A Man Owned
Xment2bursx- If my reviews are fun for you, yours are doubly as fun for me, 'cause you always catch everything I put between the lines... (It's actually kind-of spooky.) I love the "yay, molesting!" thing, by the way-- it's the theme of all SpAqua stories, I'm convinced... (I couldn't write the bathtub scene without grinning and breaking out in giggles every three seconds, so I'm glad it went over well. xD) And I'm aware that you have a new chapter up (and I promise to review it tomorrow) but I've just been annoyingly busytastic as of late... And this has nothing to do with anything, but the picture of Sasuke on your icony-thing makes me melt into a puddle of Sasu-love...
Dancing through the Storm
KF fan- Of course Roy will protect Garth from Deverell... or will he? -evil grin-
FREAKSHOW1- Hygeine was definitely the first thing on my mind when I was writing it. xD
Foxyperv- Deverell's motives are meant to be unclear at this point in time, so just go with the flow. (Actually, they'll be unclear for a while, but you'll see his plan in action in chapter 9.)
Kyo-kun AND Hatsuharu are hot- Welcome aboard! And, um, I just really like your screenname. xD
Garth ate a very late lunch at the edge of the ballroom, throwing angry glares at every piece of decorum the servants put up. By the time he was even halfway through his meal, the stair rails were all wrapped in flowered, leafy garland and, except for in the middle of the ballroom, candles were places everywhere. Carpets were rolled out and embroidered napkins were placed on specific tables, showing which seats were reserved for whom.
"Needless festivities," he murmured under his breath, mentally cursing the gods. Now banners were being draped from the ceiling in flowing, deep violet arcs, at which the prince pointedly scoffed.
This ball really was utterly pointless. Not only was it celebrating the arrival of his most detested cousin, it required more dancing, talking and chivalry than a simple banquet would need. Instead of retiring after an hour, he would be expected to stay at least until midnight and act gentlemanly and regal the entire time.
It was sure to be a disaster.
"Your Highness," the head maid, Zetta, called, shuffling over with half a scowl on her face. "Would it be possible to eat elsewhere, or perhaps prepare for the ball? You're frightening everyone to the point that they're afraid to do anything."
Garth tried to make his expression lighter, but the gloom still weighed it down. "I apologize," he murmured, dipping his head. "I can leave now, it's no trouble."
"It would be appreciated," Zetta sighed, about to shuffle back to work when she paused. "I heard you have some sort of acquaintance staying with you. Should I have the back room prepared for him?"
Garth chuckled humorlessly. "Yes, thank you. That would be preferable. But please, keep the knowledge from reaching my parents, if you can…"
She nodded and trotted off, abandoning him for a torn banner. Her voice followed him out of the ballroom, echoing down the nearby corridors.
With a glance to the lengthening shadows in the courtyard, Garth knew that he could no longer avoid getting ready. His parents were expecting him to be handsome, dressed and ready to receive guests in less than an hour. And as he opened the doors to his bedroom, he saw that his maids had expected him to be earlier, based on their state of disorganized panic.
"Your Highness," Novia whined, immediately taking his coat, "you're very late. You should have—"
"Oh, stop talking," Isolde snapped at her. "If you start chastising His Highness, he'll never be ready in time."
"Did Lark deliver my attire?" he wondered, directing his attention to Quintonice.
She nodded, pointing behind her at the clothing sprawled across the bed. "And," she said quietly, "she took Sir Roy to have a final fitting. I hope you're not angry with him for leaving, but since he is accompanying you to the ball I thought it best he be prepared."
The prince looked confused for a moment, but then remembered what Roy had said. "I forgot you spoke to him." As an afterthought, he asked, "What did you think of him now that he's not in tatters, bleeding on my foyer floor?"
Quintonice opened her mouth, but was bodily pushed aside by a determined Isolde. "Your Highness, please change your clothes. Coulson will be here faster than you think—"
"Isolde," Garth said gently, "please take Jette and Novia with you to Zetta. I can dress myself, and surely she has more urgent matters than how to properly tie my shoes."
