[MAG] Habits of your Mind

2 years, 1 month ago
5550 6

Dij/Kolo fluff, exploring a castle and talking. Their bread and butter, which is basically monologuing at each other. (They like it.)

Mild warning for some innuendo but it's Dij and his wife, what did you expect?

Theme Lighter Light Dark Darker Reset
Text Serif Sans Serif Reset
Text Size Reset

And down the staircase they went, quick footsteps echoing against the gray walls. Kolo lept the last few steps, easily clearing them. As his weight slammed into the moth-eaten rug, though, the fabric bunched. His hands swung out, eyes widening, but they didn't save him from tripping, planting face-first onto the stone.

A groan escaped him as Dijamant's steps came to a stop beside him. Habitual fool-making was his lot in life, wasn't it? 

Dij's voice, smooth and confident, rang in his ears. "Wow, babe, you're right. It's important to inspect every inch of a castle for imperfections."

Kolo tilted his head in time to catch Dij flopping to the ground next to him. He made a great show of squinting at the old floor, tracing down one of the aged cracks. A smile broke over Kolo's face. It was so easy for Dij to just... take it all in stride. Make a joke of any mistake, brush it off like nothing happened. It was one of the most admirable things about him. 

With any luck, it'd rub off on him, too.

"Nothing a little magic can't fix," Kolo said, as he pushed himself into a seated position, absently rubbing at his muzzle. It ached from the impact, but the pain was fading. "Though I suppose if you wanted to give some of your mortals some work."

"Hm, I don't know how much I trust them with remodeling." Dij sat up next to him, stretching out his arms to frame more of the room in his fingers. "They might slather everything in too many diamonds."

Kolo gave a teasing scoff. "There's such a thing?"

"Gotta strike a balance," Dij said, waving an arm, grin widening, "maybe put up some banners and tapestries. But you gotta balance out all those sharp corners and lines with some nice, rounded circles, y'know?"

His tail swished at the thought. "Stars, Dij, that's enough."

"Is it enough? Technically I won the race, so that means you owe me a kiss." he pointed at his cheek, with a wink.

A smile overtook Kolo's features begrudgingly. He leaned over, planting a soft kiss on his husband. Fingers wrapped in his hair and tightened when he pulled away, but didn't yank him closer to Dij as he sat back in his place. The glow in Dij's beaming grin was enough to make blush spread over Kolo's face, in soft pinks. He quickly averted his gaze, biting the inside of his cheek. Stupid charming bastard.

"Thank you, babe," Dij purred, leaning down to leave a kiss on the top of Kolo's head in turn. 

He let his hands wander up Dij's chest, clinging to his husband's jacket and nestling in. The castle air, musty and cold, filled the spaces around them, but Dij was a vault of warmth, relaxing enough to let Kolo's mind drift absently. His eyes surveyed the room, distantly, though they flicked from point of interest to point. 

Most of the expensive, intricate furniture had been lost to time and looters. Longer than it was wide, his gaze was drawn towards the far end of the room, where an enormous, soot-filled fireplace sagged in the wall. Directly before it was the skeleton of a throne, the delicate cushions and tapestries long since eaten away. It only survived the years by virtue of being carved from marble, though wind and water had eroded its finer details.

It was a nice building. Old, sure, worn-down, of course. But it had a charm to it, and talent lingered clearly in what had survived. He could faintly imagine chatter and discussion, the royal owner of the house perched upon their throne smugly, watching over the buzz of their court, glass of wine clutched in hand. As the fantasy took better form, Dij's colors and expression flicked overtop the royal's. Fuck. Kolo quickly pressed his face into Dij's chest instead, squeezing his eyes shut.

Suddenly, hands tucked themselves under his arms, and Kolo squeaked as Dij picked him up. He dangled like a cat for a few seconds before Dij deposited him on the throne. He sat up stiffly, hands instinctively reaching to rest on the armrests as he looked up to Dij inquisitively.

Dij's smile brightened, "Oh, hang on, I just got an idea."

