He can't stop thinking about it, after Capell tells them. Unblessed. Without the mark of Veros at all. At first Edward thinks he's responding to that idea—not having the favor of the god most closely connected to them all—but the more he tries to imagine it, the more he fixates on the physical: Capell wears no blessing. His skin is unmarked. The idea is both hard to focus on and hard to let go of; it's like prodding at a bruise to see if it still hurts.
"You're not really okay with it, huh," Capell says one night when they've drawn first watch. The dim light of their camp fire makes him look haunted, his eyes shadowed, at the same time that it plays up the warmth of his hair. "With me being...you know."
"What?" Edward says. "No, I—it doesn't change anything." Capell saved his life, saved him from himself. Repaying that with rejection would be unconscionable.
"You look at me differently," Capell says, with a tiny, rueful smile. "But you hated me before you knew, so I can't tell if this is better or worse."
Edward takes a deep breath, looking into the fire so he won't have to meet Capell's eyes. "I don't hate you," he says. "I'm sorry I'm still making you uncomfortable."
They sit in silence for a while, listening for trouble beyond the reach of their fire. It's quiet tonight, thank gods. Everyone needs rest, after they've been pushing themselves so hard. Edward stares into the heart of the fire, watching it flicker. He tries to put the words in order in his head, tries to figure out how to explain to Capell why he can't stop looking. He's had a lunaglyph since he was too young to know what it meant, too young to know the word for it; he's always assumed that was the case for everyone he's ever known. For it to turn out that Capell is different, has always been different....
"I used to wish I could fake it," Capell says eventually. He's studying his boots when Edward looks over at him. "Get some kind of a fancy scar that would look right even if it didn't do anything. I'd tell people it helped me play the flute, or something."
The idea of anyone counterfeiting a lunaglyph makes Edward flinch. It's the same poking-a-bruise sensation as thinking about Capell being unblessed, pushing him away and drawing his attention in equal measure. A lunaglyph is a sacred bond between god and mortal; to mimic it without the substance.... "But you never tried?" he finds himself asking.
Capell laughs wryly; Edward thinks it's telling, how often Capell's laughter sounds frightened or unhappy. "Are you kidding? It would hurt. I couldn't go through with it if I tried to do it to myself." He shakes his head. "And asking somebody would mean they would know about me."
Edward tries to find something to say to that. "What about now?" he asks eventually.
"Now?" Capell asks. He stares at Edward for a minute like he doesn't quite understand the question. "Savio's an aristo, and—and Eugene's a priest. They'd kill me."
"You wouldn't have to tell them," Edward says. He sounds petulant, childish, but it's too late to take the words back.
Capell visibly considers the possibility for a minute. "Are you offering?" he says eventually.
The question makes Edward's heart pound, makes the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. "Do you trust me that far?" he asks, stalling for time. The blasphemy of it ought to repel him, he's certain. But it doesn't; it makes him squirm, but he doesn't think he could bring himself to refuse.
"Let me think about it," Capell says. "Whether I want to, I mean. Not whether I trust you."
He smiles then, just a flicker of expression across his face, there and gone as quickly as a lick of flame—but the warmth it leaves behind lasts Edward for the rest of the night.
The night before they reach Kolton again, Capell says yes.
The door to their room is barred; the fire burns hot enough in the hearth that it's no hardship to go half-clothed. Edward has crafted a new knife, one unused for any other purpose; it's small and sharp, fine-bladed, with no filigree along the hilt or pommel. Somehow it seemed fitting that a blade designed to create elaborate patterns should be bare of them itself.
Capell is nervous. He's trying not to say so, but he hides it poorly. It seems strange, when he's been able to hide his most crucial secret for so long, that in other ways he's an open book. Edward spreads a cloth over the small bedside table and lays out his tools: the knife, a bottle of ink, bandages. He has set his gloves aside, removed his overshirt and his chain mail; he helps Capell with his plate, then steps back and tries not to stare as Capell strips off shirt and tabard. Unmarked, unblessed skin. It's still so strange to see.
"Where, um, were you thinking?" Capell asks.
