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A Season Of Dragons

by P L Nunn


Chapter Twelve


Focus. Focus. Push back the terrible wave of embarrassment that threatened to steal his resolve, his dignity. Walk calmly and coolly back to the room where he could find a moment to gather his wits before he had to look at any of them. At Ryo.

He couldn't get Ryo's expression out of his mind, and that kept shattering the all important focus. Anger, shock, hurt and underneath that the flickering sense of betrayal. Ryo didn't understand. Ryo couldn't understand what he'd been trying to accomplish. Damn Rowan for telling and twice damn him for not trying to explain. Rowan had enough sense to realize the motives, even if he couldn't stomach the methods. But, maybe he had and Ryo just hadn't wanted to listen. Ryo didn't always comprehend motive. All he saw were end results. Sometimes the gray areas were not so clear to him as the simple black and white. It was damned infuriating sometimes. And endearing.

Seiji reached the room he and Rowan had shared when they'd first come here and put his back to the door, collecting the pieces of his resolve. He was not in the wrong here. There was no sensible reason to feel the sharp edge of guilt just because Ryo looked at him with hurt in his eyes. No reason - - but it still came at him in malicious little waves, like a razor slashing shallow gashes in his skin. He shut his eyes and shuddered, and hated himself for it. He had taken a bad situation and turned it to their advantage. Nothing was lost but the control of his body for a few hours and that was nothing compared to - - well, compared to past violations against him. And he'd been trying to talk his way out of it - - trying to equitably explain that payment for Sarag'sa's compliance had been rendered and that more could not be expected now that the hun'ra were here and soon to be gone. Sarag'sa might have been convinced of such, if Ryo hadn't burst in without a reasonable thought in his head.

But of course, when did Ryo ever stop to think things out? When did Ryo ever practice restraint? Very seldom when his ire was up. And the paths he took when he did pause to reason things out never ceased to baffle Seiji.

The door Seiji was leaning against quite suddenly gave way, with an apparent battering ram on the opposite side. He staggered a few steps into the room, surprised and indignant and turning once he'd gained his balance to glare coldly at the offender. Which turned out to be Ryo, still armored up and still angry. Very angry from the look in his eyes and the set of his mouth. There was a faint flush to his cheeks that made his eyes shine all the more blue. He looked like he wanted nothing so much as a fight, and Seiji absolutely refused to indulge him. Not here and now. Not over such a ridiculous cause and not - - not - - well there were other reasons, boiling under the surface that Seiji chose to ignore. Stridently chose to pretend were not there for his own peace of mind.

"Was that necessary?" Seiji asked, voice carefully modulated.

"Are you fucking out of your mind?" Ryo had no such care for volume. "What do you think you're doing?"

The door was open behind him, and though the halls were hardly bustling with passerby, Seiji cringed at the notion of voices carrying any further than need be. He moved around Ryo, heedless of the anger that fairly radiated off him and closed the door.

"I was trying to ensure the safety of the hun'ra. Sarag'sa had no real reason to help."

"Not until you gave him one."

Seiji shrugged, inclining his head. "He had nothing to gain and a great deal to loose by facilitating their escape . . ."

"Don't talk like it was a freakin' deal made over lunch, Seiji. You whored yourself out to that - - that monster and you think it's okay?"

"Is that what's bothering you - - or is that I didn't ask your permission?"

He wasn't used to Ryo angry. At least not at him. It was a new enough phenomenon that the limits of it were vague at best. The Ryo he was used to would have tolerated his sarcasm and his rancor with maybe a hurt look or a wary distancing of himself from Seiji's bad mood. Today, wasn't one of those days.

Seiji didn't even see the blow coming. Ryo was that fast, backed by the enhancements of the armor. All he knew was that he hit the wall beside the door with enough force to knock the breath from his lungs and that vision went momentarily white. It took a second for the pain to catch up, the side of his face gone initially numb from the impact. And Ryo had pulled the punch - - a lot. If he hadn't Seiji's head would have been pulp. The fact that he was standing was quite miraculous. Oh, wait, he wasn't standing. That was him sliding down the wall towards the floor, legs gone watery and numb under him.

But Ryo caught him before he could make the entirety of that slide. Armored fingers curled in the lapel of Seiji's robe and jerked him up, slamming him backwards into the stone of the wall. Seiji's stolen breath cowered even further from his lungs. His head hit the stone and wits started to scatter along with vision. Ryo would kill him, without even realizing it, armored up as he was. And Ryo would feel guilt over it that he'd likely never get over and that distressed Seiji, as much as he was able to feel distress through that haze that separated consciousness from unconsciousness. But perhaps, something else spoke up through that blur, something before now fiercely submerged and ignored, perhaps it was only just. Perhaps a little punishment was due . . .

