25

“Healer.” 

“My Qishir.”

He stumbled back against the table behind him, thankful it was there. Thankful all the more so that no one had caught his reaction at that voice, to the Truth it held, at the extra meaning it added to that title.

It was so hard not to be jealous of the Snake Shiftkin who had been in the right place at the right time, able to help in a way that none of them could. But it was difficult when he watched her easily take control not just of the situation but of the seizing form of their Qishir. Was made even harder when he watched Rhyshladlyn resurface like a drowning man finding a life raft in tumultuous seas, a look of rapture on his face. A look the Qishir had never shown him.

That should have been me

Rubbing hard at his face he shook his head and tried to focus. But it was difficult to think around the sinking feeling in his gut and the way he felt simultaneously too hot and too cold. The way it felt like he was wearing clothes several sizes too small, packed tight into them and ready to burst the seams, but the clothes were his skin. Old scars itched, ones that weren’t visible, that he didn’t really have, that he couldn’t have, not anymore. And over all of that was the pressing need to run, to spread his wings and fly.

He hadn’t felt this way in centuries, no… decades? An outside looking in, jealous of what others had, things he had never had and never would. Wondering if his brother had it right. It… wait… wings? He didn’t have wings anymore though…? What–

“Revered One, are you alright?” He jumped and looked at Sheieh who was staring at him with wide eyes that were darker than he’d ever seen them.

The Gretlök sounded off because they didn’t speak his native tongue when among the Court. Azriel didn’t trust him enough for that. And while he never said it aloud, he agreed with his Guardian that it was too dangerous to antagonize the Anglëtinean since Rhyshladlyn wasn’t there to keep his Companion’s disgust in check.

But that wasn’t right… Rhyshladlyn was right there on the floor. And since the war ended, they slept in the same bed every night except when we’re visiting the Eighth Palace. He had always known where the Qishir was, even when he’d gone on assignment for Thayne and left Rhyshladlyn and Azriel behind, his Qishir was never where he couldn’t find him. So why did it feel like there was a stretch where Rhyshladlyn had been totally absent from his life, from everyone‘s lives?

And why does it feel like I’m the reason for that absence? 

His vision swayed and vertigo slammed up around his ears.

“Something’s wrong.” It was his voice but it didn’t sound right, sounded deeper, sharper edged, and by the Many his head was pounding, a counter beat to his heart. His vision trembled at the edges, dotted with squiggles of movement that were both there and not there, a sure precursor to a migraine.

“Relyt,” hearing his name pronounced correctly brought his attention up when did I get on the floor to find Eshere staring down at him with open concern, fog-grey eyes far too sharp for his comfort. “Are you well?” The heavily accented Common brought him further out of whatever was going on with his head if only because he was vaguely aware that the Dhaoine he’d mistaken Eshere for had spoken Common impeccably. That, unlike Eshere, this Sheieh–whoever he was–hadn’t had a single trace of his native accent.

What is going on with me? 

“I… no,” he answered, surprised that his voice was steadier than he felt, “I am not. Help me to a chair?”

His g’agshaïrt nodded, helping him get to his feet and into a chair just as Rhyshladlyn went under again, that Shiftkin barking orders on what she needed as she helped him ride through the waves. He sat with his hands gripping the arms of the chair beneath him until he heard the leather whine and the wood creak in a protest that went unheard in the din of voices and Rhyshladlyn’s screams. Looked on and felt like this whole thing wasn’t real. Like he was here but not, seeing it but removed. Like none of this should be happening but it was despite that.

He tried so hard not to feel jealous of the way Rhyshladlyn had looked at the female, the way he’d touched her and purred to comfort her when she’d cried in the face of his Acknowledgement. Which made no sense because he was Oathed, even if it was only one-sided, felt the Bond between him and the Qishir as clearly as he felt his own heartbeat in his chest, his own power thrumming beneath his skin. But yet… still he wished for the connection he’d seen when Rhyshladlyn had opened his eyes after the Shiftkin had spoken his true name with all the intent and pronunciation it deserved. Craved it on a level he didn’t understand and certainly had no words for.

What was worse was no one had noticed the episode he’d had except for Eshere. Everyone was focused on Rhyshladlyn, as they always were. As they should be given that without him the Worlds fell apart. The Qishir was literally the thread that kept the seams of Balance and Existence held properly together and they couldn’t lose that again. But even knowing that didn’t stop him from wishing that his family would notice that he was just as off kilter as the rest of them; that he was alone in the night, struggling to find shelter before the monsters inside and outside himself tore him to pieces.

Just once he wished that he didn’t feel so alone even when surrounded by those he cared so deeply for. Just once he wished that they saw him, too, in the same way they saw Rhyshladlyn, that they saw Azriel, that they saw each other.

I feel like this isn’t really my life… 

Covering his face with one hand, he groaned as the migraine bloomed in full, stabbing at the back of his eyes and pressing against his temples in a rapid staccato beat that made him want to vomit. As darkness pressed at the edges of his mind as the migraine grew more intense, he didn’t fight it. Just chuckled low under his breath, leaned into Eshere’s hand on his shoulder, and welcomed it. Because then he wouldn’t have to pretend anymore.

 

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