"I really, really hate to see you go." Pellaz's voice was
richly marbled, conveying entreaty, wistfulness and calm authority all
He's come a long way in only a few years, Vaysh thought to himself with grudging admiration as he, the Tigron and Yazdyar walked away from the banquet hall.
"All the reports I've heard — and they are many — say you're superb in the healing fields you've studied."
A smile bloomed deep on Yazdyar's lips. "They flatter me. Everyhar here is amazing, it's not just me. I came here to learn, and I have."
"Then why go?" Pell asked, his robes whispering sussurative messages around his feet on the marble floor.
"We need healers in Ferelithia, too. And I don't fit in here," he said with an easy shrug.
"The reports I've heard say that you've fit in quite well," Vaysh said tartly and Yazdyar snorted a laugh. "You're not going home to escape some obsessed suitor, are you?"
Yazdyar gave Vaysh a sly look, gazing meaningfully from under his raised eyebrows. "Uh, no. It's been a great experience, truly. But I need to get back to my roots. Immanion is splendid and entrancing, don't get me wrong. Tigron, I am indebted to you." He placed his hand on his heart and gracefully nodded his head, now that they'd stopped at the door to Vaysh's rooms.
"Don't be silly, there's no debt. It was my pleasure to have you here these six months. I only wish you'd consider making Immanion your home."
Yazdyar snuck an imploring glance to Vaysh, who took pity on him. While they'd not met up all that often during Yaz's training at the healing centers, he knew that he really did feel out of place despite his exceptional ability to put others around him at ease.
"I'm sure he'll consider it, Pell. Yaz, would you join me for some wine and conversation? You've been so busy I've barely been able to hear about all you've gotten up to. At least from your own mouth."
With a grateful nod, Yaz accepted and then turned back to the Tigron. "Maybe in the future. I can't thank you enough for your hospitality."
He reached out and took Pell's hand, both of them bronzed by summer and with study but slim fingers. Once he held it, however, Yazdyar suddenly seemed at a loss, like a lover presented with a baffling gift. After a few seconds, he raised it to his cheek, then kissed the back of Pell's hand, apparently reassured by Pell's fond look.
"Have safe travels. You're welcome to return at any time. I know that your father and hostling mean a great deal to Vaysh, and he means a great deal to me."
Vaysh only arched an eyebrow in response. Pell was being particularly effusive, no doubt due to a successful strategizing meeting with Arahal and no small amount of wine at dinner. No matter; Vaysh far preferred Pell when he was magnanimous and relatively at peace than when he was raging against some action of the Tigrina's.
"I'd probably fall apart without you," Pell told Vaysh, the unhindered affection drifting over Vaysh like morning mist.
"I highly doubt that. But thank you for saying so. I'll make sure your papers are ready before your ten o'clock meeting with the shipwrights."
Pell sighed delicately through his nose. "Oh, yes. Thank you. I think I need to see how our guests from Sulh are faring. One never knows with them." He murmured another set of intimate good-byes and strode confidently down the corridor. He assumed his more formal, regal stance even as Vaysh and Yazdyar watched him walk away.
"I'll never get used to Phaonica and all of the dinners, and parties, and gossip and the whole kingdom-like quality," Yazdyar said, shaking his head in relief once they were inside Vaysh's rooms. He turned his wolfish, blue-grey eyes to Vaysh, exasperation drawn on his features. "How do you do it? Father and Thorn have told me what Castlegar was like, and that area in the north near Tollsend. Even Ferelithia is a far cry from this— this pomp and ornate " he gestured vaguely, almost as if waving away an insect, "everything." He sank into one of Vaysh's rich mulberry chairs, slumping and running a hand through his dark russet waves of hair.
"I don't have a choice," Vaysh said, trying to keep the frost out of his tone. He shrugged out of his brocade vest that hung to the floor and draped it over a chaise. "Still, I've become used to things. It's not a hard life. And surely you weren't forced into too many lavish banquets like this; I did keep a few tabs on you and I know you were put through your paces at the center. Wine?"
Yazdyar stretched out his long legs, unfastening the laces on his leather vest and unbuttoning his tunic underneath with a purr of satisfaction. Vaysh found that he couldn't keep from allowing the unexpected spark of lustful appreciation to splutter feebly as he handed the wineglass to Yazdyar. Before Yaz's apprenticeship training in Immanion, the last time Vaysh had seen Jaffa and Firethorn's son had been at his Feybraiha, two years earlier. With his unique parentage, the devastating beauty that seemed gifted to pure-born Wraeththu, and his unassuming demeanor, Yaz was perhaps more compelling than Vaysh felt comfortable admitting to himself.
