As Long As I Have You
Title: As Long As I Have You
Author: rozen_phoenix
Pairing: Hsin/Boyd
Spoilers: Set in some vague in-between time after Chap 36 of Fade but before any updates come out…
Summary: Almost losing Boyd made Hsin realize just how tenuous the balance they’ve struck in their lives is. They’ve had precious little time to themselves these past few weeks, but now Hsin is taking things into his own hands.
Word Count: 3,225
Disclaimer: The characters within belong to Sonny and Ais, not me.
Author’s Note: I’m calling this a semi-AU to cover my bases, since it HAS been quite a while since I’ve read anything ICoS and I’m not entirely 100% certain of the characterization. I’ve since done some cursory rereading, but it’s still cursory at best. Hopefully it’s not TOO badly OOC…
This is written for Aimee because of a random whim and I tend to indulge random whims. (*shrugs. Cuz I felt like it?)
Anyways, so I come up with the title then get the bright idea to Google it and see what comes up because everyone knows that pretty much everything had already been said by someone already. Anyways, turns out it’s an Elvis Presley song (and Mark Roach song. And an ABBA song. And a Led Zeppelin song. And– Basically, it’s a catchy phrase that lots of people have songs for). Anyways, the Elvis song. I’m rather ambivalent towards the melody (it’s not bad, but I still think it’s rather uninspired and a bit…incongruous), but the lyrics are rather fitting.
Anyways, did I mention it might be rather OOC? ‘Kay, long as you’re aware.
Just realized. I don’t actually even know when Chap 36-ish of Fade leaves off in terms of time of year. …OH, WELL. JUST PRETEND THAT IT’S DECEMBER, ‘KAY? :D
(Final note: I would have finished/posted this earlier, but I had last-minute finalizations on gifts for my family. Which means I needed to frantically finish crocheting stuff I totally procrastinated on :D)
This hasn't been edited yet, so bear with me.


“What?” Boyd finally asked, glancing up from his tablet screen only to catch Hsin quickly looking away.

“I haven’t said anything,” he muttered, suddenly finding the far wall extremely interesting.

“Of course you haven’t,” Boyd said patiently. “But you keep staring at me. Do you need something?”

Sin shifted uncomfortably from his perch on the couch. “Well…not really…”

Boyd set down his tablet and crossed his arms across his chest. “Just spit it out already.”

“Well… It’s the holidays… and I thought we could…we could…” he trailed off and mumbled something indistinct.

Boyd gave him a steady look. “You’re going to have to speak up, you know.”

Sin glared at him, then finally said, “I thought we could…do something. For Christmas, or whatever. Together.”

Boyd thought about it. “We’re still kind of busy.”

“I know, I know.” Sin seemed to struggle with himself for a moment before continuing, “It’s just…a lot has happened and I feel like if…if things don’t pan out the way we want to, I’d like to have done something together before shit hits the fan. Something like Vermont. Might as well, right?”

Boyd considered it for about half a second, but his mind had already been made up. The things that still needed doing could wait and anything else was already too late to change anyway. They might as well. “Sure. What do you want to do?”

Sin blinked in surprise. “Uh… I actually hadn’t thought it out that far yet.”


Sin started. “What did you just say?”

Boyd gave him a level look. “Bullshit. Don’t think I haven’t noticed all those catalogs and whatnot you’ve been reading these past couple of weeks. I’m sure you already have some elaborate plan. Now, spit it out.”

Sin let out an explosive sigh, then collapsed forward to bury his face in his arms, his voice coming out muffled. “I wanted to go out and pick a Christmas tree together, buy some decorations and stuff. Trim the tree together. It would look nice in the living room here, wouldn’t it? And then we could go out for dinner. Or I could cook. Or we could cook together, or something.”

He dared a peek, only to see Boyd with an amused look on his face. “What?” he snapped, unfurling to cross his arms across his chest.

“You ramble when you get nervous. It’s actually rather…adorable,” Boyd told him.

Sin scrutinized him intently. Adorable? “You’re rather weird,” he finally said.

“Don’t worry about it,” Boyd reassured him. “Now, let’s go pick out a tree, shall we?”


“You know, we could just go and get one of those plastic things,” Boyd called from across the aisle. He ducked out of the way of some wayward branches and made his way to where Sin was examining some trees.

Sin didn’t even look up. “It has to be a real tree,” he insisted, eyes still fixed on the tree as he moved the branches this way and that, searching for some sign invisible to Boyd.

