Izdahl had yet to speak. He was only staring at Armando. He waited until he could see unmistakable discomfort from the architect, as Armando fidgeted under his blistering gaze.
“Why are you still in my house?” Izdahl finally asked. “Did I tell you that you had time to gather your things?”
“I…I’m sorry. I just…” Armando faltered, chilled by the derision in Izdahl’s eyes.
“Surely you’ll be leaving soon. After all, this is the home of someone who you find to be cold. Therefore, I can understand if you find it unworthy of your presence.”
His pride now controlling his actions, Armando became belligerent.
“Well, I was finishing a few matters before I left,” he responded, tilting his chin up stubbornly. “I’ll be on my way now. If you don’t mind, I’ll come back later this week to get the rest of my things.”
“Oh no.” Izdahl shook his head slowly. “I wouldn’t want you to bother yourself by entering my house again. I’ll have your belongings delivered to wherever you want them.”
“Then please bring them to my house,” Armando said quietly.
“I might…” Izdahl responded. Then, his voice began to rise, as he continued to speak. “Or I could have them thrown over the cliff near the Ymir Briger. You can just bounce yourself off the fucking edge again, as you scramble to get them. Someone else can spend weeks hovering over you, worrying about you, as you lay in another coma! Would you like me to do that? Because I certainly want to deserve the label of ‘cold,’ Armando!”
Armando’s earlier belligerence now disappeared. The more he listened to Izdahl, the more he could hear the layers of intense pain beneath the anger.
“Is that what you want?” Izdahl bellowed. “Is that cold enough for you?”
In his anger, he’d started morphing into his other Nitelge form. The architect watched as Izdahl wrestled with his emotions, trying to restrain them. Some of the evidence of that battle was in how Izdahl’s cuspids lengthened, retracted and repeated the process. His skin had begun to change to dark blue. His wings were coming out, close to being completely extended.
The top halves of his irises were now silver, the bottom halves blue. The dark luster of his pupils showed the depth of his anger and his pain. His breathing had become heavy as he tried to control himself, ultimately not wanting to hurt his lover.
“I don’t want us to be like this,” Armando told him. He closed the distance between the two of them, pulling Izdahl to him for a tight hug.
“How could you say that to me, ‘Mando?” Izdahl asked, his voice heavy with sorrow. “Why did you treat me that way?”
“I was wrong. Love, I’m sorry.”
Those words from Armando stopped Izdahl’s transformation, the sincerity of them soothing him.
“Do you really think I’m cold?” Izdahl asked softly.
“No, especially not after that display.” Armando laughed, causing Izdahl to smile. “Look, I was furious and the angrier I became, the less you seemed to care. I appreciate it when you’re reserved but sometimes, you just have to let go.”
“I thought that you’d know me better by now. There’s no way I could have just sat there and not felt anything. I was trying not to escalate the situation.”
“And that only makes me feel more like an idiot. Lately, I don’t understand myself. It’s as if I’m two different people sometimes.”
“What am I going to do with you?” Izdahl asked, shaking his head and sighing.
As if to supply him with an answer, Armando slipped his tongue into Izdahl’s mouth. He walked backwards, guiding Izdahl towards the bed, as they kissed. They fell onto the bed, undressing each other and kissing each bit of skin that was revealed. Izdahl slid one hand down to Armando’s crotch, feeling the warm thickness of his lover’s cock.
“It’s been a while but this seems slightly familiar,” Izdahl teased. “I should warn you; I won’t go easy on you tonight.”
“Oh, I see. You’re going to send me into another coma, are you?” Armando laughed when Izdahl flinched. “Forgive me. It might be too early to make those kinds of jokes.”
“Don’t be difficult,” Izdahl chided him.
“Truly, you wouldn’t have me act any other way,” Armando responded, facetiously.
Izdahl smiled, encouraged by his lover’s playfulness. This time was unlike all the others over the previous month when he’d tried but failed to arouse Armando. Now, the nonverbal and verbal messages were completely different. Armando wanted him as much as he wanted the architect.
Izdahl made his way down Armando’s stomach. The architect groaned when Izdahl bit the tip of his cock. Izdahl sucked slowly, drawing the pearl droplets of pre-cum out of his lover and savoring the taste. Armando let out a long shuddering breath and raised his hips slightly, encouraging him.
He listened to the sounds of Izdahl sucking on him, reveling in the enthusiasm of his lover. He grunted and pressed Izdahl’s head even lower, grinding Izdahl’s face into his crotch. Armando moaned as Izdahl took him deep into the back of his throat. Then, Izdahl slowly worked his way back up the length of Armando’s cock, focusing on the extremely sensitive rim of it. That action quickly caused Armando to come, surprising Izdahl as the architect’s thick fluids filled his mouth. Izdahl eagerly swallowed the reward for his feverish work.
