A Touch of Spring
Author’s Email: email@example.com
Web page: http://www.paranoid.nl/avalon
Summary: Sequel to A Love Like Winter. While Vaysh deepens his relationship with Galdra, Pellaz regrets banishing his friend from Immanion and tries to make amends.
Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: AU of course.
Beta read by Patricia and DA, thanks, sweeties!
All remaining mistakes are mine.
A Touch of Spring
Vaysh felt curious as he stepped into the cave which Galdra had convinced him to go to in spite of the snow that still covered the lands. Vaysh still didn’t do very well with the cold and would have preferred to stay inside, but Galdra had wrapped him up in a warm bearskin cloak before pulling him outside. Vaysh, of course, had followed. “What’s so special about this place?” As far as he could see, the cave wasn’t extraordinary at all, yet Galdra continued to guide him deeper into it.
“You’ll see. Just wait.” Galdra looked at Vaysh from over his shoulder and grinned. The last few months had been heaven as far as he was concerned. They had deepened their relationship and Agi had accepted them as his surrogate parents. The harling still mourned losing his father and hostling though, which was understandable.
The redhead pulled his cloak closer and shivered. Exhaling, he expected to see his breath crystallize with the cold, but it didn’t happen. “Is it growing warmer again?”
Galdra nodded. “This is what I want you to see.” He raised a hand and pointed in the direction that he wanted Vaysh to look in.
Vaysh smiled, pleasantly surprised when he saw a large pool at the back of the cave. Steam floated up from the water’s surface and the air around him was a warm mist. “Hot springs?”
The blond pulled Vaysh along. “Yes, a har found them some years ago. These springs are a well-kept secret.” He released Vaysh’s hand and removed his cloak.
“Secret? Why keep them a secret?” There would be plenty of hara wanting to soak in them!
“Because the water has unique powers. At least, that’s what our shaman says.” Galdra disposed of his shirt and trousers and gestured for Vaysh to take off his clothes as well. “You can’t wade into the water wearing all that.”
Vaysh sighed. “I should have known…” He should have known that Galdra was somehow setting him up. “Why don’t you go in alone? I don’t feel the need to disrobe.” Even though the air was relatively warm, it was still cool enough to make him shiver.
“Trust me, Vaysh.” Galdra unbuttoned Vaysh’s cloak and let it drop onto the ground. “I want to share this experience with you.” He had wanted to take Vaysh there for a long time, but the snow and ice had been hampering him. Galdra proceeded to remove Vaysh’s clothes and to his delight, the other har allowed it. The shine in the fierce red color within the soft hair had faded because Vaysh couldn’t keep dyeing it and the blond was coming through again.
“I trust you,” Vaysh admitted gently. “I just don’t want to get cold or wet.”
Galdra laughed and decisively did away with Vaysh’s skirt. Once the red-haired har was naked, he took Vaysh’s hand and pulled him into the pool. “You’ll like it. I promise.”
Vaysh didn’t put up any resistance as he waded into the water. During the last few months he had come to trust Galdra unconditionally. “You’re right,” he whispered blissfully as he settled into the water next to Galdra. “This is nice.” The water was probably thirty degrees warmer than outside and cradled his body. Closing his eyes, he rested his head against Galdra’s shoulder. “So what’s so special about this cave that it needs to be kept a secret?”
“The shaman didn’t tell me in detail,” Galdra admitted. “He mumbled something about someone’s true nature being revealed.”
“Have you been here before?” Vaysh opened his eyes again and slid away from Galdra before immersing himself in the water completely, even wetting his hair.
“Several times, but nothing out of the ordinary ever happened.” A thoughtful look appeared in Galdra’s eyes. “The only difference is that I feel rejuvenated when I leave. Sometimes I feel exhausted when I come here and when I leave, I feel energized.”
Vaysh stretched out his arms and legs as he floated face-up on the water. Closing his eyes, he whispered, “Thanks for dragging me along. This is restful.” His body tingled and Vaysh didn’t know what to make of that. It probably was the rejuvenating effect Galdra had mentioned earlier. With his body floating, his thoughts started to drift as well. “I’m so happy I met you… It sounds corny, but I can no longer envision a life without you.” The top of his head made contact with Galdra’s chest and he opened his eyes to gaze upon his chesnari. Galdra was watching him curiously, but Vaysh didn’t think much of it, considering he had just admitted to how much he loved the blond har.
In amazement, Galdra raised his right hand and moved his fingers through his chesnari’s hair, which was floating in the water between them. “You changed my life too. I was miserable because I had lost Pellaz and then you entered my life. Why didn’t I notice you when I was visiting Immanion?”
“I was always at the back,” Vaysh replied and raised his hand to palm Galdra’s cheek. “And you were focused on Pellaz. I think some force was at work to make sure you fell for him. Only your combined essences could defeat Ponclast. You were supposed to be concentrating on Pell and not me.”
“Thankfully we beat Ponclast. That means I can concentrate on you now.” Galdra knew that he would probably never visit Immanion again. He wasn’t even sure he would ever see Pellaz again, but somehow that didn’t matter any more now that he had Vaysh. “Do you feel like the water is having an effect on you?” he asked innocently, but at the same time, his eyes twinkled with mischief.
“I feel relaxed,” Vaysh replied contentedly. “Maybe we can come here regularly?”
“Of course we can.” Grinning, Galdra bowed and pressed a kiss onto Vaysh’s hair. He could tell his chesnari about the change the water had caused, but he preferred for Vaysh to find out himself.
Vaysh pushed himself to his feet after having floated for a few minutes and got the surprise of his life as he realized that something was wrong. The wet strands hanging in front of his face weren’t red anymore, but had turned blond again. Blinking, he looked at Galdra in puzzlement.
“I told you – the water can have strange effects on hara.” Galdra grinned smugly. “I must say… I like you as a blond.”
Vaysh blinked and then shook his head. “You could have warned me.” He ran his fingers through the wet strands and stared at them in amazement. “I was a blond in another life time, Galdra. I’m not sure that this hair color still fits me.”
Galdra’s expression faltered a bit. “I reckon you can get some dye through the traders…”
Vaysh heard the disappointment in Galdra’s voice though and understood then that his chesnari liked seeing him with his natural hair color. His hair was a bit more golden than Galdra’s, whose strands tended to run a bit more to a silvery white. “I haven’t seen my hair like this for decades…” His voice faltered as he trembled. Galdra raced to his side and pulled him close, comforting him with physical closeness. They were naked and skin-on-skin, but neither of them felt the need for aruna. This was different. This was about holding and being held, comforting and being comforted, and Galdra did his best to support Vaysh during his hour of need.
Pellaz’ confidante savored Galdra’s closeness for another few minutes before raising his head to look into his chesnari’s eyes. “I didn’t plan on crying.”
“I understand,” Galdra whispered as he fingered a strand of Vaysh’s hair. He planned on being there for his chesnari in every way he could.
Vaysh remained mostly quiet as they made their way home. Their horses were eager to get back to their warm stables and were therefore moving quickly. Vaysh was lost in thought when Galdra’s hand settled on his shoulder and he quickly raised his gaze to find out why his chesnari had reached out to him.
“You look lost,” Galdra explained sorrowfully. “I want you to be happy, not sad.”
The other har managed a reassuring smile. He felt unsettled with his blond hair color returned to him. With it memories of the time spent with Ashmael appeared. “There was another har before you,” he whispered, feeling the need to discuss this with Galdra.
