Matthew is nearly slumping in the back of the carriage. He's very mindful to keep up straight since his father would most likely yell at him for his bad posture if he's caught. He has to be kept up straight to be the prettiest he can be. He sighs, finally turning his head from watching out the thinly veiled window to his hands in his lap. He smooths out the elegant pale yellow robes draped over his legs not knowing what else to do.
"Cheer up Matthew," Alfred says to him looking as unbothered as anything. Matthew nearly glares at him but keeps himself in control. It's hard for him to cheer up. It seems no matter what he says, his father will not give up on the idea of him having a footman. The idea gives Matthew knots in his stomach. He thinks it's cruel. To keep someone around just to wait on you and be there only to make yourself look better. He could never do that to someone.
Keeping his face schooled into a neutral mask he looks back out the window at the passing countryside. Part of him really dislikes how the kingdoms are set up, yet he has no say. Only the beautiful people can be royalty, so he supposes he is lucky to be considered a prince in the Glow Kingdom, but in the end he has no idea what some people consider beautiful.
His older brother, or so people tell him, is apparently beautiful enough be to be considered the 1st prince. Tall and built strong, a certain kind of sun kissed skin that makes him royalty. Matthew plays with the ends of his hair. He doesn't understand beauty, sometimes wishing he never had it to begin with. Maybe then he could feel at ease. Maybe then they wouldn't be on this trip.
Not that he's upset to be travelling to a new place, but the reason makes him anxious. His father wants to set up a small alliance with the Olive Kingdom through marriage. Since Alfred is already engaged to the 2nd Princess of the Cold Kingdom, it's Matthew's given duty to step up. He's never met the Princes of the Olive Kingdom. He hopes they are nice. Hopefully they won't be as vain as some he knows.
He goes to sigh but the lurching of the carriage has him squeaking instead. He peeks out the window as his father comes around from his own carriage, glaring down softly at the stuck wheel of the carriage Matthew and Alfred are in. They'll be late if they are stalled for too long.
"Someone will be by soon right?" He asks. To that his father almost sneers and that's when Matthew figures out where they are. The outskirts where two kingdoms join, where most of unfavorable in appearance go to live and hide.
Gilbert peeks out from under his hood, blinking curiously at the stopped carriages at the far road leading between kingdoms. He glances behind him quickly to his given family, then sneaks away. He's been living in the outskirts for his whole life. His taken father told him openly he would have died if not for him coming to aid, that no family wanted such a sight to be bestowed upon them.
He knows that his looks are not good. Some would go as far as to call him an abomination with the way his white hair catches dirt and his eyes stayed red. So he's learned. He keeps his head down and his blackened hood over his face as he gets closer, trying to keep his ears open to the voices.
"Excuse me," He says loud enough for them to hear from where he stopped far enough away to not show them his face too much. He recognized the carriages the closer he got, internally panicking at the royal insignia's but already too close to back away. He bows his body down to show respect.
"Do you need assistance?" He asks as politely as he can, the way his father told him how in any case. He debates running when they don't answer.
"Father please," A voice begs. There's a sigh.
"If you can," The voice in unkind. Gilbert bows more to show thanks for the acceptance of his help. He keeps his head down as he approaches the wheel, stuck in a branch and twisted into not being able to turn properly. His mind picks out the problem easily with his father's smith shop rubbing off on him. He pulls out a tool from his ragged pockets and works on debending the wheel.
"Would it help for us to get out so the weight isn't as much?" The same voice from before filters over him. Gilbert is tempted to look at who speaks so kindly, but his mind telling him that such royalty should not be exposed to such a fright as he is makes him keep his eyes on his task. Before he can say anything the being in the carriage gets out. He's very aware of them watching him.
It takes him a moment, but the branch comes out with a tug. He throws it off the side of the road then turns back to where he knows the royalty is and bows.
"Thank you," The kind voice says. Gilbert swallows down his curiosity. He wants to look. He wants to see what the royals looks like. Never before has someone from where he lives been graced with such presence. He stands up and the hood is thrown from his face without his doing.
His eyes widen before he can think, locking in on the person in front of him. They are breathtaking in every way. Soft features and golden hair, the gentlest kind of violet in their eyes. He opens his mouth to speak but he can't find the words. He's never seen such sweetness.
"You're beautiful," Say the person in front of him and his throat clenches up. Never before has he heard that, especially directed at him. Then it hits him. If he can see the royalty, they can see him. He stumbles back, falling over and skittering away from them. He fumbles for his hood to pull back over his head.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to look, I didn't mean to," The words pour from his lips. There are rules in place. Only the worthy can look at the beautiful ones. His heart pounds from in his chest, over seeing such a person, over being called such a compliment from them as well. Not to mention the angry voice yelling.
