Princely Love

by Flaulus

Chapter 5

The following day, the Prime Minister, proved to be less accepting of Conrad's speech when he rose to speak in Parliament.

"In view of the depravity, and lewd behaviour of Prince Conrad, we cannot allow either prince to represent our country. The government accordingly proposes to replace the Instrument of Succession with a Bill of Abolition of the Monarchy."

The Prime Minister paused expecting the standard howls of protest against any government proposal, but he was startled by the strength of the opposition. The Speaker tried to call for order, but it was no good. It took time for the Prime Minister to realize much of the protest was coming from his own ranks. Defeated, he sat down only for the Leader of the Opposition to stand. The house settled down to listen.

"While I accept Prince Conrad's behaviour was inappropriate, the members on this side of the house took the trouble to listen to his arguments. Maybe politicians are so used to lying, we resent it when somebody speaks the truth, we are embarrassed when someone stands by their friend, and we don't like someone standing up for what they believe. Maybe I would prefer our future king to be a public relations image of an ideal prince. However, we are being offered a flawed prince who is not scared to speak out for what he believes in. On balance, I prefer public integrity, so I call for the Instrument of Succession to be reinstated. It is strange that we, the pro-republican party, is supporting the monarchy while the conservative monarchist party is calling for abolition. However, the country needs stability and Prince Conrad is less divisive than many who claim to seek unity."

The Leader of the Opposition sat down to roars of support from both sides while the Prime Minister realized he lost considerable support. King Constantine watched the debate, amazed at the 80% in favour of Conrad succeeding. Conrad was just as amazed, as he watched with his classmates.

"If you're now heir, should there be some sort of ceremony?" Seb asked.

"At court." Conrad replied, "Palace staff would be expected to bow at least once and say, 'Your Royal Highness."

It was Billy Taverner who started it. He stood in front of Conrad, bowed and said, "Congratulations, Your Royal Highness, but you're still a poofter."

Sven followed with a simple; Congratulations, Your Royal Highness', and the rest of the class followed suit. Yvonne summed it up.

"We know you have to be the prince sometimes. You're including us, so we'll go along with it. We might be in class, but Jim needs you. At least give him a kiss."

Mr. Davington stayed quiet, surprised that the students felt so involved. Of course, teenagers want to feel a part of things, and to be part of a group. Conrad was content to sit with them, making do with events being streamed to a phone. He could have stayed away, or be seated in the Head Teacher's office. Mr. Davington smiled to himself. The real reason was, students liked having their lessons disrupted.

He was jolted when Craig asked, "Shouldn't you bow as well, Mr. Davington."

"No." Conrad said, "In school, Mr. Davington is senior. If we met outside of school, then it would be right."

"How do you remember all this stuff?" Craig asked.

"No-one remembers it all, all the time. So many people will be waiting for you to foul up at the ball, it's worth practising just to disappoint them. Palace staff are doing it all day, so they're expected to get it right. If you forgot and just held your hand out to Dad, he'd probably shake it, because you're not used to it. He'll appreciate how you bowed to me, because for us, it's simple courtesy."

Conrad and Jim had pulled their chairs together and were holding hands as they talked. It wasn't normally allowed, but it was not a normal day. The bell rang for the next lesson, and Mr. Davington thought the class was settled enough to take it.

Meanwhile, King Constantine was talking to his press secretary.

"It was a gamble, but people can be more tolerant than you realize. Yes, some rabble-rouser could whip up anti-gay feeling so gays get beaten up in the street, but it takes effort to stir up that sort of feeling. Providing that kiss is his only public display, then all will be well. He's more mature than I was at his age, so we'll set him up with some official duties, and let the people see a working prince. They won't forget he's gay, but it'll slip further back in their minds. Has Sergeant Walton arrived?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. I'll see him in the ante-room."

When the king entered, Sergeant Walton snapped to attention.

"Please sit down. May I pour you coffee while you read this."

"Thank you, sir." The sergeant replied, not daring to say he did not drink coffee. He dutifully sat in the chair, a plush comfortable armchair, and read: To whom it may concern. Sergeant Walton is requested to investigate the accident involving Bartholomew Saxebourg, without regard to interest or influence from any source .

