The Darndest Things
by Darth Stitch
DISCLAIMER: Trinity Blood was created by Yoshida Sunao (R.I.P.) and is now an anime directed by Tomohiro Hirata and produced by the studio GONZO, as well as a manga drawn by Kiyo Kyoujou.
AUTHOR'S WARNINGS: Trinity Blood is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Roman Catholic Church/the Vatican is portrayed as a military power as well as a spiritual one. The series also strongly implies major and controversial changes in the Church, such as women being bishops and cardinals as well as romantic relationships and quite possibly marriage between members of the clergy. If this disturbs you, do not read any further.
Earlier stories in the Milk Tea series can be found on my FF Dot Net profile. And in reading order they are:
Milk Tea & Thirteen Sugars
They Think That They See Flowers
All I Wish Is To Dream Again
What I'm Looking For
If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
Requiem: Death Shall Have No Dominion
This particular story is set towards the end of What I'm Looking For. You might want to read that first to get more of the backstory but you can pretty much go with the flow on this one. For those who've read the earlier story, well, this simply provides some more detail on what Abel and little Zachary have gone through before they finally got home. After all, we know that Father Silly and Silly Jr. are trouble magnets, yeah?
This was also inspired by Jian's fabulous artwork which you can find on my LJ. Here's the link – just remove the spaces as we know FF Dot Net is picky:
http: // darth-stitch. livejournal. com / 179233. html
Dedication: For my one and only Mommy Duck.
"Daddy, where are your wings?"
You smile at the words and the voice, high and piping, easily heard over the normal noise level on a train. Kids say the darndest things and often, it was of the sort that their parents would rather not want other people to hear. And of course, you automatically look around for the source of that voice. Imagination and whimsy make you think of a small cherub asking his father the archangel about that very important part of angel anatomy.
You don't really expect to see angels but your eyes are drawn to the father and son pair sitting just a seat away from you – they look far too much alike to be anything else, especially with that unusual silvery hair and those eyes. "Daddy" is clearly embarrassed, china blue eyes growing comically wide with astonishment behind round spectacles. He catches your eye and he smiles sheepishly, cheeks turning pink. One hand scratches the back of his head in a discomfited gesture even as the other carefully holds on to his little boy.
You can't help the smile but you look away, to spare the poor man further embarrassment. Of course, being so close, you can't help but overhear their conversation.
"Wings, Zachary?" 'Daddy' asks wryly. "I'm not an angel, you know or a bird or a plane or Superman…"
"Wanna fly with you, Daddy. It's fun!" The little boy answers enthusiastically.
"Daddy, you're being silly again!" His son says in exasperation. "Honestly, you're hopeless!"
"Hopeless? Hopeless, am I?" The father sputters in mock-indignation. "I bet you heard that from Mommy, didn't you?"
The little boy giggles and then he squeals as his father tickles him into submission. You can't help but smile at the picture they make. You think of your own little girl, waiting for you at home. Recently, you had brought her to a friend's house and she had gone right over to your friend's infant son and asked him, matter-of-factly, "Why don't you have any hair? Where did it all go?"
You laugh quietly to yourself at the memory.
You meep in surprise when you see the silver-haired little boy right in front of you, light blue eyes sparkling. "I'm Zachary! What's your name, Sister?"
"Zachary!" His father protests. He gets up from his seat and holds on to the handrails to keep his balance. "Don't bother the nice sister. Come back here."
"It's all right…Father," You tell him, almost forgetting to add the title. Now that you can see him better, 'Daddy' is clearly wearing the black cassock and cloak of a Catholic priest, which also explains why the child would be friendly to you, since your robes as a Member of the Legion of Mary are similar to the habit of a Catholic nun. While not strictly clergy, the Legion has endured over the centuries as an organization devoted to the praying of the Rosary and in doing charitable and missionary works. "I'm Sister Madeleine. It's a pleasure to meet you two."
"I'm Abel, a traveling priest from the Vatican and this little scamp here has already introduced himself… even if I've told him not to talk to strangers," This last he directs to his son, trying to look stern but failing at it utterly. You can hear the kindness and gentleness in his voice. It reminds of your own husband – he utterly adores your little girl, just as this young man loves his son.
