They were resting from their long ride to the latest sighting place of Wanheda and Indra was briefing Kane about Azgeda's recent actions when the man started choking on his drink.
Had she said something wrong?
She waited patiently for him to stop coughing. Then she began again.
"Azgeda is growing more aggressive every day. As I was saying, you should inform your wife of the possible—"
The man started coughing again, this time with even more vigor. His face was growing redder and redder so Indra decided to stretch out her hand and gave him a couple of powerful smacks to the back.
"She isn't— She isn't my wife," the man managed to croak out after Indra's help. She raised her brow at the hastiness of his voice.
Perhaps this was a sore spot for him. Based on Indra's observations the courtship had been brewing for some time now. She could understand Kane being frustrated for not having the opportunity to marry Chancellor Griffin yet.
"Very well then. So you should inform your bride—"
"No, no, no. She's not my bride either."
Indra wrinkled her forehead.
Indra was running out of her English vocabulary. What was that banal word Skaikru sometimes used to refer to their significant others?
"She's your girlfriend."
She was starting to lose her patience. "I'm not interested in doing this for the rest of the day. I'm just going to call her your wife."
"She's not my anything." The man said sharply.
"I don't understand."
Indra was truly baffled. She didn't make these kind of assumptions lightly. Everything from the way Kane looked at the Chancellor to the way he spoke of her had made Indra believe he was deeply infatuated.
Had she missed something?
Indra recalled the moment when Kane had arrived with the Chancellor and the rest of the search party earlier that day. The tiny woman had some trouble trying to descend from her horse. Kane had immediately come to her help, wrapping his arms around her waist. While he was lowering her tenderly to the ground they shared such an enamored look that Indra had felt the need to turn her head give them some privacy.
When she had laid eyes on them again after a moment, the Chancellor had been walking away from Kane, furiously blushing, while Kane had been staring at the ground, flexing his hands. A curious incident between husband and wife, Indra had thought at the time.
Indra reviewed the memory more carefully. Then she understood.
She mentally shook her head at her friend's stupidity.
"Me and Abby are friends the same way you and I are," Kane explained.
Indra gave him an incredulous look.
Kane was a man of a rare kind, not many people had the honor of earning Indra's uttermost respect. He had surprised her with his peaceful aspirations, kindness and diplomatic skills. All those were due to certain wisdom that could only come from experience. He was all around a great leader and a good man.
This man in front of her was not that observant and intelligent man. This man was a pure idiot.
"There's a better name for people like you two in Trigedasleng."
"Of course there is," Kane said and smiled.
His smile faded.
"You're a smart man, Kane. But lying to yourself? I would've never expected something so moronic from you of all people," Indra said sternly.
He looked at her with a blank expression. It was as if he truly didn't understand what Indra was talking about. The situation was worse than she had expected.
Indra made a decision. She would do her best to help her friend in his predicament.
The more search missions passed, the more she wondered why Kane had not married Chancellor Griffin yet. Indra could not have chosen a better wife candidate for him herself.
Indra already had a good impression of the legendary woman who had managed to turn Reapers back into humans and who had stood unflinching in front of her and two guards, all alone and unprotected just in order to negotiate. Her headstrongness and bravery had made Indra admire her greatly. She even afterwards regretted considering slitting her throat the moment they met.
Most importantly, Indra had noticed how much she cared for Kane and made him happy. They were admirable partners both as leaders and as a couple.
But she was so small and frail. She wouldn't last a second in a fight.
"I'm worried for your wife." Indra expressed as she clashed her sword with Kane's.
"Like million times before, she's not my wife," Kane huffed, trying his hardest to block Indra's blows.
They had set up a camp in a small village while they waited news from Louwoda Kliron scouts, who claimed to have seen Wanheda on their grounds. Indra was practicing fencing with Kane. It was another skill besides Trigedasleng that he wished to acquire, and he was turning out surprisingly good at it. Indra still had beaten him in every single duel they had had, but he always lasted long enough to make her impressed.
"She's so tiny a gust of wind could blow her over. How is she able to defend herself?" Indra asked and swung her sword.
"I'll protect her," Kane said, striking back.
"You're barely able to protect yourself." Indra landed a heavy blow effortlessly. Kane stumbled backwards. "Where I come from, husbands and wives are just as skilled in combat."
"She's skilled in other areas," Kane grunted, regaining his footing.
"There's no doubt about that. But I can teach her some basic fighting," Indra offered.
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"I know how much you care for her. Don't you want her to feel safe when you are not around?"
Kane considered it for a moment, and then let out a yielding sigh. "If you really think she'd need that."
Indra smiled. "And I'll tell her about your wishes to marry her too, since you need a little help with that."
"No! that's precisely not—" Kane cried out. He snapped his eyes shut and inhaled.
