Unexpected ReunionBy Elmina
The word about the army leader's return had already reached the castle and by the time Riou's group reached the gates, dozens of people had gathered there. Riou had been away for about a week to check that everything was all right in the area and had managed to find an interesting new recruit while visiting Banner Village.
Tir McDohl moved to the back of the group when seeing the commotion, but Riou just rolled his eyes. He was apparently a little uncomfortable when it came to all the attention, but he was also obviously good at handling it. The other boy could sympathize, of course.
Once inside the gates, Riou stopped and waited for the rest of the group to follow him in. "Well, this is it. Northwind Castle, our headquarters. I guess we should go meet Shu..."
McDohl just nodded. The other boy had explained something about the strategist while they had been staying in Banner Village after the incident with Kou; this Shu was a student of Mathiu's. McDohl was quite sure Riou knew more than he did by now, because Gremio had babbled enough to fill Riou in on the matter. He wondered what this Shu person thought of Mathiu now. The Silverberg had been his strategist and had died for their cause, after all.
He watched as Riou thanked his bodyguards - a couple of knights and a young lady who was skilled with throwing knives - plus Nanami of course, but she wasn't about to leave the boy. She was, from what Tir had understood, Riou's older sister, and practically stalked him. McDohl involuntarily glanced at the girl and smiled slightly. She and Gremio had already managed to have a long conversation about army leaders needing proper rest while the whole group had been in Gregminster, and he was suddenly very glad he had made Gremio stay home.
"Sir McDohl?" Riou asked, returning him to reality. "Shall we?"
"Right." He nodded again, and then stepped closer to Riou. "Uh, and, please don't call me that. Just McDohl will do, or Tir. Anything but 'sir'."
Riou smiled. "Oh, I understand. I'm... Um. Nanami...?"
The brunette girl, who had been ordering people to make way for their great leader, spun around. "What? We're supposed to go see Shu, right? Why are you still standing there, then?" She then promptly dragged her brother along, and Tir followed the two, slightly amused.
The meeting with the strategist was an uneventful one. Shu inquired about some details mostly regarding the Toran Liberation Wars and what the boy had been doing lately. McDohl answered with few words, not feeling talkative. Riou's tactician was a little different compared to Mathiu, but he seemed to be skilled.
There was something going on outside the meeting room, and Nanami went to yell at the people there. McDohl didn't think anything of it - until several people entered the room, all of whom he recognized. Humprey, Futch, Apple, Hix, Tengaar, Tai Ho, Yam Koo, Stallion, Viki - and Viktor and Flik.
"Hey, Riou!" Viktor called out with a big grin. "So how long were you thinking of keeping this a secret? Not working too well you know. You should know we were all in the Toran Liberation Army, and quite eager to see someone who's been missing for a couple of years!"
Riou looked apologetic. "I wasn't...! Ah, right. Tir? Looks like some old friends came to see you."
McDohl didn't really pay attention; he was too busy staring at a couple of men he'd thought were dead.
It was getting late, but sleeping seemed to be impossible tonight. Tir stared at the ceiling of the room he had been given, thinking about the day's events.
It was nice to see the familiar faces. They had all greeted him and talked a little, and he had learned there were actually more people from the Toran Liberation Army here though he had not seen them yet, and after he had learned who, he wasn't too surprised.
Everyone had been curious about where he had been the last few years and why he had just left without a word. It was not like he could give a straight answer, but he had the feeling they knew even without getting one.
He sighed and closed his eyes. At least he had expected to possibly see the others one day... But Viktor and Flik? He had thought the two were dead! Yet here they were, perfectly healthy and quite alive. He was relieved, but there was something else in the back of his mind. Flik was here. His heart had been beating quite fast when he had seen the man, and old feelings he had almost forgotten came rushing to the surface.
It has been years, but he remembered falling for the man. After all that had happened, Flik had eventually learned to trust him. They had also shared a bed a few times, though Tir wasn't so sure if Flik had actually ever been sober during it. That didn't change his feelings, especially not now.