Father Abel manages to sit down in a seat directly across from yours, ostensibly to keep a better eye on his boy, who has climbed up to sit right beside you. It is a late night train and there are only about three other passengers in the car, two of them, both male, asleep and the other, a woman, engrossed in a book. Not much company.
Again, the young priest gives you that sheepish grin. "No offense meant, Sister Madeleine but you know how it is…"
"None taken, Father Abel. I understand completely," You affirm and you do, because you are a parent yourself. You wag a finger in little Zachary's direction. "You should listen to your Daddy, sweetheart."
"You were smiling and laughing," said Zachary and then, he adds sweetly, "You look nice, like my Mommy."
Father Abel snorts and you laugh again. "Oh, you're a little charmer, aren't you? How old are you, Zachary?"
"Four! And my birthday's not for ages and ages yet," Zachary answers cheerfully.
"He's four and a half years worth of trouble," His father says, rolling his eyes.
"My little girl is about your age then, Zachary," You tell him. "And she's just as smart and as lively as you. Her name is Kathleen."
"Where is she now?" Zachary asks, ever-curious, of course.
"She's at home and she's going to get a surprise from me when I get there." You open your overnight bag so you can show Zachary your present for your child. It is a yellow rabbit, with soft floppy ears. "What do you think?"
Zachary studies the stuffed toy with an adorable look of concentration on his face and then he nods decisively. "She's a girl. She'll like it." And then he turns to his father. "Daddy! We should get a present for Mommy too."
Abel's expression softens as he looks at his son. "That's a good idea. What do you think she would like?"
The child has that look of concentration on his face again. "Uhm. Maybe she'd like a bunny rabbit too? And then you could kiss her, 'cause Mommy always likes that – " He stops in mid-sentence as his father leans over and puts two fingers over his mouth. The child's eyes cross comically.
"I think you'd better stop while you're ahead, my son," Father Abel is blushing again, utterly mortified. He lets the boy push his hand away but he manages to ruffle his son's hair.
You laugh again and you and the child's father exchange looks of commiseration. You've been on the receiving end of that type of conversation before. "He's an absolute treasure – you must be very proud of him."
He smiles ruefully and pushes his glasses up over his nose. "He's a blessing and his mother will be very glad to have him home."
There is such a sad tone to his voice that you can't help but be curious, of course. It happens sometimes, this kind of conversation between fellow passengers on a train. "Have you both been away long?"
You can see him carefully choose his words. "Not too long but… it's a little complicated to explain."
"I see." You don't, not really but you let it go at that. Were it not for the child's words that proved the very real affection between his parents, you would think that there was trouble in the marriage. Father Abel and his son are still strangers to you – not family or close friends. Certainly you have no right to press further so you allow them their privacy. You chide yourself ruefully for an overactive imagination – no mother would want to be parted from her child for too long. You have just spent two days away from your own little one and already, you are missing her. Not to mention your husband, of course.
Zachary is attentively listening to your conversation and again, you are reminded of your daughter. Neither child understood everything that was being said by the adults around them but they were both extraordinarily sensitive to the undercurrents of emotion there.
You pat the boy's head and change the subject, feeling a little mischievous. "Now, Zachary, why were you asking about your Daddy's wings? "
"Oh, Lord," His father groans, burying his face in his hands.
The child giggles but you have no chance to hear his answer as the train suddenly lurches to a stop.
You cry out and at the same time hold on to the child, preventing him from falling out of the seat even as you brace your own body against the sudden motion. Your hands protect the boy's head even as his father throws his arms out to steady you both, his shoulder hitting hard against the seat in front of him.
"Are you all right?" You both exclaim. With a mother's sure touch, you look Zachary over carefully, especially his head. The child is startled but not hurt and you yourself know that you will probably have bruises of your own but that's all right.
An explosion rocks the train and you bite back a scream, even as Father Abel throws himself over you and the child, shielding you both from the blast and the flying debris. You start praying, the Blessed Virgin's name in your thoughts, begging for Her intercession and protection. She is a mother too and you know She will understand, that your little girl and your husband are waiting for you to come home.
You will get out of this alive. No matter what it takes.
"Stay down," Father Abel orders. He gets up and draws a gun from beneath his cloak. The calm and confident way he seems to handle himself and the weapon tell you that he is a priest from the warrior orders.
"Daddy, are you okay?" the child whispers but he is surprisingly calm otherwise. Most other children would be crying for their mothers right about now.
