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Author: Regret
Rating: 15
Story: Radial: Unravel AU
Challenge: Quince #20 - Your Secret Is Safe With Me; Blue Raspberry #16 - Choosing Sides
Topping: Chopped Nuts
Word Count: 2,674
Summary: Alex embarrasses Milos, then takes him into the city again—and sets a plan in motion.

It was one of the best nights’ sleep he’d had since Alex had bought him, free from the crushing weight and oppressive heat of the sarcastic, smug man. Laying on his stomach on the soft sheets, he let consciousness wash over him in gentle waves, stretching his arms out under his pillow and loving the fact that he could stretch—

Cold air hit his bare back like an avalanche. Milos yelped, twisting to grab for sheets that were no longer there; a hand slammed between his shoulder blades and pinned him back against the bed. “What’re you doing?” He struggled but he was still no match for Alex’s superior strength. “Let me go!”

“Hold still,” he muttered, the hand not being used to restrain Milos trailing the ridged line of his back until it reached his buttocks.

Milos flailed, trying to kick out at Alex, but apparently that’s where all the sheets had gone: his feet tangled with the fabric and he just knew he was thrashing around like some fresh-caught fish, with as much chance of freedom. Gods, he couldn’t possibly want to go again, could he? But it was Alex. Of course he could.

Alex’s fingers slid between the soft fat and muscle, parting them until Milos felt uncomfortably exposed, his stomach doing flip-flops. He felt one fingertip ring his hole, then push slightly in. “There doesn’t seem to be any blood.”

“What?” He asked weakly.

He stared blankly down at Milos like he’d said something weird, like he wasn’t the one pinning down his slave and undertaking an embarrassing and intimate physical examination. “You were upset last time,” he said slowly, in the kind of tone reserved for explaining things to idiots. “I’m making sure you’re alright this time.”

He was a lunatic. The man was a complete lunatic. “What would you have done if I wasn’t?”

Alex shrugged, shoving Milos harder into the bed with the gesture. “Cleaned you up.”

“Why?” How many times did he have to tell him that wasn’t how it worked, that it wasn’t normal?

“Because last time you threw a knife at me,” Alex smirked. “And your aim keeps improving.” He paused, pushing against his spine once more before lifting both hands and sitting up properly. “That reminds me, I’ve forgotten to train you lately.”

Milos hadn’t forgotten. His body was thankful for Alex’s lapse of attention—and right now it was more thankful that he wasn’t pushing him down. He rolled over and made a lunge for the sheets, only for Alex’s arm to loop around his waist and drag him over sideways. “What the—?! What’re you doing?!”

Before he could squirm free again Alex wrapped both legs around Milos’s hips, the sides of his feet pressed against the insides of his thighs, fingers delving into his hair to start working through the tangles. “You’re a gods-damned mess. You need to start taking better care of yourself, I can’t take you anywhere in this state.”

“Get off me.” He tried to swat at his hands, swearing under his breath as Alex easily grabbed his wrists and yanked them back down again. “I’ll comb it, just stop it.”

The fingers returned to pull and separate the messy strands before looping some around his hand and pulling, hard enough to drag Milos’s head back. He stared up at Alex’s face as he frowned at the blond knots. “Maybe I should just take you to have it all cut off instead. That’d make it easier.”

Milos yelped and jerked his head forward, trying to free himself from the firm hold. “Don’t you—”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” They both froze, eyes locked on the young man wearing the Duke’s livery and a faint smile in the doorway. “I was told to come and clean the room. Should I go?”

Their unexpected visitor was the excuse Milos needed to scramble free of Alex’s grip and grab the sheets, pulling them up to cover his body. From a safe distance he watched as Alex’s eyes narrowed at the servant. “What time is it?”

“Eight o’clock, sir.” The man bobbed a short bow. “Should I return later?”

“Damnit, only eight?” He dragged his arm across his eyes, apparently unconcerned by his nakedness. “Yes, come back in two hours, we’ll be gone then. And,” he paused, looking from the nodding servant to Milos, who couldn’t bring himself to meet his gaze, feeling his cheeks heat again, “can you not say anything about this?”

Milos couldn’t stop himself from staring, wide-eyed, at his owner. “Of course I won’t, sir,” the servant said calmly. “What happens in your room is your business alone, sir, not mine or anyone else’s. Certainly I can’t see it’d have anything to do with the Duke.”

Alex raised an eyebrow in the face of the servant’s slow smile. “Yes. Exactly.”

