Disclaimer: All but the two principle characters are mine, as is the scenario. Those two belong to Marvel, and I do not have permission to use them.
Note: Yes, I know, there are a LOT of 'first meeting' fics for these two. So what? I wanted to do one too. And I flatter myself that this one's one of the more unusual. (And yes, there's a much longer story behind this one, but that one isn't finished.) Oh, and this story is set in the late 18th century.
Jamie looked around nervously, hands tightening around his slingshot. It was getting awfully misty.... and it'd be dark soon. And he was a long way from the village. Not that he was lost, of course.... not exactly.... the village wasn't hard to FIND, you just went downhill until you ran into it. It was pretty much impossible to get lost in the valley. He just.... wasn't sure exactly how far away it was, that was all.
And the sun was right on the horizon....
Jamie sighed, running a hand through his tufty black hair. He had his mother's black hair and blue eyes, nothing of his Scottish father showing in him save, perhaps, his fair skin. Jamie Logan was Welsh, through and through, tough as nails, mountain-born.... and of course he didn't BELIEVE the stories about demon-wolves that preyed on children who were out on the mountain after sunset, he just didn't want Mam to worry.....
At least he'd gotten something, he reflected, picking up his hard-won rabbit by the ears. Rabbit stew tomorrow, and maybe he'd be in the less trouble for that... had that been a howl? Well, what if it was? Wolves howled all the time in the mountains. It was what how they talked to each other. Sometimes, just occasionally, Jamie wondered if he could make that high, ringing sound himself...
Okay, that had DEFINITELY been a howl. He picked up the pace, hurrying down the faint path as fast as seven-year-old legs could carry him. Not running, it wasn't wise to run, but... hurrying. The road was near here, and once he found that, he'd be safe enough - he hoped. He could at least put up a better fight on the road than he could in the trees. Fight? What was he thinking!? Ordinary wolves wouldn't attack a human, and if there really WERE demon-wolves, then he wasn't going to fend them off with a slingshot!
Jamie was stronger, faster, and a damn sight more observant than most children. Which was why, when he cought a flash of motion out of the corner of his eye, he threw himself into a tumbling roll down the hillside, and never mind what it was. There was nobody there to see him make a fool of himself, if he was wrong.
The huge black wolf passed a bare inch over his tumbling body, landing with a snarl in a small bush.
Jamie rolled to his feet and sprinted towards a tall rock. The damn thing couldn't climb, not like he could, not with paws, and if he could just get high enough that it couldn't get him, he might get away....
Shoving his slingshot in his pocket as he ran, he tossed the rabbit over his shoulder in the wolf's direction. It didn't have to eat it, just be distracted by it for a moment.... yes! There was a momentary pause in the sounds of pursuit behind him, and he jumped as high as he could, grabbing a ledge and hauling himself up the high spar of rock. Up, up, no time to nurse scraped palms and bruised shins, up the rock and if you let go you're not just a fool you're a *dead* fool, Jamie Logan....
Panting, and whimpering a little, hearing a snapping noise somewhere just below his toes, he made the top of the rock and turned. The wolf had its front paws up on the rock, snarling at him horribly and showing more teeth than any normal animal could hope to own.... Jamie shuddered. The pitch-black fur, the teeth, the red glint in its eyes... it wasn't a normal wolf. And it really wanted little boy for its dinner.
But it couldn't reach him. Close, but not quite. And after snapping and snarling at him for a few minutes, it seemed to get bored, slinking off into the trees with one more baleful glare over its shoulder. Jamie sighed softly, relaxing a little. he couldn't get down, of course, but he was safe enough, if uncomfortable. Uncle Owen would come looking for him eventually, and while he'd get into trouble, it was better then getting into a wolf.
He was never sure what instinct prompted him to swing around and look down the *other* side of the rock. A prickle on the back of his neck, a whisper on the edge of sound, a faint scent on the breeze... whatever it was, he turned. And his stomach turned over in sheer terror.
There was a rise of earth on the other side of the rock, that halved its height on that side. The wolf could easily get to him from there.... and there was a faint, an ever so faint rustle in the bushes on that side....
