“Well,” Micum said gruffly from his seat on the horse, and knocked a fist against his thigh. “I need to give you a good thumping, and to squeeze the life out of you as well. But I can’t do that from horseback and I can’t get down while I’m here. Ground’s too unstable.”
“Right,” Seregil agreed, and drew a wet arm over his eyes. He said, face still covered, “Back to Watermead, then?”
Alec heard the shake in his voice, and instinctively drew him closer, so their bodies touched warmly, side to side, hip to hip, thigh to thigh.
Back to Watermead. Watermead, and everyone there. Everything Seregil had set aside so carefully and left so deliberately, never expecting to return to any of them ever again. Alec drew a deep, shuddering breath, struck anew with fear and fury and pain. Seregil was a warm weight against him, and Alec wanted to sneak a hand inside his tunic, feel the heart beating beneath it. He didn’t want to let him go.
“I, uh, left my saddle behind,” he said, aiming for teasing lightness and landing, he thought, somewhere in the vicinity of desperation instead. He stared down at the river-worn rocks, the sodden tips of their boots. “Can I ride double with you?”
Seregil tilted his head, then caught Alec’s chin, tugging it over to look him in the eye. His eyes were still set above bruised hollows, were still drawn tight with pain, but they were bright and alert and looked at Alec, instead of through him.
“I won’t go tearing off again, talí,” he promised softly. “You have my word.” He summoned up another smile. “I can get the dagger out and swear the oath, if you like.”
But it wasn’t that. Not entirely. It wasn’t as rational as that. Alec knew, somehow, that Seregil’s outburst and angry tears had lanced the wound and drained the infection from in his heart as surely as Nysander had once drained the cursed skin over it. But Alec still couldn’t stand the idea of letting Seregil go, not yet. The moment of waking and finding Seregil gone, finding those fucking papers, still ached in his belly like a gut wound.
“No. I know you won’t,” Alec said, and dipped his head to touch Seregil’s shoulder, breathing in the familiar scent of him, and closed his eyes. Morning light fell warm around them, the last heat of a dying summer. Autumn, with winter far off yet, but he still felt shivers of icy cold in his bones. It was stupid to still be terrified, with Seregil right here, in his arms and looking at him with more life in his eyes than he’d had in weeks.
A few moments passed with only the sound of birdsong and water, then Micum cleared his throat. “I’ll go on ahead with Patch, shall I? Let the house know you’re coming back. Come here, you old nag, get on with you.”
“Try offering her your tack, if she gets fussy,” Alec croaked, not lifting his head, and felt Seregil’s arm come around his shoulder, fingers tangling in the hair at the back of his neck.
“You spoil that horse,” Seregil chided softly, sounding hopelessly fond, but he didn’t move to get up. Low words with Micum were exchanged, then a few short curses and a disgruntled whinny from Patch, before the sounds of two sets of hooves took off through the gravel.
“Alec. Alec, fuck, I’m sorry,” Seregil said into Alec’s hair after a long moment, his fingers combing deftly through Alec’s hair, the otters playing in the pond in the new silence that had fallen. “I never wanted to hurt you. Never you. I’m an ass. I wasn’t thinking, really—selfish, stupid—”
“I know,” Alec said, and found himself smiling when Seregil gave him a startled, almost indignant look, as though he was affronted despite himself. Alec leaned in and kissed the pulse at Seregil’s neck, and felt it beat hard against his lips as Seregil drew in a sudden breath. “What, you thought I was going to argue? But you were hurting. I know, talí.” He shook himself, getting to his feet, and then looked down at Seregil, who looked back up at him. “I knew. I just—I didn’t know what to do.”
“Should have kicked my ass and kissed it better sooner,” Seregil said with a stab at his old dryness, and then when he saw Alec’s face said, “Fuck, no—no, Alec. There was nothing you could have done, I promise. I had to work it out on my own, I think, as stupidly and selfishly as possible. As usual. If it helps,” he said, looking up at Alec with such raw pain in his eyes that it might have been easier to take an axe to the chest than keep standing beneath its weight. “I don’t think… I don’t know that I could have gone through with it. I didn’t have the—the strength, the will. I don’t know. I don’t know how long I’d been sitting there, when you came charging up.” He laughed, hollowly. “You’ve every right to be angry at me. And I can’t—I can’t promise that I’ll be the same person I used to be before. But I’ll try.”
