Lucius, being an unlucky guy(?), gets caught in a rather . . . compromising
situation. Raven, of course, gets possessive, and Matthew and Guy get . . .
well . . . cough -Shounen-Ai-


And I do own Rekka no Ken. I have three fifty in change and a toothpick,
let's just SEE you sue me. . . and yes, that was sarcasm.

Rated for ecchi scenes (KISSING! gasp, shock, wheeze), mild cussing, and
violence. And uh, yeah. It's got LUCIUS, of course it's gonna have
shounen-ai. Raven/Lucius, Matthew/Guy

huggles beta, R Amythest Much thanks for your patience! I was gonna wait
until I'd finished the whole thing and passed it onto you, but . . . I'm almost done,
except for a few scenes that are hella hard to write. However . . . aforementioned
scenes are in awkward places, ie, directly in the middle of the fic.

-------------------------------start fic-------------------------

Monks, by nature, have to be very willing to help others. Our entire job
involves helping people who don't know how to help themselves . . .. either
that, or too stubborn not to ask. Or prideful. Or vengeful . . . (koff
RAVEN! koff) In any case, having a tendency to pry into other's business
can be actually useful to a monk, because it lets us find their problems and
guide them carefully to the solution.

However, being nosy has just as many consequences. I didn't realize it at
the time of course, but when I woke up that morning, I had no idea what
would happen over that day. I didn't know that I would wake up the next day
and have made so many mistakes in such a short period of time, and yet somehow,
miraculously, not regret a bit of it.

I guess that didn't make very much sense. Let me start at the beginning.
My name is Lucius, a loyal retainer (of sorts) to Lord Raymond. That's Raven
to you, and everyone else. . . except Priscilla, but let's not get into
specifics. . .. I am a monk in the order of St. Elimine, and despite
appearances, I'm positively sure I'm male.

It had been late in the morning. I had just finished my daily fight with my
hair, and was trying to open my charm box. My box had all my saints' charms
in it, not only Elimine's but all the others as well. I took them off for
safe keeping every night, but the miniature and unfinished wooden chest was
refusing to open. I bit my lip . . .. was this a bad omen?

I put it back in my small bag - while reminding myself to pick up shampoo, I
went through bottles of the stuff like mad and still do - and sat down on
the cot. I ended up with my elbows on my knees and the heels of my hands
supporting my chin. Frowning, I concentrated on a solution, but only found
that there were twenty-two spots on the tent cloth. Not that I was --

" --Lucius." Startled, I let out a small sound as I jerked up,
interrupted mid-thought.

Raven was standing at the opening to my tent, looking vaguely concerned. And
I do mean vaguely, because milord isn't given to expressing emotion unless
absolutely necessary . . . my heart skipped a beat

. . . Let me elaborate on that. Raven was worried about me, and in
reaction, one of my internal organs leaped up, squealed in joy, and ran off
to tell my lungs to catch, my stomach to tie itself into a knot, and my legs
to do a lime jello impression. Raven . . . just stood there. That should
tell you a few things about me and Raven's . . .. . well, NONEXISTANT
relationship. . . I'm pretty sure Raven likes that archer, Rebecca.

"Yes, Lord Raymond?" I didn't fake my lilting tones, I was happy to see him
(certainly more than I let on to anyone). But I supposed traces of my worry
must have shown, because his frown deepened from adorably irritated to
serious concern. He didn't say anything to express this, of course, merely
sent a questioning and demanding glare in my direction. I didn't want to
concern him with my petty problems -- a stuck jewelry box wasn't a priority
- so I shook my head lightly, letting my hair swish freely before I gave him
a reassuring smile.

Crossing the small tent in one stride, he stepped up beside my low cot and
offered a hand to help me up, and I took it gratefully. Expecting him merely
to act as an anchor, I let out a small sound as he grabbed my other wrist
and practically picked me up. I looked at him strangely, an he cocked an
eyebrow and gestured at my hip-scarf.

My empty hip-scarf. The one I normally wrapped a dozen or so saint amulets
on, the one that made a racket when I so much as moved, and even more so
during a vigorous spell casting. I flushed mildly at their conspicuous
absence, and even more so at Raven's proximity. Sidling past him delicately
-- and cursing the lack of space in my tent, thank goodness Erk and Canas
had already left -- I lifted the broken box and tried once more to unlock it.
Raven lifted it from my hands and inspected it, before shrugging and handing
it back. Of course, what did he know of stuck locks and . . ..

Locks. Of course. Matthew would know what to do, he'd probably picked far
more complicated chests and such, this was trivial to his master skills as a
. . . well, I shouldn't say 'thief' in so many words but . . . I smiled
triumphantly at my genius plan. After all, it shouldn't take that long to
find Matthew. All I had to do was follow Guy's wails of distress.

Seeing my reassured smile, Raven gave my wrist a parting squeeze and turned,
and after one last concerned glance back, he left my tent.

I sighed. What a wonderful . . . conversation? Yes, that question mark is
supposed to be there. We hadn't spoken five words between the two of us. What
exactly did you call our little . . . interaction, anyway? I couldn't even
stand to call it scant communication.

I tucked my box into my robes and slung my cape over my shoulders, and
smoothed out the cloth at my hips. Why my monastery insisted on giving me
such form fitting robes when they gave everyone else the same shapeless
smock. . .. I don't know. Not that I complained, I rather liked the snug
fit. The old Bishop, at least, seemed to like it. . .. I'm sure in his old
age, the drooling was absolutely normal . . . I hope. . ..

I shuddered and headed outside myself, and of course Raven was already out
of sight. The fire near our magic-users combined tents was surrounded by a
few of my companions.

Serra winked at me cheerily, and hummed as she lifted her plate to show me.
"Hey! Lucius!" she called, practically bubbling, "Gonna join us for

The cleric was sitting across Erk and Canas, who both were absorbed in
books. Lady Priscilla was sitting near as well, and I nodded acknowledgement
to her as I replied to Serra, "No, I'm afraid I can't," I said regretfully,
"I need to find Matthew."

Erk gave a small 'Hn' sound. "I'm fairly certain I heard Guy's shout of
misery and indignation from that way," he pointed out the direction

Serra cackled gleefully. "And whenever Guy is ticked off, totally
pissed, or generally cheesed . . ." she sang happily.

Canas leaned forward and gave a conspiratorial grin, "Matthew is sure to be
near!" Erk snorted again as Serra fell onto her side, clutching her ribs in
a fit of laughter; Lady Priscilla tried not to look as if she was amused as
well, but failed, and ducked her smile behind her palm bashfully.

"Oh, don't be so mean," she protested ineffectually, smiling still. "Guy is
so . . . charming, the rest of the time," she giggled, weakly forcing down
her laughter. I shook my head silently.

