Steve lay in bed with his eyes closed, waiting for the drowsiness to wear off. As he became more lucid, memories of the video taping and what had happened afterwards came back to him. Weird dream, he thought. He stretched and opened his eyes. Steve gasped and sat bolt upright. He was not in his own room. He was lying in a king-sized four-poster bed with dark blue coverings and matching curtains tied back with silver ropes. He was wearing a white night gown that appeared to be made of cotton. He also noticed a large silver ring on his right ring finger. The face consisted of a raised circle with an anchor in the center - a rope loosely tied around it. Both the anchor and the rope were also raised. On the base of the anchor was etched the word "Pereira." Steve raised his eyebrows. His family name before it was changed to Perry. He and the king of this place actually had the same last name.
Steve looked up from his inspection of the ring. He was in a humungous bedroom. There was a set of double doors across from the bed which Steve assumed led to a hallway. There was also one door on each of the walls to the left and right, leading to unknown rooms. On the lefthand wall was a gigantic fireplace with a plush armchair on either side. The rest of the bedroom was furnished with several more armchairs, a sofa, two large stand-alone wardrobes, a full-length mirror, a desk slightly messy with papers, a case with decorative swords and daggers inside, and a large book case. All the pieces were made of dark, heavy-looking wood and decorated with intricate, beautiful designs. Not that Steve was interested in carvings at the moment.
This is not possible, he though. Have I gone mad? The thought frightened him, but he dismissed it almost immediately. After all, there was no reason for him to have gone insane. Nothing traumatizing had happened to him recently. Short of having to spend upwards of twelve hours a day with Sheila fawning on me at every opportunity. He wasn't under any particularly huge amount of stress. Well. See above, he thought wryly. No. Insanity was out. That left two alternatives. One - the guys were playing an elaborate joke on him. So elaborate that they'd managed to get the city of San Francisco to replace the streets with grass? And all without him knowing about it? I think not.
That left one other possibility. He'd been transported to some alternate universe where Graham's little fantasy kingdom was real. It was fantastical, but there was not other explanation. What was it that Sherlock Holmes always said? Eliminate the impossible, and whatever's left, however improbable, must be the truth. Works for me. As to how and why and by whom he'd been brought here, Steve had no clue. The other, more important question of how to get home was also impossible to answer. Yet, he told himself. Steve tried not to let fear overwhelm him again, but it was difficult. Not only was he stuck in Graham Dent's fantasy land with no way to get home, but he was stuck inside the king's body. Couldn't just get turned into a wandering minstrel, could you, Steve? Oh, no! You have to be responsible for the well being of the whole freakin' country! Dammit I can't wait to get my hands around Graham's neck! I knew this fucking video was a bad idea!
Steve looked around the room again and his eyes fell on the book case. Maybe he could find out what year it was or something. He got out of bed, went to the book case and frowned. For a moment, he'd forgotten that the courtiers hadn't been speaking English. Steve sighed. He pulled out a book and prepared to puzzle out the title. Then he smiled. He didn't have to puzzle it out at all. Apparently, he could understand writing just as easily as he had understood the spoken word. He read the words, and they came to him as if he was completely fluent. The Complete History of Pacificana. "Weird. And what the hell is Pacificana?" Steve shrugged. Maybe it's a fantasy book. Steve decided to try again. He grabbed another book at random and looked at the cover. Navigational Custom and Courtesy in the Western Hemisphere. Okay. I should not have been able to read that at all. This morning, he could only carry on a halting conversation with his Grandpa. Now he could read words like "hemisphere" and "navigational" without even a second thought. He could read and understand Portuguese! How was it possible??
Steve started to freak out again. Then, suddenly, a slow smile spread across his face. "I can read and understand Portuguese! Who cares how? I can do it!" He'd wanted to become fluent in Portuguese for years now, but what with running around on tour and recording every waking moment, he'd never had time to study. Now he could do it without any more effort than it took to understand English. Steve flipped through the book, more fascinated by the fact that he could understand the words, than by the subject matter itself, which was actually rather dull. He was in the middle of the section about right-of-way laws for cargo ships in he deep sea when he heard voices outside his room. He put the book back in its place and walked softly to the door to eavesdrop.
"...almost certain that the heat is what caused His Majesty's collapse," one man was saying.
"You see, Your Highness," came another voice. It sounded like the older courtier from the wedding. "I told you not to worry. Prince Marcellus has been pacing a hole in the floor these past few hours, Dr. Rivell. Worrying himself to death!"
There was a chuckle, and the first voice - Dr. Rivell's - spoke again. "You know how His Highness is, Lord Edward," he said. "King Stephen can't stub his toe without the Prince getting worried."
Another person joined the conversation. Steve recognized the voice of the young man who'd incurred his wrath earlier. Must be Prince Marcellus. By the one of his voice, Steve could tell he hadn't finished worrying yet. "What of his behavior before he collapsed, Dr. Rivell? He was so angry. Do you think... will he...?"
"He'll be fine, Your Highness," the doctor said with confidence. "His Majesty was addled by the heat. He didn't know what he was saying. I've seen it countless times before."
"Really?" Prince Marcellus sounded hopeful.
"Of course, Your Highness. The King knows how devoted you are to him. No one knows it more than he. Now do you really believe he would have behaved that way towards you if he were in his right mind at the time?"
"I would never have thought so."
