AN: Ok, I admit it. I got distracted.
Sometimes a series just appears out of nowhere and hits you out of the park, and Your Throne did exactly that. This was one of the first manwhas I've ever read, and I picked it up more out of curiosity for the genre than for the series itself. Did NOT expect it to go so hard. Everything about this series was right up my street. Complex characters including two awesome female leads, well-executed and unexpected plot twists, political machination… I've haven't been able to stop thinking about it.
Not really sure if there's any appetite for Your Throne fanfic. I had a look around here on Fanfiction and couldn't find much. There was some shipping stuff on AO3 but not much in the way of extended plots or stories. But it also seems to me like one of the most popular manwhas. Either way, this story and set of characters are interesting to me, so imma go right ahead. I absolutely love how every character has been designed as a foil for Medea, such as Eros representing the darkest urges of her personality and Psyche the lightest.
Couple of things about the world-building here. Vasilios isn't exactly Westeros in the amount of detail behind it; SAM seems to prefer to let the characters do the talking, which given the restrictions of the manwha format is probably the right approach. Still, it meant I had to do a fair amount of filling in for this AU. I tried to use details from canon everywhere I could, but as far as I could see, we don't even know what the capital of Vasilios is called. Please do correct me if I'm wrong. In other words, a fair amount of the world-building is my own invention/head canon for the series.
The modern Vasilios here is obviously inspired by the modern UK, what with it being a once sprawling empire now reduced, and a mostly ceremonial royal family still in place. Names I chose are from Greek mythology/history to mirror the names in the series. Polisia, the name of the capital city here, is derived from 'polis', the ancient Greek word for city state. The plot takes influence from a number of, ahem, recent and highly publicised trials. Although this chapter has some dark/sexual content, I'm gonna keep the rating at T for now cause I'm not quite sure about the content going forward. Still, it's a Your Throne fanfic, so it's never gonna be swings and roundabouts.
Trials and Tribulations
Chapter One- Unjust
Polisia Crown Court~
"We will now hear the prosecution's closing statement."
The words of the presiding Judge resonate across the courtroom; a deep baritone voice that everyone in the audience has grown accustomed to. A hundred pair of eyes turn to me.
Their expressions as they look at me… I feel… I don't know how I feel. Some look almost bored, for the outcome of this case is a foregone conclusion. I have ensured that, as always. But others look at me with wide, dilated eyes, as if they're looking not at the head prosecutor of this case but at a tigress pacing in a zoo. Or perhaps not pacing. Simply crouching in the undergrowth. Waiting.
Yes… Some of them are scared of me. It's only natural. I can be quite intimidating.
And then there is the man I'm prosecuting. A man in his early forties with gaunt, tired features. His suit is ruffled and the bruise on his face from the heavy-handed police has not been disguised. The defence argued for his cell to be changed, for them to ensure the door was locked at night, but I requested otherwise. He certainly looks more guilty this way.
The man has not stopped staring at me for the past twenty minutes.
He also knows what the verdict will be. Perhaps he isn't as stupid as I thought.
Shuffling the pile of papers before me, I stand up and walk swiftly and silently to the podium. I move a loose strand of my black hair behind my ear. I begin to speak.
"… Ladies and gentleman of the jury. You already know the facts of this case. You know that on May 22nd 2023, a man broke into the house of the Drakos family. You know that one hour later, the six year old daughter of the Drakos family, Penelope Drakos, was dead."
I lift up the photograph of the girl's strangled body for all to see, as I have done several times before. Strange. The novelty never seems to wear off. Even now, anguished gasps ripple through the audience.
"And not just dead. Defiled. Humiliated. Stripped of everything that made her human. And all the while her single father, Aetes Drakos, sat downstairs, unaware of the brutal suffering his daughter was forced to endure. Unaware of the grievous wrongs committed upon his family, and all of those in this nation of ours, Vasilios, with love in our hearts. With a conscience. With humanity."
My head turns, very slowly, until my tyrian purple gaze rests on the defendant.
