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Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Unexpected - Part 3 - Unexpected Again
REMINDER: This part was posted when my blog refused to accept any formatting, sorry for the inconvenience!
My heart skipped a beat and I nearly bit my tongue to stop myself from blurting out what I was thinking. I loved him?! That… can’t be! It’s impossible!
The reason I was so shocked was not because we were both men – that was not so very unusual in my country – but because I had already completely and utterly given my heart to another.
She was gorgeous! I had met her when I was just 20 years old. She was 16, and it was love at first sight. She had long hair that was so pale it was nearly white – ironically people often said the same about my own hair, and hers was braided and pinned up in a way that made her face even more adorable.
I was too timid to talk to her at first, but she saw me watching her, and smiled at me as she beckoned me to come closer. It was like the entire world got brighter! I realized that my feet were carrying me to her before I could consciously decide to let them.
She radiated innocence. I found myself giving her flowers and other tokens of my affection on a daily basis, and made it my goal in life to do whatever it took to keep her happy. Don’t get me wrong, I also wanted to tie her to my bed and do unspeakable things to her, but her knowledge of sex was about the same as a newborn’s – nonexistent – and that was part of her charm.
Eventually, her guardian figured out why she was acting so giddy, and confronted me. “Though she does not yet know this, she is the sole heir to the throne, and you are definitely not fit to wed her.”
I was stunned! It was common knowledge that the heir to the throne was being raised in secret somewhere, but I never could have imagined that it was her. Tears flowed from my eyes as I ran to escape those terrible words.
Later on, I secluded myself in my room to think things through. Maybe I could run away with her before anyone realized what we planned to do. Maybe I could appeal to the King… but why would the King even consider me, the sickly son of commoners?
My parents knocked on my door. “Cedric, son… we have something to tell you.”
I hastily wiped my eyes, and gave them my full attention.
“Now that you are finally healthy enough to get out of bed for most of the day, we think it’s time for you to find a wife, and start a family.”
Ironically, we were on the same page, but the girl I wanted was out of my reach. “No, I’m not ready.”
“Please, we beg you!”
Something wasn’t right. “Why?”
My mother burst into tears, and my father wrapped an arm around her comfortingly. They reminded me that I was the first of their many children to live past age two, and then confessed that the reason why was because of magic. They had made an agreement with a sorceress that I would not die – no matter what – but in exchange, I would die exactly on my 30th birthday.
That was still 10 years away, but one thought ran through my head. Just say – for one minute – that I did run away with the secret princess, and we got married and had kids. What would happen to her when I turned 30? She would be left all alone, and likely hunted and used by those that would want to gain control of the Kingdom.
It broke my heart, but I realized that for her sake, I had to let her go. I went to her secret thinking place to say goodbye to her, but before I could she stunned me once again.
“My father thinks I’m spending my time with a bad man.” I was momentarily confused until I remembered that her guardian had raised her as if he were her father. “But I don’t care; I want to be your wife!”
I didn’t know what to say. I had come to firmly end our relationship, and here she was trying to deepen it. She blushed red to the tips of her ears, and then kissed me. I forgot everything as I returned her kiss, but then it all came crashing down on me once more.
I pushed her away, trying my hardest not to cry. “I can’t… I just… can’t.”
“Why?” She wondered, baffled.
“I’m…” I shamefully blurted out the first thing that came to mind, “dying,” and then ran away. I could hear her crying, but it was common knowledge that I have been sickly since birth, and so she must have believed me. She probably even thought I was referring to any moment.
At that moment, I knew that I would do whatever it took to break my curse. I didn’t want to die before I was an old man, and cause my beloved to cry – even if I could never be with her. My parents tried to argue with me and talk me out of it, but I was resolved to leave. I would search the entire world if I had to in order to find a way…
Then along came Gavin. He was the moody broody type who remained silent unless he was angry about something. Once angry, he shouted and beat the living shit out of whatever or whoever pissed him off. We’d been traveling together for about 2 years when I had my completely unexpected revelation.
