Ablation

Notes: Yep, another LegaultxHeath. What can I say? They are my favorite pairing. I hope you enjoy this one... I wrestled with it quite a bit but I think I'm pleased with the end result.

Ablation; the removal of snow and ice by melting and sublimation from a glacier or iceberg.

The wind whipped through the trees and snapped branches like delicate birds' bones. It had been throwing this tantrum for the past few hours, and most of the company had a complaint or several swear words to toss to the ferocious winds beating at their faces. Every now and then, Legault would see something go flying past him and watch its passage in amusement. Sometimes the owner of the item would follow shortly behind, shouting after it as if the winds would somehow reverse. Still others never noticed. Was it Legault's duty to find the lost item? It depended on what it was. Some things would be missed more than others.

The air was cold, and the wind roaring past his ears was causing him some degree of pain. Too bad a scarf wasn't flying his way. He would have snatched it from coasting by and wrapped it over his head to cover his ears. As it stood, he didn't have such a thing on him, although he did have his cape and his headband. The headband—usually worn to keep his long lavender hair out of his eyes—might serve the purpose. It was doing little to keep his hair out of his eyes at the moment, anyway. He reached up and pulled the dark cloth down over his ears. He'd been wrong when he'd assumed it was doing nothing to keep his hair out of his face.

Damn. His ears still stung with pain, but it would take some time before they would feel relief. Legault lifted his hands to his ears, holding back his hair and keeping the headband in place before it slipped off and became another piece of floating debris on the wind.

"Here." A hand was thrust under his nose, holding a long piece of leather. Legault let go of one of his ears and took the leather, glancing up just in time to see Heath stalk forward, leading Hyperion. As the enormous wyvern passed Legault, he sniffed at the top of his head curiously.

"Hey, there, fella." Legault reached out a cautious hand to pat the beast's nose. Hyperion let out a long, warm snort that washed over Legault. It wasn't entirely unwelcome in the current weather conditions. At least it was his snotty nose air and not his dead animal breath, right? Legault lifted his gaze to find Heath's eyes on him. He held onto it for a long, breathless moment before Heath turned away, calling Hyperion forward.

2

Hunched over a pile of sticks, Legault struck steel against flint to get a fire going. The powerful wind still hadn't let up, and it was difficult to keep a fire going. The circle of tents coming up around him was making it a fraction easier, but it still seemed to want to go out within seconds. Had Legault been alone, he would have given up the endeavor altogether and found a tree hollow to take shelter beneath, but he didn't really have that option. Not unless he wanted to recall to doubting minds what sort of person he was.

Finally, a spark hit wood, and Legault remained where he was, using his back as a shield so that the fire could grow (only to end up guttering out the moment he left, he was sure). The tiny little fire was as hypnotizing as the biggest of blazes. The flames licked the tinder and it crackled and burned under its touch. Nothing like watching healthy wood wither and crumble to ashes right before your very eyes. A fragment of memory welled to the surface of his mind. Of a woman who hadn't deserved her death… at his hands.

Legault tore his gaze from the flames and turned his hands over, palm up. Covered in fingerless gloves, he could only see his fingers, long and nimble. A thief's hands. An assassin's hands. The Hurricane.

"You mind giving me a hand here?"

Legault raised his head slightly to see Heath standing a little off to his side, his arms crossed and mouth set in an annoyed line. He watched the wyvern rider's gaze wander to his head for a brief moment. Legault had used the leather thong to tie his long hair back into a ponytail. It wasn't a look he often sported, but it was some help in this instance. He thought he could fully understand why Guy kept his own hair in that plait of his.

"What do you want that hand to do?" Legault asked, with an intended double entendre. His eyebrows edged upwards slightly and his lips lifted on one side. He wiggled his fingers in Heath's direction. Legault would have preferred stroking the wyvern rider's arm, but he was just out of reach. For shame. Of course Heath was keeping his distance. There was just something about him that branded him as a wild animal, shying away from human companionship. Perhaps he was spending too much time with that big old wyvern of his. But there were things that only humans could provide, and Legault… he was more than happy to provide these things for Heath.

