A/N- Warning- this story does not have an ending in the traditional sense. I thought of this drabbley scene a few years ago, finally wrote it down, and decided to share it since the K and R fandom is so tiny here! Even though it doesn't have an ending. :/ I think you'll enjoy it anyway! Please tell me what you think of my work, you few other K and R fans! We must stick together and support each other! ;)
This contains no spoilers beyond the first book, though the story takes place after the events of "Rogue's Home" and "Player's Ruse."
I kept Fisk's medicine safely in my pocket, not trusting to put it in my saddlebag. 'Twould probably have been as secure in this place as the first, but I'd take no chances, so much it had cost me and so great was the risk should the glass vial break.
Both moons were largely hidden behind the clouds on my ride back to the cabin, but what light they did emit bounced off the snow that covered the untrodden ground, marking the pathway sufficiently. Even when I turned off the road to make for the cabin, 'twas easy enough to see my way, though Chanticleer could have guided us by scent alone.
I opened the door of the small barn where Tipple whinnied greeting to us, and let him in. He was eager enough to get out of the cold wind, even though I'd not take time to unsaddle him yet. I had to get that medicine to Fisk.
I moved quickly through the front door, not wanting to let in any more cold air than necessary.
The worst part of Fisk's illness was that it made him so cold. Fortunately, we've a fireplace in the bedroom, but last night, as his condition grew worse, extra blankets and a blazing fire that caused me to sweat could do only little for my friend. Eventually I'd laid down close beside him until my warmth relaxed him enough that he could sleep though his limbs still shivered from time to time.
With any luck, he wouldn't need the extra help to find rest tonight. The medicine was magica, and should do its work swiftly.
'Twas not as warm inside as it ought to have been. I hoped that the fire hadn't gone out, though Fisk was hardly fit to tend to it, and I'd been absent for some hours.
I pulled the vial out of my pocket, hurrying into the second and only other room in the cabin, where I found Fisk looking even paler than he had before I left. He still had the strength to acknowledge me, though, in spite of his pallor, and he wasted no time making his consciousness known.
"Know you didn't borrow or steal it," he murmured, noticing the vial.
He'd had that quip ready; must have known what I was doing.
Well. Not exactly. Even I didn't know quite what I was doing when I first reached Seven Oaks- or how far I was willing to go.
"No, Fisk," I said gently to my friend, crouching down on the floor beside his bed. "'Twasn't begged, borrowed, or stolen."
I worked the cork out of the bottle very carefully, and moved to help him sit up. Fisk was frowning at me, indifferent to how he was adjusted, and little help in moving himself though he'd grown so light over the past week of illness that his help would have been unnecessary.
I held the vial up to his mouth. When he raised a hand to push it away, I pulled it back quickly, using my other hand to shelter it- though of course 'twas not Fisk's aim to make it spill.
"How did you get it?" he asked in that raspy voice that was all he'd used for days. 'Twas the same, only weaker every time he spoke. I hated seeing him like this, and 'twas only a matter of time…
"Fisk, just take it," I pleaded. "Now. Please. It doesn't matter where it came from."
Fisk managed to smile, if only in a wry manner. "That's not what I asked."
"But that doesn't matter either," I protested. "Fisk, I don't want you to die. Please drink this."
Had pleas not worked, I'd have begun threats to hold his nose and pour it down his throat, but my squire recognized my desperation and knew better than to combat with it in his state. He's no fool, either, and the safety of his skin means quite a lot to him. He took the vial from me to drink its contents, though I kept two fingers pinching it at the base in case his unsteady grasp should waver.
Fisk drank it all in two quick gulps, handing me the empty vial with a shudder. "Tastes like rum," he remarked, and while he'd never cared for this form of alcohol, he wasn't completely disgusted by the medicine.
I couldn't help smiling to myself in joy of my success. Knowing that he would think me crazy- especially once I'd told him what had happened this evening- I crouched down before the dying fire to hide my relief.
"Michael," Fisk said. His voice was serious, and out of instinct I looked at him, hoping my smile had vanished before I turned.
