A/N: A fan of one of my other stories asked me to publish this. Here goes! Hope you like it!
He stood at the edge of the cliffs, bright red hair standing out like a rose blossom in the dead of winter. He was alone, but he didn't seem lonely. In fact, the look on his face was one of contentment, of wild abandonment.
He spun in a graceful circle, arms spread out at his sides, and dove off the cliff, transforming into a dragon as he plummeted. Oh yes, he loved that familiar rush. He was reckless and foolhardy. So what? He adored the summer sun soaking his crimson scales and the dangerous ferocity of the wind, flying by at break-neck speeds. He grinned, though in dragon form, it was a frightening thing to see. But there was nobody around to see, unless they were in the dense forest below, and even then, it was rare to see humans this far from civilization.
The little valley that he lived in, which he called Diamond Crescent, was between the two kingdoms, Enokoria to the west, by the mountain range, and Fralery to the east, by the Forest. People hated traveling through the forest, because there was a nasty swamp as you neared the valley. They hated the mountains because the had to climb treacherous heights. It was, all in all, a perfect home for a dragon who'd been exiled from humankind. But more on that later.
As he flew over the landscape, he took in the scenary and felt peaceful, and almost proud. After all, this entire place was his territory, and it was beautiful, even if isolated. But he had been far from others for so many years now, he no longer felt the pull of loneliness. He talked to himself constantly, so he still knew the human tongue, but he couldn't fathom why he felt the need to retain such tedious knowledge.
Eventually, he came back to his home, a huge cave in the mountainside with a large opening and room for several dragons his size or even larger. He changed back to human form, because it was practical and he thought about whether or not he should dress or stay nude, because sometimes he liked wearing human clothes, but other times, he preferred the freedom of being naked. He decided to stay nude today, because it was so warm out and clothes would only prove to be hot and itchy and sweaty. He lay on the cold stone floor and stared up at the rock ceiling, yawning loudly. He fell asleep only a few minutes later, napping in the middle of the day as he often did.
* * * * * * * * *
Keziah swept his hand over his eyes and scanned the surrounding landscape. Here he was, done up in this frilly pink silk and gauzy gown, and he couldn't even find the stupid kingdom he was traveling to. He sighed and let his indigo hair fall back into his eyes. His hair was falling out of the previously elegant princess hair style, and the tiara was falling to one side. Keziah tried to fix it, but only made it worse, so he ignored it and blew at his bangs, which was what he did when he was exasperated.
This whole thing was stupid. He didn't even know why he'd agreed to it in the first place. Well, okay, he'd done it to get away from the dreadful Princess Drusillda, who was supposed to be getting engaged to him when he got back from this mission. But Keziah had no intention of marrying that snob. He might not even come back after he was done doing this favor for his uncle.
Keziah had been the only candidate, because he was the only "pretty" boy in the Fralerian Kingdom, and he wasn't as well known as Prince Radley, who wasn't even slightly attractive.
Keziah rolled his puffed sleeves up to his elbows and lifted his skirts. There was a nasty brown quagmire before him. The famous swamps of the Fralery region. The stupid dress was digging into his ribs, and hindering his process, but he didn't know how to loosen it, so he decided to go at it as he was. After all, once he passed this mucky swamp, he'd be about half there, right?
Keziah had forgotten he was still wearing those ghastly, good-for-nothing slippers that matched the dress, and he was now standing ankle-deep in the mud.
"Crap!" Keziah jumped back on dry land and peeled the nasty slippers off his small feet. Examining them, he decided they were now completely useless, and threw them aside. He wrenched his pack off his shoulders and dug through its contents, looking for his boots.
"A-ha!" He spied them and dragged them out. "Ah, nice, stable, practical boots."
He pulled them on and laced them tightly. He stood and hitched the pack back across his shoulders.
"Okay! Lift dress, and we're ready, right?" Keziah lifted the dress to his knees and waded across the muddy swamp. He tried to ignore the buzzing mosqitoes and the sweat beaded on his forehead. If he dropped the dress into the mud, they'd never believe that he was a princess.
