BO PEEPS – PROFESSIONAL QUEST ASSISTANTS AND DETECTIVES.
PART ONE: CHAPTER ONE
Prince stared down at the menu and frowned. When he'd ordered his Double Flappy Latte no one had mentioned anything about catching the little bugger which was now making its third, aerial lap of the room. He was relieved to see other patrons were having the same trouble and that some had even put up their umbrellas indoors to avoid being scorched by inevitable spillages. The fact that one man had been given concussion by one of the high speed flying, caffeine fuelled beverages did nothing to improve anyone's humour. Least of all Prince's as he realised it was his cup which had done the damage, crying "crimes against coffee will not be tolerated" in an act of final defiance.
With an inconspicuous blush, Prince called over the waitress and asked for a normal cappuccino and the daily Once upon a Times. It was still showing his brothers' weddings to Cinderella and Snow White. Prince scowled.
As youngest Prince in the Charming family he'd watched all three of his brothers marry three very pretty ladies. First Paul Charming had married Sleeping Beauty, Anthony Charming and Thomas Charming had Married Cinderella and Snow White in a joint ceremony last week and now he was expected to go and save a damsel. There was always Rapunzel but apparently solitary confinement hadn't done her a great deal of good and she'd gone a little crazy in the silence. She was also rumoured to be a hopeless alcoholic but apparently so were a lot of Princesses nowadays.
Prince flicked absently through the paper and grimaced at the price of Pumpkin and co.'s patented Potato carriage. Even with rats pulling it instead of mice it was more than he earned in a year. He was always pondering saving up to buy a second hand carrot model since there were always spare parts to be had but some part of him was very royal and very unwilling to drive a carrot carriage.
He carried on flicking until he came to the want ads. He let out a bored sigh as he surveyed the sparse list of damsels in need of a rescue. Still only Rapunzel, as always. He continued to the second hand section and sighed again, more resignedly this time as he saw the same ads there always were. Dragon, free to a good home, friendly but grew too big for his cave and Unicorn – would fit child of 10/12 years old – stabilisers incl. Autographed tickets and genuine drumstick from Beauty and the Beast's last gig at Wembley.
Finally, one caught Prince's attention. It was a simple ad but very effective, he thought.
Professional Questing Assistant.
Dragons to Slay? Damsels to save?
No one to drink with for a job well done?
Reasonably priced and good at finding things.
Call in today for a quote!
Prince thought about a Questing assistant for a few minutes and then decided they were just glorified sidekicks but still worth investing in. In fact, the more he thought about getting one, the more he wanted one. With his family's obsession of sending him off to face certain death and maybe find a pretty woman he figured he was entitled to someone who would watch his back.
Prince shrugged, he had nothing to lose. After paying at the counter, ducking a low flying Flappy Latte and apologising to the man it did hit, Prince set out to get himself a side kick.
Little Bo Peep had lost her sheep and was bloody glad about the whole convenient situation. Without having to spend hours on a godforsaken hill watching stupid sheep wagging their stupid tails she now had time for the important things in life. Such as fighting crime, avenging wrongs and stopping the annoying junk mail about credit cards which always appeared in her letter box on a Thursday morning.
For years now - almost as long as she could remember - Bo had desperately wanted to go off on adventures and fight beside real heroes. So here she was. She'd rented a one room office, put an ad in the paper and now all that was left was to wait for some dashing hero to stop by and beg for her help. If he was really good looking Bo would give him her services at half price and maybe throw in a few perks – wink wink, nudge nudge, and all that.
So far, Bo was remarkably proud of her resolve. Her hair-brained schemes didn't usually last this long and none to date had been this well planned. In fact, she was so sure this one would work that she could barely sit down with excitement as she waited for someone to turn up. She started to make coffee but when the kettle took too long to boil she gave up and tried tidying the place instead.
Tidying got very boring very quickly since there wasn't much furniture in her office. In fact, all she had was a kettle, two chipped mugs, a pot plant, a cardboard box covered in a moth eaten blanket which masqueraded as a coffee table and two bean-bags which passed for chairs. She moved the pot plant around a little but that was all she could really tidy. The forgotten kettle finally boiled and the carpet sighed with relief as Bo stop pacing 'round it.
The office furniture was saved the fate of Bo after a high dose of caffeine as there was a loud knock at the door. Bo lunged towards the handle and yanked the door open, flashing her prospective customer her best professional smile which turned out to look more manic than trustworthy.
Excitement faded suddenly as she realised just who was at her door. To her credit, her smile never faltered. It simply ceased to be one of excitement and became one of cold fury. Still, as she spoke her voice was calm though it was impossible not to hear the bitterness in her tone.
