A/N: I'm actually rather proud of this. I got the idea from a science video about the periodic table of elements. Isn't it amazing how my mind works? I will be continuing this in at least two more chapters. Please review, people! Suggestions are always welcome!

Alchemist's Apprentice

"Get up, you lazy brat!"

Wicken opened his eyes carefully, slinging his arm over his face to shield himself from both the sunlight and any blows his master might throw at him.

"Hurry now," his master's harsh voice bellowed again. "I need you to go to the garden and gather monkshood for me."

Wicken scowled slightly. He hated picking monkshood. It was usually used as anesthetic because when applied to the skin, it would cause a numbing sensation. Wicken could hardly feel his fingers until the next day after picking it.

"Be quick about it, too, or there'll be no breakfast for you." With that last dreaded note, the wooden door to Wicken's tower room slammed shut.

Already protesting the prospect of work on so little food, Wicken's stomach growled ominously. His scowl deepened as he reached under his straw pallet for a small hand mirror that had once belonged to his father. Gazing in it deeply, Wicken smiled softly at his reflection. It was that of his father's: everything from the ink black hair to his soft green eyes. The only feature Wicken disliked immensely were the light freckles that peppered his cheeks.

After tucking the mirror back where his master wouldn't find it, Wicken hurried down to the castle garden. It was directly beneath his small tower, which also housed a few other apprentices to the grouchy alchemist, and therefore it did not take long for him to reach it.

Wicken was good at being an alchemist's apprentice. He loved to experiment with various plants, powders, and potions. He had long since decided not to let anything Bane, the castle's alchemist and his master, say anything that would cause him to leave. Wicken had learned to block out all insults and curses thrown at him, and listen only to orders.

Crouching down on his knees and placing a straw basket beside him, Wicken cautiously touched one of the yellow flowers. Sure enough, his fingers began to tingle. Wicken shook his head and plucked the flower from its stem. He would come back for the roots when he had time to get something to cover his hands, because the roots were a source of poison.

"Stop!"

Wicken started at the cry and turned to the voice. The next thing he knew, he was laying face-down on the ground with something very heavy on top of him.

"Are you crazy?" A voice from above said, or rather, shouted. "That plant is poisonous!"

Wicken grunted angrily, trying to wriggle out from underneath whatever was on him. "I know that, you simpleton. I at least have enough sense to know when something is poisonous. I am an alchemist's apprentice, you know."

The weight immediately shifted, and Wicken dragged himself out. "You are? So you're the one I've been looking for?"

Wicken stood up with his back still to the voice and dusted his tunic. "Yes, I suppose I am. Unless you'd rather talk to the other idiots I work with, though I don't recommend it."

To his surprise, Wicken heard a small tinkling laugh. He spun around on his heel to face a man not much older than him. The man had shimmering gold hair… gold. Wicken was struck dumb. Never had he seen so much beauty in one person. The gold framed the man's pale face, though his complexion was much healthier than Wicken's, who spent most of his time in the alchemist's lab. A white robe was all the man wore, and Wicken's heart sank. It was the robe of a monk.

"I-I'm Wicken, the head alchemist's apprentice."

The man gave another tinkling laugh. "I'm Deb. Sorry for tackling you, but I couldn't have an innocent's life on my mark."

Wicken nodded sullenly. "I guess that makes sense and all, being a monk…"

Deb cocked his head and arched a golden eyebrow. "A monk?" He looked down at his clothing when Wicken pointed at it, and let out another laugh.

"Oh, I'm just studying with the monks. I doubt I could ever be one, if they even accepted me." Deb gave a sly wink.

"Oh. What are you doing here, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Not at all. Our monastery burned down recently, and the Prince offered us protection at his castle until we could rebuild. He's a very kind man."

Wicken smiled, his muscles tightening at the unusual expression. It was his first genuine smile in a while. "Yes the Prince is rather… eccentric."

Deb laughed again. Wicken usually didn't like people who found everything funny, but the trait was endearing on Deb. "He did seem rather odd when I spoke with him. I just accepted it as the folly of youth. You sound like you know him rather well, though."

"Yes, he was- is- my only friend here. I simply cannot stand the others." Wicken growled softly deep in his throat. The other apprentices, anyone his age really, annoyed Wicken to death. The Prince was an odd exception to Wicken's temper.

Deb looked even more amused by this comment. "Only friend, hmm? Well, I hope I can be added to that short list with time."

He bid farewell to Wicken and strolled off in the direction he had come, leaving the alchemist's apprentice to ponder the statement before returning to work. It wasn't until a while later that Wicken remembered that Deb had been looking for him to ask him something.

---

The castle alchemist was a toughened old man named Bane. Although in his forties, Bane was still strong enough to give any idle apprentice a sound beating. This had earned him a feared reputation around the castle, but he was good at his job.

He was even better with Wicken to help him. Everyone knew Wicken by his good looks, talent, and most noticeable- his temper. He had been the only one to stand up to the old King and actually live, although he had suffered at least a year in prison for it. Once the King died, however, the Prince had set Wicken free happily. They had been friends, or the thing closest to the definition of 'friends', ever since.

Now Wicken had a new 'friend', however. He had accepted Deb's invitation at friendship and was becoming increasingly happier. He smiled more often, was less strict with the other apprentices, and even perfected some of the potions he had been working on for years. Everyone noticed the change, and began to wonder who had caused the mysterious change.

