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“You can’t do this! You are making a mistake Immanuel! A damn big mistake!”

 

Margo Trench, previous Secretary of Defense and self-inaugurated ruler of Taluigia, was seated on the tiled floor of her office. Wrapped around her being was an itchy, warm rope that complimented her metallic, ice-cold bionic arms. Said arms were tied behind her back along with her legs using what could only be called a cocoon of bindings, and Margo could only squirm as she gave everyone in the room a deadly look of disdain. Standing around her were people from all walks of life; Taluigians, Upmians, nobles and poor folk, men and women, friends of the former emperor, and even some of the castle guards that were previously on her side. They had all united for a common goal, a goal of which Margo could barely comprehend. The latter half of her life was filled with nothing but the validity of violence, war. How could Taluigia thrive if they weren’t profiting off of the labor of a neighboring nation? How could the government ensure the Upmians wouldn’t attempt a rebellion after being treated as the lower race for so long? The simple answer, in Margo’s mind, is that Taluigia was headed for disaster. The Upmians needed to be chained once more.

 

But Immanuel had gathered his allies, people who were uncertain about the future and wanted peace between the nations, and had taken back control. She was dying to see the look on his face when the people he trusted so deeply would inevitably stab him in the back. That is, if she ever got to view his face again, seeing as the castle’s prison was likely her new residence.

 

“Taluigia will fall under your hand, Immanuel. Besides, how are you even going to get the people to listen to you? For all they know, you’ve resigned! It was broadcasted on national television!” Margo sneered, an expression of both triumph and spite resting on her features.

 

Immanuel’s face also held triumph, the joy of his hard-earned victory as he stood in front of his former secretary with his arms crossed. Unleashing a boisterous laugh, he turned to one of his loyal guards and retrieved the purple hat resting in the man’s hands. His hat was a symbol of his status, his independence, his confidence, a symbol of all of his accomplishments, and for that, Immanuel was happy to finally have it rest upon his head once more. He was happy to be taking back the reins of his nation. Immanuel was happy that he had the power to make a change.

 

“You’ve gotten the facts wrong, Madam Trench! If I recall, that broadcast was of a man who looked exactly like me resigning from a position that he didn’t own. I’m still in power!” Immanuel stated, pacing around his captive.

 

Said man, Yanny, was tied up alongside Margo and the castle guards who had sworn allegiance to the new leader. After some negotiating with Krys at the Dandy Lion before their counter coup, Immanuel determined that sending Margo immediately to prison and having everyone else prosecuted fairly was the best option. Some of the enemy party had been horribly manipulated, after all.

 

“Now, Maxwell, hand me my phone, if you will. I think it’s about time we give Roger some real news to cover.”



 

“Hello wonderful ladies and gentlemen of Taluigia! I’m your host Roger Craft, and welcome to this night’s edition of The Lighthouse! We have a very special guest I’d like to bring to the stage. Let’s give a round of applause for the former emperor of Taluigia: Immanuel!”

 

Eyes across Taluigia widened with surprise. Not only was Roger sounding refreshed and eager to report again, but the former leader was reappearing on television so soon after his resignation. Or at least, what the citizens thought was his resignation. Immanuel stood proudly in front of the camera with Jean Jacques, Maxwell, Krys, and Geraldine all lingering behind him. It was clear to the viewers from everyone’s positions that the episode was likely not a traditional Lighthouse Q&A but an important announcement, so the people leaned on the edges of their seats to listen closely. 

 

“My friends,” Immanuel thought as he smiled and waved to the families across the country, “thank you for giving me the courage I needed. I will make things right.”

 

“Now, our dear former leader, what brings you onto our show tonight?” Roger asked gleefully, leaning on the back of his hand.

 

Immanuel took a deep breath in. He turned his head to face the crowd behind him. When his allies nodded at him, he silently agreed with his own nod and a smile before twisting back to face the camera.

