Rat & Will Chapter 19: Relaxation Before Ruination
The next morning, Rat woke first and spent a few quiet minutes simply watching Will sleep. They had a full day ahead, and tonight, well…as plans went, this one seemed as sound as any the two had come up with. But. There was a lot to go wrong. And Will, as ever, would be the main target for anything unexpected. He was big, and strong, and an excellent fighter, but the man was also distressingly mortal. She scowled and lightly pushed golden hair back from an ear bearing a small worn copper cuff. Seeing it there soothed her and when Will woke some time later, it was to find his wife wearing an unusually tender expression and softly running her hands through his hair.
When their eyes met, hers narrowed, and with a scowl, she tugged hard at his hair and muttered about “laziness” and “sleeping in.” Completely unperturbed, he smiled and wrapped strong arms around her, kissing the complaints from her lips.
An hour later they were dressing, Will with a smirking smile that Rat, preoccupied with thoughts and plans for the day, failed to notice till he grabbed hold of her from behind and planted a kiss on the top of her neatly braided head. “Vardo’s ass! Would you just finish getting ready, fool?”
He grinned easily and sat to pull on his boots. “Nearly there. Any particular thing bothering you about the plans for tonight?”
She grunted. “Too much to go wrong.”
He shrugged. “I thought that was part of the fun?”
She stopped, stared at him a moment. Smiled. “True enough.” She tossed him a glove he’d left on the floor the night before. “Also the fires.”
“Of course. Can’t forget the fires.” Finished with his boots, Will stood and looked about. “Time for breakfast though, right?”
“Obviously.” Rat rolled her eyes. “Wouldn’t want you starving to death before nightfall.”
“That would be a terrible turn of events.” He opened the door, checked the hall and stood back, waiting for Rat to take the lead.
She tucked one last packet into an unseen pocket and stepped out of the room. “Let’s be quick, shall we? I want to take a quick look around the city before we have to prepare for tonight.”
“Sure.” Will followed her steady steps down the stairs.
In the hall, they stopped to face a quiet Fro, who was leaning against the wall next to the door. Rat stepped up. “Ale getting delivered today?”
He nodded, looking a bit tired.
“You helping?” Another nod. Rat grinned and handed over a small bundle of packages. “Put one of these in each barrel of ale. No more than that, or we’ll be doing too much harm.”
The boy looked at her, eyes wide. “Every barrel?”
“Every one.” She sniffed. “I need to know that they’ll be drinking that powder tonight.”
She handed Fro a small purse with a number of coppers and one silver. He didn’t bother to check it, only made a small move and it disappeared into his new, too-large coat. “There will be more tomorrow, if you manage to do the work. Speaking of which,” She paused, stared at him for a long moment with hard eyes that had him shifting and glaring back defensively. “Stay inside tonight. Streets are going to be…unsafe.”
He gave her an angry look. “Inside where? I got a place, but it ain’t inside.”
She muttered curses and met eyes with Will who shrugged. “Vardo’s fat ass. Fine.” She leaned up into the thin face. “Before dark. Our room. We won’t be there, and if you touch anything, I’ll find you and skin you and use your damn hide for new boots. Got it?”
Eyes a bit wide, he nodded. “What’s up tonight?”
“You aren’t stupid enough to be asking that.” Rat glared at the small boy a bit longer, then turned and stomped off. Will winked at Fro and followed his wife.
Not wanting to be too conspicuous, they did not grab breakfast from Will’s favorite stall (despite his complaints). Instead they opted to grab a loaf of bread from Milla’s kitchen before taking a quick and quiet circuit of the city. They made sure to take note of the location of each of the guard barracks and anything they’d missed in prior walkthroughs.
Rat noted with glee that none of the buildings seemed particularly well guarded. When she’d pointed that out, Will had sensibly reminded her that few occupants of Morgans Reach wanted to be in close contact with the guard, and thus they probably didn’t need much security. By the fourth barrack, she’d begun to wish she’d brought fire traps after all; it didn’t appear that anyone (including the idiot guards themselves) would actually bother to notice if a person climbed onto the thatched roofs and danced naked while singing a goblin mating song.
When she suggested going back to pick up the needed items, Will reminded her that they had a perfectly good plan. “It isn’t like you won’t be starting fires. And you’ll be using fire arrows. You haven’t done that in a couple of seasons.” He said in a teasing undertone. She rolled her eyes, but stopped arguing.
Instead, they located several good locations for fire starting on the city walls and places to hide the three cages. From a distance, they watched as Fro and the old man delivered ale to the first barracks building. Rat could see why Fro didn’t like the duty. The old gaffer spent the time talking and playing a dice game while the small boy did the heavy work of moving barrels half his size. When one of the men cuffed him distractedly for getting underfoot, she noted the subtle look he sent the man and was certain that the powder would be delivered as she’d specified.
They got back to the inn in time for Milla to meet them at the back door, hands tightly wringing her apron. “Any progress on my job?”
Rat waved the question away and walked past her, but Will smiled gently at her. “Stay in tonight.”
Eyes wide, she grasped his arm with both work toughened hands. “What are you planning?”
Rat turned about, glaring at Will. “Yes, what are we planning?”
He smiled calmly at them both. “Just stay in. Possibly lock your doors.” Then he gently removed her hands and followed Rat up the stairs.
Upstairs, they’d double checked their preparations, or rather, Rat had double and triple checked her fire arrows, potions and powders till Will had pulled her teasingly into bed. She’d grumbled, but he made a perfectly good argument for rest and a bit of last minute relaxation. “You’ve checked it all five times already. Tonight is going to happen the way it happens. Come to bed for a few hours, Lena.”
Nose wrinkled at the nickname he rarely used, she’d turned to see the worry in his eyes. It was always like this, just before an expected fight or battle. There’d been a time when she’d taken it as an insult to her skills, or even his. When she’d railed and fought, argued pointlessly. Now, she knew it was only his huge heart showing through. Later, he’d fight with all the skill, toughness and even enjoyment she’d come to depend on. And he’d trust her to do the same. Now, in the quiet moments, he thought too much and worried enough for both of them.
So she bit back the acrid, angry words and instead, smiled. A real smile. Rare enough that his blue eyes still widened in pleased surprise to see it. And when she spoke, her voice was gritty and heavy with unspoken emotion. But the words…they were pure Rat. “Damn it Will, you’ve got too many clothes on. Get em’ off, won’t you?”
And his answer was full of laughing relief. “Of course, love. But aren’t you going to help?” And the afternoon slipped quietly away on a wave of laughter and love.