A/N: OK last part. It's a bit long compared to the other two, but I hope that's a good thing.
"This is madness", Tos'un grumbles behind her, not for the first time.
If the matter wasn't so serious Sinnafein would laugh at the way he is almost pouting as he follows her reluctantly through the lively streets of Silverymoon. His dark skin and stark white hair garner more attention than she is used to receiving here, but so far nobody has done more than watch them curiously.
"Just promise me you will stay where I leave you."
"I already did. About a hundred times."
"Well, you're not the only one who is nervous about this."
"Because it is not going to work!"
Also something which her husband has been repeating almost constantly, but his insistence only makes her more determined. If he was truly expecting her plan to fail, then he would not be arguing against it so persistently. That he does merely shows her how afraid he is underneath all the protesting. But he has not yet refused outright to go along with it all. While he seems to think that Jaellien would actively try to attack him she does not really expect anything like that to happen. If her friend had wanted to seriously harm any of them he would have done something about it long ago. And she still does see Jaellien as a friend, someone who deserves her trust and has never done anything to threaten her or her daughter. She is aware though that Tos'un's feelings are a lot more complicated than her own when it comes to the mage. It is only to be expected after what has taken place in the past. That he would still feel drawn to the blonde has at first disturbed her greatly, but in a way she has also come to see it as a sign of hope, even though she cannot guess what may come of it.
Sinnafein leaves her husband sitting at a table in the back of a tavern, hoping against all appearances that she is not trying to facilitate disaster by doing what she is about to do. Curiously she is thinking of her daughter, presently left at home in the Moonwood, as she walks toward Jaellien's modest house. In a way she is doing this for Doum'wielle too, because she wants her to be able to live in a world that still holds hope. But to provide that she must hold onto hope herself, hope that reconciliation is still possible even after so much hurt and pain has passed between her husband of more than nineteen years and the friend she has only come to care for during the past decade.
She has to make a conscious effort to still her shaking hands as she knocks on the unassuming blue door with the faded, flaking paint, like she has done so many times before. What do I do if he isn't at home, she wonders fleetingly, but gets no chance to consider it further, because the light steps that are coming towards her from the inside make it clear that Jaellien must be there.
The mage stills instantly when he sees who has come to call on him today. He is wearing some old, frayed robe in faded brown, which means he must have been working on something potentially messy. Or maybe he has just not had the energy to go out in the last days, as the unkempt hair and dark circles under his eyes seem to suggest.
"I'm alone", Sinnafein says, feeling the odd need to reassure him of that, but not questioning it for now. A second later she is glad that she did, because he seems to relax at least a small fraction.
"Tos'un told you", her friend says flatly, making no move to unblock the door for her. He pronounces the name the way she has only ever heard her husband and Drizzt Do'Urden do, with a sibilant hiss wound around the s' in the middle of it, that she herself could never get quite right, even after years of trying. Sinnafein decides to ignore that disconcerting little detail for now.
"After the way you left me standing there you could hardly expect me to not press him for answers."
Jaellien sighs. He sounds terribly tired, but finally steps back to let her move past the threshold.
"No", he says. "I guess not."
The blonde busies himself with putting a pitcher of cold water and two glasses on the round table in the middle of his spacious kitchen. At least it is spacious compared to his other rooms. After he runs out of things to do though, he just sits across from Sinnafein, staring at her sullenly. She waits.
"Well?" he says eventually. "Are you going to reproach me for not telling you earlier?"
"Of course not!", she cries, surprised. "I'm not here to accuse you of anything. It was hard enough to get the whole story out of my husband, who had more reason than you to tell me."
"We have always said we would not to lie to each other", she says and notes the very slight cringe that follows her words. "I know that this is very hard for you", Sinnafein tries to reassure Jaellien. "If I'm honest, I'm not sure I can ever really understand what you must be experiencing right now, because sometimes I still have trouble myself to identify my feelings in this, although I have spent so much time think about it during the last two months that sometimes it seemed as if there was hardly space for anything else in my head."
He looks at her steadily then, eyes like pools of dark, green water with hardly a ripple to be seen.
"How much... detail did he give you?"
"Not very much", Sinnafein shakes her head. "Enough. I did not want to intrude too deeply, because it felt too private."
She spends a second considering.
"Is there anything in particular you want me to know? I will listen to you as I have listened to Tos'un."
For a long moment Jaellien looks down on the table, not answering.
"Did... did he tell you how I used to slip into his bed most nights, because Donnia didn't want me and basically became jealous any time Ad'non even looked in my direction and Kaer'lic was usually too moody to endure my presence for long? Sometimes he would just let me sleep..."
"No", Sinnafein says quietly when the other's voice dies away. "He did not tell me that."
"In that way I was glad when he came to join the other three, because I did not have to sleep on the cold floor any more."
A strange, heavy weight is wrapping around her chest, when she tries to imagine what Jaellien's life must have been like back then.
"Why did you decide to come to the Moonwood Li?"
"You mean, why did I decide not to come earlier?"
"Maybe that too."
"In a way it was not even a decision in the sense that I would consciously decide not to go. I just could not bring myself to even think about going anywhere near Tos'un. I was afraid I would still fear him like I used to, that all I had achieved in the meantime would suddenly, miraculously become meaningless. I mean, I knew that it wouldn't, but I was afraid nonetheless. It is complicated."
"I have time. You can go as slow as you like."
