[MAG] I Keep the Curtains Tied in Knots
"Oh, it's beautiful - whatever is the occasion?"
The silk in Trapetsiya's hands, he knew, was very fine. So fine, in fact, that it had to be weaved by hand - its fibers too rare and thin to be handled by any generic magical production factory. And, truly, hand-weaving was a rare skill nowadays, faded into history as a bygone of the pre-industrial era. And, considering this Universe had moved well into its post-scarcity society, it was rare that anyone even remembered weaving existed.
But they did, of course. Mortals loved to hoard that knowledge, even well past its need. He didn't know any personally, but he wouldn't be surprised to find a handful of weavers out there, participating in the art merely for the pleasure of creation rather than production. It was admirable.
He thumbed over the shimmering platinum fabric again, wordlessly, unable to keep the soft smile off his face. This, truly, was a generous gift, selected with thought and picked for its effort. Any mortal would be overjoyed to receive such a wonderful garment, especially from one as close to their heart as a fiancé. Moralle had, truly, put his heart into this.
"There is no occasion," Moralle said, voice as smooth as always, "I merely thought of you when I spied the royal tailor's work."
He reached forwards, brushing a few locks of Trapet's silver hair from his forehead. It was hard to keep his heart from swelling and overwhelming him to the point of tears, but he held it in regardless, merely smiling up at Moralle with trembling tears instead. The crown prince wrapped his arms tightly around Trapet, pulling the other in a firm, warm hug.
He cling in return, careful to keep the gifted robe from being yanked. Though the hug only lasted a few seconds, it compelled his heart to sing in joy. As Moralle pulled away, Trapet left a small kiss on the other's cheek.
"I want to see you cloaked in it, my darling Siya," Moralle encouraged, stroking the robe gently, eyes full of nothing more than adoration.
Trapet inhaled softly at the mere thought. "Of course."
With a twist, he turned towards the north stairs, the electric candles mounted on the walls casting his shadow over Moralle. The prince looked on fondly, hands clasped over his lap while Trapet lifted his dress to daintily climb the carpeted stone. As the staircase curved, his fiancé slid out of sight, disappearing behind the central column of the spiral.
At the top of the stairs laid a gorgeous wooden door, darkened by treatment and engraved with dozens of intricate patterns and effigies. As Trapet reached for its brass handle, his magic flickered in his wrist. The door opened to his favored twentieth sitting room, rather than the castle bedroom he oh-so-rarely used.
Silently, the door glided shut behind him, locking off the Timeline. Carefully, Trapet picked around several tables stacked high - primarily with other gifts from Moralle, though some of Yulle's had begun to spill over from the eleventh display closet. His dress brushed one of the trinkets, a tiny painted ballet dancer - but before it toppled to the floor, his tail snapped forwards and caught it, deftly setting it back in place as he hurried into a connecting room.
And he stood, still smiling, in the sixth personal bathroom, still holding the robe.
Every footstep brought the sound of feet against ceramic tile as he strode towards the sink, a beautiful mixture of porcelain and marble, the pride of the sixth bathroom. Two dozen towelracks hung next to it, inset into the gray stone wall tiles, all covered in fluffy monochrome towels. This bathroom's style was, after all, minimalist black-and-white. It would suit the robe, platinum, to be used here.
He dropped his dress without ceremony, letting it fall to the floor. Though many of his peers preferred to magically alter their clothing, Trapet always found himself favoring the mortal way. It seemed so much more tangible, to gently pull each article on and off, to feel the rich fabrics and wonderful craftsmanship contained in the tiny threads.
And, well, wouldn't it be better to enjoy Moralle's gift in the most tactile way he could? The image of his fiancé's smile rose in Trapet's head, and he blushed slightly, cheeks tinging pinkish. He'd soon be back in the other's arms, slipping back into the Timeline only a minute after he'd left, and descend the stairs, twirling enough to let the robe just barely swish past his knees, and the prince would coo and swoon.
Quickly, he shrugged on the robe, slipping his arms through and tying its ribbon around his waist.
He spun on a heel, admiring the way the silk pirouetted around his ankles. It truly resembled his hair, glittering in the illumination, catching every ray it could and shimmering. Trapet smiled down at himself. What would Moralle say, his eyes lying upon Trapet shrouded in moonlight itself, like an ethereal fae?
As his mind wandered, so did his gaze. It rested upon the sixth bathroom's luxurious tub - circular and large enough to fit at least five people comfortably, inset into the floor with a large enough marble lip to rest drinks or trinkets. In fact, there were several soaps sitting on the lip currently - unused, of course, merely tokens of decoration.
