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A Blue Spouse

Chapter Text

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Life was going smoothly on the ancient Kingdom of Ninjago. The policies established a few years ago by the new Maharaja were proving themselves satisfactory. The lowest layers of the population were still very poor but at least most of families were not starving anymore. Nevertheless the government still had a lot of work to do.

It was hard to come up with new ways to enrich the nation. The heavy sun that shined bright almost every day of the year and the few short raining seasons made it difficult for harvesting so the government had to spent quite a bit capital importing goods from other countries. Good thing though the land was rich in minerals of all sorts so they could still make nice deals with other realms.

Sadly some human beings weren’t up for all that bullshit (as they liked to call it) the new monarch was trying to implement. There had always been small revolts here and there, it was te be expected to happen in any kingdom, but that didn’t prevent the young Maharaja to fight the rebels and work hard everyday to build a healthy society for his people, for the ones that really loved him and deserved to live in peace.

The monarch was having a meeting with his royal counselors and several of the army heads, as well as a few close friends that were always pleasant to lend a helping hand. Like Skylor.

Skylor was the daughter of a come-down sergeant that got expelled of the army a long time ago for being a traitor to the old kings. However his daughter had proved her loyalty to the rulers of the nation several times in the past. She was brave, astute and extremely sneaky. Attributes that made her the perfect spy.

Skylor had been called to the meeting to share the new information she had gathered about some troublemakers. The weather was terrible, the midday sun was working at its full capacity, she could even see the air vibrating in front of her. She took a few minutes to rest hiding from the sun rays in a narrow passageway and drank from her cantine. She was late to the party but she could care less. Afterall the monarch was one of her old friends. They used to play together at the palace whenever his father brought her there before getting exiled. She knew he wouldn’t be mad at her. Stretching she pushed herself off the wall and resumed her journey to the royal palace walking along the almost deserted and hot streets.

 

“The negotiation with the nation of Kadhwarmesh is still ongoing, your Highness. They seem a bit cautious about allying with us.”

The Maharaja kept a straight face on while listening to his counselors.

“I’d suggest adding a few more benefits to the offer we made…”

“No more bribery” the young man adjudicated. “We can’t spend our resources carelessly. It’s best to give them time to reconsider it.”

Some of the assistants nodded their heads in agreement.

The monarch inspected the situation with his warm hazel eyes. “Anything else?” He asked.

The black haired girl at his right organized some of the papers on the table and shook his head. “Not until Skylor gets here with her reports.”

Soft murmurs started to fill the room but not for long. The main door opened slightly and the red haired girl appeared with a guard behind her.

“Speaking of the devil” muttered the boy with a grin.

The young woman walked across the big room. A small yet shiny bead of sweat rolling down her jaw when she reached the table.

“It was about time” the monarch said, a smirk on his lips.

“Who was the genius that set this reunion at the worst hour of the day?” she shot back already knowing the answer. “I almost melted there.”

“It’s not my fault you all have such complicated and different schedules” the boy tried to defend himself. “So, what’s new?”

Skylor directed to an empty seat and made herself comfortable, removing the hood from her head and a few other several layers of clothing.

“We were right. There’s this nasty organization still going on around the poor zone of the city. As far as I know they’re planning a riot for at the marketplace in two days.”

The sovereign shook his head in frustration, giving an exasperated sigh.

“Why do they always have to pick the most crowded places?... We have to stop them.”

“I know where they’re hiding, but they’re a rather large group.” Skylor informed.

“Worry not, I’m sure we can manage them. Nya, pass me the map” he spoke to the girl next to him.

Nya did as she was told and handed the parchment to her brother. Skylor signaled the spot of the rebel’s hideout and started to give more details about their situation and members. Soon enough they were planning how to move their best soldiers there without being noticed. Skylor said the group was quite large but they didn’t seem to have mastered any sort of dangerous fighting arts so they were most likely to come down easily if caught by surprise. That was reassuring.

 

After the reunion was dismissed everyone went back to their respective duties.

Skylor was wrapping the clothing over her head again when a hand grabbing her wrist made her stop in the process.

“Going already?” The Maharaja appeared by her side, eyebrows slightly raised.

“Your Highness…” she muttered.

“Oh, drop the honorifics, will you?”

Skylor looked around, everyone had already left except for them. She gave him a mischievous smile.

“What do you want, Kai?”

He chuckled happy to see his friend was finally addressing him by his birth name. Kai lifted his arms and pulled Skylor into a short but tender embrace.

“It’s been so long since the last time we hang out together. Would you care to join us for lunch?”

“I’m afraid I’ve got people waiting for me.” Kai pouted like a child. She giggled at him and added. “But I guess I can stay for a little bit, I wouldn’t like to upset the all mighty king.”

The monarch’s face beamed and pulled his friend to the hallway, guiding the girl through several corridors and staircases to the floor that held his royal bedroom.

Their vision filled with red after opening the big doors. Kai displayed a certain obsession for the bloody color since he was a kid, so did his sister although not with the same intensity. He felt a strong connection with red. It reminded him of fire; always burning, always ready for action, even the slightest bit of oxygen could turn a small flame into a menacing wildfire. Fire never gave up and that's what he wanted to be as a souverain.

The royal chamber was divided into sections thanks to the vaporous clothing that hung from the ceiling and archways. Taking a step down from the door, the center of the room hold a ginormous carpet with a beautiful fire pattern, lots of fluffy cushions and blankets of different types were scattered over it. Kai may be one of the best rulers the kingdom of Ninjago ever had but he could never keep his room tidy for more than a week.

To the arch at the right and hidden behind the curtains was a door to the bathroom and several trunks and furniture that were to keep his expensive outfits save from the dust. The sunlight that filtered through the hanging fabric illuminated the residence from the opposite side, where the opening to the majestuous balcony was located.

Last but not least the large royal bed laid at the back of the room, a beautiful red canopy with shiny jewels decorated the top and it also served as a separation to give more privacy to whoever decided to lie down on the soft mattress.

“Would you like a drink?” Kai’s voice broke the silence.

“Like? I need it with my whole life” Skylor replied overemphasizing her words.

Kai made his way to a big and luxurious looking cabinet, beautifully decorated with shining golden motives just like the rest of the furniture in the room. He took a bottle out and poured a bit of the liquor it contained in two small glasses while his friend made her way to the center of the room and sat down on the carpet in the middle of the cushions. Giving a quick look she realized some of the pillows next to her shared the same pattern as the bed sheets. She smirked playfully as a dirty thought crossed her mind. That kind of misplacement could only mean one thing, but she actually didn’t mind it at all. Her friend was the ruler of the kingdom, he had the right to have all the fun he wanted in his private time.

Kai soon got by her side, placing the bottle on a small low table next to them and handing one of the glasses to her.

“Are you trying to get me drunk this early in the morning?” She asked after the smell of the liquid reached her nostrils.

“Of course not, it's pretty soft in fact” he said gulping down the liquid in one shot.

Skylor mimicked him. She hummed licking her lips in agreement.

“So sweet”

“I told you” a genuine smile was plastered on Kai's face as he poured down more liquor on both glasses.

“So how's life treating you?”

It hadn't been that long since the last time they saw each other but they barely had any chance to spend some quality time since a few years ago. Skylor had been helping a lot to make sure the population had enough food. She made an excellent spy but cooking was another one of her skills, and she knew how to combine them quiet conveniently. You wouldn't tell how many people tended to spill their secrets when she was around preparing meals for the poorest. She had that tender aura that made people easily trust her.

Kai was glad she didn't turn evil like her father, for she knew too many embarrassing details of his childhood that he would like to keep hidden.

“Pretty fine, except for the days I have to go out under this terrible weather” she eyed the blinding balcony that shined in the sun.

“You know you're free to become one of my ministers whenever you want, right?”

“And you know I'm not made for the palace life, right?” She smiled at him and so did Kai in return. “Sitting all day surrounded by papers? That’s way too boring for me.”

Soon enough they were laughing and acting stupidly, throwing friendly insults and pillows at each other like they used to do when they were younger. Kai had missed her a lot. She was one of the few true friends he ever had as a child.

He fell over her clumsily while he was trying to tackle her in their playful fight. Skylor's cheeks heat up and she averted his eyes.

“Kai, please… You know I'm weak for you.” she said in a soft voice full of embarrassment. He got up from her body in a quick move and scratched his nape.

“Sorry” he apologized then looked at his friend again. “You still haven't found a partner?”

Skylor tussed her own hair. Kai was an attractive young man. The mischievous look in his eyes combined magically with the rest of his features. He had a big scar over his right eye and a smaller one over the other which would often go unnoticed under those dark brown bangs. His pointy nose went too well with that sharp jaw of him that held such thin yet gorgeous lips. And his skin was beautifully tanned, not too dark not too pale.

Skylor always had a small crush on him but Kai would never see her as something more than a friend, they both knew it and accepted the fact long ago.

“Nope. Not that I'm even trying to. Being single is quite comfortable for me at the moment. No fights, no jealousy, no problems…”

“No one to hold you at night…” he added with a naughty tone. But that only gained him a kick on his head.

“We can't all be a lucky bastard like you, your perverted Highness.” They both laughed carelessly.

“How do you even know…?” Kai didn't have time to finish his question.

His friend grabbed one of the cushions and threw it at him.

“This one is supposed to go on the bed. And it has some suspiciously dirty spots on. That is how I know.” She smiled victorious as she saw Kai blushing under her deductions.

“I didn't have time to clean properly, okay? We were tired” he excused himself to which Skylor just giggled. This girl seriously had an eye for details, Kai was thankful to have her on his side in his adventure of becoming a good and memorable king. Not only because with her great skills she was the perfect ally, but also because she seemed to understand him more than usual people did.

“Hey, can you still do that?” he asked her all of a sudden.

“Do what?”

“You know… Your powers” he whispered.

Skylor's eyes widened. It had been years since she had used her mysterious abilities, at least consciously.

“Uhm… I don't know, it's been a long time.”

Kai rose up from the carpet and walked towards a specific small bureau next to the bed, pulling one of the drawers open and fishing around he found a small amber jewel. He rushed back to sit down next to Skylor before offering her the object.

“Why don't you try it?”

“Now?!” He nodded vehemently. “Kai, I-I…”

“Please, for the old times.”

She trailed off, she didn't know how to reject those puppy eyes in front of her.

“Okay…” She sighed. “But don't get too excited.”

The young woman took the stone from his hand and encased it in her own. Her eyelids shutting down in a slow motion as she tried to focus.

Skylor was not a witch, a nymph nor a magical creature of any sort but she discovered she had a sixth sense when she was very young. She had been able to grasp at the future of other people if the connection between them was strong enough, and for some reason, holding onto an object of that said person helped her absorbing the information a lot better. Kai and her used to take it as a game when they were kids, making bets about what would there be for breakfast or who would win the next chess match.

After the last Maharaja and his wife passed away Skylor never tried to use her power again. She saw it. The last time she used it on Kai she saw he was going to lose something precious for him. And sadly, she wasn't wrong, his parents died shortly after. After that she grew sick and scared of her own ability. If destiny couldn’t be changed it was to be kept hidden in her opinion.

Several minutes passed. Kai was staring at her, switching his eyes between Skylor's hands and face constantly. He was getting impatient. At a certain moment, Skylor's brows furrowed and the amber in her hands started to emit a soft glow that escaped through the spaces between her fingers. Kai's eyes widened in surprise. His friend still hadn’t lost her touch.

Skylor started to pant softly as her head fell back. The glowing object flickered in her hands. She seemed to be in pain for a moment and Kai would have considered stopping her if it wasn't because she did it herself. The jewel stopped shining as soon as she opened her eyes again. Dropping it on the carpet Skylor reached a hand up to her forehead. Kai quickly put his arms around her body making sure she wasn't going to faint.

“Are you okay?”

She nodded after a few seconds trying to calm down.

“Did you… see something?”

She did. And she was scared. The images were so confusing, she could barely make out any of the shapes she had seen in her vision but there was one thing clear.

“Blue” she finally spoke.

“Blue? What does that mean?”

Skylor shook her head. She didn't know but it didn't feel quite right. Colors had its own meaning and blue usually represented a sad feeling. Was Kai going to lose someone again? His sister was all the family he had left. He wouldn’t endure losing her too. Though Skylor decided to play dumb.

“I don't know… I'm sorry, I told you it's been so long. I just saw something blue coming to your life.”

Kai eyebrows rose up in disbelief, but he was not going to push his friend for more.

“It's okay, thank you anyway. Hope you didn't hurt yourself.” He said brushing a hand over her back.

“I'm fine, don't worry” she picked up the jewel and handed it to Kai. “I should probably get going.”

Kai gave her a sad smile. He wished they could have more chances to spend time together like this but both of them were pretty busy in their lives. He had to treasure the few moments they were given.

He helped her get on her feet and asked if she needed an assistant to get back to wherever she was headed. Skylor looked at him, an offended look in her eyes though she was merely mocking at him.

“I'm stronger than what I look like” she said with a smirk.

Kai nodded feeling a bit relieved.

Skylor left the palace. Kai stared at her from his balcony for a few minutes before the cruel sun obliged him to shelter inside the room again. He paced around the space putting some of the cushions back on his bed.

“Something blue…” he murmured. “What could that be?... A treasure? Maybe… an island to be discovered? Ugh, I hope it's not a sea travel” he shivered at the thought of an immense extension of water. He had never been fond of sailing.

He was getting lost in his thoughts when he heard a knock on the door. His sister appeared behind the wood.

“Lunch is ready.”

Chapter Text

Life was going smoothly on the ancient Kingdom of Ninjago... except for a certain young man.

Jay had awakened like any other day. The soft smell of his mother’s vegetable soup invaded his senses. His eyelids popped open, only then he realized he had been drooling in his sleep. He wiped his face with the ragged sleeve of his pajama and sat up on the bed, which was only a pile of straw adorned with an old patched blanket. He saw his mother on the back of the room stirring a liquid in an old pot.

“Good morning, Jaybird.”

Jay blushed at the nickname.

“Morning, mom.” He finally got up and walked towards the woman. His eyes fluttering dreamily as the aroma grew more intense with each step he took. He looked down at the liquid content.

“Are those beans?!” he exclaimed with an excited voice.

Edna, his mother, nodded a soft smile on her face.

“Your father made a nice deal with this old farmer, he gave us a full sack of beans in exchange for helping him fix the roof of his house.”

“Cool!” he quickly took a bowl and sat down urging his mother to pour some of the nutritious meal. Jay hadn’t had beans in a while, it wasn’t one of his favorite legumes but it was a nice change from their usual poor and boring diet. He savoured every bit of the soup. His mother soon mimicked his actions and served herself a ration.

“Where’s dad?” Jay asked as soon as he devoured a second bowl.

“He went out early in the morning to see if he can get any new clients. Rumour says a few new merchants arrived yesterday.”

Jay huffed. His father never ceased to look for new job opportunities. He worked so hard everyday to be able to maintain his family. He should do the same. The sun wasn’t too high yet, but he couldn’t waste any time. Soon the heat would become unbearable and make everything more difficult for his delicate skin. He rose up and changed to some more comfortable clothes before kissing his mother goodbye and getting out of the building.

His house was an old small hut, placed at the edges of an unpopular city, and surrounded by tons of materials of all kinds. Broken pieces of wood, bend over joists, torned fabric… But that was what feed them after all. Jay’s father was a scrap dealer. Everyday he would walk around the whole city and gather abandoned materials to later bring them home. Normal people would see them as trash, but to him all those objects were like a rough diamond. He was a born-handyman, excellent in the art of crafting and inventing. He could transform a few pieces of broken wood into a practical bureau. Sure it may not have been the fanciest one in the world, but it still did the job. And people were more than happy to barter food or other goods for his skilled hands.

But Jay knew his father was getting old, that’s why since a few years ago he made himself in charge of roaming the streets in search for potential materials his father could use. He also wanted to become someone his parents would be proud of and maybe, with time, they could save enough money to move all together to a better place. Dreaming was free, right?

Jay took one of his father’s inventions, a bag with several pockets and shoulder straps made of leather that would allow him to carry heavy stuff on his back conveniently, and ventured into the city. A determined and positive smile on his face. He would have never guessed the usual routine would turn his life upside down in a few hours.

 

A few days have passed since the royal meeting at the palace. The mission of taking down the rebels was pretty much a success, thanks to the fantastic work the soldiers did and Nya’s strategies among other things. Really, who would have thought a princess was this good at tactics?

A few rebels had escaped but Kai’s army seemed to have captured most of them, they would soon be judged fairly for their crimes.

But Kai still felt a bit anxious. Nothing scared him more than having his people get hurt by a bunch of violent idiots. The majority of these rebels weren’t against his policies, for he was sure he was heading to the right direction in leading his country, partly thanks to the great advice he got from the rest of the court.

No, the rebels were against him .

Kai was not the usual monarch. He was the first openly gay Maharaja his land ever had. He knew there was more people like him, people who had been living under the pressure of having to act normal , of being called a disgusting monster, of having your brain washed making you believe you didn’t deserve any love. He didn’t wish for anyone to feel that type of rejection ever again. That’s why he worked so hard for his nation. He knew it would probably be a long journey until society accepted people could fall in love with anyone they wanted regardless of their gender, but he was ready to carry the burden on his shoulders and take the first steps into a better society, with the constant support of his family and close friends he felt strong enough to endure any pain.

 

The curtains mitigated the strong sun rays that poured into the room from the balcony, however a small one fell directly over Kai’s eyes as he shifted on the fluffy carpet. He furrowed his eyebrows in annoyance and moved again trying to hide from the light. His face landing on a muscular chest.

“Morning, my king” a deep raspy voice murmured at the top of his head.

Kai simply nuzzled at the skin located under his nose. The other giggled and raised a hand to brush his hair softly, pulling him closer in the process. Kai’s eyes finally rose up and stared at the handsome man that laid next to him with half lidded eyes. He smiled at the sight of those sweet chocolate brown eyes.

“Hey” he replied rolling over the other’s body and showering him with tiny pecks on his face and neck. The long black haired man giggled tenderly.

“Someone is happy” he murmured, a soft blush tinting his cheeks.

Kai stopped in his tracks and rested his head onto the other’s strong scarred chest.

“I love waking up next to you”

“You’re not exactly next to me” said the other.

“Does it bother you I’m on top ?” Kai asked with a pervert smirk.

The other shook his head and Kai pulled himself up to reach those juicy dark lips on his lover’s face, slow but passionately kissing him, savouring each other's taste like a delicious dessert.

They parted, the man holding Kai’s hand in his while caressing his cheek with his free hand. “We should stop before it’s too late.”

Kai whined but rolled off of him. He didn't like having a royal schedule, he had always been more the type to improvise depending on the mood of the day, but this was something not even him could change. Schedules made the organization of the whole court a lot easier.

Kai got up from the floor and lazily stretched his naked body. His lover still laying on the cushions admired him from below.

“Like what you see?” the Maharaja asked.

“Very much” replied the other with a smirk before mimicking the his actions.

Kai scratched the back of his neck.

“This place is a mess” he said looking around.

Their clothes were everywhere, the carpet was all wrinkled specially under the spots where they had been sleeping the night before, pillows and blankets scattered all over it, even the low tables have been shoved off from their usual places to gain some more space for their nocturnal games.

“Want me to help? I'm part guilty after all.”

Kai checked him out. His lover was terribly attractive, he had a great robust muscular body, scars here and there decorated his tanned skin. It was a slight darker tone than him. Each one of the scars had a different story behind, some of them well-known by Kai. His face had nothing to envy the rest of his body. He was gorgeous. Almond shaped and sweet looking brown eyes, a big and slightly crooked nose, just served as more proof of some of the battles he'd been in.

“Hey, I'm up here” the other snapped his fingers in front of Kai's face. He flinched for a second, falling off from his wild imagination.

“Sorry” he smiled in slight embarrassment. Kai's arms hooked to the man's shoulders, his fingers getting tangled in his long shaggy hair. “I’d love some help” said before pulling him in for another kiss.

They worked fast, picking up their clothes and passing them to the right owner before fixing the rest of the room. Kai this time made sure to place the pillows in their respective places. Not that anyone would enter his room unless they got his permission first, neither would he mind about the court knowing of his sexual life, he didn’t try to hide it. But Skylor's comment about the pillows made him a bit more conscious, at least for the next few days.

Once they were fully dressed, Kai sat in front of the vanity, creams and several kinds of pigments scattered over the table, he started applying some makeup on.

“You're already pretty as you are, Kai” his lover commented looking at the reflection from behind him.

“I know that,” a cocky smirk on his lips. “But I've got audiences to attend today. I must look extra nice. No one likes an ugly king.” He said before moving a brush over his waterline painting it with some kind of black tint. His lover was impressed. Kai did these things so fast and mindlessly he made it look like it was easy. He still couldn't get his makeup right without the help of another person, he was relieved he didn't have to wear it as often as the monarch.

“How do I look?” Kai asked raising up from his seat.

The other eyed him as if he was carefully inspecting his face, looking for any flaws before making a fair judgement; all a playful act for they both already knew was was going to come out of his mouth..

“You're hot as fuck.”

Kai laughed triumphantly. He then leaned on his lover briefly and pecked his lips.

“So are you.”

“Ooh, that honors me.”

“Let's go?” Kai smiled at him.

“Yes, please, I'm so hungry.” The other replied.

“Didn't I feed you enough last night?”

“Kai!” The man yelled with a subtle embarrassment.

“Cole!” He mimicked his friend's voice in an obvious mocking tone.

And Cole groaned.

“You're the worst.”

“Yeah, but you love me.”

“You're lucky I still do.”

Both men smiled at each other with a playful look, they held his hands and soon left the royal room to start a new day.

 

The morning passed by so slow. Kai was now shifting in his throne. After 3 hours of sitting straight listening to the people that came to speak with him that day, his backside was all sore. He cursed himself for not bringing a pillow with him though thinking it twice, his counselors would most likely advise him to not do such a thing. He was free to rule as he wanted but he still was meant to act nobly as much as possible to keep up with the royal standards.

He was now arranging a new meeting with the minister of economy. Several landowners had warned him of the necessity of having more food for their workers. Kai was conscious of the precarious state of his kingdom, he wanted to help but he couldn’t risk spending his resources without double-checking with an expert first.

He signed the paper and ordered for his messenger to quickly go deliver the request. His limbs falling outside his seat carelessly. He was exhausted. His sister always found it funny how Kai could have enough energy to run for 24 hours straight if needed, but how quickly it got drained when he had to spend more than a single hour sitting still on the royal throne.

“Please, tell me we’re done” he groaned.

Nya went over the day’s schedule.

“Still one more to go” she said much to her brother’s distress.

Kai gave a whimper, not trying to repress his discomfort even in the slightest. Nya giggled by his side.

“I’m seriously going to die if I stay one more minute here” he said reaching his hands to his face rubbing it roughly in desperation.

“Kai! Your makeup!” she warned him but it was too late.

The tint on his eyes got all smudged, dirtying not only his face but his hands.

“Shit!”

“Language…” Counselor Wu scolded next to him.

He groaned again. Now he would need to clean his face and apply more cosmetic only to go back to the throne room to go over the last guest. Not that he minded prettying himself up but he wasn’t much in the mood for that at the moment.

Nya gave him an amused yet tired look. The younger sibling leaned over him.

“Go wash yourself. I’ll take care of the last one.”

Kai’s eyes opened up and stared at the princess like a lost puppy, though due to the dirt around his eyes he resembled more a panda or a raccoon.

“Really?”

She nodded then asked the counselor:

“We can do that, right?”

The old man brushed a hand over his long hoary beard.

“If a king is feeling unwell he may temporarily dispose of his obligations and transfer them, along the rights to manage any immediate royal business, onto the next person in line of succession.” Kai was already feeling dizzy from all the words. “And considering there’s no offspring of the current souverain at the moment, the charge would fall over his closest relative.”

He eyed counselor Wu, eyebrow rising and a bewildered expression on his face.

The man sighed.

“Yes, the princess may replace you for today.” He simplified.

Kai’s face beamed and he jumped out of the seat.

“Thanks, Nya” he said in an affective embrace.

“You’re welcome, hey, watch out!” She said pulling him back avoiding getting dirty. “We can settle accounts later, now go wash before I need a substitute too” she chortled.

Kai didn’t think it twice and took the offer he had been granted, fleeing out of the luxurious and shiny chamber.

 

Getting his face clean from the paint felt like being born again. He disliked dirtying his face... for the most part of the time.

Kai threw himself on the bed and stretched his sore back, face still red from scrubbing the dark tint off. Rest didn’t do much to him, he actually needed the opposite. He’d been sitting and being quiet for more than he liked; he needed to move, jump, run, yell, get himself away from all this hated bureaucracy. It was still too early to get involved in any sexual activities, night was always best for this kind of matters in his opinion.

He got up and walked towards the balcony. The sun was shining bright, much as any other day, but a soft gentle breeze had just arised making the heat a bit more bearable. He stared at the horizon, his eyes still adjusting to the hard light.

The extension of the royal palace was pretty big, and tens of gardens and external patios only magnified its size and beauty. When the cold moonlight mixed with the pink ornaments of the windows, roofs and railings it created a beautiful sight. The whole building was marvelous, gleaming like fire during the day and turning into a pure jewel at nights.

Outside the walls that limited the space of the royal residence, rows of big luxurious houses could be spotted. Many rich lords from the kingdom and even some foreigners lived there but those didn't even represent a 30% of the population of the capital. The real world, the real people, the ones that mattered the most lived far away from the palace. In small houses, some of them were even in ruins yet. The country went through several wars in the ancient times and Kai's father never seemed to find a good way to rebuild at least the main city they lived in.

He pressed his hands over the warm handrail with more force, his knuckles turning white from the pressure. Kai's stomach twisted. He wanted to be better than his father in every way he could. Accepting sexuality diversification was one thing, but rebuilding a whole land and redistribute wealth so everyone  in his kingdom could live a decent life? That was a gigantic goal, even for a determined boy like him.

He really needed to distract himself.

Watching the city he noticed the small point that represented the marketplace. Tiny dots moved everywhere, it was quite packed that day. Probably the soft breeze cheered people to go out and enjoy the not-so-murdering weather. That or maybe they thought the wind was a rain presage and so most families would be trying to gather enough food to get through a possible storm.

Kai was happy to know they had stopped the rebels before they would cause any harm to the poor people that just tried to survive everyday with the little they had.

He bit his lip. He was supposed to be sick . He couldn't just go for a walk outside the palace limits, could he? He was craving for some action though.

Nya was taking care of the last audience and he didn't have any other appointments for the rest of the afternoon so what harm would do a quick walk? He'd done it so many times in the past when he was still a prince and he knew the right guys to ask for help.

Kai took off all the jewels he had put on for the previous meetings, discarded the outer shirt and took a few clothes out of one of the trunks in his room. He picked up the less royalish one, which was a hard job since most of them had too many golden details and expensive decorations, and put it on. Then he hid another one, wrapping it around his torso, under the upper layers.

He opened the doors and peeped outside searching for the two man that wandered around the hall guarding the entrance to his room. He walked up to one of them.

“Hey Karloff” he greeted.

“Your Highness” the other saluted back with a deep strong voice.

Kai cleared his throat and carefully inspected the place, no one else was around. Perfect.

“You know… I'm going to stay in my room for the rest of the day and I hope no one is going to disturb me until I wake up from my nap ” he said trying to add a subtle change into his voice at the last part.

The big and tough man arched his eyebrows in slight surprise for a short second. The monarch never took any naps so why was he… Oh ! Realization hit him.

“Oh… How long are you to sleep?” The man asked him with his limited vocabulary.

“Not too long, I’ll probably be up for dinner.”

Karloff smiled at the boy. He had helped Kai many times in his youth sneaking out of the palace to go have fun outside the walls. He nodded in agreement and walked to his guarding companion, Bolobo, to inform that the monarch shall not be disturbed until he said so for he was going to take a nap.

Bolobo chuckled under his breath, he was also aware of Kai’s real intentions.

The guard simply nodded with a smile and placed himself in front of Kai's door. Both man have been serving the court for so many years and for some reason they were pretty fond of the mischievous boy so they didn’t mind to cover him every once in a while for his  occasional escapades. They both knew the young Maharaja never meant any harm.

 

Soon enough Kai and Karloff had gotten outside the palace limits without being spotted, or so they thought at least. Karloff was a mercenary back in the days and, while he had grown older since then, he still had the skills of a great soldier.

Kai had wrapped the hidden fabric around his head, making sure to cover as much of his features as he could. Almost everyone in the capital knew his face. He didn't mind being recognized or admired when he was out for one a royal event of some kind, but right now that wasn't what he was looking for. He just wanted to mix in with the people and feel what they felt. Also he was determined to spend a bit of money on the stands, maybe buying a mouth-watering apple to cope with the heat? A pair of beautiful new earrings for Nya? Though they may have looked good on Cole too. Or a new pair of slippers? He kind of had an obsession with shoes, he had a trunk full of them in his old prince room.

Anyhow, this was one of the multiple ways to redistribute wealth among his people. A very slow process but it was still better than nothing he thought.

Karloff walked next to him all the time, carefully watching out for any potential threads even though he knew the Maharaja was capable of defending himself without trouble. After a while he elbowed the souverain softly and reminded him it was time to be heading home. Kai pleaded with puppy eyes. 'Just another round, please’ his hazel orbs yelled silently, to which Karloff had to agree with a groan.

Walking further into the streets a certain voice caught Kai's attention. It was a raspy and cold man’s voice. Looking for the source of the sound he soon spotted a bald bearded man talking aloud, almost yelling. He seemed to be promoting his business. Kai walked closer to the stall squeezing between a few people in the crowd. The selling goods were soon revealed to be persons. Kai was standing right in front of a slaves commerce.

He wasn't surprised. Slavery, though he prefered to call them servants, was an ancient tradition in the realm. He wasn't too fond of the tortures that usually came with it but he couldn't do much at the moment. Though one of his future plans included readjusting the obligations of the owners to ensure the enslaved ones a healthy life.

The seller was shouting out the amazing qualities of the men that were chained by his side. Kai studied them curiously. Most of them were pretty beat up or had a few scars on their almost naked bodies. Hair ruffled and face dirty with dust or mud. There was a couple muscular ones, those were probably gonna go up for a high price judging by all the people that was around.

“It's yours!” The dealer yelled, pointing at someone in the crowd. His companion walked towards a certain chained man and freed him momentarily from the group restrains only to tie him again with a thick rope before handing it to his new owner, and of course collecting the amount of money they just settled on the auction.

“Next up…” The charismatic seller turned around to look at the next merchandise in line, his brow furrowing slightly.

Kai felt an arm nudging him, Karloff just got by his side, his eyes inquiring him about the show that was going on in front of them.

“Just slaves” he murmured.

The guard hummed.

“You do not need new slaves” he said almost urging him to keep walking.

Kai was going to follow the older man when something made his heart skip a beat.

A pair of the most beautiful blue eyes he'd ever seen. They were almost magical. There was some kind of special energy in them, like fire but sharper. Kai couldn't find the words to describe them at the moment, he was lost. He couldn't see anything else beside those eyes and the boy who held them. Shining tears ran down his cheeks and towards the battered skin of his torso. His chest and shoulders had a soft rose tint, those looked like sunburns. His slim body trembled as the slave dealer pulled his face up for the crowd to see him. Oh gosh, he was so pretty, so...

“Today's special offer! A unique milky boy. He may not be in peak condition but he sure has a pretty face” the man said pulling the boy by the hair making sure everyone could see what he was talking about. “If you ever wanted a cute slave this is your chance! Starting with 2 silver coins, anyone more?”

Kai gaped at the show.

'Something blue will come to your life’ he remembered Skylor's words.

That. This was it. The boy with the blue eyes. It had to be him! That spark he felt inside his body had to mean something. That boy was made for him, their destinies were intertwined. Oh, how relieved Kai felt the blue didn't have anything to do with sailing or water.

“No one? Come on guys! This is a one time chance” the seller chanted. “You'll never see such a pretty face for that price ever again.”

Karloff poked Kai again but he didn't listen to his request, instead he looked him in the eyes more determined than ever and then pointed surreptitiously at the boy being sold.

“I want him.” He explained shortly.

A confused Karloff studied the situation.

“You do not need slaves.” The older man repeated.

“4 silver coins!” A voice sounded in the crowd, making Kai's anxiety grow with worry.

“Please! You have to get him for me” the young man pleaded, obvious urgency in his voice.

Karloff didn't understand what was going on. The Maharaja had never looked so desperate before.

“Why…?”

“1 gold coin!”

“Just do it!” Kai almost shouted to his servant, handing him a small sack full of money. “I don't care how much, just make sure you get him.”

Karloff sighed not quite understanding where did all that hype come from but he did as he was ordered, taking a few steps to the front.

“1 gold coin at once… twice…”

“5 gold coins” Karloff stated with confidence.

Some of the participants turned their heads staring in bewilderment at the new bidder.

“Oh, great!” Cheered the seller “So 5 gold coins, do I hear 7?”

Kai clenched his fists looking back at the blue eyed boy. Even with his hair all messed up and the cloth gag in his mouth he still looked so perfect, so beautiful. “Come on, Karloff” he murmured.

The auction started going higher every second. A devious grin on the seller's face.

“Look at this, you're actually popular” he said pulling the boy's face up and closer to his. “It seems like you'll be worth the trouble…”

The poor thing only lowered his gaze, another tear rolling down his electric eyes.

Kai's stomach twisted again, not only because of the anxiety but in repulsive at the sight of that dirty man so close to what he already considered of his property.

Karloff gave a last look at Kai. He could feel the anxiety eating him alive from the deepest parts of his soul. He was worried for both his souverain and his job's stability. They couldn't afford playing this game any longer.

Not even caring to count the coins inside the bag, Karloff threw the fabric at the feet of the dealer and shot him a glare.

 

Chapter Text

The greedy man retrieved the sack. He didn't have to count the objects inside of it for he was sure he could way live a whole month with such a generous payment.

“It's yours!” He shouted giving an end to the auction.

At that the shackled boy's face lifted in search of his new owner and soon his body paled as if his blood had all been taken away by some dark magic. The tough body of Karloff approached the newly acquired good. The slim boy struggled to escape, pulling at his chains in every way he could.

“Easy, boy. I said easy!” the right hand of the dealer said while changing the chains into ropes. But the slave didn't listen and kept fighting and groaning in a futile attempt to free himself from this nightmare, sadly that only gained him a kick in the stomach. He fell to his knees sobbing pathetically.

If Kai had had a sword at that moment he would have slashed the man for his cruel actions. How dare he hurt that precious boy.

“Sorry, he's a bit stubborn” they told Karloff while adding an extra tight rope around the boy's legs. “Guess you'll have to carry him.”

Karloff lifted the young man from the floor and threw him over his shoulder.

“Worry not” he said as goodbye. Going back to where the Maharaja in disguise awaited.

Kai was all smiles. His heart became a soft ball of fur that spreaded a tender and comfortable warm all over his body. He followed Karloff on their way back to the palace, walking behind him, so he could keep looking at the face of his new treasure. But alas the boy kept his eyes shut for most of the journey, occasional sobs and whimpers emerged from him. ‘It’s alright, baby boy, no one will hurt you ever again. I’ll protect you’ Kai thought.

He had probably gone crazy. He had no idea who this young man was, what was his name nor even how did his whole face look like exactly. But Kai felt he was made for him, that they were meant to be together. And Skylor’s vision was proof enough. His friend’s abilities were not to be taken lightly.

But what was he to tell Nya and the rest of the people who lived and worked at the palace? There was no way they could sneak back as easily as they left earlier, for they were coming back with an extra bulk and a pretty big one. How would they explain his presence? Well, more like how would Kai explain it; Karloff washed his hands off the matter. He helped him out and took him back home safely, his job was done.

Kai decided they would keep him in one of the spare rooms for the time being while he would go speak to his sister. She was most likely to get a bit annoyed at the fact he went to have fun while she took care of his business, but Kai knew she wouldn’t hold it against him.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Jay’s eyes flickered in the darkness. His whole body hurt but there was a specific sharp pain on his low torso that preoccupied him. He groaned trying to shift his position.

What had happened? He woke up on a normal day and went to do his normal job, wandering around the streets normally full of their usual normal people when… He saw an old man… Yeah, he saw an old man. He couldn’t lift up some heavy sacks onto a carriage. Jay, being the nice kid he was, lent him a hand. The man asked him to help move the vehicle a bit further since his back was being a nightmare that morning. Jay happily complied. Soon they reached a narrow backstreet, the old cracked cart barely fit in the space. Jay went to pull from the front while the man got on the back to make sure no sacks would get damaged.

It wasn’t until three other man appeared in front of Jay blocking the way that he realized something was going wrong. Sadly when he turned around to search for the old man he got hit on his head with a blunt object, his vision going black a second after.

When he woke up again he found himself tied up, head still dizzy and a nasty aroma filling his senses. He was locked up somewhere. He was smart enough to guess he had been kidnapped. What for? He had no clue. His family had no money so why would anyone take him away from his parents? The answer came soon enough from the same old man that lead him into the trap, who walked a lot more straight now and had lost his pathetic look from before. Jay was going to be sold to whoever could pay his price. Despite being a skinny and naive boy he had a nice face, the kidnappers were sure they could make a nice amount of money out of him, probably selling him as a sex toy for some creepy perverted old man.

Over the following days Jay was cruelly beat up by the group that took him away from his home. He was treated like an animal, with barely no food or water and transported inside suffocating and terribly small wooden boxes. He would fight at every chance of escape he saw but he was weaker every minute. His usual positivity and strong will were slowly dying.

Quirks of fate made his kidnappers don’t have as much luck with him as they initially expected and that lead Jay to being sold, almost gifted, to another slave dealer. Situation didn’t get better for him at all. This bald man basically was as cruel as the others and took no time to put Jay up for sale in a crowded marketplace.

He couldn’t move. The shackles on his wrists and ankles felt heavier than what they were. Jay’s determination was now almost broken into thousands of little pieces. The only hope he had left, if that was even supposed to be considered as such, was for no one to buy him, again. He was sure once his freedom got sold to another human being he would have no way to go back home.

It made him feel stupid. How in the world could he have fallen into such a desperate situation? He had never done anything bad in his life, all he ever wanted was to help his parents, to buy them a nice house and to thank them for the unconditional love he was given since the day he was born. Maybe even he would find a good humble girl and marry her eventually? He thought his parents would love a grandchild.

And all those dreams were crashed a terrible morning for no apparent reason.

The dealer had pulled his hair. Jay hissed at the pain and bit the cloth gag in his mouth. Someone had started bidding for him. He was done. Forever.

A sudden clink brought him back to reality. A small yet heavy bag landed next to him, the dealer smiled at the weight of its content and sold him without a second thought.

Jay cursed himself. He shouldn’t have lifted his eyes. His new owner was a giant, a scary giant with dark skin, a messy short beard and several old scars on his face. Was this the creepy old man that would use him as a sex toy like the kidnappers predicted? Fear spreaded through Jay’s nerves. No way. He couldn’t bear the idea. He had to get out of this mess. He…

He hissed, eyes still closed, and reached a hand to his belly. He remembered. He got kicked when he tried to free himself for the umpteenth time. After that everything was blurry. He remembered being lifted by the heavy man that bought him and… a strange person following behind them. He probably passed out after that.

Jay did his best to open his eyes with the low energy he had. A wall was in front of them. Was he in some kind of cage again? He curled up weakly and nuzzled at the soft fabric underneath him, trying to hide his head. He had lost all will to live…

Wait. He actually felt rather comfortable. Only then did he realize his limbs weren’t tied up together anymore, and he was lying onto some pretty comfortable material. He shifted slowly propping himself up with his elbows onto the… bed?! He was placed on a bed?! And a real one! Not the straw substitute he had at his place.

His eyes now more adjusted to the dim light that came through the window. It was probably very early in the morning, sun was just starting to rise and preparing to say hello to a new day. He quickly scanned the rest of the room. A water vase sat on the low table next to the bed. There was a trunk and a small desk on the other side right next to the…

Door?

...

It couldn't be that easy, could it?

Jay would have jumped out of the bed if it hadn't been for his injuries. He tripped and fell to his knees on the floor. Gasping for air he stared at the door handle for a few minutes. Nobody seemed to have heard him but was it really safe to go out? Was that door even open? His captors couldn't be so stupid to leave him unattended in a room and the door open… Right?

He got up slowly, holding his stomach which still hurt like hell. His fingers brushed over the wooden material of the obstacle that separated him from his freedom. He gulped nervously and pulled at the handle ever so slightly. Then a miracle happened. The door was open. Jay couldn't believe it; his luck was finally coming back!

He kept pulling at the door while peeping his head out. A large corridor appeared before his eyes. There were several doors on each side of the walls, a long and expensive looking carpet on the floor, Jay couldn't see the end from where he was. He ventured out of the room, his heart already beating painfully inside his chest. He couldn't miss this chance and started walking down the long hall, his speed increasing as his anxiety built up with every step.

This place looked oddly expensive, all these golden and red decorations and furniture everywhere were starting to creep him out. He finally spotted a staircase at the end of the wall. A twisted grin on his face as he urged himself for one last effort. Unfortunately he bumped into something, or rather someone.

Jay fell on his backside and glanced up, the person looked like some kind of guard, they were strong and wore a minimalist armor that mainly protected his torso and shoulders.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” The man asked him eyebrows furrowed.

Jay panicked and did all he could think of at that time; he fled. To where? Anywhere! Getting away from that soldier was all he cared for. He got up from the floor and run as fast as his damaged body could, which wasn't much in fact. He ran towards the stairs. The man shouting something at his back, but he was not gonna stay to listen to the lecture.

He finally made it to his destiny; going down the stairs two or three steps at a time, he was almost flying over them. He would not let himself get caught again. He had to get out of… whatever this place was and then he would go back to his parents and hug them until the end of time!

Or maybe not.

Jay had to trip, of course. Was it too hard for destiny to grant him a bit of luck for once? Apparently it was.

His knees trembled, he lost balance of his own body and rolled down the stairs not stopping until he reached the floor again. Jay laid face down on the flat surface barely able to breathe at that point. The fear of getting caught, the pain of the fall, all these ups and downs were too much for him.

“Hey, you!” He heard a voice, probably the guy that had discovered him just few seconds ago.

Then a woman’s voice  “Oh, for Brahma's sake!”

Jay mentally sighed. He didn't really care anymore. He'd rather be dead and put a quick end to all this unfair suffering. 'Goodbye mom and dad' he said to himself losing control over his eyes for the last time.

 

Being dead felt strange. In an oddly familiar way. Jay didn't feel relieved from his mortal self, it actually felt more like a dream. He could still see his human body. Why? Weren't souls supposed to be shapeless entities?

Maybe he still hadn't reached Nirvana. Was he to be reborn again? If so he hoped he would have more luck in his next life. Karma owed him a big one after this.

He turned around and found himself in the middle of a lake, surrounded by weird plants he had never seen before, he had to admit some of them looked pretty though. His hand reached over, grabbing ahold of a leaf. The texture felt strange, too plain, too fake.

What was this place? It certainly wasn't heaven, it was too… physical. He thought the afterlife would be made of unknown shapes and colors. Way more abstract and less tangible.

Looking around once more the landscape changed into deserted ruins. Now that was much more like home but it was still odd. He lowered his eyes and saw two holes near his feet. They grew bigger with every second. Something was coming out of them, it had a beautiful hazel color that mixed perfectly with the sand and dust on the ground. The shape of the holes shifted into something more recognizable. It looked like… a pair of eyes?

 

Jay's eyelids finally found enough energy to stay open for a brief amount of time, his brain just registering the smirking boy in front of him.

“It was about time” the stranger said.

Every alarm on Jay's brain went off at the same time making him jump back, hitting the back of his head onto a wall. He shouted and groaned at the pain that made the organ pulse violently inside his cranium.

“Hey, watch out, wouldn't like for you to blackout again.”

Jay peeped through an open eye. He was back to the same room again. Damn it, was this nightmare ever going to end? Did he get stuck in a vicious cycle of fainting and waking up trapped?

He saw the guy in front of him get up from the floor and reach a hand to him.

“D-don't come any closer!” Jay yelled taking the other aback and even himself for a moment. He was actually surprised his voice was still working after the tremendous fall.

The boy smirked evilly and placed his hands over his hips while raising an eyebrow. “Or what?” He asked.

Jay went blank. He had no energy to fight back, he doubted he would even be able to walk straight after hitting his head like he just did. The stupid young man that was smirking at him didn't look too big, he was probably around his age and height but Jay knew he couldn't even win against a baby in his current state.

He was running out of ideas and time, he had to say something if he didn't want to look weak.

“I'lll scream!” He finished his threat. The other stared at him and then laughed loudly. Jay felt sick and anxious. Did he look that pathetic?

The male quickly leaned on the bed sending his face closer to Jay's before whispering.

“I'd love to listen to your screams, hun”.

Jay was pretty much short circuiting at that point. What did that even mean?

The door suddenly opened, revealing a girl with straight black hair.

“Kai, the others are… Oh! He woke up?” She asked.

“Yup, just about right now.”

The girl approached them. Jay pushing himself to the farthest corner of the bed curling up in fear of all these strangers.

“How are you feeling?” She asked with what looked like a genuine smile, but Jay couldn't reply. “Can you speak?”

“Oh, trust me, he can.” Said the boy before adding with a wink “And he's got a very nice voice by the way.”

The girl kept looking at him, waiting for any kind of response but Jay was too much stressed and scared for his body to work properly.

The smile on the girl's face twitched as she thought about a different approach. “I'm Nya” she said. “And this hothead here is my brother Kai.”

“Hey! Who are you calling hothead, missy?” Nya punched the boy softly on his head then turned her attention back to Jay.

“What's your name?” She asked softly.

Jay brought his knees up enough to hide his face. He felt on the verge of tears.

Nya got closer to her brother and whispered to him. “Are you sure you weren't hearing things? Does he even understand our language?”

“I'm telling you he does, I'm not crazy” he didn't follow her low tone. She shot him a glare. “Well, uh… not in that way” Kai continued nervously.

“J-Jay...” a soft sound caught their attention and both stared at the boy that sat curled up in the corner of the bed. “My name's Jay…” he murmured weakly. Sobs threatening his throat.

Kai's eyes shined and repeated his name a couple of times, savouring every letter. Nya rolled her eyes, she tried to start a conversation again.

“Jay, are you okay? It seems you bumped quite hard on the stairs earlier.”

Jay started to tremble. Of course he wasn't okay. He'd been kidnapped, taken away from his family, beaten up badly, starved to death for days and sold as a sex slave to the largest and scariest person he'd ever seen, and to top it all he was disoriented.

“Jay?” She asked him again brushing a hand over his leg but Jay shoved her away.

“Please… let me go…” he cried with a barely audible voice. “Please… I just… I…” he couldn't keep up with his speech. He had been under unbearable pression for too many days in a row.

Kai got down on his knees next to the bed after the siblings shared a worried look.

“Hey, don't cry, Jay. No one is going to  hurt you anymore” he said in a soft voice.

“Let me go…” Jay kept repeating, his face still hidden, his arms getting wet by the unstoppable tears.

“Jay, listen to me. You need to rest, you’re too feeble right now. But I promise I'll get you out of here once you recover, okay?”

Jay kept crying. He couldn't believe any of his words.

Nya warned Kai. “I think we should give him time to calm down.”

The boy pouted with a frown but considered Jay's unstable state once again. His sister was right. He rose from the floor, Nya was already by the door waiting for him. Kai looked at Jay once again.

“Hey, hey” he poked him softly until Jay's eyes came out of his hideout for a moment.

“I’ll tell them to bring you some food. The guards will be outside, if you need anything just ask them, okay?”

Jay squeezed himself tighter and kept on sobbing, seeming to not care about Kai's advice. The siblings finally disappeared from the room, leaving Jay completely alone again.

What was going on? Who were these people? Had he been resold again to someone else? Why were his captors trying to be nice to him. And what was all that crap about the guards and giving him time to calm down and rest? Nothing made any sense.

 

“He's in pretty bad condition” Nya commented walking down the hall next to her brother.

“I know. Poor thing, he must have been badly tortured.” Kai made a note to himself to open a research on the dealer. He didn't like the man's attitude at all.

“I can sense he's going to take a while to open up.”

“Not a problem, I'm patient.”

“Ha! You're anything but that” she mocked him.

“Hey! If I could do it with Lloyd I can do it with him too.”

“You shouldn't compare them, Kai, every person is different.”

“Whatever” he said shaking his hand in the air downplaying what his sister was saying.

Chapter Text

Jay cried and cried for hours until he ran out of tears. At some point someone brought him a tray with food. He didn’t even care to look. His stomach was closed shut. The simple idea of swallowing any type of aliment made him nauseous.

The light that came through the window faded before long, leaving the room in a melancholic gloom. Jay felt more miserable than ever. He had spent a whole day passed out and crying. There was nothing left of his usual positivity. He was sure he would never get back home.

‘I'll get you out of here once you recover’ the voice of the young man named Kai echoed inside his head. As if Jay was going to fall for such an obvious lie. He had learned the lesson already. He wouldn’t trust a stranger ever again.

If only he had known that before going out of his home that fateful day.

He shifted in the bed and stared at the ceiling. Wow, he had never seen such a high one, it was quite overwhelming. Deciding he couldn’t sleep he sat up on the bed, that’s when he realized some parts of his body had been bandaged, and he wasn’t wearing his old ragged almost-non-existent clothes. A thin pair of pants covered his legs while a comfortable  sleeveless shirt protected his torso. Why had his clothes been swapped?

Jay’s gaze moved around the room, though in reality he wasn’t paying much attention to his surroundings. He felt numb. His brain was probably slowing down to prevent him from having any more torturing and depressive thoughts.

He got up from the bed and wandered around the space before standing in the center of the room for a couple of minutes. ‘The guards will be outside’ the memory of Kai played again in his subconscious as he looked at the door. Jay felt weak again and leaned himself on the near desk. ‘If you need anything just ask them’.  Like what? Writing an SOS letter and delivering it to his parents? Jay shook his head softly for his cranium still hurt badly. What was he even thinking? He was sure he was going insane.

Then he glanced up at the window. A deadpan expression on his face.

“It won’t work” Jay told himself as he walked to the opening in the wall. He unlocked the latch and pushed the glass softly. A breeze welcoming him. His eyes adjusted to the moonlight in a matter of seconds. A big garden rested a few meters ahead, then there was a wall and several rows of big residences and a bit further a bunch of small almost ruined houses. Where was this place?

The ledge of the window was large enough for him to lean on it just slightly and look down to get a better view. Jay used his free hand to keep himself steady on the frame. As much as he was desperate to put an end to this terrible situation, crashing on the floor wasn’t his cup of tea, especially considering how damn high this building was. That would be… quite a brutal death.

‘I knew it… There’s no way way out’ he thought with a tired sigh. He went back to sit on the bed. His bored eyes scanning the room now a lot more in depth. It was quite spacious, just slightly smaller than what his whole house was. Complex friezes decorated the top of the walls, matching the patterns around the door and window. The wood of the furniture was bright and vibrant, like nothing he had ever seen, and it had some golden ornaments at the corners. He had seen something similar on that long hall during his failed escape.

Letting his head fall to the side he spotted the tray covered in a white cloth.

No.

He promised himself not to trust anyone again. The food was probably poisoned.

He looked away. Fingers fidgeting.

...

His curiosity picked up and pulled at the white clothing. We wasn’t going to eat whatever that tray was holding but what harm would there be in checking its content?

The soft light that reached the room was enough to make out the shape of the food. What was that? It looked like small triangular bags of some kind of croute. Were those patties? He remembered seeing something like that at the market on his neighbourhood but he never had the chance to try one.

Jay leaned his face closer to the bowl, a subtle smell of vegetables and spice made his stomach pop open suddenly. He bit his bottom lip staring at the meal trying to repress the temptation, shoved the clothing back over the food and laid on the bed facing the wall. He would resist. He wasn’t going to be fooled again... But it was too late, the smell was already stuck in the depths of his brain and it wouldn’t go away.

Jay turned around menacingly looking at the bowl before he grabbed a patty. Tiny specks of green dust fell in the process, dirtying the tips of his fingers. He stared at the food, eyebrows furrowed. He was unsure, what if it was really poisoned? What if he passed out again after eating it and he found himself back in the nasty place his first captors locked him in, and then he would be beat up and sold again and again until the end of time? What if…? What if…?

Chomp .

Damn, he had already taken a small bite accidentally.

Screw if’s . Jay sighed.

He drove the patty back to his mouth, shoving it all inside. The triangle barely fit, the edges falling out of his lips as he chew. Despite the cold temperature of the aliment Jay felt like he was being sent to heaven. Never in his life had he eaten something this good. It was even better than his mother’s soup, well, maybe not but almost. The stuffing was tender and a bit spicy, the different vegetables melted in his mouth.

“Gosh…” he almost moaned.

He picked up the small pieces of topping that had previously fallen onto his clothes and bedsheets and devoured them in a rush before licking his fingers clean.

His hysterical side overtook once again. What had he done? Was he going to pass out now? Or puke? Or even die? He waited, paying attention to his vital signs. No weird sweat, no stomachache, no hallucinations nor tachycardia… He was fine, or so it seemed.

He risked himself and grabbed a second patty. Before long the bowl was empty and his belly full.

Jay rested on the bed feeling anxious. Where was this place? How did he even get there? He hadn’t seen the giant man from the market yet. Instead he had met two new people that were around his age. They seemed friendly; they had given him a place to sleep and new clothes, taken care of his injuries and even fed him. If they meant any harm they wouldn’t have been so considerate with him, at least that's what his logic said.

But it still didn’t feel quite right for Jay. They hadn’t explained who they were or the reasons behind his actions nor why were they keeping him in that room all alone in this… whatever this odd building was.

His mind was a complete mess. He didn’t know what to feel or what to expect at that point. After a while, Jay felt tired of trying to decipher all those mysteries. His eyelids fluttering shut. He hoped the fatigue he was starting to feel wasn’t a trick of some possible drug hidden in the food. Pulling the blanket over his body he tried to acquire a comfortable position. He didn’t know what the next day had in store for him so he resolved it was best to try and rest now that he had the chance. Afterall when would he sleep in such a cozy bed ever again?

 

The next morning Kai seemed to have gone back to his child self. He woke up with a grin on his face, excited to get up from the bed and start the day, just like a kid on their birthday. He wanted to go check up on Jay immediately but last night Nya had insisted to let him rest and calm down; the poor thing looked really confused and stressed.

Kai knew that was a normal reaction. He didn’t know the details about Jay’s past life but the bruises and marks he saw on his skin were enough to get a basic idea of how badly he had been treated as a slave. Changing from that to living in a palace with guards that would protect him at all cost and servants to bring him anything he needed at any moment was a drastic change indeed.

But, damn, was Kai anxious.

Last night before Jay would wake up he had the chance to fully study his face for a while. His skin was pale with a light pink tone at the top of the cheeks and nose, adorned with very subtle brown dots. Kai had never seen someone with so many freckles. The lips that were once hidden behind the cloth gag were revealed as a precious pink appendage; the skin over them looked chapped and Kai wondered if that was their usual appearance. Not that he disliked it either way. From the very moment he saw Jay he knew he’d love every little part of the boy’s body. He was terribly cute with that gingerish hair falling messily over his sleepy features, and that only made him even more attractive to Kai’s eyes.

But it was midday now and the monarch was frantic. He had a few appointments that morning so he sent his sister to check up on the boy. Kai was just dismissing his last guest when a well-known female figure stepped into the parlor. The princess greeted him.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah” said Kai before running towards her, excitement running through his veins. “How is he?”

Nya rolled her eyes, she secretly wondered how many seconds would it take for his brother to ask that.

“He’s fine. He ate all the samosas and has no apparent fever. They’re going to wash him and make sure no severe wound is left unattended.”

Kai groaned unconsciously with delight. If Jay already shined like a diamond with a bit of dust and mud on him, he wondered how beautiful the guy would look with a clean face. Also thinking about his naked body made butterflies start to gather inside Kai’s stomach.

“Hope he’ll join us for lunch” he dreamed.

“I don’t know, Kai. He’s still looks pretty lost and confused.”

“And that’s why he has to get out of that room and start living a normal life with us.” Kai said matter-of-factly.

Nya knew he was right but she was concerned. The look in her brother’s eyes worried her. Kai was a nice guy but he had always been a bit of a hothead and it was clear he was infatuated with the newcomer. He could easily lose control and scare Jay with his excitement, which was all but the boy needed at the moment.

Nya had always supported her brother in his relationships, even back in the days when homosexuality was still treated much as a taboo. She knew the boy meant no harm, he was just trying to live a happy life with the people he loved. But not everyone thought that. They barely knew anything about Jay, what if he freaked out when he discovered Kai’s true intentions? How would her brother even react to rejection?

“Okay, Kai, but please calm down.” She warned him. “And don’t get all crazy with your flirting when you see him. The point is to make him feel safe, not scaring him away.”

“Why are you telling me that?”

“Because I know that look on your face too well. It’s the same you had when you started dating Cole, which makes me think… Do the others know already?” She asked.

“Yeah, they do. They’re excited to meet Jay as well.”

Nya snorted in amusement and a tiny bit of envy. How did his brother manage to find such sympathetic partners?

“Then I guess I’ll go finish my stuff and get ready for lunch. Oh, and don’t you dare go bother him, Kai. Remember he needs peace.” she said referring to Jay and pointed a reproachful finger at Kai, knowing how hard it was for his brother to hold back his desire sometimes.

The boy’s face scrunched up with a groan. Nya got him.

 

The mystery and the confinement were one thing but Jay could under no circumstances stand the fact of having strangers wash him out while he was in his birthday suit. He struggled and even yelled as they pulled him to another room and dipped his slim body in a long basin, which had just a small quantity of water, enough to cover his lower parts as he sat up in the container. The water, surprisingly not cold, had been mixed with some herbs that were meant to help Jay’s sore muscles and clean the wounds and scratches on his skin. He was curled up most of the time, hiding his private parts whenever he could. Albeit the people washing him were merely following orders he was still wary of their actions. He didn’t get a chance to relax until he was back to the previous room alone, dry and all dressed up.

His outfit had been changed into a long white vest, embroidered with shining crystal beads that formed beautiful swirling patterns along the chest, shoulders and the hem of the  opening. A pair of baby blue baggy pants down below, loose and comfortable. He even got new white shoes to match the rest of the combination.

Sweet but a bit eccentric for Jay’s taste. He had never seen himself shine that much, not even in dreams, and his dreams had had to be some of the craziest ones in the world, he was sure of that. Like that one time when he dreamed his blood had turned into a sweet creamy substance and whenever he would bleed, a trail of diabolical monkeys would come out of nowhere and try to eat him with their enormous fangs.

The door opened slowly, a guard appearing behind it. “Good, you’re ready. Follow me.”

Jay blinked in confusion and stayed still on the bed. Noticing he wasn’t following, the guard showed up again and studied Jay for a moment.

“Can you walk?” He nodded at the question. “Then let’s go.”

It took him a few more seconds before getting up and heading to the door. He clearly wasn’t going anywhere by staying on that room. If answers weren’t coming at him he would have to search for them. Stepping out he eyed the man in front of him. He wasn’t wielding any dangerous weapon, nor at least that Jay could tell, was it safe to assume he wouldn’t harm him?

The older man started to walk, always keeping an eye on the younger. As they made their way Jay studied his surroundings. He stood in awe at the tall walls, the fluffy long carpet on the floor. They turned a couple of corners and ascended a floor; sculptures, paintings and luxurious vases filled with flowers and plants of different types came into view more and more often. This place looked seriously big and costly, almost like a royal palace. What did Jay get himself into?

“Uh…” he ventured to ask. “Wh-where are we going?”

“Dining hall. His Highness requested your presence for lunch.”

‘His Highness???’ Jay repeated in his head as he stopped in his tracks. Was this the house of a noble man? The decoration certainly made a lot of sense now but how did he end up here? Was the barbed man that bought him a wealthy man in disguise?

“Hey, don’t make me lose my time.” The guard’s voice brought him back to earth. Jay hesitantly kept walking until they reached the doors that, as he confirmed later, led to the dining room. The male at his side softly knocked on the wood. “He’s here” announced before he made some space for Jay to come in.

Still concerned the ginger head boy stepped inside the chamber. The familiar golden and red decorations welcomed him again. Beautiful fire themed tapestries hung upon the walls, the sunlight that bathed the room made the colors shine in such a beautiful way. Right at the center of the room there was a large square shaped table. Several dishes laid there, waiting for someone to claim the food that was on them. Jay would have kept studying the plates if it wasn’t for the fact that he wasn’t alone.

Three young males were sitting around the buffet, now staring at him. He flinched as the door closed behind his back. The guard had disappeared leaving him all alone with these strangers. Jay gulped nervously as one of them rose up from his seat and walked up to him. He was tall and buff and had gorgeous black hair which had been conveniently tied up into a braid that fell partially over one shoulder.

“You must be Jay.” He spoke.

The above mentioned boy could do nothing but nod slowly. How did this man know his name?

“I’m Cole, it’s nice to meet you” he said putting his palms together in front of him and bowing down as a sign of respect. Seeing Jay was still shocked and didn’t respond he simply smiled and offered a hand to him. “Don’t be scared, come and join us.”

Jay took his time but he finally placed a hand over the other’s man. Cole gently pulled him towards the table and gestured to sit down on the cushions next to him. He complied without resistance but his nerves were far from calming down.

Opposite to them sat the other two boys. At first Jay thought they might be relatives for they shared the same straw-colored hair, but their features were very different from each other. One had a softer appearance, longer hair and a petite figure, it reminded Jay of himself except for the magnificent sun bathed skin. The other looked taller and more mature, his short hair gave his face a serious look.

“These are Lloyd,” Cole’s hand motioned to point at the shorter blond. “And Zane” said looking at the other.

Both of them gave a little bow to the newcomer and smiled. “We are delighted to finally meet you. Kai has been talking so much about you.” Said the taller.

Jay’s eyebrows raised in confusion and not only due to the extremely formal and refined tone he just heard. Why would Kai be talking about him? They had just met. And more importantly, who were all these people and why were they acting so calm and friendly towards him?

The sound of the door opening startled Jay. Two figures came in followed by a couple of guards. They were the red siblings , that’s how he had decided to call them temporarily, for he had only seen them wearing red outfits so far.

“Jay!” uttered Kai suddenly while rushing to him for a hug and making them both land on the cushions that served as seats around the table. Nya quickly scolded her brother, pulling him up by his clothes and making him sit properly between the two groups of males.

Kai was staring at Jay with dreamy eyes when Cole cleared his throat.

“Can we start? I’m hungry”

Kai oblivious to Cole’s words kept staring at the cute boy with blue eyes. He finally fell from the clouds when his sister elbowed him. “Uh? Oh, yeah, yeah, let’s eat.”

Everyone directed their hands at the center of the table, picking up food from the different dishes to serve themselves, everyone except Jay, who stilled in bewilderment, unable to do anything.

“Don’t be shy, eat as much as you want” Kai told him with a smile. Jay still didn’t move an inch. “Zane, can you pass me the samosas?” the boy obeyed and handed him a plate full of familiar triangular patties. “Go on, a birdie told me you like them.” Kai offered the food to Jay while his sister rolled her eyes with an amused huff.

Feeling the pressure of everyone’s eyes on him, Jay’s shaking hand reached for a patty. His eyes fluttering shut with a deep inhalation as his taste buds melted around the savory sauce. Gosh, it tasted so much better than the cold ones he had last night.

“Good, uh?”

Jay felt embarrassed at Kai’s genuine smile but nodded while lowering his eyes.

Chatter soon started among the attendees, the boys discussing things about what seemed to be their daily activities. Cole and Lloyd mentioned something about joining Nya in her music lessons while Zane remarked Kai the need to check the family finances and military budgets again. The effusive boy could barely pay attention to the words directed at him, his eyes were glued to Jay’s face waiting to get in contact with his beautiful blue orbs. That gained him a couple of jabs from his sister.

Although Jay was trying to pay attention to their conversations to get some kind of clues to all the questions that tortured his brain, nothing helped much. Actually it only made him more confused, to the point he pondered if all his past life with his parents at the junkyard had been a dream all this time. Maybe these people were his real family and he had been involved into some kind of accident that erased his memories?

Kai took advantage of a distracted Nya to scoot closer to Jay.

“I’m so happy you came.” Kai whispered to him while placing a hand over his softly. As if Jay would have had another choice. The guard that brought him there did never ask for his opinion. “Did you sleep well?” He nodded to Kai in silence. “Are you always so quiet?” the boy joked.

Jay felt a painful stab in his heart. He was not a quiet person, at all . Both of his parents were such chatterboxes and, for the good or the bad, he had inherited that habit too. A few of his fellow at home usually complained about his never-ending blabber. His eyebrows furrowed, the yearning of being surrounded by his people suddenly installed in his stomach. All those memories stored in his brain couldn't be fake. All the care he was receiving from these strangers was nice but it didn’t make any sense.

Silence fell over the room, everyone was staring at Jay again, watching as Kai gently stroked his hand. When he became aware of the gazes on him Jay could only look away and feel embarrassed for being the center of attention once again.

“Is something wrong?” Kai asked him softly pulling his chin up.

He was anxious, there were so many things that bothered him, he was afraid to ask, he didn’t even know where to start nor if they were going to be able or willing to clear all his doubts. Kai drawing soothing circles with his thumb on the back of his hand helped him gather a bit of confidence. Jay’s mouth opened and closed a few times before he finally let everyone hear his voice.

“What’s going on?” he was met with a pair of surprised eyes from the boy by his side. “Wh-who are you all? Why am I here? Where… where am I even? What’s the meaning of all of this?” his voice increasing in volume and speed as more and more questions came out of his mouth.

“I found you at the marketplace, remember?” the confused look on Jay’s face was enough response. Kai huffed “I was wearing a disguise. Do you remember a large man with a black beard? He helped me buying you.”

Nya facepalmed in horror, Cole tried to repress a chuckle and Jay jumped in his seat.

“What? Buying me ? Wait a minute, so I’m your slave?!” Jay shouted in alarm pulling his hand out of Kai’s embrace. It was the first time they heard him talk so loud since lunch started.

The brunette quickly raised his hands trying to defend himself from the accusation.

“No, no! Of course not, I meant rescuing you . I just had to play along with the dealer since that seemed the easiest way to do it.”

Rescue? Did that mean his parents asked him for help? But how?

“But don’t worry, we’re already searching him to give him a lesson. He’s not going to get away after treating you like he did. And I got the feeling his business isn't that clean…” Kai said motioning forward to grab his hand again but Jay still flinched at the touch.

“Where are my parents?”

Kai blinked. “Your… parents? Uh… I don’t know, sorry. Were they being sold too?”

“No!” Jay yelled at the top of his lungs unconsciously. “I mean… I hope not…” he murmured feeling a new wave of anxiety lean over him. “Then… why did you help me?” Jay asked still not fully understanding how did he get away from his captors if nobody was looking for him.

A soft blush rushed to Kai’s cheeks. “Because I like you.”

Someone crashed their fist on the table. “That’s enough, Kai” Nya spoke, getting up to pull her brother back to his seat, but the young man wasn’t going to let her win. He dodged her grip, almost landing on Jay’s body clumsily.

“Jay, I want you to be my spouse.”

“What?!” he squealed.

“Kai! I told you to be smooth!” Nya yelled feeling embarrassed of his brother’s actions.

“I was merely answering his question!” Kai replied feeling Jay squirm beneath him trying to get away.

“Wh-what do you mean by spouse ?!”

“Uhm… Exactly what I meant” replied Kai in a nonchalant tone. “You're so pretty, I want us to be together…”

Jay shoved Kai's hands away and rolled out of his hold, finally free.

“Look, I don't know what kind of joke is this but… I'm not gay!” Jay yelled crawling backwards and keeping an eye on Kai.

“Neither were Zane or Lloyd” he chuckled softly giving a quick look to the blond boys that blushed at the mention.

Jay's brain was pretty much destroyed at that point. What did that even mean? Was he really going to be turned into a sex toy for some wicked deviant?

“Listen, Jay, it doesn't have to be right now, we can take as much time as you…”

“Didn't you hear me?! I'm. Not. Gay!” He yelled punctuating his three last words.

Nervousness was making his body tremble in fear of the disgusting future he had just imagined, but Jay managed to pull himself up to his feet and sprint towards the door.

“No, Jay, wait!” Kai yelled as he saw him flee. He quickly got up and ran, Cole following suit as the three people that were still around the table tried to understand what had just happened.

Jay crashed into a guard right in front of the door but didn't stop running.

“Jay, please, listen to me!” He heard the perverted boy yelling at his back before groaning. “Don't just stay there, go get him!”

Two pairs of feet were approaching quickly, even in his current stressed state Jay could hear the guards coming for him. He was caught sooner that he would have liked. A couple of buff man were now pinning him to the floor, the ginger head squirming non stop. Kai and Cole appeared few seconds later.

“Jay, are you okay?” Asked Kai kneeling down next to him.

“Don't touch me, you… you…!”

Jay might have come from a poor family, but his parents raised him to be a honorable and decent person, hence he wasn't prone to swear or insult people, he didn't really knew how to do it since he barely ever heard his parents say a bad word. Therefore Jay did the only thing he knew to express his anger and repulsion.

He spat at Kai.

Everyone gasped in fear; the guards, Cole, even Nya and the blond pair of boys who made it in time to watch Jay executing one of the worst actions a human being could do. All eyes wide open staring at the boy being pinned on the floor. Kai wearing a deadpan expression on his face. Nya feared the worst reaction from her brother.

“How you dare...?!” Yelled one of the guards lifting his fist to throw a punch at Jay in punishment for his rebellious actions. Jay looked away, bracing himself to be beat up again, he kind of have gotten used to it anyway.

“No!” Kai stopped the guard glaring at him, the man feeling smaller at the rage in his hazel eyes. Kai looked back down at Jay who was still waiting the painful blow. Kai’s sudden giggles startled him. “Quite feisty, uh? I think I like you even more now” he said before cleaning his face with his sleeve.

Nya and the others sighed in relief. “He's definitely love blind” Cole whispered to her, she agreed before getting closer to his brother.

“I told you not to be so straightforward, Kai. This is all your fault.”

“Oh, give me a rest, Nya. It's okay”

Jay fought again trying to get away from the strong bodies of the guards.

“Let me go!” he yelled.

“They’re not letting you go until you calm down” Kai explained brushing a hand over Jay's body which only caused the boy to become even more nervous, rocking his body in every direction.

“Don't touch me! You… Agh, you're all freaking crazy, damn wicked people…!”

“I advise you not to speak like that to his Highness or I may not control myself next time” the guard that almost punched him spoke again.

“‘Highness’?” Jay repeated the word in confusion.

Nya eyed her brother. “You didn't tell him?”

“I… thought it was obvious” he replied with a hint of embarrassment.

Jay was growing anxious again. “Tell me what? What?!” He yelled.

Kai gave him a soft amused smile.

“You're the first person that spits at the Maharaja's face and lives to tell the tale.”

Chapter Text

Jay held his head with his hands, knees pulled up to his chest and elbows resting on them. The newly acquired information was taking its time to sink in.

So he was at the royal palace, a place that was miles away from his hometown. How was he ever going to make it back? The journey was probably at least a few days on horse, and he didn't even have a horse to start with, neither did he knew the best path to get there. He would need a guide, food, money… But most importantly, he would need to get out first, which at the moment seemed like an impossible task.

Then the male component of the red siblings , better known as Kai, turned out to be the freaking Maharaja . He had heard the current souverain was young but Jay didn't expect it to be a boy his age! Jay never knew what the monarch looked like, his hometown was pretty far from the capital where the royal palace stood, plus nobles had no reason to visit an old ruined city like his. And now there he was, living under the same roof as him and soon to become his fourth spouse.

Jay shook his head remembering the conversation they had earlier. He had heard rumors about the new Maharaja being gay but he never thought those were real, he never really had to care about it anyway, he lived way too far from the all the royal business thing. That’s why Jay couldn’t believe his ears when Kai properly introduced him to his other spouses: Cole, Zane and Lloyd. And his brain almost exploded when Kai told him he would become a part of the royal family, live with them from now on surrounded by wealth, good food and any other thing he wished for.

It all sounded too good for Jay.

He repeated more times that he could count that he wasn’t gay. But Kai didn’t give up.

“Please, Jay, I really like you. Just think about it. I only wish the best for you.”

“Are you nuts?! You kidnapped me and you want me to believe that you just fell for me like a stupid teenager?!”

“For the last time I didn't kidnap you.”

So being locked up in a room and precluding him from stepping outside of the royal walls with guards following him all around didn’t count as kidnapping? Jay couldn’t understand the logic in the Maharaja’s actions, neither did he understand why his spouses still had a smile plastered on their faces. How crazy were these people?

“Look, Jay, either you like it or not, this is your home now and you’re not going anywhere without my permission.”

“You can’t keep me here against my will!”

“I… Actually I can. I bought you, remember?”

“What?! But you… Y-you said you rescued me!”

“Yeah but I also bought you so… you’re technically mine now.”

“Never!”

Why had he even tried to escape again? Kai and the guards that surrounded him surely could read his mind. He didn’t even make it to the door this time.

Jay had been ready to be chained up, thrown into the darkest and most pestilential cell this place could have and starve to death as punishment for his rebellious behaviour towards the all mighty monarch. But the retribution he got instead was far more mind-wrecking than that.

He had been moved to a bigger bedchamber, one that held four extremely comfortable looking beds, slightly more decorated and with more cushions that the one he’d slept on the previous night. He guessed, and had Kai confirm it soon after, that was the royal spouses chamber, where they lived together most part of the time when they weren’t busying themselves with different activities or helping Kai manage his kingdom. It was the place where he was expected to get used to his new royal status and bond with the other spouses for it was important to Kai that all his beloved people got along well.

To Hell with that.

Jay had curled up in the farthest corner, hiding between one of the beds and a large couch. He was mad at that stupid boy that seemed to be unhealthily infatuated with his bones and had kidnapped him. Yes, he still wasn’t convinced about the whole ‘rescue’ story. He was mad at those three guys that didn’t seem to have any problem with sharing their husband with a total stranger, he was mad at the fact that someone was forcing a relationship onto him, and last but not least he was mad at himself for being so reckless that morning after leaving his parents house. Screw his benevolent side, he was done helping people. He would never ever again try to help someone, specially not weird old looking men. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…

“Jay…” a voice broke his train of thoughts. Jay flinched, raising the cushion he’d been holding onto for the whole afternoon over his head, ready to throw it at the intruder.

“Hey, calm down, it’s me; Cole” the black haired man said giving a small step back as to not scare Jay more than he already was. The two other blonds were right behind him, eyeing at Jay with a worried expression. The stressed boy groaned and pulled the pillow close to his body once again, giving all of them a deathly glare.

The smaller blond leaned on Cole's body briefly, handing him a plate which the noirette thanked him for before kneeling down, his eyes were on level with Jay's.

“We brought you something to eat”. Despite Cole's sweet smile Jay didn't even need to think about his response.

“I’d rather starve myself to death before eating your sick food.”

If Jay hadn’t been raised by a humble poor family, he would have kicked the plate out of Cole’s hands or thrown the food all over their heads, but it wasn’t in him to waste aliments like that.

“Well, you ate it with gusto in the morning, what’s so bad about it now?”

“I’m not trusting you again, you... nasty deviants!” He yelled unsure of his insulting skills.

Lloyd gasped before stepping forward, anger showing up on his eyes.

“Hey! What’s up with you? We’re just trying to be nice, there’s no need to be that rude!” Before he and Jay could jump into a pretty bad argument, Zane restrained his short companion, gently caressing his shoulders in order to soothe him and pulling him a few steps back. Cole sighed and zeroed in Jay’s eyes, trying to calm himself down too before speaking again.

“I know you must have been under a lot of stress so I won’t hold it against you, but you should not use such harsh words again. They’re hurtful.” Jay snorted, as if he cared about these weirdo’s feelings. Cole placed the food on the near nightstand getting up to leave Jay some personal space before joining the blond couple on one of the beds.

Jay squeezed the pillow against his face, hiding himself just enough so he could still examine the other guys; Zane was hugging Lloyd from behind sitting at the top of the bed, tangling his fingers on the golden locks while Cole laid down at the feet of the bed, starting a conversation with the other two.

“It’s okay, Lloyd” Jay heard the noirette mutter while rubbing the leg of his friend. Zane giving the short blond a quick kiss on his temple.

‘Gross’ thought Jay shutting his eyes completely. This place was so messed up. Boys loving other boys and sharing themselves with each other so naturally? Where did this people came from? He had never seen anything like that.

After what felt like an eternity for Jay, the chit-chat between the three boys came to an end. Lloyd stayed on the bed he’d been laying while the other two moved to their respective ones. Well, not Zane actually; Jay had decided to entrench himself on the spot near his bed but Zane was smart enough to not bother the poor boy about such a tiny detail. All the beds in the royal palace were made of first quality materials so it didn’t really matter to him to sleep in his usual mattress or not.

Cole was turning off the oil lamps when he spoke to the newcomer again.

“You should get on the bed, nights are pretty chill these days.” When Jay didn’t move nor respond Cole sighed tiredly. “Don’t mess around too much, okay? These guys appreciate a good sleep” he said softly before pulling the blanket over his large body, signaling he was ready to finish the day.

Silence invaded the room. Jay’s gaze rose up and studied the three barely visible figures that laid on the low beds. The moon that came in through the windows tried to add some light to the scene, but clouds decided to make its task harder. Jay contemplated the possibility to sneak out of the room now that everyone was sleep but he soon discarded the idea. He had tried to run away too many times since he got into this place, guards were sure to be waiting for him outside the door with a smirk on their faces. He couldn’t exit through the windows neither if he wanted to keep his head in one piece. Curse his newly discovered fear of heights.

As much as he hated to admit it he was trapped like a rat. Jay felt tears sting his eyes. Being beat up was bad but all this fake sweetness around him felt even worse. They were keeping him there against his will, for Brahma’s sake! They were not going to brainwash him into believing everything was fine.

 

Cole shifted in his bed half unconscious. He would have kept sleeping if it wasn’t for his ears registered a soft unfamiliar noise. His eyebrows furrowed while he tried to focus on his sense of hearing. It was some kind of clatter. A nocturnal bird playing outside their windows perhaps? Then he heard a low gasp.

‘Oh’ he said to himself with a playful smile. Surely Zane or Lloyd were trying to release some tension … Wait a minute, Lloyd was usually shy to do that while the others were in the same room and Zane never really felt the need to go solo. Then Cole remembered the new member of their family. Using his elbows to prop himself up he looked in the direction he had left Jay earlier. His eyes were used to the dim light their room usually had at nights, it took him no time to notice Jay curled up in the same corner, trembling and erratic breathing.

Cole walked up to him and brushed a hand over his arm, Jay was freezing cold. No wonder Zane always slept on that side of the room, he was the only one who could stand the breeze that usually blew at that specific spot.

“Jay” he nudged him softly to which Jay groaned irritated. His eyes could barely stay open, he wanted to sleep but his thin clothes did nothing to wield him from the cold that had made its way in the bedroom along the night.

“You’re freezing.”

He shoved Cole’s hands away. “Don’t touch me” he mumbled, his teeth rattling.

Cole was taken aback for a second. This guy was seriously stubborn, or maybe Cole had just forgotten how hard it was for Lloyd to trust them too back in the days. The young man breathed in and out a couple of times, making sure he wasn’t going to raise his voice and wake up the others.

“Jay, I know you’re upset, and I know you don’t really like us at the moment, but please stop acting like a kid and get on the bed. You’ll get nothing from catching a cold.”

Jay knew the noirette was right, his whole body hurt from the cold as well as from being stuck in an awkward half sitting half lying position against the hard wall, but he still couldn’t get himself to follow the advice.

Cole wasn’t in the mood for childish tantrums. Pulling the blankets out the near bed he got to work; he grabbed Jay’s wrist and pulled him up effortlessly, the gingerhead tried to throw him off but his body wasn’t up for the task. Cole quickly laid him down on the bed and pulled the blankets over him.

“What are you doing?” Jay almost shouted.

Cole shushed him and got an extra blanket from a nearby trunk. “You’re not getting sick on my watch. Now stay there and sleep like a normal person” he whispered placing the fabric down on him and securing the edges under the mattress. Jay wanted to retort but the warmness that quickly built up under the blankets was too good to resist. Cole noticed him relax immediately, ready to drift to the dream realm. He chuckled softly “We can argue as much as you want tomorrow.”

Cole almost wanted to ruffle the other boy’s hair in appreciation but he knew better not to disturb the kid, and with that he made his way back to his bed. By the time he got there Jay had already fallen into deep slumber

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Kai tapped at the arm of his chair with his fingers, his long nails hitting the golden edges creating a rhythm that followed his bouncing feet, eyebrows furrowed. He was pissed. It had been two days since Jay had started living with the rest of his lovers and things weren't going as he expected. Jay didn't open up, he would not come out of the room, would not talk to anyone and he would struggle and yell whenever someone tried to touch him, specially Kai. The young monarch had tried to get him out for lunch that morning but it had been impossible. Jay yelled he'd rather be chained up again before being with him in the same room.

It hurt Kai, it hurt a lot. For a moment he wanted to fulfill Jay's wish and lock him up in a cell but he couldn't get himself to do that, he still liked the boy too much to maltreat him like that.

But Jay was proving his patience. He had denied to eat with them all the time, and Cole's reports about his antisocial behavior did nothing to reassure Kai. How was he supposed to make the boy fall in love with him if he didn't even want to see his face? And to top it all Zane had to reject him last night reasoning their loud night games would only scare the newcomer even more.

So yeah, Kai was upset and pent up. Just the perfect combination for a hothead like him.

“Your Highness?”

Kai snapped back into reality. He was in the middle of a meeting discussing… a new financial policy? He hadn't been paying attention at all but judging by the fact Zane was assisting him for the reunion it had to be something involving numbers. The guy was amazing at maths.

“Care to repeat, please?” Kai shyly asked the counselor who had been trying to get his attention for the past five minutes.

Zane noticed Kai's bad mood and did his best to put an end to the assembly as soon as possible, excusing that the monarch was feeling a bit unwell that morning.

The blond closed the door of the studio once all the men had left, turning his head around he spotted Kai hunched over the large table holding his face up with his hands. Zane approached him and caressed his back softly.

“Why don't you go back to your room and rest for a while?”

Not getting any reply made Zane uneasy. He leaned closer to his lover in order to check his state in more depth. Kai startled him when he suddenly leaned his back on the chair again and groaned clearly annoyed.

“Why is he so stubborn?!” Zane stared at him in surprise. “I… I can't understand it, we're taking care of him, he's got food and nice clothes and a big bed and… hell, he's got us! Why won't he come out?!” He yelled moving his hands in the air in front of him as he spoke. “Why?” He complained one last time now looking at Zane for either advice or comfort.

A small smile appeared on Zane's lips, Kai was adorable when he was frustrated. The blond kneeled down next to the chair and squeezed his hand.

“He’s just scared, do not stress about it.”

“But not even Lloyd was that rude.”

“Lloyd’s a different person, you should not compare the two of them…”

“Argh, not you too, please. I already got a long talk about it from my sis.” Of course the Princess had to rub it all over his face. 'I told you' she repeated time after time, making sure Kai understood she was right when she asked him to be smooth and not get all flirty with the confused stranger. Nya was a nice girl but Heaven forbid she got the right answer; her smartass side would overtake and make you remember your mistake for the rest of your life.

“I'm just saying he needs time, Kai. Trust me, once he gets to know your tender and kind heart he'll love being here.”

Kai locked eyes with Zane. “You really think so?”

“I know so” Zane's smile spread onto Kai's face. The two boys rested their foreheads onto each other before Kai leaned in for a kiss.

“Thank you, Zane.”

 

Cole dodged a kick and laughed.

“You gotta be faster, greenie!”

“Don’t call me that!” Lloyd groaned as he clumsily aimed his limbs at the taller man, failing once again in his mission to hit Cole’s body.

Lloyd was getting frustrated. Panting hard he remembered why he rarely joined Cole in his training sessions; the man was a skilled fighter, his big constitution made him invulnerable, at least to the attacks of a short and not-so-skilled boy like the blond was. Cole was a softie on the inside, Lloyd knew it, but Cole’s rough manners sometimes scared him too much. Like right now when he was being pinned to the floor, Cole straddling his back and laughing victorious.

“Okay, okay, I give up! Now get off of me, you oaf”

“Sorry, did I hurt you?” Cole chuckled as he helped Lloyd up.

“No, but you could try going easy on me for once…”

“Hey, it’s called training for a reason” the noirette replied amused.

“Why do you even train though? You don’t need to fight anymore.”

“Uhm… habit, I guess? Plus I gotta these babies in shape for Kai” he said flexing his arms and showing up the prominent muscles.

Lloyd’s cheeks went a shade darker. He felt conscious about his own body, specially when he compared himself to Cole’s gigantic proportions. Well, maybe the boy wasn’t that big but Lloyd certainly felt the size of a pea next to him.

Lloyd’s past hadn’t been the best, the lack of food or a well balanced diet marked his childhood, not allowing him to grow up healthily and so he turned out to be a bit shorter than most average people. Sure, after living in the palace with Kai and the others for nearly a year already his skinny self had said goodbye forever. Now he looked and also felt way healthier, but he still couldn’t help himself and often wondered why did Kai like him in the first place when he already had two handsome spouses.

“Did I say something wrong?” Cole’s tone went serious, giving Lloyd’s hands a gentle squeeze.

“No, I’m fine…” he scratched the back of his head trying to make the blush go away.

Cole wasn’t the best at reading other people’s faces, and it was specially hard with Lloyd seeing the two of them hadn’t still bonded as deeply as Lloyd did with Kai. But Cole was not to give up so easily. He hugged the blondie and kissed his forehead ever so lightly, never going too far to let the other boy feel at ease in his arms.

“I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. You know you can trust me, Lloyd, if I said something weird you can tell me and I’ll…”

“I’m fine, Cole, really” he smiled sheepishly at him. The noirette couldn’t help himself and gave the other a tight hug that almost left him breathless. “I think I’m gonna go see what are the others up to” said Lloyd passing through the archway abandoning the patio, Cole following suit.

“Good, Kai mentioned he had some financial affairs to take care of today, right? Bet he could use some distraction” he winked at him. Lloyd blushed again, not sure if his friend had tried to make a dirty joke.

“I think I’ll go take a bath” Cole said and Lloyd nodded at him before parting ways.

Cole waited a few seconds until Lloyd was totally out of sight then headed straight for their bedroom. He could use a relaxing bath but he had other plans in mind, plans he couldn’t share with Lloyd for they included paying a visit to Jay. The blond was not much fond of the stranger.

 

Going upstairs Cole finally reached his destination and there he was, still in the same place. Jay was laying on the bed; his bed finally. It was the only time they managed to make him move, ever since then he had not gotten up from the mattress, at least not when the other guys were around. But Cole suspected Jay certainly had been laying there for the last two days. The sharp and rude behaviour he displayed the first day seemed to have gone to hibernation mode, but anger was still written all over his face. He didn’t talk, didn’t look at them and didn’t touch the food he was constantly being offered.

Jay had had enough time to cool down, Cole thought. He walked across the room naturally, reached for a closet and pulled out a change of clothes.

“Hey, how did that nap go?” As usual he got no response. “I know you’re awake, Jay. I saw you stiffen when I opened the door” the boy curled up even more on the bed.

‘How’s he even alive under that blanket fort? It must be suffocating’ Cole thought. After pulling a new shirt over his head he rounded Jay's bed. His eyes found the tray on the nightstand and grabbed one of the untouched pastries, quickly driving it to his mouth and moaning at the sweetness. He couldn't help and took a second one before sitting next to the bed.

“Don't tell the others I'm having a snack before dinner, okay? Damn, these things are my doom. You should try them” he said licking his fingers clean gazing at the remaining one. Cole fought his craving for sweets, he didn't came back to stuff himself with goodies.

Jay was still hiding, only the top of his hair was visible to Cole. The young man waited a couple more minutes, but the temptation of the food was shortening his patience.

“Okay, you asked for it…” Cole said solemnly.

Suddenly Jay's covers were being pulled off from him and he was being lifted by a pair of strong arms. “What are you doing?!” He yelped.

“You've been under those bedsheets for two days straight, do you know how much you stink right now? I'm taking you out for a bath.”

“Whaaaat?!” He shrieked and struggled in Cole's embrace. Surprisingly he managed to get back on the floor before the man could cross the door. “Stop it! Are you crazy?!”

“Come on, Jay, it's just a bath. You've got nothing I haven't seen already” Cole said with a smile, Jay recoiling and tripping over the discarded sheets. Cole took his chance to try and pick him up again, which only started a small struggle between the two of them. Jay shouting a bunch of incoherent sentences while trying to aim his kicks at the other man. Cole skillfully dodged all of them except one. The noirette fell onto his backside on the floor while Jay crawled backwards to a corner, panicking when he saw the serious look on Cole’s face.

The fear in Jay's eyes shifted to confusion as the guy started to laugh. It wasn't a maniac laughter but more like the usual carefree one.

“What the hell are you laughing at?!” Jay spat.

Cole tried to collect himself. “You finally spoke”

“Uh?”

Cole chuckled again. “You've been pretty much a cadaver these days, I thought that was the only way to get you out of the hollow.”

Jay couldn't believe his ears.

“You… you…! Are you stupid?! I almost had a heart attack!”

“Sorry” Cole apologized getting up and lending Jay a hand that he never accepted. Instead he stayed still on the same spot and averted Cole's eyes. “Come on, Jay. You can't be like this forever.”

“Watch me” Jay replied angrily, pulling at the blanket on the sly to cover himself again but Cole pinned the material under his big feet.

“No, no more tantrums.”

Jay using all his strength pulled at the blanket forcefully and fast enough to make Cole lose his balance and fall on the near bed. Jay finally threw the fabric over himself and transformed into a cocoon.

Cole rolled his eyes and sighed. That boy had such a strong will whenever he wanted. The larger man reminded himself to stay calm, he needed to get Jay to open up at least a small bit, otherwise he didn't know what Kai could eventually do to him. He feared his short temper would collide with Jay's ability to piss people off.

“Seriously…” Cole muttered to himself then sat next to Jay on the floor. The boy flinched at the almost non-existent contact of their bodies.

“Don’t touch me!”

“I just want to talk.”

“Well, bad news for you because I don’t want to!” the blanket muffling Jay’s screams making his voice come out in a rather funny tone.

“Jay, you’re killing me” Cole exclaimed annoyed.

“That would be my line!”

