Ladekahn sat over the bedside of his unconscious ambassador. How worried he had been when the bleeding mess was carried in on the shoulder of one of the knights. How worried he had been when the unnaturally pale young man had been lain down, had his top cut away from him, when he had seen the awful wound and been told of what happened. How Lyude had been stabbed in the back by his own brother.

What kind of monsters did Alfard spawn, to carry out such heartless cowardly acts? Ladekahn had to clench his hand into a fist to vent his frustration. Had he promised to protect Lyude when the terrified young man first arrived from Mintaka - what of that promise now? Damn it all! What could he promise Lyude now, now that all trust had probably been shattered. In his mind, stinging words already rang: 'Why didn't you save me?', 'Why weren't you there to protect me when you promised?' and the like.

Perhaps he was skipping ahead of himself. Thankfully, the injury had not been fatal, and the knights on the scene had managed to get Lyude to the doctor before blood loss killed him. Oh, Lyude was still alive all right, just with another scar to his name. The worst of it was that, despite the number of trained knights there, his best fighters, the one guilty perpetrator of this seeming attempted murder had escaped. Skeed had managed to get away. The knight who reported to him said that the wine-haired man had vanished. A deft movement or two and he was gone.

A soft moan brought the king from his reverie. Lyude was waking - oh, thank the Skies! Those red eyes flickered open to a squint as they adjusted to the light.

"Lyude... how are you feeling?" Ladekahn asked, keeping his voice quiet just in case.

"Uhh... little woozy... but okay overall." The little redhead's eyes lit upon the clean, crisp bandages around his middle.

"Oh, those are on to keep the area clean." The king had followed the red gaze. "The doctor and his healing magnus fixed most of the damage. No major organs hit, I'm told. No haemorrhaging or anything serious like that."

"... and... Skeed?"

"He... got away." It pained Ladekahn to admit the failure of his knights. "I am told that he vanished after stabbing you. We put his craft under heavy guard but in the morning, my knights were unconscious and the cruiser was gone. He's probably back in Alfard by now. I'm... sorry we could not do more."

"Oh - no, please, there's no need to apologise, I mean, Skeed's a strategist, he probably had his escape planned out before he came, he's Geldoblame's favourite and, and... well... that's how he's always been trained, so I'm not surprised... He sometimes gets called on to assassinate people too, I guess he's done this sort of thing hundreds of times before."

"So then he is a heartless killer?" The king raised an eyebrow. "I like the sound of this man less and less. I cannot see how such an angel can be related to the devil incarnate."

"...Oh... yes, I suppose he is heartless..."

Ladekahn could see that Lyude was getting depressed. Poor thing. Though it happened less and less these days, (as Ladekahn conceitedly hoped, that was something to do with him), it still did pain the king to watch the ambassador sitting, barely holding back tears yet insisting that he was fine.

"Perhaps," he spoke to interrupt any upsetting thoughts that might be working their way through Lyude's mind, "I could take you to see the sights that our fishermen live with when you're allowed out of bed. Any resident of Diadem has to see them at least once. Does that interest you, Ambassador Lyude?"

"... Oh! Yes, Sire, it... that sounds lovely!" The teen smiled and Ladekahn knew that his scheme had been successful. No depression today, it seemed. Now, where to take him first? The Lesser Celestial River was local, they could visit any time, and Nashira he was sure Lyude had been to many times... Ah!

"How does the Greater Celestial River sound? It is only approachable part of the year, because the spring heat melts the winter snows in the rest of the world and causes the river to burst its banks. In those times you can approach by air, but you can't swim or fly close - those are the best parts..."

"S-swimming with you?" Ladekahn noticed how Lyude carefully dodged around the flying. "That.. that sounds wonderful! Yes, yes, thank you, goodness! What an honour!"

The king smiled and began to run his hand soothingly through bright, soft red hair. He was only just beginning to notice how adorable the young teenager was when he had a big smile on his face. It suited Lyude to be happy. His face would light up quite literally - a faint blush would grace his cheeks, the smile on his lips, his eyes would either be closed in contentment or shining brightly... everything about the expression was... perfect.

He shook himself out of such thoughts. Lyude was an ambassador. A friend. A victim. Not a lover, or a sex object. The redhead needed comfort and company now, not coital pleasures. Perhaps that time for that would come, but Ladekahn would much rather see Lyude with someone he truly loved, rather than with someone he felt obliged to repay. Such as himself.

But then, only time would tell.

---

Escaping from Sheliak had been surprisingly easy. Skeed had lurked in the shadows for an hour or two, watching the guards stationed around his ship. It was the work of an instant for a master like him to slip a sleeping draft into their drink undetected and wait for the coast to be clear. Then he had left Sheliak. Mission accomplished.

Had he been aiming to kill Lyude? No. If he hadn't held back, Lyude would by now be dead. No, no, he had kept to the plan completely, poisoned blade and all. Hm. Would Geldoblame be proud with him? Probably, but he didn't need to question what his reward would be - if he even got a reward. It wouldn't be a pay rise, either.

He arrived back in Mintaka in the dead of night after an uneventful voyage over the skies. Moored his craft and stealthily crept back towards his estate. He had just rounded the corner of the street that his family just about owned when a not-to-subtle voice called out to him:

"Oi! Cock! Over here!"

He knew who it belonged to. No one else woul call him 'cock' without fearing retribution. It was his little blueskin.

"Folon! Damn you, little bastard, where the hell did you come from?" He hissed in reply as he spotted his psuedo-lover amongst some boxes stacked up oustide an engineer's shop. "What do you want?"

"Jus' wanted to see you again, cockhead." Folon strode confidently over to Skeed and flung himself into the wine-nette's arms. "Y'not gonna be seeing me again, prob'ly won't be coming back to Alfard. Not alive, at any rate. Wonder what it's like to be dead? Anyway. Wanted to say 'ciao' and 'thanks for the sex', big man."

"... what assignment demands this?" Skeed didn't want to accept it. Folon was one of the few things he had left that kept him sane. One of the two people who were even half way to understanding him, and, just like that, he was going to lose his young friend? Subconsciously, the arms around the blue skinned boy tightened.

"...argh, don't squeeze me, I'll throw up on you..." But Folon was squeezing just as tight. As though the crazed, bloodthirsty assassin was upset at the thought of losing Skeed. "I was just on m'way to your house to leave a note. Don't need to now. Wanna have sex? I have about half an hour before I gotta go."

... It would be the last time. For who knew how long. Skeed almost growled in frustration. He kept losing things that mattered to him, and now this...

"Yes. I will have sex with you. Here. Now. Screw authority." His voice was rough, unrefined, and he felt his Folon shiver in anticipation.

"Authority? You are the authority!" Folon snickered, throwing off his trousers and laying on the ground, legs spread. "Make it quick, I wanna get cleaned up so Giacomo doesn't think I been playing with myself again."

"... That is more information than I ever needed to know. Does Giacomo watch or something? How the hell does he know?"

"The white stains tell stories.." Folon sang as Skeed lowered himself to straddle his blue legs. "Anyway, I only did it because Ayme was being a bitch about me having big bulge."

Skeed said no more. Kept it quick and pleasant, just as Folon wished. It was painful. Never would see his blueskin again? Too much. And then... while Folon lay, spent and beautiful on the ground, the moon reflecting off the metal of the buildings throwing strange shadows on the boy's blue skin, Skeed pressed their lips together for one final kiss. Then he stood, pulled his trousers up, and left for his house with no more words.

No point in letting Folon see him holding back tears and shattering the illusion of his bravery that the teen no doubt kept for times like this.