When You’re Used to Royalty, A Royal Visit Is Just Heartache
Geoffrey was in the bath, not really washing but just kind of playing with the bubbles on the surface. The door opened without anyone knocking, but it wasn’t Janus or Javier who came in.
“You’re supposed to be ready to go,” said Diego.
Geoffrey looked over at him. “What?”
“The king is here to see you.”
Geoffrey looked at the surface of the water, trying to see through the tint of the soap through to his body. “Okay.”
“Are you going to get up?” Diego asked, sounding impatient.
“Yeah,” Geoffrey said, standing and climbing out of the tub. He only noticed Diego look away after he’d grabbed his towel. “You can look, if you want.”
“I don’t want to.”
Oh. Of course. “I’m sorry.” Obviously Diego didn’t want to look at Geoffrey. Why would he? “I’ll be out in a second, if you’d rather wait outside.”
Diego shook his head. “If I go outside, you’ll dick around some more and the king is already waiting for you.”
“Yeah,” said Geoffrey. He dried himself, thankful that he hadn’t gotten his hair wet. Once he was dry enough, he grabbed his plug and put it in, and then took his loincloth, tied it quickly. Would Giacomo like him better without it? Oh, well. It was easy enough to remove.
Diego stood there quietly while Geoffrey got dressed, then held the door open for him. They went out into the main room together, and then to the hallway. Diego led Geoffrey down the hallway. He paused after a few paces. “You were in the bath so that you’d have an excuse to make him wait, weren’t you?”
Geoffrey swallowed, then took a breath. “No. I wouldn’t do that to him.”
“Right. He’s like two hours late, right?”
“I’m sure he was just busy.”
“Yeah,” said Diego, looking around. He started walking again. “Javier wanted to come get you but the king said I should do it. Lord Janus too.”
Geoffrey frowned, but only for a second. Giacomo hadn’t wanted them to talk to him before the meeting. “Okay,” he said, quiet. “Thank you.”
“For doing my job? Whatever, I have to.”
Geoffrey shrugged. “Do you get paid well?”
Diego scowled. “Better than most people, I guess.”
“But not well. It’s a hard job. You don’t get paid enough. Why can’t I at least be grateful to you for doing it?”
Diego kept walking, didn’t say anything until they were down the stairs. He was leading Geoffrey to the study, but Geoffrey let him lead. It would be rude to do his job for him.
Outside the study, there were two guards flanking the door. Diego stopped ten paces away from them, grabbing Geoffrey’s hand. “Because it makes me feel weird and I don’t like it.”
Geoffrey looked at him for a minute, the way he looked at the floor, the way he hadn’t let go of Geoffrey’s hand. “Okay,” he said. “I have to go in now.”
“Yeah. I have to go clean your bathroom.”
Geoffrey nodded, and went to the study. One of the guards knocked on the door, then opened it a second later. “Lord Geoffrey for you, my king.”
“Let him in.”
Geoffrey tried not to wince at Giacomo’s voice. The guard opened the door. Geoffrey went in.
Giacomo was sitting behind the desk, putting a seal on a letter. Janus, Dalton and Javier were sitting at the table near the door with Alfie, and one of Giacomo’s pet wizards—the one who was really southern, Geoffrey didn’t know if he was Cliff or Antoine—was standing by the desk, and took the letter from Giacomo.
“My king,” said Geoffrey, bowing. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.”
Giacomo shook his head, his still-uncut hair moving all around. “I’m sorry I was late. I wasn’t doing the thing where I show up late as a power move. I got stuck in a meeting with Hans and some other assholes. Sit down.”
Geoffrey sat in the chair facing the desk, feeling like he was sitting in front of his father. Giacomo didn’t look much like Gerhard, thank God. “What can I do for you, my king?”
Giacomo looked at him, took a breath. He started to say something and then stopped, looking at everyone at the table. Then he looked back at Geoffrey. “Before the war ended, you’d been exchanging letters with Franz DiGorre to let him know when Hans’s propaganda about Dahlia wasn’t correct.”
Geoffrey felt a chill. He’d forgotten that. “Yes.”
Giacomo nodded. “We’ve intercepted some letters that have come to the house trying to continue that relationship. Franz wants to speak with you verbally, via magic. And he wants to meet with you, in-person. He says he can have a portal arranged for you and him to go somewhere neutral to talk.”
“Oh.” Geoffrey looked around the room, not sure what he should say. He didn’t want to make Giacomo mad. “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to meet with him,” Giacomo said. “I’ve written to him and requested the meeting pretending to be you. He’ll send the details and you two can set it up. Can I trust you to write the letters yourself from here?”
Could Giacomo trust Geoffrey? Geoffrey didn’t know. “Yeah. I can do that.”
“Good. Once the meeting is set up, I’ll tell you what you’re going to say. But you need to convince him that Dahlia isn’t in any danger, and that our family hasn’t taken over Kyaine.”
Their family hadn’t taken over Kyaine, so that part shouldn’t be hard. “Okay.”
“Thank you.” Giacomo sighed. “Can the rest of you leave for a minute?”
