Heartstrings

Heartstrings
by Morgana

Story Notes

Author’s Email: morganalebeau@yahoo.com

Web page: http://www.paranoid.nl/avalon

Main pairings: Velaxis/ Vaysh

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Velaxis takes on Vaysh.

Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters belong to Storm Constantine.

Warning: AU of course.

Spoiler warning: Set after book 6.

Sequels: Followed by The Sun and the Moon

Beta read by DA and Patricia, thanks sweeties!

All remaining mistakes are mine.

Heartstrings

I have seen many things in my lifetime. Some would say I have seen too much and maybe they are right, but for all the horrid scenes I witnessed, there were happy ones as well. I remember Pellaz looking black and burned before emerging from his cocoon as a golden butterfly. I watched Pellaz suffer from being separated from Calanthe and I was there when they were reunited. I watched Caeru come to Immanion with Wolf, observed Pellaz host and drop Loki’s pearl, and stood silently in the back when the three of them, Rue, Pellaz, and Cal, were reunited with Darquiel, whom they had believed lost for such a long time.

Everything is quiet and peaceful at Immanion these days. The Tigrons and the Tigrina have settled into a routine and Darquiel, Loki, and Geb are becoming friends. All is well in Immanion… Why then am I unhappy?

Pellaz stopped visiting me some time ago. He no longer needs me. I cared for him during his transformation and later on I was his confidant, but Pellaz no longer has need for me. At night, there are sounds from Pellaz’ rooms which are next to mine. I hear laughter all through the night, sometimes mixed in with moans and passionate declarations of love.

Since all matters have been settled and threats dealt with, I see little of the members of the Hegemony. Technically I never belonged to the Hegemony, but as Pellaz’ confidant I often attended their meetings. When I did, I tried hard not to stare at Ashmael, my former chesnari. In my heart I still long for him, but I also know that we can never go back to the life we once led. Those two hara no longer exist. Ashmael has changed and so have I.

But that doesn’t mean that I no longer have any feelings. I still feel. I still crave. I still need things. One of the things that I have craved for years is the closeness of another har. I always fantasized it would be Ashmael since one is safe in one’s fantasies. I consoled myself with the fact that at least in my dreams he takes me into his arms and holds me. Not once during the thirty years that I have been with Pellaz’ household did I invite a har into my bed. Pellaz once took aruna with me, but I was drunk and hardly knew what I was doing. I don’t regret that night, but neither do I have any fond memories of it. It just happened.

Staring at my hands as they rest idly in my lap, I remember days of old in which they had touched fair hair. I had loved to slide my fingers through Ashmael’s blond strands of hair. I can never have that again, but at the same time, I feel a need deep inside me. That need has always been there during the last thirty years, but I never acted upon it. Something kept me back.

But something has changed. I fought the need for intimacy for three decades and now I wonder why. Pellaz has often encouraged me to take aruna with some har. He had even offered to contact a kanene for me, but I declined. Now however, my thoughts are turning back towards that offer. I denied myself for so long – why should I continue to do so? The need for aruna – to know somehar’s touch – has deepened over the years.

But to contact a kanene? Is that the right way to go about the matter? Rationally I approach the question from different perspectives. In the end, I realize that I don’t have that many options. If I asked Pellaz, he might take aruna with me, but that would be an act born out of pity and I don’t want that. Who else can I ask? Not Cal or Rue and certainly not Ashmael. The sad truth is that there is no har willing to take aruna with me for the right reasons. Maybe hiring a kanene is the best course of action.

But even if I decide to go that way, do I want any kanene in my bed? Somehar whom I don’t know? I bow my head and my red hair tumbles in front of my eyes. I close them and ponder my options again. No, I don’t want just any kanene. I want somehar I know…

Opening my eyes, I blink and stare at the wall, feeling quite dazed.

Velaxis.

My breathing speeds up as I consider my possibilities. Velaxis is the perfect choice. He has a great deal of experience in the matter and might be inclined to indulge me, even though I am not a member of the Hegemony technically speaking. But wait… There was a meeting some weeks ago in which Velaxis made it very clear that he no longer considered offering his body as his duty. He had set himself free and Thiede hadn’t objected. So that is a dead end. Velaxis isn’t an option. But who else?

There is nohar. Velaxis is my only option. I tremble when I rise from my chair to make my way over to my desk. Sitting down, I pull a piece of paper in front of me and dip the quill into ink and place the tip on the paper. I love to use old-fashioned quills and ink even when there are pens and pencils available.

Clearing my mind from the doubts I am still having, I start to write. I will try this only once and if Velaxis denies me, I will never try again. I know that I will never find the necessary courage again in order to do this.

Tiahaar,

Will you grant me the pleasure of having your company tonight? I am lonely and in need of…distraction.

Vaysh

There… That’s obvious enough. Velaxis is under no obligation to humor me and can dismiss my request. I leave this matter in the hands of fate. Folding the paper, I summon a servant and tell him to deliver the letter to Velaxis.

Once the househar is on his way, I sit down again and stare outside. It is winter in Immanion and snow is covering the buildings and streets. I wish it were summer though for I feel warm on the inside for the first time in thirty years, but the cold will seep into my bones again should Velaxis deny me my request. It is all up to him now.

Part 1

Dressed in a luxuriously decorated green evening robe, Velaxis answered the door. He was rather surprised that someone would knock on his door this late, but curiosity made him find out why. Opening the door, he looked at the househar standing there in curiosity. “Yes?”

The househar bowed politely before handing Velaxis a letter. “I was asked to deliver this.”

Velaxis accepted the piece of paper with mounting curiosity. “Thank you.” After closing the door, he turned around and unfolded the paper. His eyes widened upon seeing the name of the har who had sent it. Vaysh was asking for his presence…his company? He needed to think this over and seated himself on the bed. There were several things to consider.

First, Vaysh knew that Velaxis no longer provided such services to the members of the Hegemony so why send for him now? Second, Vaysh had never asked for his services before so why was he doing so now? Velaxis knew that Vaysh had never invited another har into his bed, so to receive these summons thoroughly puzzled him.

Vaysh was a riddle and a challenge. During the last few decades Velaxis had played the whore because it had served him – and Thiede – best. Thiede had never realized though that Velaxis had been using him in order to further his own plans. He had taken aruna with the members of the Hegemony frequently, but not once had Vaysh expressed an interest in him. Vaysh presented a welcome challenge and Velaxis was inclined to accept the invitation. He had always wanted to know what kind of har Vaysh really was.

The redhead had a reputation for being distant and cold-hearted, but Velaxis had never really bought the act. Sometimes, when Vaysh had obviously felt unwatched, a dreamy look full of longing had appeared in the gray eyes and had always been focused on Ashmael. It hadn’t taken Velaxis long to find out that Ashmael and the redhead had been chesna once. However, it *had* taken him more time to manipulate Thiede into telling him more about Vaysh. In the end, he had managed to put together the pieces of the puzzle which was Vaysh’s life. It had also explained why Vaysh avoided aruna. That in itself was unhealthy behavior, but Velaxis had learned not to judge other hara for the things they did and Vaysh certainly had a valid reason for being the way he was.

Rubbing the paper between his fingertips, Velaxis wondered what had made Vaysh reach out to him that night. The message was clear. It was obvious what Vaysh wanted from him and that in itself stunned the fair-haired har. Intrigued, Velaxis decided to accept the invitation *and* the challenge which Vaysh had thrown at him. He was going to indulge the redhead and seek him out in his rooms. Velaxis was dying to find out what exactly Vaysh wanted from him.

~~~

Vaysh paced his room for an hour before sitting down on the bed. Velaxis had sent no reply nor had the har shown up. That could mean only one thing: Velaxis had declined his request. Fate had decided for him then.

Pacing for so long had exhausted him and, since he felt mentally drained as well, he curled up on the bed and pulled his knees close to his chest. Covering his face with his hands, Vaysh cried silently, careful not to make any noise. Pellaz, Cal, and Rue had returned to their apartment moments earlier and the last thing Vaysh wanted was to draw their attention when they were in the middle of rooning. The moans and soft cries drifting past his door had revealed quickly enough what was happening in the adjourning apartment.

That Velaxis had refused him didn’t surprise him. Since Velaxis was free to do as he pleased, he had no reason to indulge Vaysh. Maybe that was why Vaysh had picked the fair-haired har to extend his invitation to. Maybe in his heart he had known Velaxis wouldn’t answer his summons.

That left Vaysh alone again and the tears continued to drip from his chin and onto the sheets. Burying his head between his knees, he curled up even tighter as his frame shook with the emotion which he had suppressed for three long decades.

