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Untethered

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From the tall, arching window of the library, Peter stared at the sky in awe. In all his twenty years of life, he’d never seen a dragon, nor had he expected to. Yet, there it was, flying overhead, majestic and so very out of place over such a large city. It was a small dot in the sky, so high up one could barely hear its cries.

Even more fascinating was that Peter knew there was a rider atop the dragon. There was an actual person on the back of such a large beast while up that high. Peter wondered what the world looked like from up there. What did it feel like to fly?

“Lord Parker!” An out of breath servant ran up to Peter, giving the barest of bows before speaking again. “The king requests your presence at once!”

Of course. With the dragon in the air, it meant the barbarians from Kocrax had arrived. Most of the advisory hadn’t expected anyone from the dragon nation to survive the war, much less show up to claim their end of the bargain they had made with King Jameson. Peter could picture it so clearly — an uncultured Craxian group interrupting the festivities and the king beet red with angry annoyance.

Peter grabbed his journal of notes from a nearby table and followed the servant from the room. They would need to hurry in order to not raise the king’s ire any further than it likely already was. Peter was somewhat bitter about the fact that he wasn’t already at the king’s side. He was technically part of the royal court, and thus should be in attendance at the week long festival that celebrated the end of the Forty Year War.

However, Peter was seen as nothing but a burden at court. He was a landless lord who had lost his family and estate to the war when only a child. Everyone loved to inform Peter that he was a drain on the king’s hospitality, living in the royal palace as he was, with no means to pay taxes. Thus, he was given all manner of tasks that none of the other nobles wanted to take.

One of which was being the advisor for the Kocrax nation. It had been unprecedented that King Jameson was able to strike a deal with them to fight in his war. The Craxians were known for never leaving the borders of their lands. That meant very little information was available and Peter had struggled to find the appropriate texts in order to learn their culture and language enough to be decent at his appointed job.

His main source of information came from a book written long ago by a scholar who had lived in Kocrax for most of his life. Peter had made a vast array of personal notes for himself in his journal, but some of the Craxian traditions had stuck in Peter’s mind on their own. They were most certainly a very… different culture.

Peter was lead to the ornate balcony that overlooked the performances happening in the expansive courtyard. All of the highest and most well off nobles had a seat, and they all sat in neat rows to either side of King Jameson’s ornate chair. Servants scurried about offering food and drink, though a few gaped at the spectacle below. Peter followed propriety and focused only on his king as he hurried forward and bowed.

“Puny Parker finally joins the elite,” Duke Thompson muttered under his breath, though loud enough for others to hear. Peter ignored him.

“You took your damn time, Parker!” King Jameson snapped in greeting. “Someone get him a seat! I need him to translate. These damn ruffians interrupted everything.”

A servant scurried over with a stool and Peter took it, leaving him sitting far lower than everyone else and staring through the bars of the balcony’s edge at the ground below. Performers stood off to the sides and groups of people huddled close together, creating a wide berth around a group that looked very out of place among the colorful ribbons and glittering arrangements.

There were five men in the group, three of them standing beside some of the biggest horses Peter had ever seen. The other two stood on either side of a horse drawn cart, their hands hovering over hidden weapons. How they had made it so far without the guards turning them away was beyond Peter.

It was likely why they all had horses with them. Peter had read that Craxians used dragons for everything from travel, to labor, to battle. However, such fearsome creatures would have never been allowed inside the city. Not that the war horses looked any less intimidating, despite their current lack of armor.

The men all wore brown riding pants, stained and undyed linen shirts, and thick leather vests with intricate designs pounded into them that Peter couldn’t see the details of from such a distance. A man at the front of the group took a few steps forward, holding a rolled up scroll in one hand. He was covered in gruesome looking scars with only a few patches of hair peeking through his otherwise bald head.

King Jameson’s speaker stepped up and announced formal titles and inquired about their presence. Peter desperately tried to keep up with it all in order to translate into the Craxan language. When the speaker was finished, Peter stood up and stumbled over the words, his face burning ever brighter as he tried to pronounce a language he’d never been able to actively practice.

Behind him, some of the nobles chuckled less discretely than they should and King Jameson huffed in a way that twisted Peter’s gut. Below on the grass, the man in front had a smirk on his face as he watched Peter struggle. It was humiliating. When he was finally done, he abruptly sat back on his stool, doing his best to curl in on himself and disappear.