"He should be punished for looking!" The man yells. Gilbert winces. He should have known better. He should have stayed home with his scar faced father and dog faced brother like the cretin he is.
"No it wasn't his fault!" The kind voice shouts back and walking closer to him. Gilbert flinches when they rest a hand on his head and kneel down. He keeps his head down as they slowly pull back his hood again. He closes his eyes tight. He can't risk looking anymore.
"I want him." Suddenly the hand is gone from him. He snaps his eyes up to the royal, staring down the other with a set look on his face. Gilbert looks between them scared. What he is going to be used for he has no idea.
"I thought you hated the idea of a footman?" The other questions and Gilbert's heart snaps. Of course, he should have known. The only way someone would ever call him such a thing is if it was for another purpose besides his looks. To be a footman is a testament to your obstructing looks, to be nothing but an ornament to make fun of. He closes his eyes again.
It hurts deep down. He doesn't want to believe that he's abnormal, that maybe he could be considered pretty one day. The compliment he received not four moments ago nearly brought him to tears and now he truly sees.
"I do, but- I-" The young one sputters, looking down at him once more. Gilbert keeps his head down, mindlessly pulling his hood back. The words suddenly rush over him and before he knows it the royals are gone, a bird flying back towards the castle, and a promise that they are coming back for him. Gilbert lifts his hood to watch the carriage disappear. He has to go tell his father. He has to go tell someone he's been chosen.
Lovino hates these engagement parties. How many people have come to his kingdom, thinking that the 2nd prince must surely be available now, when he has yet to married, therefore keeping Feliciano single. It's not his fault that that the people decided him to be the 1st prince. Apparently his looks fit a more regal standing, his brother being on the adorable side. He sighs and dreads meeting whatever spoiled entitled prince thinks they can come in and sweep Feliciano off his feet only to find it's Lovino who they have the option for.
When the guests arrive he immediately sneers at the boisterous personality of the 1st prince. Alfred if what his mother told him is correct. He hates him almost instantly. He rolls his eyes at him siding right up to Feliciano to talk, not bothering when Lovino glares at him dangerously. He doesn't want to be shucked off to some self assured prick.
He watches from the side of the room as the 1st prince of the Glow Kingdom plays nice with his brother, not even trying to near him. Not that Lovino would want to talk to them in the first place, but they should know who they are attempting to marry. He tsks.
"Your brother is loud too I see," A voice says. He raises an eyebrow to the person dressed in sparkling yellow next to him. The 2nd prince he assumes. He sighs and doesn't respond. Still the 2nd prince stands by him, playing absently with his sleeves that are too long. The quiet eventually gets to Lovino and he groans in annoyance.
"My name is Lovino," He says while clenching his teeth. Finally he turns to fully face the prince next to him. They are not the worst he's ever seen. They are softer looking, gentle in a graceful way. They laugh slightly and Lovino actually relaxes. It's been so long since someone took his anger spikes in stride instead of striding away.
"Matthew," They say. The air between them is calmer now. Eventually he feels comfortable to talk softly to the other prince. Matthew smiles to him and interacts in a pleasant way. It's a little new, talking to someone easily. Lovino finds himself enjoying the other's presence, way more than he thought or expected.
"So your brother, is he having fun pretending to court my brother?" Lovino says bitterly. To that Matthew laughs and Lovino finds himself staring. The corners of his mouth twitch into a smile at making someone laugh.
"He would if not already engaged." Lovino stares wide eyed at the other at the new information. Matthew blinks up at him and then frets.
"He's engaged to a princess from the cold kingdom, I'm actually supposed to be talking to your brother but.." He explains and trails off. Lovino grits his teeth. His mind races. If Alfred is already engaged, that means Matthew is the next in line. He scoffs to himself. They're probably here to engage Matthew to Feliciano, which won't happen. He stalks away from the other prince before his temper gets the best of him, ignoring the soft call of his name.
He should have known better. How foolish it would be to get his hopes up. He nearly makes it out of the hall when his mother catches him by the arm and pulls him back out to the crowd of people to see if the engagement will follow through. Lovino spends his time scowling at the ground.
"If the 2nd prince will accept ours," The Glow King says. Lovino shakes his head as his mother informs him that it's not Feliciano he'll be marrying. He ignores the startled look from Matthew. He actually liked him as a person. He closes his eyes tight.
"Ah, I'm sorry for the-"
"Wait," Lovino interrupts him, earning him a startled look from his mother. He steps down, staring boldy at Matthew.
"I would be willing to marry the 2nd prince of the Glow Kingdom." There's a collective gasp from all around him. Maybe his reputation of being unmarriable has grown without him knowing. He gets flustered and looks away. Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut. Why would anybody want to be with him.
"I accept," Once more he finds himself staring dumbly at Matthew who is smiling brightly at him. The rejoicing comes soon after and he's pushed into Matthew violently. Before he knows it his things are packed and he's on the way to the Glow Kingdom.
