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A Man Without a Home

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Attolia had been missing for two months before His Majesty arrived at Costis' house in the middle of the night. She had been in a meeting with a powerful Ambassador from the other side of the Gulf of Braels. Things were relaxed, as they are Attolia's ally through the Greater Continental Powers, but suddenly, the Queen grew ill. She excused herself as soon as she could, although not before losing her lunch into the nearest potted plant. She locked herself in her rooms for the next week, letting in no one but the King and the palace doctor. At the end of that week, after hearing no response from the other side of the door, her attendants found her rooms empty. A search of the palace found nothing, no evidence, ransom note, or blood to be found.

The King had spent the next 7 weeks being talked down from an all-out war. He didn't seem to care who had done it, he wanted his wife back at the cost of any number of lives. The soldiers themselves were eager to go after their Queen, but not a single advisor or baron would agree. They made it clear that they wouldn't lose both of their sovereigns, even if under normal circumstances they would have jumped at the chance to get rid of their King.

And so, Attolis had slipped out in the night with two of the palaces fastest horses, towards the one person he knew wasn't bound by any oath other than to Eugenides the man. And that was an oath more easily swayed.

Costis was woken late into the night by the sound of the window clicking shut. A small, faint noise, but one that his training wouldn’t let him ignore. He jumped up in bed, knowing that Kamet wasn’t due home for a couple of days now, reaching for and grabbing the knife he kept on the bedside table. He found himself crouching in a warrior’s stance by the bed before his mind was even fully awake, pointing the knife towards the open, dark room. He wasn’t sure where the intruder was, but the hairs on the back of his neck told him that he wasn’t alone.

“I’m armed.” He said, voice stern. “I’m sure this is some kind of misunderstanding, so why don’t you show yourself and we can sort it out.” He really didn’t want to fight, and he really didn’t want to explain to Kamet why anything in their house was broken, or stained with blood.

 

“Costis, we don’t have time for you to play with fruit.” A voice said from behind him, and he whirled so quickly that he fell on his butt, the ‘knife’ still clutched in his hand. He looked up at the figure, recognizing him almost instantly and feeling like a fool for jumping to extremes. He looked down at the knife in his hand, face turning red as he realized his mistake.

He was clutching a banana. He could only imagine the sight he had made, holding it out in front of him like a weapon. Eugenides must have switched it for the knife at some point, which meant he had been in the room long before Costis became aware of him. He wasn’t surprised by the nature of the King waking him, or at finding him in his home late at night, although they hadn’t had the opportunity to see each other in over a year.

Costis accepted the hand that was offered him, standing up a little awkwardly considering that he was using his left hand instead of his right. He pulled the King into a hug, patting his back. It seemed that Eugenides clung to him a little bit more fiercely than usual, and it was harder for Costis to pull away because of it.

“Is everything alright, My King?” He asked softly, putting his hands on Eugenides's cheeks, rubbing his thumbs over the curve of his cheekbones intimately. The action might as well have been second nature, and when the young King pulled from his grasp, Costis was more than a little surprised. It had been a while, with hardly any letters between them, and Costis missed his King more than he had thought he might. One would think he might have wanted to embrace a little while longer, but one might also think that a social call wouldn’t have needed so much sneaking around. Especially now that they weren’t in the castle, and that living in Roa meant that any visit the King made couldn’t be hidden from everyone.

Eugenides lithely stepped around him and into the light from the window before turning back to respond to his question. Costis was surprised to find that he was wearing his more elegant, expensive garments. Ones a King might wear if he was planning a long ride on horseback. The light glinted off a piece of metal almost hidden in Eugenides's hair, and Costis recognized it like a crown. A tight-fitting one - made to set him apart on the road and nestles enough in his curls that there wouldn’t need to fear it falling off. There was no question that Gen had a thing for style, but he’d never enjoyed the weight of the crown on his head. It made Costis wonder what Eugenides had in store for them tonight, that there was a goal that the King was putting ahead of his own comfort. But, if this wasn’t a secret, then why would he have arrived in the manner he’d chosen? The uncomplicated answer could be that, well, it was Eugenides he was thinking about. But it seemed more complicated than that

“I need you to come with me, Costis.” The aforementioned man said curtly, more closed off than usual, it seemed. "One last mighty quest." Despite his appearance, it wasn’t an order. It seemed to Costis that this was his friend, Eugenides, making a request of him.