Cole was running out of ideas. Socializing wasn’t one of his strengths, Kai and Nya on the other side were made for that, perhaps this was due to them being raised to become land rulers. Cole thought he was making some advances  with the boy though, at least they were having some kind of conversation now. He ruffled his dark bangs and decided to try again.

“Look, why don’t we start over?” he pulled Jay’s head out of his cocoon and pinned his arms down skillfully with his strong hands. “I’m Cole; Kai’s first spouse.” Jay grimaced at the name of the stupid king and struggled to break free. “I’m not letting you go until you agree to have a civilized conversation with me.”

Jay rocked his body but every jerk was futile under the arms of such a muscular young man. If Jay had eaten something maybe he would have had the energy to break free from his captor. When he felt his eyes start to sting he turned his head to face the wall, hoping his messy ginger bangs would cover the fear and despair he was starting to feel again.

“Fine…” He muttered. In sooth he just wanted to be left alone.

Cole noticed a small tear running down the freckled cheek and quickly released his arms, sitting on his knees in front of Jay while the other turned all his body to the wall and tried to regain control over his breathing. Cole reached to wipe the tear away with his thumb but it only startled Jay who shoved him aside with a sudden move.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He apologized embarrassed. Jay kept quiet. “That’s… that’s just me, you know” Cole tried again “I’m a bit stupid and rough sometimes, the others even call me boulder brain ” he laughed sheepishly, hoping the casual chit-chat would eventually work. “I don’t blame them though, I’m all up for physical tasks but when it comes to more sophisticated stuff I always have a rough time… Like music! Gosh, Nya’s been trying to teach me how to play the sitar and I can tell I’m driving her crazy. My fingers are too thick I always pick the wrong string and it sounds like a mess.”

Jay still didn’t look back but his chest seemed to have settled on a peaceful rhythm now. Maybe the plan was working after all.

Cole kept going on, rambling about any small detail he could think about. He complained how Kai wouldn’t let him have a fourth dish of dessert every night, despite how deep his love for sweets was. He also asked Jay random bits of information such as his favorite food, color... All questions were answered with a rather short sentence if not one word. Cole would have appreciated Jay put more effort into their conversation, for he was starting to feel weird almost talking to himself, but hey, every little answer was a step forward.

“I also train a lot, guess you could say I'm an exercise freak, I just can't help sitting still on a bench all day and studying birds like Zane does. Seriously that guy is obsessed with birds, he can even tell which species it is just by the beating of the wings. It's insane… Get it? Zane, insane ?... Ugh, I'm awful at puns.”

At this point Cole was feeling pretty embarrassed and running out of possible topics for a casual conversation with a stranger, but he could swear he saw the corner of Jay's lips pull up just slightly at his lame attempt of a joke and his heart filled with hope and joy for a brief moment.

“So uh… what about you? How do you like to spend your free time?”

“Crafts” Jay replied after what felt like a long silence.

Cole's eyes widened. That cute nervous little boy was an artisan? Wow. Never judge a book by its cover.

“That sounds cool! What kind of crafts?”

“I… I just… use scrap and junk to… repair stuff or… build up things…” he murmured. That was the longest sentence he had gotten from him in a while.

“Wow, so you're some kind of repairman? That's amazing, none of us here are that skilled with our hands” Well, in Kai's humble opinion Cole was, but he was smart enough to not make any sexual remarks at the time.

“Yeah I am- was back in… my hometown… It's what my family and I did… for a living…” a ball of anxiety had made its way up to Jay's throat, making him choke on his words and threatening with more sobs. He just used the past tense, like he had accepted his terrible fate of not seeing his parents ever again. And it pained him. It pained to have surrendered so easily.

Cole watched as Jay's chest started going up and down at a fast pace. He scooted closer, leaning his back on the wall and sitting next to him.

“Hey, you okay, buddy?” Cole was uncertain to brush a hand over Jay's arm or leg. He seemed to finally be opening up, the moment was vital, if he screwed up now it could mean the end of their peaceful royal life as they knew it. Cole opted to stay still.

Jay sniffed and rubbed his eyes, not caring about hiding his weakness anymore. It was all too much for his mind.

“Would you be okay if you had been taken away from your parents? Would you be okay if a pretentious weirdo kidnapped you and had decided to turn you into another one of his disgusting sexual toy collection?”

Silence filled the room. Cole’s hands darted up to his forehead, not letting the words get to him and instead trying to understand the true meaning behind Jay's sentence. He could feel his heart wanting to jump out of his chest. Once again he wondered what would have happened if those words had been aimed at Kai.

“Okay, first things first” he said taking a deep breath before revealing his face again. “Like I already told you; do not use that kind of vocabulary ever again please. And second; Kai is not a monster. Yeah, you might be right on the pretentious part but he did not kidnap you.”

“Then how do you explain I’m still here?!” Jay cried out loud giving Cole the death glare.

“I don't know! According to him he found you on that horrible commerce, you were all beaten up and injured and he just wanted to help”

“If he really wants to help me why is he not letting me go?!”

Cole went speechless. How could he explain it. He didn't quite understand it himself either. Why had Kai fallen so madly in love with him all of a sudden? Why the sudden urge to turn this stranger into his next spouse?

“Look… I know it doesn't look like the right thing to do, but Kai means no harm, Jay. He just wishes for you to become a part of our family and live a happy and comfortable life away from those people who tortured you.” Cole tried his best to make Kai appear like a savior rather than a psychopath.

“But I already have a family…” Jay sobbed uncontrollably.

At this point Cole couldn't help himself anymore and pulled Jay into a tender embrace. The other didn’t fight back for his body was trembling with so many emotions; anger, fear, disgust, confusion.

“If you give him a chance… Just try talking to him, I’m sure you’ll get along” Cole rubbed his palms all over Jay’s back.

“I don’t wanna…” the poor boy wept.

This was bad and good at the same time. Jay seemed to be at least comfortable enough around him to cry over his shoulder, but Cole knew there was no way for Jay to come out of his shell completely. Not in the current situation.

Another night came in. Cole had managed to convince Jay to at least have a cup of tea, one that was specially destined to calm down his nerves, sadly he would still not eat any solids. Zane and Lloyd watched from the distance of their beds as the noirette babysitted the poor guy. Cole studied the freckled face of his new companion, watching him doze off safely placed on his bed. He knew Jay wouldn’t survive many more days like this, all that anxiety wasn’t healthy at all, not to mention he was most likely to die from starvation at this point. He had to do something about it.

Chapter Text

“Come again, you want me to what?”

“Free him.”

The Maharaja stared dumbfounded at his lover. When Cole had entered his room a few minutes ago he got all excited, it wasn’t supposed to be their night together but Kai would never say no to have a roll in the hay, specially not to any of his handsome boys, so imagine the surprise in his face when he realized Cole’s visit was not for a sexy game; instead he had the most stern look on his face Kai had ever seen, and now he had just asked him something totally unexpected.

“You should take it easy with all that exercise you do, Cole. I think it’s starting to shrink your brain.”

“I’m serious, Kai. He’s not fine.”

“I can’t just let him go! Do you know how hard it was to find him?!”

“For the love of Vishnu, you didn’t even know he existed before stumbling upon him on the market!”

“I-I did! Remember Skylor’s vision?”

“Oh, yeah. ‘Something blue’ is super revealing and definitely meant you’d find a pitiable boy that would end up becoming the love of your live in the span of a night” ridiculed Cole.

“Well… He’s got blue eyes!” Kai yelled after a pause in which he tried to come up with a decent excuse and failing at it. Cole groaned as he rubbed his temples, mumbling some kind of mantra for a couple of times under his breath, asking the gods for patience to deal with his hotheaded husband.

“You haven’t seen him, Kai. He’s a total wreck, I almost had to threaten him to have to fill his stomach with some tea .”

Kai’s eyebrows furrowed in irritation. He didn’t need the constant reminder that Jay seemed to hate his guts. “I can’t, Cole. I just can’t let him walk out of my life.”

Cole pushed himself off the wall he had been leaning onto and pulled Kai to sit together on the edge of the large crimson bed. “Why? You don’t even know him. Why are you so infatuated with him all of a sudden?” Cole asked, not wanting to scold him but rather trying to extract more information so he could put the pieces of the puzzle together. Kai thought for a while, stuttering, trying to find the right words to express himself.

“I… I don’t know… I… I...” he gestured with his hands in front of himself hoping it would somehow help the words to come out. Failing eventually Kai plopped his back on the bed sheets letting out a long sigh. “I just feel all dizzy and warm when I think about him and I get those butterflies in my stomach, you know like when I look at you or Zane or Lloyd. I feel like… like there’s a force pulling me towards him... as if we were meant to be together.”

And Cole understood him. He knew how crazy and absurd love feelings could get. He was still madly in love with Kai after all those years, but he was not fond of the way he had tried to approach Jay.

“Kai, he’s not like us. He’s got a family outside these walls.”

“But we can become his family too!”

Cole shook his head and shared the information he had gotten from Jay. How he came from a poor family of scrap dealers and craftsmen and how much he was missing them. Kai felt conflicted. Of course he knew what it was to miss your parents, his may have not been the best but it still hurt to remember they died so tragically and he would never had the chance to make amends with them; but right now he couldn’t bare the thought of not seeing the blue eyed boy nevermore in his life. He was too cute, too pretty, too perfect to let go. He was an invaluable treasure.

“You’ll get nothing out of forcing him into a place and a relationship he doesn’t want to be in” Cole kept trying to bring the souverain to his senses. Kai’s heart was starting to ache and he didn’t like feeling this way; pressured to do the ‘right’ thing when his mind was totally against it, feeling like the bad guy.

“I’m not freeing him, Cole, and that’s final.”

Cole groaned and threw his back on the bed as well. He loved Kai with all his heart but he was close to strangle him whenever he pulled one of his childish tantrums, which happened more often than he liked. What could he do to open the Maharaja’s eyes?

Kai suddenly rolled over Cole and rested his head on the man’s chest. “But… I’ll think about it.” he muttered through clenched teeth.

Cole’s eyes wide with surprise. “Really?” he looked down at the cocky boy for confirmation, Kai simply nodded. Cole felt relieved. Of course Kai wasn’t a monster, he was just a silly lovesick boy.  “That’s my king.” He beamed pulling Kai’s face up slightly to give him a kiss the Maharaja would return without a second thought. The bigger male was deeply immersed in the kiss when he felt Kai grinding against his hips. His lips parting apart and switching to Cole’s sweet spot on his neck.

“Kai… what are you doing?” his breath shaky as he asked.

“I want to relax. It’s been a long day.” the fiery boy whispered leaving a trail of kisses down the tanned skin.

Cole did the maths quickly in his head. Ah, Kai’s irritable state made a lot more sense now! Their last sexual encounter happened almost a week ago, and both Zane and Lloyd had declined him the past nights as they weren’t quite comfortable with Jay around the place yet. So Kai’s sexual frustration was reaching top limits and it was up to Cole to save the day, or night for this matter.

The noirette sighed. “Promise me you’ll be in a better mood tomorrow?” Kai nodded rubbing himself against the other boy with urgency. “Okay then.” Cole rolled his eyes as a smile came up to his face. It’s not like he didn’t want it too.

Kai groaned and got to work, pulling at Cole’s shirt and then taking his off as well. Two pairs of hands roamed all over their bodies. Kai’s skin was burning with desire, not that he wasn’t hot usually, but all the tension in his body had almost turned him into a human fireball. He pulled Cole in again for a messy kiss while his left hand fumbled with the knot of his pants. Cole’s eyes widened at the need of his partner.

“What’s gotten into you?” he asked in between kisses as his hips were being lifted to pull off the last bit of clothing he’d got on. Kai aimed for his neck again, biting not so softly at it and making Cole whine pathetically.

“Do you know how hard it is to fight the urge to maul you while you’re doing those stupid planks?” he exclaimed and there was so much lust in his voice it was almost comical.

Cole tittered. “Were you spying on me while I was training?”

“I didn’t spy on you, I just happened to have a perfect view of your magnificent ass from the window.”

“Yeah, sure...” he snorted.

Cole's breath hitched at the contact of Kai's palm against his cock. The monarch growled feeling the organ growing rapidly in his hand and threw his mouth over Cole's once again, biting and tugging at his lower lip with desire. He loved being rough with Cole, after all he was the only one who could keep up with his crazy libido, but he also enjoyed taking his time in foreplay, he had learned with the years that made the whole experience a lot more pleasurable and exciting. Sadly Kai didn’t feel much patient that night. Lowering himself on the bed Kai curled up between the thighs of his lover, not losing a second to wrap his lips around Cole's member. He heard him groan and Kai smiled to himself. He knew Cole loved his mouth especially when he used it on that certain spot of his body.

Out of all of his lovers Cole was the tallest. The boy had been born with natural big proportions and all the exercise he used to do only helped turning him into an even more blissful sight. His toned torso could have been sculpted by gods, his thighs muscular and hard making it almost impossible for him to lose balance in a fight, and those big bold shoulders were of a perfect warrior. But oh boy, that wasn't the only big par t from his body. Cole was genuinely large everywhere . First time Kai had seen him naked he got pretty concerned about himself and wondered for a long time if he had a micropenis, but after marrying Zane and Lloyd he understood there wasn't anything wrong with his body; Cole was just way bigger than the three of them. Lucky for the noirette Kai had developed his blowing technique over the years and now he could fit more than half of the member in his mouth without gagging, skillfully swirling his tongue around it and stroking the rest of the shaft with his hands.

Cole jolted when he suddenly felt the tip of Kai's fingers prodding at his entrance.

“Pass me the oil, will you?” Kai demanded.

It took Cole a few seconds to react and reach for the loyal bottle of oil Kai stored in the nightstand. Cole pointed at Kai's pants with his free hand before handing the bottle. “Take those off first.”

Kai chuckled giving him a smug look. “You’re not touching me, I'm in charge tonight.”

“I know, I just want to enjoy the views.” Cole replied mirroring the look on Kai's face. The monarch nibbled at his lower lip in anticipation before rushing to get himself completely naked as well and going back to his previous position.

As soon as the bottle popped open Cole could smell the wonderful and familiar scent of herbs in the air, it was sweet and warm and it aroused him to unexpected levels. He felt two of Kai's moistened fingers making his way up his ass, a strained painful moan getting stuck in his throat.

“You okay like this?” Kai asked being aware he might be pushing his lover too fast. But Cole nodded and after a few breaths he added. “I can handle it, just don't go all crazy for now, okay?” Kai smiled and resumed his blowjob while gently moving his fingers inside of Cole.

The noirette shifted in the bed trying to acquire a comfortable position to have a good view of his spouse. The soft lights of the nearby lamps didn’t provide much clarity but it was enough to decipher Kai’s figure in the darkness and privacy of the bedroom. His beautiful skin gleamed under the orangish light, it fell so graciously over his muscles, making him all the way more attractive. His member standing out hard and proudly between his legs.

Cole had lost a bit of practice at being a bottom, whenever they were together Kai would usually play that role unless he was really pent up like that time, but Cole enjoyed it nevertheless. No matter which side Kai chose to be in, his overconfident and playful personality always made him the leader when it came to sex, even when he was on the receiving end he knew how to lure his partners to do exactly as he wanted. And Cole liked that very much. He really hoped that night would soften Kai's mood and make him more receptive to a possible truce with Jay.

Oh, right, Jay! He had almost forgotten about the boy. He left him sleeping in their bedroom with the other guys. He hoped he wouldn't freak out if he wasn't there, the poor thing seemed to have softened a bit around him. His original plan had only consisted in giving Kai a quick talk and going back to keep checking on him for the rest of the night, he wanted to make sure he wouldn't have another meltdown and wouldn't say anything that could upset the blond couple. Lloyd was already angry at him.

“Oh, my…!” Cole moaned loudly in surprise. Kai had finally started rubbing at his prostate with the tip of his fingers and sucking vigorously at his cock.

Hell, he could care about Jay tomorrow.

“Fuck, Kai…”

The monarch added another digit, scissoring him open with restrained lust. How much would he have loved to just ram Cole's body carelessly, but had he done that he knew his lover wouldn't want to see him for days. Kai fought back his wild instincts as much as he could but by the time Cole was moaning appreciatively, grabbing at his hair and pushing him deeper onto his cock he couldn't help it anymore. His own shaft was twitching in excitement and demanding attention.

Kai lathered his dick with the oily substance and positioned himself over Cole's body, spreading the legs of his spouse to fit in the space of his crotch. “C-can I?” He stuttered fearing Cole's rejection for a second. His mind was going crazy wondering how was he going to survive one more minute of foreplay if the other decided he needed more time.

Cole laughed softly. “Go ahead, I know you're dying for some action”.

Kai groaned relieved and laid completely over the boy. “I love you” he muttered next to his neck lowering his hands to aim himself at Cole.

“Love you too- oooh dear Brahma!” Cole yelped as Kai slipped inside him, his back arching with a mix of pleasure and slight discomfort. Kai gave a few experimental thrusts trying to adjust his position to something that could pleasure them both.

“Does it hurt?” He asked. Cole's scrunched up face was enough of a reply. “Fuck… do you think you can bear with it?” He asked again trying to turn his movements into a less rough rhythm.

Cole greeted his teeth for a moment then smiled at him. “I’ve been through worse things and you know it.”

Kai's heart was going to explode. What did he do to deserve such nice people around him? He attacked Cole's lips again, almost bruising them while trying to aim his cock at a certain sweet spot at the same time. The other moaned signaling he had been successful in his mission.

“Shit, Cole… I love you… ah… so… so much” Kai breathed out getting lost in their sexual haze.

“Shut up and focus on the task at hand, will you?” The other replied with need.

Kai lowered one of his hands to Cole's arousal, using the other to secure himself over the bed. “Literally?” He asked giving it a nice squeeze all over his length, a devious smile forming on his lips.

“Yeah” Cole sighed feeling like he was being sent to another world.

Long genuine moans filled the room in a matter of seconds. Both boys panting heavily as Kai rocked his hips harder and faster. Cole was most likely going to wake up with a sore back but he could care less, right now the pleasure of being so close to Kai was all he could think about; his skin so delicious as he bit down on his shoulder, his hot breath tickling Cole’s neck as Kai whispered a mix of sweet and dirty words to him, firm grip on his shaft sending him to the edge.

Cole moaned the monarch’s name as he gripped his chocolate hair with one hand and at his hips with the other, dangerously clenching the member inside of him. Kai gritted his teeth.

“Fuck!” He breathed out. “Why do you have to be… so damn sexy…” he would have yelled if he hadn’t been so concentrated in keeping up his frantic pace. He wanted to do this all night long, pleasure his lover until the break of dawn but he was already having troubles to hold himself back. Then Cole had the ‘marvelous idea’ of kissing him; an imperative open mouthed kiss full of lust. Tongues fighting for dominance and creating the most lewd song in the process.

“Fuck!” Kai cried out feeling a powerful wave of pleasure wash over him as he came legs trembling.

“Don’t stop!” Cole moaned losing control over his voice. And Kai obeyed, throwing his hips back and forth onto him, giving his cock the most skilled strokes he could manage in his current shaking state. Luckily that was enough for Cole to reach his own orgasm, his seed spurting out and dirtying both of their stomachs as they moaned in synch.

Kai rested his head on Cole’s chest. Both men panting and struggling to regain their breaths coming down from their highs. The monarch pulled out and laid next to his lover entwining their legs together as he cupped his nape and kissed him several times.

“You’re amazing” he muttered tracing his finger over the other’s jaw. Cole snorted with laughter and hugged him tenderly allowing Kai to keep showering his face and neck with more kisses. It amused him how the king could go from the sluttiest boy in earth to a cute fuzzy ball of love in a matter of seconds.

“Thanks, you’re quite good at this too,” he teased in return. Kai giggled pulling him in again for a deep kiss. “Shouldn’t we get washed?” Cole asked trying to bring some sense back into Kai’s head before the boy could switch into frisky mode once again. Kai stared at him deadpan for a few seconds but then nodded with a smile and went to get some towels from the bathroom.

Cole closed his eyes still laying on the bed. It was little things like this that made him fall deeply in love with Kai. Yeah, the man was cocky, short-tempered and childish, but he was also the most kind and caring person Cole had ever met. Ah, if only Jay could get a glimpse of his loving personality, Cole was sure the boy would start seeing him with other eyes.

He sighed wondering what was Kai going to do with him.

Chapter Text

It had only been another day since Jay's meltdown in Cole's arms. Time seemed to go by so terribly slow for both the pathetic looking skinny boy and his strong tanned protector who would constantly check up on him and ask if he needed anything. Jay would shake his head every time, but at least he didn't seem to enter into panic attacks around Cole anymore, he would even accept some of the food the guy brought him but it was still hard for his twisted stomach to process big amounts of solids. All Jay could do was nibble at some pastries while his body basically was kept alive thanks to the teas.

Jay was used to hunger. Back at home his family could go over a whole week without eating sometimes when things got really bad. It didn't make things much easier but he was used to the sensation. However the ugly feeling he had in his stomach at those moments was different. It felt weird in a way he didn't recognize, maybe it was the mix of hunger, anxiety and stress what was making him have troubles to eat. And despite his unfriendly behaviour he always found Cole smiling at him and doing his best to cheer him up and heal his sick stomach.

Jay was still in awe, not only because it was impossible for him to understand why was Cole being so sweet and patient with him, but also because the noirette had somehow managed to pass through the walls Jay created around himself. He didn't exactly understand why he had let his guard down in front of Cole the other day and even told him about his family. It wasn't like these people cared for him, otherwise they would have fred him right away Jay thought.

But Cole… Jay didn't want to get his hopes up for his soul had been badly broken at that point, but the young man really seemed to care about him as any normal person would do. The worry he could see in his eyes on the brief moments their gazes locked seemed genuine, but again, Jay had troubles trusting strangers now.

The other boys were still cautious to go near him which Jay really appreciated. The blond known as Zane did come a few times to check on him when Cole seemed to be too busy to do it himself. Whenever he tried to communicate Jay would just throw the blanket over his head pretending that action would protect him from the world's cruelty. Zane didn't push it.

 

The ginger head heard the boys talk in a quiet voice a couple of times at the door of their chamber, muttering something he couldn't really make out but he knew they were definitely discussing something that involved him.

Kai hadn't reappeared not even once and Jay was so grateful the gods were at least granting him with one wish. Thinking about Kai made his head hurt and his stomach whirl painfully. To think that a guy, which was the freaking ruler of this very land, had a thing for him, that he wanted to force him to join his depraved unlimited harem and do whatever filthy things to him… it made Jay feel sick to his very bones. How could such people exist in the world?

 

“Good.” Cole praised Jay softly.

The boy had managed to eat a second cookie tan morning and he was finishing the rest of his tea now. The process was being slow and Cole was concerned about Jay’s health. He didn’t seem too bothered by hunger which made Cole wonder what kind of situations did the boy have to face back in his town. The noirette knew too well that the less your body ate the less it would eventually demand and that could become dangerous.

Right now Cole was waiting for the liquid herbs to play their magic on Jay’s system. He had to make sure the boy wouldn’t be too nervous before dropping the bomb onto him.

“Kai wants to talk to you,” Jay flinched and stared at Cole as if he had just asked him to chop off his own limbs. No. He wanted nothing to do with the stupid Maharaja and his perverted ideas. “Please, Jay, I swear he’s not up to anything. He would just like to discuss a few things with you.” Cole pleaded.

What would a capricious boy that considered himself Jay's owner possibly want to discuss with him other than the ridiculous tasks he was to perform, considering he was going to be a slave for the rest of his life? Jay's mind became a mess, his imagination coming up with the worst possible scenarios.

“Just this time, please. I swear he feels sorry for the way he behaved last time.”

Cole's words were making his resolution crack, not because he actually believed the Maharaja was sorry but because of Cole's tone. It was sad and full of plea and Jay always had had troubles declining people's requests.

That's why he basically ended up in this mess in the first place.

Jay sighed, not really in the mood to put up a fight with the other boy. “Okay…” he murmured.

Cole's eyes went wide along with the smile that had just appeared on his lips and helped Jay out of his bed. Jay was still reluctant to being touched so Cole didn't have much chance to tussle his ginger locks to make him look less gloomy. He also offered him his hand but Jay declined it, scrunching his nose in disgust. Cole felt slightly hurt but he understood, and with that they were out of the room.

 

Kai was waiting in one of the many chambers that were either used as studio or for small meetings. Pacing around the place, almost burying holes on the floor as he stared worriedly at it. Zane who was standing next to one of the windows shook his head as Kai rounded the table for the umpteenth time that morning. The blond was actually surprised, he didn't remember ever seeing Kai so anxious. This wasn't a good omen he thought.

“Kai, why don't you sit and calm down?”

The monarch kept walking around the space, gesturing his arms in front of himself impatiently as he spoke. “What if he doesn't come? What if he already hates me so much he doesn't want to see me?”

“I'm sure Cole will convince him. He seems to be comfortable around him.”

“Then there's that too! I mean I'm happy he feels safe with him but… why not with me? I didn’t do anything bad for him to hate me!” he let out a groan gripping at his hair turning it messier than it already was.

A pitiful expression on Zane's face, approaching his husband he pulled him in for a tight embrace. He could feel Kai's heartbeat heavy against his chest.

“There’s no use in torturing yourself with what if's . He'll be here sooner than later and you'll talk it all out”

Kai snorted defeated. “That's if he ever speaks to me”.

“What did I just say about if's ?”

He squeezed Zane’s body closer. This wasn’t like him at all. It had been so long since he felt so anguished. He had discussed the matter with the other guys, Cole and Zane being the ones to bring in the most advice, the former because of obvious reasons and the latter because, well, Zane was probably the smartest person who lived in the palace and he always seemed to have some advice ready for any situation. Lloyd on the other hand stayed quiet, he knew Kai wanted Jay to stay with them but the short blond didn’t really like the newcomer for personal reasons.

Still Kai was worried about Jay’s rejection. In his early youth he had been given the cold shoulder more times than he liked to remember, the worst case from his own parents who never accepted his sexuality nor attempted to understand him. Kai was stronger now, and rebuff wasn't much of an issue as long as it didn't came from someone he cherished. And much to his distress, Kai cherished the cute freckle faced boy.

Zane was murmuring more comforting words to his ear when a knock on the door startled them. Cole's figure appeared in the gap, Kai's whole body stiffened as he spotted Jay at the back.

“May we come in?” Cole asked ceremonially.

Zane elbowed Kai for the monarch had gone silent. “Yeah, yeah, uh… Come in, please.” He said moving towards the table and sitting down, Zane following suit and getting to his side. Cole motioned Jay to step inside the chamber which the boy abided hesitantly. They sat together opposite to the monarch and his blond spouse. Jay's anxiety piling up in the back of his throat. The last time he had been in the same room with Kai things didn't go well.

“Uh… did you like the cookies?” Kai asked after an awkward silence. Both Zane and Cole glared at him; now was not the time to have a banal conversation. Kai blushed deeply in embarrassment under their gazes. He was nervous as anything and Jay's avoiding orbs weren't helping. He had planned a speech together with Zane but the problem was that Kai didn't agree with most of its content. He just couldn't tell Jay he was allowed to go back home as long as he promised to visit them sometimes because he knew the boy wouldn't waste a second to run for his life and hide from them forever. Kai couldn't let him go, not now, not so soon, not when he had fallen so hard for him. So the Maharaja did what he was best at: improvising.

“Cole have told me that you don't feel good here,” he cleared his throat. “That you miss your parents...” He looked up from the table and searched for Jay's eyes waiting for some kind of response that never came. The boy still didn't dare to look at him, keeping his head down, staring at his own legs. Kai tried again. “I… I understand it must be hard to get used to living in a palace instead of a barrack and... having all those guards around, I admit they can get a bit overwhelming sometimes…”

Zane's eyebrow lifted slightly looking at Kai out of the corner of his eye. Cole's furrowed and eyed at his blond companion, questioning him where was Kai going with all that blabber.

Kai sighed feeling the worry in his spouses eyes. He was definitely stalling.

“Jay, I'm sorry if I scared you the other day, it wasn't my intention. You looked so desperate at the market and you had marks all over your body, I just… wanted to help.” Kai took a minute to study the boy. The short sleeves shirt he was wearing reassured him the bruises were healing slowly. “But I'm not lying when I say I like you, I truly do. And… nothing would make me happier than… for you to marry me and join our family.”

Cole sent Zane an alarmed look, if Kai kept going that way Jay could freak out again any moment and any chance of reconciliation would get crushed. The blond thought the same and opened his mouth to say something at the monarch when he kept going on with his speech. “But I understand this may be a shock for you. I deeply apologize for being a jerk and not considering your feelings sooner. I shouldn't have done that. So I'd like to offer you a deal.”

Deal? That didn't sound at all like what they planned. Both spouses were starting to worry about what was to come out of Kai's lips. The king swallowed hard. He didn't totally like the idea that suddenly popped in his mind but it was still better than the original plan, at least to him.

“Let's forget about the marriage for now, okay? But please stay with us, Jay, just for a little longer” he pleaded trying to use his most tender voice. He wanted to reach out to Jay with his hands but he was scared to intimidate the boy.

Two pair of eyes wided at Kai's words. Zane and Cole couldn't believe their ears. That was not the plan at all, Kai had decided to twist their original idea to his own benefit and Cole was clearly bothered about it.

The noirette felt all their talking the previous day had been useless but before he could open his mouth to confront Kai he took a look at the gloomy boy next to him. Jay's hands were clenched, slightly trembling as they gripped the fabric of his pants. He seemed lost in his own thoughts and Cole wondered for a moment if he had been listening at all. His pained expression though meant he probably did.

Cole ruffled his black bangs tiredly, he couldn't actually believe Kai went on his own last minute and messed things up again, although he knew that was most likely to happen considering the Maharajah's personality.

Zane suddenly butted in the conversation, his voice firm and clear. “I think what Kai is trying to communicate is that you've already entered our lives, Jay, and it would sadden all of us to see you part so soon given that you already have made yourself a spot in our hearts. Am I wrong, Cole?”

“Uh?” The male didn't expect to be called in and stared confused at Zane. The blond moved his head towards Jay in an attempt to get Cole to go with the flow of the events, but Cole was still unsure. He studied Jay again, the boy hadn't moved an inch and was clearly restless at this point, if Cole were to confront Kai and bring up the original proposal that would only make things worse, for Jay would never be able to trust them again if he knew how the Maharaja decided to change tactics last minute.

“No, you're not,” he sighed replying to Zane's question. One of his hands slowly crept up to Jay's. His touch so light and barely brushing at the other's skin, he didn't want to frighten the boy more than he already was. Jay's face rose up a little just enough to look at him. “We would really love to get to know you better, Jay, and maybe even becoming friends someday. Can you… give us a chance?” He said softly.

Friends, uh? Jay would have laughed at their faces if he hadn't been so depressed. They wanted to be friends? After trying to force a gay marriage on him? These people were ridiculous. He had been carefully listening all this time. For a moment he even thought Kai was going to free him, maybe with the condition of returning him the money he paid to the slaves dealer, which Jay had no idea how his family would even manage to cover such debt, but in the end it had only been a mere illusion.

Jay went over Kai's speech in his head. Okay, maybe he really was sorry, maybe he wasn't the one who planned his kidnapping, maybe he really wanted to help him when he brought him to his home. But that still changed nothing of Jay's current situation. He was still a prisoner, certainly not the usual chained one but he felt like a prisoner nevertheless, and after listening to Kai and his spouses he knew there was no way in the world for him to get out of here. No matter how nice they were going to treat him, he would die within these walls.

“Jay?” Cole's voice brought him back to earth. The three man were looking at him, eager for a response. Jay simply shrugged, eyes closed and a dead expression on his face. The royal family stared at him dumbfounded. Kai’s hands started to shake with anxiety.

“You mean… you’ll stay?” he stuttered, the corner of his lips threatening to turn into a smile.

Jay shrugged again. “Sure” he murmured unenthusiastically. Cole at his side had turned into stone. The boy did not just agree so easily, did he?

“Th-that’s fantastic!” Kai cried out almost jumping out of his seat to throw himself against Jay, luckily Zane was fast enough to pull him back into the cushion. Kai looked at the blond sheepishly, embarrassed of how easily he got carried away by his emotions. Sitting up straight he laid his arms spread out over the table towards Jay. He wanted to touch him so bad, even a slight brush of their hands would have been enough. “Thank you, Jay. Thank you so much…”

Jay’s sight lifted up just enough to peep at the Maharaja. He flinched when he saw a tear rolling down towards a genuine grin. Jay hid his face again with his hair. A part of him felt bad for denying the monarch something as simple as his company that he seem to yearn so much, but the ginger head was still hurt.

“M-may I… go back to my room now?” his voice almost breaking down.

My room , it pained Jay to his very soul to use those words. It pained him to think he would never sleep in his straw bed again because that also meant he wouldn’t see his parents neither. He didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye to his father that fateful morning when everything changed, and how much he wished his last words to his mother hadn’t been an irritated groan because she decided to remind him the beans from the soup could cause him some ill-timed flatulence.

Definitely not the best farewell.

“Of course!” Kai chirped. “I’ll go ahead and tell the cooks to prepare the best meals ever. This calls for some celebration! How about some curry? Do you like it extra spicy? Or maybe…”

“Kai!” the black haired man warned getting close to Jay to help him up.

The king blushed. “Right, sorry. You must be tired. Go and rest as much as you need.”

Cole nodded and pulled at Jay’s shoulders softly for him to turn around and exit the studio. The boy let the other guide him back to their chamber, walking disheartened along the corridor. Kai watched them from the door and sighed dreamily when he lost them at a corner. He looked back at Zane, who was now standing near the table softly smiling at him, happiness and excitement becoming more and more obvious on Kai’s features.

“He said yes. He said yes!” he shouted throwing himself over Zane. His lover wobbled clumsily catching his body in his arms while Kai wrapped his legs around his waist, screaming and laughing with tears of joy in his eyes. “I can’t believe it! Gosh, thank you, Zane! You’re always the best with words!”

The blond male chuckled his hands brushing over Kai’s back while holding him close to his body. He was so cute whenever his childish side overtook him.

“No need to thank me, but what was that all about? I thought you were going to let him go like we discussed.”

Kai squeezed his spouse one last time before placing his feet back on the floor. “I’m sorry I just couldn’t. The words wouldn’t come out of my mouth.” He felt Zane’s breath tickling his neck. He was a bit embarrassed of himself, a good king was supposed to be imperturbable and don't let his emotions mess with his judgement, but Kai hadn’t felt so sure about his feelings for a long time. He was in love with Jay and wanted to spend the rest of his life with him.

“It’s okay,” Zane patted his shoulders. “I just hope you hadn’t taken the wrong path in this love journey.”

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

“It’s not okay” Cole gritted his teeth as he threw his fists towards the punch bag that hang from the ceiling. After putting a very sobbing Jay back into his bed he was asked to leave the room. Cole hesitated but let the poor boy have some time alone, he then headed to his small sanctuary; the patio where all his training tools have been arranged. He didn't mind using the one where the soldiers trained but Kai insisted years ago to build him a place where he could enjoy some time alone.

“I know it’s not what you initially planned but it may work in the end.” Zane spoke to him from a safe distance under the shadow of the porch.

“It’s not the change that bugs me.” He breathed out throwing more and more punches to the sack.

“Then what is it?”

Cole dodged the punching bag that drove straight to him and stopped its pendulant movement grabbing firmly at the rope. His gaze falling to the floor.

“It’s him , Zane. I’m worried about Jay. Kai doesn’t seem to fully understand the situation.”

After returning to their bedroom from the meeting with the monarch, Jay had buried himself on the bed, tears wetting the pillow and low sobs emerging from his throat. It was a different kind of cry than the last time when he entered panic mode, this one felt more heartbreaking, as if he had accepted an unfortunate destiny he knew he couldn’t escape. It broke Cole. He didn’t do well around other people’s misery, his whole life had been a nightmare and when he married Kai he promised himself he would always try his best to bring nothing but joy to the world. He never wanted to see tears again on someone's eyes.

He was so focussed in his own thoughts he didn’t notice Zane getting by his side. “Have you perhaps fallen in love with him already?” His peer inquired innocently.

“What? No!” Cole blushed. Zane’s sweet smile made him nervous. “Well… maybe. Kai didn’t lie when he said the guy was pretty.” Cole admitted after a pause.

“He is indeed.” The blond chuckled, amused at the thought of the Maharaja and his first spouse being so different yet having so similar tastes at the same time.

“This is serious, Zane.”

“You’re telling me.” The other replied. The whole family knew Zane was probably the most formal person in this world.

Cole walked away slightly annoyed. It felt like Zane, Kai and Lloyd didn’t care for the newcomer as much as he did. He was flattered Jay was somehow trusting him but he didn’t want that. If Jay was to become part of their family he wanted him to feel safe with all the members, not just him.

“You keep saying Jay needs time, but so do you,” Zane told him, a hand squeezing Cole's shoulder from behind. “Let's just trust Kai’s judgement and see where this leads us to. Love paths are uncertain, aren't they?”

Cole jumped turning around to stare at the other. Zane offering him a reassuring smile. The noirette blushed embarrassed, he knew the hidden meaning behind those last words.

“Kai's judgement is usually far from being right.” He bit back trying to make the redness on his cheeks go away, he jumped up grabbing ahold of one of the metal bars that formed the structure of the porch ceiling and started on some chin-ups routine.

“But he was right when he married you.”

Cole gulped, focussing on controlling his breathing.

“You don't have to flatter me, Zane, that kind of distractions may work for you with Mr. Self-conceited but not me. I'm hard as a rock.”

A mischievous grin appeared on Zane's face as he moved in front of Cole. “You bet you are.”

Something clicked in Cole's brain suddenly and gazed down still hanging from the bar. Zane was amusedly looking at him, face leveled with his crotch, few inches barely separating them. A sudden spark striked the larger man's body. Blood rushed to Cole's face as he gasped and a hand slipped from the metal making him land his butt on the floor. His backside ached but he quickly pulled his hands towards the front of his pants, checking for a possible boner he might not have noticed before; fortunately there was nothing like that. Zane moved a hand towards his mouth to restrain his laughter.

“Seriously? Of all people that could pull a sex joke on me it had to be you?” Cole cried out, evident blush still on his face.

“I couldn't help myself, you look way too attractive when you’re focused on your training. The distraction was effective though.” The other shrugged.

Cole laid his back flat on the floor and sighed. “Kai's sex drive is starting to have a bad effect on you.”

Zane laid down next to him, amusement still in his voice but he soon switched to his serious usual self, wrapping a leg over Cole's and softly hugging him around the waist. “Everything will eventually work out, don't worry so much about it.”

Cole looked down. Zane sent him a tender smile, the type of gesture that would always help him calm down.

“I hope so, Zane. I hope so…”

Chapter Text

A new day meant the start of a new life, a new opportunity to keep fighting to become a better person and to find new ways to make a better place of this world. But to Jay the break of dawn marked the official start of his life as a slave. He certainly wasn’t the most common slave, he had been granted permission to wander freely around the palace, he didn’t have any humiliating tasks to do such as cleaning the barns or doing laundry for the soldiers. He was being treated like a guest, a royal guest . Yet Jay felt as restrained as a prisoner.

“You ready, Jay?” Cole’s voice muffled by the door that kept them apart.

All the spouses were getting changed into their day attires before heading to the dinning hall and have lunch all together, just as they used to do everyday. They knew Jay wasn’t comfortable around them and so they kindly offered him to get into his new clothes in the private bathroom attached to the spouses chamber. A deep purple kurta with gold decorations around the collar and hem of the sleeves that was a size too big for his slim body. Still too fancy for his humble taste. He’d been looking at himself in the mirror for a while now. He wasn’t ready to face his new life.

“Jay?” Cole pressured again knocking on the wood, making his heart shrink with fear. The ginger boy bit his lip before pulling at the door knob, revealing Cole on the other side with a worried look on his face. “You okay?”

Jay shrugged with a pout. Even a dumbass like Cole could read the boy’s expression.

“Hey,” Cole grabbed one of his hands while the other reached up to the side of Jay’s face, softly pressing the palm to his ear. “I know it’s hard, but don’t worry, I got ‘cha.”

Jay’s eyes fluttered shut, his head falling down. He didn’t truly understand how he felt towards Cole. On one hand the man had been nothing but gentle with him, on the other though it repulsed him to think the guy was married to another man.

The sound of a throat being cleared startled them. “You mean we got you” Zane corrected from the entrance, smiling amusedly at the pair. Lloyd next to him was shooting not-so-friendly gazes at Jay. Cole quickly pulled his hands back, a light red shade tinting his cheeks.

“Uh, yeah! We ! Haha, we’ll all take care of you.” He stuttered. The boy didn’t respond.

 

The way to the dining room was suffocating. Jay felt like every step drove him closer to his death and, in a way, it was true. Accepting his new fate meant the death to his older self, and the fact that he was going to be facing the Maharaja that put him in this very situation did nothing to calm his nerves. Jay walked next to Cole, the pair of blondes in front of them. The more he thought about Kai the sicker Jay felt. He still couldn’t believe he had surrendered to the monarch’s selfish request.

They arrived to the hall, Lloyd and Zane saluting the guard in front of the door.

“Good morning, the princess waits inside” said a raspy voice.

Jay stopped in his tracks and lifted his head in search of the owner of said voice when he felt Hell engulfing him. There it was! The giant man, the one with the beard and scars all over his face, the figure that had been terrorizing him in his nightmares all these days. Jay panicked, his knees weak but still managed to take a couple of steps back.

“Jay?” Cole turned around in surprise, the boy had gone totally pale and kept walking backwards as the giant man approached them. Jay eventually landed on the floor as his knees gave up, trembling with fear. Cole was quick to succor him, kneeling down by his side. “Hey, Jay, calm down.”

“It’s… it's him!” He yelled crawling on the floor.

“Is there a problem?” The man asked Cole with his low scary voice.

“It's okay, Karloff. I think Jay is just a bit nervous.”

“It's him! The giant man! He kidnapped me!” Jay yelled again tugging at Cole's clothes.

The young male looked at him confused then at the giant then at him again. “Oh, I think you got things mixed up.” He chuckled. “Karloff is just one of our guards. Though I understand the mistake, you're the one who helped Kai that day at the market and brought him here, right?” Cole asked lifting his head towards the other man.

The guard known as Karloff took a look at Jay, eyebrow raised, then his lips formed an 'o’.

“I did not recognize you without all the mud” he laughed. A very sonorous and creepy laughter that buried deep inside Jay's bones.

Cole tried to reassure the boy as he pulled him up again. “He's not dangerous, trust me. He'd never harm you, actually if you ever need help you can ask him. He's one of the best guards we have and a loyal servant”.

Karloff threw a fist over his chest, a military gesture to show respect but in sooth it only made Jay flinch and hide behind Cole.

“It is a pleasure to serve the royal family”.

Cole would have kept giggling but he noticed Jay was really scared of the giant man as he called it earlier. The young noirette pulled Jay by the hand and quickly got into the dinning room where the two blonds and the princess sat around the table full of food.

“What were you doing?” Zane asked as the pair closed the door behind them.

“Nothing, Karloff might have just scared Jay a little bit” Cole explained as he guided the boy to sit up next to him on the cushions.

“Classic Karloff,” Nya chuckled. “Don't worry, Jay. He might look tough and scary but he's a really nice guy.”

Cole smiled at Jay hoping Nya's opinion would finally relax him. It wasn't until that moment that the boy realized the Maharaja was missing from the scene. Cole noticed as well. “Where's Kai? Did he oversleep?”

Nya shook her head. “He got a sudden appointment involving Lord Skales and his family and had to leave early in the morning.”

While Lloyd was complaining that he could have at least said goodbye to them, Cole whispered some information to Jay. “Lord Skales is an old friend of the family. He used to work as a counselor back in the days but he retired after his son fell ill and moved to another city. The kid's okay now by the way!” He added the last part after a small pause.

Jay didn't really care, the only thing that mattered to him at that instant was the fact he didn't have to face Kai for at least a few more hours. He let himself sigh in relief.

“But I was going to spend the day with him” Lloyd’s cry returned him to reality. The blond’s lips were pulled into a pout, eyebrows furrowed in frustration.

“It was an emergency, Lloyd. He couldn’t do much about it.” Nya tried to argue.

“It’s still not fair. He’s been all busy these days and he promised me!” He said glaring at Jay. The poor freckled boy didn’t know what to do with himself. He could see from the very first moment that Lloyd wasn’t happy to have him around, but it’s not like he had chosen to have the Maharaja go crazy for him, maybe even neglecting his other spouses on the way.

“I’m sure Kai was heartbroken when he realized he had to break his promise to you,” Zane came quick to the rescue, posing a hand over Lloyd’s arm to calm him. “But you know he’s got responsibilities he can’t avoid.”

Lloyd was still upset. They all stayed quiet for a moment, each one of them could feel an awkward tension growing up in the hall.

“Knowing Kai he’ll come back with a hundred flowers to make it up to you” Cole winked at him as Lloyd’s cheeks light up with a soft blush, he still averted his eyes by turning his head to the side. Worriness became more evident on Jay’s face, he didn’t know the hidden meaning in the noirette’s words but he didn’t like them for some reason.

 

Lunch was awkward, Jay was relieved the monarch wasn’t there to aggravate his stress but he still didn’t feel nice. Hearing those people talk about their lives so naturally, trying to drag him into the conversation every now and then, which he avoided almost perfectly each time by becoming silent. It wasn’t right. Jay knew he should have tried to let his walls down seeing he was stuck in the palace, but it all felt wrong. Friendship doesn’t come by forcing a poor scared boy into a conversation with people he knows nothing about and which, by the way, could still be considered his captors.

Under Cole’s annoying insistence Jay managed to get some food into his stomach, and much to his surprise he found his own hands grabbing unconsciously at the goodness soon enough, filling his belly to its limits. When would he have the chance to get his hands on such a banquet ever again?

He was brought back to his senses when Cole’s voice startled him. Jay blinked a couple of time, he didn’t register what he had just been asked yet.

“I said how about we show you around? You know so you don’t get lost around the palace.”

Jay went blank. “I… I…” he stuttered. The simple idea of engaging in whatever activities involving this people got him trembling. Lloyd snorted with slight anger, which didn’t help him regain control over his words.

“I think it would be profitable for you to become familiar with our surroundings, Jay. You’re our guest and we want you to feel safe and comfortable here.” Zane added with a smile as he saw Cole sighing in relief; the smart blond always knew how to phrase things better than him. The use of the words surroundings and guest had a clear intention: to not make Jay feel homesick or a prisoner, and as usual for Zane, his plan worked out smoothly. Jay lowered his head and nodded, letting the boys guide him out of the hall while the princess went to take care of some audiences in the Throne Room.

 

The four males walked around the royal residence. Cole leading the group with a quiet Jay right next to him, Zane followed suit,  alternating his position between Cole’s free side and the middle of the two boys. Lloyd stayed in the back most of the time with an unfriendly expression plastered on his face.

Cole and Zane guided Jay through the large corridors, showing him all the rooms they encountered on the way. As Zane explained the second floor of the palace was the one destined to the royal family daily life. To the east wing were the bedrooms, including the King, the Princess, their shared one and several others. Long time ago, way before Kai’s parents ruled the land one of the Maharajas ordered to have a lot of extra bedrooms built for his maybe-a-bit-too large harem. Kai didn’t fancy the idea of separating his spouses, he had heard enough stories of lovers fighting between each other for the love of the king and so he decided at a very young age that if he ever managed to marry more than one person he wouldn’t let jealousy disturb the peace of their home and that was the reason his three current spouses shared a room.

The west wing contained several studios, a library, living and dining rooms, all of them destined to be used by the family to entertain themselves with different activities: reading, painting, playing chess or simply enjoying a cup of tea while they laid on a comfortable couch or stared at the beautiful sight that was the garden.

By the time they moved to the first floor and Zane’s explanations grew longer, Jay had pretty much went back to his secluded inner world. Only retaining bits of the sentences coming out of the tall blond lips. Apparently the first floor was pretty much used for business matters as it held larger studios that Kai would usually use to meet up with important people, store documents about the status of the kingdom and its finances and occasionally host a guest in one of the spare and smaller bedrooms, like the one that served as Jay’s little sanctuary on his first hours in the palace.

“I believe this floor isn’t as exciting as the others, should we proceed?” Zane said with a tender smile on his face pointing at the stairs that would lead the group down to the main story. Cole nodded as they all turned to Jay to check he still wanted to go on with the tour. The boy’s eyes had turned dull, looking everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The strongest male placed a hand on his back softly.

“Jay? Are you okay, buddy?”

It took the other a few seconds to come back from the moon. Jay suddenly looked at the group, alarmed that they noticed he’d zoned out.

“Were you even listening at all?” Lloyd snapped glaring at him. Jay’s stuttering and indecision pushing him to the edge of well manners. “Man, if you don’t care about this at least say it and don’t make us lose our time like that.” He yelled throwing his hands up in the air and storming away.

“Lloyd, where are you going?” Zane asked.

“Anywhere where I don’t have to see him!”

“Lloyd!” Cole yelled. He was going to run to the small boy when the blond by his side stopped him grabbing his shoulders.

“Don’t.”

“He doesn’t have to be that rude! What the hell is up with him today?”

Zane opened his mouth but closed it again before answering his companion. He took one look at the corner where Lloyd had disappeared before facing Cole again. “I think he’s upset with Kai.”

“That’s not a valid reason to talk to people like he just did.”

Zane sighed. Cole was right but he was sensing Lloyd’s anger had a deeper root than just being upset with a last minute change of plans. However it was still too soon to jump into conclusions and it wasn’t the time nor place neither; behind them Jay had glued his back to the wall, pained expression and eyes burying holes on the carpet.

“I’ll take care of him. You stay with Jay, okay?”

Cole quivered turning around, his alarmed eyes searching for Jay. His heart skipped a beat, seeing he was still there but he certainly didn’t look well. Cole gave Zane a quick nod as the blond male followed Lloyd’s path.

A pair of large tanned hands appeared in Jay’s vision, brushing softly over his.

“Hey, you okay?”

Jay lifted up his chin, looking at Cole's eyes for a second before averting them again. “I'm sorry… I didn't mean to…”

“It's fine, don't worry. Are you tired? Should we take a break?” Cole's voice shaky with unease. Jay could feel the worry in his tone, which only made him more ashamed of himself. This guy seemed to genuinely care about him and yet there he was, ignoring whatever he had been telling him all this time. Jay was speechless, afraid to answer him and make things worse.

Cole studied the boy, contemplating if he should guide him back to the bedroom again and call it a day. The idea didn't appeal him. He knew Jay couldn't accept them in one night but going back so soon felt like defeat more than a step forward. The stronger male ran a hand through his bangs then moved it to his nape, scratching at the skin and partially ruining his long braid unconsciously; thinking, pondering about his next move. Keeping up with the tour felt useless at that point, it was clear Jay needed some peace to collect himself.

Then it hit him. He knew where to take him. Cole pulled at Jay's hands, separating his body from the wall.

“Let's go.” Jay wanted to ask where were they going but he was still a bit shocked, then Cole added with a smile. “Let’s go outside.”

 

Jay was learning the hard way that Cole was really not the best at choosing words. When he mentioned they'd be going outside Jay didn't expect that kind of outside . Descending to the main floor and traversing the longest hall he had ever seen until that moment they reached a big door. The light passing through the colorful stained glass tinting their faces as they approached. Cole greeted the guard next to it, the old armored man gave him a solemn nod along with a gentle bow.

A bright light blinded Jay for a moment as they crossed the threshold. He couldn't believe it when his eyes adjusted to the light. A great extension of land before him, tons of bushes with vibrant colored flowers that separated the different paths ahead. Jay's heart skipped a beat, but his hope was short-lived. Far away there were large walls surrounding what he then understood was the garden.

“Thought you'd appreciate some fresh air,” a voice sounded next to him. Cole was giving him a soft smile. “Come.” He said walking along the left path trusting Jay to follow him.

They walked slow and peacefully around the place. Staring at some of the flowers that bloomed by his feet. It was a very pleasant sight, all those plants and their beautiful colors, Jay had never seen something like that. His hometown was located in a very poor zone, nobody had much resources so the flora that grew around had had to evolve over the centuries to maintain itself with the little nature could provide. Most bushes and trees had weird sharp shapes, their leaves dry to the touch, easily crackable and with plain earthy colors. Jay never knew what real green was until he stepped on the royal garden.

Cole tried to joke mentioning something about how relieving it was to not have Zane around for a lil bit. The guy was like a human library, he said, able to tell the name of any plant he laid his eyes on. “I love him with all my heart but all that information… Ugh, sometimes it's too much for my brain, you know.” He chuckled lively.

Jay hummed, not giving into Cole's friendly mood yet.

The sun was starting to shine aggressively over their heads. Cole guided Jay through the different paths once again, driving him towards a shiny white marble gazebo surrounded by more flowers. They sat together on the last line of stairs, under the shadow to cool themselves.

“Thanks Brahma we still have some nice breeze today.” Cole commented breathing in the air, keeping a close look at Jay out of the corner of his eye, the boy had pulled his knees up, hugging them with his arms close to his body. “I… I wonder if this means the rainy season will come soon. That would be cool , don't you think?”

Jay nodded not daring to look at him. Cole's eyebrows furrowed, he was running out of patience. Taking a deep breath he nudged Jay softly on his arm and tried again a bit more relaxed. “Hey, I know that my puns are terrible but you could at least say something. I feel like I'm talking to myself all the time and honestly I'm starting to creep myself out.”

Jay's mouth twitched with uneasiness. It wasn't until a few moments later that he could gather some confidence to pronounce a couple of words.

“I'm sorry.”

Cole blinked surprised to finally hear him again, then confusion overtook. “I'm not mad at you. You don't have to apologize…”

Jay shook his head sheepishly. “You had a fight with your… friends” saying their names out loud was still something too hard for him, it felt like that would automatically connect them together for the rest of their lives, and Jay wasn't ready for that, even when he knew he was trapped in this place forever. “It was my fault…”

“That? Oh no, that was not your fault,” Cole cut him, trying to pull the boy's thoughts away from the guilt. “Lloyd was just angry at Kai and he took it out on you. It was wrong to do that but pay him no mind, he's pretty childish sometimes, especially when it involves spending time with Kai.”

Jay looked away from Cole once again, resting his chin over his arms. Kai, Kai, Kai. Everything had to be about him! Was that the only thing these guys knew what to talk about? Or maybe they weren't allowed to talk about anything else? Jay cringed at the supposition the royal spouse role could entail limiting one's conversation.

Cole nudged him again. “Seriously, don't worry about that. It will be fine, Zane will make him understand.” He smiled, a reassuring smile to try and distract Jay from overthinking about the tussle. “Sometimes I wish I could do that too.”

“Do what?” Jay asked mindlessly. He wasn't really trying to have a conversation but Cole's following words picked up his curiosity.

“Speaking.” Cole replied convinced. Gorgeous blue met his chocolate brown orbs,  staring at him with a hint of confusion. The noirette scratched his head once again and sighed, thinking for a few moments before proceeding to mouth a proper explanation. “You see I've always had problems to express myself and understanding people's feelings. I'm doing a lot better now but it's still hard sometimes. I usually mess up when I try to help others with some encouraging words, that's why I'm always so concerned I'll hurt someone. But Zane… he's exactly the opposite! It's like he's been born with a natural understanding of the human brain and he always knows what to say or what to do when someone's sad or angry or… I don't know…” He paused, his eyes getting lost in the garden that laid in front of them.

Jay looked at him astounded. To him Cole looked like a very tough and carefree young man, he even said it himself the others liked to mock him calling him boulder brain, probably due to his rough mannerisms. Jay never thought there could be such a tender and awkward boy underneath that stony appearance. It almost made it pity him. The gingerhead had always considered himself diffident as well. His parents job had obliged him to learn some social skills if he wanted to keep up the business. And though he could easily have a casual conversation with any passerby, getting close to someone was a whole different matter. Jay was aware of his chitty-chat nature and how it usually annoyed his listeners.

“I'm actually surprised you decided to talk to me instead of Zane.” Cole spoke again getting Jay's attention. His caramel colored fingers itched to brush against the other's body but he fought his impulses, once again scared to say or do the wrong thing and trigger a bad reaction from Jay. So Cole just smiled sheepishly, hoping that would express at least part of the happiness he felt at the fact that Jay had chosen him as a confidant instead of the other guys.

Jay went silent again, staring at the male for a few seconds before averting his eyes in embarrassment and confusion. He didn't actually understand it either. He didn't like being there, trapped, obliged to live with a bunch of crazy gay guys who'd probably try to do who-knows-what perverted things to him. Yet there he was, trusting them, trusting Cole just by being around him. Jay wanted to keep himself shut. He felt safe and protected inside his own shell, but Cole had something that made it hard to stay there, especially now that he had trusted him with his inner tribulations.

Silence fell upon them, only broken occasionally by the soft breeze brushing next to their ears and a couple of birds tweeting as they flew across the sky. Cole was getting anxious again, the silence and lull were starting to bother him. His legs moving over the stairs making his feet bump into each other into a fast rhythm. His mind drifting to dangerous places where it wondered if he had once again messed up and made Jay uncomfortable with his words.

He needed something to distract himself and the poor boy sitting next to him but he wasn't sure what to do. Whenever Lloyd's temper got the best of him he would go anywhere around the palace, sometimes hide in their bedroom, others he would sit in one of the terraces, or shelter in a studio and engage himself in any activities until his anger wore off, he could even be walking along this same garden for all Cole knew. Lloyd's actions were pretty unpredictable.

Cole wanted to avoid the young boy until he could check with Zane about his status, but spending more time doing nothing but staring at the world was not one of his plans, he was a man of action. Then he suddenly remembered; there was a place he was sure they'd never encounter Lloyd.

“Hey, wanna go do something together?” He asked as he got up, straightening his clothes unceremoniously and offered Jay a hand. As usual his bold movements startled the boy. “There's a place I want to show you”.

Reluctantly Jay took his hand and followed him again, walking down the garden paths they reached a patio few minutes after. A building rested on the furthest side, it seemed some kind of warehouse, similar to Jay’s home but this structure was way bigger and fancier. With colorful bushes marking the limits of the space and a paved platform connected to the building. A good part of it was now covered by the shadow the canopy kindly provided.

Cole approached the big door and fidgeted around with the lock, sticking his hand in the small opening he pulled at the wood, finally opening the space with a powerful move. Behind him Jay studied what appeared in front of his eyes. That was indeed some kind of weapon warehouse, there were several tools he had seen his father build sometimes; scythes, swords, hammers, staffs… There was also quite a few sacks messily stored on a corner, stools, wooden planks, some kind of metal balls attached to shackles. What was that all about? he thought fearing the possible answer. His brain was sending him tons of alarms and ushering him to make a run and scream for help.

“Welcome to my little sanctuary,” Cole said with a funny voice spreading his arms open and placing himself in the middle of the place “Though I rather call it Chill Zone , despite Zane not considering exercise as something chill.”

Jay kept still, not understanding why Cole had brought him there.

“This is where I come when I’m bored or in a bad mood. Focussing on my body helps me cope with stress. I told you I like to exercise a lot, didn’t I?” He laughed moving around, gingerly brushing his fingers over some of the tools that hang from the wall. “Though to be fair, I also train when I'm happy too. Do you think I may be a bit obsessed perhaps?” He waited for Jay to reply but when the boy could only stutter he laughed again.

Cole walked closer to one of the shelves and fidgeted around with its contents. Jay was looking over his own shoulder, trying to remember the way back to the residence. He didn't like the look of those swords at all, let alone putting one in Cole's big hands.

“Catch this!” Cole suddenly shouted and by the time Jay managed to turn around something hit him in the face, making him fall to the ground. He rubbed his nose and part of his forehead while searching for the origin of his pain. A stick? No, not just a stick but a staff!

“Oops, sorry,” the noirette apologized helping him up onto his feet and handing him the wooden object again. He held an identical one on his own hands. “Come on, spar with me.” He told Jay stepping backwards to put some space between them, holding the tool in front of him in a fighting position.

“What?!” the other cried. “But… b-but…”

“Buts are fot sitting. Come on, Jay, show me what you've got. You can't be worse than Lloyd.” He chuckled amusedly.

“But I've never used this thing before.”

“Never? Really?” Jay shook his head, the staff trembling in his hands. “Well in that case… Just try to hit me.” Cole shifted the weight in his legs taking in a defensive pose, holding the stick horizontally with both hands and close to his body.

Jay didn't move, shooting an incredulous look at Cole and then at the staff in his own hands. Hit him? Really? Jay may had not been fond of these people but actually harming them wasn't one of his intentions. He shook his head once again.

“Don't worry, I'll be fine” Cole assured with a gentle smile “And you probably have a lot of stress to take off. This will help you.”

Jay gave one last look at the weapon. The freckled boy secured both of his hands on one end of the staff and held it vertically in front of his body. His face filled with worry as he looked at Cole who nodded, making it obvious he was ready and determined. With trembling limbs Jay raised his arms and swung them back down and towards the male in front of him. When the two weapons collided with a strong noise, Jay flinched and took a couple of steps back, nervously searching for any injuries on Cole or himself, but everything looked and felt just as usual.

A soft laughter erupted from Cole's throat. “I told you. Don't be scared and give it your all, I'm as strong as I seem.”

Uneasy Jay tried again, and again. At a certain point Cole started giving him instructions to correct his posture and tips to unleash his force more efficiently. It turned out Jay didn't lie. He was a noob at this and barely knew what he was doing during the time they spent sparring together. But rather than annoying, Cole found it highly amusing and he could tell the activity was fulfilling its duty of distracting Jay for a while. Exercise really was a good way to get one's mind off of troubles, he thought, a proud smile grew on his lips. Maybe Zane wasn't the only smart person here after all. Maybe Cole's way to get closer to Jay would work out in the end.

Chapter Text

Jay rubbed his backside. Cole didn't have enough teaching him how to attack, he also had to give him some basic self-defense lessons. While a part of him was thankful for the knowledge, (seeing if he had known how to protect himself he probably wouldn't have ended up kidnapped and miles away from his home) his muscles now ached, and his rear was all sore from falling on the floor so many times after Cole bumped into him for the sake of practice . The man was serious about it.

“I'm sorry. I get easily carried away when I train.” Cole apologized with a crooked smile and a subtle pink embarrassment in his face.

“It's okay.” Jay muttered. The both of them walked back into the royal building, looking forward to lay on the comfortable mattresses of their shared bedroom.

“But you know, you're quite good for a newbie. I can tell you're agile, you just need to grow up some muscle and you'll be an awesome fighter in no time.” Cole said slapping Jay on his back a few times in a friendly gesture, though it only made the other whine. Cole blushed and apologized again.

As soon as they arrived to the deserted room, the stronger male threw himself on his bed with a long sigh. Still not used to the place Jay watched him while he stood near the wall, deciding if he should cross the space to his own bed and mimic Cole's action. The black haired boy shifted his position and stretched his back with a groan while looking at the ceiling. “I don't know about you but I could really use a hot bath right now,” he said peacefully, propping his body up from the bed with his elbows. “Wanna join?”

“What?!” Jay's voice coming out way louder than he wanted. His arms instinctively wrapping around his slim figure for extra protection, giving Cole an offended and nervous look. Join him? Another man? Supposedly gay? In a bath? Naked?! Had these people no sense of modesty at all?

Cole straightened up at Jay's terrified expression and hurried to fix his words.

“I meant like uhm… We don't really have to go in at the same time, I'm just used to go in together with the others…” Jay's face went red at the mention of such aberration but Cole couldn't actually decipher if the reason behind it was embarrassment or just plain disgust. “Sorry, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable.” His hand unconsciously moving forward to touch Jay's arm but the boy flinched taking a step back.

“Thanks but no, thanks.” He said irritated and quickly driving to his own bed, trying to get as far from Cole as possible.

The taller boy watched him sink into the mattress and took a hand up his hair, ruffling his raven bangs and a now totally ruined braid. Cole sighed; him and his big mouth. Deciding his verbal skills were definitely not on point at the moment, he shuffled through the closet, extracting a few pieces of black clothing then made his way to the exit. He stopped there for a few seconds studying Jay. The boy was now laying on his side on the bed, giving Cole a perfect view of his back. The first royal spouse wanted to say something, anything that could help the awkward situation, but his brain was pretty drained at the moment, maybe staying outside under the sun for so long hadn’t been a good idea in the end.

“I'll… be right back.” Cole muttered before leaving with a guilty look.

Jay peeped over his shoulder a couple of minutes after and released a heavy sigh once he confirmed his loneliness. Letting his head fall onto to pillow again he tried to curl up in the bed but his whole body hurt at any minimal movement. He finally opted to lay flat on his back, his eyelids shut trying to concentrate on his breathing.

Sadly for him Cole's words were stuck in his brain torturing his mind. He couldn't bare the idea of the noirette sharing a bath with other naked men. Yeah, Jay had done it with his father and a few other kids when he was a child. Key word here being child . It wasn't natural for a young man to get so close to his peers when they were naked, he thought, specially considering they were gay. Who knew what kind of things would happen in such a humid and slippery setting. Maybe Cole would give Kai or the other spouses a lustful massage, running his big tanned hands over their wet bodies, pressing his fingers over their muscles, teasing their nervous system until their lower halves started reacting to the touch…

Something twisted in Jay's stomach as he noticed blood running up to his face. He sprang up from the bed vividly shaking his head, despite his sore muscles begging for mercy. What was he even doing imagining that stuff? It repulsed him! Those were abnormal behaviours.

He got up from the bed and approached the nearest window while letting out a frustrated groan. Placing his elbows on the ledge he cupped his cheeks and stared at the world in front of his eyes. The breeze still had enough force to reach him up on that floor and he could still see part of the garden. The similar flowers made it hard for him to discern if he had walked along those paths earlier, or maybe the garden was so big he had only seen a small part of it. It was probably the latter. His eyes travelled to the wall and the city that laid past them.

How many days had passed since he had been encaged in this place? Three days? A week? Jay was too mentally exhausted to count, and it was also probably useless as he was to stay forever in this place.

What were his parents doing? Would they miss him? Of course they would, Jay told himself. He was their only child, he couldn't even imagine how much his parents must be suffering. They might have been a poor family in the monetary sense, but the affection and love they had for each other always made Jay feel like the richest person in the world.

Oh, how much did he miss staying with his father up late planning new inventions, and waking up being greeted by his mother's usual “Good morning, Jaybird”. The loving appellative had been given to him many years ago, after waking up with his hair tangled with straw the straw material his bed was made of. His mother would help him fix the mess every morning, then one time she mentioned how Jay resembled a little birdie coming out of his nest with his hair all messed up with the straws. His father soon added he might have been a bluebird in the past judging by the precious blue orbs that were his eyes and his chitchat nature, and with that the nickname just fell upon him. Sometimes it embarrassed Jay, but right now he would have given his own life just to hear his mother's voice again saying those words.

It only hit him then, he hadn't been thinking about his home for the whole day. His eyes opening in surprise and guilt at the fact he had forgotten about his beloved family for so many hours.

His brain replayed the prior events. Well, Cole's intense training had certainly distracted him, he didn't have time to miss his parents while he tried to keep his balance and follow Cole's instructions. Maybe the young man wasn't good at speaking but he had a certain charm when he busied himself with some activities.

Jay felt bad. He was supposed to be mourning, wasn't he? Not engaging in some royal hobbies. Though to be honest training and physical exercise didn't seem the most usual pastime for the royalty. Jay furrowed his brows, it was certainly strange now that he thought about it. Why would a royal spouse need to exercise? He understood the need to keep oneself in good shape and healthy, and judging by Cole's voracious appetite he definitely needed it the most, but why that much? All those weapons and stuff he saw in the cottage… that wasn't just a place to exercise and burn fat, it almost looked like the secret storage of a warrior.

You'll be an awesome fighter in no time . Cole's voice replayed in his head. A fighter? Why would he need to fight? Did the spouses have a secret wrestling club where they decided how to share their king? If that was the case, Jay wasn't interested at all. Or maybe he did, would he get any privileges if he won? Like getting to escape the place or punching the monarch in his face without being thrown to the lions? Did Kai even keep animals inside the palace?

Jay was so lost in his thoughts he almost missed the sound of the door opening again. Cole must had come back. Maybe he should ask him about the secret wrestling club now that the others were still… well, wherever they were!

Jay turned around only to be greeted by the last person he wanted to see.

“Jay!” The monarch, still dressed in a very pompous red outfit, yelled with a big smile on his face, running across the room to reach up to him. Jay flinched, throwing an arm in front of him trying to create a wall between them. Kai stopped brusquely before he could embrace Jay with his loving arms. His eyebrows furrowed slightly and his bottom lip sticking out in a pout.

“Still no contact? You're so mean to me,” he whined like a baby laughing at Jay's irritated face a moment later. “It's okay, I understand” Taking a step back he studied the room. “Where are the others? Did they leave you here all alone?”

Jay retrieved his arm but stayed still and very aware of any little movement Kai would do. The Maharaja sat on the nearest bed, which of course had to be Jay's, and sent him a worried look while he waited for a reply. Jay didn't want to talk to him, that guy was the cause of all his misfortune, but from the little information he had extracted from Cole and listening to his conversations with the other boys and the Princess, he knew Kai wasn't much the patient type, so he swallowed his pride and answered him, grudgingly though.

“Cole is… bathing… I don't know where the others are.”

“Uuh, bathing? Were you guys having some fun while I was out?” Kai laughed with a smirk which made Jay turn red from head to toe.

“Of course not!” He shouted. Okay, he was done talking to this guy. Jay turned around back to his previous position by the window.

Kai kept laughing, grabbing at Jay's pillow he threw it onto the other's back, hitting him perfectly. “I know you wouldn't. You're too pure.” Jay groaned and covered his face with his hands. That boy was impossible to talk to, he had to turn all his feelings and worries into a joke.

Kai was amused by Jay's reaction until he realized he had pissed him off. The fiery boy walked up to him, leaning on the ledge of the window as well. “I’m sorry, I was just trying to be friendly,” Jay averted his eyes, not trying to hide his discomfort in the slightest. He grew more anxious as minutes passed and Kai kept burying holes in the side of his face with his gaze. “Is something the matter?” Kai asked as he drew his hand closer to Jay. His whole body itching to just have some small contact with the boy. “Jay?” He called him brushing his fingertips over his arm.

Jay quickly pulled back in alarm and walked to his bed, sitting on the mattress, his back glued to the headboard and his knees pulled up close to his face. He wanted to avoid Kai in every way he could, but his luck seemed to have all gone away for vacations; the Maharaja followed him and also sat on the bed across of him.

“Jay, is everything okay?”

‘No, it's not. I can't be okay when I'm being held away from my family with a crazy guy who wanted to force a gay marriage on me the very minute he saw me.' That's what Jay would have died to say, sadly he had to play cool for his own safety.

“I'm fine.” He muttered, and it sounded so low Kai would have almost missed it if he wasn’t paying attention to the boy in front of him.

“Why did they leave you all alone?” Kai asked after a couple of minutes.

Jay pondered about it for a while. Maybe because a certain blondie seemed to hate his guts for no reason? It didn’t actually surprise him, he was an intruder after all, some hate was to be expected and, of course , the rest of the boys would side Lloyd because they were part of this weird family. But maybe he was at fault too, Jay knew he had secluded himself from the world and not let anyone in besides Cole. He hadn’t been specially friendly with them either, always ignoring their efforts at having a conversation and shooting disgusted glares at them. They had every right to not wanting to be near him.

The gingerhead tried to avoid the question but Kai kept pushing for an answer until he finally gave up. “I think I upset them. They were giving me a tour around the place and… I wasn’t really listening.”

Kai blinked with his eyes wide open, his brows furrowed in confusion a second later. That didn’t make sense. he knew his spouses weren’t that kind of people; Zane loved giving those long explanations about any subject he knew about. The boy was really patient, it never bothered him to explain things over and over when Kai had a problem understanding some kingdom issues. Cole was the most kind person he ever met and would never get angry about something like that because the boy himself had a short attention span as well. And Lloyd… well, he better not have went that far when he used to be the same when he first got into the palace. Maybe Jay was just being too harsh on himself.

Kai couldn’t help himself, placing a cautious hand over Jay’s he pleaded the boy to look at him.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Kai said in a soft voice with a tender smile. “We’re all just trying to get along, it’s never easy at the beginning.”

There it went again. The constant reminder that this crazy family was being forced on him whether he liked them or not. Jay tried to hide his face, lowering his head but another of Kai’s hand landed over his. He scooted closer on the bed until Jay’s feet were brushing against his thigh. “They’re not bad guys, I’m sure they’ve already forgotten about it.” The monarch reassured trying to reduce Jay’s despondency, squeezing his hands with utter care. Jay looked to the side, avoiding Kai’s eyes, he wasn’t ready for that type of kindness yet. His mind was still a mess; he hated being there, away from his parents, from his home, from the people he loved, but the warmheartedness of these people made everything worse. He hated not being able to fully hate them. He hated that they all, or most of them, seemed so concerned about his well-being and safety. That’s not how captors should act like.

Despite not being comfortable with the proximity, Jay didn’t pull away and let Kai rub the back of his hands with his thumbs as much as the monarch wanted.

Then all of a sudden a sharp gasp from a third person broke their bubble. Both boys raised their heads towards the door where they found Lloyd, his eyes wide open and the corners of his mouth pulled down with slight anger. Zane behind him, hand still on the doorknob.

“Lloyd! Zane!” Kai beamed and rushed towards the pair of blonds.

“Kai! When did you get back?” Zane asked pulling him into a tight embrace, to which Kai responded with a quick kiss. Jay looked away immediately, grossed out by the PDA.

“Just a few minutes ago,” the Maharaja explained. “I was wondering where you all guys were.”

“Oh, Lloyd and I had been chilling around the living room until now re-reading some books”

“Ah, my precious little bean is feeling lazy today?” Kai asked with a funny voice as he moved to the shorter male and went straight for a kiss. However the smooch never happened for Lloyd pushed him away.

“Lazy? Lazy? What else did you want me to do?! You stood me up!” Lloyd yelled.

Kai blinked taken aback at Lloyd’s angry tone. Zane tried to calm his friend down but when he saw the deadpan expression on the monarch’s face the guy went totally pale, if that was even possible for his already snow white-like skin.

“What?” Kai asked totally clueless. Lloyd’s face twisted again, his anger being now more obvious. Then suddenly something clicked in Kai’s mind. “Shit…” He muttered slapping his forehead. With all the rush he had forgotten it was Lloyd’s day. He had promised him they would go out, maybe visit the market and do some shopping, and finish their date with a small picnic on a nice valley.

“You forgot?! You really did?! Damn it, and here I was torturing myself for thinking I was acting like a brat when I was just right!”

“I’m sorry…”

“How could you?!”

“Lloyd, it was an emergency. I couldn’t decline Mr. Skales request, you know how loyal and helpful he's always been to the crown.”

“I know, Kai! I’m used to all your royal crap but… the point here is you totally forgot! You could have left me a message or something!”

“I already said I’m sorry, I was in a rush and sleepy this morning, I couldn’t think straight, okay?”

Zane stayed still next to the two arguing boys, ready to jump in the conversation the moment things got out of hand. Jay stared at the scene from his bed, partially amused and partially worried.

“You haven’t been thinking straight since days ago!” Lloyd yelled shooting a glare at the figure on the bed. Kai looked over his shoulder at Jay trying to understand what the other meant.

“Lloyd!” Zane scolded him in a hushed voice.

“No! You know I'm right! Ever since that stupid guy came here he barely pays us any attention! And now he even forgot I existed!”

Jay felt an invisible dagger hit him.

“Hey! I didn't forget about you and don't talk about him like that!”

“See? You don't even know him yet he's all you care about these days! And what about us, Kai? What about me? And Zane? And Cole? Do you even…”

“Lloyd, that's enough, we should not be discussing that now.” Zane said with a stern look in his clear blue eyes. Kai seemed to agree, having a fight in front of Jay wasn't exactly what the newcomer needed.

“No! He’s our husband and we've got all the right to complain if he’s spending all his free time flirting with another guy!”

“What?” Kai couldn't restrain a sudden chuckle. “Are you jealous, Lloyd?”

“Of course not! I'm upset because you're an idiot!” The blond yelled, his whole face red by now.

Kai laughed innocently again. “Oh gosh, you're seriously jealous!”

Lloyd clenched his fists and glared at Kai with animal fury in his eyes. “I can't believe this! You're making fun of me now?! You're the worst!” He shouted walking back towards the door.

“Come on, Lloyd, you gotta admit it's hilarious.” The monarch said holding his stomach.

“Kai!” Zane exclaimed as Lloyd stormed out of the room. “You shouldn’t have said that, I’ve been trying to keep him calm all day.”

“Sorry, sorry.” The other replied covering his mouth with his hand as he tried to contain the amusement in his voice. He stepped out of the room calling out for the boy when he bumped into someone, precisely a confused Cole with fresh new clothes and his long hair still damp sticking to his neck and shoulders.

“Kai, welcome back!” The noirette smiled.

“Hey, baby,” he gave him a quick peck as he kept walking. “I’ll catch you later, I got a mad blondie to take care of right now.” And with that he rushed through the corridor calling out Lloyd’s name.

A bewildered Cole watched him go as Zane rose a hand up his forehead giving a long weary sigh. “What was that all about?” He asked, his eyes flickered towards Jay for a brief second, making sure the boy was still in the spot where he left him before.

“Just Kai being his usual carefree self,” Zane explained. “I’ve been trying to keep Lloyd busy and calm for the whole day and everything was working pretty okay but then… Kai said some things and I think it triggered Lloyd’s vexation again.”

Cole chuckled as he shook his head. “These boys...” Zane rolled his eyes in agreement. The noirette then looked at Jay who flinched at the mere visual contact. The boy felt weird, like he had witnessed a scene that was never meant for his eyes and ears.

“Are you okay, Jay?” Cole asked as he sat next to him. The boy gave a quick nod that made a smile bloom on the other’s face, when suddenly something landed on Cole’s head.

“How many times did I tell you to dry your hair properly.” Zane scolded the big guy mopping the towel against his head.

“Clearly not enough.” Cole mocked as he teetered due to Zane’s movements.

“Want me to do your hair?” he asked after making sure Cole’s mane was totally dry.

Jay couldn’t believe what was happening. The two guys engaged so naturally in such a casual task right next to him, on his bed . Zane was brushing Cole’s hair with tremendous care, never pulling too hard and always stopping to manually untangle any knots before passing the brush over that spot. The noirette let his eyelids close, breathing in and out softly, enjoying the feeling of the blond’s fingers as they proceeded to split his hair in different sections.

Jay was embarrassed. Now that was definitely something he shouldn’t be seeing. The way Cole trusted Zane and let his hands wander freely around his scalp, and the utter care the blond handled him with, it all felt… too intimate for his eyes.

Zane looked around as if he was searching for something then let out a tiny whine.

“I forgot the hairtie. Jay, could you please hold Cole’s hair in place for a minute?”

The shy boy doubted at first but finally accepted, his hands trembling as Zane’s cold digits brushed past his. He gulped, standing awkwardly on his knees on the bed, a firm grip on Cole’s braided locks. The noirette looked at him through the corner of his eye and smiled.

“Thank you.” Zane said with an innocent smile as he came back and finished his little artwork, letting the braid fall over Cole’s broad shoulders.

“Uh… You’re… You’re welcome.” Replied Jay timidly going back to his sitting position against the headboard.

Cole rose up thanking the blond for the help as Zane placed the damp towel on the window ledge. “You sure you don't want to take a bath? We still got some time left before dinner.” Cole asked Jay.

“I'm fine” he replied dryly.

“There is no reason to be embarrassed, Jay. You're our guest, you can ask for anything you need.” Added Zane trying to take part in the conversation.

“I said I'm fine!” Jay repeated this time his voice getting a bit out of control. He slapped his mouth as he realized his words came out a lot more harsh than he intended. “Sorry…”

“No, it's okay. I apologize, I shouldn't have pushed it.” Zane said while Cole was being taken aback by Jay's rudeness.

 

An hour later Zane and Cole were reclined on a low couch, updating each other about their afternoon and coming up with possible activities to busy themselves for the incoming days. Jay studied them from the safe distance of his bed, he was surprised at how those two guys interacted with each other. To someone else they might had looked like a couple of friends chilling together, but Jay noticed things; the way they looked at each other, the way Zane softly placed his hand over Cole's limbs yearning for some human contact, the way Cole grinned as he listened to him, with those beautiful shiny pearls hidden behind the dark lips.

It reminded Jay of his own parents. Ed and Edna had always been an endearing couple, always looking after the other, always finding a moment to share a small kiss or even a brief hug. And Jay always pretended to be grossed out by their behavior but deep inside he secretly wished he would someday find a person who would look at him just like his parents gazed at each other.

How could Zane and Cole look so wrong together and at the same time be the exact thing he always ever wanted? Were these people really that bad? Jay’s resolution was coming undone and he was starting to question his own morals.

Eventually a maid knocked at the door, reminding the royal spouses and the guest that dinner was served. Jay excused himself to the bathroom, leaving the two other guys waiting for him at the door.

“So… you forgot the hair tie, uh?” Cole asked Zane as they found themselves alone. The blond raised an eyebrow at que question. “You're too fussy, Zane. I know you'd never forget something like that.”

The blond kept his eyebrow raised but his mouth pulled into a smirk. “I think you meant I’m well-organized , but anyway there's a first time for everything, right?”

Cole giggled, obviously not buying Zane's excuse. “I just wanted to make him feel part of our lives. I think I haven't been as friendly as I should have been from the beginning.” Zane confessed with a hint of guilt. Cole was touched, he knew getting used to having such a new unexpected family member was something hard for everyone, and he appreciated the fact Zane was trying his best and making amends with the boy.

“Thank you.” The stronger man said pulling him into a gentle embrace.

“What is family for?” Zane smiled, his arms and hands ambling over Cole's back.

“So are you gonna tell me what's really up with Lloyd?” The noirette asked after pulling apart, his gaze turned into a more severe one, he was quite concerned about the boy.

“I… No, I'd rather not talk about that for now. I still need to get him to open up about the matter.” Zane responded after taking a minute to carefully choose his words.

“Oh, why are you so stubborn?” The other whined.

“It’s not stubbornness, it's called being rational . I don't see the point in gossiping and affirming something you're not sure about. That would only create unnecessary drama.” The blond explained with his usual scientific tone.

“Okay, you're right, you're not stubborn... just plain boring.” Cole teased.

Zane clicked his tongue. “Well, someone's gotta be the brain in this family.”

“Of course, that's why I'm the looks.

“Ha, ha, you wish you were, rockhead , ” Zane teased back, his finger jabbing accusatory at Cole's chest. “But that's definitely Kai.”

Cole raised a hand as he was going to object but stopped, instead he placed his index and thumb against his chin, adopting an exaggerated pensive mood.

“Actually I think you might be right there…”

“As usual.” Zane grinned mischievously which caused Cole to laugh again. The noirette cupped his pale cheeks and pulled him closer, placing a sweet and caring kiss on the slim pink lips.

“Bragger.” He muttered against his mouth.

“I'm not-” Zane didn't get to finish his claim for his eyes caught the purple figure of Jay coming out of the shared bathroom. The boy averted his eyes as soon as he realized the compromising position he had found them in.

Cole turned around, partially blushing at the realization they had been caught being all lovey-dovey. Untangling himself from Zane he cleared his throat and tried to regain his usual composed self. “Let’s go?”

Chapter Text

Dinner was tense to say the least.

Lloyd had switched seats with Zane placing himself as far from the Maharaja as possible at the table. Everyone tried to act normal but you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Lloyd was still obviously pissed, it wasn’t foolish to guess his discussion with Kai didn’t end in a good note. The monarch's eyes constantly zeroed on him, a crooked smile on his face, pleading Lloyd to forgive him. But the short blond was determined, he didn't speak to him during the whole meal, not even once. Luckily Nya had a ton of updates for Kai about the meetings she attended for him that day, so it helped keep the conversation up and away from tricky subjects.

As usual Jay kept his silence and he barely ate anything, being near Kai made his stomach twist but knowing this tension and arguments between the guys were his fault just made it worse, almost turning his digestive organ upside down.

As soon as dinner was dismissed Lloyd got up and exited the room without waiting for anyone.

“What did you do this time?” Nya asked her brother as they all stared at the door.

Kai sighed tiredly “Being dumb apparently.”

“That's not new,” she remarked with amusement in her voice though he noticed her brother wasn't joking when he let his head fall down in resignation. Nya scanned the rest of the boys with her moss colored eyes. “I'd like to have a word with my brother if you guys don't mind.”

Cole and Zane nodded, the former offered Jay a hand as he pulled him up and out of the place. As soon as the siblings were alone, Nya urged Kai to spill the beans which he complied bitterly.

“... And then I pursued him and tried to talk about it but he wouldn't listen. He just went on and on about how I forgot about our date as well as making crystal clear that I'm biased towards Jay.”

“Well, you kinda are.”

“Because he's new here! I want him to be comfortable! Hell, I've stood them up other times in the past but Lloyd never got this crazy, I… I just don't understand it!” Kai whined leaning back on his hands and head falling back pointing his chin to the ceiling.

Nya pondered for a while. After living for quite a few years together with Kai's spouses, the boys had become an important part of her life, they were like brothers to her and she didn't like seeing her family coming apart.

“Okay, here's what I think; Lloyd's probably jealous that you're paying Jay a lot of attention…”

“Wow, you're so smart-” Kai mocked immediately being cut by his annoyed sister.

“And you're an impatient baby,” the king furrowed his eyebrows. “As I was saying, I think he's jelly. You've certainly cared a lot about Jay these days, and I understand you mean no harm but you shouldn’t focus that much on the boy. He's got the others to help him too and I know for a fact he's getting along with Cole; he's not hopeless, Kai. Don't treat him like he's an abandoned baby, he's safe with us .”

Kai let out a heavy sigh and avoided Nya's gaze. Why did she always have to make him feel so wrong? Oh, maybe because she got lucky and didn't inherit their father's short temper. Nya had the skills to easily see the situation from outside the box, which helped her take the best decisions.

“I know you want him to feel good here but this is not the way. Don't let the others down by trying to get close to Jay, instead why don’t you focus on getting close all together , like the family we are?”

See? Best decision. If Nya and Zane weren't so physically different Kai could have sworn they were somehow related, both always managed to give good advice. The Maharaja breathed out, he felt a bit relieved but also embarrassed because, once again, his sister proved to be a wise young woman.

“I guess you're right.” He muttered.

“What? Sorry, I think there was something stuck on my ear.” She teased leaning closer as she pulled at her own earlobe.

Kai pushed her face away with the palm of his hand, making Nya lose balance for a moment. “Don't make fun of me.”

“Why not? It's my duty as a sister to embarrass you whenever I can. And you know, being humble wouldn't hurt you for once.”

“Yeah? Well it's also my duty as a brother to bully you.” Kai shouted throwing himself over the girl to tousle her hair ruining its perfect and tidy appearance. Nya countered quickly, also pulling at her brother's hair since she knew it drove the boy crazy and pinned him down on the floor marking the start of an innocent sibling wrestle. Soon the youngsters were laughing again, hair sticking out in all directions and wrinkled clothes over their bodies. Nya may have been a pain in the ass sometimes but Kai was glad he still had her sister and thanked the Gods for not taking every member of his family away on that earth-shaking day. He didn't know what would have been of him if he had also lost his sister five years ago.

“You know what's funny about this?” Kai paused checking his sister’s inquiring gaze. “Lloyd knew what he was getting into when he married me. He knew I had more spouses and that he was going to share me, and he's never got a problem with it, he's never been envy of me spending time with Zane or Cole until… now. I wonder why…”

“Maybe you should go ask him.” Nya patted his shoulder sending him an encouraging smile.

Kai felt brave again, determination filled his eyes. The day wasn't over yet, he still had time to make it up to Lloyd for the failed date. He was not going to let the boy go to sleep while being angry at him.

Giving a quick hug to his sister the monarch rose up and left the room.

 

Back in the spouses chamber, Lloyd had buried himself under the bed sheets, Zane and Cole on the floor played some board game and Jay simply stared at them from the sacred spot his bed had turned into.

“Cole.” Zane called to his companion, signaling it was his turn to move the pieces, but his friend wasn’t much up for the task.

“This isn’t cool,” he complained with a sigh. “It’s way better when we play all together. Come on, Lloyd, get out of there.”

“I said no!” The blond’s voice echoed around the room, his cold tone sending shivers down their spines.

Cole turned his head around asking Jay again if he wanted to join them, but the freckled boy shook his head with distress. He was scared he’d do anything that could bother their blond companion even more. Cole gave an exasperated sigh, his voice raspy from the tension that had gathered in his throat. He laid his belly flat on the floor, all limbs stretched out. “Joy killers...” He mumbled under his breath.

Zane sent him a pity look, his brain worked quickly trying to find a way to uplift the mood. “You know, Cole, if you don’t want to play with me because you know you’re going to lose you could just say it, I don’t mind playing a different game.”

The noirette raised his face from the floor immediately. “What?! Oh, don’t get so full of yourself, you smartass. I’m so going to beat you on this.” He gushed throwing the dice.

Ah, Cole was so simple, that’s what Zane liked about him. His rawness could make him look scary and tough at first, but in sooth he was so easy to get along with. So tender, so childish, so loveable.

For a while, the only sound in the room were the click of the dices shaking inside the cups, a few words exchange between the two players and Cole whining occasionally. Looks like the noirette wasn’t lucky that night.

Then a sudden knock on the door broke the monotony. Jay, who had now acquired a comfortable position on his bed, lifted his head over his shoulder to watch the scene. Kai appeared before the big door, Cole and Zane greeted him with a smile while Jay only averted his eyes and pretended to go back to sleep, though in fact he made sure to put his hearing sense to work.

Kai kneeled down by Lloyd’s bed, finding a still angry pout on his face.

“Hi...” the monarch said with a shy smile.

“Go away.” Lloyd bit back throwing the sheets over himself.

“Lloyd, can we talk?”

“I’ve got nothing to talk with you.” Said the muffled voice.

Kai’s smile contorted, his gaze searching for his other lovers for comfort. Cole gestured for him to try once again and Zane nodded in agreement.

“I want to apologize.”

“Well, congrats, you just did. Now. Go. Away.” Retorted the upset young male.

“Not like this, just the two of us. This is important, I only want to talk. Please, Lloyd…”

The request sounded so emotional in Kai’s voice it made the spouse flinch. He had said ‘please’; Kai was not a man that easily admitted his errors, it hurt his dignity like fire destroyed a dry meadow field. Lloyd pondered for a few minutes, he was still mad at him but it was clear Kai now acknowledged his anger and the reasons behind it and he wanted to fix this mess. Lloyd removed the fabric over his head partly and zeroed at Kai, he was still not sure about this. His eyelids shut as he breathed out trying to calm himself before the desire to smack the monarch with the pillow would come back to him.

