I Didn't Want to See
June 2002 (revised May 2004)
The sky was a deep blue of the early autumn season, clear with the promise at least a few more weeks of heat before the cooler winds would come from the north and west. Large trees of newly turned leaves formed a small forest behind the large mansion, and a quiet stream fed those aged trees and a fish-filled pond further back. Birds were chirping freely among the branches, not yet ready to take their journey further south. And adding to the scene were a few squirrels which made their appearance, happily bouncing around as they hid nuts and did other rodent-like things.
It was boring as hell.
Yawning from the lack of activity, a young man rested against one of the older trees which stood fairly deep into the sham of a forest. Dressed in a faded and torn uniform, Levitare Maritav was a rather tall man with short, spiky red hair and soft hazel eyes which barely focused on the scenery around him. It was more amusing for him to think back about his adventures in the royal guard. The sons of nobles were required three years of service in the army, first to train and then to fight for the honor of the High King. Levitare, however, had remained for seven years when he discovered true enjoyment in the dance of a good fight, the music of swords connecting, and the graceful movements which avoided death, always followed quickly by the overwhelming sensation of being alive.
Lavitare had spent the better half of a decade being nothing more than a soldier fighting for his life, but he always knew it was a luxury which wouldn't last for long. Only a few months previous, he had received the request by his father to return home for the long term in order to learn the lessons that would aid Levitare in his future role as Lord over much of the northern realm. And for that reason alone, he put aside his simplistic soldier life and returned to the Maritav manor without argument or complaint. But that didn't mean he couldn't silently grumble at the fate of his life.
At the sound of crunching leaves beneath heavy footfalls, clearness returned to the soft hazel eyes as Levitare mentally readied himself for an unlikely attack. Unmoving from his relaxed position against the tree, he waited for his visitor to eventually reveal himself.
"Levi! There you are." A portly man emerged from the nearby bushes, more than a little out of breath and somewhat ragged looking as if he had taken a roll on the forest ground.
Levitare grinned at the sight of his friend. "Ho, Richard. Who sent you looking for me this time?"
The man straightened his clothes a bit, brushing away some dead leaves and clinging dirt. Running a hand through black hair, he focused equally black eyes onto the younger man. To a common person, Richard may have appeared the comic relief, but there was intelligence in those eyes which Levitare learned to respect and trust. That was, unless it was during a card game, the fat bastard unable to resist cheating at every chance, though the young lord had yet to actually catch his friend in the act.
"For once, I've come to fetch you for myself. I have someone for you to meet, and well, you are bored, aren't you?"
The redhead sat up from the tree and stretched his arms high above his head. "Thank you for stating the obvious. What plans do you have?"
"Come, follow me inside." At the waving motion of the large hand, Levitare reluctantly got to his feet and followed his smiling friend towards the mansion. "Now, don't laugh, but I've brought a fortuneteller to give you a reading."
"Oh, please. Don't tell me that you believe anyone who tells you they have the gift."
"Normally, no. I realize that magic is extremely rare in this world anymore. But if anyone had a gift, this one does. I asked him what I should do with my life, and he told me to stick with you. The thing is, he described you and our friendship in detail, though I know he couldn't have seen us together before. The other readings I've seen him do for people were even more amazing and shocking, to their embarrassment at times."
Levitare laughed at the thought of a snobbish noblewoman blushing from a secret being revealed. "Are you so certain he is for real?"
"I like to think so, but even if he is merely a skilled fraud, he can provide you some entertainment for at a short while."
As they walked through the side entrance of the mansion, the redhead surrendered to his friend's whims. "And just what should I ask this great psychic? I already know what I'm going to be doing with my life, or have you forgotten my lack of choice?"
Richard smiled, obviously pleased that his friend was willing to speak with the psychic. "You do need help in the love life area."
Levitare glared at the portly man, not caring that his friend of several years had built up an immunity to his darker looks. It was common knowledge that the young lord didn't have a favorite suitor, though red-headed man slept around with enough ladies that one would imagine that he would have found someone to his liking. The Lord Maritav was getting nervous that his eldest would wait too long before getting married, but the wise old man was waiting to get involved in fear of only making his stubborn son that much more resistant to the idea of a wife and children.
Soon reaching the young lord's private study, Richard opened the door and motioned for the redhead to enter first. Levitare paused after stepping inside, hazel eyes quickly settling on the cloaked figure who sat in a chair facing the couch. The man's cloak was arranged such that the raised hood covered the man's face, everything but the tip of a nose and below hidden in shadows. The rest of the body was covered likewise, even the feet clothed in a canvas like material instead of proper shoes. But despite the obviously poor appearance of the man, Levitare was curious about the lack of a certain foulness which followed most peasants down in their luck. The man's posture was straight but not painfully so, and he held an air of assuredness when most would be more than nervous when facing noble blood.
At first sight, the young lord was intrigued with the mysterious fortuneteller.
After closing the door, Richard stepped forward. "Good sir, thank you for waiting while I retrieved my friend here. Forgive me for taking so long."
The cloaked man simply nodded at the dark-haired man and looked towards the couch in a vague invitation to sit. Once the two men relaxed on the couch, the fortuneteller revealed his hands from the cloak. The young lord noted that they were oddly tan in shade, unlike the whiteness one would expect if the man always dressed in this way. Perhaps a different nationality than this continent. A small glass ball was produced from beneath a fold of material, the sphere then sandwiched between two hands before it was left hovering between separated hands.
"Nice trick there," Levitare muttered with undisguised sarcasm, earning himself a sharp jab of an elbow into his side.
"Please forgive his rudeness."
"I am used to it," the psychic said without emotion. The voice was younger than Levitare expected, but with everything truly identifying of the man hidden, he wasn't too surprised. "Please ask your questions."
"What, can't you predict that?" He got another elbow in the side.
"My Lord, for me to attempt to see every possible future, it would rob me of my sanity. By focusing on a single question, I can see the possibilities without risking myself. Now, your questions."
