Authors: black_goose and umberela
Pairing: Baekhyun/Chanyeol, Sehun/Luhan, Tao/Kris, Kai/D.O
Word count: 5,540
Summary: "The Oracle has seen the twelve united. War is coming to the Nations. We must prepare for battle."
A/N: DA CALM BEFORE DA STORRRRRRM. also! we are making a FAQ post so please leave any questions you have about the fic or the world of the fic in ela's ask box here. we can't promise that all of your questions will get answered, though, particularly not if they deal with things that will be spoilers, or may get expanded upon in the future. but GIVE US YOUR QUESTIONSSSSS
It was midmorning, and Suho found himself in a small tent on the outskirts of camp. It was dim inside and smelled heavily of medicinal herbs. The man sitting on the bed seemed skittish and scared, which probably made sense, considering that the last time Suho had seen him, he had clearly been tortured. Now his wounds were covered in bandages, and Suho could no longer see the extent of the damage. He hoped the man had been Healed some. He had felt the pain of burns, and he no longer thought he would wish it on his worst enemy.
Yixing, who had brought him here, had positioned himself on a wooden chair at the end of the bed. “This is Lord Suho,” he said, voice somewhat calmer than when he had ran up to Suho in the general’s tent. “He is part of the Water Nation. You should tell him what you told me.”
The man’s eyes were wide, and still frightened. “My name is Chen, I am, I was Head Lightning Shifter.” Suho sucked in a breath, but he didn’t think Chen noticed. “I was forced to fight for the Fire Nation Army, my people—” he broke off.
“I know,” Suho said softly, and Chen looked up in surprise. “We’d heard about this, some of it. We know what they did to your clan, and we know they forced you into helping them in the war. You don’t need to talk about it if it’s painful. You can move on.”
Chen nodded, looking unsure, but relieved that he didn’t have to bring up the memories. “After everything that had happened, my hands were tied, and I had to obey the orders that were given me. Even so, I was trying hard to gather information, trying to find anything I could use to my advantage, anything I could use to gather others to my side.”
“Were you successful?” Suho asked. “Did anyone else question the Fire Nation?”
Chen dropped his head. “No,” he murmured. “Or if there were others, I never managed to locate them. The Fire Nation has covered their tracks well. The few who are in on it have told the rest of the people that the Air Nation is responsible for... everything. No one is questioning it.” His face twisted, and then he grimaced, touching fingertips to the bandages on the side of his face. “I tried, in desperation, to tell the Phoenix about their lies. I had nothing but my word, no evidence. He didn’t believe me. It was a fool’s hope to think he would. And I had been too hasty and got caught. So no, Lord Suho, I was not successful.”
Suho nodded. The Oracle had told them something similar last night, after he’d gotten in from his little adventure. Suho glanced over Chen, over his bandages and the emptiness in his eyes. He couldn’t imagine what he was going through. Chen’s people had been killed by his own nation, but some would say that despite this treachery he still owed them his loyalty. And yet here he was, now officially a defector, traitor. Suho couldn’t blame him for it, not after what had happened. But now Chen could never go home.
The silence lengthened and Suho prompted, “Is that all you needed to tell me?”
Chen shook his head. His fingers were playing with the bedsheets, his eyes glancing at Yixing every so often. “That’s not it,” he said. “There are plans — the Fire Nation has a plan.”
Suho frowned, telling himself that he didn’t just feel a chill run down his back. That was melodramatic to say the least. “What sort of plan?”
“This isn’t their entire army,” Chen said, looking up at Suho. He looked pale and fragile, but there was steel in his eyes. “What you fought yesterday was less than half of their true force. They split the army in two, part of which was to march here and meet your army, as a distraction. The other part, the bigger part, is currently marching up through the outskirts of the Earth Nation, making their way to the Air capitol from that direction.”
“Wait,” said Suho, his mind racing, “so they’re going to—”
“They plan on attacking the Air Nation capitol while the joint Air and Water forces are away. They knew you’d come with your entire force, and would leave the country defended with only a few troops. They’re going to seize the capitol, and destroy your troops with the other half of the army. That’s why the Phoenix is down here, but you weren’t supposed to know that, not until you’d gotten too far south to retreat.”
“That’s why they’re pulling back,” Suho said softly. “They want us to chase them south.”
Chen nodded. “It’s a trap, one that you would have walked straight into.”
Suho reeled. It was a brilliant plan, one he didn’t know how to best, especially if what they’d gone up against the previous day had been less than half of their army.