Jaellien's lips actually quirk in the tiny beginnings of a wry grin when she says that, but the moment is short lived.
"Maybe in the end I came because I just wanted to believe that what you were telling me was true."
He shrugs uncertainly, his fingertips restlessly tracing the rim of his still full glass.
"Tos'un appears to be a genuinely likeable, even honourable person whenever you and Doumi are talking about him."
It almost sounds like an accusation.
"He is, but that is the result of a lot of hard work and learning. I take it that image was not something you could reconcile with the man you knew?"
The grimace on Jaellien's face is a strange mix of beginning anger and deep sadness.
"Well, while he did have his moments they were certainly few and far between."
The mage rubs his face in a tired gesture, almost as if he wants to erase the strange expression that has taken hold of his features.
"It was easier when I could just hate him as someone who I had met in the past, but after all those years of listening to you talking about this stranger, who I was sure was known to me but whom I could barely recognize from your tales, maybe I finally thought I should go see for myself. I could never comprehend how someone who could be as cruel as the master I remembered would manage to produce a child as adorable as Doum'wielle. After watching them together though I can see that he probably would do anything to make her happy."
"He would, yes. I'm sure of it."
"I told him that he did not deserve your love", Jaellien admits, sounding pained.
"While I can see why you might say that, it is my life, my choice and therefore not for you to judge or decide", Sinnafein answers evenly, trying very hard to keep all misgivings out of her voice, for this is something she has indeed heard before. Sometimes she grows tired of defending her choices to people who know nothing of her reasons. But as she reminds herself, Jaellien does know quite a lot about her and has not actually meant it the way most other people did when they posed this particular claim to her.
"I know", he says immediately, confirming her thoughts. "I do not mean to judge you. You know I have never tried to influence you in this. My intention when I confronted Tos'un in the woods was just to talk to him, to get a better feel for the way a meeting over supper might go and to decide whether it would be a good idea to come at all that night." He sighs despondently. "I found that my fear had finally gone, but I didn't expect that I would instead be so furious upon seeing him that I would simply snap like that. When he refused to keep his silence towards you concerning our past I just lost all reason. I didn't want you to know, to think of me as weak, so I was desperate to keep him from talking to you. The way I chose to keep him silent was not ideal though. I'm not proud of the way I basically molested him, believe me."
Jaellien gives her a self-deprecating smile.
"I kind of spent the last weeks fearing he would suddenly turn up here to gut me for what I did."
"Weeeell, I don't think you'll have to expect anything like that", Sinnafein says slowly, thinking back on how hard it was to convince Tos'un to come here at all, let alone go anywhere near Jaellien. "As far as I could glean he somehow enjoyed it, although after seeing the spectacular bruise you left I still have no idea how that might have come to pass. I would have been screaming bloody murder in his place."
When Jaellien just frowns darkly and mutely stares down at the table after she told him that, Sinnafein fears that even her small attempt at humour might have been seriously misplaced at this point in their talk.
"He might also have said something about deserving it", she adds cautiously, which at least gets more of a reaction.
"He does", Jaellien growls before he suddenly snatches his glass and throws it at the wall, where it shatters spectacularly, water and glittering shards scattering everywhere. "I just never would have expected him to admit it", he grounds out, still staring at the wet wall.
It takes a few deep breaths until he faces Sinnafein again. Hot anger is burning in his eyes. Somehow her idea to bring the two of them together again seemed better when she was still only dealing with the grim reserve she usually gets from Tos'un instead of this explosive fury she just witnessed. But she has dragged him here now, so she will simply have to find a way to go forward.
"Do you still want to talk to him?" she asks, watching concernedly how Jaellien grips the table and goes pale.
"He is here?"
"I convinced him to come, but I can tell him to leave if you want that", Sinnafein hastens to explain. "I won't make you do anything you don't agree to. Whether you decide to meet him or whether you never want to see him again I will heed your wishes. I promise! I know sometimes wounds can be too deep to heal or overcome. It is entirely up to you."
She pauses unsure if she should continue, but then she pushes on.
"It was just... After you decided on your own to try it once already I thought that maybe I could help. Even if the first try appears to have been... unsuccessful it does not mean everything is lost. You are precious to me and to see you suffer like this breaks my heart."
At that Jaellien seems to draw back into himself, all expression disappearing from his face. It is a truly frightening sight, as if all personality was gone from one moment to another. Sinnafein has never seen her friend like this and she wonders uncomfortably whether he might not be more broken than she has suspected.
"Give me a moment to consider", he mumbles distractedly before he abruptly gets up and leaves her alone in the room, still wondering if she is doing the right thing. As she slowly sips her own water Sinnafein does her best to remain calm and wait. But it is hard. So hard. She cannot help but think that maybe it would have been better to do things differently, maybe she should have done something else, said something else, something more. What is done is done though and she cannot change anything now.
It is a relief to see that, when he comes back after what to her seems like hours, Jaellien sports an expression which is unhappy but at least appears natural and gives her something to go on other than that frightening blankness.
"I would see Tos'un", he says and lapses back into silence.
Sinnafein nods unsure if this is a good sign.
"You said you convinced him", Jaellien looks at her intently, "does that mean he did not want to come?"
"Not really", she admits cautiously. "He kept saying that you would not want to speak to him anyway."
"I did not", the mage grimaces. "At least at first. But since you have both come, maybe we can at least try. It would be stupid to come all this way just to accomplish nothing without even making an attempt."
