Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice
by LoLL

Story Notes

Author Contact: loll4000 (at) gmail (dot) com

Title: Fire&Ice

Beta: ts5000 and tolliel

Pairing: Ashmael/Vaysh

Rating: from Pg13 to NC17

Summary: Ashmael and Vaysh’s back story (Ashmael POV)

Chapters: 2

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Wraeththu Universe and its characters belong to Storm Constantine. Except Jay who belongs just to Jay.

Thanks to: Jay who graciously agreed to play a delightful cameo; to marchwarden23, you know why ;-), to all the people reading this story.

Note: You can consider The Pan Within as a sort of sequel of this story

Fire & Ice

Part I

I had been observing him for three days now. My orders were plain: wait and be sure that nobody else is in the house, than take him, and DO NOT TOUCH HIM. Thiede had been very clear about that.

As if I was vaguely interested! An eleven or twelve year old boy, all skin and bones, with waist long, chestnut hair that made him look like a girl. Why Thiede was so obsessed with him to the point he would send a whole contingent of hara, was still a mystery to me. But I was not inclined to discussing orders and even less to disobeying.

So, I waited patiently, hidden in my secluded spot on the hill to see if any other soul ghosted the house. But after three days of careful observation, I came to the conclusion that the boy was the only inhabitant.
At dawn on the forth day I descended the hill following a path which was well hidden from the house. A misty fog made everything surreal and evanescent, drenching clothes and hair, and once again I asked myself if all this effort was worth the prize.

The house was silent and dark, and I imagined the boy was still sleeping. I snuck inside and found myself in a huge kitchen. The kitchen was perfectly tidy and clean, with a scent of cooked food still lingering in the air. I sniffed, realizing that I was starving, then instinctively I moved my hand to the hunting knife at my side. There must have been someone else in the house, for the child couldn’t have done the cooking or cleaning.

I blinked. I was incepted a little over two years ago but some strong memories still cluttered at my mind. At twelve, the only things I had in mind was to hang out with my friends and listen to loud music. I was not a spoilt child but neither did I have to take care of household duties!

Beside, this house needed a huge staff of servants to keep it running. It was a very rich house full of very rich people.

With caution, I began my exploration. Heavy curtains forbade the first rays of light to enter, but I was used to moving in the dark and my over-developed senses helped me where my sight could not. After a while my eyes began to adjust to the dark and the house revealed herself in all her magnificence.

The rooms were wide, all well furnished, with marble floors, elaborate carpets and crystal chandeliers. The walls were decorated with tapestries and paintings.

A particular painting caught my attention: a family portrait of an incredibly beautiful Lady and a severe but handsome Lord. The Lady was holding a child and it didn’t take me long to recognize the sad child in the painting as being the same boy I was looking for. It was not a happy family: nobody was smiling.

Suddenly, a cold breeze hit me and I felt the hair at the base of my neck stand on end. I turned slowly, grasping my knife, ready to strike, and in the doorway I saw the boy of the painting. He was a still and ghostly image, with pale skin and dark circles under feverish amber eyes. I stared at the apparition and waited for it fade away, but then the ghost spoke.

“So finally you came. Why did you take so long?”

The voice was melodic, neither male nor female, the voice of an angel, I thought. My eyes rapidly scanned the room while my mind processed the boy’s words.

“Don’t worry, there is nobody here but me. And I have no intentions of going anywhere.”

There was a slight mocking in the way he spoke and it annoyed me. “Do you mean you live here alone?” I tried to keep my tone even, as if this was routine.

“Yes, don’t you already know? You have been spying on me for four days.”

The statement left me dumbfounded. The little shit was far smarter than I thought. Once again, I decided to ignore his question. It was me who was to make the interrogation, after all.

“Where are the others? Your parents?”

“My parents left for a business trip two months ago and never came back. And the servants ran away like foxes after the first raid on our neighbour’s home.”

“And they left you behind… alone?”

He shrugged. “I could have gone with them if I wished, but I didn’t.” The detached tone was disturbing. The boy seemed to lack all feelings. “Beside, I knew someone would come to fetch me sooner or later. I’m ready.”

“Do you mean… you won’t try to escape? Don’t you fear us?”

The boy shook his head vigorously and, for the first time, he looked like he truly was: a kid who thought he knew everything, but in reality knew nothing.

“So what exactly do you think I’m supposed to do with you?” I asked with amusement.

“You’ll take me to your boss.”

