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a night with the king

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The weather over Pure Heart was gloomy all day.

It had yet to rain at all, but the thick grey clouds that hung stubbornly over the kingdom made anytime a possibility and as such the streets were pretty void of the usual musings. With nothing going on- not even monsters showing up besides a few pests, the day seemed to move at a snail’s pace, and by the time it was winding down, and they walked back to HQ, the sheriff’s department was exhausted for a different reason than normal.

The three of them immediately plopped down on the couch, legs sore from endless walking. They always watched a bit of TV before turning in, but right now sleep was al they had in mind. Soft sheets and the quiet bedroom beckoned, but just then Mao remembered a responsibility he’d passed over with the drawn out drudgery of the day: an audience with the king . One concerning Pure heart’s defense and possibly tightened security along the outer walls. It was important, and the king no doubt felt insulted and disrespected from his sheriff’s lack of an appearance. Mao couldn’t go to bed knowing he had offended the crown. In an effort to make up for the oversight, he set out immediately.

“Yo, man, where you going?” Badgerclops asked him, as he and Adorabat were already heading towards the bedroom.

“Audience with the king, Important business, and I’ve already kept him waiting long enough."

“How long?”

Mao looked to the clock. “About nine hours,”

Badgerclops choked. “Dude, who cares, just forget it. The king probably already did.”

“Scheduled meetings are important, Badgerclops, especially if they’re scheduled with royalty. If I go to bed now, I disrespect the king even more than I already have, and what kind of hero casually disr-”

“Alright, alright, enough, go to you’re stupid meeting thing, what do I care…” Badgerclops waved his hand in annoyance as he continued to the room, Adorabat not immediately following him.

“You’re leaving? Aren’t you sleepy?”

Mao Mao leant down to pet her head. “Don’t worry about me, Adorabat, I won’t be gone too long. Go to bed, you’ll see me in my bunk by morning.”

With a hug tovhis leg, she accepted the reassurance, speeding off to join Badgerclops in the room.

Mao slid down the pole to the garage, grabbed the keys from the table, and pulled the tarp away from the parked bike. Badgerclops said it still needed repairs, but it turned on, and deciding it was fit enough, Mao sped off. The splash through the waterfall sobered him for the drive, and the whipping wind would dry his fur.

With how short the ride to the castle was, Mao didn’t notice how the overhead rumbles that felt far away throughout the day, seemed a lot louder now. A lot closer.

He parked in the courtyard, and practically jumped the stairs to the front door, pounding and demanding -with all due respect, it be opened. Official sheriff’s department business. An irritated guard eventually let him in, and told him to wait in the throne room for the king to come down from his quarters. Admittedly Mao didn’t consider how late it actually was for others, and hadn’t thought that Snugglemagne might have been well asleep. Embarrassment turned his stomach, and sat with him the whole time he waited.

Apparently the king had been sleeping, or was at the very least ready for bed since he entered the hall in a loosely tied silk robe, his usually flawless mane tussled on one side. He seemed to light up the second he saw his sheriff.

The king strode forward, glint in his eyes as he stood before the much shorter cat. “My dear sheriff, to what do I owe the late night pleasure?” he purred, paws folded neatly behind his back.

Mao Mao wasn’t expecting such an indecent appearance from his king, and if his silence wasn't telling, his fixed gaze definitely was.

The robe he wore was indeed tied very loosely, his majesty’s broad chest, and the tuft of fur that sat there, were in plain view, framed quite nicely by the dip in the clothing’s opening. Snugglemagne’s chest was always exposed in his day clothes, but something about seeing him in his current attire made Mao…

“Ahem. Sheriff?”

Mao Mao snapped to attention, and stumbled over his own feet as he dropped to his knee, head ducked low in an attempt to hide his very apparent blush.

“My liege!” he addressed properly, “I apologize for the late intrusion, but I’ve come to discuss matters involving the security of your kingdom.”

Snugglemagne hummed in acknowledgement, finger pressed to his bottom lip. “oh yes, that was today, wasn't it? And you waited till now to come? Oh, I'm almost hurt.”

Mao stood up, but kept his head humbly bowed. “Forgive me, your grace, I lost track of the time.”

