I need you Orion. Clocktower. Dark hour. - Cece 142.35.3621, -945.73.9002

Orion crumpled the note into his pocket as he locked up at the fortress in front of him, trying his best to contain the small smile that had first started to erupt when he received the message barely two hours ago. Cece. That's all he could think about. Sister. Needing him. Freedom for them both.

He had only minutes to go before dark hour set in and if he'd been anyone else, he would have been concerned, but the fortress in front of him, made of the earths blood and bones, posed no real threat. He took a deep breath as he allowed the thoughts to flood his mind: cece... sister... cece... family... warmth... cece... cece... cece...

The tug wrought itself through his body with ease. The bricks and mortar of the building meaning no hindrance just as the earth itself. The defenses were bare as he felt them shift over him; 'he knows the coordinates,' it whispered into his blood, 'he is allowed entry.'

The tug quietened inside of him as he felt the flood of Cecille's familiar scent envelope him; the small cry of 'Orion!' reverberating through his ear. The smile that had been tugging on his heart for the last few hours gave out and broke into decadence as he breathed in over and over.

'Cece,' murmured Orion back, the very words soothing a sore in his throat he'd never known he had, 'Cece, Cecille, sister.' Orion slipped back, hands grasping onto the waist of Cecille's slightly smaller form, his eyes widening to the darkness of the room till he could make out her face.

'I wasn't sure you'd come. I wasn't sure you'd even get the message. It's been so long,' started Cecille, her face contorting over and over as if unsure of which emotion it should be giving him: happiness at his being there or despair at having to have called for him at all.

'I told you I'd always come if you needed it. I made that promise,' murmured Orion, still holding Cecille's waist, a hand coming up to delicately cup the curve of her jaw, hoping the motion might relieve some of the tension built up in her shoulders. 'I don't need to know what's happened, okay? There's no deal or precedent to this. I'm assuming you've done what I said to do. You've packed your bag? Secured whatever amulets you have?'

Cecille paused, her smell morphing into the weight of despair as she looked up at Orion. Orion could see the joy in her eyes, at having finally seen him again after so many years, but her pause spoke of a mistake she'd made, or maybe one she thought she was making.

'Cece, whatever it is, it'll be fine, okay? We'll work out whatever it is, but if we're going to leave we need to do it now. If we get caught there'll be severe repercussions for both of us,' said Orion as he watched her teeth worry into her bottom lip.

'You don't stutter anymore,' was all Cecille seemed to be able to bring herself to say as she shrugged out of his touch, 'And I think you misunderstood. I... I said I needed you, not that I was leaving.'

Orion looked at her blankly, of course he'd misunderstood, he'd told them; all of them; that if they ever needed to escape, that all they'd need to do is call to him. Orion's euphoria dropped with a sickening thud in his stomach as he took a step back from Cecille and instead looked at the room around him.

Orion felt the breath leave his lungs too quickly; the clocktower it defnitely was, but a tower just for the clock it wasn't. There were charms and amulets strung up all over the walls. Enchantments coated the ceiling in a mixmatched array of words over words over words. Chains clung to the stone cobbled floor and the windows bared the glimmering moonlight through their barred teeth.

'Cece... What are you doing?' Orion felt the flair of fear spike up his spine. Instantly images of home flooded his mind, trying to drag him back from whence he'd come. Fields of green. Clans upon clans in the gardens. Family laughter and the small of fresh born wood burning into the night. Orion waited for the tug; wanted for it, but the tug wasn't there. Instead the oppressive force of the no-move amulets bore down on him in a wave. 'Don't let him go; nobody shall leave who came with the shadows; nobody shall leave.'

'I'm sorry Orion,' cried Cecille pointlessly as she backed away a step, watching as the floor shimmered but didn't sway out from beneath Orion's feet. 'There was no other way to do this; it had to be you Orion. Please forgive me. Please Ori, say you'll forgive me?'

