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Subject: Makarovia? Where The Hell Is That!? Chapter 8 The Proposal *Story: Makarovia? Where the Hell Is That!? Chapter 8 The Proposal Author: Eric McQueen ail) Adult Readers, Sexual Situations, Sex Freedom of expression is precious. To do that Nifty needs help. Your donation is greatly desired. Give to fty/ or this story ends and all the others! That would be a crime! The Proposal “Things here are far from perfect,” Peter said carefully. “It’s no utopia.” “No, of course, it isn’t.” I nodded. “There are people who live here that might not be nice at all.” I shrugged. “I’m sure there is. I just haven’t met any.” “There are problems here.” Queen Alla began, “in the cities and towns…it is easier, but there are some…” she stopped. Olek nodded. “There are some in the more remote parts of Makarovia…hard to believe, but true. They are…what’s the word for,” Olek paused thinking, “Пустельник, in English?” “Hermit,” I said. “Thank you.” Olek grinned. “…there are some that are almost hermits. Winter comes and we don’t see or hear from them until Spring. Some die. There are families that have issues…we see abuse of all kinds. They get stuck in their homes for weeks and get…” Again, he was looking for a word. “Cabin fever?” I asked. “Yes.” Olek sighed sadly. “The crimes are not that many. My people were busy.” He waved to the small windows at the top of the room. “Now, the weather is nice. That’s when everyone prepares for the times the weather isn’t nice. They must prepare or die. Crops are planted, the hermits hunt and preserve to store. They are busy during the warmer weather because they can be cut off for months. The cities and towns are not as bad…if they get supplies, but if the supplies can’t get here…they have can’t get what we don’t have.” “Do we have anything to reach these people?” I asked. “Limited,” Olek replied. “It needs to be a sturdy…” he wasn’t getting the word again. English was another language among his collections he spoke. Makarovian, Ukrainian, Russian…he spoke English, yes, but I imagined he could speak some Italian, French and German, “those vehicles with the tracks to travel in snow.” He did his hands in circular motions to indicate an oval track. “Snowcat?” Drew grinned. “Really, Your Majesty, you’re doing fine.” Olek nodded as he pointed at Drew. “Yes. Snowcat. Thank you. I know English, but some words…” he shrugged. I nodded. “Well, I’m sure all those military people can help this Winter. They will probably be bringing in equipment to do just that.” Peter touched his brother on his hand. “Olek, Eric and I said we’d be here for you. We’ll help you out.” Olek nodded in frustration. “I know, but it will be the end of August and you two will be flying back to Northeastern. You have to get the education to help anymore in the future.” “And we will.” Peter nodded. “Surely, there are men here you trust to help you.” I more like asked because Olek couldn’t do everything. Olek nodded. “Yes, we just have to get things in place for them to do their jobs.” “Olek,” I said. “I’ll talk with David Burke. He may be able to help more. They are here to help Makarovia. That would help Makarovia!” “General David Burke? The American?” Drew asked. Peter grinned. “Eric’s American boyfriend.” I rolled my eyes at that. “He’s straight as an arrow and kissed me to make a point he’s willing to change. Don’t let Peter fool you. That’s all.” I explained why. Drew laughed. “Its good thing he did it when he did, kissing you in a year means a death sentence.” He shook his head. “That sort of unwelcomed familiarity with a member of the ruling family, he could lose his head!” “It proves…people are listening,” I said. My grandmother came in and froze as we were laughing. “Okay, what did I miss?” Now it was getting closer to this…event. People were always asking if I was nervous. I wasn’t! Not yet. That day Jori came and finished my two suits. That’s right, two suits. He forbade me to wear the same one for the dinner and the proposal. “The dinner isn’t televised,” I argued as he pressed my lapel down. “As long as it’s clean, I never notice if a man wears the same suit.” “There are people that will. So, it’s not televised? There will be photos and cameras around to record everything!” Jori said. “I have a reputation!” I looked as Peter tried on his and I saw…he was fine, but not…quite right. He smiled, but…it sounds corny, but the light wasn’t in his eyes. “Okay, do your thing. I’ll wear them.” I said almost absently but was still wondering about Peter. Once Jori got the measurements done and added… whatever. I changed back and walked to Peter, taking his arm. “Okay, what’s wrong?” I knew there was something, but what? Peter turned with a smile, but it faded when he saw me. “Yes, the rule.” He chuckled. “I’m not ready to talk about it.” I nodded. “Okay, but I’m here for you when you are.” Peter gave an upwards glance and sighed. “No, don’t misunderstand me…” he took my arms and hugged me. “I want to, but…” he shook his head. “I can tell you things I never thought I could. I trust you more than anybody. I need the words…” He looked at some of the others around and motioned toward the door. “Can we go somewhere more…private?” “Do you want to go to our room?” I asked. “Sure.” Once in our room, he went to the couch in front of the fireplace and sat. Sitting beside him I waited as he sorted through his thoughts to figure out and how to say what was on his mind. “Please, understand what I’m saying,” Peter begged. “Since Olek said what he did at breakfast, I am feeling regret, guilt and…” he threw his arms out in frustration. “I don’t know!” Now, I was worried. “About what?” “Olek.” “Olek?” I asked surprised. “You will tell me my feelings are silly, but…” I pulled his face toward me to make him look at me. “I would never do that,” I assured him. “You’re having feelings. Silly or not you are having the feelings.” “When Olek was talking about some of the problems with Makarovia, I felt… responsible for a lot of his pressure.” He shook his head again. “Olek feels responsible…for everything! He worries about the help we’re getting from the United States, England and the rest, but he ran the country, too. Little things like overseeing that those in the remote parts are