The Half-Baked Life of Pumpernickel Brett

by bupparo

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/153777.html)

Nick was mostly thankful he hadn’t burst in on the princess while she had been bathing. That would have been most awkward. Not that walking in on her while she was taking a piss was much better.

The two stood, frozen, jaws dropped open in shock. Time slowed to a sadistic stop. It was now that Nick took the time to let out that dying breath he’d been saving in his chest and to take in the crimson face of the princess and the way her long golden hair cascaded down her shoulders in soft waves. And the fact that she apparently peed while standing up.

The princess promptly dropped her skirts, ceasing all further urination, and turned an interesting shade of puce. The word “puce” was used here because the word itself has a gross sound to it, and the colour reminded Nick of this one time he participated in a beet-eating contest and ate forty-seven beets. He won that contest and promptly barfed after accepting his award: a wagon filled with beets. His vomit was coloured puce.

“Um,” Nick said intelligently, almost dropping his sword and barely avoiding the possible amputation of his big toe. “Excuse me, Miss, I…” He wisely decided against ‘I didn’t realise that peeing while standing was something women could do. Is that just because you’re a noble?’ and instead coughed up a flustered, “Are you the princess that is held captive in this tower?”

“Miss? Princess?” the princess echoed, voice strained and quite deep for a fair maiden. “You have to be kidding me,” she muttered, pale hands fisting in the satin of her gown as she twitched. “Do I look like a princess to you?” The woman shuffling away from the chamberpot was clad from head to toe in a violently pink ball gown that gave off the vague impression that the princess was a cupcake with enough strawberry frosting to give a giant a diabetic seizure. So, yeah. She looked a lot like a princess to Nick.

However, she didn’t have the breathy, dainty voice Nick had expected, nor the polished parlance he had always imagined of royalty and their snivelling courtiers. Rather, this particular breed of princess standing before him had a course manner of speech and spoke in an even, controlled tenor. Her adam’s apple bobbed as she spoke, something Nick found curious, as he had always heard that women did not possess such anatom—oh.

“Oh.” Nick’s grip on his weapon fell slack as he realised his error. “Um,” he said, sheathing it hastily and holding a hand out in a gesture of peace, blue eyes wide with nervous energy. ” I must’ve gotten the address of the wrong tower.” He peeled off one of his brown leather gloves and squinted at the crude map sketched onto the back of his hand. The ink of the nearby forest, originally marked as DO NOT GO HERE, had smeared so it now read GO HERE. Nick frowned and glanced back up at the princess the transvestite the not-princess. He rubbed at his forehead, trying to quell his migraine. “Sorry, I heard there was a princess being held captive in a tower somewhere around here.”

The not-princess’ light brown eyes squinted, unimpressed. “No,” he said after a moment. The tenseness in his shoulders relaxed beneath the fine brocade of the magenta coloured gown and his irritation seemed to deflate, weighed down by resignation. “This is the only tower in this part of the country,” he told Nick.

Nick stared. “Oh,” he said. “Where’s the princess?”

The not-princess pinched at the bridge of his nose—apparently the migraine was catching. “You’re looking at him.”

*

It was a shame Nick hadn’t died. Perhaps if he had died young enough, he could have avoided the grand cacophony of rubbish that his life was built on. Indeed, the first misfortune of his life was being born. But we’ll get to that in a little.

The second misfortune of his life was the name his father had given him on a drunken whim.

“Pumpernickel!” Nick’s father had bellowed across the midwife’s tiny cabin. Mead sloshed out of his mug in frothy amber dribs and drabs. “The li’l bastard’s name’s Pumpernickel,” he informed his wife, ignoring her beleaguered requests for him to kindly stfu. “Pumpernickel,” he repeated, as he spilled alcohol all over the bawling infant. He whispered, tears pouring down his face, “That’s my bastard.” Nick in fact was not a bastard; ‘bastard’ was just a pet name his father was fond of using.

“You’re naming him ‘Pumpernickel’?” the midwife asked, raising an eyebrow and taking a cautionary step backwards. Just in case the new father was certifiable. “Is that a joke?” The look on the father’s face suggested it was anything but. “I thought your last name is…?” She made a jerky hand gesture that bore some resemblance to male masturbation as her voice trailed away. She stammered, “Isn’t that a little cruel?”

Nick’s father’s face had darkened to a ruddy shade of purple at the questions and his accent reached an alarming level of hillbilly. “What in the name of Hans Christian Andersen is wrong with naming the li’l bastard ‘Pumpernickel Brett’?”

The first fortune of Nick’s life was the nickname his mother gave him. Unfortunately, he had to wait a good eight years for that one to happen. And it may not have even happened if he hadn’t staged his own suicide attempt. (An event that could have easily turned into Misfortune Number 103.) And granted, no one actually referred to him as anything but his embarrassing birth name, but he had heard someone else call him Nick once—that had to go for something, right?

The third, seventeenth, thirty-second, thirty-third, and fifty-ninth misfortunes of Nick’s life were his greatly disliked younger brothers, who are not very important to the plot and do not make appearances, so we’ll call them #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6 respectively, as such was their order of birth, Nick being unlucky #1.

Everything Nick did in life always got stacked up against his younger siblings’ achievements, which may seem like a normal occurrence. But, as Nick’s father seemed to hold a predilection towards his sons not named after food products, Nick fell quite short by comparison. This gross favouritism was evident in every aspect of life. For example:

#2 was given a pony for his seventh birthday. On his seventh birthday, Nick was given a single sock. He tried to make a sock puppet pony out of it once. His mother spanked him for trying to feed it hay.

#6 was given a sword for Yule; it had a whole plethora of protective spells and talismans wrought into its gleaming iron. On the same Yule, Nick was given a single sock. It had a large hole right over his big toe. His mother spanked him for mentioning this.

When #3 became sixteen years old, their father got him a night with a well-known and very talented prostitute. She taught #3 the secrets of intimacy and pleasure.

When Nick turned sixteen, his father gave him a horrifyingly graphic explanation on (lesbian) sex and presented Nick with a single wool sock. It chafed his dick something awful. Then his mother spanked him for soiling it.

It may come as a surprise to the reader that this mistreatment was neither a result of being adopted (although he often wished he was) nor for being fairer than any of his brothers. The reader may find it both logical and distressing that the source of everything was Misfortune Number 1: Nick was born. And by virtue of his unfortunate life, did not die.

Whether in childbirth or sickness or starvation or the occasional tithe to some witch or heathen god, the first child always died. Always. Always. It was practically the eleventh Commandment.

