Title: The Lamentable Truth of Planning
Summary: Nothing ever goes as planned. Will is unable to marry Jocelyn, but circumstances present him with Christiana instead. Jocelyn, meanwhile, is given to Adhemar.
Disclaimer: 'A Knight's Tale' is the property of Columbia Pictures. I make no money from this work of fan fiction.
Notes: It seems appropriate that all of my planning to work on this went awry!
It was the destiny of ladies to be left behind when men rode off to battle. Christiana knew this as well as Jocelyn, yet that didn't mean it didn't rankle just a little. She didn't like being left behind and kept out of the loop. Still, it'd give her a chance to really talk with Jocelyn -- something they'd not done since the revelation in the stands. Jocelyn and Adhemar had been conspicuous in their absence for all these tournament weeks.
Did Jocelyn hate her? A glance showed Jocelyn preoccupied with Robert and the girl Mary, first making sure Mary was sturdy in the arms of one of Adhemar's soldiers and then that Robert was as comfortable as he could be for their travels. They were going to Adhemar's home, as it was closer, and then Mark and a few of Adhemar's soldiers would accompany them home.
Wat had gone with Will, all fired up because Kate was in danger. Christiana smiled a little. As if Kate couldn't take care of herself. Sometimes, Christiana thought Kate was far more capable than any of them. She'd had to be capable to survive as she had by herself after her husband had died.
With a last comforting touch to Robert's shoulder, Jocelyn stood and moved to the horse she'd been given to ride. "Well then, shall we be away?" Jocelyn didn't look at her until they were well on their way down the rode. Christiana waited, knowing they'd not get their easy friendship back quickly. Too much had changed and they were both different people now. Finally, Jocelyn maneuvered her mount close. "At least we've a bit of sun for this ride," she commented.
"Yes. You've fared well these months," Christiana offered in conversation. "There's a glow about you that's nothing to do with pregnancy."
"A glow," she repeated. "It's merely the sweat on my brow from unladylike exertions." While the words could have been petulant, they weren't, spoken with a small, amused smile.
"No, it's more," Christiana insisted with a glance back at Robert. He was groaning at every rough bump. "It's…contentment. You're contented in your life."
Jocelyn didn't dispute the charge. Instead, her lips pursed and eyes narrowed in thought. "Perhaps. It's strange, Christiana, the places fate takes us and the people it gives us."
Licking her lips, Christiana ventured the main question on her mind. "Do you hate me much?"
"Hate you?" A sharp glance flicked to her, then back to the road. "Why ever would I hate you, Christiana? It's true that I didn't like you very much that day Adhemar had you tell me the news, it wasn't your fault. It was a shock. I was hurting and said things I didn't mean. Surely you realized that?" Not waiting for an answer, she continued. "No, I don't hate you. We were both pawns of my father and I rather think we turned out far better in circumstances than he'd expected."
"We did, didn't we?"
"You, definitely. He expected Will to fail. Peasant born, peasant always in his mind. He never really understood what made Will successful. It wasn't family connections, power, and money, for he had none to begin with. It was his determination, his drive. As long as he has that, he'll succeed no matter the circumstances I think." Jocelyn sighed. "Adhemar has that determination, too. There's a bit of likeness between them. Adhemar wasn't always how he is now. Once, he was a boy who had romantic ideals in his mind and life smacked him about and shaped him."
"Do you love him?"
Now she laughed, a hearty sound. "Not by that definition I once spoke so confidently on. A man can love without giving poetry and without sweet-talk. He can be less than the minstrel's tales and yet so much more at the same time. He can give his heart and still infuriate and I…" She shrugged. "I can feel complete with that sort of man by my side when I had never thought it possible. So, if any of that is love, then I must say I think do love him." Her features scrunched up in mock horror. "Ugh. I've said aloud!"
If Christiana could find love with Will, then why was it impossible for Jocelyn to do so with Adhemar? It wasn't impossible. "Then I'm happy for you."
