The darkness of night had descended over Mossflower Wood. The sounds of chirping insects and gurgling water drifted in and out of the trees that rustled in the breeze. The full moon cast its silvery light across the landscape, causing everything to glow with an ethereal iridescence. At Redwall Abbey, all was just as still. Not a beast stirred in the early spring evening, but there was at least one that lay awake.
Through the open window, a pair of mice could be seen. One was sleeping soundly, her body rising and falling in time with her steady breathing. Her head lay on the other's chest, using it as a pillow. His arm lay wrapped around her as he watched her. She was so beautiful, so peaceful, so perfect. He loved her, oh how he loved her. He closed his eyes, lost in the feeling of his wife and lover sleeping next to him. As Mattimeo's thoughts became dreams, they began to wonder over the years and the times they had spent together.
* * *
"Come on Matty!" cried the young mousemaid as she scurried though the orchard.
Tess, Tim, and Sam were rushing to be the first to pick the spring's strawberries. Mattimeo, younger than the rest, was trailing behind.
"Wait up, Tess!" cried the Dibbun.
So intent on catching up was he that he failed to notice the rock by his feet. With a sharp cry, he tripped and fell forward. His face smashed into the earth, and his shin scrapped along the rock. Instants later, he began to cry, tears streaking though the dust on his face.
He heard the others running back.
"What happened?" asked Tim.
"I – tripped and…" Mattimeo sobbing kept him from finishing.
"There noaw," said a gravelly voice, "what be all 'ee fussin' about?"
"Mattimeo tripped and skinned his knee," said Tim as he turned towards Foremole.
"Well, no use settin' 'round, 'ere," said the mole. He picked up the bawling mouse and hurried him towards the Abbey. "Come on, youngun, let's get you to 'ee i'fimary."
Sister May looked up from her herbs as the pair entered the infirmary.
"Oh my!" she exclaimed. "What have we here?"
"Hurrhurr, 'ee li'l scamp were runnin' for 'ee strawb'ries and banged 'is knee," replied Foremole.
"Well, let's have a look at it."
By now, the mouse's crying had been reduced to sniffling. He sat on the bed where Foremole had placed him and waited as Sister May examined his wound.
"Nothing serious," she said, "but I will need to put some salve on it to keep out infection." As she began selecting herbs and medicines, she continued, "And I can't have you running around with the salve on your knee, so you'll need to stay here for the rest of the day."
Mattimeo's expression fell even further as the situation sank in. As Sister May applied the salve to his wound, he stared longingly out the window, wanting to be out there with his friends.
Later as the sun was starting to set, he was lying in bed, facing the window.
He rolled over and saw Tess standing next to him.
"I felt bad that you didn't get to come with us," she said. "So I brought you some of the strawberries."
She held out the basket she was carrying and set in on the table next to him.
Mattimeo stared at it for a moment before a smile flashed over his face.
"Thanks Tess." He opened up the basket and stuffed a handful in his mouth.
Tess giggled at the sight of him and reached to give him a hug.
"Sister May said not to eat too many, or you'll get stomach ache."
She released her young friend and said, "Just heal up soon."
* * *
"How is she?" asked Tim.
Mattimeo, Tim, and Sam were in the infirmary where Tess was sleeping as she had come down with a fever.
"She'll be fine," said Sister May, "just as long as she gets a good amount of rest. Now run along, you lot," she said shooing them out the door. "I can't have you waking her up."
The three boys ambled down the stairs until they came to Great Hall.
"Hey, let's go see what Friar Hugo's cooking for dinner," said Tim. He noticed Mattimeo's face. "You alright, Mattimeo?"
Sam chuckled at his downcast expression. "She'll be fine, Mattimeo. Come on, let's go see what's cooking."
"No thanks guys," said the mouse as he glumly left the group.
As he turned a corner, he heard Tim ask, "What's with him?"
Mattimeo wondered out into the gardens.
"Why do I feel so glum?" he wondered. "I guess I'm just concerned for Tess."
He spotted a bed of lilies, their multi-colored flowers in full bloom.
"I know!" he though, "I'll pick her some flowers. That'll make her feel better."
He rushed to the Gatehouse and found his mother.
"Hello Mattimeo," said Cornflower, as she kissed him atop the head, "and what are you in such a rush for?"
