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Jensen's grandfather dies on a rainy afternoon. It doesn't come as a surprise to anyone--he was old and only getting older. It's tragic, of course, as death always is, but it's a relief as well. He had been suffering for the last few weeks, and now, at least, it's over.

The funeral is quiet and uncomplicated--his grandfather was the baronet, so most of the town turns up, out of respect. Jensen's mother is quiet and dignified; Jensen is silent and awkward. He doesn't know how to wear his sadness like it isn't something to be self-conscious about. The description of the man who died isn't like the grandfather he knew, the man who was distant and far away, but he's come to expect that from funerals.

It's not as bad as he thinks it maybe should have been.

Three days after, his mother sits him down gravely. "Listen, Jensen. I don't know if you've thought about what your grandfather's passing means."

"What it means?" Jensen repeats, unsure.

"You're almost seventeen," says his mother. "Once you're eighteen, you're going to become the baronet."

"Oh," says Jensen. "Right. Yeah."

His mother shakes her head pityingly. "You really haven't thought about this at all, have you?"

"Not really."

"Well, you're going to. Your grandfather thought it would be a good idea for you to go to Mycroft Academy, and I agree with him."

Jensen boggles. "Mycroft? The one you have to be nobility to get into? The one Chris always makes fun of for being stuck up?"

"Finishing school," his mother agrees. "You don't know anything about being a baronet, and neither do I. I don't see a lot of other options."

"I could figure it out," Jensen says hopefully.

His mother gives him a completely false smile. "Don't worry. It'll be fun."

*

Jensen's barely into his room his first day at Mycroft before there's a boy leaning against his doorframe saying, "So, how many are you?"

"Huh?" he asks. He's focused on unpacking, getting himself situated, trying to understand being away from home for the first time in his life, and he doesn't have enough brain left over for incoherent questions.

"How many people between you and the crown?"

"Uh," says Jensen. "A lot?" Jensen has no idea how anyone would go about figuring this out, or why they'd want to, if they weren't actually royalty.

The boy snorts. "You don't know? Where are you from?"

"Genovia."

"King," says the boy, like he's reading from a book. "No heirs. Never married. Next in line is in dispute. How close are you to the royal family?"

"Never seen them," says Jensen. "Never even been to the capital. My grandfather is a baronet in the outer regions."

The guy sighs. "You really don't know anything, huh? Well, I'm Mike, and the least I can do is help you figure this out."

An hour later, Jensen has determined he is 237th in line to take the Genovian throne, and Mike has determined he isn't important enough to talk to.

*

"That," says Misha, his roommate--53rd in line for the throne of Genovia--and self-appointed guide, "is Alexis. Fifth in line for the throne of Lycindia." Misha is in his sixth year, his last, and seems already bored of everything.

"Is that why she has an entourage?"

"It is," says Misha. "She and Milo, third in line, have something of a rivalry."

"Who's first in line?"

"Prince Jared," says Misha. "Milo is two years older than he is, and he made it clear that if Jared came here, he would need a food tester and a bodyguard, so he's in school up north at Talbot."

Jensen chokes. "He wants to kill the prince?"

Misha raises his eyebrows. "How do you think people lose the throne?"

"But--" he glances at Misha. "You wouldn't kill 53 people, would you?"

Misha shrugs. "Not all at once."

"But--how?"

"It would be more tempting if there were only a few. But if I had to speculate," he says thoughtfully, "poison, probably."

"Who's number two in Lycindia?" asks Jensen, mostly so that Misha will stop with the calculating look, like he is actually going to go massacre the Genovian court.

"Prince Jared's sister, Princess Megan. I don't think Milo ever threatened to kill her. I think he wants to marry her."

"I wouldn't want to marry anyone who killed my brother," says Jensen.

"I'd be afraid of what would happen if I didn't marry someone who killed my brother," says Misha. "Clearly they're capable of very bad things."

"Are there any first-in-lines here?"

"Princess Danneel of Tyre."

"Really?" Jensen asks. Jensen knows about Princess Danneel--his friend Riley thinks he's in love with her. He's surprised Riley hadn't given him strict instructions to woo her in his name. He must not know she's here. Jensen is just as glad. He has no idea how he'd go about wooing for himself, let alone by proxy. Besides, he's not very interested in women. He doesn't quite know what part of them Riley finds appealing.

"She has a taster, but no bodyguard. I think most people are frightened of her."

Jensen sighs. "I bet she doesn't ever get a moment alone."

