Mathias strode down the dimly lit hall, legs weary but purposeful as he passed room after room, tapestries of battles and his house crest, fine works of art, and swords used as decorative pieces rather than for war. War.
The break his knights were going to have would not last much longer, and soon he would be out in the field again. There were so many things he wanted to do here, but God demanded his holy lands, and the Church demanded Mathias--their best tactician--to lead their most successful company of knights.
Mathias would much rather read on ancient techniques for alchemy, practice some of his new crafts, or just lay in the summer sun with his best friend.
The world did not care about what Mathias wanted.
The church had even sent a messenger to remind him of this fact. Mathias tsked, already getting riled up, even though it had happened little more than an hour ago. But the visit had reminded him of the horrors war brought, even if they were doing God's work, and Mathias was going to have to go back to it.
Mathias stopped at his bedroom and laid his head upon the polished wooden door. He was so tired.
Opening the door to step inside, he looked out the windows with unseeing eyes; The day grew late, the sun setting in brilliant yellows as oranges began to spread at the horizon. He dropped his cloak at the door, moving woodenly into the sitting area. A soft chair cushioned his body as he slumped down into it, head hanging forward, and ran a hand through his hair before allowing it to cup his cheek.
Not even a few minutes later, a knock at the door had Mathias sighing.
"Enter," he said. He hoped it was only a servant there to stoke a fire, or some other menial task.
But it was not. "Mathias!" A bundle of energy bounded into his room, somehow bringing more light with bouncing blonde curls and a brilliant smile. Apparently, the distraction called Leon had come to visit.
"We haven't met in a few days," he said, sounding disappointed. "So I came to see you myself. What do you think? We should spend some time together, you know? Before..."
"Yes yes," Mathias said, dropping his head into both of his hands. He didn't want to think about it.
Leon's footsteps moved closer and a hand landed on his shoulder. Leon's voice was softer, his compassion for other people immediately arising. "Hey, let's think about something else then. Anything I can do?"
Mathias lifted his head. Fiery colors of the sun haloed Leon, his eyes even bluer in the face of it, his skin softened by the rays; He was beautiful. Only in Mathias's own mind, safe behind his expression and the closed doors of his personal room, would he allow himself to whisper it. Not now, but occasionally, and sometimes when they were both spread out in the shade of a tree, or enjoying the luxury of a private bath together. Mathias sighed, lowering his hands.
"Get out the wine."
Mathias directed him to one of his personal bottles, as yet opened only once, when he first got back and was celebrating his return with a glass and a good book before retiring to bed. Now, he was hoping drinking with Leon would drive some of his thoughts of the future away.
Leon poured both of them glasses, and they toasted each other with wry smiles. Mathias downed most of his in one go. Leon sipped more gently at his.
They talked, or Leon talked, mostly, while Mathias answered any direct questions and offered opinions here and there. Leon didn't seem to mind; He never did. Leon did, eventually, get Mathias talking about an alchemy project he was working on, though. Mathias did not share the information with many people, as alchemy was often frowned upon as Satan's work, despite that the church called on him so often at least partially because of his knowledge in it. He pushed the thoughts away by draining his second glass and diving into detail.
Leon didn't understand a lot of it, Mathias could tell by the glazed look in his eyes, but he still smiled and hummed to encourage Mathias. It was a sweet gesture, and Mathias poured a couple more glasses for Leon during his explanations as recompense for letting him talk about his fascinating--to Mathias--new discovery and theory.
Unfortunately, Mathias had forgotten why Leon never had more than the occasional watered down mug of warmed wine or ale with dinner. When Leon started giggling about the process of albedo, something he should have had no opinion on and certainly wasn't warranting of that much amusement, Mathias remembered.
Leon was a horrible lightweight.
Mathias nearly slapped his own forehead at his stupidity and forgetfulness. It had happened only a few times before, and Mathias had sworn to always keep an eye on Leon's consumption afterwards. If Leon had a propensity for dangerous stunts while in his normal state of mind, the chance of Leon jumping out a window to crash into a hedge before streaking off into the night grew exponentially while Leon was drunk.
