Pairing: K/?, M/Sk, MSR
Warnings: AU to the extreme, mm slash, a little angst, violence, cross-dressing
Summary: oh that would just spoil the story<hee hee>
Archive: Let me know first.
Feedback: Would be appreciated.
Disclaimers: No copyright infringement is intended. The X-Files belong to
the Fox Network and Chris Carter and 1013 Productions.
Notes: Thank you, Bertina for the beta and helping with this convoluted storyline. And most of all, for laughing with me, not at me and my story ideas. I would also like to thank the resident LGM expert, AmazonX, for her invaluable descriptions of them.
Illyana pulled the thin shawl tighter around her shoulders trying as best she could to stay warm. She looked up at the starless sky and wondered when the storm would finally start. Just as the thought crossed her mind, a snowflake lit upon her nearly frozen cheek.
She knew she had to find shelter soon, for not only was she cold and so very tired; she had not eaten in three days. Ahead in the distance she could see a flicker of light piercing the dark wooded landscape. Left with no other choice, she headed for the light and prayed to her gods that the residents would have pity on her and give her shelter against the storm.
The light emitted from torches surrounding the high stonewalls of a keep. Illyana approached the guards at the gate hesitantly, because she had long heard tales of the guards protecting the lords of the land taking advantage of lonely travelers. As the storm grew fiercer, her survival instinct took over and she begged the guards entrance into the keep, knowing whatever they might have in mind she would be willing to take for a night of warmth and, maybe if she was lucky, food. She was surprised when they did not question her, but merely opened the gates and pointed to the front of the manor.
She knocked on the huge door and the sound echoed in the quiet courtyard. A finely dressed man answered her knock and ushered her inside without questioning her reasons for being there. Illyana grew weak when the warmth hit her and she felt her knees buckle.
Suddenly a beautiful young woman was beside her, holding her steady, while she asked the others in the room to fill a bath. A large burly man picked Illyana up and swept her up the stairs, not even caring that her ragged clothing was dirty and wet and seeping into his velvet jacket.
The young noblewoman followed Illyana's ascent up the stairs and introduced herself as Anika and told Illyana that she was safe now. Illyana decided she was ready to accept whatever fate had in store for her, even becoming a slave or servant to a noblewoman. She was tired of running and merely surviving, at least now she would always have shelter and food.
But that was not what Anika had in mind. Anika had taken one look at Illyana and had claimed her for her own. Anika ordered her staff to help bathe Illyana and give her proper clothing.
As Illyana relaxed in the hot water, she thought about what lay in her future. She trembled despite the warm water at the thoughts of what the beautiful young noblewoman would want her for. And Anika was beautiful. Illyana had never seen a woman quite as lovely.
Her dark sable hair surrounded a delicate pale face with large green eyes framed by lush long lashes. Illyana would have thought Anika was a fairy creature from one of her grandmother's stories had she not looked into those expressive eyes herself.
Realizing the water was growing cold; Illyana emerged from her bath and searched the room for something to wear. Wrapping herself in a large bath sheet, Illyana wandered into the adjacent room. Her dark blue eyes gazed in wonder at the elegant bedroom. She nearly dropped the bath sheet when the door to the chamber swung open and Anika swept into the room.
"Good, I'm glad you are finished with your bath. Now we must untangle this mess on your head and get you dressed. I cannot wait for Pytor to meet you," Anika exclaimed in a deep throaty voice as she claimed hold of a silver ornate brush lying atop the table next to the bed.
Anika patted the bed beside her, gesturing for Illyana to join her. Illyana shuffled over and sat beside the young noblewoman. Anika immediately started brushing through Illyana long blond hair; clucking intermittently when she encountered a troublesome tangle.
"What is your name, beautiful one?" It didn't register at first Anika had spoken to her, until she heard the words repeated.
"Illyana, my lady," she whispered.
"A beautiful name for a beautiful lady. Now, where are you from?" Anika spoke as if they were meeting over tea.
"From the north, my lady." Illyana answered hesitantly.
"There is much fighting in the northern regions. Pytor has sent many of his guards to assist," Anika let out a sorrowful sigh. "I fear if the battles do not end soon, Pytor will take it up on himself to join. I cannot bear to think of that happening, especially not now."
Illyana turned her head and peeked at Anika. The beautiful smiling face had become filled with melancholy. Suddenly consumed with a compassion for the young noblewoman she had just met, Illyana placed a comforting hand on Anika's arm. Anika looked up into bottomless blue eyes and a small smile formed on her cupid bow lips.
"I am with child. Mine and Pytor's first." She unconsciously patted the slight swell of stomach, barely visible beneath the dark green satin of her dress. "I do not want to raise my child alone. This silly nonsense in the north must end. I cannot imagine my life without Pytor."
As quickly as the sorrow had entered her countenance, it left and in it's place, Illyana was treated to a smile that lit up the room. Even white teeth filled the perfect lips and the jade green eyes sparkled with mischief.
"Enough of this talk of war and things that don't concern us ladies. Come, get dressed, Illyana and we will meet and take dinner with Pytor. I'm sure he will love you as much as I already do."
Illyana's breath caught in her throat at the elegant satin gown Anika held up. She had never seen quite that shade of blue in fabric before. Illyana reached out and stroked her hand down the front of the dress. Tiny silver stitches created a brocade of stars. Tears of unbelief filled Illyana's eyes. She could never wear anything this beautiful. This was the dress of a princess.
"I've had this dress for a few years, but have never worn it. I knew it in my heart it belonged to someone else, and one look into your eyes, I knew it has been waiting these years for you."
"I don't understand, my lady," Illyana choked out.
"Firstly of all, my name is Anika. And secondly, your eyes are the same color as the fabric. That's how I knew the dress belonged to you."
"My lady, I cannot address you by your name. It is not proper." The dress completely forgotten for the moment, Illyana hung her head in shame. She could not call the noblewoman by her first name, just like she could not wear such an elegant gown.
"Nonsense. My grandmother was gifted with the sight. She told me my heart sister would come to me one day. And you, Illyana, are that sister. I knew it as soon as I saw you," Anika assured her.
"But...but, my lady."
"No buts. It will be as I say. You will be an equal in this household and no one will question it. Not even Pytor." Anika stopped and giggled. "He will be glad that I have finally found you, he has been hearing about you for years."
Illyana accepted Anika's help in donning the gown and accepted Anikas proclamation of their relationship, but she knew in her heart she would never consider them equal, for Anika had done what nobility rarely did. Accepted a peasant into their home and made them family. Swearing her allegiance to the young noblewoman, Illyana became a trusted member of the family. She swore she would defend Anika with her life.
With the birth of Aleksei, Illyana became more than a nursemaid or aunt, she took one look at the child who had the same delicate elfin features and expressive green eyes as his mother, Illyana swore her undying allegiance to him as well.
Cowering in the corner of the nursery, Illyana listened to the sounds of the battle taking place. Anika had forbidden her to leave under any circumstances and made her promise to escape through the secret passage if she did not return. Anika placed a gentle kiss on her beautiful baby boy and, with tears streaming down her face, she picked up the sword her husband had left her for protection and charged from the room.
Although Anika was a small woman, her husband had always insisted she learned to wield a sword as well as any man in their guard. As she reached the top of the stairs, she watched horrified as her beloved Pytor was cut down by one of the soldiers carrying a battle-ax. She watched horrified as the soldier then cut off her husband's head, raising it in the air with a cry of victory.
The soldier's eyes caught her presence at the top of the stairs and, with an evil gleam that seemed to glow from within, he smiled. Anika screamed and charged down the stairs. The soldier was caught off guard with the ferocity of Anika's attack. He still had Pytor's head clutched in his hand when he fell dead, Anika's own broadsword having rendered him in two.
The stench of blood was heavy in the air, but Anika did not swoon. She hacked her way though the soldiers towards the man astride a large black stallion. The man looked up and his pale watery blue eyes fell on Anika. As causally as if it were nothing to him, he raised his crossbow and fired.
Anika staggered forward, never breaking eye contact with the man, an arrow protruding from her chest and blood soaking her gown. She raised her broadsword and, with one last bit of strength from her dying body, swung at the man, glancing a blow across his leg. The black stallion reared up as the sword hit and his rider cried out in pain.
The man on the horse glared down at Anika's dead body, her green eyes were still open and a smile of triumph was forever frozen on her lips. His hand unconsciously reached down to rub his bruised leg. It didn't feel broken, the armor of his boot having stopped him from losing his leg, but he was incensed that Anika had gotten the chance. In a fit of insanity, he raised his crossbow and fired upon some of his own men, killing them as they fought his enemy's people.
