I read Wicked Lovely for the first time when I was in middle school, but I only read the first two books and I totally missed the subtext between Niall and Irial in Ink Exchange. Imagine my surprise when I reread the books and find that they were totally into each other and I missed it the first time around. Of course, I had to write fic.
This takes place sometime after Fragile Eternity.
Disclaimer: I don't own Wicked Lovely.
"Not bad," Niall told Seth when he finished with his last bout against Gabriel and the Hounds had left. "Your fighting skills are coming along nicely."
"Do you think I could fight you?" Seth asked. The Hounds were powerful opponents, he knew, but Seth wanted to try fighting someone who wasn't a Hound, with a different fighting style.
Niall frowned. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" he asked doubtfully. Seth shrugged.
"You let me fight with the Hounds without batting an eye," he countered. Niall considered it for a moment before shrugging.
"What harm could it do?" he asked. Seth smirked.
"It might do some harm to the morale of your Court if they see me beat you," he replied. Niall rolled his eyes.
"An excess of undeserved confidence will not help you," he warned, holding up the ropes to let Seth into the ring. Seth ducked under the ropes, Niall following him. In truth, he knew he couldn't win the fight; Seth was strong, but Niall was the centuries-old Dark King. Few could stand against him. Seth didn't think he was one of them yet.
"So we'll keep going until one of us says to stop?" Seth asked. Niall nodded, a mischievous look on his face.
"Do we need a safe word?" he teased. Seth rolled his eyes.
"I'm dating the Summer Queen," he reminded him. "Sort of a jealous girlfriend."
"Ah, what a pity," Niall sighed. Seth swung at him. Niall laughed as he dodged it.
"Speaking of romance," Seth stated, looking for an opening in Niall's defense and not finding one, "what's going on between you and Irial?"
"If you're trying to win by distracting me, it's not going to work," Niall replied after a moment's pause. Seth shrugged, trying to kick Niall and barely getting out of the way when Niall reached out to grab the extended leg.
"I'm not trying to distract you, I'm trying to chat," he corrected. "You and Irial had a thing once, didn't you?"
"Long ago," Niall stated after a long moment, his voice tight. "Before I joined the Summer Court under Keenan's father."
"Do you still love him?" Seth asked. Niall swung at him, but Seth ducked under it.
"Who says I ever loved him?" Niall countered. Seth raised an eyebrow. "My feelings for Irial are...complex," Niall hedged. Seth decided to let it pass.
"What about Irial? Does he still love you?"
Niall fumbled just the tiniest bit, not taking advantage of an opening in Seth's guard he hadn't noticed. "I don't-" The lie stuck in Niall's throat. Scowling, he tried again. "It doesn't make-" Again, the sentence refused to come out. Seth smirked slightly. "One can never be truly sure of anyone else's feelings," Niall finally stated weakly.
"But you're pretty sure he's in love with you," Seth finished. Niall's scowl deepened and he swung at Seth again. Seth laughed as he spun out of the way. "I'm pretty sure he is too."
"I left him nine centuries ago for a reason," Niall stated. "He broke my trust."
"And yet you live in the same house as him," Seth countered.
"He was the Dark King for centuries," Niall countered. "He knows how things work. I need him as an advisor. I stayed in Keenan's loft when I advised him."
"Yeah, but you never had sex with Keenan," Seth retorted. Niall didn't answer. "You- Really?"
"I don't believe this was the point you were trying to make," Niall replied dryly. Seth nodded, pushing the image out of his mind and focusing on the point.
"Anyway, what did Irial do to you that was so terrible?"
"Nothing I'd like to talk about," Niall replied shortly, looking furious at himself for redirecting the conversation back to Irial. Seth aimed a punch at the side of Niall's head, but it never made contact; Niall grabbed his wrist and twisted it backwards until Seth kicked him in the shin.
"Did he give you the scar on your face?" Seth asked. Niall didn't reply. "What about the other ones?" Seth added. "You have a lot of scars." Still, Niall didn't speak, moving with almost mechanical-looking motions. Seth decided he would risk pushing a little more. "What could anyone do that's terrible enough to blame someone for it for nearly a millennia?" Seth swung again as he said the words.
Almost too fast for his eyes to follow, Niall grabbed Seth's wrist and flipped him to the ground, dropping into a crouch and pressing a hand against Seth's throat. His eyes were dark and even more inhuman than normal, deep and black and as endless as the abyss. Seth went still, sensing that trying to fight back wasn't a good idea.
For a moment, Niall was frozen. Then he blinked, and his eyes were much less terrifying when he opened them again. "I'm- I apologize," he stammered, taking his hand off Seth's throat and staggering backwards. Seth pushed himself upright as Niall left the ring, bracing himself on a table and looking utterly miserable.
