Fritz is counting his heartbeat by the second. it runs an unusual pace. rabbit hearted, Fritz thinks, a mistaken analogy.
the silk is too smooth beneath him, Lucette's palm too warm. his rabbit heart runs faster, and he turns to look at her for the first time that night. she is still staring steadfast at the canopy above them. the curtains are drawn tight enough that no light can come through. but he can still see her outline lying right next to him, soft curves and vanilla scented. it makes still his heart, his mind, his body.
rabbit hearted, Fritz thinks, an accurate analogy.
he offers her the name the very next morning.
Lucette looks at him, eyes wide. but Fritz only smiles, full of gentle acceptance and aching love.
so Lucette had not said a single word more, only combed her fingers through the black that frames one side of his face and smiled, too.
he has not left his study in days.
the door clicks as Lucette closes it behind her, the first to breach the prince consort’s space in days.
Fritz lifts his head from his hand, shoulders drooping and bleary eyed. the book under his grip is worn and ink stained, despite being days old.
she makes her way to him, around the table that is filled with documents and papers he is still getting used to the luxury of using, of even seeing.
gently, she detaches the quill from his other hand, placing it next to the open book. Fritz does not even have the strength to protest. merely watching her, affronted.
smooths her hands over his slept in shirt, down his tense arms. cradling his hands, rubbing thumbs over the new calluses over his fingers. he does not wince, already used to pain from his days as a knight.
“let’s have dinner.” Lucette says.
Fritz frowns, glancing back at his studies. the book on basic syntax mocks him for his little progress.
his hands are pulling back, his mouth a thin line -
the word is quiet.
but Fritz looks up, meets his love’s eyes and allows her to guide him to stand with no further reluctance.
“i’m sorry.” Fritz says, kissing her temple. “let’s go. but can i change first, at least?”
pushing his hands into hers fully, laughing softly as Lucette deliberates.
“Varg.” Lucette whispers.
Fritz’s eyes snap open, cold sweat soaking into the sheets, hand trembling in Lucette’s grasp.
the moonlight catches in Fritz’s glazed eyes, wide as the moon that accents them.
he pushes a smile to his face, pulls her hand to his lips to give her knuckles a gentle kiss.
“did I wake you?”
Lucette nods, shifts closer to Fritz as he sits up. curls against his form, hand settling over his unsteady heart that still runs miles too fast.
Fritz leans down, pressing shaking lips to her forehead, sighs, “sorry.”
his hand still trembles as he combs his fingers through her hair. she bends towards his touch, eyes flutter closed, and he shakes his head, leaning deeper into her as she presses closer.
“no, I mean - thank you.”
the sun shines brilliantly today.
Lucette strokes the silk sheets covering her betrothed, swathed not in the same gossamer but in rough cotton and gauze. his torso is practically hidden beneath white bandages, his face dabbed with salve. enough that Lucette cannot kiss him anywhere without feeling the chilly tinge of herbs on her lips.
he looks like he could be asleep. she hopes he is, and nothing more.
Lucette cannot ignore the way her hands shake, the way the exhaustion leans into her like it has found a home, the way Fritz’s pale complexion is akin Parfait’s just last year, surrounded by white roses and family before -
Lucette squeezes her eyes shut. gathers Fritz’s hand in both of her own, brushing her lips over it reverently, hauntingly - leans her forehead against the clammy hand of her home, and exhales, too cold.
“Varg.” Lucette mumbles, a wish, a prayer all rolled into one.
the sunlight glints off the windows. the wind brushes past dandelions and daisies of well wishes sitting in a vase.
the breeze sweeps across the room, once.
Fritz’s eyelashes flutter. Lucette does not hold her breath.
then they crack open, her hazy moon hidden behind a veil of cloud-white lashes.
“are you - you hurt?” he asks, cracking and hoarse and so, so loving.
the next thing that touches her lips are his.
Fritz’s teeth are gnashed, gaze wild, and he screams .
“YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY MY MOTHER’S NAME - HOW DARE YOU WHEN YOU TORE ME IN TWO AND MADE ME KILL ‘ME’ THAT MY MOTHER LOVED, I WISH I’D -’
and Lucette has her arms in a vice grip around his waist, yells over his anguished cries “Varg!” and Fritz’s jaw snaps shut.
the moment freezes solid, silent save for Fritz’s haggard breaths.
until Fritz’s frame shudders with a sudden inhale.
lets the anger go, just enough to speak civil towards the witch who cursed him, who killed him, twice over now -
first as a wolf, second as a knight.
“do whatever you want with him.” Fritz says, cold, uncaring. eyes boring holes into the witch before him. “just get him out of my fucking sight.”
Waltz claps a hand on his shoulder as Fritz turns away and stalks out the dungeons, Lucette’s hand held firmly in his.
“Fritz, stop.” Lucette murmurs, eventually, when it’s clear Fritz is walking deeper into the tunnels.
he does, but it is loud and crashing and too brash a clatter thud of feet to be knightly.
“I killed him.” Fritz exhales, in a rush, the tears never having stopped streaming down his face from before. “I killed him because I was scared and I killed him again when I wasn’t.”
the words bounce off the walls like light off mirrors Fritz still cannot bring himself to look at.
“because I was a coward, I had to kill him.” Fritz wails, his cries reverberating on the stone walls, echoing like the chambers of a heart.
and Lucette bites her lip only to find it salty, only to find herself crying, too.
layers of dust sit undisturbed upon the rows of books, the picture frames and boxes of toys, of clothes and belongings of a household no longer existing.
painfully out of place in the plain living room, Fritz draws the curtains, leaves a hand loosely curled in the patched fabric of old blankets.
Lucette curls her hand in his other. he does not react, eyes fixed on a point in the distance out the window that leads nowhere.
Fritz’s fingers twitch, before they are tightening around hers.
he lets go of the patchwork curtain.
blinks, and the beautiful grids of patterns are now a myriad of swirling colours, tasting like salt and iron.
(“no. that’s archaic. and it could be construed as a bad omen.”
“oh, boo. it’s meant to protect him.”
“the name of the mythological hero?”
“for protection. that’s what you want, isn’t it? ...why are you smiling like that?”
“‘one who never loses his way’ - it’s a good name.”
“hmgh. it’s the only one fitting for a leverton.”
“yes. which is why you spent nights thinking of names.”
“ahaha! you’re blushing!”
“still, is mine really no good?”
“...i do not want tongues to wag.”
“...however, if the opportunity presents, i will gift it to him.”
“..!! cross your heart?”
“cross my heart.”)
a gift, once given, does not just exist the option to be received.
it can be rejected, appreciated from afar, or taken in and given away again.
fear curdles in Lucette, crawls up her throat and threatens to cut her voice, her breath short.
another person bumps into her, and she stumbles forward, jostled by her pre-coronation parade’s cheer and ruckus that she cannot keep up with.
grips her hood, tugging it forward. keeping her eyes on the ground, claustrophobia pressing in on her with human bodies and their too joyful laughter, wishing she had never come up with this idea, never left the palace at all, never tried something as stupid and ambitious as this -
her voice is barely a whisper when it leaks.
a firework whistles through the air.
another’s hand finds hers as it explodes in a multicoloured burst, drowning out the name that catches in her throat.
breaking through the crowd, Fritz stumbles into the little space she has carved out around herself, tugging her close to him. chest heaving with relief and effort, bangs sticking to his sweaty forehead, his brilliant eyes softening when they land on her.
another cutting whistle, yet unable to undercut his relieved laughter.
his other hand finds hers, and backlit by the fizzling wheels of colour that light up the night sky, he smiles bright enough to light up her world again.
“found you, Lucette!”
the old promise word is replaced by a new promise name.
he comes to her, as long as she needs him.