Chapter 3 - Benedictus
The sunrise found Tommy standing on his balcony as he rested his slightly shaking hands on the stone balustrade. He barely slept that night which was no shock to him because he often had problems with getting some sleep. Knowing what was coming just in a few hours didn’t help either. He was watching the sun rising on the horizon until his tired eyes started burning and watering up from the bright light. Tommy pressed his lips and teeth together and tried to remain calm. Sutan would be there soon to run a scented bath for him and start preparing him for the big day.
Tommy wanted the balcony to crash down so his beloved ocean could swallow him up. Every bit of his body wanted to bolt, run away and never come back, but he knew he was too much of a coward to let his father and the kingdom down. Fucking arranged marriages. He sighed and walked back into his room only in his undergarment and took his guitar to try playing some songs he wrote in hope of calming down enough to be able to live through this day.
“Up so early?” he heard Sutan’s familiar voice from the door. He knew Tommy usually slept in because of his crazy sleeping schedule but one look at the pale face with the dark circles under his eyes made the servant understand the situation. He instructed a small woman he brought with himself to put the prince’s breakfast on the table and start making the bathwater. She did what was requested from her in silence, bowing to Tommy before she put his food on the nearby table.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he shrugged and looked at the silver tray with bread, cheese, fruits and a pitcher of red wine. He wasn’t particularly hungry so he turned back to his guitar and continued the melody that was stuck in his mind since dawn.
“No, no. No more playing. Eat. You’ll need your strength today, honey,” Sutan hurried over and gently took the instrument from Tommy’s hands and ushered him to the table before he could open his mouth to protest.
“Fine...,” he sighed resigned and ran a hand through his messy blond hair “How long will it take until I get out from under your hands?” he asked picking up a piece of bread and started munching on it while his other hand poured from the wine in the silver chalice.
“Long! What were you thinking?” Sutan turned back from the bed which he just made and lay out Tommy’s tunic for the ceremony and all the accessories he’ll put on later. “I have to work my very best magic on you today, Tommy. You look half-dead and paler than the ghosts in your beloved books.”
“It’s just that… I’ve imagined my wedding day completely different,” he mumbled letting his hair fall into his eye to hide behind it. He cast his eyes down into his plate and pushed a grape around with a finger. “I thought I’d be madly in love with some princess from whatever kingdom or house. I thought we’d live here, have children and go to war if needed… Instead of this…”
“… instead of this you’ll have a smoking hot husband and live in an exciting and wild kingdom, have lots of sex and maybe kids one day. You know how it goes between male rulers. Not to mention that protecting the two kingdoms will give you an opportunity to fight too, you know. Try not to see it from such a dark angle. Most people would be happy with this arrangement too. You could have it much worse. Now stop brooding and eat so I can start washing you squeaky clean. You’ll be fine,” he winked at him but Tommy could see that Sutan was serious and tired of all the moaning about his fate. He was probably right, but that didn’t help on the prince’s mood. Still he obeyed and ate some more, although he rather made sure that a chalice of wine was with him at all times until the ceremony. Maybe it’d help him relax more.
By the time Sutan was finished bathing him, adjusting the ends of his fringe with a scissor, shaving the other side of his head and putting on the make up he had in mind, Tommy had a nice buzz going on in his head, although he tried not to show that or the way his hands were still shaking. When instructed he stood up and let Sutan dress him in the white tunic with silver and blue ornaments and put the necklaces, bracelets and rings on him too. Looking into a full-length mirror he had to admit that he looked good. His hair puffed up just the way Tommy liked it, heavy eye-shadow and light colored balm on his lips to leave the focus on his eyes. As he looked at his own mouth for a moment he let himself wander if the kiss he’d share in front of everyone would have the same effect on him like the one on the beach. He quickly shook his head and banished the thought as he stroked down the soft fabric on his chest.
“Ready?” Sutan asked softly and he only hesitated for a second before nodding.
“Let’s get over with this,” Tommy sighed and drank the rest of his wine.
He felt like an idiot on display. He’s got used to it that people watched his every step since he’s been the heir apparent for the throne since he was born. Now, eighteen years later he was walking down the aisle like some blushing bride. He should’ve been the one waiting by the stairs that led up to the thrones, not his very soon to be husband, who – he had to admit – looked breathtakingly handsome.
The dark-haired prince had the same kind of sleeveless white tunic on, but instead of silver and blue his was decorated with gold and black. The golden sandals’ straps swirled around the prince’s calves and reached up to the back of his knees and he was wearing the same amount of golden jewels as Tommy did from silver. The most prominent was the golden skeleton key in his neck. As Tommy got closer he could see that his makeup was flawless, too. The amazingly blue eyes were painted with black, forming the all-seeing eye symbol from the flag. He looked stunning and suddenly Tommy’s throat went dry and he blushed again as his pulse quickened. But of course it was because of the wine and the insane pressure on his thin shoulders.
