The castle gardens were a glistening veil of twilight. Constellations swirled and shimmered in the amorous darkness above; the silvery moon reflected it's serene midnight glow upon everything that fell in sight of it.
Beds of roses were enchanted with opalescent beads of dew that appeared like frozen blood upon delicate petals; spider webs were glistening with crystallised ice. Freshly-fallen snow blanketed the ground. Everything in the gardens had been touched by winter, and though many may have considered it a cold misfortune, Anduin thought it was quite beautiful.
His footfalls were soundless on the stone pathways that wound and twisted through the flowers and shrubbery; a heavy cape thick with wolves fur kept the cold from seeping into his clothing. His breath frosted on the still air as he tucked a few loose strands of golden hair behind his ear and made his way into the heart of the garden.
It was there that he would spend a great amount of his time, in the dead of the night when sleep was elusive and his thoughts were clouded. Even as a child, he would have slipped away in the night to find comfort in the gardens. He had always wondered if his father knew about this; if he had, he never spoke of it.
Walking through the gardens, Anduin was used to hearing the occasional clatter of steel armour at each turn, where soldiers would be stationed around different points to ensure no trespassers would find their way into the castle.
He had always felt regretful that they must stand through such cold and bitter nights for hours on end, even if it was their duty.
When he was a boy, Anduin would persuade his father to allow him to bring them pots of briarthorn tea and bread with elderflower jam, cheese and biscuits. He would smile and chat with them until he was whisked away by nobles that thought he had strayed from the castle unknowingly.
Varian always proved himself tricky to dissuade; he thought it unruly to see the young prince running off to service the men that were supposed to be nothing more than dutiful guards that kept watch for trouble, but Anduin's bright eyes and kind smile showed little room for impotence, and eventually, Varian allowed it.
Even now, as king, Anduin would send servants out to the gardens with morsels, ensuring that they were well looked after. Perhaps his father saw his soldiers as nothing more than weapons to command, but Anduin had learned each of their names; their faces. He cared for them.
''Prince Anduin, sometimes I do worry that you are too soft to wear your kingdom's crown.''
Anduin flinched. That was odd.
The thought surfaced itself forcefully, as if it weren't of his own conation. He hadn't heard from Wrathion in years. There was little point in hanging on by the threads of his memory, but still...
Before his mind could drift any further down that line of thought, he was drawn back suddenly by a certain absence that caught him off-guard.
The gardens were completely silent.
There was no clatter of armour, no restless shifting, no occasional cough or yawn from a nearby guard. There was only the unnerving silence that had fallen over the castle gardens.
Anduin listened, aware of the steel shortsword resting at his hip, below his cape. Should he be faced with an attacker, he highly doubted that what may as well be considered a child's weapon would do any amount of significant damage, however...
Something stirred in the shrubbery. Something thick and full of warning. Where were the guards?
Slowly, Anduin took a few careful steps towards the bushes, hand resting at the hilt of his blade. A strong, metallic scent carried through the air, and Anduin almost flinched at the sudden sound of pained wincing, and then, a voice.
Anduin's eyes widened and he froze. He knew that voice. That unmistakable, silky voice that was so choked with pain that Anduin could barely stand to listen... and before he had time to think, fervent red eyes were locked to his own with deliberation, and Wrathion staggered forwards, clutching his ribcage.
Anduin was at a loss for words. His mouth fell open, but not a word left him. He saw the blood. He saw it spilling onto the freshly-fallen snow. He saw how sickly the dragon looked. His heart sank.
~ * ~
''All that I am saying is that we cannot be sure that the Horde haven't already sent out their spies. They could be in the city as we speak!''
Anduin Wrynn, king of Stormwind, took a deep breath, flexed his jaw, and said a silent prayer to the Light for patience. Even the smallest amount will do.
This had been going on for hours. Hours. Just as the morning sun had cast it's warm amber glow across the city, a whirlwind of diplomats and representatives from all across the Eastern Kingdoms and even Kalimdor had shown up, just bursting to have their say in the political matters concerning the Alliance.
And of course, these were very important affairs. Immensely so, given the recent push from Horde forces to infiltrate and aggress every Alliance settlement they could. It was tiresome. Tiresome to be in the war room more than he was anywhere else. Tiresome to make such dull decisions. Tiresome to wear a crown of gold that demanded constant attention. King, king king. How can something so small weigh so much?
Genn wasn't helping. Anduin supposed it really was partially his own fault. The Gilnean king's fury did have some basis. Bringing an injured dragon -- a black dragon, reputed as repeatedly untrustworthy -- into the castle; into the very heart of the Alliance, was sure to have some negative affect.
It definitely didn't bring any favour to the young king from his mentor. Not one bit.
For the most part, Genn had calmed down. He only scowled half as much as he had at the beginning, and managed to keep his temper in check relatively well... mostly. The night Anduin had carried Wrathion's unconscious, ghostly body into the infirmary, calling a dozen priests at once without any explanation, Genn had made the great Cataclysm itself seem like a sunny spell.
He was furious.
And Anduin had to hand it to the man -- he had never, ever witnessed someone capable of so much rage that didn't once act on it. His self-control was admirable. Anduin didn't dare comment on it, however. That might have been what would have tipped him. What terrible irony that would have been.
Wrathion, on the other hand, remained in the infirmary, under constant care from several priests that, Anduin believed, weren't in the least bit happy to be taking care of a black dragon. Anduin wasn't, either, but he knew that if he didn't at least try, the dragon would die, and despite the wedge that had came between the two, he still cared very much for Wrathion.
Even if, all he could think about all morning had been punching the dragon flat in the nose. Perhaps Genn's ire was rubbing off on him. The thought blossomed a smile. He couldn't help it.
''Preposterous!'' Genn snarled, voice rough with guarded tension. ''No spy would be able to pass the magical wards set in place! We would know if there was scum walking freely in the city, even if it was slinking around in the shadows!''
Genn's outburst drew Anduin back to the present. Politics. They bicker like children. Anduin's smile faded as he chided himself quietly. I can't start thinking like that. What in Light's name has gotten into me? We are at war. This is no game.
''It is still a possibility,'' reminded one of the representatives of Ironforge. ''We cannot take our chances. Perhaps we need contact the Kirin Tor--''
''And just how would the Kirin Tor's involvement benefit us? They will have no interest in this war. Involving them would only cause more problems for all of us!'' cried one of the Darnassian representatives.
''Is it not worth the effort, at least? We will need all the help we can find. This is no light matter. Surely you are aware of that.''
''We will not beg for alliances with those who do not fight for our cause naturally!'' Genn snarled. Anduin sighed. This is disasterous.
''And what of our King? What does he have to say in this matter?''
The attention of every ambassador, including a rather fowl-tempered Genn, turned to look at the young king expectantly. Anduin considered, pensive for a long moment. ''We cannot offer out our allegiance so freely.'' Genn nodded. ''But we also cannot afford to be captious, either.'' He ran a hand through his golden hair, sighing softly. ''There is little the Kirin Tor can do. They are mages, scholars -- not soldiers. Besides, they are a neutral faction. They will refuse to partake in this war. However... however, it may be worth contacting them to request new wards put in place, just in case.
If there is a possibility of spies in the city, then our discretion is limited. Even here.''
''You are right, of course, your majesty. But I cannot help feeling a slight contradiction in your words, if anything.''
''Meaning?'' There was a rising tension in the air, now, and a look of dread crossed Genn's features.
''Well, rumour has it that the prince of the black dragonflight -- Wrathion -- is here, in Stormwind; this very minute.''
There was an eruption of muttered whispers of outrage and shock; Anduin froze. He understood the risks that having Wrathion in the castle would pose, of course, but he didn't imagine that anyone would have found out about it.
Desperately, he looked to Genn, who was pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers, far beyond his reach.
''Wrathion is here? In Stormwind? And it hasn't at all crossed your mind that he may be the spy?''
''He is untrustworthy. That is not questionable. That is fact.''
''Now, hold on just a moment--''
''What in Light's name were you thinking in bringing him here? What is the meaning of this?''
''You have been hesitant to disclose any information about the dragon, which only worsens our suspicions. Are you aware that he poses a threat to the Alliance?''
''How do we know that Wrathion isn't one of the Horde's spies? It is the most likely explanation. I can only wonder why our king would allow something like this to--''
''Enough!'' Genn's fist came down hard on the wooden table, demanding silence. The wave of chattering and anxious whispering subsided at once, and everyone gaped at the Gilnean king. ''This is not what we are here to discuss! I will not tolerate and disrespect to our king, and--''
''It is alright, Genn.'' Anduin forced a smile, gathering his composure. Leave a band of ambassadors to discuss politics and they'll argue themselves into their graves. You must always remember to exercise control in a room filled with political squabble. ''Wrathion has no involvement in this war. I highly doubt that he is even aware of our circumstances. I will not impart any information on his behalf, and I ask that any further suspicions be laid to rest, or at the very least, do not leave this war room. Now, I would like to--''
With the disarray and arguing, no one had noticed when Wrathion sauntered into the war room, smug as ever. How he got past the guards stationed outside the room was amiss on Anduin, but it didn't stop him jumping to his feet, unaware of the absurd expressions from the others. ''Anduin Wrynn.'' Wrathion bowed dramatically in a swish of silk, an impish smile on his face. ''It has been too long, my friend.''
