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The Sweet and The Unholy

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The world fades into color as Hendrik blinks away the darkness at the edge of his vision. Then, he registers the shaking and bucking sending him into the air every so often. Then, his position, bent over with his hands behind his back. Hendrik blinks again, smelling a horse, recently washed, judging by the scent of soap intermingling with it. Hendrik tries to bring his wrists out in front of him, only to find they're stuck together. Oh. They're tied up.

"Huh. He's awake." Someone to Hendrik's right says in an off-handed manner.

Hendrik groans as he lifts his head up, feeling like it's made of rocks. He sees a tight black and purple suit covering the rider's back and arm, a sharp contrast to the horse's pure white flank. Hendrik can't see much else of them, other than a belt.

"Wh… where am I?" Hendrik's mouth feels too dry, like he hasn't drank anything in days. That might actually be the case. Hendrik forgets these things a lot.

"Far away from your human buddies." The rider answers with a smirk Hendrik can practically hear.

"Were you the one that… that tied me up?"

"No, my horse did." The rider scoffs. "Of course I tied you up."

"That… that was sarcasm, correct?" Goddess, Hendrik's voice is hoarse.

"Yep." The rider pops the p. He digs through what Hendrik assumes to be his bag, Hendrik can't really see it, and the rider holds out a piece of jerky to Hendrik with a thickly-gloved hand. "Want something to eat?"

Just then, Hendrik's stomach growls and twists painfully, making Hendrik acutely aware of his hunger. "Yes, please."

"Well too bad." The rider eats the jerky right then and there.

Hendrik groans and lets his head drop. "Where, exactly, are you taking me?"

"Somewhere you're not gonna like."

If Hendrik could facepalm, he would. Instead, he just sighs. He's too disoriented to recognize his surroundings, and his would-be kidnapper isn't helping. Guess Hendrik has to find out where he is the old fashioned way. With a grunt, he rolls off the horse and lands on the ground with a loud thud. He scrambles to get to his feet…

Only to find his ankles are bound as well.

The rider stops his horse and gets off. With no other option, Hendrik starts crawling as fast as he can. The rider just laughs and walks up to Hendrik, then picks him up and drags him back to the horse. Hendrik struggles against his hold, desperately wriggling in his captor's grasp.

"Ugh, don't make me cast Snooze on you!" The rider shouts as he claws for a stronger grip.

Hendrik rears his head forward and headbutts the rider. Hard. The rider stumbles, dropping Hendrik. Hendrik manages to get an impressive two feet away from the rider before he recovers.

"Fine! You asked for it! Snooze!"

Strong magic crashes over Hendrik like a wave, knocking the wind out of him. Hendrik's eyelids grow heavy and weary, threatening to pull Hendrik into a coma. Hendrik lasts about six seconds before his eyes shut, and all fight leaves his body with a sleepy sigh.

-----

"…ell him I'm home, and that I've got a surprise for him."

Hendrik groans as he awakens. He vaguely registers armored feet stomping away from him. His hands and feet are still bound, but now Hendrik's laying on his side, on something much more comfortable than the back of a horse. Looking around, Hendrik realizes that he's indoors, in what appears to be a candlelit living room.

"Awake again, I see." Hendrik's kidnapper walks into view, wearing a tight, primarily black shirt and pants with purple accents, plus a dark pink scarf, with the ends thrown over his shoulder and the cloth pulled up to hide his face. "How do you like the couch? Is it comfy?"

"Where…" Hendrik's voice comes out so raspy it's unintelligible. He clears his throat and tries again. "Where-" Hendrik goes into a coughing fit that wracks his whole body.

The kidnapper rolls his eyes and takes out a waterskin. When Hendrik's coughs die down, the kidnapper holds the waterskin to his lips, and Hendrik graciously accepts, guzzling the entirety of its contents in seconds.

"Where am I?" Hendrik successfully asks, water dripping down his chin.

"Heliodor Castle." The man laughs. "You're dead, old man."

Hendrik stares at the man before him for several seconds. "Heliodor Castle?!"

"Yep. You're gonna die soon." The man sits in a comfortable-looking chair across from Hendrik and crosses his legs. "Might as well make your peace with it now, while you still have the chance."

Hendrik looks around the room. Now that he knows he's in the castle, he recognizes the room as formerly being the king's room, but now repurposed into a living room. "We… we are in Heliodor Castle?"

"Yep." The man takes a book from the table next to him and reads the back.

"Then… you must be working for Mordegon's forces."

"Yep." The man opens the book.

"So… you are a human working for the Army of Darkness?"

The man glances up at him and scoffs. "Won't be human for long, that's for damn sure."

"Why haven't you thrown me into the dungeon yet?" Hendrik questions, trying- and failing- to pull himself into a sitting position.

"Figured you could at least sit down for a while and be comfy before you die. It's no skin off my nose." The man carefully flips a page with dark pink gloves. "And don't even think about escaping. There's several guards outside the door, magic sigils on the windows that kill humans instantly, and all secret passages are either guarded or walled up. Also, I took your stuff."

Hendrik curses under his breath. "May I at least know your name?"

"Malachite." The man finally provides, glancing at Hendrik again.

"Malachite…" Hendrik mumbles. "Where have I heard that name before…?"

"Heard of me, have you?" The corners of Malachite's eyes crinkle as he bookmarks his page and puts the book down. "About time. I've been terrorizing the humans for months!"

Hendrik thinks for a moment. "No, I believe I have never heard of you before."

"What?!"

"I am certain I have heard the name Malachite somewhere else." Hendrik confirms.

Malachite groans and puts his head in his hands. "Ughhhhh, whyyyyyy?" He laments, bringing a hand up to run through his brown hair. Then, his chest shakes, and he sniffles. "I just want the humans to fear me…"

Hendrik sits there as Malachite cries. Hendrik glances around the room, looking for something, anything, to help him escape this situation. But there's nothing he can use. He has to sit there and listen to his captor cry.

Malachite suddenly stands up and walks behind Hendrik. "No! Don't cry! Don't cry." Malachite sniffles. "You wanna look tough when he gets here. Breathe, breathe, breathe…" Malachite takes several deep breaths, then sighs. He spends a few more moments behind Hendrik before coming back around to sit next to Hendrik.

"Um…" Hendrik lifts his head up and glances at Malachite's reddened eye (eye?). Now that Malachite's closer, Hendrik can see several scars peeking out from under his scarf.

"What?!" Malachite shoots Hendrik a glare.

"Uh…"

"Spit it out!"

"…Nevermind." Hendrik sighs and puts his head down. "Could you set me upright?"

Malachite rolls his eyes as he brings Hendrik into a sitting position. "You could've just done that yourself."

"My hands-"

The door opens. Hendrik and Malachite look to the person standing in the doorway. Pure, excited glee runs through Malacite's entire being, while for Hendrik, it's as if his blood has turned to ice.

For the man standing before them is none other than Jasper, second-in-command to the Lord of Shadows, and traitor to Heliodor Kingdom.

Chapter Text

Malachite stands up with a bounce as Jasper looks at them with wide eyes. "Jasper!"

Jasper looks to Malachite, then Hendrik. "Malachite, I… what?"

Malachite turns around to face Hendrik, who's sitting frozen in shock. He grabs Hendrik by the tunic and shoves him to the ground. Hendrik lands with a dull thud, hitting his head on the floor. Hendrik hardly has any time to blink the stars out of his vision before Malachite yanks him up by his hair and forces him into a kneeling position.

"When you're in Supreme Commander Jasper's presence, you bow." Malachite grits to Hendrik. Then, he turns back to Jasper. "Look! I captured Hendrik!"

Hendrik blinks, and Jasper's before him, tilting his head up by the chin. Disgust is what prompts Hendrik to yank his head back and try to break out of his bonds… only for his arms to wriggle ineffectively. Jasper suddenly cackles, prompting Hendrik to glare daggers at him.

"Does something amuse you, traitor?!" Hendrik spits out.

"Ha ha ha! It seems you truly have captured Sir Hendrik! Well done, my little darkspawn, well done!" Jasper says to Malachite, completely ignoring Hendrik. "I was going to chew you out on leaving your mission early, but this? This is more than enough to make up for it."

Hendrik grunts as he tenses and untenses his muscles, trying to work the ropes loose.

"Yeah, well, I couldn't let this opportunity slip by. Hendrik was right there in front of me."

Hendrik leans back and fumbles for his boots, hoping Malachite forgot to check them. His heart sinks once he realizes the knife he shoved into his boot isn't there.

"I see someone's taking my lessons to heart." Jasper smirks as he looks at Hendrik. He snickers at the sight of Hendrik struggling. "Well, at least the ones about strategy and tying knots."

Hendrik grabs the ropes tying his ankles and tugs on them with all his might. They don't budge.

Malachite takes one look at Hendrik and laughs. "Now he's no better than a damn worm on a brick road."

As a last resort, Hendrik tries creating friction between the ropes to wear them down, hoping it at least aids in his escape.

"Oh, spare yourself some dignity, my dear Hendrik." Jasper walks around to behind Hendrik. "Those ropes aren't budging anytime soon."

"Dear?!" Hendrik whips around as best he can. "You dare to call me 'dear,' after you attempted to have me murdered, and caused the Fall of Yggdrasil?!"

"I'll call you whatever my heart desires. After all," Jasper crouches down and tucks Hendrik's hair behind his ear. "You're my prisoner."

Hendrik headbutts Jasper, making both recoil. Jasper falls to the ground, cursing loudly. Malachite draws his swords in an instant, kicking Hendrik just below the ribs, knocking the wind out of him and making him fall. Malachite straddles Hendrik and crosses his swords over Hendrik's throat, just barely keeping himself from beheading Hendrik. Hendrik freezes instantly, blood turning to ice.

"Should I kill him?" Malachite asks without taking his eyes off Hendrik for a second.

"Ugh, give me a minute…" Jasper groans. "Where did I put my handkerchief?"

"You can use mine. Front pouch, left side." Malachite adjusts his position, bringing his left leg a little more out.

Jasper gets up and goes over to Malachite's side. He reaches down with one hand while the other clutches his nose. Hendrik risks a glance downwards to see Jasper unbutton one of the brown pouches on Malachite's dark pink belt. Jasper pulls out the handkerchief and wipes his nose, staining the handkerchief red.

"Thank you. Guards!" Jasper looks to the door.

Several sets of armored boots stomp inside. Bones clack against each other, a sound Hendrik knows all too well from countless battles against the undead.

"Put Hendrik in the dungeon." Jasper orders. "And Malachite, put him to sleep."

Malachite brings one sword away to cast. Hendrik is helpless to resist as Malachite casts Snooze, rendering Hendrik unconscious once again. The last thing he feels is something grabbing him as a weight is lifted off his abdomen.

-----

Hendrik slaps his hand over his ear as the booming voices echo, piercing his brain. Rhythmnic tapping only serves to pound on Hendrik's head like a drum, making Hendrik whimper and curl up into a ball.

"YEAH, HE HEADBUTTED ME TOO." Someone screeches with little regard to Hendrik's poor head.

"I SEE. IS HE AWAKE?"

"LAST TIME WE CHECKED, NO."

"I'LL CHECK AGAIN."

The rhythmnic tapping grows louder, faster, making bile rise in Hendrik's throat. Soon, it stops. Hendrik only has a moment of relief before an ear-piercing rattle rips a scream out of Hendrik's mouth.

"SHIT!" Someone screams in response. "HE'S AWAKE!"

More tapping. Hendrik clutches his head and openly sobs as the noise drives a wedge into his skull, splitting his body in half. The tapping only gets louder, threatening to make Hendrik spew out what little contents reside in his stomach.

"HENDRIK?" Something feather-light brushes against Hendrik's cheekbone, making him flinch.

"SH!" Someone whistles. "LET ME LOOK HIM OVER."

Hendrik pries a single eye open, and immediately shuts it again. The blinding light burns in Hendrik's eyeball, threatening to overwhelm his senses. And if that wasn't bad enough, there's more tapping and an earth-shattering thud that Hendrik's poor head has to contend with. Razor-sharp needles poke and prod the back of Hendrik's head, leaving nothing but pure pain in their wake. Then, a weight is dropped onto Hendrik's cheek, tapping lightly.

"Hey." Someone whispers. "Can you hear me?"

Hendrik turns his face into the scratchy thing below him and whimpers.

"I'm a doctor. I'm here to see about that concussion of yours."

"Wh, wha…?" Hendrik's voice feels strange and foreign to his ears.

