In the darkness of the night, Gangrel tossed and turned in his bed. He couldn't relax; his own thoughts were driving him crazy. It had only been a few hours since he'd bid goodnight to the tactician as they always did, but already he longed to see her again. He hated saying goodnight; it felt too much like saying goodbye, as if one of them would go missing without a trace come morning.
He briefly considered going back to her room again—just for a quick look—but had to admit that he would be too tempted to stay and might fall asleep again. If they were discovered or if Nisha woke up first, it would be disastrous for their tentative relationship. No, it was far safer to stay here and only imagine her lovely face.
Of course just fantasizing about her wasn't going to help him sleep. The trickster rolled over again, trying to quiet his mind to no avail. He remembered the warmth Nisha's body had given off as he lay next to her in bed and longed to feel that heat again.
"I'm going out of my mind," he grumbled, shifting again so he lay face down upon his pillow.
Perhaps it was insanity, but he found it easier to relax if he pretended she was there beside him, and not half a fortress away. After several minutes continuing that vein of thought, he was sound asleep
The usual noise of dining Shepherds was somewhat quieter than it had been as of late: Chrom had finally lead his troops across the sea to Valm and the army was only half of what it had been. Gangrel was enjoying their absence immensely, if only because he didn't have to see their faces anymore. And because it was easier to keep his visits to Nisha under wraps, but that was a given.
In had been two weeks since Stahl had cut off his and Nisha's kiss, and Gangrel was pleased at the progress they had made since then: the tactician, though embarrassed, had begun to accept such advances (provided they were in private) even if she never initiated them herself. The trickster didn't mind that much anyway: it was nice to have a little control in their chaotic relationship. The hard part was not taking advantage of his newfound power.
The large mess hall echoed with the clatter of knives scraping across plates and cups being set on wood. The Mad King had already finished his supper and watched Nisha from his secluded spot in the corner. She was smiling at something Cynthia had told her, her entire face lighting up from the tiny motion. Just looking on made Gangrel want to reach out and touch her, take her away to some secret place where they didn't have to hide. And who was he to deny such a strong feeling?
Getting to his feet, Gangrel walked as if he were simply leaving, taking a path that lead him directly past the tactician. As he passed behind her, the trickster reached his hand out and ran his fingers through her ponytail subtly. Nisha, to her credit, did not react and draw attention to the contact, but the way she sat straighter told him that she knew he was there and understood that he wanted a word—or rather a private moment alone.
"Nisha?" Sumia's uncertain voice rang out as he left the table. "Did-did Gangrel just—?"
"Touch my hair? Yes, as a matter of fact he did."
"He's been doing that a lot," Kjelle noted. "They're all little things, but it seems like he's always trying to get your attention."
Gangrel twisted to look over his shoulder at the door and caught Nisha's eye, smirking as each of the women at the table began assessing the situation, some with narrowed eyes, others widened. The Mad King's smile grew as he slipped out of the large hall, leaving the tactician to find her own escape.
He went straight to her room after the door closed behind him; that was where they always met when they wanted to be alone. The Plegian seated himself at her desk, lounging as he waited for his lover to arrive.
She did not disappoint: in what felt like no time at all, Nisha opened her door and stepped inside. Gangrel rose and captured her in his embrace, leaning forward and placing a kiss on her soft lips.
"You threw me to the lions," she accused when the trickster had finished. "I only just got away. Must your timing always be so inconvenient?"
"Are you trying to tell me that I have to wait when I want to kiss you so badly?" Gangrel teased. "Because next time I might not be able to resist you, and it will happen in front of everyone."
"Gods forbid it," Nisha muttered, resting her head against his chest. Gangrel smiled and buried his face in her dark hair. She smelled good—not flowery or fruity, but good all the same. The scent reminded him of the earth after rain: warm and real. There was nothing artificial about her—in body or in heart—and he loved her all the more for it.
Taking her hand in both of his, the trickster slowly drew his fingers up her arm, pushing back the sleeve of her cloak.
"You have such lovely skin," he whispered in her ear. "It's a shame you always keep it covered up."
Nisha shivered and drew away a little, looking at the floor as a touch of color rose in her cheeks.
"I feel exposed without my cloak," she explained softly. "And...I'm not sure if I'm ready to go that far yet; I've never been so intimate with someone before and then you...how experienced with women are you?"
"Does it matter?" Gangrel asked, tilting her chin up so he could look her in the eye. "I'm a far cry from innocent, but you might as well be my first, because you will certainly be my last."
