Rating: PG-13 (it’s an adapted fairy tale, so …)
Author’s Note: I wrote this story for you, kisahawklin, because you love fairy tales. I sure hope you like this one!
Summary: When Prince Meredith leaves home to finally meet his husband everything starts going wrong.
I took a great deal of material from this site, which holds an annotated version of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl” by the Brothers Grimm. I’m not sure how well known this fairy tale is in the English speaking world, but in Germany it’s very well known. Also, I wrote this for sga_santa!madness because darkmoore can be very motivational (is that a word?) if she wants to be.
Once upon a time, in a land called Canada that was far, far away, a beautiful Queen, whose name was Elizabeth, had a son. Her husband, King Simon, had been dead for many, many years, and Queen Elizabeth wanted the very best for the Prince. Prince Meredith Rodney was not beautiful like his mother, or kind, like his father, but he was probably the most brilliant prince ever to live in the kingdom. A genius, really. He talked before any of the other children in the kingdom could talk, he was interested in the world and how it worked and before his fifteenth year he was teaching at the local university, making students and professors cry with his sharp tongue and brilliant mind.
He grew up with explosions from his experiments shaking the castle walls and Queen Elizabeth lecturing him on safety protocols. Those he’d known by heart since he’d been five years old, so having his mother on his case about being careful and now blowing himself up was mildly annoying. At least she didn’t stop him from learning.
Prince Meredith was very loved by his mother, but even she agreed that he wasn’t going to be a good ruler on his own. That was why she was extraordinarily glad that he had been married very early in his life and – according to the other Prince’s parents – was doing very well. Sadly though, the only thing Meredith knew about the Prince of Atlantis, the man he had been married to since he was one year old, was that he looked reasonably good and liked his hair products.
The rulers of Atlantis agreed to let Prince Meredith stay in Canada until he turned of age. So it was that when the time drew near for Meredith to go and be with his husband, Queen Elizabeth called her son to her – otherwise he probably wouldn’t even have said goodbye. Prince Meredith was frequently forgetful about ‘meaningless’ social conventions. Anyway, Prince Meredith went to say goodbye to his old – but still beautiful – mother, who loved him very much. The queen gave him a lot of expensive things to take with him. Ornaments, gold and silver, trinkets and books, equipment for his experiments and enough to build up his own lab when he had reached his new home, in fact everything Prince Meredith could possibly need in a strange, foreign country.
Queen Elizabeth also gave him a manservant, who was to ride with Prince Meredith and hand him over to his husband. Prince Meredith and the manservant, Kavanagh, were each given a horse for the journey and while Kavanagh’s horse was a normal one, Prince Meredith’s was a magical horse, called Falada.
Falada could talk, and he really didn’t like to be called Falada at all. Actually he much preferred ‘Carson’. That was something he let everyone in hearing distance know, but still it was a surprise that Meredith could retain that in his memory. He wasn’t exactly good at remembering names. That Carson was Scottish was easy to hear, though, he’d never lost his accent. Especially when Carson was emotionally distraught it got worse to a point where Meredith had problems understanding him. Something that happened – in Prince Meredith’s opinion – way too often anyway. But still, they were good friends, Carson and Prince Meredith.
That was when Queen Elizabeth called him to her. The moment he stepped through the door he knew something was off. For one thing, his mother was standing there with a knife, running it over the tips of her fingers on her left hand. She didn’t even flinch, but Meredith did, closing his eyes tightly. He had a feeling he knew exactly what she was doing and he didn’t like it.
“Do you really think this is necessary, mom?” he asked, keeping his eyes securely closed. If there was one thing he didn’t want to see then it was his mother’s blood.
“Yes,” Queen Elizabeth answered, her voice only a little tight, “you can look now, Mer, it’s safe.”
She knew exactly that he couldn’t see blood, he’d fain– … no, passed out once because of it a few times. His mother knew that, and still she hadn’t waited to call him up until she had been done. Carefully he opened his eyes, checking if it was really alright. There was a strip of cloth wrapped around his mother’s hand, but she was smiling at him, holding out a brilliantly white handkerchief with three round, red drops of blood on it.
“Mom, I don’t believe into these things, you know that. Magic is about as much voodoo as medicine is. Also, we really have to leave, I don’t want to travel in the dark. Riding is dangerous enough as it is, I don’t want to fall off and land on my head and deprive humanity of my brilliance.”
Queen Elizabeth smiled indulgently. “Meredith, my dear,” she said, then she grimaced and rolled her eyes. She’d do that at odd times, mostly when she went off track from a prepared speech. “Mer,” she started again and put her hands on his shoulders, “let’s be honest, yes? You’re safer with a small entourage of one of your scientists and the two wagoners. Sending a troop of guards with you just makes the chances higher that you’ll antagonize someone. Sending you with the protection all the mothers in my lineage gave to their daughters–”
“Mo-om,” Meredith whined, “I’m not your daughter.”
