Disclaimer: Nothing of these characters or places is mine. They belong solely to the lovely Ms. Elizabeth Haydon
A/N: Hey, I have just been having a blast writing this stuff, but what would make it even more cool is getting reviews. I'm kind of working on this stuff to figure out how writing a story goes and any and all advise is very much appreciated. Thanks.
Following a feeling more than a sound, Rhapsody rounded the corner heading for Achmed's room. She stopped as soon as she realized that he was rounding the bend from the other direction. They both paused before continuing on to the King's chambers.
It was the third night since their return from slaying the F'dor, Heiles, Rhapsody's old mentor.
"I think the Child is calling me," she said simply.
Nodding, Achmed responded, "She called me too."
Turning from Rhapsody, Achmed opened the door to his chambers and led her inside. Carefully, he undid the many locks and booby traps to enter the Lortorium, the resting place of the sleeping child. Rhapsody followed him down the cavern to where the Earth child slept.
The child was still sound asleep but was wordlessly murmuring while she slept. Hurrying over to her, Rhapsody placed a hand over the child's forehead and began quietly humming to calm her. Achmed stood back a few paces hiding in a shadow, watching the singer begin soothing the child. It had been too long since she had been to see the child, he thought to himself.
Sometime passed where the only sound was the soft, melodic humming. Finally, Rhapsody opened her eyes and looked down at the face of the sleeping child once again. She had stopped murmuring and was calm, but silent tears rolled down her muddy cheeks. Rhapsody climbed up onto the child's bed and curled up with the child between her and Achmed.
The king had come over to the block of living stone that supported the sleeping Earth child. He looked down on the two women whom it felt like he had spent most of his life protecting. A rush of feeling flooded him, he couldn't describe what it might be, but it nearly overwhelmed his defenses… nearly.
They watched as a final tear slowly rolled down the earthy face. They both reached out to wipe the tear away when their hands gently connected over the child's face. Never raising their eyes, they paused and allowed their hands to embrace. Achmed was the first to let go, and finished what he had begun to do by gently wiping away the child's tear. Somehow she seemed more peaceful now and relaxed in her sleeping.
Braving a glance, Achmed looked up once again to Rhapsody. She was watching contently, taking in every movement, every glance, look, and emotion that crossed his face. Something different was there that she could not place.
Reaching out, Achmed gently lifted her off of the stone to stand next to him.
"Achmed," Rhapsody broke the silence, suddenly nervously looking down to the floor. "I haven't really thanked you for saving me again."
"I told you a long time ago that I would always be right behind you."
"I know, but that doesn't mean I should stop appreciating what you do for me."
"There is nothing that you don't appreciate, Rhapsody. I would be surprised if you ever took anything for granted."
"I think that I may have taken our friendship for granted. I don't thank you nearly enough for all that you do for me. Not only do you rush to my rescue, but you are there for me when I need a steady shoulder to lean on. You have always been there when I needed you the most and it started in that alley in the old world."
He stared at her for a moment. She was trying to get him to respond to her, but he didn't know what he was to say. He recalled that first chance meeting in the alley that had changed both of their lives. Somewhere deep inside him, a voice was telling him that it was time open up to her once again; it was time to allow a crack in his shell for her to peek inside, just a little.
"Rhapsody, sometimes a chance meeting has the potential to completely change your life. From the moment I met you, both of our worlds were turned upside down. And now we have shared a friendship that very few can ever claim experiencing."
Mildly surprised at Achmed's openness, Rhapsody looked into his eyes, trying to gage what his meaning was, but grateful that he was opening up to her. As much as they had experienced together and lived through, this man in front of her still felt very distant at times. It was little often enough that he would allow his guard down enough to share those shielded emotions.
She looked at him, and knew that if she didn't keep him talking, he would end the conversation right there. "And what does our friendship mean to you?"
Achmed had been prepared to close up once again, but this new questioned felt as if it had hit the key to many locks and closed doors in his mind. He continued to gaze upon her for a moment longer before pacing away a few steps.
