The King's Mate III: If you wish to be loved, love
(Si vis amari, ama.)
This is the first chapter of The King's Mate part III: If You Want To Be Loved, Love. I'll post it here also for a short time, so that those who follow this part know the next part is up.
Proofed by Lisa.
Landyn was pacing in front of the gate, once in a while adjusting his still short, black ponytail over the collar of his blue hoodie. It was a nervous habit he'd developed back when he had always worn his hair long. Since it was finally long enough to be held by the usual leather band, he'd fallen back into it.
Frowning he looked around. Except for a young Asian couple, Simon and him, everybody else who had been waiting for passengers from flight AA1034 must have long gone by now.
Impatiently he turned to his lover, who tried to peek through the tinted glass wall dividing the arrival hall from the security area behind. "Do you see him already?"
"No," Simon grumbled. "Everyone else from that damned plane must have gotten out, including the pilot, his crew, and the cleaning people. Where is he?" He shoved his hands in the pockets of his black canvas shorts and walked over to his mate.
Landyn started pacing again, then stopped mid-stride. "Are you sure this is the right flight? Did you cross-check the dates? You know how he is with numbers sometimes..."
Simon rolled his eyes. "Of course. I checked the dates as well as the passenger list."
"How did you… Never mind, there he is!" Landyn gestured with his hands in the direction of the escalators, relief clearly visible on his face.
They watched Noël carefully leading a petite older Japanese lady towards the security gate, one of her hands securely resting in the crook of his left arm. With his other hand he pulled a huge yellow suitcase with a duffle bag piled on top of it behind them. Seeing him also carrying a heavy backpack on his shoulders Landyn wondered briefly if Noël turned into a shopaholic in Japan.
The sliding doors opened and Noël squinted, brows wrinkled in concentration as he looked around searchingly. When his gaze fell on his friends he smiled briefly but then turned to his charge and talked to her quietly while patting her arm. The couple that had been waiting with them rushed over as soon as the door swished open. Noël talked briefly to them and then took the old lady's fragile hand, which was still firmly holding on to him and placed it on the young woman's arm. He then gave the handle of the big suitcase over to the man after he lifted the duffle bag from it. They spoke again quietly and the woman bowed several times before she gave Noël two long, narrow, padded bags, which he immediately slung over his shoulder. This time Noël bowed before he finally turned around and sought out his friends, who had been watching all of this curiously from a polite distance.
Cocking his head, a sudden smile lit up Noël's face, and he let the bags and the backpack slide to the floor. He started running, and then jumped right into Landyn's arms who'd barely managed to spread them open in time to catch him.
Shaking his head at both of them, Simon went to pick up Noël's discarded bags letting them have their private moment. Inwardly though he marveled at how well Noël knew Landyn. His mate had felt as if he was shirking duties by letting Noël go to Japan alone, not that he'd wanted them to come along anyway. Still, holding Noël in his arms; this was solid proof he was back whole and unharmed. Landyn had needed this, and Noël knew it.
When Simon was back with his luggage Noël grabbed him also in a firm hug. "Hey, big brother, 's good to see you again."
Simon's heart constricted hearing this and he grabbed him in a tight bear hug; closing his eyes, breathing in his familiar scent. Slowly his tension began to ease. Whom was he kidding? Landyn might have felt like he was shirking duties but he had felt like he'd let down his brother. Again. And the little shit knew this; otherwise he wouldn't have called him big brother.
He had one hand at the back of Noël's head, playing with the once again shoulder length, wavy hair, and murmured, "Noël. We missed you." I missed you little brother.
"It's Nico now, remember? Nico Chandler? And I missed you too." He cuffed his shoulder playfully before he collected his bags again.
Rubbing at the spot he'd hit him Simon mused, "Nico. I have to get accustomed to this; in my mind you're probably going to be Noël for a while, though..."
Throwing an arm around his shoulders Landyn inquired, "So Nico, tell me about your... travel companion. Were you just seat-neighbors or did you know her already before your flight?"
Noël grinned. "Going all investigative on me as soon as I'm home, Mr. ex-Chief of Security?"
When Landyn didn't answer and instead just looked at him with raised eyebrows, he sighed, "I guess so." He freed himself from Landyn's arm, shrugged his backpack over one shoulder, and took the handles of his duffle bag. "Okay, let's get out of here and I'll tell you all about her on the way to the boat. We're still heading there, right?"
