Princely Love

by Flaulus

Chapter 4

The next day, Mr. Dawlish watched as his winery forecourt filled young teens. He was relieved to see a few parents, but they were uncertain and unsure what to do. As he hurried down to organize the chaos, he saw another car arrive. He recognized Seb but not the boy with an arm in a sling.

"Can you cope, Adam?" he asked, "I wasn't expecting this many."

"They'll be OK! It's not bad weather for September, so they'll be happy enough swimming. I've found a football and borrowed a volleyball set. They can play in Old Meadow. If it's OK, I'll let them pick some grapes and press them for grape juice."

"Whatever it takes." Mr. Dawlish said, "Well done."

Mr. Dawlish decided a tour of the winery, and a tasting session after would relax the adults. It started to work when a parent said, "I can't believe my son just calls him, Conrad. I'm sure it should be a sir or something."

"No, it's just Conrad unless he's on an official duty."

"That's right." Mr. Poulson interjected, "Jim waited with the staff until the formal part was over. Then they were just kids playing around."

"Trying to keep their hands off each other." Mr. Walker, Seb's father said, "Would they be so friendly if they weren't trying to corrupt boys?"

"Ah! It's Mr. Walker, isn't it? I heard Seb's come out. Tell me, why has he been friends with Jim for so long?"

"What do you mean by that?" Mr. Walker asked angrily.

"I don't mean anything by it." Mr. Dawlish replied, "It was just a question."

"I just want my son to be normal." Gerald, you must know how I feel."

" I'm proud of Jim. He faced up to who he is and nowadays, and he has to deal with comments like yours in the press. None of it stops him helping the neighbours out. D eep down, I do want him to be straight, but he sleeps with Conrad and at least they won't get pregnant."

"OK, but my son is straight so far, and I am worried about him mixing with gays, all the time," a m other said.

"OK!" Mr. Poulson said, "I've just said I'd like Jim to be straight. Is mixing with a lot of straight boys going to achieve it? Let's face it. After all this time at school, it hasn't worked."

" It did for my son." Mr. Walker said.

"Yes, but I've watched Seb while he's been visiting." Mr. Dawlish said, "As he's come to terms with his sexuality, he's become more confident. I'd say he's got the measure of Conrad. It was his idea, Jamie stays with his mother and him. H e organized his mother, me, and liaised with a secretary at the palace. He's quite impressive when he wants something done."

"You like him so much, you deal with him. I've remarried and got a baby son, so I'll concentrate on them. Seb's mother can collect them."

With that, he marched off towards his car.

"Sven was in tears when he talked to us." Mrs Harkness said, "We were a bit shocked, but I suppose we thought a little like that man. We still love Sven, he does seem happier, and it's the first time he's accepted an invitation to a party. Sven knows we need t ime to adapt, and I think you've all helped, even that horrible man because I'd hate to think like him any more ."

"And I'm still the one worrying about Craig taking his girlfriend into the bushes." His father said.

No-one was sure what to say, but it did seem the right moment for some more wine.

"Jamie seemed so quiet." Jim said as they snuggled up in bed that night.

"I know, and it worried me." Conrad replied, "I can guess though. How did he break his arm? I've seen a couple of press reports about him being involved in his Dad's fraud, but if his Dad does that to him? How much would all that screw you up or me?"

"Seb would cope. I can't believe his dad dumped him like that, and all Seb said was: 'I feel sorry for my step-brother'."

Apart from concern for Jamie, everything settled down. According to Seb, every time his father was mentioned Jamie seemed to go white and start trembling. The doctors said give him time and no-one argued. Everyone assumed it was about Jamie when Seb's mother visited Mr. Dawlish. Jim, Conrad and Mr. Poulson were asked to join them.

"Seb's father has applied for custody. He cites Jim and Conrad bullying him until he thinks he's gay, and Seb's mother is too weak to stop them." Mr. Dawlish said.

"That's complete nonsense." Gerald snapped angrily.

"Of course it is." Mr. Dawlish replied, "Seb stayed with Jamie, but we've got him on speaker on my mobile. I understand Seb mentioned Conrad having a Christmas party at the palace. Does his father see his prospects improving if he has custody, and his son is friendly with Conrad? The other possibility is, by mentioning Conrad, is Mrs Walker going to be under pressure to give in and avoid embarrassing Conrad?"

Just then, the landline rang, and Mr. Dawlish answered.

