Theme is 'faery tales'. Write a retelling/modern version/retelling with a twist of a faery tale.

MUSTs

Must be written in the past tense.

Must use the words: bell, candy, flicker, flutter, ash, heart, princess, secretly, seek, confession, blade, twist, never-ending and lust.

One character must say: "I don't love you. It's just that your mouth is very pretty.

MUST BE SLASH

Must be written in the past tense.

Must feature a sexual kink of some kind.

NO-WAYs

No 1st-person narrative.

No long, drawn-out, meaningful moment.


Basis: Cinderella


Sir Joshua de Grischapeau smiled, flawlessly polite, at the never-ending line of beautiful young ladies. How, exactly, he had gotten stuck with the door job, he was unsure; he had narrowed it down to two possibilities: one, they—whoever "they" were—wanted the women to have a good first impression of the palace, or two, Prince Gareth did not want him to see what was actually happening.

Both theories were quite plausible. With his neat ash blonde hair, blue gray eyes, and impeccable manners, Josh knew that he was more than presentable; undoubtedly, more than one lady had secretly decided that, should she fail to bag the prince, she would gladly settle for the handsome young knight who had greeted her at the door.

As for the second...well. Gary knew him. He knew that Josh could keep the bitter twist of jealousy in his heart, not on his face, but that it would be all too real nonetheless. He knew perfectly well that behind his polite smile lurked a hurt so deep that Josh wondered sometimes if he would drown in it. And Gary cared. Gary had always cared.


"Why, Sir Joshua, I do believe you're blushing," Gary teased, his face alight with mischief, his voice calm with overdone formality. "Whatever could you be thinking about?"

Josh smiled back effortlessly, his eyes bright with flirtation. When he spoke, he was as mild mannered and polite as could possibly be demanded of him. "Your Highness, I hardly think that is an appropriate question to ask of your lowly vassal. What would your father say?" he demanded, his shock delightfully exaggerated.

Stepping a bit closer, Gary clearly pondered the question, before answering, "I do believe he would tell me that I should care about the welfare of one of my best knights."

"Is that so?" Josh asked innocently.

"Mmm." Gary leaned in closer, barely brushing Josh's lips with his own. "Yes, well, I wouldn't want to upset him, would I? And I suppose that comforting him could be a good idea as well...."

"Suppose he's not upset, merely shy?" Josh's flush grew deeper as Gary's arms went around his neck.

"All the more reason to talk to him. Wouldn't want anything to...distract..."

"And you're never distracting, I suppose." Josh smiled, and then there was no more talking for a while.


Some gossips at court, of course, had whispered that perhaps the Crown Prince cared for Joshua more than men ought to care for their childhood friends. Once, Josh had confidently laughed those rumors off, but lately...lately, each word was another blade in the gut, reminding himself that...well, that they were now untrue. "Gary doesn't love you," the words whispered, whatever they actually meant. "Not anymore. Gary's gotten tired of you. Gary's going to marry a woman and forget all about you. His future princess will matter more to him. And once you've lost his love, what will you have? Your wealth? Some good that will do you. What will you do, buy bolts of silk to replace his smooth skin, candy to replace his sweet lips, a bell to replace his ringing laugh? Your position? You know perfectly well that you've done nothing to deserve it, that you're only so high ranked because Gary loves you. Your title? Because you know, if you want to keep that, you will have to marry as well." Josh was sure that he would go mad with the thoughts, especially since they were true.


Josh supposed that Lady Jeanette de Allemand was trying to be discreet as she spoke to whatever woman it was that she had managed to trap that week. Perhaps if her voice was less totally grating...but that was unkind. Annoying women had the right to gossip too.

"And they never go anywhere without the other. I'm telling you, Bea, it's fishy. Very, very fishy," Jeanette whispered, sending Josh and Gary what she undoubtedly thought was a furtive look as she and...Bea, apparently, walked past. Without even looking, Josh knew that Gary was smirking, amused.

"Joshua." His voice was solemn. "It has come to my attention that we have been speaking lately."

Josh played along, gasping. "Perish the thought! What do people think?"

He could practically feel Gary shaking his head. "They think we're lovers, of course. What else would explain the fact that we see each other in the halls of the palace every day?"

"Oh, I guess you're right. Whatever shall we do to remedy this most awful situation?" Josh covered his mouth in shock.

