sour girl (speshulduck) wrote in entficathon,
sour girl

Title: An Epic Tale of a Lord and His Faithful Knight (2/2)
Author: duck
For: qzee


The next day Hoshi caught him trying to saddle Dexter and dragged him away for another language lesson. He did much better at this one, since there was no T'Pol around to be a condescending distraction. Hoshi was delighted by his attentiveness as a student and took him to meet Trip afterwards.

He managed to get out in their language, "My name is Malcolm." Trip enthusiastically shook his hand and let out a torrent of words that Malcolm thought contained the phrase "my name is Trip."

"Excitable bugger, aren't you?" Malcolm asked. Trip grinned at him.

"From the north, then?" Ah, right. Hoshi had said Trip could speak his language. He'd almost forgotten.

"Yes, across the water," Malcolm said.

"I'll leave you to show him around, Trip," Hoshi interjected. "I have some business to take care of in town."

"You take one of the guards with you this time," Trip admonished, giving her a warning look. "If I have to go after Martin and his cronies for killing you, Jon'll have to hang me for murdering them all in their beds."

"Jon has McKenzie waiting for me at the gate," Hoshi said, rolling her eyes skyward. "Honestly, does every man around here feel they need to protect me?"

Malcolm shared a glance with Trip. He didn't know the man at all, but they both grinned and said "Yes!" at the same time. Hoshi said something Malcolm didn't understand. It was in a terse manner – almost like a curse – and from the look on Trip's face he didn't understand either.

"I called you two some very choice names in my native language," she explained before turning and stalking away. Malcolm just shook his head at her retreating form.

"You know, she's like a sister to me," Trip said, watching her go, "but I think some days she doesn't actually like me."

Malcolm laughed and said, "I've only been here a couple days, but I think that's how she is with everyone."

Trip gave him an up and down look before swinging his arm in the direction of the stables. "Come on, I'll give you the grand tour. From my perspective, of course, which means we'll start at the stables end at the common room of the inn."

"I think we may become fast friends, good sir."

True to Trip's word they started with stables where Trip showed him all the finest horses Jon owned. There was a fine-nosed mare with a high arch in her neck that would have appealed to Malcolm as a riding horse if he'd had any need. Trip said she was from a peninsula to the far southwest and appreciated Malcolm's eye for horseflesh. They walked Dexter around the grounds for a bit and Trip took note (without being prompted) of the finer points of the warhorse's training.

Malcolm found that he rather liked Trip after that.

After that the tour went quickly. They stopped by the soldiers' barracks to see how their sparring was going. But only for a moment, because then they were onto the small compound of buildings where trade caravans were allowed to stay and trade their goods. The smells drove them both away, laughing at how anyone could like those spices.

Then they were onto a few of the fields on the estate to see if the winter wheat had sprouted yet. "We should have planted it a bit later," Trip said, surveying the field with worry on his face. "The spring crop should tide us over, but I'd hate to lose the next round of beer because the winter wheat didn't come up properly."

Malcolm just nodded, finding agriculture to be a bit out of his field of experience, so to speak. "We use hops in our beer," Trip explained, showing him the fields where they were cultivating a vine. "It hasn't caught on very much yet, but it adds a certain flavour to our beers. Though if the wheat crop doesn't come up too well, we might be eating the hops this time next year, instead of drinking it."

"Well, I say we go test out this year's beer at the inn," Malcolm suggested. Trip gave him another grin (the man gave them far too often).

"I was just about to suggest the same myself."

They were halfway down the road to the town when a man with a hood drawn over his head joined them. Trip nodded to him, but Malcolm was a bit more cautious.

"Can we help you, sir?"

To his immense surprise, the man pulled back his hood to reveal Jon's smiling face. "This way I'm not 'the lord' for the evening," he explained. They were admitted to the common room of the inn with a respectful nod toward Jon from the proprietor. Apparently not everyone was out of the loop.

Their table was nice and clean, near enough to the fire to be warm, but not close enough to burn too hot. The food and beer were both excellent, but the company was better. Malcolm should have known the evening was going too nicely.

Trouble started when a few men three tables over started complaining about their food. One stood up and started yelling for the innkeeper, and Malcolm recognized his nemesis from the brief fight to protect Hoshi. Scarface. Martin.

