It was going to be a bad winter. Marquis could feel it in his hands, theyd never quite recovered, and tell by the way the blood was struggling to pump through them as the days got darker and shorter. He wasnt old by a long-shot Thirty next year, still good! but he completely sympathised when the old stable hands began their groaning. Powder white snow turned grey as he sludged through it, soot from his boots leaving a trail behind him as he fought his way to the main hall. All around him horses were being saddled and loaded up and men in uniform milled restlessly, blowing into gloved hands to warm them up, and Marquis refused to look at any of them. They were all in on it. If they werent someone would have mentioned it to him already and hed just known something was up when guards had been avoiding him for the last week. His pack, only half completed, was being dragged behind him and everyone gave him a wide birth as he finally pushed the hall doors open, stomping inside.
He did stop once inside, shaking his hair to dislodge the stray snowflake and stomping his feet on the mats. The change in temperature was enough to make his fingers and nose tingle in complaint; fires roared in all fourth hearths and heavy, densely woven mats hung over any nook or cranny that threatened to let the winter air in. The blond sighed and dumped his pack onto one of the tables by the wall, his table, shrugging off his heavy coat and letting it sag onto a chair by the fire to dry out. It would need to be dry; they were heading out in the next hour and he had bombs to pack. He wasnt even halfway through the array sprawled out on the table when he heard a shout from the other end of the hall, and he let out a quiet groan as he all but heard the bows of the few staff in the hall. Mattie. Bugger.
He didnt bother to turn around until he heard the Kings heavy footsteps close by, and even when he did he had to smile. Looking wonderfully awkward Mattie was holding his son, in one arm against his hip and not looking impressed while Ric, sporting the same dark hair and eyes as his father, gurgled happily. Mattie looked uncomfortable in his paternal role but, Marquis thought with a shake of his head, it was better than hed been at first; back when Ric had first been born, Mattie had been holding him out in front with both arms stretched as if he was something particularly dirty that he didnt want to smell. Shaking the rather amusing image from his mind, Marquis turned his scowl on and crossed his arms, leaning back against the table.
You didn tell me we were goin ta war gain, Matt. It was a well used sentence. Mattie seemed completely unaffected, returning Marquis scowl with one of his own.
Youre not coming.
I think we both know, mate, that there aint no way in ell yer gunna stop me. It was a tried and true response and Marquis hadnt been left behind yet. After the first time when hed all but stalked Mattie to the battleground, the King had thrown up the same arguments but never with the same determination as that first year. There was that same glint in his eyes now though, and Marquis brown turned down. An if you lock me in my room I swear Ill never talk to you gain.
Its for your own good, Marquis. Now Mattie just looked tired; tired of this argument and tired of Marquis being unreasonable. Youd be useless out there in the snow and I am not having you hurt yourself again for me. Youre staying.
I told ya Im not gunna just let you Marquis cut off abruptly as Mattie, obviously not wanting to argue this time, all but shoved Ric into his face. Honey-brown eyes blinked as the shorter man hesitantly took the child from Matties hands, pulling the small bundle to his chest and just glancing at his King. Mattie just looked smug. It was well known that Marquis had a soft spot for the Crown Prince, since the kids mother had died in childbirth and Mattie had absolutely no skill with children whatsoever. Or anyone, really. Uncle Marquis did as any good uncle should and doted on the child.
Youre staying and youre going to look after him. I dont trust the nursemaids. The grim look in the kings eyes to anyone else would look like a death sentence but Marquis knew the bastard was laughing at him. His lip was even twitching, threatening to morph into a smirk. Hes too young to go into battle.
It took a few moments for Marquis to say anything, his jaw opening and closing a few times in disbelief. Hed been neatly and effectively check-mated and Mattie knew there was no way hed drag little Ric out onto the battlefield. They were alone now in the hall, just the three of them, and Marquis let out an annoyed sigh and just propped Ric up on his hip.
You always did play dirty, ya bastard. He grumbled, well aware there was no-one to be offended by his lack of respect now. He even poked his tongue out, his freckled nose scrunching a little in distaste. Mattie had won this time but -
Thought cut off as the King leant down and pressed his lips to Marquis forehead. Whatever the blond had been about to say simply died in his throat. It was the last time hed see Mattie in weeks, months even, perhaps even alive, and he didnt want to spend it yelling at him. He let his forehead rest against the taller mans chest. Just make sure you bloody well come back, you hear me, mate?
Mattie didnt even bother replying, quickly stealing a kiss before he adjusted his sword and walked straight past Marquis and into the flurry of white the doors had been hiding them from. The closed with a bang, leaving Marquis in the light of the fireplace with a small child sucking on the end of his ponytail.
Ma? Marquis glanced down at Ric who was looking up at him with his trusting, innocent red eyes. Looked just like his grandpa, this one.
You better not be callin me Mama, kiddo. Marquis muttered with a chuckle, popping the bundle down on the table as far away from the bombs as he could. Or else you and I are gunna have some serious gender sortin to do.