let's start, let's start a riot
hard to sit still when your head's on fire
because i'm a supernova
and you're my four leaf clover
Royal Assistant to the Crown Prince Preston Shepherd's POV
Preston flicked his wrist, the navy button up folding quickly and precisely before setting it into his suitcase. It was a surprise that all of his clothes fit in the tiny tattered suitcase that he had brought at the beginning of the school year, but Preston had always used his small wardrobe to its fullest.
His dark eyes glanced sideways to his roommate, who was going through his own shirts much more slowly - he probably wasn't even halfway through his stuff. Preston's eyes drifted to the clock on the wall, the second hand ticking quickly towards the twelve. They had a few hours left, but Preston would be sent in a casket before he showed up late. Attention heading back to his roommate, he let out a small chuckle.
"Miles, if you don't stop to reminisce on every single T-shirt, you won't be back to Angeles for a week."
The blond laughed, tossing his head back before turning to grin at Preston. An impish smile curved at his friend's lips and Preston recognized the mischief sparkling in the brown of his eyes. He held up an oversized tour shirt, peeking from the side to look at Preston, "Do you remember when we went to this concert?
"Of course I do, Miles; I'm the one who got us the tickets." Preston leaned back against his bed frame, folding his arms across his chest. He remembered the night fondly; even though it was not necessarily part of his job to hang out with the prince. In fact, it was Preston's responsibility to make sure the young king-to-be didn't get into too much trouble so taking him to a crowded rock concert wasn't a smart idea. But hell if it wasn't a good time.
"It was my first concert." Miles hugged the shirt to his body, taking a deep contented breath in.
"I'm not saying you can't keep it - I'm saying fold it and put it in your suitcase and you can admire it at the palace." Preston replied with a chuckle before turning his attention back to his suitcase, where he had only a couple shirts left to fold. His wardrobe was much more minimalistic than the prince's - consisting mostly of button-ups, sweaters, and just a few T-shirts mostly for sleeping in. One of the only perks of growing up less lavishly, he told himself, was his ability to pack lightly. As he was scanning the drawers for any last things he was missing, he heard his phone buzzing from the nightstand. He rose, picking up the phone and checking the caller ID. King Frederickson. Or, in other words, his boss. "Hey, Miles? I'm gonna take this."
"Oh, is it your girlfriend?" MIles teased, pushing his lips out into a purse and making kissy noises. Preston rolled his eyes, but couldn't keep the smile from his lips. In an all boys school, finding a girlfriend was difficult. Not to mention being a full time med student gave you very little time for dating. Miles probably knew better than anyone that Preston had no interest in having a relationship, but it didn't stop Miles from teasing him about it.
"You know it." Preston answered, taking the phone with him to the bathroom before shutting the door and answering the call. "Preston speaking."
"Preston! My boy, I've got great news!" The king's voice boomed through the speaker of the phone, not bothering to waste time with any greetings. Preston was used to it, though. He knew the king well enough to hold the phone an inch or two away from his ear any time he saw the name show up on his screen. "Fantastic news, even. Wonderful news."
"Well, don't keep me waiting! What is this wonderful news?" Preston asked jokingly. Most people wouldn't dare talk to the king so nonchalantly, but Preston had spent four years getting to know the man. King Frederickson was more like a second father to Preston than a monarch.
"I've decided sent out the applications for Miles' Selection!"
Preston's face went white as his hand tightened around the phone. "You did what?"
"You remember how I mentioned at the beginning of the year that we need a reason to bring Miles back to the palace? Well, I was speaking with some of my advisors and we thought that it was about time for a Selection. Miles isn't getting any younger, so I took the liberty of setting everything up for you - since you had all those papers for school, y'know? I've already got the notice sent out for it to be announced on the Report. Isn't that incredible?"
"Sir, I-" Preston shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. He barely could conjure words into his mind, much less verbalize them. This was the opposite of good news. "I thought we were just coming back for the summer to visit? Didn't we talk about that when we spoke last? That it would be easier for Miles to acclimate slowly?"