“I know that,” Galdra replied. “I saw him in your mind.” He had seen Ashmael in Vaysh’s thoughts and felt angry with the other har for not reaching out to Vaysh when he had returned to Immanion. Ashmael should have made an effort to reconnect. Galdra was certain he would have! He would have done everything to reclaim Vaysh.
“It’s in the past now,” Vaysh continued sadly. “He no longer wants me.”
“Then he’s a fool.”
Vaysh’s smile became more genuine and he reached for Galdra’s hand, curling his fingers around his chesnari’s. “I want to go home.”
For one frightening moment Galdra was afraid Vaysh wanted to return to Immanion, but then the Archon understood: Vaysh wanted to return to the keep. Freygard had become home to Vaysh during the last few months.
Agi smiled upon Galdra and Vaysh entrance into the room. Galdra’s chambers had been divided into a bedroom and living area for the adults. Agi had moved into the smaller room which had previously served as Galdra’s personal study. “There you are!” Agi called out and ran toward them. Since he no longer had his parents around, Vaysh and Galdra had become the closest thing he had to a father and hostling. Fortunately for him, the two hara had embraced their new roles and took care of him.
Galdra caught the harling and lifted him as Agi slung his arms around Galdra’s neck and was hugged close. “Did you miss us?”
Agi nodded repeatedly. “It’s boring when you’re not around.” Turning his head, he smiled at Vaysh. The fact that these two strangers had taken him in and had started to love him had saved the harling in more ways than one. He wasn’t sure he would have made it without their support. He might have succumbed to grief instead. He did miss his parents terribly.
“We’ll play with you,” Vaysh said and gestured toward the harling’s collection of toys. Although Agi had been told to keep them confined to his room, dolls and books were always making their way into the bedroom as well. One night, Galdra had even found a stuffed animal in the bed. He carried Agi over to the thick rug that served as the carpet and put the harling down.
The harling looked delightedly up at Vaysh as the har settled down on the rug next to him. Looking at Vaysh, the harling suddenly realized that something was different. “What happened to your hair? Wasn’t it red?”
Vaysh nodded and smiled. “The dye has washed out. I’m not a natural redhead.”
“He’s a blond,” Galdra added smugly. “You fit in even better this way. Just wait until the snow’s gone and we’ll start working out a bit.” Vaysh’s eyes widened comically. He wasn’t like Galdra! What was his chesnari thinking? Galdra responded with laughter. He loved that look on Vaysh’s face. “We’ll read you a story, Agi,” Galdra stated, elegantly changing their topic. He picked up one of the books and started reading, knowing that Vaysh would take over once he got a dry throat.
Vaysh was the one to put a sleepy Agi to bed. He lay down next to the harling and stroked the brown hair as the harling’s eyes started to close. “Don’t fight it. You’ll need your energy tomorrow.”
Agi smiled sleepily before his eyes closed. Vaysh placed Agi’s favorite stuffed toy close and then tucked the harling in. A naked Galdra walked up to the harling’s bed and pulled Vaysh to his feet. “Are you coming to bed?”
Vaysh’s gaze took in his chesnari’s form appreciatively. Normally he would love to indulge Galdra and take aruna with him, but that day he wasn’t in the mood for it. What had happened in the cave had unsettled him. That he was a blond was something he still needed to fully accept. Thankfully, Galdra seemed to grasp that and gently pulled him into their bedroom. Vaysh allowed his chesnari to undress him before slipping between the sheets, settling comfortably into Galdra’s arms. Blond strands rested against his skin and this time, they were his and not Galdra’s.
Galdra remained quiet as he allowed Vaysh to sort out his thoughts. There was no need to talk since they had grown so close that Galdra could reach out to his chesnari in mind touch. He knew to stay quiet and be a silent support.
Pellaz’ mood had grown fouler with each passing month. At first, Caeru and Cal had tried to ignore the Tigron’s silent pouting or the unexpected temper tantrums, but it was getting harder. Pellaz’ behavior was becoming increasingly unpredictable. Caeru and Cal had thought that their consort would settle down once Loki had been born, but then they had realized that Loki wasn’t the reason as to why Pellaz’ behavior was so volatile. It was the fact that Pellaz missed Vaysh and was unable to admit it. After Pellaz had thrown another nasty temper tantrum, Caeru and Cal decided that it was time for action.
Cal knew he was being sneaky, but he’d had enough. Pellaz refused to talk about the reason why Vaysh and he had drifted apart, so Cal saw no other way to find out except to poke around in his chesnari’s mind during aruna when Pellaz was completely relaxed.
Pellaz trembled in the clutches of ecstasy when he felt Cal reach out and search his mind. He tried to stop his lover, but during the moment of their ultimate union, he was defenseless against his chesnari. “Why? What?” He managed before ecstasy claimed him and he stared at Cal in reproach.
The blond Tigron regretted having to find out this way, but Pellaz hadn’t given him much of a choice. “Sorry, I had to know.” He collapsed on top of Pell and held his chesnari tightly as he sorted through the emotions and thoughts. He was stunned to find out why Pellaz and Vaysh had fought. “You fought over Galdra?”
Pellaz freed himself of Cal’s embrace and turned onto his side, feeling invaded. Although pleasure still rippled through him, the fact that his chesnari had breached his privacy made their aruna a bitter experience. He brought his legs to his chest, curled his arms around his knees, and refused to look at Cal. He stared at the wall instead. “You don’t have the right to do that.”
Cal sighed and brushed Pellaz’ hair. “You refused to tell me, Pell. I needed to know though. Over the last few months, you have lashed out at every har you encountered. Rue and I took the brunt of your anger. Even Loki keeps his distance because he senses something’s wrong. You need to talk about this.” Cal had caught certain thoughts in Pell’s mind, but he still didn’t know the whole story. “Why did Vaysh and you fight over Galdra?” Cal had made his peace with the fact that Pell had fallen for Galdra during his absence. It had become clear that both hara had been needed to defeat Ponclast during Grissecon. Cal was also intelligent enough to know that the three of them had been masterfully manipulated.
Pellaz closed his eyes as his lips became a tight line. He really didn’t want to discuss this with Cal!
“Pell,” Cal whispered into Pellaz’ ear and stroked the sensitive skin at the back of his chesnari’s neck. “Tell me.”
Pellaz shook his head. He hated it when Cal played dirty. His chesnari knew what tone to use and where to brush his skin with those dexterous fingers. “Vaysh betrayed me.” Damn, Cal had gotten his way again!
“Turn around, Pell.” Cal cradled his chesnari in his arms and hugged him loosely when Pellaz finally lay face to face with him. “What’s the problem? Why has Vaysh betrayed you?”
“He shared aruna with Galdra!” The words exploded into the air and almost caused Cal to rock backward. Pellaz gazed at his chesnari guiltily, but was unable to control his anger. “He betrayed me, Cal. I sent him to Freygard to negotiate with Galdra and they roon!”
Cal was careful not to smile. He had suspected something like that might have happened, but hadn’t been sure. “And Vaysh betrayed you because…?” He cupped Pellaz’ face in his hand and stroked the soft skin.
Pellaz sighed. “Don’t you understand? Are you really going to make me spell it out?” Cal nodded and Pell knew he had to follow through. He had thought that he would never have to speak the words aloud, but Cal’s manipulations were causing him to ‘fess up. “If I can’t have Galdra, no har can!”