He frowned at whatever expression was on my face, searching me so intently, 'twas as if he would read my thoughts. His attention and focus made clear that the medicine was already doing its work- a thing he was more than aware of.
"That was magica, wasn't it?" he asked.
I understood why he sounded worried- 'twasn't as if we could afford something so costly- but I feared that he felt more annoyance toward me than gratitude. When I nodded reluctantly, he heaved a sigh.
"Did you sell the horses?"
'Twas something of a reasonable question, but I showed him a faint, patronizing grin. "With Chant's leg and little Tipple's appearance? 'Twouldn't buy magica, Fisk."
"The cabin?" Fisk pressed- determined to ward off sleep until he'd discovered the price I'd paid. And I knew how badly he wanted to sleep.
It was difficult to come out and admit the price when Fisk knew how much I wanted any other kind of life. "No," I answered, only serving to delay telling him the truth.
"Then you must have sold us both as slaves to work in some foreign gold mine, because nothing else could-…"
My squire has always had the ability to know what I don't tell him, and the look on his face now said that he knew where I'd been this night.
"Michael, did you make a deal with your father?"
He may as well have phrased it 'a deal with the devil,' and while he hadn't yet likened my father to a demon, 'twas about how strongly he felt.
'Twas about how I felt as well, tonight. With a nod, I said "Yes" more quietly than I'd meant to.
"What did you bargain?" Fisk seemed to presume that I'd gotten the short end of the deal (didn't he always?), but something in his face was so uncharacteristically concerned that for the first time in all the long, trying days that he'd been ill, I gave up being the stronger of us. A tear escaped my eye, and I let it fall.Fisk
Michael's voice broke when he tried to answer, and he turned to place more wood on the recovering fire though I'd already noticed he was crying. If he couldn't tell me what bargain he'd made at Seven Oaks, I'd have to guess- though I'd be willing to bet money on the suspicion I had.
"You gave in to that stewardship," I stated. He nodded, still not looking at me. Perhaps he thought he was hiding something, which couldn't be farther from the truth. I still felt cold and weak, yes, but I could read Michael in any state. And the tear rolling down his face had pretty clearly announced his emotional state.
I wanted to be angry with him- I was, somewhere deep down- but I knew that, however stupid he seemed for making a decision like this, there really had been no other way to get medicine before this illness had killed me. Probably only magica could have helped me at this point.
Maybe it was because I was too tired to maintain a proper argument, but all I could really feel toward Michael was gratitude. A mere 'thank you' wouldn't cover what I owed to him, but it was somewhere to start.
I was working up the courage when he stood and went towards the door. "Michael," I said, hoping to stop him.
"I've got to unsaddle Chanticleer," he told me over his shoulder, and went out.
I was glad that he'd gone. I could thank him just as earnestly when he returned, and I really didn't know how to console a crying Michael.
He took much longer than he should have to unsaddle a horse, but when he did return he'd composed himself fully, though his eyes and nose were red.
Had he really worried about me so much? He was upset about his new job, of course, but that wasn't what had brought him to tears. The cold might have lent itself to excuse his pinched face, but I knew better than to write it off as that entirely.
Avoiding my eyes, he headed for his bed, but I waved him over to mine and he sat down on the edge.
I stared at him. He stared at the floor. It was a most awkward situation, for neither of us seemed sure what there was to be said. Mostly it was unusual for us to be so silent when we'd something real to discuss.
"This is strange," I pointed out after a length of silence.
Michael worked up a smile and met my eyes. "At least you aren't yelling at me," he replied in his kindly voice.
I tried to smile back for him, just for a moment. But Michael knew I wasn't happy- why should I pretend that I was?
My still-shaky hand found the nook of my friend's elbow and rested in it. "Thank you, Michael," I said in what was really an apologetic tone.
He studied my face just long enough to convince himself that my feelings were honest, and then laid his own hand over mine. "You're worth it, Fisk," he answered.
A/N- …So you see what I meant about the ending- or lack thereof. I imagine that Fisk thought of some clever way to break the deal- a way that Michael won't view as dishonorable. You're all welcome to form your own endings, and hopefully post them as well! ;D