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Quince #7; Chopped Nuts

Author: Regret
Rating: 15
Story: Radial: Unravel AU
Challenge: Quince #7 - Does This Remind You Of Anything?
Topping: Chopped Nuts
Word Count: 2,296
Summary: Alex takes Milos to train, but ends up fighting Kennet instead... not entirely for the reasons he says.

Despite being attached to the royal palace and main barracks, the three practice arenas Milos had seen with Alex were all quite small, the covered racks of training weapons nicked and blunt—although not blunt enough that he’d been able to avoid a few scrapes and cuts—and the ground surface was dusty and dry. Alex had told him that the main training and drill arenas were in much better condition but he didn’t think he’d ever see them.

In comparison, the ones in the yard behind the castle in Ginebourne were opulent: lush, thick-bladed grass filled the yard, the white fences gleamed with fresh paint and the weapons shone in the afternoon sun. Alex took one look at it and sneered. “Well, this is what I’d expected.”

“What?” He stared around at every example of upper-class excess, feeling even more filthy and insignificant in its presence. “It looks like they take care of it.”

“Yes. It does.” He kicked one of the fence posts, leaving a dirty smudge against the whitewashed wood. “It looks like they’ve done everything except use it.”

It was only when he said it that Milos realised that was the case. The ground in Goldash was in such a state because whenever they vacated it, two or three other soldiers had lined up to use it; Milos himself had once accidentally hit a fence slat rather than Alex with his sword, taking a chunk out of it. He’d felt quite proud of that, only regretting that he’d missed the knight instead. Compared to the abused arenas of the barracks this was an ornamental garden.

Alex vaulted over the fence and strode over the turf towards the weapon racks, leaving Milos to wonder if he was stomping deliberately or if he was just in a mood again. When he ripped a short sword from the rack, he decided it was probably both. Back turned to him, Alex fiddled around with the weapon, then spun on one heel to brandish it at Milos. “Look at this.” Before Milos could open his mouth to speak, Alex slashed the weapon across his palm.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” He flung himself over the fence, almost falling on his face in his haste to reach the mad bastard. Visions of being blamed for the injury swam through his head. It was one thing to be punished for actually hurting him, at least he’d have had the pleasure, but this?

Alex held his hand out towards him. Milos felt his jaw drop as he stared down at the pale skin, perfect and unmarred by any bloody slashes. “Blunt,” he said bitterly. “We wouldn’t want any delicate noble bodies getting scraped up now, would we?”

“But...” Words failed him.

The sword landed with a thud at his feet. “Pick it up. Consider it a blessing that these precious little flowers are so keen to avoid injury.” He grinned at his slave, a wholly unnerving light in his eyes. “I’ll have to see about finding new ways to make you suffer, and you can have another go at trying to win your freedom.”

He tentatively picked up the blade, marvelling at how despite its high shine there was no clearly defined sharp edge. Even the tip was rounded. If he wanted to stab Alex with this he’d have to use it like a stake. But even blunt, with enough force it should slide between ribs. He stared up, dejected, at the knight’s back as he selected his own weapon from the rack. And with that armour on, it would only slide between ribs if he’d had ten minutes to tie him down and chisel it through the thick cured leather.

Looking down at himself, with his light shirt and thin trousers, he surmised that it would only take Alex one good stab to achieve the same. And from the broad smile as the knight approached him, swinging his own sword back and forth with enough force it was audible, it looked like Alex was still prepared to try.

* * *

After only ten minutes he was exhausted and desperate to stop. Pain lanced from wrist to shoulder, aching from the unusual weight of the blade as he struggled to parry Alex’s swings and duck away from the swipes he aimed at his body. Even if objective reasoning told him that he was as likely to cut him as Alex was his own palm, the knight was putting enough force behind his strikes that he knew he’d simply be carrying unusually-shaped bruises instead.

Alex knew it too. He pressed on, his smile widening the more Milos flagged, until with one well-placed foot to the back of the leg the ground rushed up to meet him and tip of the sword was pressed to his neck yet again. “You’re out of practice. Or maybe you no longer want your freedom?”

Milos glared up at him and tried not to breathe. The tip might not be enough to cut, but it hurt every time his Adam’s apple bobbed.

“Does this mean you like me?” The grin was full-force.

“Fuck you.” Yes, the point definitely hurt.

Alex laughed. “That’s the best you’ve got?” The blade was pulled away and stabbed into the ground beside him. A hand reached down to grab his wrist.

The grass might have looked soft and springy when he’d first seen it, but he’d realised rapidly that it felt just the same as dust and dirt when he hit it, and for that he didn’t feel inclined to take his hand. Instead he shoved himself upright, ignoring both the offer and the way his muscles screamed. “Yes. It is.” Alex’s sword was jammed into the ground; he made a lunge for where his own had landed, a short distance away.

He yelped as Alex’s blade clanged over his head. “Looks like both your sword skills and repartee need work.” He sighed as Milos dropped to his knees, holding one arm over his suddenly aching head. “But you really need practice again. It’s no fun hitting you when you don’t fight back, I didn’t buy you for that.”

Milos opened his mouth to complain, but the voice that came out startled him: deeper and, more importantly, from the other side of the fence. “Are you picking on defenceless people again, Alex?”

Alex straightened again, eyes narrowing at the ground in front of him. “Nothing of the sort, Kennet.” He turned, and for one moment Milos saw the flash of the brilliant, dead smile he reserved for people he had to be nice to but loathed the sight of. “I want him to be able to take care of himself.”

Kennet laughed. Folding his arms, he leant on the fence and gave Alex a mirrored smile that made Milos wonder if that was something in particular knights were taught: how to smile without ever meaning it. “You don’t think that might cause a problem?”

