Whoever’s idea it was to send them all back to the School, Tedros hates them.
It would help if he could remember who it was, but he doesn’t remember anything much around that particular few hours.
The virtue of having just died, he supposes.
“Want to come to my lessons with me?”
Agatha is leaning on his back, gentler than she usually would, but still digging her knobbly elbows into his spine. It’s strangely grounding.
He shakes his head.
They’ve done this every morning since he was properly conscious; Agatha wakes up first, puts on something that is not her uniform, tips stones out of her boots, then asks him if he wants to come. He shakes his head no , she says alright, she kisses him goodbye, she goes to her lessons and doesn’t pay attention, then comes back with food at dinner time, as well as something pilfered from Hansel’s Haven. Tedros lies face-down on her bed and tries to nap. It never works.
He thinks the teachers are of the opinion he should go with her, which is why she keeps asking, but he refuses to. The idea of going down into the main school, facing the gawking first years and his solemn peers, makes him feel unwell.
At least there are no mirrors in Agatha’s room. Apparently she broke them all in first year. That way, he doesn’t have to look.
Still, he knows what it looks like. He isn’t sure what he’d expected; a thin white line and lots of opportunities for black humour, probably.
That’s not what he’s got. His scar is not thin, or white, and it’s barely a straight line. Instead, Tedros’s entire neck is a mess of ugly black bruising and a puckered, scarlet seam which goes up in random places and down in others, a testament to the unhinged savagery with which Japeth had taken his fucking head off.
It still bleeds, if he irritates it enough, or weeps, which is decidedly more disgusting. Magic can only do so much, and it seems the magic inherent in Excalibur is not the most attentive of nurses. Brutally practical. He is alive, and he is the King, and therefore the bastard bit of metal considers its work done.
It is a sword, he supposes, not a hospital. But talking is mostly impossible, breathing is hard, and eating and drinking is similarly painful, as his oesophagus and windpipe take their sweet goddamn time fixing themselves. Merlin had done what he could before he returned to Camelot, but what he could turned out to be relatively little. It would fix itself, he said helplessly. Eventually. There was nothing he could do to speed it up.
Tedros wishes eventually would hurry the hell up.
Outside, he can hear excited chattering, the first years filing out onto the field below--
Then the grim squeal of swords being pulled out of leather scabbards.
It goes right through him, setting his teeth on edge and jerking him out of his half doze, pricking sweat on his temples and down his back. He bolts up and staggers for the window, slamming it shut so hard the glass rattles in the pane. But he can still hear it; the reverberating crash of swords blocking one another. Laughter.
The low swoosh of a blade falling through the air.
So Tedros barricades himself in the bathroom.
He sits in the tub, facing away from the mirror, and picks his nails. It’s an old habit that his mother would have scolded him for, but his mother’s dead.
Most people are, it seems like. Classmates, teachers, enemies, parents. Both parents, now. His father’s spirit seems to finally be at peace, because he’s seen neither hide nor hair of him; no cryptic messages, no confusing dreams of statues and unburying, no more tasks or falling scrolls. A job well done, for the Once and Future King. He’s secured Tedros back on the throne. He can pat himself on the back and bobby off to the afterlife.
Smug git. Tedros is annoyed he didn’t give him a piece of his mind, when he met his spirit. At the time, he’d been so relieved he was getting some help, he’d not even thought to be angry. Now he’d sooner tell him to shove his Trial of Kings up his arsehole. But he can’t, because he’s dead, and permanently dead, at that. Whatever Tedros was for those ten minutes, it wasn’t the same type of dying. It had been dark and cold, and it had hurt, and he’d wanted Agatha. No bloody great clouds to sit on. He’d simply been dead, and then he’d been alive again and furious.
The storybook said Excalibur had done it itself, floated up serenely and chopped Japeth’s head off itself. A generous portrayal, and one that was quite inaccurate to the way that Tedros had personally cleaved it from his neck, then promptly collapsed himself. Chaos, according to Sophie-- everyone had briefly panicked that both candidates were dead.
