Sunhawk quietly closed the door, looking for a moment at the solid wood before turning and walking down the hallway. It had been a week since they had first arrived in the dead of night to the guild. Shadow had gradually, under Sela’s care, become better. Sunhawk had to give the strong willed woman credit for being able to cut through Shadow’s protests of leaving, and keeping him in bed where he belonged. She had only to gaze at him witheringly now for him to cease his protest of being well. He was unable to fool the keen eyed woman, and her sharp tongue had already given the boy a good lashing for his stupidity.
Sunhawk smiled as he walked, remembering Shadow’s astonishment at Sela’s firm, uncompromising assertion that he wasn’t leaving his bed until she said so. The woman had managed in a heartbeat something Sunhawk could have never accomplished, and he was thankful that she had been called the night they had arrived.
Now, after a week of bed rest, Shadow was finally feeling a little better, much to Sunhawk’s relief, yet nothing had changed. Shadow had remained withdrawn and quiet, even though he was spending more time awake. He had finally ordered Sunhawk out of the room, saying he was tired of his constant hovering over him, and he needed some time to be alone. It was unusual for Shadow to be so short tempered, and Sunhawk couldn’t help but be even more worried about what was going to happen when they reached Melos.
Walking down the stairs of the guild’s small inn, he entered the main room to see only a few men scattered around, including Garek. He noticed the man motioning him to his table and Sunhawk walked over to sit down with the older man, who had just finished his dinner.
“Well this is a first. You have barely left your room since you got here with that healer of yours. So I take it he is getting better?” Garek asked as one of the kitchen help came over.\
“Would you like something?” asked an older woman with a gentle smile at Sunhawk.
“Yes, some of your stew, and some tea.”
The woman nodded and headed off to the kitchen area as Garek studied him.
“Shadow is slowly getting better. Without Sela stopping him I know he would want to leave right now. She is a remarkably forceful woman,” Sunhawk answered, turning his attention to the man who was looking at him.
“That she is. She has to be, living alone like she does, but she is one of the best healers I’ve known, barring Corrin,” Garek agreed, leaning back in his chair and pulling out a pipe from his vest pocket.
Sunhawk could feel the man’s questions even as he remained quiet, although the last thing he wanted to do was explain Shadow. He felt so tired of everybody’s interest in his personal life, as though it was something of great importance. Over the past year he had dealt with all the gossip and rumors with as much grace as he could. Yet right now he was tired, worried, and not in the mood for dealing with it, especially from this man from his past.
“You know, you have changed a lot from the boy that stood in front of Daras with a sword too large for him and demanded admittance into the Fist. It isn’t just a passage of time either,” Garek said, filling his pipe.
“Yes, I know. Sunhawk has taken a lover,” Sunhawk sighed.
“Oh, that surprised me, but not as much as the look in your eyes now. You’re still as hard and probably as brutal a killing machine on the battlefield as you where when I left the Hawks, but there is something more in you. You would have never hauled your ass out of Wintermoon in winter and left your company, nor sit with a sick person, no matter who they were, before. I’m sure that cute little boy up there had a lot to do with it, but I doubt that is all of it. I think Daras would be relieved,” Garek said casually, lighting his pipe.
“Yeah, he always worried about you. He felt more responsible for you than anyone that had ever joined the Fist. I couldn’t believe when he took you on in the first place. Oh, I know he liked your daring at facing him with a blade, as inexperienced as you were, and continued to fight him despite the fact he deliberately humiliated you in order to get you to leave.
“Still, Daras had always been adamant that no children be amongst the troop, a policy you yourself enforce still. I’ll probably never know what went on between you two when he took you into his tent to treat the wounds he gave you. He never would tell me what changed his mind, no matter how much I pestered him. Whatever it was worried him, even when you had turned into an capable mercenary.
“He wouldn’t speak of it except to say he feared you would never truly become close to anyone ever again. That you were never meant to be a mercenary, even though you were good at it. I still don’t fully understand what he meant, but it’s pretty obvious that you aren’t a normal merc,” Garek mused as he relaxed, smoke coming from his pipe.
“I was close to Daras,” Sunhawk protested feebly.
