Author's Note: Just a few days ago I noticed a pattern in my writing. I seem to have been unconsciously writing a series of fics using every trite, overused romantic fanfiction cliché. Now that I've discovered this pattern... I'm consciously writing a series of fics using every trite, overused romantic fanfiction cliché. Hence the existence of this little piece.
Warnings: Slash, Damien's foul mouth, the usual culprits. Erm... does sappy romantic stuff require a warning?
Disclaimer: Nope, I still don't own the Coldfire Trilogy. Believe me, if I did, there would be some changes in the canon. For one thing, that spineless worm Andrys that spent his life disgracing the name of Tarrant? Two words. Wolf chow.
Since my birthday's in three days, this is my present to myself. Happy birthday, me. Enjoy.
For the most part, Gerald Tarrant had figured out everything important about Damien Vryce. He'd been poking around in the priest's head long enough that he knew what made him tick, and he certainly knew what triggered his impressive temper. There was just one thing he couldn't figure out, one thing that didn't fit with the rest of his profile of the priest.
Damien Vryce kept a diary.
Oh, yes, he called it a journal. As fond of semantics as Gerald usually was, he didn't particularly care about this specific differentiation. Whatever you chose to call it, it was a small leatherbound book that Damien spent a truly remarkable amount of time writing in every few evenings. Gerald couldn't for the life of him figure out what prompted this, as Damien hardly seemed the overtly literate type. When he inquired, Damien had told him that it was a habit he'd picked up as a kid, and followed that with instructions to keep his 'vulking nose out of my business'. Naturally, Gerald was intrigued.
If there was one aspect of Damien he hadn't known about, then there might be others. And if there were others, it was Gerald's duty as an inquiring mind to find out. Or so he told himself the evening that he surreptitiously obtained the book from amongst Damien's belongings.
They were on their way back to Jaggonath after defeating Calesta at Mount Shaitan. Gerald's curiosity had only been intensified by his resumption of mortal life, and so he waited until the priest had gone out to obtain provisions and pilfered the diary from his pack. He then settled himself in on the couch in front of the fireplace of the suite they were sharing, did his best to silence his irritatingly revived conscience, and started reading.
I don't know why I still bother with these things, they just keep ending up on riverbeds or under landslides or God knows where else. Habit, I guess. Pretending there's someone out there who actually gives a damn about my life story.
Of course, now I've got that nosy bastard hanging around and poking his nose into EVERYTHING, so it's nice to be able to put my thoughts down on paper where he can't just suck them out of my head. Vulking adepts... I thought Cee was bad for reading my mind, he's actually inside my head. Mind you, it's not all bad. I can just imagine what he'd think of this, but - it's kind of reassuring to know that for once, I'm not trying to save the world on my own. It's nice knowing someone's got my back, even if that someone is an undead fallen Prophet. Beggars can't be choosers.
Gerald lifted his eyebrows, intrigued. He checked the date: the day before they left for the Eastern Continent. So even that early, Damien had been appreciative of Gerald's presence. That was remarkable. He skimmed over the next few entries, until the writing of one caught his eye: the letters were shakier, as though the priest had been unsettled.
They say there's no fool like an old fool, and right now I feel pretty damn old and one hell of a fool. I should have listened to Cee in the first place, I guess. She tried to warn me all the way back in the rakhlands - that if I didn't put some distance between myself and Gerald, it wasn't going to be pretty. I don't know if she saw this coming, but she probably did: she always could read me better than I read myself.
My nice little bubble of denial finally burst today. The ship was caught in one hell of a thunderstorm, and guess who saved us? That's right, Gerald. Came up on deck in broad daylight and just about got himself fried to a crisp, Worked the stormclouds and saved the whole lot of us. The crew realized that maybe he's not so bad after all. I realized something that hurts a hell of a lot more.
I think I'm in love with him.
I know it's crazy, but I can't help it. He's just... he's perfect, in so many ways. Not just physically, either. I mean, yes, he's gorgeous - damn, that sounds like I'm already head-over-heels. Which I'm not. I don't think. Yet.