The blond Tigron wasn’t in the least surprised, knowing Pellaz the way he did, but he also knew how to react. “Pell, that’s below you.” Pellaz glared at him, but Cal didn’t budge. “I mean it! Vaysh is one of your best friends and you know how miserable he has been! You know it best!” Pellaz’ expression turned guilty. Of course he knew. He was one of the few people who knew what Thiede had done to Vaysh and how horribly wrong the experiment had gone. “Don’t you want Vaysh to be happy after everything he has been through?” Cal questioned while calmly brushing Pellaz’ cheek with his fingertips.
“Yes, I do, but… But why does it have to be Galdra?” Pellaz asked with a pout. “I thought…”
Cal smiled understandingly. “You thought Galdra only loved you and couldn’t possibly fall for another har.” Not for the first time did Pellaz’ remaining humanity show and Cal buried his fingers in his chesnari’s dark hair. In spite of the fact that Pellaz was Tigron, there was still a lot left of the human boy Pell had once been. “You love me… You love Rue… You love Galdra… And you expect Galdra to remain solely focused on you, even though you know that the two of you can never be together?”
His chesnari’s words caused Pellaz to feel even more guilty and ashamed of his selfish behavior. Discussing Galdra with Cal felt odd even though Cal had told him that he had accepted the past where Pellaz and Galdra were concerned. Still, Pell felt uncertain around his chesnari whenever Galdra came up. “I forgot everything Orien ever taught me. He told me not to be possessive of somehar’s love for me, but I can’t help it.”
Relieved that the storm had passed by without any major incidents, Cal stroked the small of Pellaz’ back as he pressed a kiss onto his chesnari’s brow. “Don’t you think it’s about time you told Vaysh it’s okay to contact you again?”
Pellaz’ face filled with more shame. “I told him he was banished from Immanion…and that I never wanted to see him again.” Color rose to his face as he admitted to his past actions. “I lashed out at him…wanted to hurt him.”
“I doubt Vaysh did this to spite you. It probably just happened.”
The dark-haired har nodded and settled more comfortably into Cal’s arms. “He felt guilty that it had happened.” Discussing this with Cal was helping him sort out his thoughts and feelings. He had avoided confiding in Cal at all cost and was realizing the mistake he had made. “You’re right. I’ll contact him.” But not right away. He needed to sort himself out first.
“I’m proud of you,” Cal murmured and kissed the crown of his chesnari’s hair. “But I wish you had talked to me earlier.”
“I find it hard to discuss Galdra with you,” Pellaz admitted softly. “What I did back then was wrong.”
It was Cal’s turn to sigh. His fingers tightened in the raven hair and the pressure made Pellaz raise his gaze. “You did what you had to. I wasn’t there and you needed a har at your side. I should have known Thiede was up to something, but I was powerless to stop it. Darq needed me.”
“I don’t blame you,” Pellaz whispered. “I don’t even blame Thiede. I only blame myself. I should have refused Galdra. I should have been stronger.” Cal let go of the dark strands and Pellaz rested his head against his chesnari’s shoulder. Feelings of misery and guilt rolled off of him and he made no attempt to conceal them.
“Please don’t feel like that.” Cal embraced Pell tightly and rubbed his chesnari’s back. “We made a fresh start remember?” He had accepted Loki and the harling was his son as far as Cal was concerned. He knew Pellaz would never really forgive himself for getting with pearl, but Cal understood the shock his chesnari had suffered when Pell had realized he had returned. “Try to be happy for Vaysh. I know that’s hard on you, but at least it’s something positive for you to focus on.”
Pellaz knew Cal was right, but… “Why Galdra? They didn’t notice each other when Galdra was in Immanion! What happened?”
“Maybe Galdra’s obsession for you has lessened and offered him a chance to notice Vaysh that way. Pell, let go of your jealousy. It really doesn’t suit you. You’re better than that.”
But Pellaz shook his head and his cheek rubbed against Cal’s shoulder. “I’m not. You think too highly of me.”
Cal however merely smiled. “I have faith in you, Pell. I know you’ll rise above your jealousy.”
Pellaz however wasn’t that sure at all.
The next day, Cal took the initiative again. He knew that Galdra didn’t allow sedim into his lands, but Cal didn’t plan on using the creatures at all. There was no need for him to travel by sedim since Thiede had taught him to use the Otherlanes. Cal left Immanion and headed for Freygard.
Galdra was entertaining Agi when the air in the main hall took on a threatening color. Instantly on guard, Galdra pulled the harling against him and reached out with his mind to find out what had happened. The mind he encountered revealed that it was a powerful har. For one insane moment he thought it might be Pellaz, but then realized that this har’s mind was different. However, he had sensed this har’s mind before and the hair at the nape of his neck stood rigid as he came to the conclusion on just who had used the Otherlanes to travel to Freygard. Ready to call his guards, he mentally prepared himself to face Calanthe.
Cal felt Galdra reach out, which meant that he had been found out and that the Archon knew he was on his way.
“Agi? Whatever happens, stay close to me.” Galdra didn’t know why Cal had come to Freygard, but he realized there was a chance that there was still bad blood between the Tigron and him and he didn’t want the harling to be caught in the middle of their argument. The harling solemnly nodded and Galdra held him protectively.
The air in the center of the hall flashed with lightning as the blond Tigron materialized. Defensively, Galdra rose from his chair and made eye contact with the other har while Agi, knowing something was wrong, clung to him.
Cal was surprised to find Galdra holding a harling in his arms. He hadn’t known the other har was a father. Pellaz had never mentioned such a thing and neither had his spies reported the existence of a son. “Galdra.”
Galdra straightened his shoulders and glared at Cal. “It’s forbidden to travel the Otherlanes in Freygard.”
The Archon’s tense and rude manner didn’t put Cal off. He felt awkward meeting Galdra as well, but he handled his emotions differently. “You specifically told Pellaz not to use any sedim. You never mentioned that traveling this way was forbidden too.” Cal smiled at the harling, who was peeking at him. The child bore no resemblance to Galdra and that puzzled Cal further. “Your son?”
Galdra gritted his teeth. “My adopted son, yes.” For one moment a stab of jealousy ran through him as he recalled that Pellaz had hosted Cal’s pearl. That Cal had named his son Loki had been an insult for Galdra, but the Archon had had no choice but to take it in stride. Loki was the son he would never have with Pellaz. “Why are you here?”
“I’m here to help. You might not believe that, but it’s the truth.” Cal slowly approached Galdra while always keeping a close eye on the growing tension that was building in the Archon. “I’m not the enemy. Not anymore.”
Agi suddenly pulled at Galdra’s hair and indicated that he wanted to be put on the floor. Galdra indulged the harling, but kept a tight hold on Agi’s hand. “I’m Agi. Who are you?” The harling gave the other blond har a playful smile.
Cal, having gotten better at handling harlings since he had Loki to take care of, lowered himself onto his heels. “I’m Calanthe… Cal.” The harling’s smile was blinding and Cal did his best to mirror it.
Suddenly, a har appeared in the doorway and Cal’s attention shifted from Agi to the newcomer before he frowned. Somehow the blond har seemed familiar, but he couldn’t identify the stranger right away.
“What are you doing here?” Worried, Vaysh marched toward Galdra. He placed himself in front of his chesnari and faced Cal head on. “Did Pell put you up to something?”
Cal blinked. “Vaysh?” He hadn’t recognized the other har until he’d heard Vaysh’s voice. “But you look different!” He had never seen Vaysh as a blond before and…had the other har really gained weight? Or was it just the heavy bearskin coat that made Vaysh look broader? “I didn’t recognize you!”