Beyond it, he could see the road. And on the road, oh praise the Good Lord, a carriage, and a horseman riding alongside... "HELP! Help me!" he screamed, cupping his hands around his mouth. Was it his imagination? Had the horseman turned his head? "Help! There's a wolf after me!"
Before he could see more, the carriage passed behind a thicket and was out of his sight. He strained after it, praying desperately that he'd been heard... and believed.
There was a slow, deadly snarl, and his eyes dropped from the road to the brush only a few feet from his rock. There was the wolf, eyes glowing eagerly as it advanced step by step out of cover. Not in any rush now, believing him caught against the precipice, it advanced inch by slow inch, seeming to delight in his terror. Slowly the upper lip peeled back from those horrible fangs and a deep growl bubbled up from its throat. And - if that wasn't terror enough!- more shadows appeared behind it, red eyes glowing and growls joining in a dreadful chorus.
Jamie backed as close as he could to the edge. If he jumped they'd be on him before he could get up again, and if he stayed where he was they'd get him anyway... he sniffled a little, biting his lip and trying not to cry as certain death strolled leisurely towards him with a cruel smile in its eyes.
Then there was a sudden crack and one of the other shadows went down with a strangled yelp. The black wolf's head snapped around, teeth bared as it sniffed the air. There'd been no sound, no hint of movement, before the sudden report, but now there was a sudden thunder of hooves, and an enormous grey horse burst out of the trees, rider bent low on its back.
The rider aimed a pistol, and there was a second report. The black wolf yelped horribly, one leg seeming to collapse suddenly, and then the horse was past it, and Jamie's world suddenly tilted as a hand grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and he was pulled over the horse's shoulders as they bunched and launched all three, horse, rider, Jamie and all, into space.
Jamie's eyes clamped shut.
After a second, not hearing a crack or crunch, he cautiously opened one eye. Somehow, the horse seemed to be skimming silently across the ground without having landed at all. There hadn't been so much as a jolt, and yet already the horse was slipping silently through the trees, seeming uncannily to not touch the ground at all.
Jamie blinked. Time seemed to approach its natural speed again, and now he could hear the rhythmic thud, thud of hooves. He must have imagined it. Draped chest down over the horse's shoulders, he stared at the reassuringly solid looking ground for a moment before twisting his head the other way. He could see a leg. A long leg, wearing fine-looking breeches and marvellously tooled leather boots. "Am I dead?" he asked the leg.
The leg grunted, tightening a little on the horse as they slipped and skidded down a narrow ravine, coming out suddenly on the flat, bare expanse of the road. The carriage was nowhere to be seen, and the rider muttered what might have been a curse.
Jamie took stock. On the up side, he was alive. At least, he was fairly sure he was. And the rider was picking him up and sitting him across the horse's shoulders instead of leaving him draped like a sack. But on the down side... he groaned. "Me mam's gon' kill me!"
The rider chuckled wryly. "Oui. And you are not the only one." He had a strong French accent, and Jamie turned to see exactly what he looked like.
He was tall, with blond hair pulled back and tied at the nape of his neck. He was dressed finer than anyone Jamie had ever seen, and his coat... well, if that wasn't velvet, it would do until Jamie saw the real thing. He gaped, openmouthed. He'd been rescued by a *gentleman*?
Riding a carthorse?
The blue eyes twinkled, and Jamie realized with a start that the gentleman was only a boy, tall and broadshouldered, yes, but no more than sixteen or so. "What? You think you are the only one whose mother objects to her son's foolishness?" He smiled ruefully. "I assure you, mine will shout at me until my ears go numb."
Jamie blinked a few times. "Oh," he said lamely. "I'm sorry I got ye into trouble, then, but I thank ye for savin' me life."
The rider shrugged. "I was happy to be of help. Lucky that I heard you call, oui?"
Jamie nodded fervently. "I thought I'd be eaten for sure!"
The rider ruffled his hair comfortingly, but his voice was serious. "Then you will be more careful next time, non? For you cannot count on luck to save you twice."