~~~

Velaxis checked his appearance one last time in the mirror. He had bathed, brushed his hair until it shone like silver, and had carefully rubbed rose oil into his skin. He had dressed in gray and greens having quickly abandoned his original plan to dress in all black. If he was right about Vaysh’s motives for contacting him then he should try to make a relaxed impression. Brushing his long hair back until it cascaded down his back in waves, Velaxis nodded his head contentedly. Feeling sure of his ability to seduce Vaysh – if that was what the other har wanted – he walked toward the doorway and set out on his quest.

~~~

The soft knock on the door took Vaysh completely aback. He prayed it wasn’t Pellaz and that his sobs hadn’t drawn the Tigron’s attention for he didn’t want his friend to see him like that. “Who’s there?” he whispered, knowing that remaining silent was useless.

“It’s me…Vel. You requested my company?” Velaxis had been stunned to hear the sobs coming from inside the room. The idea of Vaysh crying his eyes out was hard to believe since the redhead always held himself aloof. It also warned him that he should prepare himself to deal with whatever situation that awaited him inside. He had no idea yet why Vaysh was acting odd.

Vaysh sucked in his breath and raised his head in shock. Velaxis? What was Velaxis doing there when Vaysh had just accepted the fact that the other har wasn’t going to answer the summons? Getting cold feet, he cowardly chose the easy way out. “That was a mistake. Please go away.”

“I don’t think I should do that,” Velaxis whispered softly, making sure that Vaysh couldn’t hear him. Velaxis cocked his head and stretched out his mind, eager to find out what had happened to Vaysh. He found a sea of tears in Vaysh’s mind and the desperation that he encountered in the redhead’s thoughts made his eyes widen. Something had definitely happened and he had done well to come there. “Tiahaar, please open the door.”

Vaysh wondered what had possessed him to summon Velaxis in the first place. Writing that letter had been a stupid thing to do and he should have burned the paper right after writing it. Hating the way he looked with tears streaming down his cheeks and his hair and clothes rumpled, Vaysh dragged his feet as he made his way over to the door. “Can’t you go away?” he asked in a tiny voice.

Velaxis had to close his eyes and center himself for the onslaught of feelings that coursed through Vaysh as they affected him as well. “Open the door, Tiahaar.” The more he tasted of Vaysh’s mind, the more convinced he became that a special task awaited him in Vaysh’s rooms.

Drawing in a deep breath, Vaysh shakily turned the key so he could push the door ajar. “Don’t look at me,” he requested softly and turned away so Velaxis wouldn’t be able to see his tear-streaked face. Hiding behind his long red hair, he quickly took several steps away from the doorway and fled toward the fireplace in the hope that his chilled body would grow warm there.

Knowing damn well that he had to act carefully, Velaxis pushed the door open and stepped inside. All he saw from Vaysh was a flash of red hair and a black robe clothing a frail frame. Velaxis closed the door behind him and took in Vaysh’s rooms. Although they were as luxuriously furnished as the rooms the members of the Hegemony occupied, the atmosphere there was different. Velaxis practically tasted the salt of Vaysh’s tears which had seeped into the fabrics and furniture. Remembering Vaysh’s request not to look at him, Velaxis decided to play along for now. “Tiahaar, you sent for me and I answered the summons.” He wasn’t quite sure yet what to do and hoped Vaysh would tell him what the redhead needed from him.

“I shouldn’t have written that note,” Vaysh responded with self-loathing palpable in his thin voice. “It was a mistake. I thought I had been cured of my impulsiveness, but I was wrong.” With trembling hands, he reached toward the fire, trying to warm them. In the end, he went down onto his knees and swayed slightly.

Sensing Vaysh’s despondency, Velaxis realized it was up to him to take the lead. He made his way over to the fireplace and lowered himself onto his heels. Raising his right hand, he pushed the red hair away from the moist face. Tears still flowed from the gray eyes, easily betraying Vaysh’s misery. “Your note said that you request my company.”

Vaysh, uncaring of what Velaxis would make of his current behavior, sighed and bowed his head, letting his hair once more obscure his features. “I felt alone.”

“You still do.” Velaxis changed position and sat down cross-legged. When he had accepted the challenge Vaysh had thrown out at him, he had mentally reviewed many different scenarios, but this situation hadn’t been one of them. Although he had been in many odd situations in the past, his experience failed him and he didn’t quite know how to handle Vaysh’s distress. But he *had* accepted the challenge and wasn’t walking away from it.

“Why are you here?” Vaysh peeked at Velaxis from behind a curtain of red hair. “I didn’t expect you to come to my rooms.”

Velaxis’ fingertips brushed Vaysh’s face and he tried to probe the redhead’s mind again. To his surprise, Vaysh’s defenses were still down and he was allowed access to all of the corners of the other har’s mind. What he found there made him scream mentally and he quickly withdrew from certain painful memories. He had always known that Thiede had few scruples, but he had never thought that the powerful har had descended to such a low as raping another har. “I am here because your request puzzles me. I never heard you invite a har into your rooms before.”

Vaysh blinked through his tears and raised a hand to wipe at them. “I acted on impulse. I shouldn’t have sent you that note. Can’t we pretend I never did?” Since Velaxis *had* answered his summons and was close, courage deserted Vaysh.

“I don’t believe that is why you sent me that note. You need something from me, that much is obvious.” Velaxis let his long fingers wander into the red mane and gently massaged Vaysh’s scalp. “I am not blind, Vaysh. Your needs are obvious.” He had also caught some scenes, maybe fantasies, in Vaysh’s mind on why the redhead had written that note in the first place. Vaysh turned his head away and Velaxis allowed it. The hurts he sensed in Vaysh went deep and rooning in front of the fire place wouldn’t heal the redhead miraculously. If he wanted to do this properly then he had to take his time.

“I managed to suppress them for a long time,” Vaysh admitted. He was stunned to find himself opening up to Velaxis. Only minutes ago he had wanted the other har out.

“I caught something in your mind,” Velaxis confessed. “But can that be the truth? Has it really been three decades since you had aruna?” If what he had seen was the truth then Vaysh had led a very lonely life.

Vaysh’s jaw suddenly set stubbornly. “I never took aruna with Thiede.”

The fact that Vaysh’s mind was still open helped Velaxis interpret that statement. “He raped you.” Vaysh flinched and Velaxis wished he could have phrased it differently, but he had to be blunt to show he understood.

Vaysh blinked and nodded. He tried hard to raise his defenses again, but for some reason they refused to go up, leaving him wide open to be read by Velaxis. Was his subconscious trying to tell him something? Perhaps that the time was right to face the past? “Yes, he did. I fought him, but couldn’t stop him.”

Velaxis cringed at the sight of another scene in Vaysh’s mind. The other har was enticing in his innocence. “I don’t mean to spy on you, but…”

“I know…” Vaysh bowed his head again. “I can’t seem to block you.”

“If you want me out of your mind I’ll leave. I’ve no intention of taking advantage of your vulnerability.” But Vaysh shook his head and Velaxis realized that the redhead wanted him to know what had happened to him. “You were drunk?”

“Pellaz took advantage of me.” Vaysh shrugged his shoulders and the movement caused Velaxis’ fingers to slide down until they palmed the back of his head in a surprisingly tender caress. “I’d always wanted him, but I’d never have taken action.”

Velaxis considered the emotionally crippled har in front of him. Vaysh breathed an air of despair and Velaxis sensed that Vaysh expected rejection. The fact that he had answered the summons didn’t make Velaxis believe that Velaxis wanted to take this further. Vaysh was convinced no har could possibly want him in that way. “What do you need from me, Vaysh?”

Vaysh shrugged again. “I don’t know…” Shyly, he peeked at Velaxis’ face to find out what lay in the silver eyes. He had always respected Velaxis in his own way and had never tried to put the fair-haired har down like most of the members of the Hegemony had. Vaysh knew that each har had his own reasons for allowing Thiede to use them like a puppet. “I guess I don’t want to be alone anymore.”

It was more than that, but Velaxis also knew that Vaysh needed to take small steps. “I am here now so you are not alone anymore.” Velaxis was a sensual creature. He was the only Krim Sri to have ever been incepted and therefore was unlike any other har. Schooled in the way of arunic magic, he knew that the act could bring healing if the participating hara were attuned to the energy flow. Velaxis was a little annoyed with himself for not noticing Vaysh’s needs and distress earlier because if any har could help Vaysh heal, it was Velaxis. “Vaysh, you *do* realize that you need to trust me if we’re to make this work?”

“Make what work?” Vaysh stared at Velaxis in puzzlement.

“You made the right decision,” Velaxis responded and lowered his hand. Sliding the other one in place around the red-haired har’s waist, he embraced Vaysh loosely. “I can help you.” The shivers that shook Vaysh’s frame weren’t lost on Velaxis and he rubbed the narrow back. “But I need you to trust me.”

“I am not sure I can,” Vaysh answered honestly. “When Thiede raped me, he took away my ability to trust.” He felt lost as he knelt next to Velaxis in a soothing embrace. “I need to know what I am saying yes to.”

“I understand that.” Needing to deepen their physical contact, Velaxis rested his brow against Vaysh’s and looked into the gray eyes until he had the redhead’s undivided attention. “Your note surprised me and it made me think. I wondered why you of all hara would send for me. You never showed an interest in me or any other har before and it is a well-known fact that you don’t let hara get close to you.” Velaxis paused to consider his next words and saw the hope in the gray eyes when he searched the pale face. “I am probably the only har with enough knowledge to lead you toward a successful recovery.” Vaysh frowned and Velaxis smiled. “I will tell you why.” But not just yet. “I accept the challenge you have thrown at me and I will do my best to help you heal.”

Vaysh swallowed nervously. “Will you take aruna with me?” He wanted that, but another part of him was terrified that Velaxis would say yes.

“Not yet. You are not ready for that. If we take aruna now you will end up reliving your traumatic experience with Thiede. We need to take small steps. We need to make you stronger.” The hungry, hopeful expression in Vaysh’s eyes showed that his words held the other har spellbound. Vaysh would do anything Velaxis asked of him and that was good because Velaxis needed Vaysh to trust him.

“I am scared,” Vaysh admitted in a strangled voice. Velaxis was offering him more than he had thought the other har ever would.

“You thought we would take aruna and that would be it.” Velaxis grinned knowingly. “I don’t blame you. I reckon my reputation precedes me.” To his delight, Vaysh grew flustered. “I am more than just a whore, you know.”

Vaysh nodded. “I always suspected that. We all have our own reason for why we let Thiede manipulate us. I, for my part, lost the will to fight him when he raped me and once I got to know Pellaz I wanted to be close to him. He is like a son to me – the son I will never have.” Pain cut through his mind and abdomen and his breathing quickened as he realized that he had just practically screamed the truth at Velaxis that he was barren in his mind.

Velaxis looked at Vaysh sorrowfully. “Thiede should have known better than to damage you in such a way.” Although Thiede would never admit it, the powerful har had made his share of mistakes and what had happened to Vaysh had been terrible. “He shouldn’t have forced you.”

Mouth going dry, Vaysh wanted to turn his head away, but Velaxis placed his hands on either side of the pale face and kept him in place. “I am barren. I couldn’t go back to Ash.”

Ah, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. “I’d always wondered why you’d kept him at a distance.” Velaxis rubbed the cool skin beneath his fingertips and then caressed the red strands when he added, “You love him still.” Vaysh wanted to bow his head again, but Velaxis’ hold prevented him from doing that. Velaxis carefully stored that information away as he leaned in closer. “I am going to share breath with you. Whatever happens, Vaysh, don’t fight me.” If Vaysh wouldn’t cooperate willingly, there was little Velaxis could do to further the other har’s recovery. “I won’t hurt you nor will I force you into anything.”

Vaysh was nervous as Velaxis pressed their lips together. Sharing breath was something he hadn’t done in over three decades since he hadn’t shared breath with Thiede when the powerful har had raped him nor with Pellaz. In a way, sharing breath terrified him even more than the idea of aruna with Velaxis.

Velaxis stayed true to his word and gently eased the kiss into sharing breath. At first, he felt some reluctance and resistance on Vaysh’s part, but once he offered Vaysh his own emotions, the redhead started to relax and melt against him. Holding Vaysh close, Velaxis used the energy sharing breath evoked and soothed the old, painful hurts that lingered inside Vaysh’s soul. It was only the first healing touch and many more would have to follow until the redhead would be healed, but Velaxis was eager to get started.

Quivering against Velaxis, Vaysh sagged against the fair-haired har’s body, but Velaxis’ arms supported him and he managed to stay upright. He would have crumbled otherwise since the sensation was exquisite and sincere. Velaxis wasn’t playing games or acting the whore. Vaysh sensed genuine interest and affection in the other har’s mind. It was the closest he had been to an intimate mind touch in years. Sharing breath became sharing souls and both hara trembled from the force of such a joining. Vaysh had never experienced anything like it and his eyes widened with surprise when Velaxis used the freed energy to heal certain scars in his soul.

In turn, Velaxis felt touched that Vaysh trusted him so unconditionally and wondered what Vaysh would have done if he hadn’t come to the redhead’s rooms. Would Vaysh have given up on himself completely? He thought he had read that thought somewhere in Vaysh’s mind.

Sharing breath with Velaxis made Vaysh’s head reel and he could do little but let Velaxis take the lead. A moment later, Velaxis broke the kiss and their sharing breath, but to Vaysh’s shock some sort of connection remained behind. Big eyed, he stared at Velaxis.

“Don’t worry,” Velaxis murmured soothingly as he caressed Vaysh’s face. “I need that link in place in order to help you. It will guide me.” Vaysh wouldn’t be able to hide distress, panic, or fear from him. He needed to be aware of those emotions at all times if he wanted to set the redhead on the path to recovery.

Vaysh cocked his head and closed his eyes. “I haven’t felt connected to another har for so long. Ash and I shared a link, but that one went deeper than this one.” It had been severed the moment Thiede had had Vaysh killed and the redhead often wondered if Ashmael had felt the emotional backlash of him dying.

“Being connected to another har is what you need the most at the moment.” Since he had cleared the way for future actions, Velaxis considered his next step. Vaysh looked exhausted and needed to rest, but Velaxis had no intention of leaving though and helped Vaysh to his feet.

“What are you doing?” Vaysh got to his feet, but Velaxis’ right arm remained around his waist. The physical closeness was still there and soothed Vaysh’s troubled mind.

“You are going to rest.” Velaxis guided Vaysh over to the bed, made him sit down, and started to undress the redhead. Alarms went off in Velaxis’ head the moment his fingertips brushed Vaysh’s bare chest and he immediately reassured the distressed har. “We are going to rest and you are going to sleep.”

“But why then are you undressing me?” Velaxis had pushed his robes down his shoulders and Vaysh shivered, eagerly eyeing the morning robe which rested over the back of a chair.

“Because we are going to sleep nude.” Velaxis quickly removed his clothes and then sat down on the bed next to Vaysh. He noticed the curious, yet ashamed looks Vaysh gave him, but ignored them for the moment. “I know this feels odd, but trust me…this is what you need.” Deep down Vaysh knew that too, but Velaxis could tell that the redhead wasn’t ready yet to admit that to himself. “Lie down.” Gently, he pushed Vaysh onto his back.

Vaysh quickly turned onto his side, not wanting to lie on his back. The position and the feel of Velaxis’ skin against his own would only remind him of what Thiede had done to him. Velaxis nodded approvingly. “It is all right,” he replied as Vaysh looked at him pleadingly. “I understand. I see in your mind why you need it to be this way.” Velaxis turned onto his side as well and opened his arms. “Move closer, Vaysh.”

Wavering but only for a few seconds, Vaysh pressed close to Velaxis’ body. He rested his head on Velaxis’ upper arm and trembled when the fair-haired har draped an arm over his hip. Velaxis pulled him closer still and, before Vaysh knew what was happening, their legs and arms were entwined. Red and silver hair mixed and the strands seemed to twist around each other.

“Go to sleep and don’t worry about nightmares.” Velaxis had seen them lurking in Vaysh’s mind and realized it was his task to keep them at a distance, even if that meant he wouldn’t get much sleep himself. Since he had committed himself to Vaysh’s recovery, he had to put his own needs last. “Sleep,” he whispered into Vaysh’s ear *and* mind.

Unable to fight such gentle seduction, Vaysh closed his eyes and drifted off, lured into sleep and soothed beyond measure with the knowledge that Velaxis was close while feeling the warm skin beneath his fingertips.

That night, Velaxis guarded Vaysh’s sleep and chased off any nightmares that tried to take hold of Vaysh. At the same time, he worked his subtle magic on Vaysh so the redhead could heal further.

