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22 November 2009 @ 03:19 pm
We'll Never Say Goodbye [Part Three: Patterns]  
Title: We'll Never Say Goodbye [Part Three: Patterns]
Author: igrab
Pairing: Nero (Oren), Ayel, and Mandana
Rating: R overall
Word Count: 2,958
Summary: Ayel knows that things should be different. He doesn't regret a single day.
Notes: Mostly written on a train from Venice to Florence.


From the moment of my birth to the instant of my death,
There are patterns I must follow just as I must breathe each breath.


"You have a lovely place."

Ayel very nearly dropped his bookbag on his toes. He did wear an expression of outraged shock, and it took him a moment to get himself under control. He wouldn't want to be responsible for breaking Oren's desk - well, not in anger. He liked that desk.

"Mandana?" He made an attempt at normalcy, tossing his bag on the bed and booting up his computer with the press of a finger. "I thought you weren't coming until - "

"Tomorrow, I know." She sounded normal, and Ayel supposed it was something a musician must be used to - especially one who often played for tight-lipped Romulan diplomats. But he could see it in her eyes - she let him see it, surely, or otherwise he'd never have known. Something was wrong.

He sat down slowly in his chair, his face communicating his wariness in return. "I suppose I'm more concerned with how you got into my room." He'd programmed those locks himself.

She raised one slanted eyebrow, delicately. "The door was open."

"I didn't - "

Oren. Ayel sighed, though it wasn't without affection. Oren had a bad habit of forgetting things like doors and safety and birthdays, and more often than not, it was Ayel who took the brunt of the fallout - like right now, for example.

But he supposed he should be glad that Mandana was the only one who'd gotten in. It could have been anyone, though what use there could be in breaking into a couple of mining students' rooms would be a mystery. And if the Tal Shiar wanted in, Ayel was quite certain that not even a quantum-generated code would stop them.

"...Well, don't just stand there." He held his arms out, and Mandana gracefully slid into them - so she could press her lips to his ear.

"They're coming."

He felt his blood run a little bit colder, even as his fingers pet through her hair absently. It wasn't that he hadn't been expecting this. The bonding ceremony was in all of two days, and he'd been an utter nervous wreck, watching every shadow for spies. But it wasn't that. He had honestly thought of Mandana as beyond intrigue. She was dedicated to her music, and liked him well enough to bring that dedication to their engagement. He hadn't thought her stupid or ignorant - and she was certainly neither of those - but the movements of the Tal Shiar was no common piece of idle gossip. "I'm aware of that," he whispered, his voice barely a vibration, but there was no mistaking the icy chill of his tone. "We need to -"

"Where can we -"

They stopped, and he drew his thumb over her lower lip, in a seeming endearment. He smiled like a knife edge. "You're not jealous, are you?"

"I wanted to see you before the ceremony." It wasn't a lie if she didn't actually say that she came here out of affection. So far, it was the second time she'd prevaricated instead of doing so. It was the little things like that that made Ayel sure that she was a generally honest person - to him, at least. It didn't make the knowledge that she knew about his targeting any better.

"There's an exhibition at the Aetheta. I could make reservations for eight."

"Would you?" Her tone was pitch-perfect, the flattering astonishment of a pleased lover. Her eyes were too wide.

"Absolutely. Now, you should rest after your journey. Would you like an escort to your rooms?"

A discrete shake of the head. They had her rooms bugged, too. Ayel suppressed the slowly smoking ember of rage that ignited at that thought. He didn't know the whole story, and it would be unwise to draw conclusions until he did.

"No; I've kept you from your classwork too long already. I'll meet you at the Aetheta?"

"Perfection, dear." He touched their fingertips together in a chaste parting kiss, and he watched her as she swept out, her eyes still too large, lips too tight for a true smile, and he was left with a deep, inarticulate fear of what was yet to come.

