“I don't understand. Why won't he wake?”
The princess was perched on one knee on the stone floor of the castle basement before the coffin, hands sitting firmly on the prince's cheeks. Blaine shifted uncomfortably beside her, thankful that his helmet covered his face, lest he betrayed the prince's secret. His heart ached to see him lying there so still, when he'd previously been so full of life, light, and love.
Not for Princess Martha, though.
He hadn't had the chance yet to wake him – the coffin was never left unguarded in the days following the prince's nineteenth birthday, and if anyone in the kingdom were to find out their secret, they would both be beheaded irregardless of status.
“Perhaps his heart belongs to another?” Samuel had the nerve to suggest somewhat timidly, and Blaine heaved a heavy sigh. They'd all been thinking it – he knew they had – but no one else has had the courage to say it out loud.
Still, Samuel didn't know how right he was.
Blaine was sitting in the courtyard, leaning back against the lone apple tree towards the far corner of the castle walls. It's was favourite spot – he liked to go there to relax in privacy, while he watched the subjects of the kingdom flutter about the crowded square, going about their day-to-day business. It was secluded enough that no one really bothered him, but open enough that he could still be called upon if needed.
He took a small bite into his apple, glancing at the sky. Thin clouds lingered in the air, passing by slowly as the sun cast the courtyard in a beautiful golden glow, and he let out a contented sigh.
Suddenly, heard footsteps crunch on the earth behind him, and ruffling as someone perched themselves next to him without a word. He didn't even have to look to know who it was.
"Hello, Your Highness."
The prince let out a puff of laughter. "How many times, Anderson? Stop with the formalities when it's just us here. I hear enough of that crap in the castle."
Blaine chuckled, rolling his head on the bark to gaze at the prince. He was radiant, as always - all chiselled features and freckles, and Blaine itched to trace every last one of them with his fingertips.
Which was exactly his problem, really, because men just do not do those kinds of things with each other, and Sebastian was supposed to be getting married in a month, anyway, and would probably have had Blaine beheaded if he were to express such thoughts.
The thing was, though, since the announcement of his engagement, he'd been spending a hell of a lot of time with Blaine.
One might have wondered what the Captain of the Guard and the Prince of Alderon would have to discuss on such a frequent basis, but no one dared to ask. Some townsfolk would send a confused glance in their direction now and again, but they held their tongues all the same.
He watched as a loaded carriage moved into the square, wheels squeaking and crunching on the gravel. When the rider moved from his place to pull out it's contents, though, he heard Sebastian let out a heavy sigh.
"What's wrong?" Blaine teased. "Not a fan of hydrangeas?"
The prince rolled his shoulders in a shrug, mouth pressed into a tight line. “They’re for the princess,” Sebastian explained. Blaine noticed that he was fiddling with the ring around his finger - the one that signified his engagement - and he found himself wondering if it was because it gave him comfort to know it was there, or if it was because it itched uncomfortably on his skin.
For a few minutes, there was a loaded silence, and Blaine was starting to think that their conversation was over, when the prince shifted beside him, fixing him with a solemn gaze. "Do you ever think about just... running away?"
Blaine blinked, opening his mouth to reply, before slamming it shut again. On the one hand, he had formed a bond of sorts with the prince through the sharing of their mutual quiet spot. On the other, Blaine was aware that he needed to watch what he's saying here. Sebastian was a figure of authority, no matter how kind and gentle he was with Blaine, and he couldn't bring himself to forget that.
Sebastian watched him closely, though, eyes desperately seeking some semblance of an answer, so Blaine let out a shaky breath before admitting, "Yeah. Sometimes."
The prince nodded stiffly, then averted his gaze to watch as the last of the flowers were pulled out of the carriage and loaded onto the cart to be carried into the castle halls. "Where would you go?" He asked.
"I don't know," Blaine lied.
The sky darkened into night, and Blaine stood still in his spot, overseeing the guards with the pretence of supervision. Really, he was waiting. Waiting for the right moment – when he could get to the coffin without anyone seeing him.
True love's kiss, the queen had said. The only way to wake up the prince. He knew that no matter how many times the princess tried, she would never succeed, and he couldn't help but feel the ghost of responsibility glower over him threateningly.
He knew it wasn't his fault – he did. The prince's feelings for him had nothing to do with his lack of love for the princess. Sebastian had said as much many times throughout the course of their affair. It still did little to ease the guilt that was embedded so badly into his chest, though.
They had been foolish, thinking that this could work – that Sebastian could go on living a lie, while he escaped to seek an audience with Blaine on an almost daily basis. Life just didn't work that way, no matter how much Blaine wished that it did.
