Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of its characters; Ryan Murphy and Co. hold that honor. I do not own Frozen or any of its characters. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.
Blaine scrabbled for purchase on the deck, teeth chattering, just as a pair of sturdy hands slipped under his arms and hauled him out of the water. "Thank you," he gasped, struggling to keep his shivering to a minimum as he smiled halfheartedly at the stranger. "Sorry for running into your - horse," he added, blinking back his surprise as he met the stranger's gaze at last.
"Oh, I'm sure she'll live," the stranger assured, patting the neck of his mare almost fondly. "She's been through worse. You, on the other hand - " he looked at Blaine skeptically, expression softening into a wry smile a moment later. "Well, you still look handsome enough."
Blaine blushed under the praise, ducking his head. "Thank you, uh - ?"
"Sebastian." Jutting out a hand regally and accepting Blaine's cold, damp handshake without flinching, he finished, "Sebastian Smythe."
"Oh. Wow. Well, I'm - "
"Blaine Anderson," Sebastian interrupted, his smile unfaltering as he gave his hand a second shake before releasing it. "It's an honor to meet you."
"The honor's mine," Blaine said unthinkingly. "I mean, I've heard a lot about you - not about you, I have heard about you, too, I've just - "
Sebastian laughed, putting a merciful end to Blaine's stammering attempts at conversation. There was a reason why Cooper was first in line to the throne, Blaine thought ruefully, torn between running away and enduring his shame by staying. "I really am sorry for running into your horse," he said at last.
"Think nothing of it," Sebastian assured, unpinning his cloak and draping it around Blaine's shoulders before he could open his mouth to protest. "You're shaking," he added, and Blaine was surprised to find that he was, although he wasn't sure if it was from nerves or cold. Probably a combination of the two.
"Silver suits you," Sebastian added, politely filling in the gap of conversation as Blaine hugged the cloak around himself.
"Silver runs in my family," he admitted. Sebastian's hair was dark, and Blaine relaxed at the sudden realization that he was far from unusual in the mixed company of southern and northern residents. For years, he'd stood out and been subsequently unwanted, but Sebastian didn't seem put off in the slightest by his appearance. It was nice. Relaxing.
"Whereabouts are you from?" he asked formally, more comfortable in the traditional role of polite prince. That much, at least, he could do without sticking his foot in his mouth.
"The southern isles," Sebastian said, one hand holding the reins of his horse and the other draped loosely at his side. Blaine couldn't help but notice the sword at his side, belatedly realizing that he was royalty, kicking himself for not seeing it before. "I never thought I'd chance upon the prince of Arendelle outside his castle in such an unusual manner."
"Oh, I'm not the prince," Blaine hurried to correct. When Sebastian arched an eyebrow in polite surprise, he explained, "I am a prince, but I'm not - I'm second-in-line. Cooper's the prince. The king. Soon-to-be king. I'm a prince, too, but that's all I'll ever be."
Sebastian's smile didn't fall, and Blaine found himself relaxing in spite of himself. "All you'll ever be?" he asked, a teasing edge coloring his tone. "I hardly think you're just a prince. You seem considerably more adventurous." His gaze fell upon the fjord.
"Unfortunately so," Blaine agreed, tightening his grip around Sebastian's cloak before relaxing it abruptly, reaching up to unhook it. "Forgive me, I need to - "
Sebastian held up a hand to stop him, resting it at his collar. The sudden intimacy of the gesture brought heat to Blaine's cheeks once more, and it was all he could do not to flail back in surprise. "Keep it," he said, stepping aside and mounting his horse once more. "Consider it a gift," he added, grin expanding as he lifted a hand in salute. "I'll see you at the coronation?"
"Of course," Blaine said, frozen in place but smiling through sheer force of will. "Absolutely. I'll be there. At the coronation. I'll see you there." Wincing at his own lack of subtlety, he lifted a hand in polite farewell as Sebastian laughed and urged his mare back up the road to rejoin the ranks of people entering the castle.