Orion almost retched as the none so subtle smell of Hellhound filled his nostrils. He knew the smell so well but he'd never thought he'd ever smell it again. That time in his life has passed; he had run from it, run with every ounce of power he had, but now here it was again. The smell sent him careening backwards into a wall, the drag of dominance pouring into his pores as he couldn't escape it from entering his lungs.

'Cece... but you're my- but you're my sister. How could you?' was all Orion could get out. His body was desperate for escape but each time the floor only shimmered, never swaying and pulling him free from the nightmare he'd found himself in. Betrayed. Betrayed by his sister. The thought would have been sickening enough on its own but then the creak of the door only added to the hell starting to take over his life.

'You can't slip from here Orion, and you'll start to hurt yourself if you keep trying,' came the unfamiliar, yet distinctive voice of a Hellhound. Orion forced himself to stand up straight, his claws slipping down over his nails as the sharp spikes of his teeth cut into the soft flesh of his own mouth.

Orion wanted to scream. It wouldn't have been very helpful and definitely not dignified but that's all he wanted to do. His blood pounded with anger at his own foolishness; his own hopefulness, that had now got him stuck in a stupid situation. 'You say that as if you'd be in anyway concerned if I did manage to maim myself with it,' snarled Orion as he took in the male's form.

He was large, even for a Hellhound, which meant that he was the Alpha of the pack, which Orion knew meant that he wouldn't be able to fight his way out; he'd have to be cunning, if he had the chance. The dark glint of black hair and eyes; the abyss that was the Hellhounds, seem to suck even more light out of the room and it reminded Orion of Ezekiel, and the amazement he'd first had at his form in the darkness.

'Considering the bargain we have in place stipulates you have to be provided in the best condition we can manage, I'd prefer it if I didn't have to deal with an enraged Zeke accusing us of maiming you,' remarked the Hellhound, his left arm securing itself along Cecille's back whilst his right hand came to sit protectively in front of her abdomen and the small bump that'd gone unnoticed by Orion.

'Cecille, please, we're family-' tried Orion.

'Stop!' exclaimed Cecille as she flexed in her mate's arms, 'I'm sorry Ori, but I have to do what's best for my family. This is what's best. I wish it wasn't you but- but I can't... I just can't...'

Orion listened steadily as her words trailed off, his mind finally capturing on one important piece of information: an enraged Zeke. An enraged Ezekiel.

'I'm the bargain,' whispered Orion, as his eyes caught onto the Hellhound's; his heart racing in time with the steady sound of feet in the stairwell beyond the door.

'A mate and a kingship, and an end to the war for us,' remarked the Hellhound, his tone strange and disconcerting. Orion couldn't place it; it felt sorry, solemn, but his face portrayed none of this, it was just blank.

'And no choice for me,' added Orion as the anger dragged itself out of him and into the floor; the fight ebbing from him slowly as if the room itself was drawing it out of him. It wouldn't have surprised Orion if he found out it was.

'You never really had a choice Ori, none of us did, but now you do. You can walk out of here with his guards, be brave for once, or you can let them drag you out,' said Cecille, her expression almost nauseaous, the tears still sitting stubbornly in her lower lashes.

'And if I run?' remarked Orion angrily, 'What then?'

'Then you condemn your sister, and our child to death,' said the Hellhound, his eyes glowing amber for a short moment before he contained himself again.

A million thoughts streamed through Orion's head as the beating sound of feet drew closer and closer. Mere minutes, that's all it was, mere minutes of his life ago when he'd been safe, when he hadn't been taunted with bravery or manipulated or betrayed. He could do it; he knew he could, just slip back a moment, to the front of the fortress, and then out of sight forever, but he'd have to get out of the room.

Almost as if the words were being said allowed, Orion watched as Cecille's eyes grew wider, her mind figuring out what he could do in the same time as him, and in a moment she snapped. Orion wasn't ready when she grabbed and thrust him up against the wall, the blue electricity of her magic coating her lips as her words were screeched in the small space.

