“What if I changed my name?”
Mikleo turned from the spellbook he was reading with a smile on his lips, sure that Sorey would greet him with a matching one. But Sorey wasn’t even looking at him, let alone smiling. He was standing by the window, arm braced against the stone wall above it, staring out into the courtyard with a shadowed look on his face. Mikleo’s smile faded. He’d been catching Sorey with that kind of look on his face more often these days than he liked.
“Where did that come from?” Sorey offered a half-hearted shrug and stayed silent. Mikleo didn’t buy it for a second. He closed the book and stood from his spot, crossing over to the other side of the window. “Is this about the coronation tomorrow?” Sorey winced like he’d been hit, which was as good as an admission in Mikleo’s eyes. “Sorey, it’s okay to be nervous-”
“That’s not it,” Sorey said, shaking his head insistently. “It’s not nerves.”
“Then why have you been thinking about changing your name?”
Sorey’s jaw worked like he was wrestling with the words inside his mouth. Mikleo waited patiently, leaning against the wall as he watched his prince.
King, Mikleo mentally corrected himself. Today was the last day that Sorey would be a prince. Although, in Mikleo’s opinion, Sorey had been a king for a long while already; it just hadn’t been official until now.
“Because I don’t think I can do it.” Mikleo opened his mouth, ready with another protest. But Sorey finally turned to look at him, and the shadows hiding in the green of his eyes made him pause.
Sorey finished, “I don’t think I can take the crown if I still have his name.”
“Sharing his name doesn’t mean anything. You couldn’t be more different than him.”
“I know that. I know that, but….” Sorey squeezed his eyes shut and bowed his head. “Mikleo, I can’t stop thinking about it. And if I can’t stop thinking about it, then how can I expect anyone else to?”
Mikleo reached out, placing his hand on Sorey’s shoulder as gently as he could. The muscle beneath his palm was taut with what he now understood was several days worth of stress and anxiety - this had been on Sorey’s mind for a while, probably ever since Velvet’s abdication.
No. Probably longer than that.
“You’re not Artorius, Sorey,” Mikleo said. The name tasted vile on his lips, and hearing it made Sorey flinch again. “You could never be. The darkness in him didn’t come from his name. It doesn’t work like that.”
“But that’s what I’m talking about,” Sorey argued weakly, cracking his eyes open and peeking back over at him. “It feels like that, doesn’t it? It’s like it’s a curse now. No one wants to say it. No one wants to hear it, and I’m supposed to accept his crown in front of the entire kingdom like I don’t know that’s what everyone watching will be thinking?” He pushed himself away from the wall, away from Mikleo. His hand went up to tangle in his hair. “I won’t do that, Mikleo. I can’t.”
“Sorey,” Mikleo said, as calmly as he could with his heart racing so frantically in his chest. “This is your destiny. You accepting the crown tomorrow was the only thing in Camlann’s history ever meant to be set in stone. And no, not everyone is going to understand that, but you will. You do.”
“But what does knowing that change? That becoming king of the kingdom Arthur broke should make me feel good? That doing it with his name should make me feel proud? Because I don’t feel anything but afraid.” Sorey raked his fingers the rest of the way through his hair, the strands sticking out wildly in their wake. Mikleo had always poked fun about how Sorey’s hair seemed to constantly look some semblance of messy, but there was nothing charming about seeing it that way now. “Arthur wasn’t even my real father, but I’m still destined to get stuck with all his mistakes? I know destiny means a lot to you, Mikleo, but that doesn’t solve anything.”
Mikleo’s magic stirred in his chest. It trembled in the anxious atmosphere that had filled the room like it understood it had become a topic of their conversation. No one knew the burdens that came with destiny as much as Mikleo did. Not even Sorey.
His magic strained against his fingertips. He knew what it wanted to do. He let it.
“You aren’t destined to be stuck with any of Artorius’ mistakes.” Mikleo looked back to the window and felt his magic rush out of him. The latch clicked and the window pane creaked open on purposely rusty hinges. A gust of wind flew into the room, buoyed by the sweep of his magic as Mikleo focused back on his king.
As he expected, Sorey’s eyes were wide; he still got starstruck every time he saw Mikleo’s eyes flash amethyst, even though he’d seen it plenty of times at this point. The breeze blew through Sorey’s hair, righting the strands that had been tousled in his frustrated pulling, circling around his head like a halo until it deemed every piece in its place. It sent his earrings fluttering across his cheeks as it swept down towards his shoulders and dispersed with a flutter of his sleeves. Sorey still stared at him, wonder replacing the shadows that had haunted his eyes. Mikleo stared back.