When the battle was over, he ordered his men to gather up the entire family and behead them. His men took on the grimly task without hesitation, many having seen their leader kill their comrades during the battle. They laid the family side by side along the main staircase. The man rode his horse over and looked down at the bodies.
"There is one missing. A child. Pytor was reported to having had a son last year. Where is its body? Bring it down as well for beheading. I want no one in this cursed family left alive," he yelled at his men.
"Sir, we have searched all the rooms and no one has found a child." The captain of his forces reluctantly told the man. The rest of the men watched as their leader fired his crossbow at the captain, killing him where he stood.
"You," the man on the horse, pointed at one of the soldiers, "find me the body of the child or you shall meet the same fate as your inept captain."
Illyana ran through the woods clutching Aleksei to her chest. Luckily for her, he was a sweet natured child and did not cry. She paused momentarily and looked in to his green eyes. He looked so much like Anika that Illyana's heart broke. She reaffirmed her allegiance to the young child, promising him she would do whatever it took to keep him from his parent's fate.
She trudged on through the forest, listening for the sounds of hoof beats following her. Exhausted, she found a small cave and took refuge for the night. In a voice full of sorrow, she sang to the child as much to herself. Illyana sang of a fading sun and bitter cold, of a journey to the mountains and across the seas, of comfort and freedom, and all the things she and Anika had talked and dreamed about over the last few years. Still weeping, she fell into a rough sleep.
The morning sun woke her and she cleaned Aleksei as best she could from a small stream running next to the cave. Illyana knew they would need to find food soon, because although she was now used to regular meals, it would not hurt her to miss a few. But Aleksei was another matter. Finding a few berries left on a bush near the cave, she squeezed a few drops of juice for the child, saving none for herself.
Illyana kept up her pace during the next few days, stealing from unsuspecting peasants for little scraps of food and riding in the backs of wagons headed towards the coast. If she could just reach one of the merchant ships, she felt in her heart she could finally escape, but there was little time left. In a few weeks the ports would close for winter and she didn't want to be stuck hiding so close to her former home.
Just as she was negotiating working for passage on a ship, a soldier stopped her, demanded to know who she was and about the child. In a fit of fear, Illyana spun a story of abandonment and disgrace by an arrogant nobleman and how she wanted to leave this horrible land and seek fortune for her and her daughter elsewhere.
The soldier was swayed by the guileless blue eyes of Illyana and let her go without checking the gender of the child wrapped in rags clutched to her chest. Illyana sent a prayer of thanks to her gods and boarded the ship. A few hours later she and Aleksei were on their way out of the country, no one the wiser that the child she carried with her was not her own and not female.
After two weeks on the ship, Illyana swore she would never sail again. But when she stepped out onto the dock, so unfamiliar and filled with many people speaking a language very foreign to her, she was glad to endure the hardship. No one knew her and, with so many people, it would be easier to disappear among the crowds.
Although she did not clearly understand what the people were saying, she had already started to pick up pieces of the language during the voyage and could easily make do for now. Language and blending in were two of her survival traits she had not lost during her time with Anika and Pytor.
Once again the recent loss of her beloved friends filled her heart and she felt her grief flood and spill down her cheeks. Aleksei started snuffling against her breast, waking and apparently hungry, prompted Illyana to put aside her grief once more and look for a place to take temporary shelter. Salvation came sooner than she dared hope. Through bits and pieces, she found out that one of the nobles had recently lost a nursemaid and governess to their young child.
Illyana approached a group of women gossiping about the family and inquired if they were seeking someone to replace the late governess. The women finally were able to understand Illyana's hesitant, broken words and directed to a large carriage near the edge of the dock's entrance. Illyana thanked them and hurried off towards her destiny.
"Damn. Damn. Damn." Danae Scully slammed the door to her bedchamber and threw herself onto her bed, grabbing a pillow on the way down and covering her head.
"Such language for a proper young lady," Aleksei scolded her from the window seat looking over the garden. He loved the view from Danae's room and spent many evenings watching the sunset from this very window. "What has you tied up in knots today?"
Danae bolted upright on the bed and glared at Aleksei. "My father, who else?" An evil smile crossed her face and she threw her pillow at him. "And what could you possibly know about being a 'proper young lady'?" Aleksei caught the pillow effortlessly and tossed it back, with his own smirk.
"More than you, if your filthy language is any indication."
Danae face screwed into an unladylike grimace, her mood swiftly changed from anger to frustration. "It's just not fair. Father is throwing yet another party to parade me in front of some stuffy count like a prize at a festival and, this time, I heard he is really old. Aleksei, you're so lucky."
"Lucky, how did you come to that conclusion?"
"Because," Danae thought for a moment, gathering her thoughts, "you can leave here and live the kind of life we've always dreamed about."
"You think that makes me lucky? I have no home, no heritage, and no connection to my roots. I am not even sure who my parents are."
"But Illyana told us of your parents," Danae stopped when she saw the look of sadness flash through Aleksei's green eyes. "You still miss her?"
"Yes. It hasn't been that long and I thought, like any child, I would have her forever. I don't care what fanciful stories she entertained us with when we were children. She was the only mother I had ever known. The only mother I wanted." Aleksei turned back toward the window. The afternoon sun caught the highlights in his sable hair, casting a reddish tone to the ends. He always wore it down around his shoulders instead of up, which was the latest fashion.
"I thought you believed her stories?"
"Danae, really. They were exciting to us as children but we are adults now. I merely indulged her these last few years."
"Well, I believed her and still do."
"I don't. My mother was covering up her embarrassment for having a bastard child out of marriage, why else would she have kept my existence secret all these years? I'm tired of this charade." Aleksei yanked on the waistband of his gown. "How can you stand to wear these new fashions, they are tight and uncomfortable?"
Danae could tell Aleksei wanted a subject change, so she didn't argue about Illyana anymore and let the conversation drop into more superficial matters. She still believed the stories Illyana told them. How else could she explain why she had kept Aleksei disguised as a girl all these years, insisting it was for his protection? Besides, the thought that Aleksei was really the son of a slain nobleman who had barely escaped with his life, while sad, it was exciting and romantic. Realizing she was too caught up in her musing, Danae quickly sought out a way to lighten Aleksei's mood.
"I think the new fashions are wonderful. And you have gotten so big, you need the tightness to enhance your figure."
"Big! Big! I'll show you big." Aleksei tackled Danae on the bed, tickling her until they ended up nestled in each others arms. He stroked his hand through her bright red hair, humming softly to himself. "I'm leaving soon."
"I know. I was surprised you stayed as long as you have. When will you go? Where will you go?" Danae knew he had to leave, but he was much more important to her than her own brothers.
"Perhaps on the next full moon, I'm not sure." There was a wistfulness to his voice Danae did not like hearing. She feared that when he left, she would never see him again.
"Take me with you."
"What?" Aleksei responded with shock.
"We could become adventurers, like we talked about as kids," Danae said, sitting up and becoming more animated. "Think about it, me and you against the world, seeking our fortune. Hey, maybe we could become pirates, wouldn't that be exciting?"
"That is no life for a lady. Danae, you belong here in the courts, having parties and serving teas. You know nothing about the life of an adventurer."
"Oh, and you do?"
"More than you. And besides, as I said, it is no life for a lady."
"That's rich coming from you, Aleksei," Danae said with a knowing smirk.
Aleksei jumped off the bed and stormed across the room, his skirts swishing around his long legs as he paced back and forth. His face had turned red and Danae could practically see the steam coming from his ears. Aleksei turned and faced her again, his fists clenched at his sides.
"You know what I mean!" he hissed. Danae kept smirking until Aleksei visibly deflated. She loved breaking his cool facade, making him act as irrationally as everyone claimed she always acted. "It wouldn't be safe."
"Come on, Aleksei, you will have to do better than that. Who would I be safer with than you? You would protect me, wouldn't you?" Danae pouted, her big blue eyes sparkling with tears. She knew she would have him, if she could keep the wounded pretense up long enough.
Aleksei narrowed his eyes at her. He knew what she was up to and wasn't fooled by her act one bit. Searching his mind to find a way to turn the argument back into his favor, he suddenly came up with an idea.
"How would we hide you? With that red hair, your father would be able to find you anywhere and probably have me strung up for taking you away."
"I could wear breeches and cut my hair. If you can fool everyone into believing you are a lady for eighteen years, I can fool them that I am a man." Danae crossed her arms defiantly, her eyes shooting daggers at Aleksei.
"Danae, be realistic. A pair of breeches would not be much of a disguise. How would we hide these?" Aleksei smiled as he grabbed her breasts.
Danae slapped his hands away and twisted out of his reach and crossing her arms to protect her breasts from further perceived abuse. She thought hard for a moment and then smiled triumphantly.
"I could bind them and, with a baggy shirt and vest, no one would be the wiser."
