"Welcome back, Sin."
"Yeah, thanks... You didn't have to wait though," The King of Sindria came into his bed chambers not by the door, but through the balcony, landing lightly on the cool marble tiles. Ja'far was waiting inside, standing with his usual stiff posture, despite being in just his night shirt.
"Well, someone had to make sure you came back," Ja'far replied, although they both knew it was far more likely Sinbad would fail to return on time due to an alcohol involved diversion rather than sustaining too much damage to pass through the transport barrier.
As Sin drew closer, there was the sharp, almost bitter smell of the barrier's magoi, still clinging to him and mixing with Focalor's aura. "I came straight back, as you can tell," Sin replied, although that was obvious, still clad in his Djinn equip.
Ja'far wrinkled his nose. His sense of smell wasn't as sharp as Masrur (that is to say, inhuman), but the barrier always had such a distinct odor. Sinbad laughed, dispelling the last traces of the foreign magoi before drawing the other suddenly against him without a word, smelling like the sea on the wind.
But it felt like being embraced by midday in the desert, the sheer force of Focalor's magoi leaking out into the air around Sin, making his skin run hot, among other things. He tried not to sneeze as a feather brushed beneath his nose. This form was unfamiliar to him- the few battles Sin had to do a complete equip ended quickly, and Sinbad always unequipped shortly after. Yet Ja'far couldn't find it in himself to ask why tonight was different.
"You should go to bed," Sin said, with eyes that didn't mean a single word of it. Ja'far wondered if this was how people accidentally set themselves on fire: by trying to see how close they could get to the heart of a flame- in this case, the meaning behind that hungry gaze.
"You're still holding onto me," he pointed out, "You're also still in your Djinn equip, I see."
"You like it?"
"I'm not sure what to think."
"This is the first time you've seen it up close, right?"
"That is correct."
"So why don't you take a nice, long look?"
"Are you flirting with me, Sin?"
"I'm very good at it, no?" He laughed, letting the other go with a little reluctance.
"I know exactly how good at it you are, I've seen you lay it on enough women for a lifetime," Ja'far said falling back easily into the role he had grown comfortable with over the years- confidant, supporter, disciplinarian, caretaker- basically all the things Sinbad had been for him growing up.
"Well I don't care for any of that right now," he replied with a bluntness that Ja'far felt was from another place, another source rooted in the heart of his King. Yet he made no comment, even as Sin shrugged off the Djinn equip in a cloud of heady smoke, a by-product of the excess magoi being consumed in the air. Midnight feathers fluttered on the tiles, but Sinbad was back to his normal self, or so Ja'far assumed. Incorrectly.
The worst part was that Sin was still warm, but unlike the unnatural heat of a Djinn's power, this was the warmth he remembered, the warmth from sharing heat in the northlands, of a hand holding his in the blindness of night- a warmth he'd almost forgotten. And when Sin's arms went around him, the dam broke, flooding every fiber of him with a desire he could have sworn he had burned to ashes.
Out of reflex he returned in kind, his fingers sliding along the ridges of his spine, a back unbroken even by the immense weight it bore. A back he had always admired. A man he had always-
It didn't even occur to him what was happening as Sin kissed him, without a trace of platonic affection between his lips. It didn't occur to him how strange it was to respond so eagerly either, only that it was like drowning in something he didn't mind losing his life in. The eyes that looked back into his were starving and instinctively he bared his throat.
It was a testament to the will power of a man who tamed seven Djinn that he managed to keep it (marginally) together. He traced the path of an artery with his mouth, relishing the almost inaudible gasp, and even as he met the crook of the neck, he wanted more.
Ja'far shivered as teeth grazed his collarbone and suddenly every inch of him felt too hot. He didn't remember what he said, only that in a moment he was on the richly embroidered covers of the bed, a hand trailing along his thigh as he himself became lost to the night.
Ja'far was already up when Sinbad opened his eyes, a slim outline in half dawn. He sat on the edge of the bed, arms stretched over his head, joints cracking as he shifted one side, then the other. Even in the low light, the previous evening was still visible in sprawling scratches and dark bruises, and that was just his back. Sinbad remained silent and still, unwilling to lose sight of a private moment.
After working out the kinks in his neck, Ja'far pulled his discarded nightshirt back on, standing gingerly. The pain was nothing he couldn't manage, nor worse than any field injury, but it was the strange barbs in his chest that worried him. The light of day always brought inevitable shadows.
