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Chapter 4

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Thorne didn't see Kaven the rest of the day, or the day after that. He was never sent for, and the one time he dared venture to the broad double-doors that led to Kaven's room, his light knocking received no response. But he was never ordered out of the palace, either, and the one time he passed General Othalion in the corridor, sliding aside and bowing quite low, the general had merely slithered by with a brief nod of acknowledgment. Whatever else Kaven now thought of him, he hadn't been offended enough to report him to the general.

Still, as the days stretched to a week, then two, Thorne grew more and more miserable. He'd not really known Kaven well, but it was no surprise to realize how much he missed the quiet prince, now that he was gone.

Idiot, he berated himself, wiling away the hours by plucking out new tunes on his lyre. He offers you his friendship, and you drive him away with your chatter. Wonderful.

He saw less of Makah, though whether that was because of his change in status or if the guard had simply been assigned elsewhere, he didn't know. But he found himself oddly reluctant to find out, staying mostly in his room, venturing occasionally up to the gardens in the hopes that he might see the prince again.

But he didn't; not until nearly three weeks after that fateful afternoon under the willow tree.

He was sitting at his desk, glowering down at the blank parchment before him and trying to will lyrics onto its pages, when there was suddenly a knock at the door. He sighed, setting the pen back into the inkwell, before sliding over and opening it, expecting to see one of the pages, or perhaps Rivek.

Instead, Kaven himself sat outside his door, looking slightly flushed but decidedly better than Thorne had ever seen him. His eyes had lost some of the haunted look they'd held before, and he'd filled out some as well. He lowered his hand, looking down, then said softly, "Thorne. Hullo. May I come in?"

Thorne blinked, his mind taking a moment to catch up from the surprise. "Um...yes, of course, please..." He slid back and opened the door further, bowing as Kaven came in, before closing the door again, leaning back against it for a moment. "You look well," he offered, and meant it.

Kaven drew a breath, then released it slowly. "Thanks," he said. "Listen...I'm really sorry about before. I wanted to tell you, but...I couldn't tell anyone, if I wanted to make it work..." he shook his head, swallowing hard, then bit his lip around a large smile. "Ilyria told me to tell you that even though he can't talk yet, Mekash says hullo to his uncle Thorne."

Thorne gaped at him, his mouth open, but no words coming out, just a noise of startled surprise.

Kaven grinned, then laughed a little. "I did it," he mused. "I actually rendered you speechless."

Thorne blushed, but shook his head. "What...how...you saw her?"

"Yeah," Kaven said, smiling. "I...after we talked, I decided..." he shook his head, and started again: "I went out to the villages," he said. "And visited the families of...of the men I lost. To beg forgiveness from them, and tell them their sons served their kingdom well." He drew a deep breath, then released it again. "I talked with them," he said softly. "We shared stories about the soldiers, and laughed, and cried, and it was...nice. And it doesn't hurt as much, now." His hand drifted over his breast, settling over his heart.

"You..." Thorne smiled, slowly, feeling himself light up. "Oh...oh, that's wonderful! I'm so...well, I'm so proud of you," he said, blushing again. "If that's not too presumptuous to say. It must have meant the world to them, to have you...have you acknowledge what they'd lost."

Kaven chuckled a little. "I think I frightened a few of them, at first," he said softly. "But once they realized why I was there, they opened up a little. Thorne..." he slid forward, taking Thorne's hands in his. "I really need to thank you. I didn't realize it, but it was killing me, not having anyone to talk to about this, not being able to grieve, then to heal..." he shook his head. "Thank you," he said again. "I just...yeah. Thanks." Then he grinned. "Oh, and I brought back a few barrels of cider. They're in the kitchen, and only you or I can draw from them, unless we decide to share."

Thorne squeezing Kaven's hands in return, certain his face might split from the width of his grin, and not caring one bit. "You're welcome. I...any time, and I mean that. About anything. I'll always listen, even if I don't understand it all, promise." He wriggled then, letting out a soft noise of happiness. "And cider, and you've seen my nephew! What does he look like? How's my mum? What did Da say when you got there?"

