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Minutes 'til Sundown

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Osiris’ greatest desire had been realized. It terrified him.

The exile built the Sundial from the ground up. He worked the sandy earth as the sun beat on his back, welded metal to metal with his solar Light, bent and twisted the very fabric of time to his will, all so he could save his dearest friend from a cruel fate. And he failed. Thousands upon thousands of times he lived, died, and failed through his Reflections. It was still not enough. The Young Wolf changed that. Osiris had been gifted something everyone chased yet few received: a second chance. A chance to change, a chance to make something better and to heal.

When word reached him that Saint-14 had returned to the Last City it felt as if a weight had been lifted from him. He wanted nothing more than to go to him straight away, to see him with his own eyes. But doubt flooded his mind. He couldn't be forgiven for his sins, nor did he want to be. All the guilt, all the grief was something he alone could bear. In a way, the Red Legion's invasion of the Forest had become a welcome distraction. It was almost too easy to forget the man he had become, the man he had abandoned, and lose himself in his work. Yet his mind always drifted back to Saint. He realized that he could no longer run from this. The longer he kept Saint waiting, the more strife he would bring between them.

The warlock's robes pooled beneath him as he knelt on the floor of the Sundial. He held a candle between his hands as if it were something precious. It was the largest one he had on hand, reserved for a special occasion. Osiris lit the wick with a wordless promise: when the candle burned down he would go to Saint. The spires of the Sundial turned lazily overhead and drafted a gentle breeze that caused the flame to flicker. Osiris cupped his hands around the flame to shield it from the wind and nurtured it with his Light until it burned true. After a moment he sat back on his heels and watched as a puff of smoke rose into the air.

The last time he had seen Saint had been decades ago and they had not parted on good terms. They left each other with battered bodies and bruised egos. Then Saint disappeared. Osiris regretted that the last words he had ever spoken to him had come from a place of anger and that he had gone to an early grave with that memory of him. Now there was a chance for reconciliation. Osiris would not see it wasted.

He continued his work. He soon came to dread the waiting more than the meeting itself. For the better part of the day he explored the Corridors of Time through his Echoes. They sprouted from his body like shimmering shades, fading in and out of reality. He lived a thousand lifetimes in the blink of an eye and then lived a thousand more. The Red Legion were scattered, but they were scheming as they wormed their way through time.

Hours passed by meaninglessly. Wax dribbled down the sides of the candle and pooled on the floor of the Sundial. Still, he pushed. He felt many of his Echoes die or become driven to madness. Eventually, Sagira pulled him out and forced him to rest.

By midday, very little of the candle remained. Osiris held his breath as the flame licked away at the last bit of wax. The wick toppled over into the puddle. Finally, the flame went out.

 

***

 

Osiris slowed down the ship almost to a halt as they reached the Last City. The sun was just beginning to dip below the city walls, casting a golden glow over the City. It was breath-taking. Even though the City had changed considerably, it was still home. Centuries ago, before there was even a concept of Guardians or a Vanguard, the survivors of humanity came together to build this place. He remembered meeting Saint his first night at the encampment, his first real friend since being Risen. Even then he'd been drawn to him.

A worker greeted him as he transmatted into the Hangar and he offered a simple nod in return. The Hangar was mostly empty, save for a couple of workers and a Guardian or two who had just returned from their assignment. His footsteps echoed with every step.

"So, here we are. A lot's changed since the last time we were here, huh?" Sagira said as she materialized next to him. Her single electronic eye darted around rapidly as she took in all the sights. Listening to her ramble on excitedly put some ease in his mind. Then she turned to him, the back of her shell twisting back and forth. "Are you ready for this?"

"No, definitely not," Osiris admitted. Nothing could have prepared him for this moment. "But there's no turning back now. Time to bite the bullet."

Osiris stopped in his tracks.

The Gray Pigeon was parked at the back of the Hangar, lit up like it was the Dawning.  The dozens of candles around the ship surrounded it in warm light. The ship had accumulated considerably more ribbons than he remembered. Accolades, as Saint called them. At the foot of the gangway, a group of pigeons had settled down to roost, their soft coos reaching his ears. At his feet was a massive carpet leading up to the ship, lined with more candles on either side. It bore his sigil. The pigeons didn’t even stir as he approached and continued to peck at bits of grain on the ground. Perhaps they thought he was one of them?

