Noble, 53

Pretending to Know What You’re Doing Is Very Dangerous When Other People’s Lives Depend on You

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“Not to be a jerk, but when the hell can we go home?” Janus asked, idly tossing a pillow up and down as he lay on the bed.

“Soon, I’m sure,” Geoffrey said, though he wasn’t at all sure.

“Cool. I just think that if Dahlia and Giacomo were going to hang out in Three Hills all this time and make us wait with them, we could have gone on a trip to somewhere else in Dolovai. I know I said I was cool not to go on a trip but that was when I thought we were going home to do important shit.”

“We’ll go on a trip, then,” Geoffrey promised.

“What, no, I don’t want to because it’s too fucking cold, remember?” Janus turned his head, looking at Geoffrey. The pillow fell on his face and he pulled it aside. “We’ll go on a trip in the summer. Like normal rich people.”

“There are no normal rich people,” Dalton said. He and Javier were writing together at the table. Geoffrey was pretty sure they were both just pretending to do something productive, though. He’d wandered by earlier and seen Javier writing something about cocks, so they were probably just swapping pornography.

“You’re a rich people too,” Geoffrey told him.

“I refuse to agree with that.”

“The only reason you need to refuse to agree with it is because it’s true.”

“You should break up with him,” Dalton said to Javier.

“I know, but I like him.”

“Yeah, he’s okay for a rich person.”

“You know who’s really weird?” Janus asked Geoffrey. “Poor people.”

“I know, right?”

“It’s just weird when you guys do it,” Javier informed them.

“And a bit douchey.”

“Rich people are the most maligned people in the world,” Geoffrey mused. “We have it pretty hard.”

“Yeah, if you think about it…” Their door opened, and without any fanfare or warning, Giacomo walked in, looking like he was lost. Everyone fell quiet.

“Wow,” said Giacomo, shutting the door behind him after he’d let Alfie in behind him. “I remember when people used to like it when I came into a room.”

“What’s the matter?” Geoffrey asked him, because someone had to. “You seem upset.”

Giacomo nodded, came over to sit on the bed. Geoffrey sat up. “I’m not really. Hans died.”

“What?” Geoffrey looked at Javier, who’d put his pen down, then at Janus, who was sitting up as well. “When?” Hans was staying in some rented manor with Dahlia and Giacomo, so it could easily have been days ago and Geoffrey wouldn’t know.

“Last night. It looks like he had a heart attack or something but he didn’t.”

The room was quiet again. Giacomo was all tense. Geoffrey put a hand on his back. “Giacomo, did you kill him?”

“No,” Giacomo said, with a rapid shake of his head that had his hair bouncing. He shut his eyes, and Geoffrey could see him composing himself. “I’d ask why everyone thinks that, but I know why. I didn’t. Neither did Dahlia. She’s with her brother. I have to go in a bit to the castle with her. Um. King Gerard died last night too. So nobody thinks it was an accident.”

He was so obviously shaken that Geoffrey believed him, and put his arms around him. “Okay. It’ll be okay.”

“Yeah.” Giacomo leaned on Geoffrey a little. Alfie was hugging Javier. “It was probably the Empire. Or that’s what everyone assumes, anyway. Gerard was supposed to announce a big peace summit next week, he talked to Dahlia about it the other day. He was going to invite the empress and everyone, even the Sorcerer King, and…” he stopped talking, breathing hard. He was trying not to cry.

Geoffrey hadn’t seen him this upset in years. “Giacomo, tell me what’s wrong?”

“When…” Giacomo let Geoffrey rock him. Janus came over with a cup of water and he took it. “When the Sorcerer King kidnapped me, I made a deal with him so that he’d leave us alone. Hans was working for him. I wasn’t supposed to hurt him, because he was keeping an eye on me. Everyone thinks I killed Hans. If Samson thinks that too he might kill me.”

“He won’t,” Geoffrey said, holding Giacomo tighter. Fuck. He felt fear coursing through him like a wave, but also clarity. Giacomo had been forced into a deal with King Samson. How much of what he’d done lately was because of that? “We won’t let him. Henry won’t let him do that.”

“Geoffrey, you don’t understand,” Giacomo said. “I was there, I met Henry. He’s not on our side. He’s not going to stop Samson from hurting anyone. He can’t, even if he wanted to.”

“We’re still going to try. I’ll write to him.”

Giacomo was shaking his head. “I came to tell you that if something happens to me, that’s why. I don’t want you to…”

Geoffrey reached up and covered Giacomo’s mouth. “Shut up,” he said softly. “Nothing is going to happen to you.” Geoffrey wouldn’t let anything happen to Giacomo.

“Especially not when you’re in Three Hills surrounded by all the royal security in the world,” Alfie said, from the table. “I told you that.”

Giacomo held up his hand, and pointed at that ugly-ass ring he’d been wearing.

That he’d been wearing since he came back from the plateau. “Oh.”

Giacomo nodded, and Geoffrey removed his hand. “He made me wear it so he could summon me if he had to. I can’t take it off. I guess a more powerful sorcerer than him could probably do it, but we don’t know any.”

