A/N: I am sincerely sorry for being lazy and not writing anything for a REALLY LONG TIME, and I am also sincerely sorry that this is all I have to give you. It is filled with nonsense and silliness, and you will certainly not learn any life lessons. Prepare for disappointment.
Out of the Basket
As the cart trundled along, Neal listened with growing annoyance to the cart driver's off key rendition of "the Rain man" (to which Dom provided the appropriate echoes), pushed futilely at the lid of his basket, and contemplated a suitable method of murdering his cousin. After having been trapped in his reed prison for who knows how long, he was completely soaked and shivering, and his cramped limbs were beginning to protest their prolonged confinement. On top of all that, Neal really didn't see how all of this could possibly end with apple pie.
All in all, it was a truly horrible situation.
Back to an efficient method of murder, decapitation was always a good choice. But what to use for the actual act, now that was a problem. The cart driver interrupted his thoughts.
"Clouds rollin' in, the Raiiin man's a coming!"
"The Raaiin man's a coming!" echoed Dom (it had become apparent during the first hour of their little outing that the cart driver was near stone deaf, so he didn't mind if Dom joined in his song).
"Lighting flashes and thunder starts a drumming!"
"Thunder starts a drumming!"
"Dom, if you do that one more time, I am going to throttle you!"
Dom laughed. "What's wrong with a little song to pass the time?"
"You're annoying me."
"The cart driver doesn't find it annoying."
"He's deaf. He can't hear you squalling around back here like I can."
"Hey! I happen to have a fine singing voice, thank you very much."
"Yes, like an angel, Dom"
"I've always thought so."
"Dom, I've known crows that could sing better than you."
"You just said I sang like an angel!"
"It's called sarcasm, Dom, and I'm sure you are VERY familiar with it."
"It's not the insults that wound me, Meathead, it's the lying."
"Oh, stuff it."
"The RAAAIIIN MAN!" crooned the driver.
"RAINN man!" chirped Dom.
Neal seethed, feeling an actual, physical need in his bones to have his clenched fist connect with Dom's jaw. "Dom, I swear, you were sent by the Gods to torment me!"
"At last, my life has a purpose."
At that point Neal tried to claw his way through the reeds of his basket to throttle Dom. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in breaking his nails and skinning his knuckles. At last, he became tired and slumped against the wall of his basket. "Dom, I hate you."
"Really? 'Cause I just LOVE you!"
Neal muttered darkly the rest of the way.
Duke Baird looked up as a decidedly soggy Dominic the Younger trudged into his hall, the sounds of thunder rumbling and echoing off the stonework without the muting effect of the thick oaken doors. The heavy thud of the lock sliding back into place nearly drowned out the sound of the storm as the drooping young man finally squished and squashed his way over to his uncle and looked up at him miserably, sighing in resignation to his saturated state.
"My dear Uncle," Dominic began in that very polite and courtly manner of his that didn't quite seem to match his sodden hair and dripping cloak, "I trust you and all the family are well."
Wanting very much to get the poor lad a fresh suit of clothes and a hot mug of soup, but knowing that this would be seen as unacceptable until the little niceties and hems and haws that Dominic was so fond of were finished, the Duke nodded solemnly and said, "We are all quite well, thank you, Dominic. All at Masbolle are in good health as well, I hope."
"Yes. Thank you for your gracious concern, Uncle."
"It is nothing, nephew." Baird was about to continue with the appropriate follow ups, but winced at the squishing sound of his nephew's boots as he shifted on his feet. "Mithros, let's get you into some dry clothes! Whatever possessed you to come nancing over here in this foul weather?"
In no time, the boy was hustled out of his wet clothes and he related his sad tale as he sat waiting for a suitable replacement by the fire, wrapped inblankets and sipping daintily at a cup of soup. "Honestly," continued Baird, "you share the same foolish sense of chivalry that runs rampant in my own children." He turned to his three year old daughter, Anadia, sitting primly at her cousin's feet. "It's your mother's side of the family, I tell you! They were always ones for this sort of thing, not the Queenscoves, and certainly not in Masbolle!" She blinked at him over her half eaten strawberry tart, then giggled. Baird smiled back.
"Would Neal know where Dom was?" Dominic asked.
"I don't know," yawned Baird, scratching at his beard. "It's funny. I don't think I've seen the boy since this morning. Have you seen Neal, Ana?"
The little girl blinked again, then shook her head vigorously, making the carefully curled and pinned locks bounce and swing. She giggled.
Duke Baird frowned, and after spending the next quarter of an hour searching for the boy,it finally became apparent that both boys were in fact missing, thus sending the entire household into panic. Every room of the house was searched from top to bottom, and cries of 'Neal! Neeeal!' and 'Dom if you don't come out right now I'm going to flay you alive!' (that was Dominic, naturally) echoed throughout the house.