"Math-thias," Leon hiccuped. He had already gotten out of his chair and was searching his belt. "Lemme show you what I did yes- today. I learned- I did it- I learned to do this thing, with my sword." Leon giggled as he patted the front of his belt. "My sword," he repeated.
"No weapons," Mathias said, exasperation already creeping in. "Nothing dangerous, not even a candle for you."
Actually, it was getting dark. Leon had probably been planning to spend the night before. Mathias grinned at the presumptuousness.
"What?" Leon whined. "I gotta-"
"No, you aren't going to do any of that sort of thing. You can barely keep your balance."
Leon swayed in place. "I can," he insisted. "I'll show you."
"No," Mathias said immediately, and stood, but Leon was already getting into position.
"I can flip-"
"Flip from here around to my feet again-"
Mathias reached out and grabbed Leon before he could do anything which would result in a broken skull. Leon whined, but gave in fairly quickly and sagged against Mathias.
"Why?" he complained.
"I told you not to."
Mathias felt he might well run out of sighs at the rate he was going through them. "Because you will hurt yourself. Now come sit down."
"No," Leon whined again. Mathias was still supporting his leaning body though, so he manhandled his friend towards the bed. Leon's weight and floppy resistance stopped him before he could get there, but Mathias at least managed to get them over to some thick, comfortable rugs. He set Leon down, watching as even his torso swayed.
Mathias had his back turned for only a second, to light a couple candles, but as soon as he turned back, Leon was already trying to stand.
Calling his name in frustration, Mathias moved over to push him back into sitting.
"Come here," said Leon.
"I am," Mathias said back.
"No, here." Leon patted right next to himself. At Mathias's confused frown, Leon just patted more insistently, then reached out. He grabbed either side of Mathias's face, smiling. "You gotta sit next to me, like at the trees."
Mathias felt himself flush and wondered if it was because of how straightforward Leon was being or if the alcohol had made him warmer. Either way, it seemed sitting would keep Leon out of trouble, so he moved to Leon's side. Leon leaned over, putting his head right on Mathias's shoulder and made a happy sound.
Mathias felt even warmer.
"Perhaps we should take off these tunics," he muttered, hoping the lack of outerwear would cool him off.
Leon turned his face up to look at him then, his own cheeks looking more pink than before. "Off?" he whispered, sounding like he was speaking holy words.
"Er, yes?" Then Mathias caught up with what he had said, and what Leon might have insinuated, but it was too late, because Leon's wine-clumsy fingers had somehow already managed to strip off his belts and most of his comfortable outer tunic. His head appeared stuck in the hole however, leaving a cute little bit of curly blonde peeking out as the rest of him struggled to push the tunic up.
Mathias chuckled, then grabbed a couple of handfuls to help pull the rest of the item over Leon's head. Leon frowned at the tunic, but smiled at Mathias. The emotion on his lips was such a sweet, open thing. Mathias could have gotten lost in it-- had Leon not immediately moved to start stripping Mathias.
"I can do this on my own," Mathias insisted. His heart fluttered and his vision blurred anywhere which wasn't Leon, beaming and bright, but he was fine.
So Leon--unhelpfully--just patted Mathias as he removed his own outer tunic, his hands sometimes directly in the way.
"You are such a handful when drunk," Mathias muttered, smacking Leon's hands away from his neck so he could remove his tunic without standing up.
Then they were both down to their inner layers. It wasn't as though Mathias and Leon had never seen each other naked, but something about sitting around in Mathias's bedroom, at night, by candlelight, in only their undergarments, was incredibly intimate, in a way Mathias hadn't considered before. Had only considered before once--in his dreams.
But then Leon basically reminded him they were not, in fact, ready for bed by lifting his inner tunic to begin undoing his girdle and hose. Glimpsing the slight patch of linen-white skin on Leon's thigh was near enough to send Mathias's heart into palpitations, and he had to look away, breathing into his hand. His entire body felt as if it was on fire.
"What are you doing?" he hissed through his fingers.
"Taking off... Getting ready to sleep?"
Mathias made a confirming sound, though even to his own ears it sounded a bit strangled. For several moments, he remained still. However, he had to immediately whip around and grab Leon's hands to stop them from sneaking up his own shirt. If they grabbed at his thighs like this--or other places near them--Mathias wasn't quite sure what he would do. Something stupid, probably. Like kiss Leon, or run from the room in nought but his underthings. No, Mathias had prevented Leon from such activities, he would prevent himself.
