There was a moment of frozen silence. They stared at each other, eyes locked—such it as occurs in the wild when the prey meets eyes with the predator. But in nature, the roles are clearly defined. The wolf knows it is the hunter; the rabbit knows it is the hunted.
In that eternal moment, both Seymour de Winter and Lord Henry Thomas Mantoux Edmund of Carvil felt like potential prey.
It was Henry who broke the silence. “I don’t know why I told you that,” he whispered.
Seymour made an attempt at a wry smile, but it turned into a sort of grimace before losing its purchase on his face and sliding off. “Doesn’t matter. I’m sure I would have figured it out at some point.”
Henry broke eye contact, dropped his head into his hands and quietly began to weep. And it was at that instant that Seymour knew.
In the great game that was life, detective didn’t always trump murderer. It always took special circumstances. Luck, often, or superior smarts, or, in rare cases, certain talent. This, Seymour realized, was one of those special circumstances—but not one he had ever encountered before.
Oh, Rezyn, he thought. He loves me.
He had, of course, known that Henry was attracted to him. That particular fact he had confirmed the previous night, when his half-baked, only mildly amusing joke had stricken the mage with helpless laughter. But mere attraction did not lead to such complete—and unnecessary—capitulation.
For Henry had not been forced to adopt the status of the prey. He could have quite literally killed Seymour with a snap of his fingers. But he hadn’t. Instead, he was on the ground, his body curled into something approaching the fetal position, sobbing.
Seymour fought the urge to run and hide. There was more at stake here than his life alone, if Elnias could be trusted. And of all the Ancients that Seymour had ever met, Elnias had proven to be the most likely to tell something approximating the truth.
There was something else, too: an overpowering sense of guilt washing into his heart and making his breath catch in lungs. A memory so shameful that the mere thought of it caused his bones to ache.
Seymour de Winter, he scolded himself severely. Don’t you DARE abandon him like you abandoned Raif Greenwood!
And it was in this guilt that he found his courage.
The mage stopped sobbing and looked up at him. His face was streaked with tears, and his eyes were rimmed in red. An expression of resigned dread had slackened his features.
Henry hesitated uncertainly. Seymour opened his arms.
“Please. I’m not going to hurt you.”
His doubts apparently appeased, he accepted Seymour’s invitation and fell against him, bawling with renewed vigor. The detective held the murderer gently, rocked him a bit, doing his best not to think about the fact that the mage was soaking his tunic with tears and drool and snot. And gradually, Henry’s sobbing eased and his breathing began to even out. Still, he seemed unwilling to give back Seymour’s right to personal space, and Seymour didn’t force him.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled eventually, his face still pressed into Seymour’s shoulder.
“Thank you. You won’t…tell anyone, will you?”
About which? The murder business or the crying thing? Seymour supposed it didn’t matter. “Of course I won’t. We’re in this together, aren’t we?”