 

“People of Taluigia, Upam, and whoever else may be watching,” he began, “I have appeared here to announce that the resignation speech given by me previously was part of a coup staged by Margo Trench, the Secretary of Defense. The man who spoke in place of me was a fraud. I am still your emperor, and I promise that I will be a glorious one now that nothing is holding me back.”

 

A gasp was heard throughout the kingdom. To think that a major government takeover had happened right under their noses boggled the mind of the average citizen. Tears were shed by women hoping for the first female leader in decades, children cheered about how their idol was back, and Upamians fell in the middle with mixed feelings. The rebels grew excited for the new era of change, while the uninformed about Immanuel’s beliefs feared for the continued discrimination of their people.

 

“Now that you are aware of my return to power, I am passing three new laws as of this moment.”

 

Taluigia held its breath.

 

“Firstly, every person on my staff who was revoked of their position by Margo, with the exception of Madam Trench herself, will be reinstated at once.”

 

If the audience were to peer behind the star of the show, they would notice Maxwell Stills and Krys visibly light up at the news. With the adamant steps that Immanuel was taking to lead the country, his need for a Propaganda Secretary or an assistant to boost his popularity for him lessened. However, it was always nice to have an official title, and Immanuel still wanted to keep his friends close for their encouragement and input.

 

In his office--after discovering that the bars of his prison cell were pitifully weak--Gabriel faintly smiled before returning to the trinket he was constructing. He had fought for his freedom, had just had his job bestowed upon him again, and had managed to find where the castle guards had stashed away the bright green crocs he loved so dearly. Yes, life was good, he would conclude in a letter to his sister.

 

Wilbur had fallen asleep during the broadcast as he so frequently did. The announcement mattered little, as Wilbur was snoozing when he was stripped of his title in the first place. Despite his old age and deteriorating mind, which would hardly make him a threat, Margo revoked his silly position as the Secretary of Cheese. Regardless, in his land of dreams, he smiled at the thought of Taluigia being in good hands.

 

“For my second declaration, I appoint Jean Jacques de Jeneve as the new Secretary of Defense.”

 

Immanuel brought his attention to his bodyguard once more and gave him a wide grin, to which was promptly returned. They had discussed before the show that leaving a highly trained military agent in charge of the nation’s defense would bode well for them. Beyond that, Immanuel secretly wanted to place the one he loved on a path of increasing power and public recognition, so that another set of policies he had planned for the future wouldn’t be as much of a shock to Taluigia. Nor would Jean Jacques be startled by such a large acquisition of authority.

 

“And finally, I declare that peace negotiations between Taluigia and Upam shall begin at once! This frankly really stupid war ends today!”

 

An outburst wrung throughout every home in the country. Smiles, cheering, angry screams and annoyed foot stomps, everyone in the kingdom took the news differently. Immanuel was prepared for the backlash. He was familiar with having a fairly large amount of people opposing his rule, but he was ready to make any and all necessary changes to allow not only the Upmians to feel safe, but to get his subjects to accept them as their equals

 

It was a tremendous weight on his shoulders, yet one that Immanuel was willing to bear.




“I understand that you wanted to grant me more privileges and influence, but this is damn difficult, Manny.”

 

Jean Jacques sat hunched over at his desk, a pencil in one hand and his head in his other. He had been slaving over paperwork since the moment he had woken up when all he really wanted to do was have a nice breakfast and cuddle his dear leader. Duty had called for both of them, however, and he was forced to rise from the comfy sheets of the emperor’s bed. Immanuel himself had strolled into his office around noon to check up on him after a meeting with the members of his cabinet. He promptly seated himself on the edge of Jean Jacques’s desk, kicking his legs up and down like a small child.

 

“Oh, don’t be so aloof, JJ! You’re a strong man, you can handle it,” he stated.

 

Jean Jacques gazed up at his lover through his sunglasses.

 

“I understand, but going from leading a small battalion to leading an entire army and having to mediate with another country isn’t something you adjust to overnight,” he admitted.

