A Little Tenderness is Fine

““…In the morning they asked her how she had slept.”

“Oh, terribly,” said the princess. “I have hardly slept all night. My body must be black and blue, for I tossed and turned all night, trying to escape the discomfort of whatever it was that plagued me. I think that there was something horribly hard under my mattress! It was awful!”

The prince and the queen exchanged a glance, knowing at once that their search was over, for this must truly be a real princess. Only a real princess would have felt the single pea through twenty mattresses and the many layers of bedclothes.

So the prince took her as his wife, for he had at last found a real princess, and the pea was put into The Royal Museum the very next day. A national treasure that had brought together the prince and his royal bride. It may still be viewed there today, unless some hapless prince has had it stolen, no doubt in search of his own princess.””

“Now what sort of stupid story is that?” the prince demanded. “Who would want a woman so goddess damned sensitive that she’d feel a single stupid pea through twenty layers of mattresses?! Talk about a prima donna!”

“It’s a fairy tale,” his mother told him, her soothing voice a contrast to her son’s heated one, “Just a story. Although, even though the humans can be a tad bit odd, I doubt that anyone ever literally took a bride based off of how well she slept with a legume in her bed.”

“Wouldn’t put it past them,” he answered with a bark of humorless laughter, the thin book held in his hand, pacing about the room while his mother sat watching him, “Wouldn’t put it past anyone in the daemon realms either. But, truth or not, it’s a stupid story.”

“I think that it’s sweet.”

“Sweet?” the prince asked, “What’s so sweet about it? If the princess was that sensitive with twenty mattresses between her and a pea can you imagine what she’d be like on her wedding night? I pity the poor fool who’d take a bride like her.”

The queen might have blushed at her son’s reasoning if he hadn’t been the youngest of seven. As it was, she’d heard worse. Many times over. However, where there was no shame or shock, there was a bit of anger mixed with a healthy dose of frustration filling her daemon heart. She had given her youngest son the book of human fairy tales in the hopes of putting an idea or two in her son’s head. She’d seen her two eldest sons and all four of her daughters married off to good matches, proper princes and nobles from the realm’s best households, but her youngest still remained alone. The matter of grandchildren and heirs was no longer an issue with her other children having already seen to the continuation of the royal line, but as a mother her heart ached when she saw her son forever alone. She’d been trying for years to remedy that.

Prince Hunter was not alone through the fault of any short comings on his part, as far as his mother was concerned. Her son was tall and handsome, his shoulders broad, his muscles obvious and pleasing to the eye, his long black hair like silk and his fiery red eyes sharp and bright. He was a warrior, forever on a hunt or training with his men, prepared to defend his home and country at a moment’s notice. He had a clever mind, a sharp wit, and a hearty laugh. He was, in his mother’s opinion, a fine catch for any well-bred daemon. In fact, even a low-born daemon would have pleased his mother at this point, or a human even. Just so long as she did not have to watch her son suffer in silence. And he did, whether he was aware that anyone had noticed or not. There were times when the queen would see the prince look upon his siblings, smiling and laughing with their chosen mates and their many children, and she would see the longing in his eyes. And those looks, lost and needy, filled with a hopeless sort of suffering, were becoming so frequent that the queen was not certain that her heart could take it much longer. She only wanted for her son to be happy.

“So I take it that you do not wish for me to commission a stack of new mattresses and send out the invitations to our neighboring princesses?”

“No,” he answered immediately, “I want you to do no such thing. If I found a woman like that I’d fear that I’d break her or something.”

“Then find one who’s a smidge more sturdy,” the queen offered, “I hear that Canturian women are a very hardy lot.”

“Women are far too delicate,” the prince countered, his inner turmoil allowing him to dare for once to let his tongue slip, not sure how his mother would react to what he was implying, “Even if they are mountain bred Canturians.”

“Then find a man, since they tend to be a bit more sound,” his mother guessed correctly that her son had been trying to tell her something for some time, and in truth she could care less about her son’s preferences, just so long as he found someone. “I’m sure that there are a few who can match your strength.”

