When Patrick had imagined his eighteenth birth year celebrations, he hadn’t imagined them taking place in a fortress a thousand miles away from home, surrounded by a people who were only his by marriage, while sitting next to a husband he barely knew.
He had imagined celebrating in Paelford Castle, right there in the great hall where his family had held every celebration, surrounded by the servants and nobles that he had known his entire life, his parents and sisters on either side of him.
He hadn’t imagined celebrating his eighteenth birth year on his wedding day, either.
Next to him King Jonathan shifts, looking thoroughly unimpressed by the jugglers in front of them. He doesn’t seem particularly impressed by anything, not even Patrick who had climbed off his horse earlier that day, dressed like a true prince, head held high, only to have received a curt hello and a deep frown from the king. Only Trevor’s hand on his elbow had kept him from sneering at his new husband.
King Jonathan had only looked slightly more impressed during their wedding ceremony. He had looked at Patrick like Patrick wasn’t as much of a giant disappointment as he had initially thought, but he still hadn’t cracked a smile, not even when he had had to lean down to kiss Patrick on the lips. Patrick had stood bone-stiff throughout the entire ceremony, fully aware that the only way out of his marriage was death by plague, which unfortunately for him, hadn’t reached as far as the North.
“At least try and look happy,” says Trevor from his right. He looks uncomfortable sitting at the long table next to Patrick, back stiff. He has barely eaten any of his food; the wolves spread out in front of the table are eying his chicken hungrily.
At Paelford, Trevor would never have been given a seat next to Patrick. He would have been sat with the other servants, somewhere in the back nowhere near the fire, but at New Wandour, surrounded by the Wolfpeople and their weird customs and habits, he has a seat next to Patrick, on his right side, a seat which at Paelford would have been reserved for someone equal to, or just below, Patrick’s station.
“I am happy,” lies Patrick through a smile, very much aware that the Wolfpeople are watching him, judging every move that he makes. They too seem unimpressed by him. He isn’t even going to think about what the wolves crowding the hall think of him.
“It’s a good match,” says Trevor, sounding rehearsed. He’s been saying the same line ever since they left Paelford. Patrick isn’t sure if it’s to reassure him, or if it’s to reassure Trevor, who was forced to leave his family behind to be Patrick’s confidant in New Wandour.
Patrick reaches under the table, squeezing Trevor’s knee. He doesn’t think he would have survived the month-long journey or the past three nights without him.
Trevor’s seat by his side has been well-earned.
“Hopefully the plague will take us both soon.”
Trevor stops looking so miserable to look at him in disappointment. “That’s not even funny.”
Patrick grins, pushing his tongue against his teeth. Trevor rolls his eyes, deciding to ignore him, and instead push his now cold chicken back and forth with his finger on his plate, looking mildly concerned about the way the wolves are licking their jowls. The king’s steward promised them both that as long as they kept out of the wolves’ way, the wolves would ignore them, but Patrick can’t help but be apprehensive. He’s seen the aftermath of a man torn apart by a pack of wolves.
“They won’t hurt you,” says King Jonathan, startling Patrick out of his thoughts.
King Jonathan is frowning at him, eyes going back and forth between Patrick and the wolves.
“They are mindless beasts. You can’t control them,” replies Patrick, feeling small under the king’s gaze. No man has ever made him feel small before, not even the greasy old noble from the South he was promised to before better prospects came around. There’s a wildness to the king that makes Patrick uneasy. The Wolfmen are not called Wolfmen just because they fill their fortresses and towns with wolves—they can turn themselves into grizzly beasts when it pleases them.
Patrick has never experienced this transformation with his own eyes, but he’s overheard the lords at Paelford, discussing the horrors they saw and experienced on the battlefield. Sitting next to King Jonathan now, he can see no evidence of a beast living below his skin, but he’s sure that one is there, waiting to tear him apart.
King Jonathan’s mouth goes from a frown into a straight line, distaste and annoyance spreading across his face. “They are more than just mindless beasts.”
The wolves have stopped staring at Trevor’s chicken to pin their large, predatory eyes on Patrick. They don’t fear him, which sends a shiver of dread down Patrick’s spine. They would tear him apart if they could.
“We don’t have a good relationship with wolves in Ethica, Your Majesty,” Trevor intervenes, clasping Patrick’s wrist tight, digging his nails into Patrick’s skin in warning. “The Prince is afraid of them.”
“I’m not—” starts Patrick, only to be cut off by Trevor.
“Prince Patrick does not mean offense.”
“He is Prince Consort now,” corrects King Jonathan, staring at Patrick with dark, dark eyes. For the first time in hours he doesn’t look disappointed, just mildly alarmed by the title. If he has doubts about their marriage, there’s nothing he can do about it now. They’ve been married twice already; once by proxy, and once in front of the his people.
King Jonathan turns his head away from Patrick, frowning.
With the king’s focus elsewhere, Trevor lets go of Patrick’s wrist, taking a deep breath, before he narrows his eyes at him.
“Maybe you should be married to the king,” says Patrick, a little bitter. He takes a swig of his wine. It takes like shit compared to the wine in Ethica.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Trevor, lifting his eyes momentarily to lock gazes with a Wolfman sitting at one of the lower tables. Patrick can’t quite remember his name, but he does know that the man has the affection of the king.
“Or you could be married to him.”
“Shut up,” mutters Trevor, face going red.
Patrick laughs into his cup, feeling light for the first time in a month, until King Jonathan decides to stand, dragging all of the attention to the front table. As a prince in Ethica, Patrick was used to receiving attention, but there’s something very different about having the eyes of the Wolfpeople on him. There’s something unsettling about it, like their eyes hold a million secrets while they size him up to devour him.
“I have a gift for you,” says King Jonathan, indicating with his hand for a servant to come out of the shadows. It’s a little dramatic, Patrick thinks, forcing a smile as the servant steps forward. His smile falters when he sees what the servant is carrying.
There’s a scraggly, grey mop in her arms. The mop wiggles, which tells Patrick immediately that the mop is not a mop, but a living, breathing creature that the king plans to give to him as a gift. He has never been able to keep anything alive in his entire life, not even a plant.
Trevor elbows him in the ribs. “Say thank you,” he hisses through his teeth.
Patrick stands, staring at the puppy in the woman’s arms. Its ears are large, its eyes yellow. It’s a wolf, not a dog.
“For your birth day,” clarifies King Jonathan as he reaches across the table to take the pup from the servant.
The pup looks small in the king’s large hands. It stares at Patrick, like it knows that he has little affection for animals.
“Her name is Herrick.”
Herrick wags her tail, slow but steady. King Jonathan stares at Patrick, waiting for him to reach for the pup.
“Your Highness—” starts Trevor, elbowing him, but Patrick collects himself, reaching for the pup. Herrick whimpers, like the damn thing knows that his affection is far and few between. He holds the pup to his chest, one hand under her rump, the other splayed over her chest. Her fur is thick, even for a babe.
“Thank you,” he says, trying very hard not to be repulsed when Herrick licks his chin.
King Jonathan frowns, looking thoroughly disappointed.
“I will cherish her,” lies Patrick, unsure if he can form any emotional attachments to beasts, not even his husband, whose nose flares like he can smell the lie coming off his skin.
King Jonathan forces a smile, settling back into his chair. Like Trevor, he’s barely touched any of the lavish food presented to him. He seems just as miserable about this arrangement as Patrick, which at least will give them something to bond over.
Patrick doesn’t understand the purpose of Herrick, other than for her to sit on his lap and steal the chicken from Trevor’s plate that he refuses to eat. Whatever her true purpose is, trying to keep her from wiggling off his lap and breaking a leg is a heavy distraction from the fact that the feast is winding down, and soon he will be left alone with his new husband, in a bed.
He's going to bed with a man that’s also a beast.
“Do you like her?” asks King Jonathan.
Patrick jerks out of his thoughts.
King Jonathan is looking at him, a little earnest. “I was hoping a pup would allow you to overcome your fear.”
Patrick looks down at Herrick.
She’s not that bad. “And where is her mother?”
For the first time since they met, since they kissed during an outlandish ceremony conducted in a language foreign to Patrick’s ears, the king smiles. It’s quick and barely counts, but it’s a smile nonetheless.
“Olga said you may have her.”
“You named your wolf Olga?”
King Jonathan’s mouth relaxes back into a frown. “She named herself.”
Patrick stares at him, bewildered.
The king sighs. “There is much you don’t know about wolves.” He pauses, looking almost hesitant. “I want—I wish to teach you those things.”
“I am not a wolf.”
“Well, no, of course not,” says the king, turning his nose up in distaste before he seems to realize what he’s doing. “But that doesn’t—men only understand the world if it’s in black and white.”
“You are a man,” says Patrick.
“Only in body.”
Patrick blinks at him, fingers tightening in Herrick’s fur. King Jonathan frowns, but for once he doesn’t seem to be frowning at Patrick. “Did your father not—was it not explained to you who you were marrying?”
“I know I am married to Jonathan, King of Wolves,” Patrick replies, trying not to mock the title like he used to late at night, talking with his sisters.
King Jonathan looks, well, he looks sad for him. Patrick sneers, a habit he can’t quite hide. He doesn’t need pity from his husband. Herrick whimpers. “We have been married in the eyes of my God and married in the eyes of yours. It cannot be undone.”
“I won’t take from you which you do not wish to give to me,” says King Jonathan, voice tight in anger. He stares at Patrick, eyes cold, before he pushes away from the table, leaving in a flourish.
“Dear God,” says Trevor. “What did you do?”
Patrick glares angrily at the king’s retreating back. “I wish to go to my room.”
In the coming days, Patrick sees nothing of his new husband, not at any feast, and not in his bed. It would be embarrassing to have an unconsummated marriage, but he is more relieved not to have been taken like an animal than to care about the consummation. He knows that one day it will happen, because all beasts eventually give in to their desires, but for now he ignores the barely veiled criticism from the Wolfpeople, who continue to look at him as though he is a bug that needs to be squashed. At least he has Trevor at his side, who suffers through the same barely veiled dislike when he’s not making eyes at the young man from the wedding feast.
“You should just sleep with him.”
Trevor chokes on his wine.
“I will lie about your modesty when it’s time to wed you off.”
“You’re not funny,” says Trevor, glaring into his wine cup, cheeks bright red in embarrassment. Patrick can’t help but laugh into his own cup, taking great thrill in embarrassing Trevor for his own amusement. There isn’t much entertainment at New Wandour, seeing as everyone at his station in life disregards him, including his own ornery husband, who probably spends most his nights frowning at a mistress.
Trevor takes a piece of quail from his plate, feeding it to Herrick, who’s nestled herself on Patrick’s lap. Patrick still feels little to nothing about the wolf pup, but she works well as a source of heat. “I’m not stupid enough to sleep with him,” says Trevor, unable to keep a look of disappointment off his face.
“I already told you that I would lie about your modesty. And stop feeding her, she’ll grow fat.”
“I thought you didn’t like her.”
Patrick takes another swig of wine. “Not particularly, but Mother wrote me yesterday to remind me that it’s not best to receive the king’s ire, and I doubt overstuffing my gift would make him too happy.”
“Not that he would know,” mumbles Trevor, continuing to feed Herrick, who is so lazy that she just continues to lie in Patrick’s lap, waiting for Trevor to bring the food to her mouth.
Patrick chugs the rest of his wine, fully aware that his husband’s sudden disappearance has everything to do with him. He doesn’t want to be taken like an animal, but the success of his marriage and his ability to produce an heir determines if his people—the Ethican people, he will never consider Cothain or the Wolfpeople to be his people—live or die. Ethica is too low on resources, too low on men, too low on food to survive another year of war. The Wolfpeople will finish their invasion and tear their country apart with their teeth.
A failure in his marriage will leave his people doomed.
As soon as a servant refills his cup, Patrick chugs it down. The Wolfpeople are watching, half fascinated, half disgusted. The young man who keeps making eyes at Trevor grins in amusement. “I will make an effort to charm my husband into my bed,” he decides, feeling the buzz in his head already. He’s always been too easy when it comes to drink. “If you make an effort to get him into your bed.”
“I share your bed,” whispers Trevor, incredulous, keeping his voice low. Trevor only shares his bed because he sleeps there, despite Trevor having his own room adjoined to Patrick’s bedchamber. They’ve shared a bed since they were children, fighting off the cold together.
“Fine,” says Patrick. “I will make an effort to charm my husband into my bed, if you make an effort to charm your way into—what is his name?”
“I don’t know,” mumbles Trevor.
“There’s your first step.”
Patrick looks at the young man who’s making a poor effort not to stare at Trevor. If only his own husband found him so irresistible. Patrick raises his hand, waving the man over, feeling bold. He hasn’t spoken to any other Wolfman outside of his husband and the entourage who had stripped him naked at the border between their two countries, forcing him to leave behind everything Ethican he had owned—his clothes, his jewelries, everything except for Trevor.
“What are you doing?” asks Trevor, voice shrill.
“I’m helping you,” smiles Patrick as the young man approaches their table. The man bows respectably, making it much easier for Patrick to see that everyone in the dining hall is staring at them.
“Your Highness,” says the man, sweeping his eyes over Patrick almost dismissively before his eyes land on Trevor. He already looks madly in love. Poor fool.
The wine has made Patrick too bold. “You’re not very subtle.”
The young man straightens, looking apprehensively between Patrick and Trevor, who’s crouching down in his chair like he’s trying to melt into the floor. “Your Highness—”
“Please, take Trevor to a corner and talk before your eyes fall out of your head,” Patrick interrupts, smiling. “Both of you make me sick, Lord—”
“Lord Hartman. I feel I might be sick if I have to watch you two make eyes at each other any longer.”
“Patrick,” hisses Trevor, forgetting where they are, but Patrick has always loved him and has never cared for Trevor to call him my Lord or His Highness. If Hartman is offended by the lack of title, he’s too busy smiling at Trevor to care.
“Please, go,” Patrick dismisses, indicating for his cup to be filled again. “I wish to enjoy my wine in peace.”
Herrick whines as Trevor finally gets up, tripping on his chair like an idiot. Hartman only looks more charmed. Patrick rolls his eyes, sipping his wine as the two do as they’re told, disappearing off into a corner to talk. Hopefully Hartman will make advances; Trevor deserves a tumble in the hay.
With Trevor’s exit, Patrick is left alone at the high table to sip his wine and deal with the dismissive glances of the court. He doesn’t think he’ll ever win them over, not even if he gives them ten heirs who survive infancy and cures the plague, but that’s fine with him. He hates them as much as they hate him.
“Savage beasts,” he says to himself, receiving a growl from Herrick, who seems more intelligent than an animal should be.
“Shut up,” Patrick tells her, not really meaning it.
While Trevor makes headway with Hartman, Patrick is left feeling remotely sad, bitter, and then annoyed. It’s been three weeks since his wedding, and although he doesn’t want to be ravished, he does at least want his husband to speak to him. It’s not like he looks like a horse.
It’s demoralizing to think that his own husband can’t bear to look at him.
“Maybe he’s as nervous about this marriage as you are,” suggests Trevor, who looks brighter and happier than he has since they left Paelford. He’s not in love with Hartman, not yet at least, and he hasn’t allowed the man to tumble him in the hay, but he does enjoy the other man’s affection.
New Wandour has been good for Trevor. Here, he is not just a servant. Here, he’s worthy of the attention of a Lord.
Patrick wants to resent him, but he loves Trevor too much for that.
“Don’t look at me like that,” says Trevor when Patrick sets his irritated gaze on him.
It’s cold, colder than it has any right to be. Ethica suffered through harsh, long winters, but the winter here, in Cothain, seems other worldly. His rooms have a draft, and despite servants always stoking the fire, Patrick feels like he could freeze to death.
Trevor crawls into bed with him, pushing Herrick to the side. If the servants have noticed, they don’t seem to care. Patrick hasn’t heard any rumors about how he’s been fucking his servant and not his king, at least. “You are foreign to him too.”
“At least I am willing to speak to him.”
“He could be shy.”
“He is the king!”
Trevor frowns, stuffing his face into Herrick’s back. She’s grown bigger in the past few weeks. “Maybe you should make the effort to speak with him.”
Patrick grunts, turning his back on his friend.
It should be the king’s responsibility to make him feel welcome at his court, but in the morning, Patrick takes Trevor’s advice. He must make this marriage work, despite how much it kills his resolve to do so. He has Trevor dress him in one of his best tunics, a light blue one made of silk to bring out his eyes, and the white rabbit fur cloak he had been gifted by his father as a parting gift. He still feels cold, even after he’s put on his boots and gloves. It’s always so cold in this damn fortress.
King Jonathan is in his antechamber and doesn’t look surprised when a guard opens the door to let Patrick in. He’s dressed down in a light, white tunic and dark trousers, like winter hasn’t crept its way in. It makes Patrick shiver just to look at him.
The ever-present wolves are lying on the floor, sprawled out like giant dogs. They sit up when he enters, setting their wide, yellow eyes on him. Patrick feels like they could consume him with just their eyes.
King Jonathan peers at him, jaw tight, covered in light stubble. His husband is an ass, but he’s an attractive ass, shoulders wide and chest broad. The portrait he had been sent of the king hadn’t done him enough justice, although the rumors had. “You’re cold,” he says, taking Patrick by surprise.
“Yes,” answers Patrick when he’s recovered enough. He hasn’t been shaking, but there are goosebumps on his skin. He hates the cold. Has always hated the cold. Part of him wishes he had been married off to some lowly king in the South where he could be warm all day long. He wouldn’t mind a husband who ignored him all the time if he could be warm.
“Are winters not like this in Ethica?” asks King Jonathan, standing from his desk. It’s covered with parchment. Patrick recognizes the seal of his father.
“They don’t come so soon."
King Jonathan exits the antechamber, leaving Patrick to stand there, wishing that Trevor had come with him through the door instead of waiting outside. He would even enjoy the company of Herrick right now, but the king returns quickly, arms full of a dark fur.
“I don’t want you to be cold,” he says, stopping in front of Patrick. He frowns, not at Patrick, but at the cloak over his shoulders. “I should have known that you would be cold here. Is your—is Trevor cold?”
“I don’t understand you,” says Patrick, suddenly.
King Jonathan’s frown deepens.
“You ignore me for three weeks,” continues Patrick, fully aware that perhaps confronting the king is not a good idea. He might be the Consort, but he’s still supposed to bow to the king’s whim, but he's never been too good at that. Biting his tongue has never been his strong suit. “And now you care that I’m cold?”
King Jonathan’s face reddens. Patrick readies himself for some sort of blow, either verbally or physically, but King Jonathan’s expression looks bashful, ashamed. “I didn’t think that you would want my company.”
He reaches out, not to hit Patrick, but to undo the clasp around his neck, before he pulls the cloak from his shoulders. Patrick feels colder immediately. The fire hasn’t even been lit.
“You stormed out of our wedding feast,” he says, shivering.
King Jonathan looks ashamed again, frowning as he drapes the new cloak over Patrick’s shoulders. This one is heavier, but Patrick immediately feels warmer.
“I meant what I said,” says King Jonathan, giving Patrick that same, sad smile that had made Patrick sneer at their wedding feast. He doesn’t want pity.
“You pity me.”
“I worry that this marriage was something you had no choice in.”
Patrick sneers, unable to contain it.
King Jonathan’s fingers pause where they’re doing the clasp to the cloak. Patrick knows he’s stepped out of line. “Your Majesty—”
Patrick blinks, confused. His husband is an ass, a confusing, attractive ass. Patrick wants to hit him. “What?”
“My name is Jonathan.”
“I know what your name is,” bites Patrick.
“You are my husband. I want you to call me Jonathan.”