“Can I ask you something?”
They'd been sitting in silence for about five minutes, Blaine listening to the quiet pants of Sebastian's breath, and Sebastian staring off into the distance beyond the castle walls.
There was a pause, and Blaine began to worry that he'd stepped out of line. But then, Sebastian turned to him, a small, sad smile playing on his lips. “Anything.”
The tone took him by surprise – it was laced with meaning that he couldn't quite decipher at the time, but he chose not wallow in it. “You asked me a few days ago if I ever thought about running away. Why?”
It had been bothering him for days. They'd been doing this dance for a few months – Sebastian would seek an escape from his duties in order to sit in Blaine's company, and in return, Blaine would provide companionship or silence, depending on what was needed at the time. He watched two butterflies flutter before them above the grass, patiently waiting for Sebastian to answer. He knew that he would – just as he know that it might take a little bit of time for him to gather it.
Eventually, Sebastian rolled his head back against the bark, eyes fluttering shut, with a pained expression. “Can you keep a secret?”
Blaine nodded, watching the prince with interest.
“I...” He bit his lip, fiddling with the ring again, and Blaine couldn't help but notice how shaky his hands were as he pinched it between his fingers. “I don't want to get married. I don't love her, Blaine. I--” The prince paused, running his hands over his face slowly. “I don't know how to get out of this.”
Blaine's chest tightened, and he fixed Sebastian with a piercing gaze. “You're the prince. Can't you just... choose to end it?”
It was stupid of him to suggest, really. The merging of Alderon and Maven was of far more importance to the kingdom than Sebastian's personal feelings, no matter how hard Blaine wishes it weren't so. So it was of no surprise to him when Sebastian let out a small puff of laughter. “I wish I could. It's not as simple as that.”
He changed the subject ever-so-slightly, to something that he hoped would lighten the stifling air around them a little.
“You know, when I was younger, my mother, before she passed, used to take me away from the kingdom for days at a time to a place called Stonehaven.”
Sebastian snorted beside him, cocking an eyebrow at Blaine. “That place doesn't exist. It's a myth.”
Blaine chuckled. “So people think – but it does. It exists. I've been there – I know where it is.”
“If you knew where it was, you'd have told the Queen by now,” Sebastian teased, nudging Blaine softly. “I do believe you're telling me lies, Blaine. That's treason, you know.”
He turned to Sebastian, then, fixing him with a serious expression. “I tried, you know. She never believed me. Plus, I like that no one knows it's there.”
“Is there a point to this story?”
Blaine shrugged. “I just-- I go there sometimes, when I can get a few days off duty. It seemed like you needed a place where you could get away from everyone and everything for a while.”
Sebastian's rigid shoulders relaxed, and his gaze softened. “You'd take me there?”
“Any time,” Blaine replied truthfully.
The kingdom was in an uproar following Samuel's suggestion. There were those who believed it to be false, calling for Samuel to be put on trial for daring to suggest such a travesty, and those who believed it to be true.
Princess Martha was of the former camp.
Which is why Samuel hadn't been seen in a few days. If she'd had her way, he would have been trapped in the stocks, but she'd settled with mere suspension from guard duty, following Queen Sophia's suggestion.
“My son's heart does not waver,” the queen had assured her, as they stood before the guard watching Sebastian sleep soundly.
Blaine stared firmly at the ground, clenching his fists tight at his sides, hit with a raw wave of anger. No, Sebastian's heart did not waver – it never did. It didn't belong to her in the first place.
Stonehaven was exactly as Blaine had left it when he saw it last. Water lapped at the shore gently, almost in a faint caress, and the golden sands remained undisturbed, save for their footprints. Beside them, a small house made of stone, where Blaine had spent many days in his childhood with his mother.
Sebastian was surveying the scene with a serene smile on his face. Gone were the shadows of responsibility and duty on his expression, and the tightness of his shoulders had loosened significantly. The wind swept his hair away from his face, allowing Blaine to see the smoothed lines of his forehead and the sheer sense of relief in his eyes.
The calm was temporary, they both knew, but it warmed Blaine's heart to see, none-the-less.
In an effort to appear inconspicuous, Sebastian had dressed down a little. Rather than the usual rich silks of purple and gold that he donned around the palace, he'd gone for a simple woollen outfit consisting of pale tan breaches, a white under-shirt with long sleeves, and a brown leather waistcoat with a black belt encircled around it. – and as far as Blaine was concerned, he looked absolutely beautiful.
Then again, Sebastian would look beautiful in rags, Blaine argued with himself internally.
