Of Antagonists and Lovers
The bed chambers were cast in the eerie blue glow of the early morning light. There was a chill in the air, the fire in the fireplace having burned out several hours before. In most cases, there was normally a chamber lady to keep it going.
But on nights when Vala knew she wasn't going to bed alone, she would dismiss her ladies. She didn't want them to be responsible for bearing the burden of her secret - and to be quite honest, Vala wasn't too sure of her trust in them.
Fingers threaded into her long, black hair, elbow propping her up on her side, she stared contentedly at the sleeping man next to her. This man that was making her risk everything she had ever worked to keep intact. This man who was causing her to betray an oath she swore she would never break. This man who could be the end of her if the wrong people found out. This Daniel.
Never before had any man found his way so easily into her bed...or her heart. Since her marriage to the King, Vala had been under an obligation to maintain her loyalty to her husband. She had been true to that obligation up until Tomin, her King, had exiled her from court - merely to have the freedom to indulge in his latest young affair.
"You can't do this!" Vala breathed, fighting hard to keep her anger within. Her grey eyes glared at the pacing figure that was the leader of the whole country, her husband. The man who had swore to love and honor her, only her, always.
Tomin lifted his head as he paced, looking at her momentarily. "I can do this, and I am." He looked back to the floor, hands twisting together as if he was nervous. "With the summit coming this year, it is a political fallacy to have you around."
Blue eyes that used to look at her with passion and affection now gave her a look of contempt. "You are a very tempting...mark for foreign delegates. I cannot jeopardize the pending treaty because of your mere effect on men."
She laughed humorlessly. "My effect on...Tomin, my gods, who cares what effect I have on men. I have never been nor will I ever be unfaithful to you. You are my husband and my King, and I will never betray that oath."
"Men have their charms, and you unknowingly have yours." Tomin said, still looking at the floor. "You cannot stay here - I cannot have you here."
Vala couldn't stop the anger from coming forth this time. "And there it is...the real reason. 'You' cannot have me here... It's not because of some treaty or summit, but because of your own selfish needs." She stepped closer to him. "What's the twist this time, Tomin? What won't your latest affair do for you while I'm here?"
He stopped, but she could see his hands shaking. "You're a hindrance to the treaty."
"Which lady is it this time, huh?" Vala kept getting closer to him. "What royal whore was able to use her wiles on you when you were drunk?" She stopped a few steps away from him. "Tell me her name!"
Out of nowhere, his hand came up and hit her hard across her cheek. Vala gasped in shock, her own hand immediately coming to her face as she stepped back.
"You do not speak to me like one of your servants!" Tomin shouted as she sank to the floor. "I am not your husband, I am your King! My life is not your own, and every bit of yours is mine!" He stalked to the doorway, turning back to look at her.
Vala looked up through the hair in front of her eyes.
"You will go to Grover in the morning, and there you will stay until I feel you can be allowed back to court." Without even a goodbye, Tomin left the room, leaving Vala quietly crying on the floor with her hand to her stinging cheek.
Vala breathed in deeply, ignoring the remembered feeling of his hand striking her. Her gaze focused on the soft, handsome features of the man lying next to her. She reached out and brushed her fingers through his brown hair. Daniel stirred a little, but didn't wake up. Bringing her fingers down to stroke over his smooth, bare chest, she let her mind wander back to what had brought them to this moment.
She glared at the pristinely dressed Knight before her - he was one of Tomin's most loyal lackeys. The one who the King always went to for council, and Vala guessed he often helped traffic in the whores every night to her husband's bed.
"I will be your escort for the trip to Grover, and the head of your guard throughout your stay." He spoke calmly, collectedly - almost arrogantly. She hated it. "As of the moment we step foot off these grounds, I am under your command until we return."
Vala rose from the end of her bed, walking slowly over to the Knight that was her watchdog. "So once we leave here, if I ordered you to...take one of my ladies before my very eyes..." She brought her lips close to his ear. "You'd have to do it?"
It was disappointing when he didn't even falter under her gaze. In fact, where she'd expected him to stare straight ahead and answer her simply, he actually turned his deep blue eyes to look at her.
"Your wish..." He whispered, his voice even more cocky then it was before. "Is my command, Majesty."
Vala let out a huff of air in disgust and stalked out of the room, snapping her fingers at her waiting ladies in the hall.
Trotting was ladylike. Trotting was the symbol of royalty, and even more so of a Queen. Vala hated it - a horse was an animal bred for speed and agility, not to flaunt the pompous nature of arrogant assholes. Not to bear the burden of way too much power and even more money.
This ridiculous pace was killing her. They could've been at Grover by now if only they hadn't been so stubborn to fall on ceremony. Every last member of her house were so engrained with the ways of court that merely setting foot outside it was simply just a change in scenery. Well, if they really wanted a change in scenery-
Vala gave a powerful pull on the reins, heeling her horse to crash through the woods just off the overgrown path.
"Dammit!" Daniel growled, already coaxing his horse slowly that direction. The members of the Queen's house yelled uselessly after their Majesty, not bothering to go after her. Panic was evident in their shouts. "Go, go on, keep moving. Continue to Grover Place!" He snapped his fingers, signaling for the front of the party to continue. The knights under his command looked at him expectantly.
He trotted over to his second in command, Simon. "Lead them on, Simon. Surround them, and take them to Grover." With his order given, Daniel spurred his horse, galloping quickly after his escaped charge.
"But what about the Queen?" Simon shouted after his commander.
"Just get them to the Place!" Daniel shouted back, not bothering to glance back. He leaned in close to his horse, muttering to the wind. "I'll catch the Queen."
The feel of the wind whipping through her undone hair was empowering, and Vala just spurred the horse to go faster. This was freedom, this was what she needed. To get away from everything that reminded her of her life, away from anything that made her think of Tomin.
Her freedom was disappointingly short-lived, however, as a horse and rider came crashing through the trees just up on her left. She yelped, pulling back on the reins with all she had to keep from colliding into him. Her horse skidded to a halt just inches from his own.
"Are you mad?!" Vala shouted, her breath coming in startled gasps.
Daniel glared at her. "I could ask you the same damn question!" He turned his antsy horse around in a circle. "What the hell were you thinking?!"
She tugged on the reins, mentally willing for him to move out of her way. "I was thinking we were moving too slow and I needed a change of scenery and pace. Now get out of my way."
"You risked not only your life, but that of your entire house and my knights!" He shouted.
Vala blinked at him in disbelief. "How did I do that? I didn't tell them to follow me, and they obviously didn't, so how could I-"
"It is my duty to protect you, above all else!" Daniel said like she knew better, which he knew she did. "If you take off, I have to follow you, which means I have to leave behind everyone else who is under my command. If something happens to them between where you took off and Grover, it's on my head."
She shrugged. "Oh, poor Knight of the King, with your head on the line." Vala went to whip the reins, but Daniel quickly moved his horse in front of hers again. "Get out of my way!"
Daniel just met her heated stared.
"I am ordering you to get out of my way..." Vala let her voice rise. "Move now!" When he didn't move, she screamed in a very un-Queenlike fashion. "You told me you must obey my every command, so move!"
"You keep up with that pace you were going, and you will drive your horse right into the ground." Daniel said, his voice now calm and collected. "It hasn't been properly conditioned for rough riding in a long time." He once again moved closer to her. "I'll let you go, if you give me your word you will take it easy."
She looked at him for a moment. "It's just an animal."
His blue eyes looked at her knowingly. "So are you, Majesty."
Vala glared. "Set the pace, Knight." She snapped out, not liking what he had implied with his words.
"That man is infuriating!" Vala practically screamed to the reflection of her long time friend Carolyn. She stood off to the left of the fireplace in her bedchambers at Grover, arms braced against either side of the gold-trimmed mirror as Carolyn continued to lace up her corset.
Brown eyes caught the Queen's grey gaze for a moment. "So you keep shouting."
Vala let out a huff of air, which was quickly cut off as the other woman swiftly pulled the strings tighter. "He kept pace with me the entire ride here - never fell back once. He even moved ahead a couple of times..." She turned slightly to look at Carolyn. "Who does he think he is? What gives him the right to herd a Queen around?"
Sitting back on her heels, Carolyn shrugged. "Perhaps he was only...protecting you, as he says."
