Author: silvereyedbitch PM
Crappy summary: AU setting in which Ciani doesn't get her memory back and has to train with Tarrant. She gets a surprise glimpse at his repressed feelings for Damien, and it goes on from there. Set kind of after WTNF, starting before they head back home. Warnings: M/M, AU, emotional angst (lots), and bad writing.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy - Words: 8,636 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 10-18-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8622161
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Characters within are property of C.S. Friedman. Wish she would have continued them onward, but oh well. We'll all just have to keep dreaming up these stories on our own.
Setting/Summary: Suppose they had never located and destroyed the creature that had stolen Ciani's memories, and so she came with them during the second book and had followed along as they defeated the Undying Prince. They will still search for the creature responsible for her condition, but they have bigger problems for now. Currently, they are traveling back to the coast to board their ship and return home to face Calesta. Without other options, Ciani decides to let Gerald train her more fully in manipulating the fae. What she discovers surprises both of them.
Warnings: AU, M/M, emotional angst (a lot in fact), and just general bad writing.
A/N: Funny, I started this story with Ciani's point of view being the dominant one, and then dumped her in the middle of it. Ha! I'm a crappy writer; I know this, so please don't think I believe that I am creating seriously excellent pieces here. These are totally just for fun! Enjoy!
Ciani was desperate. She must gain access to the fae somehow, no matter if it was on a smaller scale than she would like. But in continuing to travel with her companions, there was no time or place to accomplish this. And there certainly wasn't any library or institution where she could locate books on the subject out here in the wilderness. Much as she claimed neutrality in all things, she had refrained from asking for the Hunter's help. He had offered once, but she had delayed answering, needing time to deliberate on her options. However, she was beginning to come to the conclusion that he was to be her only hope, barring that they actually found the creature responsible for wiping her memories. As the chances of this now seemed incredibly low, she began to reconcile with herself the need for his aide.
He was the first mention it, though, so obviously he is willing, she thought. And so, even though the idea still didn't set quite right within her, she accepted his offer. And she learned quickly from him. She had always been able to absorb hard facts quicker than most, and her agile mind was able to connect the meanings between the key phrases, enabling her to double her speed again. The first 10 nights flew by, and Tarrant praised her as being months ahead of any other pupil he had ever deigned to instruct. Although, admittedly, the last time he taught anyone was centuries lost in the past. And, oh, how she preened under his praise, devouring it as if a starving woman. She had never known herself to be one who desired the praise of others. In fact, she prided herself on remaining above such matters and not caring what others might think of her. And so it seemed strange to her indeed when her spirits would lift so high at just the hint of a smile playing across his face when she mastered some difficult conceptual framework. So strange, she thought. I can't seem to remember what was so frightening about him before. She found it difficult to reconcile this quiet and seemingly patient man with the legendary killer that he supposedly was. Tall and elegant, with the exquisite manners born of another age, he seemed more the perfect gentleman than the fearsome nightmare who pursued women through the Forest, ultimately killing them. His lean form reclining against a rocky outcrop, gazing out toward the plains they would cross tomorrow, features aglow from the firelight, he appeared more an angelic being fallen from the heavens. The warm light provided by the campfire lent his pale features the look of the living, if only temporarily. So beautiful, so graceful…so deadly. For that is the way of evil; always beautiful, always alluring, and so innocently deceptive. It creeps inside one slowly, taking root in the hidden places of the soul.
As usual, her instruction took place after Damien had fallen asleep. Tarrant knew how much Damien hated having her learn from him, and so he chose not to do it in his sight. Ciani followed Tarrant a goodly distance from the camp before finding a suitable area free of trees. There was a time when even her neutral stance would have stopped her from following a known killer into the middle of the woods alone. Somehow, that just didn't seem important anymore. And besides, he has given his word not to harm me, she assured herself as she prepared for this night's verbal recitations. Pulling out her pen and notebook, she opened to the last entry. And then the book was snapped shut in her hands. Tarrant relinquished his hold on the cover, and said softly, "Tonight, we will be attempting a different approach." Looking up at him, Ciani is mesmerized by the silver in his eyes, almost glowing under the light of the stars. Taking her by the shoulder, he brings her to sit in front of him on the cool grass. There are no sounds in the forest around them. How odd, she thinks. Surrounding them, the grass appears as a sea of blackness, which she finds appropriate given the company she's keeping. "Place your hands palm upward over your knees," Tarrant whispers, and she finds herself instantly obeying. As if assessing the effect he is having on her, he pauses momentarily before continuing. Both long, slender arms reach out, and his cool, no cold, fingers drift just above her palms. It seems as if the cold is radiating from his fingertips as they hover lightly over hers. "I am going to Show you how to complete this next lesson, for you will need to See it with me first in order to emulate it." She nods in understanding. It is common practice for adepts to teach in this manner. "Close your eyes," he says softly. Full darkness encompasses her as she does. And at first, she feels she is falling, but is quickly buoyed up by a familiar icy presence. "Now, follow my Working," she hears him instruct her. She begins to make out patterns in the darkness, and they slowly solidify for her into an artistic display of control over the dark fae. She watches, mesmerized, soaking in all the details for later consideration in her studies.
