Status: In Progress

The Majesty of Choice


It’s only a few minutes when, at long last, Gerard sees the castle in all of its grandeur in front of him. Seeing something of myth and legend before him staggers him a little bit. This is Frank’s home. This is the place where he became Frank. It looks absolutely nothing like his personality. This is so pristine and boring and clean. Frank isn’t very easy to pinpoint. He’s strong, but he’s not super strong. He’s short as all hell, but he’s got a lot of heart and spirit that you wouldn’t know just by looking at him. He’s incredibly brave, and it kind of gives Gerard feelings when he remembers just how heroic he actually is. He’s nothing like the Prince Charming that Gerard heard stories about. But he’s better. In every way, he is better.

Ray would be proud of him for finding someone who cares so much about him. He’s always been supportive of Gerard no matter what it was Gerard decided he wanted to do. He direly misses him.

The castle is guarded by a huge gate with knights stationed out in front of it. There are a few buildings within the walls as well; what appears to be a small servants’ quarters and a stable to the other side.

Frank’s arrival is definitely a big thing because the guards stand at attention the second they see who it is that’s riding on the horse at the front of their parade. Gerard himself is sitting in front of Frank so they might recognize the horse before they even see the Prince. He suddenly feels very uncomfortable being the first thing that the two knights at the gate see of their Prince. Why on earth would the Prince be sharing his horse with someone, especially someone dressed in such poor clothing as Gerard? He’s the prince, he’s royalty, he doesn’t share his horse.

“Your highness,” one of the guards says, and Frank suppresses a laugh as he looks at Gerard. Gerard feels him draw circles into his side, away from the view of the guards, as if to comfort him for the fact that someone tried to use Gerard’s nickname on Frank.

“Hey fellas,” Frank says, which isn’t how Gerard would ever in a million years address a knight, but then again, these are Frank’s knights.

Sometimes he thinks about how hard training to be a knight would be. He kind of wanted to be one as a kid. He wanted to swing a sword around and fight monsters. They get to wear cool armor and protect the King. But then the King died, and Edgar took over, and Gerard didn’t really feel like protecting that guy. Also, you have to have dexterity, strength, and bravery, and Gerard doesn’t really have any of those.

There’s also the curse. What if some bad guy were to just say “don’t kill me?” What would Gerard be able to do? If he was ordered into something inhumane, such as enslaving elves, or cornering Giants away from the rest of the world or killing Ogres. He wouldn’t be a good candidate.

Not to mention, the process of becoming a Knight is famously difficult. It used to be that you had to be of noble blood, but that led to a lot of inbreeding, so they stopped that a few hundred years ago. Now it’s just the best of the best, and it takes months to officially be knighted, through grueling training that you can all but finish and still be turned away. Hayley was the first girl to ever be knighted, it was written law that no woman ever could. But she was just too good. She was to valuable to turn away. She changed the law through pure persistence. Maybe Gerard could do that.

Gerard does have the utmost respect for Knights, they’re serving their Kingdom, he just wouldn’t want their job. The ones he’s met have been brilliant and kind. Even Ryan and Alex who don’t really talk to him at all are very nice to him. But Travie and Hayley are two of the best people Frank could have by his side. He wonders if Frank plans on bringing them with when they search for Brendon.

Gerard has lost himself in thought. The next thing he knows they’re entering into the stables beyond the castle gates. He makes a note of the perfect green grass within the gates and sees very intricate flower patters in a small part of the grounds far away before they fully enter into the half-enclosed space.

It smells like you would expect a stable to smell. It’s very strong, but Gerard’s been near the horses for long enough now that he’s not terribly bothered by it. He’s distracted by the soft, beautiful heads of horses sticking out from behind small doors. They’re the most amazing horses he’s ever seen, all as gorgeous as Willow. They’re all different colors, ashy greys, light and dark browns, jet black, a few cream colored. The only pure white one is Willow, though, so clearly, that makes her special. She’s the Prince’s horse after all, he should have the most unique.

“I’m only in the fucking stables and I already feel out of my element.”

He’s so close to being in the castle that it doesn’t feel real. He’s beyond the castle gates, further than most people ever see. He’s in the royal stables, which doesn’t sound grand, but there are so many horses, and they’re more perfect than any other horses.