The maid curtsied and left, flanked by the two others. Quintonice, slightly shocked by the abrupt emptiness of the room, only stared at him.
"What did you think of Roy, again?" he asked, making his way toward the clothes. He scooped up the armful and brought them behind a curtain, beginning to change out of sight.
"He seems goodhearted and cheerful… though, I may have insulted him, I'm afraid."
Garth laughed. "How did you manage that?"
"Well," she started, voice hesitant, "I was merely expressing how amicably he and Your Highness get along with each other, and he seemed… surprised."
The prince tugged on the black shirt and pants, and draped the heavy white coat over one arm. "Does it seem as if we get along, really?"
He stepped out from behind the curtain and handed the coat to Quintonice, allowing her to help put it on. As she straightened various pieces of clothing and picked off loose strands, Garth looked at her and tried to imagine an insulted Roy. He didn't seem the type to be insulted, at least not over anything less than running away from bathtubs, and would probably only laugh at something so trivial as camaraderie.
That was what Roy was doing, Garth realized. Roy was laughing at him—he was teasing Garth, making him flush and react to ridiculous sentiments, all for his own amusement. The haze of the affiliation wasn't haze at all, only acerbic pleasure on Roy's part construed as… feelings toward Garth. That was it; there was no hidden meaning to Roy's taunts, only ridicule for the sake of ridicule.
Suddenly, the prince felt his face go red with anger. He felt warm, too warm, and he only wanted to find Roy, berate him and force him out of the castle.
"Your Highness?" Quintonice asked when he spun away from her, fists clenched. "Your Highness, is something wrong?"
His head jerked up. "Of course n—"
"Your Highness!" two women chorused, sweeping in through the door with boxes of makeup and jewelry. "You mustn't spend time having conversations, especially with maids! Sit, sit—sit, Your Highness!" The taller of the women pushed him into a chair as the other kept talking. "Keep still, unless you want your face to look ridiculous."
Garth sighed and obeyed, sharing a sympathetic look with Quintonice before she left to attend other duties.
A few minutes later, while the makeup women were still applying things to his face and bickering over which ribbon color looked best with his attire, the Queen appeared in the doorway. She was already dressed, with her hair in a mass of black curls, and the sheer regality of her presence made the women stop in admiration before they gave a quick curtsy and continued with their argument.
"Garth, why are you still getting ready? As of ten minutes ago, you should have been at the top of the staircase, preparing a speech for Deverell!"
"I was preoccupied, mother," was his half-hearted reply. "And I refuse to give a toast to Deverell, that haughty prig of a cousin."
The Queen smiled with false sweetness. "That's lovely, Garth, but your refusal means nothing to me, because you are making that toast to him. Whether or not you mean it is a completely other matter—that's the quintessential behavior of royalty, to say something kind when you would rather have the person executed."
Garth laughed, making the Queen laugh as well. He asked, "Isn't that what the rest of society does, lie to others? Aren't we above that?"
"Of course not. The ones who make the laws are the worst at upholding them," she said with a casual shrug, turning to go. "Be at the top of the stairs before the bell tolls."
Roy, standing at the window of the tailors' room, was watching the carriages file into the enormous courtyard, observing the mannerisms of the guests, chuckling whenever the women's dresses got caught on their carriage doors. He had already gotten dressed in the ludicrously-elegant pants and jacket the tailors had made for him, both black, and now Lark and Finian were merely scurrying about, trying to find matching gloves.
The jacket was sleeveless, with a collar and asymmetric buttons on flaps that folded over one another. The line of tiny black buttons started high on the right of his chest, running until they were almost at the middle of his waist when a short strap of fabric interrupted them, held on with buttons at each end. Below the strap, the jacket cascaded out in a smooth curve, ending at his knees in the back but falling to two symmetric points in the front. The jacket opened in the front below his waist to show the pants, and everything was black—which was why Roy couldn't understand the need to find matching gloves. Anything that was black would match, and gloves weren't imperative accessories anyway.