He hadn’t noticed he’d been swaying until Yixing ran up behind him with the chair he’d previously been sitting on. Suho sat in it heavily. “We’ll have to let the other generals know,” he muttered, more to himself than for the other two in the tent. “And the Elders, they’ll have to get the message to those left behind in the capitol.” He lifted his head, looking at Chen sharply. “When did the other half leave? How far will they be?”
Chen gave a tiny shrug. “They left on the same day we did. We’ve been purposely lagging but they’re far larger than us, so they won’t travel as far, and their journey takes them through the mountains. At a best guess, they are most likely a week from crossing into the Air Nation.”
A week. Would they even be able to get back in a week? Would the second half of the Fire Nation army even let them retreat? Suho stood. “Come, we must tell the other generals this. We can’t afford to waste any time.”
Yixing’s head snapped to look at him. “He should not be moved right now.”
Suho frowned. He was too on edge for this. “He’s going to have to be able to be moved, since soon we’re going to be moving.”
Yixing crossed his arms. “I will perform another Healing on him later today, but right now he is still extensively wounded and can’t be moved. The generals and Elders can slum it for an hour and come in here.”
Suho eyed the inside of the tent critically, unsure if everyone necessary would fit into it. He decided it wasn’t worth arguing about. “Come,” he said instead, and led Yixing out into the bright morning light. The sky was blue and cloudless, the air already warming up far more than Suho was comfortable with. “Go to the general’s tent, and tell them to come here. Inform them we need both Air and Water Nation generals alike, and that the two Elders best come as well. I am going to find my fellow Head Shifters.”
Yixing scampered off. Suho thought back. He hadn’t seen Tao since he’d gone in search of Kris, and as far as Suho knew, Kyungsoo still hadn’t come out of his tent this morning. He headed to Kyungsoo’s part of camp, circling a bit out of his way to stop by Tao’s tent. The flaps to the entrance were pulled back, the inside empty. Suho bit back a curse and scanned the area quickly, spotting a group of Air Shifters milling around.
“Have you seen Tao?” he called at them brusquely.
They seemed a bit startled, perhaps because he was talking to them so informally. “We haven’t seen him since early this morning, my lord,” one of them said, and the others nodded in agreement, casting their eyes down.
“If you see him, tell him he is urgently needed in the tent of the Fire Nation soldier the Oracle brought into camp last night.” Suho strode past them before they could reply, making his way quickly to Kyungsoo’s tent. Unlike Tao’s tent, the flaps of Kyungsoo’s were still closed.
“Kyungsoo!” Suho called, putting his face near the entrance. He could faintly hear the rustling sound of movement coming from inside the tent. “Are you decent?” Kyungsoo made one of his gurgling noises, and under it Kai’s muffled laughter could be heard. “We need you. Now.” Suho added the last bit sharply, slapping his hand on the tent flap. Kyungsoo squawked.
After a moment Kyungsoo came tumbling out of his tent, face flushed. He was dressed in his uniform, albeit somewhat haphazardly, clothes not quite sitting right. He quickly ran his hands through his hair and said, “Suho. What is it?”
Suho shook his head. “I don’t want to explain more than once. There’s new information about the Fire Nation and their battle plans. It upsets everything entirely. Come.” Suho strode away, leaving Kyungsoo to trip after him.
“Have you been taking lessons from Tao?” Kyungsoo asked sourly. Suho didn’t reply, and something about his face gave Kyungsoo pause. “It’s bad, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” They had reached Chen’s tent. There were a couple of generals milling around outside. Suho motioned to them, and they all filed inside. The Elders were already there, as were most of the other generals. It was very cramped. Chen was sitting bolt upright in his bed, body rigid with tension. Suho did a visual sweep and didn’t see Tao.
Just as he was wondering if he should go out and search for him, Yixing squeezed past the generals standing in the entryway. After some shuffling around, Tao followed Yixing in. He moved to stand next to Suho, pressing into his side. His face was pale, eyes puffy and red. His gaze was unfocused, like his mind was miles away.
Suho nudged him. “Hey, this is important, we need you here.” Tao shuddered, eyes meeting Suho’s, and there was pain heavy in his gaze. “You found Kris.” Suho’s stomach lurched.
Tao nodded, whispering, “Yes.”
Suho fought not to flinch. “And?”
“He’s alive,” Tao murmured. He shook his head. When he spoke again his voice was louder and back to its usual clipped tone. “What is going on?”
“Yes, what?” a general said loudly. He was one of Suho’s.