Sinnafein smiles, still a little uncertain if this is the right way to go about it, but unwilling to stop at this point.
"Shall I go get him now?"
"In a moment."
Jaellien sighs and fixes her with a searching gaze.
"I just want to know what you are expecting from this. If you think we will be able to just discuss everything calmly and reconcile at the end, then I must warn you, that you will most probably be very disappointed. I do not think something like that is even possible at this time."
"No", Sinnafein shakes her head. "I'm aware that it is an uphill battle, but I would not try to involve myself if I did not think that it is important for both of you to try and work through the past. But if you feel it's not the right time then I would accept that too. As I said I would understand if you did not want to see him. "
"There is never going to be a right time for something like that", Jaellien says darkly, "but I said I would see him, so you better go get him, before I change my mind. I just wanted you to be aware that you might not like what happens when we meet."
There is nothing more to say after that. Before she steps out of the door though, Jaellien stops her again.
"Whatever you are going to hear, please try to keep in mind that I only want the best for you. I have no intention of doing you harm."
What about Tos'un, she wants to ask, but does not. Her husband can usually take care of himself quite well and it seems unfair to try and put restrictions on her friend already when she is the one pushing them into this.
As she arrives back at the tavern, Sinnafein can see that her husband has managed to acquire some unexpected company. A delicate, black haired Moon elf with large amber eyes who Sinnafein has never met before sits next to him over a glass of wine. Going by his attire he could be a wizard like Jaellien, even though he seems a little young for that, but maybe that is only because of his short stature.
The tense expression Tos'un is wearing and the fact that his wine is still untouched while his companion has only about a third of his own left tells her that he is deeply unhappy about having to endure the current conversation. She absently notes that the other elf is unusually stunning and wonders why he would choose to bother Tos'un in a nearly empty room like this. The monosyllabic answers he receives time and again do not seem to deter him at all during the minute Sinnafein watches them discreetly before she decides to free Tos'un from his misery.
The relief in his eyes as she steps up to his table is short lived but pronounced.
"This is my wife", Tos'un informs his companion shortly without giving a name. "We are going to leave now."
The grin that abrupt and unbelievably rude announcement garners from the Moon elf is so full of mischief that Sinnafein can only stare in astonishment.
"Honoured to make your acquaintance my Lady."
The bright amber eyes sparkle at her over the rim of a wineglass as the strange elf quickly tosses back the remaining contents and gets up still grinning to leave without further notice.
"You attract the most peculiar people", she remarks watching the long, black hair sway sharply to the left as the stranger steps out into the street and turns to go on his way. "What was his name?"
"He never told me, but he was certainly having fun at my expense."
Apparently that is all the explanation she is going to get out of him right now, which is fine with her seeing that they have more pressing things to consider anyway.
"Jaellien said he would see you."
"You make it sound like he is granting me an audience."
Sinnafein throws him an exasperated look.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to be like that", Tos'un apologizes quickly. "The boy just frayed my nerves."
He eyes the wine for a moment as if it has suddenly gained a heretofore unimagined attractiveness, but pulls himself away without drinking anything.
"What did he say?"
"Not very much really", Sinnafein shrugs uncertainly as they step through the door. "He is still angry. Please be considerate."
Tos'un gives her a sideways glance at that.
"Do you still want to come?" he asks tentatively. "I could go alone."
It sounds as if he is not quite sure which of the two he would presently prefer.
"No", she sighs. "I will come. I can leave later if you both feel I need to go. Once I am reasonably sure that things are not going to get out of hand."
Tos'un nods and seems to lose all will to communicate anything else after that, following her to Jaellien's house wrapped in a tense, grim silence that sets her teeth on the edge. He remains standing passively at her back when she knocks on the blue door for the second time today. Jaellien appears even more tired when he opens now than he did a short while ago. His gaze immediately shoots over her shoulder to Tos'un, who merely gives a tiny nod in greeting, face inscrutable. Only the red eyes shift constantly, betraying a part of the tension he must be feeling. They follow silently as Jaellien leads them back to the kitchen. Not much has changed there Sinnafein notes. The shards of glass are still decorating the ground below a wet patch on the wall and her own empty glass is sitting on the table just where she has left it.
"You don't think this is a good idea", Jaellien says tensely, speaking only in Tos'un's direction before they are even seated.
Sinnafein watches her husband press his lips together into a thin, stubborn line before he answers.
"You are very angry."
He sounds neither hostile nor condescending, but somehow resigned.
"Well, I don't think that is going to change any time soon", Jaellien snaps sharply.
"I did not expect it to", Tos'un answers defensively, his hands clamping around the back of a chair without making a move to sit down on it. Both men are glaring at each other now and Sinnafein feels as if everything is already slipping through her fingers, deteriorating at a dangerously fast rate.
"Will you at least sit before you start anything?" she implores them, thinking for a short frightening second that they will just ignore her and continue on this spiraling path towards destruction, but then at last they do break off their hostile staring and move to do as she has suggested.
Just when they are ready to begin again though, a knock sounds from the door startling all three of them. Jaellien stands with a frown.
"Please excuse me", he mutters and goes to see who has interrupted them so unexpectedly.
The is no sound for a moment after he opens.
Then: "How did you know?"
"I've been watching the roads."
