A/N: So...how do I start? I'm really sorry, would be a great place to begin, I guess. With senior year in high-school and freshman year in college, things just became too hectic to write. If it's any consolation, I believe I've really improved my writing. I hope you notice the improvements as you read. Also, I graduated from HS with some pretty good grades and I aced all my first semester college courses. :) I finally settled on a major and plans for what I'll do when I enter the great big world of post-college labor --- I'm an English major and I'd love to a) edit and b) teach, while c) writing in my spare time. If none of these things soothe your temper, I guess all I can say is I really am sorry and I hope you enjoy the chapter.

Check Out: I've received some awesome fanart for Boy Bride, which can be found on my page. The artists are two of our own FP community, eVil-uNicorns and XxGOTHICxANGELxX. Thanks guys. :) Also, please take a gander at the Sweet-Revolution Awards, made solely for slash fiction on FictionPress (link on my profile). The first round's over, but the second will start soon. You can nominate your favorite slash fics and we judges will do the rest.

Warnings: Slash, nipples and cross-dressing, none of which should really bother you up to this point.

Boy Bride Eight: Shopping with the Enemy

After the meeting with the Council elders, Prince Leonhart made his way to Myrddin's towers, where he knew the wizard lallygagged when he had no duties to fulfill. While he was normally averse to sharing any upsets with the demon --- mostly because the childlike fiend seemed to enjoy them a bit too much --- the wizard and Nana were his top and most trusted advisers. Nana, having been particularly friendly with Myrddin since before the young Alpha's birth, took to spending time with him in the tower as well, when she wasn't bustling about the palace.

As predicted, he found the two of them together, around what he personally liked to call Myrddin's 'snooping ball', and the wizard smirked upon his entrance. Though it was still day, the circular room where Myrddin did most of his dirty-work was filled with shadows, lit only by what looked like an innumerable amount fireflies, flitting around the domed ceiling. How they could survive in the cold, damp room, the Alpha did not know, but he did not deign the matter worth asking about.

"I knew you were coming," the tower's master claimed mysteriously, spectacles glinting in the soft light.

Leonhart lifted a brow apathetically and replied, "Of course you did, but do you know why?" inciting a frown and a sniff.

"No," the pouting warlock admitted, "but it isn't as if you're not eager to share it."

Leonhart winced. "'Eager', no, but it is a necessity." Nana smiled and beckoned for him to take a seat beside her. He complied and dutifully allowed her to brush the snowflakes out of his mane with her elegant fingers.

"All right, sweetheart," she finally murmured, having completed her self-appointed task. "Won't you share what's the matter?"

The prince gave another wince, as if the affair physically pained him --- and he had a feeling that it would, eventually --- before he sighed and explained all that the Council had told him. Nana's pretty face contorted into a frown and even Myrddin looked thoughtful, his tiny fingers tracing across the surface of his crystal ball distractedly.

"That is a dilemma!" he finally exclaimed, looking slightly worried, which did nothing to ease his two companions. He looked up from the foggy surface of his magical toy and met each one of their gazes, before seriously intoning, "Odin knows you have two left feet, in all instances but battle. No woman in her right mind would find that attractive, no matter how debonair a prince appears."

Leonhart scowled and thwacked him upside the head, earning a return scowl, and Nana wagged her finger, quite chidingly, at both men.

"This is no laughing matter, dear Myrddin!" she asserted, looking slightly less than her usual pleasant self. "Why, I am completely opposed to the Council's methods, as you know! Matters of the heart should be kept in a separate box from those of politics." Leonhart nodded with her, while Myrddin looked unaffected, as per his usual.

"He is a nobleman, love," the wizard said, shrugging. "It's nigh impossible to do as you say."

His response, if possible, made the woman look even more determined. Very softly, but with powerful emotion, she replied, "Being a noblewoman myself, I know it is not as impossible as you think, Myrddin. You'd do well to remember my husband. He was just a sword-smith, but we were happy before he died, and nary a soul protested our marriage, not even my lord and lady parents." She paused, meeting Myrddin's emerald eyes and Leonhart's silver. "I want that for you, Leon, and I believe you can have it."