Costis paused, a little surprised at the request. "I'll have to talk to Kamet… He’s away at the market in town for a couple of days." He said, sitting down on the bed and rubbing a hand over his face. "Couldn't this have waited until morning?" He tried not to sound exasperated but unfortunately, he’d never been good at lying.

"No. We have to leave now." Eugenides said, turning to the table in the corner where he had already laid out Costis' old uniform, and if he noticed the other man’s frustration he didn’t show it. "Get ready. We're already behind schedule," As if Costis has already said yes.

"Get ready? Gen, I love you. But you're asking the impossible from me. I can't just leave Kamet in the middle of the night with no word, no-” Oh, his partner would but so unhappy with him if he allowed this to happen.

Eugenides held up a piece of folded parchment that was sealed with the King's insignia, successfully interrupting his train of thought. "I've taken care of the note already." Of course he had. Of course he just expected Costis to go with him.

"As if that was the most important issue here." Costis paused. "I want to help you, but I can't just leave in the middle of the night for secret missions anymore. Life is different now."

Eugenides was silent for a minute, leaving Costis to think that maybe he had said something wrong and hurt his feelings. He’d forgotten, however, that it was only Kamet who quieted down when he was upset. Eugenides would have been throwing insults, jabs - maybe even punches - if Costis had managed to poke him the wrong way.

It took Costis a minute to make out the King’s face - he was trying to figure out how much he wanted to tell him.

"She's gone, Costis." Gen finally said, softly. "Irene. They took her and I have to get her back." His voice was hard, and Costis immediately stood up, all reluctance gone from him. This wasn’t Eugenides calling him to do a quest that anyone could help him with - this was personal. His Queen - Their Queen - was missing. Costis couldn't say no. At that moment, he didn't need any more details.

It occurred to Costis for a brief moment that Gen might have only pushed the buttons that he knew would work, but Costis was willing to risk that for the safety of his Queen.

"Give me 3 minutes, and leave that note on the table."

The King nodded, his face relaxing a little bit at Costis finally agreeing to come, and did as he was asked, hurrying out the door to get their horses ready.

---

They had been on their trek for hours before the sun came up. Attolis had seemingly packed for a long trip. Costis gathered from the supplies on the back of his horse that they were planning to ride for a week, maybe a week and a half. It was obvious that the King was definitely not planning on hiding in the underbrush or under the guise of being someone else. The Attolian colors were blazed over both of the horses, and even the clothes they both wore made them stand out as none other than the King of Attolia and a member of his personal guard. And to think, Costis being sent away was an attempt to get the target off of his back. He wondered absently what the size of that target must look like now.

Wherever they were going was serious, and the farther they rode the deeper Costis' heart seemed to sink. Nothing good would come from this. Every moment spent traveling away from home made Costis more and more worried for his Queen, as well as her husband.

They rode for hours after sunrise, and Costis found himself wishing he had gotten a chance to eat before they’d left. He had never seen Eugenides so determined before; if his horse got distracted or slowed Gen would nudge it again, even once going so far as to take the riding crop out of its sheath. Costis' horse matched the other's speed obediently, and he never had to go to such drastic measures. They rode for the rest of the day like that, and by the time the King pulled his horse to a halt the sun had already sunk low over the horizon.

Costis lay for a minute before getting up and preparing their tent obediently, as a real member of the guard would. He supposed that he was still a real guard, even if he was a retired one. And Eugenides was still his King and his friend. The least he could do was give him one less thing to worry about.

