Oh, The Places You'll Go

Ramble On

Notes: So Chaucer said that if Wat got a POV then he should, too, because he's an author ffs and of course he'll do it better. So I said fine but you're not getting porn. And he said whatever he was perfectly capable of doing that bit in his head once the fic ended. And then I wrote this and mrs_laugh_track thumbsed it up so here it is for you dedicated few.


If pressed, Chaucer could still not explain how this happened. He could tell you of his horror when it dawned on him that he was no longer looking for Wat's bright torch of hair in the crowd for visibility, but because it was Wat he wanted to see first. He could tell you of the strange warmth that blossomed inside him as Wat described his cook and proved he had the heart of a poet somewhere deep inside. Deep, deep, deep inside. He could speak of how goading Wat into anger and action became less a sport and more a necessity or of how his heart and mind sped when Will took the reluctant kiss from Wat's lips.

All these lines, these parts, he could recite by heart but still, they made no sense as a whole. He was Geoffrey Chaucer, poet, author, herald and Wat was...Wat was. He tried denial, but it was fruitless. God or the Devil had chosen this path for him and he had little choice but to follow it to journey's end. Which would probably be a fist through the brain, he thought prosaically.

*****

The battle of wood and metal is past and Will dances with Jocelyn in the brightness of the hall whilst Chaucer and the other sit in darkness, flames flickering and twining around each other as they move seemingly in tune with the distant thrum of the beat.

"Don't talk such bollocks," says Roland, passing him the jug and wiping his mouth with a sleeve. "It's a flamin' fire."

Kate giggles and bumps Roland's shoulder with her own. "That would be the point, yes," she says and Chaucer watches as it takes Roland a full count of five to get it. Definitely addled.

He takes a swig himself, eyelids fluttering involuntarily at the vinegar hit of the gutrot, and passes the jug on to Wat who accepts it with a small nod of thanks. He's been quiet for some time now and it is unnerving. It will not do. If Chaucer cannot guarantee that he is in Wat's thoughts then Wat shall have no thoughts at all. He leaps to his feet.

"Come on!" he roars. "Let's do the show right here!"

Three pairs of eyes, wide and glinting in the firelight, blink up at him uncomprehending.

"Story time," he explains, arms open and embracing the Muse. "Kate, you can be the princess."

"Hell, no," says Kate. "I'm a blacksmith. Do you think I took that job just so I could conform to gender stereotypes? I don't think so." She sticks out her tongue, stained purple with bad wine and Chaucer grins.

He makes a sweeping bow. "Very well then, my lady, you shall be the beast. Slayer of maidens, fair and otherwise, destroyer of worlds and really, really ugly."

He probably deserves the kick Kate aims at his ankle. She does, however, accept the role. Roland is decreed to be Stout Yeoman – it won't be a stretch and he can lean on a stick, which is just as well, given how he sways as he stands.

"What about Wat?" asks Roland. "He going to be the hero?"

"No, no, I shall perform that onerous task myself. My genius is a trial, but one I must bear alone." Chaucer strikes an attitude and glances at Wat who is pulling a face, truly present for the first time since the sky grew dark.

"Genius, my arse. Big-head more like. Surprised your neck doesn't snap with the weight of it." Wat shakes his head.

Chaucer closes the distance between them and nudges Wat in the ribs with his foot. "Like it or not, I'm the hero and you, pretty Wat, kind Wat, dainty Wat, get to be my princess."

Wat is on his feet with Roland and Kate each clasping an arm before Chaucer has taken two steps back. "Dainty?" he says as if it's a curse. "You take that back or I'll-"

"Yes, yes," sing-songs Chaucer, blood speeding around his veins, unable to stop the grin that spreads across his face. "Entrails, extrails. Insides out. I take it back, you can be as uncouth as you wish as long as you'll just be the princess." Wat subsides a little and Chaucer wheedles, "Come on, be a sport, we all just want to play. Right, Stout Yeoman? Right, Dangerous Beast?"

Kate and Roland nod and Wat jerks his head in defeat, shrugging them off. He tugs down his tunic and pretends to flick his hair off his face, head down and eyes peeping up, blinking rapidly. "Will this do?"

Chaucer surveys him critically and reaches out to pull a piece of straw from Wat's hair. He tries not to wince as Wat flinches away. "Most princesses have more gold in their hair, less straw." He sweeps a hand downwards, fingertips barely grazing rough cloth. "And you really are poorly-endowed in the breasts department, but you'll do."

Wat rumbles and Chaucer dances away around the other side of the fire. "You can't punch the hero!" he calls and it's his own fault that he feels his guts twist when Kate tells Wat he's the prettiest princess in camp and Wat's face lights with a genuine, if drunkenly lop-sided, smile.

The story is one of high adventure and romance and only runs dry when the wine does.

"How does it end?" asks Roland, who has long since given up leaning on his stick and has played his part mostly from ground level.

