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I can live today (if you give me tomorrow)

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A sense of humor is very likely the foremost important trait in any adventurer. The ability to look out at a grim situation and see the absurdity amidst the danger. Dorian Storm likes to imagine he possesses that sense of humor.

After all, Dorian set out in hope of daring adventures, whirlwind romances that end with wistful farewells as he flowed easily from one thing to the next. It’s a little funny that he got the adventure and fell ass over tea kettle in love with the first competent halfling warrior he met.

Not that Orym has noticed.

Come to think, it’s actually incredible Orym hasn’t noticed yet. Dorian has never been especially subtle about anything in his life. It was one of those things his brother thought was hilarious: that for all Dorian charmed and sparkled his way through life, shifting little parts of himself to suit the lie he wants to live, he’s entirely transparent and obvious about his emotions. It makes it harder to sell his own nonsense, so to speak, when Dorian has never mastered his glass face.

For his part, Orym is exceptionally observant when he needs to be. That fight they had over the circlet was as much a result of Dorian being obvious as it was about Orym having a hair trigger from watching him ceaselessly for weeks. At first, Dorian had mistaken Orym for one of those brooding, strong-but-silent types, but now it just seems like he’s the sort who keeps his thoughts to himself until he decides they’re useful.

So, if Dorian is making an absolute ass of himself by mooning after Orym, who picks up on everything else, then it's not a leap for Dorian to conclude that Orym is uninterested and too polite to reject him without being prompted. And Dorian, not even remotely interested in the experience of being rejected, has resolved not to say a word for as long as he lives. Or at least until this embarrassing crush passes, which it feels like it never will.

Instead, he’s followed Orym to the other side of the world on the thin excuse that he’s been to Jrusar before, only to prolong this misery.

Now that he’s here, though, Dorian is determined to be useful. Which is why he’s the one who woke before the sun to follow up on a few leads for a few rooms to rent while they’re here. They can’t stay at the Spire by Fire forever, not with the rates their rooms go at, and they don’t know how long they’ll be here, especially now they’ve gotten themselves entangled with a criminal smuggling operation, a dwarf necromancer, and whatever the hell was going on with some murderous furniture.

The first couple of places he went were entirely unsuitable, the third was definitely beneath a brothel, but the last smelled a little like Elam’s kitchen in Niirdal-Poc, a little like home, and Dorian had liked it in spite of the cramped living quarters.

He’s just stepped into the flow of people outside, remembering that he’d liked the easy way he could disappear in the hubbub of Jrusar, when he feels a soft touch on his hip and jumps with one hand reaching for the handle of his axe.

“Sorry,” says Orym, looking properly embarrassed for surprising Dorian. “I woke up before Fearne and thought I’d meet you here.”

“I got up early to look at the places we picked out,” Dorian explains, although he’s sure Orym already knows this about him. “But I liked this one best of all the places I saw this morning.”

“It looks nice,” Orym agrees, his eyes tracing the ivy covered walls with a faraway look, like he’s thinking of somewhere else.

Dorian can see the faint resemblance to Orym’s home in Zephrah, a small and cozy place full of personal touches: piles of sweet smelling, air-fluffed feather beds in the guest bedroom, the smaller cabinet to the side of the woodstove with the fired clay cups Orym liked to use, or the wrought iron stand for his armor and weapons next to a carved stool and a small wooden trunk holding his whetstones and leather oils. The personal touches that made Orym’s little cottage into a home for him.

Orym pulls his eyes back to Dorian and nods encouragingly. “If you like it, I like it.”

“Bit short on bedrooms,” Dorian adds with a grimace, privately wondering if he had deceived himself into liking this place because he thought Orym would like it. “Two of us are going to have to bunk up.”

Orym shrugs this off, falling into step with Dorian as they cut between the streams of people out on their own business. “We’ve had much worse sleeping arrangements.”

They’ve had enough time to learn a comfortable pace together, Dorian slowing his stride to match Orym’s somewhat faster cadence. The morning sun hits Dorian’s face first when they turn a corner, and then the crowd parts enough for it to reach Orym, and it makes him glow so magnificently that Dorian catches himself staring obviously, not even bothering to look where he’s going.

Fuck, that’s embarrassing.

“Are you feeling any better than you were?” Orym’s voice cuts clear through the din of the crowd, as though he’s using the same sort of wind manipulation that Dorian does to make his voice carry to him unimpeded. “I don’t think any of us were prepared for what happened to Sir Bertrand.”

“But you think I took it a little worse?”

Orym hums accord, reaching up to tug Dorian’s hand and tipping his head to a winding side street that leads upward to the Spire by Fire. The buildings around them muffle the noise of the other people, and he seems to relax a little, climbing the steep hill toward the inn.

“I blame myself, a little,” Dorian agrees, keeping pace with him. “But if it hadn’t been him, then it would have been someone else. And if it hadn’t been then, what’s to say it wouldn’t have been Imogen or Laudna, or Ashton and Fresh Cut Grass?”

“That’s a wise way of thinking about it.”

