Chapter 1: The Bride
What you need to understand right now is that this is a love story.
This is also a story of adventure, of fighting giants and defeating geniuses, of conquering lands and marrying beautiful men. There are wicked men and beautiful ladies and best friends. There are duels and weddings and kidnapping and rescuing.This is a love story, and this is a story about how love conquered all.
The year Charles Francis Xavier was born, the most beautiful man in the world was a page boy by the name of Scott Summers.
He was a very dashing young man, and he was in love with the lady of his house, the young Miss Jean Grey, daughter to one of the richest men in Westchester. She was in love with him as well, but her father had promised her to another man. Scott, for all of his dashing courage and such, fought a duel over this girl.
He fought a duel for her, and lost.
Charles, being only a couple of months old at the time, knew none of this.
The year Charles was fifteen, the most beautiful man in the world was Prince Henry McCoy of Guilder.
Not many people understood why Prince Henry was ranked the most beautiful man in the world. He was awkward, gangly, and clumsy as hell. The only thing he had going for him at first glance was his beautiful brown eyes, magnified by his glasses. But as time went by, people would begin to see Prince Henry’s regal upbringing show itself as they began to know him better. They would see the excited flush in his face when talking about a new scientific discovery , the brilliant smile on his face when he was working on a new project, and the shy way he glanced at one of his knights, the younger brother of the now-dead Scott Summers.
But one day, one of Prince Henry’s experiments went wrong, and he became a furry, blue creature that later was the basis for the tale of the beast and the girl that broke the spell with true love.
Except in this case, the spell was broken years later, when Prince Henry was no longer a bright-eyed, handsome boy of twenty, and it was no girl who broke the spell, but Alex Summers, the knight he had loved for over ten years. They lived out the rest of their lives happily in a large estate near the border of Guilder, because Prince Henry had refused to take the throne when his father died, believing that the people would never accept a cat-like creature as their King, and then the House of Rogers became the new rulers of Guilder.
At this point, Charles was excitedly planning for his future at the Westchester University, not knowing that currently, he was ranked in the top twenty of the most beautiful men, and that was purely from potential.
The year Charles was seventeen, the most beautiful man in the world wasn’t even from their world.
His name was Loki, and he was from another world entirely. He was a beautiful young man with dark hair and pale skin and mournful eyes. He had been found by the Grey family a few months before his new ranking as the most beautiful man in the world was announced, and every day, he sat by the window in the sitting room and stared outside with his sad eyes.
One day, his eyes lit up and his mouth turned up into a radiant smile and he ran outside the doors to embrace a man with shoulder-length blond hair, as beautiful as he, but in a rugged sort of way instead of the fragile beauty that Loki exuded. They went back inside to the Grey family, where Jean, who was seventeen years older than when she had found love and lost it, welcomed the blonde into her house. He and Loki sat by each other, exchanging silly, love-struck glances and fleeting smiles before they left that very night, to return to the land they came from.
That was the year Charles’ father died.
Charles locked himself in his bedroom for nearly a week, eating only what he needed to survive. When he left his room, his eyes were a great deal wiser, an ocean sadder, and he understood true pain, for his mother found solace in the bottle not long after, and remarried a horrible man with an even more horrible son, but with a daughter whose presence shone like light in Charles’ otherwise colorless life.
His grief made him all the more beautiful, and that was the year his ranking shot from nineteen to ten, an unheard of change in such a short period of time.
The year Charles was eighteen, he moved out of his family home in Guilder and into a smaller estate in Westchester that his father had bequeathed to him upon his death. From his home in Guilder, he took only two people with him: his step-sister, Raven, and the farm-boy who had been with him since Charles was three and he was five.
Of course, the farm-boy was no longer really a boy, at twenty, and was more of a man, and he had a name as well. It was Erik.
The farm-boy was really very good about leaving the house in Guilder to go with Raven and Charles to Westchester. He left behind his mother and father, who were the cook and stablemaster, respectively, and did whatever Raven and Charles asked of him without complaint. Unlike her brother and father, Raven was a very sweet girl and she and Charles were always very polite to Erik.
Strangely though, whenever Charles asked something of Erik, the older man would only stare at him for a moment before answering quietly, “As you wish,” and then go off to do whatever it was Charles had asked of him.
Charles knew that Erik was a very brilliant man; he had heard him converse in German with Raven once, and explain a very difficult scientific theory to the younger girl without any trouble at all. All Charles ever received verbally from Erik were those three words, and he couldn’t comprehend why.
Raven looked at him like he was an idiot when he asked her why once.
After that, Charles never asked her again.
But still, one day, the Countess of Westchester came knocking down on Charles’ door, and when he had answered, she eyed him appraisingly. “You are most definitely Brian’s little boy.”
“I…what?” Charles stammered intelligently. But honestly, the Countess was in his sitting room. She ranked as the highest woman in Westchester, seeing as how the current King had no wife, and considered her his closest friend.
“I knew your father.” The Countess said by way of explanation. “And he would be shocked to know how low you have fallen. To be reduced to a small manor house! Just say the word, dear boy, and I will send my private army to destroy the poor imitation of your once-magnificent family.”
“Um.” Charles had no idea what to say. What was the proper etiquette when the most famous woman in Westchester offered to kill off your drunkard mother and your deranged step-family. “No, thank you, my lady.”
“Ororo will be fine, Charles dear.” The Countess patted Charles’ hand. Her eyebrow lifted as Erik walked into the kitchen to retrieve the axe that lay next to the hearth and then back out into the field again. They exchanged the briefest of looks, but the Countess was looking at Erik and he was looking back dear god why was he looking back.
“Ororo…?” Charles asked tentatively, and the Countess started, as if shocked. “My lady, are you alright?”
“Your husband there is a very fine specimen of man.” The Countess nodded, a smile on her face. “Your father would have definitely approved.”
