BY : WonderMint
Category: Final Fantasy XIV > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1739
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy FFXIV: ARR is owned by Square Enix and based on the creation of Hironobu Sakaguchi. May they ever walk in the light of the crystal. I own no right to the characters and settings herein and seek no profit therefrom.

He had sworn it would only be a moment, but Alphinaud was startled suddenly from slumber by a hand stroking his back. His whole body twitched, disoriented and a little afraid. Strong arms pulled him tightly against warm skin until he returned fully to his senses. They filled with the scent of sweat, leather, and oiled metal. Ah yes. He remembered now. He had interrupted Ser Aymeric in the process of dying, which sensibly had led to the commission of carnal acts which he had previously only heard described by those who were certain he would not overhear. Naturally he was now lying, nearly naked, in the arms of the Lord Commander of the Temple Knights, defender of the faith and sworn servant of the Archbishop. It made as much sense as anything else had of late, especially when Aymeric was present.

What he said aloud was, “how long did I sleep?” He would have been reluctant to disturb the silence, but in truth it had been his responsibility to keep the other man awake until he could see a healer. He had to admit he was doing a poor job.

“A few minutes, a quarter-bell at most.” The voice was soft enough to be audible mostly as a rumble in the broad chest he had nestled against while he slept. Long fingers were once again stroking his scalp, and Alphinaud was finding it extremely difficult to remain agitated.

This time he caught himself before the comfort bore him away. He pried away the fingers and sat up, surprised at the mild dizziness the action generated more than the disappointed sigh from his companion. The man was looking at him wistfully, not a little sadly, and he found he could not bear the sight. He rolled out from beneath the rough blanket and grabbed at his too-light clothing, infinitely relieved that it had dried.

The chill air brought him to full wakefulness instantly. “I thought your grand plan was to steal some rest whilst I was occupied,” he said to distract himself while he dressed. He tossed the black trousers and tabard towards the knight with a flick of his ankle while he fumbled with the buttons on his tunic.

“Ah, I had forgotten. It seems that something quite distracted me.” The voice didn't affect him quite as much now that he had gained some distance, but its softness bleeding through his playful words still cut him to the quick. Something in his chest hurt in ways he had never felt before.

He did not regret it. Would not. But that didn't mean he knew what to do now.

Oh yes. Survive.

The poor chocobo. He knelt at the bird's side to check its condition. Mercifully it was merely sleeping, raising its head to whistle softly when he stroked its neck. Alphinaud didn't consider himself terribly good with animals that he had not personally summoned, but he felt guilty enough to wrap Aymeric's heavy cloak around it, tucking the edges of the fabric around its feet. The effect was quite silly, the large electrum pauldrons adorning is shoulders in mimicry of the cloak's owner. It took quick action to stifle what was most definitely not an impending chuckle, hand pressed to his lips and snorting ungracefully.

“Yes, quite fetching,” Aymeric agreed with only a hint of annoyance. “It will take only a moon to be rid of the smell.” More importantly, the chocobo seemed to appreciate it, puffing out its feathers and making itself quite at home in the expensive blue fabric.

Alphinaud risked a look at the knight, still tucked beneath the blanket like a heedless child. Aymeric was watching him cautiously, a hint of vulnerability still showing through the windows of his soul. Rather than moving to dress, he had bundled his tabard beneath his head as a pillow and rolled onto his side. The blanket hugged his lithe frame shamelessly, and would have left little to the imagination, save that Alphinaud had memory to guide him instead. He rolled his eyes in irritation, but truly it was more at his own body's reaction to his wandering thoughts than at the knight's indolence.

He found the canteen and took a few sips of the crisp water, stale from the long confinement in its metal walls but tasting sweet as ambrosia. Finally he handed it over to his companion. “I'm going to see if the storm has run its course. Swear to me that you will stay awake.” It was not a request.

Aymeric nodded, for once, without comment.

The air beyond the mouth of the cave was deadly still, silent like the legends told of the eye of a hurricane. So near to the nesting ground of the terrible Garuda, the thought made him mutter an oath of protection as he cautiously picked his way up the trail to the top. The winds did not seem to blow as fiercely as before, making visibility better, but he was as yet unsure if Aymeric would be up to the task of moving in the icy wind. He wound his way back down the slope through the fresh snow with great care, stopping to search for the sword that had guided him to his quarry. It took only a few minutes of kicking snowdrifts and skidding on rime-flaked rocks before he located it, and proudly he bore it back.

