A/N: Written for the USxUK livejournal community Secret Santa Exchange 2009 for parttime_job. Please enjoy :)
Marriage is a funny thing. It symbolizes the beginning of two lives spent as one. Two lives meant to do everything together. Meant to walk together, talk together, dine together, bed together… It's supposed to be magical for the bride and groom. Their families are supposed to shed tears at seeing a relative move forward in his or her life.
But in all honesty, since when was marriage ever like that?
Since when did two people have to love each other to marry? As a matter of fact, hardly anyone in my family has married out of love. It's always been about marrying for land, for power over our enemies. My own parents hate each other. They were part of an arranged marriage, forced to endure one another for the rest of their lives.
Perhaps it is better to just establish facts. Marriage is a union between a man and a woman who love each other…right? Marriage between a man and a man…that's something different. Not just different. It's unheard of in these times. The year is 1543 now, and not once have I ever heard of two men marrying one another. Perhaps this is just unheard of in my land, the country I grew up in… in England. Two men marrying…is that a sin? I don't think it should be… No. I'm quite sure it isn't. It couldn't be…
I'm beginning to ramble. I should introduce myself. Hello. My name is Arthur Kirkland, and this is my story.
Kingdom of England
April 20th, 1543
Arthur heard the sobs echoing from her room. She sounded so tormented. It was truly a predicament she was in, but she really had to buckle down and take it like a man…or a woman…perhaps it was because she was a woman that made her so vulnerable to her emotions? Arthur put on a brave face, not only for her, but for himself. He hated his sister's sobs…
Her name was Isla. Isla Kirkland. Her name would change in a week. Soon it would become Isla Jones. The name just doesn't fit her, Arthur thought to himself as he began to walk up the stairs to his sister's room.
Isla was engaged to a prince in the kingdom of America. Both the kingdom of America and the kingdom of England were located on the same continent of Talia. War had ripped the two nations apart in the past, which is why both territories still shared their common language of English. Now, Arthur's parents figured, was the time for the kingdoms to reunite under one rule.
The only way to do so was by an arranged marriage between Isla, the princess of the kingdom of England, and the prince of the kingdom of America, a man by the name of Alfred Jones.
Arthur knocked on his twin sister's door. After hearing no response, he decided to open it himself. "Isla?" he asked while looking around the room. It was bare. She would be living in the kingdom of America from now on. All her belongings were in cases out in the carriage. All that was left was her bed, which she was sitting on as she looked out the window.
"Isla, it is time to depart…" Arthur spoke quietly. He was trying to maintain his composure for her. In truth, he wanted to scream and kick and punch whoever had first decided it was a good idea to marry his sister off like this. But Arthur couldn't let her see this side of him at the moment, no matter how used to his anger she was.
"I know, brother…" she said softly. Arthur followed her gaze out the window. The sky was a beautiful blue. It was free of clouds and the wide expanse was positively breathtaking. Cloudless days were rare in England. Arthur tore his eyes away from the wondrous sight and focused on his sister instead. Their appearances were a bit similar. Their hair color was the same shade of blond. Her hair was short and framed her face. Their skin tone was the same as well, although she had a few freckles littered across her cheeks and nose. Isla would cover them with makeup, embarrassed by the tiny spots on her face.
Arthur tried his best to muster a smile. It wouldn't come, so he settled for what he hoped was not a pitying look, but one of empathy. "It's best you come down now…our parents expect your arrival."
"I know…" she practically whispered. Her eyes did not stray from the sky.
Arthur placed a comforting hand on her shoulder before quickly bringing it back to his chest, shying away from such an act of emotion. "I…I can see you need more time alone, Isla…" he said, turning away, ready to leave the room.
"What do you think he will be like?" she asked suddenly. Arthur turned back to stare at his sister.
She repeated her question. "What do you think he will be like…Alfred? My husband?" It was nerve-wracking the way her gaze stayed fixed upon the sky beyond her window, but Arthur answered nonetheless.
"I think…I think he's probably the worst person in the world for stealing my sister…and that he doesn't deserve a woman like you…" he said to Isla, bluntly speaking his opinion on the matter. "But all I know about him is that he's marrying you…and anyone who even looks at you really doesn't get along with me, now do they?" He said with a small smile. Isla chuckled softly to herself.
"Perhaps he is a beautiful man…" she said, continuing to stare up into the sky. "Perhaps he is kind, brave, loyal, and loving…" Her voice was filled with something akin to hope, but Arthur knew that she was only fantasizing. Isla was aware of what the reality would be. The man she was marrying would probably be rude, cowardly, unfaithful, and hating. The kingdom of America was poor, after all. That probably didn't make him or his parents happy. Arthur's family was marrying off Isla for land, and Alfred's family was marrying off Alfred for money. A vicious cycle.