Why the hell was I in love with him?! Had I somehow gotten over my beloved princess? Was I simply reacting to his being by my side pretty much every day for the last 2 years? Was this even love? Maybe it was lust…
I couldn’t bear to torture myself like this. He was yet another example of me falling in love with someone I could never have. I sighed in depression. He definitely preferred women, and often had a one night stand with a new woman each time we stopped for a night in a town.
As for me, my longing for my beloved had driven me into the arms of someone who looked vaguely like her once or twice, but I always felt disappointed afterwards. I didn’t want to go through that on a daily basis – every time I looked at Gavin, and knew that he would never feel the same.
“Gavin?” I gained his attention one night. We had made camp for the day, and he was used to me chattering on as he brooded, so I waited for him to look at me.
“What?!” He finally demanded.
“I’m going home,” I announced.
He was justifiably confused. “Why?”
I remained silent as I contemplated what to say. In truth, I planned to go look for a way to break my curse on my own. Sure he was handy to have in a fight, but my magic was strong enough by now that I should be fine.
Gavin shrugged. “Whatever. We’ll go visit your parents, and then we’ll get back to our quest.”
“No,” I murmured. “I mean without you. I’m going home. I’m done with this quest.”
I had Gavin’s full and undivided attention now, and he proved it by sitting up straight and staring at me. “What?!”
“You heard me.”
“I don’t understand. Why would you give up now?” Gavin wondered.
“I’m… tired of all this travel.” I made excuse after excuse, all to avoid telling him the truth. I would die before I admitted that every time I looked at him I wanted to kiss him. I was more than half afraid that he would try to murder me if I confessed my feelings for him.
He frowned at my explanation, but said nothing. In the morning, I packed up my things, and slipped away before he could wake up and stop me. I had to hold my breath to stop the tears as I tried to cover my tracks so that he could not follow me.
“You’re really just going to leave me?” Gavin demanded angrily, and I froze midstride.
I plastered my happy face on, and turned toward him – not looking directly at him. “You know me; I hate to be a bother.”
“I’m not going to let you go so easily,” Gavin stated.
I sighed. “Gavin, listen, I just want to go home.”
“Fine! I already said that we’ll go visit your parents, so what’s the problem?” Gavin inquired, his voice still thick with anger.
I prayed for the right words to make him understand. It was a hard prayer to fulfill because who could ever understand my reasons if I wouldn’t tell them the truth? With nothing to say but more excuses, I kept my mouth shut.
“Cedric,” Gavin said, trying to be patient. “Wherever you want to go, we’ll go there.”
“I just can’t be around you anymore!” I blurted out. “If I have to look at your face every day for the next few years, I’m going to go insane!”
I expected him to be hurt. I planned to use that to make my escape, but instead, he smirked. “Finally, the truth comes out!”
I had forgotten that he had a habit of seeing the things I tried so desperately to keep hidden. I sighed. “Are you happy now? I said it. I can’t stand you.”
“Is that so?” He asked mildly. I could tell that he had taken my words as a challenge, and I backed away slightly.
“Yes,” I confirmed, lying.
“Is that why you look at me the way you do? Funny, it doesn’t seem like you can’t stand me. It seems quite the opposite, in fact,” Gavin pointed out.
I spun around to face a tree. I wanted to beat my head against it. I really hadn’t thought he had seen quite so much!
He gently wrapped an arm around me, and whispered in my ear, “Please don’t go.”
I was fighting back tears, and the urge to push him away so I could run like my life depended on it. I also fought the urge to grab onto him, and hold him tight. As a result, I was unable to move at all.
He forced me to turn around, and then held my chin firmly in one hand. I closed my eyes to escape his penetrating gaze. I knew that he was very fond of sex with women, so whatever he was doing right now had to be a desperate attempt to make me think I had a chance with him.
It wasn’t so surprising, after all, he was unable to go home and so had absolutely no one else in the world to keep him company. Maybe he was willing to give me what I wanted – not out of actual love or lust – but out of fear. The fear that without me, he would be alone again.
I wasn’t the type to force him into that sort of thing. “No, this isn’t right. This isn’t you.”
He ignored me, and the next thing I knew, he was kissing me. My heart pounded so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything else. I clenched my fists hard enough to almost puncture my palms. I wanted so badly to wrap my arms around him and hold him tight! Instead, I remained passive.