"Boy! Don't be using those fancy doctor words with me, you know I do best with five letters." The king let out a good natured laugh. "And Cortana told me that she will head the Selection committee and help with the girls while they're here, so don't think that you'll have too much extra work. Your job can stay the same, more or less."
Panic began to swirl in Preston's stomach. "But his classes-"
"He can finish classes online at home during his Selection. Besides, what sort of education is an art degree anyway? He can surely learn from home." Frederickson said, his tone softening significantly. Preston thought he might throw up. Clearly his advisors had talked him into this. Preston knew the king would've never pulled his son out of Edenborough so suddenly without their devilish whispers in his ears. That damn Cortana, she had no idea what was best for Miles - assuming that she even cared.
"Don't you think that's very soon for his Selection to start? Surely it'd be best for him to have a year or two to get back into the swing of royal life. This is all so sudden, sir."
"Why waste time? The sooner he weds, the sooner we can get the royal blood going again. Miles' knows it's his responsibility to be the King, as the only eligible heir to the throne."
Preston pressed his lips into a hard line. How these decisions were made without consulting him was beyond him. Decisions relating to Miles always went through Preston first. Where was this sudden change coming from? At this point, however, Preston knew was fighting a losing battle. Once the king made up his mind about something, there was little that could be done to change it. The Selection would be happening, with or without Preston's approval. "I think that this will be very hard on Miles. That's all I'm saying."
There was a beat of silence. "I know, Preston. I know that. Delphine's worried too. She thinks his mind is too broken to be repaired, but he just needs something to snap him out of this, this, this… This drought he's in. And he's got you to help him now."
Preston had to fight back the urge to snap at the king. It was one thing to lose your temper at your boss, but when your boss was the most powerful man in the country, He worded his next statements carefully. "Frederickson, he's ill - not broken beyond repair. He hasn't had an episode in almost a year and a half, or even mentioned her name in months. Don't you think the stress of a Selection will only worsen his symptoms?"
"I can't wait forever for him to get better. Illea can't wait."
"And what about me?" Preston asked slowly. "How will I continue my studies as well as his therapy if he stays in Angeles? That's why he came here in the first place, after all."
"I figured that you could take a gap year." Frederickson replied. For a moment, Preston didn't even know what to say. That was not what he had signed up for. He had made it clear when he applied for the position that his studies came first. Not to mention that Preston didn't want to be in the spotlight, to have cameras following him. He had been hired to keep the prince and his mental health secret and to keep him safe, to monitor his symptoms and outbursts away from the public eye. He wanted to be a doctor, not a royal assistant forever. Preston opened his mouth to argue, but the king spoke again, "And, of course, your pay will reflect the new duties by being double upon your arrival. If you accept the promotion, that is."
Doubled. A lump formed in Preston's throat. He couldn't deny how helpful this job had been... It had completely paid for his pre med tuition, and it was one of the main reasons his mother could quit her job with her abusive boss. It was the reason his younger sister could finally join the dance team, because now she could afford the shoes and the costumes. Although this plan was not what he had wanted to do, could he even afford to stop now?
If he quit, who would be there for Miles?
"So, what do you say? You want to come stay with us? You're already part of the family."
Preston swallowed the lump. "I-I'd be honoured, your majesty."
"Good! Also, can you let Miles know the good news? I'd tell him, but you just have such a better way with words than me."
"I can do that, sir." Preston murmured, his free hand moving to grip the sink tightly, turning his already pale skin the white of a ghost. "I suppose we will see you in a week then."
"Of course, my boy. Can't wait to see both of you again."
There was a click and the line went dead. Usually he enjoyed the serenity of the silence, but it was merely a facade of peace in this moment. He was a rabbit out in the open, except he could feel the eyes of the predator burning into his fur, and there was nothing he could do but continue to graze and pray that he could outrun its teeth.
Preston took a moment to stare at himself in the mirror. He didn't see what he used to - a young man that wanted nothing more in life than to go to a medical school that he could have never dreamt of affording. How would he possibly explain this to Miles?