"Not really," Misha agrees. "But she takes it with grace."

"I would hate that."

"It's a good thing you're so far from the crown," Misha observes. "You'd be a terrible king."

Jensen laughs. "I'm going to be a bad enough baronet. King would be a disaster."

*

After a week, Jensen starts feeling comfortable at Mycroft. He doesn't have many friends--he's never been very social to begin with, and everyone's relationships are so politically based that he doesn't really know how to get involved in them--but he likes Misha well enough, and Alona and Sandy in his History section are sweet girls who like making him eat with them.

Of course, that's when they change his courses around to better suit his education level, and Jensen finds himself immediately reeling again, lost in the halls and late to his Literature course. He rounds a corner too quickly, looking desperately for anyone who might be able to give him directions, and crashes into something large and solid.

"Whoa!" says the something. "Hey, are you okay?"

Jensen blinks and there's a tall boy in front of him, looking concerned. He's seen him around a few times, acknowledged that he's very good looking, and moved on. Jensen's never been good at talking to people he thinks are good-looking. Besides, the boy is always surrounded by people, so Jensen assumed he must be fairly close to the throne and therefore not interested in lowly Genovians without any useful connections.

"I'm fine, sorry," says Jensen. "I was looking for my classroom and got lost."

"Where are you headed?" asks the boy.

"Fourth year literature," says Jensen.

"Oh. Are you new?" he asks, squinting at Jensen.

"Pretty," says Jensen. "I've been here for a little while but they're only just figuring out where I belong. I went to a very small school, so they assumed I'd be behind in most of my subjects."

"Got it," says the boy. "Well, I'm heading over there anyway, so I can show you the way if you want."

"I'd appreciate that," says Jensen. "Thank you."

"It's no trouble," says the boy. "I'm Sam. Winchester," he clarifies, as if Jensen knows many, many Sams.

"Jensen Shaffer," he says. "Where are you from?"

Sam shoots him an amused look. "You really are new."

"What?"

"It's just the first time I've been asked that in a while. Not, you know, how many people would I have to murder to be king," he makes a vague gesture with his hand. Jensen gets the impression Sam's hands do a lot of his talking for him.

"Right," says Jensen. "I'm not great with that yet."

"I'm from Tyre," says Sam. "What about you?"

"Genovia."

"You must never hear the end of it, huh?"

"Apparently I'm 237th in line," says Jensen. "Usually the conversation doesn't get much past that."

Sam laughs. "So, you're a fourth year?"

"Around," says Jensen. "Like I said, I went to a small school in the country, so we were much more lax with our schedules. A lot of the students left regularly for planting and harvesting. And all my history was very Genovia-centric."

Sam nods. "Well, I'm just a regular old fourth year, so I guess I'll see you in some more of my classes?" he asks. He sounds excited about it.

"I guess so," says Jensen, finding himself excited right back.

*

He expects Sam to leave him alone after that, but as soon as literature is over, he finds him. "Are you in our mathematics as well?"

"No," Jensen admits. "I haven't got much of a head for mathematics."

"I don't either," Sam says, laughing. "But they insist on moving me forward in it. What else are you in the fourth year for?"

"Philosophy, music, science," he says.

"Then I'll see you next for music," says Sam. "I'm even worse at that than I am at mathematics."

Jensen laughs. "You don't make Mycroft sound very prestigious. You sound like you're failing everything."

"I'm not here to advertise it, I'm here to survive it," he says. He looks Jensen up and down and beams. "You should eat lunch with me."

"Why should I do that?"

"Because I like you," says Sam easily. "You're new."

"Gee, thanks," says Jensen.

"I mean, I don't want to take you away from your friends or anything," says Sam. "But if you're willing, I'd like to get to know you better."

"I'm 237th in line," Jensen points out.

Sam shrugs. "Ask me if I care."

Jensen shakes his head. He wants to ask Sam just how close he is to the throne, that he can care this little, but he doesn't want to damage Sam's opinion of him, when he seemed so delighted that Jensen didn't ask at first. "I'll sit with you. As long as Sandy and Alona forgive me."

Sam beams. "Sandy and Alona love me. They won't mind."

"Do you know everyone here?"

Sam shrugs. "A lot of people, I guess. I like making friends."

It makes Jensen feel strange, thinking that maybe Sam doesn't really care about being friends with him.

"So I'll see you at lunch?" Sam asks.

