Sorey wakes before Mikleo. He sits up and looks at the shock of white hair just peeking over their shared blanket, and wonders if there was ever a time before that Mikleo wasn’t awake before him. It’s strange, and maybe a bit worrying, but mostly he’s frustrated, because he wants to play. He’s about to reach out to shake Mikleo’s shoulder when he hears his name from behind him.
Gramps is sitting in his normal position by the fire, smoking his pipe. He takes a puff before beckoning his charge close with it. Sorey makes his way over and sits close to Gramps’ side, but his eyes stay on Mikleo. He’s getting more worried now; he thought seraphim didn’t need to sleep.
“Why isn’t Mikleo up? Is he okay?”
“He’s fine, just tired,” Gramps reassures.
“But seraphs don’t need to sleep,” Sorey says, with all the seriousness of a seven year old who knows everything there is to know about the world already.
“No, but we can still get tired. It’s different from needing sleep; more like needing rest to restore mana. But, you have rather rubbed off on him.” Gramps reaches out to twitch Sorey’s nose, and he screws up his face in reply.
“But why is he tired?” Sorey asks, but they are interrupted by a stirring in the bedding.
“Sorey?” Mikleo wonders, sitting up and looking around. He seems just as confused to find his companion gone as Sorey was to find him still asleep.
“Mikleo, here!” Sorey calls with enthusiasm, and opens his arms as an invitation.
Mikleo shuffles towards them around the edge of the circular fireplace, dragging a blanket with him. As soon as he plops down next to Sorey, he’s swept up in a tight hug.
“What are you doing?”
“You were still asleep,” Sorey says as way of an answer. When it seems Mikleo has neither interest nor energy for fighting him off, he hugs even tighter, doing his best to try to lift Mikleo off the ground in the motion. Since they are both sitting, it doesn’t work. They end up in a pile of limbs, more than anything.
While they bicker over this arrangement, Gramps returns with a book in hand. Until that moment, neither of them had realized he left. He settles next to them, and the boys shuffle closer, until the result is two small heads nearly in his lap. He opens the book to a page which shows the moon in all its different shapes. He teaches them the name to each phase, and the way a water seraph’s mana will fluctuate with it. Then they move onto the other things the moon affects, like the tides in the ocean, and the subject meanders from there onto the ocean and its waves and its weather. Mikleo only looks like he’s taking in bits and pieces as they try to read along with Gramps’ voice, but that’s okay. Sorey never minds reading a book over again.
It takes a while to find Mikleo. He’s in the forest above Mabinogio and tucked behind some bushes and a chunk of crumbling wall. He starts, as he hears Gramps and Sorey coming up behind him, and does his best to hide a cookie behind his back. Even if he had been quick enough, the crumbs around his mouth would have given him away.
“He stole all my snacks!” Sorey yells from where he is clinging to the back of Gramps’ tunic, while pointing an accusing finger. He’s so mad that tears are forming at the edges of his eyes. He rubs them harshly and continues to glare.
“Mikleo,” Gramps says, in his best ‘I’m disappointed in you’ voice.
For half a second it seems like Mikleo is going to cave to it, but then he draws himself straighter and says, “No I didn’t.”
“You have a cookie behind your back,” Sorey says, and darts out from behind Gramps to try to grab it. Mikleo turns to keep Sorey away, but that puts him in Gramps’ range, who takes the cookie and looks at him with raised eyebrows.
“He wouldn’t share,” Mikleo claims, looking up with defiance in his eyes.
“You ate all your own snacks already, why should I share! Seraphs don’t even need to eat.”
“You said you were full already, and I was still hungry. I’m still hungry now.” Mikleo balls his small fists and Sorey copies the motion. If it’s a fight Mikleo wants, he’ll get one.
Gramps sighs and crouches down before his charges. He waits, patiently, until they realize that he is and turn to look at him. “Mikleo, you need to tell us if you need something, rather than taking it from Sorey. And Sorey, if it’s something you don’t need, you should think about helping others. Now, say you’re sorry.”
They look at least a bit admonished. “Sorry Gramps,” they chorus.