Galdra lifted Agi and placed the harling in Vaysh’s arms before pulling them both behind him. “You can tell Pellaz that he’s done hurting Vaysh.”
A slow, pleased smile surfaced on Cal’s face at the protective stance in Galdra’s body. Galdra was ready to go all the way in order to protect Vaysh and Agi. That meant he no longer had to worry that Galdra was a threat to his relationship with Pell. “I’m here to mediate, not hurt either one of you.” Seeing Vaysh had changed was a shock. He remembered Vaysh as a sickly pale redhead, not the strong-willed blond now standing in front of him.
“I can deal with him,” Vaysh said, trying to push Galdra away. “It’s me Pell’s angry with.”
Cal nodded once. “He was angry with you… Maybe he is still, but he has realized the mistake he made.” Cal was careful not to make any sudden movements as he sensed that Galdra would attack him if the Archon believed his little ‘family’ in danger. “I’m here to talk and help settle the rift between Pell and you, Vaysh.”
Vaysh remained skeptical. “Why should I believe you? The last time Pell and I talked he made his feelings very clear.” He vividly recalled the pain he had felt when the Tigron had lashed out at him.
“You know how stubborn Pell can be.” Cal raised his hands pleadingly. “It always takes time before he’ll admit that he was wrong.”
“Why are you here?” Galdra was trying to figure out the real reason Cal had come to Freygard.
“I want to mend the rift. I already said that. Pell misses you, Vaysh.”
“I doubt that very much!” Vaysh pouted, but at the same time, he knew Cal was telling the truth. Pellaz and he had been through much together and a bond had formed between them. Vaysh also knew that Pellaz was good at holding a grudge, but tended to make amends when he was ready to do so.
“Give it some thought, Vaysh. I’m not here to take you back to Immanion. I just want to talk to you about establishing first contact between Pell and you.” Cal hoped Vaysh would embrace this opportunity. He wanted Vaysh to reconcile with Pellaz and Pell should see how much Vaysh had changed for the better. Galdra’s love was doing Vaysh worlds of good.
Galdra reached out to Vaysh in mind touch to find out how his chesnari wanted him to handle the situation. He found hope in Vaysh’s thoughts and realized that there was only one thing he could do. “In that case, I welcome you to Freygard. Now that you’re our guest, we’ll make rooms available to you and I would like to invite you to have dinner with us later this evening.”
Cal’s respect for Galdra increased in that instant. He inclined his head in acceptance and smiled at the harling who was peeking at him from the confines of Vaysh’s arms. “I gladly accept.”
Cal didn’t stay in his guest rooms for long as he was eager to explore the keep. The previous times Galdra and he had met had been under strenuous circumstances, but since the situation had relaxed, he became conscious of the fact that he was eager to learn more about the har who had once claimed Pellaz’ heart.
As he made his way through the keep, he found that the hara loved Galdra. Vaysh had also been accepted as Galdra’s new chesnari. The hara were relieved that their Archon had found a new chesnari and no longer mourned losing Pellaz. Vaysh apparently fit in and had taken on the task of helping run the household.
He also found out Agi’s history and felt sorry for the harling whose parents had died. He also realized how fortunate Agi had been to find new parents in Galdra and Vaysh.
That evening, after having bathed and dressed in clean clothes kindly provided by Galdra, Cal made his way to the hall where dinner would be served.
“I don’t like Cal being here. It means trouble.” Vaysh absentmindedly stroked Agi’s hair. The harling had made himself comfortable on his lap and was nibbling on some freshly baked bread. Ever since the ships from Immanion had arrived and unloaded, the threatening food shortage had been lifted.
Galdra wanted to agree with Vaysh, but didn’t voice it yet. “I want to know the real reason he’s here.”
“You think this is about Pellaz.” Vaysh felt a rush of jealousy.
“Partly,” Galdra admitted. “I find it hard to believe that Cal would actively mediate between Pellaz and you. Maybe I don’t know him well enough, but…” Galdra failed to finish his observation since Cal had appeared in the doorway and was studying him.
“You don’t know me that well at all,” Cal said as he advanced. “I’m not the selfish bastard you think I am.” Cal seated himself in the vacant chair and met Galdra’s gaze. “Yes, I love Pell. He’s my life. I can’t help that.”
Galdra nodded once. “I felt like that not so long ago, but Vaysh changed that.” He reached for his chesnari’s hand and clasped his fingers. “I won’t lie to you. I’ll always feel something for Pell, but… My feelings for Vaysh are stronger.”
Vaysh had grown quiet, but then suddenly addressed the blond Tigron. “Does Pellaz know you’re here?”
Cal smiled charmingly. “No, he doesn’t. He might know my whereabouts by now, but I didn’t tell him.”
Vaysh shook his head and sighed. “That won’t go over well.”
“I can deal with Pell, trust me.” Cal grinned impishly. “Sometimes he’s too much of a coward to take the first step, but in time, he’ll realize I’m only helping.” Galdra handed him a cup filled with a steaming liquid and Cal tasted the hot, mulled wine. “Nice.” Smiling at Agi, he realized that Galdra and he had something in common: they were both raising somehar else’s son. He felt momentarily guilty as he remembered that Galdra didn’t know Loki was his son, but Cal really thought that it was for the best. Galdra had Agi to love and raise and, if Galdra knew that Loki was his son, it would only complicate matters further.
“You’re not from here, are you?” Agi asked, hoping to attract the stranger’s attention. Cal nodded and Agi continued. “You look like you belong here though.” He pointed at the blond hair. “Are you going to live here?”
This time, Cal shook his head. “No, I’m only visiting. I have to return to my own harling shortly.” Agi’s eyes widened with delight as Cal added, “His name’s Loki.”
Galdra’s jaw set firmly at the name and before he could stop himself, he asked, “Did you name your son that in order to spite me?” Loki was a Northern name, one that belonged with his people, not Immanion.
Guilty, Cal averted his gaze. “I can’t deny that.”
“Showing me what I can’t have…” Galdra’s expression hardened, but then Agi’s hand sought out his and he was reminded that he had received a gift as well. “I have you now.” Galdra reached for the harling and pulled him close.
Vaysh eyed Cal closely and tried to gauge the blond Tigron’s intentions. “What do you really want?”
“I must admit that I was curious,” Cal admitted. “The thought of Galdra falling for you puzzled me, but seeing you now, I understand why he’s smitten with you. You look… good.” Vaysh looked better than good – he looked healthy and happy. Vaysh obviously didn’t know how to react to that as he blushed and averted his gaze. “Life with Galdra does you good!”
Vaysh mumbled something unintelligible, which made both Galdra and Cal chuckle. The two hara looked at each other and realized that there was no longer a reason for any animosity between them. “So what do you want?” Galdra asked eventually.
“I’m here to help Pell make amends. I know it’ll be a while before he’ll contact Vaysh, but once he does, I hope you’ll accept his peace offering. I do believe he regrets lashing out at you, Vaysh. What he did was wrong, but in a way, understandable. He has been through a lot since I disappeared on him and sometimes we forget that he’s still… a bit too human. He has certain weaknesses and jealousy is one of them. He still has feelings for you, Galdra, and Pell can be rather possessive. He didn’t want Vaysh to have you instead.”
“That sounds like Pell alright,” Vaysh agreed. A sorrowful shadow lay on his face as he looked at Cal. “I miss him too.”
