The Duke Orsino had often imagined betrothal to be a time of romance – of long walks hand in hand, stolen kisses, and time spent in company as much as their lives would spare. His betrothal to Viola held little of that. There was some, but it seemed that from the moment the Duke placed the engagement ring on Viola's finger, he began chasing her. She disappeared at the oddest times, for the oddest reasons. He'd given up sending his men to search for her. Her time spent as a page had given her a squirrel's knowledge of the keep and the lands between.
Orsino glanced absently around the kitchens as he made his rounds of the castle in his last, desperate search for the day. So far he'd checked her chambers, the gardens, the courtyard, the stables, the cliffs, and the fencing yard. Once all the usual haunts were exhausted he'd give up and return to his room to read. He turned, moving through the halls absently, his thoughts drifting to memories past. When Cesario – Viola as Cesario – had been with him, they'd been inseparable. He paused with his hand on the wooden doorframe to the music hall. Not long ago, they'd sat here long into the night, smoking and playing cards while the piano played a love song. At the time he'd thought nothing of it beyond how enjoyable he found Cesario and how much of a pair of like minds they were.
Perhaps she was merely having difficulties adjusting to the change in station. A lot was different between then now, due entirely to the revelation of Viola's gender. Much of what they used to share was bared to him, at least formally, by the terms of society. He certainly wouldn't mind if Viola wanted to smoke, though she had never seem much inclined towards it, and was perhaps rather glad the chance of her sex excused her from it, but he was certain Cesario – Viola had begun to look forward to their fencing matches and riding with Orsino's troops.
Many of his men had already made it clear, subtly, that they considered Cesario part of them, and that they would be willing to overlook certain social improprieties in his name. The thought brought him no small amount of comfort.
Perhaps that was what they needed. Orsino smiled and moved on, leaving the music room and its memories behind. He still wished that he wasn't heading to his room alone, that perhaps for once he could catch Viola alone for something more indelicate than a kiss, but this revelation was a huge step forward. He'd broach the subject to Viola, the next time he saw her.
"Damn it, damn it, damn it." Cesario swore furiously under his breath as he paced the length of Olivia's study, thankfully empty save for his twin Sebastian.
"Calm down," Sebastian soothed from where he lounged on the couch. Even in the face of Cesario's panic, he still couldn't stop smiling, the bliss of being a newlywed with him still.
"Calm down?" He hissed, careful to keep his voice low in an effort not to be overheard. "Calm down?" Part of him want to shout, to rail through the halls and let the whole world know his secret. At least then it would be over and done with and he wouldn't have to worry anymore. "How can I calm down when I am engaged to a man?"
Sebastian sighed and sat up, his feet hitting the floor, one after another, with an indolent thunk. "I thought that's what you wanted."
Cesario whirled, a quick retort dying on his lips. His ire fell, replaced once more with the despair that had plagued him ever since his, or rather 'Viola's' engagement. He sank into a chair across from Sebastian, skirts swirling around his legs to form a plump cushion. "I did. I do. I love Orsino. I really, really do. I have since the moment I first laid eyes on him, but he expects to marry a woman."
"You are a woman."
The pointed look Cesario shot Sebastian was all he really needed to say in their ages-long argument. "In heart and mind only, neither of which will mater when we get to the marriage bed."
"Cesario..." Sebastian ran a hand over his face as he fell back against the couch again. "Have you tried talking to him yet? Olivia says-"
"Olivia!" Cesario squeaked as he shot to his feet, his voice shooting into a feminine soprano. "You told Olivia?"
"No, I did not tell Olivia."
"Tell Olivia what?" The countess's voice broke into the conversation. She stood in the garden entrance, her lips pursed, hand on the door handle.
Blood drained from Cesario's face, leaving him as pale as if he'd seen a ghost. "Oliva," he squeaked awkwardly. "How long have you been there?"
Her gaze travelled between the twins, contemplatively before she crossed the room and took a seat on her husband's lap. His arms wrapped loosely around her waist. They kissed briefly and then she turned to regard Cesario once more. "Enough to know that there's trouble in paradise for the dear Duke."
