Crystalline Flaws – 22

Nikerym Ksherea



Teyren waited patiently, keeping his eyes trained on the page as he wrote slowly. Keir shifted in his seat, but didn't say anything yet. He would, though, if Teyren left it long enough. Being careful of the fresh ink, Teyren set aside the paper and looked up, meeting Keir's eyes.

"What?" Keir scowled, annoyed and exasperated.

"You could've been gentler." Teyren said, ignoring the slight ache that was trying to take up residence in his forehead. "And you didn't have to do it in front of Fiohste."

Keir sighed loudly. "Does it really matter? He asked about it –"

"Keir." Teyren frowned. "You weren't here for that."

"Oops." Keir shrugged. "Well, it doesn't really matter."

"It hurt." Teyren pressed. "Keir, you need to warn me next time. How am I supposed to stop doing it on my own if I don't know I'm doing it?"

"Sorry. It should ache more if you try and do it again." Keir grinned. "So that'll be your deterrent."

"You're missing my point." Teyren sighed. "There's a point where you need to leave things alone."

"You can't keep the shielding." Keir pointed out. "It makes your eye color change suspiciously. I'm trying to help."

"And when did you pull out of my head that Fiohste had asked?" Teyren demanded.

"It was quicker." Keir shrugged. "You weren't very forthcoming when you told me what you'd told him."

"You shouldn't –"

"Why not? I get much more straightforward answers, and it's quicker. I need to use it somehow, Tey." Keir cut him off, uncrossing his legs and setting them on the floor. "Make sure you have the supply list done by tomorrow to give to Taria. Goodnight."

Teyren sighed, leaning back in his chair. "Goodnight." He muttered, resigned. He'd have to talk to Jain about it then, since Keir didn't seem interested in paying him any mind.

☼☼☼

Reiten wasn't in the living room when Fiohste finally got back. He'd had to go by Taria's office and listen to her annoyances about his leaving. She'd wished him good luck at the end though, and given him an out from training a replacement, which meant he could spend more time with Reiten, at least.

Shucking off his coat, he hung it up inside the door. "Reiten?" He called quietly. Reiten's jacket was still hanging next to his, so Reiten had to be inside somewhere. Kicking off his boots, Fiohste wandered further into the house. The fireplace had pretty much burned out, and there was a book sitting in one of the armchairs.

Fiohste decided Reiten was likely in the bedroom – the kitchen wasn't warm enough, and Reiten wouldn't hang out in there long enough for the fire to burn low. Ducking in, he shut the door quietly.

"Hey." Fiohste greeted softly, padding over to the bed. Reiten smiled sadly, sitting up slowly. Fiohste sat down, swinging his legs up and leaning against the headboard. Reiten shuffled over a bit, settling down next to him.

"You're cold." Reiten accused, resting his head against Fiohste's shoulder.

"I was outside." Fiohste pointed out with a smile, wrapping an arm around Reiten's shoulders. "It's still kind of cold out."

"Really." Reiten murmured, bringing a warm hand up to press against Fiohste's cheek. Fiohste laughed, sneaking his hand under Reiten's shirt. "Gah." Reiten jerked away, almost elbowing him in the chest.

"Really." Fiohste confirmed, laughing. Reiten eyed him warily, sitting down a bit away from him. "So what did you do all night?"

"I went and saw Eravan." Reiten offered. "I think he and Tarek are getting on better."

"That's good." Fiohste smiled, waiting patiently for Reiten to move back over. "Though it's probably not the best thing to be pulling Eravan away now. They just now got Tarek settled."

"It'll be okay." Reiten shrugged, looking miserable again. "Can we not talk about that though?"

"Yeah, sure." Fiohste agreed easily, nudging Reiten's shin with his toes. "I just want this to be over, so I can spend time with you."

"Me too." Reiten murmured. "But I'll visit every night."

"That'll be nice, at least." Fiohste smiled. "And I can spend the next two nights with you."

"Good." Reiten shifted, settling back down at Fiohste's side. Fiohste tucked his arm around Reiten's shoulders, smiling again as Reiten kissed him lightly on the cheek. "It's different, you being here and not having a real time limit."

"I noticed." Fiohste ran his fingers through Reiten's hair, gently detangling the dark strands. "It's nice, not having to worry about you disappearing for weeks at a time."

