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Kai Stubborn

to love the king and be his dragon

By DuointherainPublished 3 years ago 90 min read

Kai Stubborn

by J. Maxwell, AKA Nix Winter

There were two of them, standing by the ocean, a lone bed and breakfast in the distance. One was tall, wearing a black trench coat, jeans, bare feet. His blond hair lifted, dancing tangled as the breeze danced lightly down the beach. Cigarette smoke curled back and around him, lazy and yet also tangled on the breeze that promised the world had not yet really stopped for them. He drew his hand slowly to thin piles, the white filter of his cigarette tucked between two bent and stiff fingers, to pull a slow drag of smoke in. Green eyes, half-closed, watched the weak wave as it broke down to nothing. “You shouldn't have come.”

The man next to him was younger, perhaps, but not by much. In a suit and tie, polished shoes that left their own imprint in the sand, he stood with both hands in his trouser pockets, short dark hair untouched by the breeze. He could have been a samurai or a yakuza, a ghost of some of the things a man does for his country that are never spoken of, but when he leaned forward a smile lightened him and hew as just a man. “I had to come, as soon as I knew where you were. Kai, I have missed you so much.”

Surf came closer to them, leaving little bubbles unsaid of the ocean's soul. Kai touched the back of his wrist to his forehead, pushing suicide blond back, smoke trailing over the dark roots. “And now you've found me,” he said, in English, voice mellow, a playboy's voice that could never quite give up on the lazy sensual being. “You're going to miss the ghost I was.”

“I missed the man much more,” Dorian said. It wasn't a Japanese name, but it had been his name for as long as he could remember.

Kai pulled another moment from his cigarette, then tossed what was left into the encroaching ocean. “You should go away and pretend like you didn't find me. I can't work with the team anymore. Even Spades acknowledges that. I could never do intelligence only. I'm just not that smart.” He held out his hand, the mangled remains of a skilled weapon, three fingers broken so badly in an interrogation, left to the ravages of infection and damage. The other two fingers were better only because they'd been broken for less time when the rest of his team had found him. The problem with being an undercover terrorist hunter was that it was sometimes hard to tell the good guys from the bad. “I'm finished, Dorian. Done. Ruined. You have always been smarter, kinder to the world and yourself. You can make a place for yourself in the organization, to do something more than hunt and strike.”

One hand came from the warmth of Dorian's pocket and reached fro the twisted hand, but Kai turned way from the guilt in his friend's face, to the reaching touch. “I didn't find you to invite you back to the team, Kai. I know that's done. If we'd rescued you sooner... if you'd just told her who you were.”

“If I'd started talking, I'd wouldn't have ever shut up, and how was I to know she was really a cop like she said? Terrorist lie too, you know.” Kai pushed his foot in the sand, plowing up a small trough that water slipped into. “I couldn't give her anything that might have been used to hurt you.”

There were so many things that might never rise to the surface, like a soul dragged down to the bottom of the ocean. Usually, things that one hadn't meant o think or do. It didn't stop a person from wanting someone to love them, wanting to believe that someone could, not a ruined hand or a ruined soul.

Kai dropped then, to a squat, then down on his ass in the sand. Salt water and sand weren't going to ruin his faded-out jeans and he'd had about all he could stand of pretending he didn't care about Dorian being there. “Just get out of here. Or are you planning on breaking my fingers to make me talk?”

“Don't be a goddamn ass, Kai,” Dorian snarled, dropping to one knee, a hand reaching cautiously for Kai's t-shirt, to grab hold.

Cautious or not, he had him, a fistful of black t-shirt and Kai looked up, not so cocky, more vulnerable and afraid. “Dori, you want to kick my ass, fine. But I can't go back to being who I was. I learned things about myself, too. It's not just my fucking hand.”

“I understand,” Dorian said, holding Kai's green eyes locked with his gaze. “I learned, too. I learned that I love you. I love you, Kai. You're the only person I've ever really let get into me that deep. You know me and I now you, maybe better than you think anyone can. It's more than just knowing you, it's something so primal. You're the only person I'm attracted to, and I don't make it out like it's some kind of fucking joke. 'Dorian's a fag.' Whatever. I....” He paused, his eyes finally letting go of their hold as his power rolled back out like the tide, leaving little bubbles of feeling that he couldn't quiet put words to. “I love you,” he whispered. “I love you so much.”

Kai's other hand had healed much better and with it, he reached to touch Dorian's cheek, caressing smoothly shaved skin, his thumb moving over soft lips. It had always been that way between them, words of foam, but deep moving emotion that pushed the current of their lives. Kai's other hand, his mangled one, rose, the side of his little finger smearing away a tear and he leaned close, shifting to one knee, smashing sand against Dorian's expensive trousers.

Their kiss was a tentative brush, a passing of spirits where there should be none, Kai's chilled lips against Dorian's blush-swarmed lips that opened back with a willingness of a Christmas just one day delayed, hunger, need, roaring back from the oblivion of a soul which knows it's banished. Deeper into each other, tongues dancing nervous, afraid to touch, needing to touch, until dorian took the kiss, his fingers combed into Kai's hair, holding to him as if he were the only breath. Cigarette smoke, salty ocean air, heat of needing the touch of someone you love and respect and redemption.

Kai moaned into the kiss, his heart and body both waking. Panting, Dorian pulled back, dark eyes dancing with hope and happiness. “And you love me, too. I know you do.”

“I do,” Kai said, lips full of color now, a crooked smiles forcing it's way into being. “I'm not any good for you.”

“I'm a grown up. I'll make up my own mind on that. Make love to me?” Dorian asked, the breeze now moving his hair, tousling it forward against his cheeks.

“If that's what you want,” Kai said, swallowing. “Dorian, don't call yourself a fag anymore, ever, or I won't do this with you. Understand? I'm not going to do anything that would hurt you, not even you hurting you.” He stood then, good hand on one knee as he pushed himself upright. It had been more than his hand that had been hurt and he would not have been fine even if he'd healed faster. There weren't anymore bruises or open wounds. Those had been gone a long time. Now it was as if he'd aged twenty years, as if his soul didn't quite believe he'd survived and was waiting for him to just fall over.

“I want,” Dorian said, eyebrows drawing down. He'd found Kai standing on the beach and he hadn't been briefed on the stiffness Kai was moving with. “I want to make love to you. Why are you stiff? What happened?”

“You don't want to know, Dorian. Just let it go. I can't go back to the company for many reasons and maybe they wanted to make sure I didn't go to work for anyone else either.” Kai said. Where he'd come from, before the company, had been a permanent group, not the kind you walk way from, but the company had taken care of that for him. The company had take care of everything, until he couldn't take care of problems for them anymore. “Dorian, are you sure this is what you want?”

“Do you know how hard you are to find Do you know what kind of favors I pulled in to find you, and once I had, to make sure that the company left you and me alone? Kai, I don't want you to do anything you aren't interested in, but I'm not just going to go away. We have been friends. I want to be more, but you if you don't, even after that kiss... come on, that was a good kiss, wasn't it?”

“It was the best kiss I've ever had,” Kai said, wishing he had another cigarette. “That kiss, it just happened, Dorian. I can't say I haven't had my hand wrapped around my cock thinking about you plenty of times, because I have. God, you're so beautiful and watching you work is like watching one of the gods. You're just perfect. You're kind and you're human and I'd give anything to kiss you again, and if you want that, I want that too, but listen to me,” Kai demanded, watching as the sunset settled over the distance with the most striking of violets, storm clouds and sun, as if the two had anything to do with each other. His thoughts were a run on sentence and his soul a train wreck. “Dorian, I'll come back if you want, run the shop, be there when you come home. You don't have to suck my cock to make me come home.”

“Kai, what if I want to? And I've wanted to for a long time, but you're such a stubborn fucking bastard that you wouldn't take a hint.”

“You were young and innocent,” Kai objected, his broken hand moving to push hair out of his face, then stopping, just leaving the pale brown tangle for the wind to pick up.

It was a habit as old as either of them could remember, and Dorian reached out to brush the lazy hair back, his fingers gentle against Kai's face. “I was with the company before I was ten and you were the more innocent one, if I remember. Kai, you're only two years older than I am, in the human world. Why do you always want to make that into a decade? I was nineteen when we met and that was six years ago. Why do you want to make me into a baby in your head? So you won't want me?”

“I want to protect you, that's all. I just want to make everything good for you,” Kai said, emotional confusion in his voice. Sex had not always been a good thing for him. There were reasons he'd become a yakuza before he'd been picked up by the company. “I don't know what's right.”

“Kiss me again, Kai, please?” Dorian asked.

There was a vulnerability that cut all the way through to Kai's heart, that would have made him walk over broken glass to do anything for Dorian.

It set aside his fears from the past, his angst and guilt; everything that wasn't passion or Dorian's pleasure burned up in that vulnerable plea. Kai moved closer, this time watching his shorter lover, because Dorian had become his lover with that request. Those dark eyes watched him with hope and such innocence. Kai had always seen innocence in Dorian, and behind that, an openness that could have left the man unprotected. As nice as Kai wanted to be, the invitation woke a hunger in him. “what if I want more than a kiss, damn it, Dorian? What if I really want to take you back to my room and touch you?”

“Touch me? Iw as rather hoping you might fuck me, and let me fuck you,” Dorian said, “Come on, have you never thought about it? About what it would feel like to have my cock in your ass?”

“Oh my god,” Kai growled, jerking Dorian close, one hand going down to cup the hard curve of his ass through the fine wool of his slacks, to call the shorter man's bluff, “Where ddi you learn to talk so goddamn dirty? Your cock up my ass? What about your tongue stuck up my ass?”

Dorian rocked his hips against Kai's leg, rolling his hard excitement against him. “Sounds good to me, Kai.”

“Shh, don't say anything else,” Kai said, backing Dorian up the beach, toward the little path which lead back towards the bed-and-breakfast where he'd been living. It was new, so new, this invitation to touch someone he'd loved so deeply for so long. “I don't know what I'm doing with this, Dori – with us. Shh, just listen to me for a minute, okay? Sex is like money, I trade it for things I want. People fuck me, they don't love me, but you're different. You're Dorian and I need you. Just the though of touching you makes me so hard I think, I've never really been hard before. You get that? That I've never done this before, touching someone I love. I can't just fuck you, Dori.”

Dorian bit his lip, hand again fisted in Kai's black t-shirt as he backed up the path toward the big gray house. “So make love to me,” he said. “tell me how you want to touch me.”

