The Price of Protection



1 month later

Katherine sighed in happiness as she leaned her head on Richard's shoulder, her arm looped through his. Even though he relied on a cane now, he still enjoyed walking arm in arm with her around the castle. He would only need the cane for a little while longer anyway. His strength had returned ten fold over the past month and the doctor had said that he would be able to walk on his own soon. Regardless, Richard liked feeling connected to her. His words, not hers.

"Where to?" she asked. It was after dinner and they were taking their usual stroll through the castle. It had become their new routine once the doctor determined Richard was no longer bedridden. She would come off of her shift and walk him around the castle and its grounds, usually frequenting the garden or parlor.

"I feel like going to the library," he stated, giving her a sly grin. She rolled her eyes, knowing he was recalling the last time they were in the library. They hadn't been in it since he had woken up that fateful night one month ago.

"Okay," she replied, guiding him toward that direction.

"So, how are your parents?" he asked curiously.

"They're well and thankfully, unharmed. The cottage is a little ruined, but it's nothing that Papa can't fix."

After everything had calmed down in the village and everyone was safe, Katherine had gone to visit her parents, who had been able to avoid the barrage of soldiers, with the exception of a few hits that the cottage had received. When she saw them, relief had flooded through her and she embraced them tightly, promising to visit more often.

The other thing she had discovered is at some point during the battle, Alexandra had fled. A solider reported seeing her run into the forest during all the chaos in the village. They hadn't heard from her since and the king did not see her as a threat, so she was left alone.

The real threat, meanwhile, was below in the dungeon, chained to a wall and guarded all day long. The king felt this was better than execution. The former lord would suffer the rest of his days, which satisfied Katherine.

"I'm glad to hear it," Richard replied as they entered the room. Unsurprisingly, they were alone. He turned to face her, lifting his hand and playing with the medal on her chest, pride in his eyes. She had been rewarded, along with the rest of the surviving soldiers, for her bravery and skill. Unfortunately, some of her comrades had perished and were now buried on the castle grounds.

"So, why did you bring us here? Did you want me to read you a bed time story?" she teased. He smirked, shaking his head. His fingers gently brushed her cheek. She smiled, closing her eyes and leaning into his touch. Then, taking her hands into his hands, he said,

"I know I'm supposed to get on one knee when I do this, but since I can't and would like to maintain some dignity, I'm going to do this standing up."

Her eyes widened at his implication. His sparkled with tenderness and joy.

"Richard," she breathed, her heart thrumming.

"I brought you here because this is where we connected, where we could be ourselves. This is where we created our story. And I would like to continue that story for the rest of our lives. So, Katherine Beckett, I'm asking you to do me the greatest honor. Will you marry me?"

She opened and closed her mouth, still in shock.

His expression turned worried, his smile slipping into a frown.

"Do you not want to," he started. but she cut him off.

"No, no," she started.

"So, no you don't want to marry me or no, you want to marry me?"

"Yes," she said, groaning when she realized how that came out. Why was this so hard? "I mean, yes I want to marry you." Then she kissed him, putting all her love and passion for him into it. He returned it with same fervor, before breaking away. Taking her hand, he slid a ring onto her finger, the diamond glistening due to the glow from the fireplace. "Wow," she murmured.

"Beautiful," he said. However, he was looking at her. She blushed. No matter how many times he said that, it would probably always make her heart flutter.

"So, should we tell your parents?"

He chuckled. "They actually already know. I approached them last night and told them what I was going to do. They were thrilled." She eyed him dubiously. "It's true. Father admires you and is just happy I finally found a bride."

She grinned, playfully nudging his shoulder.

"And what of my station?"

"That is up for him and you to discuss. He says he's open to whatever you suggest."

She nodded. "Okay, I will speak to him tomorrow." Wrapping her arms around his neck, she rubbed her nose against his. "Right now though, I wish to celebrate."

His hands skimmed her sides, landing on her hips. He kissed her, again and again, her returning the gesture with the same power.

Thus, they began the next chapter in their life.

The End.

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