Gwaine managed to land with the clothing safely behind Eira on the chair, but with his legs on the edge of the bath, and with Eira in the middle of his outstretched arms and the front half of his body in the water. They were both silent for a few seconds, but then Eira burst out laughing uncontrollably, and Gwaine joined in.
Just then, Lillian entered and stopped, shocked to see Gwaine half-lying in the bath, and Eira between his arms. She started to back away, thinking that maybe she was interrupting them in something. Then the maid almost ran from the chambers, her cheeks burning red.
Eira tried to motion to her that it was alright, but just gave up as she was laughing so hard that she couldn't. Gwaine was trying to get up without falling into the bath, but it was nearly impossible when he was laughing just as hard as Eira.
Their laughter came to a stop, and Gwaine and Eira looked at each other. They both tried to calm down, but once again Eira thought of Gwaine's contorted face when he had fallen and they both exploded with fits of laughter again. Eira leaned forward a few inches and kissed Gwaine's nose. ''My clumsy idiot.''
She then cleared her throat, motioning to herself and seeing his gaze travel across her body for a slight second before looking up. The bubbles had started fading and she didn't exactly feel comfortable. She didn’t know whether he had seen her completely bared or not, and the thought somewhat scared her; she knew that they had shared one night in his bed while she was enchanted and under Morgana’s control, but he had been drunk and it had been dark. She closed his eyes with her hands and he kept them closed as he got up carefully and turned around, giving her privacy as he faced away from her.
''Lillian!'' Eira called.
''God knows what she thinks of us,'' Gwaine said and laughed.
Lillian quietly and shyly walked in, as if they were going to punish her.
''Yes, miss?'' she said, her voice almost a whisper.
''Lillian you don't have to be ashamed, we weren't...Gwaine fell when he came in, he tripped over some garments on the floor,'' Eira explained.
Lillian looked at Gwaine who nodded, still facing the other way. She got a bathrobe and helped Eira into it as she stood up. Lillian moved the clothing that Gwaine had retrieved from the chair onto the bed and Eira sat down on the chair. Gwaine turned back to them and dragged the bath out of his chambers after explaining that Guinevere had given him a dress for Eira to wear as a token of friendship. Eira felt slightly surprised.
When Gwaine returned Lillian had left and Eira stood in front of the mirror, her hand on the wall for support.
''Can I see?'' Gwaine asked and she turned around.
She was wearing a tight, slim, dark red dress with flowing long sleeves. She looked amazing.
"It's not exactly casual," Eira said with a shrug.
Gwaine couldn't tear his eyes away from her when there was a knock on the door and Gwen came in, holding a little box.
''You look absolutely beautiful!'' she exclaimed when she saw Eira.
''Thank you, but it's your dress,'' Eira replied and smiled at the Queen's compliment.
''I want you to keep it,'' Guinevere said with a warm voice.
''Thank you so much,'' Eira said and hugged Gwen.
''Oh, and there's another thing I would like you to have,'' Gwen stepped forward, opened the box and revealed a red necklace with precious stones.
Eira could not utter a word and Gwaine was dumbfounded as well.
''It might not be of any use to you on the journey to bring Arthur back, but I feel that it will bring you luck here,'' Gwen said.
When Eira still didn't reply, she carefully took it out of the wooden box and put it around Eira's neck.
''This is too much,'' Eira said but the Queen didn't listen.
''You've earned it. Now, Eira you should get some rest, and Gwaine needs to go talk to Merlin and Gaius about something,'' Gwen said and left with brief footsteps.
Eira looked at Gwaine and he shrugged his shoulders.
''Well without you I would be dead. So you do deserve it,'' he came closer and kissed her. The sensation of his lips on hers brought her back to those a long time ago when she wasn’t herself, and then to the slightly more desire-fueled one they had shared before Gwen and Merlin entered when they had just arrived in the castle. Eira was afraid to question the possibility of his feelings for her blossoming again. She knew that the ones she had for him were growing more undeniable for every moment. She studied his eyes after his lips left hers, understanding how much promise they were filled with.
