Oh, and a Merry Imbolc and Happy Groundhog Day to all! :)
Title: "You Are My Wings…" (1/1)
Pairings/Characters: Clark/Lex, Lionel Luthor, Philip, Cook, Evangeline, Jonathan/Martha, Billy
Genres: Angst, Drama, Fairytale, Holiday, Romance
Summary: A lonely young Prince finds the love of his life in an enigmatic farmboy.
Date Of Completion: December 15, 2013
Dates Of Posting: February 2, 2014
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC and Warner Brothers do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 6580
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Written for nightshadow_t2 for the 2013 clexmas Holiday Gift Exchange.
The lonely young Prince sighed as he left the castle and entered the snowy gardens. The fountain stood frozen in the center and the statues were covered in snow. There were splashes of color in the ornamental bushes, but except for the evergreens and spruces, the trees were bare and the sky was a slate-gray.
Prince Alexander’s father, King Lionel, had decreed that a ball be held on the night before Christmas at the castle. Ostensibly it was to celebrate the holiday but Alexander knew that eligible young maidens were being invited so that he might find a suitable match.
“You never stop pushing, do you, Father?” Alexander murmured.
He hunched his shoulder against the cold, grateful for his warm cloak. He wore a fur hat, conscious of his bald head. The strange illness that he had suffered as a child had caused his glorious red hair to fall out. It had been a sad thing, losing that hair.
Alexander’s boots crunched on the snow. His purple cloak and fur-lined boots were a slash of color against the pristine snow. He wished that his father would leave him alone. He understood that someday he would have to wed to carry on the royal line, but he still had time. All he wanted to do was read his books and conduct his scientific experiments in the north tower of the castle.
And besides, I have a secret.
Alexander walked through the familiar gardens, grateful for the solitude. It could get suffocating inside the castle, especially with servants hovering around. Here he could take deep lungfuls of clear, cold air and be alone with his thoughts.
He walked farther away from the castle. The wind blew and a red cardinal flew onto a snow bank, its color bright against the snow. Alexander liked the contrast.
Come with me.
Alexander looked around and chuckled to himself. He was imagining things! It was just the wind whispering through the trees.
He thought of his latest experiment and kept walking along the cleared pathway. Time slipped away and he suddenly realized that he was at the forest’s edge. The snow was packed in drifts and sprinkled the evergreen trees like powdered sugar.
It was a pretty sight. He should make it a point to get out more. The shadows in the forest were intriguing. He should come back out and explore. Just because everything was under a blanket of snow did not mean that Nature was slumbering, after all.
Alexander turned to return to the castle when the wind blew again, sounding like wings rustling. He grabbed his hat so that it would not blow away.
Come with me.
Alexander looked around sharply. He had heard a voice…had he not?
“Who is there?” he called, then felt silly as his voice was snatched away by the wind. Shaking his head ruefully, he headed back to the castle.
Inside the castle it was warm, almost stifling. He created puddles of water on the stone floor as he removed his cloak and boots.
“Did you have a satisfactory walk, sir?” asked Philip as his chamberlain helped him off with his outer clothes.
“Very.” Alexander looked back at the gardens with a thoughtful expression.
The ballroom was decorated with fragrant greenery and red velvet bows dusted with glitter. A large Christmas tree with more greenery garlands and shining ornaments was set in one corner. His father had finally listened to his entertainment advisor and had made the decorations simple and tasteful instead of gaudy and ostentatious. His father had never learned that wealth did not mean that you had to constantly display it.
Alexander sipped mulled wine and spoke to anyone who approached him, but his mind was on an experiment he wanted to try tomorrow. One time he had started an experiment bubbling in beakers and had come down to the ball, only to return to a mess in the tower.
Never again, he thought with a slight chuckle. He looked up and nearly choked on his wine. The most beautiful man he had ever seen was standing only a few feet away from him with a gentle smile on his face.
Alexander gripped his mug with shaky fingers. The young man was muscular, garbed in dark-blue velvet with red-and-gold piping. Glossy, dark hair framed a gorgeous face with full lips and startling green eyes framed in sooty lashes.
Where did this beauty come from?
His secret was perilously close to exposure. The fair maidens held no interest for him. Strapping young lads did, very much so.
“Uh, hello,” said the Prince.
