[identity profile] leen-go.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] leengonanowrimo
Length: 2164 words
Prompt: in simplified terms, Kris is a duke, Lay is a courtesan who has a jaded view on life and has trust issues.
Notes: see here. Unedited/unbeta-ed.




“Lay is all settled in, then?” Yifan asked without looking up as his servant bowed in respect on the other side of the Duke’s worktable; thanks to Zitao’s loud interruption earlier, he was behind on his books and the page of the messy ink slash was not going to rewrite itself.

“Yes, My Lord, I’ve done all that you’ve asked with regards to Lay,” Minseok replied, hesitating before pressing on with a curious tone, “Will you not be visiting him yourself? I’m sure he is eager to see you to express his thanks.”

Yifan froze, writing hand still gripping his brush while the other held back the sleeve.  “Perhaps later, I’m busy right now.” He pressed his brush to the page again hoping his pause was missed by his servant.

Yifan was supposed to have gone himself to pick up lay, to give him the good news but at the last minute, one of his councilors fell ill, leaving a pile of paperwork to be completed before the rising of the full moon that night. Or that was what he used as his reasoning when Minseok had asked that morning why the Duke wasn’t going to The Star himself. And now that Lay was under his roof, he was finding it difficult to come up with a reasonable enough explanation. Not that a duke should have to explain his actions, Yifan thought inwardly, only to berate himself immediately after the thought; he didn’t want to just be a member of the royal family to Lay.

Yifan finished the rest of the character before he put down his brush with a long sigh, “I’d like a moment alone, please, Minseok,” he all but whispered, dropping his forehead to knead the temples with his thumbs.

“Don’t forget to come for lunch, I’m not sure I could handle Master Zitao without you,” Minseok added in an obvious last attempt to cheer the duke before bowing his exit, motioning for the others to follow suit as he shot Yifan a concerned look before sliding the doors closed on the room.

Yifan sighed again as he pressed harder into his temples, eyelids squeezing tightly closed as he searched for an introduction he could present before Lay, but everything that came to mind sounded wrong, inadequate. Somehow, the excuse he used with Minseok didn’t seem enough for Lay.

He really should’ve asked Zitao what to say; his cousin had always been the better of the two at talking, but Yifan had a little more pride than to ask his younger cousin for advice. Growing more frustrated with every unusable explanation that crossed his mind, he got up quickly to his feet and stormed across the room, throwing the doors open in a flurry before hurrying along the stone pathway, no destination in mind, just to get some fresh air. He didn’t even bother waving off the servants that hurried to walk behind him. Stopped abruptly when he neared the South House by the sight of a familiar silhouette, Yifan found himself quickly hiding behind a tall tree, feeling his face flush slightly in realization of his error.

The Duke had forgotten in his distracted haste to clear his head with a walk that the South House was where he’d assigned Minseok to get Lay settled. He cursed quietly under his breath, before standing up properly to turn to face his servants. “You’re dismissed for the time being,” he ordered when he reacquired control of his voice, ignoring the poorly concealed looks of alarm.

Lay sat on one of the couple steps that lead into the room Yifan had designated, arms hanging loosely off his knees. In one hand, Lay held a flower that Yifan recognized from the garden at the gates to his home, twisting it slowly between two fingers while he chewed at fingernails on the other hand. Behind him, the Duke recognized two more of his people standing guard in silence. When Lay let out a third sigh since Yifan had arrived, the Duke finally concluded that the courtesan looked decidedly bored.

Well, of course you idiot. You bring him here with no plans, what did you expect him to do?!

Yifan scowled at the voice in his head, annoyed that it was speaking the truth. Taking a deep breath – and noting that he could come up with a million lines by staying hidden behind this tree, but he’d never know what to say before he was face-to-face with Lay anyway – Yifan finally stepped out from his hiding place and made his presence known with a curt clearing of his throat (a little too forced-sounding to his liking).

The Duke couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he watched Lay scramble to his feet in a rush, his dress a flurry of colours as its owner tried to straighten it out. “Y-your Grace…” he managed, head bowed and bending at the knees in respectful salutation.

“Hi,” Yifan managed after acknowledging the greeting and dismissing the servants; he’d been so afraid to say the wrong thing that Yifan hadn’t even fathomed the idea of coming completely short of words. Lay looked up at the Duke curiously before he turned away quickly. “I… uh… I apologize for not coming to The Star this morning myself. I take that Minseok sufficiently delivered the message in my place,” Yifan managed to string together, even though the end of his sentence sounded more like a question than a tone befitting a confident Duke.

Even on the best of days, the Duke hardly enjoyed speaking to his subjects with their heads bowed, avoiding eye contact for fear of offending a Royal. Yifan dismissed it most of the time, given what his position was, but right now, he found it unbearably distant that Lay was doing the same as everyone else under his leadership. “Lay?” he prompted, feeling his knuckles go white behind him as he kept himself from simply reaching out to draw the courtesan’s chin forward.

The courtesan looked up momentarily with an unreadable expression, “I…” Lay started before looking away once more.

“Yes?” Yifan pressed, eager for conversation, “Is there something you’d like to say?”

“I…” Lay started again, bringing his hand to chew on the nails again, “Forgive me, My Lord, but what exactly was the message that you had Minseok deliver? I’m not… I’m not sure what exactly has happened this morning, nor why… I am here…?” he trailed, eyes still looking anywhere but at Yifan.