Alec thought of waking to Seregil in furs, bundled off to some mission that left him bleeding. Of Seregil sending him away, his face smudged with ashes. Of waking to an empty bed, cold sheets and dread.
“You won’t leave me again,” he said, a promise to Seregil and to himself.
“Never in life, not if I can help it,” Seregil swore, his eyes intent on Alec’s. Alec stared back, weighing and wanting and hoping, then shoved back his own damp hair, taking deep calming breaths. He believed Seregil. He had to.
“Well...” He summoned up a smile and was surprised to find it was a real one, warm and hopeful. “Good. I'm still angry, to be honest, but I think I’ll keep you anyway.” He hesitated, inexplicably shy. They’d already kissed. Seregil had said—lovers—that he wanted Alec. But then he’d admitted, too, what a mess he was. Alec wouldn’t hold him to that sort of offer made under duress. “I mean—if you’ll have me.”
“If I’ll have you—” Seregil spluttered, then he huffed out a breath that was almost a laugh. “Well. You’re a madman, but I suppose if I absolutely must.”
Sitting on the log in the dapples of sunlight, Seregil looked thin and wretched, scraggles of wet hair dripping over his forehead, but there was a tentative smile curling his lips. Like Rhíminee harbor coming into view that first time, after that desperate, impossible journey. Like a torch over a dark, fathoms-deep canal, and suddenly even this short distance between them was too much. Alec held out a hand.
Then, unexpectedly, found himself outright grinning when Seregil tentatively took it and immediately made a disgruntled, wet-cat face.
“It’ll take months to undo this,” he scolded automatically, turning Alec’s palm over and tracing the calluses with a light finger, mock-glaring up at him from beneath wet lashes. Alec shivered, then blinked, nonplussed. He’s just touching your hand, he’s touched more than that before and now’s not the time, he scolded himself firmly. Wounds like Seregil’s took months, years to heal. They’d have months to work out the new heat between them, and sex wasn’t that important; he’d give it up for life just to see Seregil grumbling at him over gloves again.
And if Alec kept reaching out and touching, reassuring himself that Seregil was still there – well. Surely a small amount of clinginess was acceptable, under the circumstances.
The ride back was uncomfortable, wet and chafing, but Alec still reveled in every moment of it: Seregil’s arms around his waist, the way he shifted against Alec, complaining lightly at the damp and the non-existent chill. Alec felt buoyant, truly hopeful for the first time in weeks. Seregil chattering idly away behind him, a little muted, not nearly as brash and brilliant as he would have been in months past — but it was Seregil. Seregil, snug against his back, with his hands on Alec’s hips.
“Do you remember the last time we rode like this?” Alec asked without thinking, and then blushed.
“No?” Seregil said questioningly, and there was a pause as he drummed his fingers against Alec’s belt, obviously thinking back. Then with a sudden hoarse laugh he said, “Wait! After your first trip to the Street of Lights, wasn’t it? After we conned the horse leech, and before Rythel… Bilairy’s balls, but that seems years ago now.” His voice had tilted slightly back into melancholy, and Alec, despite the flames in his cheeks, forced himself to go on.
“I think that was the first time — well. The first time I thought of you like that.”
A moment of silence, and then slim fingers, which had been tucked perfunctorily at his belt, slid around to his belly and a narrow chin found his shoulder. “Oh? ‘Like that?’” Seregil asked, voice hot again Alec’s cheek. He sounded, fuck. He sounded both like himself again and completely different, all at once. Teasing and wicked in a way that had never, ever been aimed directly at Alec. Maybe it wouldn’t be months after all. “Why, Alec, whatever do you mean?”
“You know what I mean,” Alec grumped, delighted and flustered, and took a hand off the reins to catch Seregil’s fingers before they could get both of them into trouble — Alec was trying to ride, and they’d be back amongst the Cavishes, soon. “Like, well.” He didn’t have the words for it. “Like. I wanted to be the one you...”
“Took to bed?” His voice a little dubious, but hopeful, Seregil had somehow squirmed even closer against Alec’s back. There were layers and layers of clothes between them, but Alec still felt naked.
“No! I mean, yes, though I didn’t realize it then. But. I was, I read that song of yours, back at the Cockerel, and—” he remembered the restlessness he’d felt, the disgruntled discontent, and felt himself go hotter still. “Oh damn, I was jealous, wasn’t I?” he realized. “Of your, um. The boy you wrote it for.”
“What?” Seregil said, sounding near as boggled as he had when he’d been faux-drunkenly bellowing for a horse leech at smith’s window.