Chen winced at the loud tone. He had his hands fisted in the bed covers again, looking around at the gathered people warily. Suho pushed forward until he was standing near the bed, Yixing at the head of it with his arms crossed over his chest, looking almost foreboding. “This is the man that the Oracle brought from the Fire Nation camp,” Suho said, motioning to Chen. “His name is Chen, and he has brought us some vital information.” He gave Chen a friendly, warm smile, trying to reassure him a little. “Can you tell them what you told me?”
Quietly, voice wavering with nerves and tiredness, Chen told the gathered men about the Fire Nation plan. There were a few interjections, mostly comments by Suho’s generals on the reliability of this information. They were quickly reassured that Chen was telling them the truth, Chen’s voice rising after their comments in a quick, sharp protest at being accused of lying.
Once he had finished, there was silence throughout the tent, the news sinking in. Tao had become even paler. “So this means that we left our capitol open to attack?” he asked, voice barely more than a whisper. In the silence it sounded as loud as if he had shouted it.
“Their army is about a week from the border,” Suho said. “From there, it’s less than a week until they reach the capitol.”
“Another army the size of this one,” murmured one of his generals. “We cannot win, not against these numbers.”
“We cannot think like that,” said Suho, even though he agreed. Besides their greater numbers, the Fire Nation still had the Phoenix, and he was beginning to think that not even all three of the other Head Shifters could defeat him. “We must take things as they come. First we need to pull back, get our army back into the Air Nation to defend the borders. The capitol must be secured before we can think about anything else.”
“From there we’ll be trapped,” an Air Nation general said hoarsely. “We’ll be surrounded by numbers far greater than ours. They’ll pick at us until we’ve nothing left, then take the capitol anyway.”
“And what else can we do?” Suho snapped. “We could try to take their capitol in return, but while doing that we’d give them the time to take yours, and they would still have an army larger than ours we’d yet to have fought. We must get back into Air Nation territory and bunker down. From there, we will hold them off until we can think of an offensive plan. It is all we can do.”
There was a smattering of murmurs around the room. Finally the older Elder spoke up. “He is right. We need to bring the troops back so we don’t lose any ground. I think we,” he motioned to himself and the other Elder, “must get back to the capitol, and consult the rest of the Elders. We can formulate a plan.”
“We must take the Oracle back as well, after what happened last night,” the other Elder said. “Perhaps it would be prudent if the Head Shifters and upper generals rode ahead with us and the Oracle back to the capitol? The troops will march back to the Air Nation but they can only go so fast. A smaller party would travel quicker, and the sooner we get back the sooner we can plan.”
“The Head Elder will have insight,” the older Elder wheezed. “And the Oracle may get a useful vision once he is away from all these... distractions.”
There was a pause as they mulled this over. Suho didn’t like the idea of leaving his troops to march back without him, yet he was desperate to find a solution to this. If he left some of his generals in charge, there shouldn’t be an issue. The Air Nation was so small that when the fighting started on the borders he would be able to ride to his troops’ aid in a matter of days.
“We should take a couple of our Shifters with us,” he decided, glancing at the two Elders, neither of whom were battle trained. “Just for protection.” The two men nodded, and Suho thought they looked somewhat relieved. “The rest should march back and stay on the borders to help guard them.”
“In that case,” said one of Suho’s generals, “we should take—”
“No,” interrupted Suho, giving him a mild but pretty potent look. The Shifters were his responsibility and no one else’s. “I have my Shifters in mind. You should prepare for the journey. We must leave as soon as we possibly can. Tonight, I think.”
After a pause, the general nodded, and the others did likewise. Slowly, those in the tent filtered out, murmuring amongst themselves as they tried to come to terms with what they had learned, and what they had to organize for the journey. Soon, only his fellow Head Shifters, Yixing, and Chen were left. Chen had, during the course of the discussion, lay down, and now looked close to falling asleep.
“I’d like for him to come with us,” Suho murmured to Yixing. “Do you think he will be ready for riding a horse?”
“No,” said Yixing. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed, eyeing Suho with disdain. “But I will see what I can do.”
“Good,” said Suho. “Don’t tire yourself out too much because I want you to come with us too. Just in case. You can Heal him more on the journey, if you need to.”
Yixing looked surprised, but after a moment nodded his head. He looked like he was about to fall asleep standing and Suho quietly ushered Kyungsoo and Tao out of the tent so that he could resume his place at the side of the bed and hopefully catch a little sleep.
