Torshael and Tayne's Story: Between Missions
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
"It's strange having two places you call home," Tayne commented as he walked down the street towards Tekasynos's house, Fluniarlii perched in his mane as usual, returning for the third time, now. Though this time, at least, his arrival was hardly unexpected, and he didn't bother staying in human form. He'd have plenty of that once he got back to Tekas's place, and staying discrete in the city streets was a thing of the past.
"I bet you can have homes all over the place," Lii commented. "Then wherever you go, you'll be home!"
"Interesting way to put it." He leapt up the stairs to Tekas's front door. "Hold on, shifting." Lii obediently twined her claws in his mane, and as he shot up to two feet a moment later, wound up perched precariously on the top of his head. She slid down to his shoulder once she had her balance again.
"That's kind of fun," she chirped, making him chuckle. He knocked on the door and settled back to wait for Irithin.
"Really do need to get myself a key," he mused.
Irithin was prompt at answering the door and letting them in. "Tekasynos is downstairs," he said, before either one could do more than say hello to him.
"Thanks," Tayne blinked, and headed for the kitchen and the stairs down.
"Am I allowed down there again, or should I bugger off?" Lii asked.
"I don't think he'll object too much," Tayne said. "But you can always make a run for it if he does."
"Flying leap, more like, right off your shoulder. Whoosh!" She made a swooping motion with one forepaw, then mimed her fist hitting something hard and flattening out. "Ker-thump-splat!"
Tayne chuckled, opening the door to Tekas's basement and starting carefully down the stairs. It was... really rather messy down there. There were paints and brushes and palettes sitting about, and a good portion of the floor was protected by a length of paint-spattered sailcloth. The paintings had been shuffled around, into fewer stacks of more paintings, and covered with large squares of paint-dotted cloth. They'd obviously been moved to make more room below, and it was just as obvious why: Tekas was painting, but the canvas was huge. It looked rather large enough to be at home in Torshael's house, or some other dragon's.
::Isn't that the City?:: Lii asked, surprised.
Staring, Tayne nodded. It was half-finished, but easily recognizable as the High One's City. Had Tekas seen it somehow? How was that possible? He'd only been "good" for, what, two months now? And surely Tayne would have known if he'd made an excursion like that....
Tekas, kneeling on the floor to work on a lower portion of the canvas, half-turned at the sound of their steps on the stairs, and smiled brightly. "Welcome back."
Tayne shook off his surprise and grinned, back, before coming the rest of the way down. "Thanks. Looks like you've been busy."
"A bit," Tekas smirked, then turned back to his painting. Tayne drifted over to stand behind him, and he asked, "How was your trip?"
"I said 'bloody hell' in front of the High One," Lii snickered. "It just kind of slipped out. He didn't mind, but the whole Court was shocked. It was great."
Tekas chuckled. "And I suppose I'm to blame for your wonderful vocabulary choice."
"I got 'bugger off' from you, too," Lii told him wickedly.
Shaking his head with a grin, Tayne added, "You won't believe what Torshael's up to. He and Vienel are off at some dragonry someplace, because the idiot went and flew in one of those dragon-chase things."
Tekas paused, and for a minute Tayne wondered what kind of reaction that precipitated, but then he set down his brush, quite calmly, and unexpectedly burst out laughing. Tayne grinned at him, sharing the sentiment, now that he was over the shock of such an out of character act on his brother's part. "You're kidding!" Tekas gasped.
"Nope, 'fraid not. It was Vienel's idea, to maybe get over his nervousness with women, but I have no idea how she talked him into it. We're all invited to the hatching, whenever it happens, of course."
That elicited more laughter, though Tekas made an attempt at getting himself back under control, wiping a humor-tear from his eye. "Oh," he grinned, "I definitely won't miss that."
"Well, good, since I didn't really want to, either," Tayne chuckled. "Of course, it meant that neither of them-- or Haiiro, for that matter-- were actually home. I kinda wanted to introduce Lii."
"Aw, pity they didn't get to meet the brat." Tekas winked at her.
"That's what I said," Lii agreed impishly. "But I'll meet 'em later, I guess. I shocked enough people this time!"