He continued to kiss me until I finally kissed him back. After that, he pulled my pants down, and kneaded my buttocks. I was lost! I had to remind myself to breath, and dreaded the moment when he stopped, and decided I wasn’t worth it after all.
When he gestured for me to get into position, I complied. I thought this is it. He’s going to change his mind, and leave me here like this. Instead, he gently pushed himself inside me. It took him a few tries, and honestly hurt almost as much as it felt good.
I didn’t want him to stop though.
Afterwards, we sprawled on the ground, and I couldn’t look at him. I was still waiting for him to announce. “Well, I tried it, and you should probably go after all.”
“You know, Ced, I’m serious. Anywhere you want to go, we’ll go,” he informed me as he nibbled on my ear.
Ced? He had never called me that before. I smiled, and allowed myself to believe that this might just be real after all. “I was just using going home as an excuse to run away.”
“I know,” Gavin stated.
“How do you always see through me?” I wondered.
“Easy,” Gavin smiled. “You’ve never talked about your past at all aside from the minimum facts about your curse. The moment you started taking about going home – a place you generally avoid talking about – despite chattering on about anything that crosses your mind – I knew that something wasn’t right. I wasn’t sure what it was until you mentioned that you couldn’t stand me. I was absolutely certain that wasn’t true, and therefore, you’d just told me exactly what was going through your mind.”
“If you were so certain that I had feelings for you, then why did you never say anything about it before?” I asked the most important question of them all.
“I wasn’t sure how I felt until I got angry. The thought of you leaving me actually hurt, and that’s why I was angry. I didn’t want you to go away and leave me even more confused and pained than the day I was cursed,” Gavin told me.
“Oh.” I had nothing else to say. Basically, we had both been attracted to each other, but afraid to say anything because we didn’t know for certain how we felt. I brushed his hair out of his face, and kissed him. If I was lucky, he’d be willing to let me have a turn with him.
“Why are you smiling like that?” Failina asked.
“Oh, no reason, just thinking about the past,” Cedric replied. He could tell by the look on her face that she was going to pester him until he fessed up. “About the first time Gav and I had sex.”
“Ah,” Gavin nodded sagely. “Painful memories.”
It had been a month since they’d left Gavin’s childhood home, and they had no specific destination in mind. Though, they had wandered from Gavin’s Kingdom towards the border of Failina’s. Actually, if they headed just a bit more north than west, they were also close to Cedric’s Kingdom too.
“Are you ready to introduce us to your parents yet?” Failina wondered.
Cedric looked to the sky as he thought this over. “That’s an interesting idea.”
“I would like to meet your parents too,” Gavin chimed in.
“Then, I guess it’s official. We head north! Almost to the frozen tundra,” Cedric announced.
“Really?” Failina asked hopefully. Winters were generally more wet and dismal than snowy where she came from – though she had seen her share of snow before.
“Not quite,” Cedric smiled and poked her nose. “Though it should be spring by the time we get there.” This was a reference to how they had left Gavin’s family lands once spring had arrived, and that the climate would travel north at about the same rate they did.
Failina squealed happily, and tackled Cedric, even though they were already lying on the ground. “We’re going to see where you grew up!”
Cedric laughed as he defended himself from her exuberance, and Gavin decided to join Failina’s efforts to tickle him.
Two weeks later, the trio was 3 days inside Cedric’s Kingdom, and they were happy to come across a town with an inn to stay the night in. They had plenty of money – hunting for old magic had often uncovered other valuable items – even so, they only asked for one room. The innkeeper figured that they were simply on a tight budget, and shrugged.
The next morning, they followed a fairly main road that happened to be empty at this time of day. About an hour passed, and then a carriage closed in on them. They stepped off to the side of the road to let it pass.
A woman looked out at them curiously, and the blood drained from Cedric’s face. “Chi-” He abruptly stopped himself from saying the rest. The carriage screeched to a halt, and an absolutely breathtaking woman dressed in a lavish gown emerged from the door facing them. Her hair was piled high with a multitude of braids, and adorned with at least a hundred tiny jewels.