“I've been told by many that you've spent a lot of time in my son's company. You were... friends?”
Blaine's froze as the Queen spoke from behind him, and slowly, he turned to meet her gaze.
There was no use in lying. They had spent a lot of time in the courtyard overlooking the castle. Friendly banter, as far as everyone else was concerned. Only Blaine and Sebastian knew better.
“That's correct,” Blaine replied warily.
“Tell me, has my son ever spoke of a woman? One that isn't the Princess of Maven?”
“He hasn't.” Blaine replied truthfully, meeting her with steady eyes. “Not to me, at least.”
Queen Sophia gave him a stiff nod, before turning to gaze at her son, a solemn expression on her face. Blaine's chest heaved with guilt once more.
“I really thought that this would work. Have Sebastian betrothed to a woman before his nineteenth birthday, so that the curse could be broken as soon as it hit.” She sighed heavily, eyes surveying her son's face. “He needed to fall in love. I was hoping that he would have found it in--” She cut off choked sob, her shoulders crumpling ever so slightly – far from her usual composed self.
Blaine cleared his throat, taking a hesitant step towards her. He didn't dare to reach out to her lest he be thrown into the cells under accusations of assault, but he hoped that she could find comfort with his presence. He didn't know what to say – what could he say?
The rest of the guard stood silently, averting their gazes out of respect.
It was their third visit to Stonehaven when they gave in to their mutual hunger. They'd been sitting on the soft sands in a comfortable silence, when Sebastian had reached over and took Blaine's hand into his own, and Blaine threaded their fingers together without a second thought.
They sat like that for a while, neither daring to give word to what exactly the gesture meant, but Blaine's stomach fluttered in anticipation all the same.
It wasn't until the sun was dipping low in the sky, lining the horizon with an amber glow, that Sebastian leaned over to cup Blaine's face with his hands, eyes darting down to Blaine's lips before meeting his own, seeking permission. Rather than giving an answer, Blaine closed the distance between them, heart hammering in his chest.
It was lazy and undemanding at first, both savouring the moment with the soft press of their lips and and Blaine splayed his hand Sebastian's sternum, tracing the thud, thud, thud of his heart with his palm. When Sebastian moved his hands to thread into Blaine's hair, he pressed deeper, tongues stroking together with enthusiasm, and Blaine felt like he was soaring.
“You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that for,” Sebastian murmured against his lips, trailing his fingertips along his arm, and Blaine realised that right then and there, he was Sebastian's – mind, body and soul.
Three weeks. It had been three weeks, and Blaine still hadn't found the opportune time to approach the coffin.
He'd heard chatter around the castle that the princess had taken her leave – fled back to her own kingdom, and all Blaine could think was good riddance.
Still, he couldn't do this any longer. He couldn't bear to stand in this damn spot, waiting for someone to slip up. It was time to take matters into his own hands.
Two weeks before the royal wedding, the kingdom was abuzz with excitement for the upcoming nuptials, but it just made something unpleasant stir in Blaine's stomach every time he thought about it. It was even harder, now that they'd started sneaking around together, to accept that Sebastian was betrothed to another.
Between their duties at the castle and their fear of being caught, they didn't make it back out to Stonehaven. However, they took what moments they could to be with one another – whether it was some light groping in the darkness of the kitchen pantry during the night when the rest of the castle was sound asleep, sneaky make-out sessions in the castle halls where they would part begrudgingly whenever they could hear the clacking of footsteps on the stone tiles, or merely sitting side-by-side at their spot in the courtyard, their hands splayed out beside one another, Blaine's pinky curled around Sebastian's, hidden from view from the rest of the castle.
Sometimes, though - sometimes Sebastian would sneak into Blaine's quarters in the castle keep, having managed to slip away unnoticed. It didn't happen very often, but when it did, they wasted no time in peeling each other's clothes off, and ravishing each other with fiery passion between the sheets, basking in the heat of the other as they lay breathless and sated in the aftermath in a tangle of limbs.
Blaine wasn't proud of it – he knew what they were doing was wrong. But it didn't feel wrong – it felt so right, and he was powerless to stop it. Sebastian didn't speak of the princess, nor his duties to the kingdom during their time together, far too wrapped up in Blaine to even think about the outside world, but the burden lay heavy between them, none-the-less.
It was after one of their lovemaking sessions that Blaine couldn't hold it in any longer. It had been weighing heavy on his mind, and as much as he wanted to avoid the issue, they really needed to talk about it.
“What will happen to us after your wedding?”
He couldn't look at Sebastian as he asked the question, so instead, he set his gaze on the wooden beams above his head.
