Angel Hunt and Streifen in AU
C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 02
Bright sunlight shines in through the tall spanning windows, splashing the open space in soft hues of light. Immaculate white marble accented in gold carvings gleam, reflecting small speckles of yellow across the wide, ornate bed as if it were covered in a thousand fireflies’ light.
With his lithe body tangled in thick velvet soft bedding and long snow colored hair fanned and skewed across the plump brocade pillow beneath his head, Jun’s brows slowly begin to furrow as the curtain of blackness once again begins to peel away. Sleepily, a single hand rises up from beneath the satin sheeting, tugging free before fingers spread to cover perfectly carved features in a futile attempt to block out the intruding light. It does little good and with a sigh, white eyes flecked in spots of early dawn hues finally crack open. Staring without focus at the extravagantly dressed floor to ceiling windows that span the entire curve of the cathedral sized room, he spends a few long moments in bitter silence before conceding. Slipping his fingers from his face, the Angel turns onto his back –his arms spreading out wide to his sides and his eyes trained on the light playing across the designs of the tiling far up above.
Each night after he’s jolted from his dreams and sleep returns to him, there is only blackness in its wake. Every night as he slips into that blackness, Haniel attempts to comfort him and every night that comfort feels as empty as the hole in which he eventually falls. Every morning he wakes to find the sun shining in, his once dark world washed in light and dreams that were so vivid faded to little more than a faint whisper lost somewhere on the wind.
He’s starting to grow tired of it, of the dreams and of this routine and he’s hoping that in the end, Haniel is right -that when the color is completely gone from his eyes and all traces of his failure is wiped away, so too will be the dreams gone. He’s tired of being haunted by eyes he doesn’t know, a voice he can’t fully grasp onto and the obscured face of someone who doesn’t even exist. He’s tired of not being able to find comfort in someone who has done so much for him simply because the comfort doesn’t compare to that given by a fictitious person his mind has created. It isn’t fair to Haniel but as each new day passes and another dream plague him, the feeling grows stronger and he hates that above all else. He’s tried time and time again to purge his mind of them, of that person’s presence and time and time again, he’s failed.
Like a ghost, he and those dreams keep coming back to haunt him and he seems utterly powerless to do anything to make them go away.
Closing his eyes briefly, the white haired man pulls his hands up to his face and allows himself the small frustrated noise that muffles against his skin before he pushes himself upright in the bed. Slipping toned legs from the quilted bedding and twisting gracefully off to the side, bare feet touch down on sun warmed marble below. Long messy plates tumble downward as he straightens, feather soft ends settling at his lower back even as he moves towards the wide open archway ahead. With barely a shift in his lean frame, Jun leans slightly over as he passes an intricately carved bench to tug a garment from its brocade surface, sliding it easily over his head. Semi-sheer silken fabric the same hue as his pale skin slips over his frame, the hem brushing at his upper thighs and the golden filigree wide woven collar draping collarbone and shoulder alike.
Moving past the threshold of his room and into the long stretch of hallway that lies beyond, it’s without notice that he passes sheer panes of fabric dressing opened windows that line his path billowing softly in the gentle wind flooding in. The marble beneath his feet is as warm as the sun that bathes the corridor, each silent touch of his feet carrying him closer to the archway near the end. As he moves closer, the smells of freshly cooked food are carried to his nose, pulling a soft smile to his lips as he steps into the main hall. Waiting for him as it always is, is a marble table drenched in the morning light, its surface bare save the two plates filled to the brim, the silverware besides it and the fine china mug that is set to one side. Seated on one of the only two stone scrolled chairs is his superior, his pure white gaze locked on the pages of a well worn book resting on his lap while a cup of coffee is cradled in his hand.
“I would have woken you,” Haniel says without looking up, his free hand sliding over to turn a gilded parchment page, “but I never seem able to resist that cute sleeping face of yours.” He flashes the other Angel a sly grin.
“Funny.” Jun frowns, his voice so utterly un-amused that it pulls a chuckle from his counterpart and seating himself in the chair opposite, his tunic slips from a shoulder as he settles and pulls the cup before him near.