“I…” Prince Hunter had not expected his mother to answer him in such a way. His people, as a rule, didn’t care so much about gender as they did about compatibility, but royalty was usually the exception. He’d always thought that his parents would want all of their children to carry on the family line, but he realized now that he had been wrong. And so, he was left to wonder, why was he still alone if he didn’t have to worry about what his family thought?

The queen’s next statement, breaking the silence that had fallen about the room, was also something that the prince was not expecting.

“And if that is what you really want,” his mother seemed to have reached some sort of decision, and she stood with a sense of purpose and walked towards the doorway, speaking to her son over her shoulder as she passed, “Then I shall see to it that invitations are only sent to the princes. We’re holding a ball next week and, come hells or high water, I’m going to see my last son engaged by the end of it.”


As his mother had promised, there was a ball at the royal castle within a week’s time, and only princes and noblemen were invited to be courted by the handsome Prince Hunter. However, much to his dismay, and the king and queen’s as well, it turned out that princes could be very much like princesses in some regards. In fact, by the end of the final night of the three-night ball the prince had come to the conclusion that the princes of their region were even more delicate and dainty that the princesses.

“Their clothes are as frilly as dresses, they probably spent more time on their hair than you did,” the prince complained to his mother, “And I’m pretty sure that a few of them have on more make-up than all of my sisters combined. This is ridiculous!”

The queen could not quite disagree. The young men that had answered her summons were pretty indeed, and a treat for the eye as far as she and her daughters were concerned (although they were careful not to let their husbands become privy to this little fact) but she could not picture a one of them with her son. He was the captain of the royal household guard, and he enjoyed keeping company with his men when given the chance, so the foppish nobility that were currently trying to catch Prince Hunter’s eye were a far cry from what he would normally chose for himself, and she well knew it. But she didn’t know what else to do. She wanted her son happy and no longer alone, but he was still a prince, and stable boys and soldiers simply would not do. Not if there were other options still to be considered.

“So, what you’re saying is that none of them are good enough for you?” The king interrupted with sigh. “You certainly seemed to be having a good time with that Kantrell boy from Andover.”

“I was laughing at him,” Prince Hunter admitted with a sigh to match his father’s, “not with him.”


“And that big lad from Notreville?” the queen tried, “He certainly looks the part. Big and strong and handsome. What was wrong with him?”

“He doesn’t even know how to use a sword.” He thought back on how shocked the nobleman had been when Hunter had told him that he was the head of the household guard. It would have been comical if it hadn’t dashed his hopes at the same moment. His mother wasn’t the only one who had thought that the other man would fit the bill. “He’s never trained for a fight a day in his life, the muscle is purely for show, and I’d be surprised if he can even ride properly.”

“And Lord Albert’s eldest son?”

“Doesn’t fancy men,” Prince Hunter said, more than a little disappointed. “He’s only here because his father made him come. He didn’t want to upset you by not sending at least one son to the ball.”

“But surely one of them-“

“None of them.”


None of them, Father.”

“You probably just haven’t given them half a chance,” the king was getting a little annoyed with his son. He loved the boy dearly, and he shared in his wife’s desire to see him happy and wed, but his son’s stubborn streak was grating on his nerves. “I’m sure that one of them would suit you, if only you’d try a little harder to get to know them.”

“So,” Prince Hunter challenged, well aware that he was being difficult, but unable to resist baiting his father. He was lonely, and he had secretly hoped that his mother’s idea to hold a ball would yield positive results, and now that it hadn’t he was left disappointed and hurt. He wasn’t in the mood to be agreeable any longer. How could it be so hard to make a connection with one daemon when he had seen all six of his siblings happily wed without nearly so much difficulty. “What you’re saying, Father, is that you know better than me what my own heart desires?”

“Not exactly,” the king said, head held high, refusing to back down now that the argument had begun, “but very nearly so.”

“Then, by all means,” Hunter spread his arms wide in surrender, an open invitation to his father on his lips, “If you think that you can do any better, be my guest. “

“Don’t make deals that you’ve no intention of staying true to,” his father warned Hunter. “A prince’s word must be more than idle chatter.”