“You belong here,” Frank says. It doesn’t take long for Gerard to turn red and for Frank to notice it, even on his ears because they haven’t gotten off the horse yet. “With me. Your highness.”

“Should you really be calling me that here?”

“I don’t see why not. I can do whatever I want, I’m the Prince.” Frank says it in a joking way, but Gerard doesn’t really like the way it sounds. That’s what made Edgar such a shitty person, that ideology.

Frank pulls himself off of the horse, and looks up at Gerard, offering him a hand. Gerard would like to think that he is proficient at climbing on and off of the horse by this point, but he still accepts Frank’s hand.

Once he lands on his feet, he’s stood directly in front of Frank, who is still holding his hand. To Gerard’s horror, Frank goes in for a kiss, and Gerard, a fucking idiot, turns his head so the kiss lands on Gerard’s cheek. It’s awkward, and stupid, and he hates himself a little bit, but he’s at the castle, surrounded by people he doesn’t know, and he’s terrified that they so much as saw that, let alone if they had seen Gerard kiss the future King.

Even if they’re outside the castle in the fucking stables Frank is sure the fact that this is the castle is not lost on Gerard in any way. It’s different here than in Giantville, though rumor is sure to spread fast.

Frank makes an uncomfortable sound like he’s clearing his throat, letting go of Gerard’s hand and stepping back a few paces. Gerard is tempted to put his head in his hands. He made an idiot of himself, and also Frank. Fuck.

“I’m sorry,” Frank says.

“So am I.”

“You don’t need to apologize. I realize it’s all new to you. It’s new to me too. I get why you don’t want to do that here.”

“Give me a little time to adjust,” Gerard says, because maybe it’ll become less awkward with some time. He thinks so. Frank has already transformed him so much, what’s a little more at this point? But what happens when Frank’s King? Gerard doesn’t want to think of that right now.

“So, Gerard, as much as I want to spend every second of time with you as I can, I must find my Uncle at once. I need to speak with him about these last few months, and tell him that, well, that I have guests. I don’t think it’ll take me more than thirty minutes, that is if I can find him, but is it alright if I leave you with Travie and Hayley for now?”

“Um, yeah,” Gerard says, nodding his head. He glances over at the aforementioned, who are making quick work of helping the stable hands take care of the horses. They don’t need to do that, it’s the stable hands’ jobs to take care of these things, but Travie and Hayley are both really good people, so it doesn’t really surprise him that much. Gerard sees Patrick and Pete standing off to the side watching all of the goings on around them. He feels a sudden very instinctual urge to be with them.

“You sure?” Frank asks, noticing hesitancy.

“Yeah, yeah, no problem,” he says.

“Okay. Just don’t let them give you the grand tour of the castle, okay? That’s my job.”

“Yeah,” Gerard says. There’s an awkward moment where Frank clearly wants to kiss him. He sighs and settles with looking at him for a prolonged moment, lost in Gerard’s eyes, lost in how pretty he is. How could he ever be expected to like a girl when there’s a man like Gerard in this world? How hasn’t everyone fallen in love with him?

Gerard watches Frank go. He walks over to Hayley at first, shares a few words, before he’s walking out the opening of the stables, out into the sun, onto the grounds of his castle. It’s weird being away from him, though he’s almost thankful of it so that he can have some time to talk to Patrick. It feels like he’s been inseparable from Frank for a while, but that probably has something to do with how little space there is on a horse when you’re sharing it with another person.

Gerard walks over to them, looking at where every single person in the stable is located, wondering if any of them saw. The Prince? Kissing a peasant boy? How scandalous! If they had seen, none of them indicate it. He also checks to make sure that they’re nowhere near enough to Pete and Patrick to be able to overhear them.

There’s a lot of things that Gerard needs to unload on Patrick, and it’s very pressing.

“What’s on your mind, Gerard?” Patrick asks. He’s known Gerard for most of his life, so he knows when something is different. Gerard is a constantly new shade of different ever since all of this started. Honestly, it’s not just been happening since they left Frell, he started changing about the time that he first met the Prince. It’s for better, for the most part. Gerard’s more open, more interested in the world. Patrick thinks that he’s happier, but he’s got some decidedly larger than normal circles under his eyes.