~~~

Vaysh’s eyelids fluttered, causing the lashes to dance delicately when the eyes opened. Blinking, Vaysh felt disoriented. The other day was nothing but a blur and he desperately tried to remember why he felt so strange. A moment later, he grew aware of the warm body resting against his, holding him close. A strand of silver hair hung in front of his face and Vaysh’s eyes widened as he recalled Velaxis coming to his rooms the evening before.

“I trust you slept well?” Velaxis had only taken a short nap once the sun had started to rise. Only once the dark of night had weakened had he felt he could close his eyes and sleep for a short while. With the rays of the morning sun, Vaysh’s lurking nightmares had been driven away. Looking at the redhead, Velaxis waited for Vaysh to raise his gaze to his. He didn’t have to see the gray eyes though to know that Vaysh was nervous. The link told him that. It was uncommon for Velaxis to open his mind in such a trusting way, but since Vaysh had done so, he couldn’t stay behind.

“I had forgotten you were here.” Vaysh bit on his bottom lip and wondered what to do. “Don’t you have to leave? Surely somehar is waiting for you?”

Velaxis grinned. “I was going to have breakfast with Rue today, but I believe I will cancel that.” He would send his friend a message and was certain Caeru would understand his reason for canceling.

“I am keeping you.” Vaysh wanted to free himself of Velaxis’ comforting embrace, but the other har refused to let him go.

“No, you are not. It is *my* decision to stay here with you and to cancel my plans.” He would spend the next few days there, maybe even weeks, but Vaysh didn’t know Velaxis’ plans yet and the fair-haired har was going to keep it that way for the time being. “You didn’t answer my question. Did you sleep well?” Although he knew the gesture would make Vaysh feel nervous, maybe even uncomfortable, Velaxis rubbed the other har’s bare back. Vaysh’s skin felt brittle and dry beneath his fingertips and Velaxis planned on getting some flower-scented oil onto that delicate skin.

Vaysh closed his eyes and rested his head onto Velaxis’ upper arm. “Yes, amazingly enough, I did.” The usual horde of nightmares hadn’t attacked him the previous night and he actually felt rested. “I surmise I have you to thank for that?”

“In time you will be strong enough to do it yourself.” It was important he broke the vicious circle Vaysh had found himself in. “I also started on healing some very minor scars. It will take time though. Your emotional injuries are quite severe.” Healing Vaysh might have gone faster and more smoothly if Ashmael had taken up the challenge and had set about helping Vaysh since the two hara shared a very deep bond.

Vaysh lifted his gaze and looked Velaxis in the eye. “Do you really believe I can heal?”

“I know you can. You merely need to trust me.” And since Vaysh was able to do that, recovery had set in and would continue day by day. Velaxis pressed his lips onto Vaysh’s brow and smiled at the redhead. “I want to take a bath. Will you fill up the pool?” In the meantime, he would summon a househar who could deliver a message to Rue so that the Tigrina wouldn’t wait for him in vain.

Vaysh nodded his head and his cheek rubbed against Velaxis’ arm as he did. “I will ready our bath.” It would also give him a chance to gather his thoughts and compose himself. Ever since Velaxis had entered his rooms, he’d felt off-balance. Having a har in his rooms was a novel experience for him.

“I will join you in a few minutes.” Velaxis caressed Vaysh’s face and let his other hand linger on the redhead’s pronounced hipbone. Vaysh was too thin…too frail and Velaxis vowed to remedy that. “Add some bath oil, will you?” He hoped Vaysh had some handy.

“I will have to search for it. Normally I don’t add it.” There had been some vials with oil when he had moved into the apartment. He only needed to remember where he had put them. Vaysh rose from the bed and blushed once he was standing naked next to the bed. The look that Velaxis gave him confused him further. Did he actually see lust in those eyes? No, that couldn’t be. Vaysh practically fled into the bathroom.

Velaxis watched Vaysh disappear with a sad smile. He definitely had his work cut out for him.

Part 2

Caeru was surprised to receive a note to cancel his breakfast plans with Velaxis, but as he read on, he realized that he wouldn’t see his friend for quite some time. For some reason Velaxis had decided to take on Vaysh and see him healed. Caeru had never cared much for the red-haired har because at one time Pellaz had preferred spending time with the redhead than with the Tigrina.

But since everything had been sorted out and Rue’s life was in order again, he thought he understood why Velaxis wanted to help Vaysh. Velaxis had also helped Rue when the Tigrina had needed a friend the most.

