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out of reach

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He’s not exactly the expert in subtlety. Inigo knows this, and even if he didn’t, he’s heard enough comments about his philandering to last over at least ten lifetimes. Sure he can’t make sly moves and sure every woman he flirts with can see right through him and sure even Owain of all people, the anti-thesis to the word, has teased him to heaven and hell about but still --


If no one has said anything about him eyeing Owain the past five minutes, then he can definitely be subtle, because no one, and especially not Owain, would pass up on an opportunity to tease him about, well, watching someone with more than a little longing on his face. It’s a skill he’s honed through the past few weeks, letting his gaze roam the scarred, tanned form of his friend and pulling away before anyone can catch him. It’s intuition, he thinks. And he very much enjoys the idea that he knows Owain well enough to predict when he’s going to turn to him or swivel his gaze to Inigo’s direction to spout more of his theatrics.


“Perhaps I can aid you, old friend?” Owain’s voice cuts through the darkness and Inigo pretends to look up in surprise, as if he weren’t just watching him make his way through the camp.


“What, your sword hand twitches to tend to the fire too?” Inigo remarks in good humor. Owain’s character falters for a second when he pouts.


“It appears you were in need of assistance, considering your work of the past five minutes is nothing but a pathetic ember.” Inigo’s cheeks burn (more than the fire, certainly). At least in the dark no one can see his embarrassment. Settling beside him, Owain chucks in more wood and dead leaves into the pit. “Let me guess, the cause of your carelessness today is… because you got rejected by another girl?” He grins at his own certainty, hand clamping down on Inigo’s shoulder. He’s mocking him, of course, but the fire light softens his gaze, makes his skin look golden and warm and Inigo’s chest flutters. ‘No because I was too busy watching you to notice.’


“Are you done insulting me or are you going to make your grand exit now?” It sounds more snappy that he intended to and Owain frowns. He leans in close until they’re nearly nose to nose and Inigo stops breathing at all, too focused on the freckles across Owain’s cheeks.


“Not even a comeback?” His dark eyes roam across Inigo’s face. “Has some vile curse taken you prisoner? Are you the true Inigo?” Inigo squeezes his eyes shut, tries to steady the drumming of his heart against his rib cage. If he allowed himself to open his eyes, he’d be able to see Owain’s eyelashes, his fainter freckles, and--- and he’d do something he’d regret.


Pushing Owain away, he hastily stands up, brushing off his shoulders for no other reason than to occupy his hands while he wills the blush off his cheeks.




“Goodnight Owain,” he says and escapes to his tent without looking back once.


Inigo doesn’t like to think himself a coward on the battlefield. There are others counting on him, of course. He has the weight of his own burdens and other lives to bear on his shoulders. A lifetime of Risen and traveling across time to push hope into the space of tragedy is more than enough to make him strong. He only wishes his resolve were as steely in matters of the heart.


He’d be lying to himself if he said he wasn’t avoiding Owain, that it was the coincidence of increasing chores around the camp that took him away. Still, he’s never dropped his habit, gaze lingering more often now at Owain’s back when he’s slinking away to hide. Sometimes, he’s lucky enough to catch a glance of Owain engrossed in a task, too deep in concentration to notice him. It’s these moments that he cherishes, watching Owain unguarded, without that persona he’s always playing. It doesn’t replace the actual happiness of spending time with Owain himself but it’s enough.


He can only avoid a fellow soldier for so long though.


“Inigo.” Owain’s voice is stern behind him and Inigo drops half the firewood in his arms. Owain bends down to pick them up and keeps the bundle under his arm. Inigo is too surprised to resist when he takes his half of the wood too.


“I know I’ve done something to offend you.” He sounds so unlike his boisterous self; something sharp twists in Inigo’s chest at his tone. “But you’re never bothered by my teasing before, so please, tell me what it is that I did wrong. I want to apologize properly.” Owain bites the inside of his cheek, eyes averted and he looks so dejected that it feels wrong . How selfish of him, avoiding Owain and thinking only of his own feelings while Owain had been worried about him this whole time.