They continue in this manner for perhaps half an hour when, suddenly, a voice interrupts their mental exercises. "There you are! Vulking hell, I didn't know where you had run off to in the middle of the night! What in all the hells are you two doing out here?" Tarrant stands in one fluid motion to face Damien. "I should think it is too far above your level of comprehension to warrant explaining our actions to one such as yourself," he replies with cold grace as he quickly exits the clearing, making not a sound in doing so. Damien huffs and then walks over to help Ciani stand and, noticing the look on her face, he becomes worried. "Ciani? Are you alright?" he asks. She shakes herself out of the trance and replies that she is fine, just tired, when she is anything but.
As Damien leads her back to camp, berating her all the way for coming out here alone with him, she falls again into that trance-like state of mind in order to clear her thoughts. She needs to think. She is shocked. When Tarrant broke off their contact, there was a moment of hesitance and confusion when he was first surprised by Damien's appearance. Though that moment lasted barely the space of a breath, she had seen and felt enough from the darkened soul of her teacher to fill hours of time. And, oh, what she had felt! What had she discovered here?! When Damien's voice filled Tarrant's mind, she had felt not the expected anger, and not annoyance, but…affection? Yes, and the feelings following after were even more intricate and involved. Confusion lay inside the adept as a weighted stone pulling him down. The evil inside him cried out in repugnance, but a small part of his soul, his apparently human soul, cried out for the touch of the one he…loved… Her mind reeled at the very implications of this discovery.
Arriving back at camp, she noted that Tarrant had reclaimed his perch at the outcropping of stone. He glanced their way, acknowledging their return. Now that she knew what to look for, she could see the pain as clear as Corelight deep within those haunted eyes that had born witness to the dawning of centuries. How terrible! she thought. To be so alone for so long, and then to find out that the one person you've come to love is also the one vowing to kill you. It was an impossible and unfathomable situation…she had to fix this! The part of her that was female cried out for relationship meddling, neutrality be damned!
She pondered the situation from every angle as they traveled toward the coast to locate their crew and return home to confront Calesta. Never again did she get the chance to glimpse inside of the Hunter's soul. He probably realizes that his guard dropped that night, but not that I saw anything, so he's taking extra precautions now. Throughout their steady press onward, she is witness to several instances that break her heart to see. Simple things like watching Tarrant pass a map to Damien become more intriguing as she watches the longing in the Hunter's eyes when his hand comes so close to the priest's. So teasingly close…and worlds away. When these things occur, it always seems the Hunter becomes more prone to brooding and solitude afterward. It's almost as though he seeks a way to put distance between himself and the object of his sorrows, as if mere physical distancing can heal the hurt that time has wrought. This often leads to angry words and threats between the two men, leaving Damien exasperated and Tarrant even farther from the man he wants more than anything. A vicious cycle indeed. If only I could find some way to confine them together so that maybe the issue will then be forced upon them, she thinks.
Her opportunity arrived when they located their captain, who then needed to find a suitable ship for their long journey home. Upon hearing that he will be out surveying for the perfect vessel during the next few days, Ciani volunteered to accompany him. Many eyebrows rose at this declaration. She covered her strange actions by saying that she had never learned much about ships and would like to use the opportunity for just this very thing. However, her true motives remained hidden from her traveling companions and crew. She wanted to ensure that the living quarters would have to be shared among them, or at least among two passengers in particular…
The search was a success, and they made plans to sail in three days. During those days, Ciani saw to it that the crewmen went ahead and took up residence. She made sure that some of the available rooms were packed with supplies and necessities and therefore were unusable. By the time their voyaging day arrived, everything fell into place perfectly, with but one exception. Damien had been constantly harping on Tarrant about his terrorizing of the locals, which Tarrant justified as a way to store energy for himself on the long journey. Even though the priest is usually discomforted by the Hunter's feeding, he seemed unusually reactive to these most recent incidences. The disquiet evident on his face upon receiving this dark souled man as cabin mate was instantly picked up on by Tarrant. Not wanting to display any particular feelings concerning it, Tarrant merely sneered at Damien, "Will you be able to handle it, priest, having the evil you so despise living so near you?" Damien's reply was equally quick, "I don't see how it's any different than usual, but I'll be sure to vacate the room during the day so I won't have to spend another second in your damning presence!" Anger evident on both of their faces, Tarrant turned and stalked off, but not before Ciani saw the hurt in his eyes from Damien's harsh words. Sure, he provoked them, but they still wounded all the same.
Six weeks crawled by, and the once seemingly enormous vessel began to feel tightly confined. Tarrant and Damien had successfully avoided each other these passing weeks by taking up an unvoiced and strict rooming schedule. Damien was always gone before the sun rose, and Tarrant had already vacated the room when the stars began to come out. As of yet, this had prevented them from any further clashes, but it certainly did nothing for Ciani's scheming. However, she saw no way to force any more interaction between them. They were both strong-willed and unyielding men, not given to apologies or accommodating practices they believe senseless. And so she watched as they both stretched the distance between them as far as the ship allowed, day in and day out.
