Snow was more than a bit startled at the sound of that voice. It had been so long since he'd heard him speak ... Sure, it sounded rough and raspy, nothing like ZaiWin's voice was supposed to sound. But he could still easily identify it, his heart jumping inside his chest, anxiety coiling around his stomach again. The inevitable moment, when he'd finally find out just how mad ZaiWin really was at him, had finally arrived. Snow shivered.
ZaiWin took one hand to his neck and flinched, taking a sharp breath through clenched teeth, his face distorting into a grimace of pain. He knew it was nothing too serious, but it still fucking hurt all the same!
Dreading what kind of expression he would find on his face, Snow slowly raised his head, hoping to get a clue of what to expect. Was ZaiWin going to shout at him? Or was he simply going to refuse to speak to him at all? He rather he shouted, Snow decided. From the way he had behaved just moments ago, Snow knew ZaiWin was pretty angry at him, as he should be, Snow added in his thoughts, his cracked lips still stinging as a reminder. But the moment his gaze fell on ZaiWin's wounded neck all those thoughts and fears, everything was completely wiped off from his mind.
There was blood everywhere, running down his neck, soaking the collar of his tunic, the shimmering bright red of raw flesh making him feel sick. Still, his body practically moved on its own, as Snow did his best to scramble back to his hands and knees.
ZaiWin sighed, carefully dabbing around the wound, trying to ascertain the magnitude of his injury. Although it was clearly just a flesh wound, his skin had been completely pealed off, all the way from the base of his neck to his chin. And, because of the place where he'd wounded himself, it was bleeding quite badly.
Remembering how Snow felt about blood, ZaiWin raised his gaze to assure him that, even though it might look bad, it actually wasn't that serious. But then Snow's face was right in front of him, his left hand pressing down on his thigh as he slowly leaned closer to him.
He was shivering again, his arms trembling so much that ZaiWin feared his elbows might just give way from beneath him. ZaiWin didn't know if all that nervous trembling was because of all that blood or because he was just too scared, after the terrible way he'd treated him. No matter the cause, however, and even though Snow's bruised lips kept quivering, he was still clearly trying to kiss him. But then he stopped, his head hanging low, his small fingers scratching his leg as he clenched his fists.
Celestials might hate blood, violence and death. But they felt even more distraught when their Chosen One got hurt, ZaiWin knew. In fact, from what he had observed so far, and from Snow's pained expression right now as he pursed his cracked lips shut, preventing him from healing him whenever he got hurt was probably a very good way to torture him. And yet there he was, clearly distressed, trying to hold back, refraining from doing what came naturally to him, clearly afraid ZaiWin might get angry at him.
Holding his chin with two fingers, ZaiWin raised his head and simply pressed his lips to his, suckling them gently until Snow finally relaxed enough to do what he needed to do.
The dammed brat was really an idiot, ZaiWin thought when his small hot tongue tentatively invaded his mouth. There he was, worrying about some minor scrapes, when his own lips still tasted of blood. When his own neck had already started to bruise from the rough way ZaiWin had handled him just instants ago.
The moment he had fulfilled his task, Snow gently pulled back from the kiss, lowering his head again. But he still remained well within ZaiWin's reach. Resignation, was what his entire body language screamed. No matter the punishment, he was willing to take it.
Releasing his chin, ZaiWin took a deep breath. Even though all this time they had been clearly understanding each other without exchanging a single word, now ZaiWin had the feeling that no amount of words would ever be enough to say what needed to be said. And yet, he was sure that remaining silent in hopes that things would somehow get better all by themselves would never work either.
"Why?" was all he said, but it was still more than enough to leave Snow visibly tense, his fisted hands shaking again.
Nervously biting the insides of his mouth, Snow forced himself to answer.
"You wouldn't have let me go otherwise," he whispered, his voice sounding even smaller and frailer than it normally sounded. "And you would probably have killed them ... or at least hurt them ..." he added in fear, unable to look back at ZaiWin.
"So you were trying to protect them."
Snow immediately trembled at that but still nodded.
"Because they're Celestials?"
Snow's heart jumped in alarm, but, then again, of course ZaiWin had gathered as much. And so he simply nodded again.
"Is that what they told you?"
Pursing his lips, Snow forced himself to answer.
"They showed me."
Snow nodded again.
"RimJan's daitai ... they form a pair of wings. Just like mine."
"Are you sure?"
Snow nodded yet again.
ZaiWin released a deep sigh, allowing himself to lean back against the cold wall.