“Aren't you even a little afraid of me?” Kai growled, catching up, reaching around Dorian to rub his back with a not ruined hand. “I'm a scary bastard.”

The wind stirred Kai's hair as excitement woke power he'd hidden away. Sex had ever had that effect on him before, touched his more dangerous nature at all.

“Who do you think you're talking to, dragon boy?” Dorian asked, his body pressed closely to the slender tall body of the man he loved. “You've been out of town a while and I've learned some new tricks.” The air began to glow as fingers traced symbols into the air. “Some of them are really good.”

There wasn't any smoke or light, no darkness, just the blink of an eye and they were back in Kai's room. Dorian grabbed hold of Kai, an arm easily reaching around him as he steadied himself. The power of the teleport pulled energy from the spell that hid his ears, so now the delicate pointy tips were clearly visible, three gold rings in one and a jewls for the mastery of water on the other.

“Holy shit, you gained a rank and mastered water? I've only been gone six months,” Kai said, fingers reaching wonderingly toward the teardrop-shaped gem hanging from Dorian's ear tip. “You were afraid of water.

“I thought it would be good to face my fears, and you should know time is not the same in Underhill as it is here. Many things have changed.”

A shiver went through Kai, rippling down his belly, over his manhood. “You are so hot with your ears showing!”

Dorian's fingers slipped under the edge of Kai's t-shirt, over hard abdominals, over the silky hair nears Kai's belly button, following the hair back to the worn elastic of his boxers' waistband. “Your ears are pretty hot, too,” Dorian said, eyes full of innocence and heat.

Kai laughed and kissed, sloppy and tender, over Dorian's jaw,down to his throat,pausing to breathe softly on his pulse, then back up to Dorian's ear, breathing whispers and kisses over the sensitive length, up to the very pointy tip. “Is it just my ears you like?”

“No,” Dorian whispered, “I like your hair and your eyes and the way you're more thoughtful and kind than you want people to think. I like how precise you are, while letting people think you're haphazard. I like the way your soul shows in your voice. Kai, I have loved you for so long!”

Kai moved back toward his bed, pulling Dorian with him. There weren't words for what he wanted to say. Men didn't talk about how lonely they'd been, how they'd thought they weren't worth anything at all and now another man's hands sliding over their belly made them feel as if they'd been all wrong. They didn't talk about how it felt the first time anyone really valuable had ever touched them, how the tip of their cock ached. “Dori, what do you want, really? Don't play any games. I'll give you anything you want. You want me to come back, I'll come. You just say what you want and I'll do it.”

“I want to fuck you,” Dorian said, “I want to wrap you up in all that's warm and sweet and make you happy. I want to lick your nipples and I want to suck your cock. I want to have you play video games by me as I type until two in the morning. I want to make you pancakes and I want to help you bleach your hair.”

“Shit, you dot love me, don't you?” Kai asked, almost asking why – but Dorian's mouth caught the word in a kiss.

Dorian pressed him back, stretching out on top of him. “I do. Tell me why you ran from me, all those years we knew each other, and don't tell me you thought I was too young. I have been of age by human guides for twenty times your age, no matter what my current ID card says.”

“I didn't always know that, did I?” Kai hedged, trying to tickle Dorian off of him and making no progress. The elf was smaller, but much stronger, and in this moment very determined. “Dorian, what do you want to hear? Why are you looking at me that way?”

Dark eyes seemed to bore into him, to unravel the very edges of his soul. “I want there to be no mistake, Kai. I am not here simply to have sex or fuck you, though I want that with sweaty passion. I also want to touch you, your soul. The part of you that will last forever. I want to love that part as well.”

Kai's hands stilled against Dorian's waist, his good thumb moving in small circles. “Baby, my soul ain't' really anything anyone wants, but I'm happy to be your lover. Just don't try to make me something I can't be, Dori.”

“You don't know what you are,” Dorian said, fingers caressing softly over Kai's lips. “I know about the Paris clubs.”

Kai went stiff. There were clubs and then there were clubs. Just how much stronger Dorian was now mattered a lot. How much he didn't want those clubs right then shocked him deeply. It was finding out that a fetish no longer worked and not knowing what was on the other side of that. “Are you into that?”

“I thought about it before I came,” Dorian admitted. “But then I thought a lot about it, and I needed to look into your eyes to see if I was into it or not. I'd follow you into anything, Kai, but I think you don't need that.”

“You make me feel like I'm crippled and stupid,” Kai hissed.

“And you make me feel like everything I might say could be wrong and I'll have the most precious person in my life slip away before I even know I've screwed up. That's why I studied you.”

“I'm precious to you, really?”

“Really, so much more than anything else,” Dorian said, promise thick in his voice. “I'm going to undress you now. Will that be okay?”

“I can undress myself,” Kai shot back, but his hand was working on Dorian's tie, at the button underneath. “I don't need your help.”

“You are a stubborn bastard,” Dorian growled between kisses to Kai's throat, as both hands worked Kai's shirt up, inch by inch. “How long did you think you could hide from me?”

“Wasn't hiding from you...” Their hardnesses, veiled by jeans and slacks, rubbed against each other and Kai thrust his hips up against the man pressing against him. “...didn't ask you to come, either.”

Dorian pressed down, rocking his hips. “Prick,” he snarled, holding the tension between their bodies for another moment before he pulled back, straddling Kai's hips, the ends of his t-shirt held in his hands. “Take it off.”

Tongue tip touching the center of his upper lip, Kai rolled up a little, enough to peel this t-shirt over his head, revealing a red dragon tattoo that covered most of his chest, tendrils of smoke curling lazily around one nipple. The lines of his stomach no longer perfectly matched the shadows and lines over the dragon, but he had had the dragon of heart for many years. While he was up, he caught Dorian in his harms, fingers combing into dark hair, lips catching lips to pass secret words that the man in Kai couldn't say out loud, a plea for love, a plea for understanding and passion.

Dorian met him just as fast and hard, like two ocean waves that crashed one into another, trying to become one and overcome at the same time. As Kai held him, stiff wrist at the back of his neck, strong hand in this hair, Dorian slipped out of his jacket, rushed to undo his buttons, throw away the tie. The stiff and ruined fingers at the back of his neck made his heart ache, made him wish for magic he didn't fully understand, made him long to celebrate the courage and power in the man he loved, and he and now way of really saying those things to Kai, so he concentrated on the kisses, down his chest, to one nipple.

Kai dropped back against the bed with a groan, both hands working to push Dorian's shirt off. “So ever put your finger in another man's ass?” Kai asked, watching Dorian's face closely, and breaking into a grin as bright color flashed over Dorian's cheeks.

“Well, no,” Dorian said, sitting on Kai, his shirt down around his shoulders. “Have you?”

“Of course I have, and it's a good thing one of us knows what he's doing,” Kai teased. “Go to the drawer and get the lube and pick yourself a condom.”

“We don't need a condom,” Dorian pointed out, “I am an elf. You can't catch anything from me, nor me from you, but if you find it attractive, you can wear a condom.” Dorian moved off the bed with a grace that he was too distracted to hide. He peeled away his slacks and boxers with that same fluid grace, as if such clothes weren't really meant for the likes of him, all without really seeming to know who he moved wasn't the most natural way for a human.

Unearthly, it would have been disconcerting if Kai hadn't spend enough time around a relaxed Dorian to have become used to it. “I'm not going to wear a condom, but you can. You wanted to fuck me, remember? God you're pretty when you blush!” Kai kept pace, shoving his jeans down and throwing them across the room towards a chair.

“My cheeks will burn if you keep making me feel this way. Do you like being 'fucked'?”

“Yeah,” Kai said, rolling slowly onto his side, one knee bent a little. “I like being fucked. Dori, you're really beautiful. Dressed, you're something, but naked, you're really – like the most beautiful anything I've ever seen.”

Dorian grinned over his shoulder. “Is this the lube?” He asked holding up a plastic bottle with a blue cap.

Nodding, Kai moved to the center of the bed, rolled onto his belly. Both arms folded under his head, he smirked. “You don't use lube? What do you put on yourself when you jerk off? Just when I thought you couldn't get any pinker.”

“Do you think about me when you,” Dorian paused, climbing back onto the bed, one knee pressing down as he reached out to touch Kai's bare back, trace along the line of red dragon there, “when you touch yourself? Don't look away, please. I want to see your eyes.”

Kai turned back to face Dorian, blush on his own cheeks. “you? Maybe. Maybe stuff I'll tell you about when you're dark and jaded like me.”

“You're not dark and jaded, Kai,” Dorian said, reaching across to set the lube down before he leaned over and kissed the round curve of Kai's bottom. “You're beautiful, my lover.”

“Damn, Dori,” Kai groaned, lifting his hips up, inching up onto his knees. It was a vulnerable position, offering himself. He moved his knees apart a bit, his cock swaying slightly. “Touch me, slide your hand down between my cheeks and look for my hole.”

“Does everything have to be so rough? Hole? I think it must be better than a hole,” Dorian murmured, moving between Kai's spread legs, fingertips lightly caressing down between the valley between Kai's cheeks. “I think it must be a lock, and I have the key, and together we will be joined.”

“That's very pretty,” Kai said, hops moving, passion dripping from the tip of his cock. “And I love you, Dori, I do, but mostly I just want you to touch me right now. Put a finger inside me. Put some lube on your finger first, okay?”

One finger found the tender pucker ad circled it. Nothing but skin to skin, Dorian whispered, “Oh wow, wow. You're really soft.”

“Okay, virgin boy,” Kai smirked, arching his back. “Just put the lube on your cock, then please? I want you.”

“The book I read said to slip one finger, then two, to make 'scissoring' motions with them, to help you relax.”

Kai laughed. “Oh, baby, Maybe if it was my first time. I'll do that to you.”

“Have you been in love before?” Dorian asked, hand shaking as he reached for the bottle, which he flipped open with his thumb.

“Does it matter?” Kai asked, a veil of caution over his voice.

“No,” Dorian said, “I'd love you even if you didn't love me back, even if you loved someone else, even if anything. I love you and I trust you.”

“Good,” Kai said, his customary smirk back, “Put the head of your, uh, wand, at my, um, cauldron, and push forward slowly. It's a good spell. You'll like it.”

“You are such an ass,” Dorian snapped affectionately, but he was doing as he was told.

“But you love me anyway,” Kai asked, watching over his shoulder, “Don't you?”