"Of course he wouldn't. But the heat of the day and perhaps the excitement over the wedding conspired to set his humors out of balance. Fortunately, the fit is temporary. A few days' rest, he should be completely cured. Just make sure he has complete rest today. He should stay out of the sun and have at least one fanner during the hottest parts of the day. He should take walks only in the early morning or in the evening. And make sure he has plenty of fluids during the day with only light meals. That should help his humors regain their proper balance." Help my humors regain their proper balance?! Whoa!
"That's wonderful, Dr. Rivell," came Lord Edward's voice.
"Indeed, that is excellent news," Prince Marcellus said. "Thank you, Doctor. You may go, if there is nothing else."
"Thank you, Your Highness. If you have any questions, I will be in my quarters."
The men said their lofty good-byes, then there was a moment's silence. Steve walked quickly back to the bookcase when he saw the doorknob turn. He pretended to read something, listening all the while to the two remaining noblemen. "Oh, what a tremendous relief," he heard Prince Marcellus say. Steve could clearly hear the genuine feeling in the man's voice. He felt a pang of guilt, remembering his threat at the wedding. I'll have to try to make it up to him somehow.
"Indeed it is, Your Highness," Lord Edward said. "I know how afraid you were for him."
"I had feared that perhaps he'd gone completely insane. But now I-" Marcellus cut himself off with a sharp gasp. He must have noticed Steve standing by the bookcase instead of lying asleep in bed. "Sire! You're... you're awake!" He sounded nervous. Probably worried about me hearing that insanity comment, Steve thought. He looked up from his book and smiled faintly, pretending he hadn't heard a thing.
Lord Edward came forward, but the prince hung back, still looking a little wary. "How are you feeling, Sire?" he asked.
For a split second, Steve considered telling them the truth - that he was feeling a little under the weather thanks to having recently been zapped into a friggin' "Twilight Zone" episode. However, he thought better of it. He figured he'd have a better chance of getting back where he belonged if they didn't think he was a lunatic. The idea, after all, was to get home, not locked away. He wasn't sure what the Medieval procedure was for dealing with mad kings, but he was absolutely sure that he didn't want to find out. Better to put everything down to heat stroke and keep his eyes and ears open until he figured out what to do with himself. "I'm feeling much better now, thank you Lord Edward," Steve said. He tried not to smile with satisfaction at how fluidly he'd spoken that sentence.
The nobleman smiled. "Splendid, Sire. Splendid!" Well, Steve thought, noting the fact that so far everyone seemed relieved hat he was feeling better. At least I'm well liked. "By your leave, Sire," Lord Edward continued, "I would counsel you to return to your bed. Dr. Rivell has just left, and he says that you should remain off your feet for the rest of the day."
Steve nodded. "Okay." He put his book down and got back into bed.
"And now, with your leave, I will inform the Queen and Princess Annette of Dr. Rivell's diagnosis."
"Yeah, sure. Feel free." Lord Edward bowed, then walked backwards to the door, bowed again, stepped across the threshold into the hall, bowed again and finally left. "Quite a process," Steve mumbled.
"Sire?" Prince Marcellus asked softly.
Steve shook his head. "Nothing." Then he looked at the prince, who was standing away from the bed, clearly uncomfortable. Steve was struck again by how much the man looked like him. If it weren't for the hair and the eye color, and the fact that Marcellus seemed to be a few years younger than Steve, they could have been twins. Maybe he was supposed to be Steve's younger brother. Judging by the fact that he was still looking fairly nervous, Steve didn't think the doctor's words had completely reassured him. Steve had to do the rest.
"Come closer, Marcellus," Steve said at last. "Sit beside me." Marcellus hesitated a moment, then slowly walked over and sat in the armchair nearest the bed. Steve considered him for a moment. "I'm sorry, Marcellus," he said. "I'm sorry for what I did to you today."
"It wasn't your fault, my Liege," Marcellus said. "The heat-"
"I know," Steve said. "But I'm sorry anyway. I hate it that I could do anything to you that would make you afraid to sit beside me." Marcellus blushed and lowered his eyes. "You are my dearest friend in the world, Marcellus," Steve continued, hoping it was something the real king would say. Then he lifted Marcellus' face by his chin and looked directly into his green eyes. "I would never hurt you. Do you understand?"
Marcellus smiled. "I understand, Stephen," he said, surprising Steve by using his first name. Then Marcellus did something that had Steve completely and thoroughly outdone. He kissed Steve gently on the mouth. Not an open mouthed kiss, but tender and utterly shocking for its tenderness nonetheless. "Good night, my love," he said, still smiling. "Please do as Dr. Rivell says and stay in bed tonight?" Steve merely nodded, unable to speak. "Good. I will wake you in the morning." Marcellus kissed him again, then bowed his way out of the room.
Whoa, Steve thought. He thought again of Marcellus' confusion, then fear at the wedding. Then he thought about what the doctor had said about Marcellus fretting over every little thing that happened to the king. Whoa! Steve spent the next several hours tying his stomach in knots. For one thing, he was uncomfortable with the idea of pretending to be gay. But what choice did he have? If he wanted to get home, he had to be free. To stay free, he had to impersonate the king. If that meant pretending to be gay, then that's just what he'd have to do. What bothered him even more was the fact that the relationship was with someone who was supposed to be his brother. After worrying himself so much he thought he might actually vomit, Steve forced himself to calm down. Nothing can happen tonight, he told himself. So you might as well get some sleep. After a while, that's just what he did. His dreams were full of various images of himself doing some very interesting and painful things to Graham Dent.