“Cedric?” She demanded – also looking as if she had just seen someone she thought long dead.
“Chihara,” Cedric mumbled.
“Cedric!!!” She cried happily, and flung her arms around his neck. “It’s really you!”
Cedric had his eyes closed, and a strange expression on his face. He slowly placed his arms around her to return the hug.
“You disappeared so suddenly, I thought you had died!” Chihara was practically crying by this time.
“Majesty! What are you doing?!” Her head bodyguard demanded. “If we don’t keep moving, we won’t make it back before nightfall.” Gavin and Failina looked shocked that someone titled Majesty had her arms around their lover.
“I don’t care about that,” Chihara announced imperiously. “I want to spend some time with my friend!”
“But Majesty!” The bodyguard protested. “We must return to the palace.”
Chihara looked up at Cedric, and a hint of tears highlighted her sparkling lavender eyes. “Please,” she begged softly. “Take my hand and run away with me!”
Cedric tensed as if preparing to do exactly that, and her guards responded by placing their hands on their weapons. All these years later, and Cedric still found it hard to say no to her.
“Chihara, think about what you are asking me to do,” Cedric reasoned. “If I run away with you, I will be signing my own death warrant for abducting the Queen.”
“Please, I don’t want to be the Queen,” she confessed. “I still want to be your wife.”
Cedric closed his eyes in an attempt to hide the emotions that played tag on his face. Even an hour ago, he would have thought for certain that he loved Gavin and Failina more than anything, but now that she was in his arms, he realized that he still wanted her badly. She felt like his sun, his air, his only source of water in a desert.
“Where should I take you?” Cedric whispered in Chihara’s ear.
“Anywhere!” Chihara insisted. “I don’t care, as long as I’m with you.”
Cedric held her tight as he chanted a transportation spell. The Queen’s guards realized what he was up to, and tried to stop him. They were blocked by a shield Failina quickly cast.
“No! You mustn’t take her out of the Kingdom! Her royal blood is tied to this land!” The guards cried as they tried to break Failina’s barrier.
Failina and Gavin were both still astonished, but managed to step onto the glowing circle that appeared under Cedric and Chihara. A moment later, they were all somewhere else. Chihara burst into tears.
“I missed you! I thought you were dead!” She raised herself onto her tiptoes, and pulled Cedric’s head close so that she could kiss him. Cedric held her tight, and savored the second kiss they had ever shared.
Gavin loudly cleared his throat. “Um… Ced? Ced? Ced?!
Failina had her hands clasped together and grinned as if she witnessed a miracle, but Gavin was growing more jealous by the second. Finally, Cedric broke off the kiss, and leaned away. His breath was faster than normal, and fairly loud.
“Chihara…” he murmured.
She snuggled into his chest, and his mind raced to plan out everything that they’d need to do to successfully hide from those that would search for her. He stroked her hair, unable to let her go. Gavin finally exhaled in disgruntlement.
“Fine, I’m leaving!” Gavin announced, and strode in a random direction.
“Don’t worry,” Failina assured Cedric cheerfully. “I’ll make sure he’s all right.”
Cedric hadn’t really heard them, but his senses were fully aware that both Gavin and Failina were leaving him. This brought him back to Earth, and banished the fantasies that ran rampant through his mind.
“Gavin! Failina!” He called after them, actually letting go of Chihara in order to follow them.
Chihara clung to his arm. “Please, don’t leave me.”
Cedric had a clear choice to make, and it was tearing his heart in two. Chihara, or Gavin and Failina? Gavin stopped when Cedric called out his name, and turned to face his lover.
“Are you actually going to talk to me now?” Gavin asked harshly.
“Yes, I’m sorry…” Cedric felt horrible. He could only imagine how Gavin had felt watching his lover kiss some woman without any regard for his feelings.
Cedric had one arm around Chihara again, but did not look at her as he spoke. “This is Chihara. I fell in love with her the moment I first laid eyes on her. Chihara…” He faced her once more, and she smiled at him as if there was no one else in the world. “This is Gavin and Failina. They are my family now, and I love them. Both. As if we were married.”