Preston took a deep breath, letting out the air through his nose before heading back to the main room of their dorm. Miles has his arms spread out, looking at a long sleeved shirt with a grin plastered on his face. At the sound of Preston coming in, the crown prince twisted backwards to shoot him a smile. "Look! This one is from that soccer game we went to! You remember?"
"Go Titans." Preston said with a laugh, hoping it wasn't coming off as forced as it felt. Miles turned his attention back to the shirt, smiling broadly. "Miles, I have exciting news. Your father has extended my position to live in the palace with you."
"Oh, for real?" Miles tossed the shirt he was holding into his suitcase, turning to face Preston. His dark eyes sparked with his almost childlike glee. "You mean you're coming with me? For the whole summer?"
"For the whole summer.." Preston tried to word the next news in his head. The Selection. Miles was going to have a Selection. Before he could find out how to verbalize his thoughts, however, Preston found himself wrapped in a tight hug.
"That's great! I don't know what I would've done back home without my best friend." Miles pulled away, throwing a soft punch at Preston's shoulders. Preston jokingly clutched at the spot, trying to keep his face void of the guilt that was crawling up his chest, the dark claws grasping at his heart desperately. Would Miles still think he was a good friend if he knew the extent of Preston's duties?
Selection Coordinator Abilene Gartner's POV
Abilene took a deep breath, checking her teeth in the gleam of the giant photo in front of her before eyeing the door once more. The door to the meeting room.
She let the breath out through her nose. She could do this. She'd walk in there confidently and she would not take no for an answer. They'd have to drag her out kicking and screaming.
But what if they did? After all, she wasn't royal. Not by blood, at least. And even though the staff never treated her poorly for being merely related through her aunt and the Queen, Abi knew that she was testing her luck with this mission.
But she had to do it. For her cousin. Abilene furrowed her brows together in determination and marched right into the heavy door before heaving it open.
"Abilene, what are you doing here?"
Abilene Gartner held her head high, letting a breezy smile grace her features as the large doors shut behind her loudly. The conversation that had been a murmur from outside halted immediately. In front of her was a large round table, with each and every face turning to stare at her. King Frederickson was the owner of the voice, and the patriarch looked more puzzled than angry, which Abilene was grateful for. He wasn't known for having a temper, but she hadn't made a habit of testing her uncle's patience.
Aunt Delphine sat beside him, and she wrung her hands nervously. Also an expected response from her. It broke Abilene's heart to see her aunt this way; she hadn't always been so timid and unsure of herself. Sure, the whole family had been different after the incident, but Delphine Schreave was nothing if not the glue that kept the family together through the hardship. After Miles had left for Edenborough, though…
Abilene swallowed the worry in her throat, hoping that he facade of confidence wasn't breaking for any of the powerful people filling the room. "I'd like to join the Selection Council."
She scanned the faces of everyone in the room - the king and queen, their advisors, the host of the Report - hoping and praying that their reactions wouldn't be that of pity or anger. Her aunt's lips quirked into a small smile, and that was enough to restore Abi's confidence. "This is my formal request. I know you're having one for Miles and I want in. I saw the invitations being taken to be delivered. "
"We don't have any openings." Abilene's gaze flickered to a woman who seemed to have her face permanently wrinkled with distaste. Her icy grey eyes were unwavering.
"Wait, Cortana." the king held up his hand, as if to pause her thoughts. Abilene recognized the name before she had recognized the face - Cortana was in charge of a lot of the event planning in the castle. "I'm curious to hear your reasoning."
"My cousin has been through a lot. I'm sure you're all well aware that his circumstances will require a more tentative process to his Selection than is normal. He needs someone on the Council that knows him and nobody knows him better than I do." Abilene spoke clearly, the words rehearsed in her mind from the hours she had spent combing through her vocabulary in front of a mirror for this very moment.
"I admire your dedication, Miss Gartner." Cortana said, her voice adding an edge to the otherwise kind words. "But I don't think it would be beneficial to baby the prince any longer. He's looking for a wife, not a babysitter."