He doesn’t remember much of his initial return to the School. They’d put him in his old room for a brief time, but the second he was left alone he’d panicked and made the magic-drug fuelled sprint for Agatha’s, instead. Merlin had run about three steps after him, and then declared him too fast and wandered the rest of the way half-heartedly. He’d suggested, in the most unconvincing way possible, that maybe he should go back to his own room. Tedros had not responded, unsurprisingly. Agatha had said no.
And so here he’s been, for… a while. His concept of time isn’t the best, at the moment. A few weeks, maybe. He’s seen no one except Agatha, and Sophie, a few times-- she simply bursts in, tells him he looks terrible, then sits on his feet and tells him gossip for a few hours. A captive audience, but Tedros doesn’t really mind. It takes his mind off things, and he knows Sophie understands. As he’d collapsed, he’d heard her laughing over Japeth’s body. He knows she killed the Mistral Sisters, as she’d threatened to do, though he doesn’t know how, or when. They don’t talk about it, but he notices how often she puts her hand to her ear, now, under the guise of moving her hair.
Well, Japeth is dead, and Tedros is King.
Yes, he’s King. The true King, hiding in his financeé’s old dorm room at School.
It’s a hollow victory, really.
As much as he hates being here, he’s dreading his return to Camelot more. Because he can’t be seen to be like this; fleeing at the first sight of a blade, locking Excalibur, the very symbol of his victory, away in the Hall of Kings and avoiding it at all costs. That’s what he’s supposed to be good at; winning battles with swords. Not that he ever was that good. Or ever won any battles on his own merit. But he doesn’t have much else going for him.
The worthy winner indeed.
Tedros forgets that Agatha can pick locks, so when the door opens, he startles out of a doze.
“I know you don’t like stew that much, but this is overkill, surely.”
He knows she’s trying valiantly to cheer him up, and he loves her for it, but it’s not really working.
He goes to get out, socks slipping on the dry walls of the tub, but Agatha climbs in opposite him and puts her feet, horrible boots and all, in his lap. She dumps the food basket on the floor.
“Ate spaghetti in the tub once. At Camelot. Pretty good setting, actually. Though there was water, then.” She flips the basket open. “I got you some stuff from Anemone’s room. If she noticed, she didn’t care.”
She throws a slab of gingerbread into his arms, which has always been his favourite-- but Tedros frowns, knowing it’s what they make the doors of. He turns it over and notices a toffee hinge still stuck to the side.
“What are they going to do?” says Agatha, noticing his expression. “Give the Queen of Camelot detention for vandalism of school property?”
Tedros nods carefully, trying not to jar his neck. Agatha grins. They both know she’s not technically Queen yet, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone thinks she is.
“Anemone won’t, she’s soft on me. Besides, they can’t prove it was me.” She eyes him, ladling stew into her own bowl. “Eat it, you look pinched.”
Tedros breaks a small piece off and takes a tiny bite, mostly just to please her. He’s not really hungry, and it hurts to each large amounts. But he knows he’s lost weight, and he knows Agatha doesn’t like it.
“Anemone has assigned a Beautification task,” says Agatha suddenly, face twisting slightly. Wry. Dry. Whatever it is, she’s not best pleased. “For both the first years and fourth.”
Tedros raises an eyebrow.
“It is,” says Agatha, very deliberately. “A dress design competition.”
Tedros looks at her. Agatha doesn’t have a fashionable bone in her body-- she’d match red and green and see nothing wrong with it. She’s already announced an intention to just wear what she’s given, when she’s Queen. Never going to be an icon of fashion, unless her clumps count.
“No need to look at me like that,” says Agatha. “I don’t have to participate.”
Agatha doesn’t comment on the talking. They both know he can, but he sounds weird and it still hurts, so he doesn’t. He thinks everyone else is of the opinion that he’s being deliberately obstinate, and he can’t be bothered to correct them.
“Because they’re designing my wedding dress.”
“ WHAT ?”
The outburst was a poor gamble, because he doubles over in pain, but at least he’s gotten his absolute dismay out there.
Tedros looks back up, struck with horror. Agatha’s mouth curls in mirth, flattens, then curls again.
“Yeah, the winning one is gonna get handed over to the royal seamstress and they’re gonna incorporate it. Allegedly.”
Tedros gets the distinct impression she hasn’t actually agreed to this. Agatha pauses thoughtfully.