He reached up and grasped one of the lower hanging ribbons between his fingers. The scent of incense filled the air and left him with a sense of calm. Saint certainly had a way of making a Guardian feel welcome. All the candles and books reminded him of the study he once had in the City. How simple things were back then. One tome laid on a podium, the page turned to a diagram of some complex machine. He recognized Saint’s handwriting on the page and ran his hand over the words, tracing the lines with his fingertips.

Osiris sat on the steps of the gangway. He tensed as he heard footsteps on metal above him.

“Hello, Saint.”

“Osiris?” Saint’s voice resonated in his chest like a drum. The titan wore simple civilian clothes instead of armor, his piercing electronic eyes studied him as if he were seeing him for the first time. “You are so jumpy and wide-eyed. For a moment I mistook you for one of the pigeons.” The Exo chuckled and descended the stairs to sit next to Osiris. Their knees pressed against each other. “I wondered if this meeting would be with one of your Reflections.”

“I would not...” Osiris started to protest but then paused mid-sentence. It was an entirely fair assessment of him, after all. He would've done so if it had been anyone else, even Ikora, but she had known him long enough to understand his reasons. Saint's ever-expressive Exo face was smug as if he knew what Osiris was thinking. “I would not do that to you."

“Of course not.” Saint patted his knee reassuringly. Osiris’ heart fluttered in his chest. “I am glad that you are here. Really here.”

It hadn't been long since Saint escaped the Forest. Adjusting to the real world would be difficult for him, just as it was for Osiris. After living for so long in a world of simulation, it became difficult to come to terms with a finite reality. This sorrow, Osiris realized, belonged to Saint just as much as it did to him.

“I’d like to come inside if you don’t mind.” Osiris tried not to sound too hopeful, too desperate. “I promise I don’t bite.”

Saint snorted, “Perhaps not with your teeth, warlock.” He smiled at his own joke. “I would like that.”

 

***

 

"This is quite the shrine they've built for you. Are you dying?"

Saint laughed and it was a truly wonderful sound to his ears.

"I requested some of these things because they reminded me of you and I thought you might appreciate them. This was a gift from Ikora." Saint showed the warlock a leather-bound book covered in ornate designs. Osiris ran his hand over the cover. It was fine craftsmanship. He almost didn't want to touch it. "I want you to feel at home when you come to visit me." He couldn't meet Saint's gaze then. He already knew he looked guilty. Saint gave him a long look. "You will come to visit me again, yes?"

“To be frank, I...” Osiris hesitated. He wrung his hands together. "There's still much to be done on Mercury." Saint's demeanor changed considerably then. The titan sighed and turned his back to him to stare out the window of the cockpit. He leaned against the back of the pilot’s chair, shoulders slumped. A ship slowly passed through the hangar. How many times had they had this same conversation in the past, Osiris wondered. It never got easier. "The threat of the Red Legion still looms over us. I can't just abandon the Sundial."

"But you can abandon me?" Saint snapped. He turned back to Osiris, his violet eyes filled with sorrow. "You leave me here while you go fight an endless war on your own? Does that not sound familiar?"

"You know that's not what I meant..." Osiris said softly. The exile swallowed a lump in his throat. It was hard to breathe.

"I want to see you, Osiris." Saint laid his hands on both of his shoulders then. "Let me fight by your side.”

Osiris shrugged off Saint’s hands and stepped out of his reach. "If you can't understand why I don't want you on Mercury, then you don't understand how I feel about you."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

Osiris yanked down his cowl, exposing the lower half of his face. He pressed his lips together into a thin line as if he were trying to bite back the words that would inevitably slip from them. He shifted closer, close enough to hear the whirring of Saint’s internal mechanisms. “The day they found you, my heart shattered. You were dead and it was my fault. All of it. I couldn’t—no, wouldn’t live in a world without you. So I reacted in the only way I knew how.” Saint inhaled sharply. “I built the Sundial. For you. All for you.” Osiris knew this revelation would be a lot of Saint to take in, but it needed to be said.

Osiris continued, “The fact that you stand before me now, alive, scares me. It scares me because at any moment you could be ripped away from me again, and next time there won’t be another chance for us.” Saint’s hands were on his shoulders again. He didn’t recoil from the touch this time. “Do you understand how terrified I am of you, of these feelings I have for you?”

