It had been raining for days, and now when Alec looked out the window, he could see large clumps of wet snow trailing down from the dark sky along with the raindrops. It had been so bitterly cold during the entire week before the rain began that Alec hadn’t minded being trapped inside by the wet. Seregil, on the other hand, had lapsed into his customary boredom, as was to be expected.
He had stalked out of their room at the Stag and Otter a few hours ago, before the sun had set. Alec had been reading a surprisingly engrossing book on the cultural differences between the various Orëskas and the implications those differences made on their magic -- and, as a result, he had hardly noticed when Seregil left before the sun had set. Now he was banging back in again, sopping wet and shivering toe to tip.
“Had a nice stroll, did you?” Alec asked, trying and failing to keep the smirk from both his face and his voice.
Seregil scowled and began stripping his clothes from his body, dropping them in a wet, unhappy heap on the floor. Apparently this evening was not one for caring about tidiness.
“Off to the Street of Lights again, tali?” Alec said, doing his best impression of a disapproving relative -- the way Thryis might have sounded, once.
This, fortunately, had the desired effect: Seregil laughed, despite himself.
“Oh yes,” he said, slipping into a dry shirt and falling gracefully to the floor where he sprawled in front of the fire. “I’ve been all night amongst the beauties of the Street of Lights, letting them have their way with me again and again just to relieve the boredom of my stolid home life.”
Once, not so very long ago, at least in Aurenfaie reckoning, Alec might have felt a sting of nervousness or jealousy at these words. But he and Seregil had known each other for so long, had been so much to each other for so long, that even if the old insecurities still persisted, Alec would know that there was no truth to these words just by the way that Seregil arched his back to give them an extra dramatic edge.
“Very funny,” Alec said.
Seregil shrugged one shoulder. “You started it.” And then he stretched, languid in the way he knew did his lithe limbs their best justice, and Alec closed his book and slid down to join Seregil on the floor. He figured his eyes had been getting tired anyway -- and besides, he’d do anything to keep Seregil from starting up his endless fidgeting again.
Seregil turned to face the fire so Alec snuggled up behind him, tucking himself as close to Seregil as he could and wrapping one arm around his waist. Seregil sighed and settled back against him, most likely appreciating the warmth.
“What were you up to out there?” Alec asked in idle curiosity, wondering what could have made his friend venture out in this horrible weather when he hated the cold and the damp as much as he did.
Seregil sighed. “I was checking for jobs.”
Of course. “Any luck?”
“None -- neither in the shadows nor in the light, I’m afraid. Illior must be waiting out these storms.”
Alec laughed a small, blunt laugh. “I don’t think it’s exactly Illior we have to thank for our business.”
Alec could practically hear the wry lift of Seregil’s eyebrow when he said, “Perhaps not. It’s a shame, though. This weather would be perfect for nightrunning. It’s too dark to see a damn thing even if someone were out in that mess.”
“On the other hand,” Alec said, “if someone were out in it, and did see us, we’d be easy to follow with the snow masking their footsteps and no crowds to lose ourselves in.”
“Well, well,” Seregil said with a low chuckle, “listen to my pure-hearted Dalnan speaking like a true follower of the god of thieves.”
“I haven’t been entirely a pure-hearted Dalnan for some time now, have I?” Alec said. He pressed a hot, open-mouthed kiss to the back of Seregil’s neck, and pure-hearted or not, the feeling of Seregil’s shiver against him -- an entirely different kind of shivering than what he’d been doing before -- made Alec flush with pleasure and pride.
Seregil moved to press himself more solidly back against Alec’s body, and the moment hung, heavy, in the air around them. But there was plenty of time for that. For now, Seregil’s hair was still damp and Alec was perfectly content to lie with him on the floor until he was warm and dry, until neither of them could bear to stay still any longer.
They were quiet for a few minutes, thinking their own thoughts. Alec tried to imagine what Seregil was thinking about, and smiled to himself at the knowledge that the older man’s thoughts were probably all mildly bitter cursings of the weather and the lack of Cat jobs and his damp hair and looming, existential boredom at the prospect of being stuck inside for another day tomorrow.
Alec tightened his arm around Seregil’s waist, just slightly, and willed for him to understand that Alec would follow him anywhere -- from hearth to hearth, from one adventure to the next, whatever Seregil happened to be in the mood for at the time -- because with Seregil, it had never felt like following. Even from that first night in Asengai’s dungeon, following Seregil had been more like being.
Seregil linked his hand with Alec’s, as though he might sense these thoughts, despite the fact that when Alec spoke, he said something entirely different.
“Would you ever get bored of this?” he wondered aloud, though it wasn’t truly wondering; he could feel the answer already, thrumming between them like a thread of magic Thero might draw in the air with a wand. Even though he knew, he kept on. “Of lying by the fire, I mean. Just lying here, not doing anything.”
Seregil gave a deep sigh, not unlike the one he reserved for those times when he was at his most long-suffering, and for a flicker of a moment Alec doubted himself and his trust in Seregil’s answer.
But then he realized that the shimmer of emotion he was feeling through the talimenios bond was contentment -- a bone-deep contentment he only ever felt reverberating between them in moments exactly like this one, when it was just the two of them, ready to face whatever the world could offer or threaten, but just as ready to curl up by the fire.
Somehow, Seregil managed to pull Alec even tighter to him. “This is doing something, tali,” he said.