Patrick stares, gob smacked. “You are an ass.” Jonathan stares back at him, finally looking angry. “You. You storm out of our wedding feast,” continues Patrick, uncaring. “You pity me, and ignore me for three weeks, force me to attend feasts while your godforsaken beast of a people stare at me, and now you want me to call you Jonathan?”
Patrick storms out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Trevor and Herrick startle where they’re waiting for him, but Trevor’s face immediately warps into one of disappointment.
“Oh, not again.”
Patrick refuses to attend the feast that night, or the next. He’s too irritated, instead taking his meals in his room, pacing back and forth in irritation. He freezes, refusing to put on the cloak Jonathan gave him. It’s made of bear fur, laced with another fur he can’t place. It’s warm, almost comforting, but he refuses to wear it based on the principal of the whole thing.
On the third night of his confinement, and to his complete and utter irritation, Trevor waltzes right into the drawing room, announcing the king’s presence with a small smile. Patrick will smother him with a pillow in his sleep.
For a king, Jonathan looks apprehensive standing in the middle of his drawing room. He’s dressed smartly, his own cloak of bear draped over his shoulders. He looks kingly, the same way he did the first time they met. He has another cloak in his arms, this one a soft gray, speckled with black dots. It’s lynx, Patrick realizes.
“I was hoping you would join me for a walk before the feast tonight.”
Patrick narrows his eyes.
Jonathan clears his throat. “I’ve brought you a new cloak. For our walk.”
“Is it only mine if I agree to walk with you?”
Jonathan smiles, light. It’s the first time he’s revealed his teeth in a smile concerning Patrick. He looks like he could possibly even be charmed.
The spiteful, petty part of Patrick wants to turn the king down, but he has his people to think of. Their survival depends on the success of this marriage and the treaty that came with it. He sighs, then nods.
He lets Jonathan wrap the cloak around his shoulders, feeling warmed by it the second its clasped in front. It’s heavy, lined again with a fur that he can’t place, but it blocks out the cold.
“Thank you,” he says, forcing a smile at Jonathan when Trevor hands him his gloves. He lets Jonathan lead the way, Trevor following. Herrick has run off. She tends to do that, but always returns at night to be fed and cuddled. Patrick always assumes that she’s returned to her mother.
He startles, just outside the door. The wolves are there, yellow eyes pinned on him immediately. He hates them.
There are always three of them, dark as the night, eyes yellow and tongues pink, their teeth as white as snow. They frighten him in ways that he didn’t know were possible.
“They won’t hurt you,” says Jonathan. The wolves turn away from Patrick, regarding him no longer as they make their way down the hall. Jonathan presents his arm for him to take. He doesn’t believe Jonathan about the wolves; they’ll eat him alive, he’s sure of it, but he wraps his arm through Jonathan’s, looking behind him to make sure that Trevor following.
Trevor smiles reassuringly, already looking cold. His cloak isn’t as thick, and neither are his boots, although he does have an old pair of Patrick’s gloves. He’ll freeze once they’re outside.
“The furs,” Patrick starts, as they make their way towards the gardens. He hasn’t walked them, too turned away by the cold, but Hartman had said in passing once that they were particularly nice to walk in during the summer. He can’t imagine this place ever being warm enough for a stroll through the gardens on his own accord. “Do traders bring them?”
“Sometimes,” replies Jonathan, nodding every now and again at the people who bow to them as they pass and at the wolves—always wolves. Patrick tenses, always looking over his shoulder for Trevor, afraid now that he’s distracted that the wolves will prey on him, but Trevor is close behind, holding his head high. “Mostly we hunt ourselves.”
Patrick nods. “Could you bring a cloak for Trevor?”
Jonathan looks over his shoulder briefly. “Nothing as grand as mine,” adds Patrick, quickly. “But something to help keep him warm. He freezes too.”
The guards open the doors to the gardens. The wolves trot out, looking like pups as they start to run in the snow. Patrick wishes that they were white so they would disappear.
“I’ll tell Ryan,” says Jonathan, helping to keep him steady. He’s not much taller than Patrick, not really, but he seems to loom over him, looking regal as he looks around the gardens, handsome. If he weren’t such an ornery ass, Patrick thinks that maybe he could even like him, but he squashes that thought down. He still hasn’t even received an apology for three weeks of silence.
“Lord Hartman,” explains Jonathan. “He likes Trevor.”
Patrick looks back at Trevor who’s shivering already. He needs a hat, something to keep his ears warm. Patrick feels for him.
“I think he wishes to court your servant.”
Patrick can’t help but smile. His Trevor, being courted by a Lord.
“I told Lord Hartman that he would have to ask your permission first. I hope that you will grant it. Ryan has been—he’s been quieter since he became infatuated.”
“Not so quick to anger,” says Jonathan, looking pensive.
They walk quietly for a few minutes, the wolves darting in and out of the trees, black dots at the corner of Patrick’s vision. They don’t draw close, not even to Trevor, dancing around them like they’re on the hunt.
“I wish to—I wish to court you,” says Jonathan, breaking the silence.
Next to him Jonathan is solid, warm. His ears have turned red.
“We’re married,” says Patrick.
“We are,” agrees Jonathan. He looks at Patrick, brown eyes wide. “I have been cruel to you, so far,” he says, which is probably as close to an apology as Patrick is going to get. “I want this marriage to work. For our people. For us.” He looks like he’s been rehearsing this, but he still looks nervous, frowning when Patrick doesn’t reply.
“You wish to court me,” says Patrick, a bit dumbfounded, still.
“I wish to get to know you,” says Jonathan.
“Get to know me,” repeats Patrick.
Jonathan looks frustrated. The wolves have stopped dancing. Trevor is rocking back and forth nervously.
“I—” starts Jonathan.
“That’s unexpected,” says Patrick, wondering aloud. After being denied the role of king, he knew that he would become a bride, and that he would one day have to swallow his pride and be thrown into a loveless marriage, bowing to a husband that he barely knew and who would have mistress after mistress once Patrick had produced an heir. The thought of King Jonathan, wanting to get to know him, is honestly quite perplexing.
“We will both suffer if we don’t—”
“I suppose you may court me,” interrupts Patrick.
Jonathan’s mouth snaps shut.
“You may court me,” nods Patrick, deciding that he can forgive Jonathan for three weeks of silence, if only because this little gesture of kindness might afford him more control over his life. Perhaps, maybe, he can even rule as an equal, and be a king in his own right. Maybe.
“Oh,” says Jonathan, looking like he wasn’t expecting for it to be that easy.
Patrick continues to nod to himself, before he turns to share a smile with Trevor, who’s face is red from the cold. “Trevor is cold.”
Jonathan turns to look at Trevor too, who bows his head respectively. “I’m fine, Your Majesty.”
“Let’s go inside,” says Jonathan, giving Patrick a sideways look.
There are hurried whispers all throughout the feast that night as Jonathan takes his place at the head of the table, Patrick to his left, dressed in his expensive lynx coat, looking maybe, for once, like a true Consort of the North. He feels optimistic, despite Jonathan’s wolves, who have laid themselves out behind their chairs, instead of in front. Herrick sits on his lap.
“Lord Hartman wishes to court you,” he says to Trevor, smiling into his glass of wine, feeling giddy, mostly from the wine, but also at the prospect of maybe, just maybe this marriage working. He’ll have to produce an heir, of course, but he thinks Jonathan too gentle now to take him like a mindless beast. He flushes at the thought of it. Jonathan is handsome, has a warrior’s body. Perhaps when their courtship is over, he might even enjoy it.
Trevor has gone red. “He told you this?”
“The king thinks so.”
Trevor turns even redder, lifting his eyes to look at Hartman who is of course staring right back. “The king says he wishes to ask my permission to court you.”
Trevor’s eyes go wide. “And you will say yes?” His voice is small, hopeful.
“Why wouldn’t I?”
Trevor’s smile could blind a man. He sighs, shoulders drooping in relief, like Patrick would even say no.
“No walking down the aisle with child, though, Trevor.”
Trevor blushes, glaring. “I’m not a harlot.”
Patrick laughs, knowing that Trevor won’t let Hartman into his trousers until they’re married, or at least until a day is set. He’s a good boy like that.
When Patrick turns his head away from Trevor, he discovers that Jonathan is watching him, eyes a bit soft. “What?”
Jonathan smiles, actually smiles, soft with it, looking charmed. “You are good to him.”
“Of course I am,” says Patrick, feeding Herrick a piece of pigeon to distract himself, flushing.
“I didn’t know men could be good to their servants.”
Patrick swallows. His and Trevor’s relationship is a peculiar one, discouraged and loathed by his parents and the court of Paelford. Servants there are not worth a man’s time. “He has been my only friend when I have had none.”
Jonathan smiles, reaching over to pet Herrick. “Here, our servants are valued. They care for us out of duty and love. Their work is honored and respected. That’s why no one speaks ill of a lord courting a servant.”
“I haven’t given him my permission yet,” pouts Patrick.
“I am glad that you are kind.”
Patrick clears his throat, unsure of how to respond.
Jonathan escorts him back to his rooms after the feast, stopping in the drawing room like a gentleman. “I have many meetings tomorrow,” he says, looking actually quite bored and appalled at the thought of them. “But perhaps the day after, we can walk again?”
“Yes,” agrees Patrick, looking over Jonathan’s shoulder at the wolves standing just outside the room, waiting. “I would like that.”
Jonathan sighs, nodding, relieved. He hesitates, and Patrick thinks that he might kiss him, but Jonathan pulls away. “Good night.”
“Night,” says Patrick, when Jonathan’s reached the door. He watches Jonathan go, collapsing into a nearby chair when he’s gone.
“You’re being courted,” says Trevor, picking Herrick up to dance about the room with her. “We’re being courted.”
“I haven’t said yes yet, you know.”
“But you will,” says Trevor, giggling. “Herrick, we’ll have to find you a man soon.”
Jonathan doesn’t visit the next day like he said, but Hartman does, carrying with him a cloak. It’s made of rabbit, but thicker than the one Patrick brought with him.
“The King said that you were cold,” he says, looking at Trevor like Trevor has hung the moon.
Trevor blushes, going impossibly more red when Hartman puts the cloak around his shoulders.
“Oh dear god,” says Patrick, disgusted.
The wolves walk right into Patrick’s drawing room when Jonathan comes to collect him three days later. Herrick growls before she’s quickly put in her place with a quick snap of the biggest wolf’s teeth. Patrick snatches her up before the wolf can eat her.
“Be nice,” Jonathan demands when he enters the room. Patrick isn’t sure if he’s talking to him or to the wolves.
“I don’t like them in here,” he says, sharp.
Jonathan’s jaw goes tight.
Patrick takes a deep breath. “They frighten me.”
“You don’t know them.”
Patrick can feel the tension in the air. Herrick is whimpering in his arms, but he won’t stand down, not to the beasts. This is his sanctuary.
“What are their names, Your Majesty?” asks Trevor, breaking the silence.
“Oh,” says Jonathan, like it never occurred to him to introduce his pet beasts. Patrick’s married to an idiot, not that he actually cares about the wolves’ names.
“This is Nønne,” says Jonathan. “Bjørn and Siggy.” He pats each of their heads as he introduces them. Patrick can tell none of them apart.
“And where is Olga?” asks Trevor. “Herrick’s mother?”
Patrick curls his fingers into Herrick’s fur. Maybe, when she is big enough, she can chase these beasts from his rooms. She will be the only wolf he trusts.
“Olga comes and goes as she pleases,” says Jonathan, frowning. He strokes the head of the wolf named Siggy. Her muzzle is grey. Patrick assumes that she is the oldest. “She’s not much of a mother, I think. That’s why she was willing to give away Herrick.”
“And she told you all of this?” says Patrick, raising his eyebrows.
“She did,” smiles Jonathan, like he knows that Patrick thinks him to be crazy. “Are you ready for our walk? I’m afraid I don’t have a new cloak for you.”
“How disappointing,” says Patrick.
He wears the bear cloak, feeling almost ridiculous in it. It’s too big, dragging in the snow as they walk, but at least he’s warm, and Jonathan is pleasant. He tells him about his council meetings and how boring they were, even making a jab at a noble Patrick was introduced to on his wedding day but dislikes for no reason.
If they can continue to get along like this, he thinks that their marriage won’t be too bad. Even if Jonathan never loves him, maybe they can have a deep and loving friendship.
Jonathan ruins that all by saying, “I wish to leave Bjørn in your company.”
Herrick and the other wolves are playing in the snow in front of them. Instead of walking respectively behind them, Trevor is also in front, watching at the sidelines like he might jump in to save Herrick if the play gets too rough.
“Why?” says Patrick.
“I think he would be good for you.”
How a wolf who wants to eat him will be good for him Patrick doesn’t know, but he has a sickening feeling that if he says no, that this small truce of theirs will be shattered.
“Bjørn is still a pup,” says Jonathan. “He won’t hurt you.”
Patrick doesn’t believe that. He will fail as Consort and the wolves will tear him apart before he can even be sent back to Ethica.
“Alright,” he says, relenting.
Jonathan smiles, looking like a boy in his glee.
Bjørn stares at Patrick that night from the doorway to the bedroom, big yellow eyes watching every move he makes as he tries to get comfortable.
“We’ll be alright,” says Trevor, walking about the room, blowing out candles. The fire is going out, but another servant will come in and stoke it throughout the night. Trevor looks apprehensive as he moves around Bjørn, careful not to get too close.
“He will eat us,” says Patrick.
Trevor climbs into bed, Herrick between them. She doesn’t seem bothered by Bjørn, but that’s because she’s a wolf and a traitor by birth.
Patrick can still see Bjørn staring at him from the doorway. He sinks lower under the sheets, trying to curl himself around Herrick and get closer to Trevor for warmth. It’s cold, always so damn cold, even with the fire burning.
Bjørn jumps onto the bed. Patrick nearly screams.
The bed dips under the weight of the wolf. He sniffs at Herrick, and then at Trevor, who’s gone stock-still in fear. Bjørn sticks his snout in Patrick’s face, hot breath ghosting over his cheeks, before he pushes Herrick over, curling around her as he settles down for sleep. Patrick remains frozen in fear.
Bjørn moves his head, lying it across his chest, sighing.
He’s—Bjørn is very warm.
Patrick tentatively slides a little further down, getting comfortable. Bjørn does nothing but lift his head helpfully and then resettle it when Patrick is comfortable.
“See,” says Trevor into the dark, shifting about, presumably to get closer to Bjørn and Herrick. “We’ll be alright.”
Bjørn doesn’t eat Patrick in his sleep, and doesn’t seem intent to eat him for breakfast or for lunch, either. In fact, the wolf is intent to lie at his feet as he reads, or to play with Herrick when she gets annoying. He even accompanies her when she goes off to do whatever it is that she does and then returns with the pup right after lunch.
He’s not so bad when he lies in front of the fire like a lazy dog.
Patrick even gets up the courage to tap Bjørn on the head with two fingers when he comes to lie across his feet to keep them warm. He’s heavy, nearly crushing his feet, but Patrick doesn’t mind, not really, as long as his toes are kept warm.
Jonathan looks madly pleased when he comes to pay Patrick a visit, smiling wide even when Bjørn doesn’t come to greet him. “You’re getting along.”
“Did you expect us not to?” Patrick squints his eyes in suspicion.
Jonathan looks at him, eyes soft, a new expression that seems to be reserved only for him. Patrick doesn’t know what to make of it, but he’s happy that at least Jonathan isn’t frowning at him like he's a giant disappointment that he’s trying to have sent back to Ethica.
“I thought you would still be frightened of him.”
“Well,” says Patrick, because he’s not frightened of Bjørn, not really anymore.
Jonathan’s face gets softer, almost fond.
Patrick doesn’t know what to do with that look, other than to turn red and close his book. “If you haven’t brought me a gift, I don’t want to see you.” It’s only after the words have left his mouth does he realize how horrible they sound, but Jonathan only smiles, stepping further into the room. Nønne and Siggy are nowhere to be seen.
“I’ve already spoilt you,” he says, taking the seat across from Patrick in front of the fire. He’s dressed simply today, in his white tunic, open at the top like it’s hot, and his dark trousers and boots. A bit of beard is starting to form. Patrick doesn’t like it.
“I’m not spoilt,” he whines, unable to keep the noise from his throat. He supposes that he is, seeing as Jonathan’s already given him two lovely and expensive cloaks, but it’s not like he demanded that the king give them to him.
Jonathan relaxes back into his chair, just staring at him.
“What?” snaps Patrick when he can’t take it anymore.
“Nothing,” says Jonathan. He leans forward, placing a hand on Patrick’s knee. His fingers are warm. “We will have visitors tomorrow.”
“What kind of visitors?”
“Friends,” says Jonathan. “Dukes from the outlining providences. They’re coming to meet their new Consort while the weather is still good.”
“The weather gets worse than this?”
“I am always very cold,” pouts Patrick, flexing his toes under Bjørn, not meaning to sound like a brat, but he’ll die, surely, if the weather gets worse than this. “I think there is a draft in my rooms.”
Jonathan looks around, like he can identify the source of the draft. “Can you not feel it?” asks Patrick.
“I’m always warm,” says Jonathan, mouth still down in a frown, like the thought of Patrick even being mildly uncomfortable is a great travesty.
“I will fix this,” he says, standing, looking determined. “Our guests will arrive tomorrow afternoon. There will be a feast to celebrate their arrival.” He steps forward into Patrick’s space. “I will have a gift for you in the morning.” And then he leans forward, pecking Patrick on the cheek, before he leaves as quickly as he came.
Patrick is left stunned.
Patrick doesn’t tell Trevor about the small kiss because it wasn’t anything more than a peck, and Trevor is too head-over-heels about Hartman to seem to care about much. He does his duties like the good servant that he is, dressing Patrick in a beautiful white tunic trimmed with gold, like the one Patrick wore for his wedding. He even fixes his hair to make his curls fall forward neatly.
“Hartman still hasn’t asked me to court you,” says Patrick, grumpy, and cold. Oh so cold. He pulls Herrick closer to his chest. Bjørn is leaning against his legs, trying his best to keep him warm.
“Ryan will soon,” says Trevor, smiling brightly. He has to pull his head out of the clouds when there’s a knock at the door. Patrick assumes that it’s a servant sent to fetch him, but instead it’s several servants, baring the gift that Jonathan had promised the day before, but it’s not a gift, but several: a cloak, a hat, gloves, and boots, all made of lynx.
“Oh,” says Patrick. “Thank you.”
A nameless servant smiles at him, stepping forward to present the cloak. It looks exactly like the one Jonathan gave him a few days ago. He doesn’t need a new cloak, but he still reaches out to touch the fur, smiling to himself like a spoilt child. Even at Paelford, as the son of the King, he was never given cloaks so expensive or nice.
Those things were reserved for Erica, not for a useless son.
“From the King,” the servant says, still smiling. She’s blonde and petite, with big brown eyes. She doesn’t give off the off-putting air of the Wolfpeople, but she must be one. Only he and Trevor are human. “He wishes for you to wear it today.”
“Yes, of course,” agrees Patrick, nodding, turning to look at Trevor who’s taken the gloves and the boots and set them out for him.
The servant continues smiling, coming around behind Patrick to carefully set the cloak on his shoulders. He does the clasp himself, feeling heavy and warm under the weight of the fur.
He steps into the new boots. He won’t need his gloves or hat, not for where he intends to go. Trevor takes them to the bedroom to set them carefully in one of the many wardrobes.
“You look like a right spoilt brat,” says Trevor when they leave his rooms, Herrick nestled against Patrick’s chest like a spoilt lap dog. Bjørn walks behind him, next to Trevor, knocking against Trevor’s knees.