Cal smiled. “Mission accomplished,” he whispered, pleased with the results of his visit.
Pellaz felt ill at ease when he failed to find Cal. In the end, he visited Rue, who was playing with Loki on the bed. “Rue, do you know where I can find Cal?” He was growing tired of his chesnari’s continuing vanishing acts.
Caeru continued to play with Loki, but his eyes sought out his consort’s as he wondered on how bad Pellaz’ temper tantrum would be upon finding out the truth. He hoped that Loki’s presence would ensure a calm reaction on the Tigron’s part, but he couldn’t be sure of that. “Cal’s in Freygard.”
Pellaz’ eyes widened and he was about to shout in anger when Loki looked at him from over his shoulder and smiled adoringly at him. Forcing himself to calm down, Pellaz made his way over to the bed and sat down on the edge. He kept his voice calm as he asked, “And what’s he doing there?” Damn Cal’s impulsiveness! Loki moved toward him and Pellaz held his son close. He found it hard to show his affection for Loki since the harling constantly reminded him that he had betrayed Cal by rooning with Galdra.
“He went to talk to Vaysh.” Rue carefully monitored Pell’s reaction and was grateful that Loki was demanding some of the Tigron’s attention at the moment so Pell couldn’t release his anger. “He wants to mediate between the two of you.”
Pellaz gnashed his teeth, but he controlled that impulse almost immediately. “And Galdra living in Freygard has nothing to do with his decision to go there.”
Rue shook his head. “Honestly, Pell, I don’t believe Cal went there because he still has some score to settle with Galdra. He just wants to help you make amends.”
“I see ghosts wherever I look,” Pellaz admitted and hugged his son in a rare show of affection. Loki instantly reacted by pressing closer. “Galdra… I can’t seem to rid myself of his ghost. He’s always there.”
Caeru raised his right hand and stroked the raven hair. “Maybe this time, Cal had the right idea about seeking out Vaysh. Wait for what he has to say when he gets back.” Rue loved seeing Pellaz hold Loki close. It was a rare sight that he cherished. It wasn’t that Pellaz neglected his son. The Tigron just found it hard to express his feelings.
The next morning, Cal sought out Galdra in his study. The Archon was revising the food supplies and a contented light was on the handsome face. Pellaz had once hinted that they resembled each other closely and could easily pass as brothers. Looking at Galdra now, Cal realized his chesnari was right. In a strange, unexpected way, Cal had to admit that he liked Galdra and that he even felt a mild attraction, which baffled him. “I’ll be leaving shortly.”
Galdra placed the report aside and rose from his chair. Opting for the direct approach, he asked, “How are things between us?”
Cal nodded once in understanding. “We’re alright. I don’t believe there’ll be problems. The fact that you love Vaysh makes things easier. We’re not at war, if that’s what you mean. Maybe in time, we can become friends.”
“I appreciate that,” Galdra answered, but then his expression darkened. “Tell Pell that I won’t let Vaysh go. Vaysh belongs with me now in Freygard. Vaysh can visit Pell, but the moment Pell decides to forbid him to leave, I’ll come for him.”
The Tigron understood Galdra’s need to voice his feelings and his respect for the Freyhellan deepened further. “I would do the same thing where Pell was concerned. I promise that the two of you won’t be separated. If you would rather have Pell come to Freygard…” But Galdra shivered and shook his head. “That’s what I thought. And then there’s still the matter of your representatives traveling to Immanion.” Hagal and Odil hadn’t made it to Immanion yet because Vaysh had been banished. “Do you want to travel by ship or shall I send sedim when the time is right?” A charming smile accompanied the offer.
“I suppose it’s easier to travel by sedim… But I don’t want any strange hara in my land.”
“I can take them,” Cal offered. “Would that meet your approval?”
Galdra nodded slowly. “That would do.” His gaze sought out Cal’s again. “I…” He wanted to add something personal, but lacked the courage.
“Say it.” Cal nodded encouragingly.
“Please look after Pell. I know that I don’t have the right to say that, but…he needs someone who takes care of him.” Galdra prayed that Cal wasn’t going to take his request the wrong way.
The smile that surfaced on Cal’s face was warm and genuine. “I know what you mean and, for what it’s worth, I’m glad you were there for him when he needed the support. You probably realize that my absence was pre-arranged so that you could take my place and help Pell defeat Ponclast.”
Galdra sighed. “That was my conclusion too.” He was surprised when he felt Cal place a hand on his shoulder and squeeze it. “I would like for this to work out for Pell and Vaysh’s sake.”
“I’ll do my best,” Cal promised. “I’m glad I visited. We made a lot of progress.”
Galdra agreed, feeling the same way.
“I can’t believe Cal came out here.” Vaysh rested in Galdra’s arms as they watched Agi run about. Spring had finally come to Freygard and hara were venturing outside more often. Although it was still a bit chilly, Vaysh didn’t feel the cold because Galdra warmed him.
Galdra leaned in closer and searched Vaysh’s eyes. “Are you happy here? Or do you want to live in Immanion?” He feared the answer, but he still had to ask the question. He had to know. To his relief, Vaysh shook his head and the motion made his fingers slide deeper into the blond hair. “Are you really happy here?
Vaysh nodded. “This is where I want to be.” He slid his hand into place at the nape of Galdra’s neck and pulled him closer so that they could share breath. Galdra happily obliged of course.
Cal found Pellaz in Rue’s bed and the sight that awaited him warmed his heart. Loki was asleep in his hostling’s arms and the Tigrina was watching over them.
“It’s about time you returned,” Caeru commented warningly. “I couldn’t keep the truth from him. I was lucky that Loki was here so that Pell couldn’t get cross with me.” Pellaz moved about in his sleep and Rue quickly brushed his fingertips along his consort’s brow soothingly since he didn’t want the Tigron to wake up yet. “Did everything go well?”
“Extremely well.” Cal slid onto the bed and lay down in front of his chesnari. “I believe that the rift can be mended if Pell stops being so stubborn.” He raised his hand and caressed Pellaz’ face. “We were both doomed the moment we fell for him.”
Rue smiled miserably. “I can’t live without him. We’re truly doomed.”
At that moment, Pellaz stirred and opened his eyes. Loki remained fast asleep, doubtlessly enjoying having Pellaz so close. Pellaz blinked sleepily. He wasn’t used to sleeping with Loki close and wanted to sit upright, but realized that he shouldn’t move for then his son would wake up. “Cal,” he whispered, pleased and at the same time annoyed to see his chesnari again. “You disappeared again.”
“I’m sure you’ll forgive me,” Cal replied and smiled. “I talked to Vaysh.” He didn’t want to bring up Galdra just yet. “He misses you just as much as you miss him.” Caeru’s fingers tangled with Cal’s and the Tigron drew courage from the Tigrina’s touch since they both knew damn well how unpredictable Pellaz’ reactions were these days. “When you feel the time is right, I’ll take a number of sedim to Freygard.”
Pellaz considered everything Cal had told him. “You talked to Galdra and he allows you to invade his territory with sedim?” A small smile appeared on his face. “He must have been furious when he realized that you had used the Otherlanes to materialize in Freygard.”
Taking that small smile as a good sign, Cal nodded and continued, “I believe it helped that you sent food right away. They no longer face famine.”