“My…!” Charles flushed bright red, and his rank elevated to number seven from how adorable he looked. “Ororo, my lady, you are quite mistaken. That is simply the farm-boy.”
“Charles, my dear,” The Countess’s eyebrow raised once more. “That is no boy.”
She continued looking out the window at Erik, who had relieved himself of his shirt as he chopped logs for the fireplace, and Charles felt his heart sink slowly.
Later that evening, Charles recounted his conversation with the Countess to Raven, who had been in the village chatting with her girl friends all day. She expressed her jealousy at not having been there (“Damn you, Charles! The girls are going to be so jealous!”), and when Charles casually commented on how the Countess had looked at Erik and Erik had looked back Raven why had he looked back she’s too old for him anyway what is she like twenty-eight or something.
“You seem to forget the Countess is married.” Raven rolled her eyes and shaking out her blonde curls from the bun they were in all day. “To some relative on my mother’s side. Kurt Wagner, I think.”
“He was looking back at her, Raven!” Charles cried, frowning. “Why was he looking back?”
Raven resisted the urge to roll her eyes again, instead, settling for, “Charles, either keep your jealousy under wraps or go and just confess your love already.”
“My love?” Charles laughed falsely, a higher pitched laugh that his usual. “I’m not in love with the Countess!”
“I didn’t say you were in love with the Countess.” Raven said, emphasizing the last two words. She left for her bedroom, leaving her brother alone to think about her words.
As soon as she had gone, Charles gave a little frown, which was really more of a pout, and flung himself across his bed. Raven was ridiculous, insinuating that he was in love with Erik. He wasn’t in love with Erik. Erik hadn’t even said four different words to him.
An hour passed.
Maybe it was the contrast of the Countess’s pale hair and dark skin that drew Erik in. It really was dramatic coloring, and it was quite fascinating to think about. The mutations that must have occurred in her genes to allow such vastly different coloring was really interesting.
Perhaps that was what Erik was thinking about.
Another hour passed.
Perhaps it was the dark eyes that drew the Countess in, Charles mused. Erik did have fascinating eyes. They were green, or brown, depending on the light, and what he had on. Sometimes, they were a mixture of both.
Or it was his body.
Erik had broad shoulders and a thin waist. He had a long torso and long legs as well. He really was quite proportional. Maybe women liked that.
Ten minutes passed.
Charles was still awake.
And then it hit him.
Before he knew what he was doing, he was on his feet, rushing towards Erik’s room near the kitchen, and completely ignoring the slap of the cold marble floors against his bare feet. (He had left his slippers in his bedroom.) It was only after he knocked on Erik’s door and the door swung open to reveal Erik that Charles realised what he had done.
“Er, hullo.” He said, smiling weakly.
Erik stared at him blankly.
“Look, I know you might think I’m absolutely stark, raving mad, but I’m in love with you. Like, honestly, truly, in love with you, Erik.” Charles babbled. “I love you more than I love science, I think, and that’s actually quite a lot, because everyone knows how much I love science and all that it entails, and I think I love you more than that. A lot more, actually.”
He paused to stop for breath, and color flooded his face when he looked up at Erik’s face.
Except he didn’t see Erik’s face because Erik had slammed the door in his face.
“Oy!” Charles cried indignantly. “Open up, you prat!”
The door opened.
Erik’s face was carefully blank again.
“What did you do that for?” Charles demanded, bright-blue eyes zeroing in onto Erik’s own mesmerizing eyes. He shook his head, trying to clear it of the filthy thoughts that crowded his head.
“Honestly, I thought you were trying to make fun of me.” Erik said in short, clipped tones, and Charles reeled back, his heart hurting madly.
“…Make fun of you?” He repeated quietly. “Why…why would you think that?”
“Because I thought Raven told you.” Erik replied.
“Told me what?” Charles asked.
“I didn’t think you were that daft.” Erik blinked at him. “Honestly, all these years of you saying, ‘Erik, could you do this for me?’ and ‘Erik, would you be a dear and fetch more firewood?’, and me saying ‘As you wish’, except you weren’t listening and you’re driving me absolutely maaaadddd.”
“Weren’t listening?” Charles repeated incredulously. “But…that was what you said, wasn’t it? ‘As you wish’?”
“Yes, only, it meant ‘I love you’, but you never heard.” Erik sighed, and when Charles blinked at him in confusion, he rolled his eyes. “Oh, sod it.”
And he kissed Charles thoroughly.
They had one blissful, happy week together with much adoring glances and Raven miming puking every time Charles and Erik did something she deemed too ‘couplely’. Charles actually began doing things to his appearance (like brushing his unruly hair) so that Erik wouldn’t complain about how much like a child he was, refusing to tame his bedhead. Between that and the love he felt for Erik, Charles managed to shoot to the highest ranking before the end of the week.
When the week was over, Erik said one night, “I’m going to Florin.”
“Whatever for?” Charles asked, as he watched Erik pack his things in horror. “Erik, love—“
“I’m going to seek my fortune.” Erik paused in his packing, smiling gently at Charles. “So we can live in the way that you’re used to living instead of just waiting for your mother to die.”
“Erik, it’s no bother living like this.” Charles tried to explain. “Really, I’d rather have you here—“
“Charles.” Erik sighed. “You forget I’ve known you longer than Raven. You’re not used to living like this. You’re used to so much more, but you can’t have it until your mother dies, because even if Kurt got her to change her will, it doesn’t matter because you are still the one named as heir in your father’s will and everyone knows it. I want you to be happy, Charles.”
“I am happy, Erik!” Charles cried, and he looked as if he was going to burst into tears.
“Come here.” Erik murmured, and he drew Charles into his embrace, as if he was never going to let go. Charles wished he wouldn’t.
“I’m just afraid I’ll never see you again.” Charles whispered into the crook of Erik’s neck.