seen and helped if needed.” “Your mother helps.” Peter nodded. “She does…with schools, medical needs and things like that, but overseeing those…” “That’s who he is,” I said simply. “I was here!! I could have helped!” Peter shouted pointing at the floor. “I mean, I was here, in this very room for years!!” He said angrily. “I should have gone to school earlier. I was twenty-five! I could be here now, have a degree and really help Olek. I wasted all those years in this room!!” Okay, my humor kicked in. “Then we’d have a bigger problem.” “What problem?” I shrugged. “I wouldn’t be here.” Peter’s head went back at little as he thought. “Oh, yes, you wouldn’t be.” “I might be marrying Ted.” Peter’s eyes grew. “He’s engaged to Amanda!” He shot back. “And blond!” I pointed out, reminding him I didn’t really like them. “You know how I’m sooo attracted to them,” I said sarcastically. “You think I’m being silly.” I shook my head. “Peter, I do not! I don’t think that at all. I’ll tell you what I do think.” I smiled pulling him closer for a kiss. “You are a very smart man. You’re kind and you think of others first…I don’t know what your experiences were with what you had at twelve until recently from that condition…you were afraid, but were willing to step outside that fear and go to a school to help Olek. You went to a country you’d never been to, to help. Why? Because you love Olek and Makarovia more than you were scared. Mostly Olek.” I chuckled. “Our mother told me your father was the same way. He made himself responsible for Makarovia, so does Olek. Now, you’re taking responsibility for Olek. I know you love Olek and want to help him. Don’t you think finishing your education will do that?” Peter nodded with a chuckle. “Yes. I was thinking, maybe I should stay here this Winter and help more.” “I see.” I nodded as I looked in his eyes deeper. “You could…you could help him a little for a year or so…or you can finish getting your degree and help a lot in three more years.” Peter chuckled as he pressed his forehead against mine. “I told you, I was being silly.” “One more time.” I wrapped my arms around him. “How you feel, is how you feel. What you’re feeling is not silly, it just is.” I pressed my lips to his gently. “I love you, Peter. You heard what you already know Olek has done and it just…” I tapped his chest over his heart, “hit home. Regret is a part of being human…you use that regret to make sure we give Olek the help needed. The way I see it, we will have things covered. Olek handles all foreign matters, trade, your mother…” I saw him about to object, “sorry, our mother handles domestic issues like health and education, you are going to handle city development of all Makarovia and I was assigned to oversee this new mining and new industrial issues. Keep them in line and safe.” Peter smiled as I kissed him again more intensely. “You’re speaking to Makarovia.” He said to me. “Have you thought of what you’ll say? What you said at the table was good.” I nodded. “I’m not worried about public speaking; I can do that. I’m Katrina’s grandson.” I chuckled as he smiled at that. “She passed to me the lack of fear about speaking up.” Peter chuckled. Then I looked in his eyes. “Right now, you’re regretting because of what you did or didn’t do in the past.” “Self-pity.” I nodded. “You know what it is, you know what you’re doing. I guess you need to decide either stay there and just react, or take action.” Peter bowed slightly and nodded. “You’re right.” He looked at me embarrassed. “Sorry.” “Don’t be.” I smiled. “You care, not just about your brother, but your mother, me and Makarovia. You’ve got a mother that loves you, a brother that loves you and a fiancé that adores you.” I kissed him again. “We’ll be fine.” Pulling him closer, he lowered us on the couch, arms just knew where to go and we again were connecting. No sudden urges, no wild passion, but just a simple gentle embrace…a cuddle as I held his warm, solid form next to me. Nothing could feel so right compared to this. “I love you, Eric.” He said burying his head against my neck and tightened his hold on me. My fingers ran through his black hair. “I know,” I said softly into his ear, kissing it. Passion is wonderful, but love…was priceless. Being close to that one person you care about more than anything or anyone is indescribable. Peter needed me. I was finding out more about this country and more about the Ivanov men. Understand, they were strong men, but somehow, this intense sense of duty was just buried so deep in their very souls. Queen Alla told me that her husband, Olek the First, had been the same way. He needed her to keep his head on straight and just to be support behind the throne. To the man, her Olek was, not the king of Makarovia. I was beginning to see my role in Peter’s life was going to be the same. He was no means a weakling; he wasn’t some little shy thing cowering from bullies. He saw a need and realized he needed to do something, instead of hiding from the world. To me, that said more about him than anything. I realized I needed him just as much. I was getting more determined that Olek get this kind of support, too. He’d been functioning for years alone. Queen Alla was here, Peter was here and I would be there for him, but he needed someone to confide in that he trusted. I could do as much as I could, but he needed a life mate! I moved as Peter moved to make himself more comfortable when there was a knock on our door. “Yes?” Peter sighed looking up from me. “Whatever you’re doing…” we heard Jori, “hurry up, we need to be ready. Dinner is in two hours. You need to put these suits on.” Peter chuckled and went to the door, straightening his hair as he opened the door. “We were just…talking.” He grinned at the tailor. “We can bath ourselves.” Jori held the suits up. “I want to make sure they look right. I have…” “…a reputation.” Both Peter and I said with him. We did bath and get dressed. Jori had to make sure…they hung right? What? He measured both of us dozens of times. It was fine! Going downstairs, now the palace great area was filling with people coming for dinner. This was not even the event, but just a dinner to welcome those coming for the event. Makarovians and many other mezitli escort countries were here and many