"Do we have a vase, Mum?" he asked. "I want to pick some flowers for Tess."
"Well, that's very thoughtful of you," she replied. She began rummaging through the cupboards until she pulled out a small vase.
"Be sure not to break it, son," she said. She shooed him out the door. "Now, don't come back until after supper. Your father and I need to talk."
As Mattimeo ran back to the gardens, he wondered why his parents would need all afternoon to talk.
"I guess I'll find out soon enough," he thought.
Hs stopped by the pond to fill the vase with water, and a few minutes later, he was heading back up the stairs to the infirmary with a vase of lilies.
"Sister May?" he said, as he stood at the door.
The healer opened the door and exclaimed, "Oh, what pretty flowers! Are they for Tess?"
Mattimeo blushed a little and nodded. Sister May chuckled and took the vase.
"Don't worry, youngun, I'll make sure these are where she can see them when she wakes up. Now, scurry along. Constance has been looking for you."
"Am I in trouble?" he wondered as he went down the stairs. "I can't recall doing anything recently."
He arrived in Cavern Hole to find Constance talking with the abbot.
"You wanted me Constance?" he asked.
"Yes, Mattimeo," said the badger, "we have a new guest in our abbey. I want you to come with me as I show him around, and afterwards, I want you to acquaint with your friends. He's a mouse about your age named Vitch."
"Vitch," Mattimeo murmured. Something about the name did not settle with him.
* * *
"Matty?" asked Tess as they lay awake, gazing up at the stars. "What are you thinking about?"
Mattimeo sighed, "About how much I miss home."
The wind rustled the trees as she crawled closer to him, careful not to jangle her chain too much.
"I never thought I'd say this," he continued, "but right now, I wish I was in the kitchen cleaning dishes with old Constance breathing down my neck."
Tess giggled before her expression changed. "Do…do you ever think we'll see home again?" she asked as she lay next to him.
Mattimeo sighed as he rolled over to look at her.
"Yes, I do," he took her paw to reassure her. "I promise we'll all get home. Every last one of us. If I don't get us out of here, my and Auma's and Jube's fathers will come and save us." He rolled back onto his back. "I promise. Now get some sleep, Tess."
He jumped a little as he felt her snuggle up next to him.
"G'night Matty," she said.
He briefly considered moving away from her, but the thought passed. He put an arm around her shoulder and stared up at the stars.
* * *
"Matty, where are you?" said a voice in the dark.
"Over here, Tess," Mattimeo moved towards her voice.
"Here, take my paw." He felt her hand brush his arm, and he quickly grasped it.
He sat down, holding her paw, glad to have some way of knowing she was safe. He then thought of the others.
"Let's all hold paws," he said.
He heard the others moving towards him, and soon felt a paw in his own.
"What's going to happen to us?" sniffled Cynthia.
"I don't know, Cynthia," said Mattimeo. He gave Tess' paw a light squeeze as he continued, "but I know our families will be coming for us. Just wait. They'll be here."
* * *
As the Guosim and the freed Redwallers rushed into battle, Mattimeo's eyes fell on Tess. She had a fire in her eyes as she rushed at the rats. He had never seen her like this before. He chuckled. He kind of liked it.
Another battle cry halted him in his tracks. He turned to look at the steps that led from below. At the head of a massive force of freed slaves was his father.
"Father!" he cried, fighting his way towards him.
"Mattimeo!" Matthias cried in return, he too fighting towards his son.
* * *
"Home at last!" exclaimed Mattimeo as the abbey came into view down the path.
"Come on, chaps," said Basil, "first one to the Abbey gets first pick at dinner, wot!"
With that, the crowd of travelers broke into a run, a cloud of dust rising behind them. Tess was running alongside Mattimeo, laughing at the sight of the hare. Cracking a sly grin, he grabbed her paw.
"Come on," he said, "let's beat the old feed bag at his own game."
Laughing even more, the two took off from the rest of the crowd, joined by Matthias and the other Redwallers, rushing towards the abbey. As they arrived, the gates flew open. Cheers and shouts of joy filled the air as the rescuers and the rescued came through the gates.
"Mattimeo!" The mouse turned just in time to be smothered by his mother's embrace.
"Tess! Tim!" The Churchmice rushed to hold their children.
As Cornflower moved to her husband, Mattimeo looked back at Tess and thought, "I promised her we'd come home. Now we have."