“Okay…” Lloyd murmured.

In a matter of seconds the couple was out of the room.

“Do you think it’ll work?” Cole asked Zane.

“When has Kai ever failed us?” The blond replied with a firm smile.

Cole chortled. “Are you really asking that?” Zane followed his laughter.

Seeing any meaningful conversation was now over, Jay rearranged himself under the covers and decided to shut down his brain now that the two threats that were Kai and Lloyd weren’t around anymore.

 

“Where are we going?” Asked Lloyd when the Maharaja guided him opposite to his room and towards the stairs. Kai just motioned for him to follow his lead, the shorter boy huffed but did as he was told. After reaching the main floor Lloyd was now even more confused. Was Kai taking him to the throne room for a private chat?

They stopped in front of one of the garden doors. Two guards were waiting for them, holding some red clothing in his hands. Kai took one of the coats putting it on and handing the other to Lloyd who raised an eyebrow.

“Put it on.”

“Why?”

“Just do it.” Lloyd rolled his eyes as Kai placed the fabric over his back and almost dressed him. The monarch nodded at the guards as they opened the door and let them out. Lloyd was now thankful for the extra layer of clothes he had just received. For living in such a warm country, nights could get surprisingly chilly outside. He fixed his collar pulling it up for some extra protection against the breeze.

After walking a few steps behind Kai, Lloyd noticed a light source ahead of them. “What’s th-?” Lloyd’s eyes widened. Right before them, in the middle of the grass and flowers laid a large carpet surrounded by four lanterns. A couple of cushions were placed on the fabric as well as a low table with a tray, two glasses and a liquor bottle.

“W-wh-what… what…” Lloyd stuttered.

Kai grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the carpet. “I know I promised you a picnic in the woods but I hope this works too.” He said with a sheepish grin and unconsciously biting his lip.

Lloyd was speechless. Out of all the possible things he never imagined Kai would pull something like this for him.

“You’re up for a date?” the Maharaja asked.

Lloyd gaped, his green orbs moving from the scene to Kai and vice versa, still processing what was happening. “I… I…” He could feel his cheeks heating up as Kai stared at him. “Argh, yes…” He finally groaned using a hand to cover part of his reddened face.

They sat down and made themselves comfortable with the cushions. Kai uncovered the tray revealing some diamond shaped yellowish sweets. It hadn't been that long since they ate but Kai wanted to make this as close as possible to the original plan, so he had taken some of the leftovers from dinner, and luckily for him those were one of Lloyd's favorite desserts, he would never decline a bite of barfi. The mixture of condensed milk and sugar melted in his mouth with such perfection it was hard to think of anything else more pleasurable. Kai also poured some liquor into their glasses. It smelled nice and tasted fruity, like a mix of peach and something else Lloyd couldn't quite make out, but anyway he was glad it wasn't one of those nasty drinks they had to take when Kai had an important guest around.

Darkness raised soon upon their heads. The boys were now laying next to each other, Kai tangling his fingers in Lloyd's blond beautiful locks as the younger rested his head over the other's chest, contemplating the shining stars scattered all over the celestial sphere.

“I'm so sorry.” Kai repeated for the upteenth time.

“It's okay.” The shorter male answered, his ears focused on listening to Kai's soothing heartbeat.

“You're not mad anymore?” Lloyd took his time to reply.

“No, but… I'm still a bit hurt.”

Kai pulled his chin up with his free hand locking gazes with Lloyd. “You know I love you, right?”

Lloyd nodded embarrassed as Kai dipped his head down and gently placed his lips over the blonde, just a soft chaste kiss to test the waters, as he noticed Lloyd reciprocated Kai then pushed harder adding just a tiny bit more passion. After they parted Lloyd snuggled closer and settled his eyes again on the night sky.

“Can I ask you something?” Kai said after a while. He heard a soft humm coming from down below his head. “Do you… have a problem with Jay?” Lloyd's sudden stiffness didn't go unnoticed.

“Why are you asking me that?”

“You've never had a problem with sharing me with Cole or Zane. I understand I have been maybe a little too excited about Jay living with us,” He said quickly and lowering his voice at the mention of his mistake. “But I never thought that would drive you so crazy. Did something happen between you two? Did… Jay do something to you?”

Kai was reaching the point of the question. Not even Lloyd was sure he knew the answer, or more like he didn't want to know. Jay had pissed him off since the first moment he saw him and, for some reason, ignoring the motive behind this aversion had been easier for Lloyd than taking a moment to think about it and maybe even find a solution. Now he had no escape. Kai was trying his best to make up for his error so it was only fair Lloyd manned up in return as well.

“I… just don't like him.” Lloyd started “You’ve been so devoted to him, coming to ask how he's doing everyday, asking the cooks to make an extra ration of samosas just for him, giving him space… yet all he does is ignore you. I can't stand it.”

“Well, he's been through a lot from what I can tell.”

“But it's not fair! You're only doing things to make him feel happy yet he doesn't even try to understand or appreciate it!” Lloyd complained.

Kai giggled “Kinda reminds me of someone, uh?” Said returning his eyes to the shining dots over him. Lloyd fell silent, then suddenly sat up, his arms abandoned Kai's body. The monarch followed suit. “Lloyd?” He asked fearing he had just screwed things up again before he even fully fixed the situation.

“That's another reason why I also dislike him.” Lloyd said trying to gather some courage to keep his voice steady. “All his actions… he's a constant reminder of what I used to be, of how I… how I hurt you back when I started living with you all. I don't like it. I don't like going back to those days. I don't want to see you hurt...”

Kai scooted closer to find a tear rolling down Lloyd's face. “Hey, baby, it wasn’t that bad.”

“It was! I kept pushing you away and saying those nasty things when you only wished to help me. I know I was horrible, and I’m seeing it now with my own eyes and it drives me nuts.” He groaned covering his face with both hands, elbows resting on his knees.

Kai listened to him, studying Lloyd’s words and trying to find the true meaning behind them. This wasn’t just about Jay acting like a kid, there was something else underneath. “What’s bothering you?” He asked the boy placing an arm over the his shoulders to embrace him softly.

Lloyd breathed in silence. Kai was poking at his inner demons, fears he had kept hidden for a while, psychological injuries he thought he was way over them now.

“You know my parents didn’t love me, not in the slightest,” Lloyd spoke “What if… what if I can’t love either?” His speech getting slower at each new word, anxiety gathering up in his throat in the shape of a nasty ball that made it hard for him to swallow. “What if I my feelings for you aren’t love but just some fake affection like my parents had towards me? I even still have trouble getting all amorous with Zane or Cole. What if I don’t have it in me to… genuinely love…?” Lloyd was now lost in his blabber. His speech didn’t make sense anymore.

Kai stifled a giggle for he had learn not to laugh when Lloyd was frustrated. Instead he pulled him closer and reached a hand up to his face, caressing a wet cheek. “Hey, we’ve talked about it. All I ever asked you guys is to get along with each other but you don’t need to get all cuddly if you don’t feel like it, Lloyd, and it’s okay if you want to do that stuff with only me for the rest of your life; we’ll never push you to do otherwise.” The blond tried to look at Kai’s hypnotizing greenish eyes but his heart was aching too much to keep his gaze steady. “But going back to the real issue; our parents leave behind their legacies, not our destinies. You don’t have to be scared about not being able to love because no one ever taught you; you’re doing it just great already.”

“But how do you know it’s genuine?” The blond chided nervously. “I could be… I don’t know! I could be just pretending because it’s convenient to me, because I don’t have anywhere else to go…”

Kai pulled his chin up smiling. “Trust me, I know true love when I see it.” He gently closed the gap between their lips. Lloyd placed his hands over Kai’s chest to support his shaking body. There were so many emotions running through his veins; anger towards his materialistic parents who never loved him, fear of becoming like them, fear of hurting someone so special and kind as Kai or the others, hate towards his younger self for not realizing sooner what a loving family these people were and for screwing things up again with his childish behaviour, jealousy at all the attention the newcomer had been receiving.

Kai felt Lloyd's lips tremble against his. As they parted the shorter male leaned his forehead near the monarch's neck. “I'm sorry I ruined everything.”

“You didn't, I'm actually thankful you got upset otherwise we wouldn't have had the chance to talk about this.”

“But I hurt you, I feel so bad…”

“And you know what that means?” Lloyd shook his head. “It means you care for me. And if you care for me… it means you love me.” Kai murmured with a tender voice next to his ear. Lloyd's shoulders bobbed in synch with his sobs. He buried himself in the crook of Kai's neck as the Maharaja laid them back onto the carpet, keeping his spouse as close as possible to him. He let the poor boy cry and release all these feelings he had been bottling up. Kai hugged him tight, one hand wrapped under Lloyd rubbing his back, the other caressing his head and playing with the golden locks.

As the boy became calmer, Kai started planting kisses on him. First the hairline, then the forehead, then his temple, his ear, his cheek, his nose, until Kai finally reached his small lips, which were now slightly swollen due to Lloyd biting them during his sobbing. Kai put so much love and care in his ministrations, soon Lloyd had forgotten about his aching heart and totally surrendered to his husband, pushing himself harder onto Kai's mouth, rejoicing in the feeling.

They didn't know how much time had passed when the breeze picked up and seeped  through their clothes. Lloyd shivered panting against Kai. The brunette brushed his thumb over swollen lips.

“It's getting cold. Let's get back and warm up.”

Lloyd agreed and walked hand in hand with Kai towards the palace. As they got to the family floor, Kai kept pulling Lloyd to the end of the corridor and into his room. With not a single light on the chamber was dark, but the moonlight that came through the windows and balcony provided everything they needed, just a soft feeble light enough to make out the shape of each other.

Standing in the middle of the room the monarch unbuttoned Lloyd's coat, giving him a passionate kiss all along.

“Kai?” Lloyd breathed out.

“I said I was going to warm you up, didn't I?” Sliding the piece of clothing down his arms he pulled the boy close to his body, his lips now moving over the light tanned skin of Lloyd's neck. The blond gasped and squeezed Kai's clothed biceps for support, the Maharaja pulling back cautiously, scared he might be rushing things. “You don't want to?”

Lloyd blushed, he looked to the side and thought for a few seconds. “I do.” He finally replied, his eyes going back to Kai and smiling timidly.

A happy grin made its way on the Maharaja's face. His arms went back to Lloyd once again, encasing his smaller figure in the tight space between their bodies. Lloyd went to work, taking the coat off the monarch as he kept showering his neck with more kisses. Their inner shirts were carelessly thrown onto the floor as well. Grabbing Lloyd's hand they moved to the bed and under the sheets.

Kai composed himself, fighting back his lust and trying to be extra romantic for this special occasion. He wanted Lloyd to feel loved, to understand he deserved to be loved, to see what he saw everyday; a beamish, smart and adorable boy, someone who brought so much joy to his life since he joined the family.

They laid on their sides, legs tangled into each others, Kai's touch was feathery against the blond's skin pulling out the cutest gasps from his spouse every time his fingertips brushed over a sensitive spot.

Lloyd's hands also wandered over Kai's body, marveling at the feeling of his hard muscles that he loved so much. The boy grew anxious, moving his hands to Kai's hips and stealthily sliding them inside the pants to get a taste of the skin hidden underneath. A groan getting choked in Kai's throat as Lloyd squeezed the start of his buttock. The monarch bit his lip fighting his wild instincts but his spouse was making it harder than ever.

The brunette eventually moved on top of the other, towering over him as he attacked his neck. Lloyd let out a breathy moan as his fingers pressed onto Kai’s shoulder blades and bucked his lower half. The sweet friction of their hips was intoxicating, Kai was going crazy. How could he restrain himself when Lloyd was being so erotic?

His teeth stroked the blond’s neck before he unconsciously sank them in the precious skin, earning a cry from his companion. Kai immediately threw his tongue to caress the same spot as Lloyd trembled beneath him, feeble moans coming out of his mouth.

Shit, he wasn't make it easy.

Kai groaned as he tried to regain control over his mind. He moved down leaving a trail of kisses all over Lloyd's chest and stomach as he softly teased one nipple, catching it between two fingers and rolling it against the tips. Lloyd hissed at the sensation, his legs squirming under Kai, itching for more contact.

The monarch resumed his journey, running his hands down his husband's sides and finally reaching the hem of the pants. Kai planted open mouthed kisses over the growing bulge, wetting the fabric at the same time his fingers threatened to pull it down but never really doing it.

“Kai…” Lloyd pleaded unconsciously shoving his hips up to Kai's hot lips.

The Maharaja had a soft spot for begging. He loved when his lovers were at his mercy. In another setting Kai would have kept torturing him just a bit longer but he already was having a hard time at restraining his desire. With practiced movement he pulled the obstacles down just enough for Lloyd's cock to spring free from the fabric prison. Kai placed his lips over the head, giving it a few tentative licks that made Lloyd jump in his spot. His husband placed a hand over his hip bone, pushing him down and back onto the mattress.

“Relax, I haven't even started.” Kai's words came out in a murmur, the soft erotic sound of his voice had Lloyd tense up, anticipating what was to come.

The blond moaned loudly as Kai took him in his mouth and swirled his tongue around the shaft. Fingers digging into the sheets. Lloyd's back arched, or tried to as the Maharaja still had him pinned down. He sucked harder on him, starting what would become a long moan concert.

Lloyd was tossing his head left and right constantly. He was kinda thankful Kai didn't think about turning on the lamps, he was sure if he got a clear-cut view of the scene going on below his waist he would cum at that right instant. Kai was too hot, attractive and so confident in his bed skills and all of that showed up in his eyes. A pair of sweet greenish eyes that could make Lloyd melt in a matter of seconds.

With an obscene pop Kai released Lloyd's cock from his mouth to trail his tongue along the shaft, pausing at the base to place more kisses as his free hand played with the head again, thumb rubbing at the underside.

“Ah, Kai, please!” Lloyd moaned squeezing the hand placed over his hip.

Kai was seriously on the verge. ‘Just a bit more’ he reminded himself. Propping himself up his mouth went back to Lloyd's face, giving him a long sharp kiss. The blond boy moaning appreciatively at the action.

“I'm going to prep you, okay?” He warned. Lloyd hummed in agreement, excitement pooling in his stomach as his beloved Maharaja got rid of the last pieces of clothes and took the oil bottle from the nightstand. Kai landed on his side, capturing one of Lloyd's legs between his, stirring his companion to keep them spread as he moved his lubed fingers down his ass. Lloyd flinched at first, just as usual, and Kai chuckled. With ease he slipped one digit inside. A breath getting caught in Lloyd's throat as the brunette felt him around, adding more fingers whenever he seemed to be ready for it.

Kai kept Lloyd's mouth sealed with his lips. The monarch kissed him softly, then harsh, then long, then tugging gingerly at his lower lip. Lloyd responded with more passion every time, letting his tongue go out and explore the wet cavern that was Kai's mouth, their tongues moving in synch as tiny droplets of saliva fell from them.

Lloyd was losing his mind, fucking himself on Kai's fingers as the male skillfully aimed them at his prostate. He felt strange; dazed yet extremely aroused. Maybe it was the liquor's fault. Lloyd had always been so shy about their sexual encounters but there he was; dying for Kai to give him more, to surrender to a much more primal pleasure.

“K-Kai… Kai, please, I… Ah…”

“What? Does it hurt?” Kai asked him stopping his hand.

“No…” Lloyd answered. Blood rushing to his face painfully. The darkness came in handy at the moment, he felt protected by the shadows. If Kai couldn't see his pleading eyes, he felt freer to say and act as he wanted. “I… I want you… ” He finally confessed, his lips brushing against Kai’s ever so gingerly.

A breathy moan escaped the other’s mouth. Kai’s resolution said its farewell. It was rare for Lloyd to be so vocal when they had sex. He’d normally blush and sheepishly agree to every new idea Kai had. What was happening tonight? Had it been the liquor they drank earlier? Or the fight? Or maybe the mess of feelings Lloyd seemed to had bottled up on the previous days? Kai had to admit he was a little bit worried but hell, he was not going to miss the chance being presented to him in the form of a hot blond asking to ruin him. They could keep working on their problems when they both were more… relaxed.

Swiftly Kai moved on top of him again, dick already moistened with oil and poking tentatively at Lloyd’s ass while his mouth went back to the tanned neck, sucking hard on the skin to leave some red marks. Lloyd whined at the teasing.

“Kai… Please, I-I can’t...”

The Maharaja smirked deviously. “You want this?” He asked lowering his voice with the clear intention of making Lloyd go crazy. The blond felt Kai’s member push a bit harder against him but not enough to fully merge their bodies together.

“Yes!” Lloyd moaned with need, limbs clutching at Kai’s frame. A barely audible curse came out of Kai’s lips as he pushed deeper, giving in to Lloyd’s request. The boy panting at the wonderful warm feeling. Kai was hot and not just metaphorically but literally as well, his erection rubbing on Lloyd’s inner walls. Surprisingly it wasn’t tight at all like other times, which only made the poor boy more eager. “Move… Kai… please, please…”

His constant begging turning the monarch on even more. Biting his lip with enough force to rip the skin he shifted his weight on the bed, and pressing their bodies together he gave Lloyd a lustful round of kisses as he rocked his hips. The smaller boy lifted his legs allowing him more access.

Both males losing themselves under the sheets. Pleasure running through their veins, making Lloyd giddy and clinging desperately at Kai as he plunged himself deeper, aiming his thrusts at the bundle of nerves inside Lloyd’s ass as he stroked him. Lloyd became a loud moaning mess, Kai’s mouth failing at shutting the blond up as the boy marked his back with sharp nails. The stinging mixing up with the pleasure of holding his precious spouse.

Kai rested his head on the crook of Lloyd’s neck, skin wet with sweat.

“Kai! O-oh, Ka-ai!” Lloyd stuttered with rush. “I’m… I’m gonna…!”

‘Already?’ Kai thought. No, no, no. He still wanted to keep pleasuring Lloyd, this could not be over so soon! Thinking fast, Kai moved his hand on Lloyd’s arousal to the base, squeezing hard on it and earning an annoyed whine from the other.

“K-kai! What…?”

“Hold on, please, just a little longer…” He demanded keeping the firm grip on his cock.

Lloyd gasped, crying at the monarch’s deeds. He was so close, his lower half burned like hell, imploring an immediate release, it was painful. Deliciously painful.

“Kai, please! Ah! I need to…”

“On one condition…” the monarch breathed out. He was also reaching his limit. “Say you love me.”

Lloyd gasped but wasted no time in complying his king’s wishes. “I love you” he whispered.

“Say it again.”

“I…ngh, love you...”

“Again.”

“I love you!” Lloyd yelled, his eyes shutting and head rolling back as Kai freed his cock and fucked him relentlessly. Lloyd trembled and moaned like he was being paid reaching the most powerful climax he had ever experienced. “Lu- uhh…! Luv youhh…!” He kept repeating, his words becoming messier at every new try. Kai was pleasuring him to a point he never dreamed of before.

“Fah…! I love you too!” Kai groaned as his seed finally flowed out of his body, grip firm on Lloyd’s hips and still thrusting a few more times before he slowly came to a stop, panting for air. He rested his head on Lloyd’s chest, listening to the boy’s erratic breathing and crazy heartbeat.

Kai suddenly feeling lethargic. The journey and few hours of sleep he had last night were now piling on him, and Lloyd’s body was so soft and warm, he wished he could had stayed there forever enjoying his touch. But his softening dick reminded him to pull out of the boy. Kai now laying next to him again, a hand patting tentatively over Lloyd’s features trying to cup his face in the darkness, but he made an unexpected discovery; a wet cheek.

“Lloyd?” He arched into the boy, their faces only inches apart. His fingertips followed the wet trail upwards, they came from the blond’s eyes. “Baby, are you okay? Did I… Did I overdo it?” Nothing would ever scare Kai more than hurting his lovers. They were everything he had in the world.

“I’m fine.” He replied, voice raw from all the screaming.

“But y-you are crying. I’m sorry I-I thought…”

“I’m fine,” the blond replied, gulping down a ball of excitement from the over-stimulation Kai drew him to. Gathering up the low energy he had in his body Lloyd cuddled up into Kai’s strong chest. “I just love you.” He said weakly.

Kai went speechless.

“I love you… Love you, love you, love you so so much…” Lloyd murmured as another tear rolled down his face.

Kai made him feel special; useful, loved, worthy. All things his own biological family never even tried to. It had always been a mystery to Lloyd why did Kai consider him deserving of his love back when they met. At first he thought he was only pitying him for being maltreated by his own parents. That’s what people always seemed to feel towards him; pity. Yet no one ever tried to help him out of his misery. No one except Kai. But the longer he spent his life on the royal palace the more he realized Kai was not like the two-faced parents he used to live with. Kai genuinely wanted to help, not just out of pity but because he believed the boy had the right to be treated fairly.

Lloyd didn’t even realize Kai had started to kiss him. Feathery long calming kisses planted on his partially opened lips. A pair of arms snaking around his body and pulling him close to the person next to him.

“I know you do. And I’ll always love you too, green bean.”

Every fiber in Lloyd’s body trembled, hair standing on their ends and butterflies fluttering in the small space of his stomach. He felt lucky.

Maybe he was capable of truly loving in the end.

Chapter Text

Jay’s appetite plummeted again, and not by choice this time.

After realizing the source of the screams he heard last night, his stomach was uptight sealed. ‘It’s normal for married people to bond in more intimate ways ’ Cole tried to explain but Jay wouldn’t listen. Normal?! No way. Those screams weren’t normal, they were lecherous. And how in the world was it normal to do that with another guy?

Jay’s stomach twitched every time Kai spoke, every time he touched one of the royal spouses, every time a silly grin appeared in his face after a funny comment, every time any of them blushed at what seemed to be a sexual joke.

Ugh, how could these people be so disgusting?!

Jay felt nausea for the most part of the time, stomach having a hard time to even handle liquids. It had already been two days like this and he was now surely starting to fall sick from starvation and anxiety, not even having the energy to join the other guys in their daylight activities, sadly for Kai who had tried to adjust his royal schedule to spend more time with his spouses and Jay all together, like Nya suggested.

Lloyd still didn’t like being near Jay, and even if he knew he was supposed to act friendly for Jay to become acclimated to his new surroundings, the blond just couldn’t get himself to stop the biting remarks and glares.

 

It was now time for Kai to take care of some royal affairs. Kissing their lovers goodbye after a good board games session he exited the bedroom.

Cole threw his arms in the air, muscles stretching. “Ah, so… let’s go, Lloyd?”

“Go? Where?”

“Training. I'm getting cramps from sitting here for so long.” He said eyes pointing at the spot on the floor where they had been playing before.

“What? Why me?”

“Because it’s way more fun with someone else. I would ask Jay but…” his sweet chocolate eyes searching for the mentioned boy, only to find him at the same spot as usual; resting half-sitting on the bed, staring at the nearby window. “He should rest.” Cole finished, well-aware the gingerish boy didn’t want to be bothered.

“Aw, but Nya’s got her music class, I wanted to go with her.”

After a few more arguments, they settled for a mix. They would go with Nya, enjoy some good music for a while and finally train a little before dinner.

“Do you want to come, Zane?” Lloyd asked his blond friend.

“Thank you, but I’m feeling like meditating today.”

Cole shot a worried look at Zane, pointing subtly towards Jay. The tall blond gave a reassuring smile in return. ‘You go, I’ll take care of him’ he tried to express with a swift movement of his hand. Cole sighed, hoping things would still be calm when they got back.

As the couple disappeared, Zane moved towards the trunk near his bed, taking out a small roll, a couple of thin wooden pieces and a lotus shaped bowl. Extracting next a rolled mat from the closet and stopping to think for a few seconds.

“Jay, may I ask for your help?” The blue boy followed the source of the voice. “Can you help me carry my meditation materials?”

Jay stared at him as he sighed then got up and picked the mat from Zane’s hands. “Thank you.” Jay shrugged in response, he felt sick and not really in the mood to articulate a single word.

Picking up the rest of the stuff, Zane went out of the room followed by Jay, crossing to the other wing of the story and entering an almost empty room. Jay didn’t remember seeing this one before. The place was different from the rest of the palace. No detailed tapestries hanging from the walls, just a couple of paintings, and no golden sculptures nor flowers, there was barely any furniture except for a couple of low tables and couches. Zane moved to the center, leaving the objects he was holding onto the table and signaling Jay to place the mat nearby. The blond then walked towards one of the windows, unlocking it with care and leaving the frame partially open, he asked Jay to do the same with the one on the other side, the boy complied languidly. The room gained a lot of light as he finished the task. Turning around he found Zane unrolling the mat and placing it carefully down on the floor, far enough from the table. A soft clink came from the flower shaped bowl as he pulled out the lid. Zane poured some of its content on a nearby tray; different types of dry flowers and leaves. Moving them around, he made enough space between the organic material to place the wooden pieces. After that the young male untied the smaller roll that exhibited a bunch of thin, different colored incense sticks, Zane placed a couple of them strategically on the small holes of the wood. A thin sneaky line of smoke emerged as Zane lit them and moved the tray from the table to the side of the matting, finally taking off his shoes and sitting criss-cross on the fluffy fabric.

“Mind to keep me company? It’s more fun with someone else.” He paraphrased Cole.

Fun? Meditating? Please…

Jay never had enough free time in his life to stop for a while and meditate, he didn’t know how to do it but he had seen the monks that lived near his house. Sitting for hours in the same position in silence? It certainly didn’t look entertaining to him. But Jay knew this family was stubborn and they were most likely not going to leave him alone. Well, at least Zane looked like the calm type and if he was going to meditate Jay wouldn’t need to talk to him.

He sat down on the mat across from Zane, trying to keep a safe distance.

“Have you ever done this?” Jay shook his head, an unconscious hum left his lips. “Want me to show you?” Jay shrugged. Zane proceeded to explain the basics of meditation; acquiring a comfortable position, eyes closed, back straight, shoulders and arms relaxed, focussing on one’s own breathing and letting the mind wander free in the vast sea of your own thoughts. It all sounded too poetic and surreal for Jay.

“Opposite to what some people think, meditation is not about stop thinking but about looking at your own thoughts from the distance and letting them flow, accepting them so they become a part of your soul and move on.”

‘Nonsense’ Jay thought. Looking at your thoughts from apart? How was he supposed to do that when he was living in a never ending nightmare? He couldn’t just think about his parents from the distance like they were a couple of strangers. He couldn’t let the thought of being imprisoned just flow within his soul . And he couldn’t move over the fact a perverted Maharaja was going after him.

“Don’t try to solve everything in one go. It’s better to focus on something small, each one at a time,” Zane said as if he could read the mess that was Jay’s mind at the moment.

The boy huffed in annoyance. That was easy to say.

“And it’s okay to fail at it. It’s part of the process as well.” Zane added.

Okay, Jay definitely didn’t understand a thing and he was too tired to keep trying anyway so he chose to stop thinking at all, maybe he would eventually fall asleep, which would be the only way for him to relax and end his problems for a short amount of time.

The smell of the incense entered flew to his nostrils. It was gentle yet with a hint of something spicy and strong that buried deep in the back of Jay’s brain. Sandalwood maybe? There used to be those kind of trees near his house when he was a kid. His mother used them as a source of oil, but it all changed on one extremely dry summer. Most of the trees died due to the terrible heat and lack of rain and the few that were still alive were victims of a fire that followed suit. It wasn’t like Jay hadn’t been in contact with the smell for a long time, sandalwood was a quite common tree on this land, but for some reason the burning incense revived this particular childhood memory. He pictured himself in his damaged house, waking up to the familiar scent as the last trees burned down and the neighbours tried to stop the fire. Uhm… was it that same day when he dreamed about the monkeys trying to eat his creamy blood?

Zane’s eyes were open, gaze fixed on Jay, studying the boy as his face expression shifted slightly. His eyebrows and ears now a lot more relaxed as well as his chin, not clenching teeth anymore. One way or another, Jay was now letting his mind flow past the current problems. Zane knew that would benefit him. If he managed to focus on other things Zane was certain that would open a way to Jay’s heart and maybe with enough care and dedication Kai could slip in it.

The blond was determined to help these two get together. He felt Jay had a certain spark inside of him that had yet to show up, a special something none of them had in this place. Besides, Zane had to admit he also liked Jay; the boy was adorable with those little freckles on his face that looked like dust from afar but once you took a closer inspection they were a masterpiece of art. His piercing blue eyes now hidden under those long brownish eyelashes. Zane still had to find the chance to thoroughly study them but he trusted Kai’s opinion; if he said they were awe-inspiring Zane knew he wouldn’t be disappointed.

In a way they were both similar, pale skin, blueish orbs, slim figure (though anyone looked skinny next to Cole...) but for some reason Zane considered Jay a more unique beauty. The way his fire colored hair contrasted against the pale skin had him fascinated.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

“Jay?” the boy jerked at his name, briskly opening his eyes. Zane was looking at him, he looked pleased. “We may stop already if you want.”

Already?

That’s when Jay noticed the smell of sandalwood fading away. The incense was far expired by now, having completed its mission.

“H-how long…?” Jay asked without much thought.

“Judging by the incense, probably an hour.”

An hour?! He’d been sitting there in silence for a whole hour?! Wow, that was a record. He didn’t even understand how a fidgety person like him could have done that, he just… let his mind flow.

Damn, Zane.

A still fuzzy Jay stood on his feet and helped his companion collect all the stuff to go back to the bedroom. The blue boy sighed as he plopped on the mattress while Zane put everything back in its place.

“Do you need anything, Jay?”

The question took him by surprise. “Uh… no” he replied and it almost sounded like an ask. Zane nodded. Jay was taken aback when he saw the blond pull a book out of somewhere and settle down on the couch near his own bed, immersing on the reading. He thought the guy would leave him after the meditating session and go have fun with his… friends. Jay trying to avoid thinking about all the homosexuality that was already in the air.

But no, Zane stayed, and his shifting on the spot made it crystal clear he was trying to achieve a comfortable position to not get up anytime soon.

“Is something the matter?” Zane asked as he noticed the fixed gaze of the boy on himself.

“No, no! Nothing”

With a genuine smile Zane focused on the book in his hands again.

Jay was really curious now. He would have understood Cole sticking to him since they had developed some sort of weird connection. But Zane? They had barely spoken til that day (Jay didn’t count the time where they showed him around because he didn’t listen to him in the slightest), what motives could the blond have to waste his time with him like that?

“Uh…” Jay started, making an extra effort to keep his mouth working when Zane lifted his light blue orbs from the text. “Wouldn’t you rather… go with them?”

“You mean Cole and Lloyd? Oh, they’re probably training by now, I couldn’t join them even if I wanted to.” Zane explained naturally. An inquiring eyebrow raising on Jay’s forehead. “I broke my foot when I was a kid,” the blond said pointing to his left leg. “It managed to heal but it won’t ever fully function again.” Jay’s eyes widened at the new information. “Don’t worry, it’s not that bad,” Zane rushed to downplay the issue. “I can walk and run fairly well but it’s not steady enough to kick or spar with Cole; he tends to get a bit too excited at sports.” Zane laughed.

Jay huffed. ‘Tell me about it’ he thought.

“Right? You sure noticed it as well.”

Jay froze. Crap, he didn’t just think it, he actually verbalized it , and he didn’t even realize! Luckily his comment didn’t seem to upset Zane, on the contrary the boy kept chuckling.

“What… what happened?” Jay dared to ask, staring at Zane’s feet.

Now it was Zane’s turn to be surprised. “Do you want to know?”

Jay scratched his neck. He did. How did a royal spouse get such an injury? Weren’t they always treated with utter care and taken to the best doctors if they ever broke a nail?

Noticing Jay’s embarrassment, Zane didn’t wait for a reply and patted at the free space on his side, demanding the cute boy to get closer for some story time. Jay approached dubitative, finally deciding on sitting down on the floor instead of the couch and rest his back on the edge of Zane’s bed. The blond rather than being offended, accepted the little trust Jay was giving him.

“It was a long time ago, when I was twelve. My father had died some months prior; he was a doctor, one of the best in our city if I must say. He instructed me from a very young age in the art of medicine so I could be his assistant.

“When he died… I was devastated. We never had much money and I ended up in the streets in a matter of weeks. I tried to take over my father’s job but almost no one wanted to trust a kid with their health. I wandered around for a long time, moving from one city to another, doing small jobs that barely earned me enough to not starve. Then one day while I was running an errand I found a little kid hanging off a cliff, seems like he was playing with a friend and slipped; his companion was gone in search for help. The poor thing was a mess of tears. The cliff wasn’t that high but it could have been fatal for his little body had he fallen down. I scanned the place finding a safe spot where to place my feet so I could reach him. Ah… I wish I had been wiser that day, I could have used my shirt as a makeshift rope instead, it was pretty ragged but it could have worked.” Zane sighed.

“Anyway, I managed to descend just enough to reach his hand and pull him over me but when we were climbing up again, the ground under one of my hands crumbled. We were right at the edge so I urged the boy up and back to safe land, just in time for the rocks to fully disintegrate in my fingers, but I was quick enough to get a grip on another spot and secure myself close to the wall. Like I said the cliff was not that high, I knew I would survive so I told the boy I was going to be fine and sent him to find his friend. As I found myself alone I scanned my surroundings again. The earth I was holding onto wouldn’t last much longer so I knew my only chance was to aim at what looked like the safest spot at the bottom of the cliff and jump off before I would slip and lose control. And that I did. But... I made a little mistake. I didn’t realize one of my foot got tangled up with some plant or root that was sticking out of the wall. So you can imagine my plan to have a safe fall was totally wasted; I hit the floor hard with my back, the impact almost taking away my breath, but what came next was even worse. Whatever got stuck in my foot was probably a crucial part of the cliff wall structure, and when it got pulled out… it only made the earth more unstable.

“I was breathless and hurting, I barely had time to react and try to get away from the rocks that fell over me and I bet you can already guess where did the biggest one land on.” Zane paused briefly, rubbing a hand over his ankle at the reminder of the terrible pain. “When I woke up again I was in a bed. The kid had found his friend and quickly got both their parents to come and get me. My foot and ankle were ruined, I could tell just from the pain. Fortunately they helped me bandage and secure it and they took care of me for the next weeks while I couldn't move. I’ll never forget them, they were poor people just like me but they didn't think it twice to let me stay with them” Zane finished.

Wow.

Just wow.

So Zane wasn't the son of a wealthy businessman? He was just like him; a humble boy who tried his best at the job he was taught from a very young age? And he even managed to survive a fall like that! Jay would have died from the pain probably. Scratch that, he would have crushed his head on the floor way before he could feel any pain. To say Jay was impressed was an understatement.

“You don’t have a mother?” Jay asked already figuring out the answer.

“No, she died giving birth to me. The delivery was troublesome and my dad couldn't save her.”

Jay winced. “I'm sorry.”

“It's okay” said Zane unoffended.

The freckled young male rubbed his nape averting his eyes. When he sat there ready to listen to Zane he never imagined such a story would be hidden in the boy’s past. Zane always seemed so composed, well-mannered, like nothing ever really got onto his nerves, but he had quite a dark past. Jay didn't know what he would have done in the same situation. Losing a father at such a young age had to be heartbreaking.

Zane watched Jay as his little tale sank into him. “Like I said, I’m a lot better now” he said, fingers gingerly travelling to the injured limb. “I was lucky to have medical knowledge, it made the healing a lot easier and faster.”

How could this guy smile so peacefully while talking about something so painful?

An awkward silence fell upon them. Jay bit down on his lip. Returning to his bed now didn’t feel quite right, he felt that would be rude considering how Zane had given him a part of his past (and in quite a nice speech if he may say, it almost sounded like those tales his parents used to tell him for bedtime), a very crude past. But what else was he to do?

Jay stayed still on his spot on the floor, thinking about what to do next. Should he just shut up or try to bring up some conversation again? And if so about what? They didn’t know each other at all!

His eyes moved unconsciously to the blond again, only to find him staring back at him with a soft smile on his lips. Jay flinched, not ready for the eye contact, and quickly pulled his knees up to hide his face.

“Is something the matter?” Zane asked with a subtle worry.

Jay denied rapidly. Why did he feel so nervous around the guy all of a sudden? Was he embarrassed he had jumped into conclusions about these people too fast maybe?

“I… just presumed you were some kind of prince. You're always so polite and intelligent.”

Zane laughed. “Well-manners don't depend exclusively on money.”

Yeah, he knew. His own family may had not been the smartest and coolest but Ed and Edna made sure to raise a kind and well-behaved boy.

Jay sank his head deeper in his knees, now definitely mortified by his hasty assumptions, while Zane giggled at his antics.  “H-how did you…” Jay obliged himself to talk. “How did you end up here?”

“You mean… with Kai?”

Jay almost groaned at the mention of the red pervert but tried to keep his discomfort to himself and finally nodded slowly.

Happy to see Jay wanted to know more about them, Zane patted the empty space on his side again. “It's a bit long, you should make yourself comfortable.”

Jay was uncertain, but the truth was his back felt a bit stiff after the meditation and being curled up against the bed now. He eventually gave up, crawling to the couch yet trying to stay away from Zane as much as possible. The blond offered him a couple of cushions which he eagerly accepted and placed them on his back.

Zane finally placing his book down, licked his lips and prepared for the next story.

“After I saved the kid, his family felt in debt with me. They took care of me while my bones healed. They didn’t have much resources but doubted no second to share their food with me. Once I could move again I rushed to get back to work. His family didn’t want me to for they thought I still needed to rest, but I couldn’t keep laying on bed, I wanted to return them the favor for taking care of me when nobody did.

“I managed to get a job but it wasn’t enough to live all by myself so I stayed with the kid, sharing my earnings with them and helping them out anytime I could, like preparing some medicines when the grandparents fell sick, which was pretty often sadly.

“Time after the people that lived nearby noticed how the family was looking a lot more healthy and so I started to get asked to heal the neighbours too, helping them with some medical brews and ointments. They were all very humble and poor people who couldn’t afford a doctor in most cases, and to be honest I loved being able to do what I was taught to. It reminded me of my father and it made me happy.

“Then around three years ago, someone showed up at our door. It was a messenger who carried a letter signed by the Maharaja. Apparently one of his friends was in need of a doctor and he had somehow heard about my abilities. I actually didn’t understand how could the king in person think a poor boy like me could be of some help but as I noticed the desperation in his words I just accepted the job. I bid adieu to the family I had been living with for the past years and traveled to the palace where I met Kai. He told me about this friend, his child had always had a delicate health but he was now in serious danger. He had contracted some kind of illness that was eating him up slowly from the inside. Both his father and Kai were desperate, many doctors have visited them but none managed to find the cause behind his disease.

“Honestly, I got so scared. I mean I was confident in my skills but, if the best doctors in the kingdom had failed in finding a cure for the boy, what could I do? But I remembered what my father used to tell me: you only fail when you stop trying . So I promised Kai I wouldn’t rest until I found the answer.

“I won’t bore you with complex explanations but after spending weeks watching after the child and studying how his body reacted to some treatments, I found out he had some kind of congenital defect in his system. I recommended his father a change of scene as well as implementing some specific food in his diet. They moved to a more humid city and I went along with them to make sure we were on the right track.

“The recovery was marvelous. I had never seen Mr. Skales so happy until that moment. And I felt happy too; we may had not found a cure, but we found a way for the boy to live a good life.

“When I got back to the palace, Kai insisted to pay me for my services which I declined time after time. I told him I didn’t do it for the money but because that’s what doctors are for; to help others. But he wouldn’t give up so in the end I just asked him to share the money with the family I had in the village and its neighbours. I knew they needed it way more than me. As Kai still thought he was in debt with me I stayed here and somehow I became a close friend of the royal family. Soon our friendship grew stronger and we finally got married.” Zane blushed softly putting an end to his speech.

So that was the story behind the Mr. Skales that Cole mentioned days ago. Now it made a lot of sense that Kai left with such urgency to see him, he was probably concerned about the well-being of his family.

Jay was once again surprised to discover sides of the Maharaja he thought wouldn’t exist. Judging by Zane’s story, he wasn’t a selfish guy; what king would have cared so much for a child that wasn’t his own and go through all that trouble? And giving all the money to Zane’s people just like that? Why? Why did Kai seem nicer with every new information Jay acquired about him? How could a deviant like him be such a nice person?

“What’s on your mind, Jay?” Zane asked as he saw the boy’s face furrow in concentration.

Jay nibbled at his lower lip again. How could he say this without sounding like an asshole?

“I just… I don’t understand... How can you all be married to that guy? How can you share him just like that? Don’t you have…” Jay grabbed the armrest of the couch to try and stop himself before it was too late.

“Have what?” Zane inquired curiously, but the other shook his head. Placing a hand over the blue boy’s Zane spoke again with determination. “Don’t keep it in, Jay. I want to understand you.”

“Don’t you have some... decency?” Jay asked with a feeble voice, afraid he would upset the blond with his harsh words. “I saw you and Cole last time. I mean I know it’s a king's thing to collect a bunch of spouses but… how can you guys be like this too? Being with more than one person at the same time? That’s… that’s not normal.” His voice almost a murmur at the end. Anxiety washing over Jay as he waited in silence for Zane’s scolding. After what felt like too much, the boy turned his face in search for the male sitting by his side, and for the uptenth time Zane was just smiling at him gently.

“You know, I used to think like that before too.”

At a slow pace Zane got up from his spot and walked to the nearest window, resting his arms over the sill. His eyelids blinked slowly as the warm breeze caressed his features.

“Do you love your mother, Jay?”

The boy flinched at the unexpected question. “Of course!” he said without a doubt.

“And your dad?” Jay nodded again vehemently. “And your neighbours? A friend? A pet? Maybe even that cute girl from the plaza? Or the old lady that used to spoil you when you were a child?”

Jay nodded to everything, feeling more lost at every new question.

“That’s no different than what I feel for Cole, Kai and Lloyd. We humans love a ton of persons during our lives, each one with a different intensity or tone, but it’s love after all. And it feels even better when you share that love with more people. Just think about your father; I’m sure instead of being jealous he felt the happiest man in the world when he saw your mom hugging you for the first time.”

Jay was so confused at this point. Zane words sounded so logical yet they were against everything he grew up with, though now that he thought about it his own parents never mentioned something about the matter. Then why did it seem so wrong to Jay? Had it been the fact that he had only witnessed monogamous relationships so far? The fact that he never saw a man romantically kissing his equals before?

“I know it probably doesn’t make any sense right now,” Zane said trying to help the poor bewildered guy. “But when love comes right from the heart… it is never wrong.”

Those words echoed in Jay's mind, turning his brain into a swirling mess.

Chapter Text

“Jay, would you like to sleep in my room?”

Water splashed all over the table as Jay choked on his drink. What did the Maharaja just say?

Cole jumped in alarm quickly lending Jay a napkin and brushing a hand all over his back as he dried himself.

No! Of course he didn't want to! That would be like signing a death sentence. Being alone with the guy who tried to marry him by force just a few days ago? In his room? At night? With no one to protect him from his perverted ideas?

Thanks, but no, thanks.

Jay knew now, thanks to Zane, that the monarch wasn't the monster he took him for at first. He was, apparently, capable to genuinely care for others and even fell in love with a commoner. But Jay couldn't bring himself to fully trust him yet. He was still unsure about this “free love” concept the taller blond tried to enlighten him with. It was so… foreign to Jay.

The monarch was persistent though!

After a long argument during dinner Jay thought he was finally safe when they all returned to the bedroom. But Kai showed up soon enough to ask him again. After declining him for the… Jay had already lost count of how many times he had said no- Kai tried a different approach.

“Okay, if the mountain will not come to Muhammad...” Kai said with a playful smile. “Could you guys leave?” He asked his other spouses. All of them looked surprised and confused, sending each other concerned gazes. Slowly Cole got up and walked towards the door, Zane and Lloyd mimicked him.

“No, hey, wait!” Jay shouted with fear. How could they abandon him right now?

“So what's it going to be, Jay? Will you come with me? Or should I move here?”

Jay saw discomfort in Lloyd's face out of the corner of his eye and saw the blond whispering something to his friends. Great! As if Lloyd needed a reason to hate his guts even more, now he could also add “ Been kicked out of our own room because of the stupid junkyard boy ” to the list. Jay didn't really need the brat to be mad at him again, nor cause more trouble to the other two. Annoyment clear in his voice as he groaned with resignation

“Okay, okay!”

The monarch smiled happily like a kid who just got a new toy.

“Great! I was starting to think I'd need to tie you up. Uh... you won't happen to like that kind of stuff, right?”

“Of course not!” He yelled, his face already red from embarrassment and anger, mimicking Kai's fiery decorated clothes.

“Haha, so you're the vanilla type, okay, that's nice too.” The Maharaja chortled and Jay let out another annoyed growl.

As they exited the room, Cole pulled Kai back in for a second.

“Kai, don't scare him, please. It's taken him a long time to start coming out of his shell” The boy pleaded.

“I won't, I promise! I just want to chat with him for a lil bit, you've all had plenty of chances already.”

Cole hummed, not fully convinced his husband would control himself. Kai gave him a quick peck on the lips to try and reassure him, then marched back.

 

Jay never imagined the color red could make him so on edge. Kai definitely had an obsession with it but wow , his room was a whole other world. The spouses chamber was already pretty decorated and big but this was something else. There was a lot more furniture, a lot more sculptures, pictures, shiny gems decorating almost every spot and… hell , who was the ‘genius’ behind those transparent fabrics hanging from the ceiling? They were so annoying and made Jay even more nervous.

“Could you…? Yeah, thank you.” Jay heard Kai talking to someone behind his back. The guard by the door nodded at Kai’s request and silently marched as the souverain closed the entrance. The reverberating noise it produced along with Kai’s sly smile gave Jay the goosebumps. The brunette walked up to him.

“Go ahead and take a seat,” he motioned with his hands towards the center where the comfortable looking couches full of cushions were. Jay hesitated for a moment. “Or we can hop on my bed if you’ll be more comfortable there…” smirk threatening to show up between his lips.

“No!” Jay was quick to yell and made his way to the farthest sofa, Kai holding back a giggle; nervous Jay was the cutest thing in the world.

The Maharaja followed the other’s track sitting down on the spot right next to Jay. The boy flinched, trying to move away but was cornered up, literally. He was sitting on the edge, frantically grabbing at the armrest of the seat.

“Don’t be scared, I’m not gonna hurt you.” Kai eased, his knuckles brushing softly over Jay’s trembling arm. As a couple of silent minutes passed Jay turned his head slowly around to look at the monarch, getting face to face with a smiling boy. Jay flinched and averted his eyes to the floor again.

The weight on the couch became lighter. Kai had gotten up? Jay heard noises nearby.

“Wanna play chess with me?” Kai asked as he placed a box and a marble board with red and golden square marks on the low table in front of them.

“Chess?” Jay repeated bewildered.

“Yeah, chess. Have you played it before?”

Jay had heard the name a few times. He knew it was some kind of board game about war, specially designed for souverains, but he never actually saw someone playing. It seemed like you needed some very specific shaped pieces to play, no one around his hometown had enough money they could spend on such fancy materials.

“Uh… n-no.”

“No? Oh, okay. We can play something less complicated.” Kai retrieved the game and came back with a different box, quickly pulling the lid open and emptying the contents over the table. Small black and white tiles scattered all over the surface. “Pupai! You know this one?” Kai chanted.

Jay wanted to retort. Of course he did know! That was quite a popular game even for a poor boy like him. He had his own deck at home, made out of recycled wood his father handcrafted years ago. Ah, the memory of his family made his heart ache once more. Jay composed himself and nodded unenthusiastic. Kai urged him to sit down on the floor across from him so they both could be comfortable for the match while seeing each other.

 

“So... how are you doing?”

Jay's mind came back to earth. He'd been staring at the small marble tiles for a while, they felt so different from the ones at home, way heavier but he had to admit they also looked shinier and prettier. He looked at Kai with slight confusion, his brain still trying to regain control over his senses and focus on either the game or the boy in front of him. Kai repeated his question and added a new one. “How are the guys treating you?”

Jay took a moment to answer. “Good.”

The monarch raised an eyebrow. Jay groaned, hating how that boy could pull the words out of him with just a tiny gesture.

“They're nice… I guess.” Jay corrected quickly placing a tile with three black dots on the table next to the one Kai had put a couple of turns ago, averting his eyes with embarrassment a second later. He hated to admit it but Cole had been so caring with him ever since they met, and Zane seemed to be doing the same just recently.

Kai smiled. “Even Lloyd?” The monarch noticed the subtle change in Jay's face. It was obvious the two boys weren't on the best terms. “I know you two haven't had the chance to get along yet.”

Jay anxiety skyrocketed again. Was he going to scold him for not acting all friendly and happy with the bratty blond? It wasn't Jay's fault Lloyd seemed to have something against him right from the start.

“He's been a bit stressed lately, don't hold it against him. Lloyd's a very nice and funny guy once you get to know him.”

He felt somehow insulted. So Kai cared about a brat whose biggest issue would be not having his favorite meal for breakfast, but he couldn’t understand how terrible, lonely and depressed he had been feeling since he was kidnapped, uh? Very magnanimous.

They fell silent again. Kai fidgeting nervously trying to come up with the best way to approach Jay in a conversation. The first match soon ended with Kai as the winner. The other boy didn't mind it much, he had been more preoccupied in avoiding any kind of contact than the game itself. As Kai was going to suggest another round they heard a knock on the door. Jay tensed as the monarch yelled a 'Come in’ . Was there going to be more people with them that night?

An old lady dressed with simple clothes appeared in the gap of the entrance holding a small tray.

“Your Highness, here's what you requested.”

“Leave it there, thank you.” Kai commanded the woman pointing to a nearby furnishing.

As the servant was done with her job she exited the royal bedroom, not before politely wishing the king and his guest a peaceful night.

Jay's eyebrows frowned, what was Kai up to?

“Are you hungry?” Kai asked reaching for the tray, extracting a bowl from it and sitting back, this time right next to Jay.

The boy wanted to move back but curiosity made him lean closer to take a look at the vessel in Kai's hands. Some diamond shaped red fruits. They were vibrant and shiny, still wet from the orangish liquid that was sticking to them.

“Honey bathed strawberries,” Kai chanted with a childish grin. “I know you haven't been eating much lately so I thought maybe you'd appreciate a late night snack.”

Jay had only had strawberries once in his life. A naughty boy from his neighborhood stole a small sack when they were still kids and shared them with the rest of the crew. Jay knew that was something bad, his parents taught him to never steal, not even in emergencies, for stealing could mean causing trouble to someone just as much in need as them. But old innocent Jay also thought wasting food was a crime so he finally gave in and stuck one of those small berries in his mouth.

The experience was pretty unique. The combination of sweet and acid made his hair stand on, and the crispy texture of the seeds felt odd. Why in Valhalla's name was there a fruit with its seed on the outside?! Still Jay found himself missing the awkward sensation as soon as he swallowed it down, sadly for him there weren't enough fruits to get a second round. That taught him a very valuable lesson; always savour food.

A silly smile grew on Kai's face as he offered the bowl to Jay. Ugh, he had been starving lately, partly because his stomach still felt weird with all the anxiety that ran through his veins, and partly as a way to protest. But... he had to admit those berries looked mouth watering. The tiny droplets of golden goo sticking to them and slowly rolling down their shape... When was the last time he had honey? Just like strawberries, honey was a pretty expensive thing in his hometown. His family could only afford it once in a while and it was usually reserved for a special occasion like birthdays or festivities.

Jay felt his stomach stir, cruelly demanding all the aliment it'd been deprived of for the last days. One of his hands slowly hovered over the container, he eyed Kai for a last time, that silly grin now shifting to a smirk.

Wait.

Jay froze. What did that expression mean?

‘Oh, my goodness! ’ Jay thought as he retrieved the hand, his whole body jumped back in alarm. The berries were poisoned, weren't they? Surely the Maharaja had instructed that lady to add some kind of drugging substance onto the food, waiting for naive scrapyard boy to eat it carelessly and fell unconscious minutes after so Kai could play whatever perverted tricks on his body.

He would not touch that food even if his life depended on it.

Kai eyed him with surprise and pushed the bowl forward again.

“Go ahead, don't be shy.”

Jay shook his head so hard his brain hurt. He was determined to not let the Maharaja have his own way. That was probably how he got the others to trust him and get in such a twisted relationship. Yeah, that was the only explanation behind this mess of a house!

Amused at the displayed behavior, Kai chuckled softly.

“Okay, more for me.” He said picking up one of the small rubies, letting it brush lazily against his lips as he sensually licked it clean from the sticky liquid before he finally pushed it into his mouth with a finger. A loud hum following suit as he chewed, eyes rolling back and eyelids closed.

“Ah, Ignacia’s strawberries are the best,” he commented grabbing some of the cushions from the couch and messily placing them over the carpet to create a comfortable nest he then laid down on, placing the bowl by his side as he picked another berry and gave out a loud satisfied moan. “So sweet and juicy…”

“You can’t fool me.” Jay crossed his arms over his chest with determination.

“What do you mean? Can’t a guy just enjoy a nice meal? Come on, Jay. I know you're hungry.” Kai laughed

As if on cue, Jay's tummy growled, the strong and sweet aroma of the honey had awakened his appetite. He blushed. Damn, why couldn't his body agree with him for once? This was a live or die issue!

Or… maybe not.

Kai was licking his fingers after eating a third strawberry, making a show out of it, a playful smile on his face as Jay stared at him sheepishly.

He actually ate from the poisoned food? Well, maybe... it wasn't poisoned? The Maharaja certainly looked fine yet and Jay hoped the man wouldn't be as stupid as to risk his own life like that.

His stomach complained again with a twirl so painful that Jay quickly reached his hands over his abdomen. Kai simpered, patting at the spot by his side before Jay crawled to it with a frustrated huff. The brunette caught another berry and reached up for Jay's lips.

“Open your mouth.”

“... What are you're doing?”

“Feeding you.”

“What?! I'm not a baby!”

“Yeah, so what?”

“I can eat by myself!’

“I know, just let me spoil you.”

“No way!” Jay yelled trying to win at least one battle against the stupid king.

Kai sighed dramatically. “Okay, guess you don't want any of these delicious things.” He popped the fruit into his mouth so fast Jay didn't have time to stop him. By the time he tried to grab one from the bowl, Kai had already predicted his movements and pulled back retrieving the container with him to protect what was still left inside.

“Hey!” Jay shouted launching himself forward to try and steal the food from him, but Kai seemed to anticipate all his actions. Even when he trapped the monarch under his body, the young man managed to wiggle and kick him aside, strawberries still perfectly safe inside the bowl.

Jay groaned with desperation as he pulled at his own hair, sitting straight. Why? Why did that stupid boy have him surrender time after time? Did he want Jay to abandon his pride so he would finally become a doll in his hands? Well, he just did it. Jay was tired of all this stuff.

“Fine!” He cried admitting defeat.

Kai chuckled softly, moving back towards Jay. He held a berry in his hands again and smirked confidently.

“Say 'Aaah’.’ ” He teased.

Jay clicked his tongue annoyed, eyes closed and brows furrowed as he turned his head towards the other boy and opened his mouth. No way he was going to make that stupid baby sound.

All his anger vanished for a moment as the taste of the food hit the nerves of his tongue. The acid exploded in his mouth but the sweetness of the honey quickly overtook mixing so gracefully with the internal juices of the berry. It felt like a Carnival for his taste buds. Wow! That was something else, it had nothing to do with that one strawberry he ate years ago. The difference made him reconsider the memory. Was it really a strawberry what his friend gave him or was it a totally different fruit? No, it definitely was. The crunchy seeds weren't that easy to forget. The odd sensation now becoming something Jay would adore for the rest of his life.

“Good, uh?” Kai commented, bringing Jay senses back. The boy blushed feverishly as he tried to contain the jouissance running through his nerves.

Kai huffed with a grin and laid back onto the cushion nest, gesturing Jay to join him. The ginger boy complied with irritation, laying himself down next to the souverain as he offered him another treat. Jay kept his eyes tightly shut all the time the monarch fed him, avoiding the reminder he was weak for food.

Kai gazed at him intently, mouth gaping with restrained desire. Tanned fingers wanting to brush Jay’s sweet pink lips, dying to cup the freckled face and pull them into a messy kiss as the taste of liquid gold would mix with their saliva. For the love of Gods, how was this boy so adorably sexy? He wasn’t doing anything, just laying there and eating, yet the sight itself was enough to drive Kai to the verge of sanity. He bit down hard on his own lip as he breathed in and out, reminding himself that he had to be patient.

Minutes passed and no more food was being put in Jay’s mouth. Blue orbs coming out of their hideout and inquiring the monarch.

“You ate them all already” Kai said, cheeks flushed. “There’s still some honey left though. You want some?” he asked generously dipping his finger inside the bowl and pulling it up covered in the delicious goo.

“No!” Jay yelled. Under no circumstances would he let that filthy finger enter his mouth. Kai shrugged, licking his digits clean only to repeat the action again until there was nothing left. Jay laid on his side, back facing Kai, he couldn’t stand the show.

Kai stretched after he was done with the food, hands going to the back of his head accommodating himself on the cushions as he looked at a Jay curled up next to him. He thought for a while, trying to come up with a way to get the boy to talk. He was desperate to hear his voice again, to learn things about him that would surely just make him fall more and more in love.

“Did you like them? I mean the strawberries.”

Jay didn’t respond immediately. “They’re good” he murmured in the end.

“Just ‘good’?”

Jay sighed in annoyance. “Really good.” He admitted.

Kai chortled next to him.

“They’re the best! Trust me, I’ve tried many and Ignacia’s berries are definitely something else. That city has got the best lands for farming, anything that grows there tastes ten times better than anywhere.”

Jay hummed, not really interested in Kai’s standards for food. Silence fell upon them again.

“Uh… what’s your favorite food?” the Maharaja asked.

Jay shrugged, already feeling exhausted at the idea of Kai trying to start up a casual conversation with him.

“Soup.”

“What kind of soup?”

“Beans soup.” He replied straightaway. His diet at home wasn’t much abundant, occasional treats like pies and meat were very rare to happen, his family meals basically consisted of soup, rice and vegetables.

Kai pouted. He noticed the boy didn’t seem interested in talking to him, either because the current subject wasn’t one of his taste or because of Kai himself. The Maharaja’s face scrunching in concentration to find another possible topic. He suddenly thought of one, it was risky but it could also enlighten him about his yet-to-be spouse’s life.

“Hey, Jay. Where are you from?” he asked, heart pounding with force inside his chest.

Jay’s eyes widened with surprise, painful longing for his family settling back in his bones.

“Shaiya.” he muttered.

Kai’s eyebrows furrowed again. “Shaiya, Shaiya…” he mumbled. “I don’t remember ever being there. Where is it?”

“North-east coast, past the Wildwood Forest. It’s a very small city in the Sea of Sand” He replied automatically.

“Wow! That’s pretty far from here.” Kai exclaimed now aware of the possible location.

That sentence stabbed Jay’s heart, he didn’t need the reminder at all.

“How is life over there?” The brunette asked.

Jay took his time to answer, an uncomfortable lump of anxiety was stuck in his throat.

“Jay?” Kai carefully placed a hand over the boy’s shoulder.

“Is… normal... I guess.”

“You can tell me, Jay. I know we’re undergoing hard times, but I’m the King; I need to know if something isn’t going well.”

Jay shrugged and repeated his previous answer. It may had been hard but that was normal for him, everyone in his hometown lived almost under the same situation. Food was never abundant and same went for money. His parents performed miracles to keep the three of them well fed even though they didn’t manage it all the time.

That’s how it always had been.

Though thinking about it now, life was much more different inside the walls of the palace. There was no hunger there, no cold, no sleeping with an open  eye because they might get assaulted in the middle of the night, no sunstroke after hours of roaming the streets in search of crafting materials. Life there was way more relaxed. Jay wondered if that was how things were actually supposed to be.

The grip on his shoulder became more obvious when Kai pulled at him, making Jay slowly lay on his back.

“It's hard.” Jay admitted under inquiring hazel orbs. “We don't have much money or food. Merchants don’t usually reach our lands, it's not like our economy is very buoyant.”

“I'm sorry to hear that.”

Jay huffed. “Yeah, sure.” Even if Kai really meant it, Jay knew the boy couldn't ever imagine a small bit of the despair that humble poor people like him felt, not knowing if they would still be alive the next day.

“Are you okay?” Kai asked as he noticed Jay discomfort.

“Would you be okay in my situation?” he bit back, leaving a startled Kai behind him as he returned to his previous position to keep mourning internally.

As expected, asking that was a bad idea, but Kai had to try. Annoyment and sadness were getting to him as well.

Why was Jay so stubborn and rude? To Kai's judgement he was his saviour; he helped him when no one else did. Imagine what kind of nightmare would Jay be living if he had been sold to someone else, someone not as caring as him. Of course he understood Jay’s homesickness. Hell, he also missed his deceased parents to a certain degree, they weren't the best progenitors in a mile but they raised him for years and he would always miss them somehow. Why couldn't Jay appreciate the family he was offering him? A very loving family, if he might add, that he had built all alone . Was Jay's reluctance hiding a bigger trauma, like Lloyd?

Kai breathed slowly, reminding himself to stay calm as his imagination went crazy, wondering what exactly happened to Jay until he found him that day at the market. He was sure Jay had to be a joyful boy back in his hometown, he could see it in his eyes hypnotizing eyes. What made him change so drastically? Was it…?

Oh, boy, Kai didn't want to believe it.

“I… don't know…” he mumbled responding to Jay's previous question. He considered himself a brave person, but he knew if someone poked hard enough at his inner demons his strong determination could go all down the drain in a matter of seconds. The human soul had its own limits after all.

Jay mocked with a huff. Kai bit his upper lip with anxiety and Jay flinched when he put a hand back on his arm.

Please, please, don't let it be that.

If Kai's hypothesis was correct, he might have lost all chances with Jay.

“What did they do?” He asked carefully.

“What did who do what ?” Jay had no clue what the other male meant.

“Those guys… the ones who kidnapped you.”

The pale man tensed up. Why was Kai asking all that awful stuff? He already had enough weight on his shoulders trying to stay alive in this wicked place, he didn’t need to remember how all his misfortune started.

“Jay…” he pushed. The boy jerked in an attempt to drive him away. “Please…”

“I don’t wanna talk.” Jay uttered.

“Please, don’t do that. Don’t seclude yourself, I want to know what’s hurting you so bad…”

“Why do you even want to know?!” He asked pretty irritated at this point.

“Because I care about you!” Kai spat, his determined voice left Jay speechless.

“We’ve found the dealer I got you from.” Kai added few minutes of silence later, rolling Jay onto his back once again. “Turns out his business is pretty dirty in fact;” he explained.  “Most of the slaves he’s selling aren’t people with debts but rather they have been forced into slavery. That guy is smart though, he thinks he can get away by leaving the dirty work to someone else, but...” Kai snorted a bit angry. “He doesn’t know who is he messing with. I’ve already got my best men behind all these bastards, it’s a matter of time they’ll be sent to prison.” Kai finally gazed at Jay’s eyes, the boy seemed to be actually listening to him for once.

“I want to understand you, Jay. I want to know what you've been through so I can help you with your pain. If they tortured you, if you still have nightmares about them, if you're scared it may happen again… I want you to share it with me. You don't have to go through this trauma all alone, you've got friends here.”

Friends?

The word felt so strange in Kai's mouth. It was bittersweet. These friends have been forced onto him, Jay didn't really have a choice from the beginning. Though on the other side these guys were proving time after time they cared for him; Cole babysitting him when he was reckless enough to starve himself voluntarily, Zane adding him into his routine and sharing his painful past, and now Kai lending him a shoulder to cry and destress. Even the Princess, the guards and servants; they all treated him with respect. A respect and care he had never seen outside his home.

Jay’s heartbeat was loud, the sound reverberating painfully in his ears. What was that? A new kind of anxiety? Something in his chest was pushing him out of the shell, urging him to leave his fears behind and finally trust those people he'd been living with for the past days. His soul needed the release to keep moving forward.

His eyes averted to the side in discomfort, he was confused, not sure letting Kai near him was a safe move. The Maharaja grabbed his hand firmly, pleading eyes asking him to not pull away. Days ago that small gesture would have disgusted Jay, that night though it felt like a genuine action, something a real friend would do.

The smaller boy sighed, still in fear of getting backstabbed but he finally gave in.

“They… They beat me…” Kai waiting patiently as the boy gathered the courage to keep talking. “With chains, sticks and stuff… Whenever I cried or asked for help or food they'd… they'd punch me and use anything they had around to make me shut up…” Kai noticed Jay's hand trembling, his breathing heavier as his mouth twitched while he fought to speak. “I was… kept in cages or nasty small boxes most part of the time, I lost track of time there...”

Unconsciously Kai squeezed too hard onto the hand he was holding, which made Jay jump in alarm and roll to his side one more time, gripping at the cushions to hide his face, for he knew he was close to tears.

Kai was furious. He would never understand how such people existed in this world. They shouldn't be allowed to live, there was no excuse to treat someone like that. What gave them the right to maltreat another human being? To decide someone's value so carelessly and use them like objects?

He bit his lip with anger, his own parents had been like that in their own way; and Cole was the living proof.

Anger wasn't what Jay needed at the moment though, Kai reminded himself taking deep breaths to calm down. He scooted closer to the boy, his chin almost resting over Jay's shoulder trying to get a glimpse at his features.

“Did they…” Jay's ears perked up at the starting question. “Did they… touch you?” Kai asked careful not to make any intimate contact to startle the whimpering boy.

It actually took Jay a few seconds to understand the real meaning of the words, but as they did, he shot his head back and yelled an enormous and offended NO at Kai. The monarch couldn't help but sigh relieved, his chest felt a lot lighter all of a sudden.

“But…” Jay started again and Kai's breath hitched, fearing what the rest of the sentence contained. “There were times when… I thought they would.” Jay confessed, feeling as scared as he did when he heard the kidnappers blabber about his mouth-watering slim pale body and his sweet tiny ass . For the love of Vishnu, those had to have been some of the nastiest comments he ever heard.

All of a sudden Jay felt a weight over him. Kai laid flat over his chest and pulled him in for a tight hug.

“What the…?!”

“I'm sorry,” the souverain said solemnly, though his voice was threatening to break. “I... wish I could have found you sooner and you didn't have to go through that.” Feeling Kai's breath against his neck made Jay's hair stand on end. Curiosity made him stay still and keep listening. “They'll pay for this. I swear I won't rest until I see them rotting behind the bars of the most repugnant cell on Earth. I won't let them hurt you ever again! I promise I'll protect you until my very last breath.”

Jay was still uneasy. Kai’s body was anchored to his, the brunette was determined to not let him go, in a desperate attempt to soothe him and take away all his pain and sorrow. Jay’s first intention was to push him away but he found himself unable to complete the action. Kai’s embrace felt warm and reassuring all of a sudden. Maybe it was the fact that it was the first time he actually talked about his abduction, shared the distress he felt with someone else, someone who cared enough to pursue the gang and give them a taste of his own medicine. Maybe Kai was a totally different person from what he thought, just like Zane suggested.

One way or another something made Jay’s walls go down momentarily. Weak hands tugged at the Maharaja’s clothes to finally place themselves on his back, reciprocating the hug. Jay letting out a shaky breath that shifted into a sob towards the end. The ginger boy felt touched for a moment, beside his parents nobody ever cared that much for him.

As minutes passed Jay started to relax in Kai’s arms, finally falling asleep, belly full with delicious food and the other boy murmuring reassuring words next to his ear.

Chapter Text

Lloyd groaned hopelessly.

Asking him to tolerate Jay was a thing he could perfectly do, even though he didn’t enjoy his presence in the royal residence. Considering how much his own parents ignored him for years he was sure he could pull something similar on the boy. ‘Just let him be, don’t bother him and he won’t bother you’ Lloyd told himself. But there’s very little you can ignore when you’ve got a hysterical ginger haired boy locked up in the bathroom right next to your bed screaming at the break of dawn.

 

That morning Jay didn’t wake up in his usual bed. He was laying on a flat yet fluffy surface. Admittedly it wasn’t that bad; the cushions under his head and the soft blanket made the rest pretty comfortable. For a moment the awkward sensation made him think he was back to his straw-made bed, which filled his heart with brief happiness. Brief owing to the fact that the very moment his eyelids opened everything was shot to hell; the Maharaja’s face was resting on his shoulder, still sleeping. Lips partially open and a soft whistle escaping them as he breathed calmly. Arm resting all across Jay’s stomach and hand clutching at his waist.

What the actual…?!

The following seconds were a chaos. Kai woke up at Jay’s screams and struggle, the boy frantically pushed him aside and got up to make a run for the door, tripping over the cushions and couch on the way, getting tangled up with one of the veils that hang from the ceiling. Kai, still groggy, couldn’t hold back a chuckle when he saw the other boy on the floor crawling towards the gate as clumsy as a newborn.

The guards stared at Jay in confusion as he ran along the hallway and entered the spouses chamber as fast as the lightning. They would have went after him but the monarch dismissed them with a silly smile. He gave his hair a quick finger brush and walked towards the other room, only to find an even more ridiculous scene.

Jay had locked himself inside the bathroom, waking up the others in the process. Zane was knocking on the door, gently trying to persuade him to get out and explain the reason behind his rampage. Lloyd groaning irritated, feet exposed as he had pulled the covers over his head in an attempt to build a barrier against all the noise. And Cole still in bed scratching his scalp with dazed eyes as he had just awakened a couple of seconds earlier, not totally aware of what was happening just yet. Lucky noirette was a deep sleeper.

Zane sighed, leaning against the door.

“I guess it's right to assume you're behind this.” He asked Kai. The brunette replied with a shy and guilty smile. Zane shook his head a bit exhausted and moved to the side giving Kai some space in front of the door to try his luck. Sadly he didn't go farther than pronouncing Jay's name, for the boy started another round of yelling, demanding him to stay away and leave him alone.

“I just want to talk…”

“I said get out!” Jay's voice was pretty clear despite being separated by a wall.

“I'm out already” Kai couldn't help joking.

“Y-you know what I mean!” He shrieked.

“Ugh, can you please? Some of us would like to keep sleeping!” Lloyd complained under the bedsheets, now pressing a pillow against his ear.

Kai glanced at Zane for a brief moment, the blond kept staring at him, not able to help much since he still didn’t understand the nature of the situation. The brunette turned his head towards the bathroom door once again and sighed admitting defeat.

“Okay, okay, you win. I'll leave.” He said then leaned on the wall, head falling down.

Zane, who was fully awake ever since Jay slammed the door, approached Kai. Soothing hands brushing over the other's arms when he noticed Kai's shoulders bobbing softly. The Maharaja was... laughing?

“What's so funny?” Zane asked confused.

Kai giggled a few more times before reaching his hands up to his face to calm down, which didn't work very well. A silly grin was plastered on his lips as a subtle blush appeared on the skin under his eyes.

“He's so cute. So terribly cute.” He muttered.

Zane didn't quite comprehend, watching Kai with wide eyes as the monarch exited the chamber still chuckling like an idiot.

Cole's raspy voice broke the silence, eyebrows furrowed trying to fix his gaze on Zane. “What's this all about?”

“I don't know… but I'm going to find out.” Replied the blond following the souverain steps.

Cole shrugged and went back to sleep, lazily pulling the sheets over him again.

 

What in Heaven’s name?

Jay asked himself time after time, back firmly pressed against the sturdy door and face hidden in his hands. Why was he sleeping with Kai? And why in such an intimate position?

The strawberries! The freaking strawberries! Jay knew it! They had some weird substance that messed with his system. He ran to the mirror and quickly undressed his upper half, looking for any marks Kai may have left on him during the night. But all he found were the almost non noticeable scratches and remainings of the old bruises. He operated a second meticulous search, twisting his body as much as he could to make sure no inch was left unchecked, but to no avail. Fearful, Jay even lowered a hand to his backside, studying the space with some gentle squeezes. There was no apparent pain anywhere.

He stared at his reflection confused, mind replaying the events from last night. He stepped back until he hit a cabinet and sat on the floor. Hands darting up to his face as reality settled in.

He remembered.

He remembered it all. He spoke to Kai in complete sense and not just that but he trusted him with some of his fears. ‘ They’ll pay for this… Everything will be okay… You’re safe now… You’ve been so brave… ’ Kai’s words were coming out of the blurry spot where they were stored last night.

Why didn’t the monarch try anything weird when he had the perfect chance?

Kai is not a monster ’ the memory of Cole reminded him. Could it be? Could Jay have wrongly judged Kai? Gay or not, he certainly wasn’t acting like a lunatic… yet.

Nothing made any sense in this place. Jay couldn't even recognize himself. The calm he experienced while he was in the Maharaja's arms felt too nice. For an instant it made him feel at home, having someone to look after him after all the shit he went through weeks ago was heartwarming. But he couldn't be feeling that! Kai was still his captor in a way, he couldn't feel safe around him… right?

The boy groaned. His head was hurting so much from constantly thinking about the same topics over and over. Jay let his head rest on his knees, trying to focus his mind on just breathing in and out for he had been hyperventilating the last minutes and he had started to feel dizzy.

 

Someone knocked on the door, Jay almost jumped out of his skin. Cole’s voice sounded in the distance.

“Jay, are you in there?”

The edgy boy focused his eyes on his surroundings; he was still sitting on the floor against the cabinet, messy hair and drool falling down the corner of his mouth. How much time had passed since he doze off? He didn't even realize he had fallen asleep.

“Jay, if you don't open the door I'll break it down.”

He rose up with shaky legs, one of the limbs was still numb after sitting in that awkward position for too long. He slowly got to the door, as he was unlocking the latch the doubts that had disappeared during his nap assaulted him again.

“I-is Kai there?” He asked not even sure why. Would the presence of the monarch make any difference? Would Jay rather live the rest of his days locked up in that bathroom avoiding the other boy?

Cole denied without a second thought, urging Jay out again.

“What the hell were you doing in there?” The grumpy young man asked as he saw the smaller figure crossing the threshold, wearing a worried face and gnawing at his lower lip. Cole though was not expecting a reply, still in his lightheaded and recently-woken up state he passed by Jay and entered the bathroom to freshen up, leaving his companion all alone in the room before the poor thing could even think of an answer.

Feeling a bit lost and still confused Jay walked to his bed and slumped down on the untouched covers with a long sigh. Mind swiftly returning to Kai. Jay shook his head, hands rubbing over his features.

Ugh, why? Why was a simple boy messing with his thoughts so much? He didn’t know what to feel towards the monarch, everything was so confusing. He was supposed to use him as a slave, not that Jay actually wished to be treated like that but that’s what logic said; Kai bought him. He was just a mere object for the souverain, something he had the right to use however he wanted and Jay would have no saying in it because he owned him. Yet Kai didn’t seem to be taking advantage of his royal power, at least not in such a despotic way.

But why? Why didn’t he? The doubt was eating Jay up alive and increasing his fears, constantly wondering when would the Maharaja drop his mask and finally attack. Because he was obviously going to do it sooner or later… wasn’t he?

Cole came back, arms stretching over his head as he let out a lazy yawn. He walked towards a closet, rolling his shoulders in the process to unknot the muscles and greeting Jay with a soft smile, the noirette’s mood had improved widely now that he was fully awake.

“Morning, Jay.”

“H-hey…” Replied the boy sitting up, trying to relax so Cole wouldn’t notice how fidgety he was. “W-where are the others?” He asked, voice almost cracking but he managed to keep it firm, or at least that’s what he thought.

“Beats me. They were already gone when I woke up,” Cole said pulling out a few pieces of black clothing from the wardrobe. “I guess they got up early.”

Jay chewed at the inside of his cheek. In the few days they had been living together, it was made clear that these boys used to rise around the same time to start the day all together. The fact that neither of the blonds were there made Jay uneasy, feeling he was at fault for breaking their routine.

He was going to inquire Cole a bit more about the matter when he's eyes landed on the tanned chest across the room. Cole was changing from his loose pajamas to some proper and comfortable daylight clothes. Right next to him.

“Gosh, can you please warn people when you're doing that?!” Jay shrieked and turned around. Cole laughed at his back.

“Oh, come on, Jay; it's just a naked chest. You sure have seen hundreds of them before, right?”

“Of course I did.”

“Good, cause it would have been really weird otherwise.”

Jay groaned irritated, he would have needed to be living in another world to not know what a human chest looked like, you could literally see dozens of them whenever you walked down the streets.

“Okay, I get it, I get it.” Cole added at Jay's whines. Getting the new fresh clothes over himself he walked towards Jay's bed and jumped on the empty space, landing his ass skillfully on it. “I'll try to remind myself to warn you next time.”

“Thanks.” He mumbled.

“You're welcome.” Cole said with a grin. “So how are you feeling? Did you sleep well?” he asked, both his face and voice turning serious all of a sudden.

Jay sighed. Everything just had to go back to Kai, uh? He couldn't get a rest.

“I'm… I'm f-fine” he stammered.

Cole placed a soothing hand over his leg. “Are you okay? Did… did Kai… do something?” Cole asked with worry in his eyes. He firmly trusted Kai and he knew the monarch would never go as far as to force Jay, but Cole was also very aware of how short-tempered his husband was. Maybe they got into a fight and Kai acted like an asshole in the spur of the moment?

“No! No, no, no… That's the thing; he didn't do anything. We just, we ate some strawberries and fell asleep.”

Trying to put aside the fact that Kai never told him they still had some of those delicious fruit left -and making himself a note to confront the monarch about it later-, Cole fixed his attention on the boy in front of him. Jay looked lost, confused and almost deceived somehow.

“I thought he would… that he would…” Jay found himself unable to finish the sentence and flinched when Cole did it for him.

“Rape you?”

The silence was enough of a reply. Jay was petrified at the idea, he didn’t even have the courage to look Cole in the eyes. He was telling him, he was telling Cole he thought his husband could be a potential molester, right in front of him. Maybe he didn’t say it verbally, but his tense body spoke more than necessary, and it scared Jay. It scared him that his body language was presenting ideas that no souverain would have ever tolerated.

Cole sighed and took a deep breath before speaking again.

“I told you; Kai isn't like that.” Cole affirmed, slightly hurt that Jay would still think about his lover that way.

“I know- I mean… I...! Argh, it's just so confusing,” Jay replied quickly, pulling his knees up to his face. “He shouldn't be like this…”

“You mean nice? Why not?”

“Because I'm a slave! Nobody treats slaves fairly.”

Cole's hand unconsciously curled into a fist, creating creases on the bed sheets as the fabric tangled in his fingers..

“You're not a slave, Jay. You're our guest…”

“He bought me, remember?” Jay cut him, withering blue eyes suddenly attacking sweet chocolate. “I’m being held here, I can't go past these walls, no matter how you look at it, I'm captive . I'm his slave yet he's…”

Jay remembered Kai's sweet words from the last night. How many kings cared so much about their slaves? Jay barely knew anything about Ninjago's history but he was sure he could count them with just one of his hands.

“I… don't understand this…” He muttered finally losing the battle against himself.

Cole looked to the side, eyelids shutting as he composed himself. So many things were going through his mind at the moment; slight anger towards Jay's irrational hostility, pity for the foxed boy and painful memories about his and Kai's past.

Cole turned to face Jay again, strong hands grabbing at the other's shoulders as gentle as he could. He didn’t want to scare the boy away, but he really needed him to step out of his toxic mentality.

“I know how wrong it looks like but I'm not lying here, Jay; none of us have ever thought about you as a slave but rather as a friend. And even if we did, Kai would never mistreat you, he's not that type of person at all. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He's keeping you here because… because…” Cole pondered briefly what would be the best way to express himself and clean Kai's name at the same time, sadly words weren't his strength. “Because he's a lovestruck idiot.” He said huffing a small laugh at the end. Jay didn't find the joke much funny though, Cole noticed how his nose scrunched up in disgust.

“Listen, Jay,” he said cupping the boy's neck in his hands pulling him closer so their foreheads were touching. Cole’s eyes bored holes in the other’s, hoping for once he could go past Jay’s walls and connect with him. “Just forget that he's gay, forget that we're married, forget that he has a crush on you, forget all that stuff that makes you think we're... the Devil's seed. We just want to be friends, that's the only truth.”

A sharp pang of guilt hit the younger boy. Devil’s seed … Jay wondered how many times Cole must have heard those words before. The expression felt too harsh for a moment, even to Jay. These people… they were definitely a bit crazy but they were not demons.

But…

There it was again. His fear and anxieties were trying to take control of his mind. For all he knew, the royal family could have been so messed up as to scheme a way to trick him, to get Jay to lower his walls so they could mold him to their taste and he wouldn’t even notice it until he lay on the Maharaja’s bed with his legs spread wide.

But then… why did he feel so much distress in Cole’s voice when he tried to defend himself and the others? Why did his hands on his neck feel so warm? Why were they all so patient and gentle with him?

 

The pair stayed there in silence eyes still locked. Cole tried to smile, his heart ached weakly. Jay’s assumptions were certainly hurtful. He really liked Jay and Cole had just recently started daydreaming about becoming something more than friends with the cute fidgety boy, but he was wise and patient enough to not rush things, afterall he knew there was a possibility that Jay never saw any of them as love interests and eventually left.

Jay lowered his eyes breaking the contact much to the noirette’s distress. He was too embarrassed at that point to keep looking at him; embarrassed at the closeness of the situation and at his own confused feelings.

A knock on the door startled them, Jay shoved Cole aside quickly yet gentler than other times.

“Come in.” Cole’s deep voice raised a tone as he shouted.

A man dressed up in a peachy robe came into the room and stayed by the door.

“My lords, everyone’s waiting for you at the dining hall.”

Cole blinked, surprise written all over his face. “Everyone? It’s already that late? Uh, thank you, we’ll be down there in a minute.” The man bowed and left to deliver the message.

Turning his head towards Jay, Cole shot him a final smile as he ruffled the orangish locks at the top of his head teasingly. The boy recoiled at his antics and pouted, throwing his arms up to stop the stronger male. Cole laughed at the annoyed face from his peer. Maybe Jay would see everything differently with a full stomach.

“Come on, get changed so I can go and stuff myself. I’m really craving for some sweets.” Cole said pulling out an outfit for Jay from the closet and throwing it at him with more force than he intended.

“Oof!” The other exclaimed as the fabric hit his face.

Cole snickered and grabbed a hairbrush from the nightstand before disappearing to the bathroom to finish himself as well as giving Jay some privacy.

“Glutton.” Jay mumbled, lips subtly curving up at the end.

Looking over his shoulder one last time he made sure he was alone before he undressed and got inside the new clothes. He wasn’t getting anything out of the mess his mind was at the moment so he might as well just try to stop thinking about it for a while. Maybe everything would make itself clearer if he just let the thoughts flow through his soul , as Zane suggested.

He stared at his reflexion in a nearby vanity. The long deep blue shirt had an asymmetric end that made one of the sides longer than the other, dark tiny patterns decorated the whole length of the sleeves. The fabric felt so soft against his skin, and he enjoyed it maybe a little bit too much but could he be blamed? He had never worn such delicate things in his life.

“Blue really suits you.”

Jay gasped as he twirled around. Cole’s appearance had barely changed, his hair was still down but the crazy mane from before was nowhere to be seen.

“Uh, thanks…”

Cole smiled at him. Taking his hand Jay let him lead them out of the room. He already knew the way to the dining hall by now but he felt safer walking down there with the other male for some reason. As they walked down the corridor, Jay’s mind went back to his reflection on the mirror. He had to admit he looked nice with the fancy clothes and his face clean.

“Hey, I just noticed” he spoke up catching Cole’s full attention. “Do you guys always wear the same colors?” He asked as he realized the royal family seemed to have a color code for each member.

“Oh, that! Yeah, we’ve been doing it for a while. It was Zane’s idea, he said it makes our stuff a lot easier to organize. He’s a bit of a freak control…” Cole dipped down to whisper the last part against Jay’s ear, which earned a giggle from the boy. He had definitely noticed the taller blond was usually the one who would go after the others to make sure they put any object back into their respective place after using it. The one who would carefully do his bed every morning and analyze it from different angles to make sure the amount of fabric that hung from each side was symmetrical.

Jay’s soft laughter made Cole terribly happy.

“It works actually. The only ones who still fight sometimes over clothes are Kai and Nya. They both like red too much and Kai is such a fashion victim, he gets really jealous sometimes when Nya gets new cool stuff.”

So Jay was right when he initially came up with the Red Siblings nickname. The little chatter seemed to be calming his constant nerves.

“Is... black your favorite color?” He asked going over the code in his mind; Lloyd was green for sure, Zane probably white or some kind of light yellow or pink.

“Nope, it’s actually orange, but they all agreed black suits me a lot more, and it makes me looks tougher so it’s a win-win.”

It did. Cole easily looked scary at first sight with his big frame, dark features and that unique crooked nose. But how was it beneficial for him to look tougher? Jay asked himself and automatically remembered that mysterious aura that surrounded Cole back when they exercised days ago. Taking advantage of the fact he was regaining his chatterbox side Jay went to ask Cole but stopped as they reached the dining hall doors.

Indeed the whole royal family was already there, sitting around the table engaged in one of their casual conversations.

“Well, well, look who overslept.” Kai said in a sing-song voice.

“Look who forgot about us,” Cole bit back, no true remorse in his words. He sat down together with Jay on their usual spots. “Seriously though, where were you guys?” he asked the blond boys in front of him.

“Couldn’t sleep.” Lloyd was quick to respond, eyes slightly rolling back.

“Talking to Kai.” The other one informed shortly with an almost invisible pink tint on his cheeks. Cole thought he heard the monarch stifle a laugh for a second but paid him no mind, for his eyes landed on a particular plate full of food.

Jay went back to his fidgety awkward self as everyone started to eat. Being with more people other than Cole was still a hard task. This time though, the awkwardness in the air felt different. Kai’s eyes only had him nervous instead of terrorized, his laughter didn’t make Jay’s stomach turn upside down anymore and his hand lingering over his caressing the skin didn’t feel… No, wait, that kind of contact was still uncomfortable.

“Are you feeling better now?” Kai asked him in a soft voice, refilling a cup with some more water before he gave it back to Jay.

The boy drank slowly, using those spare seconds to think about his reply. Sadly the words died in his lips and he finally opted to just shrug with a small nod. He hoped Kai wasn’t going to bring up anything that happened last night in front of the others, Jay was not ready to talk about that, it made him all sorts of confused everytime he remembered Kai’s behaviour.

“Are you guys joining us?”

Jay didn’t know what the monarch was talking about. Kai smiled at him before calling out Cole and repeating his question to the noirette.

“Where?” The other asked back.

“Nya and Lloyd have music class next and we are going to join them,” Kai explained pointing at Zane for a second. “Just to relax all together for a lil’ bit before I have to go and take care of some audiences.”

“Sounds good to me. Are you coming along, Jay?”

The ginger boy didn’t know what to say at first. After being ordered around for days, they were finally asking him for his opinion, or maybe they always asked him but he was too busy to see the world through a filter of hate.

“Uh… okay” he finally accepted.

“Great!” Beamed the Maharaja.

 

“You missed a Fa, sis.”

“And you're missing a brain but you won’t hear me complaining,” Nya barked at her brother playfully yet a bit annoyed, Kai liked to interrupt them too often. “Plus you don't even know what a Fa is.”

“It's music.” Kai kept joking.

“Kai, please! We're trying to play.” Joined Lloyd, his hands carefully holding a flute while Nya and the teacher sat next to him with a sitar and a harmonium respectively.

The Maharaja pursed his lips, messing up with his sister had always been one of his favorite hobbies since they were kids but Lloyd's pleads made him back down. He didn’t wish to ruin the first ‘family time’ they were spending all together since Jay arrived to their home.

The teacher quickly resumed the session and music started to play again in short interludes at first, making sure the blonde and the princess knew exactly how they should play their parts before going at it again from the top.

The Maharaja was sprawled down on the fluffy carpet, lots of cushions under his body to make his stay more enjoyable as he stared at the couple playing a soft and relaxing tune. Zane was comfortably laying on one of the nearby couches, a book in his hands. Jay was sitting on the other doing nothing but observing the situation. Cole was on the floor too, his head elevated to rest partially on the couch, right next to Jay's legs. A pleased expression on his face as his fingers tapered on his belly in synch with the music.

Kai admired the scene. He felt happy. This was starting to look like the family he envisioned since Jay came into his life. He was sure he had broken some of Jay's barriers last night; things could only go better from now on. He giggled one more time as the ginger boy caught his eyes only to look away embarrassed a second later.

Still giddy from all the happiness he was experiencing that morning, Kai sat up and crawled towards the couch where Zane was reading peacefully, he snaked between the boy's legs to lay over him.

“Whatcha reading?” He asked popping his head from below the book. The brunette locks making it impossible for Zane to keep reading the words imprinted on the pages. The blond rather than being annoyed by his spouse's antics smiled at him.

“Jaimini” he replied in a low voice to not break the concentration of the musicians in the room.

Kai stared at him deadpanned for a few seconds. “Should that name ring a bell to me?” He finally asked.

Zane cocked an eyebrow. “It should, I've talked you about him sometimes.”

“Oops, ha ha, awkward…”

Zane snickered and shifted in his spot, making more space in his lap for the monarch until Kai's back was flat against his abdomen. Zane lowly offered the boy an explanation about the book’s author while pointing at the pages.

 

Once again, Jay was witnessing a level of intimacy he didn't know how to feel about. It was so strange to see two boys acting like a married couple. Yet they looked perfect, meant for each other just like his own parents whenever he walked on them cuddling -which happened way more times that Jay would like to have seen.

“You okay there, Jay?” Cole's voice caught his attention.

“Uh, yeah…”

The noirette inspected him; the blue boy was sitting straight and rigid as if someone was threatening him with a sword next to his neck. Cole grabbed the discarded cushions that still laid by his side on the floor and got up to place them all around Jay.

“I'm fine, really.”

“Nonsense,” Cole pushed the boy down gently, making him lay on the couch on his side. “That's a lot better, isn't it?”

Lloyd cleared his throat out loud, the action obviously addressed at them to keep their voices down. Cole huffed and went back to his spot on the floor, but this time he decided to lie down with his arms pulled behind his head.

The sound of a song being played filled the space. Noticing the relaxed ambient Jay gave in and made himself comfortable adjusting a pillow under his head.

It was something new to him. The concept of free time wasn't totally foreign to Jay; everyday his father and him would take multiple breaks between each crafting. They'd go help Edna preparing dinner, organize some of the materials they had gathered the previous days and occasionally play a little game. But this was a whole new concept. Jay's free time had always been short and used only as a way to cool his mind from a harder task, but these people didn't have any hard tasks to do. They seemed to live in a never-ending break, always chill and with zero worries.