"Yeah," Jensen says, not sure he believes it, but having trouble saying no to Sam's warm grin.

*

"Oh, Sam!" says Sandy. "Sam's a sweetheart."

"Sam's a flirt, you mean," says Alona. She grins. "You like him, Jensen?"

"He was nice," Jensen hedges. "Friendly. Didn't seem to care I wasn't, you know," he makes a gesture. "A lord."

"Sam's, like, 400th in line for Tyre," says Alona. "He's even lower than you."

"Some people," says Sandy, shooting a glare at Alona, "think he's just acting nice to move up in society."

"I don't think that," Alona protests. "I just don't think anyone's that nice."

"Afternoon, ladies," says Sam, sitting down next to Jensen on the bench with a sunny smile. "I hear you're making Jensen feel right at home."

"Hi, Sam," says Alona. "I hear you want to steal him from us."

"Borrow," says Sam. "You two never eat outside, and it's a gorgeous day I don't think we should waste."

"Fine, fine," says Sandy, grinning. "He does need some sun."

"Don't let him charm you too much," says Alona, but she says it with a warm smile, and Sam laughs.

"I'll charm him as much as he lets me. Come on, Jensen. There's a tree I like."

Jensen follows Sam outside. He was outside all the time at home, but at Mycroft they aren't encouraged to be outdoors often, except for their exercise hours. It certainly isn't like before, when he'd just run around whenever he wanted.

"Not many people come out here," says Sam. "I don't know why not. Sure, in the winter, it gets cold, but autumn is gorgeous."

Jensen can't help laughing.

"What?" asks Sam, but he's smiling.

"I don't really--you're not like most of the other people I've met here," says Jensen. "You're more--"

"Fun?" Sam supplies.

"Relaxed," says Jensen.

"It's a good thing, right?"

"Great thing," Jensen agrees.

Sam sits down on the grass and takes a bite out of his sandwich. "So, Jensen," he says, patting the ground next to him, "tell me about you."

*

Sam really, really doesn't start ignoring him. In fact, they're pretty much inseparable. Sam sits next to him in all their classes, has lunch with him every day, and spends his evenings in the common room with Jensen, chatting and studying.

Mostly chatting.

"Did you already finish your reading?" Jensen asks, shocked, as Sam closes his book. "How?"

"I'm very literate," says Sam, leaning very close into Jensen's personal space to read over his shoulder. "You, on the other hand, are slow."

"This is boring," says Jensen. "It's not my fault."

Sam laughs. "This is why you're behind in mathematics."

"You hate mathematics."

"But I read it. Give me your lit homework."

"Why?"

"Because I forgot my book and I don't have anything else to do. Since you're so slow."

Jensen hands it over without comment. Sam repositions so their shoulders are brushing a little. Jensen tries not to turn into the warmth.

The next thing he's aware of, someone is shaking his shoulder. He looks up, alarmed, and sees the librarian, Mr. Head, giving him a look. He turns and there's Sam looking at him, warm and sleepy. Their faces are closer than he expected, and Jensen feels his breath catch.

He's so gone.

"May I ask what you're doing here?" says Mr. Head mildly.

"Fell asleep," says Sam, looking away from Jensen. His voice is a little rough, and Jensen wants to settle in close. He gets up to stop the impulse.

"You don't live in this building, Lord Winchester," Mr. Head points out.

"Like I said, I fell asleep," says Sam, flushing. "I didn't mean to."

"Well, I'll escort you home. I assume you can find your own way up, Lord Shaffer?"

"Yes, sir," says Jensen.

Sam gives him a sheepish grin as he gets up. "Night, Jensen."

"Good night," Jensen echoes weakly.

He watches until Sam and Mr. Head disappear down the stairs, and then walks slowly back to his own room.

"Where were you?" asks Misha, as the door opens.

"Fell asleep."

"With Sam Winchester?"

"So what?" asks Jensen, a little too harshly.

"Of course," says Misha, somewhat despairingly, "you would find the only person even lower in the aristocracy than you and become his best friend."

"Oh, shut up," says Jensen, flopping back into bed, trying not to remember the feel of being pressed up against Sam's firm chest.

He has a lot more trouble falling back to sleep.

*

"He seems to actually like you," Alona says grudgingly a few days later, when Jensen says he's leaving them for lunch again.

"I think it's cute," Sandy tells him, and Jensen blushes to the tips of his ears.

