Burke played with the strings of his swim suit. Today was the day he laid it all out for Alistair. He needed the man to know who he truly was. There was no use lying to him anymore, especially not after he had been so kind as to let him into his life without knowing much about him. Burke let out a sigh. Why did it have to be so hard? Moonlight Falls wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but he wanted a single patch of sun. Was that so hard? He didn’t know how he had gotten here, but he had told Alistair that he was looking to start a new life. The place he found himself was villainous. He found himself helping the only man he knew he could trust…the same man whose daughters were wary of his presence. He had to straighten it out once and for all. He wasn’t here to hurt Alistair…
“Your legs.” Burke’s eyes widened at the sound of the voice. It was the man he had just been thinking of.
“Mr. Gray, sir?” Burke asked quietly.
“Shoot, where are my manners? I didn’t mean anything by that. Forget I said anything,” Alistair answered quickly.
“Am I what you thought I was?” He asked in shame.
“If what you are is a mermaid, then yeah you’re exactly what I thought you were. I assume you grow your tail when you step foot into the water?”
Burke slowly nodded. “Yeah, that’s the gist of it. How did you know?”
“You love water.” Alistair let out a small laugh. “I notice that you love to splash your arms and face with water.”
“That’s normal. Anyone could do that.”
“Not as often as you do it, and I can see how irritated you are when you’re not hydrated. You don’t think I’ve been watching the man who works directly by my side? I’ve been burned too many times to not be careful. Which leads me to my next question. Why keep this from me?”
“It’s not something I’m really proud of. it doesn’t make me feel normal, you know? I don’t want to be a mermaid, I want nothing more than to be a human…heh, but I guess that’s not a good thing here?” Burke scratched his neck. Alistair could see how nervous the male was getting.
“You should be happy to have the powers that you do,” Alistair explained.”You can protect yourself unlike an ordinary human.”
“An ordinary human wouldn’t be out here, like this,” Burke said. “In the middle of a civil war. All kinds of occult are fighting each other.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I just wanted things to be normal.”
“This is normal,” Alistair commented.
“No.” Burke shook his head. “This is not normal.” He began to jog towards the water. “Just being near the ocean is making my body tingle.”
“It’s your natural instinct. I don’t see how that’s not normal.” Alistair shrugged. “It’s completely normal to be who you are.”
“And what if I don’t like who I am?” Burke demanded. “Then what? What if I want to be someone different?”
“Why would you want that?” Alistair asked incredulously. “I like the way you are. You’ve been a constant for me during the past few years. I never once thought you were strange.”
Burke could feel his heart beat quicken. “Do you mean that?”
Alistair nodded. “I don’t have time to lie.”
“You don’t age, you have all the time.”
“Time here is fickle, you’ll see,” Alistair replied. “But that’s besides the point. Are you going to jump in?”
Burke shook his head. “I told you, that’s not who I want to be.”
“Who do you want to be then?” Alistair asked.
“You wouldn’t understand it,” Burke said. “When I was at Pax’s birthday party, Charlotte and I had a talk. She told me that she didn’t trust me, well I guess she didn’t outright say it, but she meant it.”
Alistair let out a disgruntled sigh. “You can’t let that bother you. Charlotte has always been very forthright with her opinion. Declan was like that and she was always with him. But, she’s worried about me. I’m in a vulnerable position. People tend to try to get close to get what they want from me. Usually its power.”
“That’s not…” He let out a sigh and waded into the shallow water. “That’s why I wanted to tell you about me. I want you to trust me. I’m not using you.”
Alistair watched the water and saw the red tail moving. As a child he thought that mermaids weren’t real, but here he was seeing one with his own eyes. “Doesn’t that feel much better?”
Alistair began pulling his clothes off and jumped into the water after his assistant. Burke could only look on in interest at his superior. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve actually swam? I’m usually underground in that stinking lair. It feels so nice.”
Burke chuckled. “I guess it does. But I like the lair, it’s interesting. Magic is fascinating.”
“And dangerous,” Alistair quipped. “But it’s part of who I am, and this is the job I inherited. It’s better that it was me and not…” He bit his lip. Declan. Not Declan. What would he have done if Lucas had given him the seat of Keeper?
“Alistair.” Burke reached for the man under the water. “Are you going to keep worrying about this guy? He’s not worth your thoughts.”
“It’s what I keep telling myself, but…he gave up so much for me. I thought it might have been real. I thought, there was no way that he didn’t love us…we fought, but it wasn’t…” He found himself struggling for the words to explain how betrayed he had felt. “I just…I don’t know how to feel.”
“That’s perfectly fin,” Burke said. “We’re both not completely happy with whats going on in our lives, but I’m glad that you feel comfortable enough to talk to me about this.”
Alistair nodded. It was strange. He had never talked to anyone about Declan, not even his daughters, or father. But with Burke’s admission of self doubt, he felt comfortable speaking his mind. It didn’t hurt that he sent an immense amount of time during the day working with the man. “You know that day you walked up to my door and asked if I knew a place you could stay? Everything in my head was telling me to send you away, but my dad didn’t turn Jeff away and look how wonderful he’s been to my daughter. I thought I’d give you a chance, and you haven’t disappointed me.”
They sat, legs sprawled out in the baking sun. “Fresh air is so nice!” Alistair shut his eyes and basked in it. “I forgot how great sunlight was.”
Burke laughed. “You do look a little pale.”
“Pale?” Alistair feigned shock. “How dare you say that to the man signing your checks!”
Burke rolled his eyes. “Please boss, don’t lower my salary. I can barely live on the funds you give me already!”
“Hey, war is expensive,” Alistair challenged.