It was… boringly pleasant.

The song ended, the teacher instructed Lloyd and Nya for a new tune, carefully studying the partiture with the blond who seemed to be having problems with a particular part. Taking advantage of the small chatter that was already going on, Cole started up a conversation with the boy that was a few inches away from him.

“Hey, Jay, do you play any instruments?”

A freckled face peeped out over the edge of couch. “Uh, no…” Cole didn't talk back immediately, instead he opted to wait and let Jay take his time to come up with a longer answer. “I… I've reconditioned a couple of sitars before but never really had the chance to learn music.”

“Well, now's the chance if you'd like to.”

“Uh, thanks but it looks complicated.” He refused growing nervous at the simple idea of touching one of those expensive and delicate tools.

“You can't be worse than Cole.” The Maharaja raised his voice jumping in the alien conversation.

“Hey!”

“What? Can you prove me wrong, rocky hands?”  Kai sneered.

“Look who's talking,” Cole propped himself up with his strong arms, almost hitting Jay's forehead with his. “You should have heard him playing the harmonium when he was younger. I still have nightmares with that.” The noirette shout-whispered to his ginger companion, shaking as fake goosebumps hit his nerves.

“Hey! It wasn't that bad!” Kai sat up too fast, Zane's book dropped to the floor. Kai grabbed the closest cushion and threw it at Cole.

“It was!” The noirette caught the object and threw it back. “Thanks Brahma you quitted soon enough. You've got no talent for music.”

Kai gasped at the teasing, a hand reaching up to his heart dramatically. “Ah! How dare you…!” And launched himself over Cole starting a playful fight. Jay drew back and moved to the farthest corner of the couch to avoid being hit by the boys who were wrestling right next to him.

“Seriously…” Nya mumbled as everyone in the room rolled their eyes at a show they had witnessed way too many times.

Kai rolled over Cole, straddling his waist and pinning his arms down, demanding the boy under him to take his words back.

“Never!” Cole exclaimed excited and happy. “Hey, Jay, a little help here?” He asked still laughing and ready to get revenge on the monarch.

All eyes zeroed on the ginger boy and waited for his reaction. Sadly, becoming the center of attention was something Jay never actually enjoyed before. He froze when he felt everyone’s gazes on him, unable to do anything.

Seeing he was all alone in his retaliation, Cole used Kai's distraction to rock his hips and make the boy lose his balance momentarily, getting him off his body. Kai landed with his face on the floor, which earned a laugh from Cole, Zane and Nya.

“Ouch! … Agh, you're so dead!” He groaned ready to keep up the play-wrestling. In a moment Kai pinned the other down again, his limbs messily tangled around Cole as the other male was laying on his stomach. Kai rolled Cole’s shirt slightly up to poke at his sides. The strong man reduced to childish whines as he squirmed with laughter and tried to shake Kai off him, the monarch gripping at the big body like a koala to a tree.

“Kai, not that! Ah! Get off!”

‘Kai, get off’, ” the monarch repeated mocking him. “You’re a pussy, yaknow?”

“And you’re a- Ah! An annoying pain in the ass!” He shouted, little tears starting to spill from his chocolate eyes.

A smug smile made its way to Kai’s face as a devil idea crossed his mind. He stopped the tickles. Cole took a deep breath, hoping he was going to be fred in a second when he shrieked as he felt sharp teeth biting his butt and Kai laughing against the fabric of the pants.

Now I'm a real pain in the ass!

Cole jolted with enough force to finally send Kai down on the floor.

“You, idiot…” Cole mumbled failing to kick the monarch with his leg. Kai kept laughing,  They could have done that for hours, it was daily occurrence for these guys to get into arguments, sometimes they were serious and others it shifted into a childish and endearing game.

Sadly an old white barbed man opened the door, interrupting their laughter. It was counselor Wu. “Your Majesty, I'm unhappy to interrupt your valued family time but audiences will start in twenty minutes. Your presence is required.”

“Aw, already?” Kai pouted. Under the implacable gaze of the wise man he could do nothing other than accepting his royal duties.

Proceeding to bid goodbye to all the members of his family, Kai got up and gave Zane a tight hug and a kiss, walking then towards Cole and surprising him when instead of a kiss he knocked him on the forehead with his middle finger. Cole whined rubbing the aching spot. “Don’t think you’re off the hook, dumbass.” Kai laughed.

Cole narrowed his eyes at him but his frown relaxed after his husband pecked him on the top of his head.

The monarch froze for a second as he turned to Jay, debating what he needed to do. He pulled his palms up together and bent his torso slightly, softly smiling at Jay as he straightened again and ran towards his sister and last spouse, showering them with more affectionate gestures.

“See ya’ later, guys.” Kai sang happily before disappearing behind the door.

Zane picked his book from the floor and repositioned himself on the couch to dive back into his reading while Nya and Lloyd busied themselves with the music teacher.

Cole sent Jay a look, studying the small boy. He nodded his head in a silent question and smiled as Jay nodded back at him seconds later. Then Cole laid on the floor again, shutting his eyes to abandon himself to the sounds being pulled out of the instruments.

Jay’s eyes surveyed his surroundings once more. All the people in the room looked so relaxed, so at peace, like they had nothing to hide and just enjoyed being themselves.

The day had started the worst possible way, but now Jay was starting to reconsider many things; he was under no circumstances going to marry Kai because he knew he could never hold any romantic interest for another male, but maybe the idea of befriending these people wasn’t so terrible. They did seem like nice persons.

With a long sigh that was meant to calm his nerves, Jay stealthily accomodated in the couch once again, careful not to make any sudden moves that would drive uncomfortable attention back to him and prepared to relax for what was probably the very first time in his life.

“Ugh…” Lloyd groaned, failing to get the correct note.

Chapter Text

Cole's raspy voice broke the silence, eyebrows furrowed trying to fix his gaze on Zane. “What's this all about?”

“I don't know… but I'm going to find out.” Replied the blond following the souverain steps.

Cole shrugged and went back to sleep, lazily pulling the sheets over him again.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

“Kai, wait” the tall blond called following the monarch to his chamber. “What was that?” he asked when his husband turned around, a goofy smile on his face.

“What was what ?”

“You and Jay; where did all that disturbance come from at these hours?”

Kai snickered again and gestured Zane to come to his room. Icy blue eyes widened in surprise at the mess in front of him; cushions and blankets scattered all over the floor, the carpet was wrinkled and the couch and nearby table pushed out of their places. It almost looked like the result of an earthquake.

“What did you do?” Zane feared for a moment the Maharaja had lost his temper during the night and did something he would regret.

“Nothing,” Kai kicked the blanket under his foot. “We ate a snack, talked a little bit and then fell asleep on the floor.” He turned around, a happy and proud smile on his face.

Zane still didn’t understand. He was obviously missing some pieces of the puzzle. “But… how do you explain this?” He asked pushing the couch back to his place. All that untidiness was making his uncomfortable.

“Oh, that!” The brunette laughed again childishly. “That was Jay’s doing; he just… Gosh, he woke up screaming because I was hugging him on my sleep. You should have seen him toppling over the couch and crawling when he ran away all embarrassed. It was hilarious!”

Zane suppressed a relieved sigh, instead breathing out softly through his nose as he busied himself fixing the rest of the place.

“Judging by your smile, is it safe to assume the night went well?”

“It went more than well,” Kai beamed helping Zane in his task. “We played pupai, and talked, and I fed him, and he told me about his hometown! Did you know he’s from Shaiya?” The Maharaja said excited with glowing eyes.

“Yeah, his particular accent gave away he is from the north.”

Kai cocked an eyebrow at him, slightly irritated at his sometimes-too-smart husband. “Sorry, you were saying?” Zane giggled.

“He also told me about the kidnappers and how they tortured him. I feel so bad, he really went through a lot… I wish I could have done something for him sooner...” Kai resumed. “Aah... and he let me hug him. Oh, Zane, he’s so delicate and cute and... his hair! Ugh, it’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!” He said, eyes lost looking away at a random point in the air as both boys folded the blankets and Zane put them back where they belonged. A giggle escaped the blond's mouth as he saw the silly look on Kai's face.

“I'm glad to see you've made some amends with him.”

Kai smiled at him, placing his arms around Zane's neck to pull him into a gentle embrace. The souverain kissed his spouse, their lips pressing tenderly against each other. As they parted, Kai rested his head on Zane's shoulder, lips brushing against the skin of the pale neck.

“I wish he would have stayed longer. I wanted to talk more with him, to share our likes and fears and to hold him forever in my arms. He's so pretty…”

Zane’s chuckle vibrated on his ear, the blond reached up a hand to stroke the monarch’s chocolate hair all the while his other limb caressed his back gingerly. Zane found so much peace in these moments, he didn’t need many things to be happy. Hugging his beloved husband in silence provided him sufficient joy to live forever. He was so entranced by the warm body next to him he didn’t realize Kai’s lips peppering his jawline and moving slowly down his neck with a deep dusk hum.

The paler boy looked at him, Kai's whole body language screamed passion ; from the hunger look in his green orbs, to his groping hands which were now placed all over the blond's back firmly pressing their bodies together.

“Kai, it's already daylight.”

“It's still early, we've got time” The monarch kissed him with more force, grazing his teeth over the delicate skin of his neck. “I want you to do that ...” he whispered sensually under his earlobe.

Zane's eyes popped open and stared at the brunette for confirmation. Kai bit his lip giving him one of his charming smiles before resuming the kissing. Zane hummed in appreciation and reciprocated the Monarch's actions.

“You sure?”

Kai nodded. “I feel soft today, I want some sexy cuddles from my sexy man.”

Zane chuckled, or that's what he would have done if Kai hadn't cut him with another kiss.

The Maharaja led them to the bed, their lips only breaking apart a few seconds when they fell together on the mattress. Kai quickly wrapped his limbs around the other boy, hands working on unbuttoning the simple white pajama to knead Zane's beautiful pecs. The blond didn’t have prominent muscles like Cole -actually none of them did, but he still had a decent body. Mostly a result of the combination of the years he lived in slight hunger, Cole’s training sessions and his medical knowledge which allowed him to follow a well-balanced diet.

Zane’s frame was very similar to the brunette, with just the right amount of fat and brawn, enough for Kai to trace his fingers along the edges of his pectorals and the subtle six-pack without much trouble.

The souverain's kisses were becoming more aggressive, opening his mouth greedily to catch more of Zane's essence.

“Calm down.”

“It’s your job to get me to calm down.” Kai replied with a cocky smile challenging the blond.

Zane snorted a laugh and sat up, discarding the piece of clothing that was already hanging down his arms. The brunette propped himself up just enough for Zane to slowly pull the shirt over his head. A light blush crept up to Kai's face as he felt the air against his bare chest. Zane leaned down to place a trail of kisses all over the sweet tanned skin and Kai tilted his head, as if offering himself like a prize to his lover.

Shaky breaths escaped his throat. Gluttony was piling up inside the frisky boy, Kai lifted his arms and pulled Zane closer to him to start a new round of lewd kisses, but the blond lost his balance, falling over the other boy in return.

“Sorry, you okay?” The monarch asked, eyes swiftly pointing down to their feet.

Zane smiled, delighted at the fact that his husband always cared about his old injury. Kai whined as Zane pulled his knee up and rubbed it against his crotch.

“I am.” He replied with a sensual smirk.

“Damn...” Kai pulled at Zane’s neck, kissing him passionately, the blond though had other plans.

He pulled back and aimed his lips at Kai’s neck and collarbone, giving him soft and gentle kisses, teasing him when he occasionally brushed his teeth over the sensitive skin. Kai whined at first but found himself humming soon enough, letting himself be transported to a whole new world full of pleasure.

Pale hands engaged in a slow dance, Zane’s fingertips softly caressed Kai’s chest following the path of the muscles just like the brunette did to him before, though in the characteristic gentle way of the blond. His knee firm between the other’s thighs, pressing up against the arousal every so often. The Maharaja squirmed under his unperturbed spouse.

“Relax…”

Kai groaned at the order.

“You were the one who asked me to do this.” Zane reminded.

“I know, ah...” A low moan escaped as a couple of fingers played with his nipple, rolling the tanned bud with utter care, yet it ignited Kai’s whole soul. He wrapped his arms around Zane’s torso. “It wouldn’t be that hard if you weren’t so good at it.”

“Is that a compliment?” Zane smiled innocently, Kai shrugged in response. Both guys giggling stupidly as they held each other close.

Zane kept massaging the king’s body, pressing his palms gently on any meat he could grasp and accompanying his ministrations with featherlight kisses. Fingers pulled at his short blond hair as the boy made his way down the toned torso way too slowly.

Kai gasped when his lover’s face got really close to the bulge in his pants, fighting to stay calm. Zane chuckled feeling the monarch’s desperation, he let his fingers caress the clothed member with an almost ghostly touch.

“Zane, please…”

“I’m getting there.” He announced pressing his whole palm just slightly harder, gaining another shaky sigh from Kai.

Zane was the perfect definition of patience. The way he slowly untied Kai’s pants,  unhurriedly hooking his fingers on the fabric to pull them down with absolute care, as if he was going to break the skin underneath, and doing the same once again with the underwear. It drove Kai crazy.

But he loved it.

 

Back in the days when Zane and Kai were newly-married they stumbled upon a few obstacles in their sexual life. Zane’s old injury on his feet ruled out some positions which made Kai feel limited and worried, not being able to go wild to pleasure his lover as he was used to do with Cole.

That was until they discovered what that ‘limitation’ really allowed them to do. Seeing ‘wild sex’ was out of the equation, they both decided to explore the opposite path. They learned to feel each other, not just with kisses and penetration but with their whole bodies. A gaze could be more than that, their voices were more than mere sounds, a caress could feel more than just the skin beneath it; it could touch their very souls if done properly. Slowly they realized gentle sex could be just as passionate and wild as a rough quickie, which not only improved their relation as a couple but also as a family because Kai liked to share and he could not let Cole outside of that new world of feelings and sensations they had discovered.

 

Zane happened to be a master at dragging things out, his serene personality allowed him to spend endless hours solely on foreplay, and he would work extra hard on it whenever the monarch asked to be on the receiving end. He enjoyed teasing Kai, seeing him struggle and fighting against his high libido levels was amusing and endearing at the same time. He knew Kai was a zippy and impatient person; that’s why it touched Zane so much that the boy would go out of his comfort zone for him. He smiled as he thought about this while holding Kai’s dick in his hand.

“Fuck” Kai groaned at the contact of cooler skin.

“No swearing.”

“Oh, come on!” The monarch complained.

Zane giggled. “Okay, but remember to breathe.”

“Yeah, yeah, just keep going.”

Kai bucked his hips just slightly, knowing too well he wasn’t allowed to rush things when they engaged in one of those long and tender intercourses.

Zane kissed at the base of the shaft, soft fingers playing with the tip smearing the transparent liquid that was starting to ooze from it. A hot breath tickling Kai’s skin deliciously as Zane’s mouth kept moving down.

The monarch lifted his hips offering himself to Zane and gasped at the feeling of the blond’s wet tongue against his ass. Both of Zane’s hands eventually moved down as well to fondle with the cheeks, massaging the meat, which only added to Kai’s tremendous agitation. The brunette reminded himself to keep his nerves under control and breath in synch with Zane’s movements as he had been advised earlier.

Kai trembled with delight at the soft vibrations of Zane’s mouth as he ate him out at different intensities. One of his hands trailed up again, it danced all over Kai’s lap, dragging the fingers through the pubic hair and up to the already hardened member, tracing his silhouette and making Kai hiss, clearly pissed and please at the same time at the lack of real action.

When Zane was happy with his job -meaning Kai had become a shuddering mess with a rear soaked in saliva, he raised his head. Hands now focussed on the Maharaja’s member yet still playing gingerly with it to try and get his attention.

“Should I start?” He asked when Kai’s shiny eyes finally found him.

“Hell, yeah, please!”

Did Kai like being teased, but it also proved his patience. When Zane offered more he didn’t waste a second and crawled fast to the nightstand, pulling out the familiar bottle of natural lube. There was lust in his eyes as he handed it to Zane and watched him pour just the exact amount of golden liquid in his palm.

“We’re running out of it.” He observed.

“I’ll steal another bottle from the kitchen later.” Kai said mindlessly.

“You’re the king; technically it's impossible for you to steal something from yourself.”

“Details, details…” he said downplaying Zane’s perfect logic and going back to his position, legs spread all over the bed.

Zane moved between Kai's legs, pulling them over his own thighs. His clean hand rested on Kai’s hips while the other moved down and caressed his entrance before he finally let a digit slip inside.

Kai chewed on his lip holding back a small moan, he knew things were just getting interesting. The finger inside him moved sheepishly, poking softly at the inner walls and twirling around, testing the waters.

Knowing too well that that would never be proper stretching, Zane added another finger, Kai letting out a rather loud gasp as he felt his sphincter expand at the intrusion.

Zane kept the fingers there, softly curling them to let the monarch adjust, never going as far as hitting his prostate. His free hand went back to Kai's dick, hard and hot demanding attention. The boy moaned as Zane languidly stroked him for a few moments until he felt him relax.

The innocent looking boy smirked happy to be getting to the point. He pressed his fingers deeper on Kai, bending them at the exact spot where he knew that little bundle of nerves was waiting for him. Eliciting beautiful moans from his lover as he began the long awaited prostate massage.

“Holy cow!” Kai cried out as Zane skillfully effleuraged his insides and held his hips down.

“Breathe.”

“Ah- shit! You know I'm trying…”

Seeing the monarch was losing his way, Zane reduced the amount of pressure he was putting on the gland, alternating the gentle caresses of his free hand between Kai’s hips, thighs and cock until the boy's breathing became less erratic.

Kai was slightly irritated, Zane was going hard on him that day, or maybe he was getting riled up too fast. So when the blond resumed his lewd massage on that specific spot Kai tried his best to control his respiration for he didn't wish to stop again.

His moans came out in a perfect regular rhythm, the volume increased as minutes passed and Zane’s fingers played with him in the most delicious ways.

“Fuck- Zane, that’s… Ah...”

Kai threw an arm over his eyes, he could feel the blood rushing to his face, turning his cheeks hotter and redder and his eyes watery. The pleasure… It was so much yet to little at the same time, it made his mind spin painfully. Controlling his libido was one of the biggest challenges for Kai, and probably the only thing he could never really achieve in his life.

Toes curling up brushing against the covers as he squirmed and moaned. Zane changed the speed of his hands whenever he sensed Kai was close to cumming. Feeling his frustration but also that sweet tingling jitter that was starting to spread to his own crotch.

A very loud and dragged out moan alerted Zane; it was time to change tactics.

He released his fingers with a wet sucking, gaining a whine from the brunette. Kai was sweating, the morning air was starting to get warmer and it didn’t help his already burning body. Zane scooted closer, towering over his spouse, his sugar coated kisses brought the other back to earth for a while, and his cooler skin provided a very much needed break.

“You’re a monster.” Kai bit out.

You made me like this.” Zane smiled back. He’d never really had any kind of sexual desires until he met Kai.

They shared another kiss, Kai’s hands sliding on Zane’s back for purchase, all the while the brunette tried to stealthily grind his dick against the bare torso that was pressed on him. Zane took a few minutes to just kiss and caress his lover’s face and neck, not moving onto the next step until the young man was relaxed again. It was part of the magic of their sexual encounters; Zane would always make sure to fit some pauses in the process to get them both calm so the sex lasted longer and longer.

The blond got up from the bed to serenely remove the last pieces of clothing he still had on before going back to his lover, finding Kai had already sat up and waiting for him. Zane blushed at the obvious desire in his green orbs.

They sat together on the bed, lips locked and humming softly, although it didn’t took Kai much time to shot his tongue forward and get a taste of Zane’s mouth. He just couldn’t help the excitement in his veins.

As they parted the Maharaja smirked evilly at his spouse, grabbing the bottle of oil again he poured the remainings of the liquid in his hand.

“My turn.” He said content that he was going to give Zane a taste of his own medicine. His lover though didn’t flinch and smiled back, ready for anything.

Kai shot both his hands at Zane’s crotch, catching the semi-hardened member in between them. Zane breathed in calmly as Kai started to caress him, hot hands pulling the foreskin back and stroking his length with practiced moves. He felt it growing bigger, harder, hotter, it pulsated against his palms.

Zane stared at him under those pale eyelashes that decorated his eyelids, Kai could feel the blond’s breath fanning his face, but that didn’t make him feel any cooler. He ordered one hand to thumb at the pink moistened head while the other drove down to knead and tease his balls.

Zane let out a soft moan, the sound mixing up with his sensual and perfect breathing. Even though Kai was the one in charge at the moment, he felt totally lost. The sight of Zane in front of him, flustered yet totally in control of his own body, made him go nuts. That wasn’t enough for Kai. He wanted his lover to lose it in his hands, to have him begging for more, to hear moans ripping his throat, just like he had been minutes ago.

Kai pulled himself closer to Zane, their lips almost touching as he let out soft breathy moans against his mouth and his hands worked on him a bit rougher than before. He did everything he could think of to get the cool boy to lose his mind, even just a little bit would please Kai. But he found his evil plan backfiring and only making him more eager for his man.

He wanted to kiss him. He wanted to moan. He wanted him .

Kai bit at his own lip, his gaze fell onto Zane’s hardened dick, the pink head now fully exposed and shiny, it looked delectable. Kai licked his lips, Zane was still perfectly collected and focused on his breathing as the brunette toyed with him.

The monarch groaned lowly tasting defeat.

“Is something up?” Zane’s icy-blue eyes opened fully, a hint of worry in them.

Kai shook his head, gulping down a heavy lump of saliva, making sure to control his voice to sound as cool and unaffected as his lover.

“I think- I mean... You’re good to go.” He said not really leaving Zane any time to counterback. Kai dug the pads of his feet on the bed, leaning his weight on his four limbs as he jumped on the blond's lap.

“Oh,” Zane muttered, catching the brunette’s waist in a flash and lining himself up with Kai. The Maharaja lowered his body choking back a moan while his eyes opened more and more as Zane’s dick disappeared inside of him.

Zane wrapped his arms around Kai’s torso, supporting his weight so the boy could throw his arms over the pale shoulders and around his neck.

“F-uck!” Kai couldn’t help but to whine loudly feeling his hole spasm as it stretched out.

“Shhh… Remember to breathe, love.” Zane cooed accommodating himself.

Admittedly Kai wanted to strangle him for a second, all those reminders about relaxing and breathing were pissing him off, but nevertheless he hummed in response and followed the advice.

Both their hips started a rocking motion. Zane could feel Kai’s breath on his neck, hot and seductive, sending him to paradise. Kai on the other side was struggling to keep himself composed; while Zane was not properly thrusting into him, the gentle steady moves were just as maddening.

Zane felt the Maharaja falter. Shifting his weight a hand darted up to Kai’s chin, pulling it up so they rested their foreheads together.

“Look at me.” He said. It was an old trick he liked to pull whenever the brunette was losing his concentration. Kai did as he was told, eyelids half-closed. Zane breathed in and out exaggeratedly to guide Kai, sadly that only worked for a couple of minutes. As their hips sped up Kai’s voice broke more and more, raw moans filing Zane’s ears. The blond murmured another set of advices for he knew if they didn’t cool it down, Kai was most likely to explode any minute.

“I can’t… It’s too much, Zane… Too much…” He moaned, his dick itching as it rubbed against the pale torso, demanding release.

“Hang on, just relax.”

Relax, relax...

That was it! Kai had had enough!

He gripped Zane’s nape thighly, preventing the blond from pulling away as his mouth attacked the slim pale lips, biting them with force and animal passion. Kai used his husband’s momentary confusion to tackle him, successfully toppling Zane down onto the bed. The dick inside of him slipped out almost painfully but he would care about that later.

Their lips parted but only for a brief moment. The blond gasped at the wet intrusion of Kai’s tongue in his mouth but followed up the monarch’s deeds as he allowed himself to be devoured. Kai groaned next to his mouth with primal desire, marking his way down Zane’s jawline and neck, the spouse hissing at the sharp bites.

The Maharaja sat up, lining himself with Zane’s cock again with urgency. Zane’s eyes widened as he sensed what Kai was up to.

“D-didn’t you say you were feeling soft?”

“I changed my mind.” He breathed out a second before impaling himself, loud animal moan following suit. Kai leaned back, squatting over Zane and placing his hands on the other’s legs to immobilize him and steady himself as well.

“Aah! Fuck, please!” He yelled as he started to move up and down at full speed. His eyes rolling back at the pleasure.

The male under him whimpered, his face contorted and eyes shut tight in concentration. The sudden change of pace had caught him by surprise. He recited several mantras internally, trying to get used to the tremendous waves of pleasure Kai’s tight ass was sending  to him as he bounced rapidly. He needed to stay focused.

‘Breathe in, breathe out, stay still, control your limbs, keep your eyes locked with him…’

Zane regretted ever opening his eyes the very minute his eyelids raised. Kai was losing his mind over him, legs spread and displaying all his naked glory to his lover, sultry groans and moans flying free from the prison of his throat. The sunlight filtering through the curtains surrounded him creating shiny reflections all over his oiled crotch and added a sweet yellow tone to his precious sun bathed skin.

Suddenly it all became too much for Zane. He felt an unruly knot building up fast in his stomach. The blond grabbed Kai’s waist with both hands, trying to decrease the hopping motions.

“Kai, that’s too fast… Ah- Wait!”

“Like Hell! You’ve teased me enough!” He retorted getting lost in the pleasure.

Zane finally pinned Kai’s hips against his lap, firmly holding him in place. The brunette whined pathetically and struggled to free himself from his lover’s grasp. Kai glared at him ready to scold the boy for prolonging the familiar ache in his gut for too long when his heart skipped a beat at the sight of Zane.

The once pale cheeks had turned into a vibrant red, only accentuated by the soft warm light that engulfed the room. The baby blue eyes were shining like stars, almost in tears. Mouth gaping as he tried to breath and his voice barely higher than a whisper.

“Please… not yet… You look... so beautiful.” Zane pleaded.

Kai stayed still, eyes widening in astonishment as he felt his whole face lighting up with a fierce blush. He wasn’t one to be easily embarrassed during sex, he’d had enough experience already to feel even an ounce of self-consciousness. But the sight of Zane under him, all flustered, messy hair and begging for a little bit more of intimacy tugged at his heartstrings and made him feel all sorts of warm to his very bones. His spouse was looking at him as if he was a precious treasure that had to be protected at all costs.

The position Kai had so proudly chosen before was now becoming uncomfortable at the lack of movement. He averted his eyes to the side, wiping a few beads of sweat from his forehead. His mind fighting between chasing his own peak ruthlessly or giving in to Zane’s request.

For the good or the bad, the Maharaja loved his partners too much.

Kai groaned and propelled himself, hands and knees landing next to Zane’s body as he straddled the boy, his tanned frame towering over him.

“I swear I… One day I’ll… Aaargh!” Kai growled, face buried in the crook of Zane’s neck. “I’m gonna kill you.” His voice deep and raspy with sexual frustration.

“As long as it’s not now.” His lover chuckled.

“You’re such a dork. I don’t even know why I still love you.”

“But you do.” Zane pulled at the monarch’s chin so they could look each other in the eyes. The smile on the pale lips didn’t take more than a second to spread onto the other, both boys laughing stupidly as they shifted their weights to kiss comfortably.

Zane felt partially guilty for the other’s frustration which made him cede, opening his mouth to let Kai’s tongue play freely with his. He threaded his fingers in the beautiful chocolate locks, fingertips gently caressing the scalp while his other hand traveled along the strong tanned back, squeezing his derrière and thighs. Kai hummed against his mouth pleased at the loving touches as they both started to move again, finding a nice rhythm they both enjoyed; not too slow, not too fast.

“Z-Zane… I’m seriously gonna cum.” Kai breathed out weakly a few minutes into the new pace.

His spouse gave him one last kiss before nodding with a smile. The corners of Kai’s lips pulled up slightly with relief. He sat up to have better control of his body and grinded on Zane’s hips a few times. Zane anchored himself on the bed with his healthy foot, thrusting up his hips as he took Kai’s member in his hand to stroke him all along his release. Kai moaned and shook, his whole body quivering intensely as if he had been hit by a lightning.

Ropes of warm cum spilled onto Zane’s body and hand at the same time the blond also felt a heat in his stomach piling up and blurring his vision. Kai didn’t dither and kept moving as a chain of spasms travelled through his body, enjoying the overstimulation on both his dick and ass.

“Shiiit!” He wailed as Zane gave a few determined thrusts crying out Kai’s name and gripping the other’s hips tightly until his quivers died down and he was left with a satisfied and calm smile on his face.

Kai fell back down on Zane’s chest, too dazed to care about the sticky sensation that came with it, eyes fluttering shut and heavy breaths coming out of him as Zane slid his hands on his back again, caressing the burning skin.

“Was it worth the wait?” Zane asked with a cocky smile when his breath was steady enough

“Shut up, you nerd.”

The blond snorted amused and kept fondling Kai’s gorgeous tanned body. Cum dribbling down to Zane’s thighs as it spilled from Kai’s insides.

“We should get cleaned.”

“Just a lil’ more…” Kai slurred nuzzling his neck.

“We’re sticky.”

“You made me wait; now you wait too!” The Maharaja said with a firm voice, definitely not up for anything that required physical effort at the moment.

Zane blinked before exploding in genuine giggles. “I walked right into that.”

They shifted slightly, Kai placed his hands under Zane’s back, pressing against him and enjoying the cool sensation that came from being in contact with Zane. The blond kept his arms around the other occasionally reaching up to brush Kai’s hair, letting the soft strands slide under his fingertips, almost tingling him.

Muted blue eyes were fixed on a random spot on the roof of the bed. Birds were starting to tweet on the outside, happily welcoming the new day. Zane pressed his cheek on Kai’s head and let out a dreamy sigh. Tragedy accompanied him through the majority of his life; first the loss of his mother, then his father and finally almost himself when he had that terrible accident on the cliff. He never really imagined being romantically involved with another person would bring so much joy and peace to his soul. He closed his eyes and listened carefully to Kai’s respiration, letting himself relax. They still had enough time for some cuddles before they needed to tidy up.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Lloyd didn’t know how many minutes have passed but they surely hadn’t been enough. His ears perked up at the familiar sound of Kai’s moans, echoing through the palace and reaching their bedroom, almost faded but still noticeable.

“Seriously?!” He whined, sitting up to check Cole. His companion was peacefully sleeping; how so? Lloyd had no idea but right now he envied the oblivious large man.

He threw the covers over himself again and placed the pillow over his head, pressing at the sides trying to create some kind of noise shield.

“Ah, Zane...” sounded from afar.

Well, the shield didn’t work at all.

Lloyd groaned in annoyance. Not that he minded that Kai got all frisky with his other spouses, but he did mind when he had already been woken up hastily and was trying to fall asleep again. He liked to sleep right through.

Lloyd leaped out of his bed, quickly shoving a long shirt over his pajamas and exiting the room to distract his mind. “Unbelievable!” He mumbled as he made his way to the the other wing.

Chapter Text

The rainy season had officially started, and what a way to start! It had been months since rain lasted for more than half an hour, the people in the kingdom were used to the weather drastic changes when the time came but a three days   rain was still surprising, and certainly annoying for a few.

Like Cole.

The usual collected and carefree boy had been acting all cranky for the past days as they had to spend their time mainly playing board games, reading or just laying around the palace. All activities with very little action to his dismay.

Cole was an outdoors person, someone who enjoyed feeling the wind slapping his face and tangling his hair or sunbathing under the hot bright star in the sky. If it was up to him he would go take a walk down the garden even under the rain, afterall it was just water, there was no real danger in it. But Zane had a different opinion; ‘you could catch a cold being under the rain which would put your health in a dangerous spot’.

Poor Cole was an irritated mess, he even got into a few little fights with Kai. The red siblings were also slightly affected by the weather. Then one day Kai was exhausted after a long audience in which he dealt with a couple of landlords who had a ridiculous tussle -apparently one's livestock had ‘purposely’ eaten the other's yield and they were determined to sue each other. Some people really… Luckily Zane intervened in time between his peers before they started shouting things they would regret later. It was a blessing that the pair of blonds weren't much affected by the gloomy ambience. They knew the rain would eventually come to a stop, and they already spent a lot of time indoors on a daily basis so it barely meant a change for their routines.

 

After three days of non-stop raining the sky finally decided to take a break, the feeble rays of sun filtered through the small gaps in the fluffy clouds. The overall ambience was still a bit saddening but Cole was not going to complain, knowing very well that when the rainy season arrived he had to take whatever chance the weather gave him to enjoy being outside. That morning when he realized rain had stopped he almost jumped out of the window of their chamber. He bounced along the place, excited like a child and for once he even was the first to be dressed up and ready to start the day, urging everyone to finish their meals so they could get outside before it was too late.

Of course, Cole would not have enough with going out by himself. He asked for the others to join him in his training, reasoning that they all needed to exercise more than ever now. Kai and Nya managed to skip it due to their royal businesses, the other three weren't so lucky.

Letting out all the frustration that had bottled up inside of him, Cole made them run, do push-ups, weight lifting and now crunches. He was vigilant in his task, making sure the guys did every movement the correct way to prevent lesions.

“Lloyd, don't pull at your neck.”

The small blond groaned, laying back flat against the pavement and bending his torso onwards again, trying to follow Cole's advice and receiving a happy hum in confirmation.

Although it had been a couple minutes without receiving any warnings, Jay made sure to not make the same mistake no matter how hard it became. Wow, his abdomen burned, he thought he was in better shape but he couldn't even do more than twenty crunches without his breath starting to falter. He thanked the sun hadn't totally come out yet; doing all that exercise under the bright warm daylight would have been much worse.

“Come on, Zane. Try going further.”

“It's hard.” The other panted, legs pulled out in the air; his own exercise had been planned a bit differently from the regular position to not put too much pressure on his bad foot.

“That's what you get for slacking off all these days.” Cole said amused at the sight of the three breathless boys.

Jay wondered why were they doing this. It was clear the blonds weren't as interested in physical training as Cole, -neither was him but he admitted it worked wonders as a distraction. Yet the boys still didn't doubt a second to go along this torture to make Cole happy. It looked like they all shared a strong bond, something that went further than just being married to the same guy or living under the same roof. Something Jay still had troubles understanding.

 

After a much needed rest, Cole switched back to his crazy-coach self again, it was actually adorable how his face beamed as he rummaged around the warehouse to get some staffs. The smile on his face never dying as he handed one to Lloyd and trained with him while Jay and Zane sat nearby.

Jay felt slightly bad for being thankful for the blond's weak foot, but just the thought of being in that same spot with Lloyd by his side made him shiver. The boy was still pretty skeptical of him, glaring at Jay almost every time their eyes found each other and making snarky remarks at him. Jay didn’t recall doing anything wrong since he got there -if spitting at the king’s face didn’t count, that is. So what did Lloyd have against him?

“Come on, Lloyd! You're doing great!” Zane cheered as the smaller blond got up from the floor again to keep on with the practice.

“I'm sure Cole would love to have someone cheering at him too.” Zane whispered hinting the gingerhead an easy way to build some liaison with the group.

Jay stared at the scene playing before his eyes. Cole was a pro fighter, he didn't need reassurance but this all somehow reminded him of his childhood, when all the kids from his neighborhood gathered around and played together. Jay remembered the high pitched voices, yelling at the top of their lungs, rooting for one kid or another as they wrestled in the sticks makeshift ring. He liked it. Sometimes he didn't even know them but that didn't stop him from picking up on the names and joining the fun. Being noisy felt so relieving.

That time though Jay found himself unable to act like his younger self. Afterall he wasn't a kid anymore and those weren't his neighbours, they were grown up men and the Maharaja spouses.

Zane watched as Jay's eyes dropped to the floor; fear and self-restraint on his face as he chewed on his lip. Zane rushed to brush his pale fingers on the back of Jay's hand. The boy looked up at him warily.

“It's okay, don't worry.” Zane tried to reassure him but as he saw the boy still shifting in his spot uncomfortably he decided to add with a playful smile “Actually it's better like this. We don't want it to go to his head, right?”

For the first time in all those grey days Jay snorted a genuine laugh. Zane was right. As if Cole needed people to remind him how strong he was! The boy liked to show off his tremendous strength at any chance.

A low thud caught their attention. Lloyd was on the floor again, one of Cole's feet on his chest.

“And that makes three. Sorry kid, you're out.” Cole said in a sing-song voice.

Lloyd groaned leaning on the staff to get up, his eyes found Jay's blue ones, making the ginger head's smile disappear in a second. He walked up to them, throwing the stick near Jay's feet as he sat down next to Zane, scowling.

“Come on, Jay!” Cole shouted.

“Uh, me?”

“No, my grandma. Of course it's you! Is ‘Jay’ perhaps not your real name? Ah, what other things are you hiding from us?” Cole said placing a hand over his heart and pretending to be offended.

Jay stared at the long piece of bamboo by his legs, he picked it up cautiously and looking back at Zane. The blond smiled at him. “Go kick his butt.” He whispered. Jay sighed pitifully, he would need to train a whole life to be able to even hit Cole, but the spell seemed to work on him.

“Let's see if you still remember anything from the last time.” Cole said before making the first move.

 

That freaking bastard was fast. Lloyd couldn't believe Jay managed to dodge some of Cole's kicks so easily. He himself had needed weeks of training to do that. The more he stared at the boys the more irritated Jay's figure made him. Lloyd laid down on the floor, resting his head on Zane's lap as he stared at the sky.

“You're missing the fight.” The pale blond informed.

“I don't wanna see him.” His voice was bitter.

Zane sighed and lowered his voice. “Are you still mad at him?”

“I'm not mad… I just don't like him. You know, not everyone has to have the same tastes as you, Zane.” They fell silent for a few seconds. “Sorry… That was mean.” Lloyd apologized realizing he had gone too far talking to his friend like that.

“It's okay, but may I ask where does all this aversion originate from?”

“I...” Lloyd checked the sparring boys ahead, they looked so immersed in their activity but just to make sure they wouldn't hear him he turned his back on them and whispered to Zane's lap. “He's annoying. He stutters and trembles like we're going to kill him. Did you see him the other day when Kai and Cole were playing? He can't do anything alone. And he's noisy and clumsy, he didn't even apologize when he woke us all up with his stupid tantrum. Oh, and he was laughing at me just right now.”

“He was not, Lloyd. We were just chatting and I made him laugh.”

“Great; to top it all he’s stealing my friends…”

Zane blinked, slightly surprised by Lloyd’s words but tried to convince the blond again. “He's just scared and trying to fit in a new place.”

“I don't care, he drives me nuts with his stupidity. We're the freaking Royal Family, what is he even scared of?!” Lloyd paused for a second to make sure his voice didn't come out too loud. “This is the safest place in all of Ninjago, for Shiva's sake! Not even a mosquito could get inside this place without being spotted and crushed by a guard.”

“So… what bothers you is the fact that he doesn't seem to realize what he's been gifted?”

Curse Zane and his mind-reading abilities. He picked up on his inner dramas way easier than the short blond himself, yet Lloyd felt something more was hiding behind his antipathy for Jay. Something he did not want to think about while the others were around. He still wasn't ready to face some of his fears. Fears that he was just starting to acknowledge they existed inside his mind; the fear of being replaced.

“I guess.” Lloyd replied in the end agreeing to Zane’s hypothesis.

“Well, you were similar at first-”

“Don't remind me of that, please.” Lloyd cut him not wanting to go over that subject again.

The boy was growing anxious by the minutes and Zane could notice it. Placing a hand over the golden locks he ran his fingers through them, caressing Lloyd's scalp with his fingertips until his companion seemed to relax. Lloyd rubbed his cheek against Zane's leg, eyes closed as he almost purred at the contact.

“I mean,” Zane tried to throw some sense on him. “That you know better than any of us what made you change your mind back in the days when you were the newcomer. If Jay being unaware of all the good he's missing is what irritates you, why don't you try to help him?”

“What?” Lloyd looked up at the soft icy blue eyes.

“Talk to him, make him see us through your eyes so he can understand you.”

Lloyd raised a brow. Him talking to that ridiculous boy? Pfff, not even in a million reincarnations. To begin with, Jay still hadn’t even spoken to him directly, and Lloyd was not going to stoop to his level. He closed his eyes again shifting in his position to curl up a little bit. The sun wasn't fully out and the cold floor made everything more uncomfortable. Zane understood his friend didn't like his advice and decided to leave him some time to think about it. His hand though never pulled away from the bright locks.

 

“Hey, I've got an idea,” said Cole to the sweating boy in front of him. “C'mere.” They moved a few steps away, placing their feet precariously over the short stone wall that marked the limits of the paved patio. Jay barely managing to stay upright, the wall was very thin, he couldn't place both his feet side to side on the small rocks. As he was almost going to fall, Cole placed his staff on Jay's side, shoving him back softly enough to help the boy regain his position.

“You've got skills but your posture is still terrible. Some balance exercise will help.” Cole winked at him showing Jay how to control his weight on the small surface as they went over the previous moves they had been practicing.

“Watch out.” Zane called from a few meters away. Cole dismissed him with a laugh.

Jay had jitters in his stomach. While the height of the wall wasn't really a big deal, the feeling of walking nearly in the air had him on edge, quite literally . He never considered himself someone with a good balance, he knew he was clumsy and usually stumbled upon anything that wasn't even in the way. He never cared much as a kid but as he grew older he developed a certain complex about it. He couldn't bare the thought of falling down and making a joke of himself in front of these guys.

Luckily Cole didn't seem to have planned this as a way to make fun of him. Whenever Jay would wobble, Cole skillfully aided him with his own staff for support, pulled at his clothes or simply took his hand to help him stay on the wall. Jay was a mass of nerves but Cole's sincere help made him smile. The noirette was truly adorable, scary to some degree with his insane obsession for exercise but adorable nevertheless.

Wait, did Jay just think a man was cute?!

“Okay, now from the bottom. Ready?” Cole announced already charging towards one of Jay's legs, the gingerhead just coming back to Earth a second later, sadly that was too late. Without enough time to block Cole with the bamboo stick, he got hit on the side of his knee. Cole's eyes opened wide as he realized his mistake and saw the boy's body falling down. The noirette tried to grab him again like he had been doing up until now, but the momentum was too strong and dragged him down as well while he tried to secure his arms around Jay to protect him from the fall.

“Cole, Jay!” Zane shouted when the boys landed on the floor letting out a groan. Lloyd was shaken out of his small meditation moment, getting up with Zane to run towards the fallen pair.

Cole pulled back slowly, he had partially landed over Jay’s torso but somehow managed to slip a hand behind the other’s neck which prevented him to get hit on the head.

“Sorry, Jay, I thought you were on the ball.”

“Are you guys injured?” the ex-doctor asked.

Cole sat up and cracked his shoulders as he checked his arms. His elbow stung but he had endured worse wounds before. “Just a scratch, no big deal.” He said looking at the slightly bleeding skin on his limb.

Zane offered Jay a hand, the boy hissed as he sat up, hand darting up to his arm.

“What is it?”

“Ah… My shoulder… It hurts…”

“Let me see,” Zane kneeled down behind Jay. “I’m going to need to pull up your shirt.” Jay’s eyes widened in alarm but the pain he felt on his back was way heavier than any embarrassment he could feel at the moment so he allowed Zane to pull up the fabric, sliding the sore limb out as well. He gasped at Zane’s cold touch, the blond checked him carefully pressing his fingers over the muscles of his shoulder blade, he placed a hand on Jay’s arm guiding him to make some gentle movements. The boy letting out pathetic whines.

“Wimp…” Lloyd mumbled to himself.

“Everything seems to be in place,” Zane said finishing his inspection. “The muscle is swollen probably due to all the exercise and the fall. I advice we call it a day.” He said looking back at Cole who pouted like a sad child.

“Yeah… I’m sorry.” He apologized mortified, his cheeks darkening with shame.

After putting all the tools they had been using back into Cole’s sanctuary, the four guys headed back to their chamber. Cole drove straight for the bathroom without saying a word, locking the door from the inside. Zane sat with Jay on the latter’s bed.

“Mind if I take another look?”

Jay glanced at Lloyd quickly, he didn’t like the idea of exposing his naked chest in front of the other blond. Noticing his uneasiness Lloyd rolled his eyes with a groan before throwing himself on his bed, face buried in the pillows. With Zane’s help Jay finally stripped down to his pants, keeping the discarded shirt close to his chest as the other male rubbed his fingers against his back. Jay yelped and hissed a few times as Zane massaged his muscles, double-checking he didn’t miss anything important in his first exploration. It was painful yet Jay found himself enjoying the sensation in the end.

“You may have a tiny sprain though I do hope you don’t,” Zane said after a while. “The pain will most likely fade away in a couple of days but you should take it easy for now. I’ll go tell the cooks to prepare some cardamom infusion, we could all use some anti-inflammatory.” He rose up and walked to the door.

“Zane, wait!” Lloyd called making the blond stop. “Can we take a bath after that? I’m all grimy.”

“Oh…” Zane pondered rapidly. Jay surely would not want to go with them, seeing how easily flustered he became at the idea of merely exposing his chest. Plus his relationship with Lloyd was still hanging by a thread, but leaving him totally unattended didn't feel right either. Zane knocked on the bathroom door.

“Cole, can you hear me?”

“Y-yeah…” A feeble voice sounded on the other side.

“Jay is resting on his bed. Would you please look after him while Lloyd and I go and clean ourselves?”

The answer delayed a few seconds. “Sure, g-go ahead. I’ll go in later.”

Still worried for his friend, Zane sighed in surrender. Lloyd was already jumping from his bed and picking up a change of clothes as Zane went and did the same. The taller blond gave one last look at Jay before crossing the threshold. He hoped he would be okay with Cole. “We’ll be back soon.”

Jay waved a weak hand at them from his bed. As the blond pair disappeared Jay gazed at the ceiling, cushions strategically placed behind him, courtesy of Zane, to make the nest more comfortable for him. Although the pain on his shoulder wasn’t unbearable anymore it still hurt a lot whenever Jay moved; he felt the muscles and tendons burn like fire beneath his rosy pale skin. He sighed feeling terribly bored and left alone in the silence. This family was noisy and most of the time Jay wished they left him be, but right now he was missing the little happiness he had felt when they were training minutes ago... and that confused him.

A small rattle alerted him; Cole had just unlatched the bathroom’s door. The noirette’s heart skipped a beat as he came out and saw Jay surrounded by cushions. His mouth agape and fists clenched with worry and guilt.

“A-are you okay?” he asked approaching Jay’s bed.

The other nodded, sensing that the cushions made him look way worse than he really was.

“Zane said I should rest.” He tried to explain but the words did very little to reassure Cole. The stronger male plopped on the edge of his own bed, hands darting up to cover his face with a choked groan.

“I’m so sorry…” He said for the umpteenth time.

“It’s okay, don’t wo-”

“No, it’s not okay!” Cole yelled uncovering his features and looked at Jay before letting his gaze drop to the ground. “I could have hurt you. It was my fault for not paying attention, I should have made sure you were ready, I should… I… I always ruin everything...” His knuckles turning white from how hard he was clenching his fists.

Jay stared at him astonished. It was the first time he had seen Cole looking so desperate and hopeless. He had only known him for a few days but he got the feeling the boy rarely acted like that. He was always so straightforward and self-confident. Suddenly Jay felt in debt with him, Cole had been his pillar ever since he started living with the royal family; always taking care of him and trying to make him feel at ease in a place he was not familiar with.

“Cole,” he raised his voice, trying to sound serene. “I’m fine, really. It just hurts a little, Zane went overboard with all of this.” He said shoving away some extra cushions he didn’t really need and were more a nuisance than anything. He offered Cole a shaky smile, not sure of being successful in his goal to cheer up his peer.

The boy on the other bed looked at him, eyebrows furrowed with guilt. He sighed and reached a hand to support his forehead. Jay felt really bad for him. It wasn't like the accident had been entirely his fault; Jay admitted he got distracted and that’s why he couldn’t react in time. It wasn’t fair for Cole to torture himself like that. He knew he had to do something. His logic self told him to stay put and not get more involved with these people than he already was. If Cole felt bad for hurting him, well, that wasn’t Jay’s business... But the ginger head did have a tender heart; sometimes it was a blessing and others a curse.

Shoving the dozens of insults his rational side was yelling at him, Jay got up from the bed, making sure the shirt that had been resting on his chest was tightly secured under his armpits, he walked towards Cole and bashfully placed his good arm around the other’s shoulder, pulling his head softly to his torso.

It all seemed to stop for a second. Jay didn’t knew why he did that. He was having some kind of intimate contact with another male on his own will! His upper half was almost naked, only partially covered at the front with the shirt that hung precariously under his arms. If Cole suddenly lost his mind and became a sexual predator Jay would have no chance against him, considering he couldn’t move well. Yet there he was, not pulling away. His brain was telling him to run for his life, but his heart had him pinned at that very spot, standing next to the athletic boy, holding his head close to him, in hopes that whatever demons were torturing Cole’s mind would go away with the semi-embrace he just offered.

Jay’s heart was beating like crazy. He was just starting to regret his choice when Cole threw his hands at Jay’s back to pull him even closer, which only gained a yelp from the boy as a sharp pain hit his nerves.

“Shit! I-I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” Cole panicked again.

“It’s okay, it’s okay.” Jay stared into Cole’s innocent eyes as he looked up at him. The concern in his face faded away as Jay gifted him a soulful smile. Cole’s own lips pulled up as well, he sighed embarrassed and rested his forehead on the chest in front of him, feeling defeated. “Thank you, Jay.” He whispered.

They stayed there for a while, until Jay felt the fabric slipping down his chest and he pulled it back up embarrassed. He walked backwards to sit on his own bed.

“Thank you too. I had fun anyway, you know, the training and stuff…” He muttered, feeling his cheeks warm up as Cole looked at him.

“Really?!”

Jay hummed. “It distracts me.” Maybe it wasn’t the best reply but the words seemed to please Cole, who was now smiling widely and got closer to him, kneeling down in front of Jay’s knees.

“I swear it won't happen again, I promise you with my life, I just… I-I was so happy and really forgot to take care of things properly-”

“Cole, just drop it.” Jay warned another time for he was starting to be fed up with all those apologies. His peer groaned and laid down on the free space next to him on the bed.

“I'm such a mess, I'm sorry. It's this stupid weather, yaknow, it gets the best of me when this time of the year arrives.”

“Why don't you train inside?”

“It's not the same. Have you noticed how heavy the air gets inside these walls when it rains? Plus there's statues and carpets and pretty stuff everywhere. I can't train peacefully if I have to keep in mind to not break anything in the room.” He mumbled against the covers. Jay was sitting on the other side, his back flat against the headboard, clutching the shirt thighly against himself.

“Sorry if I've been a bit insufferable these days, I didn't expect it to rain for so long. I hope the next shower won't be as bad so I can get out at least a few minutes everyday.”

Jay couldn't help but giggle. It was endearing how simple Cole was, all he seemed to need to be happy was his little -maybe not so little, dose of exercise. Well, that and a nice amount of food.

“What?” Cole asked raising a brow and looking at Jay as he noticed the boy staring at him with a silly grin.

“Nothing,” He blurted out. “Exercise really is your passion, uh?”

Cole blushed softly and buried his face on the blanket again. “Do you think it's weird?”

“No, no! It's- It's cool really. I like it too, I'm used to walk down the streets for hours on my hometown almost everyday.”

Cole looked up, shifting to sit across from Jay. He rubbed the back of his neck with a shy smile.

“That… makes me happy to hear. Kai is usually busy, it's hard to find a moment to train with him like we used to do, and the others aren't really interested. I appreciate the fact they try and make the effort for me though. They're too good.”

Jay could agree that Zane was a nice person, he was starting to feel there was something more under that prissy appearance of his. But he was not so sure about Lloyd. Ever since they met, Jay hadn’t seen the shorter blond smile or joke around like the others and he was clearly against his presence in the palace. Why though? Jay had no clue. It's not like he could walk up to Lloyd and ask him 'Hey, why do you hate me so much?’, that would have been very awkward. And who knows, Lloyd was about his height and weight but if the guy had picked up anything from Cole's training courses, Jay knew it wouldn't be safe to confront him.

“Did I say something wrong?” Cole asked, his hand brushing against Jay's foot unconsciously. The other shook his head, still thinking about the mean blond.

“C-can I ask you something?”

Cole's heartbeat skyrocketed. Did Jay really want to start a conversation with him? He nodded wondering what was worrying the boy to have such a sad expression on his face.

“Why does Lloyd hate me?”

“What?! H-He doesn't hate you, he's… uh, he's a bit pissed lately because… other stuff, you know...”

“I might be from a small city but I'm not stupid. It's okay, I know it's impossible to please everyone but I'd just like to know if I've… done something to upset him.”

Cole blinked several times as his eyes moved from side to side. He fidgeted with the bottom of his pants, pondering what to do next. Denying the obvious would be stupid; Lloyd sadly didn't like their guest and wouldn’t care to hide it much, but Cole didn't even know what exactly was going on inside the blond's mind.

“To be honest I don't know.” He sighed tiredly. “I think he's just jealous, like... you're new here and we're all dying to get to know you more. Lloyd joined us around a year ago, I guess he's still not over the fact that Kai decided to get married again so soon- Ah! Sorry!” Cole covered his mouth, aware that Jay didn't like to be reminded about Kai's infatuation with him.

“It's fine,” he muttered averting his eyes.

Well, that did make sense in a way, anyone would feel irritated if their lover suddenly fell head over heels for another human being. Sadly it meant Jay could only do very little to get along with the guy. Cole's words though popped another question into his mind.

“What about you? Are you not… jealous?” Jay tried to remember; Cole was the first spouse, followed by Zane and Lloyd in that order, which meant that Cole had been sharing his husband for more time than the others and, considering Jay was initially to become the fourth spouse, he wondered how did Cole feel about sharing his once one and only man with more and more people.

“Of course not.” The young man replied not even caring to think twice.

“Why?” Jay asked taken aback at such strong convincement.

“Because I like you.” It only registered to Cole how poorly did  he choose his words a second after they left his mouth. Jay's eyes opened wide. Cole threw his hands up in defence, rushing to the very end of the bed to make space between their bodies.

“No, no, no! Sorry, I didn't mean it like that!” He stuttered, heart beating fast as he tried to come up with a way to fix his words. “I-I just think you're a really nice guy, you know? Someone I'd like to be friends with and hang around together.” He was almost panting at the end, his throat hurting from the sudden ball of anxiety that had magically appeared in a matter of seconds, almost choking him. How could he be so stupid?

Funny enough, Jay relaxed at the sight of a nervous Cole. The way he suddenly grew all anxious and concerned about him felt somehow touching. He stayed silent, thinking about the words he had just heard. Cole thought he was a decent person, someone that was worth the time, someone good enough to have nearby, someone to be cherished; judging by how guilty he felt with the whole injure thing.

“How do you know? How can you know that I'm nice? We’ve barely just met.”

Cole’s lips parted slightly, letting a small relieved sigh escape the interior of his mouth. He was happy Jay wasn't freaking out at his ‘almost’ love confession. ‘ Phew , saved by a whisker’ he thought.

“I've met many bad people in the past, awful ones… I know you're different, Jay, there's something special about you. You're genuine, I can sense it.” Cole said with a stern look, eyes fixed on the blue orbs in front of him.

A subtle pink crept up to Jay’s cheeks and ears, growing embarrassed under the unexpected compliments.

Special ...

He certainly always found himself slightly different from the rest of the world but… special? That sounded nice; the simple word warmed Jay’s chest. It made him feel cozy and at home, reminding him of his parents who used to tell him the same thing.

“Thanks…” he muttered, avoiding Cole's eyes even though he knew the blush in his face was too obvious to be masked under his nacarat bangs.

“It's nothing,” said Cole with a smile and partly blushing as well. He scratched the back of his head and coughed trying to break the tension in the air. “Still friends?” He asked.

Jay stared at the caramel colored hand stretched out in front of him with surprise. Cole considered him a friend already? How so? He hadn't really behaved like one so far. And on the other side... did Jay think of him as a friend too?

Ever since they met Cole introduced himself as Kai's spouse so that's what Jay saw him as; someone messed up enough to be in love with another male. But during the days the guy had been proving he was way more than just that. He was funny, caring, bold and a even bit innocent in opposition to his scary big frame. He was the first one who trusted Jay and gave him a chance to get along even when his behaviour had been nothing but of an angry spoiled brat.

Cole waited patiently for Jay's answer. The boy stared at the limb standing in the air in front of him as if it held the very key to reach Nirvana. Jay bit his lip. Could he really trust this stranger?

One hesitating hand fluttered forward until it landed on Cole's. The noirette grinned, placing his free hand over Jay's and squeezing it tightly between both of his palms. His face shined with true joy.

“Friends.” Finished Jay with a small voice, still unsure if he had made the right decision or he just digged his own grave.

Chapter Text

As Jay and Cole were immersed in a pachisi match the blond spouses came through the door.

“Hey, how's the water?” Cole greeted.

“Perfect, just as usual.” Replied Zane, slightly surprised at the change of mood of his friend but very pleased nevertheless. His eyes then focused on the boys. “Jay! What are you doing?”

The newfound friends had sat on the floor to play some board-games while they waited for the blondes couple to come back. Jay was resting his back on the side of the bed with a cushion in between to make the stay comfortable enough for his sore shoulder.

“I told you to rest.”

“Relax, Zane, he's fine. Plus he's not really moving that much anyway.” Cole countered, he wasn’t willing to interrupt the match.

Zane sighed in exasperation, he was going to refute Cole but Lloyd tugged at his sleeve, waving a hairbrush in front of his baby blue eyes while smiling like a child. Zane nodded slowly, leaving the discussion for another time. They both hopped onto Lloyd's bed, the larger male getting behind him to brush his pretty and everyday longer hair.

“C'mon, c'mon, c'mon…” Cole’s babbling sounded on the other side of the room as the dark lad threw the dice.

After Zane finished his task, he placed a kiss on Lloyd's temple and hugged the smaller boy from behind, resting his chin on Lloyd's shoulder, Lloyd smiled back at him. Zane gave a second look to the boys on the floor. “You’re playing pachisi?”

“Yup.” Said Cole clicking his tongue at Jay's sudden lucky throw.

“You’re scared of Jay winning at Chess?” Zane snickered.

“What?! O-Of course not!” A snitch blush burned his face. “I just like this game, okay?”

“Yeah, because you suck at the others.” Lloyd mocked.

“I didn't see you do any better.”

“At least I tied Zane once, it's more than you've ever done with your terrible strategies.” Behind the mischievous boy, Zane couldn't hold back a giggle.

“Hey! My strategies are great! The goal of the game is to kill the king, right? Then go straight for it!”

“Yeah, but along with protecting your own one.” The taller blond said amusedly.

Cole groaned, swiftly grabbing a couple of cushions from his bed and hurling them at the boys on the other side. He went back to the game, blowing into the small container, hoping to imbue the dice with some badly needed luck. Jay couldn’t help but to smile. Cole really was still a child at heart. For a moment it felt like they had been friends since the day they were born.

“You would win, I don't know how to play Chess.” Jay said softly.

“What? Why didn't you say it sooner? I could teach you-” Cole got cut by the laughter of his friends. “Would you mind your own business?” Cole shouted to his peers, slamming the container on the hard floor. His face lit up when he pulled the small cylinder up revealing the cube. “Yes!” He cheered acknowledging the number of dots imprinted on the upper face and throwing a fist in the air. Jay suppressed another chuckle. Cole’s antics were way more entertaining than the game itself and it definitely helped him ignore the dead glares from a certain nearby blond boy.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

“I can't believe it! I was this close!” Cole whined holding his index finger against the thumb, the pads barely touching. Jay smiled timidly across from him as he moved his last piece over the fabric board declaring himself the winner of the match.

“You lucky bastard,” Cole said narrowing his eyes comically at Jay and making him laugh. “Again!” He exclaimed ready for a second round.

“You should go and bathe before it gets too late.” Zane’s voice warned. The boy had been re-organizing his wardrobe for the past minutes, trying to come up with a ‘ better’ set-up -if that was even possible for the already clean freak. Cole pouted but conceded the truth in Zane's advice. Picking up the funny colored pieces Cole placed the game back into its respective crate and started to pull out a change of clothes for himself.

“You too, Jay,” Said Zane. The mentioned boy looking at him confused. “You should take a bath as well.” Zane elaborated.

“Whaaaat?!” Jay stiffened.

“It will be good for your muscles.”

Jay shook his head in alarm.

“So you're planning on smelling like a dead goat for as long as you stay here? Gross...” Lloyd snapped from his spot on the bed, an illustrated book in his hands.

“Lloyd! That was mean!” Cole shouted, pissed at the bitterness his friend had been displaying all these days.

“It's the truth.”

Cole gritted his teeth. “Well if he smells like a goat… then I smell like an elephant!”

Lloyd raised an eyebrow at the lame comeback and rolled his eyes before turning on his side and focusing on the book again. Zane approached Jay, kneeling down by his side.

“I understand your inquietude, Jay, but you should go, it will help you be less sore tomorrow. We can ask the servants to accompany you if you'll be more comfortable around them.”

Jay nearly jumped out of skin, the mere memory of being washed by strangers on his first day at the palace nearly gave him a heart attack. He would not go through that ever again. “N-no, no, no! I'll go! I'll go with Cole!” Jay yelped immediately searching for the boy with an almost pleading look in his eyes. He wasn’t sure that was what he really wanted but his panicked brain decided it was the lesser of the two devils.

Cole stayed still for a few seconds, unable to believe what Jay was yielding to. He nodded and looked to the side trying to hide the blush in his face, thankfully his tanned skin made it hard to notice. With shaky hands Cole pulled out a change of clothes for Jay as well and they exited the room together.

Zane watched them go standing by the door, his eyes then flew back to the small blond figure in the beds.

“Lloyd, should we go and check what Kai and Nya are up to?”

The small boy hopped out of the mattress. “Yeah!” He smiled.

 

Jay struggled to swallow, he stood in front of a big door, boring holes in the wood while Cole was standing next to him. Jay’s fingers were shaking despite his effort to keep them steady, clutching the change of clothes painfully against his chest. He was already nervous enough, he didn't need to make a fool of himself dropping the fabric due to his jitters.

The royal palace had several bathtubs distributed along the bedrooms but none of them had access to hot water, hence why the family rarely used them, only for sporadic and very quick showers. The Royal Bathroom on the contrary was the place where they could enjoy that special tranquility that only a hot bath provided. It was located on the main story isolated from the busy zone that were the Throne Room and other big lounges and auditoriums. Long ago a system of various fireplace-like structures had been built underground to keep the water nice and hot in there.

Cole studied Jay out of the corner of his eye, his agitation obvious in his slim body. He still couldn't believe Jay would be walking through that door in a matter of seconds. Actually Cole was expecting him to make a run at any moment. The larger man pushed the door open, stretching his arm along the wood and offering Jay to enter before him. The poor boy took a step forward, his legs moving mechanically as his hold body had went beyond stiff.

Jay found himself in a rather small lobby (well, considering how huge everything was in the palace, this room did seem small in comparison), only a couple of tapestries on the walls and a low cupboard with a few golden figurines on the side.

“Over there.” Cole said following him and pointing at the door to the side, a changing room awaited them.

If the previous room looked empty, this one had just as little furniture as well; a large divan, a chifonier with a side mirror and a wicker laundry basket. The changing room was hot and the slightly humid air that clung to them made Jay feel rather uncomfortable.

Cole placed the change of clothes on the divan and retrieved a couple of towels from the drawers. “Here, you can wrap this around your waist like a dhoti if you don't want to get in… uh, fully naked.” He stuttered with the last words. “Dirty clothes go on that basket.”

“Th-Thanks…” Jay had almost lost his voice. He knew what he was getting himself into from the moment he almost pleaded Cole to take him with, but it seemed like his brain was only now registering the last minutes of his life.

“If you'd like… I'll go first in and wait for you inside, okay?”

Jay nodded hesitantly and turned around staring into the corner of the room. His stomach flipped constantly as he heard fabric slipping down human skin and hitting the floor, only to be thrown at the appropriate container a second later. Cole was naked, if Jay just casually turned around he would find the other boy in nothing but his birthday suit. Jay listened closely, trying to decipher Cole's movements with the quiet sounds. Then he heard a creak , it probably was the stained glass door he had seen on the back of the room and which, he presumed, led to the real bathroom.

“I'll be right there,” Cole announced. “Take your time.” Jay heard him say before another feeble whine from the wooden board signaled the boy was no longer in the room.

Jay turned his head slowly, peeping around and letting out a small sigh as he checked he was indeed alone. The relief was short-lived though, for he realized he would have to face Cole again in a minute. And naked , to top it all!

Jay felt his legs tremble. He couldn't believe what was happening in his life. One day he was a simpleton boy living in a forgotten poor city and now he was going to take a bath in the freaking royal palace with the freaking first spouse of the freaking Maharaja.

How crazier could this get?!

He reminded himself to stay calm. Cole had been nothing but nice to him all this time, he could trust him… right? Cole hadn’t tried anything weird on him back when they were alone in the bedroom. Even here in this humid little room, Cole could have molested him plenty of times and Jay would be forced to stay quiet because everyone would believe a member of the royal family before him. Plus the guilt and desperation he saw in the chocolate eyes when Cole thought he had badly injured him earlier… No, Cole couldn’t be so fake, he was transparent, easy to read.

However Jay was still nervous. Cole liked men. Maybe he wouldn’t force him into anything but would he leer at him? He really hoped not, that wouldn’t improve the way Jay saw all of them. He shook his head and finally stripped down slowly, hissing at the pain on his arm when he moved, and keeping a vigilant eye on the doors. If anyone else appeared in the scene he would probably have a heart attack, his nerves were on fire and the heat in the air only made everything tenfold worse.

Following the advice he had been given earlier, Jay tied the towel around his lower half, wishing the fabric would have been longer so it covered more of his skin. His hand shivered over the handle of the colorful door. All Jay wanted to do was run for his life and go back home. He frowned at the memory, well aware that that was totally impossible.

And so, without a way back, he knew his only option was to move forward.

 

A shot of even hotter air knocked Jay instantly. There was a subtle steam all around the place but he could still clearly make out the shape of a large opening in the middle of the floor, full of bright clear water and a brownish figure inside reclined on the edge.

“Hey, I hope you don't mind but I went ahead, it's pretty uncomfortable to just stand there with all this humidity in the air.” Cole said as Jay carefully approached. The ginger head kept his good arm crossed over his chest, trying to look casual but failing pathetically at it.

Noticing Jay had paused at the top of the stairs that lead down to the big pool, Cole averted his eyes, not wanting the boy to feel self-conscious about their nudity. Jay gulped audibly and placed a foot on the steps, flinching as the water wetted his toes. His face contorting in surprise the more skin he dipped into the liquid. “So hot!” His voice echoed through the space, making him blush to no ends. Did he really sound that childish?

In front of him Cole chuckled. “It’s just at first.”

Jay rushed forward and sat down furiously on the other side of the natatorium, not wanting to embarrass himself any further. The water covered him up to his chest, just slightly above his nipples, which he was so thankful for. Cole’s pecks on the contrary were totally visible even in his slouched position, long black strands of hair sticking to them. Wait, did Jay really just look at Cole’s chest deliberately?! The ginger head sank deeper in the water, pulling his knees up against his torso. The scene was getting more ridiculous by the minute and he could feel his face growing hotter and his mind more confused.

“You okay, buddy?” Cole asked serenely.

Jay nodded vehemently, shaking his head up and down and looking away from him.

“It’s weird. I feel like a carrot inside a boiling cauldron.” Jay muttered minutes after. Cole laughed loudly which was only aggravated by the uncanny echo of his voice. Jay frowned at him.

“Sorry, I just remembered I said a similar thing the first time. Though I'd probably look more like a yam… or an eggplant, don’t you think?” He joked leaving Jay even more puzzled.

The echo of Cole’s laughter faded away leaving the two boys in an uncomfortable wet silence. Jay didn’t dare to move, he didn't want to do anything wrong that would lead to an odd situation, and Cole on the other end was also concerned about scaring his companion, unsure of what to say or what to do. But the noirette knew they couldn’t just stay in that humid place forever.

Cole turned around, stretching towards a small container over the edge of the bath and pulled out two small pieces of cloth, surprising Jay as he threw one at him. The man went back to his sitting spot making himself comfortable as he started to rub the little damp fabric against his own arms. Jay examined it; the fibers were very visible, the spaces between them not as big as a fishing net but still, and the material felt slightly rough but it had a wonderful scent.

“It’s a scrubber.” Cole enlightened.

Jay blinked a couple of times. That actually made a lot of sense but he was still surprised; the thought of having a piece of clothing exclusively for such use was mind-blowing for a boy who would normally just use his owns hands or the leaves of a nearby bush to clean his skin. Did the servants use those things that time when they washed him? He had been too preoccupied on hiding his nakedness to care for such a thing.

Ever so lightly Jay brushed the scrubber over his arms and chest. ‘ Don’t forget the back of your ears!’   The corners of his lips pulled up for just a second; he could almost hear his mother shouting at him.

The cleaner felt better than it actually looked like but just for an extra measure Jay tried to move it carefully over his sensitive skin, but as he reached for his back problems began again. His aching shoulder was making it impossible for him to move freely without yelping or hissing at the pain.

“Let me help you.” Cole reacted rapidly at Jay’s soft whines, yet the other pushed him away.

“No! I'm fine! I can do it alone! I just… I…” he trailed off, his brain working fast to come up with a way to clean himself with just one arm, obviously failing at it.

Cole gave him a pained look. He wished he could have retreated and let Jay on his own, but Cole wasn’t like that. Whenever someone was in need of help, an invisible force would push him to assist them, probably because he had seen enough suffering during his short life. Cole finally sighed and tried to talk soft yet firmly.

“Jay, I know you have trusting issues, and promises probably mean very little to you at this point... but I'm not going hurt you. I only want to help.”

Jay looked up at him. Cole was totally soaked, the tips of his long hair sticking to his features, skin slightly red at some points probably due to the high temperature of the water or a too rough scrubbing session. Jay had learned not to blindly trust someone by his appearance but Cole’s eyes were so sincere at that moment, like a loving mother who was worried for her child.

Jay bit down on his lower lip to stop the trembling and handed Cole the washing cloth before turning around. He was genuinely scared but at the same time he wanted to trust the boy, he wanted to believe the world wasn’t such a crude place.  Jay gasped as he felt one of Cole’s big hands on his shoulder holding him for support, a second later the scrubber was being rubbed over his back. The boy hissed a couple of times when Cole pressed too hard over the swollen muscles.

“Sorry.” The black-haired male apologized, taking a moment to examine the skin and making a note to himself to be extra careful on that spot. Jay kept his silence as Cole resumed the cleaning, tense and alarmed, silently praying to the Gods to have some mercy on him. He didn’t relax until Cole's hands weren’t on him anymore.

“Th-thanks…” Jay mumbled turning slightly to look over his shoulder.

“You’re welcome,” the other smiled, his eyes unconsciously scanned Jay. “You’ve got a lot of freckles.” Cole said mindlessly, amused at the sight of the cute damp boy in front of him, his nacarat hair still dry but weirdly curled at the ends by the steamy atmosphere.

Jay quickly tried to cover himself with the water. That was exactly the kind of awkward situation he had been trying to avoid!

“Sorry, sorry! I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable! I just… Uh...” Cole raised his hands in defence taking a step back. He sighed cursing internally at his big mouth, he could swear he was beating his own record that day, everything he did or said was coming out all wrong.

Jay would have turned away offended and fully embarrassed if it hadn't been for his eyes landed on Cole's chest again, discovering a detail he had missed earlier and which had him shocked. Cole had marks all over him, a lot of them. Jay had noticed a couple on his arms before whenever Cole wore a sleeveless shirt around, but this was a whole other level. They seemed old wounds, fully healed now but the scars were still present, the smaller ones mixed with his tanned skin almost perfectly but others were pretty obvious yet.

The noirette noticed Jay staring at him. Looking down at himself Cole realized the reason in a matter of seconds. “It’s gross, I know.” He muttered reaching up to cover himself and drawing away from Jay.

“No!” The other rushed as he saw the hurt expression in the tanned face. “Sorry, it just… surprised me, I guess.” It wasn't his intention to make Cole self-conscious nor embarrass him, but wow , those marks looked like they have been very painful in their days. Why was Cole's body in such a maltreated state? The Maharaja wouldn't have done such a thing to his own spouse as a punishment for something, would he?

He watched Cole leaning back on the  nearby wall, an arm still over his chest and eyes clearly looking away from Jay’s. Cole looked hurt. Emotionally hurt.

“How… how did you get them?” Jay asked with a feeble voice, almost a whisper at the end. He saw Cole averting his eyes, lazily popping a nearby bubble with his hands. Had they maybe reached a delicate subject? Jay didn't want to bother the guy but the seed of doubt was growing fast in his mind. Could he be in real danger in this palace?

Cole didn't answer immediately. His gaze fixed on the water ahead of him as he nibbled at his lower lip before he rested his head on the edge of the pool with a raspy sigh.

“They're war wounds...”

“What?!” Jay covered his mouth but the shriek he had let out was already reverberating in the place. A  chocolate hand darted up to Cole's ear, his pinky massaged it with slight discomfort at the sudden noise. Jay blushed, embarrassed once again for letting himself act like a clueless surprised child.

War wounds? How could that be possible? Jay was sure no king would let his family take part in any dangerous battle.

“B-But uh… how?” He stuttered. “I mean uh… You're… You're… You're a royal spouse .” The forbidden words finally coming out of his mouth.

Cole breathed in and out a couple of times. Painful memories coming back to his mind. He didn't like them at all, he didn’t like remembering how tough his life had been. Everyone in the royal family knew it and so they tried to never bring up the subject more than needed. But if there was any possibility that Jay stayed with them in the future, Cole knew he deserved to know it; he deserved to receive as much trust as Jay was putting on him when he agreed to bathe together.

“Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been a slave almost all my life?”

“Whaaaa-?!” Jay's hands darted up to his mouth as he gasped again, cheeks still red. Cole furrowed again at his high pitched voice, but snickered as Jay mumbled a ‘Sorry’ while ducking his head utterly embarrassed. Cole took a moment to breath and gather a bit more confidence before he proceeded to tell Jay his story. Cole's gaze now lost in the subtle vibrations of the water that surrounded them, preparing his speech.

“I'm an orphan. I never met my parents, I don't know if they died when I was a newborn or if they abandoned me for whatever reason. I grew up in a ruined city far from here with a bunch of other parentless kids and under the despotic ‘care’ of a weird old man. He was awful; he would beat the crap out of us if we didn't bring in food, money or any other stolen goods. He made us do all the work while he just laid there and got drunk...

“Long story short, I got caught one day while I was trying to steal something from an rich merchant. Needless to say the stupid old man acted like he knew nothing about me. He had bunch of kids he could keep torturing so what difference would make one less or one more? He literally kicked me out of the only thing I ever considered a home.” Cole shrugged with a sigh, struggling to keep himself composed.

“The merchant wanted me to be punished so he took me with him and made me work for his company. From there it went downhill; I got sold and resold time after time. I was a reckless kid, they all used me to do their dirty work; getting inside dangerous caverns to extract minerals, transporting heavy stuff, cleaning their shit… All the nasty things you can imagine and more.

“As I grew older, I escaped from one of my owners but then I got myself involved with a thief band. I did some… very bad stuff. I'm not proud of that but it was the only way I had to keep myself alive.

“The band eventually got caught and I went down with them, then I was forced into military training as part of my punishment. Seeing I was an orphan and a naturally strong big kid, the government thought they could use me for their own benefit.

“That was... one hell of a time, to put it simply. The training was rough and planned for grown up man not a pre-teenager like I was back then. I went into a few battles and somehow made it back alive.” Cole allowed himself a small chuckle. “I guess that proves my parents are definitely dead, their spirits must be guarding me otherwise I don't understand how I did not die on the battlefield.

“A few years after, one of my superiors felt pity for me. I think he had a child my age and couldn’t bear the thought of sending me off to a certain death another time. He moved a few threads and sent me to work here as a servant for the previous Maharaja…” Cole stopped abruptly, his eyes squeezed shut as if he was trying to block a very painful memory.

“And then… then I met Kai.” He wrapped it up almost choking over his words. Dark eyelids opened slowly, trying to dissolve the invisible claws of anxiety that were gripping his throat. “You can guess the rest...” He mumbled fast, waving a hand as if to signal he was done with the story.

 

For a while there was silence. Cole couldn’t keep talking and rather focussed on calming down. The awkward quietness that had fallen over them was suddenly interrupted by a soft whimpering sound. Cole tilted his head looking to the boy next to him. Jay's face was scrunched up, small tears rolling down his cheeks.

“Jay! Wh-what's up? Why are you crying?”

“It’s so sad...” Jay muttered as Cole looked at him in confusion, tanned calloused hands rubbed his shoulders tenderly. “You… You had no parents and… you had to take care of yourself all alone and they… they did horrible things to you…”

“Oh, Jay, please…”

“I just… I feel so stupid right now. I've only been separated from my parents for a few days and I'm already like this but you… you did all of that for years… non-stop... You’re so brave.” Jay sniffled, rubbing his hands all over his face, water mixing with the tears making it impossible to tell the two liquids apart.

Cole was astonished. Jay’s tears had left him speechless.

“I’m not sure ‘ brave’ is the correct word here.” He said as soon as he regained some sense. “It just… Quitting wasn’t an option, yaknow? It was either keep going or die before your life even started. I had no choice but to… go on , no matter how bad and scary things got.” Cole said looking away, concentrating on staying calm, his hands had retired back to the water, fists clenching.

Jay was feeling all kinds of embarrassed. That guy in front of him was a real fighter. He grew up all alone without a loving family, he fought for his life, probably even killed someone during the wars or saw his companions die, yet there he was; sitting in front of him with his head perfectly screwed on, while Jay had only been an obnoxious brat all this time, losing his mind over the fact a guy fell for him. How childish could he still get?

“Hey, it's okay. I'm fine now, everything is fine, don’t cry.” Cole said splashing a bit of water to get Jay out of his mood. The boy was still trying to get the tears off his face when Cole smiled at him and ruffled his hair. “Let’s get out.”

Cole helped Jay pour down some water on his head, making sure his scalp got totally soaked and clean before they finally decided that bath time was over. Jay averted his eyes as Cole walked before him and got them new dry towels, they stepped out of the bathroom and into the changing room once again.

“I’ll change in a minute and wait for you outside-”

“It’s okay.” Said Jay, feeling guilty that Cole felt the need to be so prudent around him. It didn’t feel like him at all. It didn’t feel fair at all. Not after all that had happened between the two of them. If Cole would have wanted to take advantage of him he just had had the perfect chance minutes ago but the man didn’t take it, therefore Jay thought it was safe to assume Cole was wasn't a menace.

They got changed, backs facing each other. The smaller male went as quick as he could, trying to shove his insecurities aside as air cooled his moistened skin.

A sharp gasp escaped Jay’s throat as he turned around to check on his mate. Cole was drying his hair with a towel, pants already on, but it was not the semi-nudity what had Jay gnawing; it was the impressive slash marks on the dark naked back. They crossed Cole's body in different directions as if someone had tried to scratch every inch of the muscles and cut them open. There were three really big ones resting at the top half, the skin was weirdly wrinkled at the edges. It was a painful sight.

Cole turned his head around at the noise Jay made, looking at him confused. Jay gulped and pointed at the reason of his shock. The noirette flinched, rushing to put a new shirt over himself, the fabric getting tangled with his wet long hair and he pulled it down roughly.

“Are those… from the fights too?”

“Uh… Yeah… Something like that,” he said, eyes averting to the floor when he picked the towel again and kept ruffling his hair. Zane would have surely scolded him for treating his mane with so little care. “Sorry, I don't like talking about that stuff, it's painful to remember.” He finally said hoping Jay would get the hint; and did he got it! Jay nodded ashamed. He felt so stupid, of course it would be painful, why did he even ask in the first place? It was obvious those marks had to have been from a cruel battle in which Cole surprisingly managed to survive, and no normal person in Earth would want to replay that kind of bloody memories.

 

The bedroom was deserted when they got back. Cole shrugged it off, pretty used to his family being spread around the palace to entertain themselves. They would gather together sooner or later.

The noirette sat on his bed. After handing Jay a hairbrush he occupied himself with his own long black hair, hissing as he pulled roughly at the knots. Having way much shorter hair, Jay was done in a minute. He stared at Cole from his bed. His face scrunching up doleful as the hairbrush almost slipped from his hands after a very heavy pull, taking away a decent amount of hairs with it.

Jay bit his lip. “Can I help you?” He finally asked.

Cole stopped in his tracks to look at him, the brush practically hanging from the messy mane, stuck in the wefts.

“Uh… Yeah, that would be great actually.” He felt his cheeks warming up. Cole was well-aware of his own clumsiness for that kind of things but that didn’t make it any easier to ask for help. In fact he was grateful Zane somehow declared himself his official hairdresser long ago.

Jay sank his knees on Cole's bed sitting behind the man and carefully started brushing the black amber tips, going higher and higher whenever the knots seemed to loosen up enough for him to stuck a couple of fingers in between the strands and manually untangling them.

Jay couldn't help but feel something weird doing flips in his stomach as Cole relaxed into his hands. He was happy to be doing something useful for the very first time in this place, specially for Cole. Either he liked it or not, the young man was growing on him. But on the other side, he remembered the few times he had seen Zane braiding Cole's hair. Those had been very intimate moments between the two of them. Did such mundane action mean something bigger for Cole or the blond peer? Was Jay maybe crossing a line?

“Thanks a lot, Jay. I'm… terrible at this.” Cole said with a dry laughter, admitting defeat for a second. And that was all Jay needed to hear. Intimate or not, Cole seemed comfortable enough to  trust Jay with his hair. He smiled softly and kept working on the shiny black mane.

After a few minutes Cole grabbed a nearby small mirror and admired his reflection. Two small braids decorated the sides of his head growing towards the back as they were used to wrap the rest of the hair into a bun. A few loose strands here and there but it was still pretty and different from his usual hairstyles.

“Wow, you're good at this, have you had long hair before?” He beamed turning his face in every direction to discover every little detail. Jay shook his head.

“No, but… my mother does. She would let me play with her hair when I was a child. I still remember a few things.” He explained with a soft voice, trying to keep his homesickness under control.

“Cool.” Cole muttered looking at his own reflection on the clear surface.

The obvious happiness in Cole's eyes made Jay proud for a moment. He still couldn't believe all the revelations that had come to him that day and turned his mind into a mess before they settled down and allowed him to judge his situation from a new perspective. The smile on Jay's face faded away as he got lost in his thoughts. Cole turned around and noticed the saddened expression. He scooted closer, their shoulders brushed ever so lightly.

“What's the matter, Jay?”

The ginger head eyed him for a moment before looking away again, his mind still wrapping up some final thoughts before he spoke again.

“I… I wanted to apologize,” he said forcing himself to sound firm; ‘Cole deserved this’ Jay told himself. “I've been horrible to you all these days without a reason while you were just trying to help me. I… I let my fears and jitters control my thoughts and… I didn’t want to see the real world because... it was easier playing the victim role I guess.” He sighed. “I have thought so many nasty things about you guys, I’m so ashamed of myself, I can’t even admit them out loud.”

Jay was just now aware of the blindfold he had been holding onto since he came here. Ever since meeting the royal family he decided to put a 'monster’ tag on all of them, not interested in getting to know them in the slightest for the only impression he got from them seemed to be enough.

But then he discovered how badly he had aimed. Zane, despite his cool and formal appearance, was not a pompous prince that married someone for the sole purpose to increase his wealth, in sooth he was probably the most altruistic person Jay had ever met.

Lloyd was still on the high rope but Jay was starting to think that maybe he was in fact just a wary jealous boy. Could he blame him when Jay had been acting just as childish?

But Cole took the biggest prize so far. All this time, when Jay thought no one could understand his pain; being taken apart from his loved ones, forced into a place he didn't like, feeling constantly threatened by strangers… All this time Cole knew what he was going through. Hell, the man could get an award for 'The Most Ill-fated Life’, he had gone through things that would make a whole army pee on their pants. Or at least make Jay pee on his.

Cole was neither a prince or a noble that had his royal destiny signed up immediately as he was born. He was a poor humble boy just like Jay. His physical appearance and rough mannerisms now made a lot more sense, that was probably why he exercised so much and enjoyed looking impressive, the habit must have been buried deep inside his veins from his time as a soldier. Yet in all the bad luck that had accompanied Cole through his life, at some point he managed to turn the tables and was now happily married -or at least he looked happy.

That also meant Kai wasn't the cruel monster and sexual predator he took him for at first. Jay wasn't pleased to admit it but the monarch seemed to be a nice person, a bit crazy but still nice enough. He had married at least two plebeians, which gave away he didn't care about a person's class that much. He had even rescued Jay and never even once asked the boy to refund him for what he paid to the slaves dealer if he didn't fulfill with the marriage.

Yeah, nothing was definitely what it seemed in this place. “I’m really sorry.” Jay said unsure that such short words would really show all of his repentance. He grew anxious at Cole’s silence, unable to lock eyes with him.

Out of nowhere a strong hand pressed against his cheek, guiding Jay’s face to look up at his companion.

“Hey, it’s fine, anyone would have been scared in your position too. It’s all in the past now.” His hand stayed still on Jay's face.

Blue orbs trembled with emotion, tears were threatening to escape again. Cole was too kind and forgiving, if Jay had been in his place he didn't know if he would be able to get over such terrible and wrong assumptions so fast. His pale hand reached up to Cole's and rubbed his cheek gingerly against it, almost purring at the comforting sensation he could feel through the skin.

Cole rested his forehead on Jay’s,  smiling dreamily at the boy before shutting his eyes, his big hand determined to never retreat until Jay said so.

Thankful for the understanding young man, Jay let his guard down closing his eyes as well. If someone had told him days ago that he would now be sharing such an intimate moment with the noirette, he would have laughed his ass off, but now he was relieved and happy that he finally had someone he could call a friend inside these walls.

Maybe he would get something good out of this imbroglio in the end.

Chapter Text

The sword swang in the air sharply, colliding with Cole's waist. The noirette whined as he spun with the momentum, thankful for the harmless wooden weapon. Kai laughed with pride. “Told you I'm still good at this.”

Cole rubbed his side before the corner of his lips pulled up into a smirk.

“Oh, really? How about this?” Cole launched forward, wielding his own practice sword. Their weapons collided with a loud ‘thunk’ as Kai defended against the attack. Cole tried again, Kai pushed him back and moved quickly, getting a few meters away from his husband as he ran through the still wet patio floor. He knew Cole had tremendous stamina so he had to tire the noirette if he wanted to have a chance at winning this round but that wasn't going to be an easy task.

It had been a while since the last time they trained together. Ever since Kai ascended the throne five years ago his schedule did nothing but get busier every week. The first months were hectic, there were so many royal affairs he knew nothing about but he still was obliged to take care of them. Kai had been raised and taught to become a souverain one day but the sudden death of both of his parents caught the whole kingdom unprepared. Those were rough times but thanks Brahma he had his counselors, a supporting loving husband and his wise sister to help him out, all of them were key for Kai to succeed and take the reins of what became his kingdom.

Ruling an entire nation was cool but how much did he miss those times when he could just be lazy and hang around freely with his hot dark haired lover.

Kai saw Cole coming at him with a happy grin on his face. Their swords clashed once again as both thrusted and dodged skillfully. Sweat had just recently started to roll down their temples, the air was still cool for it had been raining until a few hours ago. On a normal day, Cole would have tried to stay calm and wait until the next morning so they could train on a less slippery setting, but as soon as Kai manifested he was free from his royal duties for the day and was up for some exercise both guys headed straight to the garden without a second thought. What was the worst that could happen anyway? Falling face first on the floor? Neither of them were much bothered by bruises.

The Maharaja hit his companion again, a little bit harder this time though. Cole whined but he never let the smile in his lips wear off.

“That one actually hurt.”

“You deserved it.” Bragged Kai.

“Me? Why?” Cole breathed out charging against his husband.

“Because you saw Jay naked before I did!” Kai smiled using all his strength to push the other boy back with his sword.

“That again?” He chuckled. “What did you want me to do?”

“Oh, I don't know, maybe telling me that you guys were going to bathe so I could have joined you?” Kai ran jumping over the small wall of bushes, Cole following suit and laughing internally as he imagined the situation. Kai and Jay naked in the same room? That wouldn’t have ended well.

“Are you jealous?” His voice grew louder as their weapons collided.

“Damn, yeah! I saw him first!” Kai admitted with amusement.

“He's not a toy, ya’ know.”

“Oh, but I bet you'd love to play with him, don't you?” Kai couldn't contain a giggle as he saw Cole blushing.

“Would you shut up and concentrate?”

“I don't need to. I'm the king , I could beat you with both my eyes sh-” Kai's foot slipped as he ran back to the paved floor and fell. His hand lost his grip on the sword and the weapon landed a few feet away. He turned around, back flat against the floor as Cole's impressive figure towered over him, pointing his own sword at his chin.

“Were you saying?” The noirette smiled, happy to be the winner of the match. “Checkmate, my King.” He cockyly proclaimed. Kai's nose scrunched up as his eyes narrowed, he hated losing. Too much for the first training in weeks.

Or maybe not…

Kai suddenly kicked Cole's leg, the noirette letting out a yelp as he fell over him almost crashing his face on the floor. Kai flipped him over, he smirked victorious switching positions.

“Lesson number one; never let your guard down.” Kai responded with the same cockiness that his lover displayed a moment ago. Cole blushed a bit embarrassed that he fell for such a simple trick but quickly countered and flipped them again, straddling the monarch's waist as he pinned his wrists to the floor.

“Lesson number two; you're a cheater.”

“Number three; Cole's a crybaby!” Kai bit back jokingly.

“And you're a hopeless idiot!”

They stared at each other for what felt like forever then bursted into laughter as Cole relaxed and let more of his weight onto Kai. The brunette hugged him, feeling the now damp clothing sticking to their bodies. “I missed this.” Kai muttered lovingly.

“Me too.” Cole said. Training alone wasn’t exactly his taste, it felt cold, empty and boring, it reminded him of his time in the military. Lloyd and Jay were great at turning the activity more fun, but to Cole nothing could beat the happiness he felt when he trained with Kai. The young Maharaja was a skilled swordsman, for he had been trained during years in the art of sword fighting; all part of his royal learning. Kai was brave and fast with fire inside his veins. Fighting with him was a great adventure as he would rarely ever give up and Cole felt he could really be himself for once.

