Frank peered off of the edge of the ship, just barely making out the faded silver letting on the side of the ship- Anastasia. It distantly reminded him of his conversation with Gerard, and he shivered, hands tightening on the rail.
They'd arrived at Stralsund Harbor early that morning, and the hours in between then and now were a blur in Frank's already tired mind. He'd been awake thinking too much last night- he knew Gerard hadn't gotten much sleep either from the noticeable dark circles under his eyes, the color of bruises.
Ray hadn't commented on it yet, but Frank was still fairly certain he knew something had transpired between them that night. He didn't press, though- that was one thing Frank liked about Ray. He had this quiet approach to everything (except Christa), and he respected your decisions not to tell him…everything. He and Gerard were very alike in that way, although while Ray just respected it, Gerard all but disregarded it. After the initial surprise of last night's confession, he'd been casual and rather calm about the whole thing, and he certainly hadn't pressed at all.
Frank wished he was like that. He always had this overwhelming urge to just…know everything, curiosity, he supposed, but it was more than that. He'd been cooped up in an orphanage for ten years, and ever since Ray and Gerard had begun to teach him how to be Prince Francisque, a desire to learn had awoken within him. There was so much he'd never even thought about before, new places, new experiences, new people, new futures. And all of it was at his fingertips. The prospect made him a little dizzy. He stared down into the dark water far below, the setting sun dancing off of it with sparkling waves.
"Still see a plain, skinny little nobody?"
Frank jumped at the voice next to him, though he relaxed when he saw it was only Gerard.
"You heard us talking?" He was surprised; he thought he and Ray were the only ones who'd heard their conversation.
Gerard sighed. "You still didn't answer the question."
Frank couldn't see his reflection in the water so far down, of course, but his face was clear in his own mind. "I don't know," he admitted. He turned to Gerard. "What do you see?"
Gerard scrunched up his nose and looked down at the bright water thoughtfully, then at Frank. Frank was sure he'd say something like 'why, the Prince Francisque, of course,' but his voice was quiet and serious when he did speak. "You may be a prince, and you may not be. But whatever the case, I'm glad I met you. You can be horribly naïve and stupidly stubborn at times, but in the end, it's what makes you, you."
"You're so cliché," Frank laughed, but it was half-hearted teasing.
"And that's a bad thing?" Gerard asked lazily, leaning closer, back against the rail and head tilted towards Frank slightly.
Frank swallowed. He wasn't sure why, but suddenly his heart was beating much, much faster than before as the seconds dragged on and the space between them grew smaller. He didn't know how to answer Gerard's question, so he just said the first thing which came to his mind.
"The sun is setting," he remarked, although once it came out it sounded stupid.
Gerard's eyes sparked. "And yet, you're not looking at it. Why is that?"
Frank opened his mouth, then closed it, once again at a loss. Although his face was carefully still, his heart was still beating its way out of his ribs. He wondered if Gerard could hear it. He wondered if Gerard could hear anything at all, because the older was leaning even closer, eyes half lidded, and his lips were slightly parted as though he were going to speak or…or…
As soon as his mind registered it, his eyes snapped closed, his whole body taut and tense and practically emanating nervousness. Was Gerard going to….? He felt a soft breath on his lips, but just before the inevitable kiss should have happened, Gerard pulled away, and the breath was gone, leaving Frank with a strange sort of loss and a huge cloud of confusion over his head.
When he opened his eyes, Gerard was walking away, head held firmly down and hands shoved into his pockets before he disappeared into the cabins.
Frank was seriously going to die of lack of sleep.
He'd lain on the bottom bunk in the cabin, Ray snoring peacefully above him and Gerard curled up in a content ball of blankets on the floor. Even Pansy was snuggled up near his knee, dreaming happy doggy dreams with not a care in the world.
Yet, Frank's mind was stubbornly restless, so restless that he once again had to get up and walk around a little, if only for something, anything, to do.
The Anastasia's deck was abandoned, and the moon hung like a huge pearl over the endless fabric of the sea. It was odd, Frank thought, how much larger the moon looked here. He'd have to ask Ray why that was exactly.
And then…then something moved in the waves.
At first Frank was sure it was a dolphin, and excitedly leaned over the rail to see the silvery creature- he'd seen a few the day before, which he, Ray, and Gerard had all named.