"You have a concussion. It's when your brain is bruised."

"Oh…" Hendrik groans. "Whyyyy?"

"Because, as Jasper and Malachite here have told me, you hit your head multiple times."

"Ugh, who, who's Malachite?" Hendrik asks as he rubs his head.

"The young man with the scarf."

Hendrik tries to open his eyes. The light still blinds, so Hendrik blinks and blinks until it doesn't hurt so much. Spots dance in Hendrik's vision, obscuring most of the room and its inhabitants.

"Oh dear…" The doctor makes something rattle too loudly, then before Hendrik knows it, he makes a noise that's like nails on a chalkboard. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

Hendrik blinks in confusion. The motion clears up his vision a little, allowing him to see a whiteish-brownish blob hovering in his face. Hendrik tries to decipher the shape, but the spots and blurs make it too hard for him. After several seconds, the blob disappears, and the doctor makes that nail on a chalkboard sound again. Hendrik closes his eyes and clamps a hand over his ear.

"Ok, let's try and stand up." Something tugs Hendrik upwards. Hendrik whimpers as the motions only serve to make his head pound harder. "I'm going to let you go, now." The force lifting Hendrik up suddenly dissolves, making Hendrik fall flat on his ass.

Hendrik takes in his new position. He looks down at his legs. Something bubbles up in his chest. Before he knows it, he erupts with laughter, belly seizing so hard he falls over. He doesn't even notice the scratching noise over his own laughter.

"WHAT'S SO FUNNY?!" Someone screams as they stomp up to Hendrik, making him pause his laughter to wince and rub his head. Before Hendrik knows it, he's yanked up. "ANSWER ME!"

All the noise beats Hendrik's head from the inside out, making fat tears slip from Hendrik's eyes once again.

"MALACHITE, STOP!" A voice booms, only adding to Hendrik's hurt. "WE NEED HIM FOR INTERROGATION."

Hendrik is pushed backwards. He manages to stay upright, however, he sways dangerously. A firm presence on Hendrik's shoulder stabilises him as Hendrik hugs himself and cries.

"You ok?"

Hendrik sobs quietly as his head feels like it's splitting open. Actually, no. It would hurt less if Hendrik's skull was actually being pried apart.

More scratching. Then, some shuffling. "Jasper?"

"What?" A new voice whispers.

The doctor, or the person Hendrik assumed was the doctor, started whispering so low Hendrik couldn't make it out anymore. Hendrik is just grateful for the quiet. Today has been too loud for him to bear.

When the whispering stops, the tapping starts up again, the blinding light dying down as the tapping gets quieter. Hendrik barely registers an unintelligible voice before Hendrik's eyelids droop. Hendrik barely has the mind to lay down before being lulled into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

Eight days later…

A sharp, stinging pain on Hendrik's cheek is what interrupts his sleep.

"I said WAKE UP!" Malachite screams for what feels like the millionth time.

"Ugh, I'm awake…" Hendrik groans as he sits up and holds his cheek.

"Doctor's gonna look you over again." Malachite says, taking out some shackles.

"Could you give me a minute?" Hendrik rubs his cheek, trying to soothe the pain away.

"Fiiiiine." Malachite crosses his arms and glares at Hendrik.

Hendrik takes his hand away from his surely-bruised cheek. "Why do you slap me every time you wake me up?"

"Cuz it's fun, and it's what you deserve."

"What did I do to him?" Hendrik mumbles under his breath, too quiet for Malachite to hear.

"Anyway, you done whining? Cuz I don't have all day."

Hendrik sighs and stands up, then holds his wrists out. Malachite is quick to clamp the shackles over them and lock the shackles, then he guides Hendrik outside the cell, where several guards await. Hendrik knows better than to try and escape now, he learned that the hard way… but not before several escape attempts and two beatings. The guards circle around Hendrik as Malachite lets go of Hendrik and draws a platinum sword. Then, an infernal armor grabs Hendrik by the arm and drags him away.

Hendrik is taken to a small room, where the doctor, a man by the name of Martin Hemstein, is sitting at a table. Jasper is leaning on the wall with his arms crossed, looking bored. Hendrik walks inside, with the guards and Malachite standing outside the door.

"Shut the door." Jasper casually orders.

Someone shuts the door behind Hendrik and locks it.

"You know the drill." Jasper offhandedly mentions as he looks over his nails.

Hendrik shoots a dirty look at Jasper as he takes his seat next to Hemstein. Hemstein takes a candle out of his bag and lights it in front of Hendrik's face. Hendrik blinks at the sudden light, but tries to focus on it nonetheless. After a moment, Hemstein puts the candle down.

"Have you felt nauseous lately?" Hemstein asks.

"No."

"Any headaches?"

"No."

"Fluid leaking-"

"No." Hendrik purses his lips in annoyance.

Hemstein considers that for a moment. "Could you walk-"

Hendrik gets up and walks in a straight line.

"Well, you seem to have recovered, despite your circumstances." Hemstein sighs. "You should consider yourself lucky. You only had a mild concussion after four head impacts within the same day. And considering where you're sleeping..."

"You are saying I do not have a concussion anymore?"

"Yes." Hemstein confirms. "Although I would take it easy, just to be on the safe side. And get some ice for that bruise. It looks nasty."

Hendrik touches the cheek Malachite slapped, several times, as hard as he physically could. "I see."

"Is that all?" Jasper suddenly pipes up, getting off the wall.

"Yes, but-"

"Malachite!"

"Yeah?" Malachite stands on his toes to look through the grate in the door.

"Do you have Hemstein's payment?"

"Yep."

"Hand it to him on his way out." After a moment, Jasper looks at Hemstein and jerks his head towards the door.

Hemstein sighs and grabs his bag, moving to the door. "Well, good day to you both."

"Wait!" Hendrik holds up a hand. "Why are you serving the darkness? You're human. They will kill you."

"I have four kids." Is all Hemstein says before Malachite opens the door, hands him a sack of coins, and lets Hemstein through.

"Can we interrogate him now?" Malachite pokes his head through the door.

Jasper shrugs. "Why not? Might as well, since we're here."

Hendrik's blood runs cold. "Interrogate…?"

"Yep!" Malachite runs in and shuts the door, locking it. "Why d'you think we kept you alive this long?"

The image of Heliodor's old torture devices immediately come to mind, and Hendrik has to force himself to not dwell on them. Scaring himself will only make Hendrik crack faster, and he wants to hold out as long as he can. If Jasper pries any information out of him, it could put the lives of those at the Last Bastion at stake.

"So, what do ya wanna do? Beat him up? Whip him? Put him in an iron maiden?" Malachite's voice raises in pitch with each suggestion. He bounces on the balls of his feet as he looks to Jasper for guidance. "Can I help?!"

Jasper chuckles and pats Malachite's head. "Your enthusiasm is wonderful, but I have something less… messy in mind."

"…So waterboarding?"

Jasper laughs. "No. I've been working on a new spell, and I need help testing it."

"…Does it make Hendrik feel a ton of pain without-"

"No. It is something to, ah, compel Hendrik to confess." Jasper gives Hendrik a small but chilling smile and raises his hand.

Hendrik ducks right as the spell sails towards him. Jasper launches another ball of darkness at Hendrik, which Hendrik dodges, too. Jasper growls in frustration and shoots another ball. Hendrik dodges again.

"Want me to cast snooze on him?" Malachite suggests.

"Just hold him down and-"

Hendrik uses the opening to charge at the door and slam his shoulder into it. He manages to poke a hole in the door, but it's not enough to force the door open, and he stumbles backwards, nearly toppling over. Jasper flings darkness straight into Hendrik's chest, finally hitting him.

Hendrik falls over, hitting his back on the table leg. Black creeps into the edges of his vision, constricting his chest and limiting his breathing. His eyelids flutter open and closed, and his mouth hangs open as he loses feeling in his whole body.

"What-"

"Sh!" Jasper hisses.

Something clamps down in Hendrik's body, making him twitch for a few moments. Then, the darkness releases his lungs, making his eyes fly open, and allowing him to heave in several deep breaths. He coughs harshly, chest seizing as he struggles to catch his breath.

"…If you're trying to kill him, I don't think it's working."

Jasper holds up a finger. Eventually, Hendrik's coughing eases, and his breath slows. Jasper arrogantly smirks and pushes his hair out of his face.

"Are you done?" Jasper asks.

Hendrik coughs one last time. "Yes." He sighs.

"Good. Now lay facedown."

Hendrik looks at Jasper weird, but complies anyway. He carefully pushes himself off the table leg and lays down on his belly, his nose pressed to the stone.

"Do not attempt to escape." Jasper jangles some keys. "And do not attack me or Malachite. Or any monster, for that matter." Jasper unlocks the shackles, freeing Hendrik's wrists. Then, he takes a few steps back. "Now sit in one of the chairs."

Hendrik's limbs seem to move of their own accord as he gets up and sits in one of the chairs. Then, he looks at his hands, then to Jasper. Jasper's smirk becomes a grin as he sits in the adjacent chair and crosses his legs.

"Now, for the interrogation…" Jasper puts his staff on the table and clasps his hands.

Hendrik brings his elbow up and slams it towards Jasper, intending to break his nose and steal his keys… only for his elbow to suddenly stop halfway towards Jasper's face. Hendrik brings his elbow back and tries again, only for his arm to betray him and stay completely still. Jasper doesn't so much as blink at Hendrik's efforts.

"What…?" Hendrik can't help but to whisper in complete and utter confusion.

"Why don't you put that arm down?" Jasper politely suggests, smile everything but reassuring. "It will get tired like that. Besides, there is no point in trying to attack me. I don't know if you've noticed, but you can't strike me."

Hendrik growls. "What is the meaning of this?!"

Malachite suddenly bursts into laughter. "Oh, dark lord!" Malachite doubles over, clutching his belly. "I-I figured it out!"

"Figured what out?!" Hendrik turns around to see Malachite.

Jasper laughs a little, throwing his head back. "That you can't disobey me."

Chapter Text

"Wh-what?!" Hendrik splutters incredulously.

"I said, you can't disobey me. That spell I hit you with? That was a little curse I concocted just for you." Jasper smugly explains. "I've spent weeks testing it on humans, perfecting it, all so I could bend you to my will."

"So THAT'S why you wanted so many humans!" Malachite exclaims in realization.

"Anyway, there's no breaking this curse. Not unless I release you from it. Which is not happening anytime soon." Jasper adds with a laugh.

"WHAT?!"

Jasper just smiles and leans back so that only two chair legs are on the ground. "I know I used a big word or two, but do try to keep up with me. You know I don't like repeating myself."

"Goddess damn you, Jasper!" Hendrik screams in rage as he ineffectively tries to lunge at Jasper. "As soon as-"

Jasper checks his nails. He notices a hangnail and carefully peels it off.

"-I break this curse, I shall kill you and Mordegon! I swear it!"

"Um, Jasper?" Malachite taps Jasper's shoulder, uncharacteristically quiet. "Can you… not do that? Please?"

"Do what?" Jasper turns to look at Malachite.

"Um, not… lean back... in your chair."

Jasper sighs. "It's in my nature to sit improperly. Right, Hendrik?"

"Right." Hendrik nods automaticaly, then curses himself for complying so readily.

"But…" Malachite's eyes water. "But what if you fall, and you hit your head?! What if you split your skull open?! What if you die, and the curse breaks, and Hendrik kills me?! What if-"

"Hey hey hey, it's ok." Jasper shushes in a soothing voice. "It's alright." Jasper brings the chair forward so that it's on all four legs. "See? I even promise not to lean back, if it concerns you so much."

Malachite sniffles and wipes his eyes with his scarf. "Ok… thank you."

Jasper reaches for Malachite and hugs him, then lets him go to look at Hendrik again. "Now, where were we…?"

Hendrik looks to Jasper and Malachite, the latter of which is stepping back and hiccuping. He thought Malachite was just a soldier to Jasper, perhaps an advisor, or even a bodyguard, but their interaction just now implies a personal question. "I have to ask, what is your relation to one another?"

"JASPER'S ASKING THE QUESTIONS, NOT YOU!" Malachite suddenly screams.

Hendrik reels back while Jasper winces. Jasper groans as he rubs his ear.

"Calm down. He simply asked a question." Jasper tells Malachite.

"…He's allowed to do that?"

"Yes." Jasper frowns for a second. "And to answer Hendrik's question, Malachite is my protégé."

"You… have a protégé?" Hendrik slowly settles back down.