Being a royal spouse had its perks; sure, it had been long since Cole had to worry about having enough food or finding a safe spot inside a cave or up on a tree where he could take a quick nap and not get killed. Life inside the palace was as peaceful as a baby, but all the snobbery that came with it sometimes was too much for the former warrior. He was a simple boy with simple needs.

Going back to reality, Cole dipped his head and placed his lips over Kai's, his husband reciprocated pulling a hand up to the brownish nape to deepen the kiss. Maybe it was time for a little break.

 

Jay averted his eyes from the window as he felt his cheeks warming up. You would say after living in the royal palace for almost three weeks he would have grown used to the public displays of affection between the Maharaja and his spouses -as well as the occasional sleepless nights filled with moans coming from the other room, but he didn’t. Jay had kind of accepted that they were normal people trying to live a normal life; they cared for each other, they loved each other as any other married people did. Yet it didn’t feel totally right for him.

Confusion washed over Jay once again as he peeped at the scene taking place down below on the garden. He couldn’t see with much detail but Kai and Cole had definitely forgotten about training and were now just enjoying the feeling of being close to each other, kissing and pressing their bodies together with unrestrained passion. Why did it feel so strange? Why did Jay want to experiment that ardor at the same time his stomach turned upside down in disgust?

He rested his face on his hand and sighed quietly through his nose, he’d been sitting on the divan under the window for the whole afternoon doing nothing. While he had managed to chat more often with everyone for the past days, he still struggled to be social when Cole was away. After learning about his past, Jay felt safer around Cole, for he thought he was the only person in this place that could possibly understand him the best.

The door to the living room opened slowly, Zane appeared right behind the entrance with a tray in his hands. “I’m back.” He chanted.

“Welcome back,” smiled Lloyd looking up from his sketchbook for a moment. “What took you so long?”

“The cooks thought we had ran out of green tea so I stayed and helped to search for it.”

Lloyd chuckled, he liked that his blond companion never let his royal status get to his head and would always help any servants whenever he could, it made Zane a lot more human and loveable in Lloyd's opinion. His green eyes landed on the tray that was now placed on the low table in front of him.

“Barfi!” The short boy beamed when he recognized a plate with his favorite sweets. Zane grinned as he saw Lloyd jump out of the couch and sit by the table to grab a piece of the whitish dessert, a happy smile on his face as he hummed when the food went into his mouth.

“Don’t forget the tea,” Zane said passing one of the cups to his friend, he then looked up to the window where a certain confused boy was sitting next to, hands mindlessly playing with the orangish locks of his head.

Jay’s gaze was lost on the other side of the divan, endless thoughts crossing his mind as he tried to understand this new concept of love that the royal family so proudly represented. He flinched when a cold hand landed on his shoulder. Zane was standing next to him, gentle smile and serene look as always.

“Will you join us for a snack?”

Jay’s eyes followed the blond’s arm which was pointing at the small table in the center of the room. While Jay didn’t like to admit it, the food in that house was delicious and his mouth watered whenever lunch or dinner time approached.

Still a bit distracted Jay got up and went to sit together with the other two. Being near Zane had become an easier task through the past days, Jay was starting to get the hang of his personality; the silent, polite yet friendly type. He actually still hadn’t heard Zane swear or say a single bad word about someone. The smaller blond though was a different matter. Lloyd's nasty remarks towards Jay had toned down but the sour mood surrounding him was still there. They had barely talked, and when they did Lloyd would use a rather passive-aggressive tone when ignoring wasn’t a valid option.

“You’ve picked up art again?” Zane asked Lloyd stealing a quick glance at the paper sheets and charcoal sticks nearby. Lloyd nodded, not fully happy to be close to Jay. “What were you drawing?” The tidy blond asked after drying his lips with a napkin.

“Water lilies; Nya wants a new suit and she asked me if I could design a pattern for the embroidery.” Lloyd handed the papers to Zane.

“That’s nice.” Zane hummed as he scanned the sketchy figures drawn on the pages.

“I-I was thinking I could draw something for Kai too, do you think he’d like a gift like that?” He asked blushing subtly.

Zane nodded locking eyes with his peer. “Absolutely. You know Kai loves your drawings.” The happy grin that appeared in Lloyd’s face died soon enough as Zane scooted closer to the third boy in the room. “Would you like to see it too, Jay?”

Lloyd almost wanted to snatch the papers back at the idea of the stupid freckled boy judging his drawings but it was too late, for Zane had already placed a few sheets in the Jay's hands.

Jay stared intently at the pictures, observing the texture and small traces of the charcoal, he also recognized a few drawings of vases and familiar sculptures, all objects that were around the living room or in other spots of the palace.

“Lloyd is very talented.” Zane commented next to him, the mentioned boy blushed harder but kept his eyebrows furrowed with slight anger.

Jay nodded as he whispered. “They’re so pretty.”

Lloyd snorted sharply. “What would you know about art?”

Zane sent Lloyd a scolding glare as Jay sank his head deeper in his shoulders, already regretting to try being friendly. Lloyd reached for the papers and was placing them back inside a folder when they heard Jay whisper something again but the boy trailed off immediately.

“What is it?” Zane asked encouraging Jay to carry on with his speech.

“I… Uh…” He stuttered again catching a glimpse of Lloyd’s unfriendly expression, luckily Zane’s soothing hand on his back gave Jay enough strength to at least finish his initial sentence. “I… I guess I draw too.”

“You do?” Both blonds asked, one in bewilderment, the other simply irritated.

“Yeah, well, not like that though, those are really nice,” He said pointing to the folder in Lloyd's hands. “I just… draw plans.”

“Plans?” repeated Lloyd arching a brow.

“May you elaborate, please?” asked Zane, his hand never stopped caressing Jay’s back for he noticed the ginger head got easily distressed by Lloyd’s remarks.

“Uh, well, I’ve told you before about my dad being a scrapman, right? Sometimes he gets asked to fix stuff or he simply tries to come up with a cool invention and I… I help him drawing the plans.”

“Like an architect?” Zane asked, clearly interested in the topic.

“No, more like… uh, furniture and stuff… Though I’ve seen my dad making plans to help re-building our neighbours houses sometimes.” Jay allowed himself a small giggle at the end which he regretted immediately as he realized how weird it came out.

“That’s very interesting, care to perhaps show us how you do that kind of things? Lloyd, please, could you lend him some paper and charcoals?”

The blond stared at them for a moment, obviously annoyed that he now had to share his precious tools with the junkyard boy. Lloyd handed them over nevertheless, for he was tired of being scolded by his older friend.

Jay stared at the paper then at Zane, still not sure if he should really proceed. He finally gave in and placed the black stick against the paper. He tried to remember what has been the last thing he repaired with his father; a very old and plain bureau from a family that lived a few streets away from them. One of their younger kids had decided to pull one of the drawers open and jump inside of it, for whatever strange naive reason, which only made the old cracked wood finally break completely, dismantling the rest of the piece.

Jay traced a shaky line, feeling all eyes on him, then another, and another one, until the blond couple was able to recognize a furniture figure.

“I… We do something like this then… put numbers on the side to measure the pieces. Sometimes my dad makes little notes too…” He explained absentmindedly as he added more details and tried to correct some ugly lines.

“You can read?” Zane suddenly asked surprised.

“Uh… A little, I’m not really good at it though, I just know the words that my dad and I usually scribble on these.”

“That’s a nice start, I can teach you if you’d like to learn more, I already taught Lloyd.” At this, Lloyd’s face scrunched up even more and averted his eyes.

Jay was torn between the two boys, on one hand it would actually be great to get better at writing and reading, who knew, maybe he'd need it someday; but on the other… Lloyd's body language screamed the smaller male didn't like the idea for whatever reason Jay ignored. In the end though Zane's soft smile weighted more than anything else.

“If you want to.” Jay replied casually and he couldn't help feeling a bit relieved as Zane grinned, his icy blue eyes narrowing in a cute way as his cheeks lifted up.

Sadly the three of them didn't even have time to engage in a new conversation when the big doors opened again.

“Ha, ha, so here's where the rest of my favorite husbands were hiding!” Kai exclaimed getting inside as Cole followed close behind him.

“We’re your only husba- Oh, Brahma! Is that barfi?” said the black lad as he jumped next to Lloyd and grabbed a handful of sweets.

“Hey!” Lloyd whined, snatching the plate away from him. “Don't eat them all!”

“Oh, c'mon Lloyd, I've just trained a whole lot, I need to refill my energy levels.” He jabbered with his mouth full.

“Sweets aren't the best option for such a purpose, Cole.” Zane butted in.

“Listen to him, baby. I don't want to have to put you on a diet, you get so cranky when you don't eat enough.” Added Kai as he gave Lloyd a quick peck while stealing a small treat.

“You guys are so mean, I'm the healthiest one here!” Cole gasped exaggerating his offended tone.

“Oh yeah? Did you already forget I beat you earlier?” Kai asked sitting down.

“You mean when you cheated , your almighty Highness?”

“Shut up, dumbass” the monarch threw a pastry at him, Cole gasped as he saw the snack get smashed against his chest then quickly proceeded to pick it up and ate it anyway. Kai laughed loudly and was followed by the blonds, even Jay couldn't contain a small giggle at Cole's undying love for sweets.

“Hey, what's that?” Kai asked pulling the paper with the scribbles from the table, with just a quick look his eyes widened with curiosity. “Wow, Lloyd, that's so different from your usual stuff.”

A tense silence filled the room for a brief moment as Lloyd glared at Jay. “That's not mine.” He muttered irritated.

Kai stared at him, questioning who was the owner of those lines when Lloyd averted his eyes. Kai looked back at the others hoping to get an answer. Zane was smiling, his gaze resting on the self-conscious boy sitting by his side as Jay tried to hide his face under the messy ginger locks, which were growing longer everyday.

“Jay? You can draw too? Wow, that's so cool!”

“I, uh… wouldn't actually call it 'drawing’, it's just a diagram…”

“Oh, like for those reparations you mentioned the other day?”

Jay's eyes went wide with surprise but managed to nod somehow. So the Maharaja really did listen to him when he talked about his poor stuff? He thought Kai was too busy undressing him with his charming eyes.

Wait! Charming??? Ugh, these guys were seriously messing up with his brain.

“It's still really cool.” Kai said puckering his lips like a child. “Did you see that, Lloyd?”

“Yes. I did.”

Kai noticed the subtle (though it wasn't that subtle in fact) anger in the short blond's words, and knew it was time to change his game. Kai scooted closer to the blond, pulling at Lloyd's waist casually. “Did you draw something too? Show me, show me!”

Lloyd pursed his lips but reached out reluctantly for his folder again. Kai kissed and praised his husband as they went through the different sketches. Lloyd blushed at being smooched in front of the others. Cole and Zane busied themselves in a conversation with Jay and his newly discovered skill.

 

As dinner time drew closer, the Maharaja and his first spouse decided to take a bath, seeing they had gotten dirty as they rolled all over the wet patio during their training.

“Oh, Kai,” Zane said as the five boys marched towards the bedrooms to collect a change of dry clothes. “Nya asked me to remind you about Mr. Chumsworth visiting us next week.”

“Ugh, he's coming again?” Lloyd whined with a pout.

Zane nodded as he kept his eyes on Kai, the monarch had a funny look on his face as he scratched the back of his neck. “You forgot.” Said the blond with blue eyes softly.

“Uhm… just a little?” The king blushed.

Cole burst into laughter. “Classic Kai.”

The brunette rolled his eyes as he nudged his husband's side. “It's fine, we still have plenty of time. I'll talk with the chef later to make sure we'll have enough food ready for the date. Do any of you guys need anything? A new outfit? Jewelry? Perhaps a haircut?” Kai said ruffling Lloyd's blond locks as they reached the bedroom.

The general answer was negative, though Cole joked it would be nice if he could have a chocolate cake all for himself. Kai smacked his ass as he ushered him to get the clothes ready while the others scattered around the room. It was only when he saw Cole shuffling through the fabrics that Kai dawned on it. His head snapped violently towards a certain fidgety boy sitting on one of the beds.

“Jay! You need a suit!”

The ginger head looked up at the sound of his name. Confusion written all over his face.

Of course! If they were having an important guest over they all needed to be dressed up for the event, possible-future-husband included. Kai sat down on the bed with Jay. “What do you think we go out tomorrow and get you something pretty?”

“Tomo- What?” Jay squeaked. Did he hear it correctly? Going out ? As in to the real world where he belonged?! Jay would have died to jump out of the window right that instant but he went over the Maharaja's words again carefully. No way, he couldn't let Kai do that, it would make Jay feel even more in debt with the young souverain. He shook his head vehemently.

“I can just wear a spare one.” Jay tried to argue, his voice weak with agitation as his eyes searched Cole's for help.

“Uh, we do have some to share actually…” Cole tried to say.

“Nah,” Kai interrupted his husband. “Those were all designed for you guys, they're too personal; Jay needs his own one .” The king looked at Jay once again for confirmation, the boy twitched nervously.

“B-But I… I really don't…” his hands suddenly were caught in Kai's.

“Jay, please, I just want to make you a gift.” Kai pleaded knitting his eyebrows together like a lost puppy. It was quite difficult to decline such a tender look.

‘Okay, first you thought he was charming and now tender. You've definitely lost your mind, Jay.’ The boy told himself. Dropping his eyes to the blanket, embarrassed at his own weakness, Jay finally agreed to the monarch's plan.

“Yes!” Kai jumped, embracing the other male tightly. Jay froze in his spot. During the past days he had certainly become closer to some of the members of the royal family, however it was the first time Kai had surprised him with such a tight hug ever since that night they slept together in his room.

Jay was unsure of what to do. His heart rate increased dangerously in a second. Staying still like a doll could be seen as rude, hesitantly his hands fell down slowly encasing Kai's thin waist, not putting even the slightest pressure on his grip for he didn't want the action to lead the king into the wrong conclusion. After a few seconds Jay squirmed and pulled away as delicately as he could.

“We’ll head out early tomorrow morning!” The Maharaja chanted.

Chapter Text

Jay turned his head towards the thin colorful curtain, trying to hide a yawn. It didn’t seem to work much for it soon spread to Cole as well, his big mouth opened wide while he let out a mix of a whine and a sigh. In front of them Kai chuckled.

“What’s with the long faces?”

None of them have had much sleep the night before. For a start, Jay was too anxious as soon as he realized he would be stepping out of the palace for the first time in almost three weeks. His brain wasted no time dreaming about the possibility of escaping this crazy place and going back home to his parents, but at the same time he knew that dream would stay as it was. Kai would most likely have tons of guards around them all the time to prevent any flights. Plus even if he managed to sneak out without being spotted, how would a weak and naive boy like him find the way back all alone without any resources? Still the possibility had swirled in Jay’s mind the whole night, keeping him away almost until sunrise.

And last but not least, anyone would have had a hard time sleeping with those loud moans coming from down the hallway...

Kai was surprised when he felt the need to cover his own mouth as a yawn forced its way up his throat. “You’re sleepy?” Cole mocked.

“A little; someone kept me up all night.” The other winked. Cole blushed and shot his leg forward in the air to kick Kai’s knee, the monarch snickered mischievously. Jay kept his gaze locked onto the complicated fiery patterns that decorated the curtains of the carriage, too embarrassed to look anyone in the eyes. Why did these guys (mainly Kai) feel the need to bring up sex at the most random moments?

Jay’s body bobbed softly with the vibrations of the cart as they travelled. A sudden bump made the three guys grab their seats for support as they jumped. Kai raised his voice and warned the coachman. “Apologies, your Highness.” Sounded a male’s voice on the other side of the curtain behind Kai’s head.

This was surreal. Jay had travelled on carts before but this was a whole new level of transport. The interior of the cabin was made of actual seats with soft and fluffy sheets that made it way too comfortable, it was also spacious which prevented the horrible fear of stepping on someone’s limbs or pushing them to the point it would be hard to breath properly. The pretty curtains served as walls with the plus of being easily repositionable if the inhabitants felt either too hot or too cold.

The surprising bright sun didn’t do much to lift Jay’s mood. As soon as he was awakened few hours ago by his peers he wanted to back out immediately from the Maharaja's plan. He was too nervous, restless to be left alone with Kai out in the open. So in the end he dragged Cole with them for it was the only way he had to feel slightly safe around the enthusiastic brunette.

As Jay was lost in his own thoughts, Kai looked at Cole. The royal spouse arched his eyebrows, Kai moved his gaze to Jay then back to the noirette, silently asking for help or some kind of advice to start a conversation with him. Cole stared at the jittery boy out of the corner of his eye then shrugged and nodded to Kai with a silly smirk. The monarch licked and bit his lips before clearing his throat.

“Jay, have you ever been to Cahran?” The boy shook his head sheepishly in response. “You’re gonna love it, it’s a very beautiful city; there’s so much music and clothes and colors everywhere.”

“Don’t forget the food.” Added Cole, Kai rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, the food is great too. Sometimes I wish we could just move the palace there, it’s such a pretty place to live.”

Jay knew very little about the nearby city, only that it was a popular place where lots of merchants and people gathered to make business. Apparently it was one of Kai’s favorites places to shop and also where a famous tailor lived.

Eventually the carriage came to a stop. “We’re here, your Majesty.” Someone said outside. Kai shoved the curtain aside and smiled at the familiar buildings he saw further away.

The door opened and the king stepped out of the cabin, followed by Cole and Jay. The latter studied his surroundings. A long street opened before them, filled with hundreds of persons, the nearest groups had their mouths agape and were rushing to make space for them, clearly aware of who had just arrived.

Several guards on horse that had been following the royal carriage approached, stern expression on their faces as they looked at the people with defiant eyes and formed around the three young males. The Maharaja gave a few orders to the coachman and soon the carriage left.

Cole flashed Kai an inquiring glance. “I thought we could take a walk on our way to the tailor shop.” The brunette explained. Cole hummed with a smile then stretched a hand out for Jay. Kai didn't waste a second to do the same. The boy hesitated but eventually took both of their hands, choosing to stay in the middle of the boys. He just couldn't decline the monarch's cordiality in front of everyone, could he? Who knew what types of punishment would have fallen onto him for such a small detail?

Kai took the first step forward, the other two boys followed immediately, with the armored men guarding them.

Jay soon realized they were walking across a market. Dozens of parades were organized on both sides of the street. Some were tiny like the ones he would usually see back in his hometown, but others were quite big, with noisy and charismatic owners that led people to think that whatever they were selling must have been something popular and highly demanded.

As they walked further into the city, Jay started to understand why Kai liked this place so much. The young souverain didn't lie when he talked about its beauty. This city (or at least the little bit that Jay was seeing at the moment) felt magical. Voices and music filled their ears, the melodies changed as they passed shop after shop and stall after stall. Musicians were scattered all over the streets keeping the spirits of the pedestrians up through their shopping. Vibrant colors were everywhere, the buildings, the signs; Jay specially liked one with a deep pink background and yellow letters and decorations, he didn't understand what it said but it was certainly eye-catching. And all those curtains, carpets, veils and tons of different fabrics and clothes, they were beautiful!

But what impressed Jay the most was the food. He had never seen such appetizing vegetables and fruits, they stood out on their own, some even seemed unknown to him by how good they looked. The market in his hometown could never compare, it was way smaller and a lot less fancy though pretty much just as noisy.

Few minutes into this new exquisite world Jay was starting to be aware of the stares directed at them. Some people looked in silence, their jaws dropped to the floor, others gossiped between whispers and a few cheered and yelled greetings at the Maharaja. Kai constantly smiled as he waved his free hand every now and then saluting back. The people pulled aside making space for the royal family whenever they saw the guards approaching.

Jay was confused, for the better but still confused. He never heard about kings mixing with peasants before. Okay, maybe he wasn't the most instructed in royal customs but going shopping between the normal people didn't seem to be one of them. Jay always thought rich people didn't need to shop by themselves, they could have servants do it for them. Or in Kai's case he could even call the sellers to come to the palace and forget about the hassle of walking by different shops in order to find the best deal. So why did Kai seem so happy about stepping out of his luxurious bubble and act like a normal person? Jay had absolutely no clue. Was it because his first two spouses had humble pasts? Was it because…?

Jay's mind froze for a moment. His brain was coming up with an idea that made his body shake with fear. He went back to the memories of their very first encounter. Had Kai been purposely looking for a new spouse that day when he found him? Was he looking for a new one now too? Was that the reason why he mixed with commoners and liked to attend markets on his own? Maybe the boy was in fact crazy and had a weird fetish for poor people. Such twisted thoughts made Jay’s heart beat fast inside his chest, and he didn't even understand why the idea of being so easily replaceable hurted him so bad.

A heavy pull on his right hand shook him out of his hazy state. Kai had asked the coronel ahead to pause the march for a moment. He went to check the merchandise of a certain booth, pulling the other two boys along with him. His olive eyes sparkled as he caught sight of a pair of slippers and didn't doubt a second to buy them.

“I swear you must have been a centipede in one of your previous lives.” Cole laughed when they started walking again.

“That joke is getting too old, Cole, you don’t have any new ones?” Replied the monarch unperturbed.

“Why would I? It’s still funny and Jay hadn't heard it yet.”

“It’s not funny.”

“Yeah, yeah...” Cole leaned into Jay's ear, his lips barely brushed the shell. “He’s getting worked up because he knows I’m right.” He shouted-whispered. Jay tittered after a subtle shiver.

“Did you say anything?” Kai stretched his neck, eyes half lidded as he looked past Jay’s head and towards his husband.

“Nope.” Cole popped the P, smiling back.

“I thought so.”

“Boaster.” The noirette mumbled under his breath and Jay couldn’t help but to snort at the playful remark. Kai was probably the only person on these lands that could boast all he wanted; he was the King after all.

The Maharaja glared at them comically, Cole and Jay quickly fell silent with embarrassment, Kai’s expression softened the next second.

 

Just a few steps ahead Cole’s eyes opened wide and the large boy began to bounce like a child. “We’re getting to my favorite part.” Jay’s eyes questioned him. “Take a deep breath, through your nose.” Explained the tanned beauty.

Jay did as he was told. A delicious smell made his stomach swirl violently. It was something that stood out between the rest of scents that were already flying in the air. It was strong, full and mouth-watering.

The source of such smell was soon revealed; several booths with cooked food laid ahead of them. The sellers were shouting, cheering onto the people to come and get a special deal for the succulent food. It was amazing and mind-blowing. The people around there really had enough money to buy hot and freshly cooked food?! Judging by the amount of stalls dedicated to such activity, it seemed so. Jay was discovering so many new things that day.

Cole’s eyes were almost going to pop out, he expertly scrutinized the plates as other customers nearby stepped aside in awe at the royal visitors.

“See anything you like?” Kai asked his spouse. Cole pulled in front of a specific stand, eyes fixated on some spiral shaped sweets. Kai needn't a clearer answer. “A big pack of jalebi, please.” The monarch addressed the seller.

The man on the other side of the table ushered the woman next to him to prepare the Maharaja's order while he bowed several times.

“It’s- It’s an honor to have you here, your Highness. I-I hope you’ll find our recipe worthy of your royal taste.” He stuttered.

Kai simply smiled and handed him a small sack full of coins. The man pushed it back feeling shame in making the land ruler pay for his ‘cheap’ food. Kai insisted time after time until the bag was no longer in his hands. The man and the woman attending the stall vowed with infinite gratitude as the royal family resumed their walk.

Cole took the wrapping where the sweets were waiting for him, pulling an orangish swirl out and greedily munching at it with a deep moan.

“They're amazing! You guys want some?” He offered the bag.

Kai, whose hand was still not letting go off his pale companion, went first but waited for Jay to get a pastry for himself before taking a small bite. He watched his reaction with exhilaration.

Jay inspected the small spiral closely, it was a bit sticky, with small crystalized particles that he presumed were sugar, it certainly smelled sweet. As part of it went into his mouth his eyes opened wide; it was sweet indeed, with a soft touch that reminded Jay of flowers, and that chewy texture, wow , he’d never had a similar thing before.

“What are these made of?” Jay asked as Cole handed them another pair to share.

“I actually don't know; some kind of fried batter with sugar and honey? We rarely eat this at the palace.” Kai admitted, slenderly eating the second spiral.

Mayme you can agk Zane when we go mack.

“Cole, don't talk with your mouth full, we're in public.” The monarch scolded him lightly.

The noirette swallowed, hand delving into the container again. “Sorry.” He replied fast before stuffing his mouth for the fifth time.

Jay stared at the second pastry in his hand. That time he made sure to take his time to eat it, munching slowly and letting the full gradient of sweet flavours be acknowledged by his taste buds. His fingers unconsciously reached up to his lips, licking them clean of the sticky substance that had clinged to them. He might have been living in a well-off ambience lately, but old habits die hard and he had been taught not to waste even the tiniest bit of food.

He had been so distracted by the food he didn't even notice the brunette intently staring at him. Jay was slurping his fingertips as his intense blue eyes locked with Kai who was wearing a dirty smirk on his face. Jay blushed, mimicking the Maharaja's outfit and immediately put his hand down. Kai leaned closer, dangerously closer , his breath almost fanned Jay's freckles as he whispered “Nice technique… Wanna lick mine too?”

Was there even something redder than Jay's face at that moment? The blue orbs widened as his pupils shrunk to the size of a salt grain. How could the owner of the kingdom say such sexual innuendos so casually and not feel embarrassed in the slightest?!

Jay was already dizzy from all the blood that had rushed to his head. “Noooo!” He shrieked, only remembering in the process that people were looking at them from any point of the street, which made the yelling come out partly broken and lame. Great! As if Jay needed to embarrass himself even more.

Cole came down from his food paradise as he heard Jay's whine and Kai laughing next to him. “What did I miss?” The oblivious boy asked. Jay pouted, cheeks still burning as Kai kept on laughing. The monarch was so infuriating

“Oh, Jay was just-”

“Nothing!” The ginger head punctuated cutting into the Mahajara's words.

Both Cole and Kai's eyes zeroed on him. It was the first time the boy had actually interrupted any of them, and quite determinedly. That caught them both by surprise but totally welcomed the raw reaction.

Jay had averted his eyes from Kai, looking into the other direction, which happened to be the young black lad and his bag of sweets. Cole picked another swirl and offered it to Jay without a word. The still red-faced boy took it firmly.

“Thanks.” He muttered trying to concentrate on his eating once again.  Anything would be better than looking at Kai at that instant.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

The walk took longer than what it was supposed to. Kai and Cole strolled around, pausing every now and then, making sure Jay enjoyed the colorful and buoyant surroundings. They eventually left the marketplace and headed to a less busy section of the city, though it was still pretty crowded. As soon as the news of the Maharaja's visit had spread around, people seemed to not be able to stay inside their houses.

After crossing a few streets the group finally stopped. The royal carriage was right before them, pulled in front of a tall building with what was, in Jay's humble opinion, a way too overdone facade. An enormous circular sign hang over the stained glass door, big maroon letters with complex serifs occupying it, said decorations repeated like a pattern along the edges of the building, surrounding the door and big front window. The upper floor had a few balconies adorned with green plants and blooming flowers.

This was the place? Jay asked himself.

Kai ordered the guards to wait outside as he started for the door.

Yup, this was the place.

If the outside already seemed ridiculous to Jay, the inside of the building was even worse. It was packed with lots of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, clocks, fabrics, flowers! It kind of reminded Jay of his junkyard of a house, just that this place was  bigger and more fancy.

Way too fancy.

It almost seemed like someone had tried to stuff all the Maharaja’s belongings into a small house. It looked rather funny, things didn't seem to be organized under a specific rule.

A middle-aged woman appeared behind a wall of rolled fabrics, she gasped in slight surprise. Kai waved a hand at her with one of his charming smiles. The woman nodded, bowed at the group then quietly made her way through a nearby corridor.

Once again the three males found themselves alone in the hall. Kai, being the impatient zippy person he was, couldn’t keep himself still. He moved towards a shelf with small pieces of sample fabrics, his fingers brushing over them, enjoying the different touches. Jay and Cole on the contrary stayed still by the entrance. The former’s eyes were flying all over the room, studying every small detail. He caught a glimpse at Cole’s profile unconsciously, the noirette smiled at him tenderly and rubbed a thumb against the back of his pale hand. Jay’s eyes averted to the floor with embarrassment.

Soon enough a big roundy man with chocolate hair came into view, dressed with brownish clothes and quite a few shiny necklaces over his chest.

“Ah, your Majesty, I was wondering when you'd grace my little shop with your presence.” His voice was deep and breathy and he had a curious way of speaking, dragging out some of the letters, almost seemed an actor reciting a well-prepared speech.

”Hello, Dareth.” The Maharaja saluted as the man vowed at him and then at Cole and Jay.

“I see you've set your eyes on something, uh?” The man commented as he walked closer to Kai and played with the small pieces of fabric the boy had had in his hands until a moment ago. “These are my newest acquisitions. Pretty, aren't they? It's been hella expensive to import these here.”

“Yeah, they're really nice, but I'm not here to check your new stuff today.” Dareth pouted slightly, to which Kai giggled. “I have a small challenge for you; do you think you can get us a full outfit for this beauty right here in less than a week?” Kai said walking back to his friends and taking Jay’s hand in his. “We're having a party and Jay needs something special for the occasion.”

The overweight man stared at them for a moment then walked up to Jay, studying his figure with narrowed eyes and rubbing a finger on his chin. He pulled his weak arms wide open and palpated the slim torso for a few seconds. Jay flinched unconsciously at the first touch but stayed still at Kai’s request. Blushing deeply as the corpulent older male gropped him.

“Uhm, I don't think I have anything that small,” Dareth said crossing his arms over his chest. “But I can certainly adjust some of my current stuff to fit your needs. Come on, let's move to my workroom. I'll tell my wife to prepare some tea, bet you're thirsty.” He said with a toothy grin at the end.  Cole smiled; after the large amount of sweets he had ingested earlier his throat felt weird and raspy.

 

Kai led his friends up the stairs to the next floor, he'd been on Dareth's shop enough times to know this place like the back of his hand, and after making so many businesses together, the monarch considered this place like a second home.

The workroom turned to be a pretty big space, well it had to be spacious  enough to contain the ridiculous amount of dresses and pieces of clothing that were visible to the naked eyed. Some hung up from the walls, others were piled over the several desks and furniture, and a few wardrobes were probably full of them as well. By the side, there was a small couch, a low platform and two large mirrors.

“Are you guys looking for something specific?” Dareth asked as he let them in, free to wander around the merch.

Kai smiled and stared at Jay waiting for a response. “Uh? Y-You're asking me?” His eyes nervously moved between all the males in the room. “Uh… I… I don't know…” He muttered embarrassed, gaze dropping to the floor. He had no idea what was he expected to wear for the party with that lord. He felt so out of his element.

Dareth’s thumb reached up to his chin again, pensive. “Mmmh, well, maybe if you tell me a bit about the event I can find you something fitting.”

“Just a formal gathering with Mr. Chumsworth and his family.” The monarch explained.

“Oh, boy…” Dareth mumbled, eyes wide as the Maharaja and his husband rolled their eyes with a snort. “We need something really good then. Let me think...”

The tailor walked around the stock, taking clothes in and out of their spots. Minutes later his face had disappeared behind a pile of fabrics.

“Let’s start with these.” His muffled voice said. Kai grinned with excitement.

Jay was ushered behind a screen to get changed into the first combination. He was less chary of getting semi-naked with more people in the room now, but it still wasn’t his cup of tea.

“Do you need help?” Dareth asked after a few minutes passed and Jay hadn't come out yet.

“No! I'm fine, I can do this alone.” The high-pitched voice sounded on the other side of the decorated wood. He’d had enough groping earlier.

The woman they met on the first floor came through the door, holding a tray in her hands that she soon placed down on the small table nearby the couch. She bowed at the royal family and exchanged a few polite greetings before retreating back to her duties. Cole and Kai took a seat as they waited for Jay, sipping on the tea that had been prepared for them.

Finally a mop of nacarat hair showed up on the side of the screen, Dareth guided the boy up onto the little platform in front of the mirrors so everyone could have a good look at the outfit. It was a bright turquoise tunic with golden motives on the cuffs, way too big for him, even with a belt on it was too baggy, and those colors were clearly not helping his figure.

Pretty much everyone agreed with Jay's scrunched up face. It didn't look good on him at all. “How about something more fancy?” Kai suggested.

Jay went back behind the room divider as the funny man picked out something else. The next outfit was good, or that's what Kai said when he saw the boy dressed in a long white coat with a very shiny golden pattern all along the fabric, only accentuated by soft touches of red on the slit and buttons. Jay on the contrary pulled a face once again.

 

The Maharaja and the first royal spouse were soon done with their drinks. Jay had tried on more and more outfits, always reaching the same disappointing results. Kai walked around the place with Dareth by his side, both males going over the clothes at their disposal and discussing which one would be the best.

Jay was awkwardly standing on the podium staring at his reflection, getting more anxious as minutes ticked. He didn't wish to cause any problems to the tailor nor make the monarch mad at him for rejecting every garb they offered. It had been specially hard with a red one Kai seemed to fall in love with, but Jay couldn't hide his discomfort.

This was not him.

All these expensive dresses filled with tons of ridiculous decorations, layers and jewels and stuff... He understood it was supposed to be an outfit for a social event, a royal social event, which meant he had to look somehow royalish too, but he couldn't just get rid of the humble boy he had been all his life. A boy whose ‘new’ clothes were pretty much recycled and worn out fabrics. He couldn't just jump from one side to the other so suddenly. It felt odd, as if he was neglecting his poor yet happy past.

Another figure appeared next to his reflection, breaking Jay's train of thoughts. It was a very familiar black haired lad.

Cole patted his back. “Don't worry, we'll find something.” Though his words didn't do much to reassure Jay.

“What's up?” Cole asked concerned at the contraried expression in the other's face.

“I'm sorry, I just… This stuff is… too much for me. They're pretty but…” He trailed off unsure of how to express his feelings without sounding too rude.

Cole studied Jay's face carefully, trying to get an idea of what was eating the boy up alive. He gave Kai a quick glance, the Maharaja was still talking vividly with the other brunette as they placed fabrics next to each other trying to come up with a unique combination.

“Hey, why don't we take a look ourselves? I'm really not the best at these things but maybe I can help. After all it's going to be your suit, it's only fair that you get to choose it.” Said Cole taking Jay's hands in his and gesturing him to step down the podium.

“C-can we really…?” Jay tried to ask as he saw Cole shuffling through a pile of clothes on the nearby wall.

“Of course, Dareth doesn't mind. Actually this place is usually a mess of clothes everywhere. I guess since the carriage got here first he had time to clean up a bit.” He whispered the last part earning a small chuckle from Jay. The smaller boy had only met the tailor for barely an hour but he could already tell that man was a bit chaotic; a messy workplace fitted him much more.

And with that they inspected the clothing before them together, pulling and shoving things aside. Cole asked Jay a couple of times as he found things he thought would please his friend, but he shook his head sadly. Jay was ready to give up and accept whatever was the next thing Kai and Dareth offered him when he spotted something; a thin layer of deep blue pressed between a couple of shirts.

He asked Cole for help and pulled it out slowly, trying not to ruin the pile of clothes next to it. His eyes widened in surprise. Cole observed the piece too with a curious glance before his eyes moved to Jay. He could swear he saw him smiling.

“Do you like it?” Jay responded with something akin to a dubitative shrug. “Go try it on.”

“But…”

“Just do it.” His friend encouraged.

As the ginger head disappeared to get changed for the uptenth time, Cole eyed his spouse who was still chatting up with the owner of the shop. He rolled his eyes, Kai easily lost track of time whenever he talked about fashion, and it was even worse when the other member of the conversation was an expert on that same subject.

The noirette flinched slightly when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Surprise was written all over his features as Jay came out behind the screen. The boy gulped anxiously under his solid gaze.

“Wow…” Cole gawked, guiding Jay in front of the mirrors so he could admire himself.

That was probably the first time Jay didn't look like a sack of potatoes ever since they started this. The kurta was still not his size exactly but it was the closest one they had found in all the time they'd spent in the tailor's house. It went down to his knees, a slit on both sides that allowed him to move comfortably without restrictions. The left shoulder had a beautiful and subtle floral white pattern, same figures were repeated at the bottom, next to the right slit. It was elegant, pretty, fancy but not highfalutin, but the most important thing was that small smile on Jay's pink lips.

This was the one .

If his mother had ever had that type of fabric in her hands, Jay was sure the resulting clothing would had been something very similar to this. His eyes searched for Cole's sheepishly. He liked the piece very much but would it be okay for the event? He needed some reassurance.

“I told you blue looks good on you.” The noirette smiled, noticing the soft blush that appeared under Jay's freckles. Cole stuck two fingers in his mouth, blowing a sharp whistle to get the attention of the brunettes on the other side the room. “I think we found it.”

Kai and Dareth looked confused for a brief second but stepped forward towards them. The surprise in the monarch's face grew bigger, mouth open as he couldn't stop staring at Jay. The ginger head shrinked for a moment, fearing a bad reaction.

“Is this… okay?”

The Maharaja walked closer, taking Jay's hands in his to spread his arms wide so he could take a better look at the outfit.

“It’s great... It's like it's made for you!” Kai moved behind him as they turned to face the mirrors, his greenish eyes scanning every inch of the cute boy reflected in the glass, the smile on his face never dying. Jay flinched when he felt Kai's hands softly caressing his shoulders as a dreamy whisper escaped his lips. “You look beautiful.”

Beautiful?

Jay felt a strange warmth rush to his cheeks from the bottom of his stomach. It was the first time he had been called that; sure, his mother liked to remind him almost everyday how handsome and pretty and cute she thought he was but…

Beautiful?

Beautiful...

That was something else. It was a big word and Jay didn't know how to feel at the fact that the compliment came from another boy, a boy who was trying to court him, a boy who was his saviour and captor at the same time.

He swallowed thickly, staying still in front of the mirror, for he couldn't move an inch under Kai's glazed orbs, not even to shove away the arms that had travelled down to his waist, encircling him in a gentle embrace.

A throat being cleared made them both jump in surprise.

“I don't mean to interrupt the tender moment, your Majesty, but if the decision is set I should get started with the measurements.” The tailor said.

“Ah, y-yeah! The sooner the better!” Stuttered Kai letting go off the young male.

Dareth collected several sewing materials and a long thin tape with numbers on it, asking Jay to stay still while he measured his body everywhere and started pinning needles on the clothes to mark the excess of fabric that needed to be fixed. Kai clumsily excused himself out of the room.

The extravagant man insisted they should also get a pair of pants to match the kurta, maybe even a new inner shirt. Cole and Jay watched him move towards a shelf and shuffle through the blue colored materials. The noirette eyed the door, his husband was taking his time outside. Cole licked his lips before speaking to his slim friend in a low voice.

“Hey, do you mind if I go check up on Kai for a second?” Obviously Jay zeroed on him, terrorized at the idea of being left alone in a place he didn't know.

“You'll be fine, Dareth is… a bit overwhelming but he wouldn't hurt a fly.” Cole squeezed his hand, careful not to prick himself with the nearby needles. Jay's vibrant eyes landed on their connected limbs, not sure at all.

“I'll be right back, I promise.” His hand went up to caress Jay's cheek, pushing a couple of stray bangs aside. “And… if anything happens, which I promise you it won't, just scream, okay? I'll be here in two shakes of a lamb's tail.”

Jay wasn't totally convinced, but what else could he do besides shrugging his shoulders and accepting his fate once again?

For a second Cole leaned in to place a friendly kiss on him. He realized his mistake on the way and nervously decided to hide his original intention by ruffling Jay's hair, ruining his previous job on it. Jay furrowed his eyebrows and squirmed away with a childish frown. His companion chuckled awkwardly before disappearing by the threshold. Although Jay didn't like not being under Cole's protection, he couldn't help but smile softly as he watched him go.

“Aha! These will be perfect! Come on, Jay, try them on. I gotta make sure they fit you properly.” The tailor mentioned.

 

It didn't take Cole much time to find his husband. Just a quick look around was enough to spot Kai on the balcony at the back of the building. The Maharaja was leaning on the handrail, face hidden in his hands.

“You cool, babe?” Kai jumped at the intrusion but relaxed immediately when he found his lover by his side.

“Uh, yeah, I just needed some fresh air, it gets really cramped in there with so many people.” Kai said casually, averting his eyes and playing with his hair.

Cole raised a brow, obviously not buying the excuse. He'd known Kai for enough years to recognize the signs of a flustered Maharaja from miles away. “You looked pretty comfortable close to Jay, in my opinion.” He said in a mocking voice, locking his arms around Kai's waist when the boy flinched once again, his face going as red as his outfit. Cole chuckled amused at the sight.

“Don't make fun of me.”

“Why not? I bet you're the cutest king ever when you're flustered.” Kai groaned saying his name out loud once again for a second warning, turning to press his forehead on Cole's chest and hide his embarrassment. His spouse however was enjoying this too much.

“Tell me, what are you thinking?” Cole asked when his laughter died down, his strong arms dancing over Kai's back tenderly.

Kai didn't respond immediately, he was too excited, too shaky to properly talk if he did not try to control his voice. Jay's beautiful figure was still imprinted in his retina. It was all he could see when he closed his eyes; Jay with his sweet orangish hair, Jay with his thin and delicate body full of freckles that Kai still had yet to discover first-hand, Jay with his piercing blue eyes that had him feeling weak on his knees.

The Maharaja swallowed, his throat had went totally dry in a matter of seconds. “He's… so gorgeous…” He finally replied to his husband. “When I saw him there with that outfit… I couldn't help but to imagine us both… y'know… getting married.” He gripped the black shirt hard in his fists.

“I could tell.” The royal spouse whispered tightening his hold around the boy.

“He'd look so perfect in a wedding robe, with all those flowers in his hair, and his face would shine when we walked around the fire ring.” Kai kept daydreaming out loud. A soft breathy laugh caressed his chocolate hair. He groaned freeing himself from his lover's embrace and walked around the small terrace.

“This is crazy, I am going crazy. I want him so bad; he's so pretty, so precious, agh… I just want to hold him forever and kiss and… Everything! Fuck, Cole, I can't believe I like him so much! I'm turning more and more stupid by the days. I nearly blacked out a moment ago! I couldn't even  speak to him.” He rubbed his hands all over his cheeks, pulling the skin of his eyelids down and groaning with frustration.

Cole snorted leaning his back on the handrail casually. Kai took a deep breath before looking back at the strong male. “You… don't mind that I… talk about him like that, right?” He asked sheepishly.

Cole stretched an arm out enough to pull the Maharaja back into his arms.

“‘Course not. I thought we already discussed that last night.” He smiled wiggling his eyebrows. Kai groaned pulling him down by the neck and placing a furious kiss on his lover, his tongue darting out fast enough to attack Cole's mouth, though the other didn't resist at all.

“What would I do without you?” Kai breathed out as their kiss broke.

“Uhm… Live a boring happy life, married to lots of brainless princesses while a bunch of kids run down the palace?” Cole said comically and Kai pulled a face, making the other giggle.

“We’re lucky I don't like boring things .” Kai rested his face on Cole's broad shoulders and tried to breath slowly. All this Jay stuff had his nerves set on fire. He would always be so grateful to have Cole in his life. He was so understanding, so kind, and let's not forget handsome too, but that last part was just an extra detail. If Cole hadn't come to his life many years ago… Kai couldn't even imagine where would he be to that day.

“Seriously though, this is bad. It's been so long since I felt that nervous. I can barely talk to him without feeling like my heart is going to jump out of my mouth. What kind of dumbass will he think am I?” Kai complained a bit more calm.

“I don't know, how many kinds are there?” Kai pulled away just enough to glare at his man, eyebrow raised in disbelief. Cole laughed stupidly at his lame joke, Kai merely rolled his eyes.

“Hey, it's fine, I think you're doing really well so far. He's definitely more relaxed now than when he arrived, and a lot more friendly.” The noirette said.

Kai chew on the inside of his cheek as Cole’s soothing hands worked on his back again, rubbing tenderly over the red fabric to appease him.

Cole was right. Looking back on the first days Jay had gone a long way. It would be hard to believe that the same boy who spat at him had just been in his arms moments ago, smiling and blushing cutely. Their relationship wasn't evolving as fast as Kai expected but he was positive; Jay was already changing, he just needed to be a bit more patient.

Easier said than done, sadly, for a hothead like him.

When the young couple parted from their embrace, Cole spoke first. “Let’s get back. You know Dareth can get a bit crazy when left alone.” He advised and Kai agreed, pecking his lips one last time before they walked back inside the house.

Kai stopped abruptly at the threshold, turning around to his lover. He raised a finger with an authoritative smug on his face. “And for your info, there’s is a type of dumbass named after you, Cole .”

“Yeah, and it’s right next to yours on the list. Come on, move!” The other retorted with a laugh spanking Kai’s ass to usher him inside. The Maharaja yelped like a scared mouse and glared playfully at his spouse before facing the long corridor and sticking his nose up in the air with haughtiness. Cole followed him, still giggling tenderly.

As they made it to the door of the studio they could hear voices coming from the room. The monarch stayed still by the half-open entrance and placed a hand on Cole’s chest to get him to pause as well.

“What's-” The brunette shushed him. Kai peeped inside. His eyes widened in surprise. Jay was still up on the platform, Dareth by his side. The older man was telling him one of his tailor stories about this seriously large woman who almost left him out of stock once. It was a quite familiar scene, the tailor was a pretty talkative person, but what made it different that time was Jay's behavior. The boy was smiling, nodding at Dareth and laughing softly at his anecdotes. His fidgety and scared self from the ride there was nowhere to be seen.

Kai looked at his husband, and moved to the side allowing him to steal a glance inside as well. Cole automatically mimicked his surprised and happy expression. Jay had looked so distressed when he left, he never imagined the boy could change like that in a matter of minutes. What kind of magic was Dareth using on him?

The couple finally entered the room with a very loud knock on the door. Both Jay and Dareth spun around in surprise.

“Ah, your Highness, I hope you're feeling better. We're almost done here, I've carefully taken notes of all the needed modifications.”

“Good, do you think you can  have it ready by Friday?”

“It will be all ready by Wednesday .” The tailor proudly buffed his chest, placing his hands on either side of his wide waist.

“Sweet!” Kai smiled with a clasp of his hands.

 

Jay was surprised to see the more time he spent at the tailor's shop the more comfortable he felt surrounded by clothes and sewing tools of all kinds. It was very similar to his own house in a strange way, and while Dareth was certainly a… let's call him a very special person, he was also very friendly. The royal family and their guest stayed at the tailor shop for a little bit more, chatting up with the man and his wife while having a short snack. They were such nice people, totally Jay's taste; talkative, funny and spontaneous. He almost felt sad when the time to say goodbye arrived.

Jay and Cole got on the carriage first, the tailor waved at them from the door, Kai still by his side. “Thank you very much for your visit once again, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you too for your help, I knew you could get us out of this mess.”

Dareth smiled, always happy and proud to work with the monarch. Both man bowed at each other in respect, bidding adieu. Kai had just started for the vehicle when the roundy male talked to him again.

“By the way, congratulations on your wedding!”

Kai's whole body whipped around, staring deadpanned at the other man. Dareth mimicked his confused expression.

“Ah, no, we're not… We're not married, uh… Jay's just a friend.” Kai mumbled scratching his nape.

“Oh, my apologies.” The other bent down immediately. “I thought… He reminded me of Lloyd somehow so...”

“Yeah, yeah, it's fine, don't worry.”

Kai wasted no time and hopped onto the carriage, joining the other two boys. They all waved at the tailor as the coachman ordered the horses to move, starting the way back to the palace.

Cole and Jay engaged in a small chatter about the tailor’s funny mannerisms, Kai stared at them from his seat, going over the words of the roundy man. Lloyd and Jay… He could see the similarities but what would that make it obvious that he was after the freckled boy?

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Everything was silent, but Zane didn't mind it at all, he had always prefered a quiet setting, specially when he was trying to meditate or read like he was doing at that instant. Peacefully laying on the oonjal that hung from the ceiling of the living room, he enjoyed the soft swing of his comfy seat as he turned the page of the poem book in his hands.

The only thing that prevented the silent ambience from getting too awkward was the occasional sound of Lloyd's scribbles and sighs. The moody blond was sitting by the coffee table, papers and charcoals spread all over the surface. Lloyd clicked his tongue with an irritated sound for the zillionth time. The shorter boy had been pretty quiet that morning ever since the others left for the tailor shop, and his mood was clearly not evolving to something better.

Zane watched him discard another paper, Lloyd let out a groan as his forehead hit the table. “Is anything the matter?”

Lloyd’s voice came out muffled by the marble surface. “Everything I draw looks like crap.”

“I’d suggest you take a rest then, it might help your brain to freshen up-”

“But I wanted to have this done by the time Kai gets back!” Whined the other.

“Why the rush?”

“I... Because I simply wanted it to be today!”

Zane lifted an eyebrow making some quick calculations. It wasn’t Kai’s birthday, neither was it their anniversary or any other special date. Why was Lloyd so obsessed with gifting the monarch something all of a sudden?

The calm boy watched his friend. From his spot on the swing he could only see Lloyd’s back dressed in a green shirt and a mop of golden locks resting at the top, but that alone was enough to feel the tension that was accumulating in the small shoulders. Zane stretched his arm, placing the book down on a nearby stand, he moved making a bit more space in the oonjal full of cushions. “Why don’t you come and lay down next to me for a bit?”

The golden head turned around just lightly. Lloyd examined him, taking a minute to think. His hands rubbed his eyes roughly before he got up and went to join his friend in the swing. They laid down close to each other, Lloyd’s head resting on Zane’s big chest as the smaller boy hugged him like a greedy monkey. Zane let out a soft chuckle, starting to caress the other’s hair and cheek.

Silence embraced the couple again. If Zane didn’t have a perfect internal clock he would have probably drifted off to sleep surrounded by the quiet and relaxing aura of the sunny morning. The room was full of light but not enough to blind them, the sunlight fell through the windows and onto the floor so graciously, bathing the carpet in a sweet yellowish tone. It was a nice change from the previous gloomy days.

“Z-Zane…” The blond blinked at the mention of his name and made a soft noise to let Lloyd know he was listening. “Would you… If… Uhm...” Lloyd tripped over his own words. “If I was gone… would you miss me?”

Zane's head shook automatically with utter confusion. His eyebrows almost reached the ceiling at the same time his eyes went wide, almost popping out of his face.

“What? Why are you asking me that?”

“Would you or would you not?” Lloyd interrogated again not looking him in the eye. Zane took a minute to reply, not because he didn't know the answer but because he was still perplexed.

“Of course I would; all of us would miss you. You're part of our family.” Lloyd's grip on him became tighter, the boy not daring to lift up his head just yet. Zane placed his arms around him once again, rubbing Lloyd's back in a loving manner.

“Why did you ask that? Are you perhaps feeling ill?” None of them ever fell sick often, Zane liked to think it was thanks to his medical knowledge and the health standards Kai implemented few years ago when they got married. But Zane knew diseases were still bound to happen.

“I'm… I'm scared…” Lloyd replied after a short silence, voice weak and almost broken. “I'm scared of being left behind.”

Zane’s eyebrows couldn’t go any higher, he waited and waited for his friend to elaborate the reason behind such a statement but no answer came out of the soft tanned lips. Soon Zane noticed a very subtle movement on his companion, it was short and repetitive almost like a sob .

Zane quickly pushed his torso up, Lloyd's crying face fell in the crook of his armpit. “Lloyd! Oh, dear, what's the matter?” Zane hugged him tight as they both laid on their sides, the swing rocked softly along with their shifting.

“Is this still about Jay?”

“Yes… No! I… I don't know, Zane! I'm a mess!” Lloyd wept on the white clothed chest, wetting the fabric as his tears spilled out. “It’s just… He’s like me, and you all like him so much and I don’t know what to do because he’s changing! He’s getting friendlier and better, and I’m feeling like crap because I… I…” His sudden outburst was fading away as he got lost in his own words and thoughts. Zane reached a hand up to the back of his head, pale cold fingers threading the locks patiently until a weak broken voice murmured against him again. “I… don’t want to… be replaced…”

“Repla-?! Lloyd, we’d never do that.”

“I know you wouldn’t but... what about Kai and Cole? They’re so attached to him already...”

“Lloyd, we all love you . You’re part of the family, we could never just throw you away.”

“But Jay doesn’t have my problems! He’s got those damn loving parents who taught him all that cool stuff... And you’re so smart; you know like, everything! And Cole is the freaking strongest person in Earth… but look at me! I know nothing, I have nothing, no real talent! Hell, I thought I was at least good at art but that stupid scrapyard boy can draw too! And you’re gonna teach him how to read! And you'll all hang around together while I sit here trying to do something good and…!” Lloyd yelled amidst all the tears. “If I got kicked out of the palace I… I wouldn’t even last a day outside… I’m useless…”

Zane pulled him close and gave a short thrust of his hips to keep the swing rocking them gently. “Lloyd, relationships aren’t about who’s the most useful member or who’s got better skills. It’s about something else.”

“Like what?” Asked the other sniffing and trying to dry some of the tears by rubbing his face against Zane.

“Like… spiritual connections. Like love.”

Lloyd snorted. “Love; my forever pending task.”

“No, Lloyd, you love us; you’re worried about the situation of our family. Caring about someone is a form of love in itself.”

The short blond huffed again in disbelief. Zane rolled his eyes and took a moment to think and try to understand his friend. Poor Lloyd had always had self-esteem problems, they all noticed when he first stepped into the palace a year ago dressed in those ragged clothes and a scared dirty face. Had that been because of living with a couple of abusive parents or was that a natural trait of him? They’d never knew, but neither Kai, Cole or Zane himself had ever been bothered about his instability. They took Lloyd under their protection without a second thought and showered him with genuine affection. After all, he was just another broken soul like all of them.

“Lloyd, dear, don’t beat yourself for your past, you’re an amazing person. You’re funny, sharp, you always stand for what you think it’s right, and you’re great at both art and music.”

“You’re still better than me at all those things.”

Zane rolled his eyes amused. Sometimes being good at almost everything could be a double-edged sword.

“The point is,” Zane resumed his speech. “You’re a valuable member of our family; without you nothing would be the same. And you know Kai would never dispose of you like an old rag, he’s madly in love with his green bean. ” Zane smiled at him, ruffling the golden locks playfully. His talk seemed to be calming the other boy but the last sentence backfired.

“Kai barely notices any of us now. He’s only got eyes for him .” Lloyd spat hurtful.

Zane shifted again, rolling Lloyd softly onto his back so the boy could get into a position that made breathing easier. He let the silence fill the space for a moment, placing a hand down on Lloyd’s chest to guide his respirations.

“Kai is in a race against time. You know Jay agreed to stay with us only for a short amount of time. Try to put yourself in his shoes. It must be hard to make time for all of us, manage the kingdom and court him all at the same time.

“When you first came here, Kai had all the time in the world to get you to trust him, but Jay’s case is different.” Zane paused, taking a moment to let the information sink in Lloyd’s mind, his friend didn’t refute him which was a good sign. “Be patient, Lloyd. If we collaborate all together I am certain Jay will love to stay with us when the time comes.”

Lloyd lifted his head for a moment, staring at Zane’s baby blue orbs as if trying to find a flaw or a lie in his logic but to no avail. He curled up against the other’s body, heart and soul tired of all this thing.

Lloyd still didn’t know how to feel towards the freckled boy. He’d been hating him since the start because he considered him a nuisance, someone who didn’t deserve to be loved by their magnanimous king, someone who couldn’t appreciate the great family that oh-so-luckily fell upon him. It also felt unfair that he came from a  loving family, the blond hadn't been so fortunate. But over the past days it all became confusing. Sure, Jay was yet cagey but his behaviour had softened a lot comparing it to three weeks ago. He’d now speak more often and even make occasional jokes, most of the time with Cole only but it still was a change for the good. And how silently would he take in Lloyd’s awful comments and remarks. He had never, not even once, talked back to him nor tried to embarrass the short blond in revenge, neither had he seemed to ask someone to scold Lloyd, no matter how mean he tried to be.

Why was Jay so peaceful? Why did he seem to always try to please everyone? It was only making it harder for Lloyd to hate him. Could he even say he hated the boy anymore? Truth is he would have loved to ask him to share his art knowledge; those sketches Jay did the previous day had picked his curiosity.

Lloyd’s head started to hurt. All those questions were too much for a broken boy like him. He made himself comfortable next to Zane and let the gentle rocking of the oonjal lull him to sleep. It turned out he really needed a rest.

Chapter Text

 

It was hot.

So deadly hot.

Who had agreed to go out in a sunny day and have a mud fight to help with the heat? Was it Jay's idea or…?

“Come on, Jay!” Someone shouted when a ball of dirt hit his side. Surprisingly it didn't feel that sticky.

Jay looked up where the throw came from, spotting a familiar noirette behind a pile of junk. Cole laughed childishly at him. Jay narrowed his eyes, digging his hand in the still damp ground and picking up what he considered a decent amount of mud. Once again the action felt too easy, as if he was lifting a feather instead of wet clod.

Jay ran to the spot where he saw Cole hiding a moment ago, only to find the boy had disappeared in the darkness. Darkness that suddenly ate the whole place and left Jay confused and scared.

He looked everywhere, but how could he know where he was looking at when he couldn't even see his own body? A strange sound made him turn around, something akin to a whip snapping in the air. Bloody eyes were shooting daggers at him. Literal daggers! Jay fell to the floor when one of the sharp weapons flew by his side. He could even hear the whistle it created as it pierced the air. He crawled backwards until he finally gathered enough strength to get up and flee. But where to? Everything was pitch black!

No, wait, not everything! He saw something a few feet away. He couldn't make out the shape of it but decided anything would be better than pure darkness. As he arrived to the safe spot he realized he had been trapped. Dirty metal bars were surrounding him. He couldn't escape anymore, the daggers were coming at him. It was the end.

Jay curled up on the floor of the cage, crying desperately, though his screams came out muffled for an unknown reason. He hoped his death would be quick but no, the daggers were taking their time to reach his body. Everything slowed down, he even had time to think about his parents, about Cole, about Zane, Lloyd, Nya and…

Something touched him, something that wasn't sharp and painful but rather soft and hot. When his head rose up he realized he was back where he had first seen Cole, curled up into a ball with a pile of junk on either side of his body which created a long passage that lead to a familiar light.

“Jay?” A sweet voice said by his side.

He recognized the boy in a matter of seconds. Those playful hazel eyes, the never-dying smirk and the distinctive scar over the right eye.

“Jay…” Kai repeated. He took his hands, helping the boy up and onto his feet. The brunette pulled him towards the light, never letting go of his arms, instead he tightened his hold on them. Jay could only follow him. The way Kai was smiling felt so reassuring, so pure, so full of love. For a second it felt like it was all he needed in the world.

“Jay.” Kai repeated again. Jay thought he uttered a ‘What?’ but his voice still seemed to be lost. Kai kept saying his name as they walked further, at a point he started to shake his arms softly. Jay was growing irritated. Did the boy not hear him or was he just messing around with him?

“Jay.”

Not again, please.

“Jay.”

Uuugh…

“Jay.”

 

“Jay, it's time to wake up.”

He had barely registered the words when his eyelids started to open. He squinted his eyebrows together, trying to get his orbs focussed on the figure that was looking at him from above. Short blond hair was the first clue.

“Good morning.” Zane smiled. Jay was confused. He blinked a few times eyeing at the surroundings and recognized the royal bedroom. He let out a deep breath. It had all been a dream, thanks Brahma.

“Were you having a nightmare?”

Jay shrugged. “Something like that.”

Zane caressed his arm, the same one he’d been shaking a moment ago to wake him up. Jay sat up lazily as the other boy moved from his bed to Cole’s. The noirette was sleeping on his belly, an arm hanging out of the mattress.

“Wake up, sleeping beauty.”

Cole groaned in response. Jay stretched his arms and got up from the bed, he’d been living with these boys enough days to know Cole would still need a few minutes to fully wake up, so he’d use that time to go to the bathroom and freshen up. He bumped into Lloyd at the door. The blond averted his eyes to the floor as fast as the lightning and moved to the side, leaving space for Jay to go into the smaller room. No words were exchanged.

Jay had noticed a change in the boy for the past couple of days. What he couldn’t tell yet is if it was a good or a bad change. Lloyd barely talked to him before and when he did it used to be a nasty comment, his words were often full of animosity. Now there were no words at all. Whenever they were left alone together for a moment Lloyd would busy himself with anything, even when their eyes met randomly the blond would swiftly look somewhere else. He was obviously ignoring Jay and the royal guest didn’t know exactly why. On one hand it was a bit comforting not having to worry anymore about the boy’s hateful remarks, but on the other it made Jay self-conscious wondering if he had done something that had upset the blond even more.

Deciding he already had enough problems on his shoulders, Jay entered the bathroom and splattered some water on his face. The dream… He was trying to remember everything of it before the memories decided to fly away. He saw Cole, and his home, then those scary things that wanted to kill him. Couldn’t he just have a normal dream for once?

And... he saw Kai.

Seeing the Maharaja in his dreams wasn’t that much surprising considering how wild and strange his fantasies could be. What blew him away though was that thing he felt (or at least the Jay from the dream)  when Kai appeared by his side. That strange feeling that wrapped around his heart and hugged it tightly yet not constricting. It felt like tickles, irritating yet joyful. It was something he had never felt before and Jay didn’t like that. He couldn’t let any weird emotions to cloud his mind for it was already hard to keep up with his current situation.

Did he hate Kai? Certainly not anymore; the monarch had been so kind all this time.

Was he upset with him? He did have his reasons to be.

Did he like him?

...

Jay splashed more water onto his face for a second time.

 

Back to the royal bedroom he discovered Kai had come to visit them. The monarch was sitting on Cole’s bed, right next to his spouse. Zane and Lloyd stood next to them. They were laughing softly, probably teasing a still very sleepy Cole.

“Good morning, Jay!” Kai chirped as he saw him come out of the smaller door. Jay replied with a feeble and short ‘Hi’. He felt drowning in his own misery, he had just hoped he could do something to stop himself from thinking about the brunette but it looked like fate had other plans.

Kai motioned for him to join them. When Jay stood by the side of the bed, Kai grabbed his arm, throwing Jay onto the bed with him and Cole. The noirette groaned feeling a weight landing on his legs. Jay moved away rapidly apologizing but Kai waved his hand playing down Cole's whines. The Maharaja took the pillow that was over Cole’s head as a makeshift fortress and shoved it away.

“Pay attention, you grumpy beauty.” Kai said and waited for Cole’s eyes to look at him before continuing with his speech. “As I was saying; Pythor is supposed to come later today. I was thinking we could eat something quick and get dressed as soon as possible. You know he’s pretty unpredictable.”

“How many days is he staying again?” Lloyd asked.

“According to the plans; three days.” Zane replied.

“Three days? That’s two whole nights!” The green eyed boy grumbled adding a groan at the end.

Pythor P. Chumsworth, the lord they were going to be having as a guest. Jay had learned over the past days that man was a big influencer, someone who's had close ties to the royal family since a long time ago. He was surprisingly rich, not as much as the monarch in terms of physical money but he had businesses all over the kingdom and even outside of it. It would seem he had been a key piece in the restoration of Ninjago after the last war, offering part of his wealth and contacts to the previous Maharaja to help him rebuild part of the country.

Pythor was coming over to check the status of some of the businesses he had in the capital, and of course to keep in touch with the Maharaja and make sure their friendship was as strong as ever. He sounded like a very nice man overall, which didn’t quite fit with the obvious tension his visit was bringing to the palace. Lloyd was, without a doubt, not pleased about seeing him again. The other three boys displayed a pitiable smile at the blond whenever the topic would come up in their conversations. Even the servants had seemed to grow a bit fidgety at the idea of having the man coming over. Jay had tried to ask Cole what was the matter with Mr. Chumsworth, but all he ever got was “He’s just… very unique…

Unique, uh? Wow, that was so helpful.

Anyhow, that morning Jay had totally forgot it was finally the day , surely the dream had distracted him more than it should have done. He was going to attend a royal party and he still didn’t know how he was expected to behave. Kai getting him a suit specially for the occasion hinted that the monarch had no plans to hide him during the time lord Pythor was there. But Jay had no idea how to treat important people! He knew no costumes, no safe conversations topics, was he even allowed to talk to that man?

Cole insisted he didn’t have to worry much about it, that Mr. Chumsworth was an old friend who had known them forever, and also assured that Zane would always be there to save the situation if something really went wrong in the end.

 

Breakfast was a bit more chaotic than usual. Servants kept going in and out of the room, making sure everything would be ready to receive the guest. Kai, Nya and Zane responded to all their questions, for the three of them were pretty much the organizers of the event.

As soon as food disappeared from the plates, everyone went back to their rooms to get ready. The royal spouses moved effortlessly through the chamber getting the outfits, jewels and make-up they’d need. Of course, they had had a bunch of royal meetings before, it sure was something natural for them, but Jay felt like a fish out of water. He changed into his blue outfit, Dareth had made a great job with it. It fit Jay perfectly, accentuating his slim figure yet giving him enough freedom to move.

“You look great.” Zane told him stealing a quick glance while he worked on Lloyd’s make-up.

Jay uttered a shy ‘Thank you’ in return. It was strange seeing himself in clothes that costed more money than his family would ever have. He stood in front of the mirror and turned to see the other boys in the room. Zane and Lloyd were on the couch nearby the window, taking advantage of the soft morning light to achieve a spotless make-up, though it seemed to go harder than expected. Lloyd would ask for pauses every now and then while Zane was painting a black eyeliner on his waterline. “Wait, ah…” He whined blinking a couple of times. “Dang it, how does Kai do this everyday?”

Zane chuckled. “He's got practice.”

On the other side of the room Cole was on the vanity, several jewels and accessories of different kinds spread in front of him, he would take a few and place them on himself, looking for the perfect combination.

Jay felt awkward standing away from all of them so he finally decided to walk up to the first spouse. Cole had just put on some shiny earrings when Jay appeared by his side on the mirror. Cole smiled then spun around to look at him.

“What do you think?” He said tilting his head trying to display the jewels.

The image took Jay by surprise. Cole had his ears pierced? Well, it actually made a lot of sense considering he had been a slave in the past. Jay knew owners and sellers often used earrings as a way to mark people. He was so thankful he still had his own earlobes untouched after a similar experience.

“Uhm… They're nice.” He said mindlessly though in fact those went really well with Cole's outfit. His wasn't as simple as Jay's, it had a lot more golden decorations and a dark complex pattern, adorned with a tight orange belt all over his waist, emphasizing Cole's broad shoulders and strong muscles.

“Cool, they all look the same to me.” Cole said looking at the vanity full of shining things for a moment. “Say, can you do my hair?” He asked taking a hairbrush from the side drawers.

Jay accepted without resistance. Over the past couple of weeks, he had helped Cole with his hair a few times, and Zane was busy at the moment so it was up to him to prevent Cole from tearing off half of his scalp. The man had little to no patience to maintain a long mane like his.

Jay moved behind the noirette as he faced the mirror again and went to work. The pair exchanged a few words, deciding they'd go for the same hairstyle Jay had done on him the first time, the one with the braids and the bun. This time though, Jay tried to be as delicate as he could, having to redo one of the braids two times because he wouldn't allow any stray hairs to ruin everything. He knew Cole was rough but he probably liked to look good at this kind of events.

“That is beautiful.” Commented Zane as Jay was finished with his job. He tilted his head to look at the blond and thank him for the compliment but stopped midway in surprise. Wow, Jay didn't expect the austere boy to wear such gorgeous dark eyeshadow, it made a big contrast with his simple and tidy white outfit, but it also made his pale eyes stand out even more. It turned them hypnotizing, as if the icy blue irises could pierce your soul with just one look.

“I would love to learn how you do that.” Zane added pulling Jay back to his senses with his voice.

“Oh, it's very simple. You just take some more hair from the bottom every time you braid it then…” As Jay went on with his explanation, Lloyd got up from his seat and left without a word. The fact didn't go unnoticed by the others who stared dumbfounded at the door. After a couple of seconds Zane finally reacted. “I'll go with him.” He said bowing briefly to his companions before exiting the room.

Jay stared for a bit longer, worry starting to choke him. “D-did I say something wrong?” He asked swallowing down an uncomfortable lump.

“No, of course not. He's… He's probably in a bad mood, Lloyd doesn't really like it when Pythor visits us.”

“Why?”

Cole bit his lip, he shouldn't have said that, but it was already out and he couldn't take it back.

“Uhm… Remember when I told you Pythor is… unique ? Well, I didn't mean it in a good sense . I mean he's not a bad guy but… he's got a particular way of talking and thinking. Last time he was here he said some things that hurt Lloyd's feelings.”

Jay raised an eyebrow curiously. For once Cole understood he was demanding more information.

“You see, Lloyd is short, he also used to be a lot more skinny when he joined us, and he's got that soft baby type of face. I don't remember the exact words but Pythor made a comment about how girly he looked. Lloyd's already conscious about himself.”

Jay lowered his eyes, feeling guilty for all the times he thought the blond was a heartless brat. He knew the struggle of being extra thin and not as macho as other guys around his age.

“Hey, Jay,” the noirette said grabbing one of his hands to get his attention. “If Pythor says anything weird to you, pay him no mind. He's just got a really big mouth.”

Cole pressed his hands tighter on the smaller limb. Jay squeezed him back, a smirk made its way on his face. “Like you?”

“Yeah, like… Hey!” Cole glared at him jokingly as Jay chuckled. His laughter was music to Cole's ears. He hadn't been wrong when he sensed Jay wasn't the quiet type of person. He was getting friendlier and more playful by the days, Cole hoped they'd discover the real Jay very soon.

“Okay, enough of that.” Said the noirette as he picked the tools Zane and Lloyd had been using earlier. “Do my makeup?”

“What? No, I can't, I've never used these things.”

“You never used a staff before but you handle it pretty well.”

Jay wanted to argue and tell him there was a big difference between using a bamboo stick to hit someone and painting someone's face with a delicate brush, but decided against it. “Can't you do it yourself?”

Cole lifted his arms up. “Big hands...” he chanted. “They're not good for miniature work.” He said waving them next to his face with a silly grin.

“Big hands, big mouth, are you big everywhere?” Jay exclaimed jokingly. His eyes widened when he saw Cole fell silent and a soft red tint spreaded under his eyes. Jay blushed fiercely at the realization of what he had just said. “Sorry! I- I didn't… I…” he hid his face in his hands, dying from embarrassment at what he had insinuated indirectly.

A few seconds of silence passed before Cole spoke again. “S-Should I answer that?”

“Gosh, no!” Jay screeched uncovering himself.

“Ah, I thought so.” Cole smiled awkwardly as he rubbed the back of his head. He was still visibly blushing. Jay couldn't take it anymore, he grabbed one of the small brushes and pointed it at Cole.

“H-how do I use this?” He asked almost in a threatening tone. Changing the topic of their conversation was his top priority at the moment.

 

After a few explanations and failed attempts… they were still getting nothing good. They had lost count of how many times they had to wipe Cole's face. Jay just couldn't get the black paint to go where he wanted. They were lucky for Cole's dark skin, if he'd been as pale as Jay he would have probably needed to bathe a few times already to get rid of the stains Jay was leaving on him.

“You know, I never thought I'd see the day where I met someone as bad as me doing make-up.”

“I told you I've never used these things!” Jay complained feeling his cheeks growing hotter with irritation and embarrassment.

“Try again. Nine times is a charm.” Jay groaned, almost ready to throw the brush and paint out of the window —and maybe even Cole next.

Someone knocked on the door and opened it a tiny bit, dark chocolate hair appeared in the gap. “Are you decent?” The voice sang.

“No.” Cole replied in the same tone.

“Too bad, I'm coming in!” The Maharaja finally crossed the threshold with a childish hop. His smile turned into a fake expression of hurt. “Aww, you lied! Don't play like that with my poor heart, Cole.”

“Your heart is anything but poor, Kai.”

The monarch grinned, his eyes then moved to the blue boy, the sight alone filled his stomach with butterflies. “Wow, Jay, you look amazing. It... it fits you like a glove!”

Jay looked down, holding onto the stained brush for dear life as he felt his cheeks warming up.

“Where are the others?”

“They went ahead.” Cole made up a quick excuse. “Hey, Kai, now that you're here why don't you help me? Jay was trying to do my makeup but… let's just say he's better at handling other types of tools.”

“I've never- Argh!” Jay groaned smacking the brush on the vanity, it was no use excusing himself over and over again, specially when it was so obvious Cole was just trying to annoy him.

Kai laughed and took over Jay's position. The king rubbed the nearby towel against Cole when he noticed the small little stains, then proceeded to do his magic. He dipped the tip of the brush in the black ink then let it slide over the edge of the container to get rid of the excess. He placed his free hand on Cole's jaw, pulling it up. With a couple of swift movements the eyeliner was done. Jay stared astonished; he'd been trying for minutes with no results and that boy just did it without even sweating.

Jay didn't realize he had been gawking until Kai pushed his jaw up with a giggle. “When you've done this for years it becomes a piece of cake.”

“Thank you.” Cole said down below.

“You're welcome, babe. By the way, I like your hairstyle.”

“That was Jay's doing.” Cole admitted happy and proud. Kai smiled surprised and looked at Jay, the boy lowered his gaze in embarrassment. Kai's eyes… They looked like the same loving eyes from his dream and they were making him feel all strange and confused again.

“You know what would make it even better?” Kai commented, picking up a couple more accessories from the desk and placing them on Cole's hair, surrounding the bun. The shiny flower shaped pins created a gorgeous contrast with his jet black hair.

The first spouse got up and studied his reflection on the big mirror. “Are you sure it's not too much?” he asked.

You are too much,” Kai joked. “You look amazing, right, Jay?” He elbowed the boy softly on the ribs. Jay stuttered for a moment before agreeing with a soft blush. You would had had to be blind to not acknowledge the big tanned male did look good in his attire.

Admitting a guy was handsome didn't make you gay, right? Appreciating someone's beauty was a normal thing to do.

“Hey, Cole,” the Maharaja said walking up to him, he pretended to be fixing something on his spouse's collar. “I just remembered, I have that awesome necklace in my room , it would look great with your earrings. Why don't you go get it?”

Cole cocked his eyebrows in confusion. “Why don't you…?” He tried to ask but everything clicked when Kai rolled his eyes exasperated. “Oh!... Oh, yeah! That one! Ha, ha… You're right, uh… it will be perfect. I'll go get it, uh… Thanks for the offer!”

Kai rolled his eyes again, suppressing a giggle. It was a mystery how his first spouse could still be so clueless sometimes after all these years of being together.

Cole waved goodbye, smiling tenderly before closing the door behind him. The monarch turned around, his eyes landed directly on the blue figure that stood still by the vanity.

“Sit down.” Jay stiffened at the order. “I gotta do your makeup.”

“What? Me?! But I...”

Kai pushed him down on the seat gently. “You can’t go to a party without a little maquillage. Now let me see.” He smiled, bringing Jay’s face up to the light with both hands.

Jay clenched his fists when his eyes locked with Kai’s. The Maharaja was intensely looking at him, the curve in his lips growing bigger every second. Jay wanted to look away but found himself unable to do so. Kai’s vibrant greenish orbs had him pinned in the spot, sending shivers down his spine and making him feel weak on his knees. Thanks Brahma he was already seated.

Kai finally let him go, turning to the desk to shuffle with some of the pigments. Jay could swear he saw him biting his lips for a brief moment.

“I think, something subtle will do you good, your skin is so soft and pale.” Kai reasoned while picking up some soft brownish powder with a small brush and applying it on Jay’s eyelids. The sensation was strange, the soft bristles tickled him, and even though Kai was applying very little force he could feel his skin grow heavier, probably due to the paint that was being put on him. It kind of felt similar to having his face dirty with mud -classy expensive mud in this case.

Jay heard a little rattle before something wet caressed the edge of the eyelid and he flinched unconsciously.

“Stay still…” demanded Kai gently, placing a hand on his jaw as he did earlier with Cole. Jay barely had time to order his body to relax when Kai pulled back in a flash.

“Done.” He sang placing his hands on his hips, proud of the masterpiece he had just created.

Jay turned slowly to the mirror and stared at the unknown reflection, astonished. That was him? No way, it couldn’t be! But he was wearing the outfit Dareth made for him so…

He leaned closer and inspected his face, jaw dropping to the floor. The outer corner of his eyes was graciously decorated with a warm brown color, creating a lighter gradient towards the center. On it was a black line, way thinner and shorter than the one Cole had on himself. Overall it made Jay look more mature but without taking away his usual soft and adorable expression.

“Do you like it?”

Jay’s head turned violently towards the monarch. He’d been so distracted by his own reflection that the question caught him off guard. Kai however waited patiently for the answer.

“I… uh…” Jay stammered. “It’s... different.” He didn’t lie. He did look different from his usual self, so different that he still couldn’t decide if he liked it or not. He’d never worn makeup before.

Kai tittered. The monarch cupped his face again, taking a moment to appreciate the sight. “You’ve got such pretty eyes, it would be a shame to hide them with more paint.”

Jay ducked his head without a warning, breaking eye contact with the brunette. He could feel a warmth getting spread on his cheeks and he was not going to show Kai how much his words and gestures were starting to affect him because he himself didn’t even understand why he was reacting like that. Was it the gentle words? Was it the way the monarch spoke? Or was it that loving feeling he could sense in the back of the beryl eyes?

Jay stared at the floor, Kai’s feet disappeared for a moment but they were back soon enough. Jay felt something playing with his hair.

“Don't move.” Kai said. He stood still under the request, watching Kai on the sly while the king kept fondling his hair. His blue eyes couldn't help but pick up on the way Kai's eyebrows furrowed as he concentrated, or how the tip of his tongue would dart out unknowingly. Minutes later, Kai pulled back and nodded with pride. He then moved behind Jay and put his hands on the other's shoulders, motioning the boy to turn towards the mirror.

A low gasp escaped Jay's lips. A couple of flowers were pinned on the side of his head, just above the ear. The pale yellowish color of the petals stood out against his nacarat fluffy hair and  matched with the little pattern of the blue kurta. It was a small detail but it tied up Jay's appearance so well.

Kai lowered his head until it rested on Jay's shoulder, he smiled at the freckled boy in the mirror. “You look so beautiful.”

Jay flushed bright red. Why did Kai have to say that again?! The poor boy was already having a hard time controlling his shaking limbs. Jay looked down, letting the bangs over his forehead cover his eyes.

“I think this is the part when you say ‘Thank you’.” Kai said, teasingly.

Jay bit his lip, unsure if his voice was going to work with all the conflicting emotions that were running through his body.

“Th-thank you…” He could hear Kai stifling a laugh, his breath tickled Jay's ear. The monarch finally pulled away but only partially, his hand still lingered over Jay’s back as he moved to appear on his side. He waited until Jay’s sparkling eyes landed on him.

“Are you nervous?”

The boy hadn’t expected the question. Jay had noticed Kai had a thing for teasing, he’d often see him trying to annoy Cole or Lloyd. Scratch that, he didn’t just try; he succeeded most of the time. Kai just had that mutual understanding with his spouses where they all knew when to push things and when not to. What Jay still hadn’t figured out was how Kai could go from being a total teaser to having that gentle smile on his face that seemed to warm his heart.

“I… uh…” Jay wanted to reply but he found himself lost for words. Yes , he was nervous; his mind was a mess, his life had taken a 180 degrees turn and he was going to attend a royal party. Did destiny still have something up its sleeve to make things worse?

A caramel colored hand landed on his leg. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” Kai stated positive. The Maharaja leaned in, placing both his arms over Jay and pulling him into a hug. The position was a bit uncomfortable; Jay was still sitting while Kai was standing next to him, bending awkwardly at his waist and forcing Jay to arch his back. His head almost falling back if it hadn’t been for Kai’s cozy hand securing it.

Jay had risen his arms, dubious. They went towards Kai’s shoulder blades, barely able to surround him due to their posture but he could feel the monarch’s breath hitching for a second before Jay tightened his hold on him. It all remembered the blue boy of that night weeks ago, the night when he had partially opened to a stranger, the night when everything started to get more and more confusing. He was hugging Kai again and he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t pulling back.

“There you are!” a high pitched voice said a few feet away.

Kai and Jay untangled themselves from the embrace and turned to the door. The princess was standing there, all dressed up and ready, tapping his foot on the floor and arms crossed over her chest.

“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be down on the main saloon.” The young woman asked walking to her brother.

“I was just checking on my boys.” Kai smiled sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck, he wasn’t proud of his sister scolding him like a child. “Is Pythor already here?”

“No, but he’ll be any minute. Wu needs you down to go over the final details.” Kai let his head fall backwards with an exasperated sigh. Nya pulled him by the arm and pushed him to the exit.

“Stop whining, you agreed to his visit.”

“As if I could have said no.”

“The sooner we get this done the better.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever… Bye, Jay! I’ll see you in a bit!” Kai shouted as his sister pushed him out. Nya went after him to make sure he was headed to the place where he was expected to be.

And just like that, Jay found himself alone in the room again. He stayed on his seat, surrounded by peaceful silence. A light reflection made him turn and look at himself in the mirror again. He was still shocked at his new look. It was a good thing he wouldn’t be seeing himself the rest of the day, he didn’t want to have to think about the guilty feeling that came with his new rich appearance.

A hand reached up to his face, his fingertips caressing the edge of the flower petals ever-so-gingerly. He was scared to ruin them if he touched them too much, but he felt their velvety touch tickling his skin and giving him the goosebumps. His mind replayed the events from a couple of minutes ago. Kai had looked so happy, so complete when he smiled at him and helped Jay turn into an even more gorgeous beauty. They had been so close to each other, Jay had let him touch his face like that was the most common thing you’d do when you’re face to face with a souverain of his caliber. He had felt Kai's warmth, his breath getting caught against his ear when Jay put his arms around him. Did the monarch really react so tenderly under his touch? It was so hard to believe a simpleton boy like him had any kind of power over the almighty king of Ninjago.

“Jay?”

He turned at the mention of his name. The princess had appeared in the room for a second time.

“Are you ready?”

The boy looked at himself up and down and flashed Nya a hesitant look. Make-up, hair, clothes… Was he missing something?

“... Y-yes?” He said, hoping the princess would be kind enough to point out any flaws in his appearance. But she smiled with a reassuring nod, amused at the uncertainty of the pretty boy.

“Where are the others?” Nya asked.

“Uh, I don't know…”

The princess walked up to him and offered a hand. “Let's go find them. You all will have to come to the hall too eventually.”

Jay studied her hand for a few seconds before finally taking it. He got up and exited the royal chamber with Nya by his side.

It was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

In the few hours that had passed since Mr. Chumsworth arrived at the royal palace, Jay already understood why Lloyd wasn't fond of the man.

Lord Pythor turned out to be a very eccentric person. Jay didn't know how the man could walk around wearing his weight in shiny expensive accessories. Seriously, he was overdressed, way more than Kai and he was the King. He would also talk in a very condescending tone all the time, as if the people around him were stray creatures than needed to be told everything in order to live. His deep and theatrical voice might seem charming at some points, but his politeness came and went like the winds. Oh, and to top it all, he hd brought his four spouses with him. Four ! Why did nobody warn Jay about that? He was already nervous having to meet an important business man, but five people?! Luckily for Jay the women didn't appear to be much talkative.

They pretty much chilled around the whole afternoon, Mr. Chumsworth and his family were tired from the journey so the plan was to take it easy for the day; have dinner and a good rest, Kai and him would go out the next morning to check on the several businesses and places where the lord had invested a big part of his fortune. Jay didn't know much more and he didn't really care anyway. The longer he could stay away from that pompous man the better.

 

Dinner was served in a different room, Jay presumed it was the place they often used for important events. It was nothing like the family dining hall, although that room was big already, this new place was gigantic! The walls were tall, full of tapestries, decorations and pictures Jay had never seen. He wondered if any of them were Kai's ancestors or just pretty faces that came in handy to decorate a wall. At the back of the room they had several musicians playing comfortable soft music. Apparently silence was something preposterous in royal meetings and had to be avoided at any costs, or that's what it seemed to Jay.

Their usual square table had evolved into a U shaped one, with Kai and Pythor sitting by the center and their families on the respective sides. A few servants stood by the walls, prepared to assist any of the attendants if needed.

Jay felt weird. Eating with so many people around, the loud voices of the Mahajara and his guest laughing and talking, servants approaching every now and then to check if they wanted more wine or food, the constant music... It was overwhelming.

He was sitting between Zane and Cole on the far most point of the table. He was so happy that Kai at least conceded him that. Being side by side with the only two people he felt most relaxed with was like a gift from the Gods.

The women on the other side of the table where making him nervous. They were all way overdressed just like their husband and would eat in silence unless Mr. Chumsworth addressed any of them. Did they need his permission to speak?

“How come you haven't brought the rest?” Jay came back from his thoughts at a certain question from the monarch. He was talking to the guest.

“Eulliah and Marie are over due date. I couldn't risk them going into labor during the travel. Can you imagine that?” Lord Pythor laughed. That eerie laugh that made Jay's hair stand on their ends. “And you know the others. They stayed to keep them company and help, it's Marie's first time and she's been bloody nervous.”

“Aww, I can tell. Giving birth seems like quite the experience.” Kai commented with a pitiful smile.

“What's a experience is what leads to the birth.” Pythor squinted as he elbowed Kai teasingly. Jay thought he almost saw a red glint in the man's eyes. It gave him the chills.

“But what do you know about that?” Pythor said with an evil smug.

“Oh, I know . I can assure you.” The monarch tried to brag back.

“You might have something that looks like a woman but I doubt it works just as fine.” He didn't even try to hide his obvious stare on the short blond boy.

Anyone who had been paying attention could see Lloyd stiffening at the words. The boy didn't even need to raise his head to know the eccentric man was looking at him. He took a deep breath and kept eating his food.

“I've been doing fine without a real woman so far. You know me, Pythor.” Kai countered.

“Ha, ha, you bet I do! I've known you're more into carrots than meat buns ever since you were a kid.”

He did not just compare Kai's sexual preferences with food, did he? Ugh, suddenly the orangish vegetable in Jay's plate looked less appealing.

“But you know, people's taste changes, and I sense yours are exploring new fields lately…” Pythor's low voice vibrated in the room.

Kai cocked an eyebrow, confused at the comment. The man pointed his eyes at a certain ginger head a few seats away. “He's  a cutie too.”

Jay froze. His whole body became heavy as a chill ran down his spine, anchoring him to the spot. He wanted to do something; laugh, yell, slap that man square in the face, ran away… anything! But his mind couldn't process anything at that instant. The situation was so surreal it had put him into some kind of hibernation mode. Pythor was looking at him with a predatory grin.

Lucky for Jay, Cole moved his hand under the table on top of his, squeezing it lovingly. Jay looked at him, the noirette’s lips were pressed tightly and he had a serious look on his face. Cole must have been referring to that when he warned Jay that morning about Pythor, but he never imagined the man would have the nerve to make such comments about his appearance. They had just met, for Brahma's sake!!

“I think you're getting old, Pythor. I'd swear we already told you Jay is just a friend of the family.” The playful tone in Kai's voice was shifting to an irritated one, the monarch though was trying his best to keep it unnoticed.

“Older but wiser , my dear boy.” The man snickered. “You don't need to lie to me, after all these, uh… how do I put it?... Unusual marriages , I have seen it all. Wouldn't be that strange for you to change your mind eventu-”

“I said he’s a friend . A royal friend. ” Kai punctuated his words, not leaving any room for doubts.

Pythor seemed to get the message but the lordly man wouldn’t back down so easily.

“Very well, if you say so… You’re the king after all.”

“And you’re the guest.” Kai tried to put him into his place.

“The royal guest .” Pythor smiled triumphant. His relaxed eyebrows feigned cordiality while Kai returned the smug with just the same fakeness.

Cole’s grip on Jay’s hand loosened, the smaller male released a breath he didn’t even know he had been holding until that moment. The noirette smiled at him softly, rubbing the back of his limb in order to soothe the poor boy. His problems though were far from ending.

“So… Jay…” The deep unsettling voice called him. “Considering you’re still a normal human being, maybe you’d like to meet some of my daughters.”

Jay’s breath hitched, his pupils contracted with fear and snatched Cole’s hand back. The lord was directly addressing him.

“They’re all gorgeous girls, just like his father if I may say.” He chuckled. That eerie laugh again. “And they’re getting trained in the art of becoming a good wife with promising results.” The lord bragged.

“Jay’s not interested.” Kai replied before anyone could say a word.

“Can’t he speak for himself? I thought you said he is ‘just a friend’ … Or does he happen to have… unusual tastes like our dear monarch?”

Kai went to counterback but stopped as the question reached his ears. Pythor had struck a chord, a very big one. Jay stubbornly denied his homosexuality when they first met, but ‘not being gay’ never disheartened Kai in his previous conquests. He knew there were people like Zane who could see beyond someone's physical features and rather fall in love with souls.  But Jay was still a big enigma in that sense. The boy wouldn't talk about anything remotely sexual near them, but he wasn't treating Kai or the others like monsters anymore, which confused the brunette. The Maharaja was sure he could woo him, he was an expert charmer after three successful marriages, but the doubt was always in the air. Hanging over his head like a sword of Damocles.

Pythor’s eyes settled again on Jay’s figure, followed by Kai’s. The young ruler had entered a confused state, he knew Jay was being thrown into a difficult situation but… he was dying to know the answer. If Jay ever accepted he was totally straight… Kai would die in the spot. Then revive. Then marry Jay the next instant and lock him up in his bedroom for a whole week full of passion that would surely make the boy change his mind.

Jay had started to shake, Cole could feel it and gripped his hand tighter hoping that would help but it only seemed to do the opposite. Jay didn’t know what to do. Pythor and Kai were looking at him -well, everyone was, but he could only care about the first two. How was he to refuse Pythor’s offer without being too rude? He already wanted to stab him in the eye for being a jerk but he knew he couldn’t do such a thing. And why was Kai not trying to distract the man again? Why was he looking at him like Jay owed him an answer?

“I… I…” Jay barely had a tiny voice left in his body, it seemed to be the first thing to flee after the question.

“If you don’t mind me meddling in, Mr. Chumsworth, I think this is a matter that shall be discussed in another circumstance. Our friend Jay is spending some time here as part of his vacations, it wouldn’t be appropriate to push a business of that size onto him rushedly. Oil and water don’t mix.”

Jay made a mental note to himself to pray for the rest of his days so the Gods would grant Zane the best outcome in his next life. He was a saviour.

Pythor cocked an eyebrow as the polite blond finished his speech. He seemed to take a moment to ponder about the words with a hum.