“–gave to their daughters,” she repeated, emphasising it a little to show how much she didn’t like Meredith interrupting her. “Giving you this is much more likely to get you to your destination alive. An odd expression rushed over her face, “And for God’s sake, no experiments until you’ve reached your new home and your husband gave you a secure place to do them in. I don’t want to hear that you injured yourself. No explosions, do you hear?”
“Yes, mom,” Meredith grumbled unhappily, stuffing the handkerchief down the front of his shirt. There hadn’t been any sizeable … accidents since Meredith had turned ten, and now he was eighteen. Eight years where nothing had actually taken any damage from an experiment should mean something, right? Briefly Meredith wondered if his mother would ever let that go, or if in twenty years she’d still end letters with ‘No explosions, Meredith, remember the carpet! Love, xxx Mom.’ Probably, Meredith thought as he walked down the stairs and into the courtyard. He mounted Carson and nudged him out of the courtyard with Kavanagh uncomfortably close and the two wagons with his things following them at a short distance.
Meredith set a sedate pace, he really wasn’t the best rider, and Carson, at least, would never bolt with him. Meredith thought that Carson was something of an emotional wreck, which possibly stemmed from the way his mom was still mothering him – it would seem impossible for a mare to send letters, but there was one in the post every day for Carson, it was quite a puzzle to Rodney.
They managed to leave the castle premises rather quietly before the quarrelling started. The thing was, Kavanagh didn’t like Meredith and Meredith thought Kavanagh was an idiot. Neither of them really wanted to travel in each other’s company. They’d studied together for a year, but Meredith was eleven years younger than Kavanagh and eleven times more brilliant. That kind of thing had made Meredith a lot of enemies before he’d even opened his mouth to speak.
“I don’t know why your mother would pick me to go with you,” Kavanagh said as they were far enough away. Meredith knew it was because Kavanagh was kinda scared of Queen Elizabeth, which was perfectly alright. Everybody who wasn’t scared of Queen Elizabeth was – in Meredith’s opinion – stupider than they looked.
“No clue, I certainly didn’t ask her to send you. I’d much rather Miko could have come with me, she’s more useful in the labs than you are. Her ideas aren’t quite as abysmal and she doesn’t even cry all that often anymore,” Meredith replied, then segued into a discussion of his most recent discovery somewhat hoping he’d get an opportunity to flay Kavanagh alive for his stupid comments over the last week. Maybe his mother had sent him with Meredith as a kind of punishment. Queen Elizabeth sometimes did that when Meredith had been exceptionally insensitive at court. But if she had then Meredith couldn’t figure out what he’d said to upset one of the noblemen or –women.
After they had ridden – and yelled at each other – for about an hour Meredith began to feel thirsty. It was a rather hot day and the exercise didn’t help. Finding himself licking his lips for the third time during a sentence, Meredith broke off his lecture on Ancient technology and said to Kavanagh, “I’m thirsty, get the golden cup my mother insisted on packing for me and fetch me some water from the river.”
But Kavanagh, whose face had turned an interesting shade of red during their … ‘talk’ just snorted and said, "If you want a drink go and get one yourself, I won’t serve you any longer.” He looked at Meredith with a superior expression for a moment, then added, “And you’d better lie down by the water, because I sure as hell won’t go get the cup for you.”
Meredith blinked at Kavanagh one, two, three times and then he dismounted and bent over the stream to drink. “Good gracious, Mother should have sent Miko,” he muttered, angry at the way Kavanagh was treating him, “what should I do now?” Normally he’d have lashed out verbally at the idiotic scientist, but he was too thirsty and the cold water really helped. Suddenly there was a small voice and Meredith startled, nearly falling into the stream.
"If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two."
The voice sounded suspiciously like Queen Elizabeth. Rodney cursed viciously, extremely glad Queen Elizabeth wasn’t actually there, and remembered his mother’s story of the handkerchief with the three drops of her mother’s blood when she came to King Simon’s court to marry him. “That’s so great, of course she’d find a way to nag me without being present herself,” Meredith muttered and had some more water. He was still grumbling to himself when they were moving again.
“Seriously, Mer,” Carson said, “your mother loves you, so stop muttering, it’s unbecoming for a prince.”
Of course Carson was right and Meredith went back to talking about what he’d found out about the little piece of Ancient technology Meredith owned. The rest of his research subjects technically belonged to his mother, but this one? This one was all Meredith’s. He’d kept that one close to him for years now, unable to activate it himself, but also unwilling to share it with the only natural ATA gene carrier they’d had in the labs. Miko was a good scientist, but this was important to him. It was the last present he’d ever gotten from his father, and Meredith cherished it very much.
It didn’t take very long until Meredith got thirsty again. It was probably the hottest day in Canadian history, so Meredith, forgetting the man’s earlier rudeness due to a bit of a heatstroke, said to Kavanagh, “I’m thirsty, get the golden cup my mother insisted on packing for me and fetch me some water from the river.”
Again Kavanagh snorted and said, "If you want a drink go and get one yourself, I won’t serve you any longer.”