But the surface of the ocean was not split by a curious dolphin head or a triangular fin. No, instead, a person surfaced, gasping for air.
A person who Frank knew.
A person who was Ray.
Frank cried out, staring at Ray, because….how? He'd been sleeping safely in the cabin just minutes ago. "Ray!" he called, "Ray, it's okay; I'm going to get help, alright? Just wait-"
Another person bobbed up beside Ray.
It was Gerard, and he was dead.
Frank gaped, unable to form words. He suddenly felt very numb.
"Ray?" he called again, voice shaking. "Ray, what happened to you and Gerard?"
He was amazed he could form an entire sentence, because there was Gerard, bobbing lifelessly in the darkness, eyes closed, hair slick with seawater, face even paler than usual.
And Ray. Ray was still, his brown eyes dazed and terrified. Frank feared for the worst until, finally, the man replied.
"Frank, he's still alive."
His voice was thin and raspy, so unlike Ray's usual cheerful, strong voice that it made Frank's stomach twist up in fear. But…could it be true?
"Frank, you can save us both if you jump now," Ray whispered urgently. As if to prove his point, Gerard's eyes blinked open weakly. They were a soft hazel green, dazed and sad.
"Frank," he pleaded, "Frank, help us."
It was growing stormier, the sea increasing in turbulence and tossing Ray and Gerard about. But Frank was hesitating, because how…? What if this was just a dream? It must be a dream.
So he said so.
Gerard's eyes opened more, and it could have been Frank's imagination, but they looked greener now, oddly bright, and not like Gerard's.
"Save your friends," hissed the voice which was definitely not Gerard's, either.
Frank took a step away. "You aren't my friends."
He walked right into the person behind him. He turned, staring at Gerard, who was looking disheveled and worried. "Frank! What are you doing out here, you could catch a cold!"
Frank took a step away. What the hell was this? This wasn't Gerard. Gerard's eyes didn't glow when Frank backed away from him, and his voice didn't sound so horrible and evil when he snarled, "Maybe you should come with me for a swim…it'd warm you right up!"
"N-no," Frank whimpered, stepping away. He collided with another person, and when he turned, it was a man who looked oddly like himself, wearing a white cape and suit with a blue sash. It was the man from the palace, when he'd danced with the ghosts.
"My dear son," the regal man said in that sad voice, "won't you come back home with me?"
Frank was caught in between the two- the Gerard who was not Gerard and the sad man whom he did not know. His head was spinning with terror, and he said helplessly to the unhappy man, "What's happening to me?"
"Ah, son, something evil. But if you come with me, we will find your mother, and your brothers and sisters, and all will be well."
Frank bit his lip. "Are you sure?"
"Positive," the man said, smiling sadly. "All of this pain and confusion will go away."
Frank nodded, and then the man was tugging him towards the rail, picking him up and setting him on the edge so that he was standing on the top of the rail. The wind buffeted him and he panicked, trying to kick out with his legs but missing the man every time.
The man shrieked in a voice which did not belong to any creature Frank had ever heard, "The Iero Curse will be complete! You will die! You will all die!"
The sea below him was full of leering green creatures, bats, maybe, but they reminded him of…of demons, and he screamed in horror as they lunged up at him, claws reaching for him to pull him down to his death-
- and then a strong pair of arms grabbed him from behind, hauling him down, still struggling, onto the deck.
When he stopped lashing out long enough to look up, he saw it was Gerard, the real Gerard, he knew, he just knew.
"Frank," he panted, still holding tight onto his arm as though afraid he would try to leap off the ship, "Frank, what was that? You were surrounded by green lights, I don't understand-"
"The Iero Curse," Frank gasped, starting to sit up. "They…they want me d-dead."
And then a strange look came into Gerard's dark eyes and he jerked a little, before smiling eerily at Frank and saying in a sing-song voice, "Oh, yes, yes we do."
Gerard lunged for him, but Frank darted out of the way, sticking his foot out. Gerard stumbled, weirdly uncoordinated, and his head connected hard with the ship's rail. He crumpled into a heap on the deck. The storm began to recede, although a light, misty rain still fell, covering everything in miniscule droplets of frigid water.