When he had finally made it to the other side of the swamp, he carefully wiped off all the mud on his boots before letting the dress fall down his legs again. He wiped his forehead off with his arm and let out a long breath.
"Woooo... This is hard work." He looked around and saw a cave up ahead. "Hey! It's my lucky day!"
Keziah headed over, feeling immensely relieved. At least he could stay sheltered from wild animals tonight. When he walked in, he had to blink a few times to let his eyes become accustomed to the new dimness. He looked around and saw that the place was full of plants and crudely made wooden furniture. There was a pile of clothes in one corner, and there, in the center of the room, lay a lone boy, about his age. Keziah could tell it was a boy only because he was nude. Otherwise, he would have mistaken him for a girl.
The boy was slender, and pale, with bright, fiery red hair, longer than he was tall. He appeared to be sleeping, there wasn't any blood on him, but Keziah didn't want to take a chance.
"Ahem!" Keziah tried, attempting to wake the boy up. He didn't stir.
Keziah took his pack off and sat in one of three crudely made chairs in this room of the cave. He studied everything in the room, but his eyes mostly kept travelling back to the boy on the floor. He was unlike anyone he'd ever seen. That was his only rational reason as to why he felt so warm when he was looking at him. He couldn't even explain to himself why he kept staring at the boy's parted lips, or why he suddenly felt compelled to join the guy on the floor, wrapping his arms around that slim waist and pulling close to him, letting his own lips graze that perfect skin. Keziah blushed at the thought, and tried to look away. But his gaze kept coming back to rest on him.
An hour later, Keziah was studying a potbelly stove for the fifth time that day, when he heard the sound of the boy moaning as he awoke. Keziah turned to face him. The boy was sitting up now, rubbing his eyes. All that red hair was cascading down the boy's shoulders and back. It looked wild, as though he rarely brushed it.
"Um, excuse me?" Keziah tried to get the boy's attention.
The red-haired boy looked up abruptly, his eyes blinking in surprise. Keziah opened his mouth, but no words came, as he stared at those eyes. They were also unlike anything he'd ever seen, diamond shaped, like little slivers of emerald. There didn't seem to be any white anywhere. Just green illuminated by the light coming in from the mouth of the cave. They were large with surprise at the moment.
"Um...Hi." Keziah said lamely. "My name is Keziah Seles. I'm a traveler, and I--"
"A traveler?" The boy spoke finally. His voice was husky from disuse and he had a strange accent Keziah didn't recognize.
Keziah suddenly realized he was dressed as a princess. Of course he doubted him! What kind of princess traveled without a coach, or attendants, at the very least?
"Well, I mean, I was traveling to the kingdom of Enokoria with my bodyguards, but they were ummm, eaten by trolls on the way here... So now I must travel alone." Keziah thought that sounded very girlish. Hopefully.
"And this?" The red-haired boy leaned close and Keziah moved away quickly. The boy was pointing at his sword, which was strapped to a belt he'd worn over the dress.
"Oh! Heheheh... That- that... was my bodyguard's. Before he died, he uh, gave it to me. You know, in case I ran into trouble." /I'm acting like a total freak,/ Keziah thought. /I never act like this! What the hell is it about this guy?/
The red-haired boy leaned back on his heels, studying him. Keziah's cheeks flushed.
"Wh-what?" He asked nervously.
The boy cocked his head to the side, still analyzing him. He reached a hand out to Keziah's cheek. Keziah flinched at his touch. His nerves were all balled up, and he realized he was strangling the dress between his sweaty, clenched fingers. He loosened his grip, trying to relax.
The boy stroked his cheek once, then dropped his hand. "Human..." he muttered. Keziah blinked, not sure he'd heard right.
The boy didn't say anything in response. He stood and gestured outside the cave. "What's it like, out there?"