“Owain…” Inigo rests his hands on his friend’s shoulders, mustering up an assuring smile. “You’ve nothing to apologize for." At this, Owain raises an eyebrow.


"Why were you avoiding me then?"


This time, Inigo draws his gaze to the ground. “Um, that is, I can’t say for sure-- Well, more like I can’t tell you, not that it’s your fault but--” He clamps his mouth shut before he makes things worse. Owain looks even more perplexed. Taking advantage of his confusion, he snatches the bundle of wood from Owain’s arms and runs back to the fire pit, leaving his friend behind gaping and empty-handed.



It’s been weeks and he still can’t the blasted routine down right.


One turn, two turns, and he’s stumbling again, face first into the grass. Sitting up, Inigo spits out the blades and wipes the sweat from his brow. His limbs ache for his bed roll. 'I should head back, it's been hours...'


"Are you alright?"


He nearly snaps his neck turning towards the voice. The sudden fear leaves him when he finds it's only Owain approaching but then returns with double the force because it's Owain approaching at this very moment. His cheeks flare up, embarrassment seizing every part of him.


"How long were you watching?" he hisses. Owain scratches the back of his neck, smiles sheepishly.


"Half an hour I think?" Inigo pales. Oh gods, he saw him fumbling around like a dying fish. Owain seems to sense his horror and crouches down in front of him.


"You were great!" He tries to assure, no theatrics for once but Inigo furiously shakes his head. "Seriously, I mean it... I did see you fall but you didn't get up for a long time and I thought you might have... sprained something." Owain’s hand is gentle as it brushes the knob of his ankle. "You're not hurt are you?"


Inigo’s face burns at his touch, under his searching gaze. "No wounds," he mutters, "except the gaping one in my pride."


At that Owain laughs, soft but unrestrained. Inigo can't help but smile too at the display. "You're sure you're not hurt? You do have this tendency to hide your injuries..."


Inigo rolls his eyes. "For sure this time, Mother, I'm perfectly fine."


Still, Owain's hand stays rested at his ankle, calloused fingers curling around the bone. He's unusually silent, and Inigo tries to focus his attention anywhere else but the warmth of Owain's hand.


"You're acting strange," Inigo cuts through the quiet. "Er, stranger than usual, that is."


"I should be saying that about you!" Owain shoots back. He scoots closer, just as his hand slides to rest at Inigo's knee. Inigo leans back, an embarrassing squeak escaping him and he can hear his heart pounding in his ears. Perhaps even loud enough that Owain can hear in the silence.


"You didn't dance like you usually do today."


Inigo stiffens. Like he needed someone else to confirm his awful display earlier. "You mean to say I'm even more horrible than usual?" Then the rest of Owain’s words click in his head. “Wait, how many times have you seen!?”


Owain coughs, the tips of his ears turning red. “Just a couple of times I swear! ...Five or six times…”


“Y-you just--” His mouth opens and closes, embarrassment clouding over any logic of what he wants to say. “Speak up next time you idiot instead of being all sneaky!”


“You’re sneaky too!” Owain retorts. “You’re not the only one who can watch quietly you know.”


This time, Inigo’s shuts his mouth for good, eyes widening as the rest of his body tries to catch up to the fact that he’s been caught. All this time he’s been watching-- ugh, practically ogling Owain and thought himself so clever when he’s just been an absolute dimwit. His fists tighten in the grass and dirt. “Just give me a hero’s death or whatever you call it and stab me.”


Huffing, Owain straightens his posture to correct him. “That’s not a heroic death at all! You can’t be a legend literally dying from embarrassment!”


“That’s quite unfortunate especially since that seems to be the case right now if you don’t just leave me alone for gods’ sake and go back to doodling in your diary.” He moves to get up but Owain is quicker, taking his face into his palms to steady their gazes together.