“Hello.” The young man bowed slightly. “Your Majesty.”
“And your name is…?”
“Clark. I come from the village.”
“Yes, son of Jonathan and Martha Kent.”
Alexander swept his arm out. “Have whatever you like.” The table was well-stocked with beef, fish and fowl, freshly-baked breads and potatoes either baked or mashed, and a multitude of vegetables from the root cellar. Special Christmas pastries were quite popular in the forms of frosted tiny cakes and cookies.
“Thank you. I believe I shall partake.”
Clark took a plate and filled it with roast beef, baked potatoes and vegetables. “I will have to try the pastries.”
“You should. My cook will appreciate it.”
Clark’s smile set Alexander’s heart fluttering. The chamber trio began to play and couples began to dance. He wished that he could invite Clark to dance, but of course it was impossible. Two men dancing when there were plenty of eligible females present? That was for military outposts or other all-male environments, not for this ball.
“This is a lovely gathering, Your Highness.”
“I am glad you are enjoying it.” Alexander drank his wine to calm his nerves.
Clark took a mug and poured some wine. “I like seeing the interior of the castle. Usually I just deliver our farm’s tithe to the kitchen door.”
“We appreciate it.”
As the primary landholders in this province, the royal household accepted the tributes of their serfs. Alexander had worked to keep the tribute at a fair percentage so that the farmers could keep more than half of their crops. In return, during lean years the royal larder provided food if necessary to the farmers, courtesy of trade with other countries.
“I hear that you are a scientist.”
Alexander perked up. “Yes, I am.”
“What do you study?”
“Oh, chemistry and astronomy, mostly.”
Clark’s eyes shone. “You study the heavens?”
“Yes, I have a telescope.”
“That sounds wonderful!”
Alexander smiled. “Come with me.”
Clark dutifully followed Alexander through the bedecked halls and up the stone steps to the north tower. He set down his plate and mug as he took a good look at the beakers and other scientific paraphernalia on a wide, wooden bench. The telescope was on a tripod by the window.
“Come take a look,” Alexander invited as he stood by the narrow window.
Clark eagerly accepted and peered through the telescope. “How beautiful!” He adjusted the settings with a little help from Alexander. “It has been a long time since I have seen the stars shine as brilliantly.”
“That is the Dog Star and over there is Canopus.”
“The Big Dipper!” Clark said gleefully as he pointed at another.
Alexander laughed. “Yes, and the Little Dipper, too.”
Clark straightened. Alexander swore that the stars were reflected in his eyes.
“Thank you for showing me.”
Alexander was sorely tempted to lean forward and kiss those lush lips but restrained himself. If Clark was disgusted, he could cause trouble, and his father might kill him to keep him from exposing his son’s secret.
Father doe not know about my secret, but if Clark told him, he would make sure no one else would know. Alexander shivered. Such a waste of great beauty!
“Are you all right, Your Majesty?”
Alexander looked into concerned green eyes and swallowed. “I am fine, thank you.”
Clark smiled again. “I am pleased to hear it.”
They talked more about the stars and Alexander’s experiments. Time slipped by quickly.
“Well, I had better get home. Early to rise is a farmer’s lot,” said Clark.
“I should return to the ball. Father has probably already taken notice of my prolonged absence.”
Clark rose from his perch in the window alcove. “I look forward to seeing you again.”
Alexander felt the same.
The next morning, Alexander arose a little later than his usual time because of his late night. Everyone was expected to get up a little later on Christmas Day, even the servants
His thoughts were mainly on Clark. He had enjoyed their evening together.
As he bathed and dressed, he let the memories of the evening wash over him. In addition to beauty, Clark had shown intelligence, too. For a farmer’s son he seemed very knowledgeable. Did farmers have much time to read? Did they even know how?
Clark must be unique.
Alexander wanted to find out more about this unusual farmer, but last night’s memories were suitable for the moment.
“I wonder what it would be like to see the star.”
“Which one?” Alexander glanced out the window.
“The one that appeared over Bethlehem this night so many centuries ago.”
“Hmm, that must have been quite a sight.”
Clark propped his chin on his hand. “There is something so magical about this night.”
Alexander considered that. “It would be interesting to measure.”
“Yes, feelings cannot be quantified, but what if there was something that could be measured to prove such a statement? For instance, legend has it that the veil between our world and that of the spirits is thinnest on All Hallows’ Eve, so the spirits can visit us.”