Without thinking, he took a sip of coffee from the cup that had been placed on the table beside him as he waited for Constantine to speak.

"I understand Bartholomew was held in a soft witness suite until he sobered up and was released without bail. It's not the usual procedure is it?"

"No, Your Majesty, but we haven't charged him yet."

"Sir, will do. It was awkward until the Instrument of Succession was passed, but now you can follow procedure. Would you explain what has been done? Please, this is not official, and I would like your insights, not a report for the court."

"I was first on the scene, established what had happened and asked for His Royal …"

"Please call him Barty. It's our family name for him."

" Yes Your … Yes, sir. I asked him for a breath test, and he refused."

"Let me guess. His first line was: do you know who I am."

Sergeant Walton relaxed enough to smile, contenting himself with a nod before continuing, "I wasn't completely sure, he was aggressive, and he had a cut to his head. I wasn't sure how serious it was, but I had reason to arrest him."

"Good thinking, but you acted within normal limits?"

"Yes sir, I handcuffed him and put him in the back of my car while I dealt with witnesses. T hen I sent a constable to the hospital to get statements from the other people involved. I took, er, Barty back to the station and again asked for a breath test and again, he refused. I was going to put him in a cell but Commissioner Doyle arrived and took over. It was made clear my job was to collect the evidence then pass it onto the Commissioner. Today, I was put back in charge of the case."

"What is the next step?"

"I have put a case together, and I have enough to charge him with a string of offences."

"And when do you plan on charging him?"

"Honestly, sir. It's all above my pay grade."

" I understand." The king said as he picked up the phone, "I would like two of my personal guard assigned to Sergeant Walton. They will be answerable to him, but they will also provide sufficient rank to enforce his wishes."

The king turned to Sergeant Walton, "As you know, Barty prefers a hotel suite to palace life. You can bet, he's drunk by now which means he'll be violent. You will carry out the procedures, but my guards will intervene as needed. Bail will be an issue. You may not know, but any allowances have stopped. What money he has left will go to settling his debts. We have a lodge in the mountains where he could stay, but only if it doesn't cause you problems. I arranged for the case to be handed back to you because it would be usu al for you to follow it through, and I want everything done according to your normal methods."

"Yes sir, Causing an accident and injuring someone while drunk would normally mean a prison sentence."

"Didn't he assault you, and he refused to take a blood test. I would think a prison term would be inevitable."

"Yes sir. You sound as if you want me to throw the book at him." Sergeant Walton said.

"Do what you would normally do. I don't know if you saw Conrad's speech yesterday, but he is facing up to problems. If I am to support him, I have to expect Barty to do the same. Use the letter I gave you to deal with your superiors, but if you have to remand him in custody, then do so."

After the sergeant had left, King Constantine shuddered, fighting back the tears. He loved both his sons, but he could never be proud of Barty, the way he was of Conrad. His wife was in shock, refusing to leave their quarters and furious the trouble Barty was in could not just go away. Only one person could cheer him up.

He picked up a phone. "Arrange a helicopter. I'm collecting my son from school. It's what ordinary parents do, isn't it?"

Like a lot of parents, he had forgotten extra-curricular activities, and a flustered teacher showed him to the gym. They stood at the door watching. Conrad was dancing with Jim, and although making the king vaguely uncomfortable, they made a handsome couple. It was Jamie who spotted him first and stopped dancing, to turn and bow. That was to be expected because Jamie's parents had been of the fringes of palace society. What surprised the King, his dance partner managed an elegant curtsey. As other couples realized what was happening, they followed suit. The King bobbed his head in acknowledgement.

"What an elegant greeting." he said, "My compliments to you, but I really came to hug my son. Maybe my honorary son as well. Come on, Conrad, James."

Conrad and Jim hurried over, and they duly hugged.

"James, I can't bring myself to dance with you, but perhaps this young lady could substitute and join me in a waltz."

It was what King Constantine needed. Yvonne could dance well, and the King was doing something he understood and enjoyed.

"Are you all coming to the New Year Ball?" he asked when the music stopped.

"I've only invited my class, Dad." Conrad replied, "The rest are practising for the school's Christmas dance."

