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All the King's Man: Part 4

Title: All the King's Man
Fandom: X-Men: First Class
Pairings: Charles/Erik, Charles/Emma, Charles/Other(s), Azazel/Raven, Sean/Moira, possibly others.
Warnings: Courtesans, mpreg, anatomical impossibilities, dubcon, Shaw is always a douche
Summary: Erik is the king of Genosha, Charles is the son of Brian Xavier, a former merchant who has since died. Charles' stepfather, Kurt, has designs on marrying Charles off to a business associate, but Charles takes matters into his own hands and enters into life as a courtesan in Erik's court where he comes to Erik's attention.
Work will eventually get up on AO3 if you want a download. Mostly unbeta'd at present

~11~


Charles' revelation concerning Raven and Kurt had placed Erik in a surprisingly good mood. Erik's first revelation to Charles, after the fact that no longer had to marry a woman he did not want to, was that he would be able to possibly start a war with Klettgau and be politically blameless. The thought seemed to make Erik giddy. Charles had politely advocated against, and the war was not yet looming, however Erik was holding that possibility in reserve. Cardinal Shaw, however, was obviously not pleased. He had helped broker the marriage deal and he had been unable to uncover the existence of the illegitimate prince, thus, Charles found himself in the position of having uncovered something that the King's favored spymaster had not. Shaw hated him; Erik was rather fond of him now.

That fondness came with sex, very frequent sex, usually in Erik's chambers. Sometimes he visited Charles and they spent the night in his rooms. After the second night of that, Erik had declared his rooms 'completely unsatisfactory' and Charles had been relocated to a set of rooms that were larger than most houses - including his stepfather's home. He had three bedrooms and two baths, apparently for no other reason but so he could have them.

Charles had made it known to Erik that he could not have moved so quickly without Emma's assistance and Emma was finding herself rather bolstered as well, and more inclined to dress him up and deck him in jewels as a reward.

All good things came to an end, however, and as much as he'd been eager to head south, he could have gone without needing to go south so soon. He was going in a sort of semi-ambassadorial capacity, and thus Erik seemed eager to make certain he was appropriately briefed.

Their briefings tended to be mostly naked.

He and Erik were stripped down to just to breeches and shirts - Charles' shirt unbuttoned - as they leaned over some maps of the south. Erik was doing an excellent job distracting him by rubbing circles into his chest and nuzzling at the back of his ear.

"The medicine man who served the Alecovs was from... here." He pointed. "They speak mostly Asante creole there, centered around city, helpfully named Asante. I think I should start there. I haven't been in years, but the trick is to appear influential."

"It... will it matter to them that you're an omega?"

Charles shook his head. "Not as such. It would matter if I were seeking drugs to improve virility or other items, as it stands they are more likely to..." Charles smiled, shook his head, and wrote down a note on some of the local customs that he could remember while he was thinking of them.

"Likely to...?" Erik prodded his side gently, his way of being impatient and curious.

"They will want to bless my child."

"You're not with child!"

"Never the less, that is what they will most want to offer me, blessings, potions to assure strong sons, that sort of thing."

Erik ran his fingers up and down Charles' chest, distracting Charles when his hand went too low and teased at the waist of his pants, Erik's fingers splaying out and dipping under the waistband. "Nothing wrong with that."

"No, I suppose not." He thought he might melt, he was made of the softest beeswax in Erik's hands, easily molded and always warm. It wasn't fair; the way Erik's hand touched his sides and belly, leaving him limp. He tried to shake off the languid feeling in his bones. "They like silver there, gems are fairly useless as they have them in great abundance."

"And silks?"

Charles laughed. "If Your Majesty commands, I will come home in kohl and silks and all the finery of the south with scented oils on my skin."

Erik answered by nipping Charles' earlobe and growling, low and gravely, in Charles' ear. "His Majesty commands it, Charles."

The answering whimper on Charles' lips was too loud for decency. "Do... does His Majesty have any further commands?" His voice was half seductive, half ruined, as he tried to find his voice.

The two of them stood silent for several seconds, Charles' blood pounding in his ear, before Erik finally kissed his neck, light. "Come home to me, safe."

"I will."

"I am sending a small detachment with you, one of them is actually a southerner, Armando. He can help you with any deficiencies in your knowledge."

Charles smiled, tilted his head, and kissed Erik's brow. "The south is not a monolith, there are hundreds of tribes and Armando's knowledge will be more use if we are in an area he is from, but the south is almost three times the area of the continent." It was an easy mistake, Charles knew, but his father had spent a lifetime dissecting the ways to tell one tribe from another. "Their presence will help me be taken seriously."

"Send word to me whenever you are able," Erik said, apparently no longer caring for discussion of culture or Charles' work. "How long... how long do you imagine you will be gone?"