“I’ll come back later then, sir.” He bowed again and backed from the room.

“Well,” Alex said, voice low, after he’d gone. “That was interesting. Come on.” He turned and in one fluid movement ripped the sheets from Milos’s body again, ignoring his shout of anger. “You’d better get me dressed so we can leave.”

* * *

Even on days when the market wasn’t in operation, the city was still busier than anything Milos had seen before. Again he was glad of the cord that trailed from his collar to Alex’s wrist, the idea of being separated from him in the crush both terrifying and a far cry from how he’d felt the first time he’d seen him. Not that he wouldn’t take the opportunity to kill the arrogant bastard if the opportunity arose, just... not here, where the claustrophobia was overwhelming. Here, maybe just for a little while, he could rely on him the same way other people seemed to.

The shop was a respite from the mass of people in the street, piled high with books instead of bodies and full of the richly comforting scent of paper. While Alex went to talk to the shopkeeper Milos looked around the store, trying surreptitiously to read titles and snippets without looking like he could actually read any of it. For every person like Alex who considered the ability to read a bonus, there were three others who preferred their slaves to live in ignorance. He snorted softly, skimming his fingers over a leather-bound cover and relishing the sensation against his skin; how very dare his parents teach him to read.

“What’s that?” Alex asked over his shoulder.

He answered automatically, “a history book,” then flinched. Idiot! Just because his last owner hadn’t the wit to ask questions like that, didn’t mean his next one wouldn’t and take exception to it.

If Alex noticed the involuntary movement, he didn’t comment on it. “Interesting one?” He gave it a thoughtful stare.

Milos shook his head dumbly, biting on his lower lip.

“If there’s anything that interests you, show it to me.” He piled two books, three elegant notebooks and a bound bundle of pencils into Milos’s arms and watched with a smirk as he struggled to balance them all. “I need to go and talk to someone, and then you can demonstrate your handwriting to me.”

The someone in question was a messenger at a thankfully nearby low-class inn. Trying to keep a hold on Alex’s purchases while being jostled, dragged and elbowed was an unpleasant exercise and while Alex discussed whatever matter it was, Milos found himself working to arrange the items into a more sensible order than the one dumped on him by his inconsiderate owner.

He’d never admit to Alex that it was enjoyable, even if from the way he raised an eyebrow as he looked over at him he already knew it. “Happy now?” He asked once his conversation was over.

Milos gave him a sour look and didn’t deign to answer.

“Well, it’s quiet enough here. Put those on the table there and let me see if you can actually write in a straight line.”

“Here?” Milos echoed. Alex might as well have started speaking another language for all the sense he was making. “In public?”

He wasn’t expecting for the cord to be taken up and flicked across his backside. Or for it to hurt as much as it did. “I wouldn’t tell you to do something if I didn’t expect you to do it.” He sighed. “This is why I bought you and not a servant, remember?”

“I thought you’d bought me because you’re a pervert,” Milos muttered, laying the books down and wrestling a pencil from the bundle. It felt awkward in his fingers. Now possibly wasn’t the best time to admit to the knight he’d not had the opportunity to write anything in the best part of a year.

“And I thought you said it was common?” He leaned over Milos’s shoulder in what he just knew was a deliberate attempt to put him off. “To demonstrate, you can write ‘Sir Alexander is the greatest knight I’ve ever had the privilege of working for’.”

He began, resisting the urge to amend it to is the most deluded fool I’ve met. That cord really was painful. Keeping his voice low, he said, “you’re the one who said you weren’t interested in it to start with. And two out of three of my owners resisted the urge.”

“Really?” He sounded surprised.

Milos grimaced, finishing the sentence. His handwriting was more legible than he’d expected; he hoped he didn’t look as relieved as he felt. It was stilted and rough, but passable. He only wished he’d not brought up that man. Try as he might, he’d still not yet succeeded in blocking it out.

Alex took the notebook, tilting it this way and that as he examined Milos’s work. “It’ll do. You can be useful and take notes while I’m talking to people.”

“You keep saying that,” Milos grumbled, picking up the pile again, “but I clean both the room and you, and dress you.” The shopkeeper had offered to wrap the purchases. Alex had refused him. Something else he found funny, no doubt.

Shrugging, Alex took up the cord again. “Anyone could do that. I need someone who can do more than simple chores, without getting in the way or being a complete idiot like every other servant I’ve been saddled with.” He jerked on the collar, ignoring the way Milos folded his arms more tightly around the books and glared at him. “If you’re useless too, then at least with your fighting skills I’ll be rid of you faster than I was of them.”