Meredith sighed and used his hands to get some water. “Good God, what am I supposed to do with that asshole?” he muttered to himself and again his mother’s voice came from the drops of blood.
"If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two."
“Yeah, yeah, that doesn’t help me with my current problem of disobedient servants, though, now does it? Seriously, if she knew this thing would be so unhelpful, why did she give it to me in the first place?” Meredith had to bend lower this time because the water level had dropped considerably, and the handkerchief fell out of his shirt and floated merrily down the stream. Looking after the white silk, his hands raised half-way to his mouth Meredith experienced something that could very well be described as a sinking feeling. He just had enough time to think the word ‘fuck’ before Kavanagh laughed behind him. “Crap,” Meredith whispered.
For Kavanagh knew enough about the traditions of the Queen’s family to realise that with the loss of the handkerchief with Queen Elizabeth’s protective blood the prince was vulnerable. Weak and Powerless, really. Meredith heard Kavanagh dismount and step closer.
“Well, well, well. Look how some things just seem to work out. I think there’ll be some administrative changes now, don’t you think, Rodney?”
A little part of him was actually glad Kavanagh had called him by his second name. Meredith hated being called Meredith, but Queen Elizabeth – dazed after the birth – had insisted on calling him Meredith and King Simon hadn’t vetoed it. Of course, it was a bad sign that Kavanagh dared call him anything but ‘sir’ or ‘your highness’ or ‘my prince’. The sinking feeling turned into something extremely cold and uncomfortable in Meredith’s stomach. Straightening, Meredith turned around slowly to face Kavanagh. “Like?” he asked, but he had to admit he was slightly scared of the answer. Royalty did give princes a lot of leeway and Meredith figured he should have dismissed Kavanagh after his first day at the lab. He wasn’t just an abominably bad scientist; he was also not a very nice person. Not that Meredith was a good judge for that kind of thing, but Kavanagh had always rubbed him the wrong way. Well, it was a bit too late those thoughts now.
“I’m going to ride Falada,” Kavanagh said and completely ignored Carson’s annoyed ‘hey’ as he kept going, “you can have the nag your mother gave me. And you’re going to change into my clothes. Thankfully we’re the same size, so yours should fit me alright as well.”
Meredith sighed and did as he’d been told. Not like he had a lot of choice, because the men on the cart were looking to Kavanagh for orders. It seemed like this mutiny spanned more than just one individual. Maybe Kavanagh had bribed them? Perfect. Absolutely perfect. “You’ll never get away with this, Kavanagh,” Meredith said, but his words were muffled as he was just pulling his shirt over his head.
“Oh, I think I will. Because you, your Highness, won’t say a word. Either you swear on your father’s grave that you’ll stay silent, or you’re dead.”
They stood there for a moment, looking at each other, no-one else saying a word.
Carson whinnied and reared. “You can’t do that, you … you … swine!” he exclaimed, but Kavanagh gave him a look and Carson shrunk back.
“If you say anything, you four footed monster, I’ll have your mother killed.” As a threat that one was very effective. Carson’s eyes went wide and he stood very still as Kavanagh mounted him. He didn’t even protest when Kavanagh kept calling him Falada.
The rest of the journey went quietly with Meredith scared for his very life should the stupid horse Kavanagh had forced him on bolt or throw him. But everything was fine and soon they reached the sea. A sizeable boat waited there for them to bring them to the city of Atlantis. If the circumstances hadn’t changed so much Meredith would have been overjoyed. The spires of the city sure were a sight to behold.
Atlantis was something of a dream for Meredith. A city filled with Ancient tech, lying there, waiting for someone who knew what they were doing. It was more than just a dream, it was heaven.
Meredith had no idea what Kavanagh was going to do with him once they’d arrived, was he going to kill him anyway? Was he going to force him to work as a servant? His brilliance rotting away as he served food or – worse – helped Kavanagh dress? The thought was too disgusting to follow. Meredith’s life had gone from dream to and he even half-heartedly thought about jumping off the boat and letting himself drown in the calm ocean.
“What are we going to do now?” Carson asked quietly. They’d been banished to the rear of the boat with the wagon while Kavanagh and the others were probably feasting on whatever Meredith’s father-in-law had sent for him. It was irritating and Rodney’s blood sugar was slowly dropping below what he was strictly comfortable with.
Meredith snorted. “There’s nothing we can do, Carson,” he said and got some of the trail provisions his mother had packed for him so he wouldn’t die of hypoglycaemia. It wasn’t that bad, Meredith actually really liked trail food. It was bland, he knew exactly what was in it and therefore it was not going to kill him. “Either we do exactly as he says or he’s going to kill us. I don’t know about you, but I think he can probably break me into half if I tried something. He’s trained with the guards and I won’t risk broken bones. We just have to accept the situation as it is for now. At least it means I won’t have live together with an empty-headed prince.”