“You sound surprised.” Dorian smiles disarmingly, hoping Orym knows he hasn’t taken offense. What he doesn’t say is that he’s been thinking constantly about how Orym would react if he’d been the last one to see Sir Bertrand alive. If he’d been the one to let him go out that night. It had seemed sensible and comforting to imagine what Orym would say and, like so many other times Dorian has sought his counsel, it had helped.

“Well,” Orym answers in his serious voice, like he’s thinking carefully about what he wants to say before he does. “I didn’t think you’d been sleeping well. But if you’re working through it on your own, then I’m sorry for assuming.”

“No apologies between us.” Dorian nudges his shoulder with one hand, lingering perhaps too long than is strictly necessary. “Not for something like that.”

“Maybe for direct threats?”

Dorian grins, but he’s glad they can joke about that day now. It feels like a bad memory, like Dorian can barely recognize himself in it. That was the nature of the circlet, though, right?

“I wasn’t planning on threatening you anymore,” he says as the Spire by Fire floats into view ahead of them. “I have no illusions over who wins that fight.”

“No need to test that,” Orym agrees. “I have no interest in fighting you.”

Ahead of them, Fearne emerges through the door of the tavern, making cheerful conversation with an orc man, who gesticulates wildly, evidently charmed by her presence. One enormous hand nearly knocks over a human trying to skirt past them, but Fearne’s companion doesn’t seem to notice. Neither does Fearne, who spots them and waves enthusiastically in their direction.

“These are my friends I was telling you about,” she says breathily to the orc, reaching a hand out to them and drawing them close. Mister leaps from her shoulder to Orym’s, chattering loudly with apparent relief at seeing them.

“Oh,” he says with his eyes clearing as he looks between the three of them. He makes a deep, guttural noise from his chest and bows lavishly to each of them in turn. “A pleasure to have met you, lady. Appreciate your – best wishes with your companions.”

“What a nice gentleman.” Fearne waves to Mister and beams down at them. “So, have you both found us a place to stay?”


Dorian ought to object to the sleeping arrangements, but either he or Fearne would have to share with Orym, and she already has Mister. Orym didn’t object, though Dorian saw the uncharacteristic flash of hesitation, like he was frozen in place for an instant before he agreed to share with Dorian. And, well, if anything could have confirmed what Dorian already suspected about this entire, humiliating crush, it was that.

Then Orym comes to him while they’re standing by the enormous window in their narrow room overlooking the lush garden courtyard and suggests that they take turns sleeping there.

“I’m usually awake late,” he offers in a voice that sounds too-casual to Dorian. Like he’s trying to let him down easy, spare his feelings, and smooth past this awkward period so that they can maintain their friendship for the long run.

“I’m an early riser,” Dorian agrees brightly. “Maybe we should take shifts anyway, with that creepy dwarf running around.”

And that settles it. Dorian plays in the evenings at a nearby tavern, Fearne charmingly fleecing everyone for their money in a strange game that involves sigil-etched stones and covert hand signs at a nearby table. And Orym, stationed silently in a corner, scanning the room with a single tankard in front of him.

At the end of one such evening, Dorian slides into the chair opposite his, waving farewell to the busty half-elf woman who gushed over his final set, ordering a drink and settling into companionable silence with Orym. She's just the sort of distraction he should want for the evening, to make use of the upstairs rooms for an hour or two before retiring to the bed he shares with Orym. It’s frankly astonishing how little Dorian wants that, and how much he would rather simply be with Orym.

Orym’s fern eyes follow the charming woman back to her place at the bar, where she laughs brightly, apparently sharing her failed luck with her friends. “I think she wanted to go home with you tonight.”

“Wouldn’t that be a little weird?” Dorian clears his throat, suddenly embarrassed and mortified in the same instant. “We take turns using that bed, Orym. That feels…”

“I hadn’t thought about that,” Orym chokes out hoarsely, wiping mead from the corner of his mouth. “I can’t believe I forgot.”

“Lucky you,” Dorian answers darkly, gladly exchanging coin for his drink into which he can bury himself.

Orym looks penitently into his own tankard, as though he’s afraid this is the thing that’s going to bust open the ruse that Dorian isn’t obviously pining for him. Which is fine with Dorian, who is very used to pretending a problem isn’t there until it’s too much problem to ignore.

It’s just that – well, it’s just that the pillows still smell like Orym when he falls into bed at night, and Orym is the one whose gentle touch is waking him up for his turn at watch, and he spends the darkest portion of the night imagining Orym sleeping soundly, coiled up in the warm spot left by Dorian’s body. If such a thing can be just anything.

At last, Orym clears his throat and meets Dorian’s gaze with the flinty edge of a man who has just made up his mind about something. “I’m sure Fearne won’t mind if I bunk up with her on the nights we split watch. You deserve the chance to enjoy yourself in Jrusar.”

It turns out that the only thing worse than an all-consuming, unrequited crush is the subject of that crush knowing about it, and suggesting he move on as quickly as possible by playing wingman.

“I, uh,” Dorian begins haltingly, feeling like he’s skidding down a mountain without a foothold. “I came to help you in Jrusar, not to – uh. Not to – fuck.”