“You know, it seems to be becoming a theme within the lessons. Uma was telling us all about animals that have carried rings and crowns and things at weddings. I hear Espada’s been talking about guards of honour, too.”
Tedros isn’t sure if he’s genuinely irritated or just exasperated. But Agatha doesn’t seem bothered, so...
He slowly gathers his expression back to neutral.
“I’m sensing that you’re not finding this as amusing as me.” snorts Agatha, going back to her stew. “I thought telling you would be funny.”
Tedros slowly shakes his head.
Agatha shrugs, shovelling potatoes into her mouth.
“Well, they’re going to have to wait a while, which no one seems to have grasped yet.” she swallows. “It’s hugely impractical, and reads as frivolous, to hold a wedding right now. Camelot is destroyed and we should probably spend the remainder of that damned CB fund on social structure and things. Plus, you can barely talk.”
Tedros lets out a breath. She’s right, as usual. She’s always right. He’s just glad they’re on the same page.
“Doesn’t mean I’m not going to abuse the hell out of this to avoid doing any proper work, though.” says Agatha brightly. “I can say any word beginning with W and Anemone loses her shit. It’s annoying to have all the first year girls following me around, but I can put up with it if it means I never have to do another lesson about court gowns again.”
Tedros sighs deeply, thinking she probably has to know about court gowns. Agatha cackles, bashing his knees with her boots. Then frowns.
“I don’t want the rest of this.” She shoves the spoon back in the bowl and holds it out to him. “Finish it, won’t you?”
Tedros stares balefully at her, trying to make her aware of how unsubtle she’s being. Agatha looks back at him, sly. He’d not been aware she could make herself look so, until she’d done it in the Celestieum, and he’d immediately agreed without really thinking about what he was agreeing to. And now she knows it works, so--
With a sigh, he leans over and takes it from her.
The next morning, for some reason Tedros doesn’t quite fathom, he changes his mind.
Maybe it was the faintly amusing prospect of Anemone’s fussiness over the wedding, maybe he was finally bored out of his mind, but when Agatha asks him if he wants to come, he says yes .
But it’s Swordplay first, and Tedros isn’t going within twenty feet of that place, so instead he tags along with Agatha to double Beautification.
Though he regrets it once Anemone takes one look at him and bursts into tears.
Tedros looks awkwardly away, and accidentally catches Beatrix’s eye from where she’s sitting nearby, wearing an Everboy’s coat over her pink uniform and ripped tights.
Beatrix does not burst into tears. Instead, she does an almost perfect imitation of Anemone’s crying face.
Agatha makes the most pathetic attempt at holding in laughter she’s ever made (she starts choking), and even Tedros has to bite his cheek. Anemone doesn’t notice, most likely because she can’t see through her peeling-off fake eyelashes.
Eventually it gets a bit much, and Tedros has to awkwardly pat her arm whilst she tearfully tells him that she wishes she’d got to teach him and, actually, he’d always been her favourite because his bone structure was godly--
But then Agatha says the W-word, and all misery is forgotten.
With black mascara lines down her cheeks, Anemone springs into action, immediately jabbering on about famous wedding dresses from previous Queens and Empresses and Sultanas and--
Tedros settles himself on the floor in between Agatha and Beatrix’s desks, and leans against Agatha’s leg, tying weird knots in her bootlaces. There is a spare desk, but it feels disrespectful to take it, given he knows who it used to belong to. Plus, he doesn’t particularly want to sit in full view of everyone. Agatha, Beatrix and Reena will do fine, since none of them are interested in gawking at him.
Anemone goes through brides, then onto grooms, blathering on about everyone from Aladdin to Prince Charming, and constantly going off on tangents about Tedros’s complexion and how handsome he’ll look in x y and z, making no comment on the pinched, unshaven state of his face, or his too-long hair, or the obvious mess of his neck. Agatha looks rather smug about the direction this lesson has taken, especially when Anemone starts talking about how slit doublets are in. Tedros decides to make fun of her for being shallow later, and thinks that maybe Anemone, for all her dramatics, does have a little tact after all. He’s grateful for it.