Gen himself lay silently in the grass, watching as the horses trudged over to the nearby pond they had stopped by for water, wading in up to their knees. The King hadn't said anything since they left, and it was beginning to become worrisome. Especially since he hadn't filled Costis in on any of the details of his plan or their trip. Although the more he thought about it the more he realized that that wasn't necessarily unlike him. But Eugenides wasn’t the type of person to just… not talk. Usually, he would tease Costis for something - there had been plenty of things he could have poked him about. How slow he had been getting the tent set up, how clumsy he had been riding. But, no. He was silent.

"We should get a good night's rest if we're planning on riding like that again tomorrow," Costis said conversationally, beginning to build a fire to cook their dinner. It was an attempt to coax more about what the other man’s plan out of him, and Eugenides knew it.

"We'll sleep as long as you and the horses need, but no more," Gen responded curtly, causing Costis to groan inwardly. "We'll be traveling for little over a week before we reach our first stop." So, Costis wasn’t exactly wrong.

"Which is on the way to?" Costis probed, frustrated that this conversation was like pulling teeth. Eugenides was being much less forthcoming than usual, which wasn’t a good sign.

"The Great Peninsula. The Council there should be able to give us the answers we seek."

"You think they took her?" Costis didn’t voice his concerns - that was a trip that would take a month at the least from Roa, and it was not a trip taken lightly.

"I know one of them did." Gen paused, looking up at Costis making their dinner. "I suppose you want to know what's going on, right?" He asked, and Costis nodded. Although, specific details didn't really matter to him at this point; riding away from home for an entire day would do that to you. No, he was going to be in it for the long-haul, until he found Irene safe and sound. Or killed whoever was responsible.

Gen read his mind, like always, and gave a slight shake of his head. "Don’t get so angry yet. We can't hurt them. It's a punishable offense, for certain. But we have to bring them out into the open. Without all the details, we'll start a war." Costis wondered which one of the King’s advisors he was parroting. Probably his father, or maybe it had come straight from Eddis herself. It was true, though, no matter who said it. They both knew Attolia couldn't handle another war so soon after the war on the little peninsula. And that didn’t even include the defeated Medes across the sea. There needed to be peace sometime, and it was better not to risk it. “Besides, you forget that it should be a last resort to use the knife, not the first.”

"You’re so political. Power really has changed you." Costis teased, almost finished with cooking their dinner. It was simple, getting back into their old routine. King and soldier. It was less complicated than what they had been before Costis left. "Tell me, then, how we got to where we are now?" He paused. “Or, at least, the pieces that I’m allowed to know.” He added, mostly to give his friend grief. Eugenides tendencies were secret to nobody, especially not to Costis.

The King sighed, laying back down in the grass and staring at the sky, and began the story from the beginning.

Costis listened intently as Gen filled him in, not stopping to ask questions and interrupt the flow that his King managed to get into. This was the most he had spoken during their whole trip, and Costis didn’t want to disrupt him back into silence. Only when he was finished did Costis voice his concerns.

“Why would the Greater Peninsula help us? I mean, you said it yourself, we don’t have any leads. You haven’t even said who you think did it.”

“The Medes are gone, Costis. There’s no one else with any obvious incentive. We thought there was peace but… someone obviously wants something from us.” Eugenides spoke matter-of-factly. He didn’t voice the thought they both must have had at that moment. That there might not be anything they want, except vengeance. Which might end in the worst way. “If something happened, the Council will know about it. Or at least point us in the right direction. You can’t kidnap a Queen and keep it secret - someone will know something.”

“So your grand plan is to… just show up? With one guard? And say ‘Hi, I know this is a surprise but is my wife around’?” He asked, taking on the King’s Eddisian accent, or at least an attempt at it. Gen didn’t so much as crack a smile.

“Yes.” He answered simply. “Secrets don’t exist to a thief or a king, Costis. I’ve stolen… rocks, jewelry, books, opinions, people, kingdoms, empires...” Eugenides started to sound a little farther away as if he wasn’t talking to Costis anymore. “That’s what we’re dealing with, Costis. A thief. Who doesn’t know when he’s stolen something too dangerous to be worth holding on to.”

The air around them was quiet for some time, and Costis had to work up the nerve to voice the very next thought on his mind.