Saint pulled him into his embrace, pressing the cool metal of his face into Osiris’ neck. Osiris froze for a moment, but then wrapped his arms around the titan in turn, sliding a hand up to cup the back of Saint’s head. For a while they stood there in silence as they held on tightly to one another, both afraid to let go. Then Saint’s hands slid down to rest on the small of his back.

Osiris pulled back, hands still resting on the titan’s biceps. His eyes darted between each of Saint’s as he tried to read his face. The Exo leaned in.

It felt as if his body had been shocked full of arc. His breath hitched in his throat. It took a moment for his mind to process what was happening. His lips began to move of their own accord. His eyes fluttered shut, his body molded against Saint’s, his breaths fogging on the cool metal of the Exo’s lips in between kisses. Saint buried his hands deep in Osiris’ robes, twisting the fabric around his fingers as he pulled him closer. His hands tightened on Osiris’ waist. A low whine came from deep in the warlock’s throat. He ran a hand down Saint’s chest and felt artificial muscles of silicone and steel ripple beneath his fingertips. He chased after Saint with his lips when he broke away.

“I will go where I please, Osiris. You don’t get to make that decision for me.” Saint ran his thumb along Osiris’ cheek. “But if we only have this second chance, then there’s no way I’d rather spend it than at your side.”

"Please," the warlock pleaded. He shook his head ruefully. "Don't throw your life away for me."

"You once told me that as a Guardian your duty was to protect this City and fight for the future of humanity." Saint brushed a rebellious feather out of Osiris' face. "That is as true for me as it is for you. What better way is there to secure a future for our people than to fight out there alongside you. The Martyr Mind is destroyed and I am alive. All that remains to be laid to rest is your fear."

He was ashamed to admit that he couldn't fix his mistakes alone, that his recklessness may lead them down a darker path. But Saint was a formidable warrior who was more than capable of taking care of himself. To suggest otherwise would be nothing short of insulting. He couldn't stop Saint from rushing into the fold any more than he could leave Mercury and the Infinite Forest behind, and in time he would have to come to accept that. But he would sooner lay down his own life for the man before he let him slip away again. It was, perhaps, the greatest challenge Osiris would ever have to face.

“No more running,” Osiris agreed. The warlock tugged the cowl from around his neck and let it drop to the floor. He hesitated, then decided to remove the phoenix headpiece as well. It, too, fell to the floor and landed with a clatter.

Saint’s eyes had dimmed. With a wave of his hand, the windows of the ship darkened, then he was on Osiris again. Saint kissed him until he could hardly stand on his own, then mouthed at the crook of his neck. Osiris shivered at his touch, his skin flushed with desire.

They stumbled to the bunk in the back of the ship and collapsed in a tangle of limbs. Saint’s hand trailed down Osiris’ body, teasing him, taunting him until he begged. Sweat glistened the warlock’s skin, his fingers slipping in their grip on Saint’s neck as he pulled him in for a searing kiss. The Exo gripped the back of his thighs as he pushed into him with a low groan. He set a slow and tantalizing pace. He wanted to savor Osiris, savor the sweet sounds he drew from him when he hit the right spot.

Saint stroked him in time with his thrusts, drawing out strangled moans in between his stuttered breaths. Osiris’ fingers dug into his back, his legs wrapped tightly around Saint’s waist, pulling him in deeper with each thrust until finally he threw his head back into the pillows and came with a cry, Saint’s name on his lips. With one more shaky jerk of his hips, Saint finished. He panted as he hovered over his lover, his eyes filled with a warmth so tender Osiris almost thought it was meant for someone else. Then he leaned down and captured the warlock's lips with his own, removing all doubt from his mind.

Saint settled down next to Osiris, wrapping his arm around the other man’s middle as he pulled him close and nuzzled at his neck. Osiris smiled softly and covered Saint’s hand with his own. To be held close like this, to be loved, was something so new and foreign to him that every other moment he would look over at Saint to make sure it was all real, and every single time he’d find a pair of violet eyes staring back into his. It was something he had only ever imagined happening in his dreams, and now it had become a reality. Within moments he drifted off to sleep.

Osiris slept better than he had in centuries.