It was hard to stay calm when the World tilted and suddenly his back was against the wall. Was hard not to remember the last time a Dhaoine had pressed their forearm against his throat and held him against rough stone, face inches from his own. Was hard to breathe passed the rising panic that choked his chest and clogged his throat.

Especially when Sheieh growled.

“You cannot go, g’agsha!” his Guardian’s accent was so thick that for half a breath Relyt thought he was speaking Gretlök instead of Common. “It is not safe for you there. Not right now.”

“Why?” he snapped, hands coming up to curl around Sheieh’s arm where it pressed at the base of his throat, nails digging in as he tugged on it. “Why isn’t it safe, Sheieh? And who the fuck are you to tell me where I can and cannot go?”

For a heartbeat neither of them moved, neither of them said anything. Just stood and stared at each other while Relyt wondered if Sheieh had even realized that while he had taken an Oath of Guardianship, he didn’t outrank Relyt in the slightest. That at the end of any argument, the Soul Healer was still a subject of the Gret’yinl of their kind.

Given the way that he was clenching his jaw, the muscles there rippling with the obvious effort to keep from thumping Relyt against the wall a second time for good measure or the pleasure of it, truly it was too hard to tell which, he was certain Sheieh didn’t give two fucks.

His Guardian had caught up to him before he’d even made it back to his rooms. Had headed him off by being outside the door well before he’d even made it to the damned hallway. And it had devolved from there into a game of catch and release, of saying one thing and meaning another. Had escalated until they had found themselves at an impasse with Sheieh tossing him against the wall and holding him there when he refused to yield, their cat and mouse word play continuing even through the brief tousle. Because Sheieh didn’t know he’d heard Lílrt’s call, didn’t know that he knew that someone named Xefras had escaped and run to the Grey Court with information that put himself, his brother, and his Guardian at risk, but especially himself. But he doubted Sheieh hadn’t figured it out by now. Doubted even more that the other Soul Healer would ever call him out on his rudeness because doing so would mean admitting to having kept secrets from him. And Relyt didn’t want to open that box because he wasn’t any more innocent than Sheieh was.

And if you’re going to cast stones at someone else make sure that the walls you hide behind cannot be easily felled. 

“Your brother called and said that there was intel that stated you were not safe if you went to Ryphqi City. That the threat was high. He bid me promise to keep you here, where you are safe,” Sheieh answered at length, eyes half narrowed, the muscles along his jaw still twitching.

It was a half truth, they both knew that, but it was the closest they could get without crossing a line neither of them was ready to even acknowledge yet.

Is there anyone left in the Worlds that I can trust? 

So what? I’m in danger every time I go near them, have been for centuries, Sheieh,” he countered. “After all Azriel has been after me ever since Rhyshladlyn’s loss, the Many only knows he never acted all those times, what’s to say he will now?”

Sheieh sighed heavily and stepped back, dropping his arm as he did so. Relyt glared at him while he rubbed at his neck, feeling a bruise already starting to form along the junction of his collarbones. He forgot sometimes just how strong Sheieh really was. Forgot that if Sheieh had been born before him by another handful of minutes that he would be Gret’yinl. And then his Guardian would go and do something that reminded him and left him wondering if Sheieh had ever come to his aid willingly or if he’d been coerced.

But he’d never ask that question. Even though it burned his throat every time he thought about it, he’d never ask it. Because some things should never be asked out loud. Some things one really didn’t want to know, no matter how much they said otherwise.

“It’s different now, g’agsha.” Now that was the full truth.

“It will look even worse if I stay here after saying I’d be there,” he grumbled, pushing his hair out of his face with a frustrated huff. He glanced at the door to his rooms before looking back at Sheieh who was watching him with empty eyes. It was hard to pull one over on the other male. But if he could just get to his rooms alone, he could engage the wards and lock Sheieh out and escape from there. Though judging by the way Sheieh’s attention sharpened on him, his Guardian had already thought of that plan and was prepared to counter it. “And what’s to stop them from coming here? For the gods’ sakes, Sheieh, they have proof.”

He watched his Guardian flinch, watched him avert his eyes but not in time to hide the guilt that flashed across them. He held his breath, waited a heartbeat and then darted for his room. Behind him he heard Sheieh curse, felt his magick smack into the wall beside him as he pulled open the door to his rooms and ducked inside, engaging the wards to keep out everyone but himself before the door had even fully closed behind him. Breathing heavily he pressed his back against the door as Sheieh yelled at him to open it, to let him in, to disengage the wards. But he didn’t listen.

“I’m sorry, Sheieh,” he called over his Guardian’s cursing and yelling, over the sounds of him banging on the door as though sheer force of strength and will would get him through the wards. “But I’ve very little honor left to my name. I will not let cowardice be what takes that remaining sliver away from me.”

“It isn’t cowardice that you’d be doing here, Relyt!” He blinked, unable to remember if his Guardian had ever called him by his given name in all the time they’d been together. “This is stupidity! And it will get you killed! Drop the wards, g’agsha, and let me inside. Please.”

He shook his head as he pushed away from the door and crossed to his desk, pulling open drawers until he found what he needed. As he packed a bag and vanished everything out, he realized that for the first time in a long while the walls of his room weren’t slowly moving closer.

“Don’t make me have to explain to him why we’re building a pyre for you!” Sheieh shouted, voice filled with an anguish that was almost believable enough to make Relyt turn back, to almost make him listen. “Don’t make me have to face the dishonor of failing to uphold my Oath! G’agsha!”

But almost didn’t count outside of certain situations. And this wasn’t any of those. Not even close.

“I’m sorry, Sheieh,” he whispered. It wasn’t enough, wouldn’t ever be enough, but it was all he had. Taking a deep breath he turned his back on the door and went for the windows.

And if he ignored the whisper of Danger on the wind, ignored the way that the air in his rooms was stagnant in comparison, as he caught a Line and left? Well no one else would know but him.

8 thoughts on “99

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