"Of course and we better hurry before anybody tries to reach us and realizes we're not on board but hanging around the airport, picking up our King's wayward mate." Simon patted his shoulder and then grabbed Noël's duffle bag. "I'll take that."
Noël smiled. "Thanks." After a short moment asked, "Nobody knows I'm back, right?"
Landyn shook his head holding the glass door open for them. "Just as you requested."
"Good." Finally out of the airport Noël looked around for the cabs only seeing that Simon had already secured one and was currently throwing his bag in the trunk. He took the two padded bags from one shoulder and his backpack from the other before he headed over, reached for the door handle, and tossed both in the backseat. He climbed behind and then put his backpack on the floor to make room for Landyn because Simon was already sitting beside the driver and giving him directions. "To the yacht harbor please."
Landyn shut the door, moved his long legs to a more comfortable position, before he looked at Noël expectantly. "So, you were saying..." Noticing his puzzled expression, Landyn added a tad impatient, "The Japanese lady? Your travel companion?"
"Oh... really I don't know why you're this interested in her." He raked his hand through his hair, for a moment, irritated by Landyn's persistence. "It's quite simple actually; her family asked me to accompany her on the flight, She is Sho's great-grandmother and almost blind. That's actually the reason she can't live on her own anymore. Sho's brother is here and wanted her to live with him and his family but in the past she had always declined." He started to smile. "Quite the job I got there let me tell you, granny-sitting. She might be blind, but she's still very alert and curious. I had to describe the things I saw and explain everything that happened during the flight. And did you see her suitcase?" He shook his head and grinned. "It's actually one of six; the other five will be brought here by friends and family over the next month. I guess they have to travel extremely light, if they don't want to pay extra fees."
Landyn didn't laugh though; on the contrary he seemed annoyed. "Who the fuck is Sho?"
Bewildered at his friend's attitude Noël answered, "Sho was my sword trainer."
"What 'and'?" Then it dawned on him and he looked at his friend in disbelief. "You can't be serious, can you?"
Landyn eyed him a moment longer then closed his eyes and murmured, "I'm sorry. That was totally out of line; I apologize. I... don't know what I was thinking. I just... I hope you and... that there might be a chance now that you're back... Just forget it."
"You know I would never─"
"Yes, yes I know that. Of course I know that." Landyn turned his face and looked out of the window effectively avoiding any more questions.
Nobody said a word for several minutes, only the tingling from the chain wound around the rearview mirror and the occasional muttering from the driver interrupted the silence.
Finally Simon turned around and gestured at the two padded bags now lying across Noël's lap. "So I gather this is your nihontō andyourwakizashi?"
"Yeah..." Noël answered monosyllabic, picking at a loose threat from his black jeans.
"I guess Tristan's fascination with sharp and pointed things finally caught up with you then?" Simon said in a teasing voice.
"You could say that. Sho says I'm pretty good actually; my precog is helping too, although the technique differs from that using Western swords. I still have to get used to that." Noël then warmed to the topic and elaborated about the differences in the basic footwork, how to strike correctly and efficiently, how to block and counter, defense moves, and quick releases and before they knew it they had reached the harbor.
After Simon paid the driver he showed Noël where their boat was moored. Landyn jumped onboard and they passed him the bags, so that he and Noël could board more easily. "I'll go ahead and show you to your cabin; it's the same you had last time you were here."
Noël followed Simon and looked around the familiar room. "Nothing much has changed." Dropping his backpack he sat down on the bed. "I'm beat." Then he took his phone out to check the time and whistled. "It's five a.m. in Japan now, no wonder I feel like um... Five in the morning?" He grinned tiredly. "I think I'll simply crash."
When his friend hesitated Noël pleaded, "We'll talk tomorrow, okay?"
After a short moment Simon smiled and nodded. "Sure, no problem. I'll go and help Landyn with the boat. If you wake up and are hungry or thirsty you know were the galley is. Night Noël err... Nico; sleep well and have pleasant dreams." He winked and closed the door behind him.
When he woke he was startled until he remembered he was onboard Landyn and Simons's boat. Slowly he swung his legs over the side of the bed and then got up to look out of one of the cabin's small windows. What he saw was endless blue; he sighed when calmness washed over him. He was home, well almost.
