Tsukiko grinned, running forward through the empty caverns to the lich bent over the rock. “Lord Xykon! You’re here!”
“Of course I am.” Xykon frowned at the rock, running a bony hand over it. “Do you know where Redcloak is?”
“He and his girlfriend hooked up before I met up with them. Then they sort of… I don’t know, disappeared.”
“So the whore and the rest of that weird adventurer party are here?” Xykon looked back down at the rock, black magic gathering at his phalanges. “I have some unfinished business with Mr.-or-Ms. Spock.”
He started pushing rocks away. “But that can wait until I actually see the little slut. The gate here is weird. It’s moving around.”
“It’s moving. As in, it is in motion. As in, this thing has a weird spell on it. I think I know where to find it, but it means that we’re blasting through a bunch of illusions.”
Tsukiko grinned, magic sticking to her hands like cotton candy. “That sounds like fun. When do we start?”
“Hey, you’re Vaarsuvius?”
The specter of a hanged elf swung from the rafters. Molten eyes stared down. Angry. Dark. Alone.
Anger gathering. Eyes the epicenter.
“Look at me, you bitch.”
Did as told. Molten eyes burning her. That was okay. She deserved it. Dead. Swinging from the rafters. Dead and gone.
“Aegidius was my best friend.”
Aegidius. Aegidius. Fear rising. She wouldn’t fight it if the owner of the molten eyes tried to kill her. Deserved it. Deserved everything and anything. He could have been saved. He could have been saved.
“He’s dead because of you.”
Yes. Because of her. Temples pound. Small body shakes. Hot tears gather threateningly. Her fault.
“And you’ve come back anyway.”
Maybe she could still save him.
“You think you feel bad about it? You deserve to die just like him and yet you get off scot-free. Ignorance is no damn excuse.”
No. It wasn’t an excuse. Needed to be punished. Needed to atone. Dead. He was dead.
“I’m going to make you pay for what you did. You’re not going to resist.”
No. She wouldn’t. Wouldn’t resist anything. Wouldn’t fight back. Wouldn’t scream. Wouldn’t tell anyone afterwards. Wouldn’t mention anything.
Wanting welled up. She had to be punished.
Anguished whimpers escape.
Robe ripped open. Sound of buckle being undone. “It’s more merciful than you deserve.”
No resistance. She deserved this.
“Take your panties off and spread your damn legs.”
Hanged elf swung from rafters.
Did as told.
Shoved against a support beam.
No gentleness or tenderness. Treated like a doll. Painful. Demeaning. Dirty.
Took pain. Deserved it. Deserved it all. No protests made.
Put on missing clothes once shoved to the ground and spat on. Told to leave. Did as told.
Never told anyone what happened.
The elf blinked awake slowly, looking up at the concerned face above. Redcloak hesitated, then gently ran a hand through the soft purple hair, golden eye soft. “You were whimpering. I got worried.”
Vaarsuvius averted violet eyes, on edge from the visions. The elf hadn’t tranced about that for years. “You should not have been.”
“I was.” Redcloak tenderly brushed his lips against the elf’s pale forehead, holding Vaarsuvius against his body. The elf wasn’t afraid of his touch. It was much more tender than the one remembered in the trance. “Is there something wrong?”
The elf looked up at the goblin’s face, violet eyes hard to read. Vaarsuvius prepared to send out a vicious barb to rebuke Redcloak for daring to ask one of the questions to never ask, but found with surprise that there was no desire to do so. The mage didn’t want to push Redcloak away. Vaarsuvius didn’t want to hurt him again.
The elf frowned in confusion. So what was wanted?
Vaarsuvius wanted to tell him about what happened in the trance memory. The mage had never wanted to tell anyone about it. Not even Inkyrius or Aarindarius. It was supposed to be the secret not even the mage knew.
The elf’s eyes widened a little in shock, but black pupils were still dilated. They always were when looking at Redcloak. The goblin easily picked up on his lover’s distress, slipping a protective arm around a slim waist. “I know you don’t like talking about this stuff, Vaarsuvius, but in this dungeon of all places, you need to let it out somehow.” He lovingly kissed the pulse point in the elf’s neck, lingering just enough to feel the reassuring heartbeat. “Please don’t torment yourself.” It hurts me to see it.
Vaarsuvius kept staring, mouth open only slightly to speak. Redcloak was sincere. The elf could see the truth in his eye. The mage’s pain was hurting him, and… and that fact hurt Vaarsuvius. The elf didn’t want Redcloak to be in pain.
Why? Why didn’t Vaarsuvius want the enemy to be in pain?
Vaarsuvius slowly reached up, resting a hand on the goblin’s face and lightly tracing his cheek bones. Redcloak’s eye flickered closed, grip gently tightening around the elf’s waist, a sigh escaping his lips.
The elf’s body knew what to do before the mage did. Vaarsuvius slowly ran a hand down the goblin’s arm, tracing his muscles gently the whole way, and pale fingers wrapped around a green wrist. The goblin opened a gold eye, blinking in confusion but not making a move to stop his lover.
Vaarsuvius opened up a red robe slightly, bringing the goblin’s hand forward and resting it on a pale breast, just above the beating heart. Redcloak didn’t move his fingers—he only concentrated on the pulse against his palm.
The elf reached forward, one hand still on the goblin’s, and rested a pale palm against a green chest, right against Redcloak’s heart.
Something was happening. Neither could really say what it was, but both were aware of it. Their hearts were beating in time to each other.
That was when Vaarsuvius lost any hope that this was an affair made completely of lust, passion, and intellectual equality.
“I can’t kill you, Redcloak. Not even in battle.”
Redcloak blinked in surprise, then sighed softly, closing his eye. “Is there any hope of you getting back to the point where you can?”
Vaarsuvius swallowed hard, the truth slowly dawning. “No.”
The goblin moved his fingers against the elf’s heartbeat, concentration fully on that one reassurance that Vaarsuvius was there, alive and well. “The feeling is mutual, Vaarsuvius. I’m not going to be able to kill you.”
Finally, for the first time, Vaarsuvius’s conscious allowed the reality to be acknowledged. The elf loved the goblin.
The goblin’s eye said all too clearly that he loved the elf too.
Vaarsuvius slowly slipped delicate arms around Redcloak’s neck, pressing against him and letting a pale face rest against his bare chest. The elf could feel something shattering within. The fragile psyche called it quits. There was no strength left.
Tears that had built up since the day Vaarsuvius saw that elf commit suicide were finally released silently. The elf viciously tried to hide them, tensing, ready to defend what little pride was left like a wounded, cornered animal, but Redcloak didn’t make it necessary.
The goblin lovingly kissed the elf’s hairline before slipping his arms back around Vaarsuvius, their chests pressed together so that they could feel each other’s heartbeat. “I’m here, Vaarsuvius. You’re safe.”
The mage kept the tearstained face hidden, but was a little less conservative about soft sobs and shaking shoulders. Redcloak kept his grip on his lover tight and reassuring, blinking away any moistness for the elf’s sake. For the first time in centuries, Vaarsuvius wasn’t emotionally isolated. They were together, and even if they didn’t have much time left, they had this moment.
This was love.