“There’s plenty of fashion brands fighting to design for you, dear.” Anemone tells him. “Von Zarashin, Cinderella’s Mice Designs, Genie and Co--”
“Sophie’s gonna be furious.” whispers Beatrix. “Madame Von Zarashin is her thing.”
Tedros looks up, grinning.
“Don’t do it though, her men’s collections are pure trash.” says Beatrix. “Who still wears cannions nowadays?”
“What are cannions?” demands Agatha.
“Those really short puffy breeches that only cover the thigh.” says Reena. “Worn with tights and fancy slippers, usually. Jaunt Jolie and Maidenvale noblemen tend to wear them.”
“Oh.” Agatha looks down at Tedros. “I’ll altar-dash if you wear them.”
“I wasn’t gonna.” croaks Tedros. “I have self-respect.”
Beatrix snorts half of the fudge she’s eating out of her nose and starts choking. Clearly holding Tedros responsible, she pulls his hair, and he slaps her hand, and they grapple until Anemone interrupts them.
“Are you quite done?” she sighs as Tedros tries to push Beatrix off her chair.
“It’s all part of the planning process, Professor.” yawns Agatha.
They have a free period after, so they go to the Library of Virtue.
“Oh good, we don’t have to banish any first years from the good chairs.” says Beatrix brightly, flinging herself down on a plush sofa. “They’re practically always skulking in here. You’d have thought they’d have lessons to go to.”
“You can’t be mean to them.” says Reena. “They helped us a lot.”
“They helped us a bit.” snorts Beatrix. “The only person I really owe anything to is Teddy.”
She leans over and squishes his cheeks together. Tedros tries to look unimpressed, but it doesn’t work. He much prefers this Beatrix-- the actual Beatrix-- to the one that had hounded him in first year, though even then, he’d seen flashes of her joviality and wicked wit.
“You should really stop giving Anemone false hope.” Beatrix tells Agatha. “She’s going to appoint herself your stylist if you don’t stop.”
“She’d have to fight Sophie to the death for it, I wouldn’t be too worried.” says Agatha, settling herself in a patch of sun on the floor and stretching like a cat. Tedros scans the three of them and finds himself bewildered by the odd assortment of uniforms-- Agatha is wearing Everboy breeches and the white blouse that had been part of the Evergirl uniform, Beatrix is wearing one of the Everboy’s coats over her pink dress, and Reena is wearing her usual uniform, but with boots.
Agatha notices the look.
“We’ve all ruined our original uniforms, so we just took random things from the storerooms, because we didn’t want to wear the new ones.”
“The new dress is ghastly.” says Reena. “Sophie has no taste.”
Tedros half expects Sophie to materialise from behind a shelf and try and throttle Reena, but she doesn’t appear, mercifully.
But there’s people behind the shelves; whispering and giggling and craning their necks.
“ No, you go!”
“I’m not going…!”
First years. Tedros hadn’t been banking on this.
He looks away quickly, and accidentally catches Beatrix’s eye--
“Teddy,” says Beatrix briskly. “Did you see the article on Foxwood in the Courier today? Absolute farce, the King hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing--”
She snatches the paper from a side table and practically throws it at him. Tedros snatches it open at a random page and mouths thank you from behind it. It’s stupid, but it works, so he doesn’t really care.
Still, he can see from the corner of his eye as a hot-pink clad Evergirl is shoved out from behind the bookshelves-- not one he recognises.
“Um-- Princess Agatha?”
Agatha cracks an eye open, not bothering to get off the floor.
“We were wondering if… uh, maybe you could look over our Good Deeds tests? We were supposed to peer mark them but since this was the one you got 100% on... we thought maybe...”
It occurs to Tedros, suddenly, that this makes perfect sense. Agatha is practically God to these random first year girls. Star of two fairy tales, 100% Good, soon to be married and to become Queen-- of Camelot nonetheless-- and she’s just there , lying on the floor of the Library of Virtue.
No wonder they follow her about.
The girl’s face lights up.
“ Really ?”
“Yeah, I’ve not got anything else to do.”
“Oh-- thank you--”
She goes to curtsy, seems to think better of it, gets stuck halfway, then stumbles back to her friends, who are snatching papers off the table.