“In all seriousness, Jun,” Haniel says as Jun lifts the cup to his mouth, his fingers slipping from the book to close it before setting to his side and sitting back in his chair. “We will have to work on your waking times. You take liberties that most are not allowed and eventually you will be found out.”
“I’ll only be found out if you report me,” Jun retorts, taking a long sip of the steaming liquid that pulls a sour look to his features before he can stop it. The coffee is as it always is, black and thick, rich with aroma and finely ground, but ever since the dreams began he’s begun to feel the drink is missing something that he can’t quite put his finger on and it grows more and more bitter to him as the days wear on. “Are you planning on reporting me then?” He inquires with a quirked brow as he sets the cup down, lifting an intricately carved silver fork before dipping it into the pile of soft fluffy eggs on his plate.
“Sometimes I’m tempted to.” The other Angel smirks before taking a sip of his own coffee, his face reflecting none of the dissatisfaction that showed on Jun’s a moment ago. “Especially when you take advantage of my fondness of you as you are now.” In an instant, all jest is gone from his superior’s features and it causes Jun’s movements to come to an abrupt stop. Staring at the other Angel in silence as white eyes burn through him, he can only frown in a little in response.
“While you slept like a princess, I have done something that is far beneath my rank, lowering myself to slave away to make you this meal.” Haniel continues. “And I have yet to hear even a word of gratitude or thanks. It makes me question whether you deserve the attention I give you and whether I should simply wash my hands of you once and for all”
Blinking is all Jun can do and for a few moments, nothing further is exchanged. Pink spotted white eyes stare into pure snow and without warning both men break out in laughter, the moment of feigned tension completely gone. Shaking his head in a way that shifts long bangs across high cheekbones, he remarks snidely that he isn’t the only one to be put out and he should turn him in for his lie about the food preparation alone.
The pair return to their meal and soon the discussion between them shifts into the normal conversation they share every morning -talk of training new applicants for Bonding and the Youths who know little of the life before them, of their required study in the Great Halls, and so on and on. As Haniel begins to relay his duty roster for the day as he always does and what’s expected of him on the Secondary Council, Jun’s thoughts shift back to his dreams and while he listens in silence to his companion, a strange feeling begins to take root somewhere inside.
This routine is familiar and yet it is not. He’s been alive for over six hundred years and for nearly four hundred of them, he and the other man have done this time and time again. Yet ever since his failed sanctioned travel to Earth, ever since the dreams, this routine and much of what he knows to be fact has begun to slip slightly out of focus.
He is one of the youngest to be promoted to the Higher ranks and while he knows he owes the other man much for it, as it was his training specifically that has helped him succeed, he’s no longer able to remember with clarity how it actually happened. There was once a time he wouldn’t dream of questioning anything because there was no need. He knew who he was; just as he knew his place and he was just as sure of it as he is the sun will rise every morning in the sky.
But since the dreams began, the details of his life have begun to obscure and when he attempts to remember a specific event or time, they only obscure further. He knows that he and the other man have done this before, that for the last four hundred years they have shared a table, a conversation, a life and a bed. He knows that they have eaten together as they do now, talked together as they are now, trained together as they will later in the day and slept together as they will once night comes. He knows that they have done these things first in secret, long before the Council allowed it, then in public when the threat of their relationship would no longer bring either of them a trial, torture or death. He has loved the other Angel since their first meeting, loved him as a Youth just as he loves him now. He knows this in his heart, the same heart he has given to the other man, just as he knows he is loved and was given a heart in return.
Yet every day since his failure what he knows in his heart has felt less solid and it’s as if the haze that envelops in his mind upon waking has slid downward to encompass more than the memories of something he can never quite recall. Have he and Haniel truly been in this very place before? Have they really shared their meals, their lives, their hearts and their beds? Why is it that he grows less sure of it every day and why is it that the edges of the boundaries that surround him have begun to blur in the same way the world blurs in his dreams?
Jun is pulled from his thoughts by a concerned voice calling his name and for a moment he feels a sense of déjà vu that nearly halts his breath, but the moment is gone the instant he blinks it away. Smiling, he apologizes for his loss of attention with a slight shake of his head before glancing down to find his meal only partially eaten. Realizing his appetite has also left him, he sets his fork down before sitting back in his chair, a look of contemplation slowly crossing over his face.