Memories and emotions flooded his mind as he actually allowed himself to think on her question. She deserved an answer, and for once, he felt that he may be ready to give one.
"That time when you lay on the border of death after the incident with Joe is when I first realized how important you had become to me. I was looking down on the face of someone that I could not imagine living without, and she was slipping from me."
He looked back to her again and saw a look of confusion on her face. She didn't seem to be getting it, and he didn't think that he would be able to put into words what it was that she was asking for.
"Achmed, you are very important to me as well, but I don't understand what it is that you are trying to say to me."
She truly wanted to understand him. He wanted so much for her to be able to, but the hardened shell that he had surrounded himself with all of his life would not allow the words that he needed to say to come out. He stared back at her for another moment, trying to find a way to satisfy her questioning without allowing his defenses to fall.
"What I'm saying is, I… I have been saved as much by you as you have by me."
Rhapsody thought that now she may understand what it was that he was saying. Achmed could almost see the light of understanding dawn on her as she replied, "Achmed, I told you long ago that my renaming you was purely an accident. I would hardly hold that incident in very high regard, and it certainly isn't enough to stand against all that you have done for me since."
No, she didn't understand. "Rhapsody, you never understand what it is I am saying to you. You think that you know me, but you have never known me," he said gently, almost to himself.
Hurt rang in his voice. It was true, it seemed to her that she never really understood what it was he was saying to her. She wanted so much to understand him but he never allowed her to see.
"Then make me understand. Tell me, show me, do something. But don't shut down on me. I don't know you because you don't let me," she carefully responded.
What could he say to her? What could he possibly allow himself to say to her that she would understand? He turned away from her again in frustration before beginning, "I'm not talking about that. As much as I am glad that you got me out of that situation, that is not how you have saved me." He paused and turned back to her. "You have taught me how to love Rhapsody. You have saved me from myself."
Now he had gone too far. He had allowed her to push him past where he had meant to go. Wishing desperately to take back his last words he turned from her once again.
Shock knocked Rhapsody senseless, but only for an instant. She realized as he turned from her that he had not meant to say that much and now he was for sure going to leave it at that. She had to think quickly to keep him there, make him further explain himself.
He was walking away from her when she did the only thing that she could to stop him, "ACHMED THE SNAKE, HALT," her voice rang out in a namer's command.
He froze to the floor where he stood. Taking a few quick breaths, Rhapsody crossed over to his frozen body to stand directly in front of him.
"I'm sorry Achmed, but now you have to listen to me. You have been closing yourself off to me from the moment that we met. At first it was it was because you didn't trust me, and you had a right not to. But by now you ought to be able to tell me what's on your mind. You have finally begun that process of opening up to me and I wanted to give you one final chance to complete what it is you want to say to me before you walk out on this. I will not put up with this cat and mouse game with you anymore. Either you talk now, or keep silent from here on out." And with that she walked back to where the sleeping child lay, mumbling something as she passed by his frozen form.
As suddenly as his feet had become connected with the floor they were released. But now he was frozen by his own thoughts. She was right. He had been playing almost a game with her. He would give her a hint of what was going on and then retreat back, leaving her more bewildered then before. Quite frankly he was surprised that she had put up with him for as long as she had.
Slowly he turned back to her, watching as she smoothed the summer green hair of the child back from the girl's forehead. "It's just… I shouldn't…" he started and stopped in frustration. What is he to say to her?
"Just say it, Achmed."
Where to begin? "I've told you before that you can't understand what it is like to be me, to live with the knowledge that you are worthless and not fit to be anyone's "friend," let alone something more."
"And is that what you want? Something more?" she asked quietly.
Pausing for a moment, he thought how to continue. "I… uh, Rhapsody! I don't know. I have been living my life with the assumption that you're out of reach, that you are far beyond me, that the world is far beyond me."
