Part I: I Heard There Was a Secret Chord
Pairings: Jack/Joseph, Jack/Various
Warnings: angst, violence, mentions of torture, infidelityWord Count: 4601
Disclaimer: If I owned Kings it wouldn't have been canceled.
Summary: Jack has always been on David's side.
When Jack is seventeen, God comes to him in a swarm of butterflies.
Not a crown as in his father's stories but a flock of brilliant monarchs alighting on his skin and in that instant, he knows that he is loved. Their Father loves him without constraint or expectation and Jack doesn’t realize that he’s crying until he feels the tears roll down his face.
Because the Lord does not care about his secrets or the disgrace of his desires, the sinful weakness that he has tried so hard to hide. God sees Jack for who he is; He sees the soul not the frail flesh of his body and He forgives everything. Indeed, there is nothing to forgive and the prince cannot doubt this truth when his Father’s love washes over him.
But while the Lord demands nothing, He asks for everything to be offered freely and the prince begins to tremble when that Presence speaks to him.
‘You, My son, will never be Gilboa's king.’ God does not voice the words but Jack can hear them and he cannot stop the stricken cry that they evoke. Because the prince is meant to follow in his father's footsteps; he has to follow if Silas is ever going to respect him and the Lord has just ripped the foundation of his existence out from under him. Yet God does not take without reason and Jack is allowed only a breath to grieve his loss before He speaks again.
‘You will never be king but you are exactly as I made you and you will have your own part to play in My design. For My chosen hero will be brave and strong and shining and he will need someone who understands the hearts of lesser men. He will need a sword to cut through the darkness, a soul tempered by pain and misery to aid him in bringing your father down. Thus you will suffer in my service; you will endure loneliness and persecution but if you overcome these hardships, Gilboa will know a dynasty of peace. All you must do is give your life to Me.’
And Jack agrees because all he has ever wanted is to be of service to his country and the kingdom that he loves. All he has ever wanted is to be good enough.
“My life is Yours,” the prince whispers, wings fluttering in a caress against his cheek. “I give You my future, my soul, and my body for Gilboa’s sacrifice to claim; I will protect Your chosen king from his enemies as You desire. Just tell me how to recognize him when the moment comes.”
‘He will save you. He will save your life after you no longer wish to keep it and then steal everything that should have been yours to give. He will love his enemies and his allies in equal number and stand before your father as his new favored son. But while you will not be king, take strength from the knowledge that I chose you to walk a harder path.’
With these words, the Lord leaves Jack standing in the garden, His butterflies disappearing upon the summer breeze. Soon the only evidence of his Father’s Presence is the purpose in Jack’s heart and the tear tracks on his face.
God does not speak to Jack again for seven years and during this long absence, the prince sometimes wonders if their previous encounter had been a fantasy. Yet he cannot doubt too strongly when the Lord’s Presence touches the edge of his awareness with a gentle guiding hand.
In the beginning it’s easy for Jack to follow the path that God sets out before him, just one more layer added to the mask upon his face. The prince has been living a lie ever since he realized where his true desires lay and now he shapes that lie into the persona that will see him through the coming years. He becomes the party prince, debauched enough to be underestimated while still admired by the masses, and he learns to fake attraction with the taste of women on his lips.
Because Jack will need his father’s trust in order to unseat him and being queer is something that Silas won’t forgive. Not in his only heir; not in the son who was meant to carry his bloodline into dynasty.
So the prince kisses girls for show and kisses men when no one else is looking, his few fucks spent wondering if God will strike him down for this depravity. But there is no sense of judgment when Jack falls into bed with yet another stranger and it amuses Jack to know that the Lord does not mind his promiscuity. Truthfully, the prince can hardly believe it at first – that God’s hand of justice is a slutty queer meant to betray his king and family.
But the god of his people has never been kind despite what Reverend Samuels preaches and Jack needs the escape that sex can offer when he starts digging into the mire of Gilboan politics. The prince may have grown up knowing that his parents were merciless behind their pretty smiles, but even he never expected just how deep the putrefaction goes.