Leonhart sighed; he could only hope. Myrddin, of course, seemed comfortable dashing this hope in his flippant manner. "He still has to go to the Yule ball. He's already agreed to choose his bride then." He waited for a pause that was just dramatic enough before continuing with a smirk. "However, I do believe I'll have a solution everyone will be quite satisfied with, on one condition." Nana and Leonhart watched him with almost painful curiosity, eager to hear him out. His beautiful emerald eyes glinted as his thin brows raised in amusement. "The condition, of course, is that you leave it all to me: no questions asked. Magic is mysterious and should only be spread around so much."

"Hey --- " Leonhart began, but one raised finger against his lips stopped him.

"No questions asked and, on my Wizarding honor, all will be solved by Yuletide eve." With that, the wizard shooed the prince out of his tower, though he bade Nana to stay. The Alpha, grumbling under his breath about 'meddlesome mages', swept out gracefully, though Myrddin was sure he was secretly grateful. "Nana, we must prepare a guest-list immediately, and you must write a general invite letter for foreign nobles. The royal scribe will personalize the letter for each individual on the list."

"What will you be doing?" the woman replied, askance, though she was almost afraid to know.

The childlike face gave her a sweet, almost innocent smile. "I will be doing the sendoff, of course. But, I predict I shall be as busy as a little hummingbird from my homeland --- there is a potion I really must begin brewing and I have a few letters of my own to write."

Unaware of the commotion in the palace, Jibriel and Beowulf made their way to the soldier's 'perfect place'. As they walked, the foreigner allowed himself to closely observe the architecture in the crystal city.

To say Jibriel was in awe would be an understatement. The market in Skaði was nothing like that in Chad. It had many shops, but very little people outside of them. What people there were paid he and Beowulf little mind, though a rare few gave him curious glances --- which was to be expected, considering how different he looked, being a Southerner.

In Chad, being the son of the Shaman and the heir to his mother's name, he didn't have to shop much, having clan members happily deliver and gift things to him. When he had personal things to purchase, however, he'd always been cheerfully greeted by what shopkeepers there were --- there honestly weren't very many and the items sold were usually handmade. The changes between the two lands were almost physically flooring.

The shop Beowulf led them to was considerably smaller than those towering around it, but there was something nice about it, something homey. If he were lord Myrddin, Jibriel would say that it had a nice 'aura'. Beowulf held out a hand to stop the smaller male from entering. "Welcome," he said, with a sweeping gesture. "to my home."

"Eh," Jibriel replied, taking in the shop once more, this time with a critical eye. It really was very small, probably about the size of his father's carpentry shop back home, and while the furnishings were nice --- with scarlet-colored plush carpeting, comfortable furniture to lounge in, and stacks of colorful ensembles lining the walls --- it was nothing the silver-haired Southerner would deem a home. "You honestly live here?"

"Yep! I used to, anyway." Beowulf beamed proudly, finally letting his companion start up the walkway. "My parents own this shop." He reached one of his large hands up to his face to amplify his voice. "Ma! Pa! You guys in?"

Immediately, a very gracious looking woman flurried down a small stairwell to the side of the shop, probably leading up to the 'home' Beowulf had mentioned. Jibriel began to smile at her, but did a double-take when he took a good look. She wasn't ugly, by any means, and somewhat reminded him of his paternal grandmother, who had been a handsome, vivacious woman whilst alive. But, with her salt-and-pepper hair, sweet brown eyes, and pudgy, soft body, this woman did not in the least resemble her tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed son.

Any doubt Jibriel had was instantaneously washed away when he saw how affectionately the two greeted one another.

"Oh, Beo!" the woman chirped, as any mother would upon seeing a missed child, while wrapping her son in her arms. The man placed his arms about her form and pressed thin, wide lips into her hair, smiling. When she finally pulled away, she began to scold him, though not unkindly. "It's been so long, boyo. Ya don't visit nearly enough!"

