Oh, The Places You'll Go

Getting the Message

Notes: Yet more Allegoriverse. Comes immediately after Something Old, Something New?. You should probably have read that first or you might not know why Wat's so sheepish. Thanks again to mrs_laugh_track for being my first eyes - now and always, honey.


Geoffrey's mare clatters into the stable amid the hustle and bustle of a warm, late-summer day. He slides out of the saddle and pats her sweating neck, feeling warm, damp flesh rising and falling under his hand as she breathes in deep and steady. She forces out polluted air through loose lips and makes a sound halfway between a bray and a purr. Melodramatic, thinks Geoffrey, he's only ridden her this hard the last part of the journey. He'd wanted to be home, and had slowed only to navigate the last few streets.

He finds a pail and fills it with water, hooking it to the wall in front of her, and checks the food box for hay. It's full and fresh, maybe Wat had known he was coming after all. Chaucer's duties to his lord send him far and wide, to foreign soil, to deepest Kent, to the wilds of the North, and, while he can scrawl a quick letter to Philippa to let her know his intentions, the same cannot be said for Wat. Oh, he has tried to send word, but Wat's reading is barely past his A, B, C's and, though Geoffrey does his best, his stick figure drawings and crude attempts at ships and carts do not a Bayeux Tapestry of information provide. Geoffrey considers himself lucky he hasn't been taken for a treasonous code-maker, though no self-respecting spy would sign his name or doodle a heart in the margin of the parchment. No doubt Wat takes one look at the messages and casts them on the fire.

He has the mare's saddle off and stowed away and is considering whether he should make a trip to the street pump for ablutionary purposes when a hand steals around his waist and reaches for parts unknown. Geoffrey is somewhat unmanned by this unexpected intrusion and flinches, his head flung backwards connecting noisily with someone's sharp chin. He yelps and whirls round to see a rueful Wat rubbing at his face.

"Iesu, Wat!" Geoffrey exclaims. "Since when did you learn the art of stealth? You've usually as much subtlety as a bull in a field of heifers." He knows his sharp tone is belied by the ridiculous smile on his face, but he can't help it. "Too long," he says, and reaches out.

"And you'd be a heifer, I suppose, what with the yelling like a girl," says Wat, grinning back. "Ow, my chin." He allows himself to be reeled in.

They stare at each other for a long moment, Geoffrey searching Wat's face to see if anything is new, if anything has changed since last they were together. Wat breaks the gaze first and it makes Geoffrey wonder if perhaps there is something different in his eyes, a cloud over open skies. He puts the thought out of his mind as Wat pulls him into a hug. Wat's body is solid and warm against Geoffrey's and it is the best expression of home that Geoffrey could ever write. His hand steals under Wat's tunic.

Wat pulls away and holds him at arm's length, his face comically sad. "No time, Geoff," he says. "Punters are in. Come and have a beer, do. Tell 'em tales of your travels and give me a rest."

Geoffrey swings his satchel to his shoulder and follows Wat to the tavern. "What do you need a rest from?" he asks. "Are they making fun of your hair again? I've told you I can solve that problem with a sharp knife and some walnut juice."

"Hilarity ensues," says Wat, and, when Geoffrey raises his eyebrows at him, "Shut up, Mr Hoity Toity Writer Man."

"Now that's more like it," says Geoffrey and braces as Wat opens the door.

The tavern is busy today, every table occupied save for Geoffrey's little writing desk in the corner. From the way Geoffrey catches Wat sending fierce glares after anyone who sets foot near it, he concludes that his rickety stool must have remained unoccupied since last he was here. If it is unmanly that his heart swells at this knowledge, then so be it.

Wat is in his element here, tapping barrels, pouring drinks and taking money, weaving through the patrons with a clap on the shoulder here, a nudge of the elbow there. Geoffrey watches him through lidded eyes and does not miss the occasional scowl or clout round the head that punctuates Wat's exchanges with some of his customers. Nor does he miss the hurried glances in his direction that accompany them. It puzzles him, but Wat does not keep his counsel well and Geoffrey will know soon enough. For now, Geoffrey is content to have returned to the place his soul never left.

Geoffrey leans against the counter, a never-empty tankard at his elbow. He isn't sure how much he has drunk, but when he hears himself launch into a tale of how he almost single-handedly brought about peace at Calais he realises that it must be a good deal. He should, perhaps, slow down; he has plans for tonight.

A dark-haired, ruddy-complexioned man barrels through the tavern entrance and up to the counter beside Geoffrey, beating it with the flat of his hand. "Wat!" he yells, "For the love of all that is 'oly, get me some ale before I make myself a sinner."

Wat pours the drink and puts it in front of the man, liquid slopping over the sides of the tankard and soaking into the wood below. "Murder again, is it, John?" he asks.

