Cinder crept quietly down the attic stairs. Again.
He had his small bag slung over his shoulders, ready to meet at the top of the main stairway to make their escape. Cinder was there earlier than the agreed midnight, because he just couldn't help himself. He believed in the love Liam claimed to have for him, and he believed in the happiness they would share.
Cinder stared down the hallway, waiting for Liam's elegant figure to stroll along the hallway and take him away. The boy wasn't thinking a single doubtful thought. None of his pessimistic ideas from the previous night presented themselves in the moments Cinder waited for the Prince. And by the time the man got there, Cinder's adrenaline was pumping, not any single, clear thought made it to his head.
"Are you ready to go, my love? The Prince looked at Cinder expectantly.
The boy nodded his head vigorously. Prince Liam hooked his arms with his younger companion. He looked into the boy's eyes again, but this time he asked, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Cinder didn't even wait a heart beat with his honest-to-god response: "As long as I'm with you."
So the pair hurried down the steps. They stood quietly on the hard granite floors and Cinder was able to open the door without it squeaking. The Prince had a carriage waiting for them outside the property line.
In the carriage, Cinder sat across from the Prince. The boy looked behind him through the small window at his childhood home. It was getting smaller and smaller as they rode to the palace.
"Cinder," the Prince said, leaning forward.
The boy turned his head, the word 'yes' about to pass his lips when he ran into the Prince's. It was a small surprise kiss, and Cinder's reaction, the Prince decided, was worth the risk. The boy pulled away and touched his hand to his lips, like he was holding it there, His face went red with a cute type of shyness.
The Prince smiled. "When we get to the palace, we'll go straight to see my father. The wedding will be planned as soon as possible. Maybe even tomorrow!"
"But Your Highness, er… Well," Cinder leaned over and pressed a pale hand to the Prince's exposed shoulder. "Liam, should we talk about something first?"
The Prince hadn't noticed his night shirt slipping. But Cinder noticed. He saw the deep bite mark in the Prince's skin. And a pang in his chest made him realize he knew where it came from. The boy reached up and brushed the Prince's hair away from his forehead. He touched two could fingers to the man's forehead, gently, carefully. The Prince saw Cinder's expression change. The boy was worried, close to more tears.
Liam captured Cinder's small hand in his own. He placed each fingertip to his lips. "We can talk about all this later. It doesn't matter right now, love." The Prince smiled. To him, it really didn't matter. He had his bride and they were in love. That was all he need. But he still saw piercing worry in Cinder's eyes. "Come here, Cinder. Please, it'll be alright."
The boy fell again into the Prince's arms. But this time he didn't cry. He needed to be strong now, more than ever, if he was going to accept judgment from the king.
The Prince stroked his hair and whispered sweet nothings into his ears. Cinder smiled a weary smile, and then the carnage stopped in front of the castle.