Kaven laughed, and they settled in, Kaven recounting his visit eagerly. Thorne listened just as eagerly, taking in the change in the young Prince with awe.

"And your mother is so sweet, Thorne, she just scooped me into a hug as soon as I got there and congratulated me on the engagement, and thanked me for taking you on," Kaven said. "Your father was a little worried, but when he relaxed he was great too, and he told me about his harvest and your brother showed me his books, and I told him he could come here any time and I'd let him use the library so I think he might do it, when the winter sets in and he has time. And Ilyria is just glowing, and the baby is doing fantastic. She let me hold him, and he has your mother's eyes and your sister's smile, and he's red! He's red, like you, with black spots, and he's so beautiful..." Kaven trailed off, laughing. "He had a great time playing with my hair," he recalled, eyes sparkling.

Thorne drank it in, absorbing every word, glad to hear of his family, but mostly amazed to see Kaven so animated, so...so happy. He wasn't an entirely different person, but he seemed so open, so much more content. "I can't wait to get to see him. And I hope Merric can come for the winter...it's been too long since I've gotten to spend time with him." He grinned, resting his elbows on his tail and his chin in his hands, still watching Kaven. "I think the country air agreed with you," he observed.

Kaven laughed, joyfully, and nodded. "I think it did too," he said. "Everyone was so wonderful...even the families of the soldiers who died because of me. They told me they were just so grateful I'd come out to pay my respects, and they forgave me, Thorne," he said, and his voice was amazed, his eyes shining for another reason now. "They forgave me, each and every one of them."

"You asked them to," Thorne pointed out softly. "That's...I can't remember ever hearing of another royal commander doing that, much less a prince. You showed you cared about their sons." He smiled softly. "You know...you're going to be an amazing king. Just what Ophidia needs."

Kaven looked at him, mouth hanging open slightly in awe. "I...I am?" he whispered. "B-but...but what about...?"

Thorne looked quickly around, and then leaned closer. "The last thing this country needs is another Ipson," he said, softly, but fiercely. "But you're not him, and you're not your father, and that's the best thing that could ever happen to your people."

Kaven bit his lip, then smiled, very slowly. "You really think so?"

"I'm certain of it," Thorne said firmly. "I don't think you should be ashamed you're not like them, I think you should be proud. And I'll bet at least seven country families agree with me, now."

Kaven laughed again, then lunged forward suddenly, wrapping his arms around Thorne's shoulders in a fierce hug. "Thank you," he mumbled against Thorne's shoulder. "Thank you so much..."

Thorne hugged him back, just as tightly, feeling a warm bubble of hope and happiness settle in his stomach, taking the place of the worry and fear he'd felt over Kaven for the past three weeks. "What're friends for?"

"I wouldn't know," Kaven reminded him, drawing back and grinning at him. "I've never had any before."

"Well you do now," Thorne said firmly, blushing slightly. "So you can start learning. Lady, I'm glad to know where you were...I was worried," he admitted softly. "That I'd gone too far, said too much..." He smiled, very shyly. "And I missed you."

Kaven looked remorseful. "I'm sorry," he said. "If I'd taken the time to find you and tell you, I might not've gotten away. But if...if it's any consolation, I missed you, too," he added, blushing fiercely.

Thorne just stopped himself from giggling, feeling absurdly young. "It is. And I understand, and I'm so glad you managed it...Should we get some of that cider and you can finish telling me everything?"

"Sounds perfect," Kaven said, grinning. "Let's go down to the kitchens--I want to meet the cooks."

Thorne grinned, wondering what the kitchen staff would think of seeing their prince in their midst. Ah well, they'd get over it. "All right." He pulled himself up, grinning to himself. Well. This was going to be interesting, watching Kaven come into his own. He just hoped he'd get to stay along for the ride.

He and Kaven headed down the path to the kitchens, which were on the other side of the palace. Thorne headed right in, but Kaven paused in the doorway, suddenly looking a little uncertain. Thorne turned back to him, about to say something, when he was interrupted.

"Why Lord Kaven! I haven't seen you in here since you were a youngling!" The head cook, Gimma, was advancing on them, a welcoming smile on her face. "It's good to see you, lad. Do you still love those fried cakes? I'm working on a batch just now, and you'll be wanting your cider with them..."