"I swear, it's 'er or me," says John, taking a long draft and smacking his lips in appreciation. "Wives are nothing but trouble, eh?" He nudges Geoffrey who can only nod in agreement. "Told 'im," John continues. "Told 'im a thousand times, what you want to go getting betrothed for? But no. 'E don't listen." He turns back to Wat. "Sure and she's fair enough now, but you wait until she's 'ad six of un and five put in the ground. She'll be sour enough then, you wait." He turns again, this time to the agog crowd, raising his arms out wide, flailing tankard narrowly missing Geoffrey's head. "Am I right, or what?"

The audience, for such they are, cheer.

Geoffrey, admiring the spectacle, turns to Wat to share the enjoyment only to find him staring at Geoffrey with a mixture of guilt and bellicose pride. Wat's jaw works but no sound comes out and it is only then that all becomes clear. Observations and conversations fit together in Geoffrey's head — melody and words creating a song he is not entirely sure he wishes to hear.

"Oh my giddy aunt, you asked her," he says, and is suddenly only too aware of how that elderly relative feels. Oh, how she suffers.

"Yeah."

"And Kate agreed."

"Yeah."

"That's wonderful news, Wat. I'm happy for you both." It is joy that is causing his heart to batter at his chest. They've spoken of this, he's made his peace, it must be joy.

Wat does not ask, "Are you?" though Geoffrey can see that he wants to. Instead, he looks at his shoes and says, "Ta, Geoff," and sets about seeing to his customers.

Geoffrey drains his drink.

By the time Wat has bodily thrown the last two lingerers out into the night, Geoffrey has soothed and stroked his emotions into quiet acquiescence. He takes his tankard and sits in one of the great chairs by the fireplace, one leg swinging over the arm.

"Tell me all about it," he says, indicating the other chair. He even means it. Kate should not be synonymous in his head with rival; they should be comrades for they both want the same thing.

Wat gives him a long, measuring look, then nods, obviously satisfied by something he sees. He pours himself a pint and sits in the chair opposite Geoffrey. "You're gonna laugh," he says.

He's right. Geoffrey laughs a lot. He laughs at the part where Wat asked Kate to marry him whilst she was busy in her forge. He laughs at the part where Wat offered to draw her diagrams. He near falls off his chair at Wat's impression of affronted Kate refusing to give up her forge and Wat's equally affronted reply.

"Oh, Wat," says Geoffrey, his voice gurgling with unspent laughter. "You haven't the least notion of romance in your head, have you?"

"I'm choosing not to be offended by that," says Wat. "I'm growing as a person."

"Oh, you are, are you?" Geoffrey asks, and doesn't add, "Who are you doing that for, her or me?"

"Yeah, I am," says Wat, and sticks out his tongue to prove it.

When Geoffrey has stopped laughing, he says, "Want to know how it should be done?"

Wat shrugs. "What? Just in case I find myself at a loose end with an unmarried woman on the premises? I think you and Kate might have something to say about that."

"Consider it part of your education, Wat Fowlehurst. Grow your soul as well as your self-importance." He tips his head back against the wing of the chair and curls his mouth in a half-smile.

"I can still fong you," says Wat, mirroring the smile. "Just saying."

"I quake," says Geoffrey and then goes still. There is utter silence in the room for the length of half a dozen heartbeats and then Geoffrey swings his leg back over the chair arm and kneels in front of Wat in one smooth motion. He holds out a hand and Wat takes it, grinning.

"We begin with a kiss," says Geoffrey, "to signify our intentions are courtly and honest." He begins to raise Wat's hand.

Wat stops him. "I know," he says. "I seen Will kiss the back of Jocelyn's hand time and enough. Tell me something I don't know."

Geoffrey draws Wat's hand to him again, turning it as he does so. "Not the back of the hand," he says, bowing his head and pressing his mouth to Wat's rough skin, calluses hard against his lips. "The palm. A kiss on the palm says, 'My heart is in your hands.'" He curls Wat's fingers around his palm. "And this is saying that it is yours to have and hold."

"That's...yeah," says Wat, tongue flicking out to wet his lips. "What next?"

"Next I tell you that since you have my heart in safe-keeping I no longer have one of my own. I tell you that I cannot live without a heart, cannot measure the space between when we part and when next we meet. Cannot feel the fluttering thrill of your presence, nor the dull, steady ache when you are far from me. And I ask you if I may have your heart in return for mine own, and tell you that if you refuse me, I shall die." Geoffrey does not need to school his expression to match this avowal; it is there already. These are words he has read before, heard before, spoken before, but it is only now that they take meaning and become more, far more, than a jumble of sound.

Wat says nothing, his face is flushed and his eyes full, and Geoffrey thinks in for a penny, in for a pound. He had started this in jest but now it seems there is nothing to jest about. Heretical and sinful though it may be, he is as married to Wat as he ever was to his wife. More, even, because he chose Wat and Wat chose him. Somehow, in the great wide world, with everything that stood against them, they had found each other, and that is nothing less than a miracle. Words are his business and his squire is no fool.