“I think I’m going to put in another application for travel after study today.” Jun says quietly, his words causing an immediate frown to form on the other man’s lips. “Now that I know what to expect, I think I’m ready.” Everything has happened because of his first attempt and his subsequent failure and if he’s able to succeed a second time, perhaps all of the dreams, the odd unsettled feeling that’s been growing inside of him and his life will go back to what they were before…
“Get off the island.” The command is issued with the same coldness as a winter wind, each word biting into the auburn-haired Dark on the receiving end. “Don’t return until I give you permission.” The shorter Selestarri begins to protest, swearing he’s been wrongfully accused, that he’d been set up, and that the one who turned him in is a liar. Black eyes narrow a little more with each manufactured truth, his tolerance for bullshit even shallower than normal. Leniency is a luxury and it should never be questioned. He is always fair in his judgments, and considering that the man had been found actively recruiting others of their faction for a rebellion, he was lucky to receive a banishment.
A glance in the direction of the two men standing on either side of the large, silver inlaid double doors brings them towards the accused. “Break his wings before you throw him off.” Panic fills the other Dark’s voice as he begs while being dragged out, but the words fall on deaf ears. Usually he completes such punishments himself, believing that if he’s willing to pronounce such judgments, he must also be willing to carry them out personally, but today he just doesn’t care enough. He knew that asshole before he’d taken the title as Seeker, knew how much he loved to stir shit up from behind the scenes without ever having the spine to get his hands truly dirty. Like many of the older Dark who had been in favor with the previous Seeker, he hadn’t taken well to the change in regime. There’s a chance he’ll get it together through the pain before his body collides with the Earth below, and if he doesn’t, it’s no loss.
Even before the double doors close, Zeph has turned toward the single door on the side of the room. Sunlight filters in from the skylights above to splash the rings of green and white mosaic floor tiles with patches of golden summer sunshine, their warmth unfelt and paid little attention as he pushes the polished wooden door open into a side corridor. A shadow among shadows in his customary black clothing, the Seeker makes his way through the silent hallway, long hair pulled away from his face into a ponytail that shifts between narrow shoulder blades as he walks.
Windows open up along one wall when he turns a corner, the view of the central courtyard revealing manicured gardens, the opened panes bringing gusts of flower-scented wind into the interior of the fortress. Settled just opposite the windows on a carved wooden bench, a slender Dark flashes Zeph a grin as he approaches, long legs lifting him to walk beside without missing a step. Honey colored blonde hair shot through with streaks of red and orange falls to the center of the other Selestarri’s back, held away from his face with a scattering of blue and white hairpins. Beneath thick bangs, amber tinted eyes meet cool black, warm and friendly in the same way they’d been since first meeting almost ten years ago.
The younger man holds out a pastry wrapped with a fine blue linen cloth, the strong scent of eggs and meat wafting on the breeze. “I promised your partner I’d give this to you,” Carrow explains, shrugging when a cool look is shot in his direction. “He says you probably haven’t eaten today.”
Grudgingly, Zeph accepts the pastry as they continue down the corridor, winding their way away from the central courtyard and toward the outer wall of the fortress. He frowns at the other Dark, but there’s no real chill in it. Innic is correct, he hasn’t eaten today, distracted and busy completing various tasks. Likely his best friend would argue that it’s not just today, that he doesn’t eat much on any day, and he wouldn’t be wrong. Like everything in his life these last ten years, he finds no real pleasure in eating, consuming only what’s necessary and not much else. There’s no point when it all tastes like ash.
A parchment envelope appears in Carrow’s empty hand, sealed with deep blue wax. “This is from my partner.” Accepting the envelope, Zeph comes to a stop before a set of doors, their wide windows worked in elaborate filigree. Sliding the tip of his finger across an inlaid rune where a handle would normally sit, the doors swing open onto a long stone platform. “Olier says the ghosts are unsettled by the instability of the Bright.”
Carrow’s partner, Olier, is the leader of the Dark Wardens. Even stronger in his connection to the afterlife than Sashi, the older Selestarri is one of his closest advisors. Most of the time he remains at Caeli Tower on the north end of island, relaying his reports through his partner, but he had been adamant when Zeph became the Seeker that the Wardens would become more involved with the rest of Dark society. His brother had vouched for both Olier’s magical abilities and his trustworthiness, and the man has proven to be a good ally. Paired with Carrow, they make a strange set of partners, partly because of the span between their ages and partly because of the vast differences in their personalities.