“That’s because I am,” he says, head held high for once, not feeling so traumatized by the wolves and the people watching him, but still wary.
Jonathan is in his antechamber. He seems to spend a lot of time here, reading over parchments, doing kingly things Patrick was never trained to do. Nønne and Siggy are sprawled across the floor. Bjørn immediately joins them, stepping over Siggy to take his place between them. Patrick sets Herrick on the floor and lets her join them. Trevor waits outside.
Jonathan looks up when he enters, face going from blank irritation into that darn, confusing fondness.
“Thank you,” says Patrick, before Jonathan can say anything. “For my gifts.”
“You look spoilt,” says Jonathan.
Jonathan smiles. “You look nice in the things I give you.”
Patrick gives him a small smile, feeling heat rise at the back of his neck. He flops as gracefully as he can into a chair at Jonathan’s desk, reaching without thinking for the closest parchment. Jonathan watches him but says nothing.
“What do you do in here all day?” he asks, skimming over the parchment. It’s some sort of report about crops.
“I try to rule a kingdom.” Jonathan leans back in his chair, for the first time looking old to Patrick. There are bags under his eyes; creases at the corners. He’s not old in age, despite their ten-year age difference. He’s old in the soul, really, weighed down by the responsibilities of kingship.
“Where are your councilors? Shouldn’t they be doing this?”
Jonathan sighs, rubbing at his eyes. “They annoy me.”
“Why not get new ones?”
“It’s not that simple.”
Patrick doesn’t know what to say to that, so he doesn’t say anything, just sits quietly, enveloped by his cloak.
“The men you are meeting tonight,” starts Jonathan after a few moments of comfortable silence. “When I became king, these men were by my side.”
Patrick had been given the most basic, crash-course in Cothainian history three days before he had been shoved into a carriage and sent over a thousand miles away. He can’t remember most of it—he had been too panicky, worried about his new life in New Wandour to really absorb any relevant information, but he does know that Jonathan had come to power in a bloody civil war.
Jonathan was the son of a peasant. At only sixteen, he had led an uprising against the former king, outed the entire royal family, and had restored Cothain to its former glory. Patrick’s father had always admired Jonathan for his tenacity, until Ethica had chosen the wrong side in a war between Saleveos and Cothain, and had ended up on the harsh end of that tenacity.
Patrick had been a child when Jonathan had become king, only six. He remembers idolizing him, but also being acutely aware that such an uprising could happen in his own home. He had cried to his mother at the news of the slaughter of the royal family, frightened that men would burst into Paelford and slit his throat right there in her drawing room. His mother had called him foolish, and had pushed him aside to tend to Erica. Patrick had hated the young king in that moment; for the first time in his life, he had been made aware that his life wasn’t as important as his sister’s.
Now, sitting in an antechamber in the middle of New Wandour, across from Jonathan, he can’t imagine Jonathan slitting the throat of a six-year-old child.
As Jonathan leans forward to write something down, Patrick can’t imagine him leading a massacre, or an army, or turning into a horrid beast.
Jonathan is too bright, too gentle to lead an uprising. He is not the man who led an army into Patrick’s homeland and slaughtered his people.
Jonathan lifts his eyes to look at him. “They are very important to me.”
“I will be kind to them.”
Jonathan nods, mouth tight. “I am their king, but they treat me like a little brother.” He pauses, twirling his quill between his fingers. “They are the only family I have left.” Patrick’s heart softens. He doesn’t know what happened to Jonathan’s family, but he’s sure that they met a horrible fate.
“Well, besides you, of course,” Jonathan adds.
He looks at Patrick, eyes soft around the edges. Patrick hasn’t thought of Jonathan as family, only as his husband, as a possible friend. He realizes now that they are family, if only by marriage. “Of course.”
Jonathan looks hurt, face falling momentarily before it hardens again, like he was expecting this reaction. Patrick doesn’t like the look of hurt; it doesn’t look right on Jonathan’s face.
He reaches across the table to touch Jonathan’s forearm. “We are family.”
Jonathan looks at his fingers on his arm, before he lifts his eyes to meet Patrick’s. They’re softer again.
Patrick smiles, dragging his fingers away. There isn’t much more to say, not really, so he gathers the cloak around him to stand gracefully, but Jonathan stops him.
“You can stay, if you wish.”
There is nothing for Patrick to do, and he will grow bored, but he settles back down into his chair. He sits quietly as Jonathan writes, tapping his fingers together underneath his cloak.
“Would you like to know about Sharpy and Seabs?” Jonathan finally asks, not looking up from his parchment.
“Those are peculiar names.”
Jonathan smiles, still not looking up. “Patrick Sharp, Duke of Ethistan and Brent Seabrook, Duke of Ple Clait. Sharpy and Seabs are their nicknames.”
Jonathan said that Sharp and Seabrook were important to him, but they must be incredibly close to call each other by a nickname. “And you?" he asks. “Surely you have a nickname?”
Jonathan finally looks up. “They call me Jonny.”
Jonny seems like such a boy’s name to have, but then again, Jonathan was just a boy when he became king. It suits him, though. Jonathan seems too regal.
“Jonny,” he says, letting the name roll off his tongue.
Jonathan smiles, dipping his quill in ink. “Sharpy is a jokester. Seabs is much more serious. He was not—he fought against our marriage.” Patrick recoils, seeking solace in his cloak, like it’s a shield that will protect him. He knew, of course, that there were people against their marriage, but for some reason, to know that a man Jonathan loves like a brother was against it makes him want to curl up and not have to face him.
“He wanted the treaty between our people,” Jonathan adds quickly, probably sensing Patrick’s withdrawal. “But I think he always thought that I would meet a young man, or a young woman, and fall hopelessly in love with them, the same way he did with his wife.”
“That’s not how it works for kings,” says Patrick, quiet.
Jonathan nods. “No, it’s not. And he—well, he refused to let me marry your younger sister, and was still appalled when he found out how old you were.”
At the mention of Jackie, Patrick feels his heart ache. He misses her. He’s swallowed down the ache and the pain of losing his family to survive here, clinging to the resentment he’s had against Erica and their God to forget how much he misses her, too. If only he could see them again. Erica will be Crown Princess next year. Vile rises in his throat at the thought of Jackie being married off to a man twice her age.
“I meant what I said during our wedding feast,” says Jonathan, voice low. Herrick comes to Patrick, pushing her way under his cloak to chew meanly on his fingers. He lifts her onto his lap where she immediately stops chewing his fingers. “I will not take from you what you don’t wish to give me.”
“Are you talking about my virginity?”
Jonathan’s face goes tight. “I. Yes.”
Jonathan says, “I will not crawl into your bed and force myself on you.”
“Is that why you’re courting me?” says Patrick, tightening his grip on Herrick. She does nothing but turn her head to lick under his chin, offering a small comfort. “So you can eventually—”
“I want you to be happy here,” interrupts Jonathan, finally putting his damn quill down, both hands flat on his desk. The wolves have lifted their heads to peer at them. “I can’t imagine what it’s been like to leave your home, your family, to come here. You have Trevor, I know, but I won’t pretend that you’re happy, or that you’re not still frightened of me, or my people. I’m courting you because I hope that we can be friends, at least, if not more.”
“You are still very much a child,” he continues. “You were forced into this marriage. And I refuse to make this experience even more traumatic for you than it has already been. I want you to be happy here, Patrick.”
“I,” Patrick starts, because he doesn’t know what to say. He resents being called a child. He is a man, but he reaches out for Jonathan, placing a hand on his arm, overwhelmed by the king’s kindness. He didn’t expect this from the King of Wolves, not in a million years. He expected to lie back on his wedding night, stuffing down cries of pain, baring it because that was his duty. He expected a loveless marriage, with little to no affection, of bowing to his husband’s will. He dreamt on that long journey from Paelford to New Wandour of being devoured by wolves, unable to do anything to save his people or Trevor.
“You’re too kind to me,” he finally settles on, unable to voice everything that he’s feeling. He’s suddenly very tired, exhausted from their conversation. “Thank you.”
Jonathan nods, placing his hand over Patrick’s where it’s still resting on his arm. “Anything you want Patrick, I will give it to you.”
“I already look spoilt enough.”
Jonathan smiles. “I’ve exhausted you. Let me walk you back to your rooms.”
Patrick nods. He places Herrick on the floor, taking Jonathan’s arm when he comes around the desk, allowing Jonathan to pull him to his feet. The wolves stand, following after, Bjørn the closest, snout bumping into the back of Patrick’s knees when they leave the room. Trevor is nowhere to be seen—he probably snuck off to find Hartman.
Jonathan walks him all the way to his bedroom, taking his cloak from him and hanging it in the wardrobe next to the other cloaks like a servant. Patrick wants to shed his clothes and crawl under the covers to sleep until someone comes to fetch him for the feast, he’s so tired.
He sits tiredly on his bed, knowing that he can’t strip out of his clothes and be so immodest, not after the conversation they just had. “Jonathan,” he says before the king leaves. Jonathan stands in front of him. Patrick could lean back, spread his legs, see if Jonathan would really keep his promise, but he won’t. “I want to make you happy too.”
Jonathan smiles. He lifts his hand, placing his fingers on the side of Patrick’s face to swipe his thumb under his right eye. He stares into Patrick’s eyes before he leans forward, pressing his lips against Patrick’s. Patrick takes a deep breath, feeling dizzy, going lightheaded and hot.
“Sleep,” says Jonathan, running his thumb soothingly back and forth. “I will send someone to fetch you for the feast.”
Patrick nods, feeling cold when Jonathan steps away from him. Bjørn is quick to jump onto the bed with him, lying down in Trevor’s usual spot. Patrick waits for the click of the door shutting to shrug out of his clothes, not even caring about putting on a shift before he slips under the covers.
He doesn’t know how long he sleeps, but eventually Trevor wakes him. “You must get ready for the feast.”
“Where did you run off to?”
Trevor frowns, picking Patrick’s tunic up from the floor. He puts it down in a chair, going to the wardrobe to grab another. “Ryan came and fetched me.”
“Do you love him?”
Trevor pulls a new tunic from the wardrobe. It’s light blue, trimmed with gold. He lays it at Patrick’s feet, cheeks bright red. “No, of course not—well, not yet, at least.”
“But you think that you could?”
Trevor pauses from where he’s trying to straighten out Patrick’s trousers. “Why these questions?”
Patrick sits up, still feeling tired. He leans over the bed, grabbing Herrick, bringing her to his chest. For once, he doesn’t feel so cold. “Do you think I could love the king?”
Trevor rolls his eyes, stepping around the bed to pull the covers back, not even blinking at Patrick’s bare body. “That’s a stupid question. Of course you can.”
“He wants to make me happy,” says Patrick, setting Herrick down to swing out of bed. Trevor hands him his underthings, which he slips on quickly, before he pulls on his trousers. “He kissed me today.”
Trevor smiles, pulling the tunic over Patrick’s head. “You will love him. It will take time, but you will love him.”
Patrick finishes getting dressed in silence. Trevor fixes his hair, taking the time to braid a few strands together and then pin the braid to the back of Patrick’s head.
Jonathan is waiting for him in the great hall, where the nobles of court have assembled on either side of the large room. They bow their heads respectively as Patrick walks by, but he can’t help but hear their whispers, and catch the scorn in their eyes. He holds his head higher, comforted by the fact that Jonathan is smiling at him from his throne and that Bjørn is following behind him, loyal to Patrick, despite Patrick’s initial dislike of the wolf.
There’s a throne sitting next to Jonathan’s, smaller, and more like a large chair, but Patrick at least has a throne on a pedestal. It’s an uncomfortable seat, but he feels powerful sitting next to Jonathan, who’s dressed like a true king, in his bear cloak and golden crown.
Jonathan doesn’t stay on his throne when Sharp and Seabrook finally appear. He goes to them, halfway down the hall, like a boy greeting his parents who he hasn’t seen in years. Patrick remains in his seat, cuddling Herrick to his chest, unsure if he should show so much enthusiasm as his husband or wait.
Jonathan makes the decision for him, briskly walking back to the pedestal to take Patrick by the hand and usher him forward, like he’s incredibly proud to show off his new consort. His pride makes Patrick flush.
“Seabs, Sharpy,” says Jonathan, smiling bright, urging Patrick forward to greet the men. “This is His Highness, Patrick Toews, Prince Consort of Cothain.”
Patrick knows the difference between the two men immediately. Sharp smiles, doing an outrageous bow that makes Jonathan frown, before he steps forward and takes Patrick’s hand, kissing his knuckles. “Your Highness,” says Sharp, smiling beautifully. Jonathan didn’t mention that Sharp was so handsome.
Seabrook, however, just bows briskly, before he sets his hard gaze on Patrick, peering at him like he’s not that impressed. “Your Highness.”
Patrick can only smile, unsure of what to do under such scrutiny. Jonathan saves him. “Come, it’s time to feast.”
Jonathan can only save him for so long, because Patrick ends up sat at the table with Seabrook on his right, and Trevor, thankfully, still on his left. Patrick is in no position to be having tantrums or fits, not yet, at least, but if Trevor had lost his place, Patrick isn’t sure what he would have done.
Trevor deserves his place at Patrick’s side, if only to keep Patrick sane.
Seabrook still looks thoroughly unimpressed with Patrick, eying the lynx cloak like Patrick is a spoilt brat who demanded he be given a cloak made of the finest fur. Jonathan might spoil him, but he’s never demanded to be given a cloak. Seabrook makes Patrick feel small, unsure of his place. He’s sure if the duke wanted it, he could convince Jonathan to send him back to Ethica.
“Has Jonathan been kind to you?”
The question startles Patrick from his thoughts, which causes him to choke momentarily on his wine.
Seabrook gives him a small smile, handing over a handkerchief. Patrick wipes at his mouth, careful not to get any of the spilt wine on his cloak. He wouldn’t forgive himself if he ruined such a pretty thing. When he’s done collecting himself, he says, “His Majesty has been very kind to me.”
Seabrook gives him a long, soft look, eyes going soft around the edges. He nods shortly, taking a sip of his own wine. “I’m sure he’s already told you how I was against this marriage.”
“I don’t believe men should marry children.”
“I am not a child.”
“This is my eighteenth birth year,” argues Patrick. He doesn’t understand why everyone believes him to be a child. He doesn’t cling to his mother’s skirts, or need her comforting, not that she would have given it to him in the first place.
“You are a child,” says Seabrook. “A child who had no choice.” He snarls the last part, like Patrick had been kidnapped from his homeland and forced into this marriage. He hadn’t been, of course. He had willingly climbed into the carriage outside the steps of Paelford. He had been told that he was marrying the King of Wolves, not asked, but he doesn’t think he’s been forced. He’s always known that he would be married off.
Patrick goes quiet. Seabrook sighs. “I knew that Jonathan would be kind to you, and I only hope that you will be kind to him.”
“Of course,” agrees Patrick.
Seabrook doesn’t speak to him for the rest of the feast, but he stops looking at Patrick like he wants to squash him. It makes Patrick feel a little better to have passed whatever test Seabrook had had for him.
Seabrook and Sharp stay for two weeks.
Jonathan becomes like a boy, delighted and pleased to have his two friends by his side, laughing loudly and throwing snowballs as they walk. Patrick tries to give them as much space as he can, reclining in his rooms and spending time with Trevor and Herrick and Bjørn, but Jonathan often comes to him in those two weeks, either to draw Patrick out of his rooms to walk with them, or to sit and listen to Patrick describe his boring day.
Seabrook becomes gentler to Patrick, not so quick to raise his eyebrows or scrutinize him, especially when it becomes obvious that Patrick is spoilt with gifts, not because he asks for them, but because Jonathan gives them so easily. He decorates Patrick with cloaks and hats made of gray fox and lynx, and even jewelry—gold rings, and a necklace dedicated to the God Patrick was unsure if he would have to give up or not.
The Wolfpeople seem to respect their gods, but their days aren’t centered around worship, or guided by their gods’ will. Jonathan seems not to care if Patrick prays before he eats, or if he talks to his God; religion seems more like an afterthought to the Wolfpeople than an actual cause to be reminded of.
It’s freeing, almost. Patrick loves his God, but to be free of having his life dedicated to and by God’s will gives him a new sense of hope. He doesn’t think God has enough time to pay attention to everyone on earth, especially not to a useless prince turned consort. Here, in New Wandour, there are no clergy men to decide his fate. He’s sure his God has plans for him, but the clergy won’t have any say in that.
When the two weeks are over, Jonathan turns sour. Not towards Patrick, not really, but he hugs Sharp and Seabrook close, refusing to let either go for a long time. He watches their party leave from the highest battlement, and then shuts himself into his antechamber.
Patrick doesn’t see Jonathan for another week.
He comes to Patrick, looking solemn as he takes a seat in the drawing room. “I hate when they leave,” he says, very quiet.
Patrick touches Jonathan’s knee, trying to comfort him. “They will visit again.”
Jonathan nods. “They liked you.”
Patrick already knew that, at least from Sharp, who had taken it upon himself to bow foolishly and kiss Patrick’s knuckles every time they met, not to mock Patrick, but to make Jonathan frown in irritation. Seabrook Patrick is still unsure of, but the man had kissed his knuckles when he had left, wishing Patrick the best.
“We’ll have more visitors in the summer, for your coronation,” says Jonathan, taking Patrick’s hand in his own, squeezing. He looks earnest about the coronation, eyes wide and warm. “It’s easier to travel in the summer.”
Patrick wasn’t expecting a coronation, not really. He knows it’s more symbolic than anything, seeing as being crowned doesn’t make him truly a king, or truly Jonathan’s equal. Jonathan would have to pass some sort of decree to grant Patrick any sort of power, and as kind as Jonathan is, Patrick doesn’t see any king granting their spouse any sort of power that would weaken their own.
At least he’ll get a crown out of the whole thing.
In the days that Jonathan is busy, Hartman comes to visit, bearing gifts for Trevor (a wolf carved out of wood, done by his own hand, and a necklace with a fine ruby at the end). He bows to Patrick respectively, gnawing at his bottom lip before he blurts out, “May I court Trevor?”
Trevor drops the wooden wolf.
Patrick cocks his head to the side, staring at Hartman.
“I,” says Hartman.
Trevor clears his throat, snatching up the wooden wolf from the floor.
“You wish to court Trevor?”
“Yes.” Hartman nods enthusiastically. “Please,” he adds.
Hartman’s been unofficially courting Trevor for well over a month now. Patrick honestly wasn’t expecting for him to ever come ask for permission, not until he intended to make Trevor his bride. He stares at Hartman, trying to stifle down a smile.
“How do you intend to care for Trevor?”
Hartman stares at him.
“Surely you don’t think I would allow you to court him just for the fun of it, my Lord? You do plan to marry him, don’t you?”
Hartman’s eyes dart from Patrick to Trevor and then back to Patrick. “Yes, Your Highness.” He goes red, getting bashful. “Some time in the summer.”
Patrick raises an eyebrow. “How do you intend to care for him? Provide for your potential family?”
“I have estates.”
“Your estates, or your father’s estates?”
“Your Highness,” interrupts Trevor, glaring at Patrick.
Patrick gives him a cheeky smile. “I only want to make sure that you’re well cared for, Trevor.”
“You’re being an ass!”
Hartman makes a noise.
“Fine,” relents Patrick, rolling his eyes. “You may court Trevor, my Lord Hartman.”
Hartman breaks into a grin, bowing, and taking Patrick’s hand to kiss his knuckles. “Thank you, Your Highness.”
Patrick smiles, charmed by Hartman’s infatuation. “If you hurt him,” he says quietly, voice tight, face going blank in anger. “I will skin you like the beast that you are and wear you as a cloak before I push you from the tallest battlement, still clinging to life.”