“I love you anyway,” Dorian said, eyes closing as he slipped into the heat of Kai's body.

Suddenly sweaty hands caught at Kai's hips, pulling him back, as Dorian lost his virginity, sliding deep into a silky heat, passing through a ring of tight muscle that hugged him just tight enough. Their balls touched when he was deep enough. He held himself there, his toes curling, the sack of his balls tight, eyes closed.

He didn't see the tears in Kai's eyes, which was good because he would have mistaken them for pain, and they weren't that at all. Perhaps to really love, one has to be known first and while Kai had felt devotion, infatuation, passion, he'd never felt as if a touch could open his very soul. “Baby.”

“I'm not hurting you?”

“No, pull back a little, then in again,” Kai urged. “I want you to cum in me.”

“In you,” Dorian moaned, like hadn't thought of that, but now could think of nothing else at all.

There is a spot in a man – not all men experience it the same as Kai. For Kai it was like each stroke caressed him higher into the land of light and passion. The sound of Dorian's breathing, Dorian's touch... it had been months, years, if ever he'd felt anything this strong at all, and yet the orgasm strengthened until release peaked.

They cried each other's names and rolled to their sides, and it lasted forever, and moments, limbs tangled with each other as Dorian came. He cried too, wet tears against Kai's shoulder. It was redemption, in a way, for both of them. Water in a desert, life where it had been dying, and they held to each other long after the pearls had spilled into Kai and onto the bed.

Kai didn't believe anything could ever be wrong again, ever. Even if he could never fly, even if he could never be anything except a crippled man who watched the sea, everything would be alright. He rolled a little, pulled Dorian's head onto his chest. “I love you, baby.”

“Kai,” Dorian said, one hand in Kai's hair, curling soft blond around a finger. “I need to tell you something and I know you're going to be angry.”

They lay together, still naked, covered only by the fading light of the sunset through Kai's window. Let's entwined; the glow between them was bright, tender. Kai scratched Dorian's back softly. “You can't apologize until you've actually done something, Dori. I promise, I'll still love you after I'm done being pissed off.”

“I hope so,” Dorian whispered.

“Shit. What did you do,” Kai asked, lifting up onto one elbow.

“I came to warn you about something, but then we started talking and there was that kiss and I was afraid that if I told you right then, I'd -” Dorian stopped, pulling away enough to roll out of Kai's arms and leave the bed. Contrite is not the same as vulnerable, in fact it's the opposite, guarded, pulled back from intimacy.

Kai swung his legs over the edge of the bed and reached for his cigarettes. “What the fuck, Dori?”

“Adrian is dead,” Dorian began as he reached for his pants.

Adrian was the king of the Fae, Kai's patron, and the one who had called Kai to be come a dragon, a protector and servant of the king.

“That's not all,” Dorian went on. “Evian is king now and he's declared war on those loyal to Adrian. You're in danger. If I can find you, his people can.”

Kai dropped his cigarette then struggled to pick it up with his ruined hand before grabbing it with his left. Both hands shook as he tapped the end against his bare leg. “Did you come to kill me and then got distracted by fucking me?”

Contrite turned cold to anger. “No. I was wrong. I should have told you first, but I wanted... I wanted this.”

“Damn selfish way to start, Dorian. What else haven't you told me?” Unlit cigarette in his mouth, he reached for the bag under his bed and threw it at the dresser. “This was one of the dumbest things you've ever done! You know I'm on a hit list – that's what it is – and Evian doesn't play games, Dori! And you've come where I am. You miss me so badly you want to die with me?”

“Yes, no, I mean, you're not going to die. Evian is using wraiths. You're a dragon.” Dorian said this like it was the most logical thing in the world, no concerns.

Kai touched a stiff finger to the red dragon tattooed on his chest, the wing unfurled, a wing that could batter back the strongest storm. “It's not so easy. I miss it, being so fast. I miss the wind. That's why this room. If you look out th window, you can even see the cliff the house is built on. It's almost like I can fly again.” His moment of longing quickly turned to packing, the kind where a person trows all they own into a black backpack and sorts it out later. “I miss the sky so much, Dorian.”

“You can't fly,” Dorian said, soaking it in, understanding the ramifications. “We'll be gone before they find us. I have a car.”

Kai yanked the zipper shut. “Elf, you never were good at understanding mortal technology. A car will only drive along and nice a nice easy Kai and Dorian trail for them to follow – and they will have followed you right out of Underhill. You've got to teleport us farther than my room. Somewhere warm this time.”

“Are you angry at me?”

“Hell, yes,” Kai complained, throwing his bag on the bed and grabbing his pants. “Get your shirt on, baby.”

Dorian grabbed his shirt with one hand and a sock with the other. “I'll make it up to you.”

Kai's grin was crooked, slightly vicious, and the sweetest thing Dorian could imagine. “I'm sure you will, Dori. I got plans for you.”

Shirt buttons misaligned, Dorian nodded. “We'll be okay. We have time and we'll be gone. Wraiths are only dangerous if they sneak up on you!”

“Right,” Kai said, almost mockingly. “Next time you tell me the important news before I blow you, got it?”

“I promise!”

And then black mist started to rise from the carpet, so subtle it would have been missed if one wasn't on guard. Half transparent ghostly lace consolidated, misted away. It was too hard to really look at, but Kai was sure there were four of them. He grabbed for dorian, catching him by the shirt before the elf could collapse.

Elves were very susceptible to the evil aura of wraiths. This was one reason the king chose humans as his guard, humans with special gifts that only he could give them.

“Transform, Kai. It's okay. You can't break your word to Adrian now. You're free.”

Kai held his lover close, caressing his hair with his good hand. “I can't transform. My wing is deformed. I can't.”

“Oh.” Dorian slumped against Kai, as if he'd just found out that yes, he was mortal and the universe was about to prove it. “Shit.”

“You ought to talk more, pronounce less, baby,” Kai said, fury underpinning his words.

“You can, Kai,” Dorian countered, his voice slurring as the toxic aura of the wraiths surrounded them. “You are still a dragon.”

Kai wrapped both arms around Dorian, holding him with great tenderness. “Stupid elf,” Kai complained, distracted by the dark forms consolidating around them. “Just because dime doesn't go the same in Underhill, and you've had time to get ready for this, it's only been six months for me. I can't make the shift,” He said, the aura of the forming wraiths affecting him as well, making his words bleed from him, his worst fears dark and putrid. “It's agony, Dorian, to change without Adrian's blessing and I'll die from it. You wanted that, didn't you.”

“That's right,” one of the wraiths hissed, but a melodic beautiful hiss, like a nightmare violin. “The elf can't stand that he loves you.”

“It's a disgrace,” Another whispered, picking up the death song as if they were all of one mind. “Disfigured human, worthless. Disgraceful for the prince of the Fae to suck the cock of a worthless....”

“Piece of trash. Ddi you think the elf prince loved you?” Did you think anyone could love you?”

Kai planted his feet, his head spinning. Wraiths don't lie... because wraiths don't state anything, just ask the ugly questions from within one's own soul. “Dori,” Kai asked, disoriented, “Are you a prince?”

“It doesn't matter,” Dorian asked, words slow, slurred. “I did my research! I know you can transform safely!”

“Didn't you have a nice little home before the nasty elf prince came looking for you?” One of the wraiths sneered.

The wraiths walked a slow circle around them, clothed in lacy mist robes of the souls they'd stolen, pale gray dead faces, black eyes with liquid red highlights flowing over them. Objectively, wraiths were Gothic beauty, death incarnate, delicate features, the perfect mirror of all that was dark in their prey. Once elves themselves, they evoked the greatest influence on the other elves and Dorian already shivered in Kai's arms. Dorian would be near death before they even started consuming him. There had to be a way to protect him.

Dorian was so full of life, so just and noble and hopeful, and images of Dorian from all the years that Kai had known him splashed back, bright and cheerful. Kai clung to those memories. They'd sustained him in the months apart and the sustained him now. “I don't care if he's a prince. He's still Dorian. Leave us alone, or I'll transform! If I do, you'll really die!”

“Can you kill those that are already dead?”

“Can you be a dragon anymore? Maybe you are just a worthless street hustler with a pretty tattoo?”

“Are you going to cry as he screams? I think he'll scream as we eat him, don't you?”

“Shut up!” Kai growled. “I won't let you hurt him!”

“Maybe you should break his neck? Maybe you should save him from all the suffering? Maybe you should try to help him a little, after all, you didn't even try to find him after you were hurt. You abandoned him and you're going to watch him suffer?”

“I would only have brought him down!”

“Like you're doing now? Everyone you've ever loved, you've destroyed, haven't you?”

“Shut up!”

“Let us eat you and maybe we'll leave him alone. Isn't that what you really want?”

Dorian had been so sure, so very sure that the transformation could happen still. Dorian could be an arrogant highbrow elf, but he wasn't stupid.

Out Kai's window, there was the ocean, vast and beautiful. The house had been build right up to the edge of the cliff and he'd taken this room because when he'd looked out the window, he could remember when he'd flown. The skies in the world of the Fae are the same as the in the world of humans. They take up the same space, but are offset from each other just enough that a great ruby dragon could spread his wings and soar over vast planes and forests and there were none to complain. He had been someone. He had been a servant of the king, a friend of the king, and he'd lost that gift while protecting human life, protecting Dorian's life. He'd bought good things with his life, and if he could do one more good thing, he would count it as great worth.

The draining of the wraiths was making him shake now, too, and Dorian had completely lost consciousness. Kai held his elf to him, pressing with one hand, his good hand tilting Dorian's face up so he could run his thumb over soft lips, feel the breath there, proving life. He kissed him then, lightly, a promise of love and respect that would always outlast anger and even life itself.

“Its so sad to love someone whose station is life is soooo far above you,” one wraith said, sounding as if he really cared and how he shared in Kai's sorrow from the weight of that impossibility. “I loved a prince once and look where it got me.”

“Fuck you,” Kai growled, and then he was moving.

Wraiths most often killed their prey by letting the prey do the work, then stealing the soul at the moment of separation.

Kai's favorite window shattered, sending glass outward over the ocean. The wood of the frame drove slivers into his shoulder, and there was the briefest moment of regret, of fury at not being able to think of a better plan. Dorian's weight dragged at him, caught on the debris from the broken window and Kai held him, tugged, and as the dark mist from the wraiths clawed for them.

The moment they had broken free, the deepness of the despair evaporated, leaving them falling toward the ocean and rocks below.

