A/N: This is a piece written after Fragile Eternity, but I took some liberties with the plot. Spoilers if you look close.
Stuff you should know: In this fanfic, Sorcha, Bananach, and Devlin are dead and Seth is the High King. Seth and Aislinn are happily together and so are Keenan and Donia. This is Niall/Irial slash, so don't like, don't look. First person and from Niall's POV.
I look out over the busy city streets, the night broken by the shining stars of headlights and restaurant signs. It's beautiful, the mortal world, the transient, ever-changing whirlwind of faces and paths. Lies.
Leslie is inside one of those restaurants, eating with a friend. One of her mortal friends, a male. Someone who is protective and kind and can give her what she needs.
"She's happy." Irial is beside me, suddenly. Even with my new office, I never hear his approach.
"The memories have faded," I say, shrugging. Silence falls as we watch our girl. Though she's wary, cautious, she no longer looks afraid. There's a light in her eyes, one I saw so rarely before she left us. She is happy. It burns that I couldn't be the one to make her shine, but it's an old ache. She wasn't meant for me any more than she was meant for Irial. We both lost her, but she is happy.
"You never smile." I glance at Iri, but he's still focused on Leslie. The boy reaches across the table and takes her hand. She lets him, amusement dancing on her face from something he said. "Even with Seth, you never smile. You used to." He's looking at me now, but I don't face him. "You smiled often with your little brother."
"He's the High King now. The Unchanging Court has much adjusting to do and he is often with Aislinn. It'll be a while before we can meet for things other than business." Even to my own ears, my voice sounds cold. It isn't right. I am the Dark King and yet I sound like Sorcha. But this is Iri, and if I'm not cold, I slide to the other extreme.
"He is a poor brother to neglect you so," he says softly. He's still looking at me, I can feel it.
"At least he hasn't betrayed me." The words slip from my lips without permission and I cringe inside. How pathetic. I sound like a jilted lover even though there never has been, never will be anything. I wait for the teasing or a cruel remark, but none comes.
Instead, he is silent for so long that I'm sorely tempted to leave. I don't understand him, I never will, and yet I ache for these moments, these times when he seeks me out, my former king. We argue more oft than not, but I can't help the hope that one day he'll make sense to me, that one day...
I sigh. Leslie and her boy are leaving. I look down at them and instead of longing, I get a jolt of envy. Envy for what they have, that they're so happy and compliment each other so well. Truthfully, that's why I don't like being around Seth and Aislinn right now. They're too in love for me to not be in pain while I'm around them. They made it work out. They got what they wanted, and they're happy. I spent too long among the Summer Court not to want the same.
"You contradict yourself, Niall," Iri says abruptly. "But you don't even realize it, do you? You don't even know."
"I'm in no mood for your games," I say, more tiredly than I'd like.
"You never are," he replies, and he sounds oddly bitter. "How about a game of truth?"
I snort. "Would two faeries be able to play a game of lies?"
He looks at me unblinkingly. "Fully truth," he says. "No half-lies or misdirections."
I consider walking away; I'd managed it once before. I don't have the will to do so today. "Alright, then. Let's play this game of yours."
He nods and then leans back to look at the sky. "You have a soft spot for mortals."
I laugh sharply. "Only some," I correct, and he nods again.
"You have a soft spot for some mortals."
I shrug. "Truth."
"You have a soft spot for some faeries."
Another shrug. "Truth."
He bows his head and looks at the street far below. "I have been...unable to determine what causes those soft spots."
What is he playing at? "It's not something you'd understand."
He looks at me. "I have a soft spot for a mortal."
"I have a soft spot for a faery."
"Faeries," I correct. "You care for a few of the court."
He tilts his head to the side. "I am fond of a few of the court."
His choice of wording has me wary and I again consider walking away. "Truth."
"I care for a faery."
Semantics. Sometimes I have being a faery. "You would care if Gabe or Rabbit were to be hurt."
There's a long pause. "Truth." He looks out over the shadowed city. "I am possessive of a faery."
"You're the former Dark King. Of course you would still be possessive of some of the court."
He sighs. "How many times would you have me rephrase it before I actually say that I love you?"
I'm on my feet and walking away when he grabs my arm. "Niall – "
His eyes narrow. "Ir's been too long," he says. "We need to talk."
My voice is low and controlled. Too tight.
He pulls me closer. "I'm not letting you leave this time."
"Let me go!" I exclaim, but for all that I am the Dark King, I can't get him to budge.
"No!" he shouts. "Niall, listen to – "
He pushes me against a wall, pinning my wrists to the hard brick. Far below us, a car honks, brakes squeal. It's a long moment before I wrench my hands free and shove him away, my lips burning from his kiss.
He moves, but only because he wants to, and he doesn't go far. He's still too close, in my personal space, his mere presence a threat.
I'm trembling, still leaning against the wall, feeling something I haven't experienced since I became the King of Nightmares.
He steps closer and I put my hands up automatically. He stops when he reaches my useless barrier and just looks at me, those pitiless eyes unreadable. He gently grabs one of my hands and when I try to push him away, he pins me to the wall again. "Irial – "
He kisses me again, and even though I know it's a bad idea, even though I know his leaving will tear me apart, I let him. I think he knows the moment I give up, because he stops and frowns at me.
"You never surrender," he says softly. "Why now?"
"Why not?" I counter. "I've been resisting you for centuries." I look away. "I figure you'll leave me alone after."
"Do you want me to leave you alone?"
I hate being a faery. "Does my opinion matter either way?"
"I don't want one night with you," he whispers, startling me. "Or a few nights or month of nights."
"Then what do you want?" I ask, and my voice is too raw, hopeless.
He pulls my arms up way over my head and switches his grip so he has both of my wrists in one hand. He grabs my chin and makes me look at him. "I want you," he says slowly and too intensely, "and I want you for forever."
I try to look away, knowing that I'm blushing. I don't want to believe him, but faeries don't lie. "You think you do," I say hoarsely, "but in a few decades or a few centuries when you get bored, you won't want me anymore."
He shakes his head. "I've been waiting a thousand years, Niall." He looks toward the street. "I lost Leslie – we both did – and I don't want to have lost you with that finality without at least trying." His hand slides so he's cupping my cheek. "You asked me what I want; I want forever with you."
The thing I've wanted most, the hope I never let grow too strong, it's right here. He's right here, telling me what I've always wanted, even though I never admitted it to myself.
"Promise," I hear myself say. "Promise that you won't discard me for a newer, shinier plaything."
He shakes his head again "Never. I will never discard you." He brushes his thumb over my lips, his gaze as soft as I've ever seen it. "I'm yours for as long as you want me."
"I'm not sure I'll ever stop wanting you," I murmur and he grins slowly.
"Then I'll never go." He kisses me again and this time I let him. He pulls away, smiling gently. "I've nothing to give you."
I slide my hands down his back, tracing his spine and lean muscles. "You're giving me yourself. Isn't that enough?"
He smiles slightly. "Not in the eyes of the court."
I shrug. "Then you're giving me forever, and that is more than enough."