“Can’t wait for that thing to be over with. You think we’ll win?” He was scratching his legs. After Alistair’s long lecture about accepting himself and talking about his past studying magic, Burke began to feel a bit more comfortable with who he was. A mermaid wasn’t so bad. And Alistair didn’t hate him for it, that’s all he cared about, really.
“Of course we will,” Alistair said. “We can’t afford to lose. My family is on the line. I gave up too much to fail now.” Alistair looked into the vast ocean. How many times had he seen Altiere’s powers and thought that he couldn’t do it? Even now, he struggled with the idea of victory, but he couldn’t fall apart. He had too many people, his family, the mages, his supernaturals allies, depending on him.
“You don’t seem too convinced,” Burke said. “It’s him, isn’t it?” Burke didn’t know too much about Declan, other than the fact that he was a man who had abused his position as Alistair’s husband and betrayed the family to work with Altiere. It was a low move, one Burke couldn’t imagine one doing. Especially not to Alistair. If that had been him, he’d hold on tightly to the man in front of him. The one who gave himself tirelessly for the freedom of those around him.
“You’re afraid that if it comes to him, you want be able to hurt him,” Burke concluded.
“I…” Alistair dropped his head. “I hate myself for still loving him. Every day I wake up, see the empty bed and blame myself for not being a better husband. I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help thinking about him and what I could have done. It disgusts me that I still want him.”
“I can help with that,” Burke whispered. “I can make you forget all about him.”
“I wish it was that easy-” Alistair was cut off by Burke’s lips on his. His eyes widened at first, not remembering the sensation of what it felt like to be kissed. It had been two years and his love life was basically non-existant. Then, he shut his eyes and eased into it. Burke’s lips felt warm. They were different than Declan’s. The fervor with which Burke kissed him made his insides melt. He had just gotten so comfortable with Declan…this feeling was new. He hadn’t felt wanted in a very long time.
Burke chuckled, pulling away. His hand was on Alistair’s chest. “I can feel your heart beating so fast.”
“I…this…” He suddenly caught hold of himself. He stood up quickly. “Burke this isn’t appropriate. You’re my assistant.”
“You know damn well that my job performance wouldn’t hamper if we were a thing, and I’m your only employee, so the idea of favoritism doesn’t apply.” Burked jumped to his feet.
“I have to stay unattached. I have to be vigilant.” Alistair tried to explain but Burke’s face had already fallen and it nearly tore Alistair’s heart out of his chest. “We work together, but you don’t know much about me.”
“I know about how you bite your tongue when you’re deep in thought. I know about how you can BS your way out of any situation. I know that when your daughters aren’t at your home, you’re constantly worrying about them. I know that sleep is wasted on you and you spend hours down in your lair or by the alchemy station even when I go home for the day.”
Alistair felt his heart constricting. Burke was the vigilant one. he paid attention to what Alistair was doing. He cared. But…he couldn’t do this to himself again. “You don’t know who I really am, past this Keeper of Magic thing. You only see the front I put up.”
“That’s because you never let anyone in.” Burke sighed in frustration. “Let me in. I care about you Alistair, maybe a little bit too much. But it’s too ate for me to take a step back now. I want to be that man that you can rely on. The man that you can fall back on, who will help you defeat Declan. I’m here for you.”
“I…” He ran his hand through his brown hair. “I just can’t. I’m sorry. There’s too much on the line right now. My daughters are in the front line, I can’t do anything that would distract me. I have to be available mentally, emotionally and physically for my people.”
“I’m not a distraction!” Burke argued passionately. “I want to help. Damn it, why can’t you just let yourself see the truth for one damn second?”
“If you get hurt…” Alistair’s voice was even lower now. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. becoming involved with me puts a target on your back.”
“So does working with you and your family. I don’t care if I put myself at the top of Altiere’s list. It doesn’t matter. I rather spend the night in your arms and die tomorrow than to have never gotten to be the one you wake up to with a smile. Alistair, I haven’t said this to anyone before, but I love you.”
“I can’t return your feelings, Burke. I’m sorry. I just can’t.” Alistair turned to leave. He couldn’t stand seeing the man like this.
“I know damn well that you felt something when we kissed.” He grabbed Alistair’s arm before the man could fled.
“Find someone who can give you something more than I can. I’m just an old heartbroken mage with too much responsibility. I’m married to my position, taking the next step would cause a rift between us. I’d dedicate to much time to this war and not enough time to you. Not to mention that I lived as long as twice your lifetimes. I should be a Gray old man by now. Find someone your age, who doesn’t have the worries of an old man on his brain.”
“That’s the thing,” Burke said. “Even with how long you’ve lived, I don’t feel like you’re too wise for me. You joke around, laugh and act like a really big kid. You’re just closing yourself off.”
“You need another reason?” Alistair asked. “You think I’m grasping at straws here, but I’m not. I don’t age, but you will. Have you seen my dads? Like I don’t see how close my dad is to passing, while my other dad doesn’t age at all? He has to watch his love perish.”
“Enough of this.” Alistair pulled his arm from Burke’s grasp.”If this was another life, I would have entertained the idea of us together. It’s not something I could say I haven’t thought about, with the way you’ve flirted constantly. But, my answer is no. There is too much weighed against us. Maybe it’d be a good idea if you’d take the next few days off. I’ll mail you a check regardless so you’re not stranded.”
Burke was tired of arguing. He knew he’d get nowhere with Alistair, but the man had openly admitted that he was at least romantically attracted to him. He sighed. Did he do the wrong thing? Was this choice absolute? He watched the male walk out of his view, and what felt like, out of his life.
Burke Springfield was made by Francothecitysimmer.