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The Convenience of Love

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The Convenience of Love

"So...I plead for asylum from you, Your Majesty. You have my word that I will not be a burden or inconvenience on your Kingdom. I just need a little time to acquire what I need to leave this realm," Princess Snow White pleaded, as she stood before the Throne of King George. She didn't expect much, for she had heard he was a ruthless man. But she had to try...she had to get away from her father. Standing beside the Throne was his son, Prince James, looking at her with disdain and sporting a cut on his chin. He had caught her sneaking into the castle and she had belted him with a rock. She allowed herself a small smug smile at that.

"Yes...I've heard of your plight. I have to say, though I am more than willing to admit that while I am a ruthless man, I do not think I would ever touch my child in such a manner," he said bluntly. Snow stood frozen by his words and felt the weight of the horrors she had experienced threaten to suffocate her.

"By the look on your face it would seem the whispers and rumors about the kind of man Leopold really is are true," George added.

"Father…" James hissed. She was surprised by the look on the Prince's face. Usually she received disgust or pity from those who found out what her father had done to her and his secret attempt to change the law. A law that would force her to wed her own father. Leopold was a sick man and wanted her to replace his beloved Eva. Regina had escaped him long ago and for that, Snow was happy. She had heard that she found love with an outlaw in Sherwood Forest. But her escape had been the turning point for her father. Once he lost Regina, Snow had become his new victim in a frightening way. Now she was just a broken princess looking for a way out of the nightmare that was her life. She only hoped George would take pity on her, as much as she hated it. Prince James' expression was one of sympathy, but not pity and horror. Not at her, but what he had just surmised was done to her. It took her aback from a moment and it made her curious about him. She swallowed thickly.

"Then if you know the rumors are true, then you know why I must escape," she stated bravely.

"Yes...but perhaps there is another option," George stated.

"I'm not sure I understand, Your Majesty," she responded.

"You are the sole heir to your Kingdom's Throne. It is a rich Kingdom with vast resources, while our Kingdom is struggling. We are in need of a merger," he stated.

"We had a merger in place, until my foolish son and his big heart freed Princess Abigail's true love from the trappings of being turned to gold," George spat, casting a glance at his own heir.

"You're just mad, because I refuse to give up on true love," James retorted.

"True love is for children," George hissed, but Snow was intrigued by this Prince. Royals did not entertain thoughts of true love and such idealistic fodder. But this one was different, so unlike any other Prince she had ever met. So charming to a level that she would swear was fraudulent if she could not see the sincerity in his blue eyes.

"But if we were to arrange a marriage for you and my son...then we would have what we need to overthrow your father," George stated.

"What?" James asked in shock and Snow, too, looked flabbergasted.

"That's...ambitious. Our army is not large, but well equipped," Snow replied.

"But mine is large and with the right dealings, we can become equipped enough to seize your Kingdom. You would be saving your people from an unfit King and mine from starvation," he proposed. James still stood in shock and normally Snow would refuse to married off to a Prince for political or monetary gain. But her situation was dire and it wasn't like James was a cruel man. Just being in the room with him right now, she could tell by his eyes. He wore his emotions on his sleeve like no royal she had ever met. It both intrigued and fascinated her. Okay...and it helped that she was attracted to him, not that she wanted to ever admit it.

"Father…" James started to protest.

"Come now, son...you'll be marrying the fairest of them all. And I can already see by the look on her face that she knows your soft heart will see that she is never harmed again," George stated. James swallowed and looked at her. He would have been lying if he said he didn't think she was beautiful. The truth was he hadn't been able to take his eyes off her since she hit in the face. Then when he learned just a vague description of the horror she had been through, it cut him deeply, so deeply it shocked him to his very core. The thought of someone hurting her made him want to hunt them down and make them pay. He didn't know what it was he was feeling for her exactly, but he also knew his father was going to see him married off to a Princess. And so far, she was definitely the least objectionable choice.

"You really think we can overthrow my father and lock him away, Your Majesty?" she questioned. George smirked.

"I wouldn't have proposed such if I wasn't assured of victory, Snow White," he responded. She took a deep breath and nodded.

"Then I accept your offer," Snow said bravely. George looked to his son and he stepped down, walking slowly toward her. Inside his pocket, he clutched his mother's ring.

"True love follows this ring," Ruth had told him and he had never quite been able to bring himself to offer it to Abigail during their brief engagement. But with Snow...he found that he wanted to see it on her finger. Snow's surprise showed, as he got down on one knee. If he was going to do this, then he was going to do it right.

"Will you accept my ring and marry me, Princess Snow White?" he asked. She actually smiled. This one was just full of surprises.

"What do you think?" she asked coyly. He smirked and slipped it on her finger. She lifted her hand to examine it, as he rose to his feet. It wasn't exactly what she expected of a typical royal engagement ring and that's why she found that instantly loved it. In a gentlemanly manner, he raised her hand and kissed the back of it, never mind that he was wondering what it would be like to kiss her. And unbeknownst to him, she was wondering the same. It would come in due time and far more willingly than either of them would expect…

When Leopold learned that his daughter was engaged to King George's son, Prince James, to say he was livid was an understatement. He had immediately ordered a conference with King George, asking him to call off the engagement and return his wayward daughter to him. But the other King refused and the eve of their engagement ball arrived.