"What about 'the Fox'? If you leave with me, he will never be able to come and declare his intentions to your father. I thought you were in love?" Aleksei sneered.
"I am in love. William is busy trying to gain his lands back and help others who have suffered from Count Spender's black heart. He is a hero and we could go help him," she pleaded.
"He is a rogue and a scoundrel. You're blinded by your silly girlish fantasies. He and his followers are thieves and should be punished for their crimes not worshipped as heroes of the people. If William of Mulder were to show up here, your father would have him imprisoned without a second thought."
"How dare you speak of William that way? You don't even know him, only the rumors. I know the man and I love him!" Danae screamed back.
"Be reasonable, Danae." Aleksei tried soothing her ruffled feathers. "You had a brief encounter with the man, that is not enough time to know him, let alone fall in love with him."
"You weren't there. You didn't see his beautiful hazel eyes or how the whole room lights up when he smiles. He was so strong and handsome and such a gentleman. And he promised that someday soon we would be together." Danae was nearly melting during her description, missing the look of disdain on Aleksei's face.
"Really, you noticed all that in a brief five minutes of discussion? I think what you are feeling is merely a crush from a simple flirtation from a rogue with a young girl. Love does not happen in an instant upon meeting- that is for fairy tales. I suppose you still believe in dragons and unicorns?"
"Have you never felt like your heart would burst from your chest? That butterflies have taken residence in you stomach? Well, too bad, Aleksei. Until you do, I fear you will always be alone. William will come for me, I know that in my heart."
"It's no use arguing with you, Danae. You are undoubtedly the most stubborn girl on the face of the earth. Come, we need to get ready to show you off to your new suitor," Aleksei said, ending the topic.
Danae watched him rummage through her closet, checking out different fabrics and styles and dismissing them easily. She knew his preferences were with men, but he had shown no interest in the parade of young suitors her father was always bringing around the manor, dismissing them as quickly as the undesirable dresses. But then, Aleksei wouldn't have shown interest or his secret would be revealed.
Dropping her serious thoughts as easily as she had put them on, Danae joined Aleksei at her wardrobe and began the arduous task of picking a gown for the party. After an hour of indecision, Danae rang for a servant. She remembered Illyana had been working on a set of dresses for the two of them before she had died.
The servant arrived back with the dresses. They were identical except for the color. Stars had been sewn into the fabric creating an endless night sky of blue on her dress and green on Aleksei's. Danae remembered Illyana saying she once wore a dress like this when she first met Aleksei's mother Anika. Although the dresses were not finished, the seamstress could make the final touches before the party. Danae ordered the seamstress to work only on their dresses and then she and Aleksei began their ritual of primping.
William of Mulder stormed into the common room of the run down and abandoned manor he and his followers were using as a temporary hiding place and headquarters. He yanked off his leather tunic and threw it across the room, and then snatched up a bottle of wine and took a long drink. He had just gotten word that Danae's father was going to pledge her troth to Count Spender the next evening, instead of at the end of the month like his spy on staff had indicated.
His best friend and constant companion Walter Skinner watched him pace the floor, slinging innocent goblets against the wall in frustration. William's multi-hued hazel eyes reflected the storm raging in the younger man. Walter watched as the long, lean legs of William carried from one side of the room back to the table, ending with the destruction of another goblet.
"Calm down, William. We will just move up the timetable. Byers and Langly are already in place. It is just a few days ahead of schedule." Walter tried to reason with his friend. Ever since the Fox had met young Danae Scully, he had schemed continuously about rescuing her and bringing her to live with him.
Walter didn't think their lifestyle would befit a young noblewoman, but William refused to budge on the issue and Walter would do anything to help ensure the happiness of his younger friend. Even resorting to kidnapping William's beloved from her father and home.
"But I cannot be there to reassure her. She will be scared and Danae is very delicate, I do not want her to be afraid for her life," William whined in frustration.
"I will be there for you. I assure you, Danae will come to no harm and soon she will be here waiting for you to declare you undying love," the last bit was said with a certain amount of bitterness.
William turned to his oldest and dearest friend, watching his strong features cloud with sorrow. "I thought you were okay with my feelings for Danae?" he asked.
"I am," Walter replied. He rubbed his hand over his baldhead and down his face. "I am." He opened his arms and William walked into them, resting his head on Walter's broad shoulder. They had been lovers since Walter had joined the Fox in his silent war against Spender. Although they were still lovers, he knew that would end with the arrival of Danae on a permanent basis.
Walter enjoyed having William in his arms a few minutes more and then pulled away. "I must leave if I am to arrive on time to meet Langly and Byers. And you need to leave as well."
"Melvin is renting a manor for us to hide in through the winter. I'm sure it will not be up to Danae's standards, but she will be happy that we are together," William said. "When you arrive, help keep an eye on Danae, she is a real spitfire and might cause Frohike, Langly and Byers some problems until I get back."
"Don't worry so much, William, everything will go as planned. I will take good care of your bride. Now, off with you," Walter said as he pushed William toward his horse. He watched until William disappeared around the road and then headed to his ship.
Danae adjusted the bodice of her gown one more time and sighed when she looked in the full-length mirror in the corner of her bedchamber. She wasn't a vain person, but she admitted even to herself, she looked stunning draped in stars. Illyana had done a gorgeous job on the dress. Danae only wished it was William she was meeting downstairs instead of some stuffy old count.
She walked over to Aleksei, who was once again brushing his long sable hair. Aleksei refused to wear it in any style but down around his shoulders. Taking his face in her delicate hands, she rubbed her palms across his cheeks checking the smoothness of his face. The sap they heated and used to strip away his body hair had left Alekseis face as clean as her own.
It was another valuable lesson Illyana had taught the two of them growing up and proved to be quite effective in removing the hair Aleksei had started sprouting when he had turned thirteen. The sapping lasted close to two weeks and the new growth came in fine and soft, not coarse like Danae's father and brother's beards.
"So, do I meet with your approval?" Aleksei asked.
"Yes, you look stunning, Aleksei," Danae replied. Aleksei's dress was as deep green as his eyes and with his hair cascading around his shoulders; he looked more beautiful than any man had a right to. Danae was glad she wasn't the jealous sort and that she had William's love. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I guess there is no need for further stalling."
The party was going very well and the people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Watching as they chose food from the tables and had their glasses refilled, Lord Scully's throat grew dry. He could practically see Spender devouring his wealth before his eyes and he cursed the man for taking advantage of his love for his daughter and his need to protect his people and land.
Spender's greed was plainly obvious to him and he longed for the night to be over so he could send them all on their way and take stock of what little he had left. He hoped his daughter would not put up much of a fuss and understand his reasons for doing this.
He watched the two young ladies descended down the grand staircase, their arms linked. He noticed all of the guests had turned to watch them, murmuring their obvious approval of the two stunning girls. Lord Scully tracked Danae eyes, while she searched the crowd for him and watched her reaction when she spotted him standing next to Count Spender.
"What is that man doing here?" she hissed beneath her breath.
"Careful, I'm sure it is for appearances only and to stay on Spender's good side. Remember, be polite and don't let them know what you are thinking."
"Spender is the one who took William's land. I would rather run a sword through his black heart than make polite conversation," Danae growled and then forced a smile on her face as they reached the bottom of the stairs and Lord Scully reached out and took her hand. Aleksei nodded a greeting and then used the moment to slip away and lose himself among the guests, but he made sure to stay close enough to hear the conversation.
"Count Spender, I would like to introduce my daughter, Danae," Lord Scully said. Danae managed a polite curtsey, dropping her eyes demurely to hide her disgust.
"Danae, you are even more beautiful than your father described," Spender said as he bowed slightly and kissed Danae's hand. Danae wanted to wipe her hand on her dress and remove the tainted kiss. Spender was as old as her father, but she could see the lust in his watery blue eyes and it made her skin crawl.
"Good, now that we have made introductions, I have an announcement." Lord Scully turned to his guests. "Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests. Lady Scully and I have asked you all here to celebrate the betrothal of Count Spender and my lovely daughter, Danae," Lord Scully boomed out to stunned crowd. A murmur of shock ran through them and then they erupted in applause.
Aleksei quickly worked his way back to Danae's side and grasped her hand. Danae was pale and looked about to pass out from shock. "Danae, how ever did you keep this secret from me?" he exclaimed, his voice filled with false enthusiasm. Aleksei turned a tense smile towards Lord Scully and Count Spender, "If you will excuse us a moment." Aleksei gave them no opportunity to reply, he swept Danae off into the throngs of people.
"And who was that lovely creature, Lord Scully?" Spender asked.
"Her name is Aleksei, she is my daughter's friend and constant companion. Aleksei's mother was Danae's governess while growing up. Illyana passed on last year. We all miss her and Aleksei has since decided to travel abroad," Lord Scully explained, not noticing the intense gaze Spender had on the two girls.
