Insomnia - 5. Flashback
Obligatory het sex warning.
Memories filled Casey's head, lots of them, flying and slipping across his thoughts, laying in scattered piles on the bottom of his mind. Snapshots of the life he used to know, of a soldier and Ruler. Tylien's memories were his now, superimposed over his own life with his parents and Roma, giving everything a surreal, dreamlike quality.
Now he was captivated by the sight of Raphael
and Ra, circling each other, nude and beautiful. Their faces were drawn up in savage grimaces, and low growls vibrated in their throats. Even though he partially knew what to expect, Casey was still struck with surprise and awe as he saw the transformation. Ra dropped to all fours, the change quickly rippling over him, starting at his head and sweeping over his body until a growling black panther stood there. Ra's blazing eyes stared out of the hard feline face, before a high-pitched, inhuman scream issued from his throat. Casey didn't even look at his opponent's Champion until he heard the howl from the wolf's throat. Raphael was a beautiful creature, with a heavy coat of grey and black fur over his head and back with his dark eyes staring out from a lupine face. His ears were laid back and he was snarling, revealing his teeth.
Casey looked back at Ra. He had first met his Champion while Ra was still in training and Tylien was fifteen. Tylien had been barely able to contain his excitement. Obtaining a Champion was one of the royal family's rites of passage into manhood. Soon after that step was complete, would be the Crowning and Tylien would rule with his Champion at his side. However, the first actual confrontation he had to face had been frightening. He had been pleased once he saw Ra's alternate form, but had been worried about his friend faring well in his fight.
But Ra had never lost a single fight.
And he wouldn't lose this one, Casey thought as he watched the two lunge at each other, hitting the ground and rolling. A cacophony of barks and growls along with Ra's chilling cry filled the night and Casey was vaguely worried about someone hearing the noise and coming to investigate. He frowned and crossed his arms. He had told Ra to kill and had meant it, but even he could see that the odds were against Kyle and Raphael. Raphael's wolf was beautiful and fierce, with teeth on display, shining wetly in the light. But he didn't have Ra's claws or size.
Casey wanted to flinch as he saw Raphael attack, teeth sinking into the back of Ra's feline neck. However Tylien knew that honor was a two way street and it would embarrass him and Ra if he betrayed any sign of weakness. He forced himself to remain still and motionless, even as he felt phantom jaws closing around his own neck.
Another memory, another snapshot across his mind.
It was one of the more unpleasant aspects of having a Champion that no one had bothered to tell Tylien about. Up until the time he was bonded, all Tylien had ever heard was the honor of it, having a defender that would lie down his life for you if it was ever required, and a bodyguard to provide protection around the clock. With the first fight, Tylien had barely come to grips with how they had bonded before he got another unpleasant surprise…the first hit that Ra's opponent landed against his champion, opened up a wound in Tylien's skin, send blood trickling down his ribs. His father, no longer the "king" but still on board as Tylien's advisor, pressed down hard on his shoulders. "Don't move. Don't speak until this is over." Tylien, held by far more than his father's hand, had no choice but to comply.
Ra easily tossed the wolf off and the wolf turned and rebounded quickly, latching onto Ra's front foreleg, teeth grinding in deep. Ra twisted, falling onto his back. The wolf attacked again, going for the neck a second time. Ra maneuvered so the wolf's target was out of reach and then used his front legs to pull the other animal down, his back claws gauging deeply into the wolf's sides. The wolf let out a pained howl.
Casey automatically glanced over to see how Kyle, or whoever the hell he was, took that blow. The man seemed not to notice the pain, or the blood that was spreading over the material of his shirt. His eyes were fixed on something that Casey was unable to see, and his lips were moving in a silent incantation. Casey barely had enough time to register what was happening before he dove for the ground. Something blasted by his head, leaving a strong smell of ozone, or perhaps gunpowder in its wake. It crashed into one of the trees behind him, leaving a small blast mark. Later it would start to rot from the point of contact, down to the roots, until it was felled by a storm several months later.
You moron, Casey thought furiously as he got to his feet. He knows that his Champion is not strong enough to win this fight, of course he is going to cheat with magic. He did that last time!
As Kyle held his hands up, conjuring another glowing ball that crackled with magic, Casey flung himself at the mage, tackling him to the ground, sending another spell blasting harmlessly into the sky. They grappled on the ground. Kyle, his face twisted in fury, struggled to get free of Casey, who was just as determined to hold him down, until the fight was over if need be.