The young lord was mildly annoyed by the flat tone of the man. The psychic was obviously teased in this fashion more times than could be counted, but he could still show some emotion in his reaction. It was robbing some of the entertainment out of the meeting.
"Fine," the young lord submitted, resisting a childish urge to pout. "Then I'll take my friend's suggestion. Who is the true love of my life?"
Paying careful attention to the bits of the psychic's face which could be seen, Levitare noticed a slight tensing of the man's mouth. "You will want to rephrase the question, but this is your answer: the one you ask of is a man with short dark hair and dead gray eyes. He is broken beyond repair. Cursed. You efforts could be better spent, and considering that you are the eldest and heir to this lordship, I assume you would prefer a lady who would aid you in continuing your bloodline."
"My true love is a man?" The cloaked figure nodded slightly. "Hey, Richard, how do you like that?"
When there was no immediate reply, Levitare turned to his friend and noticed a familiar gleam to the black eyes. The man was deep in thought, mulling something over with serious intensity. But before the young lord could question the man, Richard shifted his expression with a warm smile.
"As long as it isn't me, I have no arguments against such a relationship. Despite my requests otherwise, you have describe your lifestyle in the royal guard to me in great detail, so I assume this news doesn't bother you in the least."
Taking the comment as a hint to ask the man later about whatever troubled him, Levitare returned his attention to the fortuneteller. "Then as you recommend, who can bring me both happiness and children of my blood?"
After a pause, "There is a woman you already know and approve of. Honey brown hair and light brown eyes. I believe the name is Avern or something of the like. She cannot bring you the love you seek, but you would be happy and content with her by your side. Although it is not set in stone, the most probable is the birth of two handsome children. An elder son of honor who would succeed you, and a daughter of grace who would bring you pride."
Leaning back into the large pillows of the couch, Levitare had to admit that he was fairly impressed. The fortuneteller had described the woman as the young lord would have himself, and he briefly thought of the silky hair which had spread out on his pillow much like drizzled honey. Avern had been a childhood friend and then more, both as a bedmate and a cherished advisor. While she was the highest among possible suitors, Levitare didn't feel the bond of love between them. And in truth, he doubted Avern held any serious love for him either, the woman only wishing to play in the meaningless political games of nobles.
"Hmm, so could I have both the man and Avern?" The question was made in jest, but again the cloaked man displayed vague tenseness at the words.
"I do not advise that path, my Lord. Do you have any other questions?"
Staring at the psychic, Levitare found himself distracted by his thoughts about the man and couldn't promptly think of another question. "I'm afraid not. You see, this meeting caught me by surprise, and so I'm unprepared. Perhaps you can return on the morrow?"
The glass ball abruptly dropped from its position in midair, but was swiftly caught by the hand of the cloaked figure. "Forgive me, my Lord, but I leave this area in the morning. If I could have my payment?"
Richard seemed to wake from another moment of thought before leaning back to fish into his pocket. "Oh, right. Two silver, was it?"
"Allow me, my friend." Levitare held out a gold coin for the man.
The psychic shook his head. "That is too generous, my Lord. Just the two silver and I'll leave."
The young lord was somewhat offended by the refusal, as if he couldn't afford a mere gold coin. Suspicion also crossed his mind since what obviously poor man would reject extra money. But the sternness of the voice suggested it a matter of pride for the man.
Levitare tossed the gold piece into the man's lap. "Do not let it bother you. I have no other coin and my friend has probably forgotten his purse once again."
The man seemed about ready to accept no payment instead of overpayment, but he then took the coin and bowed once as he stood. "Thank you, my Lord. Perhaps another day I can fulfill this payment."
Richard got up from the couch and went to open the study door in order to locate a servant to lead the fortuneteller out. A maid appeared and motioned the cloaked man to follow her. After a slight nod of goodbye, the psychic walked out quietly with the grace of a nobleman.
Once Richard closed the door, Levitare called into the room, "Kashii, I want two men to follow him such that one can return and lead me to his resting place without risking the chance of losing him."
An older man dressed in black clothes seemed to appear from the nothingness of the shadows. "Yes, my Lord."
"But first, did he take anything?"
"No, my Lord," and the man left to do as he was bid.
"So, my dear Richard, what had you so baffled during this session?"
Taking a sit in the chair that the fortuneteller had occupied moments before, the portly man leaned against his hand in a thoughtful position. "This was your first time witnessing the man so you wouldn't be able to compare, but he seemed verbose. In all of the readings I've heard, he rarely gives advice. More so, he didn't answer your last question which struck me as odd. I don't remember him ever holding back with an answer, no matter the embarrassment it could cause." He leaned back in the chair. "Well, obviously you noticed something strange. May I ask why you are hunting him down?"
Levitare smiled a small, mischievous smile. "He said that he would pay me back some day."
There was a knock at the door and Kashii entered when prompted. "My Lord, the men have been sent."
The redhead sat up straighter on the couch. "And you didn't need to return to inform me of that. What is on your mind?"
With a narrowed gaze, the old warrior said, "I wished to advise you to take caution with this man. The moment he entered this room, I believe he knew I was here. Furthermore, there is a powerful and strange aura which surrounds him."
"Interesting," Levitare muttered, always wondering what type of man could make the war veteran nervous. "Do you believe that he is a danger to me?"
After a pause, Kashii shook his head. "I cannot be certain of that, my Lord."
"Thank you for your warning. Let me know when you locate where settles for the night."
The guard bowed and left the room once more.
Richard shook his head in disbelief. "My, my. If I didn't know better, I would say Kashii fears this mysterious man. Forgive me, Levi, for bringing such a person to your home."
Levitare laughed at his friend's worried expression. "Are you kidding? You've brought me something to truly enjoy. Thank you, dear friend."
~ > < ~
By late afternoon, one of Kashii's men arrived to lead the young lord to the fortuneteller, who had apparently decided to camp a few miles from the edge of town. As they traveled by horseback, Levitare learned from the guardsman that the cloaked figure had spent the rest of the day doing some fortunes on the street. Later, the man had briefly visited a woman in a thus far unidentified house, giving her a rather large pouch of what was most probably coins. As they passed by, the man pointed out the mentioned house to Levitare, the young lord easily identifying it as an orphanage. Staring at some of the children at play in front of the building, the redhead decided that the cloaked figure was either a generous man or else he had some crime he was trying to atone for.