"Ah, your majesty, what the flying fuck are you doing here?"
Prince simply glowered, pushed past her into the office and slumped instinctively into the largest beanbag, Bo's favourite of the two. She pushed him from it with no respect and sat there very primly as he lay sprawled on the floor. Prince tried to peel himself from the uncannily sticky carpet with dignity but failed miserably. When he finally got to his feet his mind was desperately telling him to get the hell out of the building before he caught something from the strangely conscious floor covering.
"So," Bo began, regaining something of her previous joy from seeing Prince splayed out before her feet, "You need my help."
Brushing himself down, Prince looked at the other beanbag and decided against sitting there in case it was in league with the carpet. There had to be a reason Bo avoided it and he didn't want to find out why first hand.
"When I suggested taking someone with me on my Quest to rescue a damsel, the King thought it was a marvellous idea. If it wasn't for him insisting I drag someone with me I'd have turned and left as soon as I saw it was you. Still sulking that I left you?" Prince said this quickly and spitefully. Bo just grinned at the fact that he'd managed to say so much on one breath.
"I never sulked when you left. I found myself a nice little farm hand. Blue I think they called him – and boy could he blow that horn – and a lot of other things too, if you get me." She winked and laughed at her own crudeness. Prince sniffed once in disgust.
"Last I heard you were so desperate that you kissed a frog and tried to turn him into a Prince."
"Don't believe everything you hear. Only frog I ever kissed was you and from the looks of it, you never stopped being a frog." Bo said this, looking Prince up and down, thoughtfully. When he didn't reply she just grinned and stared, deliberately making him uncomfortable.
He had the same liquid blue eyes she'd once seen as gentle but now saw as vague. His hair was the same yellow but now it looked more like the colour of dog piss rather than the shade of sun-kissed sand she'd seen before. He was still tall, still lithe and still played with his hands when he wasn't talking. She'd once perceived that as a man waiting for action but now she saw it as a nervous boy unsure of what to do with himself.
He openly studied her in return. Bo had changed; she was no longer the chubby blonde shepherdess with adorable ringlets. She'd cut all of her blonde hair off into a severe cut similar to his and he was only slightly surprised that it was naturally a mucky brown. She'd also slimmed down a lot and had stopped wearing the pastel gowns traditional for shepherdesses. Now she was dressed in worn blue jeans and a Scotland Rugby shirt and there was a tattoo of a fairy on the back of her neck. She was still very pretty despite her stubborn jaw and dark brown eyes. He'd always loved those eyes, so dark he felt he could drown in them. They made her look old beyond her years but were still remarkably mischievous. Prince had loved Bo Once Upon a Time but that brief fling never had a chance of making it to Happily Ever After. His father, King Cole, had stopped him seeing her.
"So," Prince managed after a while, "By order of the King, I'm stuck with you." He managed to find irony in that somewhere and was about to continue before Bo interrupted.
"Not if you can't afford me." Her scheming mind worked fast to try and find a way out of working for Prince.
"That's the trouble, "Prince muttered, "The King gave me this…" He handed Bo a cheque. Bo whooped once, did a little jig where she sat in her bean-bag and folded the cheque neatly, hiding it down her top.
"For that amount of money I'll even pretend to like you! Now, which Princess are you up for rescuing? I hear Rapunzel's still in her tower… although she's meant to be crazy. What about some unknown Princess? I hear they're popping up all over the place since your brothers rescued Snow White and Cinderella. I guess if you're not picky there's always Thumbellina but since she's the size of your thumb you might have some trouble in the bedroom department, if you get what I mean." Bo ignored Prince with practised ease as he gave her his best unimpressed sniff.
"Is that the best you can do?"
"Well, I suppose technically if Cinderella is a Princess then so are her ugly sisters but since the full moon is out, I wouldn't advise going after them."
"They're werewolves?!" Prince asked, his voice excited. He'd obviously met Aurora and Cassandra.
"No, but because it's lighter at night you might actually have to look at them. They really are quite hideous! I wouldn't advise trying for one of them on the grounds that after three years of university studying anatomy you might still mistake a wart for a nose. Or worse, a nostril for a mouth…" Bo and Prince shuddered, almost involuntarily. Prince even turned a slight shade of translucent green.
"Rapunzel it is then." said Prince, resignedly.
"Excellent! First thing for you to do is buy me a drink to celebrate! Mines a mead or something equally as sweet and sickly."
"Still drinking?" Prince asked.
"I'd give it up but I don't believe in quitting anything I seem to have a natural talent for." Bo was entirely unmoved.
"Well, there'll be no drinking on this quest!" Prince sounded condescending but Bo scoffed in his face.