So common was the death of the firstborn, that parents planned for all their children from #2 on. If, for some godforsaken reason, the first child survived past the age of ten, parents officially were in a very uncomfortable position, because at this point, they’d already invested so much more time and energy into their other children, that the firstborn child came off as somewhat waifish.

For Nick, unlucky #1, this was his reality. One of his brothers was sent off to become a knight, another a merchant, and so on and so forth. Next to his brothers’, his future looked pretty damn bleak and pointless.

“Good morning, Dad,” Nick greeted his father one fine summer’s day. He had spent the last two hours fitting Cedric the Pony with new shoes. Cedric the Pony was a slave to fashion.

Master Brett almost walked past his son then jerked and backpedalled at the sound of his voice. He stared for a long, calculating moment. Then he said, amazed and more than a little disgruntled, “You’re still alive?” Then, “Why the hell are you giving the damn pony pink shoes?” He shook head with a gruff mutter of “Crazy boy.”

“Ouch,” Cedric the Pony said after Nick’s father had lumbered off out of earshot. “That certainly wasn’t pleasant, babe.” Cedric the Pony had a somewhat prissy voice and every word that left his muzzle was very sharp and hit the ground like a ton of rainbow-painted bricks. Nick fancied that half the time the words that came from the animal were just undignified whinnies and snuffles. It was an easier idea to bear than the truth.

Nick set down his hammer, lips pulled downward into a growing frown. “I can’t stand this,” he said, voice thin and reedy. “I really am a disappointment, aren’t I?” He spat a nail out of his mouth and it bounced once before rolling to a dead stop. “Can’t even fit shoes properly.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Cedric the Pony said, lifting a single hoof and inspecting the craftsmanship. “Although I must admit, the way the Master and Mistress treat you is hardly humane,” he said, eyeballing the ragged tunic Nick wore with equine disgust.

“I know!” Nick exclaimed as he jumped to his feet. The seat of his trousers tore open with the sudden movement. “They think I’m worthless, don’t they?” Nick griped as he clung to his exposed ass.

Cedric the Pony winced. “Honey, you’re wearing burlap. They think you’re less than worthless.”

It was a few short weeks after this event that Nick got it into his head that he needed to leave his small village and travel the lands in a Grand Self-Searching Quest until he accrued enough fame or wealth or blisters and came home to bask in the love and adoration of his family and fellow peasants.

Shortly after this revelation, he came across rumours of a princess locked up in a tower. Shortly after coming across these rumours, he found out that they were mostly false.

*

The not-princess and Nick stared at each other for a few long, edgy moments. Finally, the not-princess huffed, “Look, I know I’m technically supposed to stay here until my One True Love shows up, but let me tell you, these past five years have been absolute hell and I’m not feeling very picky anymore.” There was an awkward silence as Nick chewed on this information and attempted to digest it. The not-princess got impatient and brusquely demanded, “So? Are we leaving?” He adjusted the tiara perched upon his silky blond locks and wrinkled his nose at Nick. “Are you wearing burlap?” He looked scandalised. “Your hair is so dark. It clashes horribly.”

Nick chose to ignore the comments on his totally-not-burlap tunic and puffed out his chest, addressing the not-princess in the most masculine voice he could muster. “Do not fear, my fair maid—er. Sir. I’ll see to it that you are returned to your parents in perfect condition. I’m sure they will be thrilled to see you released from this…” He looked around the chambers: they were lavishly decorated with silver-plated furniture and dozens of plush dolls of unicorns were scattered upon the feather mattress and chaise lounge. Diamonds and pearls as big as eyes were imbedded into the white velvet ceiling, preening like obnoxious stars. A single glass table sat in the centre of the room, so spotless and clean that it would be practically invisible if not for the occasional blinding twinkle. On the table were the remnants of what looked like a half-eaten chocolate éclair. Nick cleared his throat. “From this vile prison.”

The not-princess raised an eyebrow and glanced over his vile prison. “It’s not that bad,” he said, bemused. “Although it could definitely use a couple more diamonds.”

“Imagine being locked up in here all day,” Nick said, stalking over to the glass table and staring down at the leftover pastry. The plate it sat on cost more money than Nick could even comprehend. He picked up the éclair and popped it into his mouth. Then he nearly expired with joy. “Those fiends!” he choked out in between impassioned cries of oral ecstasy.

As he keeled over at the table, leaving spastic dirty handprints on the once-immaculate glass, the not-princess scuttled over to his side, placing a soft white palm on his shoulder and asking, alarmed, “Are you all right?” His eyes were the most charming blend of honey and molasses.

Their faces were quite close and Nick jerked away from the not-princess, startled by the unfamiliar yet familiar warmth that rose behind his cheeks. “I’m fine,” he croaked, steeling himself on the table before shakily rising back to his feet. “God,” he said after he’d recovered. “Where d’you get all your food, anyway?”

The not-princess shrugged. “My Fairy Godmother sends care packages once a day. She sometimes pops by to check on me, too. She seems concerned about the risk of me committing suicide.” He rubbed at his nose and smiled boyishly—something that made Nick’s heart flutter. “That’d probably interfere with the whole ‘rescue the princess’ thing. And speaking of the whole ‘rescue the princess’ thing, d’you mind maybe rescuing me? And, erm, marrying me?” He blushed. “That’s sort of part of the deal, after all.”

Nick blinked, having forgotten most of everything about anything prior to tasting the éclair. But as the not-princess’ words settled into his brain, he felt filled with the same strength of mind and body that all the knights in his village had spoken of. Except he hadn’t drank through the half a keg of ale, like them. And marrying his rescued damsel was always part of the plan to achieve Happily Ever After, and Nick found that his not-princess’ inherent maleness wasn’t off-putting in the slightest. So there.

“Of course,” he said, seizing the not-princess’ hand in his own and marvelling at how small and pale it looked in his grasp. “We’ll leave right now. Don’t worry. I’ll get you home safely.”

*

“That’s a pretty rough story you have,” the not-princess said as they traipsed down the stairs. Nick had learned two things during their sluggish descent from the highest room in the tallest tower:

First, the not-princess was in fact a prince.

Second, the prince’s name was Elliot.

Third, Prince Elliot was almost criminally slow at moving in heels.

Wait, that was three things, wasn’t it? Crap.

No matter. Nick wasn’t educated, anyway. Only one of his brothers got that privilege.

“I can’t exactly relate to that history,” Elliot said as he hiked up his skirts a few extra centimetres, “but I can sort of commiserate, I suppose.”