"I'm sorry." Reiten murmured, nuzzling Fiohste's shoulder. "I never meant to make you worry."

"It's okay." Fiohste reassured, tilting Reiten's head up and kissing him. "If I worried why you weren't talking to me, it was less time I had to worry about whether or not I had a phantom in my brain."

Reiten laughed, smiling shyly. "I'm not a phantom."

"I didn't know that." Fiohste hummed. "I do now of course."

"Of course." Reiten echoed.

"After all, I couldn't do this –" Fiohste pulled Reiten close again, kissing him more thoroughly. Reiten didn't protest, shifting closer and rucking the blanket up between them. "I couldn't do that if you were a phantom." Fiohste whispered, and Reiten laughed, breathlessly.

"I'm glad I'm not a phantom." Reiten decided, kissing Fiohste gently, before actually climbing into Fiohste's lap. Fiohste's eyes widened a bit, but he went with it, accepting the kiss Reiten offered. One of Reiten's hands settled against his jaw, his fingertips moving lightly against the skin there. Fiohste let his hands fall to Reiten's hips, wondering absently where this was going.

Reiten was never forward. Fiohste didn't complain though, letting his slightly chilled fingers slip underneath Reiten's shirt. Reiten gasped into his mouth, breaking away to smile briefly before kissing his chin. "Please?" Reiten murmured, his lips hot against Fiohste's skin.

"Please, what?" Fiohste breathed, his hands ghosting up Reiten's sides. Reiten squirmed a little, wiggling in his lap and nipping lightly at the skin just below his jawline. Fiohste groaned quietly, removing his hands.

Reiten shrugged, sitting up a little with a smile. "I want to touch you."

"I did catch that." Fiohste smiled. "I just don't want to push you too far."

"I'm pushing." Reiten pointed out, kissing him again. Fiohste turned off the thinking part of his brain, and let his fingers work at the buttons that clasped Reiten's shirt shut.

"Push away," he murmured, distracted by the feel of Reiten's lips and the soft touch of Reiten's fingers.

☼☼☼

Jain scowled, throwing another handful of vegetables into the pan. Keir was late coming back again. For the second day in a row, since that all-day council session. Jain wasn't worried – Keir could take care of himself. It was more that Keir liked to scheme, and he wasn't telling Jain anything, so it had to be a bigger scheme than usual.

Or it was something that involved Jain, or was something that Jain wouldn't approve of. Jain threw in a dash of water, watching the vegetables dance satisfactorily. He would get answers out of Keir tonight though. As soon as the brat got home, Jain was cornering him and dragging answers out of him, any way he could.

☼☼☼

"Hey." Teyren smiled a bit, waving absently at Shalei as he studied the papers in front of him. "Busy?" Shalei asked, peering over his shoulder.

"A little." Teyren shrugged, keeping his voice quiet. His head hurt worse the more the night wore on, but he wasn't sure if it was from peering at the supply lists in dim light or if it was a lingering effect from Keir's abrupt dismissal of his shield earlier.

"What are you doing?" Shalei asked, curious as he sat down in the chair next to Teyren.

"Supply lists. What we'll need to go down there." Teyren answered automatically. "I think we're going to be selling furs."

"Furs? You mean blankets?" Shalei frowned. "Why?"

"Fur is a luxury in the south." Teyren smiled, amused. "Though it'll take some explanation as to where it came from."
"I'm sure there are other areas where it could conceivably come from." Shalei offered, leaning back in his chair dangerously. "Not just the north. Or you could just pick an area no one really knows much about?"

"Yes, that would work." Teyren offered a brief smile and jotted something down. "Thanks."

"No problem." Shalei grinned, tilting his chair back onto all four feet. "Have you eaten?"

"Not yet." Teyren murmured, making a few more notes. "Why?"

"Well, I'm not going to starve you." Shalei pointed out, resisting the urge to touch Teyren as he stood. "Are you almost done?"

"Yes." Teyren said, shuffling the papers together and setting them down on the table. Shalei wandered over to the kitchen area, opening his cupboards curiously. Teyren sighed, taking a moment to settle his nerves before standing and following. No matter how inviting it seemed, it would be entirely stupid of him to try and start anything back up with Shalei. Not now, when he had only a little over a day left before they went south again, and not so soon after telling Shalei that he needed space.