"Good evening, sir. I'm sorry to bother you, but I thought you should know."

There was a pause then Mr. Dawlish said, "Seb's on my mobile but the rest are here in person."

Mr. Dawlish pushed a button and hung up, muttering, "I hope I've got this right."

"Well, I'm still on the line. Can you all hear me?"

"Loud and clear, Dad. Hi." Conrad said.

"Good evening, Mrs Walker. We'll find you a good Family Court lawyer, so don't worry. Luckily I can phone mine when I like. They can't do much without getting instructions from you, but they do assure me, cases like this are dealt with in complete secrecy. In practice, if Sebastian insists on staying with you, they'd have to put him in a secure home to stop him, and they won't do that without good cause. I agree Mr. Walker probably sees a profit somewhere, but unless Sebastian breaks down and says his claims are all true, I don't see a problem."

"It's Seb. Thank you, sir." Seb said, "I'm sorry to be a nuisance."

"You're not the nuisance; your dad is. Trying to exploit royal connections is nothing new. I must admit though, this is a novel approach. I'll leave you to Henry's wines and say 'Goodnight'. Oh, and Conrad, start your project as soon as you can."

As the line went dead, Conrad said, "Jim already knows about this, but do you mind if I tell you with the rest of the class? Jim and I have something else to discuss."

Once they were alone, Conrad continued, "You're thinking bad publicity again, aren't you?"

Jim nodded, "I don't like being in the papers."

"I know, and I get what Dad's idea is. If Seb goes along with it, we're hardly corrupting him."

The following morning at registration, Mr. Davington said, "Conrad wishes to make an announcement, and I've warned Mr. Smith his history lesson may start late. Conrad?"

"Thank you, Mr. Davington." Conrad said as he stood at the front of the class, "Dad calls the New Year ball, the family ball. Instead of the government choosing official guests, the family mainly chooses its friends. Traditionally princes and princesses can invite their schoolfriends. Brookdales insisted students have lessons and learn what's needed, and it's not always what you think. Barty embarrassed himself by getting drunk and throwing up in the flowerpots before 1am. That's when more sober guest leave, and the wild party should only start after. If Jim circulates and dances with loads of female guests, more people will know we're boyfriends."

Conrad grinned at the confused looks, but added, "Younger family members are expected to entertain guests, so they enjoy themselves. If Jim just stands quietly waiting for me to entertain him, he's just a guest. If he helps, he's family, and the only way he can be family is if we're close. Boys have to bow to the king and girls have to curtsey. You wouldn't be the first to trip and fall, but it's better to look as if you belong there. So that's it, you're all invited to the New Year ball, but it's like a wedding, it goes a lot better if everyone knows what to do."

"It's very generous of you, but I'm wondering how many students have clothes for an event like this." Mr. Davington said.

"Bulk discounts and royal patronage can make clothes very cheap. Some suppliers will even pay you to model for them. You know, 'Mr. John Doe seen in one of our suits on his way to the palace'. As long as you let palace staff help you, it won't be a problem. Another reason it won't be a problem is: I'd like to thank you all for making me so welcome."

"It's all a bit snobby for me, so, 'No, thanks'. I won't be taking part." a boy said.

"Oh, yes you are, Axel Tomlins," his girlfriend said, "Unless you want me to go with someone else. Do these lessons include posh dancing?"

"Ballroom dancing, yes, but for me posh dancing is like you see in competitions on TV. It all seems regimented and forced. At a ball you dance because it's fun, and you know how to touch a girl without getting a slap in the face, or arrested."

"You've got to admit it, it is snobby." Axel persisted.

"OK! Yes it is. Dad said something when I invited my first class: 'I don't want little devils wrecking the joint, but little angels are so boring. The Duchess of Southland's daughter will want to dance with you. She not only looks like a horse, she smells like one, and she'll tell you how to get the sperm to artificially inseminate her mares. It's polite enough to say your girlfriend would be jealous, but extremely rude to just turn and run. Of course, if you want to marry into one of the richest families in the country, the rumour is, her sperm extraction techniques are out of this world. My point is that like any party, things can happen. It's just more important they're done quietly and without disturbing others."

"And you're saying the lessons stop your guests being devils without becoming angels." Mr. Davington said, "Supposing I suggested you want to use your friends to put one over on your brother."

"That would be the devil's version. The angel's version would admit it's somewhere in the middle, I'd like to show Dad was right to let me come here."