The man seemed to be a universal annoyance from the expressions on most of the other patron's faces. Trip's face had turned dark and ugly, while Jon placed a restraining hand on his arm to keep him from rising. "Hoshi's like a sister to you too, Jon," he hissed.

"Yes, but we can't do anything unless Martin actually breaks a law," Jon reminded him softly.

"Isn't threatening Hoshi's life enough?" asked Malcolm. Trip gave him a grateful look.

"Not according to the king," Jon said, bitterness staining his voice. Martin had begun harassing the innkeeper now, and Malcolm was rapidly becoming angry.

"I'm just passing through, my lord, and I don't know of any king," he said before he drained the last of his beer and whipped out one of his knives. He rolled it along the backs of his fingers, making sure he could still pull off the trick before he drew attention to himself. Both Trip and Jon watched his movements with fascination.

"Martin," he called out. The man whipped his head around to find who had dared speak to him. When his eyes settled on Malcolm, he grinned, but it was a sickly one. "I know you can't understand me, but if the food's so bad, why don't you try eating a home?"

Malcolm smiled at the other man while glaring menacingly from under his eyebrows. Trip had to hide his sniggers behind his hand. Martin said something to Malcolm that he didn't quite understand, but when Trip replied for him he realized he must've asked what he said. Thanks to Hoshi's lessons he picked up the "He said…" at the beginning of Trip's speech, though from the expression on Martin's face, Trip might have added a few insults. He roared something back and pushed the innkeeper away so he could pull out a knife.

"His wife left him two years ago to run off with a trader from the north, so I don't think he likes you too much," Trip said, his wide grin in place. "He asked if you are man enough to fight him again without your sword."

"Tell him I'd be pleased to engage him in a fight, though not in here," Malcolm said, slapping the knife into his other hand and rising to his feet. Trip wasn't far behind, but Jon grabbed both of their arms.

"Are you two out of your minds?" he asked as he levered himself up and threw off his hood. Malcolm only caught a few words of what he said to Martin, but the man bristled as he put his knife away and all but crawled to the door, his companions following in his wake. He gave Malcolm a venomous glare before he slammed the door behind him.

Everyone else in the common room had gone exceptionally quiet and was staring at Jon's face. The innkeeper was babbling something that was probably an apology at him, but Jon gave him a pat on the back and gestured at Trip. The innkeeper turned to Trip, who pulled out a small bag. Malcolm didn't get to see what was in it because Jon steered him towards a back door. From the roar of appreciation, Jon must've bought drinks for the entire common room.

"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Jon asked him as soon as they were out the back. He led Malcolm down a small alley by the inn and glanced around for Martin and his friends, of which there was no sign.

"No, sir, I could have taken him," Malcolm replied.

"It's Jon, damn it!"

"I know, sir, but…it's hard for me to address a lord by his name." Malcolm's eyes fell to the ground.

"I know it must be, Malcolm, but I like you, and I don't want you 'siring' or 'lording' me," Jon said, clearly exasperated. "You're a good man and I want you working for me."

"I'm leaving –"

"Tomorrow, I know," Jon finished for him. Malcolm chanced a look at his face and found Jon smiling at him. "At least stay for a month, or a week, or something." He leaned back against the wall of the inn. "Try it out for a while. See what living and working here is like. With Hayes guarding my wife, I need a decent captain of the guards, and I think you're it."

"Sir, I don't even know the language."

"But Hoshi's teaching you," Jon countered. "And the men all like you. You've already taught them a great deal."

"I've only been here two days!"

"And they like you, Malcolm! I can't decide if Trip is more ecstatic about you or your horse, Travis says he wants to spar with you every day, Hoshi obviously has a thing for you, and even T'Pol declared your presence 'tolerable.'"

"She said I was tolerable?" Malcolm asked. He imagined coming from her that was no small compliment.

"Yes, she did," Jon said with a grin. He schooled his face back to seriousness. "I'm not talking about swearing allegiance to me or anything, Malcolm. I just want you to try things out. You've seen that we're all a little strange around here –"

"It's hard to miss," Malcolm interjected dryly. Trip had told him they even had a daft Jewish healer who secreted himself in the basement of the manor and performed medical experiments all day and night.

"You're a wandering knight from the north who doesn't wear full armour or carry lances; I think you'd fit in with our strange crowd," Jon said. He almost sounded like he was pleading with Malcolm.

"I suppose I could stay for a while; your men do need a spot of training," he said thoughtfully. "And I seem to provide the challenge Travis needs."

