Tir walked down the long ornate corridor, following one of Tristan’s personal pages who had been assigned to take him to the King. He wasn’t surprised when he found himself once again outside of the King’s personal study, having guessed that the man spent much of his free time there. It was late, but it was to be expected since Tristan was even busier than Drake. Despite that he had arranged for a meeting with Tir as soon as he had received Tir’s request.
Tir had been incredibility grateful to the man for arranging to meet with him so quickly, for a number of reasons. He knew that settling the matter of what would happen to his brothers would ease both Elgin and Ash’s minds. It was one thing that had continually worried them, that Tir would leave them behind and return to Terma without them. Tir was also grateful to have something to concentrate on rather than brood about Marek, who had yet to return after leaving after their fight. He was still angry with the man but now that he had time to cool down he was also feeling more than a little miserable, for he had no idea how to solve the problem between them.
When Tir was escorted into the room he quickly spotted the king bent over his surprisingly messy desk, writing by the soft glow of candle light. Tir quietly walked up to him and waited patiently for the man to complete his work.
“Sorry, just a moment,” Tristan mumbled without looking up, his quill moving rapidly.
“Take your time,” Tire said softly.
Tristan looked more than a little worn and tired as Tir studied him by the golden light of the candles. He had to admit Tristan was working extremely hard to broker a peace agreement, despite Nolan’s stubbornness over small issues and Drake’s own impatience. Over the past couple of weeks Tir’s respect of the man had grown rapidly as he watched his birth father keep the peace negations going sometimes through his own force of will. He always seemed to be busy and yet he always seemed to find time to take care of any problems that popped up.
Looking around the once orderly study he noticed that things had changed greatly from his last visit. The once neatly organized study was now in complete chaos. Books and scrolls littered the floor around the desk along with crumpled up sheets of parchment. It appeared that Tristan was searching for something through all of his books and coming up empty on results.
“I’m sorry Tir, there is just so much to do and not enough time. I wish I could find a way to make three of me,” Tristan sighed, leaning back in his chair, brushing honey colored hair out of eyes.
“It looks like you’ve been studying hard,” Tir said, hoping the man might tell him what he was searching for at such a busy time.
“Yes, I’m always studying,” Tristan said with a frown as if something was bothering him.
“Perhaps, but you didn’t request to see me for that,” Tristan answered evasively as he looked at Tir with a penetrating stare.
“No, I want to know about my father. What do you know about what he was doing before you arrested him, and if he is still alive,” Tir answered, meeting the violet gaze with his own.
“What do you know about Quenten other than he sold you?” Tristan asked in a neutral voice, his face expressionless.
“He had gambling debts, large ones by the time he sold me. He was drinking far too much and I believe he had gotten involved with some addicting drugs that allowed him to live in the past. After I left it began to get worse with the drugs, alcohol, and gambling. He was bringing home new friends that mother would have never approved of and…” Tir stopped, his face twisting in pain as he thought of what had happened to Elgin.
“He began to sell your younger brothers like common whores,” Tristan finished anger slipping into his smooth voice.
“More than that,” Tir said softly.
“So your brother told you. He wouldn’t speak of it but the man he was sold to…well few of his other victims survived,” Tristan said, looking at Tir with angry eyes.
“He was only twelve,” Tir said harshly.
“Elgin was older than most of that man’s victims. We linked him to at least thirty other children’s deaths. Mostly poor and unwanted children.”
“Did father know?” Tir asked bleakly.
“Probably not. He was a well know merchant although of the shadier sort. But he kept his particular fetish low key, most people thought he was just a pervert that liked children,” Tristan answered grimly.
“But father knew he would be raped,” Tir stated flatly, not needing Tristan to confirm it.
“He couldn’t have not known. I had both your father and that man questioned extensively when I took them in. Your father remembered very little of that time, an effect of the majo. As for the merchant the less said the better, I had him executed the next day. His crimes left little doubt as what to be done with him. Your father unfortunately is a different case, although I very much wish I could overrule my own laws,” Tristan said grimly.
“You’re the King,” Tir stated simply.
“And I must follow the laws above all others, otherwise who will,” Tristan answered, looking up firmly, his jaw clenched.
“So he is still alive?” Tir asked, not sure what to feel except a sense of dread. It would have been so much easier for everyone if the man was dead. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do now that he was alive. He certainly didn’t want the twins anywhere around the man anymore, and he wasn’t even sure it would be wise to let them know that he still lived. He hated the man for what he had done to his brothers and yet he was his father, the man their mother had chosen.
“Do you want him to be? Can you still say that you forgive that man? Can you still say he is your father?” Tristan asked grimly.