I suppose, I thought as I walked down the makeshift path down the center of
the camp, that Matthew had some sort of reason for picking on Guy. Not that
anyone KNEW it was Matthew, but . . . strange things seemed to happen when
he was near the Sacaean. Like, say, Guy's braid suddenly becoming undone and
getting caught on trees, or his tunic sash becoming mysteriously 'lost' and
Guy having to go around with his shirt open until he found it in mysterious
places . . . like Matthew's pocket. Or like that strange time when Guy
wouldn't leave his tent for half a day until someone returned an essential
object to him . . . his pants. I don't even want to think how Matthew got
his hands on those.

In any case, Matthew loved picking on Guy. Guy . . . seemed to just plain
hate Matthew. He'd constantly provoke immature contests and races with
Matthew to prove he was 'both honorable and better'. . . but since he
refused to cheat, and Matthew always did, Matthew . . . always won. It was
pointless battle between two stubborn wills and completely opposite senses
of . . . well . . . everything else.

I didn't suspect a reason, and tried hard to frown upon upon Matthew's
behavior, but more often ended up in fits of laughter because of it. Guy
complained -- and loudly -- but he always bounced back in time for Matthew's
next assault. Which was why I was surprised to find Guy, of all people,

Guy never sulked, he hacked at things with sharp objects until his feelings
were vented. Which sometimes took awhile, but . . . there he was, sitting on
a tree stump, his shoulders hunched forward, his elbows leaning heavily on
his knees, and his braid drooping beside his serious face. His face was
usually serious, mind you, but this time there was a certain gravity to his
expression, like the corners of his mouth were pulled down that much farther.

I cleared my throat hesitantly, stepping forward slowly. "Guy?"

"Hmm?" came the uninterested reply.

I walked quietly beside him. He looked . . .. depressed. I didn't say
anything, but knelt beside the stump, peering up at his face. He seemed to
be staring intently down at a clump of grass, but from the way his eyes were
focused, his mind was clearly elsewhere. I shrugged and stared a the clump
of grass as well. I might be there awhile, but Matthew might have popped in
during one of his more bored moods to tease Guy some more. . . I sat as
still as possible

This . . . was something I had learned with Lord Raven. Most men were too
proud to want a shoulder to cry on, but if you gave them something as simple
as company and quiet, they end up forming a strange sort of bond and
spilling their souls anyway. It's almost a strange form of manipulation, but
that's all cheering people up involved; manipulating their thoughts to the
bright side of things.

I grew accustomed to the strange, not-quite-uncomfortable silence, but Guy
seemed awkward with it. "You know," he said slowly, looking down at me
almost nervously. I didn't acknowledge him saying anything except by a quick
glance at him. The silence stretched on.

"I'm not going to win very soon," Guy said slowly. I blinked twice at that;
Guy was getting doubtful of his abilities? "Against Matthew, I mean. Never,
maybe," he continued ponderously, "Matthew . . .. and Matthew won't use
those favors, ever; he'll just hoard them and dangle them over my head." He
frowned even more. "I think . . . what should I do?"

Well, I certainly couldn't blatantly deny him advice, despite my
clueless-ness about the situation. I cleared my throat. "Well . . . in your
home, Sacae, honor is everything . . . and you don't lie because such a
thing would compromise your honor." I turned to him; he didn't say anything.
"However, most Sacaens learn to . . . twist the truth, telling half-truths
in such a way that they aren't lying, but . . . " I paused, looking for

Guy looked at me. "True."

"Well," I smiled lightly at him. "If one path does not take you where you
want to go, take another," I quoted, gesturing eloquently with my arm to the
forest behind us.

Guy stared blankly at me, and blinked. I sighed. "You said you couldn't win
because Matthew always cheated . . . " Guy nodded, and I stood lightly,
brushing off my robes. "Well, suppose you stretched the rules slightly, just
as you stretch the truth . . ." I spoke slowly with my head down. Subtlety
was the key . . .

He frowned, and looked up. "It might work, I guess . . .."

Ah. I was getting somewhere; now I just had to convince him to get his
confidence back. I clapped my hand on his shoulder in what I hoped passed as
a 'manly' expression of camaraderie -- 'manly' expressions of anything are
hard for me, you must understand -- and gave a confident grin. "Just refine
it a bit, it's a start. Take your best ability and add on from there," I

Guy stayed seated there for about a good five seconds, letting my hand rest
on his shoulder in support. When he snapped up straight, his eyes taking on
a new, determined glow, I tilted my head curiously. Before I could so much
as squeak, however, he bolted out of his seat and pulled me into what's
commonly known as a 'man hug,' where he grabbed my forearm and practically
beat the tar out of me with his other arm via 'manly' slaps on the back. I
struggled to both ignore the many bruises he was creating and to return the
gesture with my -- I'm sad to say -- pitifully weak arms.

"Lucius, you are a genius!" He crowed loudly. I was released from the hold
as abruptly as I was snatched into it and managed to mutter, "Thanks, you're
. . . too kind . . ." while unconsciously rubbing my shoulder bone. It was my
job, after all, to make people feel better. He didn't have to thank me so
. . . brutally. Guy gave me a cocky grin. "I totally owe you a drink, next
town over, all right?"

Eww . . . alcohol tasted nasty, I could remember that from my last
experience with the stuff. I shuddered and said politely, "I don't drink,
but . . . I suppose a juice would do." Not totally grudgingly, I mentally
admitted that I really did enjoy the cranberry juice I'd had in the last inn
and wouldn't mind another. Guy waved it off flippantly, a startling contrast
to his previous depression.

"Sure, whatever you want," he said, almost as if it were a boast. I peered
at his face even closer; there was a strange glint in his eye as he imagined
whatever he'd managed to concoct from my broad words of wisdom. Now that I
mention it, I'd never really inspired anyone before with those kinds of
words, I just made them feel better for a few minutes. Guy, it seemed, had a
very active imagination. He . . . didn't even seem to be there at the

"See you, Lucius. I'm off to . . ." Guy grinned widely, "'talk' to Matthew
now." He spun on his heel with a jaunty whistle, and after a running his
right hand lightly over his Killing Edge's hilt, lightly walked in the
direction of the forest path, his long braid bouncing as happily as its
owner was.

I waved goodbye, and clasped my hands together in front of me. It always
gave me such a warm, glowing sort of feeling whenever I helped people.
Sniffling, I turned away, tossing my hair, wiping some dirt -- I swear it was
just dirt -- from my eye. It was so wonderful to see people happy and . . .
and . . ..

Wait. Guy just left . . .right? . . . and, Guy was going to see Matthew .
. . right? I really needed to see Matthew, too, now that I remembered . . .
and preferably before Guy sliced him into ribbons. . . Yelping a short cry
of dismay, I skidded to a stop before turning to run towards the path.
Grabbing my robes at the knees and lifting them, I went at a sort of
skipping jog. I'm a horrible runner, really I am. I usually have to get
Heath to carry me where I need to be. . . but that's besides the point.