Holding his breath, Frank cautiously moved towards the motionless man, nudging his head with his foot. Gerard's head lolled over to the side, and his eyes opened groggily, then fast and fearful when he came to. The hazel eyes met green and Frank knew whatever had just been there was now gone. He helped Gerard up, and they stood there wordlessly, facing eachother. Gerard rubbed his head, where, Frank thought guiltily, there was probably a large bump.
"What was that?" Gerard finally said, hushed. Curtains of mist fell around them, condensing into a thick grey fog which clung to their skin clammily.
Frank shook his head, miserable and scared. "I don't know," he whispered, "I'm just a freak." Against his will, a low sob tore itself from his throat. "I'm a freak, Gerard, I don't know what's happening to me….help me, please, please."
"Shhh," Gerard replied quietly, smoothing Frank's damp hair back and hugging him to his chest. "It's okay, you aren't a freak, shhh. You're safe now."
"NO!" Robsputin screeched, claw like fingers digging into the glass of the reliquary. "HE ISN'T SAFE! HE SHOULD BE DEAD BY NOW! WHY ISN'T HE DEAD?"
"Because you failed to kill him, sir," Brendon pointed out, scurrying behind a pillar of bones when Robpsutin's head shot up in fury, looking for the culprit who had pointed out his failure.
"But I haven't failed yet," Robsputin said determinedly. The demons in the reliquary hummed, whether in dissent or agreement, it was hard to tell. He turned to Brendon, who was still cowering. "Rodent!"
Brendon cautiously peeked his head out. Robsputin had a mad glint to his turquoise eyes, pupils large and unfocused and utterly insane as he proclaimed, "I'll kill that Iero bastard myself, Brendon!"
This time when the demons hummed, it was in clear favor of his ridiculous plans, almost a purr. They saw a chance to escape in this. At last, at last, they crooned, we will have our retribution.
Robsputin, however, was not privy to their murmurings, and took their content sounds as something good, smiling fondly at the reliquary. "Oh, yes, Brendon, this is the way it should be- nice and personal. I'll get to look him in the eyes as he takes his last breath- and, if they get in the way, the eyes of his friends as well. They are the ones who've muddled my plans so."
Brendon, trying to be helpful, added, "Especially that black-haired one!"
Robsputin's lip curled. "Oh, yes. If he gets in the way…I'll make sure he dies first, so that Iero brat will watch him perish at my hand."
Brendon blinked. "But, sir, how will you get to them? You're a rotting corpse…"
Robsputin grinned nastily. "With great power, comes great transportation." The reliquary started to shake and glow brightly in his hand, and Brendon huffed. Not this thing again…
But he was given no choice when Robsputin grabbed him by his large batty ears and they were both yanked up towards the Earth, escaping from Limbo and passing on to the world they'd both come from.
Christa sighed from where she sat in her parlor, staring at the vase of roses on the table and wondering who on earth had picked that hideous pale yellow. The Empress's chair was just beyond those roses, and she sighed again with a different kind of regret at the memory of what its occupant had said.
The Dowager Empress Marie had refused to see any more boys claiming to be her grandson. Christa couldn't say she blamed her cousin…the poor woman had had enough heartbreak so far, seeing all of these fakes was going to be too much for the frail woman someday.
Someone knocked at the door, but it was only through the squealing of her maid that Christa heard it, snapping out of her thoughts and huffing as she hauled herself up, wondering who her maid was flirting with this time.
When she saw just who was at the door, her heart almost stopped.
"Raymond!" she cried, flinging herself forward, knocking the maid out of the way and shaking her head at the bashfully smiling man standing in the doorway. "Oh, Ray, it's been so long! You promised you'd come and visit!"
"I'm sorry," he said, frowning apologetically. "I've been very busy, dear."
"Aw, don't fret, you're here now, right, dear?" A head peeked over each of Ray's shoulders and Ray stepped inside to reveal a man with pale skin and black hair, who was formerly holding the arm of the other man, a younger man who was quite petite with soft curls of brown hair and large green eyes. Christa blinked, taken aback. He…he looked like-
"May I present to you the great Prince Francisque," said the taller man, who she recognized now as Gerard, Ray's business partner.
Christa ushered them in, eyes wide as she took in the 'prince.' She coughed nervously and said, "Well, he certainly looks like the prince!"
