Hey, kids. New story from Schuyler, a little of the AU action this time. The year is 1499, the setting is Western Europe. That’s all the help you’re getting out of me. Supermuchthanks to Mike and Dru (the venerable Editorial Committee), all of my incredibly supportive chat friends (Muzzy, Andrew, Karen, Sammy and everyone else). (Kat, a little of this is for you :-) ) I want to suggest Before They Were Rock Stars by Lois Lane and, of course, Cosmic Companions, the greatest thing since sliced bread :-) Any questions, comments, feedback (you know how much I love feedback!), write me at Schuydncer@aol.com

Disclaimer: I don’t know anyone at all. If anyone was gay, I’d be the last person they told. I promise.

King and Country, Chapter One - A Homecoming
by Schuyler

Queen Kristin of Spain had come to him again, not begging, never asking, but demanding that something be done about the English Ambassador. And something would. but certainly not what she had in mind.
King Kevin had stormed into the hall, hiding his fury, and picked his way through the reveling drunks to his son. “Nickolas.” The prince turned, his blue eyes twinkling with impending mischief, as always. “Come with me.” Nickolas’ ornate shoes tapped across the imported tile as he followed his father into the anteroom. “Nickolas, there is a fear for your safety here.” Nickolas’ eyes widened in horror. “I am sending you to Barcelona. Your uncle Brian will keep you there. Be at the stables in an hour.”
Now Nickolas, his entourage, and their “necessary” possessions were being loaded into twenty carriages. Queen Kristin shed a tear, believing her husband’s lie about the threat to her only son. King Kevin waved as the horses started off down the road to Barcelona. As soon as the company was out of sight, Kevin collected his guard from their barracks and rode into Madrid.
It was the middle of the night and ordinary people were sure to be sleeping, though the endless festivities in Kevin’s court would last until sunrise. His men broke down the door of a lovely home in the most fashionable district of Madrid. This was no time for games. As the household servants began to run about in a panic, Kevin strode up the stairs with his men to the master bedroom, his sword drawn. His fury showing now like bared fangs of a rabid dog, Kevin kicked the door open and scared the sole occupant awake. “Your Highness,” the Ambassador stuttered.
The King’s men seized him quickly. “Sir Lance, please don’t think that I have anything against you. I don’t. But my son has become fascinated with you, determined to add you to his list of conquests, and you resolutely refuse. The first to do so,” he added as an afterthought. “So I have no choice but to return you to England. Out of sight,” he punctuated his words with a thrust, his sword plunging into Lance’s shoulder, “out of mind.” The royal guard took some of Lance’s things, a few garments of clothes, his Bible, his journals, and dumped them, with the young ambassador, onto a English merchant’s ship moored in Toledo, a hard night’s ride from Madrid. The king stood on the dock in the rising sunlight, yelling to the ship’s Lord. “Earl Robert, I know you did not plan on leaving for a few hours yet, but you will set sail immediately.” Robert knew better than to defy the king when he had that look of fire in his eyes and, twenty minutes later, he had set sail for London.

Things were well underway for the celebration of the thirty-second birthday of the King of England, the beginning of the jubilee that would last the six months until his twentieth anniversary as king. Nobles and commoners had come from all over England to honor their beloved King. The King sat on his throne watching the dancers while the unmarried king’s heir, Prince Justin, sat on his right chatting with friends.
The grand doors opened in full view of everyone and Earl Robert Williams, a friend of the King’s, entered, half-dragging a beautiful young man carrying his left arm in a sling and soaked to the bone from the English snow outside. There was a general gasp. “My apologies, Your Highness, for interrupting your festivities. This is Sir Lance Bass, Marquis of Dorset, Ambassador to Spain.”
The King stood, he had not seen Sir Lance in fifteen years, since Lance’s late father had been sent to Spain by the then teenaged king. He had a million questions, but they’d obviously have to wait, Sir Lance was fading fast. “Welcome. Lady Christina,” she was already on her feet and heading towards the newcomers. “Have Robert’s usual room prepared and see to the Marquis.” Christina nodded and she and her ladies escorted the gentlemen out. King Christopher sat again, uneasy.

The party had broken into several private chambers now; with dinner done and the entertainments ended, the revelers continued quietly. The king, with a worried, distant expression on his face, entered Sir Joshua’s chambers. There were at least twenty people in the salon and those who were sitting rose at the king’s entrance. Chris halfheartedly waved them down. Joshua was at his side in a moment. “What is upsetting you?”
Chris fidgeted. His best friend knew him too well. “The ambassador’s return. Something about it feels wrong. Or at least odd.”
Joshua began pushing him to the door. “Christopher, it is your birthday. This can all wait until morning. Now get some rest, you look just awful.” Joshua pushed him out into the corridor. Chris started walking, having only barely heard Joshua’s words. He was wandering, taking the long way home, when he found himself in front of the ambassador’s chambers. He steeled himself and pushed open the heavy, dark door.
There was a sort of warmth to the room. A fire blazed in the hearth, casting an amber glow on Lance, laying sleeping under the thick white blankets. Lady Christina, sitting in a chair beside the bed, stood and folded the letter she was reading. “Good evening, Your Highness.”
“Good evening, Christina. A letter from home?”
“From my cousin, Britney. But we can discuss her situation tomorrow.”
Chris looked at Lance and the back at the kind Duchess of Oxford. “How is he?”
She looked down at her charge, fondness in her eyes. “Doctor Bowman says he’ll be fine. It was only a stab wound, but something jarred it.” She looked back at Christopher, laying a hand on his arm. “Don’t worry.”
“You should get home, pet. Joseph will be wondering after you.” She nodded, smiling, and paused to kiss his cheek. He kissed hers and let his stare fall to Lance while she slipped quietly out. He sat in the chair, sighing. “Where did you come from? What happened to you? Why do I feel this mixture of foreboding and hope when I look into your eyes?”
Lance started moving, slow and fluid, like a cat in the sun. He stretched, wincing when he remembered his shoulder. His pale green eyes fluttered open and he caught sight of the man beside him. “My Lord!”
Chris smiled gently at him. “Settle. You should be resting.”
Lance began to avoid Chris’ eyes, looking around nervously. “I suppose I should explain what I’m doing here.”
“Shh,” Chris replied, “that can wait until tomorrow. You need some rest.”
Lance still looked unsure. “I fear there is an unpretty situation rising in Spain.”
“You are in England now,” he said softly, “and you have all of England behind you.” Lance looked into his caring, confident eyes and smiled. Chris was disarmed by that ultra genuine smile. He already felt that he’d found a friend in Sir Lance. He squeezed Lance’s hand. “Sleep now. You can meet the others in the morning.” He rose to his feet and walked out, leaving Lance to sleep by the warm glow of the fire.