Nick glanced up. “Yeah?” he asked. He didn’t mention that he had no clue what ‘commiserate’ meant. Elliot seemed to be more pleasant now that Nick was in the act of rescuing him. Nick couldn’t blame him; there probably weren’t too many guys out there willing to climb like 19,283,712 flights of stairs just to rescue some princess, only to find out that there wasn’t even any possibility of getting pussy in the end. Nick was not inclined to share that opinion for reasons that his father forbade him to discuss in polite company. (Or at least in the presence of drunken farmers. Something about ‘ass-rape.’)

Elliot nodded and continued, “See, I’m actually the fifth child, but my parents only had daughters before me, and I guess they just were unsure of what to do with anything that wasn’t female.” He rolled his eyes and gestured to the poufy gown he wore. “I can count the number of times I’ve worn breeches on one hand.” He blew a stray curl out of his eyes. “So, anyway. My first sister got taken as tithe for some dwarf with an incredibly long name…” Typical. Nick nodded solemnly and bit down on any jealous comments. “My second sister got stabbed with an infected spinning needle and fell into some kind of a coma. She’s off in some other castle, waiting for her True Love to kiss her or whatever. That’s supposed to wake her up, according to Father.” Elliot paused, considering. “Although he was rather plastered when he said that, so who knows. ”

There was something oddly comforting in the fact that obscure kings also made abusive decisions regarding their children while drunk. It made Nick feel like his own father wasn’t some regrettable minority. Master Brett was now part of a much larger, more universal population. Nick smiled.

“My third sister got stuck in this same tower. But she figured out a way to escape—she grew her hair until it was long enough that she could use it as a rope. She made a pulley system or something. We haven’t seen her since.” Elliot looked strangely annoyed by this. “She sends me letters from time to time,” he told Nick, “it seems that after her Fairy Godmother found out she went dangling out the window, she was dragged into some kind of therapy. They thought she was suicidal, I guess.” He tugged on a lock of his hair as he explained. “I would’ve tried the same method, but my Fairy Godmother keeps cutting my hair.”

“So why not just get a man’s haircut?” Nick asked, eying the mess of golden tresses hanging over Elliot’s shoulder with distrust. His answer was an embarrassed look and an unspoken bit of logic: Because that would look ridiculous with my dresses. Nick licked his lips and shrugged one shoulder. “Never mind. What happened to your fourth sister?”

When Elliot laughed, it was one part bitterness and two parts fml. “Mother died a little after my third sister escaped,” he told Nick. “And a couple years later, Father remarried this woman—she wasn’t a noble…” Elliot’s voice trailed away as he squinted, trying to find the right words to describe his stepmother. His eyes lit up and he told Nick with relish, “She was more of a titsy barmaid that happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Nick laughed out loud and nudged Elliot in the side, “That’s what my dad says about my mother!”

Elliot laughed again, but this time was unlike the first. It was lighter, airier, and the sound was clearly something he wasn’t used to making; a little breathy and tentative, like a stream that hadn’t yet discovered it was a river. Nick felt that same heat flare up beneath his skin, and decided not to feel nervous about it. It was a comforting and tangible sensation in his chest. It felt like it had always belonged there.

He clasped Elliot’s hand in his own, delighting at the spark of warmth that shot through his bones and to his core when skin met skin. “Then what?” he prompted the prince, eyes bright. “Your fourth sister?’

“Ah, yes!” Elliot nodded his head enthusiastically. His speech began to pour from his mouth with more rapidness as the pair tromped down the spiralling staircase, their footfalls growing clumsier and bouncier with each step. “My fourth sister! See, our stepmother was really wicked to the two of us at home. You know, the last thing she fed me before I got locked up here was a raw beet. Disgusting.” Elliot cringed. “A total witch. So, our Wicked Stepmother hired this mercenary passing through the village and ordered him to kill my fourth sister and to rip out her heart—”

“No!”

“Yes!” Elliot exclaimed. “He was told to rip out her heart and to put it in a box as proof to my Wicked Stepmother that the deed was done.”

“That’s insane,” Nick shouted, grinning when his voice echoed throughout the tower. Each bounding step made him feel so alive, made Elliot’s shoulders bumping against his feel that much more solid. “Did he do it?”

Elliot’s scoff was voiceless laughter, a fleeting puff of amused breath. “Of course not,” he assured Nick, unaware of the massive poetic diarrhoea his inner monologue was spewing at that very moment. “He warned my sister about the plot, and my sister fled. Last I heard, she’s off living in a cottage somewhere. She’s got a reverse harem there.” He offered a toothy smile. “And she lived happily ever after?”

Several mental images bubbled to the surface of Nick’s mind; images of Elliot dolled up in some fussy white dress and of blushing cheeks and shy, pearly smiles beneath a sheer veil, of lips forming the words “I do.”

It is, of course, only logical that while Nick’s brain was busy going alsd;lksjd, he missed his footing on the edge of one of the stairs and stumbled. Rather than capsizing and tumbling down the remaining 26,531 flights of stairs before landing in an undignified heap on the ground, Nick was jerked by a strong grip into falling backwards into a firm body. “God,” Elliot said as they sat in a crumpled lump against the wall, Nick’s head cradled in the crook of his neck, “that could have killed you.” Nick knew that the prince meant the fall, and while that was true, Nick was fairly certain that if the fall hadn’t killed him, the humiliation would have.

“Are you all right, Nick?” Elliot asked, peering down into Nick’s blue eyes. He smelled fantastic: like perfumed chai and vanilla cookies that melted and crumbled in his mouth. Nick managed a dumb nod in response and jerkily jumped to his feet, pulling away from the ruffles of Elliot’s dress and the toasted sugar of his skin.

*

With hindsight, Nick would have realised that the whole set up (minus the 19,283,712 flights of stairs) was too easy. He’d just waltzed right into the tower and sprinted up the 19,283,712 flights of stairs. Cake.

It turned out that leaving the tower was a little more tricky.

See, there was nothing at the bottom level of the tower save for some storage space, a somewhat disturbing painting of a group of trolls gangbanging a dwarf man, and the door to the outside world—the door that Nick had burst in through. And, just like before, Nick passed easily beneath the threshold. Elliot, on the other hand, was not so lucky. The prince was halted dead in his tracks, walking smack into an invisible wall.

“This could be a problem,” Nick said after Elliot’s nosebleed had been wrangled down to a slow trickle and not the gushing waterfall it had been upon impact with the force field. Nick made a feeble pushing motion with a hand, trying to touch whatever unseen force had totally pwn’d Elliot. Like before, he touched nothing but empty space and he ended up looking really stupid as he waved his hand at nothing.