The problem is that Jensen doesn't have their confidence. He knows he's attracted to Sam, can't even deny it anymore, but he doesn't know if he's just Sam's newest friend, to be cast aside when someone else comes along. Has no idea what it is Sam looks for at all.

He's dwelling on this more than he should, thinking about how it felt waking up with Sam, so warm and close, staring at his sandwich without really seeing it, waiting for Sam to plop down next to him and distract him.

"You look like you're trying to set that on fire with your eyes," says a voice, and Jensen looks up in surprise when it's not Sam's.

It's Princess Danneel.

Princess Danneel is gorgeous, and Jensen has only ever seen her from a distance--she's royalty, after all--and he just stares at her, gaping for a minute, before he manages, "Yeah, um. No. I'm just thinking."

"Can I sit?" she asks.

"Uh," says Jensen. "Yes? You're--you want to sit with me?"

Princess Danneel smiles, sitting down across from him. "You are Jensen, right?"

"Yes," says Jensen. "Why do you know who I am?"

"Because Sam won't shut up about you."

"You know Sam?"

Princess Danneel quirks her lips. "Of course I know Sam. He's from Tyre."

"You can't know everyone from Tyre."

"Not everyone," she grants. "But do you know how many students from Tyre were here before I enrolled here?"

"I don't know how many students from Tyre are enrolled here now," Jensen admits.

Princess Danneel laughs. "Fair enough. Most Tyreans go to Talbot, it's actually closer to Tyre."

"That's where Prince Jared goes, isn't it?"

Princess Danneel gives him an amused look. "Yes, where Prince Jared goes," she says, like Jensen is missing something. "Anyway, I decided to come here for a little privacy. There were only five Tyreans already enrolled, and Sam was the only other one in my year." She shrugs. "Now almost all Tyreans come here, to try to win my favor. I'm happy to not have to wonder if that's what he did."

Jensen isn't sure if that makes complete sense to him--just because Sam didn't come with the intention of getting closer to her, it doesn't mean he couldn't still want to--but he knows first-hand how hard it is to not feel drawn in by Sam.

"What are you doing to poor Jensen, Danneel?" asks Sam, and Jensen feels instantly better with Sam sitting down next to him, a little bit into his personal space.

"I just wanted to meet him," says Princess Danneel, smiling at Sam. "You never stop talking about him. It's all Jensen-this, Jensen-that. It's sweet," she adds.

Sam flushes dully. "I'm not allowed to have friends now?"

"Of course you're allowed," says Princess Danneel. "And I'm allowed to want to meet them."

"You didn't mention you knew royalty," Jensen tells Sam.

"I didn't want you abandoning me for her," says Sam. "She can be very persuasive."

"As if I've ever tried to steal any of your friends," says Princess Danneel. She stands up, brushing off her skirts. "I have to get back inside, I'm sure Steven is having fits wondering where I am."

"You didn't tell him?" asks Sam.

"That would be boring," says Princess Danneel. She smiles at Jensen, pushing her hair behind her ear. "It was nice to meet you, Jensen. I hope I'll see you again."

"Nice to meet you too, your majesty," says Jensen. Sam snickers.

"Danneel is fine," says Danneel, smiling. "I prefer it, actually. Sam doesn't just call me that because he has no manners."

"Danneel," Jensen manages. He's sure he's bright red. It's embarrassing.

Sam elbows him in the ribs. "Don't tell me you have a crush on the princess too. I'll be embarrassed for you."

"I don't," says Jensen. "I've just never talked to royalty before."

Sam laughs. "She prefers it if you try to forget that part."

"I'll try," says Jensen.

Sam slants him a look. "If you like her, I can put in a good word. I don't mind."

"I really don't," Jensen says.

Sam keeps looking at him, searching for something, and Jensen finally has to look away, worried about what he'll find.

*

"At least you met Princess Danneel," says Misha. He sounds jealous.

"Why do you care so much about my social status anyway?" asks Jensen, not looking up from his mathematics. "Don't tell me I'm bringing you down as a roommate."

"I just think it's deeply sad," says Misha, "that you came here to become acclimated to high society, and you fall in love with a boy who barely ranks about a farmer."

Jensen chokes on air. "I'm not in love with him!"

Misha raises his eyebrows. "Of course you're not. You just light up whenever you're around him, talk about him all the time, and say his name when you're--" Misha makes a rude gesture and Jensen flushes. "Not that I'm trying to listen to your private time, but it's not that large a room and sometimes it's unavoidable."