“Fair enough.” The man leaned back in his seat. “Wouldn’t want for the royal friend to feel stressed, a marriage is to be a motive of joy. Plus, that way I get to visit you again some other time, how would you like that, my dear boy?” Pythor smacked Kai’s back playfully.

Kai whined momentarily not expecting the bump, his lips pulled up into a dry smile.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

“For Shiva’s arms! This man becomes a bigger moron every year.” Cole groaned, throwing himself carelessly on the duvet.

Dinner was finally over. After spending a bit more time socializing, the guests moved onto their designed rooms on the second floor. The royal family headed straight to their own bedrooms, except for Kai who had stopped on the chamber of his spouses for a bit.

“Being surrounded by pregnant women all the time is frying his brain.” The Maharaja added laughing.

“Wish it would fry his dick instead. I pity the poor girls that will end up with his offsprings.”

Kai exploded in loud laughters at his husband's remark. “I doubt there will ever be another person that'll reach his high pompousness levels for a few more centuries. Pythor is one of a kind for the good and the bad.” The monarch said walking across the room to the couch where Zane and Jay had decided to sit for the time being.

“Can you imagine being married to that man? I seriously don't understand how Samira and the others haven't murdered him yet…” the noirette kept rambling. Kai simply shrugged with a chuckle. He finally arrived at his destination and kneeled down in front of the two pale skin boys.

“Jay, I'm sorry for what happened back there. I guess Pythor wasn't in his best mood and he took it out on you.”

“It's… It's fine.” Jay murmured.

“And Zane, thank you for getting us out of the mess once again.”

“At your service, my dear king .” The blond replied too ceremoniously, mimicking Pythor's theatrical tone.

“Not you too!” Kai slapped him in the arm making Zane laugh. Kai got up and kissed his forehead right when the bathroom door opened. A few minutes ago when the group of boys arrived to the room, Lloyd had went straight for the restroom, reasoning the makeup on his face was starting to feel heavy and he wanted it off as soon as possible. No sooner said than done Lloyd's face was free of paint again. The boy hopped onto his bed, still dressed in his expensive green suit, and curled up into a ball. Kai joined him, spooning up behind his small frame.

“Hey, baby.” The brunette's voice was soft and low. “Are you okay?” Lloyd didn't respond, but from the spot where Jay was sitting, he could see the boy's shoulders shrugging.

“Are you… mad at me?”

“No, not you…” Lloyd's voice was merely a whisper.

“You mean…?” Kai paused. Lloyd probably gave him some kind of response, too low for curious ears to hear him. The Maharaja clicked his tongue and sighed, snuggling closer to his lover. “Don't listen to him.” Jay could hear lips kissing skin, it was  a short but high-pitched sound.

“Do you wanna sleep in my room tonight?” Only a few seconds passed until Lloyd turned around, snaking his arms around Kai and hugging him tight. The brunette tittered, reciprocating the embrace. He pulled Lloyd up with him and out of the bed. The blond stopped in front of the closet and took out one of his pajamas before joining Kai again at the door.

“Don't make too much noise, kids. We don't wanna sour our guest’s mood even more.” Cole said from his comfortable spot on the bed.

“Don't worry, they're sleeping on the opposite wing, as usual.” Kai smiled.

“Still, I could use some sleep.”

“You sound like an old man.” Kai joked.

“And you sound like a Maharaja about to lose his head.” Cole threw a pillow at him. Kai rose his hands just in time to protect himself, he would have thrown it back but decided against it, Lloyd was already by his side and he didn't want to make the somber boy wait anymore.

“You ready?”

The blond nodded sheepishly. Kai took his hand and pulled him outside, not before wishing the other boys goodnight. “Sleep well.” Zane said with a calm smile before the pair was gone. Cole and Jay waved shortly at them.

Silence came back to the room, but not for long. Zane advised they all got their makeup and clothes off as well and prepare to rest. The blond pulled Jay into the  bathroom and made him sit down on a small stool while he moistened a towel with water. Jay flinched at the cold wet contact but got used to it in a matter of seconds. His friend rubbed his face gently, trying to clean off the paint.

“Zane, can I ask you something?”

“Of course, dear. If I know the answer I'll be more than happy to share it.”

Jay snorted on the sly. Why couldn't Zane just say 'Yes’ like any other person?

“Pythor… Is… Is he always like this?”

On a different situation, the blond would have requested the boy to elaborate what he meant by 'this’ , but he was well aware of the hidden meaning behind the pronoun.

“Well I personally haven't known him for as much years as Kai or Cole but… yes, he's quite a difficult person to bear.”

“Diffic-? Ouch!”

“Don't open your eyes yet.” Zane reminded, still rubbing the clothing against the freckles one more time for extra measure. After that he poured some oilish substance on his pale cold fingers and proceeded to massage Jay's features. The boy pulled a face at the uncomfortable sensation. “It will do wonders to your skin. You'll feel very refreshed tomorrow.”

Jay knew Zane well enough to know it was no use arguing against him when the blond talked in, what he guessed, used to be his medic tone, so he let him be. Once done, the blond retreated to the faucet, wetting another towel to clean his own face but Jay still wanted to know more.

“Why does he talk like that? Why does Kai even allow him to? I mean… he said some very… rude things to you, guys.” Jay couldn't understand how that man was a close friend of the royal family, nor how would he even be allowed to return to the palace after that dinner.

Zane sighed. “It's a bit complicated. Mr. Chumsworth is an old friend, he used to be very close with Kai's father apparently. From what I know he comes from a long lineage of important merchants and businessmen, he's always been surrounded by wealth.

“During Kai father's reign, Mr. Chumsworth lended the Maharaja a lot of his resources in order to help the kingdom stay strong. Those were hard times.” Zane paused for a moment, studying his reflection in the mirror, looking for any residues of the dark dust that had been decorating his eyes for the day.

“After the Maharaja and his wife passed away, everything fell upon Kai: duties, responsibilities, debts, and friends too. Kai has known Mr. Chumsworth since he was born; while he doesn't like the man that much, it's probably hard to cut ties with such an old and loyal acquaintance.”

“... But why does he let him say all that stuff? He pretty much called Kai a wimp in his face! Aren’t people supposed to treat kings with… more respect?” Jay knew it was funny for him to be asking that, to be defending Kai when he himself had been thinking much worse things about the monarch all those weeks. But he couldn’t help it, his mind spoke free of prejudices for a moment.

Zane had finished applying the oil treatment on himself. He cleaned his hands and turned around, leaning on the marble worktop. His eyes looked tired as he spoke to Jay. “Pythor is a very important man. He's got businesses almost everywhere and is quite an influence on the nearby kingdoms. If Kai were to upset him…”

Jay's eyes widened and Zane knew he had gotten the hint. The blond lowered his gaze to the floor. “Mr. Chumsworth might not look like it but he's powerful; he holds the invisible yet potent type of power. One word of his could turn half of the people in these lands against Kai.”

Jay couldn't utter a word. His jaw fell slowly open at the discovery of Kai being indirectly blackmailed.

“It's not that Kai is afraid of him, but he has already suffered enough and doesn't want to ruin all the work he's done for Ninjago.”

“'Suffered enough’?” Jay repeated and Zane blinked with slight surprise.

“Uhm… I'm not sure I'm the most appropriate to talk about that...” The blond paused for a moment, pondering what to say until he finally made his decision. “I wasn't there at that time but, from what Cole had told me, things weren't easy for Kai when he ascended the throne. He had to learn to manage a whole kingdom in the span of a few days, mourning his parents all the while and… coming out as the first gay souverain this land ever had. People weren't pleased at first and he had to work hard to make things change for the better, to make them understand he only wanted the best for his people while staying true to himself.”

Jay was speechless, it was like his mind had decided to shut down. That had been a lot of information to take in at once.

For a while that day Jay had thought Kai was just having fun, running one of his royal parties, rejoicing in the wealth and privileges he had lived in since he was born. But what Zane told him added a whole new perspective to the monarch’s life. He wasn’t as free as it seemed at first sight. He had the constant burden of being as perfect as kings should be.

Nothing was what it seemed in this place.

A open, inviting hand appeared in front of Jay, he found Zane smiling softly at him. “Let’s get changed, we need to be at full energy tomorrow.”

Jay took his hand and let the young man lead him out of the room, for the shock hadn’t still totally left his body. His mind was still swirling with dozens of thoughts when a low raspy noise reached his ears. There in the bed, Cole laid fast asleep, his delicate coiffure messily undone, black mane ruffled and spread on the pillow underneath the head, his belt half undone as if he’d fallen asleep while trying to get out of the clothes.

“This boy…” Zane muttered, approaching the bed. “Pebble…” he said nudging the noirette softly on the arm. Cole let out a small whine. “We need to get you out of these clothes, love.”

Cole groaned, a chocolate orb peeped from under the dark eyelashes, he hummed irritated while Zane snickered. “It’s not good to sleep with your makeup on.” Cole grunted once again but used the last of his strength to sit up clumsily.

“Jay, could you hand me a towel, please?” The blond asked.

 

While Zane took care of a very sleepy Cole, Jay moved to his own bed. He stole one last glance at the couple over his shoulder. Cole’s chest was exposed, Zane was rubbing the damp fabric over his eyes, trying to keep him awake a bit longer, talking to him in a sweet voice. The scene warmed up Jay’s heart.

He averted his eyes to the front, not wanting to bug in the intimacy between the boys behind him. He pulled his own shirt up, it took him a bit of extra effort, something seemed to get caught with his head but the fabric finally ceded. When Jay’s face popped out of the blue collar he found something by his feet: two pale yellowish flowers. He had totally forgotten he was wearing them. Jay picked them up from the floor and stared at them.

You look so beautiful…’

Something stirred in Jay’s body. It was the same feeling from his dream. A strange force that erupted from the depths of his stomach and wrapped around his heart, making him feel funny, as if he was falling sick.

His fingers caressed the flowers, he'd discover later that Kai took them from a nearby vase. Some of the petals had fallen, surely when his outfit got stuck on them. The softness was enticing.

Flowers were a curious thing. Humanity planted them, ate them and used them for their own good. A world without flowers was doomed to failure, the people needed them just like air and water. They were so powerful, so important yet… so delicate and easy to crush. Just like a certain brunette in the other room.

Destiny had wanted Kai to lose a few petals due to a series of unfortunate events in his past, and he was probably bound to keep losing more in the future. But he didn't let that discourage him. The Maharaja was determined to keep fighting, to look as perfect and inspiring as the most beautiful flower.

Jay placed the flowers down on the nightstand, finished changing into his pajama and pulled the covers over him. Indeed, the day had been long and he knew he'd have to be even more patient tomorrow.

 

Chapter Text

“He's a jerk...”

“Yeah.”

“And a pompous asshole…”

“Indeed.”

“And a cretin!”

“... Who taught you that word?”

“I once heard Zane saying it.”

The monarch let out a hum of acknowledgement. Lloyd had been ranting about their guest ever since they arrived to the king's bedroom. Kai thought it was better to let the poor boy take it all out before it buried in his soul and messed him up. He knew Lloyd was pissed, and he had all the right to be! Kai just wished he would have had a way to prevent his husband from getting hurt. Sadly though, they could do very little against Pythor's arrogance.

“Don't let his nonsense get to you, Lloyd. He's not worth your time.” Kai said. He had just taken off all his jewels and returned them to their respective places in the vanity drawers.

“I know, but… He pisses me off. He's just like my parents, always looking for his own benefit and thinking anyone who doesn't live by his standards shall be tossed away like a dead rat…”

Kai walked to the big red bed, sitting next to Lloyd on the edge. He placed an arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer, using his free hand to complete the embrace.

“It's okay, baby. Don't worry, he'll be gone soon enough.”

“Yeah, until next time…” Lloyd said defeated.

“I'll make sure that ‘next time’ gets as far as possible from today.”

Lloyd snorted. “Not sure how are you going to do that. He looks pretty determined to get Jay to marry one of his kids.”

“Well, maybe by the time he tries it again, Jay won't be free anymore.” Kai laughed, but Lloyd didn't seem to think his comment was all that funny.

The Maharaja dragged his lower lip into his mouth. Maybe he shouldn't have mentioned the ginger head in front of his clearly upset spouse. He pulled away softly, lifting Lloyd's face up by the chin. “Let's not worry about that for now, okay?”

Lloyd nodded tiredly.

Kai leaned in, placing a soft kiss on the sweet lips of his lover. His mouth opened a bit more, capturing Lloyd's lower lip in between his, the blond responded doing the same. It was a slow yet deep kiss.

“Would you like to undress me?” Kai asked as he pulled back and smiled at Lloyd.

The boy looked at him sheepishly. “Uhm… I don't know… I don't think I'm in the mood…”

“Oh, in that case… Can you undress me, please ? I'm lazy to do it myself.” Kai concluded with an innocent smirk, changing his strategy. Lloyd stared at him, cocking an eyebrow in confusion, he finally let out a soft chuckle.

“You’re just dying to get naked in front of me, aren't you?“

“That too.” Kai replied after looking to a random point in the room with a hum, trying to make it look like he was actually thinking of a deep reply.

“Idiot.” Lloyd snickered.

The smaller hands of the blond went to Kai's waist and fiddled with the wide band that had been compressing his waist. He unrolled it from his body, leaning in and out of Kai until the long piece of fabric was discarded to the floor. Lloyd then started unbuttoning the expensive and fancy looking kurta, sometimes locking eyes with Kai as he made his way down. Seeing Kai was staying as still as he could, the younger boy got up from the bed and moved to stand in front of Kai. He pushed the sleeves down his shoulders, the soft fabric putting up no resistance and falling onto the bed covers. Kai's smiles were dangerously contagious, Lloyd couldn't not grin back at him. His hands grabbed the hem of Kai's inner soft shirt and pulled it slowly over his head.

Truth be told, Lloyd thought he wasn't much in the mood for sex at that moment, but the beautiful sight of Kai's naked torso tempted him. The cold moonlight barely reached them from that spot, but it showered the room and mixed mysteriously with the rest of the lamps, surrounding their figures with a warm orangish color and hints of bright blue. A strange combination yet it worked wonders to set the correct aura.

The Maharaja guided one's of Lloyd's hands over his chest. The blond understood and soon both limbs were dancing across the sweet caramel skin, dragging the fingertips up and down, occasionally poking softly on his firm abs. For Nirvana, did Lloyd love Kai's hot body!

The brunette placed his hands on Lloyd's waist, not before rushing to get the boy semi-naked like him as well. Lloyd put his knees on the bed as he felt himself being pulled closer to the other body. Kai stretched his neck up, demanding a kiss that Lloyd couldn't deny. Their chests crashed as the couple fell onto the bed, with Lloyd on top of the souverain. Their kisses broke everytime Kai brushed his hands over certain spots on Lloyd's back, the blond couldn't help but shake and pant at the sensual tickles. Kai could tell his husband was getting aroused.

 

“Oh, Lloyd…” The monarch moaned as his hips rolled again, his spouse only groaned back, a hand darting up to cover his own mouth. Kai was picking up a nice pace, thrusting deliciously into his lover as he pinned his hips down onto the bed. Lloyd squirmed and grunted beneath him.

Kai took a small pause to smother Lloyd's neck and collarbone, he licked and kissed as if he was trying to eat the boy alive, soaking his beautiful soft tanned skin with wide lustful stripes. “You know you don't have to hold back, baby. They can't hear us from down there.” Kai purred into his ear, Lloyd just choked another moan.

Deciding that maybe Lloyd just needed a bit more action, Kai untangled the blond’s legs from his waist and pulled them up pressing the knees against Lloyd’s chest. The Maharaja started to slam into him again, feeling the pleasure the new position was giving them both.

“Aah… Fuck, Lloyd, ah- You feel so good!”

The brunette leaned down, pressing his body onto Lloyd, getting the blond's hips to lift up as he scooted closer, marvelling at the pressure Lloyd’s opening was putting onto his length. They held each other so close, so intimate, so perfectly, Lloyd though remained silent —well, in the sense that he didn't utter any kind of recognizable word but only restrained moans and grunts. Definitely not the behavior the monarch was used to get from him.

Kai devoured his neck once again, slowly making his way up to the soft jaw to kiss his lover on the lips. A surprised gasp erupted from Lloyd’s throat, he grabbed Kai's head and pushed it back onto the crook of his neck, keeping it there firmly pinned against himself. Kai breathed his scent and moaned in the ear that was next to his lips, letting out a random obscenity that crossed his mind. Lloyd just shuddered and gripped the sheets with his free hand, still not saying anything.

And Kai knew it; something was off.

The Maharaja came to a stop, propping himself up a small bit and releasing the blond's leg from his hold. “Lloyd?” The blond hummed in question, letting him know he was still there and very much aware of their night game, yet facing away from him.

“Baby?” Kai tried again, hand reaching up to capture Lloyd's chin and turn it to him. A shiny liquid pearl came out of the deep green eyes and continued rolling down past Lloyd's cheeks. “What's up?”

“Nothing… I'm fine.” He said wiping the betraying tears away.

“Clearly you're not. Please, tell me, you know I don't like it when you cry. Am I being too rough?” Lloyd tried to respond verbally to the question, but his breath got caught up in his throat, not moving past through the lips. He decided to shake his head instead.

“Lloyd…” Kai pleaded, bringing their foreheads together, hoping to ease the boy beneath him.

Lloyd closed his eyes, he couldn't look at Kai. He had been fine; when he saw Kai's abs and felt that familiar tingly sensation on his lower half Lloyd thought he could do it, that maybe he just needed Kai to hold him to feel good again, but as their intercourse developed he only grew more distressed. He tried to calm down; having a mental break down in the middle of sex had to be the worst turn off, and he didn’t want to be the one to completely ruin the mood. But Kai had already stopped his hips so why even try to hide it? It was clear the monarch wouldn’t keep going unless he spilled the beans.

Lloyd bit his lip and looked away, embarrassed and scared at the thoughts that had been torturing him for the past hour.

“D-Do you... see me as a girl?”

Kai's eyes almost popped out, his head drew back in immense surprise. “Excuse me… What?” He got up, pulling out of his lover.

Lloyd felt a dangerous anxiety growing in his heart as he hissed at the sudden emptiness between his legs. He'd been so stupid, Kai just wanted to have some fun after a long day, to relax and to not think about anymore stupid stressing things —like his childish nonsense— but Lloyd had to go and ruin the night! What would he have given to go back in time and never ask that damn question? It had been better stored in his mind, able to torture him and only him.

Kai was kneeling between his legs, his eyes serious and fixed on Lloyd, glowing with a strong emotion that the blond didn't have time to decipher, for he looked away again, ashamed of himself.

“I’m sorry…” Lloyd uttered with a sob, covering his eyes. Why did he even ask?! He didn't want to know the answer to the question. He already knew it; he was weak, small, like an injured creature that should be protected from the world. He was thin and feminine, Kai obviously didn't fall in love with his muscles like it might have happened with Cole. He could only have fallen in love with his feminine looks —if there was even something to fall in love with. Like Pythor had said, he'd never be a real woman . Despite not looking like a handsome male, Lloyd couldn’t look like a sweet princess either, he was just something in between, something that would never be good enough for anyone.

Kai’s hands darted up to his face, letting out a long tired sigh. Lloyd bit his lip trying to stifle a sob, he was probably annoying Kai with his pathetic behaviour. The blond went to get up, he could still save a bit of his dignity if he left at that instant. He should have stayed in the room with the others.

Lloyd hadn’t even sat up when he found both his thighs being pinned to the bed again by a pair of strong hands. Kai bent over, keeping the boy spread out for him.

“K-Kai?”

The Maharaja leaned forward and took Lloyd in his mouth. The boy let out a shriek at the fierceness of the lips that started sucking with enough force to bruise his dick.

“Ah, Kai! What- what are you-?! Aangh... ” Expert hands decided to join the performance, stroking Lloyd’s shaft while Kai rested his mouth over the tip, never releasing it from the wet cavern. His tongue darted out and danced over the slit, dragging the most lewd sounds out of the smaller boy as he resumed his violent sucking. Lloyd yelled with desperation.

“K-Kai! Not that ! Ah- please, please… Kaaaai, I'm gonna… I'm… Hmph !” Lloyd’s hands flew down, gripping at the cinnamon locks, not sure if to keep Kai there or pull him away. It just felt like the right thing at the moment. Lloyd’s hips shuddered frantically at the obvious orgasm that was sending him to the verge of sanity. Kai pushed his lips all the way down to the base, feeling Lloyd's cock twitch in his mouth and painting his throat white a second later. Hot cum spilled onto his stomach.

Kai sucked and licked until nothing more came out, making sure he drank until the very last drop, all the while Lloyd moaned and screamed losing his mind, before coming down from his peak slowly. Kai retreated, the blond was panting exaggeratedly spread out in front of him, fingers stiff and painful from gripping at the sheets and pillows scattered all around. Lloyd had no memories of having done that but he had lost sight of the world during his climax so it might as well have been him. A warm body was pressed to his chest and a hand pushed the messy bangs out of his eyes. Lloyd's eyelids opened weakly.

“Kai… w-what-” He breathed out.

“Do you think I would do this if I thought you were a girl?” At Lloyd’s confused look, the Maharaja accommodated his weight on the bed next to the boy, snaking his arms around Lloyd and trapping the smaller body in them.

“Lloyd, I don't love you for your looks; I love you because of who you are , because of what's inside your soul and heart. Don't let Pythor or anyone put you down; there’s nothing wrong with you.” Kai's voice was firm, determined, with a hint of slight irritation but also love for his spouse.

Lloyd stared at him, he could feel his eyes stinging, tears threatening to flow any second. “But I… I'm nothing; I don't look like a boy but I'm no girl either. If at least I was strong or smart like Cole and Zane I could-”

“Lloyd,” Kai cupped his cheek, not letting the blond break their eye contact. “Listen to me; I didn’t marry you because I wanted a copy of someone else. I want you; Lloyd Garmadon. The green bean I rescued from the rotten rathole, the bratty boy that used to yell at me when we met, the one that gets easily flustered whenever we kiss but moans like a pro in my sheets, the one that isn't scared to call me a dumbass when I mess things up, the one that is my husband .”

Lloyd was sobbing ever since the first sentence came out of those gorgeous lips. “You… wouldn't… change me… for someone else? Someone… better ?” He didn't know if his tongue was actually pronouncing the words properly, but judging by Kai's next response he thought at least it had been enough to understand the main point.

“Why should I change you for someone ‘better’ when you're already perfect ?

Lloyd did a ridiculous ugly noise as he sniffled and buried his face in Kai's chest, crying without any restraints. The Maharaja hugged him softly, not wanting to cut him oxygen, he brushed his hands over Lloyd’s back up and down in a soothing motion, whispering tender things in his ear.

“I'm- I'm sorry… I’m so sorry… I...” the small boy hiccuped.

“Don't be. Just let it all out.” Kai whispered, encouraging the blond to release all the bad stuff that was going around in his heart. Lloyd wailed again, gripping Kai's shoulder blades with all his strength and leaving a pool of tears, sweat and snorts on him —as if Kai would ever be bothered by body fluids of any class.

“Don't let me go…”

“Are you kidding? You're stuck with me for a looot mooore years yet, maybe even a couple of reincarnations. I'm not letting you walk out of my life that easily.” Kai laughed, ruffling the golden locks in front of him and kissing Lloyd's face.

Lloyd almost choked as a laughter got mixed with his sobs. Kai made space between them, allowing the blond to turn slightly and open his mouth wide, struggling for air. The brunette caressed his cheek and flashed him a tender smile. Lloyd took a deep breath before launching himself over Kai with a new round of cries.

 

The night was chill, the wind had picked up, obliging the monarch and his spouse to take shelter under the comfortable fluffy covers. They were too lazy to get up and close the balcony door.

It had been a while since Lloyd totally calmed down, having emptied pretty much all his stress, frustration and tears on Kai's chest and bed. The taller male was mindlessly brushing his fingers on the other's hair while Lloyd was pressed against his side, hugging him, head resting over the caramel chest.

“A-are you sure you don't want me to…?” Lloyd trailed off, eyes full of innocence as he pointed with his gaze at Kai's crotch.

“Nah, I'm fine.” Kai smiled. Sex didn't feel like the right thing at the moment, not after seeing his husband in such a wrecked state. Lloyd pursed his lips sheepishly drawing random shapes on Kai’s naked torso.

“Why didn't you tell me you felt that way?” Kai finally asked. During his breakdown, Lloyd finally shared his fears with Kai; not being good enough for him, being replaced by Jay or someone else, being left alone in that cruel world, losing the only true family he'd ever had.

“I don't know… I guess I was scared you'd laugh it off.”

“When have I ever done that?” The monarch pinched his cheek softly.

“Uh, you actually have. Remember the first time you wanted all of us to bathe together and I was terribly embarrassed? Or the first time you took me out for an elephant ride? Those things are huge .”

Kai stared into the blueish darkness of the room for a moment. He had no idea those had been traumatic experiences for his spouse. “I'm such a lame husband, ain't I?” He snorted, feeling terribly stupid for not realizing Lloyd’s symptoms any sooner.

“No… just a bit silly.” The spouse giggled, nuzzling the muscle under his cheek. Kai relaxed briefly under his touch.

“I'm sorry I haven't been taking proper care of you all lately. Jay… Jay was something I didn't expect.” The Maharaja admitted.

“... Why do you like him so much?” Lloyd asked after a pause.

“Ah… I don't know, I just want him to stay here. I need him to stay . It feels like he belongs here, with us .” Lloyd tightened his arms around Kai. “Baby, I don't love you any less, you know that, right?”

Lloyd nodded. He knew, he had known since they got together that Kai was able to love more than one person, and while it felt like something strange at first, Lloyd found himself getting used to that kind of life sooner than expected. It only started to get a bit more difficult to process when the ginger head joined the equation. Maybe hadn't been Jay per se, but accepting Lloyd wouldn't be the 'newest toy' anymore.

“I guess this is how Zane and Cole felt when you told them you were marrying me.”

“I don't know, maybe you should ask them.”

“Maybe I will.” He conceded seconds later. It could actually help him handle the turmoil of feelings that had been clouding his mind for the past month, Lloyd thought.

Kai shifted, turning to face the blond. “We should sleep, I gotta be up early tomorrow.” His husband nodded in agreement and turned around, glueing his back against Kai's strong chest. The monarch placed an arm over Lloyd’s waist after adjusting the covers.

“I love you.” Lloyd muttered into the air. A single kiss was pressed on his hair along with a gentle squeeze on his belly.

“I love you more. Goodnight, green bean.”

 

Kai couldn't fall asleep, at least not until he made sure Lloyd had safely reached the dream realm and was having a peaceful stay at it. He waited until the blond’s breathing changed into a deeper, softer one, only able to tell the boy was still alive thanks to the subtle movement on his rib cage.

It pained Kai to see Lloyd suffering like that. He should have been wiser. The poor boy had gone through hell all his life, everything was still too recent, it was normal for him to struggle with relationships and affection; he'd been pretty much deprived of them for too long.

Kai tried to close his eyes and relax but to no avail. His mind was going back to that day a year and a few months ago.

It had started like any other morning; Kai had gone out to take care of a few affairs, one of them included a couple of troublesome landlords. His country wasn't in the best conditions and he was well aware of it; Ninjago had been the scenario of important battles in the past, the most recent one taking place in the capital. His ancestors had tried to fix it in the past, although in Kai's opinion they didn't try hard enough. His two humble husbands had opened his eyes to the cruel reality society had to endure to survive everyday; being raised up inside the walls of the palace had given him the illusion that poor people didn't have it that bad. And so, after acknowledging the real state of his country, Kai had promised to do anything to improve the world they lived in.

But there were people who didn't help the situation at all. Lord Garmadon and his wife had acquired a few pieces of ground in the past at a ridiculous low price, assuring they'd turn it into a successful fertile field that would be beneficial for the kingdom's economy. Sadly years have passed and it seemed like the only thing they had achieved was a long list of debts. Their workers had been filing claims against them, for they had been working for free during the last year, not even getting a small part of the harvest as payment so they could have something to feed their families with.

Kai had been promoting some very firm laws against corruption. He believed the way to heal his kingdom was to properly punish those who only harmed the system. His father had been too soft in his days but Kai was going to do better.

The Garmadons used all the excuses they could come up with to gain a bit more time to repay their debts, Kai though wasn't buying any of them. One quick look at their house revealed more than any claims. The place was too shiny, too packed with decorations and stuff that a simple marriage of landlords would never need. They were also quite well dressed but most importantly, they talked very highly of themselves when they were the alleged owners of a troublesome, poor land. Kai could tell those people were never going to pay, and not because they didn't have the money but rather because they didn't want to share it. They were greedy and self-conceited, he'd had his fair share of that kind of people.

That was when Lloyd came into view. He appeared in the living room by chance, looking for something, probably food or water. His parents tried to shove him out of the room angrily but Kai stopped them. The boy was shaking as the monarch walked to him. He was wearing rags and his cheekbones were easy to notice, even at first sight.

Kai asked the boy a few questions, about him, about his parents, about their land, their situation. All the time, Lloyd would either stutter or look at his parents with fear before opening his mouth. They scolded him loudly and commented how sorry they were for having a kid with such little manners.

Blood boiled inside of the monarch. He could tell these people cared nothing for their own son. They deserved no mercy.

“I cannot give you more time, sadly. You've been warned more times than what's fair so we're impounding this house and any  other goods you might possess.” Kai spoke firmly brushing a hand over the frame of a very expensive looking picture on the wall. There was so much money wasted on the useless of things in that house.

Of course the Garmadons would try and plead for the umpteenth time, Kai though was determined; if they weren't doing anything good for Ninjago, they were better off from his kingdom.

He was just about to order the guards to start the eviction when the voice of the man stopped him. “Wait! What… What about our son?!”

Kai turned around. What about it? Were they now going to try and guilt trip him for ‘ruining the future of the boy’? Did they really want to play such a dirty trick on him? No, what followed next was even worse.

“Take him.” Lord Garmadon grabbed the small boy by the arms, his wife helping him keep Lloyd from squirming. “He can work for you. He's scrawny and not very smart but he knows how to follow orders very well.”

“D-dad!”

“Shut up, kid!” The man roared lowly. “You see, there's not many people with his hair color around here, he's cute, I'm sure he could be of good use to you, your Highness.” Kai felt like throwing up at the way lord Garmadon wiggled his eyebrows.

Lloyd went to say something again but his mother cut him, finally shoving the whimpering boy down on his knees onto the floor.

Kai couldn't believe his ears. They were offering their kid? They were giving it to him like a random sex slave? They would rather sell their own son before saying goodbye to all the luxuries they had and fixing the mess they had created?

The Maharaja walked up to them, he kneeled down and pulled Lloyd’s face up for inspection. The boy could barely keep his cries under control. He avoided Kai’s eyes at all cost, too shocked at the realization that he meant nothing for the people who had raised him for sixteen years.

Something had spurred inside the king at that moment. That crying face… It was like looking at himself four years ago. Kai walked back to the door were one of his counselors was waiting for him, holding what looked like a ledger. They shared a few whispers, looking at the pages full of numbers until he finally spoke again.

“Fair enough. I’ll take him.” Kai said solemnly with a cold tone. He could see the couple sighing relieved at the same time the small blond shrinked with a gasp, bending forward until he was crying against the floor.

“He’ll make up for the salary of one of your workers.” Kai added last minute

“What?! Just one?!”

“Don’t play fool with me, you’re perfectly aware of how big your debt is.” Kai said not even caring to look at them. These people didn't deserve a minute more of his valuable time. “Arrest them.” He said to the guards.

Kai had already expected them to yell and struggle; they were losing all of their possessions, anyone would have been angry under the same situation. But they also went as far as insult him for his sexual preferences and calling him a thief and a deceiver. Although it was hard, Kai paid them no mind and urged his assistants and counselor to start taking stock. He hoped whatever that house contained would be enough to get the workers at least a decent paycheck for being so patient. He’d think later about what to do with the lands.

“Your Majesty, what about the boy?” someone asked. Kai looked around searching for the tender creature. Lloyd had crawled into a corner, bracing his body as he looked at Kai utterly terrorized. He looked so lost, so scared, so… broken. Kai couldn't leave him there.

“Get him inside the carriage.”

“No! Please, no!” The blond screamed when he felt strong arms pulling him out of the house and onto the vehicle.

Counselor Wu approached the Maharaja. “What are you planning to do with him?”

Kai glanced at the carriage where Lloyd was being put against his will. He could tell the boy was scared to death.

“I don’t know. He just lost his family and his home...” Kai murmured melancholically. “I’ll take him to the palace for the time being. I need to talk to Zane and Cole.” The old man brushed a hand along his long white beard and nodded in agreement.

At that moment Kai wasn’t sure what would be Lloyd’s future. Would they make him work for him as a servant? It didn’t seem fair such a young innocent boy had to pay for his horrid parents evil doings. Would his spouses agree to let him live with them until they figured out the situation?

As usual, Kai acted on impulse and had to pay the consequences of his hotheadedness later, but he couldn’t not help a poor boy like Lloyd. A boy which reminded him of his younger self so much.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Sleeping next to Kai was one of the best things in the world. He was hot, perfect to cuddle when nights got a bit colder than usual, which was the norm during the rainy season. But there was something even better than sleeping in the same bed with the monarch; waking up next to him.

Lloyd's eyes fluttered open shyly. He found himself laying over Kai, the boy under him had an arm around his small waist, the other free, stretched out on the mattress. How they had ended up in that position in the middle of their sleep was a mystery, but it didn't surprise Lloyd much. He knew he tended to move a lot while sleeping, and Kai was the cuddler type, it was usual for them to wake up in a total different position from where they doze off.

Lloyd squinted his eyes, the light that entered the room through the several windows and balcony wasn't bothering, but he was still in a dreamy state, enjoying the handsome tanned face in front of him. Kai looked adorable in his sleep, or at least that's what Lloyd thought. His chocolate hair was all spiky, resembling the fierceness of a wildfire but instead of scary it gave him a funny look. His lips were partly open and would sometimes move as if he was trying to talk or munch at something in his sleep. Lloyd tittered and Kai shifted under him, the blond finally rolled down from him but didn't give up on the embrace yet.

Kai made him feel safe, he was his ground, his air, his light, it was what powered Lloyd and gave him a reason to keep living. That was probably why he had been so panicked at the idea of losing him. His horrid parents had taken a toll on his self-esteem.

Sure, Lloyd had been born a male, that would have been enough for most families to be happy and love him, but in the end it wasn't. He couldn’t be the man his parents wanted him to be. He was born a very small baby and the adorable features never went away as he grew up. He also didn't seem to be any smarter or more skilled than kids his age. His parents had put great hope in him ever since they knew Miss Garmadon was with child, thinking that the lad would work with them on administering the lands. Or in the worst case they could just shove the debts on him when they became too much and run away to start over.

When Lloyd turned out to be just an average kid with a feminine face they decided he wasn't worth anything. Not their time, nor love, and specially not their money either. They kept him locked inside the house most part of the time, cleaning their mess and cooking food he'd never get a chance to eat.

At a very young age Lloyd considered the possibility to run away. Any place would be better than the hell of a house he'd been born in, but his parents had planted their toxic mentality on him already.

'You're useless’

'You wouldn't survive two minutes in the real world.’

'No one will like a worm like you.’

'They'll rape you, and kill you and rape you again. All because of that stupid girl face of yours’

Somehow in Lloyd's broken mind, the idea of staying with his bullies eventually seemed the safest route. At least, no stranger would come to his house and mess with him. Plus they were right; Lloyd didn't have any talent besides cleaning and crying, and that combination didn't seem very useful on the outer world.

Kai's arrival wrecked his life. Everything he knew, everything he ever had, got taken away in a moment. His home, the only place where he had felt somehow safe would no longer shelter him. His parents, his own blood, were probably going to prison. Yes, they had beat him and mentally abused him forever but… they had done it to protect him, right? The real world was cruel after all, people should not be trusted easily, for there were many deceivers out there. Or so had he been told...

Lloyd didn't want to be in the palace... but he had no place to go! He didn't want to be near the person who took everything away from him... but he couldn't talk to anyone else! He was between a rock and a hard place, with no other options left but to follow the Monarch's whims.

It took him time to start seeing things the way they really were, to realize Kai just wanted to help him. That he was free to go if he wanted to but they were offering him something he'd never experienced before. Something known as affection .

These people knew nothing about him yet they didn't doubt a minute to welcome him to their family. Zane created a specific diet for him, one that would allow Lloyd to gain weight fast, for he needed it just like the air they breathed.  Cole would be by his side when anger and sadness overtook him, just lending him a shoulder to cry on or becoming his punching sack —Lloyd was too weak to even hurt him anyway. Nya came whenever she could, always bringing a different game to play together and distract him, sometimes she'd also play music for him.

And Kai... Kai smiled.

Lloyd found himself surprised and only realized then he didn't know what a real smile was supposed to look like. He'd seen his parents grinning greedily as they counted how much money fell onto their hands or what could they spend it on. But that hadn't been a smile, but an evil gesture.

Kai's smiles felt different from the first moment. They were soft, funny, joyful stupid! Even when Lloyd messed up or yelled at him, his lips never frowned, they just turned into a tired yet loving curve.

Only then did Lloyd realize how wrong had he been all his life. Families weren't supposed to make you feel bad, they weren't supposed to scare you to make you feel ‘safe’,  they weren't supposed to use you like a slave and not say thank you even once for your hard work. Families were supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy, happy and buoyant, safe and proud. And that was what the royal family made him feel like.

After realization struck him hard, it wasn't long until Kai and him grew closer to each other and the monarch eventually popped The Question. Lloyd almost fainted that day, not because he wasn't expecting it but rather because of what that meant. Kai loved him, not just as a friend or brother but as something more, something that entailed a whole new level of intimacy and affection, something only a few people had the pleasure to experience. And he was offering it to him ; to a broken boy who was full of emotional scars, to a teenager with the mindset of an abused child, to the son of a pair of deceivers.

Did he really deserve such privilege? Kai’s smile said he did.

That was the day Lloyd finally started to live .

A year had passed by so fast after that and Lloyd still couldn’t believe all the things he had learned since he married the Maharaja. Zane taught him to read, spurring an interest for knowledge, Cole showed him short people could be athletic and strong too, Nya marveled him with her music and art lessons, and Kai supported him all along. Both knew Lloyd’s broken soul wouldn’t heal in just one night, but that didn’t make the monarch dither, on the contrary, Kai would always be the first to encourage him and shower him with genuine affection whenever Lloyd's traumas loomed over him.

 

Lloyd fixed his eyes on Kai’s godly chiseled profile. How could this man love a poor little thing like him?

No, no no. He couldn’t let the same thoughts torture him all over again. He had to trust Kai, he promised him last night he would be strong. Life had given him a new opportunity, karma was making up for all the pain he’d had to endure years back.

Lloyd brushed a finger against Kai’s chin. The king hummed lowly and let his head fall to the side. Lloyd hugged him tighter, replaying the conversation they had last night in his mind when a sudden knock on the door startled him.

“Your Highness?” They knocked again. Lloyd recognized the voice of one of the servants. He nudged his husband softly.

“Kai… Kai… The door… They’re calling for you.”

The monarch hummed again, eyes squinting as they tried to adjust to the light. He sat up lazily on his elbows

“Come in.” He shouted, voice still deep with sleepiness. Lloyd made sure his naked body was properly hidden under the covers when a man peeped his head behind the door.

“Good morning, your Highness, sir Lloyd. Breakfast shall be ready soon.”

“Uhm… Thank you, Dudou,”  He said, scratching his head. “Are Pythor and the others up already?”

“They are waking them up at this right instant.”

“Thanks.” At a wave of his hand, the man left swiftly. Kai turned around and stared at the cute boy laying next to him. “Morning, blondie.”

“Morning, hedgehog.” Lloyd smiled back. Kai leaned over him and placed a soft kiss on his lips.

“How are you feeling?”

Lloyd hesitated but finally tried to put on his best smile. Kai already had a lot of weight over his shoulders with all that royal meeting stuff.

“I'm okay.”

Kai seemed to believe him. “Ah, wish I could stay here all day.” The monarch whispered resting his head on the crook of Lloyd's neck. “I don't wanna listen to Pythor's bullshit.”

Lloyd hugged him. He too would have loved to stay in the bed with his man. “The sooner you go…”

“The sooner we'll be done, yeah, yeah, thanks for the reminder, Nya the second.” Kai joked.

With a long sigh the Maharaja got up and walked towards the closet to put some underwear on. Lloyd threw a nightshirt over himself, glad that it was long enough to cover his naked hips —he wasn't going to fully dress to get changed again in the other room a minute later.

“Want to help me pick out an outfit?” Kai asked cocking an eyebrow at him. Lloyd walked up to him, standing by his side as they dived in the ocean of crimson fabrics.

“This one.” The blond said pointing at a random piece. It didn't really matter which one they chose, Kai's clothes were always made to fit him like a glove and he looked great in all of them. The brunette nodded in agreement and started to pull the pieces out of the closet and onto the bed.

“I'll get going. I should hurry as well.” Lloyd said. Kai walked him to the door but stopped the blond from opening it at the last minute. Lloyd suddenly found himself pinned against the door, Kai trapping him with his own body. Warm chest pressing on Lloyd's clothed one as Kai's hands reached down for his, intertwining the fingers together. Kai leaned closer and placed a slow kiss on the smaller lips while rubbing Lloyd's hands with his thumb.

Lloyd's chest swell with butterflies. The boy's eyelids fluttered close almost automatically, he felt dizzy all of a sudden and was thankful to be trapped against the wooden board, otherwise he doubted he would have been able to keep himself upright. It was just a simple kiss, very chaste compared to the usuals Kai would gift him, but it left Lloyd at the very entrance of Nirvana for some reason.

Love was such a powerful thing, Lloyd thought, it could drown you in misery and make you jump with joy at the next minute.

“See you in a bit.” Kai murmured when their lips finally parted.

Lloyd nodded at him, dazed. He crossed the majestic arch and walked to his own bedroom, holding a hand against his chest to calm down his heart. He felt so stupid for a second, though in a good sense. His heart rate had gone bonker like he had just received his first kiss. He probably even had a goofy smile on his face as he walked down the hall. It was all so strange, Kai's loving gestures had always left him lightheaded, but it had been a while since he felt that silly, since the magic of their very first interactions flowed in his veins again.

Lloyd stopped in front of the familiar door and breathed a couple of times, trying to regain control over his body. He was fine. He would be fine. Kai loved him and he loved him back. Their souls had been connected through the spiritual rituals done at their wedding. They'd be forever together through all eternity. He didn't have to worry, he repeated to himself. There was no way Kai would ever leave him.

Lloyd breathed out one last time and pulled the door open, ready to reunite with his friends and Jay.

Chapter Text

Things sometimes don't go as expected. You never know who you'll bump into when you're in a rush to finish an errand, what ingredients are missing when you've already started working on your favorite recipe, and you certainly never know when rain will come and spoil the fun.

Because that's exactly what happened. Of all the possible things that could go wrong those days, it had to be the weather.

Rain thwarted the monarch's plans of going out and check the status of the city and all the several businesses Pythor owned. People like them couldn't be out at a time like that and risk themselves catching a cold. Or in Pythor’s words: “It was degrading for persons of their high status to get showered by the rain like a peasant.” So schedules had to be readjusted, which meant —much to Lloyd's dismay—  that the guests departure was going to be postponed for an indefinite period of time.

‘Luckily’ Pythor was a busybody with a thing for royal affairs so he often joined Kai in his audiences and meetings to know how the boy was handling things —and obviously trying to snatch a chance to enlarge his wealth. So at least Jay and the others didn't have to put up with the man.

On the opposite side though, Jay discovered that while Kai kept Pythor busy, the royal spouses also had a task assigned as well, and it was to take care of Pythor wives and keep them happy and entertained. It didn't look like a difficult job, they just had to chill around like they usually did when it was the four of them, but Jay realized soon enough how wrong he was.

Pythor's wives, although young, they were all different ages, and three of them were pretty much older than Jay and the other guys. He thought it would be easy to interact with grown up women; his old neighborhood was full of them and every lady had always treated him very nicely. Jay's mom used to say it was because they all secretly wished their husbands were handsome and young like him. Moms...

To Jay's surprise these women weren't like those ladies. Admittedly he kind of preferred their quiet versions from when Pythor was around. Two of them were very noisy, always making comments and gossiping between themselves in shushed voices, they bragged about all the places they had visited since the last time they were there, of all the pretty dresses and jewels they owned, of the healthy and gorgeous childs they had. You could tell they had certainly been affected by Pythor's pompousness.

The remaining two didn't seem so bad, the youngest was very shy and wary, she barely talked at all and from what Jay picked up it was her first time visiting the Palace. The last one was a few years older than him, she didn’t seem much talkative either but the way she spoke was clearly different from the princessy pair; much gentler and with much less venom in her voice.

 

The morning of the third day, the sun finally decided to grace them with a few rays, which Kai quickly took advantage of and took Pythor out with him as soon as they were done with lunch.

Cole nervously eyed the bright landscape through the window. Jay could already recognize the signs; the noirette was dying to get out and breathe some fresh air before the weather got all bitter again.

With the help of a very polite Zane, the group of boys managed to convince the women to go out for a stroll with the excuse of appreciating the beautiful plants that grew around the garden. Probably not even ten minutes into it, the whiny pair started to freak out when a small cloud passed in front of the sun, darkening the sky for a few seconds. They requested to go back immediately before their precious outfits would get ruined by the ‘impending’ rain. They looked ridiculous, stepping extra carefully whenever they spotted a small puddle that wasn't even on their path. Jay rolled his eyes. 'It's just water and wet earth’ he thought. Why did rich people seem to be so scared of the elements? He'd been living his whole life covered in mud and dust yet there he was; a healthy young man. What was it to be scared about?

As the whines grew louder and more irritable —even for someone as noisy as Jay, the group realized they wouldn’t be able to keep up with their relaxing walk that way. Zane could tell the idea of going back inside so soon didn't please Cole at all, then the blond offered to escort the infantile women inside while Cole and the others enjoyed the fresh air for a little bit more.

Once the trio left, Cole turned to Samira, the quiet yet friendly lady.

“I didn't remember they were that annoying.”

Jay stared at Cole with wide eyes. Did he just blatantly talk bad about the wives in front of the other?

Samira snorted a laugh. “And you're lucky Rosie and Lana didn't come along. The four of them get insufferable together.”

“I can tell. It's good that you guys could make it though, we hadn't seen each other since your wedding, right, Agnha?” The noirette smiled at the little girl, she only looked back to the floor and nodded silently. Cole smiled a bit self-conscious.

“Hey, what do you say we go to the gazebo?”

Samira glanced to her smaller companion, who had not left her side for as long as Jay could remember. Agnha shrugged, her eyes moving back to the ground as the other woman turned to smile at Cole with a nod.

To say Jay was confused would be an understatement, but being the drama-avoider he was, the boy decided to shut his mouth and go with the flow. He could assault Cole with all his doubts later.

The group strolled leisurely around the garden and towards the familiar pavilion. Samira seemed very interested in the flowers blooming around. Cole tried to keep the conversation revolving around the topic, needing Lloyd's help in the end because he always forgot the name of the plants. They finally moved to the platform, sitting on the marble benches, Cole and Samira leading the conversation all the time, with Lloyd occasionally joining. The noirette and the older woman seemed so comfortable around each other, laughing, making jokes, walking around the place and simply being themselves. The sight confused Jay, it didn't look at all like the previous nights when they all gathered to have dinner. Nerve wrecking, awkward dinners.

He barely registered when Agnha stiffened after the breeze picked up for a moment. Lloyd leaned closer to her.

“Are you okay?” The young girl bit her lip, not saying anything and just rubbed her hands over her naked arms. “Are you cold?” Lloyd asked again, gaining a shy nod in response. The blonde glanced up, his strong friend was sitting over the railing, Samira standing in front of him, laughing at something one of them just said.

Lloyd finally got up, taking Agnha's hands in his gently. “It’s getting cold, I'll walk her inside.” The blond declared to the rest. Cole and Samira made a gesture to return to the building as well but Lloyd stopped them. “It's okay, you guys can stay and keep chatting.”

Samira and Cole looked at each other then she walked to the petite female. “Will you be fine?” She asked her, rubbing the cold skin of Agnha's arms with her thumbs. The girl seemed unsure but after taking one last look at Lloyd's soft smile, the corners of her lips pulled up just slightly. She nodded to the older woman, Samira smiled relieved. Before the young pair descended the stairs, Samira took off the fancy shawl she'd been wearing and wrapped it around her friend. For the first time, and since Pythor and his family entered the royal palace, Jay saw no trace of fear in Agnha's face as she nuzzled the warm garment while taking Lloyd’s hand again.

Everyone watched as the two small figures walked away from the gazebo and onto the flowery path to the main building.

“She's still as shy as ever, isn't she?” Cole's soft voice asked.

“She's doing better, but yeah, new places and people still make her very anxious.” Samira replied, well aware that the question was meant for her.

Cole snorted unconsciously. “Reminds me of someone.” And the woman couldn't help but to chuckle along with him.

“Right? I think that's why they get along.”

Cole gave a nod of his head as he turned around to look at the woman in the eyes, only then did he notice the extra person that was still with them. Jay averted his eyes as soon as the chocolate orbs fixed on him, feeling like an awkward third wheel and too self-conscious to try and butt in a conversation between two people who were clearly enjoying their time together.

Cole gasped and immediately jumped to the empty seat next to the freckled boy. “Hey, Jay! You cool, buddy?” He asked wrapping an arm over his shoulders and pulling him in for a brotherly hug. Jay blushed a bit too much at the sudden affection but nodded weakly. Samira approached them, asking Jay for permission before she sat next to him as well.

“I apologize for monopolising Cole. We don't get to see each other as often lately.”

“Uh, oh no, it's- it's fine.” Jay uttered. What else was he supposed to say? Even if it did bother him, it wasn't like Jay had the courage to confront the woman about it —specially considering who was she married to. Ugh, just thinking about Pythor getting mad at him gave Jay the chills.

“I'm also sorry about my friends. They mean no real harm, they're just…. Uhm…”

“Two halves of a brain?” Cole finished with a smirk, questioning the other wives intelligence.

“Cole!” Samira scolded but snorted the next second acknowledging a bit of truth in the noirette's remark.

Jay still didn't understand what was going on nor what was Cole's relationship with that woman. Weren't they supposed to treat the guests with utter respect to prevent any problems with the funny lord? Did Cole have a special treatment for being the first royal spouse? Questions were piling up in Jay's mind faster than he liked.

“Enough about me and my stupid 'sisters’,” Samira said with a peaceful grin. “May I ask how did you guys meet? I'm assuming this friendship is pretty recent since none of you ever mentioned Jay before.”

Jay swallowed visibly. Looks like not all of Pythor's wives had brains the size of a peanut. Opportunely they had planned a story beforehand —well, Zane pretty much came up with all the details, but Jay was still anxious, unsure if they could pull it off nicely without the help of the smart blond. He knew Cole wasn't the best at lying.

“Oh! It's funny that you mention that! ” Jay could feel the strong man stiffening by his side as he spoke. “Uh, he's an engineer and you see, uh Jay…”

His stalling made Jay even more nervous.  Cole was probably trying to either remember what they agreed with Zane or compose his voice so it wouldn't sound too fake. Thanks Brahma Jay had actually been listening to the blond for once.

The boy grabbed Cole's hand on the sly, a gesture that meant for him to calm down and shut up urgently. Jay wasn't fond of having to give the explanation himself but he thought he knew Samira enough to be able to have a civil conversation with her. It was just like talking to people in the market back home.

“Kai hired me -I mean, his Majesty - I mean the Maharaja!” Jay cringed internally at his blabber, what a great way to start a totally trustworthy speech. Luckily, the woman's friendly expression didn't falter not even for a second and Jay resumed the fib, hoping he was sounding convincing enough.

“They hired me a while ago to help the team working on the restoration of the streets and buildings, and uh… we became friends, I guess.” As the words escaped his lips he couldn't help but wonder if the last part was also a lie or not.

“Oh, wow, that sounds very complicated. I'm sorry I know nothing about, uh… Constructions? Is that the correct word?”

Jay nodded, already guessing why Zane decided to go for the ‘engineer’ route, the less these people knew about him the better. Samira wanted to ask more but Cole quickly opened his mouth before her. He put his arms around Jay's neck from behind the boy and pulled him closer, excitement in his voice.

“Yeah! He's really good at making all those cool diagrams, and you know what, Samy? He's also a skilled fighter!”

“What?!” Both Jay and the woman exclaimed.

“He's so fast and agile! Let's show her, Jay.” The noirette said getting up from the bench and pulling Jay with him in the open space of the pavilion, although the boy tried to resist.

“Come on, Jay.”

“Cole, no!” He shouted-whispered, not wanting to make a fool of himself again, and specially not in front of such an important lady.

“Yeah, come on!” Cole said swinging his fist forward at enough speed for Jay to dodge it easily. He did it again, and again, cornering Jay against the railing. In a quick move, Jay bent down and escaped through the gap between Cole's legs. The noirette laughed as he chased his friend around the gazebo. Samira mimicking the royal spouse amusement.

“Cole, stop it!” Jay cried out, starting to sweat at the sudden exercise. The young man approached him, grabby hands and a goofy expression plastered on his face. He distracted Jay with a small movement and finally picked the smaller man up and over his shoulder.

“See? Light as a feather.” Cole chuckled walking up to the platform again still carrying Jay.

“It's nice to see you're making sure your family stays as active as ever.” The woman commented.

“What can I say? Old habits die hard.”

“Cole, put me down!”

“Oops, sorry.”

Cole placed Jay down on the floor and flashed him an embarrassed guilty smile.

“I think I'm going to have to send Archie here someday for you to train him.” Samira chuckled at Jay’s furrowed expression.

“Oh, how's the little kid by the way?” Cole quickly sat next to her again.

“Strong and healthy, thanks to the Gods.” She smiled.

And just like that, any other doubts the woman might had had about Jay were easily engulfed by the new topic of their conversation. Even Jay's slight irritation faded away in a matter of seconds; Cole's sweet and carefree attitude was too adorable to resist.

 

Although the whole situation of that afternoon had left Jay very confused, he couldn’t help but miss the light mood of it once dinner was served. Everything became tense and awkward again as both families sat around the table. They went back to the silent treatment, letting Kai, Nya and Zane carry most part of the conversations and hopefully avoiding any tricky subjects, which was hard because Pythor was an expert at bringing them up. Jay had already lost count of how many times the man had said something inappropriate or subtly criticized the royal family’s ‘way to live’ to put it somehow. Jay was counting the minutes left to go back to the bedroom.

 

At last they were freed from their guests. Everyone was clearly exhausted as they reached the royal chambers, they had done a lot of socializing that day. Kai had plopped face down on Cole’s bed, too tired to even give them a summary of his day and only uttering whines as Cole messed with him. Being alone with Pythor sure seemed like a divine punishment.

Sensing the monarch wasn’t in the best of moods, Zane offered to stay the night with him, give him a massage and maybe even read him some poetry or mantra to refill their bodies and minds with positive vibes. Kai was up for anything at that point, he just wanted the day to finally come to its end.

Lloyd, Jay and Cole soon started their night routine, cleaning their faces from the make-up, taking off all the jewels, accessories and fancy clothes and changing into the long awaited and comfortable pajamas. As Jay was making his way to the bathroom, Cole rushed to him, stopping the boy by the threshold.

“Wait, Jay, uh… can you help me with… you know?” The noirette said pointing at his head and drawing an invisible giant circle around it. His features covered with paint and his hair still pulled up into a tight yet delicate bun.

“Oh, sure.” Jay muttered, getting inside the smaller room with Cole, the latter closed the door shut behind them.

Jay scanned his surroundings a bit too fidgety, considering he'd been in a much more wet and slippery setting with Cole in the past days he thought it was stupid to still be embarrassed around him, but somehow the closed space they were in felt all very intimate. Jay cleared his throat, gesturing to Cole to sit down on the stool as he reached for the cabin of the towels and moistened one of them. It was weird he could now wander around the palace as if it had been his home all his life, or at least the few rooms he lived in the most.

Jay approached Cole, damp clothing in hand. The noirette stared at him looking a bit distracted. “Uh… close your eyes.” Jay said though it kind of sounded like a question.

“Oh, yeah, right!” The other replied snapping out of whatever thoughts that had been clouding his mind.

Jay gently pressed the wet towel against Cole's face, unknowingly cupping the boy's cheek so his head wouldn't shake with every new and more meticulous rub. The ginger head only realized how close he was leaning on his friend when he could see Cole's eyelashes in detail, damp and shiny. He couldn't help but stop and stare. Cole and him had been that close more than once but Jay never found a reason to study the young man's face. In fact he had to find one yet, but the lack of them didn't stop him from realizing Cole had a couple of very subtle marks near the end of his eyebrow, or how his chocolate-ish skin had a funny texture over his cheeks and nose, probably from being too exposed to the sun in his younger years of slave labor. And wow, his lips were actually pretty, thick and juicy, almost like those fluffy pillows they slept on. Jay wondered stupidly how would it feel to be kissed by a pair of lips like that, would it be like kissing a very ripe fruit? Uhm, that didn't sound all that good... A cloud maybe? Wait, how did clouds even feel like?

Amidst his internal dilemma to find the perfect comparison, Cole's voice calling him shook Jay awake. “Uh?” Jay locked gazes with the other boy, Cole was eyeing him with a worried expression and a hand over the one Jay had on the dark cheek.

Oh, gosh! He'd been staring at Cole's lips for too long!

Jay jumped back in a flash, hitting the bathroom countertop with his rear and making the adjacent cabins wobble for a second.

“A-are you okay?”

“Yes!” Jay shrieked, throwing the towel carelessly at Cole and turning around to not face the other male, but the cure was worse than the disease. Jay saw himself in the mirror; an evident red tone tinted his cheeks. Shoot! He must had been blushing very badly to be able to tell it from under the make-up. But why was he even blushing?!

Not caring about anything else, Jay grabbed another washcloth, dipped it in the water and worked it quickly against himself. He needed to get out pronto and into his bed, under the safety of the warm covers, away from questionably kissable male lips.

“J-Jay…”

The boy flinched when he felt Cole's hand on his back, his body straightened like a spring and batted the noirette's hand away. “I- I'm done!” Jay sputtered, drying his face messily with his sleeves as he tried to reach the door without seeing.

“Wait!” Cole was quick to grab Jay by the arm and turn them around so the strong lad was between the exit and his friend. “Please, just…”

Jay took a step back. He was sure not even the rough man could be as stupid to not notice the intent gaze he had on him just a moment ago. But he was probably dumb enough to misinterpret it in the worst possible way. What if Cole tried to make a move on him in that small closed room?

A shiver went down Jay’s spine as strong calloused hands cupped his. “Don’t be mad at me, please.” Cole uttered like a lost puppy.

Mad? Jay? What was he talking about?

Worried that the cold water hadn't been enough to make the blush go away, Jay averted his eyes to the floor. Just glancing at those damn dark lips made his hair stand on end again.

“I'm sorry…” Cole said, his face scrunched up uncomfortably. Blue orbs slowly moved back up and sheepishly stared at the concerned boy.  Jay wondered what was going through his mind, Cole was making no sense.

“I know I've been ignoring you the whole afternoon… I'm so sorry, Jay, I didn't do it on purpose, I swear! It's just… it's been months since I could have a nice chat with Samira and I kinda forgot the rest of the world existed...”

Jay stared dumbfounded, blinking several times until he finally understood. Had he been looking at the mirror he was sure his reflection would have come out of it and slapped him. How could he be so dumb? How many times did Jay have to overreact over trivialities before fully acknowledging Cole was one of the nicest persons he had ever met? —probably still a few more.

There he was, thinking that he’d lured Cole into a uncomfortable situation when all the noirette was worried about was their friendship. “It's… fine…” Jay whispered belatedly, already feeling blood boil behind his cheeks but for a total different reason this time. He was so embarrassed of himself, his friend only wanted to apologize.

“No, it's not,” Cole countered. “Good friends aren't supposed to leave each other hanging. I should have… I should…” He trailed off, his mind attacking him with harsh criticism about his actions, and Jay could tell it by the way Cole was squeezing his palms against his own temples in exasperation.

“Cole, it's fine… I'm not mad.”

“R-really?”

Jay nodded, still unable to look him in the eyes for too long. His jitters were just starting to calm down when a sudden pair of strong arms pulled him into a tight embrace. Jay found himself pressed against Cole’s broad chest, his muscular arms keeping him firmly pinned there.

“I swear you're a true blessing.” Cole released in a small voice, letting his head fall in the crook of Jay’s neck. His breathing was still fast and heavy against Jay’s skin, all clear signs of the anxiety that ran through his veins at the mere thought of ruining their friendship.

Although startled at first, Jay’s hands eventually snaked to Cole's back, completing his part of the embrace. His heart pounded with force, Jay rested his head on Cole, breathing in his sweet peach perfume. Cole's limbs tightened around him almost painfully, but Jay couldn't get himself to tell the boy to stop. Cole was such a sweetheart, it amazed him how vulnerable and small the noirette could become when his emotions were running high.

After a while Cole pulled away when he remembered how suffocating his hugs could get for the average size people. He looked at Jay once again, almost pleading him to forgive his foolishness, and when Jay smiled back at him Cole felt the asphyxiating lump in his throat disappear as if by magic.

The noirette stepped aside from the door, rubbing his nape nervously. “Uh, sorry, I'm holding you up here. I can do the rest myself.” He said leaving the way to the door free and going to the mirror, quickly taking off the earrings and starting to undo the bun on the back of his head —more like trying to undo it. Jay had just placed a hand on the door handle when he heard a small whine coming from Cole. He turned around, the noirette was roughly pulling the bobby pins off his hair; Jay had placed them strategically to hold his long mane and so they had to be taken off just the same way, but Cole obviously wasn't aware of that.

With a sigh that was meant to ease himself more than showing exhaustion, Jay walked back to his friend, stopping Cole's hands from hurting himself anymore. No words were exchanged as the young men smiled at each other and Cole took a seat once again on the stool. Jay went to work, following the path of the pins with his eyes and starting to take them off in reversed order.

"Cole, may I ask you something?" Jay asked after a minute. Now that their usual friendly mood seemed to have returned, Jay presumed it was the time to ask everything he had been wanting to know for the whole afternoon.

A soft hum was his only reply. "What… what's your relationship with Samira?" Jay asked, hoping he wouldn't be stepping over boundaries. Cole had always been so open with him, but then again, they had only known each other for some weeks, who knew if Cole had any secrets he didn't want to be spread around.

A giggle sounded in front of him. "We're good friends, we've known each other for a while. Her and Pythor got married a bit earlier then Kai and I, although I already knew her from when I worked here as a servant, she was quite a regular with Pythor." There was a pause, in which Jay wondered if he should press the issue further or not. Hopefully for him, Cole cleared his doubts by carrying on with his speech.

"She's different from the others, you surely noticed. Samira is probably the only one of Pythor's wives we all really get along with; the others are… too snobby. Well, her and Agnha but she's still very shy, although she seems to get along with Lloyd."

"How many spouses does he have?" Jay asked casually and was shocked when Cole replied to him after taking a moment to count with his fingers and murmuring a bunch of names.

"Ten."

"What?!" A bobby pin dropped to the floor.

"Fourteen if you count the ones he's lost during labors or illness."

Jay stuttered, his pupils shrank with disbelief. He couldn't even move to bend down and pick up the little object.

Feeling the lack of hands in his hair, Cole looked up, spying Jay's stunned face through their reflection on the mirror. "Surprised?" He chuckled.

"I… uh, well yeah! I mean why would anyone need to marry so many times? Does he... like to collect partners or what?"

"No," Cole giggled at Jay's bewilderment. "It's just part of the tradition, something very common among rich people. They use marriages as a way to secure alliances and business.”

Jay's mouth was still hanging wide open. He had heard about arranged marriages, he even knew a few people from his hometown who got together because of them, though in their cases it had been mostly to save one of the families from starvation.

“So… they don't love each other?” Jay asked hesitantly.

“Uhm… I think they do,” Cole replied after thinking for a bit. “At least Samira does love Pythor somehow, as crazy as that sounds. It's just… a different kind of love probably. Those women were raised to become a man's trophy; it's their life goal and they're happy like that. At least most of them…"

"What do you mean?" He eventually picked up the small needle looking accessory.

Cole tensed noticeably, fists clenching on the fabric covering his legs.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have-” Jay started.

“No, it’s fine. It’s just… Ah… me and my-”

“Big mouth?” Jay finished. Cole tilted his head just enough to look at the other man, his expression softened at Jay’s goofy smile.

“Yeah” he snorted a laugh, head bobbing slowly while he nodded with resignation, then took a deep breath. “It’s just… I don’t like talking about other people’s life but I guess it doesn’t matter that much anyway.”

Cole took his time, thinking about the words he was going to use next, while Jay resumed his job, releasing the jet black locks out of their delicate cage. “From what I know, Agnha’s family used to be very rich, but they went out of business slowly over the years. Pythor was acquainted with them and offered to help them but… he doesn’t do things for free, you know.”

The moment the last pin got retrieved and Cole’s hair plopped down on his shoulders, Jay froze. Cole was not suggesting…?

He took a step aside, Jay’s brain telling him to go and place the brooches down on the countertop but his legs wouldn’t move any further. He stared at Cole, their gazes locking with just the same sadness.

“You mean…?” Cole nodded. “They sold her?!”

“... I guess you could put it like that.”

Jay felt furious all of a sudden. He would never understand how any parent would abandon their child like that. There was no excuse for such practices! People were living things, they had feelings, they weren’t objects you could switch and swap, not even in the worst of the situations! And maybe he was biased because he had always had a loving and supportive family but selling kids was not okay !

“How old is she?” Jay regretted his question as it escaped his mouth.

“Uhm… Fourteen or so?”

“What?!” He shrieked in the most high pitched of voices. Fourteen?! She was five years younger than him?! Jay wanted to ask about Pythor but bit his tongue, that would only make him even frenzier; the man was clearly too old for the poor girl, he surely had enough age to be his father! It was plain disgusting.

Cole lowered his eyes. He knew what Jay was thinking, his opinion was just the same. When Pythor invited them to the wedding less than a year ago, Cole couldn’t believe how messed up the man was. Samira was already a lot younger than him but Agnha’s wedding had been the last straw. Was the man not ashamed of forcing himself on such an innocent creature? —of course not, he was Pythor afterall.

“Agnha has never been happy about the union, not like I blame her. Samira does her best to make her feel at home and see the positive side of things but… I guess with a husband like Pythor it’s probably not easy, specially after your family practically disregarded you after the ceremony.”

Jay took another step back, feeling his body wobble for a second he finally got to the countertop and placed the pins down on it. It made sense now; Agnha’s awful timid behaviour and the way Samira and the guys seemed to protect her. Jay never expected that ‘taking care of the royal guests’ would have been quite a literal expression.

“I’m sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have told you.” Cole apologized after seeing how afflicted Jay was after their talk.

“No, it’s fine…” He muttered automatically then raised his voice again to amend his words. “I mean, it’s not fine. How can he…? How could they…? Gosh, this is horrible.” Jay groaned, a hand reached up to his forehead, squeezing it tightly. Just imagining Pythor’s vile hands all over the small girl’s body made his stomach twist with nausea.

Cole got up from his seat and walked up to Jay, placing his giant hands over the small shoulders gently. “I know, but that’s how things work around here sadly. I guess not everyone can be as lucky as us.” Cole muttered at the end.

Jay looked up, his eyes scanning Cole’s chocolate gems. ‘Lucky?’

Before he could ask anything else, someone knocked on the door. Cole hurriedly jumped back, making space between them, only then realizing how close they had been a second ago.

“Are you guys done?” Lloyd’s voice asked from the other side. “I’m sleepy and I wanna turn off the lights.”

“Uh…” Cole looked back at Jay, their faces were clean —kind of, and all jewels and uncomfortable accessories have been taken off as well, only the oil treatment was left.

Well, what Zane didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him…

Cole offered Jay his hand, the other boy was still rather confused, lots of thoughts flooded his mind, but he took the limb nevertheless, letting the noirette guide him out of the room. Lloyd avoided his gaze, quickly making his way to the several lanterns and lamps and leaving the room in the most quiet darkness, only faintly illuminated by the moonlight that came through the windows. With very little chatter, the three boys tucked themselves in their respective duvets, ready to let the peaceful silence fill their minds. All except Jay.

Cole's words had left Jay thinking, and for the first time in forever it felt like he was starting to see things clear; Cole and Zane, despite being born in some of the lowest layers of society, had managed to turn the tables and marry the most important person in the whole realm, and totally on their own will. Jay didn't know Lloyd's background —not like he even cared about it in the first place— but if Kai had married two commoners in the past, it was highly possible that he had married a third too. Jay swallowed thickly at the reminder that he was also a simpleton boy and for unknown reasons the Maharaja had fallen for him as well, ignoring social classes once again.

Why though? Why did Kai go out of his comfort zone? As the heir of the kingdom surely he must had had a ton of candidates to choose from? Why didn’t he pick one of those girls from the start? It would have avoided him all those homophobic remarks from people like Pythor, and probably a lot more problems Jay wasn’t even aware of. Kai was so confusing. He did so many things that weren't typical of a person of his high social status, yet at the same time he followed many other rules that were clearly unfair for him. Was he magnanimous? Rebellious? Soft-hearted? Or just dumb?

The royal spouses were certainly lucky, none of them had been trained to socialize with the creme de la creme, even less aspired to get as close to the Maharaja as they were, yet it happened. And as much as Jay didn’t like to admit it, Kai was not the monster he thought he was at first. A quick look was enough to tell how differently the king and Pythor treated their lovers; while Kai’s eyes beamed with affection at the sheer sight of Cole, Zane and Lloyd, Pythor always had that malicious glint in his, as if he was displaying prizes instead of beloved wives. It didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like love at all.

It was funny, to say the least; how Kai despite being the almighty king seemed to be a lot more bright than the old lord.  A chill run down Jay’s spine, he didn’t want to think what would have been of him if Kai had been a bit more like Pythor. He pressed his thighs together as bizarre sexual situations ran in front of his closed eyelids. Scratch that. Pythor would have never saved him from the slaves dealer in the first place. Had it been that way Jay would have most likely be dead by that point.

He gripped the pillow harder, feeling his body tremble and not because of the cool air in the room. It had been quite a few days since he’d felt that scared again, since the memories of his torturers chased him relentlessly and made his breathing go faster.

Jay didn’t know how much time he had spent trying to sleep, it could have been minutes, it could have been hours, but then something was dropped onto him. It was light and fluffy and it covered his whole body. Jay lifted his head over his shoulder to see an extra blanket on himself. The room was dark and maybe he was sleepy afterall, for his eyelids felt heavy as he narrowed them, but he could swear he saw the outline of Lloyd’s figure walking back to his own bed with a sigh.

Chapter Text

Five freaking days after with their four uncomfortable and long dinners, the royal family stood by the majestic main entrance, well-dressed and with big smiles on their faces as they said goodbye to their guests, bowing softly with their hands pressed together in front of their chests. Pythor, being his usual overconfident self, launched forward capturing Kai in a tight awkward hug, giving a few last comments about what a great time he'd had and how they should arrange these get-togethers more often. Kai, as usual, smiled and reminded him politely about his busy schedule —a mere excuse to try and stay away from the man for as long as possible.

It had been hard. Jay found himself more and more irritated by Pythor's words every night. Jay, and probably the whole royal family, was thankful to have Zane around at those moments. The pale blond was such a refined gentleman who would help keep the ambience as light as possible with a guest that had such a poisonous tongue. It also surprised Jay how Kai had had so much patience with the fake man. Jay'd been told Kai was a hothead and, honestly, he could see in the way his sweet reddish lips twitched everytime Pythor was pissing him off —which was most part of time—, and in the way his knuckles turned almost white when holding his golden cup full of liquor during meals, trying not to stop as low as the old man and release a nasty comeback or empty the liquid content on his head. However, as impossible as it seemed, the Maharaja stayed as friendly and polite as Jay had never seen him. Did Zane and his massages have anything to do with that?

Samira stealthily squeezed everyone’s hands on her turn and whispered what Jay imagined would be some friendly farewell, but with how loud her husband was, she probably didn’t need to be so secretive about it.

“And you, young boy,” Jay got shaken out of his mind when Pythor patted his back with too much force. “Think about my offer, uh? I know any of my girls would be more than happy to have a bright future with you.”

Jay could only laugh awkwardly and nod his head. If Pythor only knew he was a simple boy from a junkyard in one of the poorest cities of Ninjago, he doubted he'd be so supportive of the idea of linking their families. They had totally fooled him by presenting Jay as a royal friend, the man almost drooled at the possibility of getting his bloodline one step closer to the crown. Plus Jay had no interest in marrying a kid, he might have yearned for some romance in his life but he wasn’t that desperate.

As Pythor and his wives got into the carriages, the royal family walked back into the palace. Kai stayed behind, waving a hand to the guests and watching carefully as the carts disappeared behind the large walls. He waited a few seconds before turning around and heading inside with the rest of his peers. He found them by the main hall, gathered in a small group. Cole raised a brow at him, Kai inhaled deeply, closing his eyes for a second before popping them open with a smug.

“Finally!” He shouted throwing his arms in the air and letting his head fall backwards with a groan. Cole and Lloyd let out an obvious sigh of relief, Zane and Nya snickered, even Jay couldn't help feeling his shoulders relax at the confirmation they wouldn't have to be around that man anymore.

“Good Brahma, it was about time!” Cole exclaimed.

“Please, Kai, don't invite him ever again during rainy season.” Lloyd pleaded.

The Maharaja flashed him a guilty smile and quickly got by Lloyd's side to pull him into a gentle hug. Everyone could see the tension that had built over the past days fading into thin air.

“You've done great, Lloyd. Jeez, I can't believe how much I've missed hugging you all day, guys, come here!” Kai gestured with his hands at the others, without breaking his current embrace with the blond. Zane approached them with a smile on his face, Lloyd and Kai made space for him between their bodies. Jay tried to step away but Nya reacted faster, she grabbed his wrist and pulled him towards the group with her, making the boys tumble for a moment as they crashed together. Jay found himself pressed against Kai and Zane’s sides, unable to get away, for Nya's grip over his back had him firmly pinned to the spot. Cole joined them the last, stretching his arms at full capacity to surround them all at once, which was totally impossible but the young male still tried nevertheless, squeezing his family in a giant bear hug.

“Ah, Cole, not so strong.” Kai whined when bodies started to press against him in an uncomfortable manner.

“You said you missed our hugs.”

“Yeah, but right now I'm missing air!”

“Aww, aren't you a crybaby?”

“Ouch, Cole, m-my arm!” Lloyd said with a tiny voice against his chest.

“Cole, please.” Asked Zane stuck in the middle of the group, probably getting the worst part of the constricting embrace. Cole groaned but finally released his grip. Everyone catching their breaths as they took a step back from each other.

“You're no fun.” Cole pouted.

After a short silence Kai started to laugh, having managed to regain control of his lungs again. He walked to the noirette and threw his arms around his shoulders, hooking them behind Cole's head, Kai pulled him down to peck his lips but changed his mind last minute. “Don't pull that face, you look like a dead rat.”

“I what ?!”

Knowing very well what awaited him, the Maharaja soon dislodged from his lover and ran straight to the nearest corridor, Cole hot on his heels as they shouted and chased each other.

Zane, Nya and Lloyd laughed softly at the endearing scene. “They're still like kids.” The princess commented.

“Minus the 'like’ part.” Added the taller blond which made everyone explode in  giggles.

“Well, I think it's time we take all this extra stuff off, right?” Nya said after the laughter faded away, unclasping a very shiny set of bracelets from her wrist. The princess, just like her brother, enjoyed looking nice and fancy but not to the extent a guest like Pythor required.

“Indeed. Some more comfortable clothes would make a nice change as well.” Said Zane while grabbing Lloyd and Jay's hands in his and pulling them to the stairs.

The nightmare was finally over.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Jay found himself somehow relieved and happy. As soon as Pythor was out of the question, the royal family seemed to fall back to its routine without trouble. Everyone looked relaxed, carefree just like the days prior to the lord’s visit. Cole pulled Jay out to the garden for some exercise. Zane assisted Kai and Nya with a few kingdom affairs and still had time to meditate and hang out with the others, while Lloyd sat next to him sketching some anatomy studies, softly humming a tune he’d been playing on his last music lesson.

It was funny how just a week ago they had all been on edge due to the nasty remarks of a man that wasn't really worth their time. Everything seemed to fall back into place so easily. It really looked like magic. This family was magic.

Although Jay was still having a hard time admitting it, his brain had started to realize that these people —despite being crazy as fuck— were actually nice. They were all very different, they had their ups and downs. They fought, they laughed, they got sad but overall they took good care of each other. Not once did Jay see any of them disrespect or bully another member of the family. All the spouses got along so perfectly, Nya was such a sweetheart and also a strong-willed woman, and Kai…

Jay's mind stopped for a moment. What about Kai? What were his thoughts on the young monarch? Did he still hate him?... Jay wasn't sure of what his feelings for the brunette were anymore. Kai had just been getting more and more friendly as the days passed. He bought Jay more clothes, Dareth still had his measurements saved so everything fit him perfectly; all blue outfits in different tones and patterns. Not that Jay could complain, he actually liked how he looked in it. Kai also brought him shoes —a dreadful amount of them in Jay’s humble opinion; he only had one pair of feet, why would he need so many different kinds of slippers?— and make-up, and perfumes. For Brahma’s sake, how was Jay supposed to hate him at that point? Kai was such a dumbass most part of the time, but he also knew to stay professional during his royal meetings; when to cede and went to stay his feet firm on the ground. Jay hadn’t forgotten how Kai had tried to protect him that first dinner with Pythor, and during a few more similar occasions that happened along the week as well.

Jay was aware he was still 'being held there’ somehow. He knew that technically Kai owned him, but like Cole told him once; none of them thought about Jay as a slave. And maybe… just maybe… Jay was starting to feel like at home after all this time? If someone sent him back with his parents at that moment, he was certain he would miss these weirdos to a certain degree.

Dang it, he was so messed up, wasn't he? But Jay couldn't help the smile that threatened to show up in his lips when he was surrounded by this bunch of loveable idiots. He was even starting to change his mind about Lloyd, seeing his behavior had somehow softened lately. Maybe he could try and talk to him, maybe he wasn’t an obnoxious brat in reality.

 

A week after Pythor left, Jay and the other spouses were chilling in their bedroom after taking turns to enjoy a very relaxing bath. Jay was a lot less nervous about bathing with Cole, the young man had proved to be trustworthy, but Jay still couldn't bare the thought of going in naked with any of the others. Maybe he would try it next time.

Dinner time was drawing near and while Jay busied himself with Cole's hair, Zane decided to go and check if the dining hall was all set. “There.” Jay said relocating the last black lock on Cole's head. He had styled the long mane into two braids at the top of his head, letting a few strands fall loosely to the bottom creating the illusion of a magnificent waterfall. At some point they had decided Jay was free to play with Cole's hair as much as he wanted and so the noirette let him go crazy and experiment with any hairstyle Jay could come up with.

Cole hummed appreciatively as he looked at himself in the small mirror. “That's cool. Hey, Lloyd, did you see that?” He called out to his other friend who was sitting on the floor trying to build a figure with cards. Lloyd glanced up at them, Cole turned his head around a couple of times to display himself in every possible angle. Jay fidgeted with the end of his sleeves while they waited for a reaction from the blond. Lloyd flashed them a brief smile before returning to his game.

“It's nice.”

Jay released a low breath he didn't know he was holding and he could tell the noirette by his side was also relieved to hear the friendly reply. What none of them expected was that Lloyd still had something more to say.

“You're… You're good at this.” He said not looking up from his hands for even a second.

Jay's eyes opened wide, his eyebrows almost flying out of his forehead. Did Lloyd just talk to him?! Like actually talking and not just spitting bile? Cole, who was just as surprised as Jay, was quick to reply. “Right? He's got such cool ideas. You should  let him try with you someday.”

‘What?!’ Jay shrieked internally, glaring at Cole out of the corner of his eye. Lloyd laughed softly. “My hair isn't long enough.” He said, eyes fixed on the cards in front of him trying to keep the castle steady as he proceeded to add another floor.

“I'm sure Jay can pull out something. Right, Jay?” Cole elbowed his companion.

Jay went speechless. The scene unfolding before his eyes looked like something from another world. Lloyd had actually talked to him, like a normal person, without nasty remarks nor long faces, and he wasn't going crazy at the fact that Cole was suggesting they could get along. And, oh, wow, Lloyd was even looking at him now! Was the blond really waiting for a response?

“I… uhm… guess I… could try.” Eloquent Jay said.

The corners of Lloyd's mouth pulled up again for a second before he went back to focus on his construction. Jay was gawking, he turned towards Cole who grinned at him happily before patting his back as if to compliment the ginger head. That was the first time Jay and Lloyd had had any type of civil conversation. It was a big step forward!

Jay didn't have much time to think if he should try to keep talking with the boy or not, when a tall blond walked back into the room.

Usually Zane would gently remind them to finish anything they were up to and head together to the dining hall, but that night things were different. Even Jay could tell the concerned expression in his pale companion.

“What's up?” Asked Cole.

Zane shook his head, as if he was still trying to resolve some kind of complicated puzzle. “There's no one in the hall.” He let his words fill the silent room.

“No one? So what? You know Kai and Nya rarely get there first.”

“No, I mean no one. It's deserted, Cole. There are no servants nor any food prepared.”

“There’s no food?!” The noirette yelled, jumping from his bed in a flash.

Zane motioned for them to follow him out of the room. The three boys abandoned their comfortable spots and walked behind the blonde to the dining hall on the other wing.

The place was without doubt empty, which made no sense at all. They weren’t too early, it was certainly dinner time, and while sometimes the Maharaja or his sister would arrive a bit late to the gathering, a few servants should at least been there, bringing in plates with food and making sure nothing was left behind in the kitchen. But  what the boys found in lieu of that was a silent dark chamber with an empty table. Even the cushions they used as seats were still stored away.

“What’s happening here?” Cole voiced his thoughts out loud. Everyone looked confused, which only made Jay more nervous. He had never seen the royal husbands as lost as they were at that moment.

They saw the small green boy swiftly walk away from them and towards the end of the corridor. Lloyd found a guard by the stairs and decided to question him about the strange status of the dining hall. The armored man though didn’t seem to know much about it.

“Would you happen to know where Kai or Nya might be?” Zane asked.

The guard shook his head. “I’m sorry, sir Zane, I haven’t seen the Maharaja in a while. He might still be on the lower floors.”

“Let’s go.” Cole said after sharing a look with his friends then led the way downstairs. They searched on some of the studios and offices Kai used for his important meetings with no result. After asking to a few more servants and guards, they were told Kai was not on that floor either and that he might have been caught up with his last audience. One of the servants offered to accompany them to the main floor and help them search for the monarch. The group eventually stopped in front of one of the big salons.

“Please, wait inside while I forward your message to his Highness.” The woman gestured to the door as she spoke. Cole groaned while rolling his eyes and pushing the doorknob.

“How is he even still having audiences at this time of the-” The noirette’s words were left unfinished as a delicious scent hit his senses when he opened the doors. Four pairs of eyes opened wide at the sight in front of them.

The chamber was brightly lit up, with lanterns and scented candles everywhere. A few servants and women with ornate dancer outfits were scattered around the place. The big table in the middle filled to the brim with plates of delicious looking food of all kinds and several bottles of different drinks and liquors. When their eyes rose up from there, they spotted a group of people further away over a low platform. They all held a series of musical instruments. Kai and Nya were talking to a couple of the musicians when the Maharaja turned to the entrance. His face beamed and signaled the musicians to start playing a soft welcoming tune, walking up to his lovers at the next second.

“Took you long enough.” He said, a cocky grin plastered all over his face.

The four young males stared at him, speechless and quite confused. “Uhm, what's this?” Cole moved his hands pointing everywhere, Kai chuckled.

“After all this time you still can't recognize a party when you see it?”

“A party?” Zane gasped.

“For who?” Lloyd quickly asked, fearing that another unexpected guest had arrived to their home.

Kai's eyebrows arched and looked surprised at them. “For you, silly!” None of the guys understood a thing. Kai rubbed the back of his neck while a sheepish smile crept up to his lips. “You guys did great while Pythor was here, and the Gods know he was being as annoying as ever… I wanted to make it up to you, for always sticking with me and putting up with all that royal crap of mine. Thought you might like a party, a real party , just for us.” He said looking away, for he had been slightly worried that maybe his husbands wouldn't like the surprise.

The boys stared at him for a few seconds, even though for Kai it felt like forever until a pair of strong arms snaked under his armpits and pulled him up like a baby, only to finally crash against a black clothed chest. Kai gripped tightly at Cole's broad shoulders trying to balance himself. “It's physically impossible for me to love you more than what I do right now.” Cole told him when their eyes locked. The Maharaja smiled happily as his burly lover spun him around, only coming to a stop to shower him with kisses, keeping the brunette firmly pressed against himself.

“Hey, don't hog him!” Lloyd whined, playfully trying to pull Kai down from the big man.

“How can I not? He's the best!” Cole replied laughing and gripping the Maharaja even tighter.

“Kai, that's so sweet of you.” Said Zane getting by their side.

“So you guys like it?”

Zane nodded while Cole kissed him once more and Lloyd let out a bubbly ‘I love it!’ Kai chuckled, pulling the two blonds closer when Cole finally put him down on the floor.

 

A royal gathering was something impressive, but this… this was way better. The overall atmosphere was a lot more relaxed and enjoyable than when Pythor had been sitting around the table. No member of the royal family was wearing fancy attires —at least not fancier than what was already the norm for them. No make-up nor annoying jewelry snagging onto everything, they were all just casually chatting like any other night, yet it all felt different somehow; much friendlier, much more intimate and affectionate. It was just the six of them, the same old people, the same old jokes, but the chamber was noisier than ever; and not just because of the constant cheerful music, but because of everyone's happy mood.

The improvised party had taken all the royal spouses by surprise but each one of them welcomed the opportunity with open arms. It was pretty obvious that they haven't got much chances to spend time together like that lately. Playing board games and chilling out with a cup of tea in their hands was nice, but a party offered them new ways to have fun; they could be loud, they could be dumb, they could dance and run around the place! Lloyd managed to join the musicians in a jam session, a bit conscious of his skills at first, but any nerves were shaken away as soon as Kai cheered on him. The Maharaja quickly got up from his seat to prance along with the dancers. His sister joined him to start some kind of competition to see who could rock their hips better. Obviously Zane got pronounced as the judge.

Jay tittered from his seat, amused at the show taking place before his eyes. It was the first time he was seeing everyone being so carefree, so happy. Specially Kai. The way the monarch was laughing and grinning goofily at his husbands was different from other times. It looked more genuine in a way, not that it ever looked fake before but that night his smiles seemed to truly come straight from his heart, without any type of filter.

A change in the weight of the cushion by his side made Jay jump slightly. Cole had plopped down next to him, holding a plate full of some crunchy coconut coated chicken meat. He offered it to Jay and the boy decided to grab one of the small pieces and stuff it into his mouth. Cole flashed him a smile as he did the same.

“You don't wanna join them?” The noirette asked referring to the dancing idiots.

Jay shook his head. “I don't know how to dance.”

“Does Kai even? Look at him, he's not even in synch with the music.” Cole laughed, trying to keep his voice down, though he doubted the others would hear him, they were also laughing and shouting on their own.

Jay snorted. “He does look like he knows what he's doing.”

“Yeah, well, this might have something to do,” Cole said reaching for his cup and gulping down the remaining liquor that rested inside. “After a few of these his shyness just flies away.” Cole said throwing his hand onwards as if to replicate the movement of a bird.

“Kai shy? Since when?” Jay asked scrunching up his face for a second and definitely not believing his peer.

“Since forever. It's hard to tell now but he used to be a lot more shy and self-conscious back in the days.”

“You mean… when you guys met?”

Cole nodded and reached for another piece of meat, missing the inquisitive stare that Jay sent his way. Jay’s curiosity picked up, Cole had once said that he met Kai when they were still pre-teenagers and he started working as a servant for the royal family. How did these two get together? From afar it seemed impossible that a mere servant could get so close to a prince, even less managing to start a romantic relationship with the heir of Ninjago.

Jay wanted to ask Cole about it but he somehow felt that was a too intrusive question at the moment, the mood had been so light and happy the whole night and he didn’t want to sour it, so he decided to go for something else. He just really liked talking to Cole.

“Is he always like this at parties?” Jay asked, still very much shocked at the different behavior the monarch had sported the previous week with their guests, but maybe that had been an exception because, let’s be honest, who would want to party with someone as horrid as lord Chumsworth?

“What do you mean?” The oblivious lad asked.

“Uhm… Well…” Jay thought for a bit, trying to find a polite way to voice his thoughts. “I haven't been to many royal parties but, comparing this to the ones from last week… those were more like a punishment.”

Cole’s shoulders bobbed slightly with a small chuckle. “Pythor's case is special,” he said giving Jay a funny look. “But now that you mention it… Yeah, I think Kai only lets himself that free when it's just the five of us. I mean, six counting you.” The noirette took a moment to turn around and observe his family. The dance competition between the siblings seemed to have ended and Kai had switched to being sandwiched between the two blonds as they swung together along a slower tune. Nya decided to sit this one out and let her brother enjoy the moment. Cole revolved back to Jay, pensive, with a soft smile. He took the cup from earlier into his hand and resumed his speech, studying the clear content.

“Liquor might be part of the reason why he acts like that but the truth is… the drinks are just an excuse to let him lower his guard, yaknow. Right now he doesn't need to worry about what we'll think of him because we already know he's a hopeless idiot but we love him like that. I guess these are the few times when Kai feels like he can truly be himself.”

Jay narrowed his eyes at him. Truly be himself? What did that mean? Wasn’t Kai always being himself?

Cole guessed by Jay’s expression that the boy was confused and so he spoke again. “Being the ‘almighty king’ isn’t easy, you probably already noticed that. Kai wants to be a role model, not just for the people of Ninjago but also for the future land rulers and so he can’t always act as childish or stupid as he would like to be. It’s annoying sometimes but that’s how things are for us, and for him .”

A mixture of different feelings covered Jay’s features; confusion, sadness, pity. Cole looked away from him and fixed on the other boys playing together, Jay’s eyes followed suit. Kai was on the floor, laughing and rolling with Lloyd doing whoever-knows-what while Zane motherly advised them to be careful and not get hurt. It reminded Jay of his younger years, when he’d play with his dad around the junkyard full of dangerously shaped objects and his mother scolded them both for being reckless. The young male couldn’t comprehend how such a casual and familiar scene could be something rare in this place, nor why did Kai have to restrain himself from acting this affectionate with his own family .