“What on earth just happened?” Elliot snapped after he’d gotten a mouthful of expletives out of his system. He mimicked Nick’s blind motions and his hand pressed against a solid wall of nothing. His eyes boggled and he dropped his handkerchief. “What trickery is this?!” he shrieked as he hammered his fists on the invisible wall. “Why can’t I get out?!”

Nick’s head whipped around as he searched for a helpful sign that might explain this conundrum. He was somewhat unsurprised that the search yielded no such thing. “Maybe it’s the spell?” he asked wildly. Cedric the Pony, who had been tethered not far off from the door, raised his ears and lifted his head to look at the commotion. Nick decided to ignore the whinnies of hoarse horsey laughter emanating from his ignoble steed. “Can you maybe call your Fairy Godmother? Maybe she can help.”

Elliot’s face turned that same interesting shade of puce when he realised they had an audience. “Erm,” he stammered, “I, yes, that is…” He coughed. “I’ll call Tina.”

“Tina?”

The prince fumbled with a small whistle that hung from a chain around his neck. It was a daintily crafted piece, engraved with curling Elvish text in its white gold body. Nick sucked in a nervous breath of air, waiting to hear the tinny and pure note that would sound. Elliot licked his lips and placed the mouthpiece of the instrument inside his mouth and blew.

It was probably an F#, Nick thought. An F# as played by a kazoo, at least. Because that’s what the whistle sounded like. A fucking golden kazoo.

Outside, there was a sudden explosion of neon green smoke and glittering violet fireworks cracked out of thin air and Nick dived onto Elliot, hitting the ground and shielding the prince. When the rat-tat-tat of volatile pops had ceased, Nick hazarded a peek over his shoulder at the dissipating green clouds. The haze cleared to reveal a dark-skinned woman who probably weighed no more than 80 lbs—a good 10 of which was undoubtedly made up of her giant rainbow afro. She was dressed in a lethal combination of fluorescent coloured strips of cloth and had an equally shocking array of makeup adorning her face: her lips were a sparkling cyan, her eyelids were painted bright orange, and her lashes were long and electric purple. Giant pink star-shaped jewels clung to her powdered cheeks like a smattering constellation of freckles. Two delicate wings protruded from her back, the cellophane film of the membrane glistened in the light and reflected the spectrum like soapy bubbles in a child’s hands.

The woman pirouetted once in the air, perhaps for the dramatic effect, before dive-bombing down to Elliot and Nick. “Elliot!” she exclaimed, careening into the tower and towards the prince. “Who’s your friend?” When she landed on the ground and took in the sight of Nick straddling Elliot, her well-plucked neon yellow eyebrows rose and waggled suggestively. “Easy there, girl,” she drawled, “You’re getting hitched to a feisty one.” She let out a wolf call.

Nick leapt off Elliot as quickly as he could and snapped his body forward into a sharp 90° angle. “Pleased to meet you, Miss Fairy Godmother. I’m Pumpernickel Brett—or at least that’s what my dad named me, but I hate my name so call me Nick. Please. Please.” He paused, and added, “I’m, uh, here to rescue Elliot.”

The fairy godmother blew a raspberry. “I know who you are, baby,” she said with a toothy grin. Her eyes were marbled chartreuse and fuchsia and extremely painful to look at. “I can see it. Elliot is gonna be one happy sonuvabitch with you.” She winked.

“T-Tina!” Elliot spluttered, threatening to claw out all his hair.

Tina laughed good-naturedly and flicked Elliot on the nose with a single white acrylic fingernail. “Take it easy, Ellie,” she chortled. “I won’t be embarrassing you much more in front of Prince Charming over here.”

“Prince Charming?” Elliot echoed with an amused smile. “Please. He’s wearing burlap.”

Burlap?” Tina was on Nick in a flash, gossamer wings beating like raindrops and silver bells. She picked at Nick’s tunic and covered her mouth, stunned to silence. “Honey, this is beyond any sort of curse I’ve seen before,” she told him grimly. “I promise you, I’ll set this bullshit right once you get Elliot out.”

Nick scratched at the back of his neck as Elliot and Tina tittered over his clothing. “Erm, yeah, see, that’s the thing. Miss Godmother, we can’t get Elliot out of the tower.”

Tina peered up from her inspection of Nick’s worn leather boots. “Can’t get him out?” She laughed and hopped back into the air. “Well obviously you two didn’t fulfil the requirement of the enchantment.”

Elliot’s eyes narrowed. “Requirement? What requirement?”

The fairy shrugged from her place in the air. “Nothing much,” she said loftily. “Just a little kiss ought to do it.”

“A kiss?!

“That’s what I said,” Tina replied, voice a little too cheerful. “Pucker up, boys. It’s gotta be a big one.”

Elliot slapped a hand over his mouth. “You can’t be serious.”

Nick shot a sideways look at the prince. “It’s just one kiss. It’s not that bad.” He took a tentative step closer, so he stood face to face with the prince. Nick felt his head go a little faint when he locked eyes with Elliot; his vision tunnelled in on the prince’s face, the softness of his pink cheeks, the sharpness of his eyes. It was a little like swimming through an endless sea of caramel. He could feel his chest clench in a way that wasn’t unpleasant.

“This is so embarrassing,” Elliot mumbled beneath his breath as he cast his gaze to the side and fiddled with his hair. “I can’t leave the tower without kissing my rescuer,” he said with a high-pitched giggle. “That’s grand. That’s just fab. Who the hell makes up these rules? What a jackass. Probably some sick witch hiding away in her cave with nothing else to do except exploit the sexual lives of young nobles. Despicable. I swear, I’m going to—”

He was gently cut off when Nick cupped his face and kissed him, smooth and warm and purposeful. Elliot flushed a hot pink and fought to keep his footing. His knees buckled and there was the rushing babble of la;sjdk in his ears, so overwhelming but nowhere near as irrepressible as the choked gasp of yes that bubbled up from deep inside his chest.

“That is so fucking cute,” Tina gurgled from above their heads as she flew in an excited orbit around the pair. Pink sparkles fell from above as she rocketed about the tower. “Oh my God. You guys have seriously just made my life.” She sighed dreamily, floating upside down, a crooked and content grin spread across her face. “That was just beautiful. Will you do it again?”

“Absolutely not,” Elliot bit out, still disoriented and trying to reclaim his grasp on life. Nick’s hands were resting on his shoulders, fettering him to this surreal reality.