Snugglemagne hummed in thought for a moment, finger still on his lip. “Well, if it can’t be helped,”  he said, good naturedly, and circled around Mao Mao, to place a paw on the small of his back, though it covered more considering the size of his paw. He led his sheriff through the doors he came from, and down a hall lined with paintings, fine vases, and the occasional bored looking guard.

As they walked, Mao felt the paw on his back in a much lower position than it originally was. The stump of his tail twitched from contact through his cape, and he would have politely corrected his king had he not suddenly removed it entirely to grab Mao by the shoulders, and turn him to face another set of doors.

“We’re here,” the king sang in his ear, leaning in close enough for that tuft of fur to tickle Mao’s shoulder. Personal space was something he quickly learned to give up in dealing with the ruler who was so fond of touching.

Snugglemagne opened the door for his smaller companion, waiting politely for him to enter, following immediately after he did. The king took a seat at the head of the large table that sat in the middle of the room, while Mao chose to stand at the other end, speech memorised perfectly in his head since he failed to bring the slides he’d prepared. He cleared his throat, and began.

“Excuse me, sheriff…” Mao Mao stopped and spared a curious glance to his king who giggled at his puzzled expression. “Always so proper aren’t you. you can take a seat you know, I’m sure you must be tired of standing.”

Mao bowed, short and polite. “thank you, your majesty, but I’m perfectly fine with-”

“That’s an order.”

Immediately shutting up, Mao had no choice but to follow as instructed, the king was his boss after all. He pulled out the chair right beside himself, but heard a tut of refusal from his king. He tried the next only to hear no sung in a light voice, he kept going down the table until he reached the seat right beside Snugglemagne who hummed his approval, and patted the table in welcome.

Mao fidgeted, not entirely comfortable with sitting so close to his majesty. It was too familiar, too improper, and the way he was looking at him didn’t help the warmth that leapt in his stomach.

He felt… small.

Mao drummed his fingers on the chair, then opened his mouth, “my liege, I really don’t-”

“Sit.”

It was said with such finality, that Mao could tell the king was losing patience. He sat down quickly, and twiddled his thumbs together, trying not to feel uncomfortable. Mao was no stranger to the king’s familiar behavior with him, nor the teases and charming words, but something about experiencing it here in a small room where it was just the two of them made it seem like more than just an attempt to fluster him. And that didn’t do the warmth he felt any favors.

“Sheriff, are you going to continue?”

“Oh, right, of course.” Mao continued with his speech, stopping here and there to answer any questions the king had, and to ask his own. Being Sweetie Pies, the guard weren’t the most capable, so more intensive training would be necessary, and more guards would be posted along the walls rather than on castle grounds.

All this was discussed with the occasional small lingering touches to Mao’s person by the king, and Mao’s own quickly diverted looks to Snugglemagne’s pleasantly framed pecs that seemed to become more exposed with every movement. Not helped in the slightest by Snugglemagne idly running his fingers through his soft tuft.

By the time it ended, Mao felt incredibly exhausted, all the yawns he’d been putting off came out tenfold as a guard walked him to the front doors.

Getting to go home, sleep in his bunk, and wake up to a nice breakfast called desperately to him. He didn’t feel like cooking in the morning though, maybe his deputies would like to go out for breakfast.

The second the doors were opened, a loud crack of thunder shook the sky, and a strong gust of wind pushed in heavy rainfall, soaking the marble floor.

Barely visible through the haze, the aerocycle remained in the middle of the courtyard, completely drenched.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!” Mao pushed past the guard, and ran to the silhouette of his bike. He slipped down the stairs, falling onto his backside, and ignored the pain that shot up his leg when he got back to his feet. When he reached the aerocycle, his fur was well soaked itself from the pouring rain and his fall. The guard at the door was calling out to him, but he had no time for it, he needed to get home.

He turned the key, pressed the gas, but the bike only sputtered and died. He should have listened to Badgerclops when he said it was still broken. Granted, even if he chose to walk he’d still be stuck in the same position, the only real downside was the earful he’d eventually get from his friend, but frankly it was downside enough. An angry badgerclops was not pretty.

He tried again and again, and again, desperate to get the bike to start. Miraculously, it roared to life, and Mao celebrated the victory. He managed to get a few feet off the ground before the bike died again, slammed into the stone, and threw him off by the impact.

