Readjusting his grip on Rahas’ wrist and waist, Lynus helped the winded dark hunter toward a set of stone doors. On the other side was a chamber they could hide out in for a while. It was just the two of them at the moment. They had been unfortunately separated from Axel, Hamza, and Lirit.
Their trek in the labyrinth started out easy enough. They were simply looking for materials to gather. Simple and easy. Well, it was until they had been ambushed by a FOE. A trigourd, actually. The attack happened so quickly. No one had sensed a thing. Rahas was the one the monster had lashed out at first. He went down immediately, mostly from the lack of preparation. He wasn’t expecting to be attacked, so wasn’t ready for it.
And in the flurry of battle after that, with Lynus immediately rushing to Rahas’ side, they had somehow gotten separated.
While Lynus was worried (when in the labyrinth, he did nothing but worry), he knew that Axel and the others would be all right. He couldn’t really explain how, but he could sense that they were fine and relatively unharmed. No major injuries.
Even Rahas himself was winded more than injured (although he did have a slightly twisted ankle from falling on it crookedly), but Lynus wanted to be cautious nonetheless. After they reunite with the others, they’ll head back to town where Lynus can give Rahas a proper check-up.
That FOE wasn’t anything Axel, Hamza and Lirit couldn’t handle on their own. With Hamza’s Demon Power skill and Lirit’s Mercury song, Axel should be able to defeat it with record time. Still, it was unnerving to be separated for any reason yet alone because a trigourd caught them by surprise.
Once again readjusting his hold on an unnervingly quiet Rahas, Lynus nudged the stone doors open with his foot and pulled them both inside. He then helped Rahas to sit on the ground, at the base of a red-leaf tree before making his way back over to the doors and quietly closing it. Not all the way, but leaving just a crack for him to look out of and listen for anyone (or anything) approaching.
“Let’s wait here until Axel and the others find us,” Lynus said as he lingered near the door, hoping to hear his name being called.
“Why always him...?” Rahas muttered bitterly under his breath, his arms resting on his knees as he hung his head lowly.
Lynus turned to him and granted him a confused look. “I’m sorry?”
With his white hair covering half of his face, Lynus couldn’t see what kind of expression Rahas was wearing, but his body posture gave the indication that he appeared to be sulking. Lynus quickly deduced that it was probably from the fact that Lynus had helped him to safety and not the other way round. He hadn’t meant to hurt his pride like that, but in all honesty, he believed that their safety and well-being came long before their pride.
“Why are you always talking about Axel?” Rahas asked him rather harshly. “It’s Axel this and Axel that. It’s annoying!”
Lynus blushed lightly. Did he talk about Axel that often? W-well, it was given, right? They were together, after all.
People probably considered them to be that overly happy, in love couple that constantly talked or gushed about each other. While they weren’t doing it on purpose, nor could they actually help it, it must be pretty annoying to others. Especially the singles.
…It was rather embarrassing, to be honest.
“Is it because he’s stronger than me?” Rahas asked him suddenly, a small sense of desperation in his voice. “I can get stronger if that’s the case.”
Lynus felt a frown tug at his lips. “There’s more to Axel than brute strength, Rahas,” he said in a somewhat protective manner as he moved away from the door and knelt down next to Rahas on the ground. “You’re strong enough as it is. You shouldn’t push yourself.”
He was about to say that other than the monsters in the labyrinth, there was nothing for him to protect him from. Taksony was dead, and Avith and Zalaph weren’t exactly the malicious loyalist they played themselves to be. But he held his tongue. He didn’t want to anger or agitate Rahas further. Something had him riled up, but what?
“Did you hit your head?” Lynus asked in concern as he reached out with one hand to inspect Rahas’ head for any type of injury while he held up three fingers in front of Rahas’ face with his other. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Rahas unexpectedly slapped his hand away, causing Lynus to fall back onto his heels in surprise, his hand stinging slightly from the hit. “I’m fine,” he insisted.
Lynus was starting to feel a little queasy from worry as he gently rubbed the back of his hand. “Then what’s wrong? You’re acting strangely.”
Rahas turned away from him and folded his arms over his chest in a closed off manner. “It’s nothing.”
“Rahas, please don’t try that on me,” Lynus pleaded softly as he folded his hands upon his knees. “Something’s wrong. What is it? Won’t you talk to me?”
“You wouldn’t get it,” Rahas muttered as he looked away from him.
Lynus resisted the urge to sigh. They weren’t getting anywhere. “...Would you prefer to speak with Hamza, then?”