languages could be heard as the hum of conversations could be heard. The people of Makarovia were not rich, but they dressed as well as they could. Some suits were nice, some showed age. Some were not fitting well as they may have been borrowed. Ladies in dresses and the delightful sound of those many conversations carried up as we took the main stairs down. There were some uniforms there, the blue of the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force and one German and French. I spotted General David Burke and Helen Burke, General Edmond Hammond and I spotted a grey-haired woman next to him I knew had to be Eloise. I saw Drew Humphries and Wayne Jenkins standing near them, hands joined just like Peter’s and mine were. Getting to the floor area, I heard. “My GOD!!” Turning I saw my grandmother walk over in a nice dark blue gown, her face showed shock. “Grandma?” I asked surprised. She walked over and pulled my arms out as she shook her head. “I knew this…but…” her eyes started to tear, “you always did, but…you look just like your grandfather! I mean, the spitting image!!” She smiled. “Your father is there, too, but…dressed like that. You look like Theodore…so, handsome!” I grinned. “Thanks. Grandpa was a handsome man.” I hugged her. Grandma looked at Peter. “Both of you! Handsome, handsome, handsome!” “Thank you.” Peter bowed slightly. “You look lovely.” Then, no one expected it, but there was…a boom. Muffled by distance, but it was a boom and heard. Not in the palace, but it sounded close…somewhere outside. Conversations stopped and all heads turned toward the sound which told us…nothing. “What was that?” Grandmother asked no one. “I’m sure we’ll find out.” Peter in reply to no one. He looked as no one was too worried and we were asked to go on to dinner. Something had happened, but we didn’t know what. We sat at a table with King Olek, Queen Alla, my grandmother, Wayne, and Drew. Conversations were good. This was where the proposal was taking place, so there were cameras over to the side covered until the following day. The dinner was nice, but I noticed about an hour later when a man came over to David Burke and Edmond Hammond in dress uniform, their country’s uniforms. The American Airman leaned in say to David and Edmond quietly who looking up surprised as did Edmond. Then a man came to Olek and whispered to him. Olek got up and followed another uniformed man. “I’m going, too,” Peter said to everyone at the table. “Excuse me.” He put his napkin down and rose. I got up. “Stay. It may be nothing.” Peter said looking at me. “You’re not going to see about nothing and you know it,” I said taking his hand. “Where you go, I will go.” When we went down in the palace we got to a room where…it wasn’t pretty. Drab walls and a desk, but iron bars held two people. A dungeon!? Not quite, we were still a few stories up, and I knew there were rooms down here for villagers in the past during an attack. The room had been turned into a holding area for…I don’t know…prisoners? There were some less than nice people even in Makarovia. Inside the cell…behind the bars were two dark-haired men in their twenties. One looked a little dirty from ash and soot; there was a place that was reddened from a burn. The other man, with glasses, was just dirty and there were cuts on his face and the beginnings of bruises. They both had uniforms of the RAF, but they were also the same ethnic group, Iraq, Iran or somewhere in the Middle East. There were four military police members here with rifles that stood by. “…friend was killed.” General Hammond was now a full General! A nice man that was a grandfather was gone. Now, he was an angry, pissed off military leader. He would have scared me! “What did you hope to accomplish by this action!?” Olek looked up at Peter and me, he grinned tightly and grim then came over. “You two don’t need to see this.” “I think we do, Olek,” Peter said smiling at his brother as he touched his arm. “You’re my big brother, but…I’m grown up. Now, what happened?” Olek nodded. “It was a car bomb. They tried to get in through the gate, but we stopped them.” He sighed. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, the third member blew himself up with the truck and bomb.” Then the two looked up and saw Peter and I jumped up rushing to the bars and began shouting in whatever language they naturally spoke. General Hammond got this look of pure hatred in his eyes as he swung a balled fist so fast, so hard, knocking the man back against the far wall where he slumped down…stopping him and his friend from shouting. The man on the ground was bleeding from his nose, which I could see was broken. “Now, if you have a point to make,” Edmond said quietly, a sharp contrast to his face. “Trying making it in English so we understand so we understand it? I know you don’t speak Makarovian.” No. Edmond was no one’s grandpa right now! “What is happening here is against Allah!” The one standing said angrily. “It is against the Qur’an. A man can does not marry a man!!” Then he said something else in that language and the one word I got was “infidel.” Olek frowned and walked forward. “According to you.” “It is written in Qur’an!!” The man said again. “Even if you don’t believe in the Qur’an, it is against nature! Union is between a man and woman!” Olek nodded. “So, anything that’s against nature, is wrong.” He reasoned walking up to the bars. “Yes.” Olek looked at the man and grabbed his glasses from the man’s face, dropped them on the floor and stepped on them, crushing the glass. “Then you are as against nature as they are! From the looks of the lens, they were pretty thick, so you should be blind. You should have died because you can’t see. You can’t hunt, you can’t work, but you defied nature by wearing those!” He walked closer. “I gather you have family and I bet there are those in your family that have pacemakers, artificial valves, take medicine for high blood pressure or high blood sugar. All of those are in defiance of nature. We’re not animals! We don’t mate by instinct! We can choose who and when. We evolved! How is love wrong!?” “What they are doing is wrong!” “Then Allah will handle it!!” Olek shouted as he began to breathe harder. “Forty virgins!? I’m hoping your friend you lost burns in Hell!! I