"Yes, a protégé. According to the dictionary, a protégé is when-"

"I know what a protégé is!" Hendrik interrupts. "I… When did you take him on?"

"A little while after the Fall." Jasper's face grows dark. "He…" Jasper sighs. "Let's just say he needed help, and leave it at that." Then, Jasper clears his throat. "…Anyway, I was supposed to be interrogating you." He uncrosses his legs to bring them up and bring them to his lap. "So, Hendrik: you cannot lie to me. You can only tell me the truth. The whole truth. Understand?"

"Yes." Hendrik's mouth says on its own.

Jasper smiles a little. "Good. Now, let us start off with a simple question. Uh…" Jasper taps his chin. "What should the starting question be…?" He wonders out loud.

"Ask if he's wearing underwear. He can only answer one way, and we both know which way it'll be." Malachite suggests.

"Alright, I'll bite. Are you wearing underwear?" Jasper asks indifferently.

"No."

The whole room goes quiet. Hendrik realizes what he said and lets out a long, awkward squeak, blushing from head to toe. He bends forward and hides his face in his hands. Malachite flashes through several emotions at once, not one of them positive. Jasper coughs into his hand and turns a few shades darker purple.

"That was… too much information." Malachite says after a long silence.

"...Yes. Yes it is." Jasper rubs at his cheeks.

"I COULDN'T ANSWER ANY OTHER WAY!"

Jasper turns away and takes a few deep breaths before regaining his composure. "At least we know the curse is working."

"Did you really have to ask that of me?!" Hendrik yells, too embarassed to look at anyone.

"…I think it'd be best if we just… pretended that didn't happen." Jasper decides. "So, um, what do you know about the Luminary?"

"I believe he is still alive, but I don't have any evidence to prove it." As soon as the words leave Hendrik's mouth, he cringes.

Malachite scoffs. "Luminary's dead."

"Exactly what Malachite said. The Luminary is certainly dead." Jasper confirms.

"Then why did you ask?"

Jasper shrugs. "You never know."

Hendrik puts his hands down now that his blush has died down a little. He fists them in his tunic and locks his arms while staring straight down.

"So, how did Malachite manage to capture you?" Jasper asks after a moment.

"He snuck up on me while I was, ahem, doing my business, and he tried to knock me out with a blow to the head. He failed to knock me unconscious, so he casted Snooze on me."

A pregnant pause follows. Then, Jasper bursts into laughter. Malachite hunches over and pulls his scarf up to cover his entire face. Hendrik blushes anew and tries to ignore Jasper's laughter.

"And here Malachite was, telling me all about the epic battle to take you in!" Jasper cackles, clutching his belly. "How embarassing!"

"He- he's lying!" Malachite shouts. "He's a human! It's in his nature!"

"Mala, word of, word of advice," Jasper's chest shakes as he tries to hold in his laughter. "Don't… dig deeper holes… for yourself."

"I hate you, Hendrik!" Malachite suddenly starts running… only to run facefirst into the door. Malachite curses loudly and fumbles for the keys. He unlocks the door, then runs out, leaving the door wide open.

Jasper just sighs and shakes his head. "Someone lock the door."

"Uh, Supreme Commander?" A minion stands in the doorway.

"What?"

"Malachite had the only key for the door."

Jasper sighs harder. "I suppose we'll have to postpone the interrogation. Hendrik, hold your wrists out."

Hendrik resigns himself to being bound again as his body holds his wrists out. Jasper shackles Hendrik, then checks the locks. He nods in approval and lets Hendrik's wrists go.

"First order of business: you're getting a bath and some clothes. It's frankly embarassing to stand next to someone with a stench such as yours."

Chapter Text

Hendrik is eventually taken to a small room with a tub, some towels, and bathing supplies on an end table next to the bath. Jasper unlocks the shackles, then nudges Hendrik towards the bath.

"Why don't you go ahead and clean up, hm? There's plenty of soaps and shampoos for you to choose from, but don't take anything from the room. We can't have you use anything to try and escape, can we?"

"I swear to all that is holy, as soon as I escape from your clutches, I shall kill you with my bare hands." Hendrik snarls as he rubs out his wrists.

Jasper laughs. "How adorable." He pats the top of Hendrik's head, then immediately wrinkles his nose and wipes his hand on his clothes. "How long has it been since you've washed your hair?"

"I don't know." Hendrik blushes and fiddles with his sleeve as his mouth answers for him.

"Ugh. Make sure you wash it at some point." Jasper hands the shackles to a nearby guard. "If you need anything, ask the guards outside the door. I will look for Malachite." Jasper closes the door. A few moments later, Hendrik hears a locking sound.

Hendrik sighs and stares into the steam rolling off the tub. It has been a long time since he's had a hot bath… Hendrik strips out of his clothes and neatly folds them up, then puts them on the ground next to his boots. He dips his toe into the bathwater for a few seconds, then lowers his leg in. He brings his other leg into the water, then sinks into it with a groan as the hot water eases weeks-old aches and pains.

Hendrik idly tilts his head back and cups his hand to pour water over his neck and collarbones, sighing as the hot water heats his skin. He closes his eyes and takes a moment to enjoy the warmth before grabbing a bar of soap and rubbing it over his chest. He keeps his eyes focused on a towel rack, forcing himself to not look where he's washing. He brings the soap down to his abs, which used to be tough and uniform, but have become so sunken in by hunger that the dips in between each abdominal muscle have become clearly defined, and starts washing his belly.

At the sixth rub, the soap slips through Hendrik's fingers. Hendrik internally curses as the soap falls between his thighs and into the unknown. Hendrik closes his eyes and reaches down. His fingertips brush against his inner thigh, making Hendrik shudder. Nausea coils in his stomach, forcing Hendrik to stop and clench his fists as he tries to keep his breathing even. He brings his hands up to hold onto the sides of the tub with a death grip and repeatedly counts to three, syncing his breaths with each count. Soon, his heartbeat slows, and Hendrik can breathe normally again. He relaxes his grip and lets out a sigh, letting his thighs slip back down again.

Hendrik's thighs come to rest on top of the soap. His eyes immediately shoot open, his belly seizes, and his breath comes in short gasps. Moments later, Hendrik leans over the side of the tub and heaves and heaves, but nothing comes up. He clutches his belly as tears prick his eyes, feeling filth crawl all over his body. Hendrik heaves a few more times before his whole body shudders and finally allows him to breathe. Someone quietly knocks on the door.

"Are you okay?" An unfamiliar, echoey voice says to Hendrik through the door.

"Yes." Hendrik can barely choke out.

"If you say so…"

Hendrik forces himself through his breathing exercises once again, trying to think about anything but… that. He fumbles underneath him, carefully avoiding his thighs, until he manages to get ahold of the soap. Then, he chucks it across the room in a fit of short-lived rage that leaves him feeling hollow inside. He slumps back into the tub, keeping his eyes closed. Hendrik sighs and rubs his face, smearing water all over it, then he blindly grabs a bottle off the end table, squirts its contents into his hand, and starts washing his hair as fast as he can.

By the time he's done, Hendrik's certain he cut his scalp at some point, but he can't bring himself to care. He just stands up and gets out of the tub, then grabs a towel and blindly dries himself off. Afterwards, he wraps it around this body and looks around for a spare change of clothes… only for none to be found. Hendrik sighs and walks up to the door and knocks.

"I need clothes." Hendrik's voice wavers a little.

"It should be under the towel rack." The same person from earlier says.

Hendrik glances back at the towel rack. "It is not there."

"Oh. Maybe it's behind the tub?"

Hendrik goes around the tub and finds a neat stack of clothes. "I found them."

"Ok, good. I trust you can get dressed by yourself?"

Hendrik would sigh and shake his head, if he had the energy to feel emotion. Instead, he remains still. "Yes."

The guard, or who Hendrik assumes is the guard, goes quiet. Hendrik picks up the clothes and puts them on, feeling his way into them instead of looking. He ends up wearing a white long sleeved shirt with loose black pants. However, since whoever provided his clothes didn't see fit to leave him with footwear, Hendrik has to go barefoot. He goes back to the door and raises his hand to knock… but he hears voices on the other side. Hendrik lowers his fist and presses his ear to the door.

"Is he still in there?" Jasper asks.

"Yes. He's probably getting dressed as we speak."

"Good." There's a pause before someone knocks, making Hendrik reel back and wince. "Hendrik? Are you decent?"

"Yes." Hendrik isn't sure if that was him answering, or the curse.

"I'm opening the door." Jasper says before doing just that. "Are you ready?"

"Yes."

The door opens. Jasper steps out of the way, and Hendrik takes a few steps forward…

Only to run face-first into an invisible wall.

"Shit!" Hendrik gingerly touches his nose. It stings, but it doesn't feel broken.

"What the…?" Jasper blinks as he stares at Hendrik. "Oh! I know what the problem is. Empty your pockets."

Hendrik feels for the pockets, but comes up blank. "I do not have pockets."

"Is that so?" Jasper tilts his head to the side. "Are you hiding anything under your clothes?"

"No, I am not."

"Are you certain?"

"Yes."

"Hmm…" Jasper strokes his chin. "You couldn't lie if you wanted to, so…"

Hendrik takes the time to try and put his hand through. It meets with the same invisible barrier, firmly keeping Hendrik within the room. Hendrik puts his other hand on the wall and pushes on it, but to no avail.

"Um…" Jasper ponders. "Oh, right! The command! Hendrik, you may leave the bathroom with the clothes."

The wall suddenly dissipates, sending Hendrik tumbling to the ground. Then, something stops him. Hendrik looks up at the person that caught him. Then, he scowls and rips himself out of Jasper's arms.

"Did you… have a nice bath?" Jasper says after a moment.

"No." Hendrik manages to recover enough energy to feel annoyed.

Jasper sighs. He reshackles Hendrik. "Where did you leave your dirty clothes?"

"By the end table."

"Stay there." Jasper walks past Hendrik and into the bathroom, and then immediately slips on a bar of soap and falls, flailing his limbs out and shrieking in a comical matter. "Ow, fuuuuuck!"

The corner of Hendrik's mouth turns upwards, but otherwise, he doesn't react. The two guards giggle a little, but when Jasper levels a glare at them, they immediately become stony-faced. Jasper gets up and dusts himself off, then continues on as if nothing happened. He picks up some of Hendrik's clothes and sniffs them, then makes a face and drops them.

"Burn those clothes." Jasper points to the clothes and orders. The guards and Hendrik walk into the room. "Not you, Hendrik. You're coming with me." Jasper goes into the hallway without bothering to look at Hendrik.

"Where are we going?" Hendrik asks, having no choice but to trail behind.

"We're going to look for Malachite. Then, we shall have breakfast."

"So you have been unable to locate him?"

Jasper nods. "He's not in any of his usual haunts, so he's likely hiding. Or he has been moving around." Jasper opens a door and steps inside.

Hendrik follows Jasper into the debris-filled room. He checks behind a few boulders before going into the center of the room. "Do you know where he might be?"

Jasper glances away from Hendrik, then he focuses on a spot in the room and smiles. "There you are, darkspawn! I've been looking for you!"

Chapter Text

Malachite drags the charcoal across the paper, making a perfectly-straight line unassisted. Then, he makes several short strokes across the paper, forming several parallel lines. Malachite contemplates his drawing for a moment before adding several curvy lines.

The sound of a door opening makes Malachite look up. Jasper and the human walk into the room. Malachite pays it no mind and finishes his drawing, then holds it to his chest as he sits up, letting his abdominal muscles take a break.

"There you are, darkspawn! I've been looking for you!"

Malachite looks up again and smiles. The sight of Jasper soothes away what remaining negative emotions still affect Malachite, leaving only happiness in its wake. Then, he looks at the human, who has his mouth open in the stupidest expression Malachite has ever seen, and it instantly sours Malachite's mood.

"HOW IN THE GODDESS' NAME DID YOU GET UP THERE?!" The human screeches.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Malachite spits venomously, folding up his paper and putting it in his pocket.

"Now now, there's no need for that." Jasper states, looking up at Malachite. "Just come down so we can have breakfast."

Malachite straightens his legs, slipping off the chandelier and falling. He twists his body in midair, spinning his body in a half-circle, and letting his feet meet the ground. He instinctually bends his knees on impact, ends of his scarf fluttering onto the ground, then he stands up.

"The human is behind you." Malachite notes, staring at the human's dumb expression, which seems to have been set in stone.

Jasper sighs. "I know what you're thinking. Don't worry, he can't hurt us anymore."