"I couldn't say, a month perhaps? It depends on how easily I accomplish my task and how much trade there is to organize while I am there. I may need to trade between several people to acquire my knowledge and the correct herbs. That is one benefit of the Genoshan trader; I may walk between clans who would not otherwise speak, and no native would dare to seem to favor one over the other, but to them we are... above clan politics."

Erik had apparently heard little of what he said. "A month? That long?"

"That short," Charles corrected him. "There is a reason I speak three creole languages, I spent many months of my youth in their cities playing with boys and girls and learning to communicate."

"I..." Erik grabbed him around the chest and squeezed. "Can we be done with this? You've already packed enough goods to buy a small country."

"Most of them my own," Charles said, grinning, but he turned around and kissed Erik. "Come. I would like to get some air, I will miss the Genoshan weather while I am gone."

He'd become slowly comfortable with nudging Erik in small ways, when they were in private. Erik seemed glad enough to do whatever Charles asked. The sun was getting lower, late in the afternoon, but the two of them circled slowly around some of the gardens, Erik's hand on Charles' hip as they wandered. "I've never asked, Charles. Do you intend to have children?"

It took several moments for Charles to realize where the topic had come from - he'd said they had gifts for strong sons. Still, the idea of speaking to Erik about this made him uncomfortable. "I suppose that is what is required of the spouse of a Lord of any sort."

Erik frowned. "But do you want children?"

"Yes, of course. A... brood running about to call my own would be perfect."

"A brood, Charles?" Erik's mood had turned completely, and he teased Charles now. "How many is a brood?"

"I've been told not to make such promises until after the first." He would want at least three or four, if he didn't have a hard pregnancy.

Erik tugged Charles close, their hips touching so close Charles had to change his steps so he could match pace with Erik. "My mother's pregnancy was hard. She never was able to have another child."

Questions tumbled through Charles' mind, few of them on point. He wanted to know if Erik knew why his mother was unfond of him, why she seemed determined to make his life in the palace as hard for him as he could. "I'm sorry."

"I would have been a horrible brother."

"You would have thrown your siblings into the fountains," Charles agreed, almost immediately.

Erik growled and swept him off his feet, spinning him around once before he headed over to the fountain nearest them. Charles laughed, grabbed on to Erik unsure if the monarch would actually toss him into the fountain or not - not minding either way because he was obviously amused. Instead of dumping him in, Erik sat on one of the edges, his feet dangling in the fountain, Charles laid in his lap. He sprawled, boneless, his back arched almost uncomfortably across Erik's legs while his feet and head rested on the fountain's edge. Erik rested his hands along Charles' stomach, rubbing lazy circles.

"You would have made a good brother," Erik said.

"I like to think so."

"And a good father."

Charles looked up through half closed lashes, and he saw Erik looking at him, those green-grey eyes focused solely on him. "You as well, Highness."

It took a great deal of fumbling, but eventually Erik was on top of him, pinning him to the fountain's edge, the two of them kissing with wild abandon, Erik rubbing the start of an erection between Charles' thighs.

They then discovered why it's best not to make out on a fountain's edge when Erik canted a bit too far to the left and fell in; Charles was tugged along after him. Moments later they were coughing and sputtering, Charles on top of Erik and shivering. He couldn't quite think, but he was fairly certain this was supposed to be a bit romantic but now he was chilly.

"Are you alright?" Erik sat up, hugging Charles close.

"I think I am supposed to ask you that," Charles answered. "I'm fine, nothing broken." He stood, his legs soggy and slow, but eventually he was standing, trying to brush the water off of his clothing and not succeeding. Erik stood a few moments later.

"Let's get you inside."

The two of them tracked water down ancient stone and marble hallways all the way back to Erik's rooms, where the king started to draw a bath and then the two of them pulled off their soggy clothes. Charles was shivering, but after the water grew warm, Erik shooed Charles into the tub and Charles went, rubbing warm water over his legs. A few moments later, Erik stripped and joined him.

The tub was overlarge, big enough for the two of them even with Erik's long legs.

Charles felt warmed, both from the heat of the water and the warmth of Erik's arms around him. The king kissed his shoulders and the back of his neck, squeezing them together so tightly that Charles thought he might burst.

"My Merchant Prince," Erik said, nose lingering on wet skin.

"My King." He wanted... "I am yours."

There was no answer for several minutes, but Erik continued to touch and stroke, down Charles' shoulders, his sides, across his stomach. It was more comforting than erotic, but Charles couldn't help but sink in to the warm feeling. "Would that I could say the same."

It took him several moments to even place Erik's words as a response to what he had said, but his heart broke just a little when he made the connection. "I..." He had no good words. "Understand."

The worst of it was that he did understand. It wasn't as though he thought there was a future; there would be no marriage between them, any children would be bastards, and as much as he desperately dared to hope, what he most wanted would not come to pass. Erik would come to belong to some prince or princess, or a duchess, and Charles would belong to Erik, but never the reverse.