"Surely you were all nobs at Brookdales." Axel said, "Why did you need lessons?"

"Brookdales students nearly got me involved in a murder case, so they're not angels, and the school wanted to remind them how to behave."

"It still seems snobby, but I'll give it a go, if I still can." Axel said.

"Why not? Just remember, Dad expects you to have fun. I'll find somewhere for dance lessons."

"I'm sure the gym will be available, especially if you include senior prom students." Mr. Davington said.

Later during a break, Seb said, "Sorry about Dad. Is this ball thing a good idea? I won't go."

"It's up to you. The palace is going to ignore the whole thing and say it's between you and your dad who you stay with. If pushed, the palace might say traditionally it was accepted teenage boys need a father figure, but it's up to the courts decide now."

"But that's siding with Dad."

"Yes. It still comes down to you convincing the court you're too stubborn to listen to it, and you're going to stay with your mother, but what happens to his case if we seem to be supporting him?"

"Oh, that is sneaky." Seb laughed, "Thanks, Conrad."

That evening when they were alone, Conrad asked, "Are you OK being my partner? The ball is a semi-public event."

"You mean we'll be seen arriving together, we'll have the first dance, and the last, but between, we have to circulate." Jim replied.

"That's about it."

"I guess so. I just don't want the papers saying I'm a pervert trying to corrupt everyone again."

"I know, and it scares me because it's the one thing that could split us up, isn't it?"

"I'm beginning to get it, but my Aunt Clara phoned Dad. She wanted to know why he wasn't getting me to do sports to make me more manly. The other thing was: why was I making a nuisance of myself with you and nice people like the Dawlishes. Oh, yes. You only want to know me because I'm bound to know a dealer at that terrible school I go to."

"Hang on! Are you making a nuisance of yourself sucking up to me, or am I making a nuisance of myself trying to get drugs?"

"I'm not sure." Jim replied, "But the rest of the family don't get the bad publicity bit either, and Dad and I are always trying to explain. It's not nice."

"Dad always made sure we didn't worry about it. I guess I forget it can hurt other people. Our birthdays are in the spring, but we need a party where you can invite your family. How about Halloween?"

"I don't think it'll help. Both Mum and Dad's families are a bit strait-laced. Dad should still be trying to be something in the city while I'm just a misfit and maybe therapy would help. It could be fun watching them deal with you, but they make it clear I'm supposed to avoid my cousins."

"I'd like to do something though." Conrad said.

"Before I announced I was gay, there were always arguments about where I spend Christmas. Both sides of the family thought I spent too much time with the other. I suppose you'll have to go home for Christmas."

"If Barty's there, I'll stay here. The palace shuts for the holiday, but Mum and Dad are expected to go to church on Christmas Day. It's normal for them to visit an army camp or something on Boxing Day. Barty will have to go with them. If he's not there, I should go with them, but it's normal for one of us to be missing, as a designated survivor thing."

"That's worse; thinking someone may be trying to kill you."

"It's just insurance and no-one is that concerned, but how about you and your dad spending Christmas with us? If you want to, I'll ask Dad."

"I'd like that. So does my cock, Turn over."

The following morning, Mr. Davington had a meeting with the head teacher who said, "Are you trying to tell me, court etiquette is now part of our curriculum? Can you imagine Billy Taverner or John Walters going?"

"Apparently, Conrad can." Mr. Davington replied, "I get the feeling, Conrad's classmates would have to work hard to out misbehave Prince Bartholomew's friends."

" That doesn't fill me with confidence. Let's see how these lessons go. If the students take them seriously, I'll see about extra funding to cover costs."

The next few weeks proved quiet. The dance sessions were taken half-heartedly until Conrad, Axel, and, Deborah, his girlfriend disappeared for an afternoon. The pair were matched because she normally did not bother with make-up, and other girls joked her grandmother told her what to wear. Axel also made it plain he could not be bothered with what he wore, usually genuinely torn jeans, a grubby T-shirt, and long uncombed hair.

Conrad arrived on time for the session but waited before starting anything. The doors opened again admitting Axel and Deborah; transformed. Axel wore a brand-new evening-dress suit with hair cut to match while Deborah wore just a touch of make-up and a long chic evening dress. They walked up to Conrad, Axel bowed, Deborah curtseyed and Conrad bowed formally in return. At a signal from Conrad, a waltz played over the speakers, and the couple danced.

