Author's Note: These are a series of small drabbles that take place either before the story begins, or after it ends. They are not essential to the enjoyment of the story itself, and are presented more as bonus scenes.
He'd been working with his flowers, coaxing them into different colors, shaping the petals into infinite variations when his ears heard the unmistakable patter of small feet. The sun room door was pushed open just as he looked up and a white-haired child darted inside.
"Selan! Selan!" the boy exclaimed, dodging the plants and stopping breathlessly before him, "I found treasures!"
Selan laughed and crouched down to put himself on eye-level with his small visitor.
"Did you now?" Selan smiled, shifting until he was sitting on the cool marble floor. "Come here then, Arycian, and show me what you've got."
The snow-haired boy promptly crawled into Selan's lap, reaching into the front of his wildly askew tunic to draw out the first of his treasures. It was a large ring set with a deep purple crystal and emblazoned with the family crest of the House of Woque.
"Isn't it pretty?" Arycian asked. "I found it in the stuffy room. Dunno why somebody'd leave something so pretty on the floor..."
Selan stifled a giggle and petted the child's head as he made appreciative sounds over his small friend's find. Lord Woque would undoubtedly be missing it by now.
"And these were in the red room," Arycian continued happily, pulling out a pearl and ruby necklace that Selan recognized as a favorite of Lord Purcia's wife. Unsurprising, as the red room had been assigned to Purcia during his stay at the Celestial Palace. He wondered if they knew the lady's jewelry was missing.
"Oh, and this one was in the garden," the boy continued, holding up a brilliant star-sapphire pendant. "It was all dirty and I had to clean it." From the tone of his voice, it was obvious that Arycian didn't care much for whomever had let the bit of sparkle get into such a state.
Selan smiled. "You did a beautiful job cleaning it, Arycian. I have never seen a better cleaning job."
Arycian beamed broadly, his silver eyes shining beneath the praise. "Thank you, Selan," he preened, then blinked. "Oh! And I found this one for you..."
The flower was small with bits of soil still clinging to its much abused roots, a rare wildflower that only grew at this time of year. It wasn't particularly elegant or pleasantly scented or anything that might endear it to the populace, it was just pretty.
Selan hugged the small boy tightly. "Thank you, Arycian," he said softly. "I love it."
Arycian tucked the flower gently into Selan's hand, then squirmed out of the man's lap. He smiled impishly for a moment, then leaned forward to plant a quick kiss on Selan's cheek before turning and darting off in search of more hidden treasure.
Selan watched him go, one hand hovering bemusedly over his cheek while the other cradled his priceless gift. In all his long years he couldn't remember being happier than he was now with Arycian running around the palace causing chaos wherever he went.
"... found him floating in an emergency pod out near the Nerae system. No sign of the ship he was with, and no debris. Sendria's sending a ship to pick him up but it won't arrive for another three days."
"How old is he?" Selan asked curiously. "What is his name?"
The man shrugged. "He hasn't spoken since he was picked up. Medic figures he's about three but they won't know for certain until they get him back to Sendria."
"He's staying here until they arrive? Where is he now?"
A brief gesture to his associates brought the foundling child to meet Selan. He'd been mostly cleaned up after his ordeal in the evacuation pod but seemed to have acquired dirt in odd places in the way that children often have. He looked around briefly, uninterested, then looked up at Selan.
"Hello," Selan greeted, kneeling down to put himself closer to eye level with the small child. "How are you?"
The boy regarded him for a long moment, his silver eyes seeming to take in every detail, then he announced calmly, "You pretty."
Selan blinked. "Why thank you," he replied, struggling to hide a smile. "You're rather a handsome boy yourself. What's your name?"
Again the child mulled over the question, carefully considering what was being asked of him in a way that made it seem as though he were doing them all a great service by deigning to speak with them.
"A-ry-ci-an," he replied at last, making certain to speak clearly so they could get it right.
Now Selan did smile. "That's a very big name."
Arycian nodded. "I very big boy some day."
"I bet you will be," Selan agreed. "My name is Selan, and this is the Celestial Palace. You're going to be staying here for a few days."
"Why?" Arycian asked curiously.
Selan's gaze flickered briefly to the waiting attendants, then he smiled warmly at the child. "Well, your parents have gone far away somewhere and can't get back, so we're going to take care of you until someone from your world comes to fetch you."
There was a long pause while the little boy mulled this over and everyone else waited tensely, then he nodded once as he reached a conclusion. "Okay."