"My poor family didn't know what hit them," Tayne said mock-mournfully.
"I barely knew what hit me," Tekas chuckled. "I can imagine how they felt."
"It was exciting, that's for sure. So how about you?" Tayne finally got his curiosity out. "What've you been up to, aside from painting... er, that is the High One's City, right?"
"Mmmhmm," Tekas nodded, looking back at it. "Glad you could tell-- I wouldn't want to get it wrong."
"I even recognized it, and I've only been once!" Lii commented.
"Good. I had... an enlightening experience while you were gone," Tekas continued.
"Oh? Care to share?" Tayne suggested, reaching over to brush a strand of Tekas's hair back from his face. Paint-dabbed strand of hair, in fact.
"That gentleman we met before you left-- Senas. We had a bit of a talk."
Since he wasn't talking about it with a shudder or a nervous glance around, Tayne assumed it wasn't a bad talk. Grinning, he gave the hair a ruffle and dropped his hand before it could distract Tekas further from explaining. "How'd that go?" he asked.
"Well, he gave me a fright, at first, as you might imagine." Tayne nodded. "But after a while, it wasn't so bad."
"No death threats or anything, I take it," Tayne chuckled. "What did you two talk about?"
"Not a one. He was particularly keen on learning about me, oddly enough, but he had a few kernels of wisdom to share, you might say." Tekasynos's smile was enigmatic, and Tayne lofted his brows at him.
"Kernels of wisdom?" he repeated curiously.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Lii added, even more curiously.
"Means I've gotten a bit more insight on my life," Tekas answered cryptically, picking up his brush again.
::I hate when he does that,:: Tayne grumbled. ::And I'm sure he's not about to explain.::
::Maybe he will later,:: Lii said hopefully.
Tekas had started working again. "Have I ever told you the stories about some of these?" he asked. "They're not all just paintings."
"I think you told me a couple when I first looked through them," Tayne said, hitching a shoulder in a shrug and watching the brush move across the canvas. "Not many, though, and they weren't particularly personal, or anything."
"I didn't hear any stories!" Lii protested. "What stories?"
"Those weren't the important ones. There aren't too many that really mean something to me, but there are a few. The one I got mad about before is a good example," Tekas added quietly, and Tayne held his breath-- though he didn't seem nearly as upset now, with some time and... whatever Senas had told him. "That one I painted after I dream I had. One that made me happier than I'd been in a very long time. It almost hurt to wake up from.... But I didn't want to forget it."
"I bet not," Lii said, as Tayne, hearing that, hoped "got rid of" didn't actually mean "destroy" like he was afraid it did. Though maybe that would have been healthier for him.... "What was it like?"
" ... like looking into a mirror," Tekas said slowly, "and seeing yourself as something else. I suppose it's a little difficult to describe...."
"I don't get it," Lii stated blankly, but Tayne reached over to put a hand against Tekas's back. He thought he understood, at least.
"It's not important, Lii," he told her. "Don't worry about it."
"Dreams are funny things, anyway," Tekas agreed with a chuckle. "They can show you your deepest wish, or the thing you're most frightened of... and sometimes they mean nothing at all." He seemed remarkably composed, compared to his earlier refusal to even discuss that particular painting. Well, Tayne was glad....
"I sure hope so," Lii said. "Or else I want some really weird shit-- or am afraid of some really weird shit!"
Before he could ask, Tayne explained wryly, "She got that one from the Sentinels."
"She gets a more colorful tongue with every word," Tekas said slyly. "Perhaps we should paint her feathers to match?"
Lii yelped and made an attempt to hide behind Tayne's head, making him hunch and laugh. "Hey, hey, claws, Lii! Watch it!"
"I don't want to be painted!" she protested, though she sounded on the verge of laughing, too.
"Then you'd best keep that colorful set of words in check," Tekas smirked.
"Or stay away from your paintbrushes!" Lii countered cheekily, peeking out from amidst Tayne's hair, which was now a hopeless mess and coming out of its tie.
"Not happening," Tekas said.
"You'll have to catch me first," Lii taunted, bunched up on Tayne's back with her claws hooked into his tunic-- and, he thought, his back.