Though at first, Dominic had seemed rather indifferent as to whether they ever found his brother, or 'hellspawn', as he liked to call him, after hours of combing the area for him, he actually began to show a few signs of concern, signs that suggested he might actually shelter some affection for his brother. A slightly wrinkled brow. A small contortion of his mouth at one corner. Everyone agreed: Dominic the Younger was in quite a state.
By nightfall, every nook and cranny had been thoroughly searched, every cushion flung awry, every wardrobe and closet and pantry thrown wide open, but not hide nor hair of an adolescent boy was found.
As Neal muttered, he heard Dom shifting around in his basket, trying to get into a more comfortable position. Neal's basket was jostled as Dom squirmed, his elbows and knees straining against the reeds as he struggled. Finally, the movement stopped.
"Great," sighed Dom "now I'm upside down."
Neal let his head fall back against the wall of his basket.
Neal spent the next twenty minutes being jarred and shoved again whilst Dom righted himself. "Whoo! Well, that was an experience. I won't try that again!" gasped Dom, trying to regain his breath.
"I should hope not."
"Are you mad at me, Neal?"
"Why would I be mad at you, Dom, of ALL people?"
"Ooo, you're mad at me."
"Well, what do you expect, Dom? We're stuck on a cart of apples going who knows where, its raining, I'm soaked, I'm starving, and my limbs are going numb from", Neal's mind groped desperately for the word he wanted, "stationaryism! And, last of but certainly not least, this was all your idea, and therefore your fault!"
"Well if you're going to play the blame game..."
"I'm playing the blame game!"
The was silence for a while, then, "Is stationaryism even a word?"
"IT IS NOW!"
"Okay," squeaked Dom.
Sir Dominic gazed hopelessly out the window, wishing sincerely that Dom was simply staying the night in Queenscove and hadn't run into the forest to be devoured by flesh-eating monkeys. Of course, Dominic didn't really believe that his son would actually be devoured by flesh-eating monkeys. If he was going to be devoured by anything, it would probably be a pack of vicious man-eating wolves.
Dominique sighed and dangled a string of yarn for a kitten. She liked to think that she didn't care whether Dom the youngest came back or not, but, really, it was better to have a brother around whose conversation had a higher interest level than watching plants grow. Sure, Dom could be a sarcastic little wretch, but he was a constant source of amusement, and that was enough to earn some degree of sisterly love from Dominique.
Domitiana, however, would rather burn her entire collection of Yamani prose and poetry than spend five minutes conversing with her brother, and had become quite bored with the entire affair.
Dominic perked up as a cart trundled through the gates through sheets of rain. "I should go ask if the driver's seen Dom or Dom on the road."
"Oh, don't bother," Domitiana groaned, "it's too late for them to have passed each other anyway. Honestly, this whole situation is getting old. He's probably just doing this for attention, you know. The 'neglected younger son' thing. But going 'missing', it's so melodramatic. He's probably hiding in the kitchen eating pastries or something with Neal while the whole household goes up in a frenzy."
Sir Dominic left to consult the cart driver.
Domitiana huffed and went back to her book.
As it turned out, though, Sir Dominic probably should have taken Domitiana's advice, since the cart driver was ridiculously hard of hearing. "Have you seen a boy, about this high, on the road anywhere?"
"WHAT?" The cart driver stuck a finger in his ear and squinted at him.
"I SAID, HAVE YOU SEEN A BOY ON THE ROAD?"
"HAVE YOU SEEN ANY BOYS ON THE ROAD?"
The man was insulted. "Oh, no sir, I'm not THAT type" He shuffled away toward stables with his nose in the air, looking extremely offended.
Sir Dominic sighed miserably and made his way back to his study, fretting, and certainly not looking forward to the 'I told you so' he was going to get from Domitiana.
Sir Granen hated Masbolle. Oh, sure, the people were nice enough, the household cooks were wonderful, and Lady Ilia was the perfect hostess, but, to be honest, the name thing was really starting to get to him. Everywhere he went, there were constant cries of "Dom!", "Come here, Dom!", "Dom!", "STOP THAT DOM!". Sometimes he would be asked to fetch Dom, and, not knowing which Dom to fetch, he always fetched the wrong one, and was chided for being a terrible fetcher, and was sent off again to fetch 'Dom', only to come back with the wrong one again. "No, Sir Granen, I asked for Dom, not DOM!"
If he didn't get out of there soon, he was going to lose his mind.
He had taken refuge from the Dom's in the kitchen. It was late, so the cooks had all left, and the only one left was the lone knight, sitting at the counter eating apple pie. It was quite delicious, and the apples were fresh, having just been brought in today. He was looking forward to the apple delights they would be sure to enjoy on the morrow for breakfast, since there were plenty more baskets of apples there. It almost made up for everything else.