Rahas bristled. “I’m not speaking to that bastard,” he practically spat.
“Rahas,” Lynus scolded with a frown. “Don’t speak of Hamza that way. What is going on with you?” He couldn’t sense any foreign dark spots in his aura. He hadn’t been hit by a spell or curse of some kind. He must be feeling frustrated that he was thrown out of battle so quickly.
Rahas was silent for a moment, probably just to prove his ability to be defiant, before turning to face him abruptly. “I’m just sick of losing to him!”
First, Lynus was stunned by the loud admission before a look of confusion appeared on his face. “Sick of losing what to who?”
“See!” Rahas yelled as he turned away from him yet again, looking purely agitated.
Lynus hated to admit it, but he was getting increasingly frustrated with the rebellious teenager before him. He wouldn’t show it, though. Rahas had every right to be rebellious, especially the life he had lived. But, honestly, his fit of teenage angst was baffling. Their current circumstances, cut off from the rest of their party after a monster ambush, weren’t helping matters. They both were feeling a little frayed at the nerves.
“I can’t read your mind, Rahas,” Lynus said in what he hoped was a somewhat pacifying voice. “You’ll need to tell me what’s wrong.”
Lynus had expected Rahas to mumble something about Simmons annoying or confusing him, or something about Macerio picking on him, to which Lynus would counter with the promise of speaking to the brown-haired gunner. What he wasn’t expecting was for Rahas to whip around to face him, his face stony serious, look him straight in the eyes and exclaim firmly;
“I love you.”
He had to admit that he was surprised to hear him say something so…personal? Intimate? Rahas was never the type to speak so openly before. So, while the admission startled him, he wasn’t going to make a show out of it as it might cause the dark hunter to curl back within himself and not mention his thoughts or feelings again.
Lynus blinked before tilting his head to the side. “I love you, too,” he said with sincerity mixed with a subtle sense of confusion in his voice.
“What?” Rahas spluttered, his eyes widen in surprise.
“We might not be related through blood, but you’re still a brother to me,” Lynus continued.
Unexpectedly, a flash of anger and frustration appeared in Rahas’ eyes and he growled lowly. “That’s not what I meant!” he all but shouted.
Lynus was starting to feel confused and uneasy. He had to wonder, though, why Axel had been mentioned. Was Rahas…jealous of Axel? Was he afraid that Axel was taking up too much of Lynus’ time? Time he, in Rahas’ opinion, he should be spending with him and the others?
Before Lynus could ask any of those questions, Rahas made a sound akin to a grunt of frustration before launching himself at Lynus, grabbing him by the shoulders and all but throwing him to the ground. Lynus fell onto his back, the impact on the ground winding him enough to utter a noise of surprise.
Staring up at Rahas as the dark hunter leaned over him, his hands planted on the ground on either side of his head, all Lynus could really register was the expression of determination and focused intent on Rahas’ face. He looked almost…detached, in a way. Like he was simply relying on instinct to react.
Rahas then suddenly lowered his head toward him, his eyes closing to their own accord.
Lynus, however, felt his eyes widen in shock when he realised that…that…Rahas’ lips were pressed firmly against his.
Rahas was…kissing him.
W-what? He wasn’t...he hadn’t...expected that!
No, he didn’t want this. Axel was the one he was in love with. He couldn’t…
After the first initial stunned stillness of shock and disbelief, Lynus reacted by twisting his head to the side and placing his hands on Rahas’ chest in an attempt to push him away. “Rahas, stop!”
Thankfully, Rahas seemed to regain control over himself and he pulled back. However, he stayed leaning over Lynus, pinning him between him and the ground. Removing his hands from Rahas’ chest, Lynus stared up at him in complete shock and bewilderment before hastily turning his head to the side, desperately looking at the red and orange foliage of the second stratum.
His heart was pounding in his chest. He didn’t know what the think. Didn’t know what to do. Rahas, he…when? How? Why? Lynus had treated him like he would a precious brother. And he…had thought that Rahas felt the same. When did it turn into something else?
“Why couldn’t it be me?” Rahas suddenly asked, his voice softer than Lynus had ever heard before. He sounded so…frustrated and sorrowful.
“I’m…sorry, Rahas,” Lynus said, surprised by the tears that were suddenly pooling in his eyes. “I can’t.”
