“I have a few questions,” Amadhay alerted Atlas as she entered his personal room, dropping onto his bed.
She blatantly ignored the twins lounging there, both undressed.
Atlas, as always, found himself amused by Amadhay’s actions. “And I suppose you wish to ask them of me,” he replied, setting his paintbrush down and looking to her, rather than his models.
“Obviously,” Amadhay replied, making a kissing noise. Mayday hopped onto the bed, onto her chest.
“Well if you look behind you, you will see that I am actually a bit busy at this moment,” Atlas responded, smiling at her.
She glared past him. “I’m not getting undressed for you,” she warned, petting Mayday absentmindedly.
“I didn’t ask you to.”
“You were about to.”
“You were about to say that you’re busy, but if I would join the models, then you would be willing to talk and work. I know you.”
He smiled. Indeed she did. “If you’re unwilling, then I’m afraid I’ll have to answer your questions later.”
Amadhay glared just past him. “Fine, you can paint me,” she agreed, but made no move to lose her clothing. The twins were looking to him questioningly, obviously a bit insulted that he would ignore them for the girl. Really, if they understood nearly as much as they believed they did about him and his, then they wouldn’t have been confused, much less insulted.
“This is where you say that I can paint you with your clothes on, yes?” Atlas teased.
Amadhay smirked. “Oh no,” she said, making him wonder at the revelation he and the others had come to the other day. As loathe as he was to agree to Kimiko’s unrefined explanation, he did. Amadhay simply didn’t act as if she had never had anyone be intimate with her. “I’m just waiting for you to eye threaten both of these gorgeous men. Don’t want them thinking they might get any more than a look.”
Atlas laughed. Amadhay smiled. He gestured to the twins. “You heard the lady, boys. You can look but don’t touch the glorious clear.”
Amadhay glared at his paintbrush, and if he had to guess by the severity of the glare and the fact that she didn’t deny it, that the glare was more for the jab at her lack of experience than at his mocking words. If nothing else, that told him that their guess had been spot on and the teenager had never been properly intimate with another person, which while disheartening, was also a delight. It was more than he had expected. He wouldn’t say that he wasn’t glad that her love for those back with the Phoegani had never become true enough for her to make it physical. It would be all the easier for him to keep her, especially if she continued with her path. He doubted she would avoid falling for one of them much longer.
In fact, he was positive that she was already feeling love for him, Ribbon, Kimiko, and Tenshu. For such a young soul, she was showing quite a bit of resolve in not acting on that love, especially considering how deep she was into her blunderlust days. Then again, he had a feeling that her clear ways were less because she didn’t love or feel lust, but because she didn’t trust anyone enough to give in to those feelings. If nothing else, she was fairly controlled with her emotions, Kimiko could vouch for that.
But she trusted him. She trusted Ribbon. She even, to a lesser extent, trusted Tenshu, Kimiko, Stefan, and Sha’adahk. They just needed to strengthen that. If her first love, her first true lover was one of them, she would be theirs.
He gestured to her and she reluctantly set Mayday on the floor. The kitten meowed, but she didn’t pay him any more mind as she removed the dress she had undoubtedly borrowed from Ribbon, since it was much longer than her normal clothing choices yet also too tight. For a moment, he wondered if that meant that she was already getting involved with Ribbon, but then he let the thought pass. He would know.
When she was in only her underwear, a particularly eye-catching black lace set with silken red rose decorations down the center, Atlas stopped her. He didn’t know why he had ever doubted that she would actually get undressed. She seemed to live to surprise him.
With a sharp smile, he gestured for the twins to move up from Amadhay, who stared at him with her eyebrows raised and a smirk on her pouty lips, lips stained as red as the roses aligned between her breasts and below her belly button. He wondered who had bought her that set, because he certainly hadn’t. He hadn’t been aware that anyone was buying her underwear meant to be seen. Maybe she was involved with someone and he had simply yet to hear about it. He hoped it was Ribbon. His favorite of his adopted children would be broken if it wasn’t.
“I find that I like what you are wearing too much to ask you to model without it,” he lied, making her roll her eyes.
“You could have just said that you didn’t actually want me naked,” she pointed out, dropping back down onto the bed, ignoring the still naked men behind her as if they were not worth her attention. Mayday crawled back onto the bed, to her, but she tugged on his tail lightly to make him go away. In an offended huff, the kitten hopped off of the bed and out of the room.
“I concede to your point,” he said, looking over his palette to decide if he needed any new colors now that she was being added. “But I can assure you that I mean no insult.”
The girl shrugged, turning her eyes to the ceiling. He glanced up to see what caught her attention, but saw nothing so fascinating up there and thus turned his eyes back to his painting.