“That’s the one we all failed, so don’t ask us for help.” says Beatrix as Agatha receives a pile of five or so papers.
“Yes, I vividly remember the look on Tedros’s face when he got it back.” snorts Agatha.
Tedros drops the top half of the paper just to glare at her. Agatha grins.
“Looked something like that, in fact.”
They go to lunch, and Tedros referees the fourth-year rugby game, mostly just by blowing a whistle a lot and making rude hand gestures at them. Beatrix demolishes Tarquin, Oliver and Bastain with not a lot of effort. Agatha eats Tedros’s dessert, and he lets her. Sophie comes and sits with them and shouts at the first years. It’s relatively serene, if he ignores everyone who walks past him doing a double take. They go to Animal Communication, and Tedros pets all the wolves and Agatha is banished to sit with him, after getting too close to the first year Wish Fish lesson for Uma’s liking.
It’s not until they’re heading to dinner that Espada confronts him.
Agatha has gone ahead to find the first years from earlier, and Beatrix is trying to get mud out of her hair, so he’s going alone, and has done a fine job of not being noticed, until--
He probably does a poor job of disguising his dismay as the Swordplay teacher comes marching towards him, because frankly he’s fighting the urge to bolt.
“Didn’t see you in my lesson this morning.” he says briskly. “But Emma said you were in hers. Is that right?”
Tedros nods mutely. Espada sucks his teeth.
“I appreciate she’s hard to say no to, but when are we going to get you back in Swordplay, eh? Better be before you go back to Camelot. The first year lads are hopeless, they could do with a few... pointers .”
He laughs heartily at the weak pun, patting his sheathed blade, and Tedros tries his best to smile, avoiding looking at the scabbard. Espada had been his favourite teacher in first year, and the idea of disappointing him makes him anxious, but…
Espada is looking hopefully at him. Tedros bites his cheek, sweat pricking his palms--
Tedros turns to find Sophie stalking down the hall.
“No one bother to tell you he can’t talk, darling?”
“Oh!” Espada turns on Tedros. “I completely forgot-- sorry, lad. Was wondering why you weren’t saying anything. Perhaps that should be a priority, eh?”
Tedros nods weakly, trying to look unbothered.
“Yeah, thinking about it, you look pretty thin.” Espada looks him up and down briefly. “Put some weight back on, yeah? Good lad. Chin up!”
He claps him slightly too hard on the shoulder and goes sauntering off, whistling. Sophie comes to stand next to him, glaring at the dithering first years who’d stopped to stare.
Tedros turns to look at her.
“Don’t really want to put my chin up, to be honest.”
It’s barely audible, but Sophie hears him anyway.
They stare at each other for a second--
Then burst out laughing. It’s painful for Tedros, and it ruins Sophie’s mascara when she starts crying from it, but it’s much needed.
When Sophie’s finally gotten her breath back, she looks brightly at him;
“Let’s go and sit on Halfway Bridge, darling, I feel like I’ve barely seen you, and I simply have to tell you about the class that hog-tied Hort. I’ll send someone to tell Aggie where we’ve gone. Come on!”
So they do; they sit and gossip and throw pebbles at the few crogs that remain in the moat. They drink the pink lemonade that Sophie pilfered from the teacher’s supply.
“-- but I barely have time to get a manicure since I’m in all these meetings about graduation--”
Tedros startles. He’d completely forgotten about graduation.
“We’re thinking how best to honour the people who died.” says Sophie sadly. “Been asking for input from people who knew them. Beatrix and Reena for Millicent and Chaddick. Willam and Kiko for Yara. We asked the teachers and Aggie about Dovey and Lesso. Do you want to add anything? For Chaddick or Nicholas? Or Yara?”
Tedros nods slowly.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Of course, darling.” Sophie swings her legs. “By the way, I thought you’d appreciate the knowledge that I’ve been intercepting letters for you and reading them.”
Tedros frowns, very much not seeing how he should appreciate that, but Sophie barrels on;
“Mostly the old bats that call themselves your advisors, who aren’t impressed at being bossed about by a teenage Merlin. Bothering you about various things; knights, Excalibur, all that. I wrote back and told them to bugger off.”