Nick flashed a sheepish grin and dropped his hands from Elliot’s shoulders. “It wasn’t that bad.”

Elliot said nothing. He didn’t trust himself to say anything that would come out less that gleeful and undignified. That bursting feeling he was having? That thing that made him feel like a shooting star? That was probably just indigestion.

Cedric the Pony peered in from the doorway. “Pumpernickel, hon, are we gonna leave anytime soon? I am getting such leg cramps from standing around outdoors. Not to mention this weather is absolutely brutal on my hair.” His mane had been done up in an elaborate arrangement of curls and braids. His dark eyes landed on Tina and he snuffled with excitement. “You must tell me who does your hair! Oh my God, it’s just gahhhgeous! I totally dig the afro chic look you’ve got goin’ on.”

Tina’s face lit up and she shot down to hover over Cedric the Pony. “Sugar, you are just too kind.” A bale of hay appeared with a poof of purple smoke and Cedric the Pony politely nibbled at the offering. “And your saddle is to die for. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a pony wear one quite as well as you.”

“Thanks, hon,” Cedric the Pony neighed. He jerked his head over at Nick and said, “If only we could get Prince Charming over there to appreciate fashion. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he’s wearing burlap.”

Nick frowned. “Does the burlap really matter?”

“In fact, it does,” Elliot finally said. He had wandered over to the threshold and was taking a few experimental steps into the outside world. Satisfied with his freedom, he turned back to Nick, cleared his throat, and added, “You’ll need to look presentable for when you meet my parents.”

“Your parents?” Nick’s face paled. “Come again?”

“That’s what she said!” Cedric the Pony and Tina exclaimed in unison.

*

If there was one positive thing to be said about the gentry, it was that they had panache. Not just panache, Nick corrected himself, a single noble had enough flair to dress all his serfs like royalty while still having style to spare. If Elliot put his mind to it, Nick realised, he could easily rid the world of burlap once and for all. The only thing holding the prince back was sheer laziness.

Fortunately for Nick, Elliot was extremely motivated by the impending (and nonnegotiable) meeting of his parents and his rescuer. He, Tina, and Cedric the Pony had spent a good half hour arguing about how to dress Nick. Tina had an acid inspired vision of Nick wearing a neon latex bodysuit and a feathered headdress. Cedric the Pony had coughed something about assless chaps—and Tina vehemently agreed with this.

That was point when Nick shot Elliot a desperate look and Elliot felt it prudent to spare the peasant such mortification.

The end result—which had been magic’d into reality by Tina—was surprisingly tame and refined. (Which meant that Elliot had gotten the final word in the matter.) Nick’s new tabard was a rich blue velvet with a finely embroidered silver loaf of bread emblazoned across his chest. This lay over a cotton long-sleeved shirt that was so white, it was blinding. His trousers were slim and fit neatly into his new boots without the slightest wrinkle.

“Holy shit,” Nick said as he eyeballed himself in the mirror Tina had helpfully conjured. He turned around to inspect his ass. “I look good.”

Elliot rounded the corner and snorted at the sight. “Isn’t it amazing what a few good clothes and a bath can do?”

Nick turned to grin at the prince and fire a witty response, but the words swiftly died in his mouth. Elliot had just returned from changing out of his poufy gown and into a pale pink tunic and trousers. In one hand he clutched half a metre of shorn hair. He touched soft fingers to the golden fringe falling into his eyes and asked, shyly, “Does it look okay?” Honey-blond hair curled around pale ears.

“You look…great.” The new clothes and haircut had transformed Elliot greatly; they revealed the narrowness of his hips, the line of his shoulders. Elliot’s cheeks and jaw were both still smooth and graceful, but the femininity of these features were lost beneath the striking way his eyes were set, no longer abashed beneath a veil of girlish ornaments and costume. Nick stared for a long moment. It was hard to remember that Elliot had ever once looked like a woman, as slight as he was. Everything about him, from the way he shifted posture to the way he licked his lips, was male. Elliot tilted his head to the side and Nick caught a glimpse of the arched neck that had always hidden behind the shift of hair.

“You think so?” Elliot’s cheeks were dusted with the faintest tint of pink. He dropped the cut hair to the ground and dusted his hands off. “Good. Because it’ll have to do until I can get a proper barber to fix it. Tina’s not very experienced with short hair.” He toed the pile of hair like it was a dead animal, his mouth twisted into a wry smile. He peered up through his eyelashes, noticed Nick staring, then lilted, “You clean up pretty well, Good Sir Pumpernickel.”

That obnoxious fluttering returned to Nick’s gut with a vengeance and oh, even his godawful name sounded wonderful in Elliot’s mouth. Playing along, Nick dropped to one knee in a clumsy bow, “I owe it all to you, Prince Elliot. I would be nothing without you.”

Elliot smiled and closed the distance between them, leaning forward in the barest of bows, his right hand placed over his heart. “How flattering. Do forgive that I don’t curtsy.” He held out a hand to help Nick up.

The touch of their hands was dizzying, like dissipating into a cloud and floating away. Nick squeezed Elliot’s hand and Elliot averted his eyes. Then Tina flew over their heads, loudly asking, “Are you two done eye-fucking yet?” and the mood was officially killed. Elliot told himself that he wasn’t disappointed, which was a lie even the stupidest child on earth wouldn’t believe.

Tina had whipped out her wand from nowhere, the thin spindle of shimmering crystal radiated with a dim white glow. She slapped the wand into the palm of her hand and it coughed out a few tired sparks. “So?” she asked impatiently. “Are you guys all ready?” There were a few grunts of agreement. “Cool beans! Now, if you gentlemen could just line up single file, we’ll get this party started.”

There was another delay, however, when Tina felt it necessary to transform Cedric the Pony into a human. “It’ll make sense,” she told them and tapped her wand on the pony’s nose. There was a poof of pink smoke and a series of loud pops and when the air cleared, there stood Cedric the Man, looking very much like a chiselled Adonis with flowing auburn hair in a bright purple tabard and the tightest pants known to mankind.

“Oh my God,” Nick said, covering his mouth with a hand. Cedric the Man wore boots that were made of bright pink leather and studded with copper. “How am I supposed to explain this to Dad?”

Cedric the Man stuck his hip out to the side and brushed off the concerns with a flapping wrist. “Pumpernickel, darling, you worry way too much.” He slapped his own ass and let out a giddy laugh. “Now this is an ass.” Nick could already feel the migraine descending.