“To my… boss. Ok, and then?”

“And then he’ll make me become a Wraeththu!”

The boy probably thought he was dealing with a very dense har. My questions were plainly annoying him. I decided the time for jesting was over and it was better to bring him to Thiede and leave him all the “fun” of taming this little wild thing.

“What’s your name?”

The boy shrugged once again. “It’s not important anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because he will change it anyway.”

“He?” I was totally puzzled.

“The one who will incept me and make me a very special har.”

There was no more irony in his voice and I realized that the boy was pretty aware of his fate, even more than I was.

***

The trip to Almagabra where Thiede had settled his general quarters, took us a whole week. During that period I was questioned by the boy over several subjects regarding Wraeththu and I was enlightened about his former life. So I came to know that he was the only son of a very rich and very powerful family, that his father and mother were abroad for the most part of the year and that he was left in the care of nannies and servants. He had grown up alone, in that big house, and his favourite hobby was reading. Therefore it was no surprise that he was so bitter and obnoxious and that he was overexcited about becoming a Wraeththu.
Surprisingly enough, he was not a spoilt brat; on the contrary, he was perfectly able to look after himself and more than once I spotted him helping our escort with practical matters such as cooking or preparing the camp for the night. In few days he had gained my companions’ full respect and it was with no little annoyance that I noticed how all they were willing to listening to his suggestion and to pleasing him. What really amazed me was how smart he was and how irritatingly self-confident he was about every day matters.

Thiede would be very pleased with him. And, speaking of Thiede… I came to know that the boy, who still refused to tell me his name, had dreamt about Thiede and his fate several times. What that fate consisted of, he was pretty mysterious about. I cannot say we became friends: to me, he was still an annoying, conceited brat, but we came to know each other a little better and it made the journey more bearable.
It was on the last night that the feared question finally came.

“Ash? “

“Mmmmh…” I was almost asleep and the last thing I wanted was to engage in some never ending discussion about Wraeththu habits.

“How is one incepted?”

Now he had my full attention. I sat up and rubbed my tired eyes. His eyes were totally awake and attentive.

“What do you know about it?”

He studied me for a while before answering. “That it hurts.”

Hurt. Hurt was far too simple to be the right definition of three or more days of agony, when your body is wretched, shattered to its core and then rebuilt into something you don’t know. A hermaphrodite creature who can be both male and female, who can inseminate and conceive at the same time. Who can create a life. Trust me, as much as you can be ready to endure the whole process, the experience is tenfold mentally and physically your worst nightmare. So I decided to cheat. It was Thiede’s idea to incept him, after all, not mine. So let Thiede do the dirty job as well! I shrugged and tried to look nonchalant.

“Yes, it hurts. But I’ve almost forgotten everything about it. Well, everything but the delectable part… aruna..” I winked at him hoping that the new concept would settle his mind, diverting him from the main subject. Luckily, I succeeded.

“Aruna…”

The word rolled off his tongue like a dark promise. I felt shivers along my spine and for a brief moment I imagined that still acerbic body shivering and moving under me. I chased the image away.

“What is aruna exactly?”

“It’s sex magic. It’s the combination of two bodies, two souls and two wills which can generate power to create or destroy. It’s far beyond pure pleasure…” I stopped, wondering how much an eleven year old boy who had spent his life alone knew about sex and pleasure. Probably nothing. I braced myself for further embarrassing questions but the boy was lost in his thoughts, with a dreamy stare in his eyes.

“And… who do you think I’ll do this aruna thing with?”

I chuckled, trying to dissimulate my amusement for the ingenuity implicit into the question. “I don’t know, Thiede will choose for you. But I’m sure he will find the perfect har.” I nodded trying to make my words more convincing.

Luckily, he didn’t ask any further question. He lay back on his bedroll with a thoughtful look and I sighed in relief. It had gone better than I had hoped.

***

When we arrived in Immanion we were tired, dirty and hungry. We were graced with a brief respite to take a bath and relax but after only an hour I was escorting my charge to Thiede’s office. The boy looked weary and a bit less self-assured than usual, but as soon as he saw me, he lifted his head feigning confidence.

“So… are you ready to meet the boss?” I asked jokingly. He nodded, a bit too energetically to be convincing.

Thiede was waiting for us seated in his big leather chair that looked more like a throne. His appearance awed me as usual; an explosion of fire-red hair and flamboyant clothes, sophisticated make-up and shining jewels carefully distributed over seven foot of har. He was a divine demon. A sight that would have scared the shit out of anybody.