Wouldn't it be nice to freshen up a bit before returning? He could even use one of the perfumes Moralle was so fond of. Perhaps blossoms, or strawberries - summer fruits a far cry from the coldness of Moralle's kingdom and palace.
Trapetsiya reached forwards, plucking a towel from the rack, this one steel blue. Magic flicked into it, dampening it enough to serve as a face wash and turning on the bathtub. Water gushed from a tap automatically, flicking off once it was filled.
As he gingerly wiped down his face with the damp towel, Trapet let a small hum escape. With another snap of magic, the water dripped from the towel into the sink, and he gracefully flicked the faucet off, the wooden handles cold to the touch. Still humming the song - one Moralle had written for him many years ago, played preferably on piano - he tucked the towel into its designated bar.
Wonderful. Everything was in its place.
Trapetsiya turned back towards the sink, reaching to tug at the robe's ribbon. The silk, warm now from his body, was so beautiful in the soft lighting of his sixth personal bathroom - truly, he had picked the best location to admire it. For a brief second, his mind flicked to Moralle's strong smile and laughter, and a dorky smile wormed onto his face.
A sudden flush of excitement and warmth overcame him, almost short-circuiting Trapet's brain. Rather than let the sensation overwhelm him, he released the majority of it in a flurry of giggles, hiding his grin behind a hand.
Before the knot slipped free, though, he caught a flicker of movement in the mirror, and tilted his head up. His eyes locked, quietly, onto Kolo, who stood in the door frame, upper arms crossed. After Kolo nodded in recognition, Trapet allowed a small frown to form on his face.
Ah. So that's what it was.
"Playing with mortal hearts?" Kolo asked, voice dull, slipping from the doorway to stand just behind Trapet.
Rather than look at Kolo, Trapet's eyes refocused onto the sink's painted porcelain. Little abstract cherry blossoms surrounded the drain. "For how long have you followed me?"
"I didn't follow you." Kolo stated, as if it were obvious, tone bordering on obnoxious. "At least, not into the Timeline."
Semantics. But, he knew better than to argue such a thing to Kolo. "Very well."
Kolo moved again, this time to stand near the bathroom's wall and place a hand on the sink's marble countertop. Though his movements were not graceful, he was still careful to avoid knocking over any of the stone dishes on the counter or any of the various herbs and branches they contained. "Trapetsiya."
That tone. Trapet winced. He knew that tone - though he had not been on the receiving end of it many times, he'd heard it turned against Dijamant, Rendgen, Pereseket, Sekizgen... a thinly-concealed irritation that warned of a coming lecture. He swallowed the lump in his throat, willing his body to untense. "Yes?"
"Listen," Kolo's expression dipped into pity rather than fury, "I'm not saying this to bully you. Or attack you. None of that, I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. But do you really understand what you're doing?"
Trapet elected not to answer.
"What if Sek finds out about this?" Kolo pressed. "What will he do when he finds out you've been prancing in mortal castles and wedding them? What will you do if the Timeline takes a turn for the worse and your fiancé is harmed or, even, killed? Have you thought about these? Have you considered that? How can I trust that you won't go down his path?"
"Sekizgen is none of my concern," Trapet said, waving a hand slightly. "I will not put my life on hold for millennia until he recovers."
"It's not about putting your life on hold," Kolo near-demanded, "it's about keeping the delicate balance of the entire group."
Trapet frowned, fingers on his other hand curling on the robe's ribbon. "Perhaps, but there is little chance Sekizgen will find out, unless someone tells him."
"Or unless he decides to try to turn his gaze to that Timeline, and kidnap its mortals."
Though he opened his mouth to retort back that, in that case, Kolo should focus more on Sekizgen rather than Trapetsiya, no voice came from his throat. He merely glanced again to the sink, letting a soft sigh. It was useless to argue this.
"Kolo, please. I will not be abandoning those I care for."
"How many are you married to, now?" Kolo asked, voice starting to rise as his temper did.
Trapet's hand tightened into a fist, "That is truthfully none of your concern-"
"You've made it my concern!" ah, that was the wrong thing to say- "You know you can just wait til Sekizgen is better, and come back to the mortals like nothing's happened. You don't have to keep just showing up! You can just wait!"
Trapet balked, incredulous. "You want me to forget them?"
"I didn't say that," Kolo hissed, "I said you can wait. They won't know the difference if you come back into their Timeline right after they left. Is it too much to ask you to show a little patience every now and then?"