Jocelyn looked back at Robert and then forward at Mary, before speaking again. "No, I'm happy for you. And for Will. I don't know that I could have survived building a household instead of walking into one fully made, but you…you thrive in such situations. You always have. Making a beautiful dress from scraps, fashioning stunning embroidery from colors that shouldn't by rights go together. Seeing the best in situations. I envy you that."
"You flatter me," she protested. "I'm not always that way. Will would tell you that at times I'm rather horrid."
She held up a hand. "Well I don't believe it."
"No. Let's just say that we're suited to our places and be done with it."
"I'd like that."
Their conversation slowly turned to other topics and Christiana was glad to have rekindled their friendship at least a little. Time would tell if it would remain fast.
Gavin stole Henry's horse and felt great satisfaction in doing so. At this point, he didn't care who knew he was no longer playing by Henry's rules. He was ahead of them all. Jocelyn and Mary would be safe before Henry could get to them, Adhemar would cause confusion among the few men here, and Gavin planned to have Kate safe long before Henry could find her.
William Thatcher's property wasn't too far from Henry's, but the difference between the two couldn't be more pronounced. Unlike Henry's property, everything about Sir Will's gleamed with prosperity. The fences were in repair, the fields well-tended, flowers and herbs and fruits weeded and pretty. The house and grounds were neat and everyone Gavin glimpsed was minding to their work. Except…there was no ring of Kate's tools.
Fearing the worst, Gavin left the horse loosely tied to a post and hurried towards the structure she'd claimed for her own. Voices were raised in argument, definitely Kate and Henry. Kate was saying that she'd no intention of being cooperative. There was the sound of her crying out. He reached the doorway and stepped inside.
Henry had a hold on her, one arm about her waist squeezing, the other in her hair, yanking her head back. It looked to Gavin as though her neck would snap from the jerk, yet it only succeeded in enraging her. She grabbed that hand, pulling it and turning her head, teeth snapping, biting at Henry's flesh. He let out a roar of pain. Kate fought like a wild thing, twisting this way and that, one hand fumbling at her table and when Henry loosened his grip, she slipped from him. There was a rending tear, one side seam of her dress ripping open, the fabric firm in his grasping hand.
With no room to maneuver in the tiny space and pull Henry from Kate, Gavin felt spectacularly helpless.
After managing to go all her life without being raped and murdered, Kate had no intention of letting it occur now. Her tools were all out of reach, which was unfortunate because they'd make lovely weapons. However….necessity, as the saying went, was the mother of invention. Her hand found one of her projects and she grabbed it.
"Let me go," she yelled, swinging the metal with all of her strength.
Her aim was true, the force of the blow sending Henry of Burgundy reeling and into the dirt, where he didn't move, blood spilling from his head. If he'd any sense he'd stay down.
"Touch me again and I'll bludgeon you," she spat, then looked to Gavin and stepped around the table towards him, raising the metal for another swing. What was he doing here? Hadn't she told him to leave her alone? Surely he wasn't with Henry. "What do you want?"
He stumbled back from her, putting his sword away. "To save you," was his simple reply. He looked dazed, as though he couldn't believe what he'd just seen, head shaking left and right.
"From what? From him? Like I'm some weak damsel who can't save herself." She narrowed her eyes. "Is that what you think? I survived the tournament circuit on my own with men like him everywhere."
"But…" Gavin's eyes strayed behind her. "He's bigger than you."
Kate waved the metal. A piece of armor actually. A commission piece. Now she'd have to rework it. Henry's head had left a great dent in the panel. "Quality metal makes quick work of thick skulls."
"You've done this before."
She'd have thought it obvious and set the piece aside before crossing her arms. "Well, if all you wanted was to save me, you can go now. I'm saved." Not that she wasn't grateful he'd thought to save her, for she was. It was just…she wasn't a helpless thing like some of those noble ladies were. Kate could manage fine on her own.
"You're a most exemplary example of womanhood."
"Gavin." She rolled her eyes. He'd a goofy look in his eyes, shining admiration if she was seeing it right.
He sank to his knees before her. "I've been foolish, Kate, so very foolish. Will you hear me out?"
