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tender is the night

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            It’s the night of Maharagaan, one of Sindria’s main tourist attractions. The Eight Generals are gathered around Sinbad, drinking and eating in celebration of the slaying of another South Seas monster as the people below enjoy the festivities. You’re passing through Sindria after ending up in a nearby country following rumours of political unrest in Balbadd, and you know it’s been nearly two years since your last visit—the longest gap to date.

            When you make it to where Sinbad is, Masrur and Ja’far are standing next to one another as Sinbad sits, sipping at his drink.

            “Do you still have no intention of taking a wife, then?” Drakon asks Sinbad.

            Hinahoho, sitting next to Drakon, nods in agreement. “Kids are great! You should make a ton of your own, too!”

            “What are you talking about?” Sinbad asks, getting to his feet with his drink in hand and walking towards the edge of the rooftop. “Even if I have no kids… I already have so many family members: the people of this country!”

            You gently poke Masrur in the cheek at that moment, watching as Sinbad lifts his cup in cheers to the people celebrating Maharagaan below. His broad back is turned to you, so you take the opportunity to make your presence known. “His children would be as lecherous as him,” you comment as Masrur turns to look down at you in surprise.

            “[Name],” he says, watching as a smile lights up your face and you hold your arms out for a hug.

            “I’m just passing through,” you tell him, patting his head as he lifts you into a tight embrace. Growing up with Sinbad meant you were close with his Generals, particularly Masrur and Ja’far. You’ve never been one to set down roots, so rather than take up refuge in the Kingdom of Sindria, you had continued your travels across the world after Sinbad had settled into his role as king, only coming back every few months or so (sometimes years) to say hello to your dear friends.

            Various cries of your name came from the Generals, and you laugh as Ja’far pulls you into a hug. “I guess my timing this year is spot on. I made it for Maharagaan.”

            “No hug for me?” Sinbad teases, holding his arms out to you as you get a kiss on the cheek from Sharrkan.

            “You have your harem for that one, Sin.”

            The defeated look on Sinbad’s face makes you laugh as you let him pull you into a tight embrace, his chin resting on the top of your head. Sometimes you think you’ll never get used to how much he’s grown. His chest is broader than when you were eighteen, and he’s so much taller, too. His hand pats the top of your head—a familiar feeling that used to lull you to sleep on long nights at sea.

            The festivities continue through the night, and you settle in next to Masrur and Ja’far, catching them up on the adventures you’ve been on since the last time you crossed paths.

            You lean your head on Masrur’s arm, rubbing your cheek against the smooth skin as you take a sip of your malt. He’s always been one of your favourites. He always listens quietly when you need to let off steam, willing to let you spar with him even in the middle of the night, if need be. Ja’far has definitely scolded the two of you in the past for being so noisy in the training rooms, but it’s always been because you’d start yelling about your woes. If you still couldn’t sleep, he’d let you stay with him and chat until you were able to doze off. The two of you could often be found taking naps in the Sindrian forests, and Sinbad would join when he could; some of your favourite memories were made in those forests.

            Ja’far, on the other hand, has always tended to overwork himself. You would usually stop in for a coffee break between trainings, or when you were in search of comfortable conversation. Masrur often took naps in Ja’far’s office if he didn’t want to be disturbed, knowing most wouldn’t dare disrupt his workflow, and eventually you joined him at his secret napping location.

            Masrur’s arm wraps around you, letting you lean your head back against his shoulder. You hum softly, finishing off your drink as you flop over onto your side and lay across his lap. “Just the way I remember it,” you laugh, patting his hand as it rests on your stomach. “I miss doing this!”

            He gives you a smile as he pats your head with his other hand.

            Masrur’s smile is always a welcomed treat. You shoot up, grinning as you ruffle his hair—you’ve always loved doing that to him, considering how his huge stature makes it difficult for you to do so when he’s not seated or taking a nap. “I hope Sin’s not overworking you, Mas.”

            The affectionate nickname you gave him years ago makes him chuckle softly as he shakes his head.

            As if he had heard you, Sinbad takes a seat next to you, his hand brushing your hair back as he presses a soft kiss to your bare shoulder.

            “Sin,” you smile, and he raises his eyebrow in response. “Let’s go for a walk, yeah?”