"Charles... you must understand--"

"I do, Erik." All too well, he understood. He turned around to straddle Erik. He wished he could hide the mist in his eyes, but it didn't matter. "I allow you to forget what you must do, but I cannot change what must be done. You will have your omega consort, and he will be polite and well bred and beautiful, but..." He would not be Charles, and it seemed as much as Erik might have fallen for him, that would be the end of it.

Eyes met, watery and sad, and Erik tugged him closer, kissing. They stayed like that, mouths locked together, until the water had gone tepid, and then cold. Erik took him to bed, and when they laid next to each other after, his body warm from love making and cold from reality, he felt as though he had said goodbye.

"When you return from the south, there will be a marriage for you, Charles. I will see to it. A good one, the best I am able to provide."

The worst of it was, Charles no longer needed a marriage, the money he'd earned from gifts and trinkets had long since outpaced the relatively paltry amount of his dowry; he would be traveling south with his wares, not the king's or Genosha's, any earnings would be his own, and even with the lost cost of herbs he should still find himself flush. He might not have merited the title Merchant Prince in his own right, but perhaps Merchant Baron would be appropriate for a time.

So it was goodbye. "That is most kind, Your Majesty." When he said 'your majesty' it was usually with a light and teasing tone, this time it was all business.

"Am I no longer to be 'Erik' then?"

"... Erik." Charles thought he heard tears in his own voice.

The name twisted a pained sound from Erik's chest. "Your Majesty may be better..." Erik was thinking, so loudly that Charles could have sworn he could hear the press of them in his mind. "Stay the night."

"It may be better if I do not."

"Please?"

Charles could deny Erik nothing.

~12~


They both woke early and clung to each other, made love slowly and then washed up. Charles returned to his room to check his bags. He had weeks’ worth of finery stowed away, and it was hard not to compare his trunks to what he had come to the palace with, all books and little clothing. The collection of books in his room had grown at least three fold; the clothing had grown at least a dozen fold.

He prodded a key to the harpsichord while he drank his morning moon tea, and its tone sounded melancholy to his ears.

"Oh, sugar, don't look like that." Emma stood in the doorway. "You act like someone's died."

"Emma." He gave her a weak smile. "I think... I think His Majesty may..."

"Love you?" Emma finished. Her answer cut to the heart of it. He nodded. "Of course he does."

"He said he would find me a match on my return. I think he means to send me away." Charles found he was crying again. He felt ridiculous; he should be happy, he was going south, he would be a merchant again, in his own right. "Perhaps if you would tell him you intend to make me your spouse he would leave me to you."

He still felt very little true affection for Emma, but he respected her more now, and he knew they would be a good fit. She had a certain sort of integrity that was impossible to fake. In time he thought he might learn fondness.

"Oh, sugar... No. I'll find someone else." She came up to him and wrapped an arm around him and kissed his forehead. "Besides, it's only been two months, far too soon to judge your efforts to have his bastard thwarted."

He snorted.

"Besides," he continued. "You don't even want a spouse. You're here for the money, you've gotten the money..."

Charles kissed her, just a peck on the cheek, and she smiled. "Thank you."

There was little else to say between them. Emma had... released him. He wished he could find some perfect omega for her, then, well placed and beautiful, the flawless diamond for Emma's future mantle of rulership. Charles wouldn't have minded being that diamond, but he'd tasted what it was like to sit warm against Erik's skin and as much as Emma was able to bring him pleasure, she did not bring him love.

"You'll continue to teach me, won't you?"

"Always, sugar." Emma left him to his brooding and the dregs of his tea.

He spent some time alone, playing lightly on the harpsichord and both yearning for and ruing the trip south. He needed time away. Erik... even if he loved him, anything more than nights together in bed would be too much to hope for, and eventually Charles' looks would fade, perhaps even his mind become addled, and the last things Erik was fond of would disappear, leaving him alone. It was not a happy thought to spend a morning alone with.

Servants came and went with his trunks.

Moira came to drop a small wrapped package of fruits for him, and a breakfast sandwich. He hugged her tight and kissed her forehead. "I wish I were coming with you," she admitted, low.

In the week he'd spent preparing, she'd never said as much. "Moira, love..." He wished he had a good answer to that. "Come with me, then. Come with the clothes on your back and the coin in your pocket. I'll teach you what I know and Lord Cassidy can realize what he's missing."

"Charles, it's not that simple."

"Your point, m'lady?" He teased his lip between his teeth; that would have made it easier, he decided. Moira there with him, the two of them learning and relearning what he once knew, it was perfect. "Be my Merchant Vassal."

She laughed, and he smiled but did not laugh until finally her face grew a bit more somber. "Truly?"

"Of course. We've been friends since childhood, and I would be happy to have you."

"How long until...?"

"Two hours."

"I can't drop everything on two hours' notice!" But her face lingered in an expression that Charles could only categorize as yearning. Neither of them moved. "Wait for me?"