Keeping the horses a fair distance away, they reached the small camp of the cloaked man by foot and hid behind some vegetation with the second guardsman as they watched the lone man. The pathetic campsite consisted of a small fire which was heating some liquid and a length of material similar to that of the cloak which had been placed a couple meters away from the flames. The man himself sat against a tree while enjoying some of hot liquid and a dried meat of some origin. By direction of the young lord, the three hidden men stayed low while observing the psychic.
After some time, the cloaked man stood and stretched before walking towards the nearby stream. Levitare motioned the others to stay as he followed the fortuneteller alone. From the bushes, he watched as the fortuneteller approached the clear water. A bronze hand pushed back the hood, revealing the short dark brown, almost black hair which Levitare expected. The cloak easily slipped off from the rest of the man's body, the young lord's eyes widening at the sight of the lean, youthful figure. Though the body was perfect in form, the covering bronze skin was marred by scars in all places, a couple of areas glowing red with infection. Without hesitation, the young man walked smoothly into the undoubtedly cold water to hip height and then dropped below the water surface.
Not caring for stealth any longer with his assumption proven correct, Levitare walked towards the river. He picked up the cloak from the ground, noting the dark stains and uncomfortable material. It was also rather heavy from items in the hidden pockets, but the young lord had no interest in searching through the man's sparse belongings.
"Does this show make us even?"
Levitare looked up into gray eyes which would be amazing given light, but they were exactly as described - dead and cold. "Almost. Tell me the answer to my last question and you've earned that gold piece."
Though his hands clenched tightly into fists at his sides, the man's gaze never wavered. "Yes, you could have us both."
Fingering the rough cloth, Levitare smiled widely. "So, you want to come back to my place?"
The young man frowned slightly, and then stalked over to Levitare. Ripping the cloak from the other's hands, he snarled, "Go have your Lady and your children, my Lord. Leave me out of it." And turning sharply, he headed back to his camp.
With a slight bounce to his step, the young lord followed. "A-ah, but I thought you said we were meant for each other."
Remaining silent, the wet man put his cloak back on, but he left the hood down as it was unnecessary to continue hiding what the redhead believed an attractive face. As Levitare had judged by the skin tone earlier, the psychic's features pointed to mixed blood of someone from this continent with another from a distant country.
"Well, you could at least tell me your name. Mine is Levitare, but you can call me Levi."
The dark-haired man simply poured the remains of the heated liquid into his cup and then sat against a tree as if the young lord wasn't there. Curious, Levitare lifted the pot to smell the contents.
"Water? You're drinking simple hot water? Don't you have herbs or something of the like?"
The young man sipped from the cup and shrugged.
"I gave you a gold piece today. At the very least, you should be able to get a room for the night. Unless, did you give it to the woman at the orphanage?"
The psychic shook his head.
"If I paid for the room, would you use it?"
Another shake of the head.
Feeling frustrated, Levitare stepped over to the tree and placed his hand against the wide trunk in order to glare down at the fortuneteller. "Stop pretending you can't speak. Listen, I'm not leaving you until I know you're taken care of. You have to be freezing after being in that water. And I saw those marks on your back. They should be looked over. Forget the whole 'destined lover' crap and just let me help you out."
The young lord sighed at the minor improvement of getting the man to speak. "Give me one good reason why not."
Gray eyes narrowed in a threatening glare. "I want nothing to do with you. Leave."
Levitare felt a small shock of hurt at the statement, believing himself a difficult man at times but a good man. But judging by the words and their tone, the psychic apparently believed him to be the worst sort of man, someone who shouldn't be bothered with. And though such ideas were unwarranted, Levitare couldn't help the burn it caused in his chest.
Pushing up from the tree, the young lord turned sharply. "Fine, be stubborn. Never think that I didn't offer."
He signaled the two men still in the bushes to leave with him as he stormed back to where the horse had been left several hundred yards away. But a quiet, unnatural noise stopped him some moments later. Fists clenched at his sides, Levitare argued with himself before he reluctantly turned back to make certain the fortuneteller was fine.
Returning, he found that the young man had fallen sideways from his sitting position, his cup lying on its side and the contents gone. An odd rush of worry flowing through him, Levitare strode over to the unconscious man and knelt down to examine him. The still wet body was warm from fever, and given the poor sleeping arrangements the psychic had planned for that night, Levitare figured that his sickness would only get worse. Although the young lord could already imagine the heated words the man would give him for the decision, Levitare lifted the limp body to take him home.
Despite his blurred vision and aching body, the fortuneteller knew immediately that something wasn't right about his surroundings. It was too dark and too quiet without the sounds and smells of the forest, and more importantly, the ground was far too soft and comforting. Willing his eyes to focus, he held back a groan at seeing the source of his problems sitting on a nearby chair with a book in hand.
"Why did you come back?"
The scratchy voice startled Levitare before he set the book aside and leaned over the bed. "I left something behind."
The romance nonsense of the arrogant man wasn't the answer to easing the drum of pain within the fortuneteller's head. He had seen the seemingly infinite possibilities of ending up with this man, and the best chance of ridding himself of the other was for them to part ways at the camp. When the psychic had managed to drive away the young lord, he had breathed a sigh of relief, but the victory was short-lived when the building fever finally robbed him of consciousness. Dull gray eyes narrowing at the smirking man, he cursed the young lord's persistence to actually return to the meager camp.
"The doctor already treated your wounds. He was impressed that you hadn't keeled over sooner. But to my shame I was unable to tell him what your name was for his records. What was it again?"
The psychic knew that a doctor wouldn't care about a name, especially when it was a nobleman's money he was receiving. "I don't plan on staying long enough that it would matter to you, my Lord."
"A-ah, but while you have paid back the gold piece, you now owe me a doctor's fees. Your name would suffice."