The blue sword was nearly as long as he was tall, but it seemed to be made of some sort of composite or ceramic, being extraordinarily light and keen of edge. It was still far too heavy for one of his strength and stature to wield effectively. But in the hands of one with a strong arm and a wide reach, the length of the blade would have meant that the tip of the sword would slice at a much greater speed relative to the swing. It must have been capable of cutting the toughest hides and the thickest bones, and its surprising lightness would have made it easier to stop and redirect, making it unexpectedly nimble and completely deadly to any who underestimated it, even at range. It was perfect for a man of Aymeric's coeurl-like grace. He suspected the sight would fair take his breath away.

On flat ground again, he lifted the blade so that the flat of it balanced on his shoulder and trailed behind his back, no longer worried that an errant step would mean his head. An odd, mournfully beautiful sound seemed to emanate from the cave, shadows ghosting about in the dim fire in impish mockery and seeming every bit the mouth leading into the seven hells. Drawing closer he resolved the sound as Aymeric's voice, softly humming a hymn that echoed and distorted through the silence, as if making comment on their good intentions.

He stopped before the threshold of damnation for a few moments, listening. Aymeric was quite capable of carrying a tune, it seemed, the haunting baritone rumble moving around and filling the silence in such a way as to make it seem even more barren, like the grandness of a cathedral, constructed of empty space and echoes. When he drew closer, he found the knight reclining conformally against the cave wall, wearing much of his clothing and wrapped with one of the blankets. Dark hair clung about his face in a disheveled mess, making him seem wreathed in shadow, otherworldly. His eyes were closed in serene contemplation, and Alphinaud wondered if the holy knight was performing an act of devotion, or merely filling the time.

At length the hymn was ended, and Aymeric opened his eyes to behold the silhouette of the younger man with the great sword flung casually over a shoulder, watching him with hawkish eyes. The knight's breath caught visibly in his chest, but he gave no other outward sign of his emotions, returning the gaze with the steely calm Alphinaud had come to respect at the negotiating table. That, too, heated his blood.

Alphinaud moved first, lowering the great blade and resting it in both hands to present it respectfully to its owner. The formality of the action was comfortingly rigid, devoid of ambiguities and hidden meanings. “The storm is near spent, but it would not hurt to tarry a while longer. How fare you?”

“I have been worse. Some dizziness and headache when I move quickly, but I should manage with some assistance.” He took the blade with a nod of thanks and set it near to hand, then offered Alphinaud the second blanket. The younger Elezen took the offering, trading him half their food ration, and settled himself against the wall across the dim flames, beside the chocobo, to nibble his own.

It wasn't until he had sat down that he realized he had done so to put distance between them, his heart leaping briefly into his throat at the thought. Unbidden, the bird shifted to lay its head in his lap. Idly he stroked the feathers atop its head, struggling to form his disquiet into words as he chewed. Symbols and metaphors clashed in his head, no longer lighting the way between truth and fiction, making him wonder if there were truly any difference between the sacred and the profane.

The knight watched his disquiet sadly, making no comment. Instead they made work of their meal, trading the canteen back and forth periodically, their awkward silence its own kind of mutual understanding. Their unspoken words lay discarded in a messy heap between them, which they both made effort to ignore.

Finally Alphinaud broke their truce. “What makes you believe yourself damned?” He addressed the empty air, as if the question had been intended for anyone who happened by. It was not the heart of the matter, but he hoped it would lead him there, as a doorway in a stone cellar.

Aymeric's eyes sparkled briefly with grim amusement. “I forget sometimes how it is with unbelievers. Desire for one of the same sex is considered a great affront to the Twelve... to all creation, in fact. It is not unheard-of for such abominations to fly silent for some time, but... well, that only lasts as long as one has no enemies who can capitalize on the information.” He paused briefly, a short silence underlining his words.

There was no doubt that Aymeric had many such enemies, given his low birth and high political office. “A swift trial and swifter drop lies in store for those who act without discretion,” the knight finished darkly.