Anduin stood there, glaring at the dragon. Genn was rising to his feet, cautiously, wondering where the hell the guards were just as everyone else, who erupted into a flurry of disapproval.
Wrathion crossed the room, with the audacity to try and embrace Anduin in front of the entire war room. Genn was already by Anduin's side, his arm crossing over Anduin protectively. ''Remember your place, whelp.''
Wrathion smiled, but he didn't look away from Anduin. He raised a hand, taloned fingers brushing the king's cheek with an intimacy that set Anduin's skin afire. ''Oh? Have I been so harshly rejected already? Interesting... and here I was, coming to give my insight into the Horde's plans.
He knows something? Or is he only saying that? Always hard to tell. ''Now is not a good time,'' Anduin countered, firmly. ''You can't just waltz into a private meeting whenever you wish, Wrathion.''
''Hmph. Forgive me, I had expected a warmer welcome than this.''
''You expect reverence after the stunt you have just pulled? You are expecting far too much,'' Gen spat indignantly.
Wrathion did look up this time, almost lazily. ''Does this mutt speak for you, Anduin? Have you lost your voice?''
''Do not test my patience,'' Genn snarled, starting towards Wrathion until Anduin placed a hand upon his shoulder to stop him.
''Genn, it is alright.'' He turned to Wrathion, frowning. I hope you realise the damage you have done. ''It would be better for you to leave, Wrathion.''
Wrathion flinched, eyes narrowed. ''If that is what the king wishes,'' he mocked coldly, ''then by all means.''
He turned and stormed off, barely leaving the heavy doors on their hinges as he went. If he doesn't burn down the entire castle, it will be a miracle.
Genn, a mixture of furious and mortified, turned to address the ambassadors that had been watching the entire ordeal as though it were cinematic. ''Not a word of this is to leave this room. I trust I do not need to tell any of you what will happen should that be the case. I would assume you to know better. In the meantime, I will request audience elsewhere. This discussion is not yet over.''
Within a matter of minutes, the room was emptied and Genn took a deep breath, running a hand through greying hair. He turned to Anduin, unsure whether he was going to scold him or comfort him, but found that he was the only person standing in the war room.
Anduin was gone.
Ire pricked his veins, running and pulsing beneath his skin like a scarlet thread; his jaw clenched painfully as he stormed the corridors in an aimless search for the dragon. As he had expected, Wrathion was not awaiting him outside the meeting room. He had vanished into thin air, just as suddenly as he had appeared in the castle in the first place. He was, if Anduin's guessing was at all accurate - and he was certain it was, sulking somewhere in the castle, intent on blustering forth his infallible temper.
How dare he.
How dare he decide it acceptable to... to...
Anduin paused, his fury momentarily reigned in. There hadn't been a guard in sight. That was odd. He didn't like that.
Slowly, perceptively, he glanced each way along the corridor, trying to find some sense of it all, when the metal clanking of armour began to resonate throughout, reverberating off the walls. Anduin waited, rooted to the spot, as the guard came flying around the corner, an unmistakable look of frustration stamped over his sharp features. ''Your Majesty-'' he began, but managed not to get a word further.
''Where is he?''
Caught unawares, the guard glared at him for a moment, his breath harsh and rapid. He straightened up, picking up Anduin's line of thought, and explained, ''He insisted on awaiting your arrival, Your Majesty. In... in your...''
''In my what?''
''In your private chambers, Your Majesty.''
''What?'' Anduin tried and failed to keep the irritation from his voice. His knuckles had turned white. ''And you allowed him?''
The guard winced. ''No, Your Majesty, although he did threaten to set your room ablaze should we enter. I... we decided it be wiser to await your orders first.''
Anduin ground his teeth; hard. ''He threatened to set fire to my...-'' he broke it off with a sigh, running a hand through his hair. His thoughts circled. ''Very well. Thank you for notifying me.''
Sure enough, as he followed suit of the guard, he came around the corner to find a small cluster of soldiers waiting around impatiently. The mortification was overwhelming. As they turned to him for instruction, he held up a hand, forcing a weak smile. ''It is quite alright. I will handle this alone. You're dismissed.''
A fleeting hesitance passed over each guard's expression, though none wished to argue with their King, and as such, they each saluted and left, allowed Anduin to face Wrathion alone.
Upon entering his private chambers, he paused in the doorway to see the dragon lounged over his cream chaise by the fire, eyes half-lidded. He waved his wrist lazily in the King's direction, a playful smirk dancing on his lips. ''Ah, there he is,'' Wrathion exclaimed, swinging his legs over, onto the floor, and bowing dramatically in a swish of silk. ''The King himself, gracing me with his presence at last. I was beginning to think you wouldn't show.'' Anduin mentally scowled.
''I thought you were dead.''
''Dead?'' The dragon snorted. ''As always, you underestimate me, my King...''
''Almost.'' Anduin's jaw tensed. ''You vanished. For two years. Return without explanation. What am I to do?''
''Ah, time does not move as you may think, Anduin. Not for me.'' He paused to lean against the mantle, watching the flames flicker aimlessly in the fireplace. His eyes were the same colour. ''Look. What do you see?''
Reluctantly, Anduin allowed himself to be drawn towards the dragon, following his gaze. ''Fire. What do you...'' He sighed, shaking his head in impatience. ''I don't understand what you're trying to say-''
''I see opportunity. Endless opportunity, laid out for the both of us alone.'' He paused, and it was slight, but meaningful. Embers danced around the fireplace, glowing softly. ''I searched... for quite some time. More than I care to admit, until I found a way to come to you. It wasn't easy. I knew it wouldn't be, even then...''
Anduin frowned, watching the dragon's expression soften just at touch as he lost himself to his own thoughts. Anduin dared not press. He knew better. Even now. ''I don't understand,'' he said, softly.
''Yes, I know that. I do not expect you to.'' He lifted his gaze from the flames, his hellfire eyes meeting Anduin's, and gave him a hard look. ''And it does not matter. I am here, and that is only the beginning.''
As always, where Wrathion was concerned, Anduin's frustrations often unravelled themselves, and curiosity took their place. ''When you came here... you were almost...'' His brows furrowed. ''Light, what happened to you?'' he asked in a whisper.
Wrathion looked away, dropping his gaze to the flames once more, watching them with a childlike wonder. They flickered in annoyance. ''That is... a story for another time.''
Unsatisfied, Anduin opened his mouth to persist, but knew not to. It was laughable, should he truly think about it. A king treading carefully lest he upset a dragon. What would his father think? He brushed the thoughts aside. ''Then... why now?''
''Because,'' Wrathion said simply, ''Now, you need me.''
Anduin frowned. ''And why is that?''
But Wrathion hadn't been listening, turning from the fire to seat himself on the chaise once again, stretching himself out with a contented sigh. He was impervious to Anduin's watching him, instead allowing his eyes to fall shut, his lips parted as he breathed softly.
One eye opened. ''Hm?''
''Why are you here; really?''
A look of irritation passed over the dragon's features, and he grumbled, ''Why must you ask such tiresome questions, Anduin? I wish to rest. It has been a terribly long day, has it not?''
As always, just as quickly as he opened up, he closed himself once again, as though nothing had happened in the first place. Anduin's lips pressed together in a tight line, and he willed himself to keep his temper in check. ''Remember your place,'' he reminded firmly, and the dragon smirked.
''Very good, my King,'' he remarked, sliding his arm beneath his head to support himself. His jewelled earrings glimmered in the firelight. ''You sound just like that infernal yap, Genn.''
The look Anduin gave was murderous.
''Oh, very well,'' Wrathion sighed, rolling his eyes in vague annoyance. ''You are terribly boring, Anduin. Just as I remember.''Without giving the blonde time to respond, he continued, ''I returned quite some time ago, but I was... preoccupied.''
Wrathion raised a brow. ''With your dear friends; the Horde. Terribly unfriendly, as of late, I must say. You cannot half-tell we're at war. I had been minding my own business, and there they went, sauntering right into my path! Caused quite the inconvenience. I paid them no mind. Well... that isn't entirely true.''
The blonde's eyes narrowed in question, and he asked, slowly, ''Wrathion... what did you do?''
''Aha...'' Wrathion was smiling, strangely so, his fangs glistening. ''I used them to my benefit. Overhearing one's conversations isn't all that bad, Anduin. Especially when that conversation is of war.''
There was a pause, and Anduin's voice sharpened. ''You mean to say... you were spying on the Horde?''
Wrathion nodded. ''For a short time, yes. My attention was originally drawn to a titan artifact rumoured to be hidden somewhere in Tirisfal. I... was intent on discovering it for myself.''
