Done Only in the Mud
Forgive me, ashke.
But there was laughter deep in 'Lendel's eyes, sparkling as it caught some sunlight stored within him. Above, stormclouds had gathered ominously, and had broken down upon them soon after, thus bathing the world in a damp, unpleasant gray.
Beneath their feet, mud squelched, sucking and gulping at their boots. Rain had plastered Van's dark hair to his pale face, but he managed to make even that look lovely. His deep eyes were cold but 'Lendel knew all too well what lay beneath, and welcomed it, searched for it, let it warm his heart as the wind whipped them chill.
Forgive me, love.
"Say that again," 'Lendel said, his voice as brittle and chill as ice, "to my face, if you've got the courage."
A crowd had gathered around them, each eager idiot on the balls of his or her feet as each body leaned forward. They kept moving closer, and Tylendel realized almost too late that he needed to do something about keeping them at bay while satisfying every last one with each bitter exchange of words.
"No one calls me a coward," Vanyel said, drawing himself up to his full height, impressive in the sunless afternoon. "Filth," he added impulsively, spitting out the word with as much revulsion as could be mustered. 'Lendel wondered how much it would have hurt, were the words truly meant.
"Not to your face, that is," 'Lendel spit back, lip curling in challenge, "coward." There was a silence, breathless, that could be heard through the rain as it hung upon the lips of their spectators.
Forgive me, 'Lendel.
"Pervert," Van tossed back. The crowd waited with bated breath, moving closer.
Sorry, 'Lendel said with his warm eyes, and the look was for Vanyel alone to see. After he had noted the return nod, barely perceptible, unless you were expecting it, 'Lendel let out a soft snarl of rage and launched himself forward, aiming for that pretty pale throat as if he wanted to rip it apart with his bare hands.
The crowd gasped in unison, pressing closer, locking them in, perhaps inadvertently keeping them trapped, and perhaps not. One single person was perhaps never so malicious or cruel as he was when caught up in a crowd, which always and quickly became a mob before the blink of an eye.
An elbow hit Van suddenly in the stomach, causing the breath to gust from his lips in a shocked 'ooph.' A moment later he felt his knuckles connect hard with the corner of 'Lendel's mouth and he winced.
The rain came down harder. The mud was slick beneath his feet. Against his throat, 'Lendel's hands were far from tight; rather, they were oddly gentle, like a lover's caress. As if 'Lendel would ever hurt him -- the fools watching didn't know what they were seeing, and Van preferred to keep them in the dark that way. Knowing how blind they were almost made Vanyel laugh, but he forced the amusement down by concentrating on the outraged pain in his stomach and the need for this ruse to work.
Vanyel lost his footing and went down, Tylendel brought down moments later atop him. The mud belched out its laughter around them as they thudded into the giving ground. All the air left Van's body in a whooshing gasp, and for a moment his vision went bright and starry with shock. Neither of them could afford to search the other for any hurt inflicted by the fall. Van heard with a grimace the sound of his shirt ripping and was glad he'd worn one he wasn't too attached to, as the mud seeped into the fabric and 'Lendel's sudden movement tore it at a delicate seam.
I owe you one, ashke. Lord and lady, if he doesn't manage to look beautiful even now...
Even when he was pinned down into the mud, trying not to shiver with cold, trying his best to keep a look of smoldering hatred in his eyes.
'Lendel made a sound he hoped was one of outraged fury and tore out again, this time purposely ripping open an entire seam and destroying one mother of pearl button by ripping it off and losing it the mud. Van grappled with him, revolting, lifting a hand to 'Lendel's soaked curls in what seemed to be a rough ripping at hair but what was in actuality the softest and fondest of touches. 'Lendel shivered, allowing his guard to lower, his muscles to relax. With a soft, bird-like cry of triumph Vanyel flipped their positions, so that Tylendel was the one beneath and half-submerged in the mud. Dark blue eyes sparkled down victoriously into golden brown. 'Lendel shook his head in disbelief -- it took all he had in him not to break out into a wide smile.