Javier hesitated in getting up, but Alfie pulled him to his feet, and the four of them headed for the door. “We’ll be just outside,” Javier said, softly.
“You too, Antoine,” said Giacomo, and the wizard nodded and went out with them.
Leaving Geoffrey and Giacomo alone.
Giacomo pushed out from the desk, went to sit at the table, head in his hands. He sighed. Geoffrey’s entire body was throbbing, and he could hear screaming in his head. He could feel how little clothes he was wearing.
Giacomo looked up. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “For what happened. It couldn’t seem staged. I had to make it seem real. And I think I made it real by doing that.”
“You did,” Geoffrey said, not looking at him. “It was real.”
Nodding, Giacomo kept his head down. “I know. I’m so sorry. I didn’t…the thing that happened outside. That wasn’t part of the plan. I told…I told the guards not to touch anyone unless you were in danger. They must have thought I meant only if you were going to die.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that was the plan?” Geoffrey asked, voice cracking. “If I’d known…”
“You’d have given it away. You’re not a very good actor, Geoffrey.”
“And you’re not a very good brother, Giacomo.” Why had he said that?
Giacomo visibly flinched at that, and Geoffrey felt bad. “I know.”
Geoffrey stood up. “I think you’re lying. You didn’t take it too far by accident. You’d already told everyone here how to greet me. You’d already told them what you wanted to do to me. Why did you do that? What did I do to you that made you…” Geoffrey squeezed his eyes shut. “That made you hate me so much?”
“I don’t hate you.”
“You’re fucking lying,” Geoffrey gasped. Everything hurt, and Giacomo lying to him hurt the most. “Did I…did I hurt you? When you were little? Did you not want me to touch you? Was I raping you all those years, Giacomo? I’m so sorry if I was. I swear I thought you liked it too.”
“I did,” Giacomo said. He stood now, came over to stand in front of Geoffrey. “I did. You never hurt me. I love you.” He had tears in his eyes.
“You don’t treat someone you love this way.”
“I have to be the king. I did what I did here so that everyone would know you were still being punished. I didn’t want people thinking I’d let you off easy and given you free reign of a harem.”
“Why not?” Geoffrey demanded. “You’re the fucking king, who cares what people say?”
“Kings can be replaced. Kings can be deposed. Kings’ families can be made into examples. I’m trying…”
“If you say you’re trying to protect me I’m going to slap you.” Geoffrey didn’t know if he meant that.
Giacomo didn’t say it. He was looking away. “I chose you,” he said. “I had to choose between having you live in pain and letting you die loving me and I chose to have you alive because there’s no point in ruling a country without you in it. I know what I did was evil. But I chose you and I’d choose you again. I know that makes me a bad person and I don’t care. I’ll choose you every time.”
Every single word of that hurt like a kick to the head. “We’re all bad people,” he muttered. “It runs in the family. Did you know Dad was a rapist?” He didn’t want to name Diego.
Giacomo looked up, and there was genuine surprise on his face. “No,” he said. “I didn’t know that. Who did he rape?”
“I don’t know.” Giacomo was going to know he was lying, but Geoffrey didn’t care. Giacomo hadn’t cared that Geoffrey had known he was lying earlier. “We’re all bad people. I don’t hate you.”
“No,” Geoffrey said, moving for the door. “I hate myself because I still love you. By your leave, my king.”
“You don’t have to call me that,” Giacomo whispered.
“It makes me feel weird not to,” said Geoffrey. “Can I go?”
“Of course.” Giacomo had his back to Geoffrey. “Can I come back and see you?”
“Of course,” Geoffrey said. “You’re the king and this is your house.”
He went out into the hallway, where the others were waiting. Antoine went right back inside, and, giving Javier a hug, so did Alfie. Geoffrey stood in front of Janus, Dalton and Javier. “Are you okay?” Janus asked him.
Geoffrey nodded. Then he shook his head. “Yeah. Do you guys want to go to the library? It’s quiet there.”
“Sure,” said Janus. “Let’s go.”
He tried to take Geoffrey’s hand, but Geoffrey didn’t take it, distracted. Just up the hall, Diego was still there, fixing some flowers in a vase. “Hold on,” Geoffrey said, slowly going over there. Diego definitely saw him out of the corner of his eyes, but he didn’t react. “Hi.”
“I thought you were going back upstairs.”
“I was. Someone fucked up these flowers so I’m fixing them.”
The flowers looked fine. “Okay,” Geoffrey said. He looked down the hall, then back at Diego. “We’re going to the library to sit for a while.”
“I don’t care.”
“Yeah, I know. Come with us. In case we want coffee or something.”
Diego messed with the flowers a bit, straightening one last one. “Fine,” he said, dropping his arms and heading towards the group. “But if you try to thank me I’ll pour the coffee on you.”
“Then you’ll have to draw me another bath.”
“I never un-drew the first one,” Diego muttered.
Geoffrey knew that. They all went to the library together and stayed, just sitting quietly until they received word that the king wasn’t in the house anymore.