"Hey, I refuse to be a launching pad," he laughed. "It's hard enough being a perch!"
"Don't tempt me, little one," Tekas retorted wickedly.
"Just because Tayne's gonna throttle me if I don't," she said primly, "I'll be good. For now."
"Damn right, you will," Tayne mock-growled, reaching back and grabbing her furry ruff to haul her back onto his shoulder instead of his shoulder blades. Tekas just laughed at the two of them, turning back to his painting. Tayne, now that his back wasn't in danger of bleeding or anything, gave the massive canvas another puzzled look. "So why exactly are you painting the High One's City?" he asked.
Tekas paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. "Well, you were gone, and I was a bit bored, and I remembered some of the things you told me about Torshael's home and thought it might be a good idea to do something for him, since I don't really see him." He looked a little sheepish at the admission, and Tayne gave him a mildly surprised look for his expression-- one which he tried hard not to make something that could translate into jealousy. Ridiculous though it might have been, he still wasn't entirely sure how to handle Tekasynos's original attraction to his brother, so for the most part he just didn't think about it. Tekas continued, "And I got it into my head to ask Senas for an idea, and he made the suggestion. ... Granted, I've never been there, but he provided a nice visual for me when I decided I'd do it."
"Must have been a damn good visual," Tayne murmured, looking back up at the painting. "It really does look great."
"Yeah, well, it wouldn't be much of a painting if there were details," Tekas admitted, still a little embarrassedly. "It was sort of awkward asking about it, but I think it'll turn out decently...."
"Torshael will be speechless. Well, for a minute or two, anyway."
Tekas laughed. "I probably won't get to see that, but it's amusing to think about."
"Depends on how you get it to him, I guess," Tayne shrugged. "If you have it done before that hatching of his, you can probably deliver it in person. You've got plenty of time," he added. "The thing isn't for a while."
"Honestly, I was considering just sending it by courier.... I doubt he'd be interested in it if he's fretting over whatever children he might have spawned during his flight. As it is, I found a supernal courier, of all things, from the City, so I could have him take it when it's done...." Tekas sounded amused by the idea, and honestly, Tayne was, too.
"How'd you find that?" he chuckled. "Don't tell me Senas is playing messenger these days."
"Oh, no, I actually found him on accident," Tekas explained with a smirk. "I was looking for couriers to ship a few other items, and was surprised to find one of them was a Supernal. So I inquired if he'd been to the City, and turns out he grew up there. So it became an option."
"Huh. This fellow have a name?"
Tekas put down his brush and turned to give the two of them the rest of his attention. "Keiun Aesyr, if I recall correctly."
Tayne snorted a laugh. "You're kidding... I was wondering what happened to him. I wonder if this is where his sister wound up, too."
"I have his contact information if you'd like to talk to him," Tekas smiled, looking amused.
"I'd like that, thanks." Tayne grinned. "Well, later, anyway."
"Since you just got home, and everything," Lii put in, giving him a sly, sideways look. "Should I, ah, bugger off?"
"Brat," Tayne chuckled at her.
"You're going to wear that one out if you keep calling me that," Lii chirped, to Tekas's amusement.
"Well, you are one," Tayne retorted, then slipped a hand under her belly and swung her off with a flourish, to her delighted squeal. "Go on, then," he said, setting her down. "Go get your new stuff put away in your room, or something."
"Okay," Lii said, and gave both of them a cat-like rub against their shins before trotting for the stairs. Tekas watched her leave with a smirk, then climbed to his feet and brushed himself off.
"You always look like such a mess when you've been painting," Tayne noticed, smiling fondly as much to make sure Tekas knew he was teasing as because it was kind of cute. "You get paint everywhere."
Tekas's answer was to put his hands no his hips defiantly and announce, with just enough waver in his voice to show that he was trying not to laugh, "You must not stifle the creative process!"
"Who said anything about stifling?" Tayne grinned back. "Was just a simple observation. C'mere," he suggested, reaching out to take one of those hands off his hips. Tekas, purring softly, let him draw him closer and gather him up in a warm hug.
"I missed you."
"Mmm, I missed you, too," Tayne answered, taking in the now-familiar cinnamon-scent of his hair. And the equally now-familiar scent of paint that currently went with it. "It's good to be back."