"Well, I'm inviting the rest. Where is your dance being held?"

"In here. The idea is we start with a couple of formal dances, then just carry on."

"I see. I'm curious. How come your friends are so willing to fit in with our ways?"

"Why don't you ask us." Billy Taverner interjected, "I like the weird rules like we can't get drunk or throw up before 1am."

"I'm not sure." Axel said, "It's weird but Conrad's a bit like Coach and expects more than we think we can deliver. He thinks our team can outdo your team."

"You could be right, and Conrad's got an advantage." The King chuckled, "I avoid dancing with the Duchess of Clevions if I can. She's such a bad dancer, she could break your foot if she trod on it, but there's no way I can get her to practice. If any of you do drama, then you'll understand, you're putting on a show."

The king thought for a moment, "I'm guessing there's a good few staying away from these lessons, so we can't take over the school dance, unless we include everyone. How would you like a combined dance, dress rehearsal and publicity stunt though? I want to promote Conrad as a true prince who can do what's needed. It'll be even better if he has friends who won't lead him into trouble."

"Jim and I'll still be a couple." Conrad said firmly.

"Honestly? If you don't dance with him, your little speech the other day will look like a sham."

"He'll still be the poofter Prince." Billy said, "I know, I should be all respectful, but you want to pretend he's not gay, and it's phoney."

"And if you can see it, so can the reporters and so can our enemies." The King said, "However, there is a bigger picture. Politicians on both sides of the house are complaining about corruption. Barty will have to take his chances because I can't afford to be seen obstructing justice. James, I mean Jamie, is in your class because I refuse to be involved in the big arms scandal that's breaking. Now the Prime Minister is involved, and he wants to introduce legislation which he claims will ease business, but in fact will reduce the checks and scrutiny designed to prevent corruption. You can find all that if you read the newspapers, so I'm not giving away state secrets. Conrad's speech was perfect for me because he was so honest, but he's made an enemy of the Prime Minister. He's also making a friend of the Leader of the Opposition, so he's getting involved in politics."

"You're not telling me the opposition is honest, are you?" Billy asked.

"No, of course not, but it's expedient for them to be anti-corruption. If any of the opposition parties came to power, they'd be drafting anti-corruption legislation while individual MPs would be figuring how to get round it. Go on, Billy. Let's clear the air."

"Dad lost his job because of the arms thing. His firm made electric motors, he'd worked at the same firm for twenty years but suddenly contracts were cancelled. Now the welfare office is threatening to cut his money because he's not trying hard enough to find another job. He has been trying, but so are a load of other guys. Let's face it, you live on government handouts and no-one cuts your money."

"Believe it or not, I do understand, but you must understand, I cannot intervene. I cannot tell the government to tax the rich to help the poor, but do you remember Conrad's line about learning from the vast range of backgrounds of his fellow students? Maybe we could exploit it to highlight issues. We can't feed stories, but what if the press picked up on stories while covering Conrad's visit somewhere?"

"OK! Be honest, why are you letting me talk to you like this?"

"Barty almost destroyed the constitutional monarchy. It was either going to become a political tool of the government or a republic with a constitution written by our Prime Minister. Either way, it would have been his mouth-piece. With Conrad's leadership, you are going to defend the monarchy. I was not expecting it, I did not think Conrad could extricate himself from the scandal over his sexuality, and I did not expect you to be so supportive, and I've outlined how you can help."

I'm sorry if I was rude, sir." Billy said, "But Conrad is not a leader."

"Isn't he? Who runs these dance lessons? It may not be obvious, but he took the initiative with his speech, and at least you know when to be polite and when I need honest opinions. Many at the palace don't."

As the King looked around, it occurred to him the boy who was least happy was Jim. It was not surprising. He was being pushed more into the public eye, and he did not like it. Seb on the other hand, was relishing the prospect of putting on another performance. There was little he could do for Jim for now. The Prime Minister's allies outside of parliament were making their own plans, and the security services were getting worried.

Being involved in a stage production requires commitment and teenagers either become passionate or lose interest very quickly. Instead of being told adults know best, Conrad's classmates were being asked to take on some of the most powerful adults around. Their dance lessons had already taken on strange twists, they faced challenges and being involved was proving far more interesting than they expected.

