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"You're the spitting image of another Alan I knew once, you know," Raoul said.

Alan raised one pointed blond eyebrow.

"Superficial things," Raoul sniffed.


"You've got your namesake's temper," Raoul said, watching as Wolset staggered off to get his nose healed.

Alan glared at him, massaging his hand.

"Now that I think of it, you fight the same, too." Raoul grinned. "I guess that shouldn't be so surprising. You had the same teacher."


"You're not the master of the sword that Alan was, that's for sure," Raoul mocked, circling his squire.

Alan dodged his next blow, pivoting smoothly and sliding up under Raoul's guard. "No, but I am faster."

The grin on his face was pure wicked and utterly Alan.


"How's your wrestling?" Raoul asked. "That was always Alan's weak point."

Alan quirked an eyebrow, eyes amused. "I'm not my mother."

Raoul's pause lasted less than a breath, but a flash of something through hazel eyes let him know it had been noted.


"Not all of us are lucky enough to be god-touched," Alan snapped.

Raoul bristled. "Alan worked curst hard to be as good as he was. He wasn't god-touched, either."

Alan's eyebrows ascended towards his hairline, and Raoul turned away, biting his tongue.


"You always speak of Ma as if she's dead."

Raoul scrubbed a hand over his face. "Alan died in front of the whole court, killed by Duke Roger. Alanna is someone completely different."

Later, it would occur to Raoul that Alan's hazel eyes had been too steady.


"I thought you'd stopped drinking." There was no accusation in his squire's voice, just a concerned question, carefully hidden.

Raoul tilted the glass, watching the gold glints the light threw across the liquor. "I still haven't had a sip," he replied finally.

Alan gently but firmly pried the glass from his knight-master's grip, and tossed it out.


"You love my mother," Alan said, his eyes both too old and too young.

"No," Raoul sighed. "I loved the man I thought she was."


"You're my squire."

"I'm also eighteen."

When Raoul reached out to brush a lock of blond hair out of Alan's face, Alan's eyes were far too knowing.


"We shouldn't do this. I shouldn't do this," Raoul said desperately.

Alan glared. "That's a fine thing to say when you've got your hand down my breeches."

Raoul was silent.

"Besides, you need this." It was the simple truth in that statement that finally caused Raoul to move.


"Your mother will kill me," Raoul said, staring down into his squire's face.

"That's not who you're thinking about," Alan said. "Now shut up and kiss me."


It was never his name, Alan knew, that Raoul whispered in the dark, even if they sounded the same.


"It's time to head back to Corus," Raoul said nearly four years later.

Alan shifted, settling back against Raoul's chest. "I'm not going to turn into someone else, you know."

Raoul flinched, and looked away.


"You were never anything but a substitute," Raoul hissed, hands locked around Alan's throat, pinning Alan to the cold stone wall with all his considerable strength.

I already know this, Alan thought, bored, and the Chamber let him go.


None of this was ever real, Raoul thinks.

"It is real enough," Alan says.

And it is.