The political issues of the Bright have been unsettled for the last few years, ever since the end of the short, but intense war the two factions had fought. There is a split between those seeking more conservative regulation by the Council of Eleven and the Assembly and those who wish for less. With the general upheaval that has taken place on the Eyrie recently, some of which he’s directly responsible for, a wide trench has sprung up between both sides, and as of yet there appears to be no way to bridge it.
“When will you meet with Rallibrid?” Carrow asks, leaning casually against the opened doorway.
Stepping over the threshold, the parchment and the pastry disappear from Zeph’s hand, the wind pulling his hair into a long stream behind him. “I’ve requested a meeting, and I’m assuming she’ll consent.” She should, if Lakydra trained her as well as promised. She may be new to her title as Oracle, but should she fail to get her faction into line, they’ll all have a lot more issues than some unsettled ghosts.
Glossy black feathered wings unseal and without another word to the younger Selestarri, he strides the length of the platform and drops over the edge. The updraft catches the feathers a few feet down, pulling him aloft to soar out over the lake that surrounds the fortress and toward the distant mountains…
The shadows are long in the valley when Zeph finally settles on the edge of the cliff, the sun slowly sinking toward the western horizon behind the mountain peaks. Birdsong fills the air, underscored by the steady rush of water as it plummets into the lake below. Beneath the canopy of leafy oak and hickory branches, blue and white flowers grow in scattered groupings, bees and butterflies alike drifting from petal to petal.
Resetting the magic that seals his wings, the blonde ducks beneath the canopy, his arrival marked by a pair of squirrels that dash into the undergrowth, chattering loudly to one another. Patchy sunlight filters through the leaves above to illuminate a tall piece of stone. Set to catch the rising sun in the east end of the valley, the white marble is expertly carved and detailed, each arch and whorl the mark of a master craftsman. Hidden from view in a compartment just beneath is a box of the same material, inlaid with rose quartz and holding all that remains of the person he loves most.
Long fingers reach out to sweep along the top of the stone, a greeting of sorts before he settles on the ground just to the right and leans against the solid marble. Ten years have passed since all the light went out of his world. Brilliant as the sun one moment and darker than the deepest night the next. The laughter, the smiles, the warmth, all of it bled out on that battlefield. Even the anger has dissipated, burnt away to leave only a cold emptiness inside the hollow shell that wears his face. He would give anything to hold him again, to hear his voice, to wake at his side, to ease the terrible, aching loneliness that’s seized his heart.
“I miss you, Jun,” he whispers, but the only reply is the echoing birds and the warm summer wind…
“You aren’t ready.” Haniel states flatly, setting his fork down so abruptly that the metal against the china rings loudly to echo across the high inlaid ceiling above. “I’ve told you this already. Your dreams and the color still left in your eyes should be proof enough for you. They are a byproduct of your inability to fully sync with the sanctioned travel methods and if you act brashly, you’ll do more than just short circuit your brain for good.”
Jun says nothing, but the frown that has formed on full lips only deepens.
“They’ll deny you for life if you fail a second time, you know this. You’ll never be allowed to leave the Heavens or see the Earth. Do you really want to take that chance?”
“I didn’t realize that your opinion of my abilities was so low.” The Angel cuts back, unable to help the slight tint of irritation that has crept into his tone as he drops his eyes downward to his plate of half eaten food.
“You know full well I don’t mean it that way.” Haniel frowns and despite the obvious irritation showing in early dawn flecked white, his pure snow colored eyes reflect only a solemn calm. “I only mean that I think you can stand to wait, that you need to train a little harder on your discipline before attempting travel again. It’s taken this long to rid you of the taint in your eyes and if you push it too soon…” he sighs, concern creeping into his voice, “I need you Jun and I couldn’t bear… ”
~Please, Beautiful, I need you~
Dual colored eyes snap up and for a second, Jun can only stare at the other man –breathless and slightly wide eyed for a reason he isn’t able to comprehend. What he just heard came not from the one before him, they were words that weren’t spoken aloud but he heard them just the same. They are familiar… as familiar as the presence in his dreams, hazy and clouded yet clear as day and without realizing he’s doing it, long fingers rise up and touch at his heart where a sudden, encompassing ache has settled in.