Clark chuckled. “You are an odd man, Prince Alexander, but an interesting one.”
Alexander smiled. “So people say, at least the first part.”
Alexander went downstairs and joined his father for breakfast.
“Merry Christmas, Father.”
“Merry Christmas, Alexander.”
Alexander happily ate fresh wheatcakes with blackberry jam. He always had this breakfast on Christmas morning, remembering when his mother was alive.
“You were absent last night.”
“Yes, I had to check on an experiment.”
Lionel casually buttered a piece of bread. “A pity you do not look for a wife as strenuously as you conduct your experiments.”
“Ah, well, time will tell.” Alexander added a little extra jam on his wheatcakes. “Let us rejoice on this grand holiday morning, Father.”
Lionel grumbled but concentrated on his breakfast.
After the meal they went to the ballroom and exchanged gifts. Alexander was pleased with his new purple silk clothes for everyday wear and sturdy boots for hiking. Lionel was also pleased with the new crossbow and rare Mesopotamian wine. There were smaller gifts for practical use, though Alexander had hoped for some new books and microscope. Well, he was Crown Prince. He could get anything he wanted.
But is it the same as getting it as a gift?
Alexander thanked Lionel and brought his gifts to his chambers. He went up to the tower after putting everything away. He began his new experiment.
As he concentrated, the beating of wings edged from the fringes of his mind. He looked out the window but saw no bird.
Sounded big enough to be a hawk.
He checked his beakers, content in doing what he loved.
Alexander left the tower to get some fresh air. It was a fine day, clear and cold, and he decided to walk around the perimeter of the castle. He bundled up and walked leisurely around the stone walls. As he reached the back, a cheerful voice exclaimed, “Merry Christmas, Prince Alexander!”
Alexander was very pleased to see Clark standing by the kitchen door with a box. Cook was looking over the fresh eggs contained inside. “Fine quality, Clark. We will take them all.”
Cook brought the box inside and returned with a few shiny coins. Clark took them with a smile and pocketed them.
“Merry Christmas, Clark.”
“It is a fine day.”
“It is.” Alexander looked approvingly at Clark’s warm blue coat and sturdy boots. “Did you get what you wanted under the tree?”
Clark laughed. “I did. I received a fine new book.”
Alexander was surprised. Books were expensive. How had his parents afforded it? And how had he afforded that outfit he had worn to the ball last night? Velvet was fit for kings and princes, not farmers’ sons.
“We are preparing the feast today, though Mother has everything under control.”
“Cook does, too.” Alexander adjusted his fur hat. “I do not think you had a chance to sample the Christmas pastries last night.”
“I did not.” Clark’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Shall we take a walk and I can be rewarded with delicious pastries?”
They walked down to the pond and watched the geese floating on the surface. It was quiet out here except for the occasional birdcall.
“So beautiful out here,” Clark murmured. “So peaceful.”
“It is one of my favorite places.” Alexander pointed off to the right. “There is a marsh over those hills. It is a great place to find plants and herbs.”
“We have a place like that close to our farm, too. It is good to have such places here on Earth.”
Alexander looked at his companion in amusement. “As opposed to where? Heaven?”
Clark smiled. “This is like a little piece of Heaven.”
Alexander looked at the vista of pond, hills, and forest. “I agree.”
Clark’s smile widened. His dark hair ruffled in the wind and Alexander finally suggested returning to the castle after several more minutes of quiet companionship.
They entered the castle through the kitchen door and could immediately smell the roast cooking in the hearth and bread baking in the oven inserted into the bricks. A second hearth contained a large, bubbling pot of stew, and the oven was filled with a large pot pie.
“Do we have any cookies left over from last night, Cook?” Alexander asked.
“We do, sir. Plenty for a growing lad.”
Clark laughed. “You are a fine woman, Cook.”
Alexander silently agreed. A buxom woman with a ruddy face and wisps of light-brown hair always escaping her cap, Cook was of purely peasant stock but had the gift of sheer artistry in the kitchen. Alexander knew they were lucky to have her.
Scullery maids and assistant cooks were busy at their tasks, though Alexander saw them taking quick peeks at Clark. He said nothing. He could not blame them, after all. He enjoyed the luxury of looking at Clark whenever he wanted.
