It was a fine line that he was treading, and Kashaw knew it.
Whether he liked it or not, he was married to a goddess. It didn't matter that it hadn't been his decision, that he hadn't had any say in the matter. That didn't change the facts in the least bit. She was his wife, and he was Her husband.
And, while he didn't know how She felt on the subject of monogamy, he knew damn well how She felt about things like "mass murder." It was pretty high up on Her list of favorite things.
Kashaw was a lot of things, but he wasn't going to risk getting innocent people killed just so he could get his rocks off. He wasn't that much of a bastard. He'd been perfectly content (no, that was a lie, he'd been frustrated as Hells, but the "not a complete bastard" point still stood) not to worry about the more physical aspects of life.
Then he met Vox Machina. It was funny how much that changed things. No, not funny. The other word. Frustrating, that was it. It was frustrating how much that changed things.
Of course, he used that word a lot when it came to Vox Machina. Lots of people did, from what he could tell.
It explained a lot.
Okay, technically speaking, that was a lie. Vesh had been his first kiss. Kashaw tried his best not to think about that, though, at least not any more than he absolutely had to. It was easier to pretend that it had never happened that way.
Besides, it had been a difference like night and day, kissing Vesh and kissing Keyleth. One had been a duty. One had been a choice. He'd never realized how much of a difference that could make.
(He regretted, looking back, that he'd taken that choice away from Keyleth. She didn't mind, at least that's what she claimed, but still. Kashaw didn't usually have time for regrets, but that was one of his few.)
Vesh's touch had felt like a curse, evil practically exuding from Her the moment She touched his skin. He still felt sick sometimes, knowing a part of Her flowed through his veins. But Keyleth... she was something entirely different. She was as bright as the sun, as light as laughter, the opposite of Vesh in every possible way.
That was probably what had gotten his attention, now that he thought about it.
Keyleth was as annoying as a person could possibly be, and he'd be the first to admit it. She was clumsy and awkward and a pain in the ass. Nobody would have batted an eye if he'd stormed off after they'd completed the requirements of the Slayer's Take and never looked back.
Except she'd also been loyal, and funny, and courageous, and breathtakingly beautiful.
In another world, maybe something could have come out of it. He'd kissed her long before Vax ever had, after all.
But a cold shiver had gone down his spine as he'd broken his first and only kiss with Keyleth. It could have been his imagination, a flicker of guilt making itself known. Or it could have been Her, giving him a warning.
Kashaw hadn't wanted to risk it. He hadn't wanted to risk her.
So he had walked away.
Whether or not he'd ever say as much to him, though, Vax was a good man. Even Kashaw had to admit it. Impulsive, broody, cold as fuck when his loved ones were being threatened, and possessing the emotional maturity of a toddler sometimes. But a good man.
Plus he was ridiculously handsome. Not that Kashaw would ever say that to Vax either. Still, he wasn't blind. He had eyes. Two of them, even. Just because he didn't do anything more than look didn't mean he hadn't noticed.
Scanlan's comments didn't exactly make things easier. Of course, it was Scanlan. That was basically the entire point of his existence, making things harder.
(... and the fact that Kashaw immediately realized the pun five seconds after the thought crossed his mind was a sure sign that he'd spent too much time around the gnome.)
The point was, there was a part of Kashaw that wished he'd handled things differently. It was the same part of him that remembered what it had felt like to press his lips against Keyleth's, her quiet gasp of surprise as she'd realized what was happening. But he was a big enough man to admit that she and Vax looked happy together, at least when they weren't looking awkward and somewhat terrified.
It was better that way. For everyone.
Still, Kashaw was only human. If he occasionally woke up in the middle of the night, achingly hard, with the memory of dirt-stained hands and a bright laugh ringing in his ears? Well, it wasn't anyone's business but his own. And if sometimes he dreamed of two faces instead of just one, red hair and dark hair both mingling together with his lighter brown? That wasn't anyone else's concern either.
Nor were the eyes he saw floating in midair above the three of them in those dreams, watching intently with an unreadable look in them. One blue, and one yellow. An exact match for his own.