"OK! If Axel can scrub up, you all can." Conrad said raising a ripple of laughter, "They both look as if they belong at a ball, not the gym of a state school, and Dad would have been impressed. I know I'm sounding snobby, Axel, but if the Minister for Education is there, I'm sure you'll want to bend his ear, and you look like someone to be listened to."

"I do get it." Axel said, "He wouldn't listen to someone in jeans and T-shirt."

"Especially your T-shirt." Seb called out, "Even you must know it's getting whiffy."

"OK, I've got it." Axel muttered, "You do feel different dressed like this, don't you?"

Conrad nodded, and the session continued. Conrad had made his point and everyone could see what they were working for. Even though the ball was three months away, Mr. Davington noticed the excitement beginning to grow while Conrad settled in still happier than he had ever been in Brookdales. Unfortunately the happy period did not last.

Jim's father woke them up one morning at about 3pm holding the phone.

"It's the palace." Gerald said, "It's important, but I was told to put it on speaker ."

" Barty has been arrested, and it's going to cause one almighty constitutional crisis." King Constantine said, "First he was photographed coming out of a nightclub with a hooker on each arm again, then he insisted on driving when he was falling down drunk and ploughed into another car. T he driver is unconscious, an d the passenger has severe whiplash. There are too many witnesses, and so much was filmed on those damned phones, there's no way we can play it down. It's going to be in the papers and by breakfast the whole world will know about it. A lot depends on how the driver is. His door was jammed, and they had to cut him out. "

" Oh!" Conrad whispered, "How's Barty."

"Fuck, Barty." The King snapped, "It's you I'm worried about. I'm sorry, but I'm so bloody furious with him at the moment. Assuming this country doesn't become a republic, it's certain you're going to be its next king. I know we've discussed it as a vague possibility, but the Prime Minister has lawyers working on an Instrument of Succession. I wish I could congratulate you, Your Royal Highness."

"It's all right. I do get it, Dad. Can my first announcement be that I just wish to be known as Prince Conrad until everything is settled. Are you arranging a helicopter or a car?"

"Neither. I'd like you to stay there and if possible, go to school as usual. You can't talk to the press, so you need a spokesman. Any ideas?"

"Seb. I know he's my age, but I'd like my statements to sound like me and not some old guy from the palace."

"Run them past us old guys, but it makes sense. I'll send a car for him, you and James can work with him. You'll need to have it approved and ready for school if you're going. Thinking about it, the more capable you seem, the better."

N ot long after, a bemused Seb arrived.

"I don't know how to be a spokesman." he said, "Why ask me?"

"I'm not sure." Conrad admitted, "You stood up to your dad, you make good points in class, you don't get all tongue-tied when talking to Dad. I've made some bullet points, let's see if we can make them readable."

They worked for about an hour before Conrad emailed a copy to the palace. It returned with few amendments.

"As soon as the school office opens, I'll ring them. If we can hold a press conference in the gym before school starts, we'll be able to use the stage and the microphone."

The last person to have her sleep disturbed by a call from the palace was Mrs. Jacobs, the head teacher. She at least had the luxury of another couple of hours in bed before she needed to leave, but she could not relax.

Mr. Dawlish phoned them, warning them of reporters waiting outside his grounds.

"Luckily, they don't know you sleep at the Poulsons now, but be ready." he said.

Mrs Jacobs was unprepared for the reporters blocking the gate, and the police saluting her as they cleared her way. She found Mr. Davington waiting for her.

"How on Earth do we deal with all this?" She asked, "I missed the module covering it in my courses."

"I know. I'm expecting half of the Education Ministry to descend on us."

"Officially Prince Conrad is just an ordinary student and any decent school should manage on their existing resources. I've managed to get increased budgets for various projects, so he's not that equal. How do we work it, today?"

"Sebastian Walker is arranging things, and he remembered to ask for passes allowing them to miss registration. He's also asking you insist the gym is cleared by the end of registration ready for the first class."

"I can do that. It's going to be a funny old day."

In the car, taking them to school, Conrad said, "Thanks, Seb. Dad'll write a recommendation for acting school if you pull this off."

" As long as I don't get stage fright, it'll be easy. I've only got to read an essay, and I've done that in class."

It was Mrs Jacobs who started the press conference.