Hartman smiles nervously. “Yes, Your Highness.”
Patrick smiles, patting Hartman gently on the hand.
Patrick’s days at New Wandour are blessedly short, but infuriatingly boring over the next few weeks. He continues to walk with Jonathon from time to time and be spoiled by him, but when Jonathan is conducting his kingly duties, and Trevor is off doing only God knows what with Hartman, Patrick is left to sit in his drawing room and read. He finishes all of the books he brought with him from Paelford, and even starts on one particularly large tomb about Cothainian history and culture, but there’s only so much he can read before he goes stir-crazy.
The Wolfpeople seem pacified by Patrick. They still whisper and set their accusing, large, eyes on him, but they no longer seem ready to tear him apart at a drop of a hat. However, they also don’t particularly want to be in his company. At Paelford, his sisters and mother always had ladies-in-waiting, and drawing rooms always filled with musicians and nobles trying to win their attention. Patrick’s drawing room is always sadly, depressingly, empty.
At Paelford, Patrick hadn’t had many friends. There was Trevor, of course, who’s always been more than just a servant, and his sisters, but Patrick’s never had much of a friendship with other people. His loneliness at Paelford had been dulled by his sisters’ company and endless lessons with tutors. Patrick hadn’t been trained on anything more than how to read, dance, and look pretty while playing the harp (everything kingly and important had been taught to Erica, the heir apparent), but those tortuously long lessons had at least put him in rooms with other boys his age.
But here, at New Wandour, there seems to be no one near his age to talk to, and if they are his age, they’re not scrabbling at his door trying to win his favor. Trevor makes the days better, and sometimes even Hartman joins them for lunch or a game of cards, but Patrick is lonely, and quite honestly, bored.
He could spend the rest of the wretched winter wallowing in self-pity, contained away in his room, but he decides one afternoon, after falling asleep reading the Cothainian history tomb, to be somewhat productive. Trevor is off doing whatever it is that he does with Hartman, so it’s only Herrick and Bjørn who accompany him through the halls.
Jonathan, of course, is in his antechamber, surrounded by Nønne and Siggy.
“Darling,” he says, when Patrick enters the room, causing a warm feeling to settle in Patrick’s stomach. His parents called each other endearments. “I’m a bit busy right now.”
Jonathan is hunched over his parchments, writing furiously. He looks tired, bags under his eyes. What’s the point of having a council if they don’t do any of the work?
“You need a break,” Patrick decides.
“Kings don’t take breaks,” says Jonathan, but he’s not writing as furiously anymore.
“Not even to spend time with me?”
Jonathan stops writing. He sets his quill in the ink, leaning back in his chair, considering Patrick. His lips are slightly turned up in a smile.
“I want to go for a ride,” states Patrick. He hadn’t thought of it at first, but if Jonathan is going to stop working, at least they can do something more entertaining than just walking the grounds.
Jonathan raises his eyebrows, sighing, but to Patrick’s amazement, he stands. “I will send someone to prepare the horses. Go get dressed.”
The horses Jonathan has had prepared for them are small and chestnut colored, coats thick for the winter. They’re unbothered by the wolves around them, electing to ignore the beasts and instead shake their heads and snort, impatient to get going.
Patrick doesn’t much like animals, but he’s always had a soft spot for horses. He strokes his mare’s nose adoringly.
He scowls when a stable boy steps forward with a mounting block. “I can mount my horse myself.”
The stable boy pauses. Jonathan frowns, stroking the flank of his own horse. “Darling.”
“I am not a woman,” snaps Patrick.
“Your cloak is heavy,” says Jonathan.
The cloak is particularly heavy, dragging in the snow when he walks, but he is not a woman who needs a block to mount his horse. He places his hand on the horn, foot in the stirrup.
“At least let me help you up,” says Jonathan, coming around to place his hands on Patrick’s hips. It’s the most intimate they’ve ever been, and it takes Patrick by surprise, allowing Jonathan the opportunity to lift him. He recovers enough to swing himself the rest of the way, settling into his seat, cheeks hot and burning. Jonathan’s hands were big on his hips, solid and warm, even through the thickness of his cloak. Patrick felt like he weighed nothing as Jonny lifted him.
“I know you are not a woman,” says Jonathan, hand on Patrick’s thigh, intimate. Patrick feels his breath quicken, heart pounding in his chest. He has never had another man touch his thigh before.
Jonathan removes his hand, leaving the spot feeling cold, as he fixes Patrick’s cloak, spreading it out around him. Patrick takes the reins from the stable boy, breathing quickly through his nose.
Jonathan mounts his own horse. He smiles at Patrick, clicking his tongue, driving the horse forward. Patrick swallows, willing his heart to slow down. A few well-placed touches and he feels like he’s ran a mile, butterflies settled in his stomach. This hadn’t been his intention when he had gone to Jonathan’s antechamber to annoy Jonathan into entertaining him. He had only wanted company to keep him from being lonely and bored. He hadn’t wanted this, whatever this is.
Although, whatever this is, is making Patrick feel lightheaded in the best, most confusing way.
“Are you coming?” calls Jonathan, grinning from where he’s ten feet away, turned in his saddle to look at Patrick.
Patrick swallows the excited lump in his throat and drives his horse forward.
Patrick sits high in his saddle, back straight, stealing glances at Jonathan every now and again. The wolves are moving at their own gait, Nønne and Siggy trotting ahead, probably really the ones setting the course. Herrick and Bjørn are trailing behind, slowed down by Herrick’s short legs, but Bjørn stays with her, like an older brother, driving her forward when she stops to play. If they fall too far behind, Patrick is sure that Bjørn will keep the pup safe and guide her home.
“I’m glad you interrupted me today,” says Jonathan, when they’ve been riding for a few minutes in comfortable silence. He smiles, the circles under his eyes not looking so bad in the sunlight, but he still looks tired, worn. All kings look this way, Patrick supposes. His father always looked tired, like he was ready to drop and sleep for years. It’s exhausting running a kingdom, surely, but the fact that Jonathan looks so tired so young makes Patrick feel for him.
“I’m sure your council can handle things without you,” replies Patrick, not even bothering to keep his distaste for the council off his tongue. He met the members once, before his wedding ceremony, when they had all gawked at him, leered, like the sleazy, dirty, old men that they are. They had seemed like beasts then, horrible, horrible beasts that would tear Patrick apart if Jonathan hadn’t wanted him.
Sometimes a council member sits with Jonathan at the dinner feasts, sitting to his right to discuss matters that aren’t Patrick’s right to hear. They call Patrick His Highness, and bow when he passes them in the hall, hiding their leers more skillfully, but Patrick still hates them. If he could, he would get rid of them all—have them sent off to the furthest reaches of this godforsaken country to freeze to death.
“You don’t like them,” says Jonathan, but his lips are turned up in a smile.
Patrick looks forward. “I don’t know them enough to dislike them.”
Jonathan snorts. “I am going to rid myself of them.”
Patrick turns his head sharply to look at him. Jonathan is looking forward, face serious. “They are useless, and I hate them all.”
“And replace them with who?”
“I don’t know who yet,” says Jonathan, halting his horse. He looks annoyed, but Patrick knows that it’s not directed at him. “All the men I trust I’ve sent away to govern my providences.”
“You can trust me,” says Patrick, quiet.
Jonathan looks at him. His look is for a long moment, eyes searching across Patrick’s face, like he’s looking for a lie. Patrick keeps eye-contact, swallowing from time to time with nervousness, but Jonathan can trust him, which is an odd thing to understand. He doesn’t hate Jonathan, or dislike him, which he should, for all the travesties Jonathan’s people have committed against Ethica, but he doesn’t. The war had been the fault of Patrick’s father, siding with the wrong country in a dispute that they should never have gotten in the middle of.
He wants Jonathan to trust him, the way that he trusts Jonathan. He no longer thinks of Jonathan as a beast, even though he’s sure that there’s one lurking underneath his skin. He thinks of him now as a friend, his protector. Patrick would keep Jonathan’s secrets close to his heart, if only Jonathan would let him.
Jonathan’s face softens. “I do trust you.”
“Oh,” breathes Patrick, ears going pink, and not just from the cold. “That’s good.”
Jonathan breaks into a grin, urging his horse forward.
They ride for some time longer, Jonathan pointing out landscapes that Patrick should try to find interesting, but he’s too distracted, lighthearted. He keeps stealing glances at Jonathan, trying to keep a smile off his face. There are times when he catches Jonathan looking at him, and he looks away, cheeks red.
“Are you cold?” Jonathan teases once.
Patrick ignores him, driving his horse into a trot.
It starts to get dark before Patrick realizes. One moment he’s following Siggy as she weaves a path between the trees, Herrick and Bjørn long disappeared, and then the next moment, he’s acutely aware that it’s dark.
Siggy has disappeared into the dark.
Patrick’s horse snorts, dancing anxiously. Patrick holds the reins, letting her go where she wants, while looking around in the dark to see anything. There’s nothing his eyes can make out, except for the trees closes to him. He swallows, panic welling up in his throat.
It only gets worse when he squeezes his eyes shut, and then immediately snaps them open again, a howl erupting from the trees on his right. It’s sharp, loud, cutting through the night like a bad omen.
Patrick snaps his head in the direction the howl came from, but it starts again, this time from his left. It’s just as loud and frightening as the first, turning Patrick’s blood cold.
The howl stops before it starts again, accompanied by another voice, echoing from just in front of Patrick. His mare neighs, backing up. He holds onto the reins, trying to keep her steady.
“Siggy,” he says into the dark, sure that the shewolves haven’t abandoned him. “Nønne.”
The howls stop.
Patrick looks around desperately. He has no idea where Jonathan has disappeared to.
“Siggy, Nønne,” he says again, feeling even more afraid in the dark without any noise. “Where are you?”
His mare snorts, tugging on the reins. Patrick realizes that he’s been holding them too tight. In the distance, a wolf starts to howl. It doesn’t take long for others to join.
“Siggy, please,” says Patrick, desperately. “I’ll never call you a beast again.”
Something darts between the trees. It’s slender and sleek, moving too quickly for Patrick to really make out its shape, but he knows instinctively that it’s a wolf, and that it’s not Siggy or Nønne.
He’s going to be eaten by wolves. Eaten by wolves in the middle of the forest, abandoned by his husband’s beasts, and the husband who just happens to be the king of them.
“Patrick,” says Jonathan, hand on Patrick’s thigh, almost startling Patrick off his horse.
Patrick can barely see Jonathan, it’s too dark, but he glares down at him anyway, heart hammering away in his chest from fear and relief.
“Hey,” says Jonathan, voice low, like they aren’t surrounded by a pack of unfamiliar wolves. “You’re okay.”
“You abandoned me,” spits Patrick.
He can’t really see Jonathan’s face, but he knows that it goes drastically blank. Patrick squeezes his eyes shut to collect himself before he opens them again. “Siggy and Nønne left me.”
“They’ve been with you the entire time,” says Jonathan, voice even. He strokes his thumb over Patrick’s thigh soothingly. Patrick can see two shapes in the dark circling around them. “They called for me to find you.”
“There are other wolves here.”
“There are,” agrees Jonathan.
Patrick hears a noise in the trees. He takes a deep breath, pulling too hard on the reins. His horse tugs back, trying to loosen his grip. Jonathan takes the reins from him, slipping them over the horse’s head to take the lead. His own horse is nowhere to be seen.
“Will they hurt me?”
“No,” says Jonathan, as he starts to walk, maneuvering through the snow like it’s nothing. He’s going in the opposite direction of where Patrick thinks they came from.
“Where are we going?”
“To a hunting cabin.”
Patrick holds onto the horn of his saddle. He can’t see too well, but he knows that not only are Siggy and Nønne following them, but the other wolves too. He can see them dart in-between the trees. “They’re following us.”
Patrick remains quiet, feeling the cold start to creep into his fingers. The fear of being lost and sequentially eaten alive had caused him to ignore it, but now he feels cold, nose red, fingers freezing in his gloves. His cloak has kept him warm, but it’s starting to lose its heat now.
“How do you know where we’re going?”
“Instinct,” says Jonathan, like that’s an explanation for anything. Patrick can barely see a thing, but Jonathan is navigating them through the trees with ease, like it doesn’t matter if its night or day.
“Can you see in the dark?”
Jonathan doesn’t answer, but Patrick takes that as a yes. In the past two months that he’s been at New Wandour, he’s never seen the Wolfpeople do anything remotely wolf like. He always thought of the Wolfpeople as being like mindless cavemen, until he had actually met one: an ambassador from Cothain, who had been dressed smartly and bowed to Patrick upon first meeting.
Even after meeting the ambassador, Patrick had still been waiting for something more wolfish. All the lords and soldiers from the battlefields had said that the Wolfpeople had glowing eyes, fangs, claws, and the ability to turn into a wolf. Patrick had felt lied to when he had met Jonathan; he had spent an entire month long journey worrying if his husband was going to tear his face off with his teeth or not.
He’s glad that Jonathan doesn’t have fangs, but he’s a little disappointed that Jonathan is so, well, lame.
It takes some time to reach the lodge, but when they do, Patrick is relieved to see it. It’s more like a small cabin built into the side of a hill, but it will offer an escape from the cold.
“Where is your horse?”
Patrick swings a leg over, and doesn’t protest when Jonathan reaches up to help him down. Jonathan’s hands are large and warm on his sides, and Patrick spares a moment to let his heart beat out of his chest, before he feels bitterly cold. He huddles in on himself, watching as Jonathan lets go of the reins and lets the horse walk away. “I sent him home.”
“You sent your horse home,” repeats Patrick, incredulous. “And now you’ve let my horse walk away.”
“They’ll find us in the morning.”
Patrick stares, gob smacked. He stands there, mouth slightly open, as Jonathan pries the door to the cabin open. “They’re horses.”
“They are,” agrees Jonathan, ushering Patrick inside. It’s dark and miserable, stuffy, but once Jonathan starts the fire—which he does immediately, collecting wood from a pile and setting them in the small fire place—the room will be warm, and Patrick won’t care.
He stands around uselessly as Jonathan gets the fire going, and then nudges him out the way once the flame is big enough. Jonathan laughs, moving away to go do whatever he needs to do.
Siggy and Nønne make themselves useless in a corner.
Patrick sheds his hat and gloves, warming his fingers by the fire until his toes become warm and he sheds his boots too.
“Making yourself comfortable?” asks Jonathan.
Patrick looks over his shoulder to glare at him. Jonathan’s opened a hole under the floorboards. He watches as Jonathan pulls out smoked meat, a water jug, and one single bed roll.
“Why did you send the horses back?”
Jonathan puts the boards back over the hole, spreading the bed roll out. “They wanted to go home.”
“I want to go home,” says Patrick, knowing that he sounds like a brat, but there’s only one bed roll and he doesn’t care.
“You would have frozen on the way home.”
Patrick rolls his eyes, turning his head away. He’s so hot that he’s sweating, but he doesn’t want to take his cloak off.
“Here,” says Jonathan, settling down next to Patrick and handing him a piece of dried meat. He sets the jug down in front of the fire so that the water inside of it can thaw. “You would have complained the entire ride home that you were cold.”
“Would not,” whines Patrick, holding the cold meat in his fist, knowing fully well that he would have.
Jonathan chuckles, short, before he pulls off his boots and sheds his cloak. Underneath, he’s only wearing socks and his usual trousers and tunic. Patrick has on three layers under his cloak. “Are you stupid?” he says, staring at Jonathan’s collarbone where his tunic is open, trying not to be distracted by the display of skin. “It’s the middle of winter.”
“I already told you that I’m always warm.” Jonathan smiles, reaching over to hold Patrick’s fingers. His hand is warm.
Patrick rolls his eyes, jerking his fingers away to grab the dried meat instead. He takes a bite of it, not even caring about chewing like a proper boy. “Won’t your councilors send an army out to find you?”
“Find us,” corrects Jonathan, taking a swig of water. “You are their consort, you know.”
Patrick lifts an eyebrow. Jonathan says, “I had Nønne tell them where we are and not to worry.”
“I am a Wolf.” There’s a gleam in Jonathan’s eyes that sends a jolt down Patrick’s spine.
He looks away, staring into the fire.
They eat in silence, until Patrick is too hot. He removes his cloak, feeling overdressed in his three layers compared to Jonathan. He’d feel immodest, stripping himself down into his underthings in front of a husband he’s barely even kissed.
“You’re too warm,” says Jonathan. “You’re sweating.”
“I’m sitting in front of the fire.”
“You have to be uncomfortable.”
“You want to get me naked so you can ravish me,” says Patrick, meaning it as a joke, but he snaps his mouth shut as soon as the words have left his mouth. Jonathan stares at him, expression unreadable.
“I didn’t mean—I know that you wouldn’t,” Patrick says, voice low, hesitant.
“I would,” says Jonathan. “If that is something that you wanted.”
Patrick’s face goes red, his body feeling overly hot, even under all of the layers. His breath comes quickly, too quick. He feels heavy suddenly, embarrassed, ears going red at the thought of it, of being taken by Jonathan. He’s a virgin, but he’s heard enough stories to know how people fuck. “We’ve barely kissed.”
“Would you let me kiss you now?”
Patrick doesn’t even think about it. He nods.
Jonathan cups his face with one hand. Patrick expects for a quick peck, but when Jonathan presses their lips together, he’s insistent. Patrick gasps, and when he does, Jonathan’s tongue slips into his mouth. When he moans, overwhelmed, Jonathan smiles against his mouth, pulling away.
Patrick whines at the loss.
Jonathan laughs, looking bright. He leans back in, and Patrick leans forward, feeling heat in the pit of his stomach. “I’ve never done this before.”
Patrick feels embarrassed, acutely aware that while he’s been expected to keep his virginity well-guarded to give away to whatever man his father wanted him to marry, Jonathan’s been allowed the luxury to fuck or kiss anyone that he’s wanted. It makes him mad suddenly, pulling away.
“What would your mistress say?”
“What mistress?” says Jonathan, annoyed; Patrick can see it on his face.
“Surely, while your virgin bride has refused you access to his bed, you’ve taken a mistress? Or have you always had one?”
Jonathan’s mouth is closed in a tight, angry line.
Unable to take the anger on Jonathan’s face that he’s caused, Patrick gets up, grabbing his cloak and going to lie on the bed roll. He’s hot all over, wanting to claw out from his layers, but he pulls the cloak over himself to hide.
“You’re a brat,” says Jonathan after a long moment, settling himself over Patrick enough to pull back the cloak and expose Patrick’s face. “I don’t have a mistress. I have fucked people, but not since our wedding.”
Patrick ignores him, feeling hot now, both from embarrassment and a sudden, sharp feeling of arousal. This is the closet they’ve ever been. He can feel Jonathan’s weight on top of him, and to his utter annoyance it makes him ache, cock taking a keen interest in Jonathan’s body. He’s being betrayed.
“You make me feel like an idiot,” admits Patrick, trying to hide his face.
“I don’t mean to,” says Jonathan.
“I know,” breathes Patrick. “And I hate you.”
Jonathan rolls away. Patrick fears that Jonathan has taken the words to heart, but he returns, lying on his back. “You are a brat.”
Patrick ignores Jonathan again; his arousal’s getting worse. He’ll be an immodest whore, and it won’t make his cock calm the fuck down, but he gets on his knees, pulling one tunic off and another, until he’s down to his undershirt. He’s acutely aware that his nipples are pressing against his shirt, and that Jonathan’s eyes are on him.
“You are my husband,” says Patrick, voice shaky. “Might as well see what your marriage has bought you.”
“Patrick,” breathes Jonathan.
Patrick takes a deep breath, wiggling out of his trousers until he’s left in his thin braies. Despite the heat from the fire, and the warmth of his arousal, he’s suddenly very cold, and he slips under the bed roll, reaching for his cloak.
