'The leather sofa creaked as Niall sat down. "I hate you sometimes." As Ani left the room, she heard Irial ask, "And the rest of the time?"' (Radiant Shadows p.99) Ani knew the conversation was private, but she couldn't help herself: she wanted, needed to finally know just what Niall and her Iri meant to each other. She left the door slightly open…

When Niall didn't answer, Irial reached out. He put one slender finger underneath Niall's chin and gently turned the king's head towards him. For a moment they just looked into each other's eyes; the air seemed to crackle with hope and possibility. Irial slowly moved closer to Niall, his gaze never leaving him, but just when his lips would have touched Niall's, the dark king stood up and moved to one of the large windows. "Irial, don't." He turned round; with the moonlight making the scar on his face stand out, he looked formidable.

Irial seemed unfazed, though. He crossed his legs and lit one of his cigarettes. "Isn't it time you admitted to yourself what even Sorcha seems to know? It has been centuries, Niall, and -" Niall laughed, a harsh sound that made the hair on the back of Ani's neck prickle. "Yes, Iri, it has been centuries." He shook his head. "Whatever was between us has been over for centuries. There's no way back for us."

Irial seemed to consider this as he exhaled a circle of blue smoke. "There might be another path for us. Maybe we can start over." His voice sounded calm, yet Ani noticed the change in his demeanour. To anyone else, Irial would have appeared just as graceful and confident as always; Ani though, who'd known him all her life, recognized his nervousness and anxiety for what they were. Niall, who'd known Irial a lot longer than that, most likely did too, as he seemed to soften a little.

"I don't think so, Irial." He sounded like he regretted it. "What we had was based on lies, even though you never could tell me one. I don't know how to trust you any more. Even after all this time together, I don't even fully know who you are."

"You know who I am." Irial took another drag of his cigarette and Ani saw his long fingers were trembling ever so slightly. The former king seemed to notice this too, for he crunched the thing in an ashtray and stood up from the cough. "Tell me that you know who I am."

"I can't," Niall whispered.

For a moment Irial just stood there, watching his king; then he said silently, "There's only one way to change that."

"No." Niall's eyes widened when he realized what Irial meant. "Don't, Iri, it's too dangerous, it could…"

But the atmosphere in the room was already changing. Dark shadows swirled around the former king, contrasting sharply with his pale skin. It took Ani a moment to realize what was happening, but then she felt Irial lowering his defences. All of them. Irial's wall was crashing down and his emotions started pouring out of him in almost unbearable amounts. The former king radiated power, arrogance and something darker that was uniquely Irial, yet also trust, loyalty and love. His love for Niall was everywhere, in between hope and despair, lust and reason, grief and happiness - Ani was suddenly so jealous of Niall that she could cry. Irial breathed Niall. The threads of his love carded through every other emotion, keeping his soul in balance. The play of light and dark was beautiful yet at the same time terrifying to watch. Ani had to look away.

Niall was on his knees in front of Irial, breathing heavily. He was staring at Irial, rapt, eyes wide open. As the flood of emotions reached him, he fed; Ani immediately felt the court strengthen. The act was strangely intimate, almost erotic, and a shudder went through Ani. Then the flood reached her.

Ani knew that she shouldn't, that this was Irial's gift to Niall, yet she was mesmerized by Irial; tasting him, at last, was intoxicating, overwhelming, as addictive as she imagined he now was to mortals. In the distance she thought she could hear someone shouting at her, shouting to stop, shouting that she was killing him, but she couldn't stop drinking – just a little more of him, of Iri, just a little…

TBC