It's not awkward, surprisingly to Matthew, sitting in the carriage by themselves and not talking much. Alfred is with their father to give them as newly engaged some alone time. There's not much need for conversation. The air around them is pleasant in a simple way. Matthew can't help but admire the stoic beauty that is Lovino though. Grace with a sharp tongue and a rich complexion.
Naturally he thought he was going to be engaged to the 2nd prince, or at least that's what his father told him. To find it would be Lovino who he would be marrying, it made him feel better. He liked Feliciano sure, but their interaction hadn't been as easy, more forced at least on Matthew's end. He couldn't just let Lovino stand there rejected when he so bravely offered himself up.
"Young prince we are approaching your new footman," One of the guards call. Matthew perks up, looking out the window almost excited to see the boy again.
"You what?" At the dark tone he turns to his fiance, glaring at him. He flushes up and grimaces, trying to find words to say.
"It's not the normal way!" He says first. Lovino narrows his eyes and crosses his arms, turning away from Matthew pointedly. Matthew whimpers.
"Father was going to kill him for looking at me, I didn't know what else to do save his life." Matthew looks at his hands. He really got himself in a tangled situation.
"It was all my fault I removed his hood, he was so beautiful I didn't-" Matthew cuts himself by covering his mouth with his hands. It must be insulting to call someone else beautiful with his new fiance right next to him. He peeks up at Lovino giving him an incredulous look. He sighs and looks down again.
"I'm sorry, I just. I didn't know what to do." He admits. He jumps when Lovino moves to sit next to him.
"At least your not one of those pompous fucks. At least you're honest." Lovino says almost a little dejected. Matthew takes his hands quickly.
"I didn't mean to insult you if I did. You're amazing but in a different kind of way," He says. Lovino raises an eyebrow and ever so slightly a blush appears. He turns his head away and Matthew releases a breath in relief.
"Is he nice at least?" He asks. Matthew nods his head, detailing what happened to his fiance to fill him in. After the tale Lovino seems more open to the idea of the footman, especially after Matthew explains the way the footman will look. Matthew finishes talking just as they stop outside the village. He spies Arthur, his father's footman coming down the road on horse, with the other right next to him on his own horse as well.
His father stood speechless when Gilbert told him what happened. His little brother practically dropped the metal in his hands to stare him down like he grew a second head. It would almost be an improvement to how he already looks.
"That is, the strangest thing," His father told him as he put his few belongings in a brown cloth pack. The bird the Glow King sent out went back to his own castle, to summon his own footman to give Gilbert a crash course in manners and how to act.
Arthur came riding into the village like royalty on his own, looking down on Gilbert's family and their neighbors in general, most of them wondering what kind of palace person would ever visit them. Then of course he removed Gilbert's hood and hissed at him.
"Young prince Matthew has lost his pretty little head," He spat. Gilbert's heart sped up at hearing the name, knowing exactly who the king's footman was talking about. He cleaned Gilbert up, washed his hair and gave him better looking clothes, told him that he at least looked more decent. He fiddles with the new outfit as he rides on the back of the horse brought for him up to the road where the carriages are already waiting. He hops off his horse when Arthur does.
"When your royal presents themselves," Arthur tells him as the king appears. The footman kneels down, taking gently the kings hand in his and places it gently to his hairline.
"It is respectful not to look, and barely to touch. Hand to head like a pet," Arthur tells him. Gilbert looks down when the other carriage door is opened. He makes sure to look down, watching his feet as he approaches his new prince. His breathing feels tight in his chest as he gently takes the prince's, Matthew's hand, in his and places it to his hairline, thankful now it had been washed. He wants to look. He wants to see the soft violet eyes but he's done enough stupid things for the day.
"And to their spouse," Gilbert jerks. He didn't know that. The words wash over him and he obeys silently, standing and bending at the waist to do the same thing for the new fiance, though not as lowly since he is not the immediate one Gilbert is serving, just like Arthur tells him. He swallows thickly as they leave and he finally looks up. He reaches a hand to his neck to pull his hood over his face only to find he doesn't have one on this outfit. He whimpers to himself and climbs back on his horse.
He rides silently next to the carriage, looking mostly away from it to not see either prince inside. For a moment he thought the prince would like him, maybe see past his looks. He must have been wrong.
"Excuse me," A rich voice says. Gilbert instinctively looks to it. He's lucky his horse knows what's doing cause he surely would have stopped. The person next to the soft prince is darker skinned but no less beautiful. There's a clip in his features and unattainable aurora to him. Gilbert gulps and turns his head away. He shouldn't be looking.
"He is different," The unattainable prince says. Matthew giggles. Gilbert pretends it doesn't hurt.
"He's pretty in a different kind of way." Gilbert snaps his eyes back to the window in shock, both princes smiling at him from the window. He's not sure if this is some kind of cruel joke on him anymore.