The soldier rubbed the neat pile of golden hair atop his head sheepishly. "Sorry, Ma, I just don't get time, what with all my training." He shrugged his broad shoulders, then looked around the empty shop. "Where's Pa?"

The woman pouted, a strange expression on her otherwise elegantly-aged face. "Just when ya decide to stop by, yer father has to go fer merchandise in Njord." She sighed and gave Beowulf a hopeful look. "Will ya deign to stop by again soon? When yer Pa is around?"

Beowulf sealed the promise with another kiss. Jibriel observed them both with sad eyes and an almost envious sigh --- he missed his own mother very much. It was then that he was finally noticed. The woman gave him an appraising look, before latching on to him, seeming to ignore his whimper of surprise.

"Oh, Beo, she's beautiful! Are ya finally bringing a lass home fer yer Ma?" she exclaimed, her sweet face glittering with excitement. Both Beowulf and Jibriel blushed, their eyes suddenly refusing to meet, and Beowulf held up a hand to stop his mother's words, but not before she could add, "And there'll be babies soon, won't there?"

"Um, nah, Ma!" the soldier finally cut in, and Jibriel was glad his own face was not so pale, because his companion's cheeks had flared to life. People in Höðr reddened far too easily, he noticed. He was pulled out of the woman's grip by a strong arm, cutting off his somewhat silly thought process. "Er, this is silver fish --- I mean, Jibriel. I'm not exactly sure what his position is, and I'm sure he probably isn't either---" This incited a nod of agreement from Jibriel, his face the picture of confusion. "But he lives with Prince Leonhart in the palace."

"Oh!" the woman said, finally catching on. She did look disappointed at the prospect of once again being deprived of a daughter-in-law, though. "How lovely! Though I did believe he was a she."

Jibriel bit his lip, furrowing silvery brows. "Am I very feminine looking?" he asked Beowulf, hoping for an honest answer in the negative, but didn't expect both mother and son to give him a 'reassuring pat' on the back, both at once. He nearly toppled over, but managed to catch his footing. Now he at least knew where Beowulf got his strength from, if not his looks.

"Yer very pretty, I'll say," Beowulf's mom declared, a calculating glint in her gaze, "but I can see now that yer shoulders are a wee bit too wide and your hips a wee bit too narrow. Never did see a lad quite so pretty, though." As an afterthought, she added, "My name's Moa, pleased to meet ya." He offered her a shy smile, somewhat flustered by her bold behavior.

Beowulf gave him an pitying look. "You wouldn't even make it into the army reserves, though, with muscles like that. It'd be like sending a gal to do a man's work."

Jibriel had to give a huff at that, but thankfully the conversation ended when Moa said, "Let's get this pretty one attired, eh?"

Moa seemed happy to cater to Jibriel's needs, once she finally understood that he wasn't kidding about wanting some nightdresses. Apparently, in the Mainland, only women wore loose, colorful, flaring clothing, which certainly explained why Leonhart had been so upset when Myrddin brought him to Jibriel's room that first night. Jibriel told her how, in his land, while the clothes the men wore were not exactly dresses, they did resemble them. He liked having that comforting familiarity, even if it apparently emasculated him.

"Ah, I see," Moa finally replied, giving him an evaluating look as she picked out several materials. "I suppose it'll only add to yer beauty, so it matters not." He blushed again, but she didn't notice, instead focusing on finding the perfect clothes for him. Finally, she chirped, "Let's try these on in the changing room."

She bid Beowulf, who was already polishing his sword out of boredom, to wait in the store's reception area, then she led Jibriel to the changing rooms. She pushed the pile of clothes into his arms and shut the door behind him. He settled the pile onto a bench and began the tedious task of removing all the winter clothes Nana had bundled him in.