His father gives him a reassuring smile and then he walks a little forward, gun in hand, listening intently. You're not sure how he could still hear – your own ears are still ringing a little from the explosion. The other passengers are on the floor, wounded or dead, you are not too sure. The damage is bad – part of the train car has been torn open like a sardine can but by some miracle, the section you, the child and the priest had been sitting in was somehow mostly unscathed.
He sees you glance at the three other people that you had shared the train car with and shakes his head, sorrowfully. You cross yourself – there is nothing else you can do for them now.
"Oh no," he murmurs – apparently, he can hear something that you cannot and it is not good. He immediately turns back and kneels next to the two of you. "Sister – " He hesitates, clearly assessing you.
"Father Abel," You tell him seriously, putting a hand on his arm and looking directly into his eyes. "I may not be from the warrior orders like you but I'm not a faint-hearted woman. I am a Legionnaire of Mary. I have a little girl and a husband to go home to. And I have every intention of getting us out of here alive."
He smiles. "Good. We have some unwanted visitors on this train and some of them are of the fanged variety."
Your heart sinks. "Vampires?"
He nods. "Some of them are, it seems." For a few seconds, it seems that your eyes are playing tricks on you because it seems like Father Abel's eyes have flashed red. "Do you know how to handle firearms?"
You nod. Your father had taught you how – the world had become a far more dangerous place after the Armageddon and he wanted you to know how to defend yourself.
Father Abel sighs softly and hands you his gun and additional bullets. You are pleased to see that your hands are steady as you take the weapon and ammunition.
Father Abel seems to know exactly what you are feeling. "I am so very sorry, Sister," he murmurs.
"It's not your fault," You tell him. You are a practical woman – the only ones at fault here are those heartless barbarians who have just attacked this train.
He shakes his head emphatically and you remember that he is a warrior priest and has probably seen and done far too many things that you would rather not think about. And this time, he has two non-combatants to worry about, one of them his own son. "You really shouldn't be involved in this. It's not fair but you've already been drawn in. And they will not show you any mercy."
Your eyes flash. "I'd like to see them try!" Yes, you are terrified but you will not give in to fear. You know who you are fighting for.
"You'll get along perfectly with my wife," he says lightly and then, he becomes more serious. "I'll need to go out there and distract them."
"You can trust me with Zachary," You assure him. "I will keep him safe."
"Thank you," he whispers, gratitude in his eyes. "Stay here. Stay out of sight. The car is not on fire although – " this with a wry tone – "it's a little worse for wear so unless it's absolutely necessary don't get off and wait for me to come get you two. And if worse comes to worst…" He glances at the weapon you hold in your hands.
"I will keep him safe," You repeat, holding onto the gun with one hand and drawing the boy protectively close with the other.
"Daddy," Zachary protests.
"It's all right, son. Daddy will come get you but you need to listen to Sister Madeleine now and take care of her, okay? This is your solemn charge." Father Abel regards his boy gravely and surprisingly, the child nods with equal seriousness. Were it not that the little boy was so young and the situation so dire, you would be amused and impressed at the child's sense of responsibility.
"Sister," Father Abel faces you now, catching your gaze. "Should anything happen, then you need to know the name of my son's mother."
And then he tells you.
You stare at him, stunned. "Father Abel" should have been a familiar face, after all the broadcasts and the photos in the papers, although young Zachary had been more closely kept away from the public eye and with good reason. Somehow, the cassock and the glasses threw you off. And then, recently, there were rumors that the Little Prince had been kidnapped…
The pieces fall together in your head and the shock makes your voice shaky. "They've been after you two… this entire time…"
"It will be all right," he assures you. "After all – "
"Daddy's on our side!" Zachary finishes the sentence enthusiastically. It seems that it's an oft-repeated phrase.
"What he said," Father Abel – and you have to think of him that way, because the truth is mind-boggling enough as it is – gives his reply with a silly grin, that makes you believe, oddly enough, that everything really will be okay.
And then he's gone, so quickly that it is as if he simply disappeared right before your eyes. You gasp as you realize something – he's given the gun to you but you've never seen him draw an additional weapon. How on earth is he going to fight those vampires?
"Daddy will be okay," Zachary tells you confidently, small hands patting your face. You should be the one comforting him instead of the other way around but you are glad that the little boy has such courage. The child stands up and manages to pull your overnight bag, which has somehow miraculously survived all this chaos, out of a pile of mess and rubble.
