I am so imitated! The authors in this section are so excellent that I just feel REALLY INFERIOR. Haha.

I've wanted to write something about Sophie and Franz's first encounter for a long while. I'm fascinated by their lives, and have always been disappointed that the only details for how they met was that it "probably happened at a ball in Prague." So I decided to take my try on it.

Historically, I spent a lot of time looking up little details and such, but you can't find everything, unfortunately. (For the record, historians, fanfic authors need to know every single detail about people they want to write fic about. Please consider it in the future.) There are many little small things I had to change or make up, but it is, for the most part, historically accurate. I think.

Well, besides the Clanker machinery, of course.

All of the details changed/made up will be listed at the end, because a. history lessons are fun, b. this author's note is too long already, and c. SPOILERS.

I hope you enjoy.

A biting wind pushed around the balcony, leaving the women to shiver in the cool air and the men to murmur in quiet disagreement under their breaths. "I don't understand why they're keeping us out here so long," Isabella remarked, lips pursed in disagreement. "All for a simple toy."

"I agree, your highness." Sophie said simply, gloved hands together. There wasn't much else to say, as the princess was already cross with her, for the simple fact she wasn't Genevieve, Isabella's companion of choice. The older lady in waiting had come down with a terrible cold, unable to attend the ball this evening.

So the duty had, of course, fallen to 23-year old Sophie, and Isabella was not happy with this fact at all.

Not that Sophie wanted to be here either. Her corset was excruciatingly tight, it was unpleasantly cold, and any time spent with the princess was always due to be a miserable, deprecating experience. At least, she had a vague sort of excitement towards the reveal of the mysterious blanketed shape on the lawn. Underneath her freezing to death, that is. Was it really necessary, she thought, squaring her shoulders and resisting the urge to rub her arms, for modern ball gowns to be so bare? Granted, they weren't supposed to be worn outside in Prague's crisp September air, but those in charge of making trends should have had some sense of practicality. Sophie generally found herself with a remarkable sense of logic in any situation she had.

Apparently, dressmakers frowned upon this.

Despite the less than pleasant weather (and company), it was beautiful here. Sophie raised her head, looking around the castle. It had been praised for being the largest castle in the world, and it was quite beautiful at night, lights lit around the area illuminating the lake and the strange, covered shape in front of it. The dark autumn sky was punctuated with bright, fat stars, and the combined light sources made the ladies dresses and jewelry sparkle and shine.

She was almost enjoying the view; until Isabella smacked her on the arm with her fan and commanded, "Stop gaping." Sophie promptly reassumed her solemn expression. And the woman wondered why her ladies in waiting seemed to dislike her so much. The other women even pitied her for being stuck with her for this trip. Except Genevieve, of course, who had bemoaned the lost of spending more time with her mistress.

"Finally," the princess remarked, long moments later. She nodded towards the shape. Sophie followed her gaze; indeed, a group of men now surrounded the figure, holding ropes connected to the cloak over it.

From another point in the balcony, Sophie heard a clear, deep voice count backwards from three.

"Three," the men tightened their grip. "Two," they began to pull. "One." With a powerful swoosh; the cover fell from the object, revealing its form in the dim light.

Sophie gasped loudly, she couldn't help it. Thankfully, the princess was too busy leaning onto the balcony to get a better look to notice. Perched on the lawn was a magnificent, tall (It must have been at least seven meters) Clanker war machine, making the men beside it look like insignificant bugs compared to it's glory.

A man, voice amplified to perfectly audible clarity by one of those mechanic voice echoers, announced it was called a walker, and was in the early development stages. In the future, he and his colleagues hoped for it to be able to be sleeker, quieter, and with a faster stride.

"Stride?" Isabella said, eyebrows raised. "Are they meaning to say that thing can walk?"

"If you look closely, your highness," Sophie said politely, "You can see it has jointed knees."

"I saw," Isabella said, huffing, "I was just clarifying." But it was obvious she was completely bluffing. Sophie pushed back a less than lady like remark and nodded in agreement.

"And now that you've seen our newest project, let us begin the festivities!" The man with the amplifier said cheerfully, the tiny figure spreading his arms.

"It's about time." Isabella said, chin pointed up and eyes half closed. Her husband, who apparently disliked the princess's company and much as Sophie did, entered from the other side of the balcony, and his spouse entered soon afterward, making a tittering noise to indicate Sophie was to follow her.