His leg ached, and he laid on the ground, letting the rainfall pelt him for his failures for a good couple minutes.

“Oh, sheriff!”

Mao turned his head to see Snugglemagne standing in the doorway- same robe on, with a servant holding an umbrella over him. He probably saw the whole thing. Great.

“As entertaining as this is, you look like you could use some help.”

“Im fine!” Mao shouted back irritated, manners gone with his pride.

“If you say so,” the king laughed, and it made Mao’s face burn. “However, if you’re done playing in the rain, you are welcome to come in. we do have some spare rooms.”

“No, thank you!” Mao yelled back, getting up and back on the aerocycle, “I’m fully capable of getting back to my- oof!” the bike fell over with Mao still on it, pinning him into another puddle.

“oh, Sheriff? Are you still alive?” Snugglemagne called out.

After some seconds passed, a weak, defeated voice answered.

“I’ll take that room...”

The guards fished out the soaked cat, taking his bike through a side door around back, most likely to some garage.

Mao stepped gingerly up the stairs, the pain in his leg stinging now that he’s slowed down enough to feel it. They closed the doors behind him as he entered,  and the draft of the castle brought a shiver out of him. At the king’s request, a towel was brought forth and draped over his shoulders. As snugglemagne walked, Mao followed, eager to get warm, and to a bed, and desperately avoiding looking at the low cut of his majesty's robe.

They walked down some halls, and up several flights of stairs before coming to the row of bedrooms. Some servants were lined up by a particularly large door. The king’s quarters, most likely.

“So which one am I going to be staying in?” Mao asked.

Unexpectedly, Snugglemagne leaned in close, large paws on Mao’s wet shoulders as he whispered in his twitching ear.

“Mine’s.”

Mao jumped like he'd been burned, red faced and sputtering apologies and polite refusals as he bowed again and again, sentences coming out as little more than stunned gibberish. Snugglemagne only burst into laughter, wiping a tear from his eye.

“Oh, no, no, I’m only joking, my boy!” he cackled between words. “Yours is just down there. But before you go…” Snugglemagne reached out and ripped the cape from Mao's shoulders, drawing a startled squeal out of him. “first, we need to take care of all these dirty clothes. You’re absolutely filthy!” he commented in disgust, handing a nearby maid the dirty cape.

Mao looked down to see that he was in fact filthy. covered in mud, twigs, and plenty of rainwater that pooled at his feet, soaking the long rug that stretched the hall.

“Oh, I, uh…,” He shrunk in on himself, embarrassed to be standing in a king’s castle looking the way he did. Still, the thought of undressing right there made him squirm.

Snugglemagne picked up on his discomfort, and tsk'd like one would to a silly child. “oh, don’t fuss now, sheriff, you can undress in your room. The servants will collect your clothes while you take your bath.”

A bath?

“A bath!?” Mao sputtered, “my liege, a bed is fine enough, you don’t need to-”

“ah, ah, ah, ah, ah,” the king hushed. “You’re covered in mud and stink of rainwater. You are not going to ruin my perfectly good sheets with your filth. You’re taking a bath and that’s an order...”

“But-”

“From your king!”

Mao couldn’t refuse. He bowed respectfully, thanked his king, and walked to the offered bedroom.

“Oh, and sheriff...”

Mao Mao groaned, but looked back to a- surprisingly softly smiling Snugglemagne, and it made that warmth in him come back with a leap that reached his chest.

“Goodnight,” Snugglemagne practically whispered, light and soft. He kissed his fingertips and blew it to his sheriff before shutting his door for the night, and leaving Mao in the hallway. Without thinking, Mao opened his palm to catch what had been passed to him, and when he realized, rubbed his glove on his leg, blushing furiously.

If the maids noticed, they said nothing. Though one looked like she had a smile on her beak.

He entered his room, and continued to the bathroom just along the other wall. There was in fact a bath drawn. The tub was big and round, From the ceiling to the floor, encircling half of it, was smooth, carved stone, and tied to both ends of the rounded wall was a curtain for modesty's sake. The bath looked hot and bubbly with plenty of soap, little petals were sprinkled atop the foam, and there were trays of candles around its back wall.