There was that, of course, but Meredith had grown up knowing he was married to the Prince of Atlantis, but it had been a distant thing. Something he didn’t thought about very often. Maybe because he’d never met him and all he knew about the man was how he looked at more or less. Paintings, after all, weren’t all that accurate. Even though actually, technically, Meredith and Prince John had been married since Meredith had turned one, they’d never set eyes on each other. It had been one of those weird ceremonies where neither of them had been present. So really, Meredith had been the Prince-Consort of Atlantis his entire life in a rather crazy way. But still, Meredith wouldn’t have found the change at all bad, considering he didn’t even know the guy he was married to. If it hadn’t been for the insecurity of his current position, the lack of a lab to work in and Kavanagh lording over him like he was a king, the whole thing wouldn’t have been such a catastrophe.
Finally the boat docked on the East pier and they all disembarked with Kavanagh at the front and Meredith at the back.
“Welcome to Atlantis,” King Patrick said, Queen Lillian standing by his side and smiling at Kavanagh in a rather wooden way. She leaned over and said something to King Patrick, whose smile was a little wooden as well. Meredith didn’t blame them, Kavanagh wasn’t exactly eighteen, he didn’t look like much of a prince, either. He wasn’t as well kempt as Meredith, and he certainly didn’t have Meredith’s brilliant mind. No, that guy? He was going to be a terrible disappointment on all fronts. “We are so very glad you have made the journey safely,” King Patrick continued, but he didn’t sound very happy at all. Meredith would have translated that into, ‘I wish some wolves had eaten you so my son was free to marry someone else.’ It was probably a very accurate interpretation.
“I’m glad to be here,” Kavanagh said, looking around way too obviously, “but where is my husband? Didn’t he come to greet me, too?”
King and Queen shared a look and then King Patrick shrugged, “He was here only a minute ago. Let us go inside.” The whole entourage was led inside and there he was, the young man from the pictures with the gravity defying hair – which apparently wasn’t quite the fad Queen Elizabeth had believed it would be.
For a moment Meredith cursed himself for never sitting still enough for the painter to ever finish his portrait. He’d always been too busy, too uninterested. So now the only thing these people knew about him was that he was a brilliant scientist and that he was eighteen years old with blue eyes. The only thing Kavanagh had were the blue eyes and Meredith wasn’t sure if that was enough to skate by on. In his heart of hearts he was hoping that Prince John would shake his head and say, ‘This isn’t the man I married when I was two! He is an imposter!’ Then walk over to Meredith and declare him the real prince.
Of course, Prince John only smiled politely – and emptily – and offered Kavanagh his hand, then sat next to the man for the rest of the ceremonial greeting, occasionally nodding. It was rather maddening.
After, Prince John led Kavanagh away to show him to his rooms and in the end it was only King Patrick and Queen Lillian sitting there, both frowning deeply, and Meredith standing in a corner, not knowing what exactly to do now.
“Can’t we give him back? I mean, when we bought my new crown and it wasn’t anything at all like the painting we sent it back and demanded a refund, didn’t we, love?” King Patrick asked. “Can’t we do the same with this one?”
Meredith really didn’t want that to happen. He was sure if Kavanagh was sent back then there was no way that Meredith would survive the journey, nor would Carson. It was all such a mess.
“No, dear, we can’t give him back. He’s here now, and we have to take him as he is. He is supposed to be superior in intelligence to all of his peers, a good scientist. No-one said he was pretty as well,” Queen Lillian replied, though she didn’t sound happy about it either. “John will get used to it. I’m sure Elizabeth wasn’t technically lying to us; you know how a mother always believes her children are beautiful. Though, how she could describe his hair as ‘blond with curls’ I will never fathom.”
King Patrick sighed heavily. “Oh well,” he said, “when we find a bride for Dave, we’ll insist he or she will visit first.”
“Agreed,” Queen Lillian said, then they both sighed and looked at Meredith. “Now, what do we do with the entourage? Queen Elizabeth didn’t say there would be servants.”
Startled out of his terrified thoughts, Meredith stepped forward and bowed. He may not have used them too often, but Meredith had beautiful court manners. Considering his changed status he even bowed deeper than ever before. It was a completely new experience. “Your majesties,” he said, “I’m at your service.” He knew exactly how hard it could be to get rid of the entourage of a visiting nobleman when they considered themselves a part of the court. It was pretty much impossible. “I’m Rodney McKay,” and it felt odd using the surname of a distant cousin on his father’s side. But at least no-one was going to recognize it. “Queen Elizabeth sent me because as one of her best scientists she hoped I could be of use in the superior labs of Atlantis.”
He wasn’t really used to being servile, but at least he’d been around servants all his life and apparently Meredith was really good at faking it, because King Patrick smiled and stood.
“Of course,” the King said, “we can always use good scientists.” He turned to Queen Lillian and said, “Excuse me, my dear, I will bring this young man to Zelenka, so he can be put to use. We should send Queen Elizabeth a letter, thanking her for the extra scientist.”