Acutely aware of his chattering teeth, Blaine hurried back up the road in the opposite direction. If he was quick, then he would make it to the castle in time to change before the ceremonies began. Walking as briskly as he dared in public, offering smiles to whomever cared to receive them as he passed, he focused on the castle and winced when he heard the bells chiming.
Cooper's gonna kill me, he thought, breaking into a run as soon as he was behind the walls.
. o .
Cooper didn't look around for Blaine as he entered the Great Hall, but the expectation was still there when he descended the steps at a smooth, brisk clip that brought him to the floor in mere seconds. As soon as he could, he turned to address one of the servants, demanding quietly, "Where is Prince Blaine?"
"I'm not sure, Your Grace," the servant replied, appearing flustered at the realization. "Shall I have a guard sent out to retrieve him?"
Cooper resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose at the indignant image of his brother being escorted back to his own castle on coronation day. It didn't make any sense that he would choose to disappear right before the ceremony; he'd only been talking about it for the past three months. "Leave him," he said at last, deciding to trust Blaine's sense of duty if not his general intelligence to lead him back to the castle on time.
Almost as if his words had summoned him from the ether, Cooper turned and there he was, crossing the floor quickly toward the staircase and avoiding the eye of everyone in sight. "Blaine," he called, and Blaine halted, a mouse caught in a trap, before sighing visibly and straightening, meeting Cooper's gaze in a challenge. When Cooper didn't say anything across the Great Hall, he sighed again and made his way forward, dripping across the polished floor and holding Cooper's gaze.
"Your Majesty," he said, disguising his embarrassment as coolness as he bowed. "You're looking regal today."
"You're soaked," Cooper replied. He'd never been one to pandy words if he could avoid it, and with servants speaking to other nobility and leading them toward the church for the crowning ceremony, he knew that his time was limited. "What were you doing?"
Embarrassment crept over Blaine's features in spite of himself, a subtle twist of his mouth and a high color in his cheeks that Cooper knew wasn't simply a flush of excitement at the festivities. "It seemed like a lovely day for a swim until I remembered that the fjord never really warms in the summer." He lifted his head, daring Cooper to contest the claim, and Cooper was about to roll his eyes at the sheer Blaine-ness of it all when a bell began tolling.
Cooper's heart skipped a beat, his hands shaking of their own accord as he tucked them into his pockets. Before he could say a word, Blaine ducked out of the way with a quick bow and darted up the staircase, out of sight before Cooper could even think of a proper chastisement. Belatedly realizing that there was none - Blaine didn't need to lead the procession, after all - Cooper drew in a deep, steeling breath and tried not to think about how little he wanted to be seen.
I won't hurt them, he told himself, allowing one of the higher-ranking guards to escort him to his place in the procession. I won't let anyone know.
Chanting the words to himself in time with the gaps between the bells tolling, Cooper drew himself to his fullest, most regal height and waited, blanking his mind of all other things.
. o .
Blaine shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he stood, still outfitted in his damp and cold outfit from his tumble into the fjord. He'd only had enough time to smooth his hair back into submission and make sure nothing unseemly was clinging to his outfit before hurrying back down the steps to join his place in the procession. If he'd needed to sneak forward after the nobility had taken their seats and assume his rightful place near Cooper's side, then at least no one had made any pointed remarks about it.
Wearing a suit that was two shades darker than it should have been, Blaine was aware of Cooper's scrutiny even as his head remained firmly forward, listening to the priest speak. Falling into the familiar role of dutiful second, Blaine kept his attention forward, smiling when the priest concluded his lengthy oratory about the throne of Arendelle and reached back to present the scepter and bowl while the singers above kept up a haunting, almost lulling melody.
Looking over at Cooper, deciding that even he couldn't be upset about such a magnificent moment, he was surprised to see the anxiety written in every tense line of his shoulders, his jaw tight as he reached for the scepter and bowl, both hands still gloved.
Coop, he wanted to say, an almost laughable intrusion into the perfect silence, because clearly Cooper's nerves had gotten the better of him. He bit his tongue, though, because even he knew better than to speak upon the altar, and it was only when the priest murmured, "Your Majesty - the gloves?" that Blaine relaxed.
