The Prince's Quarters, The Palace, Angeles, June 7th, 7am


The floor was almost completely covered in little pieces of shredded paper. That had been Eli's work. He had been doing this for nearly seven hours… He glanced up at the clock on the wall. No, seven hours exactly now. He cut the last piece of the picture he was holding into multiple pieces, and dropped the pieces, watching them flutter to the floor.

He set the scissors down, and reached for the bottle of scotch. At some point during the night he had switched to drinking it straight out of the bottle, instead of pouring it into a glass. He couldn't remember when, but it didn't matter now. He took another drink. It had ceased to burn at all going down. He set the bottle down again, and reached for the scissors and another not yet mangled photograph.

Some fucking great birthday this was. Well, it wasn't actually his birthday anymore, hadn't been for seven hours, but the day before had been fantastically lousy too. The only good thing he had gotten out of it was the bottle of scotch he was drinking from.

He scowled, and started to cut the photograph into tiny pieces. He didn't want a single trace of her left in his life. The paper littering the floor was evidence of that. Photographs, sketches, notes, every reminder of her that he could cut and tear into little pieces was scattered across his bedroom floor.

They said you were supposed to be over it after a year. They obviously lied, whoever they were. He dropped the handful of pieces of the photograph to the floor, and reached for the bottle of scotch again. He was supposed to be over her, right?

But tomorrow it would be exactly a year, and he wasn't fucking over her. He set the bottle down again, and shielded his eyes from the early morning light coming in through the uncovered window, reaching for another photograph.

Maybe someone dying was a little bit different than a breakup. Maybe that was why it still hurt so bad. Breakups usually involved hard feelings. Death… Death was different. She had been ripped away from him, just as he thought they were going to start building the life they always dreamed of together. He reached for the bottle again, and took another long drink.

He didn't pick up the scissors and photograph again, instead pulling his knees up to his chest, and resting his head against his knees, trying desperately not to break down. He hadn't cried at all, not since she had died. He wasn't about to start now.

The door to his room opened, but he didn't glance up, too busy biting the inside of his cheek, hoping pain would prevent the tears from falling.

"Your father wants to see you."

Eli glanced up at Matthias, his valet, hoping the fact that he was on the verge of tears wasn't obvious. "Tell him I'll come see him this afternoon. He can wait a few hours. But don't tell him I said he can wait."

"He wants to see you for dinner tonight at six." Matthias glanced around the room. "What have you been doing in here?" He didn't sound judgemental, just confused about why there were shredded fragments of paper all over the floor of Eli's bedroom.

Eli shrugged, not saying anything. He didn't want to talk about it.

Matthias raised his eyebrows. "Okay. Have you slept?"

Eli shook his head, reaching for the bottle of scotch again. "Nope."

Matthias sighed, and crossed the room, kicking paper out of the way. "Elijah, it's seven in the morning." Eli had tried, over and over again, but the most informality he had been able to get Matthias to agree to was addressing him by his full first name. He held out a hand for the bottle. "You need to go to bed."

Eli took another drink from the bottle. "Uh-uh. Not done yet." He picked up another photograph, setting the bottle down to do so.

Matthias scooped up the bottle as soon as Eli set it down. "Well, I'm taking this then. And if you don't go to bed, I'm going to dump it."

Eli brutally cut into the photograph he was holding. "You can't dump it. That was a birthday present."

"Watch me."

"I'm your boss. I'm ordering you not to dump that out, and give it back to me this second."

"I'm also supposed to protect you, which includes protecting you from yourself, which means I can't let you drink yourself to death, and if I did, I'd be out of a job." He moved towards the bathroom, bottle in hand.

Eli sighed. "No, no, don't dump it, that's good scotch. I'm going to bed." He dropped the scissors and partly cut up photograph to the floor, and stood up, swaying slightly on his feet. He grabbed onto the nearby dresser to stabilize himself.

Matthias continued into the bathroom anyway, and Eli could hear the sound of liquid being poured down the drain. "Hey, you said you wouldn't dump it if I went to bed," he called out.

Matthias returned to the bedroom. "Never said that. I know if I don't dump it you'll go back to drinking as soon as I leave."

Eli scowled, but didn't deny it. He released his hold on the dresser, and made his way to bed, stumbling slightly. He pushed back the blankets, and crawled beneath them. "I'm in bed. Happy now?"

"Very." Matthias moved around the room, shutting the curtains, and turning the lights off. "I'll be back in a moment with water and aspirin for when you wake up." He turned, and left the room, leaving the door slightly open.

Eli made an affirmative noise, and rolled onto his side, pulling the blankets up slightly. Finally he could no longer resist the tears that were threatening to fall. He cried near silently, ashamed and angry with himself for not being able to hold out. A year of managing not to break down, and all it took was one late night and half a bottle of scotch?