Spender thought he had recognized the young green-eyed beauty, but he couldn't recall from where.
Aleksei pushed Danae through the well wishers vying for her attention. She had grown even paler and he was afraid she was about to faint, so he tightened his grip around her tiny waist. Aleksei's eyes met with Danae's mother's eyes. A silent communication passed between them, convincing him that she did not approve of the forced engagement either.
He half carried Danae up the seldom used back staircase and into her bedchamber, keeping up constant whispered assurances that things would be all right. Aleksei's mind was in a panicked state, but he hoped Danae would approve of the plan formulating in his mind.
Danae fell on the bed and let out a bitter sob. "How could father do this to me? I thought he loved me."
"Your father loves you, Danae. The marriage is obviously for political reasons. Spender has made a point of destroying his enemies one way or another. Your father is trying to save your family from ruin and thinks this is the only way."
"What am I going to do? I can't marry that man, but I don't want him to destroy the family." Danae slapped her petite hands on the bed.
"Don't worry, the marriage will never happen," Aleksei said as he sat beside her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. "I won't let it happen."
"But there is nothing you can do to change father's mind," she sobbed.
"I have no intention of trying to change your father's mind. We will do what you suggested earlier and leave here together. Tonight, in fact. After the party is over and everyone has gone to bed."
"What good will that do? Spender will be furious and blame my father."
"No, we will make it look like a kidnapping, so no one will be the wiser. They will look for someone traveling with two girls, but we'll cut our hair and dress as men." Aleksei's mind whirled with possible scenarios to aid their escape. "Are you prepared to abandon everything? All the fine clothing and servants? If we do this, there will be no turning back."
"Do you think we could try and find William? He would help us. And we could help him in his crusade against Spender," Danae added excitedly.
"NO! The Fox is too high profile. We would be caught as soon as the law finally catches up to him and that is a risk I am not willing to take with either one of our lives."
"But..." Danae's eyes filled with tears. She didn't want to marry Spender, but she didn't want to lose her family either. Danae felt in her heart that William's quest to destroy Spender was just and she believed he would help and protect them. She just needed to find a way to convince Aleksei.
"No. It is my way or not at all. If you don't approve of my plan then stay and marry Spender, while waiting for your precious William to rescue you," he sneered.
"I will go along with your plan, Aleksei. Tell me what I need to do," Danae agreed with the right amount of sincere reluctance in her voice. She decided to wait until they were free from her father and Spender's reach and she would force Aleksei to take her to William.
Aleksei narrowed his eyes at her. Danae's mind was plotting something, he was sure of it. He outlined his simple plan for their escape. Danae would go back to the party and play the role of a happy and excited bride-to-be. He would feign illness and wait in Danae's room and make preparations. They would not need much, just the clothes on their backs. He planned to find alternate clothing along the way. The plan was risky and he was glad Danae agreed. No matter what he said, he wouldn't leave her to a future as Spender's wife.
Danae straightened her gown and fixed her slightly mussed hair. She gave Aleksei one last hug before she headed back to the party. She was glad Illyana had taught them to act demure and coy. Danae laughed internally. Illyana was right when she claimed men would fall all over themselves when a pretty woman flirted with them. She could use this skill to fool her father and Spender into thinking she was pleased with the betrothal.
Aleksei paced the room, going over their escape plans in his mind. They couldn't take any clothing that might be missed and would have to go on the run in their bedclothes until he found something for them to wear. Neither of them had access to money of their own, so they would have to steal. He didn't like the idea of taking from those less fortunate, but his mother had taught him to do anything to survive another day. He flopped down on Danae's bed, hoping to take a quick nap to help with the long night ahead.
Richard Langly moved stealthily up the back staircase. He could hear the sounds of the party still in full swing. He hoped no one would spot John and the wagon waiting near the back entrance, but when the Fox had moved the plan up, they had no time to prepare another way to escape. He only hoped that the party would end soon and it wouldn't be a long wait for Danae to fall asleep.
He slipped into the darkened bedchamber and moved along the wall to the window. He looked out and checked John's position. Richard parted the drapes to let a little light in and waited for his eyes to adjust to the low light. He glanced around the room, searching for the best place to hide, when he spotted the figure on the bed.
Startled for only a moment, he thanked the gods for their luck. He turned back towards the window and signaled John. The timetable had been moved up again, but the noise from the party could be used to hide their escape. He moved over to the sleeping figure and marveled momentarily how love had blinded William to describe his beloved as petite. He placed his hand over Danae's mouth and waited for her to awaken.
Aleksei's eyes gaped open when he felt a hand cover his mouth. He struck out with his fist, knocking his assailant away. He jumped to his feet and ran for the door. Heading for the staircase, he slipped and cursed his slippers. They were not made for running and he hoped he didn't fall headlong down the stairs. He listened and heard footfalls coming behind him. Whoever the man was, he had recovered from the punch quickly.
The door outside the kitchen was ajar and Aleksei didn't think further ahead than rushing out. He made for the stables when he felt a presence behind him. There was just enough time to turn before a dark figure erupted from the shadows and he jerked back as the figure grabbed his arms.
He ducked suddenly and elbowed the man in what he thought to be the man's stomach. Still crouched, he tried to get past the man, and he reeled a bit as his hair was caught and his head yanked back. Cursing through the pain, he swung his arm at the hand grasping his hair before turning and trying to run again.
His escape was halted as he saw the tall figure from the bedroom blocking the stable door and he glanced back, dodging the first as he searched for something to use against them. Spotting the stable masters cottage, he ran for it, praying the door would be unlocked. His prayers were answered and he dived inside the darkened room.
He turned to slam the door shut when unfortunately, the skirts of the dress he wore hindered him and he let out a shocked cry as he fell against the thick curtains that hung over the window by the front door. The two pursuers rushed together and he was quickly wrapped in the cloth and his movements muffled. Aleksei let out a furious cry as he was lifted, but the one carrying him gave him a rough squeeze that told him it would be wise not to repeat the move and he racked his brain as he wondered what was going on.
Aleksei's thoughts left him as he felt himself fall suddenly and he closed his eyes, letting out a groan as he hit not the hard surface he was expecting but something softer. He didn't know he'd been tossed into the back of a cart full of hay, but when the men urged the horses, the rocking motion told him he was being taken away.
They traveled swiftly down the road, hoping to put as much distance between them and the Scully estate as possible before someone discovered Danae missing. Langly glanced worriedly over at John Byers; things had not gone remotely according to plan. John recognized the slight panic in his companions eyes. He tried to reassure Langly, but he was worried too, he only hoped they would not have to wait long for Skinner at the rendezvous point.
The wagon hit a rough spot in the road and they heard a small grunt of discomfort from the back. They had filled the wagon with hay to offer some amount of comfort and to avoid immediate detection, but nothing would offer cushion when the wheels bounced in and out of the ruts in the road.
Aleksei felt a stinging in the back of his eyes from the frustration of being bound so tightly. His kidnappers had not used ropes, but the drape proved to be just as efficient in trapping him and limiting his movements. It was hot and stifling and the stagnant air was making it hard to breath, so he tried to slow his breaths and calm down. He was able to focus his energy on formulating a plan for escape. They would have to stop eventually and unwrap him and that would be the time to run.
After what seemed to be an endless journey of bumps and deep grooves worn into the road, the wagon finally rolled to a stop. When his abductors unwrapped him, Aleksei found his legs frozen and numb from lack of circulation and the faint light from the moon hurt his eyes. He lay quietly for a moment, waiting for his eyes to adjust and then slowly took measure of the men who had taken him.
He'd expected large powerful men and, yet, before him stood two men not much older than himself. His first thought was that they would not be much of a threat. He stared at the first one, taking in his lanky yet muscled form and the unruly blonde hair falling down his back in waves. He was only a little taller than Aleksei, but Aleksei surmised that he would be the one to watch out for.
The other was slightly shorter than Aleksei (although Aleksei was sure he would grow taller since he had already gained several inches over the past summer). The man had short dark hair and a closely cropped beard. His blue eyes watched Aleksei without a hint of malice and a slight underlying hint of fear. Nevertheless, Aleksei wasn't about to let his guard down and he made it to his feet slowly, hiding his grimace as pins and needles ran through his awakening legs.
Aleksei slowly checked out their location, looking for possible ways to make his escape but he frowned when he noticed how quiet it was. The forest seemed deserted and no other lights were visible showing possible signs of other travelers. He noted they had stopped near a river, the shoreline not far from where they were standing. Other than the three of them, the wagon and the horse, they were all alone with the trees.