"We're fine," Cesario ground out through gritted teeth, his glare daring Sebastian to say anything. "That's all you heard? R-really?"
"They're not. C-" Sebastian cut himself off just in time. "Viola is convinced that the Duke won't love her for who she really is."
"Who he really is," Olivia corrected.
Cesario whimpered in terror.
"I'm right, aren't I?" Olivia pressed. "You're twins, but twin boys, not a boy and a girl."
Cesario hid his head in his hands with a whimper.
"So," she drawled out the word, confusion obvious in her voice, "you were born as a boy, lived as a girl, shipwrecked here and switched to being a boy, and now you're back to pretending to be a girl."
"That sums it up," Sebastian said.
"Cesario... he... she is a girl, really, when you take heart and mind and emotions into account, he just had the bad misfortune to be born as a boy. Our father encouraged him to dress and act like a girl, however he felt most comfortable. He's not exactly the type that would fit into the military or among genteel society."
"I did just fine," Cesario groused. He lifted his head to peer at Olivia from between his bangs. His hair was getting longer, but it still wasn't nearly the length he was used to.
Olivia's smile was kind and reassuring. She extended her hand silently. Cesario took it, their fingers twining together. It was comforting, sisterly. He smiled back, though the expression was muted.
"Darling... dear heart, you'll be fine. The Duke loves you. He will continue to love you, no matter what." Her smile turned wicked. "At worse, if he doesn't keep you, I will. Lords, two twins all to myself." She leaned back against Sebastian and fanned herself. "I don't know what I would do with myself."
Cesario laughed with her but he didn't feel quite as optimistic about his chances for success.
It was strange for Olivia to request his presence without one of the twins, stranger still for her to come all the way to his keep with a minimal escort to speak with him. She shooed the servants out of the room as soon as they entered the sitting room. Before, he would have done anything she asked of him merely to please her. It was much the same now, but it was because he wanted to please Viola.
Several minutes passed in silence before Olivia spoke. "What do you think of Cesario?"
Orsino frowned and wondered if perhaps Olivia had hit her head recently. "You mean Viola. I love her, obviously. I'm eager for the two of us to wed but she seems to want a prolonged engagement."
"No, dear. I meant Cesario."
Confusion played plain across his face. "Viola is Cesario."
"Not quite. What did you think of Cesario when you knew him as a boy?"
It was a rather odd question, but then Olivia had never been one for normalcy. "We were the closest of friends. There was no one among my men that I trusted more. It was a blessing when he was revealed as a girl."
She leaned forward eagerly, elbows on her knees. "And romantically? Was there anything between you two, even then?"
Orsino's mouth dropped open and he blushed, actually blushed. No one, not even his most lewd of men had been able to make him blush since he was a boy. But, the mere suggestion that he'd harbored romantic inclination towards Viola's male persona filled him with embarrassed shame. Or perhaps that wasn't quite the correct emotion.
When he thought about it, seriously thought about it, there had been times when he had been perhaps a little bit... tempted. Towards the end of his courtship with Olivia, he had often found his dreams focusing more on thoughts of Cesario's smile, the touch of Cesario's lips, taste of his tongue, or the feel of his skin. If he was brutally honest, then yes, he had been attracted to Cesario, and perhaps if Olivia hadn't been in his life, he would have acted on it. His men were both loyal and discrete. Such liaisons were not entirely uncommon among the military.
"I suppose there was," he admitted, softly.
Olivia shifted forward until she perched at the very edge of her seat. Her voice dropped to a low whisper. "Viola is Cesario. She is a he."
Orsino stared. "What?"
"You're marrying a boy. A boy with a girl's heart who loves you dearly and is terrified that you'll reject him for who he really is."
She left him after that, kissing his cheek absently as she passed. He stared blankly at the chair she'd vacated long after she'd left.
Cesario closed the door to his bedroom. He turned and jumped, suddenly finding himself not alone in the room. "O-orsino."
He sat on the foot of Cesario's bed, shirt half open, sleeves undone. His boots had been left by one of the chairs, along with his overcoat. Cesario swallowed and shifted on his feet, not quite sure whether to flee or approach. Seeing Orsino like that tempted him, but he was afraid.
