Author's Note: Well, this one's a lot less heavy than my other fics: just a silly little bit of humor and fluff. In this version, all the characters survived and ended up getting to know each other. This is the big celebration at Merentha after Andrys was invested as Neocount. No points for guessing the main pairing.
Warnings: Slash and femslash. Not a lot of Ciani/Hesseth fics out there (actually, only one other that I'm aware of) but I think they fit nicely together.
Disclaimer: If I owned the Coldfire Trilogy, all slash fans would be happy, because they'd be Damien and Gerald Vryce-Tarrant by now. Clearly, I do not own the Coldfire Trilogy.
The warm summer air was alive with laughter and music as the celebrations started. All Merentha and most of the northeast was present, for this was the greatest happening in a century: Andrys Tarrant, last of the living Tarrant line, had just been crowned Neocount of Merentha. Only a handful of those present, though, knew that the first Neocount was also there - under the pretense of being a distant cousin, of course.
Andrys, his new wife Narilka, the Loremaster Ciani, the rakh-woman Hesseth sa-Restrath, and the sorcerer Senzei Reese were standing in a group near the ballroom door, watching the guests file in and enjoying the time-honored art of people-watching. Best of all was the delight of seeing who was coupled with who: Ciani and Hesseth were there as a couple, but poor Senzei had been forced to go stag. Ciani laughed as she watched a gaudily dressed young couple drift by, utterly absorbed in each other.
"Ah, young love." she giggled, slipping her hand into Hesseth's and leaning against the rakh's shoulder happily. "I wonder if Damien has a date or if he'll show up solo?"
"He probably found some charming young barmaid and sweet-talked her into coming." Hesseth said, grinning. They all knew Damien's habit of attracting waitresses and barmaids like moths to a flame.
"What I want to know is if you-know-who found someone to bring." Senzei murmured, keeping his voice low. He still couldn't bring himself to use the Hunter's name: Ciani still called him Gerald, Hesseth would always address him as Tarrant, and no one was quite sure what Damien called him. The two men still seemed to hate each other, but every once in a while Damien slipped and seemed almost... affectionate. It was a mystery that the group of friends had yet to solve.
Narilka giggled. "Are you kidding? He could have the Queen herself if he wanted her. I mean, really, who could say no to him?"
"Hey!" Andrys said with a laugh, curling an arm around her slender waist. "We aren't even on the honeymoon yet, and you're already fantasizing about other men? That's really not good."
Hesseth smiled. "Technically, my friend, the Hunter predates you in Lady Narilka's acquaintance."
Andrys grimaced. "Please, don't remind me. I can't shake the suspicion she only likes me because I look like him." The light in his green eyes, though, gave away the joke. Narilka laughed.
"More like you have the advantage of not only being gorgeous, but human as well." she said, nestling happily into his arms. Ciani wrinkled her nose.
"Damien better get here soon - I don't think I can't take much more of these newlywed lovebirds." she fake-whispered to Hesseth, prompting laughter all around.
In the midst of their merriment, Karril appeared with a faint popping noise directly in the middle of them. He was grinning from ear to ear, in a way that fairly screamed mischief. "Hey, you lot. I'm guessing, from the fact that you aren't freaking out, that you didn't see who just walked in?"
Puzzled as to the Iezu's meaning, they turned as one - and Ciani actually shrieked before clapping a hand across her own mouth, Narilka burst into giggles and Senzei made a strangled choking noise.
Damien had finally arrived, all right. There was no pretty barmaid on his arm, though: it was Gerald Tarrant, in the flesh, wearing his full Revivalist-styled ensemble of silk and velvet and looking like the cat that got into the cream. Instead of his customary deep blue he was wearing a mixture of black and scarlet tonight, with a king's ransom in gold worked in as embroidery and a beaten-gold collar that kept his sleek black cape fastened on his shoulders. Damien was wearing a white tunic edged in gold thread, with matching trousers: Church colors, but also an excellent complementary contrast with Gerald's outfit. That alone would have given away that they were there together, but just to eliminate any possible doubts, Gerald actually had his hand resting formally on Damien's arm.
