Title: Second is the Best

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual references and mild hints of yaoi)

Disclaimer: Um...duh.

Summary: First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the hairy chest: The feelings of the first and third princes of La Naan wear their hearts on their sleeves for Ishtar, but the second is more tricky. Political intrigue, vampire possession, and the search for the reincarnation of Phelios continues...Laph/Isht/Sel

Chapter Summary: Prenuptial bliss has overtaken the kingdom of La Naan as the first prince of La Naan has victoriously won the hand of the greatly desired princess of Pheliosta. Seiliez and Lady Ramia couldn't be happier, Ishtar is coping, Vord has disappeared, and Laphiji just wants someone to remember that he survived his battle with Sharlen...

Chapter One: Arrangements, Promises and Deals

Another flock of servants flitted past the open doorway bearing decorations for the great dining hall. The women chattered incessantly about the evenings festivities, every so often dissolving into tears at the implications of such a ceremony. Men hefted extra pieces of furniture and muttered amongst themselves about the future of taxes after such an arrangement. Lady Ramia was no where to be found as she divided her time between entertaining her future daughter and sobbing uncontrollably in her rooms over the disappearance of her favorite son.

Yes, the marriage of the crowned prince of La Naan was to be a memorable event indeed.

Laphiji watched the world go by through the open door, unable to take part in the festivities while he remained bedridden. No matter how long his one eye watched the door no one entered, least of all the one he wanted to see most.

"How are you feeling, your highness?" Laphiji turned his head from his watch, ignoring the stab of pain in his neck. His lone healer entered through her office door with a medicinal poultice in hand.

"Mm,"

The healer smiled and approached his bed, taking a seat by his bedside. "How are your ribs?" she asked, laying the poultice to the side so that she could examine the healing damage with her fingers. Laphiji's muscles recoiled from the delicate prodding but he responded with the affirmative just the same.

"Fine,"

The healer's smile transformed into a knowing smirk and she pressed into one of his sides. The second prince of La Naan held back the moan of a lesser man but couldn't prevent his body from jerking away from her.

The healer laughed and picked up her scissors. "Time to change your bandages, I see," she said, snipping away the remnants of his bloodied gauze. Laphiji held himself still and responded only when necessary to his health.

She kept his poultice in place beneath a fresh set of bandages and secured them with a knot, allowing her hands to linger over her work for a moment longer than necessary. "There we go," she smiled, drawing back from her patient. "All better now."

She waited an extra few seconds for some semblance of an answer, but none was forthcoming. Laphiji stared dispassionately at the ceiling, awaiting her departure. The healer twitched after several minutes of extended silence and excused herself, "Well, get some rest. If you don't aggravate your injuries you might be able to attend your brother's engagement banquet tonight."

Laphiji's eye twitched.

The healer bid him a final good day and exited through her office, the gold trim of her jade robes brushing the floor as she floated away.

Laphiji returned his freed attention back to the doorway, resigned to watching servants pass. The sun sank below the horizon as he watched time pass, casting the hospital wing into a deep orange haze. The festivities continued on without their second prince's audience and the entire kingdom, whether in attendance or not, hailed the future king and queen of Pheliosta with their glasses raised. Laphiji watched the door well into the night and early morning until the noise died down and then he fell asleep with a pain entirely unrelated to his injuries deep within his chest.

"You've gotten yourself into a fine one this time," Duzell chastised, leveling a superior glare at his human conspirator. The princess paused her battle with a tangle but did not set her brush down. It seemed she was about to respond, but apparently thought better of it as the brush continued its grooming.

Duzell stretched his replicated body out over the bed, careful to keep the parts of him that were not derivative of the princess covered. Ishtar remained silent at her vanity as the brush continued its work. Duzell shifted his gaze to the crimson canopy above, unable to look at the princess as he continued his speech, "I'm surprised Darres hasn't had an aneurism. Sir Keld is probably dead by now," he glanced at Ishtar's back. The brush didn't even pause this time. "Yuujin seems thrilled, as usual. Wouldn't surprise me if he wanted to be your maid of honor,"

"He'll probably look better in a dress than I do anyway," Ishtar said quietly without much gusto. "I'm thinking lavender for the bridesmaids, though I'll bet Auntie Ramia will pick out whichever material she likes in the end," she turned on the bench and forced an unconvincing smile.