Alphinaud suspected as much, but it helped to hear it spoken aloud, no longer couched in riddle. Always it puzzled him to be called an unbeliever, worshiping as they did the same pantheon, shunning (and killing) the same false gods. But there were still grave cultural differences, and he ignored them at his—and Aymeric's—peril. His appetite quite gone from him, he fed the other half of his bar of grain to the chocobo, which cooed in approval and misplaced affection.

“Then I have truly damned you with my lips,” he answered distractedly, fingers at his mouth, no true remorse save for some abstract, eighth-day-lessons sort of guilt. It was the sort that feared the switch, not the sin. Perhaps he was an unbeliever after all, when it came to that sort of justice.

“No, that I have brought fairly upon myself. I was damned many years ago, by my thoughts rather than deeds.” Only a faint blush marred the knight's cheeks at the admission. He met Alphinaud's gaze side-long, the deep blue gem at his ear catching the firelight suddenly, briefly highlighting once again the openness he had displayed not a bell before.

And then the moment was over, refracted away in a facet of the blue prism. “And what of you, Leveilleur,” the knight asked with sudden interest, demeanor shifting entirely. He lifted a knee to drape an arm over artfully, clothed now in his long, silver-wrapped fingerless gloves and wearing the rude blanket as a regal cape. The same aggressive spark was in his gaze, intelligence like a freshly honed blade, eyes that saw everything and revealed nothing. “Are you damned by your thoughts, or mine?”

The question had been phrased threateningly and he recognized the move for what it was, a deliberate goad. Had Alphinaud been closer, he realized, he would have been unable to answer, once-again tempted to kiss the man to silence his own disquiet, and possibly derailing the conversation for good. He pressed his bare fingers to his lips again, unconsciously seeking to reassure himself, and perhaps reliving the ghostly memory of a previous touch.

Aymeric, too, needed reassurance, or he would not have struck so boldly. He needed an answer, of any kind. Alphinaud could sense the threads of his inquiry beginning to converge. He bowed his head in contemplation, hugging his stocking-covered knees to his torso beneath the thin sheet.

“I am no foolish maid, and neither are you,” he produced at length, allowing frustration to get the better of him. “As ever it is mine own will that damns me, and your goddess will have no part in it.” The knight's eyes flashed dangerously at the sacrilegious tone, perhaps sensing multiple words that the youth had struggled to omit. But now Alphinaud did rise to sit beside the other man, pulling him down by the blanket around his shoulders, causing him to growl darkly into a possessive kiss.

It had sounded like an answer to a direct question, but in truth, he knew, Aymeric had asked him a many-layered riddle. He would take his time teasing it apart, and he would give his final answer only when he was ready.

He knew it had been a mistake, further tempting the older man, but the factor he kept forgetting was his own desire, always lurking behind a facade that seemed to fool even him. So when Aymeric had returned the kiss with grim enthusiasm, he had clambered astride the man's knees to compound the error. His hands wandered the man's chest freely, fascinated by the ornate fabric and the firm muscles sliding beneath it, feeling the strong rise and fall of his chest as his breath quickened.

The knight's hands, in turn, were fascinated with his bare skin, highlighting the inadequacy of Alphinaud's winter wardrobe. Fingers ghosted to his sides to stroke his waist with a feather-soft touch, before sliding over the fabric at his hips to grip his outer thighs. Alphinaud gasped against his lips as a knee was lifted to rub against his rear, pushing him forward to lean against the knight's chest and fall helplessly into an open-mouthed kiss.

He couldn't seem to decide if the knight was shy or shameless. Perhaps the most that could be said was that he knew what he wanted, and that right now it was the creamy flesh beneath his stockings, and a tongueless kiss that was somehow both chaste and scalding at the same time. Fingers worked their way below the white fabric, searching and grasping, while the black-clad palms slid smoothly over his bare thigh. The knee lifting between his legs continued to apply steady pressure, but when he attempted to slide downward and press their bodies together, he found Aymeric's hands would not allow him, suddenly flexing and holding him in a firm grip. All the while their lips moved together, gentle touches with occasional urgency but tempered need, shallow gasps and shared breath the totality of their transgression.