"There's only one possible solution." Gary's dark eyes danced. "We must never see each other again."

Scoffing, Josh let his act go. "You wouldn't last a day."

"Are you contradicting a member of the royal family?"

"Why, yes, I think I am."

"Insolence, Sir Joshua! And also intelligence. We deserve to be contradicted now and then."

"Oh?"

"Yes. Especially when it comes to silly things like never seeing you again. Clearly an unintelligent statement on my part. Who would willingly be parted from you?"


Perhaps some would hate a lover that treated them so, but Josh doubted that he could hate Gary even if he wanted to. He knew that, were he acting only for himself, Gary would choose him in an instant. As it was...the royal lineage had to be considered. Without an heir—a proper, legitimate, blue-blooded heir—the kingdom would fall into chaos. There was also the danger that neighboring countries could pose in later years, should they decide that King Gareth was weak and unmanly, and that his realm could be easily taken. It was selfish for Josh to have even entered their affair, and it would be trebly so to refuse to end it quietly. Really, looking at it from that perspective—thousands of lives or his own personal happiness—there was no contest. None at all.

But still...it was shocking, really, how different things seemed without Gary by his side. The rumors that had amused him when they were true stabbed him not that they were false. Rainy days had once been an excuse to stay in bed all day, or have long, private meetings with Gary to "discuss numbers"; now, he prayed for sun, a way to escape from the palace for a while. As for balls like this...the two of them would dance with all the ladies, perfect gentlemen as society required, and end up spending the night together, laughing at the pretentious guests and being overall scandalous. Tonight...Josh knew what would happen tonight. Gary would look at him, a flicker of poorly hidden remorse in those dark eyes, and it would be understood that Josh would return to his own room for the night and sleep—or try to sleep, at least—alone.


Josh adopted an injured expression and turned aside when Gary leaned in to kiss him. Clearly surprised, Gary took his chin and turned him, looking into his eyes. Years of manners instruction had taught Josh to school his features, containing his smile. "You cad!" he cried in a hushed tone.

Gary sighed, running a hand through his hair, clearly relieved. "Yes, snuggle-muffin? What have I done now?"

Dramatically wiping away a tear, Josh answered, "I heard from Lady Caroline de Chemisier, who spoke to the Earl de Jambon, who is close friends—well, friends—with Lady Jeannette de Allemand, whose cousin, Lord Brady de...actually, I'm not sure where Brady is from...but anyway, he was there, that you were boasting about brutally stealing my virtue, all while being secretly betrothed to Lady Alison de Taillure! How could you?"

Throwing his arms up in the air, Gary said, "You've caught me. I've been using you all along. Every word I've ever said to you was a lie. The truth is, darling, I don't love you, it's just that your mouth is very pretty. Not only am I betrothed to Alison, I am in love with Lady Gertrude. It's quite likely that the two of us will elope any day now."

Making a face, Josh said, "Don't even joke about that. Lady Gertrude is so...ugh. Promise me that, if you leave me, you won't leave me for Lady Gertrude. I'd feel terribly about myself for the rest of my life."

"I promise, on my life and honor, that I shall thoroughly consult you in the matter of your replacement. Though in my defense, you're having a three way affair with the Lord and Lady de Saucisson. Clearly, your virtue and value as a lover is less than you might say."

"You've hurt me deeply," Josh deadpanned. "I hate myself now. I think I need to go hide in a corner and cry myself to death, all because of what you just said to me."

"Well, I see that it is absolutely imperative that we have a meeting at once to rebuild your self-esteem. Given the personal nature of this, I do believe it ought to be just the two of us, don't you agree..." Gary trailed off, his hands everywhere.


Sparing a glance out the door, Josh sighed, allowing the first tiny hole in his composure to show through. Had he been alone, he probably would have slumped against the wall. There were no more ladies to meet and greet. It was time to join the ball and watch dozens try to win his prince's love, or at least, enough of his lust to warrant a marriage. Although he valiantly tried to quell it, Josh could not help but feel a surge of victory with the thought that at least none of the eligible women had been very pretty.

As he was turning to leave, he saw her, and his heart sank.

