Angels and Devils
Originally posted to Raythoo LJ group, Aug. 2006.
Ok, my first proper Wraeththu fic, posted here with much trepidation! Please read Author’s note about AU’ness! And thank you, Ms Constantine, for the gift of your wonderful characters.
Warning: Loss of temper in a public place, harish snarkiness.
Spoilers: For *thinks* book 3 onwards really.
Summary: How can Ashmael and Terzian ever tolerate each other, under ANY circumstances?
Disclaimer: I love and respect Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu characters and humbly use their names here. Any screw ups and deliberate mangling of story are all mine.
Authors’ note: This is based on an IM RPG and is about as AU as it is possible to get – REALLY.
Angels and Devils
The parade was vast, stretching from the barracks, through streets used mostly by the Gelaming army, snaking along the glittering waterfront and up through the wide avenues of Immanion, close to the lofty heart of the city, alone on its leafy hill. Phaonica dreamed in the sun, a shining enchantment, aloof as its first Tigron. But today, even it, reflecting the mood of the city, seemed to be smiling.
Everyhar had turned out to watch, dressed in their finest. Hara stood in flowing robes, or artfully cut, impeccably worn concoctions of close fitting leather and silk, some with wide eyed harlings in their arms. Terzian noted they did not point as the parade passed them. Gelaming did not point, not even at him, the Varr, the curiosity. Instead the adults bent to explain in hushed tones.
One child, Gelaming beautiful, tugged at his hostling’s arm, looking up as the har on the powerful black horse rode by, dressed from head to toe in black leather, knee high boots adorned with shining buckles glittering in the sun. He was lean, sharp featured, mercilessly beautiful, his dark blond hair cut short, that in itself a curiosity to the harling, who was used to hara with flowing hair, cut in elaborate styles. This har’s hair was short, functional, aggressively male. Yet that maleness was enhanced by the subtle elegance of the feminine, carefully hidden. He was stunning.
“Who is that?” the child wanted to know, intrigued and delighted, eyes shining.
Elegant lips curled, eyes bore hints of reluctant memories, but otherwise, his hostling’s face betrayed nothing. “That is Terzian har Varr.”
The harling’s eyes went huge as he was lifted for a better view, squirming a bit as he was held protectively close. “Terzian har Varr!” he breathed. “The one I heard father telling Marisel was a mur….” He trailed off at the sharp look from his hostling, glancing at his father who rolled his eyes and touched his son’s hair in resigned amusement at the breaking of a confidence. “Well he did,” the child muttered rebelliously. He turned back to stare after the har, not seeing the look promising trouble his hostling gave his father, noticing with a child’s clear sight, how easily Terzian sat in the sddle, as if he had been born there, one careless hand on the reins. He looked like what he was, a warrior, ruthless, utterly deadly. Something struck him and he craned his neck to look at his father. “Why is he riding next to General Aldebaran? Are they friends then?”
His father bent to kiss him, resting a placatory hand in the small of his chesnari’s back. He followed his son’s gaze, watching the tall figure. Ashmael’s sedu and white ceremonial clothing, accented with gold and silver, were a perfect foil for Terzian’s black mount and leather. The General inclined his head and smiled at the crowd, white blond hair flowing down his back, helm held under one arm. He looked relaxed, impossibly beautiful, somehow managing to look both arrogant and yet accessible to the admiring crowds as always.
“Pellaz’ orders, I would imagine. A show of military unity to cement the alliance. Aghama knows they cannot abide one another.”
His chesnari stirred, fine features pulled into a speculative expression.”Really? Who says? That is only rumour. Perhaps they have found a way to coexist, the Varrish warlord and the Angel of Immanion.” He frowned at the snort next to him and turned his head.
“Oh don’t be naive, Armaros! Ashmael Aldebaran and Terzian har Varr? Friends? Our General would not dirty his boots even stepping close.”