"… This 'man' has none of these. No heart. No conscience. No humanity. He is a monster in human skin. Diomedes Paros. We all know of your history of minor sexual offences, but even we didn't think you could stoop so low. Myself and the prosecution have presented evidence of your guilt which I know to be conclusive. You were aware of the victim, living across the street from them. You had even spoken to her, as witnesses have testified. And an item of your clothing discovered at the scene of the crime, with no reliable alibi corroborated…"
The defendant is still staring at me.
He knows I have his life in my hand.
… I squeeze my papers.
"I, Medea Solon, know that you are guilty. I know what must be done to ensure justice in the United Kingdoms of Vasilios. And I sincerely hope that the good men and women of the jury are just that: good. That they have a heart. A conscience. Humanity. I hope that they agree with me, so that at least in heaven… Penelope Drakos may have justice."
And the knife has been sunk. The poison administered. The defendant, Diomedes Paros, averts his gaze. I allow mine to scan the jury, making eye contact, letting my hold over them extend for just a moment longer, letting the conviction settle like a layer of snow over their hearts.
I had already won this case before my closing statement. But complacency has been the fall of many. I don't intend to ever be one of them.
"Thank you," I see, keeping my speech concise, as is always more effective. I look one more time at the defendant, run my finger down the edge of my papers, and then return to my seat. A silence hangs over the courtroom like a noose from a tree.
The judge takes over. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You have heard all relevant testimony. You have heard the closing statements of the defence and prosecution. The time has come to retire and deliberate upon a verdict. The court will reconvene once it has been reached."
The jury stand up, beginning to shuffle out of the room, all of them conscious of the eyes in the courtroom burning a hole into their necks. In particular, one of tyrian purple.
I am confident that they will reach the… the favourable verdict.
"Is the jury's verdict unanimous?"
"And what is the verdict?"
"The jury finds the defendant, Diomedes Paros, guilty on all charges, including unlawful murder, unlawful rape, and unlawful home invasion with the intention of sexual assault…"
"… On the First Charge, that of murder, as I am required to do by the Crown Law of the United Kingdoms of Vasilios, I sentence you, the defendant, Diomedes Paros, to life imprisonment…"
Later That Evening
"Isn't that Medea Solon?!"
The Pericles, a three star Michelin restaurant, is renowned throughout Polisia, the capital of Vasilios. It's an establishment one only attends if they've 'made it', so to speak, or at least have enough money to pretend they have. There's an expectation that to be a patron of the Pericles, you have to be a celebrity. Or important. Or fabulously wealthy. Or all three.
Once or twice, the Pericles has even hosted royalty.
I may not be royalty. For one reason or another. But I've visited here enough, and possess enough of those qualities for people to recognise me every time I enter. Just enough of them, of course.
Once that murmur has spread through the restaurant like a wave, several more tables turn their heads, tables clad in white cloth and sparkling glassware. I am stood at the door, waiting for the head waiter to greet me, which he soon does, adjusting his crisp black suit as he approaches.
"Miss Solon. A pleasure to welcome you back to the Pericles." He dips his head to me deferentially. "You're usual table…?"
"That would be splendid."
"You look beautiful, as always."
He says something to this effect every time, as if it isn't obvious. One would look moronic in the extreme if they didn't dress up to the Pericles. I am wearing a dark purple dress, almost maroon, threaded with delicate splashes of black; it's a new outfit. It's a habit of mine not to be seen in the same dress twice.
The waiter begins to lead me through the lines of tables, heading straight to the back, where my favoured table is: an intimate but extravagant balcony view of the Polisia cityscape. As we walk, I hear a table of guests I don't recognise continue to mutter about me.
"God… she really is beautiful, isn't she? It's rare to look more beautiful in person than in the papers…"
"I still remember when the Stefanos case was all over the news. Really have no idea how he managed to get off scot-free…"
I have to hide a disdainful snort. Do they really not realise how loud and conspicuous they are? It's embarrassing, even if they're right. When I was approached to defend Stefanos Ariadne over the shockingly sudden death of his wife, I warned him the case was inconclusive. That a good prosecution would find five dozen holes in his story, and possibly several more. Still, I set about shoring those holes up, and my client did get off, as that table so inelegantly put it, 'scot-free'.