"What are you doing? " You exclaim.
He fishes the stuffed toy bunny out of the bag with a flourish. "I'll keep this safe for Kathleen. I promise."
You are touched. And at the same time you pray that you will be able to bring that bunny back to your daughter and this little boy back to his mother. You draw him close and hug him. "I'm sure Kathleen would like that very much."
"Is she nice? Can she come and play?" He asks, softly, his voice muffled against the soft fur of the toy.
"Yes, she is," You tell him. "She would like that. Her favorite game is hide n'seek. But we're going to play hide n'seek now," You tell him.
He nods solemnly. "Hide from the monsters and bad people."
You hug him tighter. "Are you good at hiding, sweetheart?"
He beams. "The best!"
"Let's go – "
There is another explosion. You are coughing from the smoke and you taste blood in your mouth where you've bitten your tongue. You are glad to find yourself still curled protectively around Zachary and then, as if the Virgin Herself had reached out with her mantle to shield you both – you and the boy have been protected from the worst of the blast by one of the overturned seats.
Zachary's hands are fisted in the front of your habit, the toy rabbit still squished between your bodies. His light blue eyes are wide and frightened, his face smudged with ash. There is blood in his hair from a small cut at his temple but that seems to be the worst of his injuries. He opens his mouth to speak but then he suddenly buries his face in your neck.
Footsteps. The crunch of heavy feet on rubble. You wish it were Father Abel returned but somehow you are very, very sure that this is not the case. Carefully, you shift your position, underneath that overturned seat. Zachary, bless him, wraps his little arms and legs around your body, holding on as tight as he can. You ready your gun, which somehow, miraculously, you still have in your possession.
"Fools! The child could be dead by now with your carelessness!" cried a high, screechy unpleasant voice. "His Holiness wants the boy alive, you numbskull."
Another voice, slightly deeper, sulking like a child. "Why? He's just a freak like the rest of them – he'll grow up to be a Big Bad just like his daddy. And then we'll all just be lunch to them. I ain't going to be lunch for no vampire…"
"Which is why we're here and which is why we have our orders. It's one child we have to bring back, just one, not blow things all to hell!" Screechy's voice seemed to be breaking sound barriers as his pitch seemed to go ever higher. You fight the urge to clap your hands over your ears, still ringing from the last explosion.
Sulky growled. "I like blowing things up. And those fanged freaks we've got with us are already playing with the Real Big Bad. S'not fair. I thought they was the enemy!"
"It is not right for us to question the wisdom of His Holiness. Heresy is a most grievous sin."
"We've already been doing that to th' other little Holiness…"
"Shut up and look already!"
Your blood runs cold. Everyone knows about the Great Schism perpetuated by Cardinal Francesco di Medici who had dared to question Pope Alessandro for making peace between the Methuselah Empire in the East and officially blessing the marriage of the Imperial Prince to Her Majesty the Queen of Albion. The Cardinal had denounced the Pope's proclamation that there should be peace between vampires and humans, fleeing with his followers to Avignon and proclaiming himself Pope of the True Catholic Church. In Avignon, he continued to denounce all vampires as hell-spawned demons and that all who consorted with them were damned to hell, beyond hope of salvation.
You do not deny that these vampires, who call themselves Methuselah, the new humans, frighten you. Your own great-grandmother fell victim to one years and years ago, a family legend that is still passed on. And yet, you seem them now on the streets of Londinium, looking, for the most part, no different from other people, except for the occasional flash of a sharp fang, the slightly paler than normal skin. The streets of Londinium are not awash in blood, the people do not flee in terror from ravenous blood-drinkers, contrary to the constant harping of the so-called Avignon Pope.
And when the Queen is seen by her people, her Consort, the Imperial Prince, stands by her side, charming and as handsome as any prince from a fairy tale.
Father Abel, his eyes alight with love and laughter, for his little boy.
Sweet little Zachary, who, even now, protectively holds on to the toy you have bought for your daughter.
You had not really thought about that fear of vampires, not until these men had spoken. These same men, who have just killed innocent people right in front of your eyes. These same men, who are as mortal as you are.
Your hiding place is good and even now, you have the impossible hope that they will simply pass you both by.