“You know,” Alec insisted, embarrassed but too enthralled with Seregil’s attention to stop now. “The one with the green eyes.”
“Green—you were jealous of Wythrin?” Seregil squawked, and then a hand grabbed Alec’s chin and turned his head around at a near impossible angle. Alec had never been kissed by someone who was laughing into his mouth as they did it. He melted into it, despite his neck twinging and the horse pulling at the reins, and the last of the lingering chill of fear in his bones eased. “Alec. Alec! Mind the horse,” Seregil laughed. Alec took another kiss, this one deeper and wetter, then turned back to the trail, feeling lighter than he had in months.
“I even—” he said brightly, knowing he’d pay for it later, and maybe even—maybe hoping he would. “Hell, I picked the girl, Myrhichia, you remember?”
“Oh, I remember, but for future reference, talí, bringing up past bedmates after that sort of kiss isn’t really—”
“She looked like you,” Alec blurted out, interrupting Seregil’s teasing tone. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then Alec shivered when Seregil kissed the back of his neck, open-mouthed and hot and then he jerked on the reins when he felt a wet curl of tongue.
“Alec, you—” A delicious nuzzle, then Seregil continued. “You constantly surprise me. Do you know what I was thinking when I went to the Street of Lights that afternoon?”
“I know what you were thinking,” Alec said, and kicked Cyrnil into a quicker gait. He could see the smoke of Watermead now, and he felt a little proud that the waver in Seregil’s voice he’d heard earlier was gone, replaced by a curling lilt of mischief and delight. “I found your sketches. And your lyrics. Heard them, too.”
“I was thinking how badly I wanted it to be you,” Seregil said, voice rich and low. “Your hair against my pillow, even though I knew I could never have you.”
“Well,” Alec croaked, and then swallowed as they passed the gates and came up to the bustle of the entire household, glaring and all talking at once up at them. Illia was chattering a mile a minute, and Kari was glaring, Gherin in her arms and wailing. The hounds had joined in, and it was a cacophonous, wonderful welcome. “You can have me. You do,” Alec said, not sure Seregil could hear it above the din.
“Talí, I can never decide whether you have the best or the worst timing in the world,” Seregil said lowly, rubbing his cheek against Alec’s throat a last time before he swung off the horse.
Alec suffered himself to be separated from Seregil momentarily as the household closed in around them. Kari settled a protesting Gherin in Alec’s arms, which cooled his ardor considerably, and then engulfed Seregil in a hug. She pulled back and looked in his face, cheeks wet and said thickly, “There. There you are, at last.”
“Kari—” Seregil tried, voice wobbling again.
“None of that!” she snapped, wiping at her eyes and drawing Seregil indoors with her. “We’ve set a fine table for breakfast, and now you’ll actually eat it, won’t you? Maker’s Mercy, you’re not but skin and bone. Alec could break you in two at the moment.” She sent Alec a saucy wink and he felt himself go bright red all over again as Seregil burst into laughter. By the Four, Micum had told her about the kiss. Alec hadn’t really factored that into his tentative dream-like plans, his impossible hopes – they’d be in Micum’s house, in his guest bed.
“To say nothing of what will happen when I give him the walloping he’s owed,” Micum growled, but his eyes were twinkling and the gentle bear-hug he swung Seregil in belied the threat.
“Lay off, lay off, old man,” Seregil said, still smiling crookedly, and aimed a soft punch at Micum’s belly. “I’m spoken for.”
Alec, cheeks still flaming, darted in and took Seregil’s hand. Seregil shot him a delighted look and squeezed it.
He realized that some shameless part of him wanted to drag Seregil off to bed immediately, right now, even in front of all the knowing eyes. Even knowing Seregil was still hurt, deep inside. Just like before, with the wooden disk, he’d need time to heal. No, Alec told himself firmly, and consoled himself with dragging Seregil to the table instead. Watching him eat with a real appetite was wonderful enough to settle the nerves in Alec’s belly, make him believe that Seregil really was here with them.
He spent the whole of the day watching Seregil, just as he had for the past horrible, worried weeks, but now he cataloged the differences. Seregil still had moments — of course he did — where he seemed to look inward, not seeing any of the room before him, miserable and pale. But they didn’t last. He played with Illia, and rocked the new baby, cooing at him in Aurënfaie, and joked with Micum.
And tormented Alec in the simplest, most nerve-wracking ways.