Holding Dorian's hand with his good hand, Kai willed the transformation. If Dorian believed, so did he. He did!

He wasn't just some skinny suicided blond, ex-drug addict gangbanger street thug! He was Kai! Both arms held out, wind ripping at his back, hair tangling and whipping, he willed himself to fly. Like a paper cut that slid along his spine, stinging and long, then it peeled, pulling back from the form of himself as a man. It burned, like a rug burn that tore away what he had been and bubbled out into what he could be. Arms stretched, bones elongated, and a blast of light and hope flashed form him, echoing out like a blast ring.

The effect woke Dorian, fed the wizard energy like plugging in a lamp. The wraiths fled or died, and Kai didn't care which. His right wing spread out wide, twenty feet of ruby red flight, catching as much air as it could. The left twisted, bent, screaming in agony at his foolish hubris. He was a crippled dragon, no more.

Dorian, being the wizard that he was, slowed his own fall. Kai watched the growing distance between himself and his lover. If he could have rolled, he might have glided better, but he didn't have the strength or the will to turn from Dorian on this, his last flight. Dorian was a prince. He could see it now, the power and nobility in the spell-wielding prince, the slacks of whipping around his legs, hands drawing lines of magic in the air around him. Dorian would live. Now that he had his magic protections up and powered by recent proximity to a dragon, he would live.

Exhaustion softened Kai and he could accept. His life had started in Shanghai, a child his mother had wanted until she realized his French father would not be coming back for her or a child that no one else could stand to look at. He'd grown into an angry man, running with a gan that was violent against everyone. He'd died the first time in an alley behind a butcher shop, bleeding out his meager little life from abdominal stab wounds. He'd had nearly ten years of life after, living in the Fae kingdom, knowing Dorian and serving Adrian, redeeming his life by saving the lives of others, stopping the violent people, even the gang that he'd grown up in and died from. He'd had years of Dorian laughing and sitting with him as he'd typed out mission reports. They'd been so very … human in their lives. He'd loved. If the Fae hadn't taken him, he'd never have loved.

Dorian had been right to have those moments together, before this. There could have been no other out come. The wraiths would have found them on the run and he would have transformed to defeat them, and then... he was finished.

Really, it was best to leave the world in this form, as he'd left it once before in his human form and he didn't want to do that again. The last trails of his life left his mind as he hit the water. Sea surged around him and he sank, eyes closed, his imagination feeling Dorian's lips on his again, warm and full of life. It was worth it, this one afternoon.

Water fell back on him, pushing him under. His crippled win was agony under the weight of the water and the light turned to darkness. His huge dragon form, before his hand had been ruined, had mastered the sky, diving and gliding, and he'd loved the freedom of it, missed it deeply, but the dragon form had never been designed for swimming. The water currents shredded wing membrane, but eh forced his mind to go back to when Dorian's head rested on his chest, soft dark hair tickling his arm. He could almost feel the fingers caressing his cheek, warm and untouched by the water currents. Dragon scale was such odd stuff, insanely sensitive to the slightest touch of air or fingers, impervious to sword and bullet. Light flickered like crescent moons beyond his closed eyes, and he snapped them open, huge green emerald eyes. Surprise does amazing things to dragon expression.

Dorian, surrounded by golden light, one hand touching his face, so close to teeth no longer than his fingers, was pushing the water back away from both of them, creating a bubble around them. The little blue gem attached to his pointy right hear glowed as if it were about to be come a new sun. AS the energy of water magery pushed away the water, it left Kai tingling, shivering, excitement going down his spine, over his tail. A mage's power came from the deep within its soul and it was usually loathe to let that power touch anyone so completely.

Eyes closed, Dorian gave all his concentration to the spell he worked, leaving himself completely vulnerable to anything should it not go as he planned. Men are men, but men who are dragons are sometimes more dragon than man, and not always the gentlest of creatures.

Kai loved Dorian's bravery, was humbled by the offering of trust and love from the mage. Carefully he wrapped his tail around the fragile human, holding him with all that had ever been human inside Kai. And then the next part of the spell hit. Just as when they'd moved from the beach to the room, there was not even a blink of an eye, just an is/is no/is, and they were elsewhere. And it was hot!

“Africa,” Evian sneered. He was just what one might expect of an elf king. Elegant in black velvet and tailored slacks, he did not hate humanity. Far from it, they were the most profitable sheep he could imagine. In fact, when they had fought each other to death, then he'd like the remaining pets of them so much more. “What a splendid place for him.”

The throne room had been redone, in the days since his father's unfortunate death, and now it looked like a very fine boardroom; smoky glass table, Leonardo Da Vinci paintings never seen in the realm of humanity on the wall. He sat in a black leather executive chair, one hand absently petting the red hair of his father's other dragon.

“He's has not the energy to teleport again, not for a long time. It was quite magnificent. He retrieved the dragon of hart from the sea and teleported them both. It was a fabulous feat for one of his age,” Birus said, pride showing in her smile. She had been a servant of the royal family for five centuries, most of them spend serving Adrian.

Evian tightened his hold on the red hair between his fingers, pulling with increasing pressure. “Good. He shall stay in Africa I hear humans starve there. Let him rot with the creatures he would call brothers. The dragon of heart is worthless, created from filth even with humans had no use for. Let them have each other. When he comes to me, begging to be allowed back into Underhill, then – and only after he has begged for the life of his pet – then I shall kill him.”

“Majesty,” Birus said, eyes narrowing. “There ware no laws in our people which allow you to murder your brother, king or not. Dorian will not be easy to kill, in any case.”

The man on his hands and knees beside Evian snarled, eyes watering from Evian's hand in his hair. The air snapped between the three of them, and Kryie broke first. “Dorian and Kai will come back and kill your sorry ass! Dorian has the right of duel for the man who was killed father, and a good king!”

“Oh Kryie,” Evian said, leaning forward even as he jerked the red head back onto his knees. “I hope so. Let my pretty little brother come and try. I still won't kill him until he's begged enough. I'm going to make you and crippled idiot dragon mate in the courtyard. So you have nothing to worry for, you see? You shall be serving the right king for centuries to come.”

Kryie, like Kai, had not had a pleasant early life and had been saved by Adrian. He was the dragon of soul, golden with blue eyes, even though is human form was that of a slender red-haired man with violet eyes and a small curved nose. He spat and it made it as far as Evian's polished Italian shoes. “You disgrace your kind!”

Evian sighed, not at all disturbed by the defiance, more pleased by it. “Birus, you served my father so well, but I think you've grown too old and set in your ways to be of further use to the royal house. I command you to return to your rooms and I forbid you to eat while I am king. You've grown fat on the kindness of the royal house.”

Her eyes were hard, dark pools of rage, but she bowed. Her traditional elfish gowns flowed around her, long golden hair. Court politics had risen and fallen around her in the time she'd served Adrian and before him, his mother. Such a new king might not last the month, but as king, she would obey him. He had not commanded her to withhold aide to his opponents, however. “As it please My Majesty,” she said, and she took pleasure in his smirk.

Of course, he meant for her to give aide to his challengers, and she knew it.

As she left, he pulled his captive dragon close. “Now, now, Kryie, you must keep your temper in check. You know I will make your Stephan pay for your bad behavior, don't you? You had best hope that I find pleasure in the day before we return to our rooms. Maybe our stodgy old Birus will cry for help to our heroic Dorian right away. What do you think?”

“Peace,” She said, arms across her chest, face half hidden in the shade under the broad brim of her hat. “Did you really think they were going to come to vaccinate our village? You really did think so, didn't you?”

Hands on the wheel, Peace narrowed his eyes and stared at the road. His hat was cloth, pulled down on his head. A leftover from the Korean War, like the jeep they had, it was a little soft, but it did it's job. He was a lot of the same. Light hair, straw colored, light green eyes, and a close-trimmed beard. The set line of his lips let her know he really had thought they could just ask the visiting doctor to come out to the village where they were working.

Muscles flexed under his worn cotton shirt. Once it had been army green, but now it was bleached and tie-dyed with local dyes. “They should! It's not even a full day out of their way! No matter,” he said some of the tension softening in his shoulders as he turned to look at her.

She looked away, up at the endless sky when he gave her 'that' smile. She was pretty sure he didn't even know he was doing it, that gentle smile, the light coming into his face like he was looking at an angel. For an American, he was more peaceful than she'd imagined possible, and that's why she'd started calling him Peace. He sang all the time, helped people look for lost goats, fought snakes, milked found goats, ate no meat, and he was falling in love with her.

“You are a stupid idealist,” she said, fingers still tucked under her arms. She had gone with him to the next town over, a larger town, because she had to post her report on the status of the school she was building. Mitui Setsuki had actually never known an American before Peace.

Peace turned his eyes back to the road, lips tight again.

He was quiet handsome, for a gaijin. His eyes always had some plot or hope in them and without his shirt he was firm and hard, lines on his stomach. He was kind and gentle, and she wanted very much to reach out and touch him, tell him she hadn't mean her words to be so hard as they might have sounded. She, too, was a stupid idealist. Her family told her this every time she asked for money, which she did frequently.

Even still, she spend less money in the building up this village than she had when she lived in Tokyo. “The doctor will come.”

“I wanted him to come because it was the right thing to do,” Peace said, his voice a little deep, anger at the world coloring it.

“What difference does it make if he comes because my family tells him to or because he wishes to be a good human being like you?” She leaned forward a little, a tentative smile on her face.

Setsuki was a Japanese lady and if she'd stayed home, she would have married well, had an expansive house, fine silks, a distinguished husband, and been yelled at much less frequently. She was her father's only daughter and she knew he was simply waiting for her to come home. Her father would never ever, not under any stretch of her father likely love, understand a tenderness for a sun-blond american who owned nothing and thought getting down to business meant doing work that resulted in sweat.

“You think I'm a good man?” Peace asked, that crooked, almost cocky smile lifting him beyond the dust and heat of the road they bounced on.

“Maybe,” she said, then started laughing. “Peace! You're so cute when you're indignant!”

color flashed up his cheeks. “I am not! Men are not cute! You! Now you're cute! A cherry blossom!”

“Peace – oh my god!” Her eyes had gone wide and she pointed ahead of them.

“Dear God!” Peace yelled, but it was more prayer than curse. He stamped on the breaks. The jeep skidded on the dusty road and Setsuki caught herself on the dashboard.

Her curses weren't prayers. “Turn around! Go! Fast!”