"An idea of-"

Before he could finish, Dij's hands had already come to rest on either side of his head. They glowed with magic, and a soft tiara formed in his hair. He reached up to touch it, fingers tracing delicate filigree and gemstones.  

"Are you just doing this because I tripped?" he asked, dully, eyes narrowed.

"Nah, babe, you're just too cute to leave undecorated."

He reached up to pluck the tiara from his head, turning it over in his hands. The platinum glinted in the light, the gemstones a pale pink. It matched the color of his cheeks whenever he plushed. After a second of staring, he turned to perch it on Dij's head instead. 

His partner gave a small laugh. "It's for me now?"


"The colors were picked very carefully for you, you know."

"Then it's a part of me, on you," Kolo gave him a small smile.

"Alright." Dij's grin widened. "I can accept that."

He turned back towards the room, towards the throne. Dij followed his gaze, and gave a sigh, propping his chin in his hand, resting his elbow on a knee. "This part needs the most work by far, I know. Thinking about a nice blue rug in front of the chair, maybe a couple braziers. Blue or red flame? That's the question on my mind."

"I was actually picturing you in it," Kolo mumbled.

"Oh?" Dij glanced to him, then stood, almost too quickly. 

Kolo averted his eyes, ears pinning back as he blushed. With a flourish, Dij paced across the room and draped himself across the chair dramatically, legs crossed, leaning back. His grin widened to show teeth, eyes half-lidded. The exact kind of expression that made something churn in Kolo's stomach - nauseated excitement, so overpowering it nearly made him sick.

"Like this?" Dij's voice was smooth.

"Something like that," Kolo whispered, covering his eyes.

"Oh, I get it. I was nude."

"No!" Kolo yelled, hands now flying down to his sides, "Stars, Dij, I'm not half as dirty-minded as you are!"

More laughter echoed in the hall. "You could've fooled me last night!"

"Well that was last night, and this is now," he crossed his arms, standing to pace over to Dij's side. "I was picturing you in, like, a cape and crown. Now I'm picturing shoving your head into the fireplace."

"I mean, if that's your kink-"


He rested his head in his hand again, tapping the other fingers against the armrest. "Just saying, my lap is quite empty right now...."

Kolo leaned over him, nearly touching muzzle to muzzle, hands planted on either side. "You said you were giving me a tour of the castle."

"I was! Then my poor wifey injured himself on the cold, irreverent floor," Dij said, draping his arms open, "so I should be a good husband and comfort him, right?"

"I think better comfort would be continuing the tour."

"To the royal quarters, perhaps?"

Kolo huffed, leaning back, though he couldn't help but smile. "Here, tell me more about this room."

"The throne room," Dij replied evenly, sitting up just a smidge straighter. "Where the monarch would host court, handle petitioners and guests. I'm sure you can imagine it saw plenty of use. From what I researched about this specific country's history, the last ruler holed themself up here before being beheaded by an invading army. Supposedly their violet robes and decorations were so coated in red they were unrecognizable..."

Kolo looked down at the other. He did look nice, framed by the marble, the tiara slightly askew on his head, eyes closed. Regal, maybe not, but attractive, sure. How long had they been together, and he still found himself sneaking glances to drink in Dij, to admire him? And every time, a fluttering in his chest, rousing his affection all over again, churning up the warmth and comfort that permeated him?

Dij was so cute when he was passionate.

"...though I really think that later addition was in poor taste, considering it seemed to almost shroud the statue in too many silks... and also it just seems strange to me, to decorate a statue like that. Y'know supposedly it was so covered in cloth the offerings dish was covered?"

"Why would they do that?"

Dij shrugged, "For people who worship their ancestors like crazy, their monarchy sure did well fucking around with each other's legacies. But it's just in the nature of mortals, I guess."

"You really love this stuff," Kolo said, uncrossing his arms. "It's cute."

