One Early Morning in Os Alta
Nikolai accidentally drinks one of David's experiments and becomes obsessed with solving the mystery that is Zoya Nazyalensky. The Triumvirate is his most unwilling audience as he attempts to piece together where she goes at night with nothing but his caffeine-fueled brain and a chalkboard.
Written for the @grishaversebigbang mini bang! Thank you so much to the amazing @kolarpem (x) and @denndrawings (x) who created beautiful art for this fic 🥺 ❤️
In their three short years of marriage, Genya and David had developed a morning routine. David, eager to get to the labs early so he could have the room to himself, would wake at the crack of dawn like clockwork and share a few sleepy kisses with her before getting on his way. After a few more hours of much-needed beauty sleep, Genya would commandeer some breakfast and find him tinkering away at whatever project Nikolai had put him to. It was a comfortable rhythm, a familiar constant in their otherwise hectic lives.
But today, Genya was just drifting off to sleep again after being woken by her husband when the door to their bedroom slammed open to reveal a very disheveled David. His glasses were slightly more askew than usual and his kefta rumpled. Genya let out a small yawn.
“David? What’s wrong?”
“There has been a development.” He didn’t elaborate further as he strode over to their wardrobe and pulled out her kefta. She tugged it over her head without question and followed him sleepily out of the room. They’d been together long enough that she’d learned not to try to get him to elaborate. He’d either clam up for hours trying to find the right words or talk in circles trying to fully explain a very easily explainable situation. Only the Saints knew what it was this time. She just hoped it was something easily resolvable so she could go back to sleep. Perhaps a puppy running loose in the labs, or an Inferni who’d burned off their eyebrows and wanted her to Tailor them back. Simple things.
But instead of the labs, David pulled her into Nikolai’s bedroom and Genya knew it was going to be a long day. Tamar and Tolya were already seated on a sofa, both with their arms crossed and similar scowls on their faces. Zoya was absent. And Nikolai was animatedly scribbling on a large blackboard that had been wheeled to the front of the room, “ZOYA NAZYALENSKY” scrawled at the top in large letters and circled three times for emphasis. The rest of the board was covered in near incomprehensible writing and doodles.
Genya frowned as David pulled her down into the seat next to him. “Did you steal that from the Little Palace, Nikolai? How will the children learn?”
Her king didn’t answer. He seemed busy working on a doodle of what looked like a five legged tiger on a corner of the board. David patted her hand absentmindedly as he opened his notebook and started scribbling as well.
“Is anyone going to explain this to me?” Genya asked mildly as Tolya slid a cup of tea towards her. She supposed the Triumvirate had seen worse, and their king acting like a man possessed didn’t rank particularly high on their list, but she still didn’t appreciate being woken up early for this. If anything, the twins should have just knocked him out and then everyone could get their well deserved rest.
Tamar crossed her arms. Her short hair stuck up in every direction as if she’d just rolled out of bed. “Well, your genius husband over there,” she starts, her tone not quite complimentary, “was working on one of his little experiments again.”
Genya nodded distractedly as she removed a small mirror from the inside of her sleeve. David took it from her obediently and held it up as she began Tailoring away the dark circles under her eyes. It wasn’t a substitute for her lost sleep, but it’d have to do for now.
“Coffee with a mild strain of parem in it for an extra stimulant,” David explained as she moved on to bringing more color into her cheeks. “Since you’re always complaining about the Little Palace’s coffee leaving you groggier than before.”
Genya’s hands stilled as she offered David a small smile. Even after knowing him for this long, his kindness never failed to surprise her. “That’s lovely, dear. But how does that relate to Nikolai acting like...this?”
Both of them jumped when Nikolai let out a rather concerning cackle. He had moved on from the deformed tiger to a caricature of someone who looked alarmingly like General Pensky. Genya scanned the board, barely able to decipher his scribbling. Secret lover...treason...illicit rendezvous? She furrowed her brows.
Tolya glowered at them from his spot next to his sister. “Nikolai drank David’s experiment. And now he refuses to administer the antidote because he wants to observe his behavior for the sake of science.”
“That’s not strictly true,” David said as he handed the mirror back to Genya and picked up his pencil again. “I don’t have an antidote ready. Instead of taking the time and labor to manufacture one, we might as well just wait for it to wear off naturally.”
Tolya opened his mouth again to argue, but then a piece of chalk flew by, barely missing Genya’s nose. Nikolai slammed his hands on the table and her tea splashed out of its cup.