Tir stepped back from the anger and harshness in the man’s tone, so similar to Marek’s own harsh voice, reminding him of his other problems as well. The questions hit him and he once again found that he had no simple answer for the man just as he had none for Marek. Tir closed his eyes, feeling tears well up inside of him, feeling overwhelmed once again. Everyone was angry and upset with him and yet he didn’t know the answers. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do, what he was supposed to feel.
Tir’s eyes snapped open when he found himself wrapped in Tristan’s arms. The soft warm velvet doublet pressing against his check as he felt the slow beating of his father’s heart.
“I’m sorry Tir, I didn’t mean to be so harsh. I shouldn’t take my anger out on you,” Tristan said gently.
“I…it isn’t your fault,” Tir mumbled, leaning against Tristan unexpectedly, feeling comforted by the man’s gentle touch that evoked long forgotten feelings inside of him of his own mother.
“You’re too much like your mother for your own good,” Tristan sighed. “There is something else wrong isn’t there?”
Tir remained quiet, letting his tears fall, not willing for the moment to speak of anything else, certainly not all the other problems that seemed to be piling up upon him. If he didn’t want to talk about Marek to his brothers he felt even more reluctant to speak of it to the strange man that wanted him to be his son.
“Isn’t it enough with what happened to Elgin? What am I supposed to do? How can I help him overcome what happened to him? What am I supposed to do about fath…Quenten? I don’t want to deal with him, and yet…” Tir shuddered a little in Tristan’s arms.
“You don’t have to do anything about Quenten, I already have. You and your brothers will never see him again,” Tristan said soothingly.
“So he is dead?” Tir asked quietly.
“No, but he will never leave prison for his crimes. He is as good as dead and will not bother you again,” Tristan assured him.
Tir remained quiet, biting his lip. He knew if the twins knew that he was still alive, that despite everything they wouldn’t want to leave him to such a fate. If he was dead there was nothing for them to do except accept the loss of their father. Yet if he was alive the obligation of their blood would hold them to the man despite what he had done. He knew despite everything that had happened Elgin loved their father and would be torn. It was something he didn’t even want to face let alone have his twelve year old brother deal with.
Even Tir wasn’t sure if he could let things stand as they were. He hated the man for what he had done to Elgin, yet memories of the man that had adored his mother remained, and a single question. Why? Ash and Elgin where his sons, born of the woman he loved. Why had he done such horrible things to them? He understood and forgave the man for what had been done to him, but why had he allowed such a thing happen to Elgin?
“He is dead at least to the twins. Please, I don’t think they should know that he is still alive,” Tir said, reluctantly disengaging himself from Tristan gentle comfort.
“Of course,” Tristan said, looking down at him without any hesitation, even knowing he would be blamed for the man’s death by Tir’s brothers.
Tir felt exhausted and worn as he looked up at the blond king who was nothing like he had imagined and yet everything that a king should be. He couldn’t help but wonder what their lives would have been like if his mother had not rejected this man. He had never thought that he would feel such a connection to the man as he just felt, to accept without even realizing it the man’s comfort and gentle soothing.
“Thank you,” Tir said softly.
“There is no need, I’m your father. It is my job to protect you and your brothers now that you have no family to take care of you,” Tristan responded.
“I want to take them back with me,” Tir said, looking up to see the man watching him, concerned.
“You could stay here, at least for a little while,” Tristan offered, the longing in his voice surprising Tir yet again.
“My place is in Terma now,” Tir said reluctantly, not wanting to hurt the man. “Ash and Elgin are my only family and I want them with me. It isn’t you, it’s…” Tir stopped.
“And Marek, the dragons, Logan. I also have responsibility now. I didn’t want to be a marquis, but I am. I accepted the title and I can’t run away now, it would shame the people that trusted me. I have so very much to learn, I can’t stay here even though I really wish in some ways I could. I’ve never thought that I would have a chance to know you, let alone become more than an unwanted bastard,” Tir said tightly, feeling tears threaten again.
“You have never, never been unwanted Tir. I know Kasarah wanted you very much and so did I. I have never regretted my love for your mother, only my ease in which I let her go,” Tristan said, once again putting a hand on Tir’s shoulder and squeezing it slightly.
Tir put a tight reign on his emotions, nodding slightly at the acknowledgment by his birth father. Until that instant he hadn’t realized how much he truly needed to hear those words and how much they meant to him.
“Still Tir, you have a great deal of magic within you. I feel uneasy letting you leave untrained. There are things about you I simply don’t understand. Cords of power binding your magic, containing it, and it worries me,” Tristan said.
Tir looked at Tristan, startled and a little worried. He hadn’t thought about the fact Tristan knew more about magic than most people, and had unknown abilities to see what others couldn’t. It was a real possibility that the dragons’ secrets wouldn’t be able to stay secret. He wasn’t sure what he could say to the man, although from the uneasiness he felt from Ebony it was apparent she was very concerned with Tristan’s shift in topics.