"I would hardly leave without you."

Moira turned and exited the room, nearly at a run, almost barreling in to Erik before she curtsied and fled. Erik watched her leave for a moment before he turned to Charles. "Your friend Moira?"

"My merchant's assistant Moira, actually. She needs some time away from the palace." She wasn't the only one.

Erik's face was a mix of fondness and guilt, but it didn't take him long to settle on fondness. He came in, closed the door, and then swept up to kiss Charles. Before he could, Charles pressed a finger to his lips.

"I want to clarify something. I do not need you to find me a spouse, Your Majesty. If I could spend my life like this... as your Merchant Prince, then I would be content."

"Even though I cannot be yours?"

"Even then."

Erik clearly didn't believe him, but Charles leaned up and kissed his jaw. "I brought you something, for your journey."

Charles drew back, and Erik held a small box out to him and Charles took it gingerly, turning it over in his hand before sliding open the wooden box. Inside was a signet ring, and Charles pulled it out to inspect it.

"You'll need to send letters, of course," Erik said, voice rough.

The gem work was flawless, a sizeable piece of onyx, inset in a silver setting with a neatly stylized X that... "This is fashioned after my father's." It was perfectly done, had likely taken at least a week, which meant the process had been started longer than Charles' true plans to head south. Erik must have always intended... to let him go. Charles stroked a finger over it, tears welling up in his eyes.

One of the wedges created in the onyx by the X held an image very much like a portion of the seal of Genosha, the bit that resembled a stylized crown. It would have been the height of arrogance for Charles to add such a feature to his own seal, but if the king were giving it to him, there was no harm and all gain.

"It's beautiful." Charles bowed his head and chuckled. "I will write you often."

"Charles, I..." Erik sighed and pulled Charles in for a hug. "There will always be others, for both of us, even if you do not marry. You were... you were always meant to be something better than..." Erik squeezed him closer as his voice broke. "Better than a king's whore."

From anyone else, said any other way, Charles might have heard Erik's words as bile, but Charles heard his guilt.

"I have kept you rather selfishly."

"I've stayed willingly." Charles cupped his hand to Erik's jaw, stroking the fresh-shaved skin there and then pressing his nose against his cheek. He would miss that; he imagined letters might soothe the worst of the longing for conversation, but he would miss just the warm, male smell of his king, the feel of Erik's skin against his, and just his presence. "I'm a common born omega, Erik. You have given me the opportunity to steal my father's mantle off my stepfather's shoulders and take it up for myself. There may be others, but you are my king. Always."

Others. The idea made him feel slightly sick, but Erik would find a proper consort, one that was not a carrier for King's Disease, he would marry them and have children and Charles would be there for him, but perhaps Erik's thought, that there would be others, was wise. It was a hard thing to accept. Charles realized, however slowly, that he was in love with Erik, that there would be no one else who would ever suit him quite as well, and yet there was an untraversable divide between them. He was lowborn, and Erik's relationship with him served no political purpose; they would have affection, but no more than that. Charles intended to take his time away to come to terms with that.

Charles led Erik down to the docks. The ship itself was not Charles' - it was on loan from Erik and the Genoshan military. It was a tiny ship with very little tonnage, but it suited Charles' moderate sized cargo. Charles had every intention of eventually getting one of his own ships, but that would be several months down the line at the earliest. It made little sense to invest at the moment when he was only going on a single trip. The two of them went aboard and Charles showed Erik the hold and the goods that Charles had picked for the journey south. There were some dried fruits, some warmer fabrics that weren't as necessarily in the south but still sold well on the coasts, he had metal works, a few engineering marvels, and... roughly the entirety of his savings in product form. It made him a bit antsy, truth to tell.

He then showed Erik his quarters, they were tiny, barely a box with a small window.

"I would have thought they would be larger..."

"Well, the Captain's are, of course, but I'm simply a passenger."

"But you're..." Erik frowned.

"I'm just bringing goods; the Captain makes certain the goods and I get home safely. He can have as big a cabin as he wants." When it was his own ship to make his own changes on he may have made quarters for himself that were more comfortable, but he never saw the point of having much more. He leaned up and kissed Erik's nose. "You do want me back safely, right?"

"Of course."

"Then allow Armando the courtesy of a large room."

They had little time left, and so by mutual, silent agreement they sat on Charles' bed and curled in each other's arms. Erik ran lazy fingers through Charles' hair, Charles stroked Erik's thigh.

"Do not let me come back to war with Klettgau," Charles said. "War is horrible for free trade."

Erik chuckled. "I will do my best, however if they persist I will have to do something. I can't afford to seem weak, Charles. Even if all of the Emperor's sons have King's Disease, the Empire is still quite a bit larger than us."