Crisis averted, Selan stood and held out a hand. "Now it's gotten rather late, so why don't we go find a room for you so you can get some sleep."
Arycian considered, then reached up to place a small hand in Selan's. Selan waved away the others and led the boy out of the audience room and into the section of the palace designated as living quarters. There were always rooms free in case of visitors from planets more than a few hours flight away and he selected one at random.
"Here we go."
They entered, Arycian looking around once with no real interest before his eyes once more lifted to regard Selan, waiting.
"Do you need help getting into bed?" Selan asked, getting a slight headshake in response. "All right then."
He turned to go, surprised when there was a slight touch on his hand. He looked down to see Arycian peering up at him.
"Where going?" the child asked.
Selan smiled. "To my room," he answered, then blinked when Arycian continued to look calmly up at him. "Aren't you going to bed?"
Arycian nodded, but didn't move.
At a loss, Selan stepped out of the guest suite and watched as the child followed.
"... are you coming with me?" he asked finally, unable to think of anything else that might explain the odd behaviour.
Arycian nodded again and held his arms up expectantly. After a brief moment of confusion and an even briefer scan of the child's mind to determine what exactly he was supposed to do, Selan lifted the boy into his arms and carried him up the stairs to his own room.
Once inside he set Arycian down in his bed, helping the boy slip out of his shoes and pants before undressing himself. He didn't normally sleep more than an hour or two at most but it wouldn't hurt to indulge the child just this once. The Sendrian ship would arrive in a few days and that would be that.
Crawling beneath the covers, Selan was startled to feel a tiny body snuggle up close to him, little hands clinging to his nightclothes as the faintest puff of warm breath ghosted over his skin. He smiled.
"Good night, Arycian," he said softly, kissing the boy's head.
Maybe the Sendrians wouldn't mind delaying taking the child back to Sendria for just a little while.
( This drabble is too explicit for FictionPress. It can be found on LiveJournal. )
He'd never been able to figure out why Selan had to disappear into that room with the closed door all the time.
The first time he'd tried to investigate one of the Big Important people had caught him and sent him away with a swat to his behind. The second time he'd made it all the way to the door before one of the Watching People had interfered, picking him up and taking him all the way back to his room before letting him go.
This time, no one was going to stop him.
Gleaming silver eyes peered cautiously around the corner, making careful note of the positioning of the two Watching People. The bigger one, the one dressed in all blue, had looked like he might be falling asleep for half an hour. The other one, in yellow, was doing something with a piece of string and a ball and hadn't looked up in quite a few minutes.
Now was the best opportunity he was going to get. Checking one more time to make certain nobody was watching, Arycian concentrated hard on changing into his other shape. He'd been practicing for months for just this purpose and now was the moment of truth.
The tiny white shape crept stealthily along the floor, moving slowly to avoid detection. He made it past the two Watching People to the door, shifting into his proper boy shape briefly to turn the handle. Back in his other form he crept inside, sneaking past the chairs and under the big table, stopping at the feet he knew belonged to Selan.
Arycian contemplated the jump for several long moments, bracing himself just right, then leapt.
At the Council table Selan started momentarily as a small, furry weight landed on his leg. He waved away the questioning looks of his Councilors, smiling softly as he dropped one hand to gently stroke the tiny white kitten curled up and purring quietly in his lap.
Arycian was exhausted. There was so much work to be done before their new home became anything even close to as glorious as the one they'd had to flee. At the moment, it was nothing more than promise. Promise that took endless, agonizing work to fulfil.
It was late at night, all others having sought their beds hours ago. He'd continued working until he could no longer lift the stones into place, determined to do whatever he could to erase the dark shadows that constantly haunted Selan's eyes when he looked at his people and remembered all that they'd had to sacrifice.
He was nearly to his room, wanting nothing more than to drop into bed and sleep for a week, when he stopped and looked around, frowning. Something was... not quite right.
Arycian followed the nebulous feeling of 'not right' through the half-finished hallways until he ended up at the room where Selan was staying until his was completed. Cautious, he cracked the door open and peered in.
"Selan...?" he called quietly, getting no response. He crept silently inside, eyes gleaming in the dim light, making his way to the huddled figure on the bed. Was he sleeping?
The figure on the bed shivered and cried out softly as he approached, drenched in a sheen of sweat, face scrunched up in an expression of pain.
"Selan!" Arycian called anxiously, sitting down on the edge of the bed and reaching out to touch the slender man. "Selan, wake up. You're dreaming..."