“For someone who’s so good at observing, you’re not very good at listening or talking.” The small still sane part of Inigo’s mind not having a heart attack over Owain’s touch fails to see how those relate to each other. Unaware of Inigo’s impending expiration, Owain continues, eyebrows furrowed in frustration. “Why have you been watching me? And running away? And dancing like you’re afraid.” His voice softens. “What are you afraid of?”


There’s a lingering silence between them, Owain and his determined stare, Inigo’s eyes refusing to move away from the strong features of his friend’s face, even when his whole body wants to shrink away and into the earth. He has the answers, but not courage enough to admit it out loud, much less to himself. There’s too much at stake. Their friendship. Their bonds as soldiers. Inigo closes his eyes, tries to calm the jagged edges of his breathing. Owain’s thumbs smooth over his cheekbones. "Are you going to run away?”

“Maybe,” is Inigo’s shaky answer, his heart threatening to leap out of his rib cage. He can catch Owain’s scent better like this, the smell of grass and woodsmoke. “What will you do then, if I run?”


Owain kisses him.


His lips are rough, but the pressure is gentle, tentative. Still, all the air leaves Inigo’s lungs and he presses back softly, hands moving to rest Owain’s on his face, staining the back of them with soil and grass blades. They’re shaking and he isn’t sure if it’s him or Owain. Slowly, they part and Inigo keeps his eyes stubbornly closed, too afraid to see any etch of regret on Owain’s face. He can hear Owain laughing softly.


“Had I been on the brink of death, that alone would have revived me to battle again.”


Inigo’s eyes fly open in shock before his entire face turns horribly red. “I-I have half a mind to go jump in that lake right now,” he mutters, half happy and half mortified. Owain being awfully smooth is a concept he isn’t used to. It only makes Owain laugh even harder, pulling Inigo against his chest. Like this, Inigo can bury his face in his neck. Owain is more perceptive than everyone gives him credit for.


“If you don’t want things to change between us now, just say so. But, when we save our future…” He can feel Owain’s hold tighten around his back. “I’m definitely going to stick by your side for eternity, a bond that transcends through time--”


“Okay, I get it!” Despite himself, Inigo is laughing too, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. “Gods, I’ve been worried sick about this and you go ahead and just-- just make the first move. Unbelievable.”


Owain grins at him, the kind that Inigo knows and dreads right before Owain opens his mouth. “Underneath the sky of diamonds and the pale light of the moon, the legendary hero of scion faces perhaps the most difficult challenge of his journey--”


Owain --”


“To sweep off the fair and talented mercenary off his feet, but just as justice always seizes the win of the day--”


“Oh my gods--”


“He comes out victorious through all odds and obstacles.”


“You’re going to write about this in your diary aren’t you?” He musters up the most disappointed voice he can, but his smile betrays him completely. Owain takes his hand and hauls both of them to their feet, but never releases it even when they’re up. Their clasped hands swing between them, heavy and warm. Inigo’s thumb brushes over Owain’s rough knuckles. “And just to be clear, I didn’t go through all that trouble agonizing over you just to have things be as they were.”


Of course they’re still soldiers, still dedicated to their cause first and foremost. There would be questions about them, certainly, perhaps a few less than friendly looks. The possibility things would fall to pieces around them but, when Owain grins at him all confidence and fire, the fears fade to shadow.


“Good!” Owain pulls him close again, free hand circling Inigo’s waist. “Let’s commemorate the night with a celebratory dance! For two!” He spins them around, without rhyme or rhythm and nearly trips over Inigo’s feet.


“You idiot, you’re going to make us fall!” Inigo cries indignantly but he’s beaming, clutching close at Owain’s shoulders.


“With the moon as the light, and the meadow as the dance floor, two legendary heroes in the making sweep through the night in sync--”

“Gods, don’t tell me you’re going to narrate the whole time…”