Yifan sighed to himself as he stepped forwards to take a seat on the steps, signaling for Lay to fill the place the latter had only just vacated. Lay hesitated visibly, and Yifan could see the shock the courtesan must’ve been feeling at seeing the Duke take a seat on the ground. “Please, join me,” he invited again, pulling a handkerchief from his sleeve and spreading it on the step beside him for Lay.

The Duke was stalling, he knew, because he’d hadn’t exactly figured out a plan before sending his manservant to The Star this morning. He was still engaged to Ah Mei and he was more than certain that his mother, when she returned from her trip to the City, would hardly be ecstatic to find a new addition to the home she shared with her son.

“Recall when I asked for a moment of your time today? Last night, I mean, I asked you last night,” he started when Lay finally took a seat.

“Yes…” Lay answered slowly, sceptism across his features when he finally looked up to face Yifan properly, “I’m not sure this can be considered ‘a moment’ of my time though,” he commented, humourously, but Yifan laughed anyway.

“No, you’re right,” Yifan resigned; he’d originally planned to make the appointment, to take only a moment in Lay’s day to ask for the courtesan to consider joining the Duke’s court permanently, but of course, as he’d explained to Minseok, a counselor had to fall ill.

Or you were too afraid to be rejected.

Yifan ignored the voice again and continued struggling for a proper explanation, “I…” he fumbled, “I enjoy… I like… I really like spending time with you, Lay…” he paused to scratch his head contemplatively, suddenly wishing this time that Lay would look away from him; he was certain he didn’t look his best with his cheeks burning like this. “I just… I hope that you can stay by my side…?”

Silence fell between the couple as Yifan held Lay’s gaze, searching the latter’s eyes for any sort of affirmative response but coming up empty; the courtesan, as usual, was just as difficult as ever to read.

“For… how long?” Lay finally asked quietly after an uncomfortably long beat.

Yifan shrugged after a moment’s thought with an unsure smile, “I didn’t think it too long, but I suppose as long as you’ll have me.”

….

Yixing chewed on his nails as he waited for his answer, though he didn’t really know why he was anxious. What was he expecting, anyway?

“I supposed as long as you’ll have me,” came the reply and Yixing almost choked in alarm. The Duke had phrased it like a question but Yixing knew better; this was just a nice way of saying ‘forever’. He lowered his hand from his mouth and let out a sigh, getting to his feet and taking the step up to the dais before his room. He feigned a yawn and waited but a second before the Duke stood up as well. “You’re tired from the events of this morning, aren’t you? Please, relax, take a nap. I’d like for you to join me at lunch though, if you aren’t too tired then. I’ll have Minseok come by to check on you in a bit.”

Yixing couldn’t trust it, but his gut wanted to tell him that it was an almost invisible nervousness that was making the Duke somewhat twitchy as he said his goodbyes and disappeared around the corner. The courtesan let out another sigh as he slid open his doors, fingers lingering on the wooden frame as he realized that this was his door now, not the scratched up and warped frames at The Star, but this smooth and waxed cherry, clearly polished regularly. He let his fingers tiptoe along the length with a melancholic smile; he supposed if he were to be trapped, he’d rather it be here than back at The Star.

The courtesan let out a final defeated sigh before closing the doors behind him and collapsing in the bed, waiting for sleep as he shut out the voices of the girl’s he’d left behind, whispering how unfair it was that it was Lay whose freedom the Duke had chosen to pay off.

*

Yixing spent the couple of hours before lunch staring up at the grey drapes that hung above his bed. His mind refused to shut down, cycling through innumerable scenarios for the coming days he had stuck within these walls. A soft knock at his door brought Yixing from his imagination and he drew upright at the familiar manservant’s voice. “One moment,” he called out as he slid into his shoes and tried to iron out the wrinkles in his dress with his hands on the way.

Expecting the usual Minseok waiting at his door, Yixing nearly jumped out of his skin when he was instead greeted by Tao’s towering figure, “Hungry, yet? I’m starved!” he exclaimed as he turned slightly to present his elbow for Yixing to take, “Care to accompany me?”

Still taken aback, Yixing’s eyebrows furrowed together for a moment as he eyed Tao warily. “What’re you…?” he started, looking back and forth from Tao’s wide grin and his extended invitation.

“Doing here?” Tao finished helpfully, stepping back towards Yixing to take the latter’s hand and pulling it forward to rest neatly in the inside of his elbow. He shrugged as he started pulling away from Yixing’s room (the latter suddenly glad that he’d decided against changing out of his dress before trying to fall asleep earlier) in what Yixing could only assume was the direction of the dining room. “Asked around, found out where you were staying and decided to come over and say hi!” Tao answered, as if replying to a question that could only have that answer.

“Uhm, do you… do you live here?” Yixing managed when he finally fell into a comfortable pace next to Tao.

“Hmm, temporarily now, I guess. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I will be stuck in this hell, right beside you.”

Tao winked good-naturedly but Yixing could only return a half hearted smile; the taller’s obvious joke didn’t seem so funny now that Yixing had come to realise that he would be here forever. He took a deep breath to settle his chest that he hoped Tao didn’t notice and straightened his stature as he pretended to listen to Tao’s ramble about his travels.



A/N: Idek. what is happening in this fic anymore why is this fic so long why am I still writing it why is it taking me ages to get an update up. So many questions but I have no answers D; Sorry for being missing for so long. I'm facing stressful things at work and also facing laziness off work so.... yeah lol
Hope it wasn't TOO disappointing, I'll try to get the next update up faster than this one took (what has it been, like 2 months this time?!?! oops) As usual, comments are always welcome! ^^

(p.s. whoever writes that krislayhan imperial fic needs to update too. js.)
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