Prince, 105

Everyone Being Given New Responsibilities at the Same Time Means Everyone Will Be Tired and Stressed at the Same Time

Ao3 Link

Franz was on his third cup of tea of this sitting and he had to go pee, but he made himself wait until he was done reading over the document in his hand, which was a summary of grain production on House ven Sancte’s farms.

Once he’d gotten the most important parts of it he set it down. “I’ll be right back,” he said to Boey and Silas, and he went to pee, grateful for the distraction. Once Gabrielle was crowned after Gerard’s funeral, he was going to officially be queen-consort, which added a whole lot of things into his life that hadn’t been there before. Managing all of House ven Sancte’s lands, for one.

Not to mention a lot of the other projects that Georgina had been working on so that Gerard hadn’t had to. She’d likely keep working on some of them. Nobody was pressing her on how many of her duties she’d like to maintain now that she was the queen dowager. No matter what she ultimately decided, at the very least she’d probably want someone to handle decisions about which merchants were allowed to trade with House ven Sancte’s proxies for at least the next little while.

The plan had been for her to start teaching him about all of this gradually over the next few years, so that Franz could easily slip into the role when it became necessary. Went to show the value of making plans.

Franz peed and cleaned his hands and left the privy, pausing at how much paper was on the table. But he had to do it, so he sat back down. “The funeral,” he said. It was also the queen-consort’s job to arrange events.

“It’s under control,” Boey promised. “Everything’s fine.”

“Okay.” He picked up a ledger and opened it. “How the fuck does anyone do this?”

“They normally have more than a week,” Silas pointed out. “To learn about everything in the world.”

Franz nodded. “Thank God we all have people to remember most of it for us.” This wasn’t even everything, it was just a selection of important things.

Franz had also inherited most of Georgina’s personal staff, who fortunately would handle most of this day to day, just like people had already handled the details of his household and lands for him. But he wanted to know the important stuff himself. He never wanted to be one of those nobles who had absolutely no idea what kind of food was grown on farms he owned, though now that he suddenly owned so fucking many of them he was content to know whether it was meat or vegetables.

“Don’t remind me,” Silas muttered.

“How is your new staff working out?” Franz said, deciding to remind him.

“They don’t actually work for me, they work for you.”

Franz had a half dozen scribes now. “Yeah, but they also kind of work for you.”

“You can call me head scribe all you want, they’re never going to take that seriously.”

“I don’t think anyone should take it seriously when they call me the king either,” Franz pointed out. “But they do, and you know why? Because someone important called me that.”

“That’s different.”

“They’ll take you seriously,” Boey promised him. “They’ll make you prove yourself, but they’ll take you seriously. Just listen to them when you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t let them get away with shit when it’s important. You’ll be okay.”

“I guess,” said Silas. “At least I’m not running a whole castle and a fifth of all the land in Dolovai, for fuck’s sake.”

“Yeah, this is another argument for importing the companion system to Dolovai,” Boey agreed. “Terrible as this is, at least you have someone built in who can manage most of it for you.”

Franz smiled at him. “You shouldn’t have to manage it for me.”

“But I’ve known I was going to for a long time. Don’t worry about it.”

“What about Hector’s lands?” Franz asked. “Are you managing those too?”

“No, his father is going to do that, at least for now,” Boey said. “He’s with Hector now.”

Franz blinked. He’d forgotten that Helena’s husband Paul was in town. He’d come for the wedding, of course. “Right. Okay. You know if you…”

“I know, and thank you. But I also need to be with you and Hector knows that.”

And Franz appreciated that. “Thank you.”

The door opened and Frederick came in. “Hey, there you are,” said Franz, as Dragon got up from under the table and went over to get a pet on the head.

“Hi.” Frederick sounded tired as hell. He was wearing the same clothes he’d had on yesterday. He petted Dragon, but only twice. “Sorry, I’m going to take a nap.”

“Were you out all night?” Franz asked him.

“Not all night,” Frederick muttered. “I was in the castle for the first half.”