Cook set them up at a round, scarred wooden table with a plate of cookies and mugs of apple cider. Clark was effusive in his praise of the iced cookies.
“Thank you, lad. Ernestine is the chief baker.”
A plain, shy girl was summoned and curtsied as she received Clark’s praise. She blinked owlishly and said, “Thank ye, sir.”
The cooks returned to their tasks and Alexander ate his share of cookies as he and Clark talked of inconsequential things. After a half hour Clark put down his second mug of cider and said regretfully, “I should get back. I may be needed.”
“Of course.” Alexander signaled Ernestine to come over. “Wrap these up for Clark, please.”
She curtsied and scurried off to obey with the plate of cookies in hand.
“That is not necessary.”
“But I want to do it.”
“Thank you.” Clark looked thoughtful for a minute, then his eyes lit up. “I would like to invite you over to our house tomorrow. We will have plenty of food left over.”
Alexander hesitated. “All right.”
“Wonderful! Come for the midday meal.”
Alexander wondered what Clark’s parents would think of a royal visit but merely said he would be on time.
That night after a day of feasting, he fell asleep dreaming of gingerbread cookies and green eyes.
Alexander approached the farmhouse with trepidation. Silly, really, as he was the Crown Prince and they were mere farmers, but he wanted to make a good impression on Clark’s parents, for some reason.
He rode up to the door on his stallion. He patted the horse’s mane and slid off the horse as he observed the house: modest but neat with a thatched roof and well-kept walls. There were no holes or rough patches. The barn looked to be in good shape, too. The fields were covered in snow but no doubt would have shown care. He approved of such industriousness.
The door opened and Clark came out with a big smile. Alexander could smell good cooking waft from inside.
“Let me take care of your horse.”
Alexander took his saddlebag off as a middle-aged couple appeared in the doorway. The man was blond and looked like someone who worked out in the elements. The woman had red hair and was rather pretty.
“Your Majesty,” said the man as he bowed and the woman curtsied.
“These are my parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent,” Clark said as he took hold of the bridle from Alexander.
“A pleasure to meet you.”
“Come inside our humble abode, Your Highness,” Jonathan invited.
Clark led his horse to the barn, so Alexander followed the Kents into the house.
It was warm inside as logs crackled in the fireplace and an iron pot hung in the hearth, the source of the mouth-watering aroma. The kitchen was the center of the dwelling as it often was in peasant houses, but there was a curtain that presumably led to a bedroom, where another curtain probably separated the parents’ sleeping area from Clark’s.
No privacy in a peasant’s house.
The furniture was handmade, of course, and very well. Someone had a real talent for woodworking, probably Jonathan. He took a seat at the kitchen table as Martha said, “We are having venison stew today. The meat was left over from out Christmas feast.”
“It smells wonderful.”
Pleased, Martha began ladling the stew into bowls while Jonathan took out fresh bread from the brick oven and put half a pie in. Clark came inside and said, “Smells delicious, Mother!”
Martha laughed. “I can always count on Clark’s approval.”
Clark grinned cheekily and poured apple cider for everyone in mugs.
“We make our own cider,” Jonathan said. “We are blessed with fruitful apple trees.”
Alexander took a sip. “Excellent quality.”
It was Jonathan’s turn to look pleased. He passed around the plate of warm bread with freshly-churned butter to put on it. The Kents were a little nervous but gradually relaxed as Alexander made sure to make them comfortable.
It was the reason he had ridden over alone. The thought of a coach-and-four and a retinue of guards was unsettling. His father was accustomed to him riding off alone on his herb-gathering forays. Lionel was not happy about it but had learned that he had to give his son some measure of freedom.
Alexander enjoyed the meal and talking with his subjects. Too often he was isolated and apart from the people he was supposed to rule someday.
Sitting here with the Kents was pleasurable in ways that dining with fellow royals was not. His peers were too cynical and the Kents had a remarkably positive outlook on life despite their hardscrabble living, though they seemed prosperous enough.
And what would they think of me lusting after their son?
Suddenly uncomfortable, Alexander took a quick sip of cider. He concentrated on the farming techniques that Jonathan was discussing. He dared not look at the delectable Clark.
Martha took the pie out of the oven. “We ate half of this yesterday. I hope you will like it.”