From being a bully out of frustration at seeing his family struggling more and more, Billy had the feeling he could do something though he was uncertain enough of his sexuality to be nervous around Jim and his friends. However, the next morning he arrived at school wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend: Even my boyfriend says I'm not gay.

"Brilliant." Conrad laughed when he saw it, "Let's get a picture for Dad."

Even reporters, waiting in case something happened, smiled glad to take a picture of something, no matter how trivial. It helped with the notion the class was involved in important events and another reason they were so supportive. Between events, they got on with their normal lives. Conrad and Jim spent all their time together. It was getting too cold to swim, but they still explored on their bikes even with a couple of bodyguards self-consciously trailing behind. Pool nights settled down, concentrating on the games and one of the bodyguards now played on the team.

Conrad and Jim stayed with Jim's father. They found woodland trails that led to Henry Dawlish's winery and so visited to confuse any reporter. Mr. Dawlish had opened a children's bar. It was stocked with a variety of juices and youngsters could experiment with their own concoctions. Partly it was to make the visits more family friendly, though it was not a great success, but it was also a clubhouse for Jim, Conrad and their friends, so Mr. Dawlish considered it his duty to keep it running.

When he was at Brookdales, Conrad lived in a well-protected environment. Sports, even away games, were played on school grounds not open to the public. Living with Jim made Conrad more exposed. Going for a milk shake at the local mall with friends after school was a real nightmare for his bodyguards, so they were relieved Jim and Conrad also enjoyed a lot of time at home. There was an old shed, with a solid bench, which they cleaned out and indulged in model making. At times, they preferred their bedroom and sex, but it was just one of many things they shared and enjoyed."

Do you ever miss your parents?" Jim asked one day.

"Sometimes." Conrad replied, "What with official visits and me away at school, I'm used to it, and I get staying away from Barty."

Jim was becoming reconciled to bad reports in the press, but was shaken when his Aunt Clara phoned. Gerald answered it.

"I hope you and that brat of yours are satisfied." She yelled, "I don't suppose it took much to corrupt Conrad, that whole family is rotten. I daresay James has been dragged into their drugs and alcohol, but imagine boys having to wear T-shirts saying they're not gay. What does that school think it's playing at, letting them turn decent lads. No wonder, everyone wants a republic now."

It was breakfast, and Conrad and Jim were with Gerald, so he had put the call on speaker.

"Clara, I've no idea what you're talking about. What gives you the idea Jim's on drugs?"

"It's all over the news. I suppose you don't like the truth but try watching RNN once in a while. They tell you like as it is."

"I do like the truth, and it's why I don't like that propaganda channel. I take it they're suggesting Conrad is on drugs."

"As if you didn't know. All this gay stuff is part of their immorality, but it's the way they're corrupting others that's truly disgusting."

"I thought you were a monarchist. Why do you believe this rubbish?" Gerald asked.

"I am a monarchist, but the family is rotten. They'll have to have a republic and find a distant relative to take over."

"The car's arrived to take the boys to school, so I've got to go." Gerald said, "I'll call you back when I find out what's going on."

"I don't wish to be rude, but does she know the difference between a monarchy and a republic?" Conrad asked.

"I've no idea." Gerald replied, "You got the gist of she was trying to say. Some TV channel is telling lies about you."

"Are you OK, Jim?" Conrad asked.

"I know we don't do drugs. I'm thinking of Billy's T-shirt. Could she have been talking about that? Billy's got his own weird way of being on side, but he's not going to like this. I don't think I can handle school today."

"You should go." Gerald said, "We'll get security to drive you, so if there're problems, stay in the car, and it'll bring you home, but you might be surprised by your friends."

As they neared the school, the driver snapped, "Get down, someone is trying to stop us."

"It's Billy." Conrad said, "See what he wants."

"It's Dad." Billy said as he clambered into his seat, "A reporter phoned him about my shirt. He tried to say it was a joke, denied any of us do drugs, but the reporter wasn't interested. Dad hung up when he was offered 500 to say it was all true."

"OK! He was taken off guard, and it happens." Conrad said, "Corey, can you drive us around the block a bit. I need to talk to Dad."