“What have you been doing?” Franz asked. “I’ve barely seen you.” And Ronaldo had told Franz that Frederick had missed his lessons.

“Spy stuff. Sorry.” Frederick yawned. “I’m not trying to be evasive. I’m just tired. Can we talk about it later? I just need to nap for an hour or something.”

“You should nap for longer than that,” Silas said.

Frederick nodded to show he wasn’t listening, and he went to their bedroom. Franz was suddenly glad he’d opted to do this in their rooms instead of his. Dragon whinged. “Is he okay?” It wasn’t a surprise that Frederick was working nights; he was doing his best to take over Helena’s spy network. He hadn’t told Franz that, it was just obvious.

“He’s barely slept,” Silas said, looking at his scroll. “He says he’ll be okay in a few days. When I tell him to take breaks he will, for twenty minutes. But then he leaves for eighteen hours.”

“Okay,” said Franz, standing. “I’m going to talk to him.”

Silas nodded. “Thank you,” he muttered.

Franz went into Frederick’s room without knocking. The curtains were drawn and Frederick was already in bed. “Frederick?”

“Franz, I’m too tired,” Frederick said quietly.

“I know.” Franz sat on the side of the bed. “You’re working too hard, Frederick. Take the rest of today off.”

“I can’t.”

“Okay, but I’m actually the king and you have to do what I say.”

Frederick rolled over. “That didn’t work on me when you were a prince and it doesn’t work on me now.”

Franz sighed, putting his hand on Frederick’s shoulder. “I know what you’re doing is important, Frederick. But I don’t want you working yourself to death over it. Helena’s spies will still be there tomorrow.”

“No, they won’t, Franz.” Frederick rolled back over and he sat up. “A spy network isn’t a group of people who sit around in a room together when they’re not spying. It’s hundreds of people who don’t know each other and most of them don’t know they’re spies. They communicate in letters and codes and secret messages and as soon as one of those doesn’t get answered, the chance that you’ll get another one gets smaller. Helena didn’t keep any records or books or anything that I can read to tell me where all her people are and what they’re all working on, so I have to figure it out from scratch and I have to do it before they all disappear.”

“Okay. But I would rather lose a few spies than lose you, Frederick.”

Frederick nodded. “I love you. I love you for that, Franz. I know you love me and that means so much to me, but I have to do this. I’m sad that the king died and I’m really sad about your uncle Hans. But Franz, I’m scared that Helena’s gone. Do you know how much she did for Dolovai?”

“A lot.”

“More than a lot. You don’t know, and that’s not an insult or a criticism. Nobody knows how much a spymaster does, that’s how we work. That’s how we’re supposed to work.” Frederick’s voice was cracking. “Someone has to be able to tell you everything that’s happening in your kingdom, or else you can’t run it, Franz. And right now Dolovai doesn’t have anyone who can do that. It just has me and I’m tired so please let me have a nap.”

It sounded like he was about to cry so Franz hugged him, and probably that was what made Frederick cry, his breath hitching as sobs took him over. He held Franz’s shirt and cried into it, and Franz couldn’t do anything but rock him back and forth and whisper while he did it. “It’s okay,” he promised. “It’ll be okay.”

It was easily ten minutes before Frederick stopped crying, and another few after that before he was able to sit up again, wiping at his face. “Sorry,” he whispered.

“Stop apologizing to me,” Franz pleaded. “Frederick, you’ve never done anything but make me proud.”

“You’ve never done anything but make me proud either. You’re going to be such a good king, Franz.”

The tears that Franz had already had in his eyes got a little worse, and he wiped them away. “Thank you. And I know you’ll help me be better. I also know that if you lose a handful of spies because you ate supper and went to sleep, they weren’t worth having around anyway. So please take care of yourself for me, okay?”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Yes, it is,” Franz said, voice stern now. “I know you’re right that Dolovai needs a functioning spy network, especially now. But it also needs a spymaster who’s gotten more than an hour of sleep in the last day. All that being awake is going to turn that big brain of yours into eggs and then what are you going to do with all those codes and secret messages? Hide them in your shirt like Donny?”