Cool air hits you as the seat is lifted away, revealing you and the child.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
"Well, well," says Screechy, pleased and triumphant. Now you have a face and build to put with that voice, not that you were actually looking forward to seeing him. He is tall, sallow-skinned, a build more wiry than muscular. His eyes are pale, almost colorless. "Jackpot."
"She's got the Little Bad with her," says Sulky and just like you've imagined, he looks like the fat, overgrown bully boy you would have avoided as a little kid. "He's not too scratched up."
You are standing now, your legs aching a little from the strain of having been crouched over for too long. You have one arm around Zachary, who, God be thanked, is not crying or making any other sound. You can see him try valiantly to be brave, staring at the two men, head held high.
"Give us the little demon, Sister," Screechy tells you.
"I'll get him for ya, if you want," Sulky puts in. "I won't hurt you none, Sister. Not too much, anyways."
You shake your head. You would not hand Zachary over to these murderers, these monsters in human skin, any more than you would hand over your own child.
"His Holiness commands it. Or be damned as a heretic and enemy of Mother Church." Screechy smiles and there are all sorts of unpleasant promises in that smile.
"Lemme do it, lemme do it," Sulky begs.
"I know of only one Pope," You answer softly. "And he rules in Rome, not Avignon."
"I will pray for your soul then, Sister," Screechy tells you and what really frightens you is that he really believes that this is right, what they're doing. To hurt and kill innocent people, even this poor boy…
Sulky lurches forward.
You have kept your other hand, still holding the gun, hidden behind the folds of your skirt this entire time. Now you flick off the safety, point and shoot.
Sulky goes down, a red crimson stain spreading over the front of his chest.
Your father had taught you how to handle a gun. And then, later, your own husband made you practice shooting targets, over and over and over again. He'd thought that you might face vampires one day. Shoot them where it counts, he'd told you. Shoot to kill.
You've never killed before, not in your life. But you think of the child in your arms and the child waiting for you at home. I will keep him safe, you promised.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death…
Time seems to slow down as Screechy lets out a cry and draws out his own gun. He didn't expect you to be armed and he'd underestimated you, badly. You don't stop to think, because if you do, you and Zachary will both be dead. So like a robot, an automaton, you shoot and your aim is true.
This time, the bullet goes through his head.
You don't stop there. There is no time to scream or cry or check for anything else. You have a child to protect.
You hit the ground hard and you don't stop. Father Abel had asked you to stay in what was left of the train but there is no other choice now. If worse came to worst, he said….
And then, you realize, what you left behind on the train was not the worst.
The vampire had blurred right in front of you, moving too fast for human eyes to follow. He looks at you and at the boy you hold in your arms. He smiles, showing a mouth full of teeth filed to razor-sharp points, stained red with blood.
There is no need for words between you. That smile – that awful, awful smile is more than enough.
You have the gun. It's more than likely that the bullets are blessed with holy water – silver nitrate. All of the warrior orders would carry these things against rogue vampires. Father Abel would have known that.
You could put down the child, get him to run while you buy him some time. If you were facing an ordinary human, it could be done.
But this is a vampire and he has already proven that he can move much, much faster than either of you could. You and Zachary would be dead no matter what you tried to do.
Out of choices. Out of time.
Your lips are already shaping the words of a prayer as you bring up your weapon.
You think of your little girl. And her first smile. And the way she would hum softly in tune to the lullabies you would sing as you put her to sleep.
You think of your husband. And the way he would laugh and tease you to distraction. And the way he would tell you that he loved you every morning that you woke.
…now and at the hour of our death…
And then, all you can see are wings.
Later, when you try to remember, to make sense of the chain of events, you will only truly recall vivid images. The curve of a scythe seemingly drenched in blood. Lightning flash and the lingering smell of ozone in the air. Silver hair a halo around a terrible, beautiful face.
Those wings, the color of the night sky, spread wide, shielding you and the child from harm.
You don't really see the vampire anymore. You only hear a single scream and then, a strangled gurgle and then, silence. There is a soft thud of several Things hitting the ground. You try very, very hard not to really think of exactly what is lying on the ground now. You already have enough fodder for nightmares – you don't need to add more.
And then, the black-winged angel turns to regard you both.
On the surface, you gaze upon a frightening countenance – the bluish tint to his skin, the slightly wider mouth, the hint of fangs, the crimson eyes. A strange and terrible beauty, you had thought and yet, you can still see something of the gentle young man that you had met on that train.