“Hear me now.” Erik drew back enough to rest his forehead against Charles’. “I will come for you. I will always come for you. This is true love. You think it happens every day?”
“I love you.” Charles said quietly, and he closed his eyes.
Erik knew it was that that was Charles giving him his blessing to go, and he kissed each eyelid gently. “I love you too.”
Charles and Raven watched Erik depart the next morning when the sun had barely risen across the hills. The morning was still cold and the grass damp with early morning dew. Erik walked towards the sun, and he turned around once, his eyes so full of longing and love that Charles almost ran to him and begged to go with him. He didn’t, because he knew that that wasn’t what Erik wanted. Charles smiled at him, and Erik smiled back, and that was all he needed because he turned around again. When he was out of sight, Charles collapsed into Raven’s arms and cried.
But then the letters started arriving, and Charles became the Charles that he had been before his father had died. He was cheery and happy and so full of life and he reread all the letters over and over and wrote his own and then scrapped them and then wrote others and sent them and Raven was so happy for him.
Which was why Erik’s death hit both of them the way it did.
The day they found out Erik was dead, it was the only rainy day they had had in almost a month, and the only rainy day they had for weeks after the news.
The young girl who delivered the mail, Anne-Marie, held out a letter to Charles, who opened it with a smile. She was rocking back and forth on her heels, waiting with bated breath for what Erik wrote Charles this time, because Charles was so happy all the time and shared the contents of the letters with everyone. So when his smile dropped and his eyes filled with tears, Anne-Marie grasped at Charles’ sleeve.
“Charles, is something wrong?”
Charles made a sort-of strangled noise, and though Anne-Marie didn’t know what that noise was called, her heart knew. Charles was suffering.
Raven came in, all smiles and cheer when she noticed the stricken look on Charles’ face. “Charles, what’s wrong?” He held out the letter to her with shaking hands, and she skimmed it quickly. Her face paled, and she looked at Charles. “Charles—“
“Excuse me.” Charles said abruptly, still pale and shaking. “I…I have to…” Without finishing his sentence, he walked off to his room.
“Is he alright?” Anne-Marie asked quietly.
“Erik…is dead.” Raven looked at her with sad eyes. “The Dread Pirate Stark…”
“…never leaves survivors.” Anne-Marie finished.
It was a week before Charles would leave his room. Raven left his meals outside his door, and collected it later. The meal was often nearly untouched, and Raven remembered what it was like when Charles’ father had died, because Sharon had married her father only a few days later, and she got the room across from Charles’ when he was mourning for his father. She felt so much pain knowing that he was going through the same pain now, and couldn’t do anything to help him.
When he left his room, Raven jumped up from the chair she had been sitting on in surprise. “Charles! Are you alright?”
“…Yes, I think I am.”
He was a bit thinner, a great deal sadder. His eyes reflected so much pain and knowledge of how unfair the world was. He was the most handsome man in the world, and he cared not at all.
Charles paused, “But I must never love again.”
He never did.
Chapter 2: The Groom
Chapter by Altrutix
In which we meet the Groom, and the Groom meets the Bride.
James Logan Howlett was Prince of Westchester.
He enjoyed hunting, above all things. Hunting, and missing the girl he had loved, once upon a time. Circumstances had prevented the two from being together, and she died. Sometimes, he closed his eyes and remembered the way she had looked in the sunlight, the wind tossing her hair and her face bright with happiness.
Logan was twenty-two, and there were rumors that his father was going to die soon. Logan didn’t want his father to die, because when his father, King Victor, died, then that would mean that Logan would have to be King.
Logan didn’t want to be King.
Once upon a time, he and Kayla were going to marry, and they planned of all the things they would do when he was King. He was going to build an orphanage in the town, and make sure it would take care of the children well. He was going to restore the magnificent buildings to their former glory.
But most of all, he was going to make Kayla Queen.
Ororo came to him one morning as he plotted out ways to change the layout of his private hunting zoo, and said to him, “Your father is dying, Logan. You need to marry.”
“I miss her.” That was all he said.
Ororo bit her lip, seeming torn about whether to say something or not.
“Spit it out, Ororo.” Logan sighed.
“What if I can find someone for you to marry?” Ororo asked.
“I will never love her.” Came the reply.
“He is a man, not a woman.” Ororo said gently. “You won’t mind, will you?”
“No, so long as he knows that I will never love him.” Logan shrugged.
“Come with me. I’ll take you to meet him.” Ororo held out her hand.
Logan took it.
When they got to the manor, Logan wrinkled his nose. “He lives here?”
“The family home is in Guilder. His father is dead, his mother is a drunkard, and his step-father is trying to take his inheritance away from him.” Ororo snorted. “I wish the man good luck. Brian Xavier was not an idiot.”
“This kid you want me to marry is an Xavier?” Logan asked.
Ororo knocked on the door with her fan loudly, and the door opened to reveal a very pretty blond girl. “Raven.”
“Oh, hello Countess!” (“Ororo,” Ororo reminded her.) “What are you doing here?”
Ororo shrugged. “I have an offer for Charles.”
Raven blinked. “Oh, well. He’s in the sitting room.” She led Ororo and Logan to the sitting room, and when Logan saw Charles, he would admit later that even he, who would never love again, found Charles beautiful.
“Charles, my dear,” Ororo began. “I know this has been a difficult year for you…”
“Hullo, Ororo.” Charles said, almost dully. His eyes glanced quickly over Logan, as if not seeing him at all. “Who is this?”
“This is Prince Logan.” Ororo said gently. “Charles, he’s here to propose to you.”
“No.” Charles said instantly.
“No?” Logan repeated. “I am the Prince—“
“Marrying requires love, and love is something I cannot give.” Charles answered, as if he hadn’t heard Logan at all. “I loved once, and lost. I will never love again.”
