Title: A Sprig of Baby's Breath
Author's note: freelance charity, for Improvision. She asked for Lowen/Rebecca without a focus on cooking. There's still cooking, er, but it's not completely about it? Thanks to Joss for the betaing.
The panic began with one little sentence. Rebecca had been a bit under the weather those days. Lowen had been terribly worried about her. He'd been feeding her extra because you were supposed to feed a cold, and she didn't seem to have a fever. Lowen was known for feeding fevers anyways. In fact, he'd been barely able to keep track of his practice when it came to it. He dared not throw javelins, lest he accidentally go awry. Even his sword practice against the straw dummies was listless and distracted. Had he actually gone head-to-head with one of the knight of the realm, he would have surely been knocked off of his horse.
She had been visiting the apothecary, as the local priest Mahoon had recommended her another healer, a greenwitch who lived just outside of the border of the castle.
A thousand possible ailments came to him. Could she be cursed with some incurable disease? Something that not even the staves and prayers of a priest could cure, so that he would send her to someone else who would give her poppies to make her passing easier?
His father and grandfather had gone like that. Not on the battlefield, their lives given for the Lord they were in service to, but with a sickness which had swept over the land. It had taken his grandfather, and while his father had survived the first onset, his health was gone, and he spent the rest of his days fragile, and nigh bedridden.
The mere thought that he could lose her made his heart clench in his chest. He had been so happy that someone like him–the clumsy but loyal chef–could find someone as beautiful, strong and bright as her. He wasn't like Kent and his good looks, his unwavering attention to duty. Kent was exactly what a knight should be. Lowen was a kitchen boy from a poor village who bumbled his way into being an attendant knight. He was coarse and lacked noble blood. But he tried.
But in time, she did return. Lowen saw her at a distance, and urged his mount onwards until he had reached her.
"R-Rebecca! You've returned." He dismounted and immediately pulled her close.
"You're crushing me!" She said with a laugh.
"Sorry," he said. He reluctantly let her go.
"I've got news," Rebecca said.
She smiled, hopeful and still feeling a little unbelieving.
"I'm going to have a baby," she said.
"Yes, a baby," she said.
Lowen promptly fainted.
When he woke, he was in the infirmary. The old, balding priest Mahoon stood over him. There was a wet cloth on his forehead.
"I see you're back with the living," Mahoon said.
Lowen just groaned. His head pounded like he'd had too much to drink–which technically had only happened once, when Sain had said that he needed to enjoy the best things in life before he was wed. Before then, he had used wine for cooking, but had never used much in excess, for he had always considered heavy drinking to be hardly becoming for a cavalier.
But Sain had been so persuasive, he had given in. He'd regretted in the morning, however.
The priest removed the cloth and felt Lowen's forehead.
"It's a good thing you fell in the grass and not on the castle stones. I'm not sure I could have patched you up as well, even with magic," Mahoon said casually. He smiled.
Lowen got up in a quick movement, but he regretted it when he instantly felt a sense of wooziness rush over him.
"Careful, now," the priest said.
Lowen nodded, and unsteadily pushed himself up from the cot. "I'll be going now. The kitchen needs me. Things to do...cook."
"You should probably rest your head," The priest called out to him, but Lowen had already made his way to the door.
"I don't have time! A knight has to be ready for anything!" he called back.
Rebecca was nowhere to be found. Lowen wasn't sure if she was angry at him, but he certainly didn't blame her. When he was stressed, he cooked. It was soothing to watch the pots boil, to see the rolls slowly rise from the blobs of dough, and smell the delicious aroma of whatever was cooking. However, he was so nervous he couldn't have a clear enough mind to even make the simplest recipe. He wasted an entire two cups of flour, a sliver of butter and some milk in the process of trying to make something. It turned into a lumpy mess, and Lowen's attempt at stirring it to make amends and make something edible out of it only turned it into a thick, glue-like substance.
He was going to be a father.
He'd fought against Brigands, survived the Dread Isle, and supported his lord Eliwood all the way to his last battle against Nergal, and eventually, the dragons he unleashed.
He had gained knighthood and was no longer the page he had begun the journey as. But that was nothing compared to the thought of being a father.
Lowen never had any younger siblings he cared for. He had no experience in this matter, and to fail at something as grand as being a father–well, that was a far cry from simply being a mediocre, kitchen-boy-turned-knight who did not quite live up to the fairy tales.
Rebecca was the only one who truly believed in him. And now he wondered if she saw him for just the farce he was.