Sophie rolled her eyes behind her back.

This evening was turning out to be less than enjoyable.

Sophie sighed, pressed against the wall of the ballroom, slowly tugging off her gloves ones finger at a time, and then pushing them back down. She was free from her mistress, yes, but feelings of misery and barely repressed anger had been replaced with boredom.

Men walked past her without as much as a second glance. She practically blended into the wallpaper. As usual. Her mother was always insisting she tried something new with her mess of red-brown hair, like that was the reason she wasn't engaged yet. Isabella had gone off to drink herself silly, and commanded Sophie to stay in this exact spot until she returned. Sophie had a strong feeling that Isabella had forgotten how young her lady in waiting was- it was completely improper to be alone. Not that she wanted the princess back- this was much preferable.

In front of her, women spun in the arms of their dance partners, colorful skirts twirling wildly. And here she was, playing with her gloves with a mixture of extreme boredom and self-pity.

"Is that amusing?"

Sophie glanced up; and her face heated automatically. A man, mid twenties by the looks of him, was staring at her hands, a solemn expression on his face, almost mocking. He spoke in German, a heavy Austrian accent masking it. Sophie tugged her gloves up to her elbows, feeling self-conscious.

"Yes. Well, no. But it's something." She managed. He was handsome, in a dark sort of way, bristly mustache and dark green, intimidating eyes. They met hers for a second. He didn't smile. Something in the back of Sophie's head- probably up there with the hair pins- snapped.

"Would you like to dance, sir, or comment on my gloves more?" She said sweetly, holding out her hand. His blank expression broke, eyebrows raised. Sophie was sure, that, if her mother had been here, she would have been a mixture of enraged and ashamed. Sophie could not find the effort in her to care.

"I don't normally dance," he said, voice even, (and Sophie was not surprised in the least) "But yes. I would."

…That had not been her plan, exactly. She had planned to scare him off with her dazzling wits (also known as overwhelming rudeness) leaving her to sulk.

"I'm- I'm afraid that I'm not much of a dancer," she said, head bowed low, "My apologies, I was, um," her fan was on fire in front of her face, moving frantically in her nervousness.

Her manners mistress was probably sobbing somewhere along with her mother.

"Then," The man said, catching her with those enchanting dark green eyes, "We shall step on each other's feet."

There wasn't much you could say to a line like that.

He guided her to the center of the ballroom, her hand tiny and elegant in his. The music swooned. Glancing up, she could see the room's unusual ceiling, the structure overlapped into a pattern over and over, looking like a succession of flowers, all lined up. Her gaze fell back to earth.

The man didn't smile, didn't say a word, just silently put a hand on her back, just above the bow, and the dance begun. Sophie couldn't remember ever meeting such an anti-social fellow.

Sophie didn't recall the last time she waltzed. Her heels were sliding against the floor, (or were they even touching the ground?) her hand held delicately but strongly in the stranger's, her other hand perched on his shoulder, looking like a delicate little bird. Had she ever waltzed like this, dizzy as the other dancers flew past her, blushing without reason—

"I thought," her partner said in a low whisper, barely caught over the music, despite the closeness to her ear, "You couldn't dance?" The tone was amused, nonetheless.

'That," she said, unable to hold back her smile, "might not of been true." He dipped her, and she swore she could catch a hint of a smile underneath that mustache.

"And you?" She said, looking over his shoulder.

"I didn't say that I couldn't. Only that I don't."

This time, the smile was easy to catch.

They spun, dipped, danced until Sophie's feet hurt and then danced some more, the young woman finding it hard to grimace in the energy and thrill of the dance. He led her out onto a balcony, smaller then the one where she and Isabella were earlier, and the fresh air was a relief. She was tempted to kick her shoes off, but that was bit too far for even her loose standards of 'etiquette'.

"You never introduced yourself," Sophie reminded him softly. She realized he's just as much of a rule breaker (or manners hater, either one) as she is.

"It doesn't matter," He said, looking away from her.

"It does to me." It's not one of those sweet, mindless comments the world expects women to spout out every time they meet a man. She actually meant it. He completely fascinates her, with his thoughtful silences and strange actions, not to mention the rather impressive mustache.