Selan's eyes opened suddenly, unfocused for a long moment before slowly turning to look up at Arycian. His face crumpled. "Arycian..."
Arycian reached out and pulled the shivering man into a gentle embrace, stroking his hair reassuringly. "Shh... it's okay. It's just another nightmare. It's over. You're safe. We're all safe," he murmured.
"Arycian..." Selan repeated, hiding his face in his friend's arms, "I'm sorry... I couldn't... I just couldn't..."
"I know," Arycian said softly, "I know."
He murmured reassurances and quiet words until Selan calmed, lying half in Arycian's lap by the time he did.
"Arycian...?" Selan asked quietly, his words muffled by the fabric of Arycian's shirt.
Arycain smiled. "Of course, Majesty. Lie down."
He waited until Selan had lain back in the puddle of blankets and pillows before beginning his song, something sweet and nonsensical and completely pointless. He called it a lullaby, though he was fairly certain that the original composer had intended something different. Not that it mattered. It served its purpose.
By the time the song was finished, Selan was once more asleep.
Arycian smiled softly and leaned down to press a soft, chaste kiss to his friend's lips.
"Sweet dreams, Selan."
The morning had consisted of the usual court functions, meeting people, hearing petitions, and solving the small problems that cropped up from time to time. He'd been just about to call an end to it for the day when one of his heralds entered, bowing, and announced that the Ambassador of Sendria had just arrived.
Intrigued, Selan sat up a little straighter and nodded. The man left, returning a few minutes later with the Ambassador and two others.
"Ambassador," Selan greeted, eyes going curiously to the other two figures. One was richly gowned, her dark hair curled and pinned. Most likely his lady-wife. The other was much smaller, probably only five or six, and closely resembled both of them.
"Majesty," the Ambassador greeted, bowing low. The two with him did likewise in perfect harmony, almost as though they'd rehearsed it, though he knew it was just Sendrian grace working to their advantage. "May I present my Lady, Adriannea, and my son, Zantier."
Selan smiled warmly, though the two Sendrians only bowed again. Apparently being inside the Celestial Palace made all Sendrians become incredibly stuffy. He stifled a sigh.
"Welcome to the Celestial Palace, my friends," he said instead, rising and stepping down from the dias to meet them a little more in person. "For the duration of your stay, please feel free to treat this as your ho-"
He was interrupted by a high soprano suddenly calling out, its owner dashing across the wide marble floor in youthful excitement, trailing mud, water, leaves, and several other unidentifiable things behind him.
"Selan! Selanselanselanselan!" Arycian called, skidding to a halt in front of him and glomping onto his waist. Which was about as high as the eight year old could reach.
"I found a frog!" the boy exclaimed, his silver eyes shining in excitement as he pulled the rather sorry-looking creature from inside his shirt and held it up for Selan to examine.
Selan knelt down to inspect the proferred creature, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he attempted not to laugh. "You did indeed," he agreed, "And quite the magnificent frog it is, Arycian."
Now that the necessary praise had been given Selan looked back up to the Ambassador and his family who were all staring at the scene before them in horror. Selan wasn't entirely certain what was wrong... Granted, he would have to change clothes since he was now covered in the same muck that Arycian was, and yes, the palace servants would need to clean the floor, but it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Arycian caused bigger messes than this on a weekly basis.
"Ambassador, Lady Adriannea." He gestured to the mud puddle masquerading as a boy. "This is Arycian. Arycian, look. These are Sendrians like you. They have a son about your age. His name is Zantier."
Arycian considered the trio for a long moment, mud-splattered white ears pricking forward curiously. "Hullo," he greeted, stepping up to Zantier and holding out the frog. "Nice to meet you."
Zantier stared at the frog for a long moment, then slowly looked up the arms holding it to the boy attached. He blinked. Blinked again. Then looked carefully up at his parents as though asking what in the Stars name he was supposed to do next.
"Um," the Ambassador managed, looking rather pale, "Majesty... that... That is the foundling child...?"
Selan smiled happily. "Somewhere underneath the mud, yes," he confirmed. "I suspect he's been in the pond again."
Arycian by this point was supremely confused. He'd said hello, he'd offered to let the boy hold his frog, but... nothing. Didn't this Zantier understand? Or maybe they didn't have frogs on Sendria.
Deciding that must be the case, Arycian reached out, took the boy's hand, and deposited the frog in it. "It's okay," he said helpfully, "Frogs don't have teeth."