“Besides,” Haniel continues without pause, snapping Jun instantly from his thoughts, his fingers falling right back down. “You aren’t missing anything. Earth is as it’s always been, mundane and boring with the same small people living the same short lives. Central runs as it does here, the Secondary Council is puppeted through the core and the entire planet is as filthy as the humans who inhabit it. I’ve told you this already. The stink I bring home when duty requires me to report there should be more than enough to satisfy any want you have to see it by now,” he snorts.
“Azrael tells it differently,” Jun counters with a shake of his head. “He claims it to be similar in beauty to here. He’s said that the human structures and architecture could rival that of any Angelic spiral, that they have food and entertainment not seen in the Heavens, customs we aren’t allowed… You can say that it’s boring because you’ve seen it but I would like to see it for myself one time as well, that’s all.” Though truthfully, the reason he wants to go runs far deeper than all the petty surface reasons he’s just stated. He doesn’t remember when the urge originally hit him, but he’s felt a pull towards it for quite some time and ever since his last attempted failure and the dreams that have followed, that pull has only grown tenfold.
He’s growing increasingly sure that if he manages to visit it successfully once, whatever damage he did previously will be repaired. He’s also hoping that along with it, he will no longer have to live through his death every night and that the one… that one with the golden eyes and the white gold hair and the features he isn’t able to focus in on once he wakes, bearing a name he can never remember will stop drifting like a ghost through his subconscious and might finally fade away.
“You are not a Youth, Jun,” Haniel frowns, his tone suddenly scolding. “You are Bonded and should know better than to listen to the gossip of those beneath you, especially one like Azrael who is a simpleton desperate for the attentions of a Higher simply to gain status points amongst the ranks. I’ve told you before not to trust that one, haven’t I? Think about it, how in the Maker’s name would that idiot know anything about Earth when he’s never once traveled there himself?” Haniel crosses his arms, pressing his point despite Jun’s silence. “I know you fancy thinking better of the lessers, but you of all people should be able to see that one for what he is and taking his word over mine is simply…” he scoffs “Sucking up to his superiors and saying whatever he thinks will suit them in hopes that one will allow him into their beds, it’s as pathetic and transparent as w-“
Unable to stay quiet any longer, Jun suddenly slams his hands down, the plates and cups on the table rattling in its wake. “That wasn’t fair.” He looks up, both anger and a touch of hurt showing in his dual colored eyes. “To him or to me.” Pushing his lean frame back in his chair, the tall Angel stands and turns abruptly, moving towards the hallway that will lead him back to his room.
He knows Haniel is right, about all of it, and especially about Azrael, but that’s what irritates him the most. He knows that if he’d been strong enough and better disciplined the first time around, none of this would even be an issue. There would be no reason for second tries, no dreams plaguing him and no color in his eyes marking his weakness for all to see. No one knows it better than himself but right now he is not in the mood to be told something he already knows, especially when he’s at a loss as to what else he can do.
Moving halfway past the wide archway, Jun’s steps are halted when his wrist is caught, his lithe frame pulled back and spun around. Another arm catches him around the waist to hold in place and the white haired Angel finds himself staring into apologetic snow colored eyes.
“I’m sorry.” Haniel says quietly and releasing his hold on Jun’s wrist, tapered fingers rise up to brush across his cheek. “I misspoke.” Sliding the tips of his fingers down, he traces slowly along Jun’s jaw. “Out of jealousy, if I’m to admit, for the attentions you give to another…”
“I don-“ Jun tries, only to have his words silenced by a soft touch at his lips.
“You have never been like the others.” His superior continues and slipping his fingers down, he traces along the line of his neck, over collarbone and chest until his hand comes to rest atop Jun’s heart. “You’re too kind hearted, you always have been and sometimes, I can’t help but be protective of you because of it.” Sliding his hand back up, he brushes Jun’s bangs to the side before pushing wayward strands of his hair over his shoulder. “But I know this to be unnecessary. You are not a Youth and you haven’t been for a very long time. You have earned your place, both in rank and at my side and what you do… who you give your attentions to, I know they are not for me to control.”