“I barely saw anything,” jokes Jonathan.
“You are horrible, Jonathan,” says Patrick, trying not to smile, curling up into a ball to keep warm. He should have left his socks on. “I want a divorce.”
“Jonny,” says Jonathan, moving around behind him. He’s removing his own clothes, Patrick realizes, cock stirring against his thigh. “You make me sound like an old man.”
“You are old.”
“I should make you sleep outside.” It’s a half-assed threat, because Patrick already knows that Jonny would never.
The bed roll opens, letting in a draft, before Jonny slips in behind him, slotting his pelvis against Patrick’s ass. Patrick shivers. He can feel Jonny’s cock, large, and just as interested as his own.
It’s a delightful thing to know, that he can make Jonny feel just as off-kilter as Jonny makes him.
“I won’t do anything that you don’t want me to do,” says Jonny.
“And if I told you to go sleep with the wolves?” says Patrick, quiet.
Patrick’s heart is beating fast in his chest. He closes his eyes, steadying himself, before he rolls over, so he’s half turned on his side, looking at Jonny.
Jonny’s eyes are large, warm. There’s stubble across his cheeks and jaw. He’s so very handsome.
He reaches over, tucking a curl behind Patrick’s ear.
“I want you to touch me,” says Patrick.
Jonny lets out a breath, pulling himself up and over until he’s on top of Patrick, Patrick’s legs spread open to allow him access. Patrick gasps when all of that weight settles on top of him, Jonny’s cock grinding against his own.
“If it becomes too much,” says Jonny, reaching for the helm of Patrick’s undershirt and pulling it over his head. “Tell me.”
Patrick shivers, eyes closing as Jonny kisses his throat, hands roaming across Patrick’s chest. Patrick gasps, bucking up when Jonny’s palm glides across his nipple.
Jonny growls, actually growls, seizing up to kiss Patrick, but Patrick is unafraid, opening his mouth for Jonny, rolling his hips up to feel Jonny’s cock against his own. He moans into the kiss, digging his fingers into Jonny’s short hair, chest to chest.
“Please,” he begs, wanting Jonny’s hand on his cock. He’s touched himself, late at night, back at Paelford and even here, at New Wandour, when Trevor’s been off doing whatever it is that he does, but he’s never had another person’s hand on his cock. Jonny’s hands are so large. It will feel good, he knows that it will. “Please, Jonny. Touch me.”
“Spoilt brat,” Jonny mutters against his mouth, fond, but he reaches between them, pulling both of their braies down until they’re naked. The first slide of their bare cocks together makes Patrick moan into Jonny’s mouth, unashamed. If Siggy and Nønne care, they remain blessedly quiet in their corner.
Jonny’s cock feels huge, long and thick. One day that will be inside of Patrick, splitting him open. Patrick wants to cry at just the thought.
When Jonny’s hand wraps around his cock, Patrick feels like he might die. Jonny’s hand is large and warm, stroking up and down with a set rhythm. He looks down at him, watching his face as he twists and moans, overwhelmed by the feeling. It’s never felt like this when he’s touched himself. “Please,” he begs, not even knowing what he wants. “Jonny, please.”
“Hush, darling,” says Jonny, moving his hand faster, thumb stroking over the head. Patrick cries out, fingers scrabbling blindly at Jonny’s bare back.
“You look so good like this,” says Jonny, continuing his assault on Patrick’s cock. “You smell so good. I can smell the arousal on you.”
Jonny’s eyes flash a bright red. It frightens Patrick at first, to see that beast—the beast Jonny’s kept hidden, but he calms, seeing the way Jonny looks at him. Jonny won’t hurt him, he knows it.
Jonny kisses him, biting at his bottom lip, pulling it with his teeth, before he assaults Patrick’s neck, thumb swiping against the head of Patrick’s cock. Jonny moves his hand, licks at Patrick’s throat, and then he bites down, right on his pulse, and Patrick loses it, crying out with his orgasm, mouth open wide in a way that must be unattractive, but Jonny just growls against his neck, hand still working before Patrick tries to push him away. It’s all so much.
Jonny pulls his hand away, wiping it on the nearest object, which just happens to be Patrick’s cloak.
“Jonny,” he whines, breathing heavy, feeling loose-limbed and the happiest he’s felt in months. He’s had sex, with his husband.
“I’ll buy you a new one,” breathes Jonny against his mouth, hips moving minutely, drawing Patrick’s attention to his still hard cock against his thigh.
Patrick turns his head, feeling an ache in his neck from Jonny’s bite, but it’s a good ache. He skims his fingertips down Jonny’s chest, feeling the muscles there, all the way down to his stomach, before he wraps a hand around Jonny’s cock. Jonny groans.
Jonny is hot and large in his hand. Patrick didn’t know another man could be this big. He swallows, moving his wrist unsurely.
“Make your fist tighter,” demands Jonny, gentle.
Patrick smiles, hearing the hitch in Jonny’s voice, feeling excited when he starts to fuck into his grip. He feels powerful like this, with his husband’s cock in his hand: only he has the power to make Jonny feel like this.
Jonny fucks into his fist for what seems like a lifetime, but Patrick likes it, reaching up to kiss Jonny when Jonny allows him to. He feels so intimate like this, warm and happy. He could lie here with Jonny doing this forever.
“I’m going to come,” announces Jonny, hips moving faster, mouth going to Patrick’s neck to suck on the bitemark he left behind, and that’s when Patrick feels it: a knot at the end of Jonny’s cock.
It takes him by surprise.
Patrick has touched no other cock but his own, but he knows that the knot shouldn’t be there. Only dogs have knots, beasts. “Jonny,” he breathes, not drawing his hand away, more fascinated than he is alarmed.
“Fuck,” growls Jonny, coming all over Patrick’s fist before he bites down again. Patrick yelps.
Jonny collapses on top of him.
Patrick feels suffocated under Jonny’s weight, but he basks in it; basks in the way Jonny makes him feel so small, in the way that his lungs struggle to take in air. “Jonny,” he breathes, wanting to kiss him, but Jonny’s too busy licking at his throat, taking deep inhales of air.
“Jonny,” Patrick tries again, reaching for his cloak to wipe his hand. Jonny is still licking at his throat, broad wet tongue gliding over the bitemark. It’s a weird sensation.
Jonny finally pulls back, but not without nipping the mark. It won’t bruise, Patrick doesn’t think, or at least he doesn’t hope. Only harlots have hickeys on their necks for everyone to see.
Jonny’s eyes are a bit wide. He looks down at Patrick, stroking the hair back from his face with his thumb as he smiles. Patrick blushes, feeling overexposed under his gaze, despite his nakedness. “Thank you.”
“For what?” says Patrick, tipping his head back and closing his eyes as Jonny leans down to kiss him. He feels loved suddenly, and its overwhelming.
“For allowing me this,” murmurs Jonny, kissing Patrick again, soft, sweet. Patrick turns red, turning his head away as Jonny lifts his weight, sliding away from him to lie on his side. Patrick feels cold at his loss, trying to curl himself up to ward off the cold, but Jonny wraps an arm around his waist, dragging him over, so Patrick is lying across his chest. Patrick settles, legs between Jonny’s, sighing a breath of relief.
When Patrick wakes, he’s alone.
Not truly alone, because he’s sandwiched between Siggy and Nønne. He’s never been this close to the shewolves before, but all they do is blink their wide, yellow eyes at him and shift to get more comfortable. He’s grown less afraid of them in the past months, aware that Jonny won’t allow them to hurt him, so he relaxes back into the bedroll and presses his face into Nønne’s neck, ready for more sleep.
When he wakes again, he’s still alone with the shewolves. He panics momentarily, curious and afraid of where his husband has wandered off too, but as long as he has Siggy or Nønne, he doesn’t worry, and anyway, the fire’s gone out. It’s too cold for him to crawl out of the bedroll and away from the warmth of the wolves to find out.
He lies there, face stuffed into Nønne’s fur, stroking down her back as she sleeps, until the cabin door opens. There’s snow clinging to Jonny’s cloak, and his neck is red, but he smiles when his eyes settle on Patrick. “Lazy brat,” he says, shutting the door behind him. “The horses are here.”
Patrick’s heart hammers in his chest. He tries to hide his face further in Nønne’s fur, feeling happy and giddy, but shy. They had sex. Not the type of sex that would count as consummating their marriage in the eyes of God and the law, but it was sex, with Jonny. “It’s too cold to leave the bed.”
Jonny raises an eyebrow. “And let me guess, you want me to warm you up?”
Patrick rolls away from Nønne, lying on his back, trying to look seductive.
Jonny laughs. He kneels before he climbs over Patrick, trapping him. “I would keep you warm in my bed all day if I could,” he murmurs, mouth not quite touching Patrick’s.
Patrick takes in a deep breath, feeling dizzy, cock stirring.
“But we have to go home,” says Jonny, pulling away, like an ass.
“You’re an ass!”
Jonny laughs. Patrick hates him, curling up in a ball, arousal waning.
Jonny settles at the edge of the bedroll, hand on Patrick’s ankle. “You deserve to be kept warm in my bed, not on the floor of a hunting cabin.”
Patrick looks at him, cheeks ablaze. “Go away,” he says, feeling hot at the implication of being kept in Jonny’s bed. “I can’t get dressed with you here. It’s immodest.”
Jonny shakes his head, but he stands, heading for the door. “I’ll wait outside.”
Patrick lies in the bedroll for a few more minutes, only to be stubborn, before he crawls out of bed, immediately freezing. He should have forced Jonny to start the fire.
He dresses quickly, struggling into his layers of trousers and tunic, still cold as he puts on his gloves and boots. He reaches for his discarded cloak, and realizes that he can’t even wear it. There are two obvious stains on the front that have ruined the fur.
Patrick jerks the cabin door open. “Jonathan!” he barks.
Jonny has the horses, as promised, but he’s also surrounded by a pack of wolves, none of which Patrick recognizes, not that he could easily tell the difference between the wolves. He knows Siggy and Nønne, and Bjørn and Herrick, but he can’t tell one wolf from another while in the castle. He knows, instinctively, that these are not wolves from the castle.
“Darling?” answers Jonny.
“Don’t darling me,” pouts Patrick, already freezing. The wolves all look at him, tails wagging slowly. They don’t want to eat him, at least. “My cloak,” he says, resisting the urge to cross his arms against his chest. “It’s ruined.”
Jonny comes to him, shrugging off his own thick cloak, made of bear. He wraps it around Patrick’s shoulders carefully, before he ties the front. “Better?”
“Perhaps,” mumbles Patrick. “I’ll need a new cloak as soon as we get home.”
“Of course, darling,” says Jonny.
Jonny’s cloak is heavy, but it’s warm, and it makes Patrick feel safe, until Jonny walks past him to enter the cabin, and leaves Patrick outside with the unfamiliar wolves.
“Hello,” he says.
The wolves stare. Patrick swallows nervously.
“They don’t want to hurt you,” says Jonny, finally reappearing. He sets the door in place, pushing until its wedged to keep the bears out. “They want to know who their consort is too.”
“That they are,” agrees Jonny. “But they’re smarter than you realize.”
They’re nothing but wild animals to Patrick, but he knows that he should keep that remark to himself. Jonny, and the rest of the Wolfpeople, have a connection to the wolves that he knows that he will never understand, but he also knows that he has to make an effort to at least interact with the wolves.
“Will they bite me?”
“You are their consort,” says Jonny, guiding Patrick forward with a hand on his lower back. “They only wish to serve you.”
“That doesn’t answer my question,” mumbles Patrick, annoyed.
A wolf approaches. He sticks out his hand, allowing the wolf to sniff at his outstretched fingers. It takes him by surprise when the wolf jumps up, pressing his weight against Patrick’s chest, snout in his face. Patrick immediately wants to crumble and cover his face to keep the wolf from tearing him apart, but Jonny is right behind him, keeping him up, body solid.
“Just let her sniff you,” he murmurs into Patrick’s ear. “Stand still and tall.”
“I hate you,” says Patrick. He should have been warned about this, but he does as told, standing tall and still as the wolf sniffs over his hair and cheeks, leaving behind wet drool.
Finally, the wolf seems satisfied, because she drops, lying immediately on her back to expose her belly like a dog. The other wolves yelp excitedly, crowding around Patrick to sniff at him and push their snouts and flanks under his fingers for pets.
“This is ridiculous,” says Patrick.
“This is them accepting you,” corrects Jonny.
Patrick stares over his shoulder, mouth open wide. “Were they not going to?”
“Of course they were,” says Jonny, tipping Patrick’s head back uncomfortably by his chin for a kiss. Patrick’s neck aches, but he gives into the kiss, melting under Jonny’s mouth. When Jonny pulls back, Patrick’s face is hot, breath quick. He feels like a harlot.
“Come,” says Jonny, pulling away, which leaves Patrick feeling cold, despite the cloak. Jonny is in nothing but his trouser and tunic and boots, like a crazy person.
He helps Patrick into the saddle, hands strong and warm on Patrick’s waist. Patrick wants Jonny’s hands on him for forever.
Siggy and Nønne lead the way home.
Patrick spends the entire journey feeling lightheaded and giddy, until the fortress rears its ugly head. He’s suddenly overcome with the fear that their relationship will go back to what it was before: not necessarily bad, but not very intimate, either. He doesn’t expect to be kept in Jonny’s bed like a whore, but he would like Jonny to kiss him more openly, in front of the entire court.
Trevor is waiting for them on the steps to the fortress, Herrick, who’s really too big to be carried around but is spoilt, held in his arms, Bjørn at his feet. They’re on Patrick as soon as Jonny helps him down from the horse.
Trevor barely remembers to bow respectfully before he’s dragging Patrick away.
“Trevor,” Patrick hisses when they’re safely inside the castle. He hadn’t even been given the chance to say goodbye to Jonny.
“You’re alive,” sighs Trevor, dropping Herrick to the floor before embracing him. “I thought you dead.”
“I was with the king!”
“Yes, but you’re so annoying, so I thought he would have killed you.”
Patrick rolls his eyes, collecting his cloak around him before he starts off towards his rooms. “I want a bath, Trevor.”
Trevor follows because Trevor has been just as spoilt as the wolf pup. He catches up to Patrick, entwining their arms. “You’re wearing the king’s cloak.”
Patrick flushes, turning sharply. “I am.”
“Is there a reason?”
Patrick stops in his tracks. There’s no one nearby, but he lowers his voice. “I’ll tell you in my rooms.”
Trevor grins, pulling away. “I’ll find someone to bring the tub.”
Patrick watches him leave, before he scoops up Herrick. She really is getting too big for this. “You left me,” he says into her head, reaching down to stroke Bjørn’s ear. “And you too.”
The wolves ignore him, like they usually do.
Trevor must move quickly, because the tub is delivered to Patrick’s private rooms shortly after he arrives. Soon after, Trevor and another servant carry in buckets full of hot water.
Patrick strips to his underthings, climbing into the water and immediately sliding down, until only his head is sticking out from the water. The other servant patters about the room, cleaning the spots that Trevor missed—a lot, which means he spent the night with Hartman—but soon leaves.
Trevor is immediately on the floor next to the tub. “There’s a hickey on your neck.”
Patrick’s hand immediately goes to his neck to cover it. “There is not.”
“Is too,” grins Trevor, reaching over to knock his fingers away and poke at his skin. It stings, sensitive. “Are you going to tell me what happened?”
“What did you do with Lord Hartman all night?”
Trevor blushes. “I asked you first!”
Patrick glares. “Lock the door and get in the tub.”
Trevor does as told. He slides into the tub easily, making sure not to spill any of the water. He’s supposed to wait for Patrick to be done to use the leftover water, but he hates the thought of Trevor bathing in dirty, cold water.
“Tell me,” insists Trevor, knocking their knees together.
Patrick blushes, flooded with memories from the night before. He doesn’t want to get hard, not with Trevor right there in the tub with him. “We kissed, and shared the same bedroll.”
“Don’t be shy,” whines Trevor. “There’s a hickey on your neck, you harlot.”
Patrick glares, which does nothing to wipe the smile from Trevor’s face. “We touched each other.”
Trevor lifts his eyebrows. “You have to tell me more than that!”
“What more do you want to know?” snaps Patrick. “That we rutted against each other and I came with his hand on my dick?”
Trevor’s eyes get wide in shock, before he laughs, leaning forward to put his hands on Patrick’s knees, sloshing the water. “You whore!”
Trevor giggles, smiling wide. “And did you touch him?” he whispers, leaning in closer.
“Yes,” says Patrick, locking eyes with Trevor, answering proudly. “I couldn’t wear my cloak because we wiped our seed all over it to clean our hands.”
They stare at one another until they break into giggles, knocking foreheads together. “And you?” asks Patrick. “What did you do with your lover? I know you weren’t in my rooms last night.”
Trevor blushes, whole chest going red, and it’s not from the heat of the bath. He shifts around, knocking their knees together repeatedly. “I put his cock in my mouth.”
“I know,” mumbles Trevor, ears pink. “I know. Only whores suck cock.” He turns redder, poking at a scrape on his knee. “But I liked it.”
“Slut,” says Patrick, fond, leaning forward to kiss the corner of Trevor’s mouth. “And what did he do for you?”
Trevor looks down, not meeting his eyes. He’s more ashamed of what Hartman did to him than what he did to Hartman. The little whore. “Trevor.”
“He fingered me,” says Trevor, turning pink. He locks eyes with Patrick momentarily while Patrick grapples to understand what he heard, before his eyes return to the water.
“Yes!” cries Trevor, standing suddenly, sloshing water over the side of the tub. He frowns at the spill, climbing out of the water, underthings clinging to his skin. Trevor is lean and slender and quite beautiful, but Patrick loves him like a brother, and would never want to fuck him.
“Did you like it?”
Trevor is so red that Patrick worries about his circulation. He pulls off his wet underthings, before pulling on an undershirt and braies. They’re Patrick’s, laid out for him to dress into after his bath. “I did,” mumbles Trevor, grabbing a towel to wipe at the water on the floor. “I liked it, and I would let him do it again.”
Patrick watches Trevor move about the room. He can’t imagine Trevor spread out like some whore, Hartman’s fingers up his ass, but he does feel a sweep of arousal in his own gut at the thought of Jonny’s fingers inside of him. Surely it must have hurt at the beginning, but it had to have given way to pleasure if Trevor is so willing to do it again. “Did it hurt?”
Trevor pauses where he’s pulling on a pair of trousers—also Patrick’s. “No, not really. Ryan used oil. It was uncomfortable at first, but it got better. So much better.”
“I didn’t realize that you and Lord Hartman had become so close already.”
Trevor pulls on a tunic—one of his own, finally. “I won’t have sex with him,” he says. “Not until we’re married. I won’t be used and abused by a lord who’s only after one thing.”
“I think he loves you,” says Patrick. The water’s cold now, but remarkably he doesn’t want to leave it.
Trevor doesn’t answer. He disappears, returning with Patrick’s underthings and a new set of clothes for the day.
“You are getting married, you know,” says Patrick, standing reluctantly. Trevor has a towel waiting for him. He steps out of the bath, immediately throwing off his underthings and wrapping himself in the towel. “In the summer. You’ll have to love him by then.”
“Marriage isn’t always about love,” says Trevor.
“Bollocks,” says Patrick, drying himself. “You’re a hopeless romantic, Trevor. You won’t marry Hartman unless your head over heels for him.”
“What if he’s not with me?”
“Don’t be silly.” Patrick pulls on his underthings, but the thought of getting dressed exhausts him. Instead of pulling on his clothes like a good consort, he crawls into his freshly made bed instead. Trevor glares.