Too bad at the moment, it wasn't in the context he would have preferred.

"The tent." Heath's voice was reinforced steel. "I've almost got it, but everybody else is busy. You're just sitting there, staring at the fire."

"Actually, I was starting the fire and making sure it stayed lit, but I can get up and lend you a hand. Fire be damned."

Legault watched in amusement as Heath's expression reflected his thoughts. He was most likely trying to figure out whether Legault's words were sarcastic or sincere. He should give up now. It had been a mixture of both, but that might be beyond Heath's ability to grasp. Legault stood up and stretched his cramped legs. The fire was already starting to sputter under the icy wind. A look of concern crossed Heath's face then, but Legault placed a hand on his shoulder as he passed him and paused.

"Don't worry about it. The fire can be lit again." Never mind that it had taken all blasted day to get the thing started. Their daylight was dwindling, though. No time for chit-chat. "Better hurry before the sun's completely gone."

Legault went over to the tent Heath had been working on. It was secured in some spots by large rocks, but one corner was flapping noisily in the wind. Legault grabbed onto it and took a post. Keeping the damned thing on the ground long enough to get a post through the loop proved to be more difficult than it had seemed on first thought. Several times, he got a face full of canvas, once he got whipped across the nose with the post cord. Who knew pitching a tent could be so difficult?

"Keep a hold of the tent!" Heath shouted over the cursed wind. Legault complied, squinting his eyes to observe Heath making his way over to him and taking the post from his other hand. "On the ground now!"

Legault felt a familiar smile form on his face at the words, but said nothing as he did as he was told, sinking down to a crouch, tent corner in hand. Heath came down opposite him, driving the post into the dirt as far as he could manage before getting out the hammer and finishing the job.

"One down, three to go!" Heath shouted.

"What?"

"I said, one down, three to go!"

"Where?"

"Blast!" Heath leaned forward, grabbing Legault by one of his shoulders. He snatched at the headband still covering his ear and lifted it, shouting it into his ear. "ONE DOWN. THREE TO GO. YOU READY?"

"I was just playing with you, Heath," Legault said, rubbing his ringing ear. "I do believe you've made me deaf in one ear."

"Oh, shut up. You deserve it." Heath shoved his shoulder and got up, taking the hammer and resting it over his shoulder, to start on the next corner.

3

Somebody eventually had a fire blazing, and somebody else cooked some kind of half-edible dinner that Legault barely tasted. The wind wasn't dying down at all; if anything, it seemed to be getting more violent the longer the night dragged on. As if that weren't enough, little flakes of white began to drift into weary faces and before he knew it, most of the army was busy receding into their tents to escape the inevitable snow flurries that would follow.

Legault stayed where he was. He wasn't welcome in anybody's tent. He was still the new guy who was once a traitor (always a traitor), therefore, he had expected he'd have to overcome the usual initiation rites. Only, there weren't any; none that he knew of. He had tried making occasional small talk with some of the members—including that reticent wyvern rider, but none of his overtures were meeting with much success. It was a little disheartening, to say the least.

He sat there, in front of the dying embers of the fire and pretended he wasn't cold and shivering. Maybe he really should consider finding a friendly tree to sidle up to for the night. Legault stood, wrapping his cloak closer to his body. His limbs felt stiff from sitting in the cold for so long. He started off, intending to head out of the camp clearing and a little further into the forest. A familiar head popped out of a tent as he passed.

"Legault?"

Legault turned, one eyebrow poised upwards. He would recognize Heath's voice anywhere.

"Yes?"

"Where are you going?"

"To tinkle. Care to join me?"

"Sorry I asked." Heath started to disappear back within the folds of the tent and Legault saw his chances for a warm tent disappearing with him.

"Wait a moment."

Heath paused, his gaze moved towards Legault, though the rest of his body remained motionless.