“Aren’t you a little worried about what will happen when he realizes?”

Eugenides turned towards him, still lying in the grass, and stared at him from across the fire. His eyes were deep and soulful, much older than his years, and Costis became aware that this was not the first time that thought had crossed his King’s mind.

“That’s why we must be cautious. We’re going to the one place on the continent where the most secrets are kept. It’s the most obvious place to start looking, and so, therefore, we’re not going to be raising any eyebrows.”

Chapter Text

Things were quiet between them after that initial conversation. It wasn’t that Costis didn’t want to talk to his King, but any sort of small talk seemed inconsequential. And, it was obvious Eugenides wasn’t interested in it at all. He entertained small questions about his plan in the evenings if he felt they had covered enough ground during the day. If not, he was antsy and frustrated, instructing Costis to eat some dried meat and go to sleep so that they could catch up on any time lost. It seemed like the more days they spent on the road, the less jovial his King seemed to be.

And, like usual, Costis dealt with his moods as they came. For the most part. It wasn’t worth their time or energy to fight over something as petty as dinner, especially not when they were both already so tired from the riding during the day.

Things finally came to a head their second week on the road. Eugenides seemed particularly antsy about their progress, and when the sun fell and it was about time for them to stop and rest, Eugenides kept going. At first, of course, Costis assumed that there was something going on that he wasn’t aware of - it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that had happened around Attolis. However, after another two hours of riding, the only thing keeping Costis from falling off of his horse was the anger he was feeling.

When their horses finally slowed down Costis practically fell off of his horse, staggering as he hit the ground and only just balancing himself before falling face-first into the grass. Eugenides jumped down with much more grace than his guard, although he ungracefully shifted his weight and landed on his butt next to Costis, putting a hand on his back.

Costis jumped up as quick as his lethargic body would allow him to, shoving Eugenides hand away from him. “Are you trying to kill us? And the horses? Do you know how much slower we’ll move if one of our horses drop dead in the road?” He snapped, and all of the anger he was hiding had forced itself out into the open.

He was tired, they were both tired, and grieving for Attolia. He knew that, but right now when he looked at his King and friend, he couldn’t remember any of that.

“The longer it takes us the longer-”

“Yes, yes, the longer it takes us to find her. I know! But you’re going to get me killed in the process, and then where will you be?”

“Oh yes, where would I be without a- what are you now? A farmer? A- a bug collector? You’re nothing like the man I met in Attolia.” Eugenides snapped, standing up and tottering over to his horse, searching through it and pulling out a blanket for himself.

“Then why am I here, Gen?” Costis’ tone was accusatory, and he took a step closer to the King. “I’m not as stupid as you think I am. Roa was out of your way - you could have taken any soldier out of your ranks and asked them to follow you. But you took a four day trip to Roa to beg a bug collector to be at your side.”

Eugenides turned on him then, stepping towards him as well. “Who would you have had me taken in the night? Aris? Enkelis? Whose life would you have risked in place of yours, just because poor Costis can’t ride a horse for too long.” His tone became mocking, and Costis shoved him back without thinking.

“I’m not a coward. And I’m definitely not a selfish, bratty King who left his whole Kingdom behind because he couldn’t imagine that anyone else would help him!” Costis shoved again, although this time he missed. The next thing he knew he was on his back, staring into the sharp and angry eyes of the boy King.

There was pressure at his throat, and only once he shifted and could feel it poking into his skin could he identify what it was - the point of the King’s hook.

Crickets chirped in the brush around them, their breathing loud and heavy. The air had been knocked out of him, and it took Costis a moment to catch his breath enough to say what he really wanted to say.

“I’m sorry-” He croaked. “I didn’t mean it. I-” Eugenides got off of him without work, allowing Costis to sit up, and went back to where his blanket had landed on the ground. Costis worked his throat a little, finding a little bit of blood where the hook had been. “-there’s no excuse-” Costis rose, but only to his knees, staying slumped on the ground. “-and if you want to send me away I wouldn’t blame you.”

