Strictly speaking, interactions between the royal family and their servants were frowned upon, other than distinct formal interactions that took place between the Emperor and Empress and the heads of the various household staffs. Interactions between the princes and princesses and servants were supposed to be limited to expressions of gratitude for jobs well done.
Jensen, the new kitchen apprentice, had yet to be thanked for a job well done. He was easily distracted, he completed his work hastily, his attention always elsewhere. Anastasia had witnessed the cook smack him on the side of the head on more than one occasion. She mainly witnessed this when she was sneaking into the kitchen to steal a cookie or two. The cook would mock-angrily warn her about ruining her dinner, but there would be a huge smile on her face as she shooed Anastasia out of the kitchen. Anastasia would stick her tongue out at Jensen as she triumphantly held up her ill-gotten cookies.
Today was Jensen’s day off kitchen duty, and the tutor was finished with her for the day. Anastasia had ‘borrowed’ some of Alexei’s clothes, much more suitable than hers for playing outside. Although he was younger than she was, his clothes fit her pretty well. She had no proper shoes for racing, so she went barefoot. She had snuck down the servant’s stairs to the courtyard, not wanting a family member or a high-ranking staff member to catch her and send her back to the room to change.
Jensen laughed when he saw her. “I’ve never seen anyone look less like a princess than you do.”
They had known each other for a few months now and had gotten into quite a bit of mischief together. Jensen cared nothing for the formality the rest of the castle was seeped in, and Anastasia sought out his company for just that reason.
Anastasia felt gloriously free, away from prying, disapproving eyes. She smiled at her friend, pushed her hair away from her face. “Race you to the pond.”
“Sure, if you want to lose again,” Jensen said with a shrug. “You’d think you’d be tired of losing by now.”
Jensen might be four years older, but Anastasia was tall for her age, wiry, and fast. She just grinned at Jensen, and without waiting for any kind of a signal, took off running.
She heard a “Hey not fair,” being shouted behind her and then heard Jensen’s feet flying toward her.
She laughed, feeling happier in that moment than she had all week. Jensen had one day off each week, and as much as she could she get away from her studies and duties, she spent it with him.
Inevitably, the rough ground cutting into her bare feet began to slow her down. Jensen, ever the opposite of a gentleman, gave her a gleeful shove as he soared past her.
They were both laughing when they got to the pond.
They spent some time splashing their feet into the pond. Jensen complaining about how much the cook hated him, Anastasia complaining about her strict tutor. They climbed up their favorite tree, sang to the birds, made up outrageous tales of dark magic and dragons and witches.
Dusk was coming when Anastasia remembered that there was to be a ball that night. “I hate these things,” Anastasia commented as she climbed back down the tree. “I have to get all dressed up and be all prim and proper. At least Grandmother will be there.”
“You hate them?” Jensen asked. “I had to give up my night off because of this silly ball. Tell you what, I’ll trade places with you, you can deal with the cook and I’ll dress up all fancy like and put on grand airs.”
“Hmm.” Anastasia considered, as Jensen jumped off the lowest branch to land beside her. “You would look even prettier than me in a dress.”
Jensen growled at her playfully and then chased her all the way back.
It took Anastasia a while to get ready, even more time for her mother to fuss over her hair. By the time she made it downstairs, the ball was in full swing and Anastasia took her place by her parents’ side as her eyes scanned the room looking for her favorite relative.
“Grandmother!” Having finally spotted her, Anastasia broke away from her mother and father and raced to where her Grandmother was sitting, as primly as if she were sitting on a throne.
“Hello darling,” her grandmother said, arms open for a hug which Anastasia was only too happy to give. “You look beautiful tonight.”
Anastasia looked down at her long, fancy gown. “I look stupid.” She didn’t mind wearing dresses normally, but after the freedom afforded her by her brother’s clothes, the dress felt heavy and confining.
However, she did kind of like getting admiring glances and feeling pretty. Even Jensen had nothing disparaging to say to her when she had stopped by the kitchen to grab some water, but instead had grinned at her and told her she might be a princess after all.
“You look beautiful and anyone here would tell you as much. But I do wonder if you would rather be wearing your brother’s clothes?” Grandmother commented, with a twinkle in her eye.
Anastasia startled, and almost asked how she knew, but then she remembered. “I’m going to miss you when you go to Paris,” she said instead because it was true, but also to change the subject. “I wish I could go with you.”
“I do too,” Grandmother admitted. “But hopefully this will help.”
She held out a small decorated box to Anastasia. Eagerly Anastasia grabbed it. “Is it a jewelry box?”
“Open it and see.”
Anastasia did, and nothing happened. They both looked at the empty little box a moment before her Grandmother winked at her. “It seems to be stuck; I’ll just give it a push.”
Anastasia watched as her grandmother waved her hand over the box, her lips moving but no sound coming out. Seconds later, a twirling couple arose from the box, spinning to the sound of her favorite lullaby. “It’s a music box!” Anastasia exclaimed. “I love it Grandmother, thank you so much.”
What Anastasia knew, and almost no one else in the royal family did, was that her grandmother could do magic. As a child she had attended Koldovstoretz, a special school for witches and warlocks. Anastasia had found out about the magic by accident, having walked into her grandmother’s room unannounced to see a cup of tea floating in mid-air, but it was still exciting to have this special secret with her grandmother.
“That’s not all.” Her grandmother undid a latch on the bottom of the pretty box and presented Anastasia with the necklace nestled there.
“Together in Paris,” Anastasia read and then looked at her grandmother with wide, hopeful eyes. “Really?”
“Soon,” her grandmother promised her. “We will be reunited again soon.”
Anastasia threw her arms around her grandmother before hearing her father’s voice, loud and angry from the other side of the ballroom.
Anastasia turned around. The orchestra had stopped playing, the adults had stopped dancing. All eyes were turned on the Emperor and his former advisor Rasputin. Her grandmother stood up behind her. It was her grandmother that had known that Rasputin was a fraud and had informed her son.
There was something – strange about Rasputin. He looked different, there was an unearthly kind of glow surrounding him. Anastasia shivered.
Rasputin's voice rang out, loud, angry, bitter. “I curse you and your entire family; may your souls burn for eternity.”
There was an uproar, guards coming in to grab Rasputin, Grandmother pulling Anastasia away and out of the room. Rasputin was still yelling as Grandmother led her into the corridor.
Two Days Later
Anastasia looked out the window of her room at the angry crowd gathered below, her fingers were shaking as she pressed them against the glass.
The mob was at the front door, knives and swords clutched in their hands.
In two days, the royal family had gone from being beloved and respected, to being hated. Anastasia knew without a doubt that Rasputin was somehow to blame for this.
There was a loud crash, Anastasia drew back from the window instinctively. The shouts of the crowd, which had been muffled, were now much clearer. Their home had been breached.
Grandmother entered the room, her expression frantic. “Come my child, we have to make a run for it. The rest of the family has already left by the servant’s entrance.”
“Can’t you just - ?” Anastasia asked, waving her hand the way her grandmother did when she performed magic, sometimes wand in hand, sometimes not.
“I have no power against the dark magic that has descended upon our country. We have no choice but to leave, until the darkness fades. Come now child, there is no time to waste.”
There were more shouts, they were closer. Footsteps on the stairs, many of them. Anastasia could see the fear in her grandmother’s eyes, and it made her all the more frightened.
Suddenly one of the walls in the room moved, and Anastasia was staring, open-mouthed, at Jensen standing where the wall had just been.
“This way,” Jensen gestured. “Come quick.”
Grandmother grabbed Anastasia’s hand and they rushed after Jensen.
“My music box,” Anastasia remembered, and turned back around. Her grandmother did not let go of her hand, causing Anastasia to tug on it frantically. Jensen sighed and turned back toward the room.
“I’ll get it, just go. I’ll catch up to you later.”
Jensen was a blur as he passed them by, on his way back up the hidden stairs. There were shouts and a large bang, a muffled groan that sounded like it came from Jensen. Anastasia turned around again, determined to check on her friend but her grandmother’s hold on her wrist was iron-clad and she found herself stumbling after her grandmother, leaving the only home and the only friend she had ever known.
Outside it was chaos, people running and shouting. Far ahead, Anastasia could hear the train whistling, the same train her grandmother was supposed to have left on that day.
“Come my child, we are running out of time.”
The crowd was so thick, it was hard to get through. Anastasia’s dress, obviously made of rich materials, was attracting attention. A group of men in the distance were headed toward them, weapons in hand.
Grandmother led Anastasia into an alleyway as she pulled out her wand from the folds of her dress. “I’m sorry about this love, I will change you back as soon as I can.”
Before Anastasia could even voice her confusion, her whole body was tingling, throbbing. She was covered by a thick cloud of smoke, and when it cleared something was definitely wrong.
She looked down, and she was no longer wearing her purple brocade dress, instead she was wearing servant’s clothes, almost identical to what Jensen wore when he worked in the kitchen.
Anastasia turned and a boy, about Jensen’s age stood there, mouth open.
Grandmother sighed, waved the wand once more. “Sorry,” she said to him as she grabbed Anastasia by the hand. “I hope someday I have the chance to restore what I took from you.”
They pushed by him; his mouth was still open, but no sound was coming out. The group of men were behind them now. No one paid any attention to Anastasia anymore.
The train’s final warning whistle blew. Grandmother pulled her through the crowd. Anastasia could feel something different about herself, something more than the just the clothes she now wore.
Something weird about her body, something that should not be there, had never been there.
The train was already moving when they reached the station. Grandmother leapt on it, and held her hand out for Anastasia. Anastasia grabbed it, but her hand was sweaty from running and the crowd jostled her, and her hand slipped free. She could see her grandmother’s frantic face, see her lips move but the train was several yards ahead now and gaining steam.
The boy looked at the train, fading in the distance. He left a sense of loss, but he had no idea why. The crowd around him was yelling, some of them were angry, some talking happily about the decimation of the royal family. The boy had no idea what was happening, even worse he had no idea how he got here, no idea where he came from.