Anyway, it's not just his looks. There's a lot to him, that I think most people don't get to see. He's smart - brilliant, really - and he actually does have a real sense of humor once you dig under all that sarcasm. He pretends he never feels anything, but... every once in a while the mask slips, and he'll say something supportive, or he'll get that look in his eyes like he wants to show compassion but he just can't remember how... maybe I'm just crazy. Maybe I'm imagining all those things because I want them to be there. But I could swear he's not as cold as he seems.
Gerald sat frozen in absolute shock, the book resting lightly in his hands, deceptively simple and innocent. Damien was in love with him? But then a chill gripped Gerald's heart: Damien had been in love with him at the start of their voyage across the Novatlantic. He had done so many heartless things since then... he might well have already lost that love without ever knowing it was there.
With dread in his heart Gerald paged ahead to the entry date he was looking for - the night he didn't return to camp on the Eastern Continent, the night Hesseth died... the night that he supposedly betrayed Damien to the Immortal Prince.
The page was rather wrinkled, and there were splotches on the paper that looked suspiciously like tear stains. His heart clenching with guilt, Gerald dropped his gaze to the hastily written scrawl.
Damn it all to hell. Why did it have to come to this? Gerald... I know why you did it, I can hardly blame you for that. You've made it ten centuries on your own, but if nothing else this quest has proven that you're not invincible. After so long sheltered in the Forest you must be desperate- but why this? Why betray us when we were so close?
Hesseth tried to warn me last night, just before those creatures came. She told me that I was only setting myself up for heartbreak, that I was a fool if I truly thought you could ever care... maybe she was right. I don't know. All I know is that even now, trapped in this miserable dungeon, I still can't stop myself from loving you. If you asked me to, I'd still forgive you, even for this.
I can't help but think I should have seen this coming, said something, done something... I just couldn't find the words. You're not alone, Gerald, you never had to fight this battle alone - but you don't see that. You said we couldn't win, but we could have. We could have made it together. But you've been alone so long, you can't even see that I'm here... and now I'll never get to say any of this, will I? I'll never be able to say I love you...
Gerald hardly realized he was crying, tears trailing down his cheeks as his heart bled with guilt and sorrow. He had known at the time that his seeming betrayal would hurt Damien, but this... he'd never imagined this kind of pain coming from the brave, almost indestructible Church knight. It was all the more poignant due to the change in style: this entry had been written like a letter, directly to Gerald, instead of in the third person. Yet despite all that, Damien still wouldn't give up on him...
The next entry was dated two days later.
That son of a bitch. I ought to kill him myself. He lied to me, the whole vulking time! Yes, I'm glad he didn't really betray us... but VULKING HELL! You'd think he could have let me in on the plan!
Okay. At least that's out of my system. I've been fighting that off for nearly two days now, because the last thing I needed was having my temper snap and saying that to his face. I do understand why he did it, it just... it hurts. Plain and simple. Who knew being in love could be so damn painful?
The rest of the entries continued in this vein, chronicling their journey back to their home continent and the race to stop Calesta and interspersed with declarations of love. Damien had confided everything in this little book - including the fact that his real problem with Gerald's fae-woven nightmares wasn't the sleep he was losing, but the fear that the Hunter would see the feelings Damien was harboring for him. Gerald could feel the love that had been poured into every word, and he was utterly baffled. How could he not have noticed this?
Certainly he'd thought Damien no longer hated him, and there had been a few times when the priest had looked at him oddly, and he'd wondered if that was desire in the knight's eyes... but he'd assumed that was his own wishful thinking, projecting his emotions onto Damien. As the Hunter, he had been forbidden any kind of relationship, but that hadn't stopped him from wishing things could be different. The sheer emotions that had filled him when he thought of Damien - he dimly remembered feelings like that associated with his wife, but somehow what he felt for Damien seemed so much more real than what he'd felt for Almea. Whether that was because of his sacrifice, or simply a product of time, Gerald had no idea. He did know, now, that it hadn't been his imagination: Damien really did have feelings for him, more than Gerald could ever have guessed.
The second-to-last entry was radically different from most, in its sheer desperation.