It didn't help that I was wearing the equivalent to a dress, and my heeled
boots caught on a rock. With a muffled cry, I toppled forward, landing hard
on my side. I skidded, and ended up just laying there for a few moments.

Ouch . . . I gingerly pulled myself onto my elbow, and drew my hand up to
rub the side of my head surreptitiously. It was only then I realized that the
sharp, clashing sounds of a swordfight were very close to my right. Were
Matthew and Guy at it already?

I blinked, and dragged myself over to watch. I was partially hidden by a
bush, but I doubted they wanted any distractions in any case, so I thought
it wise to stay covered.

Guy was standing in front of Matthew, his Killing Edge drawn and ready.
Matthew looked positively gleeful; his grin was so wide he looked as though
he'd gotten to the cream before the cat had even had a chance.

"--won't lose to you!" Guy cried out, and a shockingly fast onslaught of
flurry strikes followed. Even Matthew, I could see, was hard pressed to
avoid them, and he struck back with a sharp parry before back-flipping a safe
distance away, skidding backwards and having to use his hand to steady him.
Pressing the advantage, Guy imitated Lord Eliwood's dash strike and closed
the gap, and Matthew dodged by a sidestep. However, Guy's right slash caught
him by surprise, and the thief's eyes widened as his cape was torn through
by the blade.

Guy leaped back, avoiding Matthew's counterstrike. After a cursory
inspection of his cape, Matthew looked up again. "Lucky blow." He smirked
and leaped into the air, disappearing into the tree canopy. I blinked. Was
that supposed to happen . . ? Guy seemed used to it. He closed his eyes and
raised his sword into a ready position, waiting for something . . . an
attack? His breathing was calm and slow, and I tried unsuccessfully to copy

The next few blows happened extremely fast. Matthew leaped from the trees at
an odd angle, somersaulting towards Guy. Guy brought up his sword, and
Matthews long dagger let out a sharp rasp as it slid off Guy's blade. It was
a stunning counter, but the attack left Guy no time to guard against the
swift kick that followed soon after.

The swordmaster was sent sprawling on his back, a rough bounce following his
harsh impact. Matthew practically flew to him, obviously going to pin him
down by the throat. Guy rolled to the side almost sluggishly, and gave a
long and sloppy swipe to buy time. The thief dodged it and dived onto Guy,
his knife darting toward Guy's throat. I muffled a squeal and hid my face
behind my hands, forgetting that the two weren't actually fighting for the

The shuffling sounds of movement stopped, and I peeked through my fingers
slowly. Matthew was straddling Guy's waist, the swordmaster's killing
edge lying a few feet away. The dagger was stopped, shuddering scarcely half
an inch above Guy's pulsing throat. Guy blinked up at Matthew almost

"Really, Guy, you need to do better then that." Matthew shook his head, and
clambered up, brushing off his cape casually. "Although I'm surprised you
haven't started to shout about the unfairness of it all, you've shown
definite improvement."

He glanced down at Guy, who hadn't bothered to get up. Guy was looking at
Matthew . . . very strangely.

The thief gulped, hard, and his voice cracked slightly as he continued to
speak. "Of course, that sideswipe was extremely unexpected -- and the key to
winning is being able to surprise. . ."

Guy was still looking up at Matthew. My sight of the pair was perfectly
clear, and Matthew faltered in his words as he caught Guy's heated stare,
and looked away quickly, talking still, but a bit more hoarsely then before.
I'm not sure exactly what that stare contained, but I was feeling the waves
off of it, and a warmth in my stomach flickered into my attention. I
swallowed, and watched the Guy stare the other down.

Quite suddenly I realized -- I should leave. Something was going to happen,
I knew it. I don't want to see what happens next . . .. Unwisely, I shoved my
instincts down.

Matthew caught Guy's eyes once more, and couldn't seem to pull away. He
stopped talking, and cleared his throat. Numerous times. Guy was quiet, a
strange occurrence, but the thief didn't twitch.

"-- and . . . ah, Guy . . ." Matthew said almost pleadingly, "Tell me why
you're staring at me like --"

His words were silenced -- as with blinding speed Guy's mouth crashed into
his. Matthew's eyes blinked wide, and his hands fell automatically to the
swordmaster's waist as Guy twined an arm around the thief's neck. Staggering
under the unexpected weight, he fell backwards, dragging a purring Guy with

I was . . . considerably distraught, to say the least, for many reasons. One
was that two people who supposedly hated each other were gratuitously
sucking at each other's faces. Another was the fact that the once pleasant
warmth in my belly had grown to cover my entire body in fiery shivers, and
that my mouth wanted to make strange noises without my permission . . . and
another was that I was actually THERE, watching them, like a cheap voyeur.

Yet, even for all of that . . ..

I couldn't tear my eyes away.

I watched almost hungrily as Matthew frantically undid Guy's braid, trying
to run his nimbly working fingers through the long free-flowing hair. Guy's
one free hand, the one that wasn't holding him above the other's chest,
massaged Matthew's temple with his thumb, somehow keeping their lips locked
and working at the same time.

I fell into a crouch, for some reason fearing detection even though they
were wholeheartedly ignoring everything else around them.
I watched as Matthew ran his fingers down Guy's now undone hair to lightly
grip the sides of Guy's ribs, and in return had his had his hair ruffled by
deft fingers. A strangled sort of moan escaped from one's lips -- I couldn't
be sure whose -- but it was swallowed by the other.

I noticed that Guy's free hand was pointedly being raised . . . what was
he doing with . . .

I watched as he suddenly pressed a dagger to Matthew's throat.

Slapping a hand to my mouth to stifle my cry, I turned my head away. No.
Surely not. Surely Guy had not gone so far as brazen . . . seduction,
surely he'd not decided that this was the only answer. I glanced back, and
could only watch, helplessly, the events unfold before me. Guy was suddenly
still, compared to the . . . movement he had shown only a few seconds

Matthew froze, halting deliberately, almost disbelievingly. He pulled his
head back from suddenly unresponsive lips, seeming almost reluctant to do
so, and the swordmaster's face looked . . . old. Far older than his sixteen

"I win." The words were soft and slow, and I could scarcely recognize Guy's

Matthew's expression was blank, a perfect mask against the quiet searching
eyes of his former opponent. "And of your Sacaen honor?"

"Where have I bruised it?" Guy countered, in a lame attempt of a defensive
tone. His voice was slow and sluggish . . . he sounded tired. He reached
around Matthew and into the tear he had torn in his cape. The tear, I
realized, had cut into a hidden pocket in the thief's cape. He pulled out a
folded, and rather dirty, sheet of paper. . . was that the 'oathpaper' that
Guy ranted continually about?

