Freebie Mondays: Domerin’s Ring

Freebie Mondays: Domerin’s Ring

Since I started working on Domerin’s novel, he hasn’t been cropping into my writing prompts as often. On the one hand, it’s a bit of a relief to be able to explore other things while keeping him satisfied. On the other, I still need him to talk to me sometimes.

This is a scene that popped into my head while I was planning the second trilogy of his series. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it will actually make it into the novel. It’s a bit too much fluff and not enough actual substance. Luckily, that’s exactly the point of these prompts! So here’s a brief glimpse into Domerin’s future. (With an apology for the lack of context to avoid spoilers.)
. . .

It was sitting on his night stand. The soft glint of morning light on its polished surface caught Crescent’s eye as he hurried past. He should have been shoving a last few articles of clothing into his already crowded suitcase. He should have been running out the door to catch the Queen’s airship. As far as he knew, everyone was waiting on him.

But instead he stood staring at the thick ring of silver that sat on the table beside Domerin’s side of the bed.

When Domerin was home, the ring never left his finger. He had worn it every day since Crescent gave it to him. It was a simple band, undecorated, with only a tiny engraving on the interior to indicate who it had come from. People often noticed it, though Domerin never showed it off. When they commented, it was usually to ask if he was married.

Even in his current pensive mood, Crescent snorted at the thought.

Though Domerin had always been fond of commitment, he had never been keen on the idea of marriage. I don’t need someone else’s signature confirming my love, was what he would say when pressed. If I’m happy, and you’re happy, what else matters?

Still, he had come close to marrying once before. Crescent couldn’t help being glad that relationship had dissolved before it became binding, if only because that dissolution had ultimately brought the two of them together. Yet even knowing he was never going to want to formally tie the knot, when he asked himself what symbol he should offer Domerin of their relationship, he kept coming back to this.

A ring.

Crescent had never understood why people considered rings to be representations of love. When he went looking for this one, he looked it up. According to some sappy historical blog, rings represented infinity. The circle has no beginning, the blog proclaimed, nor do they have an ending. And this is exactly how love should be: eternal.

Ignoring the fact that love had to start somewhere – and rarely at the exact moment two people met – Crescent still had a hard time associating love with circles. To him, love was a visceral sensation, primal, best represented by blazing fire or pounding rain, by wild waves or fierce wind storms.

But Domerin appreciated the simplicity of the circular symbolism. And the ring had been for him, after all. Crescent had received a different sort of circle to represent their relationship. He reached for it absently, the wide-link chain that always sat around his neck. It held a narrow strip of silver on one side of which was carved Crescent’s name. Domerin’s adorned the opposite side.

He had another, of course, made of leather. But he only wore it on special occasions and never in public.

In any case, Domerin loved that ring. That was one of the reasons he left it behind when he departed for dangerous missions. He didn’t want to risk losing it when things went wrong.

As, evidently, they had this time around.

There were more important things for Crescent to worry about at the moment. He wasn’t on his way to meet Domerin, after all. He was on his way to smooth a delicate political situation with silver words and sweet promises.

But if he should find Domerin somewhere along the way, he would want that ring.

So Crescent snatched it from the nightstand. Then he spun, grabbed his suitcase, and hustled through the door without bothering to make sure it was fully zippered.

*   *   *

Domerin needed rest. No one understood that better than Crescent, who had seen him injured dozens of times since their first encounter.

Yet he couldn’t stop going back to the bedroom door, cracking it open and peering inside. He couldn’t help hovering, watching the steady rise and fall of Domerin’s chest as he lay propped in a nest of pillows, his long, midnight hair splayed out beside him.

Though the Healers had done good work, removing most signs of the rough treatment he endured during his captivity, angry purple bruises still stood out along his chest. His arms, which had spilled from beneath the blankets, still bore the bright, thin lines of healing cuts and scratches. If his dusky skin was a little duller than usual, Crescent could understand. His injuries had been severe before magic removed the worst of it, and he was probably still suffering some of the residual pain left behind when the magic faded.

His eyes were drawn to Domerin’s left hand, where a stray beam of light snaking beneath the curtains shimmered off the silver band he wore. It looked less alien on his finger than it had alone on the nightstand. The light was like a glamour, drawing Crescent to the bedside, where he bent and traced his fingers lightly over the soft skin of Domerin’s left ring finger.