- + -

Oren put down his stylus with a leaden finality, and turned in his chair. Ayel couldn't help the guilty look - he prided himself on being an excellent liar, but there was a supreme difference between lying to the Romulan high-class serpents and lying to someone he loved. So far, he'd managed to avoid telling Oren that he'd invited Mandana to the ceremony. He didn't know why he was so terrified, but the small touching point of his two separate lives chafed and burned until he couldn't sit still, and Oren let it slide, but he was always watching and that made it worse, somehow.

"I have somewhere to go tonight," he started, and the second he did, it occurred to him that they must have had the room bugged for a long time. Long enough to know where his loyalty lay, though that would have been patently obvious from even five minutes of daily conversation in this room. But the most important thing right now was getting Mandana to a place they could talk safely, and the second most important was keeping Oren far, far away from said conversation.

"Where?" Oren's eyes narrowed, and Ayel knew that this would be far more difficult than it had to be.

"Out." He stood then, abruptly, and relocated to his favorite place in the world, nestled in Oren's limbs like a warm cocoon. "I'll be back before midnight."

"You won't tell me where?" His voice was a low rumble, barely audible, and once again Ayel had that creeping question of whether Oren was truly as simple as he appeared to be.

He shook his head slowly, and pressed their foreheads together in a silent apology. "It's family business. The last place I'd want to be, I assure you."

But he should've known, that he couldn't just wave him off like this.

"Business? Here, now?" The tone was low and chiding, but gentle, and Ayel felt his head spin just a bit from the sheer strength of Oren's faith in him. It was ridiculous. And it was even more ridiculous how it made him feel.

"I'm sorry," Ayel whispered, and his voice simply refused to steady. It was taking all of his willpower to keep the shaking away from the rest of his body. "I'm sorry."

"I'm coming with you."

It was the very, very last thing that Ayel wanted to hear, and yet, he'd been expecting it from the moment this conversation had begun. "No!" he hissed, quickly, but too quickly, and Oren's hands were gripping his forearms like tourniquets before he could even wince at his mistake.

"Yes."

He felt himself buckling already. This was beyond ridiculous.

"I can't protect you when you leave me here, but don't think for a second that I don't wish I could, every moment." His eyes were chips of obsidian, shiny and opaque, and Ayel felt the smallest flutter of fear in the pit of his stomach. He knew very well what his friend was capable of when angered, and whether the anger was at him or for him, it had the same effect. "You're in my city, Ayel, and I will follow you on whatever business that can possibly scare you like this."

Ayel shook his head, slowly, even though his willpower was melting under the ferocity of Oren's eyes, and the loss of blood to his arms. "That's not what scares me," he whispered, into the scruff of Oren's jaw. "It's you. I don't want you anywhere near this. I want you to be safe." He took a shaky breath, then plunged on, beyond hope of filtering. "I want you to keep on thinking that I'm a good person."

There was a sad smile, that he could feel in his lips as Oren slid a hand around the back of his neck, to keep him close.

"Then you understand," he said, in that voice like rumbling rocks down a cliffside. "Why I can't let you go alone."

Ayel was well and truly lost, now. Even if it came down to his life, he would give it freely, for the chance to stand beside this man - and if it would be his last declaration in this universe, he would tell everyone where he belonged. It would cost him Mandana, it would cost him a fortune and a family and pain and very possibly death, but the sacrifice would no more give him grief than the chained man would mourn the weight of metal on his skin.

- + -

He didn't tell Oren what the plan was, and he didn't need to. He booked three tickets for the exhibition, got dressed - he in his performance-casual, Oren in something passably fine, and they slipped out the door, chatting about the upcoming ceremony and 21st-century water sculpture.

Ayel flicked a silent look of gratitude that Oren played along so well, and saw no hint of chill in the returning eyes. No doubt he likely thought their adventure something much more dangerous than pretending to go to the Aetheta - but the danger would come later. Every Romulan knew that words were often far more dangerous than actions.

