“Tir, are you in there?” Drake asked, opening the door to the suite of rooms where Tir and his brothers were. “It’s almost time to go to dinner.”
Drake stopped when he saw Tir still half dressed on the elaborate oak bench with Ash’s head in his lap and Elgin sitting on the other side of him.
“I’m sorry Drake, but I don’t feel much like dinner,” Tir said quietly as he stroked Ash’s long red hair.
Drake remained quiet for a moment as Marek came up behind him, looking over his shoulder into the room. He could see Marek’s eyes narrow and a deep frown appear on his face as he took in the scene.
“I’m sorry Tir, but you have to go,” Drake said, shaking his head slowly.
“I don’t want to leave them alone, besides I really don’t have anything to do with the negotiations,” Tir protested as Ash sat up, looking at between Drake and Tir, surprise written on his face.
“Unfortunately you are part of our delegation, so you have to appear. Nolan could take it as an insult if you didn’t,” Drake answered.
“Or that you are plotting against him,” Marek added.
“Not only that, you’re forgetting about Tristan. Things are far from settled there either. If you didn’t show up he might think we are trying to keep you two apart,” Drake pointed out.
“Not to mention all those council members who were less than pleased to see you,” Marek said, slipping around Drake to stand next to him.
“I don’t know exactly what is going on with your brothers, but they aren’t going to disappear from here and obviously they have been assigned here as pages, so you will see them a lot,” Drake said.
“They were assigned here under the Queen’s order, telling them to make sure to treat the dragons well and check up on them often. She is the one that gives orders to the man in charge of the pages, and he has treated them worse than I was as a slave,” Tir said angrily.
“Well, they are assigned here now, so they are safe,” Marek replied, looking at the two boys who squirmed a little under his gaze.
“They are to return to the page quarters for other duties when we are not in our quarters. Which means when we leave for dinner they will have to return,” Tir said, wrapping his arm around Ash who was visibly upset.
Drake remained quiet for a moment, his eyes distant as Tir felt him and Ebony communicating. He turned to Marek after a moment to see the man nodding as well.
“Alright, that is settled. Your brothers can stay with Ebony and Feras and do exactly what the Queen commanded and take care of them,” Drake said with a smile.
“They’ll eat us,” Ash said in trembling voice.
“It’s better than letting Rolf punish us,” Elgin said to his brother, despite the anxious look in his face.
“They aren’t going to eat you. They are my friends and they wouldn’t do anything to hurt you two,” Tir said firmly before looking up at Drake with a smile.
“Feras says you owe him a good sand scrubbing,” Marek said drily. “You also owe us some introductions.”
“These are my twin brothers. Ash is the one with long hair and Elgin is the one with the short hair. Ash, Elgin, these two men are the men I love most. They are irreplaceable to me and have helped me in so many ways. Marek and Drake,” Tir said with a gentle smile on his face as he introduced what was left of his family to his new one.
“Love? Isn’t he the prince? And there are two of them! What do you mean you love them both, and saying it in front of them like that?” Elgin exclaimed, his anxiety vanishing to shock as he looked at Tir, horrified.
Suddenly both Marek and Drake burst out laughing as they looked at Elgin and Tir. Elgin looked at the two laughing dragon riders in confusion as Tir shook his head.
“He’s definitely your brother,” Marek said when he had caught his breath.
“We both love your brother, Elgin, and there is already a bond between Marek and me through our dragons. It’s a little complex but I’m sure with time Tir will be able to explain it to you. Now, is this Rolf expecting you back?” Drake asked.
“Yes, if we don’t return he will punish us.” Elgin said.
Drake looked around the room for a moment then walked over to a small desk. Pulling the drawers open and ruffling around he pulled out a sheet of parchment and ink. He quickly wrote a note. Blotting it dry, he folded it and sealed it with wax, impressing his ring into it.
“Come on, we’ll introduce you to the dragons then you can take this to Rolf. He will be sending you back rather quickly. I’m sure Tir will be talking to Tristan about your situation fairly soon anyway,” Drake said, looking at Tir, who nodded grimily.
“You can’t, Tir, you don’t know what he will do to you. Father…” Ash stopped, unable to continue.
“Don’t worry about it Ash, I promise nothing is going to happen to me,” Tir said, shaking his head. “Come on lets go.”
“Tir?” Marek interrupted, arching a brow.
“I certainly wouldn’t mind, but perhaps you might want to finish dressing,” Marek smirked, looking at Tir’s naked chest suggestively.
Tir blushed as he picked his forgotten tunic off the side of the bench and pulled it on. Drake sighed, going into the bathing room and returning with a brush. Tir let Drake turn him around as he felt the man gently brush through his thick hair that had finally grown past his shoulders. Ash and Elgin watched with surprise and disbelief on their faces as the prince attended to him. When Drake had finished Marek came over, putting on his medallion he had received when he became a Marquis.