Jon looked like he was about to say more, but Trip burst out of the front of the inn looking around wildly. He spied them and trotted over. "I don't know how you do it, Jon, but they love you in there."

"It's the beer, Trip," Jon said. His smile didn't look entirely happy. "We should get back to the manor."

Malcolm and Trip were both left to trail behind him.


The next day Malcolm decided that if he was going to try out life around here he might as well do it in a proper fashion. He hauled Travis away from his flirtation with one of the stable girls and explained that he was going to start training sessions in earnest for the guards, but he needed the Moor to translate for him. Travis, in his inexhaustible enthusiasm, ran off to fetch all the soldiers to the practice court.

There were some arguments about who was to be left guarding the gates, but Travis quickly resolved it by setting up a rotating schedule. Malcolm didn't want to tell him this "class" of his couldn't last long since he didn't think he'd last the week in such normal routine, so he let them go about it. Within an hour he had them all lined up and paired off to practice the simple throw he'd demonstrated two days before.

He'd been trained by one of the best knights in the land and he knew how to spot potential. So apparently did Hayes, because when Malcolm asked Travis about the four men he'd picked out to go far, he discovered they already held high-responsibility positions within the guard unit. He was even shocked to the tips of his boots when Travis politely pointed out that one, the same McKenzie who'd accompanied Hoshi to the town yesterday, was actually a woman.

He sputtered until Travis gave him a hard smack to his back and told him she could beat most any man there. Malcolm glanced across the yard to where Hoshi was arguing with a trader and then across the fields where he could see Trip and T'Pol walking along, Trip waving his hands around emphatically. He decided it didn't matter so much that he was training a woman soldier.

The training session went quite well and Malcolm found he was already planning for the next day when Hoshi appeared to drag him away for dinner and another language lesson. He spent the afternoon with Jon and Trip riding about the estate and learning the boundaries and farmland. They both made sure that Malcolm began learning some of the more colloquial phrases of their language. He was sure that between the two of them he'd be bilingual in swearing before he'd learned to speak in complete sentences.

He had a pleasant supper that evening with Jon followed by a rousing game of stones, another of Hoshi's contributions from her childhood. He used the opportunity to ask after the healer Trip had told him about.

"Who, Phlox?" Jon asked, looking up from the board.

"'Phlox?' Doesn't anyone have a normal name around here?"

"Malcolm and Jonathan aren't normal enough for you?" Jon asked, smiling as his skipped a stone over three of Malcolm's. Malcolm had anticipated the move and countered with one that got one of his stones all the way into the opposing territory. Jon frowned at the board.

"What does he do all day?"

"He hides from the world a lot, but he has a good record of handling illnesses," Jon said absently. "He's Jewish, so you can imagine why he doesn't want to come out too often."

Malcolm had once seen an entire Jewish family burned out of their house. He'd been powerless to stop it, but the image of the people huddled together and clutching at some safety still haunted him. Anti-Semitism was alive and kicking strongly in the region. He found the concept more than a little silly. Heathens were one thing, but the Jewish God didn't sound all that different from the Christian one.

"He's also a bit disfigured, but I don't think he even notices it," Jon said, still trying to figure out where to move next. "Don't go down into the dungeon unless you want him poking you with some instrument or another and declaring you need a good treatment of leeches for what ails you."

"Why don't you stop your people's treatment of Hoshi and Phlox?" Malcolm asked. The tips of his ears burned for asking such a presumptuous question, but Jon didn't seem to notice.

"Because I can do nothing. It's a popular sentiment," he said with a sigh. "I can only lead by example. People fear what they don't understand, and both Hoshi and Phlox are very exotic to their senses. Even Travis used to have problems until five men accosted him when he was fifteen. He didn't say who did it, but I can tell you which five men in the town were limping around for weeks afterwards."

"It's always about violence."

"Yes. Hoshi and Phlox could be beaten easily, while Travis won't go down unless you've severely unbalanced the odds against him. Although sometimes I wonder if Hoshi could fight harder than she lets on." Malcolm decided not to tell Jon what Travis had told him about Hoshi when she wasn't wearing a dress.

"Anyway, I've tried to discourage it, but people like Martin and his rabble will always find ways to tap into public anger and fear. Your move." Malcolm moved another stone all the way across the board and Jon frowned at him. "You sure you've never played this before tonight?"