"It's a beautiful thing!" Dij's eyes flew open as he stood, gesturing to the castle, "So much effort was put into this building, ages and ages in their past." Dij planted both hands on a brick, leaning on it. "They had to place every bit of it by hand, pour labor and blood and sweat into it. A symbol of wealth and power for their nobility." 

He turned around, sweeping an arm out towards the dusty, rotted room. "Imagine it! A hall of beautiful dresses, courtyards of gleaming plants, armories of war spoils. Everything in their lives was drenched in wealth and power - the supreme castes of their society, housed in a supreme structure that boasted of them to the furthest reaches!"

Kolo blinked, watching his movement. He looked over the room again, hands twitching at the thought. Like whispers, images flitted into his mind and dissipated, himself only catching glimpses of a busy room, a regal perch. The king's image had fully been overtaken by Dijamant's in his imagination, his partner's smug smile overpowering any of the mortality of the room. 

"And now it's empty," Kolo said, staring at the fireplace.

Dij's theatrics stilled as he tucked his hands into his jacket's pockets, shoulders lowering as he looked to Kolo. "A bit melancholy, yeah?"

A bit. "More than that," he muttered, not tearing his eyes away.

"It's just how mortals are," Dij said, glancing towards the fireplace. "This ebb and flow. Nobody's building castles anymore."

"Decay is the foundation of who they are," Kolo said, taking several steps forwards, picking up the fire poker. He turned it over in his hands, discolored and bent. "I guess... it's kind of hard to really wrap my mind around that. When I write stories, they're almost like an eternal moment. People change, but not by much. Places change, but only really in name. In some sense, that status quo never leaves."

Though, dwelling on it, weren't most stories similar? Thousands of pages written of a character's journey, of bits and pieces built up a fraction at a time, too tiny to be seen but as a whole? Wasn't there some merit in something short and concise, something with rapid, bloody change, hammered in and then abandoned? Was he holding himself back, ruminating on the same thoughts, the same relationships, the same stories?

With a sigh, he set the poker back against the fireplace. How many people had huddled in this room, drinking wine, laughing over stories, warming themselves by the fire? Where they happy people? Dissatisfied? Did they think the same thoughts as he did? Did they share his worries? Did they fathom of his existence? Did they understand how fleeting it all was?

"I get it. Sometimes, when I visit this Timeline, I go to talk to some big business people. We go into this huge skyscraper and they start talking to me about economics - whatever, that part's really not important. But their whole city, all steel and glass and asphalt and electricity, it's different from this." Dij waved a hand at the castle, then brought it to his chest. "But all this is what resonates with me. I guess that makes me archaic?"

Though he barked a laugh, Kolo still frowned towards Dij. 

He smiled back, leaning against the wall once more, crossing his arms. "It's why I don't always 'remodel' all of them. I guess sometimes I'm just wanting other people to see what I see in these places. Beauty."

"We sit here and wonder what mortals think about. Do you think mortals ever wonder about us?"

"They tell stories about gods all the time. I'm sure Roh could get you a book or two if you wanted-"

"No, no, I mean, do they ever... wonder what we think about? Who we are as people?"

Dij hummed. "I mean, I've gotten handed dissertations about myself a couple of times. Sometimes I go onto their social medias and forums and all that and read what they say about me, in my Timelines. If you're asking if they make assumptions about who we are... yeah."

"How accurate do you think they are?" Kolo lifted his head.

"My kneejerk's to say not at all." Dij gave an easy shrug. "But I don't know if I know myself well enough to answer."

"Aw, Dia."

"Am I pitiable enough to get another kiss?" the usual suave smile flashed over Dij's face.

Kolo closed the distance with a few steps, reaching up to peck Dij's cheek. When he pulled back, though, his cheeks were tinged pink. "Shut up."

"Thank you, babe." he planted his own kiss, on Kolo's horn. An electric jolt ran down his spine, his tail stiffening at the intimacy. "Shall I continue the tour? Perhaps to the royal quarters?"

"I'm NOT adding 'dusty old castle' to our list of places we've had sex, Dijamant." he crossed his arms.

