Darion and Tolrek were about to continue their comfortable morning conversation, when their bedroom door unceremoniously opened.
“What is this rudeness?” the figure in the doorway demanded. Tezza ordered the house computer to turn on the bedroom lights, which burned away the remains of the tender atmosphere. “How could you be on Tildar, for this long, and not see me?”
“Tezza, we…” Darion began feebly.
“Never mind,” she cut off Darion. “Just thank me for all the help I’ve given you. I did my part to get rid of your Meric problem.”
“Thank you,” Darion responded.
Tezza grinned and rubbed her hands together. Then she did a running vault into their bed. She wiggled between Darion and Tolrek, laughing as their amused expressions that was mixed with bewilderment.
“Didn’t I ask you not to disturb them?” Ashrom gritted out, his tone exasperated. He was leaning against the door, witnessing his lover’s antics.
“At least I didn’t interrupt while they were having sex,” Tezza muttered. “And, so far, I’ve resisted the urge to rip back the sheets and verify some rumors.”
Tolrek laughed loudly and Darion decided it was best not to ask Tezza exactly what rumors she meant. Having teased them enough to her liking, she was attempting to leave the bed, when Najrina added to the madness. The hettira pounced, following Tezza’s example. One of Najrina’s paws landed on Darion’s groin and he doubled over in agony. A feverish but good-natured argument about Tezza being the architect of his pain started.
“What’s going on?” Kyan asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
Ashrom and Tezza’s arrival had already pulled him out of his rest but the friendly disagreement had made him wander towards the noise.
“Oh Tolrek, when he’s half-awake and confused, he looks even more like you!” Tezza exclaimed. Darion chuckled and Tolrek playfully scowled.
Kyan peered at everyone on the bed and then looked to Ashrom.
“As the only real adult here, there’s no good explanation,” Ashrom told him, shrugging. “I can only imagine what’s going through your mind. So, I’ll just pay for your therapy.”
Kyan giggled and then his giggles turned into outright laughter. His adorable amusement was infectious and the others joined him. Tezza untangled herself and sauntered over to Ashrom, planting a sweet kiss on his mouth.
“I look forward to when all of this commotion leaves my house,” Ashrom said, pretending to be annoyed.
“This helps you, for when we have our family.”
“True,” Ashrom agreed, holding her tightly.
Tezza gave him another kiss, then turned her attention to Kyan.
“Any good at playing with toys?” she asked.
He smiled shyly and nodded.
“Then there’s some in the living room for you. Let’s go check them out and I’ll make you breakfast.”
“Okay,” Kyan answered, still feeling bashful. He followed Tezza, with Najrina trailing behind them.
“Things are all right between you two?” Ashrom asked.
“Yes,” Tolrek answered.
“Great.” Ashrom turned to go but then paused. Looking at them, he narrowed his eyes. “You’d better not have ruined my sheets.”
“Seriously, Ash!” Darion gave an exasperated growl.
It was a few days before Darion and Tolrek would return to Vaironia, taking Kyan too. The warm, pleasant night air drifted around them, as they relaxed in the backyard with Ashrom and Tezza. Kyan and Najrina played in the swimming pool, while the adults chatted.
“Don’t get too comfortable yet,” Ashrom said to his brother. “The big challenge is with Mother and Father. You can’t leave Tildar yet.”
“Yes, hyakon; I know,” Darion responded, sighing. “I’m going to see them tomorrow.”
Darion began chewing on his lower lip, when he thought of speaking with his parents. The display of nervousness intrigued Tolrek. He found the vulnerable action to be surprising. He rested a hand on Darion’s arm, offering him comfort. Tolrek had been aware that the conversation would be difficult for Darion but it wasn’t until now that he understood the magnitude of his lover’s confusion and pain.
“I’m sure it will be all right,” Tezza said, as she put some fruit on a plate and passed it to Ashrom. “Besides…” Her words trailed off, when Kyan left the pool and walked towards them.
“What’s up, Ky?” Tolrek asked. “Tired of swimming?”
Kyan didn’t say anything at first, instead he nervously hovered by Tolrek. With the eyes of the four adults now on him, Kyan was feeling uncertain. He dug his big toe into the grass, doubting if he should say what was on his mind but he needed an answer.
“Is Meric dead?” Kyan finally asked.
Darion looked at Tolrek, letting him take the lead.
“Yes,” Tolrek responded firmly. “Don’t worry about him any more.”
“I’m not sure if I should be happy that someone is dead,” Kyan murmured.
Tolrek glanced at Darion, to see if he wanted to contribute.
“We can’t tell you how to feel about it,” Darion began. “However, after what Meric did to many people, we’d understand if you weren’t exactly sad.”
“Did he do something to you?” Kyan asked Darion.
“We’ll tell you as much as you need to hear, on our trip to Vaironia,” Tolrek responded. “Let’s close the issue, at least for now.”
Kyan nodded and sat down on the grass by Tolrek’s feet, as the adults started to talk again. They kept the topic light, discussing the newest items at Tezza’s Emporium.
Najrina left the pool and gave a massive shake, sending water jetting in all directions. When her fur settled into place, she went to rest her head in Kyan’s lap. The child petted her, as he became lost in his thoughts. Tolrek checked on him periodically, noting that he’d become quite pensive. He drummed a playful rhythm on Kyan’s head. Kyan gave him a small smile but went back to memories that left a haunted expression in his eyes.
Later that night, when he was tucking Kyan into bed, Tolrek found out what had been bothering him. Tolrek had believed it was related to Meric but, after some gentle encouragement, Kyan reluctantly explained. He continued to feel that Darion wasn’t enthusiastic about him being there.
