Oh, The Places You'll Go

Something Old, Something New?

Notes: Story 4 in the Allegoriverse. Written for the lovely soupytwist for her birthday.

Kate laughs in his face at first. A bubbling, startling bark of a laugh that is bigger than she is. Marry Wat? Why on earth would she want to do that?

She's half way through the question when she sees how Wat is standing, still and serious, leaning against the door to the forge, one hand holding onto the lintel. She stops and tilts her head, putting down the hammer and wiping her hands on her leather apron.

"You mean it," she says with a thoughtful frown. It doesn't need to be a question.

"Yeah," says Wat, swinging at the hips a little and not quite meeting her eyes. He half shrugs. "We like each other well enough, don't we? And it's a man's world, like it or not. Thought you could do with someone fighting your corner. Don't have to if you don't want. Not like I'm gonna make you."

"I don't need anyone to fight my corner," says Kate, frowning deeper and facing Wat down, hands on hips. "The Guild deal with me because I'm the best at what I do. Let them try to stop me because I'm a woman, I dare them."

Wat slumps then, trying to find somewhere to put his hands, settling for scrubbing one through his hair and holding the other across his belly. He looks like a little boy who thinks he's going to get wrong, and Kate remembers that it's not Wat who is the enemy, he's a dear, dear friend, and an honest one, besides.

"Don't look like that, Wat," she says and shoos him outside, indicating the rough-hewn bench propped against the wall. Kate likes to sit here and feel the sun on her face; it's warmth so different from the blistering heat of the forge.

Wat sits and stares at his feet, morose. Kate nudges him with a shoulder and pats his forearm.

"Come on, then. Spit it out. I know you, Wat Fowlehurst, and you're leaving out the best part."

Wat looks at her, then, and his eyes are wide and scared and Kate doesn't know if he's afraid she'll turn him down or that she'll say yes.

"Kate...we. I mean, we're not exactly spring chickens. Before William- Well, before Ullrich – when Will was a squire with hair birds could nest in – back then we so nearly starved. And maybe we got a second chance from God, or maybe we took it at the point of a lance, but we're here- we're...I don't even know what-" Wat shifts, unsettled, and grips Kate's hand. "There are so many things could bring an end to us, Kate. Fever and sickness. A kick from a pissed-off horse, even, and there's you and me, night after night, going to bed alone." He grimaces. "I didn't say that right."

Kate thinks, yes, you did, but gently she says, "What about Geoffrey?" because she loves him, too, and she can't fit the pieces together.

"Take us as we are?" Wat asks with a rueful smile. "Christ, I don't know. He goes away, he comes back, I wait. I'm like some bloody Crusader's wife, forever wondering if his guts have been spilled on some foreign field. Wouldn't recommend it. Be better if I didn't have to wait on my own."

"Oh, Wat," is all Kate can find to say, and she leans her cheek against his shoulder. It's been so long since Robert died, and years since Kate's been able to hold his face steady in her mind, but there are still nights she sits and waits and hopes for the knock that never comes. Wat's arm goes around her shoulder and it's heavy and warm and the sun flares over the trees and Kate begins to wonder.

"Alright, so say I agreed. What would that entail?"

"What?" says Wat, sitting up straight in mock-shock. "You want me to draw diagrams? Been married before, en't you? It's not like things have changed-" he waves a hand towards his groin and pulls a face, "-down there."

Kate grins then sobers quickly. "So there's still two of everything, is there?"

"Two of-?" Wat's face is a picture of horror and Kate bursts out laughing. She reaches up to take Wat's hand and squeezes.

"No, but really," she says, "What do you want with a wife?"

"Well, there's all manner of dirt needs shifting in the kitchen at the tavern. Can't seem to get the grease off that griddle. And then there's the hens need feeding and-" Wat ducks and Kate's hand only manages to glance across his hair. "Live with me," he says, serious again. "Live with me and share my bed when you want to and don't when you don't. You know how it is with me and Geoff; I'm not pretending this is the same. We both know that. But I'd be a good husband to you, Kate, and a good father to your children if you wanted."

Kate's eyes widen. Children. She hadn't even thought- And Wat would make a good father, that much was true. They'd drive him mad, his children, but he would love them fiercely.

No. No, this isn't the way to think, Kate tells herself. There are so many things to consider, so many ways this could go wrong. She has a good life, one she's fought hard for, and is loneliness truly reason enough to give it up?

"I'm not giving you my forge," she says and realises she must have said it with force when Wat flinches, holding up his hands, lips pulled back tight.

"What in the Saints would I want with your forge?" Wat asks, incredulous. "Think I know how to shoe a horse? Think I want to? I brew the finest beer in East London, I keep a decent house and I bake the best rye bread you've ever tasted. You," he jabs a finger at Kate's chest, "can keep your flamin' pokers."

Kate unclenches her fists and watches clouds drift across the sky. Maybe marrying Wat isn't quite as outlandish as she'd thought. They know each other, care for each other, know what to expect, and that's more than most couples have when they marry. Maybe.

"I'll think about it," she says and Wat must be satisfied with that answer because he stands up to leave.

"You do that," he says. With the sun behind him, Wat's face is in shadow, and so it's almost as if a stranger is bending to kiss her, short, soft and warm. "Better get that gauntlet finished," Wat says, straightening up and turning to walk away. "Don't want my betrothed getting a reputation for shoddy work."

"I'm not your betrothed," Kate calls after him, but the words feel strange on her tongue and his warmth still lingers on her lips.

"Yeah, yeah," Wat shouts back, lifting his hand in farewell without looking back. "You say that, now."

He sounds just like Geoff, thinks Kate and wonders what her poor, dead husband would say if he knew what she was thinking of becoming. 'Wife', Wat may call it, but Kate didn't think there was a word for it, not yet.

Lucky they knew a writer then, wasn't it?

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