All four of their heads turned towards their king. His shirt was buttoned incorrectly, his hair wild, and a distinctly unhinged look in his eyes. His jacket was tied around his shoulders like a cape. It had to be the worst Genya has ever seen him, though there had been that time when Kirigin had convinced him to do a few shots of that whiskey from the Wandering Isles and he’d been convinced he was a saint—
“Friends!” His voice was entirely too loud for the intimate setting. “I have gathered you here today to solve one of our most pressing problems.”
“Our empty coffers?” Genya asked with a yawn.
“Impending war on three fronts?” offered Tolya.
“My brother’s incurable love for five hour poetry recitations?”
David continued silently taking notes in his book.
“No,” Nikolai declared with an empathetic shake of his head, “we’re here to discuss the mystery of...Zoya Nazyalensky.”
He stepped to the side and for the first time, Genya was able to see the entirety of the blackboard he’d been writing on. Not a single inch of it had been spared from his rather enthusiastic scrawl and doodles like he was preparing to give them the world’s most fascinating lecture on the enigma that was Zoya. Genya felt a headache incoming.
“Perhaps we could do this at a more reasonable hour,” she began, but Nikolai smacked his hand against the blackboard which sent up a giant cloud of chalk dust.
“Nonsense! There’s no time like the present, and Zoya is away so it’s the perfect time to speculate upon her true intentions.” He waved his arm towards a bullet point at the top of the board, but in his eagerness, nearly knocked the entire board over. Genya let out another yawn and sank back into the couch. Maybe he wouldn’t notice if she dozed off.
“Where does she go at night?” Nikolai demanded as he began pacing furiously. The papers pinned to the board fluttered in his wake. “About once a week or so, the palace guards tell me she’s seen walking on the grounds late at night, alone. She’s almost certainly meeting with someone. But who? And why?”
“Are you sure you don’t have an antidote?” she whispered to David.
“Positive.” He scratched his ear, a sure sign he was lying. Genya sighed. She supposed she’d have him make it up to her later. She knew better than to talk him out of one of science moods.
“A lover!” Nikolai continued. “She has a secret lover!”
Genya knew for a fact Zoya had no one in her heart other than their king as much as she liked pretending she hated him and his entire existence. In her own opinion, it probably had something to do with the very expensive gifts Nikolai routinely offered because Zoya was nothing if not a creature of luxury. Still, she took a sip of her tea and raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Do go on.”
“At first I thought it was General Pensky, but he’s been stationed at the border for over a month and the night walks haven’t stopped. So that leaves no other option than…” Nikolai’s eyes narrowed. He executed a sloppy about-face that any army commander would have had him running laps for and pointed an accusing finger at Tolya. “You’re Zoya’s secret lover!”
Tolya frowned and crossed his arms. “I would rather go back to Novyi Zem and become a jurda farmer. Less chance of sudden death.”
Nikolai grabbed at his hair. “But if you’re not seeing Zoya...and Tamar isn’t– you’re not right?”
“I’m married, Nikolai.”
“Right, right, right,” he muttered. He turned back to look at his board. “Then there’s only one other answer.”
“We all go back to bed?” Genya suggested.
Nikolai turned to her, an oddly intense look in his eyes. “How could you suggest we all retire when Zoya is plotting against the throne?”
Genya blinked. “How exactly did you get there?”
“It all makes sense!” Nikolai babbled excitedly. He waved his arms in excitement. “The late night walks. The secrecy. Why she’s always so mean to me—”
“She’s mean to everyone,” Tamar interjected.
“She’s working with the Fjerdans! Or the Shu! Of course, I should have seen it from the start…”
Genya tuned him out again as he went back to drawing on the board while muttering to himself about how the Fjerdan’s diabolical plan to have Zoya seduce him was working too well. She put her head on David’s shoulder and focused on the page of notes he was working on. Except instead of notes, it was a sketch of a woman’s face. Her face. As she watched, his pencil scratched out the curve of her lips, one corner lifted in a half smile. “What are you doing, dear?”
“Studying something beautiful,” he answered without a moment of hesitation.
Genya’s lips curled into a smile as she let her eyes shut. “You’re sweet today. Maybe we should let Nikolai poison himself more often.”
“There’s a seventy percent chance his heart would give out if we attempted this more than once a week.”
“Regicide,” Genya said with a sigh, “How romantic.”
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