When You Can’t Fight Head on, Regroup and Strategize
“They’ve got the description of the middleman,” Gavin said, spearing a piece of chicken as he spoke. “From the attacker. Hopefully it’ll help them track down whoever was responsible.”
“That was fast.” Owen had a feeling he knew why. He’d sort of intentionally not asked questions before about how interrogating prisoners worked. But now that the prisoner was one who’d tried to hurt Gavin, he found that potential qualms he’d had were mostly nonexistent after all. “Are we sure it’s accurate?”
“As sure as they are with these things.” Gavin paused, thinking. “The surviving assassins from the banquet—the ones who were after Gabrielle—described the same man.”
Well, that was definitely something. “But the attempt on you wasn’t fake,” Owen said. “The attempt on Gabrielle was.”
“Yeah,” Gavin swallowed his chicken. “So that’s weird. Because it doesn’t make sense to pretend to kill Gabrielle and then actually kill me. That’s just not how lines of succession work. Nothing changes by killing me.”
“Everything would change if someone killed you,” Owen said quietly.
Gavin smiled at him. “I’m okay, Owen,” he said, for the fiftieth time today. “The point is, you kill the first in line, not the backup heir. Which means someone’s going to try to kill Gabrielle for real.”
“We should maybe stop them from doing that.”
“Maybe,” Gavin agreed with a nod. “I’d like it if we could do that. It’s going to be someone who either plans to marry my cousin or marry a kid to my cousin. Gloria’s the heir if something happens to me and Gabrielle.”
Owen nodded, following that. “Or,” he said, because he’d learned that something being obvious wasn’t a good enough reason not to say it, “it’s your cousin.”
Gavin nodded, looking away. “Or that. I don’t think so, but that might just be sentimentality speaking.”
“I trust your judgement,” Owen told him. Then he flinched, half-reaching out as Gavin picked up his cup of water to drink.
“I know, I’m sorry.” It was hard not to react that way.
“You have to stop freaking out every time I take a drink.”
“I know,” Owen repeated. “It’s just really hard.”
“Yeah,” Gavin agreed, nodding. “It scares you when I’m in danger. But…”
“It terrifies me, Gavin,” Owen said. “It doesn’t scare me like, oh, there’s a ghost. It doesn’t even scare me like thunder. I get so, just overwhelmingly terrified when something threatens you. I can’t breathe, I can’t think, I just have to…” he shook his head, looked away from Gavin. “It’s stupid. I know you can take care of yourself. And I know you feel the same way when I’m in danger. But I can’t help it. You’re the world to me, and if something happened to you, I wouldn’t have a world anymore.”
Gavin wiped at his eyes, and his hand found Owen’s on the table. “Goddamnit, Owen. Way to make me feel like an asshole for not taking it seriously. I’m sorry. For worrying you.”
“It’s not your fault,” Owen told him, shaking his head. “I’m the one who’s all paranoid and shit. I just can’t help but see that vial of poison everywhere, and see guys with knives in the corners and dragons in the sky and…” he shrugged. “I can’t help but worry about you even when you’re safe. It’s not about stifling you or not trusting you or…”
Gavin snorted. “I get it. I thought that I was safe at that wedding. But then…I guess I was, since you were there.” He coloured a little. “But I get your point.”
Owen sighed. “You were right, though. About the bodyguards. They wouldn’t have stopped poison.”
“No, but they might have stopped him from getting near me. They might have…” Gavin shook his head. “There’s no point in worrying about what might have happened. I was scared, Owen. And I still am. I want to think I’m safe in my home, but I’m not. Neither of us is. And Owen, if something happened to you, my world would end too.”
“Yeah,” Owen whispered, nodding and fighting tears. “I know.”
“I don’t know what to do to make it so we don’t have to worry about that happening,” Gavin said, voice soft.
“Yeah…” Owen swallowed, looking at the food. How could he make the whole capital safer when he didn’t even know who was threatening Gavin? How could he… “Oh. I know.”
Owen nodded, the idea forming in his head now. It was a good one. Simple. The capital was dangerous. “We should go somewhere.”
“Doesn’t matter. We should leave the capital for a while. Go on a hunting trip. Visit friends of yours, camp in the woods, it doesn’t matter. If we go somewhere, we won’t be in the capital.”
“And we’ll be surrounded by guards all the time,” Gavin muttered. “That’s…not a bad idea. Maybe we should. We could go…somewhere. Just for a while, until they sort out the…whatever the fuck’s happening here.”
“Yeah,” Owen agreed, smiling now. It seemed like Gavin was amenable to this. “I mean, it’s going to be super obvious if someone tries to sneak up on us with a knife or poison and we’re in the middle of nowhere. There are a lot of people in the capital they can hide behind.”
“You’re right.” Gavin leaned back in his chair, watching Owen. “Yeah. You’re right. Let’s do it. Where are we going to go?”
“I don’t know.” Owen shrugged. “Somewhere? There’s a lot of places we haven’t been yet.”
“Somewhere,” Gavin snorted. “Somewhere, he says. Okay, I’ll figure that part out. You get my guard finalized and I’ll talk to my parents, and as soon as that’s done, we can go.”
Owen smiled. The guard was already being finalized in the next day or so. “Asking your parents for permission?”
A laugh. “I thought I’d tell them rather than ask. But in the absence of a dragon, I can’t exactly fuck off without letting them know.”
“Go stand on top of a tower, that seems to work like a beacon for them,” Owen suggested.
“Screw you,” Gavin suggested back.
“Well, I’m thinking we’ll do a lot of that too,” Owen agreed, nodding seriously. “Been a while since we did it in a tent.”
“We’ll have to see if we can recreate the experience, then.” Gavin was smiling now, the worry that had weighed him down in the background.
“Maybe we should…go in the bedroom, do a practice run.”
“Not to mention give the bed a proper send off before we go.”
“I was thinking that would be a separate thing.”
Gavin laughed, took Owen’s hand, and stood, their rings touching. “You know, you have more good ideas than I give you credit for, Sir Owen.”
“I’ve been saying that the whole time,” Owen said, standing as well and looking Gavin in the eye. “Come on. Let’s go.”
“I’m with you,” Gavin said, nodding. “Always.”