“Get up, Costis,” Eugenides said, his voice barely loud enough to be heard, sitting on top of the blanket. “Go to sleep.”

“Your Majesty-”

“Stop. Come here.” Costis did so, landing on his knees once again in front of the King, ducking his head in submission. Eugenides reached out and tilted his chin up and away, examining his neck before letting him go. “We’re both tired. Go to sleep.” There was quiet as he waited for Costis to move, and when he didn’t, Attolis sighed. “Speak your mind, Costis.”

“I regret what I said, and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. I-” He tried to keep his breathing even. “Finding her is important, more important than my comfort or my life. You know I feel that way.”

“I know,” Eugenides reached out and touched the side of Costis face, wiping away tears that had found their way there. “You are the bravest, strongest man I know. You’re the one person here with me because I need you to keep me grounded. Do you understand? I need you to be the one to stop me. We’re going to find her, okay? But we need to… be on each other’s side. Alright?”

Costis nodded his affirmative, letting Attolis guide his head down and into his shoulder, wrapping his free arm around him and holding him tight. They sat like that for a moment before laying down to sleep, huddled together under one blanket, falling asleep quickly.

---

It wasn’t until the night before they were to reach their destination that Eugenides finally felt up to actually having a regular conversation with him. They had stopped at an inn for the night, finally giving their backs a break from sleeping on the ground over the course of their trek across the continent. Costis had just handed the reins of their horses over to the stable boy when the King appeared right at his shoulder, guiding him to where the innkeeper had lain out some dinner.

“Come, Costis. Relax a little, you have my permission.” Attolis sat at the head of the table, motioning for Costis to sit to his left.

Eugenides quickly thanked the innkeeper and sent him out of the room, assuring the man that if he needed anything he would let the staff know. The man had been frantic when they arrived, and although they were just hours away from the inner city it was obvious he didn’t get royalty visiting very often. When Costis and the King finally had privacy from him, they both jumped at the chance to eat in an actual, well-cooked meal. They were anxious to get into the city the next day, and the food was only keeping them from that goal.

“My King,” Costis began, only starting any conversation after finishing his food and pushing the plate away from himself. “We’re just outside the capital city… what should I expect?” Costis, nor any soldier he had ever met, had ever been in the Greater Peninsula before; he wasn’t sure if it was a trip that Eugenides had ever even made himself. But the King would still know at least enough to calm Costis’ nerves about the next day.

“It’s very similar to the capital city of Sounis if you’ve ever been.” Eugenides began, not looking up from his plate, not yet half-finished. “Although, much much bigger. Easier to get lost in. There’s the palace, of course, for the local King. But the Council themselves have their own Megaron - that’s our destination. It houses the Council’s royal chamber, which is hardly ever used. Mostly the rulers of the surrounding kingdoms send ambassadors in their place - it’s what Attolia has been doing for years- and an Ambassador can’t sit in his King’s throne. So, there’s supposedly a smaller meeting room for them all to meet and discuss our business.” The King explained all of this matter-of-factly, taking a sip of his wine at the end of it as if just thinking about attending one of those boring meetings dehydrated him. He seemed to be in a much better mood now that they were so close to the megaron.

“Are you worried about the ambassadors having too much power?” Costis asked slowly, worried he might have been missing something obvious. “If all of the royalty are away all the time, well, it’s really the ambassador’s that have all the power. They could, you know. Do whatever they wanted, make as many schemes or plans to achieve their goals.” He wondered suddenly if his own distrust in other people had grown since he’d become close with Irene and Eugenides.

“You’re quicker than you were when we parted ways. Kamet must be doing you some good.” The King teased, a hint of a smirk crossing his face at the sight of Costis’ blush. “You’re right - Attolia hardly ever makes it out to the Greater Peninsula, and I haven’t been since I was crowned.” The implication that he had been in the megaron before he was crowned was hardly a small one, and the details of such a visit might never see the light of day. “Which is why none of our Ambassadors ever hold the position for long. In fact, our current one has only just arrived a couple of weeks ago.”