Ryo was yelling at him. The words were either bordering on babble, or Seiji's brain wasn't functioning coherently. Or very possibly, it could have been a combination of both. He got jerked forward again and slammed back, as if Ryo were frustrated that he wasn't answering the tirade.

"I thought," Seiji managed to get out, "you'd called it quits with me . . . so what do you care who I whore myself out to?"

It was inflammatory and he knew it just like he knew Ryo couldn't help but respond to it in the only way an impassioned Ryo knew how. Ryo's fingers tightened in his robe and with a hiss he flung Seiji away from the wall. One forgot - - really forgot when one wasn't on the receiving end of it - - just how powerful the armor was. Seiji's feet left the ground and his body went airborne and it was only ingrained reflexes that made him twist his body enough not to hit the wall at an angle that might shatter bones. Ryo was on him before he hit the floor, jerking him back up and yelling in his face.

"How can you say that? How could you do that?"

"It was a bargain, Ryo. Just a bargain." Seiji's head was spinning too badly for him to utter anything but the honest truth.

"Well, you make shitty bargains, Seiji!" Ryo cried - - Ryo was crying, tears making his flushed cheeks gleam. Ryo tensed and Seiji knew he was going to either slam him back into the wall or hit him. It would almost be welcome.

"Hit me." He mouthed the words.

"What?" Ryo pulled back a little, hands still clenched tight around Seiji's upper arms.

"Go ahead. Hurt me - - if it makes you feel better."

Ryo blinked, for a moment utterly baffled - - utterly Ryo and maybe - - just maybe on the verge of being shocked out of his righteous anger. Seiji snarled and shoved at him, what little good it did, Ryo in armor and Seiji not. He didn't want Ryo to calm down. He didn't want Ryo to back off in horror at the blood running down from Seiji's mouth or the tremors that Seiji couldn't quite muster the control to quell. He wanted Ryo angry. He wanted him passionate and emotional and pissed off - - because that was the only way when you got right down to it, that Ryo would do what Seiji wanted him to do.

"You fucking naive moron, do you think the world runs on smiles and good manners? Any world? Do you think our heartfelt thanks would have bought our way through this pass. Grow the fuck up!!"

He shoved him, as hard as he could, with every bit of leverage he could get off the stone wall behind him. Ryo actually took a step backwards to brace himself and Ryo's hand came up in defense when Seiji aimed a blow for his face. He caught Seiji's wrist with armor enhanced speed before it could connect and wrenched it down with enough force that Seiji thought his shoulder might dislocate. He went down to his knees, body reflexively trying to find an angle to protect the screaming shoulder, and stayed there, wrist still twisted in Ryo's grip for all of four heartbeats while god knew what thoughts whirled behind Ryo's blue eyes. Ryo released him of a sudden, and lunged down, armored fingers clutching Seiji's throat and pressing him back against the wall. He couldn't find a comfortable way to position his legs, with Ryo crouched between them. He couldn't quite get enough air past Ryo's fingers.

"So - -" he gasped, with as much disdain as he could muster. "Do you like me - - on my knees?"

Ryo's eyes narrowed, breath sucked in between his teeth. He surprised Seiji -- utterly surprised him by hissing. "Yes."

Then he pressed forward and kissed Seiji, fierce and blunt, the edges of the helmet hurting Seiji's face and restricting movement until Ryo swept it off, flinging it to clatter against the far wall. Seiji's arms came up, fingers grasping after any footholds in the armor - - anything to draw Ryo in, dizzy with the burning need to have Ryo closer than the boundaries of armor and robes would allow.

If there had been any room for thought in his head he would have been appalled at the utter, desperate urgency of his need. He had lusted after Ryo and pursued Ryo and burned for Ryo - - but it had never been so vital to his sense of 'self' before; that if he didn't get Ryo, the vertigo might become so bad that he might spiral down into an endless black chasm of invalidity. That he might loose himself. Maybe he was already gone and there were only the shreds of Seiji-self left - - whatever remnants the Bitch had left in her destructive wake. Maybe the fact that he could still imagine the ghostly afterimage of her presence had something to do with how terribly tempting it was to just let go and tumble into the void.