''And you thought it a perfectly sane idea to go chasing after it,'' Anduin murmured, watching the flames absently. He sighed, softly, his brows lowered. ''Even with the danger that accompanies.''
''I thought it perfectly reasonable,'' Wrathion countered, his voice taking on a more irritated edge than before. ''If anyone is deserving of such an artifact, it is myself. I'll admit, it was a slightly... reckless decision, and it is no mistake that shall be repeated.'' He reclined with a soft sigh, though his eyes never once left the blonde. ''Moreover, it led to my investigations into the Horde's plans for the oncoming war. I have insight. Information. Useful information... that will greatly benefit the Alliance.''
All of this was spoken almost lazily, and Anduin was silent with deliberation for a few heartbeats, watching the dragon carefully; with suspicion. At last he asked, ''Why help the Alliance?''
The question prompted a soft chuckle from the dragon. ''I think it rather obvious by this point that the Horde do not favour my flight, nor do they hold the barest hint of respect for my name. Whereas,'' and he actually smiled as he spoke, ''I have been shown a great reverence from the Alliance.''
Anduin barely repressed a snort. ''You are an old friend; I helped you as such. My hospitality was my own. Not as a representation of the Alliance. You were an exception. I'm already paying the price of that.''
''Either way,'' Wrathion murmured, and there was a genuine inflection in his voice, Anduin realised, ''You did exactly that; you helped. Now, I am indebted to you.''
The dragon's sincerity startled Anduin into a laugh. ''By your notion, I presume? I can't imagine you would allow yourself to be beholden to another, unless...'' and there was a softness in his voice, covering up thinly veiled tension, ''you had ulterior motives.''
Wrathion feigned annoyance. ''My King, I am wounded to see you insinuate such an offence. My first and foremost concern is that of the Alliance. At least, it is of the present time.'' His smile grew impish. ''That could very well change.''
Anduin frowned. ''You cannot expect my trust so easily, Wrathion. You have not given me reason. Not with all that has happened. Two years may not seem a long time to you, but I have changed greatly.'' A small sigh left his lips as he ran a porcelain hand through golden hair. ''I have obligations now. I am no longer a child. My heart belongs to my people, and as such, I must ensure their safety, above all else. And-''
''And it is within the realm of possibility that I may very well pose a threat to your precious kingdom,'' Wrathion interrupted, voicing Anduin's innermost thoughts with an inherent touch of sarcasm, before uttering a harsh laugh. ''Which is perfectly understandable. However.''
Anduin's brows narrowed in suspicion. ''However?''
''I am withholding vital information; information that you will most certainly require, regarding your greatest enemies.''
''And what is your point?''
''My point, is that I am offering it to you without condition. Should you wish me to leave, then leave I shall. I am no longer weakened as I was when you... found me. I am strong to lead my own path. I can return to my travels, perhaps somewhere that isn't in the direct line of sight of the Horde... it is no bother to me, Anduin Wrynn.'' He glared at the blonde in such a way that ice inched down his spine, and it was all he could manage to hold the dragon's piercing gaze. ''Just say the word, and I will be gone.''
Anduin's thoughts circled. He knew just as Genn would say - just as his father would have said - that this was trouble. That this was of the same mischief as the fae that would lure children from their mother's arms and deep within the forest, never to return. What Wrathion wanted was to lure, and Anduin knew the risk was great.
Which was why, when he heard himself speak before he had a chance to truly think it over, he was astounded with himself.
''Stay, then, but make no mistake; circumstances have changed. We are not as we were, and as such I do not expect you to treat me as such.''
And, in seemingly no time at all, Wrathion had moved from the chaise, and was now kneeling before Anduin, his sharp eyes dancing as the flames in the fire, as he recited, ''Of course, Your Majesty.'' Anduin's jaw set, and he didn't even flinch as the dragon lifted a hand to take his own, pressing a kiss to the blonde's knuckles, his lips lingering just a few moments too long, and uttered so softly that his breath ghosted over the back of his hand, ''As you wish.''
'This is certainly unbecoming of a dragon,'' Anduin remarked with the trace of a smile. From where he was seated -- on the edge of the pond they had stumbled across, his trouser legs rolled up and his boots stacked beside him -- he watched the dragon splash around in the water petulantly. He hadn't an ounce of shame to remove his clothing, with little care of whether they landed. Anduin had been, for the most part, less eager to end up explaining what had happened once they returned to the inn and their clothes were in ruin.
He couldn't deny that the water wasn't inviting, however, especially with how it glistened beneath the warm afternoon sunlight as slivers of amber caught the surface and glimmered. Too did Wrathion; his scales catching the light and shimmering with tones of gold. It was... mesmerizing. Anduin couldn't help but stare, even as the dragon's kohl-rimmed eyes snapped up to meet his own as he innocently enquired, ''How so?''
Cicadas and small birds let off their evening orchestra of sounds as a wave of heat descended on the Jade Forest. Anduin leaned back, using his elbow for support as he reached into his satchel to retrieve a fresh sunfruit, tender and ripe. It was exquisite as he sunk his teeth in, the sweet juices dribbling down his chin. It was times like this that the ache in his leg almost entirely subsided. Sometimes he felt that Wrathion had some unseen ability to provide relief simply from being in his presence. Anduin knew it not to be true, of course, but there was some amount of comfort in the thought.
Wrathion was, Anduin realised, much too immersed with himself most of the time; even now. Dark tousled curls fell in his eyes that surprisingly seemed not to bother him, and beads of water glistened on his caramel skin. He was beautiful; this Anduin could not deny, so much as he wished. He would rather put it down to what he had read of as 'a young man's awakening', which sounded silly and had often made him laugh out of embarrassment, but he knew it to be truth. The last he wanted, however, was for the dragon to know that it was he that had 'awakened' whatever it was that should be awakening in Anduin Wrynn.
It was Wrathion's feigned offence that drew him back to the present. ''I am merely indulging in the delicacies of this exotic continent, my prince. It is disappointing that you are regretful to do the same.'' A smirk curved his lips.
''Regretful?'' Anduin echoed, disbelievingly. ''Not in the slightest. It is only that I cannot imagine Tong being too thrilled to see your clothes in such a tattered state.''
Wrathion snorted, tossing Anduin a glare that may as well have called him an ignoramus, as he dismissed him at once. ''They are not. They are perfectly...'' Almost too quickly for Anduin to register, a flurry of emotions rushed over the dragon's features as his gaze fell on a masked tanuki, scuttling off into the bushes with his clothes bundled up in it's furry little paws -- surprise, at first, swiftly followed by disgust and anger. He seemed to settle for mild irritation. ''Ah. I see.''
It took a ridiculous amount of self-control not to burst into laughter at once and, knowing Wrathion's temper, end up incinerated on the spot by the dragon's indignation. Instead, he allowed himself a snide little smile. ''I would have guessed you to be more familiar with this 'exotic continent' to know that would happen.'' With little regard for the agitation that flared over the dragon's angular features, Anduin swiftly amended, ''I am certain that I have a spare tucked away in here somewhere...'' After a few moments of rummaging through his satchel, he frowned. ''Ah. No, I don't.''
The dragon watched him for a moment, head-tilted, and murmured, ''I suppose that is to be expected, when one lets their guard down so carelessly. I have you to blame for that.''
''Me?'' Anduin repeated, brows lifted just a bit as he genuinely tried to understand why Wrathion would think such a thing. ''And what does my being here have to do with that? If you let your guard down, that is hardly my fault.'' His pause was slight, but as the thought unravelled within his mind, he was no sooner speaking it aloud. They were no longer speaking of the stolen silks. They were speaking of each other.''You cannot blame me for how your own heart has softened, Wrathion.''
''Softened?'' An eyebrow was raised, genuinely curious and, within the blink of an eye, he had schooled his expression to his inherent smugness as he scoffed. ''My prince, you are proving to be such boring company in the end. Here I am, fully engaged with my surroundings, and yet you choose to recline and watch from afar. It is an insult to my being, truly.''
''One can appreciate their surroundings without immersion,'' Anduin countered, softly. He licked his lips, still sweet from the sunfruit, the pulp now discarded nearby, likely to be collected by a small critter at some point once they have left. His fingers were coated with residual stickiness, and he lifted them to his lips, intent on cleaning them one by one. He could feel his cheeks heating up with the way that Wrathion watched, his smirk widening to a mischievous grin.
''Which leaves me to wonder, in that case, which it is that you are appreciating,'' he purred, not once taking his eyes from the prince.
Embarrassment waltzed along his spine and he pressed his hands into his lap, knuckles turning white by the force. His mouth had gone dry. ''What is that supposed to mean?'' he demanded, his voice cracking. He cursed himself silently for it. Wrathion was relishing in his discomfort, as always.
