Inevitable
By: Amber Michelle

The original 31 Days theme was slightly out of character (August 27). This has no redeeming value, except that it still amuses me, and therefore stands the test of time. :p


...

Sephiran didn't know the streets of Sella, but his companion seemed to have no trouble; they ran, pursued by the clank of armor and hard-shod boots on the cobblestoned street, and Zelgius led him around a sharp turn and down an alley that took them to the back of their agent's home. The sound of pursuit faded, but did not disappear entirely. They burst through the back gate and into the house, and Sephiran slammed the door, leaning against it and trying to catch his breath. The kitchen was dark, the stove cool - she wasn't home, then. "There was a bird laguz," he said, sucking in deep breaths. "From the hunt-"

"Alive?" Zelgius sat down heavily on a stool at the table, adjusting the sword belted to his waist. "There were seven following us. What did you do?"

Sephiran looked away. "Nothing. He was dead. I just--" He closed his eyes. The hawk had been small, probably young, and the feathers at his breast were caked with blood - so he must have been dead when they hung him from the eaves by his feet. A trophy, perhaps? He stretched his hand to the stove, whispered a word, and the wood ignited. "I thought ashes on the wind would be a better burial than what the townspeople had planned. That's all."

His companion breathed deeply and released in a long sigh. "It's a good thing I ran into you. They're going to search."

"That's absurd. I didn't get the chance to do anything!"

"It's standard procedure. Half-breed sympathizers are traitors in Daein." Zelgius braced his knees and stood. "You should change. Did anybody see your face?" A few, Sephiran thought, and his companion's lips thinned to a line. They stood a moment by the stove, silent. "That will be a problem," Zelgius said, turning away. "Come."

The staircase was narrow and dark. Sephiran followed him up to the bedroom, where their belongings were stowed in an iron-bound chest beside the armoire. He pulled his cloak off and swept it over the vanity bench. The sound of gauntlets banging on doors echoed from the street. They only had a few minutes. "I'm not that different--"

"You're too pale to be a man of Daein," his companion said. "And if you'll forgive me, your face is hard to forget. They'll know you immediately."

He looked around the room for a place to hide, but there was only the dressing screen, the armoire and chest, and a space beneath the bed he didn't believe would accommodate him. "There must be something--" His eyes settled on the wardrobe again, and he went over to pull it open. There wouldn't have been room for him - there were shelves on one side, occupied by neatly folded clothing, and the space where the agent's skirts and dresses hung was too narrow. "Zelgius." He looked over his shoulder. "Would you say..." He scanned the collection again. Nothing was overtly feminine, aside from the obvious. "Would you say I am of a similar size and build as--?"

Zelgius was silent a beat. "You can't be serious."

"What else is there? They'll be expecting a male." Sephiran shoved a wool skirt aside and pulled out a white dress that didn't look to be form-fitting and a long, silk ribbon. "This should do," he said, rounding the screen. Downstairs the patrol banged on their neighbor's door. "Let them break their way in."

"But my lord--"

"Zelgius." He unclasped his shirt, pulled it over his head, and tried the dress on. His pants were thin enough to wear beneath if he removed the belt.

"It's-- it's undignified. You shouldn't have to. We can cut them down and be out of Sella before--"

"No." Why did the bloody dress lace up the back? There was no point to that when it buttoned on the side. "They have families, and we have business here." He tried to weave the ribbon in, snagged a nail, bit back a curse. "Do Daein women like to torture themselves? How do they do this?" He heard Zelgius snicker and threw his belt over the screen in the man's general direction. "You wear the dress, and I'll--"

The Daein soldiers pounded on the door downstairs. His companion went silent. Then, "My lord, you must hurry."

"Get back here." Sephiran turned to face the corner and pulled his hair around to the front. "Help me. If we're lucky--"

Zelgius snatched the ribbon from his hands when the door downstairs was kicked open, and voices echoed up the stairwell as he wove, tightened the laces, and tugged the dress straight. That's too tight Sephiran whispered, but his companion yanked on the ribbon and said you want to fool them into thinking you have a figure don't you? He knotted it at the bottom and Sephiran turned around. They were almost of a height, but Zelgius drenched the space behind the screen with his shadow.

Sephiran reached up to twist his fingers into the other's hair. The fingers tangled in his laces clenched, boots and spears clomped on the stairs. "You'll forgive me, I hope," he said, pressing his other hand to his companion's cheek, and leaned in to kiss him.

Zelgius was still for a second that seemed like forever. Then his lips softened and Sephiran's back met the wall, his bottom lip scraped between the general's teeth and nipped until it felt bruised. "Forgiveness," Zelgius said, breath hot against his lips, "isn't what I have in mind."

The screen was ripped down, the wood clattering to the floor and the paper ripping. Light flared into Sephiran's eyes until Zelgius shifted, shielding him, and pressed him harder against the wall while he glared at the interruption.

A Daein officer stood frozen, staring, the corner of the screen still in his hand. Another peered over from the stairwell. "C-Commander Zelgius?"

"Ah--" Zelgius's ears pinkened slowly. "Um."

Silence.

Sephiran let his head fall to a muscled shoulder. Commander. Why hadn't he thought of that?