Then he felt a twinge of regret that the priest had said anything at all, certain that the fine tremors in his fingers were not imaginary as Cooper slowly peeled off the gloves and set them on the pillow itself. The priest seemed satisfied and Blaine attempted to mirror his ease, in appearance if not in spirit, as he watched Cooper close his hands around the items and turn to hold them aloft.
Straightening his own shoulders reflexively as the crowd rose, the priest chanting behind them, Blaine watched Cooper's hands tremble, almost falling back a step when he saw the frost collecting at the best of the items. Just as Blaine opened his mouth in alarm, Cooper hastily whirled around, depositing the scepter and bowl on the pillow and re-donning the gloves just as the priest pronounced him King of Arendelle.
And just like that, the moment passed. Cooper's smile seemed natural as he looked out over the men and women congregated to witness the event, and Blaine couldn't find anything to fault in the line of his shoulders or even the fine tremble of his hands that merited immediate comment. Belatedly remembering to smile himself, Blaine fell into place as they stepped out of the church, Cooper leading the way down the altar.
Tempted though he was to beat a hasty retreat and don more comfortable clothing, Blaine remained at Cooper's side as they entered the grand ballroom, spirits lightening considerably when he saw how many people were already there, eagerly awaiting their arrival. "It's the King!" someone exclaimed as Cooper made his way forward. Blaine followed at his heels, keen to understand what had happened, exactly. His stomach twisted at the thought that someone had tampered with the items. He couldn't imagine anyone trying to harm Cooper, but if his unsettled expression was anything to go by, he'd been stricken by the unexpectedness of it.
Remaining at his side as both a courtesy and out of curiosity, Blaine almost tripped over his own feet as he followed Cooper's back through the crowd, grateful that no one seemed to be paying any special attention to him. That was how it always was - Cooper pulled focus, and Blaine obediently followed in his wake. Even in silence, the gossip was always about what Prince Cooper was up to that required him to be so secretive, not the other prince that would assume the throne only in the event of a catastrophe. (Blaine didn't even like to entertain the notion; prepared though he was, the idea of ruling Arendelle in Cooper's place made his stomach twist.)
Halting once he reached the edge of the pedestal at the far end of the throne, Blaine watched Cooper ascend alone, stepping in front of the throne and drawing a deep, fortifying breath before he turned to face the men and women gathered in the ballroom.
Blaine almost yelped when a pair of firm hands propelled him from behind toward the pedestal, ushering him to the empty space at Cooper's side and ignoring his hasty, "Really, it's all the same to me that - "
"Nonsense," Cooper said coolly, cutting him off before the old guard needed to as he retreated at a nod from Cooper. "You're my brother. And a prince."
Blaine opened his mouth to remind himself that he wasn't particularly inclined to usurp Cooper, but then he was drawn to the applause from the ladies and gentlemen congregated in front of them. Schooling his expression into his brightest, most welcoming smile, he bowed slightly out of reflex while Cooper remained straight-backed at his side. The king bows for no one, Blaine reminded himself as he straightened.
It wasn't long before Blaine forgot all about the strange incident in the chapel, humming along to the music and sniffing appreciatively when he caught a whiff of melted chocolate, licking his lips unthinkingly.
"I'm surprised you haven't swept any maidens off their feet yet," Cooper mused aloud, startling Blaine out of his reverie.
"Who, me?" he asked reflexively, clasping his hands in front of himself. He forced a friendly smile as he added, "I seem to have already been swept off mine once. I'd rather not tempt fate."
Cooper laughed, abating some of the tension between them. Letting the music fill the lull in their conversation for a time, he leaned closer to Blaine and whispered, "I'm not as slow as you think I am." Then, easing back to his same rigid posture, he mused more conversationally, "How you managed to survive all these years, I'll never know, given how often you tempt fate."
"I only fell in the fjord once," Blaine said, affronted. "Seeing how little you've been around, I didn't know you cared at all."