don’t follow your religion and I don’t believe in the god you worship! I want him brutally raped in his virgin ass by forty of the biggest hairiest male demons from now until the end of eternity!!” Olek was getting angrier and breathing harder. Both Peter and I reached for him and pulled him back. “Olek,” Peter said quietly. “We knew there were some people wouldn’t like this,” I said to Olek. “Calm down. We’re fine.” Olek continued to glare at the man in custody, “If I could, I’d send you to the afterlife myself!” Olek said. “Never threaten my people and especially NOT MY FAMILY!” He turned to General Hammond. “I want them out of here! Do what you have to with your men, but they go! Tonight! Right now! Get them OUT of my kingdom!” General Hammond nodded with a slight bow. “They will be gone, I promise.” He looked at the two. “I’m gathering your friends and questioning them to see who all was involved. You will be on a transport in an hour. There will be stiff charges, I can promise that. You’ve embarrassed me and my command, embarrassed your king and country. You are British!! Of that, I am ashamed.” I walked up behind Edmond. “Just do me a favor.” Edmond raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Please, stay on our side,” I said. “You may count on that,” Edmond said nodded with a tight smile. Peter and I then pulled Olek out of the room and headed back up, but we didn’t go back to the dinner yet. Peter led him up to the roof area that looked over Stryia. Where he’d taken me that first night here. He brought Olek in a tight hug and just held him. “Calm down, Olek,” Peter said quietly. “I’m fine. Eric’s fine.” He squeezed his brother, then pushed back a little to see in Olek’s eyes. “Other than those two and the one that died, was anyone else hurt?” Olek shook his head. “No. Just them.” He looked up and took a deep breath, then looked at me with a smile. “That was pretty upsetting.” I walked over and joined them, hugging both Olek and Peter. “It was, but as I said, we knew this could happen. It won’t be the last attempt.” I walked to the edge and waved at the evening at the many lights of the town below. “You’ve done a great thing for Makarovia, but this is going to be a new world for many here.” “I hope we can survive,” Olek said grimly. I smiled. “Makarovia will, because we,” I waved at all three of us, “will make sure of it. Now, there are a lot of people downstairs eating without us.” I put my hand on Olek’s arm. “We’ll be there to help, Olek. Makarovia will survive.” I noted that his color was good again. Peter nodded. “We should get back.” The next day was a little more chaotic preparing for this event. People were rushing through the palace and there were more voices below. I got my good clothes on. This time, it was a tux. Peter came over, looking damned fine in his and sat by me as I channel surfed through the news. I should have known the BBC would have it covered. They were here! Louis Garner was the reporter on the screen, set up in the palace below us as he gave his report. “…the bomb was set off before any real damage was done to the palace in Stryia, Makarovia, where today, Prince Petro Ivanov of Makarovia will propose to Eric Richards of Charleston, South Carolina of the United States.” He looked up. “Investigation continues as Islamic Extremists are said to be responsible for this attack. No word from the palace in Makarovia except to say the proposal is taking place today as scheduled. This…proposal is a long-standing tradition in Makarovia where the couple will become engaged and Eric’s position will become Earl of Stryia as he begins his yearlong engagement to Makarovia and its people. The subsequent marriage will take place in a year-” Peter held up the remote and turned it off as he leaned in on me. “Thank you, Eric.” My eyes widened. “Thank me? For what?” “Sticking by me,” Peter said softly. “You never backed down. From the moment you suggested we become friends that first week…you’ve never left me.” “Of course, not.” “Even with all this…” he waved at the TV and activity that we only heard a little up here. “I’m marrying you, Peter,” I said again. “Not Prince Petro. You. You’re my best, dearest friend. I’ll always be at your side. I love you.” I looked in his eyes. “Do you believe me now?” He nodded. “I do.” “Remember that phrase in a year.” I chuckled as I kissed him quickly. We were escorted down to the same great room we had dinner in the night before, but now, the tables were gone and there stood hundreds of people dressed in the finest…as they could afford. All gathered on two sides of the checkerboard floor. On the side of a carpeted runner that made an aisle people stood waiting. Camera crews were setting things up to begin as the time finally arrived as various reporters were prepping to tell everyone what was happening. Queen Alla, dressed like always, gown with gold glittery things on a sheer covered dress and hair perfect came up beside us with Olek. Olek dressed in that tux on and red sash and the Makarovian crest hanging as a medallion around his neck. Both had their crowns on. Olek handed Peter his. “You get yours in a year.” Olek winked at me. “It’s just ceremonial anyway.” He shrugged. The conversations flowed until a man I’d seen occasionally who worked with Olek on Makarovian affairs went to the raised area. “Presenting, His Most Royal Majesty, King Olek Ivanov of Makarovia.” The man said in English as he waved at the door at which we stood. There was no orchestra, but suddenly some majestic music began as Olek walked down the aisle toward the raised area. “Presenting, Her Most Royal Majesty, Queen Alla Ivanov of Makarovia.” The music continued. “Presenting, His Royal Highness, Prince Petro Ivanov of Makarovia.” Peter gave my hand a squeeze, kissed me and walked down the aisle. “And now…presenting,” no, there wasn’t a drumroll, “Eric Richards, from Charleston, South Carolina of the United States…soon to be Prince Eric Ivanov of Makarovia!” He waved to me. Okay, now I had those butterflies everyone had asked about. Cameras turned as did every face there and I walked down the aisle. Queen Alla stood on the left pozcu escort and King Olek on the right. Peter waited for me at the center as I stepped up to the raised area next to him. Olek