Gerard considers Patrick’s question, because there’s about a hundred things on his mind. Everything in the world is happening to him all at once. He’s honestly still reeling from having new stepsisters which he’ll eventually have to go back to, maybe. Mikey is back, thank god, but he’s a book. He’s trying to find Brendon to take back the curse. He’s falling in love with the Prince of the goddamn Kingdom. He’s about to be in the castle, of all places in the world. He’s going to meet Edgar, the man who he loathes more than almost any other person in this world.

Then there’s the question of what he’ll do if he does get rid of the curse. Will he eventually go back to Frell? Will he stay with Frank, like he knows Frank wants him to? What will he do if he stays? What will he do if he goes? How is he going to get Mikey back? When will he next see Ray? What will happen between Patrick and Pete?

“He asked me if I wanted to sleep in his room,” Gerard says, because one mountain at a time is probably the best bet.

“Oh my god. You have to!” Pete says excitedly. At this point in his life, it barely even registers to Gerard that it’s an order, it just feels like who he is. Oh, well, since you say it, obviously he must. Because that’s how life is.

“Well, you don’t have to,” Patrick says, “Like, take things at whatever pace you need to take them.” Unfortunately, Gerard can’t disregard the order unless it comes from Pete’s mouth specifically.

“You have to though, Gerard, you just have to!” Gerard feels every iteration of the phrase hit him heavier than the last. “You don’t just turn down the Prince offering you to sleep with him. Or, shit, like, be in the same place as him. And you already shared a room with him once and slept in the same tent a bunch of times. What’s so different about this?”

“It’s the castle! It’s a bigger deal. It’s a much bigger deal. There are like, there are a dozen or so rooms, and there are servants. I could have my own wing of the castle and there would still be room for everyone, but no, he wants me to sleep in his room.”

“You want to be with him. You want to sleep in his room,” Pete says, “just admit it.”

“Okay, fine, I do,” Gerard says, the words coming out without him even realizing that he’s spoken them. For a second, he just stares, looking at the two of them, trying to figure out if he did just say that he wants to spend the night in someone’s room. He knows it in his head, but he didn’t overly want to share that information with the group. Then again, Pete does love to order him around.

“That was easier than I thought,” Pete says. Much easier than it should have been. He needs to be more careful. Pete’s becoming all too aware that the things he says might be hurting Gerard.

“It’s not that simple, Pete,” Gerard replies, hating him a little bit for forcing the words from him, but it’s not like it’s even Pete’s fault. Pete has an outgoing personality, it’s who he is. He doesn’t know that Gerard is cursed. No one in the world knows, or no one who would ever conceivably hurt him with it at least.

“Of course, it’s simple. We already know you love him. And you want to be close to him. It’s not that big of a deal, really. When you love someone, you love them.”

Pete’s uncertain of how to confess that he doesn’t always have control over what he says, and he’s always been like that. It’s not something he can suppress or keep to himself, his feelings are always on the surface, his words soon to follow. He’s also not always aware of the way his words affect other people, but he’s working on it. It’s hard when you don’t know why you’re like that.

“I’m afraid, though. Being with him when it’s just a few of us is okay, ‘cause no one really knows. Well, except for that part where I kissed him in front of everyone in Giantville… but it’s different here. This is the castle, this is the most important place in the Kingdom, and this is the Prince. There’s so many things in our way, I can’t even name them on two hands.”

“You get to be scared,” Patrick says, and Gerard turns his gaze to him to see Patrick looking into his eyes, “you’ve never been in love before. And he’s the Prince. And he’s a guy. You get to be as scared as you need to be.”

Gerard wants to hug Patrick because sometimes it’s a relief knowing that he simply exists, let alone the fact that he’s one of the smartest goddamn people he knows. After Ray, Patrick actually is the wisest person he knows which is somewhat unsettling considering they grew up together and have had many of the same experiences. Patrick became wise, Gerard became bitter.

“I just think if you want it and he wants it… you should do what you want,” Pete says. The words kind of stab at Gerard in a ruthless way.

“I don’t really care what you think, Pete,” Gerard blurts, and as soon as he says it he’s in disbelief of his own words. He never snaps out at people like that. But there it is. The words hang between the three of them like falling ash as Pete looks back at him, and he can see the instant sadness in his face.

Pete is really hurting. Constantly hurting. His family has been taken away from him. He knows it’ll happen to him someday. Now that he’s in the castle, it must be even more terrifying for him. There is a slight possibility that he’ll be able to pass for a human, but there’s no guarantees. It hadn’t occurred to Gerard before now, but why did Pete actually come with? Just for Patrick? If so, that’s real love.

