Author's Notes: Who knows where I get my inspiration from nowadays?
For my weight scale:
I hate you.
"Wit," he says.
"Intelligence. Grace. Humor, poise, kindness, courage—"
Odette laughs, and shuts him up with her mouth. He can vaguely hear his mother crow in smug satisfaction, can almost smell the cake and flowers being laid out around them.
But mostly, he just feels Odette, light against his arms, fitted against his chest and fingers tangled in his hair.
She looks back twice.
Not once. Twice. He thinks this might be some sort of sign. Her hand is tucked in her new husband's, her crown fitted perfectly in her hair. And that smile—that wide, stunning, Odette smile that she saves for special occasions—spread across her mouth like jam on toast.
She looks happily at her husband's face and presses her lips against his. She is Derek's, just as everything beautiful and bright is Derek's.
Still, Bromley thinks as he watches Derek help her into the carriage. She looked back.
"King Derek," she greets, formal and stiff (but never awkward, not Odette). She is as beautiful as he remembers, her gown fitted against her body so tightly he can see every curve.
They are just as he imagined in his dreams, soft and perfect. "Queen Odette," he responds, eyes locked on hers. "Might I introduce my wife, Antonia?"
Odette smiles tightly. "A pleasure," she lies. "And this is my husband. Jean-Bob."
Their mouths are twisted into what might have been smiles once; but she has long since stopped laughing purely to laugh, and he has grown tired of telling jokes. The tension pulls at him, drudging up emotions he thought were well buried. His wife meanders off to find a drink, and Jean-Bob seems to understand he is no longer needed; Derek can feel the other man's eyes on his wife's bottom half.
"Excuse me," Jean-Bob mutters.
Looking at her more closely, Derek can see the wrinkles that have begun to line her eyes, and notes the way her lips naturally tip downwards instead of up. He knows he has put on weight and the hair on the top of his skull has begun to fall out. They were once a handsome pair—or almost—but now he just feels worn out.
He touches her arm. "Odette—"
She shakes free, eyes wide and desperate. "I have to go," she murmurs, panicked. And he knows then what she has since the beginning: they could destroy each other, simply by acknowledging their tragedy.
So he lets her go.
The rain runs down King William's cheeks like tiny rivers as the old man breathes his last breaths. "Odette is—" His eyes wide, fearful, sorrowful, resigned. "Odette is—" Then his gaze shifts, sliding across the wrecked carriage and to the edge of the cliff.
A thin patch of white fabric has caught on a nearby bush, fluttering and catching the wind.
Derek peers over the edge.
She lies at the bottom, blood spurting from the hole in her stomach.
His heart breaks, and then he throws up.
The first time, Derek thinks that it is one of the swans from Lake Uberta has gotten lost while hunting; but the creature's eyes are bigger than those swans, and its size much smaller. This bird is somehow … dainty, all big eyes and soft feathers.
He does not know where she goes at night. But every morning there is a quiet tap-tap-tap on his window and the swan appears, pulling at his sleeve.
His new friend becomes well known about the castle. She is dubbed Wilhelmina, after his mother's sister, and soon everyone loves the little animal. But she remains devoted to Derek, following him about and tugging at his shirt.
On the one-year anniversary of Odette's disappearance, he decides to follow her. He waits by his window, waiting for her white body to streak out of the sky, but she does not come.
Two days later, the magician Rothbart attacks and seizes control of what would have been Odette's kingdom.
He does not see the swan again.