Sinnafein feels more than sees her husband turn sharply as the second voice answers. She herself can't quite place it, but Tos'un is already scowling darkly when she looks back at him.
"I saw them enter just now. Do you want me to stay?" the second voice continues calmly.
A long pause follows.
When he comes back into the kitchen Jaellien is followed by the same black haired stranger who Sinnafein has already met once before today. No wonder she has not recognized his voice. She has heard it only fleetingly after all. It surprises her though how offended her husband looks as he regards him with a dark look.
"So is that how it is?" Tos'un suddenly states more than asks. "You are just going to play stupid games with me? Sinnafein almost had me convinced that it would not be so."
He is already rising as he speaks.
"I guess I will just have to leave then."
"Sit!" the stranger interrupts him coldly startling Tos'un so much with his forceful command that he actually complies. Maybe there was some magic behind it too, because Tos'un's expression has turned rather mulish all over sudden. Sinnafein does not know what to make of this yet, but decides to stay silent for now, since her husband does not protest further.
"I came to see you without any knowledge or prompting on Jaellien's part", the black haired elf explains calmly. "Because I wanted to have a chance of gauging your intentions before you came here."
"But you obviously did know we would be coming here and you actually had the nerve to offer me drugged wine!" Tos'un hisses, still offended, which surprisingly does nothing more than produce an increasingly astonished look on Jaellien's and a serene smile on the stranger's face.
"I've known about you for a comparatively long time", the boy counters. "So the reason for your visit here was pretty much obvious. I just wanted to know for myself, if you would present a danger. You really don't have to act as if I did you some grievous harm. It's not like I actually expected you to drink the wine", he says very matter of factly and sits down on the only free chair next to a frowning Jaellien. Somehow the picture of the mischievous but essentially harmless, chattering youth from before does not match with his behaviour any more Sinnafein thinks, an edge of worry creeping in. She has never expected something like this to happen.
Tos'un's answer consists of nothing more than the gritting of his teeth. He has already guessed that this boy is more dangerous than he seems at first glance. He cannot quite decide though if Jaellien is as surprised by his appearance as he seems right now or if this is all a farce staged to lure him into compliance. The fact that he has not even noticed the boy following them here is rather unsettling in any case.
"This is Laylien", the blond mage says now, still sounding rather bewildered. "A... friend."
Or maybe something more than that Tos'un thinks watching the way Jaellien's eyes linger on the boy's neck and lips in a strange sideways glance when he introduces him. The pinch of partly jealous, possessive irritation he feels at that does not surprise him any more, but it adds to his general dismay. This is clearly going to be an excruciating experience. Not that he has expected anything less.
Out of the corner of his eye he watches Sinnafein contemplate the newcomer. She still appears puzzled, as if unable to place him, but who knows, maybe his presence will even be beneficial. He seems calm and reasonably contained so he might at least make a good mediator. Of course he could also just have come to sit back and enjoy the show of Jaellien going for his throat.
"So", Tos'un starts deciding that there is nothing to be gained by waiting around any longer. "What would you have me say then?"
"Maybe actually using my name when you speak to me would be a good start", Jaellien replies caustically.
For a moment Tos'un is taken aback, because he realizes only now that he has indeed never done that, even after being formally introduced to the blonde two months ago.
"My apologies", he says only a little stiffly. "I did not notice."
The drow can see fresh anger flaming in Jaellien's green eyes and inwardly braces himself for a new attack.
"So is that generally a habit of yours?" the mage inquires icily. "To not award people the respect the deserve?"
"I see. So it's only me then", Jaellien remarks with a voice that would freeze even hell's fires. "How nice. I guess old habits die hard, don't they?"
He has gone and flung himself straight into that trap, Tos'un realizes. But anything he could have said would have been wrong, so it probably does not matter. He senses Sinnafein fidget next to him and wishes suddenly that she would just leave. This kind of verbal warfare is not something he wants his wife to witness. It mostly concerns things she has never had any part in anyway. To keep her here was to a large part born of his desire to not have to face this alone, but he realizes now how selfish he has been. It will only hurt her to watch them tear into each other. And to Tos'un it is a foregone conclusion that it will indeed come to that. They are both too angry and tense to go about it any other way.
"Sinnafein", he says, turning to her abruptly. "I think you should leave."
"But I don't think..."
"As much as it pains me to say that", Jaellien cuts across the first openings of her protest, "I think Tos'un is right."
"You really expect me to leave when it looks as if you're going to rip each other apart any second?" she demands, only to receive emphatic nods from both of them.
"What about him?" she points at Laylien who is sitting very still, watching all of them intently. His expression does not give any clues as to what he might be thinking.
"He knows enough about the circumstances, but is mostly impartial in this and will not interfere on my behalf", Jaellien claims and the boy gives a solemn nod, but does not say anything further.
Tos'un suppresses the urge to raise his eyebrows at that, because he seriously doubts the mage's statement, but he does not wish Sinnafein to remain, so he will put up with the boy for the time being. He is not alone with his doubts though.
"You really expect me to believe that?" his wife asks, resolutely crossing her arms in front of her chest.
"It does not matter in any case", Tos'un tells her, forcing all traces of doubt from his voice and expression. "I am asking you to trust me in this. Nothing terrible is going to happen."
"I am not sure this is a good idea."
"It will be better this way nonetheless", Jaellien says. "I swear I won't cause him any permanent harm, but this does not really concern you. It is all in the past and not for you to deal with."