Assassination, bribery, corruption, adultery – the king accuses his enemies of these sins to crucify them even as such crimes thrive within the palace walls. Nothing is held sacred but the laws of power and appearance and when Jack learns of his father's mistress, he stays drunk for a week.
The prince would never have discovered the truth without God’s interference – Thomasina guarding her master’s secrets with deadly loyalty – and once he knows, Jack almost wishes for ignorance again. Because his father has another son, one whom he loves instead of threatens, and even though Jack has tried to tell himself that Silas can’t hurt him any longer, that isn’t as true as he would like.
The king breaks his heart that day – what little Silas has not already shattered – and when the prince finally sobers up, he throws himself into his task with new resolve, the need to dethrone his father as much vengeance as a holy mission now.
So Jack joins the army as soon as the king allows. He learns to inflict suffering on the bodies of his enemies as Shiloh has already taught him to break a person’s spirit and in this no-man’s land of blood and honor, Jack excels. The prince turns himself into a weapon, a blade ready and waiting for God’s chosen king to wield. He turns himself into a warrior and in so doing, earns the respect he’s always craved.
Jack’s men do not follow him because he’s Silas’ heir or because he’s an officer, they follow him because they trust that he’ll bring them home again. His soldiers trust their prince to fight beside them, to see their lives as more than cannon fodder, and he never asks them to face any danger that he cannot face himself. Jack earns the loyalty of his men with courage and he rewards it with all the excess that Gilboa’s scion can command. For the prince may not have chosen the madness of his bloodline, but he chose these soldiers and he hopes they will stand with him when his Father’s champion appears.
After all, a rebellion cannot be won on faith alone and God would not need a weapon if Silas were willing to step down peacefully. The Lord’s chosen king will need an army and someone willing to paint his hands in blood.
To tell the truth, Jack is almost looking forward to it, part of his soul far too comfortable with death and agony. Perhaps this is why the Lord does not want him on the throne of Gilboa – the prince is too much his father’s son to rule His kingdom peacefully. But while God had warned of pain and suffering in Jack’s future, it is not suffering that he has come to fear.
Because it’s not what Jack does that’s going to destroy him and he can face any torture as long as God is on his side. What the prince truly fears is forgetting that he used to be a different person – that the mask he wears will become reality.
But Jack cannot turn aside, even when his persona starts to feel much too natural on his face. Jack will not turn aside because he has faith that the Lord will do as He promised: the prince’s life traded for his kingdom’s prosperity. That was the bargain that Jack made and he does not regret it, not until Joseph changes everything.
The prince meets the other man after he’s promoted, his father calling him back to Shiloh to celebrate. Which, in his family, means a public photo op, a stiff formal dinner, and a lecture on expectations from the queen. Sitting at that table is physically painful and Jack honestly doesn’t know how he manages to keep smiling politely while his mother scolds Michelle about the appropriateness of her causes and Silas pretends that he actually cares about his son’s accomplishment. Though perhaps there’s truth beneath the lies this evening since the king has never been one to refuse glory and he’s always seen Jack as an extension of his crown.
Indeed, I am a part of you, father. I am the cancer in your bones and the weakness in your blood and you will sorely regret underestimating me.
The prince will never forgive Silas for the years of shame and pain and doubting and the unyielding knowledge that he isn’t good enough. He hates his father now as much as he once loved him, hiding his rage behind sharp smiles and a wicked tongue.
Jack cannot show his hand before the Lord is ready and tonight he just wants to forget about his fucked up family; the prince just wants to get laid because it’s been far too long since he lost himself in someone else’s skin. Some of his soldiers certainly seem like they’d be willing but propositioning his men would feel too much like abusing his authority. So Jack has been annoyingly celibate for months now and a night out on the town is exactly what he needs.
The newly minted captain is expecting a handsome stranger, a blowjob, and a name that he won’t remember in the morning, but what he finds is Joseph Lasile instead.
Jack has barely walked into one of his favorite clubs before the other man catches his attention – not with his looks or his clothes, but the fact that he’s radiating social awkwardness. In all honesty, the prince only takes a second glance because of this awful first impression; Jack’s curious enough to walk over and ask the man just what he’s doing here.
