THIS IS IMPORTANT
I have exams, so this is going to be the last update for about a month or so. I'll be back sometime in June.
I'll miss you.
Alex's groan echoes off the high ceiling as she collapses onto the bed. She smooshes her face into it, breathing in the scent clinging to the sheets, letting the tension bleed from her shoulders.
Leo chuckles and the bed dips beside her. Hands find her shoes, untying the laces and tugging them off one at a time. He rubs at her ankles, digging into the stiff muscle there and she groans again.
"Sore?" He asks, and she nods.
"Neria made me play hide and seek with her today. If I got caught I had to run around the castle grounds. It was horrible."
Her stream of words cuts off with a soft sigh as Leo moves onto her right calf, kneading the tense muscles under his strong fingers. "Oh, that's…"
"Keep talking." Leo urges softly, shifting on the bed so he was sitting between Alex's spread legs. "I wanna hear about your day."
"Alright." Alex pauses on a jaw cracking yawn. "These lords came over to talk to the ki—my…father, about some land disputes. They were…uh…" She trails off, eyes fluttering, and lets out a long groan.
"Fucking dicks, all of them." Alex can hear Leo stifling laughter but she doesn't care. She's too tired to censor. "Just a bunch of land stealing assholes. Apparently the land wasn't…" She yawns again. "It wasn't…wasn't—fuck. What was I saying?"
Her mind is a mush of nothing but the slow loosening of her aching legs, and the soft magic of Leo's fingers. She can barely keep her eyes open, let alone talk, and she tells him this.
Much to her dismay, he immediately removes his hands, and stands. Alex holds back a whine but peels back her eyelids to see him heading towards the private bathing area (Alex refuses to call it a bathroom. It's way too big).
"In a minute, love."
Then he disappears.
Alex isn't sure how long she lays there, eyes half-lidded, mind blank from pure exhaustion, feeling the day's toll on her body. Meetings, studies, training, meditation…it's a stark difference to her previous routine, and she's still not sure how she likes it. It's tiring, and it takes every cell in her body to get through the day and not call it quits halfway through the day and just go home.
But what's at home for her? There she was just an out of control freak with too much power and not enough self-control to contain it. Here, in the place she was born, Alex is getting better.
For the first time in her life, she isn't constantly walking around eggshells on her mood or constantly on guard in case anything happens to startle her into burning something to the ground.
It's been good. It's been more than good.
She likes the progress she's made. It makes her happy to finally have control over her life.
But the castle, no matter how big, is still a prison. And this crown is still a shackle, forcing head her down and keeping her in place.
She can remove herself, she knows; Alex has always had the power to do so. It simmers in her veins, sinking down into her chest to rest, coiling at the base of her throat in wait. That power has, and will always be there.
"You are powerful yes, but never forget; those with power always carry weakness." She hears it—his voice. The man that was meant to raise her.
Asamir, they call him. The golden king with a right hand of heavenly fire and the left of black, tainted blood. He reminds her of a snake rather more than anything.
"Never forget, those who know your weakness will not fail to exploit it. And if you know what's good for you, my dear daughter, you will do well to keep me happy."
"Hey." There's someone shaking her shoulder and Alex blinks, the world swimming into clarity as Leo helps her sit up. Every body part Alex has protests, and she actually whines this time.
"Shh, I know you're tired. But bath first. It'll make you feel better."
Alex knows this, but it's still a struggle to put her feet down on the floor and shuffle to the bathing area. Somewhere in between stripping the rest of her training gear and sinking into the giant bathtub she wonders when she became so used to softness.
As she leans back into Leo's chest, slapping the warm water around their legs, she realises she doesn't really care, as long as it continues to exist.
Leo takes to massaging her shoulders, rubbing soothing muscle relaxer oil into her skin until she slumps forward, hair skimming the top of the water, eyes half closed.
"What's on the agenda for tomorrow?" A question comes near her ear and Alex startles out of her half sleep, splashing water into her eyes. She sputters and Leo helpfully laughs until she pinches his thigh. He retaliates by digging his fingers into her arm too tightly, and Alex pushes him lightly against the bath pool wall.
Somehow it devolves into a tickle fight, because Leo always goes for her stomach even though she's banned it from his general area, and Alex knows his toes are especially ticklish. Then they're chasing each other around the bath area, slipping in puddles and pushing each other back into the pool.
It ends with them towelling each other off roughly and laughing into skin and fabric alike.
The second time Alex flops onto the mattress, she's clean and dressed in ridiculously soft pajamas she wishes she could just send directly to Miss Willows, because she's getting old and her skin would appreciate something this soft.
The heaviness of her thoughts creeps into her mind, bringing along the crushing sadness of leaving her guardian behind.
"Dragon or priest?" Alex blinks, shuffles onto her knees on the bed. Leo is holding a pink copper coin, one side a thick chested dragon and the other a praying man. She smiles despite herself, and the sadness lessens to something she's used to—something she can handle on her own.
"The usual; dragon."
Without another word, Leo flips the coin. It spins up then down, and bounces on the bed once.
The golden gaze of the dragon glints in the light.
Alex whoops and collapses back onto the bed and Leo sighs, snatching it up to put away.
"You got lucky tonight." He says, turning off the lights and climbing into bed.
Alex rolls onto her side, wiggling her fingers at him, arms outstretched. There's a put out expression on his face as he crawls into her arms, but Leo tucks his head beneath her chin and entangles their fingers to lie on his chest anyway so Alex counts it as a win. The top of his head is a little damp, so Alex redirects her magic from her chest to her lungs, and blows hot air onto it. Leo relaxes into her hold bit by bit, until his breathing evens out and he's fast asleep.
Alex counts the steady thump of his heartbeat beneath her palm until she drifts off.
I tried the fluff. Thoughts?