"If you insist!" he held up his hands, grin still stretched over his face. "To the hall, then?"

Kolo took one of Dij's hands in his, wordlessly. Dij beamed back, tightening his grip around Kolo and almost instantly pulling him towards one of the great doors. Their footsteps once more filled the silent castle, the echo bouncing from the walls. 

Dim sunlight filtered through broken windows - now more holes than anything else, whatever glass they once held decayed. Kolo stared out one as they passed, at a grassy hill cast in teals by the dying sun. A fox stood at the forest's edge, seemingly staring back at him. As he slipped past the window's edge, it turned tail and retreated into the branches.

He turned his head, towards one of the opposing walls. Did they hunt the animals of the region? Did they hang up the pelts there, or did they toss them over a shoulder, a warm comfort in the winter months? Did they feast on foxes such as that?

So many questions. And the answer would be simple for him - simply go look. But... it almost felt like, if he were to peer at the castle when it bustled with life and activity, in some sense, he'd disturb its quiet rot now. This, to him, was the castle's natural state. To usurp that was almost sinful.

"Careful right here, babe," Dij's voice snapped him from his thoughts. "It's just a small hole but I've tripped over it twice now. And I don't want you breaking your muzzle open again."

Kolo glanced down at the aforementioned hole. He gingerly stepped over it, still clutching Dij's hand. 

"Shouldn't you fix hazards like that first?" he asked, looking up.

"Gotta work in sections first. Make some area truly sparkle before tackling another - gotta get that snowball effect going."

"Whatever works best, I suppose."

Dij paused in front of a set of great doors. The strange ridges in the wood almost implied that they had once been carved. Kolo reached to trace a hand over a few. If they'd once held any shape, they were indiscernible now. He didn't comment as Dij pulled a door open and ushered him in.

The hall stretched before them, as silent as the rest of the grounds. Kolo's head tilted back, staring up at the vaulted ceiling, where a few holes had made their home. Both he and Dij paused at the door, almost as if in reverence, the quietness filling the space between them. Once upon a time, this room had been filled with chatter and food, a bustling hub every mealtime. 

They stepped forwards.

Broken cups lay around the long table, somehow left unlooted. The cracks and caked dust on them spoke of their age. The table, though, had a beautiful sheen over its dark wood, with intricate carvings along the edges. A white, pristine tablecloth had been rolled over its length, which occupied most of the hall. Each chair, though wooden and equally carved, had an enormous plush seat. 

"One of the remodels," Dij explained, pulling out a chair, "Also, for you, babe."

Kolo gave him a half-smile and rolled eyes, but sat. Dij slipped into the chair across from him.

"So. Why the table?"

"I need to get a feel for the colors!" Dij said, leaning on it, gesturing with a hand. "Need to see what colors of wood suit this place the best!"

"Wouldn't you want to fix the windows first, then? Or install proper lighting?"

"No, no. The colors have to sparkle even in the most ugly light possible. If they can't look good in near-pitch darkness, then they're not actually all that great. They need to be able to wow anyone, even if they can barely see them. That's perfection. That's what it means to be luxury."

"Such high standards," Kolo said, but the smile was clear on his lips. "Alright. Does this wood excel, then?"

"Absolutely," Dij said, spreading his arms wide, "aren't you in awe?"

Kolo looked down to the table. It sat, stoutly, on the floor. "It's sturdy. And nice looking."

"A top grade from a top critic! It's definitely staying, then."

Kolo snorted. "What other colors did you have in mind, then? If you were so eager to hear my appraisal."

"My master plan was to flick through every wood type I could think of until you gave me a cute smile." Dij smoothly leaned back, crossing his arms.

"Am I smiling now?"

"Adorably so."

Kolo ducked his head down, letting the table drink in his smile instead. He reached to absently scratch at one of the carvings as Dij purred, satisfied. 

"What kind of meals do you think they ate here?" Kolo asked, glancing up, flush subsided. "Foxes? I saw one."