Sebastian slid closer to him, though, tugging Blaine's chin so that he was forced to look into his eyes, green irises piercing back at him in earnest. “I can't marry her, Blaine. Not when I'm in love with another.”
Blaine's heart fluttered, and he gave Sebastian a lop-sided smile in reply. He wished it could be so simple. Wished with all his heart that they could do this – that they could be together without fearing for their lives, or the kingdom, for that matter, but it could never be so. He shifted himself so that he could bury his head in Sebastian's chest, stroking lightly over the bare skin with his fingertips. “I love you, Sebastian. With all my heart. But you know as well as I do that you don't have a choice in the matter.”
“I'll find a way. I promise you, Blaine.”
If Blaine had known that night exactly what events were to take place the following day, he'd have whisked Sebastian away to Stonehaven then and there – kissed him as soon as the damn curse plunged its evil claws into him, where there would be no coffin, no guards watching them with beady eyes, and no burdens of the kingdom hanging over them like a dark cloud.
The tray in his hands wobbled a little as he made his way down the stairwell to the basement, where three of the guards stood watch over the sleeping prince.
Rachel inclined her head, and her lips stretched into a wide grin as her eyes landed on the tray. “Hey, you brought food! We're starving.”
“Food? God,” Puck groaned, rubbing his hand over his stomach. “I've been standing here all day without a break.”
Blaine chuckled, trying to give off an air of nonchalance. “Have at it. The kitchens were just going to throw them out, anyway. I thought they'd go to better use down here.”
He watched as the three clamoured towards him, greedy hands grasping at the pies and buns, and smiled to himself.
Won't be long now, my love.
A heavy silence fell over the kingdom as the queen announced the news – the prince had fallen ill due to a curse that had been cast upon him as a newborn baby, and that he wouldn't wake until he'd experienced the touch of true love's kiss.
Blaine felt it all at once – the heartbreak, the crushing disappointment, the boiling rage against the state of a world that would never accept two men being in love. The emotions swirled in his gut, threatening to burn him up from the inside out.
She gathered the guard together after the announcement – told them that Sebastian was not to be left alone at any time. She had Blaine assign them shifts so that there were three of them watching over him at a time, and Blaine did so begrudgingly. The more people that were around Sebastian, the harder it would be for Blaine to get to him – but he had no choice in the matter.
In fact, when he'd tried to leave an empty slot in the schedule, the queen herself had marched into his quarters, demanding to know why he was planning on leaving her son unguarded. Blaine managed to convince her that it had been an honest mistake, but it meant that the queen would take care of the scheduling from then on, not trusting Blaine to do so without putting Sebastian in danger.
He would wait, though. For Sebastian, he would find a way.
It didn't take long for the sleeping draught to work its way through their systems, and Blaine thanked his lucky stars that they hadn't tasted hints of the liquid in the crusts.
The three of them were slumped against the wall, Rachel still holding a half-eaten apple pie slice around her fingers, and he stifled a giggle. This was it – this was the moment he'd been waiting for, and he felt positively giddy. Why he hadn't thought of this sooner, he had no idea.
He approached the coffin, smiling softly down at the sleeping prince. The whites that the queen had no doubt ordered him to be dressed in contrasted hauntingly with his pale skin, and there was no trace of life that Blaine knew the other boy had been full of when they'd last lain together in the privacy of his quarters.
He leaned down, stroking his fingertips on Sebastian's cheek, before placing a soft, warm kiss on his lips. Then, drawing back slightly, he watched Sebastian closely for any sign of movement.
When there was none, Blaine felt his heart shatter all over again.
All this time he had been sure that he was Sebastian's true love – that their bond would overcome this god awful curse that had been placed upon him, but he'd been wrong. He let out a shaky breath, taking an automatic step back, swallowing the lump in his throat as he fought the tears threatening to spill from his eyes.
And then, the most magical sound of all – a soft groan sounded out from Sebastian's lips, and Blaine scurried back to his side, reaching out to his cheek with a trembling hand.
“Blaine?” Sebastian croaked weakly, eyes glazed over from the long slumber.
“Sebastian,” Blaine whispered in reply, blinking back the tears. “You're awake.”
“What-- what happened? Where am I?”
“Not now, my love. We need to go.” Blaine told him softly.
It was true – there was no time, and they couldn't exactly stay here. By the time that the guards woke up to find Sebastian awake, they would piece it all together – they would be exposed for what they were. They had to be far away from the castle before that happened.
“Where are we going?” Sebastian asked.
They would carve out their own corner of the world, just the two of them, away from the judgement of others. They would finally get their happy ending.