Charles thought there was little worry there. "Their Princes fight too much to go to proper war. Be nice. Start wooing them. There are four or five who have spent time in the not-so-distant past as part of Genosha." He squeezed Erik's knee. "Why do you always want war, Erik?" He shook his head, there was no answer; it seemed to be part of Erik's nature. "Give it time; when I return, perhaps we can begin our overtures. If I can establish myself as worthy of my father's name perhaps I can speak to the merchants who specialize in western Klettgau and we can begin... plotting."

Erik's chuckle descended in to an outright laugh and he grabbed Charles and tugged him close. "I don't know how I ever mistook you for a pretty face. You are devious."

He pushed Erik to the bed, nuzzling. "You know better now."

"I will never forget."

They didn't have long... Charles reached into his pocket and pulled out the signet ring, which he placed gently on Erik's chest. "You know, in some cultures, the act of putting a ring on someone is very sexual?"

"Is it?" Erik picked up the ring. Charles nodded. "Well... since we do not have time for more..." He considered. "Right handed, so left hand." Erik picked Charles' left hand, tugging it gently so they could both see, but Charles couldn't quite resist the urge to brush his thumb against Erik's lip. He pursed his lips in response, brushing lips softly against Charles' thumb. The cool metal of the ring brushed against Charles' middle finger, not warmed by Erik's hand the way gold might have been. He didn't slide it on, however, instead letting it brush lazily against the tip.

Only a moment later, Charles realized what Erik was doing and he laughed, a boyish sort of giggle, and then he leaned his head down so he could press his lips against Erik's neck, licking just the very tip of his tongue against his throat. Erik responded by sucking Charles' thumb into his mouth and other parts - unrelated to his fingers - became suddenly very aware of their position.

Erik seemed delighted with his teasing, however, and slipped the ring on just barely, not even passed the first knuckle. Charles took Erik's free hand and placed his mouth around one of those long, slender fingers, tongue slipping against it. The urge to suck was overwhelming, and he clamped his lips around and sucked lightly. Erik groaned.

Before they could go any further, however, there was a knock on the door.

"Master Xavier, we're set to leave now." Armando.

Charles banged his head against Erik's chest. "Damn."

It took them a few moments to get presentable again, and Armando looked more than a little chagrined when he realized he'd interrupted the king of Genosha mid-coitus-like-behavior.

"I was simply showing His Majesty around the ship."

"Of course." Armando spoke with all of the confidence of a man who knew that when the king's courtesan said they were showing the king around the ship - even if you knew they'd been making out on the courtesan's bed - you said 'of course'. The spoken story was now the polite fact. "Your Majesty, if you need anything else I would be happy to provide."

"No. I think I'll be off now." He was stiff now, King Erik, not his Erik. "Thank you for the tour, Master Xavier."

Charles nodded and bow-curtsied appropriately, heading towards the exit. He stopped next to Armando. "Has Moira come aboard?"

"She said she was invited by you and I have set aside some small private quarters."

"She was. I hope she will be made comfortable." Armando nodded, and Charles hurried off after Erik, arriving just before he disembarked. "Please be safe, Highness."

There was no kissing, no holding of hands, just a light squeeze of Erik's fingers on his shoulder, and he nodded. "Come home to me safely."

The actual getting ready was quick, the few men who were responsible for the ship working quickly and efficiently to decouple the ship from the dock. Moira came up to stand beside him and pressed her shoulder close to his. They stood, looking out over the capital with quiet wonder. Charles found his eyes tearing up.

"I haven't been up in the air for years," Charles said.

Moira wrapped an arm around his and squeezed them closer together. "I don't think I've ever been up."

The balloon that would lift the ship was already inflated, thick and well made, a thin metal housing around it helped to make sure it wouldn't be easily punctured by an attack. Charles had out the colors of a Genoshan trader. Two soldiers were carefully checking their wind-cranks and Charles could almost hear the thrum of tightly wound screws. It was intense to remember that feeling, to have it so close to his chest.

"Any questions, love?"

"All of them. Charles I know nothing about a ship."

"I am no engineer, but I will tell you what a trader needs know about his... or her, ship."

Charles took her on a tour, showed her the balloon housing and how to tell if it was in good repair, he showed her the deck, the riggings, and the steering. He took her down to the gear room and showed her how the half dozen spring-loaded cranks provided propulsion. The tension on one was low and he showed her how to tell and then he got the engineer's attention and asked for it to be fixed. It was cranked full taught and Charles nodded.

"You want to keep full tension for the best speed burst if needed, however the constant coiling can fatigue the spring, normally one or two will be fired, and then another pair, rather than relying solely on half of the springs. It's like... exercising your muscles."

Moira nodded. "I'm learning too many things at once."

"Well, we'll make sure you know it all by the time we're back."

Ship riding was boring, but thankfully they would only be in the air for three or four days before they were back in civilization.

Finally, Charles showed Moira the fliers, they were the most remarkable because they did not get their lift from balloons, it was more like a bird - a coastal bird - and its propulsion was based on starting high and staying up was based on some science he didn't quite understand. He showed Moira to the launcher.