 

Immanuel’s expression softened as he hopped down from the desk. He leaned forward to give his boyfriend a chaste peck on the cheek and to scratch his ginger beard in the way he liked it. This resulted in a contented sigh and a lax smile from the other man.

 

“You know that I gave you this job because I trust you more than anyone else in the world, Jean Jacques. Also, you being an Upmian certainly helps, both in our country’s image and in negotiating the permanent peace treaty,” Immanuel revealed.

 

Jean Jacques nodded before shifting his focus back onto his papers. He twiddled his pencil between his fingers as he spoke.

 

“The Upmians are asking that we desize our military and that we allocate more men to enforcing anti-discrimination policies. What do you think, Manny?”

 

“Tell them we’ll do it.”

 

The Secretary of Defense abruptly shot his head up at Immanuel’s lack of hesitation. He was aware that the leader tended to make rash decisions, but something of this scale certainly deserved more thought put into it. He stood up suddenly, planting both of his palms firmly on his desk.

 

“Dear leader, with all due respect, there could be disastrous consequences to cutting back on our soldiers during such a fragile time,” Jean Jacques explained.

 

Immanuel stood strongly, attempting to match Jean Jacques’s posture. His expression held resolve, understanding. He wasn’t just a foolish prince anymore. His journey through the stress of his fighting council, disguising himself and then coming clean to the rebel forces, learning what the Upmians truly wanted and then taking down Margo had changed him. He was more knowledgeable, better prepared to rule his nation and to oppose those who challenged him. Although, with his ratings at an all time high according to Maxwell, Immanuel had little fear concerning an uproar.

 

“Everything has its consequences, JJ. We need to show the citizens of Upam we are truly committed to this, so it is a risk we will have to take.”

 

Jean Jacques slowly sank back down into his seat. At his leader’s words, some of the tension escaped his body and his face lightened up. Immanuel’s assertive nature excited him in more ways than one. He had originally slept with the emperor in the hopes of not only putting him in a clearer state of mind, but to plant a seed of Upmian influence within the castle. Along the way he had fallen hopelessly in love with the leader, perhaps even at the first kiss, so he was filled with overflowing pride at his boyfriend's determination. He was satisfied that his plan had worked out, but more than that, Immanuel had become his own man and had made a handful of personal changes without his assistance. Jean Jacques’s knowledge of his brief usage of Immanuel for his own race’s gain riddled him with guilt, so he was resolute on becoming a competent policy leader for Manny's sake. A better boyfriend too, if he could.

 

“Alright Manny. I’ll tell them at the conference tomorrow that we agree with their terms,” Jean Jacques said, scribbling down some notes on a sheet of paper.

 

Immanuel vaguely glanced around the room as he leaned back on his heels. When his eyes landed on the clock, he audibly gasped, causing Jean Jacques to perk up as well.

 

“Aww crap, I’m going to be late for my meeting with Gyorg!” He announced, straightening his hat and his uniform the best he could.

 

The Secretary of Defense raised an eyebrow.

 

“Your father is causing you problems again? I thought you said you weren’t going to let him rat you out anymore, Immanuel,” he recalled.

 

At this, Immanuel laughed nervously. His relationship with Gyorg had always been a shaky one, but when the most heartfelt letter he had read in years appeared in his mailbox, signed by none other than his father, Immanuel decided a father-to-son chat was exactly what they needed to clear the air. After everything they had both been through, and with Gyorg not growing any younger, it was about time they ended things off on a good note. Besides, he really needed a break after hearing Wilbur ramble about Taluigia’s cheese production for two hours.

 

“I’m not, JJ. We’re just having a friendly little chat about all that’s happened recently and the future of the country,” Immanuel stated.

 

Jean Jacques didn’t argue, especially since he had his own load of work to attend to. Instead, he left his boyfriend with words of encouragement.

 

“Don’t stress yourself out, Immanuel. You have a lot of responsibilities, but don’t feel like you have to tackle everything at once. Or tackle everything alone, either. Know that me, Krys, Maxwell, and everyone else are here for you,” he said sincerely, briefly removing his sunglasses.