They stood like that, just holding each other, for a long, comfortable few minutes. Tekas was the one to break the silence, though his voice was subdued when he asked, "Tayne? Can I talk to you about something?"
"Sure," Tayne said, pulling back again. "Siddown someplace."
Tekas led him over to a paint- and painting-free corner of the room and sat, Tayne dropping down beside him, keeping a hand folded in one of his own on his knee. "I've been thinking," the infernal began slowly, "and it's really amazing how much thinking you can do when you're alone for a couple days...."
"Sounds serious," Tayne teased, just a little, idly running his fingers over the back of Tekas's hand. "If you hadn't already made it clear you're glad to see me, I might be worried. What were you thinking about?"
Tekas didn't bother to tease, back, not that he'd really expected him to. "A lot of things. Mostly I just realized that I should be more forward with you about certain things... and just how lonely I feel when you're not around. Guess I got used to it a bit...."
Though he didn't know what "certain things" Tekas wanted to be more forward about, the rest was self-explanatory, and made Tayne smile. "Amazing how quickly we can get used to people," he agreed quietly, covering Tekas's hand with both of his now.
"Yeah.... I'm sure I wouldn't be the first to admit it." Tekas ran his free hand though his hair awkwardly, and Tayne waited patiently for whatever he was embarrassed about to come out. "I've given it some thought," he said at last. "I think I'd like to try and find a bond...."
That was probably the last thing he'd have expected to hear-- well, besides the pessimistic things that he knew weren't coming-- and Tayne scrambled to put words together. "Uh-- wow. I didn't think you were even considering something like that." The one time he'd mentioned it, it hadn't gone over very well-- not poorly, just... not well.
"I hadn't been. Not really. And I know it's a selfish reason... I'm still not good with kids... but I don't want to be stuck by myself when you disappear again for a while."
"There's nothing selfish about not wanting to be alone," Tayne told him warmly, though he felt a little bad that he did have to leave him sometimes. Given he was likely to start working as soon as he could get himself a job, he'd be gone fairly regularly, at least during the day. "And I don't think you're not as bad with kids as you think."
"Maybe I'm not, but I do feel that way." Tekas sighed. "The reason... it's one of those things I think you should know, something I should have been more forward about. ... If you want to hear it, anyway. You might think differently about me when you do."
Tayne's brows went up. "What is it?" he asked.
There was a pause before Tekas answered, one in which the infernal fidgeted nervously, eyes flickering between his and the floor. They finally settled on the floor, and he took a deep breath, and started to speak. "Some time ago," he said hesitantly, "a few years before I found my way here... I found myself in a small group of other Infernals..... That doesn't happen very often, and I really don't recall how I ended up involved--" He stopped and shook his head. "But it's really irrelevant. The leader was a male of significant size, not too old but older than most of the rest. He was mostly red, so he commanded some respect among Infernals." Tayne listened quietly, fingers idly moving across the back of Tekas's hand again. He didn't know why he wanted to share this, but it had to be important....
"He lead us out to a human village," Tekas continued, "and we-- ended up destroying it. Some of them killed the villagers.... I just burned things as they passed so that no one could say I was useless." Tayne stroked his hand soothingly, easily imagining it happening-- he'd stopped it happening, once or twice, though not against so many infernals at once. And he could see poor, reluctant Tekasynos, in the middle of it all, trying to do as little damage as possible without winding up in trouble, himself. "Some of the humans were taken captive. The leader-- he didn't seem to care what happened to them.... Then he caught sight of one of them-- a little girl. She was only maybe seven or eight years old... so young....."
Oh, High One. He thought he could see where this was going. Tekas's fingers were tense in his, his eyes fixed firmly on the floor, and his voice shook, just a little. "He said not to touch her, that he'd take her back with him.... But-- I knew what he did... to young ones like her." Oh, High One. One of those. Tayne had heard stories, but... ugh. "I knew what would happen to her-- and I couldn't bear it. .... I-- I couldn't save her, couldn't take her away. He'd have killed me... and I didn't want to die.... So... I did the only thing I could thing of to help her... to steal her away from a fate like that....." His breath caught in a soft whimper, and he looked close to tears; Tayne tightened his hands comfortingly on his, guessing his choice-- the only choice he could have had. "I pretended I didn't hear his order-- and... I killed her."