Her cheeks burned, but she wasn't sure it wasn't from the heat of the sun. "Get up off your knees." If he stayed that way for too long, they'd have an audience. Will's peasants were a nosy lot, especially that Agnes. "People are looking."
"Do you truly care for what others think? I doubt you do." Gavin stared up at her, hands resting on his thighs. "No, no I won't get up. I'll stay down here until you've heard all I must tell you."
Kate tucked her hair behind her ears. Struggling with Henry had pulled it free from it's braid. The tie was likely somewhere on the ground. "Is this some grand romantic gesture, because I don't go in for those, you know. They end rather badly most times."
She wanted to make him leave, yet at the same time, there was something in those eyes of his that made her pause. Kate let him talk and was surprised by what she heard, so much so that when Will rode in with Adhemar at his side as though they were lifelong friends, she only blinked and returned her stare to Gavin.
"Is it true," she asked. "You're noble by birth?"
"Regrettably." Gavin opened his mouth to say more, but Adhemar spoke and he turned his head from Kate, leaving her free to step back and ponder what he'd said without his attention on her.
Why was he declaring feelings for her and such if he was noble? He ought to know she didn't desire dallying with a nobleman. No good ever came from those meetings. She'd seen many of those trysts go bad. But…. Gavin wasn't like other nobles. He was different.
Kate turned her gaze back to Gavin, speculative as she watched him speak with Adhemar.
Adhemar wanted to kill Henry of Burgundy. All during the ride to Thatcher's home he'd imagined his hands about the man's throat and several other, more violent scenarios. Therefore, it was strangely unsatisfying to find Henry already dead in the dirt of the woman smith's little building with a good portion of his head bashed in. The woman Kate had a far heavier hand with armor than Jocelyn. Thank God. Jocelyn hit like a woman while this smith obviously hit more like a man.
"I could have told him she hits hard when she wants," Thatcher's redheaded man muttered. "Fight like a man if the mood's on her."
His lips twitched, but he refused to fall into good humor. It wasn't the thing to exchange quips with Thatcher's servant. Instead, he looked up from his perusal of the body, fixing his gaze upon his relative by marriage. "Gavin." He was wearier than the last time Adhemar had seen him, but there was such a purpose in the way he was looking at the smith, as though he was ready to walk the ends of the earth at her word.
Gavin started, appeared to realize there were others with them for the first time and returned the stare, confusion swimming in his eyes. "Adhemar?"
"Yes." He stood.
"How? Henry said you were dead in the road?"
"Him," Thatcher interrupted. "No, no that was his Uncle. We found him, my wife and I."
"Robert?" Gavin shook his head. "Wait. Who was Jocelyn riding with?"
"Robert," Adhemar replied, finding he said it at the same time as Thatcher. How irritating.
"Is he alive?"
Rolling his eyes, Adhemar snorted. "Uncle has the lives of a cat. Of course he lives."
Gavin remained kneeling in the dirt before Thatcher's smith. "Your wife then. She'll be needing found --"
"Done. She and a girl child were on the road and met us."
A relieved grin split his features and he began laughing, great peels that had an insane tinge to them. Adhemar wondered why Gavin was laughing so hard and didn't have long to consider it, as Gavin slowly raised his head again. "That girl child, Adhemar, is my daughter. I've been Henry's fool for months now trying to find a way to extricate us both. But she's safe and he's dead. I'm free."
"You've a child," Kate repeated, wrapping her arms about herself. Her eyes were slightly glazed over, as though she was deep in her own thoughts.
He hated to break Gavin's jovial mood and did so most reluctantly. "Your child is with Jocelyn at home. You'll have to bear familial pressures to retrieve her, as Anne and Uncle have been with us for months."
"I'm aware of that, Adhemar. I can stand Anne's joy at seeing me alive and well for a little while, but then…." His glance flicked to Thatcher, who was overseeing the removal of Henry from the smith's building. "Sir William," he called. "Might I have a word with you in private?"
Thatcher turned at his name, confusion upon his face for a split second before he nodded in a gracious manner. "Of course. You've done a great service for me in attempting to save Kate and I do appreciate it."