Guy got up, leaving Matthew sitting. The mask Matthew held under Guy's
perusal wasn't a perfect one. I could sense . . . something the normally
casual and cheery face never held, and I shrunk down even more, my long hair
slipping in front of my stunned face. Guy's eyes were shut, his face
clenched in something as he walked stoically away, his plait bouncing in a
jovial dance that belied the tense emotions in the clearing.

I didn't watch him as he left. I had my eyes on Matthew. He looked . . .
heartbroken. I remembered a vague warning that someone -- Pent, I think --
had told Matthew about Guy. 'You don't really think that you can keep him,
do you? You said yourself he was fierce as any beast roaming Sacae . . .
wild creatures don't like cages. He's already throwing himself at the bars,
and soon he'll manage to break something . . . either the cage, or himself.'

Matthew hadn't seemed happy about that, and at the time I hadn't quite
gotten it . . . but now I could see clearly. After Leila's death, Guy was
the one who'd kept him alive, constantly badgering and fighting him. Matthew
had been flailing in his grief to find a reason to stay, something beyond
duty . . . and Guy was there. While the Sacaean might not have known it, he
had irreparably bound himself more securely to Matthew then any piece of paper
could . . . and Matthew . . .

Could I honestly say it was love in that face? Was the stirring emotions
flickering across Matthew's face really the snapping apart of what bound
them . . . or was it that of a broken heart? Was it both?

The thief was still on the ground, looking at the spot where Guy had walked
away. Drawing himself up from his elbows to his hands, he raised one to run
his fingers through his hair. " . . . fierce as any wild creature, huh?"
Matthew muttered to himself, gripping his head in one hand. " . . . yeah,
well, he broke the cage all right . . . I waited too long . . . again, huh .
. .."

I picked myself up, and backing away slowly, realized that the only reason
I'd remained undetected the entire time was because Matthew's senses weren't
focused on much . . . besides Guy. Guy wasn't exactly a distraction anymore.

Turning around, and fearing for some reason my sudden discovery, I ran.
What had just happened? Exactly? Why had Guy DONE that? Surely he wasn't so
doubtful of his abilities that he'd do something as stupid as that . . .
even as a last resort . . . why was I bothering to deny it? I had just SEEN
it happen! There could be no misunderstandings here, I'd seen the whole

. . . What had given Guy the idea to kiss Matthew to begin with? It was the
most unexpected thing I could think of, and obviously Guy thought so too . .
. but what on earth was the swordmaster doing even thinking about kissing
the thief? While he'd used it as a distraction successfully, if Guy had held
no feelings for Matthew at all, would he have gone through with it? Sacaens
were raised to be truthful . . . to themselves, and to others. Guy had
always had a hard time with the former. . .

Matthew's feeling's towards Guy were obvious now . . . but Guy's
enthusiastic carrying out of his 'distraction' . . . Was that any sign of
returned feelings?

I found myself at the camp, which was slightly surprising since I hadn't
been paying any attention to my surroundings. Obviously my agitation was
apparent. Lords Eliwood and Hector, polishing their weaponry and chatting,
were casting concerned looks in my direction and even Sain, who was formerly
busy stalking Rebecca, tried to help by shoving Lady Priscilla and I in a
spare storage tent and blocking us in. (Luckily, Lady Priscilla knows I
don't . . . exactly swing her way.) . . . But when Wil walked up to me for
no reason and began spouting about baked ziti for no reason, I turned to him
and said with a smile that while I appreciated his efforts to cheer me up, I
just need a little bit of time to think.

I added for him not to tell Raven.

And Wil, of course, nodded respectfully, and turned around to tell the
entire camp.

The entire camp included, of course, Lord Raymond, and just as I was about
to pound myself repeatedly onto a tree to relieve my pent up frustration --
although Lord Raymond would have sufficed for that job as well -- I felt his
familiar grip on my shoulder.

"Hello, Lord Raymond." I smiled and turned to him. He never failed to cheer
me up, unless he was being his stubborn self . . . but while that was pretty
often, he made my insides jump every time.

"Lucius . . ." Raven said slowly, tucking a piece of hair out of my eyes. I
controlled the sharp intake of breath; I wanted to gasp as his
sword-calloused fingertips gently brushed my ear. "I heard you weren't
feeling well," he said softly, his auburn red eyes taking in my haggard
appearance and wrinkled robes. I fought the urge to writhe under his
critical eye, but being this close to him, writhing would just give me

"Oh, I'm fine actually," I said hurriedly, and at his raised eyebrow I
continued my explanation. "There's a problem I'm trying to fix . . .. and I
don't know whether I'm playing matchmaker or if I'm just helping what's
already there . . ."

"Of course." He cut me off as my words grew more frantic. His expression,
while it looked normal, had a softening around the eyes. "I understand . . .
a bit too well."

The last part was barely whispered, and I leaned forward even more to hear
him. What on earth did he mean by that? ". . . What?" I aired my confusion
in a vaguely dismayed tone.

He snorted. "You," Raymond said softly, nudging my shoulder, "Only you would
make yourself sick over something that's not your affair."

Well, I hardly make myself sick, per se . . . I'm perfectly well. . . unless
you count the time I caught the flu from Louise after trying to heal her of
it. "What's that supposed to mean?" I said defensively, crossing my arms and
trying my best to look annoyed at him. However, my attempt at a fierce glare
obviously ranged from 'pathetic' to 'lost puppy,' and he gave a small smile
of amusement.

"It means you're too kind for your own good, Lucius . . ." he said softly,
leaning closer to me. I felt a familiar heat race across my cheeks as his
forehead bumped mine, " . . . and you're . . ." he paused, struggling for
words, trying to say something, ". . . well . . ."

Well, what? What was milord doing, exactly? That heat pooling in my
belly was feeding my mind a few unwelcome images . . . scratch that.
They were VERY welcome . . . just, overly so.

A blue pattern caught the corner of my eye, and I whirled my head away from
Lord Raymond's, almost grateful of the distraction. "Oh!" I watched,
relieved that my concentration on those . . . thoughts was disrupted, as Guy
strode past us curtly. Talking to Lord Raven was real quite distracting,
even if it was in a good way. . . I had to confront Guy about his less then
honorable behavior.

I turned to Raven hurriedly. "I'm truly sorry -- I have to go, but this is
important." He looked at me blankly, with a mildly angry tilt to his eyes,
but I knew him long enough to know that it just meant he was hiding
something. I'd figure it out later . . . but I had to hurry to catch the
swordmaster before I lost him. "Really, it is," I said softly with a smile.

Raymond sighed, and shrugged. "I am scarcely your lord, and certainly not
your master." I opened my mouth to protest his self-degradation, but he
caught it and silenced me with a swift gesture. "Go."

I went, thanking Elimine with a thousand blessings that my legs actually
worked after that little encounter. I had to swerve around a few tents to
avoid General Wallace's rants and skirted around Karel for no other reason
than that he was smiling. Karel, smiling . . . either it was french toast --
and Lowen wasn't cooking, so that was wrong -- or blood. I don't think Karel
is safe when he thinks about blood. . .