“Charles, marriage does not require love.” Ororo bit her lip, patting Charles’ hand. “And Logan cannot love you either. His love, Kayla—“ It still felt like someone hit him in the gut, hearing someone say her name out loud. “—is like your Erik.” Logan saw Charles flinch, and he guessed that Erik was like his Kayla. “Dead.” Logan recoiled, as if struck by her words. “Logan needs to marry; his father is dying. But he can’t love anyone, and you can’t either, so please, Charles. Marry Logan.”
“I will never love you.” Charles said. “I love Erik, still.”
“I wouldn’t even want it.” Logan replied. “I only want Kayla.”
“Then by all means,” Charles smiled sadly. “Let us marry.”
Chapter 3: The Betrothal
Chapter by Altrutix
In which the Groom and the Bride are betrothed.
What happened in the next three years was that Logan made Charles a Prince of a small bit of Westchester, Raven its Princess, Victor slowly grew weaker, and almost exactly three years to the day Ororo had taken him to meet with Charles, announced his betrothal to the populace.
Charles raised his hand to wave to the populace, the mindless smile he had perfected fooling them all completely as they roared their approval of the man that was to be their Prince’s husband. Logan was at his side, their shoulders barely touching, but it seemed to give off the allusion that they were happy together. Raven stood on Charles’ other side, beaming widely at the crown, and reached for his hand.
He was twenty-one years old, and he was going to be married within the year.
Never had he felt so empty.
Charles did not know—could not know—that within the crowd of thousands of people crowded in the square, only four people were not happy about his betrothal.
Three of them had no grudge against Charles himself, but planned to kidnap him.
Only one of them wished him no harm, physically.
His dark eyes flashed as he watched Charles with a blank expression. The man in black walked away.
Chapter 4: The Kidnapping
Chapter by Altrutix
In which Charles is kidnapped and his kidnappers are incredibly lovable. The man in black, however, is not.
The only that gave Charles any pleasure anymore was taking his horse, Magneto, and galloping across the hills.
This was what he was doing when they kidnapped him.
Raven warned him against going out without an escort, now that his engagement to the Prince was official. He paid her no heed, and had the stable-boy bring out Magneto so he could go out for a quick ride.
It was early afternoon when Charles met them.
A pale woman with golden curls and an easy smile, a man with red skin and jet-black hair who looked as if life had been far crueler to him than it should have been, and a younger man with tousled dark locks and bronze skin that lent him an exotic look.
“Hello there!” The red-skinned man greeted Charles, who stopped his horse.
“Hello.” He said cautiously. He did not know why, but these strangers set him on edge.
“We are poor circus performers whose circus has been recently shut down,” The blond woman started, a small smile playing on her lips. “We were wondering if your Highness would deign to inform us of a circus nearby?”
“You must be mistaken.” Charles shook his head. “There is no circus here. In fact, there is no village here within miles.”
“Oh good.” The woman smiled, “Then there will be no one around to hear you scream.” She looked at the younger man. “Janos.”
Charles opened his mouth to scream when Janos pressed something on his neck, and he slumped forward into the red companion’s arms.
When Charles woke up, he knew three things. It was night, he was on a boat, and the blond knew he was awake but said nothing.
“Emma,” Janos said, “Why exactly are we kidnapping Prince Charles, again?”
“Janos, I have told you before.” Emma sighed, her voice fond. “You, Azazel, and I have been hired to start a war. It is a very prestigious line of work.”
“I know why we are kidnapping him,” Janos sounded offended. “But what I do not understand is why we are. Surely Prince Charles is not needed to start a war between Guilder and Westchester?”
“Janos—” Emma was cut off when Janos shrugged her hand off of his shoulder. She drew back with a wounded look on her face.
“He is innocent.” Janos whispered harshly. “He does not deserve to be used in order to turn two countries against one another.” He walked over to Azazel, who engulfed him in his embrace.
Emma went over to sit next to Charles. “I expect you will attempt to free yourself.”
His arms were bound with rope. Charles looked into bright blue eyes that mirrored his own. “No.”
“Very well.” Emma said quietly, and she smiled sadly. “I am sorry, really. But I could not turn down this job. You see, the money we received will keep my brother and I off the streets for years.”
“He does not know this?” Charles asked, and Emma shook her head. “Oh.” He frowned. “You and Janos—is it?—are brother and sister? But you and he are as different as night and day.”
“He is the son of my father and his second wife.” Emma answered. “My father died when we were young, and he left us with enough money to secure our positions. But a silly woman with an even sillier son has convinced the Prince of Guilder that our money belongs to her, and everything is gone. Janos does not know.”
“I do not blame you.” Charles tried to infuse his smile with all the emotions he had felt at Emma’s quiet explanation. “You are a loving sister.”
“Emma.” Azazel called from the wheel of their small sailboat. “Someone is following us.”
“What?” Emma asked, eyes wide. She stood up, walking over to where Azazel was and looking at where he was pointing at. “By the gods, that’s impossible! No one in Guilder could possibly know we have Charles, and no one in Westchester could have possibly gotten here fast enough!”
“Yet, there he is.” Janos said in an irritated tone, glaring at his sister. “What now, your majesty?”
“Janos, stop being so petty for one moment!” Emma cried. She began to pace, her hands in her long hair as she quickly spoke to herself. “There is no time for the rope, but there is no other way up. He could easily follow us up the steps. What to do? What to do?”
“Sister, if you would stop being such a dolt for one second, you would do well to remember that Azazel can…” Janos made a gesture with his hands, and Emma’s eyes lit up.
“Oh yes, I had forgotten!” She said cheerfully. “Azazel, bring Janos up first, I need to untie Charles. We will move much faster if he is balanced.”
Azazel shrugged. “As you wish, Emma.”