The walk through Atlantis was quiet. There really was no way Meredith could just start talking to King Patrick, and the King seemed deeply in thought, probably plotting a way to get rid of Kavanagh without having to send the dowry or any of the wedding presents back.
It didn’t take long before they stopped in front of a door and the King cautiously knocked. When the door opened a small man with round glasses and wild hair stood there, looking sternly at the King.
“Your majesty,” he said, his words heavy with his foreign accent, “finally you learn to knock.”
King Patrick grinned sheepishly, “My eyebrows took two months to grow back, and I thought it prudent to get into the habit of knocking.”
“Good,” the little man said, then turned his eyes on Meredith. “Who is he?”
“A scientist Queen Elizabeth sent with Prince Meredith. Put him to work, will you?”
“Of course, your majesty,” the little man said and the King left. “Come in …” he trailed off and looked at Meredith expectantly, but Meredith didn’t know what he wanted. “I’m Zelenka,” again he looked at Meredith expectantly. They stared at each other a while longer before Zelenka sighed and asked, “What is your name?”
Oh, Meredith thought. Being a commoner was much harder than it looked. “I’m Rodney McKay,” he replied and hoped it would be the last thing Zelenka asked. Apparently he only knew enough about commoners to fake being one when in the presence of royalty. Great, absolutely great. He’d be dead within the day and poor Carson was going to go crazy with mourning.
Meredith stood stock still in front of the portal he had to go through to reach the labs. His eyes were trained on Carson’s head that had been mounted above it.
They’d been there for over a month and Meredith had visited Carson twice every day in the stables, talking quietly about everything that was going on. It had been the only time that Meredith could be himself, and now Carson was no more. There had been no warning, nothing, Meredith had only seen him an hour ago, and now Carson was dead. Meredith wanted to cry, but he was like frozen and his heart hurt like someone was squeezing it too hard. “Carson,” he whispered brokenly. His only friend was never going to come back.
But Carson, apparently, was more magical than just talking, because the head suddenly moved, startling Meredith badly and said,
" 'Tis you; pass under, brilliant Prince:
If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two."
Meredith shook his head and rubbed his eyes, but the head was still moving. “Either this is a complex hallucination brought on by grief, or I’ve gone crazy.”
“Don’t be silly, lad, I’m a magic horse, I can talk, what’s so surprising about the fact that I don’t die normally?” Carson snapped. Well, dying certainly had put him into a mood. “Kavanagh, that little rat,” he hissed, “looks like he really didn’t want me to talk. My oath wasn’t enough for him. He tried to get rid of you, too, but I heard how King Patrick said that you are a valuable resource.”
Shaking, Meredith cursed. He didn’t use to curse quite so much before, but the labs were full of commoners who had taught Meredith the most amazingly colourful swearwords. “You think he’s going to try again?”
Carson snorted derisively. “No, the King would not like that.”
They talked a little longer and Meredith promised to stop by every day, whenever he passed by the portal. Kavanagh had done that on purpose, had wanted Meredith to see Carson, to mourn and to possibly do something rash and rather final. Well, it wasn’t going to work. Meredith wasn’t going to jump off the South pier or one of the spires. He wasn’t going to kill himself just to save Kavanagh the work. Actually, he was kind of happy in the labs, it was a great environment for learning and researching. Meredith had found out a great many things, he’d even gotten the ATA gene therapy from the physicians of Atlantis and it had worked.
The only way he could have been happier would have been if he could have wrapped his hands around Kavanagh’s neck and throttle him a little bit before throwing him into the water. That wasn’t going to happen, but Meredith liked to think about it before going to sleep.
He’d been productive enough to have his own workstation now, but when he got to the labs, there was someone leaning against it, poking some of the Ancient devices randomly.
“Are you suicidal?” Meredith hissed and hurried to get the untested technology away from the madman. “We don’t know what any of them do. Do you generally go poking around in a pile of things that could disintegrate you as easily as paint you blue or green? What were you thinking? Or is your head mainly for show and for growing that ridiculous hair?” He was still muttering unhappily when he realized that he was talking to Prince John, who was grinning broadly. “Oh,” Meredith said, pushing the last one out of the Prince’s reach. “I’m sorry, your highness,” he whispered, hoping the Prince was as forgiving as Meredith’s mother had been about Meredith’s sharp tongue and his inability to hold it.
“That’s okay, you’re not the first one to lecture me on safety procedures. Zelenka’s given up by now, though. He always went on about how my hair is this way because I touched something when I was a baby. He may be right, but I really don’t care. Can’t you hear them? Aren’t they calling to you, too?”
There was honest curiosity on his face, and now that Prince John had asked, Meredith could hear it, the siren song of the Ancient technology. It had been much louder right after he’d gotten the ATA gene, but it had somewhat sunk into the background by now. “Yes, I can,” Meredith said, then pointed a finger at Prince John, “but that doesn’t mean I go around, touching things willy-nilly.”