"I said I can get it."
Leon made a sad sound, but pulled away and just leaned on Mathias's shoulder again. Mathias stripped off his own hose, leaving the both of them in only their undershirts and drawers.
And Leon's arm was snaking around Mathias's back.
"What-?" was all Mathias could get out.
"Don't you miss me?" Leon said. "Let's cuddle."
"You are drunk."
"Yeah." Leon giggled.
"We should-" but the words 'get in bed' died on Mathias's tongue before he could speak them. Leon was acting handsy enough without any encouragement. Besides, he was only acting the fool from the alcohol. "Let's read a story," he said instead.
Leon hummed and moved in closer, wrapping both his arms around Mathias.
"You'll have to let go." Mathias wiggled, but Leon had always been incredibly strong, and it appeared the wine had only made him clingier.
Leon complained about letting go, making little sounds and repeating "no" and "come back." Mathias eventually realized he'd have to distract Leon.
"Don't you want to move to the bed?"
Leon perked up.
"It's more comfortable than this."
Leon seemed to think about it--though his expression looked more lost than anything--before he nodded decisively. "Yeah, the bed. Let's go." He tried to stand with Mathias in his arms, lost his balance, and promptly fell onto his back, arms looser.
Mathias chuckled, then grabbed at one arm to peel it off. Easier than before, during Leon's fierce cuddling, Mathias quickly wiggled out of the octopus grab and stood up, dodging the attempts to capture his feet. "You are a menace," he said fondly to the groaning lump of a man on the floor.
He picked out a simple book, a thin thing of short folk tales, and laid it next to the bed. Then he considered how to move Leon onto the furniture. In the end, it took several different holds, from under the arms, then around the middle, and finally on his legs--touching above the knee and trying not to lose composure--before the boneless Leon was laid out on top of the plush blanket.
Mathias would worry about the covers issue later.
For the moment, he brought over some water, with one cup to drink and hopefully help Leon gain some coherence, and some in a washing bin--he used the cloth within to wipe off Leon's face. Best to get him ready for sleep before he started on the story, Mathias thought.
Leon took both things with grace, at least partially because Mathias asked him in a kind voice.
Then they were settling into the bed together, Leon once again octopus-ing around Mathias, this time with their legs tangled up together and Leon's head on his heart, and Mathias was certain it would beat right out of his chest. Even so, he cleared his throat and began the tale he'd opened to.
The tale was a simple one, one which he had heard from the lands they had traveled through, from a merchant with a morbid sense of humor who sold many mystical wares from countries near and far. Mathias had taken an instant liking to him, and hoped Leon liked the story.
He had only gotten to the part where the third daughter was set to mind the corpse when Leon interrupted.
"Lemme read," he said.
Mathias blinked. "What?" he asked, "Why? Am I not reading this properly to you?"
"I wanna read to you," Leon said. He reached out with floppy hands, batting at the book until he got a grip on the binding and gave a tug. Mathias let it go, if for no other reason than to keep it in one piece. Leon muttered to himself as he focused on the pages. "Ah, okay. Well the girl is sitting down by a fire and uh... she's playing with her pussy-"
Mathias almost choked on his own saliva. "P-playing..."
"With her pussy cat."
Mathias laughed, relieved and a little hysterical. Leon just beamed up at him and continued.
"Playing with her pussy cat and her dog. And um, then the man under the table, he came back to life- He was dead?" Leon shouted. He held the book closer to his face, as though it would help him better understand the reveal which Mathias had read about several paragraphs ago.
"Yes, Leon," Mathias said, giving into the temptation to pat his friend's head. "He has been dead for a long time."
"Oh no," said Leon. Mathias snorted.
"But he gets up and talks to her..." And the story went on. Mathias found himself amused by Leon's surprise, and laughed when Leon stumbled over concepts or words. Leon laughed with him more often than not. Mathias didn't think he'd understood what was so funny, or that Mathias laughed at his stumbling, but Leon laughed along anyway, sharing in his friend's joy for apparently no reason other than he felt happy.