His posture changed. He began to wade towards Anduin, water rippling from his each movement. When he spoke, his voice was warm caramel, and Anduin almost couldn't bear to listen. ''Oh, I think you are well aware of my meaning,'' he drawled, and now he was close enough that he was brushing against the prince's leg, and he lifted a hand to his ankle, his fingers grazing up along his calf. Warm, Anduin thought, and shuddered. Beads of water raced along his porcelain skin from where the dragon had touched. ''Do you truly think that I am impervious to the way that your gaze lingers when it should not?'' he asked.
Anduin was at a loss for words, giving Wrathion no pause.
''How you so shamelessly drink in the very sight of me?'' He leaned closer, his lips brushing against the prince's shin as he spoke, warm breath sending his skin out in gooseflesh. When he spoke again, his voice had dropped to a whisper.''Tell me, Anduin Wrynn, do you long to savour me as I do you?''
His yes was unspoken and deafeningly loud.
And yet... there was something... oh. Oh no.
Without warning, Wrathion grasped a hold of both of Anduin's ankles and, with a devilish smirk, yanked him forward; hard. A strangled cry left the prince as he toppled forward, slipping into the water with a small splash. Panic enveloped him and he floundered for a heartbeat, until arms were encircling him and pulling him to the surface, where he heard laughter. He managed a choked, ''You--'' before Wrathion's sharp laughter cut him off entirely, and he was silenced by his own mortification.
''I knew it all too well!'' Wrathion was crying, his cheeks dimpled and eyes soft. He raised a hand to his forehead, water dripping down his face that went unnoticed; he was too far gone in his amusement. ''The prince lusts after a dragon! Had your father known of this, I dare say he would unleash Hell itself!''
''Wrathion--'' Anduin attempted weakly, feeling his expression crumple. He felt more than embarrassment. He felt hurt. His trust betrayed, all for a fool's joke. There was no anger in him, not in the least. What he felt was disappointment in himself, to not have realised sooner. But his pleading was lost on the dragon, who was doubling over in fits of laughter at the prince's expense.
''To make matters worse, I have doubts that it is even possible, I mean... how would you... why would you? Gods, it is too much, I fear I may--''
''Enough.'' The sharpness of his voice brought a hush over the pond, Wrathion included. His blood pounded in his ears and his limbs had turned to lead. He shouldn't have been this upset -- he knew it, well and truly -- but the mortification he felt was overwhelming. He couldn't help it. ''That did not mean anything,'' he said, firmly, ''You caught me off-guard, that is all.''
Wrathion's brow raised as intrigue fell over his dark features. ''Oh, I do believe I did. And, it is terribly easy to do so, might I add.''
''You may not.''
The dragon's brow raised higher, higher, and the other lifted too as pure amusement broke out across his face, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards to reveal glistening fangs. ''Is that so?'' Leaning back a little, Wrathion's eyes shamelessly roved over the prince; drenched from head to toe, his golden hair clinging to his face, his shirt doing much the same with his body, and barely repressed a snort. ''You are absolutely soaked. You may as well remove the rest of your clothes.''
Scowling, Anduin retorted, ''Is that a genuine suggestion or just another excuse to satisfy a whim?''
''Perhaps a little of both.'' With little regard for the prince's protest, Wrathion raised both hands to the laces of Anduin's tunic and began to pull them loose. Then, without a heartbeat passing, his hands had dropped to the blonde's waist, taking a hold of the drenched clothing and helping to pull it over Anduin's head. The prince shuddered every time the dragon's fingers grazed his skin. Carnelian eyes traced over Anduin's bare skin, his serpent tongue darting out to lick his lips in a movement that was almost too quick to be noticed, as his voice took on a more serious edge. ''Though allow me to make one thing clear. You are no whim, Anduin. The farthest from it.''
Anduin's breath caught as the words registered. ''Now you must be speaking nonsense,'' he uttered, expelling a breath in a nervous gust of laughter. Then he noticed that the dragon wasn't paying him any attention. ''Wrathion?''
The dragon lifted a hand to Anduin's chest, pressing his palm against the prince's heart. Beads of water trickled down his torso slowly. ''You are much too delicate for this world, Anduin Wrynn,'' he murmured; Anduin's pulse quickened just a touch. ''I worry that you will be broken by it's cruel hands.''
~ * ~
The wispy drapes flowed loosely, swayed by the gentle morning breeze. Birds sang sweetly from the gardens below, their song drifting upwards and in through the balcony. The inviting aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries seemed to carry all the way from the market square. It was a quiet morning; winter's kiss had been gentle this year.
Anduin Wrynn awoke to tears staining his pillow. He blinked, then, slowly, sat up. He had been crying. For what, he had not known. Then his dream surfaced to the fringe of his conscious, and he sighed, rubbing the heel of his palm against his eyes.
He had dreamt that dream many a time, but this was the first it had elicited such emotion, and at what reason?
The embers of the previous night's fire had died down to a sleepy glow, but the rich oaky scent still lingered in the air as Anduin left the warmth of his bed, the sheets slipping from around his waist. The floor was almost icy beneath his feet, the sudden change in temperature an unwelcome intrusion, though he quickly dressed himself, pulling on tanned breeches and a linen tunic. Spring was soon to be in the air, carrying with it the sweetness of lilac and rosebushes, beginning a new season of rebirth. Yet it seemed so distant, even now.
The king drew himself a cup of elderflower and thistle tea from a porcelain set, left on a silver tray brought in by a servant hours before. He wondered if he had stirred in his rest; if they had noticed. Servants were not paid to be curious, but curious they remained. He drained the tea rather quickly, the sweetness of the tea softening his throat and filling him with warmth. He was eager to head out that morning, perhaps to the stables to go out riding if the weather would permit, though he couldn't imagine he would make his escape without some kind of interruption, especially with Wrathion prowling the castle as he pleased.
And speaking of which, where had he gone after last night when he... and then... oh Light.
''Ah, he is finally awake,'' came the all-too-contented hum of the dragon, his head poking up from behind the chaise lounge he had been lounging on the previous night. He hadn't left. Not once during the night, as far as Anduin had been concerned... but how? Surely he couldn't have...
Anduin whirled around, his heart jumping in his throat, the teacup almost slipping from his fingers as he glanced to Wrathion, who had been watching him with bird-like curiosity. Despite himself, Anduin's face heated and he all but managed to set the teacup back onto the tray with careful composure. Clearing his voice, he calmly asked, ''How long have you been in here?''
The dragon made a face that was somewhere between amusement and mock-thoughtfulness, as he answered, ''Quite the same as you have, my dear king.''
''You stayed, even after... but how?'' And at Wrathion's smugness, Anduin realised with a sudden stab of anger, his brows knitting together in disbelief, that Wrathion had charmed him, and he had no recollection of it. ''You ensorcelled me.''
''Now, now, let's not make such bold accusations, Anduin. I merely invited myself to spend an evening in your company, and you couldn't possibly resist me.''
Anduin glared at him. ''You would use charms just to spend the night in here... with me of all people...'' He shook his head, defiantly. ''You are unbelievable.''
With a confident flick of his wrist, he dismissed Anduin entirely. ''Oh, call it what you will. I would much rather spend the night in here than in that dull old infirmary. Have you any idea how your priests stare at me? As though I am some... some abnormality that they are forced to contend with? It isn't the most welcoming of feelings, you know.''
That is exactly what you are, Anduin thought, scowling at the dragon. To think he had let his own guard down long enough... His body had betrayed him in the simplest way, and for that he paid the consequence. It was a humiliation that he felt through and through, and chided himself greatly for it. If there was one thing he was certain of, it was that it would not happen again. Straightening up, he said, ''You cannot expect their trust, with what your kind has inflicted upon the world. You should know that quite clearly by now. Your returning to the Eastern Kingdoms will surely elicit some form of fear from those that are... less understanding.'' He sighed, his voice softening slightly. ''You do not make it easy, when your intentions are so vague.''
''One learns to play their cards closely to their heart, Anduin Wrynn,'' came the all-too-casual response. Wrathion stood, curling his arms behind his head to stretch, and sighed contentedly. The loose nightshirt he wore hung from his frame, much too large for his comfort. He didn't seem to mind it all that much, and for the most part Anduin wondered why he hadn't elected to wearing nothing at all. He had always seemed so fond of the alternative...
The thought brought with it a flicker of embarrassment, as though the dragon was able to read his thoughts. With the smirk that curled Wrathion's lips, it wouldn't have surprised him all that much if that were the case. That was when he realised that Wrathion wasn't just watching him; he was drinking in the sight of him. His tunic hadn't yet been laced and it revealed the bare skin of his chest, where Wrathion took no shame in letting his gaze linger.
Flustering beyond what was comfortable, Anduin immediately lifted hands to lace his tunic, fumbling around awkwardly with the laces. He was unable to understand why he felt so on edge. Perhaps it had been the dream, or knowing that Wrathion was there when he was having it, or perhaps it was something else entirely. He couldn't have been sure. He didn't want to be sure; didn't want to know.