Zantier screeched, dropping the frog and backing away quickly. He rapidly shook his hand in an attempt to get the frog slime off of it, appearing near tears when it became evident that it wouldn't come off without washing. The Lady Adriannea pulled the disconsolate boy to her, holding him reassuringly while still doing her best to avoid his contaminated hand.
Arycian rescued the frog from the floor and looked up at Selan in abject bewilderment. "I guess he doesn't like frogs..." the boy decided with a shrug.
Sunlight, warm and welcoming, shone down upon him as he lay flat on his back in the middle of his garden, surrounded by life. It was nearly midday, not long from now luncheon would be delivered, and Selan had escaped from yet another Council session.
Judging from the faint mental touch he was maintaining so that he didn't miss anything important, they'd noticed he was missing about ten minutes prior. Amusing, as he'd slipped out nearly three quarters of an hour ago.
Laughing softly to himself Selan caressed one of the flowers bending over him, delighting in the soft satin of its petals and the thrum of life running through it. It was a heady, dizzying feeling to be immersed in the energy of the living things growing all around him.
Then the flux of energy shifted, a new presence arriving in the garden, and Selan held perfectly still even as a delighted smile tugged his lips upward. He could sense the presence looking, searching, pacing slowly down the winding pathways. Closer. Closer.
The presence stopped, hesitating. He held his breath.
"Very funny," Arycian announced, his bemused tone at odds with his dry words. "Come out from there."
Selan sat up and shook the soil from his hair before getting to his feet and grinning unrepenatantly at his Advisor. "Oh, I don't know... I rather like it here. I think I'll stay."
Arycian arched one fine brow, contemplating, then he smirked and Selan knew he was in trouble.
The Sendrian shifted without warning and then an enormous white cat was leaping toward him. It caught the loose material of his shirt in its teeth in the middle of its jump, hauling him off his feet. It landed neatly on the walkway on the other side of the garden, Selan dangling helplessly from its mouth, and made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a chuckle.
Laughing, Selan slipped free of his trapped outer shirt and turned so he could hug the giant creature. "I think that's cheating," he told it fondly, running his hands through the silken soft fur.
Abruptly the cat was gone and Arycian stood in its place, Selan's hands twined in his long hair. "Probably," he agreed, pulling Selan close, "But you like it anyway."
"True," Selan agreed, grabbing the front of Arycian's shirt and tugging him down for a deep, lingering kiss.
"Mmm..." he murmured when they parted, "Honeydew? Have you been getting into Lord Tampard's fruit drinks again?"
Arycian smirked. "Would I do that?" he inquired innocently, the sparkle in his eyes betraying the laughter within.
"Oh yes, my crafty Sendrian," Selan replied solemnly, his smile slow and sensual, "You would do anything if you thought you could get away with it."
"Anything?" Arycian inquired archly, leaning close so that his lips were only a breath from Selan's ear. "If I thought I could get away with it, I would take you right here, in the place that you love so much, with only the flowers for our witnesses."
Selan's breath caught; his eyes fluttered closed. "Oh yes," he breathed, "I would like that very much, my Arycian."
Broad hands slipped beneath his tunic, caressing the warm skin beneath before slowly drawing the fabric up and over his head, leaving Selan bare to the waist. "Would you now?" Arycian purred.
The reponse, though wordless, was undeniably affirmative. There would be no interruptions. Selan would not allow it. This time was for he and Arycian alone.
Sleek, chisled bodies flashed in the fading sunlight, whirling across the courtyard in a dance both beautiful and deadly. Arms moved almost faster than the eye could follow, striking and countering and counter-striking in an exquisite play of martial skill.
The combatants were well-matched, youth and skill against speed and experience, neither willing to give the other an opening. This was a game they'd played many a time before, so many times that it seemed both could anticipate each other's next move.
Back and forth across the courtyard, circling around the fountain, the blue and white warriors whirled. So focused were they upon their battle that neither noticed the lone figure watching them, a smile playing across his lips.
It wasn't often that Arycian and Krys decided to have a bout, but when they did it was always worth watching. Krys had a natural skill that improved with every passing day and an internal fire for victory that made him almost wholely undefeated. Almost. Arycian had centuries of experience in which he'd honed his skills, utilizing a Sendrian's natural enhanced speed, strength, and balance to his advantage.
Most of their early matches had ended in a draw when one or the other had been called back to duty. Arycian's longer endurance gave him an edge when their game stretched on into hours straight, so Krys had decided to even the playing field by playing dirty so that they never got that far.
Now, everything was legal.
