Chapter Thirty-six: Fallout

I roll over and cling to Monrenth, still not ready for our “one night” to end. Last night was… intense. It was a night I’ll never forget, and true to his word, he served me in the best possible way. He chuckles quietly.

“I was wondering how you’d feel when you woke up, Eli. I think I know, now.” His words are bright and clear; it’s obvious he has been awake for a while.

“Just… let me cling for a little longer. Please, sir?” I ask, realizing I probably sound like a whiney child. I… don’t care, at least not yet.

“Only a little while, then. When you have to get up…” His sentence trails off with the unspoken command.

“Yes, my dominus.” My hand runs across his bare chest and he smiles.

“I could get spoiled with this you know. It almost makes me finally want a second.” He smirks, teasing me.

“I… wouldn’t mind that. After all of this is settled, though, perhaps, we find him together? I’d defer to your decision, though.” I nuzzle against him, still desperately craving contact.

“Are you saying that because you mean it or because you’re still leaning submissive?” Monrenth asks with a small laugh in his voice.

“I mean it, Monrenth. Even if it isn’t… traditional. I just want a chance to try again, but I can’t bear the thought of looking now.” I say softly, clinging tight again. I still feel like I failed Janil and Kalarai. I don’t want to be solely responsible for another young man.

“Then he’d be ours, together as equals. Different, for sure. In formal situations, we’d keep the structure, but in practice? Together.” He kisses the top of my head reassuringly.

“Thank you, sir.” I look at the clock on the wall, shocked. “We slept through breakfast.”

“We needed it. We’re probably not the only ones. No matter. We’re set to rendezvous with another ship. Some men are going on to the front, the others, us included, are going back for some rest. I figure they’ll want to give you a new ship.”

I shake my head. “I… don’t want to talk about it. Not yet. I just… don’t care yet. Let the place burn for all I care.”

“Eli, you star-.” He stops himself and instead holds me tighter, stroking my hair. “Alright, Eli.”

I close my eyes and try not to cry. This is… still too much. I regret the day I fired upon that first Groyin ship. If I had it to do over, I’d have not given into the primal instinct to conquer, to control. I saw what I thought was easy prey. I chose wrong, and my most beloved have paid price for my hubris.

I bury my head in Monrenth’s chest and cry again. He cradles my head, still lovingly stroking my head.

I pull away and look up at him, crying. “I fucked up, Monrenth. I fucked it all up. I killed them. Kala, Kenlyi, even Janil in a way. It’s all my fault. Monrenth, how do I fix this? How do I even start? I want t-”

I hear the loud pop before I feel it. A split second later, a sharp pain burns my cheek. I… simply stare, stunned. “You’re Camfurdian, Elikel!” He screams at me. “You led your men because it’s what we do. We are the superior species! We are the superior culture! We are superior! We will stand where others fall, we will lead when others follow, and we will conquer when others flea!”

His hand wraps around the back of my head. He grabs a fistful of hair and pulls me towards his face. “Listen to yourself, ’Alim’ Elikel.” He puts a mocking tone on my title. “You’re groveling like a spoiled child who hasn’t gotten their way! War never changes, Elikel. It’s brutish, it’s painful, it’s ugly, but you don’t get to take your toys and run home when things don’t go your way! You have to deal with the fallout. That’s what a leader does! People die in war, Elikel, and just because it’s the first time for your own loved ones to die, it doesn’t mean you can take it all back. You have to move forward!”

Angrily, he shoves my head aside, causing me to roll off the bed, to the floor. “Now get up, Elikel!”

I stand and glare at him, growling. He matches my glare.

I lunge at him, pinning him to the bed.

“If you ever speak to me that way again, I’ll rip your throat out.” I growl. His scowl slowly turns to a grin.

I kiss him deeply, forcing my tongue down his throat.

By the end of the hour, Monrenth was assured that I was his dominus.