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Ravus was annoyed. No. That’s wasn’t the right word for it. He was pissed off. Why, for the love of all that was holy, had he somehow gained Ardyn’s affections? Why was Ardyn chasing after him like a lovesick puppy while he was visiting in Tenebrae? He didn’t get it. The man was rescued by Verstael Besithia years ago, and instead of him becoming the embittered person they all expected, he was still just as kind and gentle as he had been in the past.

For whatever reason, he had taken a shining to Ravus in a way that made the Tenebraean think the immortal had fallen in love with him. It was preposterous of course, but Ravus couldn’t help but be pissed off by the notion. He was particularly pissed because he couldn’t deny that he felt something for Ardyn in return. It made him angrier than he anticipated because he knew he was deluding himself, that Ardyn was just a kind man that couldn’t be tainted by the worst of the world. It made him angry at himself for not having the strength to be the same way.

Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching, and Ravus had caught Ardyn speaking to Lunafreya in the Nox Fleuret mansion, a guest and resident for the time being. At first he thought it was just another of their many conversations, but then he noticed how close they were standing, how Ardyn reached out and touched Lunafreya’s arm with a kind smile and a laugh. Ravus hated himself in that moment for thinking that there had been anything there at all. Of course he was attracted to Lunafreya. From what he had heard, she looked a lot like his lover from all of those years ago. It was such a natural conclusion that Ravus cursed at himself for thinking anything differently.

Ravus was angry at himself and angry at the world. He had always been so angry for so long, and when he saw Ardyn and Lunafreya so obviously flirting and laughing with each other, he had only decided to ignore his aching heart and walk the other way. His sister called after him, and he could feel Ardyn’s stare, but he ignored it entirely in favor of letting his mood darker and his self-hatred flourish. There was so much he detested about himself, from his different colored eyes to his prosthetic arm. But the thing that he hated more than anything about himself was that he had dared to hope for something that was so obviously false that he had been such a fool to even think it at all.

When Valentine’s Day approached, Ravus knew he was the last person anyone should speak to. He spent his day pouring over his paperwork in his office, ignoring Ardyn when he stepped into the room and asked him what his plans were for the day. He ignored his sister when she came to check on him, concerned that he was in a darker mood than usual, and he ignored the staff when they came to provide him the sustenance he needed to not mix hunger with his anger. Instead, he spent most of his time wondering just why he had been foolish enough to think that Ardyn would be interested in someone like him. Who would when he was so angry all the time?

When Verstael Besithia had found and rescued Ardyn, they had all anticipated the worst. But it was quite different in the end, and Ardyn was still someone who was trying to right the wrongs of the world. He knew that one day he would have to die for Noctis to defeat the starscourge, and it was something he took with great stride. The prince was still too young, though, and Ardyn had opted to move to Tenebrae to live with the Nox Fleurets once Ravus and Lunafreya were adults, waiting until it was his time to finally die.

Ravus honestly thought that Ardyn had been put in a cruel and unfair position, and that was another reason he supposed he was so angry. For someone in such a position, he anticipated him to be far crazier, far stranger than he was. It made him feel worse about himself for being such an angry person, especially after his parents were murdered. Ardyn had stuck around, and Ravus had originally thought it was because he was increasingly staring at him, not at his sister. Now he realized that he had been a fool the entire time.

The worst part of it was that he couldn’t be angry by any means. Lunafreya was lovely and kind and all smiles. She was a perfect fit for someone like Ardyn. Ravus was bitter and tired and sarcastic. He was also a man, and Ardyn had never overtly gave any indication that he was interested in men in general. The passing glances, the time they spent alone, the moments they sat under the stars together, were all just attempts to get close to him for the sake of getting close to Lunafreya. It was simply an effort to play nice so that he would one day be a brother-in-law.

Lunafreya opened the door to the study once more, trying to talk to her brother in an attempt to figure out why he was shutting himself away. He wasn’t in the mood to talk, realizing that as much as he was pissed off by Ardyn’s initial attempts to be with him, he was more pissed off that it wasn’t the case at all. He had looked for something that wasn’t there, and now he had to come to terms with the fact that he was delusional and Ardyn really was in love with Lunafreya. He did it to himself and now he was suffering the consequences. He just didn’t anticipate it to hurt as much as it did.

“Brother,” Lunafreya tried as she looked at him with her lovely eyes of concern. It was unfair that he had thought of so much as competing with her sister for Ardyn’s affections, even if it was a subconscious thought for him the entire time. Why did he just push Ardyn away so quickly? “You have been locked up here all day. Please come out. Ardyn has been looking for you.”

“I thought he would have been spending today with you,” Ravus said as he stood up, looking out the window at the lush Tenebraean landscape. He tried not to be too harsh with his sister, but right now his shoulder was aching where he had lost his arm. He turned to her and looked at her with a pained expression, his heart aching more than he anticipated. “Please just leave me alone, Lunafreya. I am trying not to be the cold hearted person I truly am, and I don’t want to take it out on you.”

Lunafreya’s brow furrowed in deeper concern. “I think you need to talk to Ardyn. There seems to be some sort of misunderstanding.”

“There is no misunderstanding,” Ravus said simply as he walked over to his sister. He lifted his prosthetic arm and put it on her shoulder with a gentleness that was far different than how he normally was. He hated how Ardyn had subtly changed him so much, how he had made him softer and kinder. No matter what, he was still that hard and cruel person underneath. There was no fixing that.

“Ravus…” Lunafreya tried, but Ravus only shook his head.

“I wish you all the best,” Ravus said with a sigh. He left the room then, preferring to go back to his large bedroom where he could be miserable on his own. He was still cursing himself for even thinking that Ardyn liked him, and he was cursing himself even more for not realizing how much he actually enjoyed it until it was too late. But he knew, deep down, that he was destined to be alone, relegated to the shadows, where Lunafreya and Ardyn were better meant for the light.