~*~

In the weeks prior, they had spent them getting to know each other. There was official picnics and outings on horseback, as well as meetings with many of the nobles. During that time, Snow and James talked extensively, usually settling into amiable conversation and playful banter. It was growing difficult for them to hide that their obvious genuine care for each other might be becoming something more. It was not lost on those around them either, especially with Snow's instance on calling him Charming. Prince Charming was quickly becoming a moniker that was sticking with Prince James.

But the night of their engagement ball would be a true turning point in their relationship.

~*~

Snow actually found herself enjoying the ball and she hadn't enjoyed one since her mother was alive, for they had all been spent with her father's firm hand on her. But at Charming's side, she felt free and had made new friends in Princess Aurora, Princess Ariel, Princess Abigail, and Princess Ella. But her happiness would be interrupted when the ballroom doors burst open and King Leopold strode in with a purposeful stride. She gasped and all the memories of what he had done came rushing back. She felt Charming's protective arm go around her and pull her close.

"It seems this is quite a party. My invitation must have gotten lost in transit," Leopold griped.

"You know damn well that you're not invited," Charming growled.

"Insolent boy...you may be a Prince, but I am King. A King that you have stolen from. I am here to take back what belongs to me," he hissed, as several of his men surrounded him. Charming was about to unsheathe his sword, but Snow beat him to it, as she drew the weapon and pointed it at her father.

"I do not belong to you or anyone. I am not an object you can own," Snow refuted.

"Oh, I believe we both know that I do own you daughter. I proved that," he retorted.

"Guards!" Charming bellowed, as his own men encircled Leopold's.

"I shall leave for now, but this is far from over. You may marry my daughter, Prince Charming, but I will one day regain what you have taken from me," Leopold promised, as he strode out with his guards behind him. Snow couldn't take all the eyes on her any longer and fled the ballroom for her chambers.

"Snow!" he called, as he hurried after her and leaned against her door.

"Snow...please talk to me. You have to know that I'll never let him touch you again. I'd rather die," he pleaded through the door. It opened and he found her there, shoulders racking with sobs and he immediately took her in his arms. He didn't give a damn how improper it might have been to enter her bedchambers and close the door, for he did it anyway. He hugged her fiercely and let her cry against him.

"He's evil...he'll never stop until he takes me back," she sobbed.

"I will never let him do that. I will keep you safe," he promised and she looked up at him, once again witnessing nothing but sincerity in his eyes. There was something else in his eyes as well, but she didn't dare entertain what that might mean.

"He didn't just threaten me this time...he threatened you," she warned. But he shook his head.

"He can level all the threats he wants, but I will never leave your side," he promised.

"Why? There are a dozen other royals you could marry and gain riches for your Kingdom. What if your father decides that I'm too much trouble?" she asked.

"Then I'll piss him off and marry you anyway, And I will die for you if it means protecting you from Leopold," he said boldly. Her eyes widened in surprise and she looked into his eyes. There was no denying what was there anymore.

"You'd die for me?" she asked in disbelief.

"Well, I'd rather not resort to anything too drastic, but I'll go take an arrow for you if you think I'm making it up," he replied.

"No one's ever been willing to die for me," she realized.

"Until now," he corrected.

"Why?" she asked.

"I think you know," he replied.

"But...this is a marriage of convenience," she protested, though halfheartedly.

"And now it's more…" he added. With that statement, they stared at each other until the tension between them could be ignored no longer and their lips came crashing together for the first time. She slid her arms around his neck, trying to get as close to him as possible, as he kissed her with such passion that it made her head swim and her knees weak. As their lips parted, they stared at each other again.

"I love you…" he confessed.

"And...I love you…" she realized, surprising herself. She never expected to fall in love. It hadn't been a possibility or so she thought. But now that it had happened, she felt herself clinging to it with everything she had.

"There's something I must tell you though...but it has to remain a secret. Can you do that?" he asked. She nodded.

"When I was a little girl, I told a secret that I shouldn't have. It got someone killed," she said sadly.

"I didn't understand then...but I do now. Whatever we speak of will be between us," she promised.

"I'm not the real James," he confessed. She looked at him oddly.

"What does that mean?" she asked.

"I'm his twin. James is dead. He was raised by George and I was raised on a farm with my mother. When James was killed, I replaced him to keep up the ruse with King Midas and the rest...you know," he confessed. She looked at him with scrutiny for several beats and he felt his heart sink.

"I'll...understand if you don't want to marry me now…" he fretted, but she put her hand to his mouth.

"It finally makes sense," she confessed. His brow furrowed in confusion.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I could never figure out why you're so different from other royals...and in a very good way. Now I know," she said, smiling fondly at him.

"So...you still want to marry me?" he asked. She grinned.

