Princely Love

by Flaulus

Chapter 1

The hill was a little too steep, the music in Jim's earpieces a little too loud, and the rush of speed a little too heady. He was a little too relaxed, a little late in spotting the pothole, and far too slow to react. The front wheel dropped into the pothole and hit the far edge. Jim found himself being catapulted over the handlebars hitting the ground and sliding forwards.

Jim was dazed from where his head hit the ground, feeling sick and giddy as he tried to stand. He felt the arm grabbing him under the shoulders before he realized anyone was standing beside him. With the stranger's help, he hobbled over to the bank which lined the lane and sat down.

He was not badly hurt, more shocked at how a simple bike ride had gone wrong. As he recovered, he saw his helper was the boy who had stepped out of his way a few seconds before.

"Thanks." Jim said.

"OK! I'm wondering if I should call an ambulance," the stranger, about the same as Jim's fifteen years, replied. "Can you remember your name?

"Jim Poulson. I get the idea. It's 2022, King Constantine is on the throne, he has two sons Bartholomew and Conrad. How's that for recent memories? Hey! You look like Prince Conrad. What's your name?"

"Believe it or not, it's Conrad. You'd be surprised the problems it causes."

"I bet. Especially when he gets involved in knife fights at a rave. It was all over Facebook and I bet you got some stick."

"A bit. Are you well enough to walk? I'll come with you and carry your bike; the wheel's too buckled to wheel along."

"You sure? Don't you have to be somewhere?"

"No. I was a bit bored so thanks for the entertainment."

"No problem. I live at Poulson's Farm, so it's not far."

They walked in silence, Conrad relieved most of the bleeding had stopped, but aware of their bloodstained clothes. They found Jim's father in his office, a shed with a desk and a couple of chairs but piled with things that were needed but did not have a proper home. A First Aid kit was one of those items.

Gerald, Jim's father, quickly cleaned Jim's scrapes and applied plasters and bandages before turning to Conrad.

"Thanks for your help. Jim'll take you to the kitchen, and you can grab a snack, then he can find you a clean T-shirt. If you go to his bedroom, Jim is gay."

"Oh! OK!" Conrad said puzzled.

"Don't worry." Jim chuckled, "Dad accepts I'm gay, and I can bring boys back if I want. He doesn't like it so gets a bit confused and old-fashioned. If I took a girl up there to find her a top, she'd know to be careful changing. Now you know, you can be just as careful."

"That's a weird bit of sex equality, but I'm not worried. At school, gays get bullied unless they're sport jocks, then everyone pretends they aren't."

"Didn't the authorities stop the bullying?" Gerald asked.

"When I started there, but something's different now. They don't try so much, and I don't like the school any more because some of the guys are a pain."

"When you're ready, I'll run you home. Where do you live?" Gerald said.

"I'm staying with Dad's friends. I can walk, it's only back up the hill and a little beyond."

They chatted a bit more, then the two boys headed for Jim's bedroom where Jim peeled off his shirt and jeans, leaving him standing in boxers. Aware of a sudden tension, Conrad peeled off his shirt before standing waiting. Both were a little scared to make the next move, waiting for the other. Suddenly, the blood seemed to drain from Jim's head, and he stumbled, instinctively grabbing Conrad. Just as suddenly, he recovered, but was reluctant to let go of Conrad.

"Sorry," he said, "I guess I'm still a bit woozy. A pity though, you feel nice."

"Let's get you on the bed." Conrad said quietly, "I'll go and let you sleep, but next time, you can take those boxers off as well."

Jim was content to smile happily, already half asleep.

The walk back was a chance to calm Conrad's seething mind. Jim was the first person, boy or girl, who attracted him so much. As always, Mr. Dawlish was there to greet him when he reached Blackmoor House.

"Did you have a pleasant walk, Your Highness?" Mr. Dawlish asked.

"Interesting." Conrad replied before relating events.

"So you hid who you are. Is that wise?"

"I don't know. I've never been attracted to a boy before. Well, I have, but it was all weird."

"You've never been attracted before, or you've never allowed the feelings to surface before?"

"Oh, God! I can't be gay on top of everything else. I guess I hoped fooling around was something guys did in boarding schools."