To someone with a temper, Kolo's words might have been cutting. Certainly, they were useful whips for keeping the likes of Rendgen and Dijamant sequestered in the group, ambitions sullied by guilt trips and ego-stripping.
But Trapet was not a man with a temper, and rather than argue, he glanced back towards the bath. It still sat stoutly, crystal-clear water glittering and softly stirring as jets at the bottom pumped fresh warmth in.
He paused, considering the bath for a second before turning back around. Kolo still stared at him, expression intense - though not quite furious yet. Still, it was obvious to any onlooker the stress in the other's physical form - muscles tensed, shoulders raised, ears lowered, tail whipping, as if he were a kicked cat.
Briefly, Trapet wondered how long Kolo had been ruminating on this. How long had Kolo known? How long had he stressed over it? How long had it settled in his body, until... well, this sorry display before him?
"Kolo," he began, "why don't you have a bath with me?"
The question was enough to make Kolo recoil slightly. After a pregnant pause, he managed, "What."
"A bath," Trapet continued, gesturing towards the tub. "You're stressed, that much I can tell. Perhaps a brief respite will help you-"
"-I'm very alright," Kolo said, quickly, raising his arms.
Trapet paused, eyes searching Kolo's face. He let out a small sigh a second later. "Very well. I will not force you to do anything."
There was a long silence. Trapet fiddled with the edge of the robe's ribbon, the soft silk warm. Truly, he had no intention of abandoning Moralle - or Yulle, or any of his beloveds. He wasn't certain how he'd avoid further interrogation by Kolo, but surely he'd come up with something - perhaps speak to Ellipsa about it, request consul. Surely either Ellipsa or Zehneck would know....
Kolo had taken to staring at the bath, expression unreadable. Whenever his resentment or anger ignited, it wore clearly on his face - but the rest of his emotions seemed nigh untouchable, a far cry from Trapet. Though he considered himself graceful, he'd also been told he was a bit of an open book. Then again, he merely didn't know Kolo very well. Perhaps those closer to him could guess at the feelings swirling in the other.
Briefly, he wondered if he should ask Kolo to leave. He did want to bathe and return to Moralle, though saying as much was sure to rekindle Kolo's fury.
It was a shame, really, that the attempted subject change fell so short. Kolo would certainly retrack, find some other angle to argue with Trapet until he was fully backed into a corner. Though he understood Kolo's reasoning, he still disagreed with the methods - and though he had no real respite besides he enjoyed meeting mortals and learning to care for them individually, none of their earlier argument sat right with him.
But there was little he could say. He could merely-
"Actually," Kolo said, suddenly, in a single breath, as if he couldn't get the words out fast enough, "nevermind let's take a bath."
Instantly, Trapetsiya brightened, smile reappearing on his face. "Oh! Yes, of course-"
Before Trapet could continue, Kolo had already sidestepped around the sink, standing awkwardly at the tub's edge. He peered over into the water, then looked at Trapet, who had to stifle a giggle. Poised half-bent over the bath, eyes wide, Kolo looked like a bewildered cat.
And though he truthfully didn't understand why Kolo had changed his mind, he was grateful. There was no point in looking a gift horse in the mouth, and well, if that gift horse happened to be carrying the most elusive of his peers on its back? There was no point in questioning that.
He shook his head and pulled at the robe, untying the ribbon. "I'm glad to host you, Kolo. We should spend more time together."
"Maybe," Kolo said, watching Trapet hang up the robe. After a moment of tense hesitation, he snapped his fingers - clothing replaced by a full-body swimsuit.
Trapet smiled at the other, knowing better than to call attention to it. Privacy was something he understood very well, though few aspects of it appealed to him. And, well, the last thing he wanted to do was scare Kolo off.
He paused at the other side of the tub, hands folded over his lap. Kolo looked to the water again and seemed to tense. After a few more seconds, a darkened thought crossed Trapet's mind, and he pursed his lips.
"Kolo, if you are uncomfortable, you don't have to stay. I understand if you'd rather not," he said, carefully and gently lifting a hand.
Kolo recoiled slightly, and Trapet's expression dipped into anxiety. He didn't think the other would react so poorly - and certainly not with what looked like fear. Where was this coming from? When did this sort of fear develop? Had Dijamant done something to spark actual terror in Kolo, and was it bleeding out elsewhere? Had Trapetsiya said the wrong thing, offended him?
