*Remember that all of the guest fiction should be considered AU since they do not fully reflect the canon storyline. -- Tricia

 

 

Weakness

by Pix

 

He watched the sun slide behind the mountains, its dying rays throwing desperate shadows across the landscape. Light strained through the trees, backlighting the leaves that danced carefully in the evening breeze.

It made Hadrian smile wistfully. Life was tenacious. One half slipping away to make room for its darker side. He supposed it should make him sad, the way the shadow chased away the light, but it didn’t. He knew, as everyone did, that tomorrow, it would be back. To most people, light meant hope. To most people, darkness meant the end of something wonderful. To Hadrian, it meant that he had passed another day and managed to stay alive.

He still wasn’t sure it was something to feel happy about.

He clutched his cloak tighter about his thin shoulders. The season was near to changing. Soon all the greenery would give way to the brilliance of autumn and after that winter would be close at hand. Would he still be running? When he hadn’t yet determined whether he was running toward or away from his demons, he wondered where this path would take him.

Half a year had passed since he had become this person. Half a year since he’d stretched out in the grass, letting his bare toes dig into the earth. Half a year since he’d begun to hate himself almost as much as Caled seemed to hate him now.

Caledon.

Hadrian bowed his head, the familiar tightening in his chest only furthering the disdain he harbored for himself. It was little wonder Caled despised him so. He was a murderer and a weak one at that. Nothing but a spineless killer, allowing someone else to decide his fate, as he’d done all his life. Caled, so strong and in complete control of his destiny, would never love him again. Not since he’d discovered what Hadrian truly was.

Weak.

“Hades.”

Hadrian’s eyes slid closed as he allowed that one word to wind around him like warm sunshine. It had been months since Caled had spoken his true name. Even longer still since he had spoken it without that unmistakable derision. He couldn’t answer him, didn’t see the point.

“Hades, I’m talking to you.”

Hadrian glanced over his shoulder briefly. Acknowledgement without words – it was all he could manage.

Caled was in short sleeves, hunting bow slung carelessly over his shoulder. His hair was tousled, his color was high. He was smiling. It was safe to assume that his hunt had been successful.

“Please. Go back to the others, Caled. I…I need to be alone.”

Caled snorted. “I’m not Lio, Hades. The lonely, misunderstood sorcerer routine is lost on me.”

Hadrian did not comment, only presented his back to Caled again. He knew better, of course. Ignoring Caled did no good when he was intent on wounding Hadrian in some way. Whether with his words, or his fists, the pain was the same to Hadrian and his reserves were simply depleted.

He could hear Caled flattening the grass, crunching over pebbles, over hard-packed earth as he made his way toward Hadrian.

“You wouldn’t be thinking of flinging that pretty body over the side of this cliff, now would you?”

Hadrian said nothing. Caled continued anyway.

“It would be a waste, you know.”

Hadrian stared straight ahead, shivering when the sun disappeared.

“Poetic, though. Your swan song. A swan dive.”

Hadrian closed his eyes, steeled himself against the hateful words. Though he should be accustomed to Caled’s verbal assaults by now, the truth was, he wasn’t certain he ever would be. No matter what Caled said, no matter what he did to Hadrian, the sorcerer was simply unable to forget the way Caled had once made him feel.

He took a shaky breath, forced his eyes open again, though he did not turn to look at Caled. “You know very well that I cannot take my own life. To forfeit my life would be to forfeit yours as well.”

It irritated him, that Caled forced him to say those words. They were bound and for all that Caled should hate it, he seemed determined to bring it up every chance he got.

“Don’t remind me.” Caled ground out, sweeping his palm over a few spiky blades of grass.

“I doubt I’m reminding you. I know you cannot forget.” He kept his voice light, detached.

Caled glared at him, apparently annoyed that Hadrian had yet to look him in the face.

“No, Hades, I cannot forget. And I plan to see to that you remember for the rest of your life.”

Hadrian sighed, pulled his cloak around him again to ward off the sudden chill. He was grateful for the near darkness.

“You need not worry on that score, Caled. I can promise that my memory serves me all too well.”

Caled sat beside him, still and sullen. Hadrian imagined he was, at that very moment, searching for hurtful words to fling at him.

“It haunts me. When I sleep and when I am awake. My thoughts are never far from it.”

Caled sneered at him. “I should hope so. Murdering an entire…”

Hadrian looked at him then, eyes like quicksilver, and Caled’s words trailed off as Hadrian searched his _expression.

“I was not referring to what happened to the guild.”

Caled was silent, his impotent anger warring with the faint fluttering that stirred in his chest when Hadrian turned the full force of his gaze upon him. And he knew, without having to ask, what Hadrian was remembering.

It was Caled’s turn to be silent.

“You can hate me until the day I die, but know this, Caled: I love you as I did then, the first time you touched me.”

Caled swallowed. “You would say anything.”

Hadrian shook his head, his small smile conveying nothing of amusement. “You don’t trust me. I don’t blame you, Caled.”

Caled frowned. “You turned your back on me. You killed what I felt for you with your damned sorcery. I wasn’t enough. I didn’t matter enough for you to…to…”

He turned away, knowing he had revealed too much to the other man. If Hadrian didn’t suspect that Caled never quite recovered from his betrayal, he would know it now.

“You were all that mattered, Caled. You simply cannot understand it. Or me.” He laid his hand over Caled’s arm and for once, the mercenary didn’t pull away in disgust.

“I hope that one day you will find it in your heart to forgive me. And if that day never comes, I will die knowing that, at least once in my life, someone cared enough to show me what love was.”

Caled looked up, uncertain and guarded and Hadrian leaned close to him, letting his arms slide around the blonde’s much bigger bicep. He squeezed once, not too hard, and closed his eyes in contentment.

“Don’t pull away, Caled. Let me pretend, just this once.”

Hadrian’s words, whispered so softly that the breeze almost swirled them away before they’d reached Caled’s ears, brought on the familiar ache – a need for the dark haired sorcerer that had never truly abated. Gods, how he wanted to pretend.

“Hadrian…” He murmured, all the emotion that resided in his heart rising up to make itself known. Weakness. After all this time and so much energy expended in the name of retribution, Caled recognized his own weakness as keenly as if he’d been seeing it in a mirror.

He turned his head, then, without thought to his actions and felt no surprise when the sorcerer’s soft lips pressed against his own. He became aware of Hadrian’s proximity, of his warmth, of his slight body and he secretly rejoiced. Hadrian was his, would always be his. Regardless of the vow he’d made and of the vengeance that would one day be his, Caled knew that it was pointless to attempt to excise the sorcerer from his heart.

Particularly since it hadn’t belonged to him since the day he’d laid eyes on Hadrian ni Leyanon.

 

The End