“Can you forgive me for my lapse?” Haniel asks. “This once?”
Silent for a moment before a soft smile spreads over his lips, he nods. “I can… this once.” Smiling in return, Haniel leans in, his lips touching Jun’s own. The arm around his waist tugs his body closer and as the kiss begins to deepen, the sureness he felt earlier in regards to a new application for travel, the words said but not spoken, the presence that has been haunting him and the argument of only a moment ago is gone, forced from his mind in an instant as if they never existed at all. Strong hands slide around his thighs and a moment later, he’s lifted up, his legs swinging around his superior’s body and his arms wrapping toned shoulders. Small gasps for air pulls them apart momentary, the sun shining in to wash entwined bodies in warm light as the older of the two carries the one he holds down the hall and to the bedroom lying beyond.
The night has passed its midpoint when sound cracks the thickness of sleep, tugging the Dark from his dreams. Orange eyes open to fuzzy shadows that slowly resolve into the familiar shapes of his bedroom, their hard edges outlined by the silver moonlight that flickers when the warm summer wind gusts through the sheer curtains. A low whimper, muffled, but distinctive, pulls Innic’s attention to the other side of the bed and the hunched form that sits tangled in the light bedsheets. Long hair, unbound from its usual ties, cascades over bare shoulders to pool on the mattress in swirls of white-gold, gray, and black. Face tilted downward to rest against bent knees, another sob breaks from Zeph, the sound just as heart-wrenching tonight as it has been on all the other nights since he’d left the Bright to become the other man’s partner.
Several times a week he wakes to this same situation, his best friend haunted by memories of Jun and their life together. The cover of darkness and the privacy of their room are the only place Zephyr can truly let himself fall into the pain, the cold facade he keeps so tightly lashed into place pulled back to reveal what lies beneath. A heart shredded and torn, bleeding just as badly with the loss and hurt that ten years may as well have been only ten minutes. This is why he makes sure he’s always here at night, no matter how far from Nova his duties take him. The idea of the other Selestarri mourning alone is too unsettling, and while he can’t bring Jun back or remove the pain completely, he can offer comfort at the only time Zeph will accept it.
Sitting up and pushing back the blankets, Innic settles in beside the taller Dark, wrapping his arms around the slim chest and gently pulling Zephyr in close. The blonde is all muscle, but he’s too thin, his body feeling too light against his own. “It’s okay, Zeph,” he murmurs against a crown of white-gold, warm breath trickling through the thick strands. “It’s okay.”
The Seeker melts against his chest, another rattling sob shaking through him. Innic tightens his arms gently, carefully rocking his partner as though he were a small child. His heart breaks for the other Selestarri, for the hurt he hears in every word, for the grief so deeply entrenched, for the raw, aching despair of a life filled with pain. Death leaves so many holes in those who remain, and while for some those holes close with time, for others they remain, slowly widening with each passing day. When the blonde commits himself to someone else, he gives everything–his body, his loyalty, his whole heart. He’s been that way since they were kids, and while they spent a good portion of their adult lives apart until recently, Zeph hasn’t changed in the slightest. When Jun died Zeph’s heart was shattered, his world splintered and broken, and the fragments left aren’t able to be put back together. Those empty places filled with glacial cold, frigid as the highest mountain peaks, leaving his best friend detached and apathetic.
But on these nights, the cold is stripped away and all the hurt rushes to the surface, displaying just how little holds the Seeker together. He has no idea how the taller Dark makes it through each day other than through sheer force of will. Sometimes–and he’d never say this to his partner–sometimes he wonders if he should have let Zeph die the last time he’d tried to kill himself. He’d been very close to Eviternity, blood flowing from the cuts along his forearms, soaking into the bed linens, so weak he had barely opened his eyes when Innic found him. Maybe he was just being selfish in keeping him alive, desperate not to lose the other man, and maybe it would have been best to let him go so he could finally be free of pain and misery. In the end that’s all he really wants for Zeph, to see him smile, to hear him laugh, to lose the haunted look in deep black eyes.