"Ha!" Vala pushed off the mirror and stalked across the room, lifting up the fabric of her skirts as she went. "He's a damn watchdog for my husband. You know this Knight is his most trusted advisor, Tomin's closest confidant?" She looked back at Carolyn, who nodded. "That's why he's here - not to protect me, but to trap me like Tomin intends."
She moved over to the window, looking out on the vast greens three stories down. The late afternoon sun was shining out over the exile that would be her home. "Tomin sent this Knight because he knows he will not fall for my...charms." Vala spat the word, her bruised cheek stinging.
"He knows I despise him." She said, her voice turning acidic as her grey eyes saw a figure making his way to the stables. Even his damn walk was cocky - a sure sign of his Knighthood. Knights - how Vala hated them.
There was a rustling of fabric as Carolyn stood and came to stand behind Vala. She went to work finishing lacing up the corset as she spoke.
"Consider it this way - As long as you are banished here, so is he."
Vala let out an impatient huff of air, letting her gaze drift across the landscape.
"You're corrupting my own house against me!" She didn't care if she was once again screaming in a way that was unbecoming to her status - this man had become the bane of Vala's existence since they'd arrived at Grover. And it was only three weeks into her exile.
She had a feeling she was going to kill him before the end.
"I am doing no such thing." He argued back, picking up one of the papers on the table before him. His blue eyes came to gaze at her above the paper. "I'm just being cautious - this place has been untended for some time and I want to be sure-"
Vala tossed her head. "Oh, stop leading me that rehearsed line!" She stepped menacingly close to him. "You forget, Sir, that I am not one of his Majesty's harlots. I have a brain."
A shadow of a smirk flashed across his lips for a moment. "I wasn't implying otherwise, Majesty."
"Of course you weren't." She scoffed, throwing her hand up. The other one went to her hip as she strolled around the small room that really served no purpose. "You're just a Knight following your orders as well as you see fit."
The sound of the paper falling to the table was heard. "As long as the 'well' and the 'fit' means your safety, then yes." Vala could tell by the tone of his voice that he was growing tired of her nagging, yet again. Good.
She let out a short, sarcastic laugh. "My safety - More like your head on the line if something were to happen to me." Her grey eyes came around to glare at him. "Because despite everything, I know my husband still loves me."
The look in his gaze was unsettling. "I'm sure he does."
"Are you implying he doesn't?" Vala demanded, shaken now.
He shifted, dropping his eyes to another paper he reached for. "It's not my place to offer implications...I am simply here to protect your well-being."
Vala stalked back over to him, getting close once more. "You really are just another one of his lackeys - serving him blindly, like all the rest." Anger burned her cheeks. "Infuriating man." With that, she made her way out of the room, slamming the thick wooden door as she went.
Taking a deep breath, Daniel rolled his eyes.
"I hate duty." He muttered to himself, pilfering through the papers once more to get his mind off the Queen.
Rain pelted the windowpane of her chambers, reminding her of the hell she was living in. It had been raining for near a week, and there didn't seem to be any end in sight. Part of her was grateful - during the rainy season, the palace where court usually resided was prone to terrible flooding. Grover had a much higher elevation.
But it still lacked the hustle and bustle of a royal court, and Vala was truly missing it. Especially her children, even if she'd seen them less and less in the last few years. She was hoping to leave some impression on them before Tomin's tutors completely corrupted them to her. Vala had a sneaking suspicion that was another reason she had been exiled.
Rising from the chair by the window, she picked up the lantern by her bed and made for the door. It was eerily quiet - had been since the rain had started. It did nothing to help stem the loneliness she had begun to feel after only a month of being at Grover.
The door creaked open, and Vala met the gaze of the Knight acting as her guard. She'd seen this young man several times before, most usually with him. Simon, she believed was his name, if the whisperings from her ladies were correct.
"Knight..." Vala said, then decided his name would seem more friendly. "Simon."
He looked up, slightly startled by the use of his name. "Majesty? Is everything alright?"
Vala nodded. "Yes, everything is fine. I just thought I would make sure you hadn't fallen asleep on the job or something."
"No, Majesty, I would never-" Simon stammered.
Holding up her hand, Vala shook her head. "It's okay, I wasn't implying you would. I was just making a note that this is..." She looked up and down the hall. "An extremely boring post, at least right now."
Simon relaxed a little, though still looking slightly tense. "Whatever the condition of the post, ma'am, I have to obey my orders."
"You were ordered to stand here all day?" She asked, slightly surprised. "Second in command of my security detail, and you're pulling watchdog duty?"
Straightening, Simon put on an almost stubborn look. At least it would've been stubborn if he wasn't so intimidated by the Queen. "Second in command or not, I must obey the orders D-" He paused. "My commander gives me."
Vala quirked an eyebrow at the almost slip. "And what is your commander doing while you stand here?"
"I can't tell you what, Majesty." Simon said. "But he did say he would be in the study for the rest of the afternoon, should he be needed."
A smile came to her lips. "The study, you say?" As the young man nodded, Vala licked her lips. If she couldn't go outside, and she had to suffer through boredom, at least she could have fun annoying that man. "Thank you, Simon."
As she started to walk down the corridor towards the study, Simon moved to follow. Vala held up her free hand.
"No, you don't have to follow." She said. At the man's conflicting look, she offered a reassuring smile. "Go, do whatever you can to stem the boredom - I will deal with your commander, should it be necessary."
Peeking her head inside the doorway to the study, Vala saw him on the far side of the room by the fireplace. A warm fire was roaring within its confines, illuminating the majority of the room. It definitely seemed more cheery then the rest of the palace.
She stepped into the room, quietly making her way to the plush chair he was reclining in. Vala noted how relaxed he seemed - it was quite a change from what she normally saw when she looked at him. Usually he was so restrained and proper...
With one foot up on the low table in front of him, a goblet dangling off the side of the chair in one hand and a book in the other resting in his lap, he almost looked...attractive.
Vala quickly banished the thought, disgusted with herself for thinking such a thing. This man was her every day annoyance - never would she find him even remotely good looking. Never.
"I'm surprised you're not in your chambers, trying to find some way to annoy my officer." His voice broke the silence of the room, and it caught her by surprise. He hadn't even looked up from his book. "Or give him the slip."
His blue eyes came to glance at her over his shoulder. They shimmered bright in the blaze of the fire.
She put on a look of indignation. "I myself am quite surprised." Vala crossed her arms as he raised an eyebrow. "Finding out you're hiding away in the study, reading a book of all things." She pouted as he turned back to said book. "I didn't think you were capable of such a sophisticated, learned task."
Shrugging, he brought the goblet to hover before his lips. "I'm sure there are many things you don't think I'm capable of." He murmured before taking a drink from the cup. Vala waited for him to say more as he brought the cup back down to dangle at the side of the chair, but he simply went back to his reading.
The background noise of the room became prominent once more - the crackle of the fire, the pelting of rain on the three large windows on the far wall, and every so often the turning of another page.
Finally, being blatantly ignored didn't suit the Queen anymore. She sashayed towards him, towering over the back of his chair. Her hands came to her hips.
"What are you reading that is more important than me?" Vala questioned in a slightly petulant voice.
He turned another page. "A book, as you've so helpfully informed me."
Vala glared down at the top of his head. He was more sarcastic and defensive then she'd seen him yet, and she was trying to deny herself the fact that it was intriguing. Charming to a point, even. Annoyingly charming, like the almost silence that once again filled the air.
She moved around the side of the chair, peering down at the contents of the book. When he didn't even look up from the pages, Vala huffed and decided a more direct approach was in order. She snatched the book out of his grasp.
He sighed in a way that seemed like he'd expected it.
"Let's see this..." Vala placed herself in the chair next to his. Her grey eyes came up for a moment to give him an annoyed glance. "Book." He just shrugged and drank from his goblet again.
Looking down, she now realized why she hadn't been able to tell what it was before. Even in the close proximity, she still couldn't read it. It wasn't English, though she did recognize a few choice words here and there.
"This is Latin." She stated with surprise, raising her head to glance at him again.
He was watching her intently. "It is."
Vala frowned in mild confusion. "You can read Latin?"
A curious smile came to his lips, and he tilted his head slightly.
"Oh don't look at me like that!" Vala snapped gently. "It wasn't an ignorant question." She thumped the book closed.
