Gwendolynn Strobel
by on December 1, 2015

Sébastien made his way down the familiar hallway. Here, all of the siblings had their rooms. He reached the desired door and knocked on the fine wood before letting himself into his younger brother's apartments. It wasn't long before Aidan, the second oldest sibling, popped his head into the presence chamber.

"Hey Sebs, you know you can just come in," the young man said in an accent that wasn't quite French and wasn't quite Irish. He didn't wait for Sébastien, disappearing back into his sitting room. Sébastien followed slowly, trying to come up with a way to explain things as easily as possible. All he had so far was, our father is an absolute jackass... Aidan's sitting room had a computer set up in one corner, a large television mounted on the wall and a long couch, covered in clothes. Aidan was perched on the arm of the couch, texting. His red hair rivaled Sébastien's. He was shirtless, but his jeans were designer. His blue-green eyes drifted up from the small screen to rest on his older brother. Concern sort of crossed his face. "Dude... what happened to you? Bad meeting with Dad?"

Bad meeting? Bad? it was horrible, second worst meeting with that man ever. The younger redhead started to sit up straight and look at his brother with genuine worry. It was an unfamiliar expression on the young man's face and looked a little strange with the eyebrow and lip piercings.

"I am... engaged," Sébastien said, surprised that was what fell out of his mouth. Aidan looked horrified and Sébastien could think of a few reasons why. Aidan was the "never going to get married," type and Aidan hated Caroline. Caroline... as far as she was aware he was going to be engaged to her... he still needed to break things off with her. Aidan pointed to the couch and Sébastien sat without protest.

"You. Did not. Propose. To. That. Hag."

"I did not, I planned to, but I did not."

"Planned to, ugh!" Aidan stuck out his tongue and everything. "What happened then? Did she force you into it?"

"Our father arranged my marriage ages ago and just decided I should know about it." Sébastien shook his head, trying to keep his thoughts from getting murky.

"Dad did what?" Aidan exclaimed. "Who on earth to?"

"A girl in the states," Sébastien held out the file and Aidan took hold of it. Aidan opened the file and flipped through a few pages.

"Legal mumbo-jumbo. Sibling meeting time," he said as he set down the folder and pulled out his phone again. Sébastien wasn't sure how he would explain things to the twins, Anne and Gabriel. "At least it's not to that witch woman," Aidan continued, picking back up the file after the texts were sent. Aidan had never liked Caroline. She just rubbed him the wrong way. To him, she just acted like she knew everyone too well, though she was usually right on mark. Sébastien never minded that about her, it was kind of nice to never have to explain himself. "Seriously though? He hooked you up when you were what... Seven?" Aidan wasn't sure if he should be worried about hidden engagements for all of them...

The door opened and a beautiful young woman entered. her hair was like long sweeping silk that fell around her hips. The black of her hair only made her blue eyes shine brighter, and her skin was beautifully pale. She was chattering in a lovely tone to the young man behind her. Twins. The young man was getting taller by the day. His black hair was getting a little long and his blue eyes were hidden by dark lashes. Anne spotted Sébastien drooped on the couch and rushed to kneel on the floor in front of him. Gabriel was much more reserved in word and action. He slowly took to his usual seat on the end of the couch. Anne leaned up on Sébastien's legs, peering up into his face.

"What's happened? What's wrong?" Anne asked delicately. Sébastien looked between the twins, took a deep breath, and prepared himself to explain everything.

"He's engaged," Aidan blurted as Sébastien opened his mouth. A look of horror crossed the twin's faces. Anne looked down at the floor, but Gabriel continued to look at Sébastien with an unreadable look.

"W-well... congratulations..." Anne murmured. Sébastien touched her shoulder comfortingly, she had to know he would still be living in the big house with them.

"It isn't to Caroline," he said. She looked up in confusion. Gabriel said nothing, but obviously didn't understand. Sébastien wasn't sure what else to say.

"If not to Caroline..." Anne started to ask. Aidan pulled a photo out of the file and leaned down to give it to Anne. Anne took the black and white photo and looked down at the face of Sébastien's fiancée. She smiled a little at the round face, big eyes, and wavy-straight dark hair, "She is cute, who is she?"

"A young woman in America. We don't know her though Father swears I have met her," Sébastien answered quietly. Anne looked up, confusion still all over her face.

"How did you propose if you don't know her?" She asked. She was still into the idea of love before marriage, happily-ever-afters.

"Why... have you date Caroline?" Gabriel asked slowly, his voice already deeper than Sébastien's.

