A/N: Believe it or not, I'm still working on this. Just stubborn I guess, haha. Even if no one is reading it, I'm so close to the end, and I love this story. Just hard to muster the motivation and creativity to write very often, sometimes. Hope anyone reading enjoys. There's one, maybe two chapters left after this. (I'm not writing individual review responses anymore, but THANK YOU to everyone who left a review between the last chapter and this one. Your kind words and encouragement often brightened my day and encouraged me when I might have given up on this.)

35. Breathless

So far away from city lights, the night sky glittered with a sea of bright stars. The wind that moved Tokunaga's ship also drove shreds of cloud across that sky, pale shadows that occasionally blotted out the light of the moon. Estelle shivered, wishing not for the first time that she had a coat or blanket around her bare arms and shoulders. Winter had long retreated, but night at sea remained bitterly cold.

She was, of course, not alone. Cyrus stood hardly three meters away, also leaning against the ship's railing, staring out into the waves as if he thought that they might tell him something. He looked, Estelle thought, almost sad. His expression changed so rarely that it was difficult to tell for certain. She wondered about his story—he did not seem as brutish or vicious as many of the extremists, yet he participated in their schemes. And he was Lucas's brother. What if he was unaware of how Mira had betrayed him? Could he share some of his brother's doubts about their employers?

Estelle opened her mouth to speak, but at that moment she caught sight of Tor, crossing over from the opposite side of the deck. Her chest tightened painfully, as it always did now whenever she thought of him or saw his face. If Cyrus looked sad, Tor looked like someone who had lost everything dear to him in the world. When Estelle caught his gaze, he glanced away as if it burned him.

"Tor…" she said softly, mostly to herself, but he must have heard her. In the near-silence of the boat's journey through the night, even the smallest sound was amplified. Tor stiffened, his head half-turned away from her.

"Don't," he said, voice so low and quiet that she was not certain at first that he had even spoken. "Don't speak to me."

Estelle spared a glance for Cyrus, still searching for answers in the waves and apparently oblivious or at least indifferent to their exchange. She took a small step closer, then another. There hadn't been a chance to say anything since she had been captured—Mira was usually present, or the quarters had been too close. And Estelle hadn't been certain of what she would say, given the chance. She wasn't even entirely certain now. But something needed to be said. It hurt too much.

"Tor," she said again, biting her lip to keep her composure. "Have you really…are you really…"

A muscle jumped in Tor's jaw, his face still turned away.

"It's too late for me," he said. "It doesn't matter."

Estelle wanted to shout at him, to scream and shake him by the shoulders. But she didn't dare. Her hands shook, clenched at her sides.

"We were supposed to help you," she finally choked out. "You weren't supposed to…"

Anything that she would have said was absorbed by a muffled sob. Tears made a path down her cheeks and dripped from her chin.

"It doesn't matter," Tor said again, just as softly, just as resigned and matter-of-fact.

Yes, it does, Estelle wanted to scream. She felt so utterly helpless, too many unanswered questions and too much gone wrong. How had things ended up this way? She couldn't trace it back to the point where everything had started to fall apart. It was hard to believe that mere months ago, she had been so happy, so blissfully in love with this man. Silent sobs wracked her body, tears she didn't bother trying to wipe away. Tor still wouldn't look at her.

In the meantime, Cyrus seemed to have finally noticed the scene that was occurring. He pushed away from the railing and walked toward them.

"I'm taking her below," he said. Tor nodded, but remained behind when Estelle was escorted back to the cabin. Exhausted, she retired to her bunk, and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

By the time that they were within sight of the shore, dawn was a hazy glow on the horizon. Thick fog shrouded the beach, rendering it a formless gray mass only barely distinguishable as land. Mira stalked the deck impatiently snapping orders at her men, who rushed around making final preparations.

Yuri and his companions were almost certainly lying in wait for them. There had been no sign of the flying beast since it had retreated with its wounds, but they would not make it far without its help. Mira had briefly considered diverting their course to Nor Harbor, simply to avoid the inevitable confrontation as they made yet another rescue attempt for their little princess, but dismissed the idea just as quickly. To reach Dahngrest she would have to cross to Capua Torim eventually either way, and there was no need to give them more time to prepare an assault.

Cyrus and Tor made it down the plank first, followed by the Fist men that Mira had brought along. Mira brought up the rear of the party with Estellise, one arm looped around hers in mock companionship. She was being even quieter than usual, none of the usual fear or sadness apparent on her face. Her expression was simply…blank. Odd.