 

Immanuel stood in the door’s entrance, “Thank you, Jean Jacques. I must be going now.”

 

“Actually, one more thing before you depart.”

 

Jean Jacques gave him his signature smirk and a suggestive, raised eyebrow.

 

“Executive Time at seven?” He asked hopefully.

 

Immanuel rolled his eyes, yet the smile taking over his face betrayed the character he was attempting to portray. Unable to resist, he quickly covered the distance from the door to the Secretary of Defense’s desk and all but squished said secretary’s face in between his palms. His grin was playful, but also more genuine than any other smile in his life. Immanuel was so very glad that they could be less secretive with certain topics and gestures now. Even if there were security cameras watching him, what were the guards going to do? Apprehend the supreme leader, who could easily fire the whole staff with the stroke of a pen, for being homosexual?

 

“Of course, my big JJ-bear!”

 

“Please, dear leader, never call me that again.”

 

 

 

“Thank you for arranging this meeting today, Father. There are some things I wish to discuss with you.”

 

“Yes, Immanuel. There are some things I need to say too.”

 

The atmosphere was slightly tense as they sat across from one another, but Immanuel couldn’t help but notice that Gyorg looked healthier. Calmer, even, as his expression was not one of disappointment, but standard neutrality. This could go a variety of ways, and Immanuel was hoping for the best possible outcome. What that outcome was exactly, he hadn’t quite figured out the fine details yet.

 

“Let me go first,” Immanuel began, taking a sip of his tea, “I…apologize greatly for allying myself with the rebel forces, but know that I did it out of the best interest of the country.”

 

He expected Gyorg to lash out at him, to chastise him for going behind everyone’s backs and making poor decisions. The letter he had sent Immanuel had certainly been flowery, but the leader knew that his father could be as double-sided as a coin when he felt like it. 

 

Instead of yelling, Gyorg simply took a swig of his own tea and nodded.

 

“I am not upset that you worked with the rebels, son. In fact, I think their opinions could prove beneficial to Taluigia’s future,” he said thoughtfully, staring out at the castle gardens, “sure there are some extremists in the bunch, but that’s why you’re their leader, to make certain the ship doesn’t go overboard.”

 

Immanuel couldn’t decide whether to be surprised or not. Gyrog had a reputation of being friendly with the Upmians, but he didn’t expect him to support the very people who had attempted to undermine the government. Then again, having Margo Trench as the dictator of Taluigia will change people.

 

“Father, I know it’s a bit soon to be asking this, but I was wondering if you might want to return to the castle? Not to bully me around, of course, but the royal bed chambers are much more comfy than wherever you’ve been staying, likely.”

 

The expression of contemplation returned to Gyorg's mein. It was almost as if the man was staring into Immanuel’s soul, evaluating him from the inside out and determining what sort of response to give based on his intentions. It caused a chill to run down the emperor’s spine, but it felt strangely familiar. However his father decided to respond, he would not allow himself to fall back into the pit of helplessness.

 

“I’m afraid I will have to reject your offer, Immanuel. Due to my old habits, it’s best that I live away from you, lest you screw up and I attempt to correct your behavior again,” Gyorg responded.

 

It was an odd response. On one hand, Immanuel was offended that his father was implying he was likely to make another major mistake so soon. On the other, Gyorg sounded genuine, as if he were really trying to craft the best life for his son in the little time he had left. Was he?

 

“Father, I--”

 

Suddenly, Gyorg placed down his teacup and put his head in his hands. He had thought that making his son the Emperor of Taluigia would free him of his burdens, but he still felt just as stressed, just as weighed down as the day his own father resigned.

 

“I’m so, so sorry Immanuel. I have done nothing but treat you like a little kid, and I resented you because your birth drove me and so many people I cared about apart. But it isn't your fault, it was never your fault,” he mumbled, on the brink of tears.