Prince John laughed loudly, he looked happier than ever before. Generally, when Meredith saw him, he had a fixed smile on his blank face, looking straight ahead while Kavanagh had a death grip on his hand. Meredith wondered how he’d managed to get rid of the ‘Prince-Consort’. “Where’s Prince-Consort Meredith?” Meredith asked, the words tasting like ash on his tongue. “Doesn’t he want to take a look at the labs? In Canada he barely left them to eat,” Meredith said. It was true, Meredith had preferred to eat in the small recreational area that had been set up for him in a corner, he’d even slept there sometimes when he was running an important experiment. He suppressed an evil grin and continued, “He barely left the labs to shower, never mind anything else.”
But Prince John just shrugged. “I slipped away. Your Prince is a bit creepy sometimes, and he wants to spend all his time with me. It’s a bit too much.” He grinned at Rodney, then put a finger to his lips. “So shhh, don’t sell me out, alright?”
Meredith grinned back and nodded. “I won’t,” he said and they spent a while talking about the Ancient artefacts, testing out some of the ones Meredith was sure were harmless. He found out a great deal about Prince John in that short period of time. One, he loved fast horses, football, and anything that went fast, really. Two, he hated Kavanagh more than Meredith did, and that said something. Three, he was funny and was incredibly intelligent. The Prince could calculate numbers. In his head. It was great. Four, he was very fast to disappear when someone else came along and he didn’t seem to be very good at the commoner thing either because he forgot to say goodbye. Well, neither of them had any reason to be good at these kind of behaviours anyway, they were Princes, after all.
It had been one of the most enjoyable times Meredith had had since he’d left Canada. But it also made him sad, because he had time to realize that he really liked Prince John, who had insisted he just call him John when no-one was around. John, who had the most amazing smile, who liked to guess what the different Ancient devices did. John, whose lips twitched a bit when he was laughing. Meredith knew he could have been happy with John.
Then Zelenka came along, looking over his shoulder for a while. It was – mildly said – annoying beyond belief. And Meredith wanted to work on the Ancient device his father had given to him as well. So he rolled his eyes and sighed. Then he muttered:
"Wind, wind, gently sway,
Blow Zelenka’s glasses astray;
Let him chase through labs and halls
Till I’ve done everything I can,
Finding out what it will do."
When the wind suddenly came up Meredith wasn’t sure who was more surprised: him, or Zelenka, whose glasses were ripped off his face and were blown away too quickly for him to keep a hold of them. He screamed and yelled in a foreign language and ran after them.
“Well, wow,” Meredith said out loud, “I wasn’t expecting that to work.” He really hadn’t. He’d meant it as something of a joke, but the curses that were getting quieter now were a testament to how it had actually done exactly what it had been supposed to do. The ‘spell’ had been in the little book his mother had given him a few weeks before Meredith had left. One of his ancestors on his mother’s side had been a sorceress, it appeared, and some of her spells, once they were adapted, seemed to work pretty well for Meredith, too. He shrugged and started working. It took Zelenka about an hour to catch his glasses, by the time he came back Meredith had hidden the Ancient device again, working on what he was supposed to work on. Zelenka was still muttering angrily to himself, but he hadn’t made the connection between the odd behaviour of his glasses and Meredith’s muttered spell. Instead, he was looking at all the devices he’d touched in the last 24 hours to see if one of them could be responsible.
“Carson, you flea ridden bag of bones,” Meredith yelled, but Carson didn’t say a word, or move. He was just up there, looking down here, doing nothing.
“Do you generally scream at the heads of dead horses?” a voice suddenly asked from behind him and Meredith whirled around to find John lean against the wall. God knew how long he’d been there, but probably for a while. “As amusing as this is, if you keep yelling like that you’re going to have the guards here in more time. So could you maybe stop? That’d be much appreciated.”
Meredith opened his mouth to say something, but nothing would come out. He wished he could say, ‘he was my best friend and Kavanagh, that rat, had him killed’. Meredith wished he could say anything at all. Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Meredith shook his head. “Yeah,” Meredith said instead, “I’ll stop. It’s not something I generally do.” He hoped if it was obvious from his expression that he was lying, but John didn’t seem to notice.
A frown appeared on John’s face. “I was wondering why my husband wanted to put down the horse. It was gorgeous and I’d have liked to keep it, but Meredith was very insistent and my dad is a pushover sometimes.”
“I don’t know why Prince Meredith wanted Carson to be put down,” Meredith whispered, closing his eyes briefly. “He was the best friend you could wish for.”
“Friend?” John asked, curiously, pushing off the wall to stand next to Meredith, their shoulders almost touching and the warmth of his body soaking through what little space remained between them, warming Meredith a little.
Swallowing a sniffle, Meredith nodded. “Carson–”
“I thought it was called Falada?” John interrupted.
“Oh no, he hated that name, said it made him sound like a girl and it was only his middle name anyway,” Meredith explained and they walked off, finding a balcony that was out of the way.
John had been spending more and more time with Meredith lately, they both knew he was deeply unhappy, well, they both were. And, come to think of it, they both were because of Kavanagh. Trying to push him off a balcony was starting to get more and more appealing to Meredith.