Kaven looked surprised, and for a split second taken aback, but then his face broke into a warm smile and he slid forward, grinning. "Yes, ma'am," he said politely. "That sounds wonderful."

A rather amused Thorne followed as Gimma set them up in at a corner table, a plate of fried cakes and mugs of cider in front of them in moments. "Did you come down here a lot when you were younger?" he asked curiously.

"Oh, he was in and out," Gimma said as she moved back to the sink, continuing the dishes. "He would sneak cakes, if he could, but even when he couldn't I could never say him no, with those big blue eyes of his."

Kaven blushed, nibbling on a cake, and Thorne laughed, delighted. "The big eyes never seemed to work on my mum," he said, giggling as he took a sugared cake, happy to see Kaven teased and accepted by someone else. "But it never stopped me from trying, just in case."

"Your mum's made of tougher stuff than I am," Gimma said easily, reaching out to scruff Thorne's hair, smiling as he ducked away, still giggling. "Of course, it was her own youngling. If this one here were mine, I might've been able to say him nay, but he wasn't, and I was putty in his hands from day one."

"You were," Kaven said softly, still grinning. "Gimma, I'm sorry I haven't been down to see you in so long..."

Gimma waved a hand, but she smiled tenderly. "You've had your duties to attend to, and no lack of them, lad. But I won't deny it's good to see your face."

Just then, Lyra, one of the young pages, appeared in the doorway, arms full of dishes. They were fancy enough that Thorne knew they must've been retrieved from the banquet halls, and he wondered briefly what the occasion had been. Lyra could barely see over the stack of dishes, but she could see enough, apparently, to catch sight of Kaven; her eyes went huge, and she automatically started to bow, but with the dishes in her arms she overbalanced and began to topple forward.

Kaven lunged toward her, catching the child and the dishes at once and steadying her. "Whoa," he murmured. "Easy there, youngling--don't hurt yourself. Are you all right?"

"I..I...yes, your highness, I'm sorry, I..." Lyra looked both shaken and star struck.

Thorne reached over, helping her with her load, getting them to the sink. "There we are...you know, I once dropped even more dishes than that, right in my mum's kitchen." He shook his head, winking at her. "There were plates everywhere, and I was covered in gravy."

Lyra giggled, softly, taking the last plate as Kaven handed it back to her. "Thank you, your highness," she said shyly, smiling for him.

Kaven grinned. "Tell you what," he said, lowering his voice conspiratorially and leaning down a little so he and Lyra were nearly eye level. "When we're in here, and it's just us"--he gestured at Thorne and Gimma, then himself and Lyra--"you can just call me Kaven, and I'll just call you by your name. What's your name?"

She bit her lip, glancing quickly at Thorne, who nodded encouragingly. "Lyra," she said shyly, looking back up at Kaven.

Kaven nodded. "Lyra. It's a pleasure to meet you." He took her hand in his, bending to kiss her knuckles, which made her giggle again. "In the hallways, you shall be Miss Lyra. And in the hallways, I can be Prince Kaven again. But in here, we can just be us. Sound good?"

Lyra nodded eagerly. "Yes, you--I mean, yes, Kaven. Thank you for keeping me from falling," she added in a rush.

Thorne watched Kaven charm the girl, knowing he had a goofy smile on his face, but unable to do a thing about it. The prince was so relaxed, so open...and a thousand times more attractive for it. Getting a crush on an engaged princeling is not the smartest thing for you to do, he told himself, but knew it was hopeless. He'd already liked Kaven quite well, but now...he sighed softly. At least it'd make for good song writing, and he could still be the prince's friend. He didn't truly need more than that.

Just keep telling yourself that, Thorne, he thought, and sighed softly again as Kaven rose from his crouch, sending the girl along with a cake of her own.

"You will spoil them all, won't you?" Gimma said, hands on her hips as she watched Lyra slide away, still giggling.

