A/N: Holy crap, you guys! This fandom is BRINGING IT with this story game. I'm seriously living and breathing this ever-developing plotline right now, it is SO exciting to me! Thank you poshkat for nudging open the well-guarded door to Algernon's mind and giving us our first peek inside, which emboldened me to delve a little deeper.


Algernon is getting impatient.

This is rather new for him.

He has little experience with this particular emotional state because impatience, by its very nature, is something that manifests when a person fails to get what he wants immediately.

And Algernon always gets what he wants immediately.

Well, always until now.

Hence the impatience which, he is discovering, he does not care for in the least. If things continue in this fashion, he is going to become genuinely Put Out… and although the denizens of this pissant little castle may not know it yet, they would not like him when he is Put Out.

No, not at all.

He frowns. That's not the way he wants this to go, although he supposes things have begun to slide in that direction already, thanks to that wretched squire and their recent… altercation –

(grabbed my blade, he grabbed my blade –)

but he diverts his thoughts from that particular detail of the incident; it's too disturbing, honestly, to examine head-on right now.

So, back to his previous train of thought. That's not the way he wants this to go; he'd much rather charm his way to the prize. It's easier and… less messy. (Again a traitorous corner of his mind begins to assert that things have already gotten messy – until, again, he shuts it down.)

He's not ready to burn any bridges just yet. Not unless he absolutely has to. And he is deeply disgruntled that these people might actually end up forcing his hand... that she might end up forcing his hand.

Jane.

The dragon girl. The female knight. As if a woman could ever truly be such a thing. You can put her in armor, teach her to fight, fill her head with queer notions, but none of that changes the fact that at the end of the day, a woman is, well, a woman.

He was prepared to be lenient – he can be magnanimous when it suits him. He was prepared to indulge her; let her run around and pursue whatever foolishness she liked, at least until he got her with child. But if she's going to persist in trying his patience this way, then she's going to see a different side of him sooner rather than later.

Although not until the deal has been closed, of course. He must be the very soul of gentleness until the deal has been closed.

His hands clench on the parapet.

Which is unfortunate because his hands ache. In point of fact, all of him aches. It may have been a mistake to engage with the squire so soon, from a physical as well as a strategic standpoint; and Algernon is not accustomed to second-guessing himself, which adds more fuel to the fire of impending put-outedness.

But at least he has the mollification of being here, atop the highest tower, surveying the castle keep, and grounds, and surrounding country… although he's not really even seeing the view, much less enjoying it; his gaze is vacant as his thoughts bend inward.

Where was he? Ah, yes. The mollification of standing where he is standing at the present moment. There is the small satisfaction of having found his way up here with or without Jane's assistance, and despite the fact that she clearly hadn't wished him to do so. He's here because he wanted to be here, whether she likes it or not, and damnit, he gets what he wants.

Just as he's going to claim her because he wants to claim her. Although he's starting to second-guess his choice in this matter too. Bringing her in line will be… a challenge. Hell, just maneuvering her into a position where she can be brought in line will be a challenge. Plus there's the issue of the dragon... well, he'll just have to trust that once the girl falls in line, the beast will too. They seem to be a package deal, after all.

But she is proving a most unwilling prize indeed, and apparently completely impervious to charm – which he had not previously believed was possible for anyone of the female persuasion.

Of course, it's patently obvious that she's infatuated with the clearly unbalanced squire (he grabbed my bloody BLADE!) which should have been an unmistakable indicator – because handsome or not, charm is something that Gunther Breech (his mouth twists beneath his mustache as he even thinks the name) sorely lacks.

Not that that's at all surprising. Base-born creature that he is.

Money the boy's father might have, but a merchant is not a noble. Assets notwithstanding, a merchant is common, and therefore a merchant's brat is common too. Not only common either but, quite possibly in Algernon's opinion, a bastard to boot; it would certainly explain the lack of a mother anywhere in sight. It would explain the squire's appearance too, because for him to look the way he does, with a father who looks the way he does, his mother must have been a great beauty indeed. And what great beauty would ever – for any amount of money – condescend to marry… THAT?