He managed to reach his spot without tripping and stopped stiffly before the high priests of the two realms. Tommy knew they both will do the ceremony in equal measures to satisfy the expectations of both nations. He fixed his eyes on them, not daring to look at Prince Adam but he could still feel his piercing eyes on him until the priest of his own land greeted the gathering.
“No prince or princess charming barging in to snatch you away from me?” he suddenly heard Prince Adam’s low question and hiding his shock Tommy had to look at him from the corner of his eye just to make sure he heard it right. The cocky half-grin on the taller man’s face was good enough evidence.
“Shut up! This isn’t about me,” he huffed getting disapproving glares from both priests as it came out a bit louder than he intended. Of course it made Adam chuckle low.
“Glad that you finally realized that, Prince Thomas,” he replied then focused on what the priest of the Desert was saying.
Tommy just snorted while he couldn’t believe he was about to marry this man. He closed out all the high-sounding speech that was given about the importance of this marriage for both realms. He heard it enough and frankly he was too pissed at the moment to care. He put on a neutral expression and tried to ignore Adam as long as he could. He stretched his hand out and put it on top of the prince’s when asked and watched as the priests wove a silk band around their touching hands. Actually it consisted of two bands – a blue and a golden one – sawn into one by the middle, symbolizing the merging of the two royal houses within this marriage. That was a custom Tommy actually found kinda nice and he was rather thinking about this than the touch of the hot skin under his own hand or the floral and spicy scent of the prince seeping into his nose.
“You are now bound together by the realms. It is time for both of you to strengthen this union with your vows. Prince Adam from the Land of the Desert…,” the priest trailed off and waved towards the addressed. The band wasn’t too tight so they could turn enough to face each other for the vows and now Tommy had no other choice than to meet those damned blue eyes.
“I, Adam Mitchel Lambert, crown prince of the Land of the Desert herby take you, Thomas Joseph Ratliff, crown prince of the Land of the Sea as my equal husband. I will rule on your side, be your king the way you will be mine. I pledge my loyalty and love to you and your kingdom in sickness and health, in peace and war. May our union bring benediction, peace and love to our lands and joined life,” he finished and this time Tommy couldn’t see any mockery in those blue eyes. He was either serious or a very good actor, because for a moment Tommy found himself believing him.
He quickly blinked and concentrated as it was his turn to tell the same vow: “I, Thomas Joseph Ratliff, crown prince of the Land of the Sea herby take you, Adam Mitchel Lambert, crown prince of the Land of the Desert as my equal husband. I will rule on your side, be your king the way you will be mine. I pledge my loyalty and love to you and your kingdom in sickness and health, in peace and war. May our union bring benediction, peace and love to our lands and joined life.”
“You can put the rings on each other now,” the Sea priest instructed and held out a silver tray with two rings in front of their bound hands. Tommy offered his free left hand for Adam as he pulled the golden ring that had snake-like blue and black ropes twisting around each other and the ring itself. Tommy moved his bound hand a little to get access to Adam’s fingers and repeated the procedure, sliding the exact copy of his own ring on the thicker but slender finger. The priest waited until they both looked up at him. “As our traditions at the Land of the Sea say, these rings are the tokens of your vows to each other. Wear them with pride and the blessings of the Sea and the royal house of the Ratcliffs,” he announced so everyone could hear then stepped back to give room for the priest of the Desert.
The other man was holding a thin brush and a small bowl with black pain in it. “Prince Adam, please do the honor of giving your husband the token of your vow in our tradition,” he said and handed the brush to the dark-haired man.
They faced each other again and Tommy watched as Adam dipped the brush in the paint then pressed it against Tommy’s forehead. It kinda tickled his skin but he stayed still while he painted that black eye between Tommy’s eyes. “Herby I promise to teach you to the secret and ancient knowledge of the royal house of the Lamberts that is known to very few. May this painting open your third eye and see the world from a different, wiser perspective,” he said and now Tommy could clearly tell that Adam meant and believed every word. The blond prince had no real idea what that ancient knowledge was about, he only heard rumors. Learning about this mysterious part of his future was at least something he was looking forward to.
Once Adam was finished painting the eye on his forehead Tommy automatically thanked for it as it was expected from him, but he wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying as he was still studying Adam’s expression. Clearly he was a believer and it intrigued Tommy, he couldn’t deny that. He was dragged back by the voice of the Sea priest who was already holding the crown he was going to get.
“The crown of the Land of Sea is the symbol not only of being a king but of the responsibilities that title brings with it. Prince Thomas, from the day you were born you have been raised to live up to this title and those responsibilities. From this day on, we shall no longer call you the crown prince of our land but our king. Wear this crown with pride, wisdom and health,” the priest said and finally put the crown on his head. It was a silver crown from vines that looked like the waves of the sea. A number of smaller greenish-blue Aquamarine stones were fitted in the curves all around and one bigger at the front. It was heavier than he remembered from the fitting. Probably because of the responsibilities the priest was preaching about and made Tommy lightly squirm. He reached up with his free hand to pull his fringe free and by the time he finished Adam got his crown too with a similar speech the other priest held. That one Tommy found breathtaking too. On the forehead a female figure was spreading her wings, behind the wings two snakes ran around Adam’s head and the snake heads came up from behind the wings. In the middle it had more swirling snakes and colorful stones surrounding the skeleton key. Under it a pendant of that eye was resting on Adam’s forehead on the same spot Tommy’s painted eye was.