“So, finally you are here.”

He scanned the boy with clinic eyes, frowning and muttering incomprehensible sentences, a show I’d already witnessed several times.

“Far to skinny! Did you starve him, Ashmael?”

“No, my Lord, he was already a mess when we found him.” I regretted my teasing words the moment I spoke them.

“Feed him. We have to put some flesh over these bones before inception. I don’t want to lose him during the process.”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the kid turn toward me stunned before looking back at Thiede.

“What… what do you mean lose me? What are you going to do with me?” There was rage in his voice, and a hint of fear too.

“Don’t you tell me that our Ash didn’t inform you about inception. “ Thiede rose from his chair and straightened to his full height. He was an imposing figure emanating power and magic.

The boy stepped back and shook his head. “No, Sir…”

“Bad, bad Ashmael! Well, I’ll tell you what is going to happen. You’ll be fattened like a little pig for a week, and then you’ll have to observe a period of fasting. Purification. Then there will be a huge ceremony, during which I’ll give you part of my blood. Then there will come althaia and believe me it will hurt, it will hurt to the point you’ll try to kill yourself to put an end to the unbearable pain. But we will not let you kill yourself, my little one, oh no! I don’t waste my blood in vain; we will tie you to the bed and close you in an empty, padded room where even your screams will be well guarded. And then, in the end IF you survive the whole process, there will come the pleasant part. I’ll let our beloved Ashmael have his way with you and initiate you in the most enjoyable art of aruna. Only after that you can call yourself a har. You will begin your caste training and get rid of the human shit that taints your blood. And now, if you don’t mind, I have some business to attend to.”

For a moment time froze. Nobody spoke, nobody moved. I was too shocked from Thiede speech; not just from the violence and rawness of it, but from the implications. Me. I was the one chosen for the sacred act of aruna. Why me?

I turned to the boy and once again I thought I was looking at a ghost. Thiede’s words must have struck him like an iron bar and for a moment I felt loathing toward the old bastard. There was no need to terrorize the boy to death.

“Up, up you two! I have already told you I have business to do. Hurry up! Ashmael, please, lead our guest to his chamber.” And with those cheerful words, Thiede bent his head over the desk and began to check some papers forgetting about us.

Silently, I put my arm around the boy’s shoulders and I led him to the door. As soon as we were alone in the corridor, I felt his small hand sliding into mine and gripping it. When I glanced at him, his eyes were full of tears.

***

The following night I was enjoying the sea breeze from my terrace, sipping cold iced wine and trying to dismiss the recurring images of sensual amber eyes when a sudden noise of glass shattering and my door slamming open made me jump in fright. I turned ready to face an what ever dark force of nature that had invaded my privacy and came face to face with a furious hurricane of black silk, red ribbons and darting eyes. A perfectly manicured finger pierced through my ribs and pushed me inelegantly back into the armchair.

“YOU! Stupid, insensible, idiot oaf! Can you tell me what the hell is wrong in that invisible brain of yours to terrorize a poor little child to death with frightening details about inception?”

“Good evening, Jay, I’m happy to see you too.”

With a resigned grunt, my opponent slumped over the armchair in front of me and shook his head in exasperation.

Jay Marsher was one of Thiede’s councilors, one of the few Thiede really listened to and the only one who had been able to shut him up on one memorable occasion.

We had been lovers for a while, unfortunately our lives had taken different paths (meaning that he had left me for a less bad mannered and more sociable har) even if we were still friends.

I studied his elegant and very sensual shape for a while, fighting with the urge to throw him down on the carpet and give him the most intense pleasure of his life. Of course, I did nothing. “Does it help if I tell you I said nothing and that the one who played the bad guy was Thiede?”

“No, it doesn’t! You could have stopped him, or at least tried to calm the kid once out of the bastard’s office!”

I shook my head. I knew there was no point in discussing this with him, so I changed the subject. “What’s happened exactly?”

“I’ve just spent half of the last night trying to make him stop crying and the other half trying to convince him that Thiede wanted to scare him and that he’ll be unconscious for the biggest part of the time during althaia. Look at me! I’m a mess!!!”

I did as he asked and I found him lovelier than ever. “So you cheated?”

Jay shrugged. “What else could I do? Where is the point to terrifying him? Don’t you think it’s better Vaysh joins the ceremony relaxed and unaware rather then frightened and panicking? It’s not that he can escape his fate, after all.”

