Kusho has faced many things and not flinched.
He has faced death more times than one can count.
He has faced the undead, too - more times than one can count.
This should be nothing. He treats killing as if it's a game of some sort. He knows he shouldn't be scared of something as droll as this. He knows it.
But still, he is.
He flinches, and turns towards Vaeril. "Ah. Hello, Vaeril. Thank you for meeting me."
"You sounded very scared in your letter," Vaeril says, a concerned frown on his face. "I had no choice but to come." He smiles wryly. "Though I do hope you aren't planning to kill me."
Kusho winces at that. Though Vaeril has entirely forgiven him for the assassination contract, Kusho still feels rather guilty.
Vaeril was not responsible for anything that happened in the forest. He was not intentionally practicing evil magic. He was just as scared of himself as the other elves were.
And Kusho had planned to kill him for it, still.
Vaeril sees the genuine sorrow on Kusho's face, and his joking expression melts into a concerned one as he places a hand on Kusho's shoulder. "You know I was joking. I've forgiven you. You were only doing as you were asked to do, Kusho."
"I know," Kusho says softly. He swallows thickly, and looks away.
He does. He knows.
But their past makes this even more terrifying for him.
How can he ever expect Vaeril to return his feelings when he had, at one point, wanted to slice his neck open?
"This was a mistake," he says, shaking his head. He steps back, away from Vaeril. "I'm sorry I called you out here. I know you hate being away from the infirmary. I'm sorry."
"Kusho?" Vaeril looks genuinely concerned, now. "Kusho, what's wrong?"
Kusho shakes his head and looks to the ground.
He can't do this.
Killing is his strong suit. Emotions are anything but.
"Don't make me say it," he whispers. "Our friendship is too fragile as it is. Don't make me destroy it beyond all repair."
A silence passes. The birds chirp high above him. The wind blows in the leaves.
"Do you truly think our friendship fragile, Kusho?"
Kusho lifts his gaze. He sees an expression he's never seen on Vaeril. Hurt. Even when Vaeril faced him, when they finally met while Kusho was hunting him, there was no hurt on Vaeril's face. He understood, then. He knew Kusho was only doing his job.
But now, he's hurt Vaeril with his words. "I thought we were close," Vaeril says, before Kusho can say anything. "Especially considering you tried to assassinate me once." He gives an awkward laugh. "If anything, I would think that that would have broken our relationship beyond repair."
"We had no relationship back then," Kusho points out.
"Yes, true. But we became friends, and yet that event does not weigh me down. If anything, it weighs you down."
Kusho does not argue.
"So tell me, Kusho. What is so dire that you cannot tell me? Remember - we became friends even though you planned to kill me. You need not worry about me becoming angry with you for this."
Kusho stares at Vaeril in wary silence. Eventually, he nods, and takes a deep breath.
"I... I think I have fallen for you, Vaeril. I... I want to be with you. I want..." He struggles to find the words that will explain his feelings.
He's said enough, based on the shocked expression Vaeril now wears. Kusho shuts his mouth once he notices it.
No, he does say one more thing.
After a brief moment, a smile spreads over Vaeril's face.
"Why are you sorry?" he asks. He reaches up, cupping Kusho's jaw ever so gently. "I told you, Kusho. I will not become angry with you. Certainly not over you holding romantic feelings for me."
Kusho gives an awkward laugh, and a weight comes off of him. "I'm glad. I would hate to lose your friendship-"
"Oh, no. You're definitely losing my friendship."
It feels like ice has been dumped on Kusho's entire body. He stares at Vaeril in shock and slight horror. "What? Why?"
Vaeril shrugs as he retracts his hand. "How can you expect me to still be your friend, knowing you hold those feelings for me?" he asks, as casually as though he were discussing the weather.
Before Kusho can even open his mouth - whether to cry or frantically apologize, he's not sure - Vaeril grins mischievously. "After all, with me returning those feelings, I should hope that you would want a more romantic relationship with me."
It takes a minute for Kusho's mind to catch up. When it does, he lets out a shocked breath, and he places a hand over his racing heart. "Not funny," he says.
Vaeril shrugs. "I suppose not," he says, but he's smiling. "I'll make it up to you. Close your eyes for me."
It truly says something, the way Kusho immediately closes his eyes at that request.
An unfamiliar touch hits his lips, and Kusho immediately leans into it, one hand going to rest on the back of Vaeril's head. The kiss is slow and careful. Both of them pull away at the same time, and Kusho's eyes don't open until a few moments after they're separated.
"Is that sufficient?" Vaeril asks teasingly.
Kusho smiles. "Perhaps," he says. "But I think another one would be better."
Vaeril grins, and leans in again.