“I’ve never used my powers, and there are many in Terma that can help me,” Tir evaded.
“No, there aren’t. That also bothers me as well,” Tristan said as he began to pace the flower. “When I visited Terma years ago I wasn’t as skilled at second sight, but I still perceived something I think is similar to what now binds you on many of the riders, including the King. Even Marek and Drake have something similar, although not nearly as strong. I would like to find out what is going on,” Tristan said thoughtfully, looking at Tir.
Tir looked up at Tristan helplessly, not knowing what to do. He reached out for Feras, not feeling anything, and felt his panic start to rise. The absence of the solid stable rock of Feras frightened Tir. There had never been a time when he reached out for the dragon and not felt his presence flood into his mind, even Ebony who was always with him seemed distant and unreachable, although still vaguely there.
“Tir, what’s wrong?” Tristan asked concerned.
“I…I had a fi…fight with Marek,” Tir said desperately at the first thing that popped into his mind, trying to find something to take Tristan’s mind away from such a dangerous topic of magic.
“Marek? You never did explain about him fully. What happened?” Tristan asked, surprise written on his face.
“He is always saying things he shouldn’t,” Tir said carefully.
Tristan looked at him and nodded patiently, waiting for him to go on. Tir suddenly realized this wasn’t the best of things to use to distract the man, and yet now he was stuck with it. He reached out again to Feras only to feel Ebony’s gentle colors briefly touch his mind, a sense of impatience in it, as if her mind was somewhere else and distracted. Tir could see that Tristan himself was getting impatient as well as he waited for him to continue, frowning.
“Marek doesn’t care if people dislike him, even my brothers. He knows I don’t like him talking about certain things but he continues to bring them up to people, making them angry and uncomfortable. He keeps teasing everyone close to me with things I still don’t understand. I really love him and I understand why he is the way he is, but he makes me so angry sometimes bringing private life into the public. Especially now with Elgin and Ash, there are just some things you don’t say around children, especially my brothers. Elgin is having a hard enough time and I know Marek knows that. After Elgin attacked him the last time I thought he would have better sense. I love him, I really do, but this time he has gone too far,” Tir complained, gaining momentum as he thought about his latest fight, forgetting for the moment who he was talking to and the reason he had brought the subject up in the first place.
Tristan looked at him puzzled as he vented until Tir realized who exactly he was talking to. He felt heat suffuse his face, turning him a bright crimson as he looked away from the man, embarrassed by his tirade, trying to remember if he had said something he shouldn’t have.
“I…Um…Never mind…Please forget what I said,” Tir mumbled.
Tristan continued to look at him thoughtfully as if he were trying to grasp something, then suddenly began to laugh, causing Tir to look up in surprise. Tir watched with amazement as the blond monarch chuckled in his hand, trying desperately to muffle his mirth unsuccessfully.
“You really are our son, I think. You like to be tied up in bed, don’t you?” Tristan asked, once he had gotten his mirth under control again.
“No…I…What are you talking about?” Tir asked, horrified at Tristan’s guess and terribly embarrassed at the same time, wondering if what he and Marek where doing was so obvious.
“There is nothing to be embarrassed about,” Tristan said gently, his large warm hand ruffling Tir’s hair comfortingly. “Those comments I overheard the Baron Valas say that first night now make sense. We are more alike than I thought possible.”
Tir looked up completely stunned at his father and his words, his mind unable to wrap around what the man had just told him. He hadn’t expected the man to jump to that conclusion so quickly, despite his words, and certainly never expected such a reaction. He had thought this honorable, proud man would explode if he ever found out the games he and Marek played.
“You mean you aren’t mad?” Tir asked hesitantly, looking down at the floor, unable to meet the man’s eyes.
“Of course not, when I am all too aware of the pleasures of submitting to another can bring. Although your problems with Marek…”
“You like to be tied up and spanked!” Tir cut in, incredulous, as his head snapped up at the man’s words, unable to believe them.
“Yes, Tir,” Tristan said softly, smiling down at him as he walked over to his desk to lean against it casually.
“But you’re the King!”
“Yes, I’m also a man that has to make a thousand different decisions everyday. That has a whole country expecting me to guide it. It is a relief to set that aside and let someone else take control and remind me I’m just a man,” Tristan explained with a gentle smile, totally comfortable and unabashed in the admittance of such a thing.
“You mean the Queen… No I’m sorry,” Tir said, shaking his head, deciding there were things he simply didn’t want to know.
“No, no not Gemma, but your mother. I’m sorry to say I would never trust my wife that far, ours is not a love match and unfortunately there are very few things that we share,” Tristan sighed, running a hand through his loose golden hair ruefully.
“My mother? No please don’t!” Tir winced, his whole mind shuddering away from those thoughts.