"Father arranged the engagement when she and I were very young... He had met her mother while visiting one of the colleges he donates to. As for Caroline... She has suitors from all corners of the country. Dad wanted us seen together for public image. As Prince, it would have been unsightly for me to attend parties alone... and a man with no experience makes a bad impression," Sébastien said. The room was silent for a few moments. Anne looked up from the picture, a smile reappearing on her face.

"So when do we meet her?" Anne asked, starting to get excited at the idea of meeting someone new.

"They were supposed to send her over here after her eighteenth birthday, but there seems to have been a few issues with getting her papers pushed through. They... I don't know if they forgot or thought Dad would take care of it... So I will be going to get her."

"They were right then, Dad is going to take care of it... by sending you," Aidan teased lightly. Sébastien sighed, but his brother was right. That didn't bode well for the Bellini's.

"When are you leaving? How long will you be gone? Will she be here for Christmas? Oh! Do you know what she might like for Christmas?" Anne was starting to get a little overly excited. Aidan laughed and Sébastien could only smile at her kindness.

"I won't be leaving until after Christmas. We are planning the flight for after the New Year's party," Sébastien answered.

"How long will you be gone?" Gabriel asked quietly.

"We will be back by March. Michel is coming with me to rush the paperwork," Sébastien said. "That, and she and I must marry before her birthday... Which is in March."

"March?! But it's already December!" Aidan exclaimed in disbelief.

"Dad likes... things to be traditional..." Gabriel stated.

"Raphael's parents are still trying to get him to agree to an arranged marriage with some princess over there," Anne said sticking out her tongue. Raphael was Anne's boyfriend, an Ottoman-line prince. If the marriage was not to Anne he would never agree to it. He had proposed to her when they were children and they were waiting for Anne to turn eighteen so they could be formally engaged. They still had two years to wait.

"Gabriel, Anne, to bed. You are going to school in the morning." The voice was warm and soothing. All eyes turned to the door. If she were much younger the twins would appear as triplets. Looking at Clara was like a look at Anne's future as a beautiful and strong wife, mother and queen. Sébastien and Gabriel stood to show her the proper respect she deserved. Clara's smile was warm as she gestured that they should sit. Both sat only for Anne to leap up and rush to hug her mother.

"Sébastien is going to marry the sweetest most adorable looking American," she said. Sébastien was fairly sure Anne was just trying to cheer him up. The girl was cute, but the last picture taken of her was of her at Anne's age. "Cute" and "little sister" were not exactly words he wanted to associate with the future mother of his children. Clara continued to smile sweetly at her daughter, but when she looked at Sébastien her eyes were full of concern. Anne and Gabriel said their goodnights before leaving to go to bed. Clara sighed and watched them go before turning back to Aidan and Sébastien.

"Aidan, put on a shirt dear, you'll catch a cold," she said automatically. Aidan groaned, but left the room for a suitable shirt. Clara sat on the couch and touched Sébastien's hand comfortingly. "Your father finally told you..."

"... yes..."

"I am... so sorry Sébastien... I only found out a few days ago because I caught Alphonse on the phone with her family. I know you planned to marry Caroline," Clara was trying very hard to sound sad for him losing the chance to make Caroline a princess.

"You do not need to apologize for what he has done. That man can write a tight contract..." Clara seemed to understand.

"You... know what happens if you do not marry her... if you cannot, for any reason, satisfy the contract? Sébastien... this is a forced marriage, not arranged. It would be grounds for an annulment, but... This girl..." her voice pleading, yet hopeful.

"I know... and I'm aware, but that does not change the consequences.... Besides, you know that if I marry anyone I have to try to make it work... I cannot watch another marriage crumble," Sébastien said softly. Clara smiled again, but felt a pain in her heart for him.

"I didn't read that, what happens if you don't do it?" Aidan asked as he came back into the room.

"The girl's family goes bankrupt.. and Gabriel will take over my position in the country," Sébastien answered, defeated.

"What?" Aidan nearly spat out his lip ring. "You can't, he wouldn't!" Aidan, for one of the few times in his life, was genuinely worried. He looked to Clara. "He wouldn't right?"

"I believe Alphonse wanted to make it impossible for Sébastien to refuse... yet still make it his choice," Clara offered, she had already had a terrible fight with the man over this.

"Some choice..." Aidan grumbled. Sébastien agreed, shaking his murky head again.

"I assume you have yet to inform Michel, Charles and... Caroline?" She asked.

"Oh, oh please let me be there when you tell her," Aidan begged with delight.

"No Aidan," Sébastien sighed again Clara gave Aidan a look only mothers know how to give. Aidan just chuckled lightly.

"I'll need to tell her soon... It won't be pretty but..." Sébastien said. Clara nodded.

"It's the right thing to do..."