"But, that's not true. Achmed, it's not that the world is out of your reach, it's that you have put yourself out of reach of the world."
He glared at her for a moment, if that was what she saw, then she was more naïve than he thought. "You can't really believe that. Look at me," he said as he ripped his veils from his face and pulled off his gloved to present his face and hands as evidence. "I am a freak that the world has rejected more than once. I have become distant to it only to protect myself from the rejection that it would undoubtedly offer. Who would ever love this?"
Rhapsody was stunned by his tirade. She had known that he had been hurt in the past, but to this extent, she had not known. Carefully, she approached him, tears threatening to shed for him. She wanted to comfort him, to show him that she cared about him. "I would, and I always have."
Anger rushed through him at the sight of her and her words. Pushing her back suddenly, but not violently, he snarled, "Don't think that I want your pity. I want no one's pity. You ask me make you understand me; well this is the first thing that you have to understand. I look for no pity from you or anyone else. I am the way that I am, I deserve the ostracism and ridicule that I have received and don't you for a moment think that that is not true. I have been put down, spat upon, beat, gasped at, rejected and abandoned more times than I could ever count. This is who I am, and I live the way I do so that I can survive. That is what it has always been about, surviving!"
It only took a second for like anger to explode over Rhapsody. "You can believe all that if you want to about yourself, but I know that there is something more to you. The world may have rejected you and put you down in the past, but that does not change the fact that I have proved to you repeatedly that I care about you and that you can trust me. So shut up and tell me what you want me to know!"
"I can't, I don't know how."
"Then show me!"
Without warning or pretense he grabbed her and pulled her into his arms, quickly, but gently, lifting her face to his and kissing her with every ounce of emotion and passion that he had ever felt for her. Surprised and overwhelmed, Rhapsody allowed herself to fall into his touch. It was wonderful. Achmed's soft caressing kisses were always so different from the crushing flood of love and passion that would wash over her when Ashe kissed…
"Ashe!" She cried suddenly, pulling back from the kiss that she had almost became lost in. She watched as pain washed over Achmed's face for a brief moment before it was quickly replaced with his constant scowl.
"Not exactly the reaction I had hoped for," he grumbled, still trying to control his emotions.
"Oh Achmed, I'm so sorry. I can't do this. I'm married. I…" She was suddenly cut off by another gentle yet powerful kiss Achmed used to silence her. This kiss didn't end so abruptly either.
The two fully embraced and clung to each other while softly, lovingly exploring each other's mouth. It was the most gentle and tender experience that either had ever had.
Finally, they pulled apart, breathless and stunned by both of their own reactions. Rhapsody saw it immediately, Achmed had loved it, but he was ready to leave again. He didn't know what to do about this.
"I… There, are you happy? I have shown you what it is that you have yearned to know about me. Now good night Rhapsody," he said as he began to pull away to leave.
Pulling him back to him she said in a shy yet husky voice, "Please, don't leave."
Looking down at her, for what seemed like the first time, he could see a light in her eyes that was meant solely for him. This was not something she was using to pity him; she truly felt for him and wanted him to stay with her. He couldn't believe this. A woman as lovely and beautiful as Rhapsody would purposefully and willingly stay in his arms, even ask to remain so.
Awkwardly, he pulled her against his chest and held her close, feeling her heart beat in a way that he had never felt. Or maybe it was more feeling his heart respond to her's in a way that he had previously thought impossible.
"I love you Achmed," She said simply, slightly muffled from where her head rested on his chest.
He pulled back again and looked into her eyes, allowing himself to see the leaking love and admiration that fell from them. Overwhelmed, he pulled back and tried unsuccessfully to steady and orient himself once again.
Thinking that he was getting ready to leave again, Rhapsody said, "please, please don't go. Stay with me?" And at that she backed up a step and took her cloak off and walked over to the sleeping child to carefully spread it over her. When she turned back, she saw Achmed spreading his cloak on the hard floor, looking somewhat uncomfortable, yet not ready to leave as she had suspected.