“So, I keep finding myself thinking back to the day I was interrogating you,” Amadhay began speaking calmly, as if she modeled nearly naked on a regular basis. “And something Darach said keeps coming back to me.”
“And what is that?” Atlas asked, wetting his paintbrush to begin adding her to his canvas. A sandy olive color for her beautiful skin.
“That ‘Of course your curse would bring you here,’ or something like that. Are you cursed?”
A true black for all of her hair. He couldn’t help but to notice that even as she lay, her hair was perfectly set to either side of her, making her, as always, almost perfectly symmetrical. “Yes,” he answered her. He decided to add the paler skin of the twins behind her, rather than to go into her details just yet.
“And what is your curse?”
“I always want what I cannot have,” he answered her immediately. “Diable, stop looking so frightened. She doesn’t bite.”
“Oh, I do, but I think you’d like it,” Amadhay denied with a wink back to the twins. Atlas knew that she knew just how much she was getting to them. The light flush on her chest told him she enjoyed it. “How did you get that curse?”
“Why so interested?” Atlas asked instead, working on the second twin now.
“We didn’t say anything about you asking questions,” she countered.
“And I never said that I would answer all of your questions.”
“Now you’re being picky?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “Can you believe him?” she asked of the twins, tilting her head back to look at them. She wiggled a bit to the side, her eyes locked on something low on one of the twin’s anatomy. He could guess where she was staring without even following her gaze.
“Stop moving,” Atlas ordered. “I can’t paint correctly if you keep getting squeamish about penises.”
“Who says I’m squeamish?” Amadhay snapped, avoiding eye contact.
Atlas smirked, adding a red flush to her chest. The red also went to the twins. He loved to watch her squirm. Apparently, though she had no qualms about herself being naked for all to see, she did have trouble being naked with other people. He wondered if it was just men that made her squirm or if anyone being naked with her would have the same reaction from her.
“Why were you cursed?” she asked, and if only to help her get her mind off of the penises behind her so that she would stop squirming, he answered her.
“I took someone who didn’t belong to me. The person he did belong to was angry.”
“So you screwed someone’s knot and got a silly curse?” she joked.
“No,” Atlas responded shortly. He was painting the background because his hand was shaking. He didn’t want to paint on her body when his hands were shaking.
She frowned. “What happened then?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Atlas countered. “Just that it did.”
“What kind of things do you want?” she asked slowly.
He thinned his lips for a moment before catching eye contact with her. “World domination. The Heralds. Interplanetary exploration and then domination. You.” He turned his eyes back to the canvas, purposely ignoring the deep red flush all over her skin. He didn’t want that in the picture.
After a moment of silence, Amadhay seemed to get over his words because she was able to ask questions again. “So how does the Palnoki work?” she asked, immediately making him wary.
Seeing as he was mostly done, he set his paintbrush down, not answering her. He picked up his painting hand towel, wiping off the paint. Diable and Riacaro both sat up at his actions, having been his choice models often enough to know that he was finished. The brothers looked to Amadhay and then back to Atlas, who was pointedly not looking at the girl as he wiped his hands clean. They apparently got his message without him needing to tell them. Both left the bed, grabbing up their clothes and dressing quickly while Amadhay watched them questioningly.
“Thank you both,” he called after them as they were leaving. “You will see the painting soon, I promise.”
And then the two of them were alone. Amadhay raised her eyebrows at Atlas. “Have I asked another question you’re not going to answer?”
“No,” he told her with a smile. “I’ll answer you. I just want to know why the interest,” he answered, sitting at the end of the bed.
She shrugged. “It’s just weird how loyal everyone is to you, I guess. In the Phoegani, no one was loyal to Lord Phoeganis like Scarlet or Ribbon are to you. I mean they work for him because he’s the better of a handful of evils. Everyone here keeps making it obvious that they’re here because they love you. I’m not sure I understand.”
Atlas closed his eyes for a moment before laughing. “We’re a family here, Amadhay. You know that,” he said, handing her the dress she had taken off.
She narrowed her eyes and set the dress down on the bed, tucking her legs underneath her so that she could kneel beside him and be about the same height. “But why are you a family? I once asked Tenshu how he met you and he deflected. Of course, it was when I wasn’t talking to you and was still trying to kill everyone to escape, so I guess he might actually tell me himself now, but either way, I’m asking you. Why does everyone care so much about you? How did you bring them all together?”
“Ah. That’s what you’re asking,” he said, feeling better about her, especially whether or not he could trust her, now that her question was plainer. She wasn’t trying to hurt any of them. She was just curious. She was always curious. He lay back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, trying to determine where to begin.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m asking,” she said, lying down beside him. She had yet to put the dress back on and while he felt like he should insist that she did, he wasn’t going to. It was her choice. He was never going to take her choice from her.
