Who do you need, who do you love
When you come undone?
He stands so tall and straight as he rises from the throne to leave the Grand Hall. Even from this distance, he strikes a remarkable figure. Handsome and poised, just like he was born for this duty. He was, of course, and he is never one to shirk from his responsibilities. Dutiful, intelligent and thoughtful. He wants to do what is right for the kingdom and its people.
The factions may prefer his brothers for different reasons, but that matters not. He is able to weave his way, work well and administer to the country’s needs. If anything, he works too hard and for hardly enough credit.
No one can accuse him of lacking etiquette, or decorum. He is always the picture of propriety in public. No one can accuse him of not doing enough. Perhaps he does not have the easy popularity of his brother Nazir, or the ruthlessness of his brother Aurelius, but he does not need to. He is just as caring as Nazir, and as strong as Aurelius. He just expresses it differently.
He doesn’t tell everyone what he feels. He is not charming like Nazir, or blunt, like Aurelius. Why would he bother others with simple things like his feelings? And do people care?
(Probably not, unless it could be used as currency. Not with gossipy nobles, or power-plays. The court is a nest of vipers; the less ammunition they have against him, the better. It was always a case of self-preservation.)
People may remember him as competent and kind, decorous but distant.
I choose to remember him differently.
He is capable of being gallant in public. Not just to me, but to everyone. It is all etiquette, of course.
A beautifully executioned bow to myself when he sees me. A gentle smile. Perhaps the only courtesy he pays me as his consort that he does not do for anyone else is a kiss on the dorsum of my hand. Nothing scandalous. Without that small gesture, one would imagine (in public, at least) that I am hardly anything to him. It does seem that way sometimes, but I am less discreet, and more willing to be openly affectionate. Never outside of the gates; it would not do to embarrass him.
I have heard the whispers, of course, that he has tired of our relationship. Never mind that at night, Sala still catches him sneaking out of my chambers, despite his improvement in stealth. It does not hurt me, but his face speaks volumes one day when we unexpectedly find ourselves as eavesdroppers walking around the palace corridors. We were not intentionally trying to overhear the conversation, but they weren’t being discreet either.
His face – usually so composed – contorts into an expression of fury for a second, before he schools his expression into one of perfect calm. There are still subtle giveaways that he is seething, but he seems in perfect control of his feelings.
He approaches the nobles with a smile as he subtly rebukes them and reminds them of my “importance to the High Council, to Eskia, and last but not least, myself.” At the end of this sentence, he purposefully throws a fond look in my direction.
The nobles seem suitably chastened, but I doubt it would make a huge difference. It doesn’t matter though. As king, his personal life may matter a great deal to Eskia, but I am considered a suitable consort by virtue of my house, lineage and position in the High Council, so the nobles can’t reproach me for that. They can gossip about whether – like his father before him – he would take a concubine, and I can imagine certain nobles lining their daughters up, but their speculations on the strength of our relationship is meaningless when we know that our relationship runs more true than the light that dawns on a new day, when the sun rises over the horizon.
It feels like a privilege. A secret privilege, but one nonetheless, when we are behind closed doors.
Here, we are able to drop the weight of our responsibilities. He is the perfect gentleman until we are behind closed doors, and then he comes undone. In the privacy of our chambers (usually mine, sometimes his), he is no longer the King of Eskia, and I am no longer the High Council representative. We are able to simply be Serin and Alexis and just exist, free from the burdens that come with our position. Our chambers are our own, and here we are free to express our thoughts and opinions, our hopes and dreams, without worrying what others think.
And then, in the darkest hours of the night, when almost everyone is asleep, I think to myself how exhilarating it is watching him come undone. He has the utmost control of his thoughts and opinions most times, except for now, with me. He does not hide anything from me, I don’t think. We have no secrets from each other.
It starts out with a kiss and ends with us collapsing exhaustedly on the bed, where we lie in each other’s arms until the morning comes.
He may be a remarkable, memorable figure as the tall, handsome King of Eskia in the throne room. That may be how everyone else remembers him. I won’t remember him that way. Sunlight streaming through the window illuminates the chamber. Tousled hair, tousled sheets and a warm embrace that finds in me a willing prisoner. A drowsy, content visage with full of love and affection. This is how I remember him. I carry that picture in the deepest recesses of my heart.