It wasn't often that Meruvis made himself noticeable.
As the functional right hand of the Blades of Night's Veil, his task had been to be efficient and commanding, to ease the burdens of their cherished Princess and to be her pillar of support in times of need.
He did not need to be noticed.
That was for the Lady Chrodechilde; for Princess Chrodechilde, who drew people's gazes like a glowing moon.
He remembered Princess Chrodechilde when she had been twelve, in the practice courts, slight and beautiful and already deadly, cutting her way through soldiers twice her size with Princess Fredegund just a few paces away, face upturned and eyes shining, just like the guards around her. Because Chrodechilde was their Princess, their future queen, the face of their goddess. He had looked up at her, across the blade she had put at his throat, awed, and in that moment, swore to serve her with his life.
When she grew older, men had sighed after her, dreaming of her favor. For the Princess was lovely, kind, and fair, dignified and talented beyond compare.
It was little enough wonder, that even in her darkest hour, her charm had caught hundreds, from starstruck beggars given a kind word to empire kings pledged her alliance- and one redheaded mage who would throw away everything for her sake.
The same redheaded mage now seated beside him, the fourth goblet of strong wine empty in front of him, and dazedly glaring at Meruvis with all the heated attention he could muster.
Meruvis was not used to being noticed.
Except Asad had somehow noticed him from the very beginning, from the moment his eyes had slid embarrassedly from the Princess to the shadow at her side.
And perhaps some unwise part of himself had been amused and flattered. Had let it be. Had ignored all the tiny signs of an eager suitor trying to compete.
And if the Princess ever commented on his ever more flawless service; the coat he would drape around her shoulders when it rained, then Meruvis would smile and not glance at the mage-general, a few steps back, mouth open and flustered after missing his chance.
"It's not fair," Asad said, finally, his voice slurring.
Meruvis inclined his head in acknowledgment. "I'm afraid I don't know what you mean."
They were both dressed down for tonight's celebratory feast in soft linen shirts and trousers, the products of an almost reckless euphoria from winning against the One King spreading like a fever through the entire castle. Wustum had outdone himself with the banquet and the Wanderers had brought in the wine and delicacies from their stores. Even Ramin had behaved himself.
Deaf to all the merriment around them, Asad frowned mightily, jabbing a finger at Meruvis' chest. "You," he said slowly, "are too close to Milady."
Without waiting for a reply, Asad continued. "Princess Fredegund is, too, but she's her sister, so that's fine, but you're always, always there. Just there. Where I want to be. "
Meruvis drank, leaning back slightly. "I am there to serve."
"I know that," Asad said forlornly, slumping on the table and looking up at him accusingly with one hand clasped around his goblet.
"But it's still not fair. You have everything a man could possibly want! You're close to the Princess and talented with the sword and sort of really really good-looking and I really don't want to give up but you're there."
" 'Good-looking'?" Meruvis echoed, trying not to laugh. He had a feeling it would wound the mage's earnest dignity.
"You're aware you are," Asad said, very close to a drunken pout.
"I'm honored you think so," Meruvis replied, smiling and arching a brow ever so slightly.
For some strange reason, Asad's face, already flushed with wine, darkened with color. His goblet tipped, a plate skidding as he hurried to right himself. "Th-that- I," he stood up suddenly, knees colliding with the back of the chair hard as he struggled with alcohol-induced vertigo.
Meruvis caught him, arm hooking around a trim waist before the mage knocked his chair over and himself with it. "Do you need assistance?"
"Not at all!" Asad shook his head fiercely.
Meruvis glanced at his face, then at the half-empty room, people of all tribes and countries engaged in eating contests (Lycia was winning), drinking games (Chien's idea) and music or conversation. Many had already spread out to the courtyards, dancing under the starlight or watching Yomi and Yula dance, Chihaya's flute an otherworldly pure sound in the night.
The Princess had retired earlier after the final toast, wishing everyone goodnight as she and her sister headed back to their rooms to rest and talk.
Roberto was outside, valiantly resisting all efforts of the people to get him to dance and exchanging unmeant barbs with the Vanquisher of the One King, Sieg. Sieg's friends were around him, as well, laughing and in high spirits, barely noticing the wounds they had sustained from their great battle.
Meruvis stood, adjusting his grip around the somewhat frozen mage he had on his arm.
"I'll help you to your room. " It didn't seem like Asad could participate in any more of the night's festivities.
"W-wait, that's not really ne-"
"The Princess will want to talk to you in the morning. It'd be my duty to see you safely to bed." Meruvis' smile was uncompromising.
Whether it was Meruvis' tone of voice, or the mention of the Princess, Asad did not say another word, allowing himself to be led back, steps stumbling, half-shambling. They made it to the lift before Asad's head thumped gently on Meruvis' shoulder, fine red hair spilling onto the dark linen shirt.
"Have you always been like this?" The words were soft and slurred, barely discernible but for the quiet as the cab slowly went up the shaft.
Meruvis turned to look at the head on his shoulder. Asad smelled like wine and soap and something exotic that he had sometimes seen at the Magedom's markets. His warm body leaned heavily against Meruvis' side.
"What do you mean?"
The words came more slowly still, halting. "You knew. From the start. About how…"
"You are hardly the first to love our Princess."
Meruvis blinked, but the elevator came to a halt, the doors creaking open, and Asad was already asleep.
For several long moments, he could only stare, unable to discern what Asad had meant.
Eventually, the lift threatened to close its doors once more, prompting him to gently pick the sleeping mage up and head for the former magedom soldiers' quarters.
The war was over and soon, the Blades would go to Astrasia. While it was true that the Princess would welcome Asad and his men, she would never dream of asking such a favor from them when Salsabil and Shams, their King-to-be would be waiting.
Meruvis set Asad down on a bed, draping the blanket over the mage's slumbering form.
Moonlight touched Asad's face, the markings under his eyes turning silver.
Green eyes and the pouting frowns.
It would not be too hard, to bring the matter up. To suggest establishing a Royal mage force of some kind.
It wasn't often that Meruvis made himself noticeable. But he'd never thought he'd be so charmed by what would happen when he did.
A/N: drabble request. Spawned off a musing that it was rather odd that Asad came with the Blades, after all.