And that really caps this whole situation right there. A dollop of something sweet at the top of the fine pastry of humiliation Dorian has made for himself. Humbleberry pie, serving size of one.

What he meant was an expletive statement about how awful he feels, but the word carries between them with its euphemistic meaning. Orym flushes dark red from the tips of his ears to the upper boughs of his chest tattoo, draining his tankard and pushing to his feet.

“I should head to bed,” Dorian says quickly, busying himself with attaching his lute to his back and looking absolutely anywhere but at Orym.

“I’ll grab my things out of there.” Orym drops a few coins on the table. “I haven’t polished my sword – armor.”

It would be funny. It is funny, the entire absurd moment of it is worth dissolving into laughter. It would break the tension, at least, but Dorian is burning with embarrassment that will keep him awake for hours to come.

They’re back into the night air and following the moonlit streets before he summons up the nerve to say anything at all.

“You don’t have to take your things somewhere else to work,” he offers in what he hopes is a normal tone to have. “You aren’t loud enough to keep me awake.”

Orym opens his mouth like he’s going to refuse, but clamps it shut immediately and nods instead. “It takes a while, though. I’ll set up by the fire.”

Dorian thinks again about the stool by the fire at the house in Zephrah as they ascend the stairs to the ivy-covered house. He should just go straight to bed when they get back to the room, but Dorian takes the plush armchair by the fire and watches while Orym sets out his things with methodical precision. He starts with the armor, polishing the buckles and gently rubbing oil into the etched leather.

“We should see if the market has some oil for you,” Dorian says when he looks over at the nearly empty jar, and barely catches the stuttered movement of Orym’s hand as he stops his work and then tries to start it up again without notice.

“I forgot to pack extra when I left Zephrah,” he says in a low, regretful voice. Something changes in his demeanor, like he’s made a decision and is letting it settle before acting on it. “I was running low, and I wasn’t ready to use the last of the one Riegel made for me.” At his blink of confusion, things Dorian hadn’t yet put together, Orym adds, “My husband.”

“Orym, I’m sorry, I–”

Dorian knew Orym was a widower from a remark he’d made early in their acquaintance, and he had noticed the distinctive scent of his armor, like the herbs and flowers that grow in the mountainside of his home, but he hadn’t ever thought about those things together before. As he does, though, all those small details that pointed to a meticulously-kept life in Zephrah start to fit together. They aren’t the sort of thing Orym would do for himself, but the affectionate signs of someone else who loved him enough to fill those gaps in his life.

“It’s fine. The market is a good idea.”

He doesn’t want to, because the self-centered part of himself that wants Orym to love him back is a real bastard, but he shoves it away into the place where he put the insecurities the Spider Queen gave him, clears his throat and asks: “Do you want to tell me about him?”

They don’t often talk about themselves in this deep way. In no small part because Dorian loudly slammed the door on personal details anytime it came up, afraid to let anyone know who he is and where he’s from or even what his birth name is. And meanwhile, Orym has been quietly moving through life wearing armor that smells like his husband’s love.

Orym tells him as he returns to his work, as though the act and the memory go together. It’s easy to imagine Orym doing this at the end of his days in Zephrah with a man who loves him listening to his stories, laughing at his dry jokes that can slip by unnoticed, pulling him to bed when the night gets too late.

It doesn’t hurt, exactly, to know that Orym was loved like that before. Dorian has more sense than to be jealous of a dead man. There’s no competition to be had here, because Dorian was never in the running. It’s like looking at the ruins of something, recognizing the splendor that it once was, and knowing he’ll never see it for himself. All it does is make Dorian feel like a spectacular fool, because it makes him love Orym all the more for it.

“I wish you still had him,” he says, surprising himself to realize that he means it completely. His life would be completely different if Orym’s had remained whole, but he couldn’t say in good faith that he loves Orym and wants this awful thing to have happened to him.

“Everything would be different,” Orym agrees, as if mirroring Dorian’s thoughts. “I couldn't believe it had happened, and the only thing I knew how to do afterward was to keep doing what I’d been doing for years. Going through all the motions with this enormous hole in the center of my life. Except the hole was my grief, and it was pulling little pieces of me away.”

“So, you decided to leave Zephrah?”

“No,” says Orym with meaning, lifting his eyes to Dorian’s with his whetstone in one hand and his sword in his other. “I was sent away. I thought I was being punished for grieving my husband too much, that I was making everyone uncomfortable and no one knew how to deal with it. That they wanted me to get back to being what I was good at. I thought I was just supposed to be the Fire Ashari’s problem for a while.

“After a while, I realized that it was probably because she didn’t know how else to help me break out of it, except to pick a direction and give me a hard nudge. I was probably the last to know I was ready.”

“Were you?” It comes out incredulous, but Dorian already thinks he knows the answer. It wasn’t long after that they met in Emon.

“Mostly. By that point, I’d said goodbye to so many parts of him, it felt like I was just living in the ashes. But leaving felt like saying goodbye to the rest, piece by piece.” Orym gestures to the jar next to him. “Like the oil. Eventually, I’ll run out, and I’ll have to say goodbye to that tether to the life we had.”