No idea who he was.
A boy stood In front of him, older maybe by three – four years.
“Who are you?” the boy asked him.
The other boy pointed to his mouth, shrugged.
“Do you know who I am?” the boy asked.
Again, a shrug. He took his hand, leading him away from the crowd. Despite his confusion, the younger boy was happy to be away from all the noise.
He followed the older boy, down stony streets, past the crowds, a long way away from the station.
The sign on the building read “Orphanage.” At least he knew one thing about himself, he knew he could read.
The older boy rang a bell. A woman, of undeterminable age and pinched lips, walked out the large wooden doors.
“Who did you bring me Chad?” the woman asked. “We are full up as it is; I don’t have room for more strays.”
Chad shrugged, pushed the boy toward her. “So, what’s your name?” the woman asked, turning her attention to him.
“I don’t – I don’t remember,” the boy admitted.
The woman sighed. ‘Well I have to call you something. I had a cousin named Jared, never did like him much. You remind me of him. Until you decide what your name is, I’m going to call you Jared.”
The woman turned around and started walking back to the grey, bleak building.
“Well come along now, I don’t have all day.”
Jared looked to Chad for help, but the boy had disappeared.
With no other option, Jared followed the woman into the building.
10 years later
The room was unusually quiet, the children who normally shared the room had left to complete their chores.
Jared had no more chores. The head mistress had determined him of age, he was leaving today.
In truth, Jared had no idea when his birthday was, or his exact age. But it was ten years to the day Chad had brought him to the orphanage, so he was to leave today.
Jared stood in front of the mirror, absently touching the necklace underneath his shirt, his only connection to a past he could not remember.
Together In Paris.
On the bed, one of the older children had left a makeshift dress, more of a potato sack than a dress really but –
Jared quickly took off his clothes, which were in worse shape than the dress.
He pulled the dress over his head.
He pushed his overlong hair behind his ears and studied his reflection.
He was a boy, and he had no desire to change that. He enjoyed working outside, he was just beginning to develop long lean muscles due to hours spent cutting and hauling wood, and working in the vegetable garden, hoeing, and weeding.
But he had always had a fascination with dresses. The few times he had dared put one on, he had been hit with a niggling sense of almost memory.
He was tall, taller than anyone else in the orphanage and still growing, so the dress only went about halfway past his knees. He was skinny though, years of not-quite enough food and too much exertion leaving him on the waifish side of thin.
His face was angular, and his slanted eyes and defined cheekbone gave him the appearance of the masculine youth that he was, but his face was soft enough that with his long hair, dimples and still smooth skin, he didn’t look too ridiculous in the dress maybe.
He didn’t want to be a girl, not truly – but something about the feel of a dress, the look of it, how it fit him felt almost – familiar.
He pulled the necklace from underneath the dress, biting his lower lip as he continued to try to decide what it was about dresses that made him feel – almost -
“Out!” It was the head mistress, voice shrill, face red, lips pinched as always. “You ungrateful beast of a child, how dare you sully the good name of the orphanage by wearing – that.”
Jared startled, face flushing red at being caught. He started to pull the dress off, but she stopped him.
“Let the world see how unnatural you are, you will leave this moment and you will leave exactly as you are.”
Jared knew better than to argue. He had nothing else in the orphanage that was his, not even the clothes he had discarded on the bed. Someone else would be wearing them by nightfall. At least he had somewhere to go, the head mistress had already arranged a job for him at the fishery.
Jared brushed past her; head held high. His spirit had never been squashed by this woman no matter how she had belittled him, and it would not be today.
Besides, he could ditch the dress as soon as he found a quiet spot on the road and some clothes to change into.
He marched out of the house, past the gate, and left his childhood behind forever.
He was on his own.
He stood at the fork on the road. If he went to the left, he would head toward the fishery. He fiddled with the necklace and looked the other way. That way led to town, where he could buy a bus ticket, where he could go to Paris and try to find who gave him the necklace.
A hand touched his shoulder, Jared jumped what felt like a foot or so and then turned around to see Chad standing there.
He threw his arm around him, happy to see his only friend.
“Chad!” Jared exclaimed. “You haven’t been by the orphanage in forever. I thought maybe you had left town.”
Chad shrugged, grinned. His lips pursed in a silent approximation of a whistle as he took in Jared’s attire.
Jared felt a faint blush rising on his cheeks and smoothed out the dress. “I’m going to change as soon as I can get a hold of a more suitable clothing, the head mistresses wouldn’t let me take anything when I left.”
Chad just smiled.
It would be much easier to communicate with Chad if Chad could read and write, but Chad had managed to get Jared in enough mischief over the years with not a word spoken by him.
“I’m headed this way,” Jared said, pointing right. “Wanna come with? Maybe try an honest living for a change?”
Chad made a face, grabbed Jared by the hand, and pulled him in the direction of St. Petersburg.
“But I really should go this way –” Jared tried, pointing toward the fishery.
Chad just rolled his eyes and kept pulling.
Well, if things didn’t work out in St. Petersburg, the fishery would always be there.
Jared felt a tad self-conscious going to such a big city wearing a too-short dress that was basically a rag, but Chad was wearing a patch-work shirt, stitched together badly with different fabrics, and trousers with holes in them, and that was his normal attire.
The sun was high in the sky, he had his best friend beside him, and he would never have to deal with the head mistress again. All in all, the future was kind of looking bright. Even if Jared was heading toward it wearing a dress.
By the time they reached St. Petersburg, they were hungry and thirsty, but still in good spirits.
The first place they headed toward was the train station.
If the clerk was shocked by either of their appearances, he did not show it. Jared requested two tickets to Paris.
The clerk barely looked up as he asked for their papers.
Chad and Jared looked at each other. Jared tried to explain they were orphans, but the man cut him off.
“No papers, no ticket.”
As they got out of line, dejected, a little old lady whispered to them. “Find Jensen, he will help you. But tell no one who told you.”
With no other ideas of how to get papers, they made their way deeper into town, but everywhere Jared asked, no one knew of Jensen.
It was getting late; they were going to have to find a place to sleep for the night. Jared was about to discuss options with Chad, when he turned around just in time to see Chad disappear into a large dilapidated building.
“Chad, come back!” Jared yelled, but Chad did not return.
Looking around to make sure no one was watching him, Jared followed Chad into the building. It was dusty, seemingly vacant, and definitely uncared for. Jared wondered if Chad had chosen this place to sleep for the night.
“Chad,” He called out again, approaching a long-curved staircase. He could hear voices from somewhere in the upper story, definitely not from Chad. So, the place was not as vacant as it appeared.
Cautiously Jared made his way up the stairs, still softly calling for his friend.
The tryouts were going badly, very very badly.
Not any of the young ladies, and not so young ladies, that came to audition looked remotely like Anastasia. And their acting was atrocious. There was no way that the Grand Duchess would be fooled by any of these women, and Jensen could feel the reward money slipping further from his grasp.
“I think we’ve seen every woman in town,” Chris commented, as they sent the last woman on her way. “We may have to give this up as a lost cause.”
“Never. I am going to find someone that will pass as Anastasia if I have to scour this whole country. Somewhere there is a girl that looks enough like the royal family that she will pass. A little spit, a little polish, the Grand Duchess will be happy, we’ll be rich.”
They made their way out of the makeshift theatre they had been using for auditions and snuck into the palace. Jensen felt in his pocket for the pretty little box that he had found in Anastasia’s old room. If the woman they found to play pretend Anastasia didn’t convince the old woman, surely the velvet box would.
They walked up the stairs, still arguing about the chances of the con working. It was not the first con Jensen had pulled; he was no greenhorn at this. But it would have the biggest payout, a payout that would lead to a life he damned way deserved, and he was going to make it work, no matter what it took.
They heard a noise from downstairs, and stopped their arguing, looking at each other with concern. Technically they were trespassing, and the last thing they needed was to be arrested.
Jensen crept silently to the top of the stairs and saw a woman with long wavy brown hair walking toward them. She was obviously not a person of means; her dress was scandalously short (if he was the type to be scandalized) and it looked like it had seen better days several years ago. But the wavy brown locks reminded Jensen of something, and he turned to look at Anastasia’s portrait, taken shortly before the uprising. The woman’s hair looked eerily similar.
Jensen felt the first flutters of excitement.
The woman stopped walking when she saw them, her cheekbones turning a pretty color of pink. “Sorry,” she apologized, and her voice was curiously deep, raspy. “I didn’t mean to intrude; I was just looking for my friend. I’ll leave now.”
She started to turn around, head back down the stairs and Jensen couldn’t let that happen. He hurriedly walked down the few steps that would lead him to her. This close he could see she was striking looking, with pretty blue eyes, cheekbones for days. She was also very tall, at least as tall as he was.
“No wait, I’d like to talk to you about something.”
She turned around to face him and Jensen’s heart sank. She was not a woman at all. Very pretty still, especially his eyes which now looked more green than blue, and when he smiled tentatively at Jensen, Jensen could see the slightest hint of dimples. Very exotic, very pretty, but definitely not Anastasia.
Still, there was something about him, the way he carried himself, the way he looked in that dress. A memory that would not quite form tugged at Jensen.
A second man joined them, wearing ridiculous clothes and a goofy grin. The man in a dress turned toward him with a relieved expression. “Chad there you are.”
Jensen looked again from the picture of Anastasia to the young man.
He had the same bone structure as she did, same shape to his eyes that reminded Jensen of a fox, the color of their hair matched exactly. Maybe with the right clothes, some makeup –
“Who is she?” The boy was looking at the picture of Anastasia, a puzzled look on his face. The wall on the upper level at the top of the stairs was filled with portraits of the entire royal family, dead and long gone, except for the grandmother and the rumors that Anastasia lived as well.
“Do you not know?” Jensen asked curiously.
The boy shook his head.