Chihara frowned. “Married, to both of them?” In this Kingdom, in was not uncommon for two men or two women to get married, but it was unheard of for three people to pledge their lives together.
“Yes,” Cedric confirmed. “Which is why Gavin is so mad at me.”
“But you’re not actually married,” Chihara responded with a smile. “Which means that I can join your group and pretend to be your wife too!”
“If only it were that simple,” Cedric replied with a sad smile. “You’re the Queen now, and…”
“Married,” Chihara cried unhappily. “I can’t stand him! He does not care about me. He continually forces himself on me though I have already provided him with 2 children.” She shuddered.
“But, you’re the Queen!” Cedric gasped. “Surely you can have your guards stop him!”
She was quiet for a moment. “Perhaps now I could, but before the previous King died, he forbade me from denying my husband. Any guard who tried to aid me was fired.
Failina had a way of saying even the grimmest things as if it were something to celebrate, so it was no surprise to Cedric that she blurted something out now. “So, in other words, you don’t actually love our Ced, you just want to use him to change your life for the better,” she pointed out with a grin. “No problem, you can count me in. I’ll kill your husband for you and blow up half the palace along with him if I have to to get to him.”
“Fai!” Gavin protested. “You can’t just blow up half a palace! A lot of innocent people would get hurt!”
“As long as it’s not you or Ced, I’m ok with that,” Failina stated.
“Wait a minute, Fai,” Cedric added. “How would you know he was dead? To be sure, you’d need to be really close to him, in which case, there are a lot of safer ways to kill a man.”
“Don’t you mean ‘Wait Fai, you can’t just kill this man?’” Gavin asked.
Failina glared at him. “This man hurt my new friend! He deserves to die!”
“How do we know that he actually hurt her?” Gavin wondered. “Maybe she’s playing on our sympathy to make us rid her of an irritating problem?”
Chihara had been staring at them in shock, but she laughed softly at Gavin’s statement. “If I had asked you to kill him, even I would admit that you might be right, but I don’t want him dead. I just want to be far away from him. He makes a good King, and is kind to our children. It’s only me that he… hurts.”
She looked at Failina seriously. “And yes, I do actually love Cedric.”
Gavin sighed in defeat. He was still jealous, but he didn’t have the heart to deny Cedric anything he wanted. “Why not divorced him, marry Cedric, and rule happily ever after.”
“In a heartbeat!” Chihara exclaimed.
“Gavin!” Cedric cried out incredulously. “I can’t believe you’re going to make me say this out loud, but… If it’s a choice between Chihara and you… I choose you… Hell! If it came down to a choice between Failina and you, I’d choose you!”
“You say that, but… you haven’t let go of that exquisite woman once since she flung herself in your arms,” Gavin pointed out.
Cedric looked at Chihara for one moment. She had tears in her eyes again, but they didn’t fall. He removed his arm from around her, and stepped towards Gavin. “See.”
Failina completely shocked both her lovers by bursting out crying. “I don’t want to have to choose between you! If you made me… I couldn’t do it! I love you both too much!”
“Fai!” Gavin chided sternly. “This is not the time.” He stared at Cedric, who returned his gaze.
“I mean it Gav,” Cedric closed the distance between them, and repeated, “I’d choose you over anyone else in this world.”
Gavin hugged him, and Cedric melted into his embrace. “And I meant it what I said we’ll go anywhere you want to go. That means I’ll follow you no matter what you choose.” They kissed, and Failina was watching them with tear-streaked happy eyes. She had her hands clasped together again, and practically danced next to them as she waited for her turn.
Chihara nodded in acceptance. “So, I guess you won’t let me join your family?”
Cedric faced her, and shook his head. “I’m sorry, but no. You need to learn to stand up for yourself. Don’t let your husband push you around anymore.”
Failina paled. “I uh… gotta pee! Chihara, would you please come with me?”
Chihara thought Failina was the strangest person she’d ever met, but decided to trust her. “Sure, I hadn’t figure out how to express my need delicately, and here you just blurt it out.”
Failina grabbed her hand, and dragged her along to a thick set of bushes. “We’ll wait here.” Failina informed the Queen as they- very awkwardly in the Queen’s case since her dress was hard to maneuver – emptied their bladders.
