For the fic prompts: “How did you get these bruises? Please don’t lie to me.” for a ship of your choosing <3

kaerwrites:

So it isn’t for a ship, but I hope it still works ❤ Thanks, dear!

The soup was slowly beginning to bubble – thin, but very spicy,
carrots and cabbage and potatoes and dear, thin strips of chicken. Varania’s
mouth watered as she stirred it, as she watched the bubbles rise and pop.

She shrieked and nearly leapt out of her skin when a finger
jabbed hard into her ribs.

“Daydreaming?” Leto teased, weaving out of the way as she
swatted at him. He was smiling. He leaned against the counter and reached for
the spoon and Varania quickly pulled it away from him.

“You smell,” Varania complained. “Why are you so sweaty?”

“Why are you so nosy?” Leo retorted. He reached for the spoon
again, and again Varania pulled it away.

“It’s not ready yet,” she said.

“I only want a taste.”

“You’ve been eating too much lately.”

“I’m a growing boy.”

He sounded so amused, so pleased with himself. This time when her
brother reached for the spoon, Varania used it to slap his hand. “Go get
cleaned up before you make the soup curdle,” she said, and Leto’s grin only
widened.

He was a charismatic boy – clever, energetic, with a smile that
lit up a room. He shone, and that was
the problem with him. Varania loved her brother, but he worried her. He was
incapable of sitting quietly and accepting life as it came – he knew how to
behave for the magisters, how to bow his head and hold his tongue, but he was simultaneously
too smart and too attractive. It terrified her, the likelihood that he might
one day draw too much attention to himself – that he might seek it out.

The way he had been talking lately –

Varania felt it, a cold surety that spread from her spine to her
toes. She listened to him fill the wash basin with water, and she turned just
as he began to pull off his shirt.

Leto moved slowly, carefully. His back was mottled, purple and
green.

“Where did you get those bruises?” Varania demanded, and watched
as her brother froze, as he slowly let his shirt fall back into place.

“Varania,” he said, slowly, and she swallowed.

“Please, don’t lie to me.”

He turned back to her then, and in the weak light filtering
through the windows, he looked so young, and so fragile, and so Maker-damned
stubborn. Varania swallowed a hard lump.

“You’ve been training again,” she said. It wasn’t a question.
She felt it, the truth of it, even before she saw confirmation in his eyes.

“The contest is less than a week away,” he began, apologetic,
excuses ready. Varania didn’t give him the chance.

“Mother asked you not to. You promised – !”

“Neither of you understand,” he said. “It isn’t right, the lives
we live here. I can fix that. The prize – Varania, I can get you out. I can fix
– I can fix everything.”

She saw in her eyes that he meant it, and felt in her gut how
wrong he was. It was like visiting one’s own funeral pyre, smelling the stench
of it on their air. When Leto stepped toward her, Varania stepped back.

“You aren’t a fighter,” she said, twisting the spoon in her
hands. “If you compete, you’ll die. Then where will we be?”

“And if I win,” he said, his eyes alight, “You’ll be free.”

“Leto…”

He took another step. She raised the spoon, as if to strike him,
and he took it from her gently.

“Please,” he said. “Don’t say anything to mother yet.”

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