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Auguste squinted his eyes against the rising sun and began his assault on the palace. He pulled himself up over the tiled roof, ignoring the sour taste of ale rising up in his throat. His back complained, his head complained, and when the sun broke through the clouds, he thought he might puke.

He'd have to make it across the slippery tiled roof, through the northern training arena, and then up and over his balcony. Auguste set his jaw. He was the Prince Royal, even if he reeked.

There was to be an official greeting ceremony for the Patran diplomatic envoy this morning, and at this rate, Auguste was going to be disastrously absent, or worse, be caught sneaking back into the palace after a night carousing with the Patran guards.

It was a diplomatic gesture, he'd said, laughing, last night. He liked the Patrans. They made wine in Patras. They laughed at his jokes and had been delighted by the dancing boys and the pleasure houses Auguste had shown them.

He floundered over the balcony and into his rooms, then rested his head against the cool tiles.

"Here." Someone thrust a cold goblet into his hand. "You'll do better slightly less sober than this." It was Laurent, already dressed in finery, a book tucked under his arm. He'd been reading while he waited for his brother to arrive.

Auguste took a gulp of wine, swallowed, and pressed the goblet to his forehead.

"I told Father you'd gone out for a ride with some of the Patran guard. He was pleased. I didn't tell him what, exactly, you'd been riding." Laurent's mouth was pursed with all the prudish sanctimony of an eleven year old.

Auguste choked on a mouthful of wine. "I thank you for your discretion," he said, with a bow.

Laurent wrinkled his nose and pushed him toward the ewer of water that sat steaming on the table. "Wash yourself. You smell like… like…" He struggled for words adequately scathing to describe something of which he knew little. "Old tomcat."

Laughing, Auguste poured water over his head, and washed himself, while Laurent passed him towels and then a clean shirt.

"Maybe when you ascend to the throne, I should manage the diplomacy," said Laurent. "None of the great political negotiations I've read about in history books were made at pleasure houses."

August laced his shirt, and shrugged into the coat that Laurent held open for him. "Oh, Laurent, it's all done at pleasure houses. They leave that out of the books so they don't shock the schoolboys."

Laurent made a noise like a dog being sick. "Thank everything I'm not going to be king."

From the courtyard came a bright fanfare of trumpets, and Auguste moaned softly.

"You can do it," said Laurent, and turned him towards the door. "And if worse comes to worse, you can faint into Prince Torveld's arms. You're just his type."

"I think, when I'm king, I will make you chief diplomat," said Auguste, throwing his arm around Laurent's shoulders. "You're showing quite the talent for it."