OKAY SORRY IT'S 6AM AND I HAVEN'T WORKED IN THE KRADAM YET! I'LL WRITE AND POST PART 2/2 TOMORROW.
They've only been riding for a few minutes when the dogs sprint ahead, barking like crazy, and god, Adam hates hunting but it's impossible not to smile at the way the prince perks up in delight.
“Gentlemen,” Kristopher says, turning around in his saddle to grin at his entourage of noblemen. “Hope your tummies are a-rumblin', because tonight, we dine on veal.”
"Boo-yah!” whoops Lord Giraud, holding his short-brimmed hat in place as his horse rears up momentarily, and then looks disappointed when the others don't join in. “What, no noise at all?” he asks, and turns to Adam. “Seriously, Lambert, ain't you ever gonna blow that thing?”
Adam rolls his eyes, because it well never be ironic enough that out of all of them, *he's* the one who ended up being the designated horn-blower. “I'll blow when it's time to blow,” he says pointedly, and allows himself another half-smile when Kristopher catches his eye, his expression strange and unreadable.
And then suddenly Kristopher's face breaks into a grin again and the son of a bitch spurs his horse like he's trying to win the Royal Friggin' Derby – which, oh wait, he's already done – twice – and Adam has no choice but to dig his heels in and follow, before the prince disappears out of sight. This time the others do make some noise, and the air is filled with whoops and cheers as their horses leap forward, dodging trees and jumping ditches, and Adam can't help the laugh that escapes him when he feels that rush of wind in his face. Hunting might not be his favorite sport, but damn if he doesn't enjoy the ride while it lasts.
The symphony of mad barks is coming from a small green clearing, and Adam slows his steed down to a trot when he sees that the prince has halted, and then to a complete stop.
"Whoa, there,” Kristopher is saying, jumping from his mare and landing on the grass with a soft thump. The hounds are still in a frenzy, having formed a tight packed circle around a hollow log and looking like they'd like nothing more than to tear it to shreds to get to their target inside. Kristopher pays them no attention though, just treads between them as if they're not really there, his mere presence enough to make a few of them sit on their haunches and wag their tails earnestly, earning them an absent pat on the head. Great. The heir to the throne is about to approach their terrified and cornered game all alone and possibly get himself killed, if whatever is hiding in there decides to charge.
“Your Highness, maybe you shouldn't do that alo--” Adam starts, but it's too late – Kristopher is already crouching down and peering inside the log.
"Huh,” Kristopher says after a moment. And doesn't seem to be choking on his own blood yet, so Adam breathes a small sigh of relief and seriously, one day that boy is going to give them all a heart attack.
Adam dismounts along with Lords Desai and Sarver, bringing his rifle, just in case, although he keeps himself a safe distance away from the dogs. For now. He raises an eyebrow. “'Huh', my Lord?” he questions.
Kristopher tilts his head. “There's a –” The prince pauses, looking befuddled, which is all kinds of adorable, and then reaches forward and murmurs, “Come here, little guy. Who are you?”
This time it's Sarver who tries stopping him, but to no avail – the prince is on all fours, all but wiggling his royal – well – and trying to coax what was supposed to be their dinner outside its hiding place with all these soothing and inviting little noises.
Finally, a small black nose peaks from inside the log, sniffing Kristopher's hand, and takes a tentative step forward.
Suddenly Adam smells something foul in the air. A quick glance around proves that he isn't the only one smelling it. Oh, no. Oh, *hell* no.
Lord Giraud scrunches his face from up on his horse. “Lambert, did you just f--”
Adam gives him the finger automatically, as Lord Desai takes a step forward and couches next to Kristopher. “Aw, look at that!” he coos.
Kristopher offers his hand, and waits patiently until the creature, which from where Adam is standing smells like it's spent the last five days rolling in manure, climbs into his arms, and then curls up against his chest. His bright red very expensively-coated chest. “Gosh,” the prince says with wonder.
