A/N: Beta'd by Runriggers, as is usual. Enjoy!
Moondance let out a shaky sigh, resting his cheek against the cool stone. He was somewhere he had not been in a very long time – the hollow he had found in a corner of k'Treva Vale when he had first arrived. The safety the hollow provided him had long ago been eclipsed by the safety of Starwind's arms.
Even now, Moondance longed for his lifebonded's touch. They were never apart long - they couldn't bear to be. Moondance didn't really know why he had come here. It was almost instinctive; as soon as he left the room Vanyel was in, tear-tracks still wet on his cheeks, his feet had traced the long ignored – though never forgotten – path.
It was as though he was Tallo again. He'd never told the story to anyone before now… not even Starwind. There had never been a need to, Starwind had known it, and never forced him to recant.
Moondance certainly did not want sympathy from Vanyel. He didn't want sympathy from anyone. He'd only told the story in hopes that the young one would know he understood, at least to a degree. He hoped it would cause Vanyel to be more comfortable with him, to confide in him.
Really, Moondance only wanted to help.
He had failed. He relived every painful moment of his past, shared it openly for the first time, and received only scorn in return.
He was ashamed. He had become Tallo again, he had run away; from Vanyel, from Keshana… and even from Starwind. He was stronger than that, now, and… he had Starwind.
His eyes burned. He was still near the edge of tears, though he was no longer crying. He hated crying. Starwind would have felt his distress, was probably looking for him… and worried.
If one shut out the pain, they shut out the love as well…
"I knew you would be here."
Moondance jumped. He'd been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he hadn't felt Starwind's aura as he approached. "Starwind…" Moondance murmured, gaze cast downwards. He felt sixteen again, unable to meet Starwind's piercing ice-blue eyes.
Starwind was crouched at the mouth of the short tunnel, smiling softly. "Do you wish to be left with your thoughts, shay'kreth'ashke? I apologize, if you did not want to be disturbed."
Forcing himself to look up, Moondance shook his head quickly, before Starwind could rise to walk away. :Please do not leave. I know you only wished to see how I fared. I would have done the same, if it were you who was upset.:
Without a word, Starwind slid gracefully down to join him. He placed two long fingers under Moondance's chin, so he could look into his eyes. Starwind's voice was laced with deep concern when he spoke. "Ah… I have not seen such vulnerability in you for time beyond mention, Moondance."
Now, it was Moondance who could not speak. He had so much to say, and yet at the same time had nothing. He did feel vulnerable… and so very raw. He wrapped his arms around Starwind's neck, and rested his head on his lifebonded's warm chest. This was the safety he wanted, not the cold self-comfort of the hollow.
"After so many years, it seems I am dealing with Tallo once again," Starwind teased gently, wrapping his arms around Moondance, placing a protective hand to the back of his lifebonded's head. "I do not mind. I only wish you had told me you still felt so much pain, ashke."
"I did not want you to worry for me," Moondance said softly, idly stroking a stray lock of Starwind's hair.
"And in doing so, you only cause me to worry more," Starwind said fondly, pressing a kiss on top of Moondance's head. "Despite all of our time together, despite our closeness on every level of our beings; there is something you never quite understand. I do not begrudge you your weaknesses. I do not ever expect you to forget what brought you here… in fact, I would be concerned if you did. You are more than entitled to some level of distress. It will certainly not change my feelings for you."
Moondance sighed. "I wished… still wish… to leave that part of myself behind."
"Aah. But if you did so… you would not be Moondance."
Moondance looked up at him. "For so long, I thought I had left it behind. I thought Tallo was no more."
"You forget, shay'kreth'ashke. Tallo is the young man I fell in love with. Moondance is simply who he became." Starwind said, gazing straight back. Moondance had once found the intensity of those eyes frightening. Now, they meant only comfort.
"Tonight," Moondance closed his eyes, lowering his head again to listen to the steady beat of Starwind's heart. "I realized just that. I know now that Tallo is in me still."
"I have always known this," Starwind said warmly. "Though you have changed much, you never strayed from the path that he who holds my heart walks. Tallo and Moondance are only names. You are neither, yet you are both."
Moondance finally managed a smile. "I am not at all surprised that you know me better than I know myself."