“You’re destined to fix them.”
Sorey - who was Mikleo’s destiny, and always would be - blinked slowly. Mikleo watched the anxiety bleed out of him, watched as his shoulders dropped and his fingers uncurled and his face softened. He suddenly looked exhausted, but it was better than seeing him look so hopeless.
“Yeah,” he said softly. “Yeah, okay, that was what I needed to hear. Thanks, Mikleo.” He brought a hand back to his face and rubbed at his eyes. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to dump all that on you.”
That sounded more like the Sorey he knew. “Don’t apologize. If anything, I wish you had dumped this on me sooner.” He crossed the room again, and this time Sorey was there to greet him with a hand at his waist and a sheepish smile. “But I should have realized this wasn’t as easy on you as you were making it seem, so I’m sorry.”
Sorey opened his mouth, paused, then closed it again, like he had changed his mind about what it was he wanted to say. “It’s not easy,” he admitted finally, and Mikleo was sure he’d scrapped some kind of I’m fine, don’t worry about me speech. “It’s… been a lot to process. And sometimes it feels like I don’t have enough time to go through it all.”
“You don’t have to go through it all right now,” Mikleo said. “And you don’t have to go through it by yourself, either.” He placed his hand on Sorey’s arm, squeezing carefully. “I know Velvet’s leaving, and I’m not her, but-”
“I don’t want you to be like Velvet.” Sorey reached up to press his other hand against Mikleo’s cheek. “I want you to be you. Who else is going to tell me when I’m in over my head or being too dumb?”
“Velvet, but I see your point.” And his Sorey really was here again, because he threw his head back and laughed. A full, rich sound that made Mikleo think of sunshine - or maybe there were just things about Sorey that still left him starstruck, regardless of how many times he’d seen them. “As long as you’re okay with me taking up that mantle,” he continued once the other’s laughter died down, “I suppose that settles that.”
“I’m more than okay with it.” Sorey cocked his head then, staring at Mikleo with a fond grin on his face. “Sometimes thinking about all the destiny stuff makes my head spin, but I know it’s not all bad. After all, destiny brought me you….” His green eyes sparkled with mischief as he snuck his thumb beneath Mikleo’s fringe of hair, tracing across the skin of his forehead right beneath where his circlet rested. “...Luzrov Rulay.”
Like clockwork, Mikleo’s magic rose to the call. It swirled wildly in his chest, an involuntary spark that shot through his bones. The feeling wasn’t as alarming to him now as it had been when he was young with no idea of where it was coming from, which had resulted in his mother gifting him the circlet in the first place. Mikleo hadn’t felt that terrifying slipping feeling again until he met Sorey, although he eventually realized it wasn’t a rebelling of his magic, but instead an answer. The tampering enchantment he wore did nothing to block Sorey’s voice if he called, and Mikleo’s magic would never ignore their king. It pulsed in his palms, spiked aches in his knuckles on its way down to his fingertips, and then Mikleo felt the tell-tale rush that came with the beginning of a spell.
The window pane swung back and closed itself. The latch clicked. The drapes drew themselves shut with just enough of an opening for a sliver of light to keep the room dimly lit. But Mikleo still saw the stars that twinkled to life in Sorey’s eyes, also like clockwork as his own eyes flickered back to amethyst.
Sorey’s thumb moved again, now tracing a gentle path below his eye, watching intently for the moment the amethyst faded back to his natural blue. “There we go,” he murmured, and his magic sang from the praise as it settled back into his blood where it belonged.
Which then shot up to Mikleo’s face and burned his cheeks. “You know I hate it when you do that.”
“You know that I hate it when you use magic around me when I can’t fully appreciate it. It was only fair.”
“I was just trying to remind you.” He cleared his throat. “Which it seems I did.”
“You did.” Sorey’s other hand came up, and he tipped Mikleo’s head back as he properly cupped his face. “You definitely did.”
Sorey kissed him, and his magic simmered happily. It was all Mikleo could do to hold onto Sorey’s arms as he leaned into him, all warmth and comfort as Sorey thanked him in his own way.
Mikleo let him take his fill, felt his head begin to get that floaty feeling that came with Sorey’s more intense kisses; the kind of kisses they shared when they were alone that often built into something more, which were finally becoming more common between them, much to Mikleo’s delight. But when he felt one of Sorey’s hands leave his cheek in favor of moving down to press against the small of his back, Mikleo reluctantly twisted his face away, and brought his own hand up to keep the other at bay when he tried to follow.