"Every single time we're having a normal conversation—"
"I am only trying to do you a favor you desperately need!"
He advanced. Their swords clashed with a violent clank.
"Just. Tell. Her. How. You. Feel." Indra hissed. Their blades locked together.
"Stop. Meddling. In. My. Life." He hissed right back.
"I just want what's best for you and your wife."
"She's not my wife!" He snapped, pushing his sword against Indra's even harder.
"But you want her to be."
Indra saw a guilty flicker in his eyes. She shot him a knowing look.
Kane lowered his sword.
"No, I don't," he sighed. "And even if I did, I'm not even on a list of people she would possibly consider."
Indra groaned. Why did she have to befriend such a blind, thick-headed man?
As they they proceeded with their fencing, Indra cast a look over Kane's shoulder. The Chancellor had stopped to observe their fight, a hint of fond smile playing across her lips. Her eyes were glued to Kane's every moment. Now would be a good time for him to prove himself.
"Your wife is watching us."
Kane's fighting ability deteriorated in seconds.
Indra watched, shocked, how the man grew unable to even hold a sword properly. As he tried to regain his composure, Indra took one swing at him and knocked him to the ground.
She watched the man groaning at her feet and sighed. She didn't know why she had not expected something like this.
"Chil au." Indra offered her hand to pull him up. "At least she's not laughing."
Then they heard a familiar laughter bubbling from behind them.
Kane cursed in a low voice.
He shrugged off her efforts to help him rise up and staggered to his feet on his own. A determined look settled on his face.
He lifted his sword and lunged forward, starting another duel.
This time, Kane was making an effort with his every frantic strike. Indra could see beads of sweat gathering on his forehead, as he tried his hardest to beat her under Chancellor's watchful eyes.
A good friend would let him win this fight and show off in front of his love. A better friend would knock him down twice as hard and prioritize his training. But a best friend would knock him down so hard he would be needing the nearest healer.
So Indra did just that.
Indra watched from afar as Abby tended Kane's cuts and bruises with a soft expression on her face. Marcus reciprocated the look, sitting dutifully in his place and trying not to wince when Abby patted an anticeptic cloth over his face. He seemed quite pleased for a man who just got beaten in a fight, just as Indra had envisioned.
Indra's observations were interrupted when one of her many squires tried to gain her attention.
"The scouts haven't returned." the boy yapped in Trigedasleng.
"We shall wait for the morning then," Indra answered. It was useless to stay up and expect them. At this late hour the scouts must have made camp too.
"Shall I escort the Skaikru leaders to their cots?"
"Do that. There should be two available at the back."
She glanced at the couple. Kane had risen up and they were no longer exchanging fond looks, but standing apart and having a stiff conversation.
Indra sighed. They would be needing a nudge in the right direction. Or actually, a powerful shove.
She grabbed the boy's shoulder.
"I mispoke. They'll be needing only one cot. Escort them to the one most isolated from the others."
The boy nodded, looking at her with a concerned expression. "Are you alright, chief?"
Indra realized that a big, toothy grin had spread over her face as she had given the order. She regained her usual somber expression and shot the boy with a harsh look.
"Do what was asked."
The boy disappeared. Indra let the corners of her mouth twitch upwards again as she turned her attention towards the oblivious pair again.
Kane would thank her later.
Indra was disappointed.
She had just arrived to the Polis marketplace to receive the Skaikru visitors and she could see that her friend had made no process in his pursuit of Abby Griffin.
At first glance anyone else could've mistaken Marcus and the Chancellor he accompanied as lovers. But Indra could determine with one look that those two were still anything but.
They were doing their little dance Indra knew far too well. Kane casually approached the Chancellor, invading her personal space, but then did nothing. He was just hovering in front of her with a besotted smile on his face. And Abby was no better. She was batting her lashes and smiling at him.
The world would end before those branwoda would make a move on each other.
Kane was her friend but he was definitely hard to understand sometimes. She had seen worms move faster. If her late husband had dragged it out like this Indra would have smacked some sense into him. Poor Abby.
Watching them made her just tired at this point. It was time for Indra to make her presence known.
She shouted Kane's name just as he had gained courage to lay his hand on Abby's shoulder. He immediately snatched it away and turned around.
After exchanging some pleasantries with the impatient Chancellor, she guided them inside the tower. While they walked through the corridors, the gears in Indra's hear were rapidly turning.
There was one trick she could still use.
Some weeks ago Arkadia had hosted a banquet to celebrate the alliance between Trikru and Skaikru. Kane had had a fight with the Chancellor earlier that day and had, consequently, drunk his head full. This had pleasantly resulted in him pouring his heart wide open to Indra. And now was the perfect opportunity for her to bring it up.
