A/N: Long time no see. But I am still writing. I had lots to do though with my new garden and turning vegan.


C
The past
C

For a time Tos'un can do nothing but sit there in petrified silence, his gaze glued to his lap in shame, cheek burning hotly until Hralien's next words make him look up again.

"I apologize. I think that was mostly my own hurt feelings."

Tos'un merely blinks in confusion and stares at him, not quite understanding.

"I thought you knew better by now, that you trusted me enough to come and talk to me if something like that happened. Apparently I was wrong."

Hralien wraps his arms around himself in a rare show of raw vulnerability and looks away.

"After I trusted you so much I even surrendered myself to you, I must admit that I expected better from you", he says quietly. "It hurts to see that you still don't seem to feel that you are safe enough with me."

"It appears that is all I do lately", the drow answers with soft despair, "maybe hurting people is the only thing I am actually good at."

He cringes again when all Hralien does is to sniff disdainfully.

"Now you're just wallowing in self pity", the pale elf admonishes him sternly, slowly fighting his way back to his usual self assured calmness. "You know that is not true. I would never have chosen to befriend you otherwise. I cannot deny that this is a very complicated situation though."

"Yes", Tos'un agrees, even though he sounds a little ashamed still. "I'm sorry", he adds, because he knows Hralien is right. He should have come to seek his help earlier. A lot earlier. "You have the truth of it, as always. I guess I was so focused on forcing it out of my mind, on ignoring everything that I never even thought about coming to you. I was trying so hard to pretend that it had not happened, because I did not want my past to influence my life here, but in hindsight I can see how that only made things worse in the long run."

Hralien merely sighs. There is nothing to be done about it now. He wonders fleetingly if that is how Tos'un survived his childhood. By doing his best to ignore everything he could not avert. After he has seen the scars which the drow bears on his back, Hralien can only assume that there was quite a lot to ignore. This old tactic is not doing the drow any good in the present situation though. Hralien remembers his very early expectations concerning his decision to take in a drow elf to live in their midst. He had anticipated something like this to happen much earlier. He will just have to help Tos'un work through it somehow, he decides, because he is a lot more sure now than he was all those years ago that it will be worth it.

"From what I have understood so far, it sounded as if he wants you to be a... more permanent part of his life. Do I have that right?"

Tos'un nods silently.

"And you think he deserves at least a part of that... of you."

This time it is harder for the drow to nod, but he is convinced of the truth of that statement, for what Jaellien said is right: The other did give almost everything to him once. And not by his own choice. So he should be granted some kind of compensation, should he not? Somehow it does feel right to give something back, but he does not quite trust his own feelings in this, tangled as they are.

"Where is the line?" Hralien asks, startling Tos'un out of his thoughts again. "What is the point where you would not be prepared to go any further to satisfy his demands?"

He does not have to think long on that.

"Sinnafein. My family, the clan", he says. "Without them and all the things Sinnafein and you taught me, I would probably not even care about what he wants. I told him that too."

"Does he understand what that means?"

"I think so." Tos'un pauses. "He also knows me well enough to be aware that I would kill him if he ever did anything to harm them."

Hearing these words said so matter of factly suddenly reminds Hralien again that it is still a drow who is sitting in front of him. No matter how much he has changed, the experiences of his past will always stay with Tos'un for as long as he lives. In this case the pale elf can relate to the sentiment though. He isn't even so very much opposed.

"Do you think it possible that he would?"

Tos'un shrugs, but then shakes his head.

"Most probably not. He likes both of them, so I do not think that he would harm them just to spite me. Maybe that is also the reason he never came here openly", the drow continues. "To confront me in public would have had consequences for the relationship between him and Sinnafein as well. Maybe he wanted to avoid that."

"You have never asked him about it?"

"We are only barely past the stage where we would start shouting at each other after two sentences", Tos'un reminds the other drily. "I'm still not quite sure that he would even answer me should I ask him anything like that."

He shakes his head with a faintly disbelieving expression.

"All we have done for the last five years was to hurt each other. And before... well, you can imagine what happened before", Tos'un stops, looking uncomfortable. "It is not easy to find a way past that. In fact it is one of the most difficult, frightening things I have ever tried to do."

"Do you think it will be worth it?"

The answer to Hralien's question consists only of a helpless shrug at first.

"Do you?" Tos'un finally asks, clearly out of his depth.

"I don't know him", Hralien reminds the drow. "It could be that you have damaged him to such a degree that real healing is not possible any more. Or it could not. Right now I make a poor judge, because I know only your side of the story. I do think you have the duty to try", he adds, "but you also need to remember your own limits and look out for your own safety."

"And by that you mean not do it like I have done so far?" Tos'un asks dryly, because he can read between the lines. Hralien shrugs unrepentantly.