"Good God!" Andrys spluttered, eyes huge. Karril burst out laughing at the looks on their faces.
"Oh, I wish you could see yourselves: you look like you've all been slapped silly." the Iezu chortled. "Gerald will be delighted to know that he managed to render you all temporarily speechless. He insisted on making a grand entrance, you know."
Before the Iezu could continue tormenting the stunned friends, Damien and Gerald emerged from the crowd and joined them. Damien was grinning nearly as widely as Karril. "Beat it, you, I think you've spooked them enough."
"That's entirely on you, my friends: I was merely a facilitator." Karril said, but he disappeared anyway. Damien turned to the others. "Well? No one's got anything to say?"
"I think my planning was a success." Gerald said rather smugly, prompting Damien to shake his head in amusement.
"So... you two are - a couple?" Ciani said weakly.
"Yes." Damien and Gerald said in the same breath, before exchanging amused glances. Narilka's face lit up.
"Ooh, you're already talking in synch? This can't be new - how long have you been together?"
Senzei groaned and clapped a hand to his forehead. "I don't think I want to know."
"Since the trip across the Eastern Continent." Gerald said rather smugly, smirking openly now. There were noises of shock from Ciani, Hesseth, and Senzei.
"That long?" Hesseth said, her golden eyes thoughtful. "I'm surprised. I should have seen that - although I did think something was off about your reaction when Tarrant supposedly betrayed us, Damien. You were just a little too crushed: I had half been expecting a knife in the back, but you were taken completely off guard. I guess this explains why."
Andrys was white with horror. "Am I the only one finding this terribly disturbing? Vryce, you're a priest - and you! You're, what, a thousand years older than him? Are you all planning on just ignoring that?"
"Yes." Narilka told him firmly, before turning back to the priest and adept. "I'd say its about damn time you stopped trying to pretend you hate each other - you may have fooled these poor folks, but I saw right through you. Besides, you make an adorable couple." With that pronouncement, Narilka drifted off to greet some more of the guests, dragging a shell-shocked Andrys behind her.
Damien looked rather bemused. "Did she really just say we make an adorable couple?"
"Yes, she did." Gerald said thoughtfully. Senzei shook his head.
"I need a drink." he announced to no one in particular, and headed for the refreshment table. Having recovered from her shock, Ciani was beaming at the newly announced couple.
"This is wonderful! I had no idea, of course, but you two are just perfect for each other! Wh-" Hesseth cut the chattering adept short, her eyes sparkling as she asked in a tone of false innocence, "So when are you two getting married?"
The rakh wasn't an idiot: it was the oldest test in the book. Throw out the 'big question' and see how the couple reacts. Without missing a beat, Gerald drawled, "Six months."
"Gerald!" Damien swatted his arm affectionately. "We haven't set the date yet." he said to the two women: Ciani nearly choked.
"You mean you actually are getting married?"
Karril chose that moment to make himself visible again, grinning like a madman. "Not only are they getting married, this soft-hearted fool of a priest is planning on adopting that poor little adept from the Eastern Continent!"
Ciani went white as a sheet. "Gerald Tarrant raising a child?" she spluttered. "Hesseth, it's official! The world's gone mad!"
"While we're busy making announcements, let's not forget Karril here." Gerald said with a wicked smile. "He's planning on marrying Saris. Have you ever seen a Iezu wedding?"
Hesseth shot the Hunter a rather dirty look as Ciani passed out cold. Damien laughed and wrapped an arm around Gerald's shoulders. "I think it's a good thing we waited to tell them everything, love. I'm sure they would have tried to talk us out of this - and really, I can't imagine the disaster this business could have turned into if we hadn't been in love."
Anyone recognize my description of Gerald's outfit? In case not, it's what he's wearing on the cover of Black Sun Rising. I love that illustration, but I noticed that in the book itself he's always wearing some combination of dark blue and black - no red to speak of. I thought it was about time that got mentioned.