At the familiar words, Charles felt a pang of sadness in his heart. Before he could dwell on his emotions too much, Azazel gripped Janos’ hand and the two of them disappeared in a puff of red smoke. “Emma…!”
Except she was no longer soft skin and blond curls. She still held Emma’s form, but it was as if she were made entirely out of diamonds. The stones that made up her body clinked every time she moved. As she used her sharp diamond nails to slice through the ropes, Charles stared at her. “Hm?” She noticed what he was looking at. “Oh yes, I forgot to mention. We’re not exactly human.”
“What are you, then?” Charles asked.
“Same as you. Same as a lot of others in the world. We’re mutants. Superior humans, if you would prefer to think about it that way.” Emma shrugged.
“But I can’t—“
“You’re a telepath. You hear the voices sometimes, do you not?” Emma blinked at Charles’ frightened glance that asked how she could possibly know that. “I am a telepath as well. This is my secondary mutation. But goodness, usually we hear the voices all the time. You must be very powerful to suppress them so much.”
Suddenly, Charles recalled the voices that crowded his mind as a child, the sadness he felt exuding from his father, and the miracle pill his father asked him to take, and told him would make the voices go away until he needed to hear them.
“Your sister Raven is a mutant as well.” Emma was saying. “I skimmed her thoughts briefly at the betrothal announcement. Her father had ordered her to assume a human form since she was very young. You might not have known. Her true form is very beautiful. She has blue skin, Charles.”
“Wait, Raven—?” Charles didn’t get to say anymore before Azazel returned, grasped Charles and Emma’s hands in both of his and teleported away. Charles was briefly aware of red everywhere and the smell of brimstone and sulfur before—
“He’s still there, Emma.” Janos said to his sister, seeming placated for the time being. “He’s actually at the bottom of the cliffs now—“ A man in black clothing hopped off the small boat. “He can’t possibly—“ The man began scaling the cliffs. “—and I was wrong.” He turned to the other three. “Azazel, go with my sister and the Prince. I will deal with this man when he reaches the top.”
“Janos, no!” Emma said, suddenly reverting back to her human form in her shock. Her eyes were frightened as Janos withdrew his sword from his scabbard. The sword had been a gift from their father before his death and Janos had sworn revenge on the noble who had killed him.
Azazel placed a hand on Emma’s shoulder. He looked at his dark-haired lover, who was slowly cutting the air with the sword and practicing his footwork. “Catch up fast, Janos.”
“I will.” Janos let his sword fall to the ground before hugging his sister. “Do not worry, sister. I will not fail.”
When he released her, Charles could see Emma blink back tears and suddenly, she turned brusque and cold. “Come boys, Janos has it under control. We will proceed as planned.”
She swept away regally, and Charles couldn’t help but wonder what station she had been in her previous life as a wealthy woman. Had she been nobility, or perhaps even royalty? Emma certainly exuded that air of confidence most nobles had. She glanced back once, raising an eyebrow. “Well?”
Charles and Azazel walked towards her, as Janos picked up his fallen sword and kissed the metal. The fire that burned within his half-Spanish heart glowed brightly as he did so, for he recalled finding his father bleeding to death slowly and the face of the noble that so callously wounded him.
Janos leaned over the cliffs, looking down at the man in black. He was making progress, but it was very slow progress indeed. “Hello there!”
The man in black looked up at Janos, and Janos felt that if the man wasn’t wearing a mask, he would be raising his eyebrow at him in a manner similar to his sister’s. “Hello.”
“Slow going, is it?” Janos asked, and the man grunted in the affirmative. “You do this often? Climb cliffs?”
“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve found out recently that someone’s true love is going to wed a complete arse with a penchant for killing things and I’m climbing the damned Cliffs of Insanity, so if you would allow me to climb up in peace…”
“Oh.” Janos said. A moment passed before… “I have a rope up here, actually. Would you like it?”
“Yes, please.” The man in black replied.
“I just thought you should know, we’re dueling once you get up here and you will almost certainly die.” Janos secured the rope around a very large boulder and threw the other side down to the man in black. “Just in case that decides your decision to use the rope or not.”
“Well, since you seem so sure I will die either way, I don’t see it makes much of a difference if I use the rope or not.” The man in black replied as he slowly transferred his arms to hold onto the rope and began to scale the cliffs quickly. He swung himself up onto the top of the cliffs where Janos was waiting.
“Would you like to rest for a moment?” Janos asked, and the man in black shrugged, sitting down.
“You’re very polite, for someone who is about to kill me.” The man in black offered. “I like that. Manners are rare nowadays.”
“My sister raised me to be polite.” Janos offered. “Besides, it would be unethical for me to duel you while you’re tired and I’m in prime condition.”
“Why don’t you tell me more about yourself?” The man in black asked. “I would like to know more about the man who plans to kill me.”
“There is not much to know.” Janos shrugged. “I am twenty-two. I have been studying the blade for over ten years, and I am looking for a four-fingered nobleman so I may kill him to avenge my father.” He held up a hand. “He’s missing the pinky finger.”
The man in black stared at him. “Well, I certainly wish you luck on your quest…?”
“Janos. Janos Frost.” Janos replied. “And you?”
“I regret that I cannot give my name.” The man in black said. “However, I may give you a false one. You may refer to me as Alex Summers.”
“Isn’t he the husband to the former Prince Henry, once declared the most beautiful man in the world?” Janos pondered aloud, his forehead wrinkled in concentration.
“Very much similar to Prince Charles, Prince Henry.” The man in black seemed mocking. “But unlike that union, the man that loved Prince Charles had no happy ending for him.”
“Did you know him?” Janos asked, “What happened to him?”
“I knew him, once.” The other shrugged, his lips turned down into a scowl. “He is dead, now. Good for him to die rather than live, only for the one person he loved most in the world leave him as soon as the Prince comes calling.”