The monotony was broken suddenly one day by the cry of the lookout. "Whirlpool off the starboard bow cap'n! A big 'un!" he cried out. A flurry of action began to take place as the crew leapt into action at the captain's commands. They worked as a well-oiled machine, and responded promptly to every order shouted. But after an hour, they all realized the futility of their efforts. The maelstrom was too large and far flung. There would be no avoiding it. An eerie silence fell over the ship as they each pondered what their fate was to be. Damien glanced skyward. "It'll be dark in just over an hour, maybe Tarrant will be able to change our course somehow," he said softly. But he held no true hope, for he gauged the timing of the ship's approach to the center to be right at the same time Tarrant would be able to emerge from the cabin. And so he prayed for their souls.
Waiting outside of Tarrant's door, Damien fidgeted. It was perhaps 20 minutes before they would arrive at a point of no return for the vessel, and while it was not dark quite yet, he hoped to brief Tarrant on the situation as soon as he emerged. "I can feel your arrogant presence outside my door, Vryce. Do come in," he heard Tarrant say from just behind the door. He exhaled in exasperation at the adept's tone and entered their shared cabin.
It did not take long to brief the Hunter on the horrifying situation, and after he finished, the look on Tarrant's face could have frozen a lake of fire in Hell. "Get everyone indoors and stowed away," he told Damien quietly. The priest nodded, "I'll return to the deck to help as soon as we get everyone situated." "I do not want or need your help, priest. Kindly stay away from me and do as you're told," Tarrant said with a stony countenance and tone that took Damien aback. Refusing to rise to the bait, though, Damien turned and hurried outside to get everyone secured. Crewmen ran around wildly trying to secure important riggings in a last minute dash before heading for safety.
As Damien ushered the last of the crew into the main entrance of the ship's hold, he turned around to survey the deck. And there was Tarrant, on the midship deck, the last rays of Corelight reddening the exposed skin of his face and hands. Damien began to walk in his direction but was halted by a sharp gesture from the adept. "Leave me, Damien. You will be no help here!" Tarrant yelled over the roar of the water. Reluctant to leave him, but also realizing the probable truth of his words, Damien glanced one last time at the location of the whirlpool's center, now clearly visible and looming ever closer. Wish I hadn't done that, he thought to himself and closed the door. Tarrant gazed at the secured door for a moment longer while drawing his sword. "Goodbye, Damien," he said, the words lost upon the roar of wind and water. He closed his eyes and turned to face his oncoming fate.
Deep inside the ship, Damien, Ciani, and the crewmembers huddled in near darkness. Where possible, they had secured themselves to the walls and support planks. An air of fear and anxious expectation loomed over all. The calm lasted but a few more moments. The ship lurched sideways, tumbling most to the floor who weren't secured. An ear abrading and horrendous Crack rang through the air, followed by a Boom that shook the ship as if something had hit the hull or deck. The momentum they had been building within the outer rim of the vortex had been undeniably faster and more powerful than any human-devised ship could lay claim to, but it felt as if it were slowing somewhat. Ciani muttered the words to a Knowing, "He's called a storm! An enormous one!" she yelled over the now deafening roar of the ocean's power, "Within minutes! How can he do that without killing himself?" And suddenly Damien knew, and it struck him as a physical blow. He can't, he thought.
There was no further time for speculation, however, because the ship ground to a halt, tipped sideways, and felt as though it were bobbing unbalanced in the water. The roar of wind was deafening now, and no further audible communication was possible. With another jolt of motion, they felt it tug forward as though yanked by a rope. A few minutes more of the strange bobbing sensation passed before they felt the ship right itself and start to build speed once more. Several crewmen had emptied their stomachs upon the floor, and several more were crying, praying, or had been knocked unconscious. "He's using the force of a gale to push us out of the current!" Ciani guessed. Such power, Damien thought, astounded at the sheer magnitude of it, until reminded of what it would cost. He felt a rending inside himself. The Hunter had almost been killed while accompanying him now twice before, and each time it seemed to affect him more strongly. After all, each time was a direct result of helping me," Damien thought guiltily. The resulting emotions were no less strong than the prior instances, but this time there was a deeper concern resounding within him. It was something new, and he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was.
After several minutes of seemingly calm sailing, Damien couldn't stand it any longer and ran to the door of the hold to tear it open. He bounded up the steps two and three at a time until reaching the outer door. He threw that one aside as well and surveyed the deck. It was still raining and windy but manageable. It wasn't until lightening lit the sky that the deck in its entirety became visible. He took in the damage stoically. The main mast was broken and had landed on the deck, several lines and sails had been decimated, and it seemed as though the rudder had been affected as well by the turn of the wheel at the helm. He took all of this in passively; the true object of his anxiety was glimpsed perhaps twenty yards away. With another flash of lightening its location was confirmed, and he ran over as quickly as the rain-slicked deck would allow. Other crewmen began filing out behind him as he ran, and he dimly heard the captain calling out orders to retake control of the ship and get their bearings.
