Under one of the bent roots hooking over the ground of Marlind’s Great Tree is one of Sorey’s favorite places to tell Mikleo he loves him.
He’s not quite sure why.
Maybe, he thinks, it’s because there, they can finally be alone. In the shadow of the giant tree that has meant so much to a sleepy, small library of a town, Mikleo and Sorey find they are hardly ever disturbed. No one can see them, tucked and hidden away; no one really tries to look for them.
They have all the time in the world to themselves there in the grass. There, they can forget they used to be the Shepherd and his Seraph, a human and a divine. Sorey can braid another loose dandelion into Mikleo’s long hair and forget any time has passed since they were last here. Mikleo can rest his head against Sorey’s thigh and look up to the pattern of light through the canopy above and forget that there was even a time he was alone.
Sorey thinks that maybe, in the end, this place is his favorite because the serene, undisturbed nature all around them, when they curl up in the sanctuary of the tree, reminds him that eternity isn’t so bad when he’s got his best friend with him.
Sometimes, Mikleo thinks he might live just for these quiet moments.
Sorey brushes Mikleo’s bangs away from the circlet on his forehead when he is finished braiding. He watches the shine of the golden metal bring out the deep and royal purple of his fellow seraph’s eyes. He shifts, warning Mikleo he’s going to lay down, too, and Mikleo lets him.
Sorey props himself up beside his lover in the grass, the side of his head resting on his palm, elbow pressed to the earth. Mikleo closes his eyes.
“How do I love thee?” Sorey says quietly, breaking the silence. He lifts a bare hand—ungloved, in this rare and singular moment—to brush a pale cheek. “Let me count the ways…”
Mikleo hums, fighting off a smile. “That’s a cheesy one.”
Sorey huffs. His hand drops. “I like that one.”
“Explains why the ones you write are always so terrible.”
“Do a different one.”
Sorey is quiet for a moment. He thinks. Then he makes a soft sound. “Okay, uh…’I think of thee—my thoughts do twine and bud about thee, as wild vines, about a tree…’”
Mikleo hums softly.
Sorey smiles. His hand brushes Mikleo’s cheek again. “’Put out broad leaves, and soon there’s nought to see except the straggling green which hides the wood.’” He shifts, leans over. His kiss to the corner of Mikleo’s mouth is soft and tender. “’Yet, O my palm-tree—‘”
“Palm tree?” Mikleo murmurs, a smile in his voice. He does not open his eyes.
“What, that not good enough?”
Mikleo hums again, a careful sound. “I think some sort of pine tree would be better.”
“Okay.” Sorey pauses again. Mikleo’s heart skips a beat as Sorey’s thumb brushes against his lips, tracing their outline. Soft and slow. “’O my pine tree, be it understood I will not have my thoughts instead of thee, who art dearer, better. Rather, instantly renew they presence, as a strong tree should.’”
“What do you think that means?” Mikleo asks quietly, breathless. He can feel the cool shadow of Sorey over him, closer now than before.
Sorey places a small kiss at his temple. His hand slowly drops from Mikleo’s face to his neck, drifting feather-light fingers down to where his collar opens around his throat. Deftly, he starts to ease the fabric open. Mikleo’s breath hitches. “The real you is better than the you in my mind.”
Mikleo exhales and Sorey can feel the rise and fall under his touch. “And do you touch me like this—the ‘me’ in your mind?”
Now Sorey hums and it’s a low, earthy sound. Mikleo feels alive with it. “This and more.”
“Go on,” he whispers and Sorey does.
“’Rustle thy boughs and set thy trunk all bare,’” he says and with practiced ease, gently pulls Mikleo’s tunic open further. Belts slide undone and fabric unclasps. Every touch is sweet and slow, dripping honey on moon-soft skin. “’And let these bands of greenery which insphere thee drop heavily down—burst, shattered, everywhere.’”
Mikleo lets out a soft sound and his eyes flutter open. His hands, without knowing, have slid into Sorey’s hair. His lover bends to places kisses to the hollow of his throat, just underneath his jaw.
“’Because,’” Sorey breathes, “’in this deep joy to see and hear thee—‘”
—a touch, far lower than the rest; a teasing rub against too tender flesh. Mikleo gasps with it and Sorey’s grin splits a mile wide—
“’—and breathe within thy shadow a new air,’” Sorey settles himself between Mikleo’s legs and Mikleo doesn’t know when he spread them. His entire world zeroes in on the contact between his clothed knees brushing against Sorey’s sides, the heat of the other seraph radiating through his ever-blue shirt. Always blue, no matter his form.
They are so close. The sunlight, leaf-filtered, grows hazy.
“Sorey,” he breathes and rocks against the one above him.
He can feel the moment Sorey gasps; it feeds his fire. “’I do not think of thee,’” Sorey says quietly, and kisses at the apex of Mikleo’s chin, tilting his head back with care. “’I am too near thee.’”
Mikleo’s hold on his hair tightens. Urgently, he pulls Sorey up and kisses him, ravenous. Needy.
When they part, Sorey looks down at him with green eyes so much better than any green nature could ever conceive and he says, “I think I’ll always love you, Mikleo,” with such simplicity and honesty that in that moment, just like every moment before, Mikleo knows those words to be true.
Mikleo smiles. He taps Sorey on the nose with a thin finger. “Now that’s pure poetry.”
Sorey chuckles and leans down.
This time, when they kiss, they do not part.
Mikleo breathes against Sorey’s lips, “Touch me more?” and Sorey cannot find it in himself to refuse.