“He only needed to ask. I would never let any hara starve to death.” Pellaz prided himself on being Tigron of all hara, not just the ones in Immanion. Pressing the back of his head against Rue’s abdomen, Pellaz searched Cal’s eyes. “How did Galdra react when he saw you?”
“He was nervous and so was I.” Cal rested his hand on Pellaz’ hip. “But we found common ground. We parted on good terms.” Cal moistened his lips. This last bit wasn’t going to be easy. “I actually like him. My mind was less clouded this time.”
Pellaz didn’t know how to react to that statement and decided to ignore it for the time being. “How does Vaysh fare? I should apologize for lashing out at him. I hurt him.”
Cal smiled mysteriously and decided against telling Pellaz about the changes Vaysh had gone through. He wanted Pellaz to be as surprised as he had been. “Loki’s being sweet,” he remarked.
“Loki’s always sweet,” Rue murmured dreamily. The harling had brightened his world and he had gladly taken on the role of hostling when Pellaz had seemed so unwilling to act the part. Pellaz turned his head to look at him and Rue smiled. “Thanks for having him.” He knew that Pellaz hadn’t had much of a choice, but it still meant a lot to him that the Tigron allowed him to play such an important part in the harling’s life.
A melancholy look appeared in Pellaz’ dark eyes. “I wish I were a better hostling. I’m glad Loki has you, Rue.” He pulled Caeru closer and kissed him on the lips before sharing breath with his Tigrina. /I mean it,/ he shared in mind touch. /I’m glad he has you. He needs somehar like you in his life. I can’t be his hostling and you know why./
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Rue said. “Considering the circumstances, you’re doing a good job.”
“But you’re doing it better,” Pellaz insisted, needing to have the last word in the matter.
Vaysh was cuddling with Agi when Galdra entered with a very serious look on his face. Vaysh swallowed hard as he realized what might have happened. “Did the Readers receive a message?”
Galdra nodded once. “The Tigron asks if you’re willing to visit Immanion.” They both knew which Tigron they were talking about. “It must have taken Pellaz a lot to make that request.” They both knew what he was like.
“I’ll go to Immanion then,” Vaysh replied. He immediately added, “For a few days. I’ll be back before you know it.” Agi, who was snuggling with a contented expression on his face, suddenly stirred and looked at Vaysh in distress. “Don’t worry,” Vaysh said, consoling the upset harling. “Galdra will stay with you and I’ll be back in time to take you on that walk I promised you.” Freygard was blossoming with spring and it was getting harder to keep the harling indoors.
“Must you go?” Agi looked pleadingly at Vaysh, which had always worked with his hostling.
“I must, but it’s only for a short while. I’ll miss you both terribly.” Vaysh didn’t want to go, but he also knew that this had to be done.
“What are you doing?” Cal had soundlessly entered Pellaz’ study and had studied his chesnari for some time. Pellaz was writing some sort of letter and the dark eyes were swimming. Fierce emotions were running through the dark-haired har and Cal instinctively sensed that something was wrong.
Pellaz looked up from his writing and was shocked to see Cal standing there. He had hoped for some privacy. “It’s nothing.” He instantly crumbled the letter and tossed it into the paper bin. “Nothing at all.”
Cal didn’t quite believe him however and walked over to the paper bin, which was filled with paper. He fished one piece of paper out of the bin and unfolded it. Pellaz’ breathing suddenly sped up and Cal realized why when he read the first lines. “You were writing Galdra a letter.” From what he could make out, it was a goodbye letter. Pellaz was obviously trying to get some closure where Galdra was concerned. The dark-haired Tigron glanced at him guiltily and Cal made his way over to his chesnari. “You have no reason to hide this from me. I understand why you wrote this.” He sat down on the arm rest and gazed into his chesnari’s tear-filled eyes. “Why are you tossing them?”
Pell wasn’t sure what to make of Cal’s mellow reaction. He still hadn’t figured his chesnari out where Galdra was concerned. “I thought you would see this as an act of betrayal even though I would never send any of the letters on their way.”
The blond blinked and then shook his head. “Pell, I have changed too. I have matured, if such a thing is possible. I succumbed to temptation too, or have you forgotten about Terzian and Panthera? I know what’s happening in your heart.” Cal’s fingers glided into his chesnari’s raven mane and came to rest at the base of his neck. “Maybe you should talk to Galdra.”
Pell looked at him in horror. “You can’t be serious!”
Pellaz’ outcry showed just how much it was needed and the blond nodded firmly. “You need to talk to him.”
“Cal, I don’t trust myself around him! Don’t you get that?” Frustrated, Pellaz shoved back his chair and jumped to his feet before he started to pace the room. His action almost caused Cal to lose his balance, perched up as he was on the arm rest, but the blond Tigron landed neatly on his feet. “I’m afraid of the things I’ll do when I’m alone with him!”
“What if I was there too? You could come with me to Freygard to collect Vaysh. You can talk to Galdra or give him your letter, whatever you prefer, but what you’re doing right now isn’t healthy. You can’t live like that.” Cal’s voice became remarkably soft as he covered the distance between them and turned Pell until the Tigron faced him before resting his hands on either side of Pellaz’ head. “I know you love me, Pell.”
Tears leaked from Pell’s brown eyes and he tried to break eye contact, but Cal wouldn’t allow it, so he was forced to look into those violet eyes which radiated compassion. Suddenly, he flung himself at the blond Tigron and hugged Cal tightly. “I’m sorry I screwed up.”
Cal rubbed Pell’s back and made reassuring noises. “You had no choice. I understand that now. I wish I had reacted differently upon my return, but…” Cal chuckled, which made Pellaz look at him. “But maybe I’m a bit too human still as well. I felt jealous. That made me lash out.”
“I’m still grateful that you accepted Loki.” Pellaz continued to weep. His feelings had been cooped up for too long and needed out. “You didn’t have to.”
“It’s not the harling’s fault. Loki is a pleasure to have around and I’m proud to call him mine.” Cal moistened his lips and asked, “But we need to tell Galdra at some point. He’ll figure it out the first time he meets Loki.” Pellaz nodded tiredly against his chest. His chesnari knew that too. “Finish your letter, Pell. We’re leaving for Freygard shortly.”
“Do you really want me to come along?” Pellaz wiped at his tears and lifted his gaze.
“You need closure and so does Galdra. Yes, I want you to come along. Be ready for travel when I come get you.” Cal touched his lips to Pell’s and shared breath with him.
“I’m nervous,” Vaysh admitted as he stood next to Galdra. Agi was in his arms since the harling was loathe to let him go before he had to. “I’ll miss the two you terribly.” Agi’s arms came up around his neck and hugged him close. Vaysh had decided against exchanging his Freyhellan outfit for his Immanion robes. He no longer felt like that Vaysh and would face Pellaz dressed in leather pants, one of Galdra’s white shirts, and his favorite bearskin cloak. He wouldn’t do away with that one until it was summer and too hot to wear.
Hagal and Odil stood to the side as Hagal watched Vaysh in amusement. He vividly remembered the bitter har whom he had accompanied on the journey to Freygard. Much had changed and now they were finally awaiting transportation to Immanion, where Hagal would start representing his hara in the Hegemony. Another advantage to the position was that he could have his chesnari live in Immanion with him. They would no longer be apart.
“I’ll miss you too,” Galdra said and carefully loosened Agi’s possessive hold before sliding the harling into his arms and holding him tight. “Remember, if you’re not back within the week, I’m coming to get you.” There was real fear on Galdra’s part that Vaysh might not return to him for whatever reason. Maybe Pellaz would force the former redhead to stay in Immanion or even worse, Vaysh might realize that he didn’t really love Galdra.