Duzell couldn't look at her, not when she was trying so hard to sound cheerful. "It could be worse," he admitted in a brave stab at the silver lining. "At least you're marrying the pretty one."

The forced smile remained in place as Ishtar approached the bed. "Right, I could be marrying Vord. Or, worse, Laphiji!" she laughed. Duzell remained unconvinced and slightly unsettled.

"Right...,"

The party for her engagement raged below them in the great hall, her future husband still in attendance. The beautiful first prince of La Naan had beamed at her all evening long, offering her delicacies and sweeping her out to the dance floor at every opportunity. His arm hadn't left her waist since their arrival despite the amused, scandalized whisperings of the court. Ishtar had feigned illness sometime near midnight and escaped to her rooms before Seiliez could escort her to the hospital wing. Darres hadn't followed.

The princess sat on the edge of her bed, intently staring at her knees without any further motions of settling in for the night. The Vampire King that shared her bed squirmed helplessly. What could a heartless blood-sucker like him do for an ailing princess?

Before he could even comprehend action, there was a knock on the door. Ishtar looked up, startled hope on her face. "Who is it?"

"Seiliez, Lady Ishtar," came her future husbands voice. Ishtar deflated. "May I come in?"

Ishtar glanced over her shoulder but Duzell was already back in his Kyawl incarnation. "Sure," she replied with no further hesitation. The door opened and a slender body slipped past it into the princesses chambers.

"How are you feeling?" Seiliez queried softly, closing the door in his wake.

Ishtar forced her smile. "Better," she assured him. Duzell could tell that the first prince of La Naan was as unconvinced as he at Ishtar's behavior. Wasting no time for prenuptial modesty, Seiliez kneeled next to her bed and pulled both her hands to his chest.

"Tell me," he insisted with sincerity brimming in his amethyst eyes. Ishtar tilted her head to the side to avoid the question.

"I'm fine, Seiliez," she insisted, hiding her face behind her veil of hair. Duzell approached on his silent feet to catch a better glimpse of her tears, but there were none. Her shoulders were tight with tension, her fists clenched betwixt Seiliez's palms, and her face downcast but there were no tears.

"No, you're not fine," Seiliez disagreed, releasing one of her hands momentarily to pull her face into better view.

Before she could tell him that she was tired, needed sleep, Seiliez's lips had swallowed her excuse in a kiss that defined passion. Without waiting for her response, Seiliez pushed his princess onto her back and hovered over her, pinning her captured hands above her head.

He trailed kisses down her throat, over her collar bone and settled into the swell of her breasts where he stopped to breathe. He reveled in the quickened pace of her heart as she lay prostrate beneath him, unsure of his attentions. Seiliez couldn't force back his smile as even his subconscious couldn't claim this as a dream.

"I promise," he whispered into her bosom. "I promise to make you happy, Ishtar."

Ishtar choked on her tears as they attempted to force through her carefully constructed barriers. As the first slipped out the rest took advantage of the flaw in her defenses and burst from her chest. Seiliez settled his body beside her and resumed his position on her chest, rising and falling with her sobs. He would stay like this until the maid found them in the morning, entangled and slightly damp, and his final scandal of La Naan was announced to the palace.

Yes, Seiliez decided, nuzzling into the soft crevice of her chest. He was certainly getting the better end of Sharlen's deal.

Authors Note:

Just so you know, all of my authors notes will be down here at the bottom of chapters. I hate to interrupt reading with FYI unless absolutely necessary. I also hate tempting myself to tell you what's getting ready to happen... Instead, I'll keep all of my little comments down here along with a "Coming up Next..." section below that will give you a short, vague summary of what's to come in the next chapter Other than that, I sincerely hope that you enjoy your reading.

Oh, and you should all know that I have the tendency to get bored with stories but I'm going to do my best to keep up with this one. There's so much pressure on my other penname I'm hoping that this new one will solve my nervous writers block. And, no, I'm not telling what my other pen name is...you'll just have to know me as the mysterious ObscureAnimeWriter . You can check out any original work of mine at all you want, though, under the pen name "Different Strokes" (knock yourself out. My poetry kinda sucks anyway ; )

You can find this same pen name on Up Next...It's time to leave for Pheliosta where wedding preparations are already underway. Ishtar drops by to visit the poor, forgotten Laphiji, still weighted down by the funk of her up and coming marriage. With such high spirits, the future looks dismal for our royal crew...