 

Immanuel rushed to his father’s side, holding onto his shoulders and pleading with him.

 

“Please, do not cry Gyorg. Things were different back then, I know, and I don’t hate you, even if you were a bit annoying,” he said honestly.

 

“How could you not? After all of that rough treatment, and you still treat me with kindness. Why, Immanuel?” the older man muttered.

 

“Because you’re still my father. Nothing can change that.”

 

They both went silent. Immanuel returned to his seat while Gyorg remained slumped with his eye firmly shut. After what seemed like an eternity, the former emperor allowed himself to see again, and this time, free of tears. The first thing he did when the pure magnitude of everything settled was smile. A real, true smile directed at his son. He was grinning not just because of the confirmation that Immanuel still loved him, but he was smiling for everything he had achieved in such a short period of time. Immanuel really was the stunning image of Yvan.

 

“Thank you, my son. I’m very proud of you, you know?”

 

No, Immanuel hadn’t known, and it hit him like a dump truck. He couldn’t even recall the last time he had heard those words come out of Gyorg’s mouth. He was the one nearly bawling now as he gave his father a shaky grin of his own. He finished off his tea and stood up from the plainly decorated table. Gyorg followed suit shortly after.

 

“Oh, well that’s good! Uh, before I return to national relations business though, there is something important I need to tell you, Father,” Immanuel began.

 

The happiness was short lived, for the anxiety had creeped into Immanuel’s system once more. It was now or never. His father certainly couldn’t control him anymore, but he did have the option of revoking all of his love and pride if he didn’t like his next words. Immanuel took a few steady breaths as he used the luscious, green scenery around him to calm his nerves.

 

“I’m going to be passing a few more pieces of legislation next week regarding the rights of homosexual and transgender people, and I need you to know that--”

 

“Yes, you are dating your bodyguard. I’m already well aware.”

 

Immanuel could feel his eyes nearly bulge out of his head with how wide he drew them. Only Krys knew about his and Jean Jacques’s relationship, and she was an expert secret keeper. So how on earth did the news get leaked to his father of all people?!

 

“How--what--”

 

“The evening you stomped up to me and told me that you liked having Jean Jacques by your side clued me in. Not to mention…you did remember that my bed chamber is adjacent to yours, right? You two aren’t exactly the quietest.”

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

Immanuel could feel his face burn red hot with embarrassment. If his father were to shun him for anything, it would most certainly be this. Not only had he been engaging with a man, but with a man who at the time was considered inferior to the citizens of Taluigia. No matter how much Gyorg respected the people of Upam, there was no doubt that the only reaction to his son’s attraction and his lack of desire for an heir would have to be disgust.

 

“I look forward to seeing how these new policies will affect our culture. And you and Jean ought to secure something official before any neighboring empresses attempt to ask for your hand. Good day to you, Immanuel.”

 

All that Immanuel could do as he watched his father depart from the castle was sob tears of happiness.



 

“Back again so soon, dear leader? Tell the audience here what brings you to our four hundredth episode of The Lighthouse.”

 

Immanuel casually lounged in the seat facing Roger’s desk. Jean Jacques stood to the side just out of frame per usual. There were no cue cards or real questions for the show producer to ask this time around, for Immanuel had once again asked to use his show as a nationwide policy notification service. Roger was annoyed and hesitant at first, having already done several favors for Immanuel in the past, but seeing as the emperor had little motivation to reboot state TV, he didn’t have much of a choice but to comply with his request.

 

“Hello, citizens of Taluigia! I have a new, progressive agenda I wish to share with you all tonight, and I’m certain that you’ll appreciate it as much as my close associates did,” he stated, standing up and facing the camera directly.

 

In her Government Official dorm room, Krys had invited Geraldine over to watch the live broadcast with popcorn. The young lady had initially failed to see the appeal, but after a liberal amount of puppy dog eyes and a promise that she knew of how much the news would please Geraldine, Krys had convinced her friend to come visit her on the otherwise gloomy, rainy evening.