"Never mind…" Legault started to resume his walk into the woods. He heard a frustrated sigh and then the sound of the tent's flaps sliding back. A moment later, Heath was crashing through the snowy undergrowth after him. He hooked his fingers into his cloak and yanked him back a few paces.

"Nobody expects you to sleep out here in the freezing cold." Heath hesitated before speaking again, slowly taking his hands off Legault's cape. "There's… Just share my tent. You helped pitch it."

Legault tried very hard not to smile lewdly. Heath wasn't the same as Legault; he didn't turn an innocent phrase into a naughty one by nature. That was probably Legault's lack of action of late speaking for him.

"Why, I'd be honored." Legault turned back to the tent he'd been passing and pulling the flap back quickly. It was already a good deal warmer within the tent. Heath had a tiny fire going in the middle of the tent, contained within an oil lamp. The wyvern rider secured the tent flaps behind him, making sure the warmth stayed inside where it belonged. Legault sat beside the oil lamp and suppressed the urge to vigorously rub the warmth back into his limbs. "And I thought you'd somehow manage to get that beast inside here with you."

Looking around the small tent, Legault realized there was nobody else. So Heath was having trouble making friends, too, eh? It went with the territory, being a deserter. Nobody could fully trust either of them. But the last time he'd tried having a conversation in that vein with Heath, he didn't seem to want to have any of it. Or at least, he questioned Legault's motives. Once a traitor, always a traitor, right? He wished he'd been branded with a different name, but he knew he deserved it. He also knew he'd made the right decision. How much longer could he remain the Hurricane before he completely lost touch with his humanity and became something like Jaffar?

"Don't be ridiculous. Hyperion's much too large." Heath went silent.

"Worried about him?"

"A little, but this isn't something he can't handle. Bern weather was worse than this."

"I know."

There was a long silence, and Legault pulled his foot close so that he could start loosening the straps on his boots. Heath turned away, as if exposing his feet in front of him was blasphemous. Legault smirked to himself. Discarding the first boot, he turned in his seat to lay his gaze on Heath. Heath was kneeling beside his bedroll, busying himself with the work of unrolling it and spreading it out across the cold-packed dirt. Legault didn't have a bedroll. So far, he'd been getting by on his trusty cloak, but with the sudden storm blowing over them, he was fairly certain he'd be waking up a man-sized icicle. He said nothing about his obvious lack of bedroll—he packed very, very lightly—and looked away from Heath to work on his other boot.

Laying the second boot aside, Legault contemplated what he was going to do next. He supposed he'd just have to find a corner in this puny tent and make the best of his cloak. He lifted his gaze to find Heath watching him intently, although the moment the wyvern rider was caught, he turned away and pretended to still be working on flattening his bedroll. Curious. Interesting. Curious and interesting. What exactly had Heath been watching him so intently for?

"So… Heath…" Legault spoke, shattering the silence. A slight pinkish tinge stained Heath's cheeks. He didn't turn from his task, but he didn't completely ignore the assassin, either.

"What now?"

"I think the bedroll's as flat as it's going to get."

Heath stopped smoothing and beating it. His shoulders were tense; Legault could see that clearly. Then again, when were they not? Legault reached out and lightly touched him just under the left shoulder blade.

"Don't."

Legault took his hand away.

"You should take the bedroll. I'm more accustomed to being out in this weather." Heath moved away from it. Still not looking at me.

"It's large enough for two. Wouldn't it be more prudent to… share it?"

"No."

"I promise not to do anything untoward." Legault put up a solemn hand.

"What good is your promise?"

"My, my… That's harsh." Legault blinked lazily at Heath, raising his chin slightly. "But you're right. In not trusting me to uphold such a promise."

Legault backed away, toward the other side of the tent, making his intentions clear to the wyvern rider.

"Use the bedroll, Legault."

"It's your bedroll. I don't want to taint it with my inability to uphold promises. Although, I daresay you haven't always been so loyal yourself…" Legault curled up in the dirt and pulled his cloak around his body. "Goodnight, Heath."

