Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.
This was written for the Big Bang Pride Event! It's a short from my Summer Novella Challenge, Compromised Loyalties. Enjoy!
Alya ushered him towards the large, gilded double doors of the King's chamber, but Avi hesitated, glancing back towards her. She smiled at him and tapped the mask she wore, a perfect copy of his own white, half-faced mask. Avi nodded and touched his own mask. It was a silent promise. She was telling him that the Temple would still love him whether Neriya Vasant ca Baqiras accepted their offering or not.
"Good luck," she whispered, and he turned to face the doors. Two guards wearing delicate filigree masks made of black metal stood on either side of the doors, and they straightened up as he approached. One guard cast a glance back at where Alya and the other Temple Priests and Priestesses stood while the other moved to push the door open.
Avi swallowed and glided through the doors, coming to a stop when he saw the long, dark red hair of the man dressed in a black and red robe sitting before a dressing table--and the golden mask sitting innocently on said table to the side. He immediately lowered his gaze to the floor and bowed, folding an arm across his chest.
"You may approach," the king said, his voice light and lilting. Avi took a couple of cautious steps closer, and then froze when he sensed movement in front of him. "Why do you look at the floor, little one?"
"Your Majesty," he whispered, shy and nervous. "I am merely an orphan from the Temple... I... I am not supposed to look at you."
There was pregnant pause and then there was a crooked finger beneath his chin. He froze suddenly unsure. "Nonesense," the king told him and slowly, gently, brought his chin up. Avi squeezed his eyes shut, worried--and tempted--but knowing that he should not. "You are to be consort, Avi'dusa vis Almah. I would have you look upon me."
Avi shivered as fingertips touched his cheek and glided up to touch the edge of his mask. Then those fingers curled beneath the edge of it and Avi tensed. "And I would look upon you, my consort."
"Please," Avi begged, not knowing whether he was asking for the king to leave him be or grant him permission for more. "Please--"
"Easy," Neriya Vasant ca Baqiras soothed, and Avi felt the cool metal of the mask leave his face. A moment later, there was a clatter as it hit the floor. He flinched, and the grip on his chin tightened. "Please, Avi'dusa, open your eyes. I would like to see them."
His eyes fluttered open, almost against his will, and he found himself looking up into stunning golden-amber eyes. The king was breath-taking, all pale skin and hair like fresh blood, and eyes like fire. He felt burned by him already. Neriya Vasant offered him a kind smile.
"There you are," he said, and then abruptly dipped his head to press a chaste kiss to Avi's lips. Avi was stunned into stillness, into silence, and then the king was pulling back, putting some space between then so they could see each other. "You are beautiful."
"So are you."
The king chuckled. "Flatterer," he murmured and released him, leaving Avi feeling like he had just been set adrift. The king turned away, gesturing for Avi to follow. "Come."
And Avi followed.
Straight into the King's personal bathing chambers.
Avi froze, glancing towards the older man. Neriya had turned towards him, and was watching him closely with a small frown. He blushed and glanced down, tucking his hands into the heavily embroidered off-white and blue sleeves of his own robes.
"We don't have to do anything, Avi'dusa, if you're not comfortable with this yet."
"Please," he murmured, gaze still fixed on the intricately patterned floor of Neriya's bathing chambers. "Call me Avi."
"Then you may call me Neriya, Avi. Or Neri." The king's robes swept into view and Avi glanced up, only to find the king watching him with a fond smile. Neriya took him gently by the shoulders and guided him back out of the room. "Whatever you may wish to call me. Shall we just get to know each other first?"
"I... I like that idea," Avi offered shyly, glancing up at Neriya from beneath his eyeslashes. "I like that idea very much."
Neriya guided them back over to the dressing table with the mirror and sat Avi down before it, sweeping his long white hair over his shoulder. Avi blinked, watching them both in the mirror, fascinated. The king just watched him with a small, fond smile as Avi relaxed slowly.
"You said you were an orhpan?" he asked and Avi nodded. "Will you tell me about that?"
Avi shifted in his seat and lowered his gaze. He wasn't sure if he should. The temple had told him not to talk of where he came from, and he'd spilled the little tidbit of information within five minutes of meeting their king. In fact, they'd actually taught him a lot about what Neriya liked, from the arts to dancing, to politics and diplomacy. This, whatever this was, was way out of the pre-assigned topics that they had given him, and he didn't know what to do.
He swallowed and wet his lips, catching the way that Neriya's gaze darted down to them and then back up to his eyes. "I... I don't remember my parents, your majesty--Neriya--and not much at all about my life before the temple." He frowned and reached up to touch his maskless face. He hadn't seen it very often at the Temple, because they generally forbid their disciples from owning mirrors. "I'm... I'm sorry if this disappoints you..."
Neriya chuckled and moved to press against Avi's back, still smiling fondly. "It does not, little one," he offered as reassurance, and began to play with Avi's hair. "I... do not remember much about my parents, either. And I have lived in the Temple for a time. I know what it's like."
Avi blinked. He hadn't actually known that, but he had to know why Neriya had left, why he was king. "You left because you were called to become king?"
He waited a moment for more, but it seemed that Neriya had nothing more to say on the topic. Avi sighed and tilted his head back, gaze drifting to the ceiling. It was painted to resemble the Baqiran sky; all pale lavender and grey clouds. "Did you want to leave the Temple?"