"Prey animals in general are more delicious," Dij said, tapping on the table, "and foxes are pretty small. And I don't know what animals used to live here. But they used to have an enormous orchard!" he held open his hands, as if to approximate size. "Filled with all sorts of delicacies and rare fruits from across this Universe. It was razed when the stronghold fell."

Towering, imposing trees filled Kolo's mind. "Are you going to add the orchard back in?"

"Of course! And then I'll have to hire some groundskeepers to maintain it. It's good for the economy!"

"Who's going to eat the fruit?"

"The groundskeepers! I think." Dij hummed. "I guess anyone else I hire for maintenance could help themselves. Not like I'm gonna eat it. But they better leave it looking pretty for when I visit! And bring you, of course."

"I'm sure they'll look forwards to their deity visiting every thousand years to admire their apples," Kolo said, with a slight chuckle. 

Dij grinned at him, but it faded. A frown overtook Kolo, a pit of fear tightening in his chest. But before the self-doubt and thoughts could race in, Dij spoke once more.

"That reminds me of what you said earlier, about mortals and how they think about us." Dij picked up one of the broken cups, setting it upright on the table. 

Kolo watched, eyes flicking from Dij's face to his hands. Usually he maintained eye contact almost dismissively, unbothered by others' stares, supplying his own in turn. But here Dij was, not looking anywhere near him.

Without missing a beat, Dij continued, "Sessy's mortals go nuts over him. Maybe a bit too literally. And my mortals like me too, obviously... especially at the Collective HQ. But reading what all those strangers think I am, it's weird." he gave another hum. "It used to get under my skin really badly, like they didn't realize all the good I was doing. How much more useful it'd be if they went through the right channels and actually bothered to tell me about what they were worried about instead of bitching on random websites.

"I guess I kinda got addicted to reading it, though. And sometimes when I made decisions later, it'd all swim around in my head, every single post. It's their right, duh, to bitch about me whatever. I don't control them or their websites. I'm not trying to be a tyrant. But I think about it all the time. Does it matter? Should it matter? They'll be dead before I even start to recognize their username. Is what they're worrying about really important?"

Kolo stared at him, ears perked forwards.

"And... none of them really have my perspective, either. If something doesn't get fixed in one, five, ten years, they'll write it off as a lost cause. They get burnt out, apathetic. They give up so easily. And they have no faith in me to see things through. Like it really doesn't occur to them that I've been here for thousands, thousands of years. And I'll still be here thousands of years after they're gone. I'm just some nebulous concept that they know vaguely has power over them." 

Dij tapped his fingers on the table. "Y'know sometimes it's generations between my visits? I mean, my Collective people are still hands-on, arranging things. So it's not like my organization doesn't exist, or that people might think I'm a myth. I wonder if people tell stories about my visits, like they used to do, with all their god tales and stuff. I wonder what kind of person they make me out to be. Do people go back and read those forums, like me? Do they see what these people say, does that color their perception of me? I wonder."

"I couldn't say."

"I know. It's more open-ended than anything else." he traced the rim of the cup. "Some part of me wants to ask Sessy what he thinks about all of that... buuuut I don't really want him going around knowing all that about me, so I haven't bothered."

Kolo watched his finger trail the cup, circling and circling. "That's fair. I guess part of that is why I tried to never really get involved, even with the Fragments. People having stories about me... wrong stories... I don't like it."

"Hey, the only reason I'm not whining about it is 'cause I got used to it," Dij said, giving a slight laugh. "It unnerves me, too. Like needles in my fingers, or something. Just this constant little shot, distracting enough that I can't stop thinking about it."

"Yeah, exactly. I don't know how Sessy tolerates it."

"I mean it's obvious, right?" Dij shrugged, grin lopsided, "he just mind-controls them. Swears up and down that he doesn't, but have you ever heard any of his hivelings say something bad about him?"

Kolo huffed. "Well, no, but-"

"I don't mean that in, like, an 'I'm better than him' way. Or, well, I guess I kinda do, but not really." Dij settled back down, returning to the cup. "I thought about mind-controlling Roh. When he left. I still don't really know why I didn't. I guess I was ashamed to stoop to Sessy's level? Like that's the only difference between us."