“Alright. I saved most of them. When I first met Mitch, he had just been turned and wasn’t sure what to do with his life. I helped Vlad survive the first years of his second life. Scarlet was on the warpath, wanting vengeance against a clan that had hurt her and her family. Ace, Sha’adahk, and Medica were all slaves. I took them all in and gave them choices. They all chose to stay with me and help me.”
“What about Ribbon?” she immediately asked, then added, as if an afterthought, “And Kimmy and Tenshu.”
He nodded. “Scarlet found Ribbon after an incident and we nursed her back to health. Tenshu needed protection for himself and his brother and I took them in. Tenshu decided to stay when Kimiko latched onto him. I actually saved Kimiko from her people. She’s oddly colored for a succubus and they were going to kill her.”
Amadhay frowned, though he had a feeling it wasn’t about the situations her friends had been in. “What about Stefan and Nico?”
Atlas chuckled. “Those two found me, actually. Tenshu saved Nico from a Feral pack when he was travelling to the Lion Kingdom.”
“Where’s that?” Amadhay interrupted.
“Over the Water. It’s one of the largest kingdoms, ruled by the Lion Lord,” he explained.
She nodded. “What about Stefan?”
Atlas paused for a moment before turning onto his side to look at her. “Stefan is one of my people. He came across the Water to find a better life.”
Amadhay frowned. “Is that why you came too?”
Atlas shook his head, turning again onto his back. “Not exactly, no. I came here on a job and decided to stay.”
“What type of job? What were you before you became King Palnoki?”
Atlas smiled, closing his eyes. He didn’t say anything.
“Is that a question you’re not going to answer?”
He still didn’t say anything, keeping his eyes closed and his mouth shut, though he did keep his smile. She sighed and moved closer to his side, pressing her face against his shoulder. Neither one of them moved or said anything for a few clicks, until finally he moved his arm to go around her. He did it slowly so that she had every chance to move, but she didn’t, instead choosing to move in closer to him, laying her head on his chest now.
“What about your Gift?” she asked. “Will you tell me what your Gift is?”
“I thought you had already figured that out,” he teased her, fully well knowing that the full extent of his Gift would never have even crossed her mind.
“Mmm. I thought I had, but when I thought it over, I realized I was missing something. There is obviously more to your Gift than the ability to force people into sleep. And it’s not like Alphonse’s, which means despite feeling like you Controlled me back on base, you didn’t. The Goddess wouldn’t Gift someone with as much control as it seems you have, not without a limit. No, your Gift is Control. I just can’t figure out what you control.”
Atlas chuckled, genuinely intrigued that she had deduced enough to recognize that he had some form of Control. Though, of course he probably had Alphonse to thank for that. The man had never been very good at controlling himself, only others. “I do indeed have a Control. I control situations.”
Amadhay was silent for a moment, probably trying to understand what that meant. “So…you don’t control people, exactly, but the way things happen? Like you didn’t control Scarlet or Tenshu or Cowboy, or even me, but you did control how we met and what happened when we did?”
“As much as I could, yes,” he admitted, surprised that she understood. In fact, her example wasn’t one of his proudest moments. That situation had been difficult in many ways but mostly, honestly, because she had been difficult to account for, given she regularly got out of his control.
“But you can’t control me very well, can you?” she asked, sitting up with a sudden realization. “That’s why you were so surprised when I punched you! Everything had been going according to your plans until I punched you.”
He nodded, watching her closely as her mind went to places he couldn’t imagine. He hoped he wouldn’t regret letting her know that she was difficult for him to control.
“So why am I an exception?” she asked, sounding genuinely curious and not at all like she was plotting against him.
“I suspect it is your Gift,” he explained. “The temporal affects as well as the spatial hide you when you use either one and my Gift can’t control what isn’t there.”
She nodded slowly. “So every time I teleported or used my speed, I put a hiccup in your plan. But what about when you forced me to go after Cowboy? That definitely felt like you had controlled me to force me to go.”
“I made it a fixed point, a definite instead of a possibility that you would go after Mitch. You couldn’t fight it any more than anyone else.”
She gave a slow nod before laying back down, her head once again on top of his chest. “That makes sense. And when you forced me into sleep, it wasn’t on me. You made the environment force me to sleep. And when you made me calm, you made the surroundings calming despite what I should have been feeling.”
No, actually. Those had both been Ribbon’s spells on the room. He grinned at her, though she couldn’t see it. It wouldn’t hurt to let her think he had more power than he did. “Exactly.”
“Promise me you won’t use your Gift on me like that again? I don’t like the way it feels.”
“Whatever you want,” he promised before running his fingers through her hair. She purred.