After a while the smell of coffee reached him and he went over to his bag, fished out a rumpled, red t-shirt, and pulled it over his head. No need to care for proper appearance, if he remembered correctly his two friends ran around shirtless, only clad in faded board shorts most of the time. He pulled down the legs of his cut-off sweats and then followed his nose, not bothering with shoes.
He found Simon in front of the stove, flipping pancakes. "Hey," he muttered tiredly while looking around for his morning drug.
Simon pointed with the greasy spatula in the direction of the coffee pot standing on the counter next to him. "Help yourself. Feeling better this morning? Nico?" The last he said hesitantly, as if he wanted to test the sound of Noël's new name.
"Yeah, and very glad not to have to solve the mystery of how to make coffee without having one cup first." He spooned heaps of sugar into one of the mugs standing so conveniently around and Simon made a face. "Eww, still a sweet tooth, eh?"
Stirring his hot coffee, he blew into the mug, took his first sip without taking the spoon out, and closed his eyes. "Ahhh, much better."
Simon, who had silently watched Noël's no damn Nico's morning ritual, grinned covertly. So predictable.
Looking much more awake already, Nico leaned his back against the counter and peered at the growing pile of pancakes hungrily. "Where's Landyn?"
Simon nodded upstairs. "Somebody has to be at the helm sometimes, this being a boat and all."
After a brief pause Nico filled a second mug. "I'll go bring him some coffee, okay?"
Simon smiled encouragingly. "Good idea. Breakfast will be ready soon."
Balancing the two mugs in one hand he climbed the five wooden stairs to the deck, glad that the hatch was already open and he didn't have to fumble with the handle. Like Simon had said Landyn was standing behind the wheel; not shirtless so early in the morning but wearing a tight white t-shirt and of course the mandatory board shorts, these were yellow and had seen better days. With his cobalt blue eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, and the blue-black hair flying in the wind, Nico understood all too well why Simon got googly eyes every time he looked at his man; the man who so far hadn't moved a muscle to acknowledge Nico's presence on deck yet. Halting, he automatically tried to sense if Landyn was ignoring him on purpose or simply hadn't registered him until now. He sighed, as he had already expected, it was the first.
Slowly he walked directly in front of him. "Coffee?"
"Thanks." His indifferent expression didn't change but at least he took the mug from him.
"Cream, but no sugar, right?" He still knew how Landyn preferred his coffee, but he couldn't think of anything else to say to break the awkward silence, or God forbid start a conversation.
Well, that wasn't very encouraging. Nico sat down behind him and watched his friend checking the course. While he took a sip from his own coffee he tentatively reached out with his mind to gauge his mood while asking conversationally, "Where we're heading?"
Landyn didn't answer immediately and Nico, feeling his rising tension, thought he wouldn't at all, when he finally nodded ahead of them, where he could make out a small island approaching fast. "It belongs to a friend, who asked us to bring him some supplies. When we're there we'll contact him and then have breakfast while we're waiting for him."
"Ahh yes, Simon said it's almost done." When Landyn nodded he asked him another question. "And how long until we reach the harbor near the house?"
"Five to six days, depends on the weather and the purpose of your visit there."
Nico leant forward, not believing what he's just heard. "The purpose of my visit? Do I need to check in with you first before I want to see my mate," he asked angrily.
For the first time that morning Landyn really acknowledged him. "No, of course not, I'm sorry that came out all wrong. Let's talk about this after breakfast. Okay? We're almost there and I have to look for a place to anchor."
Nico shrugged, decided let it go for the moment. "Okay."
When they finally reached the island Nico helped Landyn anchor the boat in a sheltered bay on its east coast. Then they took their respective coffee mugs and went under deck to join Simon for breakfast in the galley.
"That was great Si; I can't tell you how much I missed such a simple thing like pancakes drenched in syrup." Nico leaned back in his chair, sighing contently.
"I don't know how you can't get fat as a walrus seeing the amount of sugar you consume every day." Simon smiled affectionately at him while he gathered their plates.