Snugglemagne had done this for him- or a servant had at least, but the king had graciously had it arranged for him. That warmth came back, and Mao saw the hot water as a good way to drown it out.

He undid the clasps to his plates, and removed his sash, braces, and gloves, leaving them on the sink counter by a caligraphied card that said “place here”. He climbed the steps to the tub, and sank in.

It was like melting. Tension in his back felt like it had unwound like a coil, the pain in his leg was soothed by heat, and he couldn’t help the shameless moan that escaped him as he settled into the seat of the tub, stretching his arm over his head, and wondering why he’d ever thought to refuse this. It was heaven.

He closed his eyes, listening carefully to the lightning cracking outside. He found storms comforting when he wasn't outside suffering them. Sometimes, when they stayed at inns, Badgerclops would find him awake and staring out the window, watching them. The rolling thunder mixed with the the steady stirring of the bath, lulling him into comfort.

He opened his eyes, wary to not pass out in water, and noticed on the rim, beside the tray of candles, was a small card.

“Pull for service,” he read aloud. There was a rope hanging beside the tub, and he tugged experimentally, a low ding rang out, and from the bedroom Mao could hear a door opening. Service was indeed coming.

In panic he splashed around the tub, yanking the ties that held the curtain in place, letting them close around him. His leg strained from the exertion, so he sat back into the bubbly water, rubbing it.

“Your clothes, sir?” someone called, and Mao took a moment to register it.

“Oh. Oh! Sorry, they’re right there on the counter… um, thank you!”

“No trouble, sir.”

He heard them collect his things, the plates clinking together noisily, and getting distant as they left. He sighed in relief for not being seen, then again in satisfaction when he resettled himself in the bath. It really was amazing.

He got out after a couple more minutes in the water, and dried himself with the soft towels left for him. They must have been freshly cleaned, because heat still lingered on them, and drew out soft purrs from Mao Mao who ran them through his fur well after he’d dried.

And then he remembered. His clothes. He looked to the counter to see that his armor had indeed been taken.

“Shoot,” he whispered. He had no intention of sleeping naked, nor going out and asking for something to wear while in just a towel, it’d be humiliating.

He was in a bedroom, maybe there’d be something in the wardrobe. He wrapped his waist, and left, hoping to find something good enough to just cover himself with, comfort not a real concern. He’d rip apart a curtain if he couldn’t find anything.

As soon as he walked out he made a beeline for the closet, but stopped dead when he noticed out of the corner of his eye something lying on the bed.

He walked over, and picked up a nicely folded, silk robe, like the one Snugglemagne had worn, but this one was much smaller, and a deep red. It looked like it had been made just for him. That pleasant warmth came back, and Mao blamed it on the hot bath. A hot bath painstakingly prepared just for him by-

All thought was cut off by a loud yawn from Mao’s mouth. He felt the weight of his exhaustion weep over him, and didn't fight it. The offered bed was big, and looked so soft. Thick sheets and fluffy pillows he wanted to melt into.

He discarded the towel, and put the robe on, finding it to be as soft as he’d expected.

Just as revealing too, he noted with embarrassment while looking in the dressing mirror. The opening showed so much of his chest, and his legs were practically bare. It was like going to sleep in just a shirt, the hoodie Badgerclops lent him once did more to cover him than this robe.

Face burning, but still very tired, Mao let it go. He got under the blankets and it felt like the bed shifted to soak in his form, cradling it. He’d never been so comfortable, though normally sleeping in all his daywear, plates and all probably had something to do with it.

The storm had calmed down since his tussle outside, falling into little more than hard thrums against the windows, and light rumbles. No lightning cracked, no thunder boomed, and Mao fell fast asleep.

Morning eventually came, though Mao almost missed it. Getting lost in velvety sheets had caused him to wake up almost hours later than he liked to. In fact, practically the second his eyes spotted the clock, he jumped out of the bed.

Or tried to. His bad leg strained from the force of his movements, and forced his body back down to tanlge in the blanket, while his face planted into floor. At least the rug around the bed was a somewhat soft fallbreaker.

