All good fairy tales begin with “once upon a time,” and Blake Cameron’s story, which in some ways was like a fairy tale—only without the fairy godmother—was no exception. There had been times he wondered how he would tell his story to his children and his children’s children. Could he, indeed, phrase it like the fairy tales his grandmother used to read him when he was a child? Something like…
Once upon a time, an Alliance soldier, a human who was very frightened and very young, was captured by his planet’s worst enemies, a fierce and savage people known as the Tygerians. Against all odds and completely coincidentally—because, he was, after all, a very ordinary, low-ranking second lieutenant—he had attracted the notice of the highest-ranking soldier in the Tygerian army, a rank, at that time, second only to that of the king. This man was the Dyson, or the Battle Commander of all the Axis forces, and the nephew and heir apparent of the king himself. In other words, a handsome prince.
The lieutenant, who dealt sarcasm like playing cards, especially when he was badly frightened and didn’t want to show it, and who had been trying since his capture to fight everyone who came near him, spit out his name rank and serial number defiantly to the prince when they met and demanded that he be allowed to die fighting.
The handsome warrior prince fell completely in love with the human soldier at first sight, because, after all, he was a Tygerian, and their ability to fall in love nearly instantly and completely irrevocably marking them—in their minds at least—as far superior to humans in that regard, as in everything else. Instead of killing the young lieutenant, he took him home with him, and after many adventures and misunderstandings, the prince convinced the soldier to marry him. A few extensive body alterations later, the young soldier bore him a son, followed over the years by five more beautiful, red-haired children, all boys, who looked just like their Tygerian father.
The prince, who had by this time become the king, loved his children and his soldier very much and showered them all with care and attention. As the children grew up, they found their own happiness one by one, with dashing colonels, important generals and even another king of a foreign land. And they all lived happily ever after.
All save one—who inexplicably fell in love with a notorious outlaw and a rogue, a self-proclaimed Pirate King, in fact. A man despised and reviled by almost every good citizen in the entire galaxy. But the soldier, who loved his children more than just about anything and genuinely liked the Pirate King despite what his husband thought of him, helped his son run away with the pirate, ignoring the strenuous objections of his mate. The king became enraged. So much so, in fact, that he stormed away during the blistering brawl that followed, taking their two younger children with him and leaving the soldier behind, because he said, he “wasn’t sure he could ever forgive him. Or if he even wanted to.”
It was those last words that had frightened and hurt the soldier, yet he was still terribly angry. He followed the king back home, if only because he’d had the gall to take their two younger children with him when he left, but the soldier’s ship was slower than the king’s, and when he arrived back on Tygeria, he found the king had left again, on a wild chase after his errant son and his pirate mate. Even worse, he had made the unilateral decision to send their son Larz to a faraway planet for military training, not scheduled to return except for an occasional visit for the next three cycles!
The brief and deeply unsatisfying note the king left behind for the soldier read—
Blake, I’m not sure when I’ll return. We need some time apart to see where we can go from here. However, if we stay together to try and work through our differences, things will be radically different. I’m guilty of spoiling you outrageously over the years in an attempt to make you happy. But your behavior has become insupportable, and there must be changes. We can discuss them when I come home.
If they stayed together…If he came home, because, in Blake’s mind at least, the threat was quite real and not much like any fairy tale he had ever heard of.
Except—this wasn’t any kind of fairy tale at all—this was Blake’s life, and the plot had just taken an unexpected, heartbreaking and totally infuriating twist.