“You are very bitter about this. I have heard rumors that Prince Charles is heartbroken still.” Janos said quietly. “And I do not believe he is that kind of person. I have known him only for a day, but my sister informs me that he is very kind-hearted.”
“Your sister knows nothing.” The man in black shrugged. “I have known Prince Charles since he was a babe barely able to toddle around.”
“Then surely you know what his character to be.” Janos pointed out reasonably. “Why are you following us, anyway? You plan to kill Prince Charles?”
“I plan to return him to his intended. Prince Charles swore to marry the Prince; I am merely making sure he doesn’t break this promise.” His lips curled up into a sneer. “I grow tired of this conversation. I am well rested and we may begin our duel now.”
The man in black stood, and unsheathed his blade. Janos and the man in black circled one another, swords at the ready and eyeing each other warily. The man in black struck first; Janos deflected the blow easily. Now it was Janos’ turn to strike—he was confident that he would defeat the man, for he had been studying since he was a boy of ten, travelling around the world with Emma and learning from the masters.
But the man in black blocked it.
He blocked it!
“You are very good.” Janos said, as they continued to dance around one another, slashing and dodging blows.
“Thank you.” The man said, “I have worked very hard to become so, and I thank you for acknowledging my progress.”
“Have you studied the sword long?” Janos asked.
“The definition of long may be different according to who hears it. My father taught me when I was barely six years old.” The man in black said, a note of indifference in his tone. “I am twenty-three now. Is that long to you?”
“It is indeed.” Janos replied. “You have been studying longer than myself.”
They spoke not much after that, but fought for what seemed like a long time. Suddenly, the man in black sighed as he blocked Janos’ sword once more, and retaliated in what seemed to be a very bored manner. “Janos, I deeply apologize.”
“For what?” Janos asked.
“I have not been entirely honest with you.” The man in black said. “But do not worry; I will not leave you for dead. Your desire for revenge is a worthy one, and I will inform your lover of your soon-to-be indisposed state.”
“What?” Janos managed to ask before the simple bracelet he wore on his arm melted off of it and formed into a solid sphere. His eyes widened as the sphere hurtled towards him and struck him in the skull. He collapsed onto the ground, his sword clattering loudly, and the man in black looked down at the still body.
“I really am sorry, Janos Frost.” He said. “But as they say, you are merely unconscious, and I must return that trickster back to his betrothed, so no harm done, really.” The man in black made sure that Janos’ sword was lying next to him, but at a suitable distance enough so that when he woke, he would not accidentally stab himself. “You are truly a worthy opponent.”
Then he rushed down the path towards Azazel, Emma, and Charles.
“Emma.” Azazel blinked at the figure running towards them. “It is the man in black that runs towards us, not Janos. He has beaten Janos.”
“What? Inconceivable!” Emma shouted, whirling around. Her eyes narrowed as her eyes locked onto the figure. “What has he done to my brother, Azazel?!”
“How the hell would I know, Emma?!” Azazel hollered back. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that you are the only one here who loves Janos!”
“And you should not make the mistake of forgetting who I am, who Janos is!” Emma snarled furiously. “He chose you, when the world had so much better to offer!” She gestured angrily at the approaching figure. “Interrogate him! Find out where Janos is, and if he is dead or not!”
“Once, you were far above me in station, Emma.” Azazel clenched his fist. “But now, it is you who benefits from your brother’s relationship with me. You know what I can do, if I wish. You know I would lay the world at your brother’s feet, should the thought even cross his mind, and you know that I can. I take no orders from you.” He turned towards the path, gesturing for Emma and Charles to move on. “I will fight him because I wish to. I will find out what he has done with Janos. But never forget, Emma,” He looked at the blonde, a bored expression on his face. “I do so out of love for your brother.”
“We were friends once, Azazel. I would have forgiven you anything. You could have sliced my throat, and I’d still forgive you.” Emma said quietly, coldly. “But then you chose to seduce my brother. My precious baby brother. That, I will never forgive, Azazel.”
“I love him, Emma.” He sounded almost pleading, despite the stoic expression on his face.
“Emma.” Charles lay a hand on her shoulder. “Emma, we need to move on.”
Emma stopped glaring at Azazel, turning her gaze onto Charles instead. Her eyes were soft, and when she spoke, she sounded quite sad indeed. “Come along then, Charles.” She walked briskly ahead, and Charles thought he heard say, “Janos wanted him to live, and I will not fail Janos in this one thing.”
“Emma, did you say something?” Charles asked, and Emma looked at him, eyebrow raised.
“No,” She smiled slightly. “You must be relinquishing your control on your telepathy. Well done Charles.”
Emma was pleased, but Charles was not.
Did that mean the pill his father had given him was wearing off? If he was really as powerful as Emma seemed to think he was, what would that mean for the world? And what of the man in black?
What did he want?
Chapter 5: The Realization
Chapter by Altrutix
In which the man in black finally reaches Emma, and Charles realizes why the man in black knows so much about him.
At this time, the man in black wanted nothing more than to tie down the teleporter and restrain him while he went off after Emma and Charles.
Azazel, on the other hand, was not so inclined to remain still in one place, fighting in hand-to-hand combat with the man he presumed to have killed his lover. Thus, he was teleporting out of his grip constantly and around him, until—
“If you are doing this because you think I have killed Janos, please stop.” The man in black sounded exasperated, but not tired. “I knocked him out; I did not kill him. He is lying on the ground quite comfortably with his sword next to him. I checked his breathing.”
“How do I know you are not lying?” Azazel hissed.
The man in black looked at him as if he were an idiot. “You can teleport; are you seriously asking me something you can confirm right now?”
And then he was gone.
The man in black blinked, and then he was back.
“You were not lying.” Azazel said grudgingly. “I know not of your plans for the princeling. Tell me, do you plan to kill him?”