Gavin stood, touched Kate's arms, then started towards Thatcher. Adhemar tried to overhear what the two said, but there was too much din from the crowd steadily gathering. It appeared the two were negotiating, for once or twice Thatcher shook his head most emphatically, then listened with a growing frown until finally, he nodded. They shook hands, sealing whatever bargain they'd made, and Gavin strode to Adhemar.
"Well then. Kate, I'll be returning in a few weeks at most --"
She turned her pert nose up in the manner of miffed women everywhere and shrugged. "What do I care if you leave? You're a lord then. You can do as you like."
For a minute, Adhemar thought Gavin would argue, yet he only smiled, glance flicking down and back up the woman. "You care more than you'd like to admit."
One brow arched upwards, the ghost of a smile at her lips. "Perhaps, but you'll never know unless you do come back."
"We'll talk at length when I return."
Adhemar turned his attention from them and fixed it upon William Thatcher. He sighed. It was unfortunate there'd not been a battle or anything of the sort. That debt was still hanging over his head. Ahh, well, at least the world was rid of Henry and better for it in his opinion. "I'm still indebted to you for that one matter, as it did help in the end. This doesn't count as two debts, nor does my accompanying you here negate any debt. Regrettably."
"I could release you of that debt without collecting payment of it," Will offered, skirting Gavin and Kate to step closer. He raised a hand, shielding his eyes from the glare of the sun.
"Good God, no. Then I'd feel even more indebted to you." Adhemar rolled his eyes. "No, I'll pay it eventually. Call on us when you've a need. Your lady and mine will doubtless converse with regularity, wearing out many a messenger. I somehow think we'll know when aid is wanted." Turning his head, he gave orders for a horse to be given to Gavin for the ride and for them to move out immediately.
At last glance, Thatcher, Kate and Wat were side by side watching them ride away.
Adhemar's home was not as far away as Christiana had thought. Indeed, they could be called neighbors. An hour was not terribly far. To think that they'd been an hour away from each other all this time! They should have written. Christiana should have written Jocelyn long ago. At least an attempt to settle things between them after that meeting at tournament.
She thought about the reunion between Adhemar's uncle and aunt. The two were well-suited and affectionate, Anne taking over Robert's care before they'd even fully ridden into the courtyard. The two loved each other deeply. She sipped her drink and smiled a little to watch Jocelyn giving orders and being every inch the lady of the manor. This place suited her and she was much in her element.
Finally, Jocelyn returned to her. "There, all is well and when you've rested, I've ordered several men to accompany you and Mark home."
"Thank you." She set the cup aside. "Jocelyn, what happened? Why were you out riding without guards? I can do so because Will isn't a high noble, but Adhemar is one." Her curiosity was eating her up about it.
Jocelyn's smile was sly. "I'll ask you to keep it a secret until Robert lets it be known."
She leaned closer. "Robert is investing in the cloth industry. He needed my advice since Anne hasn't the connections I grew up with in that area. He wanted sound advice for what to look for and what women want in their fabrics."
Christiana blinked. "The cloth industry."
"He wanted it kept quiet because Adhemar has a habit of pouncing on good business ideas. The sooner he can gain wealth back and rebuild their house the better, he says."
"It's that simple."
"Yes. I've given him several names and ideas and if he does well, I'll suggest he approach Will for a partnership. Cloth, in my opinion, will never become unneeded. Everyone needs clothes." She shrugged. "Adhemar wouldn't really be interested in the cloth industry anyway. Not as an investment opportunity, but with you and Will still starting out…." There was a tiny bit of apprehension in her eyes.
"I'm glad you're thinking of us."
Jocelyn grasped her hand. "We need all the friends we can get in this life. What sort of friend would I be if I didn't help you when it's within my power to do so?"
With that reestablishment of friendship, Jocelyn led Christiana outside to begin preparing for the journey home.