Jensen held out his hand, “My name is Jensen, the man standing over there is my partner Chris. And you are?”
“Jared,” the boy said; he was biting his lower lip in what must have been a nervous habit. It was distracting as hell. “And this here is my friend Chad, he’s mute. We’ve been looking for you, someone said you might be able to help with some papers. We need to get to Paris.”
Jensen turned his attention briefly to Chad. He was vaguely aware of seeing the young man around. He always seemed to invite trouble that one, and trouble was one thing Jensen did not need.
But Jared apparently being a pauper with no identifying papers, that was perfect. He could work with that. “Jared, what is your last name? Maybe I know your family.”
If Jensen knew Jared’s family, it was game over. Jensen was developing quite a reputation amidst a certain crowd, which was why it was time to move on.
“I don’t have one,” Jared admitted. “I’m an orphan, I just left the orphanage today. It’s why I want to go to Paris, hopefully I can find my family there.”
Jared was still staring at the portrait.
A plan was developing in the chaotic space of Jensen’s brain. A ridiculous plan, born of desperation and greed. It would never work. Not in a million years. But still…
“You know you look a lot like her.”
Jared narrowed his eyes at him. “Are you saying I look like a little girl?”
“Well if the dress fits –” Jensen said, a wave of his hand indicating Jared’s attire.
The boy flushed again, a very pretty, very pink color. “You are making fun of me.”
“No truly. I’m telling you; I think you might be – you could be her.”
Chris broke off a snort of a laugh behind him. Jared’s eyes were narrowed. Chad was the only one who looked happy, so excited that were he a puppy, his tail would be wagging.
“I like wearing dresses, and you can look down at me all you want for that, heaven knows other people have. But I’m not a girl.” Jared turned around to leave. “And I don’t appreciate being made fun of.”
Jensen was watching his best chance at fooling the Grand Duchess flounce away as he thought of and rejected many placating comments, but it was Chad of all people that saved the day.
Chad grabbed Jared’s arm and pointed at the picture of Anastasia.
“Yes, I know. She’s very pretty,” Jared said, trying to drag Chad down the stairs.
Chad shook his head several times, planted his feet and then pointed at the picture and then at Jared, and back to the picture.
Jared sighed. “Not you too.”
“See, even Chad thinks you are her.” Jensen flashed his brightest, fakest smile at the ill-dressed boy. “Come with me, meet your Grandmother. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“She could have me locked away?” Jared guessed. “Cause I’m a guy, who would be pretending to be her long-lost granddaughter.”
“Magic,” Chris said from behind Jensen. Jensen startled and turned to his friend who shrugged. “Could be magic. What’s the best way to hide the country’s most recognizable little princess but turn her into a prince.”
Jensen stared at him, wondering if his friend had lost his mind and then –
“That’s it. Of course, I should have thought of that earlier. Everyone knows Rasputin had magic, it could be possible someone else that loved Anastasia did too. You have to admit, it would be the perfect disguise.”
The whole idea was preposterous of course, but if it worked to convince Jared, and he could sell Anastasia’s grandmother on it…
“That’s just silly.” But Jared looked unsure. Chad was nodding his head again, pointing at Chris, then Jensen, then Jared and back to the picture.
“I promise I won’t let anyone lock you up,” Jensen said, and pulled out the train tickets, shoving the fourth one back in his pocket. “You wanted to go to Paris, I can take you to Paris.”
Jared was biting his lip again, looking at the tickets. “She’ll just laugh at me.”
“Won’t be the first time you’ve been laughed at,” Jensen hazarded.
“You are not a gentleman,” Jared said, arms folded over his chest.
“You are not a lady,” Jensen countered. “Now that is settled, do we have a deal?”
“Chad goes with me,” Jared replied.
“No, no way. I only have three tickets. One for Chris, one for me and one for you. Chad would just be in the way.”
“Chad goes or I don’t,” Jared insisted. “And you can just take that ticket right back out of your pocket that you did such a poor job of hiding.”
They glared at each other a moment, then Jensen sighed and pulled out the ticket. “Okay Princess, you have yourself a deal.”
They made their way to an empty compartment on the train. “I get a window seat,” Jensen announced to the group. “After all, I am the one who provided the tickets.”
Jared pushed by him, pulling along Chad, and walking so fast that they were almost a blur, the crowd parting to let them pass. By the time Jensen made his way to the door of the compartment, Jared had taken one window seat, Chad the other. Jared was sprawled on his seat, in the most unladylike fashion imaginable.
“Move,” Jensen ordered Jared.
Jared just rolled his eyes. Chad seemed to have fallen asleep, in the fifteen seconds since he had entered the compartment.
“Look, kid –”
“If I am a princess, you really should treat me with more respect.” Jared smirked at Jensen, spreading his legs as far as the dress would go. “After all, I am royalty.”
“You are a royal pain in my ass,” Jensen countered. “Now move.”
“Nope. Maybe if you had asked nicely, but since you didn’t me and my ass are going to sit right here.”
Chad began snoring.
Jensen sighed, plopped down beside Chad. “If the Duchess is to believe you are royalty, you are going to have to behave with more dignity and learn to sit properly.”
“What?” Jared asked, and then hiked the dress up to his knees. “I’m not prim and proper enough for you?” Jensen tried not to notice how long Jared’s legs were, the way the fabric of the dress clung to his thighs. “Listen genius, I don’t know how to sit like a lady because I’m not one. And oh yeah I was raised in an orphanage and not in a royal palace.”
“But you can learn, can’t you?” Jensen asked. “There is something underneath that mop of hair, other than more hair, right?”
Jared pushed at the strands of hair that had escaped from his ponytail. “Sure, I can learn, why don’t you show me how to sit all proper-like with my legs together? Oh wait...” Jared made a big production of studying Jensen’s legs. “Your legs don’t actually fit together do they?”
Jensen bit back a retort. He needed Jared. He needed the money.
“Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot.”
“I accept your apology,” Jared said, with a wave of his hand that oddly did remind Jensen of royalty.
“I wasn’t – I’m not apologizing. I’m not the one who is being difficult.”
“You are very bad at apologizing,” Jared replied. “It’s quite surprising, because I imagine you are wrong a lot.”
Jensen thought longingly about throwing Jared off the train. Headfirst. “Maybe we should practice sitting quietly until we get to Paris.”
Jared looked at him appraisingly. “Will you miss it?”
Chad was now both snoring and drooling. Jensen scooted as far away from him as he could. “You talking? Hardly.”
“No, Russia, your home.”
“Russia was not my home. I’ve never had a home.” Jensen knew he sounded bitter, and instantly felt uncomfortable about opening up even this much. Jared was about to say something, but the last thing Jensen wanted was more questions, or even worse, his pity. He stood up and abruptly left the compartment, almost running into Chris.
Jensen growled his frustration. “That man is impossible.”
“Attraction is always so inconvenient,” Chris commented.
“Attraction? I’m not attracted to Jared. If he wasn’t my meal ticket, I’d toss him right off this train and hopefully right out of my life.”
Chris looked at him unimpressed. “Uh-huh.”
“And besides, he looks stupid in that dress.”
“Un-huh,” came the same response.
Jensen glared. Then sighed. “So, a little more spit and polish then we were planning. This will never work.”
“Nope,” Chris replied cheerfully. “But it’s going to be such fun watching you try.”
Chris patted Jensen on the arm, before heading in the opposite direction.
Jensen walked the length of the train three times, and only muttered to himself a few times that he did not like Jared, at all, and certainly not in that way. He encountered Chris again on his way back to check on Jared.
“So, about the tickets, it seems they have been – let’s say, recently redecorated.”
Jensen looked at his friend in confusion, then saw the ticket another rider was holding, one that was clearly not the same color as the ones in Jensen’s pocket. “Shit.”
Jensen practically ran into the compartment. Now Chad and Jared both were sleeping. He approached Jared first. He had barely put his hand on Jared’s shoulder, when Jared awoke with a start, his long arms flailing, and he smacked Jensen on the nose.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else.” Jared stretched his impossibly long body, and then looked at Jensen. “Oh, it was you, apology rescinded.”
“You’re hilarious,” Jensen commented, rubbing his nose. Chris cleared his throat. “Um yeah, I think a change of scenery is in order.”
“What?” Jared asked, Chad was waking up too, wiping the drool from his face with his dirty shirt sleeve.
Jensen could hear the conductor calling for tickets. He grabbed Jared’s hand, pulled him up. “C’mon Princess, it’s time to move.”
They made their way through the train, not stopping until they reached the baggage compartment. Jared stalled at the door, planted his feet, but Jensen just pulled the door open, and pushed Jared inside.
Jared huffed. “I’m really beginning not to like you.”
“I’m really beginning not to care.”
It was cold in the baggage car, and Jensen could feel himself beginning to shiver.
Jared was opening his mouth, probably to let out yet another complaint, when the train shook, violently, as if it had been hit by something, and Jensen lost his footing. He tried to grab hold of Jared to steady himself but all he ended up doing was toppling them both over.
They landed together with limbs entwined. Jensen’s hands were wrapped around Jared’s hips. His hips were hidden under that shapeless dress, but they felt nice, just the right bit of curve, with a hint of sharp edges, just kind of like Jared and –
“If you don’t get your hands off of me, I’m going to knee you in a very unladylike fashion,” Jared said between gritted teeth.
Jensen realized the other two men were staring at them, he got up quickly and held his hand out for Jared. Jared ignored it and got to his feet on his own. “Anytime now you can start explaining why I am freezing to death in the baggage car.”
“Change of scenery?” Jensen offered.
“The tickets were fake?” Jared countered.
The train jolted again, sharper this time. It occurred to Jensen they could be in real trouble.
Jensen carefully opened the opposite compartment door, the one facing the engine.
They were flying now, traveling much faster than they should be going.
“I’m going to check out the engineer, see if he is okay,” Jensen said.