He licked the honey-spoon clean at breakfast. Absently at first, but then he noticed Alec’s expression and his own turned from melancholy to joyfully devious. Alec would have protested – the children were far too young to notice, but Micum and Kari certainly weren’t, nor Arna and Ranil, and all of them smirked gleefully at Alec as he fumbled the sugar pot and spilled the cream.
It was a continuous torture — partially his own fault. Alec wanted nothing more than to touch Seregil, reassure himself with the pulse at Seregil's wrist, the warmth of his side against Alec’s, and Seregil delightedly took advantage. After the third time Alec surreptitiously touched the thin skin of his inner arm, Seregil scowled, fingers rubbing at the calluses on Alec’s hands before he begged a tin of salve from Kari and began – O Illior – rubbing it in with strong, deft fingers.
Nothing he hadn’t done before, when they’d first moved into the house at Wheel Street, but now—Alec swallowed and tried to control his trembling.
Seregil caught his hand and kissed the tips of his fingers, tongue flickering out so briefly it might have been imagined, and Alec sweated enough to feel he might need a change of tunic, or a bath. He nuzzled Alec’s cheek whenever Alec pressed close, breath hot on Alec’s ear.
“Talí,” Alec snapped finally, when the company was temporarily transfixed by the babe in Kari’s arms. “Stop teasing me.”
“Teasing? Who, me?” Seregil retorted, all feigned innocence, and then when Alec glared, confessed, “I just—it’s like I’ve been asleep. I can’t believe I could have been touching you all I liked, all this time, and I—” he fumbled himself into silence, wincing and looking at Alec from beneath his lashes appeasingly. It was so like the Seregil of old when he’d realized he’d aggravated Alec into a snit, that old air of winsome charm, that Alec felt the simmer of confused anger and lust bank and cool.
“You don’t have to make up for it all at once,” Alec complained, throwing an arm over his eyes, then confessed, “And you’re making me—want to do things.”
Seregil beamed. “That may be the best thing I’ve ever heard you say. Say it again. What’s it you want to do? Hm, Alec?”
When Alec raised his arm to glare, he saw Seregil suck his lower lip into his mouth and bite into it, then release it slowly, plump and red and wet. Oh—that was just—he knew Seregil cheated, but Alec didn’t even know the game they were playing yet, not really. A sorceress-spelled evening he could barely remember, and a night with a courtesan who had seemed to have a good enough time laying with him. But then, she was paid to express enjoyment. It didn’t seem enough, when Alec thought of the nebulous, impossible, infinite unknown things he wanted with Seregil.
And more, it wasn’t the time.
“I don’t know!” Alec snapped, at the brink of his endurance, rubbed raw with worry and want. “I don’t know what I want, that’s the problem. And besides, I don’t want to rush you, when you’ve only just—just woken up.” He gave up on surreptitiousness and glanced around the room, saw the Cavishes still entranced by the newest scion, and adjusted himself in his trousers.
Then he glanced back and saw Seregil’s jaw had dropped.
“Rush me—how long have you—Illior, I really have been sleepwalking, haven’t I?” he said, seemingly to himself, and then he closed his eyes. “Alec. You can do anything to me. Right now. At once. The sooner the better. I may—fuck, I may be furious with Nysander, and myself. And damn, it hurts.” He opened his eyes and they were wet. “I’ve lost the only home I had, and even being here… it hurts. But not you. Never you.” Then, unexpectedly, he summoned up a cheerful smirk that bordered on an absolute leer, worthy of Lord Seregil at the lowest brothel. Alec was torn between indignation and delight and a helpless, squirming heat. “I should be more worried about rushing you. I just can’t help myself. Making up for lost time, I suppose.”
But… “Are you sure?” Alec asked, and leaned in and covered Seregil’s mouth with his hand before Seregil could say whatever filthy thing was sparkling behind his still-damp lashes. “I mean it, talí. I can wait. I’d wait forever. Just—don’t rush yourself for me.” He rolled his eyes a little, more at himself than Seregil, now. “I have two hands, after all, don’t I?”
Seregil’s eyes widened, and then he pressed a kiss to the center of Alec’s palm, opened mouthed, and Alec felt completely indecent and unsuited for the company of – of children, at the very least.
He snatched his hand back.
“Alec, Alec, Alec,” Seregil said, rich as good Wolde cloth. “If you were trying to dissuade me, that was not the best tack to take.”
“Seregil, Seregil!” Illia cried, running over with a haphazard armful of Luthas. “Listen! Luthas said his first word, listen!”