Gerard flashed her a charming smile in response, and Francisque just sat down uncertainly next to the other, his green eyes wide as he took in the beauty of Christa's home around him.
"So, Ray," she said to the curly haired man, who was lounging happily on her sofa, "You think you've found the heir to the Russian throne?"
"I know we have," he said, beaming genuinely.
"Well," she said, pleased at his assuredness, "Francisque, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"
The boy looked fairly terrified, but he stammered, "N-no, that's fine…mademoiselle."
She blushed and giggled at him. "Well, Ray, he certainly has manners!" Ray nodded, laughing, and Gerard looked encouragingly at Francisque, who smiled timidly, beginning to relax a little. Christa smiled back and started with the easiest question, "Where were you born, Francisque?"
"A palace by the sea…"
Frank was still sitting, but once he'd warmed up to the conversation with the empress's cousin, Gerard had risen to his feet and walked around the edges of the room, restless. He'd been lost in his own mind with his own questions when Christa asked one question which made him pay attention instantly.
"If you don't mind me asking…you see, you might find this a bit more personal, but…how did you and the empress escape from the palace?"
Gerard looked up, anxious. He was so stupid, he hadn't told Frank the answer to this, although he knew it, he knew the true answer and now it was all lost and Christa would know that he wasn't the true Francisque and-
But Frank didn't look terrified. He only looked thoughtful. His hands played with the necklace around his neck as he replied unhurriedly, "There….there was a boy. He…he led us out through a wall…there was a passageway of some sort." Christa was looking at him curiously, Ray appeared to be sleeping, and Gerard was frozen in complete shock.
Because yes, that was exactly what had happened. He'd never told Frank, and yet Frank knew. Frank knew about the boy who had helped the prince and the empress. The boy who was Gerard.
And Frank, he saw with a jolt, really did look like that boy from that night. The boy with the music box. The boy from the palace.
The real Prince Francisque.
Gerard wasn't listening when Christa told Frank – no, Francisque, that he'd answered all of the questions. He wasn't listening when Ray protested as Christa told them that the Dowager Empress was seeing no more Francisques. He wasn't aware when Christa relented and told them that the Russian Ballet was in Paris that night, and the empress would surely be there.
Gerard walked outside, and Pansy dashed inside through the open door- the dog had apparently been shut outside. He dimly heard himself calling to Ray that he was 'going for a walk,' and the next thing he knew; he was in a cab headed for Place Blanche, his hands curled into fists on the fabric of the seat.
"Mikes, it's me. C'mon, just open the door!"
Gerard shoved his hands into his pockets, rapping hard on the door of the beautiful white townhouse once again. Unexpectedly, the door was flung open, revealing a man considerably taller, with carefully slicked back brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses. His hazel eyes were fiery and his face stormy as well.
"What the hell do you want now, Gerard?"
Gerard's heart pangs at the use of his full name. Mikey always called him Gee. No more, apparently.
"Listen, Mikes, I'm sorry-"
"My name is Michael, Gerard. And you can't just apologize and make it all okay, alright? You left Mom and me when we needed you the most, and now look what happened!"
Gerard nibbled his lip. "Mikey, Ray and I found Prince Francisque."
Mikey's eyes narrowed, even angrier, if that was possible. "Enough of your bullshit. Just leave, okay?"
"No. Mikey, listen to me!"
His brother stared at him coldly. "Mom is dead because of you, you know. Because of you and your stupid con-man business."
"Mikey," Gerard said desperately, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry; you have to believe me there. If I could go back- if I could go back I would have done everything differently. But it's all done and over with now and as much as I hate what I did and what happened, neither of us can change it. Please, Mikes."
Mikey's face crumpled. "You never even came to visit," he whispered accusingly. "You didn't even come to her funeral."
Gerard thought that maybe he was tearing up, but he blinked furiously and all the evidence was gone. His voice, however, was still raspy and thick when he spoke. "I was stuck in Russia, the revolution was…I couldn't come to Paris, and then when I finally got out and f-found out that she was dead and we had that fight….I never meant to hurt either of you like I did."
Mikey sniffed and opened the door. "It's okay, Gerard, I know, I know."
They embraced tightly, and in that moment everything was almost okay.