 

“I’m really surprised and glad that our supreme leader is using Roger’s show so often to advertise his laws! It makes me feel more connected to him, in a way,” Geraldine admitted.

 

Krys plopped down on the couch next to her companion, placing the big bowl of popcorn between them to share. Geraldine immediately took to indulging in the snack, much to Krys’s irritation when nearly half of the bowl was consumed before the good part had even begun. They both silenced their munching when Immanuel began to speak again.

 

“Like last time, I have three announcements I would like to make,” he declared.

 

Similarly to the two girls, Gyorg was resting on a couch as he viewed the newest episode of The Lighthouse. Unlike them, his hands were occupied with a glass of almond liqueur as opposed to popcorn. He was intrigued to see how his son would control the physical and metaphorical stage of the kingdom. Would he brighten the hearts of his people, or shatter them with his unwanted policies? Time would soon tell, and Gyorg intended to witness every second of it.

 

“My first new law, which will go into effect immediately after this broadcast, is that the marriage of two individuals of the same gender will become legal!”

 

Gyorg huffed a laugh from inside his country home. He secretly wondered how long his son had been waiting to pass a law of that variety. When he was little, Gyorg noticed how Immanuel would always make his toy soldiers fall in love with one another. He assumed that it was simply because he didn’t have any female figurines and was forced to use a second male soldier as a substitute, but looking back, he realized none of the characters in Immanuel’s ‘games’ had feminine sounding names. Gyorg had additionally sent his son to an all boys school without really thinking, and he never could have guessed that that may have also contributed to his preferences. The former emperor of Taluigia wasn’t bothered by this. As long as his son was happy, he could be dating a frog for all he cared.

 

Geraldine also perked up at the news. With the complexities of her identity, she feared that others may have viewed her attraction to boys as attraction of the same gender. Thanks to Immanuel’s declaration, however, she didn’t have to worry so much about it. Geraldine hoped that others would continue to acknowledge her as the empowered woman that she was, but even if some people refused to do so, they couldn’t call her out now for being gay. 

 

Krys had a knowing smile on her face as she stared intently at the television. Once Geraldine caught wind of it, it was clear that something greater was building in the background. Krys had sacred knowledge having spoken with the leader in private before the show, so she knew exactly what was coming, and her excitement threatened to boil over.

 

“Secondly, discrimination is an evil of the past, so from this point on, no citizen of Taluigia, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, income status, gender, or sexuality, shall be treated differently from anyone else.”

 

Immanuel felt especially proud about that one. While the previous statement left a bitter taste in the mouths of the old generation, it was counteracted by the overwhelming sweetness felt throughout the whole country with the second policy. The Upmians were certainly happy, as well as the poor, the homosexuals, and the transgender citizens like Geraldine. For everyone else, for the ones who were considered fortunate to be born the way they were, a land of equality was one they were eager to live in. It just felt right, as if everything else had led up to this revelation. Only the elite fumed at the emperor’s words, and even then, some held respect for the man’s bold actions.

 

“The final thing I would like to share with you tonight, it’s less of a decree and more of a personal announcement,” Immanuel began, turning his gaze behind him.

 

When his eyes locked with those of Jean Jacques’s, Jean’s pupils dilated. They had spent a good portion of the day planning out what the leader was to say on television, and he didn’t remember this being a part of the program. Roger didn’t seem to find it in the script either, as he flipped through his notepad rapidly with furrowed brows.

 

Immanuel simply smiled at his boyfriend and motioned for him to step forward towards the camera. Jean Jacques was nervous despite what his rigid posture would suggest. He was never one to be hungry for attention, and now quite literally the whole country had their eyes fixed upon this ginger giant in sunglasses. Immanuel eliminated the second part by reaching up and removing his shades, causing Jean Jacques to become even more subconscious. His lover’s reassuring expression calmed him little; what was the emperor doing?