Fear froze him in place.
Orsino stood and approached. He stopped within touching distance but moved no further. His expression was unreadable, his eyes focused on Cesario intently. "It is Cesario, right? Not Viola."
Slowly, Cesario nodded.
Cesario flinched in anticipation as Orsino reached forward. He squeezed his eyes shut tight and waited, but the expected hit never came. A hand settled lightly on his cheek. He opened his eyes as Orsino leaned in for a kiss. Cesario gasped as Orsino grabbed him by the hips, pulling him tight against Orsino's body. Orsino's tongue slipped inside his mouth, deepening the kiss. It was everything he'd wanted, everything he'd ever wanted and the thought of having to give it up killed Cesario.
"Stop," he gasped, and pushed away. "I... I can't."
Orsino didn't let him go far. He kept his hold on Cesario's hips. "What's wrong?"
He couldn't look at Orsino, not and still be able to say what he needed to say. "I love you. I love you, but I can't... I'm... I'm not... female."
Cesario trembled. He wouldn't cry. He absolutely would not cry.
"I know." Fingers tilted his chin up so that he met Orsino's gaze. "Olivia told me. I know... and it doesn't matter. I still love you. You, Cesario."
Happiness filled him, as much as when he'd found Sebastian after they'd been separated after the shipwreck. He threw his arms around Orsino's neck and kissed him for all that he was worth. Orsino's hands shifted around to cup his ass and lifted, pulling Cesario off his feet.
They fell to the bed a tangle of limbs and discarded clothing, hands and tongues exploring. Cesario rolled them. He hooked his knees high over Orsino's hips and arched up into the Duke's erection, moaning as it pressed hot and hard against him. This was his first experience with sex but he'd heard Orsino's guardsmen talk often enough to have a decent idea of how it was supposed to go. Slick fingers entered him, making him moan loudly.
Orsino chuckled. "Your voice is so shrill, much like a woman. It's no wonder you're easily mistaken."
He was too distracted by the feeling of Orsino's fingers inside of him to answer. His fingers were moving, stretching painfully at first but it was getting better. As each second passed, it only made him want Orsino more, now, inside of him.
"Please," Cesario begged, not wanting to delay things any further.
"As you wish."
Orsino kissed him deeply, tongue mapping the roof of his mouth as he slid in. Cesario's needy groans were muffled by the seal of Orsino's mouth on top of his own. It hurt. He wasn't used to pain but he clenched his hands on Orsino's shoulders and bore it until the slick, slow slide of Orsino inside of him became pleasurable. His hips canted slightly upwards, suggesting a quicker pace that Orsino gladly took up.
A loud groan filled the room as Orsino finally broke the kiss, letting Cesario gasp for air. He writhed under Orsino, not sure how much longer he could hold on. Then Orsino's hand closed around his erection and that was all it took for Cesario to come with a shout. He clutched at Orsino and shivered in pleasure as Orsino continued to thrust, his movements growing increasingly more erratic. When Orsino came, it was quiet, just a low gasp and then his hips gradually slowed to a halt.
Cesario's hair was matted to his face with sweat as he stared up at Orsino, panting for breath. "I love you," he said. Then again, and again, as if he couldn't get enough of it.
Orsino silenced him with a kiss. "I love you, too."
Cesario winced as Orsino pulled out.
"I'm sorry," he said. "You may be sore tomorrow." He placed a kiss on Cesario's cheek as he stood.
The view was quite nice from Cesario's position as he watched Orsino cross the room and pick a scrap of loose fabric from the pile of rags in the corner of the room. Orsino eyed him appreciatively as he crossed back, his eyes roving slowly over every inch of Cesario's naked flesh. The mattress dipped as Orsino settled back on the bed. He used the cloth to wipe Cesario clean, his touch gentle and slow. Only when he was done did he clean himself off. He tossed the cloth to the floor.
Orsino settled into the bed and pulled Cesario against him. "Shall we start making wedding plans now?"
Cesario curled against the Duke with a contented smile. "I'd love that."