Anduin had become so caught up in his thoughts that tripped and stumbled over themselves, that he hadn't even noticed Wrathion closing the distance between them, this footfalls soundless across the floor. ''Why so timid? the dragon mused, head tilted in curiosity. ''You are worse than your servants, Anduin. They seem to fear for their lives when they catch sight of me. But from you? I would have expected more.''
There was, Anduin was almost certain, a genuine hint of offence in the dragon's tone at that, and he couldn't help the soft tug of regret that he felt for acting so odd. In an attempt to make amends, he muttered, ''You caught me off-guard, Wrathion. You haven't given me much time to adjust to... to any of this. Do not forget that. It takes time; perhaps more than you are able to comprehend, given that our notion of time is greatly differential.''
''Perhaps,'' Wrathion murmured, sulkiness lacing his tone. Anduin could have rolled his eyes at that, as most times he did, but found himself at a loss for anything in that moment, where blue eyes met carnelian in a silence that spoke more than words possibly could.
Just then, there was a knock on the door and Anduin's heart dropped to his heels. A guard, requesting his meeting with Genn Greymane. Tying his hair back and slipping on his boots, Anduin started for the door but was stopped when Wrathion reached out and caught his wrist. ''What is it?'' Anduin all but snapped, a thread of panic running beneath his voice. If another knew Wrathion had been with him through the night, even if Anduin himself hadn't known... or worse, if Genn were to find out...
''Let me come.''
Anduin glared. ''No.''
''Why not?'' Wrathion huffed, crossing his arms over his chest petulantly. ''You are terribly--''
''Boring, I know,'' Anduin muttered, turning away from Wrathion's gaze. Some things hadn't changed at all, and Anduin doubted they ever would. Not with Wrathion. With that realisation came a flicker of fear, but also something else; something warm that he wanted to shy away from, but knew it was only a matter of time before he would be forced to face it, whether he wanted to or not. ''I have matters to attend. If you wish to stay here, you are welcome to.'' Then, after a moment, ''Stay out of trouble. For your sake, not mine.''
Wrathion smirked at that, brow raised. ''Is that a challenge?''
And it's back!
After an admittedly long hiatus, I've finally updated. You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to get the muses to stop making heart-eyes at each other and just... DO something.
That being said, I'm really glad to be writing them again. <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Genn watched Anduin carefully, with a stroke of concern that just bordered on paternal. Anduin had, for the most part, mistaken the Gilnean's look for exhaustion, as these days it seemed that Genn's patience was wearing dangerously thin despite his efforts, so he had been surprised to hear that the worgen's concerns had been directed towards himself.
He had been pacing the study when Anduin entered, and had barely spared him a glance as he took a seat by the fire, watching the old man silently. A few moments had passed—Genn seemingly lost to his own thoughts—when he suddenly snapped up, as though seeing Anduin for the first time.
''His being here is a concern of mine, you know,'' he said, at last.
''Yes,'' Anduin answered.
''He could jeopardize everything we have worked towards. All of these months of training, preparing, planning... he could knock it all down with a flick of the wrist.'' His voice hardened with every word. Anduin had to swallow the stab of nervousness that came over him suddenly. The way Genn spoke of Wrathion reminded him all too well of his father, all those years before. They seemed almost a lifetime away.
''I know, but—''
''He is untrustworthy,'' Genn went on to say, as though Anduin hadn't spoken at all. He had fallen into his frantic pacing of the study again, gesturing with his hands as he spoke. ''His allegiance is his own. Neutrality cannot coalesce with selfishness, and he is selfish. Do you know what that means?'' There was a slight pause, though Anduin knew the question to be rhetorical. ''Whatever it is that he is here for... what he is truly here for... it is only because it is in his favour. You understand, boy?''
Anduin shifted uncomfortably. Genn's words cut very close to the truth and he didn't like it one bit. Awkwardly, he murmured, ''He has information—''
''Of which he has not yet disclosed,'' came the Gilnean's harsh dismissal. He had clearly been mentally brewing the argument well beforehand, and Anduin doubted he would easily sway the worgen's convictions, especially where Wrathion was concerned.
After all, he himself had been struggling to come to terms with it all. Light...
Wincing a little, Anduin leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. Softly, he said: ''It will take time, that is all. When he is ready, he will impart what he knows with us, and then he—''
''Will betray us.''
Anduin simply stared at him in wide eyed incredulousness, unable to coax words from his throat or put his thoughts into a cohesive line. Genn's stolidity didn't once waver.
''Please what, Anduin?'' he all but snapped, anger flaring in his voice. ''Must you look upon this situation with such blindness? If Wrathion is unwilling to reveal his intentions with you, then what reason would he have to do so with anyone else? You are, after all, the one that befriended him in the first place. If not even his own friend is capable of his trust, then who else is?''
Before he could stop himself, Anduin blurted: ''I don't trust him.''
Genn stared, seeming as though he hadn't at all expected Anduin to say that. Shock—lensing into something much more like dissatisfaction—swept over Genn's features, the storm of his disarrayed thoughts evident on his face, drawn into a careful disdain. At last he released a pent-up sigh, massaging his temples with pale fingers. ''You haven't the first idea of that which you are fooling around with. You play a prince's game. A child's game, meant only to end in disaster. As a king, you should know better.''
''I have been given little time to adjust,'' Anduin returned, suddenly vicious in his countenance. ''A king's blood does not run in my veins; in your eyes it is much too thin; too weak.''
''Weakness,'' Genn countered, ''has nothing to do with bloodlines. It is everything to do with the heart and mind and how they dominate one and other. You have too long allowed your heart to govern your mind, Anduin, and now you are playing into dangerous territory.''
''If I were to allow my mind to govern all else I would be as cold as our enemies. I would be without compassion. Understanding. I couldn't...''
''That is precisely the problem,'' Genn barked back, frustration shadowing his pale features, ''Your compassion will someday precede you unless it is reined in and tempered. You will be made weak out of your good intent. A benevolent ruler rarely lives to garnish his kingdom. Benevolence will fall before logic and strategy. The two cannot exist as one. You would be a fool to think otherwise.''
Anduin could feel it—the heaviness that sat atop his chest, like cobwebs to his lungs. The endless demanding of the throne on which he sat. It was almost too much. With a crown placed upon his brow so too was a kingdom's expectations— expectations he was sure he could not meet. Not yet, at least. He was still a boy. Still blue-eyed and searching for his father in every turn. Genn failed to understand. The blame could not lie there, not with the Gilnean king. It was wrong—his son had been ripped from his arms and with it his love for his boy. Anduin could see the sadness—those glimpses of his heart that weren't so easily concealed to Anduin. Never to Anduin. Part of Genn longed to love again. To love with the same unfailing love a father has for his son. Anduin would never be he, nor would he try. They would continued to reach past each other for the missing pieces of themselves. Such as it was meant to be.
Anduin rose from where he had been seated, his hands clenched loosely by his sides as his thoughts—and emotions—scattered beyond what he could control. ''If that is what your mind tells you, I would dread to know your heart.'' Genn did not look up. He had, as Anduin had, fallen victim to the opposition of his mind and how it clashed with itself so violently. So seamlessly. There was a moment when Anduin thought he might further admonish before he was waving a hand in dismissal, the silence snapping as a thread under the weight of his words. ''Go. Just go. This has gone on enough. There is nothing more to be said.''
Just as Anduin reached the doorway he paused and, with a heavy heart he murmured, ''You seem to forget that I am not my father, nor will I ever be.''
The king turned then and, before Genn could form a reply, disappeared into the endless halls of Stormwind Castle.
━━━━━━━━┛ ✠ ┗━━━━━━━━
Anduin did not sleep that night, long hours passing as his thoughts enveloped him in a sleepless torment. For all his twisting and turning, he found no comfort in the silken sheets of his bed, nor in the solace promised by the Light's prayers. None found him, despite his desperate reaching and, for the first in a long time, he could say with great confidence that he was in a foul form. Whether Wrathion's unannounced absence when Anduin returned to his chambers worsened the atmosphere remained to be seen, but for the meantime his mind was elsewhere and he cared not for the dragon's mischief.
He should have known Genn's reaction had been inevitable and he, the king, should have prepared himself to discuss matters with the maturity of such, not as a boy in the way that he had—losing his temper and stoking the fire that fueled Genn's opposition to Wrathion's being there. Anduin sought a way to explain—to put Genn's suspicions to rest, but what he had ultimately done was make matters worse—for all involved. No doubt would Genn come across Wrathion would an argument burst forth with such ferocity that the castle would tremble beneath their ill-spoken words. Such was the tempers of fiery beings like themselves. Anduin was not. Anger often melted into kindness in the end, snuffing out feuds like a candle's flame—gently and with deliberation.