She was waiting on the steps of the fine exhibition hall. No doubt she was more used to entering such places from the performer's doors, but she looked admirably contained, and truthfully, quite beautiful. Her curls shone in the lamplight, as if her head had somehow caught fire, and her elegant dress was hooked in gold and velvet, alternately fading into the shadows and sparking with light.

Ayel stepped forward, and there was a curious cold rush at his side, a sudden vacuum in his awareness. Oren. He turned, one eyebrow raised, but before he could ask what had stopped his friend in his tracks - he knew.

Oren's eyes were fixed on the coordinates that Mandana stood. His expressive eyes were wide with the shock of seeing something straight out of a dream, or a past life - 'Naglan-vesht', the Vulcans called it, and something in Ayel's heart turned with a slow, sickening weight.

He didn't move, when Oren stepped forward with uneven feet, to grasp over the bruises he'd left in Ayel's arm. He didn't flinch when the fingers pressed tighter, when Oren's voice reached his ears - liquid pleasure, singing like the pull of silk. It felt like rugburn.

"Who is that? Do you know her?"

He knew, with a bittersweet lurch that Oren would have asked him the question no matter where they were, or where they were going. He simply assumed that Ayel had the answer to everything - and usually, he did. This time was no different.

He forced his throat to work. He was utterly surprised to hear himself - calm, smooth, everything he didn't feel. "That's Mandana," he murmured, pitch-perfect. Coy, even. Like Oren was no more than his best friend, seeing a pretty lady for the first time, and Ayel had all the cards and was withholding for his own amusement. Like they were any other pair of Romulans at the Aetheta, and everything they'd shared was no more real than a mirage.

"She's beautiful."

And suddenly, the illusion shattered. Because Oren wasn't just anyone, because he was so heartbreakingly honest, and Ayel was so in love with him that he was going to die for it. He knew that much, it might be years from now, but he knew that it would be because of him. And Oren thought that Mandana was beautiful. And that was incredible.

"Let's go." He squeezed their fingers together - a shockingly public kiss, but he found he just didn't give a damn anymore, and Oren's flash of a smile in return was entirely worth it. Then he linked their arms together and strolled up, as if they were any other pair of Romulans - but not because they were.

"Mandana, this is Oren. Oren, Mandana." He didn't need to remind Oren that she was his fiancee - and he certainly didn't need to tell Mandana who Oren was, he could read her knowledge in the arch of her eyebrow and the true little smile on her lips.

"It's a pleasure," she murmured, and Ayel knew it was.

"The pleasure's mine," Oren returned, and Ayel couldn't help the way he smiled. He'd been dreading this for so long, convinced that Oren would be jealous and Mandana wouldn't understand and the two people he actually liked in this world would turn against him. But they looked at each other with so much warmth that he felt faint, so purely relieved that he could have laughed out loud. But he simply leaned against Oren's strong side and smiled, and the world could go to pieces around him but he would be just fine.

Mandana gave him a Look, and his spine clicked slowly into alignment, as he remembered his - their - mission. He disentangled himself from Oren's arm with a severe lack of grace, then looked around as if distracted.

"You two stay together. I'll be back." He flashed a smile, then slipped off among the crowds.

It was distressingly easy to create a disturbance in crowded multiclass areas. Ayel had done it countless times, to put off all sorts of pursuers, including but not limited to the city police, the region police, rabid dogs, his father's lackeys, and of course, the Tal Shiar. Romulans were like Davastill molecules - at their most stable with a good amount of distance between them. Push a number of them too close together, and - chemicals react, as they say.

Soon the fight was amping up to a full-scale riot, and he slithered back to Oren's side, so they could take advantage of the chaos before the phasers started firing. He was not at all surprised to find them in a hushed, animated conversation, drawn close together despite the sizable radius around them. He grabbed their wrists and pulled, leading them in a winding path among the crowd and out through a back alley, twisted enough to throw off any possible pursuit.