"I don't pretend to understand teenage needs, but it can happen as you describe." Mr. Dawlish said, "But I do know you need to find out who you are. From what I've seen over the years, a pretty girl catches your eye easily enough and that may be enough to think about the succession. Somehow, I don't think a passing interest in another boy will be a problem.

"Supposing it's not a passing interest? I like Jim, I don't know."

"Let's deal with a more urgent problem. I'll phone Mr. Poulson. Don't worry, I do know about discretion."

Mr. Dawlish led the way to his study and dialled. Conrad only heard his side of the conversation.

"Hello, it's Mr. Dawlish here. It's about Conrad, the lad who's staying with me. I'm having trouble understanding teenage needs, and I think he's found a friend in your son. It's a little awkward because he didn't say who he truly is, so I was wondering if you and Jim could visit tomorrow. My children had bikes when they were young, and I think they're festering away in a shed somewhere. Would it be wrong to suggest Jim and Conrad borrow a couple? Please understand, I'm worried about Conrad feeling trapped by a couple of old codgers who don't go out much."

"Thank you. About ten o'clock then."

Conrad looked at Mr. Dawlish as he hung up.

"Jim will be doing you a favour if he borrows a bike and takes me out." Conrad said.

"Exactly. They could be too proud to accept a bike straight out, even if it is on loan. This way, there're mutual benefits. I can talk to Mr. Poulson, and you can talk to Jim."

"Everyone else thinks I should be riding horses in the country, not bikes." Conrad giggled.

"And it's part of the pressure to conform, isn't it. I watched you the other day. You were content to talk to Adam and help him prune the vines. Convention says you should have been sitting on the veranda with me, discussing how lazy workers are."

Conrad grinned, "That's how political discussions go at school. Dad was right. You do understand a lot, so I'm glad I came, but shouldn't I behave like a prince though?"

"Like your brother, you mean? He would have laughed and walked on leaving Jim behind. You behaved like a good person, that's a good start to being a good prince."

"Thanks. I'm going to my room now, and it's not because I'm bored. I want to think things over."

A little later, Conrad's father, King Constantine rang allowing Mr. Dawlish to describe the day's events."

"What do you know of the Poulsons?" The king asked, "Security says he does well at school and hasn't been in trouble with the law. What sort of people are they?"

"Jim is a quiet boy. Not sporty but a thinker. He helps a couple of pensioners in the village and plays in the pub pool team. He's gay, and I think a couple of locals give him grief, but the pool team just accept him. The big problem is, he's made Conrad think about his sexuality."

"It's not a problem. Discretion is. Would we have another problem?"

"Possibly, but I'm only repeating gossip. Gerald Poulson was a stockbroker, but he burned out. He took over his father's farm, invested most of his savings in making it a going concern again and is happy. His son seems to like the life as well, at least, until he goes to University. Mrs Poulson left her husband when he lost interest in the city, and the round of socializing that went with it. The idea her husband and son could be friends with an A-lister … no, I suppose Conrad could be considered a triple A-lister, will cause problems."

"Just to be clear. Is this Poulson boy going to be more suitable company for Conrad than his so-called friends at school?"

" I've mentioned my concerns but on the whole, yes."

"Good enough. Knowing teenagers, they'll fall out tomorrow and never speak to each other again, or it'll be the greatest love affair since Romeo and Juliet, or should I say Julian? Let's see how thing s develop. "

T he following morning, Gerald Poulson was having breakfast with his son.

"Conrad's not the prince, is he? He wouldn't want to hang out with someone like me." Jim asked.

"I'm more concerned about whether you want to hang out with him. I'd like Mr. Dawlish to confirm it, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't."

"I like him. He wasn't up-his-arse about anything, and I think he's gay. A prince isn't allowed to be, is he."

"If you don't mind me discussing your sex life with Mr. Dawlish, we shall see."

"It's cool; a bit weird but cool."

When they arrived, Mr. Dawlish greeted them with " Conrad is examining the bikes. Just go through into the yard. Would you like a coffee, Mr. Poulson?"

"Thanks. I'd like that. You know, I've been meaning to do the tour of the winery. I like wine, so it seems daft not to have visited."

"Come back this evening, I'll show you around myself, and we'll have a proper tasting session. For now let me explain Conrad's position."

