Back On The Sidetrack
Warnings/notes: Seregil/Alec, AT (Alternate Timeline).
Disclaimer: The wondrous world of the Nightrunner-serie was created by Lynn Flewelling.
written for Yuletide
It all started -as such things are wont to do- on a perfectly ordinary day. In the end, of course, it turned out not to be such an ordinary day at all, if only because it was the day on which a series of not-so-ordinary things began, but that's really somewhat beside the point.
To be sure, Seregil noticed nothing special, when he returned to The Cockerel after a pleasant afternoon spent discussing some old dialects of languages that most people wouldn't even know by name -let alone be able to appreciate in the form of somewhat obscure poetry, filled with symbols and metaphors- with Nysander, followed by a brief game of chess with Thero -who had adamantly refused to let Seregil teach him any cardgames.
Until the moment he spotted Alec, sitting, or rather, sagging, in the least comfortable chair Seregil owned, Seregil had anticipated nothing more exciting this evening than a seafood-free dinner and perhaps a conversation about whichever topic it was that had managed to grab Alec's attention today.
However, seeing Alec, obviously unhappy about something, and just as obviously not about to tell Seregil all about it in order to have him make it all better, put Seregil's earlier plans quickly out of his head.
x- side-track -x
" ... and so Micum ended up being unable to sit for a week," Seregil concluded, with a wide grin.
Alec shook his head and chuckled.
"I think he really blamed me for coming away from that one without a scratch." Seregil smiled, pleasantly warmed by the hearth and Alec's rapt attention. "I mean, we'd both rushed into that room at the same time, so by rights, the spell should have hit me as hard as it did him."
"Why didn't it, then?" Alec asked. "Was it because of your resistance to magic?"
"It was no such thing, I'm afraid." Seregil sighed, pouring himself another cup of wine, and noticing that Alec's cup was still half-full. "It was sheer good luck, no more and no less. Some pillar on the right side of the door had collapsed, which prevented the spell from reaching me."
"Anyway," Seregil continued, "that's how I ended up with this brooch. Nysander was only interested in some books she'd gotten as a heirloom of sorts - and we had the hardest time tracking them down with only their former owner's notes on cooking to work with, so I figured some sort of recompense would be no more than fair."
"Hm-hm." Alec yawned, then flushed.
Seregil grinned. "One of these days, you really have to get used to staying up late, and not leaving your bed before eleven. You'll never get the hang of the city-life otherwise."
"I just haven't had much sleep recently," Alec said quickly, his cheeks still red.
"You," Seregil states, with the utter confidence of the expert, "have something on your mind." It's a fairly good guess, considering that most people will, at any given time, have something on their mind, unless they're asleep or dead, but Seregil's tone manages to also convey that Alec can either tell him what the 'something' on his mind is right away, or tell him what the 'something' on his mind is after a long and potentially tedious conversation during which Seregil will use every trick in the book to make Alec give up on trying to keep what's troubling him a secret.
Seregil's tone, in other words, is as good as a declaration of war and an offering of aid and peace in one. Alec's expression changes from pensive to more pensive, as he considers his options.
Finally, with some reluctance, he murmurs: "I was just thinking."
"What about?" Seregil asks, casually dropping down in the seat that's nearest to Alec's, making sure to appear as if he can imagine nothing more enjoyable than to sit here all night, talking about Alec and Alec's mind -which is true, in the way that Seregil does consider Alec a rather pleasant subject for thoughts and dreams and fantasies, although he's yet to find a way to find out what Alec's feelings about Seregil having dreams and fantasies about him are (without actually giving any of those dreams or fantasies away, obviously).
"Adventures." Alec pronounces the word like a kid who's been raised on epics and faerietales, instead of a young man who's been through several things that might be called 'adventures', and didn't much care for the experience. "You and Micum ... it just seems that you've been nearly everywhere."
"Well, we've been to most of the corners of the known world, yes." Seregil grins, hoping that maybe, Alec will ask him for another story, so that he can see the beauty of Alec's lips as he smiles, and the sparkle of his eyes.
"Nearly everything in this room has a story connected to it that's about you and Micum." There's something about that statement that makes Seregil want to sit up straight and ask Alec to run that sentence past him again, but he can't do that. It might make Alec feel like Seregil isn't always paying attention to what he says.
"I won the bed in a dice-game," Seregil reminds Alec.
Alec's look tells him that wasn't the magic formula to make everything better again.
"There's nothing here that's about you and me," Alec states, in a tone that informs Seregil that Alec's just spelled out the whole problem to him, and that he'd better understand it this time.
Seregil is tempted to reply that, on the contrary, everything's about Alec and him here, that nothing Seregil does nowadays isn't in some way connected to Alec, but he thinks better of it at the last minute, changing his answer to a more innocent one.
"Are you saying you want to go on an adventure with me?"
Alec pretends to think it over for a while, before he nods.
The problem with adventures is, and has always been, that most people expect them to be exciting and fun. Alec, Seregil knows by now, is no different from most people in this respect; when he said to Seregil he wanted the two of them to go on an adventure, he didn't mean he wished for Seregil's and his life to be in constant danger, with spells, knives and daggers flying at them from every direction. (At least, Seregil presumes Alec didn't, since he knows Alec to be a sensible person.)
Nysander has a long list of places that are all very adventurous - as well as dangerous to the point where only a suicidal madman would venture inside. He also has a list of places that are a little less adventurous, but those aren't really what Seregil is looking for either. He can't imagine Alec being the type of person to get excited over hunting down the seeds of a rare flower in a forest where it rains all the time.
In the end, he settles for a compromise. A modestly powerful wizard by the name of Akanonyme built a small villa in what's basically the middle of nowhere - but what's a little distance between you and the rest of the civilized world if you can translocate to any place you'd want to go? Rumor has it, she stacked the place with anything that caught her fancy.
Seregil knows that it's possible he and Alec will just find a deserted old ruin, without anything worth their while - because having magical powers doesn't equal having taste in any way, as proven by Thero day after day. Still, he figures it'll be worth a shot.
If nothing else, there's a good chance he'll get to see Alec naked again. That might not be the best motivation to go treasure-hunting, but Seregil prefers to be truthful with himself, and the truth is that the prospect of spending several weeks exclusively in Alec's company is a rather pleasant one.
x- sidetrack -x
"Did I mention already that I think this is a really bad idea?" Alec asked, sourly staring at the rain.
"You won't melt from a bit of water," Seregil assured him airily. "Besides, you were the one who insisted on getting a special birthday-present for Elsbet."
"But you were the one who spent so long haggling for a ruby necklace that we arrived at the bookshop too late." Alec crossed his arms over his chest. "If you'd been less frugal, there'd be no need for this."
"A little practice never hurt anyone." Seregil smiled. "Master Akany's always bragging about his excellent locks after all; aren't you eager to find out if he was right?"
"Not in this kind of weather," Alec grumbled.
"Oh, stop complaining already." Seregil rummaged around in his backpack, handing Alec a piece of cloth. "Here, wrap the book in this to make sure it won't get wet. It'd a pity to have gone through all of this trouble with nothing better to show for it than a wet heap of paper."
"Trouble? What trouble?" Alec demanded, carefully folding the cloth and putting it in a pocket of his jacket. "I don't see -you- going through any trouble."
"I'll warm you up once you get back," Seregil promised, grinning.
Alec stared at him with an odd expression on his face.
"I'll make hot chocolate," Seregil clarified, not sure how else to respond.
"Oh. Yes, of course," Alec stammered, vanishing into the rain rather suddenly.
"Would you like to sleep with me?" Seregil asks Alec, and he muses sourly that if this were a dream, Alec might say 'yes' and mean what Seregil thinks he might be meaning if the situation had been any different, except, naturally, that he'd never ask it in quite so blunt a way.
"You wouldn't mind?" Alec asks, glancing sideways in a manner that makes Seregil want to grab him and shake him (or maybe kiss him), yelling at him that -of course- he wouldn't mind, and oh, he's also kind of fallen in love with Alec, so might Alec be so kind as to inform him if he might ever have experienced feelings of the same nature, and, if not, just forget Seregil ever said anything?
"Not at all." Seregil smiles.
"Uhm," Alec says. Seregil somehow gets the impression that Alec is bracing himself, that he's about to say something to Seregil that he fears might not be received well. "I've been having some weird dreams recently."
Seregil breathes out. "That's normal." He doesn't really know if it is -what does Alec mean with 'weird dreams' anyway?- but he does sense that right now, Alec needs to be told he isn't any less welcome to share Seregil's bed (and life, and home) for talking in his sleep.
With everything being settled, they leave Ruetha fast asleep on Alec's bed, and their bags packed near the door, ready to be grabbed on their way out tomorrow morning.
The first thing Seregil becomes aware of the next morning is that he's not alone. This is, his brains manage to tell him after a few seconds of digging, because Alec's in bed with him, due to Ruetha having claimed Alec's bed for her own.
The second thing he notices is that, contrary to his first observation about Alec only being in his bed for practical, sensible reasons -instead of emotional, insensible ones, like Seregil being somewhat deeply and madly in love with him, and Alec answering those feelings- Alec's body is wrapped around his in a way that suggests a range of things - an exaggerated care for the emotions of a spoilt, fat cat not among them.
In a perfect world, Seregil muses, or in one of those books Magyara refuses to admit to read every once in a while, Alec would mumble something like his name now, unwittingly betraying his undying love for Seregil, which he kept hidden from Seregil for fear of s(p)oiling their precious friendship.
Naturally, this isn't a perfect world, although he thinks that this moment is definitely very nice, with Alec's arms around him, and Alec himself asleep with a soft smile on his lips.
Seregil sighs, sourly berating himself for having spent his time admiring Alec's hairs and face and skin, rather than rehearsing his speech about how it's not wrong at all to wake up to discover you've been treating a person you've built a deep, meaningful and pure relationship with like a giant pillow. Before he can reverse the direction of his thoughts though, Alec speaks up again. Apparently, Alec not only tends to wake up at very early hours; he also does so quickly, without needing a few minutes to become wholly awake and ready to face the world.
"Do you - I mean - Is it - no." Alec takes a deep breath that presses his body even closer to Seregil's.
Seregil expectantly waits for Alec to continue, and, a little less expectantly, for Alec to pull away. Most of the words that seem to want to pop out of his mouth sound like really bad ideas -or, at least, like Alec is going to consider them as very bad ideas, and a good reason to move back to his own side of the apartment as soon as possible.
"I like you," Alec manages at last, and normally, that wouldn't be a big deal, because, well, Seregil has figured out that much already, well before now. The trouble has always been -or perhaps, considering the recent developments, used to be- that there's like and 'like' and Seregil has thought it much safer to assume that Alec likes him, mentally amending that yes, Alec likes him, but not 'in that way'. It's almost become a reflex, and in retrospect, he might have dodged about a dozen attempts by Alec to let him know what an idiot he's being by it.
"Good," Seregil says, and then, just to get it off his chest, and because he thinks that maybe the results won't be all that bad as he'd feared: "Because I think I just might be in love with you."
Seregil's heart skips a beat, in the unpleasant kind of way.
"You only -think- that you -might- be?" Alec inquires, with all the indignity of, well, a person who's just bared his deepest feelings to receive a half-hearted and weak-sounding confession of might-be-love in return.
"Actually, I'm sure of it," Seregil amends, beginning to feel a bit giddy. It's not really his habit to talk about love of the heart-and-soul variety; in fact, this is probably the first time he's ever done so.
"I'm glad to hear that." Alec sighs and closes his eyes.
Seregil would like to ask if all of this means that Alec is all right with them remaining like this a little longer, instead of setting out a few hours after dawn, but he figures that, as long as he doesn't mention the time and the matter of their adventure, Alec won't either.
(He's right, too.)
(Alec kicks him out of bed five minutes later, ignoring Seregil's complaints in a shocking display of lack-of-love-and-concern, and cheerfully talking about the upcoming trip.)