Slipping the note into his sleeve, Caeru signaled for the househar to serve breakfast. He was going to eat alone since Pellaz and Cal were still asleep after a night of wild aruna.

~~~

Vaysh was still staring at the pool filled with hot water when Velaxis joined him in the bathroom. A vial of scented oil was in Vaysh’s right hand, still capped. Vaysh seemed entranced as Velaxis made his way over to the other har. Slowly, he slipped his arms around Vaysh’s waist and embraced him from behind. “Is something amiss?”

Velaxis’ inquiry pulled Vaysh from his entranced state and he shook his head. “I don’t know. I was looking at the water and then…” His mind had gone blank. If Velaxis hadn’t come to check on him, he might have ended up standing there for hours. “It happens at times. I don’t know why. I get lost within myself.”

“You have been alone for too long.” Velaxis took the vial from Vaysh’s hands, uncapped it, and poured some of the bath oil into the water. After stepping into the pool, he pulled Vaysh inside as well. “Sit down.” The pool could easily hold two, maybe even three hara and Velaxis made himself comfortable.

Vaysh swallowed hard as it dawned on him that Velaxis wanted him to sit down in-between those long legs of his. Velaxis however gave him no chance to run and pulled him down. Vaysh was forced to sit down and tensed. Velaxis hummed softly and pulled Vaysh’s back to his chest. He wrapped his arms around the other har and held him loosely.

For some reason the humming soothed Vaysh’s frayed mind and he started to relax. He even rested his head against Velaxis’ shoulder and his eyes started to close. Velaxis continued to work his magic on Vaysh while his lips placed light kisses onto the redhead’s cheek. The face was much too hollow and Velaxis planned on making Vaysh eat a full breakfast later. His fingertips brushed against Vaysh’s abdomen and inner thigh and, thanks to the soothing effects his magic had on the redhead, Vaysh stayed in place and relaxed further.

The strange humming rang in Vaysh’s ears and he closed his eyes so he could fully savor the moment. He felt at peace and Velaxis had managed to give him a sense of security which he had only experienced with Ashmael in the past. His body started to feel heavy and his head lolled to the side. Fingertips, lips, and long locks of silver hair caressed his body and for once Vaysh didn’t feel afraid. He wondered about that, but his mind was sluggish and forming thoughts had become difficult. He was still lucid enough to realize that it was Velaxis’ doing, but he lacked the willpower to tell Velaxis to stop it. In a way, he didn’t want for the soothing feeling to go away…he wanted it to stay.

Touching Vaysh’s mind, Velaxis used the trust that buzzed down their link to smooth the scars and injuries lingering in Vaysh’s mind. He would have to work his magic a few more times, but he was confident that he could help the redhead become whole again as long as Vaysh let him set the pace.

The sated, lazy feeling that had taken hold of him scared Vaysh in a way because he remembered feeling this way before. He had always felt like that after he had rooned with Ashmael!

“Don’t be afraid. Your body is remembering… Your mind is waking up… That’s all that’s happening. There is no reason for you to panic or feel scared. I want you to remember how good aruna felt when you shared it with Ashmael.” Velaxis poured more of his magic into Vaysh’s mind and felt the redhead relax further. Vaysh had become soume and it would be easy for Velaxis to roon the redhead, but the experienced har knew that the time had not yet come for them to join together that way. There was a step they had to take first. Velaxis’ hand moved lower until his fingers touched Vaysh’s soume-lam.

Vaysh opened his eyes and stared blankly ahead. That touch was so strange and at the same time so familiar! Sensitive fingertips touched and rubbed before one of those long fingers slid inside. He couldn’t help it as his breathing sped up and he turned his head so he could catch a glimpse of Velaxis’ face. The eyes shone silver and Vaysh quivered when his first sikra was touched and activated. “What…are you…doing to me?” Vaysh found it hard to actually form the words. His vocal cords and lips had initially refused to cooperate.

“You need to wake up again, Vaysh.” Velaxis had ample experience introducing hara to aruna. “You trust me, remember?” Wiggling his finger slightly, he managed to add another digit. Vaysh’s second sikra was activated and the redhead trembled against him. “You never touched yourself in all those years, did you?”

Vaysh shook his head, unable to speak. Velaxis was expertly opening him up and his body and his mind were responding. Warmth spread through his body and it was the sort of glow he hadn’t felt in over thirty years.

Opening the next sikra as well, Velaxis smiled as a glow manifested all over Vaysh’s body. “You have gone without aruna for too long.” Sharing breath with Vaysh, he poured various thoughts and images of them taking aruna into the redhead’s mind. /You are soume and I will be ouana./ That in itself was a welcome change for Velaxis, who had been forced to be mostly soume during his years in servitude to Thiede. /I will give you strength./ In a way, it was the only right way for them to take aruna, at least at this point. /You will feel stronger after we roon./ Velaxis considered his options and then realized that the last position they should take aruna in was with Vaysh on his back because that had been the way Thiede had taken him. “Allow me…”

Vaysh felt helpless but in a good way when Velaxis started to move him closer. Gentle hands turned him about until he was face to face with Velaxis and then the other har twined the fingers of one hand with his while the other guided him closer to the silver ouana-lim that glistened beneath the surface of the water. Vaysh drew in a deep breath as he finally realized that it was going to happen after all.

“Easy… Go slow…” With one hand, Velaxis guided his ouana-lim into Vaysh’s soume-lam and then stopped the other har from moving. “Wait.” Sliding his fingers into the red hair, he leaned in closer and claimed Vaysh’s lips. /Now…slowly./ It was important that Vaysh was in control, but Velaxis wanted to keep the lead as well since he didn’t want Vaysh to accidentally hurt himself.

Vaysh used the leverage Velaxis provided by holding his hand and slowly lowered himself onto the sparkling stem. He was grateful that he was on top for it enabled him to set his own pace. As he took in Velaxis’ ouana-lim, a deep sense of belonging settled into the pit of his stomach.

Velaxis moved his hands until they encircled Vaysh’s waist. /Don’t move now,/ he instructed. /Let’s make this last./ Guiding Vaysh’s lips back to his, they shared breath and Velaxis massaged one buttock while his other hand traced the outline of the redhead’s spine.

Vaysh’s whole body shook as he neared his climax. It was amazing. Velaxis wasn’t moving inside him and yet he was gradually being pushed towards completion. Although their bodies were joined, it was a mental joining as well. His body remembered old tricks which had made Ashmael gasp for breath, and his inner muscles tightened around the stem. Squeezing the ouana-lim inside him, Vaysh’s head slumped forward and came to rest upon Velaxis’ shoulder.

/Oh, you are talented,/ Velaxis shared mentally, complimenting Vaysh. It warmed his heart to find that Thiede hadn’t damaged Vaysh beyond repair. A simple sharing of emotions and minds was helping Vaysh find himself again. Latching onto Vaysh’s lips with vengeance, Velaxis sucked the orgasm from the redhead who shook in his arms.

A spear of ecstasy impaled Vaysh and he screamed out his pleasure. Pressing his face against Velaxis’ shoulder, red and silver hair teased his facial skin, but that fact barely registered with the har who had gone without aruna for so long. His body which had been taut as a bowstring exploded.

Velaxis held Vaysh close throughout their aruna and the redhead clung to him once they had climaxed. Velaxis trembled himself since the intensity of their aruna had taken him aback as well. The power residing inside Vaysh was formidable and Velaxis couldn’t help but wonder what kind of har would emerge since the redhead was shedding his old skin.

It would take a few more days and more aruna for the real Vaysh to emerge, but Velaxis was under the impression that he was in for a few surprises where the redhead was concerned.

“Vel… I…” Too high on endorphins to actually speak, Vaysh resorted to mind touch and hoped that the other har wouldn’t mind. /I didn’t believe I could ever feel that way again!/

/I am grateful that you allowed me to show you./ Velaxis carefully gathered the energy their coupling had set free and poured it into Vaysh’s body. Some of it went straight to the reproductive organs, the cauldron of creation, and other areas which Thiede had injured. It would take much more healing energy to undo the damage Thiede had done, but they had made a start.

/I am tired…/ Vaysh’s eyes closed and he pressed tightly against Velaxis’ body, which felt hot to his touch.

/Then rest. I will return you to the bed in a moment./ First he was going to direct the last remnants of healing energy and only then did he study Vaysh’s face. “I was going to make you eat breakfast,” he remarked. “Ah well, you will just have to eat a full lunch then.” He smiled fondly at Vaysh. He hadn’t thought he would like the red-haired har so much, but after seeing in Vaysh’s mind what the redhead had been through, he felt great respect and even affection for the traumatized har.

~~~

Vaysh felt confused when the sweet smell of pastries invaded his nostrils. Opening his eyes, he turned onto his side and blinked as he saw Velaxis seated on the mattress next to him. The other har was licking a sugary glaze from his fingers, which glistered on Velaxis’ fingertips and lips.

Velaxis recognized the dazed expression in the gray eyes and grinned impishly. “You feel different now that you’ve had aruna, don’t you?”

Pushing himself into a sitting position, Vaysh crossed his legs beneath him and swayed slightly. His body hummed with satiation, making him feel whole. “We took aruna…” he whispered as if to convince himself that it had really happened.

“Yes, we did and now it’s time to eat.” Velaxis scooped a piece of pastry that was glazed with sugar and filled with chocolate onto his fingertips and offered it to Vaysh. “Do you want me to feed you?”

Vaysh didn’t know what to make of the offer and took the pastry from Velaxis’ fingers. “Isn’t there any normal food?”

Velaxis raised an eyebrow. “Why is this abnormal food?”

“It is full of sugar…”

Velaxis smiled warmly. “You need the sugar… You need to put on some weight. You can have a normal lunch later if you want.”

Vaysh didn’t know if he was supposed to feel offended. “I am not skinny!”

“Yes, you are.” Velaxis poked his finger at Vaysh’s ribs in order to prove his point. “Much too skinny.”

Slowly eating, Vaysh studied Velaxis at the same time. “Why are you still here?”

Velaxis sighed deeply. “Hopefully you don’t think that you were healed with that one time. More healing energy is needed.”

“So that’s why you are staying.” Vaysh felt disappointed but didn’t know why. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to appear ungrateful. What you did for me… I want to thank you for that.” He had finished his pastry and accepted the cup of tea that Velaxis handed him.

“We are not finished yet.” Velaxis lowered himself into a pile of pillows and casually let his hand slide into Vaysh’s lap. Since the redhead was still naked, a blush rose to Vaysh’s face. It would be a while before Vaysh would feel comfortable sharing intimacy with him.

“What do you mean by that? We’re not finished yet?” Vaysh stared at the fair-haired har from above the rim of his cup.

“We have only started, Vaysh. We have to take aruna a few more times. I am not leaving your side for the next few days and you are not leaving these rooms for the duration.” Vaysh’s look was comical and Velaxis couldn’t help but laugh.

“You mean… I can’t leave and…we are going…to roon again?” Vaysh quickly placed the cup aside when his hand started to tremble. Velaxis nodded and then grinned, causing him to grow even more flustered. “I thought…”

Velaxis busied himself with eating a slice of cake and gave Vaysh a moment to compose himself again. “Did you really believe you can make up for thirty years without aruna in one night?”

“I don’t know…” Vaysh frowned. “I never considered the consequences when I wrote you that note. I was lonely and wanted company and you were the only one I could think of.”

Taking hold of another slice of cake, Velaxis guided a morsel of the sweet substance to Vaysh’s mouth. The redhead parted his lips and Velaxis slid the food inside. His fingertips brushed Vaysh’s lips seductively and he gave the other har a wink. “We will roon again once you finished eating.” He wanted Vaysh to eat at least one more piece of pastry.

Vaysh almost choked on the piece of cake and barely managed not to suffocate as he swallowed the morsel. “What?”

Well, Velaxis figured that Vaysh could eat the rest of the delicacies after they had aruna. Aruna had to come naturally to Vaysh and, until Velaxis had achieved that, he wasn’t going to stop pursuing the redhead. “Come here, you…”

Taken by surprise, Vaysh was pulled towards Velaxis with a hand at the base of his neck. Vaysh ended up sprawled on top of Velaxis and realized the convenience of them both still being naked since Velaxis hadn’t bothered to dress them. “You can’t be serious,” Vaysh said as he stared into Velaxis’ laughing eyes. His long red hair tumbled down and shielded their faces like a curtain that cut off the light and bathed them in a dark glow. But Velaxis’ hands were already moving over his body and ended up cupping his buttocks.

“Oh, I am very serious, Vaysh.” Velaxis squeezed Vaysh’s buttocks and maneuvered the redhead until he was poised above his ouana-lim. “Let me assure you that I want you very much. I can barely wait to feel your heat wrapped around me.” His words had the desired effect as Vaysh moaned and closed his eyes. Velaxis still worked his magic on Vaysh, but only in order to soothe any panic or fear the other har might feel.

Vaysh couldn’t believe he was giving into Velaxis so easily. His head still reeled from the fact that he’d had aruna that morning with the other har. “Are we really going to roon again?”

Velaxis brushed Vaysh’s lips with his own and then crushed the redhead to him, sharing breath with him passionately. Delicately touching Vaysh’s soume-lam, he lured the other har closer until he hovered above his ready ouana-lim. “I want you, Vaysh.” It wasn’t a lie…he really wanted the redhead. Velaxis wondered absentmindedly how he had come to care about Vaysh ever since he had answered the summons as Vaysh lowered himself onto the stem of his ouana-lim. “Kiss me…” Velaxis mumbled approvingly.

Briefly closing his eyes, Vaysh wanted to imprint this feeling in his memory. It would help him fight the ugly memories of Thiede raping him should they surface in his mind one day. Velaxis’ hands roamed his body and bestowed caresses onto his skin while greedy lips remained attached to his and suckled insistently on his bottom lip. His body tingled all over and Vaysh placed the palm of his hands against Velaxis’ chest. Opening his eyes, he breathed into Velaxis’ mouth and released his deepening feelings for the fair har.

Smiling smugly into the kiss, Velaxis returned the gesture with puffs of the affection he felt for the other har. Vaysh started to move and Velaxis arched his back, unwillingly thrusting into the eager body. Lips locked in sharing breath as hands roamed each other’s bodies. The two hara gave as good as they got and Vaysh became an active participant this time. The way Vaysh moved above him urged Velaxis on and he growled possessively when Vaysh began to ride him in earnest. He could hardly believe that this was the same har who he had found crying in his rooms the other day.

Although it was very tempting to lose himself in the throes of blissful aruna, Velaxis kept his wits about him. While he enjoyed aruna with Vaysh, there was a reason why they were doing so. When the first sign of healing energy appeared along the link, Velaxis forced himself to concentrate on restoring the damage done to Vaysh’s reproductive organs. The other half of the healing energy was guided to Vaysh’s mind so the emotional healing could also continue.

Vaysh lost himself in the sensual high and for one moment thought he was rooning Ashmael since the only time he had ever felt such intense feelings had been with his former chesnari. But then the silver eyes registered with him and he realized that it was Velaxis who was making him feel so good. For the first time, he took control in their sharing and explored Velaxis’ mouth, moving the tip of his tongue about as he touched the sensitive palate.

Velaxis moaned and jerked beneath Vaysh. He found it increasingly hard to concentrate on channeling the energy, but once he had redirected most of the flow, he cried out and climaxed. Reaching out for Vaysh in mind and body, he dragged the redhead into orgasm with him.