Rocking his propped up leg back and forth, he continued to smile at her. "What does it matter to you if I do or not?"
Vala narrowed her gaze. "It doesn't." She didn't like how his tone sounded like he'd figured her out. "I was just trying to be polite and conversational. That's why I asked."
"No." He answered back immediately, shaking his head.
She gave him a baffled look. "Excuse me?"
Again he shook his head. "No."
"No what?" Vala asked in exasperation.
"That's not why you asked." That damn secretive smile was back, quickly hidden behind the goblet as he drank yet again.
Vala was getting that infuriated feeling again, except this time it was different. She was almost liking it. She blamed it on the atmosphere of the room. "How dare you try and tell me what I'm thinking! I think I know what I'm thinking."
His foot thudded on the floor as he sat forward, elbows resting on his knees. The cup hung grasped in his hands. "See, there's the difference." He pushed out of his chair, sauntering past her own. Vala looked up at him as he passed, then brought her stare to the fire as he continued his explanation.
"Where you think you know..." She heard a cabinet open, and stuff being placed on top of something. "I definitely know what you're thinking."
She frowned again. "Oh really?"
He 'mmmhmm'ed. "Oh yes..." The sound of the cabinet closing and his returning footsteps came from behind her. "See, you asked that question because..." Vala glanced up at him as he came to lean over her chair. "You find me interesting."
Moving around the chair, he placed a second goblet on the table before her. "Drink, Majesty?" It was a question, but he didn't wait for an answer as he moved back to his seat.
Vala looked up at him as he took a sip from his goblet. It finally clicked why he seemed so relaxed and more aggressive. "You're drunk."
He brought the cup down. "A little, yeah." He nodded thoughtfully before he sank back into his chair, taking up the relaxed position he'd been in before.
"Isn't that..." Vala felt she should be angry or wary with this realization, but instead she found herself feeling...turned on...by it. "Going against your orders to protect me?"
The curious tilt of his head returned. "How so?"
She shrugged. "You're becoming more impaired with each drink you take, thus making it easier for someone to come and abduct or...kill me."
"Majesty..." He said in an amused voice. "Grover is in such a location that when it rains and the roads flood, it's near impossible to access it. There is no unidentified abductor or killer getting in here anytime soon, I am sure of it. And even if it were possible, I can guarantee you that I am still well within my capacity to protect you."
"I've fought entire battles drunk before, and I am far from getting anywhere near such a state." He drank from his cup again. "Nor will I be getting there. I'm simply enjoying what free time I have, thanks to the rain, with a good book and something good to drink. If I happen to get a little lit while doing it, so be it."
Lit - that's what the gypsies were known to call it. They also used several other terms for drunkenness. Vala knew this because Tomin hated them - mainly because it was how they would describe him to foreign travelers in their country.
Her grey eyes came up as he relaxed even further into his chair. That knowing smile was back.
"What?" She questioned, tossing the book on to the table. It landed next to the second cup with a gentle thud.
"You didn't deny my observation."
Vala met his gaze with a pure look of indifference. "Nor did I confirm it." At the nod and smug look that graced his features, she snatched up the cup and flopped back in her seat. "Don't fool yourself - I'm merely here out of boredom and nothing else."
She eyed the goblet in her hand. "Does my husband know you drink on the job?" Grey eyes came to look into blue.
"My Queen, there are a lot of things I do." He said as he gazed at her. "Most of which your husband will never know about." He gestured with the goblet in his hand to the room. "This night, in this room, what's in these cups - it's not his to know."
Vala sniffed the contents of her goblet. "What is in these cups, I'm curious to know?"
He motioned to her with his own. "If so curious, why not just try it?"
"I'm not too fond of drinking, Knight." She admitted, still eying the amber liquid.
"Daniel." He murmured to her, and she looked up at him. "My name is Daniel."
"Okay, Daniel..." Vala said, fighting the smile wanting to break free. "Again, I'm not big on-"
Daniel cut her off. "Just try it."
She looked at him, frowning with uncertainty. "But-"
"Try it." He coaxed.
At the look in his eyes, Vala looked down at her cup once more. Biting her lip for a moment, she slowly brought the edge to her mouth, taking a cautious sip...
A small hiccup of sorts escaped past her partially numb lips. It was followed by a snicker, which caused her to lose focus on keeping her steps steady. Vala listed towards the wall on her right, giggling as she went.
Placing a hand on the wall, she paused for a moment to collect herself. She could do this - simply walk a straight path back to her bedchambers by herself. She'd made it all the way to the study without any assistance, and she was pretty positive it'd been a straight shot then. It was just because it was late and this time she didn't have a lantern to help guide her down the rain-dimmed moonlit corridor.
That was a perfectly logical reason, wasn't it?
Yes, of course it was. It had to be because it was the only reasoning she was going to allow herself to accept - it was late, and she was tired.
It most certainly wasn't because she was drunk. Nope, that wasn't the case at all. She was a Queen. A very noble, very dutiful Queen. At least that's what she'd told Daniel during the several hours they'd spent in the study. She'd said all that, and he'd agreed with her completely as she'd sloppily poured more of the lovely mystery drink into her cup.
She was Queen, and Queens didn't get drunk.
Looking up, Vala tried to focus on the hall before her. The image swam like the rain that continued to run down the windowpanes. She giggled again.
Then swallowed it. No, she was just tired and the hall was dark. That was why it danced before her fuzzily. It wasn't due to drunkenness.
She wasn't drunk.
"Nogt dru'k." Vala repeated out loud, ignoring the slurring. She stood up straighter, pulling in a deep breath and slowly made her way back towards the middle of the hallway. She stood in that spot for a moment, feeling herself swaying and fighting hard to ignore it and the laughter bubbling up inside.
Vala started to move forward again. A hand on her stomach, she took her steps slowly. As if on its own accord her other hand came out, almost like it was ready to connect with the wall on her right again. A dopey smile came to her lips in reward to her progress.
Of course the more she thought about how well she was doing, the worse her steps actually became. Vala was so wrapped up in her mistaken pride that she lost her balance and went stumbling to her right. She tried to fix it, but overcompensated, and ended up weaving too far left.
By this point, she was too distracted by her giggling, and went listing back to the right quickly in a half-assed attempt to fix it again. The hand she had out for balance fell, and the hand on her stomach came up pressed under her nose in her laughter. Weaving around dangerously, Vala soon found herself back against the wall she'd been before.
Except this time, she was facing the opposite direction. All it did was fuel her hysterics, and she burst out in laughter. She leaned heavily into the wall. Even then, she managed to overcompensate and ended up sliding down several inches. She just laughed harder.
"'kay, m'ybe 'm dru'k." Vala admitted as she giggled. Her mind drifted back up the hall to the study, where she'd parted ways with Daniel. He'd smiled at her as she'd stubbornly made her way down the hall, and she'd smiled back happily as she weaved and giggled away from him. "Damn him."
Still, she smiled even as she thought she should hate him. "Dan'el." She murmured the name to herself appreciatively. Pushing off the wall, Vala drunkenly turned herself back in the right direction. She weaved her way towards her chambers, her mind now caught up in her evening with him.
Simon looked up at the sound of heavy, unsteady footsteps drifted his direction. His hand immediately went to the hilt of his sword, prepared for whatever may be approaching. It was true the Queen wasn't in her chambers, but her ladies had arrived not long ago and he would need to protect them as well as he would his Majesty.
His fingers tensed as the steps got closer. His hardened look fell as not some strange attacker came around the bend, but the Queen.
"Majesty?" Simon questioned, releasing his death grip on his weapon.
She looked up at him, smiling cheerily. She stopped, and he immediately noticed how she swayed in place.
"Well, hel'o Sir Sim-" A hiccup cut off her greeting, and caused her to fall into a fit of giggles. She tilted backwards, taking a few steps to catch her balance.
Simon immediately moved to her side to assist her. "Majesty, are you alright?" He placed a hand on her shoulder, and brought the other around to her hip to keep her balanced. He could smell the alcohol on her.
Her grey eyes came up to look at him and he noticed how unfocused they were. "'M v'ry alrike, knightsir." She leaned up and whispered close to his lips, quite loudly. "I th'k I could use some...assissi...assississ...help to m' bed." Her smile became dreamy. "Dan'el could do it."
