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you talk in your sleep.

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Lila Bard had always lived with the bare minimum.
Cold, alone, with little food if not without a meal for days – those were the hardest, and yet she’d survived. When she’d become a pirate, thanks to her dear friend Alucard Emery, she’d finally started going day by day with food in her stomach. And wine – a lot of very good wine.
What she would’ve never thought was that one she’ll find herself sitting at dinner with a king, eating the dishes only her dream could’ve created. And everyone knew about her appreciation for it thanks to the small noises she couldn’t contain.
“Look at that,” Alucard said arching his brows. “Ten months at sea and she turns into an animal,” a grin painted on his lips as Lila looked up from her plate.
“Wasn’t she already?” Rhy – king Rhy – asked with an amused expression on. At her side, Kell almost chocked on his wine trying not to laugh.
“You’re playing with fire,” she mumbled, eyeing the three men but stopping on Kell. “All of you,” her voice toned down, and he let his smile fade slightly. Or at least tried to.
“Bard, you’re gonna end up sick if you don’t slow down,” Alucard called, taking a sip of wine. Ten months at palace and he transforms into a Lord.
“I’ve been sick for the lack of food in my stomach for too long, I don’t care,” she replied, arching a brow. That shut them down, and it was her turn to laugh. She leaned back in her chair, cleaning her mouth and hands slowly before cocking her head to the side. “Look at you, all worried and gloomy for my past,” she grinned, because it was the only way she kept it a bay. The memories, the pain, all of it. Kell knew – she was rather talkative in the middle of the night when he tried to sleep with his head on her stomach. She had told him everything, slowly, day by day, so that she could free herself, and so he could know her. Really know her – who was the last person she’d said so much to? Alucard? No, he didn’t know everything about her. Had there been someone who actually knew her?
“– on the ship too,” Kell was saying, and she realized she had zoned out. He had a little smile on his face, one of his hands was on her knee, but he was looking at his brother.
“Gentlemen, will you excuse me, I’m in need of a shower,” she clapped her hands, looking at her empty plate – she felt so full she might’ve rolled to the bed. Maybe they had a point. “By the way, he’s a terrible sailor,” she quickly said looking at Alucard while pointing at Kell, “you were lucky to have me,” she smiled at Kell’s protests, leaning forward to shut him up with a quick kiss.
“Public demonstrations of affection? Damn, Kell, you ruined my thief,” Alucard clicked his tongue, and in response she gave him a vulgar gesture that probably woke up Rhy’s ancestors.

“So, what are you gonna do?” Rhy asked, looking at his brother. He tried not to sound too expectant, but the truth was he missed him – Alucard was good at his job, but he was better at distracting him, and maybe having Kell back would’ve been better. “You’re staying or you’re going back?” Kell sighed, pushing his hair back from his forehead – they were longer than Rhy remembered, and badly cut. Lila’s work, possibly.
“I don’t know,” he murmured. “It seems I haven’t seen it all – probably I won’t, never, but I love being at sea and,” he shrugged, looking down as if he was embarrassed, “with her,” he gestured vaguely towards the rooms, knowing his brother would’ve understood.
“Ah, that,” Rhy chuckled slightly. Had he ever seen his brother so happy? “It seems you two had quite a few adventures in these months – and that you enjoyed yourself,” the king was grinning, and Kell threw him one of the pillows he was leaning on making him laugh. “It’s true! I can feel it, remember?” Kell sighed loudly before rubbing his face – there were a few moments of silence, then Rhy spoke again, his voice lower. “You really do love her, don’t you?” Kell tensed, his eyes wide, and he was about to reply when Alucard entered, holding three glasses full of dark liquor. The Antari quickly took one and downed it in one single movement, leaving Alucard bewildered.
“Would you look at that, he drinks like a pirate!” he exclaimed, sitting next to Rhy a moment later. “What were you talking about that made him like,” he gestured to Kell’s expression, a mixture of worry and realization, “that.” Rhy took one of the remanent glasses and placed his head on Alucard’s shoulder.
“The fact that he loves Lila,” he said calmly, making his brother look at him with pure terror, “and he hasn’t told her yet,” he added, and Alucard moved his gaze from him to Kell.
“Ten months at sea in my beautiful, comfortable cabin and you still haven’t told her? I thought you were braver after fighting a God,” there was amusement in his voice, and Kell looked at him with a frown.
“I tried to avoid being thrown in the middle of the sea – you know Lila,” he protested, making both Alucard and Rhy laugh. The truth was he had tried. Night after night, whenever she added a piece of her history to the puzzle he wanted to tell her, but was afraid he might fright her or that he would’ve ended up sleeping on deck. For the rest of his days.
“I know she cares about you enough she hasn’t stabbed your hand on her leg for the whole dinner,” Alucard retorted, making Rhy frown and try to reply, being shut by the former Captain’s hand on his lips. “I’m probably the last person you want to hear advice from, but I’ve spent quite a while with her alone – not in that way, keep the frown away from your pretty face – and I’ve never seen her so at ease like tonight, or whenever she’s with you,” he shrugged, removing his hand from the king’s mouth and leaning back slightly. “You might as well give it a try – the worst that could happen is that she stabs you, but Rhy will tell me and I’ll come and rescue you,” he winked. Next thing Kell knew, he was rushing toward his room.