Mira mentally shrugged off the observation. It was no concern to her how the girl was coping. She scanned the surrounding cliffs and coastline as they stepped onto the beach. If the Vesperia group was near, they had covered their tracks exceedingly well. The sands were smooth, the brush showing no evidence of trampling or recently broken branches.

"It's too smooth," Cyrus muttered suspiciously. "They've definitely been here recently."
Mira made a noncommittal sound and tightened her grip on Estellise's arm. The girl hissed in a breath at the press of nails against her skin. There was little to do but keep walking forward, toward the trail that led up the cliffs into the city.

A sudden shout made her whirl around, thinking that someone in the group had been spotted. Instead, she found one of her men sprawled on the ground, a foot of broken spear embedded in his upper thigh. The Kritya's spear, of course. Mira cursed, stalking over to the man.

"He's bleeding out," she said, straightening and dusting wet sand from her hands. "Try to staunch it if you can." Mira snapped her fingers at one of the others, who blinked stupidly for a moment before running over to his fellow. Then she turned away to scan the cliffs once again. She had little doubt that the man would die shortly, without actual medical attention.

"I could…" Estellise said, in a thin, reedy voice. Her lips tightened, wide eyes darting over to the groaning man.

"You," said Mira, "are not going anywhere, I'm afraid. It seems your would-be rescuers have arrived."

She looked to the ridge that rose above the beach, where the guild members who had been a constant thorn in her side all these months stepped into view, one by one. They lacked the hollow bravado she had often seen in their expressions—even Yuri was stone-faced, without his typical, darkly sardonic smirk.

"It doesn't have to be this way, Mira," Flynn's voice carried across the air between them. Yuri's eyes flicked over, as if he disagreed, but said nothing. His hand rested firmly on the pommel of his sword. "We will not leave without the princess Estellise. Your blood does not need to be the price for that exchange."

Nearby, Cyrus snorted, a sentiment that Mira for once agreed with.

"Do you truly believe, after all our dealings, that we should be so easily intimidated? We hold all the cards, while you stand there bluffing as if your life depended on it. As it very well might." She shook her head. "No, you will need more than hot air and empty threats. We are escorting the princess to Dahngrest. Follow if you like, but I would strongly advise against one of your halfcocked rescue attempts. I simply do not have time for you any longer."

Mira motioned to the men, who formed up around her and the girl with Cyrus and Tor on opposite sides. She gave the order to move forward toward the cliffs leading off the beach. Not more than a handful of steps were taken, however, before a dark streak arced down from the ridge, much faster than the eye could follow. Another spear, this time embedded deep in the side of one of her guards. He groaned, falling to his knees on the dirt path.

"You are right," Judith called from somewhere behind them. "No more threats. We do not have time for you either." Her voice was edged with steel and venom. The Fist members tightened their formation around the two women, stealing nervous glances at their dying comrade, now sprawled face-down in the dirt. Mira grit her teeth.

"About face," she barked. They swung back around toward the ridge. She had hoped to avoid a major confrontation, but supposed this fight had always been inevitable. A sigh escaped her lips, barely audible to anyone besides herself, and perhaps Estellise. "Atta—"

she began, and that was when, as they say, all hell broke loose.

A startled "Ba'ul!" from the Kritya was all the warning that Mira and her men had before a flurry of color burst down among them. The massive creature let out a warbling roar as it swung around, tail thrashing as the Fist scattered. He zeroed in on a pair of the remaining men, a bright light building inside his mouth until it shot out in a steady beam. They were vaporized on the spot, burnt to ash.

Mira stared at the spot where the men had been cowering, temporarily unable to process or react to this unexpected danger. Ba'ul's sides were expanding and deflating rapidly, as if the attack had taken an extraordinary amount of energy, but his body began to turn in her direction.

Mira felt a hand close around her upper arm.

"Come on, move!"

To her surprise, it was not Cyrus spurring her to action. She staggered along the beach at Tor's side, still linked with Estellise, the monster at their heels. Surely he would not attack if the princess might be caught in the crossfire…? The lingering heat in the air around her made Mira not want to take that chance. Their kind had betrayed humanity before. Wars had been fought over it.

At the edge of the beach, they ducked beneath some overhanging rocks and into the mouth of a hidden cave. Mira could hear the anguished screams of the last of the men who had crossed the sea with her. Despite herself, she felt a pang at the unbidden thought that Cyrus might be among them. She grit her teeth as Tor led them further into the cave's depths.

