Don’t Leave Forever*
And here is Azriel and Aleeme in all their PG-rated glory. No spoilers, sort of short.
Sequel: Back Again
* Editor’s note: This fic arrived w/o a title, so I added one.
Don’t Leave Forever
When Azriel had first met Aleeme, he’d thought the har to be a little insane. Cheerful in a degree that was unseemly and rather more forward than was polite, Aleeme made himself a home in Forever with little more than a smile. His charm was much more obvious than Cal’s had been, but he was well-loved by Cobweb, who said he had an innocence that was rare in second-generation hara (who grew too old too fast).
In the morning, when Azriel was still half-asleep and sluggishly attempting to free himself from the confines of his bed, Aleeme would make an appearance and tug him up into the chilly air and into a long shirt. Azriel learned to appreciate the sunrise, for all that he ended up snoozing in his oatmeal half an hour later.
In the afternoon, when Azriel was engrossed in a thick tome of history and the sun was shining mercilessly outside, Aleeme often stole the book and made his friend chase him for it, eventually surrendering it on the terms that having finished a named number of pages, Azriel would join him outside for a walk or a ride. Cobweb said that Azriel looked like he’d been stained with clay, his skin a deep satiny brown. Eventually Aleeme brought out books of his own — traveling companions, as he called them — and gave them to his friend in trade.
In the evening, Aleeme snuck into his room and climbed into bed with him. The first night, Azriel had panicked and pushed him out, warm as he was. Despite that deterrent — ever the optimist — Aleeme had returned the next night, which Azriel had spent fitfully awake and very aware of Aleeme’s arm around his waist, and the head against his shoulder. The third night, Aleeme had said, “I want to take aruna with you,” quite seriously, and then flashed one of his incapacitating smiles. Azriel had nodded dumbly, and now whenever Aleeme showed up he gladly lifted the covers, even though the other har had a tendency to pull on the blankets.
Lying that way now, smelling sweet hay in Aleeme’s dark hair, appreciating the smooth skin beneath his palm as he stroked his friend’s arm, Azriel said, “How long will you stay?”
It seemed already that Aleeme had been with them forever, but now, as the weeks passed, Azriel found himself remembering that Galhea had been one stop on a longer journey to Immanion. That thought had been making him somewhat nervous.
Aleeme shifted against him, sighing through his nose. “What?” He’d been asleep, and blinked hazily up at his friend. A pang twisted Azriel’s belly; he resisted the urge to stroke the soft arch of Aleeme’s cheek, the fine line of his throat. Instead he pushed messy black hair out of the way and kissed him. “You’re going to Immanion, aren’t you?”
Aleeme chuckled under his breath. “Yes, I’m going to Immanion.”
Azriel was quiet for a moment. Aleeme had been insistent — forceful, even — in his courtship of Azriel’s affections. That he would leave now made it seem like a betrayal, or a lie. He found himself wishing that Aleeme would stay: his presence in Forever was a comfort and an amusement. His throat closed. “Lee?”
“Azriel,” Aleeme said, propping himself on one elbow to look down at his friend. The moonlight limned his eyes in silver, and Azriel found himself unable to breathe, or speak, for fear of breaking this moment. Aleeme’s face was still and serious. He bit his lower lip in thought, then smiled. “I was so scared of you when I met you. I was afraid you’d think I was just a kid.”
Azriel snorted. “You fooled me, then.”
“I thought, I want that har, because I did. I thought you were beautiful, which you are. When you made me leave, that first night, I thought you hated me. I don’t usually talk this much. Really. I think with you’ve I’ve said more than I’ve ever said in my entire life before this. But I wanted you to listen to me.”
“Aleeme, you’re…well, I like you. I like you a lot.”
“Good, but shush. I’m just saying, that really, I’ve never been so scared of someone not liking me before. I didn’t know, until you said that, that you really did think I was…well, worth it, I suppose.”
“I don’t want to leave Galhea,” admitted Aleeme softly, looking away in a fit of self-consciousness. Even in the dim light of his chamber, Azriel could see the blood darkening his cheeks. He did look like a child, now, an unsure harling who should still be hiding behind his father at parties. But Aleeme wasn’t a child, he was a har, and one who’d grown on Azriel Parasiel.
“I don’t want you to leave, either,” Azriel admitted. He wanted aruna again, and pulled Aleeme hard against him.
“Does that mean you’ll be here when I come back?”
Azriel’s guts coiled; his blood flared hotly. “Oh, yes.”
So he waited, and Cobweb was maddeningly silent about the whole thing, though he seemed aware of Azriel’s pain when he closeted himself in the library for nearly two whole days. “You’ll grow to love that pain,” Cobweb told him, too smugly. Azriel hoped not.
He wanted Aleeme to return, and quickly.