It had been almost too easy to get in, Pete had thought as they were first breaking into the castle. Not a smart choice; not a choice entirely desired, but when you’ve gone enough time without food, unintelligent choices seem to become the only options. Gabe had agreed, which was how the two had come to actually breaking into the castle, the most protected building in the kingdom. Or so the story went. It really hadn't seemed all that protected.
It hadn’t even been hard. Enough scouting and watching-- and watching wasn’t illegal, even for two peasants of twenty years-- and you could find the weak points of any building, and one window, they’d found, remained primarily unguarded through most of the night and day. It hadn't changed in the weeks since Pete had started scouting. It also happened to lead into the kitchens of the castle, which would make it easy to slip in, get food, and slip out.
Or, so Pete had hoped. He heard the noise before Gabe did, and it was possible that the split second warning he had was the only thing that kept Gabe alive. He’d told Gabe to go, and for once in the time that they had known each other, Gabe had listened and escaped out the window through which they had come. Pete was not so lucky; upon turning, he was greeted by the sharp end of a knight’s sword at his throat. Never a fun ending to the night, but maybe he could work with it.
“What do you think you’re doing, boy?” the knight growled, and Pete had to fight not to roll his eyes. He didn’t think that that would endear him to the man who was already ready to kill him for attempting to eat. Because that was a crime, he guessed.
“Is there an answer here that keeps me alive?” Pete offered pleasantly, holding both hands up in a sign of surrender. He’d been told he was charming. The knight didn’t appear to agree. Pete was ready to be killed, hoping that, at least, Gabe would tell his family what had happened. Or not. His mother already thought that he made stupid choices. He didn’t need to prove her right.
“What’s going on?”
This was a new voice, soft and musical, but Pete recognized it; anyone in the kingdom would. Both he and the knight turned to the doorway of the kitchen, where the son of King Stumph, the fifteen year old prince, was standing, barely illuminated by the light of the candle that he was holding. Pete frowned, shrunk back a little.
The prince, whose name was Patrick, wasn’t an outwardly intimidating looking person. He was fifteen, barely, younger than Pete. He was small and pale, and looked very much like he had never had to fight for anything in his life. And, from first glance, Pete was pretty positive he’d never seen anyone more beautiful, soft and blonde with very bright blue eyes. He was also positive that ninety nine percent of the kingdom probably thought that he was beautiful, too.
“Boy’s a thief,” the knight grunted, though his sword had dropped away from Pete’s neck a millimeter, and he was off his guard. Pete debated his chances of escape, eyes flashing towards the window. “Caught him trying to steal food from the royal kitchens.”
“I’d advise against running,” Patrick said pleasantly, his eyes finding Pete’s for a moment, like he had read his mind. Pete raised an eyebrow, and Patrick smiled, just a faint tilt of his lips. “I really couldn’t stop him from killing you then. You were planning on killing him,” he added to the knight, though it didn’t sound like question.
“Boy’s a thief,” the knight repeated.
“The ‘boy’ looks to be an adult,” Patrick replied. “And you’re going to run him through with a sword for stealing an apple? Let him take it, I’m sure he needs it more than anyone in this castle does. Do we appear to be starving?“ His attention turned back to Pete, and he offered another pleasant smile. “You should leave now.”
“Is this a trick?” Pete asked, staring at the prince. He had heard from whispers on the streets that the prince was benign, that most of the royal family was, in fact, but even the most benign of royals would kill a thief stealing from the kitchens, threatening palace security. This had to be a joke of some kind.
“You can use the door to exit,” the prince remarked, turning on his heel, “but something tells me you prefer windows.” He had disappeared back into the castle, out of the kitchen, before Pete could come up with some kind of comedic response. That was good. His brain wasn't thinking comedic.
“You heard the prince,” the knight grunted, seeming incredibly unhappy with the fact that Pete was being allowed to leave, with the food he’d come to steal. “Don’t let me catch you back in these kitchens again, or you won’t be so lucky.”
Pete scoffed slightly, but he wasn’t going to push his luck. No explanation about why the prince would save him, why the prince would let him take the food and leave. He didn’t push it, though. He exited through the window, the way he’d entered. Gabe was waiting for him only feet away from the castle, near the wall that separated the castle from the rest of the kingdom. He was waiting by the blindspot between guard posts, and, despite the fact that he was waiting, he seemed stunned to see Pete alive.
“How did you escape?” he asked as a greeting, taking the apple that Pete offered him, turning it over in his hand. “I thought you were dead.”
“I thought I was dead, too. The prince let me go.”
“You are definitely making that up,” Gabe replied with a smile, and Pete shrugged.
“I’m not. I have a new mission in life, Gabriel.” Together, the pair of thieves pushed a loose brick from the wall, slipping back through the hole created and pulling the loose bricks back into place.
“And what is that?” Gabe asked.
“I’m going to marry the prince.”