"No," Neriya murmured and the fingers playing with his hair disappeared. Avi shifted to look into the mirror again and found that the king was frowning deeply and from their bodily contact, he could tell the older man was sad. He didn't intend to; it just happened. He'd been taught not to do that with the king, but Neriya was reaching back for him and Avi couldn't help pressing for more. "Did you?"
Avi shook his head. "No...but I knew I had to go...when they told me I would be yours."
Neriya hummed and moved to press his face into Avi's hair-covered neck. "I heard the call myself," the king muttered, and suddenly he was hugging Avi from behind. "I was warned to take my time with you...that you would be worth it..."
"And am I?" Avi asked. Neriya raised his head to met Avi's gaze in the mirror. "Worth it?"
"Yes," Neriya breathed, and Avi turned to face him. "Yes."
"You only just met me, Neriya. How can you even know that?"
The king smirked. "You reached for me when I reached for you, Avi. Without thought, without hesitation." Neriya sighed and rose to come around between Avi and the mirror. "All the others ran away when I tried. You, though... You welcomed me with open arms and warmth."
"Oh," Avi said, and Neriya took his hands in his, still smiling. "Oh."
"So you will become my consort?" Neriys asked, and Avi noddd again.
"Then shall we begin?" When Avi hesitated, Neriya just leaned back against the dressing table and offered him a small smile. "There's no need to rush, Avi. We can take as long as we need."
The next few days passed in a blur of soft touches and chaste kisses, in gentle caresses and Neriya’s fond smile. Avi was a whirlwind of sensation and emotion, confused and wanting. Neriya had refused to touch him more than casually and offered only chaste kisses. They spent most of the time talking and cementing the bond with touch. Avi’s king had said it was necessary for a strong bond between them, but it was slowly driving him mad.
Today, he was sitting in Neriya’s office, watching him write and respond to reports and various other issues pertaining to running an entire planet. Apparently, a small pocket of populace on the far side of the planet was restless and worried. Their crops had failed three seasons in a row now, and even Avi wasn’t sure how to fix the problem. Arrayed around Neriya’s desk were a small handful of purple-clad, half-masked aides and ministers. They seemed to be nervous, eyes darting towards where Avi sat--still in his off-white and blue robes, but now he wore a full-faced mask of white with silver designs across it—and he could tell they were worried. Neriya had given the mask to him that first morning after their meeting.
Avi shifted on the chaise lounge he sat on, the skirts of his robes spread out around him. He knew that once Neriya finally accepted him, the technology woven into his robes would turn them red and gold, but that apparently wasn’t happening anytime soon. He caught one of the purple-clad men staring at him and stared right back. The man stiffened and dropped his gaze. Avi frowned and glanced towards Neriya, only half-listening to the conversation going on around him. Something about crop rotations and emergency supplies? He stopped listening to focus on Neriya. His king’s shoulders were tensed and his had bowed, chin settled in the hand he’d propped up on the desk.
“That’s enough,” Neriya said abruptly, and every fell silent. So silent that if there were to drop a pin, he’d probably hear it bounce. Avi straightened up, eyes on the ministers and their aides. “Let’s take a break,” his king commanded after a moment. “Leave us.”
As one, the group stood and filed out, silently casting Avi dark looks, like it was his fault that Neriya had dismissed them. He snorted, and then his gaze shot to Neriya as soon as the door closed behind the last aide. Neriya rose stiffly and turned towards him, and Avi’s breath caught at the fondness he saw in the older man’s eyes.
“Avi,” Neriya murmured and Avi leaned towards him. “Come here.”
He rose gracefully and swept over to Neriya, who caught his chin and lifted the mask from his face before doing the same to Avi. He dropped them both onto the desk with a rustle of long, deep red silk. “Neriya…”
“I’m afraid that conversation wasn’t getting anywhere,” his king said and dipped to kiss him chastely again. Avi groaned out a frustrated protest when Neriya pulled away, but then the king laughed. “Come, Avi.”
“Now?” he asked, breathless and awed at the way his king watched him.
“Now,” Neriya confirmed and guided Avi towards the chaise lounge.
The bonding went on as planned after that, their minds melding as close together as possible without becoming one. Avi sighed, rolling over in the bed to find his husband. Neriya’s side of the bed was empty, so he frowned and rolled up onto one elbow, long near-white hair falling over one bare shoulder. Neriya was at the dressing table like the first time Avi had seen him, and Avi smiled fondly.
“Good morning,” Neriya said, glancing towards him, and Avi sighed. His king was already dressed in his usual red and black robes, the silk rustling with each movement. Avi studied him for a moment, slightly amused to find that his king still wore no shoes. “How do you feel?”
Avi flushed. “Well,” he murmured, and Neriya chuckled. “You?”
Neriya’s chuckled turned into a fully-fledged laugh, and he rose to approach Avi where he lay in the bed. “Very well,” his king said, leaning down to slide a hand into Avi’s hair and press a kiss to his lips. “Very well, indeed.”
“I’m glad,” Avi whispered when Neriya pulled back, and the king rubbed a thumb over Avi’s cheekbone. “I am very glad that I was chosen to be yours.”
“And I, yours,” Neriya said, stroking again. “And I, yours.”