“Wait here?” Chihara wondered.
“Yes, Gav and Ced should be able to send those men away no problem, and if it comes to a fight, they’ll win it, don’t worry,” Failina assured her.
“What men?” Chihara asked.
“I don’t know yet if they’re bandits or a search party, but there are… 8 of them,” Failina held a finger up to signal that Chihara wait quietly, and then groaned almost inaudibly. “Aww, not now.”
Chihara covered an astonished gasp as Failina emptied her stomach on the ground as quietly as possible. Then, she whispered, “Are you okay?”
‘Yeah, it comes and goes,” Failina murmured in her ear.
“For how long?” Chihara wondered suspiciously.
“Long enough. Don’t tell Gavin or Cedric,” Failina insisted. By this time, there was the clear sound of swords clashing.
“Why not?” Chihara inquired in a whisper.
“They’ll just worry, and well… they’re still conflicted on the subject,” Failina explained.
Chihara nodded. Failina smiled, and closed her eyes.
“Bandits, and the guys are almost done. However…”Failina paused to gather some magic. “One of them has noticed us. Lightning bolt!”
The would-be attacker fell to the ground, dead.
“Wow!” Chihara exclaimed in a whisper. “I wish my bodyguards could do that!”
“It’s not really magic most people can use,” Failina explained. Chihara nodded.
“Oh! Looks like they’re done!” Failina announced. The two women emerged from the bushes.
“Next time, warn us too!” Gavin demanded. “Those guys really took us by surprise.”
“If you hadn’t been too busy kissing,” Failina replied in a sugary tone. “You would have noticed them sooner.”
“Yeah yeah,” Gavin muttered.
“Now,” Cedric changed the subject. “The only question is what to do about Chihara.”
Chihara smiled at Failina, and then focused on Cedric. “I think I should go home after all. I miss my children.” She hesitated, and then blushed. “Is there any way you’d consider… um… you know…”
“Ooo! Can I watch?” Failina asked with a grin, and Cedric felt his blood thicken as he imagined what she was referring to.
“Uh… Can you be just a bit more specific?” Cedric asked.
“Can you show me – just once – what it’s supposed to be like between a man and a woman?”
Cedric felt like crying – that was once his dearest wish! – and looked away from both Chihara and Gavin as he thought this over. Unfortunately, this meant that he was looking at Failina, who was grinning and nodding encouragingly.
“Just once, right?” Gavin asked, which was his way of saying that he wasn’t against the idea.
“Well, one night. I rather hope it might be more than once,” Chihara admitted, and then covered her cheeks and looked to the ground in embarrassment.
“Don’t worry Ced,” Gavin chuckled. “Even I am attracted to her. She’s so damn cute!”
Chihara looked to Failina as it occurred to her that Failina must share her body with both of the men. That image made Chihara redder than ever, and she placed the back of her hand to her forehead. “Oh my!” She nearly swooned, but Cedric caught her.
“It’s getting late,” Cedric mentioned - which was true despite the fact that none of them could figure out how so much time had passed. “Why don’t we find a town and an inn?”
“One moment please,” Failina said, and then climbed to the top of the tallest nearby tree. She looked around, found a likely place, and then performed a strange maneuver that was like sliding down the side of the tree, but took the branches into account.
“That way about a half an hour’s walk,” Failina pointed.
Cedric took a very good look around, and smiled. “I know, this is-”
Chihara gasped. “Where we grew up! We can’t go to an inn there; everyone knows me!”
Cedric pointed in nearly the opposite direction, and cast Chihara a questioning look. Chihara bit her lip indecisively.
“But that’s… My secret hiding place.”
Cedric nodded. Gavin rolled his eyes. “You two go on. We’ll go to the inn, and meet you here tomorrow.”
Failina gave Cedric an enthusiastic kiss, and then hugged Chihara. “See you tomorrow. I’m glad I got to meet you, Chihara.”
As they walked away – after some distance had been covered – Failina asked Gavin, “Have you ever seen so many emotions cross Ced’s face in one day before?”
“Not quite,” Gavin chuckled. “He’s usually smiling and chattering on like an idiot while hiding what he really thinks.”