Peace leaned forward, looking over the top of wired back-together metal-framed sunglasses. The beast was red, and big, like a huge painted elephant with wings, and a long neck like a giraffe. The wings were tattered and one was propped up, casting shade over a half-naked Asian man. “I'm not going to run! This man needs help!”

Setsuki cursed more, hitting him with her cloth hat. “It's a dragon! Don't they teach you anything in that rabble of a country you come from! An oni! If he wants to eat this one man, let it.”

She chilled at his glare, and for once in her life, for maybe the first time ever, someone's disapproval mattered. She opened her mouth to speak, closed it, glared at him. “It's a dragon!”

Peace rolled his eyes. “What kind of rubbish to they teach you in your university? There's no such thing as dragons! It's just some great big red beast with wings, and steam coming out of its snout. I don't know everything that's in the world, let alone Africa! Even if it were a dragon, which it's not! But if it were, we couldn't leave it out here! This heat would kill anything and the man already looks poorly.”

“Poorly? That's what he gets for sleeping with dragons,” she shouted over the windshield. “Peace, please, I'm sorry, but let's go back to town and get help.”

“Hush,” he said, pulling the keys from the jeep's ignition as he stepped out of the battered old vehicle. “Hello!” He called to the beast laying across the road, and maybe to the unconscious man laying under the shade of the wing. “Can I be of any help?”

The beast, whatever it was, opened one great eye. The eye was the size of a baseball and it followed him as he walked nearer. The dragon pulled the man next to it closer, protectively.

“I just want to help,” Peace said, hands up. “Setsuki bring some water. Water? Want some water?”

And right then is when Peace's solid little world shattered into a million pieces. The red beast, the lip of it's sound lifting a little, spoke. “Yes, water, please.”

Setsuki ground her teeth, the canvas covered canteen in her hands. “I told you! Oni! Demons, baka!”

The dragon's eye shifted toward her, his great head lifting to look rather more clearly, and then he started in Japanese: “Please, Dorian's chi is spent. He needs food and water, please? The heat is too much for him. He is a water maser. I will serve you if you help him.”

She walked past her American, where he stood, hand on his cheek, eyes wide, and only his God-knew-what thoughts going on in that head of his. “We have water, food. We can take you to our village, but you must swear not to harm anyone.”

“I swear, lady,” Kai swore. “I am Kai.”

“His name is Kai,” She said back to Peace. “Don't just stand there! Get the extra shirt from the jeep. This guy's burned like a cricket on a stick. And he isn't human either.”

“He's not human,” Peace said, moving to get the spare shirt. It was often cold when they went out in the morning, and having some extra clothes was always a good idea. “What is he?”

“Don't ask me,” Setsuki complained, “I'm a teacher of small children, not mythology. Kai, can you fly?”

“No,” the dragon said sullenly, a strong breath from his snout sending up clouds of dust. “Where are we?”

“You're in Africa,” she said, “Do you speak English?”

“I speak Japanese,” Peace said defensively. “Here let me get him.”

The wing withdrew and Peace squatted down, lifting Dorian easily. “Okay, so what are oni?”

“Spirit beings, not human, not bad, not good, just beings, like us,” Setsuki said, worrying that Peace's religion would somehow kick in and make him take back the offer of help they'd already given. She glared at him, elf held in his arms and a deep confusion showing in his eyes. She'd seen that breakdown happen in her father when she'd told him no, she wasn't marrying the nice businessman that he'd found for her and that she was going to Africa to teach poor children. “Peace, your god is bigger than one place, bigger than anything one person can know. What are a couple little oni to a god that big?”

“I am not little,” Kai protested, not quiet pull of sounding offended, though anything that could speak with teeth as long as a man's hand, shouldn't have too much trouble sounding offended. “I am the dragon of heart, servant to the king of the Fae.”

Peace, recovering himself a bit, tilted his head, “Funny, you looked like a great red elephant with wings to me. I don't care who you serve, as long as as you don't hurt anyone, but you're not going to fit into the jeep.”

“Peace is a very practical man,” Setsuki said, pointing to him, and when she smiled, he smiled back and Kai rolled the eye that watched them. If the attraction between this man and woman were magical energy, he could have pulled off the transformation back to human without so much as a twitch.

“Right. Good thing. Then he won't mind a naked man standing in front of his girlfriend,” Kai said, the smirk making his teeth show. “Or maybe he will....”

He'd been told that watching the transformation was a beautiful thing. In the king's court it had been painless, pleasurable even. He could believe that the transformation was a fireworks display of all the many magics that changed him. Here, as it had been on the fall from his lost room, it was agony. Like the sun falling in on itself or maybe being caught in a trash compactor. Even his scream fell back in on him as mass as a dragon boiled away. Becoming the dragon was an exercise in hope and life, and falling back to what he was left him feeling the despair he'd known when encircled by the wraiths.

Collapsed stars become black holes after all, and maybe that's what being a man was, just a creature that sucked from the world around it and never gave anything back. Like all things Fae, there was a timelessness to the processes, and he only knew it was over when he woke, head in Dorian's lap, a hand fanning him.

Groaning, he tried to sit up, only to have Dorian press a hand to his shoulder. “we are near the village of Peace and Setsuki; rest a bit more Kai.”

“I hope they have a beer and some cigarettes,” Kai groaned, fingers tenderly touching his forearm, trying to see if the shredding of his wings by the rough sea had carried over into his human form. “Holy shit, are we really in Africa?”

“You think that's hard to believe,” Peace teased, looking at them in his rearview mirror, “I about ran a dragon over today.”

“As if this shitty little car could have done damage,” Kai snarled, finding his arms bandaged, all the way up past his elbows.

“Kai is often unpleasant of mood after he has transformed back,” Dorian said, smiling down at Kai.

“Well, if I could be a dragon, I'd stay one a lot. Fly around eating cows,” Setsuki said.

“Eating meat when people are starving is not right,” Peace preached.

Setsuki rolled her eyes. “It must be great!”

Peace was watching her, the delighted smile she had as she stuck one arm out into the wind. “Well, maybe dragons can eat cows.”

“Flying was great,” Kai said, finding it unreal to be talking about such things with two strangers, especially strangers so odd from anything he'd ever known. “It was really great.”

It was the real world though and his hand was still ruined. His wings were ruined. And Evian had many more wraiths he could send to attack them.

“You mustn't tell anyone about Kai being a dragon,” Dorian said. “There will be those seeking us. Rumors of a dragon will only bring them sooner.”

“Oh don't worry,” Setsuki said, “We won't tell anyone. No one would believe us anyway. We're not the most presentable people ourselves.”

“Speak for yourself,” Peace said, wrinkling his nose. “I'm presentable! Washed in the blood of the lamb! And I suppose it won't be very good to tell people. Some things people have to take on faith.”

Kai turned his head, rubbing his cheek against Dorian's leg. He needed the contact, and felt weak and worthless because of that need, but he craved knowing that Dorian would still love him even if he were just a crippled man and a ruined dragon. His tears pool on the side of the side of his nose, then rolled down soaking into Dorian's pants.

“Ril vey orisei,” Dorian whispered, voice as hey and elegant as any elf could ever have done, a formal declaration of love that could never be taken back or removed. Saying it was a bond given from one of the nobel house to the one spoken to and as immortal as the elf that spoke it. “Ril vey orisei.”

Dorian wiped at the tears pooling by Kai's nose. Kai wrapped an arm around Dorian's leg and sobbed. King Adrian had been a friend as well, so there was so much to grieve.

Kai had cried himself to sleep in that jeep, cried for failing in Australia and losing his hand, losing his wings, not being there when Adrian was attacked, cried for loving dorian when he could never go back to Underhill with the elf. He cried for the pain his body was in and the sheer frustration of not being more than he was. He woke in a stifling little mud hut, lying on an old wool blanket. A light cotton cloth covering him and he took a deep breath of the warm, clean African air.

With his crippled hand he reached out to touch the hard packed mud floor he lay on. The answer was there, in the dirt. Life gave you what it gave you and you had to make do with what you had. Adrian hadn't been his father, but he had been more than just someone wanting to use him. Adrian had had such being dreams of peace and safety for people, of a bright future where elves didn't hide anymore, but walked as brothers to humans.

Kai had never really believed it. Humans didn't seem to like those that were different, even a little, but he had liked helping, saving those he could. He wasn't going to live forever like Dorian, but he wasn't powerless. Sitting up, he found a colorful caftan-like shirt and a pair of loose pants, a pair of sandals that surely counted as some kind of ethnic craft.

It felt private in that little hut and he found water and a cloth on a small table, so he washed, through he left the bandages on his arms. He had no idea how rare gauze was around here and he had never been wasteful.

A few minutes later, hew as dressed and stepping through the cloth-covered doorway of the hut. It was Rudyard-Kipling-meets-a-video-about-saving-children outside, and he figured his chances of getting a cigarette had gone to hell in a hand basket. As hot as it was, they'd probably burn up before evening started to fall. Hands shoved into the pockets of his rough-woven linen pants, he started down what passed for a street toward what smelled like roasting pig.

Closer into what turned out to be a town square, of sorts, he found people. A couple dozen children and played on the far side. A few more, maybe half a dozen sat around Dorian. Kai paused there, leaning his shoulder against another mud brick house.

Just watching Dorian tell whatever story he was practically reliving for the children, Kai felt like the world was at Peace, felt the exhaustion of their becoming lovers, fleeing, feeling grief for Adrian's death, of everything. The elf's ears were hidden again, bot those didn't matter. What mattered was the soul that lived in the body.

“Hello, dragon,” the woman who'd helped them earlier said, having successfully sneaked up behind him.

“Hello, woman,” he replied, fingers itching for what he didn't have. He didn't look at her. It was still a little embarrassing to have sobbed himself to sleep in the backseat of her car, not to mention the whole 'being naked as a cream puff in an oven' before her.

“You love him very much, don't you?” She stood behind him, close enough to talk to him, so close he could have reached out and touched her. But she was hesitant, like she wasn't quiet sure of him yet.

“Yeah,” Kai said. There was little point in lies. “See him though? He's a dumb ass He's a royal prince and he hides it, because he doesn't want his friends to know. So here he is, sitting on the ground telling stories to children. Dorian,” he paused, “is a very good person.”

So took a step closer. “He is a prince?”

Dorian made the motion of a big explosion, fingers spread wide, his cheeks filled with air until he went, “Bang!”