It definitely wasn’t fair. Kai was the Maharaja, the most important person in these lands! He more than anyone else should had no restrictions over his actions. And then Jay saw them; the invisible chains than hung from Kai’s wrists as he moved around. He’d been born with them and it was the price that any son of a Maharaja had to pay to live the comfortable royal life. He could act dumb if he wanted but everyone expected him to lead the nation to a bright future, he could be selfish if he wanted to but that would only make the people poorer, he could marry whoever he wanted but everyone the world expected a pure lineage as royal families would be, he could stick it in whatever whole he wished to but there would always be someone who’d judge him for not choosing ‘the correct one’.

The invisible chains moved along as Kai jumped and chased his lovers around, they snaked over them, never restraining him in a physical plane nor tangling with their limbs dangerously. They were bright, golden, almost gorgeous, their length would change every now and then but their ends were clearly anchored somewhere in the palace, invisible to the naked eye.

In the end Kai was just as captive as Jay.

 

“Hey, guys, come’re a second.” Kai said after a while. The dancers retreated to a spot reserved for them to take a small break while the Maharaja gathered with the rest of his family around the table.

“What's up, Kai? Ran out of stamina already?” Cole chuckled patting his back.

“You wish, I'm still not done with you.” Kai bit back. He waited until everyone was sitting as close to him as possible. “I wanted to thank you again. I can't really express how happy and grateful I am to have you all in my life. I don't know where I would be to this day if I hadn't found you.” The spouses smiled at him, a subtle pink tinted their cheeks, even Jay's lips couldn't help twisting up on the sly. He'd never seen Kai being so soft-spoken. Admittedly, it was an endearing sight.

“So I… wanted to give you something in return.” Kai finally said in an excited sing-song voice as he clapped his hands twice. One of the servants approached the group holding a few small packets which he placed in Kai's hands. The Maharaja thanked him and the man marched out of the room. Kai cleared his voice as he picked one of the envelopes.

“Zane, this one's for you.” He handed the blond a medium-sized bulge that was quite heavy. “It's a set of wooden perfumes. Thought you might wanna try something new when you're meditating.”

“Oh, Kai, you didn't have too.” Zane leaned closer to give his husband a hug.

“I did have to! I told you guys, you're so amazing, I truly don't deserve you all.” Kai said squeezing him back. The monarch then faced the other blond while picking up a thinner rectangular envelope. “There, for you, Lloyd.” The boy studied the object, pressing his fingers softly against it to try and guess what was inside. It felt soft but robust at the same time.

“You won't believe what it is.” The Maharaja beamed while his spouse looked at him waiting for some kind of clue. “You know those illustrated books you like so much? Well I found one from an artist who lives on the other side of the continent, way past the ocean. It has lots of drawings of strange animals.”

Kai watched as Lloyd's face lit up with emotion. The blond looked at him, then at the object in his hands, then back to Kai again. “C-can I open it?”

Kai grinned. How could he say ‘no’ to such sweet loving eyes? Against the tradition, Lloyd quickly pulled the cords and unwrapped the protection to extract the book in question. The moment he opened it at a random page his eyes sparkled with joy. The pictures were beautiful, the style in which they were drawn was also very different from what he was used to see in his other books. He'd never seen that kind of textured lines, the way the ink was freely splattered to create patterns was so interesting. He turned the page and, certainly, was greeted with the drawing of a creature he had never seen before; it looked like some kind of very thin dog or a funny looking rat.

“Pine… marten.” Lloyd read the small note near the image. “Look, Zane! What's this?”

The taller blond carefully inspected the page. “Uhm… I've never heard of that one, but it looks similar to weasels, maybe they're from the same species.”

“I've never seen a weasel before.”

“It's hard to spot them around here.”

Kai suppressed a laugh. He already knew Zane would like the book too, not that he minded seeing his favorite blonds bonding together —actually it was exactly the opposite.

When Lloyd noticed he had lost his focus for a moment, he launched over Kai, almost tearing up as he embraced the brunette tightly and covered his face with small sweet kisses. “Thank you, thank you! I love it, and I love you too!”

Kai chuckled among the affectionate gestures. “That makes me so happy.” He said pulling Lloyd's chin up and onto his lips to dive together into a gentle long kiss. After learning how depressed Lloyd had been weeks ago, Kai resolved to do doing his best to keep the boy content and loved.

After a few seconds, a throat being cleared made them pull apart. “So…” Cole started. “I guess this one's for me then.” He said reaching down to pick the last package but Kai quickly batted his hand away.

“No! … Actually that's Jay's.”

The freckled boy flinched at the mention of his name and his mind froze completely when he went over the words again. Everyone was just as much surprised as him.

“W-what?” Jay stuttered blinking repeatedly. Kai placed the small box in his hands.

“It's yours.”

Jay tried to push the object back onto Kai, his hands shaking nervously with confusion. “No, no, I can’t accept it, I…” Jay had already received enough expensive goods to procure him a debt that would last until his last reincarnation.

“Aw, don't play hard-to-get with me, of course you can,” the brunette insisted, using his soft caramel fingers to open Jay's fists and place the gift back in his hands. “Jay, you might not be part of my family but… You're very important to me and I want to thank you for, yaknow… for just agreeing to stay here and… let me get to know you.” He finished, lowering his eyes and flushing deep red.

Without a warning the butterflies appeared again, they pressed up against the pit of Jay's stomach, urging to escape through his mouth. Why? Why were those invisible bugs messing up with Jay's insides. Had it been the fact of receiving a gift from the Maharaja? The words that Kai had just dedicated him? Or the way those moss-colored eyes seemed to sparkle before Kai looked away all embarrassed.

Jay felt the gazes of the other boys on himself, they were obviously dying to know the outcome of the conversation. Jay looked at Cole out of the corner of his eye. The noirette shrugged with a smile, Jay wasn't exactly sure what that gesture meant. He was still struggling, thinking what to do when Kai sheepishly lifted his eyes back to Jay's electric blue ones.

“O-okay… Thank you, I guess…” He muttered finally, tightening his grip around the little box. Kai's eyes opened wide and Jay would swear that the grin that had just appeared in the Monarch's lips was one of the prettiest and most sincere ones he had ever witnessed.

Kai, forgetting any unspoken rules about personal space threw himself over Jay, locking his arms around the boy as they both fell back and onto the floor. “I hope you'll like it. It's a-”

“Hey, wait a minute.” The noirette cut in breaking their small intimate moment. “Does that mean… there's no gift for me?”

Kai stared at his husband, the slight irritation he felt due to the interruption faded away as soon as he saw the innocent and preoccupied look in Cole's features. Kai laughed against Jay's head and sat up with a rapid move. “Yes, Cole, there's no gift for you because I obviously forgot to get something for the person who has done more for me than anyone else.”

Cole stared dumbfounded at Kai. “Uh…” he mumbled hesitantly, rubbing a hand over his arm. The smile that had been on him almost the whole dinner was replaced with slight hurt.

Kai hurried to get to him, cupping Cole's face and pecking his lips happily. “Babe, I was kidding! Shit, you can be really dumb sometimes. I'd never forget about you!” At this Cole's face lit up again, omitting the casual insult from his husband.

“Where is it?” He asked looking around desperately.

Kai laughed again then looked at the door as he shouted “Dudou, you can come in now!”

Everyone watched as the big door opened, revealing the servant that had left minutes ago. The man was holding a big tray in his hands with a silver covered platter, he walked closer to the group, carefully stepping by their side until he finally reached the table and placed the tray down on it. The man bowed in respect and moved away, his job was done.

The boys were curiously looking at the platter, Cole raised an eyebrow at Kai. “Go ahead, open it.” The tradition said gifts weren't supposed to be opened in front of the gifter, but Cole's case was a bit special.

The noirette suspiciously eyed the shiny cover, starting to guess what would be underneath, but in sooth he was not prepared for what he discovered when he lifted it up. “For Vishnu's incarnations!” He couldn't help but yell. There on the silver platter rested a mouth-watering extra big two floor chocolate cake. It was shiny, with pale decorations made of almonds that contrasted against the dark color of the juicy biscuit, and the smell was truly delicious. Someone would say you'd get fat just by stealing a look at it.

“You said you wanted a cake; well, how about a double chocolate cake?” Kai smiled triumphantly as he acknowledged the evident joy in Cole's eyes. He couldn't say much more though, for Cole pulled him into rib-crushing hug laughing like there was no tomorrow.

“Oh, man! Kai, you're amazing!”

“So I've been told…” The monarch said with a weak voice, not daring to ask his husband to release him until the embrace became more than what he could bear. “You have to share though, that's the only condition.”

“Since when do gifts come with conditions?”

“Since I said so. I'm the king, remember? I make the rules.”

Cole and Kai had a little  stare fight for a moment, but the noirette soon exploded in loud laughter and pulled his husband in again for another hug. “I can't get mad at you right now.”

 

The night went on. They ate, and played, and drank and played again... It was a never ending cycle of bubbly shouts and jokes all the time. Everything was so perfect. Kai couldn't believe the party he had just started planning 72 hours earlier was actually going smoother than he ever thought. He couldn't have prepared everything so fast without Nya's help; hiring the musicians, the dancers, finding the gifts, moving appointments to the days after... Ah, how grateful did Kai feel for having such a sweet and smart sister. She could be annoying sometimes but he knew he could count on her whenever he had a problem that couldn't be addressed to his lovers.

Setting up a party to spend time together and just go crazy had been probably the best idea he'd had in weeks. Everyone looked so happy, his spouses were definitely having the time of their lives. They were currently engaged in a blind man's buff game, with Zane being the blindfolded one. Nya and the guys ran around him, trying to distract him with their voices as the poor blond tried to catch them. Considering how careful Zane’s steps were that round was going to take a while. Kai looked around, keeping track of were everyone was at the moment. His spouses and Nya had decided to delimit the game area a bit farther away from the dining table so they wouldn’t bump into it that easily. Only one person was left; a certain ginger head with the cutest freckled face on Earth.

Last round Jay had been the one deprived of his sight, and while he really had fun playing like a child again, he said the blindfold had left him dizzy and would rather rest for a bit. Jay had then settled to sit by the table on the same cushion he'd been occupying the whole night. He was looking down at his hands, his eyes clearly unfocused as his mind seemed to fly to unknown realms.

Kai didn't like seeing him all alone. With a quick gesture at Nya, Kai told his sister he was backing away from the game for a while. The princess raised her thumb in return.

Jay didn’t realize someone had sat next to him until Kai leaned closer and his chocolate hair appeared in his field of vision. Jay gasped, the small box in his hands jumped along with him before he swiftly shoved it behind himself, Kai though didn’t miss the detail.

“Hey,” Greeted the brunette. “Ya’ feelin’ any better?”

Jay stuttered in return, a bit shocked and confused, his mind still coming back from whatever deep thoughts he was immersed in. Kai gestured to the playing group in order to make his question clearer. “Oh,” Jay said silently. “Y-yeah, I’m better.” The way he nudged the little present a bit further away didn’t go unnoticed by the monarch.

Kai smiled and reached to grab a couple of cups, pouring some more booze into them. He offered one of the fancy bowls to the boy next to him, Jay declined politely. Kai didn’t feel offended in the slightest and quickly emptied one of the cups in his mouth, feeling the sweet aromatized liquor burn his throat as it went down to his stomach. He knitted his eyebrows together, pulling a funny face that made Jay snort subtly.

“Want me to get you something? Some more juice, or corn, or another slice of Cole’s cake?”

“I’m fine, thank you… I’m pretty full to be honest.”

“No, you’re not. Look I can even feel your ribs yet!” Kai said quickly brushing his hands along Jay’s sides and giving them firm squeezes. Jay jumped and squealed at the monarch’s maneuvers. “See? You’re ticklish! That means your belly isn’t full enough.” Jay squirmed, nervously trying to get away. Kai was touching him so familiarly yet he couldn’t help but laugh along with the brunette.

“Okay! Okay! I’ll eat! Just stop it, gosh!” Jay shouted in surrender and quickly grabbed the first thing from the table that his hand could reach, he drove a small piece of peach into his mouth and munched it with fake enthusiasm.

“That’s what I like!” The monarch chirped. Jay frowned at him in slight irritation but Kai’s undying elation passed onto him in a matter of seconds. The ginger head suddenly felt himself being pulled into a hug, with Kai’s hand gently covering his shoulders and bringing him closer until the brunette’s head rested against Jay’s temple. Jay’s breath hitched at the intimacy of their position. He didn’t dare to move a finger, He could even feel Kai’s eyelashes tickling the side of his face as the boy blinked every now and then, making every hair in Jay’s body stand on end. Both guys stayed still, in silence, while the rest of the family kept playing and being noisy a few feet away.

“Are you having fun?” Kai’s voice came out almost in a whisper, fanning Jay’s neck like a warm wind, a wind that made his stomach twist again —although not in sheer aversion.

Shaky as he was, Jay could only utter a hum in return. “That makes me happy.” Feeling his waist aching slightly at the awkward way it was bent, the Maharaja shifted in his spot, sitting casually next to Jay, his arm abandoned Jay’s shoulders and fell to the small space between their bodies. Kai flashed him another smile and the familiar butterflies exploded again in Jay’s insides, this time though they seemed to have taken a liking for his heart. They flew around the organ, caressing it genlty with the edges of their non-existent velvety wings. What was that feeling? Why was Jay even feeling something at such a small action?

“I’m so glad you’re here with us tonight,” Kai said after a while. He was looking ahead towards the table, still full of food, but his words were clearly directed at the boy that was next to him. “Ever since you arrived… I don’t know how to say it but, everything feels more complete, ya’know. It’s like… you’re the little spark we all needed to get things to finally work.”

Jay felt something on his limb and looked down. There, in the small space between their bodies where his pale hand was resting on the floor, Kai’s pinky was softly brushing against the side of Jay’s hand. It moved slow, almost hesitantly, until the short digit hooked between two of Jay’s fingers. The ginger head stared at the shy contact, taken aback when Kai’s hair blocked his vision and the Maharaja’s head leaned on his shoulder.

A breath got caught up in Jay’s throat. He stayed still, utterly astonished at Kai’s change of behaviour. The flirty annoying brat he met on his first days in the palace was nowhere to be seen now. Truth was he noticed Kai had been softening lately, and not because of much he had been spoiling him but overall, the boy that was next to Jay at that moment was more caring, sweeter, still a tease but definitely more sentimental, it was obvious in the loving way he was clinging onto Jay. Was that… the real Kai? The true personality hidden under the facade of a confident and outgoing young souverain as Cole suggested? If that was the case, maybe Jay could eventually fall-

He squeezed his eyes shut while shaking his head. No! No way! What was he even thinking?! Jay would never feel something remotely romantical for another male, even less Kai! He was surely misunderstanding his own feelings, he just… he liked Kai as a friend . Yes, it had to be that! Jay realized he had judged him too soon and severely and now was feeling guilty for that, even pitied the brunette for having to live such a complicated frivolous life. Jay’s own hadn’t been easy either but at least he never had to pretend to be a different person so people would respect him. He wasn’t in love, what he felt for Kai was something else —no, it had to be something else. Compassion? Tenderness? Maybe even admiration for being able to rule an entire kingdom at such a young age? Yes, yes, beyond a shadow of doubt, he just admired Kai.

But was admiration supposed to make someone’s heartbeat go that crazy?

Jay’s agitation soon was noticed by the boy resting on his shoulder. Kai pulled back and brushed a gentle hand over Jay’s back. “You okay?”

At the break of the close contact, Jay seemed to relax just enough to put his brain to work and finally gathered up a few words. “Y-yeah, I’m fine...” He said looking away from Kai. The monarch observed him, his attention span might have diminished a little due to all the drinks he’d had but Kai could still read the signs of an restless person. And Jay was definitely restless at that moment.

“Are you tired?” Kai’s question made Jay look back at him. He nodded slowly. He was indeed tired, maybe not physical but mentally. Everything that happened on the very last minutes was making his mind spin.

The Maharaja glanced up at his family for a second; it was on Nya currently. Kai knew his family would probably enjoy the party until they all passed out from exhaustion, after all they didn’t get to do this too often. Kai lazily got up from the floor, wobbling a bit before he felt secure enough on his own feet to pull Jay up. “Come with me.” Kai picked up the small box that Jay had been trying to keep hidden for the past minutes and threw it at him. “Don’t forget this.” He told the blue eyed boy with a wink.

Kai pulled Jay out of the room. They walked without haste along the palace, going up the stairs and more stairs. Jay tried to ask where were they headed to, but the only response he got in return was a simple smile. Another one of those damn stomach-flipping smiles.

Sooner thereafter they reached the top floor. Kai guided Jay towards the bedroom wing, the anxious boy stopped when he found himself in front of Kai’s royal chamber. The brunette though flashed him a reassuring grin and Jay let Kai pull him further into the room. The monarch walked around the place, lighting up a couple of lamps and making sure their brilliance was just enough for them to tell the things that were around. Jay clutching at the small box as if his life depended on it.

“Thought you might want to move somewhere quieter. The guys will probably be up for a while yet, it’s been long since the last time we had a party like tonight’s.” Kai explained, Jay was still standing still by the door, nonplussed.

Kai giggled at his disoriented face. “Don’t be shy, it’s not your first time here. Just plop down wherever you want.” The Maharaja gestured around his room exaggeratedly. Jay made an effort to regain control over his body. He looked around and decided to sit down on one of the low sofas. Kai wasted a moment to take his outer shirt off, it had always felt weird for him to be in his room with several layers of clothing. He threw the shirt onto the bed before walking to the couches and dropped himself on the empty space right next to Jay.

“Aren't cha’ gonna open it?” The Maharaja slurred pointing at the small packet in the pale hands, the inebriation in his voice sounded a bit more clear now amidst the silence of the chamber.

Jay eyed the object. “Uhm, I can't while you're here.”

“Lloyd already opened his so it doesn't really matter. Go ahead, open it. I'm kinda curious to see your reaction.” Kai reassured him. Jay looked down at his hands again and gave it another thought, his fingers finally fumbled with the knot of the wrapping. The box underneath turned to be quite a fancy looking container, despite its small size it was big enough to fit in a few decorations along the edges. It remembered him of some of those small chests the royal spouses used to store their jewelry. Jay looked at the monarch once again just to make sure he wasn't doing anything that could offend him, Kai was still showing him the same tender smile. Jay slowly pulled the lid open and narrowed his eyes, trying to make out the contents of the box. His hand reached to  take it out. A short string of shiny beads glistened with the warm shimmer that covered the room. The orbs were small, pale, of a pearly-like texture, in the middle of the string, two jewels hung together; one red shaped like a bright sun, another blue emulating the shape of a crescent moon, they were touching each other through their lips, keeping both pieces connected.

Jay stared at the fine accessory, totally speechless, all the while Kai stared at him . Jay was astonished, the colorful stones were beautiful, with vibrant colors that seemed to be from outer space. “May I?” Kai asked before taking the bracelet and placing it around Jay's wrist, struggling momentarily to secure the clasp. After he was done, he let Jay keep studying the object for a bit more. The boy rolled the pale chain around his limb, it was only slightly loose, just enough to not feel constricting but not too much that it would slip past his hand. He observed each one of the beads that composed it, paying special attention to the two colored chandra-surya. The gems were beautifully engraved and polished, they fit together so perfectly as if they had meant to be with each other since the dawn of times. And this was all Jay's? No, it couldn't. His brownish eyebrows fell together along the rest of his face.

“You don't like it?” Kai's voice didn't register in Jay's brain until a few seconds later. When they locked gazes Jay panicked.

“No, no! I-I do! It's, it's so pretty…”

“Why the long face then?”

Jay froze momentarily under the scrutinizing cat eyes of the monarch, then averted his own to the side. He knew he was being rude, but he couldn't help feeling these things weren't meant to be for a boy like him.

“It's just…” Jay finally gathered to courage to speak again. “This is all too much; the clothes, the shoes, now this… I… I shouldn't be having these things, I did nothing to deserve them.” Admittedly Jay had started to like the bright side of living a wealthy life, but he also felt guilty. He didn't work to have all that comfort, in fact all he ever had done was be stupid enough to get kidnapped by a human trafficker group. And as far as he knew , stupidity wasn't meant to be praised with pretty outfits and expensive jewels.

The bracelet was starting to itch more and more with every minute. Jay reached with his other hand to try and unclasp it when something soft slapped his face. It didn't hurt but it left him totally surprised. Kai was holding a cushion in his hand and frowning at Jay, the brunette’s face a mixture of irritation and mirth.

“I don't know if you're silly or just plain deaf.” Kai laughed. “Didn't you hear me earlier? Jay, believe it or not, you've done so much for me.”

“How?”

“I don't know, just… You're being you , and I like that, and it's all I need! I like that you don't look at me like an endless source of money. I like that you speak your mind and not just tell me what I want to hear. I like that you treat me like a boy and not a scary king. It's not easy to find people like you. And like I said, I want to thank you for staying with us, for… allowing me to become part of your life.”

A warmth washed all over Jay's body, it started from the deepest parts of his heart, spreading out towards his limbs and brain like a gentle tide, slow but powerful, until it reached the very tip of his fingers and toes, heating them up with a funny feeling. The monarch was thanking Jay for letting him in his life? When had the tables turned? Kai had everything he wanted! It was surreal to hear him speak such words —or maybe not. Kai could have anything material he ever wanted, but there was something that could never be bought with money; sincere affection. It was funny and sad at the same time; how something so simple, so tiny, something Jay never thought about could be so important for the person who represented their whole society, for the one single boy that took care of everything.

Locking eyes with Kai, Jay finally abandoned the idea of taking off the bracalet from his wrist. Maybe Kai was right, and after all this time when he thought he hadn't been doing anything useful he actually gave the monarch what he needed to be happy —whatever that was.

“Jeez, look what you made me say. I think I drank too much, I've turned into a total sap.” Kai laughed punching Jay again with the fluffy pad. And again, and again.

“Hey, what was that for?”

“I don't know what you're talking about. Is think the cushion likes you.” Kai chirped launching it again against Jay's face.

“Stop it!”

“Make me!”

Jay didn't know how it happened, but there was something in Kai's playful tone that awakened his inner child, and all at once he grabbed a nearby pillow and smacked Kai square in the face with it. The monarch countered and so did Jay, until the brunette let out a cheerful yell of 'Pillow fight!'

Both boys started to run around the room, chasing each other, throwing and picking up cushions, using them both as weapons or shields depending on their opponent's move. Jay was a bit shy at first, but when he saw Kai messily jump over the bed, couches and carpet, wrecking any previous tidiness the room ever possessed, he also let himself loose. And did his soul enjoy it! For Brahma’s sake! It had been more than a month since he could act that goofily and carefree and just be himself! Sparring in the garden with Cole was nice but this… this was something else. Jay couldn’t explain the great happiness that was flowing through his veins. And the Maharaja wasn't messing around; they were lucky the cushions were as soft as clouds would ever be, because Kai used them like a pro, barely missing a hit whenever he swung them forward against Jay's body. The freckled boy eventually picked up the same enthusiasm. Why had he been holding back all this time? Why didn't Kai show this side of him any sooner? Maybe he did but Jay had been too blind to appreciate it.

“Is that all you’ve got, beautiful?” Kai mocked after Jay’s shot barely brushed him.

“Ugh, you’re going down!” Jay groaned, rushing to the bed he picked another pillow, confidence busted up when he felt 'armed' again. Jay launched towards Kai with all his force, aiming the pad at his ribs. Little did he expect the seams of the pillow to break with the collision and release the feather stuffing in a fluffy explosion all around them. The ginger head gasped and Kai froze in the spot. “Oh gosh, I’m sorry!” Jay cried out. The monarch took the busted pad in his hands, staring down at it with sad eyes.

Jay’s blue orbs widened. Shit, he messed up! He really messed up that time! How much did that thing cost? W-were the feathers from a rare bird? Did it have some sentimental value? Would his new bracelet be enough to cover the loss?! “I- I- I’m so sorry! I just… I didn’t think it would… I- I didn’t meant to…!” Jay sputtered, already fearing the rage of the boy in front of him.

It happened so fast that Jay barely noticed the ephemeral smirk that pulled Kai’s lips up. On a fly, the broken pillow was lifted up and pulled on Jay’s head, blocking his vision and showering him with the soft and ticklish touch of the feathers. Jay stood still, totally fixed as Kai’s guffaw filled his ears. With trembling hands, Jay eventually reached up and pulled the pillowcase off his head, more feathers fell down, some got caught in his nose and lips which made the boy spit and cough. He caught sight of Kai who was laughing and clutching his stomach as tears spilled out of his eyes.

At first Jay felt irritated, he hated being made fun of, but Kai’s laughter was precious and infectious. It was the first time he heard the monarch laugh so genuinely, without restraints, not caring to express anything else than the joy he was feeling. Jay’s eyebrows relaxed slowly while the Maharaja wiped the tears off his face and tried to calm down, failing epically at it. “Stop laughing you… you… monkey!” Jay shouted, as always unsure of his insulting skills. Kai exploded in a new set of giggles. Jay eyed the pillowcase in his hands, there were still a few feathers left at the bottom. He bit his lip, grabbed a bunch of plumes and pushed them against Kai’s face. The Maharaja sputtered getting choked in his own amusement until both guys fell down on the floor, having tripped on the discarded cushions.

“You’re so mean!” Kai joked when Jay landed over him.

“You asked for it!” the other bit back with a smirk. Kai chuckled again all of sudden, making Jay tremble with the vibrations of the chest under him. “What?” Jay asked.

“You look like a bird. Hey, you're a jay bird!” And, admittedly Jay did. His hair was all messy with feathers sticking out and tangled in some of the nacarat locks.

The mention of the nickname brought an inexplicable warmth to Jay’s chest. Warmth that spread like a wildfire when Kai’s hand reached up to gently pull the small feathers away from his hair, but the name also brought up painful memories of his home. Jay rolled off from Kai when he felt their faces dangerously close to each other. He laid down on the fluffy carpet next to Kai, a hand over himself, trying to calm down his suddenly rampant heart. The use of the nickname had been a coincidence, he knew it, but that didn't make Jay’s homesickness more bearable at all.

Not a minute after, a hot body clung to him. Jay looked down, only to find Kai’s eyes staring at him dreamily. The Maharaja placed a leg between Jay’s, hooking his ankle around Jay’s calves and wrapped a hand over Jay’s waist, letting his head fall on Jay’s chest.

Ah, too much for the the poor ginger head to get a moment of peace and organize his feelings. The boys lay together in silence for a while, every minute that passed made Jay more anxious and confused. Kai’s breathing was soft and gentle against Jay’s neck, his hand on the blue clothed waist caressed up and down slowly. “Thank you, Jay. It’s been long since I’ve had this much fun.” Kai purred against him. Contrary to his agitation, Jay fought to stay calm and quiet, which was hard considering how close his and Kai’s bodies were. “I’m so happy to have met you.” The monarch whispered lovingly.

The words left Jay flabbergasted. It wasn’t just the meaning of the sentence, which was deeper than it might seem to other people, but also the way Kai uttered the words. They rolled out of his mouth, low, almost shyly, as if Kai was embarrassed to acknowledge how much he yearned for Jay, how much did he need him, how much did he want the boy to just stay there, lying on the floor of his royal chamber, forever merged in a gentle embrace.

Something ignited inside of Jay, a tiny flame that warmed up his heart in a way he had never experienced before. For the first time in all his lifetime Jay felt needed , felt like he was important, vital for someone else other than his parents. And that someone happened to be the most powerful person in all of Ninjago; the almighty but very vulnerable king.

“Uh… Me… Me too…” Jay said after a beat, feeling it wasn’t polite to keep up his awkward silence after Kai’s confession. His hand followed Kai’s over his waist and gave it a soft, friendly squeeze. Kai flinched and automatically nuzzled Jay’s torso with a childish grin, Jay reminded himself to relax once more and not break the tender moment they were sharing. He felt Kai’s breath hitching as their fingers intertwined and the brunette leaned even closer, body pressing tight against Jay, so much that he could even feel Kai’s heart on him, beating wild.

Jay’s mind went back to his own world of chaos. Endless questions crossed his unconsciousness. Why was he letting Kai cling to him that way? Why did he tell him he was happy to have met him too? Why was he not pulling away at such intimate contact with another young male? Jay didn’t know the answer to any of these questions, but at that moment he didn’t want to know either. He could only let himself relax into the fondness of the moment, showered by the moonlight.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

After a while, Jay grew so used to Kai’s body heat that he couldn't help but relax to the point he started to fall asleep, the soft feathers that still lingered all over the place provided for an even more sleep-inducer formula. Everything was so silent, so peaceful, so safe. It had been long since Jay felt that way, maybe it was even the first in forever.

Jay was falling asleep so happily that he didn't notice the monarch nuzzling his neck a bit rougher than usual, nor the way his hand abandoned Jay’s and eventually returned to his waist, pressing the pads of his fingers against the fabric with more force. It wasn’t until Kai’s knee started to rub between his legs that Jay’s eyes shot open with a veil of confusion.

“K-Kai?” he asked taken aback, only getting a hum in response as the indiscreet knee moved higher and pressed against Jay’s crotch. “W-what are you doing?!”

“Nothing...” Kai whispered back, his teeth grazing Jay’s neck. The brunette pushed himself up and the next thing Jay knew was that Kai was lying on his body, firmly pinning Jay to the floor. Kai’s head hid again in the crook of Jay’s neck, only to let his lips brush over the sensitive skin, leaving a trail of small kisses.

“Kai…!”

“You’re so beautiful… And you smell so good...” Kai groaned. His hot breath against Jay’s ear made all of the boy’s hairs stand on end.

“K-Kai! Stop...” Jay whimpered trying to push the monarch off of him but damn, was he strong! Or had the shock taken all of Jay’s strength away?!

“Just a lil’, please, just... lemme pleasure you… for a bit...” Kai mumbled latching his lips on Jay’s neck and sucking lustfully at the skin, making it almost impossible to decipher his words. An odd mixture of excitement and disgust washed over Jay at the sensation of Kai’s tongue against his pulsing spot.

“No, no, Kai… Don’t... P-please...” But it was no use; everytime Jay managed to push him away a few inches, Kai rutted against him, clinging more desperately to his body and groaning at the close contact when their bodies collided again. Jay didn't know what to do, he couldn't even understand why that was happening. They were fine just a moment ago, embracing each other like good old friends.

Could it be…?

Could Kai actually have mistaken Jay's friendliness for something deeper in his drunken state?

The monarch breathed hotly against him, wrapping an arm behind Jay’s shoulders and pushing the boy’s chest up slightly to keep kissing and devouring his neck, while his other hand drifted further down, pulling the edge of Jay’s shirt up and hiding under the clothing. Kai’s hot fingers caressed Jay’s lean frame, dancing all over the skin until they took a break and gripped Jay’s body hard and firm with desire. Jay sucked in another breath, a pathetic small squeal escaping from him. He trembled, feeling an explosion of weird tickles in his stomach, Jay couldn’t believe the sudden heat that washed all over his nerves. Wasn’t alcohol supposed to mess with a person’s brain and not their body?! He had to run, he had to get away from this perverse place, but how?! His legs wouldn’t respond, his arms felt weak and gooey, unable to break free from Kai’s racy embrace.

“Oh, Jay…” Kai moaned against his neck, the caramel hand kept moving all over Jay’s tummy, rubbing lubricious circles on the protuberance of the hip bone. Jay felt his eyes start to get watery and his mind clouded with anxiety. He bit his own lip hard. Jay was doomed, he had let his guard down a second time and he was going to pay for his recklessness once and for all in the most humiliating way. He was going to be raped, he was going to be used like a toy, manhandled against his will, and it would all be his damn fault because, once again, he had been too nice to the wrong people.

Jay tossed his head aside, glueing his cheek to the carpeted floor, ready to bow to fate and cry until he passed out, anything but being awake through it —although considering his misfortune his brain would probably betray him and keep him fully awake during the whole nightmare. The Gods surely wanted him to learn the fucking lesson this time. Then a faint glint caught his attention. The box! The small gift box was there on the low table, a short distance away from him. Jay remembered it felt a bit heavy back when it had been in his hands. It was surely made of some strong wood and the decorations seemed metallic somehow, they were surely hard. Maybe he could use it; he only needed a distraction to get Kai off from him and flee to the safety of… of… well, any place would be safer than a closed room with a drunk libidinous boy!

Stealthily Jay drew his hand closer to the furniture, stretching his arm ever-so-carefully so Kai wouldn't notice the action, though the Maharaja seemed way too focused on soaking Jay's neck with that lecherous tongue of his.

Just a little more, just a couple more inches.

“Jay, talk to me... I wanna hear your pretty voice…” Kai slurred, hardly separating his lips from Jay's skin, then sucked generously making his way up to the pale earlobe and giving it tiny little bites.

Another potent shiver rushed through Jay, it stiffened the short hairs of his nape, but he decided to play along. “I-I… uhm… please…" Jay muttered, he could almost feel the former container with the pads of his fingers. Come on, it's right there!

“Yeah, baby? What do you want?” Kai murmured, leaving a trail of kisses down Jay's jaw, pausing at the throat briefly to swirl his tongue around Jay's Adam apple. Jay's hips unconsciously bucked up as he flinched scared. The sudden bump only pushed Kai harder against him, making the boy groan with what he understood as an invitation. Kai's lips moved lower, finding new residence in Jay's collarbone. "Oh, fuck… You're gonna love my mouth…" Kai whispered, eagerness clear in his voice as he licked Jay and quickly drove his hand down, cupping Jay through the blue pants.

Thud.

When the small box finally rolled onto Jay's palm, he gripped it hard and with inhuman speed, smacked it against Kai's head with the little force Jay still had in him. The Maharaja screamed at the sharp pain, the box wasn't hard enough to knock him out, probably not even to make him bleed, but it provided the perfect break in Kai’s balance for Jay to push him aside.

Kai rolled onto the floor next to Jay, grabbing at his head with a hiss. “Agh, what the f-?”

Jay rapidly crawled backwards until his back hit the couch. His legs were yet shaky with fear but his mind was fully functional again, and with the coldest of tones he yelled back at Kai. “I said don't touch me with your disgusting hands, you filthy freak!” Wow, it turned out all Jay needed to unlock his insulting skills was having a brat molest him —shall as well make a note about it.

Jay didn't know what was he expecting after his first successful scorn, but it definitely wasn't the scene that was taking place before his eyes. Ever since his last words died in the silence of the room, Kai had went still, totally frozen in the spot, half sitting half lying on the floor just a couple of feet away from Jay. His hands tightly squeezing the carpet, his hazel eyes hidden in the shadows of the cinnamon bangs. It was as if time had decided to stop at that right moment. Even Jay, who had been so determined to flee at the first chance, felt unable to move in the awkward ambience.

“You…”

Jay watched as Kai slowly rose up from the floor, and it wasn’t until then that Jay discovered the real meaning behind the word 'terror’. Kai's arms were shaking from how hard he was clenching his fists. His figure big and imposing with the dim lights. Eyebrows knitted together so hard you could make out the veins in his forehead and jaw, his eyes bloodshot with animal fury. All breath disappeared from Jay's lungs as if by magic. He'd never seen such a scary look, not even from his kidnappers! Kai was clearly mad and his contorted face terrified Jay to no ends.

The startled boy leaned his arms on the couch to try and pull himself up. He had to go! He couldn't stay a minute longer in this house. Kai looked like he wanted to kill him. With clumsy legs Jay opted to round the couch, that wasn't getting him any closer to the door but it somehow made him feel safer, knowing that the more obstacles he put between them the higher the chances he got to keep his head over his shoulders.

“You…!” Kai mumbled again, rage burning wild in his eyes. ‘Now!’ Jay thought when he caught Kai blinking. The young male ran around the set of seats.

“How you dare call me that ?!” The Maharaja roared, jumping like a hungry beast over Jay and tackling him onto the floor, knocking all of Jay's breath out of his trembling body. Kai was sitting on him, fists pulling Jay up by the collar of his shirt, bending his torso forward painfully.

“You... Damn... Trash…” Kai's voice was as hoarse as ever, there was an obvious death sentence in his words. Jay's shaky hands darted up and over Kai's, trying to get them off himself, for he was getting suffocated. Kai's breathing was ragged, coming out in short heavy huffs. He glared at Jay for a few more seconds as if deciding which would be the worst and most painful death for him. Kai finally released his grip on Jay, tossing the boy to the side with a scorn. The ginger head hit the floor hard while Kai swiftly opened the door.

“Guards! Guards! Come here right now!” His intimidating voice echoed in the hallway. In a matter of seconds two strong armored men appeared by the threshold. “Arrest him!” Kai ordered with a voice full of hate.

The men shared a confused look between each other. “But… Your Majesty, that's…”

“I am fully aware of who he is and I want him out of my sight!” The men, although not quite comprehending, went to work, pulling Jay up from the floor by his arms and firmly keeping his limbs on his back. The boy of course tried to resist, but if he barely stood a chance against Kai, there was so little he could do to free himself from the strong grip of two muscular man who'd been trained to be royal guards.

“Lock him up in the nastiest cell we've got. I don't want to see his face ever again!” Kai instructed, the guards seemed to doubt for a second. “Now!!!” he blasted, and with that the two men knew they were in no position to argue against their souverain.

“No! No! No, please!” Jay tried to wriggle out of the men grasp as they pulled him out of the room. “Let me go! I didn’t do anything! I- Please!” He begged time after time while the guards dragged him downstairs. Jay was panicking, his lungs were hurting from hyperventilation while his eyes desperately scrutinized his surroundings. There had to be something, anything that could help him get out of this mess. The carpet? A vase? A sculpture? Damn, he forgot he couldn’t use his arms, he had no type of weapon to protect himself, he was alone in this!

No, no he wasn’t.

“Cole! Cole, please, help me!” He shouted in every direction as he remembered his friend. The noirette cared about him and he was strong, he could fight the guards and protect him, maybe even help him escape this nightmare. Jay couldn't remember where was the hall of the party located exactly but if he shouted loud enough Cole would surely hear him and come to his rescue.

One of the guards sighed irritated by the high-pitched screams. “Sorry, kid.” And that was the last thing Jay heard before something hit him on the back of his head and the world turned black.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Once the door closed with a depressing sound, Kai went on a rampage around his room. He screamed and shouted, throwing anything that was at his grasp against the floor or the walls, the furniture got all ruined and shoved wildly onto the floor, any sculpture or small decoration ended up into pieces. He even broke his favorite mirror.

'Stop it!’

Kai gripped his hair with enough force to rip it off of his head.

'Please!’

He could control it. He had been doing so for a few years already. He just had to concentrate on something else. Something else, come on!

‘Dad, no more!’

Kai collapsed by his bed, a deep desperate yowl ripping his throat as he gripped the sheets tightly and cried his heart out for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

“Aah…” Jay hissed as his consciousness came back. His skull ached as if it’d been stepped on by a hundred elephants. Gosh, why did it hurt so much, was he bleeding? His hand reached up, or at least it tried to, Jay gasped when he felt his other hand moving along the first limb, something cold was around his wrists, keeping them close to each other.

All his memories came rushing down like a waterfall; the royal room, Kai, the kisses, the blow and... Jay sat up with a gasp, his head screaming as the shackles around his wrists clanked, filling the silence. He looked around; the place was filled with total darkness, cold and certainly smelly. It didn't take a genius to point out he was in some kind of grubby cell.

No, no, no! Not this again! Jay wiggled his legs to find no restraints on them. Well, at least he wouldn't have to be laying on that cold ground forever. He felt around the darkness until his hands reached a wall and he leaned on it to stand up. His head was pounding, what did those guards even use to knock him out? Or was that a side effect of the liquor he'd had that night? He could swear he didn't drink that much but he'd never had any alcohol before.

He walked slowly, following the wall with his hands until a glimmer appeared in sight. Jay followed the faint light, the texture of the wall suddenly changed, it wasn't rocky anymore, it was wood. He was standing by a door! The soft light source revealed to be a small opening in the entrance that served as a window to communicate with the other side. Jay quickly stuck his face between the bars, trying to get a glimpse at the outside. Even though he only met more darkness, the light that came from a far point in the distance was enough to make out a hallway with more barred doors.

“Hello? Can anyone hear me?! Cole?! Zane?! Someone, please help me!” Jay cried out, pulling at the bars next to his cheeks. He could feel his lungs swelling with desperation and pressing up painfully against his heart.

Amidst his cries Jay's ears picked up something; a small series of sounds that seemed to grow more evident as seconds ticked. Footsteps! Jay waited with anticipation, hoping whoever was going to appear in his vision would be kind enough to help him out of that place. Sadly one wouldn’t always get what they wanted.

A guard appeared on the other side. Jay couldn’t tell if it was one of the pair from earlier, there wasn’t enough light to see the face clearly. “Hey, keep it down.” The man barked. Jay’s breath shook as he exhaled under the cold stare. 

“P-please… you have to… get me out of here…” He muttered, already feeling his request would fall on deaf ears.

“Not happening.”

Jay saw the man retreating. “Wait, please!” He hissed as he tried to throw one of his hands out only for the other to get stuck behind the bars, earning him a pained wrist in return. “Please… Please, help me…” He trailed off.

The guard sighed. “Sorry, kid, but I’m just following orders. I don’t know what you did but it must have been something big if the monarch himself sent you here.”

Jay could feel his knees weakening, trembling as his hope abandoned him. “Please…” He whimpered one last time.

“Now be quiet. Your voice is so annoying.” And just as he appeared, the man left with the same ease.

Jay couldn’t keep himself upright anymore, his shaking legs gave up and he slided down the wooden board, sobbing endlessly. His legs curled up against his chest, he hugged them tight letting his head drop to his knees. Why? Why was this happening to him? What did he even do to deserve such cruel fate? Kai was at fault, not him! He was the one who tried to take Jay by force. He was the one that should be there, locked up in a rancid cell, feeling lost and confused.

Jay couldn’t understand a thing, the prior events replayed in his mind. The night had started so well, everyone was having fun at the party, even Jay had managed to let himself loose for a while and play some silly games with the boys. Kai and him had talked so peacefully, have shared the same space like close friends, they had lowered their defences to let the other in. How did it turn upside down in just one second? Why did Kai switch to maniac mode? Why was he treating Jay like a criminal all of a sudden?

Something tickled Jay’s arm; the bracelet tinkled against the shackles. The image of Kai, fastening it on his wrist with a loving smile flashed in front of his eyes. Had it all been a facade to fool him? Of course, of course it had! Despite all the physical darkness around him, Jay could see things clear now; Kai was a trickster . The ‘real Kai’ that Cole had alluded to was just as fake as his royal appearance. He was someone unable to love, someone incapable of truly caring for other people’s feelings. He probably just married those poor innocent guys because they were available at the moment. And all that crap about Jay bringing them ‘ the spark they needed’ ? Jay couldn’t believe he fell for such cheesy lies. How did he not see it sooner?! Kai just wanted Jay to be his at any cost because that’s how life worked for these rich people; they wanted it, they got it. And if something didn't go their way… well, there was surely a lot of pitiable boys like Jay in the world, Kai would find him a replacement soon.

Jay pulled at the bracelet, trying to reach the clasp; he wanted it off of him. He didn’t want anything to do with that damn king and that thing was only bringing him memories and feelings that he wanted to erase from his mind. Sadly the chain of the shackles was too short to maneuver comfortably, and the sheer darkness wasn’t being of much help either. Jay struggled to free himself from the expensive accessory, there was no way for him to take it off in his current condition, but he was so mad at the moment he would have probably agreed to chop his limb off if that assured him he could get that thing as far from him as possible.

An idea crossed Jay’s mind. He turned to the side, looking for the wall and smacked his arm against it with all his force, which wasn’t much but surely these delicate things wouldn’t resist a hard hit. Jay whined at the pain he felt on his limb and looked down. He couldn’t see but he still felt the pearls of the bracelet brushing his wrist. Jay tried again. With every blow his anxiety grew bigger, his arm was hurting, his knuckles itched, the skin was probably all scratched from hitting the wall, but he had to keep going, that stupid thing wouldn’t break.

“Please… Please, just…!” He grunted throwing his arms to the wall once again, desperate for the object to release him and stop burning his soul through the little scratches that were manifesting on his skin.

A tiny crack alerted Jay and he froze in the spot. His hard breathing making his whole body tremble, the shivers arrived to his limbs then something slipped, accompanied by a subtle clink near Jay's feet. He stuck a finger under the cuffs  with his other hand and hissed as he touched scraped skin. The bracelet had finally fallen. Jay couldn't contain the small contentment that surfaced to his face. He kneeled down, felt around the dusty floor and picked the ornament. He couldn't tell how much broken it was, but some of the beads of the main chain were definitely lacking. Jay shivered as he felt the edge of the two-colored emblem, he gripped it hard for a second then threw it to the other side of the cell, listening as some of the beads scattered around the place. The sound although calming didn't seem to do anything to lessen Jay's distress. As soon as the joy of being fred from the accessory vanished, the anguish of his situation rose fast in his mind. He was still trapped, still chained, still alone.

Tears surfaced again to his eyes and Jay cried, deep and loud. His back slided down the wall, the boy was soon lying on the floor again, in the same position in which he had woken up moments ago. He couldn’t keep up anymore, raw tears streamed down his tortured expression. This was it . He was doomed, this time for certain. There was no way he was going to get out of this place alive. Jay would die there.

Maybe that was for the best, maybe karma would guarantee him a bit more luck in his next life.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

“Pebble, wake up.” A soft voice said. Cole opened an eyelid warily, Zane’s face was next to his, smiling softly just like any other morning. The noirette stirred in bed like a cat letting out a lazy yawn. Zane giggled amused at his lover’s antics. “Good morning, dear.” He whispered brushing a black strand of hair out of Cole’s face. The sleepy boy only hummed in return. “It’s time to wake up.”

“Already?” grunted Cole turning around.

‘Already?’ Cole, it’s way past midday.”

The noirette stood as unperturbed as ever, but his eyes popped open slowly a few seconds later. “Midday?” He repeated turning to Zane.

“Yes, dear. We’ve slept the whole morning.”

Cole shifted, propping himself up with his elbows. “Wow…” He muttered scratching the back of his head. They hadn't pulled an all-nighter since Lloyd's wedding probably.

“I know, but we all went to sleep really late, it was to be expected.”

“Yeah…”

Zane leaned in to place a kiss over his forehead. “Let’s get ready, bet you’ll be hungry in a minute.” Cole nodded and made his way to the bathroom almost zombie-like. He bumped into Lloyd at the door and mumbled a greeting to the blonde. He was so bad in the mornings and he knew this one was probably going to be one of the hardest in a while. His head hurt a lot, he shouldn’t have drank so much last night, and his mind was still a bit foggy either because of his usual morning mood or because of the hangover he was sporting. At least his vision had cleared up after splashing some cold water onto his face.

Cole returned to the bedroom where the two blondes were already taking out some clothes from the wardrobes. Only then did Cole notice he was still wearing the same outfit from the previous day, Zane probably didn’t have enough strength to strip him down last night. Cole walked to his own closet to get a change for himself when he took note of the fourth empty bed. “Where’s Jay?”

“I don’t know.” Lloyd said in a flash.

“He’s probably still in Kai’s room, or waiting for us at the dining hall.” Zane suggested.

‘Kai’s room?’ Cole asked himself before his lips formed an ‘o’. He just remembered it then; Kai had fled out of the party with the freckled boy while they were all playing around. A memory of said boys being all lovey-dovey at the dinner table also arose from the nooks of his brain. Cole smiled at thought of them. “They looked like they were getting along last night.” He commented merrily.

“Indeed. I hope the night had gone well for them.” Zane said.

“Well, Jay hasn’t appeared screaming like a possessed monkey this time.” Cole smirked.

“Yet…” Lloyd added with a chuckle. Zane and Cole turned to look at him, startled. Lloyd shot them a self-conscious look. “What? It- It was just a joke.” The boy looked utterly embarrassed all of a sudden. The older males looked at each other before smiling at Lloyd and laughed to ease the tension on the poor blond’s shoulders. Lloyd eventually relaxed and turned to his closet again with a subtle smile.

Cole stared at his peers for a moment longer. He couldn’t feel any happier; Lloyd seemed to be finally accepting Jay as part of their group, he just had a wild and much needed party last night with a delicious chocolate treat —he made a note to himself to ask the cooks if they had baked an extra cake for today. And Kai and Jay were getting along! Cole smiled to himself, considering how things usually quickly escalated with Kai, he was sure Jay would be falling for the Maharaja in a matter of days. And then he’d be more than happy to stay forever with them, and Jay and Kai would get married... and then it would be Cole’s turn to woo him and- Oh, for Shiva! Cole couldn’t wait for the moment when Jay would let him kiss those adorable pink lips of his. He was sure the tiniest peck would catapult him to the moon. Cole never imagined he would like the newcomer that much.

Minutes later the three royal spouses were properly dressed in fresh daylight clothes and headed straight to the dining hall. The doors were open, with servants going in and out of the room. They sighed relieved, this time there were no surprises. When they entered, Nya was already in there, talking with a servant.

“Hey, guys. How’s that hangover going?” Cole rolled his eyes and Lloyd blushed, both guys embarrassed in their own ways. Zane simply smiled, him and Nya were the only people in this family who drank with moderation, hence alcohol rarely affected them that bad.

Everyone took a seat around the table. “Where’s Kai?” asked Lloyd to the young princess.

“He’s not feeling well and said he’s going to stay in his room for today.”

“Ha, ha, ha! What a baby.” Cole laughed.

“I did advise him to not drink so much.” Zane sighed holding his forehead with two fingers, his husband could be really dense sometimes.

“You know he’s an airhead.” His friend kept mocking, taking advantage of the Maharaja’s absence. However their giggles faded away when Nya talked again.

“Is Jay sick too?”

“I don’t know, you tell me.” Cole told her casually. Nya gave him a bewildered look which Cole mimicked the next second. “What?”

“Is he not in your room?”

“No, his bed was empty when we woke up.” Zane explained. “We presumed he was still with Kai.”

“Oh,” Nya said. “Yeah, it might be that.”

“Wasn’t he in Kai’s room when you went there?” Cole asked.

“Uhm, I actually didn’t get to his room. I got the message from Dudou.”

Cole scrunched up his nose in confusion. “That bad his hangover?” Nya just shrugged in response. Wow , Cole was surprised, the whole 'being sick' thing sounded a bit questionable. Kai was known to have huge hangovers the morning after, just like Cole, but it had never been as bad as to keep the boy in bed, unable to move. Had that been a lie so Kai could spend more time alone with Jay? Cole had to admit he felt a bit jealous.

“I’ll pay them a visit later.” He stated, stretching an arm towards a mouth watering plate of different fruits bathed with syrup.

 

♦️♦️♦️

 

May he whose ear is open hear us. He is asked for wealth: will he despise our prayer?” Zane's serene and reciting voice sounded around the room, gracious as it always had been. Lloyd was cuddled up against him, both blondes laying on the swing of the living room. Cole was sprawled on the floor, feet resting on the edge of a nearby couch as he had just finished his third round of crunches.

He felt a bit lazy to go outside for a full training session —it probably wasn't the best idea considering his annoying hangover anyway. And he also didn't want to train alone, he'd gotten so used to have Jay around that it felt odd going back to do it solo. So just for that day Cole resolved to stay with the guys inside, having a chill afternoon. Old habits die hard though, his body couldn't stay still for a long time and had demanded some type of exercise, but Cole was taking it easy.

His mind wandered back to the two boys inside the royal chamber every now and then. Zane had tried to visit them earlier but the men guarding Kai's room stopped him and repeated what they already knew; the Maharaja was feeling sick and didn't wish to be bothered by anyone for the rest of the day, including them.

It felt weird, Cole thought. Jay hadn't came out even once to greet them or update them about Kai's status, plus what were they doing there all alone all that time? Had the young males bonded that much over a single night that now they couldn't stay away from each other for at least five minutes? The more the time passed the more anxious Cole grew. There was this strange feeling in his guts he couldn't quite make out. Was he jealous? Did he miss Kai or Jay? Or was it something else?

Cole groaned unconsciously, Zane stopped his reciting. “Should I pick a different poem, Cole?”

The noirette came down from his thoughts as he heard his name. He looked at his friends resting comfortably on the swing. “Oh, no, no. That one's good.” He said slightly embarrassed that he'd interrupted the blond.

“Are you still thinking about them?” Zane asked, he obviously noticed his lover had been spacing out for a while. 

Cole sighed again. “Yeah.” He admitted tiredly.

“They're fine, don't worry.”

“But… Jay hasn't come out yet, isn't he hungry?”

“They probably asked the servants the bring them food.” Lloyd suggested. Cole let his head fall back to the floor, hands locked under his nape. That was true, he was perfectly aware that their beloved monarch wouldn't let himself nor anyone starve inside these walls. But...

“They could at least say something! I mean, what's even up with Kai? All we know is he's not feeling well. Is he… I don't know, vomiting or something? Does he have a fever or…?”

“Cole, he is fine." Zane cut him fast, sensing Cole's mind was getting lost in his own delusions. "If he was in such a state they would have told us. He's most likely just having a big headache and wishes to relax.” 

“Then what is Jay doing there with him?!” Cole yelled exasperated. Zane and Lloyd shared the same bewildered look, they hadn't expected their friend to snap like that. 

“Cole, are you… are you jealous?” Lloyd couldn't help to ask.

“What? No, of course not! Why would I be?! I…” Cole trailed off as he sat up, the stunned look on the blondes faces made him realize he had been rising his voice without a reason. He leaned over the couch and held his head in his hands, a long irritated sigh came out as a precursor of his words. “I just… I'm having a bad feeling, that's all. I want to know what's happening there, I'm worried.”

Lloyd and Zane looked at each other. The shorter blond was lost for words, he wanted to help but felt unable to. Zane took a moment to think, trying to conceive some short reassuring speech. “They'll come out for dinner, Jay for sure at least. Then you will be able to ask him everything you want.”

Zane's confidence and his polite words usually relieved the man, but not that day. It was as if Cole was surrounded by a strong dark aura that shielded him from any positiveness, or maybe it was just the depressing after effects of all the alcohol that still ran through his veins. In any case, he knew he was not going anywhere by staying there bothering his friends. Cole stood up and started for the door.

"Where are you going?" Zane asked.

“I'm gonna go take a walk, I need some fresh air.”

“It seems like it might start raining at any moment.” He advised.

“Great, the fresher it will be.” Cole said finally crossing the threshold and leaving the two boys alone in the living room.

Lloyd pouted, worried for the moody noirette and searched Zane's eyes, wondering if they should go after Cole. “He'll be fine.” Zane whispered, brushing a hand on Lloyd's arm. “He gets quite sensitive when he drinks too much.” 

Lloyd lowered his eyes, unsure. Zane had known Cole for longer than him, which Lloyd presumed allowed his companion to make a fair judgement of the situation, but he still didn't like letting his friend alone when he was clearly in a mood. Moods lead to anger, anger to confrontations, and confrontations… usually lead to breakups.

“Should we keep going?” Zane asked, lifting the book in his hands when he felt the boy's subtle trembling in his arms.

Lloyd shrugged sheepishly. “If you want to.”

A weak smile on Zane's face as he looked down at his friend. He could sense Lloyd was getting worried too, and so Zane would do his best to distract him. He shifted, regaining a comfortable position. His lips parted as his eyes found the verse where he had stopped earlier but closed again before any word could come out.

“What's up?” Lloyd asked preoccupied.

“Actually… why don't you read for me for a change?”

“Uh? Me? But I'm- I'm not good at it.” Lloyd panicked momentarily.

“Says who?” Zane smiled, handing him the book. Lloyd blushed under his gaze. He knew what Zane was doing. Ever since Lloyd shared his fears with the older blond, Zane had been trying to improve Lloyd's self-confidence, showing him he could do anything he wanted, and how much did this family appreciate him for who he was. Lloyd smiled tenderly, grateful to have such kind hearts around him.

“Okay… But I want you to read me my new book later.”

Zane smiled with a nod. Lloyd  scooted closer to him and shifted until he found the perfect position. The young male cleared his throat and licked his lips, trying to ignore his pounding heart before eventually starting to read, very slowly.

“Him who… bestows at once a hundred thousand… gifts none shall… restrain when he would give .”

 

♦️♦️♦️

 

The garden was unusually cold, not that Cole minded it, it was a nice change for once, and it kind of matched his bad mood. The veranda of the gazebo supported his elbows, Cole's eyes looked ahead absentmindedly, not really paying attention to anything they saw. The wind was blowing nicely, a few loose strands of hair tickled his nose and cheeks as they danced with the breeze. He tugged them behind his ears for the zillionth time and let his gaze fall down, fixed on the flowers that grew graciously around the platform.

How long had it been since he helped building this specific gazebo? Seven years? Maybe eight? It was hard to believe he'd been living in the palace for almost a decade already. This building brought him many memories, it was the place were Kai and him had their first interaction, —that's if a simple smile while he was carrying wooden planks could count as some type of communication between two people. But it still meant a lot for Cole. Who would have thought a poor abused kid like him would catch the eyes of the very prince of Ninjago? It was actually still a mystery why did Kai fall for him? Cole was sure the heir of the kingdom could have found a way more refined partner, but Kai still chose him.

Cole buried his head in the crook of his folded arms and sighed. Something was off, he could tell. Cole knew he could get a bit neurotic about Kai's well-being, but this time he felt these weird jitters messing up with his stomach were totally justified. What if Kai and Jay had some type of deep conversation? Something about the cute boy not wanting to wait anymore and demanding his freedom? What if Kai was trying to unwash Jay's brain and giving him a large speech about the joy of becoming a part of their family? Kai could be quite convincing, but Cole thought he knew Jay well enough to tell the foreigner wasn't someone who would change his mind overnight.

Aaah… the enigma was killing him. Cole needed to talk to any of the two as soon as possible or his brain would overcharge from all that thinking, which he seriously didn't need that day if he didn't want to be stuck with a never-ending headache.

The faint sound of water drops smacking against the ground and the gafzebo's roof pulled him out of his thoughts. It started fast, but the rain was very light, it would probably be an intermittent shower that would last only a couple of hours. Cole waited until the rain seemed to slow down for a moment and stepped out of the pavilion. He strolled around the garden, never rushing his steps despite the weather becoming a bit more fierce all of a sudden. Feeling the cold water drops falling on him was actually refreshing for his spirit. It brought him back to a time where he was alone, fighting to stay alive every single day; back to a time when his worries didn't include any love interests. He didn't miss his past life per se, it had been full of misery, but right now the anxiety squeezing his heart was reaching top limits.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Cole looked at himself in the mirror, face clean and a low ponytail resting over his shoulder. It didn't look as elegant as when Zane or Jay did his hair but it would have to do, he had neither the knowledge or the motivation to try something else. After getting caught all soaked in the garden by a guard, Cole drove straight to the royal bathroom and cleaned up. The hot water did little to calm his nerves, dinner time was drawing near and he had so many questions unanswered. He looked forward to seeing Kai or Jay, or even the both of them, and confirm if his sixth sense was just playing tricks on him. 

Cole met up with Lloyd and Zane in the living room, they chatted for a bit before deciding to move together to the dining hall. As usual, they were the first to arrive. On a normal day Cole would have complained about having to wait for the rest of the family while having all that delicious food served in front of him, but that evening he wasn't feeling particularly hungry, much to his surprise. At last Nya appeared by the door, greeting them with a tired smile, she'd had to take care of the kingdom affairs due to the Monarch's absence, luckily for her it hadn't been one of the busiest days.

The princess sat at the table with the others, feeling Cole's intense gaze fixed on her, the perceptive girl immediately knew why and her face changed to an even more tired expression, Cole wasn't going to like what she had to say. “It seems Kai will have dinner delivered to his room later, he's still not feeling well.”

“That's unfortunate. Should I go check on him?” Offered Zane.

“I don't think it will do much, he's not allowing anyone into his room yet.” The blond narrowed his eyes at Nya, all the princess could do was merely shrug in return.

They all knew Kai was stubborn as a mule and not much could be done against this type of situations. The royal family shared a long sigh before grabbing a few pieces of food, all but Cole, who could only stare forward at the plates, his heart beating faster every second. The noirette suddenly smacked his fists on the table.

“I can't with this shit anymore!” His family looked startled at him. “How can you sit there and do nothing?!”

“Cole, you know how Kai gets when-” Zane started.

“Yes, I know him! That's why this is all the more strange!” Cole rose up from the cushion and started for the door.

“Where are you going?!” Both Zane and Nya asked.

“I've had enough of this 'don't bother me’ bullshit, I'm going to talk to him!” He yelled leaving his friends behind.

Cole walked fast to the other wing, his heavy steps echoing through the long hallway. When Kai's door came into view, Cole also spotted a couple of guards by the entrance. This was very suspicious, Kai had never had such tight security around his room before. Cole approached with determination, his persistence didn't falter, not even when the armored men stopped him.

“I need to talk with Kai.”

“I'm sorry, sir Cole, but his Majesty clearly specified he doesn't want anyone visiting him.”

“I'm not anyone , I'm his damn husband, and I'm going to get in there either you like it or not.” Cole said shoving the man aside with all his force, the second tried to pull him back by the arms but Cole jabbed him in the small space where his body wasn't covered by the protective metal plates. The guard bent over in pain and surprise, and Cole used that moment to quickly open the door to the royal chamber. 

He had imagined many different scenarios, each one worse than the previous, but this… he did not expect this . Everything was on the floor, statues, vases, frames, a mirror, clothes… It was as if a tornado had barged in the room and wrecked everything that was in there. It was a mess! And there, on one of the maltreated seats, Kai was lying down, his hair messy, eyes with dark circles around them and a small vase and bottle full of a pale liquid on the low table beside him. The brunette sat up with a scowl as he realized someone had entered his sanctuary.

“The Hell are you doing here?” Kai barked angrily, eyes blinking to focus on the other boy. A few seconds passed as Cole tried to regain some control over his brain after the initial shock.

“What-what has happened here?!”

“Nothing.” Kai said dryly as the guards entered the room as well. “I thought I told you I wanted to be left alone!” He yelled clearly annoyed.

“We're sorry, your Majesty. Sir Cole took us by surprise…”

“Well, now do your fucking job and get him out.”

“Yes, your Majesty.” The guards reached for the young man but, alas, they forgot they were dealing with a pro fighter. Not by luck had Cole managed to make it back from several battles when he was just a ten years old brat. The noirette reacted fast, getting away from them before they could even pin his arms. He scanned the room furiously.

“Where's Jay?” Cole saw Kai flinching at his question. He knew it! Something had been off all this time. “Kai…” he said again, frustration tinting his voice. “Where is Ja-?” Cole didn't have time to finish the sentence. A vase was thrown violently in his direction, shattering against the wall and spilling its content on the floor. Thanks Brahma he had nice reflexes!

“Don't ever say that name again!” Kai growled. Even the guards froze at seeing the reaction of their souverain.

A heavy smell reached Cole's nostrils, he eyed at the dirty wall for a second before looking back to Kai. “You're drunk again?!”

“Get. Out.” Kai punctuated avoiding the angry chocolate orbs.

“Not until you tell me what's going on.”

“I said get the fuck outta my room!!!” Kai roared with unbeknownst fury. Cole could only stare at him bewildered, he'd never seen Kai so unhinged before, his whole body emitted rage and hate. What in Nirvana's name was happening? That was not his husband!

Cole didn't realize the guards had finally caught him, he squirmed with energy, for he was not going anywhere without answers. He shouted as the guards pinned him strategically and pulled him towards the door. “Kai! What the hell?! Kai!”

“Don't make me arrest you too…” the Maharaja muttered as the doors closed behind Cole. The armored men shoved Cole onwards and reclaimed their spots by the door with a scowl to the first spouse. Cole stared at them taking a few steps backwards until he hit the wall. He gripped at the nearby console table to keep himself upright. His mind was still in a frenzy. Nothing was making any sense at all! His husband, his dear Kai, had gone berserk for whoever knows what reason, and he even went as far as throwing things at Cole's head. And Jay was… Where the hell was Jay?!

Lloyd, Nya and Zane appeared soon enough at the end of the hallway, when they saw Cole gripping at the furniture for dear life, looking as pale and perplexed as they had ever seen him, the group rushed to the boy.

“Cole, what happened, dear? We heard yelling.” Zane said, swiftly caressing the dark cheeks and trying to get the boy's eyes to focus on him, but to no avail. Cole's mind was pretty far already. The noirette's brain was just registering the hidden meaning behind Kai's last warning and he could not believe his ears.

“Love, are you okay?” Zane asked again. His worry skyrocketed when he saw Cole's eyes opening wide and his breathing dangerously speeding up.

“No, no, no, no, no…” Cole murmured to himself feeling his heart in his throat and blood thumping in his ears. Kai couldn't possibly have…? 

As fast as the lightning Cole rushed past his friends and ran to the nearest stairs. It all happened in a hurry, nobody had time to react and try to stop him. The blond boys and Nya looked at each other worried, each one more startled than the other. “I'll go after him!” Lloyd said before making a run to try and catch up with Cole. Out of the three of them he knew he was the fastest runner.



Chapter Text

“Please, don’t be true. Please, don’t be true!” Cole repeated like a mantra while running down the palace and wishing —praying — with his whole life to be wrong. He was so stupid, so so damn stupid, but he wouldn't mind to be considered a fool this time. He needed to be wrong. Cole made it to the main floor and kept crossing halls after halls, finally reaching the door he'd been looking for and which led to the basement. He'd walked these walls so many times while he worked as a servant, he knew exactly where he was headed. He turned  a couple of corners, passing by some storage rooms and there it was; the dark and pestilent corridor, and at the entrance a familiar bored guard.

Cole's face fell. There was only one reason for the dungeon to be guarded; someone was in there. Cole could feel his whole body shaking, he wasn't scared of getting in trouble, but he was scared of what —or who— was he going to find there. The young male walked up to the guard with determination in his eyes.

“Sir Cole, what is you doing here?” Karloff asked surprised to see the royal spouse.

“Move.” Cole ordered the man to step aside from the door. Karloff arched one  dark, bushy eyebrow at him.

“Karloff cannot; it is his time guarding the door.”

“Karloff, I need to get in there. Right. Now.” The man was very surprised at the youngster behavior. He didn't understand why Cole was being so persistent in visiting the dungeon, but he complied eventually. The man unlocked the door and let him pass, Cole was so focused in just getting to the cells that he didn't even care to take a lantern with him, which he would regret soon enough.

“Jay? Jay! Where are you?! Jay!” He started shouting, stealing quick looks through the barred windows of every door he passed by. The insides were pitch black, he was just considering walking back to ask Karloff for a light when the tiniest of voices called him from a few feet away. 

“C-Cole?! Cole! I’m here!”

“Jay?!” The former warrior ran faster to the source of the sound, finally finding a face behind a set of bars. Cole couldn’t mask the utter happiness he felt upon seeing his friend again, but then confusion and anger overtook. Jay’s face spoke volumes; even in the darkness they were surrounded by, Cole could see Jay’s distress in his tired and swollen eyes, in the wet dirty cheeks. Why was the boy locked up like a nasty criminal?!

“Cole, Cole…!” Jay repeated his name again and again, struggling to pass his hands through the bars and get at least a brief human contact. He needed to confirm it wasn't just an illusion his tired brain had made up.

Cole reached up, taking the little he could of Jay's hands in his. “For Shiva! Are you alright? What the heck happened? Why are you here?!”

“I don't know!” Jay cried out, his voice weak and raspy from the lack of liquid and food, as well as all the crying. His agitation was spreading to Cole, the noirette tried to breathe and stay calm, he’d been through enough stressing situations to know getting all hysteric wasn’t going to be of any help.

“I don't understand this.” Cole muttered, commanding his mouth to speak soft and slowly. “Did… Did Kai do this to you?” The royal spouse asked with fear. His heart sank deeper when Jay nodded, delicate shiny tears spilled from the once vibrant and joyful eyes and rolled down the freckled cheeks. “Fuck…” Cole growled. This couldn’t be real! Kai jailing the boy he was trying to charm? There was no way the Maharaja could have done that! Yet… there they were, it was occuring.

 “Jay, what happened? Did you guys fight or...?”

The prisoner already had no control over his emotions and let the floodgates open. As much as Jay had tried to block the memories from last night, the images would keep flashing before his eyes, making him relive the incident constantly, and it had destroyed his nerves.

“Hey, buddy, calm down, please.” Cole cooed the boy, caressing his cheeks through the bars. He guided Jay in his breathing, praying to the Gods he wouldn’t hyperventilate and faint.

Jay’s lower lip trembled, trying to gather enough mental strength to stay open and let him talk. “He… tried to… kill me.”

All color drained from Cole’s face. To him it felt like the world stopped spinning, but Jay’s words kept falling out of his lips. “He was… he was kissing and touching me…” Jay’s voice almost disappeared at those words, as if he was afraid that they would conjure the monarch. “I tried to push him away but… I couldn’t. I…” Jay choked on a sob and pressed harder against the bars. Cole’s hands cupping his face had gone numb, no more clutching him with love and reassurance.

“I hit him… then he… he went nuts and almost killed me when I tried to run away from the room.”

“W-what are you even saying?” Cole stuttered.

“It’s the truth! He had his hands around my neck and...” Jay trailed off when Cole's hands fell from his face to rest against the metal bars and when he looked up he saw the most confused gaze on the noirette. "You… don't believe me?" Jay cried with a tiny voice.

Cole couldn't respond. He was shocked. It felt like his soul had abandoned him, his body had gone deadly cold, his breath taken away by an invisible force. The young man took a step back from the door, chocolate hands darted up to press against his eyes with frustration. That couldn't be real , his husband wouldn't hurt a fly, he knew it. But… why would Jay make up all that shit? The boy was a crying mess, just like when they met, there was no way Jay was faking all the pain he was feeling.

"Cole, please… You have to believe me. I'm not lying, I swear!" Jay cried hopelessly, not ready to have his one and only friend abandoning him too.

Cole's face came out of its hideout and stared at the boy trapped on the other side of the door. His heart broke into pieces at witnessing so much anguish. His mouth gaped, unable to say something. This was a nightmare!

“Is there a problem?” A third voice joined the party. While Cole had been so preoccupied processing what the hell was going on, Karloff had walked up to him, startled by all the screaming he heard down the passage. Lantern in hand the man looked at Cole with a frown, his eyebrows raised up in infinite surprise when the light he was holding revealed more of the ‘criminal’ behind the door. “Sir… Jay?!”

The ginger boy leaned away from the door with fear. The guard stared at him puzzled. “You didn't know he was here?” Cole asked and Karloff shook his head slowly.

“Karloff got here little ago. Only got told to watch the door.” The guard explained, still bewildered at his discovery.

Cole's eyes went back to the small barred window, he could see Jay's face a few steps away, being eaten by the darkness of the cell. Cole shook his head in an attempt to regain some self control. Regardless of what was true or not, there were more urgent matters. “Open it.” Cole ordered. The armored man by his side hesitated. “Open the damn door, Karloff!” Cole yelled trying to grab the set of keys that was hanging from the man's belt, the other though managed to block him with his free hand.

“Sorry, can't do that. If Karloff doesn't do his job, Karloff gets in trouble.”

“Karloff, I swear if you don't open this damn thing…!” But the man refused again. “Agh!” Cole groaned. Had fate just decided his life had been too peaceful for a while and that he should get a whole dose of drama at once? He understood Karloff needed to assure his job to provide for his family but that didn't help the two boys at all. 

Calloused fingers flew up to his own hair, messing up the ponytail. What was Cole supposed to do? He grunted and pulled his hair in defeat. Everything seemed to be falling apart. A little whimper brought him back to reality. This was not about him. It was about Jay, he was the one locked up, the one who needed his help, and Cole could have done a lot of bad things in the past, but he did never give up. Cole shoved himself against the door and stuck his arms through the bars as far as his prominent muscles allowed him to. He motioned for Jay to come closer, which the boy did without offering resistance. As Cole's hands reached his face, the royal spouse pulled Jay close to him. Hadn't it been for the door, Cole would have merged their bodies in a bone crushing embrace. Jay could feel it though, the way the noirette cupped his nape and brought their foreheads and noses together through the bars, he knew he believed him.

"I'll get you out, Jay. I promise."

"H-how?"

"I gotta talk to Kai." He said already pulling away to move past Karloff, but something stopped him.

“No, please, don't leave me alone!” Jay shouted again, hurting his wrists as he tried to catch Cole through the bars. Cole clutched Jay's hands and couldn't help himself as he kissed his reddened knuckles. Jay's tears were cascading again down his cheeks, Cole reached up to rub them lovingly and wipe the liquid off him. "Please…" Jay sobbed.

"Don't worry. I'll be right back and we'll fix this mess."

“No, please, Cole! Don't go!” Cole kissed Jay's forehead and left in a rush, despise the dead grip of the whimpering boy on him. "Cole!" Jay's wail echoed through the walls. "Don't leave me!"

A sudden pang of guilt stabbed Cole as he ran towards the end of the dark corridor.

Don't leave me ever again...

He bit his lip until he tasted blood. Not now. He had to stay focused, he couldn't get caught in old mawkishness. He had to get Jay out of that hole even if it was the last thing he did.

 

Ignoring the pain in his heart Cole swallowed hard and went over his steps, sprinting through the halls, corridors and stairs once again. The way back felt just as agonizing as his first trip, only this time all the fear he felt on his way down had evolved into anger and confusion. How could Kai have gone so nuts as to do this to Jay? What was he even trying to do? Let the boy starve to death forever and hide it from the rest of the family pretending nothing had happened? Jay was anything but easy to miss.

It just didn't make sense. Kai trying to kill somebody with his own hands? It was impossible! But he had definitely sent Jay to the dungeons, there was no mistaking that had been a royal order and Cole still couldn't wrap his mind around that horrific fact. Nothing Jay could have done or said during their fight would be deserving of such punishment. Could it?

As Cole turned a corner he bumped into someone, the collision sent them both to the floor. Cole shook his head and opened his eyes to find Lloyd in front of him, rubbing his back with a whine. "Cole! Ah… What’s up? Where did you go?”

“It’s… It’s Jay…” Cole said after a moment, getting back on his feet.

“What about him?”

“He’s… he’s locked up in the dungeons.” Cole breathed out.

“Whaaaat?!”

The brain of the noirette wasn’t up for that kind of conversation at the moment. Cole started running again, making his way up to the third floor. Lloyd needed a moment to recover from the shock and confusion Cole’s words had brought him, then followed his steps. The blond was fast and managed to reach their destination just in time to see Cole arguing with Kai’s guards again. Nya and Zane next to him trying to negotiate with the men peacefully but to no avail. 

Cole was determined to get into Kai’s room and scold the monarch for his behaviour, no matter what it took. He shoved and punched the guards with all his force, even managed to throw one to the floor. Things were getting so out of hand that Nya had to intervene with one of her diplomatic tricks. “I don’t know what’s happening here but my brother is clearly not fine. As the regent of the kingdom I order you to open that door and let us see him. Now!”

The guard that was holding Cole narrowed his eyes at the group of youngsters. The words of the princess and her firm gaze freezing him as he considered the nature of the situation. Even he could tell something was going on after witnessing the Maharaja’s rage against his favorite spouse.

When Cole felt the man’s grip on him loosening just a little, he didn't waste a second to slam Kai’s door open. The monarch was sitting on the edge of the massive bed, body bent forward and head resting in his hands, he didn’t even flinch when Cole barged in with the others. With all the ruckus they had created outside, Kai for sure knew it was a matter of time until his peace got disturbed. 

Everyone except Cole gasped as they discovered the state the room was in and they started to throw their questions at Kai with worried eyes, the monarch though stayed still, groaning stressed at the urgency of their tones. One voice rose over the others. “How could you?” Cole asked.

“Leave…” Kai whispered.

“Are you fucking nuts?!”

“Cole, dear, don’t use such harsh language.” Zane pleaded, aware that screaming had never resolved anyone's problems.

“I can use any language I want! And you know why? Because this moron here sent our friend to the brig!”

“What?!” Zane shouted.

“Kai!” Nya exclaimed and Lloyd’s eyes opened wide.

“What the hell were you thinking?!” Cole barked again.

Kai breathed audibly after a sigh. “Leave.” He repeated, his voice turning drier and more menacing.

“Not until you free Jay!” Cole countered.

“I told you not so say that name ever again!” Kai snapped, his head rising with fury. “And I’m not freeing anyone!”

“Kai! Are you crazy?!” Nya couldn’t help but yell a bit as she took one step forward.

“He disrespected me!”

“For the love of Vishnu! Kai, people disrespect you almost on a daily basis. And maybe he wouldn't have said whatever he did if you had respected him first! How could you even come onto him?! You know how shy Jay is!" Cole berated. A general grasp erupted from everyone at the news, hands going up to their mouths, not believing what they had just heard.

“I don’t give a shit! I am the king!” Kai stood up from the bed and walked up to Cole, throwing all his rage at him through his speech. “If I want to lock him up, I do it! If I want to whip him to dead, I do it! If I want him to rot in hell forever in that damn hole and have rats eat his guts then I'll do it! Because I. Am. The. Fucking. King !!! And I make the rules in this fucking house! Did you hear me?! I am the-!”

Slap!

For a moment, time seemed to stop. Nobody saw it coming. They all stood still, unable to even breath. Kai’s eyes widened as his head had turned to the side with the force of the slap that had landed on his cheek. Next to him, Cole's eyes were wide in astonishment, they zeroed on the blond that had appeared by their side out of thin air. Lloyd's hand still raised in the air, chest heaving and body trembling. He was looking at Kai with tears in his eyes and reddened cheeks, breathing heavily. Lloyd licked his lips that had went all dry with the anxiety of the past minutes, feeling a stinging sensation as he opened them to speak. “You’re an asshole! That’s what you are!” he cried out in the most pained of the voices.

Kai’s hand reached up to the swollen cheek, still in shock. It only took him a few seconds to turn to the blond, but the deadly silence made it seem like an eternity for the rest of the people in the room. Kai stared at Lloyd, flabbergasted, he would have expected a hit from Cole, or even from his sister, but not from the sweetest of his spouses. His face gradually contorted from surprise to the pure hatred it was wearing mere seconds ago.

“Kai, no!” Cole shouted, quickly shoving Lloyd aside and catching the Maharaja’s arms in his fists while the brunette raised them to charge at the smaller boy with a ferocious grunt. Zane caught Lloyd in his arms before the boy fell to the floor and wrapped his limbs around his small frame.

“You- you damn ingrate!” Kai growled over Cole’s shoulder. “So you’re on his side now?! After pestering him all you wanted and more?! After emotionally blackmailing me to kick him out because you were fucking jealous?! Fuck you, Lloyd!”  

“Kai, stop it!” Cole told him holding his husband’s wrists tighter. The young king resembled a tiger, wanting to jump over Cole's body and towards Lloyd to sink his teeth in the blonde's jugular. His husband fought him, an unusual strength was running through Kai's muscles fueled by his rage, Cole couldn't believe he was having troubles keeping Kai at bay.

“Yes! Yes, I was jealous." Lloyd admitted out loud, tears rushing down his face. "Because I thought you didn’t love me anymore! But tell you what, I regret it all now! I don’t want your love! I don’t want anything from you! You’re not a king, but a monster ! The ugliest monster I’ve ever met!” he cried.

Kai’s pupils shrank until they almost disappeared from his eyes. A shiver striked his body with the force of a lightning, making it contort with nausea and undescribable pain. Then his throat opened, making way for the most nerve-wrecking, ear splitting scream a human would ever witness. It was loud, raw, coming from the very depths of the monarch’s soul, from a dark side that had remained closed for years. The sound froze their blood, and when Kai’s body went limp for a moment in Cole’s arms, confusion seeped in everyone’s faces.

The first spouse tightened his hold on the young king, forcing them both to stay upright. Dark eyes boring holes onto Kai as he watched his eyebrows knitting together, mouth gaping like a fish to try and get some air back inside his lungs. Cole shuddered. That hopeless animal screaming… He'd only heard it once before. It couldn't be...

The noirette felt Kai grabbing fistfuls of his shirt, trying to steady himself despite his suddenly weakened knees. His eyes opened heavily and stared over his lover’s shoulders. Lloyd had taken shelter between Nya and Zane, the taller blond hugging the boy as they both shook, the princess looking back at him, alarm and disquietude obvious in her green eyes. The Maharaja glared at the three of them.

“You want Jay?! You really want him?!” Kai slurred against Cole’s shirt, then screamed his mind out again with a sudden bolt of energy, “Well, it’s all yours! Go get that slut out and do whatever you want with him!!!” He growled kicking, punching and trying to jump out of Cole’s hug. The unnatural strength that had driven his body seconds ago was now vanished. Kai was turning putty in Cole’s arms, as if life itself were abandoning him.

Everyone shared a confused look, unable to know what they should do, even Zane felt totally lost. They had never seen Kai so out of himself.  “Go.” Cole ordered in the middle of the silence. The startled trio behind him looked at the young man, not quite comprehending. “You heard him! Go get Jay out of that hole!” He shouted, twisting his neck and looking at them out of the corner of his eye, not loosening his grip on the monarch for even a second, who was throwing another tantrum at the mention of the unmentionable. 

Seeing his friends were still dubious about fleeing from the scene, Cole called out for them again. “Just go! I’ll handle him!” It was imperative that they left right away. If Cole's intuition was still working, it was best for them to leave the couple alone. Cole was strong, he could take Kai's punches unperturbed, but he would never let his friends risk getting hurt on his watch.

Zane was the first to react. It pained him to leave the conflict unresolved but he had always trusted Cole, for the noirette had known the young king way longer than him. The blond grabbed at Lloyd tighter and pulled him out as quickly as their bodies allowed it. Nya followed them, stopping a few feet before the door and turning to look at Cole. Her eyes full of questions and fears that Cole confirmed with a nod. The princess flinched and wanted to offer her help when Kai opened his mouth again, eyes barely focused on what was in front of him.

“Yeah... Yeah, you go! Go backstab me, you damn fake people… You’re just like everyone else! You’ve never loved me! You don’t give a shit at what I feel! You just want me to be the perfect pretty prince so you can keep living your perfect fake life! ” The words fell from his lips amidst the cries, making some of them hard to understand, but they were still clear enough to tear Cole and Nya' hearts.

It felt like the pieces of the puzzle were starting to connect and neither Cole nor the princess liked the image that was appearing before them. Kai’s aggressiveness, the way he had secluded himself, and probably why he had gone so mad at Jay as to lock him up… 

This was not good.

“Nya, let’s go!” Zane ushered from outside. The girl’s lips pressed into a tight line and she forced herself to walk out of the room, she wanted to stay but knew Kai was in no state of mind to be around people, only Cole could calm him down. Or so she prayed. As the door closed behind her, Kai kept mouthing expletives and things that didn’t make any sense at the group that had just left. His strength abandoning him with every syllable.

“Kai! Kai, come on, man, get a grip.” Cole said nudging him softly.

“Stop it.” Kai kept languidly struggling while Cole tried to knock some sense into him. “ Please, stop… ” Kai’s prior violent moves slowed down until his knees totally gave up and his body bent forward on Cole’s forearm. Cole leaned in to readjust his grip around Kai’s limp body as they both sat down on the floor any which way. The noirette leaned back on the side of the bed, his chest glued to Kai’s back as the brunette let his brown head fall on the broad shoulders. 

Make him stop... ” Kai whimpered and Cole could see the shiny beads that rolled down his eyes.

“Kai- hey, come back please.” Cole soothed his hands over Kai’s body lovingly.

He’s gonna die… ” 

“No, baby, I’m not. I’m right here!” Cole shifted, trying to get Kai to turn around just enough so they could face each other. The monarch's eyelids though remained tightly shut.

" I'll be good… I promise… " Kai muttered with a feeble voice as the tears rushed down his face.

"Baby, no. You are good. You've always been. Please…" Cole trailed off, his own throat working, painful with anxiety as his eyes swelled and transparent beads rolled out of its confines. Cole took a deep breath. "Please, look at me…"

He moved Kai closer, shaking him softly to try and pull the boy's focus on him. The brunette's orbs showed up shyly, eyelids half opened as if he didn't have enough strength to do more. “Cole…?”

“Yes, baby, I’m right here, see?” Cole grabbed one of Kai’s hand and placed it over his own cheek, hoping Kai would calm down upon realizing he was still there, alive. But it only made the souverain cry even more.

Kai burst like a volcano, wailing and gripping at Cole body as if his life depended on him. And in his distorted mind, it did .

“I’m sorry…”

“No, Kai-”

“I hurt you... They’re right; I’m a… I'm a fucking monster…

Cole screw his eyes shut. Not this again, please . They had been doing so well, it had taken them time but they had been doing so well for a while, they couldn’t go back to five years ago. Cole cursed himself mentally. He had brought this shit up, he shouldn’t have talked to Kai like he did from the start, it had only made things worse. He had fucked up royally.

“No, no, you’re not a monster. Please, don’t cry…”

“I’m so sorry…” Kai mumbled, his shaky hands moved to Cole’s back, pulling his lover closer. Fingers pressed with force, feeling the relief of Cole's scars under the shirt. Kai didn't dare to separate even an inch from the strong body that was trying to shield him from all the hurt, all the pain, all the fears. He trembled as Cole put his arms around him and cradled Kai like a tender baby. A pang of guilt and painful memories hit the noirette straight in the gut. It was a blast from the past, something they had both been trying to bury deep down in their hearts all this time, hoping it would never resurface again if they tried hard enough. It had worked for a while, but not anymore.

“Don’t be…” Cole  whimpered, unable to control his sadness as well. “It was my fault.”

Chapter Text

The little boy stood by his father’s side. He was supposed to listen to the conversation going on between the adults around him but his mind had been gone since the start of the reunion. Lifeless green eyes resting on the men in front of him, his gaze slowly moved down towards the end of their expensive gartments. He narrowed his eyes at the golden embroidery that went all along the rim of the long shirt. Not his taste of pattern at all, but he admitted the tiny jewels attached here and there that acted as buds were an interesting detail.

The adults moved and he followed the bodies, their voices barely reaching his brain. Did it really matter that he paid attention or not? They rarely addressed him, he was just the young foolish prince. The kingdom would someday rest in his hands but his father still did all the work.  Sadly that didn’t exempt him from having to be present in some of the meetings, as if he understood all the gibberish the men talked about. Collection, taxes, investment, kickback? He had no idea what any of that meant or why should it matter to him, he’d rather be playing with his sister, running down the garden catching insects or bugging her while she was in her music lessons. That girl liked to brag too much about her skills, and with good reason! She’d been gifted with a natural talent to play instruments, opposite to the prince. It bothered him a bit but she loved his sister with all his heart. Afterall her and Skylor were the only true friends he’d ever had, which saddened the boy more and more as years passed.

Sometimes he wished he’d been born outside these palace walls. He longed to be able to speak his mind freely, to ditch all those boring classes about dead ancient people, to be able to ran down muddy fields, not caring if his clothes or face got dirty. But overall, he longed to be around boys his age, maybe then these weird desires wouldn’t haunt him in his dreams, in every corner of his lonely room, in the gazes he secretly stole at young attractive guys when he was out with his family.

Attractive? He shook his head, trying to get the word out of his mind. It was wrong to think about his own gender that way, he reminded himself. As his parents said it was unnatural, unproductive, it was-

A hand touched his back, pushing him forward absentmindedly and through the doors to the garden. His father didn’t even grace him with a verbal order, he just conducted him around as he kept discussing with the guests and counselors, chuckling at some recent joke apparently.

The sun touched the prince's cheeks, warming his face in an instant, there wasn’t much breeze outside, they probably wouldn’t stay in the garden for much time but the boy welcomed the change of scenario. At least outside he didn’t feel as caged and he could distract himself watching the flowers and occasional bugs he’d encounter.

“Is that the famous gazebo?”

“The very one.” The king’s voice said.

“Doesn’t look much ‘impressive’ yet.” Another man laughed.

“You’ve got a very limited imagination, my friend. But of course, it’s still in construction. A structure of that caliber needs to be taken good care of and built slowly to reach perfection.”

The prince’s attention moved to the mentioned arbor, still in it’s very early stages. The workers already had the basic structure sorted out, tiled floor pretty much done, now they were working on securing the columns and roof framework. He didn’t know why his father had decided they needed a new gazebo, but he already liked it. The old one was sturdy but it's appearance didn't appeal the boy much; the painted decorations along the columns had worn off and didn't look very fitting in the first place —and he was pretty sure his sense of style was one of the best. The shape of the building was boring, a simple square instead of an attractive roundish base, with way too many stairs and no big fancy dome adorning the ceiling like people their wealth had nowadays. For once, he had to admit his father had had a good idea.

The men had long dropped the subject of the building and started talking —more like whining— about how lazy workers were nowadays. The prince rolled his eyes exasperated, how did they expect them to not be lazy when these people had to be working non stop under the suffocating sun. Heat had never bothered him much but even the prince knew there was a limit as to how much temperature a human could stand.

As he looked away from the group of adults and examined the building, his eyes landed on one of the workers. His body walked firmly towards the base, despise the ridiculous amount of wooden planks he carried over his back. He’d never seen a man carrying such a weight, let alone a boy . His slightly shorter frame gave away he was way younger than the usual people that worked for the royal family. The prince saw him plant his feet firmly on the ground and talk to the foreman which seemed to give him some instructions. The mop of black hair nodded and the boy retreated a couple of steps, placing the heavy load down on the grass. He stretched, hands resting on his hips as he panted and wiped a hand all over his sweaty face. His fingers were threading in the short locks that clung to his sticky skin when he flinched, locking gazes with the prince.

The boy blinked back, fixed in the spot as he took in the young worker’s appearance. Although separated by quite the distance, the prince could still perceive the youth in the kid’s features. His strong figure had fooled him at first but now that he was seeing his face it was clear as day that he had to have been around his same age. His skin was darker than the prince’s, same as the eyes, although that might have been a trick of the hard shadows that fell over the beautiful gems. His jaw prominent and nose crooked that suited that overall ‘roughness’ he displayed, but surprisingly enough the prince didn’t feel scared by him in the slightest. Instead he found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the boy, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. The kid kept staring at him, visibly tensing but not letting his nerves take control of him.

The young heir felt somehow flattered, servants didn’t usually make that much eye contact with him. An unconscious smile was born in his lips and stretched them as he looked at the boy some meters away. For reasons he had yet to understand he raised a hand and waved it shyly at him. The kid’s shoulders stiffened and he looked around, seemingly lost, before his dark eyes went back to the prince. His mouth twitched and one of his hands turned into a fist as it started to rise slowly.