Armaros held his excited son who was still trying to catch a glimpse of the matched pair of dark and light as they passed out of sight around the bend, heading up to Phaonica’s gates and the grand reception to mark the much vaunted alliance. “I wonder,” he whispered. Sensitive in the way most hara, even the advanced Gelaming, were not, he had felt a shiver in the ethers as the two had passed. He shook himself, disturbed by what he had felt. “He’s Parasiel now, the Varrs no longer exist, since Ponclast was defeated,” he offered mildly.
Again his chesnari snorted. “That one’s a Varr. It’s his blood, all that defines him. The Tigrons and the Hegemony can call him what they like, but he’s a Varr and he always will be, and all the alliances in the world won’t change him.”
“Hmmmm.” Armaros set their child on his feet and watched him run to a group of harlings, all chattering excitedly. He straightened and smiled as his lover placed a gentle kiss on his brow. “What did you See, beloved?” the tall har asked gently. Armaros turned for one final glimpse at the pair. If he was right…he shook his head. “Nothing,” he murmured. “Nothing at all.”
Terzian sat back in his chair and sighed. This was a nightmare and worse. The gathering of Immanion’s finest was a display of calm, genteel beauty. Hara spoke quietly in small groups, occasionally polite laughter would rise above the gentle murmur of conversation. Terzian loathed them, loathed the place, loathed what had brought him here. Vipers, the lot of them, he thought, eyes falling on the most dangerous of them all.
Pellaz har Aralis was perfect. His dark hair shone under the lamps around the courtyard like ebony fire, robes floating around him as though they worshipped the lithe body, reluctant to touch. He wore his power easily, with the ease of long practice, young and agelessly wise at once and beautiful enough to make the heart ache. Terzian recalled the young har he had met so long ago, so at odds with what he now saw and wondered what Cal made of his chesnari now. He steeled himself and glanced at the har he had avoided all throughout this ordeal, standing at Pellaz’ side, a hand on his shoulder, close as only those who are intimate can be. His heart twisted.
Terzian slumped slightly in his chair, ignoring the hum around him and for a few moments, studied his former consort. Cal was wearing robes which perfectly complimented Pellaz’, even picking up accents of the ones Rue, standing on Pellaz’ other side, wore. He laughed easily, clearly happy and at ease, watching his chesnari, love he could not hide in the often cynical violet gaze. The statement was clear. They were a unit, an unbreakable triumvirate, united, untouchable, unshakeable. But Pellaz and Cal were its soul. Terzian had never seen the living proof of two who shared so close a bond, it shone from them, touching those around them. He felt sick.
Somehar dropped into the seat beside him with entirely affected carelessness. An elegant, weapon calloused hand refilled his wine glass. Terzian did not even turn his head.
“Tiahaar Aldebaran. Such a pleasure,” he murmured without inflection. Inwardly he cursed his lack of control. Ashmael had seen him watching Cal or he wouldn’t have bothered coming over. He braced himself; the Gelaming had a tongue of pure acid and this was the perfect opportunity.
Ashmael grinned maliciously. “How are you finding your visit, Tiahaar?” he enquired politely.
Terzian laughed. “About as enjoyable as you are finding having me here.” He lifted the glass to his lips and turned his head. Ashmael had leaned back in his chair, unashamedly pleased with the remark.
“Ah, yes. Diplomacy is tedious. We must all tolerate that which we find most objectionable….” He raised his glass in a mocking salute to Terzian. “In the name of peace.”
Terzian felt his skin prickle. Where Ashmael could not see, the fingers of his right hand moved as if to grasp a weapon. He smiled tightly. Ashmael rested an elbow on the table, flicking his hair back, an affected gesture which irritated Terzian. The Gelaming’s eyes gleamed, missing nothing. Then they fell as if at random on the Tigrons and the Tigrina and Terzian stiffened. Here it comes….