“I think so too,” Failina agreed.
“You’re just like him, but more so!” Gavin pointed out. “Like how you had us both fooled into thinking you were this helpless innocent kitten, but really you are a capable and somewhat scary tigress.”
“I wasn’t trying to fool you,” Failina stated.
“That’s the scary part!” Gavin insisted. “Half the time, you really are like an exuberant child, and the other half…” He shrugged.
“I’m the scary Fai!” She finished for him with a giggle.
“Do you think he’ll do it?” Failina asked curiously.
“Of course he will!” Gavin nodded. “You saw the way he looked at her.”
“I don’t know,” Failina mused, placing a finger on her bottom lip and looking at the sky. “I think he might not.”
Gavin grunted and opted not to enlighten her to the true nature of man.
“I get you all to myself tonight!” Failina cheered.
“Hmm,” Gavin made a sound as if the thought hadn’t occurred to him. “That you do.”
The next morning – about halfway to afternoon – Gavin and Failina reentered the general area where they’d left Cedric and Chihara. That pair sunned themselves as they waited for their companions to return from town. Well, Chihara made sure to keep her face in the shade, but enjoyed the warmth.
Failina squatted in front of Chihara, and examined Chihara’s hair and dress, then smiled sweetly. Gavin pulled Cedric close, inhaled the scent of his cheek, and then kissed him. When the kiss ended, Gavin held out one hand towards Failina.
“Yeah yeah,” Failina muttered cheerfully, pulled a gold coin out of her bodice, and flipped it into the air.
Gavin caught it, and quickly pocketed it.
Cedric rolled his eyes. “You jump to conclusions based on a kiss?”
“No, based on the smell and taste of you,” Gavin stated.
“Plus,” Failina added. “You took the time to completely remove all of the decorations from her hair, and her dress is almost not wrinkled at all, which means she did not sleep in it. That she is blushing and looks guilty only adds icing to the cake.”
Failina squealed, and threw her arms around Chihara. “Oh, she’s just so cute! Can I keep her?”
“Sorry Fai,” Cedric shook his head. “She really needs to return to her palace.”
“Besides,” Chihara replied. “I don’t think I could be an equal part of your unique little family.”
“Sure you could, it’s easy!” Failina insisted. “You just feel love until your heart is near to bursting, and then you express it with a kiss.” Failina demonstrated, and a shocked Chihara tried to back away, but was prevented by Failina’s tight embrace. Failina’s healing power flared, and transferred to Chihara.
“Wow,” Chihara exhaled in awe once her lips were free. “What did you do to me?”
“Why did you need healing?” Failina demanded fiercely.
“Bruises, Fai,” Cedric explained. “She was covered in bruises.”
Failina leapt to her feet, and grabbed Cedric’s hand. “Take me to the palace, now!”
“I can’t!” Cedric protested. “I’ve never been there before, and I doubt my magic will take me there. It already made it clear that it thinks I need to be here.”
“Please stop worrying about me,” Chihara pleaded. “I’ve decided to stay with my foster father for a bit. He and his men are loyal to me, and will help me deal with my husband.”
“I can’t help it! I just get so angry I-” Failina stopped abruptly, gasped “excuse me,” and ran to the other side of the nearest bush.
Her lovers stared at her hiding spot in bafflement, and then looked around to see if there were any unexpected guests. Sensing nothing, they returned their attention to the bush. They both glanced curiously at Chihara, who was smiling knowingly in Failina’s direction.
“No!” Gavin felt like he was going to faint.
“Ah, I see,” Cedric murmured.
A moment later, Failina returned, smiling as if nothing was out of the ordinary. “Sorry, it seems I forgot to pee before leaving the inn this morning.”
“Liar,” Gavin muttered, still pale from shock. He was completely unprepared to be a father, and whether or not he physically was, the result was the same. Failina had only been a part of their lives for about 6 months now, it’s far too soon!
“Oh dear,” Failina sighed. “It seems you figured it out.”