Damien arrived at Tarrant's side and beheld at once a horrible and beautiful sight. Tarrant lay on his back with face turned slightly left. Hair and clothing plastered against his lithe form, he appeared to be sleeping through the rain. Damien repositioned him for spinal alignment and placed both hands at his sides, noting as he did this that Tarrant's inner cold didn't seem to be, well, as cold. Looking beside him on the deck, he saw the sword, as lifeless seeming as its owner. Damien called out to two sailors passing by to help him convey Tarrant down to their shared room. Ciani came over and was quiet as they gazed down at the adept. "I'll be helping the wounded in the sick bay if you need anything," she said with a growing sadness in her eyes. Using a portion of sail cloth, they rolled Tarrant into it and carried him down the passageway to the room. Once they had laid him out on the bed, Damien thanked the crewmen. "He saved our lives," said one, while the other nodded, "Let us know if there's anything else you need." Damien could only nod his understanding as they turned to leave.
Once they had disappeared back into the hallway and the door was secured, Damien turned back to Tarrant. He unwrapped the sail cloth from around him and positioned him as best he could think of on the single mattress, treating the man as if he were made of spun glass. He laid his hand over Tarrant's chest. Motionless. Did he ever really breathe in the first place? wondered Damien. He truly did not know how to tell if the Hunter was still technically alive, but the signs sure seemed to point in the negative. He moved his hand up to the side of the other man's neck, assessing for a pulse. And waited, and waited… Despair began to fall over Damien like a heavy cloak, and he was surprised to find tears in his eyes. They rolled down his face and onto Tarrant's already soaked shirt. He was forced to acknowledge that he truly did care for the welfare of this man, this embodiment of evil. The possibility that Tarrant wouldn't be at his side any longer hurt with a fierceness that took his breath from him. The admission both surprised and relieved him, because it felt as though a weight had been lifted, and he could freely admit this emotional attachment to himself. With Tarrant alive, the implications of this admission of true friendship would have caused no end of confusion and guilt for Damien because of the very nature of the man. But I wish I had never gotten this chance, he wept silently.
Damien let memories pour over himself for a good long while, feeling cleansed by it somehow. How bittersweet they seemed now. Looking at his fallen friend, who had given his life for him, he took in the state of Tarrant's appearance. Utterly still and silent, he lay as if dreaming, and it appeared to the priest that his curiously smirk-like smile was present as well. Pale skin already death-like in its pallor, seemed crystalline and pure in the repose of death. Tarrant's rumpled and soaked clothes and hair were all that ruined the image of perfection. And suddenly, he wanted his friend to at least have dry clothing in this hour of pain and loss. Tarrant was always so fastidious in his manner and dress, and Damien felt it dishonored the man to leave him so disheveled.
He went to the ornate chest belonging to the adept and selected a few choice items from its contents. Bringing them over to the bed, he laid them out beside the Hunter. He began to unbutton the shirt and had to stop for a minute, too overwhelmed by emotion to control his fingers. Taking a deep breath, he reached over to continue but stopped after the seventh button. Tarrant's chest lay exposed to the air, chalk-white in the lantern light, and so painfully still. He laid his hand over the adept's heart for a moment. How could you have gone out alone Tarrant, knowing this would be the result? I would've stood by you, if only to catch you, he thought. But that was the way of the Hunter, always alone. How could it feel to have no one to trust, no one to rely on but yourself? Empty, thought Damien. But how could one change almost one thousand years of habitual seclusion? Damien also knew that Tarrant had suffered at the hands of those he trusted during his brief time as a mortal, and so he had refused to rely on anyone after that. He looked at Tarrant's angelic features, the face of a murderer who was reviled throughout the lands, and he felt sorrow for the loneliness of the man's existence. "You were never as alone as you thought you were," he whispered, hand still resting upon the Hunter's chest.
A week passed with no visible sign of change in the state of Tarrant's form. Damien stayed by his side almost every hour of every day, not wanting to miss any vital clue as to a possible recovery. Unable to continue with the change of clothing from before, he had settled for at least having dried the adept's hair and had rearranged it on the pillow, the old clothes having dried on their own. He spoke often to the too-still Hunter, sometimes of their shared travels and other times of Damien's past adventures and deeds. But as time continued to wear on, he felt despair creeping into his mind and heart. "I don't know if you hear me at all when I talk to you, but I've got to tell you that I am starting to worry," he said, trying for a light tone but ending up almost choking on the words. "It's been days, and still I hope." He glanced at the still form and felt the sadness swell within him. "But you're really gone this time, aren't you?" he whispered into the quiet of the room. And as if saying that had broken something inside of him, Damien began to sob as a man lost to the world. It was all so unfair. He had always hoped to somehow bring Tarrant back to the light, and now there would never be a chance of this. His traveling companion, his oftentimes rescuer, his friend…dead. It was inconceivable that a force as unflappable and powerful as the Hunter could possibly leave this world so quickly.