Jibriel hummed as he picked the first outfit off the pile. It was a pale, shell-pink chemise that slipped through his fingers like water. He shivered as he pulled it on over his mostly nude form, from the texture of the material against his skin and from the chilly room temperature, just slightly warmer than that outside. He appraised himself in the full-length mirror and immediately fought reddening --- the outfit was almost see through, his hardened nipples very obviously visible. But, Goddess, did it feel heavenly! He furrowed his brows, wondering whether to make the purchase, and shrugged his shoulders. Leonhart had given him more than enough gold to buy and wear a different outfit for each day of that year, so there was no reason to be miserly.

He picked out a few other nightgowns, in a multitude of different colors and textures, as well as some matching underpants to wear below them. Then he asked Moa to pick out some tunics and leggings for him, in case he needed a more appropriate attire. It wouldn't do to embarrass his kindly companions at the palace with his cultural differences, especially since they'd been so good to him. Lastly, because he found them so dazzlingly beautiful and wanted just a few, he asked her for some day gowns --- long, fluffy ball gowns, sexy black slip-ons, bright yellow sundresses with flowery hats, and more. He hoped to visit some warmer countries out of Höðr, so he could wear the gowns, but wasn't sure when such an opportunity would appear.

Moa seemed amused by this. "Ya know, pretty ye may be, but ya need a bust fer some of them dresses," she informed him, indicating her own rather large bosom. Though she embarrassed him with the statement, her tone was anything but unkind, so Jibriel laughed with her. She beamed at him in reply, shooting furtive glances toward the room Beowulf was silently occupying. "So..." She leaned in conspiratorially, gaining a curious look. "How is my Beo, really? Boys don't like to tell there mums anything! Living in the castle, ya should know more than me."

Jibriel unconsciously lifted a finger to his chin, as he was prone to do when thinking. Moa looked so very eager to hear delicious gossip --- or rather, the truth, in this case --- about her son, when the Southerner had none to give. He'd not been in the Mainland for even a month yet.

Apologetically, he told her, "I only arrived in Höðr four days ago, and I spent a lot of the first day in bed. I really do not know much." Her lower lip stuck out in disappointment, making him want to appease her. "I have been to the barracks and they are very nice. Lord Beowulf and the prince are friends, too, so I'm sure he is happy there." He added nothing about the odd relationship the two men had, though he did wonder if she knew and approved of it.

Moa smiled. "Thanks for giving an old mum some insight into her babe's life." As an afterthought, looking at the pile of clothes they were both heaving around, she added, "Let's go ring these up, before Beo dies of boredom."

He beamed at her and they companionably made their way back to the reception area.

During the ride home to the palace --- in a carriage filled with shopping bags --- Jibriel tried to get another conversation going with Beowulf.

"Your mother is really nice," he began. Curiously, he added, "Do you miss she and your father while at the barracks?"

Beowulf offered him an affectionate smile and replied, "Sure I do, but the shop's not too far from the barracks. Ma was exaggerating --- I'm there at least thrice a week."

"Oh!" he exclaimed. "It truly must be nice to see your family so often." Almost in a whisper, he murmured, "If only I could do the same."

Beowulf lifted an elegant golden brow and asked, "Why can't you? Visit your family, I mean." The soldier ran a hand through his sunny mane. "No offense, but you're rather young to be in a completely different land all by yourself, aren't you?"

Jibriel sighed. The comment reminded him of his Dawning, which would arrive in a few months' time, marking him as an adult. But even adults were homesick at times, especially in a situation like his own. Shopping and touring Höðr with Leonhart and Beowulf, as well as spending time with Nana and Myrddin, had numbed the pain a little, allowing him, if only for a little while, to forget the tragedy of his homeland's demise, but he really didn't want to talk about it. Not yet and not with Beowulf.

Leaning back in his seat, he replied, "I have no home to return to. My family is all dead," in a somewhat steely tone. Beowulf seemed shocked and gave him a sorrowful look.

"Sorry, silverfish," he muttered, and he honestly seemed sincere.

"It is fine," Jibriel returned, giving him a shy smile. He turned the conversation to, "Why do you always call me silverfish?" and the awkwardness died down. The trip back to the Höðr palace passed in mostly friendly banter.