"I'll see you later," he said quietly, aware from the start of eyes trained on him (an assassin's gift), and left almost soundlessly.
Sinbad stared at the damask canopy above his bed, unable to drift back to sleep, but equally reluctant to get up and face the world. He was unfamiliar with immobility and he disliked it. Yet, until he reached a conclusion over his behavior, Ja'far's reaction, and the consequences, he couldn't move forward. Life was scales and weights, and if he didn't balance them, it would fall to chaos.
Last night had been an anomaly in many ways. A new djinn equip, a new enemy, out in the open sky above the thrashing sea- it was his fault his mark got away and he had to return with frustration knotting in his chest. And it only got more tangled up when he saw Ja'far waiting for him, in a threadbare nightshirt that should have been replaced years ago, really, and he quickly lost the reins on rational behavior after that.
A tension headache pricked at his forehead as the room grew brighter with the day.
"Was that you?" he muttered darkly, but Focalor silently protested the base accusation, as that was simply a coward's answer. And a coward he was not.
Ja'far didn't see Sinbad until the end of the day, all the hours in between taken up by various meetings and appointments, which under normal circumstances were really his element, but for noted reasons he was unable to concentrate well.
This didn't escape the King's notice either, who managed to corner him after he had slipped from the records hall, long after everyone else had gone home.
"I need to talk to you."
"If it's about the other night-"
"It is, also let me go first- I just wanted to say, er, rather, apologize, if I pressured you into-"
Sinbad knew he could get an army to follow him to the death with a speech or lead any woman to his bed with his words, so it was actually really irritating to hear himself talk like a tongue tied teenager. The problem was that in all those other situations, he knew where he stood and where they stood. And he always thought he knew that about Ja'far as well, until this moment where he felt like he didn't have the faintest idea. Thankfully, the other looked only mildly perturbed at his lack of eloquence.
"Don't worry about it, Sin."
"But are you sure you're-"
Ja'far would never admit it, but he had been preparing for this conversation the minute he walked out of Sinbad's bedroom that morning. It was only a stroke of luck that Sinbad had decided to bring it up precisely when he decided what he was going to say about it.
"You are known to be a man of appetite," Ja'far said simply, pragmatic and calm and absolutely terrifying to Sinbad. "We can write it off as an indiscretion."
"An... indiscretion?" Sinbad couldn't help be wary- why was he being let off so easily? An indiscretion was a night of over drinking, it was flirting a little too much, or scarpering off with Sharrkan- not... whatever this was amiss, but Ja'far had blocked him off again, hiding behind shields of decorum and walls of propriety. And Sinbad had no hopes of winning that siege.
"Yes. Not to mention, I went willingly as well," he said, leaving no room for Sinbad to even ask why- that would truly lead to the breakdown of communication, he felt. "So, you don't have to worry about my welfare. You know me better than that."
He let Ja'far walk away, knowing he had lost this fight, but that left the rest of the war.
Ja'far didn't even realize he had drawn his own weapon the second he stepped into his own room, much less thrown it with enough force to embed it halfway in the stone wall.
"Damn you," he muttered, wrenching the blade out of the wall with a vicious pull. Knowing he had no right to curse the king, he did so anyway, quietly as he made more scores on the previously smooth surface of his room. At some point he turned the words on himself, shocked at his own childish evasion.
"Why couldn't you just deal with this like an adult," he fumed, winding the blood red cords around his arms again, clinging to the familiar ritual. But every time he played the recent conversation back in his head, he only saw it getting worse with every alternate simulation.
The only real question he wanted an answer to was why, but it terrified him to think he already knew the reason, and had said so to Sin already. The king was known to enjoy wine, women, and typical red blooded activities- it was not exactly a national secret. Ja'far decided it must have had something to do with the new equip, perhaps a residual inclination of Focalor- not that he could know for sure, all of the Djinn kept close counsel with only their chosen candidate. But it made enough sense to cling to his logic like the last piece of driftwood in the sea.
It could have been anything, but the bottom line remained that it meant nothing, and that was that. Suddenly, he felt overwhelmingly ashamed, and it was not because of the constellation of knife marks in the walls either.
A half a year slipped by without much notice as the unsaid stalemate between the two kept them from revisiting that night- but it also affected their cooperation on other fronts. Privately, each of the other generals politely inquired if anything was amiss, receiving only curt denials that anything was wrong.
Then an evening ringing with alarms arrived and everyone was roused out of bed to meet by the barrier glyph.