That remains my most high profile, publicised case. Its outcome has contributed a lot to my reputation, though the repute of my last name is strong enough besides. The Solons were once one of the most powerful and influential of the old, aristocratic Vasilion families. Dukes and Duchesses, company of the Emperors, before the colonies and client kingdoms gained their independence, forming the United Kingdoms of Vasilios. Many of these families still live celebrity lifestyles, or hold posts in government, or represent Vasilios abroad.
Whispers like those from that table are expected. I'd be more concerned if they stopped.
Soon, the waiter and I reach the balcony. I've always loved the flowers lining the old stone balustrade; delicate purple chrysanthemums. And the view of Polisia is truly magnificent. I can see the Polisian Wheel turning by the river bank, ignited like a multicolour lighthouse, each composite colour a piece of the flag of Vasilios.
"My apologies for the late reservation," I say, as the waiter pulls out my chair.
"Oh, by no means. I take it you will be joined shortly…?"
"Indeed." I tap my fingers on the table.
It's not like him to be late. Especially when I'm involved.
And true to form, my date for the evening doesn't disappoint.
Some ten minutes later, I glance up and see a man whose face I know intimately walk onto the balcony. The gorgeous, symmetrical features. The cheekbones. The boyish and yet somehow masculine jaw-line. Yes. Helio Niccolo has an astonishing gift of perpetually looking like he sprung to life from page one of a fashion magazine. His silver hair is slicked to the side; as silver as the suit he wears, with the patterned white tie.
The same waiter as before had escorted Helio to me. He knows better than to speak as we eye each other.
Helio blinks first, then approaches me, leaning down, taking my hand and kissing it. "… Medea."
"Helio," I reply, slowly. "Ten minutes late. Have you forgotten the meaning of punctuality?"
"I came as soon as you called. I was busy training."
"Don't you usually train outside of Polisia?" I inquire, knowing precisely where he trains and how far from the city centre it is.
"Like I said. As soon as you called."
He kisses my hand again, the pressure of his lips a little stronger this time, the incredible intensity in his eyes alive and well.
The waiter has turned his back. He only takes our orders once Helio has sat down, across from me.
"A bottle of 1956 Hennel Red for Medea," Helio orders, my favourite wine slipping easily off his tongue. "I'll have the same."
Our food order follows, and then we are alone, the Polisia city-scape still sparkling, perhaps annoyed it isn't getting the attention its splendour deserves. I rest my head on my hand. Helio Niccolo is someone I have known since we were children. How different he is now. How much he has grown.
"Did you train hard?"
He doesn't respond immediately. "… Of course. Do you really think I've changed that much?"
"No. But when all you do as a competitor is win, perhaps there's a temptation to take your foot off the gas?"
"I wouldn't say so. There's always a new way to win."
"And I'm sure you'll find one. How many grand slams is it now?"
"Three and counting. I seem to recall you watching from my box, Medea."
True enough. Whereas I have found excellency in the legal profession, Helio, also of one of those time-honoured Vasilion families, has found it in the world of sport. Tennis has always been one of the most popular sports throughout the kingdoms, but Helio's success since bursting onto the scene has seen the game flourish, particularly in the home kingdom itself. Helio has reached three grand slam finals in succession, winning all of them.
"Remind me where the next slam is, Helio?"
"The Othilei Open. Clay courts. My best surface."
I take a sip of the Hennel Red; in my opinion, no other wine I've tasted comes close. "No home crowd advantage this time, like at the Vasilion Open. I imagine that will phase you?"
"You also have an audience in the courtroom. Does that ever phase you?"
"Oh, they're hardly comparable. But no, it doesn't."
"You had a case today, yes?"
"What makes you say that?"
His lilac eyes flash- for a moment, I think they might be the same shade as the chrysanthemums. "It's usually after a case when you call me."
"Really? I've never noticed."
Sometimes, I forget Helio knows me on the same intrinsic level that I know him.
"What was the case?"
"Oh, a really nasty one."
"Rape. Murder. Home invasion. You name it."
"Who was the victim?"