For some reason, his action of spreading his cloak on the floor nagged at the back of her mind, but she forced the stray thought out to ponder at a later time.
He sat down upon the cloak and nodded for Rhapsody to join him. She walked slowly over to where he was and carefully sat down next to him, leaning up against his strong frame and taking comfort from his presence. They sat this way for a while longer before Achmed became uncomfortable with the silence and stillness of the situation. He shifted slightly which roused Rhapsody out of the musing that she had been in.
Turning to face him once again, with eyes shining with a new light of understanding, she leaned up to him and allowed her lips to once again lock with his. Tenderly and gently, she tried to show him in return how she too truly felt the same deep love for him that he had for her. Her kiss was one of a promise, a promise of more things to come that both frightened and amazed both of them.
As the kiss was brought to a close, a new awkwardness set in for Achmed. He felt it in her kiss what should naturally come next, but this was something that he was not sure he could handle. Just simply revealing his feelings had nearly overwhelmed his senses and now he would have to completely lower his guard to allow their connection to be complete.
"I… I don't know if we should…"
"Shh," Rhapsody responded as she placed two fingers over his lips. Slowly, she began to push her blouse off of her shoulders and she leaned up to him once again, baring her neck and almost presenting it as a gift to him.
The revealed flesh made Achmed want to look away, yet at the same time, the temptation to touch this was too great. He bent, and gracefully planted soft, inviting kisses down her neck and then her shoulder, slowly working his way over to more delicate areas. As he did this, Rhapsody had begun to reach behind him, lifting his own shirt up to lovingly massage his back, gently feeling every scar and exposed nerve that made up his skin.
She began to firmly push up against him towards the floor, forcing Achmed over with her as he was now completely engrossed in what he had started. But as they reached the floor and Rhapsody had nearly removed his shirt, he stopped, finally realizing what it was she was doing. He tried to push back, to stop. She shouldn't see him; she was too perfect to ever want to see what he was like under those heavy veils and clothing that hid his hideous body from the world.
He started to say these things to her, to tell her that he was not good enough for her. But she already seemed to know what it was that he was thinking and shook her head at him. Then gently, yet strongly, she finished removing his shirt and her own as well before pushing him down to the floor once again.
Finally giving into this new desire that he had always perceived impossible, he began to learn from her what it was like to feel love and gentleness for what seemed like the first time in his life.
Only with two so attuned to vibrations could this much passion, yet gentleness be exchanged. Their vibrational realm of perspective narrowed till only the other was still in existence. The natural motion of time began to distend and finally felt to hover all around them as they gave into their mutual desires.
Later, as they slept in each other's arms Rhapsody began to dream. She dreamed a dream that had followed her all her life, but one she had not had for many, many years now.
As if in a trance, Gwydion smoothed his cloak out on the ground, and Emily lay down on it. He sat on his heels, looking at her for a moment, until she put her arms out to him. With a catch in his throat he eased down next to her and came into her embrace, hugging her as tightly as he could without hurting her. He held her for what seemed like a very long time, until her hair brushed the tips of his fingers, and he gave in to the desire he had had all night…
Suddenly Rhapsody awakened to discovered that she was still wrapped in Achmed's arms on the floor of the Loritorium.
"What have I done?" she thought to herself. Marriage had always been such a wonderful, glorious institution to her, how could she go and break those vows that were most dear to her?
But then she realized that this was something that she had always known would happen. She just never imagined that it would be here while Ashe still lived. After all, he was just gone on a diplomatic trip to Gaementia; he would be back in another month. What would he say when he found out? What would he do?
She stirred and rose, beginning to put her clothes back on. "Rhapsody?" She heard Achmed mutter in the dark. There was a level of emotion to his voice that she had never heard before. It was still sandy and embracive, but there was depth and warmth to it.
"Achmed… I don't know what to say. What we just shared was wonderful, but I can't help but think of what I just did was very wrong."
There was a brief pause before he responded with, "You may be right."
Slightly taken aback, Rhapsody took a minute to reply, "What will I tell Ashe? I can't hide it from him."
"No, you can't. Even if you would lie, you couldn't cover this up. His dragon sense will know exactly what you did the moment he comes home. Dragons always know when someone tampers with their treasure."
Silence reigned for what felt like an achingly long time.
Finally Achmed heaved an exasperated sighed, "I always knew your gambling with that man was going to destroy our neutrality."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Think about it Rhapsody," he started as he too began to dress. "Your husband is a dragon and you are his treasure. What do you think will happen once he finds out what I've done? If you're lucky, he'll be a good dragon and attack me and leave you alone. If he's anything like his aunt, then he'll first attack the one who betrayed him before turning his rage against this mountain."
"Achmed, Ashe may be part dragon, but he is still intelligent enough to know that attacking you will get him no where but in another war, and the Cymarians will never put up with another pointless and impossible war. And as for me, I might deserve whatever rage he turns to me, but he won't. He still loves me, even if I have been less than true, he will accept my apology."
Again a heavy, almost suffocating silence fell on them.
"Your apology? And what, exactly, are you sorry for? For what we did here? Are you really sorry that we have finally done what we both know we have wanted for a very, very long time?" He almost sounded hurt, but a barely contained rage of his own seemed to be lingering just below the surface of his words.
After a moment of thought Rhapsody let out a sigh of her own, "No, I'm not sorry for what we have shared. But I am sorry that I will hurt Ashe. I am sorry that this may and probably will end our marriage and it may even affect the entire country. We have reigned together for a long time now; to change that will upset the balance in the land."
"Rhapsody, listen to yourself. You're doing it again. You're thinking of others again, can't you for one moment think about what you want, about how you feel and not how your feelings and actions are going to affect other people?"
Shocked and slightly enraged herself she answered, "Of course I'm thinking of others. I am a ruler of a nation, and as such I lose any privilege to think about my own wants and needs. You of all people should realize this. You are also a ruler, how many times have you sacrificed yourself to the good of your people Achmed? I know you have. You have even put the people of other nations ahead of your own life. Or what was that when you tracked down not one, but three F'dor and stopped their reigns of terror? Or how about that little task you set me to prolonging some slumber when we were down on that root?"
At that Achmed winced a moment. "Or how about the constant watch that you have placed upon your kingdom, not for your own subjects projection, but for her's," She waved her arm towards the sleeping child. "You know that I can't think only of myself in this case Achmed. You said it yourself; my husband may attack this mountain when he discovers what has happened. That would put both the Bolg and the men of the alliance in jeopardy; not to mention the child." By now her eyes were burning and her nostrils flaring.
After more silence of Achmed watching Rhapsody closely, he turned to leave the Lortorium. Rhapsody watched in disbelief as he started for the exit. How could he walk away from this?
Then, pausing just inside of the exit tunnel, he stopped and said in a husky voice, "Rhapsody… I'm sorry. But I love you." Then he was gone, disappeared into the shadow of the tunnel.
Achmed just could not take this any longer. Just a few hours ago he had held his deepest desire in his arms, and now it seemed all had been shattered. Finally, he bared his heart to her and now she was throwing it back. Never had he been so hurt… Never had he come so close to loving…
Rhapsody stood, staring after him for a long time lost in the confusion of her thoughts. Finally she heaved a sigh and turned back to where the earth child lay sleeping.
"You had a hand in this, didn't you?" she asked the child mockingly as she ran a hand through her straw like hair. The child was completely at peace now, and a slight, almost angelic smile crossed her face. "I hope you know something I don't dear one, because this may bring about the end of peace."
That night, Rhapsody left Ylorc to return to the palace to await her husband's return. A shadow stood on the Teeth, watching as she left. The moonlight sparkled on something small and bright that was falling from the shadow's face.