The classic masquerade ball; a night with moonlight and music in elven glory. Where secret lovers can hide in plain sight, hidden identities for everyone but each other. Except this ball is special, this ball is for the royal family to find someone for their heir to marry. A royal and his knight
Having grown up together, Kieran and Fóltor have always been friends. Deadpan jokes whispered into ears during meetings eventually turned to stolen kisses after sparring sessions—and now, here they are. Having one night where they are able to be free with their affection and words of love, the very night where Kierans parents are to find whoever he is to wed.
[size12 Although he had seen the ballroom countless times since he was young, had even stood amongst the guards lining the doorways on a few occasions. It was entirely different standing amidst the crowd as nothing but a guest. As far as the other guards knew, he was laid sick in the barracks unable to guard and unwilling to take visitors, and as he wore his father’s garbs together with a mask that covered a good two thirds of his face, he was certain they would not think twice. If they did, well, then he could hope he’d be found by someone he could bribe with something from the royal kitchen.
Someone in a long green dress walked past him, and he realised all at once that while he may be inconspicuous on his own, standing right in the doorway was bound to get someone’s attention. With a quick step to the left, then a few more further into the crowd he merged with the rest of the guests to try and find the one, the [i only] guest he truly cared for. For it was not for nothing he had pretended to feel ill and had spent days deciding which mask to purchase; a plain one the colour of red dirt, with a set of antlers. Easy to see, easy to forget. That had been the idea, as he knew well how observant the court tended to be.
He scanned the room once more, and then, there he was. For a moment he was back to the last time they spoke, sharing their masks to know who they were at a distance. It was silly, he realised in that moment, to think he would ever be unable to tell Kieran from a crowd. He made to move quickly towards him, when another thought stopped him. [i [#DE773C It is real.]] The two of them were well and truly going to be able to dance, and talk, and laugh without a single worry for who hears or sees them.
While he would gladly spend half a decade simply watching Kieran exist while doing nothing himself, tonight was not endless. So he shook the thoughts away before taking up march over to his friend, marching over to the man he has loved for years. As he got closer he turned mindful of his steps, tonight more than any other night their honoured tradition had to stand true.
And, as such, when he got close enough he took his usual position half a step behind and to the right of Kieran, and leaned in to whisper in his ear, as serious as he could make his voice despite the bubbling feeling of knowing they would be able to hold hands for as long as they wanted.
[#DE773C ”My apologies, your highness, I think I must have made a wrong turn—Would you mind pointing me in the ways of the barracks.”] Tonight, it was harder to hold back the smile, almost impossible in fact. They were here, together. This was no sparring room, no quiet hallway, no library. This was a ballroom full of people, and laughter, and music. Yet here they were freer than they had ever been.
And all at once, Fóltor knew, with a sinking feeling he refused to acknowledge, that he wished this moment would last for a century, and an evening was hardly any time at all.]
The young royal tugged needlessly at the bottom right of his mask for the tenth time since he was shoved into the ballroom. The prince’s mask did little to disguise himself- it only covered the space around his eyes and was an elegant black color which of course made his hair stand out more. To top it off in the top left corner of the mask sat elegant gold swirled accents that reached up above the edge of the mask. The King and Queen had insisted on this mask.
A few paces to his left he could hear his parents chatting with an admittedly beautiful young woman- surely in hopes that she was in need for a husband. He cared not for the woman though, his entire heart and mind had already been captured by someone. Kieran was well aware of his duty but tonight- tonight would finally be the night he could put it aside.
Where was Fóltor anyways? His eyes scanned around the room searching for the mask that the man had described to him last time they talked. Kieran was anxious for this night. Where he could finally reach out and hold the hand of the man he loved without having to glance over his shoulder. After all it wasn’t that their court was against members of the same sex having relations- it was specifically that as Prince Kieran he was required to marry for alliance not love. A female partner would be preferably- that way there could be clear heirs, and if it was a male it had to be one that would result in benefits for their court. Which a knight didn’t quite fill that role.