Tarek scowled, staring up at the ceiling. It had been ages since he'd shut himself in here. Eravan hadn't come in to apologize yet, either. Tarek glared, listening to Eravan's footsteps pacing back and forth across the main room.

It didn't matter – if Eravan wasn't going to apologize, well, he wasn't worth Tarek's time. Tarek could be stubborn, and he would find someway to get home, with or without Eravan's help.

☼☼☼

"You're too tall." Keir complained, dragging Jain down for a kiss. "I feel like I need a stool to greet you properly."

"Perhaps you're too short." Jain retorted, breaking away from Keir's grip to return to finishing dinner. "Where were you?"

"Eh, around. Met with Estan, met with Teyren, trained with Valen, that sort of thing." Keir rambled, following him into the kitchen. "What'd you do?"

"Sparred." Jain answered, spooning up a bowl for Keir. "Here, eat."

"Mmm, thanks." Keir smiled at him brightly, and Jain fought a scowl. Keir's scheme must be going really well, if he was in such a good mood. Jain served himself, and leaned against the counter.

"When do you start up your healing routine again?" Jain asked, taking a bite as Keir chewed thoughtfully.

"Dunno. As soon as everything's completely settled again, I suppose." Keir shrugged. "Though Estan was making noises about having me do more administrative things too."

"Is that a good idea?" Jain frowned. "I thought you wanted to stick with the healing side of things."

"I don't know." Keir shrugged again. "I suppose we'll have to see how things work out. Are you still partnered with Shalei?"

"Yeah." Jain mumbled around a mouthful. "Though we don't start patrolling for awhile."

"Guarding southerners?" Keir teased, grinning.

"Likely." Jain scowled. "What are you doing, Keir?"

"Hmm? Eating." Keir blinked at him innocuously.

"Not what I meant." Jain set aside his food. "You're plotting something."

"No." Keir shook his head, smiling a bit. "I plotted something."

"What?" Jain glared, annoyed.

"Well, that would ruin the surprise, wouldn't it?" Keir grinned, setting aside his bowl and crossing the room. "Besides, I promise you're happier not knowing."

"No, I'm not." Jain glowered, walking away from the kitchen. Keir would probably follow, or he'd finish his food and let Jain sulk for awhile. Jain didn't care right then, though, wandering back to their bedroom.

"Jain." Keir had followed, quietly, or Jain hadn't been paying attention. "I will tell you, eventually."

"Tell me now." Jain demanded, turning. Keir shook his head.

"You'll just get mad. I don't want you getting mad yet." Keir beamed. "Besides, do you really, really want to know?"

"Keir." Jain stalked back over to him, grabbing his chin and peering at him intently. Keir blinked, staring back wide-eyed. "Tell me."

"Ah," Keir backed up a step, blinking rapidly. "Don't do that." He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Okay, but you have to promise you won't get mad."

"Which means I'm not in anyway going to like this." Jain interpreted grumpily, and Keir laughed.

"Yeah, probably not." Keir grabbed his arm, tugging him over to the bed. "Sit, sit."

Jain sat down, dragging Keir down too. That way Keir couldn't run off if it was too bad, which Jain was starting to think it probably was. "Talk."

"Well." Keir smiled at him disarmingly. "I was triggered, as you know. You tested everyone who could've possibly done it, and got nothing from that. So it had to have been someone in the south, who was a telepath, so we're going to find him."

Jain didn't say anything for a moment, letting Keir stew. And you better not be in my head dammit. "We, who?"

"Um, me, and Tey. And Eravan." Keir paused. "And Fiohste, which is kind of weird, but it'll be okay because we're showing him the ropes and everything-"

"Keir." Jain scowled, grabbing Keir's wrist as Keir tried to scoot off the bed. "Is that all?"

"Um, yes?" Keir offered meekly. "You can't go, you know that. It was hard enough getting you in there last time. And this time it'll be worse!"

"If it's worse, you shouldn't go." Jain answered darkly.

"I have to. I was down there last time –"

"You were hurt last time." Jain reminded him irritably, not letting go of Keir's wrist.