Edward takes a step closer, reaches up to trace a line that begins at Capell's shoulder and dips down, curving, below his collarbone. "Here," he says. Capell's skin is smooth under his fingertips, fair and unblemished.
Capell swallows hard. Edward can see his throat working. "Okay," he says. "Let's...let's get it over with."
Edward nods. Capell sits on the edge of his bed, and Edward pulls up a chair to sit close to him. "I wish I could say I'll make this quick," he says. "But I don't want to leave you with something sloppy."
"Just...don't yell at me if I'm not very brave, okay?" Capell says.
"I won't," Edward promises. He's been so needlessly cruel.
He studies the slope of Capell's shoulder for a moment, the curves made by muscle and bone. In some ways, this is like adding the final detail work to a sword or a breastplate, the devices and scrollwork that make each piece unique. But an error in metal can be heated, smoothed away, tried again. He'll have only one chance to make this right.
The design fixed firmly in his mind, Edward takes hold of Capell's arm and raises his blade. At first the pull of skin against the edge throws him; even as sharp as he can make it, the blade still meets some resistance. Capell's breath hitches, and muscle flexes under Edward's fingertips as he clenches his fists. "Try to stay relaxed if you can," Edward says. Blood is beginning to bead along the first cut he's made, tiny garnet drops.
Capell laughs weakly. "Easy for you to say," he says. But even that release seems to help; his next breath comes slightly easier.
Edward does his best to work quickly. He carves sweeping lines down Capell's shoulder, faint suggestions of leaves and coiling vines. Capell squeezes his eyes shut, jaw clenched, hands gripping the fabric of his pants. He doesn't complain, though. For all his self-professed cowardice, he has courage enough once he's chosen to.
When he draws the crescent shape of the waxing moon, the outright lie of this mark, Edward imagines he can feel his own burning in reproach. He defies the natural order to do this. This falsehood is an affront against Veros. The idea makes his skin prickle with goosebumps, makes his mouth dry—and yet it isn't an unwelcome feeling, somehow. The same jittery feeling that raises the hairs on the back of his neck also feels thrilling; this act of heresy they share is almost unbearably intimate.
The marks are bleeding now, running scarlet down Capell's chest and arm, but he's no longer tense. Edward looks up to meet his eyes and he looks calm, almost peaceful. As if this had been a true blessing after all.
Edward sets down his knife. "How are you feeling?" he asks, his hand against the unmarked side of Capell's chest, testing for the chill of shock, but Capell's skin is warm against his.
Capell blinks slowly as if he's half asleep. "Is it done?" he asks. He looks down, and he seems more fascinated than alarmed at the sight of blood.
"Almost," Edward says. "All that's left is the color." He squeezes Capell's arm. "You're okay?"
"Yeah," Capell says. "About halfway through, it just...I don't know, stopped being scary. It's not like getting hurt in a fight at all."
Somehow Edward makes himself let go of Capell and reach for the ink bottle. "Good," he says. "I...I don't want to make you suffer anymore."
Capell smiles, and for once it doesn't look at all like he's making a joke at his own expense. "Thanks, Ed," he says.
Edward nods. He doesn't trust himself to say more right now. Somehow they've taken an act of blasphemy and deceit and made it...something else, something he doesn't quite feel ready to name.
As shaky as he feels, his hands are steady when he rubs ink into the lines he's drawn. Capell's breathing is slightly uneven, but he doesn't flinch. Blood smears, mingles with the rusty black of the ink, as Edward makes sure this mark will last.
A lunaglyph is a mark given by Veros, a mark that proves how much he cares for one of his own, a blessing and a promise of his aid. But this mark is not given by Veros; instead—
Edward wraps bandages around Capell's shoulder, binding them carefully, tight enough to be secure, not so tight as to do harm. What they have done here...he can't bring himself to pull away, to stop touching Capell's bare skin.
"Ed," Capell says. His hand is on Edward's arm. Edward looks up at his face.
For one frozen moment, neither of them move; Capell's expression is still peaceful, his eyes dark and...welcoming. They both lean in at the same time, slowly, and the press of their lips together feels like a rite unto itself. If he has claimed Capell with blood, now Capell claims him with breath.
Edward sinks to his knees between Capell's spread thighs and offers what blessings he can.