Title:Come Lie With Me
Disney Prompt:Once Upon a Mattress
Summary: Prince Jensen longs to be married, but the Queen's law states that he must marry someone of royal blood. All the princesses in the realm have failed, but can the new stranger to the kingdom be the one to pass the Queen's Test?
A/N: Written for j2_everafter. Based on Disney's "Once Upon a Mattress", an adaptation of the fairytale "The Princess and the Pea". Big thanks to tebtosca for handholding and beta skills, and also to cha and ldyghst for the fun watch/chat that started it all.
Princess Danneel of Graul stood serenely amid the crowd of tittering maidens fluttering about her as she prepared to answer the final question in the rigorous Test she was enduring in her quest to marry Prince Jensen, the fairest prince in the land (the fact that he was also the wealthiest prince in the land hadn’t escaped her notice either). A tall, voluptuous woman, she stood apart from the other girls, shining brightly in a jewel-toned gown that made the pastels the others wore seem like pale echoes.
Princess Danneel had made it farther than any of the prospective spouses before her. Her Test consisted of a set of ritualized questions relating to the fashion, history, entertainment and geography of the kingdoms – even one relating to potpourri – and she answered all of them easily. Only one question remained, and the fate of a kingdom balanced on her response.
“Princess Danneel,” intoned Richard the Wizard haughtily, somehow appearing to look down his nose at her even though he was several inches shorter. “The final question is this: in the legend of St. George who slew the dragon...” he paused for dramatic effect and the silence in the room grew deafening as the crowd held its collective breath, “what was George’s mother’s cousins’ handmaiden’s uncles’ dog’s name?”
The minstrels struck up an annoyingly repetitive tune to heighten the suspense.
Still holding its collective breath, the crowd’s eyes swung towards Princess Danneel. She stood there a moment, tapping one perfect oval nail on her front tooth as she carefully considered her response.
Then she spoke:
“What the fuck kind of question is that?”
The breath the crowd had been holding was let out in one disappointed sigh and the silence was filled with grumbling as the crowd dispersed, shaking their heads in disgust that once again the Test devised by Richard the Wizard had proven too difficult a challenge for a prospective spouse, and Prince Jensen would remain unwed.
Princess Danneel remained where she stood, and her eyes closed briefly in defeat. Catching the disappointed gaze of Prince Jensen up on the dais, she mouthed, “I tried.” He dipped his head in acknowledgement and then rose from his throne and walked dispiritedly from the room. Princess Danneel straightened her shoulders and turned to leave, lifting her chin and ignoring the muttering of the courtiers who remained. She strode regally from the hall, and as she passed the trio of minstrels standing near the door she met the admiring eye of their leader, a short, stocky blond man. Giving him a dimpled smile and a saucy wink, she made her exit.
Up on the dais, the Queen, Samantha the Sly, allowed herself a tiny smile of satisfaction.
In the privacy of the castle’s courtyard two young lovers sat on a stone bench nearly hidden by the Queens’ prized rosebushes. Sir Matt the Muscular had his arm wrapped consolingly around his beloved, Lady Katie, as she sobbed noisily into his waistcoat.
“Come, Katie my dearest, it’s not the end of the world. So this princess didn’t work out; I’m sure Prince Jensen will find his spouse soon.”
“Matt, I know he's your friend, but I don’t care about Prince Jensen,” Katie wailed. “I just want to get married!”
“You know the Queen’s law, Katie,” Matthew chided.
“Yes, of course I know the law, Matt.” Her voice rose to a sarcastic singsong as she recited the hated law. “None may wed ‘til Prince Jensen shares his marriage bed.”
“That’s right. And Prince Jensen can only marry someone that is truly royalty,” Matt smiled and nodded, and, as if that was the end of the matter, set about trying to untie the laces of Katie’s bodice. She slapped his hand away.
“Matt, my love,” she said sweetly, gritting the words out between clenched teeth. “I don’t just want to get married. I need to get married!”
Matt looked at her blankly. Katie sighed. At least her lover was good-looking, if not the sharpest sword in the armory.
“I’m expecting,” she tried.