At Dorian’s mute horror, Orym puts aside his things and reaches out a hand for his knee, and it feels wrong that there’s a little jerk of longing, like a fish hook tugging at the center of his chest.

“It’s hard for me sometimes,” says Orym, his thumb circling around his kneecap. “But I promised him I’d keep going.”

Once he falls into the bed that smells like Orym and only Orym, as he’s slowly drifting away, Dorian feels the faintest sense that there was something else Orym was trying to say, too.


Fearne finds him a few afternoons later while Orym is out, tracking a lead that she picked up during one of her nights gambling. He’d waved Dorian off when he offered to go along, pointing out that Dorian was hardly as easily overlooked as a halfling and proving this point by disappearing into the crowd within a minute.

“I thought I’d like to go to the market,” says Fearne. “And I thought you’d enjoy it, too.”

They agree to go to the market on the high end of the spire, the one where rarer, more expensive goods are, but Dorian catches Fearne’s arm before they pass the first stalls at the entrance to the square.

“No stealing,” he says very firmly, looking between both her and Mister. At her mock, outraged gasp, Dorian lifts his eyebrows. “I absolutely do not want to explain to Orym that you’re in a dungeon somewhere because you cheesed off some wealthy merchant.”

“I’m sure I could get out of a simple dungeon,” Fearne sighs a little and shakes off his hand. “But I understand. You want me to exchange money for whatever beautiful things I see.”

Dorian has heard the stories of the capricious fey courts, but hadn’t fully understood what that meant until he met Fearne. He tries to imagine all the ways what she said might be misconstrued and knows already that this was a dangerous idea.

“They’ll tell you how much money they want for the item, and you give them that amount.”

“You negotiate prices with merchants,” Fearne counters serenely.

“Then let me do the negotiating.”

Satisfied, Fearne leads him through the market, pausing every now and again to coo over some shiny bauble or another. Dorian successfully negotiates for her to buy an enchanted satchel that looks like those worn by fashionable Jrusar nobility, but contains an entire room, plushly decorated with thick carpets and silk pillows.

“That might resolve our sleeping arrangements,” Fearne says in a stage whisper as they leave for the next stall, patting the bag with an enigmatic smile that causes a dwarf man to collide messily with a nearby stall full of colorful birds in cages.

“What?” Distractedly ushering her on, Dorian tries to remember what Fearne said. Her smile sharpens for just a moment, but she doesn’t answer.

There’s a commotion from behind them, and Dorian has just enough time to think with alarm that perhaps Fearne did steal something before something clatters to the stone cobbles at his feet. He recognizes it as a crossbow bolt and reaches out for Fearne, who paints the air around them in fire to incinerate the next volley.

Between the screams and the stampede erupting around them, Dorian spots a lone, familiar figure sprinting against the tide toward them, sword drawn.

“Over here!” Fearne calls, waving to Orym as Dorian grabs her arm and uses a gust of wind to knock the third volley of bolts askew before dragging her under the cover of a nearby stall, filled to the brim with exotic furs, which Fearne regards with malice.

Orym rolls between them and springs up in a single, graceful movement. “What are the two of you doing here?”

“Shopping,” Dorian answers dryly, reaching for his scimitar. “You don’t look like you were having a quiet afternoon.”

“Not exactly.”

Dorian is about to ask him what happened to quietly following leads when he sees blood splatter onto the stones next to Orym’s boots from his sash, now shredded and darkly saturated. He isn’t entirely aware of dropping to a knee, pulling aside the fabric, and pressing his bare hand against the wound. Magic coils up from his inner reservoir and Dorian directs it to knitting the skin back together, although it’s long and deep, and it will take longer for it to completely heal.

“You’re going to explain why you didn’t bring us with you later,” he says shortly, stepping quickly to the side as Fearne changes into her direwolf and emits a deafening howl next to his ear.

“Right.” Orym looks a little steadier, though, when he catches one of those shadow creatures with the sharp edge of his sword and arcs it downward, slamming it into the stones and taking a deft leap backward to avoid the explosion of flame.

They fight their way through the market, Dorian stopping to pull merchants and shoppers from the collapsing stalls between crossbow fire. He looks up from the alley he’s shoved a woman and her son into in time to see Orym spring off a collapsed wagon, and fling a dagger at the ornate roof of a nearby building. He twists his body for the landing, but it’s only Dorian who sees the bolt shoot from the shadowed corner behind a stall selling bright, patterned silk.


The bolt spears him directly through the cover of his armor. Orym curls around it with a choked gasp and his sword clatters to the ground an instant before he does with a sickening echo through the abandoned square. Dorian’s vision darkens to a long tunnel with Orym at the end, although he hears Fearne’s enraged snarl and a wet, crunching noise he belatedly realizes is her efficient means of dispatching the last archer.

It must only take him seconds to reach him, but Dorian has imagined a thousand horrible scenarios, already dredging deep in his magic, by the time his boots skid underneath him and he pulls Orym’s limp body against his chest, muttering incantations between prayers to nameless, faceless powers that could save him.

I was supposed to do a better job taking care of him.

“Dorian.” It’s barely a whisper, but it is Orym’s voice, even as his eyes are closed in a wince. “Pull out the bolt.”