"That won't happen again." Keir pointed out impatiently. "Once in a lifetime. Estan even said I've got no more possible latencies hiding out in me. And now I've got both the telepathy and the empathy to keep me safe."

"I don't like it." Jain glared. "And you were trying to hide it from me."

"Uh." Keir hesitated. "I didn't want you to overreact. Or try to force your way in."

"Overreact? Overreact how?" Jain demanded, annoyed. Keir sighed, reaching up and patting his cheek.

"Overreact like you are now?" He shook his head. "It'll be fine, Jain. Trust me."

"I do." Jain muttered. "I don't trust those blood-thirsty savages. Anything could happen."

"Eravan will be there to protect us. And Teyren's no weakling with his magics. And Valen's been showing me some offensive telepathic techniques." Keir listed off, twisting his arm out of Jain's grip.

"You should've told me sooner." Jain muttered, still annoyed. He wanted to tell Keir he couldn't go. He wanted to tell Keir he wasn't allowed to leave the house ever again, too, but Keir would ignore him. Keir blinked at him, smiling a bit, and Jain scowled. It didn't matter what he said – Keir would go ahead and do it anyway.

"Jain." Keir leaned over, wrapping his arms around Jain's middle. "Don't sulk, it's unbecoming."

"Shut up." Jain scowled, angrier. "I don't sulk, and if I did, I deserve it."

Keir snickered, but didn't let him go, shaking his head. "It's important, Jain. What if it's someone like Tey? Or if it's someone completely unlike Tey?"

"Great, so either I get to risk you trying to find and help another clueless southerner, or I get to risk you to finding a malevolent telepath." Jain shook Keir off, standing up. He didn't know what to do with this now. He was furious – Keir was risking himself for the south again, for those least deserving of their help. And he'd been hiding it, trying to keep Jain from it.

"Jain, don't." Keir stood up, following him across the room. "It's not that big of a risk. We did it before."

"Yes, and got caught." Jain snapped, turning to face Keir. "They'll be paying more attention. Not even Teyren will be safe – they saw him with us. You'll get caught and tortured and I won't be able to help."

"It won't happen." Keir said, firmly. "It will absolutely not happen. We have a plan, and if it becomes too dangerous, we'll head back. Reiten will be in continuous contact with Fiohste, and if you want I can talk to Estan and the council about having a back up group near the wall in case something does go wrong."

"Do that." Jain ordered, scowling. "You aren't to take any risks."

"I wouldn't." Keir smiled sweetly. "I have you to come back to, after all."

"Whatever." Jain muttered, but let Keir wrap himself around him.

"I'll stay safe, Jain." Keir murmured. "Even without you there."

"Sure." Jain agreed half-heartedly, before picking Keir up bodily. Keir made a little startled noise, blinking at him rapidly.

"What?" Keir asked, as Jain walked back over to the bed.

"When are you leaving?" Jain demanded, dropping Keir onto the mattress heavily. Keir laughed, bouncing a few times.

"The day after tomorrow?" He offered, and Jain cut him off with a swift kiss before he could say anything else. "Mmm – Jain?" Keir shook his head. "What?"

"I'm making good use of my time." Jain muttered, yanking at Keir's vest. Keir laughed, accepting another hard kiss as his shirt's buttons scattered.

"Jain –" Keir protested, laughing a bit as Jain tugged his shirt off too. "You're not mad?"

"I'm furious." Jain scowled, but dropped the expression to kiss Keir possessively. Keir moaned into it, wrapping himself around Jain. "But." Jain broke the kiss, biting Keir's neck non-too-lightly. "You're going to do it anyway."

"Mmm." Keir tried to protest, wriggling in Jain's grasp. "But –"

"Besides." Jain continued, pulling Keir's breeches off brusquely. "You can take care of yourself."

Keir laughed, sitting up to tug at Jain's trousers. "I like you taking care of me, too."

"You should've told me sooner." Jain scolded, running his hands along Keir's thighs. Keir stopped him with a kiss, and Jain gave up talking.

☼☼☼

Eravan jerked awake suddenly, falling out of the chair and tumbling to the floor painfully.

"Ow." He muttered, wincing as his neck complained about the angle he'd been subjecting it to all night.