"What charming topics we bring to the dinner table, Helio." I smirk, however sobering the thought of the case is. "… A girl. Penelope Drakos. Six years old."
He winces, but he's heard it all before. It's just another case. "Were you the defence or the prosecution?"
"Prosecution. The defendant was a man named Diomedes Paros. He was one of only two possible suspects, and the much more likely of them. He had a history of minor sexual offences, mostly public indecencies. There was a piece of his clothing at the scene of the crime, and it was… 'stained', let's say. The case against him was watertight."
"Nothing too taxing…?"
I snort. "Even a child could have got the conviction."
"Not worthy of your talents then."
"Very few things are."
Helio continues to stare at me. "… And what might be worthy of you, Medea?"
"… Like I said, very few things. But they tend to stick around."
Helio considers a response, decides against it, leans back in his chair. He adjusts the lapel of his suit. What an array of them he has. Fashionable, suggestive, but dignified. He dresses like a model rather than an athlete. I suppose I don't dress much like a lawyer outside of work either. One can only do so much with a suit and pencil skirt.
"… I remember the days when you used to tell me about your dream, Medea."
"How you wanted to find a place in the history books, next to all those great Solons of the past. And maybe even surpass them."
… Yes. A place in the history books. That was a phrase that passed my lips often; that inundated my thoughts.
It still does. Nothing has changed.
"You speak of that like it's in the past, Helio," I echo, my voice drier than the Hennel red.
"I meant no such thing. But as you just said, very few things are worthy of you."
I'm aware of what he's hinting at here. The dual, enclosed meanings he has hinted at before. My method of dealing with it should be no different.
"This sounds like you're underselling yourself, Helio. Or perhaps just my career of choice. You are a Niccolo and one of Vasilios' premier athletes. Not much is worthy of you either."
"Yes. That's true, I suppose."
"Speaking of which, how's the lovely miss Aspasia doing?" I ask, running my finger along the rim of my wine glass. "Well, I hope."
The change of topic would seem organic and natural, as I intended, to almost anyone. Suddenly we are talking about a topic I approve of again.
"… Aspasia is well, certainly."
"Really? That's so good to hear." I smile. "You two are still together then?"
"No. She's well because we're not." Helio's tone is shorter than the prime of a life.
"Oh, gosh… That's so sudden. Were things not working out?"
"But you seemed so close. I thought it would last, I really did."
Perhaps I'm being a little cruel. But a little cruelty does wonders for getting a point across. I already knew Helio and Aspasia had broken up; an acquaintance of mine at her place of work, the main branch of Acropolis Bank, texted me the bad news as soon as she found out.
Bad news, undoubtedly. But somewhat inevitable. I wouldn't call it a tragedy. The nature of that relationship was apparent to both of us from the start. Its end played a part in me calling him tonight.
"If you wish to gloat, Medea," he rasps, "then go ahead."
"Why would I gloat? I don't wish to see you sad, Helio."
"…" Another sip of wine. Three quarters of my old friend's glass is gone. "I wouldn't say I was sad about it. Annoyed. Humiliated, maybe. But not sad."
"Why would that be, Helio?"
"You know. You know everything."
"Not everything. Just most things. But on this particular matter…" I lean forward. He can see a lot of me. My dress is of a low-cut. My head is still rested on my hand. "… I know rather a lot."
Helio has always stared at me like this. With that raw, passionate, vehemence. It was like that even when we were children. He doesn't know how to hide it. He is still like a child, in that way. At least around me. Unable to control his feelings.
Perhaps he hasn't grown much at all. And, as I am indebted to ask myself, whose fault is that?
Eventually, Helio shifts his body, rests his head on his hands too, diverting his attention to the view of Polisia over the stone balustrade. The Polisian Wheel turns in the distance like a clock for the empire. On the solstice days for the two winters and springs of the year, the wheel is illuminated by an ocean of fireworks. I have attended those festivals with Helio before. We even watched from this balcony, once.
"… I forgot to ask."
"What was that?"
Helio turns back. "Your case today. Was the defendant guilty?"
"Actually, I rather suspected the father," I reply absently, eyes still on the Polisian Wheel. "… More wine?"
"You want me to take you home?"