Lowen didn't see her again until it was quite past twilight. His worries had only grown. Had she decided he wasn't a good father after all, and gone to her childhood friend instead? Marriages could be broken, annulled. All this had put him into a state of near panic all through the day. It was hard to breathe when all the anxiety got bundled up in him. Sometimes he had to bend over with his hands on his knees and take long breaths. When he'd rise up, he'd swear to himself he'd do twice as many spear thrusts until he could work away the weakness.
That was exactly what he was doing when she came into view. Lowen rose, and tried to put his breathing back to rights. It wouldn't do to have him looking like he'd been winded form such a long run–let alone the thought that he was out here, barely keeping himself together.
"I'm sorry about earlier," Lowen said. He pushed his bangs from out of his face.
"I was expecting a better result than you fainting," she said. Lowen hung his head.
"I went to the greenwitch to get you some herbs," she said. She held out a bundle. "They make a bitter tea, but she says they will help with your anxiety."
"Thank you," he said. He took the herbs in his hands. It had been dried for some time, and it had a faint aroma which reminded him of sage.
"Rebecca, I—I'm no good at this sort of thing," Lowen mumbled. His bangs fell back into his face. He'd been hiding behind them as a veil, a barrier between him and everyone else who said he was stupid and clumsy and only good for occasional cooking. Lord Elbert had been kind, and seen talents in him no one else save Rebecca had. Lord Eliwood was patient with him. But still, Lowen felt like an overgrown boy in a man's body at times. Even now, he was still the shy and clumsy kitchen boy underneath his armor. She leaned up and pushed his bangs aside.
"No one is. But you're kind, and gentle. You have a determination that makes you never give up," Rebecca said.
He rested his head against her shoulder. Fighting and cooking were one thing, but children?
"I remember it just as if it was today: you riding up on a white stallion..."
"–It was a sorrel mare," Lowen said.
"You took on a hundred men alone, all for me," she said, going on as if he had not interrupted.
"But Lord Eliwood and a small force was there as well–"
"It was a white stallion, and you fought them off yourself" she said with irritation. "You were the hero I always dreamed of."
It was true he had taken on several before the town itself, with Rebecca shooting arrows from behind his defense. He'd taken some hard blows for her, and she had gently applied vulneraries between the waves of brigands. However, Lord Eliwood and the rest of his men had come too. Lowen was always uncomfortable in taking the full responsibility in such matters. Yes, he had fought some men, but it was Lord Eliwood who had taken him along, and Lord Elbert who let him have his chance at all. Even if he had beaten every man there, he would never be the sole reason for winning the battle.
But he had learned that, at times, it was best just to simply agree with his wife. Being right wasn't half as important if it made her angry at him for most of the day. Lowen hated contention between the camps, but he hated it most of all between himself and Rebecca. He'd lose entire days to nervousness and sadness when she was irritated at him. Then his cooking and training would suffer, and even when he tried to push his full determination to serving Lord Eliwood, he found his inner fire snuffed out and gone to a bundled of frayed nerves.
"My memory must have failed me," Lowen said, as an amendment to his earlier statement.
"You do forget some things," she agreed. "But what was best was that I got to fight with you. I don't think I could've simply stayed there and waited until you returned. I don't know how princesses manage it."
"I'm nervous too. But I think we can do this. I believe in you," Rebecca said. She stroked his hair in that loving way. She even liked his mop of unruly hair. The children in his village had thought it the color of the swampskunk plant and called him such. For most of his life, that's who'd he'd been. Swampskunk, the stupid kitchen boy. Stooped shoulders, muttered words.
But no longer. When someone believed in him, Lowen could lift up from his slouch, and put all his effort into his work. He had made sure that Lord Eliwood never went hungry when they were in camp, and he had survived many things. He could learn. He swore on the day that the knight had saved his poverty-stricken village that he would one day become that strong.
He had overcome many things. He had survived his grandfather's death, his father's death. He had become a page despite all odds.
He rose from where he had rested against her and clenched his hand to a balled fist in a sign of determination.
"I'm sorry for faltering...I'll try," Lowen said. "I'll drink lots and lots of tea!"
"The greenwitch is a midwife as well," Rebecca said casually. "I'll be visiting her a lot in the next months. She wants me to eat a special set of herbs to ensure the baby is strong, and keep it from being cursed."
"I'll escort you there every time!" Lowen said. For the first time, he sounded more confident–even if to his ears, it sounded like bravado.
She leaned up and kissed him, which cut short whatever other words he had to say, and blanked his mind.
"I'll...I'll–have I said how much I love you?" He said.
"Only yesterday when you gave me breakfast in bed, but this was the first for today," she said.
"I'll wake up extra early and make you extra special breakfast and I'll...read books. I'm sure books have some clue on how to raise children!" Lowen said.
She smiled. "I'm sure you will."