"What's wrong? Do I have some stain on my shift I didn't notice?" Yazdyar asked, chagrinned — or coy — and Vaysh realized he'd been staring.
"No, no." He busied himself by pouring himself an especially generous glass before standing opposite the young har. "The stars are supposed to be especially clear tonight; I have a decent view from my balcony. Care to come outside?"
"I'd love that!" Yaz had the enthusiasm of an excitable puppy. "I've studied some of the constellations, but mostly I think they're just gorgeous to look at."
Vaysh's heart warmed at Yazdyar's endearing earnestness. There weren't many hara around whom he felt he could let down his guard, but Yaz was included in that elite. He'd noticed that Vaysh was more aloof and cautious in groups, but Yazdyar wasn't so young as not to understand why he presented a less hospitable face to most hara in Immanion. They walked out to the balcony, the tangy air caressing Vaysh's skin like velvet feathers.
Yaz's voice trembled at the panoply of twinkling lights overhead. It was enough to strike awe into Vaysh's cynical spirit as well; he'd loved stargazing for as long as he could remember. As his mind drifted back, it snagged on a memory of nights with Ashmael and Parallax and an astronomy tower in Castlegar, a lifetime ago. He must have let out a noise, a soft moan of loss, because Yaz was at his side, asking worriedly, "Are you okay?"
The fist clenched around Vaysh's heart lessened its grip.
"Yes, I'm fine."
The light that spilled out from his rooms was enough that Vaysh could read the concern on his exotic features.
"You can talk to me if you want," Yaz offered, his voice supple and mellow. Vaysh sensed an overtone of intrigue, but banished such a preposterous idea.
"Just a shadow from the past. Nothing to discuss," he said firmly, taking a deep draught of wine. He gazed up at the dark expanse, riddled with lights like diamonds thrown up into the awaiting arms of the heavens. He heard a faint clink of glass on marble, and stiffened involuntarily when he felt Yazdyar's arms insinuate themselves around his waist. His bony chin came to rest on Vaysh's shoulder and a warm chest pressed to his back. A heated breath ghosted across Vaysh's ear and a scrap of a moan escaped his lips.
"You're beautiful, and so strong, but so defensive." Yaz's words glided across Vaysh's ear like satin. "Would you let me in, just once?"
Vaysh damned his body for reacting to the lithe form pressed behind him, for Yaz even considering it. He still took aruna sparingly; enough to make sure he never again suffered that gnawing feeling, of being little more than a dried husk fueled by bitterness and regret. Velaxis served that purpose well; he was familiar, intuitive, and discreet. Yazdyar was none of those things. As he rocked gently, letting his hands drift down to the top of Vaysh's thighs, Vaysh couldn't ignore the gentle throbbing that began to ache between his legs.
"I'm barren and scarred. Roon at your own risk," he said, taking a dark pleasure in the caustic rasp of the words. Yazdyar needed to know what he was really dealing with.
The clever fingers of one hand edged toward Vaysh's groin, the other sliding between a gap in the front folds of Vaysh's tunic. Vaysh put his glass down on the balcony railing to be safe. A warm palm splayed against Vaysh's abdomen, and he sensed tendrils of compassion, an unfurling of desire and healing that Yazdyar chanted imperceptibly on his breath. A moment later he paused, nuzzling at the edge of his jaw.
"You won't hurt me," Yaz said, his tone husky with want. "But I would never force myself on you."
Vaysh found himself turned in Yazdyar's arms and held close to him at the elbows. The slow burn was fully lit in Vaysh now, a pulsing beat within his soume-lam that was so relentless it made his teeth ache. What was going on? He kept up his walls for a reason. Yazdyar had seemed so naïve, and while his beauty bordered on savage given his unique parentage, Vaysh had never thought he'd considered him as anything other than a family friend. Yaz's slate eyes gleamed with feral anticipation, then his expression softened, an ocean after the storm has passed.
"I have some of my hostling's gifts as an adept," he said almost shyly. "No, I don't pine after you or anything like that. But since I went through Feybraiha I've understood some of the power to be held in aruna, beyond pleasure and harlings. You gave me this, years ago," he said, letting go of one of Vaysh's arms to scoop his hand underneath a chain where an amber and tiger's eye phoenix pendant hung.
