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Author: Regret
Rating: PG
Story: Radial: Unravel AU
Challenge: Blue Raspberry #19 - Falling Apart; Quince #2 - Well, Why Didn't You Say So?
Topping: Chopped Nuts
Word Count: 1,403
Summary: Alex is almost growing attached to his new pet; his new pet has his own way of trying to break free.


“I’ll be sad when you die,” Alex said, apropos of nothing, without looking up from his book.

Halfway through cleaning one of the bloodstained spaulders, Milos jerked his head up in surprise. “What?”

“You’ve been more entertaining in one day than my last servant was over six months,” he continued as if there’d been no interruption, leafing through the pages idly. “But you’re spectacularly useless with a sword.”

Milos grit his teeth and returned to buffing out a particularly stubborn smear from one of the embossed decorations, somehow resisting the urge to pitch the offending item at the knight’s head instead. That any slave would be useless against a man who’d had years of formal training didn’t appear to occur to the arrogant bastard. The wound on his neck throbbed in resonance with his thoughts; he pressed one hand to the white bandage Alex had wrapped over it, above his collar, and glared at the floor.

Alex paused, partway through turning another page. “That does mean I’ll need to buy another slave, though. Damn,” he muttered, gaze flicking from Milos to his book again, “I didn’t think this through.”

His grip tightened on the leather strapping. “I’m sat right here and you’re talking like it’s a sure thing.”

When Alex looked at him, it was with wide, innocent eyes. “Of course it is. If a man trained and equipped to travel with soldiers couldn’t last six months, what hope do you have?”

There was no answer, of course; he couldn’t even beat him in a fist fight when he had the element of surprise and he didn’t think that Alex would go out of his way to protect him if they were attacked. Certainly not from the way he was talking. He scrubbed vigorously at the armour again. At least it wouldn’t bite back.

When he raised his gaze again, Alex was staring with that strange expression again. He felt his heart crawl into his mouth and dropped his attention to the now gleaming spaulder. The set was nearly finished and he was running out of excuses to avoid Alex’s attention. The knight seemed to know it too. “Fetch me that bottle,” he said, gesturing with his head to a decanter over the fireplace. “And a glass.”

He had to bide his time, wait until he was done. Letting out a soft sigh, he shoved himself up from the bed and forward, towards the bottle—when the world suddenly spun wildly and his vision blurred; when his legs gave out and the ground came rushing up to meet him and the back of his head slammed into the cold stone.

* * *

Consciousness rushed back, along with the impact of a palm across his cheek. “Wake up.”

The best his uncooperative mouth could manage in response was a thick-tongued “mmhuh?” Gods, his cheek hurt. But the floor felt much softer than he remembered...

Alex’s face swum into focus above him, a frown knitting his brow. “You passed out. You ate last night, but when was the last time you had something to drink?”

He shrugged, his shoulders hitting something soft. When did stone become so comfortable? This wasn’t— He looked down at Alex’s woollen blankets and, further, to the foot of the bed, and tried to struggle upright. Only the hand shoving down on his chest convinced him to stay put. That and the way the room distorted with the effort. It also meant he couldn’t avoid the question. “Well, I got a mouthful in the horse trough yesterday,” he said, turning to face the wall rather than meet Alex’s eyes.

The hand on his chest remained, and the second caught his chin to drag his face back around. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Milos shrugged again and raised his chin to turn back around.

The hand grabbed it again and squeezed. “Are you really that stupid?”

“No.” He snapped the word out without meaning to, and had to close his eyes for a moment to steady himself. “No, it was on purpose.”

The grip tightened to the point of painfulness, then abruptly lessened again as Alex’s eyes searched his face for any trace of a lie. “Why?”

“Why not?” He said bitterly, finally meeting those impossibly brown eyes. “Why wouldn’t I, when it’s my only way out?”

“You decided this just because I bought you?”

Milos snorted. “Don’t flatter yourself. I decided two days ago, but you got in the way.” His head hurt. He couldn’t tell if it was from dehydration or the impact.

For the first time, an expression of genuine confusion passed across the knight’s face. “Why did you fight so hard if you were only intending to die? Did you think I’d kill you?”

Unable to stop himself, Milos grinned savagely. “If I could take someone like you with me, then that would be all I could ask for.”

He’d expected another slap. Anyone normal would belt their slave for such gross insolence. Alex simply laughed. “If you’re going to kill me, do it properly. If you want to die, all you’ve got to do is wait. If history is anything to go by, it’ll happen soon enough, and much more quickly than the way you’re trying.” He released Milos and turned away; when he turned back, it was with a wide yet short glass of water. “Drink this and stop being an idiot for five minutes.”

Milos took the glass with a hand that he was gratified to see barely shook, struggling upwards and ignoring his light head to sip at it. “Don’t think this means I won’t—”

“I know, I know.” Alex smirked, rising to lean over him, shoving away thick strands of fringe to shove his palm against his forehead. “But the next time you try to kill me, let’s at least make it fair.”

“Breaking him in already?” A sickeningly familiar voice laughed from the doorway. “I’m glad you’re not wasting any time, but you might want my gift first.”

“I told you I didn’t want to see you, Hal.” Alex didn’t look up, but his tone hardened like ice.

“Really, brother,” he said, the smirk apparent in his voice; Milos didn’t dare try turning to look, “that’s no way to talk to family, and especially not to one who brought you something to make the process easier. But if that’s how you want to be, I’ll just leave it with you and go.” Footsteps clicked across the tiles.

Milos’s eyes widened, his throat constricting, at the sight of the golden fluid in the ovoid stoppered bottle the older man passed to Alex. For his part, the knight simply looked bemused. “You expect me to do what with this?”

Hal’s laugh filled the room. “You really don’t know? You surprise me, brother dearest. Still, if you need any advice, I can see that at least your pretty little slave knows what it’s for.” He turned a lascivious smile down at Milos. “You can ask him to demonstrate for you.”

“Oh.” It was amazing how one single syllable could contain a world of disgust as Hal’s meaning sank in. “Get out of my room before you see how well my targeting skills improve with range.”

With another sound of amusement, Hal vanished from Milos’s peripheral vision. The click of the closing door and the darkening of his owner’s expression told him that they were alone again. He’d be relieved, if the expression of anger had left Alex’s face as he turned away again and thumped the small bottle down on the mantelpiece. “Rest here until you feel stronger,” he said, his back to Milos, and if you need another drink, for all gods’ sake ask me for it.” And without waiting for a response, he stalked across the room to fling himself back into the chair, hard enough to squeak the legs over the floor, and resumed his book with such a ferocious expression that Milos wasn’t sure he’d even dare breathe loudly lest he attract Alex’s ire.

He hadn’t known what the amber liquid was for. In gentle sips he drained the glass, frowning. Perhaps it really was if and not when after all.

Which, he decided, actually made things worse.. Because when the if occurred, it meant the knight really had no idea what to do and that meant, he realised with a sinking heart, that it was going to be a spectacularly painful event...

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