"Okay, okay, be quiet," says Jensen. "I--yes, I--feel that way. About Sam. Can we not ever have this conversation again?"

Misha snorts. "Like I said, it's funny."

Jensen lies back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. "What does it matter, anyway? We're both barely in the nobility. No one cares about our heirs."

Misha doesn't respond for a long moment. "I guess you're right," he finally says.

It's not unheard of, men marrying other men and women marrying other women. It's more common outside of the aristocracy, but there have been kings and queens who have used surrogates for their heirs and married within their own sex. For Jensen and Sam--if Sam wanted to marry him, that is--it wouldn't be complicated.

Not that Jensen thinks about that very much.

*

Jensen's least favorite thing about Sam is Chad Murray.

Chad Murray is some middling nobleman from Lycindia who is Sam's best friend. Sam's best friend other than Jensen, that is, which, Jensen has to admit, is part of why he doesn't like him. He and Chad have some mutual jealousy problems. It seems like whenever Sam and Jensen are alone these days, Chad will come in and interrupt, no matter how much Sam glares at him.

"I'm really sorry about him," Sam says, watching Chad leave after an impressive whisper-argument Jensen couldn't hear.

"Is he jealous?" Jensen asks. "Or what?"

Sam laughs. "He's just--" Sam sighs. "He's worried I'm going to do something stupid that I'm not supposed to do." Jensen must look really worried, because Sam pats his leg. "Nothing bad, just--it's hard to explain. You don't have to worry, I'm not--leaving or anything. I'm just kind of--" he sighs. "Chad's an idiot. He's not jealous, though. He knows he's my best friend and you're--Jensen."

Sam says it with so much fondness that Jensen feels like being his Jensen is a lot better than being his best friend.

*

Once that strangeness it out there, though, Jensen starts noticing more things. The way Sam does seem to be on the verge of telling him things but then doesn't, the way he cuts himself off and shakes his head when Jensen asks if he's okay, saying it's nothing.

He assures himself that it's not bad, that he trusts Sam, that Sam would have told him if it mattered, but it's hard to just ignore it, even if he knows he should.

And then, a few weeks later, he's heading back toward his dormitory, thinking of going to look for Sam, when he overhears Danneel in another room.

"You're being an idiot," she's saying, and Jensen is planning to just keep walking, but then the other person says, "I know, I know," and it's Sam.

"He's your friend," says Danneel. "He's more than your friend."

"He's not," Sam hedges.

"Well, he wants to be. You owe him the truth."

"I want to tell him. I keep--I keep thinking about trying, but Chad comes over and interrupts, or I think about my father--"

Jensen's heart is pounding. They're talking about him.

"I know everyone agreed you should keep it secret," says Danneel. "Hell, I agreed! But you owe him the truth."

"My father would--"

"If you're going to be king, you're going to have to make your own decisions," says Danneel.

"I know!" says Sam. "I know. I just--I don't know how to tell him."

"He's your friend," says Danneel. "He'll understand."

Jensen swallows, forcing his legs to move.

Sam's going to be king. Sam and Danneel have a secret, and Sam is going to be king, and everything makes so much sense. Danneel wanted to talk to Jensen because she was curious about her fiance's friend. They must be keeping it a secret to keep Sam safe, to make sure no one uses it against him, or tries to use him for influence.

Jensen tries to focus on how flattered he should be that Sam wants to tell him at all, and not whatever's in his chest, which he suspects could be heartbreak.

*

Jensen is trying to read, he really is, but the words are crossing in front of his eyes. He can't concentrate--he can't stop thinking about Sam and Danneel. Sam will be a great king, he thinks; he's good with people, fair, kind. He and Danneel will complement each other well. It will be good for Tyre.

"There you are!" says Sam, leaning his head in Jensen's door. "I was looking for you in the common room."

"I wanted a little more quiet," says Jensen. He doesn't mean to sound cold or stiff, but he must, because Sam droops instantly.

"Is everything all right?" he asks. "I can go if you--"

"I know," says Jensen.

"Know what?"

"I overheard you and Danneel talking," he admits. "Earlier today, when I was on my way back."

"Oh," says Sam, letting out a long breath. "You--"

"Yes. And I understand why you didn't tell me, I just--" he laughs. "I never thought about you getting married, I needed too--"

"Married?" asks Sam. "What?"

"You're engaged to Danneel," says Jensen, and it hurts to say, more than he expected.