“I’m quite serious,” Prince Hunter assured him. He was tired and frustrated, and if his father thought that he could do better at finding a mate for the prince than he himself had been, then Hunter was more than ready to let him try. He couldn’t, he decided, do any worse than he had on his own. “Although, Goddess help me, you’ll probably end up making these poor princes sleep on a pile of mattresses overtop a vegetable patch in your hunt for a son-in-law.”

“Not a half-bad idea,” there was a light in the king’s eyes that neither his son nor his wife thought bode well for any of them. He was remembering the talk that he’d had with his wife a few days past, about a story that she’d given Hunter to read, and he thought that he might use the story to teach his son a lesson about being too picky and not giving others the benefit of the doubt. “We’ll follow your mother’s fairy tale, but with a slightly different twist. One month from now we’ll invite all of the princes and nobles from the area who still wish to court you to come and stay with us. We will have one bedchamber set up just like in the story, complete with an impediment secreted under it, and each night a different young man will sleep in that special bed. If you do not want a man who is too sensitive, then the first man who can sleep through the night and wake refreshed in the aforementioned bed will certainly be the one for you. We’ll have the wedding that very night.”

Prince Hunter was speechless. It was the most ridiculous plan that he had ever heard of. He couldn’t believe that his father had even suggested it. But, his father had been right, and a prince must be a man of his word. He had said that he would let his father choose a mate for him if he thought himself the more qualified to make the decision, and so he would hold true to his word. Even if it would surely end in disaster.


One month later Prince Hunter once again found himself entertaining the eligible bachelors of the area, no more impressed than he had been the first time, still lamenting on how very much like princesses their princes could really be. But, as he looked over his various suitors gathered in the dinning hall on the first evening of the match-making search, he found himself sure of only one thing. His father’s plan was certain to fail. Something just told him that the assembled nobles would not be sleeping well, and for that he was grateful, because he really wasn’t at all convinced that he could be happy marrying a man simply because his father said that he should. Then again, it looked as though Fate would have him alone forever, so perhaps he shouldn’t wish his father’s plan ill from the start, he told himself. Either way, it was certain to be an entertaining few weeks, if a bit trying on his nerves.

The queen and her youngest daughter also found themselves questioning how wise the king’s plan was as they sat together staring out at the many visitors that they were to be entertaining for the foreseeable future. They had spent the past few days helping the king to plan for the upcoming gathering of princes and nobles, and they had even indulged in a few long-overdue wedding plans (just in case, they told themselves) although neither knew for certain if they approved. In fact, the only reason that the queen had resisted the urge to stop her husband’s plans all together was because she knew that he had their son’s best interests at heart. He wanted Hunter happy just as much as she did, and he would never force their son to marry someone that he did not want, regardless of what had been said. He only wanted to push their son in the right direction, to help him find love, and so the queen told herself that she would allow it. For the time being.

“Do try to stop looking so miserable,” Jezelle, the youngest princess, and the sibling that Hunter had always been closest to, leaned over and whispered into her brother’s ear as he stabbed menacingly at his blood pudding. “You’ll scare them all off before they even get a chance to try that ridiculous bed that Father’s set up.”

“What a shame that would be,” Hunter deadpanned, not at all certain that he didn’t want that very thing to happen. This lot didn’t seem much better than the last, and they all knew how well that had gone.

“I think that you’ve mutilated your pudding well enough,” Jezelle said, pushing her brother’s desert away from him, not at all deterred by his sour mood, “Besides, you’ll get fat if you have too many sweets, and then who will want you?”

She was pleased to see the ghost of a smile on her brother’s face. She worried that they were all forgetting that, despite a strong spirit and an outgoing personality that was seemingly dauntless, this was a stressful time for Prince Hunter. But that knowledge didn’t stop her from pushing her brother on the shoulder and pointing him towards the nearest prince.

“Now, get out there and flirt,” she ordered, “You can’t let this silly test of Father’s be the only thing to pick your mate, little brother.”

