"Ow! Ow, ow!"
"Prince Hans, must you shriek at every bounce of the carriage?" Edvard asked in exasperation. "I told you that it would be a hard ride out, but you were the one who insisted on leaving."
"I couldn't stand another—ow!—day in that place!" Hans said, gritting his teeth. He shifted where he sat, unable to find a comfortable position. "My brothers are all so smug. My mother looks at me like her heart is breaking. And my father!"
"He is ill, Hans," Edvard said. "The grief has made him sick. You should have forgiven him before we left."
"I'm the one that should be grieving!" Hans snapped. "I'm the one that lost everything! I will—ow, ow, damn it—never forgive him."
"Why is it that you blame everyone for your losses except yourself?" Edvard asked. "There is no one else to blame, Hans. You grossly overreached, that is all there is to it."
Hans crossed his arms, biting back a yelp when the carriage jumped again. Merely two days had passed since the last of his punishment, and the bruises were nowhere close to healing. He was almost tempted to tell the carriage to turn back, but they were already well away from the castle. Edvard finally pulled him over and sat him on his lap, positioning him so there was minimal pressure on his aching bottom. Hans blushed, but did not fight him. Edvard would never treat him like anything but a child, Hans had realized by now. Though he sulked, secretly Hans did not really mind it. His attempts at adulthood had ended in disaster, so why not remain a bit of a child? Edvard was patronizing, but only lovingly so.
"What of you?" Hans asked, settling in his arms. "Will you miss Arendelle?"
"Oh, yes, I suppose," Edvard said thoughtfully. "I am familiar with being alienated from the kingdom, however. I left home to travel when I was young, just as you did, and then I spent the rest of my years up in my castle in the mountains. I never thought that I would leave again, but then, I never expected to have a reason to."
"And I'm your reason, am I?" Hans kissed the man's neck, just above the collar of his jacket. "You would give up your home and family, for me? For the usurper?"
"I will be able to visit my kingdom now and again," Edvard said. "Once you can be trusted to be left on your own."
"I may run away."
"To go where?" Edvard reminded him. "No ship will let you on board."
"I may stow away on your ship."
"And I may have to stow you in a cage after all," Edvard said. "That was where I found you, after all, chained in the ship's prison. I'll never forget what a mess you were, and so furious! The look in your eyes might have frightened another man. I thought only that you were quite attractive, if smaller than I expected."
"They made you sound such a monster in Arendelle," Edvard said. "I expected a man more akin to your brother, Gunnar, but you were slim and cute and so very young. I thought it was incredible that such a boy had caused all that trouble."
"I am not a boy."
"Yet there you were, Prince Hans of the Isles, usurper," Edvard said with a laugh. "There you were, an enemy of mine, and I could not even hate you."
"I hated you," Hans informed him. "I hated everything and everyone of Arendelle. Other than that, I only thought you were … pale. There was nothing of color about you, you looked to be made of ice."
Edvard lifted two fingers and let snowflakes dance from them. Hans watched with a child's fascination, and then a spark of ambition ruined the innocence. Edvard knew that Hans intended to manipulate him into using his powers for some purpose. He would have to be very careful of them around Hans. Hans met his eyes, read the look, and smirked. His tongue darted out and he licked the snowflakes from Edvard's fingers.
"The magic of Arendelle," Hans murmured. He took Edvard's hand into his own, studying it. "Where does it come from?"
"Who knows?" Edvard said. "A deal with a dark one? An ancient curse? A certain strand of our bloodline? The history has been lost, or hidden."
"I would give anything to have such power," Hans said. "I would fly on a dragon made of ice, and bury my damned family in the snow."
"Enough of that," Edvard said, "or I'll let you sit the ride out on your own."
Hans sighed, leaning his head on the man's shoulder. The cold went and the warmth returned. Hans kissed Edvard's knuckles and held his long thick hand in both his own. They had left at the crack of dawn, and now he dozed sleepily.
I am turning my back on much to be with him, Edvard thought. He drew the carriage's curtains open some, gazing out at the forest they were riding through. But then, I always did love the Isles.