"He's a human. He might be dumb, but he'll find a way. They always do."

The dumb human finally closes his dumb mouth, but his dumb face still irks Malachite. He levels Malachite with an icy glare, making Malachite shiver and internally recoil. His right hand goes to the sword at his hip and holds it so tight his glove squeaks.

"Now there, Malachite, I'm keeping an eye on him. If he tries anything, I will command him to stop. Isn't that right, Hendrik?"

"Yes." The human says immediately, face going blank.

He's lying. He must be. Why else would his face change? "Are you sure he's still cursed?"

"Let's see. Hendrik, are you still cursed?"

"Yes."

"See?" Jasper smiles reassuringly.

Malachite sighs. Jasper doesn't seem inclined to believe otherwise. "Alright. But he walks in front of me."

The human blinks. No doubt Malachite has already foiled one of his plans. Malachite silently congratulates himself for that feat and moves behind the human, keeping both hands on his swords. Jasper starts walking, and the human and Malachite follow. The human glances back at Malachite several times as they go to the dining room. Each time, Malachite draws his swords a little in warning.

"Did I do something to you?" The human finally says.

"In fact, yes. Yes you did. You're a human, which means you delight in the suffering of others."

The human visibly recoils. "What do you mean?!"

"What do you think I meant? That you're a good person? That you kiss babies and pet puppies?"

"Don't pay any mind to that." Jasper tells the human. "He hates humans with his whole being."

"Why is that?"

Jasper stops. All goes deafeningly quiet. Malachite's breath comes in short bursts, too quiet to disturb the silence. Jasper turns to the human and stares. Then, after what seems like an eternity, Jasper starts walking again.

"You did not answer my question." The human presses.

"Indeed, I didn't." Jasper grits his teeth so hard they squeak, and his hands ball into fists.

"…Are you going to answer it?"

"No." And with that, Jasper ends the conversation right then and there.

Malachite blinks twice to clear away the blurriness in his vision before coming up to hug Jasper from behind. Jasper reaches behind to smooth out Malachite's hair.

"Do you need to cry?" Jasper whispers.

Malachite sniffles. "Not yet."

"How about you walk beside me, hm?"

"But… someone needs to watch the human…"

"Don't fret, I will watch him for you." Jasper reassures Malachite. "He will not take me by surprise."

Malachite swallows the lump in his throat and goes to Jasper's side. Jasper takes his hand, and they walk together. Malachite risks a glance around Jasper to find the human gawking at them.

"WHAT?!" Malachite screams, rage flooding his entire being at once.

"I said nothing!" The human quickly looks away, now facing what's ahead.

"Now, Malachite," Jasper says calmly. "You don't need to shout. You're indoors, remember? Besides, yelling is a lazy way of intimidating someone."

Malachite takes a moment to mull that over. "…Ok. I'm sorry."

Jasper squeezes Malachite's hand. "Just keep it in mind next time."

As they approach the dining room, Malachite overhears some servants inside talking about a play, or a book, or something. Whatever it is, it's clearly about a work of fiction. Jasper opens the door to the dining room and steps in, with Malachite walking behind him to block him from the human. The servants stop talking and stand up straight. Then, some lift up the covers over the foods, while one pulls out two chairs.

"Will the prisoner be joining you?" One of them asks.

"No." Jasper says as he lets go of Malachite's hand and sits down. "He will stand in… the corner."

Malachite looks behind to see the human staring at another door. He lightly taps the human's arm. When the human blinks and looks at Malachite, Malachite speaks. "He said go stand in the corner."

The human looks at Jasper, who only fills his wine glass with orange juice, then the human grumbles something under his breath and stomps off to the corner. Malachite sits down with a satisfied smile and scoops some scrambled eggs and broccoli onto his plate.

"Wooooow, all of this food smells really good!" Malachite loudly declares, exaggeratingly sniffing.

"The chefs seem to have outdone themselves this morning." Jasper pauses to sip some juice. "Why, all of this looks fantastic!" Jasper takes some sausage and toast.

"I know! We've really got some quality food this morning!" Malachite pulls down his scarf and starts eating.

Jasper takes a bite of his sausage, smiles, and eats it. "Mm, this is delicious!"

Malachite picks up the sound of a stomach grumbling from a few feet away. He continues his meal, helping himself to some juice while he's at it, then loudly burps. "Whew, that was a good meal!" Malachite exclaims, patting his belly.

"That it was." Jasper pats Malachite's back. "Um, before I forget, could you give me the key to the interrogation room?"

Malachite hands over the key.

"Thank you. In the future, please don't run out of the interrogation room with the only key." Jasper smiles and sits back. "Now, could you go to the library, read chapter five of 'Forms of Offensive Magic,' and write two pages on what you learned?"

"Ok!" Malachite bounds up, pulls his scarf back up, and pushes his chair in.

"The rest of you, you're dismissed. Lock the doors on your way out." Jasper waves the servants off. After a moment, he adds: "Not you, Hendrik. You will stay here."

Chapter Text

One by one, everyone shuffles out of the room. Soon, it's just Hendrik and Jasper. Hendrik still can't move from his spot. Jasper turns to Hendrik with a smile that sends shivers down Hendrik's spine.

"Come here."

Hendrik has no choice but to do as he's told. Each step he takes against his will makes his gut clench in on itself and squirm around. He forces himself to not think about what could happen, now that there's no one around but them. When he reaches Jasper, Jasper points to the chair next to his.

"Sit down." Jasper softly compels Hendrik.

Hendrik stiffly sits in the chair, muscles tensed without his knowledge.

"I'm surprised you aren't cursing me out." Jasper comments as he grabs a spare plate from a nearby rack.

Why exactly does Jasper want Hendrik alone? Unless… Oh goddess. Not that. Anything but that.

"Have nothing to say, hm?" Jasper puts some food on the plate. "Well, you'll have to talk soon anyway. Since your awful stench has gone away for the most part, we can continue the interrogation."

The interrogation. Right. That. Hendrik hopes Jasper just tortures him. Hendrik can handle torture. He's been tortured before. Nothing new to him.

"Can you hear me?"

"Yes." Hendrik quietly answers.

"Good." Jasper puts the plate down in front of them. "To start off with, how many people are in the Last Bastion?"

"Approximately one hundred." Hendrik is forced to say. Then, he cringes.

"And how many of them are soldiers, militia, or otherwise in fighting shape?"

"Thirty-five."

Jasper smirks. "Very good, Hendrik." He pats the top of Hendrik's head, then tears off a piece of toast and holds it to Hendrik's mouth.

Hendrik stares at the toast for several awkwardly long seconds.

"You are hungry, are you not?" Jasper presses the toast to Hendrik's lips.

"I am." Hendrik's tummy rumbles right after, much to Hendrik's embarassment.

"Then go ahead and eat."

Hendrik opens his mouth, and Jasper pushes the toast inside. Jasper takes his hand away when Hendrik starts chewing, settling his hand by the plate. He quietly watches as Hendrik swallows.

"Has the Last Bastion gained any weapons since the last assault on it?"

"Yes." A few knives, some swords, but nothing worth mentioning.

Jasper pauses to consider. "Anything particularly powerful?"

"No."

"Where is the most heavily guarded section of the Bastion?"

"The end facing Heliodor city." All of a sudden, Hendrik's eyes fly open in realization.

"I see." Jasper grins. "And where-"

Hendrik slaps his palm firmly over his mouth.

"-Is the least guarded section?"

Hendrik manages to force his hand to stay for all of three seconds before it wrenches itself away, allowing his mouth to betray him. "The end furthest from Heliodor City."

Jasper chuckles as he breaks off another piece of toast. "Oh, Hendrik, why are you bothering to try and disobey me? You know as well as I do that you cannot resist."

Hendrik bites back an insult. "I hate you." Slips out instead, though admittedly, it's much better than what Hendrik wanted to say.

Jasper flinches for just a moment, before the smile returns to his face. "I don't love you either." He holds up the chunk of toast. "Now tell me: who delivers your supplies?"

"A variety of merchants." Hendrik's whole body tenses up as he struggles to stop talking. "And occasionally me and my soldiers, whenever we find any supplies."

Jasper brings the toast to Hendrik's mouth. Hendrik can't bear to take it, not after what he was forced to reveal. He turns his head away and ignores Jasper prodding his lips with the toast.

"I know you're still hungry, dear." Jasper takes Hendrik's cheek and turns his head to face Jasper.

Hendrik turns his face the other way. "I do not want it."

"Being stubborn will get you nowhere." Jasper chides. When Hendrik still refuses to eat, Jasper sighs. "Hendrik, turn your head and face me."

Hendrik's head turns to Jasper of its own volition.

"Good." Jasper drawls out. "Now open your mouth."

Hendrik can't look anywhere near Jasper as his mouth opens. Jasper pushes the toast inside, then pushes Hendrik's chin so that his mouth closes. Jasper's thumb lingers on the corner of Hendrik's lips as he comes to cup Hendrik's cheek.

"Now eat."

Hendrik feels Jasper's gaze on him as he chews. Jasper doesn't take his hand away for a second. It's only when Hendrik swallows the suddenly-bland toast does Jasper take his hand away, only to pat Hendrik's head.

"Good boy." Jasper picks up the rest of the toast. "Now, I have one last question, and we can end the interrogation for now. Did anyone from the Luminary's party survive?"

"I do not know."

"Really?" Jasper raises an eyebrow.

"Yes."

"Have you heard anything about them? Anything at all?"

"No."

"Well, I suppose it can't be helped." Jasper frowns a little. "Here." He brings the toast towards Hendrik. "Go on."

Hendrik purses his lips and ignores the toast.

"Don't make me order you again, Hendrik."

Hendrik leans forward and takes a bite. It tastes just as bland as the last one. Hendrik slowly chews and swallows.

"I thought you were hungry." Jasper says.

"I am not hungry anymore." Hendrik admits.

"Awww, did that little interrogation upset you too much?" Jasper coos, putting the toast down. "That is alright. I will wait for you to feel better. In the meantime…" Jasper takes a comb out and walks behind Hendrik.

Hendrik turns his whole body to keep facing Jasper. Jasper walks to Hendrik's other side, and Hendrik follows him.

Jasper narrows his eyes. "Don't be defiant."

"I am not being defiant. The curse is making me do this."

Jasper facepalms and drags his hand down his face. "You don't have to face me anymore." Jasper then gets behind Hendrik with no resistance on Hendrik's part. Then, he takes some of Hendrik's hair and runs his comb through the ends.

"What are you doing?" Hendrik asks.

"What does it look like? I am brushing your hair." Jasper somehow manages to say arrogantly as he works out a knot.

"…Why?"

"Because you clearly need it in more ways than one." Jasper starts working his way up.

Hendrik decides to stay quiet for now. He closes his eyes and focuses on the feeling of the bristles softly brushing against his scalp. Jasper's being… surprisingly gentle, considering how much he hates Hendrik. Could it be…? No. Jasper made it very clear he didn't love Hendrik when he sent that witch after him so long ago.

"Dwelling is an ugly look on you." Jasper brings up.

Hendrik mutters under his breath. Jasper switches to a different section of Hendrik's hair. He softly goes through Hendrik's hair, occasionally getting his comb caught on a nasty tangle.

"What did you do to your hair?" Jasper whispers to himself.

"I stopped maintaining it." Hendrik has to reply.

"Clearly, if the state of your hair was anything to go by." Jasper runs his fingers through the section he just combed. "Now see, this is much better. Your hair is clean, and the parts I combed are nice and smooth. It's almost passably decent now."

Hendrik feels his hair. Right away, he can tell that it's the softest it's ever been in months. It's not as soft as before the Fall, when Hendrik was able to regularly wash his hair, and had Jasper to help, but even still, his hair texture is easy on his bare hands.

Jasper starts working on the last section of Hendrik's hair. Hendrik lets his hands drop to allow Jasper to keep brushing. Jasper takes extra care with a particularly troublesome knot, managing not to hurt Hendrik. When Jasper reaches Hendrik's roots, he brushes a few times before running his comb through the rest of Hendrik's hair. Then, he puts his comb away and sits down again.

"So, do you feel any better?" Jasper puts his elbow on the table and leans his face on his fist.

Hendrik blinks. "What?"

"I said, do you feel any better?"

Hendrik looks at Jasper in confusion.

"Do you feel better than earlier?"

"Oh. I do." Hendrik nods, surprising himself with that answer.

"Good." Jasper smiles and picks the toast up with his free hand. "Here. Have some food."

