In this M/M retelling of the Grimm fairytale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Reuben, a soldier, is on his way to the castle to offer his services to the king, who is sorely troubled with the question of his family’s honour. His wayward daughters go out dancing every night, and refuse to tell how or where.
Walking through the forest, Reuben meets a handsome woodcutter, Corin, who offers to help him unravel the mystery of the dancing princesses. With the magical aid of Corin’s grandmother, the two set out together, mindful that their journey could end in sorrow. The king offers a rich prize to anyone who can discover the princesses’ secret -- but the penalty for failure is death.
Corin gave Reuben a bed for the night and a bite to eat, and as they sat by the fire in his humble dwelling, they spoke of many things. Reuben told Corin of the village in which he had grown up, nestled at the foot of the mountains which loomed majestically over the plains; mountains no less beautiful for all their harshness. Corin, in his turn, spoke of the forest, and of his grandmother who had raised him, and of her many wise ways.
And as the firelight began to flicker, and the daylight faded fully, Corin asked a question that had been burning in his mind all day long. "Will you tell me, Reuben, why you're so against marrying a princess? For the king's daughters are said to be the fairest maidens in all the land."
Reuben smiled. "I think, Corin, you know the answer to that question. No woman, be she the fairest in all the land, will ever win my heart. I've known that all my life, though 'twas only today I met the man who might win it, if he chooses."
Corin, his heart swelling in surprise and joy, leaned over and pressed his lips to Reuben's.
His kiss was warm and honest, and tasted of the ale they'd shared with their supper. The hands upon Reuben's face were work-roughened but gentle, and Reuben returned his caresses with delight and an urgency he had not expected to feel. For this morning he had viewed the prospect of death, should he fail in his task, with equanimity; but now he found he had something he wished to live for.
Calloused fingers fumbled with clothing, and stubbled chins rasped upon flesh as the fever gripped them both, to love this night as though it might be their last. As the candles guttered and the fire went out, moonlight shone through the tiny windows of the cottage and illuminated them both: one tall, broad-shouldered, and fair, the other slighter and dark, but no less strong.
As Reuben embraced his slender lover, the trembling in his fingers was answered by the quiver of Corin's flesh beneath his touch. Reuben pulled him close so each might steady the other, and kissed him passionately upon his lips, and throat, and breast.