When heir to the throne Rengal returns home from his travels, his betrothed, Celine, comes with him, ready to announce their marriage. Rengal has no illusions about love and romance, but his duties await him, so he asks the most important person in his life, his old friend Pan, to stand up with him.
Pan isn't willing to see the man he loves joined with someone else, though, and he turns Rengal down flat. All of the cajoling in the world doesn't seem to sway him, and Rengal is at a loss about how to proceed. Will they manage to come up with a solution to their dilemma?
Pan was cornered. He had traversed the gauntlet of citizens asking question after question, sharing every tidbit of gossip dredged up from friends and family in outlying communities.
It seemed that Rengal was joining his life to that of another. A female. He had joined with her…they were already one. No, they hadn’t joined yet…but they could not wait, and were having the ritual in the wilds. No, wait, they had only just met. Actually, no, they had known each other as youngsters.
The rumors were rampant and varied. Pan had expected this event. Dreaded it. But never had he doubted that it would happen eventually. Someday. Now the time had come.
Others clamored around him. He had worked with Rengal for so long. They were…friends. Yes, he and Rengal were friends, best friends, so everyone knew that he, Pan, was the only one who would really have all the details.
But this time, Pan didn’t know because Rengal hadn’t shared this with him and he felt so foolish.
And then his long distance communications device chirped.
Excusing himself, he lifted the tiny mechanism to his ear. He was only too relieved to turn his back on the milling crowd of friends and employees, each with demands and queries for news of Rengal. Seeking a quiet corner, he took a deep breath.
"Pan here," he managed, already knowing it would be Rengal speaking.
"Pan, I have news!" Rengal sounded so ebullient, so excited. Pan’s heart broke anew.
"Best wishes to you!" Pan tried to make his voice sound happy, true to the occasion. He did wish Rengal well; he really did want the best for him. It was just so hard to extend those wishes to include another person--especially if that person was to be a mate for Rengal. Pan closed his eyes tightly, breathing shallowly until the pain eased in his heart.
"Nooo," Rengal groaned. "How does news travel so blasted quickly?" he growled, and Pan could tell he was most disgruntled. "It was my desire to share this with you first, in confidence."
"Too late," Pan teased. He had been overwhelmed when he’d entered the city center today, ready for the informational meeting. Word of Rengal’s coming joining had already begun to spread before he even knew what was going on. There had been information, all right. Plenty of it. It did hurt, now that he thought of it. "Yes, I would have liked you to tell me." Now why had he said that? He pressed his forehead to the rough panel of a nearby barrier, the coarse surface biting into his sensitive flesh. Somehow, the small pain helped clear his head. "I mean, thank you for letting me know now."
"I am sorry for that, Pan. Aside from our friendship, it is important news for me and for our community, of course. News that…well, when did you hear?"
"As I entered for the meeting. It is all anyone can speak of. So, you are not already joined? There is much speculation…"
Rengal sighed. "No, of course not. I am coming back to the capital for the ritual. I want you to meet her. She is…" Rengal paused, considering. "Very appropriate for me," he finished, and Pan knew with those words that she would be everything any male could desire in a mate.
"Well." Pan took a deep breath. "I am glad for you." He was glad for Rengal; he wanted Rengal to be happy. He simply needed to remind himself that having a mate was part of that for his best friend. "You must care very deeply…"
"Pan--you are aware of my feelings about that. Love--foolishness of that sort-- has nothing to do with any of this. I am to be leader. It was time, and she is most appropriate. We get along well. We have many interests in common; it is an appropriate match. She will be an ideal ruling female."
"Oh." Was that how one found happiness in life? Pan truly had no idea. It was best to take Rengal’s word on these matters. "Well, that is good then. I am sure you have the right of it."
"We are holding the bonding rites at the Festival Hall at the next full moon. I want you to stand with me."
"No," Pan blurted. He did not even think to soften it. Pan wouldn’t do that. Anything else, but not that.