I straightened and looked at him in disbelief. “Vaysh?”

“Yes… Vaysh… who the hell do you think we are talking about… Ash? What’s wrong with you today?”

I ignored his questions. “And how is it that after one single day you know his name while every time I asked him the only replies I received were elusive answers?

Jay raised an eyebrow. “Well, maybe I FIRST introduced myself and THEN I asked his name. Courtesy has never been one of your qualities. Has it Ashmael?”

I waved my hand in annoyance but I knew he was right. “Well, maybe I didn’t follow the etiquette completely, but, what the hell, Jay, that brat is such a pain in the ass. So arrogant, so conceited…”

With a sad smile he took my hands in his. “He is just a child, Ash, a twelve year child who misses his a family desperately, who has never had a friend, who has been abandoned and raised by foreigners. Ash, that kid suffers from a lack of affection. That’s what makes him so bitter and harsh.”

At that point I was feeling like the perfect bastard I was. Fuck me.

“Well, since Thiede chose me for his initiation in aruna, I suppose I’ll have to use all my skills to make it up to him.” I paused for a moment staring at those huge, meaningful dark eyes. “Jay… I’m happy Thiede put you at his side, I know you are the best har to take care for him and prepare him properly.”

Jay smiled warmly at me and I understood that he wasn’t angry anymore, but just concerned. The question that had hunted me for so long came back to my mind. “Why do you think Thiede is so obsessed with him?”

Jay rose abruptly and began to pace the room. “At the beginning I couldn’t understand either. I mean, he is a cute boy, but there are plenty of others like him. Then, when I began to talk to him, and listen to him, I realized that he is not like other humans. He is smart, he has that kind of speculative intelligence that’s hard to find even among hara. He has an enchanting allure, even if he is still not aware of it., And look at what he has done: he has survived alone in that house for more than a month, waiting for us to take him. He took care of himself wonderfully, he didn’t fear raids. That boy IS special, Ash, trust me. It’s Thiede’s plans for him that are still obscure to me but; I swear, the old shit has to walk over my corpse before he can hurt him!”

I couldn’t help but smile at Jay’s vehemence. As perceptive and sensible as he is I wasn’t surprised he had came to know the boy better than I. The fact that he liked him and felt protective towards him made me feel a huge bastard for the way I’d acted. But the damage was done, and there was nothing I could do. And that made me feel even worse. “Oh, I know you mean it, my dear, your claws are well known all over Immanion.” I tried for a joke but a deep sense of unease was slowly sneaking its way up inside of me. My words came out more bitter than I intended.

Jay stared at me without speaking. I could feel his eyes scanning me, reading my deeper emotions and seeing things I was probably unaware of showing. I averted my eyes, trying to block my thoughts. I failed miserably. He sat down at my side and took my face in his hands.

“What’s make you so sour, Ashmael?”

The words were a little more than a whisper and I close my eyes and held my breath, ready to send him properly to hell. But the words began to flow of their own free will. “I don’t know… Something about that damn boy makes me feel uneasy. I feel as if… he is always confronting me, challenging me… and than that absurd idea of me being his.. teacher! It’s a total idiocy. It just cannot work!”

“Ash,” Jay’s tone was kind but imperative. He stroked my brow with the back of his hand and then slid his fingers into my hair. I felt lost. “You have been alone for too long. You are losing the sense of what we are… Thiede is giving you a huge possibility. You can be Vaysh’s guide and companion in his new life… You can help him to find his balance. You can make him became a great har. Don’t waste this opportunity.”

I felt his breath ghosting over my skin while he spoke. “How… I don’t know what to do, Jay! I’m a soldier… What if I delude him? What if I’m not a good teacher?”

“Just follow your instinct… Everything will be fine.” He rose and turned to the door, his hand skimming my shoulder and down my arm. “I better go, now. You need to rest.”

I grasped his finger. “Don’t go. Please?” I held his gaze for what felt like an eternity, than, without a world, he began to undo the ribbon that held his tunic closed.

PART II

The long and exhausting night I spent with Jay didn’t help me to sort through my confused feelings. Only the opposite. Rather, it opened a small crack in my oh-so-harish detachment and forced me to an unwanted confrontation with my inner fears, which I had diligently ignored for almost two years, banishing them as ‘remnants of human weakness’.