"Please do not be afraid," he tells you softly.
The voice is deeper, rougher and again, despite that, there are still echoes of the young father who had laughed and gently teased his little son, who had shielded you both with his body during that initial attack.
Fear not – were not these the very words the Angel Gabriel had once spoken to Mary?
"It really is all right, Sister," Zachary pipes up. The child touches your cheek, light blue eyes utterly earnest. "Daddy's on our side."
You should be frightened – any other sane person would be having hysterical fits right now. And yet, you find yourself beyond fear. You have survived and the child left in your care is safe. Your desperate prayers were answered in the most unlikely way possible and you will be going home to your family when so many others will not on this night.
Please do not be afraid.
Daddy's on our side.
In the end, you find yourself nodding at Zachary. You do not need to question. You simply believe.
And then, because you are a mother too, you simply return the little boy to his grateful father.
This too will be among those things that you will clearly remember – the black-winged angel, holding his child, wings folding him close, a single tear tracing its way down one smooth, blue-tinged cheek.
Kathleen loved her toy bunny.
(Little Zachary had been as good as his word and the toy actually did make it through your ordeal mostly unscathed. The bunny was cleaned within an inch of its fuzzy life before it was given to your daughter though.)
Your poor husband had been terrified out of his mind when news of the train attack broke out. He was just infinitely glad to have you home safe and sound.
Although clearly, he was not expecting the honor guard that came with you.
And both of you were bowled over by the grant of knighthood that came later.
Your name and the role you played in the entire affair had been kept secret from the press, for your own safety. In fact, you never expected anything more. To be able to come home safe to your family was all that you had ever wanted. Getting knighted by royalty was the absolute last thing on your mind. In fact, the mental image of you in armor, running about the countryside rescuing princes in distress, was absolutely ridiculous.
(So, all right, you actually did come to the rescue of a pair of princes but still…. no, to the armor.)
And then, of course, if this wasn't overwhelming enough, the Count of Manchester himself paid a call to your modest little home, to bring you the gratitude of Her Royal Majesty and to assure you that you and your family would never want for anything again.
It is too much, you and your husband had protested. The knighthood alone was more than enough. But the Count had simply smiled and said that it was the wish of the Queen and Prince Consort.
How on earth could you demur at that point?
Buckingham Palace is every bit as grandiose and impressive as you had imagined it to be. Your dear, sweet, silly husband frets that you would all get lost in its depths but the staff and the guards are most attentive and lead you to the Ballroom where Her Majesty awaited.
Queen Esther presides over the simple, private, yet solemn ceremony. There is genuine warmth and gratitude in those deep blue eyes – she is so impossibly young, much younger than you, in fact.
She takes your hands as you get to your feet (and you are somewhat relieved that you do not trip over the long skirts of your formal gown).
"I can never thank you enough for my son's life," she whispers into your ear.
The Prince Consort, His Imperial Highness Artorius Elric, cuts a far more dashing and imposing figure than he did on that train. You have already seen that other face he wore and yet it is odd how much more he seems a Prince of Vampires…er, Methuselah, now in this very room, than he did as a dark-winged angelic figure.
Beside him, His Royal Highness, Zachary Kyrys, the Prince of Wales, grins happily at you. He is trying not to fidget too much – it is a miracle that the four year old boy stayed as still as he did for the ceremony.
And then, you catch his father's eye and the Prince Consort gives you an echo of that same irrepressible grin and he is simply Father Abel again.
The reception that follows is a also a private one and you realize that the guests are mostly part of the Queen and Prince Consort's inner circle. You clutch at your husband's hand, both of you feeling overwhelmed and more than a little out of place. Just as you begin to feel that you and your family have wandered into a fairy tale, attending the court of a magical kingdom, your daughter lets go of your skirts to run up to the boy affectionately known to his subjects as the Little Prince.
"Hi! Let's go play!"
You gasp, sure that your daughter has just broken lord who knows how many rules of protocol and etiquette. But the Queen and the Prince only exchange looks of commiseration with you and your husband and you all end up laughing together, as only parents could when their offspring say and do the darndest things.
And children, bless them, have a knack for knowing the really important things at hand. Presented with a new friend and playmate, Zachary, His Royal Highness beams, takes your daughter's hand and runs out to the gardens to play.