Although neither man had made a move towards him and had said nothing, Aleksei grew cold with the thoughts of what they may want with him. He had no money or family, so it couldn't be for ransom. That left either the slave trade or using him for their pleasure. The last didn't seem likely since they had gone to an awful lot of trouble to kidnap him. He had heard the stories of people being shanghaied, but that was usually in town, not from their own homes. They were sadly mistaken if they thought he would go quietly to the auction block.
He looked around the small clearing for anything to use as a weapon. Aleksei slowly inched towards the edge of the clearing when he spotted a broken limb caught in one of the lower branches of a tree. Grabbing it, he swung around and struck the shorter man in the side and then darted into the trees.
Hitching up his skirts to hasten his escape, he ducked and weaved blindly through the dark forest. He could hear the two chasing him and he was thankful his slippers kept his progress silent. Although he couldn't see much in front of him, he knew that it was just as hard for them to see him with the dense leaves blocking most of the moonlight.
He was brought up short when his hair caught in the thorns of particularly thick bushes. Aleksei yanked his hair free, leaving a few strands behind and then his mouth fell open in disbelief as he stared in shock at the natural wall the bushes had created. Cursing the fates that were apparently unhappy with him, he quickly decided to turn back the way he came. He kept to the side of the path he'd trodden, hoping to avoid running into his pursuers and to throw them off his trail.
His slippers kept his steps quiet and he heard them when they passed the opposite way and then he quickly made his way back to where he thought they had stopped. The tree line broke open and he emerged in the small clearing by the river. They had left the horse and wagon unattended and he hoped he would be able to find the road they had come down and track it back to civilization.
As Aleksei ran over to the horse still hitched to the wagon, the cumbersome skirts of his dress betrayed him once more. He stumbled and fell to the ground in an undignified heap. Just as he was gaining his footing again, he felt someone grab him suddenly. He groaned in the agony of defeat as strong arms wrapped around his waist and he was held against a man's chest and lifted off the ground.
"Let me go!" Aleksei cried out in anger and, unwilling to be taken without a fight, Aleksei kicked at the man holding him and let out a sharp scream. Then a hand was clamped over his mouth, the man didn't seem to mind his kicks. But then, it wasn't as if he could do much damage with the thin slippers he was wearing and he eventually stilled his struggles, vaguely aware that the man might notice that he wasnt holding a woman in his arms.
Dropping Aleksei with a sharp gasp, the man stared at the tooth marks on his hand before looking back to him. Since he didn't know who'd ordered his kidnapping, Aleksei was expecting to find it was this new tall, handsome stranger who stared at him in shock. Then the man gave a small smirk, brown eyes seeming to warm as he again glanced from his hand to Aleksei.
"Well, that was quite the greeting, I must say," he said smoothly, shaking his baldhead when Aleksei glared daggers at him. "I am Walter Skinner, at your service, my lady."
Skinner held his hand out to help Aleksei up, but Aleksei slapped away the offered hand and tried to struggle to his feet. Glaring at the man with unspoken threats, he couldn't stop the cry of pain when his foot protested his weight on it and he fell back down.
Langly and Byers rushed into the clearing and stopped short of falling over Aleksei. Byers looked appreciatively at the two lovely long legs showing beneath the raised skirts. Aleksei quickly covered his legs and flushed, realizing they still thought he was a girl. He knew he could use this to his advantage. They had already proven they didn't think he was a threat, so he would keep up the pretense as long as it suited his purposes.
"Are you hurt, my lady?" Langly asked, his eyes filled with concern and he appeared not to know what to do with his hands.
"Get away from me, you buffoon," Aleksei yelled and was surprised when Langly immediately followed the order. "Who are you? What do you want from me?"
"I think the better question is 'who are you', my lady?" Walter asked. He was quite impressed with the young spitfire who had almost given Langly and Byers the slip, but he was sure the girl was not Danae Scully. William was not given to exaggerations and the girl was nothing like he had described.
"My name is Aleksei," Aleksei replied and raised his chin defiantly. Narrowing his eyes he waited for their response to his declaration. It was obvious they had taken him by mistake and he wondered briefly what they would do now to rectify their error.
The blonde's eyes widened when he heard Aleksei's announcement and he turned to his companions fearfully. "She's not Danae Scully? But...but." He sputtered to a halt at Skinner scowl.
"Are you blind? Does the young lady look even remotely the way the Fox described her?" Walter growled.
Langly looked at the man bewildered. "It was dark and she was in Danae's bedchamber."
"The Fox!" Aleksei screamed, interrupting Langly's excuse. "Is that who is behind this?"
"Yes, my lady. I'm sorry but we can't let you go, you will have to come with us," Walter told Aleksei and then turned to address the other two. "We will go back to the hideout and meet with William and decide what to do about this complication."
"Why can't you just let me go?" Aleksei whined.
Walter smiled at the young spitfire. "We cannot risk you alerting Spender of our plans."
The bearded man stepped forward. "We mean you no harm, my lady. You will be safe with us, there is no need for fear."
"I'm not afraid of the likes of you." Aleksei tried to stand again when Skinner reached down and easily picked him up. The big man was strong, and it unnerved Aleksei to be in such close proximity with such a large powerful man but wisely decided not to struggle since, with his ankle hurting, he would not be escaping any time soon.
"How is your ankle?" the big man asked when saw the slight grimace of pain cross the beautiful young woman's face as he carried Aleksei to a small boat tied to the shore.
"Fine," Aleksei replied, realizing they would treat him better if he was more solicitous and kept up his pretense of being a woman. "Thank you," he continued demurely. He decided to play along with them in hopes of convincing the Fox to attempt a rescue of Danae again with Aleksei's help. Aleksei reluctantly admitted to himself, that the Fox must really love Danae to go to so much trouble.
Aleksei didn't complain when Skinner gently put him into the small boat and made a nest of blankets for him at the back of the boat. Aleksei snuggled down among the warm blankets and fell asleep, the night's events catching up to him.
Skinner watched as Aleksei's long lashes fluttered and finally closed. He was surprised at his initial attraction to the spirited young woman. He had never been quite so taken with anyone since he had met William. Skinner pushed the thoughts aside; the women he normally met were docile and manipulative. He decided the attraction was Aleksei's fiery temper and strong will and had nothing to do with the beautiful face and sparkling green eyes.
Danae searched the manor for Aleksei; she had become worried when he was not in her bedchamber waiting for her. She knew she had taken longer than planned once the guests were gone, but she had tried once more to reason with her father. The man remained adamant about her marriage to Spender. Danae had used all the skills at her disposal, but nothing had worked. Her father seemed immune to her tears and tantrums, finally putting his foot down and ordering her to her bedchamber for the night.
She searched for a note or any sign as to where Aleksei had gone. She trusted him and knew he would not break his promise to save her from the horrid marriage, but the more she searched and came up empty, the more her heart filled with despair. With no other recourse, she knocked on her parents door.
"Father, it's me. I cannot find Aleksei, I fear she has been taken." Danae had decided to keep the story of the kidnapping, thinking perhaps Aleksei might have set it up to stall the marriage until he could find a better way to stop it and not wanting to risk her safety. Her heart lifted somewhat. Perhaps, she mused, he went to enlist the help of William. Danae had just enough time to start the obligatory tears, when the door to her parents bedchamber flew open.
"What is this about? What makes you think Aleksei was taken?" Lord Scully bellowed at his daughter. "Is this another attempt to sway my decision?"
"No, father," Danae pleaded, her eyes welling with large tears that fell down her face. The emotional ride from early in the evening made it easy to draw the tears already close to the surface and she watched for any sign that her father was giving in.
"Her bed has not been slept in and all of her belongings are still in her room. She would not leave without telling me goodbye."
A servant rushed up to them and reported the stable master had found his cottage broken into. Lord Scully tied his robe around his dressing gown and headed downstairs, Danae following closely at his heels. He stormed into the courtyard demanding to know what was going on.
"Sir, after I had attended the horses, I entered the cottage and the front curtain has been torn down and there are signs of a struggle." The stable master rushed to explain. "But I couldn't find anything missing."
"Nothing at all? Do you think some of the guests might have gotten a little rambunctious when they were leaving?" he asked.
"I don't think so, my lord. There would have been no reason for them to be on this side of the manor, all of the carriages were in the front."
"Father, listen to me, someone has broken in and taken Aleksei. You have to help her," Danae sobbed.
"Don't worry, Danae. I will do everything in my power to find Aleksei. We'll send out a search party in the morning, but there is nothing to be done tonight." Lord Scully wrapped his arms around his distraught daughter's shoulder. "For now, you have had a trying evening. Let's get you into bed."
Danae buried her head in her father's chest to hide her triumphant smirk. Act one had been a success, now all she had to do was convince her father and Count Spender she wouldn't be able to go through with the marriage until Aleksei was found.