“It's hard to believe sometimes. I guess we're all things that are hard to believe sometimes. What about your lover?” Kai looked over his shoulder, tried give the woman a smile. “He seems very nice.”

Nervous, she crossed her arms over her chest again. “He's not my lover. He's an American.”

“Oh?” Kai rounded on her, picking up on some hesitation in her. He hadn't survived the streets of Shanghai by being stupid or slow. He'd only gotten better since then.” By that you mean he's not Japanese, don't you?”

“Well, he's not,” she said, “Aren't you ashamed to love another man? It's so obvious. Do you, are you...” she paused blushing, unable to bring herself to say the world homosexual.

Kai wasn't sure if he felt pissed or amused, but amusement won out. “yes, when I can. You want to hear what we do?”

She blushed bright red. “No!”

She held up both hands and in her eyes, Kai could see the echoes of a teenage girl secretly reading spicy manga and he was again too amused to be pissed off. “Fine,” he said with a lazy smirk. “I'm sure it's not any different than what any two people do anyway. You were a little sheltered as a kid?”

“I didn't mean that it was different, but well, you're not married, are you?”

“Actually,” Kai said, feeling a great warm glow in his heart, “We kind of are. Something he said to me, when we were in the car. He said in Elfish, which is only spoken in the, uh, the capital of his people or on some serious occasions. We are married.”

“I don't think my father would let me marry Peace,” Setsuki whispered.

“Listen, Setsuki, it is Setsuki, right?”

She nodded, and while she seemed so grown-up before, and he still would have put her age at least at twenty-three or twenty-four, the innocence now in her made her look younger.

“So listen, Setsuki,” Kai said, leaning forward a little, “People get in their minds what they think is right and wrong, but all that really matters is having enough to eat, being able to laugh and play with the ones you love, having someone around who wants to hold your hand sometimes, and loving how your heart really loves. I almost spend my life alone because I was too stubborn to admit I loved someone I thought I shouldn't have. I'm not talking about loving someone who would get hurt if you loved them, but how is peace going to get hurt him if you love him?”

“I will get hurt if I love him,” she whispered. “My family will never talk to me again, but seeing your prince hold you today, I realized I would hold Peace like that, if he were crying, because I love him.”

“Then your family will have to get over it. I won't have planned on loving that idiot elf, but I do,” Kai said. “You're some person, you know that? You didn't even flinch at my dragon form.”

“Yes, I did! I told Peace to leave you both!” She looked down, chin touching her shoulder. “I would have been wrong if we'd left you. I came to Africa to help, to make my life matter, and to run away from a marriage I didn't want. I didn't mean to fall in love here.”

Kai gave her a heart-stealing grin, a flirtatious smile that had made everyone think he was straight for years. “You think love waits for your convenience? Where would we get all our tragic romance stories then?”

Peace coughed as he came up behind Setsuki, and Kai threw him a steal-your-heart-grin too, then winked at him. “Setsuki was just telling me how nice you look without your shirt on,” Kai said, dead straight, not a hint that he was lying.

Those pale green eyes went wide like a deer-in-the-headlights and Kai wasn't sure if Peace would run or fight. The missionary wrinkled his nose, then said, “She looks beautiful, no matter what she's wearing.”

“What about me?” Kai asked, touching his fingers to his chest, then making a small tsking sound. “So you have seen her naked then?”

“I have not! I wouldn't! I haven't even asked if I could hold her hand yet! She's too valuable for that! She's amazing and if you lay one hand on her, I'll sock you a good one! She's very precious! A great teacher and she's smart, kind, and brave!”

“Make a good wife,” Kai said, again leaning against the mud hut. “Two like-minded do-gooders out in the middle of hell's waiting room....”

“It's not that bad here!” Peace said grudgingly.

Kai snorted, then looked at Setsuki. “If you don't kiss him, I will. He's just so cute.”

Her mouth dropped open, snapped shut, and then she grabbed the front of Peace's shirt, jerked him close and kissed him, full on the lips. Kai arched an eyebrow, then grinned crookedly. It was a chaste kiss, from what he could tell, just lips to lips, and Peace couldn't have been more surprised if, say, he'd almost run over a dragon, but Kai had the deepest feeling that they were perfect for each other. He had to do what he could for humanity, and 'He's an American' was the worst excuse for rejecting someone that Kai had ever heard. Perhaps it was something to do with his own life, being rejected because his father had been Western. Either way, he'd meddled all he was going to.

When he turned back around, Dorian was still telling stories, and he stood there for a moment more, loving the life in his lover. In a bright blue shirt, he looked about as far way from Asia as a person could get – well, and still being in the human world. Maybe it was all right here. There really wasn't any place else they had to be.

Dorian saw him then and his smile was so big. He didn't look like an elf, or anything unusual, other than a Japanese man lost in Africa. For a moment, Kai could have believed that's all there was, just two mean wandering the world, nothing else. The thought was sudden; that's all there was now. Thy were free to just go.

Kai's lip cracked as he grinned in response and held open his arms for his lover. Even in the heat, sweat running down his back, he felt the chill of having Dorian wrapped in his arms. “Damn, baby, you make me shiver.”

“After we eat,” Dorian said, hard body pressed to Kai's, “I'm going to show you what goes with the meaning of those words I said in the jeep.”

Kai squirmed as Dorian's hand slid down to cup his ass through the thin linen pans. In Chinese, so they were the only ones to understand, Kai whispered, “I want you to touch me, like I've never wanted anything more. I've never slept with anyone else a second time.”

Dorian gave his ass a squeeze. “Don't kiss anyone else, except me,” Dorian said, voice low, words in lyrical Elfish. “We are orisei and I will know. Your heart beats in time with mine.”

“I don't know what to say,” Kai whispered. “You could have warned me,” he teased softly, his good hand caressing Dorian's hair.

It wouldn't have mattered. We were orisei before I said those words to you. How do you think I found you?”

Kai pulled back, remembering that he was angry. “So you're saying you lead the wraiths right to me? And what was with not telling me until we'd waste the hours doing each other? Didn't you think I might want to know that Adrian was dead before I got my head wrapped around something as important as becoming your lover?”

Dorian reached for him. “Are you really angry at me? Kai, please, I was afraid if I told you first, I'd never be touched by you. I was grieving for my father, too, you know! He was the guiding force in my life long before you were even born! I needed you to steady my life.”

“You needed. So you took and it's okay.” Kai growled. “I'll get over it. I need you too, but I'm tired of being manipulated. You only tell me what you think I need to know to do what you want me to do. What if you'd told me the truth, and I'd still wanted to be your lover? What if I'd been able to turn to you and hid my grief in you? But you didn't give me that chance, did you? You think you know everything, but sometimes, Dori, you don't.”

“Kai,” he said, hands made into fists. “You're right. I'm sorry. Forgive me?”

“In a little while,” Kai growled over his shoulder. “Just leave me alone for a little while!”

Falling in love wasn't as easy as Kai had thought it would be. Happily ever after for his story started when Dorian had found him, had confessed his love. That's where the story should have ended. When he'd fallen into the ocean, when his life had passed before his eyes... that could have been the not-so-happily ever after. It could have been, but it hadn't been. Dorian had saved him.

A mile or so away from the little village, Kai had found a hill and the sunset gave him no answers. He'd been born a man and that was still all he really was. Too near death, so many times and now, he just wanted to live quietly, but he didn't know how. How did a person go from crisis to crisis and then just stop... find a little mud hut and become what?

Could Dorian ever be happy without the excitement of court politics? There were questions Kai didn't have the answers to. When he'd woken up all the answers had seemed so easy. He scraped up a fist full of dirt and wondered what he could make of it, what he could make of what he had.

“Hey,” Dorian said quietly

“Hey,” Kai replied, suddenly very interested in the red line along the horizon.

“You don't have to stop being angry at me, but I brought you some food.”

Kai motioned to a patch of dirt right next to him. “So, Dorian, what do we have from here? Why didn't happily ever after simply start with me suddenly know what to do?”

“I don't know,” Dorian admitted, kneeling down next to Kai. “I guess things are more interested when they really matter.”

He opened a basket and pulled out a carafe of water, then a wooden bowl of food with a neatly fitting lid.

Kai took it and set it on his folded legs. The scent of it made him immediately hungry, like he hadn't eaten in weeks. “I had an awful dream. I dreamed I was in my dragon form and I couldn't fly, so all I could was chase this cow around.”

“Did you catch it?” Dorian asked, taking a drink of water.

“No. It was a milk cow, too. I just kept running after it on my stubby little dragon legs. I got dissed by a milk cow.”

“Bad dream,” Dorian agreed. “I guess we'll get an apartment. Go somewhere where they don't kill gay men, and make a little garden, get a cat. I've always wanted a cat.”

“I'm never going to fly again,” Kai said, chasing a bit of hummus with a piece of soft folded bread.

“Well get a plane,” Dorian offered.

“Not the same. Aren't you going to miss Underhill?”

“Probably, but I chose you over it and I'm glad. I don't think I like eating goat though.”

“It's not pork?” Kai asked, looking sideways at his bowl now, then eyeing the shared water bottle. “Let's live some where that's not here.”

“I was thinking France.”

“I don't speak French. Do you?”

“No, but that will make it all new, wouldn't it? It'll really be starting over.”

“We can't go back to my place by the ocean, can we?”

“No. I'm sorry, Kai.”

“It's all right. We'll start all over.” Kai smiled then. “I'll learn to eat left-handed. I'll be come a therapist.”

“A therapist? Like a massage therapist?”

“No, no, like a shrink,” Kai said, still smiling. “And you can be my housewife!”

“Bastard!” Dorian snapped, pushing Kai over with both hands. “I'm no one's housewife! You will be the housewife! Except you can't cook!”

“Oh yeah?” Kai teased back, hooking a leg around one of Dorian's. “Let's see if I can cook or not,” he purred as his fingers worked their way under Dorian's pants, to caress the smooth hardness of his ass. “i bet I can get things hot as well as you can!”

With a moan, Dorian pressed against Kai's thigh, the hard roundness of his passion pushing against Kai's leg. Words deeper, slower, breathing, he moaned, “Maybe you can cook. Maybe we should see how good your spoon stirs.”

“Oh baby,” Kai preened, pushing the front of his pants down a little to let the hard , proud member stand straight up. “I can sure stir something up for you, uh-huh!”