Tos'un suppresses his shiver at the words, because he is well aware that there are a lot of things which will not incapacitate him or disfigure him permanently, but will still feel extremely painful when done to him. Suddenly he wishes that he could leave as well.
It is hard to go on when he is watching the way the worries wash so unguardedly through his wife's expressive eyes, but Tos'un manages somehow.
"Please go back to the tavern. I promise I will come to find you there tomorrow at the latest."
He can see how hard she has to fight with herself to accept this. It would take no more than one word or even a look of doubt from his side and she would refuse to leave him, but Tos'un is still convinced that it will be better this way. He has brought this upon himself and now he will have to deal with it. That he can accept as long as it won't hurt Sinnafein more than it already has. He only allows himself a single longing look at her back when she finally leaves, shoulders slumped with defeat, anxiously clutching his shoulders in a last farewell before she turns towards the door. But she does still trust him enough to do it. At least there is still that.
"Have you nothing left to say now that she is gone?" Jaellien inquires viciously after he has come back from the door and sat down to watch Tos'un in silence for some time.
"What do you want me to say?" the drow asks back. "That I am sorry, that I regret everything? You already know it would only be half true anyway."
"I doubt it would even be that much."
Tos'un only gives him a dark look and shrugs, unwilling to discuss this further. It is not a topic he particularly likes to think about, because it makes him feel inadequate. He knows he should make amends and he is determined to follow through on anything Jaellien might demand from him concerning that, but he still mostly lacks the guilt he thinks he should be experiencing. He feels trapped again, when he thinks about the things he will probably have to do. A sensation he has come to know only too well during the last weeks, but he has resolved that he should do this despite his misgivings. Maybe true remorse will come to him in time. He must at least try.
"Regardless of any feelings of remorse which might or might not exist on my side, I do realize that I should offer something to compensate you for your experiences at my... our hands" he says, "and I am willing to do so. Otherwise I would not have come. The question is though: What do you want from me?" Tos'un asks then, the one burning question which he has so far been unable to solve by himself. He is relieved to hear his voice still sounding calm and collected, although he wants nothing more than to jump up and run away.
"What do you think I want?" Jaellien merely answers him with a question of his own, bowing further over the table, almost closing the distance between them. Tos'un shrugs sharply in frustration, arms wide and fingers spread out for a moment, before he splays them flatly on the table.
"Revenge? To hurt me, rape me?" he says. "How would I know! So far you have only been evasive and I have no wish to play guessing games with you."
Jaellien suddenly smiles, a shark's smile. Tos'un has never seen him look so dangerous before.
"And what if that is what I want?" the mage asks softly, leaning a tiny bit closer still. That quiet fury is back in his eyes. Tos'un wonders if he might come to fear it and decides that he probably will. In coming here with Sinnafein he has made himself into a lamb fit for slaughter, but he has no other way left to deal with this. "What if I told you now that I expect you to provide me with seven years of service, just like you took from me without ever asking?"
Tos'un stares down to see his unfeeling fingers curled around the edge of the table, the blood mostly gone from them because his grip is so desperately hard.
"Then I would call you unfair", he says in what is almost a whisper, not really daring to look up, because he is afraid of what he could see then. "Because it was never me alone. I wasn't even there for all of it."
A harsh laugh follows his statement.
"And why should I care about what you think is fair?"
Real fear is starting to tie a tight band around Tos'un's throat and chest until he feels as if someone is suffocating him, because there is no good answer he can give to that. He cannot hide behind Sinnafein this time. To do so would only make him appear like a coward.
"I don't know", he presses out, still refusing to look up.
"A good thing I'm not going to demand that then, isn't it?" Jaellien informs him coldly.
Tos'un's gaze snaps upwards now with a wordless hiss of helpless anger.
"So you are not going to tell me anything?" he grits out between bared teeth.
"How could I tell you what I don't even know myself?" Jaellien suddenly yells at the drow, who only grips the edge of the table harder to keep himself from flinching back. "When I decided to come to the Moonwood I was going to... I don't know... talk to you. I thought that after all these years I should be capable of facing you without fear", the blond elf continues then, somewhat more calmly. "And I was", he says. "But there was more too. There was still so much... need. More than I had ever realized I felt before. It should not have surprised me so, but it did. Back then you were the only one who ever touched me with any kind of... tender... of something that even remotely resembled friendliness." Jaellien looks as if he had to force out the last word. "I was never quite aware at the time of how dependent on you that made me, how much I hoped and waited for those fleeting moments. But I am aware now and then, when I saw you again, all I could think about was how it would feel to touch you now and I couldn't stop and that made me furious. It still does!"
Jaellien suddenly gets up and starts moving around, pacing back and forth through the kitchen when his emotions become too violent to be contained any longer. Tos'un watches him like one would watch a dangerous animal that has suddenly appeared in ones bedroom without warning. He is only now starting to see how little this actually has to do with him and how of it much stems from Jaellien himself.
"It drives me mad!" the mage hisses angrily. "I do not want to need you! In any way. And yet, since the day I have set eyes on you again you have crept into my thoughts like a stubborn weed and refuse to be gone!"
He whirls around, grabbing Tos'un by the collar as he did two months ago in the woods. The drow is too surprised by the lightning fast attack to evade him properly as he is dragged off his chair by the taller mage.