Our meal came and went in something of a daze, perhaps because of the second bottle of Hennel red. I was satisfied to take the conversation elsewhere; I let Helio tell me about the adjustments he'd made to his backhand stroke, and then we discussed the upcoming general election. The undercurrents to our conversation, so close to the surface of late, appeared to have calmed.
But never for long. They've always been here. I'm not sure they'll ever leave.
We had paid the bill, thanking the waiter who served us, and then Helio led me back through the restaurant. I held his arm lightly, the leanness of his muscles clear beneath my fingers. We look idyllic when we walk together; that's what everyone says. And the patrons of the Pericles tonight obviously agreed.
"Just look at the two of them… They're together, aren't they?"
"I think so-"
"No, they're not! I read a column about it. They were a thing, but Helio met someone else-"
"Someone better than her?" A snort. "Clearly not."
I glance sideways at Helio, wondering if he'd heard. There isn't the slightest indication he did. But neither is there the opposite.
He only asks that question, almost rhetorical, when we're standing outside the Pericles, traffic whizzing past on the street outside, bright city lights all around us. I'm still holding his arm, but he doesn't look at me as the question passes his lips.
"You want me to take you home?"
"That would be very gentlemanly of you, Helio," I murmur.
His tone is close to abject, and I feel a slight twinge of annoyance.
"You're not indebted to. Believe it or not, I can get home by myself-"
"No. I'll take you home."
And there it is. He submits to the eye contact. I turn myself slightly so I'm looking at him, leaning forward.
"Where's your car? You drove here, yes?"
"Just down the street."
He leads me away from the restaurant. A couple point and stare at us as we walk past them, recognising us. I'm expecting to see his familiar car, but the one Helio stops beside is brand new. A sleek, dark grey Aston Martin. Many of the cars outside the Pericles are luxurious, just like Helio's.
"And how long have you had this, Helio?" I ask, bending down to look through the window. The seats are leather.
"… Just two weeks." Again, his voice is stiff, yet somehow limp.
"It's very impressive. Did Aspasia like it?"
"… I imagine so. Do you?"
I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear as I look back at him. "It's very impressive, presumably."
"I'll remember that," he murmurs, opening the door for me.
Soon, we're both sat down; Helio pulls out smoothly and begins to drive away, leaving the Pericles behind us. A group of teenage boys pull out their phones, taking pictures of the car as he does. The engine is almost noiseless.
My date remains silent, eyes fixed firmly on the road ahead. Ah… so he's being like this again.
I've lost count of how many times Helio has called me beautiful. Or wonderful. Or perfect. Or whatever other adjective springs to his mind at the time. He has quite a varied vocabulary at his disposal. But there's been no such examples of it tonight.
Not yet, anyway.
"… You're very quiet, Helio."
He doesn't reply, like a cat sulking in the corner. I ask again.
"… I'm driving. I'd rather not get distracted."
"Yes. All those nasty 'distractions'. You're right to restrain yourself."
Still no reaction.
Unfortunately for Helio, we've been in each other's lives rather a long time.
"I don't understand you, Medea."
I raise my eyebrow skeptically. "Really?"
"No, I don't," he says, with a stubborn insistence, just as a traffic light turns red in front of us and the Aston Martin slows to a halt. He still doesn't look at me.
"… You said nothing when I met Aspasia."
I glance at my fingernails, painted a deep and intoxicating purple, and then tap one of them against the car window.
"And yet tonight… once we've separated… you want me to take you hom-"
"It was you who offered, was it not?"
And that twinge of annoyance I felt earlier has returned, seeping into my voice more than I'd intended. I'd wanted to sound disinterested.
"… Yes, Medea. It was me who offered."
"Then why complain? You think too much, Helio."
"… Yes, Medea."
My finger continues to tap on the window. We go silent. The only sounds are the soft purrs of the engine and that gradual pitter patter tapping, like hailstones on glass. Tap tap tap.
My house is on the fringe of the western suburbs of Polisia, just where the city centre ends. It's one of the famous districts of the capital city, home to a great many celebrities, politicians and businessmen. I bought it with some aid from the Solon family reserves, just after I graduated from university. At just over two million, it was a steal.
