81

Last time he had felt this angry had been the day he’d learned his Qishir had known Azriel had been alive for over a century and hadn’t told anyone else. Had been when he’d stared into orange-amber eyes and wanted to strike out, to make Rhyshladlyn hurt like he did. Back then he’d nearly toppled both their mugs over, spilling hot liquid all over, when his fury had gotten the better of him. Back then he’d felt the first whispering hints of betrayal and something far more deadly mixed in with an emotion that had stolen his breath and made his heart race as he faced off against the one Dhaoine he’d never thought he’d ever go head to head with.

Now he was feeling that same anger centuries later and by the Many, he didn’t like feeling this angry because whenever he did he ended up hurting those he cared for. Crossed lines he shouldn’t even look at let alone go near, said things he didn’t mean, did things he wouldn’t normally do if he was thinking clearly. But feeling angry was better than being terrified, it was better than worrying about the what if‘s. So he wrapped the anger around his shoulders like one would a blanket on a cold night, stoked it like one would a cook fire, sank into it and let it fill him until it leaked out of his eyes in the form of tears, leaked out of his nose in the form of breaths that were just this side of sighs, leaked out of his mouth in the form of words before he could swallow them down.

Maybe this is why Rhys was always so quick to anger? Did he use it as a mask for emotions he didn’t want to feel or couldn’t feel? 

“Let me go, Sheieh!”

He gripped handfuls of the back of Sheieh’s tunic and pulled himself up and over the Guardian’s shoulder, twisting as he rolled off. He dropped into a crouch on the Line, hands coming out to catch him when he tumbled forward as his legs didn’t quite want to hold his weight at first. He shook his hair out of his face and stared up at his Guardian who had whipped around to face him, eyes wide, face a riot of concern. But somehow that only made Relyt angrier. Because how dare he be worried about me when he just condemned Azriel and the rest to die? He had given Sheieh an order, had specifically made his intentions to not leave them clear and his Guardian had tossed that to the winds and ran anyway.

“Why the fuck did you do that?” he snarled and felt a perverse sort of pleasure at the way Sheieh flinched like he’d slapped him. “We cannot leave them there! We have to help them!” He took a deep breath to try and calm his heart, to try and get his vision to stop shaking. “How could you just leave them there like that? You know as well as I do that they are no match for those things.”

For all that Relyt had managed to shock him, Sheieh recovered quickly. Realistically he should probably be afraid of the way the other male’s eyes darkened until they were closer to true blue than white with flecks of blue, but he was too angry. Had straddled the line of furious at the thought that Azriel could be dying right now because his Guardian had decided that saving him was more important. Had disobeyed an order to do the exact opposite of that. And by the Many’s ten cocks, he was so angry he was shaking. Was so angry that if he could trust that his legs would support him, he’d bring that anger into physical being and put his hands on the other Soul Healer. Because the gods surrounding only knew that he craved the feel of skin bruising beneath his fists right then.

“Easily,” Sheieh bit back, his power trickling out between them like the first hint of winter’s cold snap. “You are my first priority. Your safety, your health, your happiness. No one else’s, just yours. That was the Oath I took, g’agsha, and just the once I would like that you remember that before you make me into the villain when I am so far from that.”

“Fuck your Oath, Sheieh,” he rose to his feet, pleasantly surprised when his legs held his weight without swaying, hands clenched into fists as he continued to fight not to bring his anger in physical life by fighting his Guardian. It was a bad plan regardless, a worse one if executed on a Line. “I gave you an order to not leave them and you did it anyway. How is taking us away from them, how is ignoring the fact that I very obviously wanted to stay to help them face those things upholding your Oath?”

Sheieh made a noise that was somewhere between a growl and a sigh of exasperation.