"I thought that you would probably feel differently", Jaellien hisses softly, the tip of his nose almost touching Tos'un's, who can only stare at him in speechless paralysis barely able to properly process what he is hearing. "I thought that you hated me for the way I treated you back there in the woods. That you wanted nothing to do with me. I had almost convinced myself that I should feel sorry for what I did to you, but then Sinnafein comes here today and tells me that you enjoyed it. Damn you!"
He pushes Tos'un away so violently that the slender drow collides with the wall before he can regain any kind of balance. By now Tos'un has realized though that he will achieve nothing by reasoning with the other. Jaellien's problems arise mostly from his own mind, something which Tos'un presently has no control over. To try and argue reasonably is clearly futile, so he simply lets go of all restraint and releases his own anger by kicking out high at the mage, hitting him in the chest, relieved in the certainty that at least this will not make everything worse. Jaellien clearly has not seen the attack coming and stumbles back with a pained cry of surprise. He starts to laugh soon after though. A short, high pitched giggle, which sends a cold shiver along Tos'un's spine. The feeling of being trapped is growing more acute with every passing second, which only makes him more angry.
"At least now I know that even though you might still lust after me, you seem to hate it just as much as I do", Jaellien says with a strange tone of satisfaction laced with the ever present anger. "You would like all those things to stay quietly in the past, where they belong, don't you? So you won't have to deal with them anymore. And you don't want to be here, to be confronted by it all, because it doesn't fit into the neat little world you have built for yourself. Well I can tell you now, that's not going to work!"
He is uncomfortably close to the truth with that.
"And you are happy about that? Well, good for you, light take you then!" Tos'un spits at him furiously, falling back on his native curses without even noticing it. "I will admit that I have wronged you, but don't think you can make me into a scapegoat for your own damned desires! Whip me, punish me, I don't care. If you demand it I will submit to it. Who knows I might even really find some enjoyment in that. You certainly will, but you do not get to blame me afterwards! Whatever you do now, it is entirely your own choice. I am not making you do anything. This is not even really about me, but about the warped feelings and fixations that exist only in your own head."
They stare at each other, both panting with fury now.
"You want me to whip you? Very well then!" Jaellien hisses, apparently dismissing most of what has just been said to him and executes a complicated movement with his hand that has Tos'un tense in expectation of another attack, but when he next sees the whip appear in the mages hands he understands what the other intended.
"Fine!" he spits.
The unexpected voice from the side has them both snap around simultaneously. Only now do they remember Laylien who is standing next to the table, still watching attentively.
"If you use that one on him now, you will most certainly kill him", the slight elf says with almost uncaring calmness, pointing at the whip. "Choose something else."
He is probably right, Tos'un decides after he takes a moment to really look at the instrument of torture Jaellien is still holding. He has already seen too many slaves in his hometown who died after being inexpertly whipped. He even killed a few himself while being taught how to wield a weapon like that. Therefore he is inwardly quite relieved when Jaellien throws the first whip at Laylien with a wordless growl and simply conjures another one, lighter and shorter this time, but with some barbed tips that will definitely hurt like all nine hells. Tos'un is just furious enough not to care about that. He is no stranger to pain.
Somehow he is not surprised when Jaellien merely leads him to a door opposite the kitchen, that has previously been hidden behind a curtain. Here he finds another room with a small cupboard and two simple chains, with cuffs hanging from the ceiling. They are even padded. Enough that they will not injure his wrists for all the good that will do him. Tos'un simply goes to stand underneath them and does nothing further, deciding that if Jaellien wants to play this game then they may just as well do it properly. Let us see if he still hates touching me so, the drow thinks darkly and gives Jaellien an openly challenging look, but he receives only an arrogant smile from the blonde.
"Laylien", Jaellien says silkily to the elf standing unobtrusively behind him. "I would ask you to assist me, please."
"My pleasure", the boy murmurs and promptly passes him to step behind Tos'un.
"You know, this is turning out to be rather more enjoyable than I had anticipated", he says and runs an appreciative hand along the drow's back as he lifts the shirt. Tos'un turns his head and glares, but he can't hide the way the small hairs on his neck suddenly stand on end at the touch. Laylien is unimpressed in any case. He abandons Tos'un's back and takes hold of his wrists instead to pull them up over his head in order to fasten the chains. He has to stretch himself quite a bit to do that, which is unusual, because he is even smaller than the drow, whose people are generally not as tall as their surface dwelling cousins.
"I've already been standing where you are now", he informs Tos'un softly, leaning against the drow's back with a warm, almost comforting weight, "and it was an interesting experience, but watching you will also be interesting I think."
The drow regards him warily out of the corner of his eyes, thinking that nobody who looks this harmless should have such an evil smile.
"Good for you", he mutters mostly to himself.
"If you are beginning to have doubts now, then I regret to inform you that it is entirely too late to do anything about them", Laylien only says dryly in answer and pulls out a sharp, slender blade which he uses to cut off Tos'un's shirt and other garments with efficient, practiced movements. The effect is mostly lost on the drow, whose thoughts are occupied by other things.
Laylien is considerate enough to tie up Tos'un's hair too, even though he also uses the opportunity to trace his fingertips languidly along the dark, pointed ears he reveals when he does that. Tos'un watches Jaellien watch them with an intense look and shivers. The blonde is leaning against a wall, cradling the whip in the crook of one arm. Now that the heat of his anger is fading more and more Tos'un is slowly starting to wonder whether he might not have been a bit rash in agreeing to this. But as Laylien has just informed him it is much too late now to get out of it.