Alexander took a bite. “Exceptional.”
Martha beamed. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
The apple pie was warm and crusty with a hint of some kind of precious spice. Perhaps his beloved herbs? Clark had mentioned a nearby marsh.
“We are pleased that you broke bread with us, Your Highness.” Jonathan poured himself another mug of cider.
“I am very pleased. Thank you for the invitation.”
Clark’s smile warmed him with a little flutter.
After this meal Clark and Alexander saw more of each other until the servants and courtiers around the castle grew accustomed to seeing the cheerful farmboy and it was not unusual for Alexander to visit the Kent farm.
The two young men spent much time in the north tower. Clark was fascinated by Alexander’s experiments and the Prince was always delighted by the farmboy’s intelligence. He readily taught Clark all he knew.
Clark held his own with the domineering Lionel, who finally acknowledged his presence one day and interrogated him about his family and friends. Alexander admired his friend’s artful parrying of every verbal thrust by his father.
“Have you no chores at home, lad?” Lionel asked as they stood in the hall outside the study.
“Oh, yes, Your Majesty, but they have all been completed.”
“Hmph. Begone, and let us get back to normal.”
Alexander quietly motioned Clark to come outside. “I am sorry about Father.”
Clark smiled. “I understand overprotective fathers.”
Alexander laughed. “My father is not being protective. He is always afraid of me being kidnapped or an assassination attempt on him.”
“Such is the life of a King.”
Alexander chuckled. “I suppose so.”
“I will go now, but I will come back.” Clark grasped Alexander’s hand. “I will always come back.”
Alexander’s heart swelled in his chest. “I will always be here.”
Clark squeezed his friend’s hand and left, Alexander watching him go.
Winter’s snows melted into spring, and Clark was kept busy with spring planting but still managed to spend some time with Alexander. They spent time sloshing through the marshes, picking herbs and using them in Alexander’s experiments or giving them to Cook and Martha for cooking purposes.
As spring turned to summer, there were warm nights lazing by the pond and swimming when it became too hot. Alexander found temptation to be great when seeing a naked Clark in the water. Only fear of driving Clark away stayed his hand.
Summer turned to fall and the Kents were busy with the last of the harvest, apple picking, and preparing for winter. Throughout it all, Alexander pined for Clark, but valued his friendship too much to jeopardize it. He considered half a loaf better than none.
So it was that Alexander enjoyed the company of his farmboy as the leaves fell. He and Clark went out for herbs as they were surrounded by the glorious colors of autumn.
“Look, here is some feverfew,” Clark said.
“Pick a bunch. I am going to pick some of that bloodroot over there.”
Clark nodded and they set to work gathering the plants. Alexander wanted to get in a batch of medicinal herbs. There were some children ill in the village of Granville and he was hoping that they could help.
Alexander glanced over at Clark, who was bending over to pick plants. The Prince blushed as he fantasized about what he could do that that fine derriere.
Clark straightened up and asked, “Do you need to gather some queen’s slippers?”
They worked in quite companionship for several more minutes. When they finally emerged from the marsh, their rucksacks were filled with the plants that Alexander wanted. They reached the pond and put the sacks down.
“So what did you think of our little marsh?” Clark asked.
“As good as the one on the castle grounds.”
“Our pond is not as big as yours.”
“No, but the geese like it just the same.”
“The mallards do, too.” Clark turned and his face was close to Alexander’s. The Prince swallowed and Clark’s eyes looked very green. For a minute, time stood still. Alexander held his breath.
Clark leaned forward and kissed him, as Alexander’s body came alive. He wrapped his arms around the bigger man and pulled him close.
They fell to the ground, tongues dueling as they rolled around like spirited puppies. Alexander ended up on top and gazed down into the angelic face. Clark smiled as he nodded.
Alexander kissed him lovingly, pushing up the homespun shirt Clark wore under his cloak. He ran his hand up-and-down smooth skin as he dipped his head and gently teased ready nipples with his tongue. Clark shivered and as Alexander began to suck on one tender bud, he began to writhe. Alexander could feel Clark grow hard beneath him. He took his time, transferring his attention to the other nub, and began to grind against Clark’s groin.
Clark arched up, his moans rippling through Alexander like the waves across the pond. Alexander increased the friction until a blessed warmth ran through his body and blossomed between his legs. He arched up and pleasure washed over him as he cried out.