Every second he stayed with this man, the dark-haired man felt a collar tightening around his neck which made breathing impossible. He already loved the man before him, and hated himself for it. In the visions of them together, the man… Levitare radiated such love and warmth that it was alien to the psychic. Just a bare glance into that future and he desired it so much that it practically hurt. And because of his traitorous feeling, he had to prevent their possible relationship by ensuring the red-headed man wouldn't grow to love him. Simple things like knowing each other's name, the touch of skin, and eye contact would all help to connect the two. But the fortuneteller came to the reluctant decision that Levitare wouldn't allow him escape without knowing his name.
The redhead appeared shocked at getting the name, but his charming smile was quickly back in place. "Nice to meet you, Teryan. And please, call me Levi. The Lord around here is my father."
Looking sharply away from the soft hazel eyes, the fortuneteller noticed a pitcher on a nearby table. Immediately, his thirst grew at the thought of refreshing water to drive away some of the remaining heat within his body. Catching the glance, Levitare poured some water and held the cup out to the bedridden man. Although upset at being served by a man of noble blood, the psychic accepted the offering of cool liquid.
After handing the cup back, Teryan felt the darkness creeping back on him. He tried to will himself awake, silently demanding that he couldn't leave himself in the care of the seductive lord, but his body failed him and he drifted back into unconsciousness.
~ > < ~
The next time Teryan woke, the room was bright with the late morning sun shining through open windows. But it wasn't the light which had wakened him, rather it was the sense of something invading his personal space. Turning his head, gray eyes first settled on the sight of spiky red hair before noticing the rest of the nobleman. Levitare had fallen asleep sitting in the chair, slumping forward such that his head rested on the bed. Resisting the urge to lightly touch the sleeping face, Teryan moved out of the bed without disturbing the young lord. He was pleased to discover that he felt steady on his feet despite the remains of a fever which would certainly return in the night. But if he was lucky, the psychic figured that he could still get far out of the city before his body would need rest.
The main problem at hand was his nudity aside from the bandaging around his torso. A brief look around the bedroom and the large outer room told Teryan what he feared - Levitare had hid the cloak. The food and money which the cloak held weren't that important, but he couldn't bring himself to steal clothing to hide his nudity. After such a short time, it seemed that the young lord had already made dangerous assumptions about the fortuneteller, and Teryan was annoyed that those theories were correct.
"What are you doing out of bed?" Levitare yawned from the doorway which connected the two rooms.
Glaring at the taller man, the psychic held back his anger as he said, "Please, my Lord. Give me my cloak."
"Hmm, are you talking to me?"
Knowing that it would only make the game more enjoyable to the young lord, Teryan repressed the annoyed growl which wanted to escape him. "Levitare. Please. My cloak."
"That old thing? I sent it out to be burned. Who knows what it could have had on it." Smirking, the young lord pointed to the other room. "Now, back into bed with you until your fever is gone. I'll give you real clothing at that time."
Teryan bowed his head, hoping that his somewhat long hair would cover his watering eyes. He reflexively wanted to cry in the face of his overwhelming frustration, but he wouldn't let anyone see tears on his face. Especially not Levitare. It was beyond illogical that the young lord refused to release him, a man of obvious no worth to the redhead who still didn't believe in his future sight. And though Teryan wasn't focusing on his skill, he could feel the possibilities of escaping the man growing fewer. The collar was tightening.
Misunderstanding the exposed emotion, Levitare said, "I removed the money before sending it away, if that is what has you worried. Though I'm bewildered about why you didn't stay at an inn when you have that much to your name. You should have at least seen a healer about your injuries."
With his emotions back under control, Teryan glared at the other. "I have to leave."
"And why would that be? Aside from escaping my clutches, that is."
Ignoring the sarcastic tone, the psychic decided to speak the truth. "I have to meet with someone."
"Hmm, and would that someone be Angel?"
Teryan couldn't repress a slight look of shock which the young lord must have caught. Quickly the fortuneteller then realized that he had probably talked in his feverish sleep. Knowing a lie would be pointless, he nodded.
"Is it because of this woman that you're so desperate to be rid of me?"
The jealousy in the terse question was both amusing and frightening to Teryan, though he didn't show either emotion. Levitare hadn't a clue who Angel was, and yet he had immediately labeled the person as a rival. Furthermore, while the young lord barely knew anything about the psychic, he already felt that he had some kind of claim on the fortuneteller.
Refusing to answer the ridiculous question, Teryan reluctantly returned to the bed with the knowledge that he was apparently a prisoner until the young lord said otherwise. That, and the psychic felt weaker than he wanted to admit, his legs already starting to shake after such a short time standing. Levitare followed the silent man into the bedroom and sat on the other wide of the large mattress. Annoyed, Teryan turned onto his side such that his back faced the infuriating man.
"Describe her to me," Levitare demanded with a hardened edge to his voice.
The fortuneteller was tempted to drag out the issue to intensify the red-head man's own frustration, but he instead decided that the more jealous the young lord became, the more determined he would be about their nonexistent relationship. With a weak smile, he also figured that the reply should serve to frighten the man away from his tainted touch.
"Angel is my son and my brother."
It took several moments for Levitare to process the information, the dark haired man almost able to identify the moment when the young lord first realized that there was no woman as his rival, and then moved on to understand how Teryan could be both a father and brother to one person.
"You don't mean How did it happen?" There was shock in the voice, but none of the disgust Teryan had been expecting.
"I think you're old enough to know where babies come from."
After a long pause, there was an unexpected touch as Levitare ran finger down the parts of the psychic's scarred back which weren't covered by bandages. "How did you get these?"
"Use your imagination," Teryan gritted out while trying not to finch at the unwanted contact. The young lord was supposed to be revolted by his sin, by his mangled flesh. There was nothing the red-headed man could want of him, but given the visions which still lingered in his mind, Teryan scolded himself that he should have known otherwise.
"Do you hate me?"