"Hey, it's cool," Seth replied, following Niall out of the ring. "No real harm done." Niall didn't say anything. "It's my fault," Seth added. "I was tempting you, and you've told me Dark Kings don't handle temptation well."
Two of Niall's abyss-guardians oozed out of the shadows. A male one caressed his face lightly while a female one leaned against his back, her arms wrapped around his waist. Neither of them moved when Seth took a step towards Niall.
"Niall, it's not-" Seth placed his hand on Niall's shoulder and immediately pulled it back when Niall flinched.
"This was a bad idea," Niall stated in a low, controlled voice. "I should not have- I'm sorry."
Seth stepped away, waiting to see if Niall would call him back. He didn't. Leaving Niall bent over the table, Seth left, returning to his train.
Things hadn't gone quite as well as he'd hoped. It didn't mean he was going to give up.
Seth just thought he'd have to go about it differently the next time.
Irial answered the door when Seth knocked on it, just as Seth had hoped. "If you're here to see Niall, he's out," Irial stated. Seth shook his head; he had planned for that. "Gabriel's not here either," Irial added.
"I'm here to talk to you, actually," Seth replied. Irial arched an eyebrow, leaning against the doorframe and looking supremely bored at the thought.
"Are you," he replied dryly. "And what do you have to say to me?"
"I sparred with Niall yesterday," Seth began. Irial looked unimpressed.
"I would appreciate it if you made your point," he told Seth, who nodded.
"Okay, the point is, Niall and I talked about you." Irial's expression didn't show any of his emotions. Seth had no idea what he felt about the admission. "About your feelings for him and his for you."
"How exactly is that any of your business?" Irial asked, a thread of irritation in his voice. Seth shrugged.
"Niall is my sworn brother," he replied; brothers almost had a duty to interfere with each other's love lives.
"That isn't much of an answer," Irial countered. "Any relationship Niall and I might have has nothing to do with you."
"So that means we're not talking about it?" Seth asked. Irial's smile was feral.
"Precisely," he replied. "Goodbye, Seth."
"Will you at least tell me what you did to him that made him hate you for so long?" Seth asked. He could be wrong, but he thought he saw Irial flinch.
"If Niall wishes to tell you, he will. I will not betray him." Seth inclined his head slightly, turning to leave.
"Seth?" Irial called when Seth has reached the sidewalk. Irial hadn't moved from leaning against the doorframe. "You're playing a dangerous game."
"I know," Seth replied. He could feel Irial's eyes on him as he walked away.
Aislinn was waiting for Seth in his train when he arrived. "Where have you been?" she asked, pressing a tiny sunlight kiss onto his lips.
"Talking to Irial," Seth replied. Aislinn pulled back, frowning.
"Irial?" she repeated. "Seth, I know you're friendly with Niall and some of his court, but Irial is dangerous. He was the one who bound Keenan. He's done God-knows-what to Niall. He would still have his hands on Leslie if we didn't save her. He was the Dark King for centuries. Why were you talking to him?"
"Nothing important," Seth replied evasively. It was true on a certain level; his discussion with Irial wasn't important to his relationship with Aislinn. It was the closest Seth could get to a lie. Aislinn pouted.
"I hate when you lie to me," she whined. Seth smiled slightly as he kissed her.
"I'm a faery now, love," he replied. "We don't lie."
"Faeries are the worst liars," Aislinn countered. "They can't speak outright lies, but they can mislead. And you've learned from the best teacher there is."
"You've never even met Sorcha," Seth sighed. Aislinn shook her head.
"I wasn't thinking Sorcha. I was thinking Niall."
"Aislinn-" Seth protested. She continued speaking as if he hadn't.
"Niall traveled with the Dark Court. Then he was an advisor to the Summer Court. Now he's the Dark King. Advisors need to know how to lie without lying. The Dark Court is built on lies and cruelty."
"Niall doesn't lie to me," Seth retorted. The words came out without a problem; they were the truth, or at least the truth as Seth believed it. Aislinn's lips thinned.
"How would you know?" she countered. Seth pulled away.
"Did you just come over here to insult Niall?" he asked in a voice that came out colder than he'd intended. "I'd rather not listen to you disparage my sworn brother."
"Seth..." Aislinn reached out for Seth. A gentle rain started to fall. Seth raised an eyebrow. Aislinn blushed slightly and stopped it.
"I just don't understand why you spend so much time with the Dark Court," she admitted, sitting on the arm of a chair. Seth leaned against the wall, not willing to sit quite yet. "They're cruel." Seth almost argued the point, but he wasn't quite certain the words would come out. "And you're a High Court faery!"
"No, I'm not," Seth corrected. "Sorcha made me a faery, and I do owe some allegiance to her, but I am not a High Court faery. I'm a solitary, bound to no court. You know that."
"You could be part of the Summer Court, if you wished," Aislinn offered. Seth shook his head.