Easing her forward, Simon nodded. "Yes, Majesty." His curiosity piqued at her last comment, but he didn't dwell on it. He pushed open her chamber doors, and before he could stop her, Vala pushed out of his hold and stumbled into the room.
"Whoa!" She gasped at the warmth and business of the room. She turned to look at Simon, stumbling yet again. "Wh'red they come from?" Her arm gestured around the room, to the handful of ladies getting it prepared for her.
Simon stepped a little farther into the room. "You ordered them to come prepare your chambers, Majesty." He looked at the closest lady, who was frowning at how her Queen was acting. "At least, that is what they told me when they came in here an hour ago."
Vala's face dawned with understanding. "Right!" She turned quickly back to the room. "Well, though I th'k s'uness'ry now..." She picked up her skirts in her hands and sashayed over to the lady unfolding her nightdress. "Les nogt put th'er harword to misuse."
Simon stalked down the hall, not bothering to knock on the door to the study. He just barreled on in, making a beeline for the man sprawled in the chair by the fire.
As he came to stand by Daniel, Simon shook his head. He'd known the man for a long time, and it had become quite easy to tell when Daniel had been drinking heavily. Seeing him, tilting his chair back with his feet propped up on the table and his eyes closed, Simon knew. The goblet dangling from his lax fingers was a good sign as well.
It just fueled his anger. He reached out and whacked Daniel hard on the leg. Under normal circumstances, it was an action that would get him court martialed and exiled. But right now, Simon wasn't addressing his commander. He was scolding his friend.
"Hey!" Daniel barked, slamming his chair back down and turning a glare on the young man. "What the hell was that for?!"
"You got her drunk?!" Simon shouted back. "The wife of your commander, your Queen, and you get her drunk? What the hell is wrong with you, Daniel?!"
Daniel snorted. "She seemed to enjoy it." He brought his cup to his lips.
Snatching it out of Daniel's grasp, Simon ignored the 'fuck, man!' that followed as he slammed the goblet on the table. Its contents splashed over the side. He turned a heated stare to match the one Daniel was giving him.
"Stop with the sarcasm." Simon said in annoyance. "You get the Queen, who is your charge, drunk. You make her vulnerable to anything because she's willing to do anything. This could get back to the King, and all of our asses would be dead, and yet here you are, continuing to get fucked up on the job!"
Daniel shot from his seat, and Simon took a step back warily. "You forget, Simon," Daniel drew his name out. "Who's pulled your ass out of the fire after countless drunken bar brawls over two-cent harlots."
"So you might want to watch out who you're putting blame on." He snatched up his cup and moved over to the cabinet where all the liquor was kept. Daniel placed the goblet down and turned back to Simon. "It doesn't matter if I got her wasted,"
Simon scowled at the taboo gypsy word.
"Cause the King is never going to find out about it."
The younger man, though not by much, shook his head. "You don't know that." He watched Daniel make his way back over to him, a slight swagger to his walk the only sign he'd been drinking. "Aren't you the one who taught me the walls are always listening?"
Daniel nodded, but smiled in the way that drove everyone crazy - the one that said he could read you like all those books he loved. "That's true, but when you control the walls, secrets don't get heard."
"So that's what this was?" Simon asked, again getting agitated. "A secret something to get closer to the Queen?"
Something flashed across Daniel's face for just a second, but he wiped the look away quickly. "I didn't say that." He picked up his long forgotten book from the table and came to stand before Simon again. "It was just two people sharing in conversation and drink, in an attempt to stave off a boredom of the worst kind."
Despite Daniel's attempt to hide it, Simon could see that something else in Daniel barely-clouded blue eyes.
"You find her attractive."
Daniel let out a short, sarcastic laugh. "Yeah, right." He turned on his heels and made for the door. "Are we sure you're not the one who's been drinking tonight?"
Simon's voice reached him as he reached the doorway. "This is a dangerous line you're walking, Daniel." Daniel turned to gaze at his friend, his second in command. "You don't want to get caught up in this game."
He smiled reassuringly. "Simon, I was just trying to please my King by keeping his wife happy. That's all this was." Daniel took his leave of the study then, trying and failing to ignore the words that had been playing in his head since just before she had left him that evening.
'You're right.' She had whispered conspiratorially to him. 'I do find you interesting.'
Vala sat in the dining chambers the next morning eating breakfast. She had a headache, and was slightly embarrassed by her behavior the evening before, but was happy for the first time since being at Grover. And she, for the life of her, could not figure out why exactly.
So she sat at the long table, alone, smiling softly as she popped a grape into her mouth.
A soft knock on the door to her right had her looking up. In the doorway stood Daniel, back in the dress of a Knight and once again looking the part of his position. And though his body was tense, his eyes still held that softness she'd seen the evening before.
"Majesty, you wished to see me?"
Vala nodded. "Yes." She wiped her mouth with her napkin. "I was wondering if you would like to join me for breakfast?" She held her hand out to the table, which was laden with too much food for one person.
He came to stand just within the doorway, hands clasped behind his back. His gaze dropped to the floor, an appreciative smile gracing his lips. "As much as I would love to, Majesty, I don't believe we should-"
"What, not so friendly without a few drinks in you?" Vala teased gently, smiling cheekily as his blue eyes came up to meet hers. His were alight with amusement, and his smile matched them. "Please, join me. It's the least I could do after you spent the greater part of the evening keeping me entertained."
Daniel quirked an eyebrow at her, and she challenged him to deny that's all the previous night really was. Finally, he gave way and laughed a little. "Alright." He slowly walked towards the chair at the other end of the table.
As he pulled it back and lowered himself into it, Daniel looked up and caught the look Vala was giving him. "What?"
"I didn't realize I had come down with the plague over the course of the night." Her smile was teasing again as he frowned at her. "Must you sit so far away?"
Daniel tilted his head a little in a sort of nod. "Okay..." He said slowly, rising from the chair and moving up the table. He pulled out a seat just off from hers at the head of the table. "Better, Majesty?"
Vala grinned in victory. "Much, and please call me Vala."
"I don't think-" Daniel looked up at Vala as she cut him off yet again.
"If I can call you by your name," She reached over and picked up the plate that was in front of him. She randomly started picking up food and dropping it on the plate. "You can call me by mine."
Daniel quirked a half smile as she placed the food in front of him. "Vala." He said, testing it out. He'd said it countless times to others, but never directly to the face of the woman who went by such a name.
She smiled as she sliced into an apple. "See, it's not so difficult."
"Yes, well, years of strict service to the crown have made me a creature of habit." Daniel said as he began to pull apart the bread she'd placed on his plate. Instead of picking up a knife, however, he just dipped the piece in his hand into the bowl of sweet butter.
As he shoved it into his mouth, Daniel noticed the slightly surprised look she was giving him. He swallowed the bread loudly. "Sorry, my table manners are actually quite lax." He slurped from the cup a member of the kitchen had placed in front of him. "It's a good example of why most like yourself don't enjoy my company for a meal."
Vala smiled at that. "Obviously not a complete creature of habit, then." She sipped water from her goblet, enjoying the small laugh he gave her in agreement. "Daniel, can I ask you something?"
He sat back in his chair, chewing thoughtfully as his blue eyes pierced hers. "If I told you no, would it stop you?"
"Well..." Vala hesitated under his scrutiny. The Knight she first met was evident in his posture and tone. She could feel her stubbornness, wanting herself to rise to his cockiness. But she stopped herself from saying no, "Yes, considering the nature of the question."
Daniel blinked in mild surprise. "Oh..." He sat forward again and took another drink. "What do you want to ask?"
Pulling in a deep breath, Vala leaned forward herself, propping her elbows on the table. "Can you teach me Latin?"
Blue eyes found hers once more, and the surprise there was more than mild. "You want to learn Latin? From me?" He mumbled around the piece of fruit in his mouth.
She nodded. "I think it'll be a good way to keep my mind from wandering - fight off the restlessness that plagues me everyday." Vala looked down at her plate. "See, Daniel, here you have something to do. You protect me, and my house, and have men to command and tasks to do."
Vala flicked at a grape. "But no amount of stitching or painting, or reading all the same things I've read over and over will ease the feeling of uselessness." She finally looked up at him. "I need something to distract from feeling so alone in a sea of people waiting to fall on my every word."