I still kept Guy in sight ahead of me, and he was walking in a slow manner,
not his usual cocky swagger. As I stalked towards him in atypically long
strides, I wondered furiously why he looked depressed; after all, he'd
gotten what he'd wanted, right? Right?

I grabbed his arm in the most violent gesture I 'd made in years, and
forcefully spun him around. He looked vaguely shocked at my facial
expression -- I'm fairly certain it wasn't pretty -- and opened his mouth to
say something. I wasn't about to even let him try to say whatever he was
going to say.

"Guy," I muttered, trying not to sound as angry as I probably looked, "WHAT
was THAT?" Spitting, I jabbed a finger in the direction of the clearing that
. . . that . . . that monstrous parody of a fight had taken place.

Guy followed my finger slowly, and winced, looking almost sheepish. Sheepish
is NOT how he is supposed to be feeling! He's supposed to be. . .
disgraced, or mortified with himself! I was only slightly shocked when Guy
only said, "You saw?"

I gritted my teeth, and clenched my fists in my effort to calm down, because
I was, for lack of a better word to use, PISSED. I was forgiving, I was
gentle normally, of course, but this was ticking me off. It wasn't as bad as
how I'd felt when I'd told Raven off loudly about his grudge against Ostia,
but it was . . .. close. Horribly close.

"Guy," I pleaded cautiously, "That was . . . low. That was very," I paused
to stress the words, "very low."

He blinked at me, and something flickered in his eyes. I barely heard his
faint, "I know . . ."

I ignored whatever his miserable tone might have, under different
circumstances, implied. "You don't DO things like that!" I exploded. "You
can't just . . . take him and toss him away! You used him! You took
deliberate advantage of him --"

Guy whirled on me, eyes flashing in defiance. "Like he took advantage of a
starving man?" he snarled. "Like he took advantage of me?"

"So you admit to stooping to his level?"

"It was your idea!" Guy's braid thrashed as he grabbed his head and in both
hands and shook it confusedly. "I-It was your idea!"

My idea? What? My . . . my inane advice had actually encouraged Guy to go
and do that . . that . . . that thing he just did? Had it? Was it really my
fault? Had I . . . No! Impossible! I never hurt allies, or friends! Heck, I
apologized after ripping my spells on ENEMIES!

"Me? Mine?!" I almost shrieked -- almost. "I . . . I spouted nonsensical
proverbs and general advice that'd work just as well on any other problem!"
My hands sliced the air in a vehement gesture.

Guy opened his mouth, and then paused, mentally reviewing exactly what I had
told him earlier that day. He gaped slightly, before scowling at me with a
bitter and almost accusing expression, and still gripping the paper in his
fist angrily, and tightly walking away. I followed.

"Guy," I hesitated, letting my voice fall into pleading, "Answer me this, at

"What?" The voice was . . . apprehensive?

I reminded myself to slap my face next time I got a chance alone. "Did you
enjoy it?" I asked quickly, my face turning a not-so-subtle shade of pink.

"WHAT?!" Guy yelped, practically falling over, his eyes widening slightly as
he took a step back. He blinked twice, looking totally caught off guard, and
then he recovered scowling. "He annoys me eternally, he's c-close to
impossible to tent with, he's loud and rude and makes for r-really bad
conversation!" he spat hurriedly. "H-How can you ask that?!"

Guy only stuttered when nervous . . . or losing. "How come you didn't
answer the question. . . ?" I asked softly, a small smile growing on my
face. I know when people lie, it's a thing that comes with white magic. .
. no matter what Guy says, I'll know.

He's cornered, and from the fidgeting with his braid, I'd say he knew it. I
watched as his finger toyed with the end of the plait, muttering dourly.
"Yeah, I . . ." he choked. "I liked it a bit . . . not really . . . sorta .
. . kinda. . . " He winced, and then glared at me, tossing his braid back
behind him harshly, and pointed an accusatory finger. "Ok, yes! Fine!" He
spat at more himself then me. "I liked it! I liked it alot! But . . . but
I'm never thinking of it again!"

"Thinking of what?" I asked innocently.

Guy's eyes flashed. "Of him laying me down, putting his hands on me, doing
sick, twisted, perverted things to me until I die of . . . of . . ." I was
regretting asking him at this point, but luckily he noticed his train of
thought and stomped his foot impatiently. "Damn you, you're making me do it

"You don't seem unwilling." Politely, I observed his reaction to that.
He blinked at me, opening his mouth several times, before closing it and
opening it again, trying to say something in retaliation. His eyes narrowed.
"I'm leaving," he said, growling, turning to walk away for good.

"Very well." I turned away as well. "I'll be seeing you."

" . . . "

There was no reply from Guy. I let him walk away . . . this time.

I let out a long, slow breath. I had lost my temper . . . and it was very
hard to make me do that. I guess the idea of playing with someone's heart .
. . I winced. It seemed that Matthew had sincerely liked Guy, and that
everyone knew it but me. Yet . . . I had always prided myself on reading
people's hearts . . . I suppose those two had too many walls up.

I compared them in passing to Lord Raymond and I. They were attracted to
each other, even if they refused to admit it, and were extremely physical
people. While Guy's fiery disposition, exotic looks, and passion was no
doubt what attracted Matthew to him, and the thief's roguish charm and
charisma was what attracted Guy. Raven and I . . . were exact opposites of
that. Raven was generally sulky and distempered, and I spent more time a day
with my hairbrush then I did talking to him. And I . . . what did I have
that Raymond could possibly want? And besides, my feelings for him were
hardly mutual.

That was not a comforting thought . . . "Wow, you look depressed!"

I whirled around, and saw Serra grinning at me. It was her squeaking voice
that had interrupted my thoughts . . .

I lifted my hand in a vague gesture of greeting. "Oh . . . hello Serra. I .
. ." Swallowing, I attempted to fib my way past Serra's clever eyes . . .
she sees everything that she isn't supposed to see, and if any of this mess
got to her ears, she'd tell the whole camp by sundown. Worse then Wil
sometimes. . .. Wil, at least, has a minor sense of tact. Minor. ". . . I am
merely tired, that's all." I nodded benignly.

She snorted inelegantly, and prodded me hard with her staff. "You are the
worst liar I've ever seen, and lemme tell you, Erk's pretty bad." She
squinted up at me, advancing with a concentrating and almost pouty look.

"What's wrong?"

I stepped back. "Well . . ." I thought quickly, and pulled out my still
stuck jewelry box. . . I can't lie, so . . . "I can't get this open, and I
fear I don't have the nerves to approach either of our resident thieves
about it." Indeed, this was true. My horribly honest face would hide nothing
from Matthew, and Legault was fairly perverted and. . . and, well,

Serra looked at it with a critical eye, and reaching into one of her
pigtails, pulled a hairpin out. Prying it open with her teeth, she snatched
my box away -- I blinked -- and she began picking at it. "I learned this,"
she muttered distractedly, "back in the convent . . . the nuns kept trying
to take my berserk staff . . . they said it was . . ." she grunted in
concentration, "unholy . . .. Hey, I got it!"