"It's good that you didn't."

"Is it really good though? Like, it's bare minimum. No mind-controlling people, wow, I'm such a stellar person."

"Was it bare minimum for you?"

"Shouldn't it be? That implication's kinda worse."

Kolo gave a disapproving hum. "I don't know what to say to that."

"There's really nothing to say. It was kinda awkward of me. I'm sorry." Dij gave a short sigh. 

Silence filled the room, the ambient chill suddenly all the more stark. Wind outside howled as it ripped through the courtyard and broken walls, clawing against the castle's exterior, buffeting against the rock. 

Kolo glanced towards one of the broken windows, where the glass had long worn away, the remnants of the mortals that once lived here gone. Now all that remained was the wind and weeds. A place like this, as Dij said... wealth and power incarnate... gone. Not even scavengers were left to pick at its bones.

"That's what goes through my head," he said, leaning on the table, "when I think about my job."

Dij's eyes flicked up to him, otherwise motionless.

"That I'm just doing the bare minimum for being decent. Like I'm this... inherently evil little creature, some disgusting parasite. Just completely rotten, through and through, and nothing I can do can fix that. It's my nature, sort of thing, to be this evil creature. And I don't want to be that way, but how can I change my very nature? The best I can do is pretend to be good, right? Do good deeds, try to put others before me. Right? But it all just feels like... bare minimum. As if I have ulterior motives for all that I do that make them evil once more."

Dij's hand snaked across the table to gently hold his wrist. Kolo glanced up. "I don't think you're evil, babe."

"I-I know. It's not really... it's not something comfort helps," Kolo said, biting the inside of his cheek as he rubbed Dij's hand. 

"Sure. Doesn't it help to hear that, though? If I say it enough you'll think of my words every time that train of thought starts."

Well... that was true. It wasn't difficult to ruminate on what Dij said to him, considering how much he... obsessed over his husband's words. But the mantra, the disgust, the self-loathing - it had built itself up over centuries, every waking day consumed by it. At a certain point, who was he without it?

But... it would be nice to be without it, right? It would be nice to breathe. Exist. And in those brief moments with Dij, he felt like he could. Wasn't that worth chasing? At least trying? A goal, to push himself towards? Light at the end of the tunnel?

Was that how Dij felt about all this?

His hand closed around Dij's tightly as he looked up. "Well, in that case, I don't think you're evil either, Dij. I- I think, I think you're um, clever. And confident. And funny, and admirable... and not evil. Not just your persona, but, but everything. All that you've said, at this table. I like listening to you."

DIj stared at him, expression nearly blank, for several long, aching seconds. Kolo stared back, eyes wide, cheeks warm from the sheer effort. It was stupid, to feel like being vulnerable and truthful took such a toll on him. But he'd said it.

"Aw, babe," Dij said, face dipping into his suave usual - though his voice cracked. "You're just my cheeseball, y'know that?"

"Wh - a cheeseball?"

"Yep! A big old cheeseball." Dij reached to ruffle his hair. Kolo squeaked. "All tough and don't-give-a-fuck on the outside but inside you're just a squishy little thing."

"You're just saying that because YOU'RE scared of vulnerability," Kolo squawked, batting at Dij's hand. "You can't say the same back to me!"

Dij leaned forwards, chin cupped in a hand, "Can't I?"

"You can't!" he squeaked again, slamming both hands onto the table as pink spread further over his face.

"Alright then, Kolo, light of my life. My beautiful, clever, adorable wife, who always puts in more than his everything to anything he tries. I think you're a deeply good, deeply caring person, and I love listening to anything you deign to grace my ears with."

Indignation and blush ruled Kolo's glare.

"Aw, babe, need me to get that lemon out of your mouth?"