“You keep forgetting this. You know you’re supposed to wear it all the time,” Marek said critically.
“I really don’t like bulky jewelry,” Tir admitted.
“It isn’t jewelry, it is a mark of your position,” Drake scolded gently.
“Tir?” Elgin asked.
“I told you they had given me a title,” Tir said absently.
“It appears you will have more than a few things to talk with them about, but not right now,” Drake said gently, pushing Tir towards the door. “Come on you two,” Drake said, hustling Tir out into the hallway.
They all made their way down to the dragon’s room and entered to find all the dragons curled and still asleep. Ebony’s eyes opened after several moments, as did Feras’s, looking at the twins. Tir sent out his thought to them, sending his love to them for allowing his brothers to stay within their room.
“We really don’t mind other people, but known for being fierce keeps down the gawkers and those that would try to hurt us, besides they are your family,” Feras said.
Tir smiled at Feras’s response and took his brothers’ hands, leading them over to Feras and Ebony while Drake and Marek watched.
“Elgin, Ash, these are my friends. Ebony is the black dragon and she is Drake’s partner. The scarlet one is Feras and Marek’s dragon. These are my brother’s, Ash and Elgin,” Tir said.
“Why is the male so little compared to the female?” Ash whispered as Feras snorted and growled a little, making Ash back up, falling to the ground in fear.
“Stop that Feras, you know he’s already afraid of you,” Tir scolded in exasperation as Marek chuckled.
Tir turned to his pale brother and offered him a hand up. Ash looked wide eyed at the scarlet dragon as he tentatively put his hand in Tir’s.
“It’s ok, Feras won’t hurt you. He just doesn’t like being called small,” Tir explained.
“He can understand me?” Ash said in surprise.
“Of course, all of them can, they are as intelligent as us, maybe more,” Tir said soothingly.
“Ok boys, take this to Rolf. Just make sure you don’t try to touch the dragons or anything when we aren’t here, especially the hatchling,” Drake said.
“Will we have to stay in here all the time,” Ash asked worriedly, eyeing Feras warily.
“No, you two can take one of those apartments, since we won’t be using them,” Drake said.
“Go on you two,” Tir encouraged, watching the two take the note and reluctantly leaving the room.
Tir sighed softly, watching them leave even as Marek unexpectedly swept him up in his arms. Tir leaned against the man’s hard body, thankful for the embrace even as he wondered at Marek’s obvious display of affection. He felt Drake rub his back as tears slid onto Marek’s red tunic.
“Is it that bad?” Drake asked quietly.
“My father is dead, at least the twins think so. Tristan never said, but Rolf tormented them with it and other bits of information. Tristan actually came to our house personally and his guards took our father into custody. He took the twins aside and told them that father had sold me and was planning on using them for something he shouldn’t be using his sons for. Elgin didn’t say, but he knows more about it than Ash does. Father had been acting strangely after I was sold. Unusual and unsavory people coming to our house, and father was acting erratically, he was drinking constantly. When Elgin spoke of it there was fear in his eyes and something more, Drake. I think something happened to Elgin that he isn’t even telling Ash.
“Ash has always been the more timid and quiet of the two. He is almost delicate and Elgin is always trying to protect him. I won’t know until I can talk to him alone, and I’m very afraid of what I might learn. Elgin is never afraid and hardly ever cries, even as a really young child, yet he is terrified.” Tir said, pressing against Marek.
“And I take it here isn’t much better?” Marek said, his voice conveying his disapproval.
“Tristan has been busy overseeing the peace negations and getting the gate setup. At first he kept tabs on the twins and things were fine, except they were afraid and confused about what was happening. Things got worse when the King’s attention turned to other things and they became assigned to the Queen. She is tormenting them purposefully when Tristan isn’t around. Tristan personally went to save the twins, the children of the woman she hates. She believes Tristan loved my mother more than her and she is taking it out on Ash and Elgin,” Tir explained.
“With the reaction of those with Tristan when he declared you his son, I expect there is trouble between him and his Queen over this,” Drake sighed.
“I don’t know if father is dead or not, but if he is can I bring the twins back with me?” Tir asked.
“We need to talk to Tristan and see what is going on with your father. We still haven’t settled you staying with us, unfortunately, but I think it would be best if your brothers came back with us to Terma,” Drake said.
“I agree, with both of your parents being dead you are their only relative, so Tristan can’t protest too much, especially considering the problems with his wife,” Marek growled a little.
“I feel so horrible, it’s all my fault. If I hadn’t been Tristan’s son, father wouldn’t have done this,” Tir said irrationally.