"A walrus, huh? Nice." When he saw his friends exchanging meaningful gazes over his head he raised his eyebrows enquiring. Not getting any answers, he snapped, annoyed, "Okay bring it on. What's your problem?" He looked at Landyn, assuming he would be the one telling him, remembering the tension he'd felt radiating off of him earlier. "Has it something to do with the purpose of my visit?" His voice dripped with sarcasm.
Landyn watched him for a moment, obviously carefully choosing his next words. "When you said you'd be coming back and told us of your plans we asked ourselves why you wanted to do this." When he saw Nico frowning he lifted his hands trying to placate him. "Nico, you know we have always been on your side; and to an extent we still are."
"To an extent?"
Landyn threw the napkin he had been fumbling with down on the table, and then ran his fingers through his hair several times. This was a sure sign that he was about to say something he thought Nico wouldn't like to hear. Giving himself a mental push, he finally explained. "A lot has happened since you left for Japan. After I learned from you that the King was poisoned and betrayed by Keith, well, the man was a tool himself, but still... I felt guilty." He looked at his mate. "We felt guilty." Simon nodded affirmatively.
"We have known him for a very long time; shit we were friends, close friends. I was ready to protect him with my life; yet I never questioned the reasons behind his sudden untypical, erratic behavior. All too willingly I believed he was an asshole." He looked at Nico almost pleadingly. "I let him down, Nico. And before you ask, no I don't blame you or even Si, only me. You were young, your relationship, your love was new, not yet consolidated over decades, like the King's and mine." He shook his head. "I should have known that something was wrong, should have investigated it further." He closed his eyes, a pained expression on is face. His mate laid a hand on his arm soothingly.
"A few days after you left I went to see Ronan. I don't know what I expected; I guess I just wanted to talk about what had happened with somebody who had been there. He told me a few more details, and how everything affected the King in particular. I felt even more like an ass. Ronan must have understood that more than I could have hoped for, because a few days later he offered to include me on the King's protection team again, first as an advisor and later as a coordinator; all in agreement with the King of course."
When nothing more came for several minutes Nico finally crossed his arms over his chest protectively; somehow suddenly feeling as if he was in the hot seat. "It's not as if I wouldn't understand where you're coming from. I blame myself sometimes for letting me push away without fighting, although that might just be because hindsight is easier than foresight. Fact is, I was young, and I felt insecure. I think deep down I never could believe that a man like him really wanted a guy like me. When he sent me away I only felt vindicated that this must have been a fluke, that he had only wanted me and thought he loved me, because I was his destined mate, that he never really loved me, joining-ritual or not. I readily believed him when he said he found me too young, too immature; that and I was deeply hurt, felt betrayed. If it hadn't been for Kris' unconditional love..." Subconsciously he turned the ring he still wore on the middle finger of his left hand.
"So yeah, I understand you, but why do I have the feeling that this isn't all of it? I understand that you're protective of him after what happened, but do you really think I'm here to hurt him? I admit I'm still majorly pissed that he didn't tell me about what really happened, but you should know I'm not the type to seek revenge," he added, feeling more and more irritated with his friends.
"Maybe not intentionally no, but... He has changed Noël fuck... Nico. Everybody who knew him before can see that. He might be more involved with his people; travels a lot to be in closer contact to the remote clans, but he also remains aloof. Not impolite or dismissive, but I don't know, reclusive? Wary? He doesn't let anybody come near him anymore, not like in the past. Becca thinks he's afraid he'll get hurt again. I think he still solely blames himself for what has happened, and there are days where he hates his own company. So yes, you're right; I want to protect him, as I should have done in the beginning, as it was my job." He looked at Nico defiantly and Nico smiled.
"I'm not here to hurt him. I had a lot time to think while I was away and I had some very interesting conversations with Isao and Sho. And then there is the fact that according to a scholar Isao spoke with, the old law forbids the separation for the King. Every Seraei but him can demand separation. Obviously a human strong enough to hold three souls is born only once during a King's life and therefore is sacred or something like that. Before you ask, no, I don't think Diarmad knew about this. So to answer your question: I don't know what I want." Then he shook his head. "Maybe that's not entirely true. I am here to uh, feel out the possibilities? I haven't seen him for over six months, and then only for the few days when he visited me. I don't know what's gonna happen. I do promise though that I won't hurt him, at least not intentionally." And as an afterthought he added, "And I will try not to get hurt myself."