He entered too rapidly, and something flashed next to his head.
“You threw me a knife?” he asked in utter shock, looking at the blade planted in the door right next to his head. Lila was sitting on his bed – wearing his clothes, how many times had he dreamed that same image? – and curled the tip of her nose before shrugging.
“I thought it was Alucard, I wasn’t aiming for the head,” she replied, getting up with a single fluid movement and reaching the door to take the knife back. Before she could walk away, Kell closed the door and wrapped his arms around her waists, pulling her closer and gaining a laugh from her as she leaned against his body.
“And why would Alucard come here? In my room?” he murmured, brushing the tip of his nose against the curve of her neck. She laughed again, softly, and walked slowly towards the bed, dragging him with her.
“Because he’s a pain in my ass and he knew I’ll be here,” she replied, turning in his embrace, managing to dispose of the knife without it being a risk for them before wrapping her arms around his shoulders. Once the thought of being with someone made her laugh – not just sleeping with them, between her and Kell things were more.
The first months were terrible, she woke up after a week with him at her side and had walked away – in the middle of the night – and fell asleep on deck. That had happened for two months every now and then, until a nightmare had woke her up and he was there, calming her down and taming the flame of the candle before she could set fire to the cabin and then the entire ship.
I know,” he was saying to her gently. “I see them too, Lila, Lila breathe.”
And she had. She had spent the rest of the night in his arms, breathing slowly, and at sunrise she’d thanked him and silently promised herself to never fear him, them, again. Five months and she’d stopped worrying too much, six and the rest of the ship had started to call him Mr. Captain much to her amusement.
“I thought that with all the rooms in the palace you would want some space for yourself only,” he told her with a little smile as his lips brushed her cheek, and she reclined her head to meet his gaze.
“Why would I, when I have all this space?” she wondered, freeing herself from his hold before almost jumping on his bed, sprawling herself on it with a little laugh – it was so big she couldn’t reach the ends of it, the little one they’d shared on the ship seemed almost the one of a baby compared to it. Kell looked down at her, breathing slowly, wondering again how many times had he dreamed of that as he eased himself on her.