“You aren’t responsible for your father’s behavior, and if you hadn’t been Tristan’s son then think of what would have happened to your brothers. Your extremely lucky Tristan came and stopped your father. He saved your brothers,” Drake said gently.
“I will always remember the night he sold me. His final words to me were that it was all my fault. My fault mother didn’t love him. If only her bastard didn’t exist she would forget,” Tir said softly, the memories of the past washing over him. The look of despair mixed with anger on the man’s face every time he got drunk, as his true feeling showed through.
He remembered the night he had been sold and looked on his father’s face. It was something he had tried desperately to forget, and yet Elgin and Ash’s fear and pain had brought the bitter sadness back to him all over again. It wasn’t that of a cruel, evil man. It was that of a man who had lost everything, a look of absolute despair and loathing not of Tir but of himself. He could smell the heady aroma of brandy mixed with marjo, an addicting drug that clouded a person’s mind and brought vivid memories of the past. He couldn’t help but think his father’s descent into gambling, drugs, and alcohol had been caused by him. By his very existence.
“Enough Tir, I want you to listen to me. You have nothing to do with what went on between your parents, all of them. If your mother didn’t love your father, that wasn’t because of you. Maybe he needed to look a little deeper within his self to find the true answer,” Marek said bluntly.
“But…” Tir started, hardly convinced by Marek’s words.
“No buts, Marek is right. Your father knew full well about your mother’s relationship with Tristan. If he couldn’t accept it then he shouldn’t have married her. It has nothing to do with you. He blamed you for his own mistakes, don’t you blame yourself,” Drake agreed.
Tir sighed and remained quiet for the moment, not wanting to argue. He felt Marek tilt his chin up and kiss him roughly even as his arms held him firmly. He could hear Feras and Ebony both in the back of his mind joining with their riders in their demand that Tir believe them, almost overwhelming him. When Tir felt Marek pull away from him he relaxed totally, unable to deny all of the emotions and feelings of love and support that surrounded him.
Drake’s warm hands turned him from Marek to look down at him with dark black eyes, serious and determined. It was rare to see him look so very serious and Tir knew that he couldn’t protest any longer.
“No more Tir, you cannot blame yourself. You have enough to deal with,” Drake said.
Tir finally nodded, leaning up against Drake for a moment, glad to have the support of so many people around him.
“Good, if you didn’t stop, I would be forced to leave you alone with Marek for a few hours, and I’m sure he will change your stubborn mind,” Drake said teasingly, his seriousness disappearing at Tir’s nod.
“Maybe I shouldn’t then,” Tir responded with a sad smile.
“I think you will regret that remark,” Marek said, his hand slapping Tir’s ass hard just as the door opened.
All three of them turned in surprise to see Ash and Elgin standing in the doorway looking at them fear in Ash’s eyes but anger in Elgin’s. Before anyone could say anything Elgin launched himself at Marek, pushing him back away from Drake and Tir.
“Finally, someone that agrees with me,” Drake said, almost laughing despite the misunderstanding.
“Elgin no,” Tir exclaimed, ignoring Drake and putting himself between Marek and his brother.
“You said you weren’t a slave anymore, then why is he punishing you?” Elgin demanded, glaring at Marek, who was looking very disgruntled.
“It’s complicated,” Tir said evasively.
“He hit you,” Elgin said, his fierce green eyes glaring at Marek.
“He was only teasing me, Elgin stop it, Marek didn’t do anything wrong,” Tir said, making his angry brother look at him.
“You should never hit anyone,” Elgin said uncompromisingly.
“I can remember you got into more than a few fights back home,” Tir countered.
“That was different. I wasn’t picking on someone who couldn’t defend themselves, besides you shouldn’t hit people you love,” Elgin said stubbornly.
Tir sighed, looking at his brother, wondering what to say next. He wasn’t even close to being ready to explain the games he and Marek played. He wasn’t even sure his brother was ready to learn about such things, he knew for sure his gentler brother Ash was not. Yet he didn’t want Elgin disliking Marek either, for doing something they both liked.
“I happen to have the same opinion you do, although your brother and Marek are gradually trying to get me to understand. The important thing is that Tir isn’t bothered by what Marek is doing to him. Even though it might really upset us, we have to respect Tir’s feelings and Marek’s,” Drake said, coming up to Elgin and putting a hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t get it, he wants to get punished?” Elgin said, looking between Marek and Tir.
“Elgin, stop it. Whatever is going on between them isn’t for us to get involved in,” Ash said as he walked across the room and gently put a hand on his brother’s arm.
“But he’s our…” Elgin started only for Ash to stop him.
“Tir wasn’t upset, Elgin, but he is now because of your actions. I don’t know what is going on, but starting a fight with someone he cares about isn’t helping,” Ash said softly, looking at