Why you little...! Have to one up me, of course, in front of your loyal followers. Well, see if I let that off easily!
Again, Tylendel 'hit' where it would hurt most, grasping out and tearing the sleeve of Van's silk shirt half off. His eyes sparkled mischievously, laced with deep laughter he could not let out. Van's blue eyes widened and then narrowed, but the annoyance in them was half-hearted and childishly petulant only.
They tussled a bit more, exchanging vehement curses. In the midst of the tumbling, limbs caught up in limbs as if it were not a fight but rather the act of making love itself, 'Lendel felt his elbow connect with Vanyel's mouth and jaw, and again with the corner of his eye. Twisting together, he felt it also as Vanyel's ankle twisted against 'Lendel's own calf and was crushed into an unforgiving rock. The hiss of pain from his lover's lips was all Tylendel needed to hear to want to call the whole thing off, wrap that shivering body into his arms and take him away from the rain and the mud and the fight.
Vanyel's hand, slamming into his cheekbone, was what kept him from such further thoughts.
Forgive me, ashke.
He could feel the onlookers crowd around them, a laughing, puppyish excitement swelling up in his own belly, and the cold of the rain, the clinging of mud to his skin and clothes, was forgotten completely as he switched their positions for the umpteenth time, landing squarely atop Vanyel's hips, looking down into the delicate features of his lover's perfect face.
"Forfeit!" he cried out challengingly, the rain half-swallowing his shout into the dank, depressing air.
"Never," Van snarled in return, quite a convincing actor, and dragged him back down into the mud. Friction between their hips, now, glorious and unexpected, causing 'Lendel to lose his own breath for a moment of glorious sightlessness. There was rainwater in his eyes and fortunately it was cooling his heated, sweat-burned skin before he could flush too deeply, and ruin the purpose of their performance. They tussled for a while longer, the buttons of 'Lendel's own shirt lost forever to the mud, and he wondered from the brightness in Van's eyes whether or not he knew of the bemused pleasure that was making its way into his system.
After all, why not mix business with pleasure, ashke?
"Now who's to forfeit?" Van dared his lover and supposed opponent, now beneath him, as the tables had turned yet again and he was now on top of 'Lendel, legs planted firmly on both sides of his hips.
"Don't think it," 'Lendel scoffed, grabbing Vanyel by the wrists and pinning him down.
If only there was a way to kiss you, now.
"What you doing?" Van hissed softly.
"Making it safe to do this," 'Lendel explained, and he pulled Van down into a tussel that involved the chuckle of mud against their wet skin and the meeting of their lips. From the outside, it seemed as if the fight had only grown more intense; from the inside, it was what 'Lendel had been craving for the entirety of the fight, something to which Van would never in his right mind protest. They kissed hastily, a little sloppily, lips meeting and parting, tasting salty, of the rain that pounded down around them.
"Good idea," Van praised as he came up for air, right before he fell back to the mud and dragged 'Lendel atop him.
"Well," 'Lendel said cheerfully, "I thought so, anyway."
It grew easier now, despite the throbbing of Van's eye and ankle and the pounding behind 'Lendel's temple, the swelling of flesh over his cheekbone.
We fooled them, love. You and I.
He was always the sort of child who liked to play in the mud. Now was no exception; another layer added to his enjoyment of a good, old-fashioned rainy day.
It was only inevitable that once it really got good, it was put to an end. In the middle of a particularly involved kiss, 'Lendel exploring that mouth he knew so well with all the passion he had in him, that voice cut through the rain with enough force to cut through your average mountain, and then some.
Naturally, they scrambled off each other, but not before a promising look passed between them.
This is far from over, ashke, 'Lendel said with his eyes.
I can hardly wait to fight again, Vanyel replied, and then Savil was upon them with a stormy vengeance, and their future muddy plans were forgotten with the pounding of the rain.
But not for long.