The dark-haired man couldn't imagine where the softly asked question had come form, but he couldn't lie to the Levitare, and thus chose silence instead. To avoid further questions, Teryan tried to will himself to sleep, but the presence on the other side of the bed refused to be ignored. If the young lord wanted a waiting game, then that was fine by the psychic. Teryan was fairly certain he could win.
Abruptly there was a sigh. "Go ahead and get some more rest. I'll wake you once food arrives." The bed shifted as the large man stood, and Levitare was gone.
Sitting in the outer room, Levitare watched the still form resting on the bed and fumed. It was bothersome that the fortuneteller was doing his best to be difficult, for what reason the young lord couldn't determine. Levitare knew that it would be wisest to simply allow the skittish man his escape, to let him go and forget all about the psychic. It was the most reasonable solution, except for one thing... The young man had repeatedly said two names during his feverish sleep, one of which being the son, the existence of whom was shocking in itself given Teryan's rather youthful appearance, but for the child to also be his brother seemed impossible. The fortuneteller appeared too proud to willingly participate in incest.
But it was the other name which still rang in the young lord's ear, his own name spoken in such an unexpected way compared to the single time the young lord had forced it out of the man. There was too much to the quiet call, the sense of desperation in the straggled voice truly bewildering Levitare. With every call, the young lord had to suppress the urge to hold the slim body, to somehow assure Teryan that everything would be fine. It was ridiculous to think such things when he didn't even know the psychic, but the need to protect him was still strong within Levitare.
With a quiet growl, he scratched the soft red spikes of his hair roughly as if to clear the mess in his head. Normally he could get any person he wanted, whether tempting them into bed with sweet words, money, or the promise of power. But this fortuneteller wanted none of that. Levitare wasn't certain himself why he even wanted to continue this hunt. If it were for the challenge, that amusement evaporated the moment he got a good look at some of the scars which Teryan bore. And while the young man was attractive, there were many beauties prancing about the country who could be more simply seduced. Perhaps it was the reading which gave a possible future of them together. If true, it was a sign that there had to be something in the man which Levitare craved more than what he could find in his previous partners.
But such thoughts quickly ended when a series of sharp knocks echoed from beyond the entry door. A young maid entered when prompted, her hands occupied by a large tray of food and a pitcher of water. An easy smile reflexively came to his lips as hazel eyes settled on the sight of the lovely lady. Once relieving the woman of the tray, Levitare gave her a wink for the trouble of carrying the heavy items. She blushed prettily at the simple action and rushed out of the room. Grinning, Levitare wished that another person could be won over so easily.
Silently, the large man walked into the bedroom where the psychic still slept and placed the tray on the nightstand near the bed. But before he could wake the man for lunch, Levitare was startled when Teryan clutched at the sheets and made whimpering sounds as if in pain.
Abruptly, the sleeping man then yelled, "No Levitare, no! NO!"
After a stunned moment, Levitare leaned over and shook the young man. "Teryan! Wake up. You're dreaming."
Eyelids flew open, the grayness filled with raging emotions which Levitare hadn't imagined could exist in the cold eyes. But before the young lord had the chance to identify anything in the gray depths, Teryan closed his eyes while slowly sitting up in the bed. When he opened his eyes once more, the protective deadness was back in place as if nothing had occurred.
"Don't you ever have happy dreams?" Levitare asked with a hint of annoyance at the man's continued guarded state. Receiving no reply to the question, he sighed and picked up the tray to place it on the empty side of the bed within the psychic's reach.
Eyes downcast, Teryan took the pitcher from the tray and poured himself a glass of water, then sitting against the headboard to savor the cool liquid.
While ripping a chunk of bread off from a dark loaf, the redhead said, "It is such the joy talking to you. I can't decide between this and watching the grass grow."
Teryan glared back as if to encourage him that vegetation would be the less life threatening of the choices.
"I don't understand you. You are currently being pampered in the home of a Lord, in the very bedroom of the heir, and yet you fight all the way. Why can't you enjoy this for what it's worth?"
The gray eyes narrowed more if possible, the fortuneteller probably upset at learning that he had slept the night in Levitare's bed. Completely naked as well. The young lord couldn't help a chuckle at that thought.
Speaking in a cool tone, Teryan said, "As I told you earlier, I have to meet with my son. Just give me some clothes and I'll leave."
While taking his time chewing on the bread and some added cheese, the young lord smiled. "Why is it so urgent?"
The intense gaze wavered as small battle went on in the young man's head. Amused at the indecision of the psychic, Levitare plopped some grapes into his mouth as he waited for the other to decide how much to tell.
The choice was made with a sigh. "It is his birthing day in two days time."
"A-ah, and you promised to be there. Certainly fathers must never break their promises. Very well, you can go." Smirking, Levitare wasn't surprised by the fortuneteller's responding suspicious gaze, Teryan obviously waiting for the catch in his release. The young lord wasn't one to disappoint. "And I'm going with you."
"Yes. I'm not letting you travel alone in your condition."
"Don't you have more important things to do than play with me?"
"Hn, probably. But then again I haven't 'played' with you the way I'd like to," he said with a teasing smile.
"If you want to fuck me, then just do it and let me go."
Levitare stopped just before putting another grape into his mouth, his hazel eyes widening slightly at the young man's serious tone. "That's not funny."
Setting aside his glass and pushing the sheets out of the way, Teryan laid back fully onto the mattress and pillows, stretching out his naked form in a seductive way. "It's all you want of me, right? Take it."
Unconsciously, the young lord licked his lips at the sight of the lean body, but the gray eyes staring at him lifelessly kept his hunger at bay. He didn't want it like this. Though Teryan was making the offer, Levitare could tell that it was far from what the man wanted. Continuing to stare at the bared body, he noticed vague shivers of the lithe form, especially when his eyes lingered too long on the wrong parts. Levitare found it odd that he couldn't find it within himself to take advantage of the attractive man like this. Perhaps it was that damn prediction of their compatibility which made the young lord desire more than a meaningless fuck, or perhaps there was something more reasonable which kept the young lord from even touching the offered body. Either way, he simply didn't want it like this.