"Since I'm not working until the cheque's cleared I can have a drink now. And you owe me anyway, I remember debts very well. The last time we went out I bought the first round and we never did get to your turn to buy. I'll have a mead, please."
"I won't buy you a mead and you'll start treating me with respect, I'm your Prince!" Prince was getting a little fed up with Bo's attitude problem. He could never remember her being so…sharp tongued.
"I remember…" Bo began with a sly smile, "When we were together you were quite into photography..."
"You wouldn't dare!"
"No? A mead please, at The Goose and Harp."
Three days later a far richer Bo waited for a far poorer Prince. Now they were financially even, Bo felt a little better about the whole fiasco. She still didn't like Prince but for the amount of money she was earning she really didn't have much cause for complaint.
She was waiting for him in her favourite pub, The Goose and Harp, sipping a mead as slowly as she could bring herself to. Bo had a real sweet tooth but now she could afford to indulge it she thought she'd better show a little restraint otherwise the Tooth Fairy would hurt her again.
The nasty little bugger always did have a habit of trying to assassinate people who didn't look after their teeth properly. Luckily, his wife was no where near as unhinged as he was and always picked up the coins he tried to lodge in his victims heads and swiftly hid them under the nearest pillow.
Bo had earned quite a bit of money over the years by loosing teeth and she smiled fondly at the memories. Her smile faltered though as Prince strolled through the door, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible wearing a heavy grey cape. She could tell by the way his shoulders slumped forwards that he was sulking. Bo groaned despite herself and thought fleetingly that no amount of money was worth Prince in a foul mood.
"What crawled up your arse and died?" she demanded, pouting herself.
"Shut up. You'd sulk too if you had to wear what I have to wear." He hugged the grey cape around him for all it was worth but as he sat down beside her, Bo couldn't help noticing the flash of tight, purple breeches.
"Can't be worse than my shepherdess uniform, that was pale pink and the only regulation hair colour was blonde. Hell, I had to chop all my hair off to get rid of the years of dye!" She sat back and waited as Prince reluctantly peeled off his cape. Bo stared openly before bursting into a fit of hysterical laughter. Prince wore tight, purple leggings, with bright red trim that clashed horribly. His jacket was so bright and starched that Bo couldn't understand how he could bear to wear it.
A simple "Why?" was the most Bo could manage in way of a question. Her bubbly laughter made it nearly impossible for her to breathe, let alone talk. Prince gave her his most professional pout, wrapped himself up in the cape again and scowled at her.
"Fuck tradition!" Bo replied, when she finally got her breath back. The fairy tattoo on the back of her neck flapped its way round to the front, flicked its painted wand and scrawled Bo's words across the T-shirt she was wearing. Prince stared at Bo, askance.
"She likes this T-shirt but thinks it's too plain. She's also a sucker for a four syllable phrase." At this statement, Prince decided never to ask Bo anything again.
They both sat in silence for a moment, each waiting for the other to start conversation. Tension grew between them, thriving in the quiet and Prince ruthlessly fought down a long unused urge to take Bo in his arms and kiss her. It was how he'd broken silences before. Looking back, Prince had never really known Bo properly. They'd never talked openly and although Prince had cared very deeply about her, in his way, he'd never admitted it to her face. He'd never even told her that he thought she was pretty.
"Much as I'd like to spend my adult life sitting in the pub drinking mead I don't think it's a good idea to wait until we're geriatrics to start this quest. Can we go yet?" Bo demanded, downing the rest of her mead and snapping Prince brutally from his reverie.
"Yes, let's get going before the smoke in here stains my jacket any more than it has done already. How do you breathe in here?"
"You learn to chew the air before breathing. Now, we need to find you some normal clothes because I refuse to be seen dead with you in that outfit, tradition or no tradition."
"It's your duty to the crown to uphold tradition on quests." Though Prince hated his current outfit he refused point blank to agree with Bo.
"My duty to the crown has nothing to do with me accepting this quest, I'm doing this out of an act of duty to my bank balance." She stuck her tongue out at him and started to leave.
"You talk too much." Prince managed. The fairy noted the four syllable phrase on the T-shirt and Bo sighed.
"Prince smells like shit."
It took a while to reach the Enchanted Forest and it took Prince even longer to realise Bo was carrying her old Shepard's crook. For some reason it looked entirely at home on her, despite her lack of uniform.
In their few hours of trudging they'd hardly exchanged two words since Prince tried to explain the History of the Enchanted Forest and Bo had threatened to castrate him if he didn't shut the hell up. Still, Prince thought, the scenery was pleasant enough, even if the company left a lot to be desired.