"No," says Sam, instantly. "I'm not--that's--" he laughs hollowly. "I'm not engaged to Danneel. I can't--I can't tell you the truth," he says. "I want to, but--I need a few days to make sure of a few things, and--" he looks at Jensen, completely incredulous. "Jensen, you know, right?"

Jensen swallows. "Know what?"

"I wouldn't--I'm not--I'm not engaged to Danneel when I--" he huffs a laugh and then leans down and kisses Jensen.

Jensen makes a tiny, surprised noise, but it only lasts a second, and then he's pulling on Sam's shirt, trying to get him closer, and Sam's perfectly willing, so willing it makes Jensen's head spin.

They break apart to reposition, and Jensen says, "Sam," helplessly, trying to pull him back in.

Sam doesn't come to him, though, leans back and laughs shakily. "I should really--" he licks his lips, and Jensen really wants to kiss him again. As many times as he can. "I gotta go. Not because I--I really want to keep going, but I can't right now," he says. "So I should just. Go."

"Oh," says Jensen. "Yeah, it's--late?"

"Yeah," says Sam. "So I'll--" he starts, but then he kisses Jensen again. Jensen's sure it's supposed to be quick, but Sam seems to get distracted, and Jensen doesn't really want to remind him he's supposed to be stopping.

And then, Misha clears his throat from the door. Sam springs back, and then laughs nervously, smiling at Jensen and not looking at Misha.

"Jensen," says Misha, "Lord Winchester. How nice to see you."

"Hi, Misha," says Jensen, trying not to groan.

"I hate to interrupt, but I did want to get some sleep."

"No," says Sam, coughing. "I was just going." He smiles sheepishly at Jensen. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

Jensen does his absolute best to not pout, or do a jig. Or combine them, which would just end up looking very strange. Finally he just says, "See you tomorrow," and is rewarded with Sam's bright grin.

"So," says Misha, raising his eyebrows at Jensen after Sam leaves. "I can see you're not at all in love with Sam Winchester."

Jensen can't even muster enough irritation to retort. He just lies down, homework forgotten, and smiles until he falls asleep.

*

"Wake up," says Misha, shaking Jensen's shoulder.

"Huh?" Jensen blinks. "What time is it?"

"You're being summoned to the headmaster's."

"What did I do?" he asks blearily, dragging himself out of bed and trying to put on his clothes as quickly as possible. "Kissing Sam isn't an expellable offense, is it?"

Misha rolls his eyes. "I think the headmaster couldn't care less whom you kiss, Jensen. And why would I know why he wants to see you? I was just the one the knocking woke up."

"You're so unhelpful," says Jensen, glaring.

"Just get going," says Misha. "You can tell me all about it when you get back."

"Good," says Jensen, pulling on his shoes and rushing out. "Thanks."

It looks different this early in the morning--there's still fog on the long path to the headmaster's building, and a frost in the air. Winter is coming, Jensen, remembers, and all too quickly.

He's only met the headmaster once before, when he first enrolled. He's a short, busy-looking man whose hands are always moving, and Jensen isn't surprised to find him pacing when he arrives.

"You wanted to see me, sir?" he asks, sticking his head in to the office.

"Shaffer, yes! We've just received urgent news from your mother, you're to return home at once."

Jensen stares. "What?"

"No time to lose," says the headmaster. "Pack your things, there's a carriage waiting outside."

"Is she okay?"

"Who?"

"My mother!"

"I assume so, she wrote," says the headmaster, like the idea that an emergency in a family with only two people in it would be very likely to involve at least one of them had never crossed his mind.

Jensen clenches his fists tightly and takes a deep breath. The headmaster clearly knows nothing. The only thing to do is leave. "I'll just be going then, sir," he says, hoping he at least manages to hide his desire to punch the man.

He runs back to his dormitory as fast as he can and starts stuffing his clothes into his suitcase.

"What?" asks Misha muzzily. "What are you doing?"

"My mom sent a letter. I have to go home, it's urgent."

"Is everything all right?"

Jensen snorts. "I have no idea. Apparently all the information he had was that I needed to go home." He lets out a shaky breath.

"Hey," says Misha, sounding concerned. "I'm sure if it was anything too terrible, she would have told you."

Jensen groans. "It's three days by carriage. I'm going to go crazy wondering."

"I'm sure she's all right," says Misha gently.

Jensen takes a deep breath and buckles his luggage. "I'm sure," he agrees, keeping his voice from shaking, miraculously. "Tell Sam--I'll write to him as soon as I can, all right?"