 

“I may be good at speaking on television, but that’s because those speeches are mostly scripted. That makes this even harder for me to convey to you properly, but I’ll try my best,” he confessed, rubbing his arm awkwardly.

 

“JJ, you have stuck by me through all of these trials and tribulations. Even when I was a big screw-up or acted unreasonable towards you, you stayed by my side. The general public, maybe even yourself, will believe it was out of obligation as my bodyguard, but I know the real you Jean Jacques, so that is why I am so incredibly grateful that you’re still here,” Immanuel said.

 

It started to weigh on Jean Jacques about what exactly was happening, and he could feel his heart nearly jump out of his chest. Was Immanuel really about to do it? On live television? In front of everyone? He never anticipated that his dear leader would do it in the first place, especially not so soon into his new reign. At the same time, Immanuel’s plans regarding marriage reform should have given him a hint beforehand. Regardless--and that was only if he wasn’t completely misinterpreting the situation--he could feel tears begin to pool in the corners of his bare eyes.

 

“Jean Jacques de Jeneve, my bodyguard, my best friend, my ham-loving hunk, and most certainly my treasure, will you marry me?”

 

Immanuel was on one knee now, humbling himself in front of the world. In his outstretched hand was a velvet box, and he opened it to reveal a ring made of fine silver and gold. Roger’s jaw had dropped to the floor along with those of the rest of the production crew. Krys and Geraldine had nearly stopped breathing; the suspense as they waited for Jean Jacques to respond was almost too much. In his living room, Gyorg smiled and turned off the television. He was growing weary and determined that the conclusion could wait. The next couple of days would tell him if his son’s affection was returned, anyways. In their respective offices, Maxwell and Gabriel nearly spat out their coffees in shock. Maxwell could hardly believe that Immanuel was getting engaged. On the flip side, Gabriel never thought Jean Jacques would take up a spouse. The following moments would determine if that reality would actually occur, if the leader and his bodyguard were to be wed.

 

“Manny, I--”

 

Jean Jacques was at a loss for words. Immanuel waited patiently, still with the same genuine smile as when he first began his speech. The Secretary of Defense took notice of how he had removed his hat sometime during the process. It appeared that he was opening himself, putting himself and his loyalty on full display. Jean Jacques suddenly felt very, very elated. He was so happy that he had fallen in love with such a man. Immanuel, the great leader of Taluigia, belonged to him. Everyone in the country knew that now.

 

“Yes! I will!”

 

And he belonged to Immanuel just as much.

 



“H-hey! Stop that, JJ! That, haha, tickles!”

 

Immanuel awoke to the morning sun peeking through the curtains and the feeling of Jean Jacques’s beard nuzzling the back of his neck. Even with his husband’s body curled around him, even with the heavy comforter keeping the both of them warm, Immanuel felt so incredibly light. It was like he was swimming through a beautiful dream, like he was larger than life. On some level, he was, because he was the emperor of a whole kingdom. But what made him more content was simply having someone who he could share his experiences with. Someone he loved.

 

“Good morning, dear leader~” Jean Jacques chimed, squeezing Immanuel tightly from behind.

 

Immanuel quickly responded with, “Well, you’re a leader too now, Jean Jacques of Taluigia.”

 

The purple haired man turned on his side to get a better view of his darling. The stress lines that had plagued his complexion earlier were beginning to fade, and Immanuel was happy that Jean Jacques was finally able to feel relaxed in the palace. His arms and chest were still strong, still covered with thick, ginger hair in ridiculous shapes that he loved to rake his fingers through. His hands were gentle as he trailed them up and down Immanuel’s back, and the smaller man reveled in the feeling of the wedding ring leaving pleasant friction across his skin. He was thrilled; the possibilities presented to them seemed endless as he laid in bed, soaking up the adoration his beloved radiated like how a flower absorbed sunlight.

 

“Jean Jacques of Taluigia…I like that,” Jean Jacques smirked.

 

“Do you know what I like?” Immanuel began with a smirk of his own.