Jaellien is obviously serious in his intent, because he wastes no time in playing around. As soon as Laylien is finished with his task of removing any thread of clothing and steps back out of Tos'un's sight he walks up behind the cuffed drow and promptly delivers the first stroke without prior warning. He does not speak and the suddenness of it all leaves Tos'un stumbling, gasping helplessly. Jaellien does not stop to give him time to recover though and the second time he feels the barbed tips digging in his back the drow is no better prepared than the first. He finds time to be fleetingly glad between the rapid succession of increasingly painful strokes which follow, that Laylien has intervened on the choice of that whip, because the way this is going he really would have been dead quite soon.
Tos'un slowly starts to lose all sense of time while he takes the truly vicious beating. There is no talk but he knows he is screaming, even though he can't quite remember when he might have started. Screaming does not stop the harsh strokes. Neither does begging in any of the languages he tries and Tos'un tries quite a few until he can no longer remember the words. And still it does not stop. When everything besides the pain seems to have no meaning any more and he has long forgotten how to stand on his own feet, Tos'un is quite surprised to notice somebody stepping up to him. He can't really discern whose face he is seeing, because the tears in his eyes make everything blurry, but he thinks it must be Jaellien.
The other runs soft fingertips down his face, a sensation Tos'un can only feel in a strangely muted fashion, because the hot, screaming fire on his back distracts him too much. There really is no place for thought in his head right now, so he does not wonder about the lips descending on his own. His reaction to that is purely instinct as he obediently opens his mouth. When he feels the fingernails scratching down harshly through the mess that currently makes up his back he jolts and tries to scream again, but his aching throat is too dry and produces nothing but a hoarse whimper that gets caught in the other's mouth. He is quite thankful to be able to let himself fall into a welcoming darkness.
When he wakes again the pain is almost bearable. Someone must have fed him a healing potion Tos'un surmises hazily. He can feel soft linens beneath his cheek and chest, because he is lying on his stomach. Nothing feels sticky so someone must have cleaned him up too. A quick mental inventory tells him that all pain is mostly centered on his back, so he probably remembers correctly when he thinks that Jaellien did not do anything else to him after that horrible whipping. At least he hopes so. What he has just experienced rivals even the worst of what he has ever had to endure under any priestesses whip. A slight tremor passes through his body as Tos'un remembers that seemingly unending, eternal pain. The thirst he also feels is almost an afterthought to everything else.
"Ah, awake again I see", says a voice somewhere above his head. It sounds like Laylien.
"Hm", Tos'un makes indistinctly, which is all the effort he currently wants to put into any conversation. It looks like it is not up to him to decide that though.
"Do you want some advice?"
Even to open his eyes feels like too much of an effort. He hopes the healing potion will soon take care of that for he can still sense it working through his body, mending the damage Jaellien has wrought.
"Do convince your wife that there is nothing to gain by another such meeting between the two of you. I will not always be there to save your life. And you must know as well as I do, that even with what I did he came damn close to killing you anyway. To offer yourself up like that was extremely stupid."
As if Tos'un doesn't know that. At the sound of a door being opened he instinctively, convulsively grips the soft fabric he can still feel under his fingers. It is not a conscious reaction, but it tells him very clearly that he will bear scars from this and not only those on his body.
"He is awake?"
"Yes", Laylien says evenly but then adds more waspishly: "Not thanks to you though."
"I already said I'm sorry."
An angry sniff follows.
"I do not care in the slightest whether you are sorry or not", Laylien retorts sharply, with more authority than Tos'un would have thought possible coming from someone so young. "I have to tell you though that it is neither healthy nor smart to fixate on your anger so much that you would kill him without even realizing it properly. Had I not stepped in you would have done exactly that, as you very well know!"
Tos'un cannot remember much towards the end, but it sounds like Laylien has saved his life. He does not quite know how he should feel about that.
"I'm sorry!" Jaellien repeats more insistently. "I never intended to go so far."
"If you cannot control yourself then you should not wield a whip! It's that simple."
Tos'un listens to the soft rustling of fabric as the slight elf gets up from where he had been sitting next to the bed.
"Can I at least trust you to keep him alive until morning so we can get him back to his wife in one piece?"
"Yes", comes the short and sullen reply from Jaellien.
"Good", Laylien says just as shortly. "I will see you in the morning then."
And just like that he is going. Tos'un cannot help the wave of instant panic he feels when he hears the door close behind the boy, leaving him with only Jaellien in the room. He listens intently to the light steps as they move further away from him, to how they inevitably reach the main door and then to that door closing. He feels cold despite the blanket which has been draped over his body.
"Are you thirsty?"
Tos'un does not quite know how he should answer this question. On one hand he is certainly thirsty, but on the other hand he does not expect Jaellien to actually give him something to drink should he admit to it. When he does not answer for too long the mage draws his own conclusions anyway.
"So you are thirsty", he says. "Do you still remember how you used to make me beg for scraps from the table?"
Although he has expected something like this Tos'un feels an almost unbearable exhaustion descending on him at the last sentence. He closes his eyes and turns his face down into the bedsheets wondering if he really deserves this. The sound of a glass being put down on the nightstand next to him is enough to startle Tos'un into looking up. Warily he regards Jaellien who is standing next to the bed, arms crossed in front of his chest.
