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To the Green, Green Fields of Gallia

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first act: The Sleepy Aristok

It's well after midnight when Kelahnus brings up the subject of Gallia, and Demnor tells himself that he should have rehearsed his lines more often, because he's always known Kelahnus to be sneaky this way.

"You don't own me," Kelahnus points out, quite wrongly, since he's sworn that Demnor holds his heart many times now, and Demnor has already proven that Kelahnus' body can be his for the taking, too. Plus there's a scrap of paper called a 'contract', but that's irrelevant, really.

"You can't force me to stay here," Kelahnus maintains, and Demnor recalls a hundred, a thousand times during which Kelahnus has managed to make him stay here, in bed. He thinks he should be able to do the same to Kelahnus, just once, even if that's not what Kelahnus means right now, naturally.

"I'll be fine," Kelahnus argues, prompting Demnor to once again launch into a lecture on the life in a battle camp and why he doesn't think Kelahnus would feel at home there, with the cold, the noises, the smells and the bad food. (Demnor doesn't think the food's all that bad, but Kelahnus would, he thinks.)

The argument is nearly as exhausting as a swordfight, but far less satisfying. Demnor has plenty of things other than verbal sparring he wants to do with Kelahnus at the moment, and while some of them involve tongues, most of them don't involve a lot of talking.

Finally, at the end, just to spite him, Demnor's sure, Kelahnus uses the one argument Demnor can't counter right away, even if he knew that Kelahnus would use it.

"You can't live for five months without me," Kelahnus assures him, finally starting to do something Demnor has wanted him to do from the beginning, but then stopping halfway. Demnor would hate him, if he hadn't loved him too much already.

He could, of course, point out that he's done without Kelahnus before.

He doesn't.

Instead, he asks Kelahnus 'why not?', which is Kelahnus' cue to continue where Demnor longs for him to continue, since the bribe has been accepted and, as a man of honour, Kelahnus always makes good on his promises.

 

second act: The Traveling Companion

"I've never," Florence comments to Nadia, who possibly shouldn't be here, but has come anyway, "seen anyone that seasick." She sounds amused, as is the prerogative of older siblings.

"Surely he's been on a ship before." Nadia frowns, unsure if she should show her amusement as well, and risk offending the Guild Representative, or keep the slight smile off her lips and do the same.

"The weather is rather rough for this time of year," Florence admits. "I feel fine though." She smiles.

Nadia smiles back. "So do I."

Florence's smile blooms into a grin. "My cabin's very comfortable; perhaps you'd like to see it?"

"I'd love to," Nadia replies, keeping her expression serious and innocent, especially when she notices Kelahnus glaring in their direction, as if offended that they're not suffering with him.

*

"Women are cruel, cold-hearted creatures," Kelahnus moans, gratefully sipping of the herbal tea Demnor has somehow magicked up for him.

Demnor remains quiet, his attention fixed on a point somewhere behind Kelahnus' head.

"You could at least agree with me," Kelahnus prods him. "Or kiss and make me feel all better. That'd be a nice way of telling me you care, too. Or maybe both."

"Not both, I'm afraid." Demnor shrugs. "I'm the Aristok, after all. I have responsibilities, and one of them's not to get myself killed either before we get to Gallia, or after that."

Kelahnus turns, slowly.

Isolde DeKathrine smiles down at him sweetly.

"A kiss sounds really good," Kelahnus tells Demnor, who nods and is very carefully not looking at Isolde.

Once they've reached the relative safety of Demnor's cabin, they grin at each other, like they're teenagers again, who've just gotten away with doing something forbidden. Kelahnus is happy to find that sex seems to be quite effective against his sea-sickness.

 

third act: The Blooded Sword

Kelahnus hadn't expected the blood to bother him this much. He's not altogether a stranger to violence after all, as he's pointed out to Demnor in their arguments. He knows how to fence, how to defend himself (and that Alynne hadn't been bothered in the least by either of that was his to know and for anybody save Florence to find out).

He knew there'd be violence here, too, and blood. This is a war, after all.

He thought he knew about wars. He thought that he knew what to expect, and that he'd be able to get through it, to see people getting killed and hurt and maimed and not get killed, hurt and maimed with them, in mind and heart, if not in body.

Kelahnus, Florence tells him, her own face ragged with fatigue, was a fool. Still is a fool. He shouldn't have come here; he should have listened to Demnor, let Demnor order him to stay in Branion and then use Demnor's guilt and desire for him to have the day of Demnor's return end into the best night of Kelahnus' life.

She doesn't, however, tell him to take the first ship home. She knows him too well.

Demnor'd never forgive him for that, anyway, even if he might agree to it, for Kelahnus' sake. Somehow, it seems that the more passionate the day's battle is (the more blood and gore is left on the once-green fields of Gallia), the more fiery Demnor's love-making during the night after.

Those nights, at least, Kelahnus wouldn't have missed for the world.

 

fourth act: The Dreaming Lovers

Summer has passed, slipped by almost without his noticing. Usually, Kelahnus associates summer with warm, pleasant things, like sun and garden-parties and making love under the light of the stars and the moon. Somehow, it feels wrong for summer to have become a season for war, for slaughter.

Gallia's summers are softer than those in Branion -or so he's been told. He wouldn't know, really; the weather seemed a rather irrelevant aspect of the world these past weeks, months, ages.

A distant part of his has noted the beauty of Gallia, quite different from Branion, but beauty nonetheless. Gallia's like its knights, he suspects; civilized and polished on the outside, like a fake gem polished and faceted to look perfect, hiding its flaws behind a mask.

Likely, the winters in Gallia are the worst on the Continent. (They're tolerable in Branion, Kelahnus thinks, provided there's warm wine, hot chocolate and a comfortable nest of blankets in front of the hearth-fire to be had.) Besides, all of Gallia's beauty doesn't count for one bit on the battle-field.

Maybe next year, Demnor will decide to stay home. That'd be nice, Kelahnus thinks.

*

Demnor watches the Gallian coast slowly vanish beyond the horizon, and decides that this might just have been the best summer of his entire life. He's had all the fighting he could have wished for, and then some, without being forced to inaction by needing to lay siege to some big city, like Charletiennes. He's had the pleasure of watching Isolde in battle, and of having someone who's nearly as good at strategy as Terion was to talk strategy and tactics with.

And every night, he had Kelahnus to hold, and to be held by.

Kelahnus was right, really; Demnor can't imagine having spent these five months without him, even with Isolde being there. It wasn't like this before, not even in Heathland, but it's become so now, as if a year of marriage has made the bond between him and Kelahnus stronger, rather than weaker.

Next year, Demnor hopes, Kelahnus will be there again, stayig safely out of the thick of the battle, but still being near enough for his presence to count. That'd be great, Demnor thinks.