“I should put together a list of Shifters to take with us,” Tao said, once they were out in the sunlight. It was brighter now, and uncomfortably hot. “I think — I don’t suppose—”
“Tao,” Suho said gently, “bring whoever you think will be most useful. The decision is yours, not mine.”
Tao nodded, letting out a shuddering breath. He walked away, looking nothing like the intimidating young man who had met Suho for the first time in the Air Nation capitol. He was so horribly young, Suho thought, to have this much responsibility.
“I don’t have any Shifters,” Kyungsoo said, shrugging. “We’ll be ready to leave whenever you need us to.”
Despite everything, Suho’s mouth quirked into a small smile. “Using the royal ‘we’?” he teased.
Kyungsoo slid him a glare. “No, the me-and-Kai ‘we,’” he sniffed.
“He’ll have to ride the dragon,” Suho said, sobering quickly. “There’s no way after last night the Elders will let him ride with us.”
Kyungsoo shrugged again. “That’s fine. I will go pack now, and you should too.”
Suho nodded, and they parted, Kyungsoo heading back to his tent and Suho going in search of his Shifters. He had a few in mind.
“No,” Kris said flatly. “Absolutely not.”
“But—” Tao tried to interject, but Kris spoke over him.
“You were asked to bring Shifters for security reasons, for protection. You cannot take me along. I can’t protect anyone right now, I am injured, and I am not even a Shifter under your jurisdiction.”
Kris’s face was closed off and Tao was getting mildly panicky. “I am Head Shifter, and I can bring whoever I want.” Kris didn’t look impressed, and Tao sat down heavily on the edge of his bed, still in the overcrowded Healer tent.
“You can bring any Shifter you want,” Kris corrected.
“You are a Shifter,” Tao replied stubbornly. Kris made to interrupt but Tao pressed on, “No, you are. And I want to bring you along with us. You can Shift just fine even with your injury, and you know it.”
“I am not recognized as a Shifter,” Kris hissed. “They will hate me. Everyone. They will see an injured foot soldier running home, under the protection of a Lord playing favorites. It will be an insult to the other Shifters brought along. It will mean I have gotten preferential treatment over my fellow soldiers. I can’t, Taozi.”
Tao was breathing shallowly, and he felt tears pooling in his eyes. “You have to,” he said, a note of pleading in his voice. “You’re the only Shifter I can trust, really, truly. I am going to be riding back with only a handful of my people and I am scared, I need my back guarded. And you have the ability to do so.”
“Please don’t cry,” Kris said through gritted teeth.
Tao scrubbed a hand over his eyes. “I don’t mean to.”
“I know,” Kris said, a bit more gently.
“I can’t go home without you,” Tao said brokenly. “Not after what happened the last time I let you out of my sight. I just can’t. I’ll be useless with worry, sick with it.” He hiccuped, and Kris looked away from him quickly, like he couldn’t stand the sight. “I know I’m being selfish.”
Kris sighed heavily. “Alright,” he muttered. “I’ll go with you. Dammit.” He reached his hand out and wiped at Tao’s cheeks. “Just stop crying.”
Tao shifted, turning so he could wrap his arms around Kris’s middle and squeeze. Kris grunted and patted his head. “Thank you,” Tao said, muffled in Kris’s shoulder.
“You’re such a brat,” Kris sighed. He let Tao clutch at him for a moment longer before shoving him off. He stood slowly, a look of deep thought on his face. “Yeah, okay. I’m well enough to ride. You’re lucky that Fire Shifter went after my arm and not my leg, then where would you be?”
Tao didn’t want to think about that. “Do you need help packing?” he asked.
“No,” Kris muttered. “You worry about your own luggage. Oh and convincing the rest of your party that this is a good idea. Also I am going to need a horse, since I haven’t got one.”
Tao nodded. “I’ll take care of all that.” He’d stopped crying, and he stood as well. He had his determined face on. “No one will give you a hard time, I’ll make sure of it.”
Kris just shook his head and muttered, “Not in front of you, no.” He left then, and Tao watched him go. He didn’t waver, didn’t limp. Tao hoped he really was well enough to ride, and ride hard, because this journey was going to be rough. They were heading back to the capitol at full speed.
He sighed, steeled himself, and left to go talk to the Elders about his Shifters.
Luhan dressed as quickly as he could, pulling on the different layers that had been laid out for him. There were more of them than usual, enough to cover almost every possible piece of skin. The only bare part of his body, his face, was to be covered with a thin veil, presumably to protect him from the glances of those who were unworthy to look at him. He wondered if he could accidentally-on-purpose lose it during the journey.
He had been told earlier that morning, just after he had woken up, that he was being taken back to the capitol as soon as possible. For a few minutes he had been worried that he was being punished for what had happened the night before, but it had transpired that some new information had come in and they were merely worried about his safety. He had been able to pick up what had happened through bits and pieces that had been dropped in the conversation. His safety, apparently, was still of the utmost importance, as members of his guard from the journey here were escorting him for his protection.
His general comfort, though, did not seem to occupy such an important role. For the sake of speed, his palanquin and attendants were to be left behind to travel with the rest of the army back to the capitol. He had plenty of attendants in the capitol who hadn’t been brought along on the march, so once home he would have more of them hovering over him, but during the journey he was going to be without them for the first time in many years. Luhan was looking forward to leaving them behind for a short while, at least. Even if the Elders were around, he would still have more freedom, simply because there would be no one watching him twenty four hours a day.
He had been told that they would be riding back, something which had clearly puzzled him to begin with, as Luhan could not ride a horse. Later someone had brought him the news that he would be riding with one of the members of his guard, and so the excess clothing was a precautionary measure, designed to stop skin contact even while they were on the same horse.
He hadn’t even contemplated the idea that the person he would be riding with, as he found when he stepped outside of his tent, would be Sehun.
“Oracle,” Sehun murmured, his hands on the reins of a large, dark brown horse, who was pawing at the ground and snorting. Luhan eyed it nervously, and then eyed Sehun even more nervously. Sehun stood upright, head high, but with his eyes not meeting Luhan’s.
“Sehun?” Luhan asked gently, taking a step forward, and hoping that he’d imagined the tiny step back that Sehun took. “Will I be riding with you?”
There was a pause. “Yes,” said Sehun stiffly. “I have been assigned — yes.”
“Oh,” said Luhan softly. He gave Sehun a smile, then felt it slide from his face as soon as Sehun turned to readjust the saddle. After the night previous, with what had happened with Kai, and what he had learned about the peach colour he saw so often in Sehun, the last thing that he wanted to do is spend a few days unable to avoid touching Sehun.
Strange, he thought, walking to Sehun’s side, still watching the horse distrustfully, how I so badly wanted to be able to touch him just a few days ago.
He lay his hands on the saddle, staring at the stirrups. “How do I—?”
Sehun sighed like he was very put-upon. “Here,” he said. “I will — I will help you.”
He laced his fingers together and bent down, directing Luhan to put a foot in his hands. Luhan wasn’t even sure where his feet were currently, what with all the robes. He pulled them up, not caring that it was probably improper. His hands now full of heavy fabric but his feet free, he stepped into Sehun’s cupped hands.
“This is not going to work!” he cried, trying to brace his hands on the saddle and hold his robes at the same time. He gave a feeble hop and tried to push himself up. He made it half onto the saddle, and he scrambled to hook his leg on the other side. The silk he was wearing kept sliding.
Sehun was pushing at him as Luhan clutched the saddle, trying to keep him from tumbling off. Luhan looked over and saw he was snickering, but when he saw Luhan’s face turning toward him he made an effort to stop. “Laughing at the Oracle is forbidden,” Luhan panted.
“No it isn’t,” Sehun replied, giving Luhan’s rump a hard shove. Luhan was able to push himself up the rest of the way.
“I am going to make it forbidden,” he muttered mutinously as Sehun carefully placed one of Luhan’s feet into a stirrup. Once he was certain that Luhan was secure, he swung himself up onto the horse behind him, reaching around Luhan’s body for the reins.
Luhan, meanwhile, had just noticed that the horse, big even from the ground, appeared to be even taller than expected from up here. Looking down at the ground made him certain that he was about to fall at any moment, and he shut his eyes tightly, tensing up.
“Oracle?” Sehun’s voice cut through the sudden fear. He sounded concerned. “Are you feeling alright?”
“It’s high,” Luhan murmured.
“You live in a tower,” Sehun pointed out.
“I rarely get to look out of it,” Luhan retorted. “Anyway this is different, there’s no walls here to stop me from falling.”
There was a pause. “Don’t worry,” Sehun said. “You’re not going to fall. I won’t let you.”
Luhan let out a deep breath, opening his eyes and staring straight ahead rather than down at the ground. It didn’t really make it any better. When Sehun finally nudged the horse into a slow trot, Luhan yelped, automatically grabbing at Sehun’s wrists to anchor himself.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to go faster than this,” Sehun said. “You don’t have to be so scared. I’m not going to let you fall off.”
Luhan took a deep breath and nodded. The next second they were going a little faster, riding through the camp to the outskirts where they would meet the rest of their party. Luhan was pleasantly surprised to see that he recognized most everyone; he could see the round faced Water Shifter in Lord Suho’s group, as well as the Healer who had come to his and Kai’s rescue the night before. Next to the Healer’s horse was Chen, his face still covered in bandages, and then Baekhyun by his side. Luhan let his gaze linger on them, surprised at seeing them. The Head Healers, he had expected, but not the Lightning Shifter, and particularly not the lover of the Phoenix.
No one spoke to him, and once they had arrived, they did not wait for long, turning to the north and beginning the journey. Luhan had begun to get used to being so high off the ground, but the sudden increase in speed had him stifling a cry of alarm and automatically moving backwards to lean against Sehun, as if in reassurance that he was there.
Sehun was uncomfortable with that, Luhan could see. Not physically uncomfortable, but emotionally. The feeling poured through Luhan, color swirling. This close it was hard to block out. Contrary to what the Elders and everyone else thought, skin contact wasn’t all that important, not when the other person was this close. Luhan flushed a bit, not wanting to cause Sehun any distress, and tried to shift away, but the movement of the horse made it difficult.
Sehun let go of the reins with one hand and clamped his arm around Luhan’s waist, holding him still. “Stop that,” he said sharply.
The discomfort was still there, but there wasn’t any worry mixed in with it, so Luhan knew Sehun wasn’t concerned about him falling. Luhan tentatively reached his senses out, slightly guilty because he had promised Sehun he wouldn’t, but he was curious. Once he got past the discomfort he was immediately slapped with desire, sharp and strong. He pulled his senses away, blushing furiously.
After a moment the embarrassment turned to amusement. He deliberately pretended to lose his balance, just so he could fall further back against Sehun. He squirmed to get closer, and he could feel the desire even through the discomfort now. It was heady. For the first time that day he was glad for the veil, as it hid his grin.
Luhan continued to squirm and finally Sehun snapped, “Luhan, I swear, I am going to make you ride with someone else.”
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, trying to pitch his voice so he sounded vulnerable. “I just feel like I’m going to topple off.” He leaned against Sehun, trying to turn his head to see his face. “Are you alright?”
Sehun was swirling with colors. Discomfort and guilt mixed with want, as well as some mild amusement. “Just. Quit squirming.”
“I’ll try,” Luhan said dubiously.
But he didn’t try very hard at all. Every so often along the journey he tried his luck, pushing until he could sense that Sehun was about to lose his temper at him, and then stop squirming completely. It was an amusing game to while away a very boring journey across the flat land of the Fire Nation.
Soon, though, Luhan began to grow tired, even though no one else around him seemed to be. He was used to structured days, a certain time each night in which he was required to sleep in order to be ready for the next day. He did not know the time exactly, but he knew that they had long passed the time that he was normally asleep. It did not take long for him to drift off sitting in the saddle.
He didn’t know how long he had been asleep when Sehun woke him up, saying his name in his ear and making him jump enough to worry about truly losing his balance this time. Sehun’s arm was still around his waist, and Luhan had been cushioned against his chest as he slept, relatively safe.
Luhan blinked around at the others, still feeling half asleep. Men were running around scrambling to put up adequate tents, just for the night. Almost everyone looked dead on their feet. Luhan thought that, judging from the darkness, it must be very late in the night, or else, early in the morning.
Behind him, Sehun slid off the horse, landing on his feet with ease. Luhan looked down at him, knowing that he could not manage such a graceful landing. “I don’t — I’m scared I’ll fall,” he said. “It’s too high.”
“Here,” said Sehun, holding out a hand. “I will help you.”
Luhan hesitated for a moment; how long had it been since Sehun had offered to hold his hand, to honestly be willing to touch him? If Luhan wasn’t wearing the white gloves that he was, would Sehun still be so willing to help him down from the horse? Perhaps he should “lose” the gloves along with the veil.
He took the hand, and Sehun gently tugged him down, catching him around the waist when he stumbled and setting him back on his feet. He gave Luhan a wide smile, a genuine smile, brushing his hands across Luhan’s shoulders to straighten out his clothes. “There you are, Oracle,” he murmured. “Safe and sound.”
The peach color was practically radiating out of him. Luhan stared at him, feeling like everything had shifted, just like it did during a vision. This time there was no vision, just the sudden, terrifying realization that he was, most probably, just as in love with Sehun as Sehun was in love with him.