if we cannot see

“Are you sure about this?” Matthew said. He cupped Emrys’s cheeks and looked into his eyes. Emrys just smiled at him. He seemed so confident. How could he be so self-assured about this?

Emrys took his hand and kissed them. “I’ve thought about this for a long time, Matthew,” he said, his voice soft. He shook his head. “I don’t see any other options. I know you can’t be truly happy separated from your brother. I know I can’t be truly happy separated from you…”

“But, what about your brother?” Matthew whispered.

Shaking his head, Emrys said, “I can be happy with merely writing to him – calling him. You’re so much closer to your brother than I am to Tristan.” A wistful smile touched his lips and he added, “Besides, I think Tristan needs his space now.”

Matthew chewed his lip for a moment. He blinked when Emrys touched his chin.

As their eyes met again, Emrys asked, “If we can’t see any other option, then, what else can we do?” He kissed Matthew on the cheek. “This is right, little bird. It’s right for both of us.”

inevitability

Matthew could tell what Emrys was planning. The moment he’d finally verbalized the matter that had been weighing so heavily on his thoughts, Matthew knew that things would come to a head.

He was sitting in their room, staring down at the courtyard, when it happened. It started off as a simple conversation between Emrys and his brother. Now, it was a heated argument. Their words floated up to Matthew’s ears and he frowned.

“You’re not thinking straight,” Tristan accused. “He’s nothing! And you’d give up all that you have here for him?”

Emrys stared at Tristan for a moment. Then, he shook his head and said something that Matthew couldn’t hear. Shoving Tristan out of the way, Emrys ran back inside their house. Matthew sighed and slipped out of the window seat. He knew what Emrys was planning. Part of him wanted it, but he was worried. Could Emrys be happy on Shynia?

Only a mighty sadness fills

Emrys had been thinking about Matthew for a while. He was content, he said. However, Emrys wanted him to be more than content. Emrys wanted him to be happy. He’d been trying to decide how he could do that. What could he do for Matthew that would allow the young man to be happy, without losing his own source of joy?

Now, as Matthew rubbed his shoulders, he was still considering the matter. He still hadn’t found the answer.

“You’re so quiet,” Matthew said, his voice soft.

Sighing, Emrys covered one of Matthew’s hands with his own. “I’m thinking,” he said, his voice soft. “You… want to go home. You can’t ever be happy here – not really.”

Matthew’s voice was barely audible as he said, “You… want for me to be happy?”

Emrys nodded. “But… I can’t let you go,” he admitted. He looked over his shoulder at Matthew and added, “If I did that, then I’d be the one that was unhappy.”

Some work from sun to sun…

The door chimed. Matthew groaned. He rolled over and looked at the time. It was two o’clock in the morning! He’d gotten an hour of sleep. “Coming,” he called, barely keeping the frustration out of his voice.

The door opened to reveal the captain. Kit was holding his son, who was crying. He grimaced. “He fell out of bed,” he said. He sighed. “Could you…” he trailed off. “Sorry for waking you, but, from the way he was crying…”

Parents and doctors had no time to sleep, it seemed. “Did you bump your head, Isaac?” Matthew said, his tone gentle.

It’s just living by your own rules

Since aiding in his brother’s escape, Matthew had been on his best behavior. At first, he’d had no choice in the matter. Now, though, he had relaxed. His brother was safely away from Tristan. He could handle being under Emrys’s control. They’d settled into a comfortable balance. So long as he obeyed the commands Emrys gave him, he lived in relative peace.

He was leaned back against Emrys, now, as they stared out at the setting sun. Emrys smoothed his hair gently. It was longer now that Matthew was comfortable with, but Emrys seemed to like it. “I still can’t figure you out,” Emrys murmured into his ear. “You fought to help your brother get free and now… you seem content to remain with me. Don’t you long to be free?”

“I’m as free here as I ever was at home,” Matthew said, shrugging. No matter where he’d lived, he’d had to live by someone else’s rules. It was just a matter of whose rules it was. At home, it had been the Agency’s rules. Here, it was Emrys who made the rules. The only way he’d ever truly be free would be if he could make his own decisions.