Hans was pleased to find that the castle was a stately gray presence, set on a tall hill behind the forest. The isolation was a relief, given that the youth was still too shamed to be seen publicly. Servants were already employed, and the castle's fires were lit. They had food and drink waiting in the dining hall, so Hans headed there first. Edvard followed, and they took the midday meal together.
"This will not be so awful," Hans said, standing to finish the last of his food. He rubbed his bottom briefly, wincing. "The castle is satisfactory, and it's quiet. I could use some quiet after everything."
"And how long until you're bored with the quiet?"
Hans swallowed wine, then walked over to Edvard at the head of the table. He bent over the table to bring their faces level. He kissed Edvard, the taste of wine still on his lips, and ruffled a hand through his silken platinum hair.
"Oh, how could I be bored with you?"
"You know I hate it when you try to charm me."
"Would I lie to you?"
Hans kissed him, cutting of Edvard's attempted retort. He did not give Edvard a chance to speak again, unlacing his breeches and kneeling in front of him beneath the table. Edvard stopped Hans for a moment by gripping his hair lightly, and turned his face up to his own.
"Do you want this, Hans?" Edvard asked. "I will send you home if you would rather return there."
"And suffer another carriage ride?" Hans shuddered. "No, Prince Edvard, I am happy enough where I am. Generous of you to offer, though. It must have taken a lot to do so when you have a handsome young man between your legs."
"Not very modest, are you?"
"You forget, Edvard," Hans grinned. "I am a villain."
I will have to remember it, Edvard thought. Then Hans's hands were upon him, and his mouth. Edvard did not think anything clearly until some time later.
That night, Edvard awoke from a light sleep to find his bed empty. He slipped out of bed, put on a dressing gown, and went to the balcony. Hans stood there in his night dress, staring at the stars. The only sound was the soft rush of the wind blowing through the trees below. Edvard put a hand on the other prince's shoulder.
"Oh, no," Hans said. "No, I don't miss it. I'm only thinking of … well, of what is to become of me. I thought that I would win a kingdom-"
"Steal one, more like."
"-and rule, and that would be all," Hans said. "I never wanted a fairy tale, I only wanted power. The power would bring everything else, I thought: love, fame, fortune, freedom. I thought that the Southern Isles would finally cheer me, remember my name above all my brothers'."
"Well, your happily ever after-" Edvard swatted him lightly. "-turned out a tad differently, in the end."
"I should be miserable," Hans said. "I should be furious. I should hate you, hate everything and everyone, even myself. I did at first, but now, here, with you … I'm only numb to it. I still have ambitions, I still have plans, but right now, I'm happy to simply be here."
Edvard looked to see if he was leading him on, but Hans seemed sincere. He was hugging himself, the thin night dress showing the slim lines of his fine young body, and he looked several years younger. He says he has plans, however, Edvard noted, watching Hans. What plans, Hans? What ambitions?
Hans turned on him with a fierce look suddenly. He kissed Edvard for a long time. His green eyes were intense when he pulled away, the expression much like the one he wore when he was in chains on the ship.
"You will be good to me, won't you, Prince Edvard?" he demanded to know. "I want you to promise me one thing."
"Of course I'll be good to you," Edvard assured him. "What is it that you want me to promise?"
"Promise me that you will never use your powers against me again," Hans said. "You frightened me half to death on the ship, but we were not lovers then. We are now, and so you must promise me this."
"I did not like using my powers on you even then," Edvard told him. "You were trying to knife me in the back at the time."
"Will you promise me this?"
Edvard hesitated. Hans was not the bravest boy when it came to punishment, and so spankings should suffice to control him. Nonetheless, the threat of Edvard's powers was the most effective rod, and giving it up would be a sacrifice.
"I promise, Hans," Edvard found himself saying. "I will not use my powers against you."
Hans smiled broadly, triumphantly. Edvard felt that he had lost some important little struggle, but was loath to ruin the night over it. Hans put his arms around his neck and kissed him. Edvard knew that there would be much more to come on the horizon of the future, but for this moment, anyway …
They Lived Happily Ever After