Beowulf walked him to the palace gates, like a gentleman. They gave one another friendly smiles just before reaching the huge drawbridge and entrance-way. It was then that they noticed a flurry of activity from the highest tower in the castle. An uncountable amount of alabaster birds --- "doves," Beowulf supplied, in a wondrous tenor --- flew out of the topmost window, disappearing to the four major directions.

"W-what is going on?" Jibriel asked the man, who looked oddly somber.

"Magic," he replied simply, finally turning away to take his leave. His last words were thrown over his shoulder, "No doubt the work of Leon's errant Wizard."

Jibriel sucked in his cheeks, surprised. Of course he believed in magic --- small magics were commonplace in his homeland --- but nothing so bombastic as what Myrddin could apparently do. It was almost scary.

"Oh!" he heard a voice exclaim, and looked up to meet the eyes of one of the palace guards. The man gave him a dimpled smile. "You're back. Wonderful. Come in and let me take your bags."

He complied, giving one last shiver, and made his way up to his chambers with the man at his heels, hoping to change out of his wet clothes and maybe lounge around in one of his new nightgowns after drawing a bath. He was surprised to find one of Myrddin's magical doves on his bed. It was made of a very fine paper material, one that could probably endure the elements for a period of time. When he picked it up onto his palm, it began unfolding itself, while he watched with amazement and some displeasure --- it really was a beautiful creature; perhaps he could persuade lord Myrddin to make him another? There were less than ten words on the newly uncovered page:

I will require your aid with something,


He read the message with some consternation before shrugging. He was beginning to feel like one of the heroes in his mother's fairy-tales and was not yet sure if this was a good thing.

He decided to meet with the wizard on the morrow. For now, he completed the task of changing his clothes and murmured a prayer, hand enclosed around a moon-charm he had from Chad. "Protect me, Mother, from what is to come." He could only hope that it would be enough.

A/N: So, we've finished yet another chapter of Boy Bride --- Yay! :D I am working on the next chapter as we speak, along with chapters for my other works, like The Wizard's Apprentice and Silent Song. Hopefully I'll have everything done and posted before the 19th of January, when I return to school. As a little pimpage, I'd like to promote my other fantasy story, The Wizard's Apprentice. The tone is darker than that of Boy Bride, but I think, maybe, it's better written, too. Take a peek?

Thanks: All my readers, reviewers, everyone who's put this on their favorites and alerts, and all my other wonderful fans (if I should call you that; feels a little strange to contemplate having fans). I really do enjoy reading all of your comments and input. Happy new year, guys!

Aviatorlisa: I noticed that your LJ account has been deleted. I'm going to miss you. I know we've both been busy with college stuff and haven't really kept in touch, but you're a wonderful artist and an even better person. I hope you enjoy college and I know you'll be an amazing art student, and later on, an amazing artist/illustrator. ^^ I hope life treats you well and that I can someday read a book to my children that has your illustrations in it --- if you decide you still want to be an illustrator, that is.

Feonixis: Best story ever? Thank you so much! I can't stop blushing. ^///^ Leon and Jib will learn to dance together, probably in the next chapter. Jib learned a bit about Myrddin's awesome powers this chapter and we'll all learn more about the extent of them when the ball actually starts. King Arthur was definitely Myrddin's former lover and there will be more mentions of Myrddin's magical past soon, too. As for Jib's powers, he does have some, but we're not going to get into that yet --- his powers aren't like Myrddin's, though. Hopefully you'll like Beowulf a bit more after this chapter, since he and Jib got a chance to bond. As for BBC Merlin --- I love it! :) Thank you for your lovely review. I hope you've enjoyed this chapter and will enjoy the following chapters. ^^

Nanafoshoo: Here is your update, dear. Sorry for taking so long. I hope it's not a disappointing chapter. Thank you for your review. ^^

R&R: Pretty please take the time to push that lovely green review button. I really enjoy hearing comments, answering questions, and receiving ConCrit. I love writing and all of your input helps me improve. Thank you. :) I'm almost done with the next chapter, where Leon's dance issue will...kind of be solved.