"It'll take more than that to get rid of me, little psychic." Smirking, Levitare finally popped the grape into his mouth as he stood up from the bed. "I suggest you eat up and get some rest. We're traveling come morning."
With a wink at the unresponsive man, Levitare left his quarters to prepare for the short trip.
~ > < ~
Just after the sun peeked over the mountains, Levitare entered the bedroom with a small bundle of clothing. He wasn't too surprised to find the fortuneteller already awake, the dark-haired man sitting rigidly against the headboard of the bed as he stared out the window.
"Good morn! Ready for our trip?"
Obvious by the cool gaze of gray eyes, Teryan was not pleased with the young lord, but he still thanked him respectfully for the clothes. Without shame, Levitare openly watched as the fortuneteller carefully dressed himself. The light gray shirt and black trousers were too big for the smaller man, the sleeves and pant legs needing to be rolled up to avoid annoyance.
"Sorry," the redheaded man said, his smile not apologetic in the least. "Of my old clothes, this was best I could do, and I won't have you wearing some servant's castoffs. Ah, there's something on the sleeve. Let me see it."
Before the psychic could respond, Levitare grabbed his left hand and made a show of looking closely at the sleeve. With his free hand, however, the redheaded man quickly produced an item from his front pocket and placed the thin shackle on the exposed wrist.
Startled, Teryan jerked away from the man, but the hand on his wrist was too strong. "What are you ?!"
With a wide smile, the young lord immediately placed the other shackle at the end of the chain onto his own right wrist before Teryan could break his hold. "Let's just say I had a premonition that you'd run away the first chance you got. Now, where are we off to?"
The pure iciness of the man's glare made a shiver pass through Levitare's spine, but the gray eyes were soon hidden beneath dark hair as Teryan bowed his head in defeat and spoke the name of a smaller city which was around a three-day trip by foot, easily two days by horseback.
From the young lord's chambers, the two men walked directly to the courtyard, Levitare moving with an easy stride as if nothing was out of the ordinary; meanwhile, the fortuneteller held his free hand to his face. Once outside, the redheaded man was please to see that both his favorite mare and another horse were prepared for the relatively short trip. In dark clothing as usual, Kashii held onto the leather reins while staring at their entrance with a raised eyebrow.
"My Lord, is that necessary?"
Levitare winked. "You doubt me?"
The older man let loose an ever-suffering sigh before he handed a set of reins to Levitare. With relative ease, he mounted his horse before offering a hand to Teryan. Though hesitating at first, the dark-haired man accepted the hand and was helped up onto the horse where he sat in front of the young lord. With an arm comfortably wrapped about the tense body, Levitare kicked the mare forward and headed for the entrance gates. Once mounted on the darker horse, Kashii quickly came up to the side of the mare, the older man's black eyes cautiously examining the fortuneteller with more curiosity than concern.
Whether from the lull of the ride or from the stubborn fever, Teryan eventually relaxed fully against the redhead, their bodies rubbing together with the swaying motion of the horse's walk. Fearing to ruin the moment, Levitare remained silent after several ruined attempts of conversation. His bodyguard would occasionally travel with the chain-bound riders, but for the most part, Kashii journeyed ahead as a lookout for suspicious persons or settings. As such, Levitare was allowed to enjoy the smaller man within his hold in relative peace.
It wasn't until midday when the three men stopped, the young lord forced to wake the sleeping man. Under the shade of thin trees, they shared some bread and cheese in a quick, but satisfying meal. As the psychic continued his angered silence, Levitare spoke with Kashii about the possibilities of thieves further south. Occasionally the young lord would glance at Teryan, hazel eyes narrowing in amusement at the fortuneteller's continued annoyance at discovering that he had slept against the larger man for most of the day. But the break didn't last long and eventually the threesome remounted their horses to continue their journey southeast.
After a time of riding, long after Kashii had moved far ahead to scout, Levitare broke the silence with his voice low and serious. "May I ask something?"
There was a soft 'hn' from Teryan, as if to say that he couldn't stop the young lord if he wanted to ask something, but an answer probably wouldn't follow. The dark-haired man was tense against Levitare once more, clearly determined to not show weakness in front the larger man again that day.
"Why didn't you know I'd put the shackle on you? If you could see the future, I imagine you would have avoided such a cheap trick."
There was a long pause during which Teryan remained silent, not even making a noise of agreement with the latter part of the statement, that using chains and shackles was indeed an almost cruel thing to do. But Levitare still could feel the desire within the fortuneteller to run at any moment, and he had no other choice if he wanted to keep the psychic safe. But yet again, it bothered him greatly that Teryan considered him a man from whom he needed to escape.
"As I told you before," came the soft voice, the first time since early that morning, "I don't dare attempt to see the whole future. There is no such thing as destiny. Instead, the future is made of an infinite number of paths which can be opened and closed within mere seconds depending on a person's recent decision. For me to glance at those possibilities for one person would strike me unconscious. To try and decipher each possible path would probably kill me."
Levitare smiled vaguely into the dark brown hair, pleased to be both learning something about the youthful man and listening to the voice which carried such soothing undertones.
"More importantly," Teryan surprisingly continued, "I have to directly focus on my power of sight. It would be too draining to constantly look at the near future, not to mention distracting. And even when I do simple readings, it's easier for me to concentration on a scrying item, like the glass ball I carry."
"Hmm. And you have lived with this power all of your life?"
The body stiffened and he said sharply, "No."
Levitare apologized softly, upset with himself for accidentally mentioning something which quickly ruined what could have been a decent talk between the two of them.
The rest of the ride that day ended the same with Teryan dozing against the young lord. Levitare was pleased with himself for deciding that they should ride double. There was no telling many times the fortuneteller would have fallen off a horse, and then of course, there was the added bonus of the lithe figure pressed against him most of the day. Teryan was awakened once they reached a campsite Kashii had found for the night. Once the fire was made and the water fetched, the elder guard immediately laid out on the ground to sleep, telling the young lord to wake him when the other two would turn in for the night.