“You can’t sleep all day.”
“I am the consort,” drawls Patrick. “I can, and I will.”
“Lazy brat,” curses Trevor, stripping of his own fresh clothes, and reminding Patrick fondly of Jonny. Trevor won’t be able to crawl into Patrick’s bed like this for much longer; he will have too many visits from the King.
They sleep like lazy children for hours.
At one point, servants come in to drain the water with buckets and remove the tub, but Patrick only pays them enough attention to determine if he’s needed or not before he goes back to bed.
The second time he wakes, it’s to realize that Trevor is gone—the harlot—and that Jonny is in his rooms.
He startles, almost knocking Herrick from the bed.
“You truly are a lazy brat,” says Jonny. He’s in Patrick’s favorite reading chair, the wolves laid out over Patrick’s floor, sleeping.
Patrick feels his heart leap in his throat. “I was tired.”
“I wore you out that much?”
“Leave me alone, scoundrel,” says Patrick, playful, turning his back on Jonny to kiss at Herrick. His cheeks are burning at what Jonny is implying.
“I brought you a new cloak.”
“Leave it in the wardrobe and go.”
The bed dips. Jonny is sitting at the edge, hand on Patrick’s ankle under the sheets. “Have you always been this horrible?”
“Only to you,” says Patrick.
Jonny laughs. He trails his hand up Patrick’s leg, resting on his hip. Patrick glares down at his hand. “You’re bold.”
Jonny laughs again. He looks younger, somehow, in the few hours it’s been since they last saw each other.
“Why are you so happy?” asks Patrick, sitting up to get a better look. “Did you dismiss your council?”
“There’s a hickey on your neck,” Jonny smirks.
Patrick feels the heat in his cheeks. “Go away,” he says. “Before I have Bjørn eat you.”
“You are quite awful to me,” says Jonny, making no move to leave. Patrick would be disappointed if he actually did.
“Not that you don’t deserve this treatment,” says Patrick, reaching for Jonny’s hand where it’s slipped from his hip. He kneads the skin of Jonny’s palm. “Since you ruined my cloak.”
There’s a slight hitch to Jonny’s breath as he smirks. “I can ruin more than your cloak.”
Patrick doesn’t mean to, but he laughs, tipping forward to kiss Jonny. “Scoundrel,” he says against his mouth.
Jonny tips him back, laughing, before he pulls away. “I came to fetch you for dinner.”
“I don’t want to eat.”
“You have to eat.”
Patrick doesn’t feel hungry, but he knows that he’ll regret missing the feast later, and he always feels bad having to send a servant to the kitchen to start the fires just to make him something to eat.
“Would you like me to turn my back as you get dressed?” asks Jonny, standing from the bed. “I would hate for you to feel immodest.”
“Shut up,” mumbles Patrick. He does feel self-conscious suddenly, aware that he’s only in his underthings, but he stuffs that feeling down. Jonny has seen him naked, has had his large, calloused hand around his dick. There is no immodesty between them anymore.
He swings his legs out of bed, stretching.
Jonny watches, the pervert, but Patrick ignores him, reaching for his clothes Trevor was kind enough to lay out before he disappeared.
Jonny hands him the new cloak when he’s done getting dressed. It’s lynx, heavy and warm as Patrick fits it around his shoulders. “Will there ever be a time where I won’t have to wear one of these ridiculous things?”
“Our summers are just as brutal as our winters,” says Jonny, offering his arm for Patrick to take.
Patrick thinks that’s a lie. Nowhere as miserable during winter can be as brutal during summer. He’ll be happy if he can get away with wearing a light cloak made of wool when the summer finally comes, if it ever does.
Trevor, the harlot, is sitting at the high table when they arrive in the hall, accompanied by Lord Hartman. Unfortunately, one of Jonny’s councilors is also at the table. Braddock leers at Patrick, eyes right on the spot where Patrick’s hickey is hidden by his collar, like he knows.
“I don’t like that man,” he says suddenly, without meaning to.
“Hartman?” says Jonny, face scrunching in confusion.
“Earl Braddock.” He doesn’t want to stir the pot, or cause trouble. He and Jonny might be intimate now, but Patrick’s place at Jonny’s side is still rocky, and might always be rocky. He must tread carefully, lightly, until he’s sure of his place, and sure that he’ll be able to keep it.
Jonny might not have a mistress right now, but there’s no guarantee that there won’t be a mistress later, after Patrick’s body has been wrecked by a child. That mistress might hold Jonny’s affections more than Patrick ever could. “I don’t always like the way he looks at me.”
He waits for Jonny to reprimand him. Jonny might dislike his councilors, but they are still his councilors. They were chosen for a reason, even if Patrick is unsure of it. The reason is probably somewhere in that giant tomb of a book he keeps falling asleep reading.
Jonny says nothing, but his face is serious, disappointed, mouth set in a straight line.
Patrick’s overstepped his place. He tries to soothe it over. “Let’s eat, husband.”
Jonny’s expression doesn’t change, not even when they settle down at the table. Trevor is quick to notice, leaning over to squeeze Patrick’s hand under the table. “What did you do?” he whispers.
“Why do you always assume I’ve done something?”
Trevor stares at him.
“Fine,” he relents. He looks over his shoulder, but Jonny is paying him no attention. He’s too busy speaking with Braddock, face still sour. “I only mentioned that I don’t like the way Braddock looks at me.”
“You have to be careful,” chastises Trevor, like Patrick needs the reminder. “Until you give the king an heir, your place is still fragile.”
“I’m aware of that!” snaps Patrick, meaner than he means to be. Trevor recoils, grip going loose in his hand. Patrick swallows, squeezing quickly. “I’m working on it, Trevor. You know that.”
Trevor smiles, cheeks going red. “I know.”
Patrick raises his eyebrows excitedly, squeezing again. “I will be more careful about what I say to the King.”
Trevor seems appeased, because he lets go of Patrick’s hand to turn his attention to Hartman, leaving Patrick to entertain himself.
Jonny is still talking to Braddock, face getting more and more sour as the conversation drags on. Patrick can’t hear what they’re discussing, but Braddock looks like he’s desperately trying to appease the king to no avail. Jonny’s shoulders are tight, even under his cloak, anger radiating off him in waves. Patrick doesn’t like Braddock very much, but he unexpectedly feels sorry for the man.
“Darling,” he says, putting his hand on Jonny’s forearm, abruptly drawing Jonny away from the conversation. Jonny looks startled, turning to stare at Patrick’s hand on his arm, but his face soon relaxes, going soft as he looks at him. “I’m tired. Will you escort me back to my rooms?”
Jonny raises his eyebrows, blinking slowly and shaking his head, like coming out of an angry stupor. “Yes, of course.”
Patrick smiles, closed mouth, indicating his head to Braddock who says, “Your Highness,” bowing his head properly and not looking anywhere at Patrick’s neck, but instead at his shoulder, like he’s afraid to make eye contact.
“Good night My Lord,” Patrick says, smiling again, taking Jonny’s arm when he stands. He feels powerful, knowing that he had to rescue Braddock from Jonny’s wrath. Braddock owes him something now.
Jonny escorts Patrick all the way back to his private bedchamber. Usually, he would leave with a peck to Patrick’s lips or to his cheek, but tonight he removes his cloak, abandoning it on a chair.
“That’s bold of you,” says Patrick.
Jonny smirks, looking ridiculously handsome as he slips out of his boots and socks, and then to Patrick’s delight—because that’s only what it can be, the feeling in his stomach that isn’t quite arousal, but something deeper and happier that Jonny wants to stay—Jonny removes his tunic, exposing his broad shoulders and muscled chest.
It’s truly unfair how attractive Jonny is, but Patrick should think himself truly lucky; the Druinian king he was original supposed to marry had few teeth, and a gut so big that it took over half of his frame. He had been twenty years Patrick’s senior, with a grown son already set to inherit the throne. Patrick doubts he would have been so kind about the consummation of their marriage.
“You’re staring,” says Jonny.
“Am not,” mutters Patrick, turning his back quickly. “There’s nothing to stare at.” He hears Jonny laugh at him.
Jonny comes up behind him silently, wrapping his arms around Patrick’s slimmer waist to rest his head on his shoulder. “Tomorrow morning,” he murmurs into Patrick’s ear, breath hot. “I want you to join us at the council meeting.”
Patrick tries to turn his head to get a good look at Jonny’s face. It’s wholly surprising to be invited to the meeting. Not even Patrick’s own mother attended his father’s meetings. It’s unseemly for a queen or consort to listen to “men’s talk” or give their opinion on it either, especially not a foreign consort. “You want me to attend council?”
“I hate those men,” growls Jonny, grip around Patrick’s waist tightening.
“Then why do you keep them?” asks Patrick. “Surely there are trustworthy men here? Lord Hartman? Minor dukes or lords who live nearby?”
Jonny sighs, breath ghosting over Patrick’s cheek. “It’s complicated.”
“You’re being stubborn,” says Patrick, probably crossing another line that he’s not supposed to cross. Criticizing Jonny and his actions could put him in a sore spot with the king, but he refuses to back down. Jonny is supposedly miserable and angry with his council, but refuses to do anything to fix the problem because he’s stubborn. “They’re useless. You do all the work, and suffer for it.”
“You think I suffer?” says Jonny, fingers gliding up from Patrick’s waist to undo the clasp of his cloak, the scoundrel.
“You’re always so tired,” answers Patrick, letting the cloak slip from his shoulders. Jonny takes it gently, throwing it over the back of a chair. “Can’t you threaten to chop off their heads if they don’t start doing some work?”
“I promised that I wouldn’t.” The words slip from Jonny’s mouth angrily. Patrick stills, swallowing, afraid that he’s somehow crossed the line.
Jonny lets out a long breath, kissing Patrick’s cheek. “When I became king, I kept the old king’s council. I thought that it would be easier for the people.” He sighs, slipping his fingers down to undo the belt around Patrick’s waist. “They were good at first, fearful. They did what I asked. But now they’ve become complacent over the years. They think that they can control me, like they did their last king.”
He pushes his fingers under Patrick’s undershirt, up and over his ribs. Patrick gasps quietly. “They think they can undermine me, and leer openly at their consort,” Jonny growls the last part, fingers digging into Patrick’s skin.
Jonny’s sudden anger before dinner makes sense now. Jonny hadn’t been angry with him, but instead angry at Braddock. It makes something like satisfaction creep up Patrick’s spine: the councilors aren’t allowed to leer at him unless they want to face their king’s wrath.
“Let’s not talk about them anymore,” says Patrick, thriving in the possessive hold Jonny has on his body. He doesn’t want to discuss Braddock or any of the other dirty old men on the council, not with Jonny shirtless behind him. “There are other things we can talk about.”
“Hhhm?” hums Jonny, lips on Patrick’s neck, right where the scoundrel left his hickey. It hurts when Jonny nips, but not enough to make Patrick push him away; it mostly feels good.
“Scoundrel,” Patrick mutters, tipping his head back for more. Jonny laughs against his skin, pulling away only to turn Patrick around quickly. Patrick barely has time to right himself before Jonny’s kissing him, holding his face in his hands and licking into Patrick’s mouth. Patrick moans, yielding, reaching out to scrape his fingers down Jonny’s chest only because he can.
“Bed,” says Jonny, breathless when he pulls away, eyes bright and wide as he takes him in. “We should move to the bed.”
Patrick nods. He strips of his clothes, no longer feeling self-conscious or immodest under Jonny’s hungry gaze. Jonny is his husband, after all. It’s his marriage right to see Patrick naked.
Jonny’s gaze only gets hungrier when Patrick is completely naked, standing there in the cold of the room, nipples perked up, cock growing hard. Patrick doesn’t want to hide. Instead, he stands proudly, cheeks flushed as Jonny rakes his eyes up and down his body. “Do you like what you see?”
“You’re beautiful,” says Jonny, stealing the breath right out of Patrick’s lungs; no one has ever called him beautiful before.
“I am,” agrees Patrick, head held high as Jonny smiles. “And you’re still dressed.”
“I didn’t know you were so eager to see me naked,” says Jonny, smirking.
Patrick rolls his eyes.
Jonny toes off his socks before he strips of his trousers, and then he’s naked, all of his tan skin on display. Patrick hadn’t gotten a good look at him last night, but if he had, he would have come in his braies: everything about Jonny is so thick. His thighs are large, his hips narrow, and his cock. Patrick had held it in his hand the night before, but to see it in person—thick and cut, nestled against a patch of dark hair, is truly another experience.
Jonny advances on him, smirking, like he knows what Patrick is thinking, the cocky ass. “Look at you,” he murmurs, cupping Patrick’s face as he kisses him and guides him towards the bed, until the back of Patrick’s knees hit the mattress. It’s easy for Jonny to push him, until Patrick is on his back, legs dangling, spread wide, cock hard.
Jonny looks down at him, like he’s some sort of prized possession. “Look at you,” he murmurs again, leaning down to kiss at Patrick’s throat, his cock sliding against Patrick’s own, causing an embarrassing noise that Patrick will deny until death to escape his mouth. “My beautiful prince.”
“Prince Consort,” corrects Patrick, cheeky.
Jonny laughs, kissing down Patrick’s throat to his chest, where he stops to drag his tongue over Patrick’s nipple. Patrick cries out, arching his back against Jonny’s lips, toes curling when Jonny covers the bud with his mouth, nipping gently.
“Oh,” moans Patrick, because he didn’t know—he didn’t realize that men could be sensitive there, too. “Jonny.”
He feels it when Jonny moans against his chest, bud still between his teeth, tongue flicking out every now and again to make Patrick’s cock leak. He reaches up with his other hand, pinching Patrick’s other nipple between his thumb and forefinger.
It’s too much for Patrick. He groans, head lulling back against the pillow, hips jutting up to slide his cock against Jonny’s. He moans, scratching down Jonny’s back with one hand, scrambling at the sheets with another. He’s close, so close to coming. It’s embarrassing and thrilling all at the same time.
“Jonny,” he begs. “Jonny.”
“My precious darling,” murmurs Jonny, sitting up enough to reach between them and take ahold of Patrick’s cock. His grip is tight, hand warm and dry, barely helped by the slick leaking from Patrick’s cock, but it still feels good. Patrick bites his lip to keep from moaning like a harlot.
“Let me hear you,” begs Jonny, eyes looking a bit wild, jaw twitching. “I want to hear you.” He surges forward, kissing Patrick as he works his hand, up and down, up and down, mouth leaving Patrick’s to go back to biting and nipping at his nipples.
Patrick bites his lip harder. There are servants here, Wolfmen and wolves who can hear his whorish cries. “Don’t be shy for me darling,” says Jonny biting the space between Patrick’s chest. “Let them hear how good I make you feel.”
Patrick shakes his head, letting go of his lip to stuff his hand into his mouth to block the noises. Jonny sits up, letting go of Patrick’s cock to grab his wrist and gently pry the hand from his mouth. “Darling.”
“It’s unseemly,” breathes Patrick, trying to catch his breath.
“Unseemly?” repeats Jonny, baffled.
“I sound like a whore.”
Jonny laughs, actually laughs, before he kisses Patrick, soft. “You sound nothing like a whore, my dear.”
Patrick stares, before he smacks Jonny in the shoulder, struggling to crawl out from under him. “You would know what a whore sounds like, wouldn’t you?”
Jonny catches him on the wrist. “Are you going to hold that above my head for the rest of our marriage?”
Patrick glares, caught halfway between leaving the bed and remaining. “I’ve remained a selfless virgin for my husband, who’s spent nights in whores’ beds. Who knows what disease I might get.”
“Wolves can’t get diseases,” says Jonny.
Patrick tries to yank his wrist away, angry, but Jonny’s grip is strong. It doesn’t take much for him to pull Patrick fully back onto the bed, trapping him back under him. Patrick’s sure if he seriously told Jonny to let him go and leave his rooms that the king would, but he settles down, arms against his chest.
Jonny takes Patrick’s wrists in either hand. “I am ten years older than you. Was I supposed to wait?”
Patrick feels stupid, cheeks going red. “It’s unfair.”
“Unfair?” repeats Jonny.
Patrick swallows, embarrassed. It annoys him that Jonny has had sex. Not because he’s particularly jealous of the women and men who have shared his bed—he’s annoyed that a flaw in his biology, a simple gold birthmark in his eyes, has dictated that he be treated like a woman, that his virginity be closely guarded to keep from producing bastards at any cost, and while he was kept under a watchful eye, his husband could have been siring bastards for years.
It's unfair that they both are men, but he’s been reduced to nothing more than a broodmare.
“I am a man,” he says, because that’s all he can sum it up as.
“You are,” agrees Jonny.
“But I am nothing more than a broodmare.” Jonny opens his mouth to answer, but Patrick shakes his head. “I am a firstborn son. I was supposed to be king.”
Jonny doesn’t look mad as he searches Patrick’s face, but he doesn’t look at him with pity, either. Instead he looks at him with amusement. “My darling,” he says. “You will be more than a king.” He lets go of Patrick’s wrists to cup his face, running his thumbs over his cheeks. “You will be Patrick, Consort of Cothain, Prince of Wolves.”
“The wolves hate me,” says Patrick, meek. He doesn’t add that a title doesn’t make him a king. It’s power that does.
“They do not,” says Jonny, mouth against his. “They have yet to eat you.”
“That’s not funny,” mumbles Patrick.
Jonny smiles, looking boyish and happy. There’s a light dusting of subtle on his jaw, which makes him more handsome than usual. “I will give you your sons,” says Patrick, cupping Jonny’s face, pulling him down for another kiss. “If you will give me my kingship.”
“I’ve already told you,” starts Jonny.
“A title means nothing,” interrupts Patrick. He’s being too bold, he knows that he is. He’s in no position to be making demands of his king. He is a foreign prince in a foreign court, with everyone against him, but he wants to be a king. “Our first child will be a boy, and after he is born, you will make me more than a title.”
Jonny looks at him, eyes narrowed in anger, but he doesn’t pull away. Instead he kisses Patrick, fierce, sucking the air straight from his lungs. “What do you want?”
“A decree,” answers Patrick, breathing hard. “Make me your equal. Make me a real king.”
Jonny stares, face serious, but Patrick won’t back down. He won’t. The only thing he has to leverage is his body, his ability to make a child, a true heir under the law and the eyes of God. There’s no way to guarantee a boy, but he must try. “Promise me," he begs. “After I give you your heir, you will give me my kingship.”
Jonny searches his face, before he finally, finally relents. “I promise.”
“Say it,” begs Patrick.
“After you give me my heir, I will give you your kingship.”
Patrick relaxes back into the pillows, overcome with giddy laughter. Promises mean nothing when not written down, but he knows, knows that Jonny is too honorable to go back on his word. When Patrick births a boy, Jonny will grant him his kingship.
“Brat,” says Jonny, attacking Patrick’s neck with his mouth, biting and nipping at the hickey there, dragging a sharp moan from him. Patric immediately clamps down on his bottom lip.
“Don’t be quiet now, my king,” smirks Jonny, cock gliding hot and thick across Patrick’s thigh as he moves. “Let the servants know that we’re making my heir.”
Oh, oh, Patrick didn’t think they would make an heir tonight, but instead of being utterly frightened of the idea, he finds that maybe, perhaps, he is ready. He’s sure that if he said no, Jonny wouldn’t press the matter. He promised Patrick that he wouldn’t take what Patrick wasn’t willing to give to him.
Jonny pulls Patrick down the bed, thighs resting over his own, cock sliding between Patrick’s cheeks, fat head catching on the rim of Patrick’s hole. It sends a shock through Patrick, causing him to twist and let out a moan.
