A/N: Ok Ages ago I had an Idea for a Lioness fic. I started the Prologue then the idea kind of died as I got into Inception. the Prologue was finished and I really liked it so I'm publishing it now as a one shot. Might expand on it one day, If I'm ever re-inspired. Next chapter of Inertia should be up by Friday. Don't mind the Paramore Lyric title. I thought it fit
You Can't Be to Careful Anymore
Sir Raoul of Goldenlake sighed as he and his friend Sir Garth of Naxen sat eating their morning meal. They were seated in the dining hall that the young knights and squires ate their meals in, the two of them were the only ones sitting at their small table near the front of the room. Most of the young knights knew that Prince Jonathan and his friends sat there and wisely avoided it.
"If you hadn't sent Douglass out on that errand last night it wouldn't be so lonely," Gary pointed out.
"It was urgent," Raoul said. In response, Gary just raised his eyebrows.
"Alright," Raoul conceded, "maybe it wasn't. But he's only one person."
"Sacherell had an early practice lesson for smarting off to father," Gary added with a shrug.
"What about Alan and Jon – where are they?" Raoul asked, waving his fork around, to which Gary ducked in mock fright, cowering out of the way of the oh-so-dangerous kitchen utensil. Raoul shoved his friend playfully. The thought crossed his mind that Alan and Jon had been acting strange for almost a week now, and when Gary had recovered from his apparent near miss at the hands of Raoul's cutlery, his response echoed Raoul's thoughts.
"Who knows these days?"
"I wonder why," Raoul speculated curiously. "They've been so awkward."
"They won't look at each other," Gary agreed. "I wonder what happened."
"Maybe they just had an argument?" Raoul suggested, "It's pretty common with Alan's temper." The words sounded weak in his head and came out even thinner once spoken.
"I don't think so," Gary shook his head. "Usually they're over their arguments in a day or two. Maybe Alan said something out of line that royally annoyed Jon."
"Like what?" Raoul snorted. "Nothing that squire can say could annoy Jon for more than a week. It's an… interesting relationship."
"Jon offended Alan?" Gary offered half-heartedly. He knew, however, that it would take something far more than a simple argument or errant insult to disrupt a friendship like that of the Prince and his faithful squire.
"More likely," Raoul agreed, "but somehow I don't think so. Alan gets mad quickly, and over it quickly."
Gary sighed. "This is most curious."
"Maybe Alan had the misfortune of walking in on one of Jon's more… intimate encounters," Raoul suggested carefully.
Gary couldn't help but let out a muted giggle at his friends phrasing and the awkward manner in which he spoke. Raoul's glare turned into a smirk at his friend's girlish response and it was now Gary's turn to glare.
"He would have to be deaf to do that." Gary snorted.
"And you would know," Raoul laughed, thinking back to the incident when the other knight happened to walk in on Jon and Lady Delia. Gary had been sulky and rude to Jon for a week afterwards
"Even if Alan did walk in on that, no matter how stupid he would have to be," Gary continued pretending not to hear his large friend, "I think he would've gotten over it by now. He wouldn't even have a right to be annoyed."
"What if they were fighting over a woman?" Raoul asked.
"With Alan, that's the most unlikely option of the lot," Gary snorted, rolling his eyes as a grin formed on his face.
"I have no more ideas then," Raoul sighed. "But I will solve this mystery," he uttered, nodding righteously. This sent Gary into peels of laughter, his fist slamming down on the table in the process. A few of the other knights in the hall looked over at the two of them and Raoul simply mouthed 'he's mad' with a shrug.
Sleepily, Alanna rubbed at her eyes as she walked into the dining hall. The sounds and smells of breakfast in full swing assaulted her, and she glanced around at the numerous palace inhabitants already seated, only to spot two large knights laughing and talking, sitting at her usual table - Gary and Raoul. As she approached however, she caught the last strains of their conversation. Alanna quirked an eyebrow as she heard Raoul declare that he would solve "this mystery".
"What mystery?" Alanna mumbled, sliding into the seat opposite Gary and next to Raoul.
"About time someone was up," Gary said cheerfully.
"You're a bit late, even for someone who doesn't like mornings," Raoul added teasingly.