He fell back down and rested his head on Clark’s broad shoulder as his companion’s strong arm encircled his back. Clark nuzzled Alexander’s cheek.
“What took you so long?” he asked.
Alexander sputtered. “What?”
Clark grinned saucily. “You move slowly, Prince.”
Alexander huffed and slapped at Clark’s chest with a grin of his own. “It appears I wasted a lot of time.”
“No.” Clark ran a thumb along Alexander’s cheek. “We became friends. That is never a waste.”
Alexander kissed him again, and they both laughed.
Their friendship continued, but now with added spice. Alexander brought a mat up to the tower. Since he often locked the door during his experiments, doing it now would cause no comment. In between experiments and stargazing, they explored each other’s bodies. Alexander even became less embarrassed about his bald head. Clark loved to rub his scalp and lavish kisses on it.
One evening as they lay on the mat in each other’s arms, Clark gazed out the small window at the stars. Alexander thought he looked wistful.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked.
“Hmm? Oh, just about the stars.”
“You love them.”
“They represent so many things: dreams, hopes, guidance, even other worlds.”
Alexander laughed. “Other worlds? Fanciful thoughts.”
“Do you ever think about other places?”
“Other places, but other worlds? This one is taxing enough.”
Clark stroked Alexander’s cheek. “Does this world tax you, Alexander?”
“Sometimes.” He sighed. “Our love would be vilified if anyone knew.”
“Yes.” Clark’s eyes glittered. “Would it not be wonderful if there was a place where our love would be free to soar on wings bright and fluffy?”
“You are such a romantic,” Alexander chuckled.
“I hope so.” Clark’s grin was saucy.
Alexander rubbed his groin against Clark’s bare hip. “Show me,” he whispered.
Clark gripped his arms and kissed Alexander passionately. Alexander’s hands roamed his back as Clark rolled onto his side. The smooth skin under Alexander’s fingers felt silken.
“You are so beautiful,” crooned Alexander.
Clark rewarded him with another kiss and caressed his back, slipping down to his hips. “Love me.”
Alexander rolled them over until he was on top of Clark.
After his chores the next day, Clark came over and met Alexander in the stables. He patted the mane of Elsa, a dappled gray mare. Alexander was saddling Midnight, his stallion.
“Where shall we ride today?” Clark asked.
“How about up to Merriweather Peak?”
“I would like that.”
Clark moved to stand close to his lover. “Maybe we could spend the afternoon there.”
Alexander smiled as Clark cupped his face and caressed his jaw. With a saucy wink, Clark drew away and saddled Elsa. As he and Alexander rode away, a shadow moved close by the stables.
Alexander set the last herb in his rucksack. The first snowfall had come early this year. He was preparing to ride over to Granville with a fresh batch of medicinal herbs. He had Billy the stableboy saddle Midnight.
Clark had not been able to come over since their last ride three weeks ago. He had simply been too busy with helping his family prepare for winter. Alexander had been busy with gathering herbs and making the rounds of the villages. Lionel had insisted on an escort and Alexander had not protested. He allowed it so that he would have better leverage for his visits to the Kent farm. If he let Lionel have his escorts to the villages, he could ride alone to the farm.
“Is the farmboy joining you, Your Highness?”
“Shall I saddle Elsa, sir?”
Alexander looked at Billy. “No, Clark will not be joining me.”
“I have not seen him for weeks, sir.”
“He has been busy.” Alexander mounted Midnight. “He will be back once he has the time.” He rode out to meet the two guards who were waiting for him.
Lionel brooded in his study as the firelight flickered over his face. The information brought to him was highly disturbing. Royals could carry on in the bedchamber, but not with their own sex. He had been too easy on Alexander. Well, he would eliminate the problem. Cleverly, of course. He dare not allow Alexander to guess the truth.
One week before Christmas, Clark was working in the fields as Alexander rode up.
“A fine day,” greeted the Prince.
Clark smiled. “It surely is.”
Alexander dismounted. “I have missed you.”
“I have missed you, too.”
They were careful as always but Clark led Alexander behind a tree and kissed him.
“Come to the tower,” Alexander invited.
“I can on Christmas Eve.”
“Good.” Alexander’s gray-blue eyes sparkled. “I will have the mat ready.”