The tears kept coming, and Damien let them. The emotions he felt rising within himself were stifling in their force. He remembered little things he had witnessed in the Hunter that had made him seem almost human once again, and redeemable. Moments that allowed Damien to hope for the reclaiming of this soul lost so long ago played through his mind. He remembered the eyes, those shining silver orbs piercing his soul until he felt as though every secret he had ever tried to keep was as easily read as the many books lining the shelves in Ciani's old shop. They could hold you captive, like a venomous snake drawing closer to the hare. And the cold that so radiated outward from the tall, lean adept could bite at even the hardiest outdoorsman. Damien reminisced over the various nuances that had comprised this multilayered companion of his, and he was surprised yet again to discover that affection lay behind his thoughts. Well, of course I cared for him, he's been with me from the start and has been an immeasurable help several times, Damien responded to his own internal discernment. But he felt something else as well, and it was a strange thing, small and light. He sat there beside Tarrant silently scrutinizing this thing. When probed and directly inspected, it caused something deep inside his chest to turn in on itself, and a thing hidden deep within his soul was set free. It seemed a series of emotions played themselves out in rapid succession. Affection became attraction became longing became…love?
What?! he exclaimed. He sat back up straight, tears halted by the shock of this discovery. Am I…do I…love…Tarrant? He backtracked his thoughts, thinking himself addled, but every time he found himself returning to the same conclusion. "Vulking hell on a rainy day," he said, stunned. He looked again at this man beside him and found himself admiring the fine contours of his face, the highlights of gold in his hair caught by the flickering lantern, and the way his slender hands lay lightly at his sides. And then he knew, with unfailing certainty, that he had lost not only a valued friend and traveling companion, but a person he loved enough to die for…only he would never have that chance now. And then the grief returned in full, crashing down upon him as though the ocean itself had emptied over his head. The weight of it was unbearable. He wanted to scream, to lose himself in an act of violence, or maybe even to cause that violence to happen to himself. Anything but feeling this, this, this horrible life-leaching sorrow. An inundation of thoughts, feelings, and everything in between kept up a relentless pounding inside of Damien's head and heart. He felt himself emptying out, becoming nothing but a shell of a man; or perhaps he wouldn't even resemble a man at all when he finished. "I didn't know; I promise. I had no idea. I didn't know," he cried over and over until it became nothing but a hoarse whisper, "I didn't know…"
Lost in his grief and rage and pain, Damien didn't register at first the light touch upon his arm. What he noticed was the barely audible, pain filled whisper of laughter coming from the presumed dead beside him. Whipping his head back to face Tarrant, he saw those unwavering mercurial eyes fixed on his face, the bone-chillingly cold hand on his arm gave a weak squeeze. "Careful priest. You might embarrass yourself if you continue," the adept whispered. Damien was floored. No words could make their way out of his mouth. Can you piece your shattered heart back together in just 5 seconds? It felt as though his heart had attempted this, but that it had become rearranged into a pattern that was different from the original, sharp pain issuing forth from the irregularities. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think; he could only stare. In fact, he did this for so long without another response from Tarrant, that he began to wonder if he had imagined what had just happened. The still of death had returned to Tarrant's form, his eyes were closed again, and that endless sleep resumed.
A sigh escaped Tarrant, "Have you nothing to say priest? No worldly admonitions?" "Why?!" the word could barely strangle itself out of Damien's mouth. He could have been asking about anything, but he knew Tarrant would guess correctly concerning the topic. The silence hung heavy between them, Tarrant seemingly weighing his answer before he whispered, "Some things…are worth dying for." Confused at this statement, Damien replied tersely, "Yes, well, they certainly don't need to be faced alone, though, do they?! Do you realize how it feels to know that someone is giving their life for yours and to have no option with which to help them?! You gave me no chance; nothing!" he continued. How quickly love can dissolve to anger. Tarrant closed his eyes again, "Please Damien, do not make this any harder than it has to be. I would rather die knowing we were even than spend this time arguing," he said weakly. Damien heard only one word from that statement, Die?! "What?!" he exclaimed out loud, fear beginning to settle back in his gut. "I am badly weakened, priest, and the sword is drained. We are still months away from home, and I find I am too frail at this moment to even Work a channel to feed off of," he took a shuddering breath and finished, "It's quite pathetic really."
Damien's mind whirled at the implications. With no way to feed off of his usual stock, the Hunter would surely perish, and a long and slow demise it seemed it would be. The anguish Damien felt at this was overpowering. His recently discovered feelings lending a new air of horror to it all. "I can give you blood, though! And afterward, you'd be strong enough for a Working!" Damien cried, thinking he had found the solution. But Tarrant just performed another sad and painful chuckle, "I know you would, Vryce, but the amount I would have to take from you would drain you of everything. And that is quite the opposite of what I had intended by my previous actions." Tired from speaking, Tarrant resumed his deathlike immobility. Damien couldn't accept this. This was Gerald Tarrant, the Hunter. Barring his twisted demonic nature, he had lived almost one thousand years and had accomplished more good for his fellow man than anyone could ever hope to surpass. It seemed so unfair an ending for such a personage as he. "There has to be something," Damien said determinedly.