"This is how we will be communicating with Genosha, by sending out a flier. They are very fast compared to the balloon and can get home in a handful of hours, but it requires intense concentration and hard work to fly it."

Moira nodded again. "I think I may send Lord Cassidy a letter or two when our first launch happens."

Charles knew he would send several to Erik as well.

They had dinner - just some biscuits and a bit of dried meat with some tea, and Charles settled down to begin what might become his first letter home. He put pen to paper.

I miss you

A few moments later he scratched out the words.

You have given me someone to miss and it makes me ache

He scratched the words out again.

I miss you

He left the words there, but stood and went to stretch his legs.

~13~


Armando was in his room when Charles knocked, and after an awkward moment where he seemed unsure how to respond, Charles asked if he could come in and the two of them settled into a slightly uncomfortable silence.

"I feel I should mention... I was the one Alex intended to match you with, months ago."

Charles blushed, slightly. "Then I apologize for robbing you of your prize."

Armando waved a hand. "I think we both know it would have been nothing more than an arrangement. I... commend you for doing better for yourself." Armando offered him tea and Charles accepted. "No marriage would have been any better, I'm afraid."

"Not the marrying type?"

The other man shrugged. "I suppose I just have found myself... uninterested."

"There's a story there," Charles said, smiling. Armando did not return the smile. Charles returned to his tea.

The silence had become at least slightly companionable after that, and Charles ran his fingers lightly around the lip of the teacup.

Armando was watching him, in a way he was used to seeing as appraising, but it was not the same appraisal of someone looking for a lay. He thought he was coming to know the difference. This was something else.

"I find myself in love," Armando admitted, finally.

The parallel was a bit unfortunate. Charles took another sip of his own cup. "I find that a terrible and wonderful affliction."

"Indeed."

"And for you, is it more terrible than wonderful or the reverse?"

Armando snorted. "I am my family's only son, and the only alpha, there are a certain amount of responsibilities on me to provide an heir. Our holding is small and we have little to offer, but... the land would return to the Summers if I didn't have a child."

"No omega siblings?"

"A sister... she..." He shook his head. "She does not much care for the system. I doubt she will produce an heir."

Charles nodded. That was sometimes an option for an alpha to claim an omega sibling’s child as their own, as their heir, but if that wasn't an option then Armando was truly without easy options. "And your... lover?"

Silence stretched between them again, and Charles waited, doing his best to look like a good listener. "We've been friends since we were children, but we are not lovers."

That would be even worse, Charles decided; at least with Erik he was able to express his affection, could lay with him, and could hold him in his arms. He wondered what stood between Armando and his good friend that he felt he could not even ask. Armando didn't clarify any more than that, and they eventually ended up discussing the weather, their course, and what Charles intended to do once they got there. They also discussed Armando's history; he had been born near Kyrrat, in the northern regions, but he had not been home since he was a boy, so there was very little he could offer and Kyrrat did not have as much Charles was interested in trading for.

After checking that Moira was settled - she was, working on a letter - Charles returned to his quarters and began his own, one that did not begin quite so pathetically as 'I miss you'. He mentioned his impressions of Armando - and avoided mentioning his status as a former potential spouse - and of the first part of their journey. It was a bit chilly, but not unseasonable. It would soon be dark enough that he would have to light a candle or lamp, so instead he put down his pen and left the letter to dry.

He was almost prepared to change into nightclothes when there was a knock on his door. It was one of Armando's men, Kenneth. Charles knew little else about him.

"Um." He looked up at Charles awkwardly. "Might I come in, Master Xavier? Or... a walk, perhaps, on the deck? I've heard you are... very good."

Very good. Charles was unsure what he was supposedly 'very good' at, as honestly it could have been anything from southern creoles to certain Genoshan dances to an actually delightful fondness for cooking fish stew, but honestly he found it more likely Kenneth was speaking of sex. He considered, decided the man was not unattractive - blond, thankfully, not Erik's brunet, and with dark brown eyes he was unlikely to mistake for sea-green-gray. "A walk," Charles agreed.

They headed up to the openair deck, close enough to the air-fire that the sun going down did not make him chilled and Kenneth began to ramble.

He talked about his home, on the Klettgau border, about his grandfather's life in Klettgau and his military service, how Kenneth wanted to be Genoshan but found it harder because of how much of his family was from across the border. It was nothing Charles could really help with, but he listened and nodded and soothed in all the right places and they went around it a few times and Kenneth mostly seemed to have taken some comfort from it. When they were finally back and Charles' door, he warred with himself concerning the wisdom of accepting Kenneth’s request to bed him, but the tentative way he'd asked if he might lay with him eventually tipped him over the edge.

Wanting to practice, Charles only allowed Kenneth his mouth. His methods were not well polished, he'd never attempted it before, but he knew what he liked, and what Erik did for him the few times he'd put his mouth on Charles. Kenneth seemed not to be picky, however, his fingers threading through Charles' hair, twisting just slightly before he stopped himself, and then twisting again seconds later.