Jamie nodded again. "I'll be careful," he promised. "Every day forever!"
The rider chuckled softly. "Do not promise TOO much, petit," he said, grinning. "A little foolishness now and then gives life its spice."
Jamie grinned back. "Okay.... a little bit, then. But mostly careful."
"Better." The rider patted him on the head. "Now... you live in the village? That is where my maman and my uncle have gone."
"Aye, that's my place too." He looked hopefully at the stranger. "Will ye let me ride in with ye?"
"I shall drop you at your very door," he promised. "And then I shall go away so as not to hear you being scolded."
Jamie beamed, and settled back to ride in state back into the village. What luck! To be seen riding on such a horse, with such a fine and important-looking gentleman! And a hero, too! He sighed blissfully, remembering the thundering hooves, the pistol shots, the heroic leap from the rock as the wolves howled in rage...
They paced slowly, majestically through the town gates, the horse's plate-sized hooves clopping on the cobbles instead of thudding on the packed dirt of the road. People looked out their windows, and children ran out to get a better look. Jamie was torn between maintaining a suitable dignity, and waving madly to everyone. He settled on dignity, but with a small wave to his best friend Davey.
The rider chuckled softly. "Where is it that you live?" he asked quietly. "To which door should I take you?"
Jamie sat up a little straighter. "If ye turn left at the square, then it's the fifth house along, with a blue... door..." he looked ahead and groaned pitifully, slumping again. "Never mind, though, that's me Mam comin' for us now..." A small, dark-haired woman was indeed bearing down on them, her eyes promising the wooden spoon to any and all errant sons out after dark.
Right behind her was another, slightly taller woman, also with raven-black hair. She, however, was gowned in black satin, with a velvet coat and the same avenging expression. She called something peremptory in French, and the rider winced. "We should get down, I think," he muttered. He slid easily down from the horse, whose back had to be nearly six feet off the ground, and reached up to hoiste Jamie down as well. "Brace yourself, mon ami."
"Jamie Logan!" Maggie Logan called the minute she was in earshot. "Where have ye been!? And have ye been makin' trouble for these folks as well as your own family, ye little terror?!"
"No, Mam... I was... that is..." Jamie hung his head. "Sorry, Mam."
"Richard Fitzwilliam Maven!!" The other woman snapped. The rider winced again. "What on earth did you think you were doing, riding off like that without a word?!" Her accent was even stronger than the rider's, and her clothes finer, but she had a sweet face that was probably quite gentle when she wasn't angry. "You frightened me half to death, you dreadful boy!"
Jamie spluttered ever so quietly.
"Fitzwilliam?" he muttered.
"It's not my fault," the rider hissed, blushing. "Maman picked it!"
"Well?" The woman demanded, folding her arms. A faint sound from under her voluminous skirts indicated a rapidly tapping foot.
Richard gave her a hopeful look. "I heard the boy cry out," he explained. "It was lucky I did, for he was surrounded by the demon-wolves we were warned about-" Jamie elbowed him sharply in the leg, but it was too late.
Maggie made a tiny squeaking noise, hands flying to her mouth. "Wolves? There were demon-wolves?" With a soft cry, she caught her errant son in her arms, hugging him tightly. "Oh, Jamie, ye coulda been killed!"
Jamie rolled his eyes and patted her back comfortingly. "But I *wasn't*," he said reasonably. "Mr Maven rescued me. So that's all right, isn't it?"
Maggie took him by the shoulders and shook him, her face still pale. "No it is NOT all right! Ye're never, ever going out on that mountain alone again, do ye hear me?"
"But MAAAAM!" Jamie wailed, aghast. "It was just one time! I won't be late again, I promise!"
Meanwhile, Richard and his mother were having a heated argument in what Jamie assumed was French. After a few minutes, though, she sighed, and patted his shoulder. Apparently, Richard had won, and he sighed in relief. "Please, do not be too hard on him," he said hopefully to Maggie. "Every boy makes a few mistakes, now and then."
Jamie gave him a thankful look. Maggie just looked worried. "I'm sorry, I've been terribly rude... thank ye, sir, for rescuing him, I truly cannot thank ye enough."