"Late night," Alanna said with a sigh, her head falling into her hands. Technically it wasn't a lie; she was just omitting certain things.
"With a woman?" Raoul said suggestively, nudging the squire jokingly. Alanna looked at him for a few seconds, before she let her head fall back into her hands, blocking out some of the dastardly morning light. He's close, she thought, oh so very close.
"Bugger off," was her muffled reply.
"You alright, Alan?" Gary asked kindly, trying to peer at her through her arms, "you've been a bit off the past week."
"Since your birthday, in fact," Raoul supplied. Alanna began to panic; had her behaviour really been noticeably off since that night? She knew the dynamic in her relationship with Jon had changed, but had it been that obvious to her friends?
"He's disappointed he didn't get a little extra something with his present," Gary joked, knowing full well that had nothing to do with it. He grinned, and turned to Raoul, "I told you it was necessary."
"Don't blame me; it was Jon that said it was overkill," Raoul protested with a grin. Alanna couldn't help but twitch instinctively at her knight masters name but she internally berated herself, hoping neither of the men had noticed.
It was then that the small black cat padded into the room, its violet eyes glittering. He jumped, first up onto the bench, then gracefully onto the table next to Alanna's head, where he purred and eyed her curiously. Lover boy is on his way down.
"Don't call him that," Alanna groaned quietly, glad that for the moment the roar of the dining hall drowned out her one-sided conversation.
Faithful's tail twitched. You know they can't hear me.
"Still, it's weird." She sighed, sitting up and stretching out stiff muscles. "Why tell me this?"
To avoid any instinctive reaction, if cats could sound smug that was exactly how Faithful sounded right now.
"Stupid cat," Alanna mumbled, gently hitting him in the side. Faithful just scoffed.
It was at this moment that Prince Jonathon decided to join his friends.
"About time Jon," Raoul laughed, "you and Alan are up and about before us usually."
Alanna's head whipped towards the door at the mention of Jon's name. She caught his eyes sparkling with amusement – whether at her reaction or something else entirely she couldn't tell – and gulped, quickly looking away.
"I'm sure I was this morning," the Prince shrugged after Alanna broke eye contact. "I had to see my father about something." Alanna was slightly jealous of how smoothly and convincingly the prince had lied, and how awake he seemed.
The table was silent for a couple of minutes as Jon ate, Alanna tried vainly to sleep, and Raoul and Gary watched the two curiously, casting glances between the two. Alanna and Jon were both making considerable efforts to avoid looking at each other – it was most unusual.
"Do you know what's wrong with Alan, Jon?" Raoul faux whispered after a few minutes.
"No," the prince stated, shaking his head. "What exactly is wrong with Alan?" he asked, feigning innocence, trying not to show the trickle of nervousness he was feeling. He was relatively sure he was a good liar, but with his friends he could never be completely sure.
"He's sleeping in his meal," Gary pointed out dryly. "He hasn't done that since his first few weeks as a page."
"Don't have the foggiest," Jon shrugged. "Ask him, maybe?"
A cowardly thing to do, Alanna thought, to make her come up with an answer. It was his fault, anyway.
"We did, all he would give us is he was tired," Raoul said. From the sound of it Jon was choosing his words carefully. He's being cautious so he doesn't slip up she realised, hopefully we both get better at this subtlety soon.
"Alan can hear you, you know."
Alanna raised her head from her arms, giving up on catching up on any rest and merely hoping the speculation did not go any further. They'll never guess, she reassured herself. Faithful purred and washed a paw, and Alanna got the distinct impression the cat was laughing at her.
Raoul elbowed the squire, "Good, then you can answer our question."
"Nothing is wrong with Alan," she said, "he just didn't sleep much."
"Was it a lady?" Gary waggled his eyebrows. To his surprise instead of looking at each other or chuckling as Jon and Alanna usually did, Alanna flushed bright red and Jon's eyes returned to his hands.
"So it was?" Raoul also picked up on another strange moment between the friends.
"No," Alanna said loudly and at the same time Jon scoffed. The two looked straight at each other. Alanna flinched slightly; Jon noticed and winked charmingly causing Alanna's blush to deepen. The two quickly remembered their situation and averted eyes suddenly. Alanna eyed the floor and Jon returned to his meal.