Domerin stirred, and Crescent jumped back, worried he had awakened him. Domerin moved quickly, though, catching Crescent’s hand before he moved too far away.

“I’m not going to turn to dust just because you walk away for five minutes, you know,” he murmured, his voice rough and scratchy.

Crescent glanced up to find Domerin’s dark blue eyes peering at him through half-lifted lids. But a warm smile adorned his lips, which instantly caused Crescent to relax.

“Indeed, I’m sure you won’t,” he replied as he slid lightly onto the side of the bed and took Domerin’s left hand between both of his. Again, he found himself absently tracing the contours of the ring and the finger that wore it. “I’m just glad you’re home.”

“Thanks to you,” Domerin murmured, shifting his hand between Crescent’s so that he could squeeze his wrist. “And it’s good to be home, even if I’m not allowed out of bed yet.”

“I didn’t do much,” Crescent protested, shaking his head. He still couldn’t get over how close he had come to failing. It made moments like this feel tenuous and fragile, as if his life with Domerin might slide out from beneath his feet at any moment, and when they had only just discovered how well they fit together. “And you should take advantage of every opportunity you have to rest, darling. The moment you’re back to work, they’ll have you running all over the place.”

“I’ll have me running all over the place,” Domerin retorted, snorting softly. His hand shifted beneath Crescent’s, almost as if trying to shake his grip away, and Crescent realized he had been playing with the ring on his finger again, sliding it across Domerin’s knuckle.

“Sorry,” Crescent said quickly, jerking his free hand away. “I didn’t realize I was troubling you.”

“You weren’t,” Domerin reassured, squeezing his hand again. “But I wonder what’s gotten into you.”

What hasn’t? Crescent was tempted to retort. His brain had been on overdrive since he got the Queen’s call, which made it hard to isolate individual thoughts.

“Nothing really,” he said instead. “It’s just lately, I can’t stop thinking about this ring.”

“Decided you want one?” Domerin teased, a grin momentarily dancing across his lips.

Crescent swallowed hard. “Maybe.”

Domerin made a soft sound deep in his throat, surprise, perhaps, or protest. “Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind.”

“Not about us,” Crescent said quickly. “Never about us.” He traced a circle around Domerin’s ring with one finger. “But maybe about the formality thing.”

“You’re not about to convince me you want the big ceremony with all the bells and whistles and dancing and cake,” Domerin retorted. “So don’t try to convince me you want a little slip of paper with signatures that won’t even make it to a frame.”

Crescent sighed. “I just… Are you really sure that’s not what you want? You almost did it with Kearath-“

“Don’t talk about my ex right now,” Domerin growled. The gravelly quality of his voice made him sound more annoyed than he probably was. But even so, Crescent cast him an apologetic look.

“I’m sorry. But you can’t deny that you were neck deep in wedding plans at one point.”

“Because that’s what he wanted,” Domerin insisted. “And I wanted him to be happy.”

Crescent knew this story; Domerin hadn’t seen any point in denying his partner the glitz and glamour of a wedding ceremony he had spent most of his life dreaming about. He had already devoted himself to building a life entwined with Kearath’s, so his opinion on marriage had fallen toward neutrality.

But Crescent couldn’t help wondering if there hadn’t been a side of Domerin that had been relieved at the idea of formality. Because if the worst ever did happen, at least there was a paper trail no one would question when it came time to settle his estate.

Not that the queen didn’t know where he and Domerin stood. And not that she ever would have allowed anyone to interfere. But still…

“What did you do with the ring,” Crescent asked suddenly, the words tumbling from his lips before he could stop them. “The one he gave you. After…” He stopped, realizing he had probably driven right into the center of the territory Domerin had asked him to avoid.

But rather than respond with annoyance, Domerin shrugged. “When I left, you mean? I left it behind. In the bedroom. In the case it came in. In a place where he could find it.”

Like Crescent, Kearath Theradyer had given Domerin a ring. An engagement ring; presumably he had intended to give Domerin another at the marriage ceremony. Just as Domerin had given Kearath a ring and intended to give him another on the big day.

Crescent remembered hating that ring. Not because it represented Domerin’s commitment to another man – he had made peace with that long before the subject of marriage came up. No, he hated that ring because it hadn’t suited Domerin at all. It had been a thin band of gold, rather than silver. It had been set with half a dozen small diamonds and, in the center, there had been a hunk of emerald the exact shade of Kearath’s eyes.

