Elezar was growing to dread mornings. The dreams were relentless, and the worst was that he woke burning with desire and happiness. Then he’d wake up further and the guilt and shame would start, over and over.
At night it was Javier, everywhere. In his dreams, Elezar lay alone on the huge round bed in the Goldenrod’s grand chamber, watching Javier walk closer and closer. Javier was always clothed and always set Elezar’s heart beating frantically. He longed for Javier to fall atop him, as if he were one of the brothel women waiting for a man. Some nights in his dreams, Javier would walk away and leave him wanting. Some nights, Kiram would tempt him away. Elezar dreaded most the dreams where Javier died again and again on Elezar’s sword, his eyes locked on Elezar’s.
But some nights, Javier came to him, and his touch lit Elezar’s dreaming body afire. Javier’s weight atop him was sweeter than any woman’s embrace, and his smell of sweat and maleness was familiar and exciting. Elezar would arch up into him, let his legs fall open and grind himself against Javier like a dog in heat. He’d put his hands all over Javier, running his palms over smooth, lean muscle and scars, and bury his face in his coal-black hair.
Those dreams had him waking hard and frantic, or, mortifyingly, wet and sticky and praying that no one had heard him.
When he was awake, he couldn’t keep his mind away from Kiram and Javier and what they might be doing right at that moment. He was tormented with visions of Javier under Kiram, Javier’s head thrown back and his hands gripping Kiram’s shoulders. Over and over he replayed what he’d seen that morning in Anacleto; Javier’s perfect body, his hands all over Kiram, his joy and carelessness in nearly fucking right there in the open - in Elezar’s own damned garden! - and the way he smiled at Kiram.
It was the smile that haunted him. He would have learned to accept Javier’s bending for Kiram. He understood letting the desire for a good fuck turn a person’s judgement. He’d even felt hope under his complete shock, and not understood why until months of the cursed dreams had eroded his denial. Somewhere inside, deep in his unconscious, he’d wondered if maybe...
But that smile hurt Elezar’s heart, and the whole world had been different ever since. Javier loved Kiram as Nestor loved Riossa. Javier, once won, would never stray. He was fierce and honourable in his loyalties; Elezar knew as much from his years by his side.
And Javier treated his bending as if it were nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. He treated Kiram as if he were nothing less than his partner and no different to a wife. And now they were both gone, leaving Elezar with his world in tatters. Because, if only Elezar had known, before Kiram came. If only he’d understood his own desires when he reached for Javier’s hand in the brothels. Sometimes Elezar wished he hadn’t survived his injuries after escaping Anacleto.
He knew, though, that it would not have made a difference. Nothing would be different now, if he’d known his own heart years or months ago. Elezar was a Grunito and the oldest son. He would not have had Javier’s courage. He never had had Javier’s courage, in any matter. Certainly he would not have risked his life, his position, his family and exile for Javier. He’d never ever been able to make himself enter Javier’s room for fear of the White Hell.
Which, of course, Kiram had done and more. Kiram was worthy of Javier, but Elezar was glad that Kiram was far away, because sometimes he felt locked in a jealous rage. What he wanted to do to Javier; what he wanted Javier to do to him. And the bitterness at himself and the world for ensuring it could never be, had never had a chance to be.
Elezar didn’t let himself avoid mirrors, though he wanted to. He didn’t like looking himself in the eye and seeing a man who was afraid of his own desires. He didn’t like looking at himself and seeing a bender, either, and the conflict was making him bad tempered and prone to lashing out.
Chapel was a trial. Lady Grunito’s occasional talk of marriage for Elezar was worse. And he avoided Timoteo and his judging gaze like the plague. Nestor was his only balm. Elezar hadn’t spoken to him on the issue - he couldn’t bear it, not yet - but his easy acceptance of Javier and Kiram’s relationship gave him some comfort.
Now he was no longer hiding from himself, he could see why he had. It was hard not to feel hopeless, on top of bitter and heartbroken, thinking of the life he had ahead of him. Any scandal in his house and Timoteo would pounce, the Bishop’s landgrabbing orders on his heels. Elezar could not avoid marriage and a ‘respectable’ life if he wanted to keep his title and his family’s reputation.
His one other choice was to give up his place as heir and pass it to Nestor, followed by excommunication, exile and a chase after a man who wouldn’t want him and wouldn’t thank him for any of it.
And still, the dreams. Night after night, waking with thoughts full of Javier and the things that Javier could do to him. The dreams drove him, eventually, to the Haldiim quarter, to wander the streets among the male couples. Elezar didn’t know if he was torturing himself or trying to get over Javier, or something else entirely. He watched couple after couple exchange kisses in the street, easy and at ease. He saw other couples in much seedier parts of the city fucking in alleyways, and was ashamed at his instant, uncontrollable hardness.
With that realisation went Elezar’s last hope; that wanting Javier was just Javier and his magnetic pull. No, Elezar wanted men. His longing for Javier hurt him now, but would eventually fade.
Somewhere in his future, though, there might be another man who set his blood humming and his thoughts whirling like this.
If Elezar ever met him, he swore to himself that he would give his fear and his hope an equal chance in the outcome.