This close to the holidays – actually, the holidays were technically already upon them since it was already Christmas eve – it turned out that many shops and lots had already closed down. They had finally managed to locate a lot that still had a couple bedraggled trees left. Boyd could have cared less which tree they got – he was just happy to be finally home and with Sin – but Sin had clearly done a lot of research over the past couple of weeks. He’d pelted the poor lot manager with questions that didn’t make much sense to Boyd and, from the looks of the increasingly bewildered manager, were too technical for him to answer. Or maybe it was just having Sin’s unnerving attention turned on him so fully that so unsettled him.

They’d already spent about an hour at the lot already, even though there were only 10 or so tree left. It’s a good thing Boyd had had the foresight to decide that they should pick out ornaments and such ahead of time, he thought idly as he absentmindedly swatted the branch of a tree and watched the needles fall.

“This one,” Sin finally said as he turned his gaze to the manager who had been hovering unsurely off to the side.

Boyd, who hadn’t really been paying attention to the proceedings, glanced up from the battered tree to see Sin’s final pick.

“Hey,” he said in surprise. “I think you found the only actually decent looking tree in the entire lot.”

“It does look nice, doesn’t it?” Sin asked with satisfaction as he gazed at the tree.

“That’s a balsam fir,” the manager offered timidly.  “Very nice tree. It’s old enough that it doesn’t have blisters anymore. It’ll last you quite a while. Has a nice scent, too. It’s very popular; I’m surprised there are any left in such good quality.”

It was actually a quite nice-looking tree. Unlike the other sorry-looking, dilapidated trees, this one actually looked decent. It was by no means perfect, but the imperfections were unobtrusive, probably nigh invisible if you weren’t looking for it. Covered in tinsel and ornaments, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was a less than stellar tree.

“Lo, a Christmas miracle,” Boyd said dryly.


The clatter in the kitchen continued unceasing. Boyd, who Sin had insisted relax in the living room, could stand sitting idle no longer and got up to wander into the kitchen.

“Anything I can do to help?” he asked, taking in the scene.

For all that Sin protested to being undomestic, he appeared to be quite a good cook. He had several dishes going at once.

“Is that a ham?” Boyd asked as he tried to peer around Sin into the oven.

“You’re supposed to be relaxing,” Sin frowned as he absently wiped his hand on a dishtowel.

Boyd shrugged. “Sitting around was driving me crazy. Let me help with something?” He purposely made it a question.

Sin paused as he ran things through is head. “Pretty much everything is either done or well on its way. Go back to the living room. I’ll bring all the stuff out in a moment.”

He turned his attention back to the stove and started fussing with the pots and pans. He started when he felt a gentle pressure against his inner thigh.

“What are you doing?” he asked caustically as he pushed Boyd away.

“We could have a little fun, couldn’t we?” Boyd asked seductively as he reached around Sin’s arm to cradle his balls. He pulled Sin away from the stove so he could kneel in front of him. He continued to caress Sin’s balls as he laid his head against Sin’s leg.

Boyd stared up at Sin. “I can hear your breath, you know,” he said. “I can hear the way your breath is growing shallower and shallower. And I can see your pupils dilating, even from here. And of course,” he said, moving his hand to the growing bulge between Sin’s legs. “I can see this.” He stroked for a while, then gave it a quick squeeze. “You sure we don’t have time to play a little?”

Boyd could see Sin struggling with himself before he finally took a deep breath and resolutely pushed Boyd away.

“Ha, ha,” he said sardonically, his voice not quite fully steady. “Behave yourself.”

Boyd sat back on his heels, confused. “You don’t like having sex with me?”

Sin snorted. “As if that were even possible. It’s just, I really wanted to do something nice together. I just felt like all I ever do is jump your bones.”

Boyd scoffed. “What does that make me then, the maiden virgin whose virtue you besmirched? It takes two to play this game, Sin.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sin said as he turned back to the stove. He fussed a bit more, then finally said, “You help finish off the salad over there and then cut and plate the ham, which I’m going to take out in a moment.”

Boyd made his way over to the half-tossed salad Sin had indicated. He watched Sin busying himself at the stove while he tossed the salad. It was weird, but not uncomfortable. The scene seemed almost mundane and oddly incongruous with the hells they both went through these past couple of months, yet was also achingly sweet. Boyd decided he rather liked it.


The radio was turned on to some station playing tributes to pre-WWIII artists. Some were less than pleasing, but some were actually quite good.

They were sitting together on the couch and, having finished eating, their dishes sitting on the coffee table in front of the couch, had drifted slowly closer and closer until Boyd was nestled comfortably in Sin’s arms.