Lynus closed his eyes and drew in a sharp breath. He couldn’t answer that. Not in the way Rahas wanted him to. But, how could he tell him that he was in love with Axel, about how Axel was the man he saw himself growing old with, how he and Axel were planning a future together? He couldn’t tell him that. He couldn’t hurt him anymore than he already was.
And…he knew that Rahas wouldn’t listen, anyway. He was too emotional, too frustrated, and too angry to see reason. How long this had been boiling under the surface, he didn’t know. But…it had reached boiling point, clearly.
…Nothing could happen.
“Rahas,” Lynus said as calmly as he could, looking straight into Rahas’ eyes. “Let me go.”
As quickly as he had pushed him down, Rahas scrambled off of him and scurried away. He looked and acted as if he had made a terrible mistake. He clutched at his head, his fingers knotted through his hair and gripping tightly, as he turned his back to him.
Surprised by how shaky he felt, Lynus managed to push himself up into a sitting position and found himself tugging at his medical coat in a fidgeting manner.
A deafening silence abruptly appeared between them. And it was painful.
Lynus…didn’t know what to do.
He did the only thing he could think of. Apologise.
“I-I’m sorry, Rahas,” Lynus muttered. “But I can’t. I love Axel and…you can’t change that. I’m sorry.”
“…I know,” Rahas murmured softly, his voice sounding so defeated.
It made Lynus feel terrible. Terrible for hurting his brother. But there was nothing else he could do. He couldn’t pretend to feel what he didn’t. That would only cause more pain and suffering for everyone involved.
“Don’t tell anyone what happened here, ok?” Rahas requested of him suddenly, glancing at him from over his shoulder. “Especially not Axel.”
Lynus wasn’t entirely sure if he could keep that promise. Axel had a way of knowing when something was bothering him and Lynus couldn’t lie to him. But…Axel and Rahas didn’t exactly get along. They weren’t hostile to one another. Axel knew that Lynus saw Rahas as a brother. They just didn’t really interact with one another.
And after today…
After a moment, Lynus sighed and whispered; “Ok.”
Lynus clutched at his chest with his hand. He then pushed himself to his feet and slowly made his way to where Rahas was on the ground, cross-legged and shoulders hunched in defeat. Carefully, he knelt down next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, resisting the urge to pull back when he felt the dark hunter wince upon contact.
“You will always be a brother to me,” he said gently. “And, I hope that one day, you’ll find someone to love and who loves you in return.”
He was pretty sure that Rahas was thinking that it wasn’t good enough and he couldn’t help but sigh again. He truly was at a loss at what to do. He had never expected, never suspected that Rahas would be in love with him like that.
But...now that he knows, he felt somewhat foolish. All those declarations to become stronger to keep him safe took on a different meaning now. Had he…unintentionally pulled him along? N-no, he couldn’t have.
“I’m sorry, Rahas.”
Lynus found himself sighing again. “Rahas, please look at me.”
Rahas was, of course, defiant to follow his request, but eventually, he turned in his direction. Though, he kept his gaze to the ground, his white hair shielding the good majority of his face.
Slowly, Lynus leaned forward and gently kissed his forehead. It was a chaste kiss, a simple familial peck upon his brow, but it was enough for Rahas to stiffen in surprise. It was also enough to let him know that he truly was sadden by the pain he had unintentionally caused him.
“That’s all I can offer you,” Lynus said as he pulled away.
Rahas stared at him with unblinking eyes, another tense silence stretching out between them.
It was broken, however, by the faint call of Lynus’ name uttered by a familiar voice. It was Axel. He was looking for them. He sounded worried.
“I can hear Axel and the others,” Lynus said after a moment of awkward silence and reached out for his medical bag before he pushed himself to his feet. “Let’s go meet up with them.”
“Sure,” Rahas said in a cold, dismissive way as he, too, climbed to his feet.
Silently, the two opened the doors and stepped out into a narrow pathway. A few moments later they heard their names being called louder, and mere seconds after that, Axel, Hamza and Lirit all appeared and rushed over to them.
Axel was, of course, the first to reach them and he immediately hugged Lynus. And equally as predictable, Lynus hugged back, relieved to see him safe and sound.
Even though he knew that their embrace was only adding salt to Rahas’ emotional wounds, Lynus couldn’t find it within himself to pull away from Axel. He did find himself glancing over in the dark hunter’s direction, Rahas immediately getting into a debate with Hamza while Lirit was seeing if he was all right. He seemed to have returned to his rebellious teenage self in front of the war magus at the very least.
Lynus, however, knew that no matter what, things were going to be awkward between him and Rahas for a while.
But not forever, right?