“Aye, but as a subordinate. Daras would have offered you more, but you wouldn’t let him. You wouldn’t let him speak of his love for you, or his pride in you, although everyone knew and could see it as time went one. You probably were the closest thing to a son Daras had, but you would never let your walls down for him to be anything more than a beloved Captain to you. There has always been a barrier around you, Sunhawk, that even Daras couldn’t breach. I remember how you protested when he named you his second,” Garek replied lazily.
“I was too young, and besides everyone thought it would be you,” Sunhawk said, shaking his head, not liking the direction this conversation was taking. Despite all the time that had passed, Daras was still a painful subject for him, as was his past.
Memories flooded him as he remembered when Daras told him that he was going to name him second. He had been so shocked at the announcement, feeling that Daras was doing it for the wrong reasons. He had known Daras’s feeling for him, but had at that point in his life been unable to accept them. He hadn’t wanted another father, even one like Daras. He was convinced that the man wasn’t looking at him as a fellow merc, but something more. He had been unable to believe that he was the best suited for the job, and had argued against it. It finally took Daras pulling Garek in and having the man confirm that Daras’s decision was the right one, and Sunhawk was the best one suited to lead the Fist if Daras ever died.
Sunhawk vividly remembered the proud expression on Daras’s normally stern face when he named him in front of the rest of the Fist. He had not thought about those things for many years, and had avoided touching on the delicate memories of the man that had given him a place in the world.
“Aye, and if Daras hadn’t felt the way he did about you, you wouldn’t have made second for at least another ten years. Not because you couldn’t do it, because you were too young to gain the respect of the older men,” Garek agreed.
“Then why. . .”
“Did I agree? Because it was what Daras’s wanted, and Daras was just like you. Stubborn, charismatic, intelligent, and above all had the instincts of a god. He was right, of course, less than a third of us left when you became Captain and you regained those numbers within your first year. Besides that, even if you aren’t Daras’s kid in blood, you are in spirit. You run the Hawks almost the same as Daras ran the Fist. I couldn’t do it, and no other merc in the Fist could have. There are few nobleborns like Daras that end up as mercenaries. I don’t know what you were before you came striding in to the Fist, but you sure in the seven hells, aren’t a common born bastard like the rest of us,” Garek explained.
“Here you go,” said the serving woman as she sat down a large bowl of stew that smelled wonderful and a large mug of tea, as Sunhawk stared at Garek stunned.
“You didn’t know? Although it wasn’t widely known, I would have thought he would have told you,” Garek said with a shrug.
“He couldn’t have been,” Sunhawk said softly.
“Aye, he was, although I think only a handful of us knew about it. He was exiled from Esteria in his early twenties. You know more about that country than I would, since you study like Daras did. I never understood countries like that, where one man controled vast expanses of land and cities. Anyway, Daras was some kind of son of a nobleman in that country, he got himself into trouble over something having to do with a childhood friend of his and magic. I never really asked him the details, although I think Corrin might know, he was the closest to Daras,” Garek said.
Sunhawk stared at the steaming hot stew in front of him as his mind whirled. It wasn’t possible, he was just jumping to conclusions. Daras couldn’t have known his father, could he? Sunhawk closed his eyes, trying to recall the memories of when he had told Daras why he was alone and wanting to join the Fist. Yet after so many years of trying to forget, he found those times had made them vague and indistinct. Yet why hadn’t Daras ever mentioned he was from Esteria, where Sunhawk was from? It seemed totally impossible, but still, there were very few magic users in the nobility of Esteria that Daras could have known. Suddenly, everything he knew seemed to be in doubt, and he felt a sense of deep betrayal at the man he had thought he had known.
Sunhawk stood up and without a word and left Garek, who called after him. Memories of his past began to flood over him in waves as he stumbled up the steps of the Guild Inn. Little things of Daras that he had never thought about until now. His smooth, unaccented voice, and manners that where far above the common merc, his knowledge of tactics, history, math, and languages well beyond any poor commoner. He realized he had never questioned how Daras had such knowledge and skills, despite the fact that few mercenaries, captain or not, had the range of abilities that he himself had possessed. Qualities Sunhawk gained with his elite education as a child of one of the noblest of Esteria.