It was as he had expected. Of course he hadn't expected them to actually have a Celestial's daitai pattern impressed on their backs. But knowing that made everything all the easier to understand. He knew that those bastards had somehow convinced Snow that they were the same. That Snow's blind trust in them had to come from his naïve perspective that they were, somehow, like family.
Reaching out, ZaiWin suddenly grabbed his wrist, which successfully made Snow finally look up at him, even though his expression was one of fear and alarm.
"Do you believe in me, Snow?"
Snow's pale eyes widened in surprise, before he finally managed to relax again. Without the shadow of a doubt obscuring his pale gaze, he nodded vehemently.
"Then believe me when I tell you this. Those people! They are not Celestials. And they're nothing like you."
Snow looked completely taken aback, for a moment, as if someone had just suddenly poured a bucket of icy water over his head.
"But ... I saw it ... RimJan's back," he argued, and ZaiWin nodded.
"And I believe you did."
"And it was just like mine. Just like what you drew on the ground that time."
ZaiWin nodded again.
"And I can't explain that."
"You also told me that I'm not a Tien'Elhar either. Does that mean that only the golden-ones can be considered Tien'Elhar?" he demanded, sounding increasingly defensive, and ZaiWin couldn't help mirroring his scowl. Golden-ones! He was even using their way of speaking now.
"That's not what I meant, when I told you that," ZaiWin quickly declared. "I couldn't care less whether Celestials have blond hair or green hair. I'm talking about energy, Snow. Even though the Celestials currently living in the Palace tend to avoid me for obvious reasons, I've been around them since I was a child. Sure, they do differ from one another, but the differences are very small, a lot like flowers of the same kind will differ from one another. Still, they all have the same color, the same number of petals, the same scent. But not you. You're a completely different kind of flower. You are all they are and a lot more. But you're still a flower, nonetheless. Those people outside, even though they may have petals, like you say, they're not flowers at all, far from it."
Snow lowered his gaze, looking defeated.
"But I saw her back ... and I thought ..."
He had thought that he had finally found others like him, ZaiWin knew. Because the more they taught him about what a Celestial was supposed to be, the more he realized what ZaiWin had just told him, that he was nothing like them. And then those people had come along, for all intents and purposes unbound Celestials, Celestials with black hair, Celestials that had males amongst them like him. It was kind of sad, ZaiWin thought, watching him, Snow's head hanging low, his lips pursed, his shoulders tense. ZaiWin had hoped he'd be enough, he sighed inwardly. That having him accept him and love him for who he was, no matter how different he might be, would be enough. It clearly hadn't been. Snow had still felt the need to assure himself that there were others like him, that he wasn't some freakish accident of nature.
Leaning forward, ZaiWin placed his face right next to his.
He'd been the one getting hurt and betrayed, but he still couldn't help feeling even more miserable seeing Snow like this. He wished he could stop his pain. A pain that Snow had apparently been carrying in his chest for a very long time, now. A pain ZaiWin hadn't been able to see, before. A pain that, he had thought, would never have a place in Snow's life, as long as he remained by his side. And yet, even though now he could see it, he still had no idea of what he should do to make it better.
"I love you," was all he could say. No matter what he was, or how different he was, or what mistakes he might make. He would always love him. Love him so much that he might even kill him one day.
The weight of Snow's forehead against his shoulder and the feeling of his fingers clenching his clothes over his chest finally allowed ZaiWin to breathe again.
"I'm sorry ... I'm so sorry ..." ZaiWin heard him whisper, and he immediately placed a hand over his head, trying to comfort him. "I never wanted any of this to happen ..."
"Please don't hate me ..."
As if that could ever be possible, ZaiWin sighed, wrapping his arms around him, pulling him closer.
"Didn't I just tell you that I love you?" Snow squeezed his clothes even harder and nodded. He didn't want to let go. He never wanted to let go again.
ZaiWin took a deep breath.
"You freaking brat!" He ruffled his hair, trying to get him to relax. "You even dared drug me!"
"I'm ... sorry ..."
"You better be! If you ever pull a stunt like that again I will chain you to the bed!"
"Mm ..." Snow nodded, his forehead still glued to ZaiWin's shoulder.
"Is that a consent I hear?"
"Mm ..." he nodded again, to which ZaiWin patted his head.
"Now that's a good boy." He had hoped to annoy him with his condescending tone but, instead, Snow wrapped his arms around his neck and silently held him tight.
Well, this was actually rather ... nice, ZaiWin thought, a small smile stretching his lips. If this was his reward, maybe he should get drugged and kidnapped more often, he thought, thoroughly enjoying the desperate way Snow kept clinging to him.
A/N: Ah, ZaiWin can be such a sadist at times. And yet I still find him lovable.
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