The scarred man bowed in an over the top way that was somewhere between mocking and a careless attempt at formality. He cleared his throat as he stood back up. “I appreciate you tryin’ to translate, but I know a good deal of Bralish.”

Peter’s shoulders drooped in relief. The man’s eyes seemed to flash with a bit of humor, like he was watching Peter. It set him on edge even more than he already was.

“Well, get to the point,” King Jameson snapped. “What does he want?”

“May we inquired on the reason for your sudden appearance, dear allies?” the speaker shouted.

A hard smile spread across the scarred man’s face. “My name is Wade Wilson, chief of the Swujan tribe, and leader of the Kocrax contingent in your war. Now that the war is won, we are here to claim our end of the bargain.”

King Jameson swore under his breath. “As if I have any noble blood available for him to take from us. We need all the women we can get right now to help secure the family lines.”

The speaker took his cue from that. “Good sir, we regret to inform that the war has cost us many lives, noble and citizen alike. Currently, all of our noble women of title are either married, betrothed, infant, or no longer of this world.”

“Uh-huh. Sure.” Chief Wilson unrolled the scroll in his hand. “I believe there were other options here if a wife was not available…” He perused it haughtily as if it wasn’t obvious that he already knew what it said.

Peter had helped translate that document. He knew what it said as well, and King Jameson was not one to let go of such a large sum of gold and reserves. It occurred to Peter that was why they had brought the cart. They never expected the king to uphold his end of the bargain.

“We would most certainly provide you with a wife once one is available,” the speaker hurried on, feeling the hard press of King Jameson’s anger on the back of his neck. “When a noble daughter is born, we can arrange her betrothal and send an envoy once she is of age.”

“Ahhh, see, that won’t work on my timeline.” Chief Wilson was an animated person, speaking with his entire body. That was a problem since his body language said he found the entire conversation idiotic. “Living with dragons means a short life span. I would need a wife sooner rather than later.”

“Alas, sir, as we have said, there are no available women of age—”

“No, I heard you.” Chief Wilson interrupted with a wave of his hands. There were a few indignant gasps from the crowd. Interrupting the king’s speaker was as if interrupting the king himself. “But you see, in my country, wives need not be women.”

There was a stunned silence at that statement. Peter had read such reports in his research, but seeing the occasional scandalized mention of it was far different from hearing a Craxian speak so blithely about it. King Jameson made a disgusted noise and the speaker took a few tries to find his voice again.

“That is not in our custom, sir.”

The smile Chief Wilson sported bordered on a threat. “I am aware, but seeing as the wife is marrying into our customs, it should be no concern of yours. Of course, we can always take our share of goods and call it done.” He flipped the scroll around and shook it at them. “As it so says on your fancy parchment here.”

Those around Peter started murmuring to one another in distress. After such a long war, the kingdom could not spare the agreed upon amount of resources. It would mean that the glorious capital of Floa Bral where the king resided would end up on rations by the time winter came. King Jameson would not abide by such a show of weakness when the kingdom was still vulnerable.

“Your Majesty,” Duke Thompson spoke up. “Perhaps if there was someone in your court without any use, someone who would aid us better by being placed as a peacekeeping tool with the barbarians…”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” someone else picked up the line of logic. “Perhaps a noble who already knows their language and culture.”

Peter felt ice run through his veins and his stomach flip. No. No, no, no, no, no. They couldn’t. They wouldn’t! He wanted to turn and speak up, say something, anything. Hell, at least challenge Flash to a duel and wipe the smug grin away that Peter knew was there. But he couldn’t move a muscle, couldn’t breathe, could only wait for King Jameson to dismiss such a horrid idea.

The silence of the king stretched and with each passing moment, Peter felt as if a noose was tightening around his throat.

“We cannot possibly give in to such hedonistic demands,” the High Priest hissed.

“And would the church offer to cover the cost of the contract in return for one soul?” Duke Thompson argued.

Peter was going to be sick.

“You can marry off whoever pleases you, I’m not picky,” Chief Wilson piped up. “As soon as the marriage is done, we will leave. I would be happy to leave today, in fact. Or we can take our payment in goods, load it onto our cart here, and be off immediately. We have no desire to linger and continue to interrupt your little party.”

The people below murmured amongst themselves. Peter wondered if they were shocked at the nobles for considering such a trade. Likely not. All they cared about was seeing the group of scary foreigners gone. What was the loss a single unknown nobleman to them?

