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Many Endings

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“‘Conspiracy’ by some ‘witch’?” Aughra tried to control her temper as she addressed Seladon, “Seladon, I am no witch. I am Thra herself and I have forseen many endings for the Gelflings, for all of us. Some good, most bad. See for yourself what the Gelfling have suffered at the hands of the Skeksis! Afterward you may think what you will, but this is urgent.”

Seladon bristled, but the look that Aughra gave her made the Vapran princess hold her tongue. Even though no words were spoken between them, even though Seladon was skeptical of what Aughra had to say, she nonetheless could sense the weight of the situation.

“Behold…!”

In an instant, horrific images and sounds flashed through the Crystal, images of the Skeksis deliberately corrupting the Crystal, imprisoning Gelflings before forcefully draining them of their essence, stealing lives all for their own gain.

The Vapran princess was breathless with incredulous horror. Many trine of discipline and teachings that Seladon had received had been challenged in so short a time. The Lords of the Crystal were not the benign rulers that they showed outside the Castle of the Crystal? They truly were draining Gelfling to prolong their own lives? The eldest daughter of the All-Maudra had no idea what to think as she was confronted with the truth.

“You see, Seladon? This is what Rian and Gurjin have witnessed for themselves,” Aughra remarked flatly, “This threatens your own existence. I myself believed the Skeksis at first when they promised me that they would care for the Crystal hundreds of trine past… I trusted them, and for hundreds of trine, as I blithely explored the stars none the wiser, the Skeksis have abused and corrupted the Crystal and endangered Thra all for their own benefit. This is what we all face if we do not stand up to them.”

“Mother?” Seladon turned in disbelief to behold a look of ineffable remorse on Mayrin’s face, “…You- you believe all this?!”

“I blame myself for much of this, darling,” Seladon heard her mother’s voice beside her, unexpectedly tender.

Mayrin raised her hand to her, inviting her to dreamfast, “Darling, I cannot speak what I must say. Please, I owe you many apologies.”

Mayrin knew that the role of All-Maudra was a taxing one and that she had to prepare her successor, but in the midst of these revelations and Seladon’s outbursts before Aughra revealed the terrible truth about the Skeksis a sudden realization washed over her. Over the trine, as she taught her daughters their responsibilities as royalty and taught Seladon for the duties of the All-Maudra, she had been so single-handedly concerned about the duty of the All-Maudra to Thra and to properly training her heir that she had neglected to recognize that she had overlooked their feelings. She knew that the All-Maudra must be self-controlled and concerned for the good of all, but how often had she been warm and encouraging to her heir?
Mayrin had not been coddled herself, although her own mother had offered words of encouragement to her. Her mother’s sudden, accidental death had made Mayrin grow up faster than she expected. And the service to the Skeksis that she had been taught from an early age had never really been comfortable to her; she had accepted all those goods and trinkets from the tithings, but she had never been convinced that they were justified. She had to train herself to ignore her skepticism, but the most recent episode where that poor farming couple had been bullied into giving up the wife’s last gift from her mother now weighed even more heavily on her conscience. All because offering was meager as a result of the Darkening, for which she now knew that the Skeksis were responsible.

And all this time, Mayrin had pushed Seladon so hard and insisted that her duties were to the status quo that the Skeksis had created. All this time, Mayrin had been in denial, but she knew that she could no longer ignore what was staring her in the face all along: the Skeksis were exploiting the Gelfling and ravaging all Thra for their own benefit. And she had failed as All-Maudra to serve and protect Thra, failed to resist the greed of the Skeksis.

Hesitant, Seladon took her mother’s hand and instantly the rush of memories and feelings that they exchanged quickly assured Seladon of her mother’s sincerety. Mayrin winced at the pain that she had unintentionally caused her daughter as they shared the memories while Seladon was overwhelmed by the deluge of contrition from her mother.

“I blame myself for pushing you to be my heir when I now understand that I have encouraged and supported you too little. I can see now that all this time that I was also trying to convince myself that the Skeksis were in the right, that they were just, and I thoughtlessly forced that upon you."

“Mother, I- all I have ever wanted was your love and approval. I love you and nothing has ever seemed good enough for you…!”

“Seladon, darling…!”

