath and slowly slipped off the shelf so they were on the same level. Azriel made a sound low in his throat as he reached out and brushed gentle fingers along the scar that now marred Rhyshladlyn’s right cheek, those eyes dark and filled with an angered sadness and the beginnings of guilt.
“Hey, none of that,” Rhyshladlyn whispered, lifting his hands to cup his face, looking up at him with a soft, genuine smile of his own, one only Azriel had ever seen. “This is not your fault. It’s his and his alone.”
“You did not just use my own words against me,” Azriel said with a chuckle that sounded strained as he closed his eyes and leaned into Rhyshladlyn’s touch, his own hands coming to rest on Rhyshladlyn’s hips.
“I am not apologizing,” he replied, grinning when Azriel snorted, eyes still closed.
“Never expected you to,” Azriel said, leaning forward so he could press his forehead to Rhyshladlyn’s, the Qishir’s hands sliding down to cup either side of his throat, thumbs making sweeping motions to either side of the hill of his throat. “I thought I had lost you, Rhys,” he said after a heartbeat of silence, his voice so desolate that Rhyshladlyn’s chest constricted. “I do not know what would happen if I lost you.”
“Azriel,” he started but the Anglëtinean lifted his head and pressed a finger to his lips to silence him.
“Let me say this now, my Qishir,” he said, voice still holding the echoes of remembered fear and almost-grief, sounding small and destroyed and elated all at once; and gods help him, but Rhyshladlyn had no idea what to do with that.
“I knew the day I walked onto the training fields and you knocked me on my ass that you would be something special to me, I knew even with the rumors of how death and torture followed in your wake either of your own making or your father’s that my life was in danger simply by virtue of being with you, my feelings and their reciprocity be damned. I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. Granted, I didn’t know the enormity of what you were dealing with, not until your arm was burned,” at that his hand moves away from his mouth and gently strokes Rhyshladlyn’s right arm from shoulder to wrist, barely detecting the bumps and ridges of the scar tissue that marred his skin, “but even once I had, it didn’t change how I felt.”
Rhyshladlyn closed his eyes, unable to handle seeing the vulnerability written across those striking features that had haunted his dreams for years, even before they shared a bed. He’d danced around the male in front of him for over 60 years and it had taken him walking away to keep them both safe for him to finally stop denying how he felt. It took him nearly dying before he could see those mismatched eyes stare at him like he meant the Worlds and more to their owner, to feel those strong, large hands touch him as though he were made of finely spun glass, to hear that voice caress his name like it was a song again for him to admit–even if only to himself–just how much the Anglëtinean meant to him.
It shouldn’t have taken nearly dying for that to happen and he hated himself for it.
“Rhys, look at me,” Azriel said and he couldn’t deny him the request. “I do not care what it takes, I do not care the danger, I do not care that you are scarred and broken, I do not care that being qahllynshæ to you is a potential death sentence whether I’m Oathed or not. What I care about is that you are happy, that you are safe and cared for properly.”
“Azriel… you…” He swallowed around the lump in his throat that threatened to steal his voice. “You cannot know what you’re saying, what you’re getting into with this. You cannot be with me, I… if you die because of me I…” He trailed off, unable to voice aloud the absolute terror that gripped him at the thought of the male before him dying. There would be no saving Rhyshladlyn or the World he was in if Azriel were to be killed because of him. Going nova would be an understatement. He would permanently scorch the World, leave a blight where nothing would be able to grow, nothing would be able to survive.
“That is not your choice to make, Rhyshladlyn,” Azriel replied, giving him a slight shake, hands cupping his face. “And regardless, I made it the second I was knocked off that Line rushing to get here and felt you leave this plane and come back.” Those intense eyes held his and Rhyshladlyn couldn’t look away now even if he wanted to.
Rhyshladlyn chuckled, unable to help it, the sound distorted, but Azriel didn’t seem to mind if that small smile was anything to go by.
“And what choice was that?” he asked even though he knew the answer; but knowing it and hearing it were two totally different things.
Azriel’s smile widened as he leaned down and spoke with his lips a hairsbreadth above Rhyshladlyn’s own. “To love you, consequences be damned.”
Rhyshladlyn let out a mangled moan and closed the distance between them, unable to voice his response but instead poured it into the way their lips moved against each other, the way he sank his trembling hands into Azriel’s hair, the way he shuddered violently when Azriel’s wings burst from his back and wrapped around them both, the way his body responded as it pressed flush with Azriel’s own. He poured it into the way his magick sang one long, elated note as it twined around Azriel’s, the way he gasped his name when they pulled back for air, panting heavily.
“U’i or’lliw yo’syawla f’tiaw, y’Fecnyrp-m,” Rhyshladlyn whispered, the closest he could get to telling Azriel how much he loved him, too unaccustomed to speaking the words aloud, too afraid of them being used as a weapon against him.
But Azriel understood, of course he did. And the smile that lit up his face made Rhyshladlyn feel like no matter what happened going forward that that moment, right then, made whatever may come in the future worth it.