“I don’t think –” Jared began, but Jensen ignored him, and scrambled out of the baggage car to climb up the next car and land on top of the engine. And if made sure he was especially quick and agile; it wasn’t like he was showing off for anyone.
It was kind of exhilarating to be standing on top of the train, king of his own little world for just that moment. He chanced a glance behind him, three pale faces were looking up at him. Behind them – there was nothing. The rest of the train had vanished, including the compartment they had just been sitting in minutes earlier.
Feeling a bit queasy now, Jensen descended into the engine.
It was empty.
Pulling himself back up, he could see they were in some very real, very present danger. The train was going to crash going around a curve in the tracks.
He quickly made his way back to the others. “I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the engineer seems to have vanished, along with the rest of the train.”
Three faces looked back at him, open mouthed in shock.
“I’m glad you didn’t want to alarm us,” Jared said, and then began searching through the boxes scattered around, looking for something.
“Look Princess, it’s not the time to be dress shopping, we are going to have to jump off this train. Now.”
Jared gave a little shout of triumph, and then held out a stick of dynamite to Jensen. “Here take this, before I show you where you should stick it.”
“You are the least ladylike Princess I’ve –”
“I am not a lady!”
There was another sharp jolt.
“Guys, if we could have this little lover’s spat later –” Chris said, and then both Jared and Jensen glared at him before Jensen took the dynamite from Jared.
Jensen knelt at the door and reached for the section holding the two compartments together. Surprisingly, he did not feel panic, just a grim sense of determination. He quickly lit the dynamite with the book of matches he kept in his pocket. He ran back inside the car, pushing the other three to the back end of the baggage car.
There was a loud explosion and the sound of crashing as the engine was separated. Now they were running along the track by themselves.
They were still racing to certain death; they were traveling too fast to jump.
Several heavy chains were thrust in Jensen’s hands. Jared might be annoying as anything, but he was a hell of a quick thinker and incredibly good at foraging. Jensen leaned out the window as far as he could to drape them over the wheels of the train. The train shuddered and he lost his balance and then he was falling – falling -
Strong hands grabbed his, stopping his free fall just inches from the ground before pulling him back up. For such a skinny thing, Jared was surprisingly strong.
“Remind me to thank you if I survive this,” Jensen said, as the chains began to slow them down.
“Remind me that I need to throw you into a dungeon if we survive this,” Jared retorted, but then grabbed Jensen’s hand and held on tightly.
Chad and Chris jumped first, rolling down the grass covered hill and Jared and Jensen quickly followed. Jensen didn’t think at all about how Jared’s hand gripped his so tightly and how it was almost like flying as their feet left the train and they soared together over the train tracks.
They hit the ground and tumbled, rolling over each other until they ended in a heap.
“The royal residence doesn’t actually have a dungeon,” Jensen said, once he was able to catch his breath.
Jared scrambled to his feet. “Remind me to build one.”
There was nothing for miles, not even a road. Just a lot of grass and a long, long way to walk.
“How are we supposed to get to Paris?” Jared asked Jensen, glaring at him. “Walk the entire way? Maybe we will get there before I become old and grey like you are.”
Jensen narrowed his eyes. “Look Princess, I am only three or four years older than you.”
“Huh,” Jared commented, eyes squinting at the seemingly unending expanse ahead of them. “You look older. Maybe it’s all those freckles hiding your supposedly youthful skin.”
Chris coughed pointedly. “If you two are through flirting –”
“I’m not flirting!” Both men interrupted indignantly.
“Like I would with him,” Jensen added.
“I’m going to get chains for my dungeon,” Jared announced. “Big heavy chains.”
“Sweetheart, if you wanted to tie me up, all you had to do was ask.” Jensen winked at him.
Jared found something remarkably interesting to stare at on the other side of the field. He caught Chad’s big grin out of the corner of his eye and ignored him too.
“Anyway, as I was saying, no Jared we don’t plan to walk all the way there.” Chris said to him. .”We should be coming by a road soon, we can take buses, or hitch rides, until we make it to a ship. In the meantime, we really should be using this opportunity to teach you about the royal family.”
“I was intending to,” Jensen said with a huff.
“Really? Because from where I am standing it looks like all you want to do is pull his ponytail and make faces at him.”
Chad was full out laughing now, in that eerily silent way of his.
Jensen drew a dusty book from the bag he was carrying, very obviously ignoring Chris. “Okay, this was a picture taken of your family the year before the mob and well, everything happened.“ He looked sad for a moment then visibly shook himself. “When you would have been about seven.”
The royal family history lesson at least did pass the time. Eventually they reached a road, got a ride on the back of a cart that two big white horses were pulling. Chris and Chad sat with the driver. Jared jumped up into the cart, legs sprawled so that there was as little room for Jensen as possible. Jensen mumbled something about what an irritating creature Jared was. Jared replied with how surprising it was Jensen wasn’t married. Chris brought out the book again.
“This is your great aunt,” Chris said, holding out the book and pointing to a picture of a rail thin old woman.
“She had a big yellow cat,” Jared said, munching on an apple as he studied the picture.
Chris and Jensen looked at each other. “How did you know that?” Chris asked.
Jared shrugged. He had no idea how he knew it; he just knew it to be true.
A couple of hours later, they were once again on foot and the book had been studied from the first page to last.
Jensen was staring at Jared and continued doing so for so long that Jared stopped walking and snapped “What?”
“You slouch when you walk.“
Jared unconsciously rolled his shoulders. He knew he had a habit of doing that, and had done so since the other children in the orphanage had made fun of him for being so tall.
“At least when I walk my legs are together, not bowed out like some kind of frog.”
“I give up,” Jensen said to Chris. “It’s not worth it. Ten more minutes with this guy and I’m going to go crazy.”
“Short trip,” Jared said in a very loud whisper to Chad. Chad nodded his agreement.
Chris gave another long-suffering sigh and grabbed the book. “Jensen has a point. Royalty, even the ones roughly the size of a tree, walk with a certain grace, one that you would do well to learn. Here, try walking with this on your head. Shoulders back, head straight.”
Jared took the book doubtfully. He placed It on his head, pushed his shoulders back, and the book fell to on the ground.
“Here, you know so much, you try,” Jared said, thrusting the book at Jensen.
Jensen managed a few steps before the book tumbled from his head. “Never claimed to be royalty,” Jensen mumbled, handing the book back with a sheepish smile that Jared did not find adorable. Not at all.
Chris grabbed the book. “Let me show you uncultured oafs how it is done.”
He balanced the book on his head and walked with a graceful ease up the road and back again. His ponytail did not even move, everything was so steady.
“Maybe I’m not the one who is the princess after all,” Jared said, taking the book off of Chris’ head where it was still perfectly balanced.
“You may be right,” Jensen replied.
They were lucky enough to find a few more nice people who gave them rides, and only one or two looked slightly askance at Jared’s dress, before finally arriving on the dock where Jensen somehow managed to book them passage, even if they did have to share a cabin.
Jensen left the cabin almost immediately in search of something. Jared wasn’t disappointed at all, and certainly had no curiosity as to what Jensen was doing, Instead he went over the book of pictures again, silently quizzing himself on the pictures and only glancing at the door to their cabin now and then until finally Chad grabbed him by the hand and took him for a walk on the deck.
It was later that night Jared finally saw Jensen again, and found out what he had left their room to find.
The gown was beautiful, exceedingly long, long enough for Jared even, a pretty rich color of blue with fabric so silky Jared couldn’t stop himself from running his fingers over it again and again. Jensen watched as Jared held the dress against him, looked at Jared for a long moment before saying, “You know your eyes change color all the time. Right now, they are just a few shades lighter than the dress.”
Jared didn’t know what to say to that, didn’t know if it was really a compliment. But he was only too happy to get out of the rag masquerading as a dress. He took the dress below the deck to change with Chad’s help.
Jared regretted there was no mirror in the cabin as he smoothed the dress out for the fifteenth time. “Do I look all right?” he asked Chad for at least as many times, Chad shrugged once again. He was waltzing around the cabin with the raggedy dress Jared had taken off, grinning like the loon he was as he spun around several times.
On the way back to the deck, the men that they passed by smiled at Jared, tipped their hats to him. The women glared at him and held on tighter to their men’s arm to Jared’s great delight.
But it was a pair of green eyes he searched for when he made it to the deck of the ship. And he saw them widen slightly as he approached.
Jensen bowed low in front of fared. “Your Highness.”
Jared shoved him, but lightly. “Don’t be ridiculous. I know I look stupid; you don’t have to make fun.”
“Stupid? No Jared, you look – you are –” Jensen seemed to not to be able to find the words. Chris whistled as he approached the three of them.
“You know, we might be able to pull this off after all,” Chris commented, walking around Jared. “He definitely has the hair for it, and if we get there quickly before he starts growing again –”
“I’m not going to pretend to be a girl forever,” Jared cut in. “I don’t mind the dresses, I know that makes me different, I really don’t care. But I like being who I am. I like being a boy.”
“Not forever,” Jensen affirmed, looking over at Chris. “Just until she realizes you really are Anastasia, then you can spring the surprise on her.”
“You mean we,” Jared said.
Jensen’s face flushed, a weird reaction to the statement Jared thought. “Yes, sure, we.”
“Anyway,” Chris said. “You are going to need to know how to dance.”
Jared immediately started shaking his head, taking a few steps back.
Jensen held his arms out. “C’mon, it’s alright if you don’t know how, I’ll teach you.”
“If I dance with you, you’ll end up with ten very sore toes. I’m not exactly coordinated.”
“So I’ve noticed,” Jensen said, but this time his teasing had a lot less bite to it. “My shoes are sturdy; my toes can handle it. Dance with me Princess.”
“My name is Jared,” Jared said but stepped back into Jensen’s space anyway, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Chris started singing, something soft and lilting, a tune that sounded familiar and yet wasn’t. They began to dance; it was as awkward as Jared was afraid it would be.
Chris stopped singing long enough to remark, “Jared you are going to have to let him lead.”