Thiede had indoctrinated me well. He taught me that it was unharish to love because Wraeththu can achieve a higher level of spiritual and physical closeness through aruna. Well, I took this statement literally and I began to shut out whoever could raise even the slightest feelings of affection in me. I gave myself eagerly during aruna, I was considerate and helpful with my friends, but as soon as I realized that my heart beat a little faster for a particular har, or that my thoughts were wandering in a way I thought was not appropriate, I withdrew.

One morning, I realized I was all alone. I had still my friends, of course, my comrades, but their attitudes towards me had radically changed. So I channeled all my efforts and energies into the duties Thiede assigned me, and in my caste training. This cost me the last chance I still had: with Jay. The only one who, for some strange reason, hadn’t deserted me. One night we were indulging in the most passionate, sensual aruna ever, and the day after I was begging Thiede to give me a long-term assignment. Wherever he wanted, as long as it was far from Jay. Why? Because Jay told me those infamous three words: “I love you”.
So I fled.

Of course Thiede was delighted by my decision! He fed my ego with praises and my mind with promises. He told me that hara who indulge in love are doomed to an ordinary and unhappy life, that we were a new race, still improving our skills and potentials and that only the most strong-willed among us would survive to see the dawn of a new era. Of course I drank that bullshit like an unquestionable truth.

He made me his pupil, or, as Jay stated, his puppet. But, of course, I was too blind and too daft to listen to anybody’s advice.

Now, what finally opened my eyes to the distortion in Thiede’s wicked plan, I still don’t know. I think, looking at the boy had been in a way like looking at myself from the outside. And I didn’t like what I saw. Even if moved by different reasons, we shared the same attitude: we cut the others out because it was easier to keep our feelings tamed. With that we became bitter, unhappy and lonely.

My motivations were simple or, at least, I thought they were in the beginning; I was told to do so, and I obeyed. But why did a human child have to act like that? Jay’s passionate speech had given me a glimpse at the inside of the boy’s life and silent desperation, and what I saw had touched a chord inside my heart that I believed long dead.

So, that morning while I studied into the mirror the reflection of Jay’s warm shape on the mattress, I let my mind wander on past memories. I could clearly remember a pair of sad eyes gleaming with tears as a little hand slipped into mine. A growing feeling of tenderness began to warm my heart and this time I didn’t chase it away, but I melted into it, sensing my own eyes burning for a strange sort of commotion.

That day, I went to Thiede, determined to see the boy so I could talk to him for just a while. What I got was an annoyed glare and a quick answer. Thiede said I could not see him before Harhune.

So I marched straight to Jay’s quarters only to be dismissed with the promise that the boy was recovering well and that, yes, Jay would convey my apologies. I was dismissed with the promise that I would have seen the boy, Vaysh, in a week at least.

I could do nothing but return to my duty.

During that never-ending week I began to see things I’ve never noticed before, or that I’ve never WANTED to notice. I began to look at the happy couples, chesnari they were called, who had committed to each other with a more or less formal ceremony that was not that far off from human weddings. Surprised, I realized that there was nothing wrong with them, the contrary in fact, they looked totally, utterly happy and fully in love. They didn’t seem at all like the doomed and cursed creatures Thiede had so often talked about.

So, a question began to grow in my already troubled mind. Why, for Aghama sake, was I forbidden that happiness?

Then my training kicked in, and I quickly forgot the inappropriate doubts after numerous of bizarre requests by my ‘employer’.

It was only after eight days, during the Harhune ceremony that I saw the boy again.
He was lying drugged and motionless on a sort of altar, surrounded by a silent and reverent crowd. He looked like a beautiful, inanimate doll. Naked. White and perfect like melted wax. One arm rested over his stomach, the other limp along his flank; legs parted and slightly bent. Long, wavy chestnut hair fell from over the lip of the altar, to almost touch the ground. If I didn’t know he was unconscious, I would have believed he was dead.

All of a sudden I found myself pushing through the crowd, trying to reach him, to save him, to prevent the horror he was going to endure. He was so young and helpless! He couldn’t survive all the pain; he would lose his mind, hurt himself and then… An iron grip fastened on my forearm and I turned frantically, ready to strike at my opponent, only to find myself held by Jay’s serious but determined gaze.

“Don’t, Ash.”

I tried to rebut but he just shook his head.

“Just don’t.”

I jerked my arm away and with a furious stare I left the place. The last, vivid, image that haunted my mind for the following three nights was the red stain of blood along the boy’s arm, where Thiede’s ceremonial knife had began to cut the flesh.