Collapsing on top of Velaxis, Vaysh panted hard. A strange sensation unfolded in the pit of his stomach and took him aback. Blinking, he reached between them and rubbed his abdominal area. “What’s that?” It felt like things were shifting inside him and, even though it wasn’t an unpleasant sensation, he wanted for it to stop as quickly as possible.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s your body rearranging itself. It’s all right.” Velaxis gathered Vaysh close to him and rubbed the small of the redhead’s back. He had rooned countless hara in the past, but aruna with Vaysh was different and he knew he had to steel his heart or else he would fall hard for the red-haired har. Who had thought that such a gentle and passionate soul had been hiding beneath the aloof and arrogant mask?

“Why are things rearranging themselves?” Alarmed, Vaysh raised his head to look at Velaxis. “Make it stop?”

Velaxis smiled warmly and brushed a red strand away from Vaysh’s face, which shone with a fine layer of sweat. “Vaysh, this is supposed to happen. The energy we created is undoing the damage Thiede did.” A thoughtful look appeared in Vaysh’s gray eyes and Velaxis sensed that the other har had reached the right conclusion. “Yes, if we take aruna often enough you will heal completely. You won’t be barren anymore.” The expression in Vaysh’s eyes changed to shock. “I told you I could heal you.”

Vaysh tried to speak, but no sound came from his lips. “I won’t be barren anymore?” Would he be able to host pearls again? Was that what Velaxis was saying?

Velaxis nodded as he had read Vaysh’s thoughts. “If we can create enough healing energy.”

“And we do that with aruna?” Vaysh felt stunned. “Vel, I never thought…” Suddenly his world stood upside down. “You can’t be serious!”

Fingering a strand of red hair, Velaxis merely smiled. “I told you that I was the right har for the job. I have special talents, you see.” Since Vaysh had given him full access to his mind, Velaxis did the same and showed the redhead his history. “As you can see, I am no ordinary har.”

Vaysh tried to make sense of the things he had seen in Velaxis’ mind. “I don’t understand what the Krim Sri are.”

“You don’t have to. That’s in my past. I rather have you understand who I am today.” Velaxis caressed Vaysh’s face and stared lovingly into the gray eyes. “It’s weird. I never thought I would like you so much, Vaysh.”

Vaysh blushed. “I like you too, Vel and I’m quite surprised as well.” He looked at Velaxis cheekily and the sight of it took Velaxis’ breath away. “I am no longer averse to staying in my rooms so you can roon me,” Vaysh admitted shyly.

Velaxis laughed warmly and hugged Vaysh close. “You are quite something, my dear. I am looking forward to getting to know you better.”

“I would say you already know me quite intimately.”

Vaysh’s cheeky response made Velaxis smile adoringly. “So you no longer mind me locking us in here so we can take aruna all day?”

Vaysh grinned. “Just remember to send in food occasionally.” Feeling giddy because his body’s needs had been momentarily sated, he licked at Velaxis’ bottom lips, barely believing he was displaying this kind of behavior around Velaxis.

~~~

Caeru was growing curious. Velaxis had been inside Vaysh’s rooms for two days and the only activity Rue could discern were househara bringing food and carrying off empty trays. Walking over to where Pellaz had draped himself lazily on the divan, he sat on the edge and cocked his head. “Pell?”

Pellaz languidly opened his eyes and gave Rue an appraising look. “Yes?”

“I want to know what’s going on in Vaysh’s rooms.”

Pellaz stretched and raised his hands over his head before bringing them together so he could rest his head on them. “And why is that?” He had been surprised when Caeru had told him that Velaxis was staying with Vaysh, but since he wanted his friend healed he hadn’t gotten involved.

“I want to know what’s happening in there. Vel hasn’t been to see me these last few days.” The Tigrina burned with curiosity.

“And what do you want me to do? Order Velaxis out of there?” Pellaz gave Caeru a lopsided grin and let his fingers glide through the blond hair. Ever since the three of them had sorted out the mess Thiede had created, they had grown close and were still deepening their relationship. Pell, Cal, and Rue were satisfied with the current arrangement of sharing the Tigrons’ apartments and their bodies.

“Can’t we peek inside? Do you have a key to Vaysh’s rooms?”

“I didn’t know you were this interested in Vaysh.” Pellaz couldn’t resist teasing Rue a little. The truth was that he was equally curious as to what was going on.

“Well, do you have a key?” Rue wasn’t giving up yet.

Pellaz gave into his own curiosity and desire to know what was happening in Vaysh’s room and rose from the divan while gesturing for Rue to follow him. Rue snuck after him and grinned when Pellaz uncovered a key which slid into the lock of the door to Vaysh’s rooms. Growing excited, he blinked conspiratorially at Pellaz.

Turning the key, Pellaz pushed the door slightly ajar. Gesturing for Rue to stay behind him, he stepped into Vaysh’s room and then dragged Rue inside with him. He was going to blame Rue for his actions in case he was caught!

Rue tumbled into the room and kept perfectly still upon seeing the two hara in bed together. Both were naked and in a rather compromising position with Vaysh sprawled on top of Velaxis. Grinning, Rue realized Velaxis must have enjoyed himself since the fair har was smiling in his sleep.

“Are you satisfied?” Pellaz whispered and started to move back toward the doorway. He had no intention of getting caught. Rue nodded and Pellaz quickly stepped out of the room.

Rue followed suit with a grin on his face. Although he didn’t know Vaysh that well, it was saying something about the redhead that Velaxis had gone to sleep with such a grin on his face. He watched Pellaz lock the door and then frowned deeply. “You never told me Vaysh’s history.” Rue was surprised to see a pained shadow in the Tigron’s dark eyes.

“I never did, did I?” Pellaz closed his eyes in an attempt to lock out certain memories. “Come with me and I will tell you.” He was in no hurry to visit those old pains again, but Rue deserved to know. The Tigrina should have been told a long time ago.

Part 3

Caeru was wiping tears away by the time Pellaz had finished his story. “I never knew Vaysh was hiding all those things. Maybe I should have tried to befriend him, but I was jealous of him. For some time, you seemed to prefer his company to mine.”

“I felt forced into a bond with you because of Thiede. I never hated you,” Pellaz answered and rubbed the knuckles of Rue’s hand. “Vaysh however is the only one who truly understands me. Not even Cal or you can understand me that way. Vaysh lived through the same pain.”

“And he lost Ashmael.” Rue sighed deeply. “I hope that he will find a chesnari again.”

“What about Velaxis?” Although Pellaz held no great love for the silver-haired har, he would encourage the relationship if love was involved.

Rue considered the question. “I have known Vel for over thirty years and there is no har he had ever considered becoming chesna with. He has been my confidant for all those years and I want him to be happy.”

“But is Vaysh the right har for him?” Pellaz asked.

Rue shrugged. “Vel has to make that decision. Not us.”

~~~

Vaysh was still dozing pleasantly when a wet sensation woke him from his dreams that had been filled with moans and caresses. Opening one eye, he tried to find out what was going on, but a most delightful sensation made him arch his back and open his other eye as well. Velaxis had made himself a comfortable nest between his legs and was licking and teasing a part of him that Vaysh had forgotten actually existed. “What are you doing?” He pressed deeper into the comfort of the mattress and blinked sluggishly at the fair har.

“What does it look like?” It had taken Velaxis some time to awaken Vaysh’s ouana-lim, but the experienced har had succeeded. The fact that Vaysh had automatically turned soume during the two times they had rooned had told him a lot about the other har. Abandoning his conversation with Vaysh for the moment, he concentrated on bringing the ouana-lim fully to life. The red and green colors on the stem were intensifying and the petals were opening in invitation. Vaysh might not have been ouana for a long time, but the body still remembered what it had been like.

Vaysh was speechless. Nohar, certainly not Ashmael, had ever touched him that way before. The wet tongue sliding up and down the stem and teasing the petals made him pant and his fingers clawed the sheet until he was afraid he would rip the fabric apart. “You don’t have to do this,” he managed eventually. But his body disagreed and wanted Velaxis to continue.

Velaxis grinned smugly. “I want to do this…” Sliding the palms of his hands down Vaysh’s chest, they came to rest on the redhead’s abdominal area. His fingertips tingled and the sensation revealed that Vaysh’s reproductive organs still hadn’t healed completely. More aruna was needed to accomplish that. “I need you to be ouana,” he whispered around the stem before licking lower to where the soume-lam was hiding from view.

Vaysh swallowed nervously and managed to raise his head. “I am not sure I can. I never… I have no experience…”

“Then we need to work on getting you some.” Velaxis nuzzled Vaysh’s abdomen with his nose and then kissed the belly button. “I’m sure you remember how it works?” He slid his hands beneath Vaysh’s back and slowly rolled the redhead on top of him. Stretching out beneath Vaysh, he wrapped his arms around the redhead’s waist and pulled him closer. He was ready for Vaysh and hoped the redhead wouldn’t shy away from being ouana for him. “I want you this way.” His fingers glided into the red mane and caressed the tips of Vaysh’s ears while he thrust his pelvis up, causing Vaysh’s ouana-lim to rub against his soume-lam.

Dazed, Vaysh let Velaxis do as he pleased. It seemed like he lost himself whenever he looked into those silver eyes and he barely noticed Velaxis’ fingers curling around his ouana-lim and guiding him.

“Come inside of me, Vaysh.” Velaxis grinned smugly and arched his back once more. Guiding Vaysh, he used the inner muscles of his soume-lam to lure the redhead in deeper until Vaysh was full connected with him. Velaxis then raised his legs and wrapped them around the other har’s waist. “So very deep…” His link told him what to say and when to say it. Building that link had been the best thing he could have done.

Velaxis’ words undid Vaysh and he covered the other har’s body with his. He moved only minutely, but it was enough to make them both moan with pleasure. “What are you doing to me, Vel?” Velaxis was bringing out a side to him that he had never known existed!

“I am showing you your true self.” Velaxis’ fingers caressed Vaysh’s face and he eventually took hold of a handful of red hair. Forcing Vaysh’s lips closer to his, they shared breath and both hara were stunned when they realized how deep the link had become. Had they been two ‘ordinary’ hara taking aruna, one would have thought they had been chesna for years. The fact that they trusted each other unconditionally had caused affection to build and the two of them wondered where this development would lead them. /Don’t worry about it,/ Velaxis shared in mind touch. /Enjoy it instead. Be ouana, Vaysh. Taste power and let it heal you./

Vaysh lost himself in the glowing heat and brought them to orgasm. Experiencing his climax while being ouana was different and the power that slammed into his mind during the moment of his release almost made him faint. Thankfully Velaxis was there and the fair-haired har gathered him close and held him.

Velaxis purred since being soume for Vaysh had been a most fulfilling role. Vaysh was the best lover he had had in years and Velaxis was convinced that the other har’s performance would improve once the redhead had gotten accustomed to being ouana. “Never forget your dual nature, Vaysh. You are both soume and ouana and each side provides you with its own power. You need to experience both.” Vaysh’s reaction was a dazed blink and it showed Velaxis that Ashmael, Vaysh’s former chesnari, must have had a different opinion on the matter. He tightened his hold on Vaysh and smiled when the flustered face rubbed against his chest. At that moment, Vaysh reminded him of a sleek cat.