But, as always, there were complications.
"Kyle! Casey!" Roma, perhaps drawn by the noise, or perhaps looking for one of them, came running. "What are you doing?" she shrieked, appearing more alarmed by seeing them two of them wrestling on the ground than the two animals battling behind her. She didn't seem to notice them at all. She grabbed Casey, underneath his arms and tried to pull him away. "Stop it you two!"
Casey levered himself up slightly, to either shrug her off or to yell at her to go back inside, he hadn't really decided which, when Kyle, seeing an opening, pulled up his leg and shoved his foot into Casey’s torso. That, combined with Roma's tugging, caused Casey to tumble off of Kyle. Unfortunately that sent Roma stumbling back too, right into the midst of Raphael and Ra.
Her scream stole any thoughts of Kyle from Casey’s head as he threw himself over her body, protecting her as best he could. He could feel the warm, tacky sensation of Roma's blood soaking his clothes. He turned his head and saw Ra capturing Raphael, holding him in place with his claws as he bit into his neck, breaking it with a sharp vicious shake of his head. The wolf fell bonelessly to the ground.
Ra changed back to his human form, crouched nude on the ground and gently closed the wolf's eyes. He stood up as Kyle approached, standing between him and Casey, watching guardedly. Kyle knelt down next to the wolf, stroking his coat. His face was twisted into genuine grief as he gathered his dead, defeated Champion into his arms and melted away from sight.
Casey didn't even notice. His attention was on his sister. His injured, dying sister. "Roma," he whispered, holding her. She was shivering, her breath coming in short, anguished pants, her eyes fixed on a place that was far, far away from where they were. Her clothes were a bloody, shredded mess. He could see gaping wounds across her abdomen, her chest, even a few scratches scoring her neck and face.
The stench of blood rose in the night air, making his stomach roll. He thought dazedly that they needed to get help, to call 911, but he could tell that no ambulance would get here fast enough to save her, that there was no hope of her being put back together again. "Roma," he said, again, stroking her hair back from her glazed eyes. "Goddamn it, girl, why did you do something so stupid?"
"She didn't know," Ra said softly, from behind him. "Champions are guarded by magic during a fight. She couldn't see us or hear us. She didn't even know we were here."
"She had no part in this," Casey said. "She was not involved in any of this. She shouldn't have to--she shouldn't-" He closed his eyes. "Fix this."
"Shut up!" Casey screamed. He lowered Roma gently onto the ground and whirled to face him. "This is all your fucking fault! I was happy here! I love her!" he shouted, pointing to dying girl on the ground. "You came here and you ruined everything! You killed her!"
"Yes, my Lord," Ra said tonelessly. Black hatred burned in Casey's chest at hearing his words. Ra didn't mean them. He was just saying what Champions said.
"Fix her," Casey commanded, pointing. "Heal her. I know you can."
"My Lord, that ability extends only to you."
"It extends to any of my family," Casey growled back in reply. "Anyone who shares my blood. As long as I inhabit this body, she is blood kin and you will do it."
Ra did not argue. He simply knelt down next to Roma where Casey had been moments before.
Ra had healed Tylien several times throughout his reign. One of the things rulers did for their Champions was to bear the injury they suffered during battle. A fatal blow would be only fatal to the Champion, if it came to that, but most bouts were settled by surrender. Everything else, from scratches to bites to bruises and even broken bones would blossom on the ruler's body. It was this that allowed a Champion, even an injured one, to continue to fight if necessary. It also made them more careful--if their host was too severely damaged, they would be forced to forfeit a fight.
Afterwards, the triumphant pairing would retreat and the Champion would heal their host, taking back the damage they had wrought into their own bodies, then laying down to heal, however long it took. Kings and rulers were required back in their thrones and council rooms.
Casey did not know if Ra would be able to heal Roma, a human girl from another world. Nor did he know if Ra's body could sustain that kind of damage better than Roma, a small slender girl, could. If not, then Roma would die. And Casey didn't know what he would do after that.
Ra knelt down near Roma, placing his hands over the blood-mangled remains of what used to be her torso. He closed his eyes.
There was a heartbeat, a throb of something that resonated deep inside Casey’s chest. He closed his own eyes, even as he felt his wounds re-open and deepen.