“Oh, yeah. Of course.”
Relinquishing control was easier than he thought it was going to be. Jensen’s hand on his hip was strong and sure and once he began to follow where Jensen led, Jared forgot to look down at his feet, instead he looked into those beautiful green eyes and felt himself begin to relax. They were moving together easily now, spinning around the deck, it felt like floating.
“So pretty,” Jensen said softly, looking up at Jared.
“Huh?” Jared asked, his trance broken by Jensen’s words.
“The – dress. The dress. It’s pretty, you should wear it.” Jensen’s cheeks were an endearing color of pink.
“I am wearing it,” Jared pointed out.
“Yes. Yes. Quite so.”
Chris continued to sing, Jared continued to float. He resisted the urge to look down, to see if his feet were even touching the ground.
Then Jensen stopped dancing, looking up at him intensely. Chris stopped singing but somehow there was still music. Jared could feel his heart pounding in his chest, could feel how nice Jensen’s hand felt on his back. He felt dizzy, unanchored.
“Maybe we should stop dancing, my head is spinning,” Jared said.
“We have stopped,” Jensen replied, his head tilting up in just the right angle for their lips to –
“All right then.” Chris clapped his hands, breaking the spell. “I think we have that covered. Who's ready for bed?”
Jared and Jensen pulled apart, not looking at each other or anyone else.
“Right then.” Chris motioned for Chad, who had been still dancing with Jared’s discarded dress. “Bedtime it is.”
Jared and Jensen headed to the stairs, almost colliding at the first step. They carefully moved away from each other.
Jared let Jensen descend first. He just missed Chris muttering “I should have never let them dance.”
Jensen was fast asleep; Chad was messing around with Jensen’s travel bag. Jared thought he should really tell Chad to leave Jensen’s things alone, but he was curious, and it wasn’t him that was snooping.
Chad pulled out a small box, held it up to Jared.
Chris was the one who took it.”Pretty” he noted, before putting it carefully back in Jensen’s satchel and shooing Chad away like he was a pet. Chad obeyed, curling up on the floor on a Chad-made bed of coats and blankets.
“Maybe it’s a box with a mystery inside, sort of like us Chad,” Jared said, as he lowered his head down onto his pillow and thought about how Jensen’s arms felt around him as they danced. He fell asleep almost immediately, and in his dream, he and Jensen were still dancing.
He was fast asleep when he felt something tugging on him, trying to force him back into consciousness.
He swatted at whatever it was, but the tugging continued.
Jensen cursed and opened his eyes to find Chad standing there, eyes wilder than usual.
“What?” Jensen growled as he rubbed his eyes.
Chad pointed frantically to the empty bed that should have held a sleeping Jared and then toward the door.
“Is Jared in trouble?” Jensen asked, suddenly as wide awake as if someone had thrown cold water over his head, which the cook had done often in his youth.
Chad nodded frantically, indicating Jensen should follow.
Jensen did not even bother with his shoes, he followed Chad out of the room and onto the deck where he could see a tall figure standing at the railing on the deck below them, about to jump into the sea. Jared was teetering precariously on the railing and Jensen felt frantic with his inability to be able to reach him in time.
Looking around in desperation, he spotted a long length of rope tied to the mast. He grabbed the rope and without giving himself a chance to think of all the things that could go wrong, he swung out and over the deck. By some miracle, he dropped not too far from where Jared was, frantically calling his name, and when that had no effect, called out the name Anastasia instead.
That did the trick, Jared turned to him, his eyes unfocused. “I’m going to join them; it’ll be so nice won’t it Jensen? To be with them –”
Jared stumbled backwards, one foot on the railing, one in the air and Jensen made a wild grab for him. He pulled him by his nightshirt and for a moment Jared teetered on the balance between the safety of the ship and the dark sea below before Jensen grabbed on tighter and yanked the shirt hard.
Jared tumbled off the railing into Jensen’s arms, knocking them both over. They landed on the deck, Jared on top of Jensen, completely enveloping him.
He was alive, safe, he was smothering Jensen so Jensen would probably be dead in a moment or so, but Jared was alive.
Jared blinked several times before he seemed to realize that he was on lying on top of Jensen. Blushing bright red, he pushed himself up and stood up.
“Where am I? What happened?” Jared asked, running a hand through his hair that was more tousled then normal. “Did I fall?”
“Something like that.” Jensen stood up too, wincing a bit as his sore muscles complained. His heart was still hammering, wild with relief that Jared was unhurt. “Come on sweetheart, let’s get you to bed.”
“Sweetheart?” Jared blinked sleepily at Jensen, following him across the deck.
“Huh?” Jensen could still see Jared in his mind’s eye, teetering so close to the edge.
“You called me sweetheart,” Jared said.
Jensen could feel his cheeks warming as he realized he had done just that. Hopefully Jared was so out of it he would remember none of this in the morning.
“Never mind that, let's just get you to bed.”
He was going to have to keep a closer eye on Jared, something was happening, and it wasn’t good.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, but if Jensen found himself watching Jared like a hawk it was simply because that boy had a knack for getting himself in trouble.
It only been a week since they left St. Petersburg but it felt like so much longer. Jensen was relieved beyond measure when they were finally standing at the home of the Grand Duchess and her sister Sophie.
Sophie, Jensen assumed, was the one who opened the door. She took one look at Chris and then squealed and practically dove into his arms.
Jared and Jensen looked each other amused as Sophie twirled Chris around, Chris’ feet barely dragging the floor, before finally releasing him from her eager clutches.
“Come in, come in,” Sophie said, all breathlessness and giggles. “Christian you rascal, it’s been too long. Far too long.”
Chris was stumbling through an apology as Chad, Jensen and Jared took in their surroundings.
“And where are my manners?” Sophie said, after Chris finished his red-faced apology and made the proper introductions. “Would you like some tea?”
“I don’t drink tea,” Jared said. “But some lemon and water would be nice.”
Jensen had a faint memory of the cook handing him a glass with a lemon sinking into the water. “Go along now,” she had said. “We don’t want to keep her waiting.”
Jensen stood behind the couch uneasily, the memory warring with what he knew to be true. Despite what they told Jared; he knew Anastasia was a girl. He had played with her many times, raced her across the field, swam in the pond with her.
Jared was not Anastasia. He couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible.
Sophie was explaining that she could not take them to see her sister, that Anastasia’s grandmother had declared she had her fill of dealing with imposters.
Chris laid on the charm so thick it was almost visible, asking if it were possible just to get a glimpse of the duchess, for old times sake.
Sophie looked from Jared to Chris doubtfully. “I don’t mean this to sound unkind dear. The dress is very pretty, but I think you might be –”
“A boy.” Jared interjected. “Look, I am so sorry to have wasted your time.”
“We both know your sister is a witch,” Jensen interjected. “So we know anything is possible.”
Jensen didn’t know that at all, had no idea why he had blurted that out. But Chad was jumping up and down, bobbing his head as he did so.
Sophie’s eyes widened and she coughed several times, choking on her tea.
“I don’t know where you heard such a thing.” But she didn’t look at any of them, and her hands were slightly shaking as she gripped her cup of tea tightly.
“Just a tiny moment of her time, that’s all we need. A little accidental meeting, what could it hurt?” Chris was not the only one who could lay on the charm. Jensen smiled at Sophie, gave her his best bashful-boy hopeful grin. “And you’d be her hero forever, returning her long-lost granddaughter - uh, grandchild to her. What do you say?”
Sophie took a sip of her tea, her hands seemed to be steadier. “If you are somehow Anastasia,” she said to Jared. “I wonder if you could tell me, just how did you escape?”
“I don’t remember much before Chad took me to the orphanage,” Jared admitted, “But it’s the craziest thing, it makes no sense. But I have this – I don’t know if it’s a memory or something I read or what it is. But I can see a boy opening a wall, how crazy is that? The wall opening, and Grandmother disappearing behind it.”
The teacup in Jensen’s hands fell from his suddenly numb fingers. Chris looked at him in concern. Chad dropped his too, holding it high above his head before releasing it and the room echoed with the second crash. With all eyes on Chad, it gave Jensen a moment to think.
Jared was Anastasia.
And quickly following that thought…
Jared was royalty, and therefore he could never be Jensen’s.
Paris was more beautiful than he ever dreamed of. Sophie, the kind soul that she was, took them on a whirlwind tour. First stop was to the famous Chanel, where she insisted on buying all of them a little something.
Then she took them to Moulin Rouge where the dancing girls instantly recognized he was a boy, and instead of making fun exclaimed how pretty he looked, pulled him into their dressing room and added black eyeliner around his eyes, soft pink rouge to his cheeks. Chad danced with them, having the time of his life.
Everything would have been perfect, if not for Jensen who was silent and withdrawn. A few times Jared saw him talking to Chris, their heads so close they were almost touching, their voices a whisper.
Still, the elegance of Paris was a far cry from where he grew up, and if he was to be sent back to Russia in disgrace, at least he would have this day of magic to keep in his memory forever.
The day was such a whirlwind that it seemed no time at all they were at the theatre.
There were people on the stage, but Jared had no idea what was going on. His eyes were trained on the Grand Duchess, sitting regally in her box seat.
Could she really be his grandmother?
Jensen leaned over and whispered, “What did that poor program ever do to you?”
Jared looked over at him puzzled, then looked down at his hands. He had torn the program into shreds, without even realizing he was doing it. Opening his hand, he released the tiny slivers of paper onto the floor.
Jensen patted his shoulder. “Everything is going to be fine Jared, I promise, there is nothing for you to worry about.”
Before Jared could respond, the house lights came up. It was intermission.
“Showtime,” Jensen declared and held out his hand to Jared. He allowed himself to be pulled up, offering a nervous smile to Chad and Chris as he followed Jensen into the crowd. They held hands as they walked, and Jared thought about how nice it would be to hold onto Jensen forever and never let go.