“You know,” John suddenly said, “I wish you had been Prince Meredith and Meredith just a scientist. I like you much better than him.” He sounded so wistful that Meredith wished he could tell him everything. About how Kavanagh had threatened him and demanded an oath, about how he’d forced him on a horse that could very well have killed Meredith. Talking to John was just so easy. But he didn’t. He really couldn’t. He couldn’t break his oath.
“I know,” Meredith answered, wishing it just as much. “I like you, too.”
If Meredith had been a little more socially competent and if John had been less emotionally constipated, they’d have realized then and there that they were madly in love with each other. Meredith would have thought ‘fuck the oath, I’ll tell him and hope he’ll protect me’ and John would have just kissed him instead of staring numbly into space.
None of that happened though, instead they smiled at each other and then Meredith went back to work and John went back to hiding from Kavanagh. This time, when Meredith stopped to talk to Carson, the damn magical horse even answered. His excuse was that he’d been taking a nap. A nap! Meredith wasn’t buying that one at all.
So the weeks passed with Meredith and John becoming friends and Meredith being brilliant in the labs. He’d worked hard and had been successful in gaining the respect of his peers, something that felt much better than being accepted because you were the employer. The first time Zelenka said, “You are genius,” Meredith felt all warm and fluffy on the inside and practically floated through the labs for a whole fortnight.
Meredith still used the spell to distract Zelenka so he could work on the Ancient device, but now, when he whispered it, he felt just a little bit more guilt. A sort of routine developed: Meredith would talk to Carson for a bit every morning on his way to work, he'd then become Rodney – something that was still a major amusement thing to Meredith, because he'd spent his whole life trying to get people to call him Prince Rodney instead of Prince Meredith. Then he'd work on various systems and Ancient devices, maybe spend an hour trawling the Ancient database, have another chat with Carson, who had developed quite the taste for gossip, and sleep. Strewn throughout Meredith's days were small moments of peace he spent with John.
Life for Meredith became a whole lot of routine, until one evening King Patrick called him to an audience with Queen Lillian at his right and John at his left. Zelenka was there, too, and Meredith was instantly in a state closer to panic than peace. He briefly had the time to wonder where Kavanagh was and what the hell the man had gotten Meredith into now. Would the King have him killed? Would he be banned? There was an endless list of possibilities, but only a few raced through Meredith’s thoughts before the King spoke.
“How come you talk to the head of Prince Meredith's horse and it answers you?” The King asked. He seemed to like coming right to the point, which, in Meredith's opinion, was definitely preferable to a prolonged discussion of the weather before he was seized by the guards and dragged to a holding cell.
It was kind of a problem that Meredith couldn't actually answer King Patrick's question, though. “I can't tell you why, I was forced to swear by my father's grave not to, or I'd be dead now.”
King Patrick frowned deeply and exchanged a glance with his wife. “You've proven to be a superb scientist, your knowledge of the Ancient's language has improved exponentially, and Zelenka tells me he doesn't want to do without you in the labs. Whatever it is, whoever threatened you, I'm going to protect you. I swear no harm will come to you while you are in Atlantis.”
For some reason Meredith felt safe for the first time in months, maybe it was because John's expression had quite suddenly become fierce and protective, maybe it was because he believed what King Patrick had said. It didn't really matter though, because he couldn't tell them any of it. The oath was binding. If he broke it something terrible would happen Meredith just knew it. “I can't,” he wailed and looked to the floor, wringing his hands. God, he wanted to tell John what was going on, who he really was, who Kavanagh was.
King Patrick looked as fierce as John all of a sudden, and if Meredith had been more perceptive he'd have seen the worry in all of their faces. Distracted by his panic, his fears and his desire to just end it all now, Meredith didn't notice anything, didn't even look up until the King stood. “Alright, I understand how oaths can be. But look, Rodney McKay,” King Patrick said, “you obviously need to talk to someone, so maybe you should talk to the mirror there. Get it all out, you know?” The king then left, everybody following him as he waved at them to do so. John, went last, looking back over his shoulder worriedly after almost every step.
Maybe this whole mirror thing was actually a good idea, Meredith thought and went to stand in front of it. “Okay, so maybe I did lose my mind along the way, because hello? Talking to myself? But ... he's right, it's either that or I'll really hurl myself at Kavanagh next time he crosses my path and smirks at me like he owns me or something. It's not enough that he killed Carson and is sending letters to my mother, no, mum doesn't even notice that it's Kavanagh dictating them and not me! I can't even believe he had the guts to threaten my life, take my place and make me a servant. The gall of the man is beyond belief.”
Meredith started pacing, his arms crossed in front of him. Talking about it out loud felt weird, but also good. “I'm Prince Meredith of Canada, and I really should have kicked Kavanagh out the first time he nearly blew up the East wing. That donkey faced, pony tailed, dumb as bread asshole!” He took a couple of deep breaths, then added, “If my mother only knew she'd kick his ass into the next century.” That last one actually really did feel pretty good, because Queen Elizabeth could take on Kavanagh at any day of the week, she wouldn't even need her guard. God, how he missed his mother.