Tedros looks nervously down at the moat, knowing full well that he’s going to have to turn his attention back to matters concerning Camelot soon, and not liking it. He doesn’t think his reception is going to be very enthusiastic. He’s got no court, no knights, not even one…
Above them, people are coming out onto the balconies after dinner. He can hear Beatrix and Reena laughing.
“What?” demands Sophie, suddenly seeing the change in his face. Tedros shakes his head, but an idea is forming nonetheless. Clearly sensing she’s not going to get to know, Sophie sighs and sits back.
“Well, I’m going to try and think of a way to get you out of Swordplay.” she says. “Possibly I’ll claim wedding planning, or something. Or haul people over from Camelot to have meetings during the lessons. Anything, really. If I have to kill Espada, so be it. I’ll make it look like an accident.”
Tedros smiles weakly, knowing he can’t avoid it forever. He’s got no army or team of knights, so he’s going to need to suck it up--
Sophie must read something of his thought process on his face, because she leans over and squeezes his hand.
“You’re King, Teddy. You can do what you want.”
Tedros wishes that were true. He appreciates Sophie, and is glad she came to talk to him, but he’s still in a distinctly bad mood as he stalks back down the Tunnel of Trees that evening. Espada and Swordplay loom, as do the extremely public graduation, and the knowledge that his court are starting to get impatient with him.
So it’s not surprising that he utterly loses his temper with the Neverboys who make hissing noises at him when he passes.
“DON’T YOU HAVE SOME LESSONS TO BE FAILING?” he shouts, and they jump like startled deer at the horrible grate in his voice, and the unexpected volume. “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY!”
They clearly hadn’t expected him to retaliate, because they stumble back, trampling on each other to get clear of his path, stabbing each other with the spikes on their coats. Tedros shoves past them, rounds the corner, and practically runs the rest of the Tunnel, fighting stinging tears the whole way.
Beatrix is in the Clearing when Tedros shouts at the first years, and heads him off when he rounds the corner. A few years ago, it would have been a profoundly bad idea, but not any more-- he just looks at her, and lets her drag him to sit on a tree stump in the shade of the poplar trees. She has to admit, his complacency is somewhat unnerving. Doesn’t even dig his heels in like he used to.
“Never thought I’d miss your pigheadedness until now, you know.” she says to him. “Can’t you be just a little bit wilful? You’re freaking me out.”
A tiny smile touches the corner of his mouth, exposing the dimple on his left cheek, but it’s not very enthusiastic. Beatrix has long given up on wishing she was Agatha, but now she’s teetering on the brink of it again, if only because she has the unique gift of distracting Tedros without trying very hard.
Tedros is looking around narrowly, and Beatrix follows his gaze, wondering what he’s looking at.
He stands up and comes to stand in front of her. Beatrix looks up at him, fielding a stab of deja vu--
“...Oh.” she says.
They’re sitting on the stump he’d courted her from in first year; the trees have grown over since, but it’s the same one she’d sat on every day, where she’d stretched her legs out and combed her hair and accepted flowers.
“I didn’t do that on purpose. Don’t worry, I’m not making a move.”
A slightly wider smile, this time. He sits back down, seemingly unbothered.
“That feels about a hundred years ago, doesn’t it?” mutters Beatrix. “Embarrassing, really. I worked very hard to convince myself I liked you.”
Tedros raises his eyebrows at her. Beatrix grins.
“Sorry, did I bruise your ego? I think I found your father’s fortune more attractive than you in yourself.”
Tedros stares, unimpressed.
“If it’ll make you feel better, you’re much better looking, now.” offers Beatrix. “You look a bit scruffier. It’s hot.”
Tedros rolls his eyes and pulls a face.
“You won’t be doing that when I ask Agatha and she agrees with me.” says Beatrix sternly. Tedros firmly ignores her, turning his head slightly and exposing where the scar drops around the back of his neck. The black bruising is going purple, slowly fading, but it’s still incredibly noticeable. It makes Beatrix’s chest hurt to look at it, but she’s not going to burst into tears like old Anemone. More than anything, she’s unhappy to see him so subdued. She misses his ridiculousness-- his swaggering step and how he deliberately but subtly unlaces his shirt around Agatha, his flares of sudden passion and deep laugh. It probably won’t ever entirely come back, and while that’s perhaps a good thing for a King, Beatrix can’t help but feel a little sad. In all honesty, no matter how hard she’d tried to convince herself otherwise, Tedros is more of a brother then anything else.
