Morgen Hob spends his days traveling the kingdom, collecting dangerous magical artifacts and bringing them to his local magician for disposal. He's good with his hands and good at his profession ... but not very good at telling Averet how he feels.
Averet Coral, newest magician in the kingdom of Lea, likes helping people. He likes inventing magical toys and solving puzzles. And he definitely likes the shy, kindhearted, heroic artifact hunter who keeps bringing him new challenges. He knows what he wants ... but he's less sure about Morgen's feelings.
But when Morgen's latest find comes with a truth-telling curse, Morgen and Averet will have to admit their hidden desires.
A streak of sunshine scampered across the workshop's floor. It came in at the wrong angle for that window; but then Averet's windows did not obey normal laws of light and perspective. Extraordinary. Complicated. Brilliant.
Morgen sighed. An audible sigh, unfortunately. Or maybe fortunately, because Averet finally heard him and spun away from the workbench and the kitten, beaming. "Morgen! You're back early! Tell me about your quest!"
He'd been bringing Averet his magical artifacts for years now. Specifically, the artifacts that shouldn't be out in the world in the first place, the ones that caused harm or compulsion or injury to others. He'd made it his mission to find and dispose of as many pieces of pain as possible.
Not because of any great tragedy or any great trauma. Not because of any epic cause that'd make him a hero. No dramatic story.
Just himself wanting to help. To put his muscles and instincts to use somehow, in whatever way he could. Big and burly and pretty good at dodging and clever about tracking ancient legends and hoards, patient with maps and horses: that'd be him. Morgen Hob. Only human.
But he was doing some good. The land needed help; certainly enough cursed and tricky time-bomb objects remained even now, a century after the last great Magicians' War. Someone had to find them. To do something.
Averet thought the same way, he knew. Averet took each one of Morgen's worst finds and put magic to work skillfully dismantling each one, rending the magic inert and harmless, never to hurt anyone again.
Averet was, in fact, wonderful. So gifted. So compassionate. So good at coping with everything Morgen ever uncovered and handed over. Incredible.
Morgen's mouth, distracted by sparkling grey eyes and soft night-velvet hair -- now right in front of him, inches away -- said out loud, "Incredible."
"Oh!" Averet apparently took this as a reply to his own question about the latest artifact-hunt. "A good quest, then? But you're hurt! One second, I can help, hang on --"
"Um." Averet's hand. Averet's eloquent fingers. On his arm. Over the bandage he'd forgotten about. Tiny ogre-related scratch. Nothing compared to the way his heart started fluttering. "It's. I'm. That. You don't have to. Oh."
The oh was because he'd felt the tingling itching prickle of skin knitting, gash closing itself, wound healed. Averet frowned at it in professional self-evaluation. Brighter silver flecks flickered in that sorcerer's gaze for a moment. "I don't practice enough on people. I should do more. I should be better at healing-spells, if you need -- well. Anyway. Did that hurt?"
"No!" Not in the magical healing sense, anyway. In the extra bruise on Morgen's heart -- Averet just needed someone to practice on, then -- the answer was yes. The yes bit like pooka's teeth.
"Hmm." Averet tipped that head at him, unconvinced. Energetic waves of black hair bounced. "Should I look at it more closely? If you want I could --"
"I brought you this!" Morgen shoved a hand into a pocket. Thrust the coin Averet's direction. One more touch might kill him. One more touch, one closer touch, when he couldn't have anything more --
The antique penny-piece had been heavy and thick and silver, engraved and ominous as a thundercloud. He'd wrapped it in a piece of cloak; it'd been well wrapped when he'd found it slowly poisoning the field it'd sunk into. He'd figured the precautions must've been so for a reason, and hadn't touched it.
He shoved the packet of cloak and coin toward his startled enchanter. Their hands fumbled -- Morgen's fault, too abrupt and clumsy and large -- and the cloth slipped.
His fingers touched silver. His fingers touched Averet's, which had also darted out to catch the falling penny.