Mayrin’s eyes were glassy as their hands parted, surprising her firstborn daughter with a desperate hug, “I’m sorry that I have been so hard on you that I have neglected that you’re my daughter… I’m sorry that I have left you with this crisis…!”

“All-Maudra, Princess Seladon,” Aughra curtly interrupted them, “There will be time for that later. SkekZok and SkekVar have arrived at the royal Citadel and they are seeking fodder for themselves, under the guise of ‘recruits’ for the Castle guard. The future of Gelfling hangs in the balance.”

Seladon gasped while Brea went pale and Gurjin swallowed audibly, but all of them knew that this was not the time to collapse. They had to be strong, now.

“Brea, you have recently befriended a powerful ally; Lore is the protector that Gelfling need on their side,” Aughra remarked, “Do not hesitate to seek his help.”

-----

Brea and Seladon, vaguely astonished that they were holding onto each other, were astonished as their mother thundered at the two Skeksis towering over them,

“I…am…the…All-Maudra!!!”

“You’re only the All-Maudra because we allow you to be,” SkekVar snarled as he reached for his sword.

“LORE, HELP US!!!”

Brea had shouted before she even realized that she had. It was a primal sound that she had never heard herself make.

“Silence, Gelfling-!” SkekZok snapped, noticeably surprised, as was SkekVar, who had been distracted from his sword.

Hup, who had been watching their every move, was ready to jump between the All-Maudra and the Skeksis.

Before anybody knew what was happening, a loud crash resounded from the Throne Room, sending vibrations through the building.

“What is tha-?” SkekVar could not finish his question before Lore leapt between the Skeksis and the royal family, landing menacingly as he regarded the two overlords. The normally cocky SkekZok was clearly frightened.

“Stop them, Lore!” Brea yelped, “They’re trying to kill us!”

Before the Skeksis could retreat, Lore slammed both of them together forcefully enough to stun them.

-----

As the bodies of the felled SkekZok and SkekVar crumbled away like rotting wood, even the Paladins could not help but gape in awe, although Hup was still on guard, refusing to stand down until he was sure that the danger was past. Nearly a thousand trine of believing that the Skeksis were their benefactors were crumbling away just as quickly.
“Your Majesty, are you injured?” the redhaired Paladin asked cautiously. He could hardly believe that he and his comrades had narrowly escaped a hideous fate.
“I’m not, thank you Valdrin,” Mayrin answered, still shocked at the scene that had just played out before them.
“Thank Thra, but the General almost drew his sword on you, Mother,” Brea gasped breathlessly, “Lore, I cannot begin to thank you!”
The towering rock creature silently curled one of his arms protectively around Brea, reassuring her.
Seladon’s controlled, carefully ordered world had been turned on its head in the blink of an eye. And her mother had shown remorseful tenderness toward her.
“Mother, I don’t know what to say-.” Seladon’s voice quavered, unsure of what Mayrin would do, whether the old dynamic would assert itself again. To her surprise, her mother enveloped her in a sudden embrace.

“I know that I cannot make up for the many trine that I could have given you the love of a mother instead of the approval of an All-Maudra,” Mayrin gently ran her hand through Seladon’s silver tresses, trembling and afraid to let her daughter go, “And whatever happens to us, whether this is the end of Gelfling or not, I don’t want to return to Thra without reconciling with you. I don’t want to leave you thinking that I didn’t love you.”

Seladon eagerly returned the embrace, hardly daring to believe that this was real, but she felt the contact and heard Mayrin's voice right by her ears.
She was startled when she felt somebody embrace her from behind, and she briefly turned to see Brea looking apologetically at her. Seladon extended an arm, inviting her youngest sister to join the huddle.

For now, they had each other.

Chapter Text

They had vanquished the Skeksis! The Gelfling and Arathim had obliterated SkekLach and subdued the remaining Skeksis. Cheers of joy resounded around Stone-in-the-Wood as Gelfling of all clans embraced each other and even embraced with Arathim, one-time rivals who now had become their partners in survival. None of the old animosities seemed to matter anymore.