He sprung up, and ran lamely for the bedroom door, stopping when he felt so much air against his legs and shoulders. He looked back and stared at himself in the mirror. He was, in fact, still wearing the risque robe he was given, though in his hurry it had slipped down, and hung loosely off his collar. In a surge of self-consciousness, he tore it from his body, kicking it away.

He dreaded the possibility that he'd have to put it back on to leave his room, that he'd have to wear it while asking for his regular gear back, be seen in such a state by the castle staff, or worse, the king.

Before panic could set in, he looked around to find his equipment had in fact been returned, and placed neatly on the bench in front of the bed, plates shiny, and fabric smelling like flowery soap. He thanked the kings graciousness, or the servants, whoever brought him his things.

He picked up his gloves, but stopped short of putitng them on, embarrassment tickling his insides when he saw his handiwork.

Standing there, he got a good look at the bed, and all the knicks and loose threads his uncovered claws had made. He admonished himself, it had been so long since he’s slept without gloves on, he forgot to be careful.

So much for not ruining perfectly good sheets.

He went through the fluid motions of equipping his clothes, and found his cape wasn’t with the rest of it. He’d have complained, but he was already running late. The arocycle was no doubt still busted and parked in the garage of the palace, and he didn’t have time to look for it, he and Badgerclops could come get it later.

Hopefully Adorabat wouldn’t be too angry with him when he got back.

It was a long walk back to HQ, and it was only on the elevator up the cliff that he realized he'd left the castle without so much as a thanks to his king for allowing him to stay. He really needed to get better at not insulting royalty.

But he was already home, and not all to eager to face Snugglemagne again so quickly. For the first time, Mao felt that a conversation with the king could wait till after breakfast. He didn't understand where the sudden trepidation came from, and didn't try to. He pushed it to the back of his mind, to settle there along with the warmth he'd been ignoring.

He'd arrived at the cliff,  and trudged off the elevator with careful steps. He’d have ran the whole way to HQ if the bruise on his hip wasn’t sore enough as it was. Injuries hardly ever got in his way, he must have fallen pretty hard.

He entered the house to see no one, but did hear his deputies in the kitchen, as well as a pleasant smell.

He walked in, making his presence known with a knock on the doorframe. They both looked over, and with a simultaneous cry of “Mao Mao!” invited him to sit with them, pancakes freshly done.

He petted Adorabat as he took his seat- happy to lessen the strain on his bad leg, and was surprised to see her in such a good mood. He gave Badgerclops a nudge, a sign to serve him a plate.

“Hey, kiddo," Mao tried, "I thought you’d be mad at me. Y'know, for not being there when you woke up.”

Adorabat looked pensive for a moment, and Mao almost regretted his question. But the girl perked right back up.

“Nah! It started to rain really hard. If you tried to drive back while it was that bad, you could have gotten really hurt.”

Yeah, could have. “wow, that’s… very mature of you, Adorabat. But you don’t need to worry about me, I was fine.”

Badgerclops spoke up as he took a few pancakes off his stack and onto Mao’s plate. “Oh, hey, man, where’d you stay last night? It was coming down like crazy.”

Mao was about to just tell him, but the memory of Snugglemagne in just his incredibly revealing robe came back, along with the hot bath, the big bed, the wonderful sleep, and the... flirting? Or was it just teasing? His face went red thinking about it, and realizing he hadn’t answered, blurted out what he could.

“Ah, I uh, I spent the night in the castle, the king offered me a room- because it was late, and raining, and well I-I stayed. The night. In a room. Alone.” God, he was an idiot.

"Ooh, ooh, and why do you smell so pretty?" Adorabat threw in.

Badgerclops smiled, agreeing. "Yeah, man, why do You smell so pretty? What is that, lavender?"

"Uh- I, um," Mao stuttered, "I took a bath. While I was there. I got wet. With water. Rainwater."

He didn't know why he was so nervous. He was telling the truth. He got rained on, and took a bath. Why did it feel so strange to say?

Adorabat went back to eating. Badgerclops looked loke he was about to say something but closed his mouth. He flashed a grin for a split second, then said “cool,” and went back to eating.

At least for a moment.

He turned an angry glare back onto Mao, yelled something through a mouthful of pancake, choked, and while he was pounding his chest, Mao felt he already knew what was coming.