"Welcome everyone, this is our first attempt at such an event, so I hope it goes well. Prince Conrad will not be attending and Sebastian Walker, his spokesman will not be answering questions. I understand they should be directed to the press office at the palace. I ask you to remember you are dealing with fifteen-year olds who are not involved in palace policy so Prince Conrad can only offer his personal reactions to events. Sebastian you have the floor."

Briefly Sebastian looked nervous, and his voice squeaked a little as he began: "Prince Conrad is shocked by events and has conflicting thoughts. He is concerned for his brother, he wishes the victims of the accident a speedy recovery, and will undertake whatever extra duties are necessary while Prince Bartholomew deals with the aftermath of this affair. For now, his legal duty is to attend school, and he asks he be allowed to carry out that duty as before."

A reporter stood up, "Could you clarify what extra duties the Prince expects to undertake and for how long?"

"No. I guess I was chosen because I don't know what's going on. It's not that I'm not supposed to answer questions, it's because I can't."

"Thank you. We'd better let you get to lessons as well."

The conference was streamed and King Constantine was satisfied. At the palace's request, Conrad had avoided mention of the constitutional crisis, or any comment on the accident, and it was a simple statement of his personal reaction. In class, no-one was interested in the lesson while they were so close to national events.

"I don't know much more than you." Conrad said, "I got a phone call from Dad to warn me, but I don't know what's happening now. We've got dance classes tonight, but I may not be in the mood."

"If you become direct heir to the throne, will you still come to this school?" Mr. Davington asked, "Will the invitations still stand?"

"I won't be going back to Brookdales, if that's what you mean. The palace will want it to be business as usual as much as possible so for now, the invitations still stand. We'll have to see what happens."

During the day, students scoured social media for news. For once teachers did not mind it spilling over into lessons because they were just as curious. The most adverse reaction was the press had been fobbed off by a schoolboy and not a proper spokesman, but it got the message across. Prince Conrad was not involved in unfolding events and could not contribute much.

Lessons were briefly interrupted when it was announced that from then on Conrad's brother would be known as Mr. Bartholomew Saxebourg and that the palace would offer every assistance in the investigation.

"They didn't mention you." Seb said, "What does that mean?"

"Exactly what it says. Barty will stand trial just like anyone else. He's not going to get any special favours."

Just as school was finishing Conrad got a phone call. The entire class sat back down and waited.

"Are you alone?" King Constantine asked.

"No. My friends are listening in. I can find another room if you like." Conrad replied.

"No. You have some decisions to make, and I think they're entitled to understand what they are. The Prime Minister has approved the Instrument of Succession, and he'll offer his support on certain conditions. Understand, he sees political capital in this situation, and he wants to appeal to his hardcore, conservative supporters."

"I don't like where this is going." Conrad said.

"No. Neither do I. First you have to declare you're not gay. Second you have to say you need to prepare for a disciplined life of duty, and you wish to begin your training at a Military School. Third, parliament will decide your social agenda. I've already said you'll refuse, but you're the only one who can come up with an alternative. Parliament will hear the instrument the day after tomorrow. Keep me informed."

The line went dead, leaving Conrad badly shaken. Jim was close to tears.

It was Mr. Richards, the history teacher, who had taken their last class, and he was as interested as the students.

"Very well, Conrad. Do you have any thoughts on how to deal with this?" he asked.

"Yeah, if I say I'm not gay then I'm becoming heir by lying. That's wrong, isn't it?"

"Good point. Anything else?

"He went to Brookdales, now he's here. Surely he's learning more about life than locked away in some boot camp." Seb said and Conrad nodded.

"I'll still deck him if looks at me in the showers, but it's all wrong." Billy Taverner said, making everyone turn and stare, "Don't the teachers say proms and dances are about us learning to socialize? Now some old guy wants to take over."

Conrad nodded, "Thanks but here's the problem. If I stand up to parliament and lose, my family could be replaced."

"Yes, but you're a constitutional monarchy. Why do they want to control you so much?" Mr. Richards asked.

"I'm attending a state school so government policies on education are coming under scrutiny. I'm not supposed to discuss politics, but I can't help making indirect statements. It's the same for gay issues or minorities in general. They can claim to be inclusive, introduce token laws, but it's all at a distance. Jim and I are going to bring it to their doorstep."

"Would your family let you do that?"

"Why do you think Dad let you listen? He can't support me openly, but what do you think he was saying."

"Yes, it does sound as if it's really up to you." Mr. Richards said, "Is there anything else that might be relevant?"