Even with all his medals adorning his military uniform, Domerin never looked so damn decorated as he did when he wore that gaudy thing. Good riddance to it.

But thinking about the ring that adorned Domerin’s finger now, Crescent couldn’t help wondering if it would one day suffer a similar fate.

“Do you mind if I ask why?” Crescent asked softly.

“Why I left it?”

Crescent nodded.

Domerin didn’t answer right away. This wasn’t unusual; sometimes Domerin needed time to work up to things he didn’t want to talk about. And sometimes he just needed a chance to find the words that matched his feelings. Crescent was patient, more than happy to share company with his lover in silence until he indicated he was ready to speak.

“So I wouldn’t go back,” Domerin said at last. He shifted into a more comfortable position, so that he could fully meet Crescent’s gaze without lifting his head from his nest of pillows. “Like this ring, that one represented a bond. I knew for a long time that I needed to break my bond with Kearath, but I struggled to do it. I kept thinking about all the good times we shared. And in a way, that ring represented those far more than it ever represented the bad things.

“I knew it would break his heart if I gave the ring back to him. He hated the fact that I took it off whenever I needed to work. Looking back, I think it was almost like a padlock for him. Like he knew he owned me when I had it on and feared I’d escape when I didn’t.

“But I knew if I took it with me, even if I took it off, it would be like carrying him around in my pocket. I would have been drawn inevitably back, over and over, like a fish caught on a fisherman’s hook. I knew if I was going to get away, I needed to leave every part of our connection behind.”

“What about the one you gave him?” Crescent asked. “Did you ever ask for it back?”

“Why would I? It wasn’t like I could give it to someone else. I figured it was his to do with what he pleased. But it didn’t have meaning anymore, not to me. Of course, I found out later that he never took it off. It was one of the ways he clung to our relationship. And prospects don’t tend to appear when you’re wearing a ring. It warns them off.” One of the reasons Domerin was apparently so fond of his.

“Do you know what ultimately happened to them?” Crescent didn’t want to drag Domerin down the worst portions of memory lane. Despite the time and distance between these events, he was well aware of how Domerin felt about what had happened. And he doubted those wounds would ever completely heal. But for some reason, he needed the answer to this question, needed to prepare himself in case the symbol of their love one day suffered a similar fate.

Again, Domerin shrugged. “His mother offered both rings to me, but I told her I couldn’t take them. That they weren’t mine. Personally, I think the most ideal solution would have been if Kearath had melted them down and used the metal to make something new. That was who he was. He shaped things, gave them purpose.”

Domerin shook his head. “But since that wasn’t an option, I told her to sell them and donate the money to his favorite charity. She seemed happy with that.”

Crescent smiled. It was a very Domerin answer. It reminded him why he loved the man so much. He peered down at the thick band of silver resting against Domerin’s dark skin and wondered what he would do with it if he ever found himself in a similar situation.

“Without you and me, it’s just a lump of silver,” Domerin said softly, perhaps following the line of his gaze. “Symbols have meaning because we want them to. That ring isn’t tied to my biology, or yours. It’s tied to the emotions we share between us. It isn’t the object that’s most important – though I do treasure it, don’t get me wrong. It’s more about what it represents. Feelings are nebulous and difficult to encompass or express. Objects are tangible. We look at them and we understand them.”

Crescent laughed. “You are the most cynical romantic I’ve ever met, my love.”

Domerin chuckled. “Maybe. Or maybe I’m just hoping you’ll stop brooding and let me get some sleep.”

“All right, all right,” Crescent muttered, though he grinned at the same time. He lifted himself carefully and laid a gentle kiss on Domerin’s lips. “But call me if you need anything, okay?”

Domerin nodded, but he was already half-asleep by the time Crescent reached the door. He turned one last time and his eyes fell on the ring. It no longer sat within the stray beam of light, but Crescent thought it had a glimmer all its own.

And he did feel better after talking to Domerin. Because he understood now that taking the ring back to Domerin hadn’t been special because it allowed the man to have it on his finger again. It had been special because it meant Crescent had been thinking about him, loving him even in his absence. And if that little circle of metal could act as a transfer for the feelings embedded in his soul, maybe it wasn’t such an odd thing after all.

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