Over dinner, Levitare decided to talk about his own life and family, though it wasn't nearly as fascinating as the fortuneteller's vague past. Teryan seemed mildly impressed with Levitare's war experience, perhaps surprised that the young lord did more than chase around attractive bedmates. After telling one of his favorite tales involving too much alcohol and an irate bull, the redheaded man was pleased to earn a vague smile out of the fortuneteller. Of course, it was at the expense of his humiliation, but it was well worth it.
Long after the sky had turned black and with Teryan's fifth yawn of the evening, Levitare decided that it was time for sleep. He woke up Kashii to watch over their meager camp, and he then removed a single large blanket from a pack.
"We are not sleeping together," the fortuneteller stated with renewed iciness, his body a deadweight on the chain still connecting them.
Levitare turned to him and lifted the man's chin to match their gazes. "But we already have, little psychic. Don't you remember calling out my name?"
The other's glare intensified, Teryan looking about ready to bite off a finger if given the chance.
"You are simply no fun," the young lord stated with an exaggerated pout. "But we are going to sleep together for tonight. I'm not releasing you at this point to have you run off in the middle of the night. And either way, the extra body heat should help you sleep soundly until morning."
He could practically hear the clenching teeth of the dark-haired man. "Fine, but just tonight."
~ > < ~
It wasn't until well into late afternoon of the following day when the first building came into sight, the large house being separated from the town by about a half mile. From their current distance, Levitare could see a small group of people in front of the building, but wasn't able to identify them. And at that point, Teryan made the redhead stop the horse.
"Please, get rid of this chain. Or do you wish to embarrass me further?"
Levitare wanted to point out how that wasn't the purpose of the shackle, but he held his tongue. Teryan seemed nervous and provoking him would have probably earned the young lord a shove off the horse. The shackle was removed and the fortuneteller immediately slipped off from the horse's back. Levitare dismounted as well and walked beside the smaller man while leading the mare.
As they moved closer to the large house, the sound of playing reached Levitare's ears, him then quickly identifying the people as children in some game involving a ball which popped up into the air every once and again. But that game abruptly stopped as a cry of "Father!" rang out. A boy of short, light brown hair dropped the ball without care of the game as he ran towards the travelers, the other children looking in their direction for several moments before restarting their play.
With a wide smile on his face, Teryan knelt down and held out his arms in wait for the running boy. Without slowing, the child rushed into the spread arms, toppling the both of them to the ground. The look of relief and happiness on the typically unreadable face made Levitare envious, but he was pleased to see that the man still held some emotion inside.
"I knew you'd make it, Father! You never miss my birthday. I was a little worried, but you're here." The boy jumped up from the ground and tugged on an arm. "Come on. There might be some cake left for you."
Levitare started laughing before he knew it. It was unbelievable to him that this ball of energy was the son of such a reserved man. At the sound, the boy turned as if first seeing the other man. The dark brown eyes scrunched in confusion and suspicion at the stranger, but then his expression quickly changed into one of surprise.
"Ah, are you Father's husband?"
At the unexpected question, Levitare's laughter went up a degree of intensity. He couldn't find the breath to answer the small boy.
"No, Angel. This is Lord Levitare of Maritav. He helped me to reach here in time for your birthing day." With the statement, a touch of iciness had returned to the man, but he still seemed relatively lighthearted with his son nearby.
The young boy blushed and bowed clumsily. "I'm sorry, my Lord. I--"
The redheaded man interrupted with a wave of his hand. "Don't worry, lad. And please, call me Levi. No formalities are needed."
"Alright!" he said as only a child could, not concerned in the least about societal rankings.
Sighing as he stood, Teryan took a small hand within his. "I need to speak with Sister Michaela first, and then we can go celebrate in the city."
As they walked to the large house, Levitare examined his two companions with a critical eye. They appeared more like brothers in appearance than father and son, although both cases were apparently true. Angel was older than Levitare had imagined, overhearing that it was the boy's sixth birthday, and the boy seemed intelligent despite what most direct inbreeding produced. Not for the first time, the young lord wondered what happened to result in such a child.
While Angel went to gather some of his clothes, Teryan spoke with an older woman who ran the orphanage, the dark-haired man thanking her for taking care of his son. The large purse of coins which Levitare had earlier returned to the fortuneteller was now passed onto the Sister of the Order without a sign of hesitation at giving up so much money. Though the Sister said the money wasn't necessary, she was clearly appreciative of the funding. Meanwhile, Levitare frowned at the thought of the fortuneteller giving away nearly all of his money.
"I'm ready, Father."
Near the entrance door, Angel stood happily with a small bundle of clothes, a leg of a stuffed animal sticking out from the mix. As per their tradition, the father and son were spending a few days in town away from the orphanage so that Teryan could learn about everything he had missed since his last visit. However, this year, they were to have an addition. The fortuneteller was annoyed at Levitare's insistence to stay with them, but Teryan eventually gave in knowing that he might not have made it in time if it weren't for the young lord.
By the time they checked into an inn, the sun was touching the horizon. After a warm dinner and much talking by the young boy, Levitare suggested that they should stay in for the night. In their room holding two beds, it was agreed that the father and son would share a bed while Levitare would sleep by his lonesome. Kashii had disappeared before they had reached the orphanage, but Levitare trusted the man to figure out his own sleeping arrangements. As he sat back in a chair near the window, Levitare listened to the young boy talk excitedly to his father. The redheaded man couldn't help but smile at the patient way the psychic sat there, looking at Angel with love and pride in the typically cold gray eyes.
Part way into the night, Levitare eventually placed a hand on the boy's shoulder to gain his attention. "Sorry to interrupt, Angel, but your father isn't feeling his best. I think he needs to wash up and get some sleep. You can continue tomorrow."
Teryan looked about to protest, but his son frowned at him. "You shouldn't push yourself so hard, Father. Go ahead and take a bath. I had one this morning."
The fight quickly drained from the fortuneteller by the youthful voice, and Teryan nodded wearily before standing from the bed to retrieve a complementary robe and towel for the bath. He opened the door to the hallway, but then turned around before leaving.