"Not once."

Malcolm let the topic slide as Jon moved onto the finer points of the game. Malcolm refrained from noting that his training in battle strategy had adapted him well for this sort of game and let Jon ramble on.


Malcolm agreed to accompany Jon on his tour of the outlying areas of his estate to ensure their preparation for winter, he just didn't realize it would be a month later. When the time for their journey came he was surprised to find he'd lost track of the days.

"Have I really been here a month?" he asked Trip, who just laughed at him and went back to telling him all the things he'd need to be mindful of. The excursion was only supposed to take four days, but it would take them through some of the areas more vulnerable to brigand attack.

As it turned out they didn't run into any brigands, but Malcolm did finally swear his allegiance to Jon. He was helping a family re-thatch their roof when he discovered that Jon was actually helping as well. It struck him as such a human thing to do that he presented Jon with his sword that night before they went to bed and told him he was his to use as he saw fit.

Jon was quite happy about it, of course, though Malcolm wasn't quite sure if his sudden declaration was from the loyalty the man inspired in him or that nagging sense of attraction. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to remember what his father had told him about men who were attracted to other men. "Filthy, dirty, heathen practice."

He shut his father's voice out of his mind and rolled over in an attempt to get to sleep. When they returned from their short journey Jon insisted on a celebratory formal supper with nearly the entire staff of the manor. Phlox even left his dungeons for it. It was the first time Malcolm met him.

The winter months rolled by in tedium once the snow set in. Malcolm was quite content to train his soldiers – he wasn't quite sure when he'd begun to think of them as such – in the morning, study language with Hoshi during dinner and the early afternoon, and spend the rest of his day with Jon. It became an easy sort of routine that he found he enjoyed. He especially took pleasure in the days they went riding, sometimes taking Travis or Trip along, but usually wandering in the snow by themselves on their horses.

The winter passed without much note and with few problems in the town. A few people raised issue with the distribution of food, most notably the ever-present thorn Martin, but they didn't have cause to punish anyone.

Periodically they received word from the Lady Erika at King Henry's court. They were wintering well, but the king didn't seem to show any interest in reconciling with his cousin's husband. Malcolm supposed it would be too much to hope that he ever would, and privately Jon said he shared Malcolm's opinion. But he did have to try.

One night shortly after the snow had melted completely away for the first time, telling them that winter was preparing to give way to spring, Malcolm was sleeping in his rooms when a furious banging woke him with a start. Grumbling, he stumbled to the door to find McKenzie on the other side. She and Kemper had become two of his top military students, but she looked on the panicked side of emotion at the moment.

"It's Hayes and Hawkins, sir!" He'd had enough lessons with Hoshi at this point that his fluency in the language was catching up with his fluency in swearing.

"What's going on?" he asked, reaching for something more substantial to wear than his night clothes.

"They showed up five minutes ago, both wounded and with the message that the king has sent a force of mercenaries to route us out of the manor and kill the lord. Hawkins died just before I came to get you, sir, and I don't think Hayes is far behind him. They said the mercenaries were right on their tails." She grabbed his sword and armour for him and helped him into it, knowing exactly what his orders would be. He gave them anyway.

"Rouse the soldiers and tell them to prepare to defend this place with their lives. Don't let the lord get caught up in the fighting, even if he insists. And tell Travis that he's not to move from the lord's side either. If there's time, send messengers to the town to round up as many people as they can."

There wasn't time as he soon found out. He didn't even have time to mount Dexter when he arrived in the yard. By the time he reached it the gates had begun to shudder under the impact of a battering ram. Malcolm had just enough time to curse the fact that he hadn't had time to properly reinforce any of the outer defences before the gates broke open under the onslaught.

For a while, his whole existence became wrapped up in parrying and thrusting, directing forces to where they were needed, to surviving. There were just so many mercenaries; they seemed to pour through the smashed gate like a river through a broken dam. He was running about the grounds trying to marshal his forces when he nearly tripped over a dark shape on the ground. His breath caught in his throat when he realized that it was Travis.

Malcolm bent over the Moor's slumped form and felt for breath. It stirred the air on the back of his hand and Malcolm let out a sigh of relief; that meant he was alive. But if he was here, then Jon was somewhere without a bodyguard. Malcolm's heart beat a furious tattoo in his chest. His lord had never needed to learn any physical skills beyond hunting.

