So this is something that came to mind, and I decided I'd give it a shot. I'm trying to find my voice, so please tell me what you think. Enjoy!
N.B.: This is not a historically accurate story and has been stylized quite a bit. It is loosely based off the War of Austrian Succession and the Habsburg family.
"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."
October 5th, 1740
It was a mistake.
I knew it, as soon as he walked through the grand double doors of the palace, as soon as I saw him standing beside my aunt and uncle. I stood as useless as a misplaced chamber pot, all gangly limbs and blank expressions. I knew as soon as he tossed back his bangs, sought out my eyes, and smirked at me.
This was one huge mistake.
Having our relatives come. From Lorraine. All the way out to Vienna, I knew that that hadn't been a good idea, and his eyes reminded me of it. Every spoke of those dark irises seemed to whisper, "You're going to regret this," and I wouldn't have been surprised if I had murmured those same words aloud as I stared at him.
After all, I had never planned on becoming a murderer.
But I get ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning.
My mother was a woman of great poise and character—I would expect no less from the Archduchess of Austria. She reared us children—sixteen of us, though only ten have survived thus far—with little help from governesses and insisted on paying us each due attention throughout our childhood. She and my father have been madly in love for as long as I can remember; hence, I suppose, the constant influx of children. I have long gotten over the embarrassment of knowing such things; at seventeen, I am quite knowledgeable about the so-called "private affairs" of us nobles. My fate, as Lukas Florian Hapsburg, is to marry a nice noblewoman, no doubt from Italy, Lorraine, or some other heathen land, in order to form a political alliance with said territory, and to sire some offspring myself. I would blame this on my strict parents, but would have no argument; Mother and Father married for love, and don't require us to force ourselves into an unhappy matrimony. No, I say this because I am, as heir to whatever Mother may leave me, absolutely useless.
No, really. I must insist. My prowess as an archduke are about as impressive as my prowess of Oriental cuisine, which is far from the land of desirable and hidden among the woods of forbidden for the sake of all that is pure and honest. I have a pathological fear of horses, my swordplay is average, marksmanship no better, taste in wine abysmal, courtship skills laughable, and I speak French like a dying ox. Don't make me explain my grasp on politics or the current social turmoil, for I'm afraid I will reduce your mind to a similar jelly as my own. No, the only thing I seem to do well is embarrass myself and my family consistently, and so I have condemned myself to a nice, quiet life of matrimonial tithing. Neither of my parents seemed to object.
And so there was no doubt in my mind that Mother sensed my anxiety as I stood that day, staring at my kin, as still as though Da Vinci himself was sculpting my form.
"Lukas," she admonished softly, her mouth curving but her eyes spearing words into my heart: if you make a fool of us I swear you will never forget it. "You look absolutely speechless. Are you not going to welcome our guests?"
Her silent command was enough to get a bow out of me. "How do you do?" I forced in flawed French. "It's pleased to meet you. I-I mean, it's a pleasure. To meet you."
My mother glared. Whenever she glares at me so I think of the woman she envisions for me at the time. A giant Swede with a baking pin this time, from the looks of it.
"Enchanté," the boy said, or really, the young man said. He was a man after all, about my age, but he seemed to wear adulthood like a glove, rather than an oddly washed pair of patched breeches like I did. His appearance was exotic as cinnamon tastes. His hair was crimson, like fat fall apples or red meat or dying embers, and his eyes were wine brown. They roved over my appearance like a high queen assessing a scullery maid. Some part of me was offended by his forwardness; after all, it was my mother who was going to be empress, not his.
Thankfully, my father intervened.
"We don't speak French here, as you see," he said jovially, clapping me on the shoulder and making my knees wobble from the force. I loved my father. He always had patience for me as I stumbled awkwardly through childhood. Often I have longed to know if he was once like I am now, that one day I might be as successful as he is. But I think we all know better. "We're Austrian, through and through. Lukas Florian, meet your uncle and aunt, Prince Charles Alexander and Princess Maria Anna."
I managed a weak smile in their direction. Their faces were kind, Maria Anna's just like my mother's. They were sisters after all, married to a pair of brothers. Us royals were famous for our convoluted family trees. I had uncles that were my cousins and brothers and fathers all at the same time…or so probability holds.