“Expecting what?” he said distractedly, as his hand edged once more towards her breast.
“Oh for the love of...I’m knocked up, you fool!” she yelled, then smiled demurely and smoothed her skirts around her on the bench.
Matt jumped up off the bench as if a fire had been lit underneath him. “You’re with child?” his voice rose to an alarmingly high pitch. “But...how?” She gave him a droll stare but said nothing. “Well, of course I know how but...” Matt trailed off, looking pained.
“Matt.” Katie said firmly, bringing his focus back to her. “If we can’t get married, then I have to leave this kingdom. My father will banish me from his house!” She looked like she might cry, and since the sight of his lover’s tears terrified him more than practically anything in the world, Matt began speaking quickly.
“No, my love, you won’t have to leave this kingdom. I do want to marry you. I love you, and I’ll love our child.” He was proud of how calmly he said that, given that the very thought of a child was sending him into a raging panic. “I know what I must do. I will find someone of royal blood who won’t fail Richard the Wizard’s Tests. Then Prince Jensen will be married and we’ll be free to get married, too!”
“Oh, Matt!” Katie’s face lit up, but then just as suddenly clouded back over as a thought occurred to her. “But all of the eligible royals in the neighboring kingdoms have already tried and failed! Nobody could pass Richard’s Tests!”
“Well then,” he firmed his already very firm jaw, “I’ll just have to go beyond the neighboring kingdoms. I’ll go north, to the mountains. There are kingdoms there. I’m pretty sure.” He added the last under his breath.
Despite his trepidation, the look of hopeful joy on his lady’s face made him determined that he would succeed in his task. With that settled, Matt returned his attention to his original goal.
“Since I’m going to be taking a long journey and will miss you terribly...” he coaxed, his hand moving back towards Katie’s breast. This time she giggled and allowed his hand to reach its goal.
Two months later...
Prince Jensen sighed as he sat at his desk and gazed unseeingly out the window. At almost thirty years of age, he was starting to feel like he was going to be a bachelor forever. While that would no doubt please his dear mama, Jensen longed for the companionship of a spouse. His own parents’ marriage notwithstanding, Jensen loved the idea of belonging to one special person forever. But at the rate that Princesses were failing Sir Richard’s Tests, it looked like Jensen was never going to have that. His mother had decreed that Jensen's spouse had to be of true, royal blood, and Jensen always obeyed his mother.
A disturbance from outside caught Jensen’s attention then, and he moved closer to his window to see what the ruckus was. There was a crowd gathering in the courtyard below the castle wall, and everyone was looking in the same direction. Following their gazes to the top of the wall, Jensen was startled to see a rather tall, wet young man standing there. The man was well built, and quite -
“Gorgeous...” Jensen sighed to himself. Almost as if he’d heard, though it was impossible from that distance, the man’s eyes turned towards Jensen and locked onto his gaze. Jensen flushed slightly and stepped back into the shadows of the room, heart pounding for no reason that Jensen could fathom.
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he forced himself to maintain a sedate pace as he made his way down from his bedchamber, through the great hall and into the courtyard where the crowd had gathered. He came to stand at the top of the stairs at the entrance of the castle, noting absently that his mother and father were already there, apparently interested enough in the proceedings to tolerate each others’ presence for at least a short while. The man Jensen had seen from his window was no longer standing on top of the wall; he was at the base of it beside Sir Matt.
The crowd immediately fell silent as the voice of Sir Matt rang out, “Prince Jensen, I have brought you a candidate for marriage!” Jensen peered over the crowd, squinting slightly to see more clearly. Before he could speak, the Queen shouldered her way through the crowd to stand before Sir Matt and the stranger.
“Impossible!” she said imperiously. “We have already Tested all the eligible Princesses in the Tri-Kingdom area! Where is this supposed new princess?”
“Oh, it’s not a princess,” Sir Matthew said earnestly. “It’s a prince.”
The crowd fell silent, and all eyes turned to the Queen so as not to miss the imminent explosion. They weren’t disappointed.
“What do you mean, a prince?” she shrieked. “My son can’t marry a prince! He must marry a true princess; the law requires it!”