And yet... he had handled Genn's well-placed concerns with the attitude of an indignant child, petty and unthinking. He had spoken—as he had always—through his softened convictions. Such a thing often led to an evocation of emotional trappings, forcing them to spill over as water from cupped hands—all at once and much too unpredictable. He had spoken words that he knew would wound, and he had done so purposefully. He had sought to incite something from the Gilnean king—be it anger or hurt he did not know, only that a part of him—a well-hidden part that's flames burned low and dark and demanded be fed by malice and cruelty—found satisfaction in the reaction he had provoked, and that unsettled him.
Anduin never thought he'd find himself seeking his father's counsel so desperately, to guide with a firmness that only he could exhibit, for Genn was right—Anduin's heart governed his mind in all ways when his father's did not.
As he took himself out to the balcony to gaze upon his slumbering city, he hung his head and wept.
Not even at first did he notice the glimmers of light, warm as amber kissed by the sun, slow in their waltz as they rose seemingly from nothing in the winter air around him. It was only when he caught sight of a pair of ruby-flamed eyes that his breath hitched and and emotion far too deeply embedded into him surfaced all at once, and his heart was hammering against his chest, his eyes still stinging.
His eyes widened a touch. Fireflies.
Anduin Wrynn couldn't have explained it if he tried—not that he would have wanted to either way—but all at once the tremulous pain that gnawed at his heart stopped the very moment he laid eyes on the fireflies, and yet he found himself unable to move, unable to do anything but stare. And then Wrathion stepped out from the shadows of the balcony, and all at once Anduin felt naked, bare to all. He wanted to run, to hide, but instead he remained where he was.
''How did you...''
''Curious, are we?'' Wrathion drawled, amusement lacing his voice. At Anduin's blank expression, Wrathion waved a hand in dismissal. ''Oh, don't be shy, my king. I would ever regret to frighten you away.''
Anduin's breath caught in his throat when his gaze found the dragon's. Fireflies. Had he remembered? Had it been only coincidence? All at once he felt the memories come rushing back—the warm summer air, the exotic scents, the carelessness of it all... and for just a moment, he was no longer on the balcony overlooking the sleeping city below, but in a foreign land where his blood sang and his heart was unburdened.
''I find it highly amusing,'' Wrathion confessed one night whilst they shared an evening meal on the steps of the tavern, overlooking the lush highlands beyond, ''that you humans are so captivated by the simplest of things.''
Anduin had paused, regarding the dragon with a look of misunderstanding. ''One of which being?''
He lifted a hand then, drawing close a firefly that had been hovering nearby. It waltzed solemnly above his hand, as if drawn to something imperceptible, and Wrathion watched with abated interest. ''These insects, for example.''
''What of them?''
His eyes met Anduin's. ''You watch them meticulously. Just yesterday I caught sight of you trying to catch one, obviously to little result as you can barely stand for more than a few minutes without keeling over again.'' Anduin's cheeks flushed; Wrathion continued. ''Is it peculiar, my prince, to see one express such interest in something so impotent, so meaningless, if only for it's beauty.''
''How could I not?'' he said, and he'd said it with a laugh, despite himself. Even now, he was almost transfixed. Sensing this, Wrathion shifted and, with great delicacy, took Anduin's hand in his own, palm facing upwards. The prince froze, warmth tightening his core, and watched as the firefly followed suit and circled lazily above his palm.
''So simple,'' Wrathion repeated, his voice dropped to barely above a whisper, as he looked up and their eyes locked, ''and yet...'' And yet his heart had quickened and he could barely draw a breath. Had the dragon any idea the effect he had on the young prince. No... Anduin was certain that he did. He had to. Otherwise, he wouldn't tease him so.
That night they spoke of the beauties of the world, and Wrathion wove many tales of the wonders he had discovered on his travels. Anduin, hung on every word, hadn't even noticed that their hands had entwined seamlessly, as threads in a tapestry.
''You remembered,'' he said quietly, leaning himself against the balcony wall lest his knees unhinge and he fall. It was almost too much. The sentiment, he had been certain, was his and his alone. Now, he was left light-headed where remnants of the past had left their mark, and he shook his head. ''After all this time. You still...''
''Oh, Anduin. When will you discover the thrill of romantics?—really, you are much too uptight these days. Of course I remember. Those times were as memorable to you as they are to me. I am quite fond of the time we have spent alongside one and other, you know.''
The thrill of romantics.
''I... hadn't thought of it that way,'' he heard himself whisper, no longer able to meet the dragon's intense gaze. He didn't need to look to see Wrathion arch a brow. ''What I mean to say... is... I... ah. Never mind. Forgive me, I am quite tired. It had been a long day.''
''I wonder,'' Wrathion murmured, leaning himself against the balcony beside the king, ''how many times you have said that as of late?'' Anduin's fail to give a response was answer enough. ''I see.''
A silence stretched between them then; Anduin's gaze drifted down to the gardens below. The fireflies waltzed in their midnight dance. Anduin's hair fell around his shoulders in a sweep of gold, and he tucked the loose strands behind his ear. All the while, Wrathion watched.
After a time, Wrathion spoke.
''Tell me, Anduin, what is it that you see here?'' His eyes flashed with wonder—perhaps it had been a question that's answer the dragon had failed to divulge on his own. Even now, as he silently awaited response, he was reading Anduin's face, reserved as it was. Overhead, stars glimmered against the backdrop of a rich night sky, and held their breath, waiting.
Anduin looked about him, brows drawn together in contemplation. The city was quiet. But even then, he could almost hear the troubles of his people, scattered to the wind, directionless but no less pressing. He sighed. ''I see the precipice we stand on. I see confusion. Aggression. Anger. Misdirection. I see my people look to a leader who they fear may allow their fall.''
Wrathion tsked. ''And you accuse me of dramatics.'' He let out a long-drawn, wistful sigh, and smiled. ''Look harder, my king, I fear you are scratching the surface. Do not look to one star in the sky. There are many more than you or I could possibly see. Where you might see the fear of your failure, there are many others who do not. Perhaps, and I believe this to be true myself, that you are the only who sees your downfall. Your kingdom are not so easily swayed. It relies only on perspective.''
''And what is your perspective? What do you see?'' Anduin found himself almost leaning forward, the distance between them growing smaller by the passing moment. How easily he spoke of his weakness in front of the dragon. How easily Genn had accused him of placing his trust in one who would inevitably betray him. How easily he had dismissed the notion in a fit of anger so unlike himself, and claimed he had no trust to place in the dragon.
But now, he realised, with unfounded distress, that he had lied not only to Genn, but to himself.
''I see a boy wishing to prise free from the adult he has been caged within,'' Wrathion murmured, looking up at Anduin from half-lidded eyes. A lazy smile curled his lips. He spoke serenely, but there was a note of sadness that he didn't try to conceal from the king. ''Wishing to taste the same freedom he did once, years before.''
Anduin frowned. ''Those are not the kind of thoughts I can afford to dwell on, not in any case. Even if they were much more pleasant.'' But the dragon's words had struck home, and he found his cheeks flushing with embarrassment at how shamelessly and easily Wrathion was able to read him. Had it been anyone else and Anduin would have felt an almost shameful sense of intrusiveness, but he welcomed Wrathion's unconcealed intimacy, and he longed to someday return it with his heart.
To know Wrathion as he knew his own self—every veiled thought and heart's desire. He longed.
''Ah, but you so dream of them, don't you?'' Wrathion pressed, gently, ''Of times passed and memories that linger on. No, do not attempt to hide it from me, Anduin, I would ever loathe you feel embarrassed of yourself—especially toward me.'' He paused then, and Anduin realised that even the stars that fell from the sky paled in comparison to the wonder of the being standing before him, and he held his breath. ''Long ago you laid your heart open to me, Anduin, and still it remains to be so.''
''And what of your own?'' Anduin asked, his heart caged and beating hard against his chest, ''So long have you concealed your heart from me. So long have I wondered what lays beneath the pretense you wear as a crown; you have ever kept me at an arm's length, it would seem, and now I wonder if I shall ever move beyond it.''
Wrathion sighed. ''You believe that I have kept you from my heart as I have others? You believe yourself to be at their distance?'' His laughter was laced with genuine amusement; his voice soft as deer-velvet. ''Your innocence, my king, is almost insulting.''
Beneath the tapestry of stars, Wrathion moved closer and, with touch that held the delicacy of a lover, he covered Anduin's hand with his own.
''You have known my heart as no other has, Anduin Wrynn.''
Anduin, his petal-pale lips parted in awe at the dragon's shameless confession, could only focus on the barest space between their mouths and, unable to restrain himself any longer, leaned forward and closed the gap, his body trembling at the perfection of it.
The kiss was a flood.
It was as though a tumult of suppressed emotion released itself at once, unsealed by the simple touch of the dragon's lips to his and, Anduin realised, it was all he had ached for since he was a boy of fifteen years, and now, crowned king, his heart and body still trembled at the mere sight of the dragon, and in all his longing he had finally, in that moment, come to know true divinity.
''You are truly here,'' Anduin breathed against the other's lips, tears threatening to spill at the revelation that was his love for another. ''After all this time, you returned to me, my heart.''