“Though I harbor ill-feelings for Prince Charles, I am not going to kill him.” The man in black said sharply. “And I will not kill the blond woman currently with him either.”
“If you harm either,” Azazel said coolly. “Janos and I will hunt you down, and I will rip your entails out and enjoy every scream. The princeling is dear to Emma, for she has been inside his head and she loves it there. He is a kindred spirit to her, and as for Janos, he loves all innocent things.”
The man in black gave a slight nod, and Azazel was gone again in a puff of red smoke.
When the man in black caught up to Emma and Charles, Emma had her hand around Charles’ throat. He wouldn’t have normally worried, except that he noticed that her entire body was composed of diamonds. He reached inside himself for the hate that once consumed him, and tried to throw her aside.
It didn’t work.
“Don’t bother trying,” Emma laughed. “I’m not made of metal, you see.”
“Let go of him.” The man in black said.
“I don’t see why I should.” Emma cooed, running the index finger on her other hand down Charles’ cheek. “He’s so pretty, I might just keep him with me…”
“Let go of him.” The man in black repeated.
“Sure, darling.” The blonde eyed the man in black. “But first, tell me. Out loud. Why do you want him?”
“Why do I want him?” The man in black repeated, laughing bitterly. “Why do I fucking want him? God, how could I not? He is a prince, he is beautiful, and he is worth more than twice his weight in gold.” He paused. “But that is not why I want him.” His eyes flashed dangerously. “No, I want him because I wish to return him to Prince Logan. He swore to marry him, and I will see him married to that oaf. I plan to take him to Guilder, and have him write to Prince Logan saying that he was only taking an unplanned trip to Guilder.”
“Why does his marriage matter to you so much?” Emma questioned, her voice like smooth silk. “After all, Charles has no idea who you are, obviously.”
“His marriage matters to me because he gave Prince Logan his word to marry him and I will not allow him to break any more hearts.” The man in black said coldly. “I knew someone once who loved this man. Dearly.”
“My brother is alive.” Emma said. It was not a question.
The man in black gave a curt nod. “He is with the red man. Azazel, I believe.”
Emma looked at Charles, and whispered in his ear, “He will not harm you. I have read his mind. In reality, he is more hurt than anything else. I will return to my brother, Charles. Be careful, my dear.” She returned to human form and shoved Charles at the man in black. Calmly, she walked past the man in black. As she headed down the path towards her brother and Azazel, the man in black heard her voice in his head.
He is hurting more than you know, more than you want to believe.
The man in black tugged on Charles’ arm and walked briskly down the path. He didn’t care when Charles stumbled along after him, the position clearly an uncomfortable one to walk in.
“Please, why do you hate me so?” Charles asked after almost an hour of this. By this time, they were halfway to the Guilder frontier. “I do not understand!”
“You would never understand!” The man in black paused in his walking, turning around to glare at Charles. His piercing green eyes bore into his face. “You are a silly boy who does not understand love. You go around throwing it as if it were nothing! What would you understand of hate, of my hate?”
“I loved more deeply than a killer like you could imagine!” Charles shouted, finally breaking out of his calm exterior. He had been tossed and dragged around and this entire day was turning out to remind him that this would have never happened if Erik had just stayed with him instead of going to Florin, and he was tired, damnit. “Yes, I say killer! I know who you are, you fiend. You are cruel and full of hate, and you clearly are without remorse. You are the Dread Pirate Stark!”
“At your service.” The man said, bowing a mocking little bow. “How do you know of me, little Prince? I have not plundered the shores of Westchester in many years.”
“You killed the only man I have ever loved.”
A moment later, his cheek was stinging.
The man in black had slapped him.
“You…you slapped me!”
“Where my parents were raised, that is the punishment when someone, regardless of gender, lies about love.” The man in black said harshly.
“I was not lying.” Charles hissed. “You didn’t kill only Erik that day; I died as well.”
He prepared himself for another blow, but it seemed his words amused the man in black.
“Oh? You died that day as well?” The man in black asked. “I seem to recall a young man by that name. Erik. Lehnsherr, I believe.” He sat down on a rock, seeming deep in thought. “Yes, I do remember him. He didn’t plead or beg or attempt to bribe me. He simply said, ‘Please’. It was the ‘please’ that did it, I think. I asked him what he had back home that he had to live, and he replied, ‘I left the most beautiful man in the world, my true love, that I might seek my fortune in Florin and restore him to the previous life he enjoyed. We are in love.’” The man in black’s eyes narrowed, standing up suddenly and walking away, Charles running after him. “It was a good thing I killed him before he could have his heart broken by such a lying chit who fell at the Prince’s feet as soon as he came aro—“
“Shut up!” Charles yelled. “Shut up! I loved him! I loved him more than anything else in the world. I would have done anything he wanted if he asked. The day he left, I almost went with him, but I knew he wanted to do it himself! When I heard he died, I locked myself in my room for a week and swore I’d never love again! I’m not marrying the Prince because I love him! He knows I don’t love him! I’ve always been in love with Erik, and he’s always been in love with his Kayla! I—“ His voice broke and the tears that he had kept back for nearly four years came pouring down his cheeks. “He used to tell me ‘As you wish’ for the longest time. That was the only thing he’d say to me. It took me ages to figure out what it really meant, and I wish I’d done it earlier. I could have had more time with him.” His words became a whisper. “Every day, I miss him. I knew him since I was three years old, and he told me once that the first time he ever saw me, I—“
“Offered him your toy, and he was smitten.” The man in black said quietly.
“Yes.” Charles said, looking at him oddly. “How did you know?”
“You loved him in return?” The man in black asked, sounding a bit strange. “As much as he loved you?”
“I love him still.” Charles answered. “To others, he is dead. I will never love again, because I am still in love with him.” He laughed, an odd, choked sound. “I love him more than I love science.”