Misha nods. "Of course. I hope everything's fine, Jensen."

Jensen nods. He realizes with a weird swoop that he might come back. "In case I don't see you again, it was nice to meet you."

Misha looks amused. "You too."

He can't think about his mother and about never seeing Sam again at the same time. It's too much worry to handle.

*

At the first inn, he writes Sam a letter.

Dear Sam,

I'm sorry I had to leave without saying goodbye. To be honest, I still don't know why I had to leave. I'm writing this now in case I don't have a chance when I get home. My mother didn't tell me what the emergency was, but it must be dire for her to bring me out of the academy.

I don't really even have very much to say to you, not in a letter. I just thought--never mind, it's stupid. I wanted to tell you I wanted to say goodbye to you, but I didn't have time. And I really hope it wouldn't have been goodbye forever.

I'll write again as soon as I can. And I hope you'll write me as well.

Jensen


He sends it out before he can think better of it.

*

Jensen's mother must have seen them coming, because she's waiting outside with her own bags when the carriage comes to a halt.

"Mother, what are you--" Jensen starts, as she climbs up next to him. The driver takes her things and tosses them in the back.

"Keep going to the inn, please," says his mother, to the driver. "There should be someone there to replace the horses and take over for you."

"What?" asks Jensen.

His mother beams at him. "It's so good to see you."

"I thought you were dying!" Jensen protests.

She looks confused. "What?"

"There was an emergency! You pulled me out of school!"

His mother pulls him into a hug. "Oh, Jensen, I never--I'm sorry, I couldn't go into detail in the letter, it wasn't--I didn't mean to worry you. As soon as we're on our way, I'll explain everything."

So they're quiet as the driver and the horses are switched, Jensen staring out the window and wondering why he rushed off without even giving Sam a kiss goodbye if no one is dead or dying.

They're out of town before his mother says, "We're going to Genovia City."

"We are?" asks Jensen.

His mother sighs. "I haven't been completely honest with you, Jensen. I think it's for your own good, but--well, who knows." She sighs. "Your father--your father isn't dead."

Jensen stares. Of all the possible things he thought his mother might say, that wasn't one of them.

His father's always been dead--he died before Jensen was born, and Jensen never thought about it. The dead don't require much thought. It never bothered him. He barely remembered he was supposed to have another parent.

"What?" he asks, when he realizes he hasn't said anything.

"Your father and I decided that it would be best if--well, it wasn't really just the two of us, but in the end the decision came down to that, and we thought you should be raised outside of the capital."

"If you wanted to start making sense, that would be great," says Jensen weakly.

"Your father is King Alan," says his mother. "And we're going to the capital because he was badly thrown from his horse, and we think it's time that you were officially recognized as Prince of Genovia."

Jensen can only stare at her. "You're joking, right? I can't--there's no way--"

She smiles sadly. "I know it sounds insane, but I'm not making this up."

"The king doesn't have any children," says Jensen. "The king never even got married."

She sighs. "I actually grew up in Genovia City. The baronet really was your grandfather, I was born in the country. But my parents wanted me to have a better chance to move up in society, so they sent me to live with my cousins in Genovia City. And I happened to meet Alan--back when he was the prince, not the king. And we fell in love."

"So why didn't you marry him?" asks Jensen. The story is easier to hear than the implications are to think about.

"A few things. You know he was supposed to marry Princess Iona, of course."

Princess Iona is the younger sister of the king of Lycindia, who married some minor noble from Arden, in the north--her childhood sweetheart, he's heard. Everyone in Genovia knows that King Alan, unwilling to marry a woman simply for politics, refused the marriage and encouraged Princess Iona to be with the person she loved. It was then that King Alan told his advisers he would never marry for anything but love, and his infamous bachelorhood had begun.

"Yeah," says Jensen cautiously.

"I hoped to marry him after he made his vow, but we had never discussed our feelings--he had made no promises to me. He would have, I know now, but my mother took ill, and we supposed she would not live long. I went home to care for her, but it was a long sickness, followed by a long time of my father needing me, and gradually I forgot my girlish whim of marrying the king." She laughs. "It was twenty years before I returned to the capital, and when I did I certainly didn't think your father would remember me. I couldn't live there--your grandfather needed me here--so I just went to visit my family. By then, your father's position as the heirless king was well-established, and no one believed he would ever marry."