When he was finished, Kenneth sprawled, boneless, his fingers running through Charles' hair. Charles was most of the way hard himself, tight against his breeches, and rocking lightly against the bed sheets afterward.

"Well... um..." Kenneth got up off the bed and did up his breeches. "Thank you, for... you know, and the talking."

Charles rolled onto his back, vaguely confused and half hard. By the time he could put into his mind the idea that the guy should at least finger him or rub him off, he was gone. Well, at least he'd liked the talking. The sex was decidedly alright. Not bad, but now he was left to... take care of himself. It was actually an unusual state of affairs. Normally he'd just smirk at Erik and get himself bent over the nearest surface.

He wasn't supposed to be thinking of Erik.

Annoyed, he threw the bolt of his room and shucked his pants. He wanted to finger himself - he'd long since gotten used to the pleasant feel of being stretched open and taken - but he settled for a quick wank and absolutely thought of nothing particular, certainly not a hard jaw or perfect eyes, misty like the sea.

He cleaned off his hand, too wound up for sleep, and lit a candle so he could begin a letter to Emma. I wish I did not already miss him. It's been hours, not even days, and I'm already irritated from the loss. I think I could compose some sort of ode to him, and that would just be embarrassing. He left the embarrassing line of self reflection to dry and then tried to slide under the covers and rest. He tossed, more than he was used to, the bed was less comfortable and his thoughts less settled and he missed Erik horribly.

By the time they got to Asante, he had heard the life story of every crewman at least twice, and bedded all of them - save Armando, who seemed uninterested - and found it left him feeling happy to have pleased them, but it was not nearly as satisfying as the affection he got from Erik, or even Emma. By the time they arrived at Asante and began their investigations into the herbs, Charles was glad to have a distraction other than bedding the men and the first round of letters to Genosha headed off almost as soon as they had touched down.

Instead he spent his days haggling. They spent two days poking around the market itself. He taught Moira the highlights of Asante creole in the first day - enough that she knew how to say something cost too much, or too little, how to insult a merchant's omega, and the way to flatter them - and by the second he let her haggle for their dinner, and she paid little more than he might have been able to manage. Charles got a lead on the tribe that the Alecov medicine man had belonged to, and he, Moira, Armando, and a hired guide headed out into the thick of the jungle where Charles taught Moira about the various dangers of the wild animals and how to harvest some of the ripest and most delicious fruit the south had to offer.

"Why don't we have these in Genosha?" She asked, sucking on the yellow-orange fruit of the mango Charles had picked for them to share.

"They can be dehydrated with machinery, but the flavor becomes too different to be near as sweet. It's good, isn't it?"

She nodded, licking juice from her hands and laughing. "I never imagined it would be... so... fun."

"It's only fun for those of us with a keen sense of adventure. It's required for the best traders."

"Another failing of Kurt Marko."

"Yes, he does not travel outside of Asante itself, if he comes this far south at all."

For dinner they had snake.

Moira was less enthusiastic about the snake.

The next morning they entered into the medicine man's territory. Charles was less familiar with the customs than he would have liked, but they were only three days from Asante itself so he doubted they would be too different. He spent the morning with the elders, spitting on the ground to honor the dead and chewing something that made his chest and arms tingle before they finally settled around the fire in the evening and Charles described his problem: King's Disease, and the need for treatment. It was slow going, the problem with creoles, as much as they were full languages in their own right, was that they were mishmashes of many of the surrounding languages and they just didn't have the same facility with explaining higher level concepts with a non-fluent creole speaker.

It meant he spent a good deal of time explaining the problem to the one or two people who spoke Asante fluently, and they were forced to explain it in their native language to the medicine men. The men would deliberate, and discuss, and then finally attempt to explain the reasoning back to Charles. He took notes furiously, and Moira watched carefully over his shoulder.

The exchange of information was haggled over, Charles parted with a fine silver chain and some dried apples and they returned the favor with... a chicken.

"Why do we have a chicken?" Moira asked, as they started the trek back across the jungle.

"Because we were actually exchanging gifts, and they wanted to give me a chicken. It lays eggs and if there's some sort of large creature you can just sort of throw it and run."

Armando laughed. They all ended up laughing, Charles carting a chicken rather gracefully under his arm. The trick about carrying a chicken was to not get scratched and not let its wings get free. The rest of it was mostly luck. Armando and their guide proved handy enough that night that they were able to get the chicken wrapped and settled in when they had to sleep.

By the time they returned back to the ship, it had been almost a week. The letters back from Emma and Erik had piled up in their absence. He started with Erik's. Despite the time it took to compose a letter and put thoughts to page, Erik had sent at least one every day. Some where just little things, how things went with the Parliament or how some provincial issue was shaping up; it was the sort of thing they talked about when he was back in the palace. The last few days’ worth of letters were, politely put, a bit frantic. It had been probably almost eight days since Erik would have heard anything from him, and he had said it might be as long as a week, but really, you would think Erik thought he was some sort of pretty songbird who was good for nothing but chirping and looking attractive.

