and Akeno made their way across the dark courtyard, into the Palace, and – by
no small miracle and lots of assistance from Akeno – up to the third floor
where Jerica’s bedroom was. Her room was on the East Wing on an entirely
abandoned, barren hall that was used only to punish visiting dignitaries by
forcing them to be near her.
suited her just fine. It meant it was quiet and more-or-less private. She
staggered into her room, cringing as she cracked her back. She did a quick scan
around the room to be sure her attendants weren’t present.
off to the left. Dresser and mirror to the right. Windows and chair straight
ahead. But no attendants.
Harlyn?” she called half-heartedly, glancing towards the door off to her right
that led to her anteroom that she used for bathing. She didn’t expect them to
be in there. And, sure enough, there was no response. She grunted and strode
further into her room, glancing at the mirror absently.
stopped short when she saw her appearance.
shoulder-length black hair that she usually kept pulled back into a tight bun
was mostly ripped free of its confines and was in a wild knot sticking out in
all directions from her head. But her gaze gravitated towards the huge bruise
forming across her left eye and cheek from the blow that the man landed on her.
The skin was swollen and tender and already a dark purple, contrasting sharply
against her pale skin. The white of her eye was now completely bloodshot, the
red making her green eyes look muddy and ugly.
walked up behind her and began massaging her shoulders soothingly.
closed her eyes and sighed, leaning into it as the pressure from his hands
released some of the tension from her body. “Think Derik will notice?”
snorted. Jerica cracked an eye open and looked at him in the mirror. He was
smirking and shook his head slightly. She did, as well, closing her eyes once
more; satisfied that her joke had landed well. Akeno’s words were dry when he
responded, “hard to say, honestly. You know how much he usually misses.”
chuckled and leaned back against Akeno’s chest, letting him support some of her
weight. Derik Ainsley was War Lord of the King’s Imperial Army of Atraya, and,
of equal note, the overprotective uncle who had raised her from infancy. She
could scarcely grimace without him noticing and asking what was wrong. He was
going to be upset with her when he saw her in the morning – she was sure the
bruise would be even worse by then. With any luck, Rek would get to the dining
room first and warn his father about the fight. But. Well. It was always a
gamble, seeing as she had no way of knowing where he was, without going
though, how are you doing?” Akeno asked, wrapping her in a hug from behind and
resting his chin on her shoulder.
fine,” she sighed, cracking her eyes open and glancing at him in the mirror. Then
she turned towards him, happy he kept his arms wrapped around her as she did.
She remembered she had his shirt on and plucked it away from her chest. “Want
began unbuttoning it. She wasn’t about to sleep in that dirty, smelly thing. “I
mean… or neither of us could wear it.” She leaned forward and kissed him
lightly on the lips.
chuckled, then stepped back and shook his head. “Not tonight.”
wrinkled her nose and shrugged off the shirt, setting it on the back of the
chair as she moved towards her dresser to retrieve her night clothes. “Why not?
We can blow out the lamps if you just don’t wanna see my ugly face.”
could feel herself slurring her words but she couldn’t seem to find the energy
to stop. She opened a drawer and pulled out her pajamas, then turned and
glanced at Akeno.
snorted, looking at her flatly. “You’re not ugly. And it’s not that.”
is it, then?” she shimmied out of her trousers and began pulling on her night
pants, trying not to fall over. She was drunk enough to pry, but no meant no,
so she wasn’t going to pressure him for a yes.
too drunk,” he said gently, walking to her closet and retrieving the pajamas
they’d stashed for him in the back corner. “You can’t consent.”
not,” Jerica scoffed, turning towards him with a frown. “Can too. It was my idea.”
drunken idea,” he pointed out.
want to even if I was sober.”
if you were sober, I’d want to, too. But you’re not. And I’m not. And I don’t
ever want to have to worry about whether something I did to you was okay or
not. You matter too much to me for that.”
scoffed again, but didn’t have a coherent comeback. She was silent for a long
moment as she pulled on her shirt then shuffled over to the bed and pulled back
the covers. “Why do you gotta be so… so…”
raised an eyebrow, also changing into his pajamas and striding over to her.
thoroughly decent,” she decided at last, making sure to pout like she’d just
said a bad thing.
smirked a little. “Thanks? I think.”
she grunted, then glanced at the bed, and back at Akeno. “You sure?”
sure,” he confirmed with a nod.
Can I at least have snuggles?”
can have all the snuggles,” Akeno laughed, following Jerica onto the bed
as she crawled under the covers and scooted over to make room for him. He blew
the lamp out and then laid down.
my heart and hope to die.” Akeno opened his arms to her, inviting her in to
snuggle against his chest.
better not die,” Jerica murmured, voice fading as her energy slipped away
rapidly. “I’ll… follow you to… the afterlife… and kick your butt… if…if…” She
was asleep before she knew how she was going to finish that sentence.