A few moments later she was alone in Gwaine's chambers. Discomfort swelled up again. She felt sick. Everyone was being so kind to her, but she was just screaming inside. She wanted to tell Gwaine about the bandits abusing her, and to cry in his arms. And then he would tell her that it would be alright, and they would confront the bandits. And then they would be together and go with Merlin on the quest to bring Arthur back.
But if she told anyone about the bandits, she would be taking a huge risk. And they weren't going to believe her story about the snake for long.
She sighed, and limped over to the bed. Eira stared up at the ceiling and tried to think about Gwaine and her dress, and the knights being kind enough to go out looking for her, but her thoughts kept leading over to the bandits and what would happen if and when they came to Camelot. Her leg was hurting and she closed her eyes as she tried to relax.
Her whirling thoughts suddenly screeched to a stop when she remembered that Gwen had said that Merlin and Gaius had wanted to talk to Gwaine. She could guess what about.
Gwaine entered to find Merlin and Gaius at the table, looking through some books.
''How is Eira?'' Gaius asked.
''She's better, I think, she's resting right now,'' Gwaine replied.
''Gwen wanted me to talk to you about Eira's injuries and that they could mean further delay on our journey,'' Merlin said.
''Our first step in bringing Arthur back is finding the Helix, and we think it is located in the forests around Caerleon, Queen Annis' kingdom. But it will take Eira weeks to fully recover.'' Merlin continued explaining.
''We have to wait for her, we can't just leave her here!'' Gwaine said.
''Of course we'll try, but we need to make sure that someone doesn't get to the item we need first, it's our only chance,'' Merlin said doubtfully.
Gaius sighed. ''When I cleaned Eira's wound I found traces of poison. That was not an ordinary rock she fell on. Has she told you any more about what happened Gwaine?'' Gaius asked, a troubled look in his eyes.
''No, but I'm sure there's an explanation,'' Gwaine said.
''You need to talk to her and find out what really happened,'' Merlin said.
''But…,'' Gwaine said but fell silent. For once he didn't have anything to say. No explanation.
He nodded, and when he got up to leave he heard footsteps outside the door.
He opened it quickly, thinking it was an uninvited listener and stepped outside into the hall.
He saw Eira desperately trying to get away but quickly caught up to her, gently grabbed her arm and pulled her over into a slightly hidden corner by the wall.
''What's the matter? Do you need Gaius?'' he flatly asked but he knew there was another reason for her being there.
She shook her head, and tears began to well up in her eyes.
''How much did you hear?'' he asked.
''You’re leaving?'' she asked, her voice slightly trembling.
''Not without you. But I need to know what really happened to you last night. Your horse charges in to Camelot, and we ride out to hear a scream. You tell us that you fell off your horse and that a snake bit you,'' he felt the questions that had raged inside him come out as he raised his voice.
''What I'm wondering is why you say you were bitten by the same snake that startled your horse, yet you scream ten minutes after your horse bolts. And don't tell me that there were two snakes. And now, Gaius has found traces of poison on your wound, and I’m certain a rock was not what was involved!''
She looked scared and sad, crying so hard that her breaths shook.
''I just can't tell you! Gwaine I wish I could explain everything that happened. But I can't, and I can't tell you why either!'' she looked down, twisted out of his grip and started to walk back to his chambers with the wall as support.
He looked after her, took a step in her direction but then stopped.
Instead, he went the other way to Percival's chambers.
He knocked on the door, barged in and sat down at Percival's table without a pause.
Percival was seated opposite him, staring at the wall. He saw his friends' troubled expression. ''Gwaine? What happened?''
''You don't look so easy yourself,'' Gwaine replied.
Percival mumbled something and turned to his friend.
Gwaine continued when he saw that Percival wasn't going to explain. ''I had an argument with Eira because she isn't telling the truth about what happened last night. But the thing I least understand is how I can feel like I’m unstoppably in love with her one hour and then be fighting with her the next; she’s two different people! Or maybe I am.'' Gwaine muttered.
