A Date Being Interrupted Doesn’t Have to Be A Disaster
“So now I’m thinking, maybe they’d have to treat us all better if we just sort of refused to work until they did,” Edwin was saying, as he and Owen explored the tunnels under the city.
Edwin seemed really fired up about this idea, and Owen could see how it could work. It would have benefited Twig a few months ago for sure. “I can see it,” he said. “How are you going to make sure they don’t like, try you for treason, though?”
“Right, that’s kind of the part I haven’t figured out,” Edwin admitted. “I guess the thing is, there have to be enough of us for that not to be feasible and there just aren’t that many squires.”
“Yeah,” Owen agreed. “But I guess you’re not a squire. Neither am I. With a few knights on your side…wait a minute, this is why you’re bringing this up with me, right?”
“I mean,” Edwin said, putting his hands behind his head. “I’m just telling you how I’ve been, which is the answer to the question you asked me. But if you wanted to help, I’m pretty sure the order can’t charge you with treason.”
Owen was pretty sure they could, but he was also pretty sure he wouldn’t care if they did, so they wouldn’t. “Yeah, sounds good. Just tell me what you need.”
“Great, thanks,” Edwin said. He smiled. “I don’t know yet. I’m still figuring it out. But something.”
“Just make sure you’re getting enough rest, okay?” Owen asked. Edwin looked tired.
“I know, I know. I’m trying.”
Why was everyone Owen loved so insistent on working until they passed out? “Okay. I spent weeks bullying Gavin into easing off, and if I have to I’ll do it to you too. I know where you live, Sir Edwin.”
Edwin rolled his eyes in the torchlight. “Speaking of which, why aren’t we hanging out where I live? Or where you live? We both live in actual castles and you wanted to spend our time off hanging out in a weird cave.”
“So you’re admitting you live in a castle now, huh?” Owen asked. Edwin always got all weird and blushy when that got brought up.
“Shut up and answer the question,” Edwin muttered, predictably reddening as he looked away.
“It’s a date,” Owen told him, taking Edwin’s hand.
“This is a weird place for a date.”
“Sure.” Owen thought it was cool. “But you have boyfriends who’ll take you to nice places to eat and out to shows and stuff, and boyfriends who’ll stay in your castle and do castle stuff with you. Or to you, whatever. Who else is going to take you exploring into a weird cave?”
Edwin snorted. “You’re right.” He turned Owen to face him, and kissed him. “I love you.”
“Mm, I love you too,” Owen said, kissing Edwin back. “You’re going to like where this tunnel lets out, promise.”
“Oh?” Edwin asked, hands drifting down to Owen’s ass. “So you’re not just wandering through the dark monster tunnel randomly?”
“No. This dark monster tunnel comes out at a little underground pond,” Owen said. “There’s water from somewhere and lots of glow-in-the-dark algae. It’s really nice.”
“That does sound nice,” Edwin muttered. “But also, water from somewhere? We’re under the city. It’s definitely sewer water, right?”
Owen shrugged. “Probably. It doesn’t smell gross and I wasn’t going to suggest we swim in it.”
“I wasn’t,” Owen promised. “I was going to bring Ron here sometime and make him swim in it and seduce the algae or whatever hot witches do.” He should be back from the meeting he’d gone to in Josef’s Boon today, actually. Owen should go check on him.
“Okay.” Edwin let Owen go and they started walking again. After about ten paces, he turned to Owen and said, “I’ll give you a blowjob if you swim in it.”
“After we get back and you’ve had a bath, though.”
“Fair enough. After Gabrielle’s wedding, Gavin and I are going to my hometown to meet my parents. You should come.”
“I…” Edwin looked at Owen, even more red in the face, which was impressively visible considering how dark the cave was. “Owen, I literally have to come with you, it’s my job. I’m your kids’ bodyguard? Also your husband’s bodyguard? And also your bodyguard, technically? Obviously I’m going with you? But also how come I didn’t know you were doing this?”
“Because I hadn’t told you yet.” Owen put his arm around Edwin now. “And I want you to come as my boyfriend, not my bodyguard. My parents will like you. I think Great Scar is only a week or so from your hometown, right? We could go see your parents if you want.”
“I…I’ll think about it,” Edwin muttered, looking away. “I don’t imagine they’d be thrilled about me and Erik.”
“That’s fair. Up to you, just a thought.”
Edwin nodded. “Thanks,” he said quietly. “I’d like to meet your parents.”
“They’d like to meet you too.”
“You already told them I was coming, didn’t you?”
Owen smiled. “Of course I did. The pool is just up here.”
Edwin sighed and let Owen lead him to the pool, which he’d come to see the other day after he’d noticed it marked on the map Cleo had made. It was in the centre of a circular cave, nearly perfectly round, and it glowed brightly enough to see by. The algae on the surface of the water shimmered bluish-green and cast light everywhere, and was met by a warmer light from moss on the walls. A faint dripping of water was in the air, but cave acoustics were fucky, so Owen didn’t know where it was coming from.