"I'm not Summer fey," he replied. "We both know that." The Summer Court was playful, wild, sensual. Seth had never truly fit in with their attitudes when he was mortal, and as a faery he had too much of Sorcha in him. He wasn't Summer fey.
"You're not Dark Court fey either," Aislinn countered firmly.
"They're my friends," Seth replied simply. Aislinn frowned.
"Why were you talking to Irial?" she demanded. Seth sighed. Despite the twists the conversation had taken, Aislinn hadn't forgotten how it started.
"Nothing that concerns you," Seth replied. Aislinn stood, a summer storm in her eyes.
"Perhaps I should leave, then." Seth sighed. Aislinn could be as volatile as lightning. He didn't want to fight, but he wouldn't passively give in either.
"I'll come by the loft tomorrow," Seth offered, giving Aislinn an olive branch. She swept out of the train without answering. Seth supposed it could have gone worse.
"Dangerous game" indeed. Apparently, setting Niall and Irial up could come at the cost of Seth's own happiness with Aislinn.
But no, that wasn't fair. It wasn't their fault. Seth had taken this mission upon himself. And if Aislinn thought she could decide who Seth was friends with, she had to be told otherwise.
Anyway, Seth had decided he was going to do this, and he wasn't going to let anything stop him.
Getting Niall and Irial in the same room was surprisingly easy.
Getting them to talk about their feelings was a different story entirely.
"Seth, if you have an important matter to discuss, I'm willing to hear it, but if not, I do have things to do," Niall stated, an edge in his voice. Seth had managed to speak without saying anything of consequence for a while, but it seemed he was out of time.
"Well..." Seth began, not sure of how to word it without lying or giving his plan away.
"Is this about our little talk a few days ago?" Irial drawled, studying his nails with practiced indifference. Niall turned from Irial to Seth with a tense expression. Seth knew he was about to burst.
"You and Irial had a talk?" he demanded. "Why did you have a talk? What did you talk about?"
"He asked about you, actually," Irial replied. "About our relationship." The last word was said in a languid drawl, making it sound far worse than it was. Seth ducked his head so he wouldn't have to see Niall's anger on his face.
"Did you," Niall stated in a carefully controlled voice. It wasn't a question, and Seth didn't so anything as stupid as try to answer. "What did you tell him, Irial?"
"That it was none of his business if I care for you," Irial replied. Niall nodded slowly.
"Seth, I think Irial and I need to talk. Alone." Seth accepted the dismissal and ducked out of the room, glad that it had been that easy to escape. He decided it was probably best that he get out of the house, just in case.
"Hello, Seth," a calm voice called as Seth went downstairs. Donia was waiting in the hall, Sasha at her side. "Tell me, is Niall in?"
"He's upstairs," Seth replied. "With Irial. You probably don't want to interrupt."
"I'll come back later, then," Donia remarked. "Niall and Irial's conversations tend to be long." There was a crash upstairs. "And rather violent," Donia added mildly. Seth looked up worriedly, wondering for the first time if perhaps he'd made the wrong decision.
"Do you know what happened between them?" Seth asked. Donia pursed her lips.
"It was long before my time," she replied. Seth was suddenly reminded that Donia had been human once, just like him and Aislinn. She was more knowledgable about faeries than either of them, but she had only been one for half a century. Of course she wouldn't know about what happened between Niall and Irial almost a millennia ago.
"I do know a few things," Donia added. "Niall was always kind to me when I was the Winter Girl. When I asked him about his past, he told me that he was betrayed by a friend who used him cruelly. Something to do with him being a Gancanagh, I believe."
"He loved him once," Seth remarked. "They loved each other. I'm pretty sure Irial still loves Niall."
"And Niall?" Donia asked, gliding to the door. Sasha loped along beside her. Seth opened the door, stepping over the trail of frost Donia left in her wake.
"He's still angry with Irial," Seth replied. "But I think a part of him still loves Irial too."
"Of course he does," Donia replied quietly as she slipped out of the house. "If he didn't, the betrayal wouldn't hurt nearly so much." Seth watched as Donia walked to the sidewalk, looking every bit as regal as the queen she was. Seth sighed as he closed the door behind her. The frost was already melting on the floor.
She was right, of course. Niall was still angry at Irial, even though nine centuries had passed since the betrayal. He wouldn't still feel that way if he hadn't truly loved Irial. If he didn't still truly love him now.
Seth looked up at the ceiling again. Niall and Irial had grown far more quiet. He wondered if they were still arguing or if they'd come to a peace. He had no way of knowing if they were even in the same room.
A part of Seth, the part that burned with curiosity about Niall, wanted to go upstairs and see what was going on. He almost did it, walking over to the foot of the stairs. Then he stopped, turned, and left the house.
Niall and Irial could figure things out themselves. Seth had done his part. It was their turn now.
His part in this "dangerous game" had come to an end.