"What do you mean? Are you some kinda caveman?"
The boy looked at the walls of the cave.
"Point taken." Keziah said amiably. "You know any shortcuts across the mountain?"
A strange look flickered across the boy's face, but he just said, "How so?"
"Well, you know, secret paths? The least dangerous ways to go? Or do you avoid the mountains?"
The boy crossed his arms and grinned, and it was then that Keziah realized this was no ordinary boy. He had fangs. Keziah's fingers tightened around the dress again.
"Of course not!" The boy boasted. "I love the mountains! Do you want my help getting across?"
"Are you going to be dressed?"
The boy uncrossed his arms and looked down at himself. "Hmmm, I suppose, if it makes you more comfortable."
Keziah couldn't help it. He blushed. "Umm, yeah, well... Most people would be uncomfortable to see a naked guy running around." Keziah tried to hide his blush.
The boy swept his hair back, holding it as though he were planning on tying it back. "And I suppose I'll have to tie this back, too, right?"
"It would help." Keziah looked away, trying not to look at the boy's exposed body.
"Are all human- er- women modest, or just you?"
"Uh... Most women are raised to be so, yes. Maybe you should learn to be, too."
"But I'm not a woman."
"That's true. Men aren't as modest as women, but many prefer to be clothed than naked, if you know what I mean."
"Yes, yes. I hear you. I will get dressed. Please look the other way."
"..." Keziah looked away. (*sweatdrop*)
"You asked me to be modest."
"Yeah..." Keziah shook his head. Wasn't it a little too late for that now?
"So..." Keziah tried to make conversation. "What's your name?"
"Vermilion? That's... an odd name."
"It's cause of my colour. Er, hair colour."
"I know what vermilion means."
"You said it was odd."
"I think Keziah is an odd name."
"So? I like it."
"So do I."
Keziah was silent a moment. Eh? "You like mine or yours?"
"Your eyes are nice, too. They look like ice."
"Ummm, thank you?"
"You can turn around now."
Keziah turned to see that Vermilion was dressed in a beautifully old fashioned outfit, but it seemed to fit him more than the current style would.
"I'm dressed. Do you feel better now?"
"Much." Keziah took a look at himself, then brought a hand up to his hair self-consciously. "Umm, do you have a lake or something around here?"
"Yes. It's over that way. If you want to bathe, I suggest you do it now, before the sun goes down and you end up getting sick."
"Yeah... I'll be back soon, okay?"
Vermilion shrugged. "I'll be fixing my hair then."
Keziah gathered what he needed from his pack and took it with him to the small lake, which was more like a clear pond.
He went to take the dress off, and found that he couldn't. Truth be told, he hadn't paid much attention when the giggling ladies had trussed himup in the dress, and now he couldn't figure out how to get out of the damned thing. He struggled with it for several moments, until he couldn't take it anymore. He left his soap and such in the little crevice Vermilion must've made for his own stuff and took off back to the cave.
""Vermilion!" He called. He needn't have. Vermilion sat cross-legged on the floor, near the entrance, brushing out his incredibly long hair. There was several threads sitting by his right knee, presumedly for his hair. Vermilion looked up questioningly.
"I...uh..." How was he supposed to explain he didn't know how to loosen up the dress? Wait, of course! "I usually have maids to loosen the dress for me. So, I don't know how to do it myself. Could you... help?"
"I thought you were modest?" Vermilion asked, with just a hint of a smile.
"I AM! I'm not asking you to UNDRESS me! Just... Just loosen it, please?"
Vermilion waved him over and turned Keziah around a few times, examining the dress's make, and finally figuring it out. He unhooked the back part, then pulled Keziah a little closer. Keziah resisted.
"Hey! What are you doing?" Keziah cried.
"I'm getting to the laces on the sides." Vermilion replied sullenly. "What did you think I was doing?"
"Umm, I don't... Nothing." Keziah reddened in embarrasment.