Vaysh's brow wrinkled in surprise. "You still wear it?"
Yazdyar tilted his head, his eyes seeming to gaze into the past. "Yes. I was young; you were terribly strange, the stuff of some legend. I didn't really believe you were real until you showed up that day. I thought you'd given me a talisman, something to protect me."
Vaysh gave the wistful words a respectful pause before saying, "But now you're an adult har. Things change. It's a piece of jewelry, nothing more. Compared to the work of the artisans here, it's practically a trinket."
Yaz's gaze snapped back to Vaysh's face, his lips quirked to the side. "Yes, but it means something to me. You and I aren't close, I know that. I have grown up, watched my parents argue and make up, seen Ferelithia grow and thrive, and helped in the pearlbirth of my brother, listening to Jaffa's unbelievable swearing with vocabulary I'd never heard before."
He let the pendant rest against his chest, stepping close enough to wrap his arms around Vaysh's lower back. Vaysh could feel the insistent ridge of his erect ouana-lim pressed against his groin; the pressure was too much for his overwrought senses and he allowed the flames of need to burst into life.
"I want to give back to you, Vaysh," Yazdyar murmured against his lips before his questing tongue licked Vaysh's lower lip. Yaz suckled on it for moment, the first hint of his taste breezing into Vaysh's mouth, spice and pines ruffled by the wind.
"I'll take all you can give," Vaysh replied hungrily. "Don't say you weren't warned."
His vigor returned as he assumed an active role in their dance of seducer and seduced. Once he'd decided to travel down this unexpected road, he nearly dragged Yazdyar back into his bedroom, making short work of the younger har's clothes. Yaz was sublime, tall and lean with more of his hostling's reddish coloring than his father's pale, freckled skin. A proud, long ouana-lim of burnished copper glowed at his groin, jutting between strong thighs and a nest of mahogany curls.
"Now you," Yaz said in a voice both ragged and prayerful.
"The outside is flawless," Vaysh said automatically, not recognizing the bite to his tone until he saw the concern in Yaz's eyes. He disrobed, every nerve now blazing with the indefatigable harish need to be touched, revered, joined. His soume-lam was an engorged fruit, ripe and yearning for the deep piercing soon to come.
"We're all flawed on the inside, Vaysh," Yaz said simply, and with that, he took the few steps to meet him.
Vaysh had expected ferocity. While they weren't gentle with each other, their intimate movements were more like those of reunited lovers, not jungle cats tearing at each other. Yaz teased at the hollows under Vaysh's arms; he worried the hard nubs on Vaysh's chest until Vaysh groaned at the unbearable pleasurepain of it. Yazdyar looked greedily at him, his face flush with desire and eyes hooded. His deft fingers sought the points of pleasure in Vaysh's soume-lam until he arched up from the bed.
"Now, Yaz, god," Vaysh panted, watching as the other har licked the tangy fluid from his fingers with a decadent smile.
Yazdyar's face grew more serious. "This is meant to be a gift of healing."
"I feel better already."
Yaz smirked. "More than just that. Wait just a moment or two. I'll make it worth your while."
Vaysh grumbled his impatience, his nerves sparking and legs wide, his body teased mercilessly by the other har's surprising passion. Yazdyar sat on his heels, closed his eyes and appeared to focus himself inward, murmuring words in a language Vaysh couldn't recognize. A vibrant peace settled over him, still pulsing with the erotic energy that radiated from Yazdyar. It was as though their desire had been a solitary note, and now a leaping chorus of healing flames rose around them. Vaysh felt soothed and also desperate for Yaz to move in him, to flower and reach his damaged core. Moments later Yaz slowly opened his eyes; the energies around them faded to a wispy gold, shimmering and alive like the dancing rainbow lights in the sky Vaysh had seen during his time at the cold place. A pearlized drop of fluid welled at the top of Yaz's ouana-lim but it was his burning gaze that drew Vaysh's attentions up from his groin. Vaysh opened his arms in welcome.
Yazdyar pressed into him with a smooth motion and Vaysh made a broken cry of relief. Again and again, thundering waves onto a shore; Yazdyar thrust deeply, seeking every nerve as Vaysh's body claimed and squeezed him with each advance and retreat. All at once Vaysh rolled them over, wanting to control their pace, to let his damaged but miraculously unruined muscles reap the erotic harvest Yaz wanted to provide. The curtain of flickering gold rose and fell; the grating, delicious tension built between them until Vaysh believed he could taste their release, tart and prismatic on his tongue.
