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Author: Regret
Rating: PG
Story: Radial: Unravel AU
Challenge: Blue Raspberry #14 - Salute; Quince #1 - That's A Good Question
Topping: Chopped Nuts
Word Count: 1,583
Summary: Alex and Milos resume their journey, and Alex actually manages to keep himself contained, even if it was difficult. Now all they have to contend with is the city of Ginebourne itself.

Alex woke to a dead arm, a pathetic pile of grains and dried fruit, and a dark elf slave with folded arms, crossed legs, and an expression like thunder. So much for five minutes, but he couldn’t complain.

It looked like Milos could though, and very likely would.

Good. Alex was discovering just how much fun it was to irritate him, to watch his expression darken to something almost like the one he’d worn when he’d first seen him or, better, when he tried to disguise it. It shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it was, but knowing that he couldn’t just quit when he’d had enough made it even better.

Not that slaves didn’t have their own ways of getting revenge. He could appreciate that, particularly as he looked around and realised that the camp had been almost completely dismantled again. Sitting up, he let out a yawn that was part truth and part act, stretching his arms above his head, then grinned at his pet. “That wasn’t five minutes, was it?”

“No.” Milos growled, his expression becoming, if it was possible, even more angry. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

Somehow Alex didn’t think he was referring to the nap; he couldn’t help feeling his grin widen, even as he raised his eyebrow and turned his attention to the paltry handful of food Milos had left him. “What should I do instead?” Gods, if his mother heard him talk with his mouth full. He wondered what Milos would sound like with his mouth full again—

“Restrain yourself.”

Alex almost choked on his breakfast. “Really, you—”

“Hurry up,” Milos snapped, shoving himself to his feet and stalking over to the horses. “You said—your king said—speed was important, but we’ve walked non-stop.”

Shoving the last handful of fruit into his mouth, Alex rose and began to bundle the remaining blanket into a roll. “I know what I’m doing.”

“That’s a surprise,” the elf muttered without looking around, checking the horse’s tack.

Cheeky bastard. He let it slide, remembering last night. Pre-emptive revenge, he decided with a smirk, and one he’d remember for the future too. “To start with, I wanted to be sure you wouldn’t fall off,” he grinned again at the sight of the fury that passed over Milos’s face, “but now you’ll just have to take my word for it. This serves a purpose.” His horse gave him a sceptical look as he strapped the blanket to her saddle, the bloody elf’s mood rubbing off even on the dumb animals.

His only answer was a snort of derision that told him exactly how much Milos believed him. Why it mattered he didn’t know. Scowling, his good mood evaporating like the morning dew, he swung himself into the saddle again and pushed his horse into a walk, timing it just so that the elf was only partway in his own saddle. The short yelp of pain as he crashed down onto the leather did a little to raise his spirits again.

Milos could get his revenge in subtle, passive-aggressive ways, but sometimes so could Alex.

* * *

To the elf’s obvious relief he did make an effort to restrain himself for the rest of the journey, as deeply frustrating as the whole experience was. After the three days it took to reach the outer walls of the city he was squirming in his saddle, teeth gritted. The worst of it was that from the faint smile on the elf’s face, he was well aware of Alex’s predicament—and enjoyed it.

That only made it worse. Sometimes the idea of pouncing and ravishing him seemed incredibly tempting—three days—not just because of the pent-up frustration but for the way his expression softened as he looked at the woodland around them, when he thought Alex couldn’t see him. And he’d promised. As tempting as taking what he wanted was, the idea of just pinning him down and putting that pretty mouth to good use again was unappealing.

Well, not unappealing... Gods! He’d only been with women before, that the slave he’d bought because of his fire and hatred could have this effect—

Three days. That’s what it was. Just frustration, and once they got to a half-decent inn he’d be able to deal with it, one way or another. “Pass me the letter.”