“So now what?” Boyd asked. Not that he didn’t like sitting with Sin, his head on Sin’s shoulder, but he somehow felt Sin had more planned. The evening was still young, after all.

Sin sat in silence for a moment before abruptly saying, “I got presents for you.” He gently shifted Boyd off to the side and darted up off the couch and out of the room. He soon returned, carrying a surprisingly large amount of rather large bags.

Boyd raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Are these all for me?” There had to be at least five different bags.

Sin spared him a scathing glance as he settled the bags in front of Boyd and began unpacking various wrapped packages.

“I didn’t take you for the shopping type,” Boyd said thoughtfully.

Sin ducked his head in embarrassment. “I’m not,” he admitted, “but…it’s just…I liked buying things for you and I guess I got a little…carried away.”

He continued unpacking in silence before suddenly thrusting a package towards Boyd. “Anyways…here.”

Boyd looked from the package in his hand to the bevy of packages crowding the surrounding floor and remaining table surface, then started methodically unwrapping each and every one of them.

Finally done, he paused to take in his bounty. “Cook books,” he said with mild surprise as he stared at the neat pile on one side of the coffee table. “A lot of them. And,” he glanced at another pile off to the side. “A new sketchbook and a new set of art color pencils. Thanks. I was running out.” He glanced at another larger package wrapped in brown paper resting against the wall. “What’s that over there?”

“Ah, right,” Sins said as he sprang up from his perch on the couch armrest. “This one’s for you, too.” He brought it over and set it down upright in front of Boyd. “Here. Open it.”

Boyd carefully ripped the paper from the packet. His breath caught as the gift was revealed. It was a framed picture, a large print of the tree he’d drawn for the tattoo reference.

“Hsin, this is…this is wonderful.” He looked up at Sin with wonder in his eyes. “How did you even find this?”

Sin averted his eyes, but the relief was clear. “I wasn’t sure you’d be okay with this,” he admitted. “I actually found it in your studio when I took a look up there once while you were in the shower. I saw that and I just…borrowed it because it seemed so perfect.”

Boyd rested the painting gently against the couch and sprang into Sin’s arms. Sin started in surprise, but caught him readily. “I love it,” Boyd breathed as he buried his face into Sin’s shoulders. He tilted his head up to look into Sin’s eyes. “Thank you so much.”

Sin allowed himself an indulgent smile as he absently stroked Boyd’s back. “I also took the liberty to order and install a bookshelf in your studio loft, since you have all those sketchbooks laying around and I bought you all these extra books. Although now that I think of it, you’d probably want the cookbooks closer to the kitchen, wouldn’t you?”

Boyd straightened up and shifted his hand to Sin’s. “No matter,” he said as he got up and tugged at Sin’s hand. “Come show me.”

They made their way upstairs, hands still held tightly together. Sin’s heart clenched as he felt the gentle pressure of Boyd’s hand against his. He’d come so close to losing him yet again and still sometimes couldn’t quite believe that he was back. He gave Boyd’s hand a gentle squeeze. Boyd glanced towards him, then smiled and squeezed back.

“Here it is,” Sin said as they crested the top of the staircase.

“It’s very nice,” Boyd said he gazed at the floor to ceiling bookshelf. It was rather tasteful piece of furniture that matched the décor of the rest of the house nicely and was accessible, yet out of the way enough that it wasn’t intrusive.

“I got you something, too,” Boyd finally said.

“Well,” he amended at Sin’s sharp look. “It’s kind of something for both of us. I’ve been waiting for the right time to give it to you, but now is a good a time as any, I suppose. Let me go get it. Come on.”

He tugged Sin downstairs, then left him in the living room as he went to retrieve his present. Sin let in a sharp intake of breath when he saw the jewelry box Boyd bore. He grasped the proffered box and stared at it, then reverently opened the lid.

“It’s beautiful,” he said as he gently lifted out the intricate ring and tried it on. It fit his ring finger perfectly.

“Matching set,” Boyd said, brandishing another box. “Would you care to do the honors?”

Sin managed a nod as he opened the second box. He lifted the matching ring out and, taking Boyd’s extended hand, fitted the ring to his ring finger. He clung to Boyd’s left hand, then laid a gentle kiss to the ring on his finger. “Thank you,” he whispered into Boyd’s fingers, his voice hoarse with emotion.

Boyd tightened his hand over Sin’s fingers, then said, “It’s an old Celtic symbol. The Tree of Life. It symbolizes harmony, balance, spirituality, that kind of thing. Seemed rather fitting. ”

“It is,” Sin said fiercely as he pulled Boyd into a tight hug.