'Don't you dare Orion! Don't you dare throw me away to my death like this! I deserve to live! My son deserves to live! We deserve it more than you! You who ran away! You who was too scared and weak and pathetic to do what had to be done! You don't get to do that again Orion!'

Two pairs of hands, his own and her mates grabbed in opposing ways attempting to remove her, but the strength of them both was limited: you couldn't harm a mate who was carrying.

It was with the thunderous sound of seven sets of footsteps stopping at the door too suddenly for their moment which shook Orion out of his trance. He was sure the scene was dramatic enough without the seven stares of the Pack quickly analysing the situation. Cecille was again slumped against her mate, his arms like tendrils around her chest, holding her arms there so she couldn't grab ahold of Orion again. Her tears ran freely down her face as her ragged breathing filled the eerie silence.

Orion cringed, being unable to bear looking at Cecille or the Pack that was standing barely five metres away, instead he looked at the face of her mate; sad and solemn. He had never seen a Hellhound look like that before and he wondered what he might be considering; surely he couldn't have been mourning the loss of Orion's freedom, that would be against the very culture he practiced in.

'Orion,' the call was quiet enough to almost skate by but loud enough that it couldn't be ignored.

Orion glanced up, the lights in the clocktower flickering to life as the Alexander's hand rested on the bricks.

Orion switched back to looking at Cecille's mate, a man whose name he didn't even know, and then to Cecille; the look of defeat carving into their features so deeply Orion knew it'd leave a scar on each of them.

'Orion,' said Alexander again, stepping forward, two small silver cuffs catching in the rising moonlight as the dark hour ended and all of Orion's Sprite protections disintegrated around him. He was completely in Ether world again, and there was no real way to escape.

Orion stared at Alexander briefly, taking in as much as he could without making eye contact with the Hellhound. He knew Alexander well but the difference that age and a mate could make were staggering to Orion's memory. Gone were the slightly pressing muscles of youth, and small lines of soon-to-be stubble and in it's place was the thickness and strength of a well trained body, a short forest of thick, black beard. At least his eyes had not changed, considered Orion, though it might've been nice if they'd lost their condescending stare.

Orion cleared his throat, hoping to keep it steady enough to say the words he needed. He knew what he was going to say; he'd made up his mind not a moment ago, but the thought process still hurt him. He couldn't escape; not right now. He didn't want Cecille to die, so he couldn't escape. He had to go with them, so Cecille wouldn't die. If he went with them he'd be mated, but he had to go with them. If he was mated then escape would be improbable. Escape was improbable now, but not in the future. In the future, he could escape.

'Nightly Alex, I understand that I've been requested as part of a deal. I have come as stipulated in the deal; well and unmarred currently.' Orion heard his own voice and almost winced at it. Insincere, pompous and... cultured. He hoped that his words would hide the trickle of magic he called on to coat him in protection. Protection of his heart, and his self, and his truth; the only things he could protect and he wouldn't be required to provide for a mateship.

Alexander almost looked taken aback as the other Hellhounds came round in the room. Orion's eyes followed as they silently led Cecille and her mate from the room; no words exchanged at all. They were prepared.

'You must trust Cecille a great deal to have to come to her with no explanation,' remarked Alexander carefully, his eyes racking over Orion was if trying to pick out if there was trick coming.

'I made her a promise that I would come when she needed me. Of course, I never expected that need to be along these lines, but I couldn't really break a promise to my sister, now could it?' The steadiness in Orion's voice was unsettling; he could tell by the way the Hellhounds twitched at it slightly. They'd been ready for a fight, not a conversation. A small thrill of joy was sparked at their surprise and Orion felt it steady him further. They wanted fighting; the wanting him aching for freedom, so he would give them none of that, at least until it came to Ezekiel.

'Sister? Surely she no longer thinks of you as a sibling now that your parenthood is become known, or moreso, unknown,' edged Alexander, trying to bait him a little; testing out just how calm Orion truly was, 'And anyway, I know of at least one promise you've broken so you can't think that highly of loyalty.'