“You must be pleased to see Calanthe again. He has found his place here. Pellaz finds him quite indispensible.” Again the ironic tilt of the glass, the flick of shining hair, the delighted maliciousness. Ashmael drank and delivered the final cut. “As you once did.”
Short, sharp and fatal. Terzian winced very slightly, catching himself too late, aware they were now drawing interested glances, though nohar could hear their soft words. He saw Ashmael’s lips quirk, confident of his victory, as he continued. “Ah, but those days are gone. Calanthe has found the other half of his soul once more. Things turn out as they should, no matter the mistakes we make to get there, do you not agree, Tiahaar?”
“They do.” Gelaming bastard. Terzian raised his glass, took a sip. Enough, he had had enough of this charade. Politeness and duty had been served. He wanted out of this alien, stifling world. He sat up, intending to make his excuses, but as he turned, he saw his salvation. Behind Ashmael, standing alone at the edge of the small circle surrounding the Aralises, watchful as always, stood Terzian’s revenge. Soft music drifted from the far end of the vast hall, the musicians beginning a lilting tune. Terzian struck.
“Tiahaar? Who is that standing by the Tigrina? He is quite striking.”
The triumphant expression vanished abruptly. “That is Vaysh, the Tigron’s aide.”
Terzian hid a smirk. Got you, you fucking smug bastard. “Ahhhh, so that is Vaysh. He is…appealing.”
Ashmael said nothing. He downed his wine in one swallow and stared moodily at the small group. Terzian continued his offensive.
“You and he were chesnari once, so Cobweb tells me.” He watched something flicker in Ashmael’s eyes, drove the knife a little deeper. “I would like to make his acquaintance, if you would be so kind?”
He stood, and perforce Ashmael stood with him, seething now, forcing a smile. “But of course.”
Terzian grinned wolfishly. “Please forgive the indelicate question. But he has no….ah, how do I put this? Nohar he is close to at the moment?” He watched the blood drain from Ashmael’s tanned face. He could almost feel sorry for the powerful har, but not quite, not when his own heart still bled from the wounds Ashmael had inflicted over Cal. All is fair, tiahaar…
“I wouldn’t know. He doesn’t confide in me. I can’t speak for him.” Ashmael looked like he wanted to kill him. Terzian nodded.
“Good, then I may make my approach without fear old baggage might interfere.”
Ashmael gasped involuntarily, outraged, pushed beyond diplomacy or caution. “Old baggage? That is none of your concern. Vaysh is not for you, Varr. Leave him alone.”
Terzian set his glass on the table, freeing his hands, noticing Ashmael doing the same. Hara around them were now openly watching them, alerted by the clash of wills drifting on the ethers and now visible in the way they moved, relaxed but wary; two wolves, each waiting for the opportunity to lunge. “Why? Because he won’t even look at you anymore?”
Ashmael was too much a warrior to be beaten yet. He went very still and spat back, “You mean the same way Cal has forgotten you even exist?”
A flick of the wrist and a forbidden knife appeared in Terzian’s hand. His opponent stepped back, watching him, wanting the attack. Around them, gasps of consternation sounded loud in the suddenly hushed room.
Then Pellaz raised his head and looked at them. They both turned to him like lodestones to the north. They had no choice, Pellaz had locked their feet to the floor with no more effort than another har might snuff out a lamp and forced them to face him. He was furious, though not a trace of it showed on his face. Cal watched them impassively and many hara looked between him and Terzian, expressions speculative, some delighted, some horrified.
Pellaz glided towards them and when he spoke, his voice was calm, edged with ice. “Tiahaar Terzian. I would appreciate it if you would hand your weapon to my aide.” He indicated Vaysh who stood at his elbow, a silent ghost, green eyes avoiding Ashmael’s assiduously. “Please forgive my oversight in forgetting to ask you not to bring it to this gathering, but I am sure you understand why I cannot allow you to keep it. “He turned to Ashmael and for just a moment, the facade slipped. “Tiahaar Aldebaran. My office. Now.”