He tilted his head thoughtfully. “You don’t abuse me or force me to do things I don’t wish to do. I have… everything I need. I miss my home, but… content is the word for it.”

“How could I make you happy?” Emrys breathed. He kissed Matthew’s hair gently and said, “What would it take to make you happy, rather than simply content?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Matthew said. He chuckled and shook his head. “It was simple for Andrew. He didn’t just miss our home – he had this need to go back there. I… I miss Andrew. I think, if I could still have in my life, I’d be happy.” He looked over his shoulder and added, “Andy would be miserable, though. So, I’ll settle for content.”

Emrys frowned at him for a moment. Then, he nodded. “Fair enough,” he said, his voice soft. However, there was something in Emrys’s expression, a sort of thoughtfulness that Matthew couldn’t quite figure out.

Frowning slightly, Matthew turned away and settled his head on Emrys’s chest. He couldn’t help wondering what that expression might mean. Just what was Emrys plotting now?

He Shines Through

Matthew had known that, once Emrys felt he was well enough, he would be punished. He’d never actually expected to be bound by an even more potent spell that the one that had initially been used. The effect of the spell was hard to endure.

He sat quietly by the window, staring out at the scenery. He wasn’t watching the scenery for the same reason that he used to, however. It was because he couldn’t do anything without Emrys giving his express permission. Emrys had left him here, so here was where he would remain.

That wouldn’t be so terrible, except that the spell only affected him physically. His mind was fully engaged. He was fully aware of being completely still in the window seat. He had been like this every day for a week. He flicked his gaze up to the sky and prayed for strength and deliverance.

As he finished the prayer, he heard the door of the room open. Normally, he would have turned to see who it was. That was, of course, impossible now. As hands settled on his shoulders, he closed his eyes. Before the other could speak, he knew it was Emrys.

“Have you learned your lesson?” Emrys whispered.

Matthew sighed. “Yes, Master,” he said, his voice every bit as soft as the other’s voice had been. He looked at Emrys through the side of his eye.

“That spark is still there,” Emrys said, as he sidestepped to look into Matthew’s face properly. “Even now, you’re still defiant. How is that possible?”

Matthew blinked and looked down. “It’s… not defiance,” he said. What was it, then? He scowled and then murmured, “It’s hope and faith.” In his heart, he knew that God would protect him and, in due time, save him from Emrys’s hands.

Emrys nodded slightly. “I release you from the second binding,” he said. He set his hands on Matthew’s cheeks and kissed his forehead. As he turned and walked away, he added, “Stay out of trouble, my little bird.”

A faint smile touched Matthew’s lips. A few months ago, he would have stayed in the window, staring out at the scenery after such a meeting. However, things were different now. Instead of staying in the window, he bounced to his feet and slipped out of the room, heading for the enclosed garden where he used to meet with Andrew.

As there is light

Matthew rolled over and smiled faintly. The sun was shining through the window of his room to fall on his face. He sighed softly and sat up. His recovery had been slow, but he was strong enough now that he thought he might be able to get out of bed.

He slipped off the bed and pulled on a robe as he padded over to a mirror. He settled his glasses on his face to get a good look at himself. He was pale and, clearly, still recovering. However, there was a light in his eyes. Emrys had commented a few days before how that light had been gone.

He heard the door open behind him and turned to face Emrys. He nodded his head politely, but he didn’t drop his gaze. “Master,” he said, his voice soft.

Emrys’s eyebrows rose towards his hairline. He stepped over to Matthew and caught his chin with one hand. As their eyes met, Emrys smiled. “There’s the light that first caught my attention,” he breathed. He kissed Matthew lightly on the cheek.

As he pulled away, he caught Matthew by the hand. “You’re well enough, I think,” he said. “You’ll remain in my quarters for now. When I decide you’re fully recovered, we’ll decide on a fitting punishment for what you’ve done.”

“Which I will gladly accept,” Matthew murmured. The words earned him a look between a glare and a smile. That light – that spark of tenacity had returned. If Matthew had anything to say about it, it would never be gone again.