***

I walked through the corridors; at that hour they were silent and empty. I paused for a while trying to catch an echo of the racking screams that had been haunting the halls over the last three days, but the only sounds I heard where the crickets’ chirping and the fast and rhythmic pounding of my heart.

In the end, althaia was over. The boy had survived.

Just once I dared to venture into that cursed area, but I had to stop, dead in my tracks at the base of the huge marble staircase, which led to the padded room, frozen there by the shrieks of pain and horror I heard. I just couldn’t move. Memories of my own althaia were still painfully alive in me: the pain, the throbbing of the flesh, the nauseating pollutions, my fingers tearing piece of skin apart, streaks of blood, vomit and filth. A bottomless, never ending madness. I slumped onto a step with my hands frantically clamped over my ears, rocking back and forth until some caring soul helped me back to my quarters. I never left them again until Jay came to me. He was exhausted like I’ve never had seen before, but with a triumphant smile brightening his features. The transformation was over and the boy was alive; the following night I would join him and conclude his Inception with the initiation to aruna.

I paused in front of the door trying to bring my heartbeat back to a normal pace; my hands sweaty and slightly shaking. In spite of Jay’s reassuring words, that it was no different from any other time, I knew it was very different indeed! I was expected to teach a newly incepted har the wonders of his new body and the magic of aruna; I would taste his mind and deepest thoughts and let him taste mine as well.

I knew the whole experience could have been frightening. But I was determined to do my best.
In a hidden corner of my heart, I was desperate for Vaysh’s approval.

I entered a room that was dimly lit by candlelight and I let my eyes search the darkness, and, for a moment I thought nobody was in there. Then I turned toward the big bed in the far left corner of the room and I saw him, sitting in the middle of the mattress, with his legs curled up to his chest and his fists grasping the bed covers that were pulled up almost to his chin. I couldn’t see his face because it was hidden behind a wondrous mass of wavy dark-copper hair. I approached the bed slowly, the wooden floor creaking under my bare feet. I sat on the edge, at a safe distance from him, and waited for a sign of recognition.

“He didn’t change my name,” said a soft voice from under the hair. It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about and I couldn’t suppress a smile.

“Vaysh is a beautiful name.”

He raised his head and his strange honey-colored eyes finally met mine. I had to suck in a breath, trying to control my emotions: that face, that pale, perfect face where just a hint of tiredness still lingered to testify to the horrors of althaia was the face of the Lady I had seen in the portrait inside his old home. He had the same soft, creamy complexion, languid eyes and sensual, full lips that never seemed to smile. But, at the same time, there was more. The sharpness of his cheekbones, the straight nose, and his chin… they were typically masculine.

And in the end I realized that all the different elements were so perfectly blended in what Thiede had always aimed for: the pure expression of androgyny.

A sudden rush of fire went straight to my groin and I thought that if I could not possess this alien creature then I’d lose my mind.

“Are… is it going to hurt… again?” Vaysh fearful voice brought me back to reality and I remembered the task I was assigned.

“No, there is no pain in aruna. Just pleasure; and magic. A sharing of thoughts and minds.”

I brushed a soft cheek with my thumb and smiled at him. He smiled back, tentatively, and I realized that it was the first time I had seen him smile. My heart skipped a beat.

“I’m sorry I lied to you about inception, that time in the desert. And I’m sorry I treated you so coldly in Thiede’s office.” I paused trying to sound more convincing, “It’s just that… I didn’t know what to do. I’m not very good at dealing with others.” I spoke the truth, it was the best I could offer and it worked because he smiled at me again, this time less hesitantly.

“I know. Jay told me.”

I sent a silent blessing to my friend.

“Do you like Jay?” I asked conversationally, just to ease the tension that was palpable in him.
He nodded.

“I do. He is such a wonderful man… I mean, har…” We both burst out laughing and I decided that he had an enchanting laugh.

“Don’t worry, it may be a bit difficult at the beginning, but you’ll get accustomed very soon. What did Jay tell you about Wraeththu?”

Vaysh reflected for a while and, without realizing it, let go of the blanket. It slid off his shoulders. It was a huge effort not to eat him with my eyes. He closed his arms around his still bent legs and rested his chin on his knees.

“He told me so many things… some I already knew, some are totally new. I’m a bit confused but he told me that was quite normal, so…”

“Did he tell you about the change in your body?” I tried to bring the conversation close to the reason for my presence.

