Outside the Gates
Castle Anvard

Megren comes walking up the castle road, carrying a rather heavy-looking basket over her forearm.

Lanisen is loitering around outside the gate, a little ways off the main road, away from traffic. He shades his eyes against the morning sun and begins back toward the road and Megren.

Megren squints at his figure coming down the road toward her, and then she veers his way.

Lanisen says, once he is close enough, “Hey, I think I know you from someplace.”

Megren wrinkles her nose. “Don’t think so.”

Lanisen says, “Mm. Must be mistaken.”

Megren asks, “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

Lanisen says loftily, “Takin’ the air.”

Megren squints.

Lanisen admits, “I was lookin’ for you, they said you’d gone out.”

Megren says, “Oh, sorry.” She extends the basket toward him. It is heavy with raspberries. “Peace?”

Lanisen takes the basket and loops it over his arm to carry, giving her a puzzled look. “Peace?”

Megren makes a face at him carrying it rather than eating from it. “Forgive me because I brought back berries.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He lifts his eyebrows. “Yes, how dare you go off and do somethin’ you want to do for once.”

Megren sticks out her tongue.

Lanisen grins at her, starting back toward the castle. “Where’d you go?”

Megren says, “There’s a bush not too far that da and I used to go to and if it doesn’t get picked over, then it stops producing for the year, so sometimes I go and check, if I’ve got the time.”

Lanisen says virtuously, “A service to the kingdom.”

Megren says, “Just so.”

Lanisen peers at the berries. “These look real nice. Gettin’ hard to find ’em.”

Megren screws up her face. “Don’t know where you’re looking.”

Lanisen admits, “The market.”

Megren says, “You can eat them. They ought to have another month left, I think.”

Lanisen says, “Mm, thanks.” He chooses one from the top of the basket and pops it into his mouth.

Megren pats her pocket a little self-consciously. “What’d you want me for, anyway?”

Lanisen glances at her sidelong, a little guilty, and looks back at the road in front of them. He lifts his shoulders and says, “Just checkin’ in.”

Megren says, “Out of the castle two days in a row, though?”

Lanisen says, “I go out, sometimes.”

Megren says, “Do you?”

Lanisen says defensively, “Sometimes.”

Megren hmms lightly.

Lanisen glances at her, and says before they are near enough to the gates for the guards posted to hear, “Perth says you weren’t in the mess last night.”

Megren rubs her jaw. “I just, had to think,” she confesses in a more subdued tone.

Lanisen nods silently.

Megren glances at him uncertainly.

Lanisen glances back at her, reacting. “Sorry,” he says quickly. “It’s, you don’t gotta talk about it, and if it’s, if you want more time I’ll leave you alone, I only, are you all right?”

Megren says, “I don’t know /how/ to talk about it. And also I don’t know, I don’t know how to not know how to talk about a thing.”

Lanisen’s face creases up with sympathy. He looks down as they near the gates and asks once they are through, “What can I do?”

Megren says, “You already, you already did something.”

Lanisen glances at her uncertainly.

Megren says, “I don’t know what there is to do.”

Lanisen says, “Well…” He slows and stops, looking down at the berries and glancing around the ward in some confusion. “Where are we goin’ with these?”

Megren says, “I was going to bring them to Ren to do something with.”

Lanisen nods and begins toward the inner gate. “What’ve you got today?”

Megren says, “Shield and mounted, Sir Darrin’s armor, defense, broadsword, duelling sword.”

Lanisen says, “Oh, is that all.”

Megren says, “No hand-to-hand or reading or armor-training, at least.”

Lanisen lifts one side of his mouth as they pass through the inner gate. “I can bring you some lunch in a couple hours, if you want,” he offers.

Megren says, “Yeah, I won’t say no.”

Lanisen asks, “Where’ll you be, ’round then?”

Megren says, “The stables, probably.”

Lanisen says, “I’ll bring somethin’ by.”

Megren says, “Only if it’s something good.”

Lanisen says, “No promises.”

Megren clicks her tongue disapprovingly.

Lanisen says, “I mean, it’s Ren cookin’ today, who even /knows/ what’s gonna come out of the kitchen.”

Megren says, “Moldy sewage.”

Lanisen snorts out loud.

Megren glances at him with a quick grin.

Lanisen keeps moving, heading toward the kitchen, comfortably quiet for a dozen paces. “If,” he begins, and pauses. “Um, if it’s– if you figure out how to talk about it, and if you want to, just– I’ll be around.”

Megren screws up her mouth and nods.

Lanisen glances at her and adds quickly, looking down, “Sorry, I’ll, I won’t mention it again.”

Megren gives him a guilty look. “No, no, it’s, I, you don’t have to apologize, you did a,” she takes a breath, “That was a, a really nice thing. That you, that you did.”

Lanisen says, “It was Sir Darrin, mostly, but that’s not– don’t, don’t worry about us. It’s, a thing can be good and– and strange and new and confusing all at once and…” His face winces up a little as he runs out of words.

Megren nods, drawing a breath through her nose, still looking concerned, but like she’s trying to take this to heart.

Lanisen says, “It’s okay, needin’ time, is all.”

Megren says, “It would be nice if I knew what I even needed time for.”

Lanisen glances at her.

Megren shrugs.

Lanisen says, “Hey,” and shifts the basket to one arm, reaching over with the other to hug around her shoulders.

Megren draws close into the hug and drops her head momentarily onto his shoulder.

Lanisen tips his head to rest his cheek on the top of her head. “I bet Sir Darrin would give you the day, if you asked,” he ventures.

Megren gets an embarrassed expression, her lips tugging down on one side. “Yeah,” she concedes.

Lanisen hesitates a moment, then says, “Sometimes havin’ stuff to do is good too.”

Megren nods mutely.

Lanisen stops outside the kitchen and offers her the basket. “I won’t steal your berry-pickin’ glory.”

Megren wrinkles her nose gratefully. “Thanks.”

Lanisen asks, “See you in a couple hours?”

Megren says, “Yeah, all right.”

Lanisen echoes, “All right,” and steps back.

Megren says again, “Thanks, Lanisen.”

Lanisen shakes his head slightly and offers her a small quick grin. “See you,” he says one more time, and turns to go.

Megren pauses, and then disappears into the kitchen.


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