"Your Majesties," Talun said, bowing himself out of their quarters, and then Llane was alone with his Queen and an impeccably arranged seduction. An unexpected free evening, freshly aired rooms full of the sweet scent of peacebloom and roses, their wedding flowers, a light supper of rare delicacies and (good grief!) oysters, a chilled bottle of sweet wine, and the polite reminder that a display of shooting stars was expected to begin within the hour.
If the problem lay with a lack of lovemaking, this would have been a potent remedy.
They shared a wry smile that broadened when the plaintive song of a lute carried up from the courtyard below. Taria hid a laugh behind her hand. "Music as well? They've gone to so much effort. We should make sure not to let it go to waste," she teased him, pulling out the pins that made the elegant twist of her hair fall down her back like a waterfall. It left her all at once the impish girl he'd met so long ago, and he the dumbstruck young boy she'd always made him. His wife, now, and how had that happened?
"Taria," he sighed, and followed her wicked smile as she backed toward the laden table, heading unerringly for the platter of tiny fruit tarts that had undoubtedly been prepared entirely for her pleasure. She plucked one, topped with a swirl of whipped cream and a strawberry fat enough to dwarf the tart itself, and popped it in her mouth whole, caught between chewing and moaning and grinning all at the same time. "Glutton." He captured her waist and pulled her in tight, kissing her laughing mouth.
"We have been as good as ordered to indulge in debauchery, love," she whispered. "Your advisers wouldn't force us to this if it wasn't for the good of the nation; it's our duty, Llane."
"What would they say if they knew what a shameless woman I'd taken to wife?" Llane mused. With a throaty, dismissive moan, she pressed herself closer. He watched her lean back for another trifle, this one garnished with chocolate in every form imaginable, and picked her up at the wordless urging of a leg wrapped around his thigh. This one, too, disappeared quickly, and he sucked her finger clean when it was offered, and then chased the taste of it from her tongue. His sweet tease of a girl.
"Hmm. Take me to bed," she commanded him, and he gladly obeyed.
"At once, Your Majesty."
Of course, none of it would get him heirs.
Four years had passed since his marriage, and everyone but he and his Queen, one old Councillor of his father's, and a healer paid very handsomely for his continued loyalty and silence, was starting to be very concerned by the lack of children it had produced. No doubt soon enough he would start to hear talk of another marriage, when the concern grew just a little stronger than the very wise fear of his reaction to the idea of setting aside his wife. Even if Taria had been the one with the problem, he wouldn't. Couldn't.
If only adoption was a possibility. If only his brother had lived. If only he'd gone to the healer a little sooner...
But you couldn't make a life out of if only. He smoothed out a curl of her hair against the soft skin of her shoulder mindlessly, over and over. He had always known this was his only option, and Taria, too, had accepted it long before their marriage began. All that he had been putting off was choosing the man to father his children, his heirs. The man to fuck his wife.
"Llane," she returned as solemnly. It came with reluctance but he smiled nonetheless, and when it faded he dropped his head to rest against that little curl and her steadying warmth.
"There's no easy way to talk about this.... I don't know how to start." His head rose and fell with her quick breath in.
"Ah. The matter of children," she said deliberately. "You never know how to start when it's about this." He thought back to the first time he'd broached the subject, making an utter hash of his proposal with talk of his bollocks and inviting another man to their bed before they even had one, and was obliged to laugh.
"No." The silence dragged out, and she rolled onto her side, pushing him off and propping herself up on her elbow. She stared into his eyes, patient and determined and calmly expectant. "I've thought of somebody. Someone I trust." She swallowed, the only sign of nerves he could see, and nodded.
It was his turn to swallow, then. "Anduin." She blinked quickly.
"Anduin? And- My Anduin?" she stammered, as thrown as he'd ever seen her. Somehow, the ridiculousness of the situation made it through, and he smiled.