“And to each other.”
They turn to each other for a moment, before both looking away and mumbling an apology. Gramps breaks the cookie in half and hands them each a piece. Sorey takes his and eats it before Mikleo can take it. But Mikleo is also focused on eating his own cookie as fast as he can.
“I’m still hungry,” He whines when he’s finished. “Why am I still hungry?” He sounds like he’s maybe going to cry. Sorey feels bad.
Gramps sits, so he can tug Mikleo down to sit in his lap. He looks up at the sky and explains, “The moon is nearly full. Your power is nearly full, but not quite there yet. So, you feel the need to fill up and hurry it along. Since we do eat human food, even if we don’t need it, your body sees it as something to use to fill up.”
Sorey isn’t quite sure he understands, but he does know that whatever this is makes Mikleo upset. He sits close before them and says, “I’m sorry Mikleo. I should have shared.”
“It’s okay,” Mikleo says, still sounding a bit sniffly, but somewhat better. “But next time you’d better.”
“Okay,” Sorey agrees, and then grabs Mikleo’s hands to pull him out of Gramps’ lap. Argument forgotten, there’s much more playing and reading and exploring to be done.
Sorey thinks Mikleo looks like a silvery fairy in the moonlight as he stands on his doorstep, all gap-tooth smiles and barely-contained excitement.
“Come on, come on!” he says, and grabs Sorey’s hand to tug him forward. “It’s too nice a night to stay inside.”
Sorey isn’t hard to convince. They stumble out into the dim fields of Elysia, holding hands and holding in giggles at the thought that they aren’t supposed to be out right now. Although Gramps probably knows; Gramps always knows everything. They collapse onto their backs near one of the cliffs, and stare up into the sky. The moon is so huge and bright that it nearly seems to drown out the stars with light.
“Here, look. I wanted to show you this.” Mikleo stretches his hands up toward the sky and spreads his fingers. Small bubbles of water form between them, and then float upwards of their own accord. He stops then, and turns to face Sorey so that he can watch his reaction. He gathers a breath of concentration, stretches his fingers just the smallest bit further, and the bubbles light up blue, like a field of magical fireflies.
Sorey gasps in delight, and sits up to reach toward one of the bubbles. It balances on the point of his finger, before rolling down his hand and along his arm. It travels all the way up his neck, which makes him shiver with the cold wetness, and to the top of his head, where it finally pops. “Mikleo!”
The small seraph laughs. “You should have seen your face. And when it rolled up your neck? You looked so funny.”
“You’re mean.” Sorey isn’t mad though; it was too cool to let his annoyance get the best of him. “How can you control just one like that?”
“The moon I think. It’s easier when it’s full. But come on, lay back down and watch.”
Sorey obliges, and stares up into to the cluster of bubbles again as they twirl about. It takes him a moment, but then he realizes what Mikleo is doing. He’s making new constellations, from the stars and his own artes, and Sorey is enraptured again. They stay out until the moon sets, naming them all.
Sorey is bemused, to say the least. Most days, by the time he wakes up, Mikleo is already washed, dressed and over in Sorey’s house making breakfast. There are days when he isn’t, true, but not often. What he did not expect was to wander over to Mikleo’s house, hair uncombed and stomach growling, to find only a shock of white and blue hair visible above a veritable fortress of books.
“Mikleo?” he calls, pausing to wipe the dew from his bare feet on the soft mat just inside the door. His stomach echoes him; he is used to a hot meal before he is even dressed. In bed if he can get it.
The head makes no moves to acknowledge that it has heard, not even a twitch.
Sorey makes his way up the few steps into the main room and around the book fort. On this side, he can see it is not complete, with side walls gently sloping to the floor. In the middle, sits Mikleo, surrounded by three open books and several shards of masonry, which they had brought them back from the ruins in the forest above Mabinogio two days ago. They had done some amount of study, and argued back and forth on the era, but nothing on this scale.
“What are you doing?” Sorey asks. He tries again when Mikleo stays silent. He doesn’t reply to his name either. “Fine, keep it a secret,” Sorey says finally, and plops on the floor.