He closed his eyes and tried to shut out anything else; but it was hard not to hear his tent-mate rustling around with his warming bedroll. Was it wrong of him to feel so bitter about his constant rejection? He'd known it would come with the territory, but of all the people here, in this army, he'd thought Heath would understand him. Apparently… He was wrong in that regard. Sadly mistaken. He would not even take a hand in friendship, one traitor to another.

Something heavy fell on him and it took all of his willpower not to react immediately with knife in hand. Instead, he clenched every muscle, then willed himself to relax and assess. He opened his eyes to find the dark blue material of Heath's bedroll draped over his shoulders. For a moment, he was drowning in mixed emotions and a turmoil of thoughts. Why had he done it? Legault sat up, bringing the bedroll up with him, his fingers lightly resting on the sturdy material.

Heath lay stretched out on his back, his arms behind his head, as if the chill in the air didn't effect him in the least. If he was trying to prove a point, he was proving something. Although probably not what he was hoping to. Legault dragged himself and the bedroll over to Heath, who was now watching him through narrowed eyes.

"Just share."

Heath's jaw tightened, but he didn't reply.

"It's only one night—hopefully—and it will keep us both warm."

"But you…"

"Will keep my fingers to myself this night." A smirk crossed his face as he said this. "I can restrain myself from that, too, if you so wish."

Heath glowered, but something uncertain was flickering behind those eyes. Legault tilted his head slightly, then leaned forward. "What is it?"

"What's what?"

"What is it you're thinking about?

"Nothing, just. Fine. I'm not going to argue with you. I'm tired and who knows what awaits us on the morrow?"

"I knew you'd see things my way with a little coaxing." Legault set the bedroll between them. Heath rolled over and sat up to help him arrange it. They both sat on either end of the thing. Heath's gaze rested on the bedroll, which really wasn't all that large after all—while Legault observed the wyvern rider. He wasn't sensing full blown hostility tonight. Just a lot of anxiety. He's second guessing something.

Since Heath was so hesitant, Legault hopped into the sack first, on his side. He beckoned to Heath, his hand right under his face. He poked his chin with a finger.

"I thought you were tired and needed your beauty rest?"

Heath batted the finger away. "I am." His mild annoyance seemed to give him enough resolve to at least slide into the bedroll, but he still seemed far away. Much as the wyvern rider tried, their bodies were uncomfortably close—well, in Legault's case it was quite nice, but he could tell that Heath wasn't too happy with the current arrangements. He lay stiffly on his back, his eyes rolled up to the ceiling and his jaw clenched tight. He was never going to sleep in that state.

So, Legault had promised no untoward touches, but… He had already warned the other man of his inability to keep that promise. Besides, what was an untoward touch, anyway? As long as he kept it above the waist, he would still be keeping his promise. Besides, he didn't want to be the one responsible for Heath getting himself killed in the heat of battle because his brain was fighting off sleep.

He was going to be in for it, for sure, but it would be worth it. Hopefully.

Ever so lightly, Legault trailed a hand up Heath's chest. The rhythmic rise and fall of Heath's chest halted, before resuming somewhat more erratically than before.

"What are you doing? I thought you promised—"

Shifting his body, Legault curled around Heath's body, resting his head on the other man's shoulder. He, at least, felt less awkward and more comfortable.

"Will you just relax? I'm not doing anything else. It's just hard to think about sleeping when the person lying next to you feels cold and stiff as a corpse. Would you relax already?" Legault splayed his hand out across Heath's chest and left it there, but he made no other movements.

They lay that way for so long, sleep began to steal over Legault. His eyes slowly found themselves closing by degrees, until they were closed, and his mind shutting down with it… The body beside him shifted and Legault's head slowly slid from Heath's body to the floor. He assumed that Heath was turning over onto his side to forget that he existed.

"Legault." The soft whisper caressed his face. Legault cracked open an eye. There he was again, watching him with that strangely intent face. Legault pillowed his own head with his arm and stifled a yawn.