"Yaz, please," he gasped, swept away by the peace and yearning in Yaz's dilated eyes. Perhaps due to the spell Yazdyar had woven, or a latch in his reserve wrenched open by this unanticipated gift, he sought deep within himself and let the seal to his barren lands open. Yazdyar's eyes grew wide and he shouted, the tongue snapping out, a lightning flash to lick the darkest recesses in Vaysh's hollows. Their release thundered in Vaysh's blood; stars exploded behind his eyes and he shuddered as his body was wracked with pleasure. He imagined he felt the luminous aren falling within his wasteland, a warm rain on parched ground. They seemed suspended there, a time out of time, Yazdyar breathing heavily and Vaysh murmuring prayers that sounded much like "oh," and "fuck," and "yes."
He slid down to Yaz's side, uncoupling them with cautious movements even though his limbs felt impossibly heavy. The lambent veil dissipated as their breathing slowed; Vaysh felt unpleasantly exposed, though he tried his best to force it back away, for now. Yaz turned his head to face him, sweat-drenched curls glistening on his forehead. The fierceness was gone; concern was heavy in his gaze.
"You did that on purpose," he said with a rough voice.
"I did. Don't worry; I won't be hosting your pearl."
"I wasn't worried." A small v-shape of thoughtfulness appeared between Yaz's eyebrows. "I didn't think you'd trust me that much."
Vaysh leaned in and they shared breath, a gentle lapping of images and sated familiarity. When he drew back, he said dryly, "This was certainly not how I thought our conversation would go."
An amused smile danced onto Yazdyar's lips. "Neither did I. Do you feel at all different?"
"I'm guessing you mean beyond exhausted and thoroughly rooned?"
Yaz chuckled, rubbing noses with him. "Yes. That was quite a powerful arunic experience. I didn't know whether or not maybe you could feel some of the damage being undone."
Vaysh moved away from him, lying on his back and beginning to draw back into himself. "I don't expect that what was done to me can ever be undone. I'm at peace with that. If we all had harlings the world would be overpopulated in three generations and we'd be even worse than humankind ever was."
"Hey, I didn't mean to imply that." Yaz's voice was pleading, but Vaysh continued to look at the verdant expanse of his bed canopy. "I didn't want to take aruna with you because I think I'm some amazing healer and could make you whole from the inside out. You're an important figure to me, Vaysh. Vaysh "
Unable to resist any longer, Vaysh dragged his gaze from the canopy over to the young har, now leaning up on an elbow. "You are an amazing healer," he said. "Jaffa and Firethorn should be very proud of you."
"Your body called out to me," Yaz said as though in apology. "And you're really beautiful. Not just physically."
"Like your hostling and highhostling, you're a romantic," Vaysh groused.
"Guilty, I suppose. I'm just me, and I'll be heading back to Ferelithia tomorrow. Don't worry," he rushed on as Vaysh began to open his mouth. "My rooning partners aren't my parents' business."
"I'd certainly hope not."
With a deep exhale, Yazdyar enfolded Vaysh in his arms. His fingers kneaded small circles into Vaysh's back, and he relaxed against him like a cat in a strip of sunlight.
"You're really quite fascinating, you know."
"Most hara would begin and end at haughty or unapproachable, but thank you. You've seen a rare side of me." The blue-grey eyes silently asked a question about the future, and Vaysh languorously shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. Maybe at another point this opportunity would come up again. I can't possibly predict the future, not mine, not the Tigron's, not the future of Wraeththu."
Yaz huffed a laugh. "I really wasn't thinking that far ahead. I only wondered if the door might be open to me again."
Vaysh pondered the thought; it simply wasn't something he could consider given all of the uncertainties of his life. He absolutely wasn't looking for a chesnari; being Pell's aide gave him a deeply ingrained sense of purpose which anchored him when chaos swirled around him, especially now that the Gelaming army had returned. He and Ashmael had an understanding, if one could call avoidance and necessary civility such an arrangement. The pain wasn't nearly as acute, however, and Vaysh had become comfortable in his role as a solitary.
"Well," he said at last, drawing on the faint pulse of the golden peace that had leapt around them before, "you're the first to have opened it and walked through. I suppose you could consider yourself to have a key."