“Honestly, I thought you were trying to make fun of me,” The man in black responded.
“What?” Charles asked, blinking at the man in black.
The man in black continued, as if Charles had not spoken. “Because I thought Raven told you.”
“Stark, what are you—“
“I didn’t think you were that daft.” The man in black said, as if he were reciting a poem. “Honestly, all these years of you saying, ‘Erik, could you do this for me?’ and ‘Erik, would you be a dear and fetch more firewood?’, and me saying ‘As you wish’, except you weren’t listening and you’re driving me absolutely maaaadddd.”
“Are you a telepath as well?” Charles asked, blinking. “Are you pulling that out from my mind somehow?”
“It meant, ‘I love you’, only, you never heard.” The man in black gave him a very pointed look. “I remember every bit of that conversation, Charles. You broke my heart and put it back together again within that single conversation.”
“Stark, you must be mad, I—“
“Oh, sod it.” The man in black pulled off his mask. “I didn’t think you were that dense, Charles.”
“…Erik.” Charles exhaled, a lovely smile lighting up his face. He reached a hand out to Erik, only to pause, as if he were afraid that it was a dream. “I…you are real?”
“As real as you, Charles.” Erik replied, kissing Charles’ hand.
“But Erik, you were so cruel to me earlier.” Charles said, eyes wide. “And…and you slapped me.”
“Charles, I thought you had deserted me, left me, to marry a Prince for the last three years.” Erik said in a dead-pan voice. “I thought everything I ever knew about you and your morals were a lie, that you accepted the Prince’s proposal nigh three weeks after I left for Florin.” Charles seemed to understand a little bit, but Erik continued. “I had those thoughts for over three years, Charles. They had been stewing in my heart for years, and I was all too willing to believe the worst of you because I was so hurt.”
“That does not forgive your action.” Charles said stiffly. “You must never hit me again, Erik. I have seen my mother being tossed around by Kurt when she was not inebriated. I refuse to be in a relationship in which I am abusive or I am the abused. The next time, I will leave you, no matter how much it hurts me to do so.”
“It pained me to even have hit you in the first place.” Erik said. “I hated how your eyes filled up with tears.”
“Then we are agreed.” Charles said, and they fell into each other’s arms.
“So you see, Logan,” Charles explained. “It turns out that Erik—this is my love, Erik. Erik, this is my betrothed and the Prince, Logan—was allowed to live by Stark and…” He exchanged glances with Erik. They had agreed to lie about Erik being Dread Pirate Stark himself now, and just say that… “He became a sailor on the ship under a contract. His three years are up now. He was unable to send me word because they had never docked for more than an hour.”
“Yes.” Logan nodded. “I expect you wish to marry him, then?”
“I would dearly love to, yes.” Charles said, “I deeply apologize, Logan.”
“You love him, so what?” Logan shrugged. “I’m not going to keep you two apart when you guys are meant for each other. Go for it. I’ll find another spouse. You crazy kids have fun.”
“Kids?” Erik snorted. “You are two years older than I. Do not presume you are more mature.”
“Erik.” Charles chided, and Erik had the decency to look ashamed. Charles brightened up. “We should go see Raven; she’ll be so ecstatic!”
“You go on ahead.” Erik said, and Charles rushed out the door to tell his sister the news. He looked at Logan, who looked incredibly mournful. “What the hell’s wrong with you? Did you fall in love with Charles after all?”
“Nah, it’s just,” Logan paused. “I was going to marry Kayla, and then she died, and it’s all just been down-hill since then.”
“Well, if it’s a Queen you’re in need of,” Erik said, “I have a suggestion.”
Chapter 6: Epilogue
Chapter by Altrutix
In which Erik and Charles find Logan a queen, and it turns out, Logan and their candidate have history of the incredibly odd sort.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Logan said, eyeing Emma with distrust.
“Erik, I don’t know if you knew or not,” Emma said dryly. “But Logan and I happen to have a past. A very complicated and awkward past that I’d honestly rather not bring up in front of Janos.”
Janos tugged Azazel out of the room. It had been a month since he had found the scoundrel nobleman that had murdered his father. He had been working underneath Logan’s nose, a nasty little man by the name of Sebastian Shaw. Logan, who had been looking for an excuse to get rid of Shaw for ages, approved a duel between the two. Janos survived, Shaw did not.
“You can say it now.” Erik offered, grinning. Beside him, Charles was grinning as well. He had been excited to find their old friends again, and even more so, because if Emma played her cards right here, she could be Queen.
He and Charles had been married two days ago, and Emma, Janos, and Azazel were staying at the castle, having been invited to the wedding.
“I…courted her once.” Logan said awkwardly.
“And then my sister, Kayla, returned from studying in Guilder, and he fell head over heels for Kayla.” Emma finished, filing her nails.
“I think this is a great idea.” Charles offered, still smiling. “You two are familiar with one another, and obviously, Emma would be a very good queen. Though Logan still loves your sister—“
“I have no issue with that.” Emma narrowed her eyes. “But you better not call me Kayla in bed or I will kill you in your sleep, Howlett.”
Charles and Erik left the room as Logan and Emma started yelling at one another.
“Do you think it will go well?” Erik asked.
Charles grinned. “I think they will get on splendidly! I’ve never heard Logan yell before, nor Emma. They are well-matched.”
“You are strange, Charles.” Erik remarked, and he bent down to kiss his no-longer Prince, but still Mutant Bride.
I actually just got really lazy. I wanted to write Thor/Loki for this verse (mentioned in Chapter 1), but I wouldn't let myself write it until I finished this. But then I created a paradox, because I wouldn't let myself write it, so it kept bugging me, preventing me from writing more of The Mutant Bride.
I had so much planned out for it too. /sob
Maybe someday, I'll come back and add those ideas.
Look forward to the Thor/Loki one soon.