Kaven shrugged, then smiled charmingly at her, batting his lashes playfully. "I'm sorry," he said, pulling a contrite face, and Thorne knew from the way Gimma laughed it had to be the same one he'd used on her when he was a lad. Kaven tossed Thorne a grin, winking at him, before settling back down to his cider.

Thorne grinned back, unable to stop himself, and settled back himself. "She'll love you forever now, you know," he said, nodding toward the door. "And so will the rest of the pages once she tells them the story. You'll have so many willing helpers you may have to invent errands for them."

Kaven shrugged, looking pleased nonetheless. "I imagine it's better to have people serving you because they want to, not because they have to," he reasoned softly.

"Definitely," Thorne replied, blushing softly. "I meant that as a good thing..."

Kaven nodded. "I know you did," he said, smiling again. "I was thinking out loud. You're not the only one allowed to do that, you know," he added teasingly, winking at Thorne again.

Thorne laughed, blushing again. "True enough. Suppose I'll have to do it more now, if I want to hold onto my title..."

Kaven just chuckled. "Don't worry, farmboy," he teased lightly. "I have a long way to go before I think about catching up with you on that front."

Having made Kaven laugh--which had of course been his goal--Thorne was content enough to agree, settling back and finishing his cider. He sighed, draining his glass, the taste reminding him of home. It was strange to think Kaven had seen his family, while he had been at the palace.

Kaven drained the last of his cider and set his mug down with a nod. "Just as good as I remembered it," he remarked. "And now, I had better go explain myself to the king and my father." He made a face, rolling his eyes a little, and tossed Thorne a look. "Wish me luck, huh?"

Feeling a sudden extra thrill that Kaven had come to him, first, and not the king, Thorne smiled wryly. "Good luck, my lord. I'll have the healers ready to carry what's left of you back to your rooms."

Kaven lifted an eyebrow at him. "'My lord'?" he repeated. "Come on, Thorne, give me a break."

Thorne giggled. "Fine then. I'll have the healers ready to mop up your remains, Kaven. Better?" He grinned innocently.

Kaven cringed, reaching one hand up to scratch the back of his head. "Would be, if that didn't ring truer than I feared," he said, looking sheepish. "Thorne...if I don't see you again, it's been an honor knowing you." He bowed, then slid from the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

"You'll do fine, soldier-boy," Thorne murmured, grinning to himself. Well then. Allowed to call Kaven by his given name, and the prince had visited the country folk, and returned to the kitchens...It seemed all he'd needed was a friend. But he'd needed that for far too long.

* * *

It was nearly midnight when the knock sounded on his door, and a soft whisper: "Thorne? Are you still awake?"

Thorne was, in actual fact, in bed, just on the edge of sleep. He pushed himself up and tried to slide out of bed, ending up tumbling to the floor with a loud thump. "Um...Come in?" he called, giggling as he rearranged himself, reaching up to light a lamp.

The door slid open, and Kaven's face went from mildly alarmed to amused. "You all right, there, farm-boy?"

"I'm fine," Thorne mock-grumbled, red-faced but smiling. "What about you?" he asked, as he finished lightly the lamp and stretched, yawning. "You seem to still be in one piece..."

"Yeah, well..." Kaven shrugged, looking a little guilty. "I only got out that I'd gone to some of the outlying border camps before Father interrupted and said it was almost time to do an evaluation of them anyway, and good for me for taking the initiative. I figured I'd leave well enough alone. He also put me officially in charge of seeing to their upkeep--I think he's never stopped hoping I'd become militarily inclined again. And were you asleep?" Kaven frowned, looking over Thorne critically.

"Not quite," Thorne replied, running a hand through his hair to find it sticking out in several directions. "I was in bed, though. But I'd rather talk to you than sleep yet, and I wanted to know how it'd gone. And at least now you have an excuse to go visiting, if you want to..."

"Well...yeah, that's the thing," Kaven said, and he suddenly looked a little shy. "I told Father the camps were low on a few provisions, and that I would oversee their delivery myself. I'm heading back out the day after tomorrow, and I thought...since you haven't met Mekash, and everything, I thought if you wanted to tag along..."

Thorne's face lit up. "Really?"