* * *
"Why did Sister May have to send us to forage for herbs?" asked Tim.
"Because she knows we can take care of ourselves and find our way back," replied Tess.
"Yeah, we did help bring down an evil empire," said Mattimeo, a wry smile on his face. "I think we can handle finding a few herbs."
"Regardless, we should probably split up," said Sam. "We can cover more ground that way."
"Er, let's go in groups of two," said Mattimeo, "just so if someone gets hurt, someone else can go for help."
"I'll go with you, Matty," said Tess.
"And I'll go with Sam," said Tim.
"Um, okay," said Mattimeo. "Let's meet back at the Abbey for supper. We don't want our parents to get too worried."
As the four friends slipped out the east wall gate, the midmorning sun passed behind a cloud. Mattimeo looked up and watched it pass.
"I can't believe it's been so long," he murmured.
"So long since what, Matty?" asked Tess.
"It's been a full four seasons since Slagar took us," he said. "It seems so long ago."
"It does, doesn't it?"
"I wonder if we'll ever have another adventure like that."
"I certainly hope not," laughed Tess. "One season of enslavement is enough for me."
"I guess you're right," Mattimeo replied. "And while I'd never wish that on anybeast, I wouldn't trade that summer for anything."
"It changed me. Because of that summer, I came to realize a few things about being a woodlander, a son, and a warrior, and even how I…" His voice trailed off.
"And you what?"
"Nothing," he said quietly.
As the pair drew deeper into the woods, Mattimeo found himself glancing at the mousemaid every few minutes. In the seasons since their adventure, she had grown and matured, now looking like a younger (and thinner) version of her mother.
"She really is beautiful," he thought as he bent to pick a clump of sage. "I wonder if I should –"
A shrill scream, followed by a sharp splash, cut off his thoughts.
Mattimeo ran towards where he had heard the sound. He pushed through a clump of bushes and almost fell over a ledge that looked over a river. He threw his arms out to steady himself, before he noticed Tess floating down the river.
"Tess!" he cried, diving in after her.
The current quickly caught him, and he was swept along. Pulling with long strokes, he began to catch up with her.
"Matty! Help!" she called.
"Take my paw!" he cried.
She reached out towards him. He had just grabbed her paw, when with a shriek, she jerked underwater.
"No!" he cried.
Diving under the water, his eyes grew wide when he saw what had grabbed her, a pike. Pulling out his dagger, he lunged at the fish. Plunging the blade into its side, the beast let go of Tess who broke for the surface. Knowing she could make it back to shore, he made another slash at the pike. The fish avoided his blade and swam around for another pass at him. Readying himself, he met the pike head on, thrusting his blade through its side.
With that, the fish took off, swimming away as fast as it could. Mattimeo lunged for the surface and gasped as he broke the surface.
He turned and saw Tess running along the bank. He swam for the shore and grasped her paw as she pulled him up.
"Oh Matty! I was so worried about – mmph!"
Tess' sentence was cut off as Mattimeo kissed her. When he backed off, he could see confusion in her eyes.
"Wha…what was that –"
"Tess," he said, taking her paws, "when I saw that pike grab you, only one thing was going through my mind. And that was that I never got a chance to tell you I love you. I love you, Tess, more than anything in the world."
Her look of confusion disappeared and was replaced by one of happiness. She stared back at him with joy in her eyes.
"I love you, too, Matty," she said.
* * *
"Matty, where on earth are you taking me?"
Mattimeo laughed from behind her. The mousemaid was blindfolded, and he was behind her, hands on her shoulders, guiding her to their destination.
"Just wait and see, Tess," said the young warrior. "It's not much further."
The pair was walking through Mossflower, not far from the Abbey. The springtime air was heavy with the scents of flower and fresh rain.
"We're here, Tess," said Mattimeo. "Just sit down for a moment."
Tess complied, and when she sat down, she felt cloth beneath her.
"What…" she wondered, but when Mattimeo removed her blindfold, she gasped and understood. In a small clearing, surrounded by flowers of all kinds, was a picnic lunch.
"Oh Matty, this is beautiful," she said.
"Not nearly as beautiful as you," he replied, causing her to blush.
For much of the afternoon, the pair of them sat in the clearing, eating and enjoying the sights and sounds of spring.