"What's your name?" The soft prince asks him. He reaches for his hood again, gritting his teeth when he doesn't find it.
"Gilbert," He croaks out. Matthew smiles brightly while the other prince barely smirks.
"I'm Matthew," His prince says. Gilbert nods his head not knowing what else to do.
"Lovino," The sharp prince informs him. Again he nods. He manages to pry his eyes away from their beauty back to the horse. He pets it to keep his mind off of things, maybe distract him from the easy talking of the princes next to him.
Lovino is almost glad he let Matthew explain himself. Naturally he felt horrendously angry at his new fiance for having a footman, the idea of degrading someone like such is something looked down upon in his kingdom. Even if he doesn't like the idea, he's at least at ease Matthew did it for a good reason.
The footman Matthew chose, who introduced himself as Gilbert, is far different just like Matthew described him. His hair is white like the snowfall and his eyes shine like jewels. He's decently dressed in what Lovino assumes to be new clothes, and he finds an urge in him to find an outfit that makes the footman look down right dashing. He finds himself agreeing with Matthew that Gilbert is beautiful in a different way.
When they reach the Glow Kingdom, he's bombarded with the bright colors. The whites and golds are nearly blinding compared to the dark reds and greens he himself is used to. He narrows his eyes and looks out the window, the poor new footman twitching and looking away from everyone as best he can. Lovino takes one of the shawls he has and holds it out the window.
"Take it," He orders. The footman does after just a second of hesitation, wrapping it around his head and letting it hang over his face. Matthew squeezes his hand. For what Lovino isn't sure but he's glad he did what he did. Now the footman can stop twitching in that annoying way.
The bustle is hard once they leave the carriage. They're pulled this way and that and bathed down to remove the dirt from their trip. He finds himself tossed into a room where Matthew is already waiting. The glow prince laughs easily and Lovino finds it in him to relax. He walks over to his fiance and takes a seat by him on the bench near the window.
"Where did the footman go?" He asks, looking out into the garden that spreads far with trees and flowers of all sorts. Matthew shrugs.
"Probably with Arthur to get new clothes, maybe learn some new manners," He says sadly. Lovino huffs but says nothing. They stay in silence for longer when there's a knock at the door. Lovino is the one to answer it.
"I'm supposed to come tell you it's time for dinner," The poor white haired footman says with his head down. Lovino doesn't even think as he grabs the boy by the wrist and pulls him inside.
"Are you okay?" Matthew asks him quickly, taking his hands and holding them tight. Gilbert turns his head down, trying to pull away and not look at them. His new outfit has a hood.
"Yes I just. I'm not used to. This is." Lovino removes his hood, making him stop his yabbering. He blinks wide eyed at both of them. Lovino reaches out a hand to gently run his fingers through Gilbert's hair.
"He is breathtaking," He muses out loud. Matthew giggles and nuzzles his face into Gilbert's hands.
"You have to know why I chose you," Matthew tells him earnestly. He forces Gilbert to sit on the bench and paces back and forth as he explains his position. Lovino leans casually against the wall and listen to the story again and watching Gilbert's face. The footman stares dumbly as Matthew talks.
"Because I wanted to see you again," Matthew finishes. Lovino raises an eyebrow to the shock on the footman's face, then freaks out as he starts to cry. Matthew is to him first pulling him into a tight hug. Lovino simply takes one of his hands to hold tightly.
"I've never, been treated so kindly," He admits through his sobs. Lovino grits his teeth. No one should be treated like this. He sighs and rubs his thumb over Gilbert's hand.
"You deserve more," He says plainly. Matthew agrees and Gilbert cries harder. They almost miss dinner if it not for another footman angrily banging on the door, yelling how Matthew chose a broken boy. He's silenced easily by Lovino who opens the door and tells the footman to try and yell at him again. They bow low and scurry off.
Knowing the way Matthew leads them down to the dining hall. Lovino keeps a close eye on the footman, who he supposes now is partially his as well. The hood over their face has his heart twisting up in knots. It's not fair that he should have to hide. Lovino wants to see him more.
He and Matthew are in sync through the meal, both taking glances at the footman and offering nicer looks than they offer the others. Well Matthew smiles all the same but Lovino ends up cracking a corner smile when he catches the footman sneakily looking back at them too.
It's hard to say how long it will be before they can unwind every inch of self hatred the footman has for himself. Gilbert desrves more than that in his opinion. He wants to see the footman in action, moving and smiling and enjoying himself like he should be able to without fear and without having to hide his face. When he looks to Matthew, already smiling shyly at his footman, he can tell his fiance feels the same.
It will take time, and maybe some fighting, but he promises to himself that one day Gilbert will have confidence to stand beside them and know that he is beautiful as they truly think he is.