From where he sits, although it does take him much long than usual to read from upside down, he could pick out a book on Era of Asgard temples, a book on Temperance of Avarost temples, and the Celestial Record. It looks like the pieces of masonry had been cleaned, better to see their worn patterns. As he watches, Mikleo picks up one of the smaller chunks and holds it up towards the light of the hanging lantern.
Sorey reaches up, quick as can be, and puts to use that half of an inch of extra height he’s gaining on Mikleo to snatch the piece of stone away.
Mikleo shrieks, eyes wide, and tumbles backwards into the wall of his book fort. Sorey lunges after him, attempting to prevent the inevitable collapse, and then when that fails, trying to prevent Mikleo from getting crushed in a book avalanche. He yelps in pain as the books rain down on his back instead.
Mikleo, who is truly trapped beneath Sorey at this point, scowls impressively and snaps, “Sorey! What were you doing? You scared me!”
“I said your name three times!” Sorey shoots back, bruised and in no mood to deal with much anything other than Mikleo’s undying gratefulness for getting buried in the books in his stead. He sits up with a wince, as the books which were on him thump onto the floor. “Ouch.”
Suddenly, Mikleo’s expression changes to one of remorse and worry. “I’m sorry. I was focused. All night, I guess.”
“I could tell,” Sorey continues to grumble. But Mikleo’s apology makes him feel better. It makes him feel even better when Mikleo shuffles around on his knees and lays cool hands on his shoulders to heal the forming bruises there. “What were you studying?”
Once again, Mikleo doesn’t answer until he is done with his current task. When he is, he makes an inquiring hum. Sorey repeats his question. “Oh,” Mikleo says, “I’m gathering proof that these aren’t Era of Asgard, like you say.”
“They are definitely Era of Asgard!”
“You think everything is Era of Asgard. Everything can’t be Era of Asgard.”
“Oh, you are so on,” Sorey says, diving into the book pile to try to retrieve the ones Mikleo had out earlier. Breakfast is forgotten until much later.
Sorey thinks that new moon mornings are his favorite. Any other day of the month, no matter how hard he tries, Mikleo is awake before him, or wakes the moment Sorey starts to stir. But, on these mornings, he gets time to gaze at the sight of his hair tousled across the inn pillow, blending into the fabric apart from the blue tips. The way his lips part just slightly – no drool, that would be undignified and Mikleo would never allow himself – with his slow, even breaths.
This morning, he is dappled in the light and shadow that falls through the open window, shifting as the leaves of Marlind’s great tree sway in the breeze. Sorey takes a moment to smooth out the loose strands of hair, tucking some of it behind Mikleo’s ear. It’s gotten longer since their journey; not noticeably unless he really looks, but under his fingers it’s different.
Next, Sorey moves to trace the outer shell of Mikleo’s pretty ear. Some days he’s curious what would happen if he took off his earring and put it on Mikleo instead, how it would look. Mostly, he gets too distracted blushing after that. Today he’s not blushing, but he’s more interested in continuing across Mikleo’s face, to stroke a thumb across his cheeks, and then his lips. Mikleo doesn’t even stir under these ministrations, and so Sorey settles back down and hugs him close until he does.
A few moments later, Mikleo shifts, just enough to tuck the blanket closer to his chin. He doesn’t open his eyes yet, but Sorey knows he’s awake when he feels a pair of warm lips brush against his neck.
“Good morning,” Sorey says, and takes up the occupation of finger combing Mikleo’s hair.
“Good morning,” Mikleo echoes, although it really sounds nowhere close to actual words. But, Sorey is well-versed in sleepy Mikleo talk.
Sorey scratches lightly at his scalp, and Mikleo leans back into the touch. Now that his face is visible, Sorey can see that he still hasn’t even bothered to open his eyes yet, and he laughs gently before reaching out to kiss Mikleo’s nose.
He isn’t expecting it, and his purple eyes fly open in surprise before he whines, “Sorey!”