Tylien had constructed a pavilion outside the castle, unable to bear the thought of their marriage bed being sullied from such an act. He had been prepared to do whatever was necessary. They needed an heir and despite all the tonics and medicines that the palace midwife had prescribed, the seed he deposited in Aliana had not quickened.
Tylien sat at the mouth of the tent, letting the mild spring breeze play over his sweaty face. His heart pounded a nervous gallop in his chest.
“My Lord?” Aliana’s voice, next to him. He took her hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing it gently. He finished the last of his wine, laced with a heavy aphrodisiac from the midwife’s cabinet. He was prepared. He would do what he had to do.
What he wasn’t prepared for, hadn’t expected, was the love. The wholeness of it, the sweetness, the delicate care. Aliana kissed him with the same inexplicable mix of gentleness and passion that only she was capable of, fondling him and stroking him into an erotic mindlessness while Ra knelt behind him. Ra was stroking Tylien’s back and hair with a large confident hand as he worked his King’s body, opening him up for what was to follow. Tylien slid into Aliana’s warmth, sinking into her embrace and amethyst eyes, even as the pressure in his backside built and burned as Ra docked with him, touching down inside of him.
“My Lord,” Ra groaned from behind him, his voice hoarse and laced with sensual desperation.
“My Lord,” Aliana echoed underneath him, arching up in a beautiful display of skin and sweat and trembling limbs.
Tylien gasped, breathing in both of them, the vanilla powder smell of his wife’s scent and the deep rich smell of her arousal, then Ra behind him, the scent of magic, the scent of fire and smoke and forest, the outdoors. It surrounded him, drew him in, drawing him achingly hard. His wife, his queen, sprawled underneath him, while Ra’s body rocked him forward, each thrust sending him sinking into her further. He felt the heat of them against him, Ra’s weight against his back, the friction where they were all connected, Ra to him and him to his wife. Ra’s hand was on his hip and he could feel him trembling behind him, the grip on him tightening.
“My Lord…I must…”
“Go. Go,” Tylien said, hearing the tight desperation in his own voice. Ra came, pressing against him with a shuddering, gasping breath and a few short thrusts later, Tylien did the same inside Aliana, groaning as he released his seed into her. He waited, panting, until he was sure he was done, then slowly slid out. Her legs slid limply off his shoulders and he felt Ra moving behind him, sliding out and disengaging. He collapsed beside Aliana, feeling empty and worn, but satisfied, as he usually did after making love. The entire experience had been strange and nontraditional, but if the Great Mother bade that they do so, they would. He heard a rustling and turning, he saw Ra, standing and looking downcast, pulling on his clothes. He glanced at Aliana, and saw the answer in her understanding eyes.
“Champion,” Tylien said, gripping Ra’s by the wrist.
“My Lord?” Ra asked. His voice was flat, indifferent and a little belligerent underneath his usual deferential manner. He looked almost threatening, his wild hair in disarray, shirtless and his eyes in shadow.
“Come,” Tylien said. “Lie with us.”
So he did, and Tylien found himself, surrounded by the two most important people in the world to him…his wife and his champion, his love and his protector, his lovers. And there was love, and there was love and there was nothing but love.
Casey felt the blood running down his arms and hand, wetting the soil underneath him. Pain sucked away his breath, leaving it weak and shallow. Ra ran his hands over Roma’s chest, still displaying long deep gashes but not the tattered mess it was earlier. Ra’s naked chest shone with blood, seeping out through new wounds. Ra touched her again, shuddering visibly, and Casey could see the blood running down his chest, soaking his pants. Casey’s battle wounds racked his body, and he felt each one of them; the bites from the wolf, to the scrape and slice of his claws. Ra still worked, sliding his hands over Roma’s body again and again, the flesh knitting back together with each pass, the rending holes in her skin shrinking and then disappearing.
Ra finally kneeled over, falling onto the ground and Casey half stumbled, half crawled over in a panic. Roma was breathing evenly and as Casey ran his hand over her, he couldn’t find any visible wounds. The deep gashes were gone, even the scratches that had marred her neck and face. He turned her over to check the back of her just to be sure. Then he moved over to Ra, lifting his head onto his lap and brushing his sweaty hair back.
“You saved my life,” he said. Ra stared at him, silent, blood shining on his lips. “And saved her.”
“Anything for you, my Lord.”