"If you're not going to eat anything, Alan," Jon suggested a couple of minutes later, distracting the attention of the other two knights away from her (something over which Alanna was barely able to suppress a grateful sigh), "then could you go into the city and collect some … items for me?"
"Alright," Alanna stood up, glad to be leaving the awkward atmosphere,
"It shouldn't take you more than a couple of hours," Jon continued, glancing up at his squire. Alanna nodded, giving him a brief smile. "If you go now, that is," he added.
She bowed mockingly, only the mischievous glint in her eyes showing her amusement.
"As you wish Sir."
Ignoring Raoul and Gary's hearty chuckles, she found herself rushing from the hall a little bit faster than was strictly necessary.
As Alanna made her hasty exit, three pairs of eyes followed her. Jon caught himself starring wistfully at her retreating form and quickly glanced at his companions to see if they'd noticed. Instead the two were looking after her in a puzzled fashion. Jon looked back at his plate and didn't notice his two companions send each other questioning looks before shaking their heads and returning to her meal.
"What's gotten into you?" Raoul asked when Alanna was out of earshot, "you've been acting quite odd lately."
Jon continued to eat, projecting a calm façade. It was something he had managed to master over the years, even though fooling inquisitive knight adults probably was not its proper diplomatic use.
"What's happening with Alan, Jon?" Gary asked quietly, ignoring Raoul's lack of tact.
"I really don't have a clue," Jon sighed; looking his two friends firm in the eye with what he hoped was a steady gaze. "Should I?"
"He's your squire," Gary pointed out raising his eyebrows and giving his cousin an accusatory stare. The effect was ruined however, by his obvious attempt not to show another a smile.
"Did you know that Sachrell was with Lady Dianne last night?" Jon asked, deflecting the question with the ease of practise as he absentmindedly tapped his fork on the table.
"No, he wasn't," Gary started, and then faltered, eyes going a little wide. "Was he?"
"He was," Jon confirmed as he absentmindedly started to spin the fork between his fingers, "as he has been recently."
"It's true," Raoul nodded hiding his smirk. Gary could be so oblivious sometimes.
"No… how did I not notice?" Gary asked, his eyebrows drawn in confusion. Raoul and Jon started to snicker at their friend's expense. Jon composed himself quickly, however Raoul's large form continued to shake slightly in mirth.
"Too busy pining after Delia?" Jon teased as he stood up to leave. When the two knights looked at him inquisitively, he offered, "I need to talk to uncle," as his only explanation before exiting the room.
Need to talk to uncle, he inwardly cursed as he walked away, that was the best excuse you could come up with idiot. He unconsciously clenched his fists as he strode away. They're going to know you're hiding something now. To the outside observer this was the only sign of the inner turmoil the prince was facing as he exited the dining hall.
Raoul and Gary stared after him for a few seconds before Raoul turned to his friend and spoke, fake outrage evident in his voice, "he didn't answer my question."
"Well we both know Jon is an expert at evading questions he has no desire to answer," Gary sighed again, drumming his fingers on the rim of his plate. "We'll have to try again later."
"Get to the bottom of the mystery," Raoul agreed as the two of them left the dining hall.
"This is going to take a while, isn't it?" Gary sighed, rubbing his forehead.
"Yes, of course," Raoul agreed, "but that's why it's fun," he added with a dramatic arm motion. Gary ducked out of the way of his friend's wayward limb with a grin.
"But maybe we need a plan," Raoul conceded.
"Probably," Gary agreed.
"Hey," he said something catching his eye in the corridor; it was a soft white glove with the letters D.E. embroidered in green thread. "Is that one of Lady Delia's riding gloves?" He inched sideways so that he was now closer than his friend.
"Probably not," Raoul shrugged, walking towards it, "but I think I should take it just in case."
"No," Gary said, shoving Raoul out of his path, "I should take it." The mystery of Alan and Jon was quickly forgotten as the two knights fought over the glove.
The black cat padding along behind them didn't forget however, and he would have to tell his mistress to be subtler in her foolish love affair with the prince. Of course, this was his mistress after all and what would she know about subtlety?