Stumbling into his shared room he saw Shadow, sitting up in bed, look at him in surprise at his abrupt entrance into the room. He stood in the doorway, staring at the pallid young man, not seeing him as his mind tried to make sense of what Garek had told him. It wasn’t until he felt a hand on his wrist that he noticed Shadow standing before him, looking at him with worry.
“What is wrong?” Shadow asked urgently.
“I. . . Daras… ” Sunhawk started, at a loss of how to explain to Shadow, looking down at the young man clad in a long white nightshirt standing barefoot next to him.
He felt himself being pulled to the bed and pushed down as Shadow sat next to him. He looked at young healer, feeling so confused. He had felt so unbalanced lately, and now it seemed like even his past, along with his present, was becoming unraveled. He could have never imagined that Daras might have come from Esteria, his home country, or that it was even remotely possible that the man had known his father.
Magic, it all came down to it. Daras had been exile because of it, his family had been destroyed because of it, and now he was going to lose Shadow because of it. He felt Shadow’s arms wrap around him even as he coughed a little, bringing Sunhawk back to reality as he looked at Shadow’s bare feet that were on the cold floor and his naked legs.
“Cover up, Sela will have your head,” Sunhawk said, trying to pull away from Shadow.
“Not until you tell me what is wrong. I’ve never seen you like this,” Shadow said softly.
“It’s nothing,” Sunhawk replied, looking away, unwilling to talk about his past even with Shadow.
“Yes, it is. Sunhawk why won’t you talk to me? Tell me what is wrong?” Shadow asked gently.
“You’re a fine one to talk. You’ve hardly spoken to me lately,” Sunhawk shot back defensively.
“That isn’t the same, I just have a lot to think about,” Shadow replied softly, looking away.
“About whether you want me around anymore?” Sunhawk asked harshly, taking his confusion and newly blossoming anger out on the only target available.
“NO, it isn’t that. I…” Shadow said, shaking his head his eyes wide.
“You what? All you do is stare into space lately, and you’re so obsessed with getting to Melos you almost killed yourself. You hardly talk to me anymore,” Sunhawk said bluntly, glaring down at Shadow.
“Sunhawk, I can’t hear Mith anymore, and you don’t believe in me, you think I want Teal, and you won’t talk to me about magic, and I know Mith won’t like it that you don’t like me as myself, and I’m worried about whether it is right to go back, and I don’t want you to leave me, and… and…” Shadow said in a desperate rush even as another light cough interrupted him.
Sunhawk felt Shadow’s desperate words all tumbled together hit him, shocking him into reality as nothing else could. Sunhawk pushed Shadow further into the bed and took off his boots and shirt before slipping in next to him and covering them both with a heavy blanket. Shadow burrowed himself against his chest and he felt the boy’s hot tears against his skin. He quietly stroked the boy’s hair, surprised at the sudden outburst. He realized that just like him Shadow had been keeping all of his feelings and worries bottled up inside.
He was surprised that Shadow was obviously still thinking about Teal and their fight about the man. Sunhawk had been too busy thinking about their present problems to give much thought about the man. With Teal out of the picture, and Mith’s summons, he had dismissed the problems he had created. It had never occurred to him that Shadow would still be thinking about it, nor had he ever considered the possibility that Mith would totally withdraw herself from Shadow.
Now he understood why Shadow had been so withdrawn. The shock of losing Mith must have been terrible for Shadow, who had been her priest since he was a child. In a very real way he was getting a taste of what it would be like to lose her forever. Still, the fact that Shadow had chosen to pull away from Sunhawk instead of seeking comfort from him bothered him. Was their fighting about Teal the thing that had bothered Shadow so much, or was it more?
“Why didn’t you tell me about Mith?” Sunhawk asked after a while.
“There wasn’t anything you could do about it. I wanted to keep trying to contact her and then I got sick and I was worried. We need to talk about so much but I don’t want to lose you. I’m afraid Sunhawk, of so many things lately,” Shadow explained even as he pulled closer to Sunhawk. “You seem so angry every time I try to get you to talk about magic. Before all of this happened I thought it would be better just to wait, but we can’t, Sunhawk.”