"I will help you like I always have. Even though you will have to do most of the actual work yourself. You said you let him whip you. That he took you up on the offer and almost went too far tells me very clearly that he has a strong wish to hurt you. Whether that is justified or not, it means that you need to make sure that things do not get out of hand. A threat to your life is a serious matter."

"Well", the drow says looking surprisingly thoughtful and calm now. "I did provoke him to the best of my abilities, even though I did not see it like that at the time, angry as I was. Up until now I have never even truly told him that I am sorry."

"But you are."

There is a tiny bit of uncertainty in those words which Tos'un only notices because he knows Hralien so well by now. It tells him, that the other knows him very well too.

"After the last few days: Yes, mostly. But that was not what I felt five years ago. Back then I was far more worried about what I had to lose, what Sinnafein would say when she found out. Thinking about that made me feel helpless and angry. Understandably Jaellien was angry too. It was not a good combination." Tos'un sighs. "I had resolved right at the beginning that I should at least try to... I don't know... compensate him, do something that would alleviate all the hurt I had caused him. I must admit though, that I mostly did it out of an oddly theoretical concept of duty though, because it was what I knew you would expect me to do. If I had had the opportunity to simply push it away and forget about it, I would gladly have done so, because I did not want to deal with those things too closely, to give Sinnafein the opportunity to find out about me firsthand, from someone who could accuse me directly of the things I had done."

Hralien cocks his head at that.

"And what did Sinnafein say?" he wants to know curiously.

"That she accepted it." Tos'un shifts nervously. "But I'm still not quite sure if she really knows what that means. I have never...", he pauses grimacing. "She has never actually witnessed that side of me herself. So I think it is still mostly an intellectual kind of acceptance. She knows in theory what I have done before I came here, but does not know me the way Jaellien does."

"So in the end that means you also don't know how she will react when she finds out that you have been sleeping with him regularly during the last five years."

Before Tos'un can say anything more a crashing noise from the door interrupts them. The drow's eyes grow wide with surprise as he sees his wife standing there in the doorframe, her fingers still resting on the doorhandle, pale as a ghost, her travelling bundle lying at her feet where it has evidently just slipped from her hands.

"Sinnafein!" Tos'un gasps, breathless with sudden panic as he scrambles to his feet.

"You slept with him? All this time?" she repeats softly, sounding stunned by the fact, as if she cannot quite comprehend it yet. "And you never said a word to me?"

Her eyes are quickly taking on a very telling shine, even as Tos'un is desperately searching for words to stop the hurt and disappointment spreading over her face.

"No! Wait!" he pleads as he can see her lips tremble with barely suppressed tears. "It was not like you think!"

It does not look like she hears him though, because Sinnafein continues: "You promised!" And now the tears are even in her voice coating her next words. "You promised me you would not lie to me! And you never... In all those years...", she breaks off, overcome by her swelling emotions.

"Don't touch me!" she snaps as Tos'un has almost reached her. And this time, when he flinches away she is not sorry.

"Sinnafein, please let me explain!"

"I don't see that there is anything to explain", Sinnafein says, her voice already breaking. "The facts are quite clear. If you dismiss your promises so easily for him, then maybe Jaellien is more important to you than me and your daughter. I do not hear you denying it and I certainly don't want to hear any more lies from you, so please grant me at least that much respect and leave me alone for now. I don't think I will want to see you any time soon."

With that she grabs her bundle from the ground, tears already spilling over her pale cheeks as she reaches down and then she flees, shutting the door in Tos'un's face. Hralien stops him as he reaches for the handle.

"I don't think that is a good idea right now", the pale elf says quietly. "Give her at least a few hours to calm down a little bit. Maybe she will just need some time to think on things, before she gives you a chance to explain yourself. If you go after her now she will only scream at you, because she is so upset."

Tos'un only stares at him for a moment, his hand still poised to push down and open the door, but then he relents, wrapping both arms tightly around himself instead. They are both well aware of Sinnafein's temper, which can be rather explosive at times.

"That was just about the worst thing that could have happened", the drow says sounding dazed, as if he cannot quite believe the last few moments were real. Unlike Sinnafein his face loses expression the more he realizes what this means, closing off until there is nothing left but an expressionless mask. Only the tightly clenched fists at his sides betray his inner turmoil. If Hralien did not know him, he would not be able to see past the smooth wall Tos'un has pulled up so quickly. This is not the first time he has seen that happen, although it has never been to such a degree before. To see it makes him deeply uncomfortable him every single time. Still, he remembers more unguarded moments and knows what lies behind the flawlessly unmoved facade.

"Tos'un, don't do this", Hralien pleads, grasping the first body part he can reach, which happens to be Tos'un's shoulder. "Don't shut me out now. I have no intentions of hurting you. You have to trust me that much."

At first it seems like the drow is not going to react at all, but then Tos'un lets out a deep breath, his stiff, strained posture slumping just a little.

"Don't let go", he says softly, still tightly controlled. "If you do I will probably find my way to Silverymoon and kill him after all."