He never once considered disobeying his sister. Prince Hunter was not a stupid man.


“You look just about as miserable as you did while you were mutilating your desert,” a voice said from behind him, startling Prince Hunter out of his thoughts. He had retreated to the outer courtyard after attempting, and failing, to start a conversation with anyone even remotely resembling an intelligent daemon. He’d tried, he told himself, so his mother and father couldn’t get too cross with him for disappearing. The courtyard had seemed the only safe place to go once he’d convinced himself of this. Everywhere else was infested with princes. Twittering, nonsense-spewing, soft and obnoxious princes. None of which held any interest for him.

“I was just…”

“Trying to escape?” the other man asked, eyebrow quirked, a slight smile tilting the edges of his mouth.

“Maybe,” Hunter admitted a little sheepishly, knowing that he had been caught.

“Don’t worry,” the other man said, gesturing towards the fete still going on inside, “I don’t blame you. They can get to be too much sometimes, the lot of them, if you ask me.”

“They?” Hunter wondered.

“Princes,” he answered, “My…,” here he paused, but only for a second, “Master has these sorts of events every other month. So I know from experience that it can get a bit tedious when you get too many of them in one place at one time.”

“Master?” he got a nod in response, “Then you’re here with one of them?”

“Is that a problem,” he asked.

“Definitely not,” Hunter answered with relief, “I’ve had as much nobility as I can take for one night. You’re a welcomed surprise.”

“Geraint,” the stranger held out a hand, grasping Hunter’s in a firm grip when the prince mimicked the gesture. His smile was genuine, broad and not in the least bit intimidated by the royal that he was greeting, and Hunter felt all the better for the uncommon response. “I’m here to keep an eye on Prince Doyle. He seems to find his way into trouble now and again, so his mother thought it best that he not come unattended.”

Hunter remembered the prince from earlier in the evening, a handsome dark haired young man from the southern continent whose stories had gotten more interesting, not to mention more outrageous, with each glass of wine that he’d taken with his supper. But the delicate, almost pretty royal just hadn’t been his type, even if his stories were rather amusing, and so he had left the other to his own devices when he’d noticed how he’d obviously caught the eye of a duke from Ovvian. Geraint, on the other hand, definitely looked to be Hunter’s type. He was tall, even taller than Hunter, and his shoulders were broad and strong. His body was thick, muscles well defined and abundant, but without looking bulky or inelegant. His dark blue hair was short and feathery, a few wisps falling about his forehead, tickling the tops of sharply pointed ears that glittered enticingly from the ruby studs set high into the shell of each ear. His almond shaped eyes were dark, fathomless pools of inky blackness, no pupil or iris present to offset the endless glitter of night. Hunter was instantly captivated.

“You probably came out here to be alone,” Geraint said suddenly, interrupting Hunter’s silent study of the man before him, misinterpreting the prince’s silence for disinterest. “I’ll be getting back to Doyle. He’s probably drunk by now, and if I don’t see him safely to bed he’ll probably end up in another royal ménage trios. Not that he’d mind, really, but it may lower your parent’s opinion of him, and his father might not like that very much.”

“No, wait,” Hunter put out a hand to still Geraint and prevent him from leaving, “Please don’t go. I didn’t really need to be alone, so much as away from that,” he waved vaguely towards the dining hall, where the party was in full swing, “I just needed some air, that’s all. I can take air with you here.”

“That you can,” Geraint agreed, leaning back against a low brick wall that bordered a few of the larger topiaries, smiling a little at the relieved look on the prince’s face, “That you can.”

Hunter relaxed considerably when Geraint smiled at him. He didn’t know why, but he really did not want the other man to leave just yet.

“Not that I’m judging, mind you,” Geraint began when it appeared that Prince Hunter wasn’t going to say anything, “But isn’t this a celebration to help you find a mate? How are you supposed to do that if you don’t go in there and get to know the potential matches?”