It wasn't the first time that had happened, and it wouldn't be the last. He knew Z well enough to be absolutely certain about that, if nothing else. She was the queen of doing what he wasn't expecting her to do.
Still, the point still stood. One minute he'd been standing outside the door to his quarters, getting ready to call it a night. The next thing he knew, his back was against the wall and Zahra was pressing a rather enthusiastic kiss against his lips.
"What was that?" Kashaw asked, a little breathlessly, as Zahra finally pulled away from him.
The smirk she was giving him shouldn't have been allowed in public. Hells, he was pretty sure it would have gotten her arrested in some places he'd traveled through over the years.
"If you don't know what a kiss is," Zahra said teasingly, "then we're in for a longer night than I expected."
Kashaw rolled his eyes. "You know damn well what I meant, Z."
Zahra's tail lashed back and forth behind her. "We could be dead tomorrow, love," she said. "I don't know about you, but I'd rather not spend the night by myself."
He opened his mouth, an argument already forming on the tip of his tongue.
"Unless you're too scared of your wife's wrath to actually live your life," Zahra continued calmly, something flashing in her eyes that he couldn't quite read.
Kashaw's mouth snapped shut. It shouldn't have surprised him, not after everything they'd been through, but it still managed to catch him off guard that she saw straight through him.
The smug look on Zahra's face didn't disappear completely, but it did soften somewhat as she reached out to run her hand along the side of his face. "You know I love you, Kash," she said. "In whatever way you need."
"Back at you, Z." The words were all but automatic, slipping out without requiring much in the way of thinking on his part. Which was good, because Kashaw's brain was still trying to process exactly what had just happened.
Zahra narrowed her eyes, as if she could read his mind. Knowing her, maybe she could. It wouldn't surprise him at this point. "I'm off in search of a bed that's not completely full yet," she said slowly. Pointedly, even. "I suggest you do the same."
There was no missing the way her eyes flickered down the hallway in the direction of Keyleth's bedroom. Nor could he miss what part of his anatomy her hand reached down to pat teasingly, just for a second.
"I'll think about it," Kashaw managed to choke out, only a little higher pitched than his normal tone.
Shaking her head, Zahra turned and started walking away. Judging by the direction she was heading in, the odds seemed pretty high that her destination was Vex's room.
"I think Percy was heading that way earlier," Kashaw called out. "Her bed might be a bit full already."
The grin Zahra shot him over her shoulder probably qualified as a sexual act all on its own.
That very much wasn't how it worked with Kashaw and Vesh. Drawing her active attention towards him was the last thing he wanted, considering how things had gone in the past.
Zahra had a point, though. And it wasn't just on the end of her tail.
(Gods, he really needed to spend much less time around Scanlan. Even his mental voice was telling bad jokes at this point.)
Kashaw didn't have a holy symbol in the traditional sense. He didn't need one. He was a walking and talking one, a visible sign of Vesh in a world that didn't remember her.
His hand reached up to rest on his arm, covering some of his scars.
"It would be nice not to be alone for once," he said quietly, closing his eyes.
Somewhere, in the back of his head, Kashaw thought that he heard a laugh. It wasn't a nice laugh, not by any means, but it wasn't cruel either. He didn't think that it sounded like a threat.
I never said that you had to be.
The words echoing in his mind might have been his imagination. It was entirely possible. Then again, it was just as plausible that they were more than that. That they weren't his own words at all.
The odds were, he'd never know for certain. That's how faith worked, no matter who or what that faith was placed in.
Somewhere nearby there was a burst of laughter, a cheerful sound that cut through his mind like a knife. A moment later, a slightly darker laugh mixed in with it, blending together into something that made his heart ache.
Kashaw's eyes snapped open.
The door in front of him was still tightly closed, the sounds of laughter muffled slightly by it. A bright light was flowing out from the crack underneath it, warm and welcoming.
There was still time for him to walk away. He could do what he'd always done, go back to his own room and curl up in his bed. Alone. The night would pass, as it always passed, and then tomorrow they'd either live or they'd die. One or the other.
The question was this: were they worth it?
(It wasn't really a question.)
Kashaw reached out and knocked on the door.