“In return for a lifetime of hospitality towards a single penniless nobleman, perhaps a sacrifice must be made in order to see our great kingdom prevail,” one of the king’s advisors said.

King Jameson hummed low in his throat. “I detest it.”

Peter sucked in a shaky breath.

“Your majesty—” a noble argued.

“Shut up. I detest it, but we cannot see the capital impoverished and at the mercy of vultures. We must prove our strength to other countries. They need to be aware that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our great nation.”

King Jameson was talking himself into it. Determining that it was the right thing to do despite the actions taken. Peter’s paralysis broke. He whirled to face his king, fear stark in his eyes. “Your majesty, you have no other advisors for the Kocrax nation—”

“We can train another.”

“Your majesty, I have been your loyal servant! I will continue to be always! I—”

“Enough. Take this with some dignity, Parker.” King Jameson waved his hand at his personal servant. “See to the arrangements. I want them out of my city by sundown.”

“Your majesty, please!” Peter threw himself from the stool and bowed low on hands and knees, babbling anything and everything that might help avoid his fate. The high priest voiced his concerns as well, but they were silenced by a few quick words from their king.

Guards moved forward and wrenched Peter to his feet. He fought them, screaming for his king to reconsider. King Jameson refused to look in Peter’s direction, avoiding the guilt of what he can condemned the man to. Everyone stared, but Peter didn’t care. He had to argue. He had to fight. There would be nobody else that would do so in his stead. It was a lesson he’d learned long ago.

The pompous decorations of the festival faded from sight as Peter was bodily dragged into the palace. The last thing he saw was Chief Wilson’s unrepentant blue eyes gazing at him.

 

~*~

 

Peter sat at the desk in his small room, quill still in hand as he stared at the letter he was struggling to write. His one and only friend, the son of one of the biggest merchant groups in Floa Bral, needed to be informed of Peter’s removal from the country. He had the option to contact anyone he needed to, but there were bare few people Peter knew to write to other than Harry.

The letter was short, explaining in a few quick sentences what had happened. Peter entertained the idea of Harry being so upset that he chased the Craxian convoy down and kidnapped Peter away. But that was pointless to dream of. It could cause a rift between the countries, Peter and Harry could be charged with treason, and someone else would have to take Peter’s place.

Quiet servants shuffled around Peter, packing all of his things into a single large trunk. It would most certainly fit since Peter didn’t have much as it was — mostly just clothes, books, and a few mementos from his family, along with all the documents needed to prove his nobility. Not that such things would matter much once he left the country.

Peter focused on the letter once more. He wanted to say something else, something heartfelt and meaningful. His mind was blank. All that came to him was the image of Chief Wilson’s face, twisted with scars and covered in dirt from travel. A face that would have every right to throw Peter onto a bed and—

The quill creaked in protest under Peter’s fingers. Shakily, he signed the letter and sealed it. There wasn’t much else to be done. He pulled a few hidden items from his desk and made sure to place them in the trunk. The servants politely turned a blind eye to it. What did it matter if Peter had squirreled away a few items or books? He would be gone by nightfall anyways.

An acolyte brushed past the guards posted outside the door. They were there to make sure Peter didn’t run. A good plan, since Peter very much felt like running. The acolyte ran his eyes up and down Peter’s attire and frowned. Peter wasn’t sure why it mattered what clothes he wore when being wed to a barbarian.

“The High Priest disapproves of all of this, but the advisory insists that this union must go well. They have requested you follow all traditions to ensure luck and prosperity in your marriage.”

Kocrax may have been a barbarian nation, but they were the only nation with dragons and all the exports thereof. If Floa Bral could please them, then perhaps one day they could make an official ally of them. The advisory had it in their mind that they could tame the savages to do their bidding.

Peter swallowed hard as his mind went over the traditions of marriage. “But we do not have time to have proper wedding clothes made and purified by the church.”

“Correct.” The acolyte had the courtesy to look uncomfortable when he spoke the next part. “Which is why the church is bringing over one of the ceremonial… garments that we have available. They can be quickly drawn up to size.”

Shaking his head, eyes dancing around the room like a caged animal, Peter started walking backwards. “You intend to humiliate me further by putting me in a dress ?”

“I’m sorry, my lord, but most nobleman have their own ceremonial robes stored with the church at your age.”

Which was something Peter was never able to afford. He had petitioned it a few times, but it kept being put off as unimportant since there was little reason to arrange a marriage to a lord with no lands or money. They had promised to have something made if Peter managed to find someone willing to marry him. After all, a marriage usually took far more time to prepare than a single afternoon.