He sighed, catching her eye. "It's complicated."

"Fine," she ducked her head, holding out her hand. "But I will introduce myself anyway, if you don't mind."

He blinked, hard, brow furrowed. He placed his hand on his temple, touching the bridge of his nose, deep in thought before speaking. "Just your first name."

She stared at him for a long moment. Only her first name? True, she had never though the full title had fit her, with all the 'and's and 'of's, not to mention the 'countess'- but she couldn't ever remember introducing herself as "just Sophie" before. Or at least, not since she was a child.

But there was no harm in it, really. The other couples on the balcony were out of hearing range, and she's having far too much fun to be offended.

"Sophia, then." She beams widely, curtsying again. "But you may call me Sophie."

He reached for her hand, and kissed its gloved surface.

"Franz. I'm honored to meet you, Sophie."

Dancing was quickly forgotten as soon as Sophie realized Franz lived an absolutely fascinating life. She leaned on the balcony, laughing at his hunting-gone-wrong stories, finding it was far too easy to smile and comment on the trivial things he described in his dry, straightforward matter of speaking. Not all of his stories were pleasant, however.

"He committed suicide," he said, voice raw, and while Sophie thought that dead cousins were not exactly lady like discussion material, she was far too fascinated to complain.

"Was he that unhappy?" She cupped her chin in her hand, eyes thoughtful.

"We were told he was mentally unbalanced," Sophie can tell by the way he says the phrase that he didn't believe it at all. "But I've heard it was a suicide pact, a girl he couldn't have. My uncle," and he actually grit his teeth, "disapproved."

"Huh," Sophie said, frowning. "How awful."

"I don't think his family ever recovered from it." Franz replied, recovering his temper.

"I mean your uncle." She smirked..

He smiled back at her.

"It seems we're the only ones who think so." He tapped his fingers on the ledge absent-mindedly. "My life became fairly different after that. Everything changed."

She felt the need to change the subject- the atmosphere around them was turning melancholy quite quickly.

"I won't tell you about my dull life," she said playfully, "as anything I can think of would probably just give away who I am, and that would defeat the purpose of our introductions."

It worked, he smiled. She moved on, encouraged. "I will tell you that I made a rather large fib earlier this evening. I was often top of my lessons, for dancing."

"I don't doubt that," Franz said seriously. "I, on the other hand, was constantly messing up and stepping up on my tutor's toes."

She laughed cheerfully. "You've certainly improved now, though." She glanced at her feet. "No shoe marks."

"Are you waiting for someone?"


"You keep glancing back into the ballroom."

"Oh." She hadn't caught head or skirt of the princess, and that was sort of terrifying in it's self. "I'd explain, but that would require telling you who I am, and we can't have that."

"I have a reason for it, you know," he said seriously, but the effect was ruined by his grin. He seemed to realize something, and paled. "I haven't taken you from your fiancé, or someone like that, correct?"

"Oh, no." Sophie replied adamantly, shaking her head. Like that would ever happen. "Just an escort." That's vague enough.

"Who will, I assume, probably not be very happy to find you talking to a man who hasn't even properly introduced himself?" Franz ventured.

"Probably not. But I don't really care." She looked out onto the lawn, the lights and stars- it was amazing how company could improve a setting.

"You don't seem to care about what people think of you, based on when we met earlier this evening." He commented, looking her up and down.

"A very bad quality in a lady." Sophie commented quickly. "You don't seem to be very social either, Franz." A tease, but she hoped he saw that it was only in jest.

"I attempted to speak to a young woman earlier, but she just tried to brush me off and refused to dance with me until I insisted."

Sophie blushed bright red. "You- you didn't—you were mocking me! How was I supposed to respond?"

"Actually," he said, and he actually looked apologetic, "I was having trouble asking anyone to dance. You were looking so bored, I thought I might have a chance."

"Really," she murmured. "Well, I was. Very. And I'm glad you did." It was just too bad that it was very likely she'd never see him again after this, didn't even know his name.

She pushed the thoughts away from her head.

"Though next time, I would probably advise not making fun of the lady you wish to ask." She added.

"You should tell that to my friend, Ernst. I swear he insults every woman he meets." His eyes shone playfully.

"Really?" She paused for a moment. "This is a strange question, but what does he do for a hobby?"