He quickly rose and cast his eyes about the scene of battle, searching for the familiar form. All around him his soldiers were doing their training admirable justice, dispatching the mercenaries and capturing those few they recognized. He felt a slight twinge of pride when he saw both McKenzie and Kemper leading small bands driving the mercenaries into a tight, panicking group. He even thought he saw Trip astride a horse running down fleeing people.

Malcolm knew Jon would be out here. He wasn't the sort of man that just hung back while his house was under attack and his people were dying. He stopped making the effort to seek out invaders and started searching frantically. The wails of the wounded and dying faded in his ears, and even the fire in one of the trading barns failed to capture his attention.

He finally found what he was looking for near the practice ring. Jon rolled on the ground with a smaller man, grappling in fierce combat. Malcolm quickened his steps into a brisk run, nearly hysterical. He reached the two men and hauled the smaller one up to his feet. Martin's face barely registered in his mind before he pivoted the exact same way he had during their first fight, only this time he struck the throat with the full edge of his blade.

Martin's body slumped to the ground while his head rolled off in a different direction, but Malcolm didn't even pause to see if there was anyone else around before he dropped his sword and fell to Jon's side.

"Jon!" he cried, grabbing for the other man's hand. His eyes were closed and oh god, there was a knife sticking up from his ribs. "I failed you, Jon," he croaked.

He wasn't sure of the following sequence of events, but he was sure that his cries attracted some attention. Phlox appeared at some point and Trip and two of the soldiers had to haul Malcolm bodily away from Jon so he could work. T'Pol's face floated in front of his as some drink was forced down Malcolm's throat. Things started to get very hazy after that.


He found himself on his bed what he assumed was some time later with no real recollection of how he'd gotten there. Hoshi was sprawled out in a chair next to his bed, but she woke quickly from her dozing when he shook her.

"Oh, Malcolm, it's terrible," she sobbed and flung her arms around his neck. "Phlox isn't sure if the lord's going to make it or not."

Malcolm patted her back awkwardly, not entirely sure how to go about comforting her. His sister had never had such a fit of histrionics, though it was quite justified in this case.

"Just hold me, Malcolm," she sobbed into his shoulder.

"Hoshi," he said quietly. "I don't…I don't exactly like women that way."

She pulled away from him and her mouth formed a little O of understanding. "Oh. Oh! Oh, my. Well, I knew I was being silly." She shook her head and closed her mouth. "So, are you going to tell the lord how you feel then?"

"What?!" Malcolm pulled away even further and glared sharply at her. "I certainly do not –"

"Oh, yes you do," she interrupted. "I was just ignoring it, hoping maybe you'd come around to me, but it's fairly obvious to everyone around here that you both have some very strong feelings for each other."

"Hoshi, we don't –"

"It is very unbecoming of a gentleman to refuse to acknowledge what everyone else knows to be true."

"He's married, Hoshi."

"So?" she asked, arching an eyebrow at him. He wondered if T'Pol had been having an undue influence on her. "I don't think Lord Jonathan and Lady Erika even shared a bed on their wedding night."

"He's dying, Hoshi!" he exclaimed. It felt like something was threatening to tear out through his chest. "I pledged my loyalty to him and he's dying. I can't stay here. I need to leave." He rose abruptly from his chair and began gathering his things.

"You're not actually going to leave now, are you?" she asked derisively. "The lord would want you to stay with him through this."

He slammed down one of the knives he was gathering up. She just didn't understand. "He's not going to recover, Hoshi. I can't stay here and watch this happen all over again."

"Pretty rotten of you to run out on the man when he needs you the most," Trip's voice said from the doorway. Malcolm turned on him and gave him a fierce glare.

"I don't need this from you too," he said, biting his words off in anger. Why the hell did these people feel they had any right to tell him how he was feeling and what he should be doing? He'd only known them for…four months. He'd been here four months and he'd found a home with them.

Admit it, Malcolm. You're happy here, he told himself. These people genuinely cared about him, cared what happened to him, wanted to see him happy. But they didn't understand that he just couldn't go through this again.

"A few years ago when I fought the Normans in the north, I had to watch the man who trained me – the man to whom I'd sworn my allegiance – die a painful death. He died on the eve of their victory, one of the last few they murdered." He clenched his teeth together at the memory. "I had to hold his hand while he died, and tell him that he was going to be fine. That his wife and children were on their way to see him.