'I never knew there was a time limit on promise fulfilment,' replied Orion, rolling his lip slightly. He heard a soft snigger from behind him, his eyes catching a glimpse of Gabriel, Ezekiel's younger brother, just to his left. Admittedly Orion had never found Gabriel to be as bad as the others and that small snigger meant that he might have a chance to get some information out of him.

Orion took a step forward, his arm coming out. The reaction was immediate.

Rough hands held his neck tightly, cutting off part of his windpipe as his arms were twisted up and around his back, his feet being knocked from beneath him with the jagged spike of white-hot pain shooting at the back of his knees.

The floor come close as their force was too much against his compliance and he felt the hands on his left pull back slighty; Gabriel had realised he wasn't fighting.

'Considering I'd made no indication to cause any strife, you were all very quick to pounce. I was simply going to ask,' stated Orion, rolling his eyes and pointing his eyes directly at the siler cuffs in Alex's hands, 'If you wanted me to put those on for you. They can be quite tricky from my experience.'

Alex's eyes narrowed as he looked down at the cuffs and then back to Orion. 'You plan on coming quietly?' questioned Alex, though his question was marked with the answer already.

'I planned on walking out as calmly as possible,' offered Orion, looking up at Alex. Orion hated the position he was in. His blood was boiling so violently in his heart that he was sure his whole chest might snap open in a minute. His voice sounded tight and angry in his head but dull and pleasant in his ears. The protection was working.

Alex motioned for the Pack to let him up. Orion felt as they released him, a small pat on his left shoulder from Gabriel as he again outstretched his arms to Alex. 'Cuff me boys!' remarked Orion sarcastically, the words coming out playful and light.

The thick weight of the cuffs fell on his wrists, ensnaring itself to his blood and veins. 'No magic,' it whispered, 'No magic from here.' Orion already knew what they were; he'd been in them before. Magic binding cuffs. He felt as it shorted the magic that coursed through him; carefully snuffing it out wherever it came into contact, but leaving it unharmed. Orion however also knew that these cuffs only worked on Ether magic; only worked on his witch magic. Orion almost smiled at the thought: his Sprite magic was still strong and accessible, but they couldn't feel that.

'Okay, I'm contained now, nothing to worry about,' said Orion, the jest not landing on any mark as they looked at him slightly confused at his comraderie, 'Seriously guys, you're acting as if I have no idea of who you are, where you're taking or what you're taking me for.'

'Okay, come on then,' sighed Alex, content enough to let him follow without real restraint as he turned and headed back towards the door.

'It's almost as if you're disappointed,' murmured Orion under his breath as he followed to the top of the stairwell and looked down. It was a long way and Orion did not like heights.

Orion was looking down towards the ground when he heard it; the soft tinkering of a call enamating through the silence of their descent. He'd been whispering under his breath the entire way down, coaxing himself not to look over the railing at how much further they had to go.

'Hey Zeke,' answered Gabriel casually as a few of the Hellhounds looked behind themselves to him, 'Yeah, we're almost at the bottom now.' Orion couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, nor did he really want to, but there was a slow, dull aching in his chest as he descended further and further.

'A fight? Oh yeah, there's a lot of fight at the moment. Apparently he doesn't like heights and he thinks the fact that they haven't employed an automatic slip down to the bottom is stupid.' Gabriel didn't seem to mind that Orion could hear him, and he supposed he'd given no reason to make Gabriel think he was at all concerned with the situation, so Orion gave him some small forgiveness for the fun he was taking at the scenario.

Orion however was the very furthest from fun he'd ever been. His whole body was shaking in both fear and anger, his words breaking and stuttering over themselves. They didn't know this, and he was thankful for his quick glamour of protection. He didn't need them knowing how far beyond sanity he was drifting.