By now, they were seated in the library as Mr. Dawlish continued, "I'll not criticize Crown Prince Bartholomew, but no-one wants him on the throne. Prince Conrad becoming crown prince is more likely than we would normally want , but no-one knows how, when or if it will happen. I think Conrad knows his brother is self-destructing, so he's worried about hi m and his own future. Everyone assumes Brookdales is the top school in th e country and there couldn't possibly be a scandal. However, the bulk of the students are self-centred prigs who think the sun shines out of their arses. To be honest, when we were there, the king and I were amongst the worst, but somehow, we grew out of it. It was peer pressure of the worst kind that led Conrad to join his friends at that rave. He had the sense to see something was wrong and left. The newspapers picked up that he was there, so he was implicated in the knifing. The police know the truth, but of course, everyone else yelled cover up. His father is not sending him back to Brookdales, but that leaves the question, where should he go? The king knows your son is gay, so if he becomes friends with Conrad, then it will have his blessing."

"That's a lot to take in. When I arrived, I was hoping we had got the signals wrong and Conrad was not the prince." Gerald said.

"Yes, I know. As the king said, by now, they could be having an almighty row and will never speak to each other again. I don't wish to be rude, but your son could turn out to be as bad as the Brookdales lot, but Conrad's instinct says he not. Just understand, we're concerned for Conrad's well-being, and a good friend would be invaluable. "

The two men finished their coffee, and strolled to the yard to find the boys. They were guided by excited yells and shrieks to find both boys shirtless and soaked by the hose they were playing with. Apparently they should have been cleaning the bikes, but that had been forgotten. A youth of about nineteen saw the men first and hurried over. Before they could say anything the two boys saw them and ran to join them.

"Adam and Jim are playing pool tonight. May I go with them? I might even play with them." Conrad said.

"I'm sorry, sir. I did explain a pub bar isn't the right place for His Highness." Adam said.

"You're quite right, Adam. It is most unsuitable, but yes, you may go, but on one condition. Adam chaperones both you boys and you do as he says."

"Sir?" Adam queried.

"I asked you to keep an eye on them. They were having fun, but I saw how you stopped them chasing into the barn, and they listened to you. Now what's this about Conrad playing?"

"He says he plays snooker and billiards but that's on full sized tables. I'm not sure if he could adapt to bar pool tables. The thing is, we're low on numbers and Jake Daniels doesn't always bother to turn up."

"So you want to leave early to practice. I don't see why not. Tomorrow, he can help with the pruning again, so you catch up. Ask the pub to bill me, and I'll settle up when I get there."

"I can just run a tab until you arrive, sir." Adam said.

"Whatever. The three of you, have fun on me. If Conrad does play, we'll need it videoed for his father."

"Bloody Hell. Oh! I'm sorry, sir."

"Dad has that effect on people." Conrad laughed, "Can we arrange anything?"

"Maybe. It sure beats what's on my job description."

"We'll alter it when you get your reference on palace notepaper. Get along you three." Mr. Dawlish chuckled.

"Is a night in a pub a good idea?" Gerald asked when they were alone.

"The pub is going to have a busy night. Two pool teams and loads of security men trying to look like ordinary customers. Conrad looks happier than I've seen in a long time. Watch the media over the next few weeks. You'll see glimpses of a healthy, happy teenager, maybe doing things he shouldn't and challenging his parents."

"Playing pool in a pub instead of billiards in a stately home."

"Exactly. A bike instead of a horse. A close friendship with a commoner who doesn't deal in drugs. We'll even get the anti-hunt brigade on side. Your son is no fool and must know he's being used, but feel free to discuss it with him."

As the boys made their way to Conrad's bedroom, they had other things on their minds. Once inside, they again hesitated, uncertain what to do.

"I suppose we should get out of these wet things." Conrad said, "How do you feel today? Maybe we should lie down and let you rest a bit."

Jim nodded and dropped his jeans as Conrad followed suit. He hesitated before pushing his thumbs into his underwear to push them down. Again, Conrad quickly did the same. Briefly they appraised each other's bodies: trim, with developing muscles but with a youthful smoothness. They had an excuse to lay down, definitely closer than they needed, and still terrified they might be misreading the situation. Gingerly Jim rested his hand on Conrad who wriggled closer. Encouraged Jim allowed his hand to slide from Conrad's thigh to his groin and touch his growing manhood. Conrad bent his head and kissed Jim on the lips.

