The pale, nearly-full moon hangs over Castle Candy as Amethar and Calroy make their way up the wall-walk. Hypothetically, they’re looking for a suitably out-of-the-way and quiet place to have a late-night drink. More realistically, they’ve walked past at least five spots that Calroy would’ve found acceptable, and yet Amethar walks on. He and Caramelinda had argued tonight, Calroy knows. It’s obvious, not just because Calroy has informants all over the castle, but by the tenseness of Amethar’s shoulders, the line between his brows, the white-knuckled grip he has on the bottle of blueberry wine.
Calroy clears his throat as Amethar almost strides past another perfectly good spot to stop. “How about here?”
“What?” Amethar asks, shaking his head like someone waking from a dream. “Oh, yeah, no, this is perfect. Great eye, Cal.”
“So, something on your mind?” Calroy asks once they’ve climbed onto the parapets to sit down, legs swinging over the darkness of the castle grounds below them. Amethar stops halfway through opening the bottle and frowns, a strange expression to see on his usually open, joyful face. “Surely it’s not that bad.”
Amethar heaves a sigh, opens the wine the rest of the way, and takes a gulp. “Caramelinda thinks that I’m too easy on the girls.”
Calroy takes a swig of the drink to stall and considers his options. If there’s one thing that Calroy’s learned about Amethar in the fifteen years he’s known him, and there are many things he’s learned, it’s that the man cares a lot about family; not only the physical people, but the very concept of it, which gets tricky when Amethar begins to claim friends and even near-strangers as “family,” feeling offended on their behalf and holding grudges for them. Calroy had once told him about a noble who’d tried to encroach on Calroy’s father’s territory, decades ago, and Amethar sent suspicious half-glares to the man’s grandson when he came to petition the Crown. It would be tricky for Calroy to navigate this situation without offending him because, though the girls were his flesh and blood, Caramelinda was family twice over -- his beloved sister’s widow and his own chaste wife.
“Well,” He asks, “What happened?”
“They skipped their lessons,” Amethar says. After a pause, he adds, “And set up a rope trap to stop Theo from catching them. Caramelinda thinks they should be grounded but, I mean, that’s a lot of ingenuity! My girls, only eight, already setting up snares! They must’ve paid some attention in class to learn that.”
“To battle tactics, at least,” Calroy offers, “Which, now that you mention it… weren’t those the only ones you liked?”
“Exactly!” Amethar crows, gesturing so dramatically that he splashes alcohol onto the brickwork below them. “You know, Ruby was so quiet when they were little, I really thought she’d take after Caramelinda, but they’re both pips off the old bar! I was never punished for it, not really, and I-”
“And now you’re King,” Calroy interrupts.
Amethar swallows thickly, throat moving obviously even in the dim moon- and torchlight. “Now I’m King,” He repeats.
Calroy gives that a moment to set in; sometimes, he’s found, Amethar forgets. Even with the weight of royal jewels on his head and fingers, he sometimes forgets that he’s King of Candia and not just some normal father raising normal spoiled children; it’s unfathomable to Calroy, that you could ever forget that you own everything that you could ever want, everything that matters, but Amethar does a great many things that are unfathomable to Calroy.
“I mean… I turned out fine, right?” Amethar asks eventually, in a quiet voice.
Calroy laughs, like the very idea of Amethar not being absolutely fine and perfectly suited to his position has never occurred to him. Calroy is a very good actor. “Of course you did! That’s not even a question, Amethar, you’re wonderful, I wasn’t trying to imply otherwise. After all, I wasn’t raised with this sort of education, surely, you and the Queen would know what sort of things a young Royal needs to know better than me.”
Amethar flinches, just a twitch of his cheek and the flutter of his eyelashes, but it’s obvious enough to Calroy, who’s had over a decade to learn how to look for it. “I… Yeah, of course we do,” Amethar says, though his voice is still under its usual boisterous volume, still unsure. Calroy hides his grin behind a sip.
“Well then! I’m sure you two will sort it out soon,” Calroy says, cheerfully ignoring the conflicted expression on Amethar’s face. Amethar shuffles nervously beside him.
“Cal, do you think I’m a bad husband?”
“Caramelinda’s never said, but,” Amethar sighs and cuts himself off. “I just don’t know.”
“Amethar, you’re trying your best,” Calroy says, almost without thinking about it. It’s a rote assurance given when Amethar asks about how he is as a King, and it fits just as well here; after all, Calroy thinks that Amethar is putting just as much effort into being a good husband as he is into being a good king.
“Thanks, Cal.” Amethar lets out a breath like Calroy’s released a weight upon him, clutching the bottle to his chest. “You always know what to say.”
Calroy considers Amethar’s profile, lit by the yellow glow of the moon. He considers the power that he wields, controlling a royal’s emotions with a handful of words. It is, he thinks, even more intoxicating than the wine.
He tilts his head up towards the beautiful night sky, out towards the blinking lights of Dulcington, and he allows himself a single, genuine grin. “I do, don't I?”