“Actually he can,” interrupted Steven the Jester gleefully. As King Jim’s favored companion, Steven liked nothing more than antagonizing the Queen. “The law merely states that Prince Jensen must marry a person of royal blood. It doesn’t say anywhere that it has to be a princess.”
The Queen’s face tightened in displeasure but she refused to acknowledge Steven’s point.
“Sir Matt, what makes you think my son would even be interested in marrying a man?"
Sir Matt coughed delicately. “Well, Your Majesty, Prince Jensen and I have been friends for many years. His favorite pastime is watching the soldiers spar in the bailey. I’m pretty sure he’s not there just because he takes an interest in the art of war.”
Jensen flushed, but he didn’t deny it. He hadn’t realized his interest was that obvious. Awkward.
“Hmph.” The Queen responded. “Well, the law does say that Jensen must marry someone of royal blood. You can’t mean to tell me that this...” she sent the man a scathing glance “person is royalty!”
Sir Matt started to respond but the tall man smoothly interrupted.
“Actually, Your Majesty, I am.” he grinned, and the dimples that creased his cheeks charmed Jensen, as well as half the crowd if the smiles that appeared on peoples’ faces were anything to go by. “Please, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Prince Jared of Padalecki Mountain.” striding forward he pulled his hand out from behind his back and produced a water lily, no doubt picked from Jensen’s own moat. Bowing low, he presented the lily to Jensen. The crowd awwwwed.
“And for you, Your Majesty”, he pulled out a damp piece of parchment and handed it to the Queen without looking away from Jensen, “my papers. Our mountain is not a rich kingdom like yours, but it is a kingdom, and I am a prince. And I want to marry your son.”
“He was so eager to get here and meet Prince Jensen that he didn’t even wait for them to lower the bridge,” Sir Matt told the crowd, “he swam the moat and climbed the wall!” The crowd roared its approval.
Well, that explained why Prince Jared was wet, anyway. Jensen turned to the Queen, grinning excitedly. “He’s perfect, Mama! Can I marry him?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Queen sniffed. “Royal blood or no, you won’t be marrying this...this...riffraff!”
The crowd moaned in disappointment, and Lady Katie approached the Queen, dropping into a low curtsy and suggesting in a low tone “Your Majesty, if I may be so bold, couldn’t you at least let Prince Jared be Tested? Surely if he’s truly unsuitable he will fail the Test. Then at least the people will see that you tried your best to help Prince Jensen get married.”
The Queen looked like she was about to reprimand Lady Katie for her impertinence but then she paused and exchanged a significant look with Richard the Wizard. When he inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement the Queen graciously proclaimed, “Yes, let Prince Jared be Tested. If he is suitable, then of course he may marry Prince Jensen.”
The crowd cheered, and Jensen let himself hope that maybe this time his potential mate would pass the Test. There was something about Jared that made Jensen even more eager than before to get married.
“Jensen, my dear, why don’t you show Prince Jared to a chamber where he can change his,” she curled her lip, “clothes. He will be our guest tonight. We will make plans for his Test.” With that she swept off, Richard the Wizard trailing in her wake.
The crowd dispersed and Jensen was left alone with Prince Jared.
“So...” Jensen said, then trailed off, not knowing what to say next. What do you say to a gorgeous stranger who wants to marry you? He motioned for Jared to walk with him toward the bedchamber they generally used for special guests.
“So,” Jared smiled. “It’s nice to finally meet you. I had seen a miniature portrait of you, of course, and Sir Matt has told me all about you. I almost feel like I know you already.”
“And yet you still want to marry me?” Jensen asked curiously. “Why?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Jared returned. “You’re gorgeous, you’re interested in things like agriculture and art, you treat your servants kindly, and you’re well liked by the people in your kingdom. At least that’s what Sir Matt tells me.”
Jensen was still blushing over the “gorgeous” part. “I’m not interesting, though. With looks like yours you could have anyone.”
