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The Engagement.

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Jude's king and Jon's bored with the day's pomp and pageantry. There's little for the second in line to the throne to do other than make nice with ambassadors. It's late into the night when Jude calls him to his chambers, but there's no denying the new king his privileges.

"You wanted me?" Jon slowly closes the door behind him, leans against its cool, heavy wood. "My lord."

"Yes, I did." Jude is sitting behind the writing desk, Gerry standing to his right. "Please come in, Jon."

Jon frowns as he takes the step forward, notices Gerry, losing what little desire he had to stay in the room. "General," he says, being polite. "It's late, Jude, and I was retiring. Could this wait till morning?"

"I'm afraid it can't." Best to get it over with. It's distasteful to have to give his brother away like this, but Jude will do whatever it takes to keep his kingdom safe and his generals loyal. "Jon, I would like to introduce you to your betrothed."

"My betrothed?" Jon looks around the room. There's no Maleagran ambassador's daughter stepping from the shadows. No one else but him and Jude and ... Jude can't mean that. "I see no one here I'd be willing to marry."

"Your will does not come into this," Jude snaps. His fingernails dig into his palm as he continues. "I have promised you to the general. Now, you will do your duty as a prince and obey me."

"You've promised me? To him." Jon's hissing the words out. "You can't be serious, Jude." He moves closer, leans on the desk, pressing his hands into the wood. "We don't need his loyalty."

Jude stares up at Jon coldly. "Yes," he says, biting off the end of the word. "We do."

Jon leans over the desk. There are very few matters on which he'd question his brother, but this is one. He looks up at Gerry, glares, and then turns back to Jude. I'd rather be dead. He keeps the thought to himself, not sure he wants to know if Jude would even give him that option.

"We are brothers, Jude, before we are king and subject. His allegiance is worth my soul?"

His soul? Gerry smiles, but says nothing. He'll let Jude deal with his unruly brother, then he'll take what's his. As for now, watching Jude is yielding up valuable information about his new king.

Gerry's allegiance could mean the difference between victory and defeat and Jude won't do anything to jeopardize it. It's regrettable that he has to do this, but it's worth it. "It's not your soul that's in question," he murmurs. "Your loyalty to me, your respect. I need you to do this for me."

Jon knows there's no way out of it, not without irrevocably harming Jude. He straightens, takes a deep breath.

"On my terms, brother," he says slowly, knowing his position to negotiate is tenuous. "I won't be treated as some conquest bride. I am a prince, after all."

"And you will remain a prince." He will not be Jude's heir, but there is little he could do to remove a born prince from the line of succession, even if he wanted to. "I'm certain that your new husband will treat you with all the respect you deserve."

"I am sure of that," Jon says sarcastically, again looking at Gerry. He doesn't trust the man. Likes him even less. "I would like that in writing, please, a marriage agreement."

Jude shakes his head. "I'm sorry, Jon. That won't be possible." Part of the agreement was that Gerry would not get a royal wedding and would not officially be part of the family. Jude isn't stupid enough to put a general in a position where he could easily take power. "But you have my word that I will see that you are being treated fairly."

"Your word." Jon steps back from the table. "I trust you, Jude, with my life." He nods slowly. "How long do I have to prepare? It will have to be explained to Sean, my leaving, considering he just lost Father."

"You'll be able to say your goodbyes to Sean, but I would like you to leave by the day after tomorrow." It will be hard on Sean, but Jude thinks it better not to wait. Sean's too preoccupied by father's death that losing Jon won't hurt as much as it would on its own.

Bastard. I'm surprised you didn't just let him take me in the night. Jon's expression belies his thought, his face calm and smiling.

"Of course. I am yours to command, my lord." He steps back, give a short bow. "I shall take my leave of you now, prepare myself for the journey."

Jon's taking it better than Jude expected him to, and Jude's pleased. He didn't want to have to fight about this, not with Gerry watching. "Thank you. You're dismissed."

Jon turns and walks away, not acknowledging Gerry's presence as he bids Jude good-night. He's not wanting to fight, knowing his acquiescence after the brief protest does more to solidify Jude's position than an argument would.

Jude watches him go, then looks up at Gerry. "Are you satisfied, general?"

Gerry nods. "I am. Thank you, sire." He smiles. Everything's going exactly how it should.