"I've never gone this far before." Conrad whispered, "I'm not sure what to do."

"A sixty-nine looks good because we're doing the same to each other, but maybe we should practice kissing a little."

Adam was also nervous as he stood in front of Mr. Dawlish, unaware Mr. Dawlish was equally nervous.

"This is none of my business, but I don't suppose you're gay or have any interest in that direction, have you."

"No, sir. I'm happy with my girlfriend. I'm not interested in the prince, if that's what you're thinking. Besides, he's underage."

"It's not what we're worried about. The boys seem to have taken a liking to you which is fine, Conrad's father and I are hoping that Jim is giving Conrad reasons to enjoy the quiet life. Does it bother you?"

"No. They're young, and it's sort of sweet."

"Good. If you know any couples who could talk to them, it would be most useful, but please chaperone everything. Feel free to reprimand them if their behaviour becomes, er, excessive, in any direction."

"I'm not sure I know how to do this chaperone thing. I've never heard of anything like it."

"Just steer them away from trouble. I don't know how to advise you because it's new to me as well, but if the situation warranted it, you could drag them home. If it's harmless mischief, leave them and have a drink with your friends."

The two boys were holding hands when they arrived. Jim tried to let go, but Conrad held him tight.

"OK, lover-boys, not in public." Adam said, before turning to Mr. Dawlish who nodded, "Prince Conrad is going to attract enough attention tonight, and we want to play pool. You need to stay cool. OK?"

Conrad reluctantly let go of Jim's hand as he nodded.

"If we go now, we could grab a meal, if that's all right. It'll be quiet mid-afternoon after the kitchen closes and then start building up as the guys try to get some practice in, but sometimes, no-one arrives until the match is due to start. So is it OK if we grab a meal on your tab?"

"Don't ask, just do. Just to be clear, you're on overtime until the boys are tucked up in bed." Mr. Dawlish replied.

The day went much as Adam had said. Other diners stared while they ate, but were too polite to interrupt though Adam was sure one or two had taken pictures on their phones. It proved to be quiet in the late afternoon, and the boys just played. Adam enjoyed being treated like a responsible adult, Jim enjoyed Conrad's company, and Conrad just enjoyed the novelty of it all. The only person to be alarmed was Clara, the landlady when a royal bodyguard showed her his credentials.

"I assume you recognize the prince." he said.

"It really is him? It didn't seem possible, and he's such a nice kid. He's not like what they say in the papers." Clara exclaimed.

"His Majesty will be delighted to hear it." The bodyguard chuckled, "Would you share your CCTV feed to the palace. The king is a parent, and he does worry about his sons, but he can't come and watch in person."

"Yes, but you need the Internet cloud thingy. I've never got around to having it set up."

"Don't worry about that. As long as you agree, we'll set it up, and as recompense, you'll have the Royal Protection Service providing security cover."

"OK! Do whatever you need. Is there anything else?"

"There'll be a few more in a car parked in your car-park, and I'll be in here. Would you make sure my wine is well-watered."

Only Conrad recognized the bodyguard for what he was, and the two teams thought he was supporting the other side. Eric Daniels arrived first, looking annoyed, but he smiled as he saw Adam.

"We'll have to scratch. We can't make a team tonight."

He sat at the bar watching Jim and Conrad play before asking, "What about the new kid? At least we'll have a game."

"Conrad, you're on the team." Adam called out, "Try not to give Eric a heart attack when he asks for your details."

"Why? What's the problem?" Eric asked.

"Have you heard the rumours about who's staying at Blackmoor House? His name is Conrad and who does he look like?"

"You're kidding." Eric gasped.

"Did I hear right?" Clara asked, "Prince Conrad is playing? Oh, my!"

"Forget the Prince. It's just Conrad. He's staying at Blackmoor House with the Dawlishes." Adam said, "Just play it down and treat him like Jim."

"It's not going to be easy." Clara said and Eric nodded.

"Try it this way. Let the Lazy Shepherd team spend the evening figuring it out. See if it distracts them and gives us an advantage."