He was about to take another bite when he heard a rustle behind him. Cautiously, he turned, fork in mouth, and narrowed his eyes at two reed baskets in the corner, shaking with what seemed like a life of their own. One of the lids popped open and a young boy with dark hair hopped out, dazedly examining his surroundings while his companion fell over in his basket and had to struggle out, a few pieces of straw stuck in his hair.
Sir Granen put down his fork and turned in his chair to look at them. "Well, who are you?" he asked, suspecting that he really had begun to lose his mind.
The dark haired boy looked startled for a second, then grinned. "Who, me? I'm Dom."
Sir Granen smiled a little too wide. "Of course you are. And I expect your name is Dom as well?"
The other boy, who had only just escaped the clutches of the basket, blinked cluelessly.
"Of course it is. Well, that's it for me. I'm leaving. I sincerely wish both you boysa very nice evening. Goodbye."
He got up, quickly heading to his room to pack his bags, and left that very hour.
Dom and Neal watched him go until a certain scent caught their noses.
"Hey, Meathead, do you smell what I smell?" Dom grinned, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Yes I do, Dom."
They sat down at the kitchen table and tucked into the fresh apple pie.
Sir Dominic, Domitiana and Dominique were making their way across the hall when Dominic the Younger burst through the doors, soaked to the skin and shivering like a puppy left out in the cold. "He's not at Queenscove," he announced, dripping miserably.
Sir Dominic's shoulders drooped visibly at this news, which made Dominic the Younger feel even worse than he looked. Domitiana patted her father's shoulder awkwardly as Dominique gave him a comforting hug, and then suggested that they all go down to the kitchen where it was warm for some apple pie. They'd all feel better then.
Slowly, the group trudged down to the kitchen, all looking withered with exhaustion and worry, except for Domitiana, who was just plain annoyed.
Of course, that all changed when they opened the kitchen doors to find Domitan and Neal sitting at the counter wolfing down apple pie without a care in the world.
Dom looked up in mid-chew. "Oh, hello father, honoured siblings."
"Would you like some apple pie?" asked Neal politely.
"I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!" roared Dominic the Younger, the veins standing out in his neck as he reached for his brother. It resulted in a merry chase around the kitchen counter, Neal watchedwith delightas he shoveled pie into his mouth.
Domitiana also took a slice for herself, giving her father a shrug"I told you, but would you listen to me? Noooo..."
"I RODE ALL THE WAY TO QUEENSCOVE AND BACK IN THE RAIN LOOKING FOR YOU AND YOU'RE IN HERE STUFFING YOUR FACE! YOU WON'T LIVE TO SEE ANOTHER SUNRISE, YOU HELLSPAWN!"
"Oh, and by the way, my venerable brother," Dom cut in smoothly, dodging a flying fist nimbly and leaping up on the counter top, "did you know that your knightmaster just departed?"
Dominic came to a full stop. "What?"
"He left about half an hour ago."
"I don't know, he was here, and then he left."
Dom glanced at his father. "Well, yeah."
Dominic was about to make a grab for Domitan's throat when Sir Dominic decided it was time to intervene. "Dom, you'd better be off after your knightmaster before he forgets he has a squire."
Dominic looked at a loss for a moment, then straightened, muttered, and headed toward the door. Before he went, he paused and pointed a finger at his brother, hissing venemously, "If my lord hadn't mysteriously disappeared from the house in a torrential downpour, you would so be getting it." He stalked out of the kitchen.
"Bye Dominic! I love you, too!" cried Domitan as he waved, then added as an afterthought, "Hugs and kisses!"
Neal rolled his eyes and threw an apple at Dom's forehead.
Sir Dominic cuffed both Dom's and Neal's ears lightly and growled a few warnings about not disobeying parents and not getting lost and always notifying authority figures about where one is going before one goes to the place which one has notified the authority figures that one is going.
Then, the whole family went to say goodbye to Dominic, leaving Dom and Neal behind in the kitchen since it was decided that it might be better if they weren't present to set Dominic off again.
"Well," Dom said, patting his stomach, "that was quite the day."
"Yes it was."
"Do you think Dominic is going to forgive me soon?"
"The odds are slim."
"Oh well, he was never my favourite brother anyway."
"Dom, he's your only brother."
"Oh, and because I only have one means I can't have favourites? That's ridiculous."
Neal shrugged and took another bite of pie.
"Well, Meathead," Dom said,smiling a superior smile, "I think this is the time for your apology."
"Yeah, this was all part of the plan all along, you know. And here we are, eating apple pie. Oh ye of little faith!"
"Yes. I'll never doubt you again, Dom."
"I should think so."
The room was filled with the sound of chewing and the scraping of fork on plate.
Dom looked up at Neal again. "You were being sarcastic again, weren't you"