Ravus dressed down to his silk pajamas, preferring to keep his shirt unbuttoned in the cool heat of spring as he walked over to the balcony in his room and stared out at the landscape, a veritable haven of forestry and wildlife. It was beautiful, serene, perfect for someone like Ardyn to fall in love with his sister and for them to have a happy life together before it ended tragically. Ravus was so disappointed in himself for wanting to be the one to mourn Ardyn as his lover, but instead he would just mourn the fact that he was never supposed to be with anyone in the first place. He hated how he had fallen in love with Ardyn without even realizing it.

There was a knock on the door to his bedroom, something he ignored in favor of sitting on the balcony railing, staring out at the forestry and allowing himself to wallow in his misery. It was upsetting how much he had been annoyed by Ardyn in the first place, and he was still chastising himself for it. Of course he was annoyed by him. He was annoyed by the fact that he had fallen for Ardyn and took his kindness to be a nuisance because he couldn’t handle himself, let alone loving another person. It annoyed him to think that he had been deluding himself into believing that Ardyn actually liked him instead of his sister.

The thoughts kept repeating over and over in his mind as the door to his bedroom opened and closed. Ravus wasn’t paying attention, lost in his own thoughts, the warm spring air blowing through his silk pants and long-sleeved silk shirt, caressing his bare chest like a lover who knew he was heartbroken. He didn’t hear the person approaching him from behind, lost in his thoughts and the pain of his own unintentional heartache.

“Ravus?” Ardyn called, startling him out of his thoughts. Ravus turned to Ardyn, the auburn-haired man looking at him with his kind gold eyes, wearing an unassuming white shirt and black pants, the top buttons unbuttoned to reveal his chest. In his startled surprise, Ravus instinctively fell backwards, and he began to topple over the railing. “Ravus!”

Ardyn reacted quickly as Ravus fell backwards. He grabbed his hand, pulling him upright, and steadied Ravus with his other hand by wrapping his arm around his waist, keeping his hand on the small of his back. He righted Ravus, standing between his legs as Ravus sat upright on the balcony railing, his heart pounding erratically at nearly falling over the railing because he had stupidly been lost in thought. Ravus stared at Ardyn, standing so close to him, one hand holding his with the other on his back to steady him. It was more than Ravus could bear.

“Are you alright?” Ardyn asked, his eyes so concerned and kind that Ravus had trouble interpreting it correctly. It looked like Ardyn cared for him, loved him even. No wonder Ravus had thought Ardyn liked him. No wonder he was so confused.

“I’m fine,” Ravus snapped, his anger winning out over his heartache. Heartache and vulnerability was difficult. Being angry was easy. “Thanks for helping. Please let me go now.”

“No,” Ardyn insisted. Ravus felt his heart jump as Ardyn took a step closer, his legs brushing against the balcony railing that Ravus was sitting on. Ravus’s legs brushed Ardyn’s hips, and he felt a fresh terror go through him as he looked at the man standing so close to him that it would be so easy for him to reach down and kiss him.

“Why are you doing this?” Ravus asked, his voice pleading instead of angry. He didn’t want Ardyn to be so close to him, not when he was trying to seduce Lunafreya. Or was this all part of his mind games?

“You’ve been hiding all day,” Ardyn said as he looked at him, so beautiful and warm. “Lunafreya is concerned. I am concerned. I wanted to take you out today and-”

“Take me out?” Ravus asked in surprise. “What about Lunafreya?”

“What about her?” Ardyn asked, clear confusion on his face. “Wait. Did you think…? Come here. I need to whisper something so no one else hears it.”

Ravus was confused and concerned, but he leaned down anyway so that Ardyn could whisper whatever heartache he was anticipating. As he leaned down and Ardyn leaned up, he prepared himself for the worst, for Ardyn to tell him that he was just too pained and too scarred to ever be loved. Instead, Ardyn leaned forward and pressed his lips against Ravus’s, both unexpected and delightful.

Confusion changed to pleasure, and Ravus felt the coldness around his heart melting away as the kiss turned from uncertainty to passion. Ardyn leaned into the kiss as Ravus deepened it, their tongues synching in harmony. Ravus couldn’t believe it, and he wondered if Ardyn was trying to seduce both him and his sister, but part of him didn’t care. All he wanted was to hold onto this man and never let him go. It didn’t matter if he was setting himself up for heartbreak later. He wanted Ardyn, and he was going to let himself cave just this once into Ardyn’s kiss.

“Ardyn…” Ravus began, his heart aching both painfully and pleasantly as Ardyn smiled up at him. He had tears in his eyes, and Ardyn’s brow furrowed in concern as he reached up and wiped them away.

“I love you, Ravus,” Ardyn explained. “Only you. No one else. I was trying to find a way to tell you all this time, and I asked for your sister’s help. But you have a way of being so stubborn that I can’t get you alone except when you’re about to fall over a balcony. I know I’m setting you up for heartache later on when I have to die but-”

“I love you,” Ravus blurted out, unable to refrain from his desire anymore. He couldn’t believe it. Lunafreya had been helping him instead of setting him up for failure? He suddenly felt a lot more self-conscious, sitting on the balcony with his shirt undone.

“Come on,” Ardyn said, his mind wandering to the same place. “Let me show you how much I love you.”

“Somehow, I have a feeling you’re far more devious than previously thought,” Ravus said as Ardyn pulled him off the balcony railing and towards the bedroom.

“Oh you have no idea.” Ardyn smiled at him brightly, a devious grin on his face. Ravus was going to be devoured, and he both knew it and looked forward to it. He was about to see just how devious Ardyn could be.