His whole body shudders when Dorian pulls fast, his fingers glowing with ambient magic at the ready to stop the bleeding, but Orym grinds his teeth and bears it without complaint. As a sign of how badly he’s feeling, he doesn’t even try to push out of Dorian’s arms to sit up. He just rests his face in the crook of his elbow, his breathing shallow, labored, and bearing just the faintest wheeze at the end.

His wounds might be sealed, if barely, but it’s the ominous puncture in the leather over his right lung that makes Dorian’s stomach swoop painfully. He thinks of all the times Orym has faithfully repaired his armor, the herbaceous smell that permeates it even now, and Dorian traces the edges of the hole with his fingertips and pushes his magic into sealing it.

“You didn’t need to do that,” Orym wheezes, reaching out a grateful hand to Fearne’s bloodied snout when she appears over them.

“I couldn’t bear to see it ruined like that.”

Fearne nudges his shoulder and drops to her belly to make it easier for the two of them to mount her back. Dorian stands on adrenaline-weak knees and his heart stops at the hiss of pain Orym tries to muffle as they settle on top of Fearne.

The trip back to their comfortable apartment is fraught, Dorian holding Orym as loosely as he dares while trying to absorb the impact of Fearne’s loping gait. He doesn’t begrudge Orym’s relieved sigh when the ivy-covered wall appears and they slide down.

“I’ll carry you to the bed.” It’s less an offer than a directive, but Orym doesn’t argue with him, and Fearne returns to her faun shape with a crease in the center of her lovely forehead.

“I’ll go for a healer,” she says lightly, pushing open doors for Dorian and waiting until he’s set Orym in the center of their shared bed before she leaves again, Mister chattering anxiously on her shoulder the only way she betrays her fear.

A proper healer will be able to do much more than Dorian can alone, but he reaches for his magic again and shapes it into the opening notes of a song he faintly remembers his brother once singing to him when he was very young and very ill. It takes a moment for him to find the true notes, but then he weaves them in with the air around them, humming and throwing open the windows over the garden.

When he turns back to the bed, the notes of his song echoing through the room, Orym’s eyes are open and fixed on Dorian with an unreadable expression.

“That was really stupid of me,” he says wearily, but there’s an apology somewhere between the words.

Dorian begins gently removing his armor and setting it to the side. He doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t trust himself to speak, so he devotes himself to unbuckling the leather without jostling Orym too much.

“Tripped on a–” His breath hitches in his chest when he sinks back into the mattress and Dorian loses a word between. “–in the fucking dark.”

“So, you’ll take us with you next time?” Dorian tries tamping down the whirlwind of emotion spinning in his chest: fury, anxiety, frustration, failure, fear. He feels each of them warring in his stomach as he stares down at the bed.

“At least that glowing scimitar of yours,” Orym answers, and Dorian feels the moment when anger triumphs and surges hotly through his veins.

“Orym, you can’t keep running straight at a threat without even giving the rest of us a chance to help you. Fine, take the hits, do your flips, but stop – you don’t need to do that alone.” He is only vaguely aware that he’s shouting louder than he has since he left home, less in control than before even then.

“Dorian, I–”

“I don’t know whether you think that you’re going to be fine at the end of it, but I’m not – I can’t keep – it is agony to keep finding you hanging on by a thread, and then watch you get up and do it again.”

The door opens to Fearne standing behind a middle-aged gnome woman with her mouth set in a soft oh that clearly tells Dorian that they both heard him from the hall.

The healer scans the room and approaches the bed with a detached, business-like manner that suggests this isn’t unusual for her. Dorian feels numb with his anger, but it slowly subsides as she works, leaving behind nothing but bruises and wounds that look weeks old, rather than minutes.

“He’ll need rest,” she announces, straightening and casting another long look over Orym. “A lot of it. But he’ll be just fine.”

Once she leaves, Fearne looks between the two of them, then back to the door nervously. “If you like, Dorian, perhaps I’ll stay with Orym for a little while.”

What he wants is for Orym to hear him, or to press his ear against his chest until he feels his heartbeat as surely as his own, or to just hold him. Instead, he nods and storms out of the house.

He’s a few streets uphill, walking toward the peak of the spire before he remembers Orym’s sword and shield, forgotten in the market square in their hurry to get home. Loath as he is to return to the same place where Orym nearly died again, Dorian could no more leave them behind than Orym himself. They came with him from Zephrah, and enchanting the simple shield had been all Orym asked for in a veritable treasure trove of enchanted items back in Emon. They must be important to him.

Dorian has a very good idea why.

The square is teeming with city guard, and a handful of merchants trying to clean up their wares with miserable expressions. Dorian ignores the urge to help and retraces his steps through the streets until he finds the spot Orym fell. His sword is still there, the shield partially buried under some debris a few yards away.

Dorian can’t even remember how many times Orym has held this shield between him and some danger, and he’s never once considered how small it is in his hands. Rain splashes on the grip, and he wipes it away at the same time he remembers it’s a beautiful, sunny day in Jrusar.

Sadness, it seems, has decided to have its turn with him.