Keziah grit his teeth together tightly as Vermilion worked at the tightly knotted laces, trying to ignore the pleasant sensation of Vermilion's fingers moving methodically at his ribcage and the mere closeness of the other boy, kneeling beside him as he was. What was wrong with him? Just because he was pretending to be a girl didn't mean he was one! Then he realized that Vermilion didn't know that, and might even think he was attractive. /He did say my eyes were nice... But does that really mean anything? His eyes are... well, gorgeous..., I guess. And if I can think that about him, without being attracted, then can't he think my eyes are nice without thinking I'm altogether attractive? But then... I AM attracted-- NO. I'm not. I just... have been lonely these past three days. Yeah, that's it./
"Okay. I'm done." Vermilion sat back on his heels, drawing his hands back just as Keziah lowered his arms, causing them to graze each other. Keziah pulled his arm back like it was a lightning bolt. Vermilion gazed at Keziah's reaction in puzzlement.
"Well!" Keziah said, a little too loudly. "I, um, I gotta go now. Gotta hurry before I get sick and all. You know how it is. Getting sick when it gets all cold out, and getting sick."
Keziah rushed out of the cave, aware he'd been repeating himself, and wanting to stone himself for acting like such a moron. /Vermilion must think I'm a total idiot./
At the pond-like lake, Keziah tore the dress off, now that it was possible, and took off the petticoat beneath it. Once all the underclothes were gone /Geez, girls sure do wear a lot of crap./ Keziah sank into the cool water and sighed in total abandonment. Whew. He hadn't expected the day to go by like this. He thought it'd be just like the last two days before. At least now, he had somebody to talk to, instaed of himself. That could be dull, especially since yourself didn't normally talk back, and he thought it was starting to get to that point, which usually meant that you were either insane, or a witch. And he was neither. Well, he hoped he wasn't insane, anyway. These past few hours made him wonder.
/Why am I getting all weird over this guy anyway? He is a guy, and you know it! So why in the hell are you fighting urges to kiss the guy? It shouldn't be this way.../
Keziah finished his bath, got dressed and combed out his shoulder length dark blue hair, not bothering to put it back up yet. It was still wet, so it wasn't a good idea.
As Keziah trudged up the little dusty path to the cave, he noticed that Vermilion was sitting out on the ledge and swinging his legs. His hair was done up in several messy braids, but it didn't look weird on the wild Vermilion, who looked as though normal wouldn't suit him, anyway.
"Good bath?" Vermilion asked, turning his head to look at him in the waning light of the sun. With the sun setting behind him, Vermilion looked even more wild, his hair actually looked like it was made of fire.
"Uh, yeah." Keziah hesitantly sat next to Vermilion on the ledge, though he was careful not to sit too close. "So, why do you live here?"
Vermilion looked out across the land, drawing one of his knees to his chest. "I wasn't acceptable."
"What the hell does that mean?"
Hu- People didn't want me around. That's all."
"You don't seem that bad." Keziah said, stringing his fingers together and resting his chin on his laced fingers, elbows on his knees.
"People aren't all that they seem." Vermilion said as he stood. "We'll leave in the morning. See you then."
"What? Aren't I sleeping in the cave, too?"
"Yes, but I thought you were modest."
"A girl and a boy can't sleep in the same room. Modesty rules."
"Oh. That." Keziah waved his hand. "Don't worry about that."
"Oh?" Vermilion rose an eyebrow.
"Uh... Well, I mean, that is, I...." Keziah blushed as he grew increasingly more flustered. "Oh, never mind. I'll sleep in a different room, then."
"No." Vermilion said. "I will. You can have the front. It's safe, I assure you."
"Yeah. Goodnight." When Keziah looked back up at the sky, he saw that the moon was out. Was this going to work out? /We'll see, won't we?/
To Be continued!!
Please R&R. This'll be a kinda long fantasy thing, so I want some people ready for a long haul. ^_^ Anyways, comments are appreciated. What did you think of the guys? Yay!