He frowned at her. "Fences. Why?"

"There we go," She grinned. "Fencing and hunting. It's no wonder you two are terrible around women. You just want to stab and shoot the things you're afraid of."

"I am not afraid of women." Franz crossed his arms.

"Really?" She leaned closer towards him, smirking.

"Perhaps you, but no one else."

"I am honored to hear that, sir." Sophie said sincerely, hand over her heart.

He actually laughed. "You are the strangest, scariest women I have ever met, Sophia. And I hope you take that as a compliment and do not push me off the balcony, because I completely believe you could."

She held her chin, one finger on her mouth, pretending to be deep in thought. "I will consider sparing you."

"Would a dance sway your opinion?" Franz held out his hand towards her. She took it.

"I think so." Sophie said with a happy grin.

They glided back into the ball room as if they had already started the dance- his hand was on her waist, and the moment would have felt like a story book, if not for the fact a very unhappy looking Princess of Croÿ was frowning at the two of them.

Franz seemed to recognize her. Sophie took a step back involuntarily. She had never seen the princess so angry- it was taking all of her resolve not to simply hide behind Franz.

"Your highness," He said formally, "I apologize if I've done anything wrong this evening, and I had no idea you were looking for So-"

"Of course I was looking for her. She's my lady in waiting." Isabella glared at him, raising herself intimidatingly. For a man on the shorter side, like Franz, this was rather terrifying. Sophie winced, the look that Franz gave her- surprise and something she couldn't recognize- cutting right through her.

"My apologies." He said, voice sounding less then polite. His hold on Sophie's waist was tighter, as if he was trying to save her from the wrath of the princess.

" I accept them, Archduke, but I would like to request that you'd return my lady in waiting to me."


"Of course." He looked at Sophie now- she was still dazed, head light and fuzzy, corset too tight for her to breathe properly. "Sophie, I'm sorry." Franz's eyes were dark and troubled, and he looked genuinely distressed this time. "I was going to tell you-"

Isabella gave her lady in waiting's wrist a death grip, pulling her away from the young man- archduke, she correctly herself mentally- sharply.
"Thank you very much," She said, voice sweet in the tone that she used for servants she was about to release from their jobs, "I hope you understand that this is unacceptable behavior for the heir to Austrian-Hungarian empire." She smiled without feeling.


He was—she just said—but he couldn't be—

It clicked into place, the accent, the formality, even the stories

It was too much to handle over the course of a minute- Sophie's head was swimming, breaths getting lost somewhere in her throat. She had to use all of her strength to keep standing.

The two of them left without another word from any members of the party, Isabella practically dragging Sophie across the ballroom. She looked over her shoulder towards the center of room, just under the chandelier, and caught Franz's eyes once more.

"I'm sorry," he mouthed.

Now she knew why he never told her his name, she thought dryly.

Isabella, of course, had to interrogate her in the carriage, her husband confused but too drunk to ask.

Her responses were mostly monosyllabic, with the occasional short statement, such as:

I didn't know who he was, and He talked to me and we danced, that's all.

And of course,

No, I don't plan on ever seeing him again.

If she did, Sophie thought, sulking as she looked outside the window, she was going to slap him across the face, first thing.


Not worth bothering with, all their lying and hunting and charm.

Not worth it at all.

HISTORY TIME. You know, writing fic about real people was a bizzare experience. I had to remind myself that Scott Westerfeld did it too, and pretend that they were my original characters before I got creeped out.

This takes place a few years earlier then it did in history, to follow Scott's altered timeline.

I have no idea what Sophie and Franz's hair and eye colors were, because apparently that's "not important." Pssh. I just decided to match them to Alek.

Was Isabella really that nasty in real life? No clue. But any women who fires her lady in waiting because an Archduke was interested in her does not sound pleasant to me.

Prague castle is a real place, and it is absolutely stunning. I highly suggest you look at photos of it. Gorgeous.

The story about Franz's cousin is completely true. Yes, Franz Joseph didn't just have it out for Franz and Sophie- apparently, he hated everyone.

Spoilers: Franz and Sophie were eventually married. IT'S A BIG SURPRISE, I KNOW.

So completes my first Leviathan fanfic. I plan on writing more in the future, despite feeling like nothing I write will be good enough for this section, haha.

Thank you so much for reading.