Richard blinked a little at the 'sir' part, but smiled diplomatically. "Really, it was nothing. My pleasure." He doffed his hat and made a courtly bow.
"But he's been such a trouble," Maggie said worriedly, biting her lip. "And I'm sure ye had no intention of bein' benighted in so small a village..."
The other woman smiled at her, the gentle, knowing smile that passed between mother and mother. "It is no trouble," she said comfortingly, sounding quite as if she wasn't probably rich enough to buy the entire village and most of the people in it. "If I told you half the trouble mine has caused..." she tweaked Richard's ear, then shot a droll look at Jamie. "Well, you would probably believe every word, non? So do not concern yourself."
Richard blushed and swatted at his mother's hand, and Maggie smiled in relief. "I surely would believe it, and more besides." She shook Jamie a little, then hugged him again. "But I should get this little scoundrel home."
"And I should find my brother, and make certain he has taken our rooms at the inn." The woman sighed resignedly. "He has not, of course, even though that is what he was supposed to do while I looked for Richard. He is a scholar, and so very forgetful of mundane things..."
Richard chuckled softly. "Indeed. Remember the time you sent him to purchase ink and writing paper, and he came back with a wolfhound?"
His mother shuddered delicately. "I try very hard not to."
Richard smiled and knelt, bringing himself to eye level with Jamie. "Well, we shall probably be here for some days, as my uncle wishes to inspect some ancient ruins hereabouts. If you wish, perhaps you could show us around them?" His eyes twinkled. "I am certain that you know them as well as anyone, an adventurer such as yourself..."
Jamie beamed, sticking his little chest out proudly. "Better than anyone!" he claimed. "I can show you everything!"
"And he will be quite safe," the woman assured Maggie quickly. "Orin is absentminded, oui, but never when it comes to children. He has been taking Richard on his little excursions since he was six, and never has either come back with more than a bruise or two."
Maggie looked down at her son, obviously evaluating the pros and cons of having her son kept out of trouble all day by a rich, eccentric scholar and a boy who was obviously an older version of Jamie himself. "Well... If you are sure he will not be in the way..."
"Not at all. I am the Comtesse Lisette Maven, by the way." She smiled graciously. "We should be going, but I am sure we will see you again. Richard?"
The two walked away, Richard leading the horse, as Maggie and Jamie stared after them in shock. Nobles? They were NOBLES? Standing around in the street and talking like ordinary people?
Midmorning the next day found Jamie dangling from a rope six feet above the flagstones of a ruined courtyard.
"What now?" he called down.
"Jiggle around a bit," Richard called up from directly below him. "Don't worry, I'll catch you if the rope breaks."
Since what Jamie was doing was testing the strength of the rope, to see if it could be trusted to suspend Orin's delicate equipment, he threw himself around with a will. Actually, it was a lot of fun swinging around up there, rope tied securely around him and the breeze ruffling his hair. And Richard was underneath, waiting to catch him if necessary. "Did you ever do this?" he called down.
"Often," Richard grinned. "Until I got too big. It terrified maman, of course, especially since Uncle Orin would not permit her to stand underneath. She was not strong enough, he said, and he had to be holding the other end, so..." He shrugged philosophically. "I only fell a few times, and it is not so very high."
"Really?" Jamie looked down at the stones. They looked quite far enough away for him.
Richard chuckled. "Well, I was always over grass, or water. Maman insisted."
"Oh." Jamie swung a bit more. "Well, this rope seems strong enough."
"Indeed." Richard's uncle nodded to Richard, and let go of the rope. Richard easily caught Jamie as he tumbled, then set him on the stones, untying the rope from around him. "The only one, Uncle?"
"Oui." Orin, (and it was an odd name, Jamie thought, but then, he WAS French), was a fantastically tall man, a little lanky, with a thin, ascetic face and a very deep, controlled voice. He could, Jamie thought, be quite terrifying if he chose.
Surprisingly, though, he seemed quite amiable. He'd patted Jamie on the head when they were introduced, and, while he'd only said a few words since, they'd been very polite words. Unheard of, almost, for a wealthy scholar addressing a peasant. "Do you need any other help, sir?" Jamie asked a little timidly.
