Sleeping Habits

by llamajoy

Look at them, they think they're an army. Just the four of them! Three men and a woman (more like a girl, really), believing they're a force powerful enough to change the world, to knock the Empire off its feet.

Most nights they can't even afford the beer they're drinking.

It's the big blond one who most often buys the rounds, when he can, though sometimes it's the gruff dark-haired fellow with the smile in his voice. And see, nobody, no matter how rowdy or drunk, picks fights when those two are in the house, taking up their regular table in the far corner. Nobody dares. They might yet be an army, after all, with two strong-arms like that.

The inn here at Lenankamp's a comfortable place, so it's not too surprising that the owner looks the other way, and the barmaids are happy to refill an empty mug. Enough to stage a coup or not, they're regular customers, and half of them not bad to look at anyway. Well, all of them, really. The girl's a little sharper than some like some might like, but she's got a fire to her that people can't help following with their eyes.

It's the man in blue-- the sweet-faced one, prettier than her, some days!-- that always falls asleep first. Like clockwork the four of them sit there, talking late into the night with their heads tucked close together over their half-drunk tankards, and their words hushed and hard to hear. Look, there he goes: eyes heavy, the ends of his headband trailing over his shoulder as his head rolls back. Next to him, his bearish friend catches him before he can fall over in his seat, and that gets a smile-- even out of her, always so intense all the time. The boy, his hand moving uselessly against the other man's arms, mumbles something in protest, and now they're all chuckling.

Across the table, the blond says they should all turn in. Chairs scrape back on flagstones when the thee men stand, easy on their feet even though they've had enough beer to down an ox. Well, two of them are on their feet easily-- the boy in blue is touching her hand, trying to speak around a yawn.

She's shaking her head. Never seems to sleep, that one; she'll sit with her back to the fire when all the other customers, even her friends, have gone to bed. Not talking, not reading, not even drinking. Thinking? Dreaming awake, maybe, watching the bubbles in her beer like reading tea leaves. She might change the world yet.

But then he says her name like there's nobody else in the room, maybe in all the world. Never mind that half the inn is listening in, barwench and traveler alike. The blond and the bear exchange glances, smiling in spite of themselves.

She relents, and wraps her fingers around his own.

Watching the whole army retreat to their rooms, more than one person in the inn loses a bet.


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