A/N: Part Three. Last part, unless you guys ask for more. Thanks for your comments!
The Blacksmith's Beau
Luke breathed in the fresh air happily, finally free from the stuffy ballroom. His stupid cousin Leo had been throwing these balls all week, celebrating all manner of things. Apparently he had assumed the throne, found true love, and was expecting an heir, all over the course of a week. Luke was more than a little envious.
Not that he wanted to rule a kingdom, nor did he want to raise some bratty kid. He hated kids. He did want love though. Didn't everyone?
Luke headed for the garden- not the alchemist's, though. Wicken scared him to death. Luke had hardly been here a week, and the Castle's Alchemist seemed to hate him. Luke wasn't unfamiliar with being hated, of course, but he hadn't actually done anything to the man.
At least with all these balls Luke was too tired to actually cause trouble. Leo had made him promise to give up his devilish ways, at least for the week. Meanwhile, those ravenous women fawned after him, snagging him onto the dance floor at every chance they got. All of them looking for a husband… ha. Luke would love to rub it in their faces that he wasn't into women, but Leo was already looking for a reason to lynch him.
The Royal garden was nice, and thankfully deserted. Moonlight shimmered on the dewy grass, and Luke slipped off his leather boots to save them from becoming damp. He reveled in the way the grass felt beneath his bare toes. When was the last time he had been barefoot and outside? Too long ago to remember.
Not that he was old, of course. Luke had heard countless people comment on his youth and good looks. But Luke hardly cared what other people thought. One of the reasons he had so willingly accepted Cass's invitation to rule for a short time was that he hated his old court.
"What are you doing here?" A loud voice commanded. Luke shrieked and jumped back, landing on his behind.
"I- I- I was just coming from the ball!"
The man, for that was who the voice belonged to, helped Luke up to his feet. Now that he was up, Luke could get a better look. The man was huge- a good head taller than Luke and very muscular. Wavy black hair framed his tan face, and he wore little more than a pair of loose leggings and a large shirt. Even at just one glance, Luke could tell he was not a noble.
"What are you doing here?" Luke asked with as much authority as he could muster. For a second, he thought he saw a faint glimmer of white. Had the man smiled?
"I was on my way to my room when I thought I heard someone enter the garden." There was another flash of white. "No one is supposed to be here, you know."
Luke frowned and dusted himself off carefully. "No, I did not know that. I was sure that this was the Royal garden. Seeing as I am a Royal, I have every right to be here."
There was no glimmer of white, to Luke's dismay. "Lord Luke!" The startled man dropped to his knees. "Forgive me; I thought you were simply a stray noble."
Luke scoffed. "Please, there is no need for that. I hate it when people grovel like that. In fact, I was rather enjoying your company until just now. Might I know your name?"
The man hesitated before slowly rising to his feet. Unfortunately, he still bowed. "Dolan, your Lordship. I am the Castle Blacksmith."
Luke raised an eyebrow. "Really? I have heard many stories of your wonderful talents. They say you are magic."
Dolan laughed. "No… that is not true."
"Ah. A pity. I have always wanted to know someone magic."
The man laughed again. "Forgive me, your lordship, but what is your age?"
"Twenty-two. Just a year over Leo. Why? What is yours?" Not that it mattered, because Luke was sure he would like this man even if he was double his age.
"It was just that you seemed so young for a second. I mean, traipsing around the garden barefoot like that." Dolan trailed off. "As for my age, it's probably twenty-five."
"I'm not really sure."
Luke blinked in surprise. "Are you sure you are not a faerie? You seem like one."
Dolan shook his head. "No, what makes you think that I am?"
"I'm not sure. This whole place seems so surreal."
"Yeah, it does have that affect on a person. Everything seems more magical and romantic in a garden, though. Why don't you sit down?" He led Luke over to a fountain that Luke hadn't noticed. Rosebushes surrounded a little stone bench, and as they both sat down, Luke reached out to pick one. Dolan slapped his hand away.
"I wouldn't touch those, if I were you. They're sharp."
Luke laughed bitterly. He hated to admit how nice it was to have someone show genuine concern for him. His mother would have barely spared him a glance had he cut himself on a rose, but Luke felt certain that Dolan would hold him and care for him and kiss-
Luke blushed. He shouldn't be having those thoughts. Not about a man he had just met. But there was something about Dolan that was so hard to resist.
"Now," Dolan started, shifting so he could get a good look at Luke. "Why don't you start by telling me about yourself?"
