Planning A Trip Can Give You Something to Look Forward to in Moments of Stress
Owen had expected that anything that started with “that was the worst conversation I’ve ever had in my fucking life” was not going to proceed well, and he’d been right.
“And then they tried to accuse me of doing it without actually accusing me of anything,” Gavin said, head against the wall of the carriage Owen had put them in a while ago. “Which was when I realized they hadn’t done it, because if they had and wanted to frame me, they’d have gone about it different. And that’s when I realized that I was sitting there thinking about how my parents would frame me for murder and realizing I had a concrete answer to that question.” He sighed. “So I started crying.”
Owen squeezed Gavin’s knee. “I bet that put a stop to the accusations.”
“Yeah. It was a stupid thing to do. But it wasn’t on purpose and anyway, then we had a long conversation about how we don’t trust each other and that sucked.” Gavin shut his eyes for a second. “Anyway, my parents didn’t kill Aerchon and they don’t know who did.”
Owen nodded. The admiral had been found dead in his prison cell yesterday, just a few days before his trial had been supposed to start. The doctor had said he’d died of an allergic reaction to something. One of his old assistants had said he was allergic to peanuts and that everyone knew they weren’t to be anywhere near his food.
Owen also had a tendency to stop breathing if he came near a peanut, so when he’d heard that had been how Aerchon had died, he’d spent just a second being unable to swallow out of sympathy. It was a horrible thing to do to someone. “And Helena doesn’t either.”
Gavin shook his head. “Not yet. She will soon. The guards in the dungeon reported seeing someone they didn’t know come in with his food. It’s the kind of job that gets given to new recruits, so they just assumed that was what it was. They didn’t recognize her.”
“Her?” Owen asked, purely because most of the assassins he’d encountered in the capital had been men.
“Yeah, they’re sure of that.” Gavin shifted in place. “Anyway, listen, I feel bad because I know I’m the one who made you go to this opera, but I really don’t feel like going. I know I should have said so before we got in the carriage, but can you tell the driver to turn around?”
“Sure,” said Owen, who also didn’t feel like going to an opera. “But before I do that you should know that we’re not going to the opera.”
Gavin frowned. “Yes, we are.”
“No, we’re not,” Owen promised. “One of the castle servants may have mentioned offhand to Art that your guys’s conversation wasn’t going too hot, and Art may have been having a minor breakdown in the hall about whether he should say anything to me, and Eddie may have made him come in and tell me, and I may have asked Eddie to tell the opera people we’ll come tomorrow instead.”
Gavin blinked. “Okay, first of all, thank you and I love you. Second, I should clearly never have given you servants, if you’re going to send them on errands and utilize their ubiquity to predict my moods. And third, where are we going?”
Owen smiled. “We’re going out for massages, and then supper.”
“Yeah. Evan told me about this place where you can get a massage and then they bring you food once you’re all relaxed, and that seemed like a good place for you to go tonight.”
Gavin blinked, looking at his hands. He took a breath. His eyes were a little wet, and he kissed Owen’s cheek. “Thank you. That’s very thoughtful of you.”
“You don’t have to sound surprised.”
“Your big stupid heart could never surprise me.”
“If you say so.” Owen kissed Gavin back. “This place is owned by a guy from High Haven. Apparently, they have a lot of places like this there.”
“Yeah?” Gavin asked, looking out the window now. “I didn’t know that.”
“Me either. Apparently they also have an annual archery contest during the hunting season.”
Gavin smirked at that. “What’s the prize?”
“Don’t know. But there definitely is a prize.”
“Awesome. At lunch yesterday we talked about the lands and Dad’s going to have them ceded to me soon. Franz must have done whatever they wanted him to do to make it happen.”
“Great. So we could move there next week,” Owen suggested.
Gavin shook his head. “Gabrielle and Franz’s wedding is on the first of Remin.”
That was next month. Their wedding had been one of those omnipresent things that seemed like it was always going to happen soon, so Owen had forgotten that it had an actual date attached to it. “So we’ll go on the second of Remin.”
Gavin laughed at that. “We still have to get married. And yes, I know, we already did. But we have to get non-secretly married, probably in the summer.”
Owen took Gavin’s hand. “So we’ll make everyone come to High Haven and have the wedding there. What’s the real benefit of having it here? We don’t like the High Presbyter and even if she’s not evil, someone who works for her probably is, so do we really need to get married in the First Church?”
“Yes, because that’s what people named ven Sancte do,” Gavin explained. He moved closer to Owen, resting on his shoulder. “I know you’re trying to help and I appreciate it.”
Good. “We should go anyway and come back with the portals for the wedding. You’re not happy in the capital, Gavin.”
“I’m…” Gavin sighed. “I don’t want you to think I’m unhappy, Owen. I’m genuinely not. I mean this whole situation with Aerchon, plus everything with Drew and Rudy, is not good and it’s not making me feel good. But I’m happy here with you and the kids. All this other stuff will be over eventually and then it’ll be fine.”
Owen didn’t know if that was true. Gavin had been stressed out when they’d been in the capital before. And they hadn’t even gotten to all the people who’d been trying to kill them. “Okay. Can we at least go spend a week somewhere after the wedding? Maybe up where the orchard is? Or one of the other million places that we own? Actually no, fuck that. We’re going to go to Great Scar. My only family you’ve met is Ron.”
“You’re right.” Gavin smiled genuinely at that. “Yes, I’d like that. I still can’t believe they had a bandit problem and didn’t just write and ask you to solve it.”
“I can,” Owen grumbled. He’d gotten a letter from his parents a few days ago saying that there’d been some trouble with bandits but that it was all sorted out now, and that he should come home and see the town because they had something important to tell him that they didn’t want to put in a letter. “I can also believe they handled it on their own, but they could still have written to me.”
“It would look like some kind of nepotism if the entire order of knights descended on one village just because my husband is from there,” Gavin reminded Owen.
“I don’t care, our family lives there.” Owen would build a wall around Great Scar if he didn’t know his parents would be the first people to show up with hammers to tear it down.
“I know. And trust me, I’d have made them do it. I’m glad they’re okay and yeah, I’d love to finally meet them.”
Owen nodded, because he’d like to see them again too. By spring it would have been going on two years since he’d been home. “Remin is nice in Great Scar.”
“How long before we get to the restaurant?” Gavin asked.
“I don’t know, like ten minutes?”
“Awesome. Tell me about Great Scar, then,” Gavin said, moving closer and finally letting Owen put an arm around him. “Actually, first. These are naked massages we’re getting, right?”
“Are there clothed massages?” Owen asked.
“Cal, I hope not. Certainly none will be legal in High Haven by the time of the contest. But okay, Great Scar.”
“Well. I’ve told you all about the inn, but the best thing about it is the stable roof. It’s just high enough that you can see most of the town, and just low enough that you can usually jump off it without breaking anything…”
Gavin was a lot less tense already, and they hadn’t even gotten there yet. Owen took pride in that, and even more in the fact that this was the job he’d signed up to do for the rest of their lives. And like everything else important, he planned to do it properly.