"Drink", the blonde says. His tone is surprisingly neutral.
For a moment Tos'un hesitates, wondering if the water might be drugged, but then he decides that if Jaellien wants to drug him the mage could just as well go ahead and simply force something down his throat. He is too weak to resist right now so it would not make a difference in the end. Tos'un sits up a little, his whole body vehemently protesting the movement, and drinks. The water soothes his sore throat wonderfully and not only that, from the slight increase in strength he feels with every swallow Tos'un suspects that the water has indeed been laced with something, just not in the way he feared.
When Jaellien only takes the glass from him with a dark look Tos'un just barely contains his flinch, an automatic reaction he has learned to control since he was a child, but has never managed to suppress entirely. He had almost thought he had banished it forever during the last few decades, but it seems the whipping has brought out old reactions in him. It is not even fully dusk yet, he thinks as he watches the window out of the corner of his eye. This is going to be a long night.
"I really did not mean to kill you", the mage says.
"Well, and apparently you didn't."
Even though you did give it a very good try, Tos'un thinks and knows the other will be able to read his thoughts from the way his lips are thinning when he says it. He has been stupid to agree to any of this, Laylien was right about that. While he would do a great many things to make his wife happy, Tos'un is very much sure that she would never demand that he actually die over something like this. Unfortunately what he has just gone through does not necessarily mean he will be free of the other in the future. He has promised repayment after all. And he knows that he has much to answer for.
"I think I understand now how you feel though", Jaellien says and suddenly Tos'un's blood runs cold. "I do not regret it, although I know it was wrong, just like you will never regret what you did to me, even though you are aware now of how wrong it was."
What can one say to that, Tos'un wonders, startled to find that it might actually be true. He merely watches Jaellien stare down at him for a while trying to determine what it might mean for him.
"I did try", Tos'un says. "And I would act differently today. But I think those years are too far back in the past for me to change the way I feel about them. Apparently you cannot quite do it either, since you seem still... angry", he finally concludes.
"Not as much now", Jaellien answers thoughtfully and the drow wonders if his apparent calm is real or merely a thin veneer. "Maybe your people are right when they say that revenge is a dish which is best served cold."
Jaellien slowly draws a single finger along the bared upper part of his back when he says this and Tos'un knows that while he could certainly go and accuse the blonde publicly of trying to kill him, that he even has the scars to prove it, Jaellien could counter that claim with his own scars and with an infinite number of tales full of cruelty which would eventually wear down even the best intentions into nothing. The mage could do it without having to tell even a single lie. Doum'wielle would be devastated. She would never trust him again.
Because he knows all this Tos'un does not make a sound when Jaellien pulls the blanket away from his shoulders and throws it to the side. He quickly turns around and lies on his still raw back even though it hurts, so he will at least see what is going to happen.
"I hate that I would still want to touch you even after all these years, after everything you did to me", Jaellien informs him as he sheds his robe with one quick movement and crawls onto the bed until he kneels over the drow. On his face is a strange mix of that steady rage Tos'un already knows and of the need Jaellien himself abhors so much. This is not very surprising in the light of what he has discovered today, but Tos'un wishes nonetheless it would not have happened, because there is one thing he does feel guilty about and that is the fact, that, even though he has tried, he has still not managed to banish his lingering feelings of lust and excitement when it comes to Jaellien. If he had had a choice about it he would not have touched him ever again for Sinnafein's sake, but it looks as if the choice has just been taken from him.
"Please don't. Not this", he says softly and stares up into Jaellien's face, already knowing from the look in those shadowed green eyes that it will not change anything.
"You know I will do it. I thought I wasn't going to, but it seems I just can't help myself", the mage answers, watching how Tos'un can only swallow helplessly. "And you will not protest further, because you want it too."
"But I shouldn't."
"That is of no consequence to me."
"Neither should you."
"Then I will have my own guilty conscience to deal with in regards to your wife, but that does not concern you and neither does it change the fact that you owe me this. You owe me compliance. For you there is no choice."
Jaellien's fingertips trace Tos'un's lips almost tenderly before they begin to wander all over his face and the drow dimly remembers feeling something like this from earlier today although the moment is hazy, mostly buried under unbearable pain. He quickly forces his thoughts away from that. Do not flinch. Never show how much it affects you. Concentrate on the touch, the here and now.
"I even still know where to touch you to make you arch your back just like that, how to suck on your skin just right until you moan."
Clever lips wander along his sensitive neck as they whisper these words and Tos'un remembers too. He breathes deeply, trying to decide if that is why his body responds so eagerly to a touch it has not felt for such a long time. He has not expected that it would be so easy to ignore all the years that have passed, to ignore the last few hours, but as he bends his head backwards to give more access he finds that he can momentarily bury the present and all that it contains under pure sensation. It is probably better not to think about it in any case. Tos'un used to have a lot of practice in ignoring such things, although he has not needed to do it in a long time. Just force it all away and forget for a few hours until it is safe to remember again.
He gasps and moans as he is touched in all the right places with sure unerring hands, sneaking tendrils of insidious pleasure mingling with the pain from his back and when he finally moves his own hands to push his fingers into blond hair it is almost as if no time has passed at all. When he grips Jaelliens head and pulls him up into a kiss the other complies eagerly and without hesitation, like he has always done.
"I hate that you can still make me want this so much."
Tos'un feels the lips moving agains his own.
"I'm not sorry", he whispers.