The Trick to Being Rewarded Is not to Expect Rewards
“I didn’t have to nurse you back to health last time you fought a dragon.”
Owen smiled, winced as that brought pain to his burnt right side. “Funny, I remember you being a great deal of help in my immediate physical recovery.”
“Cute.” Gavin ducked his head a little, setting the bowl of soup he’d been feeding Owen aside. “Part of me wonders if you’re faking it so I’ll spoonfeed you.”
“Why would I need to do that?” Owen asked, patting Gavin’s leg with his left hand. “You’d spoonfeed me anyway if I asked. “
“Yeah,” Gavin chuckled. “I guess so. I love you.”
“I love you too. More than anything.”
Gavin smiled, gave Owen a careful hug, avoiding his injured side. Owen held him back awkwardly, letting Gavin rest there. He knew Gavin wasn’t getting much sleep. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Gavin nodded, closing his eyes for a second. “I’m okay.” During the dragon’s attack, Gavin’s friend Turner had been killed. “I’m just so glad you didn’t get hurt worse than you did.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’m invincible.”
“Good. Because if something happened to you, I couldn’t…”
Owen held Gavin tighter. “Nothing’s going to happen to me.” Turner hadn’t been killed because of the dragon. He’d been murdered. “I’ll be here for you.”
Gavin nodded, and sat there for a minute, quietly.
There came a knock at the door, and Gavin looked up. “Come in.”
The door opened, admitting the queen, followed by the king. “Mom, dad.” Gavin straightened a little, but didn’t get up. Both were wearing sombre clothes with elements of green in them. “What are you doing here?”
“We came to speak with Owen,” Gavin’s father said, smiling at Gavin. “Could we borrow him for a minute?”
“The healer doesn’t want him moving,” Gavin said, shifting at Owen’s side. “He’s burnt badly.”
The queen nodded, coming over to get a better look. “We were told initially that you weren’t hurt, Owen.”
“I wasn’t initially hurt, your Highness,” Owen told them, bowing a little and wincing again. “Dragons breathe fire by igniting a fluid made by a gland in their necks.” Owen let go of Gavin to bring his left hand up to his neck, demonstrating where it was. “When I cut her throat, I hit that gland and got covered in that fluid. It burns, the healers couldn’t totally get it out. They gave me a cream to put on the burnt parts of my skin to encourage the rest of the fluid to break up, but it takes a few days.” Owen’s right arm and chest were covered in bandages, and moving made everything hurt even with the creams.
“He shouldn’t be moving around,” Gavin said, sounding defensive. “He really shouldn’t even be awake, but he’s too stubborn for that.”
Owen smiled. “I don’t like the way poppy juice makes me feel. One drink at night is enough for me.” It was too much, actually, but Owen wasn’t so proud that he’d refuse to take it and just never sleep for the pain.
“You should be drinking it during the day too, it would help with the pain.”
“And I’d be totally out of it,” Owen said patiently. They’d had this argument a few times already. “I’ll survive a couple of days of discomfort.”
“Discomfort?” Gavin was giving him that look. The ‘you’re being an idiot’ look. He tapped Owen gently on his right arm, the look intensifying when Owen flinched and pulled away. It really did hurt, kind of a lot. Kind of like being on fire, only all the time.
“In any case,” Gerard interrupted, hands clasped behind his back. “Georgina and I want to extend our thanks to you for saving Gavin. If you hadn’t done it, we might have lost him again.”
“I’d have gone and gotten him back.”
“We know,” the queen said. “But we’re extremely grateful for you stopping that from being necessary.”
“We’re here to discuss your reward with you, Owen,” the king added.
“I don’t need a reward,” Owen shook his head a little, shocks of pain running down his neck as he did. He didn’t need any of them thinking that he’d done what he had for any reason other than to keep Gavin from harm.
Gavin poked him in the belly. “Don’t be an idiot. Of course you need a reward.”
“We’ll be knighting you, Owen.” That got Owen’s attention, and he turned his gaze back to the king. “In a formal ceremony next week. As a recognition of your devotion and service.”
Beside Owen, Gavin’s eyes had gone wide and he straightened. “Dad…”
“I…” Owen didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t expected this, hadn’t expected anything. “Thank you, but I…”
“Owen, shut up and accept,” Gavin told him.
“Gavin…” Owen knew that Gavin was worried about his reputation, but Owen didn’t care as much about that. He just wanted to be with Gavin. He’d wanted to be a knight once, a long time ago. Now he just wanted Gavin.
“Owen.” Gavin’s voice went firm. “Shut up and accept. A royal and a commoner…we can’t be together legally, Owen. I don’t give a shit about that, but the law does and there would be endless problems if we tried.”
Owen knew that. He looked away.
“But Owen, a knight isn’t a commoner, no matter where he was born.”
Owen thought about that for a second, and let it permeate. And when it did, he looked up, feeling light, the constant pain on his right side disappearing completely for a moment. “That means that…”
“You may consider this our blessing,” Gerard said, nodding. “We were…uncertain, for a while, about Gavin’s choice in partner. But you’ve more than proven yourself. It’s clear that you love him completely.”
“I do,” Owen said, a tear coming to his eye as he met the king’s gaze. “I really do.”
“You’re not who I would have chosen for my son,” Georgina told him. “But you’re who he chose—it’s just as clear that he loves you equally as completely. And we want him to be happy. So make him happy.”
“I will,” Owen promised, putting his arm back around Gavin, holding him there. “I will. Thank you.”
“No, thank you, Owen. I don’t think you have any idea how scared we were when Gavin was taken away,” Georgina said. “But we know that as long as you’re with him, he’ll be safe.”
“He will be,” Owen promised again, nodding. “I’ll keep him safe.”
“We’re counting on you.” Gerard smiled. “Not that it’s a one-way street, Gavin. You keep him safe and happy too.”
Gavin smiled, nodded. “I will. Thank you.”
“It’s easier than having you fight against us for the rest of our lives,” Gerard joked, but it wasn’t a joke and they all knew it. “We’ll leave the two of you be. Get some rest, Owen.”
“I will, sir. Thank you.”
The king and queen left, Georgina giving Gavin a brief hug, and the two of them were alone. Gavin curled into his hug, crying a little. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too.” Owen kissed Gavin on the forehead. He was crying too.
“Told you getting them to like you would be easy.”
“Yeah, all I had to do was kill a dragon again,” Owen chuckled. “Good thing I’m good at that.”
Gavin laughed a little, entwining his hand in Owen’s. “Sir Owen the Dauntless.”
“That’s me. Apparently.” Owen considered. “The sellswords are going to be pissed. They thought I was one of them.”
“They’ll live. Nothing can take you away from me now, Owen.”
“I know.” Owen kissed him again. “And nothing can take you away from me either.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy.”
They sat there in the bed, together. Inseparable.