“I have been soume my entire life,” Vaysh whispered against Velaxis’ chest. “I never thought I would ever be called upon to be ouana for anyhar.”

Tucking the red head beneath his chin, Velaxis hummed softly. A small residue of energy traveled down the link and he welcomed it, clearly sensing Vaysh’s essence in it. “Tonight, you are going to practice again.” Vaysh’s laugh rumbled against his chest and made Velaxis grin in turn. “No rest for the wicked.”

“I don’t know if I will have the energy to satisfy your demands.” Vaysh was shocked to learn how easily bantering with Velaxis came to him. In the last three decades they had barely spoken to each other. “I feel like I know you – really know you,” Vaysh said, trying to explain the emotions running through him. “It feels like we are chesna.” He hadn’t wanted to add the last bit. It had been a slip of the tongue.

Although Velaxis should have told Vaysh the truth that Vaysh’s feelings were a normal reaction to having aruna again, he kept quiet, not wanting to rob the red-haired har of that particular illusion.

~~~

“I thought we weren’t going to leave my rooms?” Vaysh blinked in confusion. Velaxis had insisted they bathed and then dressed. It was obvious that Velaxis wanted to head some place, but why and where remained unclear to him.

“I need to collect some personal belongings from my rooms since I am going to move in here for a little while. And it will do you good to face the outside world as well, so you will accompany me.” At the moment, Velaxis was studying the content of Vaysh’s closet. Vaysh’s wardrobe collection was impressive and Velaxis realized he had never seen the other har wear most of the robes, shirts, pants, and skirts in there. Vaysh preferred simple green robes and that was about it.

Vaysh cringed. “Must I?” He was afraid he wouldn’t know how to act once they walked into a har he knew. Surely that har would ask himself why Velaxis was accompanying him? /What does he want with me?/ Vaysh wondered. /He can easily have anyhar he wants./ Velaxis had never had problems seducing his lovers before.

Velaxis read the questions in Vaysh’s mind but ignored them for the moment, knowing that whatever he said would have little impact on the har since Vaysh had convinced himself that he would remain without a chesna for the rest of his life. “What’s this and why have I never seen you wear it?” At the back of the wardrobe he found some magnificence robes in warm red colors. Lined with gold, they would make Vaysh look like he was the Tigron of Immanion and not Pellaz! Velaxis’ gaze shifted from the robes to Vaysh and saw the perplexed look on the other har’s face. Relieved, he noticed that the paleness was subsiding and a healthier tint was settling on the handsome features.

“Pell gave it to me. I never wore it because it would attract attention. It would make me stand out and I don’t want that.” Hara had grown used to seeing him in green and faded into the background. Wearing something like those robes would change that.

“Put them on.” Velaxis covered the distance between them and handed Vaysh the robes. “I will do your hair once you are dressed.” Vaysh shot him a startled look, but Velaxis merely smiled. “Trust me.” Vaysh wished there was a way out of it, but since Velaxis seemed determined to do this, he had little choice. Vaysh stepped into the robes and Velaxis fastened the buttons in the back. It had a high neck and didn’t show any bare skin at all, which Velaxis found even more enticing in a way. Straightening the folds from the robes, Velaxis smiled approvingly. The way Vaysh squirmed registered with him and Velaxis caressed the other har’s face. “You need to stop hiding,” Velaxis stated.

“Why should I?” Vaysh wanted to take the robes off. He looked ridiculous in them. What had Pellaz been thinking in gifting them to him?

“Because it underlines your beauty.” Velaxis’ heart stirred and at that moment he wished they were chesna for he could imagine spending the rest of his life with this amazing har.

“I am not beautiful.” Vaysh bowed his head and let his red hair shield his features from Velaxis’ probing look.

“Oh, but you are, Vaysh.” Velaxis realized that if Thiede had succeeded, Vaysh would have made an excellent Tigron, maybe one that would have done better than Pellaz for Vaysh’s soul was wiser and more mature than Pellaz’. “Something is missing though.” Leaning in closer, he kissed various strands of Vaysh’s hair and channeled his magic into the mane. “Look into the mirror, Vaysh.”

Frowning, Vaysh swept his hair back. “What did you do now?” Velaxis was already guiding him to the man-sized mirror in the bathroom and he gasped when he was confronted with his reflection. “That’s not me,” he declared and shook his head in bewilderment.

“No, Vaysh. That’s you. That’s the real you.” Even Velaxis had to admit that the changes were impressive. Gone was Vaysh’s paler hue and the pink blush on the other har’s features made him look young and approachable. The robes lent Vaysh an air of royalty and gave the illusion that he was somehow taller. And then there was the hair.

“How did you do that?” Curious, Vaysh touched a strand of golden hair that danced in front of his face.

“Magic is only any good if you can use it once in a while.” When he had kissed Vaysh’s hair, he had breathed a golden tone into the red strands. The golden highlights took away the chill that the red hair had given Vaysh’s face and made him look warmer. “It looks like you.” He liked the combination of gold and red hair.

“I am going to attract attention looking like this,” Vaysh whispered miserably.

“That, my dear, is the idea.”

~~~

Vaysh felt jittery and Velaxis had to practically shove him past the doorway. The first har to notice Vaysh was Pellaz, who was sitting on the divan with Caeru straddling his lap. /Please don’t let him say anything!/ Vaysh wished the floor would open up and swallow him because then he wouldn’t have to face them.

Pellaz’ eyes simmered with amusement and approval when he laid eyes on his friend and confidant. “Vaysh…that is quite an improvement! I always knew those robes would look good on you!”

Rue, curious, turned his head and looked at the two hara from over his shoulder. It was impossible not to notice Vaysh, who looked radiant despite his nervousness. “The highlights are a nice touch,” he commented when he realized that Velaxis had had a hand in putting them there.

“I thought so too.” Velaxis caught Vaysh’s hand in his and squeezed. “We will be back in a while.” Grinning at Rue, he added, “Don’t wait up for us.” Caeru laughed and even Pellaz grinned wickedly.

Velaxis pulled Vaysh along and the redhead was happy to follow since it meant leaving the Tigrons’ apartment and stepping into the safety of the corridor where they were less likely to run into hara who knew him. “Why are you making me do this?”

“You have to face Ashmael and the other hara sometime. There is nothing worse than running away.” Velaxis maintained his hold on Vaysh’s hand as they walked down the corridor. “You had better face them.”

“Ash? You want me to confront him? Now?” Panicking, Vaysh came to an abrupt stop.

“Not necessarily now,” Velaxis retorted, calming Vaysh. “But you shouldn’t lock yourself up in your room just because you are afraid you might run into him.” Velaxis guided Vaysh through the corridors until they reached his rooms and wondered if Vaysh had noticed the appraising looks the hara they had encountered had given the redhead. But Vaysh was so pre-occupied with the idea of running into Ashmael that he had hardly noticed what was happening around him.

Vaysh’s hand was suddenly released and he realized that they had entered Velaxis’ rooms, which were quite different from his own. Each corner, every centimeter had been used to show Velaxis’ personal belongings, which were sometimes as simple as a stone or a feather, or something more valuable like a book or a piece of jewelry. Vaysh watched Velaxis stuff clothes into a bag before disappearing into the bathroom while carrying another outfit. Feeling quite the intruder, Vaysh remained where he was, unwilling to change anything in the rooms unintentionally. “Your rooms are…nice,” Vaysh said in an effort to make conversation.

Velaxis smiled at his reflection in the mirror and made quick work of his clothes. Dressed in black silk pants and a maze shirt, he stepped into the bedroom again. He headed for the bed, pulled out a pair of leather boots from beneath it, and stepped into them. Sensing Vaysh’s eyes on him, he grinned at the redhead. “Do you like what you see?” The fierce blush that spread across Vaysh’s features told him all he needed to know and for the first time, he wondered if becoming chesna with Vaysh was an option after all. He liked the idea more with each moment he spent in the other har’s company.