“This will be less difficult on you if you bear your burden with grace, my lord.”

“Fuck you,” Peter spat.

The acolyte sighed and looked disappointed. “Guards.”

Once more, Peter was manhandled to the next stage of his doom.

 

~*~

 

Wade stood in a room with a domed stained glass ceiling and more sparkly things strewn about than his mind could handle. Everything shimmered and glimmered and twinkled and he couldn’t focus on a damn thing because of it.

In front of him, standing on a raised platform, was a man in heavy gold robes. There was a very large pendant hanging from his neck that easily reflected the light pouring in from above. Wade was distracted by that, too.

Since the wedding was supposed to start soon, Wade assumed the odd room devoid of any useful furniture had something to do with the customs, and the man was of some religious inclination. Wade hadn’t paid that much attention to Bral culture, to be fair. Learn the language, fight the war, collect his pay, and go home. That had been the basic plan.

He didn’t feel bad about that since the Brals didn’t care to learn or respect his culture, why offer the same in return? They also hadn’t planned on following through with their end of the bargain. Wade had been prepared for that. Thus his current situation.

People moved at the back of the room and Wade turned the look. The scruffy haired guy they had chosen for Wade was being escorted in by someone in very fancy armor. It was obvious the guy was still reluctant. The dress probably didn’t help things.

Wade always thought the Brals were a weird group. They had rules for everything. Who you could and couldn’t talk to, who you could take as a lover, rules for marriage, rules for what clothing to wear. It was all pretty idiotic. Normally, Wade would have been righteously amused to see a Bral man forced into a dress and looking uncomfortable. However, his bride seemed to be far more than uncomfortable.

Ribbons were wound around the man’s wrists and a cloth gag could be seen under the gauzy veil over his face. He was trembling under the the silver gown they had corseted him into. Wade couldn’t entirely blame the poor guy. The price to pay for having to learn the Craxian language ended with him being married off to a foreigner, removed from his country, and stripped of all the rights Floa Bral had promised when he’d been born the right gender.

“Man, I knew whoever got stuck with your ugly mug would hate you, but that one really hates you.” Aleksei, Wade’s personal guard and personal pain in the ass, snorted to himself in amusement.

“Shut up,” Wade muttered.

Sir Golden Robes scowled at them, but Wade wasn’t able to pay much attention to it. Between the sparkling baubles on the silver dress, and the shiny pendant on top of golden robes, Wade’s eyes were flicking all over the place. His fingers itched to reach out and toy with it all. He was an easily pleased man.

The ceremony started without Wade’s full awareness and it didn’t keep said awareness for long. It was boring and the fancy man in his fancy robes had a really dull voice that droned on forever. At some point, Wade was poked in the forehead with a drop of oil and he tried not to be offended about it. After all, if he’d been paying attention, he’d have probably seen it coming.

Sometime after that, Aleksei elbowed Wade in the ribs and that was when he noticed everyone waiting on him. He looked over to see that his bride had been turned to face him, so he quickly did the same. He looked over at Fancy McGoldenrobe for another cue and received an impressively haughty frown in return.

“You may now take your wife’s hands.”

Wade did so, noting how cold the fingers were. Likely the bindings were a little too tight. Wade needed to get them off as soon as possible and get the man changed into something practical. Dresses were good for a nice breeze on hot summer days, but they were shit for riding.

Aleksei kicked Wade’s boot. Wade blinked and looked back up at a very angry Goldenrobe Pissypants. “Do you promise to cherish, protect, provide for, and respect your wife, through all of life’s trials, as long as you both shall live?”

“Oh! Yeah. Ahem, yes, of course.” Wade smiled and looked back at said bride, but his smile faded. His bride was glaring hard enough to set the veil on fire. Tears hovered in the man’s eyes, but he seemed determined to keep them in place. Wade could appreciate such tenacity.

“—and let this union be forever blessed.” Everyone murmured something appropriate in response to that, though Wade didn’t quite catch it. Much the same as when he didn’t catch anything else that was said. Really, he needed to get away from the sparklies and back on the road.

A man in less fancy robes walked up and bowed at them. “We have a chamber prepared for you to consummate the marriage.”

Wade’s wife yanked his hands away and took a step back. The person in armor stepped up in a menacing way, but Wade didn’t wait to find out how that would end. He whipped out his arm and pulled his new wife to his side, putting enough strength into his grip as a warning of what he was capable of. A small noise of fear built in the man’s throat but it was silenced a second later.