It was then that Kieran was drawn out of this thoughts about his duties when a certain voice whispered in his ear. A smirk played upon his face before he could even turn his head. [+seagreen “Well where would the fun be in that,”] he grinned his eyes now looking into Fóltor’s. Slowly he turned so that it was more than just his head pointing in his knights direction.
[+seagreen “Especially with you dressed so nicely,”] Kieran’s left eyebrow raised slightly as he scanned over the other male’s clothes. At quick glance Fóltor looked like any of the other guests here. That was the goal- for him to look like he belonged there, not like a knight, unmemorable. Though to Kieran the knight stood out in any room.
[+seagreen “You did make me wait awhile though,”] Kieran said while crossing his arms across his chest feigning a grumpy attitude. Though it didn’t last long because soon he was smiling again. It made him deliriously happy that they could be here together.
[size12 Whether it was the grin or the voice he had not heard in a few hours that made Fóltor’s own smile widen, he could not tell. Though it was most definitely the raised eyebrow that had a huff of a laugh leave his lips before he collected himself. This was their routine, yet it was entirely different as well. Though the feigned grumpiness was something he was well familiar with, even as it did not last long.
[#DE773C ”Well,”] he began, vowel drawn out as he stepped a small step closer just because he could, before letting his voice dip back into the same serious tone he would use during a meeting with the guard captain, while doing everything in his power to keep the smile from returning. [#DE773C ”I may have gotten so caught off guard by the spectacle I almost got run down by a lady in the doorway.”]
To keep himself from smiling as Kieran processes the pun, his eyes scan over the elegant black mask covering the space around the other man’s eyes; with its elegant gold swirls. It was no surprise the royal majesties wanted Kieran to be as easy to see as possible, given the purpose of the night—And Fóltor was not about to complain about getting to see more of Kieran’s face. His gaze returned to Kieran’s, locking eyes was nothing unfamiliar, it was as easy as breathing most of the time, though tonight it felt akin to the tingle just before a thunderstorm.
If he listened close enough he would be able to hear the royal majesties a few paces away, and as he stepped back he made sure to angle his steps enough to still face Kieran but he less in line of sight of the parents, should they glance their way.
[#DE773C ”You do look quite nice yourself,”] for a moment the other man’s name is stuck on his tongue, his smile returning easily. Again, it is not as though they don’t call each other by name frequent enough, but tonight, tonight it is different. At once the instinct to touch him became almost overwhelming, and for once he listened. He reached out and, as thought to brush a leaf or a piece of dust, brushed his hand against Kieran’s shoulder. [#DE773C ”like that sunset we saw some months back.”]
He recalls it clear, he had wanted to say back then that the golden glow reminded him of his feelings for Kieran, how he made his chest light up with delight—but he had kept it to himself, and still even with his comment, did to some extent keep the true depth of the words to himself. Though he is certain as the night goes on it will be harder and harder to not whisper every lovely thing he has ever thought of the man before him.]
Kieran chuckled lightly, [+seagreen “A guard being caught off guard- sounds like quite the predicament.”] Truly it didn’t matter to the noble why Fóltor had taken his time, he was here now that was all that mattered. In fact Kier could hardly hear the noise of the ball around him. Which was saying something- there was almost a constant buzz of noise as laughing and conversations happened all around them.
His own breath caught in his throat as he watched the other males eyes taking in his mask. Taking in his clothes. It was hard to define the electric feeling that coursed through him any time he caught Fóltor looking at him. It reminded him of the first time he felt his knights eyes on him. They were teenagers- Kieran had feared it was just some temporary fancy that the knight had. When he realized the other males interest was not fading it had been a joyful realization.
[+seagreen “Maybe that lady was hoping you would sweep her off her feet. The mysterious dashing man,”] he exhaled. In moments his hand was brushing against the knights cheek. Thumb brushing gently across. [+seagreen “I wouldn’t blame her.”]
It was impossible to keep away from the male. If anyone saw them they would assume that perhaps one of Kieran’s suitors was more successful than the rest. As he stared at Fóltor he tried to recall when exactly he had realized what he felt for the male in front of him. It was hard to pin point a singular event, maybe he had always been in love with him. The ever present fixture in his life. Maybe it was the time they snuck out to attend a festival at dark years ago when they were still young. The roles were reversed that night in a way- with Kieran being the one disguised. At one point in the night Fóltor had grabbed his hand to drag him over to see a performer but everything had gone fuzzy at the contact. It was like everything clicked into place in that moment.