Count Spender arrived at first dawn back to the Scully estate. He had received a message that there was a problem and a request for him to join the Scully's to break their fast. The staff was surprisingly cordial as he was escorted to the dining hall. He had no illusions about his reputation and, in fact, relished the fear and loathing the lower class had for him. He was, after all, a powerful man and not above disposing entire families and their loyal staff to expand his base of power.
The Scullys' turned out to be an entirely different matter. Spender had taken one look at the lovely Danae and wanted her for his wife. He had pretended to not know of her; using his position to have the marriage arranged for political reasons. Lord Scully didn't need to know Spender had first seen her in town months earlier. Scully had jumped eagerly to the arranged nuptials to spare his estate. Spender was forever astounded how easily a family would give up a child to preserve their wealth and position.
After a pleasant breakfast, the men excused themselves and retired to Lord Scully's library. He explained the events occurring during the night and Spender wondered how they could possibly concern him until Danae entered the room.
"Count Spender, I am afraid our wedding must be postponed until Aleksei has been returned," Danae announced with just the right amount of sorrow to her voice.
"Of course, my dear. I will help in anyway I can to ensure her safe return."
"Thank you," she said. Danae watched Spender carefully for any signs of subterfuge, but could detect none in his watery blue eyes.
Spender smiled indulgently at the young woman. He knew she was up to something but hadn't figured out her angle. He would eventually. Until then, he would play the role of concerned groom and help search for Aleksei. He felt a slight twinge in his leg, reminding him of another young woman. It suddenly clicked. Aleksei reminded him of the bitch that had almost cost him his leg years ago. It couldn't be her, but the remembered resemblance was uncanny.
Aleksei woke to the world rocking violently. He tried to stand but couldn't gain his balance for a moment. He looked around and realized they were no longer on the small boat but were now traveling on a much larger vessel. It was then that he also realized Skinner was still supporting him. His nauseated fogged mind pinpointed the man's hand on his stomach and the muscled chest pressed close to his back.
Fear sprang to mind unhampered and he lunged away, turning to glare at the man as Walter looked to him in surprise. He didn't care if the man had been helping him. His stomach fluttered and Aleksei could still feel the man's fingers touching his side and the way his warm breath had reached his ear. He didn't know which bothered him more, the fact they had moved to the larger vessel without him knowing or the way his heart started pounding furiously in his chest every time he looked at the tall handsome man.
"Please, Aleksei," Walter said softly, his eyes glowing as he stared at Aleksei. There was something attractive in a girl with spirit and he found himself captivated by those flashing green eyes. "No one will hurt you." With a wave of his hand, he dismissed Langly and Byers standing behind him, humored by their uncertainty, as they seemed wary to leave him alone. Once they were gone, he turned back to Aleksei. "In truth, you are my guest. You see, this is my ship and, as it is the only cabin suitable for a lady, I give you leave to mine."
"Is that supposed to comfort me?" Aleksei asked, his incredulous tone not hidden. "So you'll keep me in 'your' cabin, that's a real relief."
Walter smirked again. "Well, as I was saying, I will find it necessary to come in every once in a while as this is where I keep my charts." He directed Aleksei's attention to one of such papers by inclining his head. "But other than that, the room is yours. Once we set sail, it will only be a few days before we reach our destination. During the journey you will, of course, have leave to the deck of the ship."
"You're so very kind," he said sarcastically, glaring at the man.
"I will announce my arrival with a loud knock," Walter said. He almost laughed at the anger heating the room, but he didn't want to antagonize Aleksei further and so he resisted the temptation. "I'll see you again once we've set sail. Till then, my lady."
Walter frowned at the table as he resisted the need to look up at the one eating across from him. It had been few days since the beginning of the voyage and he could not deny his feelings had grown beyond simple lust and he was beginning to actually 'like' the feisty girl, only his loyalty to William preventing him from letting those feelings out into the open. He had every intention of keeping his word to help William rescue Danae, after they straightened out what to do with this new complication. Still, a glance to where the girl sat had his eyes glowing and he knew he had the patience of a saint. He must, otherwise he'd never have been able to hold out against such temptation, friendship or not.
"May I ask what are you are pondering, Aleksei?"
Aleksei looked up as the man's voice broke the silence and he shook his head. It was of no use hiding his concern. The longer and further they traveled away from childhood home, the more danger Danae was in and even with the Fox's help, it may be too late to stop the marriage.
"I was thinking that I want to go back and help Danae," he said honestly, giving the man a pointed stare. "Her father plans for her to marry Count Spender, had your bumbling companions not interrupted, she and I would have escaped during the night."
Walter sighed and glanced down for a moment before letting Aleksei see his sincere expression. "I know you are fearful of the future, but I am convinced the Fox will immediately want to return to help Danae. If he had not been needed elsewhere, none of this mess would have happened." And if none of this had happened, Walter thought, he would have never met this engaging young woman.
"It would not have been safe for two young women alone," he continued, only to have Aleksei interrupt.
"Danae and I would have been fine. We are quite capable of taking care of ourselves and, besides, we had a plan," Aleksei said haughtily. Being disguised as a woman allowed him certain advantages, he thought, but he hated how men always thought women were weak and incapable of taking care of themselves.
"I am beginning to think you just might have been successful." Walter smiled indulgently. "However, William, I have no doubts, will succeed. He might be a bit impulsive sometimes, but he never fails once his mind is set. If, of course, you regret this journey, I give you my word that you may have me flogged." Aleksei's green eyes sparked and he knew the girl meant to hold him to his promise.
William had made a wonderful match, if Danae was anything like Aleksei, and Walter now understood why the Fox would risk capture and imminent death to rescue Danae. Yes, he understood very well. Aleksei had dropped her gaze and Walter had to do the same as he felt the need to comfort her, hold her, and most especially touch her. It was a good thing their journey would end soon or he might lose his control. He wasn't sure how to reconcile his sudden desire for this young woman. He had been around attractive woman before, but what he was feeling for Aleksei was not just desire, it was closer to his feelings for William.
When they left the ship, they traveled by horseback around the edge of a town to a large run down mansion. Skinner had sent Langly and Byers into the town for supplies, while he stayed with Aleksei. He watched the sky darken and the clouds move in, the early onset of winter would make the second rescue attempt of Danae harder, but if that was what the Fox wanted, Skinner would help him.
Upon reaching the courtyard, Aleksei's heart dropped as his eyes fell upon the broken rubble which comprised the gate and the dilapidated stable that sat to the side. The manor was in ruins. The shutters were falling off or nonexistent and the roof was in sore need of repair as he could actually see a gaping hole in one spot. He moved inside as Skinner took his horse, and his spirits dropped lower as he saw that the inside looked worse than the outside. The layer of dust that coated the floor was at least a centimeter thick and ropey gray cobwebs hung in the corners, no doubt home to large inhabitants.
This could not be the hideout or headquarters of the man who was the thorn in Count Spender's side, Aleksei thought. The Fox was rumored to have stopped several shipments of gold and had a large following of disposed noblemen whom he had helped. Whoever lived here was nothing more than a common thief with no apparent means to go up against Spender.
Aleksei gave a sigh, turning to Langly who stepped in beside him, his arms full of packages.
"I guess this place will serve as camp for the night," he said with reluctance, in hopes his first impression had been wrong.
"Actually," Langly said softly, dropping his eyes, "this is it. This is where we'll be staying until the Fox arrives."
"Oh no, tell me you're kidding?" When the man nodded slowly, Aleksei let out a low groan, his eyes moving over the filth again. He made a face at the blonde and moved a bit further into the room. "Great. Well, I might as well see what the rest of this pigsty looks like."
Langly nodded and Aleksei moved to the stairs, his eyes pausing for a moment on the tall candelabra that stood in the corner of the staircase. Obviously, the manor was too hard to reach for looters to have come to call. The place was coated in dust, evidence that no one had lived there for years. Still, he forced himself to keep going until he reached the second floor.
Snow poured in around him, as he had to lean hard to shut the door, and William was glad they had saved Danae before winter had hit. He shook off his cloak and stepped into the room. A fire warmed the room against the cold wind outside and he watched as Langly and Byers slowly lowered their swords when they realized it was him. Rushing to him, their relief was obvious and William couldn't keep his smile back.
"You were successful," the Fox stated. He glanced around the room searching for his beloved. "Where is Danae?" He didn't see her anywhere and he was anxious to have her in his arms.
"Well, you see, there was a problem," Byers explained hesitantly.
"What kind of problem?" William narrowed his eyes at the man.
"Well...she...that is..." Langly swallowed roughly as he forced his tongue to work. "I waited in your lady's room and when I saw a girl lying on the bed, I thought..."
"Where is Danae?" William demanded.