"With a kiss. They always do," says Kate. Chaucer thinks he hears a hint of exasperation in her voice.

"She's right," says Roland. "It has to be a kiss."

And, fine, so this may have been in Chaucer's head when he began the tale but now it's expected and almost past due and he has to act before Wat catches on, but the air thickens and time stretches as Chaucer reaches out to take Wat in his arms. And then time speeds up again as he dips Wat down low and, declaring, "My love, now we shall never be parted," plants a sound kiss on his lips.

Wat spits and punches hard, sending Chaucer into a spin. As he falls to the ground he mumbles, "Thank you, I'll be here all week," and smiles as the world fizzles around him and then fades to black.

~~~~~

Wat is painting the new lances with careful concentration and Chaucer turns them slowly and surely so the lines curve evenly up its length. The pink tip of Wat's tongue pokes out as he works and Chaucer allows himself to become a little distracted wondering what would happen if he abandoned his post, grasped Wat by his hair and sucked the tongue into his mouth. A black eye to match the one that's only just fading, he imagines.

He stops turning, calculating whether the risk is worth the reward and Wat looks up, brow creased.

"Hey! If this looks wonky and makes Will's eyes go googly and he misses, it'll all be your fault."

"Sorry." Chaucer shrugs his shoulders apologetically, but Wat's attention is caught elsewhere.

"Awww," he says. "Now, isn't that a pretty picture? Well, half of it, at least."

Chaucer turns his head, following Wat's gaze and sees Roland and Christiana framed by the opening of the tent. She is looking up at him and laughing, a maidenly blush lending perfect colour to her cheeks – nicely done, Chaucer concedes – and he is smiling down at her, his expression warm and open. Chaucer hisses on an inward breath, shaking his head and Wat turns to him, eyebrows raised in question.

"It will end badly," Chaucer explains, though he wishes devoutly to be wrong.

"Don't see why. Look, she's touching him and laughing at his jokes. That's Roland. She's got to have some feelings for him if she's gonna laugh at his jokes. It's against the laws of God and man."

"That, my low-born friend, is courtly love – on her side at least. He may love her truly but for her it is a game. She does not mean to wound, it is just the way of things. Alas, poor Roland." Chaucer's shoulders roll in a heavy sigh. He's almost entirely sincere.

"You don't know what you're talking about." Wat jabs an accusatory finger at him.

Chaucer feels the expression shift on his face, knows that his eyes are serious and steady though the slight smile on his lips solicits them to dance. He looks. Wat looks back. The clamour of the camp fades into nothing and Chaucer is only aware of the moment, the utter silence between them.

Wat's face shifts and it is not with pleasure. He comes up close.

"Stop it," he says, shoving Chaucer in the shoulder and walks off, leaving the lance half-finished.

"Damnation," thinks Chaucer. "God fucking damn."

~~~~~

Chaucer has been aware of Wat's eyes on him for some time. So much so that he barely knows what he writes, just dips the quill in the ink and lets the words spill themselves on to the parchment. It will make good fire starter later, at least.

There is a rustling sound and a shadow falls over Chaucer's makeshift desk, he cannot do but look up, now. Wat is looking, not at Chaucer but at the paper, with an expression that Chaucer has only before seen directed at food or dreams of taverns.

"I want... Can I?" Wat's fingers stretch a little towards the quill then drop quickly back to his side. "It's a strange magic, the words in your head there for anyone to see. To remember. I want to. Will you show me?"

"Of course," says Chaucer, getting up and motioning Wat to sit. "Of course."

He finds fresh parchment and hands Wat the quill who holds it ham-fisted.

"God, not like that, Wat. You look like you're going to stab me with it. We write with ink, not blood."

He repositions Wat's fingers, bending them gently but firmly around the quill. Wat mutters about how blood could be arranged and resists Chaucer's attempts until Chaucer threatens to take his ink block and leave. He goes limp, then, and lets Chaucer arrange him as he wants and finally the quill is inked and poised over the parchment.

"Now make a mark," says Chaucer. "Anything will do to start."

Wat puts quill to parchment and begins to press. And press. Chaucer grabs his wrist and jerks it sharply upwards.

"The nib! You'll splay the nib. Do you have any idea how hard good feathers are to come by, hmmm? Do you want me to have to write with pigeon feathers? Is that what you want?"

"I want to take your stupid nib and stick it where the sun don't shine but we can't always get what we want, can we, Chaucer?" snaps Wat, pulling his wrist free. "Now am I writing or am I punching you in the face?"

"Fine. You're writing." Chaucer holds up his hands, placating. "But I'm helping."

He sits on the bale, one leg behind Wat so that his body is half-turned to him. He places his right hand over Wat's, fingers grasping fingers as if Wat himself was the quill. Wat's hand is warm and dry and rough and Chaucer doesn't quite manage not to think of it holding other things. His breath seems loud and his body too small to hold the air he needs.