"Are you really that pissed at me?" Tarek asked, nudging his knee with his toes. "Because I would've let you sleep in the bed."

"Shut up." Eravan muttered, straightening himself out. "Ow, dammit."

Tarek just raised an eyebrow and walked away, wandering back into the kitchen. "Is there anything edible in here I won't have to cook?" He mused, loudly, and Eravan rolled his eyes. It figured that Tarek would only emerge because he was hungry.

"Probably." Eravan shoved himself to his feet, making a face. That was going to ache for a few days, probably longer since he didn't think he would be getting optimum sleeping conditions.

"You could make me something." Tarek pointed out; taking a large bite out of an apple he'd pulled from somewhere. "Save me the trouble."

"Right." Eravan grumbled, scowling at the kitchen. He didn't want to make anything. His head ached a bit, probably from the tension in his neck. "Why are you being nice?"

"I'm not being nice." Tarek smirked. "I'm demanding you make me food."

"You were pissed at me last night." Eravan pointed out, scowling irritably and rubbing at his neck a bit.

"Yes." Tarek agreed. "Still am. But I want food."

"I don't." Eravan scowled. "Eat the damn apple."

"I am." Tarek smiled at him, taking another large bite out of it. "But I've decided I'm not going to be mad at you."

"You just said you were." Eravan glared, annoyed.

"No, I said I was still mad. I didn't say I was still mad at you." Tarek swung his legs back and forth. "Don't worry your pretty little head over it." Tarek told him loftily. "Even if you thought I should go south with you, there wouldn't be anything you could do to make it happen."

Eravan narrowed his eyes, suspicious. "What are you plotting?"

"Nothing." Tarek smirked. "Nothing that involves you." He amended. "Come here."

"No." Eravan frowned, not budging. "What are you plotting?"

"Nothing I'm going to tell you." Tarek laughed, taking another bite from the apple. "Seriously, do you want to leave on bad terms?"

"We were on good terms?" Eravan retorted, but gave up, moving over to the table.

"That's just not nice." Tarek grinned. "Turn around for me."

"No." Eravan frowned. "What are you doing?"

"Getting the kink out of your neck?" Tarek offered, setting down his mostly eaten fruit and sliding off the table. "Now turn around."

Eravan scowled, but did as he was directed. Tarek's hands were cold, and the one was slightly sticky, which was kind of disgusting. Still, Eravan lost that thought rather quickly because Tarek's hands were entirely as dexterous as he remembered them being, and it was hard to stay angry when Tarek was carefully kneading the kinks from his muscles.

☼☼☼

"You're a moron."

"I am not." Fiohste retorted, turning on his heel to face Malle.

"You are." Malle scowled, but the expression had little heat in it. "You really love him?"

"Yes." Fiohste smiled, running a hand through his hair. "I have for a while."

"Yeah, I caught that." Malle drawled, falling into step beside him. "Take care of yourself, Fiohste."

"I plan to." Fiohste shrugged. "It'll be okay."

"Still." Malle stopped, drawing a long wooden box from his jacket. "Here. It's not much, but it's something if you get cornered."

"A knife?" Fiohste asked, thumbing open the catch. "Where –"

"I have sources." Malle winked, reaching up and brushing his thumb against Fiohste's cheek. "Stay safe."

"Thanks." Fiohste smiled, shutting the box and tucking it away. "Can you do me a favor? Keep an eye on Reiten when I'm gone?"

"I don't think he likes me, but sure." Malle smirked, glancing up at the sky. "Ah, well, I should be going. Thalen's expecting me to make some report or another on our attempts to kill off the southerners."

"Malle." Fiohste frowned.

"Kidding. I swear." Malle laughed, and turned back the way he came. "Take care, Fiohste."

"Bye." Fiohste shook his head, glancing up at the bright morning sun for a moment before continuing on towards Shalei's place. Still, he smiled – it was a lovely morning, even with the trip to the south looming on the horizon.

☼☼☼

Keir shifted nervously, tapping on the door again. He could tell that Teyren and Shalei were inside, and they, unfortunately, weren't doing anything he would hesitate to interrupt. Fiohste was inside too, so Teyren was probably doing fittings or something. Keir sighed, tugging at a lock of his hair agitatedly.

"Hey." Shalei greeted, opening the door slowly. "What's up?"

