They move as if the fight is a dance they've rehearsed - and if Valirion is fire and air ('too much flash,' Gorynel Desse would say, 'but sufficient substance in the end') then Alin is earth and water; smoothly gliding aside when struck at, yet packing a considerable punch when striking himself.
Alin's eyes are like glacier ice (except that Val has seen a great deal more of Alin than of any glacier) but Val knows exactly what to do to make them burn as hotly as Caitirin's forge, upon which the stars were made.
"I'll take care of him," Val promises solemnly, as if he were a woman, or even a Lady, asking for her son's hand in marriage - Lady Lilen nods and tries to look like she believes him, but her eyes are sad as she looks at Alin and he knows she wishes there would have been more time for them to be young and in love and safe; two out of three isn't bad though, Val thinks.
"No," says Alin - and because he knows this will be the last time, the very last time he'll need to tell Geria he's not going to marry some girl simply because it will benefit the family (or rather: Geria First Daughter), he smiles, annoying her even more.
"All right," Val tells him, sighing, "I admit that you were right," which is hardly an admission that he was wrong, let alone an apology - Alin lets it go though, knowing Val's best and sincerest apologies will be made later tonight, without words (and without clothes).
On the rare occasions when there's time, they make love slowly and gently, pretending for a while that there's no Rising, no world outside, just them and the room - when there's no time, they make it.
Valirion Maurgen has made love to many women and just enough men to count as 'experienced', but there's only one person he's ever loved.
By the time they've been traveling for almost a year, give or take a few days, Val has stopped counting the number of Guards he's killed and starts counting the days until the next time they might be able to spend the night in a decent bed without needing to rush off in the morning instead.
Sometimes, Val feels lucky he's a man - if he'd been a woman, he very much doubts Taig would have allowed him to run off with his little brother, no matter how useful he and Alin would be to the Rising.
Half a minute into his first conversation with Alin, Val is lost; he'd be more comfortable if it was just Alin's eyes, but mostly, gallingly, it's the topics, the events and persons Alin talks of as if expecting Val to know them when he hasn't got a clue - that same evening, he hits the books, determined to impress Alin the next time, or at least not come across as a total idiot.
Until he'd seen Gorynel Desse in action, Val thought he was a pretty good swordsman - his pride would have been crushed completely if it hadn't been for the long list of women who have married other people than Gorynel Desse, and the security of knowing he'd married Alin in all but name; in at least one area, Val knew, his skills surpassed that of Gorynel Desse by miles.
It helps to know that Geria is waiting for him to break down and give in; a year without Val is still a long time, but Alin bides his time and remains patient, knowing that wherever he is, Val will be waiting for him, too - with less patience, most likely, yet as faithful as Alin.
Val wonders if his teachers would speak so glowingly to his grandmother of the way he's changed over the past half year if they knew it was due to Alin's blue eyes.
When there's talk of finding some woman willing to 'overlook' his defects, Val knows it's time to leave; he won't disobey his grandmother outright, but she's never forbidden him to leave her house for good nor to join the Rising, so he figures now is better than later.
Watching Alin's pale face, Val isn't sure what he wants to do more: find the Scholar Mage who's done this and kill him, or crawl into bed with Alin and hold him until he's stopped shivering.
After a year of not seeing each other, Val would think five minutes more or less wouldn't matter much - five seconds after he and Alin are away from prying eyes, he knows he was wrong.
Even if he'd never met Alin, Val knows he'd have joined the Rising for the future they strive for.
The only sight Val enjoys more than a beautiful woman with a sense of fashion and style is that of Alin, scowling darkly and pretending not to be jealous.
Losing Alin would be like being cut in half - in plays and novels, Val knows, the love-interest always demands of the heroine to move on without him, and she does so dry-eyed and with her head held high; either women are stronger about things like that than men, or the writers don't know anything about what it is to truly love another person.
A pair of giggling girls ask him to pose for their art-project (naked, of course; they wouldn't be giggling otherwise) and Val pretends to consider it, just to see Alin squirm
"You're a fool if you think this is going to work," whispered Alin - Val grinned and wriggled a little closer, until his mouth almost touched Alin's ear as he replied: "Takes one to know one - you ready?" and Alin nodded, once, sharply.
Falling in love was a little like losing your mind, Val decided, finding himself yawning after pulling an all-nighter of studying rather than partying; it couldn't possibly be healthy, only if there was a cure for it, he'd yet to hear about it.
It never occurs to Val not to tell Alin about his son.
Alin sitting next to him, lips slightly parted as he was thinking his way through a mathematical problem, expression a little distracted - it is simply too good an opportunity not to take it.
Like their work for the Rising, their love must needs stay in the shadows, hidden from public view - sometimes, that makes things easier, because Val doesn't think he could have lived three lives, let alone four, and the knowledge that the same people who know and approve of his work for the Rising also know and approve of him and Alin gives him hope for the future.