Blaine knew as soon as the words were out of his mouth that they were the wrong things to say.
"Look, Coop, I just - "
"King Cooper," a noble-sounding voice interrupted, accompanied by a sweeping bow as a tall young man neared. "Allow me to introduce myself: I'm Hunter Clarington, Duke of Weselton. As Arendelle's primary trading partner, I would request the first dance but - "
"My brother would be more than happy to oblige," Cooper finished, turning to face Blaine as he gaped at him. "Perhaps you have a lady friend he might entertain in your stead?" he asked after a long pause, and Blaine felt his breath leave him in sheer relief. He didn't know how obvious, precisely, the sudden thundering of his heart at the mere notion of dancing with a man was, but he knew that it wasn't comely for royalty, not at all, even if his daydreams were so much sweeter. No one would exile him for entertaining the fantasies or even engaging in them in private, but it seemed too presumptuous by half to actually display them in the open.
And Cooper didn't know. He'd be more ashamed than ever to know that Blaine was not only hopelessly socially inept but attracted to men.
To Blaine's surprise, Clarington didn't even bat an eyelash at the implied affront. Instead, he replied, "I'm afraid I will have to suffice. Your Grace?"
He extended a hand and Blaine didn't even have the heart to correct his misuse of the honorific before he blurted out, "I - I couldn't. I mean, I - I need a drink." He hurried off toward the refreshments table before either man could stop him, aware that his face was flaming with shame. Idiot, he berated himself as he reached for a glass of wine, startled when another hand interrupted his mid-reach.
"Forgive me. It's yours," the owner of the hand said, backing off almost before Blaine could speak.
"Sebastian?" Blaine asked, incredulous, as he turned to look at the man, decked out in regal silvers and blues.
Sebastian flashed him a warm smile at the recognition. "The one and only."
"What are you doing here?" Blaine hurriedly picked up the wine glass to distract himself and took a sip.
"The same as everyone else." Glancing around appreciatively, Sebastian let his gaze fall on Blaine and added with a smirk, "Enjoying myself."
"That's nice," Blaine said, taking another sip of wine to distract himself.
Utterly unperturbed by Blaine's discombobulation, Sebastian asked thoughtfully, "You wouldn't happen to know why the king has been so reclusive, would you?"
Blaine blinked, startled by the transition and almost choking on his drink before he swallowed the rest of it. "Who, Cooper?" Shaking his head and reaching for another glass gratefully, he explained, "He's always been rather . . . withdrawn." He chose not to elaborate on the degree; it seemed unfair, somehow, when so many good memories of Cooper and him spending time together existed. Whatever had gone wrong must have been his fault for Cooper to reject him so entirely. Surely if Cooper had been the one at fault, then he would have realized that Blaine didn't care what it was. He had just wanted Cooper back.
Looking across the ballroom at him, Blaine gulped down the remainder of his drink - and really, how uncouth could one be - before stammering, "I should get back to him, I need to - apologize, I was rude and - "
"One dance?" Sebastian asked, and Blaine's heart stoppedas he let himself be led to the floor.
"You know, in the south, it's quite common for gentlemen to favor one another," Sebastian said matter-of-factly, leading him along at arm's length but still far too close for Blaine's comfort. Everyone could see them, anyone could see them, and if there was anything else he needed to ostracize himself further in their eyes - "Ladies as well, of course," Sebastian finished, twirling him playfully as Blaine held onto him for support.
He couldn't tell if the dizziness was a byproduct of the wine or his own nerves, but he was almost grateful when a loud, notably perturbed voice stated coolly, "Your Majesty."
"Clarington," he said, releasing Sebastian hastily and stating, "I was just - this is - "
"Sebastian Smythe," Sebastian finished, holding out a hand. Blaine didn't miss the delicate, almost disgusted way that Clarington shook it, releasing it just as quickly. "Clarington. Prince Blaine." He added the last with a slight bow, a mischievous glint in his smile tapering off into a neutral expression as he met Clarington's gaze once more before vanishing into the crowds.