Gurjin was just as euphoric as everyone else, but he couldn’t help but smile as he watched Kylan excitedly swinging his sword after the battle. This placid boy was not like his fellow Spritons, who were invariably more adept in warfare like himself and Rian, and here he was like an excited childling who had just learned a new skill. And Gurjin had always had a soft spot for him; with his domestic skills and musical abilities, Kylan was a breath of fresh air for him between fights. And Gurjin had also been trying to come to terms with the fact that he found Kylan beautiful, in more ways than just his form; Gurjin had always been happy to flirt with girls, but there was something about this sweet-natured, sensitive Spriton boy that he found irresistible.

But Gurjin did not want to endanger his friendship with Kylan or Naia by trying to court Kylan; Naia might have been his sister and they might have loved each other fiercely, but she would be livid if something drove Kylan away. She had known Kylan longer than Gurjin had known him.

“I can’t believe it Gurjin, I actually fought with a sword! Fought the Skeksis with a sword!” Kylan was a ball of unbridled excitement as they convened after the battle and Gurjin could not stop himself from smiling like a fool as he watched and listened to the unsuspecting object of his affection.

“I feel like I could do anything …what’s so funny?” His ears dropped and his smile gave away to an inquisitive look, confused about why Gurjin was beholding him in such an unusual way.

“You’re just so adorable the way that you’re carrying on,” Gurjin chuckled warmly, still ecstatic from everything that had just happened, “You’re adorable- I…”
Gurjin soon found himself tongue-tied, which surprised him as well as Kylan; Gurjin was known for his sharp tongue and his quick wit. Who was this new Gurjin who seemed so flustered and unable to speak?
“You think I’m adorable…?” Kylan was not a fool, but he had little experience in matters of the heart. He had devoted very little time to that field of life.

Without thinking, Gurjin gently kissed Kylan on the cheek, which startled both of them.

Gurjin’s eyes went wide with horror and his joy withered while Kylan looked bewildered. Gurjin’s flirtations with women had been perfectly enjoyable, but this one bit of contact with Kylan sparked a bonfire from smouldering embers for him. Kylan was speechless, his body responding with a rush of joy that he had never known.

“I’m-I’m sorry, Kylan-! I shouldn’t have done that!” Gurjin sputtered, his ease of speech faltering, feeling even worse since he couldn’t quite read Kylan’s expression beyond surprise.
“Why’re you sorry, Gurjin?” Kylan put a reassuring hand on Gurjin’s upper arm, “I liked that.”
“Wait, what?” It was Gurjin’s turn to look confused, although his uncertainty remained, “Kylan, I really hope that I haven’t misread you, because I don’t know how to tell you how much you mean to me.”

“You like me?” Kylan still looked confused, but Gurjin could sense excitement behind the question, “Gurjin, do you mean that you’re in love with me?”
“Yes,” Gurjin decided to answer plainly, since there was no other way to say it, “Kylan, I won’t say that I’m not attracted to women, but I can’t begin to describe how I feel about you. You sing beautifully, you keep impressing me with your cooking -how you cook blindfish is amazing, even Naia raves about it- you can compose songs without even trying... you're sweet and only Deet is more gentle than you, you're such a relief from battles. You amaze me.. I was honestly afraid for you in the battle…!”

Gurjin’s deep voice cracked as he tried to steady himself. He generally didn’t allow his feelings to overtake him, but he was floored when he saw the Spriton among the fray and, for once, he found himself fighting his own tears: not Kylan, not this gentle boy who had won Gurjin’s soldier heart.
“I’m glad to see that you’re all right, that you can hold your own, but the idea that you might not have been…! I don’t know if I can handle that…!”

Kylan’s amber eyes were big with wonder as he gazed into Gurjin’s yellow eyes, hardly daring to believe his luck. He considered himself lucky to have befriended Naia, one of the finest warriors- and, indeed, Gelfling –that he had ever met. She was always there to defend him where he was always there to moderate her ardor. And here was her handsome brother confessing his feelings for him. He had always found Gurjin attractive but, for the longest time, he was hesitant to approach that matter. Not that he could not hold a conversation with Gurjin; despite that Gurjin was a trained warrior and Kylan himself was a songteller, this somehow had never been a problem for them. He hardly had any experience with courtship and love, since he had always been too busy learning music, poetry, and dreametching. And Naia... Kylan had been orphaned courtesy of SkekMal when he was just a small childling, he hardly had any family and Naia and her small band had filled that void. And he did not want to endanger that.