Eric grinned; he understood sneaky tactics as he called out, "Conrad, can you come over for a minute, please? I need some details."

The evening proved chaotic but fun even if the home team lost by one game. Locals knew the rumours about who was staying with the Dawlishes and text messages spread the word. The visitors were less certain but could see the interest in Conrad. Only a few found out for certain while Jim and Conrad confused the others by looking after the visitors, clearing tables and acting as waiters. Conrad had learned from palace staff, so gave Jim tips. That Mr. Dawlish arrived and seemed at ease in a public bar helped confirm Conrad's identity but trying to be sure kept many conversations going until closing time.

King Constantine watched through the cameras, relieved. He was oddly proud Conrad won every one of his matches, he was relieved Conrad made himself so popular, and glad both he and Conrad had been vindicated. His staff had wanted pictures of Conrad riding, playing polo, and visiting youth clubs in highly organized visits, but there was one shot which should be worth far more, and it was already going viral. Conrad had been carrying a tray of drinks when he had been jostled by someone. It was an accident, but Conrad had not spilt a drop and had managed to smile and reassure the other customer. Someone had nicknamed him 'The Serving Prince', and it seemed the name would stick. The common touch, the right sort of unsuitable behaviour and Conrad had made himself popular.

King Constantine looked at a picture of his other son and sighed. Bartholomew was staggering out of a nightclub, drunk, with what looked like prostitutes on each arm. The following morning he scanned the papers, surprised to see both pictures and a feature comparing them. It finished with the sentence: It seems our next king will be unconventional, but Prince Conrad's eccentricities are far more interesting and far less depressing than his brother's.

King Constantine agreed.

Later, the press officer came to see him.

"I've drafted an apology for Prince Conrad to read out, Your Majesty." he said, "I have one for Prince Bartholomew, but he usually refuses. We could say it was a special night, a friend's birthday party, perhaps."

"Tear them up." King Constantine snapped, "Point out Prince Bartholomew is a grown man, does not live in the palace and does not always represent this family. So far as Prince Conrad is concerned, I'd like a statement saying he is determined to experience life from as many viewpoints as possible, and we are glad he can learn so well from his mistakes."

"Your Majesty, is that wise? Surely we can cover their behaviour up."

"I don't want to. I'm going to speak to the director of the children's hospital and ask if Prince Conrad can open the new ward instead of me. He can bring his friends along and cause chaos after the official ceremony."

The secretary left bewildered by her instructions. It was certain to end in disaster. Mr. Dawlish was sure too when he sent for the Jim and Conrad.

"His Majesty wants you to try your hand at an official duty. It's opening a new children's ward, but I think he's got the idea social media pictures of you visiting the children after will do more good than the official shoot."

"I'll miss you, but I guess it's only for a day." Jim said.

"You misunderstand. His Majesty wants both of you. Conrad, only you will be part of the official event, but he wants you to cause the same sort of mayhem you caused last night. The official photo shoots will help establish you as a serious, responsible young man, but social media footage of you letting your hair down with the kids will make you more popular."

"Of course I'll do it if that's what Dad wants, but I'm not forcing Jim." Conrad said.

"We never doubted it. What are your plans for today?"

"I thought you wanted us to help Adam catch up with his work." Conrad replied, "I don't mind this morning but this afternoon, I wondered if Jim and I could take a picnic down to the river."

"Yes of course. Adam can take the afternoon off because he needs to consider whether he wants to get more involved. Conrad, you might want to work with your shirt off. We've got some casual workers who are far less loyal to the estate. Sexy pictures of you working hard should circulate the Internet nicely."

"I didn't think royals liked publicity." Jim said, "You seem to be encouraging it, Mr. Dawlish."

"Never give an interview. Ignore the cameras and never pose. You can be as cold and as distant as you like, but never react. Those rules work when princes are out in highly managed situations, but it's impossible to control thousands of phone cameras putting stuff out on social media, so we'll create favourable situations and see what happens."

Jim and Conrad lay on a blanket behind a bush though they could still hear the rippling water. They were naked but content just to be together.

"I'm finding it a bit of a downer." Jim admitted, "The oldies seem to be pushing us together."