“And we’re going to meet him?” Costis asked, glad to see that they would have at least one other friendly face to rely on. Although, the chance that this ambassador might be the man they were hunting worried Costis a bit. It probably wouldn’t look great to be hunting their own people across the continent like this, especially considering that he would have still been in Attolia around the time Irene had gone missing. Meaning they’d missed him the first time.

“We’ll probably run into him. He does not know it yet, though, I’m sure.” Eugenides had a bit of a mischievous look on his face, and the sight of it warmed Costis a little bit. They were inside, eating a warm meal, talking as they once had. It was nice to see his King looking more like his old self.

The King drummed his fingers on the table, eating his dinner much slower than Costis had. He was having a little bit of trouble - the innkeeper hadn’t noticed that the King was missing an important appendage, and had left without helping to cut up any of his food. And, of course, Gen was too proud to voice his need for help.

Costis could only watch him struggle for so long before he pulled the plate away from him, quickly cutting up the meat and buttering his bread without a word. It wasn’t the first time he’d done this, although it might have been the first time he’d done it in public; it didn’t even occur to Costis that maybe it was too intimate of an action until he was pushing it back across the table and caught the King’s gaze. He froze, hoping for some sign from his King that he hadn’t just offended him greatly.

Eugenides sat still for a moment as if in shock before smiling and shaking his head slightly. “Thank you. I thought I was managing pretty well, but I suppose an outsider might have thought otherwise.”

“My apologies, My King. Next time I’ll leave you to it.” Costis said, keeping his face serious, but his tone was betraying him. He couldn’t help but tease him, especially considering the number of times that Eugenides had raked him over the coals. The least Costis could do was try and get a good remark in from time to time.

Eugenides laughed, the first one of the whole trip, and it surprised both of them. He took a moment to relish in it before growing somber again, finishing his dinner now that he was actually able to eat. Costis, though, chalked it up to a victory, picking up his glass to sip his wine.

After dinner, they retreated up to their shared room. It was nice, definitely, but the inn was small. Two beds in one room was about the best they could muster up, and Eugenides made sure to thank them heavily for it.

Costis quickly changed out of his armor, taking off his shirt and shoes, laying them in the corner and out of the middle of the room. He turned to blow out his own lamp when he caught sight of the King, sitting on his own bed.

He had already stripped into his bedclothes, and it seemed that the only thing left to do was take the hook off of his arm. He probably rarely did this on his own, and Costis watched as he gingerly began the process. At that moment, it occurred to him that for their whole trip, he had not seen the King take the hook off once, and he suddenly grew frustrated. How many times was he going to do something stupid out of pride before he realized how much this hurt their mission? But then, Costis remembered their conversation from weeks ago.

‘I need you to keep me grounded,’

Eugenides removed the covering slowly, face scrunching up in pain despite the fact that he remained deadly silent. Obviously, it had been bothering him for a while, and for some reason, he’d been ignoring it. And, like always, he was loathe to mention it.

This was the thought process that Costis was following when Eugenides looked up at him, not only catching him staring but also catching him off guard. They looked at each other dumbfounded at catching the other’s eyes for a minute before Eugenides raised an eyebrow at him.

“Have you found something interesting to look at, Costis?” He asked, his tone hard, trying to get him to look away. It was unnecessary, however, because Costis automatically did so without thinking, his cheeks burning hot. He still moved forward, however, despite how much Eugenides must have wished that he stay as still as possible and pretend this wasn’t happening.

He knelt in front of his King, finally daring to look him in the eye, although his cheeks were still a fierce red color. “Here, Your Majesty. Let me help you. It’s obviously been bothering you for many days.” The tone in his voice was obvious; it screamed ‘Why would you wait until the very last moment to do something about this!’ The increasing number of secret thoughts the King kept to himself was…. Frustrating at best. For example, how could the same man who had undergone torture, lost his hand, and stolen himself a kingship be the same man who was too much of a child to deal with small injuries only because they stung? It was akin to someone not ripping a bandage off, and instead leaving it there for weeks until it came loose enough on its own.