The path opened onto a central chamber, its ceiling studded with stalactites. One could almost reach up and brush the tips with a hand. On one side, a handful of openings in the rock let light stream in, cutting the otherwise murky darkness.

"He can't possibly follow us in here," Tor said, sounding out of breath. He leaned against a smoother part of the chamber's walls, tipped his head back and closed his eyes. They stood there in silence for a moment, Mira temporarily releasing her hold on Estellise but keeping her in direct line of sight.

"Mira," said Tor, "when we…retreated, I saw Cyrus climbing the path to the ridge. The creature was otherwise occupied. He might be…"

Mira made a noise in her throat, not quite annoyance, but said nothing. She opened a fist and closed it, nails pricking her skin. Watched the dust motes swirl around glistening stalactites. She hated running.

"We can't stay here indefinitely. Is there a way through these caves? An alternate route than back the way we came? If so, we should find it."

Tor nodded. "I'll scout ahead. Let the princess catch her breath a moment more. We may have a long way yet to go."

As he finished voicing this suggestion, Estellise slumped to the cavern floor, resting her head against her knees as if she had become dizzy. The air was very thin, and Mira supposed the girl was likely quick to tire. She made a tsking noise and waved a hand at Tor.

"Very well. Alert me at any sign of trouble."

When Tor had disappeared back through the cavern entrance, Mira took the opportunity to more thoroughly examine her surroundings. It seemed a very secure location, easy to hold under attack, only one way in or out. The suspended rock formations, created by so many drops of water, were really quite elegant, in a way. She peered up at them as she strolled through the chamber, hands clasped behind her back.

Mira heard the princess stir behind her, shoes scraping against the floor as Estellise lifted herself to her feet.

"Feeling better?" Mira asked sardonically. "Good. Then we should be on our way, before any unwelcome visitors arrive. Tor!"

Her shout reverberated through the chamber. It would be difficult, she imagined, to not at least hear a distant echo at any point in this cave system. Tor would be sure to return with news of an escape route. Or to say that they had no choice but to return to the beach or wait.

After a few minutes had passed with no answer, Mira filled her lungs to call out again. That was when a dull roar in her ears made her turn around. The name died on her lips, replaced with a curse. The openings in the cavern walls were now fountains, spilling a steady stream of water into the chamber. A pool was already forming where the streams made contact with the cave floor, and it was spreading rapidly. By the time she had made it halfway back to the entrance, her shoes were sodden, and the water pouring in seemed to only be getting stronger.

"We must leave. Tor or no, this place is no longer…" As Mira reached the cavern opening and reached for Estellise, a wall of water knocked her off her feet. It carried her back into the chamber as she shrieked and tried to regain control, spinning her around as it rushed in. She struggled to stay above the water, which would only be waist-high if she could just find her footing. Estellise, only a few paces away, stood perfectly still and steady, lips moving as if in prayer. Her eyes snapped open and she regarded Mira with a sad, almost detached gaze.

"High tide," she said, too calm. "This cave fills with water twice a day. Tor must have known this. I knew this. I'm sorry."

As Estellise spoke, a glyph hung in the air and settled onto her, glimmering as it dissipated. A sphere of light snapped into place around her body, pushing the water out and away. It lapped up around her as it was displaced, and Mira felt it rise. It would be up to her shoulders, now. The water tugged at her, tossed her to and fro, eddying as it rushed in from both directions. The stalactites loomed close now, no longer so lovely. Estellise closed her eyes.

Cyrus was fast. Even outnumbered as he was, locked in combat with some of the most talented fighters in Terca Lumireis, he relied on his speed to carry him through each move—block, parry, stab forward, dodge right, then left, and now leap back into the fray. He was not perfect. Already he carried shallow cuts across his jaw, his leg, his shoulder. Still, he followed each attack smoothly with another, buying time, wearing them down a bit before the others arrived.

The flying beast had not joined the fight on the ridge. Apparently exhausted from its incinerating attacks, the one they called Ba'ul slunk off into a nearby forest. Tendrils of smoke rising from the beach were the only evidence that remained of its presence. Cyrus had not held any love for the Fist men who had accompanied them across the sea, but he had still murmured the words of remembrance, as if by rote. Even far from home, some things never changed.

He narrowly dodged Lowell's spinning sword attack, and then the man's dog was at his heels, jaws snapping the air where his leg had been a heartbeat before. Fighting this group was an exercise in controlled chaos, an eccentric group of warriors fighting with weapons that would be comical if they were not also deadly. The mage woman with the entangling scarves; the boy with the giant hammer that he wielded with skill despite his stature; the Kritya and her hunting spears, wielded like a staff or thrown with ruthless accuracy. If Cyrus did not receive assistance with this fight soon, it did not seem likely to end in his favor.

