Megren walks into the outer ward from the inner gate. Her squire’s clothing is quite dusty from travel, and her hair a little less neat than usual.
Lanisen steps out of the kennels a moment later to meet her, shutting the door behind him. He stops a few steps away from the door, facing her and rolling down his sleeves against the nighttime chill.
Megren looks over at the sound and veers to meet him. “Hey, hey!” she says, a little breathless and sounding glad to see him.
Lanisen exhales, relieved, and hurries to join her. “Hey, hi,” he answers. “How did it– it went all right, then?”
Megren hugs him and says without letting go, “It was, like you said, it was, I’ve got cousins and everything.”
Lanisen bites his lower lip and grins broadly over her shoulder, hugging back tightly. “I’m glad, I’m glad. I’m so glad. And your aunt, what did you, how was it?”
Megren pulls back, brushing the heel of her hand under her eye. “She’s, I like her, almost like, like Haft, or Magda. Mallie said she wanted to be a squire when she was grown, and Aunt Liss didn’t bat an eye.”
Lanisen exclaims, “Like Haft, I said she was, I said she was. And Mallie’s, she’d be the little one, five or so, maybe?”
Megren says, “Three and a half, and then Wilf, he’s maybe one.”
Lanisen asks, “Mallie’s got the red hair too?”
Megren wrinkles her nose and nods.
Lanisen grins again, wide and delighted. “You stayed so late, I thought it must have been well, but I’m glad, I’m so glad to hear it.”
Megren colors a little. “Sorry, I’m sorry, I hope you didn’t stay up for me.”
Lanisen says, “No, no! Maybe a little. I was just goin’ to bed but I heard ’em at the gate. But it’s not so late.”
Megren glances up at the sky. “Kind of.”
Lanisen shrugs and lifts his hands, unrepentant.
Megren asks, “Have time for tea, or do you need to sleep?”
Lanisen says, “I’ve got time, ‘course.” He begins walking backward toward the kennels.
Megren moves that way, pushing his shoulder gently as she reaches him to spin him right way round.
Lanisen skips cheekily backward out of her reach and continues in that manner all the way to the door.
Megren sticks her tongue out and picks up her pace so that he has to jog backward.
Lanisen bumps against the door, laughing, and lets himself in, still going backwards.
Megren slips in past him and goes to the shelf to pull down a tea tin.
Lanisen makes the fire ready as she does this and darts out again to fill the kettle.
Megren asks, “This one says it’s got cloves?”
Lanisen glances toward her, carrying the kettle back toward the fire. “Oh! Yeah, it smells nice.”
Megren takes it back to the table, lifting the lid to smell it as she goes.
Lanisen swings the kettle over the hot part of the fire and goes to join her, plopping down in a chair on the other side of the table.
Megren leans her head on her hand. “What’d you even do with yourself while I was gone all day? Stare out the window waiting for my return, I guess.”
Lanisen agrees amiably, “Oh, aye, all wistful-like. Nothin’ to do but pine.” He scoots his chair up more comfortably to the table and folds his arms in front of him. “Nah, I had some cleanin’ to do this afternoon, and then I went and talked to Eren, and then I went upstairs for a bit and then I came back here.”
Megren says, “Aw, your days are so productive without me to bother at you.””
Lanisen says, longsuffering, “You are /such/ a distraction.”
Megren pushes her chair back to get up and leave. “Sorry.”
Lanisen chortles. “So?” he prompts. “Mallie wants to be a squire too?”
Megren grins, “Well, she’s four, I guess she’ll probably change her mind when she finds out more what it’s like. I told her it was like being a helper to her mum.”
Lanisen asks, “How’d she like that?”
Megren says, “That’s what warmed her.”
Lanisen tilts his head, charmed.
Lanisen asks, “How’d Sir Darrin get along?”
Megren says, “Oh, he gets on with almost everyone, you know.”
Lanisen says, “Well, yeah.”
Megren says, “She didn’t seem especially concerned about him, or most things, besides Wilf and Mallie.”
Lanisen says, “Good. Good.” He glances at her. “When’re you goin’ back?”
Megren says, “We said once a month, or a fortnight if I can.”
Lanisen leans back in his chair, well pleased. “Good.”
Megren asks, “When do you leave?”
Lanisen says, “Um.” He sits forward again. “I told, I told Danall this week sometime.”
Megren asks, “Yeah?”
Lanisen gets up to get the kettle. “Yeah.”
Megren asks, “How do you feel?”
Lanisen takes rather longer than he needs to with the pot-hook and hot-pads. “I don’t know,” he says finally, bringing the kettle to the table. “It’s a thing that’s got to be done, that’s all.”
Megren asks, “You don’t want me to go with, right?”
Lanisen says, “You’ve got stuff to look to here, I think.”
Megren says, “I’d go.”
Lanisen says, “I know.”