The next morning, while they cooled down from sparring in the backyard, Tolrek spoke with Darion about Kyan’s thoughts.
“I’ve been preoccupied,” Darion said. “I wasn’t trying to shut him out.”
“Love, I know,” Tolrek assured him. He took a sip of the water Darion handed him. “Kyan’s been through so much. There are parts of his past he hasn’t even mentioned. Sometimes he stares off into space and…I have to learn about raising a child but no one that young should be so troubled.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Darion assured Tolrek. He wiped some sweat off Tolrek’s brow and gave him a quick kiss. “I’ll talk to him now. I don’t want either of you to keep worrying.”
Kyan was on the opposite side of the backyard. He’d stretched out on his back, enjoying the sun. It was something he did several times a day. Tolrek had remembered upon first meeting him that he’d asked to go outside. Being able to do so meant more to him than Tolrek truly understood. Tolrek planned to find out more about why. For the time being, he wanted to bridge the gap between his son and Darion.
Tolrek called for Kyan, who hurried over to them. The child glanced back and forth between Tolrek and Darion.
“Did I do something wrong?” Kyan asked. “Are you sending me away now?”
“Oh no,” Tolrek said quickly. “Nothing ever like that.”
Darion knelt, so that he was at Kyan’s eye level.
“I wanted to welcome you to our family,” Darion told him. “We’re glad to have you.”
“Are you sure?” Kyan peered at him skeptically.
“Yes. For a while I was focused on other things. I’m sorry if I came across as cold.”
“Then you don’t think I’ll get in your way?” Kyan’s mouth twisted slightly, as he was still filled with doubt. “You really want me?”
“Absolutely.” Darion’s voice took on a teasing tone. “If you don’t believe me, wait until we get back to Vaironia. You’ll see the room of gifts we’ve ordered for you. We wouldn’t spend that kind of money on just anybody.”
“So you’re trying to bribe me?” Kyan asked, mischief appearing in his eyes.
“No; why waste money, when I can have Naj eat you up?” He patted the hettira who had become Kyan’s shadow.
Darion playfully poked Kyan in his side, surprising him. Kyan laughed loudly, his worries about being abandoned on Tildar now gone. Tolrek smiled, as he watched two of the most important people in his life.
Darion sat across from his mother, chewing on his lower lip.
“Son, are you well?” Saha asked, quietly, finally breaking the silence. Until that point, the main noises in the living room had been the ticking of the clock and the clinking of her spoon, as she stirred her tea.
Sadness flowed through Darion at his mother’s tentativeness. He stood and went over to the armchair where she was sitting. He knelt in front of her, hugging her small form to his.
“I’m sorry for how I’ve acted,” Darion told her. “I was angry but that’s no excuse. I should have apologized a long time ago.”
“I understand.” Saha gently rubbed his cheek. “Please go speak with your father. Your words hurt his pride but most of all his heart. He wanted to use his resources to help you but you rejected that. The argument made the situation worse.”
“I’d like to talk to him but first, are things all right between you and me?”
“I’m not as stubborn as your Father,” Saha told him. She tried to smooth away the lines of worry on Darion’s forehead. “I’m glad you’re recovered. Now, go and make amends.”
He nodded and stood to do as she’d instructed. He walked towards the door of Ryam’s closed study. He felt like a boy in trouble again, internally wincing at the disapproval he expected.
“Father, it’s me, Darion,” he called out.
The door slid open and the patriarch of the Navarr family pierced him with his gaze. Darion trudged toward his father, trying to hold his stare but he couldn’t.
“You are finally here,” Ryam said and he stood, crossing his arms.
“Yes, sir. I should have stopped by a long time ago.”
“True and it shouldn’t have been under these circumstances.”
Darion slowly nodded and looked down at the floor.
“Darion, you have never shown your mother or me such disrespect.”
Darion shut his eyes in shame, as he heard the pain in his father’s voice.
“I’m deeply sorry, Father.”
“You became lost for a while,” Ryam said.
“Yes and I lashed out, instead of properly accepting your help.”
“Exactly. Never would I imagine that any of my children would speak to me in that manner…Have you at least apologized to your Mother?”
They were silent for a few moments. Ryam was overjoyed to see how well Darion was doing. He’d asked Ashrom and Aleena for updates, when Darion had cut off communication. Even though the news was helpful, seeing Darion in front of him made him sigh with relief. Smiling slightly, he noted that Darion was showing the same nervous habits he did as a child, when he was in trouble. Despite their several decades as adults, his approval still mattered to his offspring.
“Come here, son.”
Darion looked at him, his expression hopeful, and he went closer to Ryam. His father hugged him tightly.
“As my youngest child, I’ll permit you some indulgence,” his father teased.
“I’m only the youngest by 10 minutes,” Darion said, laughing. Then he became serious, as Ryam looked at him solemnly.
“We were all so worried about you.” His voice was heavy with sadness.
“I know but I’m fully recovered.”
Ryam held his son’s face in both hands. He searched Darion’s eyes for the truth and, finding it, he nodded.
“Then, I suggest you take advantage of some opportunities coming your way.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll find out in the near future.”
Darion didn’t press for more details. He sensed he’d find out shortly. He opted to spend this time reconnecting with his father.
“Now, when will I get to meet this agitator of yours?” Ryam asked.
“You mean Tolrek?” Darion grinned and rubbed the back of his neck, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I’ll bring him and Kyan by tomorrow.”
“Good. Sit.” Ryam motioned to a nearby chair. “Let’s talk. I’ve missed you, son. Don’t tell the others but you’re my favorite.”
“Oh seriously, not that line!” Darion exclaimed laughing. “You’ve already told all three of us that!”