A/N: My first official Havemercy fic, because this fandom seriously needs some love. I just couldn't resist writing this. Originally posted on the thremedon community on LJ.

When Royston came home that day, I knew that either something was terribly wrong, or terribly right. I knew because he practically waltzed in through the door, and he was humming the tune to a song I know he hates. "Afternoon, Hal," he said in a sing-song, kissing my cheek as he passed.

I stood, setting down my roman very carefully, and followed him into the next room. "...Afternoon," I said. "Did something...happen?"

"What? Oh, just a bit of news, that's all. Did you hear that the Arlemagne king has died?"

Was that what he was so happy about? I would have thought it unlikely that anybody's death could make him so uncharacteristically chipper, but at this point I didn't know what to expect. "Yes, ah, Balfour did mention it when we met the other day."

He smiled at me and ruffled my hair lightly. "Well, the Esar is sending a few diplomats to attend the coronation of the new king, because we don't want to seem rude, of course, and guess who has been invited?"

I stared at him. "...You?"

"Us!" he cried, scooping me into a hug. "Well, yes, me, but I'm taking you! Isn't that exciting?"

"Royston." I pulled back, extracted one arm, and checked his forehead for fever. "You hate traveling. Isn't that why you declined joining the diplomats in Lapis City?"

He shook his head at me, still grinning gaily. "The crown prince, soon-to-be king, is an...acquaintance of mine. It'll be interesting to see him again."

That was when I realized what he was up to. The scandal had been so long ago, I'd all but forgotten about it, but it seemed that he hadn't. "Oh, no. Please don't tell me you're going to...Royston, it'll just be another scandal, I really don't think -"

"Nonsense," he said, kissing me briefly to make me stop talking. I hated how well that worked. "Now, I'm going to make an appointment with my tailor for you. I think we should make a few additions to your wardrobe for this trip...perhaps something in green..." He released me and wandered off, making plans with a malicious look on his face.

I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I was about to be paraded before royalty. I suppose I should get used to that at some point.

The palace in Arlemagne's capitol was fairly impressive, though in my opinion it didn't come close to the imposing nature of the Bastion. I did like it though, all rough grey stone and turrets, nothing like you would find in old Ramanthine architecture. The throne room was glittering gold as we entered, and surrounded by so many important people speaking in a language that I knew very little, I felt even more intimidated than in the Esar's ballroom.

Royston took my arm conspicuously and swept me across the room to pay our respects to the new king. He was expert at dodging the couples and groups littering the floor. Watching everybody, I noticed with a small rush of pride that the Arlemagnes were wearing Volstovic fashions that hadn't been in style since I first came to Thremedon.

The king himself, however, was anything but backwards. His white and gold outfit, paired with that jewel-loaded crown on his head, made me feel inferior enough. But what made my heart really sink was the realization that this Erik, this king...was really very attractive. All of a sudden I could see what Royston must have been thinking, and that didn't do anything for my nerves.

Breathe, I told myself. You can get through this. Just because he's ridiculously gorgeous, does not put you in any danger.

Royston bowed, and I remembered to follow suit at the last second. He said some sweeping sort of pleasantry in Arlemagne, and I gave an awkward sort of nod.

The king replied in his own language, and for a moment I was worried that I would have to guess at what was being said. But Roy gave me a sympathetic glance, and his next words were in Volstovic for my benefit. "Your Majesty...Erik...I don't believe you've met Hal, have you?"

He gave a tight-lipped smile, and his eyes flicked between us. "No, I can't say that I have."

"Oh, that's right!" Royston said, as if he had only just remembered. "I met Hal during my brief exile from Thremedon, do you remember that? He's remarkably bright, I couldn't just leave him to waste away in the countryside." His hand wrapped back around my elbow, pulling me minutely closer, and I could feel a blush rising on my neck. "He's my...assistant, officially." The way he said 'officially' made me want to crawl under a table and not come out until everybody was gone.

"I see," Erik said. I supposed that, from Royston's point of view, it was rather amusing watching him squirm like that. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Hal."

My eyes flicked away. "L-likewise, your Majesty." Was that correct? I should have read something on Arlemagne etiquette before coming. Of course, next to Royston, who was calling him by his given name without a care in the world, I supposed there was nothing I could do that would look quite as bad.

"Well, it was lovely to see you again, Erik," Royston said, giving a substantial pause so that his words could have their full effect. "I mean, your Majesty."

"Margrave," he said shortly by way of dismissal.

Royston pulled me a few yards away, but I didn't relax just yet. I could tell he had one more trick up his sleeve. "I'm sorry, Hal," he murmured so that only I could hear, before pulling me into a gloating, yet still completely earth-shattering, kiss.

When he pulled away long moments later, I blinked and muttered, "That wasn't fair." He just laughed and turned his head to watch Erik's face turn purple.