came over putting his hand on my back. “About a year ago, my brother went to school in the West…where he met someone very special. Having gotten to know Eric, I was so happy my brother found someone to love who is smart, but clearly loves my brother.” His eyes narrowed angrily. “For what happened last night, I will say this…no one attacks me, my family or my country. I don’t care if you don’t approve. Mind your own affairs!” Then he smiled again. “Since we got to know Eric, he has proven he will be an asset to Makarovia. His plans will go forward. This marriage will happen.” He looked at me. “Do you have words for Makarovia?” I smiled. “I do. A year ago, I didn’t even know where Makarovia was!” I said raising my hands helplessly. “Makarovia? Where the hell is that!?” I shook my head. “Which is a damned shame.” I smiled at the faces that weren’t so certain. “I get here. I fell in love this country instantly!! You as a people know about give and take. For a long time, you certainly know about takers. Powers that come in a take what you have….because they want it. The takers will take everything…your things, your home, your freedom, and even your very lives! Why? Because they don’t agree with you? You might have been Jewish or a Gypsy…” I looked back at Peter, taking his hand, “or like many here in Makarovia; like Peter and me. What I see here in Makarovia…are givers. Givers of lives, of freedom, a place to get away from the takers…who hid people during a great war keeping them safe. You’ve done this for generations!” I waved back at Olek. “I saw a man; he is a wonderful giver. He gives his time and even gave up his personal life for a people he truly loves! No one can deny that.” I waved at Queen Alla. “I see this be Nautiful woman that gives her time to help the people of Makarovia with education and health services and many other things needed and just as pretty inside as out. She is an exceptional giver.” I smiled. “But first, I meet this man…who is kind and gentle that loves me and has the most beautiful soul. I love Peter. He is asking me to marry him and become a part of Makarovia. I will do that gladly, but know this…” I stepped back beside Peter. “I will work seriously and hard to bring Makarovia into a brighter future and into the twenty-first century. Not for Peter or for even King Olek. But for Makarovia. This country will be the shining example for all nations to follow. A symbol of hope. King Olek has given me a job and I take it very seriously. Peter and I will work side by side to do whatever we can for this amazing country and her people, but understand…my first priority…” I said, “is always going to be him.” I looked at Peter. “I will be at your side, we will make this country the shining example to follow, but I’m marrying you, Peter. You are Prince Petro Ivanov of Makarovia, but I marry you, Peter…when you ask me.” I grinned. “I love you, Peter. I want to spend my life with you. Together we’ll make this country the jewel to be seen the world over.” Peter’s eyes sort of glistened as he reached in his pocket and then dropped to his knee and at first, his voice cracked a little. “Eric Richards, will you do the honor of joining my life and becoming my husband? I love you. I need you in my life.” He opened the box to show the ring that had the wide ring with the Makarovian Royal Crest on it. Then he said quieter. “I love you.” Reaching down I took his face in my hand. “I will definitely marry you, Peter. I love you, too.” I said pulling him up as he took the ring out and slipped it on my left ring finger. He gave a quick sniff and leaned in kissing me gently. “Now, I’ve asked you.” “You know my answer.” I grinned. “But…” I said loudly, “yes!!” The room was filled with applause. Hugging Peter, I smiled at him. “Now, the fun begins,” Peter said as we looked out at the many smiling faces still applauding. I was seeing my grandmother who was smiling but using a handkerchief around her eyes. Next to her were Wayne and Drew who were applauding hard. Then I looked at the many strange faces of the others from Makarovia. People I would meet later. Then I saw…my eyes widened and I didn’t believe it. There were those from England here, but…there was the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson! Beside her was Prince Andrew! They were both smiling and clapping with everyone else! That was one monarchy I hadn’t even given a thought would be here! “But she…” I gaped at the woman in disbelief. “I mean, I thought…” Peter frowned and looked where I was looking. “What?” “They’re divorced!” I finally got out. Peter then saw who I was speaking about. “That doesn’t mean they aren’t together. Haven’t you wondered why they never remarried anyone else?” I gave a shrugging nod, “Well, he has had those affairs and…” I didn’t know! “But no commitment for either?” Peter grinned. I looked at all the people here. “We should have just done the wedding.” I smiled. “We covered almost everything except the vows…which we pretty much did.” Peter grinned. “We do everything else. We only missing the legal part.” He pressed his forehead against mine. Olek came behind me. “That was some great words you gave, Eric.” “I meant them,” I told him. “I know you do.” Queen Alla said joining us. “Thanks, Mom.” Yes, I was getting used to calling her that. I guess I feeling more comfortable with her. She was a Queen! Olek I knew as Olek after the first meeting…and I even saw him completely naked, so the armor was a little tarnished where he was concerned. He was just…Olek to me. Now, came the meet thing. A reception line where I greeted all those that attended, meeting mayors of the townships and villages. Then all the others from various countries. David Burke walked up with his wife’s arm in his. There was another kiss, but not with David. I kissed Helen on the cheek. “I’m very happy for you, Eric.” Helen smiled. David leaned forward and said quietly like he was going to ask me secretly. “You two are pretty much married now, right?” I waved at David to Peter. “See!? That’s what I said!” Peter laughed and nodded. “It’s a tradition. We’re together now, aren’t we?” “We are pretty well married.” I nodded as Edmond Hammond came up next with his wife. Olek shook the General’s hand as they hadn’t gotten to us