And the only person in the entire world that Seiji might have left himself open enough to help stop the decent had run. With good reason. With ample and just cause hated him. But it hardly mattered, because even Ryo's violence was better than no Ryo at all. Even a bruised body and a spinning head didn't detract from the fire of Ryo's mouth and the pressure of his armored knee tight against Seiji's groin.

Ryo's fingers tore at the edges of his robe, baring pale, pale flesh, baring faint fading bruises that Ryo hardly had the focus to notice, more intent on Seiji's neck and the soft hollow of flesh between collar bone and shoulder. He was drawn close in a crushing grip, and bare skin against armor was painful.

"Ryo - - armor - - the armor - -" He managed to get out and Ryo may or may not have comprehended, but he did grunt and swing Seiji around with an arm around his waist, to the edge of the bed, and when he pressed up close behind him there was that faint sizzling aura of magic almost like the crackle of static electricity between them, and it was Ryo without armor against him. There was no delicacy in Ryo's intent. No gracious foreplay. No room for the niceties involved that would have made it less painful for Seiji. But he'd been subjected to enough pain that he didn't welcome of late not to welcome this particular invasion with open arms. Ryo impatiently shoved restricting robes aside and ground himself between the heat of Seiji's buttocks, leaning over his back and biting down hard on the meat of Seiji's shoulder. Seiji pressed his face into the bed, hands balling into fists around the coverlet, stone floor hard and hurtful against his knees. And Ryo - - Ryo was hot and heavy and hard against him, demanding straightforward entry, with more aggression than Seiji had thought Ryo capable of, so far as sex was concerned. One supposed it took a self-righteous rage to bring it on.

Seiji choked back a cry as Ryo forced his way in, biting down instead on the bunched coverlet, pushing his hips back against Ryo to get it over with as quickly as possible - - to get all of Ryo seated inside so his body could learn to accommodate the sudden intrusion. Quite a wonderful intrusion compared to the girth and texture of ne'gal flesh. So hot it almost burned him from the inside out, which was testament enough that Ryo's anger still burned red hot and fueled the latent powers of Wildfire that were now banked inside him. Even without the armor Ryo could burn. Seiji pressed back violently, welcoming the fire. He didn't have the leeway, trapped between Ryo and the bed, to do much more than that. He didn't think Ryo was expecting it. He didn't think Ryo wanted anything more at the moment, than to grind him into the edge of the bed in the desperate need to exercise his frustration and his rage and his - - - grief.

It didn't last long. Ryo was too angry for it to be anything more than animalistic. He came with a shudder and a tightening of his fingers in Seiji's flesh and lay for a moment, catching his breath, chest against Seiji's back, limp sex still housed within Seiji's body. Seiji hadn't come close. Oh, he'd been aroused enough by the violence and by the simple touch of Ryo's hands, but it hadn't been enough to put him over the edge. Something in the back of his mind had been there blocking it, like a huge, featureless, black wall between him and true release.

Of a sudden, Ryo tensed and Seiji knew that realization of what he'd done had crept up upon him. Ryo's tantrums were fast and violent, and almost always regretted afterwards.

"God - - " Ryo pushed away from him, sprawling backwards, open robe hanging open, framing flushed, golden skin. Seiji folded down, resting on his heels, head pillowed in one arm, staring at Ryo from under the fall of his hair.

"God - - Seiji - - I - - I'm - -"

"You seemed to think I deserved it." Ryo wasn't the only one and Seiji felt it imperative that he cut him off before meaningless apology passed his lips, before Ryo worked himself into guilt and shame that somehow just wasn't appropriate.

A flash of anger, instead. A flush of embarassment as he pulled the edges of his robe closed "You - - Damn you, Seiji - -

And Ryo was up, backing for the door like he'd committed bloody murder rather than simply fucking Seiji. Stridently not looking at Seiji, who hadn't done more than slide down to his knees at the edge of the bed, not bothering to pull the robe over his nakedness or wipe at the evidence of Ryo's tantrum. It wasn't like it mattered really. Not in the long run. He pillowed his head in his arms, a peal of bitter laughter bubbling up. Once started, he was helpless to break it off, a sign of imminent and oncoming insanity, he was sure. And wouldn't that be the icing on this particular cake, himself stark, raving mad? That sobered him somewhat, and he pushed himself back, wiping at the trailing tendrils of wetness that had appeared with the laughter on his cheeks. With one hand on the cold stone of the floor, he felt the vaguest tremor of something that vibrated the very foundations of the keep.

Something was on its way . . .

Oh, God. What had he been thinking? No, thinking had been the least of the things on his agenda. He'd been in battle mode the moment he'd heard Rowan's explanation and hadn't slipped out of it until he'd been well and done with Seiji.