Jocelyn was pleased to see that Christiana seemed to want to continue their friendship. While she liked Anne, she preferred to have a friend like Christiana -- one who'd known her a very long time --, and while they'd both changed, she saw few obstacles in retrieving that fast friendship they'd once had. She knew Adhemar and Will wouldn't be friends, but they didn't need to be. All they needed was to be courteous when meeting in public.
Adhemar slid into bed beside her and pulled her close. "You look inordinately pleased with yourself."
"Christiana wishes to remain friends."
"Mmm." He slid his fingers down the long braid she'd just finished and removed the tie from the end. "I suppose this means I'll be cursed to see them with regularity if I let you have your way." He loosed her hair, spread it across the bed and pillow.
"An occasional visit is all I ask. Letters mostly. When you compete --"
"I won't compete again."
Jocelyn pushed herself to sitting. "Why?"
Stretching up a hand, Adhemar stroked his fingers along her cheek. "Because…that new world springing forth there belong to those younger than me and I'd live to see our children grow up."
She shoved his hand away. "You? Admitting defeat?"
"I admit no defeat," he frowned. "I simply acknowledge as men do that there are other things that have come to matter more to me than tournaments. My wife, for one. My unborn child for another." His stare challenged her to argue and Jocelyn decided that this was not a battle she should pursue. They would each call it what they liked, but his refusal to return to tournament meant that he'd be there with her unless battles took him away.
She laid back down, her head upon his chest.
"We could attend tournament next year if you're well after the birth."
"I can make a lot of money off William Thatcher with you and she helping me read him at matches."
Her smile faded and Jocelyn rolled her eyes. At least he was amenable to attending….
It had only been a few days since they'd journeyed to see that piece of property, but it felt like weeks. Once Christiana was home, and Mark with her, they all sat down together to discuss what had happened. Christiana explained why Jocelyn had been out to begin with and slowly, they decided they knew as much of the entire story as possible. Henry of Burgundy was dead and would no longer attempt to menace Kate.
Will sat back against Christiana's legs, leaning his head back so she could run her fingers through his hair and stroke his brow. "After so much activity, I'm exhausted," he announced.
"You're not the one who whacked a man with armor today. Why are you tired? All you, and Adhemar, did was ride in after it was all over." Kate wrapped her arms about her raised knees and rested her chin on them. Her words held a smile in them.
"I worked very hard riding to get here in time."
Wat cleared his throat. "We worked very hard," he corrected. "But you didn't need us at all. I felt all superf…super…"
"Superfluous?" Christiana asked.
"No, that's not it." Wat shook his head. "I can't remember it. Geoff used the word a few times. It means unneeded."
"Superfluous," Christiana repeated. "That's the word."
"Are you sure?"
Will laughed a little, then sighed. He hadn't told Christiana or any of them what Gavin had proposed during their whispered conversation and hesitated to do so just yet. To tell the truth, he was a little surprised by the request the man had made. Why would any man wish to become a servant when he was a noble already? That had been the gist of what Gavin had said. He wished a quiet life for himself and his daughter where he wasn't the one expected to make all of the decisions. He wished to simply follow instead of lead and working for Will would suit him fine since he'd seen that Will treated his servants with care.
Christiana curved her hand about his jaw, her thumb sweeping his cheek. She leaned down a little, her voice lowering. "What's wrong? You look…pensive."
"Just something I need to consider these next weeks." Taking her hand in his, he turned his head and kissed it. "We'll talk about it if it becomes relevant."
He continued to think about it during the next weeks, all during tournament and by the time tournament ended -- a second World Champion title for him --, Will decided Gavin hadn't been serious. He'd gotten back to Adhemar's household and fallen into that routine one slips into. Will convinced himself of that.
So it was a surprise when Gavin rode into their courtyard in time for winter, his daughter and their belongings in tow, all ready to keep his end of the bargain they'd struck.
Time flew by so quickly that Gavin despaired of returning to Kate. The only one who seemed to understand his need to be less than he was was Jocelyn.
"So many want to be more," she told him, "that those who wish for less are ridiculed. If you truly wish that life, Gavin, then with William Thatcher is the best place to be. He's a good man and you and Mary will prosper."
"You would not have loved him if he were not a good man," he returned with a smile.