“This is really cool,” Edwin muttered, taking a step inside. “You were right.”
“You don’t have to sound surprised.”
“An ox was just creative and romantic. Of course I do.” Edwin went still, taking Owen’s wrist for a second. “There’s someone over there.”
He was right. Owen looked over, and saw the outline of a person standing against the western wall, touching the moss there. “Hey,” he said, stepping forward.
They turned around, long mane of hair swinging behind them. It was a woman with a pointed face and wearing a long coat. She smiled at them. “Hi, I’m not a criminal. Oh, hi, Edwin.”
“Ariel?” Edwin asked, moving closer.
“You know her?”
“Yeah, we’re friends. She’s a mage, from the academy.”
“Oh, awesome,” said Owen, moving his hand away from his sword. “You’re not the one the archmage sent when we asked.” They’d sent someone named Josie, who seemed really nice and really smart.
“No, I’m not officially here,” Ariel agreed. “It’s just that I do a lot of research into the city’s architecture, and so the fact that there are whole caves just underneath the city is pretty cool. This used to be a cistern, you know. It would have provided fresh water to this part of the city. Which, considering we’re underneath some old temples, would have been important.”
“A cistern, huh?” Owen should have told her to leave, but she was being helpful and if she was friends with Edwin, she wasn’t evil. “So it is clean water.”
“Well, it’s rainwater,” Ariel said, pointing at a spot on the wall that didn’t look any different than any other. “There’s a chute there for it to come down from the street. It’s clogged so it’s coming down slowly. I wouldn’t drink it, especially not with this haunted algae growing all over it.”
“Haunted?” Owen asked, coming closer to the water.
“I mean, I’m no necromancer, you’d have to ask one if you can find one. But there’s definitely a corpse at the bottom of the cistern. A really old one, I wouldn’t worry about finding the killer or anything.”
“Good to know,” Owen muttered, peering at the water. He wouldn’t be asking Ron to swim in there, unfortunately. Making him go in some gross water was funny, but making him go in some gross water that had a dead body in it was a bit mean. “So if this is a cistern, then this cave isn’t natural, right?”
“It might have been at one point. But it was carved and kept up after a point.” Ariel looked around. “From what I’ve seen, a lot of these caves are like that. They were normal caves once, but someone carved them out, put tunnels between them. I guess this is how they used to move stuff around the old city back in the day.”
“We haven’t managed to finish mapping them yet, but they go through most of the middle portion of the city,” said Owen.
“Yeah, they’ll likely penetrate most of the hill under the old city.” Ariel took in a breath. “Super fucking cool.”
“Yeah. Also there’s a demon on the loose somewhere, so maybe don’t wander around them by yourself.”
Ariel blinked. “Thanks for the heads up. I didn’t catch your name.”
“Sorry,” Owen said. “I’m Owen.”
“Ah, Edwin’s boyfriend.”
“Hey, he’s also the youngest knight in a generation and engaged to the prince,” Edwin told Ariel.
“Well, I was that first thing for a few months, until a certain stalwart someone got anointed,” Owen said, nudging Edwin, who made a sound and then ignored him.
“Well, I don’t play with swords much and I’m not friends with the prince,” Ariel said with a wink. “I’m interrupting your guys’s hot date, aren’t I?”
“A little bit,” Edwin admitted.
“Not really,” said Owen. “I mean, I guess a little, but you’re the first person I’ve met who thinks of me as Edwin’s boyfriend first, and that’s awesome, so it’s worth it.” As cool as it would have been to fuck Edwin in the glowing moss room, that was cooler.
Ariel laughed while Edwin went red once again even in the blue light. “You can keep him, he’s sweet,” she told Edwin.
“I’m thinking of pushing him in the corpse cistern, actually.”
Owen kissed Edwin. “How about we ask Ariel to give us a tour and tell us what all these caves used to be?” It would be fun. And it wouldn’t hurt to know more about what the caves were for, either, and not just because they could find one to fuck in that didn’t have a dead body in it.
“Sure, that sounds fun,” Edwin admitted.
“Hey, I didn’t agree to this.”
“You did if you want to keep poking around the demon portal caves,” Owen told her. “Otherwise you have to leave, it’s dangerous.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Against a higher demon?” Mages were magical, but Owen didn’t think they were that magical.
“He’s just messing with you,” Edwin told Ariel.
Ariel sighed. “He’s also right, which is an annoying quality in a man. Sure, I’ll show you around. There’s some cool shit down here that I’m betting you guys didn’t notice while you stared into each other’s eyes hornily. Did you know there’s an old protection spell in the cave down that way? It’s inactive but intact, shockingly.”
As they followed Ariel through and learned about the city underneath Three Hills, Owen held Edwin’s hand. The best part of the day was that they never let go, even when they got back above ground.