"Can we keep him?” Desai asks, wiggling two fingers at the thing's face with enthusiasm, and Adam thinks that there is no way the nobility will ever allow a skunk to wander the halls of the castle and there is no way Adam will consent to spending any time at all with a creature that constantly smells of flatulence and there is no freaking way having a freaking skunk as a royal pet would ever fly with the king – except that this is Prince Kristopher, and Prince Kristopher never actually gets no for an answer.
Kristopher looks down at the skunk, strokes its tail tenderly, and then says, to Adam's growing horror: “Sure.”
"Awesome!” Desai proclaims, grinning. “We can name him Wolfgang.”
It's one thing when it's just letting the skunk ride and watch the view from their carriage driver's bench, or tossing him scraps of food now and then, or or letting the children of the Court play with him during their late morning outings.
It's even only one thing when it's setting a place at the table in the Great Hall – silverware and all – and allowing the skunk to dine with nobility. By the time it reaches the point of seating him on a personalized embroidered cushion, everyone has already grown to fondly treating the whole affair as a prolonged joke, playing along with whatever Prince Kristopher and Lord Desai put them up to, because it was Jolly and Gay and Unique and All In Good Fun, and it's not like you can choose not to cooperate with the prince anyway.
Now, though – now, when Adam watches Kristopher blow off yet another training session with him in favor of a Gay and Jolly game of cards with Wolfgang and Jester freaking Slezak, Adam is on the cusp of what could tactfully be called losing his parent-copulating temper.
It's not just cards. No, it seems that Wolfgang has an even busier schedule than the prince these days – breakfast with Lord MacIntyre, church with Lord Gokey, light harpsichord entertainment with Lord Giraud, cards with Jester Slezak, of course, riding with Lord Sarver, and during all of this, chaperoned dotingly by either Lord Desai or the prince himself.
And Adam likes animals, he truly does – he appreciates nature's wild fierceness, he owns entire herds of livestock himself, and dogs and birds and sheep and horses; he enjoys playing with animals, and okay, occasionally eating them and wearing their skin, but mostly – Adam and animals get along really well. So it's actually kind of hard to pinpoint what exactly it is about Wolfgang that rubs him the wrong way. Except for the fact that, oh yeah, he's getting the full royal treatment, he is completely monopolizing the prince's time, he leaves disturbing odors all around their private chambers and the hallways and somehow Adam's hair, and oh, god, those horrible flatulence jokes circulating around the castle, they're getting ridiculous.
Whatever. It's actually a good thing, in a way. Because it's getting near the end of summer, and sure, Adam's had a great time hanging out at the Court over the past few months – he'd even thought he and the prince had gotten rather close – but he has his own estate to return to, and affairs to take care of before the new year, and the fact that Kristopher feels confident enough in his training that he allows himself to cancel practice sessions indicates that it really is time for Adam to leave.
He's in his chambers packing his trunk when a servant summons him to the Great Hall. Adam arrives just in time to see half the Court, including all of Kristopher's hunting entourage, forming a small half-circle around the prince, who is holding a sword above his head. For brief moment Adam finds himself guiltily hoping that Kristopher will finally do the skunk in, but immediately pushes the thought out of his mind.
Instead of a slaughter, Kristopher lowers his sword gracefully to lightly touch each of the skunk's shoulders, and gravely intones: “I hereby dub thee Sir Wolfgang the Skanky.”
"Hurrah!” crows Desai. The crowd erupts into cheers.
Adam finishes packing that night.
He's adjusting his horse's saddle the next morning when he hears a familiar voice behind him. “Lord Lambert.”
Adam spins around. Kristopher is leaning against the stable door, hands tucked casually into his belt, and a pair of really good looking leather boots giving him another inch of height. A few light brown wisps of hair have become undone from their knot. Adam kind of wants to smooth them behind his ear. “Your Highness,” Adam greets him.
"Going somewhere?” Kristopher asks, and Adam searches his face to find if there's anything else behind the question, if the prince wants him to stay, if the prince is maybe disappointed because he wanted them to train today. But Kristopher just looks... honestly curious.
"Back home,” Adam says shortly, readjusting one of the stirrup straps. He'd already bid the king goodbye last night; that was enough notice.