"Smooth words," was her smiled reply. "Now, what do you need for your ride there?"
He'd expected to ride in without fanfare, hoping to slip in and begin duties with little circumstance. Instead, Gavin found the people gathering, following, until he reached the courtyard. William Thatcher stepped from the hall and Gavin dismounted, bowing before him.
"My lord. I'm yours to command."
"As per our agreement?"
He nodded. "Most certainly."
Will's look was measuring and then he nodded and shrugged. "Wat, find a place for Gavin and his daughter and see that they're fed. Come see me in the morning and we'll discuss your duties."
Wat, however, didn't look happy to see him. Not that Gavin had expected such. He was determined to be friendly and to talk with Wat. They should make peace if they were both to be here. Besides, there was Kate to consider. He needed to gain the friendship of her friends if there was to be any future for them.
After several weeks of working together in close quarters, Wat came to a decision regarding Gavin. He'd watched him interact with Kate and while he hated to admit a man besides himself could love Kate, Gavin obviously did. He watched her, helped her whenever he could and never spoke a word of anger towards her. Gavin behaved as a man besotted, which Wat could certainly understand. Kate was a treasure. Too bad she'd not looked his way at any time. Her focus was on Gavin. Wasn't that a sorry lot? But Wat had promised to only love her from afar. As far as he knew, she'd put no such restriction upon Gavin. Drat it all!
The more he learned about Gavin and his life, the more he realized the man wasn't the pain in the ass rogue he'd initially thought him. He meant Kate no harm and every one of those actions Wat had thought sinister were to protect her in the end. Gavin had a lot of Will in him, to be truthful. Honor and kindness and despite his ways, a little naivety. He believed in that happily ever after stuff. Gavin, Will, Christiana, and Jocelyn. All of one mind in that matter.
He found Kate hanging her clothes across a line she'd strung by her cottage and dragged over a stool to watch her.
"You could help," she suggested.
He glanced at the wet items. She'd only one left. What else was there to put up? "You're almost done."
Kate laughed, "Just like a man," and hung the last bit across the line. Grabbing the second stool that sat by the wall, she pulled it beside his and sat. "Are you still planning to leave us? We'll miss you sorely if you go."
"We'll be down the road a few miles if the sale goes well." He leaned down, forearms on his thighs, and glanced askance at her. "Do you like him?"
She copied his pose. "Like who?" Her voice was guarded, expression unreadable.
"You know who. Gavin. I thought you might awhile back."
Her gaze fled from his, searching the field until he thought she was looking at Will and Gavin practicing archery. "I don't know." Her indifferent shrug was too indifferent to be anything but artifice.
Wat swallowed hard and reached down, tugging a strand of grass from the ground and twisting it about with his fingers. "He's not like other nobleman, you know. He died to selfish ambition the day he had Mary to care for. He learned to truly love another person and it changed him." Would she laugh now to hear him praising his rival? No rival, he admitted to himself silently, feeling the heat of a flush on his cheeks. Kate had declared them friends only, so therefore, Gavin had a clear field towards her.
Kate's glance flicked back to him, the beginnings of a smile on her lips. "You recommend him to me? You of all people? After warning about him months back?"
He nodded, aware he looked rather ashamed of himself. "I was wrong," he gritted out through clenched teeth, throwing the mangled strands of grass back down to the ground.
Her laugh was hearty and warm. "Oh, Wat, you're dear to me!"
"Then I urge you to accept him. He's a good man and he'll treat you well. I'd not want to see you with a man I'd have to threaten a beating."
She sat up. "Are you sure, Wat?"
He looked at her face and while his heart broke a little to see the happiness there, he nodded. "If he's the man to make your eyes shine like that, then I can't be anything but happy for you."
Her arms went around him, a kiss pressed to his cheek and Wat let himself imagine for a final moment that she was his. In seconds that moment passed and he pulled away, standing and motioning towards the field. "Well, go on. Go admire his prowess with the bow or something. Mark and I've plans to make and I've spent too long avoiding those boring business dealings."