"Levitare. If you do anything to my son, I'll kill you."
The young lord put on his best innocent face, but the fortuneteller didn't seem to believe it. With a final glare, he left to the bathing room.
"Can I talk with you?"
The serious tone from the boy confused Levitare for a moment, but he then smiled and sat down on the bed opposing Angel. "Sure, lad. What's on your mind?"
"Do you think you could make Father happy?"
Resisting a laugh, he replied in an amused tone. "I'm rather afraid that I make him more upset than happy."
The dark eyes shifted briefly to the floor before the boy renewed eye contact. "Can I tell you a secret?"
"Well, you can tell me anything you want, but I don't know if I'm a guy you should trust. Your dad hasn't known me for a week and he could already tell you a few stories."
"Un, but he trusts you, so I can, too." The boy leaned towards Levitare. "I read minds."
Skepticism was the young lord's first reaction, but he then realized that since the boy's father appeared to have a gift, it wouldn't be too unlikely for the child to have strange powers as well. Either that, or the son simply wished to be special like his father.
Eyes rolled in annoyance. "We could play 'guess the number' games 'til morning, but I wanna to talk to you while Father is still away."
Hesitating, Levitare then nodded, deciding to give Angel the benefit of the doubt.
The boy concentrated on a spot on the floor. "Father … he loves me a lot, and that's why he leaves me at the orphanage. He has shown me the scars that cover his body. He told me that the people who wanted his power tried to force him to use it, but he doesn't want to do that. He said that he could handle the pain knowing it's better that way, but he could never stand me going through the same stuff. That's why I can't be with him and haveta stay here. Do you understand that?"
"Unfortunately, I do." Levitare thought about several of the people he knew personally who wouldn't hesitate to try and take such a power by any means necessary. Using a child as a hostage meant nothing for a greater gain. The young lord then turned his attention to the boy, looking at him intently as he realized that these weren't the words of a normal six-year-old boy. They were too focused and clear to the point. He wondered if the claim to read minds was true, that ability somehow forcing the child to mature faster than he naturally should.
"He loves you, too. That's why he pushes you away. He also feels dirty because of how I was brought into this world." Raising his eyes to meet the hazel gaze, Angel said in a slightly louder voice, "But I think you're strong. That you could help him. And make him happy."
"Forgive me for doubting you, lad, but why would he love me? My very presence makes him tense. I wish I could help, but--"
The boy shook his head. "I know he loves you, but I don't know why. I'm not sure but you get to him in some way. Like, other people can say something and it doesn't mean anything. But once you do, it's different. I don't really get it."
Levitare smirked in amusement. "Well, I have that effect on a lot of people. It's called being annoying."
The little nose scrunched a bit. "I don't think that's it."
After a brief pause, the lord young said, "I have a question for you - do you always read other people's thoughts?"
Angel shook his head fiercer than before. "That would be like sneaking into someone room and looking into drawers. I usually only pick up feelings and stuff. It's like Father's gift where I have to really focus to get details. And today, I looked deeper into Father. I felt he was in pain and I wanted to know if I could do anything..."
Levitare repressed a chuckle thinking that the only answer the boy could come up with was to look to him for help. He doubted Teryan would find it as amusing. Even so, he couldn't prevent his thoughts from returning to the fortune in which they were meant to be together. Perhaps there was some potential that he could ease the apparent pain of Teryan, but the fortuneteller obviously wanted none of that. In fact, the man fought almost too hard to make certain that no relationship could develop between them.
Looking at the child, a vague idea came to mind. "Angel, what is it that you wish to do when you get older?"
The boy seemed confused at the change in topic. "Eh? Um, I kinda want to be a knight. 'Cause that way I can protect Father." His smile was wide with childlike innocence.
Levitare returned the smile, pleased at the opportunity to force Teryan into returning to his city more often. "Then, what would you say to training to become a soldier? Many young nobles start at an early age to learn how to defend themselves. In fact, one of the best schools that I know of is close to my home."
The dark brown eyes opened wide along with his mouth, looking much like the child he was. "Can I? But, I don't have money and Father--"
"Don't worry yourself about the means or money. Being the future lord of the northern realms means I have many connections. I'm more than certain that I can get you into a decent school where you can learn to protect your father. What do you say?"
"Yes! Thank you!" He jumped between the beds to awkwardly hug the sitting man. "But Father has to approve first."
Though at first surprised by the sudden move by the young boy, Levitare found himself lightly returning the hug. "Of course you should have his permission. Teryan would have my head otherwise." But in his mind, Levitare was instantly displeased with himself for using the boy to get to the fortuneteller. Gently he lifted Angel to the floor. "Now, why don't you get ready for bed since your father should be back any moment."
As if called for, the door to the room opened as Teryan returned from his bath, the man looking refreshed, though his eyes were clearly tired. The fortuneteller seemed overly relieved that his boy had been unmolested, which Levitare pointed out was an offense against his nobility.
While the father and son prepared for bed, the young lord left the room to happily remove the travel dirt and sweat from his body. That, and to spend time in peace to mull over the past few days in his head.
When he returned from his bath, the other two were fast asleep, Teryan hugging the small boy tightly. For a long while, Levitare sat on his bed and simply watched the two peaceful figures as only their breaths and the occasional shout from the bar downstairs broke the silence of night. His thoughts traveled back to the night before when he had slept with the reluctant fortuneteller trapped in his arms. For the first time he could remember, it felt fulfilling to simply hold a person without the need for sex. Once during the night, Levitare had wakened from the violent shivers of the fortuneteller, quakes which faded away rapidly when the young lord spoke in a low voice to the sleeping man and held him tightly. But just as sleep was about to retake him, Levitare had heard a whisper of his name. Carefully he had lifted to look at the sleeping face and, for long moments, stared stunned at the trail of tears which glimmered in the moonlight.
Sighing at that memory, Levitare once again focused on the bed next to him. At that point during night previous, he truly felt that he could love this man who would cry for him. But now looking at the sleeping form, he realized that the main question was whether or not Teryan would let him.