Prince Justin kept only one secret from the king and he lay beside him now. Joshua laid on his back, nude, and thought. “What are you thinking about?” Justin asked, turning to rest his head on Joshua’s chest.
“Something Robbie told me this evening. He says that King Kevin threw Lance out of country secretly, because he refused Prince Nickolas’ advances.” Justin gasped a little, lifting his hand from his lover’s chest. “He says it has been going on for a while and the King was finally fed up.” Justin had practically stopped breathing. Keeping his eyes down, he hastily turned away from Joshua. “Justin, what's wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m going to sleep.” His words were rushed, scaring Joshua.
Joshua laid his hand on Justin’s side only to feel him trembling. “Shh, it’s all right. Go to sleep.” He stroked Justin’s back until he heard the Prince’s breath even out. Finally asleep. Justin had had a temporary panic. Why had it worried Joshua so much? He had been in many relationships before, some with very powerful men. Hell, when he was younger, he’d even shared King Christopher’s bed for a year. But nothing had felt like this (some had felt like nothing at all). He found himself deeply troubled over Justin’s behavior. He couldn’t bear to see Justin hurt and he wanted to shield, to protect the Prince against all he could. This was new. Joshua was used to being in it for the sex. Now he could live without it (fabulous as it was) and still be happy. With Justin. Unusual. He kissed Justin’s cheek and settled down for sleep.

A lively conversation wad just starting in the atrium of the monk Prince Brian’s palace when a young man entered, dirty and flushed from a long ride. Prince Nickolas immediately recognized him as one of his most faithful servants. “My Lord,” he knelt beside Nick. “News from Madrid. Your father the King has expelled Sir Lance. He sailed for London a week ago.”
“No!” his voice boomed through he hall. Brian held his mistress a bit closer. Nick picked up a nearby vase and hurled it against the wall, showering the messenger with white porcelain. “Never!” The Prince’s groom entered, having heard the yelling. Nickolas pointed at him. “We ride to meet my mother tomorrow.” The groom bowed and exited. Nick hauled the messenger to his feet by his collar. “You will tell me everything.”
Alexander Cardinal James slipped out the back door with Lord Howard, Duke of Barcelona, on his heels. “Cardinal, Your Grace, do you need something?”
“A plan.” Howard, always a bit slow, cocked his head, confused. “This is the perfect opportunity to get me back into Madrid.” The Cardinal had angered the King by, among other things, introducing his mistress, the Lady Leighanne, to the King’s brother Brian, the Lady whom Kevin had hoped to offer to be the wife of King Nicholas of France, King Nicholas who was now married to Jessica, King Christopher’s sister. Alexander had thought it best to wait out the King’s rage in Barcelona. It had been two full years. “The King is stuck. Queen Kristin will take her son’s cause, because she always does, and he will need to bring Sir Lance and get him to submit to Nick. If I can conceive and execute a plan, I can return to Madrid,” he looked at Howard, “where the Lord needs me most.” Howard beamed his devout smile. Alexander nearly gagged.

Christina sat turned in her chair to face King Christopher. “My cousin Lady Britney is already on her way from Rome with our uncle’s blessing.”
“And Justin is all right with this?”
“She understands his special situation and has one of her own and he knows that this is the best solution for everyone.” She smiled. “We can’t all have an heir just fall into our laps.” Chris smiled as well.
The great doors opened and Lance entered the room, tall, elegant, poised, graceful. He practically glided across the room to kneel before Chris. He was dressed in his finest clothes and the sling that Dr. Bowman had insisted on and, in under a minute, he had charmed the entire court of King Christopher. “My Lord.”
Chris was pleased. “You’re looking much better.” Lance smiled and stood. “Come, let’s talk of Spain.” Chris rose and the entire court stood to watch him retreat.
A fire roared in Christopher’s anteroom. He and Lance sat in the armchairs before the hearth. “My Lord,” Lance took a deep breath. “The situation in Spain is dangerous. Spain is corrupt and mismanaged. The monarchy is without morals. King Kevin acts only out of personal concern, never for the good of the people, and the people are fed up.”
Chris looked shocked. “Lance, you’re exaggerating.”
“I swear on my family’s good name that I am not.”
They were sitting there, Lance silently imploring his King to believe the very real threat that Spain posed, when the King’s steward knocked and opened the door. “Your Majesty, the Lord of the Exchequer is here to see you.”
“Thank you, Hayes.” Chris and Lance rose from their chairs. Chris leaned in to whisper into his friend’s ear. “We will discuss this tonight, in my chambers. You have piqued my interest.” Lance nodded once, suppressing a grin and feeling the blush rising in his cheeks. He bowed slightly and left.
Chris fell into his chair, the thought of Lance roaming in his mind.