Bo on the other hand despised the Enchanted Forest – in her opinion it was monotonous, boring and overwhelmingly green. Green had never been her favourite colour. She preferred blue and there was a severe lack of blue anywhere. Bo's frown deepened and she tightened her grip on her crook as she stared at Prince.
Prince was mostly unarmed to Bo's annoyance and his clothes looked as if they'd restrict his movements. The only weapon on his person was a ceremonial sword which looked to have seen better days. If it came down to a fight, Bo knew she'd have to take charge. This made her temper flare – she was only a questing assistant, after all.
Her temper really was starting to get the better of her and she stared at Prince with an open, bitter scowl. He did his best to ignore her but the tension in the air between them grew almost palpable and Prince cracked.
"Fine! Ask me why!"
"Why?" Bo replied with a confused look, not really knowing what she was asking.
"My father said I had to! He said if I didn't stop seeing you then he would banish you to the Forest of Wolves in the Dark Lands!" Prince laid his hands on her shoulders gently and said, "I never meant to hurt you."
Bo blinked twice and giggled. Prince fumed angrily and started shaking her shoulders.
"I bare my soul to you and you laugh! How dare you?!"
"Prince, you told me all of that years ago. Besides, I like the Dark Lands – my Grandma lives there so don't think you did me a favour. I was scowling at you for the simple reason that you're practically unarmed. Don't be so arrogant as to think I love you – I don't. And I don't like you touching me." Bo pulled away and continued walking.
"You talk too much" was all Prince could bring himself to say. The fairy changed the T-shirt and Bo sighed.
"Prince eats manure."
It took them less than a day to reach Rapunzel's Tower and on arrival both Prince and Bo sat for a while, just to admire the thing. In short, it looked like a giant wine glass towering above the landscape and Bo openly admired the architect who had the balls to design such an obvious shrine to alcoholism.
"You going to climb it?" Bo ventured eventually. Prince looked at her and she noted happily that his skin was pale and clammy.
"I thought perhaps I'd throw her a rope and she could climb down."
"You're such a coward!" Bo laughed and began to prepare a grappling hook that had appeared seemingly from nowhere. Prince shuddered to think of its possible origins as Bo was carrying no pack and so he concentrated instead on the sheer terror he felt at the concept of climbing the giant wine-glass.
"I'll go up and throw the princess down to you then rummage around a bit and see if there's anything worth looting while you distract her with poetry or something. You do know some poems…right?" Bo paused in her preparation to climb and looked at Prince with her piercing dark eyes.
"Of course I know some poetry…"
"Which poems? They might not be suitable and I don't want you making too much of an arse of yourself. I'd be laughing too hard to carry away my swag." And with that, Bo hurled the grappling hook at the balcony and whopped quietly to herself as it attached itself to the railing. She tugged on the rope to make sure it held tight and began to climb.
"How about…I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…"
"No song lyrics!" Bo shouted down from half way up the tower. Prince felt dizzy just watching her and had to look away until he heard another yell proclaiming that she had reached the top and he was something unmentionable.
"Is she there?" He replied, anxiously.
"No, but the climb was worth it to see the reception she gets! The giant top of the wine glass must act as a giant satellite dish!" Prince could hear a lot of banging coming from the tower and he tried hard to think about something other than Bo breaking everything valuable.
"Are you quite done trashing the place? Where is the Princess?"
"Not in the bathroom…ooh…wait! I found a note…oh…well someone beat you to it. She's been rescued by…oh shit. Prince? We might have to go to the Dark Lands." With that Bo emerged from the balcony, laden with bags full of God only knew what. She slung them all onto her back and began the decent with a note between her teeth.
Upon reaching the ground she handed Prince the now soggy note and began to sort through all kinds of junk.
"Seems Jack Frost had the idea to rescue her before you did and if he marries her that means he becomes King of the Dark Lands by marriage. That means he gets the Army of Wolves which means he can try taking over your kingdom which, if he succeeds, means perpetual winter! So let's go foil that wedding…as soon as I've been through Rapunzel's stuff."
Prince picked her up by her collar and glowered at her, waving the note furiously in her face.
"We need to hurry up! That poor woman must be so frightened in the Dark Lands and my Kingdom is at risk! I must save it!" He put Bo down as his chest swelled with pride. It was up to him to save all of his older brothers and his father. Maybe afterwards they might start to respect him, let him make his own choices and be his own man. He might even be rewarded land…or better yet, replace Paul as crowned Prince!
"Prince, if your ego doesn't stop swelling up then you'll float away. You're thinking about being some big hero, aren't you? Well, stop it. You'd be a useless hero. Just go and get the job done and then we can think about how best to brag and get money." She picked out a few of the smaller items and made them vanish somewhere on her person. She took one last look around to get her bearings and set off towards her grandmother's house.