Sardinia awakens to the sun in his eyes, the sound of the wind rustling the curtains, and a cold, empty side of the bed.
The sound of light but even breathing interrupts the silence of the morning. Only one person has his permission to remain in his private quarters overnight, so there’s no question as to whose breathing it is, nor any doubt that he’s to blame for the vacant side of the bed.
It takes Sardinia a minute to rub the sleep out of his eyes and open them well enough to visibly confirm Shinkai’s presence. He rests right where Sardinia anticipated he'd be, fast asleep in his chair with his flute resting in his lap, propped upright by nothing except maybe the mercy of gravity.
Simply looking at him causes great aches all over Sardinia’s body. With a loud groan, Sardinia unceremoniously shoves his face into a pillow—a soft, fluffy pillow that could have been Shinkai himself, or that Shinkai could have rested his own head on but didn't, because for all of his willingness to accept Sardinia’s other requests he is unbelievably adamant about ignoring this particular one.
Frustration over yet another night spent with Shinkai in the chair builds and builds in Sardinia's chest like the waves of a stormy sea until they propel him into motion. He throws aside the warm covers aside and leaps over to Shinkai, fully intent on demanding an explanation or at the very least, ensure Shinkai makes it up to him.
Once Sardinia’s actually in front of him, though, the irritation dissipates as quickly as it had formed. Up close, he’s defenseless against the way Shinkai’s messy hair falls across his eyes, how his lips part ever so slightly to breathe, the even rise and fall of his chest as he rests peacefully.
How does Shinkai manage to make it impossible to be upset with him even while he's asleep?
And Sardinia wants to be upset—wants to spoil himself rotten with the feeling. It’d be easy to punish Shinkai for ignoring his request, so easy like this, to take a fistful of his hair and tilt his head back and taint his lovely skin with a mark so gratifying he'd never rid himself of the desire to leave it again and again.
Sardinia banishes the thought almost immediately, mostly out of growing uncertainty. For how much he longs to claim Shinkai as his own, it means next to nothing if Shinkai himself doesn't wish to be claimed.
A soft sigh escapes Shinkai’s open lips then, followed by a heavier sound and a stirring movement. Sardinia remains rooted to his spot, strangely fascinated by every second of Shinkai’s return to the waking world.
“Good morning,” he greets as soon as Shinkai’s eyes blearily open, and follows it with an apology lacking even the barest hint of an apologetic tone. “Sorry, did I wake you?”
He blinks slowly, like he’s struggling to focus on Sardinia. Cute, Sardinia thinks. Like a sleepy kitten. “No...I saw a gentle color beckoning me closer, so I started running to it...I wanted to hurry to it.”
Sardinia leans down into Shinkai’s space, grabbing onto the armrest to prop himself up and nuzzling his nose against Shinkai’s throat as he breathes in deep, the now-familiar scent sending a wave of warmth through his body. “A gentle color?”
“Yes…” Shinkai swallows, attempting to clear the thickness from his voice. “It reminded me of you.”
A pang of regret at not taking the earlier opportunity flashes through Sardinia with those words. He presses his lips to Shinkai’s neck once, twice, lingers for a moment. “Me, hm? I am not so gentle as your dreams would have you believe.”
“If that were true, I don't believe you would keep me at your side as you do,” Shinkai states breathlessly, and so frankly that the assertion almost sounds confident—a manner of speaking which is almost foreign to the mysterious, aloof being Shinkai is.
Laughter bubbles up from deep within Sardinia, but not as deep from whence a strong wave of affection for the minstrel arises. He has too much faith in Sardinia, but Sardinia won’t bother telling him as much. It’ll make for a good learning opportunity.
“Good morning, Shinkai,” he repeats instead, brushing aside Shinkai’s hair and placing a kiss on his forehead.
Shinkai’s entire body relaxes into the touch. “Good morning, Sardinia-sama.”
Satisfied (for now), Sardinia finally retreats far enough to gaze into Shinkai’s eyes. “Are you tired? Does your neck hurt? I can't imagine you rested well on this meager block of wood.”
Shinkai meets his gaze head on, not looking particularly concerned, like he hadn't given it much thought yet. “I don’t—”
Unconvinced before Shinkai’s even finished speaking, Sardinia squeezes the soft spot between his neck and shoulder.
As expected, Shinkai winces. “Ah.”
With a wordless but obviously exasperated shake of his head, Sardinia sets Shinkai’s flute aside, grabs onto both of Shinkai’s hands and rocks back onto the balls of his feet, the momentum lifting Shinkai out of his seat. Sardinia holds back a sigh as he tugs the wrinkled scarf from his shoulders. “You should have undressed, at least.”
“I meant to,” he starts—or at least it sounded like he meant to go on, until Sardinia fully unbuttons his shirt and lets it slide from his shoulders. His words drop off just as elegantly as the cloth.
“Come,” Sardinia commands, taking one of Shinkai’s hands again and leading him to the nearby chaise. “If you won't join me in the bed, I wish you would choose to rest somewhere you can at least lay down.”
“I like the chair,” Shinkai reasons, gingerly placing himself as instructed while Sardinia steps aside to select a bottle of oil from his personal stores.
Amusement colors Sardinia’s voice, as it often does during idle chats with Shinkai. “You’re satisfied by so little.”