“I’ll be back before that.” Vaysh didn’t want to leave his family behind and consoled himself with the thought that he would only be gone for a few days. “Keep the bed warm for me,” he whispered and kissed Galdra before eventually sharing breath with his chesnari.
The air suddenly exploded and announced the arrival of the sedim. Agi released a startled yelp and Hagal and Odil, who were also not used to the arrival of sedim, took a step back. Galdra and Vaysh stood their ground however and the sedim and their riders took shape. Vaysh was surprised to see that Cal hadn’t come alone. There was another rider. Vaysh recognized the sedu first. “Peridot…” And there was only one har whom Peridot would carry: Pellaz. Vaysh swallowed hard as his hand sought out Galdra’s. One look at his chesnari showed that Galdra was equally shocked.
Pellaz felt nervous as he finally faced Vaysh and Galdra. He slid off of Peridot’s back and took a step toward them. One look from over his shoulder showed that Cal was still mounted while inclining his head in encouragement. The moment he stood in front of the two hara, he felt stunned. “Vaysh?” He had to make sure that he was addressing the correct har. “Is that you?” Gone were the red hair, the sickly pale color, and the thinness that had always characterized the other har. A healthy-looking blond har dressed in a fur cloak stood in front of him instead. “I hardly recognize you.”
Vaysh tilted his head in greeting. “I forgot how much I’ve changed. I’ve become used to my looks.” He had Galdra to thank for that.
The Tigron forced himself to concentrate on what he had set out to do. “Vaysh, will you come to Immanion and let me make amends? I’m sorry for the way I acted when I found out that Galdra and you…that the two of you…” The words remained stuck in his throat and refused to come out.
“Go on,” Cal said softly, hoping that his words would help Pellaz finally face Galdra.
Galdra was shocked that Pellaz had come along and didn’t know how to react. Agi reacted to his growing tension by shifting nervously in the har’s arms. “Pell…” The name brought back memories, but Galdra was relieved to feel none of the absurd longing that had consumed him back then. He still loved Pellaz in his own way, but his love for Vaysh was stronger. “Welcome to Freygard.” He had thought that he would never say those words.
Pellaz started to relax since Galdra wasn’t overreacting. “Cal asked me to accompany him and I…I wanted to see you again.” Being honest was hard on Pellaz. “We have some unfinished business and Cal convinced me to stop running and face you.” He’d thought that he would have to force himself to smile, but the smile that surfaced was genuine when he looked at the harling peeking at him. “Did I miss out on something?” Vaysh was barren so there was no way he was the harling’s hostling.
“His parents died last winter and Vaysh and I took him in. His name’s Agi.” Pride colored Galdra’s voice. He had believed he would never have an heir, but fate had decided differently.
Agi smiled at the dark-haired har. “Who are you?”
“I’m Pell,” the Tigron introduced himself. “Maybe Vaysh will take you to Immanion with him one day so you can meet my son.” The moment he said it, Pellaz cringed with guilt, but managed to hide his emotions from Galdra. Cal was right: they would have to tell Galdra the truth eventually.
“I would like that,” Agi replied. “I don’t like Vaysh leaving me.”
“We should get ready to leave,” Cal suggested as he surmised that talking about Loki might cause complications. He was happy to see that Pellaz’ eyes were less haunted when he looked at Galdra again. Cal congratulated himself for pushing his chesnari. Doing this had been the right thing.
“Cal’s right,” Pellaz said and considered his options. They also had to take Hagal and Odil with them and they didn’t know how to travel the Otherlanes. “I’ll take Hagal with me. Cal will help Odil travel the Otherlanes.” The third sedu they had brought was Vaysh’s and the former redhead would have no problems traveling the Otherlanes. Pellaz looked into Galdra’s eyes once more and said, “I give you my word that Vaysh will return to you within the week.”
That was exactly what Galdra had needed to hear and he nodded gratefully. “Thank you. I need him at my side.”
Agi then quipped, “I need him too!”
Galdra smiled warmly and petted the harling’s head. “It’s good to see you again, Pell.” In a way, he had gotten the closure he needed as well. “You’re always welcome in Freygard.”
“Thank you.” Pellaz returned to Peridot, mounted, and waited for Hagal and Odil to mount as well. Only Vaysh still had to join them.
Galdra turned and wrapped one arm around Vaysh’s form. He pulled his chesnari close and shared breath with him. /Don’t forget me,/ he whispered into Vaysh’s mind.
Vaysh deepened the contact and his love for Galdra flowed into the Freyhellan’s mind. /How could I forget you? I love you…/
Reassured after experiencing Vaysh’s love for him, Galdra forced himself to let his chesnari go. Vaysh placed a loving kiss onto Agi’s brow before mounting his sedu. Galdra watched them depart as the air crackled with lightning once more. Then, they were gone.
It felt unreal to Vaysh to walk the corridors of the Palace once more. He attracted odd looks from the hara they encountered and with every minute that passed by, he realized that he no longer belonged in Immanion. His new life was in Freygard, at Galdra’s side.
Cal had offered to show Hagal and Odil their new quarters and the three hara had left them moments before, giving Pellaz and Vaysh a chance to talk in private.
“I’m sorry I overreacted,” Pellaz said once they had entered the Tigron’s rooms. Caeru and Loki were staying in the Tigrina’s rooms to make sure Pellaz and Vaysh could talk undisturbed. “But when you told me that Galdra and you had taken aruna I felt betrayed.” Pellaz poured a glass of sheh, but then reconsidered since he needed to keep a clear head. He opted for a glass of water instead and, when he turned, he saw that Vaysh had poured some tea which stood on the coffee table. The former redhead’s expression was hard to read. “I’m still getting used to the fact that you’re a blond now.”
“I needed some time to accept it too.” Vaysh sipped his tea and let the bearskin cloak slide from his shoulders. Pellaz always heated his chambers and the cloak was started to suffocate him. Vaysh sat down, pulled his knees to his chest, and watched Pellaz pace the room. “Why don’t you sit down?” It was odd. He hadn’t thought that he would be the one taking control of the conversation.
Pellaz seated himself on the other end of the couch and eyed Vaysh questioningly. “Life with Galdra does you good.”
Vaysh nodded. “Galdra’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but Pell… I need to know, can you really accept that Galdra and I are chesna now?”
Pellaz sucked in his breath. “You’re rather direct…”
“Do you want me to dance around the real issue for the next few days?” Vaysh sipped at his tea again.
“You’re right of course. That’s why I asked you to come to Immanion so we could talk.” Pellaz searched his soul and then sighed deeply. “I love him still, but I also know that Galdra and I have no future together. But you… You and Galdra already have a life together. I’m happy for you, but at the same time… I feel betrayed.”
Vaysh shook his head. “You feel jealous, Pell. That’s what it is and I understand. I really do. I watched you fall for Galdra and when you sent me to Freygard, I never expected to like Galdra that way, but it happened.” Vaysh wasn’t sure what he was trying to explain to Pellaz, but he continued at any rate. “Galdra was miserable when I first met him. He was mourning your loss. I didn’t like the way he looked back then. Ever since Galdra and I became chesna, he has improved. I want him to be happy.”
Pellaz averted his gaze and stared at the floor. “I want that too, but…”
“You expected me to remain alone for the rest of my life and you wanted Galdra to remain alone too simply because you couldn’t have him.” Vaysh knew they were bold words and didn’t know how Pellaz was going to react to them.