Sex under the African sunset can still get pale skin a bit red, but they hardly noticed, with dorian straddled over Kai's hips. Passionate creatures, humans and elfs, and the sounds of passion are not unknown on the African savanna, but they were precious to Kai. Each moan that Dorian lost to the coming night as Kai thrust into the tight sheath between Dorian's legs – it wasn't so different from any of the women that Kai had fucked. The pleasure had been there, hot around him, stroking as he moved, building, but being with Dorian was different.

As his own climax tightened in him, making him press at the hard ground with an only half-sandaled foot, his thrusts hard and deep, caressing the sweets spot within Dorian, it was Dorian's expression that brought Kai's soul into the act.

Head back, lips parted, eyes only half-open, moaning in pleasure each time Kai so much as moved, it was that addictive glow that he could bring such pleasure to a person he loved. Intimate beyond what Kai had thought sex was, he found himself crying as his hands held Dorian's hips. In the touch he forgot about his ruined hand, forgot about not being able to fly, forgot everything he'd remember of his life when he thought he was dying. Riding passion together with Dorian was better than flying, and then it was his own voice, panting, groaning as he neared the tightest point of the ride.

“Kai!” Dorian cried out, his knees so tight against Kai's waist, body curled over around his releasing member. Pearls shot up, milking over Kai's chest and Kai returned them, completing the cycle, releasing deep into Dorian, as he cried out his lover's name in return!

The come-down was slow, sweet, and as the sun slipped away over the horizon, Kai held his Dorian and they lay half undressed and entwined with each other. It was the freest and best feeling Kai was sure he'd ever had. Love had been a myth, harder to believe in than when Adrian had offered him the chance to be a dragon, to have his life back. Yet, here it was, love.

So he was lying there, holding a sleeping Dorian, content with the world, when the end of the world happened.

Something in him had known peace wouldn't last, that they'd find them. You don't just put a hit on someone and then decided to forget about it. It started as an itch at the back of his neck, the opening of the portal. He let it come. There was no knowing what could be coming through hand it hadn't awakened Dorian yet. It was possible that it was something that didn't mean to kill them.

Even before the manifest, Kai already know what he had to do. It was this deep understanding of what had to do to make Dorian safe, to avenge Adrian, that knowledge ended Kai's world.

Evian was Adrian's older son, born when Elizabeth I still ruled the world, or at least her part of it. He was all elf, barely touched by the modern world and he the sprawling expanse of human inventiveness. He was the kind of elf who could challenge his father and make the greatest man Kai had ever known into so much spare spirit energy. While Kai didn't know all there was to know about elfish royalty, and now he felt a residual spark of anger that Dorian hadn't bothered to let him know that he was sodding elfish royalty. Kai did know gangs. Evian was nothing more than a fancy gangbanger in the midnight velvet and gold. From a gang mind-set, as one of Adrian's lieutenants, Kai had the right of payback.

The manifest, whatever it was, was taking forever to come through. Impatient, Kai slipped carefully from under Dorian's head. He pulled up his pants, slipped his sandal back on, and it hurt, seeing a sleepy, dark-haired Dorian as he woke, eyes wide with gentle curiosity.

It was like standing with one foot in the grave and one back in life. The world hadn't ended for Dorian yet. Kai squatted down, touched his lovers' face, ran a thumb over his lips. “Hey, baby,” Kai said. Looking at Dorian, touching him, Kai decided, was better than a cigarette after sex. “You're the best-looking think on this whole rock.”

“What's wrong?”

He wanted to say 'nothing'. Wanted it with all of his being. They could just run. He'd make up failing Adrian by protecting his favorite son. Yeah. “Manifest is seeking us. Can't you feel it?”

Dorian yawned, sitting up and adjusting his pants as he moved. “I thought we'd have more time.”

“I guess your brother loves you,” Kai said sarcastically, and then there it was, just a flicker of light like a pastel firefly, and Kai's good hand snapped it out of the air. The information hidden in the little ball of light soaked into Kai's mind like knowledge he'd already had. “Birus is condemned to starvation. Kyrie and Stephen are being tortured by Evian.”

“That was meant for me!” Dorian growled, on his feet now. “Birus would have sent that to me, not you! It's got a reverse manifest, doesn't it?”

“Yeah,” Kai said, taking a step back. “I want to live a quiet life with you, Dori. I want that so very much. I want to get a cat, and I'll be the housewife. Meet you at the door with a kiss.”

“Oh shut the fuck up! I forbid you to go fight Evian! Don't do this, Kai! Don't be so stubborn! You've got that look in your eye like you know what you're doing, but you don't! Evian will kill you!”

“Have some faith! Will you? Have some respect! He killed Adrian. One of the reasons you didn't tell me about Adrian was this reaction. This was why you were afraid we'd never get our apartment together.”

“Damn straight! You stubborn prick. Kai, please!”

“I love you, Dori. At least I told you what I was doing before I did it.” and then Kai was gone, blinked out of the human realm and into the Fae with the same ease that Dorian could teleport, only it was a one-way trip on his own.

“Kai!” Dorian screamed to the empty air! “Kai!”

The trip ended in darkness. Kai froze, a different kind of fear grabbing him. It was the scent of blood and bile in the air, the slow steady breath behind him and then, fear turned to relief. Relief that Dorian wasn't standing in this very spot right then.

“You're not my little brother,” Evian snarled, wet fingers caressing down Kai's cheek. “But you smell like him. You do get above your station, don't you, Kai?”

“Fuck you! I'm going to kill you for what you did to Adrian!”


The punch hit Kai in the small of the back and his legs went boneless.

“Adrian is dead and henceforth you will refer to my father as His Late Majesty. My father was never on first name basis with dirt like you. You have nothing which he didn't give you. You should have licked his boots, vermin.”

Kai's wits clicked back to him slowly. Evian was nothing except a very powerful gangster, just a bully. “Oh, is that what you would have wanted?”

“I wanted so much more than that, but the first thing I want to see is my little brother dying, painfully. Dorian, you see is a twisted creature, lulled into believing your kind has some value beyond that of a pretty cow. My father was so proud of him and all the things that my father wanted elevated will be destroyed. Do you know how hard your kind will work for bombs that blow up big? What do they call them? Nuclear?”

“You son of a bitch,” Kai growled, getting one foot flat on the floor.

“Tsk, tsk, Kai. Is that any way to talk to the man who owns you?” This is going to be so much fun, maybe I shouldn't have killed Birus so soon. After all, if you'd been my stupid little brother, everything would be over already. Don't you wish that you'd let him come visit me instead?”

“He's going to kill you,” Kai said, and it was out of his of mouth before he could think it through. It was true anyway. All his hopes were pinned on Dorian.

“Well, you could walk, but it's about fifty miles,” Peace said, pulling his hat lower over this eyes. “It's a little hot out.”

“I can't take you with me!” Dorian protested. “I just want a ride to where I can get a flight! You don't want to go.”

Peace sat on the hood of his jeep, watching Dorian from under the shade of his hat brim. “If it's someplace a person can go, I want to see where dragons come from.”

“Now's not the time,” Dorian growled. “I'll come back later and take you for a visit. Don't you get it? Kai has gone to fight the king of the Fae. He's in trouble.”

“Can't you just magic yourself to him? Poof. Isn't that how you got here?”

“Yes, that is how we got here, but I only have so much energy to do 'poof' with, Peace. And when I use things that make me go 'poof' it leaves a signature. I don't want anyone to see me coming.”

“Are you a criminal?” Peace asked.

Dorian's left eye twitched. “If I were, I'd kill you and take your keys.”

“I want to see where you're going. I can take care of myself.”

“No, you can't!” Kai's lived in Underhill for years and he's been endowed with great gifts and he's still not even a moment's fight for Evian. Why? Why do you want to come into that?”

“I was praying this morning and the Holy Spirit told me,” Peace said, straight-faced.

Dorian swore and kicked at the dirt. “All my life, I have worked to protect and help! I have had a team of people at my command for as long as I can remember. When humans means fail, I use magic and I have always solved every problem, except when I couldn't find Kai in Australia and now, when I can't follow him home! I have never killed an innocent person in my whole life, but if you refuse to help me and Kai dies, I'll start with you. This is not a game!”

“I'm not afraid of you or of dying. I know where I'll go when I die.” Peace propped his arms on his knees and grinned.

Dorian rubbed his temples. “By human standards, you are insane.”

“Naw, I just have lots of faith. You have very little room to call me insane. You're having sex with a dragon who turns into another man and you're desperate to go to the land of the fairies. I've always wanted to see Tatiana.”

“That's Shakespeare, dumb ass,” Dorian complained. “This is not a play. Just because it's something you don't know much about does not make it not real!”

“Exactly,” Peace said, “I want to see what's really there. I need to know. I need to.”

“Great. You see a dragon and a man with pointy ears and now it's a crisis of faith?”

“I don't have to understand why you need to go. You don't kneed to understand why I need to go. I own the jeep and if you don't promise to take me with you, you can walk.”

“I want to go, too,” Setsuki said, gliding up behind them. Her quiet request somehow had more steel and unbendable will to it than all of Peace's argument.

Dorian covered his face with both hands. “You're going to get killed! Who will make your school then? Who will help these people?”

“I will always do what is right over what is easy,” Setsuki said.

“And what makes seeing Underhill right or wrong? That's not something noble. That's just something you want.”

“It is nobel to seek to understand the world, to know truth, and to embrace it no matter how frightening it might be,” she said, her hand finding it's way to the hood of the jeep, where Peace just happened to have his hand.

“Dragons are scary,” Peace agreed, slipping his fingers through Setsuki's. “We what to go with you, and we want –“

“We want to help Kai, too,” Setsuki said, “He helped us.”

“How? By threatening to kiss Peace?”

“It was an odd way to help, but it did help.”

“He would never have kissed me,” Peace added.

“Yes. He would have,” Dorian said, a growing smile on his face.

Peace's lips puckered and he scraped this tongue on this teeth, as if he were trying to get a bad taste out of his mouth, which made Setsuki laugh.

“Shall we go then? How long will it take, once we get to the airport?” She asked, giving Peace a small flirty smile.

“If you're homesick already,” Dorian grumbled, “Stay home.”

“It won't take too long! Not with the three of us doing it.”

Time in the mortal world was different than time in Underhill. Dorian had not been expecting the backlash of emotion and physical pain when it caught him. He had spend most of his life in the human world and it was possible he hadn't understood the full effects of an orisei. It had only been hours since he'd bound his soul to a human, but he could feel the weight of Kai's experience. Distant aching despair; he ad to save him. It was Peace who caught Dorian through, an arm around his waist, holding him upright when Dorian hadn't even realized he'd been screaming, or that his legs had gone weak.