And that was when the door slammed open and King Patrick strode inside, his face showing something that was close to Queen Elizabeth's expression when Meredith had – completely by accident – set fire to the curtains of the West Wing.
“You are Prince Meredith,” he stated and put an arm around Meredith’s shoulders. He sounded somewhat relieved. “Come on, John will take you to the family residence and get you something proper to wear, then we'll figure out what to do about ... what did you say he was called? Kav? Well, whatever, not important.”
The next hour, however, was a rush. Meredith was allowed to take a bath while John talked to him over the curtain. After that he was dressed in fine clothes that were so soft they felt like water on Meredith’s skin. John didn't leave his side at all, he kept between Meredith and the door and wouldn't even let the servants close to him. It was like he picked up on how scared Meredith was, how absolutely terrified that something was going to happen and was now doing whatever he could to keep him safe.
“What's going to happen now? What is your father going to do to Kavanagh?”
John frowned. “You don't want him punished?”
Meredith snorted and rolled his eyes at the same time. “I've wanted to throttle the smirk off his face since we got here; I'm totally for corporal punishment. I'm more worried he'll get away.”
But John just grinned and shook his head. However much Meredith asked, he wouldn't say what was going to happen. Meredith ended up in some kind of security room, where he found out that he'd been watched through what very obviously was a one way mirror. There was nothing in the world Meredith liked more than one way mirrors at that moment.
“You just wait here, Rod – Meredith,” John said, but Meredith grabbed his arm, stopping him from leaving.
“Don't ... you don't have to call me Meredith. I always liked Rodney more anyway,” he confessed, relieved at the happy smile John shot him.
“Alright, Rodney, stay here until someone comes to get you.”
Rodney could hear everything through the speakers. He could hear the King ask Kavanagh how he'd been and if all was well. Watched as they sat down and looked on as John – stoic as ever – twitched every time Kavanagh touched him or moved, saw John’s hand tighten around the silverware. He expected John to stab Kavanagh with the fork every second, actually.
John didn't though, which was a bit disappointing, because Rodney would really have liked to see Kavanagh in pain.
“So,” King Patrick said to Kavanagh, “I have a question for you. What should be done to a person who has deceived everyone? Who took someone else's place and threatened them with death should they tell anybody? I'm having problems passing a sentence, what do you think, son-in-law?”
Kavanagh hastily swallowed and answered, “The culprit should be put into a barrel, naked, lined with nails, then thrown into the ocean from one of the piers.”
At a nod from the King the guards stepped up, taking hold of Kavanagh's arms, pulling him away from the table.
Rodney jumped as the door opened, one of the King's personal bodyguards, Lorne, looked in and bowed to Rodney, asking him to follow. As he stepped into the hall, Kavanagh's eyes grew wide and he started struggling for real. “That little shit!” he yelled, “what lies has he been telling you about me? He's always been jealous of my brilliance and my status and would say anything if it got him my place!” When he saw that no-one twitched, Kavanagh turned his eyes on John. “John, I'm your husband, you can't just–” he started, but shut up when John casually backhanded him across the face without saying anything. He looked very relieved though.
“You've sentenced yourself,” the King said and motioned for the guards to take him away.
With Kavanagh dead, and Prince Mer ... Prince Rodney restored to his rightful place everything was as it should be. The royal couple lived happily ever after.
“So,” Rodney said, “did you ... you know, he ... I mean, you were married.” He trailed a finger down John's naked chest, enjoying the tremors of his lover's body next to him. “So did you?”
John stroked Rodney's back, up and down, it was a calming rhythm, but Rodney wasn't sleepy. “Did I what?”
“You know,” Rodney muttered.
The rubbing stopped, but started up almost immediately. “No, I don't know.”
“Did you have sex with him?” Rodney asked, turning a lovely shade of red, he was sure.
“Nope,” John said, laughter lurking in his eyes and the slight curve of his mouth. “I didn't. Though it wasn't easy to evade him, I can tell you that.”
Frowning, Rodney ran his finger down John's chest again just to hear his breath hitch. “How did you evade him then?”
“Well,” John drawled, “I'm a fast runner, and my door has locks.” Just when Rodney was about to say something, John continued, “And I have one of these.” He reached underneath his pillow and Rodney’s eyes grew wide when he saw what it was. It was a small Ancient device that looked like a green crystal. He held it at his chest and it activated, pushing Rodney away slightly and sparkling oddly where they touched. “It's hard to have sex when you can't touch your husband, wouldn't you say?”
His yaw slightly hanging open Rodney watched as John removed the device. Tentatively he reached out just to have John place it in his hands. It was the same device Rodney's father had given him so many years ago.
Carefully putting the shield away, Rodney framed John's face with his hands and pulled him in for a kiss.
Everything was finally as it should be.
The end (no for real this time).