And then here come along two friends who are good to him and one who he’s falling in love with, but Gerard is cold to him at times. Gerard knows that, but it’s hard to think straight with Pete always ordering him around.

Gerard’s words are a blow to Pete because he knows he probably deserves it. He’s not entirely sure how he offended Gerard, but he knows he did. There is such a softness in Gerard that he somehow clawed away at and it makes him feel terrible. Pete knows there’s something off with Gerard, but it’s never been his purpose to hurt him in figuring out what that something is.

“I’m so sorry – I didn’t mean to snap like that.”

“I didn’t mean…” Pete says. “I just meant… like you like him. Everyone knows you like him.” Pete’s face has fallen, almost as if he wants it to disappear into his shirt, and Gerard feels like shit. Gerard wants only to be a good person, that’s something he really does strive for, and it can be hard sometimes when you really hate the Prince at first, and your stepsisters are assholes, and Pete orders him around, and he can’t find the guy who’s supposed to lift his curse. Sometimes, it can be hard to be nice to people, but honestly, he’s trying, genuinely. But sometimes his mask slips. Sometimes he realizes that he is different, that he’s lesser than. It’s hard. It’s really goddamn hard to sometimes not be in control of yourself, and even if it isn’t all the time, he lives in constant fear of it.

Sure, Gerard isn’t ordered to do terrible things all the time, but he could be tomorrow. He could be told to do the worst things imaginable and he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from doing them.

“I shouldn’t have said anything,” Gerard says, as Pete sort of stares at the ground looking dejected, which he knows is his fault. Pete is a good person, behind the annoying traits he happens to have. His heart is good, Gerard can tell.

“I don’t try to offend you, Gerard,” Pete says, and though Patrick is standing right there, Gerard knows those words are more meaningful than on the outside glance. Does Pete know that he gets under Gerard’s skin? If so, why does he keep doing it? And how much does Pete actually know?

They’re interrupted at the very worst time possible by Hayley coming over to them, chipper smile on her face, unaware of the past few minutes.

“You ready to go in? I’m not really supposed to take you around everywhere, but Frank wants me to take you to the drawing room and have you write letters home to your families.”

“That’s a fucking good idea,” Gerard says. He’s been wanting to write home to Ray for a really long time, and it kills him that he hasn’t had the time nor means to. There are so many dozens of things that he needs to tell him about. The Prince saved his life from some Ogres and hasn’t left his side since. He went to Giantville. Kissed the Prince a few times. He’s in the goddamn castle. Everything in the world that he wishes he could tell Ray in person.

“Mom is probably worried sick about me,” Patrick says, because all he left her was a quick note about where he was going before he left. He didn’t have the heart to wake her up when Gerard arrived at his window and asked him to come with. She might not have let him. However, this is Gerard, his best friend in the entire world, and he offered to take him on a life changing adventure, which has always been their dream. They haven’t discussed it in depth, but Patrick always got the feeling that the two of them would leave Frell someday and start a business somewhere new, where no one knew them. It may not happen now because of the fact that the Prince is in love with Patrick’s best friend, but maybe if he gets the chance to move to a place like this, he’ll take it without hesitation.

Patrick has also pretty much settled on the idea that Gerard said all those mean things before they left because Hattie and Olive were listening to make sure he said them. It was their idea without a doubt, and Gerard’s always been kind of helpless to pleasing people, always trying to do what’s asked of him. It’s not so much a bad thing as it is weird.

“We have a few fairies in the castle who should be able to deliver your letters by tomorrow at the latest, so don’t worry about it taking too long,” she says. Gerard likes the idea of that, because Frell is poor and they go by regular post, which takes about a week for anything to go even a town over. They don’t start sending mail out until their boxes are overflowing with the stuff. Gerard knows everything is different at the castle. Servants to cook food instead of Ray. Servants who clean rooms, make the beds, draw baths. Everything is easy and fit for a King.

Pete doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t really want to remind anyone about the fact that he doesn’t have a family to write home to. Not after the conversation they just had. He’ll bite his tongue for now. There are other things he needs to take care of while he’s here, so he’ll keep it cool from here on out. There are life changing things ahead.
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