He replayed what he had said.
In love with her?
Was that what he was? Was that what sent burning shivers down his body whenever her dark blue eyes rested on him?
Percival realized that if he told his friend what he had seen in the forest now, Gwaine would never forgive Eira. He would tell him, just not yet. There was only one thing he could think of. It would be hard for him, but it would make things better for Gwaine and Eira.
''It's probably nothing. Just give her time. I want you and Eira to come over tonight for dinner. She will enjoy Jetta's company, she needs to talk to another girl sometimes you know,'' Percival offered.
''I doubt even that will help her. You really think that it would?'' Gwaine asked sincerely.
''I know it will. Now, go and apologize to her and tell her what I said,'' Percival said and smiled.
''Thanks,'' Gwaine said and left, feeling a little refreshed with a friend’s idea planted in his mind.
Percival always had good ideas and Gwaine knew that he could trust him with anything.
But he was still angry and confused.
Why wasn't Eira telling him the truth about what had happened in the forest last night?
Percival hadn't answered his second question either. How could they laugh wildly together one moment in peace and be full-out at war fighting the next? She hadn't answered any of Gwaine's questions about the previous night, he could only hope that her meeting and possibly venting to Jetta would help.
Gwaine reached his chambers and his hand reached for the door handle, but he didn't open the door. The stubborn side of Gwaine took over. Why should he apologize to her? She was the one that was keeping secrets. She should apologize first.
Eira sighed and opened the door. She collided with Gwaine. He had just been about to walk in, but with the same intention as her?
''Sorry, I didn't see you,'' Gwaine mumbled.
''No, it wasn't your fault,'' she replied bitterly.
She tried to say something and fell silent when he did exactly the same thing.
''Look, I'm-'' they both spoke at the same time.
Gwaine and Eira looked at each other with surprised expressions.
Eira did not want to be the first of them that said something, so she looked down.
''I'm sorry,'' Gwaine apologized. ''Eira, can we just not talk about what happened last night now?'' he continued.
She stayed quiet.
''Percival and Jetta have invited us for dinner tonight.''
''Well did you say yes?'' she said.
''Of course I did. Can we at least pretend to get along tonight?'' he asked.
She looked at him angrily. ''Please?'' he asked again.
''Fine. But only if you promise not to embark on the quest without me or treat me as the traitor Morgana masked me as,'' she said.
Gwaine changed his shirt and washed his face while Lillian helped Eira change into a more casual dress and brushed her hair. There were a lot of unspoken words between them, but none of them said anything to each other. She tried to relax and followed Gwaine out the door to Percival and Jetta's cottage.
Gwaine removed Eira's hand from the door when she was about to knock all of her anger out on it, and raised his own hand to knock. A few moments later a dark haired woman with light blue eyes and pink lips appeared in the doorway.
''You must be Jetta,'' Gwaine said and smiled.
''And you must be Gwaine and Eira,'' Jetta replied. Eira bit back a rude remark.
''Percival has told me lots about you. Please, come in,'' she said and they stepped inside.
Eira looked at Gwaine on her right, and he gave her a look that asked her to at least try to look happy. She smiled sarcastically at him.
Their cottage was small and cozy. There were two decent-sized rooms, a bedroom and a big living room where Jetta stopped.
The walls were painted in a fair colour and the windows had been constructed to let as much light in as possible.
It was still so bright that Eira felt as if she were outside. The light gave her a headache. She sighed and followed Jetta through the room. She was fascinated when she saw that there were mannequins with fabric on them in the corner and a chest with cloth on top of it. She remembered someone telling her that Jetta was a seamstress. There was a big chair in one corner of the room and in the other stood a table neatly set for four. Percival entered from the other room and smiled when he saw the guests.
''Percival,'' Eira smiled and hugged him and watched as he greeted Gwaine cheerfully.
''You two must be hungry, especially Gwaine after that training today, Percival told me all about it. Let's eat,'' Jetta said happily and went to get the food.