The foreman shouted something, catching the kid’s attention and he immediately rushed to gather some more materials, never looking back to the other boy. The prince’s smile dissolved wistfully, his eyes followed the boy until he disappeared behind a wall, unable to see his figure anymore.

“Kai!” He turned around at the call. His father and the group of men had walked away while he was spellbound by the young servant. “Come on, son. Don’t get distracted.” The Maharaja motioned him to join them. He licked his lips, thoughts of the boy still lingering in his mind. The prince nodded and approached the men, his father once again placed a cold hand on his back, pushing him forward so he wouldn’t stay behind a second time. Kai looked over his shoulder on the sly, stealing one last glance at the noirette that was already carrying a new bundle of planks towards the arbor. A warm, foreign sensation invaded the prince and this time it wasn’t caused by the bright star upon their heads.

 

♦♦♦

 

Nya, Lloyd and Zane rushed to the basement. The three of them still bewildered and confused as to what was going on in their house. As they spotted Karloff on the front door, Nya once again made use of her royal rights and demanded the man to release their friend. Karloff agreed as Nya promised him his job was not at risk, then the man pressed the key into the lock.

The royal family couldn’t believe their eyes as the door of the cell opened wide. Jay was curled up in a corner, wrists chained, sobbing pathetically as tears ran down his face. The boy’s breath quickened when he saw the familiar faces by the threshold and he anxiously crawled to them, eager to shower Cole with hugs and kisses —platonic, of course— for keeping his promises. 

Zane stepped forward and caught the boy in his arms. Jay bawled, his words barely holding any sense as he constantly repeated Zane’s name along with a large amount of ‘thank you’s. Karloff got the boy out of the shackles and with his help they walked Jay upstairs and to the shared bedroom. The gingerhead couldn’t even walk without tripping, his body unstable and trembling as he couldn’t stop crying.

Once back in the opulent room Nya thanked the guard for his help and gave him the next day off while the blondes laid Jay down on the bed. The poor boy was a whimpering mess. Zane ordered the servants to bring them water and a valerian tea. Jay's stomach was way too stressed to be able to process any solids, but it was imperative they took care of him before the boy's dehydration reached dangerous levels. The tea would as well help him dwindle all the anxiety that was running high through his veins.

Zane, Nya and Lloyd were eager to ask Jay what had happened. The three of them were so confused. How had the boy ended up in the dungeons? Why was Kai acting so strange and violent? What did mean all that happened back in the royal chamber? The questions though would remain unanswered for the time being. Jay was clearly in no state to talk, and even if he was they all agreed the boy needed to rest urgently before moving onto serious matters.

Zane sat on the floor right next to Jay's bed and held the boy's hands, all the while whispering tender words to the young man and caressing his hair as Jay would shed more tears. Nya and Lloyd stayed close, sitting on Cole's bed and keeping a vigilant eye on the pair, ready to assist at any moment if Zane considered it appropriate. 

Time didn't seem to pass at all, minutes felt like hours. Although the tea seemed to have worked its magic dragging Jay to a subtle slumber, the boy would eventually shake in his sleep and wake up in a frenzy, in need of someone to reassure him that he was not inside the cell anymore, which Zane patiently did.

Lloyd's heart broke as he watched the scene. Yes, him and Jay might have not been in the best terms up until then, but Lloyd hadn't forgotten all those nights at his old place when he cried hopelessly until his eyes ached from how dry they went, he hadn't forgotten of the many times the royal family had taken care of him during a meltdown when he was still new around, of how destroying it was for the soul to be treated like garbage. Staring at Jay at those moments was like seeing himself in the mirror, and Lloyd never thought watching someone cry that way could hurt as much as being the one in pain.

 

A few hours into the night, Lloyd's golden head bobbed again, his eyelids fluttered open after realizing he'd fallen asleep for the umpteenth time. He stared ahead at Zane's figure still kneeled beside the bed. Lloyd's eyes heavy with the impending need to sleep but he made a new effort to keep himself awake. 

Nya patted his back, "Go to sleep." Lloyd shook his head. "Don't worry, we'll take care of him. You should rest." The blond tried to counter, but the words died in his lips. He wanted to help, even if he couldn't do anything big, he wanted to be there for Jay. It just didn't seem fair to Lloyd to abandon someone who was feeling what he had suffered almost all his life.

"Lloyd, listen to Nya. Jay is going to be very tired tomorrow and he'll need us at full capacity." Lloyd didn't argue with Zane, he understood it wasn't an advice anymore, but rather a friendly request. 

Zane asked Nya to take a nap as well, the princess agreed with the condition to be awakened later and switch places with him. Lloyd reluctantly hopped onto his bed, stealing one last glance at the other side of the room. Zane was gently securing his fingers on Jay’s hands, the boy’s breath labored even in his sleep, while Nya lay down on Cole’s bed with a sigh.

Guilt stabbed Lloyd’s heart. Hadn’t he been bullying Jay all this time he could probably have helped his friends in this situation, but Lloyd knew every action had its consecuences. Jay didn't need more stress in his life at the moment and Lloyd's angelic face would surely only bring that to the distressed boy. The young blond pulled the covers over him and tried to follow Zane’s advice. Sleep grabbed him almost immediately.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

The sun rays entered the room, ricocheting on the pale walls and illuminating the place gently. Lloyd rubbed his face against the pillow, shifting in bed as he slowly regained consciousness. A soft groan emanated from his throat, he felt so tired for some reason, head heavy as if he'd been drinking and his body weak. 

The momentary amnesia was short-lived, for when his eyes opened and registered his surroundings everything came back like an avalanche. Jay lay on his bed, silent. Nya sitting on the floor next to him, her face and arms resting on the edge of the bed, sleeping peacefully apparently. Zane was nowhere to be seen. 

The milieu was as dull and depressing as it had been last night, the only difference being the lack of weeping from the boy they had retrieved from the basement. Lloyd stared at the two people in the room for a moment. Reality was slowly and painfully seeping into him; the dungeon, Jay's sobs, Kai's ludicrous outburst, his venomous words. Lloyd's eyes squeezed shut as the feelings that accompanied the memories resurged along the images. He brushed a hand over his bangs, pushing aside some of the rebellious locks and got off the bed, fighting to stay as far as possible from the events from last night. He tiptoed over to Nya, quiet as he could be then waited a moment, hesitant before he patted Nya’s shoulders and softly woke her up.

“Oh, hi Lloyd.” The girl said rubbing her sleepy eyes and wincing as she straightened and her muscles ached from the uncomfortable position she had doze off. The blond smiled in return. "Where's Zane?" Nya asked taking a quick look around. 

Lloyd shrugged. "He was already gone when I woke up." Nya hummed and instinctively tried to fix her hair as she sat down on Cole's bed for more comfort. Lloyd's eyes quickly scanned Jay, almost scared to leave his eyes on the boy for too long. "H-how is he?" Lloyd mumbled.

“It took him time but he eventually fell asleep from exhaustion. He hasn’t stirred for a while now.” The princess informed, a long yawn coming out of her mouth moments after.

A tiny smile crept up to Lloyd’s lips, it was good to know Jay’s brain was finally allowing him some rest. 

"You okay, Nya?"

"Yes, just a bit tired."

Lloyd dragged his lower lip into his mouth and swallowed hard. An idea just crossed his mind. "Why… Why don't you go rest for a while?" The blond asked.

"No, don't worry. It's fine, I can handle this." Said the young girl, although the bags under her eyes screamed the opposite.

"I do worry, Nya. You don't look fine at all."

Nya sighed, studied Jay's sleeping figure then looked back at Lloyd. "Do you think you can take care of him alone?"

Lloyd nodded slowly. He had no experience in nursing people; he had always been the one taken care of, not the other way around. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do or say if Jay woke up under his watch, but something inside of Lloyd told him it was time to stop acting like a baby. And what better way to burn karma than to watch over the boy he himself had been bullying for days? The princess though didn't seem much convinced.

"Zane will be back any moment." Lloyd added, trying to put on a reassuring smile. Nya cocked an eyebrow at him, surprised that Lloyd was offering to take her place. She finally rubbed her mouth with a sigh.

"Okay, I'll take you up on that offer. I probably need it anyway, I'll have to take care of all the meetings and stuff Kai had scheduled for today." The mention of the monarch hit Lloyd hard on his empty stomach and made him shiver. Nya hugged the boy and placed a kiss on his forehead. "Thank you, Lloyd." 

The blond smiled at her again then Nya finally walked out of the room. It was obvious in the way her body clumsily got to the door that the girl needed some good rest in her own bed.

After Nya was gone, the reality of the situation made Lloyd anxious all over again. He was in the same room as Jay. Alone . What was he supposed to do now? Zane and Nya had spent their turns kneeled down before Jay's bed, holding his hand, but to Lloyd that felt odd. Yeah, maybe he didn't want to choke the guy anymore but after all the tension that had been building up between them, Lloyd didn't think he could get all touchy overnight —and Jay wouldn't probably appreciate that anyway, considering he seemed to be as reluctant to intimate contact as was Lloyd. It would take time to get rid of the awkwardness that existed between the two of them.

Eventually Lloyd decided to sit on Cole's bed and watch Jay from there. It was a good distance, close enough to be able to study his face but not so much that it would be uncomfortable if the boy ever opened his eyes —Lloyd wished Zane would be back before that happened. He really didn't want Jay freaking out when it was just the two of them in the room. Lloyd already had troubles handling his own emotions, he'd probably fail at keeping Jay's under control.

Taking advantage of the boy's unconsciousness, Lloyd studied his features in detail while keeping a vigilant eye on him. Lloyd had to admit Jay was rather cute. That messy splatter of freckles over his cheeks, and the soft pinkiness around them that mixed so perfectly with the rest of the skin. His nose, masculine yet with an adorable roundness to the tip, and his lips pink and beautiful despite the recent little cracks that had surely appeared due to hyperventilation. It hurt Lloyd to a certain degree but Jay had all the ingredients for a perfect cute boy recipe. It still was difficult for the royal spouse to accept Jay’s beauty without feeling down. His low self-esteem wouldn’t heal in just a couple of days but he promised himself he would work to become a better person. Someone stronger who didn’t need to be reassured everyday that he was valid .

All that thinking brought Lloyd to a turmoil of emotions.  As much as he was trying to avoid it Kai constantly rose back in his mind. Kissing him, loving him, helping Lloyd in finding his way out of the nightmare he had been living for years —as well as the psychological scars his parents left him. But he also saw Kai going mad for no reason, yelling and almost hitting him hadn’t Cole reacted fast last night. 

Lloyd’s gaze fell to his own hand, the one that had collided with Kai's face. His heart squeezed painfully. It hurt to hit his own husband, but listening to Kai saying all those horrible things, talking about Jay as if the boy wasn't even a person had hurt even more. Lloyd couldn't stop himself back then, his body had moved automatically and slapped the Maharaja without a second thought. His only purpose —to stop that mouth from releasing anymore hurtful words. Sadly that had only added fuel to Kai's rage. 

You damn ingrate! So now you’re on his side?! After pestering him all you wanted and more?! After emotionally blackmailing me to kick him out because you were fucking jealous?!

Lloyd’s arms went around his own body and squeezed hard. Kai’s words had wounded him deep. On one side there had been so much ire, resentment and even disgust on them that it still made Lloyd's body shudder with fear at the mere reminder. On the other side Lloyd now recognized the horrible truth in those words. It was no use denying himself that he had expected Kai to kick Jay out after the first days. Kai had always given him whatever he wanted, why wouldn’t he do it again? 

Sad green orbs inspected Jay’s face once again, then warm tears started rolling down Lloyd’s cheeks. How could he have been such a stupid, spoiled brat? All his life he’d been maltreated, misjudged, thrown onto a pile of junk like garbage, yet… he had done the same to Jay the first time they met, simply because Lloyd couldn’t cope with the idea of losing Kai's attention to someone new.

Lloyd got comfortable on Cole’s bed, sitting with his back glued to the headboard. Lamenting wouldn’t fix all the pain he had surely brought onto Jay through his grouchy attitude, nor lessen the guilt Lloyd felt for his past actions, but the tears wouldn’t stop just because he thought they weren’t productive.

As he was taking a moment to just let the sadness wash over him, the door opened. Lloyd rubbed his face fast, trying to erase the shiny trails on the skin before looking at the entrance. Zane was back. 

“Oh, good morning, Lloyd, I thought you- Baby, why are you crying?” The older blond rushed to him.

“It's nothing.” He sniffed again, looking away from his friend to rub his features one last time for extra measure. “I was just getting all emotional, don’t worry.”

“Are you okay? Did something happen while I was gone?”

“No, no. I’m fine… Really.” Zane cocked a suspicious eyebrow at him, Lloyd shifted anxiously in his spot. “Where were you anyway?”

“I went to speak to the cooks. Taking into consideration all that has happened in the last hours, I imagined we would all appreciate a much less sumptuous lunch in the privacy of our room.”

“Ah, good thinking.” Lloyd seconded. He definitely wasn’t feeling up for one of their usual bubbly, big family gatherings. Even doubted it would have taken place anyway.

“Where’s Nya?” Zane questioned.

“She was tired, I told her to go sleep in her bed before she’s called to take care of the kingdom for…” Lloyd trailed off, unsure if it was a good idea to bring up the monarch in the conversation just yet. Zane nodded, understanding of their reasoning. Nya would have a lot of work to do with Kai ‘gone’.

Zane looked at Jay then back to Lloyd. “Did he-?” But was cut off by the boy shaking his head.

“He’s been sleeping the whole time. Not even flinched once.”

Zane sighed relieved. “That’s good to hear.” He smiled. Lloyd held his gaze for as long as he could bear before looking away from Zane feeling a stinging burn surrounding his eyes. The older blond scooted closer, caressing a hand up and down Lloyd's slightly damp cheek. "Honey, what is wrong?"

Lloyd trembled and reached out for Zane, clutching the slender body in his small arms. "I'm scared…" Lloyd sobbed on his chest. "I… don't understand what's happening. Kai… he can't… he would never…" A strained cry seized Lloyd's throat, making it impossible for the boy to keep talking. Zane rubbed his hands in soothing circles all over Lloyd's back, aware that nothing he ever did would calm his friend —not with their current situation, but he still tried nevertheless.

Lloyd's face rose up, Zane could feel his lips trembling against the pale skin of his neck. "I can't believe it, Zane. I don't want to!" Lloyd said when his airway cleared. "How could Kai do and say such things? Please, tell me I'm dreaming, please." Lloyd lamented.

His friend swallowed thickly. "I'm sorry, Lloyd, but... I can't." The boy choked on a cry, gripping the back of Zane's shirt tighter. "I'm as lost as you are at the moment. Sadly, all we can do is wait, be patient and pray to the gods that we’ll find a way to fix this." Lloyd whimpered against him. He couldn’t shake away the thoughts of Kai yelling at him, hurting him, hurting Jay.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Seconds had never ticked by so slowly. It was already well into afternoon, Zane and Lloyd sat on the floor, facing each other. Cards were scattered around on the space between their legs. Zane lifted two cards from the floor and placed them together by his side upon confirming they had the same pattern drawn on the front. He managed to get a few more pairs before his spell of good luck broke. "Your turn." Zane said, gesturing at his friend. Lloyd stared down at the rest of the cards, doing nothing. "Lloyd?" The young man waved a hand in front of the other's eyes. Lloyd flinched, coming down from a distant world.

"S-sorry. I… spaced out."

"It's fine." Zane clutched his hand, reassuring the boy. The day was getting rougher by the minutes but Zane wouldn't give up. Lloyd had been seriously affected by the events from last night and they were wrecking havoc in his already sensitive soul. They had had a simple lunch with Nya before she had been called to attend the first meeting of the day. Although she was tired, Lloyd's suggestion to have some good old rest in her own bed had been proved a great idea.

Sadly there were no news yet about Kai or Cole. None of them had come out of the royal bedroom. Zane had instructed the cooks to deliver them some simple and nice food as well. Praying that they would be okay. He didn't understand what had happened for Kai to react as he had done last night nor the actual reason behind Jay's arrest, but Zane sensed it was something deep, which preoccupied him even more. He'd known Kai for a few years and through all that time the monarch had never been that… out of his mind. Not even during some of the most tedious visits from lord Pythor. The Kai they had witnessed hours ago, spewing fire and trying to jump on their throats, was not the man he had married.

Even though Zane was very confident in his belief, Lloyd looked exactly the opposite. The smaller blond had been breaking down every now and then. Trembling, crying, scared at more things than he was letting Zane know. It was understable for Lloyd to feel so troubled. Zane was conscious it had been a shock for the innocent young man to have his first love spitting such hurtful things at him, to have the person he trusted the most and considered his hero and savior make a 180º flip and turn his back on them.

Instead of getting back to the game, Lloyd's eyes rose up to the bed nearby, Jay still lying on it, silently sleeping. "Why hasn't he woke up yet? He's been sleeping for hours." Lloyd asked.

"His body and mind need to rest." Zane explained. Judging by how agitated Jay had been once out of the cell, Zane was actually surprised the boy had managed to fall asleep.

"Shouldn't we…?" Zane shook his head at Lloyd's unfinished request. "But… he- he needs to eat something!" Lloyd almost barked trying to come up with whatever excuse to wake Jay up and check how he was doing.

"The human body is wiser than it seems. Don't worry, Lloyd, he'll awake when he-"

"Hm…"

Both Lloyd and Zane's heads whipped around following the source of the noise. The boy in bed was moving under the covers and letting out tiny noises through his lips. Lloyd's first instinct was to jump to him but refrained himself from doing so, instead letting Zane who looked more prepared and experienced in dealing with hurt people take the lead. The taller blond approached the bed, kneeling down beside it like hours ago. He took one of Jay's hands in his and used his free one to push a few stray ginger locks away from Jay's slick forehead. 

Zane held his breath, studying Jay's shy moves while Lloyd watched from a couple of steps away. Brown eyelashes trembled as Jay’s eyes blinked repeatedly with pain. The silence was tense, heavy over the blondes’ shoulders. A moment passed before Jay's eyes focussed on the person before him.

"Zane…?" 

"Hello, Jay."

 

Chapter Text

The cloth smacked the floor with a heavy wet sound. The boy clicked his tongue, he didn’t dry it properly once again and now the excess of the liquid had created quite a  puddle on the tiles. He groaned exasperated, eyes rolling to the back of his skull. The cloth moved back to the bucket, suspended over it as he wrung it harder, then shoved it onto the messy floor. The fabric was so old that it barely sucked any liquid once already wet. The boy shook his head. Just another day in his miserable life as a servant for these rich assholes.

Accepting his doomed fate for the umpteenth time he grabbed the washing cloth with both hands and rubbed it against the wet floor, scrubbing the dirty tiles. The cooks had had quite a couple of messy accidents that morning while preparing breakfast for the King and his family, resulting in the kitchen floor to get tinted with sticky preparations and flower all over the place, and as usual, he got to deal with the consequences of their mistakes like the errand boy he was. Scratch that, they were making him do all the dirty stuff because he was new around the palace, and as the chief had said ‘You gotta start low before ending high’.

Start low. He snorted. As if he hadn’t been at rock bottom since the day he was born. These people didn’t know the meaning of ‘low status’, not even the servants, they had no idea how awful his life had been. They lived so comfortable inside these walls, with guaranteed meals everyday, a bed and clothes. And don’t get him started on the royal family, those asses did live well, scrounging off the hard work of diligent people like him, laughing at their bad luck and looking down at them-

The prince’s smile flashed before him and the short hairs of his nape stood on end. The same shiver he’d felt that day hit him again, his guts tensing as his stomach jolted weirdly. The prince had looked at him so intently, so friendly and… genuine?

He sighed again, scrubbing harder at a nasty, coarse stain. Don’t be stupid, you know his kind. That smile had been anything but genuine. And waving at him? That was not a friendly gesture but a way to mock him, to remember him he was stuck there cleaning other people’s shit while he did nothing but play and sleep all day. Yeah, surely, the guy was just as fake as his father.

The servant winced as he stretched his body to reach a distant spot, his back was killing him. Carrying heavy stuff all day and now having to kneel down to clean the floor were taking a toll on him. He dropped the dirty cloth on the floor, placing his hands on his back and arching as he pressed the palms firmly against the sore muscles, eyebrows knitting together in pain. He glanced at the bucket, the water was a bit grimy already. He’d better change it before he resumed his task. The cooks would be back soon to get started with lunch preparations and they wanted the place clean as a whistle.

With a groan he got onto his feet, picking up the bucket.

 

Green orbs stared wide open through the small gap of the open door, not wanting to miss a detail of the boy that was kneeling on the kitchen floor. The kid could see his strong back muscles tensing as his body flexed, scrubbing with great care. When he sat up and arched, the watcher bit his lip and swallowed as he felt his mouth producing an obscene amount of saliva.

“Who are you spying?” A tiny whisper tickled his ear. The prince jumped, barely containing a gasp and turning around, his sister was behind him, squatting with him and a silly smile on her face.

“N-Nya! Don’t do that ever-”

The door suddenly opened, shoving the royal offspring back with the impulse and down the short stairs. The servant that had been cleaning the kitchen just a second ago tripped with them, falling over the couple and getting the three of them all soaked as the heavy bucket slipped from his hands. 

“Shit, what the fuck?!” His first instinct was to curse at whoever had bumped into him, but when he rose up from the mess of limbs and realized who were lying in front of him, his heart stopped. Pupils contracted as he recognized the boy from the other day, he hadn’t seen the princess up close yet but a girl that age and dressed so graciously could be no one else than the her. And he had just emptied a bucket full of dirty water on them. 

“Fuck!” He shouted, hands automatically slapping his mouth. Double fuck! He’d been told not to swear around the palace, and specially not in the presence of his owners. “I- I- I- I’m sorry!!!” He cried out, reaching for the bucket with shaky hands, as if retrieving the item would bring a solution to his problem.

“My dress!” The young princess gasped looking down at her clothes which had gotten all wet.

The prince stared wide eyed at his own soiled clothes, being at the front line he’d gotten the worst part of the incident. Sneaking up on the boy had been a very bad idea. His gaze shot up to the strong boy who still lay awkwardly half-sitting in front of him, clutching the bucket as he shook.

“I- I didn’t mean to! I’m- I’m sorry!” He whimpered nervously.

“It’s… It’s okay… It was my f-”

“For Brahma’s heads! What has happened here?!” The young trio looked up, a man dressed in a servant uniform approached them, mouth agape as he quickly analyzed the situation, his eyes then turning hard when they landed on the black haired boy and took him by the arm, pulling him up on his feet. “How you dare doing that to their Majesties?!”

“I didn’t see them, I-”

“Shut that filthy mouth!” The man slapped the boy with the back of his hand. “Be off!”

The boy gripped the handle of the bucket and scrambled away fast as the wind. The servant shot him one last glare before helping the prince and his sister onto their feet, gasping at their messed outfits and cursing lowly at the incompetence of the rookie.

“It’s… It’s okay.” Kai ventured. “It was an accident, he didn’t do it on purpose.”

The man eyed the young boy, one eyebrow arching up incredulously at his kind heart. “He still should have watched where he was going.” The servant added dryly before urging the kids inside, accompanying them to get changed. Later he’d make sure that stupid ball of muscles got properly punished for his lack of attention and ruining two expensive outfits.

 

♦♦♦

 

Jay stared at the blond before him with confused, tired eyes. Reality taking its time to dawn onto him, but as it did, he rose like a spring, letting out a terrified squeak. The party, the gifts, the kisses, the cell! He'd have jumped out of the bed hadn't it been for the glorious headache that knocked him down again.

"Jay, calm down. You’re safe." Zane cooed him while the boy pressed a hand up to his throbbing temple. "Are you hurt?"

"M-my head… It’s pounding..." Jay whimpered, eyebrows knit together in pain.

"Lie down, dear. Don’t force yourself." The ex doctor guided Jay down onto the pillows slowly. “It’s okay, take it easy.”

Jay groaned, both hands rubbing his face. His head pulsated like mad, it felt like his brain was going to break through the skull and pop out of it any moment. He gave the surroundings a quick scan with his eyes, realizing he was indeed out of that nasty cell, lying in his comfortable bed in the spouses chamber. Hesitantly Zane placed a palm over his forehead, then cupped his cheeks. "You don't seem to have a fever but nevertheless," he turned his head towards the boy standing a short distance away. "Lloyd, please, could you call a servant?"

The blond nodded vehemently and flew to the corridor. "Servant?!" Jay tried to get up, anxiety crawling up his body, fearing the authority of the people who worked under the king’s command.

"Don't worry, dear. I just want them to bring some tea for you. Now lie down and rest, please."

Jay was slowly forced down onto his back on the bed, the ginger letting out a raspy sigh, he had just woken up but already felt exhausted. He looked around again, stinging eyes sensitive to the light around the room. Everything looked fine. Was he really out of danger? Where was Kai? And Nya? And…?

"W-where's Cole?" He asked lowly as shivers spread all over his nerves.

"He's… busy at the moment." Zane faltered for a short second. "But he'll be back soon."

Jay's chest squeezed with discomfort at the lack of his friend but got distracted when Lloyd reappeared with a maiden. Zane instructed the young girl to bring them a chamomile tea, right after Zane asked Lloyd to fill a small basin with cold water from the bathroom and  gather some small towels, which the boy did promptly. The former medic dampened the cloth into the basin, got rid of the excess of water and placed the towel over Jay's head, making sure to cover his forehead and temples. 

Jay flinched at the cold contact but relaxed his muscles a second after. The cold wetness of the cloth felt nice on his pulsating skull. Zane moistened the band once more before the same maid came back with a tray and the things the royal spouse had requested. With slow moves, they managed to get Jay to sit up just enough to be able to drink without choking. Zane even held the cup to his lips at first, although the boy took it from him, it was much less hassle if he used his own hands. With small sips Jay eventually drank down a full cup. His eyes closed as Zane applied a new damp towel to his head.

Lloyd was impressed. He'd seen Zane taking care of the others when they would catch a cold or be sore after an intense training session, even during a few trips around the kingdom where the young man couldn’t help to assist the poor people they’d encounter. But Lloyd had never seen his friend like this. Zane had gone full doctor mode, observing Jay’s every little gesture, paying attention to his breathing, his heart rate. Lloyd imagined whatever information Zane was extracting from his analysis would serve to take better care of Jay.

Whatever he was doing it looked like a very difficult task in Lloyd’s eyes, that's why the short male stayed quiet all the time, waiting, eager to assist Zane any way he could, it was probably the only thing he could do. Lloyd barely had any medicine knowledge, only the very little Zane had shared with him over the last months, which wasn't nearly enough to take care of a boy who looked like he might pass out at the sight of a fly. But to Zane it all seemed to come naturally. The way he carefully twisted the towel to get rid of the excess of water, it was as if he could weight the exact humidity left in the fabric. The way he would spoke to Jay, using a soothing tone and short phrases, brushing his fingers softly on the other boy's arm.

Lloyd's own guilt and embarrassment grew stronger at the reminder that it was his own fault he couldn't be helping Jay more directly. 

"Jay would you like anything? Some more tea or food or…?" Zane asked.

"No…" The ginger groaned, sinking deeper into the cushions. "I just want this headache to go away. It's killing me."

"Be patient, my dear. You should start to sense some difference in twenty or thirty minutes." Jay let out another exasperated noise. Eyelids shut, trying to block anything that could stir a reaction. His mind was already doing a great job at torturing him, he didn't need any visual stimulus.

Zane kept his eyes vigilant on Jay as the boy tried to relax, breath heavy and face twisted in evident annoyance. Lloyd stared at them, stiff, not knowing what to do. Was there even anything for him to do at this point? Zane was taking perfect care of their patient, and if he needed something the young man could just call a servant to get it for him. Lloyd couldn't provide any real help and he knew it. 

The fidgety blond pondered if he should go back to lying on his own bed or leave the room until Zane told him it was okay to return. Where would he go to? He had no idea. It wasn't like the other family members could comfort him when he was feeling like a useless spoiled brat. Nya was busy and Kai and Cole had gone missing in action. He would just have to wander around the palace and keep himself distracted somehow, leave the problems to the people who could really take care of them.

Lloyd was about to turn and start for the door when his eyes met Zane's. "I… uh…" he muttered, trying not to disturb Jay with his voice. Lloyd took a step back, rising a hand and pointing at the door hesitantly. 

Zane shook his head and patted the space on the floor beside him with his free hand. Lloyd's eyes widened, anxiety and confusion written all over his face. Zane gestured him again to take a seat by his side, not accepting a 'No' for a response. Lloyd stuttered and swallowed thickly before walking to his friend. He kneeled down on the assigned spot, eyeing both Zane and Jay, dubious. The taller blond took one of his hands and moved it to Jay's. Lloyd flinched back but Zane guided him again, until Lloyd's palm slid under Jay's sweaty one. The pale, sore digits curled gently around Lloyd's limb as if by pure instinct.

Lloyd stared in bewilderment at the scene as if it wasn't his own hand performing such action. Zane sent him a reassuring smile that brightened Lloyd's face. Jay's fingers, although hot and sweaty felt pleasant somehow, sending sparks of affection all through Lloyd's nerves. Maybe Jay was too affected by his headache to even care about who held his hand anymore, or maybe he wasn't as bitter towards Lloyd as the blond initially had thought.

 

♦️♦️♦️

 

Minutes passed. The royal spouses stayed there, kneeling by the bed and holding Jay's hand in utter silence. Zane soaked the towel whenever it became too dry or warm on Jay's forehead until the ginger seemed to feel there was no need for the damp cloth anymore.

"How's the headache?" Zane asked.

"Uh… Better." Jay responded hesitantly. The pain was certainly nowhere near to what had been a while ago, but his brain still felt odd, not to mention his body. Now that his mind was a bit more clear he could feel his back and sides aching, sore, surely from lying on that putrid cell floor for so many hours. Jay squeezed his eyes but opened them a second later with a hiss. The darkness behind his eyelids bringing him back to that place, to the pain, the anguish, the hurt. 

"Do you want some more tea?" Zane asked. Jay rose a hand to his face, pressing hard on his brow, limb trembling slightly. What he wanted was to wake up from this joke that had been his life lately, but he nodded at Zane nevertheless.

As the blond turned to his friend, Lloyd was already up and walking to the small table where the teapot rested, not needing any further instructions from the former doctor. A tiny smile tugged at Zane's lips then gazed back at Jay, helping him to sit up more properly. "Mind if I…?" He asked gently, pressing a palm on the side of Jay's neck, measuring his temperature and heart rate. He withdrew soon enough, their friend's vitals seemed to have stabilized.

Jay dropped his hand back onto the bed only then noticing the bandages that were wrapped around his wrist, surprise in his orbs as he looked at them. "You had a few scratches there, I went ahead and patched them to prevent an infection. We should take care of your fingers as well later." Zane explained. Jay stared at the mild injure and the reddened knuckles. Heart thumping wild as the events from the other night threatened to surface in his mind, he squeezed his eyes again. It was just so painful to remember.

Lloyd came back, the cup clinking on the tiny plate as he stepped carefully and handed Jay the infusion. The boy finished his second cup of chamomile tea and leaned his head back onto the headboard with a long sigh. He was tired but not enough to go back to sleep, it was rather mental fatigue.  His eyes opened and looked at the couple of blondes next to him, both boys had a soft smile on their lips that made Jay shift on the bed uncomfortably. He looked away, anxious under the boys' stare. What were they even thinking? Were they fine with what had have happened to him? Did they pity Jay because they had already experienced a similar rage attack from their husband? Were they… watching over him so he couldn't escape or try to get some revenge on the Maharaja? He didn't know, but the doubt was destroying his nerves and he still wasn't sure where he even stood in this whole mess.

 Jay's eyes scanned the room for the umpteenth time. "Where's Cole?" He asked again. "Why isn’t he here?" Jay longed to see the boy. Cole's last words had become his pilar during the minutes Jay waited in that cell after his departure.

I'll get you out. I promise.

Although he was aware that the whole group had come to rescue him, Jay still felt Cole had played the biggest role in the mission.  Jay had been crying his eyes out, pretty much lost all hope in that cell as hours passed and nobody seemed to acknowledge his disappearance around the palace. All that stuff about being a united family, about caring for each other —mere baloney. No one actually missed him.

Then Cole's voice had echoed all around the somber place, the distress and genuine concern in his voice as he shouted his name  had acted like a strong wind, pulling Jay up to his feet without even realizing it, and filling his heart with renewed hope.

Jay needed to see Cole, to thank him for being there, for not turning his back on him when he most needed it, for being the best of friends, for being the only one that truly cared.

Lloyd looked at Zane, Jay's question still hung unanswered in the air. What were they supposed to say? Not even them were certain of Cole's whereabouts. Oh, Shiva, for all Lloyd knew, Cole could be the one locked up now. The taller blond took a moment to pick his words carefully. Keeping Jay in a healthy mental state was their top priority, but neither could Zane blatantly lie to him. "Cole's… taking care of Kai." He finally said.

The hesitation in the usually collected man made a dozen alarms go off in Jay's head. He sat up straight, fighting the subtle aching that was still drilling his temples. "Is he okay?!" If Kai had gone berserk with him the other night, Jay feared what the monarch might do to his oh so beloved husbands.

"Yes, please, don't stress." Zane said aiding Jay down onto the pillows. "He'll be back as soon as possible." Zane reassured him, although in all honesty, Jay thought the boy didn't seem much convinced by his own words.

As Jay was going to keep pushing the issue, a knock on the door made his heart leap in his chest with intense hope. Finally ! Cole was back! Although Jay still felt light headed and dizzy he thought he was strong enough to jump out of bed and run straight into Cole's arms. The man would help him, get him out of this place, he'd understand Jay, he would-

"Hello, Nya." Said Zane as the door opened, revealing the young princess behind the wooden board. Jay's face fell. His worry for the missing boy resurging again even stronger than before. 

"Hi, how are- Oh, Jay! You're awake!" The princess gasped as happy as ever. She quickly made her way to the group and sat on Jay's bed on the opposite side from the two blondes. Clutching his hand gently with both of hers. "How are you feeling?"

"Uhm… I'm… I'm fine, I guess. Just tired." The boy said with a miserable attempt at a smile and failing at it.

"It's good to hear that."

"They've let you go earlier today?" Zane asked the busy woman.

"Kind of. Counselor Wu said I should go back and rest while he rearranges some audiences for the following days. But I had to come check up on you guys, I was really worried." She said looking at Jay. That pitiful smile again that made the ginger wonder if the girl was merely acting noble or legit concerned about him. Nya was the princess —and Kai's sister—,  Jay was sure she would always side with her brother during an argument.

The room went deadly quiet. A few times Jay glanced at the people around him. When their gazes locked, his companions' faces shifted. It was too easy to read the awkwardness in the ambience, the avoidance in their eyes made Jay more uncomfortable. Were they expecting him to say something? To apologize to the king for… for what?! Jay still didn't even know what had he done to be treated so bad!

"Are we not gonna talk about it?" Lloyd whispered into Zane's ear, but the room was so silent that you could even hear the drop of a pin. Zane's eyes opened wide with agitation and shushed Lloyd.

"Now's not the right moment."

"And when will it be?"

"Shhhh." Zane looked back to Jay, the boy averted his eyes down to his own lap. Lloyd pleaded at Zane with silent lips, the older blond sighed. "Nya, may I speak with you for a moment?"

The princess nodded serious and walked to the door with her brother-in-law. She and Zane stood by the threshold, leaving the entrance of the room partially open so Jay wouldn't get too anxious at being left alone with Lloyd. In reality the boy was so deep down in his own misery that he no longer cared who was around him. "Do you know anything about Kai and Cole?" Zane asked the princess, to which she shook her head in response.

"No, I wanted to see you guys first." Zane's head fell forward, arms crossed as he took deep a breath through the nose. "Are you okay, Zane?" Nya asked upon noticing the tired expression on the boy.

"I… I'm so confused. I keep thinking about last night but the more I do it, the less sense Kai's wrath makes." Nya nodded at him. Zane was right, Kai could throw a tantrum every now and then but not to the point he almost hit someone. "I've never seen him so enraged, so out of himself, so…"

"Broken?" Nya finished for him.

"... Yes." His eyes darted up to the girl, looking at her curiously. Now it was Nya whose face was pointing at the floor, eyebrows knitted together, strong bone-chilling emotions flooding her eyes. "Nya, is something the matter?" Zane asked. Obviously the princess was expected to be perturbed by the recent events and concerned for her brother but… Zane could sense something more on her. 

The young woman shook her head and blinked forcefully. "No, nothing. I was just... thinking."

Zane wasn't convinced by the girl's words but he had no time to ask her for details. A voice called at them from behind Zane. When they turned to the end of the corridor both their hearts jumped with elation. A tall, brawny boy with disheveled black hair stood a few feet away, eyes tired and face pinching with what felt like fear of rejection.

Forgetting all about his once severely injured feet, Zane leaped towards the man, throwing his arms around him, and feeling himself getting revived as Cole's hands locked around his waist and pulled Zane closer in a tight hug.

Chapter Text

Kai bounced softly on his heels like the bored kid he was, although he had to keep it unnoticeable to avoid getting reprimanded by his father —which wasn’t that hard considering he pretty much became invisible to the man when he was talking ‘adult stuff’ with someone else.

The prince knew he should be paying attention but he couldn’t for the life of him find a way to be interested in his father’s political affairs. His mind was far away from there. Well, maybe not so much.

He didn’t understand why but he couldn’t stop thinking about that servant. His brain would keep conjuring the boy in his mind’s eye, trying to remember his shaggy hair, his strong body stretching out with a whine… His face... He’d been too shocked to take in his facial features when the boy dropped the bucket on him days ago, but Kai thought he wasn’t all that ugly. What what happening to him?!

Movement got caught in his peripheral vision and he turned his head around at the other side of the hall where a young, bulky servant walked away holding two baskets full of wrinkled bed sheets. Kai’s heart skipped a beat. He looked up at his father again and the men surrounding him then took a tentative step away from them. No one noticed. He took another, and another until he rushed to the corner where the boy had disappeared seconds ago. Looking behind him as he ran he forgot human eyes were at the front of the face for a reason; to not bump into stuff.

The collision was minimal but enough to send his ass down to the carpeted floor as well as the other person and the baskets they were holding. Kai stared ahead at the fallen boy in front of him, his strong jaw clenched with annoyance at the mess around them.

“Oops.” Kai tittered nervously, rubbing the nape of his neck, which seemed to only make the other boy’s blood boil even more. The servant suppressed a groan and rushed to collect the sheets that had fallen out of the baskets. “Let me help you.” Kai reached out.

“No!” He yelled, and his face twisted in horror, probably after realizing he’d just spoken loud to a member of the royal family, which was something no servant had the right to do. His head ducked and rushed to gather the sheets, but Kai grabbed his wrist, halting him.

“What happened to your face?” The prince looked at him, astonished, horrified. The side of the boy’s face was slightly swollen and had a purple stain on it, a subtle dark circle encased his eye. He froze, remembering their last encounter when the other worker had slapped him. But simple slaps like that one weren’t supposed to leave such marks, were they? 

Kai panted, his breath coming out in erratic puffs and he shyly reached up to the boy’s maltreated cheek. The kid shoved him away, pushed the remainder of the bed sheets hastily into the basket and ran away. The prince was left alone, sitting on the floor, eyes locked onto the end of the corridor, his mind still wrapping around what had just happened.

“Kai? Kai, where- What are you doing lying there, young man?” The prince looked up behind himself, meeting his father’s usual cold stare. “Get up, it’s not playtime yet. Lord Chumsworth is waiting.” The monarch grabbed his arm and pulled him up to his feet, shoving Kai back to the group of men that reacted in a very diverse way at his return. Some laughed at his careless youth, others narrowed his eyes at him, tired of the kid’s childishness that made them lose valuable time of their businesses. But Kai could only see the boy’s face before him —his clearly bruised face.

Had that been his fault?

 

♦♦♦

 

Cole felt himself falling in and out of consciousness. The long and dreary night he had spent with his husband had left him exhausted, more than he'd been in a while. His head was light, fighting to stay awake while his eyelids fluttered close as if pulled down by an invisible weight, urging him some much needed rest. The boy lying in his arms jerked weakly with a low moan. Cole jumped in the bed, startled by the sudden move and looked down. Kai was wrapped in his strong limbs, sleeping, yet his eyebrows were slightly pressed together as his eyelashes trembled, tiny murmurs coming out of his chapped lips. The boy was clearly not having the time of his life. Cole sighed. It was actually a miracle that Kai was sleeping at all.

After the royal family left them, the young monarch had completely crumbled, tears never stopping as they rushed down his cheeks and left both his face and Cole’s shirt totally soaked. He sobbed on his husband. Sharp, loud gasps coming from him as he hiccupped with a rushed breathing, scaring Cole to the point he feared Kai would faint or even die from the panic attack he was having.

Panic attack . Was that even an appropriate word for what was happening to the boy? No. Cole knew it wasn't. It might have started as just that the other night, but this was something way more severe. Kai was not there . Cole suspected he hadn't been since his confrontation with Jay, and the fact that he had gone and shut himself from the real world had only aggravated the situation, allowing his emotions to swirl and stir painfully during his hours of solitude, turning his fears and bitterness bigger and harder to control. Cole's harsh tone when he was scolding him combined with Lloyd's unexpected slap had shoved the boy over the edge of present time and pulled him back. Back to a moment he despised, back to a moment he dreaded and wished to never relive, but that somehow had managed to ascend in the sea of memories that was his mind.

Cole looked up at the crimson canopy and tried to breathe, feeling the wetness already in the back of his eyes, stinging painfully. He rubbed his face and clutched Kai softly, hoping the boy would sense the embrace through the nightmares that were torturing him in his sleep and maybe allow him a moment of peace.  The noirette stared at him, fingers threading through the brown messy locks ever so gingerly, trying to comb them without waking up the boy. Cole wished he could reach inside Kai's mind and get rid of all the demons there. It just wasn’t fair that a boy as sweet as him would have to suffer that much. Cole sniffed when he felt a betraying tear falling onto the pillow, missing Kai's head by an inch, then took a deep breath through his mouth.

"I'm sorry, baby… I should have protected you better…" Cole murmured shyly, voice barely above a whisper and words full of remorse and pain, unsure Kai would register his voice, although it didn’t actually matter if the confession never reached his ears, it wasn’t like an apology would heal the boy’s broken mind anyway. It hadn’t in the past, and it wouldn’t happen in the present either.

A knock on the door grabbed Cole’s tense brain and pulled him out of his zillion nap. A servant brought them a tray with food, gently reminding the royal spouse that they were at his disposal and exited soon enough as the boy thanked them. Cole had peeled himself from Kai very slowly and walked to the tray, pulling up the lid and standing in awe at the simpleness of the meal. Rice soup, vegetables, some small pieces of meat and a few different types of fruit. The whole menu screamed ‘healthy’.

Zane… Cole couldn’t help the little smile tugging at the corner of his lips. No one else would ever order such a discreet meal but his medical friend, and the fact that the blond had thought about them brought Cole a little hope. He had no idea what had happened outside the royal bedroom, but he knew he could at least count on Zane yet. Cole’s hand absently reached up to his black mane, gripping at the roots in anguish. What would he say to them? How would he explain to the others what had happened in this very room?

Another whimper coming from the sleeping boy alerted Cole and he quickly moved the platter to the foot of the bed, sitting next to Kai.

“Shhh, it’s okay, baby. I’m right here.” Cole cooed him, whispering sweet nothings into his ear. The boy’s hands trembled, his lips opening an inch and letting out a tiny cry that pinched Cole’s heart. He rubbed his thumb all over Kai’s cheek, trying to awake him softly. “You hungry, babe? Zane’s got us some delicious food.” Kai didn’t reply, although Cole could feel the boy was not sleeping anymore, but… he wasn’t totally there either. The young man shifted, careful not to kick the tray while he tried to push Kai up into the pillows and have him somehow half-sitting half-lying on his side, his eyes still closed, unable to find the courage to open and see the cruel world that surrounded him.

Cole reached down, retrieving the bowl of still warm soup and scooting closer. “Kai, open up.” The Maharaja’s chin dropped to his chest, facing away from Cole. “Come on, baby, you have to eat something .” By the looks of it, Kai hadn’t probably eaten anything solid for the past twenty-four hours. Cole remembered the stench of alcohol in the room when he first barged in last night, in fact, remnants of it were still around in the air of the ruined room. The Maharaja had most likely been drowning in booze for a whole day, hoping the magic liquid would sweep away his pain.

With a bit more persuasion, Kai finally gave in and let his spouse feed him slowly. The bowl was almost empty by the time he turned his head down again, avoiding Cole’s gaze. The noirette sighed and downed the leftovers in one shot. Kai refused any of the rest of the food, but Cole managed to get him to have a couple of banana bites while he stuffed himself. Cole had never been someone whose stomach was hypersensitive to stress and decided to shut out on its own, but even he could feel his body unconsciously trying to reject the food as it slided down his throat. Nevertheless he forced himself to eat, fully aware that it was at times like this that the human body needed as much nutrients as possible.

Kai cried and moaned again when Cole moved to put the tray away, clinging to him and pulling Cole back to bed next to him, hiding in his strong arms, afraid of the world, afraid of losing him. Cole did his best to calm him down, repeating all the things he had been doing for the past hours until the boy eventually fell into a slumber again.

Cole wasn’t sure how many hours had passed when he opened his eyes anew. He studied the light coming in from the majestuous balcony. Not too bright but neither was it dark yet, some point during afternoon probably. He stretched in bed, Kai’s body still pressed against him but his hold on Cole’s had relaxed, allowing the boy a bit more freedom. The noirette rested his eyes on Kai, his mind still hazy and troubled.

What now? They couldn’t stay there hiding forever, not only their family was waiting for them, surely eager to know what the hell was going on, but Kai was also the most important person in the kingdom, he couldn’t just quit from his responsibilities as a monarch.

Fucking responsibilities. Cole cursed mentally. That was the root of the problem, it had always been, and sadly Kai’s royal blood would keep running through his veins and torturing him for the rest of his life. It wasn’t fair.

Cole’s eyes danced all over Kai, his body weakened from all the crying, from all the anxiety messing him up. The mere sight punched holes in his heart. Sometimes Cole wondered how different their lives would have been if Kai hadn’t been born in the bosom of the royal family. If he hadn’t been so stupid as to fall for the prince. If he had said ‘no’.

Cole bit his lip hard, and released it before he sliced it with his own teeth. How could he fix this mess? Was there… even a way to fix it after all those years? Kai looked so broken, far too gone to put the pieces of his soul and mind back together. It put an immense weight on Cole’s heart to think his one big love would never recover from this blow.

Maybe Nya could help them. Or Zane. But… asking him for help would mean having to explain everything , to bring back the memories, the pain both physical and psychological. Was Cole ready for that? To admit to his other lovers that this was his fault? He had no answer to that question, but he knew he had to do something. Lying in bed and crying all day would not solve anything. Plus this wasn’t his only problem, he still had to make sure the guys had gotten Jay out of that cell. Cole needed to see that the boy was safe and sound with his very own eyes. He wasn’t sure how would Jay react to him — if he had been released, that is. Cole had promised him he would get back to him last night, yet there he was, almost a day after without saying a word to the world outside of Kai’s room. Would Jay be mad at him? How was he hanging on in this whole situation? But ultimately, Cole knew Jay held the key as to how had Kai exploded after years of ‘being fine’.

He had never been fine. Cole knew that now.

Eyeing the boy lying by his side, Cole swallowed the lump in his throat. Kai had been sleeping ‘peacefully’ for a while now, maybe having his stomach working on digesting the food would prevent his body to focus on all the bad stuff that his mind was throwing at him. 

Very slowly Cole moved Kai’s arms away, breaking free of his embrace. He stayed by his side for a few more minutes, watching the boy, just in case he would see any signs of a distressing nightmare but they never came. With the stealth of a skilled soldier, Cole got up from the bed and walked to the door, stepping carefully over the broken mirror pieces and furniture. He’d have to ask the servants to clean this mess at some point, but not now. Kai needed to rest first. 

He took one last glance at his husband. 

‘Sleep well, my prince.’

Cole shook the memory of his younger self out of his brain. They’re not here anymore. They can’t hurt us. He willed himself to believe those words, Kai would be okay without him for a bit. He’d be fast. Just go see how everyone is doing and get back.

With that thought in mind he opened the door silently and left.

 

♦♦♦

 

“Cole, oh dear, it’s so good to see you.” Zane sighed holding tight onto the other boy.

Cole’s lips touched his brow. “So good to see you too.” He murmured low, the fear of being turned down by his friends softened a little. He clutched Zane, almost crushing him in his arms, rejoicing in the feeling of his warmth and his natural fresh scent. Zane pulled away softly, staring at Cole’s features with a smile as he cupped his neck and a smile full of love stretched his lips. Nya took a step forward, getting closer to the boys and Zane moved aside, making room for the princess. Cole stretched an arm towards her, pulling the girl into the embrace as well. 

"I was about to go see you. We've been worried sick." The princess confessed.

"Sorry." Cole kissed her forehead.

"How is Kai?" Cole tensed up at Zane's question but it was to be expected that the royal spouse would ask about the monarch. Cole's lips pressed tight and he licked them slowly. 

"He's… asleep."

Obviously that was not the kind of answer Zane had hoped for but Cole still didn't know what to do, what to say, what to explain. Nya squeezed Cole's arm. "Is he alright?" She asked him in a low voice, almost as if she was trying to keep Zane from hearing the answer, despite how close the three of them were.

"He's…" Cole struggled to get the words out and look at the girl into her big green eyes that remembered Cole so much of his husband. "He's… not here ."

Nya's shoulders stiffened and grabbed harder onto the boy, reading more into the short explanation. "W-what do you mean he's not here?" Zane asked with a sudden panic. "Did he leave the palace?!"

"No, he's in his room, but…"

"But?"

Cole averted Zane’s icy orbs that seemed to have the ability to see right through him and searched on Nya's for help. The princess though was at a lost, just like him, eyes sad with worry mimicking Cole's strained features. Zane looked at them, totally confused and trying to grasp bits of their silent conversation but it was a futile attempt.

"I'm gonna go see him." Zane declared, never loosing his gentleman semblance, but already moving. Cole grabbed his wrist, halting him. He wanted to say something, anything but his throat had closed shut, unable to let any sounds past his lips. Zane's eyes were hard on him, not in rage but sheer worry for their husband. 

"Cole, don't scare me. Is he okay?"

"He's…" Cole tried. He took another quick glance at Nya, but it seemed like whatever comfort he was searching in the girl's eyes never reached the glossy surface. "He's… He's just tired. We should let him rest a bit more." Cole said, eyes darkened as he looked down to the floor, too anxious to stare at Zane, for he knew the boy was an expert at detecting any kind of lies.

Zane walked back to him, softly pulling Cole's face up to his eyes. The blond rubbed his thumbs over the cheeks, he didn't want to pressure Cole, the man already looked very troubled as it was, but Zane didn't miss the subtle wetness that his fingers found on the tanned cheeks. 

"Cole, what's happening with him?" Zane had to ask.

"I…" he stuttered, grabbing Zane's wrists for support as he felt the tears coming back.

"Zane, why don't we- Cole!" Lloyd appeared behind the door and immediately tackled his giant friend, gripping his shirt and shedding a few tears on him. "I was so worried! I thought I wouldn't see you again."

"Hey, it's okay, greenie." Cole squeezed the boy in his arms, trying to be more gentle this time. His demeanor switched in front of their innocent friend and Cole forced himself back to his usual protective self. "I'm tougher than what I seem." He said kissing Lloyd's face all over.

"That's impossible," Lloyd said with a soft chuckle, rubbing his nose and cheeks with the back of his hand to get rid of the annoying tears that had gathered so suddenly on him. "You're already the strongest person in the world."

"I wish I was." Cole forced himself to smile at the boy although the brief happiness soon flew away from their grasp. 

"Jay… is he…?" Cole hesitated. He had been repeating to himself for the whole night that his friends would get the boy out of the cell but what if they couldn't do it in the end? What if Jay was still there, crying himself to death, pleading with his screams for Cole to come and rescue him? What if-

"He's inside. He's been asking for you." Zane said.

Those words were like a small ray of sunshine in the middle of a wild storm. Cole's eyes widened with the promise of seeing his friend again and at the same time the sentence had struck him with a new fear. Jay had been asking for him... Was that a good omen? Did that mean he wanted to see Cole or… rather avoid him? Was he mad? Paranoid? Had he gone back to his hostile self? How was he even holding up?! He knew that the answers to all these questions lay a few steps away, behind that door he had crossed unmeasurable times.

Cole could feel his stomach tying into the ugliest and most uncomfortable knot ever known, and Zane felt it too. The blond swiftly took Cole's hand in his and squeezed his palm, drawing the attention of the boy to his face. Zane smiled at him reassuringly and gestured for him to go ahead and enter the room. Cole swallowed and reminded himself to be strong. He had faced death many times in his past, had ran through fields full of traps and powerful enemies —how could he be afraid of the eyes a sweet, adorable boy? 

Lloyd stepped aside as Cole walked past him and pushed the door open softly, taking a deep breath. Brown chocolate orbs scanned the bedroom as soon as the familiar furniture appeared in front of them, he was ready to scan every tiny little detail at the speed of lightning but there was no need to. As soon as his gaze fell on Jay's figure sitting on the bed, Cole froze. His feet pinned to the floor, his breath taken away as if by magic while Jay’s wide eyes bored holes into him. 

Anxiety crept up from every nook and cranny of Cole’s body —suddenly, running down a field with arrows flying from any direction didn’t seem as much scary as the possibility of Jay repudiating him.

“J-Jay…?” He took the risk, lifting an inviting, friendly hand at the boy, not daring to move forward until Jay gave off some signs that it was okay for him to come closer.

On the bed Jay started to shake, his breath hitched at the same time his face contorted, eyes filled with sudden tears and a trembling smile on his lips. 

“Cole!” Jay shouted. His weak legs tangled in the sheets, as he tried to shove his body up from the mattress and run to the noirette. Cole was quick to open his arms creating a loving nest for Jay to jump in. He caught the boy in a bone crushing hug, strong arms locking around the smaller figure while Jay did the same, gripping the black fabric and choking with emotion.

Cole could feel the collar of his shirt getting damp immediately as his friend’s tears spilled on him. Oh, Shiva! How much had he missed this boy. Cole secured his arms around Jay, trying to control his strength as to not cut the kid any oxygen. He just couldn’t let go of him. “It’s okay, I’m here. I’m here. ” He mumbled rubbing his hands up and down Jay’s back and rocking their bodies softly, tears threatening to flow out of his eyes as his face rested in the crook of Jay’s neck. The boy could only repeat his savior’s name amidst sobs and hiccups, too emotional to get any real words out.

For a while all that could be heard in the room were Jay’s soft whimpers and Cole whispering sweet nothings into his ear as they stood in the middle of the room, hugging. Zane, Lloyd and Nya waited by the entrance, letting the boys have a moment to themselves. Zane finally stepped inside and approached the couple, brushing a gentle hand over their arms and motioning for Jay to sit back down on his bed. Cole followed the boy and sat next to him, arm still draped over his smaller shoulders, keeping the distressed boy close to him. Not like Jay would be trying to pull away in any case. The rest of the family gathered around them, either standing or sitting on the floor.

“I thought I’d never… I thought you…” Jay choked, leaning his head on Cole’s shoulder and grabbing fistfuls of his shirt once again.

“I’m so sorry, Jay. I wanted to come back right away but…” The man hesitated, uncertain how to conduct such conversation. In the end he opted to change the subject. “How are you?”

Jay lowered his eyes with sadness in a silent reply, his shoulders shrugging up, face barely lifting from its hiding spot next to Cole’s collarbone. 

“His head was hurting when he woke up a while ago but the ache seems to be fading away. He doesn’t seem to have a fever nor any severe affection.” Zane provided for the speechless boy. Cole nodded, taking notice of Jay’s bandaged wrist. “Minor scratches.” Zane assured.

The blond kneeled down in front of Jay, carefully placing a hand over his knee to draw his attention. “Are you hungry? Should I call the servants to prepare something for you?”

Jay stiffened again at the idea of having any royal workers around and shook his head, pressing up against Cole. The noirette hugged him tightly, trying to comfort the boy. One of his hands reached up to Jay’s hair, tangling in a couple of knots, while his lips couldn’t help but to slip a tiny kiss on top of the ginger locks. Either it was too subtle for Jay to notice or the boy didn’t mind the affectionate gesture at the moment, but Cole reminded himself to not get lost in his emotions. “I’m sorry I didn’t notice something was up any sooner. Shit , I’m so dumb...” Cole whispered.

“I’d like to offer my apologies as well. I kept dissuading Cole everytime he showed some concern regarding your whereabouts.” The tall blond said. “I never imagined you’d be undergoing such... an unfortunate situation.”

Zane sounded sincere, or so did Jay think. He sniffed, rubbing a hand all over his face to try and wipe off the tears. The air turned thick around the room, awkwardness and anguish seeping into the five bodies at the mention of the ill-fated events floated in the air.

“What happened?” Lloyd’s voice rose amidst the silence, his pleading watery eyes looked at Jay.

Zane tried to talk him out of the subject, “Lloyd, we shouldn’t-”

“We should , Zane! I can’t stand this, I... I don’t understand anything! How could Kai…?!” He struggled to repeat the words that the brunette had thrown at him during his rampage. Lloyd bit his lip and demanded Jay again to add some light into all this mess.

Zane sighed, “I’m afraid to say… I’d appreciate knowing the true nature of all this commotion as well.” He looked up at Jay from his spot next to the boy’s legs. “I’m sorry for having to put you under such pressure, Jay, but… do you think you could share with us what happened? Why did Kai... incarcerate you?” It took Zane a whole lot of determination to be able to speak those last words out loud.

Jay shifted nervously on the edge of the bed. Was it really safe to relay these people the fateful events that lead him to being treated like a criminal? Cole would support him, there was no doubt about that, and most likely Zane too. But what about Lloyd and Nya? How would they react? Over the past weeks Lloyd have proved to be ‘extra passionate’ with anything that revolved around Kai. And Nya… she was the guy’s sister. Jay had never seen the princess angry but then again, Kai had never shown cruelty until two nights ago. How could he trust they wouldn’t throw him into the brig a second time?

“Jay,” Zane’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts. A pale hand snaked up until cold fingers fingers brushed over Jay's, shyly asking for permission as they slipped under Jay's palm. The boy instinctively squeezed Zane's hand in his. "We’re aware you're still scared, but I give you my word; no one is going to hurt you."

"I…" Jay's eyes lifted to Cole's. The dark gems looked tired, almost sad, but they still shined with concern and fondness for the boy reflected in them. Cole adjusted his grip around Jay, still holding tight onto him but allowing the kid more room so he wouldn't feel suffocated. "I…" Jay started again, taking one last look at the short blond and the girl next to him. "I, uh… I hit him and… I guess I cursed at him too." He muttered in a rush. Their eyes widened a little. 

"Why is that?" Zane asked, his thumb gingerly dancing over Jay’s digits, avoiding the maltreated skin around the knuckles.

"He…" Jay swallowed and Cole's hand rubbed up and down his back to help him stay calm. "He tried to kiss me and… touch me… there ." Jay squeezed his eyes shut, too afraid and embarrassed to look at their reactions. Lloyd was speechless, Nya following close. When Cole mentioned Kai had come onto the boy they hadn't imagined it would have went that far. Jay leaned closer into Cole's chest again. Shivers running down his spine as the memories started to come back. 

"Did something happen between the two of you before that? Something that could have lead Kai to believe you were fine with… getting more intimate?" Zane carefully asked.

"No! No, we were just… talking and goofing around. Then he suddenly started to touch me and… he wouldn't listen to me, he wouldn't stop!" Jay bursted, his chest heaving, breath quick with the painful reminder of Kai's sweet smiles as they ran around the room, smacking each other with the pillows. I'm so happy to have met you. Jay could still hear the words as if they were being whispered into his ear by the gorgeous lips that had produced them. He had believed Kai, and not just that but he had felt something ; a warm breeze swelling his heart with a kind of happiness he had never felt before. But now he knew all of that had been merely posing to get him all soft and weak —more accessible .

"He said… He said something about… his mouth," Jay tried to go on. If he was to tell them everything, he'd rather do it all at once and never having to go over that moment of his life again. He just wanted to be over with it and forget, run away from the nightmare.  "I was so scared, I hit him and yelled at him and… I just wanted to get out of there!" He couldn't help but cry again when Kai's enraged eyes rose up in the back of his mind, surrounded by the creepy darkness that had mixed with the cold moonlight, turning the monarch’s features even harder as it casted an eerie light on him.

The guys weren't saying anything, just letting him talk and voice all the anxiety that had been boiling in him for hours, but their faces spoke volumes. Hearing about someone they cared so deeply for doing all that stuff was definitely shocking. It was just so hard to believe.

"And then he… he turned into a… monster." Jay was starting to wheeze between every sob. "I… thought he was… he was going to…" His hand reached up to his neck, as if Kai was still holding him tightly by the collar, pressing against him, stealing the air from his lungs.

"It's okay, Jay." Zane managed to whisper. That was enough, anymore talking could result harmful for the boy's mental health. The ginger sobbed while the ex doctor tried to guide him taking deep breaths. Lloyd remained silent, his eyes turning dull as they stared ahead, although the boy was barely able to recognize anything his orbs saw at all. The princess was biting her lip, face pinched as her hands grabbed fistfuls of her expensive dress. And Cole… Cole's arm had relaxed around Jay as the boy shared more details about the story. The strong, protective grip wasn't there anymore.

"Jay," Cole commenced with a tired voice Jay had never heard before. "Do you remember what you yelled at him?"

"Cole, we should let him rest. He's-" But the noirette imposed himself over Zane's complain.

"This is important," he shifted on the bed, facing Jay more properly. "Please, tell me."

Jay fidgeted uncomfortably, fearful what consequences that type of confession would bring to him. Cole's dark eyes were gazing intently at him, his care for the boy hadn’t faded but Jay could feel something more in them now, a deeper concern that seemed to expand beyond his being, which both confused and scared Jay to some degree. Not knowing what was going on in Cole’s mind was unnerving, if he couldn’t even trust the noirette to be his rock then he had nothing. The gingerhead wanted to refuse but his heart ached at the thought of failing Cole. It was just an explanation. He would understand, wouldn’t he? 

"I, uh…” Jay forced his mind to go back to that crucial moment, some parts were blurry, either because he had been more preoccupied by other details —like running for his life— or because his brain had decided to shut them out as a coping mechanism. “I think… I said something about… his hands being dirty or… filthy..." Jay whispered, admittedly scared shitless that the words would suddenly cast on Cole the same furious spell they had seemed to project upon the monarch two nights ago.

Cole’s hand automatically went up to his mouth with a curse. The princess mimicked him with a gasp instead. "Fuck." Cole repeated again, hand reaching upper to grip his messed up hair, then leaned forward on his knees with a long sigh.

The three boys gave him a confused look. “What’s the matter?” Zane asked.

"I warned you not to say that kind of stuff to him." Cole muttered ignoring his lover, fingers clenching tightly around the roots of the jet black mane.

Jay froze, his heart pushing up his against his throat, cutting all air. Cole was scowling him?

“What?! You’re on Kai’s side?!” Lloyd shouted, body jerking up from his spot on the floor. “How can you blame Jay?!”

“I’m not blam-”

“Bullshit!” Cole’s head rose up in surprise at hearing such words coming out of Lloyd’s innocent lips. “Jay didn’t do anything wrong!”

“I’m not saying he-”

“What happened last night? Did Kai blow you to make you change your mind?” 

“Lloyd!” The older blond exclaimed in the middle of the dispute but got ignored by the two boys.

“No! You don’t understand!” The noirette defended himself.

What is to understand?! He locked Jay up as if he was a freaking rat without a damn reason!”

“There is a reason!”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot; Jay insulted him .” Lloyd said in a mocking tone, waving his hands near his face as if to ridicule Kai’s words even more. “Well, I guess I can start saying my goodbyes ‘cause I’m probably going next. Oh, and then it will be Nya’s turn whenever she tries to put him into his place for being a stupid, drunk asshole! Yeah, she’s the princess but ‘ he’s the fucking king’. ” 

“Hey!” Cole rose up from the bed, stepping around Zane and walking to Lloyd. “Don’t talk about him like that!” Cole wouldn’t allow anyone to mock his husband, specially not now, not in his current weakened state.

“Or what?! Will you throw me into the cell?! Use one of your dirty, warrior tricks on me to knock me out? I’ve had my share of that shit already, I’m not scared!” Lloyd howled walking away from the group and towards the door as he kept voicing all his anger out loud.

“Where the heck do you think you’re going?!” Cole grabbed his arm, pulling him back with so much force that Lloyd bumped into his chest. The blond squirmed away, almost repulsed by his touch.

“Anywhere! I’m not staying another minute in this house full of assholes like you!”

I’m the asshole?! You fuck-”

“Enough you two!” Zane’s voice rose all over the room. Both boys automatically turned around to find the blond glaring at them, face stern as they had never seen the guy. It was highly unusual for Zane’s tone to reach such high volume.

“Yelling is not the solution.” Zane spoke slowly. Back to his everyday calm timbre the young man reprimanded his friends, motioning behind him and conducting their attention to Jay once more. The boy was shaking on the bed, on the verge of tears while Nya hugged him and tried to calm him down. Both Lloyd and Cole’s hearts broke for their own different reasons, but the guilt was mutual. They had forgotten for a moment whose well-being really mattered at the moment and let their bottled up emotions get the best of them.

“Now,” Zane instructed. “We’re all going to take a deep breath, sit down and civilly talk this out.” He arched an eyebrow at them, waiting for the boys to cease fire.

Cole sighed tiredly and looked at the boy next to him, he made an effort to calm himself down. "I'm sorry." He said dryly to Lloyd.

The blond didn't reply but rather crossed his arms over his chest and walked back to the group, sitting on the floor, his back leaning on the nightstand beside Jay's bed. Cole sent him a bewildered look. 

"I'm not apologizing to someone who defends a tyrant." Lloyd muttered, nose scrunching up.

"He is not a tyrant!"

"Stop." Zane interceded again.

"He started it!" The noirette whined pointing at Lloyd.

"It doesn't matter who started." Zane scolded him.

Cole stared back at his friend, astonished and embarrassed for being chided like a child. "Fuck." He cursed, kicking the nearest bed.

"Hey, that's my bed, you boulder brain!"

"Lloyd, that's enough!" This time it was Nya's turn to give the rowdy blond the wake-up call. Lloyd's cheeks puffed out as he sank deeper against the drawers. The ornamented metal handles poking his back painfully but he was too angry to change positions. Cole plopped down on the foot of Lloyd's bed, elbows anchored on his knees as he let his head fell forward, resting in his hands. Zane sat by his side, giving him a moment to breathe. 

"What did you mean 'there is a reason' for Kai's behavior?"

Cole's eyes opened wide behind his palms. Shit , he hadn't even realized that had slipped from his mouth, how was he going to fix it now? His hands pulled at his hair with force, nails digging into the scalp. “I…” He mumbled, unsure how to proceed. Things were getting out of hand, he had only come to check on his friends, not to betray Kai’s trust. But now that a tiny piece of truth had escaped into the outer world, was that even an option anymore? His friends were worried, he could tell it in the way Zane was rubbing a comforting hand over his back. Even Lloyd’s hysterical mood was a sign that the boy was being victim of the anxiety and shock from the recent events as well. Was there a way to go back to how they were a few days ago without giving them a proper explanation? Cole highly doubted it, but even with that, he couldn’t get himself to talk.

“Pebble,” The nickname burned Cole’s heart. “What’s wrong? You know you can trust us. We’re a family.”

Family. Cole laughed internally at the word. If only that word had really meant something...

“I… can’t.” He finally muttered. “I just… I can’t right now.” Cole rubbed his face trying to keep the tears at bay, the last thing they needed was to see him, the strongest member of the group, crying. He rose up and started for the door. “I’m sorry, I gotta go.”

“Cole, wait, what’s up?” Zane asked, voice soft with concern as he followed the man and took his hand. The simple loving gesture stabbing Cole like a million blades. His friend was seriously worried and confused, Zane was just trying to help yet all Cole could do was push him away.

“Nothing, it’s just… I don’t want Kai to be alone when he wakes up.”

“What is he now? A baby?” Lloyd spat mockingly.

“Lloyd!” Nya reprimanded him again at the same time Zane sent him an irritated scowl that made the blond blush furiously.

Zane turned to Cole once more and caressed his cheek softly, studying what little emotions he could grasp from the chocolate orbs. Cole was clearly hurting —the reason remained unknown. Zane was dying for the man to tell them, to understand why destiny was playing such a cruel joke on them. But Zane suspected whatever the explanation was, Cole wasn't ready to voice it yet, and pushing him would probably gain them nothing but more arguments and stress. Whatever Cole had to share with them, it was something painful for the noirette and Zane felt they all had had enough emotions for the day. 

Forcing himself to trust his spouse, Zane sighed, caressed Cole’s face and said, “Go. Take care of him.” 

The former warrior’s eyelids squeezed shut as a tear rolled down his cheek, overwhelmed by Zane's limitless kindness. He crushed the boy in his arms then sent one last glance to the guys on the other side of the room. He would have walked back  and gave them all a hug as well, but the blurriness eating Jay's figure warned Cole that he had to flee the room that right instant. 

Please, don’t hate me. He hoped his silent message would reach Jay, Cole didn’t want to leave, not like that, but any second  spent away from Kai increased his fears of losing his husband forever against their haunted past.

With a quick peck on Zane’s forehead, Cole finally exited the room.

 

♦♦♦

 

“I can’t believe it.” Lloyd muttered as Zane walked slowly back to the group. “How can you…?” Lloyd couldn’t even get the words out from all the irritation that was piling up inside him.

Zane sat on Cole’s bed and took a deep breath, his eyes resting on each of his friends. Lloyd was glaring at him, obviously upset. Jay wore the most confused and pained expression he’d ever seen. And Nya… Only then did Zane notice the girl’s subtle change. Her hands no longer around Jay encasing him in a gentle hug but rather she was clutching Jay’s hand, desperately, as if trying to gather enough force to stay in one piece.

“It’s been a long day, with many emotions. I think we all deserve some rest before we try to settle this tomorrow with a refreshed mind.”

“Are you even serious?” Lloyd was on his feet. “He locked him, Zane! Just because they had a stupid argument that Kai started in the first place!” Lloyd berated, pointing at Jay as if to make his words clearer.

“I understand your point, Lloyd, but Cole said-”

“I don’t care what he said! Kai’s… He is…” Lloyd sprinted to the door as sobs erupted from his throat, fleeing the room. His companion quickly followed him, paused at the door and looked at the two remaining people with a doubt in his face. 

Nya nodded and waved a hand in a silent “Go with him.” Zane detested leaving Jay’s side in those very moments when the boy was so scared and confused, but letting Lloyd wander all alone around the place could be just as dangerous for a boy who struggled at handling strong emotions.

With a pang of guilt twisting his guts, Zane disappeared behind the door. Nya automatically bent forward, arms resting on her knees and face hidden in her hands, releasing a deep shaky breath that seemed to contain a lot more than the girl was letting out. Jay fidgeted in his spot next to her, anxious and lost for words. A small sob caught his attention and Jay’s eyes fell onto the girl whose shoulders were bobbing weakly. 

“N-Nya?” He asked, rising a hand and hesitating to let it rest on the princess’ back.

“I’m sorry…” She mumbled, her voice muffled by her hands. “I’m so sorry…” She cried powerless. Jay stared at her speechless. The girl leaned back, rubbing her hands over her face, the paint that had been decorating her gorgeous eyes had melted and smudged the top of her cheeks, turning her royal beauty into a pathetic picture. “Please, don’t hate him…”

Jay’s heart cracked when the girl choked on a sob and his eyes widened with immediate sorrow. “He didn’t mean to harm you… I know it.” Nya looked at him behind teary eyes. “He’s just… broken.” The whisper escaped her lips with a high pitched moan which the girl tried to cover with a hand.

Broken? 

What did that mean?

Chapter Text

He was nervous, so damn nervous. More than the first time he’d accompanied his father to an official event and he had to talk to a big crowd. He knew the boy was probably a lot stronger than him, although Kai wasn’t scared of getting hurt. No servant would be as stupid as to hit the royal heir. But he was terrified at the idea of having the young boy hate him forever.

It didn’t make any sense. Why was he so worried about what a servant might think about him? He’d pranked them all at some point, they knew he liked to play stupid jokes on people every now and then, some didn’t mind it but he was aware others weren’t so fond of that teaser side of him. Kai had never cared much what his father's workers saw him as, then why now? Why with this boy? He’d been thinking non stop about it and the answer eluded him time and time again. But for some reason he felt he needed to do something; he needed to apologize.

It hadn’t taken the prince much thought to link the boy’s beaten face with the events that occured by the kitchen door. Kai felt guilty, and upset! He’d clearly told the other servant the boy was not at fault, yet they had punished him for ruining his expensive royal clothes —as if his father wasn’t rich enough to buy him a new suit every day.

Getting in contact with the boy was his top priority, but he couldn’t just walk into the servants quarters and ask to see him, the royal family had no business around that side of the property, even less the ‘bratty prince’. Kai had also tried to catch him inside the palace, but failed. He didn’t know if the boy was avoiding him on purpose or if luck just wasn’t on his side.

Then his sister gave him the idea to wait for guy outside, near the constructors depot; the gazebo was still a work in progress, the boy would surely be called there again to help. Why did Nya have to be so smart sometimes? Kai was happy to have her in his life though. The girl didn’t look baffled at all by Kai’s recent obsession with the guy, but she rather seemed to be encouraging him to start a friendship of some type.

So there he was, hiding behind the bushes that grew near the storehouse to which the boy in question would come by at any moment, or so he hoped. Kai had seen him earlier that day working on the pavillion with the other men. He bit his lip, praying to the Gods he could be allowed some luck, just for a short while. 

Kai gasped when the soft sound of tired steps reached his eardrums and he stayed quiet, squatting behind the plants. He peeped over some of the leaves in time to see the characteristic black hair and-

Oh, dear Brahma! 

The boy’s chest was naked, gleaming with sweat and slightly red, probably from all the physical effort he’d been undergoing up until a moment ago. Kai’s heart rate quickened, eyes bulged out and followed the figure until it disappeared shortly into the building. Still astonished by the image of that godly chiseled back, Kai looked side to side anxiously. He might had come up with an excuse as to why he had been around the kitchen last time —blaming his sweet tooth. But he still didn’t know what would save him if someone caught him there.

Pulling himself back together Kai ran as fast as he could, rushing to the open entrance.

 

 

The servant scanned the place, looking for the concrete sacks. Once spotted he walked up to them and hoped he wasn’t picking the wrong ones. There were no indications around which material was inside the sacks, although he couldn’t have read them anyway.

“Hi.” A tiny voice said on his back, when he turned around his heart virtually jumped out of his body. He stumbled, almost falling over the sacks but managed to steady himself holding onto the wall. 

The prince , the damn prince was right in front of him —again. Fuck! Why did he have to keep running into the boy? Nothing good ever came out of their encounters and certainly that time wouldn’t be an exception. He swallowed thickly, looking down at the floor, he had to get away from there but how could he do it without being too obvious?

“I… uh…” The royal idiot mumbled. 

He took a chance and locked gazes with the kid, only to find those gorgeous hazel gems incautiously scanning him from head to toe, taking special interest in the scars all over his torso. The servant crossed an arm over his chest, suddenly feeling very exposed under the prince gaze. He usually didn’t care people seeing his marks but for some reason, the boy was making him feel… strange.

As if sensing his discomfort, the boy shook his head to rip his attention from the scars and started to speak, “I’m sorry. You know, for… the other day, with the bucket and stuff…” 

The servant blinked. Did he hear that right? 

“I didn’t think they would… Uhm, your face…” The prince said  pointing at his own head, voice getting softer with embarrassment and guilt.

He blinked again, his bushy eyebrows arching with sheer surprise. A member of the royal family was apologizing to him ? To a simpleton slave who had absolutely no rights? 

"It’s… it’s okay. It was my fault.” He said, repeating what he’d been led to believe when the chief servant punished him days ago.

“No, it wasn’t,” The prince rushed to correct him. “I shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

He cocked a confused eyebrow at the kid but the young heir didn’t offer any further explanations as to why had he been behind the kitchen’s door, and neither would he question him, that would be out of place for a servant of his low status. He was just about to try and hang the sacks of concrete on his back when the prince suddenly stretched his arms forward. He flinched back, startled.

“There, I- I brought you something.” The prince stuttered, holding a small packet in his open palms, eyes closed shut.

The servant froze. Was that some kind of joke? A bad omen? Would the sky break open and Gods strike him with a divine lightning bolt if he so dared to get that close to the heir of the kingdom? 

He was ready to flee but his eyes caught the slight trembling on the kid’s arms, as if the prince was afraid of him . The former soldier pondered for a moment then very carefully picked up the package, the prince opened his eyes slowly and put his hands behind his back. “I know it isn’t much but I hope… you can forgive me.” He said, eyes shifting between the floor, the guy’s strong chest and lastly his face.

I’ve definitely gone crazy. The boy just couldn’t believe anything that was happening at the moment, he stared at the tiny bundle and pulled at the tips of the wrapping slowly, keeping a vigilant eye on the prince all along. There was still room for surprise in his face when two small pieces of some whitish food were revealed, their sickeningly sweet aroma flew up to his nostrils, filling his mind and making his stomach swirl painfully. 

The prince looked at him, waiting, anxiously biting his lip as his body swayed softly with self-consciousness. This was ridiculous! Obviously the kid was trying to pull some kind of prank on him, he’d heard the prince was rather fond of the occasional fooling. 

But… 

Those things smelled so good . He closely inspected the diamond shaped pieces, they looked like marble tiles, was that really edible? He stole one last glance at the boy who didn’t look like he was going to back away unless he ate the ‘apology’.

‘In for a coin, in for a sack’. He’d most likely get punished for whatever stupid thing his superiors made up anyway, he might as well try and snatch some food. The strong boy grabbed the sweets and shoved them hastily into his mouth, ready for his face to contort and find a disgusting bitter taste, but none of that happened. Instead his eyes popped open then rolled back as they shut, taste buds dancing in a festival of sweetness. The sugary particles dissolved into his mouth, making him moan as he munched the delicious food. 

His eyes opened when he heard the other boy chuckling softly. “Do you… like it?” The prince asked him, a smile hesitating on his lips.

“Uh…” Like it? I almost turned into goo! “Y-yeah, it’s… nice…” He muttered, after swallowing the food. 

The ghost of a smile that had been lingering on the prince’s face grew more evident and he let out a tiny squeal. “So… do you?”

“Do I what?”

“... F-Forgive me?” The prince asked shyly, looking at him from under those magnificent dark eyelashes.

A butterfly flapped his wings inside the boy’s chest, skin prickling and goosebumps rising. “Uh… Yeah.” He replied without much thinking.

“That’s great!” The prince chirped and bounced on his feet happily. The servant cocked an eyebrow at him, but for some reason he found himself relaxing along the kid’s jolly mood, and even managed to gift him with a smile back. “I… Uhm, I’m Kai,” he added all bubbly, then the prince rubbed his nape as blood rose to his cheeks, realizing that information was too obvious to be spoken out loud. “But... you probably already knew that.” He laughed at himself awkwardly.

“Yeah.” The servant couldn’t help but to giggle with him. The prince’s embarrassment for his own stupidity seemed to fade away upon hearing the boy’s laughter for the first time. 

“What’s your name?” The young heir ventured.

He hesitated for a moment, once again surprised at the kid’s behaviour. Barely no one here cared to know his name, only a few other servants that were still nice enough to him, but anyone else just addressed him with a lazy “Hey, you.” Why would the son of the Maharaja want to know his name?

“Cole.” He finally replied. 

The prince tried to suppress a laugh. “Cole? As in ‘coal’?”

There we go, just like usual. He’d heard that pun way too many times in his life. He got it; he had dark hair and dark skin. His first carer certainly hadn’t been much creative when giving him a name. “Yeah, yeah, very funny, I know.” He rolled his eyes with a tired yet amused huff.

“No, I like it. Sounds nice.”

That caught him off guard and he stayed still, unable to react. The prince grinned. The squeezy, tanned cheeks lifting up to his eyes, hiding the beautiful orbs as they narrowed with delight and ignited a powerful glow in the noirette’s guts. Cole was petrified.

Oh, no. No, no, please. Anything but that!

The butterflies? The tingles? That wild thumping of his heart? Now he understood it all. Cole hadn’t been scared about the missfortune the boy had seemed to bring onto him every time they saw each other. No, he had been scared of something worse, something he knew humans had no control over when it happened. Something he’d been running away from all his life. Cole tried to shake the idea away from his mind but there was no other explanation behind the warmth and serenity that was filling his chest the more he stared at Kai’s pretty face.

He was falling for the young prince.

He'd fucked up.

Royally.

 

♦️♦️♦️

 

"You sure you don't want to go downstairs?" Kai nodded his head yes right after the last word left Cole's lips. The noirette sighed, "Okay." He refilled the jar with more water and slowly lifted it over Kai's head, letting the contents fall onto the boy's nape as a shiver made his body tremble. Despite being the bathroom destined for the monarch's use, the heating system couldn't reach that part of the palace. The water wasn't unbearably cold but it sure wasn't as warm as their usual baths. Kai though had refused to leave so they'd have to work with that. Cole just hoped the bath could help his husband to get rid of some of the stress he had been under recently.

The morning had been weird to say the least. Kai had woken up confused, with a slight reluctance to let Cole get away from his sight for even a moment. He hadn't said much, just clung to his husband with an evident emptiness in his eyes. Cole thought it was safe to assume the boy was finally back on the now and there, but the lifelessness he displayed was a clear sign that Kai was far from being okay. He was 'there' but not totally. Something kept him from feeling the real world around him, a barrier that Cole barely remembered had once existed.

The royal spouse stepped inside the ample bathtub, sitting behind Kai and thoroughly soaked the Maharaja's limp body, then proceeded to rub him with the scrubber to get rid of all the sweat that had deposited on his skin through the night. What had once been a perfect chance to throw a few suggestive jokes at each other —and maybe scalate into a hot sex session inside the bathtub— now was a depressing scene. Kai wasn't in the mood to be playful, he didn't even try to, which alarmed Cole all the more. Ever since they met, Kai had been like a bubble to him; transparent, full of colors, a sparkling sphere that danced graciously wherever the wind guided it. But like bubbles, the boy was fragile too. He was magic, full of life, until a not so gentle touch grabbed at him and destroyed all that light, making it harder for the boy to rebuild himself from scratch every time.

"Am I being too rough?" Cole asked at the back of the brunette head, the damp brown strands moved from side to side, splashing small drops to Cole’s face. The young man finished cleaning them both, he took Kai's hand gently and pulled the boy up and out of the tub, putting a towel over him and squeezing the cloth all over his muscles, drying him softly. After doing the same to himself, Cole put back on his clothes while his husband just sat there on a stool and waited for him to be done. Even though he looked more calm, Cole knew the boy was still on edge, scared to turn around and find they had taken his spouse away from him again.

Cole groaned inwardly. Just why did he have to get that hysterical the other night? If he hadn't caused a scene and rather talked to Kai peacefully like adults this mess could have been avoided.

Avoided? Are you sure? You really think you could have protected him forever? Cole's eyes shut tight at the impotence he felt.

He guided the king into the bedroom again and went straight to one of the wardrobes that were still standing on its feet. A few servants had come in minutes ago while they were bathing and cleaned up the quarters as best as they could, but the room would need new furniture for sure.

"So what do you fancy today?" Cole forced a smile on his face as he turned around to look at Kai and finding no one by his side, instead the boy had kept walking pass him and sat on the bed, gaze locked on the floor.

"Whatever." He shrugged and Cole's heart sank deeper once again. Fashion had always brought a joy to Kai's face that the noirette would ever rarely understand, but it broke him that not even that managed to put a smile on Kai at that moment.

Cole picked a random outfit and dropped it on the bed next to the boy. He kneeled down in front of Kai's legs, caressing his partially damp calves as he looked up into the sad greenish orbs. They were looking back in his direction but Cole wasn't sure Kai was really 'seeing' him at all. 

"Hey, baby," Cole brushed his fingers on Kai's chin, trying to get his gaze to truly focus on what lay ahead. "I know you probably feel like shit right now, but… you have to come back. Plus if you let me pick your clothes I'll surely get you the worst combination ever." He added with a weak chuckle, hopping the playful approach would  maybe reach the boy.

Kai's eyes shifted, his pupils widening a small fraction as they finally settled on Cole and seemed to really see him. 

"Talk to me. What's on your mind?" Cole encouraged him, despite being fully aware of the mess Kai was at the moment, but he needed to hear the boy's voice, needed for him the share how deep his wounds were, how… how many steps back had he taken due to the recent events.

A clear waterdrop fell onto Cole's arm. No, not water —tears. Kai's lips trembled as he shook. "What have I done, Cole? What have I done?" The boy leaned forward, pressing his face to the crook of his husband's neck as he locked his arms over his shoulders and more tears spilled from his eyes. Cole hugged him with the same desperation, fingertips grabbing at the naked back, trying to comfort the confused boy.

 

♦️♦️♦️

 

Jay munched slowly. After swallowing, Zane handed him a cup with water, which the boy drank with the same unhurried pace. “Would you like more?” The blond reached for the platter of food but Jay shook his head. “You should eat some more, Jay.”

“I’m not hungry.” Zane insisted again, obtaining the same negative response from the boy. 

The distinctive clinks of plates being moved around made the blond turn his head to the sound. Lloyd was wiping his mouth and pushing his barely eaten meal to the center of the small tea table. “I’m done.” He said dryly, rising up and walking to the door.

“Where are you going?” His friend quickly demanded.

Lloyd shrugged and gave no proper response. Zane barely had time to say anything else before the boy was out of their sight. He took a deep breath, feeling defeated and looked at the girl who sat next to him around the table. Nya’s lips pressed tight after taking a sip of her morning tea, surrender and exhaustion evident on her face as she placed the cup down on the table again. Despite Zane’s efforts to keep the family united, peace was slipping through their fingers like a stream of water.  

In the span of a couple of days the behaviour of the whole family had taken a 180 degrees turn. The social butterfly the monarch had been once had now shut himself away in the ‘safety’ of his room and the company of his first spouse. The princess was as busy as ever, trying to take care of the most urgent meetings and audiences while her brother was lacking the mental strength to deal with people, taking a toll on her. The overall mood was as dull as it had ever been.

“I see he’s still… sensitive.” Nya murmured, referring to the boy who had just left.

Zane nodded heavily, recalling how hard it had been to keep Lloyd calm last night after their talk with Cole. He could tell the boy was a mess, Lloyd was most likely replaying everything in his mind; Kai’s anger and insults, Cole’s outburst, the cruelty Jay had been through in the hands of their husband. It hadn’t been easy for him either to discover the events that had lead Jay to be locked up. Kai had always been so sweet and understanding with all of them. Obviously the booze affected him sometimes, and he could get a little handsy and overwhelming but he’d never lost control like the other night. What was happening was just so strange that Zane could tell there was more than met the eye, which was the only thing that kept him from making any hurried judgements before he knew the full story, but for a tender and more traumatized soul like Lloyd, Zane knew it wouldn’t be that easy for his friend to stay open to a new perspective.

His icy blues scanned the princess sitting by his side. Nya’s demeanor appeared cold and cryptic, but behind all of that, Zane could see other emotions piling up as well; fear, hurt and even… responsibility? 

Zane was aware the girl knew something about the real nature of this issue, probably as much as Cole did. Nya had always been a very diplomatic woman, always looking to keep peace around and mediate in any misunderstandings. In that sense, her and Zane were very similar and a great duo when put to work together during business negotiations. And because of that, the blond couldn’t understand why was she staying silent, her reluctance to confide in them hinted that whatever was going on with Kai had to be a very complex and sensitive subject.

Zane placed a hand over Nya’s and clutched it softly, waiting for her to lift her eyes to him. Zane tried a comforting smile but the girl only looked down again, biting her lip. He didn’t miss the way her eyelids seemed to tremble with the force of imminent tears. Zane squeezed her palm again. “It’s okay.” She looked at Zane and swallowed nervously, and Zane knew it. Nya wanted to tell him, wanted to help but something held her back. Pain held her back.

Zane organized the dirty plates and glasses, placing them on the trays to be retrieved at some point by the servants and Nya got up as she announced she was leaving as well. Zane stared at her for a moment then nodded, understanding the girl was under a lot of pressure having to take care of everything for her brother. She lingered on the door for a couple of beats, gaze sad as she eyed at the two boys then disappeared to tend the royal business.

 

♦♦♦

 

When the princess’s eyes fell onto Jay, the boy looked away as fast as he could, pretending not to be aware of her stare. Zane spoke to him, offered to read him a story or play some board games to distract him but Jay wasn’t up for any of that. In the end, the former doctor decided to take another inspection to Jay’s injuries on his hand and wrist. The boy allowed him to do as he pleased, although his mind was far away from there.

‘He didn’t meant to harm you.’ Nya’s cries repeating in Jay’s head from the moment they had left the girl’s mouth the previous day.

‘He’s broken.’ What did that mean? Kai’s plan was now out for everyone to see. He’d wanted to get Jay from the first minute and when he couldn’t he decided to change tactics; playing the nice, charming souverain until the boy would fall on his web like a carefree bug, just so he could trap him forever.

But…

There had been something in the way Nya had cried to him yesterday, something in the way Cole seemed so conflicted, as if his heart had been split in two when he left the room. Neither of them were turning on Kai, but… it seemed like they weren’t praising his actions either.

Jay didn’t want to admit it, but deep down Kai’s dark behaviour seemed odd even to him. Up until the party the guy had been trying so hard to get Jay to like him —and even managed it for a short while. So why would he suddenly flip like a coin? Why now? Jay had rejected him from the start, made clear enough that he wasn’t interested in becoming another piece in Kai’s harem. The Maharaja could have forced him any moment, so why wait a whole month if he had never meant to respect Jay? And that enraged look in Kai’s eyes that night as if he’d been harboring such strong feelings for Jay his whole life. It made little to no sense to the gingerhead.

 Had the monarch been a total despot, wouldn’t he had come back and jailed Jay a second time already? —instead of allowing the boy to wander free around his house and fill the royal spouses heads with his ‘ version’ of the story? 

Or maybe Kai just had no idea Jay had been rescued, although he doubted Cole wouldn’t have spilled it already.

Jay pressed a hand to his brow, trying to keep an imminent headache at bay. He wanted to stop thinking, stop worrying and ultimately stop wishing for an excuse to defend his own assailant. Kai was a deceiver, he had to hold onto that idea since it was the only