“Dude!” badgerclops shouted at the top of his lungs, “What did I say about taking the aerocycle!? What did I specifically say!?”

Mao was right.

“Alright, alright, I shouldn’t have taken it, but come on, Badgerclops, did you expect me to walk all the way to the castle in the middle of the night?”

“No! I expected you to go to sleep, and deal with all that stupid meeting stuff in the morning, like any sane, non obsessive, person would! Where even is the aerocycle? Did you lose it!?”

Mao put his hands out to calm his friend. "Relax, Badgerclops, I didn't lose it, it's..." he looked away and scratched the back of his neck. “It’s uh… still in the palace. Somewhere.” Without warning, Badgerclops punched him in the shoulder. “Gah, alright, you didn’t have to hit me!”

"And you didn't have to go to some dumb 'meeting' in the middle of the night!" Badgerclops yelled back, throwing air quotes around the word meeting. Mao didn't think he was using them right.

"It was important, I already told you that!"

"Yeah, real Important, I'm sure. Wouldn't want to miss your 'appointment'."

"Would you stop using air quotes, I dont even know what you're trying to say! You know I'm not good at double meanings!"

 The rest of the morning went off from there, Badgerclops and Mao Mao arguing over the bike, the meeting, and other things that came up. Adorabat ate her breakfast, and eventually things calmed down enough for all of them to go on patrol- walking, thanks to Mao Mao, as Badgerclops pointed out.

It was certainly more exciting than yesterday. The sweetie pies came out to play in puddles left by the rain, two monsters had shown up- a rare occurrence, and pinky had been thrown into the side of a building, making them all laugh.

More guards had in fact been posted along the less secure walls, and Mao commented on his appreciation of being listened to by the king to his deputies, leading to Badgerclops to crack a joke regarding him and the king he didn't quite hear. His leg had done significantly better, and didn’t hurt as much with the passage of time, and before heading back to HQ for the day, the sheriff’s department made sure to collect the Arocycle from the castle.

A guard let them in, and they left with the bike, and no appearance from the Snugglemagne- he must have been busy, Mao figured, and let go of the uncomfortable tightness he felt in his chest because of it.

The aerocycle was back in the garage, Mao got one last punch in the shoulder from Badgerclops, they ordered pizza instead of cooking, and Adorabat had gone to bed early. Mao Mao had felt exhaustion seep into him, but one of the few benefits of being an adult were getting to watch TV late at night, so he and Badgerclops were doing just that before even thinking of sleeping.

It was then that Badgerclops had turned the volume down a bit and faced Mao Mao. “Alright, now tell me everything that happened!” he tried to whisper, but his excitement kept him at the same volume as usual.

“About what?” Mao asked, genuinely confused.

“Last night, man! You spent the night in the castle, what did you do? What did he do? Come on, tell me.”

Mao was still confused. “What? Wait, aren't you still mad about the bike?”

“Nah," Badgerclops waved off, "forget all that, I already forgave you, dude!"

He scooted closer to Mao Mao, hands rubbing together. "Anyway, I mean, between you and the king! was it like, all romantic, did he at least wine and dine you beforehand, or was it straight to business? Probably business right, it was pretty late already, you wouldn't have time for dinner.”

Mao sunk into the horrorifying realization of what Badgerclops was insinuating. He really didn’t want to believe what he was hearing.

“Also, hey, aren’t we friends? How come you never told me you were in some scandalous secret relationship with the king? You know I love drama! Ah, who cares, I forgive you, just… tell me everything, man!”

And now there was no denying what his friend was implying.

“B-Badgerclops," mao choked out, face on fire, "what do you think I did last night?”

“Don’t you mean ‘who~'?”

Mao really should have just gone to bed with Adorabat. Screw late night TV privileges. “Badgerclops, I didn’t… oh god, I’m not having some kind of secret affair with the king! He’s our boss!”

“Hey, dude, I’m not judging!” Badgerclops quickly replied, hands up. “If you’re into that kind of thing- you know, authority or whatever, that’s cool! I just wanna know what went down. Juicy details and all that!”

“Nothing ‘went down’!” Mao flailed angrily, face red as his armour.