Finally he felt the tip of Aymeric's tongue run along the bottom of his lip, prompting Alphinaud to meet it with his own with a small whimper. But he was frustrated to find that the knight would neither allow incursion nor be tempted into Alphinaud's mouth. After several minutes of stalemate and amused rumbles as the knight's tongue retreated from him, he drew back and fixed him with a dark glare from beneath the white puff of his bangs. He panted slightly through parted lips, pointedly forbidding his mind from dwelling on the reasons for his urgency, or the knight's restraint.

The larger man regarded him coolly, a similar dark lust evident in his posture, but a touch of amusement at his lips. Ice blue eyes wandered over him predatorily, and then large hands squeezed his thighs sharply enough to bruise, knee grinding upwards into the cleft of his arse and dragging the fabric of his shorts over all his sensitive areas. Suddenly his pants were entirely too tight, making him gasp and grit his teeth in annoyance, but the only response Aymeric would give was the tiniest narrowing of his eyes. Once again he was being goaded, and this time Alphinaud rose fully to the bait. He seized the other man by his hair, dimly registering the softness of the short strands and the cold residue of sweat as he crashed their lips together. He would not be denied. His tongue darted forward to claim the warm mouth as his, and rather than blocking his ingress or pulling away, he was gratified by a rumbled, welcoming groan.

It was easy to lose himself like that, so willingly he did. Aymeric refused to release his hips, as if afraid further contact would scald him, but he gave willingly of his tongue and soon they were both panting, breathlessly, whispered sighs a marked contrast to their earlier ardor. Eventually the hands at his hips shifted, pulling him close to his chest and wrapping around his back, and Alphinaud could not find it in him to press the advantage, merely relaxing into the warmth of the embrace and burying his head against the other man's chest.

They lay still for several minutes, blocking out the world.

It could not last. They both knew it.

Words finally intruded, opening the door of reality and letting the light shine in. “Ever shall this be how I remember,” whispered the knight, so quietly it didn't even reverberate in his chest, a mere breath against his ear.

He had known the words were coming, but pain gripped Alphinaud then, sweet and all-encompassing as the kiss had been. He held the other man tightly for a long moment, and then moved to struggle to his feet, retrieving his discarded blanket and pulling it tight around his shoulders. It did not protect him from the cold of reason, and he shivered involuntarily.

“Will it be difficult to don your armor? It would not do to return without it...” his words did not sound like his own, and his movements were disconnected, robotic, kneeling to examine the chocobo but seeing nothing, gaze blank.

“I will manage.” The knight's voice was soft, but carried still his stoic strength. Solid reassurance, not false cheer. Alphinaud closed his eyes and leaned on the other man's courage for a moment, blocking out the sounds of movement behind him and the pain clawing at his gut. It was enough, somehow.

The chocobo whistled to him, startling him from his melancholy and prompting his hands to actions long-delayed. He stripped away the cloak, checking the straps on the saddle and cavalry barding and finding nothing obviously amiss. He bid the bird to stand with him and it followed, stretching its neck gloriously and towering nearly half his height over him, flapping its wings and waggling its tail in satisfaction. He took it as a sign that it would bear the other man safely.

When he turned around again, he was blindsided by Ser Aymeric's sad smile. He had finished dressing in his armor and cloak, and leaned on one knee to watch him, making no effort to hide either his affection or his broken heart.

Alphinaud wished, not for the first time, that there was something either of them could say to make it better. But the best he could do was smile back, a little wan and a little broken, but without regret.

Then he turned away, blush coloring his cheeks not from embarrassment, but from an excess of emotions that he had been trying to suppress. He made his way to the mouth of the cave, and confirmed that the storm would allow them passage. All was quiet, as if waiting for the lovers to make a decision. It was now or never.

He returned to Aymeric's side and helped him to stand, allowing the taller man to lean against him and grip his shoulders as vertigo overtook him. If he leaned too long, neither commented upon it. Then with difficulty, the knight mounted the chocobo, sagging with a pained sort of relief once the task was completed. Alphinaud handed him the great sword, then packed away the flint and the canteen, and together they walked out of the cave, each wrapped in a blanket against the coming Coerthan winds.

Alphinaud glanced back one more time into the mouth of their sanctuary. Neither had remarked upon it, but either by agreement or neglect, they had left the fire burning.

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