Mikleo was getting used to life in Camlann. Slowly but surely.
When his mother had first told him about the arrangements she’d made for him to come live in the capitol, he’d expected to spend a majority of his time with the grandfather he barely remembered in the medical wing of the castle, studying the basics of being a physician by day and honing his magic under the cover of night. He’d expected to spend his days reading, picking herbs, and learning how to properly make various medicines and remedies. Which was okay with him; Mikleo liked to learn, and these types of things were good to learn, and when he went home to Elysia maybe he could put it to use and be more than just the quiet village boy with the magical secret he couldn’t tell anybody.
As it turned out, living in Camlann was nothing like that. Mikleo honestly should have known better, especially when he ended his first week by saving the crown prince’s life and agreeing to take up the mantle as his manservant.
“Which is a completely glorified title, by the way,” Sorey had told him, on his first official day with his new title, when Sorey had come to get him before he could start worrying about what he was meant to do. “All the things you’re technically supposed to be doing, I’m capable of doing myself. And I don’t mind doing them either. That’s why I always told Arthur I never needed one.”
“What am I supposed to be doing then?” Mikleo had asked, and Sorey had smiled at him like that was the funniest question he’d ever been asked.
“Stopping wannabe assassins from killing me, apparently,” he’d responded, in a tone that was definitely way too bright and cheerful for the words they’d been paired with. Mikleo had found out right then and there - Sorey Collbrande-Crowe was fearlessly and unapologetically optimistic.
If Mikleo was being honest, it was rather refreshing to be around someone like that.
He spent most of his time with Sorey after that first week. When Sorey was in meetings or off wherever his princely duties took him, Mikleo was out doing all the things he originally expected to be doing. The times in between were spent wandering the castle and getting into absolutely everything they could find.
They spread out maps across the large table in the drawing room. They snuck cooling pies off the windowsills in the kitchens. They read all kinds of things in the library: history books to fables and fairytales to preserved journals. But Mikleo’s favorite times were the nights they holed up in Sorey’s room, with books or treats or stories to share.
Despite the odd circumstances that got them to this point, they became friends. Genuine friends. The prince-and-technically-servant dynamic didn’t exist.
But the prince-and-secret-sorcerer one certainly did. To Mikleo, at least. The magic in his blood always seemed harder to ignore whenever he was in Sorey’s presence, a glaring reminder of the impassable space that stretched between them.
He was lying next to Sorey in the prince’s bed, propped up on pillows with one of the larger history books opened between them, his arm pressed warmly against Sorey’s when the thought hit him - that maybe he was in way too deep, and it had only been a few months.
Sorey was still the crown prince. Artorius was still his father who hated all things magic. Mikleo had long since given up his avoid the royal family at all costs plan, but falling asleep in the prince’s bed was definitely too far. Risky things like that would put him on the king’s radar, and if Artorius found out- If Sorey found out-
But we’re already here, Mikleo considered, one afternoon spent watching Sorey scribble away, annotating tomes in the library. This will just be where we stop. No farther. No problems. There was no reason he and Sorey couldn’t be friends; Mikleo just had to tread a little more carefully moving forward. Simple. Even his magic seemed satisfied with that plan, glowing in his chest when Sorey peeked up from his work and smiled at him, and Mikleo smiled back.
And then the second assassination attempt had happened. And Mikleo had saved Sorey again. And then Sorey had saved Mikleo. And Mikleo spent the days recovering from being poisoned by staring up at his bedroom ceiling and wondering how the hell he ended up here.
Some destiny this turned out to be.
“Hello? Anybody home in there?”
Mikleo blinked his reverie away, turning his head to see Sorey standing there, dressed to the nines in his street clothes, head cocked with a curious look on his face. He beamed when Mikleo focused in on him.
“There you are! You spaced out on me.”
“Oh.” Mikleo gave his head a shake, as if clearing the last of the thoughts away. “Sorry about that.”
“Go somewhere good?” Sorey asked, nudging Mikleo over a step so they were back on the cobblestone road. Mikleo hadn’t even noticed he’d pulled them off. “Or is this a side effect of poison recovery that you didn’t tell me about?”
“Sorey, I’m fine. Just a little tired. Stop blaming everything on my recovery.”
“Just checking,” Sorey sang before taking a bite out of his apple - which him grabbing from the kitchen as they left had sparked their usual argument of: “That’s not breakfast.” “It totally counts as breakfast.”
Sorey was impossible, in the most endearing way.
“But,” the prince continued after swallowing his bite, “if you are fine, that means you shouldn’t have any problem making good on our deal today. Sure you don’t want to change your answer?”
Mikleo rolled his eyes. “Are you sure you don’t have anything better to do with your day then talk about poison?”
“Nope!” Sorey grinned around another crunch of his apple. “Already checked with Arthur. He actually thinks it’s a great idea that I do some research about this kind of stuff.”
“It is a good idea,” Mikleo agreed. “You were bound to have one sooner or later.”