“I’ll write to Clan Cween,” Geoffrey said, immediately. They lived in Geoffrey’s lands and they barely paid taxes, so they could fucking…

“He’s making an alliance with them.”

“Ronaldo Harrow is here, and so is the mages’ academy,” said Janus, while Geoffrey processed that.

“You guys don’t get it,” Giacomo said, raising his voice a little. “I know. I know you’re trying to help and I love all of you for that. But this is my fault, I did it to myself. I thought I could protect everyone and fix everything all alone and I thought I was so clever and I thought I was so much better than everyone else and now…” he choked a little, tears in his eyes. “Nothing is going right and I keep hurting all of you, and everyone hates me and I thought I’d be okay with that but I’m not, because I’m not even helping anyone and I’m so…I’m so lonely and I know I deserve it, but…”

“Shh,” Geoffrey said, heart aching as he smoothed Giacomo’s hair. “No you don’t.”

“You have to say that, you’re too afraid of me not to,” Giacomo cried.

Was that true? Maybe. But Geoffrey’s brother was hurting and there was no part of Geoffrey that didn’t want to help him. “You know what you did wrong, Giacomo?”


Well, yes. “No,” Geoffrey told him. “What you did wrong was that you tried to do everything by yourself.”

“Yeah,” Janus said, taking Giacomo’s hand. “Why did you do that? You knew we all loved you. We would have been on your side if you’d let us.”

“I just…it wasn’t fair to make you guys all do my bidding. You’re my friends, not my minions. Not that I ever treated you like friends.”

“You did, though. For a while. Then you stopped.”

“You all hated me after I hurt Geoffrey. He needed you more than I did.”

“You know, Giacomo,” said Javier, from the table. He was looking down at his paper. Alfie was really tense beside him. “Something that I’ve never liked about you is that you always just assume you know what other people think and want. Most people will tell you what they think or want, if you make an effort to listen to them. They don’t need you to decide what’s best for them.”

“I…” Giacomo looked down. “You’re right,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.”

Geoffrey thought Javier was being a bit harsh, but maybe harsh was what Giacomo needed. “You have a bad habit of trying to do things by yourself. Whether it’s because you don’t want to bother other people or because you don’t trust us, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to stop.”

“I don’t know how.”

Geoffrey kissed Giacomo’s temple. “I do. Did you know Hans appointed me back to Dahlia’s council?”

“What?” Giacomo scowled. “When?”

“Before we got here. He thought you were out of control, and that maybe I could rein you in before you hurt someone.” Geoffrey sighed. He’d also thought he would die soon. “I don’t think you want to hurt anyone, but I do think Hans is right. You need control in your life.”

“I don’t need…”

Geoffrey squeezed him. “You do. Javier’s right too. You think you know what other people think and need and want, so you think you know best. And I think some of that is my fault. I spent so much time even in the last few months thinking that you must know what you were doing. That you had a big plan or a secret play in your back pocket or something.”

“No,” Giacomo cried. “I haven’t known what I was doing for months. I tried to tell you that.”

“And I didn’t listen, I know. But I’m listening now. It’s my fault. You were just a kid and all you wanted to do was play with your friends and I got you involved in a civil war. I decided I wanted you to be king and never even asked you your opinion. And before that, Dad never disciplined you properly and God knows I didn’t either. It’s no wonder you’ve been acting like you can do whatever you want.”

Giacomo swallowed. “Geoffrey, I didn’t come here looking for a spanking.”

“I know. But it’s time for you to remember that you’re just a boy and sometimes you need help, Giacomo DiGorre.” Geoffrey’s mouth was dry. “So from now on, you’re not the boss anymore, got it? I am. Not just me. All of us, because I sure as hell don’t know what I’m doing either.”

“It can’t look like the queen’s husband is going to his big brother for every…”

“Shut up,” Janus told Giacomo. “Geoffrey’s right. You’ve been acting like an idiot, and we love you, so we’re going to help you. There’s lots of guys back in Hawk’s Roost who’ll help too. And you don’t get a say.”

“I am still the king,” Giacomo grumbled.

Alfie came over and kissed his forehead. “I’ll make sure your crown doesn’t fall off when they tie you to things,” he promised. “Now are you glad I made you come?”

Giacomo looked away, cuddling closer to Geoffrey. “Yeah,” he grumbled. “Thanks.”

Alfie just nodded and went to hug Javier. “I missed you,” Geoffrey heard him whisper.

“Missed you too, kid. I think you’ll really like Dalton, too.”

“Okay,” Geoffrey said, sitting Giacomo up. “You have to go see the ven Sanctes soon. Tell us everything you know, and we’ll tell you what you’re going to say while you’re there.”

“I don’t know very much,” Giacomo muttered. He wiped at his eyes.

“We know, dummy,” Janus told him, sitting cross-legged. “Start talking.”

Giacomo nodded and he did, sitting in Geoffrey’s lap the whole time. It wouldn’t be this easy, not over time, when Giacomo would start to think he knew better again. That was just what he was like. But for now, it could be okay.

For a little while, at least, things could be okay again.

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