The Aston Martin pulls up to my driveway; there is a dark steel gate which opens to a code, the gravel driveway with the sizeable pond in the front garden, the dazzling porchlights, and the house itself, modern and voguish. Helio and I. Our chatter has slowed to a trickle. We haven't spoken in five minutes.
He lowers the window, reaches out and taps in the code to my gate. It doesn't budge.
"… Oh, yes. You change the code regularly, don't you?"
"Of course. Security is important."
"Yes. Nice and closed off-"
"The code is 983621," I interrupt, forcibly repressing my eye-roll.
Helio bites his lip and enters the code. The automatic gates open slowly and he moves us up the driveway, parking the Aston Martin next to my Range-rover. His hands remain on the steering wheel for almost thirty seconds, before opening the car door and stepping outside.
I don't leave the car right away. Helio enjoys his caring gestures; he'd opened the car door when I stepped inside, and it seems likely he'll do the same thing now. But first, he takes out his phone, probably checking a text from his coach, facing away from me, his silver hair highlighted in the glare of my porchlights.
… Helio. Helio Niccolo. I find the overwhelming majority of people predictable, and he is the most predictable of them all.
Tonight, he will obviously require some encouragement. Some uptake. So when he finally walks round and opens the door for me, I look right up at him, me sat down, him stood up, and smile.
"Just look at you. My knight in shining armour."
Helio breathes out. "… Aren't I more the footman, Medea?"
"If that's where you'd like to be."
He shifts, noticeably trembles, the feelings in his heart yet again written across his expression like inscriptions on a statue. I offer him my hand, and he takes it, but it's me who steps out of the car, my purple and black dress lit up so brightly by the porchlights it could be pale white. His eyes flicker between my face and lower, round my neckline, towards my chest. So predictable. So obvious.
"Medea… I don't understand you," he repeats, reverentially.
"Yes you do," I say, and then still holding his hand, lead him to my front door. I take the key out my bag, slip it into the keyhole, open the door. Once Helio and I are stood in my hallway, the outside porchlights flicker out, leaving us in darkness.
His hand in mine feels clammy. I look up at him in this newfound gloom, wondering if he will do something, but he doesn't, and unsurprised, I kneel down and take my high heels off. Then, barefoot, I walk into my kitchen and flick the light switch.
Helio doesn't follow me immediately, so I give him time, running my hand along my recently refitted countertop. The marble grey kitchen tiles, also new, are cool against my feet. I go to the fridge, take out a bottle of champagne, then two glasses from my cupboard. I pour them. I've taken three sips when Helio enters the kitchen after me.
I turn around, resting my back against the countertop, sipping my champagne. He's staring at me, unblinking.
"There's a glass for you, if you want it," I say.
… What a feeling, to be looked at like that. Like you're something unbeknownst to the human race. Something they can scarcely believe is real.
Ignoring the champagne, Helio walks up to me, his breathing audibly shallow. His mouth is parted. He stares at my lips for a long time. It could be years.
I've half finished my glass. "Are you waiting for something?"
He swallows, glances downwards again, and then leans in. He lays his lips against mine. It can scarcely be described as a kiss. Just the pressure of his lips. No further movement. No deepening. A peck which doesn't seem to end. His hands remain limply by his sides.
His eyes are closed, but mine are open. I can see the blurred greyish specks of his eyebrows. I put the glass of champagne down, and there is that twinge of annoyance, rearing its head like a horse in the dressage.
Why does he kiss me like this? As if he doesn't already have my permission? As if I couldn't ever revoke it?
If you want something, you should take it. You're entitled to what you want. Don't let anyone say otherwise. That's what I've always told him. What I've always been told myself.
Eyes still open, I put my arms around his waist and yank him closer, deepening the kiss. He moans, and suddenly there's movement. His hands land on my back. They're still clammy, trembling. He pulls at the fabric of my dress.
He grabs my backside, and I bite his lip in response. Helio melts like wax. He kisses me stronger, his hands move upwards, onto my breasts, each touch a desperate veneration.