Daniel stared at her intently. He had become so used to seeing the harder outer shell of this woman, that seeing her so open and vulnerable caught him off guard. It struck home just how human Vala really was, how neglected she'd been for so long. Her grey eyes pleaded with him, anxiously waiting for his reply.
And despite knowing he shouldn't say yes...that it was just another step down that dangerous line Simon was talking about...
"Okay." He finally said, sitting back in his chair. Daniel immediately knew he would never regret the decision as her face flooded with relief and disbelief.
"Really?" Vala questioned, smiling.
Daniel nodded and smiled. "Yeah."
Flopping back in her chair, Vala tossed her notebook on the table in agitation.
"Don't give up just yet."
Her grey eyes came up to glare at Daniel. He was sitting across from her, leafing through a book. It's what he usually did while she worked on the practice sentences he gave her to translate. Most of the time, it didn't bother her. But on days when she just was sick of all the foreign words, Vala found it downright irritating.
"What if I want to give up?" Vala huffed, crossing her arms and narrowing her gaze. "What would you do if I just decided I was done with this and walked out right now?"
Daniel closed the book slowly, leaning forward and placing it on the table. "I would sit here and wait for you to come back because you don't just give up on something."
She slouched in her chair, something she wouldn't have done before coming to Grover. But after being exiled for nearly four months, Vala was beginning to feel less and less like the Queen she was.
"And how would you know what I would and wouldn't do?" She asked lamely, her words not having the bite they once had when it came to him. In the time they'd been there, Daniel had quickly become a good friend to her. She found she just couldn't be angry at him like before. She could get annoyed with him, though.
He gave her an 'oh, please' look. "Vala, we've been doing this almost every day for months now." Daniel smiled softly. "I've come to know you," He jerked his head up quickly. "So what's wrong?"
Vala sighed and looked out the window, where the sun was shining. There had been another bout of rain, which had left them inside for just over a week. "Can't we go outside and ride?"
Daniel shook his head. "The ground is saturated. It's too dangerous."
"But I'm tired of being locked up in this damn castle - I want to feel the sun and the wind, and the freedom I get from being on my horse." Vala looked at him with pleading eyes. She didn't know when she'd stopped trying to command him like she was supposed to and started just asking instead.
He looked at her. And like it'd happened so many times before, where Daniel found he should be telling her no, because it was truly unsafe and because he wasn't supposed to ever falter to any person impeding his duty, he instead told her yes.
Daniel carefully guided his horse along the soggy trail, wary of the slope just off to his right. Vala was up ahead, going faster then he liked, and several of her friends from court who had suddenly shown up as they had headed out to the stables. One of them was Carolyn, the woman who had come with Vala to Grover in the beginning.
"Majesty, I highly recommend you-"
"Silence, Knight!" One of the royal ladies shouted back. "When your opinion is wanted, we will give it to you."
Rolling his eyes, Daniel clicked his tongue to draw his horse away from the slope a little more. His gaze fell on Vala once more as she continued to pick up the pace. She was dressed down in comparison to the rest of them, and laughing and smiling came easier to her than the others. He could see how different she was becoming from the other royal ladies, how different she had always been.
As she let her hair down, much to the protest off all her friends, but Carolyn, Daniel drew in a deep breath. When had he started to look at her differently?
Daniel's mind snapped back to the present at the sound of a horse becoming distressed. He'd spent enough time around horses to recognize the sound instantly. Focusing ahead, he could see Vala's horse becoming more and more agitated by the mindless ramblings and laughter from the women.
His instinct told him this wasn't going to end well. It also told him that there was no way he would be able to reach her in time when it went bad. Not without risking sending himself and his horse tumbling down the slope. And still, Daniel tried as quickly as he could to get to her.
The laughter and babbling of the royal ladies got louder as Vala struggled to get her horse to calm down. Daniel cursed them all inwardly - they thought she was playing. From the troubled look on her face, it was quite obvious she wasn't.
"Majesty..." Daniel tried to call out over the din, but not so it would spook the horse. She heard his call, casting him a look that screamed 'help me now.' It fueled him to get to her faster, but as he started to slowly work his horse through the throng of still cackling women, Vala flicked the reins just a little too hard. Her horse sidestepped the opposite direction she'd intended, and his back right hoof shifted on the slick earth.
Daniel's heart leapt into his throat as both horse and rider suddenly slipped down the slope.
"Majesty!" He shouted, pulling his horse to a halt and jumping down from the animal. Daniel ran between the ladies horses, cursing all pompous royalty as all they did was continued to laugh. They must have thought it was some practiced stunt for their amusement.
Daniel didn't give himself a chance to dwell on the ignorance of those he fought for as he reached the edge of the slope, and went sliding over the edge. The mud was thick and wet, making it quite easy to ski his way down to where both Vala and her horse had landed.
"Majesty!" He called out again, desperation coloring the word. Mud drenched his left side as he continued to slip his way downwards. Finally he reached the bottom, and slipped and slid his way to her. Vala was on her side, part of her face smushed deep into the mud. One arm was pinned under her body, flung up by her head. The other hung limply over her stomach.
Dropping to his knees at her side, Daniel brought his hand to the side of her neck. "Majesty?" He tried a third time. When she didn't respond, he leaned in closer to her. Tears stung in his eyes for some reason unknown to him as he brushed the mud covered hair covering her face behind her ear.
"Vala?" Daniel said, his voice thick with emotion. He brought his hand to rest against her temple, tilting her face upwards. "Vala, can you hear me?"
Slowly her eyes blinked open. "Daniel?"
He laughed in relief. "Yeah, yeah it's me." Daniel continued to run his hand over her hair. "Are you hurt? Did the horse get you anywhere?" He looked up briefly at the animal, which was laying just beside Vala with his legs tucked under him. It was if he was protecting her.
Vala blinked again, then looked around. "I don't...I don't think so." She moved to push herself up, but didn't get very far before pain stabbed up her stomach. She collapsed back down with a moan.
"Easy, easy." Daniel chastised gently, placing his hand over hers on her stomach. "It hurts here?"
She nodded. "I think he kicked me there." Vala coughed at the slight pressure Daniel put on the offending area.
It was Daniel's turned to nod. "Yeah, I think so too." He placed his left hand near her right temple, stroked his thumb in her hair. "If you try it a little slower, think you can sit up?"
Vala nodded again. Carefully, with Daniel's arm coming around her back to support her, she maneuvered herself into a sitting position.
"My head hurts." She admitted, leaning heavily into Daniel. She closed her eyes at the dizziness that assaulted her. "Badly."
He immediately tightened his hold on her. Daniel didn't know what to say - his fear and concern doubled at her words, and yet he didn't think anything he attempted to say would be within his expected boundaries. He was saved from having to as the sound of approaching horses reached him.
Blue eyes came up to see Simon and a handful of the other men coming down the path. They slowed their frantic pace as they neared Daniel and Vala on the ground.
"Is the Queen alright?!" Simon said loudly, causing Vala to flinch against Daniel.
He gently held her head against his chest, glaring at his second in command. "No, she's not alright." Daniel kept his voice soft, yet commanding. As Simon moved to assess the Queen, Daniel held up his free hand. "But she is my concern. I want you to get back up that damn hill and escort all the ladies back to Grover."
Simon paled slightly. "Escort? Sir, I do not think-"
"I don't give a damn what you think!" Daniel shouted, brushing a hand over Vala's hair in apology as she winced. "I am giving you a direct order, and you are going to follow it! Now you will go back up the hill, inform those women they are to go back immediately and wait until I see it's fit for them to leave. Do you understand me, Simon?"
The young man stiffened at Daniel's tone. He gave a quick, curt nod to his commander. "Clearly, Sir." Simon gave a hard glare to Daniel, then turned and started barking orders to the other Knights.
Vala waited until they were gone before speaking.
"That was a bit harsh, I believe." She said quietly, pushing herself away from Daniel a little bit. She blinked lethargically at him.
He gave her an assessing look. "Maybe it was, but that isn't something you need to be concerned over." Vala looked down at his words, and Daniel tilted her chin upwards. Their eyes met. "Come on. We need to get you checked out."
Simon quietly stepped into the Queen's bedchambers. He looked at her Majesty sleeping in the bed, and the man who had not left her side since sliding down a muddy incline to be at her side. Daniel was still coated in mud, arms crossed over the bed, cheek resting on his hands. He was asleep, his breathing coming in deep and steady.