Ayel had always felt that Mandana was a kindred spirit. They'd never spoken of it out loud, but their silent conversations in hands and eyes and twitches of lips made him certain that his fiancee had come to the same conclusion. They were both intelligent, artistic, and willing to play along to the tune of high society just enough to survive. The reason he'd always assumed that she would hate him for his disloyalty was that, well, it was exactly the sort of thing he would have done, had he not been tempered by the experience of loving the most remarkable soul on Romulus.

So it came as no shock that she would be as drawn to Oren as he was. There, locked between them like a wire between two batteries, he could feel the humming tension under Mandana's delicate wrist, and the familiar throb under Oren's muscular one. Adrenaline raced through their veins in an unbroken circuit, and all three burst into laughter at the same time, as they tore around a corner and found themselves at a cast-iron dead end.

"So," Ayel said, as they fell against the wall and drew in long, gasping breaths. "...What's this great secret you have to tell me?"

It was a time-reverse reel of a penny dropping into a lake. The ripples of laughter contracted, drew in tight to the point of the question, and it rose from the surface of their thoughts leaving the atmosphere as smooth and glassy as water tension would allow. Their breaths quieted collectively to a paper-thin hush.

"Ayel," she murmured, and he was surprised at how steady she sounded, how sure of herself. "You know how long the Tal Shiar has been watching you. What you don't know is how closely."

"I gathered that," he replied with a mouthful of acid. "What I want to know is how you know that." He was studiously ignoring Oren's warm presence beside him, though to his credit, he hadn't gasped or run off or anything overly dramatic. But Ayel didn't want to see the look on his face, and maybe that was the true reason he hadn't wanted to bring his friend along. Things were changing, too fast and too thick, and soon there would be nothing left for him to hold onto. He pushed that thought away.

But later, when he would look back on that moment in the alleyway, it would be with a sinking heart and a sick taste of regret in the back of his mouth. He should never have pressed the question - should've just waited there, breathing, laughing happily, feeling the dance and play of their circuitry for just a little while longer. If he thought that things had changed then, he was about to be proved utterly wrong.

"Ayel," Mandana said again, and when she looked him in the eye, for the first time, there was something cold and glassy and indomitable in her expression. "I know everything about you. I'm an agent of the Tal Shiar, and I've been watching you since the day we were introduced."

<- "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine"
 
 
 
Oliviadahmers_girl on November 24th, 2009 06:29 am (UTC)
I love this very much! I cannot wait to read more! :)
admantius: double zachadmantius_art on November 24th, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)
Fffffff hrrrrrrnk. I'd forgotten that you'd written this and oooommmmmmmmmgggggggg *drools a bit* Soooooo much love, bb, you have no idea. |D And it only strengthens my conviction to rp these two mad cool Romulan dudes with you. >D
➵ she walks in starlight: trek: tas / ilu bbigrab on November 24th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
omg yes pllllzzzzzz. and i made a huge stupid error at first and very nearly screwed up the entire plot. ahaha. for SOME REASON, italy makes me think of ROMULANS, can't imagine why.
viil_to: AyelLoveviil_to on November 25th, 2009 12:48 pm (UTC)
This made me very happy, looking forwad to the next part. :) There just isn't enough fics about our two favourite Romulans.
➵ she walks in starlight: reboot / fuckyeah ayeligrab on November 25th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
jhjfjgsdfg I know, right?? THERE REALLY ISN'T.
anneka_nekoanneka_neko on November 28th, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN YOU WEIRDLY TURNED OUT TO BE PART OF MY FIRST EVER ELJAY FANDOM AND I DIDN'T NOTICE?

'CAUSE I DIDN'T UNTIL I NOTICED YOUR NAME AT THE N/A COMM.

WE SHOULD OVERLAP HARDER.
Elanyaelanya on June 5th, 2013 12:07 am (UTC)
The new movie makes me crave fic for the last one again... Which eventually led me here, to realize that I don't think I ever commented on this chapter way back in the day and make me sad there wasn't more!