“I’ve decided,” Seregil said with a philosophic air, taking possession of the chubby-cheeked toddler. “That you do in fact have the worst timing in the world, Alec. Well, Luthas. Out with it, then! Let’s hear it, little lad.”
“Brof!” Luthas said proudly, beaming all over his round face, curls in his face. He looked for a moment, despite his dark coloring, just like Cilla, beaming over a barrel of apples. “Brofur!” He held a tiny hand out, stretching it across the room, towards Micum with his arms full of Gherin.
Alec watched Seregil’s face melt into something awed and amazed. “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think my timing’s as bad as all that.” He leaned in and kissed Seregil’s cheek, then tousled Luthas’s curls. “I’m glad you’re here for this.”
“Me too, talí. Me too,” Seregil said softly. He stood with Luthas in his arms, and strode across the room, with Luthas laughing and reaching for Gherin again and saying over and over, as best as his young tongue could manage, Brother. Brother, brother, brother. Micum’s face was so creased with smiles you could barely see his eyes, and Kari looked radiant, and Gherin was a wrinkled red miracle of life in her arms. Seregil looked over his shoulder at Alec, who was sitting on the hearth with Illia and smiling so hugely it hurt. “Thank you,” he mouthed. Then narrowed his eyes and smirked. “And I will. Later.”
It was the best and most terrifying promise Alec had ever received. And also, the most inopportune.
“Alec, swing me,” the young mistress of the house commanded. “I want a dance!”
Thinking of corpses and sewers and winter rain, Alec got himself under control and made Illia a bow.
“My lady,” he said, in his best courtly drawl. “I’d be delighted.”
It was hours before the children were to bed, and hours still afterwards spent toasting the new father and mother, before Alec and Seregil finally weaved their way to the guest room, leaning on each other and laughing at nothing and everything. Alec was still bright red at the insinuations Micum and Kari had made as they left the room.
“Don’t wake the little ones,” Micum had called after them, grinning lewdly, and Kari had elbowed him.
“Forget them,” she’d said, still looking wan, if thrilled. “Don’t wake me.”
“What do you say, Sir Alec,” Seregil said, arching an eyebrow before pushing Alec gently to the bed. “Do you think your skill set includes a bit of surreptitious silence?”
“I have no idea,” Alec groaned, but let himself be pushed. “Could you just—just come here.”
“Gladly,” Seregil purred, and settled himself between Alec’s thighs. “Hello, there.”
It was strange, to be nervous and completely sure of himself, all at once. To be thrumming from his toes to his calloused fingertips, but also feel totally at ease.
“I have literally no idea what to do with a man in bed,” he confessed, and dragged Seregil down for a kiss. “None. I just—Seregil, I just want to feel you everywhere.” He got his hands beneath Seregil’s shirt after a brief struggle, then made a low hum of happiness when he finally found skin. Seregil's skin, beneath his fingers.
“I am more than happy to oblige you in that,” Seregil said in between kisses. “And I’m sure, based on past experience, that you’ll soon be surpassing me in skill. Fast learner, such—oh—you’re such a fast learner. Alec, your hands.”
“You’re so thin,” Alec murmured, feeling Seregil’s ribs. He closed his eyes and traced them. He wanted to memorize each one, each scar and divot by touch, as he’d learned the trace of a coin and the feel of metal and locks and picks in the dark.
“Well, insulting me is a good start,” Seregil said, leaning back and narrowing his eyes, then laughed before Alec could stutter an apology. “Joking, Alec, you’re fine. You’re wonderful. I love your hands.” He caught one and brought it back to his mouth for a kiss.
“Oh,” Alec said, heat blooming in his chest. His hips moved against Seregil’s without his conscious direction.
“Such sensitive hands,” Seregil said, and licked the tip of Alec’s index finger, making breathing difficult. “See, another reason to wear—”
“Stop! I’ll wear gloves every day from now on, if you want,” Alec laughed. “Mostly I just wanted to see—if you’d notice. That I wasn’t wearing them.”
“Ah, talí.” Seregil’s eyes lowered briefly. “I didn’t notice much, for a while. I—” Balls, Alec thought, that wasn’t—he hadn’t meant to bring it back up, bring shadows between them. Then Seregil met his gaze again, hot and fond and full of promise. “I’m noticing now.”
And then he took Alec’s finger into his mouth, and did something with his tongue that went straight to Alec’s cock.
“Oh Illior,” Alec gasped. “What are you—why does that feel so good? It’s just my hands!”