"Had I known you preferred to drink, I would have invited you over sooner," Clarington said once Sebastian was out of sight, fixing the full weight of his stare on Blaine.
"Actually, I was - "
"I insist," Clarington said. The dismissal was clear in his tone as he placed a firm but warning hand on Blaine's arm and steered him back to the table. "So tell me, Prince Blaine," he asked, lifting a glass in a toast as Blaine did the same, suddenly wishing that he had heeded Cooper's advice and chosen fair maidens to sweep off their feet, "tell me about yourself. We've heard so little about the princes that it was a delight to finally meet the king. And you, of course."
Somehow, Blaine doubted that anything delighted Clarington, but he didn't say as much as he replied, "Well, you've met him yourself; you know as much as I do." Sipping from a third glass of wine to distract himself, he added, "I'm not particularly interesting."
"That's hardly the same story I've heard," Clarington said with an almost wolfish smile. "They say you have strange powers. Mystic ones, even. You're the interest of many gossipers."
"No, no strange powers," Blaine said, frowning at the implication even as he accepted the drink Clarington handed him. He didn't remember drinking the third, but it always seemed to flow more sweetly after the second glass, making both company and conversation more palatable. Warming to Clarington in spite of himself, he admitted, "Cooper's always been a mystery to me. But I'm completely ordinary, rest assured."
"Has he?" Clarington asked, suddenly intrigued, while Blaine nodded and laughed a little in spite of himself, missing the fact that Clarington wasn't interested in him at all. Cooper was always more interesting. Cooper was, well. Cooper.
"I really should be getting back to him," Blaine said, almost apologetically, as he bowed at Clarington, forgetting himself and wincing apologetically. "Sorry. I mean, not sorry, just - bye." He stumbled back in Cooper's direction before he could stick his foot in his mouth a second time, gratefully making his way through the crowd and beaming when he spotted Cooper.
"Hey. Coop! Isn't this amazing? We're finally having a ball." Twirling in a single loop, taking in the scene, he mused again, "We're having a ball. We should do this every night."
"We can't do this every night," Cooper retorted. "Are you drunk?"
Blaine rolled his eyes, ambling up to him on the platform and not missing the way Cooper edged away from him when he neared. "Why can't we do this every night?" he asked, almost pleading. "It's so nice, Cooper. The music, the people, the food." He sniffed the air appreciatively, reaching to pull Cooper out toward the floor. "You have to try it, Coop, the chocolate is amazing."
"Don't touch me." It came out low and cold; the iron in Cooper's voice was unmistakable.
Blaine froze as if struck, suddenly, overwhelmingly sober as he stared at his brother and took in the same man that had avoided him for years. Stepping away from him when his resolve didn't waver, he felt his heart sink as he realized that to Cooper it really was just a show. There wouldn't be an encore. There wouldn't even be a second chance. This was it - his one night to enjoy himself before they shut the gates again and everything returned to normal.
"Coop," he said softly.
Cooper's own expression softened for a moment, and Blaine thought he might cave. Then he stiffened his jaw and turned away from him, looking out over the crowds instead.
With no appetite for anything, Blaine bit back the retort that wanted to rip through him before turning on his heel and stalking off. No one stopped him until he reached the doors; one of the guards offered a halfhearted, "Is everything all right, my prince?"
Blaine didn't respond as he stepped through the doors and let them fall shut firmly behind him, wrapping his arms around himself as he paced away from the laughter, the dancing, the music that would fade.
Sitting down heavily on a stone bench around the corner, he buried his hands in his hair and willed everything to stop spinning for a while.
He almost jumped when he felt someone sit on the bench beside him, bumping his shoulder companionably. "Hey."
Blaine didn't lift his head at first, forcing himself to do so after a moment and smiling halfheartedly at Sebastian. "Hey."
"Come with me," Sebastian suggested, standing and holding out a hand, and Blaine didn't hesitate to take it.
He'd spent his whole life waiting for someone, something, to take him away from the isolation and loneliness that had followed him forever.
He wasn't about to turn it down when it finally appeared.