Kaven shrugged. "Yeah, if you want to," he said, though he was clearly trying not to grin. "I mean, half the royal escort will be following me anyway. No one would think twice about me bringing my bard along for entertainment."

Thorne didn't think, he just launched himself at Kaven, hugging him hard. "Thank you!"

Kaven stiffened, clearly startled, and after a moment his hand came up to pat Thorne's shoulder lightly. "You're...you're welcome," he said.

Thorne blushed, pulling back, his face flaming. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...I..." Fuck!

Kaven was a little pink himself, but he waved his hand. "It's all right," he said. "I'm just not..." he trailed off, then shook his head. "So! Day after tomorrow. Can you be packed by then?"

Still blushing--and internally berating himself--Thorne nodded. "Of course. I'm used to living out of a pack, now, staying one place for this long has been strange..." Just because he hugged you this afternoon doesn't mean you should hug him with no warning. Think for once in you life, Thorne!

Kaven nodded, smiling a little hesitantly. "All right then," he said after a moment. "Great! I'll, uh...I'll send someone for your things tomorrow evening, and I'll probably plan on seeing you early Wednesday morning, by the front gate. Um. Sorry I woke you--I'll let you get back to sleep." He nodded again, bowing slightly. "Goodnight, Thorne."

"Goodnight, my..." Thorne paused, then smiled very shyly. "Goodnight, Kaven. Sleep well." He watched the prince leave, then blew out the lamp and fell back into his bed with a groan, curling up against the back wall of it, tail curled around himself. "You are such an idiot. Such an idiot. Be lucky if he ever relaxes around you again, now..."

Still grumbling to himself, he eventually fell asleep once more, dreams taking him to a place where Kaven hugged back, most enthusiastically.

* * *

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eeee I'm so glad you guys are still updating! I've been waiting to know what happens next. Kaven is so sweet.

Personally, I don't care how long it is between chapters, if it continues. A lot of stories I've liked have been left unfinished.
We'll its about time!
The waiting nearly killed me.
Thank God for Thorne, that guy is too adorable for me to stay made at you. He's my favourite.
GAH! I love this so much. I'm so happy you updated, I was afraid it'd been scrapped or something.

I don't mind the waits, either, so long as there's more!
asdf'lkasdf OH BOYS. Thorne's trying so hard!
asdkjfasj You updated! I'm so, so happy to see this!

Oh, boys. I want them in plush form so I can hug them and squee whenever they're being all cute like they are right now. It's so good to see Kaven happy, and yay obvious crushes on both ends that they're both too nervous to see.

I have more to say, but it's late and I was actually heading to bed when I saw this, so maybe I should see about that. But yay! Update!
OMFG UPDATE YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!! *flail* I'm so excited to see this chapter... and it was excellent!! Kaven and Thorne just being all relaxed around each other and laughing and talking... oh it made me so happy to read that. And to read that Kaven finally got some closure with the families of his soldiers. That was so wonderful.

And the awkward hug at the end! That was just so cute! *flails again* I cannot WAIT for Ch. 5!! You've got me all excited again!! Thorne's going back home!
Oh Thorne, if only you knew.

They're so ridiculously adorable. I'm looking forward to chapter 5! :D



This has been on my rss feed since the 2nd chapter and I thought you abandoned it! Thank gawd you didn't! I love Thorne! He's so cute!

Updates are delicious. But whenever, I'll be ready!
yay. <3

OMG, they are so cute. What a wonderful chapter. I love seeing Kaven open up almost as much as Thorne does.


From daisygirl from Y!

I'll have to look up the information for my LJ account, it's just not something I want to do at this moment, so you get an anonymous review from me.

Anyways, I loved the chapter once again. This one didn't seem to be as intense as it's predecessors, but still enjoyable none the less. I'm looking forward to reading the parts where all those pretty little pictures you post of them come into play. ~_^

I've been checking practically daily to see if there's an update, and there is!

I must have done something good in a past life... XD

<3 Beaucoup amour


Ooooo, i cant wait for the next chapter! i found you on Y!Gallery and as soon as i saw the nagas and read a bit about the plot line i imedietly knew i had to read this. this is such an awesome story so far ^^ -huggles-

October 2009

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