Matthias came back into the room, and left a glass of water and a few pills on the bedside table. He had to have noticed that Eli was crying, but he didn't say a word, just slipped out of the room and closed the door behind him.

Eli cried himself to sleep, and woke up nine hours later to Matthias shaking him awake. He shifted slightly, rolling onto his back, and blinking sleepily up at Matthias. The lights were off, and the curtains were still closed, which Eli was grateful for, because his head was pounding.

"I hate to wake you up, but you're expected for dinner in two hours."

Eli groaned, sitting up and massaging his temples. "Wha'?"

"I told you this morning. Your father would like to see you for dinner."

Eli groaned again, cradling his head in his hands. He had fuzzy memories of the night, or morning, before, of cutting up pictures of her and drinking half a bottle of scotch, then crying himself to sleep, and if those memories were to be trusted, he was in no shape to go to dinner with his father. Emotionally, or, with the pounding headache and nausea that came with a hangover, physically.

He lifted his head tentatively, just in time to see Matthias opening the curtains. He immediately raised a hand to shield his eyes from the light. "God, Matthias, don't do that."

Matthias just shrugged. "You've got to get up."

"I will, I just need a minute. Close those again please." He sighed, and buried his face in his hands. If his memories were correct, Matthias had seen him cry. Which was fucking humiliating. Eli never cried.

Matthias didn't comment, instead closing the curtains as requested. Eli reached for the glass of water, and took a tentative sip. It probably wasn't going to do any good, as Eli was pretty sure he was going to end up puking sometime in the next two hours, but it helped with the dry mouth. He took another sip, set the glass aside, and pushed back the blankets.

God, he needed a shower. He smelled like booze. He moved towards the bathroom, waving Matthias away. "I'm getting up, I swear. You can go."

He headed into the bathroom to start getting ready. He took most of the two hours getting ready, an unnecessarily large portion of it spent in the shower.

He dressed, more formally than he had been the night before, and started heading towards his father's private quarters. He knocked and waited for approval before entering the sitting room his father normally took his meals in.

Approval came quickly, and he opened the door and headed in. His father was already seated at a table in the middle of the room, buttering a roll. "You're late."

Eli plunked down in the chair across the table from him. "Two minutes."

"How was your birthday party yesterday?"

Eli shrugged, and took a sip of the already filled glass of water sitting at his place at the table. It had been a lousy birthday, full of reminders of what had been almost exactly a year ago, but the party had been fine. If you liked to celebrate your birthday by getting shitfaced with a shit ton of people you barely knew. That wasn't Eli's personal idea of fun, but he knew better than to tell his father that.

Unperturbed by Eli's silence, his father continued on. "Like any of the girls there?"

Eli shook his head.

His father bit into the roll he had been buttering when Eli had walked in. "We've talked about this, Elijah. That was your last chance to 'Do this on your own'. You're twenty-five, and you haven't found a wife."

Eli knew exactly what he was getting at, but didn't feel like responding. He just waited for him to continue, and doom Eli to his fate. A loveless marriage with a girl who was the best of a lot of bad options.

"It's time you got down to your duties as crown prince and had a selection. I was willing to consider your little experiment for a while, but it hasn't produced any results, and your time is up, son."

Hadn't produced results? He felt like standing up and screaming in his face that it had, he had found a girl, he had found a future queen, but she was fucking dead now, so a little bit of fucking time would be appreciated.

But that wouldn't do any fucking good, so Eli stayed in his seat, and nodded along.

"I think we'll announce it in about a week, that should give the staff plenty of time to prepare. What do you think, son?"

Eli thought they should announce it never, but that wouldn't be the thing to say, and the sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could crawl back in bed and sleep off his pounding headache. "That's fine, I guess."

"Good." A maid came into the room, carrying two plates of food. She set one in front of Eli, and the other in front of his father. He picked up his fork and knife, and began to eat. "That's how I met your mother, you know, through the selection."

Eli thought about commenting on how well that had worked out, since his parents had been divorced since he was a teenager, despite the fact that such a thing was unheard of within the royal family. His mother had been the first out of every queen of Illea to get a divorce. But he didn't say anything. No reason to make his father angry. The sooner he could get away and go back to bed, the better.

He picked up his fork, and started picking at his food, listening to his father reminisce about his own selection. At least he'd get some time off from stressing out about the situation in Dominica if he was going on a bunch of dates, so there was some good in this, he guessed.

Or maybe it'd just be one more thing to stress about.

Probably just one more thing to stress about.

Thank you so much for reading! If you'd like to submit a girl, see my profile for a form and details on submitting a character. I look forward to seeing all of your girls!