When they pulled apart, Mikey was regarding him seriously. "So…you and Ray found the heir to the Russian throne?"
Gerard sucked in a breath. "Not only that, Mikes…I think…I think I…"
Mikey's face paled as he heard the unsaid words and the troubled tone of his brother's voice. "Let's go inside, Gee."
When Gerard came back, it was right before they were due to go to the ballet. Frank wondered what exactly a ballet was- of course he knew it was a dance, he wasn't an idiot, but from the way Christa had been going on about the many beautiful ballets that she'd seen, he assumed there was some sort of plot to them as well.
He'd just pulled on the evening suit Christa had bought for him, a nice, deep blue color. It was soft to the touch and tight-fitting, and finer than anything he'd ever worn before, but he quite liked it. He was starting on tugging his shoes on over his feet (which were stubbornly protesting the somewhat small dress slippers), when the door to his room in Christa's large home opened.
He stopped hopping on one foot just in time to straighten up and see Gerard, dressed in a black suit and a white undercoat. He looked every inch a Parisian gentleman, and for a second Frank felt small and immature next to the other. As 'fiery' as he had been before towards Ray and Gerard, he was out of place in this world of finery, and did not know how to assume the same cool, debonair confidence held by everyone in it- including Gerard.
"Christa chose well. Blue looks good on you," Gerard said quietly, dipping his head to add to his point. It felt odd, too practiced, too formal.
Frank flushed. "You, um, look good in black."
Gerard sighed and looked down at himself. "Do I? It's so boring without any color."
Frank chuckled as the tension in the room melted away easily. He walked to the bedside table, pulling a red carnation from the vase there. He gingerly put it in Gerard's lapel pocket, smoothing down the jacket and stepping away. "There," he announced. "Red and black. How's that?"
Gerard laughed, loud and delighted, and he grinned at Frank. "I think it's perfect. Shall we go?"
Frank nodded, and they departed from the room and towards their futures.
The ballet was beautiful, but Frank was confused about the plot only a few minutes in, and his nerves weren't helping his focus at all. Gerard sat on one side, Ray on the other, and the whole private box felt stiflingly hot and crowded. He loosened his tie in trepidation, sure that his skin was already glistening with sweat.
Gerard's hand caught his own, though, fingers gentle and reassuring. "Calm down. It'll be fine."
He sounded so sure that Frank wanted to believe him.
The ballet was over soon enough, and Ray gave them an encouraging smile as they exited the box and walked out into the splendid hall, gilded with gold and decorated with velvet everywhere. The two of them were perfectly silent as they made their way to Christa and the Dowager Empress's private box on the Grand Tier.
After several staircases and Frank nearly tripping over Gerard's feet, they were both panting in front of the closed doors to the box, looking at eachother nervously. This was it. This was what they'd both been waiting for, working towards, thought Frank. Where he would find out who he truly was.
He felt like something should be said here, something important. And he had something to say, something very, very important, but he didn't know if now was the time. He tried. "Gerard, I…"
"I…ah…after all we've been through, I…" Frank swallows and the words are gone, leaving him to stutter out another ending to the sentence. "I wanted to thank you, for…well, for everything."
"Even the smartass remarks?" Gerard asks, but there's a false note of cheer in his voice, he sounds almost disappointed.
"Even those," Frank smiles weakly and scuffs his shoe against the carpet. The strange tension is back, awkward and heavy between them.
"Frank…I…I think you're…"
Frank looked up, hopeful and a little scared. "Yes?"
"You're going to do fine. I'll…I'll go in and announce you, okay?"
Frank's heart fell, and he wasn't sure why. He swallowed again, drier than before. "Yes. Yes, okay." Gerard nodded and knocked on the door. Christa answered, winking at Frank before ushering Gerard inside. The door was cracked open, not quite closed all the way, and Frank leaned close to hear.
Gerard's voice, "Your Highness, may I present to you your lost grandson, Prince Francisque!"
There was another, unfamiliar yet…not quite unknown voice which answered him. "My grandson is gone! I will not be trifled with another sham."
Christa's voice, "Oh, I'm so sorry, you ought to go now…"
Gerard, "Your Highness! Please! I worked in the palace, I know that this is him because I-"
Who Frank assumed was the empress, "Enough!"
