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By Popular Demand

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It was in the thirteenth hour of negotiations that things were getting a bit weird. Derek wondered whether he would regret the choices in his life that had led up to these very moments. Already he was plagued by a faint headache. Joining the Hale Kingdom with that of their bordering neighbor, the Stilinski Kingdom, proved to be more difficult task than anticipated. Derek and his council had thought it a necessary step, since the Argents grew more powerful with each passing day, but maybe some things were even less desirable than a military defeat and complete annexation.

For example: sitting on a long table with two PR teams who were trying to plot how a Hale-Stilinski marriage would unfold in the public sphere. Derek was occupying one end of the table, King Stilinski the other. With his chestnut brown hair, moles, and athletic built he wasn’t unpleasing to look at, that much Derek had to admit.

“To summarize,” Stilinski said, “we'll join our bordering kingdoms through marriage. After the ceremony, there will be a period of roughly ten months where our mutual dislike will slowly morph into sexual attraction and love.” He smirked at Derek who fidgeted under the spotlight of his attention.

“The sexual attraction should be obvious right from the beginning,” one of Derek’s PR advisors, Mr. Lahey, said.

“Indeed,” Ms. Martin agreed. She was the head of Stilinski’s PR team and not to be trifled with. “There has to be a spark there the second your eyes meet, Your Majesties. And then you should consider ramping up the UST over the course of the marriage.”

UST?”, Derek asked with a frown.

“Unresolved sexual tension,” Stilinski said. His eyes raked over Derek's body, who suddenly felt vaguely tainted. “Don't worry, ladies and gentlemen. I'm already working on it.”

“Ten months!” Derek tried to wrap his head around the idea, which seemed preposterous and insane in equal measures. “That's a long time for a such a state of affairs. Won't the peasants be fed up with it?”

“On the contrary,” Mrs. Reyes said confidently. “They'll eat it right up and ask for more!”

“How can that possibly be the case? This arrangement seems so frustrating for everyone involved,” Derek protested.

“Oh no, mutual pining is high in demand,” Ms. Martin said primly. “Always has been.”

“But isn’t that totally unrealistic?” Derek asked. “Why have such a drawn-out courtship when all of our issues could be resolved quickly? Can't we just talk and communicate with each other like normal people?”

The silence around the table was absolute. Everyone looked positively aghast at Derek’s suggestion.

“Your Majesty – with all due respect! Definitively not.”

“No one has ever tried that before!”

“I won’t stand for it!”

“It needs to be a veritable trial,” Mr. Lahey said. “We need some tension to keep the fascination alive and the momentum going. After all, the anticipation of a pleasant event is often much sweeter than its realization.”

“That depends on who writes it down,” one of Stilinski’s advisors said with a little wink. “Some of the writers in our royal court pen the steamiest stories.”

“And some skip right over the E-rated parts,” Stilinski muttered. He seemed to be nursing an old bitterness.

“To allow the peasants at least a modicum of relief, I would suggest a minimum of three nude scenes.” This suggestion came from Mr. Whittemore, a particularly unlikeable PR man from Stilinski’s team. “And if anyone wants to wrestle in front of the other clad only in a thin sheen of oil…”

“A sensible idea!” Mrs. Reyes said, clearly enthused. “How about one bathing scene, one involving a massage, and another one involving an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction at just the right moment?”

“Surely you don't mean shared nude scenes?” Derek objected and sent Stilinski a panicked look for help.

At least one of them should be shared,” Mrs. Reyes said vehemently. “Two would be better and three, naturally, would be best.”

“Skinny-dipping is always a crowd-pleaser,” Stilinski said, tapping his chin. “To escape the confines and pressures of royal life, I could occasionally steal away to bathe in a stream. Not knowing of course, that this is also King Hale’s secret getaway.”

The noise of furiously scribbling quills ensued. “That would work beautifully, Your Majesty!”

Derek sighed deeply and pondered the crimes he had evidently committed in his past life.

Everyone soundly ignored him.


*


They were entering in the fifteenth hour of contract negotiations when they had finally decided when and how intercourse would take place: after a ten-month period of frustrated longing and mutual pining that ended with Derek and Stilinski fighting about the future of their kingdom and ripping each other’s clothes off in a frenzy of mad passion. It was a touch corny in Derek’s opinion, but he had been assured it would be a highly effective narrative and resonate well with the peasants.

“We should specify the contents of the sex scene,” Mr. Boyd said with only the briefest apologetic glance in Derek’s direction. “I think we can all agree it has to involve penetration.”

“Anal penetration,” Ms. Martin hurried to clarify.

Mrs. Reyes grinned with undue enthusiasm. “Oh yes, absolutely.”

“Surely there are many different ways pleasure could be achieved,” Derek protested. His face felt as if it was lit on fire. “I don’t see how any of this is any of your business anyway!”

“Anal sex is non-negotiable,” Ms. Martin said with a huff. “Your subjects will feel cheated if you simply use your mouths or hands to bring each other to completion. Insert Slot A into slot B, pardon the frank language.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Derek decided.

“That’s heterosexual socialization for you,” Stilinski said with a shrug. “Can’t do anything about that, so...”

“Speaking of which, are we going to talk about the fact that we’re both male and yet are expected to produce heirs for our kingdom?” Derek asked and pointed at the corresponding paragraph of their makeshift contract. “Please tell me there’s a world-building solution for this imminent issue.”

The advisors looked at each other, clearly puzzled. “Usually we don’t address this point and just hope no one notices.”

Derek was this close to tearing his hair out. “How could anyone possibly not notice that? It’s basic biology!”

“Don’t overthink it,” Stilinski said, aiming to assure him and missing by a wide margin. “It’s fine, we can have kids.”

Derek was baffled. “With each other?”

“Sure. We just don’t talk about who gives birth.”

“Well, who gives birth?” Derek asked. “And how?”

Everyone at the table looked mildly horrified. “We would prefer not to talk about it.”

Derek groaned and buried his face in his hands. If he concentrated, he could feel some of his hairs turning gray.


*


In the end, it took seventeen hours to negotiate a contract that everyone felt confident to sign. More or less. In Derek’s case, mostly less. He signed the parchment with his grumpy trademark scribble, while Stilinski did so with an elaborate flourish and a smirk.

“We’ll see each other at the wedding ceremony,” he said and winked at Derek suggestively. Then he brushed past him with a dramatic sweep of his cloak, closely followed by his entourage.

“See you then,” Derek muttered under his breath and looked after the other king with a glare. The next ten months would be very long indeed.