"Really?” Kristopher lifts his eyebrows slightly. “I thought you were sticking around a few more weeks. We're doing the Wolfgang thing today, thought you'd join.”
Oh, wonderful. Another idolize-the-skunk group activity. “What Wolfgang thing?” he asks, and adds dryly, “Are we bestowing him with lands now, in addition to his title?”
Kristopher's brow furrows, and for a second Adam considers that perhaps his bitterness should be confined to his inside voice instead of his out loud voice – but a moment later, to Adam's surprise, Kristopher bursts into warm, loud laughter. “This is awesome,” he says, clearly delighted. “I can't believe you're actually jealous of Wolfgang.”
Adam lifts a single eyebrow, one hundred percent cool, because it's better than sputtering with disbelief. “I have no idea what you're talking about.”
"Oookay,” Kristopher says, stretching out the oooo with this kind of patronizing glee. Great.
"Whatever.” Adam rolls his eyes, turning back to his saddle packs.
Kristopher laughs again. “No, it's cute! Come on.” He takes a step forward, his shoulders shaking a little with mirth over what is apparently Adam's utterly hysterical imaginary predicament. “So suddenly you're not the only jolly and gay and unique gorgeous black-haired center of attention in Court. That's gotta be a novel experience for you. I get that.”
Adam's eyes widen as he realizes that the prince is actually enjoying this. “Shut up,” he says, and then, “Wait, what?”
Kristopher's eyes twinkle. “What what?”
"Did you just call me gorgeous?”
Kristopher scratches his head and pretends to think about it. “I think I just called Wolfgang gorgeous,” he reflects, and then gives Adam a pointed full body once-over. “Although I guess you're not too bad yourself.”
And holy motherloving virgin watching from above, the longer Kristopher keeps giving him that smoldering look, the less inclined Adam is to go anywhere except possibly down on his knees, and damn it, when did his resolve to leave turn into a desire to do his lord and liege against the stable wall?
A small voice in his head can't resist noting that the a haystack would be more comfortable yet, even as Kristopher takes another step closer, and now they're pretty much face to face. “Your Highness--” Adam starts, almost as a warning, because Kristopher is beginning to lean in closer, and Adam want to make sure they're on the same page here.
"Yes,” Kristopher murmurs, licking his lips, “So you'll be joining the hunt, then?”
It's enough to make Adam blink, and kind of want to punch the prince a little for being such a tease. “The what now?”
"We're going on another hunt, and releasing Wolfgang back into the wild,” Kristopher says, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. “It's a goodbye shindig thing. Gonna be awesome.”
"Oh,” Adam says, and feels his eyes widen even as a small, annoying burden lifts off his chest, and he really does think he will not be going anywhere until the end of summer and maybe even the end of fall. “I totally knew that.”
"Mm-hmm,” the prince says knowingly, and then just leans in and kisses Adam, his lips warm and sweet, one hand sliding into Adam's hair, tugging it a little and pulling him in closer. And Adam breathes in and savors the moment because it's over too soon, Kristopher pulling away and leaving this aching, gaping void in a place that used to be just air.
Kristopher clears his throat, and Adam is more than a little gratified to find that he's a little out of breath. “Good, then,” Kristopher says, and he smiles at Adam, and Adam can't help but smile back, and it's all very schoolboy and goofy and a little ridiculous. Kristopher rakes a hand through his own hair, taking a step back. “We set off in an hour,” he says, and adds, “Oh, and bring your horn.”
Screw it, Adam thinks – there's a lot he can do in an hour. So he grabs Kristopher's hand before he goes, and a moment later Kristopher's back is pressed against the stable wall and Kristopher is kissing him back with an amount of enthusiasm proves that the prince truly does strive for excellence in every single field. Adam trails his lips along Kristopher's jaw and down his throat, kissing and biting and enjoying the noises that the prince is making, and murmurs against his skin, “You'll tell me when it's time?”
He can feel Kristopher's chest rumble with laughter beneath his hands. “Adam,” Kristopher says in a low, easy voice, “I think it's time to blow.”