Jared stopped walking and Jensen halted with him. “I don’t want just anyone, Jensen,” he said gently, “I want someone who likes the same things I’m interested in, and who has a good heart. Someone that can be my companion for the rest of my life. From what Sir Matt told me about you, I’d say you fit the bill pretty well.”
Jensen smiled. “Seems as if you might, too.” The two stood looking at each other until they were interrupted by a polite cough. Jensen pulled his gaze away from Jared with difficulty, to see Steven the Jester and Jensen’s father, King Jim.
“Your father wants to meet your new suitor, Prince Jensen,” Steven said, eyes twinkling merrily.
“Of course,” Jensen said formally, “Prince Jared of Pad-...Pada-...” he stopped in consternation and Jared smoothly stepped in, bowing to King Jim and supplying, “Padalecki Mountain, Your Majesty. It’s almost as hard to find on a map as it is to say,” he winked, and King Jim grinned at him and made some rather complicated hand gestures in response.
“My father doesn’t speak,” Jensen explained. “He was cursed by a witch before I was even born.”
“Cursed!” Jared exclaimed, his delicate eyebrows arching in surprise. Jensen wanted to lick them.
“Yeah, she was a real piece of work, that one,” Steven shook his head in disgust. “Word to the wise, boy, if a witch ever asks you if she looks fat in that dress, you say ‘NO’!” King Jim nodded emphatically.
“Is there no way to remove the curse?” Jared asked earnestly.
“The witch said the curse will be lifted ‘when the mouse defeats the dog,’ whatever that means.” Steven shrugged. “In thirty years we haven’t been able to find a mouse big enough to beat a dog. Found some damn big rats though,” he mused. King Jim elbowed him and he returned to the subject at hand.
“Anyway, I speak for King Jim. He said he welcomes you to our kingdom and wishes you luck in your Test.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty. I had the...uh, pleasure of meeting the Queen earlier,” King Jim and Steven glanced at each other, rolling their eyes, and Jared tried unsuccessfully to hide his smile.
“I’m just taking Prince Jared to a bedchamber.” Jensen said, then realizing how that sounded he hastily added “to get out of his clothes.” Damn, that was even worse. “To get into dry clothes, I mean.” His face felt like it was aflame, and the wicked grin Jared sent him didn’t help matters.
Steven and King Jim exchanged a look and Steven said, “We won’t keep you. We’ll see you shortly at dinner.” The two walked off, King Jim gesturing to Steven, who barely muffled a laugh.
Embarrassed, Jensen quickly showed Jared where he could change his clothes and took his leave, telling the mountain prince he’d see him at dinner.
In the Queen’s antechamber, Richard the Wizard rubbed Her Majesty’s shoulders while the two of them deliberated on the proper Test for Prince Jared. She was still annoyed that Sir Matt and Steven had found a loophole in her law; she’d been sure she’d made it ironclad, keeping the number of potential brides for Jensen to a minimum.
“It’s got to be the perfect Test,” the Queen mused. “Something we can control. Not another trivia quiz; that last little tart got entirely too close to passing the Test for my liking. No way some headstrong young thing is going to take my Jensen away from me. I like things just the way they are.”
“With Prince Jensen - and the kingdom - right under your lovely thumb, you mean,” Richard waggled his eyebrows, and the Queen gave him a light smack on the shoulder with the back of her hand. She didn’t deny it though, he noticed with absolutely no surprise.
“Focus, Richard. The Test. How can we prove that this Jared person isn’t suitable for my dear Jensen?”
“Well...” Richard hummed to himself, deliberating, then said “A true royal is very sensitive, in mind and body. Maybe we can prove he’s not?”
“That might be it!” The queen exclaimed. “An uncivilized mountain man? He must be as tough as shoe leather. Look at the muscles on him!”
“Oh, I have!” Richard smiled to himself dreamily, earning another smack from the Queen.
“I’ll prove that Prince Jared isn’t as sensitive as a true royal princess would be,” she said. “It's hardly my fault if the man can't pass the Test. The people will have to agree that he’s not good enough for Jensen. He needs to wait for a proper royal girl. And while he waits, things can go on as they always have.”
