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Sometimes Rin wakes up alone, tangled in the sheets of a bed that's too big for one person, and thinks, She's forgotten me.

It's an irrational, childish thought, fueled by old fears and insecurities, but it isn't so easy to set aside a lifetime of helplessness and insignificance. He believes in Kaguya, more than anyone or anything in this world, but he doesn't always believe himself to be worthy of her regard.

Then he rubs the sleep out of his eyes and remembers that she's also a queen, and has many duties and others to see to. Usually he even remembers where she's most likely to be on that particular day.

Rin knows he could wait here for her, that if she doesn't see him eventually she will go looking. That she'd like to find him here.

Rin never waits.

He passes Menou in the hallways, her scent like and yet unlike her sister's. Rin knows others find it appealing, but to his nose it is too sweet, verging on cloying, with no richness or complexity to it.

Menou shrinks slightly at the sight of him. She hasn't forgotten the days when they were enemies.

Truth be told, part of him doesn't want her to. Utsuro has seen Rin humiliated, and Menou's drones will never forget where he came from. But Menou has only ever known him as Kaguya's vassal. His past is unknown and meaningless to someone like her.

Rin pauses.

Menou gives him a weak, forced smile. "You're looking for Kaguya?"

There is the urge to apologize, to insist he doesn't mean to selfishly waste her time. After all, Menou is not Rin's queen but she is still above him, and should command his respect.

But Kaguya doesn't like it when he grovels.

So instead Rin smiles. "Were you in the gardens with her?"

"Um, yes... I mean, yes. She's still there, I think."

He sees the relief in Menou as she realizes that's all he wants from her.

Even if Rin hadn't met Kaguya first, he doesn't think he could ever have followed Menou. She is gentle, vulnerable, and has every quality he finds most despicable in himself.

Kaguya's scent washes over him first, heady and tantalizing, and then he sees her on the ground, lying between the flowers.

"Rin." The way she smiles when she notices he's near always makes his heart pound.

"Come here." Kaguya pats the grass beside her and when Rin approaches, hesitantly, she pulls him down and rolls over, pinning him half underneath her as she laughs and kisses his forehead. "That's much better, isn't it?"

Rin laughs. "Yes."

Her embrace is warm and Rin freely yields to it. He could kiss her all day long, although it never quite feels right to make the first move himself.

Kaguya's hands on his wrists, her mouth trailing sweet kisses down his neck, her thighs around his hips... this feels right.

"I told Menou," Kaguya says afterward, "that I was planning on making you my consort."

 Even though he's known this, discussed it, even, Rin still can't quite believe it's actually happening. He tries to picture Menou's face after hearing the idea, can't.

Rin forces himself to smile, hoping his nervousness isn't as obvious as it feels. He doesn't want Kaguya to think he needs Menou's approval. "What did she say?"

"Very little. Somehow, she was surprised." Kaguya absently strokes Rin's hair as he lays his head on her shoulder. "Perhaps she thought I would wait longer. As though I had any interest in males who waited to pledge fealty to me until it was absolutely certain I would be queen!"

He knows very well he's not even the most suitable out of the drones who did follow Kaguya from the start. He can't blame Menou for expecting her sister to prefer someone more imposing. More impressive.

"I don't think Menou likes me very much," Rin ventures.

"She doesn't have to. You're mine, and only mine."

 Kaguya smiles, and he feels the beginnings of warmth in the pit of his stomach again. But...

"She won't be the only one who doesn't think I'm worthy of the position, will she?" Rin looks away, not wanting to see Kaguya's smile vanish. "Maybe it would be better if..."

"If what?" He winces at the sharpness in Kaguya's voice. "You're not thinking of running away again, are you?"


"Would you rather see Utsuro first at my side instead?"

"No, of course I wouldn't, that's not-"

She catches Rin's chin and forces him to look into her eyes, her other arm wrapping tightly around his waist to keep him from escaping her anger.

"I've made enough compromises." Kaguya's gaze burns into his, and it's all he can do not to quiver at her intensity. "I'm tired of having my hand forced. I refuse to let anyone else dictate the terms of my existence. The people don't need a queen who bows to popular demand, they need someone strong enough to save them from their most wretched impulses without trying to change their natures. To be their queen, I need to take what I want first. And I want you, Rin."

He inhales slowly, knowing that his own desires have never been in question. Knowing it won't be easy.

Knowing he never wants to disappoint her again.

Because he doesn't trust his own voice, Rin nods before licking his lips. "Okay."

If Kaguya believes in him...

That's enough for Rin.