No wonder you wanted to go so bad, you look like you’ve been pampered like crazy, your stuff’s all clean, your coats extra shiny, and you smell nice. He really spoiled you.” Badgerclops went on, ignoring him.

“Badgerclops, I thought I offended the king by not showing up, and wanted to make it up to him, you know that! What would make you think I… that it was a date!?”

Badgerclops folded his hands neatly in his lap, simple smile on his face. “Well, like I said, you look like you’ve been pampered like crazy, and no king would do that for just anyone."

That familiar warmth pooled in Mao’s stomach when he said that. Badgerclops went on.

“oh, plus, you didn’t get back till the morning, can you say ‘walk of shame’?”

“Badgerclops, I got stuck in the rain!” Badgerclops put his hand in Mao's face.

“Uh, don’t interrupt me. Thank you. Also your cape’s gone, and probably still on his bedroom floor, am I right?” He said, nudging Mao Mao.

“No, no, you’re not right!” Mao wanted to scream, but Adorabat was only a room over. “He took it o- I mean, they, the servants, took it, I got rained on, and it needed to be cleaned. I didn’t get it back with the rest of my clothes.”

Badgerclops’ grin only got bigger with his blunder, and Mao wanted to sink into the couch.

Like he sank into that nice bath, or those sheets, all given to him by- no, not now!

His face was on fire, and he felt tears prickling his eyes from the overflowing embarrassment.

“Also, man, I didn’t want to bring it up, but,” Badgerclops continued, and Mao put his face in his hands, wondering how it could get worse, “you’ve been limping, like, all day, so do you want me to get you one of those donut seat things, or…”

That was it. That was the worst thing Badgerclops could have said to him. He wanted to jump off the dojo and land face first into rock.

“Badgerclops, I’m limping because I fell…” he protested weakly, if he spoke any louder he’s sure he’d burst into tears. His face was so hot he thought he needed to dunk it in water.

“Woah, that hard, huh?” Badgerclops laughed.

All patience was thrown from Mao, he was about to yell in Badgerclops’ face when they heard a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it,” Mao said, and pride demanded he walk straight and suppress the limp, lest Badgerclops feel vindicated. He opened the door to a small collection of guards, and the toot of a trumpet.

“Evening, sheriff, we’re here with a delivery from the king himself,” said one of the guards, tipping his helmet.

before Mao could reply, a small bouquet of red roses was placed in his hands. Behind him, on the sofa, Badgerclops gasped and roared with laughter.

If he just ran to the right, Mao Mao could throw himself off the side of the cliff. “I’m sorry, but what’s all this for?” he asked, flush coming back stronger than before.

“The king told us to bring the finest roses we had, as well as your cape you left behind,” another smaller guard answered, producing a white box wrapped in a ribbon. The color was a familiar striking green, and Mao didn’t think he could blush harder.

He took the box, and thanked the gentlemen for their time, closing the door on his way in. he retook his seat on the couch with Badgerclops, putting down the roses. his cape was indeed inside, and smelled just as flowery as the rest of his clothes. He doesn’t remember Snugglemagne ever smelling like this perfume though.

Snugglemagne.

For as much as he loved to tease and fluster him, he was still capable of doing something genuinely… sweet. That warmth came again, and Mao let himself enjoy it, just as much as he did the pleasant perfume, the hot bath, and soft bed. All gifts from his king.

As soon as he put his cape on, he heard another wave of laughter from Badgerclops who was holding a small card pulled from the rose bundle. Mao must have missed it.

He quickly grew annoyed with Badgerclops’ laughing fit, snatching the card from his hand, to read it for himself.

 

My dear sheriff, I do apologize for the wait for your beloved cape

after the workout you got last night, I'm surprised the maids got the stains out

You made quite the mess, you know

I hope my bed was comfortable enough for you

the number of scratches and tears in it, goodness!

Thank you for the wonderful evening

Yours truly,

King Snugglemagne

 

The rest of the night was a horrible series of Badgerclops laughing himself to tears, Mao Mao screaming at him to shut up, and more pressing for juicy details about his scandalous night with royalty, until Mao Mao finally had enough and went to bed in shame, regicide on his mind.

As he lay in bed, the smell of flowers on his cape tickled his nose.