“You are alive, are you not?” the Soul Healer snapped, one hand gesturing vaguely at the whole of him. “You breathe, do you not? You are cognizant of your thoughts and feelings enough to spew them at me like they were weapons, are you not?” He didn’t answer because all those questions felt rhetorical, felt like traps. So he kept quiet. He rarely got himself in more trouble when he didn’t say anything. “Then I have upheld my Oath. It is not my fault that you are too blinded by fear that you allow other emotions to cloud your reasonable thinking.”

“I am thinking reasonably!” he bit out, taking one shaking step forward, the need to punch something rising with each minute that went by. “They cannot fight alone, two more of us at their side increases the likelihood of their survival. How is that not thinking reasonably?”

Sheieh just stared at him, one eyebrow raised. He didn’t say anything but Relyt didn’t really need him to. That look stated clearly enough that his Guardian thought he was full of shit.

“We are going back, Sheieh.” His tone was final, filled with the same unmovable intensity Rhyshladlyn’s had always had whenever they argued. His heart clenched, as it always did, at the thought of his Qishir, but he pushed it aside because now wasn’t the time. “Rhys would never forgive me if I tucked wing and ran from a fight and doing so saw Azriel or Nully or anyone else in our Court dead or injured for it.”

Sheieh made that exasperated growl sound again, advancing a step toward him as he did so. “We are doing no such thing, g’agsha. It is not safe for you. And I care not for what the Grey Qishir will or will not do with regards to you or anyone else. All I care for is your safety and I shall ensure it by whatever means necessary.”

He narrowed his eyes at the phrasing, shifting his stance slowly, carefully, into a fighting one as his Guardian took another step forward and then another. Suddenly he no longer wanted to punch the other male not because the anger wasn’t there anymore but because now there was a very real threat advancing slowly, carefully, towards him. Now he had something to focus on. Later, if there was time, he’d focus on why it didn’t surprise him that Sheieh was capable of changing from his mild mannered Guardian to the Dhaoine stalking towards him with a determination worthy of the Grey Qishir hardening his features. For now, he just didn’t want Sheieh to get close enough to touch him.

“Fighting me is not advised, Sheieh.”

“Advisable or not, if it will enable me to finish getting you to safety? So be it.”

“Why won’t you just let me go help them?” He asked as he took a careful step backwards, hating that he was giving ground, but every instinct in him that had been honed on the battlefields of the Worlds War told him that letting Sheieh get too close wouldn’t end well. He didn’t think his Guardian was going to hurt him but Relyt knew that he sure as shit wasn’t going to help him either.

Sheieh didn’t stop walking forward, slow and careful, and with each step Relyt tensed more.

“They don’t need your help, Relyt, any more than you need theirs.”

The anger flared up again, like it had just been waiting for an excuse to return.

“No, they think they don’t want my help, there’s a difference, Sheieh,” he shook his head and shuffled back to steps, working to loosen his muscles as he moved so that if Sheieh moved on him, he would be able to react. “But even if they don’t want or need my help, they’re my family. You don’t abandon family.”

“Oh, g’agsha, they haven’t been your family for centuries.”

His breath caught as the truth of those words smacked against him and stuttered his heart, evaporating his anger like water on a fire. It felt like he couldn’t breathe, like his World had been torn down around his ears. He didn’t know whether to cry or scream or be numb in the wake of those words. So he just stood there with his mouth open, eyes wide, hands hanging limply at his sides while Sheieh bound his hands and feet together and tossed him back over his shoulder. Remained silent as they picked up speed on the empty Line, putting more distance with each stride between them and the nightmarescape they had left behind at the cabin.

“At the end of the day, the ones that you must do your damnedest to save are those right here,” Rhyshladlyn said, looking at them all in turn from where he stood in the center of the training pits. “It is this family, ourselves, that are everyone’s top priority. Once we are all safe? Then and only then do we focus on anyone else.” 

“What happens if someone stops being family?” Thae’a asked. 

Rhyshladlyn smiled but it didn’t touch his eyes, didn’t even really touch his face for all that it twisted his lips. 

“Then they are no longer our concern.” 

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