''Yes, my king. I am here.''
Anduin kissed him again.
Not entirely sure what direction this till take.
I know I want there to be more fluff, but these two seem to love angst just as much, so. We'll see.
''This passion of his is an irresistible flood.''
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Wrathion's lips pressed to his own was everything he had so desired, even when he felt the soft graze of fangs against his lower lip, eliciting a small gasp of surprise. Wrathion used the advantage to steal into the warmth of Anduin's mouth and slide along his serpentine tongue. The king, in all his glory, trembled and moaned unabashedly, welcoming the new and unfamiliar sensation.
''I would have never dared to hope,'' Anduin breathed, ''that you would return my affections, after all these years.''
''Oh, Anduin, you were only ever for me,'' Wrathion revered, his lips trailing feverish kisses along the hard line of Anduin's jaw, down the column of his pale throat. ''I have ever saw you as my own, and only my own.''
The tender confessions of the dragon incited a heat within Anduin that only slighted in comparison to the imaginings of his mind, and he found himself dizzied with lust. His hands shook where they found the dragon's hips and he bit his lip to keep from crying out.
''Then you would know that I have not shared myself with another,'' he whispered.
''Your heritage is in your blood. You mean to tell me that you have not chosen another as your consort?'' Even amidst the flames that danced in the dragon's eyes, Anduin saw there to be genuine surprise. He couldn't help the abashed smile that rose to his lips.
''I have tried,'' he admitted, softly, ''but I could not find my release by their touch. The sensations were foreign; wrong. I could not bring myself to an understanding of why, but now I see it so clearly that I cannot understand my blindness in the first place.''
He leaned forward to drink from the dragon's lips, their breaths mingled as one. When he pulled back, an adoring smile curved his mouth.
''I could not consort with another,'' Anduin said, ''as they were not you.''
The words, so simple and yet so powerful, were taken as an open invitation to Wrathion, who took the king's face in his hands and, with affection dropping from his every word, touched their foreheads together gently. ''My king,'' he revered, ''whatever the desires of your heart, as they are so bare laid before me, I would ask you to use me to your pleasure, to take from me that which you need. To find the release you have been so denied.''
''I would not know...'' Anduin murmured, his eyes falling shut as their breath evened and slowed, despite the quick flutter of their hearts, ''how to. I know only that which I have felt for years, burning inside of me until I feel that I may burst into flame. I have... I have spent many nights with your name spilling from my lips, mindless in my desire.''
Wrathion impressed a kiss to the other's mouth, and he was met with little resistance. A smirk rose to his lips, his inherent deviousness drawn across his dark features. ''The king has no shame, it would seem.''
''No, I do not,'' answered, suddenly solemn, for in his heart he knew he carried shame no longer, and he felt reborn in knowing, as though set on wings of golden feathers, soaring close to the sun without fear of being burned. Wrathion, detecting the seriousness of his king, dropped a gentle kiss to his lips, and smiled.
''It is all I have ever wanted for you, Anduin,'' he whispered, ''to realise your own power. How you could bring another to their knees in awe of your brilliance—your mind—those beautiful thoughts unspoken, held close and kept private, even to yourself. I have watched tyrants in all their blood-thirst, waging wars on those that were helpless only because they would break, but not you. Never you. You truly seek to rule with a benevolence unknown to any other. You would sooner lay down your weapons and make peace than fight those who would see you broken.''
As Wrathion spoke, Anduin was walked backwards, gently, and raised onto the balcony wall. The dragon's hands remained on his thighs, which parted shamelessly, the heat stirring in his core already unbearable at every brush, every shift, and he allowed his eyes to fall shut, his senses proving too demanding, only that he could listen to the dragon's velveteen voice for all eternity, and never tire of it.
''I thought you dreaded my soft-heart, as you said so yourself,'' Anduin said, voice reduced to a breathy whisper as Wrathion's lips found his neck, hands sliding around to caress the small of his back. Thin layers of cloth between them became too much all at once—he longed to feel the heat of the other's skin pressed to his own, to watch the quick pulse in his neck, or the beating of his heart against his chest.
From a pale shoulder slipped his shirt, and Wrathion claimed the area with a soft kiss. Fingertips traced lightly along the exposed area, over his collarbone and along his chest, so far as the garment's looseness would permit. Quietly, he whispered, ''Ah... but there is a difference now.''
From the balcony wall Anduin was lifted, his legs wrapped around the dragon's waist and, in one seamless turn, he was being carried back in his room, and laid down among his silken coverlets, where he was invited to undress, just as Wrathion had, his shirt discarded and forgotten. Though shy he was to admit, Anduin felt abashed as he slipped the shirt over his head and tossed it aside, where it lay as a heap on the floor. Wrathion's eyes raked over his bare chest with all the wide-eyed wonder of a man gazing upon the heaven's—his lips parted as though to speak though not a word would leave him, and, slowly, that all too familiar curve to his mouth returned.
There, stood above Anduin in the soft glow of moonlight that spilled forth and kissed his darkened skin, Wrathion looked much more like a carved statue, made from the light of the moon itself, and Anduin was left breathless, staring, wondering, and daring to let himself come undone beneath the dragon's hands.
''The difference now...'' Wrathion said, in a fierce whisper that sent gooseflesh rippling over his skin, ''is that I would tear out of the throats of any who would dare harm you.'' He took his place by the king's side, his hand lifted to caress Anduin's cheek, and for a moment there was such intensity to his words that reminded Anduin of the power the dragon contained, this prince of black dragons; son of Deathwing. ''I would slaughter them. You are mine, and only mine, and I will see all fall before you in reverence, or they will fall instead by my hand. That, is my promise to you, Anduin Wrynn.''
''Yours,'' Anduin breathed, softly. So overwhelmed did he feel in that moment, that he felt the beginnings of tears form in his eyes. To belong to another—one like Wrathion, in all his power and majesty, was a thought too much for his fragile mind. He felt he did not deserve such blessing, such devotion, yet it was reserved to he and he only. There would be no disputing it, that he knew. Whatever Wrathion chose to claim, Anduin knew there was no stopping him.
And even if he could, he would not have wanted to.
Then dragon's hands were upon him, caressing, holding, touching, and Anduin could not have foreseen how he would arch upwards, pressing pelvis to pelvis, and he could feel the heat of the dragon's cock even between their clothes. From his lips spilled a moan of frustration when he attempted to reach down between them, and Wrathion caught his wrists, pinning them above his head. ''Anduin.''
''I want to,'' he pleaded, gently, watching how the dragon's carnality flickered and eventually dissuaded. ''Please. Allow me to touch you.''
''As you so desire.'' Wrathion dropped his head to press lips to the curve of Anduin's neck, his hold on the king's wrists loosened to allow him freedom to do as he wished. ''You are very curious, my king. It is amusing to see, and more so to...—ah. To feel.''
The unbidden moan that left Wrathion when Anduin pressed his palm against his hardness was so obscene that it shot straight to his cock, and he sighed at the soft weight of the dragon. Where he longed to further touch, he set to unlacing the closure of his trousers, and faltered when Wrathion chuckled against his neck. ''You are so eager to pleasure me, Anduin, but I tell you—there is no need for it. My pleasure is yours. I would not neglect your needs,'' he murmured, hand dropping to dip beneath the waistband of Anduin's trousers and take him in hand.
Anduin gasped, his body shivering in pleasure as his cock twitched in Wrathion's hand, and already he felt the build-up for release clenching his stomach, and he willed himself to calm. Breathless, he pleaded, ''Wrathion, please—Light have mercy, I don't think I can...—''
''You can, and you will,'' came the dragon's promise, gentle and tremulous with affection as he continued to stroke the blonde's cock. ''If you are to find release, then I would taste your seed myself. I have no greater want than to be the one that knows his king most intimately. Do you fear to allow yourself pleasure, Anduin? Do not allow yourself to hold back from me. I would know your innermost desires and I would see them fulfilled, if you would impart them with me.''
So much was each confession that spilled from the dragon's lips, that his heart became a thunder in his chest, and his hands trembled where they skittered over Wrathion's bare chest. ''I ache,'' he whimpered, softly, ''to feel you inside me.''
''And you will, my love, in time. I... we must take this slow, or I fear I would have you now, as you are.''
''Will you not?'' Anduin was unable to keep the disappointment from his voice. Wrathion sighed, and pulled away for a moment to look upon the king's uncertainty.
''I would have you now, and I would not be gentle,'' he said, and dropped a small kiss to Anduin's petal-soft lips, lingering just a moment so that the heat of their breaths mingled as one. Anduin chased the dragon's lips, but Wrathion moved so that he could not reach to kiss him, and Anduin winced. ''You are keen, I know, but you must not forget that I am not one of your kind, Anduin. My desires burn within me as a furnace. I would not see you burnt by it's flames. No, with you I must be careful. You are... ah. If only you knew how fragile you are in my hands.''
''I have given myself to you. You need only take me. I am ready.''