"And when I have received your heart (for which I offer profuse thanks)," he bobs his head and continues, "I tell you that if you will share my bread and salt, if you will sleep with your head on my pillow, if you will bring your light into my life and leave it to shine goodness into all my dark corners, you shall neither want for food, nor comfort, nor even for love, and I shall never want anything else ever again."

Wat reaches out, then, and touches Geoffrey's cheek with a hand. It trembles, and Geoffrey covers it with his own. He understands completely and does what he always does when emotion threatens to overwhelm him.

"See?" he says. "Easy. I can't tell you the legs that have opened up as a result of that little speech." He grins, swift and sure.

"Yeah?" says Wat, clearly not believing a word of it, if the sun-brilliant warmth of his smile is to be trusted. "You could open some right now, and that's the God's honest truth. C'm'ere."

Geoffrey rarely needs to be told twice, and when their lips meet it is with the weight of days and the strength of words and the faith of love behind them. It may not be the best kiss they have ever exchanged, both are a little addle-pated from the ale, but it is without doubt the sweetest.

Geoffrey hardly knows how they are come to be in their bed in their room under the eaves. But here they are, and they are pressed together, skin to skin, hands roving over bodies, finding the familiar places to make each other sigh and moan. Geoffrey thinks he would very much like to fuck Wat, if he is able, but it appears that Wat is determined to master him instead and this confuses Geoffrey. It isn't that he hasn't spent many a pleasant hour at the receiving end of Wat's attentions, it is simply that when he returns from journeying, Wat takes him in, to his house, to his bed, to himself. It is what they do.

A thought occurs and he tries to force it away, but the nagging bite of it worries at him and he cannot help himself. What if Wat no longer wants him that way because he is to be married? What if Wat, or Kate, has decided that they cannot make this work between the three of them? What if this is the first sign that Wat is content to let their uncommon marriage slide back into common friendship?

"Oi," says Wat, breaking Geoffrey's reverie, "you stopped."

Geoffrey lifts his head from where it is pressed against Wat's neck and shakes it like a dog. "Sorry," he says. "Blame the travel?"

"Nah, I blame you," says Wat, and his eyes are shrewd. "I can't read minds, Geoffrey, spit it out."

Geoffrey screws up his face, twists Wat's nipple gently and decides to hell with embarrassment. "You still love me, don't you, Wat?"

Wat's face floods with relief. "You soft get, of course I do," he says with a box to Geoffrey's ear.

Geoffrey's heart skips a little in celebration but he is not yet restful. "When you are married-" he starts, and breaks off before his voice cracks. He clears his throat and tries again. "You haven't altered? You still want-?" He cannot bring himself to say, "Me."

"It's going to be very confusing who wears the britches in this house," says Wat. "What with Kate running her own forge and you behaving like you'd worn skirts your whole life. Listen, you idiot. The first time we woke up still tangled in the morning, that's when I knew that if we were together then that was home for me. Nothing has changed that. Nothing will. It's easier than you think." Wat strokes careful fingers down Geoffrey's arm as if he can press the knowledge into him.

"I am your home and you are mine," says Geoffrey, slow and wondering at the sheer simplicity of the fact.

"Now you're getting it," says Wat, and kisses him long and sweet.

"I shall compose an ode to be recited at your wedding," says Geoffrey when they break apart.

"No, you fonging won't. Can't trust you not to write something rude."

Geoffrey places a hand on his heart. "Wat, your distrust of me cuts me to the very quick. How about a painting? No nudes, I promise."

Wat looks at him for a moment and then heaves himself out of bed. Geoffrey has time to admire his fine buttocks and strong legs as he crosses to the drawers and opens one, taking out a locked box made of plain wood. Opening a different drawer, Wat produces a key and unlocks it. He takes out some parchment and returns to the bed.

"Painting?" he says, incredulous. "You? Not on your life. What's that even supposed to be? A giant rat?" Wat jabs a finger at some vaguely intersecting lines.

He hands over the papers and Geoffrey recognizes them immediately. Here is every single message he has ever sent Wat, not cast on the fire at all, but kept safe and protected. Geoffrey's guts twist and birth a hundred, a thousand butterflies because he truly believes now, he cannot doubt, that he is loved and will always be.

"It's a horse," he declares, turning the paper this way and that, squinting at it as if that will help resolve the issue.

Wat bumps shoulders with him. "Okay, Geoff, if you say so. A horse with whiskers."

"Hey, hey," says Geoffrey, papers scattering everywhere as he pins Wat to the bed. "Are you impugning my skills as an artist?"

"I can impugn whatever you like," leers Wat. "Does it involve sex?"

Geoffrey barks out a laugh. "God, I love you," and the saying of it makes his heart sing.

"'Course you do," says Wat. "And if you're nice to my wife you can get a good discount on horseshoes."

"Well, if you put it like that," says Geoffrey, and lets Wat get on with the business of impugning.


Contact Cat

Or comment at my LJ