He looked up at Sheieh who stood with a falcon resting on his shoulder, both regarding him with eyes that held an intelligence that was far too reminiscent of Rh–of him. Looking back down at the scroll he was drawing on, he hummed to show he was listening. It was difficult to meet Sheieh’s eyes on a good day, but today wasn’t one of those and so he just focused on the drawing he’d been working on for the better part of the day.
“There’s correspondence from Honorable Qishir Thayne and Grey Companion Azriel for you.”
The pen he was using made a loud scratch as his hand jumped and missed his mark. Carefully he set it down, flicking his fingers at the mistake to clear it before he slowly looked up at Sheieh who was watching him with wide eyes but aside from that there was no other visible reaction to what he’d done. And given that he rarely messed up or lost stride when he was drawing, Sheieh’s control was all the more impressive.
Casually, more so than he felt, he held out his hand for the missives. His Guardian hesitated for only a second before handing them over with a bow. He watched as Sheieh’s falcon never once looked away from him while its master bowed. It only took off towards the kitchen when the other Soul Healer straightened and said, “I shall make us some tea, g’agsha.”
He didn’t respond but Sheieh didn’t need him to. The Guardian would do what he willed regardless of his own input on the matter. It was one of the reasons why he’d accepted Sheieh as his Guardian. The other male was strong enough to go head to head with him and fearless enough to not care about the consequences should he lose the battle of wills. It hadn’t taken very long for him to get tired of fighting the other male so their battles were few and far between now. But when they happened, they could get loud and violent if he wasn’t careful. And he was willing and able to admit when he was alone that sometimes he was purposefully careless with his and Sheieh’s fights because it reminded him of what he’d lost. It gave him a taste of a reality that he truly believed he’d never have again.
He broke the seal on Thayne’s missive first, scanning it quickly. It didn’t contain anything he hadn’t already expected. Just some general troop movements, updates on the issue with Shiran’s Watchtowers and the movements of Xitlali’s forces with regards to Imèn World’s borders. With a derisive sound he tossed it onto his desk and looked at Azriel’s missive and suddenly he didn’t want to touch it. Didn’t want to open it. Didn’t want to know what it said, not after their latest fight. Not after smelling the Anglëtinean’s tears as he stormed out of the Dining Hall. His heart clenched all over again at the knowledge that he’d caused those tears.
I’m being a coward. It’s just a piece of fucking paper. Open it.
With a hand he told himself didn’t shake, he reached out and picked up the folded piece of paper with Azriel’s wax seal holding it closed. He ran his thumb over that seal and stared at it. Remembered the moment they’d all designed their personal seals. Remembered when they’d agreed that his should be two crossed ornate keys, Azriel’s should be a feather crossed with a sword, and Rh–his should be an hourglass with three dots to the left of it and two to the right. It was a bittersweet memory, one that made him clench his jaw, grinding his teeth together as he did so, before he sliced through the wax with his thumbnail and flipped the missive open.
He didn’t know what he’d expected. Well that wasn’t true, he had expected several pages worth of vitriol and threats and anger and heartache. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Azriel had sent him a long letter post one of their public fights as though what he wanted to say couldn’t be contained to those moments when he heard the Anglëtinean’s voice, felt his power thrum across his skin. But this time he didn’t get what he expected. All he got was a few simple lines.
I felt Ryphqi’s Towers wake up hours after watching Shiran’s.
I know you did, too, because Jerald did as well.
His excuse for not telling anyone is that he’s new to being qahllyn. What’s yours?
It wasn’t signed but it didn’t have to be. Azriel’s scent clung to the paper and the ink like a heavy fog, enticing him with memories just as bittersweet as the one about them deciding on their official seals.
With a sound that was far too close to a sob he punched the desk and in a blink Sheieh was just there, smaller hands curling around his fist and pulling him away from the desk and against his chest. He fell against the other Soul Healer and cried. Cried and wished that the male who held him was taller. Wished that the body that stood strong and fast between his legs was corded with muscle one only got from fighting. Wished that the hands that stroked through his hair were bigger with longer fingers. Wished that the voice that hushed him softly in Gretlök was deeper, more accented, but no less perfect for not being a native speaker.
But he didn’t have what he wanted, he couldn’t have what he wanted. Not now and never again.
He turned his head to look at the desk where Azriel’s missive lay open, the perfect calligraphic script of the Anglëtinean’s handwriting taunting as the light from the lanterns and the fire in the hearth danced over it. He stared at the last line and the accusation it held, the thousands of unsaid words that stabbed at him from between the letters and the other two lines above it.
He stared at those words before closing his eyes so he could look beneath at the Self that pulsed and glowed at the center of his being. Looked for the telltale signs that had told him over eight hundred years ago that he was qahllyn to the first Greywalker born in millennia. Looked for something he knew he wouldn’t find ever again and at the continued confirmation he sobbed harder.
“Because I’m not anymore,” he whispered his voice sounding just as broken as Azriel’s had the day the Balance of All Things died. It was the first time he’d spoken the words aloud, and hearing his own voice say them, hearing the Truth that rang freely around every nuance and syllable and consonant and vowel, made the pieces his heart had become with his loss shatter into dust. He opened his eyes and read over that missive one more time, even though he knew he should do nothing more than burn it. “Because I’m not.”
Sheieh held him tighter in the aftermath of that admission and he let him. Because in that moment, anyone was better than no one.