They remained like that for a while, hugging in the living room as the lights from the tree in the corner twinkled merrily. A comfortable calm settled as the last song on the radio wound down.

“And now, here’s a tribute to the early 2000s with Josh Groban’s ‘You’re Still You.’ Back in its day, this song charted at #10 on the Billboar Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart. I hope this song finds you happily with your loved ones this holiday season. And now, without further ado, Josh Groban.”

As the announcer wound down, a piano and violin accompaniment started filtering through the radio.

They listened to the song in silence for a while before Sin finally spoke. “That’s how I feel about you, you know. You’re my light in the darkness.”

They started swaying back and forth to the music in a slow dance. “Nothing that’s happened in the past couple of months matters much,” Sin continued quietly. “I don’t hold it against you and I never will. Because it is true. In the end, you’re still you, and I will always love you.”

Boyd considered that in silence, then finally said, “I know it’s all over, but sometimes, it’s hard to believe that I really am free. That this isn’t just an elaborate scheme concocted by Janus in VR to get me to lower my guard. Today has been perfect, but I’m scared of believing in it because it’s so perfect.” He looked up at Sin imploringly as he clung to him harder. “Please, Hsin. I want this to be real so bad, but I don’t know how to believe it.”

Sin gently grasped Boyd’s left forearm and laid a gentle kiss to his tattoo. “I don’t know how to make you believe, Boyd, and I don’t know if I want to make you. The only thing I can do is keep loving you and hope that I can erase your doubts.”

They rocked to the music in silence as the song wound down.

Boyd looked up at Sin from under his bangs. “Come to bed with me?”


They made gentle love, so achingly beautiful that it touched Boyd to the core. As they lay together in each other’s arms afterwards, warm and sated, Boyd felt that frozen part of himself start to thaw and melt. It was by no means completely gone, but it was well on its way. It felt nice to be so loved, to feel so safe in Sin’s love.

Memories of the day filtered back and forced Boyd to duck his face in an effort to conceal his amused smile.

Of course, he could get nothing past Sin.

“Something the matter?” he asked.

“Not much. It was really nice of you today. Really thoughtful,” Boyd said, watching the play of emotions across Sin’s face.

“What?” he snapped, noticing Boyd’s interest.

“It’s interesting seeing you like this. All bashful. I didn’t think anything could shock you.”

Sin gave him a sardonic twist of his lips. “Well, it’s not like I’ve done anything like this before, have I?”

Boyd considered him. “No, you haven’t, have you?”

He leaned back against Sin’s shoulder.

“I haven’t either, you know. Not really,” Boyd said softly. “It’s been long time since I’ve had a nice Christmas like that.”

They lay there in silence together as Sin idly stroked Boyd’s forearm. He gently lifted Boyd’s left hand so he could see their rings together.

Boyd looked at the rings glinting on their hands together.

“So, what brought this on?” Boyd asked.

Hsin picked at the bedsheet. “It’s just…people at the compound were talking. About their Christmas plans. Anyways, that reminded me of some of the Christmas plans that…that were being made. Before.” The unspoken when I was Danny hung in the air between them. “I sometimes wonder if you miss normal.”

At Boyd’s look, he quickly amended, “Normal comparatively speaking. Like if you’d ended up with Kassian or someone. Someone who’s not…well, the way I am.” He looked up at Boyd through his bangs. “I just don’t want you to hate me. To come to resent me.”

Boyd tilted his head to look up at Sin. “We’ve been through too much together,” he told him. “And besides, I love you too much.”

He shifted himself in Sin’s lap so he could look up at Sin’s face more comfortably. “You should know by now. I love you so incredibly much and you make me feel safe. I feel safe with you, and that matters a lot. I can deal with all the other shit thrown at me as long as I have you. As long as you’re with me, I feel as if I can take on the world and come out on top.”

Sin gazed down at him with such love that Boyd’s heart swelled with happiness.

“I love you so damn much,” Sin whispered as he squeezed Boyd tight in his arms.

“I love you, too,” Boyd breathed back as he arched his head up and drew Sin into a deep kiss.

Somewhere in the distance, a clock struck midnight.


End Note, in which I can do last minute justifications to what I wrote:

As with anything I write, this started off as a simple idea then mutated and grew and soon I had 20 tabs of research open in my browser. Anyways, here goes:

I tried to fit in the “honestly” is a gimmick because that’s how canon-Boyd only does things: gratuitously honestly. But honestly, it got so on my nerves I couldn’t seem to fit it in anywhere. So I didn’t.