"Well, come on," says Wat. "My life expectancy's pretty short, you know. Serf stock here. I don't really have that much time to waste."

Chaucer laughs and guides Wat's hand in a short diagonal line. "There. You're writing. Clever you."

"Keep going," says Wat, staring intently at the parchment.

So Chaucer does.

He makes diagonal lines and vertical ones. Dots and crosses and curlicues. It's slow going but eventually there are seven words on the parchment. Neither the most legible nor the most poetic writing Chaucer has ever done, but perhaps the most heartfelt.

The parchment reads: Wat is mine. Trespass and be damned.

Chaucer forces himself to release Wat's hand and stands up. He shows him how to blot the ink and watches as Wat's fingertip traces the lines of the letters over and over.

"What does it say?" asks Wat and his voice is hushed as if he's seen a miracle.

"It says 'I am Wat. Cross me and I will fong you," lies Chaucer.

Wat turns such a beaming smile of pride on him that Chaucer feels a stab of guilt. It doesn't last, though. It never does.

Later, Chaucer is returning from the privy when he sees Wat passing the parchment around Team Ullrich. They cannot read but they nod and smile and Will ruffles Wat's hair and Kate pulls her rare impressed face. Before he can get closer, however, Christiana arrives and Wat passes the parchment over and Chaucer freezes. She furrows her pretty brows and says something, there is an exchange of words. Wat snatches the parchment back from her, face purpling with rage. Chaucer cannot spare time to note how the others are reacting, he knows when it is time to run.

In hindsight, hiding in the last place Wat had seen him was not the best decision he'd ever made, Chaucer thinks, as a spluttering Wat pulls him from behind the hay bales then lands him back on them with one punch.

"I just. I can't. What are you..? I am not yours." Wat flings his arms in the air and walks away, turning back and readying his fists again.

Chaucer feels his jaw gingerly and gets to his knees, a supplicant. There are other ways, better ways, but this is the situation he's created for himself and he will make it work. He has to. It's not the first time he's spoken words he does not know to be true. It will not be the last.

"Oh, but you are."

Wat's eyes bulge and the vein on his temple throbs and his fist clench and unclench, the crackling of the parchment grating on Chaucer's nerves. He doesn't hit, though, doesn't move towards Chaucer so Chaucer continues.

"And I am yours. Your humble servant, your petitioner, your l-"

"Don't!" Wat lunges forward, pulling back a fist and Chaucer readies to take the blow, but at the last second Wat turns and smashes his fist into a wooden pillar. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, ow!" he yells, hopping up and down.

Chaucer is on his feet immediately, grabbing Wat's wrist and examining the knuckles, which are bloodied, and full of splinters. Yes, this is going so well.

"Sit," commands Chaucer and is surprised when Wat does as he is told. He pulls the splinters as efficiently as he can, then tears a strip from his own tunic, binding the wound.

Wat suffers silently, but as Chaucer is tying the bandage of he blurts, "Why do you...? You make my head so..." He waves his good hand frantically in the air and then, as if he had been pricked by a pin, he deflates. "Don't mock me, Geoffrey. I only have fists to defend myself, and words sting longer than bruises."

Chaucer stares, breath catching in his throat and he can barely get his own words out. "I don't mock you, Wat," he says and lifts Wat's damaged hand and holds it to his mouth.

Wat narrows his eyes as if he is weighing Chaucer, holding him in judgement and then they widen again and he blinks slowly once, twice. "You really? Me? But...me?"

Chaucer grips Wat's hand as tight as he thinks he can stand it. "Yes, you. How can you not see who you are? You're loyal and passionate and honest. You have an open heart and somewhere, deep inside, there's a poet in your soul. Deep, deep, deep inside." Chaucer grins. "And the broad shoulders and sparkling eyes haven't gone unnoticed, either. Now close that mouth or you'll catch flies."

Wat's jaw closes with a snap only to open again. "Well, fuck me," he says.

"I had been intending to work up to that, but yes, aim high. I'd be delighted to oblige."

Wat tries to scowl but can't quite hide the smile behind it. "Pain," he threatens, "Lots of-"

"Not if we use saddle grease." Chaucer tilts his head in what he has been told is a charming manner.

Wat lifts his free hand and feints a cuff to Chaucer's head but instead curls his fingers around Chaucer's ear and tugs lightly. "We won't both get out of this alive."

"Very probably," Chaucer agrees, nodding solemnly.

"And even if we do, we're going straight to hell."

"I've always hankered for a sojourn in warmer climes."

"So. You really want to do this?" Wat strokes his thumb along the curve of Chaucer's ear.

Chaucer shivers. "Wat, if you don't kiss me now, know I will compose a rhyme on your failure as a lover and have it around camp by dawn. Is that really what you want?"

"Write a rhyme with me as the hero and I'll kiss you twice," says Wat, tugging Chaucer closer.

"Done," says Chaucer as their lips finally, finally meet.

Wat was never any good at counting.


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