            He smiles, finishing off the rest of his drink before offering his hand to you to help you to your feet. “Yeah.”

            “I’ll see you later,” you tell Masrur, giving his head one last pat before letting Sinbad lead you away.

            Masrur and Ja’far exchange a look as they watch Sinbad walk off with you, his arm wrapped around your shoulders and his head dipped low as he whispers something in your ear. You let out a soft laugh, gently punching him in the side as the two of you disappear into the distance.

            Sinbad leads you to a nearby field, the grass soft as it grazes your ankles. You turn your head and gently bite down on his finger, earning yourself a soft hmph from the king.

            “Are we stargazing?” you ask, eyes bright as he comes to a stop on the sloped hill. He gives you a nod, smiling as you plop onto your back in front of him. Sinbad takes his spot next to you, his arms crossed behind his head.

            “It’s been a while since we’ve done this,” he comments.

            You hum, arms relaxed at your side. “I miss doing things like this with you.”

            “We’d be able to do them more often if you stayed,” he teases, and it earns him a gentle punch to the side. “I ask you this every time, [Name].”

            Rather than answer him, you flip onto your arms and knees, crawling over him to straddle his hips. Sinbad props himself up with one arm, giving you a lazy smile through half-lidded eyes as you drape your arms around his neck. His other hand comes to rest on your waist, his thumb rubbing the exposed skin as he leans back on his hand.

            “If I stayed, I’d lose my damn mind,” you laugh, running your fingers through his long hair. “Watching you surrounded by a harem all the time, just like tonight.”

            He makes a face, but you can’t quite pin down the emotion behind it. “That’s not true,” he murmurs, sitting upright as the hand that propped him up comes to push your hair out of your face. “If you were here, that wouldn’t be true.”

            It’s your turn to make a face at him. “I find that hard to believe.” Sinbad’s always been a lecherous womanizer, hitting on any and every woman (un)fortunate enough to cross his path. When you were younger, it bothered you endlessly, which was why you ended up becoming so close with Masrur. “You did this even when I was around all the time, Sin.”

            His hand trails down from your face to your bare shoulder, gently running along your exposed skin. “It was different then,” he pouts. “It’s been years since we’ve been in the same place together for that long.”

            You laugh, gently undoing the cloth holding his hair back. He lets you run your fingers through it, smoothing the purple locks as he tilts his head back. “I guess I was tired of seeing it. And I think Mas was a little tired of having to fight me in the middle of the night so I could scream about how mad it made me,” you chuckle.

            Sinbad looks surprised. “That’s why you trained with him all the time? So you could complain about me?”

            You laugh loudly, nodding as you squish his cheeks together between your palms. “I was so mad about it, all the time. Especially after you kissed me, after we slept together, I couldn’t deal with it anymore.”

            The memory comes to mind almost immediately. It had been a night like this, with clear skies, as the two of you were stargazing. It’s always been somewhat of a tradition of yours whenever the weather permitted it. Sinbad had turned to you, wrapping his arms around you as he pulled you onto his lap. No words were exchanged as he buried his face into your chest, pressing soft kisses against your exposed skin until he reached your lips.

He was your first—your first everything. Your first friend. Your first love. Your first kiss. Your first partner. Your first heartbreak.

            Sinbad nudges your neck with his cheek, shaking you from the memory. You press a soft kiss to the side of his head as he buries his face into you, his arms tight around your torso. He inhales deeply, the scent of you filling his lungs as nostalgia washes over him.

            When your lips brush against the shell of his ear, a chill goes down his spine. He hasn’t felt this way in a long time. Every nerve in his body is electrified.

            “Kiss me, Sin,” you murmur, gently nuzzling your head against his.

            His lips capture yours immediately, no hesitation in his movements as a hand presses against the back of your neck. His fingers lace through the strands as his lips move against yours fiercely, as if he’s trying to consume you.

            Years have passed since the last time you came to him like this, intimate and openly affectionate. Years without you by his side every day, without your light filling his days and nights. Once his adventures had come to an end, and he had a kingdom to rule, you knew he couldn’t move about the world as freely as he once did, capturing dungeons and doing the stupidest things with you. But you couldn’t quite quell the desire in you to travel.

