A Little Lick of Death (Die Another Day)
Temperance x Jyzal
By Godsantiy || Collab

The grass was still wet when Temperance sat down. No one but him ever visited the small alcove, hidden deep in the forest behind the Halsting palace. Next to a stream, hidden by bushes and aged trees. Temperance sometimes believed it was the last pure place. A Garden of Eden its own right, untouched by the corruption that suffocated Halsting’s streets and corridors.

Inhaling, Temperance straightened his spine. Ready for meditation.

He only noticed the variation in air current when he was immersed in deeper focus, hypersensitive to even the immeasurable shifts in temperature. Someone else was here. Opening his eyes, Temperance reminded himself to stay still, calling out, “How long have you been there?”

“Long enough,” came the immediate reply, as if the person already knew he'd ask. Temperance recognized the voice.

A flare of anger flashed, but it pushed aside just as quickly. This was his personal space and no one else had the right to be here, Temperance thought. Especially not the assassin who also otherwise plagued his thoughts. Then he realized Jyzal wasn’t in. The assassin was threading the leafy barriers, but he was outside.

“Come in.” The words poured out before he could think, but felt alright when he extended invitation. Felt generous and anchored. Temperance wondered if this was Jyzal’s intention.

The bushes were barely touched as the assassin sailed over it in a smooth leap and the landing was precise. Jyzal wasn’t carrying any visible weapons and he was dressed casually. Loose brown sweater, white shirt, black slacks. Involuntarily, Temperance’s eyes strayed to his wrists, where he knew looking at the bruises made him nauseous but he always looked anyway.

“There’s nothing there. He’s battling it out with the politician from Jier and he’s been busy,” said Jyzal. Temperance felt himself flush and it felt as if Jyzal’s eyes were burning into him.

“Yeah? The David Nowl guy? He’s pretty good,” said Temperance. Powerful, charismatic speaker. Knew his bullshits and knew how to market it. Nowl went from small time nobody to one of the highest viewed programs in national TV.

“Short-lived,” said Jyzal. He’d turned now, seemingly fascinated by a flower with stringy, pearly white petals. “Defaming the prince earns you fast publicity, but if only a clever mouth was all it took.”

“Hey, careful!” Temperance reached out, grasping Jyzal’s wrist right before the assassin touched the Weeping Lily. “Touching it is poisonous.”

Jyzal was silent for a long moment. His hand remained stationary, supported and spooned by Temperance’s. Temperance could feel a pulse under his own wrist, blood pulsing under the assassin’s much fairer skin. If he reached out, he could pull the assassin closer, neatly tucked against him.

The air felt electric and Temperance thought the moment should be awkward. There wasn’t enough air in the little alcove, especially if it was disappearing mote by mote. He could reach out, tilt Jyzal’s head back and kiss him. He wondered if Jyzal knew the extent of the effects he had on the older male.

“I know,” said Jyzal, and the moment was shattered. Temperance made to pull back, surprised and uneasy. By now, Jyzal had reversed the hold, holding him in place. Jyzal gave him an unreadable look. “I know it’s poisonous. You’d save me.”

“Yeah. You knew, of course you knew,” said Temperance. He was suddenly angry with himself, wishing he could be angry at Jyzal instead. By now, he also realized Jyzal had long released his hold, but he wasn’t drawing his hand back and neither was the assassin.

He fought down the urged to punch the assassin until the infuriating fog lifted, until the façade shattered. There had to be something… human in a human, right? Something that made the blond vulnerable and Temperance wondered if this was why His Highness always left both his bed and habitual bed partner bloody.

“Damn you too,” said Temperance. And he was pulling the blond to himself, hooking a hand behind his neck, angling his head to deepen the kiss. He wasn’t sure if all the oxygen in the alcove really burned up or if Jyzal’s heat was just that physical and demanding of a thing, but it was hot. Scorching him, branding him, Temperance couldn’t breathe even if he remembered he needed to.