“I don’t know what to say, Gurjin,” Kylan murmured, “I’ve fancied you almost as long as I have known you.”

Gurjin’s eyes went wide, “You have…?”

“…Yes,” Kylan’s voice was shy, “I didn’t want to complicate or endanger my friendship with Naia by courting her brother.”

“Naia and I are Drenchen,” Gurjin had not heard himself use such a gentle tone before, looking deep into the Spriton boy’s eyes as he stroked his shoulder, “Kylan, it would only take something as bad as what the Skeksis have done to us to lose our loyalty.”
“You have your family, Gurjin. SkekMal killed my parents and I was their firstborn. I hardly remember them… I don’t really have family. You and Naia and your sisters are the closest that I have to family and I have never wanted to endanger that. Naia has always been there for me…”
“And will continue to be,” Gurjin reassured, “You’re not alone, Kylan, and you don’t have to be.”
Regaining some of his confidence, Gurjin took the chance and closed the gap between them, placing a gentle kiss on Kylan’s lips.
Kylan eagerly returned the kiss with a passion that surprised Gurjin, who chuckled. Gurjin’s deep voice and laugh had sounded musical to Kylan, but they had never before sounded so sweet. Overwhelmed by desire and unfamiliar emotions, Kylan threw his arms around Gurjin, burrowing into the Drenchen warrior’s muscular shoulder as they broke the kiss.
“What’s all this?” Gurjin murmured, worried again, “Didn’t you like it?”
He heard the sound of muffled sobs coming from Kylan and it scared him for the moment of silence between them.
“Gurjin, I- I don’t know what to say-! I never thought that this would be possible between us, and yet look at us now-!”
With a relieved laugh, Gurjin tightened his embrace, burying his face in Kylan’s shoulder as he felt warm wetness sting his own eyes.
“I love you, Kylan,” Gurjin stroked Kylan’s raven hair, careful of his braids, “And I can’t believe that I’ve been this lucky.”
A shuddering sob escaped Kylan at Gurjin’s admission, “Oh Gurjin, I love you…!”
“I love you too, sweetheart…! Shhh…!”

“It seems that you’ll soon be my brother-in-law, Kylan,” Naia’s voice interrupted their reverie.
Gurjin and Kylan looked up, startled. There stood Naia with a smirk on her face, with Amri standing behind her wearing a more genuine smile. The new couple hastily swiped at their tear-streaked faces.
“For Thra’s sake Naia, don’t do that to me!” Gurjin’s tender tone had been replaced with an annoyed one while Kylan looked pitifully embarrassed.
“I’m sorry that I interrupted your little scene,” Naia softened, her smirk vanishing as she saw Kylan’s discomfort, “I really am happy for you, though. Honestly, I’m not surprised at all. I could always sense something between you.”

“Really?” Gurjin’s annoyance turned into surprise, “Was it that obvious?”
“No, not that obvious,” Naia placed a hand on her brother’s shoulder, “But I noticed that you always had a soft spot for Kylan.
“And Kylan,” she smiled at her Spriton friend with sincere joy, “I could not be happier that you’ve found somebody.”

“It’s about time,” Maudra Laesid joined the conversation, “About time that you found a bondmate.”

“Mother,” Gurjin flushed in embarrassment.

“And Kylan, I’m glad that he chose you. You already balance Naia, I know that you're a good influence. That you can cook doesn’t hurt, either. I've tried how you prepare blindfish.”

"Maudra Laesid...!" Kylan shyly lowered his eyes, blushing, in disbelief of what was happening.

"No need for any shame, lads," Laesid reassured, leaning on her staff, "Kylan, you're a breath of fresh air after so much time devoted to battle. You're a good lad, you're just who Gurjin needs to keep him out of trouble."

"Oi, Mother I resent that!" Gurjin sounded affronted, but he looked amused. He knew when his mother was teasing.

Kylan relaxed, finally convinced that his dearest wish had been granted. That he felt Gurjin's arm around his shoulder and an affectionate kiss on his brow made him even weaker at the knees.