"Did he marry you?" asks Jensen. An heir is an heir, he knows, but a bastard, even one owned by his father, is an easy dispute.

"He did, five years later," she says. "After a slow and roundabout courtship, whenever we could spare the time to see each other. We married for love and I've never regretted it, but your father consulted his oldest friend and most trusted adviser, and she told him that to bring a wife and heir into the court of the time would be too dangerous."

"Dangerous?" asks Jensen.

She smiles. "The court had gotten very used to your father's not having an heir. And there are so many things that can make a birth go wrong, so many things that can happen to a trusting child--"

"You thought they'd kill me for the throne?" Jensen says. Then he remembers Misha, the school, everything, and wonders why he's so surprised. He swallows. "Dumb question. Never mind. Why now?"

"Because you're the prince of Genovia, and you're going to be the king. You had to be introduced into the court some time. And now, we hope, you're old enough to take care of yourself--with bodyguards, of course--so it seems like time." She sobers. "Besides, the accident might not have been an accident, after all. There are those who might have tried to kill him, and should he die before he recognizes you--well, I have a marriage certificate and a witness, but I'm sure those who want your father's crown would be able to find some counterfeit there. If your father publicly acknowledges you as his son and heir, no one can dispute that."

"I'm sure they could," Jensen mutters darkly. He leans back and groans. "King? I can't be king. I don't know anything about it. Everyone at the academy made fun of me for being so bad at politics."

"Even Sam?" he mother asks, too casually.

Jensen opens one eye and regards her warily. He never should have mentioned a thing about Sam Winchester in his letters. He thought he was being subtle, not mentioning him more than any of his other friends. But his mother always knows. "Okay," he admits. "Not Sam."

His mother smiles and pats his hand. "I know it must seem like a lot, but I think I've raised you to be good," she says, smiling. "And responsible, and honest. And I think that if you have that, the politics don't matter as much."

Jensen swallows. "I guess."

"And besides," she says, "unless your father's advisers are very concerned that there is an assassin after him, we won't be introducing you right away. For now, we'll be keeping you a secret while you are instructed in the ways of the court."

"Can't wait," says Jensen, groaning.

His mother laughs. "I know that it's not exactly you," she says. "But I think you'll do fine." She squeezes his hand. "Are you all right?"

Jensen really thinks about it, tries to take it all in. He's the prince, his father is the king, he's going to rule Genovia, and everyone is going to be trying to kill him, possibly for the rest of his life.

"It's a lot to take in," he says finally.

"I know. And I'm sorry I never told you, but--I only ever wanted you to be happy, and safe."

Jensen really hopes he'll be both again someday. He lets his mind wander, tries to find what he really wants to know, and licks his lips. "Tell me about him."

"About the king?"

"About my father. I--" he bites his lip. "Never had a father before," he says. His mouth feels twisted up; he wonders what shape it's making. Maybe it would let him know how he feels.

She puts her arm around him, like she did when he was young. "All right," she says. "First of all, you should know how much he wished he got to know you."

It feels like a bedtime story--the lost prince, the adoring father, the years of secrecy--and he settles in and tries to make himself realize that this is his life.


Part Two

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
heyginger
Feb. 6th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
Really enjoying this so far. :)

In the scene where Sam first eats lunch with Jensen, you have the line "Jensen follows Jared outside". I assume you meant Sam...just thought you'd want to know!
elliemurasaki
Apr. 22nd, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
longsufferingly, consider yourself poked to get that fixed.
wendy
Feb. 7th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
and we think it's time that you were officially recognized as Prince of Genovia.

I actually said WHAT out loud. I know the PD storyline very well and yet that still caught me off guard. Love it!!
yamisadomazo
Apr. 22nd, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
OMG! I love this! SO amazing.

And a question...Is the librarian 'Mr. Head' supposed to be Anthony Head? Because that's who I pictured. I love Anthony Head.

Giles FTW!
milen748
Aug. 23rd, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
the jonas brothers!!! LOL kevin was so funny :P
gryphinwing91
Dec. 8th, 2011 06:29 am (UTC)
Title?
Hi there, I would like to rec this fix on my blog/rec list and was wondering if there was a title for it? Thanks so much! Blog: http://slashreclist.blogspot.com/
longsufferingly
Dec. 8th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
Re: Title?
All the fic information is on the masterpost here.
gryphinwing91
Dec. 8th, 2011 07:14 am (UTC)
Re: Title?
Thanks so much :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )