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Ryer almost managed a smile when he opened his door to find Sarfyndar opening curtains while Baereth tried to make himself as small as possible on the bed, apparently hunting for something in the mass of blankets and pillows. As it was he sighed and crossed the room to tug the curtains shut, mostly ignoring Fyn's stunned look. She wasn't often speechless, so he let himself enjoy at least that much. How she reacted when she found her tongue again was the important part.

"You okay?" he asked Baereth as he closed the curtain nearest to the bed, moving around the table awkwardly. He wasn't ever going to ask why the table had been moved there.

The man just glared and held up his shackled hand pointedly, still squinting even in the dimmer light. Ryer unlocked it with quick movements, careful not to bump the deep bruises he couldn't see on Baereth's dark skin. He'd try suggesting a physician again after Fyn was gone. She didn't seem to be aware of the injuries, and he doubted Baereth would appreciate her knowing. Not that he seemed likely to appreciate anything really.

"Boss, huh?" Fyn finally said. Ryer frowned, not understanding the amusement in her voice. "Are your lovers so rare you feel the need to promote them all?"

Ryer turned, stunned as speechless as she had been earlier. A snicker from beside him pulled him back, and he looked over to see Baereth hiding a laugh.

"What-?" he started, then realisation struck. "You think we- That he-?"

Baereth gave up hiding his laugh at that point, collapsing back on the bed laughing uncontrollably. Distracted from his embarrassment at Fyn's assumptions – and presumably Baereth's lack of denial, because there was no way she hadn't hinted at things – Ryer stared at the man. He wouldn't have ever guessed the man capable of laughter like that, even without the circumstances of their meeting. He seemed like someone who had only known happiness from a distance, which was at least part of why Ryer had considered making the offer he had. Spymasters were always better off living life through a filter of cynicism.

Fyn was looking at them both with a small grin of satisfaction, as if Baereth's mirth was confirmation. Ryer sighed, realising denial was pointless – had been from the start.

"Lady Sarfyndar," he said, "perhaps this can wait until tomorrow. Call a meeting for dusk. And I'm sure I don't have to remind you of the need for this to stay out of the gossip circles."

She turned her nose up at that, but he didn't miss the laughter in her eyes. "I'm sure you don't," she said. "I shall be the picture of discretion, as ever." Then she looked at him more seriously. "As I'm sure you know."

She swept a bow and Ryer finally noticed the small metal creature clinging to her hair. Probably the reason she'd come up in the first place, which meant it wasn't as innocent as it looked. He just hoped she wasn't planning on using it against him now. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

"My lord captain," she said. "And his pet. Good day."

"He's not-" Ryer said, but she was already out the door. "I curse the day I met that woman sometimes."

He started to turn just as something hard and cold dropped around his neck, and Baereth was dragging him backwards, the chain that had been used to keep him pulled tight against Ryer's neck. Ryer clawed at it to no avail as he was dragged to the bed and thrown down on it. How the hybrid could be so strong with all of his injuries Ryer wasn't sure he wanted to know. Any other man would be taking every opportunity to rest.

"Baer-," he said as the man grabbed his wrists and pulled them up to the headboard, looping the chains through and shackling his wrists. "What are you doing?"

The thief tugged Ryer's arms to make sure the chains held and he hissed a curse. He had to admit he wasn't totally surprised given what they'd done, but he was hoping to at least get a chance to explain. If Baereth left now there'd be no one to stop him.

"Well," Baer said, dragging a chair over. He sat down and propped his feet on Ryer's stomach, not bothering to be gentle. "That's really up to you, isn't it?"

Pt 7 / Pt 8 / Pt 9


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April 2012

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