*

As it turned out, Cedric the Man’s transformation had not been at the whim of Tina (who was shaping up to be the biggest faghag on this side of the river). Tina’s method of travelling with multiple parties was to line them up in a conga line and have them dance through the air at breakneck speeds. By the time they landed in the city Elliot’s family resided in, all of their legs were sore from the constant kicking.

“We’re here!” Tina exclaimed as they fell out of the sky. The maracas in her hands were swearing up and down the block about how fucking dizzy they were. “Over there,” Tina said, pointing obviously at the castle. “That’s the castle,” she said obviously.

“No shit! You’re a fucking genius you fucking fairy freak,” one of the maracas shrieked.

Cedric the Man sighed dreamily. “Oh, Pumpernickel,” he sniffled, “your future is right around the corner! You’re going to be married to a prince! Your parents are going to be so proud of you.”

Nick snorted and helped Elliot off the ground. “Somehow I highly doubt that.”

Tina smacked him on the arm. “Why wouldn’t they be proud? You’ll soon be married to the prince of the city of Butsecks!”

Elliot facepalmed. “Yeah. Who doesn’t want that for their children…”

“Butsecks?” Nick repeated, his dark eyebrows furrowing in thought. “Why does that sound so familiar?”

“Darling, if you weren’t familiar with Butsecks beforehand, you better get really comfortable with it ASAP,” Tina said wisely.

Butsecks smelled of wet grass. And this seemed due to a large proliferation of goliath leafy plants growing in random inconvenient places throughout the city—the leaves waving in the breeze were each more than two metres long and a metre wide in size, standing upright on the legs of their long burgundy stems. Elliot paused to stare at one of these huge plants, raising a single eyebrow and remarking, “These definitely weren’t here when I was growing up.” He looked around, frowning. “It’s also a lot quieter than I remember,” he said. “Where are all the people?”

Cedric the Man kicked one of the plants at the base of its stem, pushing a large clump of dirt and revealing the top of a colossal purplish-brown bulb. He recoiled and muttered, “Elliot, baby, the first thing I’d like you to do when you become king is get a Weed Wacker and kill all these giant motherfuckers.”

“What are they?” Tina asked in wonder.

Nick circled the plant once before kneeling down to inspect the head of the bulb Cedric the Man had revealed. He pushed aside some more dirt. Then he blinked, bombarded with the colour puce on the back of his eyelids. “I think,” he said, suddenly woozy, “it’s a giant beet.”

*

Elliot didn’t even bat an eyelash when the men guarding the entrance to the castle claimed they didn’t know him. He wrinkled his nose at them and put his hands on his hips. “Just imagine me with long hair,” he told them. “And a dress.”

The guards were silent for a moment, but a dribble of blood from one of their noses made it evident that they weren’t actually straining their memories as hard as they pretended to be. Elliot recoiled, disgusted, and Nick deliberately laid a hand over the hilt of his sword and the guards snapped to attention.

“Oh!” one finally said, dabbing at his bloody nose with a filthy handkerchief. “Prince Ellie!” He flashed a smile filled with crooked yellow teeth and crooned, “You’ve grown up nicely, lad. Although I must say I’m a tad disappointed you’re not wearing any of those pretty dresses your mother and stepmother always fancied you in.”

“I needed a change,” Elliot said, looking faintly ill. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to enter my home.”

The other guard scratched at his stubble and asked, “Eh, aren’t you supposed to be up in that tower? Waitin’ on your One True Love?”

Tina nudged Nick forward and proclaimed, “He’s right here! Tell the Wicked Stepmother to suck on that.”

Like clockwork, the party was ushered into a great dining hall with a large table completely buried with ton upon ton of food. Guards and servants lined the room, and at the head of the table sat a man and woman, both dressed regally in deep purple and maroon brocade and leggings. The king’s face bore a detached and almost dazed expression, while the queen’s was sucked in and her lips were thin—a strange contradiction, as she was a very rotund woman with a thick head of greenish-blond hair.

Elliot lifted his chin and squared his shoulders. He said, “Hello Father, Stepmother. I have been rescued from my tower and have returned with my husband-to-be.” He reached out and grabbed Nick’s hand. “As per the customs, we will be wedded and he will join me on the throne when I inherit the crown.”

The king said, “Why don’t you try the soup? It’s divine.”

Nick blanched and even Tina raised an eyebrow. Nevertheless, they all took seats at the table. The broth of the soup was murky and highly questionable and Nick made a promise to himself not to accidentally eat it. Tina and Elliot swirled their spoons around inside their bowls and Cedric the Man politely inquired if they had any bales of hay.

“So, Father,” Elliot tried again, “This is Nick Brett. He’s from a village in the south, and—”

“Elliot, dear,” the queen said. “You really must taste the soup.”

The king nodded and helped himself to a spoonful. “Yes, yes,” he said vaguely. “It’s simply enchanting.”

The queen said again, “Taste the soup.” Two guards wearing maroon uniforms inched closer towards the party, the pikes in their hands looking increasingly pointy. Another two guards sealed the door to the hall and turned to face them, revealing the large butterfly nets in their grasp.

Tina shifted in her seat and Nick tightened the grip on his spoon.

Elliot stared. He said, “Okay…” He still didn’t touch the soup. “So, if we could maybe start making the arrangements for the wedding—”

“I really,” the queen interrupted, her face slowly darkening into a dark and dirty shade of puce, “think you should taste the soup, dear.”

The pikes of the guards were dangerously near, and Elliot’s eyes flicked from his parents to the soup. His stepmother’s face was pasty and her eyes were beady. The prince licked his lips and spooned a small amount of the soup. It was thick in consistency; thick and so dark a shade of purple, it was nearly black. He ladled it into his mouth. And swallowed.

The queen’s mouth stretched into a toothy leer. “Such a good boy.” And she abruptly burst out of her dress and turned into a giant beet.

Holy shit!” Tina shrieked as the guards with butterfly nets snagged her like a firefly. She vanished in a poof of orange smoke.

Elliot said, unfazed, “I always knew you were a witch,” and promptly passed out in his seat.

“Hahaha!” the monstrous beet queen crowed. “No one can eat my magical beets without succumbing to my awesome might!!” All the guards and servants in the room bubbled out of their skins, revealing their true beet forms. “Just you Homo sapiens wait,” the beet sorceress bellowed. “Today Butsecks, tomorrow the world!” She threw her leaves back and laughed some more. “All will tremble and fall before the wrath of Beta vulgaris! We are the strongest! We are the greatest! We are simply unbeetable!”

*

…is what Nick and Cedric the Man would have heard if they had stuck around to listen.