Hendrik bites the toast a little more eagerly. He notes how the taste has improved from earlier and takes another bite. Before he knows it, he's eaten the whole thing, putting a huge grin on Jasper's face.

"How did it taste?" Jasper asks.

Hendrik wipes his mouth with his wrist. "Good."

Jasper's smile only grows wider. He grabs a fork and stabs a sausage. "Why don't you try some sausage next?"

Chapter Text

Hendrik turns away from the fork. "I cannot eat any more."

"Come on, one last bite." Jasper keeps holding up the fork.

Hendrik sighs through his nose and eats the last of the eggs. He chews slowly, then swallows. Jasper puts the fork down and leans back.

"Would you like some juice? Or some water?" Jasper offers.

"Water."

"What's the magic word?"

"Jasper, you cannot be doing this…" Hendrik fights the urge to rub his temples.

Jasper just gives Hendrik that infuriating smirk.

"…Please." Hendrik concedes.

Jasper pours a glass of water with that same smirk on his face. "Was that so hard, dear?"

"I am not your dear."

Jasper chuckles and puts the cup down in front of Hendrik. "I will call you whatever my shriveled, blackened heart desires. Now, I think it is best if you drink it yourself. Wouldn't want to spill any water and make a mess, would we?"

Hendrik grabs the cup with both hands and downs its contents in seconds. Then, he slams his cup back down.

"Wow. You must have been parched." Jasper comments.

"I was not given water yesterday." Hendrik explains.

"Ah, that explains it." Jasper grabs the water jug and pours a little bit of water into the cup. "Have some more."

Hendrik takes care to try and drink more slowly, but he still finishes the cup off quickly.

"That will be enough for now. It is dangerous to drink too much too fast after being dehydrated." Jasper stands up. "We should check on Malachite, ensure he is not blowing up an entire room again."

"Again?" Hendrik looks at Jasper weird.

"Malachite will no doubt want to apply what he learns in the book I told him to read. It is a good sentiment, but unfortunately, when I am not around to guide him, his efforts tend to blow up in his face. Literally and metaphorically." Jasper pushes in his chair. "Well?"

Hendrik blinks.

"Stand up."

Hendrik is up before he knows it.

Jasper smirks and pushes his hair out of his face, showing a flash of scarred skin around his eye before the hair falls back into place. "Come with me." Jasper turns and walks away without checking behind.

Hendrik follows like a puppy. An unwilling, feral, fighty puppy being dragged on a leash with a choke chain. If there's one thing Hendrik isn't looking forward to, it's having to be in the same room as Malachite. He's only known him for a week, and Hendrik can't stand him, what with the way Malachite's always hitting and threatening him, in addition to always being a general dick to Hendrik.

"Do you have to bring me to see Malachite?" Hendrik whines in a neutral tone.

"I promised him I would keep an eye on you."

"I do not want to be around him."

"Malachite doesn't want to be around you either, but you both have to put up with it for now."

"Malachite is horrible."

"If it makes you feel any better, he's like that towards all humans."

"It does not."

Jasper sighs. "I will tell him to leave you alone, as long as you do the same for him."

"That is fine." Hendrik concedes.

Jasper leads Hendrik into the royal library, which has surprisingly remained intact despite the repeated attacks on the castle that forced the people of Heliodor to flee. Books of every subject and category line the shelves, which reach the ceiling that is easily dozens of feet high. Ladders line the bookshelves, enabling easy access to even the highest bookshelves. A single hocus-poker mans the checkout desk, armed with several books. When she sees Jasper, she abandons the book she was reading and sits up.

"Commander. How may I help you?" The hocus-poker glances at Hendrik for a second. If she has any thoughts about him, she doesn't voice them.

"Is Malachite here?" Jasper asks.

"I think so."

With that, Jasper turns and goes deeper into the library. Hendrik's frown, which he has kept since he realized he had to be near Malachite again, only grows deeper with each step. They round a corner, and find Malachite sitting at a table, scribbling something onto some paper, with an open book next to him. The pair approach him, Jasper loudly walking on the tile, and Hendrik walking normally. Malachite looks up at them and watches them both approach, but seems to watch Hendrik in particular. As they-

"SHIT!!!" Hendrik clutches his foot and falls over. "Shit shit shit shit shit!"

Malachite bursts out laughing.

"Shhhh!" The librarian holds a finger to her covered mouth.

Hendrik quietly curses over and over, while Malachite shuts his mouth, shaking with laughter. Jasper stands there looking at both of them.

"What did you do?" Jasper whispers as he crouches to look at Hendrik's leg.

"I... I put a…" Malachite pounds the table and wheezes.

Hendrik brings the bottom of his foot up. Stuck to his heel is a two-by-two lego piece. He peels the lego off, then glares at Malachite. Jasper shakes his head and takes the lego.

"Really, Malachite?" Jasper holds up the lego.

"What?" Malachite can't stop laughing. "He's- he's a human!"

Jasper pockets the lego and sighs. He grabs Hendrik by the shoulders and brings him to his feet, then brings him over to the table and sits down. Hendrik pulls out a chair and tries to sit too, but finds his leg muscles paralyzed.

"You may sit." Jasper says.

Hendrik's paralysis disappears, and he sits down so that he's on the opposite side of Malachite, but not directly facing him.

"What are you doing?" Jasper asks.

"Drawing the human getting lynched and burned alive." Malachite says nonchalantly.

Hendrik splutters. "Lynched?! Burned alive?!"

"Yeah. It's what you deserve." Malachite goes back to his drawing. "In fact, you deserve a lot worse than this. Like being lynched, tarred, and burned alive."

"Malachite," Jasper puts his hand on Malachite's shoulder, making him look up. "About the matter of Hendrik… we will be keeping him indefinitely."

Hendrik internally groans. He suspected Jasper wouldn't release him anytime soon.

"Why?" Malachite questions.

"Well, um, how should I put this…" Jasper thinks for a moment. "I will be keeping him for my personal amusement."

…What?!

"Uhhh…" Malachite rapidly flicks between Hendrik and Jasper. "You're not going to… uh… rape him, are you?"

Jasper reels back as if he's been burnt. "What?! No! Of course not! Even I have standards!"

Hendrik and Malachite sigh in relief at the same time.

"Thank the goddess." Hendrik mutters.

"So you're gonna use him as your torture doll?" Malachite says a little too enthusiastically.

Jasper makes a face. "No, I will not."

"…Experiment on him?"

"No."

"Then why are you keeping him around?" Malachite tilts his head a little.

Jasper clasps his hands. "I will be keeping him as a, um, a pet, of sorts."

…WHAT?!

Chapter Text

"You can not be serious!" Hendrik shouts.

"Shhhhhh!" The librarian loudly shushes.

"Apologies." Hendrik says quietly in response. "Jasper, please tell me you are joking."

Jasper stays quiet as Hendrik and Malachite stare at him.

"Please."

"…I am not." Jasper starts picking at his nails.

"Did you say you were… keeping the human as a pet?" Malachite hesitates to say.

"I did."

"…Don't humans make bad pets?" Malachite questions. "I mean, they're too smart, plus, they're disobedient."

"Hendrik is cursed to always obey me. And as for the intelligence, don't worry. Hendrik is denser than a sack of bricks."

"I am not!" Hendrik retorts.

"But why do you want a human pet?" Malachite asks, ignoring Hendrik.

"That… is for me to know." Jasper leans back.

"Wouldn't it be easier to just kill him?" Malachite tilts his head to the side.

"It would, but at the same time, it feels… underwhelming to simply kill him. That is why I plan to humiliate him, make him servile. I think he would be far more useful that way."

A low growl bubbles in Hendrik's throat. "You cur! I will never-!"

"Stop talking."

Hendrik's voice leaves him. Hendrik only grows more furious and starts angrily signing about how he hates Jasper and the various actions he's going to perform on Jasper's unmentionables. Jasper covers Malachite's eyes and watches with his smug smirk.

"Are you done?" Jasper asks when Hendrik's signing slows down.

Hendrik sighs and nods.

Jasper uncovers Malachite's eyes. "You may speak."

Hendrik glances at Malachite and does a double-take. "Your eyes are different colors."

True to Hendrik's word, Malachite's right eye is green, while his left is blue. "…What about it?" Malachite says, narrowing his eyes.

"…Nevermind." Hendrik looks away right as looking at Malachite's eyes starts hurting him. "What are you reading?"

"The Swordsman and The Strategist." Malachite answers, returning to his drawing.

"Did you complete the assignment?" Jasper asks Malachite. Malachite slides a piece of paper to Jasper. Jasper skims over the paper and smiles. "Excellent! How about we go into this in further detail, then put it into practice?"

"Can I check out a book first?"

"Of course."

Malachite gets up, pushes his chair in, takes the book and drawing, and walks away.

"Jasper?" Hendrik pipes up.

"Yes, dear?" Jasper focuses his attention on Hendrik.

"When you said you wanted to keep me as a pet… did you mean that metaphorically?"

Jasper smirks. "I commissioned a beautiful white collar for you, with a matching leash."

"OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!" Hendrik slams his hands on the table. "I WILL NOT BE YOUR DAMN PET!"

Moments later, something lightly whaps against the top of Hendrik's head. Hendrik looks behind him to see the librarian standing there with a cardboard tube. Then, the librarian shushes him.

"I apologize." Hendrik bows his head.

The librarian walks away. Jasper fixes Hendrik with a smug look.

"You shouldn't shout in a library, you know. You might get in trouble." Jasper pushes his hair out of his face.

"That is not the problem!" Hendrik whispershouts. "You want to keep me as a pet!"

"…And?" Jasper raises an eyebrow.

Hendrik splutters. "I am not a dog!"

Jasper laughs. "Of course you aren't." Jasper stands up. "But you'll follow at my heels anyway, like a good boy."

-----

Jasper strides into the training room, with Hendrik following behind. Malachite looks up from his book, then marks his page and puts the book down.

"Woosh again?" Malachite asks.

Jasper nods. Malachite stands in front of a training dummy while Hendrik stands there awkwardly. Malachite casts Woosh, but it somehow lands behind him. He tries again, only for the spell to fling himself across the room. He lands on top of a weapon rack and topples it over.

"Malachite?!" Jasper runs over to Malachite.

Malachite groans. "I'm fine." He says as he gets up.

"Are you sure?"

"Yep." Malachite rubs his back.

"If you insist." Jasper takes a few steps back. "Hendrik?"

Hendrik perks up.

Jasper frees Hendrik's wrists. "You may use the equipment, but do not interfere with Malachite's training."

Hendrik immediately walks up to a punching bag and gets into a fist-fighting stance. He starts off by giving the bag a right hook, then kicking with his left leg twice. A spell goes off behind him, followed by some metallic clattering. Hendrik ignores it and continues wailing on the punching bag like it kicked his puppy.

Eventually, Hendrik works up a sweat, soaking his shirt. He drops his stance and wipes his forehead with his forearm, then peels his wet collar off his skin. Then, he realizes everything has gone quiet. Hendrik turns around and sees Jasper staring at him with his mouth open. Hendrik shifts around uncomfortably and scratches the back of his neck.

"Jasperrrr!" Malachite shouts. "You're supposed to be teaching me!"

Jasper blinks a few times. "Oh yeah. Um, work on sizz."

Hendrik spots a few bottles of water and takes one, drinks some of it, then dumps the rest over his head. He puts the bottle down and grabs some hundred pound weights, then starts weightlifting.

"Jaspeeeerrrrrrrrr! Stop staring at the human!"

Hendrik mutters something under his breath and focuses on the pleasant burn the weights give his muscles. After fifty reps with each arm, Hendrik switches workout routines. The rest of the day goes by like this, Hendrik doing arm and upper body workouts while Malachite casts spells. Eventually, Hendrik calls it quits and wipes his face with a nearby towel. He puts his weights away, then goes back to where the dummies are.

"I see you're done." Jasper comments from where he's leaning on the wall.

Hendrik drinks some water before speaking. "I am."

"Malachite finished an hour ago, in case you're wondering."

"I was not."

Jasper sighs and drops the issue. Hendrik opens a chest and, just as Hendrik remembers, spare shirts are inside. Hendrik takes one and goes into a changing room. He takes off his sweaty shirt, puts on the clean one, then walks out.

"Hold your wrists out." Jasper casually orders.

Hendrik scowls as his wrists bring themselves out. Jasper shackles them, then takes one look at Hendrik's face and tuts.

"And here I thought a workout would put you in a better mood."

