Noble, 50

Sometimes You Give Yourself No Choice but to Force Yourself Through Something

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When Gabrielle and Franz ven Sancte walked out of the First Church of the Blessed after the wedding had concluded, Geoffrey slumped in his seat. It had gone just fine. Nobody had died. And that shouldn’t be Geoffrey’s criteria for a wedding going well, but formal events with lots of nobility at them always seemed to involved people dying these days.

But everyone had been on their best behaviour. Which to be fair had been easy when most of their jobs had been to sit there and watch. There was a party after that they’d all be heading to soon, and that was probably where everyone would get poisoned.

Or not. There was a lot of security here. House ven Sancte really didn’t want anything happening at this wedding.

Janus smiled, took Geoffrey’s hand. “You don’t have to look quite so relieved to see it end.”

“I’m relieved that it went well,” Geoffrey promised him. “It was a really nice wedding.”

“It was,” Janus said, watching for their cue to get up. “It was.”

Geoffrey looked at him. “Do you wish ours had been like that?”

“Yeah,” said Janus, a little sheepish. He’d cried during the wedding more than once. “A little.”

“We’ll have another ceremony,” Geoffrey promised him, with a kiss on the cheek. “It’ll be just like this. I probably won’t wear a dress, though.”

“Me either. You don’t have to do that for me. Our wedding was perfect.”

No it hadn’t been. Their wedding had been rushed and panicked. But Geoffrey didn’t want to make Janus sad, so he nodded. “Maybe a little bit less expensive than this one.”

“A little bit?” Janus asked. “I heard they’ve hired bards to play at the party later. Bards, Geoffrey. The ven Sanctes spent so much gold on this that they even stopped being frigid with the Bards’ Guild!”

Geoffrey smiled at that. The last time he’d heard a bard play had been at Giacomo’s birthday a few years ago. He’d composed a little song about Giacomo called Little Lord Cheeks that he’d pretended was about Giacomo’s face. “Yeah, that should be fun,” he agreed with a nod. “It’s been so long since I heard a bard.”

“Me too. We didn’t get them down south very often when I was a kid anyway.” Janus squeezed Geoffrey’s hand. “Anyway. I know you were worried about everyone getting assassinated, but nobody got assassinated.”

Yet, Geoffrey thought. “Yeah. I’m really glad for that,” he said, trying to make it sound like a joke. “I guess I was just being paranoid, huh?”

“I mean, it’s not like you weren’t justified.”

“Hey,” Dalton said, sliding in to join them. “They’re ready for us to go.”

“Oh, okay,” said Geoffrey, looking over to where Javier was waiting near the crowd. Leaving the church was just as much a process of getting into it, and had to be done in the proper order. Dahlia’s retinue must all be leaving now.

So he got up and walked with Janus and Dalton over to Javier, who looked exhausted. He hadn’t slept much last night, Geoffrey knew. None of them had. “How you holding up?”

“Oh, I can do a five-hour party no problem,” Javier promised. “Especially one that doesn’t have coffee at it.”

Geoffrey took his hand with his free one. It was optimistic to think the party would only be five hours. “You can sneak out after the dinner if you need to.” They started moving down the main aisle, towards the open church doors. It was slow going, though there weren’t that many people in front of them. More and more people got up behind them as well, crowding them, talking amongst themselves.

Crowding them so much. There were people on all sides of Geoffrey, talking so loud. He took a deep breath, then another. They were just Dolovin nobles, the rest of Giacomo’s retinue, whoever else was at the wedding. It was the same people he’d sat in this church with for the last several hours.

Javier squeezed his hand. “Kind of wish we could have kept sitting until it was clear.”

“I’m fine,” Geoffrey said, realizing belatedly that wasn’t a response to what Javier had said. Janus looked at him, linking their arms. He was trying to help. He was so close. Everyone was so close. It was just Giacomo’s cronies. Why were they all so loud?

Someone touched Geoffrey’s butt and he jumped. “Hey, hey,” Javier said. “It’s okay. I’m here. Janus and Dalton are here.”

Geoffrey nodded, trying to move forward. He wished everyone weren’t staring at him. Everyone could see that he was freaking out. They could all see that he couldn’t walk down a fucking aisle without panicking. He didn’t care what they thought about him, but he was embarrassing Giacomo and Dahlia by not having his shit together, but everyone was screaming so loudly.

“Geoffrey, you can open your eyes now,” Javier said, quiet voice cutting through the screaming.

Geoffrey hadn’t noticed that his eyes were closed, and he forced them open, saw everything through tears. They were standing on the steps of the cathedral, and everyone was fanning out. He breathed out, feeling…not better, really. But less pressed in. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, letting go of Janus’s hand to wipe his face.

Janus took it back. “There’s nothing to apologize for,” he said. “We’re going to go in the carriage now.”

“We have to walk…” There was a wedding procession from the cathedral to the castle. Everyone was supposed to walk except for people who couldn’t. It went through some big public square in Three Hills that would be full of screaming people who wanted to see their princess and her new husband.

“No,” said Janus. “We can’t walk. Nobody cares about seeing us. We’ll take…”

“No,” Geoffrey said. He took a breath. “No, we promised we’d walk.” Giacomo was expecting them to walk. “I’m fine now that I’m outside. Let’s go.”

Javier and Janus looked at each other across Geoffrey, and then they both looked at Dalton. Geoffrey resolutely started walking, making them come with him. He was fine. He was a member of the queen’s council, one of her advisors. How could he keep the king in check if he couldn’t even walk down a road?

The wedding had gone perfectly and Geoffrey wasn’t going to be the one to ruin it. And Javier and Janus must have understood that, because they walked with him. Janus’s other hand was balled into a fist, but Geoffrey saw a piece of paper. “What’s that?”

Janus shook his head. “Someone stuck it in my hand before we left the church. I haven’t looked at it. Some political bullshit. Can’t unroll it with one hand anyway.”

“Here,” Dalton said, taking it and looked at it. “It’s written in Kyn. It’s an invitation to lunch the day after tomorrow. It says it’s from the queen.”

Geoffrey frowned. “Why would Dahlia secretly invite me to lunch?” She wouldn’t, not with a letter stuck in Janus’s hand.

“No, sorry,” said Dalton, handing Janus the note, who then handed it to Javier. “It’s from the queen of Dolovai.”

Javier crumpled up the note and dropped it on the ground, letting it get trampled. “We’re not going to tell anyone about this,” he said immediately.

Geoffrey nodded. “We’re not going to talk about it either. We’re not scheming today. We’re going to the wedding feast and it’s going to be fun and we can talk about this tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Janus said. “You sure you’re okay to walk?”

“Yes. Let’s go.”

The crowd was screaming so much, and it was a really long fucking walk. But Geoffrey did it, because he had to. He smiled through most of it, and he smiled through the wedding feast, because he had to.

And if that wasn’t a good enough reason to enjoy himself, Geoffrey didn’t know what was.

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