Jonny smirks down at him, looking like a predator who’s caught his prey, but Patrick feels unafraid. “Jonny,” he says, scrambling for Jonny’s shoulders, twisting himself just enough to catch Jonny’s cock on his rim again.
“I knew you were desperate for it,” says Jonny, voice low, eyes flashing red momentarily, but Patrick feels unafraid.
“Shut up,” commands Patrick, panting. If he moves his hips just right he can keep catching Jonny’s cock just right. It feels good, better than good, and he wants more. “Your fingers.”
Jonny lifts an eyebrow. “What do you want with them?”
“Inside of me,” says Patrick, remembering what Trevor told him he did with Hartman. “Put them inside of me.”
Jonny makes a noise, like he’s pained, surging forward ton kiss him, possessive and hot. “Oil,” he says. “We need oil.” When he pulls away, Patrick feels cold. He wraps his arms around himself, suddenly realizing what a harlot he is, spreading his legs easily at the first thing that feels good, but he guesses it doesn’t really count if he’s spreading his legs for his husband.
When Jonny returns with the oil, his eyes are red. They’re bright, shining like rubies as he looks down at Patrick, hungry. “Do all Wolfmen’s eyes glow like that?”
Jonny settles himself between Patrick’s thighs, dipping his fingers into the oil before he leans over and places it out the way on the floor. His fingers are cold, slippery as he takes Patrick’s thigh in hand, pushing his leg up and exposing the most intimate part of him. Patrick tries to take a deep breath, knowing already that he’s turning a bright red.
“Only an alpha’s eyes turn red,” says Jonny, speaking as if his eyes aren’t pinned on Patrick’s hole.
“Alpha?” asks Patrick, swallowing hard when Jonny runs an experimental finger across his hole. It feels strange, but his toes still curl.
“That’s what I am.” Jonny leans forward, kissing Patrick’s belly, right above his cock. Patrick thinks about Jonny’s mouth on his cock, wondering if that’s even something a king would do. Only whores suck cock.
“You are a king,” says Patrick, just as Jonny slips his finger in to the first knuckle. It’s the strangest thing he’s ever felt, and he lets out a surprised gasp, body freezing.
“I am both,” murmurs Jonny, running the thumb holding Patrick’s thigh soothingly back and forth. He captures Patrick’s mouth in a kiss, finger sliding deeper, startling a moan out of Patrick. “Try and relax.”
Patrick nods, reaching down to wrap a hand around the wrist holding his thigh as an anchor. Jonny moves his finger back and forth; it doesn’t take long for the feeling to go from odd to pleasant. “More.”
“More?” repeats Jonny, smirking playfully, eyes still red. It’s the beast inside of him coming out, but Patrick can’t find it within himself to be even a little bit scared. He knows, like he knows that the sky is blue, that Jonny won’t hurt him.
“More,” he nods, liking the way Jonny’s finger feels inside of him, knowing that it will get better with more.
“Brat,” says Jonny, fond, pushing in another finger alongside the first. It burns, the stretch sending a jolt of pain up Patrick’s spine, but Jonny is slow, resting his fingers just inside of him before he pushes them in further and then withdraws them.
He leans forward, and Patrick can kiss him, can moan against Jonny’s mouth, can feel Jonny’s cock hot and large against his thigh. He’ll have that cock inside of him shortly, and that makes him twist on Jonny’s fingers in anticipation. To think, only a day ago he was frightened to even see Jonny naked, and now, barely twenty-four hours later, he’s gagging for his cock.
It’s astounding what he’ll do to become a king.
Jonny crooks his fingers, and Patrick feels like he’s been sucker punched. The pleasure is unexpected, overwhelming, and he realizes now why Trevor liked this, why whores spread their legs for common men, why his cousin Richard has given his husband four children.
“Oh my god,” he moans, allowing his mouth to fall open as Jonny crooks his fingers again and again. “Jonny.”
Jonny growls, pulling his fingers loose to add a third. The stretch burns, but it’s so gloriously good that Patrick thrusts his hips down for more. “Look at you,” murmurs Jonny, eyes pinned on Patrick’s face, nostrils flaring. “My little whore.”
Patrick wants to shout that he’s not a whore, but the noise gets caught in his throat, the arousal at being called such a name mixing with the way Jonny’s fingers are making him feel.
Jonny smirks, growling again, burying his face in Patrick’s neck to lick and bite, even though his wrist is caught at an awkward angle. “My Whore King.”
“Jonny,” whines Patrick, toes curling, arousal low in the pit of his stomach. “Jonny, I’m going to—”
Jonny abruptly pulls his fingers out. Patrick curses, digging his nails into Jonny’s wrist, cock leaking against his belly. He could weep.
“I want to see you come on my cock,” says Jonny, jaw tight, reaching for the jar of oil.
Patrick wants to sob. “You are cruel.”
“You, darling, are a brat,” answers Jonny, looking overly fond, even as he takes his cock in hand and covers it with oil.
Patrick swallows nervously, watching.
Jonny’s cock is glorious, long and thick, nestled against a dark patch of hair. Patrick can’t make out his knot, but he’s sure it wasn’t a onetime thing. He takes a deep breath.
“Patrick,” says Jonny, voice going serious. He cups Patrick’s face with one hand, the other slick with oil touching his hip. “I won’t take from you what you don’t wish to give to me.”
Of all the scenarios Patrick imagined in his head regarding losing his virginity, he never imagined a scenario quite like this: Jonathan, King of Wolves, cock hard and leaking, looking at him so seriously, giving him a way out.
Oh, God has truly given him a king.
“Fuck me,” says Patrick, seizing forward to kiss Jonny passionately. “Fuck me.”
Jonny doesn’t need to be told twice. He drags Patrick down the bed, hands strong, wonderfully bruising, before he spreads Patrick’s legs, pushing them towards his chest.
Patrick isn’t sure what to do with his hands, or his legs, once Jonny puts him there. He feels exposed, flushing red, but he doesn’t have much time to dwell on the awkwardness of it all, because Jonny soon has one hand on his thigh, the other guiding the head of his cock to his rim. “Take deep breaths for me, sweetheart,” he says, and then he pushes in.
Patrick’s chest goes tight, eyes scrunching closed at the stretch. It’s painful, nothing how it felt when Jonny was fucking him with his fingers. “Breathe, sweetheart,” Jonny commands, voice sounding strained. “Breathe for me.”
Patrick tries to do as told, breathing heavily out his nose.
“Through your mouth,” Jonny corrects.
Patrick opens his eyes to glare.
Jonny grins, sweat beading down his forehead. He leans forward, cock sinking deeper, dragging a noise out of Patrick. “Sssh,” says Jonny, mouth against his, sharing the same air. “You can do this.”
Patrick wants to say no, that he can’t, that it hurts too much, and he wants it to stop, but Jonny is finally finally all the way in, pelvis snug against his ass. He doesn’t move, body trembling with the effort as he smooths curls away from Patrick’s sweaty face.
They kiss gently, Patrick feeling stretched open and split in two, unsure if this will actually get better, until Jonny moves, giving a shallow thrust that makes Patrick’s toes curl. It’s back to feeling strange, not so unpleasant, but it doesn’t seem to hurt as much.
“There we go,” murmurs Jonny, keeping his thrusts shallow. “Wrap your legs around me.”
Patrick nods, unfolding his legs to lock his ankles together over Jonny’s back and oh—oh that changes the angle completely. He gasps, digging his fingers into the meat of Jonny’s shoulders.
Jonny smiles down at him, all teeth, eyes still bright red. He ducks, kissing Patrick, before he buries his face in Patrick’s neck, teeth going to the hickey. Patrick moans, scratching down Jonny’s back, tightening the grip of his ankles as Jonny starts to move, thrusts not so shallow anymore.
“Jonny,” he breathes, feeling suffocated and crushed and oh so good as Jonny fucks him, driving his cock in over and over again, drawing desperate noises out of Patrick that he tries to stifle but gives up. Let the entire country hear him be a whore if only he can spend the rest of his life being split open on Jonny’s cock.
“Fucking look at you,” growls Jonny, voice rough, every syllable sounding animalistic; it sends a thrill down Patrick’s spine.
“Please,” he begs, unsure of what he wants, but Jonny seems to know. He sits up, changing the angle, taking Patrick by the thighs and spreading him obscenely wide, stuffing his fat cock into Patrick and hitting that spot with his cockhead he found with his fingers earlier. Patrick sobs, unaware that sex could feel this good, unaware that someone could see him like this and not hurt him.
“Look at you,” repeats Jonny, voice gravely, fingers leaving bruises on Patrick’s thighs. “Beautiful.”
Patrick doesn’t think he can turn even redder. “Stop.”
Jonny grins, all teeth, his canines looking sharper than usual. “My darling king,” he murmurs, reaching between them to wrap a hand around Patrick’s cock. He rubs his thumb over the head, and it’s enough to send Patrick over the edge. He comes, feeling light headed, vision black at the edges, his come smearing over his belly and Jonny’s large hand.
Jonny keeps going, hips feeling like they could bruise Patrick. It hurts, aches deep down inside, too much, but Patrick holds on, dizzy, clinging to Jonny with one hand.
He forgets all about Jonny’s knot until it’s pressing against his rim. He can’t take it, he can’t, it’s too big, he’s already being split open enough as it is, but Jonny shifts, spreading his legs even wider, and his knot slips in.
If Patrick hadn’t already come, he’d come again, just at the feeling of being stuffed so full.
“Fuck,” curses Jonny, hips slowing down because there’s nowhere from him to go. He’s stuck inside of Patrick, and the shame of it makes Patrick groan, feeling hot all over.
He’s being bred.
He truly is a broodmare.
Jonny gives one more shallow thrust, before he stuffs his face into Patrick’s neck, biting down hard enough to draw blood, coming, making Patrick feel so full and dirty. He can do nothing but lie there, crushed under Jonny’s weight, feeling Jonny still inside of him, knot hard and unyielding. Jonny’s teeth are still dug deep into his neck, tongue flicking back and forth as he growls. It makes Patrick nervous for the first time.
“Jonny,” he breathes, trying not to move. His thighs ache. “Jonny.”
Jonny removes his teeth, shifting, knot pulling at Patrick’s rim. Patrick gasps, cock giving a feeble twitch.
“Darling,” says Jonny, voice like gravel as he kisses the bitemark. He pushes up on his elbows, hair plastered to his face, eyes still red, but they’re soft as he looks down at Patrick, proud almost, which makes Patrick flush in embarrassment.
Jonny grins, kissing his mouth, soft, fingers pushing his hair from his face. “You did wonderful.”
“You’re still inside of me,” blurts Patrick.
Jonny nods, swallowing, smiling as he shifts his weight, trying not to crush Patrick as much. “We should have done this on our sides.”
All the shifting is tugging at Patrick’s rim, making him feel uncomfortable. He can feel Jonny’s come leaking from his body around the knot. “You have a knot, like a beast.”
“We should have talked about this more,” says Jonny.
“What’s done has been done,” says Patrick, licking his lips. He’s done it. He’s lost his virginity and consummated his marriage. He’s a true consort now.
Jonny strokes the side of his face tenderly, Patrick leaning into the touch. He’s tired, but he can’t sleep like this. “How long until you can—?”
“I don’t know,” Jonny admits, finally looking embarrassed by something. “Wolves only knot with their mates.”
“Huh,” says Patrick.
Jonny swallows, carefully settling his weight back on Patrick. Patrick lets his feet rest on the mattress, trying to get comfortable. His thighs ache, and so does his ass, but he thinks he could get used to this feeling—this feeling of being full and used by Jonny.
Jonny stuffs his face into his neck, mouth immediately going back to the bitemark. Patrick’s neck is sore, and it hurts when he turns his head. Jonathan bit him. Actually bit him. “You bit me and it hurts.”
Jonny licks the mark. “I marked you.”
“I’m sorry,” says Jonny, not sounding sorry at all. He sounds pleased with himself, pulling away to sniff at Patrick’s neck before he returns, sucking a bruise there. Patrick mewls, turning his head away. “Stop, it hurts.”
Jonny does as asked, pulling his mouth away and kissing Patrick’s shoulder before he lies his head on the pillow. His weight leaves Patrick breathless, but he enjoys the feeling. As uncomfortable as he is, he feels safe, protected, like no one could hurt him.
It feels like it takes eternity for Jonny’s knot to go down enough for him to pull out. Patrick feels filthy all over again, feeling Jonny’s seed go with him. “You’re alright,” Jonny says when he whimpers.
He goes to the wash basin, returning with a warm cloth. “Sorry,” he apologizes, wiping the seed from Patrick’s stomach and then from between his legs as gently as he can. Patrick shuts his legs as soon as Jonny draws away with the cloth.
He watches Jonny walk away to the basin, taking a keen interest in the way the sweat on Jonny’s body gleams from the low firelight. Jonny is beautiful.
“Will you stay?” he asks suddenly, watching Jonny splash water on his face before he cleans his cock with the cloth.
Jonny turns his head to look at him. His eyes have returned to their normal brown. “Why wouldn’t I?”
Patrick feels a weight lift from his shoulders. It’s not like kings to stay. “The whole night?”
Jonny wipes his face with a dry cloth, before he returns to the bed. “I will have to leave early,” he says, pushing the furs back to crawl into bed, dragging Patrick with him. “But I will stay the whole night.”
Patrick sighs contently, draping himself across Jonny’s chest, ear right over his heart. It’s the noise of Jonny’s heart thumping that lulls him to sleep.
Patrick wakes because surprisingly, he’s too hot.
The fire died sometime during the middle of the night, and a servant hasn’t been in to stoke it, but he’s squished between Siggy and Nønne, with Herrick and Bjørn at his feet. Jonny is nowhere to be seen, but the door to his study is open, and Patrick can see light from a fire.
He crawls out of bed, careful not to disturb the wolves. Siggy snorts annoyedly at him anyway.
He’s freezing as he finds a robe, tiptoeing into the study, where Jonny is sitting in his trousers, pouring over a piece of parchment which he must have had delivered to him from his antechamber. Patrick sneaks up behind him, wrapping his arms around his shoulders, feeling bold. Surely, he can be this affectionate with Jonny now, since he’s had his cock up his ass? “Your naked husband is better to look at than a parchment.”
Jonny leans his head back, turning to kiss Patrick’s chin. “The wolves kicked me out.”
“You give into them too easily,” teases Patrick, looking over Jonny’s shoulder at the parchment. It’s nothing important to him, just a report from the western part of the kingdom about the borderlands. Edros is making no move across the border. “Come back to bed. Edros can wait.”
“I have to leave soon,” answers Jonny, but he makes no move to get up. Instead he leans further back into the chair, into Patrick’s arms.
“You could stay.”
Jonny shake his head. “A king doesn’t waste his day in bed, unlike some people.”
Patrick snuffs. “At least lie with me until you have to leave.”
Jonny relents. He follows Patrick back to the bed, dismissing the wolves from the bed with a snap of his fingers. “Kicked you out of bed, eh?” says Patrick, curling himself around Jonny to absorb his body heat.
The atmosphere between them feels different, more relaxed. They’ve known each other in the most intimate way a person can know another person. There is nothing Patrick can hide from Jonny now.
“I’ll keep my word,” says Jonny, playing with the hair on the nape of Patrick’s neck. “I promise.”
Patrick kisses Jonny’s bare chest, feeling a sudden pit of anxiety.
Trevor knows, like he knows everything, immediately. “You slept with him, you harlot.”
“He is my husband,” says Patrick, making no effort to remove himself from his bed. After Jonny left—dressing hastily, but not before leaving Patrick with a passionate kiss—the wolves had clambered back on. Siggy and Nønne had made no effort to follow Jonny.
Trevor looks unsurprised by the wolves; he’s adjusted to their presence a lot quicker than Patrick has. He pushes Nønne out of the way to crawl into bed, not even flinching when she growls in annoyance. “Tell me all about it.”
Patrick should get dressed for the council meeting. He’ll be late if he doesn’t leave the bed and get dressed soon, but he doesn’t want to leave the warmth. Instead, he curls himself around Herrick. “He has a knot on his cock, Trevor.”
“It’s the strangest thing,” agrees Trevor, nodding. Patrick remembers suddenly that Trevor’s had a cock in his mouth. Did he swallow the knot down too? Patrick doesn’t ask. “He bred me, Trevor.”
“You’re not an animal.”
“But they are Trevor, don’t you understand?”
Trevor blinks at him, biting his lower lip. Patrick sighs, playing with one of Herrick’s ears. “There are beasts living inside of them, Trevor. Underneath their skin are beasts that would devour us if they could.”
“Don’t start that again,” says Trevor, serious. “You always—don’t ruin this for yourself. You’re married to a good man, a good king. Not many can say that.” Trevor sits up, crawling from the bed, ornery as he settles Patrick’s clothes for the day. “Don’t ruin this for yourself.”
Patrick waits until Trevor is doing the clasps of his cloak to answer. “I promised Jonathan a first son for a kingship.”
Trevor’s fingers fumble. “You truly are an idiot.”
Patrick settles his mouth into a hard line. Trevor says, “And if you deliver him a girl? What then?”
“It will be a boy,” hisses Patrick, sure of it. He will give Jonny a true heir, a boy, a wolf if he has to.
Trevor doesn’t reply.
“Your Majesty,” Earl Braddock is saying just as Patrick is allowed into the council chamber. “It’s inappropriate.”
Jonny looks smug in his chair at the end of the table. He’s smirking at Earl Braddock, like the man’s displeasure at Patrick’s presence is giving him a great enjoyment. It probably is, the bastard.
The other men assembled rise to greet Patrick like they should, but they too look very unpleased to see him. Jonny comes to greet him, calling Patrick darling before he guides Patrick to the head of the table, to the seat reserved for the king.
“Your Majesty,” starts Braddock, but Jonny cuts him off.
“His Highness will be joining us for all council meetings from now on,” he says, smoothing Patrick’s cloak down and pushing his chair in like a servant. Patrick doesn’t know exactly what Jonny is playing at, but he’s sure that it has something to do with not only asserting some sort of authority on Patrick’s part, while simultaneously pissing off his entire council.
Patrick smiles sweetly at the council. They look back at him, barely hiding their anger. He doesn’t know if their anger is centered over the fact that they equate him to being a woman, and that they believe strongly that women have no place in politics, or if their anger is placed in the fact that he’s a foreign consort. It’s probably both, knowing his luck.
“Gentlemen,” he says, trying to keep his voice airy and light. “I look forward to working with you.”
Earl Braddock stares at him while the Duke of Cedel glares. Patrick’s smile falters. He feels like recoiling into the safety of his cloak. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s never been trained to do anything more than play the harp and look pretty; he wants to play at king but he knows nothing.
Jonny takes a seat meant for a lesser man on Patrick’s right. He leads the council meeting, twisting a quill between his fingers when he’s not holding Patrick’s hand under the table. Patrick stays quiet for the meeting, trying to hold his head high and pay attention, but he gets lost between figures and numbers. It’s a slow, dawning realization that despite repeatedly falling asleep to the old tomb of Cothainian history, he knows little to nothing about this country.
He didn’t even realize that the capital was only a few miles away from New Wandour.
“I am not made for this,” he tells Jonny, once the council has been dismissed. None of the dukes or earls paid Patrick any respect as they left, only bidding farewell to their king, but Patrick was too distracted by his own ignorance to really be annoyed.
“You’ll grow annoyed by them soon enough,” says Jonny, looking annoyed enough for the both of them. He continues to twirl his quill, looking like he’d be willing to sign an execution warrant for his councilors if it was put in front of him.
Patrick doesn’t want to outright admit that kingship might not be the most suitable occupation for him. He knows nothing of the country he wishes to rule, how to run a council, or even where the capital is.
“No one becomes a king in one day,” says Jonny.
Patrick blinks at him.
