Lash uncoiled from the sofa as a servant knocked on the door.

Honestly, he was never going to get used to have people do everything for him. Then again, a two hundred (or more, he was terrible with architecture) year old house required a bit more upkeep than a grass hut.

“Your grace, Masters Epee and Dagger to see Lord Sabre.”

“Oh?” Lash smiled. “Show them in, then. Sabre should be home soon.” He thought a moment. “When Sabre returns, tell him only that we have visitors.”

“Yes, your grace.”

He marked his place in his latest book and made certain he was relatively put together. If there was one thing he really hated about being civilized, it was the profusion of clothing he apparently had to wear at all times.

Epee was immediately recognizable when he walked in – a much quieter version of his fiery brother. Lash thought he sensed a fellow scholar. “Gentlemen, I dare say friends, I’m afraid Sabre is still out. He’s due back shortly, if you do not mind waiting. Would you care for a glass of wine? We recently acquired one that is a masterpiece.”

Moving to the far wall of the small, blue and white parlor, he tugged the bell pull. “Wine, please, that fine red that Sabre brought home the other day.”

The servant bowed and vanished, arriving a few short minutes later with the requested wine.

Lash handed the glasses out after the servant had poured. “What brings you here, my friends? Did you require Sabre for something? Or are you merely stopping in to chat a spell? You could stay for supper, if you like.”

He almost snickered at the thought – Sabre would growl the rest of the night, like a bear with a thorn in its paw. The degree to which he avoided his family was almost amusing; it would be amusing if he didn’t know for a fact that Sabre was secretly hoping his brothers would stop hating him.

As usual, Sabre did not think that possible, and so avoided the matter altogether.

“Where did you get this wine?” Epee asked in a puzzled tone.

“Hmm?” Lash asked, flawlessly playing clueless and disinterested. “I believe it was a gift? He invests in many things – business confuses me so, it’s sad I can tell you how to bandage a wound or render a jungle cat unconscious, but ask me a question about stocks and I am hopeless. I believe one of his investments is a wine company, and the owner frequently sends bottles of new wines for Sabre to try. Do you like it? He is quite fond, and intends to express his compliments to the owner.”

“Tell him to do it person,” Epee said, looking torn between anger and amusement. He exchanged a look with Dagger. “Especially as I finally know the identity of my mystery backer.”

Lash laughed and reclined in one of the deep blue-velvet chairs. “Oh, dear. I’m going to get yelled at for that little slip.”

Dagger, a quiet and pretty sort of young man with green eyes that probably got him in and out of a great deal of trouble, smirked at him. “I think if you are not in trouble with someone, you feel like you are wasting your day.”

“Indeed,” Lash said, throwing his head back and laughing. “I am used to being in danger most of the time, from disease and wild animals and primitive peoples – and scores of other things. This being a gentleman of leisure is quite beyond me.”

“Hence Sabre,” Epee said, shaking his head in amusement.

Lash smiled faintly. “Sabre is something else entirely, but it’s true he suits me as much as I suit him. Why did you come?”

“To try and talk to Sabre,” Epee replied. “I’m beginning to realize Sabre is not who or what I always believed.”

“We,” Dagger said. “What we believed. He’s been avoiding us; we’ve tried to talk to him before several times.”

Honestly, Sabre. Lash shook his head. “He is nothing if not stubborn. I—” He stopped as he heard the front door open, the sound of Sabre chatting with the butler.

Smirking, he moved to stand to the side of the door.

The door opened, and Sabre stepped in – but as he realized who the visitors were, he attempted to turn and leave.

Lash shoved, sending him stumbling into the room, then closed the door smartly and leaned against it.

“What in the hell!” Sabre demanded, eyes flashing in that way Lash loved, had from the very first. Oh, yes, he did love a man with a temper. That was later, however.

“Your brothers have come to visit,” he said cheerfully, “which means I’ll have to put off expressing just how much I admire you in green.”

Sabre glared at him, but did not protest the compliment, probably because he knew full well Lash would start in with the pet names.

Lash pressed on, deciding he may as well get all the trouble out at once. “We were just having wine.”

A look of stark terror filled Sabre’s eyes for a moment, then he turned to look at the wine, and saw his fears confirmed.

“I’m going to kill you,” he said in a quiet tone that said he probably would kill Lash later.

Lash didn’t budge from the door as Sabre approached. “I know neither of us is very good at being civilized, but they are your brothers – you could try.”

Sabre glared at him, but Lash could also see the fear warring with hope.

He just stared right back, until Sabre grimaced and turned away, dropping into the seat Lash had recently vacated.

“So you like the wine?” Epee asked cautiously into the silence.

“Yes,” Sabre said, just as warily.

There was a pause.

“You could have said you were my investor.”

Sabre sneered. “Oh, yes. That would have gone over well for both of us. I’m not stupid, Epee. We were both better off with no one the wiser.”

“I suppose,” Epee said. “Thank you. Without your help—”

“Whatever,” Sabre snarled. “Just don’t make me regret the investment.”

Epee rolled his eyes, but Lash could see he was amused.

Progress, excellent. And later there would be quite a bit of angry Sabre to mellow out.

Hiding a snicker, he called a servant and told him to warn the cook there would be two extra for dinner.