Really, Shaiea didn’t know the exact moment he realized that he’d absolutely, completely, and totally fallen for his best friend. Precious, sweet, wonderful Athru. The Mirror-Tundra hybrid that was probably the only dragon that was allowed to be so close to Shaiea. It… wasn’t like he didn’t like his other clanmates, it was just the fact that the hyper blue fluffy dragon was someone he’d known since they were practically hatchlings.
Maybe the moment had been the time he’d came out to Athru. When he’d said in a voice so quiet and scared that he wanted to be referred to as male. That he wanted to cry every time someone referred to him as “she”, “her”, or “miss.” Also that he was afraid of what his best friend would think. So worried that the Mirror hybrid would think he was strange and unsavory. Athru just smiled widely and toothily, leaning and draping a wing around Shaiea’s shoulders to pull him close. Muttering that he couldn’t ever think that. Adding that “he’d tasted male anyways” which drew a startled but happy giggle from the smaller of the two.
Or maybe it started when Athru would curl beside him and mutter kind things to him on the days that all he wanted to do was hide and sob and never be around anyone else again. Athru’s usually loud and bubbly voice lowered and soft, reassuring, and heartbreakingly gentle. Soft and caring paws brushing through his fur, grooming and comforting.
Really, Shaiea didn’t know when or how it happened. All he knew was that he was afraid of how strongly he felt towards his friend. These feelings that flared up and bloomed into anger at times that other dragons treated Athru with disdain, simply because he was a hybrid. Angry at the dragons that referred to his dearest friend as dull because of his happy-go-lucky attitude and his caring and open nature. He didn’t know what to do with this anger. It scared him how much he wanted to protect the Mirror-Tundra hybrid.
So he could be able to do that if needed, he began training in the coliseum. Training with Allure and Kuroi, two of the strongest dragons in his clan. Tutoring under Rhys as well, the strong and gruff Mirror woman being harsh but also honest. Not afraid to whip her tail around and smack him upside the head when he wasn’t doing something correctly. Or when he seemed to be too distracted. Really, he liked training with Rhys the most. Even if he ended their training sessions bruised and sore. Feeling the aches of muscles that he’d used too much the day previous.
Allure was good at training him in magical and physical attacks. The Skydancer was quiet, and Shaiea knew the reason for that was the awful things that the older scarred up dragon had seen in his old warrior days. Still, even with that, their training sessions were good. Leaving the Tundra with more knowledge, and not… Quite as sore as when he trained with the rough Rhys.
Through all his training, Athru cheered him on. Deities give him strength, especially when the damned sweet dragon was calling out to him so earnestly. With such a bright smile that he was sure it could rival the sun beating down on them in the Wastelands. It was infuriating and confusing and he just wanted to tell Athru how he felt.
He was still scared, though. Terrified, even, that a confession could tear them apart. Break a friendship that had lasted so long, and meant so much. So when the urge to just kiss the sweet idiot arose, Shaiea’d have to bite his tongue and grimace sharply. Looking away, pretending he didn’t see the concerned looks that these moments would get him. Ignoring the pang that went off in his heart at the disappointment on Athru’s face as he was shut out.
This continued for… Far too long. Until one day it seemed Athru had had enough. On this day, the Mirror-Tundra hybrid was possibly more serious than Shaiea’d ever seen him. It… Actually scared him for once. Terrified him that perhaps he’d finally tipped things to the bitter side and pushed the one dragon he cared for away.
“Why are you avoiding me? Shai, please, just... Talk to me?” That simple plea was what broke him down. Legs deciding to give up on him, the Tundra sat down heavily. Staring down at the dirt floor of the cave that Athru had walked him to.
“I- I'm sorry- I… I don’t wanna push you away, Ru. You mean so much to me, and I don’t- I don’t tell you that enough.” Looking up and furrowing his brows, he reached one paw out to Athru. Wanting him to come closer. After he did, sitting back on his haunches and taking the outstretched paw in his own, a deep breath was taken to prepare. Deciding it was taking the plunge now, or risking the possibility of losing the most wonderful dragon he’d ever known. “Just- Promise… Promise me you’ll listen, yeah? Like you… always have.”