“I didn’t really think you could hold out for long,” Izdahl stated, feeling quite smug.
“Don’t feel too self-satisfied,” Armando told him. “Your work isn’t done. Come inside me.”
Izdahl obliged, preparing Armando and then slowly pushing into him. Then, when merely an inch of his cock had entered Armando, he suddenly stopped.
“Why aren’t you moving?” Armando groaned, his need clear in the anguished expression on his face.
“Let’s take our time.”
Armando gave a frustrated grunt. He firmly took hold of Izdahl’s rear and pulled his lover completely inside of him. They both let out a satisfied gasp.
“You’re in so deep,” Armando groaned out.
Izdahl nuzzled the base of his neck and began to move at an agonizingly slow pace. As much as he wanted to rush, he forced himself not to do so. He wanted to reinforce one thing; they had all the time together that they’d ever desired.
“Should we change positions?” Izdahl asked. “Should I take you from behind?”
“No, let’s stay this way.”
Izdahl obliged and then also increased the force of his thrusts at Armando’s request. Soon, he noticed the first set of telltale signs that Armando was going to have a release; there were the deep shuddering breaths and groans. Each detail was gratifying for Izdahl and he wanted to have a more complete view of his lover’s body, as Armando prepared to let go for the second time that night.
Still remaining inside Armando, Izdahl pulled back from him enough to be able to encircle his cock with his hands. Then he began pumping Armando masterfully.
Using his ability to wield fire, he began to slowly raise the temperature of his body, also causing Armando to heat up.
“What’s going on?” Armando asked, feeling slightly bewildered. “Why am I so hot?”
“Yes, why are you so hot?” Izdahl teased. He raised the temperature even more, pulling his lover into a heated cocoon of pleasure.
Even if he had wanted to do so, the architect couldn’t prevent himself from coming. Izdahl’s movements were too intense and effective. When Armando came, he tightened around Izdahl, causing him to also let go. As Izdahl had his release, a strangled shout escaped from his throat.
Drained, he fell forward onto Armando, letting out a gasp of air and causing the architect to grin. Armando stroked Izdahl’s shoulders, as they enjoyed the last ripples of their pleasure.
As tired as he was, Izdahl forced himself not to drift into sleep. Despite the closeness they’d just achieved, a negative emotional tension remained. He hoped that soon, Armando would say the things he’d been holding inside him for months. He waited quietly, giving his lover time.
Izdahl was almost losing his battle not to fall asleep, when Armando began talking. He spoke of what had been on his mind for quite a while, things that he could never quite articulate. Now, with the emotional barriers removed, Armando found the right moment.
“Maybe I couldn’t respond to you all the way because…well, I doubted your hunger,” Armando told Izdahl. “After the accident, I wasn’t sure you really wanted me. I was feeling like damaged goods. And, you’ve become so popular now that you’re a Core Guardian. You can have anyone. You don’t need—”
“I should smother you right now. Sometimes you infuriate me. How long have you been thinking these kinds of things?”
Armando buried his face in his pillow. Izdahl poked him hard in his side, surprising him and making him laugh.
“I’m sorry. Now that I’ve said it all out loud, it sounds ridiculous.”
“Really. You have no idea,” Izdahl told him drily. “Have you forgotten how long I’ve wanted to be with you? I gave you the baltium cuff for a reason. I’ve never done that with anyone. You should know how much you mean to me, love.”
Armando looked at Izdahl with exaggerated coyness, his hazel eyes teasing his lover.
“You are crazy about me, aren’t you?”
“Don’t get so damn smug,” Izdahl told him, nibbling on his ear. “Not too long ago, I had you panicking, when I said you had to leave.”
“That’s true but don’t act as if I don’t affect you.”
Izdahl smacked Armando on his rear end, causing a bright red mark to quickly form. He was energized by their conversation. He rolled onto Armando, pressing him into the bed. He planned on utterly exhausting his lover and himself.
“Do you understand just how happy I am now?” Izdahl asked, giving Armando a gentle kiss on his shoulder. “I’m glad things are better between us.”
“Me too, Izdahl,” Armando assured him. “I feel relieved.”
“You’re about to feel sore next,” Izdahl promised, chuckling.
Izdahl awoke a few hours later to find that Armando was no longer in bed with him. He called out for his lover but there wasn’t a response. He went to search the study and the living room. They were the usual places where Armando liked to relax, sometimes spending many hours being pensive. The architect wasn’t in any of those places. Then, Izdahl thought of the backyard. Now that it was summer, the architect also spent time out on the patio, during the cool nights.