Vaysh suddenly tensed and grasped the blanket pulling it up to cover his upper body. His face disappeared behind a cascade of hair. A not very pleasant suspicion began to creep inside my mind. I cleared my throat and tried to keep a professional tone.

“Vaysh… did you… have you already taken a look at yourself?” The cascade of hair waved in a negative way. Ok, diplomacy was not one of my best attitude. “Vaysh? Jay did tell you about your body, didn’t he?”

A pair of frightened and very embarrassed eyes rose from behind his knees.

“Jay told me some… things. But I’m not sure I’ve understood what he was talking about. I thought I did, but maybe I didn’t.”

“What kind of… things?”

“Like flowers. He talked for hours about flowers and the colours I will see when souls meet in an etheric dimension. Those things, you know…”

I shook my head in disbelief. What was I supposed to do now? I cursed Jay and his poetic soul and decided once again to follow my instinct.
I rose from the bed and offered him a hand.

“Come, I want to show you something.”

Vaysh looked at me like I’d gone totally mad, and he shook his head once again.

“Please… it’s very important, and you are going to love it. I promise.”

Without dropping his eyes, he shifted in the bed and, very slowly, put his feet on the floor. He then rose, never releasing the grip on his protective blanket. The first steps were still hesitant and I circled his waist with my arm to help him walk. Strangely, he didn’t wince or push me away.

We crossed the large, creaky floor slowly until we stopped in front of a huge mirror, at the opposite end of the room. A bunch of scented candles lit the area.

With all the delicacy I was able to muster, I positioned Vaysh in front of me and encircled him with my arms. I watched our image as it was reflected in the mirror. Vaysh was smaller than I, and thinner, and his colours were almost the opposite of mine, but we presented an addictive contrast, like fire and ice. Even our limbs seemed to be entwined in a sort of artistic posture. He was now keeping his eyes closed and his head was turned to one side, so I could see his profile, his neck a long, sensual curve. I couldn’t help but brush it with my lips, sensing a light shiver run through his body. I took the blanket with one hand and, slowly, pulled. There was some resistance at the beginning, then Vaysh released his hold and the satin fabric slithered over his body in a slow, sensual motion, pooling at his feet. I moved my finger over his naked arm: his skin was warm and soft, flawless.

“Open your eyes, Vaysh.” Unconsciously, I had shifted into my commanding role and I spoke with a low, firm but persuasive tone.

Vaysh obeyed and I could see how his long lashes parted, while his head still remained turned to one side.

“Look at you. Look, you’ll never forget this moment. Thiede was right, you are special.” With that I took his chin and guided his head up.

I will never forget.

I will never forget the astonishment in his eyes, the look of pure amazement, and disbelief while he stared at his reflected image.

I will never forget the perfect, uncanny body, still acerbic, like the one of a human teenage, yet sensually fully bloomed into its harish form. Long legs, narrow but soft hips, thin waist, pink, tender nipples. Even his features looked different: they were stronger, less childish. Especially his eyes; they had gained a depth that both fascinated and scared me.

At the core of such perfection, stood his ouana-lim, the most beautiful and exotic flower I’d ever seen: a pearly white orchid, with shades of purple and lilac and droplets of crimson like fresh blood over the snow.

“Oh my God, Ash!” There was a strong emotion in his voice; no trace of fear, or rejection.

“Wondrous, isn’t it?”

He nodded, without tearing his eyes from the mirror. My body was reacting fiercely to such beauty, and I could feel my own ouana-lim harden and throb with need. I moved my fingers along his body, barely touching his skin, skimming hot flesh, brushing his nipples with my thumbs until they swelled into hard, little nubs. I never released his gaze and I could see his eyes darkening to the colour of burnt earth. He licked his lips, slowly, sensually, and I wondered if he was really so innocent as I thought. When my hands rested over his groin, massaging the sensitive skin there, I could feel and see he was fully aroused. His colours were those of a sunset over an iced lake.

“There is more, isn’t there?” He murmured in a dreamy, deep voice. I swallowed and nodded, fearing that my voice would betray my painful desire.

“Then show me.”

We kneeled on the floor, in front of the mirror, and he pressed his back against my chest, while I helped him to part his legs. We interlaced our fingers and I guided his hands over his skin, slowly, brushing his inner thighs with feathered touches, until his soume-lam blossomed. This was the truth about Wraeththu magic.