There were some things that he just wasn’t curious about. This was one of them, to think of Tristan bound and helpless was one thing but to think of his mother…
Shaking his head he firmly pressed down on that thought as he saw Tristan trying very hard not to laugh again. His stern face softened and full of mirth, and dancing amethyst eyes, startled Tir. He suddenly realized this was what must have made his mother fall in love with the man, for even Tir had to admit in this unguarded moment the man was breathtaking.
“Tir, I have to admit I don’t like thinking of you in those terms either, especially with that blond Baron who looks like a very cold and callus man,” Tristan said after he finally got control of his mirth.
“See that is what I mean. Marek isn’t cold or callous. I don’t know how to explain it but he really isn’t like that. Some things happened in his past and he was hurt badly, but he loves things fiercely and hides it far too well. I know he would do anything for me. He might complain and tease me about it but I know he would do anything,” Tir sighed.
“Yes, I suppose you are right, for Drake and that dragon to be close to him. I’m not sure what to tell you Tir, except part of loving someone is accepting the good with the bad. Is Marek’s attitude around your brothers and others enough that you would rather be away from him?” Tristan asked seriously.
“I don’t know,” Tir said miserably. “I can’t accept what I like so easily as you and Marek do. I don’t want people to know.”
“Then tell him that,” Tristan suggested.
“I’ve tried to but he keeps ignoring me,” Tir said as tears threatened once again.
“Tir, I can understand how you feel. I would never consider doing such things with someone that cannot be discreet, but at the same time I could never have abandoned someone I love over such a thing either. Perhaps the best solution is to ask the Baron which is more important, forcing the truth on people who wouldn’t understand or your love for him. Tell him the whole of your feelings, of how much it truly hurts you. Not in anger as you first spoke to me about the problem but in love for him and the people that are important in your life. Perhaps Drake can help you, for he is a good mediator,” Tristan said with a lopsided smile.
“Thank you, for listening to me,” Tir said softly, thinking about the advice and wondering if it would help or make matters worse.
“Any time Tir, I am glad that you were willing to talk to me about such matter. Still I find myself hoping that perhaps things don’t work out between you and the handsome Baron, and you will stay here. I can’t force you to, but as I said before I have great misgivings about letting you leave with your magic the way it is,” Tristan said, frowning once again and looking intently at Tir.
Tir winced slightly, once again finding himself in an uncomfortable place. Reaching out desperately to Feras he felt both dragons fill his mind even as his father’s eyes widened in shock.
“Go ahead and tell him Tir about our bond. We are unable to hide it from someone as strong as he is, and that is not bound to one of us. The others have agreed it is for the best,” Feras said, resigned to the fact.
“Tell him what?! I’m not about to tell him I’m bonded to you two before I tell Drake and Marek,” Tir said angrily.
“Tir why do I feel the presence of dragons around you?” Tristan asked, his eyes narrowing.
Tir remained quiet for a moment, desperately trying to think of a way out of the situation he was in. There was no way that someone other than Drake and Marek were going to find out about his bond with the dragons before they were. He had always felt so very uncomfortable with hiding the fact from them and for someone else to know something that was so important felt like a betrayal to them.
“Because they are always looking out for me, I guess. I am an important part of Drake and Marek’s life, so they watch over me. Once someone tried to hurt me at the palace and because they watch over me Feras was able to rescue me before anything happened to me. I love them and their riders so they are always protecting me,” Tir answered, skirting around the truth.
“Someone tried to hurt you? Why? How can they look out for you if you aren’t bonded to them? When did this happen? Tir…” Tristan asked, his questions piling up on one another.
“Please, father, stop!” Tir said, feeling a little overwhelmed and not wanting to answer any of those questions. He was more than a little surprised when Tristan stopped and looked at him, a smile spreading across his face. Tir looked at him, more than a little confused at what he had said to make the man so happy.
“You called me father,” Tristan said, his questions forgotten as an almost boyish delight came over his face.
Tir looked at him, surprised once again at the strong emotions radiating from the man. He hadn’t even realized he had called the man by the name of father. He had been so very agitated and hadn’t been thinking of anything except getting the man to stop questioning him. The word had slipped out unknowingly, perhaps because of the gentle acceptance and understanding the man had shown him with his problems with Marek. Yet how could it be so important to Tristan that Tir claim him as his father? It seemed so strange to him and yet it also made him feel an unexpected rush of kindness to him as well.
“Yes I guess I did. Look I know you have a lot of questions but could you wait until after the conference for them please? I can’t be your acknowledged son, but perhaps in private we could try,” Tir said slowly.
“I would like that, but please promise me before you leave you will explain the mysteries that I find surrounding you,” Tristan said quietly.
“I promise,” Tir said softly, hoping he wouldn’t regret those words.