Tylien watched Aliana sleep. She looked peaceful, still flushed from their earlier lovemaking, but her breathing was even and deep. He shifted away and saw Ra was awake, head propped on his hand, watching him. The other man had been asleep the last time Tylien had looked and he wondered how long Ra had been watching. He hadn’t felt Ra shift into his current position, but that wasn’t unusual. Ra was skilled at moving without being heard or felt.
“You love her,” Ra observed, nodding in Aliana’s direction.
“I do.” Tylien flopped back onto his back, enjoying the play of evening air over his overheated skin. “I love her and I love you.” He glanced over at Ra and saw the brief play of pleased surprise in his eyes before he could resume his usual detachment.
“I am your protector My lord,” Ra responded. “It is my duty and my honor to sacrifice my life for you and do anything you bid me to. You are not required to love me.”
“I know,” Tylien said. He reached out and brushed a long lock of Ra’s dark hair back behind his shoulder. Ra looked at him with eyes that were soft and vulnerable before Tylien leaned forward and gave him a gentle kiss. “But I do anyway.” Tylien smiled at Ra and laid back down, closed his eyes. He wrapped an arm around his wife’s torso and, after a while, felt Ra’s hesitant touch on his hip, his stomach, resting there. Smiling, Tylien fell asleep.
It was shortly after that night when the mage and Rusfaldo had shown up.
Ra continued to shiver and shake. Tylien stroked his hair and could feel the part of him, the part that wanted to stay here, with Roma, in this world, surrender and meld into him, forming a new consciousness. He was Tylien, King of Callendra, but he was also Casey. And that was okay. They both loved Ra.
“I’m going to take you home,” Tylien promised, bending down to kiss Ra’s cool lips. He could taste the blood on them. Casey would have recoiled, but he did not.
Ra had always done anything for him. Had protected him. Had fought for him. Had loved him. Had loved Aliana. Had loved Casey. And was willing to die, here, because Roma was that important to him.
“It’s okay.” Tylien promised again, pulling Ra close to his chest and wrapping his arms around him. The palace healers could heal him, but medicine here could not. The part of him that was Casey longed to stay here, to continue his charade with his sister and his teenage life. He knew he could if he wanted to, push all this to the back of his mind and pretend it was nothing but a fantastic dream. He would grow up, go to college, meet a nice man to settle down and live out his days with.
But Ra was dying. He had to choose, and Tylien chose Ra. And Casey, reluctant as he was to leave his familiar surroundings, chose Ra. Ra would do anything for him. It was time to show Ra that Tylien would do anything for him as well. He pressed his lips into Ra’s dark hair as they faded out of sight.
* * *
Roma sat up, puzzled and cold. She was outside, in her own front yard, although she didn't remember coming out here. The light from the party going on inside spilled over the ground, indicating that it was still going strong.
She frowned. What was she doing out here? The cold night breeze played over her skin and as she looked down she saw that her brand new pink dress, bought for tonight’s party was well ventilated by several long tears in the fabric.
This dress cost me forty bucks!
Roma glanced up to see Lucy, rushing towards her, looking worried, trailed by Joel.
"OhmyGod, what happened?" Lucy asked, kneeling down next to her. "We were looking everywhere for you."
"I don't know...I think I fell and hit my head," Roma said. She did have a headache, a bad one, throbbing behind her eyes.
"Are you sure?" Lucy asked, concern creasing her brow. "Your dress...did someone drug you?"
"What? No!" Roma laughed a little, though that same thought crossed her mind. "Help me up."
Lucy and Joel grabbed her hands and helped her to her feet.
Roma pulled at her dress ruefully. It was torn too badly to hide it, she would just have to go upstairs and change. She hoped Joel couldn't see her bra, and crossed her arms in front of her chest nervously. Joel tactfully avoided looking at her as the headed back to the house.
"Why did you come out here anyway?" Lucy asked.
"Oh, I don't know. I guess I needed some air," Roma said. She paused right before entering the house. She looked around the yard again, the dark night pressing against the pool of light streaming out from her house.
Something felt...off. Wrong. Like there was something that should be there that wasn't. Something that would explain why she was out there, alone and with her dress a shredded mess. Something important...missing.
"Hey." Roma turned as Lucy touched her arm. "Are you okay? Like seriously?"
Roma forced a smile on her face. "Yeah, totally." As she followed Lucy inside, the feeling faded and Roma was able to shake it off. She had a party to keep an eye on.
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