When Lila slept she tended to rest on her back, one hand at her side and the other reaching for Kell – she’d told him she used to sleep with a knife on her legs, but then he was there – and her face was relaxed. Kell knew he would’ve never saw that expression when she was awake: her eyelids trembling, following the images of her dreams, her lashes brushing against her cheekbones and her lips parted, softening the hard line of her jaw. Often a lock of hair would fall on her cheek, and she huffed it away with every breath, making him smile.
“If I were to propose to you,” he wondered in a whisper, tracing the line of her collarbones with the tip of his fingers slowly, “should I do it with a ring or with a knife?” he would’ve laughed at himself if in that precise moment if her eyes hadn’t fluttered open and she’d turned her head in his direction with a light frown narrowing her brows.
“What?” her voice was still somehow sleepy, but her eyes looked wide awake, the black one reflecting the moonlight from behind him and Kell cursed himself mentally, unable to reply. “Kell, what did you say?” she asked again, moving on her side and hugging the blanket to her body. His hand moved to her face, gently stroking her cheek once, twice.
“I thought you were asleep,” he murmured, getting slightly closer. He could almost hear his brother’s voice in his head: now is not the time to be a coward, Kell. Lila smiled softly – it was a rare smile, one Kell knew was just for him, and his heart always skipped a beat when he saw it.
“I never fall truly asleep before you do,” she replied as if it were the most obvious thing she’d ever said. She moved her head enough to brush her lips against his wrist, kissing the pale skin as her eyes closed for a moment.
“If I were to propose to you, should I do it with a ring or with a knife?” he murmured after taking a deep breath. She blinked rapidly, almost as if the words were in a language she couldn’t understand. Kell moved his hand, brushing the hair away from her face, lingering with his fingers between her short hair for a moment before continuing. “I know you would prefer a knife, it would be useful, but you might lose it in –” she stopped him. For a moment Kell thought she was going to hit him. Hard. Instead her lips were on his, a gentle touch that woke him up as she held his head in her hands. When she pulled back, he felt slightly startled. “What was that for?” he managed to murmur, making her smile flash in the dim light.
“You were babbling, mas vares, I thought you might want to pull yourself together before continuing what you were saying,” then her smile shifted in a grin. She left another quick kiss on his lips, gaining a protested murmur as she parted again and sat up, stretching her legs. “You talk in your sleep, you know?” she said when he remained silent, simply looking at her as she looked outside, the moon reflecting in her eye. “I really wanted to throw you off board when you murmured to love me as you slept and then said nothing during the day,” her brows arched and an amused expression painted on her face. Kell gaped at her and slowly, very, very slowly sat next to her.
“Were you ever going to say anything?” he asked, and wanted to laugh. He’d told her he loved her and missed it.
“I told you I love you too, but you were still sleeping,” she turned her gaze on him and watched as his lips parted again in what seemed an expression of utter shock. She what?
“You what?” he whispered. I love you too, I love you too. She’d said with such tranquillity Kell almost thought she was joking – but she was Lila, and when it came down to her true feelings she wasn’t able to lie. Not with him, at least. And Lila had whispered it so terrified the first times it now came natural to her lips – the fear still there, but she could live with that long as Kell was with her. She moved on her side, tucking her legs beneath her and getting closer to him: their shoulders touched and her head rested on a pillow, exposing her neck as she searched his gaze and his hand at the same time.
“If you were to propose me,” she murmured, intertwining her fingers with his and lifting his hand enough to take it to her chest covered only by the light blanket, “would you ask me to stay here too?” There wasn’t anger in her voice as he expected, nor resignation – would she stay? Kell sighed by himself: of course she would stay, but would she be truly happy? Would it last if he kept her caged? Lila didn’t want a palace, didn’t want a prince and expensive foods – she wanted to be free, at sea, with him. Not the prince, not the powerful Antari – just Kell.
“I think we still have a lot to see,” he murmured after a while, and saw the smile moving on her lips. “I miss my brother, but this,” he gestured to the room vaguely, knowing she would understand, “once I’ve seen what’s out there feels too much, to pretentious,” he shrugged lightly and she giggled, her eyes glinting as if she wanted to say I told you so, but she just took his hand to her lips, kissing his knuckles once, slowly. “Rhy is doing just fine, and if he needs me he can always, I don’t know, stab his hand and we’ll come back – and we can take a few days of vacation every now and then,” that made her laugh.
“A palace as vacation residence? And here I thought magic was the craziest thing that could happen to me,” she curled the tip of her nose, sliding close to him, his hand now free to wander across her hair, behind her head, tracing slow lines down her spine. He grinned, but before he could say anything else she pushed herself forward and kissed him. Nothing compared to the gentle, soft kisses they exchanged first thing in the morning, when they were both too sleepy to do anything but wanted to reassure themselves they were there, alive, together. Nothing like the quick kisses he gave her before wandering down her whole body, giving her a chance to relax completely beneath him. This was hard and slow and long, leaving them breathless but unable to part from the other as she shifted her position again, her legs at his sides, skin to skin, and Kell could already feel his heart thunder in his chest as his arms wrapped around her, holding her close. Everything else seemed to disappear as he buried himself into her, interrupting their kiss just to breathe – and he heard her, her head angled so she could press her lips on his neck.
“I love you,” she whispered on his skin, making him shiver and smile at the same time.
“Do you always have to take the lead?” he wondered amused, making Lila body shake with laughter; he kissed her shoulder, a kiss almost chaste that gained him her attention. “I love you too,” he said then, and she bit her bottom lip as her eyes shone brighter. She kissed his lips then, his throat, his chest.
“Baby steps, mas vares,” she mumbled on his skin, and he didn’t complain about the title she chuckled out as she lowered herself on him. “Baby steps.”

He proposed to her a year later on their ship, right in the middle of a battle.
“Are you kidding me?” was her first, bewildered answer, and he simply shrugged before going back to fight. “Yes, Kell!” she yelled out of his sight, but they both knew the other was smiling.