(Even though technically this is a day late, since I only just came up with it at 1 in the morning, oops.)
June 2015 – Post-Nocturna
“What are you doing?” Alexei asked from his place on one of the garden’s many benches as I gathered a multitude of flowers in my hand. I walked over and tugged his thin, blue ribbon out of his hair, letting his silky black locks flow freely down his chest, then wrapped it around my flowers.
“I’m making a bouquet for my dad. It’s Father’s Day,” I explained. He still looked confused.
“But you cannot give it to him,” he stated then murmured a soft apology when I shot him a glare.
“I don’t care. I’m making one anyway to remind me of him.” He fell silent and I looked to see him staring at the ground. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he dismissed with a shake of his head. My eyebrows furrowed concerned and I sat at his side, placing the flowers down gently then taking his hand in my own.
“Tell me, please. What’s troubling you?”
He sighed. “You mention your father so easily, like you weren’t snatched from him and the rest of your family. Sometimes I fear that you will leave me to return to them.”
“That will never happen, Alexei. I stopped running, remember? I accepted you and my feelings for you. I would never leave you and Alessandros,” I replied seriously, cupping his cheek and turning him to face me. “Now tell me what this is really about,” I said, and he smiled ashamed.
“Your father? Why?”
“You know he was never the best father to me,” he started and I interrupted with a scoff. Understatement. He gave me an admonishing look. I chuckled sheepishly, gesturing for him to go on. He rolled his eyes but continued, “But sometimes I feel like I should miss him, especially on days where humans and even monsters celebrate their family members. The day he died, I watched his murderer run out of the palace. I did not stop him. Instead, I watched My King collapse onto the floor, convulsing and foaming at the mouth, struggling to breathe, as poison overcame him, and I felt nothing. He reached out to me, asking me to save him. Those were his last words, ‘Help me.’ Diana was tormented for years after, but I only ever felt relieved. I should feel ashamed for thinking that of my predecessor.”
“Alexei, Gideon abused you. No one could blame you for feeling like that,” I tried to comfort him. “You were nine years old. You couldn’t have done anything even if you tried.”
“But I didn’t try,” he said forcefully, and I pulled back shocked. He exhaled slowly, his shoulders slumping in exhaustion. “I apologize, but that is the point I am trying to make: I didn’t try to save him. I let him die, I let his murderer escape, and I still do not regret it,” he whispered at the end, his face downcast. I shifted and wrapped my hands around his neck, pulling him down into a tight hug. His arms hesitantly encircled my waist.
“That does not make you a bad person, monster, whatever,” I told him, assuming the unspoken, underlying fear. “And the way your father treated you will not make you a horrible father to Andy, do you understand? You have people who love you and will happily help you when you struggle. I love you, Andy loves you, and your sister and Julian love you. You care for Andy more than you care for your precious flowers,” I teased, and he let out an exasperated puff of air. “You are a wonderful father and a wonderful husband.” I pressed a lingering kiss to his lips then stood from the bench, offering him a hand and pulling him up. “Come on, we have a surprise for you.”
“Papa!” Alessandros cheered from Di’s arms as we walked into the Main Palace. Alexei’s jaw dropped and he looked at me stunned. I grinned wide, nodding.
“He’s asking for you,” I confirmed.
“When did he start speaking?” Alexei asked, scooping the one-year-old into his arms. Di laughed as slobber ran down the baby’s chin, wetting Alexei’s white robes as Alessandros cuddled into the crook of his neck.
“Just this morning,” I answered. “How do you feel about being our child’s first word, Papa?” I questioned. He walked over to me with a broad grin then swooped down, pressing his lips to mine. Alessandros cooed and clapped his tiny hands, making me chuckle into the kiss. When Alexei pulled back, I kissed Alessandros’ forehead. He gurgled happily in reply.
Alexei curled his arm around my waist, tugging me close. I smiled up at him, absentmindedly running my fingers through Alessandros’ fine hair.
“Happy Father’s Day, Alexei,” I said.
“Happy Father’s Day, Valon,” he replied, pressing a kiss to my temple.