"The vaults? Now we've finished the graves, we may as well see them, shouldn't we?" Tiego asked. Axel nodded, trying to hide the smile from his face. Aleron looked stupidly excited.
"You have the key, am I correct?"
Tiego produced a key from his pocket. "Of course. King Lux will be accompanying us, I assume?"
"Naturally," Axel purred, gesturing for Lux to join them. Quickly, Lux was there, and Axel led them deeper into the castle. The vaults were guarded by members of the Golden Flame and mercenaries alike: that way, there would be no squabble that either side had stolen any of the money.
"You know, it's meant to be overflowing," Aleron laughed. "We're going to be so rich!"
Axel held back a snigger, as they descended into darkness.
After the last few days, he could use some cheering up. The mercenaries had been useful, of course, but Aleron's men had been purely disruptive, undisciplined, and he got the feeling that Tiego's looked down upon the Golden Flame.
The guards parted respectfully before them as they swept towards the vaults, bowing their heads. Tiego stepped forwards to unlock the door, and it swung open for the first time since they'd taken Haven.
Aleron pushed past his brother, charging inside with laughter exploding from his lips.
The laughter cut short.
"What the hell?"
Axel did all he could to contain the laughter as he walked inside.
"This is it?" Aleron demanded, and Axel walked into the room behind him. There was still a pile of gold in the corner - at least Snow's weight in gold - but it was hardly overflowing.
"Aleron, shut up," Tiego sighed. "We signed the contract."
"This is more gold than we've earned in our entire lives, be grateful."
Aleron scowled, but didn't continue.
"Take it all," Lux told them. "We already have enough."
Tiego raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure that's wise, King Lux?"
Lux smiled wistfully. "No, but your men died for it. Wisdom isn't always the right way to go."
"We appreciate it," Tiego nodded, a small smile - possibly the first he'd shown - touching his lips.
Lux turned around, leaving the room, and Axel followed.
"Thanks," Aleron mumbled after them. Axel smirked.
"You're doing pretty well, you know."
Lux sighed. "It's hard, though."
He stretched out, yawning. Everything else was silent. The city was asleep below the castle, and Lux had stationed Axel as his only guard. There were patrols through the castle, of course, but they didn't come to this part.
"Most kings would probably get their servants to do everything."
"Are you saying I'm a bad king or something?" Lux asked, furrowing his brow and stifling another yawn.
"No," Axel replied smoothly. "I'm saying you're much better. Most royal bloods would simply force their underlings to complete every task they're sent, as they sit and do nothing. You do everything you should do in your duty as king. Why are you so different to the rest?"
Lux leaned back in the chair, dropping the quill in its pot on the mahogany desk.
"I guess it's because I never really spent much time with my parents before Disan fell. Vipera raised me, and she raised me to be more warrior than prince. I was more friendly with the Golden Flame members, rather than treating them as underlings, so that probably helped..."
He shrugged, before reluctantly picking up the quill again and signing one more document.
"Whatever it was, it worked," Axel commented. "You sure you still want to keep going?"
Lux shook his head. "No, but I have to." It was almost strange to see him dressed in such extravagant attire - the layers upon layers of finely stitched clothing, the flowing crimson cloak.
"Don't try to take all of the load, Lux. You might as well get some other people to help you."
Again, he shook his head. "I don't want to force people to do everything for me."
"Don't exhaust yourself," Axel told him softly. "You're allowed to delegate people, you know, and it's not like you have to give them all the work."
He plucked the document from Lux's hands, placing it back on the desk. "You're tired. Stop working for today."
"Fine." Lux gave in easily, and wearily pushed himself from his chair, trudging wearily towards the door.
With a mocking bow, Axel opened it for him, and Lux laughed.
"You'll be insisting on feeding me or something next," he grinned.
Axel shrugged. They'd been working all day, they deserved at least a little time to jest. "Might happen."
Side by side, they paced through the corridor, turning at Lux's door and pushing it open. It still didn't seem real that they were here; even less real that Lux had chosen him.
"How's your arm, by the way?" Lux asked.
"Better," Axel replied briskly. The healers had done the best they could, but it had still been irritating him all day.
"You're lying," Lux said, stopping and turning to him. "Show me."
"Show me," he repeated. Axel sighed, raising his arm and slowly unwinding the bandages. Lux's eyes widened in horror as Axel revealed the wound. Still, his skin was blistered and ugly with the burn mark - it would most definitely leave a scar.
"You- You're not better!" Lux said.
"It doesn't hurt as much," Axel tried to reassure him, wrapping the bandages around again.
"You're not good at wrapping your arm up, are you? I'll do it," Lux offered, sitting down on his bed and gesturing to the chair beside it. Axel obediently sat down, holding out his arm. Taking his arm gently, Lux wrapped the bandages over the wound. He was being careful not to hurt him, Axel realised. The concentration had broken through the weariness on his face, like he was repelling sleep simply to help him.
Axel let his head hang forwards, trying to fight away fatigue. He realised suddenly how close he was to Lux, how their breath mingled as Lux finished wrapping the bandages.
Their eyes met, and Axel found himself trapped within the beautiful pools of liquid gold. Lux's breath tasted sweet, and Axel held his own. A single question passed silently between them, and suddenly they were moving towards each other, and Lux's arms were encircling him, and pulling him closer as he cupped Lux's head with both hands.
They finally closed the distance. Lips touching. Hearts beating. Eyes sliding shut.
For a second, Axel honestly believed he was dreaming. Him. And Lux. Here. Kissing. It seemed almost impossible.
Lux's arms tightened around him as they pulled one another closer. He could feel the prince's heart racing against his own, a powerful beat as their lips pressed together.
When they finally drew apart for breath, Lux's eyes were wide and his cheeks were burning, and all Axel knew was that he loved him, that he loved him so damn much.
"I love you," he whispered breathlessly, his forehead touching Lux's as he breathed in the scent of him, hands still holding his head in a gentle grip.
Laughter filled the room as Lux rested his head against his. "And I love you, too," he replied softly, his voice a lullaby of melodic gentleness.
For once, the silence between them was comfortable, and Axel bathed in its rays, soaking in the sheer beauty of the moment. There was almost too much happiness to bear - so much more than he was used to, and Axel knew, without a doubt, that he could have sit there for hours, living solely on the content between them.
"I think," Lux said, "that might have been the most amazing moment of this week."
"Just this week?" Axel replied, laughing.
"Much longer than that," Lux admitted easily. Again, they slipped into silence - a silence so tranquil it almost lulled him into sleep.
A knock sounded from the door.
The two of them shared a look before they both stood, and Axel went to answer the door.
"Skala? You could have come at a better ti-" He stopped the moment he saw Rubin, who was watching lazily from behind Skala. "You could have come in the morning," he rephrased it, swallowing and thanking the gods the dark hid his reddened cheeks.
"Some of Vipera's men have grouped together to form a rebellion. The four of us can crush it instantly," Rubin said, and there was light - finally - in his eyes.
Lux stepped out beside him. "We're in," he agreed eagerly.
"I thought you were tired?" Axel asked with raised eyebrows.
"I was," Lux replied. "But I'm more awake, now."
Nodding, Axel turned back to the two of them, a grin stretching across his lips.