And yeah, I have no idea what those people who manage those Christmas tree lots are called, so I just called him the “manager.” It makes him sound all weirdly official and stuff, lol.

As for Christmas dinner, that really threw me for a loop. What do people eat for Christmas dinner? My family’s Asian so we don’t really have a traditional Christmas dinner. After cross-referencing tons of stuff, I came up with something totally random.

Anyways, I don’t even remember definitively whether or not Sin can cook. …well, he can now.

And then the after-dinner scene, I was going to use snuggle or cuddle, but both of those sounded…out of place.

In crawling through the old chapters, I almost did a little happy dance when I found that he had the tattoo on his left forearm. Yes, in my rambling plannings, that was one of my worries. Well, I SHALL WORRY NOT NOW was my reaction.

As for the ring, I rather liked this one: but I thought the band was too thick overall and the ridges on the top and bottom a little too much.

Anyways, what I ended up imagining was probably something more like this:

I also rather liked this one: but I the tree wasn’t pretty enough for my tastes.

This one was also one of the top contenders, but again, I wanted a slightly more stylized tree and also, there were too many trees: Also, the advantage the one I ended up with is that it has a root system :D

It wasn’t until I’d finished writing that I realized they might not have radios then, that they might have something much more technologically advanced, but w/e. It’s whatever equivalent to a radio they have in their day, I guess.


The only conclusion you should take from this end note is I talk a lot and I’m horribly insecure.

Reaction to Owens's Dominion of the Eth
(My original reaction, first posted on Goodreads; that's been changed.)

It started out pretty well. It continued pretty well.

And then Rylis (who is apparently Tanyan from bk 1) got kidnapped by some vines (rolls eyes), gets raped by a reluctant Eth in some kind of ritual, becomes trapped on the other side of the barrier, and then becomes no better than any of the other Melanians.
Actually, even then, it was fine until Rylis realized the dude who's name starts with G could speak his language... and then the wangsty ranting ensued.
It was annoying that Rylis couldn't quite appreciate the parallel ironies of the situation, nor instead take it as an opportunity to empathize further with the Eth. And he STILL doesn't get the point, even after Ghara-whatever tells him (well, yells it) his depressing backstory. No, instead it's poor him trapped here with these crazy fucks who...idk...I'm still not entirely sure why he was so damn...illogical. So, he prides himself in being an awesome commander and shiz, but he was so stupidly petty and irrational. In fact, he seems more like Anyar did, but he had an excuse cuz he was just some little recruit or whatever. (At least, that's how I remember him...)

I don't really have any issues with Rylis's obsession with escape. I just want to know...why? If it's for his men, then I can respect that, but it needs to be stated. If it's for his country, ditto, but again, it needs to be stated. Right now, there are just a bunch of actions and a kind of personality void. He does stuff, but they don't really seem to be backed by much of anything. Except for his mindless need to escape and his ingratitude for how surprisingly well he's treated. I mean, he even briefly entertained the idea of revenge-rapes, but come on. Everyone's pretty much leaving him alone. And poor Tamrin's in love with him. So Rylis is plotting on taking advantage of him.
Oh, and the magically awesome Eth now become the horrible, whatever enemy Eth. I find it hard to believe he would ever have been a commander. He shows so much lack of understanding in others and such an inability to empathize...and is so damn selfish. (That seems to be a common theme in Owens' MCs.)
Heck, it got to the point where I actually resented when Rylis got all domineering. I kind of wanted him to stay the bottom in what was clearly working up into a farce.

Oh, for fu-. It got even worse. Okay, this is all clearly a plot against Tamrin. I see no reason that the Eth society should have been designed so that Tamrin and G-dude should be mistreated. It's clear that they're all conspiring against everyone else to grant Rylis the HEA that apparently he's due. (I guess cuz he was denied Anyar?) Seriously, though, someone needs to take Rylis down a couple notches. Or 10. Instead of this being a contrived HEA for him, (given the way things have played out here; I don't give a flying fuck about what happened in bk 1, since he was just a plot device in that one) I think this would have been more effective as a kind of lesson in humility. And logic, because he apparently needs some. I feel like the Eth should have been the awesomely awesome race that they had been implied to be when Rylis was first there. Because in the end, Rylis was no better than any of the other Melanians. Sure, he didn't beat the fucking crap out of Tamrin for fun, but it still seemed like he treated him like property. Even the first time he fucked Tamrin (I refuse to call that making love), it was a show of his dominance and power over Tamrin. And poor Tamrin is inexplicably in love with him (oooh, Stockholm Syndrome cuz he fed him fruit as a small child. Got it) and so he just gives it to him.