The descent had taken a full half hour and they were only just coming to the end. The time had given Orion enough for him to fully realise just how much of a mess he'd gotten himself in. Mateship. He was walking into mateship. He was unwillingly having to take part in it. He was leaving behind the home, the place, the family; everything he'd built in the past seven years. Then there was the other things he hadn't considered in his haste to protect himself.

They wouldn't know what had happened. They wouldn't know where he had gone. He hadn't thought to tell anybody where he was going; he felt sure that he would've returned there with Cecille free in his arms; surprising them all. He had felt so sure he knew his sister... his cousin, enough that nothing like this could happen. Orion knew now he was working on outdated information. If it had been 16 year old Cecille then yes, it would have been a retrieval, but the 24 year old Cecille wasn't who he knew. He'd been an idiot.

'Nah, nah, he's alright. No visible marks and he doesn't appear to be injured at all. A little too peppy for Alex's liking I think but there's not been an issue. We'll be there soon, you can see for yourself,' finished Gabriel. There was a brief moment before the call was ended and they finally rounded on the bottom fo the stair well.

'Thank fucking earth and sea!' exclaimed Orion has he stepped onto the landing, a small relieving wave of at least being back on solid ground overtaking him. It was enough to keep him going at least. The protection spell would keep them from knowing how he truly appeared but it couldn't force him to move if he didn't want to, and solid ground, well that made it a lot easier to move, even if it was shaking.

'If we'd of known you had such an aversion to stairs we would have chosen the Atrium,' was the welcoming phrase from a voice he knew far too well. Ezekiel. The name reverbrated in Orion's head and he knew that this was the time he was supposed to look up, give some kind of acknowledgement, but he couldn't.

The voice, that voice, had sent him spiralling backwards in his mind. Ezekiel's smell, the scent of a mate, made his body twitch in ways he'd thought it'd long forgotten. All of sudden he didn't feel quite so much like the 25 year old Orion he was, in fact, he felt specifically like 18 year old Orion. Smaller, less than, weaker... sub.

Orion could feel the seconds tick past as he tried to push past his own mind. The glamour would give him something to work with but his mind had to make some kind of decision in regards to what, and right now it wasn't much into making decisions.

The silence ticked on and he didn't know what anybody was thinking. He'd gone from pompously compliant and joke making, to staring steadily at the ground almost as if his brain had fallen out there and if he stared long enough he'd find it.

'Orion?' the word was gentle almost, knowing and warm. It mixed with Ezekiel's deep tones in a way that Orion had never heard before. He'd never said Orion's name like that before.

Orion's head snapped up. He knew he was grimacing but he supposed he just looked generally confused to them. 'Sorry, yeah, just enjoying being on solid ground again right now, you know, no untimely death to fall to,' replied Orion, his words stumbling over one another.

Fear tingled in him, but it came out as a strange nervousness and need to hide himself, so naturally he started to rant a little. 'Though the Atrium wouldn't have had as much of an affect, it's not a very intimidating place is it? Plus, it's not a place that's magically protected either, and you know, calling during Dark Hour, you've definitely got to have that protection.'

'Is he concussed?' asked Ezekiel suddenly, turning to Alex who shrugged a little as Ezekiel turned his gaze back to Orion. Orion wanted to turn away, remove himself from the eye lock but the way he was being scrutinized was almost painful and his fear had completely overtaken his ability to do anything besides think, and talk, incessantly.

'Definitely not concussed. My light refraction is fine, my equilibrium is back to normal now that we're off the stairwell and my speech appears to be working as well as it ever did, asiding from the fact that I apparently can't stop,' Orion keened at the last part a little, grimacing again. Ezekiel's mouth quirked in an almost smile and the very motion almost sent Orion backwards.

It was barely a few minutes but that brief time had allowed the mateship binds to take full control back. He remembered now how many times he had imagined Ezekiel looking at him intently, smiling, just doing anything towards Orion that might show he cared as much for Orion as Orion did for him.

Orion knew he was fully out of his depth. All the training in the past few years, all the teaching and the learning, and the power and the confidence, just dissipated out of his mind. He hated that he felt so young again. Vulnerable. He wanted to be the cold, hardened Orion that he knew he could be, but Ezekiel melted him somehow.