They sit and watch some first years sparring with staves and practicing archery near the brook. Beatrix leans against his shoulder. Tedros starts trying to make her hair stick up.
“They really are terrible.” she snorts. “Dreadful stances.”
Tedros says something.
She doesn’t hear him the first time, and he has to repeat it.
“...your liege? Like Chaddick? And Rhian?”
The very distinctive shade of red that Tedros turns when he’s embarrassed is starting to creep across his cheekbones. Beatrix finds herself rather pleased to see it.
Beatrix stares at him. Her quest is over, and she’s given no real thought to what she’ll do after. Reena will eventually inherit her father’s throne, since Kaveen is somewhat disgraced, but she hasn’t really been intending to live in Shazabah all the time...
She thinks wryly of first year Beatrix’s absolute conviction that she would graduate into the elaborate halls of Camelot. Technically, she supposes she was right.
“Teddy,” she says. “I’d be honoured.”
Tedros’s face brightens--
Something occurs to Beatrix, and she pauses, looking over at first years.
“I can replace you in Swordplay.” she says.
Tedros looks at her, confused.
“Well, I can, can’t I?” Beatrix says. “I’m a Knight, now. Espada will be so excited about that, that he’ll probably let me lead the first years, instead, so you don’t have to do it. Well, not a Knight officially , but everyone calls Agatha a Queen and legally she’s still just a peasant--”
Tedros’s face splits into a proper grin.
“Don’t tell her that.”
“I will, and she’ll probably do something horribly uncouth like try and bite me, feral as she is--”
Tedros swats at her and Beatrix laughs, darting out of the way, but she catches the look on Tedros’s face and smiles more genuinely.
“First thing I’ll do for you, Teddy. And I promise I won’t try and sabotage your wedding.”
Tedros smiles back--
“What’s this about me being feral? And wedding sabotaging? What’s going on?”
Beatrix looks up to find Agatha standing in the grass nearby, watching them.
“We’re not having an affair.” says Beatrix.
“Congrats.” says Agatha. “What are you doing?”
“Teddy is making me his liege, because I am the only choice who will never have an affair with either of you.”
Tedros turns indignantly on her in a strangled protest of that is not what I said, Bea as Agatha doubles over with laughter, and Beatrix thinks they might be approaching normal after all.
They go to the library again, a few days later, and Agatha intercepts all the Camelot mail. Tedros and Beatrix watch her in awe as she sorts them into the actually important and load of shit piles, occasionally handing Tedros things she thinks are relevant. Mostly he seems just content to sit there, read the odd thing, and tell her at frequent intervals that she’s an angel and he loves her. Agatha tells him that to make it up to her, he needs to concede to a chocolate cake at the wedding; a massive one, that she can mostly eat herself. Tedros says she can have two if she really wants, and tries to kiss her, and they get momentarily... distracted, and knock the actually important pile on the floor. Beatrix snorts and goes back to answering her mother’s hysterical letter.
Later, they skip dinner to sit in the Clearing, around the fire pit; Reena has come to join them, and Sophie. Agatha burns the irrelevant letters in order to toast marshmallows on them, and they muse about the upcoming graduation; whose parents are pompous gits, whose are fun, why they’re going to deliberately sit the King of Foxwood at the back… the like.
“Odd news,” says Sophie suddenly. “A group of my Neverboys have had extremely inflamed breakouts of boils everywhere, this morning. And I mean everywhere. We quarantined them in case it was contagious, but I couldn’t help but think, Aggie, that it reminded me of Callis’s boil potion.”
Beatrix slowly turns her head, thinking that Agatha had spent a suspiciously long time getting those letters this morning. But Agatha looks unruffled when she says;
“My mother never used that potion as far as I know. Just told us about it.”
“Oh, I know.” says Sophie. “But from what she said, the symptoms are almost identical.”
“How funny.” says Agatha blandly.
A pause. Agatha and Sophie stare at each other.