Sorey skips right over the objection, and says, “We should have a big breakfast, today. Something really filling, and maybe sweet. And then, I was thinking it would be good to check up on the town – see how trade is doing and make sure all the plague victims have recovered well. I know Rose will appreciate the time to check in with the Sparrowfeathers, too.”
Mikleo hummed in thought, turning the plans over in his head, before saying, “Sounds like you just want to laze around.”
“Guilty as charged.”
Really, it isn’t Sorey who needs the time to rest, although it certainly won’t hurt. But, Mikleo doesn’t like to admit that anything beyond normal activity exhausts him on new moon days any more than he likes feeling like a burden. Sorey is fine with playing the idle one.
“Alright, I suppose we can take an easy day, so long as we get that done, and restock some of our supplies, too.”
Even though there are tasks that need doing, it’s still another half an hour before either of them even think about stirring from bed.
Mikleo has gotten much better at hiding his extra snacking over the years, and to his credit, he did only take three cookies. But Lailah is relentlessly protective of her cookie stash, and he should have known better. When he deflects the blame onto Sorey, the Shepherd just smiles sheepishly and takes the light scolding in stride. It’s alright; he knows what Mikleo needs.
Late at night though, it is apparent that other hungers are just as potent. In the way he leans close, murmurs, “I need you,” and then licks his lips, he is hungry. His lips are truly greedy in stealing Sorey’s breath and every sound he makes. His hands and mouth are ravenous as they glide across sweat-slicked skin, and press and bite hard enough to leave a red and purple mosaic in their wake. He reaches for pleasure in the meeting of every thrust, every stroke, intense and drunk on the feeling of almost full and grasping at anything that will fill him the rest of the way up.
When Mikleo disappears after sunset, and doesn’t return to the inn even when Sorey would normally sleep, he has an idea of where to look. On a night like tonight, when the moon is big and full, he knows he won’t find Mikleo inside. He is never good at being surrounded by walls and stone and manmade things when the moon is full. He gravitates toward the nighttime sky in the same way that a compass needle seeks north. So Sorey turns his steps towards the gates out of Lastonbell, the ones that lead to the Meadow of Triumph. That’s where the most moonlight will shine, where Mikleo will inevitably be.
True enough, once Sorey sneaks out through the smaller watchman’s gate, the only one accessible at this hour, he can see a figure in the distance. He makes his way down a slight slope, into the dip in the land which shelters the copse of trees where Mikleo is crouched. Sorey thinks he is gathering herbs. He knows he is beautiful in this light, and surrounded by his constellations of tiny glowing bubbles. Mikleo is every bit as silvery and magical as when they were children, maybe even more so.
As Sorey approaches, a few bubbles break away from the group and float towards him, and then more. It almost looks as if he is walking through suspended rain, first light and getting heavier as he comes close.
“Sorey,” Mikleo says, without pausing in his work examining the leaves of a chamomile plant.
“How did you know it was me?”
“I took a cue from all those awful eyes in LeFay.” As he speaks, a single bubble swirls around Sorey and comes to settle on his shoulder, as if emphasizing Mikleo’s point. It is cold, but it keeps its form.
“That’s so amazing!”
“It’s imperfect right now is what it is. I don’t have a clear view, just enough to make an informed guess. Since you’re the most likely person to come looking, I figured it was a good one.”
Mikleo straightens just in time to see Sorey pout; he dislikes it when Mikleo doesn’t see himself as worthy of a compliment. But it makes Sorey feel better to see the soft, calm smile on his face. He is reminded again of how beautiful Mikleo looks in this light, how smart and talented he is, and he wonders how he can go even five minutes without saying how much he loves him. Right now, he’s not even going to try.
He steps forward to grasp both of Mikleo’s hands, dirt and slightly-crushed chamomile and all, and rests their foreheads together. “I love you.”
Most days, most times, Mikleo would flush and cover a small smile with his hand. But here, calm and centered in the pull of the full moon, he hums, let’s his eyes slip closed, and says, “Me too.”