Hunter sighed, “I want to find someone, really, I do,” the confession came easily, even though his companion was all but a stranger. Hunter didn’t pause to question why that was. “I see my brothers and sisters, every one of them wed and happy, and my parents who have been together for centuries, and I wonder why I can’t have that too. I mean, I’m a nice guy, not too demanding, pretty laid back for the most part. I can wield a sword better than most normal soldiers. I ride well. I’m more than adequate in the political field. I play a mean game of novatra, I can read seven languages, and I’m told that I give a decent massage.”

“Let us not forget modest,” Geraint said in a loud whisper, face stern and serious, chuckling when Hunter only nodded and went on, pacing as his words picked up speed.

“Not to sound conceited,” Hunter pressed on, “But I’m not bad looking either.”

Geraint agreed with a nod and a smile, enjoying the way that tight leather pants cupped a firm backside and a fitted vest showed off a strong and sturdy frame. Not bad at all.

“But, even with all of this,” Hunter stopped suddenly, shoulders slumped in defeat, looking imploringly to his new companion, as though this virtual stranger would have the answers that he’d long sought. He didn’t know why he was telling the other man all of his woes, he was usually a bit more guarded with casual acquaintances, but there seemed to be something oddly comfortable about Geraint. As though he had always known him, or, that he had always been meant to know him. Regardless the reasons, Hunter found his lips loosened, and he all but begged Geraint to give his pleas a response that would ease his troubled heart. “Even with all of this, and a royal title and all that goes with it, I’m still alone. And I fear that I always will be at this rate. For an immortal that’s one hell of a long time.”

“You’re not even a hundred yet,” Geraint said, saddened by the anguish that he heard in the prince’s voice. Hunter wasn’t the only one feeling an instant connection, and Geraint wished with all of his might that he could give the other man the answers that he so desperately needed. “There’s time still. Plenty of time.”

“You sound like my brother,” Hunter said, “The one that’s been married since he was thirty-six.”

“Isn’t that why you’re having this little get-together?” Geraint reminded him, bringing the conversation back around to his original question, “To find you a mate too? There must be one or two good candidates in there. I mean, I don’t really know your type, but there are definitely some handsome men in that room. Doyle might be a bit of a flirt, but he’s not a bad guy, and he’s always good for a laugh. Maybe you should go back in there and give him, or any of them, another chance.” If there was a hint of reluctance in Geraint’s voice, Hunter chose to chalk it up to a desire to protect his master from any unhappiness and to see his journey successfully to an end. It made him more than a little bit jealous.

“But that,” Hunter pointed towards the gathering of princes that was supposed to be the forerunner to his future, “is just some stupid fairy tale that my mother and father have cooked up for me. Princes, and balls, and royal engagements. I mean, even this silly mattress contest, it’s all like some stupid story!”

“And don’t those stories always end with a happily ever after?”

Hunter sighed, “It’s just…”

“Too much?”

“Yes,” he looked happily towards Geraint, glad that the other man understood even a little bit of what he was feeling, “It’s all too much. I don’t know if I can do it.”

Geraint was silent for a moment, considering, before he brightened up and gave Hunter a blinding smile that left Hunter slightly dazed. “What you need is a distraction.”

“A distraction?”

“From what I’ve heard, that,” Geraint pointed down towards the ornately ornamented sword that hung at Hunter’s hip, “is not just for show. Care to spar for a bit?”

Hunter thought that he had surely never heard a better idea before in his entire life. And it was certainly, he decided, better than snobbish, air-headed princes and mattresses rigged with peas. Far better.


The first prince to spend the night in the king’s special room fell right into the trap, and once he announced, in the morning, that he had not slept a wink he was promptly disqualified from a chance to marry Prince Hunter. Hunter was pleased. His mother was not.

“He seemed like a sweet boy,” the queen insisted, “And I know for a fact that he comes from a very nice family.”

“I’m sure that he did,” Hunter agreed, smiling all the while, “But he was too sensitive. Just like I said that he would be.”

“The next one will surely be a bit tougher,” she promised both herself and her son, “I’ve heard that Duke Alonzo’s son is a very hardy young lad. Much more to your liking.”