Gerard, "Please, won't you at least see him?"
Empress, "I know you and your kind, Gerard Way. You're that con-man from St. Petersburg who was holding auditions for boys to be Francisque."
Frank took a step back. What? She…she'd made a mistake. Gerard cared…Gerard had wanted him to find his true self, his parents, his family! He hadn't just…
Gerard protested. "No! But this one is different, he's the real thing, I know it!"
Frank felt sick, a hand over his mouth. No. No.
"All you want is the reward," the Dowager Empress snapped. "You can't trick me, Mr. Way. Guards, remove him!" Frank heard Christa's anguished cry and Gerard's curses, and then the con-man was tossed out, landing in a heap at Frank's feet. He felt angry. He felt miserable. He felt confused.
When Gerard looked up, struggling to his feet and meeting Frank's eyes, he cringed. "Listen, Frank," he said in a voice meant to be calming, but Frank cut him off. He'd had enough.
"You used me?!" Frank shouted, eyes burning.
Gerard blanched. "N-no, I didn't mean-"
"You liar!" Frank yelled, furious. "You tricked me! You took advantage of me, you knew I was naïve and clueless and you used that against me all along!"
Gerard was shaking his head vehemently. "No! Frank, just listen to me! You are the real Francisque!"
"Shut up! You know I'm not! You knew it all along!"
"Frank, you are! I'm not lying, you really are, I know because on that night I was the boy who-"
Frank couldn't take it anymore. He punched Gerard as hard as he could in the face, frustration and disbelief bubbling over until he couldn't contain them anymore. Gerard stumbled, and when he looked back up at Frank, holding his cheekbone, his eyes were frantic. "Please, Frank-"
Frank didn't even stay to listen to whatever pitiful monologue the liar had prepared. His eyes stung and his throat itched and his brain was screaming and his heart was crying, and he'd never been so overwhelmed in his entire life.
Gerard rushed back to their box, his eye was already turning black and bruised, he could feel the ache already. Ray was not in the box when he burst in, and he ignored the startled attendant who was cleaning up the box for the next visitors. He grabbed the telephone off of the hook in the box and dialed a number after a few fumbles. He pressed the receiver to his ear, praying and hoping that the person on the other end would answer.
A few rings later, a staticy voice came through. "Hello?"
"Mikes," Gerard said, voice hushed, "I need you to do something for me."
"Oh, brother, what now?"
(Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna's POV)
Marie politely dipped her head to all the people around her who murmured their respect or well wishes. She had no interest for them right now. No, she was trying to get into the spirit of mourning, finally, after ten long years, and she was finding it exceptionally hard to accept the death of her little Francis.
But it was better than being faced with all of these frauds. It was too painful for her to see all the different Francises, all the different men he could have been, but instead he'd died young, likely trampled to death on that train platform when he was eight.
She was lost in her thoughts as she climbed into her car, which was idling on the corner. The footman helped her in, and she settled her skirts against the leather seat, sighing. She realized very quickly that the cab was going much too fast, and she leaned forward, eyes narrowed as she barked, "Jacques! Slow down!"
An unfamiliar man with glasses glanced in the mirror and back at her. "I'm sorry, your Highness, but my name is Michael. I apologize for the speed but my brother insisted."
Marie blinked, and then it all made sense. "Gerard did this?! Where is Jacques?!"
Michael looked placidly back at her. "Yes, and given Gerard's determination concerning this matter, I'd guess that Jacques is with a young lady in the private booth having a marvelous time, since he was given the news that your other driver, Antoni, was in charge tonight."
Marie was red in the face from anger. "W-what…the impudence of you two! Stop this car! Stop it, I order you!"
"I mean you no harm, your Highness," he said in that same calm, almost-bored tone. "But I do think you should listen to me."
"About what? That my grandson is the boy that con-man brother of yours found?"
"It can't hurt to check."
Marie threw up her hands. "But it has hurt me so much already! Why do you continue to inflict so much suffering on an old woman?!"
The car slammed to a stop abruptly and Michael hopped out of the driver's seat, coming over to her side and opening the door. She sat stubbornly in her seat. They were in front of her sister's house, and she was fairly sure why. Of course her sister would have taken in the little scam.