She grinned triumphantly, and I couldn't help but gape as she held up my --
opened -- box.

"Serra," I said calmly, taking the box back gingerly, closing it and opening
it again with ease, "If I could honestly say I love you, I would. But I

"At least not that way," Serra agreed cheerily. "Now, tell me what's REALLY
going on! And I want the juicy details!"

I shook my head. "I am sworn to secrecy . . . due to my vows not to hurt
others. It won't help those two if this is revealed . . .." Most certainly
not . . . because half the camp would either try to play matchmaker or
victimize one or the other for their actions . . . or both.

"Hey! I'm a healer too, you know." I looked back up at her, and to my
surprise, she didn't have that idiot grin on her face anymore. "I'm not THAT
bad at keeping secrets. I know a few that'd make your hair curl . . ." okay,
the grin was back, ". . . but I won't get into that." she finished, giving
me a hopeful look as if to prove her trustworthiness to me.

Now that you mention it, though, while she was very talkative, Serra rarely
actually gossiped. . . she might have a point, and frowning, I asked in a
hesitant and doubtful voice, "You swear to keep all --"

"I swear on my vows!" she promised. That wasn't exactly encouraging, but I
needed to tell SOMEONE about it all . . .

So I explained. Serra wasn't the best person to trust, I know, but she swore
on her vows and even Serra keeps to those. . . I explained the whole thing,
from the need to see Matthew, to the fight, to the kiss, the very last
discussion with Guy. Serra didn't interrupt once, until I got to mentioning
that Guy had admitted to liking the kiss.

"Wait . . ." she giggled lightly. "So, Guy is macking on Matthew?"

Interesting phrasing . . . "Erm . . ." Well, though put quite crudely . . .

"Yes. But since he was only using the kiss as a . . . distraction . . . "

"Oooh!" She nodded, before her eyes lit up. "Oh! OH, Ooooooh! So THAT'S why
Guy was . . .!" Serra's eyes widened enormously, and her lips formed a small
o as she covered her mouth with one hand, struggling with something.

I blinked at her, and felt a small bit of apprehension gnaw at my intestines.


"He rushed by here a while ago!" Serra rattled. "He said he was looking for
Matthew --" I frowned as she bubbled the words. Why was Guy looking for
Matthew . . ? She went on, oblivious to my disconcerted look. "-- and I said
I hadn't seen him all day, and he was all pale and then he ran off. . ."

Oh, no. "Where to?" I demanded.

"The woods!"

Crap. What was he doing? I wasn't sure the need, but I was compelled by
something to follow, that something would happen if I wasn't there. Serra
shrieked after my running form, and I called back, "Don't follow me!"

So, of course, Serra followed, all the way down the wooded path. I panted
lightly for breath, and covered Serra's mouth as we approached the clearing.

Matthew was in the same spot I had left him . . . scratch that, he was a few
feet from the spot. The grass was worn down in a circle, as though recently
tramped down by nervous pacing, and although the thief was sprawled against a
birch tree and lazily toying with something, I could tell he was nowhere
near as relaxed as he was trying to look. Guy didn't seem to be relaxed at

I don't know how long Guy had been standing there, but he was standing,
rigid and tense, in front of the thief. Matthew was fiddling with his
dagger, cleaning his nails, dipping it into the air. . . generally
looking bored and ignoring Guy completely. I winced . . . that wasn't a very
good sign at all.

Serra looked over at me curiously, but I ignored her, intent and serious on
the somewhat distant scene. I only had to stay long enough to see Guy's
intentions, and then I could leave. . . if he was apologizing (that was
likely) . . . but if he was going to do something else . . I paused,
frowning. What else could there be?

"Well, Guy," the sharp, clipped and monotonous voice cut through the thick
air like a knife. I winced again . . . that wasn't a good sign either.

Matthew look as blank as his voice sounded, and he regarded Guy coolly with
piercing eyes. "Is there something you need?"

"No . . ." Guy said slowly, his forehead wrinkled slightly from his furrowed
brows as he flinched back in worry. Worry . . . about what? "I . . ." Guy
started, but his voice cracked and he cleared it to start again. "I came to .
. . to return this . . . rightfully, it's still yours . . .." The last part
sounded almost puppy-eager.

"You won it." The thief replied flatly. "Unfairly, maybe, but nothing more
then I might have done."

The braided swordsman's voice cracked again as he spoke, but this time,
he did nothing to fix it."Look . . . I . . . I'm sorry, OK!? I feel guilty as hell for
what I did, and I . . . I . . " Guy was madly fidgeting with his braid now.

"You should feel guilty," Matthew looked down at his knife, and sheathed it
deftly before vaulting up, and he looked at Guy searchingly. The swordsman
grew even more tense as Matthew circled him slowly, speaking, ". . . yet you
obviously didn't think you'd feel this way before you tried that," he said
slowly, not quite as biting as before, but with a smooth lilt to his tone.

He put his mouth very close to Guy's ear, and the fidgeting abruptly stopped
as Matthew hissed in his ear, "Did you?"

The Sacaen's answer was strangled. ". . . No."

"Why?" The voice was curt again, and with a shove on one shoulder and a pull
on the other, Matthew spun Guy around abruptly.

Guy's chest rose with his indrawn breath, and he looked squarely in the eyes
of the thief. "I didn't know . . . I didn't think you'd kiss back. But . . ." The blue
eyes were steady. "You did."

I sucked in a breath How much had it taken for Guy to admit that? He was
admirably brave. What would -- what could -- Matthew say to that?

"Yes." The tone was hard once more. "I did." Matthew narrowed his eyes,
and turned away, walking deliberately in the other direction.

Oh, no . . . was Guy going to let Matthew walk away? I felt Serra trying to
inch towards the pair, and I grabbed her wrist, and spoke in a low, almost
inaudible tone. "No, Serra!" I hissed. "We can't watch this, it's wrong!"

"Oh, poopy!" Serra scolded back. "Give it a rest, we're just . . ." she
fished for words as the argument behind us escalated, " . . . we're damage
control, unless they try to kill each other!"

She had a point . . . at this rate, Matthew would be ramming his knife down
Guy's throat any second, and since the people of Sacae didn't generally take
things without a fight . . . it might get rather messy in the clearing. The
disemboweled, decapitated kind of messy. Put like that, Serra and I -- sworn
healers -- didn't have a choice in the matter.

I winced. Not again . . . I was beginning to make a bad habit of
eavesdropping. . . Serra crept closer to them, and in my desire not to be
left behind, I followed. Putting my hand on her lips, I shook my head. This
close, there could be no more whispered comments. She grinned at her
victory, but was silent and turned back to watch.