“Fingertips,” Seregil said, in a maddeningly familiar lecturing tone. “Are one of the most sensitive parts of the body, Alec, have I taught you nothing?”
Alec’s retort was cut off as Seregil took the entire length of his finger into his mouth, then two.
“Ohhh,” he managed. “Oh, fuck.”
Seregil pulled off and grinned at him, hair falling into his eyes. “And that besides, it’s suggestive, isn’t it? Where else could I put my mouth, mm? Alec. Have you been fellated before?”
“What?” Alec gasped, and found his legs automatically wrapping around Seregil’s waist, pulling him closer. Closer was all he could think. More.
“We’re going to have such fun, you and I,” Seregil said, releasing Alec’s hand and pressing his forehead against Alec’s. “I want to do everything to you. With you. Alec. Alec, do everything with me.”
“I love how you say my name,” Alec said brainlessly – he had so many other things to say to Seregil’s request, but the first thought in his head spilled out instead, and then he was being kissed so soundly he thought he might forget how to make words, like Seregil was drinking the ability to speak or think from his mouth.
“By the Four,” Seregil said against his mouth, both of them panting the same shared air. “I haven’t even gotten your clothes off.”
“Yes,” Alec said at once, inflamed by the idea of it. Skin to skin—that he at least knew something of, and he wanted it desperately. His hands were trained, cleverer than he was at the moment, and made quick work of Seregil’s shirt. “I want, Seregil, please. I just want to feel you.”
“You can, hold off, hold on—you’re like an octopus!” Seregil laughed, flushed and brilliant with it in the candlelight. He stopped for a moment, hands still on his trousers, and stared down at Alec, sprawled on top of the bed. Alec started to sit up, hands outstretched to tackle Seregil’s belt. “Wait a moment, let me savor this. You have no idea how many times I’ve thought of this moment.”
“I have an idea,” Alec said thickly, and Seregil closed his eyes and pressed a hand over his clothed cock.
“Fuck, I don’t think I’ll have to teach you much at all,” he said, then opened his eyes again. “Get naked for me, talí, let me see you.”
Alec scrambled to obey, wriggling gracelessly out of his shirt and trousers, and then went hot all over again at Seregil’s eyes roaming his body.
“My modest Dalnan,” Seregil said hoarsely. “You never let me look, before.”
“It’s all yours,” Alec said, feeling shy and wanton all at once. “Everything I am. I—” he swallowed, and then arched a little on the bed, feeling Seregil’s gaze on him. Even that felt impossibly good, and they weren’t even touching. “You can do more than look.”
Seregil let out a choked cry, then fell on him, and it was insane for a moment; completely, utterly, wordlessly insane. There was so much skin, sliding against his, Seregil’s mouth on his and his hands in Alec’s hair, and Alec thrust up against him helplessly, once, twice, and then his mind went white, his entire body arching like a bowstring with an arrow set to be let loose.
He let out a cry into Seregil’s mouth, low and aching with it, and thrust wetly once more, then fell back to the bed, trembling.
“Shh, shh,” Seregil said, kissing him, his mouth and cheek and jaw. “Fuck yes, Alec.”
“Fuck,” Alec said, and tried to blink himself back into his own body. “I didn’t mean to—ah, damn it.”
“You,” Seregil said, leaning back on an elbow to survey him, flushed and grinning wildly. “Look beautiful debauched. I knew you would.”
“I didn’t mean to—” Alec repeated, hotly embarrassed. “I didn’t want—”
“Oh, this is just the beginning, talí,” Seregil promised, and drew a hand down between their bodies, then raised it wetly between them. He licked at it with red, wicked tongue and Alec made a wordless noise. “The night is young, and so are you. It’s good to take the edge off.” He leaned down to kiss Alec, and Alec rocked up against him, felt Seregil’s hardness sliding slippery against his stomach. “That’s lesson number one,” Seregil hummed, and nipped Alec’s lower lip. A sharp sting of pain that made Alec’s blood stop moving quite so sluggishly, heating him back to attention and alertness with such speed it made him dizzy.
His own cock was twitching again, coming back to life sooner than he’d thought possible.
“You’re going to kill me,” Alec realized dazedly.
“Only in the nicest way,” Seregil promised, kissing him deeply and thoroughly. It felt like fucking—it reminded him of the feeling of it, of plunging into something wet and yielding, but now he was on the reverse of it. “And you’ll wake up in the morning after. Now, let me clean you up.”
