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With infinite ardor

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Some nights none of them could sleep. Jowd found himself wandering up to the castle walls having left Alma curled up in a chair nursing tea and a book, but even their spacious rooms had felt too small to him this night. Never one to stay still for long Cabanela had also left earlier though Jowd had no idea where he had gotten off to this time.

As it turned out his location didn’t take long to discover. A soft and familiar melody drifted on the breeze. Jowd followed it to find Cabanela standing at the parapets, statuesque with hands resting on the stone while he sang. Once he’d been framed by the ocean and barren shores. Now a sea of sand stretched out before them and above the stars glittered, blanketing the sky. Once this particular song had ached and in some, different ways, it still did—so much time had been lost. Yet, it seemed even in opera there could be some seeds of truth. Somehow, through absurd twists of fate and a stubbornness that defied all reason they were here.

Jowd waited until the last strains of his song faded into the night.

“Qui a me, t'attenderò.”

‘Wait’, Jowd thought. The sentiment remained, but didn’t suit, not this one who moved and fought, and kept going until the end and beyond, passing all reason and sense.

With the song finished he approached.

“It’s me.”

Cabanela didn’t turn, but relaxed into Jowd as he wrapped his arms around that slim frame.

“My king,” he breathed.

Jowd leaned his head into Cabanela’s shoulder. Only a loose silken shirt provided any barrier between Cabanela and the night’s chill. One hand he let simply rest against Cabanela’s chest, but the other he let slip under his shirt, his hand warming Cabanela’s cooled skin. His fingers traced scars, some more faint than others, unknown in their source and he wondered if it was easier to know a cause or to have that disconnect, to keep that distance from oneself. He thought he knew what he would prefer, but there would always be things they’d never entirely see eye to eye on. The holes held their own pains.

His explorations moved on to another he knew better: whether the injury had been too severe for even healing magic to prevent scarring or Cabanela had plunged back into the fray before Yomiel had finished, Jowd didn’t know—either seemed equally likely. Cabanela seemed to scarcely breathe, but Jowd felt the quickening of his heart beat. Jowd closed his eyes against the memory he knew would never leave them. The pleased malice that twisted his face so like the one they knew but not. The pained shock in Cabanela’s face as his blood poured before he went limp strung up by so many wires like a marionette and cast aside like a broken doll. Not here. Not now. He pressed a kiss to Cabanela’s neck where his pulse beat strong and there was life here.

“I never left,” Cabanela whispered.

“We made it.”

“Of couuurse.”

Jowd felt more than heard the shudder in Cabanela’s breath, felt the hot drop of moisture hit his hand. He remained silent. Some things couldn’t be said, not by him at any rate, not for this. Let Cabanela have his moment. In this he had his back.

And so he remained still and silent, holding him here until Cabanela lifted a hand from the stone to place it over Jowd’s. Jowd flinched; his touch was like ice.

“We could go inside,” he said.

“Do youuu want to?”

“No.”

But unlike Cabanela he did remember how to dress for his desert’s temperaments. He lifted Cabanela’s other hand away from the cold hard stone, drawing him in and wrapped his cloak around them both.

Jowd stared past Cabanela at the sands, at home, at the man in his arms, and considered hope. And the fulfillment thereof.