“What?” He asked irritably.

He gestured to Milos. “You teach him to fight, and what happens when you sell him?” His insincere grin was starting to grate on him now. “Who’s going to want to buy a slave who can clean, cook and kill them?”

Swishing the blade in a lazy figure of eight in front of him, Alex smiled down at nothing in particular. “Why do you think I’m going to sell him?”

“Because you’ll get bored of him once you realise you can’t mould him into a knight.”

Alex growled in the back of his throat with enough force that Milos found himself edging behind him, not wanting to get caught in any explosion of temper. The blades might be blunt but now he knew for sure that they hurt. “I don’t want to mould him into anything. I’d just like to make sure he can survive for a month or two.”

The way Kennet’s eyes skirted along Milos’s body did nothing to make him feel better. “You don’t wonder how he survived this long to start with?”

“Do you have a reason to be here?” Alex ground out, gritting his teeth.

Kennet smiled again, a pretty and dead expression. “Oh, no. I just wanted to watch.”

Staring first down at the sword held loosely in his hand, then back up at the knight, Alex grinned humourlessly. “How about you show him how it’s done. For old time’s sake.”

Faster than Milos had managed, even faster than Alex, Kennet leapt over the fence and with a long, easy stride loped over to Milos’s discarded sword. “You want to play-fight, Alex? I didn’t think you did anything for fun.” He swung the blade around, grimacing at the weight and general dullness and looking suddenly and disconcertingly like a bleached version of Alex himself. “Maybe you can even beat me this time.”

With one quick hand gesture, Alex sent Milos to perch on the fence. “Maybe I can.” Each movement was different to when he fought his slave; Milos had never realised quite how gently Alex had been treating him. For all that he’d been beaten and bruised after each session, Alex had never prowled around him in circles, fingers deceptively loose around the grip, and when he darted forwards to make the first move he’d never shifted at such a terrifying speed.

Milos had never been able to dodge the first strike even at a relatively gentle pace. Kennet evaded it with ease, shifting sideways to deflect the attack and move in with one of his own that Alex avoided with just as much grace. It was like watching cats fight, silent aside from the ringing of clashing blades, and frighteningly lethal, each move calculated to inflict as much damage as possible if it hit and, if not, to place the owner in a more strategically powerful place.

It was shocking to watch. He’d only ever seen one-sided fights like the one that’d seen off his last owner. When the knight was evenly matched it became a textbook example of speed and power, and he found himself revising his former opinion: now he’d never been so scared of Alex in his life.

And Kennet, for that matter. His genial smiles and general pleasant demeanour had seemed so harmless despite his habitual mistrust that he’d forgotten he’d come from the same stable as Alex, and was probably the same age too. He hated to admit it, but he couldn’t tell who’d win. Worse—and he really didn’t want to admit it to himself—he desperately wanted the victor to be Alex.

The dark haired man’s blade was knocked from his hand by a jarring strike, bouncing across the grass to land too far away for a quick dash. Kennet shifted in, impossibly fast, with pommel at the ready for a strike to the face.

Milos flinched. The floor suddenly seemed the most interesting thing in the entire area. A shout and a crashing thud filled the air—

Alex laughed. “Does this remind you of anything, Kennet?”

Milos’s head snapped up as he tried to take in what he was seeing. Flat on his back, a foot pressed hard against his neck, Kennet stared up at Alex with genuine loathing. “Enlighten me.” The words were dulled by the pressure but the venom was audible even from the fence.

“After you tried to drown me.” Alex’s smile was wide and awful. “On the training field. When I had to be dragged off you in case I killed you.”

“Oh, that.” The airy dismissal didn’t work so well from the ground, even though he did his best, waving one hand feebly like it was all of no consequence. “I’d forgotten all about that.”

The foot pressed visibly harder. “I thought you might.”

“Alex.” The word stuck in his throat, the rest of the sentence almost fleeing in fear as those dark eyes rose to meet his. “I think I sprained my ankle. Can you come and check it for me?”

It wouldn’t work with anyone else and he knew it. His last owner would have told him to deal with it; the one before would have kicked him off the fence and given him something to really worry about. But Alex’s eyes flicked from Milos to Kennet and back again and Milos could see that he knew it was nothing more than an excuse, but he could also see that it was one he would listen to. “Get off the fence. I’ll take you back to my room, we’ll check it there.”
From underneath Alex’s boot, Kennet laughed. “I bet that’s not the only thing you’ll check too.”

In one swift, graceful gesture the sword was wrenched from the other knight’s hand; in another equally graceful movement the pommel bounced off Kennet’s nose. It was followed by a shout of pain. “Don’t worry about cleaning here either,” Alex said with a small, mean smile. “Sir Kennet will take care of that for us.”

Milos nodded and slid from the top strut. It wasn’t entirely a lie. His left ankle did hurt after a particularly hard kick from Alex and it would soon have an impressive black bruise on it. It was only a little exaggeration to favour it as Alex leapt the fence and landed with catlike elegance beside him. “Be careful,” he said to the knight as they walked—or Alex walked and he limped—back through the arched door into the castle proper. “He’ll tell the Duke.”

Alex smiled again, cold and emotionless. “Don’t worry.” As Milos winced at the first step of the stairs, he grabbed his arm to steady him. It did nothing to appease the sudden lurch of fear at the contact, and at the expression. “I’m banking on him doing just that.”


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Apr. 27th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Ohoho, Kennet, he's lucky Milos was there, otherwise I think Alex might've done worse. Though I find it adorable how Milos managed to pacify Alex in that situation; so much "what could have been" if Alex was there on his own.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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