"I would be in a better mood if I were not held prisoner to a man that wishes to make me a pet."

"Nasty. And after I fed you and let you use my equipment, too."

Hendrik shoots a killing glare at Jasper. "It belongs to the king, as well as the castle itself."

Jasper laughs. "Oh, sweet Henny, you're truly a fool." Jasper tucks a stray tuft of hair behind Hendrik's ear. "Don't you see? I'm the king of the castle. This," Jasper spreads his arms as he takes two steps back. "Belongs to me. But don't fret, I will allow you some things." Jasper smirks and takes Hendrik's hand.

Hendrik snatches his hand away. "You will never be king."

Jasper frowns. "Well, whether or not you believe that, you will have to acknowledge that I am the master of this castle."

"I will not. You betrayed not only Heliodor, but the whole world. I will not grant you the satisfaction."

"Oh, really?" Jasper smirks. "Say that I am the best ruler Heliodor has ever had."

"That I am the best ruler Heliodor has ever had." Right after Hendrik says that, he scowls at Jasper.

"What did I expect?" Jasper mutters. "Follow me."

"…Where are we going?" Hendrik asks.

"To the closest sitting room." Jasper answers.

They fall quiet after that. Hendrik stews in his anger and bitterness, thinking of all the ways he can decapitate Jasper's pretty head. Before he can go too deep down that rabbit hole, they enter a lounge, where Malachite is sitting on a recliner by a lit fireplace with his book next to him.

"Okay, were either of you going to tell me that you two were engaged at one point, or was I just supposed to read about that myself?" Malachite immediately says.

Chapter Text

Hendrik blinks. "Did you only find out now?"

"Yes!" Malachite balls his fists and swings his arms. "No one told me about it, so I had to read it in 'The Swordsman and The Strategist' and have literally everyone act like I was supposed to find out months ago!"

"But now you know." Jasper takes the last seat, sitting across from Malachite, leaving Hendrik awkwardly standing.

Malachite stares at Hendrik for several long moments before speaking. "Are you keeping him alive because you still love him?"

"What?! No!" Jasper scoffs. "Of course not! I hate him!"

Hendrik's heart sinks a little. He sighs and looks away for a moment before returning his attention to the conversation, trying and failing to ignore the pain in his chest.

"In any case, this changes nothing." Jasper continues. "Hendrik-"

"This changes everything!" Malachite shouts.

Jasper sighs through his nose. "It does not. Hendrik is my hated prisoner, and he hates me as well. Isn't that right, Hendrik?"

"Yes." Hendrik mutters unconsciously.

"Yes you hate him, or yes you don't?" Malachite tilts his head to the side.

Hendrik stays quiet.

"…Human?" Malachite verbally prods.

"Anyway," Jasper interrupts. "You two must be hungry, after we forgot about lunch. How does lasagna sound?"

Hendrik perks up at the mention of food. Just the thought of being able to eat twice in one day has him salivating like crazy. And with it being lasagna… Goddess, Hendrik hasn't had that in so long. It seems almost too good to be true.

"But there's no veggies in it…" Malachite whines.

"I will eat it!" Hendrik quickly declares.

Jasper looks at Hendrik and smirks before speaking. "Do not fret, little darkspawn. I had the chefs put some vegetables in it, and steam some more for the side dish."

"With greens?!" Malachite leans so far forward he almost leaves his seat.

"With greens." Jasper confirms.

Malachite bounds up and hops on his toes. "Greens! Greens! Greens!"

Hendrik takes a step back at Malachite's sudden burst of energy and stares at him. Surely, he can't be that excited about mere vegetables… Can he?

Jasper chuckles. "Hendrik, I had the chefs put some mushrooms in the lasagna as well."

A smile creeps its way onto Hendrik's face. "Really?"

"Of course. I have not forgotten your favorite food, after all."

Hendrik looks down to hide his smile. He knows shouldn't be happy around his captors, but the feelings he thought long dead bubbling up to the surface defy him on Jasper's behalf, all thanks to Jasper merely considering Hendrik. Hendrik really should do something about these damn feelings.

Hendrik doesn't see Jasper approach until Jasper tilts Hendrik's chin slightly upwards. Jasper is looking up at Hendrik with a small but infuriating smirk. Hendrik jerks his face away.

"Do. Not. Touch. Me." Hendrik growls.

Jasper sighs. "And here I thought you would appreciate the mushrooms…" He takes a step back and shakes his head. "I will have the dinner sent here. Malachite, do not harm Hendrik." Jasper leaves the room without looking back.

Oh no. Hendrik turns to Malachite, who has stopped bouncing and is fixing Hendrik with what Hendrik thinks is an angry glare. Then, Malachite stomps on over to Hendrik. Hendrik forces himself to stand still and look at Malachite's eyebrow.

"Listen here, human-" Malachite yanks Hendrik's shirt down, forcing him to bend down. "-You might have Jasper fooled, but I won't fall for your dirty tricks!"

"Wh-what?!" Hendrik splutters, instinctively grabbing Malachite's wrists.

"I know allllll about your little plan to seduce Jasper and wrap him around your finger." Malachite's voice grows dangerously low. "You're going to take advantage of your past to try and get him to fall for you!"

"What on Erdrea are you talking about?!"

"Don't act like you don't know!"

"I do not!"

"Bullshit!"

Hendrik pries Malachite's hands off and runs to another side of the room. "I assure you, I have no idea what you are talking about!"

Malachite moves to lunge at Hendrik, but then he stops mid-step and perks his head to the side. Then, he relaxes his body, but refuses to take his gaze off Hendrik. "You got lucky this time. But I will be watching you. And when you make one mistake, one tiny little slip-up, I'll be there." Then, Malachite sits in his chair, crosses his legs, and puts his arms on the rests.

Moments later, Jasper walks in, accompanied by a servant carrying a wooden chair. He sits across from Malachite while the servant puts the chair in front of the table between them. Then, the servant walks out.

"Dinner is almost finished." Jasper tells everyone.

"Oh thank the dark lord, I'm starving!" Malachite says nonchalantly as he rubs his belly.

Hendrik does a double-take at Malachite. Malachite's acting like he wasn't just threatening Hendrik, if not about to run him through with his swords!

"…Hendrik?" Jasper says at a slightly louder volume.

Hendrik blinks a few times. "Yes?"

"I said you can sit down."

"Oh." Hendrik stares at the wooden chair for a few moments before taking a seat.

Jasper smirks and crosses his legs. "So, Hendrik, how was your workout?"

"Good." Hendrik answers automatically, staring at Malachite in shock.

"I certainly hope so. What about you, darkspawn?"

"It sucked. I didn't improve at all." Malachite mopes.

"Oh dear…" Jasper reaches over and firmly grasps Malachite's arm. "Even if you do not improve today, you are still making progress. And for that, I am proud of you." Jasper brings his arm back.

"Thank you." Malachite softly says.

Hendrik looks between Malachite and Jasper several times. Jasper never touched anyone so casually, not even Hendrik. Just what kind of relationship does Jasper have with Malachite…?

The door opens behind Hendrik. Hendrik turns around to see a few servants bring in the food, along with eating utensils. They set the food down on the table and uncover it, revealing a delicious lasagna, fresh out of the oven, with a bowl of hot vegetables, all of which have a mouth-watering scent.

"Will the prisoner be eating with you?" One servant asks.

Jasper glances to Hendrik before speaking. "Yes, he will."

The servant nods and puts down place settings for all three of them. "Wine, supreme commander?"

"No thank you."

A different servant places a jug of water on the table, and then the servants all leave the room. Malachite dumps a ton of vegetables onto his plate while Jasper cuts the lasagna and serves all three of them. Hendrik digs in immediately, shovelling food into his mouth as fast as he can. Malachite turns away from Hendrik, keeps an arm around his plate, and fiddles with his scarf until it's low enough for him to eat, then eats as fast as Hendrik.

"How does it taste?" Jasper asks, cutting his food with his fork before eating it.

"Goh." Hendrik says through a mouthful of tasty lasagna.

Jasper smirks and continues eating. When Hendrik and Malachite finish their plates, Jasper leans forward and grabs the serving utensils. "More lasagna?"

"Yes." Hendrik says almost too quickly.

"Nah." Malachite shrugs, not looking at either of them.

"As you wish." Jasper cuts some lasagna and puts it on Hendrik's plate.

Malachite turns his head and watches the movement. His lowered scarf reveals several dark scars on his cheekbone, and a balding patch on the side of his head. Malachite makes eye contact with Hendrik and shoves his scarf back up.

"Hey, Jasper? Can I talk to you alone?" Malachite brings up.

Chapter Text

"Do you mean right now?" Jasper asks.

"Yeah."

Jasper sighs and stands up. "Guards!" Jasper summons two armored guards. "Watch Hendrik."

Malachite gets up and walks past the guards, keeping his ears perked in case Hendrik tries anything. He and Jasper go outside the room and shut the door behind them.

"Is something the matter?" Jasper tilts his head to the side.

Malachite nods. "I think the human's plotting something…"

"Why do you say that?" Jasper furrows his brows.

"He was… acting weird. He was smiling at you earlier, and- and he was staring at me while I had my scarf down."

"…Is that all?"

"What do you mean, is that all?" Malachite's voice raises a little in surprise.

"That is not enough for me to conclude Hendrik is plotting against us."

"He- he's a human!" Malachite cries out indignantly. "Of course he is! This only confirms it!"

"Mala," Jasper clasps Malachite's shoulders. "I know you have good reason not to trust humans, and especially not Hendrik, but seemingly strange behavior is not enough to draw any conclusions."

"But- but-!"

"Do not take this the wrong way. I know you're just looking out for me, and I truly appreciate that." Jasper squeezes Malachite's shoulders. "I will make a note of his behavior for your sake." Jasper kisses the top of Malachite's head. "How about you run along and play, now? I need to speak to Hendrik about something boring."

Malachite gulps. "But… what if the human attacks you?"

"Don't worry about me. I'm made of a much tougher material than I look." Jasper smiles and lets go of Malachite. "I will be fine. You can play now."

Malachite hesitantly steps back, fiddling with his scarf. "You promise?"

"I promise." Jasper reassures him.

Malachite slowly turns and walks down the hall. He looks behind and watches Jasper re-enter the lounge. Malachite turns a corner and meets with a staircase, which he ignores in favor of getting on the guard rail and walking the full length to the next floor up. Then, he drops down from the rail and makes a beeline to his room. Malachite takes out his keys and unlocks each of the eight locks, one by one, then opens the door, steps inside, and relocks them all, including the chair door locks above and below the regular locks. Only then does Malachite allow himself to go to the toys he left on the ground and start playing.

Malachite picks up some legos and starts making… something. He's not sure what it is yet, but whatever it is, Malachite's going to make it. Malachite takes a bunch of random pieces and sticks them onto the structure, slowly building it up to be bigger and bigger. Then, Malachite holds the structure away from him. It is long, about the length from Malachite's fingertips to his elbow, with one end tapering to a point. The opposite end has several round lego pieces attached to the end to form a weak handle, and the main section comes to cup around the handle.

Malachite stares at it for several moments, then slowly puts it down. His vision blurs, and his shoulders shake, and he lets the tears fall. Malachite folds in on himself and hugs his knees as he starts sobbing. He has no idea how long he sits there staring at the lego object and crying, but he cries for so long that his throat feels like it's clenching down on a wet, miserable, familiar feeling deep inside, and his head pounds from dehydration. A soft knocking makes Malachite lift his head up.

"Can I come in?" Jasper's voice resounds, bringing a little comfort with it.

Malachite runs to the door and fumbles with the locks, trying to unlock them as fast as he can. As soon as he unlocks the last one, he swings open the door and lunges forward, tackling Jasper and sending them both tumbling to the ground. Jasper lands with a dull thud and an 'oof'. Malachite ends up on top, holding Jasper in a death grip as he hides his face in Jasper's shoulder. Jasper pushes himself upright and wraps an arm around Malachite.

"What's wrong?" Jasper asks, keeping Malachite close.

Malachite sniffles and points behind himself. Jasper hugs Malachite with both arms and squeezes.

"Hendrik, go to the bathroom and start getting ready for bed. Guards, escort Hendrik." Jasper quietly orders, causing several armored boots to Malachite's left to approach.

"Come on, you heard him." A soldier says.

"Actually, I did not." The human says in response.

"He said to the bathroom."

The soldier… pushes the human? Hits him? Whatever it is, it's enough to make him start walking. Malachite doesn't want to pay attention to where he goes, just focuses on Jasper's slow, steady heartbeat. Jasper rubs Malachite's back and kisses the top of his head.