The only choice he could have had, and he still beat himself up over it. As Tayne expected he would have, in his place. He gave his trapped hand another few soothing strokes with his thumb. "That's-- I can't even imagine having to do that. It had to be terrible...." Tekas didn't say anything, or even look up. Tayne leaned over, tapping his chin with a finger to try and make him look at him, but he still wouldn't meet his eyes, and there were a pair of tears rolling down his cheeks. "Hey... you did the only thing you could, man. And I bet it was the hardest thing you ever did, wasn't it?"
"I could have done something more," Tekas insisted, but without any real spirit behind the words. "I know I could have.... She didn't do anything wrong... she didn't deserve that."
"No, she didn't," Tayne agreed. "But she deserved what that red infernal would have done to her even less. What could you have done, Tekas? Run away with her? You said yourself he would have killed you, and then he would have had her, anyway."
Tekas turned his face away again. "It doesn't matter... it was still wrong... and I can't make up for such a thing."
Tayne tried again. "Are you ever going to do it again? Or anything even remotely like it?"
"I-- I don't want to... I don't want to, ever again...."
Nodding, Tayne continued, "And you know it was wrong-- not that any other choice at the time was right-- and feel bad about it. Obviously." Tekas nodded, very faintly, and Tayne put a hand to his cheek, this time forcing him to look at him. "Tekas... that's all that matters. There's no 'making up for it' necessary-- just live your life the best way you know how. Not even the High One asks for penance for a wrong, just your admission of guilt and honest desire to do better in the future."
Tekas sniffed pitifully. "But...."
Tayne leaned in to kiss his forehead gently. "But, nothing. At least trust that a supernal knows what he's talking about, when it comes to redemption and forgiveness, hey?"
"You... don't think badly of me for this?"
"If I did, I'd be a hypocrite," Tayne told him. "I expect I'd have done the same thing, faced with a no-win situation like that. At least now your little girl is safe, and probably happy, and nobody's ever going to hurt her again."
There was another pause while Tekas considered this, but he finally nodded and said, "I suppose you're right...."
Tayne smiled slightly, relieved. He didn't know what else he could have said, and too much of that guilt and self-loathing would start to give him a headache, he thought. "'Course I'm right. But thank you for telling me... that at least explains why you're so uncomfortable with children."
"I... I did a painting of her," Tekas said hesitantly. "I didn't know her name... but she shouldn't be forgotten, all the same. I finished it a while ago... it's over with the others."
"The High One will always remember her, and you will... but now maybe I can, too." Glancing at the stacked paintings, Tayne gave Tekas's hand a squeeze before releasing it, and stood to investigate. "Where is it?"
"It's in there," Tekas said, and Tayne angled for the stack he indicated. He found it, just a few back. It really was impossible to miss, a painting he'd glanced at before and remembered mostly because it was so different from most of Tekas's other work: a little girl with a unicorn, in a peaceful glade lit by fairy lights.
"She's beautiful," Tayne smiled, setting the painting at the front of the stack, where it could be seen, before coming back and settling beside the infernal again. "And she looks happy."
"Took me days to get the feel right," Tekas commented quietly.
With his last-- his only-- memories of the child being what they were, Tayne wasn't surprised. He reclaimed the hand he'd left behind, and brought it up to kiss its fingers. "I think you did a good job on it. It's a fitting memorial, I think."
" ... thanks."
A smile flittered across Tekas's face along with the soft word, and Tayne felt inordinately pleased at the sight. "Don't mention it," he answered, and slipped an arm around his shoulders, to draw him up close. The infernal didn't resist, but cuddled up against him willingly, so he fit both arms around him and tucked his head under his chin. "You're a good person, Tekas... don't forget that about yourself, all right?" Tekas nodded wordlessly against his chest, and he sighed quietly. "Good...."
Because, really, trying to convince him of that fact very often would get tiring, when there were plenty of other things he'd much rather be doing with him. For now, though, just holding him close was enough.