He had been worried during his travels. Gremio had always said that both Viktor and Flik were simply too tough-skinned and wouldn't go down that easily, but even so, McDohl had been worried; worried enough to lose sleep over the matter. Staying up and wondering if the two had survived, if Flik was still alive... Alive, so he could one day tell the man what he felt.
Flik was alive.
It was such a huge relief, but suddenly he felt insecure. He wanted to talk to the man, to tell him... But what if deep down, Flik held something against him because of what had happened to Odessa?
He opened his eyes and raised his hand, staring at the rune on the back. Odessa was dead, but not because of him. Dead because of the rune perhaps, but so were his father and Ted. Gremio wasn't, which was a miracle. The power of the 108 Stars... He had to wonder what Riou would accomplish should he be able to gather all the stars together. There were old faces, and there were a lot of new faces. War... History seemed to repeat itself, and no one could be blamed for it.
Slowly, he sat up and looked at the floor. He only wished he'd have a chance to talk to Flik; ask how he felt about what had happened, and maybe... Well, it was best not to hope for anything. He had no idea what Flik thought about him now, after all.
He stood up and walked to the window. The night seemed to be pleasant, like one of those nights back in Gregminster before the war; back when his life had not been so complicated. But then, if it were not for the war, he had never met all those people who fought with him - Flik included. Fate was such a curious thing.
I need to stop thinking about this, he told himself and turned around. Thinking about the war tended not to end well because there were so many things that saddened him. It was best to look ahead; think about what he could do to help Riou. The boy was, after all, in the same situation he had once been.
He glanced back and decided the weather was nice enough for a late evening walk. Besides, chances were that not many people around here knew who he was, and he would be left alone.
He was right - a couple of guards nodded to him as he made his way outside, but they didn't seem to recognize him as anyone important. That was good; McDohl didn't like to think of himself as important anymore. He had, after all, run from his would-be duties in the end of the Toran Liberation Wars.
There was a nice evening breeze coming from the lake, and he stopped by the door and just enjoyed it for a moment. He then headed across the mostly-empty road and stopped under a tree on the other side. The castle seemed to be quite comfortable, very suitable to be resistance army headquarters.
There was a shopping street on one side; he walked over, curious. Armor and weapon shops, and a rune shop… The place may have been a castle, but it also seemed to act like a small town. He walked forward and noticed a sign for the baths and decided to stop by there later, maybe early in the morning when it was mostly empty.
He wandered back to the other side of the street. There was some noise from the direction of the tavern, and he hid behind a few bushes since he didn't really need any company right now. A couple of soldiers were talking, and then Viktor showed up outside and talked to them for a moment before the soldiers headed off. McDohl couldn't keep a hint of a smile from his face; that was good old Viktor all right.
Viktor was about to return inside when Flik came out and exchanged a few words with him, and McDohl found his eyes lingering on the blue-cloaked man. Viktor patted Flik on the shoulder and commented about him maybe having a few too much to drink, then vanished inside the tavern as Flik walked away from the doorway. He wandered over to the other side of the street then stopped and looked up, and McDohl held his breath for what seemed like eternity before he dared to step out of hiding.
"Flik?" He called quietly, suddenly a little scared that the man wouldn't want to talk to him. No, he couldn't afford feeling that way, he decided. It was too late to back away now, and he had to admit there was no reason to be thinking this way. There was just something about Flik that made him insecure like this... Was it those old feelings, perhaps?
Flik heard him, turned and smiled at him. "Hey, look who's here. Stopped hiding in your room?"
"What's that supposed to-" McDohl started then caught himself. "Yeah."
"Really now, I'm sure everyone from the Liberation Army would like to talk to you more," Flik told him. "All right, I'm sure they'll get their chance if you'll be staying for a while, but still. Viktor always told you to be more sociable, eh? Just go talk to your former men! They'd like that."
McDohl took a deep breath. Flik seemed a little more talkative than usual, but then again, the man had been spending his evening in the tavern. "Would you?"