In the present Kieran let his hand drop back to his side. [+seagreen “That was a beautiful sunset,”] he said. Not saying what was burning in the back of his mind. That this night would not last forever no matter how much Kieran wanted it to.
That was how it was between them though. So much left unsaid between them. But also it wasn’t as if they needed to say it. The connection that existed between them made it so that they always seemed to know what was on each other’s mind without a word needing to be said.
[size12 It was involuntary that his eyes closed the moment Kieran’s hand brushed against his cheek, the thumb trailing a tingling electricity of such tenderness it made it for a moment hard to breathe. It was only worsened, wonderfully so, by the words. There was only one person he wished to sweep off their feet, and for a moment he allowed his mind to imagine how different things could be if he could catch Kieran’s hand in his and run. Out of the ballroom, out into the courtyard, out into the world, anywhere, everywhere.
[#DE773C ”How unfortunate for her I have my eyes on someone else.”] he said, eyes opening again and locking once more, wanting the chase Kieran’s touch. It was so rare they could touch like that, and always with believable excuses such as adjusting a strand of hair to look presentable, rightening posture in sparring even though it was already correct. Tonight, Fóltor already felt he’d gotten more than he could ever wish for by a mere touch of the cheek and open displays of affection.
This night would change everything, he knew. The ability to openly acknowledge what they had both felt for so long. There was something about the look Kieran was giving him that reminded him of a morning that seemed so long ago. Sunlight streaming in and adding a soft orange tint to Kieran’s hair. How he himself had smiled and declared something he could no longer recall, while his thoughts were all on how much he had wished to press their foreheads together and do nothing but exist for a moment. How he knew he would never be able to put into words how much Kieran meant to him, would always mean to him.
Caving to the urge to resume contact, Fóltor reached out to grab Kieran’s hand gently, giving it a little tug as if to lead him somewhere. Though the contact itself was enough to halt his thoughts for a moment as he realised the possibilities were—in that moment—endless; Did he wish to hug him close and feel their hearts synchronise, lead him off to dance where the music was growing soft, or see where they were serving delicacies? For a moment it reminded him of a different time and a different place where the music was more lively and the festive more boisterous, he had held Kieran’s hand then too. The memory made him huff a little laugh.
[#DE773C ”What do you say we went and stole ourselves something to eat?”] he chanced a glance to where they would usually keep the drinks and bites for guests to eat and gossip over. There were only two standing currently, backs faced to the room and presumably discussing the drink options. One of them turned and he could see that she was human with the way her hair had been away from her face, he wondered briefly where from. Given the way her head strayed he could only assume it was the first time she had been here, he wondered if she was one of the prospects. He assumed it would be unlikely the duo would be interested in talking with the prince given their own discussion, and nodded to himself, before once again leaning in to whisper to Kieran despite the fact that what he was about to say was not anything suspicious. [#DE773C ”I am certain the kitchens have made all your favourites.”]]
There was no stopping the way that his posture straightened at Fóltor's words. Like a bird who was preening. Hearing boldly how Kieran had the eye of the man he loved gave a sort of confidence. One that Kieran was hoping to hang on to for the rest of the night. He studied his partners eyes, they always reminded him of a sea at storm- dynamic. He wished he could take off the others mask to see his entire face better.
Feeling the others hand tugging at his own it was hard to ignore the desire to pull Fóltor towards him. Embrace him and declare that this was the only person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. An impossible dream- that would be made even more impossible by the end of this ball. It was enough to make him wish they had been born into different roles. That they were not separated by the invisible wall called duty.
The male let his center of balance be slightly thrown off leaning towards the male as he pulled. [+seagreen “We will need the energy to dance the night away later,”] he grinned letting their fingers interlace. There was only a couple of people over by the food table so at least they probably wouldn’t be pestered.