Wicken slunk to bed hungry one night, months after his first meeting with Deb. He had been beaten harshly after defending one of the younger apprentices who had accidentally misplaced a minor potion that could easily be replaced. Master Bane had been seething with anger, though, and Wicken couldn't help but stop him from beating the poor boy half to death. Unfortunately, the plan backfired, and Master Bane turned his fury on Wicken.

In the morning, Wicken found it rather hard to keep his balance as he walked down the stairs. He had been up all night struggling with his feelings for Deb, and really did not want to see the blonde again. He just didn't know how to act around him. Wicken was attracted to everything about Deb, and during their morning meetings Wicken was falling even more in love with the man. Unfortunately, Deb had turned out to be a noble.

Shaking his head as he tumbled once more down the stairs, Wicken let out a shaky sigh. He shouldn't even be entertaining thoughts about Deb. Even if the blonde beauty wasn't a monk, he was still greater in station than he was. Wicken could never gain enough title to be with someone like that, even in his dreams.

"Hello, Wicken. What's wrong? You look dreadful."

Wicken narrowed his eyes at the comment and flushed. It was just as he had thought- Deb was already having second thoughts.

A laugh interrupted his thoughts, however. "I didn't mean to make you angry, or insult you. I simply meant that you look a little sick. Are you alright?"

Wicken smiled at the apology. "I'm alright. Just a little hungry."

"Have you had breakfast yet?"

Wicken let out a harsh laugh. That was the most concern he had ever heard anyone have for him, besides the Prince. It made him feel nice inside.

"You obviously don't know how an apprenticeship works. My master decides when I eat, and he hasn't spoken with me since yesterday morning."

Something unrecognizable flashed in Deb's eyes, which were a faint blue. "So you haven't eaten? For how long?"

Wicken did a quick calculation on his fingers. "Three days ago, I had a bowl of porridge. The morning after that I had a small loaf of bread and a pint of water. Since then, I've had nothing."

Deb approached Wicken in three long strides. He placed his hand on Wicken's forehead, pulling it away sharply.

"You're burning up."

Wicken shook his head, noticing for the first time how much taller Deb was than him. "It is nothing, only a potion."

"What?"

"A potion. Alchemists work in harsh conditions, near open fires, and so they drink a certain potion that makes them almost fire-proof. Unfortunately it also makes the drinker very warm to the touch, giving the impression that he is sick."

Deb looked confused for a moment, but shook it away. He reached for Wicken's hand, saying, "Let's go find you something to eat."

Wicken pulled back sharply. "I can't! My master is the only one that can give me permission to eat."

"Any master that would have you starve is not worth obeying. Can you not see he is making you sick?" Deb looked hurt.

"I-I can't disobey him. He…"

Deb shook his head slowly, gold spilling onto his cheeks. "I have heard stories about Master Bane."

Wicken lowered his head. "What do they tell of?" It was hard to keep his voice from shaking.

"He is a feared man. He abuses his apprentices. He…" Deb reached for Wicken's face, placing a cool palm on his cheek. "He would not be half the alchemist he is without the help of one person."

"All true, except for the last one."

Deb smiled softly, willing Wicken to look at him. "I do not believe that. I think it is very true."

Their lips met halfway. Wicken almost pulled back, but Deb wrapped his arms around him and made escape impossible. Anyways, he hardly wanted to break the kiss. This beat anything he had ever dreamed of.

They stopped only when air became a necessity. Wicken doubled over, the sharp intakes of breath making his stomach hurt.

Suddenly, he found himself being carried by Deb.

"W-What are you doing?" He half shouted, clutching tightly to the front of Deb's robe. He heard the other man snicker.

"Getting you something to eat. And I won't have any objections. If you're to be my lover, I can't just let you starve to death."

Wicken blushed sharply at the statement. "Lover? You mean…"

Deb leaned in to peck his nose. "Yes, Wicken. I love you. Do you love me?"

"Yes. I do."

"Then you are mine from now, not Bane's. I will not stand for anyone having you but me."

Wicken tried to grasp the words. "I can't leave alchemy though- I love it! It's all I've ever known!"

Deb smiled thoughtfully. "I never said anything about you leaving, but I do expect that there will be an opening for castle alchemist once the Prince hears that the stories about Bane are not just stories. Meanwhile, I suppose I should find a new place to continue my schooling. I hear the castle does have an excellent tutor."

Wicken listened to these plans with his heart beating out of his chest. This could hardly be true. "Why?" He croaked out.

Deb stopped walking and set Wicken on a bench somewhere by the fountain. Wicken noticed that they were in the part of the garden where only the nobles went.

"Why what?"

"Why do you love me?"

Deb arched an eyebrow. "Why do you love me?"

Wicken frowned. "I don't know. I mean, I've only known you for a while, but I like our talks. I like how you know what's wrong with me, even if I don't tell you anything. I like that you care, and that you are genuine in affection." He blushed. "You don't treat me like I'm far below you, even though I am. I can hardly call myself worthy for you."

Deb laughed and sat down next to Wicken, brushing back any stray hair that escaped from the long braid he wove his golden locks into. "I love you because you're you, Wicken. I would love you regardless of station. I've enjoyed our talks to, and that's why I can't stand to see you suffer anymore."

Wicken smiled and pressed his forehead to Deb's. "I'm hungry now."

Deb gave him another lingering kiss before scooping him off the bench.

"Then let's go eat together."