"Do you want to go back in your room?" Jasper mutters into Malachite's thin hair.

"Yes." Malachite chokes out.

Jasper brings his hands under Malachite's legs and stands up. Malachite clings to him as Jasper walks into Malachite's room and shuts the door with his foot. Then, Jasper sets Malachite down on the bed and crouches down to Malachite's level.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Jasper clasps Malachite's arms.

Malachite shakes his head and sobs.

"Perhaps another time, then." Jasper pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and hands it to Malachite.

Malachite pulls his scarf down loudly blows his nose into the hanky, then sniffles and rubs his nostrils with the back of his glove. Jasper hugs Malachite again, gently running his hand down Malachite's hair.

"Did something happen?"

Malachite pulls away and points around Jasper to the lego structure, still laying innocently on the ground. Jasper walks away from Malachite, crouches down, and picks it up.

"Is this what you're referring to?"

Malachite nods through his tears.

"Do you want me to take it apart?"

Malachite nods.

Jasper breaks the tip off first and dumps it in the dedicated lego box, then the handle is next to go. Then, Jasper takes chunks out of the middle section and puts them away until he's left with a few measly pieces, and those go into the box as well. Jasper closes the box, then goes back to the bed and sits next to Malachite, pulling him into a hug.

"Your thoughts spiralled again, didn't they?"

"I… I don't know." Malachite meekly admits, pausing to sniffle. "I don't know what happened."

"That is alright. You can think about it later." Jasper rubs circles into Malachite's shoulder. "For now… cry it out."

"Can I… have some water?" Malachite croaks.

"Of course. Will you be fine by yourself?"

Malachite nods.

Jasper lets go of Malachite and gets up. "I will not be long. I promise."

Malachite watches Jasper leave. When Jasper shuts the door behind him, Malachite takes his scarf off and leaves it on the floor, then he lays on his side, clutches his teddy bear close to his chest, and counts the seconds until Jasper comes back.

Chapter Text

Hendrik spits into the sink, then rinses the toothbrush off and puts it in the cup. Then, he wipes his mouth with the back of his sleeve, being mindful of the cold metal shackles. He glances in the mirror, then knocks on the door.

"You done?" A disgruntled guard groans.

"Yes."

The door opens, and Hendrik is greeted by a skeleton swordsman, who keeps a sword in four hands. "Come on, move your bones. And no tricks, this time."

Hendrik sighs through his nose and steps out. The guard grabs his arm and pushes on his back, forcing Hendrik forward. Hendrik initially stumbles before regaining his balance.

"Where are we going?" Hendrik asks.

"Back to your cell."

Hendrik takes on a deep scowl and says nothing. The guard's bones clack as they walk down the hallway and round a corner, meeting with some stairs, and…

"Supreme Commander." The guard nods. "I would salute you, but…"

Jasper pushes his hair out of his face as he climbs the last step, keeping a glass of water in his other hand. "He is done?"

"Yes, sir!"

Jasper chuckles and arrogantly smirks. "I will take him from here."

The guard lets go of Hendrik, bows at the waist, then runs off. Hendrik turns his gaze to Jasper and fixes him with a murderous glare.

"Don't look at me like that. I haven't even said anything to you."

Hendrik looks away and growls. "You are keeping me prisoner!"

"Hendrik, please." Jasper says dryly. "I know your temper has been getting the better of you lately, but do try to keep it in check until you see your new room."

Hendrik blinks. He tries to look at Jasper, but he's repelled by whatever forces keep him from looking someone in the eye. "What do you mean by that?"

Jasper takes a step forward and extends his hand to Hendrik. "How about I show you?"

Hendrik manages to spare a glance at Jasper's hand before he's forced to look away. He chews on the inside of his cheek and contemplates dislocating Jasper's arm as Jasper holds his hand up for an awkwardly long time. Eventually, Jasper drops his hand with a sigh.

"If you won't take my hand, then at least look at me."

Hendrik glances at Jasper once more before he has to look away. "I… I cannot."

"…You may look at me."

Hendrik finally lets his gaze settle on Jasper. If he didn't know any better, he'd say Jasper looked… disappointed. Ugh. If anything, Jasper must be disappointed that Hendrik won't cooperate so easily. Well, Jasper's going to be disappointed a lot more often from now on.

"Follow me." Jasper curtly orders, bowing his head as he goes past Hendrik.

Hendrik glares at the back of Jasper's head as he's forced to follow at Jasper's heels. Goddess, what he wouldn't give to punch that pretty face.

"I can feel you glaring at me, you know." Jasper comments. "Are you still mad over what I said earlier?"

"Yes!" Hendrik shouts a little louder than he meant to.

Jasper stops and turns around. "Listen, I already told you I did not mean it like that. I simply meant that I would keep people from hitting you."

"You would do that by keeping me in a cage until I expire!"

"I never said that!"

"Then explain to me why the guard was taking me back to my prison cell!"

"I never told him to do so!"

"Simply not telling him to take me to my cell does not mean you will not keep me there!"

"I was taking you to your new quarters just now!" Jasper raises his voice slightly, voice growing slightly inhuman.

"They are most likely another fucking cell!" Hendrik screams, digging his nails into his palms so hard he bleeds.

"It's not a fucking cell!" Jasper roars, lips pulling back to reveal a large set of razor-sharp teeth, both top and bottom teeth at least an inch long, and snarles. A strange white glow emits from the center of Jasper's chest, dampened by his shirt.

Hendrik takes several steps back, raising his hands defensively. His back hits an end table, knocking it over and breaking the vase balanced on it. Then, all goes quiet. Hendrik and Jasper stand frozen, panting like they just ran a marathon. They stare at one another for what feels like an eternity, physically unable to break the silence. Jasper is the first to move, approaching the wall and leaning on it with his arm.

"Jas-"

"Sh!" Jasper holds up a finger. Then, he bows his head, closes his mouth and breathes. Just breathes. Several seconds pass before Jasper lifts his head up. He slowly turns his head towards Hendrik and gets off the wall. "I will show you your room. I promise it is not a cell."

Hendrik stays still, just taking in Jasper's appearance. His teeth have returned to normal, or at least, they appear to be normal now. The glowing in Jasper's chest has gone away, and now Jasper is calmly walking towards Hendrik.

"Come. It will be pleasant."

Hendrik stares at Jasper's mouth as his legs move of their own accord. Jasper only starts moving once Hendrik has joined his side, and Hendrik has no choice but to follow.

"What was that?" Hendrik tentatively asks.

"I will explain later." Jasper brushes aside. "Your new room is just ahead."

Hendrik tears his gaze away from Jasper and looks around. "Is not Malachite's room nearby?"

"It is, along with mine." Jasper opens a door and holds it open. After a moment, he gestures to inside the room.

Hendrik steps inside. The room is slightly smaller than Hendrik's old room, but it is well-lit by a few candles strategically placed around the room. A bed sits to Hendrik's immediate right, opposite to a window with iron bars bolted over it. There is a desk and chair in the corner next to a closet, with some paper, a quill, and an inkwell on the desk.

"Your old room is caved in, and I cannot spare the manpower to clear it out, so I'm afraid we cannot retrieve your stuff for the time being." Jasper explains as he walks in. "I have placed orders for the essentials, but most will not come in for a week."

"Have you at least provided clothes?" Hendrik asks.

Jasper shakes his head. "Other than what you are wearing, no. Those were the only clothes we could find that would fit you. You will get more tomorrow." Jasper turns to leave, but at the last second looks at Hendrik and points to hin. "Now, stay in this room. I need to make a delivery-" Jasper holds up his cup of water. "-real quick. I will return soon to answer any more questions." Jasper leaves, closing the door behind him.

Hendrik makes a beeline for the window and reaches for the bars. No sooner than he grabs them than is he hit with a sudden case of paralysis. Hendrik grunts as he tries to force himself to move. It's only when he gives up does the paralysis ease, allowing him to drop his hands. Hendrik sighs and sits on the bed.

Chapter Text

Hendrik sighs as the bed sinks under his weight. This damned curse is going to be the death of him at this rate. How is he supposed to escape? …Maybe he can use a catapult to launch himself out of the castle. But how could he ensure suh a thing would not kill or injure him?

Hendrik looks over to the desk. It has a few drawers built into it, one is large, and just under the tabletop. Three others are about half its size, built into the side next to where the legs are meant to go. Hendrik gets up and investigates the desk. He opens the top drawer and finds… nothing. He opens the side drawers. Nothing.

"Of course there is nothing." Hendrik mutters as he shuts the drawers. He glares at the inkwell, innocently sitting on the desk, then he sighs through his nose and sits at the desk.

Well, since Hendrik's sitting behind a desk, he might as well do some thinking, as he always did before the Fall. His thoughts drift to the Luminary, and His Majesty's orders to find him and protect him. Not that Hendrik would not do that, anyway. Protecting him is the least Hendrik could do for him after all that Hendrik's done.

Hendrik takes the quill, dips it into the inkwell, and starts doodling on the paper. The Luminary, originally named Jasper (which led to him idolizing the knight in his childhood, if Miss Amber is to be believed) by Queen Eleanor and King Irwin, may they rest in peace, and later took the name and/or alias Eleven after his initial confrontation with His Majesty, has not been confirmed to have been spotted since the Fall. Hendrik… wants to believe he is alive. Wants to believe that whatever miracle that allowed himself and His Majesty to survive also saved the Luminary, but…

Hendrik pushes those thoughts out of his mind. The Luminary is alive. He has to be. He needs to defeat Mordegon and bring light back to the land. He just needs to be found, and then everything will be fine. Until then, Hendrik needs to keep believing.

The paper before him has more ink than blank space. Hendrik pushes it aside, then puts the quill down and sits back. He needs to find the Luminary and bring him to the Last Bastion. But first, he needs to escape from Jasper's clutches.

The door opens. Hendrik shoots up and reaches for a nonexistent greatsword. Jasper steps inside and shuts the door behind him.

"So, how are you liking your new room?" Jasper starts off with.

"I do not like it. I want to go home." Hendrik outright tells Jasper.

"That's not happening." Jasper denies as he unlocks Hendrik's shackles. "Anyway, do you have any questions?"

"When will you let me go?"

"I'm not."

"How do I get out of here?"

"Oh for the love of…" Jasper says under his breath as he rolls his eyes. "I wouldn't just tell you that. You'd run away, otherwise."

"…How do I break this curse?" Hendrik directly asks.

Jasper groans. "Do you have any questions that are NOT about trying to escape?"

"No."

Jasper facepalms. "Very well, then. I'll let you be, for now." He moves to go to the door, then he turns to Hendrik with a smirk. "By the way, I was kidding about getting you a white collar."

Hendrik lets out a sigh of relief. "Thank the goddess." He mutters under his breath.

"It's actually black."

Hendrik splutters as Jasper cackles and shuts Hendrik in the room. Then, a purple sigil made of dark magic appears on the door.

"Oh, by the way," Jasper's voice is aggravatingly smug. "It's lights out now, so you can't leave the room without me or a guard accompanying you."

"You scoundrel!" Hendrik slaps his hand against the door, only for something to repel it.

"But don't worry, they'll let you out if you need it." Jasper adds, completely disregarding Hendrik.

"Let me out this instant!"

"Hm, let me think. No. I'll wait for you to calm down, instead." Jasper laughs.

"I WILL BREAK THIS DOOR DOWN!"

"Don't bother. It's enchanted to be indestructable."

Hendrik takes a few steps back, then sprints and slams his shoulder into the door. An invisible barrier absorbs the force, then springs it back, knocking Hendrik back. Hendrik winces and rubs his shoulder. Then, he kicks the door to the same result. Hendrik tries the doorknob. It doesn't even budge. Hendrik punches the door. Again, he can't damage the door.

"Hey! Knock it off!" An unfamiliar voice says. "The Supreme Commander isn't even here!"

Hendrik sighs and presses his forehead to the door. Nothing is pushing him away, so he supposes that's a good sign. "When will I be allowed to leave?"

"Dunno. The Supreme Commander didn't tell me."

Hendrik takes his head away. "What is this sigil?"

"I think it's to keep the door closed."

Well, at least the guard is willing to answer Hendrik's questions. "What time is it?"

"Uh, about nine-thirty PM."

Hendrik frowns in consideration. He thanks the guard, then lays down on the bed. No point in exhausting himself staying up all night, after all. Not when Hendrik hasn't the slightest clue how to escape. Hendrik wraps the blankets around himself and closes his eyes, mentally preparing for another round of nightmares.

