Eric’s eyes fluttered open. He sat up beneath the soft, silk sheet and the warm wool comforter spread out on the little futon bed. There was still a dim light from the candle the witches had lit in the corner of the room. He rubbed his eyes a moment and looked around for Lucas, finding him sitting in a chair next to the small table where the single candle burned. He was staring intently at the flame, as it grew larger and then shrunk down again. He was wearing only his pants, his clothes in a pile with Eric’s on the floor beside him, next to their packs.

Suddenly he seemed to notice Eric. “Oh, I’m sorry,” Lucas said, “I guess the light woke you up.”

Eric scratched the back of his head and yawned, “Why haven’t you gone to sleep, Lucas?” he asked. Lucas had been sitting in that chair, fully clothed, when Eric had collapsed into the bed and fallen immediately asleep. “You haven’t moved from that spot, have you?”

Lucas smirked, “No, just been sitting here.”

“I suppose you like playing with the fire better when you’re naked,” Eric said teasingly.

Lucas closed his eyes and shook his head with a small smile on his lips, but when his eyes opened his face became serious and downcast again.

“Lucas, talk to me,” said Eric.

Lucas looked over at him, his green eyes wide. “I’m sorry, it’s just been… difficult.”

“I can imagine so,” said Eric, “Your life has been in jeopardy numerous times, from what you and Bronwen have both told me.”

Lucas sighed and crossed his arms in front of himself on the table, laying his chin down to rest between them and staring into the flame. It began to swirl around in small circles.

“You’re worried about your friend, Hephaestian, right?” asked Eric.

“Yes,” said Lucas gently.

“He and Bronwen are both strong fighters, I don’t think a few soldiers could cause them a problem. I’m sure Bronwen will find us soon.”

“Hephaestian told me not to trust her,” said Lucas, “And I did. Now Hepheastian could be hurt, or worse, because I didn’t listen.”

“What alternative did you have?” asked Eric.

The flame began to hover in the air above the candle wick, and Lucas moved his eyes along with it as the flame moved out into the room, becoming brighter, larger, and morphing into streams of fire that danced in a sphere.

“It must be nice,” said Eric.

Lucas suddenly looked up at Eric and the flame stopped dead in the middle of the air, a gentle fiery sphere, floating. “What must be nice?” he asked, “This power?”

“Maybe not that,” said Eric, “So much as that you’re able to do this in front of someone. I can imagine how lonely it was to play with all of those candle flames by yourself in your room, no one in the world knowing.”

Lucas cast his eyes down and held out his hand. The flaming sphere moved slowly across the room to hover above his palm, “Hephaestian knew,” said Lucas, “He was the only one I ever told. And now I’ve involved him in all this because of it.”

“I don’t think your power has anything to do with it,” said Eric, “He followed you into your caravan because he was your friend.”

“I know,” said Lucas, “I just can’t help feeling that I’m responsible for everything, even if it seems silly.”

“May I… offer a suggestion?” asked Eric timidly.

Lucas raised his eyebrows, the flame hovering above his hand.

Eric swallowed nervously and patted the spot next to him. “Come and get some rest.”

Lucas sighed, and with a sweeping motion of his hand set the candle back on it’s wick and it was nothing but a simple, small flame burning again. “You’re right, as usual,” said Lucas, standing up.

Eric had seen Lucas in various states of undress, but he always found it difficult to look away. With his shirt off and the light of the fire dancing against his bare skin, Eric found it difficult not to stare at Lucas’ lean stomach, or the hairs on his chest, around his nipples, and trailing down from his naval.

Lucas walked around the futon to his spot to the left of Eric and crawled into bed, laying his head back on the pillow laid out behind him and staring at the ceiling. Eric laid back too, on his side, staring past Lucas into the rest of the room, where various strange objects were stacked on shelves against the walls. He was making an effort not to stare.

“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do, Eric,” Lucas said quietly.

Eric timidly scooted closer to Lucas, his heart beginning to beat faster in his chest, and propped himself up on his elbow. “You don’t have to think about that right now,” he said gently, and Lucas looked up at him, his light brown hair falling into his eyes. Lucas absently brushed his hair away. Eric couldn’t help but smile. He found the gesture so endearing.