Weaving their way through the crowd towards the castle was even worse now everyone seemed to have descended onto the streets to grab a quick meal. Street vendors appeared out of nowhere, the stench of overcooked meat filling the already less than fragrant cobbles. Milos fought back the urge to retch. “You’re not making me want to be useful.”

Alex laughed, attracting several strange stares. “We’ll see.”

* * *

It was a mercy to reach the castle again. He felt more battered by ten minutes in the crowd than he had after an hour in the practice arena with Alex. The stairs were a struggle after feeling like he’d been kicked in the shins by every single distracted passer-by; the thought of reaching the top was blissful. He tried not to think about the stone and wood staircases that led to their quarters.

“Alex, I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Three steps ahead, he saw the knight’s expression darken before the reason why came into view. “Shouldn’t you be out doing something, Kennet? Something that doesn’t involve standing here?”

“Oh come now, Alex,” Kennet smiled, tilting his palms upwards. In his light armour, the colours a stark contrast to his blond hair and bright blue eyes, he looked every inch the respectable knight. A wave of hatred rose in Milos’s chest. The last lot before Alex had too. “That’s no way to speak to the person you trained for years with.”

“No, perhaps you’re right.” Alex gave Kennet a humourless smile. “I’ll try this instead: get out of my way right now before I gut you.”

The other knight let out a gentle tsk that sounded more like a benevolent teacher scolding a pupil. “You’re always so hostile, Alex. It’s a terrible attitude to have, you’ll never get answers with it.”

Milos could see Alex grit his teeth, obviously struggling to resist the urge to ask what answers? The books were getting heavy as his arms began to ache, but the last thing he wanted to do was ask Alex to let him go or come away with him. Neither man would take it well. “Tell me, Kennet, what will you do if I discover that the Duke is involved in something treasonous?”

From the widening of those beautiful eyes, Kennet hadn’t been expecting such a direct question. “What a strange question to ask. Why?”

Alex let out a single harsh laugh. “Would you stay by his side and be tried along with him, or would you return to Nazarian and Goldash with your tail between your legs, begging forgiveness all the way?”

“Why would I be asking for forgiveness? I didn’t leave under a cloud and I’ve done nothing wrong.” He shrugged, his smile wider than ever. “Unless you’re trying to imply I’m involved in some crime... but of course you wouldn’t do that without any evidence, would you Alex?”

“No,” Alex growled. “I wouldn’t. Good day, Kennet.” Giving another rough yank on the collar, he led Milos past the still-grinning knight. Even as Alex passed him by, the tension was so high that Milos’s nerves felt frayed, strung so tight that they might snap at the slightest provocation. He tried to imagine what Alex’s were like if his felt so on edge. He couldn’t.

The man’s face remained thunderous as he led him to their room, not even softening as he went to stand by the window while Milos laid the books out on the bed. “I don’t think you’ll get a straight answer from him,” Milos said softly, lifting one of the books and trailing his fingers along the embossed spine.

“I don’t think Kennet has ever known how to give an answer that doesn’t contain five corners and a few dead ends.” He shoved himself away from the window to stalk over to one of the highboys. “And I’m sure at least one of those dead ends has a body hidden in a storm drain.” The first drawer he looked in didn’t contain what he was searching for. He clattered it shut again and glared at it like everything was all its fault. “No matter what happens, he’ll have moved to the winning side five minutes before.” The second drawer was correct; Alex’s spaulders flew through the air to land with dual thumps on the bed. The leather breastplate followed. “Help me put these on.”

Eyes wide, he couldn’t help asking, “you’re not going to fight him?” He couldn’t think of anything more idiotic than picking an outright fight with the Duke’s knight.

The look Alex turned on him told him in no uncertain terms just who he thought the idiot in the room was. “No. You’re going to have a practice session.”

Milos swallowed, carefully laying the book down on the sheets again. “Now? I mean, shouldn’t you be interviewing people instead?”

Alex smiled grimly. “I’ll get an answer to one question in a few days. We have time to spare. Now help me dress.”

Time to spare sounded more ominous than he wanted to consider. Frowning, he helped Alex into his armour. After the discussion with Kennet he couldn’t see this training session ending well: the knight wanted to take his stress out on something. Not for the first time, Milos wished he wasn’t the only available something around, just like something told him that this was going to make all their previous sessions look like children playing war games.


Runaway Tales



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