She was lovely, with her classic blonde hair and blue eyes, her slender figure and fine-boned face, but her looks were not all. There was a curious mixture of fragility and strength on her face, both adding to the mystery surrounding her and implying that, despite her delicate appearance, she possessed the strength to be a queen. A weaker man would have sighed as he bent over the beauty's hand, but Josh smiled instead.

Whether or not Gary actually liked her—which he probably would, being as he was, despite his constant wicked taunts, very easygoing—was irrelevant. The people would love her, and as the people were the ones marrying her, it was their opinion that counted. A beautiful queen with a simple, sweet disposition—it was written on her face—was all that the people could want, and—Josh swallowed hard, unable to stop it—that was what mattered. Determined, he turned to join the ball and try to tolerate the night...and the company.

Once on the dance floor, Josh's eyes naturally gravitated to Gary, and he sighed. He had known, of course, that it would happen, but seeing his love and that beauty dancing together, lost in each other's eyes...but no. She was gazing up at him, obviously love struck, but he was distant, polite, and vaguely uncomfortable. Josh was trying not to stare, but then Gary looked up and met his eyes, intense and resigned, regretful and...almost amused. Of course, he had figured out the position he was in just as Josh had, and realized exactly how the rest of his life would go. Josh smiled softly, quirking an eyebrow, and turned to give his most charming smile to some passably pretty lady nearby.

He danced the night away with a string of somewhat attractive women, stealing a glance at Gary and his virtual betrothed only once every few minutes. Every now and then, there would be a time when he could feel Gary's stare burning a hole in his head and their eyes met, giving Josh's heart an unpleasant little flutter, or when they stood near enough to touch, sometimes even without their respective partners...but Josh would always look away, occasionally muttering some royal pleasantry. Gary, in turn, would always look pained, guilty, and Josh would promise himself not to look again, but his eyes would inevitably drift to wherever Gary happened to be. Of course, wherever Gary was, the mysterious beauty was bashfully smiling, sweetness emanating from her every feature. It was while he was staring, and hating himself for staring, that Josh saw the most bizarre thing: the girl of the night, the one that every woman present would kill to be, pulling out of Gary's strong, warm arms and hurrying out the door, not even pausing to collect her shoe when it fell off. As if by gravity, Josh moved to Gary, dutifully going to help him out of this unforeseen predicament.

The scorned prince turned to his former lover with a rueful smile, and Josh hardly even needed the words. He had gotten the gist of the situation—the girl, for some reason, had panicked and run—and the rest of it was just fluff, meaningless words about how she was the love of Gary's life and he had known from first glance that she was the one. It's not true, Josh reminded himself, but he might as well have not bothered.


"Josh...oh, Josh," Gary gasped against his lips. Josh smiled slightly and kissed him harder, wrapping his arms around Gary's waist and pulling him close, only to have him pull away slightly. "I..." Gary's voice shook, and he waited a moment to steady his breathing. When he continued, he had reclaimed his usual tone, though it was still a bit breathy. "I was thinking, I should give you a pet name."

Josh raised his eyebrows. "Oh?"

"Yes," Gary answered, biting his bottom lip.

"Why do you think that?" Josh asked, politely stifling the giggles that threatened to burst from his throat.

"Well..." Gary took a deep breath. "You're special to me, and I'd like to think that I'm special to you too, and really, calling you Josh, like I might call anyone, seems...wrong somehow. And so I was thinking I might call you Shoe, because it's derived from your name, of course, and because you're reliable, and I'm comfortable around you, and...oh, this all sounded much more romantic in my head! I'm sorry. Don't listen to me. I'm an idiot."

Josh smiled a bit, seeing that Gary was really serious about this. "Don't say that. I think it's sweet...in an odd sort of way, but sweet nonetheless. Call me Shoe. I insist."

Gary smiled back in relief, tripping over his words. "Oh. Okay. You're not just saying that, are you? Because it's not a big deal, really, I..." Josh put a hand to his lips.

"Please. I think you're absolutely adorable," Josh said, completely truthful. "Besides..." He leaned close. "I have a bit of a foot fetish."