“I was a peasant boy before I became a king,” Jonny reminds him gently. He smiles, standing up to lean over Patrick and kiss him softly. “You will learn one day, my little king.”
“You mock me,” says Patrick.
“I don’t mean to.” Jonny smiles, pushing a curl behind Patrick’s ear. “You will learn, like every king does. You could read a thousand books and not know a damn thing.”
Patrick returns to his rooms after the council meeting. Trevor is there, stoking the fire and organizing Patrick’s wardrobe. He was cruel to him earlier, so he wraps Trevor in his arms and wrestles him to the bed, Trevor going easily because they never manage to stay mad at each other for long.
“You are a brat,” says Trevor, kicking off his boots. “An idiot brat. What will you do if the baby is a girl? If he is like you? You make promises you might never be able to keep.”
“I know,” says Patrick. He needs to give Jonny a true heir: a boy who be a king, not a boy to be bred and married off. He’s made a promise that he might not be able to keep.
Trevor sighs. “We will worry when the time comes.”
Jonny doesn’t visit his bed that night, which makes Patrick feel small and stupid, like it was all a trick for Jonny to finally take his virginity, but Jonny comes to him the next day to share their lunch, and that night he returns to Patrick’s bed. After they’re done coupling, Patrick reads from his book of prayers aloud even though Jonny has no taste for his religion.
The Wolfpeople have their own gods, ancient and old beings who control the weather and move the sea. Patrick doesn’t believe in them, not really, and doesn’t believe that there can be multiple gods or one but his own, but he keeps his opinions to himself. He reads from his prayer book and kisses his cross each night before bed, but there is no mass to attend or daily worship. Most importantly, there are no men who claim to speak to God and know His will.
He likes to hear the stories of the Wolfpeople's gods. He’s grown up with the stories from the Bible and knows them by heart, but the stories of the Wolfpeople’s gods are new and exciting. Hartman has told him stories about Odin and Thor, and there are draperies across the castle decorated with the escapades of the goddess Skaði. There are too many gods for Patrick to remember, and he gets lost and confused between them, but Hartman loves the gods, and he doesn’t mind telling Patrick a story over and over again.
Patrick likes to hear the stories of Loki and his great wolf son Fenrir the most. Hartman reminds him to be wary of the trickster Loki; he can shift into anyone or anything and might lure Patrick into trouble, but since Patrick doesn’t truly believe, he only smiles at Hartman’s warnings.
It’s Jonny who tells him about Sköll and his brother Hati, who chase the sun and the moon. “Sköll chases Árvakr and Alsviðr, who pull the chariot that holds Sól, because he wants to eat her. Hati chases Máni across the night sky. When Sköll and Hati reach Ragnarök, they will devour Sól and Máni and free Fenrir so he can kill Odin.”
The names roll off Jonny’s tongue easily. They get caught in Patrick’s mouth, hard and bitter. He sounds so mad every time he says Nønne. “Odin knows this will happen?”
“And yet he still allows it?”
“The gods know better than wolves and men that there are some things that cannot be changed.”
Patrick puts his prayer book down, rolling over to straddle Jonny’s hips, feeling bold, thighs aching from their recent coupling. If they keep up like this, he might be carried through the streets in his own chariot heavy with baby. “You keep saying wolf and men, like they’re not the same thing.”
“We are not,” says Jonny, big hands on Patrick’s hips. Patrick can feel Jonny’s cock stirring under him, the dirty scoundrel.
“You look like a man to me.”
Jonny smiles, gliding his hands up Patrick’s sides. “I am a wolf hiding in a man’s body.” He lifts his eyes from where he’s been watching his fingers move. “I can hear and smell like a wolf, but unlike a wolf, if you stab me I will heal. If you tear off my arm, I will grow a new one.”
Patrick swallows, feeling nervous. Jonny’s eyes are starting to glow red. “You are a god, not a wolf.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in our gods.”
Patrick shakes his head. “Are you Loki in disguise?”
Jonny laughs. He places his hand at the back of Patrick’s neck, drawing him down for a kiss. “Don’t fear me, my love.”
“I never said I did.”
“I can smell it on you,” says Jonny, voice even. “When you’re nervous or afraid. I don’t like that you smell that way around me.”
He’ll never understand these beasts, not truly. How does Jonny expect him not to fear him when he could stab the man through with a sword and it would do nothing?
If he were to cut off Jonny’s head, would it grow back?
“When the lords and soldiers would come back from the battlefield, I would beg them for stories about you, about the Wolfmen. They would tell me that you could turn into a beast, a giant thing that would take off a man’s head in one bite.” Patrick licks his lips. “You would ride into battle on your great black stallion, slaying men with your sword, and when you grew tired of that, you would shed your armor like a barbarian and tear men apart with your teeth as a beast.”
Jonny doesn’t deny this. Instead he shifts, settling Patrick against his cock that’s grown hard. Patrick gasps. This isn’t an arousing conversation, but his body has tricked itself into responding to Jonny how Jonny wants it to. He lifts, the head of Jonny’s cock pushing against his rim, and then he sinks down, still loose and wet from when Jonny took him earlier.
The stretch stings, his thighs aching, but he sinks down until he’s snug in Jonny’s lap. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be used to feeling this full, this split in half.
“It’s true,” says Jonny, wrapping one large arm around Patrick’s waist, bracing his feet on the mattress. “When I grow bored of killing men with my sword I kill them with my teeth.” He grins, eyes fully red, canines extended down like an animal. Patrick gasps, frightened, but Jonny soothes him, kissing his shoulder before he drags a tooth across his skin.
“Don’t be afraid of me,” he says, lifting Patrick with what feels like the strength of ten men. Patrick lets out a moan, bracing his weight on Jonny’s shoulders. He sinks down himself, spreading his legs wider, rising up only to repeat the steps over and over again, fucking himself on Jonny’s cock like a whore, aroused by his own fear.
“My Whore King,” breathes Jonny, fond, causing Patrick to turn red. He’s not a whore, but oh does he love to be called one, oh does he love to be reminded that he’s Jonny’s.
“Scoundrel,” he answers, reaching between them to wrap a hand around his cock. “No better than Loki, you bastard beast.”
Jonny laughs, full hearted, sweat collecting on his brow as he seizes up to kiss Patrick. Patrick pauses, chasing Jonny’s breath, digging his hands into Jonny’s short hair to tug. Jonny growls, the noise sending a spike of arousal through his chest. He’s being fucked by a beast, by Loki the damnable trickster in disguise.
Jonny holds him up and fucks into him, cock hitting that spot inside of Patrick that sends sparks shooting behind his eyes. He moans, stripping his cock until his body can’t take it anymore and he comes, decorating his hand and their stomachs with his seed.
Jonny groans, continuing to fuck him, knot hard and tugging at Patrick’s rim with every thrust. Patrick feels worn, collapsing down, trusting Jonny to hold him up and keep him steady. He wills his body to relax, clinging to Jonny’s shoulders and letting gravity do the work as Jonny finally stuffs him full of his knot.
He’ll never get used to this feeling either—of having a knot stuffed up his ass and Jonny’s come kept inside of him.
“Much easier like this,” jokes Jonny, tucking a hair from Patrick’s face. Patrick remains sitting up, despite how much he just wants to lie down. “You will be with child in no time.”
Patrick feels that wave of anxiety settle in the pit of his stomach. He jerks, hissing when Jonny’s knot tugs on his rim uncomfortably. Jonny frowns at him.
“I will give you a son,” he promises, feeling dread and worry. What if God spites him? What if he ends up like the Consort of Hesnen, as barren as a winter plain? Or like the Lady of Bluin Brya, who was cursed to have eight daughters?
“You will give me a son,” agrees Jonny, looking unconvinced and mildly worried.
When spring finally falls over New Wandour and all the snow melts, Patrick is no closer to being with child than he was when he married Jonny during the harsh winter. Jonny visits his rooms often, lavishing him with gifts and spending copious amount of time between his thighs, but there are no changes in Patrick’s weight, or his appetite, or his appearance.
“These things take time,” is what the midwife tells him, but her reassurance falls on deaf ears. The warm weather has brought with it the dukes and earls and lords from the duchies for Patrick’s coronation, where he’ll be officially crowned Consort of Cothain, with no king in his title and no real power, and where rumors will run rapid about his lack of child.
In those first few weeks of marriage he hadn’t cared about his consummation, about his ability to become with child, but now everyone knows. The hickey on his neck has turned into a permanent bruise, Jonny’s canine’s scarring over his skin. He has been marked and he has been fucked and the entire kingdom knows, but there is no child to show for it.
If Jonny is disappointed in the lack of child, he doesn’t say anything. He’s too busy slowly getting rid of his council and dealing with the repercussions while simultaneously drafting plans for the first coronation in over sixty years. Patrick’s opinions on the details aren’t asked. Instead he is poked and prodded by the tailor and reassured that his outfit will be ready for his coronation on the sixth of May, which is less than a month away.
Trevor tries to calm him the best that he can, but he too is distracted by the details of the coronation and of his own, much smaller wedding. Patrick makes sure that the tailor pokes and prods Trevor so Trevor can have a wonderfully beautiful wedding tunic and trousers himself. Hartman is from a good family, but his father is a minor baron in the scheme of things, with an old title that means little.
The faster Patrick becomes with child, the faster he gains his kingship, and the faster he can give good men like Hartman land and titles and favors. He shouldn’t pick favorites, but Trevor will always be more important than any duke or earl. He will bestow Hartman with half the lands of Cothain if it means Trevor will be taken care of.
Patrick takes to ignoring the arrival of the peerage to instead pray to God and simultaneously take pilgrimages to lay sacrifices at the feet of Freyr, the Wolfpeople’s god of fertility.
(The first time, Hartman didn’t warn him about Freyr’s very large, and very erect penis. Patrick had dropped the basket full of the sacrifice all over Freyr’s feet, but Hartman had reassured him that Freyr was not a god who was easily offended.)
He can no longer ignore the peerage after they begin to complain to Jonny about his snubbing. “I know my cock is a distraction,” the king says, smiling when Patrick slaps his shoulder meanly. “But you must at least acknowledge them.”
Acknowledging the peerage is a tiring task. He must remember names and titles and the proper addresses for men and women who look like they still want to squish him like a bug. The only members of the peerage who don’t look at him like a bug are the Duke of Ethistan and the Duke of Ple Clait.
“I’m very glad to see you, Your Graces,” says Patrick, letting Sharpy kiss his cheek adoringly. Seabs smiles at him, making a show of it as he bows. The man’s grown fonder of Patrick, which only makes Patrick happier to see him.
Sharpy and Seabs have brought their families with them, which raises a suspicion at the back of Patrick’s mind. He doesn’t think that the two dukes would move their families across Cothain for a coronation.
“They’re staying,” explains Jonny, when Patrick asks.
Jonny nods, distracted. He wants Patrick to ride in to the capital on a boat. “To be on the council.”
Patrick wishes he had been told, but he doesn’t have much complaint, not after he meets the duchesses. Abby and Dayna are lovely, and so are their children, who spend their days making a mess of Patrick’s rooms; he doesn’t mind because he loves children, even ones with sharp little teeth.
Raplines sends an ambassador for the coronation. Artem Anisimov is a tall man with a thick accent, but he’s nice, smiling at Patrick and asking Patrick actual questions about his opinions on state and religion. It’s refreshing to be talked to like an actual human being, so despite the scandal of it all, Patrick allows Anismov’s mistress into his presence.
Artemi Panarin is as tall as Patrick, with blue eyes and a nice smile. He doesn’t speak much of their language, but he makes Patrick smile and laugh and his presence makes the peerage upset, which makes Patrick happy.
“A mistress is not an appropriate friend to make,” Jonny complains, looking tired and warn. Even with Sharpy and Seabs now firmly by his side, Jonny still always looks so tired.
“I am only trying to acknowledge everyone,” retorts Patrick.
Jonny sighs his defeat.
On the morning of Patrick’s coronation, Trevor dresses him in an all white ensemble with gold trim, even more elaborate than the outfit he wore for his wedding. Trevor braids trinkets into his hair, but his necklace and rings must be removed to make room for the jewels that will adorned him during his coronation.
“This is ridiculous,” says Patrick.
“This is your coronation,” replies Trevor, dressed just as prettily as Patrick. Patrick couldn’t allow for him not to look pretty on this day.
Patrick put his foot down about the boat. He gets seasick easily, and the thought of an entire kingdom watching him wretch over the side of the boat was too mortifying to even think about. Instead he has a carriage, large and white and drawn by four white horses.
All the white is honestly quite sickening. Jonny is trying to send a message that Patrick is pure and chaste, even though the night before he had the king’s cock in his mouth. But Patrick knows that the image of a chaste consort is better than the image of a whore, and while there still is no heir, he’ll cling to the image of a good, honorable man.
It’s quiet as they leave the safety of the fortress. Patrick stares out the window, the journey feeling eerily similar to the journey he took from Ethica. Bjørn and Herrick run along side the carriage before they get bored and run off ahead, weaving between the legs of the horses dangerously, nipping at their heels before a guard chases them away.
The quietness slowly gives way to crowds of people, drawn out by the warmth and the chance to see their consort. They crowd along the roadway, throwing flowers into the dirt, cheering when Patrick’s carriage passes by. Patrick sits up straighter, waving out the window, feeling jubilant when the crowds cry in joy.
The crowds become overwhelming when they finally reach the capital. Patrick can see nothing but a sea of people. They’re in the streets, crowding the shop stores, hanging out of windows to get a glimpse of him. It’s terrifying.
The carriage slows down, barely moving because the throng of people is too large. Patrick can hear the shouts of people, and the carriage starts to rock as people crowd around it. He reaches out, grabbing hold of Trevor’s hand, terrified that the people will overwhelm the carriage, but a guard appears on either side, deterring the people, and finally they start moving again.
When the carriage stops again, it’s in front of the steps of what looks like a large cathedral, but Patrick knows that it can’t be one. He doesn’t have time to contemplate the rise and fall of Christianity in Cothain—a guard opens the carriage door, and he’s ushered out into othe noise of the crowd.
The people go silent.
Patrick can hear his own heart thumping away in his chest.
The people stare, scrutinizing him.
“Your Highness,” says a guard, ushering Patrick forward, and then the crowd starts to roar, seemingly pleased by what they see. They throw flowers at Patrick’s feet. He stops momentarily to gather a few, smiling gratefully at his people, before he hands the bouquet to Trevor.
It goes quiet inside what was once a cathedral, but Patrick can see now that it’s been stripped of its stained glass and religious relics. There are no gods here, not even Odin or Thor. Maybe once Jonny allowed it to be used as a place of worship, but now Patrick understands that the cathedral only serves to fit all of the peerage in once place.
The peerage stand when the doors shut behind him, and then they all bow in sync. Patrick didn’t know he could feel so powerful and so small all at once.
At the altar, Jonny is standing, dressed regally in his fur cloak and fine boots, his gold crown glistening in the sunlight streaming in through the windows. Siggy and Nønne are waiting for him too, along with the Duke and Duchess of Ethistan and Ple Clait. Abby and Dayna share a red, white trimmed cloak between them while Sharpy holds the royal scepter on a pillow, and Seabs holds Patrick’s crown.
Jonny smiles, and Patrick tries not to run to him. Instead he holds his head high, shoulders back, as he makes his way down the long aisle, Trevor and his wolves following behind him.
When he gets to the steps of the altar, he settles onto his knees as if in prayer. Dayna and Abby move swiftly, setting the red cloak over his shoulders, fastening it in front before they spread it around him like a protective barrier. They step away, bowing respectively.
Sharpy hands Patrick the golden specter, bowing to him before he steps out of the way for Jonny who’s holding Patrick’s golden crown delicately in his hands. Patrick glances up and oh, Jonny looks so proud. He places he crown on Patrick’s head, gentle, before he takes Patrick’s hand not holding the specter and helps him rise.
Jonny guides Patrick to his side. He holds Patrick’s hand up, looking prouder than Patrick’s ever seen him look.
“My people,” says Jonny, voice echoing in the large hall. “I give you Patrick, King Consort of Cothain, King of Wolves.”
The crowd erupts into cheers.
Patrick turns his head to look at Jonny, and feels almost like he might faint.
“I am a king,” he says, in the secret room behind the altar, eyes wide and shocked in disbelief.
Jonny cups his face and kisses him. “Why wouldn’t you be?”
“We have no son.”
“Only a fool would bet their kingship on a firstborn son.”
Patrick searches Jonny’s face, trying to find the joke, but Jonny’s face is serious and soft. “You are my mate.”
“I don’t know what that means,” answers Patrick.
Jonny frowns. “I thought you were—the bookkeeper said you were reading a book on our history.”
“Yes, well,” says Patrick, flushing. “I never really finished it. I kept falling asleep. Your history is really boring, you do know that right? I didn’t even make it to the three kings before the last one.”
“You know nothing,” says Jonny, frowning, but he still kisses Patrick, anyway.
Jonny releases a decree two days after Patrick’s coronation saying that Patrick is a sovereign king who can rule in his own right. Jonny can’t make any big decision without Patrick’s say or consent, and Patrick cries alone in his rooms for a solid hour in happiness.
He has no intentions of finishing the tomb on Cothainin history, so instead he prods Hartman into telling him everything that he needs to know, holding Trevor’s not so virgin hand in marriage at ransom until Hartman tells him everything.
“Mates are soulmates,” says Hartman, staring at Patrick like he has two heads. He hasn’t shown Patrick any respect in the past month, which is truly Patrick’s fault, seeing as he made Trevor fall in love with the scoundrel in the first place. “Wolves mate for life.”
“And have you mated my dear Trevor?”
Hartman doesn’t answer, but Trevor does have a bump hidden under his tunic when he walks barefoot up the same hill Patrick was married on months before.
Patrick only pretends to be scandalized.
Two years to the day that Patrick stood on a hill in the middle of winter, his beast of a husband looking thoroughly unimpressed by him, Patrick gives birth to a baby girl. He names her Eleanor.
“I told you,” says Trevor.
“Be quiet you,” says Patrick, looking down at his daughter. She has a tuff of brown hair, and piercing blue eyes that all wolf babies are born with. She’s small and so tiny and so lovely, and she will rage wars and kill men and be the wealthiest woman in the world.
She’ll be better than any king.
“You broke your promise,” says Jonny, when he’s finally allowed into the birthing room. Patrick kicks him out.
When Jonny is allowed back in a half hour later, he kisses Patrick’s forehead. “My Little King,” he says. Patrick sighs, handing their daughter over. He waits for Jonny’s disappointment to show, but Jonny looks at Eleanor like he’s never seen anything more beautiful. “One day she’ll make men rage war for her and then steal their kingdom right from under them.”
“It’s what they deserve,” agrees Patrick.
Jonny smiles. He hands Eleanor over to her wet nurse, before he kisses Patrick’s forehead. “You did wonderful, my Whore King.”
Patrick blushes, turning his head away. “Scoundrel.”
A week after her birth, Eleanor is crowned Heir Apparent. Jonny honors Patrick with a new cloak and all the jewels that he wants, and a feast big enough to feed the entire kingdom.
When Patrick had imagined his twentieth birth year celebrations, he hadn’t imagined them taking place in a fortress a thousand miles away from the country he grew up in, surrounded by a people who were only his by marriage but had grown on him, while sitting next to a husband that he had barely known, but was now bonded to by soul. He had imagined celebrating in Paelford Castle, right there in the great hall where his family had held every celebration, surrounded by the servants and nobles he had known his entire life, his parents and sisters on either side of him.
He hadn’t imagined celebrating his twentieth birth year on his wedding anniversary, or sharing the same birth day as his daughter, either.
Sometimes reality is better than imagination.