"Non. You may amuse yourself until I am finished." Fully occupied with tying the well-tested rope about a complex and rather arcane looking piece of a equipment, the scholar waved a hand absently. "Richard, you will stay here with the equipment." Without another word, he wandered off towards a deepsunk, dry well near the edge of the ruins, which he apparently planned to investigate.
Richard looked rather impressed. "Never have I heard him speak so much to a stranger," he said, ruffling Jamie's upstanding black hair. "You impressed him, I think."
Jamie blinked. "That was talkin' much? He barely said a dozen words!"
"He usually doesn't speak at *all*. Maman complains constantly that he offends all of her friends, but he will not make polite conversation, not even at court." Richard shook his head fondly. "Unless, of course, he finds another scholar with whom he is not in agreement, and *then* he not only speaks... he shouts!"
Jamie giggled, picturing the tall, impeccable scholar waving his arms and shouting. "Tha' must be fun t' see!"
Richard grinned conspiratorially. "Indeed it is. And he is always right, too, which annoys his opponents dreadfully."
Jamie nodded. Judging the time right to ask something that he'd been wondering about, he tilted his head up to inspect his new friend. "If it's not rude, can I ask ye... your name doesn't sound very French..."
Richard nodded, plopping himself down on a chunk of stone. "It is not. I was born no great distance from here, on the border between England and Wales. Which is why I am so tall, you see. I am of norman blood." He smiled his wide, friendly smile, which was a little toothy but no more so than Jamie's own. "Maman, Uncle Orin and I did not go to France until I was six years old, when *her* uncle died and the French lands and title passed to her."
"Oh." Jamie digested this for a moment. "What about your father?"
An indefinable expression flitted across Richard's face. "I... do not remember him," he said quietly.
"Oh," Jamie said again, patting Richard's shoulder awkwardly, and never mind the dust he was getting on the fine broadcloth coat. There was dust anyway. "I remember mine, a bit. He had a red beard, and a loud laugh." He sighed a bit forlornly. "He died when I was very small."
Richard nodded sympathetically. "But one cannot live in the past, oui?" he said, standing up. "Since I must stay here and watch the equipment... Do you know how to play at dice?"
Jamie shook his head.
"Well, I will teach you." Richard grinned suddenly. "To cheat, also, so you will know it when you see it."
The word 'cool' was hundreds of years from having any meaning other than the literal, but if Jamie had known it, he would have credited Richard with enough of it to sink the Titanic.
As it was, when Orin wandered back an hour or so later, the two were kneeling on the flattest part of the old courtyard, practicing throwing sixes. He watched for a moment, and shook his head. "A simple exercise in spin and trajectory," he muttered thoughtfully, and wandered back to the pile of equipment.
Richard smiled fondly. "Maman taught us both how to play...and cheat," he explained. "Uncle Orin is quite good, but he finds it dull."
Jamie sighed wistfully. Richard had such an exciting family... if you believed him, his mother could actually fence, as well as a man! Not to mention playing dice, something he'd been sure no lady would ever do. And as for his uncle, according to Richard there was nothing he could not do if he put his mind to it. "Can he throw sixes?"
"Oui, as many as eleven times in a row." Richard rolled a five, and clicked his tongue irritably. "I am not so good. I can feel the spots, yes, but I do not yet judge so well how hard to throw it."
Jamie nodded, making a face. "It's harder than it sounds."
Richard nodded, pulling out another small ivory cube. "Here, feel this one."
Jamie weighed it carefully in his small hand. "This one's a wee bit heavier, isn't it?"
Richard nodded. "Oui, this one is weighted. If ever you dice for money, you must take care that the dice you use are honest - so that others cannot cheat you, and also that you cannot yourself be accused, you understand? If you cheat, and the time may come when you must, do so with the honest dice and your own skill, else there will be trouble for you worse than simply losing."
Jamie nodded, absorbing this sage advice. "What about cards?"