"Nothing." Keir shook his head. "I mean, I have to talk to Tey. Ren." Keir hesitated, and then sighed. "Can I come in?"

"Yes." Shalei raised his eyebrows, stepping aside so Keir could slip in. "Are you alright?"

"I told Jain." Keir sighed, again, drawing a deep breath in. "He didn't take it well, and he's kind of upset even though he's not going to stop me from going. And it was… I should've told him earlier, and he thinks I don't trust him or something." Keir rushed out, tugging at his hair again. "And then I was rude to Tey yesterday, so I need to apologize."

"Ah." Shalei laughed, drawing Keir into a hug. "Alright, but be careful, Teyren's playing with sharp bits."

Keir laughed, giving Shalei a brief, strong squeeze. "Thanks. I'm sorry you can't come too."

"It's okay." Shalei shrugged. "I'm sure I'll be more than occupied looking after the brat."

"Tarek. His name is Tarek." Keir corrected, laughing again. "Don't be too cruel, okay?"

"But I can be a little cruel?" Shalei asked, letting Keir go.

"Sure, why not?" Keir smiled impishly. "He hasn't exactly been nice to you."

"Eh." Shalei shifted. "That was mostly me though. Doesn't matter, all I have to do is keep him whole. Should be easy enough."

"Ah, don't say that." Keir grinned. "He doesn't think of his guards when he's doing things."

"I'll manage. What did you do to Teyren?" Shalei asked, leading Keir towards the backroom.

"I was rude." Keir shrugged. "It doesn't really matter; I just want to apologize now."

"Alright." Shalei shrugged. "He's in his bedroom." Shalei gestured, turning back to the table in front of the fire. Half a dozen sheaves of paper were stacked neatly on it, and Shalei dismissed him, settling back down.

"Thanks." Keir murmured, heading to the bedroom. "Tey?" He called, sticking his head in.

"Hmm?" Teyren looked up, thin bits of bone and metal sticking from his mouth.

"Can I talk to you? Um, alone?" Keir asked, flashing a quick smile at Fiohste, who looked completely bored and uncomfortable.

Teyren held up a finger, returning to his scrutiny of the fabrics draped around Fiohste. Carefully he pulled a pin from his mouth and stuck it into the cloth. Four more pins and his mouth was empty and the cloth had taken a bit of shape.

"If you can give me another minute, I'll be done with Fiohste here." Teyren said absently, drawing a careful line with powder along the edge of the fabric. Fiohste made a face, obviously fighting the urge to squirm.

"Okay." Keir agreed, edging into the room more. Watching curiously, he wondered how Teyren had learned the art of making clothing. It was interesting to watch though, and Keir grinned, settling down on the edge of the bed. Teyren smiled at him distractedly, carefully unpinning and undraping the fabric from Fiohste.

"Just come back later tonight, and we'll make sure things worked out right." Teyren told him, shooing Keir off the bed to lay the fabrics out there. "It shouldn't really be a problem."

"Okay." Fiohste agreed easily. "Anything else?" He asked, directing the question at Keir.

"Ah, no, I don't think so." Keir returned, his mind failing to supply anything. "Just meet us at the council building tomorrow morning, an hour past sunrise."

Fiohste nodded, turning back to Teyren. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Teyren murmured, rearranging the fabric distractedly. "See you later."

"Later." Fiohste repeated, before slipping out the door. A moment later, the front door shut loudly. Keir sighed, leaning on the end of the bed.

"I need to apologize." Keir spoke up when it became apparent that Teyren was getting lost in his work. Teyren glanced up, offering a ghost of a smile.

"What for?" Teyren set down the knife he'd been slicing through the fabric.

"Yesterday." Keir sagged, making a face. "I'm sorry. I was being thoughtless. I seem to be doing that a lot, and I'm sorry."

"It's okay." Teyren shrugged. "You were mostly right."

"I wasn't thinking about how it would affect you." Keir shook his head. "I didn't care how it would affect you. All I cared about was the end effect and that – I shouldn't have, so I apologize. If I do it again, smack me."

"I couldn't." Teyren shrugged. "But apology accepted."

"You could too. Jain would probably not even kill you for it." Keir teased, pushing away from the end of the bed. "He's not happy with me right now, honestly."