Standing as well, she gave a final smile his direction before striding towards the two men across the field. Wat reminded himself that hearts do mend and someday, some other pretty lass would catch his eye. He hoped it would be soon.
The tent was unbearably hot, though it was hotter in the sun. Summer was in full bloom and while Christiana was heartily sick of being pregnant in the heat, there was no way she was going to miss Will's matches. She'd refused to be left behind despite the discomfort of travel. Kicking off her shoes, she raised her hem and set her feet into the basin of water Gavin had brought her. He'd discovered that the stream a little ways away was delightfully chilly and regularly refreshed the water for her. She rubbed her aching back a little -- those hard benches in the stands were still far too hard even with a plump cushion under her behind --, then reached for parchment and pen.
I hope to visit soon and see your son for myself. Unfortunately, tournament has kept us busy. I believe they're adding more tournaments every year! Will says we must wait until tournament brings us your way and gain approval from Adhemar first. You'll plead with him for me? According to the schedule, it'll be close to two months before we'll be near. Are you sure he has no plans to compete this season? We'd be able to visit sooner if he did.
Tell me, how did you manage travel while pregnant? I find it horribly uncomfortable. Will invested in a small carriage, but it's as bad as riding in a cart. Every little bump annoys. I do believe I know every bush beside the road these days and Will teases me that I'm eating us out of profits. Silly man. I'm only at five months by my calculations. Maybe six. You know how these things are. And my appetite hasn't increased too much.
Gavin has been indispensable since Wat and Mark left us. Can you imagine? Leaving to start a tavern. Mark takes care of the business end and Wat the food, drink, and people. I hear they're doing well already. But back to Gavin. He's been using all of those lessons he learned growing up and has helped Will even more than Geoff did, advising in business and taking over much of Mark's former duties and some of Wat's. And he's thriving. He says he loves it here as it gives him time with Mary and Kate.
Oh, that's a tale all itself! Mary has decided Kate is her mother and follows her about all day. Kate eventually took to her as well and has accepted Gavin as a suitor, though says she won't remarry unless he takes the trade. I'm happy for her, Jocelyn. He brings the roses to her cheeks and smile to her lips.'
She paused as Gavin entered the tent. "Yes?"
"My lady, you said to inform you when the next match will be set?" Coming to her, he bent, snagged a cloth and held it out so she could set her feet in it. Gavin carefully dried them and slipped her shoes back on for her. "It's nearing time and we should get you settled in a prime seat."
"I'd carry you, but it'd cause a stir. Behavior unbecoming a servant and all." His smile had a bit of cheek to it and she laughed.
"Let me take your arm then."
"That, I know, is acceptable considering your overbalanced state." He cast a glance to her belly and she smoothed the fabric of her gown across it.
Really, she wasn't that big yet! "You're teasing."
"If you insist."
He had her settled on a plump cushion minutes later, a drink in hand. Too bad a basin of water for her feet would be frowned upon. Christiana set the drink aside, then clasped her hands and was searching the field for Will when a silky voice intruded on her thoughts.
"Your husband had better be in top form. I've bet a fortune on him winning every match."
Turning her head, she saw Count Adhemar behind her. To his right was Jocelyn, as slim and beautiful as ever, but looking just as wilted from the heat as Christiana felt. He took her hand, steadying her as she walked down the two steps to Christiana's level and released it as she sat.
"He's been training all winter," Christiana said back to him.
"He'd better have. Duke Peter's competing this season, as is Lord Trevor, both of whom are upstart children with delusions of grandeur. They're not above cheating if it might win them a match or two." Adhemar leaned down, pressed a kiss to Jocelyn's mouth and stepped back up the stairs, Germaine trailing behind as he always had.
Jocelyn grinned, placing one of her hands over Christiana's and squeezing lightly. "Well, here we are. Together again."
The match was called and Christiana nodded. "Together again."
A sense of déjà vu swept over her and she sighed. Their plans may have all fallen apart, but in the end, it had all worked out for the better. Each of them had found that place they belonged and she decided that there was nothing lamentable at all in plans gone wrong.