            A small part of you will admit that you just couldn’t handle his attention being turned to other women, flirting with them and touching them as if you didn’t see it. No matter how harmless he made it seem, and no matter how desperately you tried to drown the feelings out, you couldn’t handle it anymore, and Masrur’s body could only take so many beatings.

            When you told him you were leaving only a year after Sindria was established, Sinbad’s heart shattered. At only nineteen, he’d never imagined a life without you by his side. He wanted to go with you, but you refused him, insisting he had to be there for Sindria. After you had broken the news to him, you had left in the middle of the night without so much as a goodbye to him. It turned out that everyone but him had known for a while you intended to leave, and that he had been the last one to learn of your decision. Everyone else had gotten a chance to say a proper goodbye.

            Since your departure nearly ten years ago, you visited him every now and then. Whether it be because you were passing through a neighbouring nation or for special occasions like birthdays, it didn’t matter; Sinbad treasured the time that you spent with him. He’d shower you with his attention, treating you like visiting royalty and putting aside frivolous things like his harem. He did well for himself and was able to grow into his role as king, but his life grew dull without you.

            He knows a life without you will always be dull, at best.

            “Sin,” you swoon, his teeth catching your bottom lip. It brings his mind back to you, sitting on his lap before him with your cheeks flushed and lips swollen, and he feels his heart swell. Your effect on him has always been intoxicating, as if he’ll never get enough of you. “I still—”

            “I love you,” he murmurs, interrupting you as he lowers you onto your back. “I’ve always loved you, [Name].”

            Tears prickle at the corner of your eyes as you nod, your hands resting on the arms that caged you in. “Sin,” you whisper, pressing a soft kiss to his forearm. You repeat his name as he captures your lips in a blazing kiss.

            Sin. Sinbad of the Seven Seas, World Innovator, King of Sindria. Your best friend, the love of your childhood. Your first companion, from humble beginnings in the Parthevia Empire to the creator of an entire nation. After nearly thirty years together, you’re still hopelessly in love with this man.

            “Stay,” he pleads against your lips, and you kiss him gently, as if he’s a fragile treasure that’ll shatter if you aren’t careful. “Stay with me, [Name].”

            The tenderness in his voice makes you melt.

            You melt into him as his hands explore your familiar body, as his lips become feverish against yours. When he parts your legs, having done away with both your clothes, you can only find it in you to say his name as he takes you once more, claiming you as his. His hips move with little hesitation as your voice becomes little more than a breathy moan, his fingers lacing through yours as he pins your arms to the grass. His lips catch a pert breast as your back arches towards him in sinful pleasure, your face flushed as your hair stuck to your beautiful complexion.

            “Sin,” you mewl, fingers tightening around his as his thrusts grow frantic, desperate. The fiery knot in your stomach tightens, threatening to push you over the edge as his lips capture yours in a fierce kiss. “Sin!”

            “[Name],” he groans, your name a mantra on his lips as his hips still against yours, his thick release coating you as you come undone. Your body arches, your limbs spasm, and you clench around him so deliciously that Sinbad can’t help himself—he begins thrusting again, riding out your climax with little regard for how spent he is. Your bodies still once the waves of pleasure settle, exhaustion now taking over.

            He releases one of your hands, and you thread your fingers through his disheveled hair to pull him to you. His entire body collapses against you, his face buried into your neck as you gently stroke his hair.

            When you finally find your voice, it’s hoarse and broken and filled with so much emotion it almost overwhelms you. “I’ve loved you my whole life.”

            This time, Sinbad is the one who melts for you.

            “[Name] is going to stay,” Masrur tells Ja’far, a small smile on his face as the two of them make their way back to the festivities. They had followed you and Sinbad, out of genuine worry and a little curiosity. Upon seeing the two of you kiss, the two generals slipped away, not wanting to intrude.

            “Huh? How do you know?” Ja’far has a look of confusion painted on his face.

            Masrur crosses his arms. “Her eyes.”

            Ja’far shakes his head; Masrur has always been able to understand you on some primal level that nobody else could. The two of you could look at each other and have an entire conversation without a single word. If Masrur says you’re going to stay, it’s almost certain that that would be the case.

            “I’ll get her old room cleaned up, then.”