Lie to Me


The Light bore down nigh intolerably on the amber sands of Amh Araeng in place of a sweltering sun, but the heat oppressed all the same. Pinpricks of sweat formed at the back of his neck, slipping down into his collar and leaving a repulsive dampness. He did not want to be here, and certainly he could have avoided this sordid, ridiculous errand had he chosen to do so. There were other ways of watching, to be sure. With how little he'd seen of the Warrior of Light, he was growing more and more content with the idea of calling the affair a wash and leaving.

Of course, the man had a funny way with timing. There, a black shape against the swirling eddies of heat on the horizon, making his way down the dirt path that led to the godsforsaken little mining town the Scions had turned into their latest pet project for salvation. Most of the harder physical labor was, as usual, piled onto the Warrior. Emet-Selch almost fancied he could see a smile on the man's face, distant and blurry though it was.

Things were going precisely as he had assumed they would. He had no need of this, no need of baking under the heat-lamp of his own machinations for the First simply to watch the Warrior of Light carry a crate. It was not even diverting. His time, unlimited as it was, was wasted beyond expression.

With a snap of his fingers he took a place beside the Warrior, falling in rhythm with the young Miqo'te's steps. For his part, the Warrior shouted in surprise and tripped over himself, careening backward from the weight of the crate on his chest.

"Emet!" He flashed a facile grin.

Emet-Selch sighed. "So this is how the esteemed champion of the Source deigns to greet me?"

"I thought you'd be staying back at —" The Warrior paused to think, still flat on his back in the burning sand. "Wherever it is you stay, I guess."

The Warrior struggled back to his feet and shifted the crate in his arms. He had discarded the usual trappings of his — heavy armor and thick black cloaks — for something simply constructed and sleeveless, better suited for working in this sort of heat. Emet-Selch observed, not for the first time, the spiderwebbing of scar tissue across nearly every inch of his skin. Some few of those scars were uncomfortably uniform. He made the conscious decision not to look away too showily.

Often, if not practically always, the Warrior was rather incurably morose, even when he was valiantly attempting to seem otherwise. The chipper manner in which he'd greeted Emet-Selch suggested this was hardly the case today, despite the swiftly advancing corruption of his aether.

Emet-Selch quirked a brow. "What is it that's got you so pleased, hero?"

"I'm helping the miners from Twine."

Ugh. "That's enjoyable to you?"

"It's better than fighting." He shifted the crate again, muscles moving subtly under his skin as he kept it balanced. "You don't know this, but I used to be a stable boy. Back home, at Bentbranch."

"I hardly see how that elucidates things."

"It was a better time, I guess. It felt — I don't know. Normal?" Again, he shifted the crate. It was clearly beginning to wear on him. "That's a ridiculous way to put it, but…I mean, when I came here, to the First, nobody knew who I was. Nobody has ideas or expectations. I'm just like anyone else."

Emet-Selch was silent. A bead of sweat snaked down his forehead.

"I'm sure it sounds stupid to you, but I always felt lonely. Ever since fighting Ultima, really. It's like being stuck behind a wall, and —" The crate nearly slipped from his arms entirely. "But it's not like that here. Nobody cares who I am. And this…I don't know. I don't feel like I'm helping people when I fight, even if I am, but this kind of thing, I feel like it means something."

"You're hardly careful with your secrets."

The Warrior laughed. "What does it matter? I can tell you anything. You're not going to like me no matter what I do, so I don't even have to try."

"Funny you should say that after Rak'tika."

"You don't have to like someone to fuck them." He struggled again with the crate, an edge of playful derision creeping into his voice as he continued. "Unless you mean —"

"Give me that." Emet-Selch pulled the crate away violently, only to realize too late how weighty it was.

The Warrior's eyes widened with delight. "Wait, you're helping!"

Emet-Selch rolled his eyes. "You were about to drop it. It was irritating me."

The Warrior put his hands in his pockets, apparently feeling in no position to complain. Emet-Selch felt rather foolish at having taken the Warrior's burden; he'd clearly forgotten the Scions gave him such back-breaking work because he was practically an ox. Blithely, the Warrior took a few steps forward; he only bothered to look back when he heard an inadvertent hiss of frustration leave Emet-Selch's lips just before the crate clattered to the ground.

    "Careful," said the Warrior.

    Emet-Selch only glared. The Warrior put his hands on either side of the crate over Emet-Selch's. Rather than lift it, however, he gave an ominously mischievous smirk.

    "I'll take this off your hands if you tell me how you really feel."

    "I'm not carrying this load of junk."

    "Say you care about me."

    Emet-Selch narrowed his eyes. "'You care about me.' There — now release me."

    The Warrior seized a fistful of Emet-Selch's shirt and wrenched him forward, pulling their faces close. "I want you to say it."

    Rather than honor the request, Emet-Selch took the opportunity to bring their lips together, closing the gap completely. Pfeil met him eagerly, and the matter of the crate was entirely forgotten as they tumbled to the ground, greedily stealing breaths from one another.

    Pfeil pulled himself away long enough to speak, and as he did his fangs brushed against Emet-Selch's lower lip. "You didn't answer my question."

    "You didn't ask me a question, hero." Emet-Selch grinned.

"You are so fucking insufferable, you know that?" Pfeil laughed and stood. "I have to get going, or they'll wonder where I am."

"Let them find us. I'd like to see the looks on their faces."

A little scoff from Pfeil. "Thancred would beat you senseless." The joy had been thoroughly wrung from his voice.

"He would try. I think it would amuse me, seeing —"

"I don't want him to hurt you."

Emet-Selch felt something catch in his throat. "Don't be a fool."

"I can't help it! Why do you think I slept with you if it wasn't because I felt something?! Of course I don't want to see you get hurt!" He wore something between sadness and anger on his face.

Amaurot, before the sky fell in. Azem, smiling. 'I know you hate me, but I just can't help myself —'

Caught under Amaurot, sky crumbling. Azem, bleeding. 'It will be alright. I love you.' 'I hate you.' Hated him for leaving.

Emet-Selch huffed, like a petulant child. "What do you want me to say?"

"Don't lead me on. I can't do it. Either you care or — just leave me alone, if you don't."

He got to his feet and took Pfeil in his arms, planting a long kiss on his neck. He didn't want to speak, didn't want to dignify this line of questioning. The heat was still unbearable, and Pfeil's body baked against him.

The Warrior wrested himself from his grip. "They're really going to be looking for me, Emet." He gave another of his signature smiles, wan and miserable and false.

He did not ask the Warrior to stay, though he considered it; considered lying him in the amber sand and running his lips up Pfeil's white-lined arms, saying all the things he had no desire to say, letting the sky go dark without complaint.

"Go, then."

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