"Remember what you told me regarding your wife?" Indra began in Trigedasleng as they marched side by side behind the Chancellor.
"Please don't call her that", Kane said through gritted teeth. "She's right there."
"Why are you worried? She can't speak Trigedasleng."
He gave her an annoyed look but didn't argue further. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"The banquet night. Remember?"
Kane paled. He looked at Abby, who was still walking ahead of them and had not given any reaction to their conversation. Kane stared at her back long enough to be reassured and turned to Indra.
"I can only remember bits and pieces from that night. What did I say?"
Indra chuckled. "In midst of all the hugs you gave me you were quite poetic and weepy about your love for a certain Chancellor. It was quite amusing."
Kane fell silent.
"I was drunk," he stated after a while.
"Doesn't make any of your words less true."
Kane opened his mouth, probably to croak a denial. But it never came. Instead, Marcus cast her a look of total helplessness. It told Indra all.
He was tired of fighting her on this.
"I just don't understand. You love her. She loves you. Why don't you marry her while it's still peacetime?"
"It's a bit more complicated than that," Kane muttered. "I just can't waltz up to her and propose. I haven't even kissed her."
"Kiss her then."
"I can't just go and kiss her either," he said, switching his tone from frustrated to cheerful mid-sentence in order to keep Abby from growing suspicious.
"Then do whatever Skaikru does when wooing."
"I am doing that."
Indra snorted. "She is not going to fall into your arms if you just stare at her wistfully enough."
Kane drew his lips as a straight, tight line.
Indra looked at him in disbelief. "I sincerely hope that was not your plan."
"What else could I do?" he huffed.
"I would start by a confession of feelings."
"I can't just—".
"Tell her or I will."
"Alright. Alright. I'll tell her."
Indra gave him an approving nod.
"Someday," he added.
She fought the urge to groan out loud. This would take time.
But with Indra's contribution just now, maybe it would take a little less.
She turned her eyes on Abby walking in front of them.
Yes, she had told Kane that Abby couldn't speak Trigedasleng. But she had not said anything about her being able to understand it quite well.
Indra tried to hide her smirk as she saw the tips of Abby's ears flaring bright red.
Indra watched from the hilltop as the lush green forests stretched as far as her eyes could see. Indra was not sure what was more beautiful, the trees or the dark sky above her, filled with stars. She could hardly look up without feeling her heart start rapidly beating at the pure wonder.
How she had missed this.
"Hello, my friend."
Indra turned her head and saw Kane approaching her. His beard had gained new patches of grey in the bunker, but otherwise Indra could hardly see a difference between him and the man who had trodden the forest floor with her five years ago.
He stopped beside her. "It's a beautiful view."
"Makes me wonder how long it will take until somebody destroys it again." Indra muttered, turning her head to continue watching the tops of spruce trees swaying in the wind.
"Times like this is hard not to remain hopeful," he said and smiled at the skies absent-mindedly.
Indra gave out a weak smile. His optimism always managed to amaze her.
It was, however, strange to see Kane without his beloved somewhere near him, especially today.
"So how is your—"
"My wife", Kane said, smiled and looked downwards. "She is very well. Has been ever since I married her this morning."
Indra snapped her head around.
Kane smirked so bright at her that his smile almost leaped off his face. He lifted his hand, revealing a tiny ring in his finger. Indra had seen mechanics forging those from scrap metal for young couples in the bunker.
He cast his eyes down again.
"I understand if you're angry for not telling you. But it was more of a spur of the moment decision. I just exchanged one day's meals for a couple of rings and asked her. I mean, it's not even official, we just—"
Kane flinched as Indra started roaring with laughter. She turned to the startled man and looped her arms around him, pulling him into a rough bear hug. After his initial shock Kane squeezed her back and started guffawing too. They clung to each other and laughed together.
Indra released herself suddenly from his grip. "Branwoda!" She yelled and smacked him to the arm. "Took you five years!"
Kane let out a shaky breath, rubbing his arm. "I really should've done this sooner, huh?"
Indra rolled her eyes at him. "But where is your wife?" she asked.
"My wife is—," he stopped and grinned. "God, will I ever get used to saying that?"
"Trust me, you will."
"I have a wife now." Kane clamped his hand on his mouth and chuckled. "I'm a married man!"
"Welcome to the best portion of your life," Indra said, watching how the man in front of her could hardly contain his glee.
"My wife— she is waiting for me down there. I just wanted to tell you first before—"
"Why are you still standing here? Go get her!"
"I will," Kane said, lifting his shining eyes to meet Indra's. "I will bring you my wife."
Indra shook her head as she watched the fool rush down the hill. She then turned her eyes to the skies to admire the stars again. But through her misty vision she saw only blurry splashes of light.
Indra wiped her eyes.
Old age was starting to make her sentimental.