"Yes, sir." The driver said.

Conrad waited until he was put through greet ing his father b e fore sa y i ng , " First, I'm taking Billy home, so he can put that T-shirt back on. The weather's not that bad, so I'd like him to walk past the reporters wearing it, if he agrees, that is . Good, he's nodding."

Jim could hear someone speaking in the background before Conrad replied, "I'm not commenting. The press weren't that interested when he first wore it. Maybe they will be now. That's all. I'll be in the car. I do have another idea though."

Conrad quickly outlined his idea and then phoned Seb. Billy got out of the car, found Seb, and they walked into school together.

"Hi, Seb. Have you got anything more than the timetable today?" A reporter asked.

" I'm not sure. Could you find six boys about our age? It would be better if they wanted to follow their old man into reporting, and that's all I can say for the moment. We'll tell you more as soon as the gym's free after school, tonight."

Between lessons, Conrad made his arrangements and when the press duly assembled he climbed onto the stage.

"I'm hoping to arrange an activity weekend, hopefully with at least three teams competing in various games. The press have already been invited to form a team, and I'd particularly like to invite the sponsors of RNN to put forward a team. Spaces are limited, but we could manage a couple more teams, but I haven't sorted all the details yet, though I might invite Brookdales for old times sake."

"Is this a response to today's feature on RNN?" A reporter asked.

" No! I can't respond to news items, and you know that." Conrad replied, "However, it did get me thinking on how to have a fun weekend."

"Why are you inviting a press corps team, then?" Another asked.

"Most of you respect I just want to be a student for now. As thanks, I thought it would be a way of reporting the weekend without a load of adults clod-hopping around."

"And you're not taking a dig at RNN?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I said: No."

"What would you say your chances of winning are?"

"I've spent the summer swimming, cycling and helping in the fields. The rest of the team are just as fit, we've worked together preparing for the New Year Ball, so I'd say, pretty good."

" Who's in the rest of your team?

At a nod from Conrad, Jim, Seb, Jamie, Billy and Sven stepped onto the stage.

"We're calling ourselves, the Corrupted." Conrad announced raising some chuckles.

"I was thinking my grandson would enjoy himself." An older reporter said, "But not if he's going to be used for point scoring."

" I' m not trying to score points off anyone — well maybe the other teams ." Conrad retorted, " We'll just be a group of teens having some natural outdoor fun. "

"I take your point."

"Good! I've just thought. The local area has cadet units. I'll invite them to put up a team. I'm not allowed to hold press conferences, but I've issued my challenge, so it's time to call a halt. Thank you. "

Jim anxiously waited for another call from Aunt Clara, but the phone remained quiet. Instead, it was the Prime Minister who made the first comment.

"In the light of Prince Conrad's outrageous attack on the freedom of the press, I strongly feel he should receive a mental health assessment. Until we can rule out any harm done by his unfortunate lifestyle, we need to maintain a strict scrutiny of his activities."

As the Prime Minister hoped, his statement caused a furore and a demand for a debate. It gave him a chance to refer to the allegations made by RNN and at least, spread some fear, uncertainty and doubt. Then the Leader of the Opposition stood up to speak.

"Should the Speaker decide to enter into the spirit of His Royal Highness's challenge and open a book, I'll put a tenner on the Corrupted to win."

He sat down to a roar of laughter as a member of the government stood up.

"It's typical of the Opposition's meanness and penny-pinching his bet is so low. I bet a hundred.

The Prime Minister's supporters remained quiet, all his carefully planned arguments forgotten as the Opposition Leader stood to reply.

"The MP for Westpool should remember we are the party for prudence. However, we are a broad church and others may be willing to match your extravagance."

The King smiled as he watched the debate. His only concern was the Prime Minister's face. It got steadily redder as he realized he was being side-lined. Some observers wondered why he had forced the issue when all he had were a few wild allegations, but the king knew. It had become personal. The Prime Minister could not tolerate the idea a fifteen-year old boy was thwarting his plans. Conrad knew his plan had succeeded as Jim snuggled in closer to him while they watched the news.

The press could not be seen to be harassing a teenager so even though Seb was seen as Conrad's press officer, they kept meetings low-key.