'He smells nervous,' remarked Gabriel as he took a big sniff of Orion's neck, making Orion buck slightly at it.

'Ah,' was all Ezekiel gave before he turned away from Orion and focused on the group in front of him.

Without Ezekiel's stare penetrating his mind Orion was able to actually see him. He was bigger, which Orion hadn't thought possible, but he had easily grown another four inches since he'd last seen him, making him a clear foot above Orion's quite well sized 5'11". His body, much like Alexander's spoke of training and a well kept life. He kept his beard tamer than Alex's though and his hair was cut close to the scalp. It hit Orion then that the Ezekiel he was looking at wasn't just a Hellhound anymore, he was an Alpha. Orion had to stop himself from choking on his own saliva for a moment. Alpha's were strong, Alpha's were dangerous; Alpha's could kill you in mating.

The small choking sound he'd let out didn't go unnoticed by the trio of Hellhounds, the others having disbursed with quite thanks from Ezekiel for their help. All three of them looked at him as he hastily cleared his throat. 'Forgot to ah, forgot to swallow,' remarked Orion lazily, the words getting a slightly raised eyebrow from Alex and another snigger from Gabriel. Ezekiel however just took another long, gentle stare at him.

'Right, well, it's time to go, Doc's only gonna have the portal open a short time for us and if we take anymore time he'll send my mother my head with a bow on it,' Ezekiel's words were directive, Alex and Gabriel waiting for Orion to make some sort of move towards Ezekiel who appeared to be standing deftly in the same spot.

'You have to come here Orion,' stated Ezekiel, giving him another gentle look. Maybe he thinks I've gone soft, thought Orion as he stared at his mate, lost a touch of my head maybe.

'Sure,' was all he could muster as he dragged his legs forward. The moment he was within a metre of Ezekiel he felt the ground wavering, holding the portal so they could slip through. Alex and Gabriel followed suit, Gabriel giving him another small push forward to give them enough room to stand behind him without touching.

Orion took a deep breath. He was going back to Nox Castle and he was fairly certain he was going to die.

'Finally!' came the voice of Doc, someone who Orion recognized immediately. The Com-Med of the Pack he'd met him several times in the lead up to his mateship Rite with Ezekiel previously. His face was warm and relieved and it spread through all the others in an instant.

'We didn't take that long,' remarked Ezekiel with a smile, giving Doc a one-armed hug before turning back to Orion and his packmates.

'We brought a mate Doc, would you look at that!' joked Gabriel, giving Orion a wink as if he was in on some joke. Orion wasn't sure, but he must have smiled in response as it only encouraged Gabriel further, with him giving Orion another hearty slap on the back.

'We need you to check him,' interjected Alex, his eyes grazing over Orion, 'We think he might be concussed. He's not been... well, he's not been who we remember.'

Orion faltered over the words. He's not who they remember, of course he wasn't, he wasn't the smaller, weaker sub they could bully mercilessly anymore. He wasn't the stuttering mess of slip-ups in the middle of training anymore. He was brave, and willing, and friendly, albeit by way of the glamour, but still, definitely not what any of them probably expected to find. Orion only hoped that the glamour would hold for long enough that he'd be able to have them tricked and slip out at the earliest convenience once the mating Rite had been completed.

Doc looked down at Orion, again reminding him that he was the shortest of the group by a considerable amount. Doc stood just as tall as Ezekiel, just as broad as well, but he held his body in a more comforting manner. Ezekiel was all tough lines of decorum and protocol; Doc was the protective embrace of the father figure.

Orion waited as Doc looked at him, eyes scouring over his face. He tried not to wince at the discomfort of having to keep eye contact for so long, but when the Doc smiled he figured that it must have been a repricol motion at least.