Charles was giant, built rather like an ogre one hears about in fairytales, but with my father's disposition—courteous, comforting, fair, and, of course, bearded.
"Francis," Charles boomed, striding forward and grasping my father's arm up to his elbow. "There's no need to be so formal! Felix, shake your cousin's hand—it's nearly been two decades since you've seen each other!"
We've seen each other before? I thought as Felix lazily stared at me again. Something inside me cringed at the thought of having previous contact with this…mongrel. He had a body like a bean sprout—lanky, loose. His joints moved with the ease of the athletic, I noticed jealously, as he swaggered forward. No doubt he was fantastic at everything I was not, could fence, box, flirt, compose, dine, and ride in style at all times and like a proper gentlemen. Damnation, he probably won at cards too. My rancor grew in spades as I shook his hand.
Up close I saw his hair was not only red, but streaked blonde by the sunlight, as if it were a vague attempt to look properly Austrian. I remember feeling smug about that, however petty it was; at least I was of real Hapsburg blood. This boy was no doubt the crossbreed of my uncle and some buxom northerner. I found a smirk myself as I remembered that my aunt couldn't have children—her first had been stillborn, and the physician had forbidden her to try again.
A royal bastard, I thought.
God, I didn't know then how true it would come to be.
Without much fuss, we retired from the marble atrium, Father and Uncle leading the way up the stairs and into the chambers beyond. They loudly discussed affairs of the state, the unrest that my grandfather's illness was having upon the empire. You see, Mother was the only heir to the Holy Roman Empire and she, being a woman, was not thought to be capable of such a taxing role. Treaties had been signed, fake pleasantries exchanged, but everyone knew that the death of Grandfather meant war. So we were rounding up the last of the Hapsburg blood, and, unfortunately, Prince Felix Maximilian Hapsburg II was among them.
I fell behind the group as Mother and Aunt Anna passed. The former shot me a warning glare that spoke volumes: don't embarrass me, Lukas, I'm warning you. I felt a chill rise down my spine as she and her sister pulled ahead, arm in arm, eagerly murmuring in low voices. No doubt gossiping about their husbands and court life. I sighed silently, marveling at the simplicity of womankind. Do not misunderstand, I more than anyone believed my mother could run an empire without breaking so much as an elegant drop of perspiration. But my aunt…well, I came from better stock, I was convinced. At the very least better than a half-breed.
With such superiority I followed, puffing my chest out in an effort to look important and in control, even though I felt anything but. No doubt that half-blood was plotting his way into my parent's good favor as they spoke…and while part of me didn't care, part of me was jealous and didn't want that competition. I stood straight, throwing back my blonde hair and fixing my blue eyes on the back of my mother's intricate hairstyle. A deep breath puffed from my lungs. So intent was I on looking impressive that I didn't notice the subject of my vicious thoughts following right behind me. He waited until my mother was out of earshot to speak.
"It is pleased to make your acquaintance," he said in perfect German. "It hopes to make more acquaintances hereforth."
I startled, then glared at him. He was a few inches taller than me, and much, much stronger. Even an idiot like me could see that. And even an idiot like me could tell he was teasing me, his eyes burning with laughter.
"…'Henceforth' is the word I believe you are looking for," I said stiffly, lengthening my stride to avoid him. It didn't seem to faze him at all.
"Really?" he said matching my pace easily, hands behind his back. "My apologies. Thank you. It's been awhile since I've been Austrian, so I'm afraid its speech isn't very well…."
"Amusing," I said dryly, stopping to face him, first so I could show him I wasn't impressed by his taunting and second, so I could catch my breath. I told you—I've never been athletic. "If you have something to tell me, kindly say it to my face."
He tilted his head, smiling darkly down at me. The more I looked at him, the more similarity I found between him and my Uncle. The tall build. The shape of his chin. The high cheekbones.
"You can't speak French," he said.
I shrugged. My miserable pride as an archduke cringed slightly, but there was no denying the truth. In fact, he was being kind; I was hideous at French. I wondered vaguely if a moving carriage wouldn't strike me down before Mother died so that I wouldn't have to succeed her.
No such luck, I'm afraid.
