“Puck.” Kyr held it up to show Solan then dropped it on the ice. “Stick. Use the stick to hit the puck into the net.” He pointed a gloved hand at the net at the end of the rink.
“It sounds so simple,” Solan said dryly.
“It is.” Kyr grinned. “When you don’t have a bunch of other players all up your ass. Now try to hit the puck.”
“I can barely even skate,” Solan muttered, but he took an unsteady swipe at the puck, missing it completely and nearly landing himself flat on his face as his skates slipped.
Kyr struggled not to laugh. “So more skating practice first? Hold onto the stick though.” He offered his arm and waited for Solan to take it before leading him on another lap around the rink.
Once Solan got his feet under him he was a lot steadier, and Kyr steadily increased their speed until the wind of their skating blew his hair off his forehead. Beside him Solan stumbled a little, caught his balance, and begged for a break, wiping sweat away. Kyr left him in the middle of the rink, leaning on his stick, and took off to skate by himself, first forwards as fast as he could, then backwards in a big lazy circle. As he passed the puck he’d left on the ice, he caught it on his stick and drove it down the rink to the net, flipping it in and then skating in another circle with his arms held up high in victory.
He heard Solan laughing and skated back towards him, skidding to a stop in a spray of ice shavings. “Ready to go again?”
“I thought Fae were supposed to be all graceful and shit? Put the rest of us to shame?”
“Kyr, shh.” Solan looked around the arena, though it was completely empty. “Not so loud.”
“There’s nobody here but us.” He turned in a circle, raising his voice to yell. “Nobody to hear that Solan Yorke is—”
Solan tackled him before he could get the rest out, knocking him to the ice in a pile of padding, and punched him in the shoulder. “Not funny, Kyr. Really not funny.”
“Mine,” Kyr said, grinning. “Solan Yorke is mine.”
“Still not funny.” Solan tried to push himself up, slipped, and ended up on his hands and knees on the ice. “Help?”
“But I like you on your knees.” Kyr got to his feet and extended a hand to pull Solan up, bracing himself against the pull of Solan’s weight and tugging him down to the end of the rink. “Let’s race, one end to the other.”
“Are you trying to kill me?”
“Don’t be a fucking chicken. On three. Three!” Kyr took off and out of the corner of his eyes saw Solan gamely follow, awkwardly pushing his speed up. At the end of the rink he didn’t turn quite fast enough and slammed into the boards hard enough to shake the windows, awkwardly catching himself on the sill. The look he shot Kyr for laughing only made Kyr laugh harder, until he was doubled over and clutching at his stomach, gasping for air.
“You about done?” he managed when he’d calmed down enough to speak without breaking into another fit of giggles.
“Yeah. I have bruises on my bruises.” Solan reached out and Kyr took his hand, leading him off the ice. They sat on the nearest bench to unlace their skates and put their shoes back on, then carried skates and padding back into the locker room to put them away.
Kyr watched Solan stretch up to put his pads on a shelf, then scratch absently at the back of his shoulder. In the two weeks since they’d returned Solan had been jumpy and tense, until Kyr had felt half-crazy just being in the same room as him. The only time he had seemed relaxed had been when they went to lay out the murals at St. Seb, when he could concentrate on nothing more strenuous than inking Kyr’s messy sketch lines. Even his schoolwork had started to suffer; Kyr had gone to play games on his laptop one night when he couldn’t sleep, and had peeked at Solan’s student account, left logged in. Solan had nearly failed a math test—in direct contrast to the one Kyr had passed in his daze, something he still couldn’t figure out—and had received a worried note on the history essay he’d handed in shortly after they’d come back, asking if he was having personal problems. Solan hadn’t mentioned either of the bad grades but Kyr had noticed him looking even more stressed out the past few days.
“Something on my face?” Solan asked, bringing Kyr out of his thoughts.
“No.” Kyr shrugged. “I’m worried about you, Solo. You seem unhappy.”
“Uh-huh. Break’s next week. Let’s go down to your parents’ place for a couple days. Or hell, the whole week. You can be yourself there, right? Fae territory?”
“Yeah.” Solan touched the cuff in his ear. “You really want to go?”
“Fuck yes. It’ll be good to get out for a while. Are you going to tell them about, you know? You and me?”
Solan kissed his temple. “Already did, last week, on the phone. They don’t really care. Well, they care, but it’s not that big a deal. My mom’s a bit worried that you’re human though.”
“I thought she liked me.”
“She does. She just worries.”
“I’ll fucking charm her next week then.” Kyr slid an arm around his waist as they walked out of the locker room and headed down the path to the dorms. “We can leave Saturday morning, spend the day driving down there.”
“Great.” Solan went silent for a few moments. “Kyr, can I ask you a question?”
“You don’t really see Jax and Ravi anymore. And Jax looks like he wants to kill me every time he sees me. Am I... I don’t want you to lose your friends over me.”
