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Insalubrious

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Argus is not a man of many wants. Good food (and lots of it), a happy boyfriend, seven happily living Wielders whose boundaries are adequately respected by all finally peaceful seven races, no more assassins out to kill his niece and her friends…

 And that’s still too much to ask, Argus thinks as he reads over the lines of code: the newest addition will implement 1-minute sweeps of the property’s periphery. It may seem like overkill, but the assassins already know the location of the Wielder House. They will surely not stop at merely throwing poisoned knives. His mouth twists as he remembers poisoned blood pooling onto polished floors as Dorian kept retching. We can’t have people getting along and having wonderful, non-violent lives. Not the races, not the leaders, certainly not the assassins…

The apricot-haired man sighs and grips the edge of the table. The wood is cold against hot palms, solid against shaking wrists.

Mattie could have died, if it weren’t for the Moonborn Wielder’s biology. They all would have died. Sons and daughters, dearly beloved, pawns of kingdoms and scions of communities. There is somebody out there who wants to upset the fragile peace that ties the seven races together, and they will stop at nothing, even when the flesh and bone and hot beating hearts stand before the traitor. For someone, it is not enough that a family loves Sienna for her fiestiness, or a community that respects his highness Nen for his diplomacy. It is not enough to see good, lovable hearts who want to do their best. No, there is someone who wants the Wielders ground into dust, and it is driving Argus mad to know nothing.

Agatha, help me, he thinks as he notices a bug in the code. His sister - Mattie's spitting image - would know what to do. Help me keep Mattie safe. I don’t know if I can do it alone anymore.

 

The Wielder House’s security systems blink before him, pale blue homing beacons in the velveteen darkness that has settled over his office. The tiled floor is cold on his bare feet, chilled by Winter’s frosty kiss. It grounds him, keeping him in place. He breathes in, exhalation puffing up in silky clouds. It is the early morning, yes, but Mattie’s safety depends on these security systems.

Argus hears the approach of padded, soft-slippered feet.

Security risk, his inner Councilman reminds him, time to put your work away.

He closes the security system tab, and turns to meet his lover.

Yet once again, a little voice in his head asks, would it be so bad to let Cyrus in? He is the son of the Basiliean leader, and your boyfriend, and he loves Mattie just as much as he loves you, and you’d trust him with your life.

Argus shoves that voice away. This is his responsibility to shoulder, and he cannot burden others with his woes. He is a member of the Synedrion and entrusted with the care of the Wielders. Cyrus is the personal assistant to Councilwoman Allura, and dealing with the tensions between the races. Argus cannot, in good conscience, burden his boyfriend even more.

If the Wielders can deal with their races, then I can do at least this for them. I can make sure the security is foolproof. I can make sure that no one is a potential security risk or target for the assassins.

"You said you'd take care of yourself," Cyrus says almost accusingly. "Most people don't drop dead from exhaustion when they take care of themselves."

"I haven't gone that far," Argus protests.

Cyrus creeps across the room, carefully keeping his toes in the warm confines of his slippers. "You're starting to worry me, Argus. You can't go on like this." A worried frown crosses the tanned man's brow. "Is something wrong with Mattie?"

“I’m sorry, Cyrus,” Argus says, rubbing his own forehead until stars blink into existence in the periphery of his vision. “A few more updates, I promise.”

His blonde boyfriend sighs, wiry arms wrapping around the barrel of Argus’s chest.

"Argus, if you need any help–"

"Don't worry," the Councilman says, and hopes that it does not sound insecure. "I've got everything I know under control."

For a moment, all Argus feels is the hot hiss of Cyrus's breath in the crook of his own neck. It feels almost safe, but the Synedrion training in him warns, this cannot last forever. There are assassins, and Mattie is a target, and soon Cyrus might be one as well.

Cyrus rests his head in the small of Argus’s back. “Come to bed soon, okay?”

"Got it." Argus turns his head to plop a kiss on his boyfriend's forehead. "I promise."