"Ah, priest, there is that quality that I so admire in you. Such passion and faith. Such drive," Tarrant said, "But the only option available would destroy who you are…and I couldn't bear that." Damien whirled at hearing that, "There is something?!" He got down beside the bed, "Tell me!" he all but commanded, "Tell me, damn you!" "And what would you have me say, priest? That I can take all of your blood, draining you until dead, and then fill you with my own blood and soul to sustain you? Ha! Becoming my creature would end all of your previous notions of returning to your church, your home. And it would most probably twist you into something altogether disgusting and terrifying to your current sensibilities. So no, I will not do it…not that."
Damien leaned back, deeply considering what he had just heard. It was an impossible thing to do…right? And yet, he hadn't planned on returning to the church anyway. His own guilt of associating with, and then befriending, Tarrant, had curbed any ideas of that a good while back. And now, here in the hold of this ship, he had found that, against all of his better judgments, he had come to care for the Hunter. No, not care for, love, he thought. He looked back at the disheveled and sickly affect of Gerald Tarrant, who had been there for him many times until this most probable death, and he made his decision. "Do it," he commanded, and Tarrant's quicksilver eyes snapped back to his, anger apparent therein. "I will not, Vryce. Never. Let me die knowing that I have preserved at least one aspect of my shredded soul."Silently he added, I could never do that to you, Damien, never. "Please, just leave me to my passing. I don't want to be remembered as this sad, frail thing I have become," Tarrant whispered, and then as he closed his eyes once more, he thought, Least of all by you.
Two stubborn men, one prideful and dying, the other stalwart and persevering, quietly existed in the same room. Silence dragged on for long minutes while Damien considered ways to circumvent Tarrant's unwillingness. The idea struck him at once. He moved to the chest, opening it and removing something inside. As he brought it over to the bed, kneeling when he arrived, Tarrant listened to his movements. "What are doing, priest? I recall telling you to leave me to my fate." Damien didn't reply, which prompted Tarrant to look over at him. His gaze fell on Damien just in time to see the dagger cut deep into the priest's forearm. Blood running down his arm, Damien held it over the Hunter, flowing onto his pale chest. "You will have no choice in this matter now. I will continue to cut and bleed until I am dead. Your choice is whether or not to make my sacrifice worth something," he said with a steely cold determination.
Tarrant stared wide-eyed at the resolve evident in Damien's eyes, and he knew then…Damien meant it. He would die either way. Tarrant struggled into a sitting position, grabbed the proffered arm, and looked into Damien's eyes before saying, "You're an arrogant bastard. Do you realize what this will mean? Can you even conceive of its significance?!" It was quiet for a few seconds, until Damien replied, "All I know is that I'm dizzy, and you won't shut up." Tarrant assessed the priest's resolution once more before bringing the gash to his lips. The dizzying sensation soared as Tarrant began to drink, and within minutes Damien had to reposition himself on the bed beside Tarrant, who was at least strong enough now to kneel on the bed beside him. "Does it always take this long?" Damien mused out loud. Still angry with him for making this choice for him, Tarrant lay the arm down, and brought his face to the side of Damien's neck. He paused for a second just above the skin, and whispered, "I'm sorry," before his elongated incisors slid into the large vein nearest the surface. Things began to turn hazy in Damien's vision quickly, and he could feel his heart beginning to pound in his chest. His breathing became labored, and he could barely hold his eyes open anymore.
And suddenly Tarrant's face was in front of him, "Damien. Here," he said, as he forced a bleeding gash from his own wrist into Damien's lolling mouth. At first, the blood ran out and down his chin. There was a slap, and a cry of, "Drink, damn you!" Tarrant commanded. And Damien obeyed, slowly. His first swallow was difficult, feeling as though his mouth would not work as he wanted it to. But after the second and third he began to feel somewhat normal again, whatever that was anymore. The thick, icy fluid slid down his throat like liquefied silk, spreading from his stomach outward. Like being burned by ice, the thought flitted through Damien's mind. And then foreign thoughts began to present themselves, and though it took time to separate them and see them for what they were, he still eventually recognized Tarrant's influence in them. He felt a strange sadness within the adept, and was able to discern that he was the cause of it. He pursued that thought back to its source and nearly choked on the findings. Love! There was no mistaking the feeling for Damien felt it himself now when he thought of Gerald. But to see that the possibility of it being returned was there…he was dumbfounded. No time for complicated thinking, though. After another minute, Tarrant ceased his ministrations and sat back, surveying the effects. "You will feel better momentarily," Tarrant whispered. "Yeah, thanks mom," Damien replied.