"You told him?" Teyren questioned, almost backing away when Keir went to hug him. Keir nodded, wrapping himself around Teyren's middle.

"He's not happy." Keir sighed. "I didn't think, when I didn't tell him, and he's hurt."

"Did you apologize to him, too?" Teyren asked, his tone mild, and Keir grinned, letting go.

"Of course." Keir smirked, laughing when Teyren made a face. "Are you okay with this, though? Going back again?"

"If I get caught, I can always claim I was under the influence of the evil northerners and their barbaric ways." Teyren pointed out.

"That's not what I meant." Keir murmured, smiling sadly.

"I know." Teyren shrugged. "I think I'll be better able to deal with it now. My shields aren't crap anymore."

Keir laughed. "Alright, but you can talk to me if you need to, okay?"

"I know." Teyren smiled hesitantly. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Keir beamed, turning to go. He stopped though, and turned back, pulling Teyren into another tight hug. "Okay, now I'm going. Um, until tomorrow?"

"Yes." Teyren agreed absently, turning back to his patterns. Keir smiled, shaking his head, and let himself out.

☼☼☼

"You're done?" Shalei wondered, pausing in the doorway to the little bedroom. Teyren glanced at him, smiling a little.

"Yes. For now." Teyren yawned, sitting up on his bed properly. "Sorry if I've been ignoring you."

"You're allowed to ignore me." Shalei pointed out with a smile, wandering into the room a bit further. "You'll be careful, so I won't bother telling you to take care."

Teyren smiled again, a little smile that made Shalei want to pin him to the bed and give him something more to come back for. "Thank you. I think."

Shalei laughed, sprawling on the edge of Teyren's bed. "Just keep an eye on Keir, hmm? Can't have him losing his head down there."

"I plan to." Teyren replied quietly, watching him with solemn, dark brown eyes. "Shalei." Teyren stopped, and then shook his head. "Never mind."

"What?" Shalei pressed, curious. Teyren smiled distractedly.

"Ask me after I get back." Teyren murmured, tucking his fingers into his sleeves. Shalei nodded, ignoring the warm flood of hope that sprung in his chest.

"I can do that." Shalei grinned, and then stood. "Hold on, I have something for you."
"What?" Teyren's voice floated after him, but Shalei ignored it, ducking into the kitchen and pulling out the small bag. Returning quickly, he set the cloth bag on Teyren's lap.

"For you." Shalei grinned again, sitting down. Teyren stared at the bag suspiciously for a moment before tugging it open. Laughing he pulled out the oranges. "To help keep your energy up."

"Thanks." Teyren smiled, tucking them back in the bag. "You didn't have to."

"I wanted to." Shalei shrugged. "Have Keir periodically check your shields to make sure they're strong enough, too."

"Alright." Teyren agreed, a faint smile still tugging at his lips. "Don't let Tarek get to you."

"I won't." Shalei promised, his lips twisting wryly. "I've learned my lesson on that count, don't worry."

Teyren shook his head, looking away for a moment. "Don't –" Teyren hesitated, looking at him solemnly. "Don't beat yourself up too much, either. It was – a lot of it's me, you know?"

"Not all." Shalei shook his head. "I can't blame you, Tey. You weren't sound."

"Thanks." Teyren muttered wryly, his fingers tugging at the loose threads dangling from his sleeves. "I mean it though. And if… an opportunity… well, don't wait for me?"

"I'm waiting." Shalei said, firmly. "I can't say I'll wait forever for you, but I'm not giving up that easily, either."

Teyren sighed, but smiled at him sweetly. "If you say so."

"I do." Shalei grinned, grabbing Teyren's hand and giving it a quick squeeze. "Be careful."

"I thought you weren't going to say that." Teyren teased, not fighting Shalei's grip.

"I changed my mind." Shalei replied solemnly. "You warranted it."

"That's mildly insulting." Teyren told him, but he was still smiling, so Shalei just grinned and stood up before he could do anything too stupid.

"It was meant to be." Shalei let go of Teyren's hand. "Get some rest, Tey."

"You too." Teyren smiled, kicking his feet back up on the bed and stretching out again. Shalei walked away, fighting the urge to turn with every step he took.


TBC…