Boden chuckled when the butler informed him that his grace the Duke of Sarande had sent a calling card announcing his intent to visit that afternoon. "Why would Kalman do a silly thing like that?" But his butler had no answer for him. No one had seen Kalman since his wife's funeral three months ago, but Boden figured if you were going to turn up unexpectedly in a place as remote as Gouge, you may as well run with the whole surprise thing. 'Course, Kalman had never had much sense about some things, for all his knack of saying the right words and smiling at the right times.
He gripped his old friend in a bear hug as soon as he'd descended from his carriage, then held him out at arm's length for a closer inspection. His hair had more white, and there were deep creases in his handsome face that weren't all from smiles and laughter. A slate grey waistcoat was the only deviation from the all-black mourning garb he'd worn at the funeral, and there was just something about him that told an astute looker that he was still suffering for his loss. Boden had worried he might not recover at all, but there was a light in Kalman's eyes, despite his sadness.
Soon they were seated in the comfort of Boden's den – he'd never held with having a study at home – and he pressed a tumbler of brandy into his friend's hand. In the old days, Kalman might have had something to say about drinking brandy at this early hour, but he just smiled resignedly.
"So what brings you way out to the ass end of the empire?" He settled comfortably into the extra-large chair, now heaped with pillows to try and compensate for the body aches consequent of a long and active military career. "Sarande too big for you to get away from it all?"
Kalman lowered himself to one of the couches, moving aside a few more pillows. "I've come to ask you a favour," he replied after a moment.
This was going to be one of those things, he could tell, where Kalman got himself all worked up about over nothing. It explained the calling card though – he hadn't really sent it out of courtesy, though he might not realize it completely himself. Boden didn't always bother to understand social niceties, let alone observe them, but Kalman he understood. Once he'd sent the card, he'd have felt obliged to turn up. He grinned though – no sense letting on that he knew something big was up. It was always good to mess with Kalman, especially when he was all wound up. "Now, what kind of favour would drag you all the way out here to see me? Found someone who needs a killing?"
"What – no! Nothing like that, no."
"Too bad. The kobolds are all too scared to put up much fight ever since we moved back here. The next generation's gonna grow up soft."
"Right. Boden, I wanted to ask…. If you would be my best man, again."
"You're getting married again? To who?" Five… or maybe ten… years ago, he'd have been out of his chair and halfway across the room already, to slap Kalman on the back with incredulous glee. Well that sure explained the look in his eye! His excitement didn't completely overshadow his concern though, and Boden shifted in his chair. Kalman wasn't the type to give things up lightly, and not the type to move on from the love of his life. Of course, he had always wondered about that. Never fucking any other women never seemed natural to him, though he'd mostly believed it of Kalman.
He shook his head, grinning again. "You sly dog – I knew there had to be something going on, on the side, there."
But Kalman just looked stricken, and when he protested, he sounded mostly hurt and tired. "It wasn't like that. We were happy – all three of us."
"Huh." That Kalman had a healthier sexual appetite than he'd assumed wasn't too shocking, but that Eglorine would have ever not only condoned such a thing, but was a quim-licker herself was quite another matter. He'd never have pegged her for it, and he'd thought he knew all about noble women. But then, maybe she hadn't been so different from the others after all. "All three, together like?" He shifted in his chair.
Kalman just hid his face behind his hand. It wasn't embarrassment or exasperation, though. "Boden, Please." Desperation maybe? This had been why he'd made himself send a card ahead, then, and alright – maybe the teasing could come later.
He frowned though, his mind working around the edge of the thing. Loick would have had to know, and he'd never said anything either. "You know you could have told me."
"We just wanted to be left alone."
The more he did think about it, the more Boden felt a little hurt. He wasn't incapable of keeping secrets, but his friend – one of his closest friends – had still kept this from him for over forty years. He couldn't decide whether Kalman had been right. But what's done was done, and this was much better than Kalman moping his way into an early grave himself. Boden grinned, and Kalman seemed to relax. "Well, of course I'll do it."
"Don't worry buddy – I got your back. Anyone says anything about it, they'll have to deal with me."
Kalman smiled at the proclamation. "I appreciate the sentiment, but I hope we can handle ourselves."
"Well I hope so too! I mean, you're not that old." His grin widened as Kalman rolled his eyes. "Really you oughta be handling each other though. More fun that way." He laughed – Kalman was still smiling a little this time, which probably meant they were still fucking. "Now you better finish up that brandy. I bet you aren't gonna let me take you out for a proper party, with whores and all, so you're not leaving this house without getting filthy drunk."
Kalman raised his glass, eying the level of liquid, before draining it half away. He smiled more broadly, though still with an underlying tiredness. "You can get me as drunk as you like Boden – you're not getting any stories out of me."
"Gotta admit – it was worth a shot."
That time they laughed together.