“Come here,” Eric said, and he held out his arms.

Lucas smiled and looked away, “Oh come on, Eric…”

“Just come here,” he replied, “It’ll make you feel better.”

Lucas kept a slight smile on his face as he gave a little defeated sigh and slipped forward into Eric’s arms, slipping an arm under Eric’s and nestling into Eric’s chest. His face, his chest, and his skin were warm and soft against Eric’s bare flesh. Eric held him close, placing a hand on the back of Lucas’s head and holding his head securely against his own chest.

There was silence.

Lucas took a deep breath and exhaled. His body was so warm, his breath was warm, and as he felt a wet warmth against his chest, Eric looked down to see that Lucas was crying gently, without making any sound.

“Lucas…” he said, concerned.

“I’m sorry,” Lucas said, “It’s just that no one has ever held me like this. I’ve never been close to anyone before… in many ways.”

Eric put a hand under Lucas’s chin and gently tilted his head up to look into his own eyes. He smiled down at Lucas. “I promise, Lucas, I’ll stay by you. I may not be a warrior, but I’ll protect you the best I can.” Eric leaned down and kissed a tear sliding down Lucas’s cheek, and then as Lucas closed his eyes, he kissed both Lucas’s eyelids.

Eric pulled back but Lucas reached a hand up to touch Eric’s cheek gently, and he opened his eyes to stare directly into Eric’s. His green eyes were sparkling with tears. The expression on his face seemed to be one of wonderment, or speechlessness. It was difficult to tell. Suddenly he leaned forward and touched his nose to Eric’s closing his eyes.

Eric breathed, his heart pounding. He closed his eyes too, and felt Lucas’s gentle breath touching his face. Between his legs he was completely solid, and as close as Lucas’s body was to his own, he could feel Lucas pressing against his thigh.

Lucas’ lips touched Eric’s gently, and with a hand behind Eric’s head, he kissed him deeply. Their lips stayed together for a long moment, Eric’s heart pounding and his head swimming, and when they parted, Eric went in for another and kissed Lucas quickly.

He opened his eyes. Lucas looked down, his face going red. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I don’t know-”

“Shh,” whispered Eric, “Don’t be sorry. I liked it.”

Lucas glanced up at Eric, a gentle smile on his face. “Can I do it again?”

Eric gave a little chuckle. “Sure.”

Lucas leaned up and more boldly he kissed Eric again, their lips meeting, and Lucas slipped his tongue slightly into Eric’s mouth, Eric touching Lucas’ tongue with his own, and they parted again. Lucas buried his face in Eric’s chest and held on to him tightly. Eric placed a hand on the back of Lucas’ head and ran his fingers through Lucas’ soft hair.

He laid back, holding Lucas closed, and let his fingers trail down Lucas’ back, to which Lucas responded with a gentle moan. “Does that feel good?” Eric asked with a smile. Lucas made a groan of agreement, “Please don’t stop,” he asked. Eric ran his fingers again up the length of Lucas’ spine, and Lucas let out another gentle moan of contentment.

“It’s alright,” whispered Eric, “I’m here,” and he held Lucas close and tight. His heart was soaring. Lucas’ hand sudenly reached up and made a flicking gesture, and the flame in the candle on the table went out instantly, and the two were surrounded by darkness.

Eric held Lucas close as his head began to swim not only with joy but exhaustion, and within minutes he realized, as Lucas’ breathing became a slow, steady rhythm, that he’d fallen asleep in his arms. Eric smiled and leaned down, kissing Lucas on the forehead, then on his cheek, and giving him a gentle kiss on his lips while he slept. In his sleep, Lucas’ lips moved slightly to return the kiss and he gave a sleepy moan. Eric laid his head back on his pillow, holding Lucas close, and for the first time in days, he had absolutely nothing in his head, his mind was blank, and his heart was full. He closed his eyes, and bathed in the warmth of Lucas’ body and the tingling on the back of his neck and all over, Eric fell gently into sleep.


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