"Matthew!" Guy had just flung out his arm, his eyes wide, his braid trailing
wildly behind him as he jerked himself in front of the now retreating thief.

We'd obviously missed something. Matthew stepped back slightly, putting more
space between them as Guy practically shouted his words, "Please!"
The braid trembled violently as Guy shook his head. "Please! In the name of
my honor as a Sacaean. In the honor of your gods, St. Elimine, and all of
mine combined . . .. In the right of my sword I'll give you my every . . ."
Guy's eyes widened, as if he'd said something horrible or taboo,
"everything." he finished softly, looking down painfully.

Silence fell, the pregnant pause deepening as Guy was obviously struggling
not to bolt; his hands were clenched, and his tense muscles trembled
slightly in his effort to stand his ground. Matthew looked down at Guy and I
couldn't see his face as he stepped up to the Sacaen, putting them chest to
chest, inclining his face to look down at the other's. His height forced the
shorter swordsman to look up, stricken, as Matthew began to speak softly.

"I seem to remember those words from somewhere before," he whispered,
forcing both Serra and I to crane our necks to hear. "Two years ago, when I --
what were your words, Guy? --" he tilted his head sharply, with a cold
smile forming on his face, "Ah . . . right . . . 'took advantage of a
starving man. . .'."

Guy and I both winced. Guy had mentioned that to me . . . Matthew'd heard
that conversation? Guy gulped . . . Not surprising, since Guy had admitted
to liking the 'attention' that he'd given the thief . . . in . . . oh . . .
oh, my . . . Guy's eyes squinted shut, as if the memory of that caused him
physical pain. Matthew scowled at this, and grabbed Guys chin to forcibly
lift it, pounding in his words with a harsh voice. "Look. At. Me."

One exotically tilted blue eye opened slowly, then the other, Guy blinking
almost owlishly up at his chin's captor. Matthew stared intensely back, and
I was struck with a sense of deja vu as Guy met it evenly. This stare was
the same as the intense one before, but something was . . . different, more
feral, more . . . more base.

"It seems," Matthew purred throatily, "that taking advantage of you is going
to become a . . . new habit of mine."

Matthew's other hand lifted slowly, trailing up Guy's ribs as the swordmaster
gave a visible shudder. The hand grasping the chin slid down to
the shoulders gently, both hands holding Guy firmly enough to show that he
wanted him to stay, but loosely enough that if he felt like it, the Sacaean
could have easily broken off. The eyes were wider, and the breathing was
heavier, but there was no sign of refusal.

That was all the answer the thief needed -- and with an audible crack,
Matthew slammed Guy almost violently against a nearby oak, the swift and
fluid motion of the move making it seamless.

Was Matthew . . . ATTACKING Guy? I almost jerked up, but Serra --
pathetically enough, she could actually subdue me -- covered my mouth with
her hand and flung her arm around me, using her weight against my weak
strength to keep me down. I widened my eyes at her, and she scowled, before
jabbing her fingers in the direction of the two we had been watching.

I blinked. Well, Matthew did indeed have Guy pinned to the tree . . . but
Guy certainly didn't seem to mind. . .considering that they were sucking
very enthusiastically at each other's faces. Matthew whispered something,
and yanked off Guy's headband with his teeth. I wondered for a moment why he
was binding Guy's wrists when they so obviously . . . erm . . . getting
along. . . so very, very well. . .. Guy blinked as his forearms were
attached to the branch above him, leaving him almost helpless.

Matthew assaulted Guy's neck with his mouth, and Guy writhed against his
bindings, his eyes widening open and his head tossing back, leaning into the
tree with a long, rattling breath . . . what was he . . .

I cut off my own question, deciding that I didn't want to know, and neither
should Serra. I covered her eyes, and trying not to look back, I began to
drag her off back in the direction of the camp, hoping that Guy and Matthew
were occupied enough to pay no attention the scuffling sounds the leaves
were making. I was correct, and Serra, fortunately, didn't put up a fight.

As soon as we were a fair distance away, I let her mouth go, and Serra
giggled slightly. "Aw, how cute!" She looked up at me with a bright glimmer
in her eye. "Those two are simply adorable, ne?"

I didn't quite think that 'adorable' was an apt description of what had just
happened, but I nodded blithely in agreement anyway and took out my charm
box, beginning to attach my saint charms on my hip. St. Jude . . . St. Helen
. . . trying desperately to think of anything but Matthew and Guy . . . not
to mention the not-so-subtle sounds coming from behind us. . .

Serra began to giggle again, and I looked over at her petulantly. "This
isn't a laughing matter, Serra."

"Sure it is!" she chortled. "Cuz even though you and I are pretty much sworn
to secrecy, whoever's coming towards us --" Her pointing hand, gesturing the
path before us, didn't waver at my look of horror -- "is gonna know! Oooh, I
hope it's not Florina . . . she'd be traumi -- "

"WHAT?!" I shrieked, before remembering that screaming wasn't the best thing
to be doing at the moment. I looked wildly at Serra. "I can't be seen
anywhere near here!"

"Why not?" Serra shrugged.

Well, let's see . . . I had a reputation as a pure, wonderful little monk
who did nothing wrong and was a decent little magic-user who couldn't harm a
fly without a spell book and was oh-so-understanding of everyone's problems,
and had the cleanest and most innocent disposition. I LIKED this reputation,
because it was, in fact, true. With the obvious background noise (which I
was doing my best at the time to ignore) and my disheveled appearance, I
would look like a lowly peeping tom.

"I can't be seen as a . . a . . . voyeur!" I moaned, hopping nervously on
one foot to the other. "I . . . I really, really don't want to be here!" My
pitch raised surprisingly high at the end of that sentence. I turned to the
cleric, pleading for help. She thought for a second, before turning sharply
towards me.

Serra didn't bother with warning me; she jump tackled me, sending us both
into the thick --and thankfully thorn-free -- brush on the sides of the
path. I struggled a moment, before Serra slapped me and jabbed her finger
above us. The greenery had closed above me, concealing both of us from view.

She shook her head disgustedly, and we sat in silence. I could now hear the
footsteps of the stranger, faltering once when the . . . sound effects
reached his ears. It was a he, I could tell; the heavy steps were steady and

They came closer . . . and closer . . . and as they began to pass us by, I
sighed lightly in relief and leaned back. . .. a mistake.

My amulets! They were around my waist again -- it was a mistake to reattach
them so soon! -- and the movement had goaded them into making a racket of
jingling and metallic scrapes. I tried to quiet them, but my motions
disturbed them more. Serra made a muffled hiss to be quiet and pressed her
hand down on them to stop their noise. I frantically added my attempt to
hers, and they were ineffectively silenced.