All too soon they were standing outside the royal private box. Jared felt an overwhelming desire to run, but instead let Jensen anchor him. “I want to – uh –”
Jensen squeezed his hand before releasing it. “What a remarkable journey you are about to begin, I am truly happy for you Jared.”
Jared wanted to say it had already been a remarkable journey, beginning the moment he had met Jensen. Instead he just nodded and watched Jensen disappear behind the curtain.
He could hear Sophie murmuring, then the clear sharp voice that had to belong to the Grand Duchess.
Jensen introducing himself.
“I’ve brought you Anastasia, she is right outside.”
“Do you know how many times I have heard someone say those exact same words?” the Grand Duchess asked. “Be gone with you, I’m not in the mood for your nonsense.”
“But it is really her, I swear it. She is just beyond the curtain; I can get her for you –”
“Jensen, you say? I’ve heard of you. You are the con man that was holding auditions back home, looking for someone to play the part of my granddaughter.”
Jared felt like he had been hit hard in the stomach, suddenly it was hard to breathe.
“I was,” Jensen admitted. “But I did find her, please let me introduce her to you.”
“Get out!” the Duchess snapped. “There is nothing you can say to get me to talk to your little actress. If you do not leave this box immediately, I will have you thrown out.”
A few seconds later, Jensen was standing in front of him.
Jared went from hurt to angry in just those few seconds. “You lied to me!” he snapped at Jensen, stepping away from the curtain so they would not bother the Grand Duchess. The poor woman had been bothered enough. “You lied to me about me being Anastasia, the Grand Duchess having magic, every word from your lips has been a lie. And to think I was beginning to believe – to hope –”
Jared slapped Jensen, so hard his hand stung from the force of it. “I never want to see you again.”
Without giving Jensen a chance to say anything in return, he pushed through the crowd, blindly trying to find his way to the exit. He knew what it felt like to feel lonely, to feel unwanted, to be scorned. But he had never felt pain like this, pain so deep it felt like it would tear him apart. He never should have left St. Petersburg.
It was easy to spot the Grand Duchess’ car, it was the most beautiful one waiting outside the theatre, chrome sparkling, her body polished to a shine.
It was also easy to pay off the driver, a few coins and a pint of beer and the man was on his way, leaving his hat behind for Jensen to wear.
He sat down at the driver’s seat, absently rubbing his sore cheek.
Jared would hate him forever now. That was okay, he deserved nothing else.
Something had broken inside of Jensen when the royal family had met their tragic end. He had lied, stolen, conned his way through life from that moment to this one.
But he was going to do one good thing for Jared before he left Paris, he was going to give Jared his grandmother.
Chris must have left with Sophie, and hopefully Chad had followed Jared, because when the Grand Duchess exited the theatre, she did so alone.
She took her place in the back seat and Jensen started the car, driving quickly away as to avoid the traffic caused by horses, carts, cars, and people all trying to leave the theatre area at the same time.
“Straight home, George. I’ve had a very tiring day.”
“Sure thing, but my name isn’t George,” Jensen replied, meeting her eyes through the rear-view mirror.
“Stop this car immediately!” the Grand Duchess ordered. “This is unacceptable behavior young man.”
“You are right, it is. But I need you to listen to me.” Jensen looked back at the Grand Duchess. “If I stop the car, will you please listen? I promise you will never see me again after I’ve had my say.”
“I am telling you right now, I will not believe a word that comes out of your mouth. But if listening to you means I can live the rest of my life in peace, then have your say.”
Jensen pulled over on a deserted road. He pulled the velvet box out of his pocket and gave it to the Grand Duchess.
She gasped, held it in her hand as if it were something fragile that might break if touched too hard. “Where did you get this?”
“It belonged to Anastasia,” Jensen said. “I found it in her room. The room I was in with her and with you, the night the royal residence was overrun by the mob.”
The Grand Duchess looked at him with narrow eyes, assessing. “You are the kitchen boy.”
“I was a kitchen boy, yes. And I knew Anastasia back then. I have looked into her eyes many times; I have watched her push her unruly hair out of her face more times than I can count. Jared might be older, and much taller, but he’s -”
“He’s?” The woman’s voice sharpened. “You brought me a boy?”
Jensen could feel his heart sinking. He hadn’t meant to mention that Jared was male, until they had a chance to meet face to face. “Something happened, I don’t know what. I know it sounds – unbelievable. But he lost his memories and became an orphan at the same time Anastasia disappeared, he remembered about your aunt’s yellow cat, he remembered how I opened the wall into Anastasia’s room. I swear on everything that is important to me, I swear on my very life, Jared is Anastasia.”
It was hard to read the Grand Duchess’ expression, she had years of practice at hiding what she was feeling. “Okay, I will meet with him.”
“Really?” Jensen asked, shocked. “Just give him a chance okay? A real one. He’s a good guy, he really is, he’s got such a big heart and –”
“I don’t need to hear your sale’s pitch,” the Grand Duchess cut in with a wave of her hand. “Just take me home young man.”
Jared would never talk to him after what happened, Jensen would have to find Chris, convince him to convince Jared to come.
It looked like Anastasia was going to get the happy ending he deserved so much, and nothing could make Jensen happier.
He had known Jensen was trouble from the first moment he laid eyes on him. Knew that beneath that charming façade, was someone that probably did not have Jared’s best interest at heart. Jared was a smart guy, quick learner, had survived in a place that you had to have plenty of savvy to survive. So why did he let himself fall for Jensen? Just when had he handed his heart to the man who was never going to be careful with it?
Beside him Chad was sucking happily on some stick candy he had somehow procured. Jared had wished for some more suitable clothing, and Chad had disappeared for hours. But he had come back with pants and a shirt for Jared (the pants a tad too short, the shirt a bit too small) and the candy. Sometimes Jared was guiltily glad Chad could not speak, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know how Chad managed to get his hands on the clothes without a voice to ask for them or without any funds to purchase them.
They were waiting for a ship’s captain to come by, hoping to get booking on a ship headed anywhere in exchange for their services. Jared was willing to scrub floors until his hands bled, if it got him far away from that low-life, snake-in-the-
There was someone standing before them, but definitely not a ship’s captain. Jared sat up straighter.
Chris looked tired, sounded winded. “Finally, I’ve been looking for you two for half the day. The Duchess –”
He stopped, stared at Jared. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.
“What?” Jared snapped.
“I just – I’ve never seen you in boys’ clothes before.”
“I am a boy,” Jared huffed in reply, trying not to feel too self-conscious in the too-small clothing. “And tell that good for nothing friend of yours that he wasted his time sending you. I wouldn’t walk across the street to see him. I wouldn’t walk two steps. In fact I hope he disappears off the face of the earth so there is nowhere that I might accidentally run into him.”
Jared started off angry, but somewhere along the rant he ended up feeling nothing but hurt and knew both Chad and Chris could hear it in his voice.
“I know you are upset,” Chris said. “But this isn’t about Jensen. It’s about the Grand Duchess. She wants to meet with you.”
“Me?” Jared asked, stunned. “Why on earth does she want to meet with me? It’s obvious to everyone now that I’m not Anastasia.”
Chris shrugged. “No idea, but what could it hurt to meet with her? It doesn’t look like there are any ships sailing today, might as well go where there is hot food to eat, clean beds to sleep in.”
“Is Jensen there?” Jared asked.
“No, he’s not welcome, the Grand Duchess made that very clear.”
“Good for her.” Jared looked at Chad. Chad had already grabbed their bags, apparently eager to go. “All right, I’ll meet with her. It’ll give me a chance to explain how all of this is Jensen’s fault.”
“That’s the spirit,” Chris said cheerfully, “Come on you two, your carriage awaits.”
The carriage turned out to be a buggy, but a very fancy one, probably borrowed from Sophie. Jared thought about changing clothes, back to the dress which would at least be more suitable to meet a Grand Duchess. But he decided against it, this was who he was. He was a poor orphan with no family and no means, and that was exactly how he intended to present himself to the Grand Duchess.
Once back at the grand residence, Sophie shooed Jared into the Grand Duchess’ bedroom.
He walked around the room, admiring the beautiful furnishings, afraid to touch anything.
Then it hit him, something smelled – familiar. A scent that he had smelled before, a long, long time ago.
The Grand Duchess entered the room and Jared stared at her for a long moment before blurting out, “Peppermint and oil.”
She was looking at him appraisingly, and she raised her eyebrows at his words. “I beg your pardon.”
“Peppermint and oil, you used to – that was what your perfume smelled like. One day I spilled some of it on the rug, the room smelled like peppermint all the time afterwards.”
The Grand Duchess stepped closer to him. “There is something underneath your shirt. A necklace perhaps? Can I see it?”
Jared realized that the shirt was so tight, the outline of the necklace was clearly visible. He pulled it out of his shirt, over his head. “I’m not sure where I got it,” he confessed. “I had it with me when I arrived at the orphanage.”
“Together in Paris,” the Grand Duchess read, and when she looked back at Jared, her eyes were filled with tears. “Anastasia, I’ve finally found you.”
Jared was too stunned to react as the Grand Duchess pulled him into a fierce hug, but after a few seconds of standing there stiffly, he found himself hugging her back.
“But how would that even be possible?” Jared asked after they parted. “Anastasia was a girl, I’ve seen her portrait.”
“Come,” the Grand Duchess, his grandmother, said and held out her hand to him. “Let’s go into the sitting room, I will tell you all what happened.”
A half an hour later, three stunned faces were looking at the Grand Duchess, one clutching a mug of tea, one a cup filled with lemon and water, and one with four cookies stuffed in his mouth.
“You’re a witch,” Jared said, still trying to process what was being said to him. “A real witch.”
“I am,” his grandmother confirmed. “But we really need to keep that information to ourselves. There are some out there who do not take kindly to the concept of magic, especially after Rasputin cast his spell of black magic.”
“And he’s the one that killed my family,” Jared said.