“He always thinks we won’t look there,” Frederick muttered. “It’ll get better in a week or two, I promise.”

“It’s going to get better now,” Franz ordered. “Frederick, I know I can’t make you go back to spending most of your time with me and that’s fine, it really is. But please don’t disappear on me? I miss you.”

Frederick’s swallow filled the room. “I miss you too,” he whispered, a quaver. “Once I get everything sorted out I can delegate stuff. I’ll be home more.”

“That’s all I ask. Rest sometimes.”

“Okay. I will. But you too, please? I can’t sit and rest if I know everyone else is working all the time.”

Franz nodded. “I will. When you wake up we’ll all take a few hours off together, okay?”

“Okay. I’d like that. I’m really sorry for worrying you.”

“It’s okay.” Franz kissed his head. “You were helping. I love you.”

“I love you too. Can you ask Silas to come in? I need to apologize to him too.”

Franz nodded, and he gave Frederick another kiss. “I’ll see you when you wake up. And have a bath. You smell bad.”

“Sorry, some of the places I went last night were gross.”

Franz snorted. “We had the puberty talk, Frederick. You smell bad because you haven’t had a bath.”

“Well, whatever. The gross places didn’t help.”

Franz laughed, and he went back out into the room. “He’d like to talk to you,” he told Silas, who immediately got up and went into the bedroom with a muttered word of thanks.

Boey looked at Franz as he sat down at the table. “Is he okay?”

Franz nodded. “He works too much, which is a bad habit he picked up from me. Someone’s made him think that the sun won’t rise tomorrow if he doesn’t do five times as much work as everyone else to make sure it does.”

Boey took Franz’s hand. “You didn’t do that. He’s always been an overachiever.”

“I encouraged it in him,” Franz whispered. Dragon came over and put his head in Franz’s lap.

“Of course you did. You encouraged him to do the things he was good at and that made him happy. He’s still doing those things, he’s just doing too much of them. We’ll set him right.”

Franz deflated a little, looking at Boey. “I don’t know how you always do that,” he said. “You’re always so calm and calming.”

“Literally the reason you have a companion,” Boey told him. “So you don’t get stuck in your own head. Let’s take a break.”

“No.” Franz picked up the ledger again. “I promised Frederick we could all take time off together when he wakes up. Silas won’t let him sleep more than a few hours so that he can actually sleep properly tonight. We’ll all have the evening off together.”

“Okay.” Boey took the ledger from Franz. “But please don’t try to pretend that you understand groundwater rights. Read this outline for a trade agreement with Enjon instead. It’s more your speed.”

“Does it say I’m going to marry my kid to their king’s?”

“Okay, you’re also going to read this summary of what Enjon’s government is like.”

Franz knew what Enjon’s government was like, but he took it anyway. “Since everyone’s getting promotions, we should put Donny in charge of something. Does Dolovai have a minister of dragons?”

“No, but legitimately we probably should, since it turns out that there’s, you know, an entire sentient species with its own culture living inside our borders.”

“And we of all people should probably usher in House ven Sancte’s era of not being racist. Well if we’re going to recognize dragons as Dolovin citizens, we have to recognize orcs and goblins too,” Franz muttered. “We can’t only take the hot species.”

“So you’re not thinking Gavin for minister of nonhumans, then.”

“Shouldn’t be a human. Grey Rain can do it.” He’d nominate Dragon, but he didn’t have the fashion sense for politics. Though to be fair, neither did Grey Rain.

“I thought we didn’t just want to take the hot species.”

“It’s not racist if it’s based on how much my nephew wants to fuck them,” Franz decided. “We’ll let Frederick give a second opinion whenever he’s up for it.”

Boey shook his head but didn’t disagree, and someone had once told Franz that he was the king, so he was pretty sure that meant he was going to get everything he wanted.

All he wanted right now was for all of them to be able to relax and spend time together without feeling bad about it, and even that felt like a lot to ask for.

Maybe he’d fix racism and learn about groundwater rights tomorrow. Once he was a little more rested.

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