Cedric wrapped his arms around her. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
Failina smiled. “Shortly before we left Gav’s, I suspected. Then, I saw his sister hand him her baby, and he looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole and hide. His expression made it clear that he would far prefer to face a hundred murderous bandits than hold one small baby. I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure, and then the time just never seemed right.”
“True,” Cedric reflected. “I guess I’ll just have to take on Gavin’s share of holding the baby so that he doesn’t feel uncomfortable.”
Chihara got to her feet, checked to make sure that she had her purse – which contained all of the jewelry that she’d been wearing – and cleared her throat delicately. “I guess I’ll be going now. We are actually on my foster father’s lands, and I should be safe.”
“She says despite being less than a hundred feet from where we were attacked by bandits yesterday,” Gavin replied sarcastically.
“Which is strange. There never used to be bandits around here,” Chihara informed them.
“You mean you haven’t realized?” Cedric frowned. “Your blood is connected to the land by powerful magic. If the ruler is perceived as weak, then the land becomes susceptible to things like drought, unusually harsh winters, and hordes of bandits.”
“I have heard that,” Chihara replied sadly. “But I never believed it until now.”
The entire group walked until they could see her father’s manor, and then both Cedric and Failina hugged Chihara goodbye. She finished the journey by herself, and they watched her to be certain nothing happened. Finally, they walked toward Cedric’s parents.
“You know, I realized something,” Cedric began. “I really do still love Chihara, and I probably always will, but…” He paused to find the right words. “I love you two more.”
Failina squeezed his hand, and grinned. Gavin seemed relieved, and laced his fingers through Cedric’s other hand.
The three of them stayed with Cedric’s parents for a month before declaring that the bed was just too small. They hugged his parents – who were overjoyed to see their son so happy – goodbye, and then stepped onto the main road out of town.
“Where to now?” Cedric asked.
“Anywhere is fine,” Gavin murmured, nibbling on Cedric’s ear.
“Why not return to my place?” Failina asked. If her neighbors had kept their promise, she was the only one of the three of them that actually had a place of her own.
“Sounds good to me,” Gavin nodded.
“Same here,” Cedric added. “But one thing still bothers me, why did the house burn down like that?”
“It’s because of the dream I had,” Failina replied softly. “I dreamt that I was back on my father’s world, and I watched as the nuclear blast obliterated everything. I felt all alone, and hopeless with despair. I realized later that my magic flared, starting the fire. I think some part of me was trying to ensure that I could stay with you when you left.”
They hugged her. She almost never seemed saddened by her past, and so they often forgot that she had lived through some truly horrific ordeals. It made sense that she would cling to happiness no matter what she had to sacrifice.
They arrived at Failina’s just as her belly rounded as proof that she was about 6 months pregnant. “I don’t understand!” She gasped in disbelief. Her house looked exactly the same as she remembered it.
“About time you returned,” an elderly woman greeted, obviously waiting for them.
The woman smiled. “None of us know for certain why, but just a few days after you left, your house reappeared as if the fire had never happened.”
Failina rushed inside, and found everything right where she’d left it. She felt a pain in her head, and clutched it as she swooned. Gavin caught her.
“It was all my magic,” she whispered as scenes played in her mind. “My magic made it feel like my house was on fire, and made it appear to have been burned down, but in actuality…” She had no idea how to feel about something so cruel. Cruel and merciful at the same time.
“In any case,” Cedric replied. “It seems like we are finally home.”
Gavin nodded in agreement. “That we are.”
Nearly four months later, Failina gave birth to a boy with silver hair and sapphire eyes. Both men stared at him in astonishment. “How did that happen?!”
Failina handed him to Cedric, and he wore an expression that made it clear he had just been given his deepest wish. Gavin looked mesmerized, and it was obvious that he wanted to hold the baby, but was too afraid to ask. Cedric thrust him into Gavin’s arms, and watched the emotions play across his face.
“What shall we name him?” Cedric and Gavin wondered.
A few moments passed in silence, and then Failina finally made a suggestion. “My father was a proud and noble King. Why not use his name? James.”
It seemed like a good name, and both men nodded in agreement. The baby fussed, and they handed him back to Failina. She offered her breast for him to nurse, and watched him adoringly.
“You have a wonderful future ahead of you, James.”