“And now the kiss…,” the priest of the Sea waved for them.
Tommy swallowed hard as suddenly his mouth went dry. He knew this part would come and that he shouldn’t feel so embarrassed about the kiss – it’s not as if they had to have sex in front of everyone – but he remembered that first kiss on the beach and part of him wanted this to be like that too. He didn’t protest when Adam slid his free hand on his nape and pulled him closer. He tilted Tommy’s head to the right angle, piercing blue eyes holding Tommy’s captive until it was hard to focus and both of them closed their eyes, lips brushing. It was a chaste and short kiss but Tommy’s body reacted immediately by making his knees weak and his heart skip a beat. He could feel his face burning under the layers of powder. How was it possible that this kiss felt like liquid fire on his lips too? Saying that he was confused again was an understatement, but he tried to push his thoughts and emotions to the back of his mind as he pulled back and they both faced the gathering.
Both priests turned to the sea of people as well and said in union: “Hereby, we announce the new kings of the united Lands of the Desert and the Sea!”
The crowd started cheering, of course, and from the corner of his eye Tommy saw a small smile playing on Prince Adam’s… no, King Adam’s, his husband’s face. He didn’t know how to feel about that or in general and soon he just went numb and let things blur as he retreated into his own world. He let the priests free their hands and Adam lead him through the great hall watching the rose petals showering down on them. He walked with him to the dining hall where all the long tables were set and he took his seat next to his new husband in the middle of the royals’ table (which was square to the other tables) from where they could see as people followed and also sat down. His mind was still somewhat numb when their families came over too and congratulated them. Tommy replied when he was asked, smiled when expected, shook hands, bowed his head, but he wasn’t really there. It was kind of an ‘out of body experience,’ even if he was still in his body.
They were already through the soup and the first course and Tommy still didn’t really have an appetite. He preferred sipping from his wine that always got discreetly refilled by a servant. His mind was still wandering as he was observing the eating mass of people. It was clear to see that the people from his own kingdom were already mingling with the newcomers.
“You haven’t been really here since the ceremony. Where’s your head at, Thomas?” he suddenly heard from his left and it took a second for him to come back to reality and turn his head. Of course it was Adam resting his forearm on the armrest and leaning closer to him.
“Nowhere,” he shrugged and turned back to his plate, taking a small bite from the tuna dish, which was one of his favorites.
Adam stayed silent for a long moment but didn’t let it drop. “I’m curious. What were you thinking?”
“How surreal all of this is,” he gave in somehow feeling that Adam wouldn’t leave him alone until he gave him some kind of an answer.
“I don’t have to explain myself to you. You know my opinion about this wedding,” he said flatly.
“Yeah… you made it painfully clear,” Adam sighed and Tommy could feel him turn away. He could’ve sworn he’d heard some disappointment in his voice, but he didn’t turn to check.
It stuck with him for the rest of the night and he noticed that Adam didn’t try to start another conversation with him. Adam stayed on his side as they watched the attractions the people of the kingdoms prepared for them. There was music, there were dancers, even a short play about the history of the two kingdoms. Tommy watched them calmly and forced a small smile on his face a few times. He wanted out of there but he didn’t want to seem rude either so he sucked it up and stayed until he felt it was okay to retreat to his chambers.
He did so after he watched Adam dance with his mother and a few others on the dancing area that was kept clear in front of the royals’ table. Tommy stood and walked over to his father and the now former king of the Desert and excused himself first from them before heading to Queen Leila, Prince Neil and his new husband to bid them a good night saying that the day’d exhausted him. They nodded and wished him a good rest. They didn’t object as they all knew that they’d leave early in the morning. As Tommy turned to walk away he caught Adam’s dark look and he was glad that at least that night he didn’t have to share his room and bed with him. But time was ticking away, he knew well.
After Sutan helped him undress and clean up he was left alone and he was just standing on the balcony of his room. He didn’t know when he’d be able to take in the familiar sight of the sea again and he caught himself drinking in the details. He knew it’d be hard to say goodbye to the land where he grew up in the morning and his heart was aching. That uneasy feeling got stronger in his stomach because of the unknown. He’d have to take a leap of faith and face his new life the following day and he could only hope that it was a good future lying ahead of him.
Note: Thank you all for the comments and kudos so far, it means a lot! <3
For that (and because I finally had some inspiration to do it) I made a front and back cover to the story's soundtrack. You can check it out HERE. I hope you'll like it.
Gonna try to update every Monday ;) (And sorry for doing it like this AO3 didn't want to do the end note my way.)