The younger man slowly walked towards his friend, pulling in a deep breath. Simon could see the change that was happening in Daniel, and it terrified him. He knew that this game Daniel was playing with the Queen would ultimately result in trouble for all involved, including himself. Yet, every time Simon had tried to confront his friend and mentor on it, Daniel would deny it.
And that's how Simon knew that the most loyal Knight to the crown was slowly losing sight of his obligations.
He stopped just behind Daniel, placing a hand on the sleeping man shoulder.
Daniel woke immediately. At least, Simon thought, he wasn't losing his skills as a defender and warrior.
"Yes?" Daniel asked quietly, turning exhausted blue eyes on his young friend.
Simon decided to slowly work into the true reason he'd come to him. "How is she?"
Looking up at the calm, slumbering features of the Queen, Daniel pulled in a deep breath. "Physician said she has some excessive bruising around the abdomen and a moderate concussion." He ran a hand through his mud-caked hair. "At least a week of strict bed rest and recommended two more weeks of minimal activity."
"She's not going to like that." Simon winced, gazing up at the Queen.
Daniel shook his head. "No, she's not." His blue eyes came around to look at Simon. "But her well-being isn't what you're here to find out." He sat back in his chair, a hint of that knowing smile playing on his lips.
Shaking his head, Simon looked to the floor. "I still need orders of what to do with the ladies from court."
Something that was a mix between a groan and a growl came from Daniel. He sat forward again, resting his arms down on the bed once more.
"I want you to send them back." He finally said, staring intently at her Majesty. "Tell them they cannot stay, due to the Queen's condition." Daniel wanted to say more, but kept his thoughts to himself.
Simon blinked. "They did not take to me quite nicely when I ordered them before-"
Daniel looked around at him. "And I do not take nicely to my orders being disobeyed. I want them gone, and you need to do it."
"All I'm saying is it would be better for you, as the head of the Queen's guard, to-"
There was a flurry of motion, and Simon soon found himself standing face to face with his commanding officer.
"What part of 'you need to do it' did you not comprehend?" Daniel asked on a threatening whisper. "I am ordering you to send those ladies away. I do not care how you do it, or who else you need to assist you, but they need to be gone." He looked over his shoulder at the Queen. "Those women are a detriment to her safety."
Simon glared in sickening understanding. "Just her safety?"
Dangerous blue eyes whipped back around. "Do you want me to hit you?"
Stepping back and bowing in mock respect, Simon continued to glare at Daniel. "I have obviously overstepped my boundaries, Sir. I will due as you bid me, as always." He turned around and calmly moved to the door. As he cast one final look into the room, he saw Daniel pick up the chair he'd knocked over and take up the same position he'd been in when Simon came in.
Shaking his head, Simon left the room.
In his mind, the commander he'd served for so long was gone.
A sly smile formed on his lips.
More opportunity for him to excel.
Blue eyes opened at the soft calling of his name. Daniel looked up into the half-lidded gaze of Vala, his Queen.
"Majesty." He breathed, jumping up from his chair and taking her hand.
She smiled lazily at him. "I thought we'd gotten past all that."
Daniel smiled a little himself. "I'm just being cautious - there have been ladies of both royal and common status in there all afternoon, and we don't need them to hear such casual addresses between us."
Vala nodded. "You are quite wise."
"Some say it's what has kept me alive this long - though I'm not too sure it wasn't luck." Both laughed gently at his self-deprecating humor.
Her hand came up to brush through his muddy hair. "You are a mess."
Daniel continued to smile. "Yes, well, I had to retrieve my charge from the bottom of a muddy incline." His thumb stroked over the back of her hand. "Because she simply couldn't stand to be trapped in a large castle any more."
A glimpse of that old defiance flashed in her eyes. "Are you laying the blame on me, then?"
He laughed again, shaking his head. "No, the blame is all on those ladies you call friends. Of course I should've foreseen it happening, so in a way the blame is on me."
"Have the royal ladies gone back yet?" Vala's voice grew urgent as she squeezed Daniel's hand gently.
Daniel shook his head. "No, was there one of them you wanted to see-"
Vala shook her head this time. "No, nothing like that. I was hoping we could send a request to my husband." She missed the trouble look that momentarily flashed across Daniel's face. "After today's...events, it makes me realize how much I have been missing his presence. I could have been seriously hurt today, Daniel."
He nodded. "You could have."
"I wish he could have been here - that he was here now, telling me how he loves me." She continued on, not noticing how Daniel was growing more uncomfortable with her words. "I wish him to visit me, at least."
Vala looked at him pleadingly. "Can we send word that I wish to see him?"
Letting go of her hand, Daniel stood up to his full height and smiled. "If you wish a request to be sent, then it will be sent. Now you should get some more rest."
"And you need a bath." She said with a little laugh, never picking up on the turmoil raging inside him.
Daniel never let it show. "I do. So on that note, I will take my leave and get clean." He turned and slowly headed for the door. Before he could open it, her voice reached him.
He turned his head to look at her. "Yes?"
Vala smiled sleepily. "Thank you."
Daniel simply nodded and left the room.
Sun shined into the study through the three large windows, and yet Vala couldn't feel any of its warmth.
It had been a month since her accident. She had taken the time to recover properly and had waited eagerly for word that Tomin would be coming to see her. She'd had every confidence in his arrival being certain - even after everything, she was still his wife. And Vala refused to except that he did not love her.
Just like she refused to except that she had feelings for her protector, and that Daniel had feelings for her. Vala could never believe that because it just wasn't possible - he had been the bane of her existence at first, merely becoming a good friend over the course of their stay.
A really good friend, bordering on more after she'd been injured. Daniel had sat at her bedside every day, continuing with her lessons and just being there to talk to. When she was able to get up and explore Grover once more, he'd strolled with her and tried to keep her from getting too down.
It had been on one particular stroll that Vala had found herself standing morosely before a hall window, much like she was now, staring at the world outside like she didn't belong anymore. In a slightly surprising move, Daniel had pressed himself against her, arms wrapping around her waist. Even more surprising was the fact that Vala hadn't tried to pull away, but had rather leaned into his warmth.
Still, Vala only attributed it to him being a good friend.
Of course a good friend wasn't enough to stop her from getting depressed. As each day went by, it was becoming increasingly obvious that Tomin wasn't coming to see her. It was true that she had yet to receive word that her fears were confirmed, but Vala wasn't dumb. She knew he wasn't coming.
The sound of the door opening behind her didn't make her break her stare from the outside.
Vala closed her eyes, hating hearing him use her title rather then her name. It meant he was only there to do his job, and not to be her friend.
"Yes?" She said, not being able to keep the sadness from her voice.
His footsteps got closer to her. "A messenger has just arrived from court." Daniel pulled in a deep breath, hating what he had to say next. "The King has denied your request for him to visit. He... He says the summit makes him unable to leave court."
Vala bit her lip to keep from crying as Daniel said his next words.
"He sends all his love and affections to you, and cannot wait to see you again." His breath ghosted along her neck as he came to stand behind her.
"I obviously am not worthy of his affections." She said with a nod, a single tear slipping past her defenses. Vala breathed in deeply as a strong set of arms found their way around her waist, just like before.
Daniel brought his lips close to her ear. "He is not worthy of yours." He whispered strongly. When Vala simply continued to stare out the window and fight her tears, he dared to try something that threw him way over that dangerous line. Daniel leaned his lips down and pressed them softly to the flesh of her neck.
She breathed in deeply again at the feel of him kissing her so intimately. The tears slowly started to fall as Daniel's lips moved down from behind her ear toward her shoulder slowly.
"Stop." She whispered desperately.
Daniel immediately obeyed, taking a step back while holding his hands up. "I'm...I'm sorry."
Tears now flowed freely down her cheeks. "Please leave." Vala said quietly, continuing to stare out at the happy, sunny day outside.
"As you wish, my lady." Daniel said, feeling like he'd just made the biggest mistake. Shame made his limbs heavy as he turned and removed himself from the study. He reached the doorway and closed the wooden door behind him. Just as the latch clicked, Daniel heard a muffled sob come from the other side.