His Grandmother patted his leg. “They wouldn’t want us to live in the past, child, they would be as happy that you are whole and safe as I am.”
“That’s incredible,” Sophie said. “I mean, I knew you could do magic, but I had no idea you could change a girl to a boy.”
“Transmutative magic that I really shouldn’t have been messing around with, but I was desperate,“ the Grand Duchess told her sister, before turning her attention back to Jared. “I meant to reverse the spell as soon as we were safe, but I lost you at the last moment. I realized as that train pulled away, I should have cast a binding spell instead, but in the heat of the moment, all I could think about was hiding you. I can change you back now if you would like.”
“Back to a girl?” Jared asked. It was one thing to learn that he had a grandmother, that he was of royal birth It was another to think that with a wave of a hand – or a wand – he could be a whole different sex.
“Yes, if that is what you want. I understand you were wearing a dress at the theatre, not that what you are wearing now isn’t nice,” Grandmother said, with a genteel smile. She lied well, what he was wearing was definitely not nice.
“I like wearing dresses,” Jared confessed. “I feel comfortable in them, and I guess I know why now. But I am also comfortable with who I am, I don’t know that I want to change that. Even for a chance to be a princess.”
“Just think about it, I’ll go with whatever you decide,” she said and then looked over at Chad, who had cookie crumbs everywhere, including in his hair. “And you must be the boy whose voice I took. I am deeply sorry about that, I meant to seek you out someday and fix it, but time has a way of getting away from you. Anyway, no time like the present.”
From the folds of her dress, she produced a wand. Three pairs of transfixed eyes watched as she muttered some words and pointed that wand at Chad.
“I can talk!” Chad jumped up, displacing the plate of cookies in his lap which scattered all over the floor. “Jared, I can talk. I have so much to tell you. I mean, like years of stuff. I mean, some of it is weird because I think the magic might have scrambled my brain a bit or maybe I’ve always been this way I don’t know but still, there is so much that I’ve never got to say to you, and oh – don’t let me forget to tell you about that girl I met today, she was all kinds of hoity-toity but when I –”
Jared looked at his grandmother as the multitude of words kept pouring out of Chad’s mouth. “Can’t you change him back?”
“It wouldn’t be the right thing to do,” his grandmother said, all prim and proper. “But maybe a little nap would be in order, he looks very tired.”
A few seconds later, Chad was fast asleep, head tilted back, his mouth still somehow moving but thankfully no words pouring out and the other three were happily finishing their tea as the Grand Duchess filled Jared in on all the things that had happened since the day he had disappeared.
He met her in the grand foyer, he didn’t want to go any further into the house, afraid he would run into Jared.
His heart ached to see him one last time, but Jared did not deserve that. He was royalty now, he deserved everything that was good, and that was not Jensen.
“Thank you for coming by,” the Grand Duchess said to him. “I want to offer my sincere gratitude and present you with the reward money. I never thought I would see my grandchild again; you have no idea what joy you have brought into my life.”
“I accept your gratitude –” Jensen began.
He thought about the money, hungered for it. With that money he could start a new life. He could be anything he could imagine; he could go places he had only read about in books.
But all he could think about was Jared, his eyes filling with tears, the hurt that radiated from him. He had taken too much already, taken it from good people, people that never deserved to have him crash into their lives.
“But as for the reward, I don’t want it,” he finished.
“I don’t understand, you came all this way, you worked hard for this money. And now you’ve changed your mind?”
“Let’s just say, I’ve had a change of heart and leave it at that.”
And with his back straight, head up high, and his heart forever broken, Jensen left on his own. Chris would have a life with Sophie, Chad would always land on his feet, or his head, or whatever. And Jared would have the life he deserved.
As luck would have it, and when had luck ever been on his side, he met Jared at the door on his way out. Jared was dressed in tailored pants, a beautiful white shirt. He looked breathtaking. And angry.
“I was just about to change, there is a ball for me tonight,” Jared was speaking at him instead of to him, and his eyes were looking everywhere but at Jensen.
“So I heard,” Jensen said, eyes trying to drink up enough of Jared to last a lifetime. “I know you don’t believe me, but I wish you happiness Jared.’
“So, I can assume you got your reward?” Jared asked, “I hope your business is complete here.”
“It is,” Jensen bowed low. “Goodbye Princess.”
It was a long walk to the pier, and if Jensen could barely see where he was walking through the mist of tears, that was a secret he would take to his grave.
Jared resisted the urge to run his hand through his hair, the tiara sitting on top of his head felt foreign, extremely heavy for something so small and way over the top.
“I look stupid,” Jared grumbled, leaving the tiara alone to fiddle with the buttons on his dress instead.
“You look very pretty,” his grandmother said. “Or rather handsome, if you prefer.”
“I’d prefer to be wearing regular clothes,” Jared replied. “They are going to take one look at me and think this whole thing is a farce.”
They were standing outside of the ballroom, fashionably late, waiting to be introduced. It had been decided that she would present Jared as Anastasia, with his still smooth skin and long hair, he might pass as a girl, albeit a very weird, very tall, and very un-curvy one.
Of course, everyone there would be too polite to say anything about his appearance.
If Jared decided to let his grandmother reverse the spell, everyone would also be too polite to wonder how he suddenly looked more feminine.
And, his grandmother had reassured him, if he decided to remain as he was, they would spin a tale to explain his maleness that the masses would allow themselves to believe.
Chris was already in the ballroom, playing host along with Sophie. Chad was in the kitchen helping, if you defined helping as telling his life story over and over again to anyone that would listen.
It was just Jared and Grandmother standing at the doorway.
Jensen was long gone, on a ship, or in a car, or riding a horse, maybe it was a donkey. A donkey that would kick Jensen every now and then, which might be hard to do while Jensen was riding him but still -
“There is another option you know,” his grandmother said.
Jared blinked back to the here and now. “Third option?”
“You can stay Jared. You can find your young man, have a good life. A quiet one, free of the burden of being the one that lived.”
“But I just found you. I don’t want to lose you again.” Jared’s memories had been coming back in bits and pieces, a flash of his older sisters laughing and playing, holding his brother’s hand as they walked down the stairs. Jensen racing him across the field, laughing as he glanced behind.
Grandmother grabbed his hand, patted it. “We will never be apart again Jared now that we found each other. We can write, I will come visit you wherever you land. The life I lead, it is so constricting. You were made to live a much larger life; you always have been.“
“But –” Jared looked at the closed door of the ballroom, heard the formal music, hushed whispers inside. No one knew the Grand Duchess was presenting Anastasia tonight, it was to be a surprise. “He lied to me, I can’t give up everything and follow a man who doesn’t even care about me.”
His grandmother didn’t ask who ‘he’ was. “He turned down the money you know, said he didn’t want it. It’s been a long time, but I still recognize the look of a man in love. And I see it in you, you radiate with it. And I see it in him too.”
Jared turned toward her, hope rushing into him. “But he’s already gone, I have no idea where to find him.”
“I would check the pier if I were you,” Grandmother said, then pulled his head down, kissed his cheek. “Go find your young man with my blessing and my love.”
He was already on the freaking boat when he changed his mind.
He had no chance with Jared, this was stupidity on a level he had never experienced before.
Turns out, being in love causes you to do extremely stupid things.
Like go back to the Grand Duchess’ house, hat in hand, and beg the one that you love to forgive you, give you another chance.
He didn’t get that far though; Jared was standing on the bridge right in front of him. He was radiant, wearing a dress that shimmered in the moonlight, the tiara in his hair sparkling as bright as any star.
Jensen’s heart did a funny flip as he realized that Jared was smiling at him.
Jensen began running towards Jared, he was at the foot of the bridge when he saw him.
He had never thought he would see the man again, in fact everyone believed him to be dead.
There was something strange about Rasputin. He was almost translucent, his face warped in ways that didn’t seem possible.
He was facing Jared. “Ten years I have been looking for you. Of course, I was looking for a girl. Clever woman, your grandmother. We went to school together until I was kicked out for some nonsense about not using magic properly.” There was a bright flash of light and Jared was thrown over the side of the bridge, feet dangling over the icy water of the lake as Jared held onto the side. “No matter, I didn’t need to finish school to learn what I needed to know. I will finally be able to rest now, with you gone Anastasia. Let go, there is no sense hanging on. Nobody can save you now.”
“Do you want to bet?” Jensen asked, and flung himself at Rasputin. He had no weapon, no magic, but he was going to save Jared, if he gave up his life to do so.
Rasputin, seemingly shocked by the attack, fell back which gave Jensen the chance to grab Jared’s hands and pull him up.
“Remind me to thank you if I survive this,” Jared said as Jensen checked him quickly for injuries.
There was a roar, and then a horse, pale and blue and clearly unworldly, hurled himself at Jensen, knocking him over. Jensen had no idea how to kill a ghost horse, could barely move from underneath the girth of it. The horse kicked and bit surprisingly hard for something that was not alive.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jared fighting with Rasputin. Jensen, desperate to get away from the horse and to help Jared, kicked any part of the horse he could reach, hitting it with everything he had in him.
Words were exchanged between Jared and Rasputin, words that Jensen couldn’t quite make out. A bottle hit the bridge, rolled around.
The horse was crushing him, Jensen was still fighting, but it was getting harder and harder to breathe.
From what felt like an exceptionally long distance, he heard the sound of breaking glass, heard a scream that went on and on and –
Jared watched as Rasputin finally dissolved into nothingness. He had no idea what was in the vial he crushed, but whatever it was, now both Rasputin and the eerie horse were gone.
Jensen was lying on the bridge, still, lifeless.
For a moment, Jared was so blinded by panic that he couldn’t move, he had never seen Jensen look so pale.
He couldn’t be gone, not after everything they had gone through, not when they were about to be together forever.
Jared ran to him, reaching him just as Jensen stirred and began to sit up. Shocked, Jared pulled back, accidentally hitting him across the face in his hurried retreat.