“Wait,” he said, and Sorey’s pout was immediate. Mikleo pointedly ignored how cute it made him look. “The name thing. You need to tell me more about that first, before we get distracted.”
Sorey blinked. “Oh. That.” His brow furrowed thoughtfully. “Yeah, that wasn’t supposed to spiral into what it did. I really did just want your opinion.” His fingers flexed nervously at the small of Mikleo’s back. “So, what do you think? About maybe changing my name?”
“I think the question you should be asking me,” Mikleo answered, “is what I think of whatever name you’ve already picked out.”
Sorey was surprised enough to take a step back, and Mikleo rolled his eyes. “Honestly, Sorey, I’m not stupid. You wouldn’t have brought it up to me at all if you hadn’t gotten that far with it.” The pout returned. Mikleo ran his hands up Sorey’s arms, settling on his shoulders where he gave him a light shake. “Come on, tell me.”
“I really can’t get anything past you, can I?” Sorey sighed and straightened his shoulders. “I thought about just taking Velvet’s name. I mean, it would have made sense. The Crowe family is technically the one that should be on the throne. But.... I didn’t like the way that made me feel either. I’m not really Velvet’s brother any more than I was Arthur’s son.”
Mikleo opened his mouth, but the hand on his cheek shifted to cover it before he could speak. “And I don’t mean that in a bad way,” Sorey hurried on. “I just mean I think I’m finally ready to make my own name. I don’t want to be defined by Velvet any more than I do Arthur. I think it’s time I finally start just being Sorey, don’t you think?”
He took his hand away, dropping it awkwardly onto the bend of Mikleo’s elbow. Sorey stared at him with the most hopeful look Mikleo had ever seen on his face, and he didn’t know if it was possible to fall in love with someone twice, but their relationship had braved greater unknowns than that.
“Yeah,” he said softly, “I do.”
The smile that split across Sorey’s face put the sun itself to shame.
“I like Shepherd,” he said, voice quiet like it was taking everything he had not to burst with excitement. “I thought it fit nice. I came from something simple, just like all the people I’ll be leading. I want them to know that.”
Mikleo nodded as his eyes stung with pride. Hearing that made him prouder than any ancient script of destiny ever could. His destiny was to make sure Sorey took the crown tomorrow, but Sorey made himself worthy of it all on his own.
“Sorey Shepherd.” It was like magic, sizzling on his tongue. “I like it, too. It’s perfect.”
You’re perfect, Mikleo didn’t say. Sorey looked happy enough to cry without hearing that part.
“Yeah. You’re right; it suits you.”
The pressure that suddenly appeared at the small of his back told him what Sorey’s next move was going to be, and he held up his hand again before Sorey could swoop back in. “But,” he chimed, maybe just a little teasingly as he watched impatience paint Sorey’s face, “to answer your original question, I think the whole thing’s a great idea. You of all people deserve a new beginning.”
Sorey smiled at him, something softer and more tender but just as warm. It matched the way he cradled Mikleo’s face. “You’re my new beginning,” he murmured. “You always were. You always will be.”
And while Mikleo would normally shove him for saying something so horribly cheesy, he let Sorey have that one. He wouldn’t have been able to stop the stupid smile that spread across his own face anyway.
Sorey’s fingers twitched against his cheek. “If there’s anything else from that spiel you want to talk about, you should say it now. Because once I kiss you again, I’m not going to be able to stop.”
Mikleo shook his head with absolutely nothing but fondness. He glanced over Sorey’s shoulder, eyeing the lock on his bedroom door, and his magic rushed to do his bidding. He heard the heavy click a moment later. The drapes were next with a glance over Sorey’s other shoulder, the sliver of light vanishing and shrouding them in darkness - but only for as long as it took Mikleo to light the candles on the walls.
The flickering flames sent shadows dancing across Sorey’s face, and Mikleo took a moment to appreciate the way he looked, just like he knew Sorey was doing as he felt his magic curl within him once more.
“No,” he answered, belatedly. “You can kiss me again.”
And Sorey, his sweet and shining king, was true to his word.
The next morning, His Majesty Sorey Shepherd of Camlann was formally sworn to the throne. The crown glittered where it nestled in his brown hair, caught by the sunlight streaming in through the windows as he stood on the dais, surrounded by his people. Rose and Zaveid were the ones who started the chant, passing it along to Velvet and Alisha and soon to everyone in the room. But Mikleo whispered his piece to himself, and his magic glowed with understanding. They would do everything they could with every bit of power they had to make sure the wish was fulfilled.
Long live the king.