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“Good morning.”


“You were up late again. Been working hard, huh?”

Ral Zarek rounded the little table of the temporary apartment Jace Beleren had been inhabiting for the last few weeks as he worked day and night on coordinating the rebuilding of the Tenth. It was pretty small, but that didn’t seem to bother the telepath, who just busied himself with spreading the stacks of requisition forms and invoices and memos on every available surface of the place. Ral had needed to move a stack of forms off the stove so he could even use it (it seemed like a terrible place to store paper anyway), and everything from the tiny table was currently stacked on the bed Jace had finally vacated.

Jace was exhausted. It was obvious on that slender face of his, raccoon eyes that could give an actual raccoon a run for its money. Lavinia had decided to give him today off, so Ral had come over sometime last night to make sure the Guildpact actually slept. It had been an ordeal wrestling him into bed (where the hells had those muscles come from?), but he managed. Took a little… convincing to get him to stay in bed, but he was even better at that if he said so himself.

Right now, though, he was trying to make breakfast.

He wasn’t very good at it. But he was going to try, damnit. He almost never made his own breakfast in the morning, usually grabbing something from a cart on his way to the lab, or sending an intern out for something if he had slept there the night before. He did know a couple simple recipes, but he was pretty rusty, and getting ingredients had been a huge hassle. He ended up having to send one of the guards outside the door out for eggs, and the big lug had eventually cheerfully presented him with two dozen instead of the one he’d requested, so may as well use them.

Coffee was easy. He didn’t even need to use the stove for it, just holding the carafe in one hand using a bit of mana to heat his skin to the point it glowed from within, boiling the water in no time. Egg couldn’t be too hard, he figured. Just take some of the leftovers from the takeout last night and toss them in to make an omelette right? It smelled nice at least.

Jace seemed to think so too, based on how close he was watching Ral move around the kitchen. And was that a little smile on his face he saw? Good. There hadn’t been enough of those going around, it was starting to get to him. It was harder to ignore how upset he was if he didn’t have everyone else’s energy to feed off of.

“Coffee!” the storm mage chirped, trying to imitate how he had seen those cheerful boys and girls at the cafes he used to frequent speak. It just made Jace’s smile a little wider, which was worth how silly it made him feel. He set the mug down next to the other man, who scooped it up like his life depended on it.

“Thanks,” Jace whispered, voice still thick with sleep. He fumbled with the sugar tin on the table for a moment, before just giving up trying to open it with tired, clumsy fingers and just starting to drink his coffee black.

Ral turned back to the stove… only to be greeted with a small plume of smoke, and the smell of burning. He hissed a few creative curses as he snatched the pan off the stove, scraping the cast iron with the flipper thing (spatula? Spatula.) to try and unstick his haphazard creation. Well, it didn’t look too burnt…

“I guess this one is mine,” he said flatly, but he couldn’t help but smile when he heard Jace giggle behind him. Cute.

He dumped the overcooked omelette on a plate, and started on another one. He needed to be more careful with this one, he knew how sensitive the other man could be about his food. One time, a street vendor had put sauerkraut on the telepath’s klobásy by accident and he had refused to eat the whole thing. Ral had needed to trade with him to get him to actually eat anything.

He picked through the box of leftovers, tossing the chunks of ham into the egg mixture, then shaved off a bit of the little cheese block he had managed to find (which was a treasure about now) into the pan, topping it off with a big handful of mushrooms - specifically the brown ones, Jace wouldn’t touch the white - and mixed it all together. There. Art.

He looked over his shoulder at Jace while the perfect concoction was cooking away, noting the telepath had his eyes closed now. He was still holding the chipped mug in one hand, was he asleep again? He was going to drop it… He made a move to approach the other man, but those pretty blue eyes slid open once he got close, looking up at Ral quietly.

“You okay?”

“Yes… I was just enjoying the moment, I guess,” Jace mumbled, a sheepish look crossing his features. “It’s nice. Quiet…”

“Haven’t had a lot of that in a while, huh?” Ral replied, going back to the stove but keeping his eyes on the younger man. It was a nice moment. Domestic. Something he didn’t have a lot of experience with himself, but it was strangely calming, despite how much he hated sitting still.

“Yeah. No. Yeah. I mean, ugh. I mean… Everything is so hard, Ral…”

He was opening up. That’s good. He nodded, carefully moving the food from pan to plate, and walking over with both, setting them on the table. Jace pulled his closer, but didn’t start eating yet. Ral waited for him to continue.

“This was a disaster. We… won, I guess you could call it that, but at what cost? How many people did we lose? I… I feel like it should have been me, not…”

Jace trailed off. Ral knew he was talking about Gideon, and he felt a little ache in his chest. He didn’t know the big man as well as Jace had, but he knew he was a good guy, in more ways that one. He felt a little guilty for most of his thoughts about him before being a bit frivolous, but how was he supposed to know how close to the end the man was? The guy was supposed to be indestructible, wasn’t he?

“That’s not your fault, Jace. Alright? We just have to keep moving, to.. Honour everyone we lost, right?” It was a bit weird being so optimistic like this, but he guessed Lavinia had been rubbing off on him. It seemed to make Jace feel a bit better, too, based on how he was smiling again, if only just a little.

“Yeah… Keep moving…” The telepath echoed.

“So, just relax today, alright…? I’ll do everything, just put your feet up and rest.”

The other man’s smile got a bit wider, and he leaned forward, over the table a little. Ral watched him a moment, lost for a brief moment in just how gorgeous those blue eyes were, even surrounded by dark rings. How was it possible for a man to be this pretty? He almost laughed at himself when he realised how sappy that thought was, but he leaned forward, too, catching the younger man’s mouth in a quick kiss. Jace’s cheeks were pink when they pulled apart, and Ral grinned.

“Now eat your damn breakfast or it’ll get cold.”