He pulled out a sheet of paper. Honestly, Erik, I'm really quite alive. I have had good progress with the natives thus far and I expect to spend a few days here sorting out where to get my herbs. A few of the old traders might have more information, and I will cross check with them.

The note he set aside after that. He'd think of something else to say later. Emma had sent him far fewer letters, just two, one towards the beginning where she whined over that other courtesan omega, Logan, apparently being particularly scruffy and annoying company at dinner a few evenings ago when Emma had deigned to descend to their level. Jean was apparently doing well - Charles had taken a certain fondness to her in a very general sense. Angel, however, appeared to be in a bit of a sulk for no particular reason. He and Angel had gotten along well enough, but they had never become friends the way he got along with Moira or Jean.

The second letter from Emma was sent probably just this morning based on the dating. Just thought you'd like to know - two weeks almost and he hasn't seen any of us since you've left.

Charles looked down at the note, blinked back a few tears that were threatening to form in his eyes. Erik wasn't particularly good at his 'there will be others' business. That stupid... idiotic... beautiful man who was apparently too stubborn to ask for what he wanted from Charles even though he was the damn king.

He grabbed the letter he'd been working on to Erik. I love you. I miss you desperately. I can't wait to be back in your arms and your bed. From now on, for me, there can be no one else.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
pookaseraph
Jan. 27th, 2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
Yes! I know people wanted. These are kinda unbeta'd and unedited and things, the proper one will go up on AO3 because people like the download anyway, it's just a nice little way for people to track it I guess, like subscribing to my tumblr or friending me or just tagging the 'atkm' tag.

Ooo, glorious? I can deal with glorious. Hehehe

The kinda hilarious (to me) thing is that on Monday I wrote very little and I was like 'oh god I write so slow!!!' even though objectively I know I write quite fast. Yesterday one of my friends said 'pookaseraph, if you were GRRM we would have the next ASOIAF now!' and then I felt a bit better. Erik is a horrible sulkypants. I love him.

 And yeah, Kenneth was more just that moment where Charles would be 'oh, this isn't fun anymore' which is a revelation he needed.

(the story will happily cuddle you back)
(Deleted comment)
pookaseraph
Jan. 28th, 2012 07:48 pm (UTC)
BALLOONS! I really enjoyed making up the airship stuff. I'm a huge fan of steampunk aesthetics and actually my next fic will be along that vein. And yes! Everyone but Darwin (and Moira) I think it's his - crappy - way of dealing with his pining but it's not something unusual in the world, no. And no problem, I know the kinkmeme is hard to follow and this *will* be up on AO3 afterwards, possibly with a few bits of addition to smooth out and correct some issues that come from doing a WIP instead of finishing and then editing.
iheartdraco11
Jan. 31st, 2012 04:22 am (UTC)
This is the sexiest and most romantic fic I have ever read in my life. BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO..I bow down to you :)
pookaseraph
Jan. 31st, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Thank you so much, I hope you enjoy the rest as it goes up.
kdmcg
Jan. 31st, 2012 07:31 am (UTC)
Wow
One, I love the entire inclusion of a "romanov-esque" plot line...just wonderful. Also, you manage to make Charles and Erik so amazingly passionate and lovely with such a subtle way. I'm already absolutely aching for them and can't wait to see what else you choose to do with this universe. Fantastic!
pookaseraph
Jan. 31st, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow
Thank you. It was a hoot to throw that in to the story. I must admit plot can be a touch easier when you're just borrowing from history. I'm glad it comes off that way. They really are just a lovely pair of idiots and I want them to obviously be in love and passioante. There will be probably about 3 (possibly 4) parts left! So hopefully you'll enjoy the rest and the conclusion!
(Deleted comment)
pookaseraph
Feb. 2nd, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
I totally sort of giggled in a very pleased and embarrassed way! Thank you for the lovely compliments. I love trying to bring something new to a trope, but really it's just me sort of playing with the items of the trope that are most appealing to me so it's always a lot of fun to do. I think my whole style has a touch of briskness to it and lends it self to asking the reader to buy in without being too obtrusive. That's always my thought. I'm sometimes worried I don't bring enough to what I write, but then I'm the author and I'm going to judge myself a bit harshly regardless. Well, I do always write worldbuilding porn! (magic? eee. Thank you.)

This world more than any of my others really demanded fashion be important, the style and the setting and the gears were all much more instrumental than in my other works. I'm a horrible (visual) artist or else I would try to draw it, but really it would be a horrible puff of fabric or a horrid palm tree vista, hopefully everyone's minds up are up to the ask because my fingers certainly aren't!

Thank you!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )