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Author: Regret
Rating: 15
Story: Radial: Unravel AU
Challenge: Vanilla #27 - Routines; Blue Raspberry #18 - Bad Omen; Quince #30 - No Questions Asked
Topping: Chopped Nuts
Word Count: 2,032
Summary: Milos settles quickly into a routine with Alex, but after only seven days he's reminded no routine lasts forever.


Alex was as good as his word as far as sleeping arrangements went: every night he insisted that Milos share his narrow one-man bed, no longer to warm it before he entered but to act as a heat source all night. Every morning he extricated himself from the man’s too-tight embrace and set about tidying the room to prepare for breakfast.

The knight was strange. The first meal they’d eaten together was awkward; he’d expected Milos to share the table with him, with no thought of the differences between them. Milos had picked up his plate and taken it over to sit on the floor between the fireplace and the bed. If it had been anyone else, it would’ve been unthinkable to even consider eating in the same room at the same time as his owner.

Alex had stared at him, then rose and strode across to scoop his plate up with one hand and knot the fingers of his other into Milos’s hair, dragging him yelling and struggling back towards the table. “You’ll sit there and do as you’re told.”

He didn’t try for propriety again afterwards, just sat awkwardly at the table with Alex and ate in silence.

When breakfast was out of the way Milos helped him dress, occasionally fantasizing about garrotting him with the cord of his undershirt. His one attempt at trying had resulted in an elbow to the stomach and a fist smashed down on the back of his head. He didn’t think it worth trying again.

Oddly, the knight wouldn’t let him help with shaving. He used the time instead to give Alex’s boots a final clean, then helped him strap on his light armour before following him out to the training yards, his heart hanging somewhere around his knees: Alex had decided that Milos’s distinct lack of ability with a sword needed work. He didn’t seem concerned about the idea that his slave might use any skills he picked up against him. When Milos had questioned the wisdom of his decision, Alex gave him a blank look and asked just how far his death-wish extended. “Because,” he’d leaned nonchalantly against the fence, tapping the spare sword’s blade against the dirt, “you were expensive enough and I’d rather not have to replace you after two weeks on the road. And how can you achieve your goal of killing me with your present skills?” He’d added with a smirk that made Milos’s blood boil even as he conceded that the arrogant bastard had a point.

So he agreed to let Alex train him and spent an hour or two every morning having the crap kicked, punched and gently stabbed from him under the guise of education until, exhausted, he dragged his feet after Alex back to his apartment to help him undress again. He helped him wash away the sweat, taking care to keep water away from his head—Milos might be a lot of things, but he was a fast learner when it came to hands around his neck—then dressed him in richer, more suitable attire for various afternoon duties and visits. Some Alex went to on his own, others he insisted on dressing Milos in similar but older garments and forced him to attend as well.

He’d hated it to start, resenting the people who’d stared at him like he was nothing better than something he’d cleaned off Alex’s boot that morning, but over time they stopped staring and he ceased caring.

Formalities over, they returned to the apartment again where he cleaned and Alex read until they shared dinner, albeit grudgingly on Milos’s part, and then Alex dragged him to bed again.

It was an easy existence, far easier than he’d lived with most of his owners, barring the violence of the morning training—he was sure Alex just took pleasure in thrashing his slave fairly rather than in the more usual manner—and it made him nervous.

* * *

Seven days after Milos’s bizarre routine started, he was tidying the breakfast items for a servant to come in and clean up after they’d left, a strange way of doing things when he was perfectly capable of washing plates himself, when one dish slipped from his fingers and shattered across the floor. He stared at it, stunned. He didn’t drop things. He never dropped anything. It was more than his life was worth to break something of his owner’s. But there, in a thousand pieces across the tiles, was the evidence that he really was that stupid and clumsy.

He fell to his knees and began mechanically retrieving the shards, careful not to nick himself on the sharp edges again, and tried not to cringe as Alex’s feet came into the corner of his vision. “What happened?”

“It slipped. I didn’t mean to...” He flinched away as Alex’s legs came into view—then froze, eyes wide, as the knight knelt beside him and began to help gather the fragments. “What are you doing?”

Alex gave him another one of his particular looks, the ones that told Milos Alex believed he was an idiot. “What does it look like?”

There was no way he could answer without reinforcing Alex’s belief so he didn’t try, just shook his head and carried on collecting shards, trying desperately to ignore the twisting sensation in his gut.

When they finished Alex rose, carelessly dumping his share of the pieces on the table, and dusted himself off. “You can help me put on the decorative armour. We’re not training today.”

He hadn’t realised how quickly he’d adapted to their routine, that he felt so sick with sudden nerves at a change to it. He gave the chunks of plate a baleful glare as he poured his handful onto Alex’s, as if it was all their fault, then moved to help his owner. The bulkier armour weighed more and was more awkward to fit, some parts attaching to others as well as strapping and buckling around limbs. He fumbled with it but, for once, Alex didn’t criticise or use it as an excuse to laugh at him. If anything, he seemed as on edge as Milos felt.

“Put on the clothes you wore two days ago,” he said as Milos finished strapping the scabbard to his back. “You’re coming with me.”

He obeyed without thinking. “Where are we going?”

Alex raised an eyebrow at him and for a moment he found himself expecting a gauntleted backhand slap for speaking out of turn. He hadn’t done it before, but it had only been a week. “We’re going to see the king. Why else would I be dressed like this?”

He was glad he’d already pulled on the trousers, or he’d have stumbled and fallen. “I can’t go. It wouldn’t be—”

The sentence was cut off as Alex grabbed a handful of Milos’s hair and yanked it backwards. “I said you’re going. You don’t get to say no, remember?”

Wincing, Milos nodded as best he could, throat constricted. After what had happened not half an hour earlier, he couldn’t think of a worse day for this visit.

* * *

The throne room was far larger and more impressive than he’d ever imagined. Alex strode along a red carpet that Milos couldn’t begin to even hazard the cost of with all the indifference of one who’d seen this far too many times to bother looking any more. Milos lagged behind, fascinated by the enormous windows, the curved ceiling and, high above and behind the throne, the varicoloured shafts of light through the massive stained glass window. It was overwhelming. He thought his knees might give out from the awe of it all.

“Good morning, your highness.” Ahead, Alex performed a dutiful bow, barely dipping below chest height.

The man in the throne was every bit as imposing as the room he inhabited. “Good morning, Sir Alexander,” he said with a soft smile. “A pleasure to see you, as punctual as usual. Are you going to introduce me?”

Milos, stunned to be noticed, dropped to his knees, head bowed and hair falling forward to curtain his face. If he closed his eyes and hoped hard enough perhaps he wouldn’t be noticed. Ahead, Alex snorted in amusement. “That’s my new slave, Milos.”

At least he’d remembered his name. That was a surprise on its own.

“I’m impressed,” the king murmured. Milos raised his head slightly to peer up through his hair. “Considering your luck with servants, that you’d take on the additional responsibility of someone who relies on you for everything.” He paused, and turned his attention to Milos, who froze. “And I trust he’s treating you well, Milos?”

He nodded, swallowing loudly. “Very well, your majesty, even though I keep trying to kill him.”

There was a loud clang as Alex slapped his forehead with one metal-clad hand which was almost, but not quite, drowned out by the roar of laughter from the large man. “I’m sorry, King Nazarian,” Alex muttered with heavy emphasis on the title, giving his slave a pointed glare. “He’s not very bright.”

“I don’t know,” Nazarian laughed again. “He seems intelligent enough to me. I’m glad you finally managed to find a servant who you get along with, Alexander.” His expression sobered as he stared a moment longer at the dark-haired man. “Unfortunately, I do have a new assignment for you.”

Alex bowed again, but for the first time Milos could detect an expression of something other than indifference on the knight’s face, a flash of avid curiosity. “Anything for you, of course, your majesty.”

“You may have already heard this, but a messenger arrived from Ginebourne last night, half-dead and almost completely incoherent. We don’t have the time to wait until he recovers, as what information he did manage to speak is most concerning to me.” The king glanced around the hall, then gestured for Alex to approach, holding out two sealed envelopes. “One of these is your instructions, the other is a letter to the Duke of Ginebourne. An introduction, you could say.”

Alex took both with only a faint nod, his expression perfectly neutral. “I’ll leave within the hour.”

The corners of the big man’s mouth curved into something that, in a certain light, might be a weak smile. “Take care. The reports I’ve received of the roads are troubling.”

Nodding again, more sharply this time, Alex bowed low to his king. “We won’t keep you, highness. I’ll be sure to send word as soon as I arrive.” With nothing more than a click of the fingers to Milos, who followed without complaint even as he visualized snapping them, Alex stalked from the hall again with his slave close at his heels.

Outside, Alex looked at both letters again, then passed them to Milos. “Stay close to me and put these in your inner jacket pocket. If you read them or show them to anyone else—”

“I know how to be a slave, thank you.” Milos snapped. “I’ve had a lot more practice at it than you, so don’t insult my intelligence.”

“I wasn’t aware you had any,” Alex growled, striding across the courtyard, Milos almost beside him, only a few steps behind. “I hope you’re prepared to travel, because I can’t baby you any more.”

“I’ve never needed your oh-so-kind benevolence.” In his head he was already working through the barest essentials they’d need to take. Did he really think that he’d never had to plan for impromptu trips before? “I’m more worried about preparing you.”

Alex paused mid-step, then let out a laugh of sheer, unbridled amusement. “I really did make the right choice. Come on,” he gave Milos a slap around the back of his head that stung, but nowhere near as badly as the previous occasions, “we’ve got to hurry.”

Milos folded his arms to keep the letters nearer to his chest, knowing that for all the world all he looked was cold, and tried not to think about the fact that Alex had, for the first time, possibly just shown something approaching genuine affection towards him.

That one thought, above and beyond anything that might happen during their travels, seemed genuinely terrifying.

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