“Touch it.” I whispered, never unlacing our fingers but wanting him to take the lead. And he did, first tentatively and then totally enraptured by the deluge of sensations he was experiencing for the first time in his life. His soume-lam was glistening for desire; I could see our fingers, drenched with fluids, brush the swollen, soft folds, moving slowly in and out. His moans were intoxicating while I pushed further inside, teasing, touching the first of his energy centres.

“Feel it, Vaysh. This is just the beginning. This is the most powerful, precious gift you can ever wish for: from here you can create life.” I felt him shudder and I took his face in my free hand, compelling him to turn toward me and look me in the eyes. “Never underestimate this power. This is sacred.” With that, I crushed my mouth against his, and we share breath for the first time, and all my knowledge, all my fears, all my dreams, all my life was his to taste , to look at, to dissect. I didn’t leave a single spot hidden and when we parted I was on the verge of tears because it was something I had never let happen before. Now I knew there was no going back. Vaysh was staring at me with dazed eyes, his cheeks flushed and his lips parted and swollen.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Sharing of breath. The most intimate act that can occur between hara. The communion of experiences and thoughts. The most fascinating, and dangerous, insight you can ever have of someone else’s true self.”

He caressed my face with a tenderness that was heartbreaking. His eyes were deep pools of devotion and trust.

“I’m yours, Ashmael. I will never belong to anybody else until I die.”

And with that I was lost.

***

That night, the deepest meaning of aruna was finally revealed to me and I wondered if Thiede, for baying me to share communion like this with other hara, had a purpose. Had preserved me for this moment.

We touched the highest peaks of ecstasy, and Vaysh opened to me completely. I tasted his loneliness and pain, his fears and dreams, his desperate need for love, and I realized that I was ready to give him whatever he asked from me. Even my life.

We indulged in aruna all night long, without resting. He was ouana for me just once; the soume aspect was so strong in him that he eagerly offered it to me. I accepted his gift greedily and while he rode me, sweaty, with his wild hair stuck to his skin, and his nails digging into my shoulders, he was an apocalyptic sight and his inner power was so strong that made the air around us electric with released energy.

At dawn, we laid spent in each other arms, too tired even to tidy the mess we had made to Vaysh’s bed. I felt his breath brushing rhythmically over my chest. He was sleeping peacefully, but I couldn’t rest; I couldn’t stop thinking about the magic of those past few hours, at the way he had changed my life. Definitively. But I was also worried about Thiede’s plans for Vaysh. Vaysh WAS special, I had no doubts about that. The question was: what was my role in Thiede’s scheme?

The answer came by chance the following night, while we were indulging in a hot, scented bath. Vaysh was resting between my legs, his head on my shoulder, our hands clasped over his belly; one that had became our favourite posture. We had been silent for a long time, simply enjoying our closeness, and then Vaysh spoke with a sleepy voice.

“You know, I’m so happy Thiede chose you.”

I smiled. “For your initiation in aruna? Am I a good teacher?” I joked.

He moved and turned to me with a puzzled stare. “No, well, not just for that. Of course you are a great teacher. I’m talking about me and you being chesna.”

Being chesna? Well, that was a piece of news indeed!

“Didn’t… Thiede tell you?” The hurt in his voice was evident, but I couldn’t help it, I shook my head. No, Thiede didn’t tell me a damn shit.

“Oh… I thought…. well, it doesn’t matter what I thought. You are not obligated, you know? You-” I silenced him with a kiss. Not a sharing of breath, but a true kiss that took his breath away. When we parted, he was shocked and was looking at me with wide, astonished eyes.

“Stop saying nonsense! There is nothing I could wish more, I just was surprised Thiede didn’t tell me. I will be honoured to be your chesnari, Vaysh, and to spend the rest of my life at your side.” I was speaking the truth of course, I couldn’t even begin to think about spending a single second of my life far from him. What I didn’t tell him was that had I not been happy about Thiede’s arrangement than I wouldn’t have had any choice but to obey.

Suddenly, Vaysh turned splashing water all over the floor, and straddled my hips and smiled his sweetest and happiest smile. Then he bent over me and returned the kiss with a passion that was pure, burning fire, melting away my conflicting emotions and the growing sense of unease.

In that very moment, I realized that I already belonged to him and that, perhaps, I always had. Forever.

The End

Note: You can consider The Pan Within as a sort of sequel of this story

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