“If you say so, Mother,” Hunter said, barely hearing her, already well on his way out the door. He had an appointment to meet Geraint on the training grounds for another match, wanting to show the other man that he could take him after the narrow defeat that he had been dealt the night before. And he didn’t want to be late.

The queen didn’t question her son as he all but fled from her presence. The broad smile that he wore on his handsome face, the spring in his step that had been too long absent, made her too happy to question him.


“So,” Hunter said, still catching his breath, body pleasantly exhausted and covered in a light sheen of sweat.

“So,” Geraint mimicked, falling down beside the prince on the lawn of the practice field to watch the sun set.

“Doyle is the last one,” he continued, “Thirty-eight princes, dukes, lords, and counts down, and only one more to go.”

“Not a one has been able to stand up to your father’s rather unusual little contest.”

“Not a one.”

The past thirty-nine days, and nights, had not been nearly as unpleasant as Hunter at first feared that they would be. He had spent nearly every moment of that time, much to the distress of his parents and suitors, at Geraint’s side. They spared in the afternoons, took meals together in the prince’s private rooms or in the barracks with his men, and in the evenings they would stand at the edge of the dance floor or on the balcony looking in at the dinning hall while trading humorous remarks about the nobility that was on display inside. Even though Geraint tried to remind Hunter that he was supposed to be mingling with the princes he never did succeed in forcing the dark haired man away, and not even the queen and king could miss the smiles that the two shared as they stood side by side speaking in hushed tones and sharing things between them that only they would find amusing, so no one else thought to separate them either.

“Do you think that he’ll make it?” Hunter wondered, looking out of the corner of his eye at Geraint, wondering what he would do if the other man’s master should make it through the night and pass his father’s test. In fact, he wondered what either of them would do.

“No,” Geraint said simply, not looking away from the setting sun as he inched silently closer to the prince beside him, “Not a chance.”

“Good,” Hunter said. And he meant it.


The next morning everyone gathered in the great hall to hear how Prince Doyle had slept. Hunter knew the answer the moment that the young daemon walked into the room, eyes ringed by dark shadow, shoulders not as straight as they had been the night before, head not held quite so high. Although, he wondered if this was from a lack of sleep due to an uncomfortable bed or if it had something more to do with the three bottles of imported sage wine and the two dukes that the other man had disappeared with after supper. Hunter suspected that it was the latter.

Despite the obvious answer to the question that the king had yet to ask the queen still waited nervously for the prince to speak. Hunter was also nervous, but for entirely different reasons. Prince Doyle was the last of the men competing for his hand. Once he had given his answer then the contest would be over and the princes, dukes, and lords would leave. Along with their entourages. This was something that Hunter had come to dread over the past weeks and he had been trying madly to figure out a way to forgo the inevitable because he could not image letting Geraint go, no matter the fact that the man belonged at his prince’s side, although he had yet to come up with a way to make him stay. It had only been a few short weeks, barely more than a month, but already his heart was lost. He had no idea how it had happened, he had not planned it or invited it, but he knew deep down in his soul that he was in love. Just not with the man that his parents had planned for.

The king’s voice interrupted Hunter’s thoughts, and he turned with half-hearted interest towards his father.

“Tell me, Prince Doyle,” Prince Hunter was not the only one who already knew the answer to the king’s next question, but he had to ask all the same, “How did you sleep?”

“Horribly,” Prince Doyle admitted, smiling a little sheepishly towards the two men that might have had something to do with that fact, “I’m sorry to say that I did not sleep a wink last night, m’lord.”

“That is unfortunate,” the king said with sincerity. He had not particularly fancied Prince Doyle as a son, but he had hoped that someone that had attended the fete the first evening would have either captured his son’s attentions or have survived his trial, although it seemed that none had. He was genuinely disappointed. “And, as you were the last of the noblemen to attempt to pass our contest, it seems that this has all been for naught. I thank you gentlemen for your kind attendance, and for your interest in my beloved son, but it seems that our contest is over.”