We lean against the countertop, in this same embrace, for seven minutes. I know because I checked the clock, ticking on my kitchen wall. Soon, I guide him over to the table, our lips not leaving each other's, and sit him on the chair nearest to us.
Helio pants like a young stallion, his face flushed, lilac eyes so full of that… of that awe. I… I can't help but revel in it. Revel in his awe. His adoration. I can't help but enjoy the helplessness of it all. The total, humiliating surrender of his love.
I straddle him and his whole body quakes. Now, his kisses have lost their hesitation. I move my body against him, giving him what he wants. He breaks away for air, then kisses down from my lips onto my neck, then to my chest, pushing his face into my breasts. I feel a quiver of my own. Helio has always been a beautiful man. You'd have to be blind not to see it.
His roving hands move onto my back. His fingers find the zip of my dress. They fumble. Minutes go past, or maybe it isn't as long as that. I don't check the clock this time. But the seconds go by, and I grow impatient.
"You always struggle with this part, don't you Helio?"
He just pants, as if there isn't enough air in his lungs to respond. I leave a kiss on his neck, then stand up, do the job for him, undress myself. Now I'm stood before him, all but naked, and his eyes consume me. Funny how it stays that way, after a hundred times.
I straddle him again. I resume the kisses. But suddenly, Helio has gone still and inert again. His hands have stopped roaming; instead, they're nailed to his knees. His kisses aren't as deep. He's just looking, breathing, as if I've shut a door between us instead of left it wide, wide open.
Can't he see that I'm right here, in front of him? I've given myself to you so many times, Helio. What's once more?
Biting the skin on his neck, I start the work on him too, slipping off his blazer jacket, untying the tie, undoing the buttons of his shirt, tossing it aside, until I run my fingers down his lean torso, the physique of an athlete. If I do it, he might follow my lead. And sure enough, he does, his hands finally moving again, fiddling with the string of my underwear.
And at last, he speaks.
"I want you, Medea."
Oh really? That's a surprise. "I want you too, Helio-"
"All of you."
"…" I pull away for a moment, keeping my tone breathy, not annoyed, not impatient. "I'm right here, Helio."
I look down at my exposed skin, and unclasp my bra. "There's not much more I can give you."
He groans. I can't tell if it's from arousal or pain. He buries himself in my chest, tracing me with hungry kisses. My body responds to him instinctively. As his tongue brushes my nipples, and my hands move up his thighs, one thought breaks through my wall of feeling.
Yes. There's nothing else I can give you.
The sun rises the next morning at seven AM, strands of sickly yellow creeping through the gaps in my curtains like insects beneath a door. It's closer to winter than summer, but the air in my bedroom is sweaty, humid. Helio and I could be lying in a greenhouse. The duvet was quickly discarded when we got upstairs.
The sun rose at seven, but I've already been awake for an hour. I'm lying naked on the left side of the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Helio is fast asleep beside me.
The sights of my bedroom have been exhausted. I force my gaze away from the picture of myself and my brother Dekis on the dresser, back in our boarding school uniforms, and onto Helio. He's on his side, his bare chest rising and falling in his sleep. It doesn't seem like the most peaceful of sleeps. I wonder what he's dreaming about.
Absently, sub-consciously, I reach out with my fingers, the purple nail polish now fading, and they hover over his closed eyelids like a hummingbird above a flower.
Not even peaceful in your sleep, Helio. What does that say?
Hm. Then there's me, who isn't even asleep.
Feeling restless and frustrated, the fleeting pleasures of the night forgotten, I climb quietly out of bed. Helio isn't disturbed. He turns, resting his hand where my body had lain, but doesn't wake up. I brush my bed hair out of my face, put on a pair of loose fabric shorts, a black T-shirt, and leave my bedroom.
It's Saturday morning. I don't have a case to attend to. Helio will probably have training, but there's no need to rush him. He'll want to savour nights and mornings like these.
Downstairs, I make myself a cup of tea, Earl Grey, and sit on my countertop, resuming my absent staring contest with no one in particular. Huh. My bra still lies discarded on the marble kitchen floor.