This is the final straw. Gerald just had to go and be all heroic and sacrifice himself to save the world - never mind that that would leave me with a broken heart and literally nothing left to live for - and somehow, he managed to wriggle out of actually dying yet again. I can't take this anymore.
I don't think he has a clue how I feel. I've thought about it over and over again, and if he knew he would have done something. Whether he would use it against me or return my feelings I still don't really know, but I pray for the latter. Still, he wouldn't just let it go without saying anything. He must not know what he's been doing to me this whole time. Traveling to Shaitan, knowing that he was going to sacrifice himself to stop Calesta... my duty as a priest urged me to encourage him, while everything else in me screamed that I had to stop him. Maybe if he knew, he'd stop breaking my heart over and over again. Or at least end it quickly.
I don't know how to tell him, though. I've never been all that good with words, at least not out loud: if I try to talk to him I'll freeze up. Bad enough with a woman, but Gerald makes it hard for me to think anyway: trying to tell him something like this... no, I have to find another way.
Which gives me an idea, actually... he was asking about this journal again yesterday. If I left to get supplies or something and left it behind, 'accidentally', I wonder how long it would take for him to 'accidentally' read it?
Gerald nearly dropped the journal in shock. Damien had meant for him to find this and read it? With a shaking hand, Gerald turned the page to the last entry.
Well, Gerald, if you're still reading then maybe I've got a chance after all. Or maybe I am just a fool, and you're having a good laugh right now at the poor stupid priest who was dumb enough to love you. Either way, with how fast you usually read, you've probably got about a half-hour till I get back. That's providing you didn't waste any time going for the journal. I doubt you'd be the type to dither, though, unlike me. I'll understand if you're not there when I get back. Just... please, know that I meant it. Every word.
Gerald stared at the curling, uncertain writing and felt the flutter in his stomach increase tenfold. Damien honestly believed that Gerald would slink out like a thief in the night, without even saying goodbye? Guilt stabbed through the adept like a hot knife. It was his own fault, really: he had tried his hardest to deny any and all emotion, he couldn't blame Damien for thinking he was really that cold.
Maybe he had seen it, after all. The glances, the little touches, those precious moments when he forgot that they had ever been enemies - perhaps he had simply refused to admit what he saw, out of fear of what could happen. Those emotions could have destroyed him when he was still the Hunter: only now, mortal once more, could Gerald admit the depth of his own feelings for Damien.
It was close to a miracle that after all the hell he'd put Damien through, the priest still loved him. Enough to risk the ridicule and rejection that he so feared. There was no way Gerald could run this time: he had his own confessions to make, and it was about time he worked up the nerve to tell Damien the truth.
When Damien finally returned, he found Gerald curled catlike on the couch, staring into the fire with startling intensity. Instinctively, Damien's eyes darted to his pack, still lying on the table where he'd left it.
The journal, however, was no longer resting on top.
Damien's heart lurched, then turned over. So, it was finally done - Gerald knew, now, time to face the music.
The Knight swallowed hard and moved into the room, shutting the door behind him. The sudden noise brought Gerald out of his reverie and he looked up at Damien, silver eyes bright but inscrutable. Damien couldn't hold his gaze long, but dropped his eyes to the floor as he said quietly, "I wasn't sure you'd still be here."
"I'm not a total coward." Gerald said, his voice equally soft. "I wouldn't just walk out like that, without even saying goodbye."
Damien's throat slammed close and he was forced to swallow just to continue breathing. His words came out rather strangled. "And are you planning on saying goodbye?"
"Not a chance in hell."
Damien was startled into looking up by the force of the answer. Gerald's eyes were blazing with silvery fire as he rose from the couch and moved to stand in front of Damien, gaze boring into him. "I must be completely blind not to have seen this sooner, Damien - but now that I know, there's no way in hell I'm letting you go."
Damien's breath caught in his throat, as he looked into Gerald's eyes and saw his own love reflected back at him. He leaned forward and kissed the adept, hard, pouring all the strength of his emotions into the contact. When they broke apart they stared into each others eyes again, reveling in the love that they found there.
Gerald smiled. "At least one of us was paying attention." he murmured affectionately, then drew Damien into another kiss.