Kieran shivered slightly at the other males whisper. God, Fóltor had to know how much of an effect his whispered voice had on the prince. The royal took a quick glance over at his parents. They still looked enthralled in whatever conversation they were in. Surely he would get an earful later about spending the entire night with a mysterious stranger who then “disappeared” after the ball.
In a perfect world he would reveal to his parents who Fóltor was to him. But it didn’t do much to dwell on the reality. Not when he could live in this fantasy night they created for themselves.
[+seagreen “Let’s go, dear,”] he whispered gently back before leading him by the hand towards the food. He didn’t care if anyone noticed as they made their way over. Hopefully at least no one would bother them.
Once at the table he noticed the sheer amount of food that had been prepared. From savory puffs of dough to sweet glazed pastries. The white haired male grabbed a fruit tart from one of the trays. When he took a bite the sweetness immediately hit his tongue. He then held it out to Fóltor, [+seagreen “Here try this. Tell me what you think.”] He licked his lip to clear off any remaining glaze, waiting for the other to take a bite.
[size12 The way Kieran leaned towards him when he pulled, and the grin as he let their fingers intertwine, made warmth radiate akin to a furnace in the crevices of his heart. To feel the other man’s palm against his own, to know that they at one point would dance, caused his mind wandered, as it often had whenever Kieran attended dances in the past. Wondering what it would feel like to dance with him. To hold each other with hands on shoulder and waist, elbows interlocked, or hands flat to each other. To step in sequence, heartbeats synchronised. There was little difference between dancing and fighting, other than the closeness and the deadliness. And the two of them had done enough sparring throughout the years that Fóltor knew that dancing would come just as easy, just as fun.
’Dear’, the endearment had his shoulders itching to bunch up, and he was glad Kieran took the lead because he was sure he would not be able to move without it. A breathless half-laugh escaped him, as he mouthed the word; Dear. It was as simple as it was all encompassing. A part of him wanted to tug Kieran to a stop and just say the words ’I love you’, but he did not. Instead, he forced his voice steady and allowed the laugh still lingering in his chest to make it sound almost nonchalant as he replied, [#DE773C ”Lead the way, dear.”]
As they made their way towards the table, Fóltor allowed himself to focus once more at Kieran’s hand in his, how their fingers felt intertwined like the vines in the gardens. Even so, he was still unable to stop hearing the word ’dear’ repeated in his head, he wished to memorise the way it sounded from Kieran. Keep it as close to his soul as he kept the duty that prevented it from being anything more than this.
The table, as predictable, when they arrived, was filled with food and pastries. The very smell of it all had Fóltor close his eyes to simply take it in for a moment, it was less potent than it was standing in the middle of the kitchen, but it was lovely none the less. He opened his eyes again and glanced at the selection, and was about to more his hand to reach for the same kind of tart he saw in Kieran’s when the man held out his own tart for him, and who was he to say no?
[#DE773C ”Thank you.”] he said, meeting Kieran’s eyes again to offer a soft smile before taking a bite. Taking his time to mull over the flavours and the sweetness of the glaze, even though thinking proved quite hard when his focus flickered to Kieran’s lips. It made him think of the times they had kissed on the cheek, or gentle presses of lips to foreheads. Now, the thought of giving him a gentle kiss on the lips was buzzing in his head like a bee seeking flowers to land on. If he ended up chewing the pastry a few more times than entirely necessary, that was between himself and the thoughts.
[#DE773C ”Sweet,”] was the first thing he could think of, when he could speak properly, [#DE773C ”I really like the crumbliness of the pastry.”] and with those words he glanced over the table to see if he found something entirely different for Kieran to try, as the intimacy of the gesture managed to settle on his shoulders. Here they were, sharing pastries without worry, just like other couples had surely done before them.
Finally he snagged one of the laced pastries that had softer dough and was filled and glazed with nuts, which seemed an apt reverse of the soft fruit with crumble dough of Kieran’s fruit tart. He took a quick bite, and indeed, while still sweet it was a different kind of sweet, and he held it out to Kieran for him to try. [#DE773C ”Now you try this one. Tell me what you think.”] He realised only after he said it, that he’d subconsciously mirrored the way Kieran had said it to him, and smiled softly at the though.]
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