A/N – More Rodrigo and Ammar. Implications of slash, nothing more.

Disclaimer – I don't the characters, settings, or anything to do with Lions. No money was made in the writing of this fic. Don't sue.

A Moment Only

"'Malik made me an offer last night," Ibn Khairan says thoughtfully. His voice and manner are mild, ironic, but his eyes are direct and steady. It was those eyes – extravagant, unlikely blue – that saved Rodrigo from dismissing him as a mere courtier at their first meeting.

"You did not accept," Rodrigo guessed. He, of all people, knew just how dangerous it was to be boon companion to a hot-headed, impetuous prince.

Raimundo had played fast and loose with games of power, and more often than not it was Rodrigo who had to save him from his own recklessness. Charismatic, fierce and unpredictable, often unreliable, Raimundo nevertheless brought a texture and richness to his life that he had never before experienced, and never would again – when he slung his arm over Rodrigo's shoulder and called him brother, Rodrigo knew that he would never wish to serve another man.

But ambitious princes die, and so do dreams of youth and innocence.

Almalik urged me to kill the Khalif, Ibn Khairan had told him once. Though he thanked me for it, raised me high in his counsel, he never truly forgot what I had done – well, and so he was proved right.

There is something hard and bitter in him when he talks of Almalik, and Rodrigo recognises it as kin to the scar that he carries in Raimundo's name – they had loved their kings, he and Ammar, though in different fashions.

"It is too late for that," Ibn Khairan replies. "I cannot be, for him, what I was to his father."

As always, the Asharite – poet, courtier, diplomat – is a master of subtle, unspoken statement. He is scented and bejewelled, his looks polished, his manner ironic and amused – he had been the King's closest confidante, the impressionable Heir's tutor, and over the years the rumours surrounding him had reached even the Valledan court. Ibn Khairan is a decadent, charismatic hedonist, worldly and ambitious. Rodrigo has spent long enough in Al-Rassan to understand the implication.

Raimundo is more than twenty years dead. Rodrigo is no longer a boy, to be caught up in another's influence, no matter how strong – and yet here he sits, far from home, with the only other man he has ever met who can come close to that glorious spark –

He thinks of Raimundo, whom he once loved. He thinks of Miranda, whom he loves above all things other than honour, and of his two boys, brave and spirited, with their hearts in their eyes. He thinks of Jehane, whom he also loves, and who has just discovered her love for Ammar.

He thinks of Valledo, and of Al-Rassan, and of the holy war that would come no matter what their actions in these last days of innocence.

And so he holds back, and the moment passes.