"I'll deal with it by myself," Sinbad announced, all eyes trained on the projection of a dark form that had broken through the defensive barrier of the island. Ja'far was relieved that his voice was not the only one heard in protest, although probably for slightly different reasons.
"We can all help to lure him away from the island," he said pedantically, seeking agreement from the other generals.
Sinbad ignored him. "Yamu, do you have any reports yet on the enemy capabilities?"
"Ah...Yes, we're just getting more information now, but given the way I can't get good focus on him means he's already a formidable opponent for any of us," she explained with good intentions, but playing right into the hands of their leader.
"Then set up the portal, I'm going through now."
The matter was settled thus, as each of his general's conceded to his decision. Sinbad did not meet Ja'far's gaze as he headed past him, straight through the light that burned with a bitter smell. While he justified his decision to go alone by the fact that he wasn't entirely sure of his abilities with the new equip and it might result in his subordinates getting caught in a crossfire, he knew it was selfishness in the end. Robbed of his chance to test Focalor half a year ago, he wanted to go all out. And afterwards, he'd swallow his pride and apologize properly to Ja'far. Going on like this was pointless.
Ja'far had made the arrangements as he saw fit after Sinbad had left and turned in unusually early that night. It turned out to be for naught when he was shaken in his own bed, almost slitting the throat of the king when he drew the blade under his pillow reflexively.
"Someone's paranoid," he replied, completely unperturbed by the steel under his chin.
"What are you doing here?"
"I came to reprimand you."
"Allowing unauthorized individuals into the Purple Leo tower," Sin said with such gravity that Ja'far almost missed what he meant. Somewhere along the way his plan had gone awry, which explained why Sin was here and not with the extremely expensive courtesan he had appointed and left in the king's chambers before he retired.
"Not your type?" he said sardonically, not appreciating having his dagger taken away and cast off into the darkness.
"No, you picked very well," Sinbad said, "I expected nothing less of you."
"You honor me," Ja'far replied, responding instinctively now, at once both grumpy he was woken up and bewildered at the present circumstances. "I'll accept my punishment in the morning."
"Now seems a good a time as any," Sin quipped, feeling a mix of elation and irritation. When he had come back to his room to find his bed occupied by a sleeping woman (who had absolutely flawless skinm mind you), he had been inexplicably offended, as it was apparent who's doing it was and why.
But that still didn't explain why he found his way into Ja'far's room after he sent the woman home, why his blood still sang long after he emerged from the full Djinn equip, why his wanting had long overwhelmed his anger.
"It's actually not though-" His words were promptly overruled by an insistent mouth and roaming, possessive hands. And it was working, stealing away the reserve of resistance he had reluctantly stored up between the nights he'd moan that name into his pillows with a hand between his legs. It wasn't fair to be so hugely disadvantaged, but then again, when has anything about their relationship been truly fair?
Things were clicking into place faster than Sinbad could process, but he was a man of instinct, and they were telling him that this was what he wanted. Who he wanted, more specifically, flushed and squirming beneath him, begging him for answers.
"Why are you here-"
"Because I want to," he offered simply. "But if you don't, then tell me to stop," Sin dared him, grinning wickedly against the pale curve of his neck. "And I will." The look he got in response was perfect, a blend of annoyance at being baited, and need for him- for this- for all of it.
He couldn't, and he hated himself a little for it. It was hardly patriotism or duty that drove him to wrap his legs around those smooth hips, or rut against him so desperately. It was an undiluted desire that ignited rather than smolder, as he realized it was all worth it. It would always be worth it.
Dimly, between the fire and the friction, Sinbad realized he had never had his name called like this, raw and sharp, accompanied by fingers winding in his hair, pulling hard. It felt only right to reciprocate, forming the sound of his name against the crook of his neck, as the legs around his own hips drew the other ever closer until there was hardly room to breathe.
"Sin-" Ja'far let that name carry the rest of his words, tied up and tangled in the musky heat as he dug his fingers into the sinew of those shoulders as he came and hardly cared. It was the closeness he craved, not knowing how much he had missed it as the years went on and he had put away idle fantasies for the responsibilities of someone Sinbad could entrust with his life.
"What a mess," he said softly, although it wasn't clear if he was referring to his sticky abdomen or the state of things at large.
"Sorry 'bout that," Sinbad mumbled, carelessly wiping it off with the edge of a sheet, smiling to himself as he remembered he had meant to apologize sometime before he had gotten distracted.