And the gallant Sir Rylis rescued the damsel in distress, Tamrin, from his dark tower and brought him into the light. No. Oh, god. What is this? (Yeah, I'm commenting as I read now; I can't not.) Tamrin's in a blind panic because he's been kidnapped again, but this time he pretty much can't go back cuz of the barrier. So the Melanians drug him. Wonderful. And Rylis is happy.

"Rylis could breathe again, a grin tilting his lips, confidence in what he had done returning. From this moment, things could only get better. He stroked back the white hair, considering what the future would bring. He would bring Tamrin to the capital, to the palace, and there he could show his people that Eths were worth protecting. Tamrin would be Rylis’s—lover—and an ambassador for those of Teeathun. That was a perfectly logical and rational reason for taking Tamrin without giving the healer a choice."
So I don't get it. Is he supposed to sound like a psychotic psychopathic stalker? You see what I mean? He's treating him like a thing. A THING. And he dares think he'll be an "ambassador." Yes, we should try that out and see how well that works. Oh, wait. We can't, because that's considered a violation of human rights and UNETHICAL.
And he knows he's wrong. He says it's unlikely any of the Eth would rescue Tamrin based on the way he was treated by them. RESCUE, not recapture. Guilty as charged?

"Rylis heaved a sigh of relief as they passed through the thick portico and into the safety of the city. Here was culture and civilization. Here was sanity."
My, how quickly his mind was changed. What happened to "he was surprised by how...cultured it all was" or whatever in Tamrin's house?

"Immediately the Eth froze, such a look of fear and loathing on his face that Rylis flinched from the force of it.
He had forgotten, foolishly forgotten what Kiell had been involved in so long ago and how it linked to his Eth. It had not occurred to him how it would affect both males when they met."
Of course he did. He's an egotistical fucker. Why should he think of the welfare of other? (Okay, I know this is quickly devolving into an angry rant, but seriously. This bastard deserves it. I don't even care anymore that his mom apparently abused him. Actually, I'm starting to think very uncharitable thoughts towards pretty much everyone who isn't Tamrin.

'“He is not a prisoner, Uncle.” Always had the king insisted that he use that title. “I have brought him as an ambassador of his people, so that we might learn of them, stop the animosity and bloodshed.”'
"I brought him here drugged and bound as an ambassador. You have to believe me. I'm so completely serious I can't even imagine joking about this." Me: Oh, just shut up already. You're not fooling anyone.
It gets better. Why do I now hate EVERYONE? Behold:

"Kiell looked at him fully then, a small smile playing at the corners of his lips. “Is that what you have told yourself, my boy? I think you fool yourself. Eths have a magic about them that makes all who meet them want to possess, to own. I have felt it, your father felt it. It takes over your mind, makes you do things you would never ordinarily consider. They have an aura of sexuality that blurs the lines of right and wrong. They are not beings who belong here, among us. Their energies, whatever they might be like in Teeathun, outside create a madness among us. Whatever your excuses, Rylis, you will do things to him you had never considered possible. He will bring out a darkness within you that you never knew you possessed.”

I am now about 2/3 of the way through and am dying a little inside the more I read.

"Finally Rylis squatted down so they were face to face. “I did not do this to hurt you,” he whispered, wishing with all his might that he could get his sentiments through to the healer. “You are so much better off with me, away from there. Here you will live as the royalty you are—my companion, my lover.” He reached out to touch Tamrin’s cheek, and the Eth turned away sharply, lips drawing back from sharp teeth."
How dare he? Really, I'm feeling supremely sorry for Tamrin for falling in love with such a conniving, heartless, self-centered, egocentric bastard.

I can already tell Tamrin's going to end up forgiving Rylis and my heart aches for him. He needs to get away from this abusive bastard. Away. Far, far, far, far away.

"When he woke the next morning, Tamrin had not moved, nor apparently had he slept. Dark circles lay beneath the golden eyes, and Rylis felt concern rise within him. If only the Eth would be reasonable, Rylis could remove the iron so Tamrin could take strength from the earth."
Yes, because it's Tamrin the one who's being unreasonable. Rylis is completely free of fault; how dare Tamrin be so foolish and stupid as to be sunk into despair at his situation? He should be happy at the prospect of being Rylis's fucktoy for the rest of his life! Oh, yeah, I have empathy for the characters, but not the way Owens intended, I don't think.

'“At least I ate.” Rylis murmured. “Don’t be so stubborn that you harm yourself, Tamrin. Even I was not stupid enough to weaken myself in such a way.”'
The nerve of that bastard. Tamrin can't possibly be depressed by his situation (he gets to be my royal fucktoy, a role I'm trying to disguise as a royal consort; what fault could he see in that?) so he must be willfully defiant.