"I didn't eat a lemon-"

Dij's mouth was suddenly on top of his, in a smooth, soft kiss. Kolo blinked rapidly before leaning into it, a warm hand reaching to cup his cheek. Only a second later, Dij pulled back, and the sweet trance quietly broke. His hand lingered, though, and Kolo looked up into Dij's eyes, the other's smile bathed in soft adoration.

"Gee, we're a buncha low self-esteem chumps, huh?" Dij barked a laugh, grin spreading. "Sitting here giving each other asspats."

The flush on Kolo's faced worsened, half in embarrassment, half in fluster. "What? I thought you liked asspats."

"Babe!" but his laughter now filled the hall, "Shit, okay, yeah. Got me there."

"Okay, good," Kolo muttered, "I was worried for a second."

"I think you'd be the only one. I bet Prav would throw a party if I changed my mind about compliments."

"Compliments is a generous word, Dij."

A kiss was planted on top of his head. "And you're a generous wife."

He tucked his head against Dij's chest. Half of him wanted to protest, tell Dij he had low standards, deny that he was generous or nice or that he made a meaningful impact on his husband. The other half played Dij's earlier words on a loop - that all he really wanted was someone to be around him, to tolerate him, to love him. And, well, those were objectively low standards.

But he chose Kolo for them. He could've had any of the Mags - Pere, Pya... well, okay. Not Pya. But he got along fine with most of them. So why share his vulnerability with Kolo, of all people? The person who had the most control over him? He used to worry that Dij's actions were drenched in ulterior motives, in planning to disarm Kolo and seek power. Yet here they sat, Dij satisfied with what he had.

Or, at least, so he thought. Ugh. His fingers curled in Dij's shirt, a frown overtaking him. The paranoia never ended - just a constant, agonizing throb of overthinking, nitpicking, prying apart everything he thought. Dij's reassurance was the only way to dispel it. But the conversation had lulled, and Dij wasn't likely to continue it of his own accord. So he'd sit here and simmer in his frustrations until...

...Well, maybe he could just ask.

Terror ripped through his stomach, and he instinctively reached to hold it. Dij glanced down. "Babe?"

Kolo sucked in a breath, and squeaked out, "What do you like about me?"

"What don't I like about you?" Dij purred, reaching to stroke the back of his head.

"Something, something specific, um, if that's not too much...."

"Alright, how about this? I like the look of awe you had on your face when I took you around the castle. I like that you agreed to all the dumb shit I thought of, like the race, the table, even when it sorta went sideways. I like it when you start joking around with me and we got good banter going. And I like it when you're relaxed with me, like this. It feels kinda rare and special, y'know?"

"So you like me being pliant to your desires?"

Dij frowned. "I mean, I think what I was getting at is that I like seeing you happy. It makes me happy."

"...Oh. I'm sorry."

The weight of Dij's hand on his head stilled him, at least marginally. He could feel Dij's heartbeat against his ear. "It's alright, babe, I get it. But now I kinda wanna toss the question back at you."

"I tell you all the time! What I like about you, I mean!" he squeaked.

Dij just stroked through his hair, his chest rising and falling with his breathing. Kolo sucked in a breath of his own.

"I like being dragged around on everything," he said, barely managing to squeeze the words out, "I like it when you take me places... when you invite me or insist even when I'm being bitchy or... or I don't know. It makes me feel like you care, even if... even if I try to push you away. That you won't leave."

"I like chasing you, babe. I like winning." Dij's grin widened, the words whispered right into Kolo's ear.

"Okay!" Kolo shouted, as Dij broke into laughter, "you win! You won this! Augh! I want to finish the tour now!"

"I don't know why I even bother worrying about what some no-name mortals think about me when I've got you, you know that?" Dij's laughter subsided, replaced by a warm smile down at Kolo. "Anything you say matters more to me by a thousand, million times."

Kolo pouted back up at him, still furrowed in indignation. He sighed it all away, letting his head fall against Dij's chest again, mouth devoid of words. Dij's hand reached up to cradle the back of his, a gentle touch, a soothing touch.

"I love you too," his husband said, and pressed a kiss to the top of his head.