"I hate to end the moment for you," Amri interrupted, "But we have not vanquished all the Skeksis; SkekTek, SkekShod, SkekNa, and SkekUng are still wandering about."

"You're right," Naia agreed, although she could not help a soft smile toward Amri, "The war is not over. We cannot underestimate the remaining Skeksis."

Gurjin nodded before he saw out of the corner of his eye Kylan go a bit pale at the thought. Pulling his new sweetheart close, Gurjin felt a new drive to fight. He no longer felt afraid of the Skeksis. Not when he and Kylan had finally found each other, come what may.

Chapter Text

“Yes, it’s working! The Darkening is losing its hold over her!”

Deet felt strange, like a fever had just broken. What else had been corrupted as a result of the Darkening that had made her its conduit? She was scared to open her eyes and scared to keep them closed; what would she find?

“Praise Thra, she’s coming back to us!”

“Deethra! Deet, my darling, we’re right here!”

“Deet, Deet, wake up!”

The voices of her fathers and brother sounded distorted to her, like they were garbled with somebody else’s echoes, but their voices soon became louder and clearer to her.

“Deet, I’m here with your fathers and Bobb’n! I’m not losing you again!”

She recognized Rian’s voice with their voices.

Deet wondered what was happening, and despite her hesitation she gingerly opened her eyes. She knew that, whatever there was, she had to confront it sooner or later.

Her vision was blurry at first, but as it cleared saw her fathers cautiously watching her, their eyes glassy with unshed tears, and Bobb’N stood beside them, looking so serious and wary for a childling.
And Rian was with them, his face streaked with tears and his eyes tired. How long had she been unconscious? And what had happened?

“Father…?” her voice was soft and brittle as she gazed at them inquisitively.

Mitjan tried to stifle a sob as he hugged his daughter before Lath’N joined the embrace, sweeping an eager Bobb’N into it with himself. Lath’N was a bit more stoic than his husband, but he couldn’t help himself now that their little girl was healthy and with them again.

“Deet, my darling, I don’t know what we’d do if we lost you…!” Mitjan sobbed as he stroked her hair, “I’ve never seen you in such a terrible state-!”

“Deet, so sick-!” Bobb’N mumbled against her dress, hugging her like he never wanted to let his sister go.

“What ‘s happened,” Deet murmured, glad for the embrace but still bursting with questions, “Is everybody all right?”

“You’re safe from The Darkening,” Rian’s voice was husky, “I wasn’t sure if the plan to restore the Crystal would work, but you were able to infiltrate the Castle.”

“I remember that,” Deet replied as she left the embrace of her brother and father and Rian hugged her desperately, “Oh- Rian, be gentle with me-!”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, loosening his hold as he remembered that she was still fragile from all that she had endured, “I just can’t bear losing anybody else, least of all you Deet…”

Rian held his tongue, embarrassed at admitting something so private in the middle of an eager reunion, especially since he still had not had a chance to grieve for Mira, for his father, for all his friends and family who had returned to Thra in the middle of the war for their survival.
“Rian has been by your side day and night since you vanquished the last of the Skeksis,” Lath’N murmured, “He hardly left your side.”
“I’ve never seen anybody so dedicated,” Mitjan sounded awed, “Your father and I had to make him rest, otherwise he would have collapsed at the touch of a finger,” Mitjan’s voice broke as he remembered, “He loves you, Deet. I can see it!”

Deet forgot her exhaustion for a moment as she turned toward Rian, her eyes wide with surprise. Not that she was surprised that Rian cared about her, but actually hearing it nonetheless a jolt.
Rian blushed, embarrassed at this exposition, although Mitjan wasn’t wrong. He loved Deet, but he couldn’t take that step yet. Not when he was still grieving; he kept seeing Mira’s demise, kept seeing his father’s death by the gobbles and SkekMal escape while capturing him, hearing SkekSil’s taunting… he shivered at the memories.

“He looks at you like your father looked at me when we were courting,” Mitjan continued, his eyes glassy.
“Like he still look a’ you,” Bobb’N interjected. Despite his tender age, Bobb’N was not blind; since Deet’s victory and her rescue, he’d seen the interaction between his fathers and Rian with Deet, saw how Rian watched over her just like Lath’N watched over Mitjan.
Lath’N blushed slightly but he couldn’t help smiling. He and Mitjan were not shy about their mutual affection and Bobb’N and Deet had obviously witnessed it.