"Like here." Conrad agreed, "We were told where to find the blanket and hamper. What do we do?"

"Would you be disappointed if we put on shorts, pulled the blanket into the open and just had a swimming party?"

"I think it's sexy doing stuff together. Have you got any friends you can invite?"

"Jim picked up his phone, "Hi Craig. Conrad and I are having a picnic by the river. Do you want to come for a swim later?"

"Just go to Dawlish Winery and ask for directions. I'll warn them."

"No probs but just them. We don't want to push it." Jim said before turning to Conrad as he hung up, "Craig's bringing a couple more guys."

"I'll tell Mr. Dawlish." Conrad chuckled as he added, "He won't argue with me."

Jim and Conrad had time to eat and rest ready to swim before anyone arrived. Craig and their other friends arrived laden with bags guided by Adam.

As Adam turned to go, Jim asked, "Aren't you staying, Adam?"

"No. I won't intrude."

"Please stay if you want to." Conrad said, "Dad's involved you, so you're not intruding."

Jim smiled to himself as Conrad mentioned his father. Conrad was a prince so his father … The boys figured it out and reacted; slightly bemused at the company they were keeping and slightly in awe.

"Besides." Conrad added, "If you don't strip off, we'll chuck you in fully clothed."

"OK! I can stay for a while, but I've arranged to meet Sandra later."

"You don't want to meet her in wet clothes, you'd better get them off."

Both Jim and Conrad were interested as Adam happily complied. Craig and another guy were straight but willing to see how their bodies would develop over the next couple of years while the third visitor was unsure why he was so fascinated."

"Definitely eye candy for you two." Craig chuckled, before looking for Conrad's reaction.

"Definitely." Conrad replied, "It's like looking in a shop and seeing a fantastic pair or trainers. Do you want them or do you like the pair you've got because they feel so good?"

Jim got the idea, it's OK to look, but he and Conrad were a couple. The rest seemed to understand too.

"I forgot. There're drinks and snacks for us in the bags. He sure does look after you." Craig said.

"Being a prince has its advantages." Conrad said.

"How did you two get together? No offence, Jim but you just go to a local high school, and Conrad goes to the most expensive school in the country."

Jim described his bike accident and how they just seemed to hit it off.

"What did you mean by your dad involving Jim?" Craig asked.

"There are people on the towpath across the river. I bet one is a bodyguard and one or two others are trying to get a good photo of me. Just ignore them, but I guess swimming on a hot summer's day is the kind of wholesome activity a prince should enjoy."

"And swimming in the river with a bunch of nobodies is not quite proper." Jim said.

"You're learning." Conrad exclaimed, "Sorry, guys. Everything I do gets a public relations twist to it. It's been long enough since we've eaten. I'm going for a swim."

"Soon they were just a bunch of friends having fun. In other places, the river was too shallow for motorboats or anything too large, so they were at an ideal spot because currents had scoured the river bed to create a deep pool. Passers-by saw a group of lads having fun. A reporter hoped to find something scandalous and was disappointed while the bodyguard wished he could join them and cool off. He became concerned as one of the boys, Seb, swam to his side of the river to talk to someone, an elderly couple walking their dog. Curious, the others swam over just as Seb dived back into the river to join them.

"They're neighbours." Seb explained, "They always seem pleased if I stop and chat with them."

A pleasant young man also seemed ready to chat to the neighbours who were unaware they were being questioned by a royal bodyguard. They thought they were talking about the boy's antics, not how they knew one of them, but they returned home, pleased that so many nice people had been willing to chat.

As the boys tired, they sat on the bank chatting, unwilling to end the day, but it was getting cooler. They gathered their stuff heading back to the house. Like Adam, Craig wanted to see his girlfriend, and he smiled. Adele talked of all the celebrities she wanted to meet. He could not wait to tell her who he had been swimming with.

The following day, Jim and Conrad helped Mr. Poulson tending the plants, helping to load crates of produce onto a lorry on its way to market. To their surprise Seb arrived and also helped, joined them for lunch, and the cycle ride they had planned. Craig also arrived for the ride.

They talked about visiting an old castle, the next day.

"It won't be much fun for you, Conrad." Seb joked, "You live in one."

"Yeah, but mine's got windows." Conrad retorted.

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