I suppose it's common for me to feel like this. Restless and frustrated. But Helio is one of the best at bringing those irritant emotions out.
And another emotion which I despise. Perhaps more than any other. One I'd long ago vowed not to feel.
Just the thought of that feeling makes me snort; I gulp down the still hot tea. Guilt is for people who regret taking what they want. What they need. Fulfilling their desires. Life is just as Darwin said: an evolutionary contest. Life is such that there will always be a winner and a loser. There's little point in resigning yourself to the latter. Especially not someone like me. A Solon.
What use is guilt in life? In an evolutionary contest?
What use is guilt to a Solon?
I shake my head.
Is it really so wrong? Is it really so unjust to enjoy being worshipped?
… The counter to that, in my head, arrives faster than I'd expected. It's a thought which has a voice, a sound, but it isn't my own. It sounds like someone I know. Or used to know. Or haven't known for years. The voice of that thought, that counter, is soft and feminine but firm. Saccharine but strong. It's a voice I can't forget.
It is if you don't-
I stand up from the countertop, interrupting my own thought, pushing it away. I keep shaking my head. This is moronic. I don't get anything from this. There's no point.
Seeing the necessity of a distraction, of a noise other than the contemptuous echo of my thoughts, I grab the remote on my countertop and switch on the wall TV. The morning news from Vasilios Broadcasts bursts onto the screen.
… But turning on the TV is the worst choice I could have made.
I… I had forgotten. Or maybe I hadn't.
Either way, this is the morning of the royal visit to Hennel Kingdom.
It's been decades since the Imperial Family of Vasilios truly ruled us. The emergence of Parliament as a balance to the impetuous decisions of the later Vasilion emperors coincided with the rise of democracy throughout the client kingdoms. As governments changed throughout our empire, so too did ours. Now, the royal family is almost entirely ceremonial. Glorified celebrities. But they're responsibility as representatives, figureheads of Vasilios, remains.
They often visit other kingdoms for diplomatic reasons, or state visits. And today was the day of the Crown Prince Eros and his entourage's annual visit to Hennel.
It's a recognisable scene, flashing before me on the TV. Despite it being early morning, the long road up to the Hennel parliament building is absolutely crowded, on either side of the metal barricades, with people. Many of the throngs here will have waited overnight to be guaranteed of their spot at the front. Guaranteed of a firsthand glimpse of the Crown Prince.
But not just him.
Him, and one of the most popular members of the royal family for decades.
I watch, teeth digging into my tongue, as a traditional open-top horse and carriage rides into focus. On either side of the carriage, the flags of the Hennel Kingdom and the United Kingdoms of Vasilios sway in the breeze. And there, clad in a beautifully tailored, dark navy suit, is the Crown Prince Eros.
… How odd, to see those features, the short and cleanly cropped hair, the tail and upright posture, the handsome elegance of his face, and of course, the watery grey of his eyes, from so faraway. He's smiling, waving at the crowds, accepting their adulation, which will always be his birthright.
But again, the crowds aren't just cheering for him.
They're also cheering for the Crown Princess. The darling of Vasilios. The 'Golden Girl'.
She's beaming. Laughing. Waving with enthusiasm at the crowds, and oh, how they love her! Yes. I know nothing. This is what it's like to be worshipped. They crave her. They bask in her 'angelic' kindness, her smiles which are handed out so freely, so honestly. She has the gift of endearing herself to any person she wishes to within an instant. Of making them feel like they've been the closest of friends, as close as Helio and I, all their lives.
What a woman she is! What a gift to the people! What a choice the Crown Prince made!
My index finger, curling like a chokehold over the TV remote, lingers over the 'Off' button.
All of a sudden, I am transported backwards in time, backwards through my memories, backwards through the years, like Alice through the looking glass, all the way to the my time at university, the University of Lyceum. That haven of education, the most famous of them all. But not just my time at university. Our time at university. Myself and Psyche. When we lived next door to each other, so close we may as well have been roommates.
… You liar. You lying, selfish bitch. You took everything from me.
And as I watch her from a kingdom away, my hand grips the fabric of my shirt, just above my chest.
Trials and Tribulations
Chapter One- Unjust