“Rian,” Mitjan’s voice was still thick with emotion as he gestured for the suddenly shy Stonewood boy to join them, “Without you, I’m sure that Deet would have found a way to free us from the Ascendency and win the alliance with the Arathim, but that you were by her side almost the whole time…!”

“Clearly, our daughter matters a lot to you,” Lath’N continued for his stricken husband, “If you would be ready to endanger yourself to rescue her from the Darkening…!”

“You love Deet?” Bobb’N asked, watching Rian curiously.

Rian chuckled at the childling’s question, “If you have to ask Bobb’N, yes… yes, I do,” he looked sheepishly at the Grottan family around him.

Deet felt herself blushing at his admission. She had been through so much in so short a time, but she would be lying if she said that she did not feel a blossoming attraction toward Rian.
She had never felt such a thing and it made her nervous, but the way that Rian gazed at her made her feel a myriad of sensations, the strongest of which was a joy that was so intense that it almost hurt. But she knew that she must dare it, as frightening as it seemed.

“You do…?” Deet’s voice was still fragile from disuse, but she felt a world of weight in that short phrase, “Rian, I- I don’t know what to say…!”

“Come,” Lath’N said to Bobb’N and Mitjan, “Let us give them a moment to themselves. They probably have a lot to discuss.”
Mitjan nodded in agreement as they led a confused Bobb’N to the doorway, the three of them hesitant to be totally out of her sight.

“Rian, so much has happened…!” Deet sounded as shy as she suddenly felt.

“I know,” Rian’s voice was equally timid, “And you’re right. So much has happened… I know that it’s a lot to accept, and in the middle of all that has happened I have not had the time to grieve, for my father, for Mira…”

His voice caught. He felt guilty even for considering moving on from Mira, never mind that her essence had been returned to Thra. The conflict of grief for Mira and his emerging feelings for Deet twisted him painfully inside him.

“Mira?” Deet’s big dark eyes gazed into Rian’s striking blue ones, “Who do you mean?”

The knot in Rian’s throat tightened, “She was my first real sweetheart. We were guards at the Castle under the Skeksis. She was…! I’m sorry, I can’t say it…!”

Deet cautiously raised her hand, “Dreamfast with me, Rian. You don’t have to say anything that way.”

Rian was hesitant but he accepted her offer, raising his hand to hers and entwining their fingers.

A flood of images and sounds washed over them as Rian’s memories of Mira, from their first meeting to her demise at the hands of the Skeksis, crossed the bridge that their minds had formed. Rian had not been so vulnerable in a long time and Deet was still horrified at Mira’s shocking fate.
Then came the torrent of excitement and tenderness that Rian had begun to feel for Deet and his inner conflict.

As their hands parted, Rian was the first to speak, “If you want to walk away from this Deet, I won’t stop you,” he wondered if she could hear his feeble voice, “I know that both of us have our burdens to bear, and especially since I have not had the chance to grieve… I care about you and I can’t bear to lose anybody else, but I understand if you don’t want to do this.”
Deet answered him with a fierce embrace.
“You know of my turmoils, Rian,” Deet’s voice was tearful, “You know about them and you are still beside me. If you have not had the chance to grieve for the dead, I am not about to let you do that by yourself.”
Rian returned the embrace, feeling his own face streaked with tears, hardly daring to believe that this was true.

-----

Mitjan buried his face in his husband’s shoulder, “Our darling Deethra…!”
“Our little girl has found a mate,” Lath’N kissed Mitjan through the fringe of hair over his brow as he embraced him and Bobb’N.

Chapter Text

“You understand that you are getting the best girl that Thra ever gave,” Mitjan gently warned Rian, his serious look faltering as he blinked his watering eyes.
“You’re very lucky to have won her hand,” Lath’N agreed, his brow slightly creased as he realized all over that their little daughter had become a woman, “Take good care of her.”

Rian did not need Deet’s fathers to convince him of his good luck, that he should cherish her, since he already knew those facts himself. His heart was all a-flutter

“Fathers,” Deet blushed, feeling silly at her fathers fussing about her in front of Rian, “I’ll be fine, you don’t have to worry about me.”