As if to punctuate this thought, one of Flynn Scifo's sword slashes found its mark, this time a grazing blow to Cyrus's left ear. He could feel it bleeding steadily, in a distant sort of way—he wondered, almost idly, if it had been cut clean off. If so, he did not have time to look for it. Could only focus on his next move, or it could easily be his last.

Movement flickered out of the corner of his eye. Someone else had made it up the ridge. As if to take advantage of his potential distraction, Yuri redoubled his attacks, beating him back toward the cliffs with new aggressive energy. As he staggered back, desperately raising his sword to fend off the blows, Cyrus could see her in the distance, past the others, who seemed at the moment satisfied to let Yuri take the lead in this fight.

The Princess Estellise. She was alone.

Estellise was drenched to the bone, visibly shivering even at this distance. She had her arms wrapped around herself, as if to retain what little heat remained. Yuri turned his head to follow Cyrus's line of sight, then the rest of his body followed. The ensuing silence was somehow loud in contrast—Cyrus took the opportunity to take in great gulps of air, while he was temporarily not fighting for his life.

"She's dead," said Estellise, not triumphant, not sorrowful, but sounding a little lost. And then Cyrus could not breathe at all.

No one needed to ask who it was that she meant. A silence settled over the ridge, empty except for the warm wind that stirred the grass. Cyrus's sword dropped from nerveless fingers. In his peripheral vision, he could sense the others drawing near, all but the mage girl, who had rushed to Estellise's side. They gathered in a loose ring around him, weapons still at the ready.

"Do you yield?" Flynn barked, as if it were not already evident.

"Yes." Cyrus, on his knees now, shut his eyes. He wished that they would simply leave him be. That he could be alone in this moment, to somehow understand all that he had lost, only to have it come down to this moment. What had it all been worth?


When his eyes opened once more, he saw that Yuri had taken his sword, strapping it to his belt alongside his own. The group was conferring in hushed tones. A few moments later, Yuri and Flynn approached him.

"Stand up," said Yuri. He watched, half-lidded and unsympathetic, as Cyrus struggled to his feet. Distantly, he could feel the blood from his ear trickling down into his collar, along with dull pain from his other battle wounds. It felt like they had happened to someone else. He stood, unable to gather even a shred of bravado or defiance. Unable to even care what they might have decided to do with him. At this point, it was all the same.

"Mira is dead." Cyrus did not wince, if perhaps internally. "She lead the Dahngrest cell of Liberty's Fist. You were the leader of the cell in Zaphias."

Yuri paused here, leaving Cyrus to wonder what point the man was trying to make. This was information that they all knew. It served no purpose, if only to remind him that his leadership was now in the past.

"For now, you live. I get the impression that this isn't exactly a favor to you, so don't get any funny ideas about this decision. It isn't mercy. You might still be useful to us."

Cyrus nodded, stiffly. He had thought as much.

"Information. We want to know every bit of knowledge that you have about the upper echelons of your organization, your superiors…any current missions, hidden bases and warehouses, the works."

"They often kept me in the dark, I may know less than you hope," Cyrus said. Unconsciously, he raised a hand to his ear. It was still there, but seemed to be missing part of the lobe. His fingers came away streaked with wet, bright blood. He stared at it woodenly.

"Perhaps we should have that tended to," the Kritya suggested mildly. "Take him to the inn, interrogate him further when he is not in a state of shock."

Yuri made a frustrated sound in the back of his throat. "Yeah. Alright. We'll put him under guard, inside and outside the room."

"That isn't necessary," Cyrus said, wearily. "I'll tell you anything that you want to know."

"Right, well, we're not taking any chances," said Yuri. "Forgive me if I don't exactly believe anything you say."

He had a point.

Estelle sat calmly in one of the lobby's overstuffed armchairs, Rita like glue at her side, as she told her friends about her journey with Mira and Cyrus's crew. She spoke as if detached from her experiences, though it was apparent how she refused to speak a certain former lover's name. Still in shock, if Yuri had to guess. By mid-afternoon, after everyone had shared their stories and Cyrus's watch schedule had been arranged, Estelle was visibly exhausted and excused herself into one of their rooms at the inn.