“Cal told me exactly the same thing,” Pellaz murmured in shame. “I’m sorry I caused such problems.”
Vaysh put his cup aside and inched closer to Pellaz. Once he was close enough to take Pell’s hands in his, he did and ordered, “Please look at me.”
Pellaz complied and looked Vaysh in the eye. The happiness that radiated from the gray eyes was something that he had thought he would never see and he felt ashamed of his desire to keep Galdra and Vaysh apart. “I can accept this and I will, my old friend. Please be happy. You deserve that.” Carefully Pellaz pulled Vaysh into his arms and embraced him. Vaysh smiled and rested his head on Pell’s shoulder.
When Cal returned to the rooms which he shared with Pellaz and Rue, he found Pell and Vaysh talking amicably. Apparently they had discussed their problems and matters had been settled. Cal seated himself on the windowsill and watched them. He sensed Vaysh’s longing to be reunited with Galdra and doubted the former redhead would stay the week, as promised. Vaysh might leave for Freygard early. “Hagal and Odil are settled in. They’ll meet the members of the Hegemony tomorrow. I can introduce them if you’d like, Vaysh. Or do you want to do that yourself?”
“I should be there at least. I promised Hagal as much.” Vaysh appreciated Cal’s offer.
“You’re not going to stay very long, are you?” Cal thought it was best to bring it up now.
Vaysh grew flustered. “I don’t think so. I want to return to Galdra as quickly as possible. I not only miss him, but Agi as well.”
Cal commented, “I was surprised to see a harling on Galdra’s lap. I never expected that.”
“Although the death of Agi’s parents is a tragedy, I’m happy Galdra and I have been given this chance to raise him. I doubt Galdra would have become a father otherwise.”
Pellaz flinched, knowing damn well what Vaysh was referring to. “I can’t tell him about Loki…yet.”
Vaysh nodded, pleased that Pellaz had added the ‘yet’. “You’ll have to tell him eventually. Now that Immanion and Freygard are on speaking terms again it’s only a matter of time before Galdra and Loki will meet.”
“We’ll tell him when we think the time is right,” Cal said, putting Vaysh’s worries to rest. “Will you join us for dinner in the main hall?”
Vaysh considered. In the past, he would have refused since he had felt uncomfortable being stared at, but things had changed. He *had* changed. “I will.” The way he felt at the moment, he would be able to face those hara…even Ashmael.
Although he felt the stares directed at him, Vaysh managed to eat dinner in a dignified manner. He knew that it wasn’t just his changed appearance that attracted interest, but also the fact that he ate with relish. In the past, he had nibbled on his food. Hagal and Odil had already met some of the members of the Hegemony and were talking to Tharmifex and Chrysm. Maybe there was no need to oversee their introduction the next day then. They were already doing well. It helped that Vaysh had instructed them in the ways of the Gelaming, making sure that the two Freyhellans wouldn’t embarrass themselves.
Vaysh pushed back against the comfort of his chair before feeling a special pair of eyes fasten on him. It was Ashmael staring at him from a distance. Vaysh returned the gaze and reached out in mind touch, although he wasn’t certain Ashmael would allow it. /It’s finally over, Ash. I’m done playing games. This is who I am and I have chosen my future. I pray that you’ll do the same./ Ashmael blinked in surprise in silent acknowledgement that he had received the message, but Ashmael didn’t reach out to him in turn. /So be it,/ Vaysh thought privately. /This is goodbye./
That night, Vaysh’s bed was cold and empty without Galdra to warm it. It illustrated how he had become used to snuggling up to the other har. To be without him caused Vaysh heartache. He wasn’t sure just how many more lonely nights he wanted to cope with.
Hagal and Odil’s introduction to the members of the Hegemony went smoothly since they had already met Tharmifex and Chrysm the night before. The two Freyhellans felt at ease and Vaysh was confident that they would represent Freygard well. That evening when he joined the Tigrons and the Tigrina in their rooms, he was overcome with a sense of longing. He wanted to return to Galdra.
Cal, being the most perceptive of the three, noted at once that Vaysh wouldn’t stay another night. “You’re leaving.”
“I’m sorry,” Vaysh apologized when Pellaz looked at him in disappointment. “I can’t stay any longer. My heart calls me home.”
Pellaz sighed, but he had no intention of fighting Vaysh over this. “I understand.” He wouldn’t want to be separated from Cal ever again either.
Loki had recognized Vaysh and shyly approached the adult. “You look different. I like it.”
Vaysh lowered himself onto his heels and gazed at Loki in melancholy. This was Galdra’s son being raised as Cal’s. /But Galdra has Agi. Agi might not be his real son, but he eases the pain./ “Thank you, Loki. That’s a very kind thing for you to say.”
The harling blushed and smiled in pleasure. “Can I touch it?” Loki asked as he pointed at Vaysh’s bearskin coat. “It looks soft.” Vaysh nodded and Loki curiously slid his fingertips over the fur. “It *is* soft.”
Pellaz’ heart grew heavy with the realization that he was denying Galdra his son, but he still didn’t feel comfortable in confiding to Galdra. Hopefully he would be able to tell Galdra in a short time when relations between them had normalized.
Rue took Loki’s hand and lifted the harling until the child sat comfortably in his arms. “You’re always welcome to visit,” the Tigrina said and the Tigrons nodded their approval.
“I’ll remember that and maybe in time, Galdra can accompany me,” Vaysh answered.
“I would like that.” Cal smiled at Vaysh, who was already eyeing the exit hungrily. “Don’t let us keep you.”
Pellaz however grabbed Vaysh by the waist and hugged his friend a last time. “Have you forgiven me?”
“Of course.” Vaysh hugged Pellaz back and then freed himself of the embrace. “I promise I’ll visit again. You’re always welcome at Freygard.”
The dark-haired har nodded and let Vaysh leave, knowing that Galdra was waiting for the former redhead. At the same time, Rue walked over to him and helped Loki climb into his arms. Loki smiled blindingly at him, which Pellaz returned. There was no way to undo the past and, if he was honest with himself, he realized that he didn’t want to change it for Loki had come forth from it and the three of them loved the little harling dearly.
Galdra frowned deeply when he realized that the air was changing. He had gone outside for a walk after having put Agi to bed. He longed for Vaysh and was counting the days – and nights – until his chesnari would return to him. Suddenly lightning split the heavens and Galdra grew alert. Someone was using a sedu to enter his lands!
A moment later, a figure took shape in front of him. Galdra’s first reaction was to scold the stranger for traveling by sedu without permission, but then the gray eyes, blond hair, and bearskin coat registered with him and he called out, “Vaysh!”
Vaysh jumped off of the sedu’s back and flung himself into Galdra’s arms. Claiming Galdra’s lips in a brutal kiss, they shared breath. “I’m back,” he whispered when they stopped for air. “I couldn’t face another night without you!”
Galdra shed tears of happiness as he pulled Vaysh close. “I didn’t want to be separated from you either! Agi missed you too! It was almost impossible to make him go to sleep! I had to sit with him for hours!” Galdra studied his chesnari’s face closely and was relieved to have him back. “I’m not letting you go again!”
Vaysh slid his fingers into Galdra’s mane and tugged at the strands. “Don’t worry,” he murmured. “I have no intention of leaving you… ever again.” He had found his home there in Freygard with Galdra and Agi.