“How about we place a stone under his mattress,” Richard suggested. “We’ll make the mattress really thick, and if he sleeps through the night then that proves he’s not sensitive enough for Prince Jensen.”
“Ridiculous!” The Queen sniffed. “We’ll make it a tiny pea.”
“And ten mattresses!” Richard said with a flourish.
“Make it twenty! There’s no way this mountain man is going to pass the Test. And just to make it a little more challenging for the dear boy, we’ll make sure he’s exhausted before he goes to bed. Oh, I’m so glad I thought of this; it’s brilliant!”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Richard sighed with a wry smile.
At dinner Jared was seated beside Jensen, and the two used the time to get to know each other. Jared confessed with a grin to also enjoying watch the soldiers of his kingdom spar, but he also got to join in with them on occasion, which no doubt accounted for his muscular physique. Jensen was momentarily distracted by images of Jared, shirtless and sweaty, swinging a broadsword around with those muscular arms.
The Queen was - for her - uncommonly polite, insisting that Jared’s wine goblet be filled at all times and that his plate was filled with the rich, heavy food she’d instructed the kitchen to make. Jensen found it confusing, since his mother wasn’t exactly known for her gracious hospitality, but he was too caught up in learning everything he could about Jared to think much of it. Jared fascinated him; his self-confidence, intelligence and humor were addicting, and Jensen thought he could quite happily listen to Jared talk for the rest of his life. For no reason that Jensen could fathom, Jared seemed equally fascinated with him, and he warmed under the other man's attention.
After the long, drawn-out meal everyone departed for their beds, leaving Jensen and Jared alone in the dining hall. Jensen could see that Jared was beginning to look a little tense around the eyes.
“Is something wrong?” Jensen asked. He held his breath, half expecting Jared to say that his proposal was a huge mistake.
“I’m a little nervous about this Test thing,” Jared confessed. “I really want to pass, especially now that I've gotten to know you, but I don’t know what the Test will be!”
Jensen let out a sigh of relief. “Well, I don’t know. All the princesses had different Tests. The last one had trivia questions. One had to eat slugs. One had to dance the Macarena for twelve hours. Maybe if we practice a bunch of different things, you’ll be ready for whatever the Test may be?”
“You’re willing to help me pass?” Jared asked with a smile.
“Yeah, Jared. I want you to be the one to pass the Test.”
“Even though I’m not a princess?” Jared’s smile turned wicked.
“Especially because you’re not a princess.” And now that he'd met Jared, Jensen couldn't believe it had never occurred to him that a princess wasn't what he was looking for.
Jared leaned forward and pressed his lips to softly to Jensen’s. When he pulled away Jensen barely restrained himself from pressing his fingers to his tingling lips. Maybe he was a shy virgin but he didn’t have to look like it.
They spent the next few hours making sure Jared practiced everything they could think of, from arm-wrestling to poetry to chess to Jensen’s personal favorite, weight-lifting. Jared refused to try eating slugs, arguing that if his Test involved eating gross things he’d choke them down when he needed to, and not a moment before. Finally, unable to think of any other possible tests, but unwilling to leave each others’ company, they decided to practice drinking.
Meanwhile, as Jared was busy telling Jensen all about his home in the mountain kingdom (“You should see my pet goat, Chad!”), the Queen and Richard were talking in hushed voices in the hallway leading to the bedchambers.
“Did you get it?” the Queen demanded.
“Oh, yeah,” Richard smiled slyly. “Smallest pea I could find. It’s there under all those mattresses. He’s still out in the dining hall drinking with Prince Jensen. After all that exercise, the heavy meal and the wine, he’ll be asleep the minute his tousled little head hits the pillow. He’ll sleep through the night for sure.”
“And if he does, he’s simply not sensitive enough for my poor, sweet, Jensen,” said the Queen with a patently false look of regret.
The two walked off down the hallway, completely oblivious to Lady Katie hiding behind a large potted ficus.
“No way are you stopping this wedding, you sneaky bitch.” she muttered angrily. “More importantly, no way are you stopping my wedding!” Slipping out from behind the ficus she ran off in search of Sir Matt.