"I agree," I said, hoping to surprise him. What his concerns were about my language capabilities were beyond me. "I can't. I am fairly miserable at languages and most things these days. If you have any need of assurance, please ask my parents. Now that we've settled that, I hope you have a pleasant stay in Vienna. Goodbye."
I spun on my heel and left, or at least, hoped to leave. I would have left if Felix hadn't grabbed me very suddenly by the neck.
It was an awkward embrace, the most awkward thing that had ever happened to me before, really, not counting the time I walked naked into an international affairs meeting as a child. (I don't remember it, but Mother never tires from the story, and since I have less than adequate means to shut her up and more than enough for humiliation, I get to hear it all the time.) But Felix came up behind me, hooked his arm around my torso and grabbed my neck in one huge grip of a spindly hand. My aunt's hand.
He said nothing, just trapped me against his chest like a robber might an unwitting peasant.
"E-excuse me?!" I demanded.
"My apologies," Felix said, but he spoke into my ear, his breath warm against my skin. I felt his hand move, fingers bumping over my Adam's apple, drifting over my clavicle. Another chill lifted the hairs on the back of my neck, but this time it wasn't in fear—at least, not all of it. My stomach boiled like a neglected kettle.
"I-I-I…" I sputtered, looking wildly around the hall, aghast to find the guards slowly proceeding after my parents. Nobody was witnessing this…this act, whatever it was that Felix was doing. All of a sudden I felt like a housemaid caught by her master, a fly by a spider—
Felix's thumb brushed the ruffles on my shirt, hooking between the buttons to touch my skin. His fingers were cold and gooseflesh erupted all over me. I opened my mouth to shout, indignantly no doubt, to make a noise, anything, to get him to explain himself—
But before I could say a word, my cousin let me go.
I leapt away from him, snatching at my throat like a violated barmaid, glaring flaming daggers at him over my flushed face. He was staring coolly back, as though nothing had transpired, as though he had not, just a minute ago, been toying with my chest.
"I was just curious," he said simply. And that was all he had to say.
He bowed slightly, then followed his parents with long, easy steps.
Leaving me appalled, aghast, and confused, and convinced more than ever that this was all one giant mistake.
May 14th, 2009
New York City, New York
Let me start by saying first that the apartment I've got is a piece of shit.
Prime piece of shit for New York City though. I can't complain. It's got running water, pretty-much intact roof, and not a colony of cockroaches yet. That's what the can of Raid is for. It sits by the stove which has been thus far been used for the shitty kettle and Luke's schoolbooks. Actually, just the schoolbooks; I can't remember the last time I had a cup of tea. Tea is for people who have time and an overwhelming urge to drink the wet dregs of crushed God-knows-what. At least energy drinks have a label that admits, "Yeah, we'll fuck up your sleep cycle." It's the second ingredient after "horse testicles."
Before you ask, yeah, I'm a dude, and yeah, I'm living with Luke, but that doesn't mean there's anything queer about it. I mean, not about us living together. Luke's queerer than a fucking rainbow, but he doesn't know it yet. How do I know? I just do. My gaydar, or whatever. But I mean, that's cool. It's New York City after all. Anything's cool in New York City.
As for what I'm doing here, I can't say much. I mostly sit around. Get stoned. Wish I had an apartment that's not a piece of shit. Because it's great in the, you know, times when you don't need it; those nice days in April or October where the weather makes you wanna watch Mary Poppins (Luke's done it, I swear to God. The queer). It's pretty nice. But it's fucking unbearable when you actually need a place to stay; you know, when it's goddamned freezing and there's no heat, when it's raining and the roof leaks like a teabag, when it's so hot that you have to sit naked in front of the only fan just to keep from dying. At least Luke goes to school where they've got A/C. This place has got jack shit.
So back to that. The apartment's crap, like beyond-help-crap. So when Luke comes bumbling in the other day like he always does, he's carrying this mop. And I kind of lose my cool.
"What the fuck is that?" I demanded. "Your girlfriend?"
"Shut up," Luke said. This is how we normally greet each other. ("What the fuck?!" "Shut up!") "It's to clean up around here. This place is a mess."
A mess, he says. I swear, that boy's a genius. There's a pair of his fucking underwear in the sink and he says it's a mess?
"Wow, sure glad you go to school," I said, my voice so heavy with sarcasm it could very well drop out of the air. "Didn't think you'd notice without that edgy-cation."