Because Joseph isn’t the usual sort of club hopper that the captain’s used to; he isn’t even the kind of guy who drinks regularly. Instead he’s the sort to spend quiet evenings painting in his apartment and he wouldn’t be here if his sister hadn’t dragged him out by force. Tonight is her bachelorette party and Joseph is the maid of honor because she has a terrible sense of humor and he's queer as queer can be.
All of this information spills from his lips without thought of censorship or editing and Jack finds this easy trust more intoxicating than any alcohol. The prince hasn't spoken so freely since he was a child but Joseph wears his emotions on his face for everyone to see.
Indeed there is nothing secretive about him, Joseph lacking the masks that even the most artless palace servant wears and Jack wants to taste all that naivety. He wants to break the other man open and feed his soul on honesty after so long in the cesspool of royal politics. He wants to show someone the heart that he has buried if only to prove that it’s still there.
Or maybe that's just the whiskey talking since the prince has always been a little maudlin when he's drunk or horny and he’s both things tonight. But Joseph's eyes show his interest as clearly as his naivety so Jack should be able to fix at least one of those right now.
“Take me home with you,” he murmurs, throwing an arm around the other man's shoulders and leaning in. He won't kiss Joseph with so many people watching but he’s drunk enough for a little teasing and Joseph's breath is warm against his lips. There’s power to be found in desire, a power that the prince has come to crave, and Joseph's innocence makes it all the sweeter when his breath catches in his throat.
“Are you sure?” he asks softly and for once the hesitation is less about Jack's position than about concern for his seeming drunkenness.
However, another sultry smile overwhelms Joseph's reservations, the man not quite as innocent as the first impression made it seem. So he takes the prince to his apartment and they've barely walked through the door before they’re kissing, Jack pressed back hard against the wall.
He doesn't usually allow anyone else to take control like this but tonight the prince gives himself over freely, the other man's lips devouring him with heat and gentleness. Though even now he cannot be too passive no matter how sweet the partner and his practiced fingers quickly divest Joseph of his clothes. The man's body is as soft as his spirit but the lack of sculpted muscles does nothing to cool the ardor beneath the prince's skin.
Instead the sight only inflames him further because there is something unmistakably real about Joseph amidst all the false gaiety of Shiloh and Jack wants to lose himself within the other's gravity. They lose themselves together, limbs tangling in a mess of heat and sweat and pleasure until Joseph comes with a sigh against his prince's mouth.
Over the weeks that follow, such encounters become a habit, Jack falling asleep in the other man’s arms almost as often as he goes to bed alone. It’s been a long time since the prince actually spent the night with a lover – getting too attached is dangerous – but somehow with Joseph it just comes naturally. It’s easy to talk to him, to kiss him, and to wake up wrapped together; Jack’s habit of cuddling while he’s sleeping coming out in full force. It’s easy to spend lazy mornings in bed before returning to the palace and by the time Jack is called back to the front, he’s head over heels in love.
However, the prince refuses to admit his feelings, telling himself that lust is the only reason Joseph stays on his mind. For three months, Jack maintains this fiction; three months of wondering what Joseph is doing back in the city and jerking off to the memory of those soft lips around his cock.
But the next time that Silas summons his son to Shiloh for some political maneuvering, Jack has barely finished his show for the camera before he’s searching Joseph out again. They fall into bed together as though they were never parted and the prince cannot stop himself from whispering sweet nothings into the other’s skin.
“Joseph… darling… God you’re beautiful… I fucking love you,” spills from his lips like a benediction and that’s when Jack freaks out.
He tells Joseph that he has to go and orders Stuart to drive him back to the palace, blowing into his room like the Devil’s on his heels. The prince ends up on the balcony, knuckles white around the railing as he stares down into the palace garden and it takes him an hour to realize that he's waiting for God to tell him no. He's waiting for God to tell him that he's not allowed to love anyone.
As soon as Jack comes to this realization, there is a whisper of a breeze stroking across his cheek. The wind swirls around him without rustling a single leaf on the trees below and even though it has been seven years, he could never mistake the Voice that speaks.