Athru nodded slowly, tilting his head and furrowing his brows as well. Four eyes all focused on the nervous dragon in front of him. “Y’know there’s nothing you can do t’ push me away completely, Shai. Okay? M’here for you.”
Choking back the lump that threatened to lodge in his throat, Shaiea coughed and nodded in acknowledgment. Straightening up and trying to steel himself to basically spill his guts here. It was either going to go wonderfully, or awfully. “Ah, wait, I- I wanna be in a form where I can hold your hand a bit better-” At the request, an obvious attempt at stalling, Athru shook his head but obliged. Stepping back and letting his friend slowly change shape. Looking more humanoid, with only a few traits to show he was a dragon. Soon after, he did the same.
As soon as that was over, and they’d both sat in front of each other, Athru held his hands out and gripped Shaiea’s in his own. Giving a soft smile of reassurance, and support. That support he’d always given.
“Okay- I. Athru. You wonderful, sweet, lovely dragon- I. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. Possibly, um, the only best friend I’ve ever had. You’ve been with me through everything, and I’m so glad to have had your support with me. I gotta say something, though, and I just-”
Pausing and clearing his throat, Shaiea tightened his grip on Athru’s hands and glanced up at his face. That open, honest, beautiful face. Deities strike him down, this confession was going to kill him.
“I- I really care about you. You know that, but- I mean. I’m meaning I care about you more than as just a friend. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you. I don’t know when that happened, but I know it’s true as can be and I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to chase you away by this, and I’m s-so fucking scared this will and I’m sorry-”
Athru broke his promise to listen. He leaned in and tugged Shaiea into a tight hug, A warm and strong embrace. Absently, Shaiea noted that those arms were much stronger than they had been years ago. Athru had grown, gotten stronger too. And he was muttering softly next to his ear, making him turn his attention to those words.
“Shai, you dumb pretty boy- Y’not gonna push me away with that. Deities, I care so much for ya too. M’here for you like I always have tried to.” Leaning back and giving a smile that Shaiea was pretty sure melted his heart into his stomach, Athru reached his hands up to his face. Cupping his jaw in his palms gently, but also firmly. “You dork, I love you too. We’re both idiots I s’pose, huh?”
All the Tundra boy could do at that response was stare for a few moments. Mouth partly open until Athru gently used his thumb to push his chin up and close it for him. “Yer gonna catch some nasty bugs gawpin’ like that-”
Not even getting to finish that thought, Athru found himself tackled by a small and emotional Tundra boy, reaching up with his own hands to take his face between his hands and pressing a clumsy, but sincere, kiss to his lips. Athru was so startled that he almost didn’t react, until the fact that Shaiea was about to pull away. An uncertain expression flashing across his face, worried tears welling up in those pretty eyes of his.
That was all he needed to react finally, lightly sliding one of his hands around to gently thread his fingers through Shaiea’s hair. Returning the previous awkward and clumsy kiss with a more gentle, hesitant one. He didn’t know much about kissing, except what others had told him. So they clinked teeth and their lips didn’t slot together perfectly at first. Until Shaiea tilted his head barely, and Athru could focus on doing this right, not on just trying to keep from smooshing the other’s nose.
It may not be the perfect kiss on other’s standards but to them both? It was perfect. Awkwardness and teeth-clinking and smooshed noses included. Pulling back, both flushed and embarrassed and also grinning so widely their cheeks hurt, Shaiea laughed quietly. Closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against Athru’s. “I- That was wonderful. I’m an awful kisser, but that was wonderful, and I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you anything sooner…”
Athru just raised his eyebrows and lightly jabbed his fingers against Shaiea’s side, drawing out a startled giggle-snort. “Shush, you don’t beat yerself up! We’re both guilty. About that kiss?” An uncharacteristically mischievous grin crossed his face, and he leaned in closer. “We can always practice, can’t we?”
The resulting splutter and bright blush was so worth the shove to the chest. Just happy for the possibility that this could open a whole new chapter. The shy and chaste kiss pressed to the corner of his lips cemented that feeling.