But as soon as the fright had appeared, Kolo breathed in slowly and swallowed it. He stood slightly straighter, voice surprisingly steady as he talked: "No. No, it's fine, I'm fine."
Trapet searched his face for a few seconds, but acquiesced. There was no pulling information from Kolo that he didn't want to give. Quietly, though, he stepped into the bath, the warm waters enveloping his ankle. Kolo watched, in near-fascination, as Trapetsiya sunk under its surface, still smiling upwards.
"I assure you the water is fine," he said, gesturing to a chair across from him.
After a second of fiddling with his fingers, Kolo finally stepped in, sinking low to the water and perching on the seat. Though he was initially stiff and tense, as nothing horrible happened and the warm water sank into his bones, he finally relaxed. Trapet watched with rapt attention as the other Mag slowly melted, leaning against the back of the chair and letting the softest exhale escape.
Thank the stars this had worked to distract the other, but also, thank the stars Kolo seemed to genuinely feel better for it.
Trapetsiya lifted a hand, magicking up two dishes on the marble lip of the tub. Kolo glanced over just as he procured a large cake, resting on an airtight, transparent platter. With a flourish, Trapet removed the lid, letting the cake's sugary-sweet smell fill the room.
The pastry was set on a small dish, intricately glazed with blue patterns and swirls. It was not Trapetsiya's best set, but it was his favorite for guests, stored in the ninety-eighth dining room on little shelves carved with images of lions and griffins. Contrasted with the light pink of the cake slice, it was beautiful.
"I'm sorry," Kolo said, holding up a dripping hand, "I don't eat."
"Will you try?" Trapet encouraged.
There was a small pause in which Kolo's eyes flicked from Trapetsiya's face down to the pastry. After another moment of hesitation, Kolo reached forwards, taking the dish and bringing it close to his chest, gaze still focused entirely on it. The fork he picked up was so dainty and small in his hands - a tiny, long thing - as it gingerly pressed into the treat.
Trapet plucked his own dish from the marble lip. Quietly, he freed his own small piece, daintily swallowing as Kolo inspected the clump on his fork. He smiled at the other, "This is a very fine cake - in the Universe it comes from, it is only allowed to be baked by the finest pastry chefs, who train for fifty years before they are allowed to merely read its recipe. When I visited, I was given three to take with me. I've cherished them."
There was a flicker of something on Kolo's expression as he finally bit down. His eyes slipped back to the cake. After a few thoughtful chews, he quietly swallowed. "And you're sharing it with me?"
"Of course," Trapet said, voice gentle.
"This... feels like a waste," Kolo said, setting the fork down and merely holding the plate, "like, you should be saving this for an important occasion."
"This is an important occasion, to me."
Kolo raised an eyebrow. "I'm just visiting your house."
Trapet's grin widened.
"Come on," Kolo dully muttered, "Look, I...."
He sighed and set the plate on the lip. "Trapet, I appreciate you trying to put in effort like this but it's - it's really misplaced. Seriously. I came to talk about... you and Sek and mortals, not... hang out."
"I'm aware, but you just seemed so stressed - I thought maybe it would be best if we took a break of some sort." Trapet frowned. "And you seemed to be enjoying-"
"-Look, that's irrelevant," Kolo snapped, suddenly, tone tense again. "You are being way too nice."
"I know what this is," Kolo continued, then pushed his forehead into a hand, wincing.
Trapetsiya blinked, slowly. After a second, he set his dish down, reaching forwards, "Kolo-?"
Kolo batted the hand away. "Listen - you can just - I'll be back, sometime, and we'll talk then. Just not right now. Spare me your pity."
"What? I didn't - Kolo, I didn't intend to offend you-"
Before further pleas could spill from Trapetsiya, Kolo rose out of the water. As he stepped out, his clothes changed back, and he awkwardly tugged his tie into place, eyes trained on the floor, not meeting the other's eyes.
"Kolo, wait," Trapetsiya cut in. Finally, Kolo glanced back to him, frown clear on his face. "What did I do wrong?"
There was a long pause, wherein Kolo once more refused to look at Trapet's face. Rather, he stared anywhere else - the sink, the mirror, the robe still hanging on a hook. His shoulders were squared, but his tail was perfectly still, frozen in place. After another second, he pulled his sleeves further down his wrists, frown deepening, then being replaced with a wince.
"You didn't do anything wrong," he said, plainly. Before Trapet could even formulate a response, Kolo teleported.
And Trapetsiya was left, sitting in water that suddenly felt too cold.