They met every night. About a year passed, and still they would meet. Luke would run away from a ball or some other social event that was being held at night, take off his stuffy jacket and boots, and wait on the bench for Dolan. Sometimes the blacksmith would be there before him.
Luke told Dolan everything about his life. He told him about his neglectful mother, and how he had been instead raised by servants, and therefore knew a great deal of things that other nobles didn't, like cooking. Dolan was surprised by this fact, and couldn't stop laughing when he first heard it.
"It's not that funny…" Luke had mumbled, punching Dolan softly in the arm.
In return, Dolan told Luke about his life as well. It wasn't that spectacular: he had grown up in the nearby village and come to the castle after his father, also a blacksmith, had died. Everything Dolan knew about the being a blacksmith he had learned from his father.
Dolan had been right, though, when he said that the garden was magic. Every night spent with Dolan, Luke found it harder to keep away. When he finally realized what was happening, it was too late.
Luke was in love with Dolan.
Luke sat on the bench crying. The day had started out so normal: he had teased Wicken for a while, borrowed a book from Cass, and even had sparred for a little while with Leo. However, he found it strange that every time he turned a corner, people would stop talking and just look at him. It was a little more than unnerving.
It wasn't until that evening's ball that he realized why people had been giving him those weird looks. The minute he stepped into the hall, he knew something was wrong. It was then that he saw her.
His mother had not changed at all since the last time he had seen her. She still walked with her nose in the air, and her lips pinched tightly together.
Luke took one look at her before bolting for the door. He almost made it, too, had Leo not called out to him. The whole court paused in what they were doing and looked at him. Slowly, he made his way up to Leo and his mother.
Leo was not to blame, he reminded himself sharply. The King often seemed oblivious to all evils in the world, and there was no doubt that he saw nothing wrong with his aunt.
His mother regarded him coldly before drawing her fur wrap around herself. "Boy, I came to tell you that you are to be married. See that you are prepared by tomorrow."
With that, she stalked away. Luke gasped for air, his thoughts scattering wildly. He looked from face to face- Leo looked shocked, Wicken looked sympathetic, Deb looked angry, Cass looked sad. Luke realized that all these people cared for him, and that they would be there for him.
But there was someone missing. Someone that cared more for Luke than all of them combined could.
That was the person that Luke would marry.
He almost didn't make it to the doors before he started crying. That was how Dolan had found him on the bench- mourning his sorry excuse for a life and figuring out how he would tell Dolan that he was arranged to marry a stranger when all he really wanted to do was marry him.
"Luke?" Dolan's strong voice called from the shadows. Luke sniffed as more tears rolled down his cheeks. They just wouldn't stop.
"What's the matter?" He placed an arm around Luke and held him for a few minutes before repeating his question.
"I saw my mother today."
Dolan stiffened before pulling Luke closer, so that he was practically sitting on the blacksmith's lap. Not that he minded.
"What did she say?"
Luke lifted his face to look at Dolan, and saw the same deep concern he had seen when Dolan had first warned him about the roses.
"I'm getting married."
A look of utter defeat flashed across Dolan's face, but before he could say anything Luke pressed his lips to Dolan's.
The kiss was tender, but it was anything but tame. Neither had much experience in kissing, but somehow they managed to fill all their love and possessiveness into that one kiss. It left nothing to be said: both men clearly loved each other.
Dolan pulled out of the kiss slowly, face flushed and eyes sparkling. Luke was sure that he had never seen anything so beautiful.
"Are you going to get married?" Dolan asked softly after they had both caught their breaths.
"Yes," Luke replied fiercely. "I'm going to get married to you. I don't care what anyone says; I won't stop fighting until I have you."
Dolan looked at him carefully before laughing. "I pity whoever stands against you. What will you do about your mother?"
Luke frowned and kissed Dolan again. "Nothing. I will forget about her. Now that Leo is King, he has enough power to sign the disownment papers. I've had them ready for weeks now; I just haven't gotten around to asking him to sign them."
Dolan smiled. "Disownment papers? Where on earth did you get those?"
Dolan's mouth formed an 'O' shape, but Luke covered it with his lips before Dolan could say anything more.
"You never answered my question, you know."
Dolan looked at him strangely. "Which one? Yes, I will marry you, if that's what you're getting at."
Luke shook his head. "Not that one. I asked if you were magic, and you told me no. But you were lying. I mean, how else could I fall so deeply in love with one person unless they were magic?"
Dolan's eyes sparkled. "Then I guess that would make you magic too."
All further conversations were forgotten as Luke pulled Dolan in for another kiss.