“You wound me, Mikleo.” Sorey clutched at his shirt, and Mikleo rolled his eyes again at his dramatics.
Impossibly endearing. And maybe the slightest bit mortifying, too.
“I’d guess most people wouldn’t be so excited to research different kinds of poisons,” Mikleo mused as they stepped off the castle road and headed into the Lower Town. They fell in step beside each other, their arms brushing as they walked, assuring they didn’t lose each other in the morning rush of townspeople. “A bit morbid, don’t you think?”
Sorey shrugged. “Maybe. But I’m not like most people.” He gave Mikleo a cheeky grin. “What’s your excuse, huh?”
I’m not like most people, either.
“Gramps doesn’t like to leave things half-done,” Mikleo said aloud. “It’s something I need to know as a physician.”
“But shouldn’t it be something I need to know as the you-know-what? Why isn’t that something Arthur had me studying already?”
“That’s what physicians are for.” Mikleo was quiet for a moment, then carefully bumped his shoulder against the other’s. “That’s what I’m for. I have to be doing something as your manservant.”
Sorey chuckled, but the light in his eyes was dimmed as he looked over. “I know,” he said softly, and Mikleo could just barely hear him over the dull roar of people. “But you got hurt because I didn’t know better, and I’m not okay with that.”
“Sorey, you saved me-“
“You wouldn’t have needed saving if I had known in the first place.”
“You are not the reason I was poisoned,” Mikleo insisted. “The maid who put the poison in your drink is the reason.” He crossed his arms. “And again, you saved me by going out and getting what Gramps needed to make the antidote. So we’re both still here and we’re both fine. We’re even.”
“Are not.” Sorey chewed another bite of apple. “We’re two-to-one. Or have you forgotten about saving my life when we first met?”
Mikleo rolled his eyes again, but couldn’t stop the smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Of course not.” But as far as Mikleo was concerned, that was a debt Sorey had already paid back in full.
He didn’t admit it out loud, but Sorey must have read something in his expression, because he smiled and gave Mikleo a nudge of his own.
“Guess we’re just gonna have to keep saving each other and see where we end up, huh?”
“Yeah,” Mikleo murmured. “I guess so.”
Sorey suddenly wrapped his arm around Mikleo’s shoulders and tugged him into his side. He blinked as he found himself pressed against the prince’s chest, his hand coming up to steady himself so he wouldn’t completely crash into the other. His hand landed at the center of Sorey’s chest, right where he had grasped it a moment ago.
He tipped his head back, knowing his face was probably bright red but also ready to demand just what Sorey thought he was doing. Then the group of children came hurtling by, practically trampling over one another as they raced down the cobble, calling out hello’s to Sorey as they ran along.
“Be careful, guys!” Sorey called back. “Watch where you’re going! Don’t run anybody over, I can’t save ‘em all!”
The children laughed but didn’t show any signs of slowing down. The little boy bringing up the rear of the group bounded past them.
“I got them, Sorey!” he exclaimed. “Don’t worry!”
“Thanks, Videl. I’m counting on you.” Sorey tossed his half-eaten apple at the boy, who caught it gleefully. “Say hi to your mom for me, yeah?”
“Okay! Bye, Sorey!” Videl took a large bite of the apple and turned around to chase after his friends.
It wasn’t until Sorey was pulling away that Mikleo realized he hadn’t even thought about trying to pull away himself, which he certainly could have done once the crowd of children had passed. The realization made his face grow even warmer. Sorey’s hand staying between his shoulder blades definitely didn’t help.
“You good?” Sorey asked, taking a half-step forward to see Mikleo’s face. “Still have all your toes?”
“Ah.” Mikleo cleared his throat. “Yes. I’m fine. Thank you.”
Sorey studied him thoughtfully. The sun was behind him in the sky, silhouetting his messy hair and casting odd shadows across his face, but Mikleo could make out smears of pink across the apples of his cheeks from the heat. He hoped Sorey chalked the redness on his own face up to that, and not to poison recovery or other things.
The beaming grin that broke out across Sorey’s face surprised him. But really, he shouldn’t have expected otherwise.
“I believe that evens our score then,” the prince chirped. “Two for you and two for me.”
“Evens our-?” Mikleo sputtered petulantly. “You did not save my life from a group of children.”
“And have you ever been bowled over by a bunch of kids on the run before? Because trust me, Mikleo, it is not fun.”
“Why am I not surprised you got yourself into something like that?”
“Hey, be nice about it! I had bruises for weeks!”
They bickered back and forth as they headed down the road again, continuing their walk through the town. There were no more clusters of rambunctious children trying to barrel through them, but Sorey still kept his hand on Mikleo’s upper back, fingers hooked comfortably around his shoulder. And Mikleo let him, telling himself it was because their playful banter was distracting him and nothing more. The magic fizzling beneath his skin made sure to let him know he wasn’t fooling anyone.
Living in Camlann was absolutely nothing like Mikleo had expected it to be.
But he was in way too deep to do anything about it now, so he might as well enjoy it.