“I don't know.”
Clutching the bottle in his grasp, he returns to stand behind Shinkai who, fascinatingly enough, followed his latest instructions without any resistance again. All except the one where he sleeps in the bed.
A huff of breath rushes out of Sardinia’s lungs as he spreads the oil over Shinkai’s skin and kneads his fingers in firmly, as if to emphasize the strength of his exasperation. “Regardless of how fond you are of it, Shinkai, you needn’t hurt yourself sleeping in it. I’ve told you time and again that you’re welcome to my bed.”
Shinkai remains silent, save for the occasional sharp intake of breath, like even acknowledging the offer is out of the question.
“Won’t you consider it?” Sardinia continues, determined to elicit some kind of concrete response. “It’s much more comfortable, I assure you.”
“Do you dislike it?”
“I fell asleep on it one night, by accident. I spent three days working out the kinks it gave me. I simply can’t fathom why you would choose to sleep in it when I’ve asked you to rest at my side.”
“I find it sufficient enough for me.”
Hm. Maybe Sardinia will have his attendants remove it one of these days. Soon. “I’m not fond of settling for sufficiency.”
“How strange. I’ve never encountered such a problem.”
Thoughtful silence reigns for a solid two minutes until Sardinia’s hands freeze on Shinkai’s shoulders.
“...Shinkai, do you possibly continue to sleep in that chair because you know I’ll give you a massage the morning after?”
“Hm, I wonder.”
Sardinia musses his already untidy hair so thoroughly even an hour of brushing it probably won’t untangle it, Shinkai shaking with silent laughter through it all. When Sardinia drapes himself over Shinkai’s shoulder to place a frustrated but affectionate kiss against his cheek, he sees the faintest blush high on his cheeks; it might have been cute enough to forgive and forget his sneakiness, if not for the faraway look lingering in Shinkai’s eyes as he gazes towards the balcony and the world outside.
“Are you alright?”
Shinkai blinks. The blankness of his expression mirrors the emptiness of the sky. “Yes…”
“Should I stop?”
Slowly, Shinkai’s head moves back and forth. “It seems I’ve worried you...I apologize.”
Sardinia feels his brows furrow. “If I wanted an apology for every time you worried me, I’d be listening to them for the rest of my days.”
“I see.” Unable to hold his gaze, Shinkai flicks his eyes elsewhere.
An uneasy feeling twists in Sardinia’s chest. Suddenly longing for more contact between them, he rests his chin on Shinkai’s shoulder, inhaling the aroma of the oil now mixed with Shinkai’s scent. “Shinkai, do you not want to share my bed? Tell me and I’ll refrain from suggesting it again.”
Shinkai doesn't react any significant way to Sardinia’s words, but his heartbeat seems to pick up. “That's not it…”
“Then?” Sardinia prods, lips brushing against the skin of Shinkai’s neck. “Tell me.”
“Is it not my duty to play until you fall asleep?”
“Duty…?” The word leaves a foul taste in Sardinia's mouth; his lips curl down as he draws back again, seeking Shinkai’s gaze. “You have no duty to me, Shinkai.”
Shinkai opens his mouth, perhaps to make another point, but Sardinia isn't finished. Obligation was the very last thing he’d ever intended to force upon Shinkai.
“I ask such a thing of you because I long for comfort on sleepless nights, yes, but your music is not the only comfort you provide me.”
The vague discomfort that forces Shinkai to break eye contact troubles Sardinia far more than the original matter at hand.
Presumptuous though it may be, even for the king of a star, Sardinia longs for Shinkai to accept his every affection. The minstrel’s done well so far to receive him, yet there will be moments like these—ones where Sardinia pushes and Shinkai will either easily break or resist him. Perhaps the resistance he’s met is due to the nature of Sardinia’s request; Shinkai can’t actively do anything to satisfy Sardinia’s desires this time, because he doesn't understand what Sardinia desires in the first place: not Shinkai’s music, not his ability, but himself.
“...Yes, my k—”
Shinkai’s sentence cuts off abruptly, as he turns to respond to Sardinia and finds his king’s face hovering mere inches from his own. There’s no trace of surprise to be found on his face, merely idle curiosity.
A frown tugs at the corners of Sardinia’s lips again. Perhaps he will never know what Shinkai sees while he’s off in his own world, but if whatever it is puts a look like that in his eyes, then Sardinia would much rather make it so he is the only thing Shinkai can focus on.
Ever so selfishly, Sardinia slides an arm over Shinkai’s other shoulder, runs his fingers down Shinkai’s cheek, ghosts them over his lips as lightly as a feather—and yet it's enough that they yield and part, almost as though his body’s responding instinctively.
Shinkai is a piece of clay in Sardinia’s hands, waiting—and willing—to be molded into the shape that pleases him most. The thought is every bit as terrifying as it is thrilling.
“What do you see?” Sardinia murmurs.
Confused, Shinkai glances from Sardinia’s eyes to his lips and back again. “See…?”
“What do you feel?” he tries again, angling his head to face Shinkai fully, voice no louder than a whisper. “Tell me, my cute Shinkai.”
Shinkai swallows. “What should I assume you refer to?”
Slowly, so that Shinkai sees it coming every inch of the way, Sardinia closes the distance until the last thing left between them is a breath of air.