“Not quite yet,” a voice said from the back of the room, startling the king into silence. “I think that there is one more man who’s yet to try your trial, m’lord.”

“But,” the king stammered upon seeing who had spoken, “King Patric said that only one prince from his region would be competing. He said that his brother’s son was uninterested.”

“That was before I met the prince,” Geraint stepped forward, flashing an awkward smile at Hunter before he stepped up to the edge of dais upon which the king sat, “That was before your son captured my heart so completely.”

“You’re a prince?!” Hunter blurted out, uncaring of his father’s desire for proper behavior in a public setting, all but unaware that anyone was in the room save himself and Geraint to witness his outburst. “But you’re here to guard Doyle, aren’t you?”

“Technically,” Geraint began, looking both nervous and embarrassed, “I never said that I wasn’t a prince.”

That was, technically speaking, true. But Geraint needn’t have worried about an angry rebuff from the man whom had become his constant companion in the past weeks. Hunter was more confused than anything else, and he only wanted answers.

“Our kingdom is split in two, ruled dually by two brothers, one of whom is my father and the other being Doyle’s father,” Geraint explained. “I didn’t really think that I’d want to marry someone who made his suitors jump through hoops like this, so I told my father and my uncle that I didn’t want to compete. But, when Doyle said that he did, I decided that I needed to tag along and keep my cousin out of trouble. I think you’ll understand why. So I went as his guard, and I figured that I’d just blend into the background and keep out of this mess.”

“But…” Hunter prompted, hoping that he hadn’t misunderstood, “What changed?”

“I met you,” Geraint said honestly, looking deeply into Hunter’s eyes, willing him to understand. “I never meant to deceive you. Forgive me?”

The smile that Geraint received as an answer told the queen, who watched quietly from her husband’s side, that, regardless of how the young man slept, she was looking at her future son-in-law.


That night, after the mattresses had been prepared and the servants sent away, Hunter crept quietly into the room that Geraint was to sleep in and waited for the other prince to arrive. He had been so happy to hear that Geraint wished to compete to win a place at his side, and the thought of a life with the other man made his heart soar. He couldn’t remember ever having been happier than the moment that Geraint spoke up before his father. And that was why he had stolen into the room to await the blue haired warrior-prince. He didn’t honestly believe that Geraint would be so sensitive as to notice the pea under his mattresses, and even less did he believe that his father would deny him his happiness if Geraint was indeed his chosen mate, but just to make absolutely certain that everything finally went his way Hunter intended to see Geraint to his slumber too exhausted to notice anything about his sleeping accommodations.

When Geraint at last went to his rooms, a little upset at not having seen Hunter since just after their evening spar, he was relieved to see the other man waiting for him. They shared a smile of understanding and, without so much as a word, came together in the first of many mind-blowing kisses. They melted together as if of one mind, and did not part for many hours, each still wearing the same euphoric smiles upon their faces.


Hunter did not leave until he at last saw Geraint’s eyes growing heavy and falling shut. Only then did he carefully removed himself from the comforting warmth of his new lover’s embrace, mindful of the need for silence, lest he wake the slumbering dreamer. He needn’t have worried, however, for that night, with a look of contentment still clear on his face, Geraint slept the sleep of the happy, the loved, and the thoroughly sated.


“So,” the king asked the next morning, “How did you sleep, young man?”

Hunter, the queen, and perhaps the whole of the kingdom, held their collective breaths and awaited an answer.

“Wonderfully,” Geraint answered, grinning confidently and stretching while he yawned contentedly for good measure. He was certain from the almost audible sigh of relief from those in the audience chamber that he’d given the right answer.

Hunter did not wait for his father to officially declare the contest over, instead rushing to his lover’s side and pulling him into a heartfelt kiss that he hoped could express even a portion of the relief and joy that he felt, or his budding love for the other man, uncaring of the many watchful eyes surrounding them. They did not separate for a very long time. That was good enough for the king and queen, so before night fell Hunter and Geraint were married. And they all lived happily ever after.

The End




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