“Okay, enough with hitting me in the face,” Jensen grumbled. “I know how jealous you have to be that I’m prettier than you –”
Jensen didn’t get any other words out, Jared pulled him into a desperate hug. “I thought you were dead.”
“I’m not that easy to get rid of, but I do intend on staying away from ghost horses from now on.” Jensen struggled to his feet. “Rasputin gone?”
Jared grinned down at him, smoothing out his now wrinkled dress as he did so. His hair was a mess, his tiara was hanging on barely, clinging to his left ear. “Yes, and some hero you are. I had to save myself.”
“Hey, fighting a ghost horse here,” Jensen grumbled, grabbing Jared’s hand, clutching it tightly. “Plus, I did pull you out of the lake, and for a princess you weigh like a ton.”
Jared hit him playfully on the arm, and then leaned down and pressed his lips against Jensen’s.
Jared forgot about the cold, Rasputin, that they were in the middle of a bridge. He wrapped his arms around Jensen, pulled him in closer and let the feel of Jensen’s sweet lips on his take him under, sweep him away.
There was music in the air again, music only they could hear, Jared was in a dress again, and they were dancing again.
But this time they were dancing in a gazebo. And this time they were dancing as newlyweds.
Chris and Sophie were now betrothed, Jensen told Jared he had never seen his friend happier.
To Jared’s dismay, Chad had decided to stay behind as well. While helping serve at the ball Jared had not attended, Chad had met the daughter of a minor Earl, visiting from England. As it turned out, Jocelyn was as good as listening as Chad was as talking and was just as eccentric as Chad. Chad was already on his way to England to meet her father.
But Jared was not thinking about any of that as Jensen twirled him around and around the gazebo, the skirt of Jared’s wedding dress fluttering around his ankles, Jensen’s eyes sparkling up at him.
There was no music, but they did not need music.
“I wish this night could last forever,” Jared said as Jensen spun him and then dipped him. “I never thought it was possible to be this happy.”
“I would say our troubles are behind us, but trouble always seems to find you no matter where you are.“ Jensen teased. “But if trouble does find us, I promise to cheer you on while you save yourself.”
Jared accidentally stepped on Jensen’s toes. Hard.
“Hey, be nice to my feet, I need them to sweep you off yours.” Jensen spun Jared around several times until Jared was breathless and dizzy.
Jared took a moment to catch his breath. He looked at the ring on his finger, looked back at the man who gave him his last name. “I can’t wait to start our married life together.”
“Me either,” Jensen replied. They were no longer dancing as much as they were swaying, bodies melded together.
“No, I can’t wait,” Jared said again, voice pitched low. “I want to move the celebration inside.”
“I thought we were –” Jensen began and then his eyes opened wide.“Ohhh, here I was hoping you’d make an honest man out of me, and it turns out I have corrupted you.”
Jared leaned down, tasted Jensen’s lips“Please free to corrupt all of me.”
Jensen pulled away from Jared, only to offer him his hand. “Well since you said please…”
Getting a dress off quickly was much harder than getting a shirt and trousers off. There was a lot of tugging, a bit of wrestling, and some words used that sailors would have been proud of, but finally they were standing in front of each other. Naked.
Jensen was beautiful, every part of him. Beautiful in a way that made Jared self-conscious about his skinny body, his too-long legs. He bit his lower lip, wondering if Jensen would still want him.
Jensen’s eyes never left his as he reached into a bag and pulled out Jared’s tiara.
“No, no way,” Jared protested, embarrassment giving way to amusement. “If you like it so much, you wear it.”
“Please?” Jensen asked, holding it out to Jared. “It sparkles so pretty, shines almost as brightly as you do.”
Jared flushed a bit, but he took the tiara and affixed it on top of his head.
Jensen smiled. “Sweetheart, you are the prettiest thing I have ever seen, I can’t believe I get to have you.”
Jared flushed deeper and let Jensen lead him to the bed.
“And as happy as I am that you chose me over being royalty,” Jensen said, as Jared laid down and Jensen hovered over him. “I am still going to call you princess now and again.”
“I’m okay with that,” Jared admitted, nerves picking up. “I’ve never – I don’t know what to do.”
“It’s okay sweetheart, just relax, I’m going to take such good care of you.” Jensen kissed Jared softly, a press of lips.
“My beautiful, perfect boy,” Jensen continued, as he kissed Jared’s collarbone, a gentle press of lips to Jared’s nipples.
Jared could feel himself begin to harden, as Jensen continued his soft careful way down Jared’s body, lavishing a kiss to his belly button, his hands rubbing soothingly against his sides “So perfect everywhere.”
A kiss to the top of his cock, kisses to the inside of his thigh.
Jared had never felt so cherished before. The way that Jensen was lavishing attention to his body, the way Jensen’s hands roamed over his stomach, his sides, his fingers caressing wherever they touched.
He had never felt like this before, he could not lie still, his body writhing and aching for something so much more.
“This is easier if you turn over,” Jensen said, as he lifted himself up, claiming Jared’s lips once more, and this kiss was not so gentle, this kiss was hungry. Jared’s lips parted and let Jensen’s tongue in. A fire burned in Jared and he pressed his tongue in too, needing to taste as much of Jensen as possible, needing to devour Jensen and be devoured in return.
Jensen was breathing heavily when they broke the kiss. Jared could still taste Jensen in his mouth, he wanted more, wanted everything.
“As I was saying,” Jensen continued, and reached over to the bedside table, where there was oil. He dipped three fingers in the oil, the other hand rubbing against Jared’s hip bone. “It is easier if you are on your hands and knees but I don’t think I could bear not looking into those mesmerizing eyes of yours. You can see everything in your eyes Jared, what you think, how you feel, how deeply you love. I want what to see what you look like when I press into you, I want to look deep into your eyes as I take you, I want to see how you fall apart when you come.”
“Yes, yes, I want all of that. I want to see you too,” Jared replied.
“You are so good to me, so perfect.“ Jensen praised. “Are you ready sweetheart?”
Jared nodded, He let Jensen arrange his legs the way he wanted them, watched as Jensen settled between them.
Jensen talked to him soothingly as a finger slowly pressed in. “So pretty like this, so much more than I deserve. So beautiful, the way you let me in, the way you give yourself to me.”
Jared found himself lost in Jensen’s words, Jensen kept talking as he pressed one finger, then two inside of him and Jared let the words of praise wash over him, feeling his body relaxing as the words caressed him.
Jared was beginning to think the fingers pressing in wasn’t so bad, not great but he could get used to it when Jensen smirked down at him and then crooked his fingers.
The wave of pleasure almost lifted Jared off the bed, it was so intense and sparked so quickly and then was gone. Jared looked at Jensen, wide-eyed. “Can you do that again?”
“I can,” Jensen confirmed, and did so. It was just as amazing as the first time, maybe even more so and sadly just as brief. “And with more than just my fingers.”
Jared sat up in the bed and grabbed Jensen and pulled him into a kiss, this one was messy, frantic. Jared didn’t even notice when a third finger joined the other two, he was too busy drowning in the feel of lips, tongue, the sharp sting of a bite to his lower lip which he returned.
“I’ve got to get inside of you Princess,” Jensen said, as he dipped his fingers into the oil once more, rubbed his fingers over his cock.
The press of the cock against his entrance was terrifying at first, so much bigger than fingers. But Jensen was kissing his neck, cherishing him with words, caressing him with his fingers.
Jared found his body relaxing, his mind relaxing, his body giving itself over to the pleasure Jensen promised him.
“That’s it sweetheart, you are doing so good,” Jensen praised, and he pressed in a little further. “So perfect for me, every inch of you so perfect. And there are so many inches.”
Jared choked back a startled giggle, and Jensen pressed in further.
There was a little pain, but nothing he could not handle, and he trusted Jensen, trusted that the pain would fade into pleasure just like he promised. Still, he was glad Jensen was going so slowly, taking his time.
Jensen kissed him again, one hand was on the bed, one hand pressed against the back of Jared’s head, holding him steady, anchoring him.
Jensen stilled; he was fully inside. Jared pushed aside the pain to dwell in the wonder of it, the way he felt complete in a way he had never thought possible.
Jensen began rocking into him slowly as they continued to kiss, pulling out just a little before pressing in deep inside of Jared. He shifted a bit, pulled Jared’s legs until they draped over his shoulders, and then Jensen’s cock was pressed against that place that sparked so much pleasure.
“Oh,” Jared said, letting his head fall back for a moment, before looking at Jensen again. “So much better than fingers.”
“So much bigger too, gonna fill you up so good,” Jensen continued rocking into Jared, his hips grinding a little, and pressing hard against that sweet spot. Jared’s body was thrumming with pleasure, nothing in the world existed besides the two of them, this moment, the press of Jensen’s cock into his body.
“I’m not going to last long this time Jared,” Jensen admitted. “Are you close?”
Jared nodded, reaching a hand down to where his cock was trapped between them, but Jensen was quicker.
Nobody had ever touched him there, and Jensen’s hand was firm, sure, as he stroked Jared’s cock with just the right amount of pressure, perfect Jensen with his perfect lips and perfect hands and perfect cock and –
Jared’s orgasm did not build, it just exploded. His cock was twitching in Jensen’s hand, he was dimly aware that Jensen was thrusting more forcibly inside of him, jolting Jared’s body as his cock kept pulsing and then Jensen shuddered.
It took a long time for the world to right itself again, during which time Jared wondered exactly when they could do this again, and how often, and did they really need to leave this room for anything ever again.
“My Princess,” Jensen said, after they clung to each other for a few minutes. He kissed Jared’s forehead. “My Jared.” He kissed Jared on the lips. “Mine.”
“Yours,” Jared happily agreed, and pulled Jensen closer to him. They were so intertwined no one could have said where one began and the other one ended. Jensen mumbled something about cleaning up but there was no way Jared was going to let him go.
They fell asleep like that and awoke the next morning the same way, ready and eager to see what the future held for them.