Jyzal was kissing him as if he’d suddenly replaced oxygen, as if the assassin had been waiting his entire life for this moment. The kiss was consuming. Devoured his clarity of mind, worked against any loyalties that screamed ‘off limits.’ Temperance knew the assassin was the prince’s but at the moment, it only served to egg him on, a taste of the forbidden fruit. In the end, seconds before his brain snapped from not breathing, Temperance pulled back.

“I don’t mind if you continue,” said Jyzal, breathlessly. His voice slotted so perfectly into the quiet hum of the moment that it took Temperance several seconds to realize he’d spoken at all. In the same rhythm, Temperance realized his hand was under Jyzal’s shirt, pressed against the small of his back. He drew it back and Jyzal leaned forward, closer. “You sure?”

“I want…” Temperance wasn’t sure how he could phrase it without sounding ten years older than he really was, without sounding like a sap. In the end he switched gears entirely, husky whisper against Jyzal’s lips. “Don’t question me.”

That was something they could both work with. Orders were to be followed and Temperance realized with a kind of thrill it was something Jyzal naturally did. This brought them back to familiar playing ground and Temperance knew how to deal with this. A special division captain and task force head, he knew how to be obeyed.

He let his hand graze upwards, ghosting over the brown wool of Jyzal’s sweater. Obviously expensive, with no hint of conspicuous nouveau riche. Jyzal had taste and Temperance supposed it wouldn’t make sense not to splurge on yourself when you had the means to and never knew when you were going to die.

His mind went back to what he was about to say. What Temperance wanted was the hard question. What he didn’t want was shorter, and he figured he might as well answer that first. He didn’t want the illusion. Death belonged to His Highness and no amount of anything could win the prince’s prized asset over. He could ******** a royal’s toy and pretend he was elite, but the charade would end.

“You’re a smart man,” Jyzal idly commented. Eyes snapping back to the assassin, Temperance noticed his eyes were no longer downcast, unguarded. There was a hint of openness, but the stormy blue was unreadable.

“Yeah?” asked Temperance. He rested his hand against Jyzal’s cheeks, running his thumb over his lower lips. Jyzal shivered, parting his lips. “How do you always seem to know what I’m thinking?”

Jyzal’s lips lifted in an amused upturn, the beginning hint of a smile. “It shows on your face. One of the three Outsandings I have is Mentalism.”

Agents only needed one outstanding to graduate, Temperance thought. A field to specialize in. He had a vague feeling he knew what the other two were. And there was his little reality check of who he was dealing with. “Mine’s in military strategy. Only one.”

“Military strategy was how I assimilated to the Halsting forces,” said Jyzal. He didn’t sound like he was bragging, but Temperance felt the inflection of pride in Jyzal’s voice. Many times Temperance wondered if covert operation was too ruthless and corrupted a path for Jyzal, but there was no doubt he was good at it and he liked it. Jyzal continued, “But I have no passion for it and my superficial performance wasn’t going to last.”

Temperance could understand. It didn’t matter what kind of leadership, but all of it included a strong vision, basic compassion and passionate charisma. A never ending stream of it. Even a tyrant wasn’t nonchalant about his men and power. “I was in the army for a few years after my graduation. Didn’t like the shadowy side of field work. Nothing beats the feeling of watching your whole army’s heart beat as one, marching forward, knowing everyone is watching out for each other. Too bad His Highness wants me near the palace.”

“I think my only asset on the actual battlefield is acute and productive calmness,” said Jyzal. He shook his head lightly and Temperance felt the silky golden strands slide against his fingers. Wondering when his hand had a mind of its own and moved up, he considered withdrawing it for a moment. Then he decided against it.

“Maybe a logistic analyzer or a strategist, but you’ll need some more practice before you make a real general.”

“The general who took me into the Halsting army. He told me I could command ten thousand men to victory, but I wouldn’t be able to lead a hundred,” said Jyzal. A long pause. “I’d get bored.”

Temperance was started into laughter. “Yeah, that’s no good.”