"At least I'm trying." He shoots me this cool look that accuses me of leaving all my bags of corn chips lying around and not aiming for the toilet when I piss.
"Well if you're so goddamned hygienic," I tell him, knowing that I'm starting to cross some lines, "why don't you go back home?"
That was all it took for Luke to stare at me like I slapped him, slam his books down on the burner, and storm into his room, still carrying that mop. I heard the door slam, and the doorknob fall out of the door. Like it does when you slam it. Then a muffled, "Fuck you!" and the scrambling of metal as he shoved the knob back into the door.
I got up from the couch where I'd been sitting and moseyed into the kitchen. His books were there, and I pulled open the fridge, cracked open a Rockstar and grabbed the small one off the top. It was about bullfighting or some shit, so I shoved it aside, until I found the one I'd taken to reading when Luke was unconscious or pouting (the boy doesn't have any other settings).
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
Okay, before you say anything, remember, Luke's the fag, not me. I promise. I've never wanted it in the ass or dreamed of dicks or anything. Pussy's great for me, thanks. It's just a really good book—the guy's fucking amazing at poetry.
Shut the fuck up. It's not homo.
I mean, seriously, Luke reads these harlequin-bullshit books, I've seen him. He thinks I haven't noticed, but I'm not retarded. Pretty sure he jacks off to them, too. Not like I'd know or anything.
…Anyway, I drank my Rockstar and read some Gibran, big deal. Luke needs that book for his Philosophy class, and since I'm not a big, legit college freshy, I read it when he's unconscious or pouting. Like he is now.
But I guess I felt kind of bad for leaving the place in an utter assfuck chaos, since I was supposed to be the responsible adult or whatever, and I do stay home pretty much all day, so I shoved some dirty dishes into the sink, and put the trash outside the Latino guy's door down the hall. It's hilarious—this guy has no idea how an extra bag of trash keeps showing up at his door periodically ('cause I'm too lazy to take it down to the dumpster). And you'd think that he'd lie in wait or something by now to find out who it was. But he doesn't. He just swears a lot in Spanish or Portuguese and shitty English and curses his dios and takes it down to the dumpster. Not the most complimentary trash service, but hey. It's free.
By the time I was done with this, Luke was back in the kitchen, sloshing coffee into a mostly-clean mug. His eyes were red, but I didn't ask.
"So how was school today?" I tried instead, trying to be an older brother.
Luke told me to do something that I couldn't physically do without losing several ribs and becoming an acrobat. It'd be damn useful though—wouldn't have to work so hard to score every night.
"Wow, is that what they taught you to do?" I said mildly, plopping down on the couch again and reaching for the remote. "Go figure. I thought it was math and shit."
Before I had so much as a chance to hit the "on" button, Luke snatched the remote out of my hands.
"What the fuck, man?!"
"Why'd you do that?" he hissed, glaring at me with those red-rimmed blue eyes of his. He was once someone's blonde-haired blue-eyed baby 'til he got fucked up. Literally. I'm glad I was a fuck-up from the very start. Then it's not so much of a shock. "I told you not to bring it up. You said you weren't gonna bring it up—!"
"Relax," I said, sounding more nonchalant than I felt. I'm not one to admit to someone's face that I've been an asshole, but it doesn't mean I don't know it. I stretched like the jungle cat I used to wish I was as a kid. So much for achieving your dreams. "I was just shooting my mouth off. Been a long, hard day of gettin' stoned, if you know what I mean."
Luke's face was so contorted, I thought he was going to burst into tears right in front of me like a little puss. His eyes shone with undiluted hatred that I knew would be gone in a few hours after he had pouted his pout and forgiven me. Just like he always did. He'd be back to good ol' normal Luke in no time flat, because recovering was what that boy did best. But still. I can't say honestly that that look didn't hurt.
"I hate you, Alex," he said throatily, barely moving his lips. Predictable. He says it every time we fight, and it's only when I'm really, really stoned do I ever consider if he actually means it. He threw the remote back onto the couch, and stalked back into his room. I sighed, running my hands through my unwashed red hair.
This time the door shut with a soft click. I kind of wish it had slammed.
There you have it! More chapters to come. Please review—let me know what you think!!