Wrathion chuckled. ''My king, I would break you.''
The obscenities dropping from Wrathion's lips ignited feelings Anduin did not know he could experience, and all at once he was overwhelmed. Taking Wrathion's face in his hands, he drank from the dragon's lips fiercely and reverentially, unable to keep himself from what he wanted. More intoxicating was Wrathion than any sweetened wine, than any lover's promise, that Anduin could feel his sense of control slipping.
When he, invigorated in his fervour, brought their lips together in a heated kiss, he felt Wrathion tremble above him. So fixated was he on Anduin's pleasure that he neglected himself entirely, yet he seemed not to mind. For the meantime. Instead, he continued to pleasure his king, and just as Anduin felt his body shudder with the promise of release, Wrathion stopped.
''Why—'' Anduin managed, wincing as Wrathion pulled away from him, but soon came understanding, and he took a breath.
''As I said; I would taste my king, to know him most intimately.'' Between Anduin's splayed legs the dragon settled himself, his cheek laying against the heat of the blonde's inner thigh. A whisper of cloth, and Anduin was freed of his remaining clothing, Wrathion not far behind.
His eyes fell shut as he whispered the dragon's name like an invocation and thus was utterly unprepared when the warmth of his mouth wrapped around the blunt head of his cock, and Wrathion had to press his hips beneath him into the sheets of his bed to keep the king from writhing. Gently, Anduin's hands reached down to slide through the dragon's curls; his thumbs traced circles against the curve of horns there, and he did not expect how sensitive the area to be, for Wrathion moaned in such a way that he felt it through his whole body.
''Wrathion, I can't—''
Like a bowstring drawn too tight, Anduin's self-control snapped, and his release came in a sudden wave. His body trembled, his hips shot upwards. Wrathion groaned, swallowing down the king's seed, and all at once Anduin felt abashed, seeking to cover his face in embarrassment. No sooner was Wrathion by his side, dropping gentle kisses to his bare shoulder, and nestling close. ''Do not shy from me, Anduin,'' he reprimanded, lovingly. In his voice he held no disdain. Only a love that made Anduin's chest ache.
''I would not. Still, I have not seen to your needs as you have my own. That displeases me.''
Wrathion stifled a soft moan when Anduin's hand came to wrap around his cock, and though he seemed for a moment reluctant, soon his eyes fell shut and his head lay heavy against the king's shoulder. ''Anduin,'' he murmured, ''you make it difficult to... ah. You need not attend to my needs. They can wait.''
Yet Anduin continued to stroke him, gently, as a lover with little experience, and the pleasured sounds he drew from the dragon was enough to cause him to harden again. ''You underestimate me,'' he sighed, and felt Wrathion twitch in his hand. ''I am not as fragile as you believe, Wrathion. So long have I waited for you, I have no hesitations or reserves. I want you. All of you.''
''I think, my king, you have little notion of the words you speak. If you did, you would not say them with such innocence.''
''You think not? I know what it is that I desire. Will you have me beg? I would fall to my knees in want of you. Already I am light-headed and effused. I ache for you.''
With a low growl of pleasure, Wrathion's hand closed around Anduin's wrist, tight as a vice, and he whimpered from the suddenness of it. ''Anduin. You do not know what you are asking of me.''
''Don't I?'' Anduin smiled.
There was a moment where Wrathion hesitated, his thoughts unreadable. Then, in a voice that trembled with restraint, he bade, ''Turn over, that I may prepare you. I... Anduin. Are you absolutely—''
''Light, yes,'' Anduin sighed, and did as he was bade. Wrathion's hands were upon him, running over his pale skin, the curve of his spine and softness of his bottom. He writhed beneath the ministrations of the dragon, his hips rutting against the bed, and all at once Wrathion shifted, until he was above the king, dropping his head to the back of Anduin's neck, impressing a kiss to his shoulder.
''I cannot say for how long I will last,'' he murmured, short of breath, ''I... I feel myself overwhelmed by the mere thought of... Gods, you are beautiful, Anduin.''
''And you,'' came the king's response, filled with affection and genuine warmth. An utterance of words in another tongue, which Anduin presumed to be draconic, as it was the language of Wrathion's kind, and a small vial materialised, glittering with an opaque lilac substance of which Wrathion coated his fingers in generously. The barest amount of anticipation racked him then, for he knew the dragon's self-control was drawn-tight; he trembled with the exhaustion of it.
''This,'' he murmured, warm breath ghosting over Anduin's ear, ''will make it less painful for you, my king. I would not wish to hurt you, so I must... I must take precaution, though I can barely... ah. I am finding it difficult to hold myself back from you. I worry...''
''Do not,'' Anduin breathed, voice tremulant where Wrathion's fingers began to circle his entrance, the sensation foreign but no less welcomed, and when the dragon slid one inside him, he gasped sharply, and tensed.
''Anduin, you must relax yourself. I will not hurt you, but you must be considerate to yourself also. Will yourself...—that's it.'' Anduin, through a measured breath, forced himself to do as the dragon instructed, and soon Wrathion was moving, gently, and when another finger was introduced, he felt less resistance than before, the flare of pain dimming to the pleasure that took it's place. After he had adjusted, his hips began to push back insistently, rocking onto the dragon's fingers, and pleasured sounds spilled from his parted lips. He did not notice when Wrathion added another.
Such was the molten heat building in his core, that Anduin feared he could not withstand it any longer. ''Wrathion,'' he pleaded, ''I cannot take much more of it. Please, I need you to... to...''
''Yes, as my king so desires,'' Wrathion murmured, breathless, and Anduin winced softly as he withdrew his fingers, the absence unpleasant and tormenting. From the vial he re-coated his fingers, this time using them to slick his length, and lined himself up with the blonde's entrance. He took a deep, quivering breath, sinking himself in, and a low moan spilled from his lips. ''Gods, have mercy,'' he whispered, the words lost to the pleasure of the other, as he watched himself disappear inch-by-inch into the king.
Though he moved slow at first for Anduin's comfort, it was not long before the blonde was moving himself, crying out at each thrust, hands balled into fists where they grasped at the sheets, and by Wrathion's shallow breaths and gradual intensity, he knew it would not take long before he would find his own release. So much, that Anduin felt himself tensing up just as Wrathion released a deep-throated moan, and Anduin too was overwhelmed by blinding release, a shiver running through his entire body.
As the two descended from their shared elation, Wrathion dropped gentle, worshipful kisses to the king's skin, and withdrew slowly, collapsing by his side, breathlessly. Anduin, still overwhelmed, rolled himself onto his side to face the dragon, his face a deep scarlet. Wrathion saw, and arched a brow. ''What is it?'' he asked, a subtle frown pulling the corners of his mouth. ''Have I disappointed...?''
''Light, no, it isn't that,'' he said, the end hitching up a little where he laughed, and shook his head. ''It is just that I realise half of the castle must have heard us. I did not think beyond... ah. It does not matter.'' He paused, and nestled close to the dragon, his head coming to rest on his chest, where his heart still beat quickly, as did his own. ''And to answer your question, no. I... it was everything I have ever wanted and more. You are... you are godly.''
The frown vanished; in it's place was a smirk. ''I am flattered my king thinks so highly of me.'' His hand came to thread through the sweat-dampened hair that fell around Anduin's shoulders, and he sighed, gently. ''Do not think I am unaware of the problems this will cause, Anduin. I realise I have been selfish this and have not taken consequence to mind. Your kingdom does not trust me, much less your council. Should they find that you have consorted with a potential enemy...''
''Let them know,'' Anduin murmured, ''I care not for their trivial gossip. They do not trust you because they know you only by your father's deeds. They do not know you, Wrathion. Not as I do. If they did, they would perhaps rethink their insinuations. They are quick to judge, but by their king they are willing to overlook the cruelties in their hearts. I cannot blame their fear, no, but I can ease it through time. With you by my side.''
''Anduin.'' The dragon's hand faltered in the blonde's hair, and his voice weighed with a sudden seriousness that caught Anduin off-guard. ''Do you realise what it is you are asking of me?''
''Yes, I do, and I mean it just as much. I would make a place for you here, by me. An adviser. You are wise beyond all the years of those that are in the counsel. You have contacts all over. It would be a benefit not only to the Alliance, but to me, for it would mean that you would be with me always.''
''Then I would have a place among the king's most trusted.'' A contemplative silence followed, and suddenly the dragon shifted, taking Anduin's face in his hands, leaning down to kiss him, softly. When he pulled away, he smiled into Anduin's uncertain features. ''Yes,'' he said, ''I could not decline something so generous, especially not from you. I will serve you in every way you so desire me. I will, though already I have, give myself entirely to you, and only you. If you will have me, then I shall remain by your side, both in your bed and on the battlefield. I live to serve you, Anduin Wrynn.''
thank you for reading! that brings this story to a close. as mentioned at the beginning, I plan to write a follow up fic when we see where bfa takes us :) in the mean time, I am also planning to write something pandaria related!