"Do not play for money at all if it can be avoided. If it cannot be, then only play with money that you can afford to lose." Richard shook his head, poking the younger boy in the chest. His fingernails were thick and dark, and a little pointed. "It is foolish."
"Good advice," Orin supplied, without turning his head. Jamie blinked, wondering how on earth the older man had even heard them. "To wager on that which you cannot influence and control is most unwise."
Richard rolled his eyes humorously behind his uncle's back. "Is that why you bet on the horse-races, then, Uncle?" he asked drolly.
"I bet because your mother complains if I do not perform some social act of foolishness now and then, and horse-racing is the most challenging to predict," Orin said calmly, still without turning around. "And do not make that face, young man."
"He knows everything," Richard said resignedly. "It makes my life most difficult."
Jamie giggled. "It must make gettin' time with the girls a trouble..."
Richard blushed a little. "You're far too young to know," he said firmly.
"Am not!" Jamie denied stoutly. "I'm t' man of the house, you know."
Richard chuckled. "And I am certain you do well at it," he said kindly. "I, on the other hand, am rather at the bottom of the heap. Maman still thinks I am a child, and Uncle Orin often forgets that I am nearly his own size and old enough to bear arms on my own account." He patted the slender dagger that rested against his side. There was a matching sword hanging from the saddle of the horse, whose name was apparently Theseus, where it was out of the way.
Jamie grinned at him. "And old enough for girls," he teased.
"Most certainly," Richard agreed, winking. "Another thing Uncle Orin forgets - if he ever did know what to do with one." Both boys snickered. "He has never been married, and shows no interest in ever being so."
"It hardly seems necessary," Orin pointed out from across the courtyard, and Jamie wondered again how on earth he'd heard them. "I do not need a wife for companionship, for I have Lisette, and I do not need one to produce an heir, since I have you, Richard. Moreover, it is extremely unlikely that any woman besides my dear sister would put up with me for any length of time at all. So you see, a wife would be a most impractical article." He smiled suddenly, and the thin face warmed considerably. "What I do need is someone who will cease his chattering and be helpful, oui?"
Richard laughed, putting the dice back in his pocket and rising to his own not inconsiderable height. "Oui, Uncle, I am coming. Come, Jamie, I will show you how to use a thaudolite."
"Will you come back?" Jamie asked wistfully.
Richard tightened his saddlegirth, Theseus whiffling companionably in his hair. "Oui, I think so. It is a pleasant place, non? And Uncle Orin was most favourably impressed by your ruins."
"Good." Jamie propped his chin on his hand, trying not to pout. He didn't want them to go! They might techically be nobility, but you wouldn't think so if you didn't know. Richard had explained that it was recent, really; that until her great-uncle had died only a week after his putative heir, Lisette had been nothing more important than a wealthy merchant's wife, and she hadn't quite gotten out of the habit.
Now she smiled fondly at Jamie, patting his head with a delicately gloved hand. "We shall surely come back," she promised. "And you, of course, will take good care of your mother until we return, oui?"
Jamie nodded proudly. "I always do." She smiled at him again, and allowed Orin to help her into the carriage. Orin too, patted Jamie on the head - to be fair, it was all he could reach from way up there - and handed him a small square package before climbing into the carriage himself.
"What's this?" Jamie blinked.
"Open it and see," Richard suggested, checking his saddlebags absently.
Needing no second invitation, Jamie promptly tugged the string off and unwrapped the white cloth - which turned out to be a large handkerchief. Underneath was stiff, reddish leather and black lettering... "A book?"
"Of heroic tales," Richard said proudly. "You'll like it. I myself have a copy, you know."
Jamie blinked. Books were EXPENSIVE! "Can I really keep it?" he asked cautiously.
"Of course. It's yours." Richard swung up onto the horse's broad back. "Au revoir, mon ami," he said with a smile. "Until we meet again."
Jamie looked up at him, all blond hair and broad shoulders, blue eyes gleaming and a toothy smile. "We *will*, won't we?" he asked.
Richard looked down at the small, stocky figure with its tufty black hair and bright blue eyes. "We will meet again." he said firmly. "I promise."