Vaysh coughed, but didn’t answer Velaxis’ question. Instead, he tried to look anywhere but at the silver-haired har.

~~~

Ashmael blinked repeatedly. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. A vibrant-looking Vaysh dressed in warm colors and with golden strands showing between the red stood nearby. He shook his head, trying to clear his vision, but after he had done that, Vaysh was still standing there, looking quite shocked as well. Only then did Ashmael register that his former chesnari wasn’t alone as Velaxis actually stood holding the redhead’s hand.

Vaysh felt equally shocked and tugged at Velaxis’ hand in order to gain the other har’s attention. Velaxis had noticed Ashmael as well and intensified the link between Vaysh and him. Sensing Vaysh’s distress, he moved closer to the redhead and folded an arm around the other har’s waist. Let Ashmael make of that gesture what he wanted.

The general felt stunned with the realization that he felt possessive and territorial when Velaxis put an arm around Vaysh’s waist. He hadn’t felt like that for years and the sensation took him by surprise. Vaysh and he had never had a decent conversation about their past and Ashmael suddenly regretted that. Seeing Vaysh the way he was, so alive and humming with energy, he found the other har quite attractive. “Vaysh, I didn’t expect to meet you here.” It was a lie. Since he was close to Pellaz’ apartment, there was always the chance of running into Vaysh. But until that moment, he hadn’t found the notion desirable.

“Ashmael…” Vaysh’s voice trembled and, strangely, he had no desire to talk to his former chesnari. He wanted to disappear inside his rooms with Velaxis instead. He hadn’t thought it possible, but he had changed during the last few days.

“You look…well,” Ashmael remarked awkwardly.

Vaysh nodded in acceptance of the compliment. “I have had healing.”

Ashmael’s gaze shifted from Vaysh to Velaxis, whose expression was unreadable. “In that case, I need to thank you for helping Vaysh.” He had almost said, ‘My former chesnari’, but he had realized just in time that it would have been a mistake.

Velaxis wanted to snap back that Ashmael could have helped Vaysh heal decades ago, but swallowed the comment since it would only increase the redhead’s distress. “I’m glad I could help. However, his recovery isn’t complete yet, but I’m sure he will make a full recovery once we have rooned a few more times.” Ashmael’s eyes widened and Velaxis derived some perverse pleasure from Ashamel’s reaction to their revealed love life.

Vaysh glanced at Velaxis sharply and realized the same thing. Velaxis had wanted Ashmael to know that they had taken aruna, but why?

Ashmael straightened his shoulders. “Does that mean you are chesna?” He felt bewildered! He had ignored Vaysh for three decades and had felt satisfied when it had become clear that the redhead didn’t want another chesnari. In a way, he had felt that had been the only right way for Vaysh. That he had bedded countless hara and had had a fling with Cobweb was something completely different. He wasn’t barren…he was allowed aruna!

Alert and on guard, Velaxis unintentionally picked up on that thought and glared at the blond har. How could Ashmael believe something that unfair was just? /You had your chance and didn’t use it. Don’t get in the way now or you might regret it./ He sent that message to Ashmael and felt pleased when the blond har’s eyes widened in surprise.

Vaysh knew something was happening between the two other hara, but didn’t know what was being communicated since Ashmael and Velaxis had raised their defenses.

/You can’t be serious! I have rights to him from our past!/ Ashmael glared at Velaxis. /Besides, what would Vaysh want with a whore?/

Velaxis drew in a deep breath, praying that he didn’t lose his patience in Vaysh’s company. /My reasons for playing that part were honorable. You have no idea what you are talking about, General!/ Tightening his hold on Vaysh, he pulled the redhead closer and looked into the gray eyes. “Do you want to talk to Ashmael or do you want to return to your rooms?” He would accept whatever answer Vaysh gave him.

Oddly enough, Vaysh felt no desire to talk to Ashmael. He should have realized some time ago that the blond har belonged in the past. Ashmael had had thirty years to claim him and the other har had ignored him instead. “I want to return to my rooms.”

“Vaysh! Wait!” Ashmael took a step forward and moved to take hold of Vaysh’s shoulder, but the sad look his former chesnari gave him stopped him dead in his tracks. It looked like Vaysh was going to speak after all.

Vaysh knew he had to do this now before courage eluded him. “You had thirty years to come after me, Ash. Why didn’t you?”

Ashmael’s mouth went dry with Vaysh’s directness and he tried to come up with a suitable answer. “I didn’t know if you still wanted me.” It was a lie though. Ignoring Vaysh had been the easy way out and throughout the years other hara had taken Vaysh’s place in his bed. But seeing Velaxis holding Vaysh close reminded him of the fact that he had no har at his side at the moment. He had lost Cobweb to Snake and the other hara he shared his bed with weren’t good enough to become chesna with. Ashmael had high standards after all.

Saddened, Vaysh shook his head. “It is over, Ash. I didn’t know it until I saw you just now.” Admitting that the past was just that wasn’t as painful as Vaysh had thought it would be. “Our story won’t have a happy ending, Ash. It can’t have one. It might have been different if you had pushed through my defenses like Cal had with Pell’s. Cal fought for Pell… You never fought for me.”

Velaxis remained quiet and didn’t get involved. This matter was between Vaysh and Ashmael.

Ashmael suddenly exploded with rage. He had kept his feelings inside for too long and now they forced themselves a way out. “You never fought for me either! You could have come to me instead!”

Vaysh blinked in disbelief at what he had just heard. “What?” Velaxis growled beside him and Vaysh patted the other har’s arm, letting him know to stay out of it. “You want to put the blame on me?”

Vaysh’s voice was attracting bystanders and Pellaz and Rue, having heard the exchange, joined them in the corridor as well. Pellaz frowned when he realized that Ashmael and Vaysh were actually fighting. “Maybe we should get involved?” he suggested, but Caeru shook his head.

“Let them sort this out,” the Tigrina replied.

“You are a selfish bastard, Ash! You weren’t the one who was killed and forced to be reborn! You weren’t raped and ruined by Thiede! You weren’t forced to go to Immanion and live here! You weren’t shunned by hara! You weren’t pointed at and the subject of their gossiping!” Vaysh glared at Ashmael and hardly noticed Velaxis rubbing the small of his back. He wanted to get this out now. “I was scared when I faced you that first time and I ran! I had hoped that you’d come after me and reassure me that we could sort everything out! But you ignored me! You pretended I wasn’t even there! Do you know how much pain I was in each time I was forced to attend those council meetings? You must have felt me look at you! I couldn’t stop myself from staring at you!”

Ashmael had never expected to be lectured and frantically sought to defend himself. “I never noticed! You never stared at me! I would have known!”

Pellaz coughed and remarked even though Rue was shaking his head, telling him not to. “I saw the looks he gave you the last thirty years. I can’t believe you never noticed.” Vaysh’s gaze quickly shifted to Pellaz and he blinked in surprise. Pellaz was actually supporting him!

“I saw you look at him too,” Velaxis added, knowing he should stay out of their argument, but couldn’t let Vaysh think he had to confront Ashmael on his own. “We all did.”

Even Rue nodded and gave Vaysh a look filled with sympathy. /It is best for you to end it here./

Vaysh was stunned at the Tigrina’s mental comment. He was surprised that Caeru would pick sides and back him up since it was well-known that Caeru and Velaxis were best friends. Vaysh had expected Rue to grow jealous of him because of the large amount of time Velaxis was spending with him at present.

Ashmael couldn’t believe they were teaming up against him! “Vaysh, don’t listen to them!”

“No,” Vaysh replied as he shook his head. “They are right. What we had belongs in the past. You are not Cal and I am not Pell. Our story is not theirs.” Vaysh looked at Pellaz wistfully and the Tigron nodded. “Ash, I hope you will find a chesnari again, but I can’t be the one. I don’t want to be.”

Ashmael struggled for control. His rage was consuming him. “You would prefer a whore over me?” Velaxis managed to remain calm in spite of the insult Ashmael had just spat at him.

“I’d rather have Vel than you, Ash. That comment just now proved it!” Demonstratively, Vaysh turned and pulled Velaxis close, sharing breath with him.

Velaxis was too stunned to stop it, though truth be told he didn’t want to stop Vaysh to begin with. From the corner of his eye he saw Ashmael fume with anger before marching down the corridor until he faded from view entirely.

Pellaz chuckled and looked knowingly at Vaysh when the redhead released Velaxis. “I surmise you have a new chesnari as of now?”

“I didn’t plan it that way,” Vaysh admitted and looked apologetically at Velaxis. “It just seemed the right thing to do.”

Velaxis twined a gold-red strand around a fingertip and considered the har in front of him. Vaysh had defended his honor in the only way the other har had known how. “It is all right,” he replied eventually. “I should feel honored that you would claim me like that in public.” He knew that a large number of hara thought of him as Thiede’s whore, but they hadn’t known why he had played that role in the past. “If you will have me, I will have you.”

Vaysh rested his brow against Velaxis’ and looked him in the eye. “I want you.”

“Then have me.”

Pleased with the outcome of the confrontation, Pellaz smiled and brushed Rue’s neck with his fingertips. “That probably means I will see little of my trusted confidant for a while, and that you, Rue, will have to do without your friend.”

“I will manage,” Rue responded. Catching the expression in Velaxis’ eyes, Rue knew the two hara had reached the right decision. They suited each other. “Pell?” he whispered into his consort’s ear. “Let me organize a party.”

“And what’s the occasion?” Pellaz asked as he guided the Tigrina back to the apartment.

“Vaysh and Velaxis are chesna. Isn’t that reason enough to celebrate?” Rue smiled charmingly at Pellaz.

Pellaz laughed and nodded. “Throw them a party then.” He knew how much Caeru loved to host those things.

Part 4

Once he was back in the safety of his rooms, Vaysh collapsed down to the floor where he swayed and released his tears. He had just done something he had thought he would never do. He had ended the fragile hope that had still held his heart prisoner for so long. He had told Ashmael that their relationship was over.

Velaxis covered the distance between them and knelt behind Vaysh. He curled his arms around the redhead’s torso and rocked him slowly. After resting his chin on Vaysh’s shoulder, he hummed soothingly, letting his magic flow through the sound. Slowly, Vaysh calmed and the weeping stopped. “You did the right thing.”

Vaysh raised a hand and wiped the tears from his face. He looked at Velaxis from over his shoulder and emitted a final sob. “I know I did, but it still hurts.”

Holding Vaysh close, Velaxis continued to rock him until the other har relaxed and leaned against him. Smiling into the red hair, Velaxis forced himself to concentrate on the good that had come out of the confrontation. “So we are chesna now?”

Drawing in a deep breath, Vaysh closed his eyes briefly before turning in the embrace. Opening his eyes, he rested his head against Velaxis’ shoulder and moved along when his chesnari continued to rock him. “Are you angry with me?”

Velaxis had expected a remark like that and shook his head. “No, I’m not. My mind is still wide open. Why don’t you see for yourself?” He involuntarily held his breath when Vaysh probed his thoughts and kept perfectly still while concentrating on letting Vaysh search his mind. “I must admit that I had considered the possibility of us becoming chesna before you claimed me like that.”

Reading the truth in Velaxis’ mind, Vaysh felt reassured. “I never wanted to force you into a bond.”

“You didn’t. I want this too.” Velaxis placed a finger beneath Vaysh’s face and raised his chesnari’s head. “Thank you for giving me this chance. I know that my reputation isn’t the best.”

“You forget that I know why you let Thiede direct your actions.” Vaysh had grown calm again and rubbed his cheek against the palm of Velaxis’ hand. “In a way we are the same. We both let Thiede run our lives, but for different reasons. At least you had a noble reason for letting him manipulate you. I was just a coward.”

The sadness clinging to Vaysh’s voice made Velaxis’ heart ache. “Don’t blame yourself, Vaysh. Many hara would have ended up broken for life after what Thiede had done to you. You fought him the only way you could and he subdued you. He took what he wanted and destroyed your life in the process, but your recovery has begun. A new life is about to start for you, but you can only do that if you let go of your memories like you let go of Ashmael.”

Vaysh’s eyes were filled with anguish and fear. “You know how deeply Thiede hurt me.” He wasn’t sure he could live up to Velaxis’ expectations and was afraid he would disappoint the other har.

Velaxis nodded. “I also know that you have started to heal.” His hand slipped beneath Vaysh’s robes and against his chesnari’s abdomen. “The damage Thiede did is healing. You will be able to host or sire a pearl, but the real damage…the real injury…resides here.” His hand traveled higher until it rested above Vaysh’s heart. “Healing these injuries will take longer, but you *will* heal.”

“I don’t deserve you,” Vaysh whispered and trembled when Velaxis’ fingertips brushed against a nipple, which hardened at the touch. “Vel, I…”

“We talked enough for now,” Velaxis decided and took action. “We are not going to waste anymore precious time, my dear.” Slowly, he lowered Vaysh onto his back and then undid the buttons so he could bare his chesnari’s chest to him. “We have more important things to do…more pleasurable things…” He grinned catlike.

The palms of Vaysh’s hands went sweaty and trembled when Velaxis’ hands slid lower down his chest, his abdomen, and then toward his soume-lam. He couldn’t help but become soume again and for the first time in many years he craved aruna. He really wanted Velaxis.

Velaxis however shook his head. “No, I want to take my time with you, Vaysh.” The redhead deserved nothing less. He made quick work of removing his shirt and flung it onto the floor. Then he unzipped his pants and Vaysh pushed the fabric lower until his ouana-lim was set free. “You are addicting, Vaysh. I can’t seem to get enough of you.” He leaned in closer and could tell that Vaysh expected to be kissed, but his lips traveled lower and sucked on the sensitive skin near Vaysh’s collarbone. “I want you…” When he had rooned Vaysh the first time, he had dealt with a passive har who was afraid to make the wrong move, but that had changed. Vaysh arched beautifully beneath him and Velaxis quickly pushed a hand beneath his chesnari’s hips to squeeze the firm flesh.

Vaysh was tempted to close his eyes, but didn’t. He was still afraid that he would flash back to Thiede raping him if he didn’t look Velaxis in the eye. “Vel, do you mean it? Are we chesna? Are you going to stay with me?” The thought was hard to grasp. He had made his peace thinking he would be alone for the rest of his life.

“I will show you how serious I am, Vaysh.” He was going to show his chesnari just how much he cared for him. “Trust me,” he breathed into Vaysh’s mouth before claiming his chesnari’s lips in shared breath.

Clawing at Velaxis’ silver hair, Vaysh impatiently tugged at the strands. All he could think about at the moment was his chesnari’s intoxicating scent and desperately wanting aruna with him. The link between them buzzed and Vaysh reached out to Velaxis, sending affection and his need down the connection.

“I know, my heart,” Velaxis murmured and moved in-between Vaysh’s long legs. “I know how much you want me for I feel it too.” His right hand dipped lower and touched his chesnari’s soume-lam and when he found Vaysh moist with need, he guided himself inside the wet heat. Bowing his head, he savored the sensation of sliding into place and then raised his head to grin impishly at his chesnari. Vaysh was staring at him in rapture and it made him want to please his chesnari even more. “I will show you… I will heal you… I promise that you will be whole again.”

Vaysh barely heard his chesnari’s whispered promises. He was concentrating on the joining of their bodies and, when Velaxis started to thrust, he threw back his head. His right hand clawed at the rug beneath him as his other scratched the delicate skin of Velaxis’ back, but the silver-haired har didn’t seem to notice. Vaysh managed to push himself closer and attached his lips to Velaxis’ throat where he started to maul the skin.

Feeling high on Vaysh’s trust and love, Velaxis closed his eyes and focused inward. There was something he had to do…he had to heal Vaysh. Resting his body on top of Vaysh’s, he heard a groan and immediately checked to see if the redhead was in distress when he realized that he was pushing Vaysh into the rug and that the position they were in could cause Vaysh to suffer a flashback. But Vaysh’s thoughts were only rapture and lust. Moving a hand down Vaysh’s body, Velaxis used his special talents to reach inside his lover’s body, teasing and luring the retracted ouana-lim from its hiding place.

Alarmed at the strange sensation, Vaysh’s gaze fastened on Velaxis. “Don’t worry,” Velaxis soothed at once. “I want to show you something. I want to teach you and show you a secret.” Vaysh’s eyes became impossibly large when his ouana-lim stirred and blossomed in Velaxis’ hand. “I want to bring you pleasure and healing,” Velaxis mumbled and then stroked the stem with his fingers. “We are both, Vaysh. We are soume and ouana. I want you to *know* that and not just accept my word for it.”

Vaysh panted hard under the dual sensations and tried to make sense of the things happening to his body. His soume-lam throbbed as the petals of Velaxis’ ouana-lim opened and brushed against the inner walls and at the same time, he was ouana and coming alive in Velaxis’ hand. “This can’t be,” he whispered between his heavy pants.

“You are har, Vaysh, and you are whole again.” Velaxis intensified his thrusts while at the same time stroked Vaysh’s ouana-lim. He timed his thrusts and strokes until he had Vaysh balancing on the edge before they shared breath so he could channel the energy which was about to be released. /Let go,/ he ordered. /Be truly har./

Vaysh screamed into Velaxis’ mouth when two different kinds of orgasm were ripped from his body. A deep throbbing feeling originating from deep inside his center spread from his soume-lam, which was now filled with Velaxis’ aren. At the same time, aren erupted from the head of his ouana-lim and dripped onto his chesnari’s hand. “Vel!”

Velaxis grinned smugly and then threw back his head and howled Vaysh’s name. He wanted the whole of Immanion to know that they were chesna now.

Having no other choice but to let the waves of pleasure wash over him, Vaysh fought to reach the surface again. For a few seconds he was afraid he would drown in the emotions and faint.

“I have you.” Velaxis caught and cradled Vaysh’s mind as he soothed his chesnari’s body. Absentmindedly he wondered what amount of energy would be set free if they ever created a pearl. Thiede had chosen Vaysh back then for a reason. The powerful har had seen Vaysh’s potential and during his attempt to make Vaysh his Tigron, Thiede *had* transferred some of his essence into the redhead. If anything ever happened to Pellaz or Cal and they needed a Tigron to lead the hara, they would find an excellent replacement in Vaysh. But for now, the redhead was his and solely his.