Arycian vanished just before one of Krys's fists connected, a small white feline darting between the overbalanced Blue Knight's legs moments before the Sendrian reappeared and gave Krys a hard shove from behind. There was a rather spectacular splash as the man toppled into the courtyard fountain, coming up sputtering.
"You devious little furball!" Krys sputtered, shoving his sopping wet hair back and glaring good-naturedly at the laughing Sendrian. "I suppose this is payback."
"Something like that," Arycian agreed cheerfully, blinking and looking up as Selan stepped out from where he'd been watching and approached them.
"Krys, Arycian," Selan greeted, blue eyes sparkling as he looked them over. This, in his personal opinion, was the best part of the whole fight. The day had been hot enough that the two had stripped to the waist and a fine sheen of sweat clung to every curve of the Sendrian's body. He supposed Krys would have been similarly painted, had he not had that unanticipated dip in the fountain.
"Hmm... had enough?" he inquired, tracing a finger along the sleek line of Arycian's pectorals, "Or should I let you throw him in the fountain again?"
Arycian's breath hitched. "Oh, I think Krys has suffered enough humiliation for one day," he managed.
Selan favored the Blue Knight with a warm smile. "You can get even with him tomorrow," he promised, "As long as I get to watch."
Krys laughed. "Of course, your Majesty. Just don't promise him any rewards or I'll never be able to beat him!"
Selan grinned. "All right, no rewards," he agreed, twining his fingers together with Arycian's. "But if you don't mind, I believe we'll be going inside now. I have a lovely, sweaty, half-naked Sendrian who needs to be all-naked."
Krys bowed, still laughing. "He's all yours, Majesty."
"You know," Arycian pointed out as he helped Selan out of the complicated formal clothing he'd been wearing, "You really should just appoint someone Ambassador so you don't have to keep going back and forth between here and Ilysia."
"I don't mind," Selan smiled. "I get to see how everyone is doing, and it's something different... though that one fellow might almost be louder than Qeldir."
Arycian snorted and rolled his eyes as he hung up the elaborate garment. "I can live with Qeldir. It's Lady Yiviri's shrill screech that makes me want to scratch my ears off my head. How you put up with them as well as you do..."
Selan giggled softly. "Experience?" he suggested. "Not to mention that recently I've had... distractions... which keep my mind on other things..."
Arycian smirked, slipping up behind Selan and embracing him loosely, his cheek resting lightly on Selan's head. "I have absolutely no idea what sort of distractions you may be referring to. I claim complete innocence."
"Mmm-hmm," Selan mumured, leaning back against the Sendrian's firm chest. "I could deal with you in my lap, I really could, but you were purring."
Silver eyes blinked innocently as Selan twisted his head around to look up at the taller man. "Purring is a natural mechanism for all Sendrians when they're happy," Arycian declared unrepenatantly, then snickered. "Well, all Sendrians except for Zantier."
"Strategic placement of purring Sendrian in my lap is very distracting," Selan pointed out, twisting around in Arycian's arms so he could lean up and steal a brief kiss.
"Mmmm, yes, well, the end result was so worth it," Arycian declared, grinning. "Besides, you ditch council all the time anyway."
"Not usually in quite such a hurry..." Selan murmured, cheeks flushed as he buried his face in the Sendrian's soft tunic.
They remained in the silent, comfortable embrace for a long moment, neither particularly inclined to move. Finally Selan shifted, stepping back just far enough that he could study Arycian's face, blue eyes veiled.
Arycian blinked. "Selan?"
Selan smiled and pulled something out of a pocket, holding it up so Arycian could see the familiar, shimmering crystal. A thin silver chain had been attached to it, the craftsmanship of each link exquisite in its intricacy. Slowly, deliberately, Selan reached up and fastened the chain around Arycian's neck, the crystal fitting perfectly at the hollow of his throat.
Arycian blinked, stunned. "What are you... that's your heart... your soul. Why did you..."
Slender fingers traced the skin around where the crystal lay, working their way upwards to brush across Arycian's lips. Selan smiled, one of those dizzying smiles that Arycian had privately described as 'begging to be kissed.'
"I thought about it," Selan murmured, "And there really is no safer place to keep it. You'd never let anything happen to me, and it's already been proven that I'm incapable of defending myself..."
Arycian's silver gaze softened and he tilted his head down to nuzzle Selan's cheek.
"Besides," Selan continued, his words so soft as to be barely more than a lilted whisper, "That's where it belongs." He tilted his head so that their lips touched, murmuring against Arycian's lips, "My heart has always belonged to you."