"Your astute companion thought I was Danae," Aleksei stated as he paused at the bottom of the stairs.
"What have you done with my fiancé?" William turned to face Langly and Byers, his eyes widened and he ground his teeth together. How could you have made such a stupid mistake? How could you think she was Danae? Do you have any idea what you've done?"
Langly tried to explain but William's face was flushed red with his frustration. He pushed past the two men and stomped over to Aleksei, forcing him to take a step back. Aleksei felt the wall against his back when the Fox's face moved so close he could feel the other man's breath.
"Whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?" William growled his fists clenched at his side. He had never once hit a woman and he didn't want to start now.
"Aleksei," Aleksei replied, hating how his voice squeaked slightly. He raised his chin defiantly, his green eyes shooting sparks. He was determined not to be intimidated by the handsome man or at least not let it show. The Fox was more handsome than Danae described. Aleksei felt his stomach flutter at the close proximity of their bodies though he didn't like the Fox's manners.
"Aleksei," William sneered. "What were you doing in my beloved's bedchamber?"
"I was waiting for Danae..."
"Just as I thought!" William shouted and grabbed Aleksei by his biceps. He shook Aleksei who struggled, but with the wall at his back and his arms pinned, he could do nothing but twist ineffectively. "Spender sent you. He somehow found out about our plans and placed you in our midst as a spy. Spender won't get away with this."
"I am not a spy! I hate Spender as much as you," Aleksei spat out. "Let me go!"
"Why, so you can return to Spender and tell him the whereabouts of our hideout?" William pressed his body against Aleksei. He could feel the heat radiating from the young girl and her body felt delightful squirming in his arms. He leaned in close and whispered in a delicate ear buried beneath the waves of raven hair, "I think not."
"Enough, William," Walter interrupted as he stormed into the room. He had been in the barn outside when he heard William arrive. The snow had become worse, so he had taken care of William's mount first before returning to the warmth of the house. The sounds of shouting stopped him during his task and he had hurried in, knowing William's temper could be volatile at times.
On returning, he was pulled up short at the sight before him. William had Aleksei pinned to the wall with his body pressed intimately against her. The scene both infuriated and excited him.
William turned at Walter's voice, but didn't let go of Aleksei. He glared at his long time lover and friend. "Where were you when this debacle happened? I trusted you to make sure Danae arrived safely!"
"Let the girl go and we will discuss this like gentlemen." Walter wouldn't allow his emotions to overcome him, as had the Fox.
After giving Aleksei one last hard shake, the Fox stepped abruptly away. Aleksei stumbled slightly on his release, but Walter couldn't help admire the way she remained composed under the circumstances. He could not tear his eyes away from her and the way her chest was heaving and the slight rise in color to her cheeks. Walter found himself imagining he had put the blush there and the rise and fall of her chest was due to passion not fright or anger.
William quickly noticed the way Walter's eyes were glued to the girl, dancing with a passion he had only seen directed at him. He would have to explore this development soon, but first he wanted to know what had gone so terribly wrong to cause this fiasco.
"Walter? I believe you were going to explain this." He gestured at Aleksei and noticed the girl's eyes were focused completely on Walter. He smirked as it dawned on him, the attraction his old friend was experiencing was mutual.
Walter slowly tore his eyes away from the captivating creature before him and stared blankly at William. He couldn't shake the vision of Aleksei from his mind, mixed in were the images of her in William's arms and when he had held her and William.
"Everything went according to plan until Langly entered Danae's bedchamber. He found Aleksei and mistakenly thought she was your lady," Walter began, but was interrupted by William.
"How could anyone mistake her for Danae? They look nothing alike." William turned to Langly and Byers who had remained silent. "How could you be so dim-witted?"
"That is uncalled for, William." Walter stopped him before he could say anymore. "Langly has never met Danae, who else was he to think she was under the circumstances?"
William rubbed his hands over his face, trying to gain control of his emotions. "You're right, of course." He turned to Langly and Byers. "I'm sorry, you both did admirable jobs and it is unfair of me to think otherwise. But I still would like to know why she was in Danae's bedchamber."
"As I tried to explain before, I was waiting for Danae. We were going to run away together to keep her from marrying Count Spender. We both would have been far away from his clutches if it had not been for your kidnapping me." Aleksei stepped forward and addressed William directly. "Now Danae has no one to protect her."
"We must return at once." William turned to Walter his body tense and ready to burst. He reminded Walter of a yearling wanting to break into a run.
"No, William, it is too late to do anything tonight. Let us eat and rest, in the morning we will make haste to return and fetch Danae."
"But...the snow has gotten worse, tomorrow may be too late," William pleaded.
"It won't be." Walter gathered the Fox in his arms, pulling him tightly against his broad chest, oblivious to the wide-eyed look of shock on Aleksei's face. "The temperature has not dropped enough for them to close the ports. We may not have much time, but we have some. Do not worry; we will get Danae to safety. I promise."
William relaxed into the strong arms of his trusted friend, letting the tension and frustration drain from his long lanky body. It felt wonderful to be engulfed by Walter's quiet strength again; he hadn't realized how much he missed it. He thought about Danae and her beauty and how once they were together he would never be able to let Walter hold him this way again.
He squeezed Walter's trim waist a little tighter. William tilted his head up and looked into Walter's soulful brown eyes. The electricity between them threatened to engulf him completely. He would miss this man, more than he had realized.
Walter leaned down, his lips almost brushing against William's. He could see the confusion warring with passion in William's eyes. The slight puffs of warm breath coming from William pouty lips. The entire world threatened to disappear, until a polite cough broke through his passion filled mind.
Aleksei had stood fascinated watching the two men holding each other. At first it seemed like a friendly gesture between two friends but soon there was no masking it had turned into a passionate embrace. The sight of these two handsome men together was filling him with a desire he had never experienced before, causing heat to run a course through his body and finally pooling in his groin. He coughed into his fist, not wanting to disturb them, but at the same time needing them to stop.
The vision standing just slightly behind Walter was as breathtaking as the man in his arms. Aleksei's face was radiant with a delicate blush and Walter could not mistake the passion of arousal in her eyes. He was a little surprised Aleksei was not offended by the sight of their embrace, since it was clearly not the embrace of friendship but of lovers.
Walter gently stepped out the embrace and cleared his throat. "I guess we should get dinner started," he announced to no one in particular.
The Fox smirked when he noticed the dazed look in Aleksei's eyes and Walter's sudden embarrassment. He turned and winked at Langly and Byers, who were already setting stew and bread on the dining table. "Yes, we better eat soon, young Aleksei looks about to faint."
Aleksei snapped out of his stupor and glared at William. Without saying a word, he stomped over, sat down at the table and tried not to meet anyone's eyes.
Dinner was relatively quite as the Fox's band of rebels formulated a plan to rescue Danae. It was decided to set sail in the morning and everyone agreed on the plan until William announced that Aleksei would not be going with them.
"No, it is unsafe and you would only slow us down." He missed the way Aleksei's eyes narrowed as he stared at the floor, his mind realizing that this was the last chance they had to pull off the rescue.
"You can't keep me here!" Aleksei cried, "Why would you? I know the Scully mansion better than any of you."
"Don't argue with me," William glared, again turning away. "You're staying."
"I'm telling you to take me with you or you'll regret it." The man didn't so much as glance at him and Aleksei moved towards the fire as his fury grew. "If you don't let me go with you, I will just leave as soon as you're away from shore."
"Shut up, you're pushing my last nerve." The Fox gave the girl a degrading look before turning to Langly and Byers abruptly dismissing her.
"William, it is just as unsafe to leave her here unguarded. We have no choice. Aleksei will travel with us, but we can leave her on my ship while we go and get Danae," Walter said.
"Agreed." William replied reluctantly as Aleksei spun to face Walter.
"No! I am going with you. It is your fault I am here, you can't keep me from helping," Aleksei shouted and stomped towards the stairs, his anger finally getting the better of him. He had to get out of their presence and formulate his own plan. They were not leaving him behind, no matter what they wanted to think.
His cumbersome skirts caught on the edge of his slipper and Aleksei felt his world tip backwards. Before he had a chance to regain his balance, he felt Walter's arms wrap around his waist to keep him from falling. Aleksei breath caught in his throat as he found his face mere inches from the older man's.
Walter stared into bottomless green eyes and felt himself start to drown. His gaze drifted down to the delicate cupid bow's lips and before he could stop, he gently brushed his lips against them. Aleksei's breath was warm and inviting and Walter pressed a little harder, his tongue whispering against Aleksei's lips, seeking entrance. Aleksei let out a whispered mew that Walter's cock took immediate notice of and he watched as Aleksei's long lashes veiled her eyes and he tightened his hold on her waist causing another small kittenish sound.