Armando was indeed in the backyard but Izdahl was surprised and concerned by what he saw. His lover was kneeling, swaying backwards and forwards with his eyes closed. He was also speaking in a language which he was unlikely to have ever learned. While Izdahl could understand some of the words, much of it was difficult for him to grasp. He was able to recognize a few words and realized that Armando was chanting in one of the three main ancient Nitelge dialects. Izdahl was unsure how Armando could even know the phrases he kept on repeating.
Izdahl stood there, staring, unsure what to do. He didn’t know if he could touch Armando and safely pull him out of the trance. Izdahl stood frozen, wondering what to do. Then, suddenly Armando swayed to the side and passed out.
“Armando!” Izdahl hurried over to him, gently shaking him back to consciousness.
“I…” Armando shut his eyes tightly, tears squeezing out of them. He shook his head.
Izdahl helped him back inside and they sat in the living room, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
“I didn’t understand everything,” Izdahl told him. “However, I did recognize ‘I’ll disappear’ along with ‘I have no time’. You repeated those more than anything else.”
“I don’t know what any of that means. I don’t even remember waking up, let alone walking outside!”
The steady hum of concern that Izdahl had tried to ignore month after month was now piercing him. He stood up and paced in front of Armando
“Damn it, Armando!” he exploded. “You need to see Sunja about this. I’m tired of you not listening to me! I can’t just sit by and watch you. What if you’d hurt yourself again?”
“What makes you think she’ll solve anything?”
“It might give us a clue about what’s happening. This has gone on for too long. Now, you need to get some help.”
“Izdahl, I don’t—”
“Stop it! Can’t you see what it does to me when you reject my suggestions?” Izdahl’s eyes were wide open and his face was constricted with fear. “Do you know what seeing you in a coma was like for me?”
“Alright,” Armando said, quietly. “I’ll go see Sunja.”
“Thank you, my love.” Izdahl murmured. “We’ll call her in the morning and set up
The two walked back up the stairs and returned to bed. Izdahl held
Armando to him tightly. Several hours passed before either of them could sleep.
“That’s enough for now,” Armando said, collapsing on the sofa in his office.
He and Jonas had worked late into the night, finalizing the designs for the Inter-territory Architectural Design Contest. They had only three more days to complete their design before it had to be submitted to the committee. If their work passed the first round, they would be invited to make a model of it, which would then be judged in the next round of the contest.
“For a while there, I was worried that we’d have to withdraw,” Armando admitted. “I thought it would be shameful if my coma caused a setback.”
“You really pushed yourself for us to make our deadline,” Jonas said. “It would have been understandable if we’d withdrawn, given what happened.”
“You know how I feel about quitting. We didn’t get this far in our careers by letting obstacles block us.”
“Of course not. However, other things are more important than this competition.”
“Has Izdahl enlisted you into bothering me too?”
“Actually, no; Felicia did,” Jonas said. He was feeling a bit macabre and didn’t bother to smother his next comment. “However, I’m actually hoping you’ll die, so I can get the insurance money.”
“Now I know I need to be wary of you,” Armando replied, laughing. “Thanks for the warning.”
“Oh, don’t worry. Nothing will happen to you, until after we win the contest. I’m not a fool. I want you to be worth more.”
“That’s it. I’m definitely going home,” Armando told him. “I’m also going to tell Felicia and Izdahl what you said.”
“Come on,” Jonas told Armando, laughing. “We do need to return to the ones who put up with us.”
Xersa linked her arm through Armando’s, as they walked to a sitting area in the middle of her home’s landscaped garden. A young servant, who had just finished setting out an assortment of drinks and pastries, greeted the two of them. Then he made his way back to the house.
“Izdahl mentioned to me that you’ll see Sunja next week,” Xersa said, as she settled into a chair across from Armando.
“What? Does he continuously give you updates on me?” he joked.
“Yes,” Xersa answered seriously.
Armando was now mildly uncomfortable. Xersa could see that in the way his eyes shifted away from her.
“You’re wondering just how much he tells me, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes,” Armando replied. “I wasn’t aware that I was a specimen.”
“Oh come on, don’t be dramatic,” Xersa teased. “He and I are quite close. He shares many details with me but never ones where you need to start blushing, like you are now…Besides, I doubt there’s anything you’ve done that I haven’t. After all, I’m well past 100 years old.”
“You never cease to surprise me,” Armando said, laughing and feeling at ease again.
“See, now that you no longer have your guard up, we can speak candidly.” Xersa reclined in her chair and took a sip of her drink. “I imagine that you must have many questions to ask me, after what you’ve been through lately.”
“Yes, I feel you have many answers for me.”
“I do. Some of what I know, I believe I should have told you earlier. However, most of it, I think you are ready to hear now. Let’s begin by discussing your rather interesting childhood…”