Alex blinked as she dragged cold fingers through her hair, then leaned sideways to wring the water out.
The twins had been on their way back from their morning ride when the dark clouds above had opened up. In only a few minutes, the two displaced Vornes had been soaked to the bone. And it was cold outside.
Mirroring her across the small mudroom, Madrik sat on a scarred wooden bench, swiping rainwater from his face.
“He just isn’t coming out of his cave,” he repeated, shrugging.
“Is he… sick?”
All natural animals were susceptible to illnesses. Was it the same for Svorak?
Her twin hummed softly as he pulled off one boot. “Can dragons get sick?” he mused, echoing her thoughts. There was a playfulness to his tone that had Alex looking up from undoing the buckles of her own riding boots.
“He isn’t, is he?”
Madrik shook his head. “No, I don’t think he’s sick,” he responded, tugging his other foot out of the soggy confines of the other boot. His face scrunched into a grimace as he wiggled wet toes. “Ack, going to need new boots.”
Alex snorted. “It wasn’t the boots fault that you dismounted into a puddle.” She waved a hand at his cheerfully offended expression. “Anyway, Svorak?” she prodded, steering the conversation back.
Madrik mimed chucking the mud-splattered boot at her and she gave him a mock glare. He only grinned.
“Probably just wants to avoid the etiquette lesson that Master Tivol has planned this afternoon,” he said, amused. “Remember the man was planning on getting the hairless bastard into a full uniform?”
“He’s skipping?” she sputtered, rising from her seat and heading for the door. “Over my bloodless corpse!”
Students here were grouped by political background. By default, the twins had claimed Svorak as a fellow kinsman and while the dragon had snorted, he hadn’t contradicted them. It had also helped that Madrik had found the beast in northern Oran, Svorak already knew the language and customs.
While there was no actual penalty for not attending class, for Alex it was a matter of pride. She and her brother had been given the opportunity to learn the skills needed to govern people, and it had only come about through many years of political maneuvering and hard-earned respect.
Svorak may not have cared about national pride or appearances, but she refused to let him lounge away in bed while the twins took notes and attended lectures.
As to Madrik, well… Between changing the class jester into a respectable politician or dragging a reluctant mythical monster into a classroom populated with royals, Alex was picking her battles.
“Oi, Lex?” her twin called out from behind her.
Spinning on her heel, the Vorne princess glared at her equally blue-blooded brother. “What?” she bit out.
Hands up in placation, Madrik grinned. “How about changing into something dry before killing off our only dragon?”
“Why? So you can warn him?” She narrowed her eyes and lifted her chin, scowling. Damn him for being so much taller, it made looking down her nose at him all that much more difficult.
“No,” he drawled, rolling his eyes. The grin morphed into a smirk as her cold nose twitched and–to her mortification–she sneezed. “I’m suggesting it because we just came in from being drenched in cold water. It’s still pouring out there.”
“Oh, shut up,” Alex muttered, conceding.
Grumbling, she walked back to the mudroom. Her brother smiled and wordlessly held out a towel that she took with a huff. “But this means you’re helping me bring him in.”
Madrik shrugged again as he draped another towel over her head. “Should be interesting.”
“Do you ever take anything seriously?” she asked mulishly, closing her eyes and ruffling the soft cloth over her damp tresses.
Her movements abruptly stilled when a large scarred hand reached over to grasp her chin, tilting her face up. When she opened her eyes, she saw the familiar wide grin, but Madrik’s gaze was sombre.
“You can play offended warrior princess anytime, there’s no harm in that,” he told her softly, “and at those times, I don’t need to be serious.” He brought both hands up to rub the towel firmly over her head and she yelped at the sudden friction.
“But, I will not compromise your health, Lex,” he finished, his voice playful again. “You’re my sis.”
She batted at his arms in protest, but there were no strength to the blows. Under the flailing folds of warm bleached cotton and tangled black hair, Alex was smiling.
A/N: Took me nearly three tries to get this scene out the way I wanted. First two tries were Madrik’s POV, but it felt too stilted, too sister-worshiping-ish. I wanted to show that he cared, but not that he was a creeper. And in those versions, Alex was far too proud.
This one turned out well. It had its own false leads that I had to backtrack on, but on a whole, I loved the two of them at the end.