-----

An ear-piercing scream cuts through the night.

Hendrik instantly shoots up, fumbling for the dagger under his pillow - and cursing when he remembers his situation. Hendrik jumps out of bed and runs to the side of the room where the screaming's loudest and presses his ear to the wall. The screaming is human, but so loud as to almost reach banshee-levels of volume, drowning out anything that could clue Hendrik in on what's happening.

Hendrik sprints to the door and tackles it, only to be knocked back. Hendrik tries again, and this time the barrier shoves him onto his ass. He gets up and pounds on the door as hard as he can, yelling to be let out.

"Stop it!" The guard shouts, barely audible over the screaming.

"Let me out!!!"

"I said stop it! You're making things worse!"

The screaming somehow becomes even louder.

"LET ME OUT!!!" Hendrik shouts so loud it strains his throat.

Someone pounds back. "Stop making noise!" Jasper orders, loud and imposing.

Hendrik tries to respond, but all that comes out of his mouth is air. His fist stops just before it hits the door. Hendrik immediately tries to break the doorknob, but he can't manage much more than a weak wiggle.

Still, the screaming continues.

Hendrik walks, agonizingly slowly, to the window and wraps his hands around the bars. Then, he tugs as much as the curse will allow him, but it's not enough. The bars stay the same way they were.

The screams start quieting down.

Hendrik goes back to the wall and presses his ear to it again. Now, he can hear sobbing, and Jasper speaking, though he can't make out the words. Eventually, even the sobbing grows small and quiet. Hendrik takes a step back and furrows his brows. He paces back and forth, mind running wild with all the potential situations currently going on. A minute later, the purple sigil illuminating the room fades, and someone knocks on the door. A yelp comes from behind the door.

"Hendrik? Are you still inside?" Jasper asks after a moment.

Hendrik goes to the door and quietly wiggles the doorknob.

Jasper opens the door, allowing Hendrik to see him face-to-face. Jasper is carrying someone in dracky pajamas, who has their arms and legs wrapped around Jasper like a koala, and is hiding their face in Jasper's neck as they quietly hiccup. Jasper himself is wearing white sweatpants, and he has his hair down.

"Everything is under control." Jasper says immediately. "You do not need to come to the rescue." Jasper spits out, glaring at Hendrik.

Hendrik opens his mouth, but no sound comes out.

"You may make noise again."

"What happened?" Hendrik asks.

"My little darkspawn had another bad dream. They are something he unfortunately gets often." Jasper adjusts his grip on the person in his arms, showing his bare shoulder. Hendrik does not stare at that shoulder. Not at all. "In the future, if you hear Malachite screaming during the night, please ignore it. I will handle it."

Hendrik glances to the person Jasper's holding. "Is that-"

"Yes."

A moment of silence passes between them.

"Well, I believe that is all. If you have nothing else to say, then I'll put Mala back to bed." Jasper closes the door with his foot. After a moment, the purple sigil reappears.

Hendrik lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding and slumps against the wall. He wipes the sweat off his brow, grimacing at the feeling it leaves on sleeves. Then, he flops facedown onto the bed, all the strength leaving his body at once.

And yet, Hendrik does not get much sleep that night.

Chapter Text

Repetitive knocking sounds jostle Hendrik from his daydreams. Hendrik groans and rubs his eyes. So much for trying to get some sleep before Jasper inevitably starts torturing Hendrik.

"Who is it?" Hendrik calls out from the bed.

"Your new king."

Ugh. So Hendrik has to face Jasper first thing in the morning as well. Maybe if he throws a pillow over his face and stays quiet, Jasper will go away.

"…Hendrik?" Jasper knocks again. "Are you listening to me?"

"I am trying not to." Hendrik says without his consent.

Jasper laughs. "Are you decent?"

"Yes."

"Come out. I unlocked the door."

Hendrik groans as his body forces him to get out of bed and step out. Jasper is standing alone, usual uniform and staff discarded in favor of a purple shirt with poofy sleeves and an unbuttoned collar with black slacks. His hair is wrapped in a towel, which rests comfortably on the top of his head. Hendrik scowls at him as soon as he sees him.

"Awww, did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?" Jasper mockingly draws out.

"I was merely hoping that I would not have to interact with a traitorous scoundrel so early in the day." Hendrik venomously growls.

"Ouch." Jasper presses a hand to his chest with an infuriating smirk. Then, he laughs at Hendrik. At Hendrik! "Good morning to you, too."

"No."

"No?" Jasper tilts his head to the side.

"Begone from my sight, fiend." Hendrik spits out with an icy glare.

Jasper's smirk grows wider. He leans forward ever so slowly, making Hendrik shudder, though whether it's from anticipation or fear or something else entirely, even Hendrik can't say. Jasper tilts his head up and stands on his toes as he holds Hendrik's shoulder for support. Goosebumps raise on Hendrik's skin as Jasper's lips approach his cheek. Then, when Jasper's so close Hendrik can feel Jasper's breath ghost over his ear, Jasper whispers in his ear.

"No."

Jasper pulls away so fast that for a second, Hendrik doesn't register it. Hendrik blinks rapidly before coming to focus on Jasper again. Only then does he realize how fast and hard his heart is beating.

"Anyway…" Jasper breathes in. "Your new clothes have arrived in the mail, and I have sent a servant to retrieve them. They should arrive shortly."

Hendrik opens his mouth, but only a strangled gasp comes out.

"Did you catch that?" Jasper innocently asks, playing with a lock of hair that fell out.

Hendrik chokes on air.

Jasper's smile falls. "Are you alright?"

Hendrik tilts his head back and covers his face with both hands as he struggles to get his breathing under control. His entire body grow hotter and hotter as he feels Jasper's eyes all over him.

"Cease- cease your judgemental staring!" Hendrik suddenly shouts when he can't take it anymore.

Hendrik feels Jasper look away. Now, Hendrik can calm down. He practises his breathing exercises, holding his breath for three seconds, and exhaling for another three before breathing in for yet another three. When his body finally calms down, Hendrik hesitantly pries his hands away. He sees Jasper looking to the side, even blocking his view of Hendrik with his hand.

"Jasper?" Hendrik slightly leans forward to hesitantly say.

"Better?" Jasper asks without changing his position.

"Yes." Hendrik tells him.

Jasper lowers his hand and looks at Hendrik with an unreadable expression. "Do you need to freshen up?"

"I…" Hendrik's mind is brought to his still too-hot cheeks. "Suppose I do."

Jasper brings his hand to Hendrik's back and gently guides him to the bathroom, and for once, Hendrik has no complaint about it. When they reach the bathroom, Hendrik goes in of his own accord and bends over the sink. He splashes some water on his face and sighs. Then, he looks in the mirror and sees just how red he really is. He's so red that his entire face is cherry red, and his blush has even reached his ears and neck.

"Oh dear goddess…" Hendrik sighs as he slumps. He splashes more water on his face and tries to will away his blush at the same time.

Damn Jasper. Damn his aggravatingly pretty face. Damn the day Hendrik bought a ring and proposed to him. But most of all, damn Hendrik's stupid heart for clinging to these unwanted feelings. Maybe Hendrik could get rid of them somehow. Put them in a catapult and fling them into the ocean. Let the fish feed on them. They would certainly get more use out of them than Hendrik.

Hendrik splashes more water on his face, checks his reflection, and decides his pink cheeks are good enough before drying himself off with a towel that feels like sandpaper against his skin. He comes out and faces Jasper.

"Are you finished?" Jasper asks.

"Yes." Hendrik nods.

Jasper's lips quirk upward for a second before going back to normal. "I see." He is quiet for a few seconds. "Um, Malachite is waiting on us. We should…" Jasper points in the general direction of the stairs.

When Hendrik doesn't move, Jasper moves ahead and tells Hendrik to follow him. Hendrik grumbles something under his breath as he's forced to obey. They travel in silence, save for their footsteps.

"What time is it?" Hendrik asks as they go down the stairs.

"It's about eight."

Hendrik does not reply as they finish the flight of stairs. Jasper enters another room, with Hendrik following close behind. Then, Hendrik screams.

Directly across from Hendrik is a… beast? Monster? Whatever it is, it's unlike any creature Hendrik has ever seen before. It has a grotesque, misshapen head, with one side of its jaw protruding farther than the other. Its nose - or at least, what Hendrik thinks is its nose - starts off thick before tapering off into a crooked, thin point. One eye is blown wide, while the other… the other is missing, leaving a gaping hole in its face. Another hole in its lips is so large it reveals white teeth. Its brown hackles are patchy and scruffy, without a consistent length to them. Stripes litter its entire body, which is only hidden with a shirt, shorts, and gloves, but the stripes are most prominent and numerous on its face.

The beast screams so loud it shakes Hendrik to the core, then it raises its hand and flings a massive fireball at Hendrik. Hendrik is violently shoved to the side, landing on his arm. The fireball hits the side of the doorway, dissipating in a burst of flame and setting the wood on fire. Only then does Hendrik become aware of the weight on top of him.

"Shit!" Jasper shouts angrily, making Hendrik glance down at him. He silently casts a spell that extinguishes the fire, then gets off Hendrik. "Mala-!" Jasper cuts himself off. "Malachite, I understand Hendrik scared you, but please refrain from trying to murder him." Jasper says with a deliberately neutral volume.

Sobbing immediately fills the room. Jasper gasps and gets off Hendrik as fast as he can, then he runs over to… Wait a minute, that's Malachite?!

"Shhhh, everything will be alright. I'm here." Jasper hugs Malachite and kisses the top of his head. "No one's going to hurt you."

Hendrik groans as he gets up, rubbing his sore arm. He watches Jasper wipe the tears from Malachite's eyes, then Hendrik knocks on the ground. Malachite squeaks and hides his face in Jasper's chest while Jasper himself looks at Hendrik.

"That is Malachite?" Hendrik half-shouts in disbelief.

"Yes." Jasper confirms, smoothing out Malachite's hair. "He… gets scared at times. Panics." He pulls Malachite into his lap and bounces his leg, then turns to Hendrik. "By the way, are you hurt?"

"I suspect my arm will bruise." Hendrik has to say, even though he doubts the bruise will actually become bad.

"Come here. Slowly."

Hendrik stands up, then slowly approaches Jasper, keeping his eyes on Malachite the entire time. Jasper takes a medicinal herb out of his pocket and hands it over.

"Eat this." Jasper mutters as he rubs circles into Malachite's back.

Hendrik takes the medicinal herb and has to eat it. He immediately feels the hurt in his arm melt away into nothing.

"Hendrik's not going to hurt you. I've made sure of that." Jasper whispers to Malachite before pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "Even if he tries, I will protect you. You're safe."

"B-but- but he-" Malachite sobs, muffled. "He screamed, when he… saw me…"

"I know, but he won't hurt you. I promise. Right, Hendrik?" Jasper turns his head to look at Hendrik.

"Yes." Hendrik sits next to them while staring at Malachite and coming to the realization that those aren't stripes, those are scars!

Malachite's crying becomes a little quieter. Jasper whispers something to him, making Malachite look at his face. Malachite's face is red and covered in tears and snot, and his green eye is missing. Jasper takes out a handkerchief and cleans Malachite's face.

"Where's your eye and scarf?" Jasper asks.

"In my room." Malachite sniffles. "I… I forgot about the human."

"Do you want to get them?"

Malachite shakes his head.

"Alright. Do you want to eat?"

Malachite nods. Jasper smiles at him as Malachite gets up.

"Jasper?" Hendrik says to get Jasper's attention.

Jasper tilts his head towards Hendrik.

"Does Malachite panic often?" Hendrik asks.

"It depends on whether or not he gets a nightmare the night before." Jasper stands up and gives his handkerchief to Malachite, who takes it and hides behind Jasper. "He usually gets those once a week." He holds Malachite with one arm as he talks. "As long as you do not sneak up on him or startle him, he shouldn't attack you." Jasper leads Malachite a few steps away before he turns to Hendrik. "Well?"

"Well what?" Hendrik doesn't move from his spot.

"Are you coming with me or not?"

"I have a choice?" Hendrik blinks in surprise.

"Actually, no." Jasper says plainly. "But I'd rather not boss you around after that close call."

Hendrik grumbles as he stands and joins. Malachite balls his fists in Jasper's shirt as Hendrik approaches. Jasper pats Malachite's back and leads both him and Hendrik away.