Clark laughed. “Someday we must have a bed as fluffy as a cloud.”
“I think I can provide that.”
They kissed again and parted as the anticipation was sweet for Christmas Eve.
Martha and Jonathan sat in the kitchen, Jonathan at the table while he read and Martha sat in a cane-backed chair while she sewed. A fire crackled in the hearth and smoke curled up from Jonathan’s pipe.
Clark came in from the sleeping area. “Mother, Father, I must speak with you.”
“Certainly.” Jonathan pulled out a chair.
Clark remained standing. “I have some news.” His voice was a strange mixture of sadness and excitement. Jonathan and Martha looked at him with apprehension.
The next night Clark was in the barn making sure that the animals were bedded down comfortably for the night when the door opened and two royal guards entered, dressed as peasants. They aimed crossbows at Clark.
“Come with us, peasant. There are two more men waiting outside.”
“So, this is how it goes.” Clark was unruffled as he patted Bessie the cow’s neck and Bessie lowed. He bid silent farewells to the other animals and exited the barn with the guards.
Alexander awoke, feeling restless. He climbed out of bed and wandered over to the window. He should get a second telescope for his bedroom.
Lights bobbed in the direction of the marsh. Probably a hunting party. They could find good nocturnal game this time of year. He watched the lights disappear into the trees. Yawning, Alexander returned to bed.
Christmas Eve dawned clear and cold. Alexander smuggled up some Christmas cookies and a pitcher of apple cider to the tower. Clark would come for a few hours and spend time with Alexander before returning home to help with the feast. Alexander had been invited for the day after Christmas like last year. He whistled lightheartedly as he prepared for Clark’s visit.
By the afternoon snow clouds were gathering on the horizon and Alexander was very worried. He saddled Midnight and rode to the Kent farm. It was eerily silent as the wind whistled through the trees and a shutter banged.
He noted the sprig of holly over the cottage door and a handmade wreath of evergreen and holly berries fastened to the door. He knocked but no one came to greet him. He decided to check the barn.
When he reached the doors, they were slightly ajar. Jonathan’s voice carried out to him.
“We knew this day would come.”
“I know.” Martha sounded heartbroken. “But it came so soon.”
“He had to return from whence he came.”
Alexander swallowed. Clark had not even come to say goodbye. Feeling as heartbroken as Martha sounded, he quietly left.
Riding back to the castle, he thought bitterly of Clark’s declarations of love. All false. Did he spout them just to sleep with a Prince? He clamped his lips tight. He should be used to people lying to him for their own gain.
But Clark seemed so sincere!
He scoffed. It showed just how foolish he was to let his guard down. His father was right. Keep your distance and never trust people.
He dashed tears away angrily and thought, I will not make that mistake again.
He arrived at the stables and dispiritedly threw the reins at Billy as he dismounted. Billy watched him trudge up to the castle.
Once inside the castle a despondent Alexander went up to the tower. He looked at the plate of cookies and pitcher of cider and reached out to the sweep them off the workbench but paused.
No, wild, out-of-control emotion is unproductive. Non-feeling is better. Probably better for a ruler, too.
He removed his hat, cloak and boots and set to work on a new experiment.
Alexander came down from the tower as darkness fell. There were no special Christmas Eve traditions that he shared with his father so he was on his own. He deliberately chose back hallways because he had no desire to talk to anyone. He carried his cloak, hat and boots to put away in his chambers. He paused when he heard voices.
“Your Highness, it was a strange business!”
“What of it? You got rid of him.”
“But he put up no fight at all!”
“A man who lies with other men is basically spineless.”
“It was something beyond that.”
“No matter now. I have another job for you. Get rid of that guttersnipe stable urchin. He brought me the news about my son and that catamite. I do not want him to let that knowledge out.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Alexander quickly put on his outerwear and slipped outside and down to the stables. He grabbed Billy by the shoulders.
“What did you tell my father?”
“That you and that peasant were sinning!” Billy spat.
Alexander tightened his grip. “What happened to Clark?”
“I saw him and the guards heading for the marsh five nights ago.”
Alexander shoved him away. “You had better run for the hills, boy.” His mouth twisted into a bitter smile. “My father’s reward for your information is to have you killed. The guards are coming for you now.”