“And you don’t have to remind me of how lucky I am, Lath’N, Mitjan,” Rian assured, “I know that I’m lucky to have your daughter in my life and I thank Thra every day that she’s safe from the Darkening.”
“Rian…!” Deet felt her face warming even more, but she couldn’t help smiling. Rian was making these declarations of devotion to her.

“So do I, Rian-!” Bobb’N chirped, his speech becoming clearer, admiring the Stonewood boy who had sought his sister’s hand, “I like you. Deet likes you, too!”

“Bobb’N-!” Deet giggled, surprised at her little brother, “All four of you are making me blush…!”

“I like her too, Bobb’N,” Rian replied, giving Deet a teasing but fond smile as he crouched to speak with the small boy, warmly offering his hand to him, “And, honestly, I also like you and your fathers.”

Mitjan ran a hand through his silver locks, his fringe brushing against his brow. His husband and children knew that he was trying to contain tears.

“We like you, Rian,” Lath’N admitted, his expression softening, “And it’s clear to me that you love our daughter, since you have been at her side all through her recovery. She deserves a good man who will stand with her all the days of her life, and I’m pleased that you are the one worthy of her.”

Deet surprised her fathers and brother with an embrace, "I love you so much...! Thank you...!"

Mitjan and Lath'N returned the hug with all the love and pride that they had, barely restraining tears.

-----

After Bobb'N had gone to bed, Lath'N and Mitjan were finally by themselves and could speak openly.

Lath’N kissed his husband’s fringe-covered brow as Mitjan collapsed against him, “Shhh…! I know, darling…!”

Mitjan shook with sobs. He couldn’t help it. He still saw Deet as a tiny childling, just learning to walk and talk, instead of a young woman who had almost single-handedly vanquished the Skeksis, saving the Gelfling and all Thra.
“My love, where have all the trine gone? Our Deethra is of marriageable age and courting…!” he couldn’t finish his sentence.
“I know-!” Lath’N murmured as they desperately embraced, his own brow creased as his face contorted with emotion, “I know…! Rian is a good lad, he has shown us that he is utterly devoted to our little girl… I can’t believe that this day would come so soon…!”
“All those wonderful trine with her, with Bobb’N…!” Mitjan gasped, “Do you remember when she was small enough for us to carry…?”

The question was rhetorical. Of course they both remembered, they remembered when they first held their newborn daughter. Remembered feeding, bathing, clothing, and teaching her. Remembered playing with her, remembered how she doted over Bobb’N and played with him.

Lath’N smiled as he remembered themselves at that age, “Darling, do you remember how nervous I was when I began courting you?”

Mitjan chuckled, temporarily distracted from yearning for the days when Deet was just a childling, “You were almost too polite to my parents!”

“I know,” Lath’N smiled, “Your mother was slower to warm up to me. I now understand why she was.”
“And father liked you almost right away,” Mitjan continued, “And yes, I can remember how wary that mother was, and you saw how protective I was with her around Rian. I know that I get that from mother.”
“You were definitely worth the trial that she gave me,” Lath’N cooed, “You were so adorable- no, still are so adorable. You’re so beautiful, Mit.”
His heart full to the brim, Mitjan kissed his husband before he eagerly resumed their embrace, “And you’re as handsome as when we first met,” he murmured, “I love you and I hope that Rian is as good to our Deet as you’ve been to me, my love…!”

“I think he will be, darling,” Lath’N caressed his weeping husband, “Remember, Bobb’N said that Rian looks at her like I look at you.”

They chuckled, despite themselves.

"How did Thra bless me so? She has given you and our children to me," Lath'N mused with a doting smile, "I could not have asked for a better mate with whom to raise childlings."

Despite himself, Mitjan laughed, "Don't, my love, you're making me cry even more...!"

Lath'N kissed his husband's tears, stroking his hair, "Shhh, it's all right my darling."

"I never thought that I could be so happy, Lath'N," Mitjan's eyes were red and glassy, "I'm so glad that Thra blessed me with you, with Deet and Bobb'N...! That Rian is doting on Deet like you did me all those trine past...!"

Though the two Grottan boys had changed with time, they still fawned over each other like adolescent sweethearts.