Written as part of the A TRIAD IN THREE ACTS/FULL CIRCLE release tour in August 2016 for Diverse Reader
The lingering heat of the fire made the forge almost too hot for Ianys to sleep. He threw the blankets off the cot and stared at the ceiling in the glow from the small window.
While the shanna leaves kept wind and rain out, they didn’t shut out the sounds of the forest.
Sounds Ianys couldn’t hear when he was working, whether he had his door wide open or not. He’d be so focussed on what he was doing that no sound would reach him until it was too late.
But here, in the quiet of the night, he heard everything. From the night critters to the rustle of leaves, to…
And there they were… footsteps, soft and steady. The forester’s.
Ianys held his breath. Would this be the night he went out to him? Who was the forester on his way to see? Was he even meeting anyone?
Ianys couldn’t help but remember the first time he’d spotted the forester and one of the tribe’s hunters. He barely knew the elf, hadn’t really seen him after, not up close, and never at night behind his forge. But he couldn’t forget that night.
He had just undressed for bed, spending it at the forge because he’d been too busy to stop. Hadn’t wanted to stop. Hadn’t wanted to wake Atèn as he came home, either. Or his parents. So, he’d stayed at the forge. Nothing strange about that.
The sounds behind his forge had been.
It was so quiet at night, nothing but the breeze and the night critters. But there had been a snap, and Ianys had raised himself to his bare feet on the cot and had looked through the tiny shanna-leaf window.
The sight before him had brought back all memories of Kel, of Naia. Of love.
He’d never really looked at the forester before. No one did. He was shunned, untouchable.
And gorgeous in the lingering moonlight. Ianys barely noticed the hunter. All he could do was stare at the forester.
Ianys was not the most adept at reading people, but he had no trouble reading the forester’s body language, even with his back turned to him. The forester was tall, towering over the hunter, and his long hair hung down his back in a braid, but it couldn’t hide the way his body tensed for a moment when the hunter wrapped his arms around him, only to relax a moment later.
Longing. That was what Ianys saw when he looked at the forester. So much longing, Ianys felt it deep in his core. The same longing Ianys had been carrying around for so many turns now. The one he couldn’t share with Kel any more, no matter how much he wanted to. He’d promised Naia before she passed away, and he’d be a dross if he was going to lose Atèn… not for anything.
Ianys never forgot about the forester and his longing. Every night he spent at the forge he would listen for the sounds of footsteps. The sounds of illicit meetings in the dark of night. And when the forester was meeting someone—not always the same elf, though always male—Ianys would find himself standing on his cot, staring out of his small window, watching the forester kiss. Watching his muscles tense and release, and reading the same blasted longing.
Ianys barely slept those nights. And he couldn’t stop longing. He found himself wanting to be the one the forester kissed. Which was impossible. If he wasn’t going to risk losing Atèn for Kel, then he certainly wasn’t going to risk it for the forester. But the idea wouldn’t leave him alone. Every night he heard those familiar sounds behind his forge, he would stare out of the window and wish he was the one meeting the forester for some relief.
That was all it was going to be. Some shared relief. The touch of another to stop feeling so blasted lonely all the time when the elf he really wanted was the one he couldn’t even talk to for fear of caring too much. The forester would be safe in that way. Ianys wasn’t attached to him, wasn’t in love with him. It would just be some relief between two lonely elves…
Yet, night after night, Ianys couldn’t bring himself to take that final step. He couldn’t get off his cot, away from his window. He couldn’t force himself out the door to meet the forester. Of course, chances were that when the forester appeared behind his forge, he was meeting someone else. And Ianys didn’t want to get caught the way he had caught them. Instead he listened… and watched.
He would never tell. As far as he was concerned, these elves knew what they were doing, and it wasn’t for him to make their lives more difficult. Not when he wanted what they had… and more.
Deep in thought, Ianys almost fell off his cot when a branch snapped close to his forge. He grabbed the bedding to keep still, his heart thumping and his throat dry. The forester seemed early. Or maybe it was the tanner he’d been seeing lately. Ianys didn’t get up to look.
But a second set of footsteps never came. A soft rustling was the only sound for a long time. Too long for Ianys to stay still and wait.
His fingers were cramped and painful when he let go of the cot and rose to his feet. There he was, the forester, his back turned to Ianys. Alone. Waiting.
Before Ianys could stop himself, he was rounding the large oak that was his forge with bare feet in untied boots, trousers hanging loosely off his hips, and tunic still in hand.
He turned to go back in, but it was too late. The forester had already seen him.
Ianys froze, mouth open in an unspoken apology, stupidly waiting for the forester to say something. But he wouldn’t, would he? Of course he wouldn’t. The forester was shunned. He wasn’t allowed to speak to him.
What was he doing? This was madness. But then Ianys caught the look in the forester’s eyes, and all thought left him. It wasn’t the fear that prompted him to move. It was the longing. Ianys was sick of being alone. Sick of not being able to be near Kel. What was wrong with forgetting about it all for just one night?
He didn’t stop until he stood chest to chest with the forester. The forester flinched, but didn’t step back. Ianys smiled, ignoring his shaking hands and dry throat, and leaned in.
Stubble rasped against stubble as Ianys claimed the forester’s lips with his own, sending shivers down his spine. After a moment of stillness, of hesitation, the forester kissed back. His mouth was warm and inviting as he deepened their kiss. They grabbed hold and clung to each other as they chased away the loneliness that haunted them, even if it was for just a moment.
Ianys was still smiling when they broke apart. Then he took the forester’s hand and led him into the forge.