‘I asked for your life not your heart, My son, and as long as they do My work, I do not presume to tell My children how to love. Just know that if you continue down this path you will destroy Joseph in My service for you are the blade of God in Shiloh and Joseph is not strong enough to hold you without injury. You will pierce his chest as true as any dagger and this child’s heart was not made for suffering. But it is your choice to make because a sacrifice means nothing when there is nothing that you love.’
God’s words are as much warning as permission and yet Jack cannot bring himself to listen in the face of Joseph's smile and the way his lover makes him feel. So he carves out a place for them within the masquerade that binds him, a part of his heart left in Shiloh every time Captain Benjamin is called back to the front.
But with Joseph, the prince is almost happy. Almost because Joseph does not understand Jack’s need for secrecy or the public mask he wears. The other man hates watching his lover play to the cameras; he hates watching Jack kiss strangers almost as much as the prince hates the feel of their lips against his skin.
But he promised God his service and Jack is sure there would be retribution if he tried to back out now. The prince cannot simply tell the Lord that he no longer wants to be His weapon and even if he could, Joseph’s pleas might not turn his heart aside. Because Jack has been anticipating his father’s reckoning for almost a decade now and he would not save Silas in exchange for life itself.
Truthfully, the prince probably would have betrayed his king even if the Lord had not asked it of him. All it would have taken was the discovery of Silas’ other family or the realization that he would never be good enough and Jack would have been looking at his father down the barrel of a gun.
So this must be what Joseph sees in his prince’s heart when he tells Jack that vengeance has no validation and calls his close-held secrets cowardice. Suddenly Jack finds his desire to please his lover warring with his promise to his Father and he begins to doubt the choice he made.
The prince begins to wonder if Gilboa is truly worth his sacrifice given the corruption that defines her; perhaps it would be better to raze everything and start this dream again. But Jack cannot believe that, not when his country is the first thing he ever loved. Gilboa’s promise sustained him against his father’s hate and his mother’s manipulations when he might otherwise have broken, because only by surviving might Jack sit on her throne one day.
And even though the Lord has denied the prince that future, he cannot turn his back on Gilboa now. He cannot leave her people to his father’s twisted vision, he simply can’t, and standing against the king without God’s protection would be tantamount to suicide.
This conflict rages within Jack for months, the safe haven that he found with Joseph suddenly another burden on his shoulders, and several of his men comment on the captain’s new viciousness. But the war is one of the few places where the prince can vent his frustrations without tipping the balance toward either God or lover and so he leaps at the chance when his father’s general sends new orders down. Technically the mission is for the 109th, but Jack’s squad is fresher and itching for a fight so command looks the other way when the 127th volunteers.
There’s nothing special about the operation, honestly it should have been a cakewalk, and the prince finds himself blindsided when it goes to hell instead. Because he should have had air support – he did have air support – and yet when Gath soldiers start pouring down the hillside, his choppers disappear.
Jack tries everything: curses, threats, and desperate pleading, but his radio stays silent while his platoon is slaughtered all around him and the empty skies stare down. So the captain calls for a retreat even though he hates to run from battle, staying behind to cover his men as they fall back toward the base. Jack would rather see his soldiers survive than be honored for wasting lives needlessly and this is a fight he cannot win..
Thankfully, there’s still cover in this part of the war zone so his men have a chance of reaching safety even with Goliaths on the high ground and the prince’s shoulders feel a little lighter as each soldier disappears into the trees. But there are still far too many of his people bleeding out around him and he curses God under his breath for the lack of warning he received.
Jack knows that he’s lost at least half of his company to this clusterfuck of a mission, though he’s made sure that Gath pays for their win in kind. Yet it might have been a victory if his air support hadn’t turned tail at the first sign of trouble and when he gets back, the captain’s going to see those pilots strung up for their crimes. However, just as Jack signals the last squad to break for cover, a hail of bullets slices through their makeshift barricade and a sharp burst of pain slams him to the ground.
This wound is the only thing that saves him when Gath’s soldiers overrun his position, those men who are still able to hold weapons slaughtered without mercy, and Jack is almost grateful when one of his enemies slams a gun into his head. At least then he doesn’t have to watch good men die anymore.