The light, when Sorey wakes, is a dim white-gold wash. The flickering flame from the lamp would have blocked the moonlight completely, if it wasn’t for the fact that Mikleo has every window thrown open wide, to invite it into the room in broad shafts. Mikleo himself is working at the desk with his back to Sorey. It’s no hard task to figure out the nature of his project – there is the sound of a quill, scratching quietly, yet quickly.
Sorey grumbles, and flops his head on the pillow, debating whether he’ll get up. He knows Mikleo’s concentration will be too complete to hear him, but he also wants to stay in bed. Wanting a warm person to cuddle wins out. He crawls out of bed and crosses to the desk. Mikleo still doesn’t notice, so he drapes himself across his shoulders.
Mikleo jumps, and squeaks.
It always makes Sorey laugh a little bit, when he does, and then nuzzle his face into the crook of Mikleo’s neck.
“I wish you would stop startling me like that!”
“You know there’s no other way to get your attention when you get like this,” Sorey says, but he places a kiss at his shoulder as an apology. “What are you working on?”
“I could tell that.”
“I’m writing down our journey. With all the various rumors we’ve encountered, I want to make sure that someone tells it accurately,” Mikleo says, with a sigh.
“I guess that makes sense. I’m sure you will write it well. But how about in the morning?”
Mikleo shakes his head and moves to pick up his quill again. “You can sleep on your own for one night.”
Sorey intercepts his hand, and pulls the quill gently from his fingers. “You fought six battles today. You healed me twice, and Rose three times, made ice cream for everyone, practiced artes with Edna and Lailah for hours, and now you’ve been up writing half the night. Come to bed.”
“Seraphim don’t need to sleep. Especially not right now. I want to get things done.” Mikleo looks wistfully out the window. The moon hangs near the top, nearly full but starting to shrink.
“Mikleo, please?” Sorey whines. It’s a low tactic, but typically effective. Mikleo shakes his head, though; the energy still buzzing in his veins is resistant to any such tricks.
Sorey changes tactics. He’s in the perfect spot to begin to kiss his way up Mikleo’s neck. “Could I redirect that focus elsewhere, maybe?” He knows he can get Mikleo to sleep after sex. And really, he’s not going to complain about the sex either.
For a moment, the question hangs. It seems like Mikleo will refuse, but then Sorey begins to suck at a spot just behind his ear, and his head tilts to the side as he lets out an audible breath. “Okay, yes,” he murmurs. Sorey gives him a moment to cap his inkwell and blow out the lamp, before tugging him up from the chair and back towards the bed.
Mikleo has been in those ruins for weeks. He’s fascinated, and caught up, and sees no reason at all why he should return to the outside world. There’s enough in here to keep him occupied for months, if need be.
And he knows he won’t lose track of the time, no matter how long he might stay. The feeling of the moon thrums in his mana, even in moments when he nearly forgets that it is there. Right now, even though it is daytime, he knows that the moon is dark in the sky.
He’s a little tired, an extra bit of weariness fizzling in his thighs as he walks, and a lower pulsing in his reserves of mana than usual. But it’s nothing enough to deter him. It’s been years since last the new moon exhaustion required extra rest.
He walks through a hall dedicated to fire, full of heat and lava. It is beautiful, but his nature and its do not mix well. Over time he will document it all, in small bits of study. But for now, he moves on to the next chamber.
Here he is immediately comfortable, surrounded by cool blue, and gentle light, and tiles that give the illusion of rippling water. The monolith at the center is set with a beautiful stone. He wonders about its origin, its purpose here, and approaches.
As he reaches out to touch it, and the floor groans under his feet, it occurs to him that maybe he’s more tired than he had thought. Because, really, he has encountered enough traps that he should know better. The floor cracks and falls away.
Before Mikleo has a chance to berate himself further, he’s stopping in midair, with a hand around his wrist and a painful wrench to his shoulder. He looks up to see his rescuer; he recognizes this hand, this glove, and even though his profile is in shadow from the light above, he knows this face. But for the years between, he could say he knows this face better than his own.
Mikleo smiles, heart more full than it has been in centuries. As he reaches up a hand to grasp at Sorey’s to feel that yes, he is real, he is reminded that a new moon is not only an end, but also a new beginning.