Before he leaves, Val makes sure Alin will be too exhausted to come wave him goodbye.
Their bodies pressed close together in the confines of the closet, Val wonders if Alin's really trying to start something with a pair of Guards only one sound away.
Val won't marry to increase the family fortune, but he doesn't see anything wrong in sleeping with women in exchange for money; being called 'whore' he can stand, being called 'husband' would drive him insane.
With Alin by his side, it's both harder and easier to remember their lives are in constant danger.
"If I died before you, I'd come back as a Wraith to haunt you," Val says - Alin, drowsy, mumbles something about his doubting a Wraith would be any good at keeping him warm at night and how he, for one, is none too eager to discover if it's possible to have sex with one.
"You should read this," Alin tells him, dumping a book on his desk - Val sighs and kisses his earlier plans for the evening goodbye; one of these days, he's going to drag Alin along with him to some wild party, but not today.
Rubbing at his eyes and trying to stay awake enough to look like he's paying attention, Val wryly realizes the effects of a night of studying are much the same as those of a night of celebrating.
"You can come back when you're over this silly notion of yours," his grandmother tells him, face a grimace - Val makes no reply, knowing full well when he'll be ready to tell her he's no longer in love with Alin Ostin.
Val knows all the bawdy songs there are, but Alin is the one singing when they're posing as a harmless pair of drunkards; as Alin put it: their goal is to be allowed to pass, not to be picked up for an evening's entertainment.
"I want to stay the night," Alin says and Val blinks, then smiles, then nods.
Alin screams again and Val leans against the wall, trembling; if Alin would yell at them to stop, Val knows he'd be breaking down the door now, but Alin's asked him to wait here, until it's over and Val tells himself it's all he can do for Alin now.
Val can't explain his gift; it's simply there, in his head, and while the teachers at Longriding were able to prove its accuracy, they weren't able to teach him how to explain it in simple terms to others - Gorynel Desse, when Val's gift is mentioned looks pleased and comments he and Alin will make a good pair (and had it come from anyone else, Val would have told them he knew that already).
"You can wash my back," Alin offers with a sigh, and Val grins, knowing all has been forgiven - the tubs in this place weren't really intended for more than one person, but Alin is flexible and Val isn't one to complain about a few bruises, if he got them for a noble cause.
"Hurts," Alin whispers, hands clutching the blanket and Val goes cold; there's not a mark on Alin anywhere, no wound or obvious sign of illness - although it's clear to anyone Alin is suffering, Val can't even begin to see what hurts him, let alone fix it.
While the teacher drones on about something someone did a long time ago, Val writes 'I love you,' on a note and has it passed on to Alin unnoticedly.
"True power lies in not wielding it," Gorynel Desse tells him, "the best swordsman never has any need to draw his sword," - he thrusts, Val parries, wincing as still-sore muscles protest; last night, making love in the too-small bathtub seemed a good idea, but Desse would probably tell him that true love means not making it, and this morning, Val thinks he might almost see how that might be true.
"Is this young woman bothering you, domni?" Val asked, sparing the woman who had her hands on Alin's thigh a flat, unfriendly look - Alin looked disgruntled for a moment, then opened and closed his mouth as Val smugly pulled up a chair and arranged his skirts to sit down as a Blooded lady would.
Before he met Val, Alin rarely prayed to the Saint for which he had been named; as Alilen was patron to birds, singers and crazy people, Alin did not see much merit in drawing his attention - after he met Val though, Alin changed his mind; Val was nothing if not crazy.
Alin's going to bitch at him for getting the back of his shirt all dirty, Val knows, but for now, it's a good thing the wall's there, to keep them from falling over and ruining their trousers as well.
They get soaked in the rain and take shelter in some abandoned building, where they hang their wet clothes to dry and make love on the blanket that's merely a little moist in comparison.
Some people study to get good grades or because they enjoy it; Val studies to impress his cousin.
Val gets sick after the first time he's killed someone - by the third time, he's gotten the hang of it, thinking of it not as 'them or him' but rather as 'them or Alin'; it's never a hard choice or one he needs to feel uncomfortable about.
When Alin protests he isn't hungry, Val feeds him by-then-lukewarm soup spoon by spoon.
Lilen knows true, all-encompassing love when she sees it, and even as she wishes them well and gives Valirion the stern mother's speech he expects, her heart aches for him and Alin.
"Valirion Maurgen - I can't believe you don't remember me," Val says, trying to look charming and harmless and like anything Alin Ostin might want a favorite cousin of his to look like - Alin shrugs, almost closes the door, then sighs and steps aside to let him in, his expression telling Val at least part of his reputation has preceded him.