Nisha inhaled sharply as the Mad King stroked her cheek before trailing his fingertips over her soft neck, stopping at her collarbone.
"If I could, I would keep you only for myself," he purred. The tactician smiled nervously as she slowly pulled his hand away.
"Despite certain...advantages of that scenario, it would completely nullify the point of being a tactician."
"Of course. I just hate having to share you."
"I can hardly imagine," she muttered, a bit sarcastically. "I, on the other hand, have no one else vying for your time and attention."
"My soul—or whatever's left at this point—belongs only to you, tactician," Gangrel replied, sweeping into a low bow.
"Why do you call me that?" Nisha asked suddenly. "You always call me 'tactician', never by my name."
The Mad King was silent. How did he explain it? Calling her by her position was just habit—he did it to nearly everyone—but at the same time it was different; she was different.
"Do you like it when I call you by your name?" he asked her, glancing up at her, smirking as he was seized by an inkling of mischief.
"Yes. More than I should, but that's not what I—"
She got no farther: Gangrel stood, pulled her close and silenced her with a sudden kiss. He allowed himself to be a little rougher, a little more passionate than he usually was and Nisha was breathing heavily when they parted.
"Your name is special," he told her as she recovered. "I don't deserve to say it, twisted and stained as I am, so I can do nothing but recognize your station. If I were not your inferior, perhaps I might say it more. But, that is how it is: you are the illustrious tactician of this army, and I'm a lowly war dog. I won't contaminate you any more than I already have."
"Don't say that," Nisha breathed.
"That you're stained and broke.." She raised her hand and placed it against his cheek. "Gangrel, you're only human; you made mistakes like we all do, and your crimes are no greater than my own. If I really thought you were my inferior, I wouldn't have anything to do with you—I wouldn't care if you called me 'tactician' or not. But I do care; you're the only one I've ever cared about this much—even more than myself!—and it hurts me when you say such terrible things about yourself."
The young woman looked into the trickster's scarlet eyes, her gaze earnest and searching. Gangrel smiled and rested his forehead against hers. Then, so softly even he could barely hear it, Nisha whispered, "I want you all to myself too."
He smiled in reply and closed the distance between their lips once again.
Gangrel frowned as he looked at the tiny money pouch in his hand. Did he really have enough? Well, it would have to be enough.
Standing, the Mad King exited his room, tying the pouch to his belt as he went. The Fort Guard should be changing shifts any minute now. Perfect. Now all he had to do was wait.
Most of the soldiers coming down off the parapets ignored the red-haired trickster leaning against the wall. Every so often, someone would glance at him as if asking him to move along and leave them alone, but the foreigner did not move. Finally, one of the younger soldiers broke ranks and came forward, hand tight on his spear.
"Do you have business here?" he asked, his voice taut with annoyance.
"As a matter of fact I do," was the demeaning reply.
"Why, with you of course."
The soldier was thrown completely off guard and Gangrel smirked at the sudden change in expression.
"I don't recall ever requesting to meet you here."
"You didn't," the trickster said. "But all the same, I have business with you."
Anxiously, the young Feroxi Guard looked for someone to help him, only to discover that the rest of the morning watch had left him behind. They were alone.
"What business?" the soldier asked warily. The Mad King chuckled.
"Oh don't look so nervous! I just wanted to ask you where the nearest village is—provided that they have a reliable market.
The soldier blinked.
"Why do you need to know?"
"I have some business I need to complete there."
As much as Gangrel enjoyed the frustration his words were causing, the conversation had grown tedious and his temper was wearing its tight leash thin. The guard frowned, but sighed, loosening his hold upon his weapon.
"Half a day's journey on horseback, due West."
"And on foot? How long then?"
"Two, maybe three days. And that's only if the weather's fair."
The trickster nodded, then got up off the wall and strode away. Before he had gone more than five steps, the soldier called, "You cause any trouble in that village, and you will answer directly to the Khans. Do you understand me, Plegian?"
Gangrel did not give the young Feroxi the satisfaction of receiving an answer, turning the corner and out of sight. Three days journey, huh? He'd have to swipe quite a bit of food at breakfast to last that long a trip. And then there were the three days back to worry about. Perhaps he could steal a horse. The Mad King dropped the idea as it formed in his mind; he wasn't an experienced rider, and he'd never traversed through snow on horseback before. Perhaps he could walk straight through the night. No, he'd collapse sooner or later."Well, this is going to be harder than I thought," he muttered to himself as he entered the still-empty mess hall. "But it'll be worth it in the end."