For once, Ashmael did not argue. He cast Terzian a look of pure loathing and followed Pellaz.
Terzian sat alone on the seat he had asked to be placed on his balcony, a glass of sheh in one hand, the rest of the bottle at his elbow. Above him, the moon cast eerie shadows over Immanion, turning the smoke from his cigarette to drifting silver. He sighed and sat back, laughing to himself as he propped booted feet on a chair and leaned his head back. “You should have seen your face, beloved. I swear you thought for a moment I meant it.”
A tall shadow detached itself from the others on the balcony. Ash stepped from the inside and picked up the bottle, pouring himself a generous measure. “For a moment, I did, I think. Old wounds, my love.”
Terzian tipped his head back and accepted the kiss Ash placed on his lips, a drift of loving breath colouring the air between them. “Only as much as I did.”
Cal snorted from his position in a comfortable chair by the door, Pellaz curled in his lap. “You had me fooled and I thought I knew you. Remind me not to piss either of you off. I woudn’t want to be caught in the crossfire, bad for the health.”
Pellaz stirred and sat up, accepting the glass of sheh Ash handed him. “You almost went too far. I had a hard time pulling that one back. Tharmifex is still having fits about it and I thought Cedony actually had choked.” He pointed his glass at Ash and Terzian, who were sat close, knees touching. “You had better make sure the groundwork we laid tonight sticks. I’m not doing it again. You let anyhar know of your relationship now and you’re on your own.”
Ash grinned and sat back, stroking Terzian’s hair as his chesnari leaned into him, passing him the cigarette. Smoke wreathed his head as he spoke again. “Yes, my Tigron.”
Pellaz rolled his eyes. “Shut up, Ash, I mean it. This was so your family might find some peace, to settle suspicion. And if you hadn’t made the mistake you did, it wouldn’t have been necessary.”
For a moment, Ash’s eyes darkened and Terzian stiffened. Cal poked Pell, groaning at Pellaz’ usual detached attitude to subjects other hara wrapped their hearts around. “I would not call Tiaran a mistake.”
At that moment, the ‘mistake’ chose to make himself known. He skipped out of the bedroom and climbed up his hostling’s leg. Terzian bent to pick him up, breathing in the clean scent of his son, feeling Ashmael’s hand touch his shoulder, then reach to ruffle their son’s hair. Pell and Cal smiled, recalling a har whose heart was dark, cold, a har who had refused to even be soume, and yet now…They caught Ash’s eyes, read the grateful smile and nodded their heads.
Cal stood, pulling Pell to his feet. “Come on, Tigron. I feel the need to do some negotiating of our own.” He came to the pair who sat holding their son, looking down into the little face. Then carefully, he touched Terzian’s lips. “Good night.”
Ash watched as Terzian pulled Cal to him, the last tension leaving him as he saw that there was only friendship and affection in the embrace. Cal and Pell left, leaving them with a yawning harling. Ash smiled and lifted their sleepy son. He carried him inside while Terzian finished his cigarette, once more looking up at the moon. What they had done had been to ensure their privacy, their happiness, for Tiaran and themselves. Terzian meant to make the most of it.
Ash was surprised when a lithe, powerful form wrapped itself around him as he walked back outside. He shivered as sharp teeth nipped his throat, warm lips breathing over the slight sting. “I love you,” he half sighed as a hand deftly unlaced his formal shirt, stripping it off him.
“And I you.” Terzian slid his hands over his chesnari’s chest, fingers flicking over a nipple, delighting in Ashmael’s stifled groan. He let them drift lower, feeling his lover tense in anticipation.
Ash turned, his own hands lifting to explore the magnificent body in his arms, already naked in the moonlight, wrapped in love and want, oblivious to a gently questing mind touch which came from the night like a silent song.
And across the city, Armaros smiled and went back inside.