'He looks well actually. Strong, a little tired maybe, filled out quite a bit though, definitely good material to work with,' stated Doc, giving a short nod of approval before pulling back. His words didn't assauge the looks on either of Ezekiel or Alex's faces though. Ezekiel looked concerned, as if he was hiding something (which he was, but not what Ezekiel thought he was hiding), and Alex looked annoyingly disbelieving, obviously knowing he was hiding something, which was probably exactly what he was hiding.

'Seriously guys,' started Gabriel as he looked at them both, 'Doc says he looks good, he says he's fine, there was no fighting, no pushing or pulling, or inane threats. You'd think you'd both be happy, I mean, come on, Orion seems happy about it for earth's sake.'

Again, the statement did no assauging, just causing them to look at him again.

'Whilst I'm sure you all mean no harm with such keen, and annoying analysis, it is making me feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe you can both hold off till tomorrow to continue so that I can at least get some rest?' The words came out different than Orion had intended, but they seemed to stir on the three enough for Ezekiel to break his gaze at least, Alex taking a moment longer.

'Orion, you'll be staying with Ezekiel in his room, it's on the fifth floor,' started Doc, pointing at the giant staircase to the left of them in the entry hall, 'You two, my office for a debriefing.'

All four of them nodded, Orion moreso because it felt strange not to in the circumstance. He watched as the three of them left, whilst Ezekiel watched him. Orion kept his eyes on them until he could see and hear them no more. This was the first time he'd been alone with Ezekiel for so long, and his body was practically revolting from him.

The fear, the thing that he'd grown from and locked up inside of him was free and out of its cage. It was the fear that reared up the morning of the Seeding ceremony and had caused him to run, helter skelter, from the castle and slip straight through to Other world. It was the fear that screamed at him that he was going to die, not tonight, not in a week, but the moment when he gave Ezekiel control. He would die the moment his mate took his own dominance from him and filled it with his own.

Ezekiel cleared his throat, drawing Orion's attention, as his eyelids started to slump over his sight. Orion didn't want to know how he looked to Ezekiel right now; exhausted and drained over the nights events, and finding himself reverting back to this old nervous habits; he knew he seemed much more like his younger self than he had ever wanted to be like again.

'Stairs?' almost questioned Orion, looking tiredly up at the pretentious gold-wrought staircase. He felt Ezekiel shift closer to him and put a hand softly on the middle of his back. Orion heard the quiet sniff as Ezekiel tried to figure out what was going on with him. Apparently he'd gotten whatever answer he needed because he didn't smell him again.

'Yeah, it won't take long and you can rest,' was all Ezekiel offered as he gave Orion a small push to get him moving, keeping his hand there, just hovering.

It was in the moment, legs moving deflt up and down just in an effort to get to some form of horizontal comfort, that Orion remembered what he was wearing. It was his Com-Med uniform bearing the Warlock colours and the emblem of the Verge. He didn't expect Ezekiel to know the Verge's emblem but he would definitely know the Warlock colour, he had competed against enough in the Hallowtide games before. No wonder they were confused, thought Orion. He was sure that what he appeared to them was more and more less of what they'd ever expected of him. They weren't suspicious (well Alex was), but curious.

The sound of Ezekiel's footfalls behind him sounded quieter than Orion would have expected, but maybe it was for his benefit. The toll of the day and the night had reaked havoc on his mind. He didn't even want to consider what he would feel tomorrow when he woke up. He was fear-bindly numb to the full consequences of what had occurred and if he thought about it tonight he knew he'd pass the breaking point and the glamour would potentially crack. That was the last thing he wanted and the last thing he needed.

Faster than anticipated Orion was being stopped by a firm hand on his shoulder, turning to face a thick, wooden door. Ezekiel silently leant over him and opened it, letting it swing wide.

Orion was glad the lights were off as he entered. He was now worried if much more information entered his brain it would surely fall out. He would inspect it tomorrow morning in what was due to be the harsh light of dawn.