"Hi Seb." A reporter greeted him the next day, "Any response to RNN's suggestion you'll be inviting teams of homeless and young offenders next?"

"I haven't spoken to him yet." Seb replied, "Personally, I wish RNN would stop giving him ideas. His idea on inclusiveness will include anyone who's made a mistake and wants to make a fresh start. I don't fancy doing a student exchange at a young offender's institution."

"Can we quote you? It's more human interest than political."

"As long as it is human interest. You don't want to get me fired and start dealing with a real press officer, do you?"

It was a valid point, and most of the press and TV quoted his reply in full. A discussion later caught the King's attention.

A commentator asked a guest, "Do you think the Prince is straying too far into political matters?"

"No. It's worth remembering RNN's original report was libellous, but a court case would have given both sides a chance to indulge in mud slinging which would do no-one any good. He is a teenager, and a physical challenge is a natural teenage response."

"And is it wise for him to have another teenager as spokesman?"

"An adult would certainly be more careful in his comments, but again, it was RNN who mentioned prison and prisoners. It would be difficult for anyone to reply and avoid reference to Prince Bartholomew."

"Sebastian Walker was referring to young offenders, and Bartholomew is an adult. Surely that is enough distinction."

"And of course, it was a personal opinion. Prince Conrad has been in the spotlight far more than is usual for a royal still at school, but he seems to be coping, and I for one find his team's humour and energy refreshing."

The king was satisfied. A real battle was underway to transform the political makeup of the country, but few realized what was at stake. Although Conrad did not reali z e it, the King, The Leader of the Opposition and key figures in the government party were happy to see the Prime Minister and his rebel alliance undermined. Conrad would have considerable leeway to take the Prime Minister on.

The Prime Minister was sitting in Jamie's father's lounge, enjoying a rare single malt whisky.

"The trouble is James, the public fell for his little speech. As if degenerates like that even understand loyalty, and not denying he's gay has nothing to do with honesty. It's to do with being the centre of attention and flaunting himself just like the rest of them."

"What do you make of his activity challenge?" James asked.

"I'm sure he'll prance through the woods without problems. The real questions is: should we let our children be exposed to their filth?"

"And my son's joined them. I tried to knock some sense into him."

"As is your right. It's the do-gooders. They worry about the little darling's rights and not good discipline, but when you get him back, be careful. You won't get away with another trip to the hospital, even if it is what he deserves."

"So what are we going to do?" James asked, "I can't stall for much longer."

"Sebastian Walker's father will testify James Poulson corrupted Sebastian and had been working on him for years. You can swear it was Conrad who got his claws into James — Jamie. There are too many James. It may be easier if we say Jim Poulson, your son, Jamie and you James. There're two more, Billy Taverner. He's on the school football team and was as red-bloodied as they come. Now he seems to be drifting into their little group. My guess is, Conrad's promised to find his Dad a job. That leaves Sven Harkness. He may well be another degenerate, but we're still looking. There's another, and he's an interesting possibility because he's only thirteen. His name is Steve Ganden, he hangs around the queer-boys a lot, so maybe he's worth investigating."

"I don't see how it will help." James said.

"We need a story to convince the rest of the press. RNN can lead with it, but we need enough to show the prince and Poulson are just a couple of predators corrupting boys to use them. Poulson may be the easier target, but if we could suggest Conrad was expelled from Brookdales because of his attack on boys, it would be a bonus."

"I should have seen it. Bring Poulson down, possibly split them up and Conrad will be more vulnerable." James said, "I still don't see how it will help business, though."

"He'll probably revert to type and head for the gay bars. Whatever. Instead of trusting a degenerate figurehead, the people will accept honesty and integrity only happens when the right people are in charge. It's not good discipline to question their superiors so all the checks and balances are an insult to those increasing wealth and prosperity while unions, welfare workers and do-gooders in general, get in the way of it. Poulson's father is a hippy dropout who bailed on a respectable job in the city to get back to nature. His lack of drive reflects in his son's behaviour and moral code."

"You'll have to spin it properly, but it is the right policy to get this country moving in the right direction." James said, "Do you believe it all?"

"Does it matter? Like you say, the right spin will convince the masses."

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