Long minutes pass and he continues to gently rock the one he holds tight within his arms, the warm summer air trickling in from the opened windows to wind around them. “Didn’t he know how much I need him ?” Zeph finally whispers, voice thick and raspy with barely contained strain.
“Of course Jun knew,” Innic reassures the other Selestarri. “The two of you spent thirty-five years together. He knew you better than I know you, better than even you know you.” After Aly and Mijah kidnapped the Angel and attacked Zeph all those years ago, he wasn’t sure if they would ever be friends again. The blonde had offered, but he’d thought the bridge between them burned, something never to be reconstructed once he’d turned his back, and the shame he felt at that betrayal was still so sharp. Zeph had given him two years before he’d come to reclaim his best friend, promising that he didn’t care what had happened on that last day at the Eyrie, he just wanted Innic in his life. He’d had his reservations, but as he spent more time with the pair of them, he’d seen firsthand the love that Jun and Zeph shared. It was deep and strong and unshakeable, and while it seems contradictory, it helped his heart to move past the old love he’d carried for so long. He was happy for them, truly happy that they had one another and that each of them was committed, body and soul, to the other. Then when Jun died he’d watched Zeph fall apart, struggling through the days and trying three times to end his life. It was after the second attempt that he’d known the other man needed him closer and he’d left the Bright.
Innic pulls back a little, unwinding one arm from around his partner’s chest to slip fingers beneath his chin. Carefully he tilts Zephyr’s head upward, orange pools meeting a gaze devoid of color, the usual black tint now suffusing the skin just beneath his eyes and onto his cheeks, the strange shift a quirk in his memory telepathy that had begun once he’d become the Seeker and gained the magic of the Beyond. “He loved you with everything he was, Zeph.” His fingers ease long bangs from the other Dark’s face, the tips warm against cool skin. “And whatever happens to Angels when they die , I know he still loves you now.”
The blonde’s hand wraps around his fingers, colorless eyes pleading for comfort so desperately that he’s completely unsurprised when soft lips touch his own less than a heartbeat later. It isn’t often that Zeph asks this of him, and even if it was, he wouldn’t deny him, not if it’s what he needs. They’re partners and when he swore the oaths to protect the other man, he meant them. Just as he would with any physical enemy, Innic will shield his partner from the intangible ones as well. He’ll do whatever he can to blunt the sorrow, the emptiness, and the grief that stalks the taller Dark.
When he doesn’t protest, the kiss deepens, quickly igniting a flash of heat that burns a path to the dark-haired man’s core. Hands touch at his waist, latching onto the hem of the thin shirt he wears and tugging it upward. Forced apart as the fabric passes over his head, only a fraction of a second is spent tossing it to the floor before those same hands cradle his face, pulling him in for another scorching kiss. His own hands settle at narrow hips, fingertips tracing the sharp ridge of bone just above loose drawstring pants. Velvet soft skin meets his touch, slim hips pushing forward for more, and he complies, palms passing down over toned thighs before trailing upward once again. A small, pleased sound slips from between Zeph’s lips, one hand slipping from his jaw and along his neck to settle at his shoulder, pushing him slowly to the mattress as they exchange a series of short, fiery kisses. Legs straddle his hips even as his back hits the bedding, long hair sliding over bare shoulders in a curtain of gradient white-gold and black that shines in the moonlight.
Faces close in the patchy shadows, pale eyes blink slowly, staring down at him for a long moment before Zeph shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Innic,” he apologizes, his voice trembling and barely audible.
Innic exhales slowly, raking fingers through his hair as he works to pull himself back together. Anything his partner needs–even if the other Dark doesn’t seem to quite know what that is sometimes. He can’t be angry, not when he’s fully aware just how damaged his best friend is and how badly at times he wants to feel anything other than the pervading empty sadness. What it comes down to in the end is that he’s not Jun, and no matter how much comfort he offers during the long, difficult nights when Zeph is stalked by the memories that leave him haunted and crying, he can’t be the one person the blonde wants. The one person he needs.
Forcing his breath into control, Innic reaches up and wraps his hands around Zeph’s arm, gently pulling the slender frame down beside his own. “You don’t have to apologize.” The taller Selestarri’s head settles against his chest and he pulls him in close, fingers combing through long white-gold and black strands. “I know how much you miss him …”