yet, but I overheard Olek ask. “What about that car bomb? Anything new?” General Hammond sighed shaking his head looking away. “I can’t tell you how sorry that happened.” He patted his wife’s hand a looking again at Olek. “They were some confused young men. Their families came to England and their parents became citizens before they were even born! They are citizens by birth. They were…” he thought of the best way to say it, “trying to get in with some more radical Islamic organizations to further this jihad they seem to want to wage.” He sighed. “They were trying to win favor with some of the more hardcore terrorist groups and thought this was the best way to win that favor after seeing what they had done and be welcomed with open arms as heroes.” He chuckled. “They weren’t very good at it. That bomb went off too soon and outside the gate.” He looked at the palace. “Not that they would have gotten in…and even if they did…as thick as the walls are…” I moved nearer to them. “So, it wasn’t a real terrorist attack?” Edmond looked, smiled, and shook his head. “Little boys with big ideas and not a lot of sense, My Lord.” My eyes widened. “My Lord!?” Edmond chuckled. “You’re an Earl now. That’s the address for someone with your title.” I grimaced. “Okay, do you prefer Ed or Eddie? All these titles! Call me that again and I’ll choose one!” Edmond laughed even harder. “You’re the Earl!” He moved his wife up. “And this…” he presented proudly, “is my wife Eloise. Peter Ivanov and Eric Richards.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” The woman greeted us holding her hand out. I took the hand and, not to be outshone by Peter and how he greeted grandma the first time, did the hand kissing thing which Mrs. Hammond giggled slightly getting. “It’s great to have friends here. Your husband is most definitely a good friend, I hope we will be, too.” “I’m sure we will be.” She said. Before Edmond walked away, I stopped him and leaned in to whisper. “I was impressed last night. You talk like an aristocrat, but last night…that was some right-handed punch!” I squeezed his arm over his arm muscle. “That was pretty awesome.” He grinned. “There are times when a gentleman can’t be a gentleman.” He held up his free left arm and balled his fist. “My left isn’t too bad, either.” He winked at me. He was back to being grandpa…a badass grandpa with a killer punch! Knocked the guy out with one punch! Soon, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson came up. “That was an interesting tradition, My Lord.” Prince Andrew said smiling. I inwardly groaned. “It is. I’m still getting used to this…the titles, Your Highness.” Sarah chuckled. “It does take a while, but you seem to be holding up well.” “I admit to being surprised seeing you here,” I said I held my tongue before I said: together. Prince Andrew smiled. “My nephew would be here, but he honestly had a conflict he couldn’t get out of.” “He’s king and therefore busy.” I nodded. “The British Monarchy is changing with Wills as King, but there are still obligations.” Prince Andrew explained as he looked at Peter. “I was second in line for a while, it can be…challenging. I see you seem to have found your place in this.” “I didn’t help you,” Sarah said to Prince Andrew, but smiled at him. “I wasn’t ready for it.” She looked at me. “You seem to be handling it just fine. How old are you?” “Twenty-five,” I answered. “I was about the same age as you are now when I married this prince. You seem to be doing very well.” She smiled. “You know everyone will see this?” I said pointing at them. “You’ll be seen…together.” “They will.” Prince Andrew laughed lightly. “We never really broke up actually. We did have to separate for a while, but she is the mother of our children and we often got together. It just sort of…worked out for the better.” “The divorce was more for…” she looked at Prince Andrew, “appearances.” “It was just easier.” Prince Andrew said. “Now that they’ll see us together,” He shrugged. “But this wedding that is shaking things up.” He smiled at Sarah. “Mum would never have entertained the very idea.” “I know.” Sarah laughed and changed into a fair imitation of her ex-mother-in-law. “That simply isn’t done!” I noticed others there I wasn’t so sure about. Let me just say, I knew that saris on a couple of women with men that were from India or that area obviously. They weren’t gay-friendly from what I understood. Coming to the proposal was not discouraged, but more in their favor from Makarovia by being here. There was a limit on space even in this big room. They must have been okay with something here. Olek had explained before…we have what they want. They won’t dare say a word against us. We had a dinner the night before, but now there was kind of a party. With limited space there was no live band or anything, but there was music and there was dancing. A proposal reception? Why not? There were invitations from others by others to me and Peter, which we accepted and danced with them. I was even asked to dance with Queen Alla herself! I even danced with Olek! He was pretty good, but not Peter. I knew he would lead, so… While after finishing one dance, I was waiting for Peter, who finished, but asked by another person…my grandmother came up to me. “When he’s finished, you can dance with him, but can I have one?” She asked smiled holding her arms out. “Anytime.” I smiled holding out my arms. “If I remember how to lead.” “I taught you to dance at five.” She smiled. “I knew you’d be good at it. I’m sure it will come back.” As we danced, I noticed her looking at the various news crews and reporters. “I know you’re very happy with Peter.” She said. “He’s a very good man, but are you going to be happy here…in Makarovia?” “This is Peter’s home. We’re joining our lives, so it’s my home, too.” “From what I’ve heard…this is going to a trying time for them…I mean for all of Makarovia, meaning specifically, it will be hard work for you.” Grandma said to me and saw the puzzled look on my face. “No, I have no doubt you can do it, but…” escort bayan “But?” “I sense something…” she said looking at Peter. “I heard what you said about the past with him. I know he’s a sensitive man. I also know he has a strong sense of duty. This acne thing was pretty devastating for