And then my eyes met with a familiar pair of boots. And I looked up, into a pair
of very familiar eyes. Very, very familiar, ruby eyes.

Lord Raven blinked down at me in some sort of shock, and I blinked back in
the same state.

I realized then just how things looked. Serra was half sprawled on top of me,
her hands still on my hips from her vain attempt to silence my jewelry, and
her hair was undone on one side because of the hairpin she'd taken out to
lock-pick my jewelry box. The bright blushes on both her face and mine, along
with the enthusiastic noises Matthew and Guy were making, and the awkward
position . . .

This wasn't happening to me. It was all a big nightmare . . . the last
person in the world I'd want to see me like this . . . for more than one
reason! I was madly in love with Lord Raymond; and here he was thinking I
was . . . doing . . . THAT with Serra.

"Um . . . milor -- I mean, Raven . . ." I said shakily. I knew I couldn't
reveal Lord Raymond's identity in front of Serra -- one of Lord Hector's
retainers -- but my urge to call him 'milord' and to reassert my undying
loyalty to him was rearing up, and I feared that Serra might have caught the
slip. Then again, her embarrassment might hopefully slow her thinking
processes a bit, for all that it was making me think a mile a minute.

I don't think I'll ever forget the look on his face. The closest comparison
I could ever make was the expression on Matthew's face when Guy had walked
away from him that morning, but . . . this seemed so much sharper, so much
more acute for the simple reason that it was my Lord Raymond making it, and
it was directed at me. Shock, betrayal? Pain and a sharp twist of something
else . . . I didn't bother trying to decipher it. . . I looked away in

"This isn't what it looks like," I muttered. I couldn't bring myself to look
at him for a good few seconds . . . but when I brought my head back up, he
wasn't looking at me anymore.

He was staring at Serra with an amount of focus that he rarely showed --
unless in battle.

I had a few new doubts about the cleric's lifespan . . .

I felt Serra jerk away from me as if burned. "I'll say!" she squeaked,
hustling to her feet to loudly crunching dead leaves. I heard Serra swallow,
and I winced as I realized that Raven was laying one of his infamous glares
on her. After a bit of more leaf crunching -- Serra was shuffling her feet
liberally under his gaze -- she began to babble . . . as she was often wont
to do.

"Er, looky here, Raven . . . um, sir . . ." she started almost breathlessly,
her voice more chatty then normal, "that was sooo NOT what you think it
was. Lucius was just . . .all worried about stupid stuff and we accidentally
ended up too near those two," she jerked her thumb at the noises that were
still wafting through the trees, "and then we heard someone -- you,
actually, but we didn't know that -- and he didn't want to be seen as a
voyeur -- even though he kinda sorta was, and so I dragged him to hide in
the bushes, and then you popped up and . . . and . . ." her words
floundered, and I steeled myself enough for a glance at Raymond.

He looked strangely relieved, and calmer . . . and he was glancing at me. I
squeaked, and ducked my head back down.

I shook my head, and looked back up, still blushing. Serra frowned at the
earth loam near her feet for a moment, before grinning back up at Raven.

"Besides, I like Erky too much to fool around with YOUR femmy monk!" The
emphasis on 'your' was unmistakable, as the excruciatingly obvious wink.
Then again, everything Serra did was excruciatingly obvious . . .

As it was, I was probably glowing enough to save on torches. I hardly
counted myself fortunate enough to be counted as exclusively Raymond's. I
mean, with his looks . . . he might be slightly high-maintenance, what with
his fixations on vengeance and possessiveness with anything that MIGHT be
given the title 'his'. . . but he was protecting, and had a gentle touch and
kind heart. While anyone who didn't know him . . . well, I DID know him, so
there! The point was, Raven was untouchable.

I blinked up at Raven, still looking disheveled, waiting for his reaction to

A small surge of hope settled warmly in my throat. Was that a . . . a blush?
Was my impenetrable, unstoppable, untouchable Lord Raymond . . . blushing?

"Fine. . . " I heard him mutter indistinctly . . . and he turned and walked

. . . That was IT? No jealous rant, no bout of over-protectiveness for his
last family? I felt . . . almost disappointed. . . but, he didn't deny
Serra's word's. . .

She, unlike me, didn't miss a beat, and Serra grinned at his retreating
back. "Wow . . . he's got it bad . . ."

"Milord Ra -- I mean, Raven's got what bad?" I demanded, like a petulant

Looking over at me, she shook her head and began walking towards the camp. I
trotted behind her, trying to keep up with her fast clipped walk. "You know,
Lucius," she drawled, "what's with you calling Raven 'milord' all the time?"
She glanced back at me, having frozen at her words. "You'd think something
was up, ne?" she said softly.

I looked at her mischievous glint, her cocky gestures, and tried to swallow
-- but found that my throat and mouth were dry. Had she figured it out? Had
I slipped one time too many? Had I managed to reveal everything, and ruin
what Raven had worked so hard to keep up? I found myself dashing in front of
her, stumbling backwards as she kept walking. I trotted beside her,
frantically gesturing.

"No no no no!" I shook my head wildly, and Serra quickened her pace. I began
to babble, "You see, it's just . . . well, we grew up together, you see, and
I was older then him, so . . . it was quite funny that I had to call him
'milord' and . . . I mean, I didn't exactly HAVE to call him milord, but I
did anyway and you see it's really nothing you should read too deeply into,
you see . . . and . . . and . . ." I panted, almost out of breath.

She gave me a strange look, and my tactics changed drastically " . . . and
please, PLEASE don't tell anyone, Serra," I practically sobbed.

Serra tutted, and after few tense seconds of my stumbling over stocks and
rocks, patted me awkwardly on the head. "That's okay, Lucius!"

I looked up. "Really?"

She grinned brightly, with a wink I dared to call . . . 'roguish'. "You
guys' fetishes are my best kept secret!"

The near-noon sun in my eyes distracted me for a moment, before the full
connotations of her words hit me like a brick. I whirled at her, eyes wide.

"F-FETISHES?!" I shrieked, looking at her wildly, as though she were insane .
. . and with Serra, insanity is indeed an option. Then I realized we had
reached our destination and it was not exactly safe to speak so . . .
freely, put mildly.

Luckily, we were only at the edge of camp, not in it, and although Lady Lyn
and Rath, who were speaking quietly, glanced up to look at us strangely, we
were for the most part ignored. Serra makes people say strange things fairly
often, what can I say? She once made Karel say that her hair was 'spiffy.'

Serra just lifted her chin smugly and frolicked off. I guessed that, all
things considered, I'd gotten off easy, sans my pride and whatever illusion
of dignity I'd managed to keep throughout the morning.

. . . Morning?

Oh . . . my god. It was still only late morning.


Heh . . . I'm so evil to poor Lucius. It's only cuz I love him, I swear.

Eh, well, you know the drill. Save a tree, eat a beaver. Save an author, write a review.