"The government has won three elections under two prime ministers." Conrad replied, "The previous one still visits Dad because they're friends. Dad calls the present one a weasel. There was a bit of speculation why the last one retired, but The Weasel has powerful friends. Again, I can't say any more. What bothers me is; how much of his plans are to turn me into a political puppet?"

"Instead of being neutral." Mr. Richards said, "Did your visit to the children's hospital go against his review of medical spending? I know. You can't answer, but we can draw our own conclusions. I'm guessing his powerful friends invest in the arms' industry, so you need to be very military orientated."

"It could be." Conrad said, "I hadn't thought of that."

"You want to stop him." Billy said, "Dad can't get a job, is on Social Aid, and he wants to cut it. I'll help."

"I need to stop him involving me in politics. I can't stop his policies. One other thing, if I do stand up to him, how will you cope, Jim?"

"I guess I'm going to be a pervert again." Jim replied.

"I can call you that, you queer." Billy growled, "Outsiders can't."

"Thanks, I think." Jim replied, "It's weird, but it makes me feel better."

They were quiet as they made their way home. Seb and Jamie were with them in the car.

"Are you ready for all this, Jamie?" Conrad asked, "We said it would be quiet here."

"It is quiet here. I just don't get why plebs are helping you while our own kind are trying to pull you down."

"Could you say that a bit better?" Seb asked.

"Yeah! I know it came out wrong, but it's true, because we're the class that tramples your lot down."

"OK!" Seb said, "I think I get what you're saying. Some parents at Brookdales probably invest in arms. They'd be on The Weasel's side."

"My Dad was. He was involved in that big tank contract. When it got cancelled, banks found out he'd used the same collateral for three different loans." Jamie replied.

"What do you think, Conrad?" Seb asked.

"We're getting too political." Conrad replied, "I need to think neutral otherwise it's going to show in what I do. How about another press release. Tomorrow if there are any reporters there."

"I got a load of reporters cards and cash to let them know if something breaks. " Seb said, "Do you want me to call them?"

"Yes, please."

J im and Conrad were exhausted and slept a deep sleep. For once, they were even too tired to hold each other though their hands sought the other to find a comforting touch. Neither felt like breakfast and did not say much on their way to school where they headed for the gym. The reporters stood respectfully as Conrad climbed onto the stage.

Once they were seated, Conrad began, "Before I can find out what sort of prince I'll become, I need to know what sort of person I am. Jim. Come up onto the stage, please."

Surprised, because they had not planned it, Jim complied. Conrad took him in his arms and kissed him before turning back to the reporters. "It has been suggested I lie and deny I'm gay. I can deny it partially, but some things can wait until I'm old enough to marry. For now, Jim is my boyfriend. We'll share our lives through school until Jim goes to university, and I take on whatever role I have. I am not going to try to be perfect, but I can stand by friends and not dump them when life gets too awkward. I am not going to say I believe in inclusiveness then deny I'm in a minority group."

Conrad paused, "I am staying in this school because if you look to the side, you'll see my classmates here to support me. The school also has an excellent academic record which is something I support, and I can also learn from the vast range of backgrounds my fellow students come from. Finally, the pool team I play for stands a good chance of winning the league cup. I can assure you, for me at least, going to a pub to play in a team is far more satisfying than going to a rave.

"I will make mistakes. I probably will get into trouble again, but I'm at school to learn, and they say you learn more from your mistakes. Thank you."

"That's not we planned." Jim whispered.

"I know, but it's the gist of it. The trouble is, I got angry because they're trying to split us, and I couldn't remember the speech. I tried improvising, and I guess I sounded angrier than I intended."

King Constantine sat calmly listening to his press secretary. The conference was a disaster. Conrad should not have opposed the Prime Minister. He'll have upset too many conservatives. He let her continue for a while.

"Thank you," he said, "What's done is done. Let's see what happens."

"But we should at least bring him back to the palace." The press secretary persisted, "Who knows what he'll do next?"

The King smiled, "Who knows indeed."

"Even he admits he struggles to stay out of trouble, Sir. It would be in his own best interest if he was to stay in a more managed environment."

"You could be right, but he's got to come out of Barty's shadow."

Public Relations was about projecting an ideal image, and Conrad had stressed integrity and loyalty, academic excellence, being a team player, and liking people. It had all been there, and it was what was needed. Whatever happened next, he was proud of his younger son.

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