him. There are times I get the feeling he lacks confidence…and he withdraws…” “It was a very hard time in his life. He’d lost his father and then when self-worth is doubted in adolescence…” I nodded. “He had a hard time adjusting and he does at times, but he’s getting better. It left some emotional scars.” “He got through it, because of you.” She sighed. “There’s nothing sexier than a damaged soul, feeling that you’re needed. He needs you. Are you going to be there all those times?” I waved at the raised area. “I told the whole world I would, but mostly to Peter.” “I know.” She nodded. “He depends on you, but he may become overly dependent on you. Almost codependent.” I know my head went back a little on that. “He isn’t!” “No, he’s not yet.” She agreed. “You know what I’m talking about. He can become so reliant on you for his image of himself because of you.” She stopped dancing. “Just make sure this doesn’t become a one-sided relationship. Otherwise, you may feel trapped.” I shook my head. “But he’s not. He depends on me, yes, but I don’t enable him for things…he doesn’t do drugs or alcohol.” She shook her head. “No, but I’ve watched you and heard what you’ve said. HE was in trouble, HE had acne, HE lacked good self-esteem, HE needs you…you’re a rescuer.” I was surprised. “Grandma!” She nodded patting my shoulder and hugged me. “I’m just saying, be careful. You don’t want this to become a one-sided relationship. Just be sure, he’s giving as much to you…as you do for him.” She smiled. “He loves you and I know you love him, but just watch he doesn’t become…too dependent.” She kissed me on the cheek. “He should think of you just as much.” “Why are you saying this?” I asked. She chuckled. “Because like I said, you take a lot from your grandfather, but you also take a lot from me. I bet you even have the rule.” “Rule?” “When you ask what’s on his mind, you want an answer.” She said smiling. I nodded. “We did that almost at the very beginning.” I smiled. “See!?” She waved. “That came from me! But you need to do the same thing. If you’re feeling something…tell him. If you’re feeling even just a little disconnected…tell him. Be as honest with him as you want him to be with you. Your grandfather and I had a very good marriage. It was solid, he could tell me anything, but I knew I could tell him anything. Even if I just felt the need to reconnect with him by making love, which he had no problem with making a reconnection.” She chuckled. “You make sure to meet his needs, but make sure he knows your needs and he knows what you want. Just because he knows you, doesn’t mean he can read your mind. Talk to him.” That’s when Peter tapped grandma on the shoulder and smiled at me. “Excuse me, Grandma, but can Eric and I have at least have one dance together?” Peter asked. Grandma smiled at Peter. “I think that would be fine.” She kissed him on the cheek and as she was about to walk away she turned to me. “Just think about it.” I nodded as I grinned at Peter. “I am marrying you. We dance all the time, but sure…let’s go and show them how we do it in Makarovia.” The music was varied, but once we got on the dance floor…naturally the music changed to a slow song. Again, we’d done this many times so we just started…dancing. Since we were in Makarovia we were not the only same-gendered couple dancing. “How are you holding up?” I asked. Peter looked surprised. “Me!? How are you holding up?” “I’m fine.” I smiled. “Why wouldn’t I be? I was just proposed to by a devastatingly handsome prince where everyone with a TV can see it!” I looked at him. “As long as we keep talking, we’ll be fine. Remember our rule?” Peter nodded. “Part of that rule I hadn’t complied with,” I confessed. Peter looked surprised. “You haven’t?” I shook my head. “I need to be telling you more how I feel. I haven’t always. I will, starting now.” Peter smiled. “You are big on feelings.” “Sure.” I nodded. “I entertained the idea of going into Psychology. I told you that, but I thought the environmental issues needed to be addressed more. The human psyche is fascinating to me. I used to read about it all the time and what I found was most problems come when people don’t talk about what’s on their minds or how they feel. It doesn’t matter if they are important or not…” I grinned at Peter, “or silly. They are what you’re feeling. So, talk about it.” I kissed him gently. “If I feel anything…you’ll know from now on. What I feel mostly now is…good. It could be overwhelming. It’s not, it is intense, but it’s good.” Peter nodded kissing me again. “I’m here.” “I will say, I feel very confident about us…as a couple.” That night, I did tell him what I needed. “I love our passion, I love you more than anything, but I need you right now. I need you to touch me and to love me.” I smiled touching his face gently. “We are connected, but I need you to make love to me, gently and with love…calmly and slow. I need you.” Peter smiled kissing me gently. “You’ve got me. Anyway and anytime you need me.” Like I’ve said before; explosive passion is great when you’re gasping and trying to regulate your heart! I love that, but, to me, there’s nothing better than the slow, loving presence of the person you cherish the most. He was solid, in my arms, against me and I loved him. There was not a shred of doubt knowing: HE TRULY LOVED ME. After the proposal, everything sort of went back to the way it was. My grandmother had to go back to Asheville making us promise to have her come to Boston when we got back. She still had a business to run. Wayne and Drew had to return to London but swore they’d be back soon and Drew said he’d have more questions to ask in the future. The news crews had to return. By Monday morning things at the palace were returning to normal. There was less noise. We came down for breakfast to find Olek dining alone. “Where’s Mom?” Peter asked as we sat near Olek. “She’s having to go to breakfast with some officers’ wives in Skoal,” Olek said rolling his eyes but chuckled. “I’ll deal with negotiations from potential hostile powers rather than face that!” I frowned. “I wished we’d known. I was planning to go to Skoal myself to talk more with Generals Burke and Hammond.” “Not because I’m concerned you’ll need help or anything, but why?” Olek asked. “These military