He wakes with a splitting headache, though he’s honestly rather surprised to be waking up at all. But as soon as they notice that he’s conscious, half a dozen soldiers drag Jack to his feet, propping the prince between them for a gruesome photo shoot. Someone must have recognized his face during the firefight and Gath would never kill him while he might still be of use.
Although, in truth, the joke is on his captors because Jack is fairly worthless as a tool for bargaining. For no matter how much Silas might grieve in public, he won't pay to get his child back; indeed, the king will see Jack burn before giving in to Gath's demands. Honestly, the prince wouldn’t be very surprised to discover that his father planned this since there’s nothing like a martyr to make the people call for blood and Silas has been complaining about how the war's been dragging on.
Which means that, barring a miracle, Jack is going to die here – his death as public and as painful as his enemies can arrange. Compared to that suicide would be a mercy and in another life, the prince might have taken that way out.
But Gath's soldiers had been smart enough to keep one of his men alive when they slaughtered all the others, Corporal Richards young and foolish and too loyal for his own good. He doesn’t blame his captain for their situation even though he probably should and Jack cannot leave him here alone. Jack can’t abandon Richards to Gath’s fury so he endures the beatings and the cameras and tries to protect the other man as best he can.
That’s all the prince can do because his enemies are never foolish enough to leave him unguarded and his injuries make daring escape rather impossible. However, the wounds that Jack receives on film are nothing to what Gath does when they finally realize that Silas will not bargain for his life. His captors nearly kill him then, beating the captain within an inch of dying, and his enemies only leave him that inch because they want to take it publicly.
However, while this thought should frighten Jack, the prince just feels at peace instead. He cannot change his fate; whether he lives or dies now is up to his Father and if God no longer needs him, he would be content to die. Because the only things that the captain has to live for are Joseph and his purpose and his lover deserves better than him anyway.
Indeed, as the hours pass without a sign of assistance – divine or otherwise – the prince starts to believe that his Father has chosen death this time. Even when a commotion begins outside his tent, Jack doesn’t dare to hope, though the sound of explosions echoes loudly in the night. It's probably just a show of force meant to demoralize Gilboa's soldiers and remind them that attempting any sort of rescue would be insanity.
Only, as it turns out, one soldier is crazy enough to do just that because it’s not a Gath who soon runs into Jack's tent. That's the uniform of Gilboa, though the prince cannot see his features in the dark. All he catches is a flash of bright blue beneath a thatch of dirty blond hair before strong hands are pulling him to his feet and he has to focus on not throwing up again.
After that last beating, Jack can barely stand let alone walk under his own power but with Richards’ help, their rescuer manages to get him moving well enough. So the three soldiers stumble out into the darkness, the shouts only growing louder when their enemies notice that Gath's most important prisoner is trying to fly the coop.
But the captain can't think about that; all his attention is required to place one foot in front of the other, a task that grows more difficult when the bullets start flying and his rescuer drops back to cover their retreat. Jack wants to turn and watch; he wants to know who was crazy enough to try and save him and perhaps discover another God-touched idiot along the way.
For God has answered the prince's question most emphatically and thus Jack is certain that he’s going to survive even though every step makes his body scream with agony. He's going to survive this ordeal so that he can return to Shiloh and his father's endless machinations, one war traded for another on his Lord’s command. By the time he and Richards cross into Gilboa’s trenches, this conviction is the only thing keeping the captain upright and it’s a relief when he can finally pass out in allied hands.
Jack doesn’t wake again until the morning, long after the worst of his injuries have been bandaged and his rags replaced. He opens his eyes to see the slats of a truck above him, the metal shining brightly in the blinding sun. There's a gentle hand on his shoulder and a familiar accent ringing in his ears and while the prince's rescue seems more like a dream than memory, Jack knows he's safe for now.
He's safe and he's finally found God’s chosen because when the prince looks up to meet the eyes of his savior, just as bright and blue as he remembered, something clicks into place within his mind. Oh, it’s you then. I guess that’s all right.
Part II: That David Played