Once, not that long ago, Dorian might have indulged in a fit of the sullens, going off and feeling enormously sorry for himself. Now, though, he just tucks Orym’s sword and shield under his blood-soaked cloak, and returns to the house while thinking about this reckless, unyielding, stubborn, protective man he loves.

When he slips into their room, ready to set the weapons in their place by the fireplace, Dorian is enormously surprised to find Orym sitting up in bed with a leatherbound book spread over his knees.

“I thought Fearne was staying with you,” he stammers out, looking back over his shoulder in case she’s coming up the stairs now.

“I asked her to go tell the others about today.”

All the anger he felt earlier evaporated to nothing during his walk to the market and back, and all the sadness, too. Dorian feels wrung out and exhausted, and he’d quite forgotten his own, far less dire wounds. He pulls off his cloak and outer garments, crosses the room to the chair by the fire and drops into it without a word.

“I also wanted to talk to you alone.”

“I shouldn’t have shouted at you.” Dorian flickers his eyes from Orym to the golden ochre sky beyond the garden. It’s gotten late somehow. “I’m sorry.”

Orym closes the book and drops it onto the ground next to the bed, tentatively testing his weight before limping toward the fire. “I misjudged the situation and I didn’t get out as soon as I realized that.”

Dorian jumps to his feet and reaches for him, but Orym waves him back down and sits on the plush footstool. The healer didn’t leave him bandaged anywhere, and he looks like he’s had a bath and changed into a clean set of clothing. He looks whole and well, if a little sore.

He looks like he really will be fine with a bit of rest.

"I had no right to be as – as emotional about it as I was. You made a mistake. I'm glad I was there in the end."

“Don’t apologize for giving me what I rightly earned.” There's something else to this that Dorian can't put his finger on, an undercurrent that can't only be explained by Orym practicing what he's going to say. "I can't pretend this is the last time this is going to happen. Risk is part of what we do, but I can make sure I don't take unnecessary ones."

"This isn't the first time you've had this conversation," Dorian realizes aloud.

He has the same sense that Orym is considering how to answer, testing words in his head and probing old hurts to feel if they still ache. It’s startling, the difference between what Dorian first thought of him and what he knows of him now. But then, Dorian has made it his work to catalog every small detail about Orym, like a hoard of precious things to examine during the darker, more hopeless moments.

“No,” says Orym at last with a grim, half smile. “Although it’s been a few years since I had anyone who would tell me those things you shouted at me.”

Orym’s ability to impart a great amount of information into as few words as possible is unmatched by any of the silver-tongued nobles Dorian grew up with. There’s more for him to slowly work through than he has the energy for, exhaustion settling into his bones like the shroud of night over the city.

“I should bathe,” Dorian finally says, when he’s sure the moment is passed. Orym stands shakily, accepts Dorian’s offered hand when he holds it out to him, and Dorian feels a short current of lightning extend up his arm, like he so often does when Orym touches him.

This time, by the widening of his blown-out eyes and his sharp inhale, Dorian thinks that Orym feels it too.


There is no question of returning to the watch rotation, although Fearne raises it when she brings them a lavish dinner packed in an enormous basket.

“Perhaps we don’t need to keep watch at night,” she says, feeding Mister cut pieces of oxblood colored fruit that smells like roses. “I think you both need to sleep for a long time tonight.”

That is the full extent of their conversation about the sleeping arrangements. Dorian considers sleeping in the chair, or even on the floor next to the bed, but what he wants is to hold Orym through the night. To wake up and immediately feel whether he’s still breathing.

Dorian is shaken, which feels silly because Orym is the one who was so grievously injured. It feels like the sort of thing a squeamish, starry-eyed young man who wanted adventure without considering what that entails would want. Not for the first time, Dorian considers whether his brother was right about him all along.

All flash, no bang.

In the end, it’s Orym who invites him into the bed while he’s stripping down to his base garments. “It’s plenty big,” he says in that maddeningly sensible voice. When Dorian complies and they’re curled up facing one another from opposite sides, though, he sounds far less sensible when he adds: “I don’t really want to sleep alone.”

“I expect I’ll have nightmares, too.” Dorian tries to smile, tries to find a joke or a story to tell. Anything to fill the suffocating emptiness. “Though yours will be worse.”

“Not more than usual.”

Again with the complicated statements, double meanings and unspoken details. Dorian is catching on fast, and he thinks that Orym knows it. He didn’t say he wouldn’t have nightmares, only that they wouldn’t be worse than usual. He didn’t say that he didn’t want to sleep alone tonight, but that he didn’t want to. There aren’t accidents with Orym.

“I could try magic,” he offers, but he knows Orym will refuse before he shakes his head. He’s never accepted anything for pain, as though he doesn’t want to blunt an experience, however painful it might be.

Instead, Dorian holds out his hand to Orym and is glad when he takes it, pressing their palms together with a shaky exhale that’s likely as much his sore diaphragm as an expression of relief. He has no idea if either of them will sleep well. Dorian is too preoccupied thinking about how Orym smells by comparison to the shadow of himself he’s left in their bed over the past days and weeks.

“There was something else I wanted to say earlier.”