"He told me he loved me like his own son, and then he closed his eyes and stopped breathing. I can't watch Jon die like that, Trip. I just can't." He cradled his face in his hands and groaned, struggling not to cry. "I have to go."

"They won't let you out and they won't give you your horse," Trip said defiantly. "I've seen to it. Jon won't get better unless you're there, Malcolm, and I will make damn sure that you are."

"You have no right –"

"I have every right!" Trip said, his eyes flashing. "While the lord is incapacitated, I have absolute control over the grounds and his estate. So you're—not—leaving." He punctuated the last three words with a finger thrust in Malcolm's direction. He spun on his heel and disappeared out of the doorway before Malcolm could reply.

"Hoshi –"

"He's in his quarters, Malcolm. Just go to him," she said. He dropped his knives and ran out the door.

Phlox seemed relieved to see him when he appeared at the door to Jon's rooms. "He's been calling for you in his fever-dream. I think it would help if you could just sit with him for a while."

"As long as I need to, doctor," Malcolm said, swallowing his fear. He gently pushed the Jewish healer out of the way and entered the room.

Jon was thrashing on his bed, twisting his sheets around him. Malcolm crossed the room quickly, taking up position in one of the chairs next to the bed. He tentatively reached out for one of Jon's hands.

"Jon? It's me, Malcolm," he said softly, unsure of what to say. "I…I'm here, Jon."

The wounded man moaned in his sleep, but he allowed Malcolm to hold tightly to his hand. His movements soon quieted. Malcolm sat in the hush as long as he was able, the silence all but ringing in his ears.

"Well, I guess I should tell you," he finally said. "I've been a bit daft about it, but I really do care a lot about you."

Jon's only answer was a rumbling snore.

"And if you die, I won't be able to take it. I've already had to do this once, and I don't fancy doing it again." Malcolm watched Jon's eyelids flutter. "So you can't die, all right? Because it would be a terrible inconvenience to me. Hoshi would be devastated anyhow, and I think Travis might try to commit some sort of ritual suicide. You don't want to upset them, do you?"

Malcolm sighed. "And I suppose your wife would be a tad bit distressed. The king would be thrilled of course. There you go! You need to live just to piss him off."

Malcolm clung to Jon's hand for the rest of the night, still debating whether or not to make a dash for the stables. Over the course of the next day he came to the conclusion that Hoshi was right and he'd was horribly in love with his lord and master. That presented a small problem, but he figured he could deal with that if Jon ever woke up.

As the time wore on, Phlox became more hopeful about a recovery. "Every moment he lives is another moment he doesn't die!" he pronounced gleefully at one point.

The others were becoming increasingly worried about Malcolm, and Hoshi and Trip were actually trying to get him away from Jon's bedside after two days of vigil. He stubbornly refused, feeling as though if he left Jon would slip away from him.

After that second day they managed to convince him he needed to sleep in his bed, so he was consequently not there when Jon finally revived. He thought it was the perfect irony when informed of the situation, but Malcolm was not quite so amused when he was woken roughly by a very excited Trip.

"You look like hell," was the first thing Jon said to him when he walked in his room. It was more of a croak than anything, but it was understandable.

"I suppose the knife wound in your side is good for your health then?" he shot back, settling himself in his usual chair.

"They tell me you beheaded dear Martin for giving it to me," Jon said.

"Well, I am prone to jealousy." When Malcolm realized what he'd said, he wanted to clap his hands over his mouth in embarrassment. He must be very tired indeed to be saying such things as that.

"Jealousy?" Jon asked. He didn't seem too upset by the idea.

"If anyone's going to stab you, it's supposed to be me. Going out in the middle of a battle being waged to protect you! Bloody smart move that was," Malcolm scoffed.

"Malcolm, I almost died and we still can't just be honest with each other?"

"What do you mean, sir?" Malcolm asked, shifting nervously in his seat.

"I mean that we're both, you know…" They looked at each other and Jon frowned. "What I mean is, we're…"

"Attracted to one another, sir?" Malcolm finally ventured, figuring to hell with caution.

"Yes, that's it," Jon said with relief. "We can call it some sort of battlefield affection between soldiers if you like, but it's there. And I'm not really in any mood to dance around it any longer."

Upon further reflection Malcolm realized that he wasn't either. All-in-all, they lived quite happily ever after.

[the end]
Tags: archer/reed, round two
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