Megren says, “Sir Darrin’d be all right.”
Lanisen focuses on pouring the water. He puts the lid on the pot and drops the cozy over it, and sits down again. “Do you want to come?” he asks after a pause, not looking at her.
Megren says, “I want to be there if you need me, and I want to not get in the way if you think I’ll be in the way.”
Lanisen admits, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, “I won’t ask you to do somethin’ that’s…” He takes a deep breath. “I know it wasn’t… I know it wasn’t good, before, I won’t ask you to…”
Megren says, “I’ll do it if you want me. I don’t know if it will help.”
Lanisen hesitates, watching the steam curl out of the teapot’s spout. “I think– I think it wouldn’t,” he says at last. “I think it would– be uncomfortable, at best, for you and him both. I can’t see how it could help.”
Megren pushes her mouth to the side and nods.
Lanisen says, “Sorry, I’m sorry.”
Megren says, “No, don’t be sorry, I’m asking for you.”
Lanisen nods and looks down and says, “Even so.”
Megren reaches across the table and boops him on the forehead.
Lanisen jerks his head back in surprise.
Megren wrinkles her nose.
Lanisen lets out a little huff of a breath.
Megren looks at the pot. “Is it ready?”
Lanisen looks at the pot. “Yeah, prob’ly.” He reaches for the mugs and fills both, pouring with his left hand, and slides Megren’s over to her.
Megren says, “You’re getting good with that hand.”
Lanisen glances at her and looks down at his hand, coloring slightly. He flexes the fingers. “Thanks.”
Megren says, “I’m still mostly useless with my left.”
Lanisen says, “I expect if you found you had to use it, you could.”
Megren says, “Yeah.”
Lanisen says, “I don’t think about it much anymore, it just–” He shrugs.
Megren asks, “That’s good, yeah?”
Lanisen says, “I s’pose so, yeah.”
Megren says, “It seems good.”
Lanisen curls both his hands around his mug, flattening his fingers against the vessel’s sides, and nods.
Megren asks, “Can I help you before you go at least?”
Lanisen says, “There’s not much to do, really.”
Megren asks, “You want to talk out what you’re going to say?”
Lanisen says, “Oh,” and laughs a little under his breath. “I’ve, I’ve talked it out, I’ve been runnin’ it over in my head since before I decided I should go, it’s only–”
Megren lifts her brows.
Lanisen says, “It’s, I dunno if I’ll be able to… um…” He creases up his face. “I don’t know, it’s, thinkin’ it through is one thing but sayin’ it is another.”
Megren asks, “Want to practice saying it?”
Lanisen rubs a hand over his face. “Maybe,” he says after a minute. “Yeah, I guess. But it’s too late tonight maybe.”
Megren asks again, “When do you leave?”
Lanisen hesitates, deliberating. “The day after tomorrow, maybe?” he ventures.
Megren asks, “You’re packed?”
Lanisen shakes his head. “It won’t take long,” he says.
Megren says, “Talk it out tomorrow, then? I’ll help you pack.”
Lanisen says, “All right. If you want to.”
Megren says, “All right.”
Lanisen blows on the top of his tea and drinks.
Megren sips her own cup and releases a quiet sigh.
Lanisen glances at her after a moment. “You gonna be able to sleep tonight?”
Megren wrinkles her nose. “I don’t know. I might see if Sir Darrin or Haft is still up; I’m not sleepy at all.”
Lanisen’s eyes crinkle up at the corners. “I wondered,” he says. “If they’ve gone to bed, I’ll walk with you a while, if you want. I’m not very sleepy either.”
Megren squints up an eye. “It’s too late to practice but not to walk?”
Lanisen says, “It’s different sorts of… things!”
Megren accepts, “All right.”
Lanisen drains his cup. He picks up the pot and shakes it gently to see what’s left. “You want the rest of this?”
Megren extends her cup.
Lanisen tips the rest of the tea into it. There’s a little less than half a cup left. He sets the pot down and rests his chin in his hand, looking rather more sleepy than he claims to be.
Megren tilts her head to consider him. “Mmm, I think it’s sleeping time for you.”
Lanisen says, “All right, mum.”
Megren grins and pushes back her chair to stand up, reaching out to muss his hair.
Lanisen says, “Ugh,” and pushes her hand away good-naturedly. He gets up as well.
Megren asks, “Need help cleaning out the pot?”
Megren threatens, “I will.”
Lanisen says, “Go on, go play with your friends.”
Megren makes a punishing face but steps back from the table.
Lanisen says, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Megren says, “Sleep good please.”
Lanisen says, “Sleep, please.”
Megren says, “Fine, fine.”
Lanisen says, “G’night, Meg.”
Megren moves off to the door. “Good night, Lan.”
Lanisen lifts his eyebrows briefly at this. He grins and begins clearing up.