“Lead the way.” Wade smiled.

They ended up in a room with a large bed and nothing much else available. Thankfully, things were less shiny and glittery so Wade was able to focus a little better. The robed man had a scandalized look on his face as Aleksei followed the couple into the room. Wade thought the lack of proper oils would have been more scandalous. How exactly did these people think men had sex?

Not that Wade had time for such things or any intention at the moment. Aleksei grinned at the person outside as he shut the door and then leaned against it, casually watching the other two. Wade kept his arm around his bride who was trembling and breathing rapidly at that point. Poor thing was scared shitless.

“What was his name again?” Wade hissed under his breath at Aleksei, though he was fairly certain his wife was in no frame of mind to translate Craxan.

“Uhhh…” Aleksei pulled out the new scrolls they had been given concerning the marriage. “Yeah. About that. I can’t read Bralish.”

“Oh, fuck a tit.” Wade turned his attention to his bride and switched languages, trying to put on a reassuring smile. “No need to panic, okay?”

The man’s eyes didn’t seem to trust Wade’s words at all. They really needed to sit down and have a nice chat, but time wasn’t on their side. Wade sighed and ripped the veil off, tossing it onto the bed. That set his bride off who immediately started trying to fight his way out of Wade’s grip.

“Whoa! Calm down.” Wade pinned the small man against the wall and pulled out his dagger. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the best way to win someone’s trust. The other man started screaming into his gag and doubling his efforts to push Wade off.

Unhelpfully, Aleksei just laughed at them. Wade spared an annoyed look at the man. “Would you go do something useful, like find some decent clothes for him?”

“Sure thing, newlyweds!” Aleksei cackled as he left the room.

“MmmMm!” Wade’s bride thrashed his head around and did his best to wiggle from Wade’s grip.

“I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m gonna cut these ribbons. Okay?” It took Wade a few times of repeating that in slow and distinct Bralish to get the man’s attention. Mr. Wife stilled, but continued to breathe rapidly through his nose. Wade tried to offer a reassuring smile. It didn’t seem to help.

Round eyes watched with great intensity as Wade brought the knife up to the other man’s bound hands. The fingers twitched and tried to jerk away, but Wade made a shushing noise and placed a hand on one silver clad arm to keep it steady. The smaller man trembled as the knife slid between his wrists and cut away the ribbons. They fluttered to the ground, revealing deep red valleys around pale wrists.

“Now hold very still,” Wade said and brought the knife up to the gag. Warm brown eyes closed as the metal slid along the skin and up under the cloth. Wade cut it away with a single flick of his wrist. He helped remove the spit covered cloth stuffed inside the other man’s mouth. Wade tossed it away without a backwards glance.

Up close, Wade’s bride wasn’t so bad to look at. Scared, skinny, and woefully unprepared for life in Kocrax, but also handsome, stubborn, and full of fire. Maybe given enough time, they could learn to tolerate one another. Wade could hope, since being pressed so close to the man was causing his body to be very interested.

“Now turn around,” Wade said. “I’m going to get you out of this dress.”

The man didn’t move and didn’t open his eyes. After a few shaky breaths, he whispered, “Please don’t.”

Wade sighed. “Listen. I’m not going to touch you, okay? I just want to get you changed into something practical and get back on the road. Nothing else is going to happen.”

Those expressive brown eyes blinked open and looked at Wade with obvious disbelief. “Please back up…”

“Sure.” Wade took a few steps back, allowing some room between them. He kept an eye on his fidgeting wife who was trying to rub some feeling back into his hands. It drew Wade’s attention and his eyes roamed over the patterns sewn into the dress, seeking out the parts that caught the light and sparkled. So many sparkles…

“Why?”

Wade’s eyes snapped back up to large brown ones when the question was spoken. “Why what?”

“Why won’t you consummate the marriage?”

It was obvious that the man was asking because he needed to know the answer in order to calm down. Wade was happy to oblige. “As far as I’m concerned, we aren’t bonded until the ceremony that happens in my country. Until then, I have a roll of parchment that says you have to stay with me. I’m just here to claim a wife. I’m not trying to hurt you or anything.”

“I have no lands, no money, and I cannot bear children. What use am I to you?”