The important things are usually the heaviest burdens

Matthew was drifting. He could hear people speaking softly, somewhere nearby and, as he strained to make out the words, he began to notice sensations. He could feel soft, cool satin under his body. He could feel soft, warm cotton covering him. He could feel something around his throat, like a collar. He could hear soft, weak breaths – his own, he knew.

“I expect him to wake soon,” one of the voices was saying. “We’ll know in the next day or so just how completely he will recover.”

“Thank you, doctor.” That was Emrys. There was concern in his voice. He honestly cared about Matthew’s welfare. Somehow, knowing that, made him feel better.

He felt someone touch his hand. “I don’t know if you can hear me,” Emrys said, his voice soft. “I thought you should know… Andrew got away. As far as we can tell, he made it back to Loyalia. He’s beyond our reach. I hope… I hope it was worth it, my little bird.”

“It was,” Matthew breathed. He forced his eyes open. He could just make out the blurry form of his master. He smiled and shook his head. “I… know that I’ve lost what… freedom I had,” he said. “It was worth it.”

Emrys leaned close, so that Matthew could see him clearly. “I think you’re a fool,” he said. Then, he kissed Matthew’s forehead. Sitting back, he added, “But, you’re my fool and… I guess I’ll just have to accept what you say.”

Matthew’s eyes closed again. “Tired,” he managed.

“Rest,” Emrys said. “When you’ve recovered… well, we’ll decide what to do with you then, won’t we? Until then, you’ll remain here.”

Then, Matthew was sleeping. He wasn’t drifting, not the way he had been when he’d been unconscious. Now, he was floating, as he slipped into a deep and healing slumber.

There Are Things Which You Won’t Understand

Matthew couldn’t move. He tried to sit up, but he was too weak. He coughed and he could taste the salty tang of blood on his tongue. A low moan escaped him and he squeezed his eyes shut.

Someone touched his shoulder and he forced his eyes open. “E-Emrys,” he breathed. Tears welled in his eyes. “An-Andy?”

“He escaped,” Emrys said. He rolled Matthew over and held him, while a healer began tending to the wound across his chest. “Why, Matthew? Why would you…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “You might die! What could have possessed you to fight now, after all this time?”

Matthew smiled and shook his head. “I… can’t explain it to you,” he breathed. At least, not in a way that Emrys would ever understand. Sighing, Matthew closed his eyes. If he died, at least Andrew was safe and he would finally be free. If he lived…

Careful

Matthew peered around the corner of the doorway and bit his lip. Stepping into the room, he said, “Andy?”

Andrew whirled away from the window. His cheeks flushed with color when he saw who it was. “M-Mattie,” he breathed. He ducked his head and fussed at the hem of his robes, which were identical to the ones his brother wore.

Before he could say anything more, Matthew bounded forward and caught him in an embrace. “Are you all right?” he asked, not pulling away.

“Yeah,” Andrew said, closing his eyes. He sighed and set his head on Matthew’s shoulder. “What about you? Are you all right?”

Matthew pulled away and then smiled. “Emrys and I have an arrangement,” he said, nodding. He dropped his gaze and added, “So long as I remain within the boundaries he’s set forth for me, I’m allowed a certain amount of latitude.”

“Are – are you allowed to see me?” Andrew said, his brows furrowed. He bit his lip and glanced around. Then, looking back at his brother, he added, “Is that within your boundaries?”

“Technically… I’m supposed to ask permission,” Matthew said. He tilted his head and caught Andrew’s gaze. “I wanted to see you, though. I needed to make sure that – that Tristan wasn’t… hurting you.”

“I’m fine,” Andrew said. He hugged Matthew and said, “You should get back to your chambers. I – I don’t want you to get into trouble on my account, Mattie.”

Nodding, Matthew pulled away. He glanced at Andrew and said, “Take care of yourself, Andy.”

“You too.”

Matthew flashed a sunny smile at his brother; then he slipped away, heading back towards his own room. He had figured out how far he could push before Emrys felt the need to punish him. He just had to be careful not to cross that invisible line.

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