"Listen," Michael said quietly, "we are both very stubborn people. But I also know we're very reasonable. Show your reasonable side, your Highness. I understand that you've been hurt. But what you're doing now won't solve anything, will it? Just look at him, and you'll know if he is or isn't your grandson, won't you? If you want, after that you can mourn him and forget him. But what if you turn your back on him and he's the real thing? He'll never find his family."
Marie was silent. Michael was silent.
And then she allowed him to help her out of the car and up to the door.
Marie did not notice Michael's deft hand slipping a small music box into her pocket.
Someone knocked on the door. Frank furrowed his brow, fresh pain seeping through the wound that the words from before had left in him.
"Go away, Gerard!" he cried, eyes watering. He crushed the carnation he held in his fist. "I don't want to talk to you."
The door creaked open anyway, and he resolutely looked away, going to the balcony and making as though to open the doors so that he could escape.
"Wait," said a voice which was not Gerard's.
Frank gaped and turned, and he was facing the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna herself. He was suddenly extremely conscious of the ruffled state of his hair and the redness of his eyes. He did not look like a prince. He wasn't a prince, and never would be.
"I'm sorry," he said dully, sinking into a bow. "I thought you were somebody else. My apologies."
She was quiet. "My dear, who are you, exactly?"
Frank shook his head. "I don't know. I really don't know. But I'm not who you're looking for. I'm sorry."
She pursed her lips. "How can you be so certain? You look like him. More like him than the others, in fact."
Frank sank down into a chair. "I lost my memory. Your Highness, it doesn't matter if I'm your lost grandson, because I've been lost all my life, ever since I was eight, at least. I just want to be found, I want to belong to somebody, and I don't mind who."
"You lost your memory?" the empress asked, suddenly sounding interested. "When you were eight? Like a case of amnesia…perhaps from hitting your head?"
He nodded. "I was found wandering the streets and taken to an orphanage. I don't remember my past."
"I've never heard that excuse before."
Frank hung his head. "I'm not trying to trick you, your Highness. I just want to know the truth."
"Where did you get this?" Long, slim fingers were carefully reaching for the necklace he'd tucked into his suit, pulling at the chain carefully and letting the pendant fall out across her hands. Together in Paris was written in elegant script on it. The empress was staring at the pendant as though she'd seen a ghost.
"I've had it ever since I can remember."
"Since you were eight," the empress murmured. He nodded. Then she paused, and slowly slipped her hand into her pocket, noticing the weight in it. She pulled out the music box. "Since I gave you this."
Frank gasped. "The music box! It…it plays our lullaby! I…" his voice trailed off. His tone was odd when he spoke next. "I dropped it. In the palace, the boy who saved us…led us into the passage in the wall…"
The empress was smiling. She did not look surprised or sad or mad at all. She just looked happy. "Yes," she whispered. "Do you remember?"
Frank closed his eyes. He inhaled deeply and a scent came to him, a scent which brought a swirl of…of memories. "Lavender," he breathed, "you always smelled like lavender…"
"It's my perfume," the empress explained.
"Yes…yes, I spilled a bottle of it on the rug in your guest room…and that rug forever smelled of you. Oh, whenever you left, I would go into that room and smell the lavender and I…I missed you so much when you were gone…"
The empress was smiling wider, and she reached for his necklace. "May I?"
He nodded, feeling lightheaded. She slid the pendant into the music box, where a key would go, and the lid opened. The dancers spun and the music played, a gorgeous string of notes which Frank sang to without thinking.
"On the wind, 'cross the sea, hear this song and remember," he mumbled, and the empress sang with him, tears dripping down her cheeks, "Soon you'll be, home with me, once upon a December."
"You're home," the empress gasped, her face shining with joy. In that moment, she was as beautiful as she had been in her prime, and their green eyes flashed identically. "Francisque, my little Francis, I've found you!"
Frank was only aware of the fact that he was smiling so hard his face hurt, and that he was being wrapped up in a cloud of lavender and sobs and an old woman who had finally found her long lost prince.
But even as the empress- no, Grandmama- took him to the palace, and even as they reminisced over what they had both forgotten and missed the most and he came to terms with the fact that he was, indeed a prince, Frank felt a bitter emptiness inside him for the loss of someone who may not have been a liar after all.