Milos gave him a foul look but sunk both hands into the satchel slung over his shoulder, pulling out the still sealed missive addressed to the Duke. Alex had already read and assimilated his straightforward orders, regretting the paperwork necessary for the simplest of jobs that only really involved asking a few questions. Nazarian was getting paranoid in his old age. Not that he could blame the man: kings made enemies simply by breathing.

“Afternoon, sirs.” The guard at the gate gave both men a wary glance. Particularly Milos who, judging from the way he scowled and looked away, hadn’t been oblivious to the pointed look.

“Yes. It is.” Alex didn’t bother to lean down, just brandished the front of the letter bearing the Duke of Ginebourne’s name in front of the man’s face. “Can you let the Duke know that Alexander of Goldash is here to discuss certain matters with him?”

The guard looked them up and down with enough disdain that Alex found it hard to resist the urge to nudge his horse sideways and kick the insulting little tick in the head. “You’re aware, Sir Knight, that all mobile property needs to be kept on a rein in the city?”

Alex shot him a glare. “My horses, when not under my control, will be in stables.”

“I don’t mean your horses, Sir Knight.” The man said with a smirk that did little to improve Alex’s mood. “I meant all mobile property, sir.”

Staring down at the man, in his neat uniform and gleaming buttons, Alex very almost couldn’t resist the urge to hit him with something. Only the knowledge that the Duke, like most people in power, was unlikely to consider it in a favourable light stopped him, but gods, if the man had been in his barracks he’d have found a way to empty the chamber pot over his head. “What I do with my property is my concern, guard, so run along and inform your Duke while I arrange my lodgings for the night.” Finally he leaned down, one hand resting lightly on the knife strapped to his thigh, and hissed at him, “do you understand me?”

He didn’t look convinced, but dragged out a lazy salute followed by a bow that carried all the hallmarks of contempt—he should know, he performed them often enough—and headed through the gate, leaving both men at liberty to enter the city.

“I did pack a rope,” Milos muttered without meeting Alex’s gaze, both hands resting lightly on the pommel of his saddle as the horse obediently followed the knight’s. “It’s quite normal, you don’t need to feel outraged.” But from the way his head angled, like he was trying to take in his surroundings without being seen to look, and how his eyes flicked from sight to sight, made the knight suspect Milos wasn’t used to cities on quite this scale.

Alex snorted, drawing up his horse at the nearest inn with a stable, a flea-bitten shack near enough the gate to be cheap, if not entirely clean. Never mind the distance, right now he just wanted somewhere to stop and rest. “I don’t think you can tell me how I should feel.” He swung his leg over his horse’s back, landing heavily on the cobbled yard.

This time it was Milos’s turn to let out a snort, shaking his head. “You’ve really never owned anyone before, have you? People don’t want property wandering around without their owners without a good reason. You could be sending me to do anything.” He smiled slightly before following Alex’s lead and dismounting. “If you’re not going to give me an approval letter then I can’t be off a lead.”

“You aren’t a gods-damned dog!” He snapped, untethering Milos’s horse from his saddle and passing both sets of reins to a silent, nervous-looking stable boy.

“And I’m not supposed to be able to read the approval letters. Doesn’t mean I can’t.” Milos smirked.

The boy could look almost as evil as Alex when he wanted; the knight was almost impressed, if his brain wasn’t working to process what he’d just heard. “You can read?”

The grin vanished immediately, replaced by the customary scowl he’d become so used to seeing. “You really do think I’m an idiot. Of course I can gods-damned read.”

Alex grinned and headed towards the inn door, hooking his fingers into Milos’s collar and, ignoring his yip of pain, dragged him along as he went. “That’s good. I’m glad I asked. I’d hate to have to teach you now.”

From the corner of his eye he could see the elf glare at him. Hardly intimidating; he needed to try harder. He was glad he’d asked, even if it was in a roundabout way: the idea of anyone working for him, either paid or outright owned, who couldn’t make notes or write a letter if instructed was unpleasant. Asking questions of anyone but your king always paid off.

And once the Duke was aware of his presence and ready to receive him he’d have plenty more questions to ask. He hoped they’d pay off too.


Runaway Tales



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