"I wasn't... oh, nevermind," he replied, turning on his side with one hand resting beneath his pillow out of habit, although the dagger was still somewhere across the room. Normally this absence would keep him awake, but the warm arm resting over him and the quiet breathing of one already asleep seemed to be enough.
Ja'far awoke with an unpleasant sense of disorientation, his heart pounding the second he opened his eyes. His knife was missing. The sheets were a tangled bunch at the foot of the bed. There was an arm thrown carelessly over his bare hip, and that arm was attached to the sleeping king, still in his bed.
Yet the last thing made it worth it, made him wish this moment could go on a little longer, so he could pretend for a few more precious minutes that the world beyond the bedroom door didn't exist. But he could hear the morning bells in the distance and knew that the hourglass had run out.
Extricating himself was mildly tricky business and inevitably the other stirred as Ja'far sat, perched on the edge of the bed while stretching out his cramped muscles.
"Didn't run off this time, I see."
"This is my room, you know."
"So it is," he said. It was already rather warm in this unfamiliar room. "What is it?" he asked, catching Ja'far with a question before he could slip away again, behind the walls he had so cleverly crafted to keep Sin out. He wasn't having any of it today, not now, and certainly not with him.
"It's nothing-" The grip on his wrist tightened, and Ja'far knew he was caught. "Well, you know the saying: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice-"
"This isn't about fault, I'm just trying to find out-"
"Find out what, Sin? What else is there to know? Do I have to send a notarized document to your desk for you to get it?" He wasn't quite shouting just yet, but if this dragged on he might. His hand itched for the hilt of a blade- he always felt more comfortable armed, although he needed a different kind of weapon right now.
"Why didn't you tell me to stop if you hated it so much then-"
"Because I don't hate it, you great big idiot,that's the problem. I actually wanted it for as long as I can remember and one night on a whim you decide, yes, time to bed one of my generals, finally, checked that off my to-do list-"
"-do you have any idea how I felt after that? I almost couldn't bring myself to stand by your side because I was so ashamed, and you just carried on as you always did as if nothing had ever happened, because it really was nothing, wasn't it-"
"-what?!" he snapped, whirling about face after finally having found his dagger lost in the folds of a discarded robe on the floor, the steel glinting in the light.
"Are you done then?"
There was no turning back now. Ja'far had only meant to lay his cards on the table, but actually he had spilled the entire deck every which way. With his back up against the proverbial wall, he simply nodded.
"Then I want to say I'm sorry."
"For what?" he choked, not sure if he was laughing or something worse. "You only took what was already yours."
Sinbad saw the steadiest hand he had ever known to hold a knife tremble, and knew that a simple apology wasn't going to be enough this time. "Then what can I do?"
You'll do anything, Ja'far wanted to yell, you'll do anything, say anything to get what you want and in the end you'll get it, because you're Sinbad and the world will bow to you one day- the parts that don't already. Instead he simply sighed and said, "Nothing. There isn't anything for you to do. Except carry out your duty, as will I." It was the right thing to do, he supposed, pushing him away, in the name of King and Country, because Sin was both of those things and it wasn't his place to love either quite in the way that he did.
But even so he felt a shiver of guilt as he caught the flash of hurt on Sin's face- true hurt, that could have eclipsed the pain of having the very blade he held in his hand jammed between the ribs to the heart. Regardless it was too late now and it had been so for the past ten years or more.
He expected the matter to be over and done with, but Sinbad simply crossed the distance between them and held him again, so tightly that even he couldn't escape. And then Sinbad said the words to him, the ones Ja'far had always wanted to hear and the ones he simply needed. Quietly and clearly, unrepeated and unrepentant.
There was a clatter of metal on marble as he relinquished his white knuckled grip on the hilt to hold onto Sin, lest the words that rang in his ears caused him to shatter completely.
Ja'far could see some of the old Sinbad when they stood face to face, before he had taken the throne and a responsibility to the world. He dared to hope in that brief moment, that this would be his Sin to keep, although the minute they stepped out of the room everything would be as it was before- King and subject, leader and subordinate, and so on.
However, between the seconds of a lingering, languid kiss they mutually agreed there wasn't anything to be forgiven or burned down or blamed and that all the proof either of them ever needed in the future would always be found or freely given.
A/N: Sorry for the sliding around characterizations. If you couldn't tell I had trouble decided on which way to go. Same for the ending. I didn't want to do it lukewarm though, but it felt cheesy to go happy and contrived to go sad. I sought a middle ground. Also yeah, perspective. I gave up doing it equally and lo and behold it fell mostly on Ja'far (sorry to you too).