It was raining.

More than raining, really. It was storming, with black clouds, lightening, and heavy sheets of water rushing down from the sky.

It was storming, and the final match had been postponed.

Aran stared at the sky through the dirty window, warm and dry inside the nearly empty barracks.

Almost everyone else had left after the fights the day before. Only he and the scarred man had any reason to stay. The others had all left for home, or inns to stay and watch the final fight if they wanted to.

The teenager that seemed so fond of the scarred man had ended up winning the loser's competition, and had received a small monetary prize as a consolation prize. Aran had won it last year, not that it had done him any good. Second place wouldn't even earn him that.

His prize would be everything, or it would be nothing at all.

He looked away from the rain and glanced around the empty mess room. If he was going to be granted extra time because the crowds wouldn't brave the storms to watch, he was going to put it to good use.

His father and mother would have them on the field fighting as soon as the rain cleared up and people were willing to attend the festivities, no matter how soggy the ground was. Aran rolled his shoulders, not entirely pleased that they weren't as sore as he had expected them to be. But he couldn't think about that. Regardless of how nice the other man had been to him, Aran still had to defeat him.

He had to.


He had only been practicing for an hour or so before he was interrupted. He hadn't expected to stay alone for long—the only room in the barracks large enough to properly practice in was the mess hall, and that wasn't particularly private. When the scarred man walked in wearing a smug grin, Aran lowered his wooden blade and scowled at him.

"How long have you been there?" he asked.

"A while," the man said, spreading his arms wide. "Want to practice with an actual person? I've got nothing else to do."

"And allow you even more information on how I fight? No, thank you."

"Oh, come on, Highness. I was already spying. Don't you want to try to trick some information out of me to even it out?"

Aran sighed and contemplated his options. He could probably kick the man out if he really wanted to, or simply stop practicing, but the man had a point. It would be more effective to spar with another person, and even though the prince was sure the man was going to try and trick him, Aran wasn't stupid. He would be able to get real information if they fought.

"All right," he said finally. "We can do that."

"Excellent," the man said, reaching for the scabbard at his side and pulling a wooden practice blade of his own out of it. "This should be fun."

Aran grunted in response and raised his weapon to meet the other man's. "If you say so."

"I do." With that, the man pressed his lips together and focused his attention in their blades instead of talking. Aran had thought he was going to play around, but it seemed he was wrong. He didn't mind. If the man was taking this seriously, it wouldn't be as hard to analyze him.

But he did fight differently than he had when Aran was watching him against the other opponents. He wasn't as cautious. He moved forward, pressing Aran backward, trying to trip him up. His footwork was less careful than it had been before, but he was also moving more quickly than he had in any of the matches.

Aran wasn't going let himself be trapped against a wall. He ducked out of the way of the blows instead of parrying to save his strength for his own advances, which were avoided in turn. Aran didn't really mind; they were sparring, not fighting. Sparring wasn't meant to hurt anyone, it was meant to sharpen skills—and in this case, to gain insight into a man who talked constantly and never said anything.

They broke apart at the same time to catch their breath. Aran stepped away several paces and lowered his blade.

"Are you still insisting this isn't enjoyable at all?" the other man asked, letting his own blade fall to his side and wiping sweat off his forehead and neck with his sleeve.

The prince couldn't scowl with his blood still rushing with exhilaration, so he didn't bother to respond at all.

The other man grinned. Aran shook his head, his damp hair falling in front of his eyes in heavy pieces, and took a deep breath. "Does that mean you're done for today?"

Aran lifted his eyebrows. "Already?" he asked incredulously.

"Well, we don't know when we have to be ready. Don't want to overdo it," the man replied with a shrug, tossing his practice blade away and stepping towards Aran. The prince let his sword, drop as well. He did have a point. They would need rest before the final match as much as practice.

"Yes. Of course," Aran said, smirking. "I didn't realize we were so close to your limits."

The other man wasn't bothered and smiled back. "Well, I can't let you know what they really are, can I?"

"Yes, I suppose that would be unwise."

"You're in a good mood," the man observed, stepping closer to Aran again and stopping within arm's reach of the prince. "Interesting."

"You seem to be interested in odd things," Aran replied, contemplating a step backward. He didn't like having to look up at the other man, but stepping back would make him seem uncomfortable. It wasn't worth it. He stayed where he was.

The other man shrugged. "That's why they're interesting!"

"You enjoy annoying me don't you?"

He waved his hand back and forth. "Maybe a bit. It's fun to see you frustrated about something. You're too aloof. I'd like to fix that."

"And you think making me angry is going to fix that?"

"I don't think you're angry," the man said, brushing his curls out of his face. "Not really."

"That's a bold statement."

The man grinned and leaned forward resting his hands on Aran's arms. "I make a lot of those," he said. "You might as well get used to it." Before the prince could pull away or protest anything, he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Aran's, moving his arms quickly to wrap around the prince's torso and curl into his hair.

Aran pressed his hands against the man's chest, but instead of pushing him away, they clutched at the fabric there and pulled him closer. Apparently, that was permission, because the man pressed closer to the prince, prying his lips open to explore Aran's mouth. And he was quite thorough about it, though his favorite part to trace seemed to be the prince's own tongue.

Aran was shocked to discover how much he enjoyed being kissed, how hot his body had gotten. But he shoved the thought away. He hadn't been kissed in years, and certainly never quite like this. It had nothing to with the man kissing him—he simply missed his real love.

The man pulled away slowly. His hold on Aran loosened just as gradually, but Aran was in no position to protest. He was still trying to catch his breath.

"I could have you arrested for that," he said finally, putting a few steps between them.

"If you were inclined to have me arrested, you would have done that instead of responding," the man said, grinning. His lips were redder than normal and Aran tried not to notice.

Aran looked away and wiped the traces of saliva off of his mouth. "Don't do it again."

"Don't want to admit you enjoyed that, either?"

The prince narrowed his eyes, pressed his mouth into a thin line, and stalked out of the room.


A/N: Okay, so I suck at writing kissing scenes and their ilk. I don't know why. I just do. Suggestions? Did anyone even expect that to happen yet?