Dorian already knows this is the moment Orym is going to finally deal the death blow. A precision strike, straight through the heart. Dorian steels himself for it, trying to decide whether to laugh it off or make an entirely sincere promise to try and get over it. It’s unseemly to be pining after someone who’s entire universe came crashing in on itself, a little too much like putting Orym up on a pedestal and making him a safe object of affections that can never be returned.

He can’t prevent that blow, but he can soften it maybe by not actually hearing it directly.

“Orym, you shouldn’t feel like you need to – I should have never been so – my brother always said there wasn’t a secret I couldn’t transmit without saying a word, but I don’t want there to be any awkwardness between us. We don’t have to – I don’t need to do this to you.”

Orym keeps his hand folded around Dorian’s, his expression serious and unchanging when he asks, “Are you sure?”

“No?” His shaking laugh bubbles out of his mouth before Dorian knows it’s coming, his absolute humiliation crystalizing into a single moment where he can’t help but be entirely honest. Perhaps this feeling will one day ascend into something he’ll be able to laugh at. “Not really.”


And then Orym is kissing him. It’s only a soft, chaste thing at first, a pure statement of how things stand between them, but it feels like an explosion going off somewhere, turning everything Dorian thought he understood about this situation at an angle. Orym grips Dorian’s hand against his chest, pressing his forehead against Dorian’s when he disengages to catch his breath, as if he’s afraid Dorian will pull away.

After dodging this for months, hung up on his own impossible hopes, Dorian feels lightheaded with a peculiar kind of joy. He’s not pulling back at the first sign he might have had Orym all wrong on this. There’s a soft tug at his hand and Dorian follows it, curling all the way around Orym, who rests one hand on Dorian’s cheek. Taking Orym’s chin between his forefinger and his thumb, Dorian tilts his face upward and drops his mouth over his.

Orym uncoils against him, meeting pressure with counter pressure as a weak rumble echoes in the space between Dorian’s racing pulse. He’s dimly aware that it isn’t him making the noise he feels along the network of his veins, but it takes longer to recognize that it’s Orym. Dorian’s fingernails scrape across his scalp when he closes one hand around a fistful of coarse hair at the base of his neck and is rewarded with a soft hiss and a full body shiver.

“We should slow down,” he mumbles into the cool night air, guiding Orym’s head back and trailing featherlight kisses down the exposed column of his neck.

“What you’re doing is the opposite of slowing down,” Orym grits out, his voice gone hoarse next to Dorian’s ear. “You don’t need to worry about hurting me.”

Easier said than done, Dorian thinks as he rolls to his back and tugs Orym along with him. The bolt today was only the latest, because Dorian can’t get the montage of Orym’s worst hits out of his head, his hands worrying over the silvered scars from the older ones and skimming past the fresh ones that haven’t had the chance to settle in and become a part of Orym.

“Humor me,” says Dorian, feeling absurd and earnest. “Just for tonight.”

“For tonight.”

It makes Dorian want to laugh how serious Orym is all the time, except when he’s not. There’s the faintest glimmer of humor across his face when he lifts his shirt over his head, entirely at odds with the punch to Dorian’s still-raw emotions when he spies the freshly-healed marks. Orym takes Dorian’s larger hand into his and brings it to cover the knotted mark in his skin from the bolt, distorting the branches of his tattoo.

“Look at it,” he instructs. “It already barely hurts. You’ll hardly know it was there in a few days.”

He sits up and lowers his mouth to the new skin, listening as Orym sucks in a shallow gasp for air, and murmurs into it: “I’m always going to know it’s there.”

What he isn’t sure about is what changed, or even when it did, but something feels like it’s shifted inside of Dorian. He can’t write this off as an embarrassing crush, the shallow kind of love one can have for someone they admire. He ought to have recognized it before, in the anxious way he’s been running after Orym for weeks and months now, but – well, Dorian has never handled complicated things with any grace, and this is not exactly an easy way to love someone. For all his eloquence, he has no words to explain this to himself, let alone to declare himself to Orym.

What he can do is do what he thinks Orym would do, and just show him.

Every time Orym tries to help him with the knots of his remaining clothes, Dorian pushes his hands away, arranging him into the pillows with gently efficient movements. Not that it stops Orym from trying to pull Dorian over him, to guide him into another fevered kiss, until Dorian catches his hands again and presses their foreheads together.

“Let me do this, Orym,” he breathes, lips barely skimming lips. “You’re always looking out for everyone else. Let me do this for you.”

“For tonight,” he repeats, decisively pulling Dorian’s shirt over his head. “Tomorrow will be different.”

There are no accidents with Orym. If he says tomorrow, then Dorian can be certain he means it.

He traces the constellation of scars with his mouth, pausing at each for a moment before he moves on to the next. Each of Orym’s breaths feel longer than the last, like he's trying to deliberately exert control over them, but Dorian takes note at each of the places where the heat of his mouth makes it change, whether it comes whooshing out on a sigh or comes staggered and offbeat. When he finds the angry, red slash across his lower abdomen from earlier, Dorian skirts it carefully, pressing his nose into the crease of his hips, curling his tongue around the sensitive hip bones.