He couldn't stop himself from opening the door just a little. Blue eyes took in the Queen, the woman he'd swore to the King he'd never fall for and would always protect, sat in a heartbroken heap, hands covering her face. Daniel silently closed the door, resting back against it.
He slowly slid down the length of it, resting his right elbow on his pulled up knee. His fingers threaded his hair.
And Daniel listened to her cry, feeling useless.
Their regularly shared breakfast the next morning was filled with a tense silence.
After an hour of saying nothing, Daniel couldn't take it anymore.
"If you do not wish for me to dine with you from now on, I will understand."
Vala looked at him, face expressionless. "And where will you eat?"
He shrugged. "Alone, like it was before..." Daniel left the rest unsaid, clearly not just referring to their morning meals.
"I can't allow that." Vala said in that same indifferent tone, then let her facade fall. She met his troubled gaze with a soft stare. "Daniel, I don't want what happened to ruin our friendship. I value your counsel and your kindness."
She reached out and placed a hand on his. "We have to live with being just friends - We have to."
Daniel stared at her intently, then gently turned his hand up and gently took hers. "I know - And we will."
"Can you?" Vala asked gaugingly.
He thought a moment, then nodded. "It's my duty to respect your wishes. I will honor you, and that means I will learn to do it."
Being friends with Vala came a lot easier than he expected. It wasn't what Daniel wanted deep within - he wanted Vala body, heart, and soul, but having her as a witty companion was all he was going to get, and he could happily live with that.
He'd rather have her in some way rather than in no way at all.
And the way he had her was quite spectacular in its own right. Daniel had learned that Vala, when not burdened down with the ceremony of being a Queen all the time, loved to learn and laugh and have fun. She gladly faced any task he put to her, whether it be learning Latin or hunting game, or even sword fighting.
Vala loved to live - something he would never have known had he not been order to Grover with her.
Daniel thought over this with a smile as they galloped through the countryside that surrounded Grover. He watched her before him, laughing and shouting in a way no one in court had ever seen, and he loved every moment of it.
When Vala pulled on the reins, bringing her horse to a walking pace, Daniel followed suit. They walked along a mossy path.
"I must admit, when I first learned I was coming to Grover, I wasn't expecting to enjoy myself." Vala said, looking at the stream that flowed just past some trees on her right. She brought her grey eyes to look at Daniel. "Ever."
He laughed gently, looking up the path before them. "Yes well, I was warned it would be a very difficult post." His eyes now turned back to her. "That my charge was rather tough and stubborn."
Vala grinned, flipping her hair a little. "And? Am I such a task to handle?"
"Well..." Daniel said, laughing as she gasped. "No, no you're not." He smiled softly. "I think it was a great assistance to me that we saw past out differences."
She smirked. "I would call them more misunderstandings."
Daniel smiled impishly. "You are a very wise Queen, Majesty."
A comfortable silence fell around them as they continued. Before long, the path turned and continued to the left. To the right, through a gap in the trees, was a clearing. Vala pulled her horse out into it, and Daniel happily followed.
Now cast in the full sunlight, he took in her beauty. Daniel could not deny himself the love he felt for her, but he had learned to just live with watching her and not holding her. It was what she had asked for, and it was the lesser of the two evils between what was happening with them.
She turned her head to look back at him, her hair flying in the breeze. "Can we stop here and eat?"
Daniel smiled and nodded, not being able to speak.
They dismounted from their horses, and began to set up the picnic lunch they had packed. Throughout their meal, Daniel was certain Vala kept throwing him looks he was trying hard not to give her. She giggled at his words as he spoke, and practically shied away from him as their hands accidentally touched.
Now he watched her stroll next to him through the trees, walking towards another clearing not far from the one where they'd shared lunch.
"What catches your fancy, young Knight?" Vala asked with a curious smile, hands fiddling with a twig she'd pulled off of a tree.
Daniel looked down at the ground, his own hands clasped gently behind his back. "A beautiful creature who I would swear was a nymph, if not for the royal attire."
She laughed, continuing to play with the stick. "Have you seen many nymphs before?"
Shrugging, Daniel brought his attention up as they made it clear of the trees and out into the open. "There were a few magnificent candidates, but it was just hopeless magic that bewitched a young mind."
"How elegantly you speak." Vala mocked lightly, and he grinned.
"If elegance it is, then I credit the company." Daniel looked at her, stopping. Vala did as well, once more glancing at him curiously. He reached out and took one of her hands with his. "You are a dear friend, Vala. I care for you, and I will always pledge my services to you before all else."
She sighed, looking at their joined hands. "Don't make promises duty will not allow you to keep." Vala looked up with a sad smile. "You are pledged to the King, first and foremost."
"A Queen is just an extension of a King."
Vala quirked an eyebrow. "So if I ran right now, you'd be under obligation to chase me?"
Daniel stepped closer, giving her a daring look. "I would be, to maintain your safety, of course."
"Of course." Vala said haughtily. Then with a wild, carefree laugh, she took off at a run, lifting her skirts as she went.
Growling playfully, Daniel went after her. They ran through the clearing, going one way, then another. They dashed between the trees, and doubled back. Vala hopped over a brook, and Daniel just splashed right through it.
Finally, breathless and tired, Vala threw herself down into the long grass. She squealed slightly as Daniel came down a top her, knees straddling her waist and arms propped up by her head. Both laughed as they stared into each other's eyes.
"That...was very...unqueen like." Daniel said through his breathlessness.
Vala pulled in deep breaths rapidly, her busty chest rising and falling dramatically. "I have not been feeling like a Queen of late." She reached up and placed her hand against the side of his neck. "It's hard to be a Queen when there's been no sign of a King for half the year."
Daniel licked his lips as her fingers stroked his flesh tenderly. Just as he moved to lean in, however, a loud crash above their heads had him jumping slightly. Two pairs of eyes looked to the sky.
"Wow, the sky got rather dark." Vala said, noticing the black clouds hovering.
He nodded. "I think it might rain..." As Daniel said the word, the heavens unleashed the water it held. Water plopped around them, coming faster and faster with every passing moment. "Soon."
Vala laughed and allowed Daniel to pull her up.
"We need to find shelter!" She shouted over the sudden downpour, her clothes already becoming heavy with water.
Daniel looked around, spotting the outline of a structure through the curtain of rain. "There." He pointed, and grabbed Vala by the wrist. They dashed towards the structure, laughing and screaming the whole way.
By the time they reached the covered porch of the building, a rather small watermill, both Daniel and Vala were drenched. Still, their laughing did not cease even as they came under the stone overhang.
Hand on her heaving chest, Vala tried to get her breathing under control. "Well...that was...unexpected."
"Nature always is." Daniel smiled in that way, and Vala found it was the most handsome thing in the world. She decided to take in the condition of her clothes to distract herself from the thought.
Daniel noticed her inspection and laughed breathlessly. "Gods, you're soaked through." He patted his tunic pocket, intending to find the handkerchief he'd had earlier. All he got, however, was a stream of water shooting out from it. Vala laughed and he pouted indignantly at her.
"Oh yes, so funny..." He muttered, looking around their rather confined space. His blue eyes landed on a cloth hanging over the edge of the door that led inside the tiny millhouse. Daniel pulled it down. "Here we go."
Taking it gratefully, Vala smiled at him then set to work at least drying the parts of her skin that were exposed - starting with her chest area. Daniel could not stop from staring as her hand slowly botched at the water with the cloth, just above her partially exposed breasts.
Banishing the thoughts, he looked out at the rain. It cast the world around in an eerie, shadowy glow. The world was grey, as if a curtain had been cast around them.
"We're going to have to wait this out." Daniel said, trying to keep his mind off her body. "This storm looks to last a good while."
Vala looked up, watching how he put his hands on his hips and got the rest of his breathing under control. Soaking wet, eyes shining in the grey light, Daniel now appeared more handsome than ever. He didn't look like that friend she'd been forcing herself to see, but a man trying not to see her as the woman she knew she was.
As he smiled, some remark ready to come past his lips, and turned to look at her once more, Vala could not hold back any longer. She threw down the now damp cloth and crashed her lips against his in a heated kiss.
Daniel stumbled back against the wall, hand lightly resting against her cheek as she kissed him. Hers fisted in his drenched tunic, ringing water all over the floor at their feet. After the initial shock of her lips against his wore off, he placed his other hand gently against her chest and pushed her away.