The next day, the two of them had a private meeting, but it was about the beautiful stranger and the likelihood that they could find her by way of the shoe—and of course, it had to be a shoe—that she had left behind. Gary was inclined to think that she was lost forever, but Josh persisted on insisting that they organize a search of the entire kingdom to find the maiden who fit into it...or possibly the married woman, since she did, after all, run. It was his declaration that he would not allow his prince to settle for anyone that he did not love—and he had even managed to keep the irony out of his voice—that spurred the court into action. Groups were formed to create lists of all the women who could have been at the ball, and a plan to methodically search the kingdom had been created. Soon enough, the whole affair had been organized, and Prince Gareth set off to seek his bride, the woman to fit the shoe, accompanied only by his trusted friend and advisor, Sir Joshua de Grischapeau.


"Gary, sweet, I have a confession to make," Josh gasped, hours later.

Similarly winded, Gary nodded at him, his cheeks flushed.

"I don't really have a foot fetish. I was teasing you," Josh said through his smile.

Gary smiled back even wider and managed to breathe, "Good. I wasn't going to say anything, but I was kind of disturbed."


Together, they visited every home in the kingdom, and even every street corner and alleyway. Josh knew that he would know the mystery maiden immediately—he, after all, was the one who had greeted her and thus seen her first—but he insisted on trying the shoe on all of the women, in the interest of thoroughness. As it happened, none of them fit into it anyway, so Gary never had to face the question of trusting Josh's instincts or the facts as they stood. If the choice had come up...Josh honestly did not know what would happen. On the whole trip, they had been dancing around each other, carefully polite in a way they had never been. Josh had even stopped their constant nonverbal communication, not wanting to see pity in Gary's eyes.

Finally, they reached the last house in the kingdom, still completely without any possible candidates. Josh half suspected that the maiden had vanished, insubstantial as the mist, but refused to let himself hope. She would be found. She had to be found.

The moment he saw the inhabitants of the house—a man, a woman, two daughters, and a scullery maid with the look of the man—Josh realized that the search was over. Dirt and soot blackened her skin, but if the servant was clean, she would be fair and perfect. Her bearing, her manner, her looks...everything identified her, and Josh knew that the right thing would be to tell his prince who she was...but he remained silent. Why, he had no idea whatsoever, but there it was.

As was proper, Gary had the eldest daughter try the shoe on first. Any blind man could see that she was not the one, and that she would not fit the shoe regardless, but of course, appearances mattered even here. To Josh's shock, the shoe fit perfectly. She was still all wrong, being too tall and too bold, but Gary, Josh knew, honestly did not care. The woman at the ball...she had been beautiful, but he had not loved her. The story, though, was beautiful, and was that not all that mattered?

Gary and the girl made to ride back to the palace together, and Josh would have let them go, but...devastation flickered across the face of the maid. Try as he might, Josh could not ignore the suffering of a maiden, however much he resented her and wanted to hate her. He quickly looked the chosen one over, trying to find a flaw to warrant his objection...and there it was. Blood stained the dainty shoe, causing the girl to limp as she walked to the horse. Gary immediately turned when he heard Josh's cry, and saw for himself that the girl indeed did not fit the shoe. She had cut off her toe to force her foot in.

The second daughter was also clearly not the one, with her too-wide smile and lack of grace, but manners dictated that she try the shoe as well. Like her sister, it fit beautifully, but once again, Josh's conscience forced him to speak out, and draw attention to her freshly mutilated heel. Gary, perhaps, had noticed it on his own, but decided to remain silent, as it hardly mattered to him whom he married.

Last, of course, came the scullery maid, and naturally, the shoe slipped on her as easily as could be. She stood, graceful as a queen, her feet perfect and uncut. Gary led her to his horse, Josh following behind, and the three of them rode back to the palace together.

And they all lived happily ever after...or appeared to, anyway. And that's what matters, isn't it?


Josh had fallen asleep, looking adorable in his uncharacteristically mussed, unguarded state. Unable to help himself, Gary leaned down and pressed smiling lips to his temple. "I do love you, Shoe, you know that," he whispered, running a hand through his lover's hair.

"Mmm...love you too," Josh murmured drowsily, apparently only on the verge of slumber. Curling into Gary's side, he smiled and closed his eyes.


A/N: And that's a wrap! You know, I actually really like this.

The French words were completely random. And yes, I know that gris chapeau is gramatically incorrect, but it sounds better, so meh.

Oh, and Lord Brady de somewhere is my friend Brady, who insisted on making a cameo. So...yeah. I think he wanted me to dedicate this to him, too. So...this is dedicated to Brady.

The title comes from the song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, so...credit goes to them, not me.