“If you feel that you must,” Attolis began in response, although it didn’t seem he really knew where he was going with it. Costis nodded and began unwrapping his arm slowly but efficiently, not causing him any more pain than needed, but much quicker than Eugenides obviously would have done on his own. “The Queen usually helps me with this. I guess I didn’t- I’m not used to having to ask.” Eugenides filled, chattering a little anxiously. It put Costis’ guard up, that all of a sudden, now, Eugenides was acting like everything was okay. He realized why as soon as the last wrapping was off, and Costis let it drop to the ground with a sharp clang of metal on wood.

His King’s skin was past the point of chafing, and most of it was very red and angry, some of it even pus-filled and most of it gross looking. It had been rubbed raw, and his skin was pink all the way up to his forearm.

“What are you going to do if this gets infected? What if you get really sick, and we’re out in a foreign country, and-” The King put his free hand into the air, effectively silencing Costis, although the fierce look never left his friend’s eye.

“I’ve had worse and lived, Costis.” A moment where they both considered what he had gone through and lived to tell. “Please spare me my very well-deserved lecture for another time.”

“You could have mentioned this at any time, My King, and I would have gladly worried over you as dutifully as My Queen would have, although maybe not as lovingly.” Costis sighed and went to fetch his bag for some ointment and clean bandages. When he came back he dropped to his knees again and started the process of cleaning his wrist and bandaging it, grumbling under his breath every time he saw a particularly sore spot.

“Your Queen would have smacked me with a book had she seen this - and then use that as an excuse to stay in my bed a little longer.” A pause. “Do you recall the time she asked one of her attendants to send your garments to be washed, causing you to hide in her room all day?”

“I recall you distracting me while she did so,” Costis responded, although he glanced up at the King, a soft nostalgic smile on his face as he did so. “It was a good day, though.”

 

The King hummed in response, and Costis continued his work in silence.

Afterwards, he’d stayed on his knees, holding the arm gently between his hands. He’d been finished for a minute, although neither of them said anything to the other. Costis had found himself deep in thought, absently rubbing the exposed skin that had managed to stay unbothered by the cuff. Costis was full of anxiety, a pit he had fallen into once left to his own devices. What future mistakes from the King would he need to fix? What if he didn’t make it in time?

The hook itself was lying on the ground next to him, the King staring at it absently. After a moment, Eugenides stirred, reaching a hand up to run it through Costis’ hair.

“You needn’t be so worried,” He said, voice soft, and Costis closed his eyes. How like the King to read his mind so easily without needing to see his face. It had been over a year since Eugenides had taken this tone with him, and after the past couple days, it was a relief to hear it. “I wouldn’t do anything to keep myself from doing what has to be done. Everything, right now, is me trying to-” To save Irene. But he was being a little sloppy this time around, wasn’t he?

“You’re going to have to ride into town without the hook tomorrow. Will you be able to manage?” Costis asked, swallowing over a lump in his throat that appeared as soon as he tried to say anything that was worth saying.

Eugenides nodded, although there was a grimace on his face at the thought of riding one-handed. “It seems I will have to just to put your mind at ease, dear.”

“Good. It’s the least you could do for me. Kamet is probably very displeased with me as we speak. I hope you wrote him a very good letter, or I might find myself bunking with you once again.” Costis leaned into his touch and smiled, phrasing the whole thing as a threat. In reality, he was worried about his partner as well. He must be so worried, or so angry. Either one wasn’t safe when left alone for very long.

Eugenides's face fell, though, and he reached down for one of Costis’ hands. “I hope he understands how important you are to this mission, and to me. There’s no one else I could trust, Costis.”

“You mean no one else who would do exactly what you say without question.” Costis moved, sitting on the bed next to the King, giving his hand a gentle squeeze and continuing before he could get huffy. “I know what you mean, though. I don’t know who I would have reached out to either. If it were Kamet…” He shook his head, almost in fear.

They sat in silence, thinking about their respective partners and their safety until their eyes grew too heavy to stay open any longer.