people are here to protect Makarovia from potential threats and invaders. They have personnel here that should be used. From what I’ve been told about the winters here, you need help.” Olek frowned. “I don’t want to be dependent on them.” “Why shouldn’t we?” I asked. “We’re giving both major countries, the US and Great Britain, a good part of the uranium. That should be earned. They can say no, but I don’t think they will. Both David and Edmond said they have enough personnel to help build the terrace farms and greenhouses…even asked for things to be given to them for something to do. Why not ask for help getting the areas covered that are remote? In the worst weather, they can probably help clear the areas in the townships if for no other reason than to help themselves.” Olek nodded with a grudging shrug. “You can ask. We’ve always done things ourselves.” I nodded. “When you have the manpower…now, there are more men and women who will need something to do! Why not?” Peter smiled as his brother gave a nod still not certain. “So, what are you doing today?” Olek grunted. “I meet with the German portion of our guests.” He smiled a little bitterly. “They are helping us.” He said a little testy. “But if I hear one more,” his voice lowered, “Das ist nicht hinnehmbar! I’ll be fine.” I chuckled. “Sorry, what did that mean?” “This is unacceptable!” Olek translated. “We’re all friends, right?” “Right.” I nodded. I knew he spoke German. Then he smiled. “But now, we have the upper hand. If they want even a little of what we’ve got, they will have to compromise.” He looked seriously at me. “That’s a word they don’t seem to understand sometimes.” He returned to his breakfast. “You guys will be moving when you get back to Boston.” Peter looked up. “Why? I was beginning to like where we were.” He grinned looking at me. “I was even going to put the hockey stick in the corner.” I squeezed his hand. “They’ll have corners at this new place, I’m sure,” I said bumping my head against his. “I was home,” Peter said. “With you.” “And I’ll be home wherever we are.” Olek gave a shrugging nod. “You need a bigger place. Since the televised proposal, you two are very known now. Everyone will be trying to talk to you and follow you around. You’ll need more security and therefore more room.” He sighed. “Besides, your President thinks it’s the best course of action.” Peter nodded. “Do you have any idea where that will be?” Olek shook his head. “Not yet, Boris and Yuri will be heading up the move. I did stipulate that it needed to be near the University. That’s all.” “Have you seen any of the broadcasts of the proposal?” I asked. Again, Olek shook his head. “Not yet, but it was on the news last night in England and the United States as a report. It’s been recorded if you want to see them.” He looked at me. “Life as you knew it; is gone.” I nodded. “I knew this would happen.” I smiled. “And I don’t regret a moment.” We did see the news coverage from the BBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN. It was purely presented as what it was. A prince proposed to an American male; nothing about the significance. Though, I did note that Louis Garner was presenting his version as a simple matter of happened fact. Nothing about the fay, fag or fairy shit. I knew Drew would cover that part. We drove…or rather, Peter drove to Skoal. I didn’t have a license here. Peter looked at me with the “really?” look when I said that. “No one would give you a ticket here,” Peter said and he thought. “I don’t know that they give tickets here. I’m sure they must, somebody’s run a red light or something, but this country isn’t overrun with cars.” I waved at the driver’s side, which was on the correct side for US drivers. It was an American made car. “Just drive. You’ve only done it a couple of times in a year. You have to miss it.” Peter thought and shook his head frowning. “No. Not really.” At the Base, we went toward the temporary offices for Headquarters. Things were shaping up! The area around the Base was clear of trash, there was even an Airman mowing grass! In this hilly and rocky soil, that was proving tricky. I only heard the man cuss once as the lawn mower died in some thick grass. Apparently, it had happened before was why he reacted. Being hilly, having a smooth lawn was difficult to even start a lawn, much less maintain. The Base was shaping up more as it was developing a more…permanent appearance for this group of temporary quarters. Entering the offices, it was…just that! An office. Phones rang, people were talking on the phone and typing on computers. A young man with an arm that had three stripes, but no star…a Senior Airman looked up and his eyes widened. “Your Highnesses!” He said in awe as he rose quickly. “Here we go again,” I muttered to Peter. “Just go with it,” Peter said back quietly as we approached the desk. “Is General Burke and General Hammond in?” The Airman nodded. “Certainly, right in there.” He waved to a door behind him. Going in, they were doing things a general does. A map open they were poring over and discussing something. Both looked up and smiled at us. “Peter, Eric! Good to see you!” David greeted getting up. Edmond looked and I saw his eyes almost glisten when he bowed slightly. “Your Highness. My Lord.” My eyes narrowed. “Okay, Eddie! I told you, I’d choose one. What irritates me; you did that on purpose.” Edmond laughed and nodded. “I did.” He admitted. David chuckled. “Well, since you’re here, come look at these plans.” He waved us over. Things were coming into place. David and Edmond showed us areas they thought best for the greenhouses and terrace farms which would be both. Not those glassed-in ones, but just simple heavy plastic to insulate against colder weather and stretching the growing season. There were areas that were a lot like around the Base that was rocky, they showed us plans to build greenhouses there. I spoke to them about the future months and what they had planned for the Base when it got cold. When they told me, I asked if they would consider doing that on a grander scale and they agreed instantly they would do that. By dinner time that afternoon, we had a lot planned, now we just had to do it. This was working! Chapter 23

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