Orion swallowed back again as he heard the door close and lock. The feeling of protection swept over him as the closing door took with it all potential openings of the charms. The room was protected, the room was safe, but only for Ezekiel. The lights slowly drifted into effect, creating a dim glow around the room.

'You can take the left side, I sleep on the right. Everything's as you should remember it: bathroom, drinks, balcony,' Ezekiel ran through the words almost carelessly, he had already strode forward and was fiddling with something at the head of the bed. The soft clink of chains caught Orion's attention as he fumbled forward, none too content with the dim light he was in. 'You'll be required to wear these till morning, so I advise if you need to do anything, you do it now,' stated Ezekiel, turning back to Orion as if waiting for an objection.

Orion desperately wanted to gain the upper hand and make a witty remark, something he would have otherwise been able to do, but his energy was leeching rapidly and so he just shrugged before quickly making his way to the bathroom.

A minute or so and he was out but it was enough time to Ezekiel to have removed majority of his clothing and put on bed shorts. He was sitting quietly on the edge of the bed, hands twisting in the chains as he waited.

'You should get some water,' was all that he said as he heard Orion exit the bathroom.

Orion did as instructed, a glass already waiting by the sink for him to fill. He was five minutes away from passing out and he knew it, his hand shook a little as he both took a sip and walked to the bed. Unfortunately the glamour didn't hide everything, Ezekiel watching as a few small drops of water missed Orion's mouth and ended up in the soft hair of his stubble.

'You'll have to get undressed, you'll get too hot otherwise,' said Ezekiel, his tone almost flat. Orion was starting to get annoyed at it. Yes, he was the runaway mate, and yes, Ezekiel probably didn't like him much for it, but sundamnit, he was here wasn't he? He would've much preferred to have found a way out and left them all to their political mess, but he was here. Manipulation magnificent, and he was standing in Ezekiel's bedroom, being told to get undressed so he could be crudely chained to a bed.

If this had been any other scenario it probably wouldn't have bothered Orion so much; it's not like he hadn't thought about this before, or even fantasized about it, but that was a long time ago, and in those moments, Ezekiel had been in love with him; at least in his head.

Orion complied, having nothing else he could really do, but his uniform was tricky. It was made to be invincible; durable and layered and full of stubborn fabric. Usually he'd have Lukas, the Surger, dragging it over his head in his almost ceremonious irritability at Orion's slowness with the whole thing.

There was no help this time though. Ezekiel sat quietly, hands grasping the chains as Orion fiddled his way through the clasps and clips, removing each layer and connection, until he stood, mostly naked, and definitely a lot cooler.

Orion considered taking off the cotton underlay pants, but the idea of sleeping next to Ezekiel in only his underwear was a bit of an affronting one.

Stepping forward slowly Orion paused as Ezekiel stood up. There weren't even a foot away from one another and Orion was now face to chest to Ezekiel, it further accentuating just how much he had grown.

'You ready?' asked Ezekiel, the tone of his voice gentle again. Orion didn't really have a response. No, he most definitely was not ready, but he couldn't say that, so instead he just nodded, making sure to keep his eyes diverted from Ezekiel.

The pull of exhaustion was creeping over him as he slumped himself without grace onto the bed. He hadn't meant to but instead of still sitting upright he'd fallen all the way backwards. He felt tired, numb, almost dead in fact.

It occured to him at this point, a just a little too late, that he was actually in shock. He'd seen it in other Sprites before but he'd never known how it felt, but all of a sudden he did. All that kept him tied to the world fell away and he felt light, barely conscious and floating.

He'd lost his grounding, not somewhere where he was safe and would have others like him to ground him again before unconsciousness took over, but here, in a castle with Hellhounds who didn't know how to treat Sprites.

If Ezekiel noticed, he didn't say anything, but Orion hadn't really expected him to. Instead the chains were slipped round his wrist and pulled taut to the bed head for good measure, his arms rested above his head.

'Goodnight Orion,' came the soft, wanting words of Ezekiel, and Orion swore with his one last conscious thought, that he sounded almost happy.