“Plenty of use, but I can see now why they picked you to throw away.” That wasn't the best thing to say as it earned him a deadly scowl. “Eh, listen. I was expecting my wife to be completely useless, so I’m prepared to do all the heavy lifting. You just have to stand beside me and look pretty, ‘kay?”

That also didn’t seem to improve things between them. Wade wasn’t known for his tact. He scrambled for something else to say. “What’s your name?”

“You married me without knowing my name, or even paying attention to it when the High Priest repeated it multiple times?

“In my defense, that room was very distracting. Besides, you don’t know my name.”

“Chief Wade Wilson of the Swujan tribe.”

Wade huffed. “Yeah, well, you’re pronunciation of Craxan is shit.”

“I’ve never heard a single word spoken aloud!” the man snapped, and it seemed like a sore point for him.

Wade held up his hands, but the placating gesture was ruined by the knife he was holding. He quickly dropped his hands again. “You going to tell me your name or not?”

“…Lord Peter Parker.”

Peter Wilson now, but Wade wasn’t about to push that just yet. Peter seemed on edge enough as it was. “Well, Peter, would you kindly turn around so I can cut you out of that very pretty dress?”

For some unknown reason, that also seemed to piss Peter off. Still, he pushed away from the wall and carefully turned around to display the chord that corseted up the back of the dress from neck to adorable bubble butt. Wade wasted no time and cut through it with ease, pulling it apart so that the heavy fabric drooped, practically sliding off Peter’s pale skin of its own accord.

Wade fingers twitched with the need to touch. Despite how distracting the dress was, Peter’s smooth skin was also a sight to see. It had been a long time since Wade had gotten laid. He couldn’t seem to stop the dirty things that popped into his head. He forced his body to step back and put away the knife.

Aleksei chose that moment to briskly knock on the door, startling them both. He let himself inside, carrying a bundle of clothes under his arm. “He’s tiny. Dunno if it’ll fit.”

The clothes were handed over and Peter took them with a look that said he disapproved of how stained they were. Well, they didn’t have much of an opportunity to wash them properly while losing so many people to a war that wasn’t theirs to fight. Wade bit his tongue on such a remark and instead tried to give Peter an encouraging smile.

The dress pooled on the floor as Peter changed clothes and Wade eyed it with greed. “Do you think we can take that with us?” Wade asked Aleksei.

“Pah! We take that with us and you won’t be able to focus on sending your horse in the right direction.”

“But—”

“It’s thick and heavy and pointless.”

“But I’d look so pretty in it!”

Aleksei rolled his eyes. “Nothin’ is gonna make you look pretty.”

“Rude.” Wade poked at the fabric with his boot. “Maybe I can cut off one of those baubles to take with me.”

No.”

Peter eyed them with his brows drawn tight together. Likely he was trying to translate in his head, but they were speaking too fast for him to keep up. Well, that would get better with some time and exposure to the language. Peter wasn’t bad at their language, he just said things in weird ways and with the wrong vowel inflections.

Once Peter was dressed, it was obvious that he was swimming in the clothes. Though the shirt and vest stayed in place as best it could, the pants were only staying up due to Peter’s firm grip on them. Wade snatched the veil from the bed and pulled out his knife again. He started cutting holes in the waistband and weaving the fabric through to create a belt.

So focused was he on his task, that he didn’t notice that he was kneeling with his face close to Peter’s crotch until he was tying off the veil into a rather fancy looking sash. Wade flicked his eyes up to find Peter watching him with a bemused look. When Wade smirked, Peter’s eyes flicked away.

“There! The height of fashion,” Wade declared as he stood back up.

Peter just rolled his eyes and refused to respond. Aleksei shook his head at the both of them. “We done here? We can’t afford to stick around.”

“Yep!” Wade wrapped an arm around Peter’s waist and yanked the man to his side. Peter sucked in a breath and immediately tried to push Wade’s arm off. Wade dug his fingers in until Peter winced. “You’ll be staying right here. No offense, but you look like a runner and you’re tiny enough to take off and hide like a damn rabbit. I don’t trust you.”

Peter scowled at Wade. “I’m not tiny.”

“Says you.”

It took a few tries for Peter to stop fighting, but eventually he walked alongside Wade, cheeks burning with shame. Peter didn’t make eye contact with anyone they passed on the way to the horses, nor did anyone call out to Peter. It seemed he may have been a bit unpopular. It was shit luck for the guy, but it was perfect for Wade. At long last, he had achieved a political marriage for his country. Things were finally looking up.