"No..." He said reluctantly as Vala's lips broke away from his.
Vala stared wide-eyed at him, breathless again. Daniel would not meet her gaze, backed up against the wall. She shook her head, feeling guilty. Here she was, the one who had kissed him like she was mad, when she'd asked him to just be friends. Stepping back, her own back collided with the wall opposite his.
"I'm sorry." Vala looked down. "I shouldn't have done that."
Daniel nodded. "You're right - you shouldn't have." There was a pause, and then suddenly Vala found herself pinned against the wall by his body, his arms propped up straight against the wall. "Just like I shouldn't be doing this."
He leaned in and took her mouth greedily, and what little resolve Vala had tried to rebuild melted away. She began kissing him back with an equal passion, her arms snaking around his neck and hands threading through his wet hair.
Daniel hands, meanwhile, moved down to her hips. Gripping them tightly, he pushed Vala up the wall. She groaned into his mouth, her legs instantly wrapping around his waist. Her fingers scraped his scalp, and he thrust her against the wall, squeezing her body even tighter against his.
Even through the cold, wet material of her skirts, Daniel could feel the heat between her legs burning against his abdomen. His pants got tighter as she rubbed into him, moaning into his mouth as his fingers scratched hard up her back and into her hair. He brought one hand to rest at the back of her neck, and pulled her mouth in closer with it.
Vala finally pulled her mouth from his, her lips hovering just inches from his. The hazy gaze of too much reigned in need and passion in his eyes matched her own. She gave him a short, fierce kiss again.
"I want you." Her voice was rough with lust and dominance.
Daniel simply pushed his lips to hers in response, splintering open the fragile wooden door with a swift kick as he turned to carry her inside.
He made it to the middle of the small shack before bringing Vala down to lay back against the hay-covered floor. Her legs remained wrapped around him, sliding down towards his hips, as they continued to plunder each other's mouths with their own.
Finally, the tightness in his pants was becoming too much. Daniel pulled his lips away from Vala's with a strangled groan, sitting up on his knees. She stared up at him, panting, her legs hooked around him. Watching her watch him, Daniel pulled off his tunic. After tossing it someplace, he reached down to his belt and began to unbuckle it.
"Let me." Vala purred, her legs sliding down around his as she sat up. Her lips came to his as her hands moved to start unlatching the complicated buckle. While she was busy there, Daniel brought his own hands around her, fingers fumbling with the strings of her corset.
Her task was soon finished, the sound of a belt pulling through wet belt loops signifying she was done. Daniel, however, still couldn't get the strings to loosen. He kissed her deeper and deeper, grunting and groaning with every passing moment that his fingers failed to work. He was too impatient and needy to bother with it anymore.
"Screw it." Daniel mumbled against her mouth, pulling with all his strength. A harsh tearing sound soon came and Vala pulled back from the kiss with a gasp. She panted at him, one hand on his chest and the other at his pants, as he pulled the busted corset off her and tossed it aside. He gave her that rogue grin, bringing his hand to the back of her neck again, pulling her in once more.
Daniel laid both of them down again, Vala now using both hands to unfasten his pants. He used his free hand to push aside the material of her skirts, sneaking his fingers up until he connected with her intimately. She gasped, her hands jerking just enough to bust the final clasp on his pants.
Sitting up again, Daniel slid his pants down just enough. He lay back down, settling in against her as comfortable as he could. They stared at one another. Everything they had done up until this point was nothing compared to what they were getting ready to do.
Vala looked at Daniel. Daniel looked at Vala. In that moment on the verge of everything dangerous, they shared something between them.
Smiling softly, Vala reached up and pulled Daniel down by the back of his neck. Then she kissed him, and it wasn't sex-driven or mad with lust. It was soft and tender, wanting him and not his body. Knowing this was it, Daniel slowly moved into her. As she gasped, Daniel stared into her grey eyes.
Vala pulled his head down even more, her lips pressed close to his ear. "Love me." She demanded on a desperate whisper.
Daniel obeyed, the sounds of a love unleashing being swallowed by the storm.
"Must be a good thought."
Vala blinked in surprise, startled out of the memory by a voice rough with sleep. She turned her gaze on half-lidded blue eyes watching her, the ghost of that roguish smile playing on his lips.
She leaned in and kissed him happily. "Good morning."
Daniel kept his eyes closed as Vala pulled up. "Mmmm, it can't be morning already."
"Just about." She shifted so her body was flush against his. Vala brought her lips to his chest for a sweet kiss. "You're going to have to leave soon."
He pulled in a deep breath and turned his head to look at her. "Why can't we ever sleep until noon like we used to at Grover?"
Vala smiled at her pouty, still sleepy Daniel. She pushed up and brought a leg over his hip to straddle him. His morning erection pressed readily into her thigh. "You know why, my young Knight." She leaned down, angling her body so he slid right into her, taking his mouth in a hungry kiss to smother his groan.
Slowly, Vala worked until he was spent, then she pulled off him and fell back into her place at his side. He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her up some. The kiss he placed in her hair was soft and affectionate.
"It's at times like this when I wish things were different." Daniel murmured to her, and Vala sighed and looked at him.
"Me too." She leaned up again and kissed him sweetly. "But they are as we knew they would be, and that means you have to go now." Vala nudged him to get up.
Sighing in surrender, Daniel rose from the large bed and started to collect his clothes strewn around the room. He pulled on his pants, not bothering to clasp them or put his buckle on. Various pieces of his wardrobe slung over his left arm, Daniel moved back towards the bed where Vala still lay, watching him.
"You never told me what you were thinking about." He said as she sat up, sheets wrapped around her. Their lips met in another tender kiss.
Vala smiled, her hand stroking over his stubbly cheek. "I was thinking of our first time, in the shed near Grover."
Daniel grinned. "Oh, that is a good thought." He kissed her again, and both started to giggle as he continued to place small, playful kisses to her lips.
"You have to go." Vala whispered, her voice filled with amusement.
He nodded and placed a kiss to her forehead. "Alright, I'm going." Daniel moved to leave, then rushed back and placed several more kisses to her lips. Vala laughed into his mouth and fell back down on the bed, Daniel on top of her. His clothes fell to her side as they kissed like the secret couple they were.
Footsteps coming down the hall, and a lady calling 'Majesty' had them breaking the kiss, looking towards the door, Vala doing it upside down with her head against the bed.
"Majesty!" The voice called again, and had the lovers scrambling to get upright again.
"Shit!" Daniel whispered through his laughter, gathering up his clothes and practically falling off the bed. He couldn't resist the temptation to lean and kiss Vala once more, even as she pushed on his chest.
Again, he kissed her in a silly fashion, several times consecutively as the footsteps of Vala's ladies in waiting became louder.
Finally, Vala pushed him away. "You must go!" She laughed out on a whisper, despite the danger of being caught being just beyond the door.
"I love you." Daniel smiled, kissing her one final time before making his way to the hidden passageway, this one also well hid behind a tapestry.
"I love you too." She whispered after him, and giggled as he stopped at the entryway to the passage and looked back at her.
Daniel grinned and mouthed 'love you'. Vala smiled again and shoo'ed him with her hands.
"Go...go!" She whispered with amusement as he just stood there smiling at her. A knock came at the door, and Daniel blew her a kiss and disappeared behind the tapestry just as the door swung open.
Vala snapped her attention towards the gaggle of ladies pouring in her room, already starting on their chores. She fought hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
"My lady, did you enjoy a lovely evening?" The one who had been bellowing down the hall as she approached the Queen's bed.
Grey eyes flicked to the tapestry for a moment, and Vala smiled.
"I did, indeed."
The lady clapped her hands. "Very good." She began tugging on the sheets Vala was cocooned in. "Now let's get you all ready for breakfast. The King, and the young prince and princess, are awaiting you-"
Vala tuned out the babbling of her lady, body working on automatic as she allowed herself to be maneuvered into her clothes and jewels and over the top nothings. Instead, she had her thoughts caught up in that smile of his, and the still lingering taste of him on her lips.
Looking at her reflection in the mirror, the Queen could see how to most she appeared the same as before her exile. But Vala saw in her own eyes a change, she could see the love for a man in the grey depths.
A man that wasn't the King.
Reviews are definitely appreciated!