~~~

“A party?” Amused, Velaxis laughed warmly. Vaysh had fallen asleep after their last time and Velaxis had snuck outside to have a quick word with Caeru. He should have expected something like it, but the swiftness with which Caeru had moved still surprised him. “Tomorrow evening?”

Caeru nodded. “I have waited for something to happen to have a reason to organize a party.” He tossed Pellaz, who was asleep on the bed, a lopsided grin. “Although many things have changed, some remain the same. Pell still doesn’t like parties.”

“And Cal?” Velaxis listened to the sounds coming from the bathroom. Calanthe was singing softly.

“It depends on the mood he’s in,” Rue explained and sipped his sheh. “So tell me, how did this happen? How come you are chesna with Vaysh?”

Velaxis shrugged. “I can’t quite explain it, Rue. Something happened the first time we had aruna. He was enticing in his vulnerable innocence and I couldn’t resist him. Once I got to know him better, I realized that I liked him. I can’t believe I didn’t notice him earlier.”

“He always made a point of hiding in the background,” Pellaz commented as he sat upright on the bed. “He has been afraid for a very long time. Thank you for curing him of his fear.” Pellaz got to his feet and smoothed the tangled mass of black hair down his back before sitting down on the couch next to Caeru. “I was surprised when he rejected Ashmael, but I do believe he did the right thing.” Pellaz cocked his head and studied Velaxis. They weren’t friends, but he tolerated the other har because Darquiel was extremely fond of Velaxis. “Do you love him?”

Velaxis nodded his head. “Yes, I do…passionately.”

Rue smiled mysteriously and remarked, “Yes, we heard that.”

A blush appeared on Velaxis’ face. “We were rather loud. I apologize…”

But Pellaz quickly raised a hand commandingly and stopped Velaxis from finishing his apologies. “You don’t know how glad I am to hear such sounds coming from Vaysh’s rooms. I have been waiting for something like that to happen for over thirty years.” The look Pellaz gave him showed Velaxis that he had found a friend and ally in the Tigron and he gratefully accepted the silent offer of friendship.

~~~

Vaysh’s mood darkened when Velaxis told him that Caeru wanted to throw them a party. “But why?” Being the guests of honor would put them at the center of attention!

Caressing Vaysh’s body with his fingers down his chesnari’s flank, Velaxis sighed contentedly. “Rue is right. You need to be shown off.” Leaning in closer, he claimed Vaysh’s lips with a sated light in his eyes. Sharing breath showed Vaysh how eager Velaxis was to let the whole of Immanion know that he had a chesnari.

Feeling light-headed, Vaysh drank deeply of Velaxis’ essence and was amazed to feel his body stir with demand. They had just taken aruna earlier that day! The mere thought of Velaxis putting his hands on him made Vaysh turn soume.

“Again?” Velaxis asked in amusement. “And why not…” Since Vaysh was only dressed in a morning robe, Velaxis had little work to gain access to his chesnari’s body. “Let’s try something new…”

Vaysh’s breath caught when Velaxis started to turn him around and then guided his hands to the floor. Once on all fours, Vaysh quickly looked at Velaxis from over his shoulder.

“Perfect,” Velaxis purred as he wrapped his hands around Vaysh’s waist. Kneeling behind his chesnari, he pushed the fabric of his robes aside and his ouana-lim was already blooming with vibrant colors. He gathered the fabric of Vaysh’s robes in his hands and draped it along his chesnari’s lower back, baring the firm buttocks to his eyes. “Lovely.”

Having never felt so needy before, Vaysh pressed back in the hope of taking Velaxis’ ouana-lim inside him. His chesnari was thankfully aware of his plan and quickly guided himself inside. “You are insatiable, Vaysh.” Velaxis stilled once he was within and then pulled Vaysh upright until his chesnari could lean his back against his chest. He wrapped an arm around the redhead’s waist to steady him and nibbled on an earlobe until Vaysh started to moan from pleasure. Thrusting upward, he closed his eyes in bliss and the moist folds of Vaysh’s soume-lam contracted heavily around him. “Oh yes, you little minx you.”

Vaysh almost burst out laughing at the last comment, but Velaxis suddenly sped up his thrusts and he was soon panting so hard and so fast that he didn’t have the time to laugh. With each time they had taken aruna it had been intense, but this time Velaxis took it to the extreme, driving Vaysh to the edge before reaching for his chesnari’s ouana-lim.

The redhead almost collapsed when his ouana-lim was lured into arousal as Velaxis stroked the stem again. The thrusts, the strokes, the bite that his chesnari delivered to his throat, and the insistent presence of Velaxis in his mind were too much and Vaysh tumbled over the edge. Velaxis however didn’t climax with him and the pounding continued. Suddenly a series of explosions erupted from deep within his soume-lam and Vaysh experienced one high after another. When his aren finally sprang forth from his ouana-lim, Vaysh’s hands became fists and he banged them into the rug, uncaring as his knuckles were chaffed in the process.

Velaxis’ eyes grew wide as he saw the red glow that surrounded his chesnari’s body. He tasted the power that was being released and he greedily gathered it close, directing it back into the redhead’s body so the last injuries could be healed. Vaysh hung limply in his arms and Velaxis carefully lowered his chesnari onto the rug. Boneless, Vaysh remained there, sprawled on his front. Velaxis quickly pulled a blanket from the couch and covered the redhead with it. “Vaysh?” Vaysh blinked and tried to speak, but he felt too weak to form any words.

Velaxis smiled. “I need to be more careful in the future. I tend to forget that you are more powerful than an ordinary har. We don’t want to bring down Immanion, do we?”

Vaysh managed a disbelieving grin. “I couldn’t… do that…”

“You have no idea how powerful you are do you? I hate bringing this up now, but in power, you are Pellaz’ equal. Thiede shared his essence with you too.” Vaysh’s expression became hooded and Velaxis patiently waited for his chesnari to sort out his thoughts and emotions.

Wringing his hands, Vaysh looked at Velaxis pleadingly. “Please don’t remind me. I know what he did.” He drew in a deep breath, relaxed his hands, and moved closer to Velaxis, who opened his arms and hugged him tight. “I don’t need parties. I don’t need power, let alone becoming Tigron or taking over Pellaz’ duties. I want this – you and me – us together like this.”

“I understand,” Velaxis mumbled and pressed a kiss onto Vaysh’s brow. “The world is quite all right now, isn’t it?”

Vaysh nodded. “Yes, I want it to stay it to stay the way it is right now.”

Velaxis lovingly nibbled on Vaysh’s bottom lip before kissing the redhead. “I agree.” He had never thought that he would become chesna with somehar and certainly not Vaysh, but life had thrown him a challenge and he had accepted. He was glad he had. “I love you, Vaysh.”

“Vel, I think I love you too.”

Velaxis didn’t hold it against Vaysh that he spoke hesitantly because he understood why Vaysh was the way he was. “You touch my heart like no other har, Vaysh.” Velaxis brushed Vaysh’s lips and then shared breath with his chesnari.

Reaching out, Vaysh addressed Velaxis using mind touch. /Vel, I feel the same way. You became a part of me and I never want to be without you again./

/We are chesna, Vaysh. That means we will be lovers forever…until the end. You will never be alone again…I promise./ Velaxis kissed away the solitary tear that had escaped Vaysh’s eyes and vowed to love the redhead forever and it was promptly hurled back at him mentally. Smiling, he looked into Vaysh’s gray eyes and realized that it was his own reflection which he saw in them. They had truly become one.

To be continued in The Sun and the Moon

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1 Comment

  1. April 3, 2008 at 4:58 am

    […] Sequel to Heartstrings […]


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