“Don't have a fit over it,” Peace half-teased.

Dorian muttered, in elfish, not even understanding it himself, but then he gathered his wits and pushed away. In English, he explained, “Evian is torturing Kai. I'm not going to need your help after all.”

Setsuki made a disapproving sound. Dorian didn't want the lecture he could feel coming from her. “Peace, let go of me,” he said, calmly, for all the empty lonely ache within him. One hand on his knee, his stomach feeling hollow and twisted, he opened his eyes, and there it was. The little glowing firefly key that was the gateway to his home world. He'd been robbed, all that was most precious stolen from him and he hadn't even seen the con which set up the theft.

Grief and a feeling of being too small to fight, just some throw away chaff, smothered Dorian, but then tears were through the dryness of his soul, like the last bit of his soul leaking down his face. Always he had been a strategist, planning, moving the dragons into the best position, but now, all the dragons were likely in his brother's possession and he was nothing. His planning had lead to this failure. His decisions. It felt like slow motion, his hand reaching out, closing around the small ball of subtle light the way Kai had taken the earlier one. Kai had given him love, acceptance. Finding love in the first place was very hard, protecting it it often harder. Dorian would fight to protect that love.

That blink that took him home to Underhill was colder than his own teleports; longer, timeless. Memories of Kai filtered through his thoughts as he pushed to the other side. Kai with drying hair, a smirking smile, Kai after he'd just joined their team, looking lost, and there was always backstory, story within story, and all Dorian cared about was this story; saving his Kai.

“Your Kai,” Evian asked, insult discoloring his voice. “Your Kai? You can not have orisei with a human. Didn't you know that? Besides, I am king. He his my dragon. I can do with him as I will.”

Dorian had teleported right into the throne room, a room of marble and gold. It had a Roman feel to it, arches, a garden beyond, but where the throne had once sat, there now sat a long glass table with black office chairs around it. Kai lay in the center, just wearing jeans, one knee bent, bare feet against the glass, dark pooling and slowly dripping from his outstretched hand.

“He was no threat to you! Why did you have to hurt him?” Dorian demanded, a terrible rage rising, tingling over his shoulders, scalp. “What have you done, Evian?”

Evian smirked. “Anything I wished. That is the privileged of the strong, Dorian. Idealism is for the weak. Father would have made us weak, exposed us to the humans, but he was right. They are strong, aggressive, violent. Father was right. We do have much to learn from them.”

A calm core solidified in Dorian. I was more than the orisei with Kai, deeper, the root of that bond, the validation of his own being, of the world. He held out his hands to either side and summoned the blades of his mother's house. “Prepare yourself.”

“What? You're really going to fight me for the human?” Evian sneered. “He's not worth it. You can have him. Take him and go. Live in the human world and let us see no more of you, little brother. You are not worth your ears and title.”

Slipping out of the thin sandals, Dorian got a feel for holding his mother's short swords. Elfish metal, older than history, bright as moonlight made solid, the hilts curved up around his forearms in a kind of protective armor, but the blades reflected the fluorescent-like office light around them. The gold leaves etched into the cold silver were said to be gifts of the elfish gods, each a reward for valor and courage, for justice and balance. “My mother's people were healers, Evian. One thing I have learned in my life though is that one can not heal if one cannot stop that which destroys. You were warned.”

Dorian had spend years with those blades, learning the art of a violence dance of truth. He lunged, giving no quarter, no mercy, and only Evian's dodge saved him from having twin livers.

“Shitty brat!” Evian snapped, calling his sword, the Blood and Sorrow. It was red, ruby glass, two handed and he easily deflected the double blows that Dorian sent at him next.

They circled each other, so archaic, so out of place in the throne room, done over into a boardroom. “I demand you set down and enter contemplation for the death of our father.”

“Oh? Mercy is lost on you, isn't it?” I demand you slit the throat of the dragon of heart and kneel at my feet as my servant.” Evian swung his blood red blade with all his strength, but Dorian caught it in the crossed X of his own and kicked his brother in the gut.

As Evian staggered back, Dorian lunged, trying to scissor his blades over anything softer than Elfish blade. The stronger and larger of them, Evian pulled back quickly, drawing back from another blow, and Dorian struck his left blade against Blood and Sorrow. His other blade, Balance, sliced through Evian's fancy business jacket to leave wet on the silver and on the cloth.

Evian came back with a heavy overhead swing that knocked Truth down and would have had Dorian's shoulder if the smaller elf hand not dropped and rolled.

“Do you really think those little blades can stand up to me?” Evian snarled, his blade hitting the marble with sparks as Dorian scrambled back. Another blow followed and swiped at Dorian's belly. “I am going to gut you, Dorian, and while you lay dying, I'm going to do bad things to your human lover. Orisei with a human? Are you insane?”

Dorian swished his blades, dual figure eights, buying seconds to think. Sweat trickled over his temple and he searched for an opening. There were no thoughts of Kai, no time for his life to pass before his eyes, just the cold calculating predatory planning that a killer was capable of.

“So serious, Dori? You love humans so much, maybe you'd like to see the new spirit weapon of my house? My house! Not our father's house. I have made it my own!” Evian declared, holding his family's sword in one hand as a pistol appeared in his other. He aimed at Dorian's head, the red light moving from there slowly down his body.

Sparing no words that could break his concentration, panting from being on the defensive, Dorian struck, lunging in close and there had his blades to Evian's throat, laid ross each other. “And now Truth and Balance have you in their grip. Renounce the throne!”

The bullet hit Dorian's ribs at point-blank range with a crack. It tore through him as only elfin-magicked technology could and he led there for a moment, eyes wide, fists slowly losing their hold on his mother's swords. Evian gave him a shove and he staggered back, one step, two, before Balance dropped to the ground and he followed. Truth skidded when she hit, dragging a trail through Dorian's sprayed blood.

Evian returned his spirit weapons to there they'd come from and delivered a stinging back hand to Dorian's cheek. “So noble! So fallen! You are not worthy of the royal blood bleeding out of you!”

Dorian hit the floor, hands and knees, then down to one shoulder, blood coughing out of his mouth, and his brother kicked him hard in the shoulder. He rolled and Evian gloated.

The families of the Fae appeared then, walking through the walls of Evian's boardroom as if they were no more than illusion. Delicately beautiful creatures, ornate and archaic, displaying fashion as old as the Greeks, as elaborate as any thing a Paris runway had ever seen, and they watched silently, as their royal house culled from it's ranks. Faces impassive, pale ivory to the deepest ebony and all shades in between. They were only witnesses to the struggle.

Evian held his arms out to them, chine lifted, palms up to accept their adoration and acknowledgment of his assumption of the throne. “I am your king! It is a new age. Give your homage to me! We will dominate the humans as we have not for millennia!”

The faces around him remained impassive, unconvinced. A sharp burning cut through him and his eyes dropped to the blade point that now extended from his belly. He hissed sharply and spun only to run into Kai's left hook, which caught him unprepared and sent him sprawling.

Pale, shaking, Kai grabbed the remaining blade and rushed to press it to Evian's throat. “Don't push me, fuckhead! Is this who you want for your king? Is this what you want? This loudmouth despot?”

A woman emerged from the silent witnesses. She was a snow queen, skin iridescent, eyes snow blue, hair more elaborate than Kai had time to think about. “Is this how things are done in your world? King's are chosen?”

“Yes, well, presidents,” Kai said, dropping to his own knees, Dorian's sword falling from his hand. “Save Dorian, please?”

“You are a true dragon of a king worthy of our race,” She said, reaching out to touch his face with a graceful hand. “If I can save only one of you, would you have me save him or you?”

Kai found himself leaning into the warmth and comfort of her hand against his cheek. The pain fled with her touch, darkness fled too, and he knew that he would find all that he'd ever longed for in her touch. He pulled back though, tears of loss already chilling their way down his cheeks. “Save Dorian.”

“The power of your heart pleases us,” she said and reached down to touch the blade, which had fall from his hand. A new golden leaf, really two, twined around each other, appeared. She turned and with a sweep of her hand Evian was swept away into whatever lay beyond the illusion of their throne room. The same hand motioned toward Dorian and his back lifted as he drew a deep breath. Then she turned again to Kai and took his face in both hands. “You are so noble, and you are welcome to our family. Your spirit will reside with the spirits of all in our family when you die. Do not be afraid.”

“We were going to get an apartment together, and a cat,” Kai said.

“Such a place must be quite lovely,” she said. “You must bring me a cat in time. If you long for one so, it must be a fine creature. You will not die today, dragon of heart. Return to us when time has stolen your youth from you and you may yet find peace and joy among our kind. For today, take our king and love him. Share an apartment with him. We have no need to move as quickly as your world seems to be pleased with.”

Kai swallowed tears, drew a deep breath and struggled to get his mind around the idea that he wasn't dying today. “What kind of cat do you want?”

She laughed, a completely out-of-place-life laugh. “What kind of cat do you want?”

The question echoed through the unquiet of passive faces watching them. “What kind of cat do you want?”

The oddness of it sent a shiver over Kai's shoulders and he scrambled away from the beautiful woman towards Dorian. “Kyrie and Stephan?” He asked as he pulled Dorian into his arms, and only then did he realized his hand was whole. The fingers flexed and he had strength again. He flexed a couple of times then pulled Dorian closer.

“What kind of cat do you want?” She asked him and then before he could blink, he as back in the heat. It pressed him down, clogged his lungs.

“Good Lord!” Peace exclaimed. “He's reappeared!”

Setsuki swore in Japanese and Peace followed her eyes. “Wow, man, and now there are two of them.”

“Welcome back, Kai,” Setsuki said.

Dorian groaned.

Without sound, the other two of their team appeared. The dark and feral Stephan and the elegant, emotionally wounded Kyrie.

It was over that fast, like a car wreck. Blink and all that's left is wreckage.

Dorian's eyes opened to a smiling Kai. “Welcome to Africa, baby,” Kai said. “Thanks for coming to find me.”

Months later, in the spiritual plane over Paris, a red dragon spread his wings wide; a dark-haired man holding tight to his shoulders as they took the sky together. Wind whipping dark hair, the king was with his dragon and that was how life was meant to be.


About the Creator


I write a lot of lgbt+ stuff, lots of sci fi. My big story right now is The Moon's Permission.

I've been writing all my life. Every time I think I should do something else, I come back to words.

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