“I see Ravi at practice. Jax...” Kyr shrugged, thinking of Jax’s angry face in their one conversation since he’d told Jax about Solan. He’d attempted to patch things up and Jax had basically told him to choose between Solan and his human friends. Kyr had turned and walked away without hesitation, and they hadn’t spoken to each other since. “Jax isn’t very happy about you. But Jax can go fuck himself.”
“Have you tried—”
“I’ve fucking tried, Solan,” Kyr said, sharper than he’d intended. “He won’t listen. So until he hauls his head out of his ass, I’m done trying to be the good guy. Leave it alone.”
“Kind of sounds like he’s not the only one who needs to haul his head out of his ass.”
“Fuck you too.”
Solan pulled him to a stop in the shadows of the dorm building, turning Kyr to face him. Kyr looked up at him, ready to fight whatever point he was going to try and make, but instead Solan just kissed him, sliding both arms around his waist. He didn’t let go until Kyr was breathless and debating just shoving him up against the wall right then, security and other students be damned.
“Just don’t throw everything else away over me, okay?” Solan kissed the corner of his mouth and Kyr wondered if he was doing it just to be distracting. If he was it was working; Kyr found it hard to stay annoyed with Solan’s hands working their way up under his shirt and Solan’s mouth on the corner of his jaw.
“You know,” he managed, “if Jax kissed me like that, I wouldn’t.”
“Has Jax ever kissed you like that?” Solan asked, and Kyr grinned a bit at the slight miffed tone to his voice.
“Nah, he kind of sucks at it. Probably why he can’t keep a fucking girlfriend.” Kyr pulled him into the front entrance of the dorms, flashing a grin at the security guard before leading Solan upstairs.
“When were you kissing Jax?” Solan asked as soon as they got into Kyr’s room.
“A couple years ago. For fun and because we were kind of really drunk. Are you jealous?” Kyr grinned. “You’re fucking jealous.”
“I am not.”
“Are too,” Kyr said, and added in a sing-song voice, “Jealous, Solo’s jealous that I kissed Jax.”
“He’s the only one you’re going to be kissing if you don’t knock it off.”
“Like you’d give this up.” Kyr pulled him into another kiss, deftly undoing his jeans at the same time. Solan mumbled a half-hearted protest against his mouth that turned into a gasp when Kyr slid a hand into the open front of his jeans, bucking his hips forward. Kyr pushed him back onto the bed and for a little while Jax was the furthest thing from his mind.
Solan was already gone to class when he woke in the morning, leaving behind the jeans he’d worn the night before, draped over the desk chair Kyr almost never used. Looking around, Kyr could see bits of Solan’s presence all over the room, from a stray sock in the corner to the history textbook he’d been staring at until Kyr dragged him out to the skating rink. He knew Solan’s room next door looked pretty much the same; he thought he even remembered leaving essay notes beside Solan’s laptop, even though he had a better one of his own. It was a comfortable sight, even though he’d once taken Solan’s books to class with him and spent a while feeling very confused.
He glanced at the time and pushed himself out of bed, covering a yawn as he pulled some clothes on, grabbed his backpack—full of his own books, he hoped—and wandered out to class. Lunch was spent sitting in the cafeteria with Solan, trying to wrap his mind around the themes in a short story he’d personally found boring. After classes were done, he met up with Solan in the parking lot and drove down to St. Sebastienne, where the murals had mostly been sketched and outlined.
“What are you putting on the last wall?” Solan asked as they walked in, returning the security guard’s wave.
“It’s a surprise. I want to do that one alone, okay? All of it, sketch to outline to paint. Nobody sees it but me.”
Solan gave him a puzzled look, then shrugged. “All right, if you want. I can see it after, right?”
“Yep, when it’s done.” Kyr stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek and knelt down to finish outlining the feet of the soccer player he’d drawn for one of the murals.
“We can probably start painting some of these when we get back,” Solan said when they were done for the evening and walking back to the car. “I talked to my mom and she said it’s fine for us to come stay. And she said she hoped you’d be okay staying in Fae territory.”
“I’m sleeping with one, aren’t I?”
“It’s a little different, Kyr. You’ll be in their—in our territory. Some people won’t like that.”
“Let them. I’m there with you, to visit your family. Everyone else can fuck off.”
Solan laughed a little. “Maybe don’t put it in exactly those terms. Just be aware, okay? It’s not like here.”
“I’ll be a fucking angel, I promise. Stop worrying.” Kyr hopped into the driver’s seat and started the engine, holding his hands out to the vents as they started to pump warm air into the front seats. “We’ll have fun.”
He lay awake in bed later, his head pillowed on Solan’s shoulder, and tried to predict how he’d be received in Arian Mawr. He already knew Solan’s parents wouldn’t have a problem with him, but the thought of an entire town where the population was over half Fae made him feel a tiny jolt of fear deep in his stomach. There had been attacks on both sides in the past few weeks, and as far as he could gather from news reports, the war was back at a standstill until the weather cleared up. Anti-Fae feeling was running high in town, though, and he had an idea it was just the same for the other side. Finally, feeling tired and fed up of thinking, he closed his eyes and forced himself to relax until he fell asleep.