"Yes, Heath?"

"I…"

Legault waited patiently, but Heath did not continue. He started to close his eye, when he felt a cautious finger on his jaw. Both eyes were cracking open now, staring directly at the wyvern rider. He slid his hand up the line of Legault's jaw, cupping the back of his head. He stopped, as if he needed to ask permission to continue down this road.

Very interesting.

"Heath…?"

Heath's eyes sparked with query, but he didn't say a word.

"Are you going to kiss me?"

Heath parted his lips, as if to answer, but then must have thought it would be far better to show than to tell. He closed the small gap between them and his lips fell gently on Legault's. The assassin allowed it without moving at first, and when Heath started to pull away, he grabbed him by the back of the neck and showed him how a real kiss felt. Slow and sensuous, he nibbled lightly on Heath's lower lip. His kisses were long and deep, his touches light and deft.

Was he finally warming the wyvern rider's heart?

When his breath started coming up shorter, Legault had mercy on both of them and moved from lips to cheek to jaw to the hollow of Heath's throat. He could feel the pulse of his life thrumming beneath his lips. He reveled in it, licked his throat all the way up to behind his earlobe. Heath shivered in response and clutched Legault closer. Legault smiled, feeling quite self-satisfied with his effect on the other man.

Even if only for one night, Legault was pleased with this sudden turn of events. He would most likely have to forget about this when the morning sun shed more light on the situation, but until then… Until then, Legault would have this. He knew it was a selfish train of thought, but Heath was not incapable of rational thought. Whatever questions Legault had pertaining to the how and why of what was taking place now, he felt them best left in the shadowy corners of the night. No thought, not now. Just… feel.

And oh, he felt… Heath's rough, calloused hands on his own bare skin. He felt Heath's fingernails bite into his flesh and his warm, shuddering breath on him, followed by hot, moist kisses. He felt the erotic, electric charge of skin rubbing against skin. He also felt his heart fill to brimming and he felt it threaten to break. But he ignored that part to the best of his ability, and instead, he touched Heath in return, hoping… He hoped that he could translate his own emotions in his every light touch, and every fevered kiss.

Legault loved Heath. Maybe not since the very moment he'd laid eyes on him, but once he'd really taken a deep look into those haunted eyes and found kinship reflected there, how could he turn away? How could Heath not detect it, how he could pretend it was not there...? Whatever Heath was doing in regards to his own emotions—stamping on them, ignoring them, Legault wanted nothing more than to pull back those heavy drapes and show him that he was not alone and Legault did not judge and Legault could simply love him for who he was, and not what he had done. Why was that so terribly difficult to communicate to the wyvern rider?

All their conversations, from the melancholic to the light hearted, repeated themselves now in Legault's mind. How Heath seemed almost to be two men: The one that dryly responded to Legault's advances and seemed able to reluctantly admit how lonely these past years had been on him. And then the one that grew troubled by Legault's very presence and spoke in clipped tones before stalking off to be alone.

I love you, Heath. Why does that scare you so much? Or maybe it just means so little to you that you don't want to even acknowledge it.

Now spent from the combined efforts of the long, arduous hike and the considerably more pleasurable sexual encounter, Heath stared at Legault with sleepy eyes and ran a lazy hand through his long, unkempt hair. Legault held in his breath, watching as Heath's eyes closed and his hand stilled, fingers resting in a languid, curled position against Legault's neck. Heath's breathing slowed and Legault's resumed.

Curse my heart.

Seeing Heath so at peace and so satiated… He was almost envious. Heath may have been unpredictable when it came to some things, but Legault would bet everything that the morning after would not be so pleasant. It filled Legault with a bittersweet ache. Knowing that he had this moment, but he'd allowed his sentimental side to stain it. He would likely never have another moment like this, though. So he curled his body around Heath's and kissed his temple.

For this night, the winter of Heath's heart had thawed, but Legault's winter may have just started.