Yuri took first watch inside the room. It was one of the longest four-hour periods he had ever experienced. He indulged himself in more than a few unstifled yawns, even as he kept a watchful eye on their prisoner at all times. Cyrus sat on the edge of the bed, staring into space and occasionally touching his fingers to the missing notch of flesh in his ear, though he did not appear to know that he was doing it. Estelle had healed the wound, but even her artes could not replace what was no longer there.

When his time was up, Flynn had already been replaced by Karol outside the door. Judith was with him, waiting for her turn to watch the former Liberty's Fist leader do absolutely nothing.

"Hope you brought a book, Judy." Yuri smirked as he passed by, stretching his arms above his head. He headed down the hall to the room that he was sharing with Flynn for the evening—and Karol, once he'd finished his watch.

When Yuri opened the door, Flynn had his back to him as he removed components of his armor. Most of them were already arranged neatly on one of the room's beds; Yuri snorted at their meticulous organization, unable to help himself.

"This seems familiar," he said, crossing his arms as he leaned against the doorframe. Flynn glanced at him over his shoulder, eyes bright and full of humor.

"Does it?" He pulled his tunic over his head, shrugging out of it, and Yuri's mouth went dry. His eyes followed the movement of muscle and shoulder blades as Flynn folded the tunic and set it beside the armor pieces.

No. Not familiar at all. Yuri stepped into the room, letting the door swing shut behind him.

Flynn let out a long breath. "I feel as if we are finally making some progress," he said. "After all these months. I am not afraid to admit…I was not sure at times what the outcome would be. We had to keep fighting. And now, finally, with Mira gone and Cyrus in our grasp…my only real regret is what happened to Tor, Yuri."

"That's not your fault," Yuri said quickly. Flynn turned to face him, jaw tight.

"It is. It was my idea. I pushed him into it, and now he's lost to us. To Estelle." He swallowed, throat spasming.

"You did what needed to be done, Flynn. You couldn't have known that he wasn't strong enough. Or that they would manipulate him like that."

"I should have."

Yuri shook his head, walking over to stand in front of his friend. "You did what needed to be done," he repeated. "Like you just said; we've finally made some progress. There's no point in beating yourself up over things that you can't control."

Flynn smiled, a little sadly. "You may be right."

"I know I'm right, Flynn."

Before Yuri could say anything more, fingers reached up and threaded through the long, dark strands of his hair. Flynn's other hand slid to Yuri's hip and drew him closer until the length of his body pressed against his own, their heartbeats pulsing in double-time, breath coming fast and shallow. And then none at all, as Flynn traced Yuri's cheekbone with his thumb and leaned forward, soft lips capturing his in a slow, languid kiss.

It was perfect and yet, after all those years of pent-up desire and affection, somehow not enough. Yuri surged forward, biting Flynn's lower lip none too gently as he deepened their kiss. Flynn made a sound of surprise, but not objection, matching the new pace enthusiastically. When they finally parted to catch their breath, Yuri noticed with some amusement that the cloth belt that held his tunic shut had been loosened and tossed to the floor. The man had not lost the skills that had been taught to him as a child by a fellow young street urchin in the Lower Quarter, regardless of how he refused to actually pick any pockets himself.

"Hmm. Remind me why we haven't done this before," Yuri murmured against the skin below Flynn's left ear.

"It may have something to do—" Flynn's breath hitched as Yuri's teeth scraped the lobe. "—with both of us being incredibly stubborn."

Yuri snorted. "Yeah."

After that, no words were exchanged between them.

Flynn awoke to the sound of birds chirping outside the Torim Harbor inn, sunlight streaming in through a gap in the window curtains and falling in a narrow stripe across the bed. Beside him, Yuri still slept deeply, his long hair spilling over one bare shoulder and fanning on the pillow. He always looked uncharacteristically peaceful, asleep. Almost innocent.

It was a strong juxtaposition with the Yuri of the previous evening, when there had not been anything innocent about him. Neither of them, in fact. Flynn half expected his cheeks to heat up with the memory, but all he felt was calm and contentment. As if something a long time in the making had finally fallen into place.

Yuri stirred beside him, making indiscernible noises as he squinted one eye open.

" 'time is it," he mumbled, rubbing his face.

"Early still," said Flynn. "Rita and Estelle should be about halfway through their watch."

Yuri nodded to himself, then stilled, expression slowly widening into a wicked grin.

"You just called her Estelle," he said.

"Oh. Well. You must finally be rubbing off on me, I suppose."

Still grinning, Yuri raised an eyebrow, then opened his mouth as if to say something. He shook his head.