"I'd like to think he was our Anduin by now, love. He's my General, after all, my second most trusted adviser," he said with an attempt at a roguish flirt that passed her by. Pushing herself upright, she glared down at him, lost.
"My best friend."
"Be serious. You want to leave your throne to a child of incest?"
"I want to leave my throne to the child of the two best people I've ever known." She stared at him as though he had run mad, and then shoved him in the shoulder like they were teenagers again; a girl and the boy who was just her stupid brother's best friend.
"That's sweet," she said, dryly, "but those two people happen to be brother and sister." She cringed, saying it, and he grabbed the hand that had struck him. He carried it to his mouth and kissed her knuckles and then the heart of her palm.
"It's a bizarre thing to ask you, I know, but.... Who else am I to trust?" he asked slowly. He had other arguments to lay before her (chief amongst them being that nobody would think twice about his children resembling their uncle), but this was what it all boiled down to, in the end. He couldn't imagine trusting anyone else with not just his own secrets and the future of the realm, but with Taria as well. As a child he'd viewed the likelihood of someone else fathering his heirs with a mixture of apathy and sullen resentment, but since Taria had become part of the picture the whole prospect had become terribly real.
"Give me time," she'd asked him, when he couldn't have blamed her for storming from the room or slapping him (and when he had planned that conversation he had considered far worse outcomes). It was nothing to promise her in return for what he had suggested, and so time he gave her. Fortuitous, though not deliberate, timing on his part to have raised the subject when Anduin wasn't around. They barely spoke when alone together, but he watched her; the signs that betrayed her disquiet beneath the grace she was known across Azeroth for. The little crease that sat between her brows more often than not. The twitch of her jaw in long moments of silence.
Gradually, he saw a draining of tension from her shoulders, a lessening of the distance she had put between them, and the fear that had dogged his steps withdrew a pace or two. She would forgive him.
And, once Anduin returned from Karazhan, Llane kept watching her. The skeptical way she took him in. The flicker of her eyes over his body while he trained. The slow turning from dubious appraisal to something else. Something more. Llane didn't push her, and he didn't speak to Anduin. A torturous month went by like that, watching her watching him. Then he walked into their chambers one evening, exhausted from a long day with neither of them in sight, to find them both waiting for him, brother and sister on either side of the fire. Anduin was without armour or weapons, and when he met Llane's eyes his were wild.
"You're a bloody idiot, Sire. This is the stupidest idea I've heard in a long time," he growled. Llane could hear the unspoken 'since your last bright idea' in the words, and grinned, warmth swelling in his chest. "Where do you want me?"
Before anything else, Llane turned to his wife. She was dressed for bed, her hair loose, face clean and bare, and by the firelight she looked young again. She was watching Anduin, as if he were some strange beast, wary but curious. "Love?" Turning that same pensive look on him, she gave him a quiet little smile, hardly a quirk of her mouth. "Sometimes I still don't think I truly know you," he told her. "Are you...?"
"Fine." She shook her head and stood, smoothing out the folds of her robe. "I'm fine, Llane." She crossed the room and took his hands in hers and kissed him. Not the first since that night, but it was the first time he felt she was letting him in, and he gathered her in tight, relief crushing him.
"I've been selfish," he whispered. "I should never have brought this up. I am a bloody idiot." Laughing, she pushed herself away and then ducked back in for another quick kiss.
"That was never in question," she teased. She turned and held her hand out to Anduin, who had moved closer while Llane was distracted, and now stood watching them. He looked very like Taria had, a moment before, and Llane felt the shock of it in his gut. "Come."
There should have been thunder when their hands met, or the clash of metal, but instead it was very prosaic. The thought struck him suddenly that he couldn't recall seeing them hold hands before, even as children. It was a courtly thing, to begin with, but then they were clinging tightly to one another, Taria's knuckles paling under the force of her grip. "Come on," she said again, and led them both into the bedchamber. His brave wife. What a woman he'd married.