Mathias had moved to pet fingers through Leon's hair, so he felt when Leon turned his head down, not at the book--which lay forgotten on the bedspread--but elsewhere.
"Leon?" he asked. His friend was shuffling around in the bed and patting over his person. "What are you looking for?"
"It's for you," Leon mumbled.
Mathias chuckled. "That's not very helpful."
But Leon eventually patted his neck, going "Ah-ha!" He removed a long leather braid then, on which was a silver ring. Mathias didn't get a good look before Leon was fiddling with it, eyes narrowed in concentration as he undid the knot and slid the ring off.
Then the ring was easy to look at, because it moved right in front of Mathias's face.
"Leon-" Mathias said, hand already on his wrist to begin pushing it away.
"Mathias," Leon interrupted. "Take it."
Mathias froze. "What?" he whispered.
"It's for you," Leon repeated. "A promise. To do the- this stuff over and over. For the rest of our lives."
Whatever had been left of the alcohol in Mathias's system swiftly fled. A cold pit opened in his stomach, even as the ring glinted in front of him. Made of silver, the ring was not as warm as Leon's hair, but well polished, the shape of two intertwined hands making the top portion of it. What did Leon mean by this?
Leon pushed it closer to Mathias, who had to lean away and push against Leon's hand to prevent the metal from going right into one of his eyes.
Well, it was definitely the alcohol talking then.
"Leon, put this back," Mathias chided, a lump in his throat.
"Y... You don't want it?" Leon asked. "It won't make you happy?"
He'd somehow managed to get his muscles working enough to pull himself into sitting position and look Mathias eye to eye. Dejection was obvious in his wide eyes, but he was also fairly flushed--probably from the wine and the exertion of moving his limbs properly.
"We should get some sleep," Mathias tried.
Leon frowned. He looked at the ring still in his hands, then back at Mathias. "I want you to be happy. Can I do that? For you?"
Mathias closed his eyes briefly, swallowing. "You already do." Leon's face lit up again.
Once again, the ring was shoved in Mathias's face. He was going to chastise Leon again, or maybe just take the ring away to make him stop, but Leon's next words were so sincerely sappy, they stole Mathias's breath away.
"Take it," Leon said. "I'll make you happy. I promise."
Mathias had to blink rapidly, and even then, Leon used one of his hands to wipe at Mathias's cheeks. "You can't know that," Mathias whispered.
"I do," Leon insisted. He pulled up one of Mathias's hands, waiting, apparently, for Mathias to present his finger. "We're companions, aren't we?"
The emphasis on companions was different than usual, so profound, with a wry quick to Leon's lips that had Mathias giving a watery chuckle. He carefully, hesitantly, uncurled his hand to present his ring finger to Leon.
"You'd better not run off on me, then," Mathias said. "Or you're never getting your ring back."
"I don't need it. I will have you."
Leon took several tries, but with Mathias guiding him, he was able to slip the ring on a bare finger. It didn't fit perfectly, but Mathias wouldn't change it for anything. Topping it all off, Leon deciding to lean in and press his face to Mathias. Or more accurately, he pressed his lips to Mathias's cheek in a sloppy attempt at a kiss.
Whether he meant to aim there or not, Mathias was already unbearably hot in the face, so he didn't correct Leon's placement. A kiss was a kiss, and Mathias's heart was already barely fitting behind his ribcage.
Hoping to avoid any more incidents, he gently rolled Leon into position for sleeping, placing him on his side and preparing the covers.
It would not be the first time they slept together, Mathias realized as he slipped beneath the warm blankets, but it would be the first time since they were both older that they would share a bed in his house. Especially Mathias's own bed.
The revelation kept his mind swirling for a while, a constant tide with wave after wave of new thoughts and recurring emotions--like panic and worry, or sometimes excitement. Leon put a stop to those as he always did: by barging right into Mathias's personal space. This time just happened to involve the younger knight turning over and suctioning himself to Mathias like he was a winding vine and Mathias a tree to climb.
Mathias wanted to sigh, and might normally have pushed him away, but Leon hummed happily, and the ring was warm on his finger. So Mathias settled himself into the grip, carefully holding Leon too, and let himself sleep.