"…Nah. Too easy."

Flynn did blush now, lightly shoving Yuri's shoulder as he huffed with laughter. The momentum flipped Yuri onto his back and the sheets fell away from his upper body. Flynn reached out to touch, because that was something he could do now. He traced his collarbone, the dips and curves of his ribs and chest muscles, down to his stomach, which jumped slightly at his touch. Yuri watched him, eyes serious.

Light scars were scattered across the visible part of his body, from wounds too deep for healing artes to fully erase. The largest of these was a puckered line on his abdomen, clearly not new but Flynn could tell that it had been very serious at the time. It was long and precise and looked for all the world like a close-quarters stab directly into the flesh above his navel. He did not remember it from their youth, or even their travels from a couple of years ago, before the Adephagos. Flynn could not help the unspoken question. Secrets had only hurt them.

Yuri's eyes darted away, then back again. He let out a long breath.

"I guess it doesn't really matter, now. That's my souvenir from Zaude."

Flynn's brow furrowed. His mind went immediately to the weeks after the fight with Alexei, when his friend would occasionally clutch his stomach when he thought no one was looking. The times when his confident smile would slip into a pained grimace for less than a second before he could don his mask again. Other images he shoved away. The ones of a normally bold and fiery knight, moping in her quarters as he sent out ships to search for what he insisted would not be a body. The same one who would constantly question why he didn't arrest a convicted criminal, why he catered to his unlawfulness, why he called him a friend. Flynn could not own these thoughts, back then. His sense of honor forbade it, would have been forced to follow the course of action necessary if it were true. She had been too valuable to lose.

"I didn't tell you because you had enough on your plate, Flynn. You needed as many good men—so to speak—as you could get. I could handle it on my own."

Flynn shook his head. And now it didn't matter, because Sodia had been set up as a puppet Commandant. It made sense, in a strange, Yuri's-mind kind of way. He should have been angry—probably would have been, if this had come to light a few months ago. Instead, he shifted so that his arms were braced on either side of Yuri's shoulders.

"Idiot," he said, tone rough but affectionate. If Yuri could have seen how lost and empty he had been, in those weeks that he thought Yuri might be dead…how he had searched tirelessly at sea, collapsing onto a rough cot only when his body could no longer stand to be awake any longer. Then he would know how very wrong that mindset had been.

Barring that, he would have to show him.

It was several quite passionate minutes later when it occurred to Flynn that one of their roommates for the evening was missing. Which was fortunate, considering the circumstances, but he did wonder what Karol had done after his watch had ended. He had a vague memory, at least, of one of them having the presence of mind to bolt the door before things became truly heated.

Still, he did feel kind of bad about it.

He looked over to see Yuri watching his face with amusement.

"What are you so deep in thought about? Guess I need to do a better job at distracting you."

Flynn gasped sharply at Yuri's wandering touch. "Trust me," he panted. "You're doing that more than…more than adequately."

"Mmhm. Then what's the problem, blondie?"

Flynn shot him a pointed look, which effect was somewhat spoiled by an immediate sigh of pleasure.

"Only…we should, ah, probably…check in with the others? I was thinking that…Karol…"

Yuri's hands withdrew. "Karol? You were thinking about Karol." He snorted a laugh. "Only you, Flynn."

Flynn ducked his head, unable to stop himself from laughing as well. "Sorry. Not really the time or place, I suppose." He dipped down for a lazy kiss, hands and lips exploring new territory that was also completely familiar.

Far too soon, a tentative knock sounded on their door.

"Yuri? Flynn?" said Karol, his voice muffled through the door. The handle rattled. "Are you awake yet? Why is the door locked?"

"Hold on," Yuri called, loud enough to carry through the door. Then he turned to Flynn, his voice low and hissing. "We should get dressed."


Muttering louder than strictly necessary about accidentally sleeping in, Yuri darted around the room gathering articles of clothing that had been haphazardly removed the night before. Flynn's part was easier, as most of his were still neatly stacked on the one of the other beds. Once they were decent, Yuri unlocked and opened the door.

"Hey," said Yuri. Standing beside him, Flynn smiled in greeting.

"Um, hey," said Karol, eyes slightly narrowed as he glanced between them. "So Judith says the door was locked because you two were fighting last night, but she seemed really happy about it. It was actually kinda creepy how happy she was. And you don't seem mad at each other right now."

"It's something you'll understand when you're older, kid." Yuri clapped him on the shoulder and steered him out of the room. "Now let's go get some breakfast."