“What do you mean—” Alec started to ask, dazed, then felt his eyes roll back in his head. “Seregil.”
“Shh,” Seregil hushed, his head popping back up, his lips wet and gleaming. Alec trembled. “Well, there’s another reason to leave Watermead soon. A wonderful one. Alec, I do believe you might be loud.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Alec grimaced, and then felt his hips rise up against Seregil’s hands, bracketing his thighs. “Fuck.”
“Don’t apologize to me, apologize to Kari in the morning,” Seregil said, smile wicked.
“I don’t even care,” Alec realized, and let his hips do what they wanted, especially when the result was that look on Seregil’s face. “I don’t—care. Seregil, Seregil, please.”
“You make me feel—new,” Seregil gasped, and thrust against him. It was wet and glorious and Alec could feel his entire body trembling with it. “And alive. I want, Alec, I want—”
“Anything,” Alec whispered. “Anything, talí. But we’ve got time. You don’t—oh—you don’t have to, everything, tonight.”
“But I still want—” Seregil said, eyes boring into his. “Aura Elustri, I want so much. Alec, can I fuck you?”
Alec froze for a moment, stunned, then asked, “How?”
Seregil froze too, looking down at him. “Bilairy’s balls, Alec, you’ve spent enough time with sailors and soldiers. You really don’t know?” At Alec’s hot silence, a slow grin spread across his face. “My modest Dalnan,” he crooned again. “We don’t have to, tonight, but let me show you what I mean?”
“I said anything,” Alec protested, feeling a little cross. “And I meant it! But how—it’s not like, with. With a woman…?”
“I was so jealous,” Seregil said, apropos of nothing, sliding back and rustling around in one of his packs. Bereft of warmth and contact, Alec sat up, scowling. “That someone else had you first. Ylinestra, that fucking—” He went silent a moment, shoulders heaving, then looked back over his shoulder, grinning fiercely. “But that didn’t count, did it? Not really.”
“No,” Alec agreed, breath socked out of him as cleanly as though he’d been struck in the stomach. “That didn’t mean anything to me. Or Myhrichia. Not—not like you could. Like you do.”
“Alec,” Seregil said hoarsely, and crawled back across the bed to him. “I should be more patient, I swear I’ll try, but you drive me mad.”
“Glad it’s not just me,” Alec said, summoning his own grin. Seregil met it, and his eyes were impossibly, wonderingly fond. Alec reared up and kissed Seregil, just once, beside one eye, at the thin skin of his temple.
Seregil said something Alec almost understood in Aurënfaie, then again in speech he understood. “I didn’t know what this kind of love was, until you.”
Alec gasped, “Yes. I, oh—Seregil, please, I want—I want—I don’t know.”
“I’ll show you,” Seregil said in a stuttering rush, and his hands trembled on a bottle—some sort of oil, Alec recognized dimly. “Alec, let me—you may not like it, not everyone does, but let me show you—”
“I can’t imagine not liking anything you have to show me,” Alec said honestly, and then Seregil breathed out through his nose and pushed one of Alec’s legs back, baring him.
“Here,” Seregil said, and Alec went hot and embarrassed and wanting, all at once. “Just—relax, talí. Let me in.”
“That’s—really?” Alec gasped, and squirmed a little at the oddness of Seregil’s finger there, tracing him somewhere Alec hadn’t realized was even an intimate place. But it was, somehow. More than being naked, more than anything he’d felt or done before.
“Really, Alec,” Seregil assured him breathlessly. “I’ve done it before—”
“I thought,” Alec said, narrowing his eyes a little in mock-imitation. “It was bad form to bring up others when you’re—oh.”
“That’s it, talí,” Seregil hummed smugly, one finger breaching him, then another, and Alec shivered all over, head back, exposed and undone. “Do you trust me?”
“Stop asking me that,” Alec breathed, and closed his eyes and pressed back against Seregil’s fingers. “Don’t you—oh, that’s—don’t you know?”
“Yes. I do, oh. I do. I don’t deserve it. You’re so beautiful,” Seregil whispered, and kissed his hip. “Nothing’s ever been as—Alec, you’re going to kill me.”
“Never,” Alec managed, and tried to stop rolling his hips. “Please, yes. That’s what I—”
“That’s what you want?” Seregil said tremblingly, finishing his sentence for him, and then, “Because I want to be in you.”
“Yes,” Alec hissed, alight with realization. Yes, that’s what he wanted. Seregil, as close and deep as he could have him. “Be with me, in me. Seregil.”