'“Give in to me,” Rylis whispered. “If you love me, give me what I want.”'
I've gotten beyond the point of heated anger and am now moving into the dangerous realm of cold anger. He's taking something beautiful - Tamrin's love - and manipulating it for his own gains.

"The golden eyes held his, something in their depths holding a hint of resignation, a bit of surrender that made Rylis’s heart pound with triumph. With time, this response would become more prevalent, and Tamrin would be his completely. He had been right all along."
Death is really too good for this bastard. I think I would hate him less if he hadn't pretended to be different from the other Melanians. It was because he pretended to be more humane, more ethical, more freaking <i>moral</i> that I take especial offense. That's only part of the reason. Man, Anyar really got lucky when he escaped his possessive bastard. He's not even possessive in a sexy way. It's a creepy, psychotic stalker way.

'“You are being stubborn, Tamrin. Again.” Would this foolish behavior never end? Six months now, and still the Eth resisted. Less and less with time, but still, Rylis had hoped for better results than this. He did not have the time to cope with this nonsense. Kiell had fallen ill three weeks ago, and the outlook for his recovery was not promising. Rylis had suddenly found himself floundering in a morass of duty and emotion that left him exhausted and without patience
at the end of the day. He needed a warm body, not a sullen child.'
O_O I never thought he'd actually admit that he treats Tamrin like a mere sex slave. What he feels is not love; it's possession.

"His people had only seen the collar. Tamrin had not helped, because he refused to show his manners, refused to show his intelligence. To top the whole disaster off, Rylis had become increasingly aware of the lust-filled glances that followed his Eth wherever he was, and the possessive fury that seemed to be a large part of his relationship with the Eth came into full flower."
And it's still all Tamrin's fault. 

"Rylis felt a catch in his heart at this reminder of how his Eth had once looked. That pride was wearing thin, his early anger and resistance fading into something—less.
Rylis just wished that Tamrin could understand, could accept. Then things would be perfect. That stubbornness was giving them all grief."
So, Tamrin's coming closer to regaining what he was before and Rylis feels a twinge of pride, soon followed by...the reaffirmation that Tamrin just needs to hurry up and accept being just a thing.
Oh, god. Tamrin. My heart aches for him so much.

"Rylis heard Tamrin trail after him and turned to face him once he reached the huge bed. He frowned in annoyance as he saw the Eth had not stripped at all."
Need I illustrate further? At this point, this is the only way I'm able to force myself through this book. 

'"I don’t want conflict, not here, not in the bedchamber, not in my own rooms. I need comfort here, none of the strife that lies beyond these walls.”
Tamrin shivered at his touch, but did not reply, did not tense. Rylis smiled against the pale flesh.
“I knew you would understand. I do what I do for your own good, Tamrin. You are so much better off here, and you will grow to understand that if you just let yourself,” he whispered, kissing a smooth
shoulder. “You love me. That should be enough for now. Let it go, my Eth, let it all go…”'
The feelings aren't reciprocated, but what bothers me is that Rylis either truly thinks or is pretending that they are. That he loves Tamrin, when he so clearly does not.

"Tamrin caught his breath, hands fisting in the sheets, and Rylis could see him swallow hard, eyes squeezed shut. Rylis pushed himself up on his hands, beginning to thrust with deep, slow strokes of his hips. The compliance where before there had been resistance soothed him, and he was less forceful than he normally was, less aggravated.
This was what kept him whole, kept him sane.
One day, he would be able to have the time to be gentle again."
What? WHAT? "he would be able to"- I call bullshit. I call fucking bullshit. When is there ever no time to be gentle?

"He let his head fall back upon the high back of the chair, watching Grannian lay the uniform over the back of the long couch for his dresser to find and tend to. Grannian turned and eyed him in some concern, letting his gaze rove over his commander with a critical frown.
“You need sleep, Your Majesty—you have not slept well for weeks, and today was beyond tiring.” His gaze moved away and swept the room, the frown etching further upon his brow. “Where is Tamrin? He should be tending to you.”'
Oh, Tamrin. I don't know how much more my heart could break for you.

And then Rylis bitches about how weird it feels for him to be king and how much he feels like an imposter. Yeah, yeah. We don't give a fuck about you anymore.