Rather, the pair had grabbed Elliot’s prone body and hightailed it out of the castle the second the guards had turned into beets. (They had dropped their weapons in the midst of transformation because their beet forms lacked opposable thumbs.) Problem was that the rest of the city wasn’t much better: all the humongous beets that had previously been lying dormant in the ground were now lumbering through the streets, patrolling in the klutzy way that only large animated vegetables could. One might think that this new horde of root soldiers would have hindered Nick and Cedric the Man as they fled to find safety—in fact it hardly did. Nick was something of a professional beet-eater and he managed to dispatch every malignant vegetable that caught a glimpse of them.

“I swear to God,” Nick said as he spat out the last of his puce coloured vomit. He leaned heavily against the ramshackle house they were hiding behind and moaned. “I’m never going to eat beets again after this. Never.”

Cedric the Man adjusted his grip on Elliot, who was thrown over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “Just hold out a little longer, dear,” he said. “We need to find shelter until we figure out how to ditch town. Or how to make herbicide. Something.” He looked anxiously at the unconscious prince. “How do we wake him up? Is he cursed?”

Nick thudded his forehead against the wall with a frustrated groan. “Almost definitely,” he sighed. “How do we break the spell?”

“Call me crazy, but I don’t think that beetch is going to be too into the idea of telling us how to set things right,” Cedric the Man stated. “You know what we need? We need a wizard.”

“A wizard?” Nick’s eyes bulged out of his head. “A wizard!” He slapped his forehead. “Of course!” he blurted out. “Butsecks! It’s so simple!”

Cedric the Man stared. “Babe, has the stress finally gotten to you?”

“No, no,” Nick said, waving his hands in the air. “Butsecks! We’re in the city of Butsecks!” He laughed like a desperate man. “Don’t you remember who lives in Butsecks?”

The window overhead creaked open and a twelve-year-old boy poked his head out and stared down at them. He blinked at them twice. Then he said, “Pumpernickel?”

*

What wasn’t mentioned earlier in this tale is that Nick had a brother #7. This brother, unlike #2-6, was tolerable and even beloved of Nick. (In fact, he was Fortune Number 2 of Nick’s life.) As such, he will be referred to by name.

Alfred Brett was the seventh son of a seventh son, and was sought out at a young age to become the apprentice of some potentially paedophilic wizard who resided in the city of Butsecks.

The wizard had been investigating the mysterious and rapid growth of mutant beets in the area, and while he and his apprentice had tied down the source as being the king’s new wife, Beetrice, she didn’t actually seem to be doing anything very evil with her vegetable army. The only thing she was guilty of was tempting the good king into beetsiality.

It became clear after a few months of squatting that the queen was waiting for something. As it turned out, that something was Elliot: the rightful heir and the only competition the beetch had to the throne after the king died.

“So what’s going to happen to Elliot?” Nick asked, casting an apprehensive look over his sleeping form. They had laid the prince out on a bed, and after a brief check-up, determined that Elliot was in a deep sleep.

Alfred adjusted the thick glasses resting on his nose and said, “Your lover is in a persistent vegetative state. Most people in the city are like this now.”

“How come you’re not?” Cedric the Man asked.

“Um, duh.” Alfred rolled his eyes. “Because my master and I didn’t eat the soup.” He inclined his head towards Elliot and continued, “We have to crack the spell very quickly, because if we don’t, the prince here will become a vegetable.”

Nick raised an eyebrow. “You mean he’ll stay in his coma?”

Alfred snorted. “No,” he said patiently, “I mean he’ll turn into a vegetable. A beet, to be precise.”

There was an uncomfortable twist in Nick’s chest and he bit out, “Do you know how to wake him up?”

“To date, no one has woken up from this curse. My master and I have tried a whole number of things.”

Nick wilted.

“But,” Alfred said slowly, “I do have an idea of how we can alter the course of this magic. See, the purpose of this spell is simply to immobilise. I think the transformation is just a side effect caused by the nature of the caster. It’s pretty simple magic, but it hits like a kick in the nuts. Very effective.” He shuffled over to Elliot and began rummaging through the prince’s satchel. “What we need is a caster with more power than the your typical garden-variety beet sorceress.”

Cedric the Man piped up, “Well that can’t be too difficult, right? I mean how powerful can that beetch be?”

The withering scowl on Alfred’s face was not encouraging. “If she was that weak,” Alfred said testily, “do you think my master and I would’ve let the whole city of Butsecks turn into the city of Beetsecks?” He palmed around Elliot’s collarbone and neck and his face lit up. “Aha,” he said, and pulled out the white gold whistle that had summoned Tina. “Fairy Godmothers,” he said, “are surprisingly powerful beings. They can enact change so tremendous that entire countries can be relocated.” He gently removed the chain from around Elliot’s neck. “The only thing they can’t do is influence love.” He placed the whistle in Nick’s hand. “However, their magic can repel everyone but the True Love of the child they are bound to.” He grinned. “So those legends about a princess being rescued by her One True Love? Those are anything but fiction. Fairy Godmothers and their magic are governed around the concept of True Love. They literally can do anything to preserve it.”

Nick turned the whistle over in his hands, awed. “So all I have to do is summon a Fairy Godmother and ask her to fix Elliot?”

Alfred nodded. “We’ve theorised that all this hedge magic has its root in Elliot—see, those huge-ass beets you see everywhere outside? They didn’t start growing until the day Elliot left the city to be locked in his tower.” He jabbed a thumb at the prince. “If we wake Elliot, we can fix everyone and reclaim the city.”

“Sounds fab,” Cedric the Man said. “Blow that whistle good and proper, Nick.”

Nick sucked in a deep breath and emptied out a long stretch of air through the whistle. The honking F# filled the room and shook the foundation of the house. No sooner had the whistle fallen silent than a huge cloud of smoke burst out of thin air with a resounding crack. The fairy godmother that stood in the centre of the room was perhaps the most shocking thing Nick had witnessed all day. (And it had been a very long day.)

“I’m Brunhilde,” the fairy rumbled. Her sandy hair was cropped close to her scalp and she was stocky and muscular and clothed in a plaid flannel shirt and black shorts. Her socks were mismatched and cut off just below her knees, and her shoes were made of red canvas and a peculiar white synthetic material. She glanced at the room’s occupants before settling her gaze on Nick. “You,” she said, pointing a sausage-like finger at him. “I’m your Fairy Godmother.”

Cedric the Man just barely stifled hysterical laughter.