Finally, Lark appeared beside him with black gloves that ended at his wrist. She practically shoved them over his fingers before racing off the fetch something else—a matching handkerchief, this time.
Finian, clipping off a rogue piece of hair at the nape of Roy's neck, noticed the earrings and made a sound of revulsion. "You must remove these," he murmured, reaching to take out the tiny golden hoops.
But Roy twisted away, bringing a hand to his ear. "No, these stay."
"Earrings are for women or servants, never true men. Take them out."
"I like them," he argued. Eyes glowing a brighter green, he said smugly, "And besides, princey told me to wear them."
Finian's eyes narrowed curiously. "Why would he—"
"You shouldn't call His Highness 'princey,'" Lark muttered, reappearing with an artistically-folded handkerchief. She tucked it into the pocket on the left of his chest, just over his heart, and stepped back to admire her work. "Aside from your manner of speaking, you seem like you belong at this castle."
From somewhere outside, a heavy bell chimed, making the tailors look at each other. Lark grabbed Roy by the arm and hauled him toward the door, Finian trailing behind.
Roy's wounds ached too much for him to resist. "What's—"
"You're late!" Finian hissed.
Without a word, Roy was escorted down the halls, turning at obscure cross-sections and occasionally going up staircases, only to end up in an empty room. Vaguely, music could be heard from the room below, a quick and festive waltz.
"Go down these stairs and knock on the door to your left," Finian said quickly. "Then keep going down the stairs until you enter the ballroom."
"Why am I knocking on the—"
"Try to act inconspicuous, or else His Highness might get into trouble." Lark pushed him toward the staircase without giving him a chance to speak. "Go!" she hissed, and then they were both out the door again.
Roy looked down the staircase with a sigh. He found the door on the left easily, knocked, and to his surprise the hazel-eyed maid appeared, looking appropriately-dressed in an embellished black and white gown.
"Quintonice?" he asked when she took his arm.
"Emlyn told me to accompany you this evening, so you wouldn't get lost." She smiled nervously. "Is that all right?"
Roy thought for a moment. "Isn't princey going to be there?"
"Oh—" Her smile disappeared, and she let go of him. "I knew you'd be upset—it was my mistake, I apologize—"
"I'm not upset," Roy chuckled, and the noise eased her alarm. "But isn't he going to be there?"
"Yes, but he'll be tending to his guests and avoiding Deverell. And the Queen, Her Highness, may keep him from associating with anyone she doesn't know… including you and me, unfortunately. Of course, I'm his servant—I shouldn't be attending balls at all!" She let out a delicate sigh and waved a hand, brushing off the matter. "I'm sure he'll be keeping an eye on you from far away, though… If he can recognize you, that is."
Roy took her arm and started down the stairs. "Recognize me?"
"You look entirely transformed, if you don't mind me saying so, in those clothes." She laughed, a light sound that echoed in the stone stairwell. "That's why the three tailors were hired, and are praised as geniuses—they're excellent."
"So I've heard," Roy said, looking over the railing to see how far the stairs went. "But I've only met two of them, and they were both mad."
Quintonice giggled again, shaking her head. "Regardless, you look very handsome."
He hummed in response, letting silence slip easily between them. Soon enough, music and voices filled the air, and the staircase ended in an open room with heavy doors on the opposite wall.
"In there," Quintonice directed, gesturing toward the doors. "That's the ballroom." She started to move, but noticed Roy had stopped and quickly turned to face him.
"I think I should stay out here…" he murmured, staring up at the doors.
Her expression crumbled with uncertainty, her mood once again swayed with a mere sentence. "But… Emlyn instructed me to bring you." She tilted her head to one side, brown curls falling across her face. "And His Highness would like you there, I'm sure."
"I'm not so sure about that." He gave half a laugh and shrugged. "We… had an argument."
"His Highness isn't easily displeased—and it's likely you won't even come face-to-face with him. So, please, may we go in?"
Roy looked between Quintonice and the doors, and eventually offered his arm to the brunette with an unenthusiastic smile.
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