"There were times when the hold he had over his needs was perilously thin, his primal obsession regarding the Eth rising to the surface and overcoming all sense.
Last night had been such a time.
He could not even remember what he had done, only that there had been blood on the sheets in the morning, and Tamrin had been huddled in the next room, sleeping beneath a table, the blankets around him concealing the worst of the damage. Rylis had wanted to crawl under the furniture with him, wanted to soothe away the hurt and reassure the Eth he was loved and cared for, but then the servants had arrived to prepare him for the ceremony of his crowning."
Again, I call bullshit.

"He gritted his teeth, self-hatred rising like a flame. If only the Eth did not affect him in such a fashion, if only…"
And again, it's all Tamran's fault. Oh, not Tamrin. "The Eth."
"Officer, he was begging to be raped; I swear., he didn't say so, but he might as well have been. It's just the way, you know?" (Of course, for those of you who can't empathize, just substitute all of the "he"s in the statement to "she." [Yes, guys can be raped, but I feel like our society doesn't necessarily acknowledge/understand that.])

"He passed through the huge rooms with only the sound of his footsteps for company, feeling a sense of loneliness and desperation that seemed to throb through his entire being. He needed Tamrin’s touch, needed the sense of his love."
The man is mad. Psychotic. Obsessed in completely the wrong way. This isn't healthy. This is abuse, plain as day.

"Tamrin lay unmoving against him. There was no sound of breath, no twitch of muscle to indicate life.
Dear gods, what had he done?
Every unkind word, every temper-driven strike seemed to resound in his mind, in his memory as clear as though each were standing before him in judgment. The veil of greed and possession seemed to fall away, and he was left with the clarity of utter sanity, and the reality of what he had perpetrated.
He had taken love, true love, genuine and pure, and treated it as if it were his right, not his privilege. He had desecrated a being of light and joy, sullied Tamrin until he was brought down to Rylis’s own level. He had destroyed beauty, crushed it to suit his own needs, his own disbelief in love itself.
He had become his own father.
He had done what he had reviled as a child. That child who had known so clearly that what had been done was wrong. Very, very wrong. Yet somewhere along the way, scared of being hurt, that child had grown into a selfish adult, capable only of seeing to his own needs, of manipulating to create his own comfort. He had seen love as something to use, something to control Tamrin with, to force him to stay with Rylis, not for anything noble as he had once believed, but in the most selfish of ways.
He had become everything he despised in others. He was no better than those who had imprisoned the Eths in the town of Raleigh. No, he was worse. At least those Melanians had been truthful in that they wanted the Eths for sex alone.
Rylis had done nothing but lie—to himself, to others, and above all to Tamrin.
The Eth had offered everything he was, given everything he was, suffered at the touch of the iron at his throat, at the separation from Teeathun, not to mention the subtle slights he received daily from the Melanians at court who refused to see him as anything other than a sexual toy.
And why should they?
Did Rylis not provide the example? He had shamed Tamrin utterly, pretending to treat him as an equal with words and yet showing others how little he respected him.
Rylis gritted his teeth, putting out a shaking hand to brush back the white hair from the frozen cheek.
“Tamrin, dear gods, forgive me. I have been the greatest of fools—” his voice choked off, self-hatred consuming him utterly.
He pulled a thick blanket close, carefully wrapping both of them in its embrace as he pulled the Eth into his arms, praying for a miracle. He flinched at the frigid touch of Tamrin’s body, but set his jaw and endured, rocking slightly to impart comfort, though his rational mind knew the Eth was beyond feeling such a thing.
This was all his doing."
...what...the...FUCK. Was THAT the whole point of this? Some stupid, misguided lesson for the abusive fuck to pretty much crush the one who loves him until he finally realizes what a damn bastard he is?

Oh my god. Now I'm feeling slightly shell-shocked.

That was brutal. Just...brutal. Oh, wow. Now that I got here...DANG. That was so subtle.

(changes 1 star rating to a 5...)

Oh, dang. Now I'm feeling guilty. And slightly unsettled. Because I bought into that. I had thought that Rylis was beyond saving and just needed to be put out of his misery for the sake of the world.
"If he could have asked the gods why Tamrin had come into his life, would this have been their answer? For the Eth had shown Rylis a mirror of himself, and it was an ugly image he had seen."
It was that. Exactly that, but for ourselves in a subtly different way.
Now that I'm over that, it's creepy what he named his kids. Jussaying.
As again with this book, I got bored of it a little over half-way through and had to force myself to finish it so I could reasonably criticize the first part. 
Yeah, I've been commenting as I go, so let me just add this (the above was written probably about half-way through my play-by-play commentary in the spoiler tags).
I get it... (I need to keep this short; I'm running out of characters).
4.5 overall, b/c of the ending...


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