“H-hello, Brunhilde,” Nick stammered, cowering in fear at the sight of his Fairy Godmother. She easily could have thrown him across the room without breaking a sweat; she looked that formidable. “Um, see, this is about my One True Love…”

Brunhilde pursed her lips at Nick before taking an unexpectedly graceful step towards Elliot’s bedside. “You have your True Love,” she told Nick. “But someone placed a curse on him—” she paused, looked upward, and corrected herself, “—on this city, and you want me to help you make it right.”

(Alfred rocked back on his heels, looking far too pleased with himself. “I knew my theory would work,” he muttered sotto voce.

Cedric the Man shook his head at the boy, amused. “It’s not a good colour on you.”)

“Can you help me?” Nick asked, his voice sounding just a hairsbreadth from pathetic.

“Yes,” Brunhilde said, protruding her wand from out of nowhere and gently tapping Elliot on the forehead. She folded her arms, as if inspecting her handiwork, and nodded. “You can wake him up now,” she said. “I’ve made it so that he’s physically aware in spite of his coma. Up until you break the spell, that is.”

Nick scrambled forward and clutched Elliot’s hand. “Really? Just like that?” His blue eyes were large and hopeful.

“Well,” Brunhilde said, taken aback by his vehemence. “You do have a condition to fulfill, as with all Fairy Godmother spells, but it isn’t all that much. Once you have met the condition, all will be right in this city and your love will be free to flourish.”

“Excellent!” Nick exclaimed. “What’s the condition? Another kiss?”

The fairy godmother smirked. “I’m not like Tina,” she said. “One measly little peck won’t satisfy my magic. It’ll take a little more than that to meet my requirement.”

Alfred and Cedric the Man exchanged looks. Then their mouths fell open. “No way!”

Nick stared at Brunhilde. “You can’t seriously mean…?”

Brunhilde’s face broke out into a sunny smile and she hooted, “Have fun with Sleeping Booty here, Pumpernickel Brett.” She disappeared in another burst of smoke.

*

Alfred and Cedric the Man had sprinted out of the room the second Brunhilde vanished, the imprints of their shit-eating grins burned into Nick’s mind.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, peering down at Elliot’s dozing form. The prince’s hair was windswept from their escape from the castle and a stray lock of golden hair had fallen over a single closed eye. Nick brushed it away, dragged his fingers along the fine curve of Elliot’s jaw and traced around the shape of his lips. Nick was silent for a moment, took a deep breath to relax, then leaned forward and quietly kissed Elliot on the lips. He whispered, “I promised to rescue you, and I swear that I won’t let you down.”

Nick shifted Elliot into his arms, moving the prince into a sitting position between his legs, the weight of his back pressed firmly against Nick’s chest, his head nestled against Nick’s breastbone. Nick took his time with pressing kisses along Elliot’s shoulders, with nuzzling into the crook of his neck, and with sliding his tongue along the shell of the prince’s ear. There was the softest whimper from between Elliot’s lips, a faint twitch in his breath, and Nick repeated the actions, eliciting gasps and the fluttering of closed eyelids.

It was a powerful feeling, to have Elliot writhing beneath his touch. Even the barest of touches drew such tantalising sounds, a single hot puff of air from Nick’s lips brought out violent shudders in his shoulders. Nick slipped a hand beneath Elliot’s tunic, felt the scorching heat of his skin and the way his stomach trembled with each breath. His hands groped blindly against Nick’s thighs, clenching and unclenching and searching for something to hold on to. It was delicious. Nick bit down on the juncture between Elliot’s shoulder and neck; the cry that Elliot let out was the single most arousing sound Nick had ever heard.

His hands crept around the prince’s waist, undid the lacing of his trousers. Elliot’s hips jerked sharply and Nick dipped a hand inside his trousers and cupped the prince. The moans were growing in volume, now, and Nick casually pulled Elliot’s pants down, sucking bruises into his neck and holding him tight. The way Elliot was rocking unconsciously against him was making it hard to focus. Nick nibbled on the prince’s earlobe and a shiver shot through Elliot’s body.

Nick peered over the prince’s shoulder, gazed down at the sight. Elliot’s cock felt like it was perfectly made for his hand, which would seem like a strange thought if the proof weren’t right there in front of him. Nick pressed a kiss to Elliot’s cheek. The weight, the warmth, even the thatch of honey coloured pubic hair was perfect.

He spat into his hand a few times—his hand was shaking with a pleasant mixture of excitement and trepidation. That first touch was amazing; Elliot’s back arched and his breathing stilled for just a split second before dissolving into a disorganised beat of gasps and hisses of pleasure. Nick stroked him off slowly, drinking in the moment and intending to make this last. He ducked his head and gently turned Elliot’s face and kissed him hard.

Elliot’s eyelashes fluttered, dazed brown eyes peeking out, and he mumbled a strained, “Nick—”

Nick felt his head go light as the blood rushed down to his groin. His pace sped up and he pumped his fist to the same erratic beat of Elliot’s heart. The spell was starting to break; more and more Elliot’s eyes slid open, his swallowed cries moulding to shape words.

Elliot’s hips ground between Nick’s hand and the constant pressure of Nick’s clothed erection pushing against the cleft of his ass. Nick gripped Elliot by the inside of his thigh, keeping his legs spread and his body mostly immobile. The prince’s head whipped from side to side as he bucked his hips into Nick’s hand, gasping the beginnings of incoherent words that vanished into nothing.

When Elliot came, it wasn’t with a loud scream or an uncontrollable wave of spasms. It was mostly quiet, he sucked in a long breath and held it, mouth parted in ecstasy as his eyes opened wide. His body grew still and rigid against Nick, then all at once he came, semen erupting from his cock in little rushes of white and breathless gasps, “Nick” rolling off his tongue with ease and fluidity.

He slumped against Nick, utterly boneless and spent, and Nick kissed the crown of his head with a chuckle, murmuring, “Glad you decided to join me.”

Elliot let out a hoarse laugh, ducking his head to hide in Nick’s chest. “Helluva way to get revived,” he mumbled, a giddy smile lighting up his face. “And definitely the best way to save a city.”

Reminded by the circumstances for their coupling, Nick’s brows furrowed. “Right… Do you think it worked?” he asked. “I mean, Brunhilde said that waking you would break all the enchantments, so I guess—” He fell silent when Elliot squirmed in his embrace.

The prince repositioned himself so he was straddling Nick. “I dunno,” Elliot said dubiously, pushing Nick back so he was lying flat on the bed. His eyes were alight with mischief. “Maybe we better do that again. Just to be sure we got all those beetches.” Elliot’s hands were already at Nick’s belt. His smile was wide and disarming and Nick craned his neck to kiss him.

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