They both were quiet, Damien lying on the mattress and Tarrant sitting facing him at his feet. Damien broke the silence first, propping his head up to look at Tarrant, "You should have told me, you know." Looking bewildered, Tarrant cocked his head to one side and asked, "Concerning what, exactly?" Damien pulled himself up to sit, feeling better as each moment passed. Looking deep into those twin pools of mercury, Damien felt reassured that what he had felt was truly there, just deeply hidden and denied. Feeling positively empowered to actually know something before the adept, Damien said, "Your feelings…for me." He let it hang in the air between them. The shock evident on Tarrant's face was worth all the lost treasures of the ocean. He felt the love break free of Tarrant's emotional dungeon steeped with denial, and it was so magnificent, so breathtakingly uplifting. The adept's mouth hung open silently, as if he was frozen, and then Damien felt only fear, cold and crushing, fly across their new connection. "No…Damien…what have you done?" Tarrant whispered.
All at once, every shadow in their small, shared room began flowing toward Tarrant, with the room growing darker as they stretched forth. "NO!" shouted the adept as he pushed back into the corner of the bed. But there was no escaping the Nameless One when it sought out its servants for remuneration. Damien watched in horror as the shadows began to wind around Gerald, who tried to move again and was violently slammed into the wall for it. And then the Hunter wept, and nothing could have scared the priest more. Damien felt panic at the unknowing betrayal he had just committed. By acknowledging his feelings for Damien, the Hunter had just broken his contract. There was no claiming ignorance in the heat of the moment this time, as with the revelations given in that foreign land. This was knowingly committed. Along the bond, Damien felt the words of sorrow, I know you didn't know Damien. I'm so very sorry. I could never tell you. I had no idea you felt the same .I have carried this burden for a long while now, though, and I am glad that you will live…and that you will know. I love you…Damien…" The thoughts began to flicker out, and Gerald himself seemed to be becoming more insubstantial by the minute.
Lost, and with no power or means of helping his friend, his love, Damien thought fervently. Lord, hear me out. This man has committed acts in his past that will forever darken the face of Erna. Even I used to think him only an abomination and wished the world could be rid of him. But there is redemption in all things with you, Lord. Help him. Please. He is coming closer to the light every day. His soul is still mortal, but it's been twisted and covered with this Evil's filth for so long. He just needs a chance, God, a chance. Please, please…he has attempted to give his life for me and this crew, surely that counts for something? And he has saved a nation through his shared visions! Please, Lord, please, help him. Show him that he is not beyond redemption. I love him, Lord, I love him…I love him… Damien trailed off in his prayers at that admission and began to cry the heart wrenching tears of someone who has lost everything before they could ever even have it. Never to know it! He curled in on himself, continuing to cry and trying to carry on in prayer, though coherent thought was becoming difficult.
Gerald had ceased struggling and lost consciousness, continuing to fade from view when the darkness enshrouding him flickered. Though Damien wasn't looking directly at it, he felt that flickering inside. With a tear stained visage, and eyes that continued to weep, he looked up at Tarrant, fearful of what this new feeling implied. The darkness flickered again, and almost seemed to recoil for the space of a breath, almost imperceptible. The light in the room seemed to be growing brighter, too, which was strange. The Nameless One was certainly not likely to be a light-bearing being. In the center of the room, light began to gather. Just a small concentration, but one that shone forth as a thousand suns. Damien found he could no longer look directly at the thing, so powerful was its radiance. He heard a screeching sound, not from the room, but inside his head, and he knew it came from the shadows surrounding Tarrant. Resonating deep within his soul, Damien felt more than heard the reverberations of soft, kindly words inside his head. Child of Darkness, be gone. You have no place or power here. My children are mine alone. The screeching reached a crescendo until vanishing abruptly from this reality, as did the shadows. Tarrant fell to the floor.
Rushing to his side, Damien gathered him into his arms while the light source of the beneficent voice began to dim. He looked Gerald over for visible injury, and upon finding none, realized what the voice, his God, had just said. He said my children…children! Plural! Damien thought with wonder as his eyes filled with tears of gratitude. Again, the words that were not spoken but instead felt with every fiber of his being sounded out, somewhat sadly, His road will be long and hard, child.Will you truly stand by him throughout his many trials and tribulations?Damien looked down upon the face of his traveling companion, his friend, his love. With conviction ringing out in his voice, he replied, "Always." Then it shall be, the voice responded. And as it had begun speaking, Damien felt warmth flow through himself. A feeling of complete calm came to reside within him. But the most dramatic of changes took place with the man in his arms. Damien watched as a light bloomed over the center of Gerald's chest only to then sink down into it. All was quiet for moments lasting years. Then with a start, the adept inhaled a lungful of air, as though he had been holding his breath for years. His eyes flew open wide, but they were as yet unseeing. Color began to spread through the man. Tarrant was naturally lighter skinned than most, but now there was a living warmth becoming evident, spreading just under the surface. And as the adept's eyes began to focus and show signs of coming around, the voice sounded softly one last time, directed to the adept, Good luck, my child.
Gerald lay as still as a grave for several seconds as though unable to work his limbs. "Was that?..." he trailed off. "Yeah, it was," Damien said in a hushed voice. The adept sat there in Damien's arms as silent tears began to flow. His greatest work and achievement had been visualized at last, and he could share in it! God, his God, had manifested for him! The joy of that moment outshone everything else in his long life and history. There were no words crafted by mere mortals that could ever capture and describe the sense of completion and peace this brought to the timeworn soul of the Hunter.
A while later, after calming from his flood of happiness, Tarrant ventured, "I feel…strange." "I would imagine that being alive after a few centuries would seem a bit odd," Damien said with a soft laugh at the look that came over Tarrant's face. He laughed even more when Gerald began feeling all over himself, as if to assess the truth of this statement, disbelief written over all of his features. "This…this…" Tarrant tried to begin, struggling with words. "Gerald, don't," Damien admonished, "Don't rationalize or try to apply any of your logical nonsense," he ordered, "There is no logic to be found among miracles."
After several more minutes of just absorbing all of the night's revelations, Damien spoke again, "What's next?" At this question, Gerald drew himself up and out of Damien's embrace. It almost hurt the priest to be separated again. Reaching out with fingers as long and delicate as an artist's, Tarrant traced the line of Damien's jaw. "Just this," he whispered, and leaned in to Damien once more, applying a kiss that struck the priest as if he was being burned by the fae. Warmth spread throughout him from the point of contact outward. He enveloped the adept in his embrace and gave back as good as he got. The feel of Gerald's lips parting before him sent a thrill of ecstasy shooting through Damien. Tarrant reached upwards and grasped Damien's hair in order to take firmer control of the situation. Always dominating, thought Damien fondly, that will never change. Then he stopped thinking and started acting.
A good while later, after they had explored each other a bit in order to prepare for later when they both weren't so damned exhausted, Damien handed Gerald the clothes he had picked out from before. "We should really probably go up on deck to check on the rest of the ship and crew," he suggested. Reluctantly, Gerald agreed and took the proffered clothing. He shook out his golden hair, and with a wisp of fae, it became perfectly groomed once again. Then, without a hint of modesty or the batting of an eye, the Darkest Prince of Hell divested himself of clothing and then dressed in the new items. Damien stood stock still, getting an eyeful. Apparently, modesty isn't one of his more dominant traits, he thought. Upon finishing that line of thinking, he saw that almost-smile flash across Gerald's face. Caught me didn't you? he flushed as they exited the room into the hallway.
It was still in the early hours of the morning when they emerged from the hold into the predawn darkness. Crewmen had, for the most part, settled down in several places in order to further repairs on their assigned areas. One such group was raising the broken mast spar to evaluate what, if anything of it, was still usable. Ciani saw them from afar and waved excitedly upon seeing Tarrant, then turned back to the men gathered in front of her, seemingly there for re-evaluation of injuries or dressing changes. A thought struck Damien, "How did you save us? Ciani said she felt weather being Worked, but I didn't think any one person could call something so powerful on their own." Tarrant turned to face him as they reached the railing of the ship, "Divine intervention of luck, I suppose," he mused, then continued, "There was a hurricane south of us. Small, but very condensed and powerful. Pulling it to us was easier than trying to create that kind of force on my own. Getting it to come in at the correct angle so as to move us out of the whirlpool's ring of influence was the more difficult task." Damien nodded at hearing this. Divine intervention indeed, he thought, recalling the night's occurrences.
Damien was about to turn away from the inky black water when he saw Tarrant's shoulders stiffen and heard a sharp intake of breath. Quickly closing the gap between them, and fearing what he might find that had the Hunter so tense, he stopped beside the man. "What is it? What do you see?" he asked quickly. As Tarrant began to speak, the ocean and the air above it began to lighten. "It is not what I see, Damien. It is what I feel," he said quietly, and gestured with a motion of his head. Damien looked in the direction indicated, taking a minute to fully comprehend the meaning behind Tarrant's words. And when that heavenly body of light burst its first rays from the horizon across the ocean's surface, he understood. Looking back at Tarrant, he started to speak but silenced himself as he observed the Hunter's reaction. Tarrant stood very still, with eyes closed, head tilted slightly upward, and both hands lightly gripping the railing in front of him. Wind rolling in from across the sea brushed its feathery fingers through fairest brown hair touched golden by the early morning light. His delicate complexion flushed with warmth as he breathed slow and deep. Damien twined his fingers into Tarrant's as he stood beside him and gazed over the waves, witnessing the dawn he had always taken for granted. "Beautiful," Tarrant whispered, a solitary tear making its way down his cheek, "so beautiful." Damien, looking directly at Gerald, whispered back, "Yeah, sure is."
End Note: I know it got kind of lost and convoluted and awkward in places, but seriously, I'm working full time and doing NP school full time. I've got negative time and space for correcting some of this. If you want perfection, look elsewhere. I'm just having a good romp! ;)