“I can’t talk about it Shadow, I’m sorry,” Sunhawk said softly, closing his eyes.
“Why? Do you hate me for the magic I hold? How can I fix it?” Shadow asked.
“It isn’t a matter of fixing it, Shadow, there is nothing to fix. I just dislike magic. Once, a very long time ago, magic destroyed my life. I made a new one with the Fist, but I never want it to happen again. Please don’t ask me about it,” Sunhawk said, his arms tightening around Shadow.
“So you will never accept my powers?” Shadow asked, pushing away from him.
“I don’t know, Shadow. You have magic, but it is different. . . ” Sunhawk replied, trailing off.
“I wish you could trust me. First Teal and now… If you can’t trust me, there is no future for us Sunhawk,” Shadow said softly, looking at Sunhawk.
“We have been through this before, we seem to be talking in circles when it comes to Teal. It isn’t you, it is that man I don’t trust,” Sunhawk sighed, closing his eyes at he turned on his side, away from Shadow, feeling extremely tired.
“Do you remember when I punched Teal?” Sunhawk said, as the silence stretched out between them.
“He was smiling Shadow,” Sunhawk said simply.
“But why would he? Maybe you were mistaken,” Shadow replied.
“Now who isn’t trusting who? No, I’m not mistaken Shadow. That man wants to come between us, for whatever the reason. I feel it, Shadow, and my feelings are very rarely wrong. You say I don’t trust you, but it is you that doesn’t trust me, Shadow. I’ve told you my feelings about Teal, but you refuse to listen, so yes, I worry, and yes, I don’t want you around him. How can I not be afraid of losing you? I’m the reason your goddess won’t speak to you,” Sunhawk said quietly, wrapping his arms around himself, tired, sick, and confused.
Shadow looked at the man that had now curled himself in a ball facing away from him. It was the first time he had ever seen Sunhawk like this. Even the dark days after Soothbye Sunhawk had never looked so vulnerable, almost as if he were ready to break. As he looked at the slumped shoulders of his lover he finally felt his anger and confusion about Teal and Sunhawk melt. It wasn’t Sunhawk’s words as much as his pain-laden voice that had cut through all of Shadow’s doubts. For the first time since they had begun to argue about Teal, Shadow finally came to accept Sunhawk’s feelings, and vowed silently to himself to never to let another come between them.
Shadow moved over to Sunhawk and wrapped an arm around the man, resting his hand on Sunhawk’s firm abdomen as he plastered himself against Sunhawk’s back. He lay next to Sunhawk, feeling the steady rythem of the man’s breath calm him as he thought of what to say to the man.
“What is truly wrong Sunhawk? This isn’t about Teal,” Shadow asked.
“No, I just learned something about Daras that shocked me,” Sunhawk replied haltingly as a shudder ran through the man’s body.
“Garek told me that he was from the country that I came from. It is possible he knew my father,” Sunhawk said.
“Your father, that is a good thing, right? You have never spoken about your family before,” Shadow said, even as he felt there was something a lot deeper going on with Sunhawk.
“I never will Shadow, I never want to remember those days again. Daras lied to me, he didn’t tell me…” Sunhawk whispered.
Shadow knew that Sunhawk was crying without seeing his face. He remained quiet, knowing instinctively that to press the man wouldn’t help him. Something very bad must have happened to Sunhawk when he was young, and Shadow was positive it involved the man’s father and magic.
He lay against Sunhawk, feeling a little helpless about what to do. He was too close to Sunhawk to see the problem clearly enough to help Sunhawk through it. He wished that he could hear his goddess, he needed her desperately. He wasn’t an empath, and he was never properly trained as a mind healer. The priests of his temple had only used him for his other abilities and he had always relied on his Goddess for help. Now she wasn’t with him any longer and he knew he needed her.
He silently cried out to Mith, ignoring every protocol and simply pleading silently to her as he held his shuddering lover in his arms. Suddenly he felt himself bathed in a familiar scarlet light. He felt his whole soul gently embraced for only a second as the soft words flowed through him, echoing within him as his Goddess departed as quickly as she had come.
“Come to me Shadowhawk, my beloved priest. Only then will you find what you are looking for.”