They left early on Saturday morning, joining a handful of other cars leaving for the break before the morning traffic got heavy. As they walked out to his car, Kyr spotted Jax standing with Ravi and a couple of other students, packing bags into someone’s parents’ sedan. Their eyes met for a moment, then Jax curled his lip and purposely turned his back, shoving a bag into the sedan with excess force. Kyr swallowed hard against a sudden lump in his throat and dragged his eyes away, mustering a smile when Solan asked him if he was okay.
They took the scenic route down towards Arian Mawr, getting off the highways when the traffic got busy and taking the smaller back roads. Kyr got lost once, taking a right turn when he should have taken a left, and they ended up stopping for lunch and directions at a small diner on the edge of another highway, its parking lot full of rumbling semis. The food was full of grease but good, and in big enough portions that Kyr felt stuffed before he even finished all of it. They lingered a little while in the diner before asking the waitress to pack it in a doggy bag, and the sun’s shadows were beginning to get long by the time they got back onto the road and headed in the right direction.
Solan was asleep when the first lights of Arian Mawr appeared out of the twilight shadows and Kyr spent a moment just looking around as he drove before reaching over to shake Solan awake and ask where his house was. Following Solan’s sleepy directions, he drove through town and up a short residential cul-de-sac, eventually pulling up in front of a small white two-storey house with a short front yard and Solan’s parents’ car parked in the driveway. Kyr pulled up behind it and killed the engine, then just sat a moment, trying not to feel nervous.
“Relax,” Solan told him, yawning. “The only people you’re seeing tonight are me and my parents. And I feel like I could just fall into bed and sleep for three days.”
“You sure they’re okay with me kind of just inviting myself over? Magdalin would—”
“Don’t care what Magdalin would do.” Solan raised his hand and kissed his knuckles. “What happened to ‘I play hockey, I laugh in the face of danger’?”
“I don’t think anyone would be too happy if I checked your parents.” Taking a deep breath, Kyr opened the car door and got out, shivering a little in the cold night air. He leaned into the back and grabbed Solan’s bags, handing them over before picking up his own and following Solan up to the front door.
“Is my hair a mess?” he asked as Solan knocked.
“You’ve met them before,” Solan laughed. “You’re the one who brought them up for my birthday.”
“That was different. Then I wasn’t the one corrupting their little boy. I want your parents to like me, Solo.”
The door opened and Solan’s mother gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, then pulled Kyr into a hug as well before ushering them into the front hall. Feeling a little dazed from being hugged so tight—Solan’s mother was a slim woman but she hugged like a bear—Kyr looked around as she looked Solan over critically.
The first thing he saw was the framed painting on the wall directly ahead, hanging over a small wooden table with a vase of fresh flowers on it. It was obviously what Solan’s tattoo had been based off, but the sheer power in the strokes and curls of paint took Kyr’s breath away. The canvas had been divided into four sections, encircling a set of scales balanced perfectly evenly, and each of the four sections had been filled with representations of the four elements. Earth was so green that he could almost see the grass growing, tangling into vines that wrapped around the trunk of a massive oak. When he looked across to Fire he smelled smoke and heard the crackle of flames; and at Water he tasted the salty tang of the ocean and remembered what it was like to have a long cold drink after a hot game of soccer. In Air he heard the song of birds and the power of a massive tornado, woven together until they were just two parts of the whole. Just looking at it made him feel dizzy and small, and he didn’t even realize how hard it had hit him until Solan made an alarmed noise and caught him around the waist just before his knees gave out.
“Kyr? You okay?” Solan pressed the inside of his wrist to Kyr’s forehead, but Kyr pushed his hand away.
“I’m fine. I just... Holy shit, Mrs. Yorke. You could probably take over the world with that painting.”
She glanced at it, then gave him a thoughtful look. “It’s only a painting, Kyr.”
He looked again and saw it was; a painting done with great skill and an obvious amount of love, but still only a painting. He opened his mouth then closed it again and offered a shaky smile, still leaning heavily on Solan even though the strength was coming back to his legs.
“I guess I’m just more tired than I thought. It was a pretty long drive.”
“Off to bed with both of you then,” Solan’s mother said briskly. “You can sleep in and I’ll make pancakes for breakfast. Your father’s asleep, Solan, so keep it down, please.” She led the way upstairs and showed them to what Kyr thought was probably Solan’s old room. “Sleep well, boys.”
She left them alone and Kyr followed Solan into the room, dropping his bags on the floor and collapsing on the bed. He felt Solan take his shoes off, and then his jeans, but sleep crept up and claimed him before he even felt Solan climb into bed beside him.