Ryo stopped, shoulder against the cold stone of the hall, eyes squeezed shut as waves of embarrassment and anger washed over him. Embarrassed over what he'd let himself do to Seiji, angry over the cause of it. And utterly, utterly floored over how much he'd liked it while it was happening. Oh, it wasn't the first time he'd been on top with Seiji, it was just the first time Seiji hadn't been in control of the situation. It had been the first time he hadn't cared in the least whether he was hurting Seiji or not. He wasn't certain if he was sorry now, but realistically, he figured he would be sooner or later.

And Seiji hadn't cared. Seiji had purposefully taunted him, of that he felt certain, though the whys and the wherefores escaped him. No, maybe not cared wasn't the right word, because there had been something in Seiji's eyes that went beyond his usual taciturn control. A fleeting echo of something hollow and bruised hiding behind the facade of casual sarcasm. Something brittle and on the verge of shattering. Something that needed shelter and repair instead of a blind rage that ended with the back of a hand and . . . and with what amounted to be as good as rape whether Seiji had welcomed it or not.


Ryo flinched, startled out of his conjecture, cheeks flushed and hot.

Rowan and Sai and Kento were tromping down the hall towards him, still in sub armor and grim faced. He wondered where they'd been while he'd been grinding Seiji into the bed and thanked God that they hadn't walked in during the middle of it. He would have simply died.

"We got a problem." Rowan said, as if Ryo hadn't already figured that out in spades. He stared balefully at Rowan, waiting for him to elaborate.

"The dragon army that was on you guy's tail is here."

Fine. Wonderful. Just what they needed to add a little spice to an already unpalatable situation.

"Yeah? I figured they'd catch up sooner or later. What of it?"

"Sarag'sa's going out to find ask what they want."

"We know what they want."

"Uh - - yeah, but he's still gotta ask cause they've brought the big guns with them. They've got this big assed dragon thing that the ne'gal here are freaked big time about, that they think can demolish this pass and this fortress."

Ryo ground his teeth, recalling catching a glimpse of the dragon in question on the way here. Somebody had told him it was a firedrake, the king of all the large dragons that dwelled in this world.

"And that bastard Sarag'sa is scared of this thing?"

Rowan shrugged. "He's definitely being cautious and after what he did to that big lizard that followed you into the pass here, him being wary of this new thing is getting me worried. We're going out to the wall to see what's what and hear what Sarag'sa has to say to his uninvited kin. Don't suppose you want to come?"

Ryo stared at him flatly, thinking that if he saw Sarag'sa face to face anytime soon, there would be violence involved. Rowan must have seen it, clear as day, because opened his mouth, shut it, then shook his head in what Ryo thought might have been grim amusement.

"Nix that idea. Just hang tight and we'll get the scoop."

Rowan started off down the hall with a frowning Kento on his heels. Sai hesitated, eyes large and worried. Sai wanted to pry, that was evident and Ryo was in no mood to be nice about telling him to mind his own business.

"Ryo . . .? What's wrong?"

Ryo surprised himself. He didn't snap, or yell or lose what little control he felt he had left to him. He simply took a breath and voiced the obvious.

"What Seiji did - - he was trying to protect the hun'ra, wasn't he?"

Sai paled, face crumpling in distress. "I don't know, Ryo." He said softly. "I think so. Its just dreadful to think about."

"He hasn't been making really good decisions lately, has he? Not since - - not for a long time, huh?"

Sai shook his head silently, green eyes huge with the glimmer of unshed tears. "I don't think this one was his fault, really. Rowan says it wasn't. Rowan says - - he says he thinks something terrible happened the first time and that Seiji just made the best of a bad situation after that."

"Yeah, he's nothing if not practical, huh?" He shut his eyes, the anger coming back like a sudden, red tinged tidal wave. This time, Seiji was no where near its center, but instead at the scaly skinned denizens of this world that were at the root of the problem.

"Ryo . . .? Where are you going?"

If he had to knock down a wall, he was getting out of this stone prison. The urge to do an extraordinary amount of damage was so strong he could barely see straight. The people of this world, both the hun'ra and the ne'gal respected power.

"Ryo?" Sai was trailing after him, anxious concern in his voice.

"To work off some frustration." Ryo snapped.

"To do what?" Sai was starting to sound unhappy.

"Everybody on both sides seems to be impressed by that damned big lizard out there - - maybe we can win some bonus points of our own if we bring back its head on a platter."



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