Isla turned to her brother. "I keep wondering to myself…does the kingdom of America have such a beautiful sky? Every day?" Her eyes were shining with unshed tears.
"I…I wouldn't know…" Arthur said lamely. Isla smiled. She knew she wouldn't be able to get much of a response out of her brother. He was too stubborn and shy when it came to soft emotions.
Isla stood up from the bed and proceeded to exit the room with Arthur. Before she exited the door, she said, "I think America has a sky…and it's a beautiful blue. That's what I shall look forward to, Arthur." She shut the door behind them.
But she would never know if America had a blue sky. She would never know what Alfred was truly like. She would never open her eyes again.
The carriage ride had been long. They trekked for days and stopped at the various castles of their lords to dine and slumber. They had had so many guards surrounding them all the time. Isla had to be protected, after all.
But apparently, word had gotten out that the princess was on her way over to the kingdom of America. Many citizens did not want the two kingdoms to unite. These rebels had forces which would torment the homes of many nobles.
As Arthur's family was exiting the castle of a lord, one of the servants pulled out a knife from beneath his clothes and stabbed his sister in the heart.
"Isla!" he had shouted, catching her in his arms. He turned his back towards the man and felt the swing of the knife land upon his back. Arthur screamed in agony but held tight to Isla. She was having trouble breathing and blood was pooling on the sides of her mouth.
Arthur heard the man being apprehended by others, but that was none of his concern now. He quickly laid Isla on the ground and attempted to compress the wound, stop the blood flow, do anything to save her! She was coughing up the blood that was slowly choking her. Pain was etched on every corner of her face.
He cradled her head in his heads and chanted "no" over and over again as he shook his head. Hands grabbed his arms and pulled him off of her, but he kicked and screamed for his sister. "Isla!" he shouted, trying to dig his feet into the ground to prevent the hands from dragging him further from his sister. "Isla! Please! Let go!" He was struggling against the arms that held him. "Don't help me, help her!" Others were surrounding Isla now. His parents were off to the side, looking in shock towards one another. They didn't appear upset. They only appeared to be fighting.
Arthur was led back into the castle. The doors were shut behind him. As soon as they released him from their grip, Arthur ran straight back to the doors and began to pound on them with a drunken fury. "Let me out! Isla!" Tears began to stream down the sides of his cheeks. This couldn't have happened, his twin sister couldn't have been hurt, she couldn't be out there dying right now!
Minutes passed and his hands grew sore from pounding against the wooden doors. The wound on his back continued to bleed, but the men who had grabbed him had not seen it fit to bring him to a room to heal. He didn't care. His fists were still clenched and lay on top of the entrance. Arthur slid his body to the floor and allowed his sobs to take over. His body was shaking with fear, confusion, and shock. The adrenaline was still coursing through his veins, but he felt so helpless, trapped in a castle while his sister suffered and his parents did nothing.
His cries echoed throughout the spacious abode that day. And the next. And the next.
He couldn't help himself. Isla had been his twin sister. They had been together since birth!
The wound on his back had been stitched up. Arthur ignored the pain of the needle as best he could. He only needed to concentrate on one thing: Isla was dead.
Arthur let out a shuddering breath. He was outside the conference room now. His parents were in there discussing with the lord what to do about the wedding. The bloody wedding. No, don't care that your one and only daughter is dead, Arthur thought to himself. Don't worry about your son, either. I'm sure he's doing just fine! By all means, discuss how you're going to pay off all those nobles to not come to the ceremony!
It's not that Arthur didn't think these preparations were important. He knew it would be a hassle to cancel everything. But what about Isla's funeral, perhaps? They buried her in a hole, without so much as a priest to read her last rights or a cross to place above the burial mound. His parents had thrown her out like garbage. And Arthur couldn't stand it.
But he couldn't do anything about it either. As much as he wanted to barge in there right now and punch some sense into his parents, he couldn't. They could very well have him killed for such a thing…and probably would.
He continued to pace outside the conference room. He was told to stand outside and wait to be called in. "Arthur Kirkland!" his father roared from inside. Arthur quickly stepped inside to see various people surrounding a table. On the table was one of his sister's dresses, along with a wig and other womanly garments.
"What…what is going on?" Arthur asked angrily. "Are we selling her things already?!" he shouted towards his parents, his eyebrows furrowing in disgust.
"No, Arthur," his mother said calmly. Her face was stern, like it always was. She applied too much makeup for her own good and always had a menacing look to her. But Arthur wasn't about to be intimidated by her.
"Then why do you have Isla's belongings on the table?" he asked impatiently.
His father looked towards him with a look that screamed, "obey". His father said, "They are for you, my son."