 

He brought his hands up to his husband’s face and cupped it lightly, leaning his forehead against his own in an incredibly romantic gesture the emperor would have never attempted at the beginning of their relationship. The start of everything left Immanuel with uncertainty at the time. Sure they had kissed and cuddled, but was it a mutual in-the-moment decision? Had they just slept with one another for pleasure? As Immanuel had figured out after the rebellion against Margo, their love was real and true. It had been ever since the faithful night they had locked lips and locked Immanuel’s bedroom door. It would always be.

 

“Your eyes. They are so marvelous, like a chocolate galaxy. You should wear your sunglasses less often,” Immanuel stated.

 

Jean Jacques’s eyes were a bashful brown: a brown that matched Immanuel’s own. A brown that reflected the very dirt of the kingdom their castle sat upon. A brown similar to that of a well-baked ham. In the mirth of the early morning, they sparkled with innocence and restfulness, and it left Immanuel mesmerized.

 

“Actually, on second thought,” he backpedaled, “keep them on.”

 

Jean Jacques raised a curious eyebrow at that.

 

“And why would you want me to do that, Manny?” He asked without rancor.

 

Immanuel’s eyes held a possessive glint, “I want you to keep them on while we’re out and about so that I’m the only one who gets to see how gorgeous your eyes are.”

 

Jean Jacques snickered, something he did not do often out of professional habit. It brought an even brighter grin to Immanuel’s visage, and he wasted no time kissing the laugh right out of his mouth. His husband’s lips against his own and the occasional tickle of his beard felt wonderful. It felt natural, as if they had been together for more than just a year. To Immanuel, it felt like home.

 

Once the kiss had concluded, Immanuel sat up and rolled out of bed, seated at the edge. Jean Jacques protested by wrapping his arms around his partner’s waist and squishing his face into his lower back, making a low whine as he did so.

 

“Come, JJ! Just because you’re an emperor now doesn’t mean you get to be lazy! I sure didn’t make it this far from lying about,” Immanuel laughed.

 

“But Manny,” Jean Jacques complained, “it’s the day after our wedding. Can’t we afford to rest for a bit longer? I want more snuggles. And maybe some ham too.”

 

Immanuel laughed wholeheartedly once more.

 

“I swear, you have three moods, Jean Jacques! Hungry, horny, and high on oxytocin!”

 

Immanuel didn’t protest, however, to his companion dragging him back under the blankets. It was hard for himself to resist the warmth that the sheets and his other half provided, and they had nearly stayed up all night conversing with their subjects at the royal wedding, so perhaps a few more minutes of sleep wouldn’t hurt. Before Immanuel got too comfortable in Jean Jacques’s grasp, the smaller man planted a kiss on his husband’s neck.

 

“I love you, JJ. For now, and for forever,” he whispered.

 

Suddenly, a cold bolt of realization shot through Jean Jacques’s body. It took the breath out of his lungs and rational thought out of his mind. He stared down at Immanuel with wide eyes that left him confuzzled.

 

“What? D-did I say something wrong, my dear?”

 

“That’s the first time you’ve ever told me that you love me.”

 

The same feeling of horror dawned on Immanuel in that moment. They were married for Christ’s sake, and he had never told Jean Jacques that he loved him? Not even once? Immanuel desperately flipped through the filing cabinet in his mind to pick out a moment, but it appeared that his partner’s words were true. Just how foolish could he be?

 

“Er, how long have we been together?!” Immanuel panicked.

 

Jean Jacques filled in the gap, “Roughly a year.”

 

“Okay! Okay, I can fix this,” Immanuel breathed in deeply, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I--”

He was cut off by Jean Jacques pressing his lips to his once more. He allowed his body to relax under his husband’s touch, and he also granted himself the pleasure of regulated breathing. When they parted, Jean Jacques was beaming from ear to ear.

 

“Aww, but I still had three hundred and sixty two ‘I love you’s left to go!” Immanuel said with a tiny grin of his own.

 

“I love you too, Immanuel.”