"That's not my only point, Mrs Salvarano." Abilene replied coolly, "Not only would I be a beneficial part of the team because I know MIles, but I also know how to ensure the success of the whole thing. We need to update the Selection. It's been decades since anything has changed, despite how our world has progressed. I am here to suggest a modern Selection. A new format for an old tradition."
Another Event Coordinator spoke up, "What are you proposing?"
"Integrating social media. Instead of archaic paper applications, each girl will send in a video audition. We could have check-ins in the style of reality TV - we all know that those have been receiving higher viewership than the Report for many years. You need to adapt and I can help you do that."
"The Selection is to find our country a Queen, it's not some silly game show." Cortana challenged hotly. Abilene didn't let herself stammer, however, and to her surprise, a voice came to her aid.
"I think Abilene is right." Delphine interjected, the softness of her voice at odds with the power of her position. "The country already barely knows Miles, since he's been gone for so long… Maybe this could be a good way to endear him to our people once more? A way to reintroduce him to the people that he will lead."
A small chatter rose among the people in the room, a low roar like the patter of heavy rain on window panes. Her heart hammered in her chest, rattling around like a stone in a tin can. Abilene watched the room carefully, trying to see which people were on her side and which were not, but it wasn't clear through the hushed voices. Some were louder than others, and she picked through them in her mind.
"It would be entertaining. Maybe this would get the younger demographics back into the Report." One woman said, nodding along to the woman seated next to her.
"Preposterous. Would we make them all do weekly challenges as well? What a silly idea to suggest." Abilene could've scoffed. As if the idea of having a Selection wasn't preposterous in it's own right. It was one of the most ridiculous parts of their country, and there were a lot of things that were worth criticizing already.
"Maybe it would be easier just to have a dignitary marry him, avoid the drama." An older man chuckled lightly, but Abi failed to see the humor. Her cousin was not some sort of pawn in their hands. It made her sick to think that he even had to have a Selection in the first place. Maybe that was the reason she was so enveloped by the need to be a part of it. Miles deserved to have something true, something beautiful. That's what the world owed him, after cursing him with the life he had been forced to live so far. If there was any way she could help, she would. She'd flip through applications until her fingers bled if it meant she could find love for her cousin.
"His approval ratings could use the bump." Another advisor said, this time one that Abilene didn't recognize. Maybe someone just in the king's personal advisory chamber. It made her heart break for her cousin, but she knew that they were right. After the decision to send Miles away from the limelight, it was much harder for the world to keep up with him. They didn't know the rosy cheeked boy full of goofy smiles and shitty jokes that Abi did. He needed the people's approval, and she needed to be sure that no girl would come in here and take advantage of him.
"We will put it to a vote then. All in favor of adding Abilene to the Selection Council, please say aye." The king's voice boomed, stopping the chatter like a crack of lightning. Abi held her breath. The moments lingered like tiny eternities before she heard the first 'aye'.
It came from Aunt Delphine. Abilene smiled gratefully. It didn't take long for a second 'aye' to follow. And then a third. A fourth. Before Abilene had the chance to register what was happening, over half of the room had voiced their approval.
"Well, that's our two thirds majority." Frederickson said with a grin. "Welcome to the team, Abilene."
A/N - this has been a long time coming, guys, but here it is! I've got three prologue chapters before we start meeting girls, but what do you guys think so far? I know we haven't gotten a chance to get into our prince's head quite yet, but Miles along with these two will be our main POV characters for the remainder of the story. Extra details about the world building as well as the application is on my profile - you can either PM me your finished app or send me a document on Discord, whichever is easier for you!
I also want to put a disclaimer now that this story will feature heavy themes including death, drugs, suicide, and other unpleasant topics. If this bothers you, this may not be the story for you and I completely understand. I will not be labeling specific triggers for chapters other than this disclaimer now.
Leave me some feedback, I'm a sucker for reviews and I'm excited to start receiving some girls!