Aleksei's eyes fluttered closed as he melted into the kiss. He never dreamed anything could feel so wonderful and Aleksei felt his body temperature rise once again as his early arousal was reawakened. His world spun and then focused. The man kissing him had only a few hours before been in a passionate embrace with the Fox.
He pushed at Walter's chest, trying to break out of the embrace. His hand flew to his mouth as he realized what he had let happen. In a fit of embarrassment he swung his hand and connected with the older man's face. Not waiting for a reaction, Aleksei turned and ran up the stairs, slamming the door behind him.
Walter held his hand to his stinging cheek but he couldn't stop from smiling. Aleksei had tasted just as he thought she would, all warm and fiery. The sound of snickering brought his attention back. The Fox stood beside the fire laughing and Langly and Byers were trying to discreetly hide their smiles.
Walking into their bedroom, Walter sat behind the quiet William, wrapping his warm arms around the younger man who sat staring out the window. The Fox leaned into the broad chest, dropping his head to rest on Walter's shoulder.
"Walter." William sighed.
"Hmmm?" Walter smiled, as he gently placed butterfly kisses down the younger man's neck. William gasped as he felt Walter's lips gently touch his skin, each touch sending tingles throughout his body.
"Ahhh, that...that feels so good."
"Shhh, everyone's asleep." Walter chuckled slightly causing William to groan and throw his head back for Walter to have better access.
"As if Langly and Byers care. They are used to us after all these years," the Fox started to say until Walter pulled him closer and began to rub his hands up and down his chest, tweaking a nipple as he passed by.
"Nnn...." William moaned as he slightly bucked his hips.
Walter's hands found their way under William's shirt and he caressed his stomach, slightly going lower, and then coming back up, to rub and caress each nipple. Walter began to lick and kiss William's cheek, moving slightly to nip and suckle the juncture of the neck and shoulder. William was lightly panting as he reached for Walter's head to look into his eyes. Walter smiled gently at William before capturing his lips within his own. Pressing his tongue forward Walter opened William's mouth and began to explore the mouth he knew so well. Pulling away for air, both their lips were swollen and almost bruised. William reached out his tongue to lick Walter's bottom lip in almost an apologetic way. Walter moaned and began to kiss the Fox again, his hands wandering down to his pants.
"Ahhh, Walter!" William gasped as he felt Walter's hand grab and caress his hard member.
Walter pushed himself up against the younger man's backside to gather some friction for his own hardening flesh. Both men sighed out in pleasure as Walter found his way inside of William's pants and began long soft strokes. William moaned again, causing Walter to shiver with delight and buck his hip slightly. William smiled and kissed Walter again, gently taking Walter's hand out of his trousers, and breaking the kiss.
"What?" Walter began, but was quickly shushed by William's finger entering his mouth. William smiled as he stripped off his shirt with one hand, as Walter took to the task of sucking the fingers on his other. Smiling, William replaced his fingers with his tongue, as he quickly began to devour Walter with hunger and passion. Walter's hands began to wander back to William's cock, but William quickly retrieved them.
"Walter, when I come, I want you to be in me, he whispered.
Walter moaned as his tongue plummeted into William's mouth. Their kiss was one of passion, light, and fevered need. Needy hands roamed over and over any place they could touch. Breaking the kiss William panted to Walter, taking his hand and kissing the palm.
"Walter, clothes off. Now." he instructed. Within seconds, both men were naked, their skins shivering from the impact of the cool air rushing against them. Almost leaping to each other, the two men found their kiss again and gasped into it as hard flesh met hard flesh. William stretched out on top of Walter and began to ravish him.
A small pink tongue peeked out and sucked hard on the pink nub of flesh as Walter shivered from William's touch. Working down, the younger man paused at Walter's bellybutton to lick around it and plunge his tongue in and out in small strokes. Walter bucked his hips, feeling his cock pressed up against the Fox's taut stomach. Following a preordained path, William began to lap at the head of Walter's cock, before gently taking Walter into his mouth.
"Ahhh," Walter's voice was barely audible as William's hot mouth engulfed him. William moved his hand to gently stroke himself lightly as he moaned, causing vibrations against Walter's cock, driving him to buck his hips up and down. Walter felt himself approach the edge of orgasm when William's mouth left his cock and his mouth was once again devoured. Their tongues waged a small battle until William finally retreated.
Walter smiled and reached beside the bed and retrieved a small vial of oil from his pants. William rolled over on his back and spread his legs wantonly for Walter. The sight nearly sent Walter over the edge. William's skin was flushed and his nipples were pert and red. His body covered in a fine sheen of sweat despite the cold air. His cock was swollen and had a few drops of pre-cum leaking out.
Moaning, Walter coated his fingers in oil and began to insert one after the other, gently stretching William. Pumping his fingers in and out of William, Walter leaned up and began to suckle on William's ear lobe, whispering sweet nothings into his ear. William moaned and bucked his hips more and more. Walter knew if he didn't stop now, William would probably come. Retrieving his fingers, Walter traveled down and licked the tip of William's cock.
"Walter!" William screamed. Walter smirked and gently pinched the tip of William's erection. Gasping, the younger man sat up and glared at Walter.
"What was that about?" he asked.
"Shhh, just making it better," he soothed, and William found he was not as close to coming as before.
Pushing William back down and spreading his legs apart, Walter applied a generous amount of oil to his own swollen cock. Placing William's legs up and around his shoulders he gently pushed into the younger man. Rocking back and forth against each other, the men found the harmony and rhythm of long time lovers.
"Oh god...Walter..." William groaned as he increased his thrusts against Walter, who, in return, sped up his own thrusts. Soon, all that both men could see were stars. Walter reached down and grasped William's cock and began to pump it in time to their thrusts. William thrashed beneath him and pushed his hands into Walter's hips, begging to go faster. Faster they went, and soon, both men gasped and threw their heads back in climax.
Sighing, Walter reluctantly pulled out of William and moved to rest beside him. He wrapped his arms around the Fox and drew him closer. William turned to Walter and kissed him again, sighing contentedly before drifting off into a sated sleep. Completely unaware they had been watched.
The room had grown cold in the short time Aleksei had tried to fall asleep. The fire had burned down and his nose twitched at the thought of his bare feet touching the cold floor. He'd removed his dress since the room had been plenty warm when he'd gone to sleep, but now he wished he hadn't as the thin slip was of no comfort to him.
For a moment, he entertained the thought of simply trying to go back to sleep, but he knew he wouldn't be able to. Memories of Walter's kiss wouldn't let his mind rest. Once more his fingers found their way to his lips. He whispered them gently across his lips and Aleksei swore he could still feel a tingling from where Walter's lips had touched his.
He wrapped the blanket around him and tentatively put his feet on the floor. The floor was as freezing as he'd expected and he groaned as his toes curled, forcing his legs to hold still as they tried to get away from it. Eventually, he'd grown accustomed to the temperature and despite his shivers, he finally stood.
He listened at the door to see if he could hear anyone still up but the manor appeared quiet. Assuming everyone had gone to sleep, Aleksei moved carefully downstairs to retrieve more wood for his fire. He was nearing the stack of wood by the main fireplace when a strange noise stopped him in his tracks. He tilted his head toward the noise but still couldn't make out the source.
While he'd never had reason for stealth as a child, he was good at it now as he breathed as quietly as he could, his eyes wide as nervous energy rushed through him. Without incidence, he reached his destination and he paused in the hall as he watched the door where the sounds were coming from. The door was not closed tightly and it easily opened enough for Aleksei to see inside.
The movement of the two men making love only a few feet in front of him, held him in place. His first instinct was to fly back upstairs to his room and banish the images from his mind, but he found his eyes riveted to the scene unfolding before him. What little light from the window bathed the two men in an ethereal blue glow. Aleksei could see sweat gleaming off their bodies despite the frigid air.
Aleksei thought for a moment his eyes were playing tricks on him, as Walter positioned his large cock at William's entrance. Surely something that large could not possibly fit in such a small space. Aleksei's buttocks clenched in sympathy until he heard the Fox let out a deep throaty moan of pleasure when Walter buried himself to the hilt.
He could feel his hole flutter in anticipation and his cock leaped to attention. His hand moved down to stroke himself through the thin slip, and he found himself wishing it were he who was lying beneath the older man. Aleksei had been unsure of the mechanics of making love with another man and, although it looked like it would be painful, the sounds coming from William convinced him he would be missing out if he abstained from that aspect of male love. With the images before him and the sounds, it didn't take much stimulation before Aleksei found his release.
Aleksei moved quietly back to the safety of the hallway and then scurried back upstairs, forgetting the firewood he had come down for originally. He flopped onto the bed and reached for his over sensitized cock once more. Aleksei replayed the images in his head and it didn't take long to reach a second orgasm.