(Obviously not mine. And this was written for the fabulous and amazing Edmondia.)

"Really," Kain said, swirling the last of his fourth mug of good Baronian beer, "I never had a chance. Rose's mother hated me." The bar wasn't empty, but his company and his own status kept the area private, enough that nothing more than the occasional wisp of smoke interrupted their talk.

Rosa giggled as she sipped at her wine. "Oh, Kain, I don't know about that. She is simply overprotective. She was never fond of Cecil either, you know."

Cecil nodded into his own beer. "When I asked to court her I was subjected to an hour-long lecture about how I shouldn't even think about hurting her on pain of death and if I did so accidentally she would call up all of her magic and curse me beyond my reckoning." A pause, as he sipped at his mug. "Also, if I got her pregnant before marriage she would butcher me." He hadn't had as many beers as Kain, even though he was not the lightweight everyone assumed he was – he merely was supposed to act *vaguely* responsible in public now that he was king.

Rosa laughed but Kain just snorted into the last of his beer and signaled for another. "You think *that* meant she didn't like you? I'm fairly certain that was just the speech someone had to listen to in order to say hello to Rosa. Now, when *I* asked to court her…"

Cecil's mug hit the table with a thump, its contents sloshing. "You asked – when was this? You never told me that you had…"

"Calm down, there's a *reason* I never told you. Let me talk." Kain gestured soothingly with the hand not wrapped around his new mug of beer. From anyone else or to any other king (except for Edge, perhaps) it would have been the height of impropriety, but Cecil, uncomfortable under the weight of the crown at the best of times, wanted no formality between friends. Especially not from these dearest two.

"I had never heard either." Rosa said, setting her wineglass down. "What happened?"

Kain took a swig of his beer and remembered teenage awkwardness, a body that felt too tall and too hot, and the creeping awareness that his best friend was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. "All right. This was my third year of training," Nearly 15 years ago now, but the panic and heartbreak was easy to recall, "A few weeks before you asked her, I think. I waited until both of you were out and I walked over to your house. I was in my best armor, with my newest spear-" Kain laughed as he remembered spending hours polishing his armor, as if it would have helped –"I think I even braided my hair with a blue ribbon that day, just to look extra neat."

Cecil's pale brow furrowed in memory. "I remember that day! Michaels teased you about it until you hit him in the legs with your spear." At Kain's nod, he added, "You were looking rather nervous that day; I just didn't have time to ask you about it… Father kept me so busy in those days."

There was guilt shading his voice, and Kain chuckled, half in exasperation. "It's a good thing, too, otherwise I'm certain I would have died of embarrassment. Anyway. I went by your house in all this fancy armor, and as soon as your mother opened the door…" He shuddered with the echo of teen-aged terror at the expression on the woman's face. "To this day I'm not convinced I've seen anything more terrifying than your mother Rose. She looked me over, and stood in the door way to ask what I wanted. Didn't even ask me in."

"Oh, I had no idea she was so rude to you!" Rosa exclaimed as she finished off her wine. She could drink more, but preferred not to. "Was she always like that?"

Kain and Cecil both nodded. "There was a reason we rarely went to your house." Cecil said, signaling for his third beer of the night.

"*Anyway*. I must have stared at her like a stunned bird for ages. I think I managed to stutter something about talking inside, but at any rate she let me in, even if she was still glaring at me." The memory rushed back – sweaty palms, heat flushing up his neck, panicked wondering if he'd somehow missed a spot on his armor, "I mumbled for a while about how dear you were to me, how I would take care of you – I had this whole speech planned out, you see, of course I forgot half of it on the spot – and I finally got to asking if I could be allowed to court you."

A moment of silence as Kain swigged his beer, trying to swallow down the memory. "Well?" Cecil asked, leaning forward. "What happened?"

Another silence, Kain's expression twisting. Finally,

"She threw a vase at me." He sipped his beer in the face of their incredulous expressions. "It was quite heavy."

"…she told me she broke that vase on accident!" Rosa exclaimed in a sort of appalled amusement. It shouldn't have been funny, and it probably heartbreaking for him at the time, but he seemed to be able to laugh at it now.

"And as I stood there, bits of pink pottery in my hair and the joints of my armor, she starts yelling about how I shouldn't even dare to think about touching her daughter and if I ever tried she would stab me with my own spear." He downed the last of his beer in one gulp, aware of both of them watching the line of his throat as he drank. "At that point my sense kicked in and I bolted. I decided to pretend that it had never happened."

It had destroyed him, then, even more so when Cecil was given permission a few weeks later, but time was an effective, if imperfect painkiller, and besides he'd gone to too much effort to control his pain and rage to let such an old event rot his soul still. He smiled at their expressions. "As I said. Your mother hated me, and most likely does so still."

"…I can see that." Rosa said, still incredulous. "Though it raises an important question." She quietly grabbed the hands of both of her loves, both of her precious boys, who loved each other as dearly as they loved her. "Should we tell her about…?"

Kain stared over his empty mug at them, the people he loved so much it had driven him into madness and then back out of it again – the two who still loved him as dearly as the loved each other, even if he didn't understand why. "It is your decision." He said finally, honored that she would want the world to know about them – and if she told her mother, then it would. "As long as I'm not the one to do it."