“Oh fuck,” Seregil said, and when Alec slitted open his eyes, Seregil was staring down at his fingers, sliding into Alec’s body. “I’m dreaming. Is this real?”
“What are you talking about now?” Alec asked despairingly, trying to get Seregil deeper. “Do it.”
“I won’t break.”
“Alec,” Seregil said hoarsely. “Hold on to something, grab the bed, something—”
Alec grabbed Seregil’s shoulders, wanting him. His hands on Seregil, on Seregil’s living flesh, and then—
“Fuck,” he said, shocked, as Seregil’s cock found him, slick and so much more than fingers.
“Exactly,” Seregil gasped. “If you insist—”
Alec rocked up, breathing out and in, each intake and outtake of air somehow miraculous, indescribable. “Seregil.”
“I love,” Seregil said, face contorted – not in agony, Alec had seen that before, this was something else, something just as intense. “How you say my name. Say it again.”
Alec did, raggedly, and then Seregil began to move and Alec’s entire body stopped being a part of his conscious brain. It was just movement, and sweat, and electricity. Magic, sparking through him like lightning, like it was his and his alone. Like he was working magic.
“Alec,” Seregil said, his voice an exultation. “My Alec.”
“Yours,” Alec promised. “Just yours, don’t—don’t stop, oh fuck, what are you doing to me, I don’t, I can’t—” He got a hand free and tried to cover his face, overwhelmed, but Seregil caught it and held it back down to the bed.
Seregil made a wordless noise of praise, and kept moving his hips, and each thrust—Alec could feel every bit of it, like time slowing, like a candle burning inexorably down into a hot puddle of wax.
“Never,” he managed, and felt tears gathering at the corners of his eyes, helplessly. “Never leave me again, don’t go, Seregil, please—”
“Never,” Seregil panted, promised. “Never, never—Alec.”
It wasn’t magical, Alec knew intellectually. It was filthy and slick and loud and wet. Just the two of them, together, moving and sweating. Raw and as deep as any pain he’d ever felt, and better, and more. It felt like magic.
Alec came a second time, thrashing and wild with it, and Seregil kept moving, face screwed up and mouth open. His movements moved Alec’s yielding body, again, and again.
“Don’t stop,” he gasped. “Don’t—I want it—please—”
His fingers digging into Seregil’s back, everything bright and clear as a midwinter day. As the moment before he let go of an arrow, as clean and impossibly simple. That timeless moment when everything faded away but the target before him.
Then Seregil collapsed on top of him, breathing like a drowning man breaching the surface of the waves at last. At last.
“Stay with me,” Alec murmured, not sure whose limbs were whose, only that he was holding on.
“Ah,” Seregil said into his throat, with teeth and tongue. “Do you know, I think I will.”
Everything ached, when he woke in the morning. Toes to fingertips, even his hair. Alec attempted to sit up, made an indignant noise, and abandoned the attempt.
“We’ll have to leave now,” Seregil said into the crook of his shoulder, as Alec cautiously flexed his feet, then his legs. Yes, still there. And how. “Before the Cavishes kick us out. I have some pride left, you know.”
“Hnghk,” Alec said, and tested his arms. Awake, and alive. He found his fingers on Seregil’s lower back, and pressed into the muscle there, and was rewarded by a low grumble. “Mmph. No. They’ll be happy for us.”
“Not that happy, not with a new baby in the house,” Seregil said, yawning hugely. He worried Alec’s shoulder briefly with his teeth, then kissed the red marks left behind. He leaned up with a wincing stretch, then beamed down at Alec, hair more of a mess than Alec had ever seen. “Good morning.” He paused, then tilted his head, looking proud and a little uncertain, all at once. “Isn’t it?”
Dammit, Alec was going to have to actually move.
“Idiot,” Alec growled, and dragged Seregil down for as thorough a kiss as he’d learned to give. He separated reluctantly, wetly, and pressed his forehead to Seregil’s. “Good, very good morning. The best morning.”
“The first morning of the rest of my life,” Seregil said, his voice warming, like the sun coming up. “Sounds pretty good. Come on, let’s go beg forgiveness from the household. You wouldn’t leave me to face them alone, would you?"
"Oh," Alec said, grinning into his pillow as Seregil kissed his shoulder. "Well. I might be able to be persuaded.”
“I’ve taught you too well,” Seregil said, and with a laugh, pressed him back into the bed.