“ Agatha.” hisses Sophie. “I know you jinxed my students! ”
“ Really, Sophie.” sniffed Agatha. “I’m about to become Queen of Camelot, and you think I’m going to be wasting time with boil potions on some first year Nevers?”
It would have been convincing had she not been sat with the two people who knew her best in the world, and seeing as both of them looked immediately sceptical, Beatrix was fairly sure she was lying.
“Yes!” spluttered Sophie. “You have been! Teddy, you know she did--”
Tedros, playing with Agatha’s hair, looked vaguely up.
“What? Oh. Dunno.”
Sophie turns exasperatedly away from him.
“I know you gave them boils because they were rude to him, Agatha!”
“They deserved it.” says Agatha through a mouthful of marshmallow, getting fluff stuck to her hair. Clearly she’d given up on lying about it.
“Yes, of course they deserved it but--”
“Sorry, can I have context for this?” interjects Reena, returning with a stack of bread from the kitchens. “Who deserved what?”
“Know those first year brats Tedros ran into yesterday?” says Agatha, pulling the burnt shell off another marshmallow and shoveling it into her mouth. “Gave ‘em boils on their boll--”
“Aggie, for god’s sake--”
Beatrix and Reena roar with laughter as it devolves into Sophie and Agatha arguing with each other and Tedros sitting in the middle, trying to look impartial and doing a bad job.
Tedros sits on his own later, in the shadows of the trees under someone’s cloak. He’s forgotten whose it is. Maybe Beatrix’s. Agatha, Beatrix, Reena and a newly-arrived Coven are singing sea shanties extremely loudly and extremely poorly, and Sophie is rapidly retreating. More people have come to join their little fireside gathering-- a cluster of Tedros’s old Everboy classmates who came to discuss the merits of Beatrix’s appointment and to make themselves useful maintaining the fire, the Coven turned up at the promise of food, as have several other classmates, and Hort is lurking on the fringe. Tedros has pulled back at the appearance of so many people, and he doesn’t think he has the energy to participate, so he sits quietly in the corner and observes. Despite his reluctance to actually join in, he can’t remember the last time he’s felt so… normal.
Well, normal is perhaps generous. There are still bad nights, when Tedros wakes up slick with sweat, clutching his neck, and Agatha has to pry his hands away and hold him whilst he sobs. He still gives the Swordplay Arena a wide berth. He avoids most people when he can, like he’s doing now. But in some ways… it’s getting easier. He’s starting to deal with correspondence, his bruising is fading and talking is getting easier, and Agatha has started dumping random wedding planning details on him instead, which he quite enjoys. Even if it means he has to field fights between Sophie, the royal seamstress, and Agatha when she declares she wants to wear black, and they both go catatonic in horror. He’s building back up to normalcy is maybe a fairer statement, even if he intends to wear high collars for the rest of his life, and will probably tend to skirt mentions of his father for a very long time.
Well, whatever. Tough. Arthur’s not alive to know about it, and despite Japeth’s best efforts, Tedros still is.
At some point, he must fall asleep, because he has a series of extremely odd dreams.
His father’s statue in King’s Cove, still staring blankly, topples over and turns into a spray of light just as it hits the floor. Agatha punches him in Merlin’s Menagerie, then laughs and jumps into the portal to Halfway Bridge. He follows her, and they end up in Avalon, kissing on the moors. And then he sits next to the lake in Gavaldon, which is empty, save two white swans and a black one. He looks behind him and Callis raises her eyebrows, then steps aside as Sophie wrestles a giant python, trapped in its coils like Laocoön, then suddenly becomes the Lion, then the Eagle, then--
Tedros turns away, agitated, and makes to leave, finding the grass turning to stone under his boots, turning to the halls of Blue Tower, back in Camelot. He startles when a smaller hand grabs his, and someone falls into step beside him.
He turns to look, for he feels he’s being addressed--
He jerks awake to find Agatha crouched over him.
“We’re gonna go inside, it’s about to rain.”
“Oh--” Tedros sits up and shrugs off the cloak, struggling to get his brain back in order.
“Are you okay?”
“I-- yeah.” Tedros blinks a couple of times. “Yeah, I’m alright.”
And he finds that, for the first time in a very long time, it rings true.