"What, of course!" Flik replied. He was about to say something else but McDohl decided that it was just better to take action, and he grabbed Flik's hand and drew him along, leading him inside the castle. He really needed to talk to Flik, somewhere private preferred. The first place he could think of was his room, and that was where he took the swordsman. At least Flik chose not to ask anything and just followed.
Once there, McDohl closed the door. "So, Flik. I..." He started but suddenly didn't know what he wanted to say. Starting from one of the million questions he had sounded like a good idea.
"Well," Flik said. He glanced out of the window then leaned his back on the windowsill and looked at his companion. "Looks like they gave you one of the better rooms then! I'm not that surprised though; Lord Riou surely knows how valuable an ally you are."
"I guess," McDohl replied. He sat on the bed, going through all the questions in his mind. He had to start from somewhere but nothing seemed to be a good one to start with. "You and Viktor seem to be doing well," he then said. "Mercenaries now and all."
Flik nodded. "You know Viktor. Hard-headed and surprisingly good at staying in one piece."
"I thought you two were..." McDohl said quietly. "After that battle in the garden, when you stayed behind to slow down the empire guards..." He closed his eyes for a moment before looking at the other man. "Why didn't you let anyone know you were still alive? People were worried! And I was... I was worried about you. I wanted to believe you were alive. Gremio said you surely were, but... I was worried!"
"Hey, hey," Flik said. "What's with you all of a sudden? Come on, it was not that bad, was it? You know me and Viktor, we just ended up..."
"I was worried," McDohl repeated and gave Flik a quick glare. "You didn't think anyone would be? You and Viktor indeed, you're both... idiots." It was not like him to ramble like that, but this was something he really needed to say. "It's been a few years, you were in this area, and yet...!"
"Ouch," Flik said, sounding apologetic. "I know, maybe we should have, but... Hey, it's not like you were much better, vanishing off into the night."
"At least everyone knew I was still alive," McDohl replied. "And Gremio was with me. Doesn't really compare."
"Well I do admit Gremio does take care of things quite a lot better than Viktor does," Flik said with an innocent grin on his face. "Yeah, they knew you were alive and safe; they also knew why you left. Me and Viktor, we... Didn't exactly plan anything, you know. Everything just happened as it did."
"And I was worried," McDohl mumbled and looked down.
Flik walked over to where the boy was and knelt down in front of him. "All right, I... I'm sorry? Truly, we didn't plan on not telling anyone, it just... ended up like this. I was... Did you...?" He raised a hand and lifted McDohl's chin up so he could see the boy's face. "I'm sorry. Believe me, I am."
Tir looked at him. He had said too much already and didn't really want to mess things up more. Flik was being honest, at least, but it didn't seem like he had any idea of what was really going on. He gulped as his heart was beating so fast that it almost hurt. "I..."
"Come on now," Flik said and patted the younger man's shoulder. "Cheer up, great leader? Viktor also always told you that, didn't he?"
McDohl nodded and then shook his head. "But I'm no great leader anymore, and this has nothing to do with Viktor." He lowered his face, closed his eyes and sighed. "I just..."
Flik lifted the boy's chin up again. "Hey, come on now. That depressed look really never did suit you."
There was a moment of silence, then McDohl grabbed Flik by the collar and drew him closer for a kiss. It took Flik by surprise, but he didn't resist; instead, he answered to the kiss before moving away from it and looking at Tir. "Lord McDohl... You...?"
"You could at least call me by my first name," McDohl mumbled. Flik had never done so; no one in Toran Liberation Army had, really. Gremio and the others would always call him 'Young Master' and most of the army members had called him 'Lord McDohl' or something similar.
"Know how long I've wanted to do that?" He then said. "I was just... Afraid that you were dead. That I'd never..."
Flik opened his mouth to say something, but he then just wrapped his arms around the boy and stayed silent. There wasn't anything he could've said right now; Tir was right, and he had apologized already. All he could do was hold McDohl and hope he would be forgiven.
A minute or so passed then McDohl drew away from the older man's arms. He took Flik's hands into his own and lay down on the bed, effectively dragging Flik up from the floor and partly on top of himself. He looked at Flik and smiled then closed his eyes.