Arthur was taken aback at the statement. His expression was first a look of shock, later replaced by one of confusion and finally hopeful sorrow. "You mean…I can keep her belongings?" he asked, wanting to confirm and see if it was true. If only his parents would let him keep her things, to remember her by. Perhaps he had been wrong about their intentions.
"No, Arthur," his mother spoke again. "They are for you to wear."
His face was one of shock again. "What…what do you mean wear? Why would I wear Isla's dress?"
His mother looked to him again. "Because you are Isla. From now on, you will dress as your sister and the wedding shall continue."
Arthur's eyes widened. His teeth began to shake, either in fury or in humiliation, he was not sure. "Th-that's completely ridiculous!" he screamed at her. "You…you want me to…to what? Dress as Isla and marry that man?! Are you out of your mind?!"
His father shot an angry glare towards him once more. "Do not speak to your mother with that sort of tone!" he shouted, his voice echoing through the room, making it louder than a lion's roar. He cleared his throat and continued to speak. "You will do this for us. You're not even interested in women, anyway, so you might as well dress like the girl you are," he said, the cruel insult stinging like a sharp slap across Arthur's cheek.
His mother spoke once more. "Do this for the kingdom, Arthur," she said. "We cannot embarrass the family by cutting off this wedding. As far as anyone is concerned, Isla is still alive. Do this for her, Arthur…I recall her being curious about…blue skies, was it?" His mother wore a sly smile on her face. Using Isla's death as a tool to get Arthur to buckle to her whim…it was cruel…but it was working.
"I…I…" Arthur began to say, but his voice wouldn't allow for anything to come out.
"Take him to the dressing room!" his father ordered the servants. More hands and arms grabbed him, dragging him off towards another room in the castle. He struggling in their grips, but he wasn't giving it his all. Instead, he looked towards his parents with pleading eyes, eyes that asked, "Why? Why would you do this to me?"
Arthur was placed in front of three mirrors, all next to each other in a semicircle around his body, as the servants got to work on him.
They stripped him of all his clothes despite his protests. He stood there, stark naked, completely humiliated at his situation. Arthur remained as stubborn as ever. The undergarments were quickly draped over him. They were like a loose, white gown over him. It was incredibly womanly and quite small. Tight even. Next was the dress, which was draped over his head as he kicked and squirmed. There were just too many arms holding him down. The skirt of the dress was in place, but his arms had yet to be placed into the sleeves. That was because the worst part was yet to come.
A tight corset of Isla's was being wrapped around his waist. Arthur could already feel the tightness this item would bring him. They started tying the corset up near his waist. He could hardly breathe. The cruel device cut off his breath. His stomach and waist were being squeezed together so tightly it was almost too painful to handle. More and more of the corset was tied up. His lower ribs felt compressed in the tough fabric of the garment. The only thing that fit loosely was near his upper chest, where the woman's breasts would normally be. Other servants decided to stuff that part with clumps of fabric. Arthur's face blushed at the indignity of it all.
The rest of the dress covered up the corset and his arms were placed into the sleeves. His hair was being pulled back tightly. A wig, which had the same style of his sister's hair, was placed atop is head. A hand grabbed his face as they applied white powder and other forms of makeup on him. The fingers dug into the skin of his cheeks. His was in pain all over.
Finally, Isla's jewelry was placed upon him. A necklace, a few bracelets, and, last but not least, her engagement ring. It was a tight squeeze around his finger, much like the corset around his waist.
When the servants were done, Arthur looked towards the mirror in shock. He wasn't pretty, that he was certain of. But he did look a bit similar to his sister, if anything. His eyes stung with the onslaught of tears, threatening to spill down his face. He clenched his fists at the indignity of his situation. He was dressed like a woman…
His father's insult came back into his mind. You're not even interested in women, anyway, so you might as well dress like the girl you are. What did his father know?! Just because he hadn't fancied any women did not mean he was interested in men. It did not mean he was a woman himself!
The dress flowed over his frame. He loosened his hands, which had begun to shake by this point. A tear had made its way down his face.
He would be marrying Alfred. Alfred. He would be forced into an arranged marriage with someone he already despised more than anyone else in the world.
His sister was gone, he was humiliated beyond belief, and he would be sent away from his homeland of England forever to marry a man he hated…
Alfred looked out the window of his room expectantly. He was praying with all his might no one would show up. Isla was to come any day now, and he didn't look forward to her arrival…
It was raining outside. Alfred never really minded the rain, but it disappointed him because he loved being outside. After the rain, however, the surrounding land would be a luscious green. Alfred sighed to himself and wondered if the kingdom of England was such a beautiful green color…
A/N: So this was basically the introductory chapter :) There was a big focus on Arthur, yes, I know. I tend to focus on him a lot ^^; But future chapters shall incorporate Alfred a lot more for sure :)
Also, I tend to start of my USUK fics in Arthur's POV...I think I've developed a style...xD