Fear flitted across Billy’s broad features. He swiftly turned and ran to get his things from his tiny room at the back of the stables.
Alexander grimly thought that it was a testament to his father’s ruthlessness that Billy believed him right away. That Lionel could do something so unspeakable was not questioned at all.
“I should let them take you but I have no time for this.” Alexander left the barn and ran to the marsh. Snow was beginning to fall as his heart pounded.
How could I have so easily thought the worst of you, Clark? I should have thought of my father right away. This stinks of having his hand in it.
He arrived at the marsh and frantically called Clark’s name, driven to try and find him. He sloshed through the well-known paths and his eyes strained to see beneath the murky water, but of course there was no answer or thrashing body to pull out. It had happened nearly a week ago.
He knew that it was hopeless. People with nefarious intentions did not bury bodies in the marsh, they merely threw them into the bog.
He staggered to a halt and fell to his knees, tears running down his cheeks. Snowflakes sprinkled his clothes as despair settled heavily on his heart.
“Oh, Clark, I am so sorry! Falling in love with me sealed your fate. Our love was doomed from the start. To think of your beautiful body lost below the marsh’s surface.”
He sobbed quietly as the snow continued to fall. Suddenly a light shone throughout the marsh.
“No body resides beneath these waves.”
Alexander opened his eyes and gasped, “Cl…Clark?”
He shielded his eyes with his arm as the light was too bright to bear. He could barely make out Clark in shimmering raiments of blue, red, and yellow and a large pair of…
Clark laughed. “Yes, my love.”
The wings were big and fluffy, shining as brilliantly as Clark. Alexander reached out and touched the soft feathers. His was in awe of the splendid apparition.
“But the guards killed you.”
“No one was killed here.”
Alexander let his hand drop. “What are you, Clark?”
“What you see, my love.”
Clark nodded. “I was sent to Earth to help.”
“Yes. The people of Earth need quite a bit of help.”
“I cannot argue with that.” Alexander wiped away tears. “Your parents knew?”
Clark nodded. “They found me as I was cast down from the stars as a babe.”
“They raised you?”
“Yes. I learned about Humans by living amongst you.”
“But…you fell in love with me.”
Clark’s smile was gentle. The nimbus of light that surrounded him had been muted, but Alexander still felt amazed. Clark had always been beautiful, but this ethereal appearance was otherworldly.
“I did fall in love. A happy occurrence.”
Alexander felt relieved. “I am so glad that you are alive.” He swallowed. “I will miss you.”
“Ah, but you need not.”
Alexander drank in the sight of Clark, trying to commit the magnificent sight to memory. “Hmm?”
“You have a choice, Alexander.”
Alexander looked at Clark in puzzlement. “A choice?”
“Yes.” Clark’s wings rustled gently. “Come with me.”
Alexander’s jaw dropped. “How can I do that?”
“By saying ‘Yes.’”
Temptation was strong in Alexander. “But I have a duty here.”
“Kings will come and go. We all return.”
“Perhaps in a century or two.”
Alexander blinked. “Um, that is a long time between visits.”
Clark’s laugh was a joy to hear. “Truly, but eternity knows not time.”
“So we would be together forever?”
“You tempt me, Angel.”
Clark’s eyes sparkled. “I hope so.”
Alexander thought about all that Clark had told him. Together forever?
“You will learn about things in Heaven and on Earth.”
The promise of knowledge was almost as tempting as being with Clark.
“But my people will be in great peril if I am not here. Your parents…”
“Lionel will be taken care of, my darling. And my mother and father will be fine.” He gazed off into the distance. “I will see them again someday.”
“Will I…will I see my mother?”
Clark nodded with a smile. “Queen Lillian awaits you.”
Alexander felt excitement and longing. Everything he had ever wanted would be his!
Clark held out his hand. “Come.”
Alexander took his hand as Clark drew him close. The light surrounding Clark grew brighter and they kissed. Alexander felt pure energy becoming part of him. The marsh faded as the stars’ dust was breathed into his lungs and settled into his bones. He could feel wings sprout from his back and when the tip of one touched Clark’s, pure pleasure jolted through him as his heart sang.
Light, feathered things,
As we soar through
The shining stars.”
Clark smiled and nodded as he accepted the gift of the poem as Alexander entered Paradise with his soulmate.