A terrible pity that the boy doesn't favor his father more; it would certainly have made Algernon's life easier had he sported that massive gut and weak chin. (It never occurs to him for so much as a second that Jane's feelings for Gunther might go more than surface-deep; that it could actually be character, not mere physical attractiveness, that's drawn her in. The very idea is so far outside his own realm of experience and mode of operation that he can't even conceive of such a notion.)

But, it is what it is; a sorry state of affairs. A common, base-bred whelp who, through a combination of undeserved good looks, some passable skill in combat (– grabbed my blade, my God, he –) and the misguided attentions of the castle's overly-indulgent knights, was somehow promoted to squire and now presumes – dares – to set his sights on a member of the nobility.

A member of the nobility that Algernon has decided to claim for himself.

Algernon has the breeding. Algernon has the wealth – not just money but actual wealth; land and titles. Algernon has the girl's mother's blessing. Gunther Breech has nothing. Gunther Breech IS nothing. And yet still, for all that, he is an obstacle in Algernon's path.

It's most vexing.

Particularly because they've already been here nearly a fortnight, the ball is two days hence – (and he will be attending marred by bruises, thanks to that jumped-up peasant) – and said ball represents the apex of the visit. After that, things will begin to wind down toward his party's inevitable departure.

Time is of the essence.

Time is running out.

He had assumed, upon his arrival, that he would have Jane well and truly secured by the time the ball arrived, because he is Algernon and Algernon gets what he wants.

Until now.

Which brings him right back around again to this unfamiliar and deeply unpleasant sense of frustrated impatience.

He had planned, upon his departure, to take Jane with him – not as his intended, not as his betrothed, but as his wife. That this was an attainable goal he'd never doubted… until he'd actually met the girl in question. Now he's starting to wonder.

His jaw clenches.

He has never before had to wonder whether he'd succeed in... well, anything.

The indignity of it.

It cannot be borne. It will not be borne.

All right then, given that charm alone isn't working, he'll just have to up his game. He will have Jane to wife, not only because that was his goal all along and so failure is unacceptable, but for a new and deeply personal reason as well; he'll have her to spite the commoner, the peasant, the bastard who had dared to… to turn their duel into a common street brawl. Who had made him lose face in front of dozens of onlookers, both local and from his own party.

He's been slightly assuaged by the fact that the Kippernian king had apparently read the squire the riot act, expressed deep disappointment in his behavior, and set him to handling only the most menial tasks for the duration of the visit; apparently the boy's now charged with, among other things, waste removal from the overflow latrines that have been set up to accommodate the visitors. Not the noble visitors like himself, of course, but all of their many, many attendants.

The thought brings a small smile to Algernon's face. But although there's some slight pacification to be had in it, it's not enough. Not remotely. No, he is entitled to his own revenge as well, and he will have it. He will have her, because that lowborn cur has the audacity, the arrogance to love her – and he'll have their union ratified and consummated before his party leaves; after all, he has to make good on the promise he gave Gunther during their altercation, does he not?

"Do not worry, Squire Gunther – I will make sure she screams loud enough for you to hear her, when I plant my heir in her womb – just so you will not feel left out."

The look on his opponent's face in that instant – (yes but then the madman GRABBED MY BLADE) – had been perfect, priceless, beyond compare.

The satisfaction he'll get from carrying out his threat will be even better. Then he'll kill him.

But he is apparently going to need some assistance to accomplish all of this.

It's time to see if the castle town has an apothecary.

He turns and makes for the steps to descend the tower, planning his next series of moves. He thinks, absentmindedly, as he goes, that he ought to turn up the charm on that dark-haired kitchen wench. It, his marvelous charm, may have little effect on his future wife – and so he'll certainly stop wasting it on her as soon as she's secured – but that doesn't mean he should let it just go for naught. That cook is actually quite pretty, in a common sort of way, and a quick romp with her might be just the thing to alleviate some of this… impatience.