As the sun began to dip below the trees, the young warrior turned to Tess.
"Tess, there's something I want to ask you." he said.
"What's that, Matty?" she asked.
"Tess, we've known each other since we were Dibbuns, and we've always been close. But this last season has changed how I see you, and now, I find myself unable to imagine a future without you. Tess, I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you."
He moved next to her and took her paw. He reached into his pocket with his other paw and pulled something out.
"Will you marry me?"
She gasped as she saw the ring in his hand.
"Yes!" she cried as she flung her arms around his neck.
The force knocked him over, and she landed on top of him. She kissed him before softly breathing, "Of course, I will."
* * *
Mattimeo had never been so nervous in his life, or so happy. As he stood in the gatehouse, adjusting his tunic, his father came beside him.
"I'm very proud of you, son," Matthias said.
"Thanks, Dad," replied Mattimeo.
The groom-to-be could only nod.
Matthias laughed aloud. "Don't worry, you'll do fine."
He placed a hand on his son's shoulder and looked him in the eye, by means of the mirror. "This is a day you'll treasure forever. Marriage is no easy ride, but whenever you feel like giving up, just remember how you feel today, and you'll realize that it's all worth it."
Mattimeo turned and hugged his father.
"Thanks Dad," he said.
"Now hurry on out there, or you'll miss your own wedding."
Smoothing his tunic one final time, Mattimeo made his way to the stage that had been set up in the Abbey orchard. Abbot Alf stood on the stage with the rest of the Abbey beasts gathered around.
"What ho, youngun!" came a call from behind him.
Mattimeo turned to see Basil approaching.
"Bloomin' beautiful day for a wedding, wot?" he said. "Good luck up there, m'lad."
Moments later, the young mouse was on the stage, waiting for the ceremony to begin. So anxious was he that Mattimeo failed to notice that the music had started. Only when the abbot tapped him on the shoulder did he look up.
His jaw dropped at the sight before him. Dressed in a pale white gown, Tess approached on the arm of her father. In her hand, she carried a bouquet of lilies, and though her dress was simple in design, she had never seemed lovelier to him.
As he took her paw and walked her up the stairs, he whispered, "You look beautiful."
"Thank you," she replied, smiling back at him.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…"
The abbot's voice faded into the background as Mattimeo gazed at his bride-to-be. He went through the ceremony simply by rote, not truly hearing what was said.
Only did he snap out of his reverie when the abbot said, "You may kiss the bride."
Mattimeo wrapped his arms around his bride and kissed her beneath the sun and sky, and before his family and friends. Never in his life had he been so happy. Here was Tess, more beautiful than he had ever seen her before, and she was here in his arms. He was hers, and she was his.
As he released her and looked out into the crowd, he saw their parents. Both their mothers were weeping, and John Churchmouse was trying not to. Matthias watched with a look of great pride on his face, and the rest of the Abbey folk cheered as they walked down the aisle, paw in paw.
* * *
The world was dark once more, as the memories faded yet again. Slowly, Mattimeo became aware of a warm sensation on his cheek. As sleep lost its hold on him and the early morning sun crept over him, Mattimeo opened his eyes to find Tess kissing his cheek.
He stirred, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her close to him. No words were needed as they bathed in each others' presence and the warmth of the morning sun. They lay like this until a knock came at the door.
"Mattimeo? Tess?" came a voice.
The door opened a crack, and Tim could be heard saying, "Hope I'm not disturbing anything, but breakfast is being served."
The door shut, and the messenger could be heard padding away.
Tess sighed, "Don't you wish we could just stay like this forever?"
Mattimeo stroked her headfur and kissed her on the forehead. "I do," he sighed, "but life goes on, I guess."
With one last kiss, he rolled out of bed and reached for a clean tunic. Tess got up on the other side and got herself dressed. As she stood in front of the mirror, Mattimeo came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.
"You know, Matty," said Tess, "even though our moments together can't last forever, we'll always have our memories. Sometimes, that's all I need to remember I love you."
"Me too, Tess," Mattimeo chuckled, "me too."
A few weeks ago, I finished watching the Redwall TV series for the first time since I was a kid. Shortly afterwards, I was browsing the Redwall stories and realised there was a distinct lack of Mattimeo/Tess fics. And so, I wrote this with the Mattimeo season fresh on my mind. Hope you liked it.