"What do you think?" she asked coyly. He smiled and kissed her again, this time lifting her off her feet and spinning her around. Truly what had began as a marriage of convenience had become one of true love...

~*~

What should have been smooth sailing from there to their wedding day turned out to be anything but. Even after being overthrown and losing his Kingdom, Leopold had escaped with a handful of loyal soldiers. And he had revenge on his mind. No one was quite sure how he had done it, but he managed to acquire a magical item to aid him in his revenge. A poison apple that would invoke a sleeping curse upon its victim. To get his daughter to eat the apple, he had managed to capture her Prince Charming when he was away on a hunting trip. In exchange for his life, she bit into the apple for him. After all, if he could not have her, then no one would. His plan then had been to execute the Prince, before George's forces could save his son. But what Leopold didn't count on was Charming's escape.

~*~

The Prince rode his horse with an incredible urgency, as if his very life depended upon him getting to his destination. But truthfully, it was not his life that was in peril, but rather the woman he loved. She had eaten a poison apple, willingly sacrificing herself to spare his life...from none other than her own evil father.

Her own father had cursed her to keep them apart and all because he couldn't have her. They had suspected he had acquired a silent partner in his quest and when he had given Snow the magical poisoned apple, it all but confirmed that he was definitely working with someone with magic. The King's Huntsman had helped him escape execution and Rumpelstiltskin made a deal with him that had helped lead him to Snow after he had done Rumple's favor. And now, he was finally here. He hopped off his horse and hurried to the glass covered coffin where the seven dwarves that Snow had befriended during the war with Leopold, mourned their Princess.

"Open it…" he pleaded.

"You're too late…" Grumpy replied harshly, as it began to snow lightly. He swallowed thickly, with grief threatening to cripple him.

"Then at least let me say goodbye…" he requested. The dwarves hesitated for a moment and then granted his request, as they lifted the glass. He leaned down over her and pressed his lips to hers in a final kiss. But then, in a moment of sheer magic, the light inside him that was slowly dying, the light that was Snow, was lit again, as she took a starved breath. Her emerald eyes flew open and she looked up at him, as she breathed once again.

"You...you found me," she uttered, as he beamed at her and helped her sit up.

"Did you ever doubt I would?" he asked.

"Never...though the glass coffin did give me pause," she teased. He grinned and caressed her beautiful face.

"Well, you never have to worry, because I will always find you," he replied.

"Do you promise?" she asked. He did and they sealed it with with another kiss.

~*~

Though Leopold was still a lurking threat, their wedding commenced without a hitch.

"Do you Prince James, take this woman, Snow White, to be your beloved wife?" the Holy man asked, as they held hands at the altar, gazing into each other's eyes.

"I do," he answered without hesitation and an eagerness that spoke of his undying love for her.

"And do you, Princess Snow White, take this man, James, to be your beloved husband?" he asked. She tilted her head, gazing at him dreamily.

"Oh, I do," she answered in a blissful tone.

"There is no truer love than that which has been witnessed by this pair and it is my honor to pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride," the holy man said, as they closed the distance between them and he leaned in to press his lips to hers. There was thundering applause, as their union was sealed.

King George watched on proudly, for he had everything he wanted. Truthfully, he could care less that this was now a union of true love, for it united the Kingdoms and saved both. He had thought long ago that he could not have prosperity for his Kingdom and true love for his son. He had hammered it into James that he would marry for convenience and never love. That was not an option. His twin was harder to convince and he had threatened him at one time. But somehow, he had managed to have both. George would have his riches and this union would most certainly produce at least one heir, if not more by the way they were looking at each other. And that fleeting happiness that George thought to be lost to him long ago suddenly seemed attainable. True, he would have never let it happen if not for gaining a hold on Snow White's Kingdom. But if he could have stability and riches, then he would let David have his true love. And no one would ever be any the wiser that he was not the real James.

~*~

Later that evening, after all their things were moved into the joint chamber, they were finally alone. They kissed intensely and passionately, as one would expect of newlyweds. But to Snow's surprise, Charming pulled back suddenly.

"Snow…" he said thickly.

"I know what you went through...and if you're not ready for this, I'll understand. We...we won't do this unless it's really what you want," he replied. She smiled at him and kissed him tenderly again.

"I know...but Charming, I love you and I want this. I want to know what it's like to be with someone you love...someone you want to be with," she said. He gently cupped her face in his hands and kissed her tenderly.

"I want you to make love to me," she uttered, as their lips crashed together again and he swept her into his arms, before carrying her to the bed.

~*~

They fell back onto the bed afterward, breathing heavily with skin slick with perspiration. They looked at each other with love and awe in their eyes. Any expectations either of them had about the marriage bed were thoroughly exceeded on that night, for being in love and making love left them breathless and only solidified the undying true love between them. Love that had blossomed from a marriage of convenience and became everything they ever wanted and next expected to have. There was still threats in their future and there would be obstacles as well, but it would be nothing they would face alone. From then on, they would face it all together. And despite any uncertainty in the future, they had managed to forge, not a happy ending, for they were not ending, but a happy beginning...