At this, Orym emits an impatient growl, sitting up and dragging Dorian’s mouth back to his own with a soft bite at the corner of his lower lip that makes Dorian’s cock jump against his thigh.

“Don’t tease,” he warns, grinding his hips up against Dorian’s side and adding: “Please.”

As if Dorian could refuse him anything. He kisses him hard, exploring the topography of lips, teeth, tongue, and breaks it just as swiftly. He reaches for Orym’s cock with one hand to slide away the hood with a few slow strokes, admiring the scattered freckles along the shaft before lowering his mouth over him with a shaky inhale.

He’s surprised to find he’s nervous, like he’s going to do something wrong, until Orym curls his entire self around him: hands twisted in Dorian’s hair, his back arched forward around his head, his weak cry beside his ear only for Dorian to hear. There's the faint twitch of his cock when Dorian inhales deeply with the weight of it filling his mouth.

Every one of his senses feels encompassed by Orym until he feels drunk on the soapy-clean smell of his skin, the prickle along his scalp when his fists tremble, the salty bead from the tip of his cock that Dorian swipes away with his tongue. It feels right. It feels easy between them, nothing like the frustrated longing that's occupied him for months.

“Dorian,” he hears from a far away distance as he’s swirling his tongue along the sensitive line along the underside of his cock, memorizing even the smallest of Orym’s reactions. He'll do this again, a thousand times just to feel Orym come undone like this

He hears it again: ”Dorian!” and Orym’s knees clamp around his ears as he comes in languid, powerful pulses, his forehead against Dorian’s and his whole body shuddering against him.

It’s a few moments before he loosens his grip on Dorian’s hair, combing his fingertips through his hair from the scalp to the tip, urging his head up to the pillow beside him when he falls back into the mattress. Dorian doesn’t know what to say yet, so he tucks Orym’s head under his own. He believes Orym when he says that there's something to be had tomorrow.

“Hang on,” says Orym into his neck. “I need a minute.”

“The healer said you needed to rest.” Dorian reaches into his magic and silently weaves it into a soothing spell that he presses through to Orym when he lifts his face for a lazy kiss.

“Just something to help things along,” he explains with a light smile, but something nudges at him, like he’s forgotten it along the way. Dorian pushes it back down, wanting to just enjoy the sounds of the city at night drifting through the window, or just the surprised bliss that Orym feels–

Ah, he realizes with the sensation of a stone dropping through his stomach. There’s the problem: he doesn’t actually know what Orym feels.

It isn’t that Dorian thinks Orym would use him, it’s only that he was apparently wrong the last time he made any assumptions about what Orym thought, and he’d rather know the lay of things directly. If he isn’t waiting for Dorian to get past an inconvenient crush, then – what in hell just happened?

Dorian surprises himself with his own valor when he shifts his weight so Orym can rest his head comfortably on his chest. “I thought you weren’t–” His voice comes out scratchy, and he clears the lump forming in his throat. “Or maybe I thought you weren’t ready.”

Orym pushes up so he can see Dorian’s face, and he looks thoughtful for a moment. “I thought so, too,” he begins carefully. “At least, I thought so until – probably when you were in Zephrah, I suppose. I spent the rest of the time afraid I wasn’t, really, and that I’d jump too fast and only end up hurting you.”

That it was such a characteristically normal way for Orym to overthink something he wants only makes it more charming to Dorian. It takes a few, long seconds before he recognizes the rest of what Orym said. Since Zephrah?

“It was seeing you there,” he explains. “Among the remnants of what my life used to be. I realized that I wasn’t going to stay, that I was going with you.”

“You asked the Voice of the Tempest to send you here?” Dorian had thought it was just another one of those things that happened with the Air Ashari, that he went where she asked without question, and had only asked Dorian along for convenience.

“Not here, specifically. Just… onward. I told her I hoped to be of use, but that I intended to go wherever you did.”

“And if I didn’t know where I was going?” Because he hadn’t, and Orym choosing something impulsive and unknown simply because of him is–

“I wasn’t afraid of that.” It sounds an awful lot like I love you.

“I love you,” Dorian blurts out immediately, staring at the ceiling above them, his whole face burning. “Am in love with you. I think there’s a difference there, but I’m all of them. I don’t want you to think this is some unserious crush that’s going to pass in a month.”

“I know.” Orym pulls himself onto Dorian’s chest with effort, hesitating only once when he pulls at his newly knitted muscles with the effort. “Or, rather, I knew that you’re more likely to commit to something once you make up your mind about it. I’ve always loved that about you.”

He seems to hesitate for a moment at that, like he’s thinking of some other place, long before and far away.

“If it feels like cutting one of those tethers, I don’t want that,” says Dorian, thinking of all those small things about Orym that made him love him in the first place. Losing even one feels like a loss he can’t abide any more than Orym.

“It doesn’t,” he says, resting his head on Dorian’s chest, and for once, it’s what he doesn’t say that fills in the rest. No question needed.

Orym falls asleep first, but Dorian stays awake much longer, tracing the curve of his spine with one hand. He finds the warm spot on Orym’s neck and inhales deeply before he says, “I’d have gone anywhere with you, too.”

And he will.