"Tir? Are you..." Flik asked quietly. "Well, feeling better now?"
"Yeah," the boy replied. "I just like having you close to me, that's all."
Flik stared at him for a moment then smiled back. "Oh, that's good." He got up from the floor and lay down next to McDohl. He had to admit, this was rather nice; just relaxing and being close to someone, especially someone he cared for very much.
McDohl moved a little and the next thing he knew, the boy was on top of him, with a slightly mischievous smile on his face. He then proceeded to kiss Flik again while he started to work on removing the man's cloak, and it took Flik a little too long to catch on.
"H-hey!" He resisted. "Do you know what you're doing?" Tir nodded to him, and he tilted his head slightly. "Sure about it? I mean..." He put on an innocent grin and raised his hand to McDohl's face. "I don't exactly have any objections, but, uh, we'd need..."
"Gremio gave me a bottle of cooking oil," McDohl replied, a hint of embarrassment in his voice. "He was.... worried that we might end up in the middle of nowhere and wouldn't have any when trying to make food and you know Gremio."
Flik smirked. "Good old Gremio. Now then..." He drew the boy down for a kiss then moved away and put out the flame of the small lantern that was on the table near the bed. He then lay down again, drew the boy closer and started working on both of their clothes. McDohl just grinned and helped, and soon they were both more or less naked. The boy then got up for a moment to get the aforementioned cooking oil - and to drag closer a half-filled washbasin.
"We'll need that, eh?" McDohl asked, feeling a little silly about the whole deal. At least it was dark and he didn't have to be ashamed of being naked - not that Flik hadn't seen him naked before.
"Yeah, well, later," Flik replied and held out his hand. "Come here now..."
Tir returned to bed and lay down next to Flik. He smiled at the man and crawled close enough for another kiss then searched for the man's hands. He curled up next to Flik for a moment before poking him on the side. "You could, like..."
"Well, we're not going to get anywhere if I just lie here, hmm?" Flik said with a slight grin. He moved to lie on his side and drew his right hand from the boy's hold and let it wander down McDohl's body. He then stopped at the boy's crotch area for a moment. "Not that I'd need to do much down here..."
Tir grinned back and pressed himself against the older man's body. "Not like you needed much, either."
"Uh," Flik replied. "You're pretty good at kissing, and... Oh whatever, just give me that oil."
McDohl handed him the small bottle, and Flik opened it and spread some of the contents on his hand before applying it on the places where it was needed. "So... now what?"
"I'm guessing you were totally drunk last time we did this, then?" McDohl asked and pushed him down on the bed again. Flik laughed but didn't resist as the boy climbed on top of him. "Don't worry, I'm good at doing it this way."
"That's good to know. I guess I'm not that drunk tonight then, which is, yes, a very good thing," Flik said, suddenly forced to grit his teeth as Tir wriggled around a little then settled down, slowly taking Flik inside. He mumbled something and then just settled for lying on his back, letting the boy do what he wanted. It was probably better that way, considering the circumstances - that, and McDohl was right and he hadn't exactly been sober the last time he remembered possibly doing anything with another man.
Tir did know what he was doing, that much was certain. The whole act was over sooner than either of them wanted, but it didn't matter at this point. They could always enjoy each other's closeness later, now that McDohl was here.
"Flik," the boy whispered as he got out of the bed to clean himself. "Thank you."
"For what? You did most of the work, and I'm... kind of not used to this that much."
"Not that!" McDohl replied in an annoyed tone of voice, though it was clear he was actually amused, not annoyed. "For just... being here."
"Oh... all right. I think I'll just..." Flik blinked a couple of time and then let his eyes close. "Rest for a while now... Can talk more... in the morning..."
McDohl didn't reply to that. He washed himself quickly and then crawled next to the man and yawned. Flik was asleep already, and he smiled as he drew a blanket over them both. They could talk more in the morning, indeed, and he would be more than happy to do that.
Flik was alive, and though he wasn't so sure if Flik understood just how much he cared for him, the fact that he was here was all Tir cared about right now.