Eira took a seat next to Percival, opposite Gwaine and Jetta.
The minutes ticked by, adorned with chatter and laughs and impersonations that made everyone laugh. Gwaine took sip after sip from his goblet of wine; it seemed that his grin never left his face.
Eira just wanted to leave.
At first she couldn't understand Jetta's pointless and endless talk, but as even more minutes passed by, Eira came to quite like the woman Percival was so fond of. She had original ideas, and feisty words flew out of her mouth like she was fearless of the kingdom hearing her opinion.
''I'm glad that the Queen announced the attempt to regain the King’s life publically. It makes us citizens think that she still trusts us and that we're actually a part of the kingdom,'' Jetta said.
''You should be a representative of the citizens in the court,'' Gwaine commented and she smiled.
A while later everyone had finished their food.
''How about we head down to the tavern?'' Gwaine suggested and Percival nodded.
Eira and Jetta told them that they would be there shortly, Jetta just wanted to tidy up and clear the table first.
''See you two in a bit then,'' Percival said and he and Gwaine left, both of them in a good mood.
''Right, how about you clear the plates and bowls and I'll deal with the rest,'' Jetta said.
Eira attempted to smile and started collecting the dishes. She tried to observe and somewhat understand the mettlesome girl in front of her, and noticed her way of walking around her house like it was a dream, stopping to fondly adjust small things. Eira guessed that she was very proud of her cottage and that she had come from a family with little money for additional preferences.
''So how long have you and Percival been living here?'' Eira asked.
''Only for a month or so. He was living in the castle before we met, but we decided to get a place of our own. It makes everything easier. We're not betrothed though. Yet,'' Jetta replied with a hopeful smile.
''How about you and Gwaine? You seem very close,'' Jetta asked.
''Well we met just a short while back. His patrol rescued me from my old village. As you might have heard, I caused quite a bit of trouble here in Camelot,'' Eira explained.
''Yes, gossip and rumors along with the truth spread quickly here. At least you're back to normal I hear. I don't know if I would even survive meeting Morgana. My cousin was her maid a while when she was the king's kind and innocent ward,'' Jetta said.
''Yes, it's strange how people can change so quickly,'' Eira said.
''You know I get so irritated with Percival sometimes, he comes home late from patrols and training and hunting trips and guard duties and God knows what. It often seems like all I do for him is cook and clean,'' Jetta said with the exact same irritated tone Eira had sometimes.
''I understand almost exactly what you mean. I don't have the same problem since Gwaine and I are currently staying in the castle, but I get annoyed with him anyway,'' Eira said, relieved that they shared the same thoughts.
Jetta stopped drying a bowl with a cloth and looked into Eira's eyes.
''It's almost like they don't understand you sometimes, yet without them you would be nothing and have nothing.''
''I feel exactly the same. Gwaine means everything to me, I wouldn't lose him for the world,'' Eira said and met Jetta's blue eyes. She suddenly realized that even though she was angry with him right now, her feelings for him would never change.
The thick tension surrounding Eira lifted with every word she and Jetta exchanged. When they were finished clearing the table, they headed towards the tavern.
It wasn't hard to find Percival and Gwaine, they were loudly arm-wrestling with some other men at a table. Eira gave Jetta a knowing look. They walked forward to the table and Eira sighed.
''Well this could take the whole night,'' Eira said, crossing her arms when Gwaine glanced up at her.
''Well we have the whole night don't we. Or should I say knight,'' Gwaine said and smiled when his arm brought down another knight's arm onto the table. The men around him cheered and Percival took Gwaine's place. ''Well now that we're here we might as well watch,'' Jetta said and they joined in with the loud cheering. Eira decided to drink a little and at least try to enjoy herself, Jetta seemed keen to. They only ordered some light drinks and kept a close eye on their men.
A few hours later, the men around them could barely stand up and Eira decided that it was time to get home. Jetta and Eira had made sure that Percival and Gwaine didn't get immeasurably drunk because neither of them wanted to deal with getting the men home, nor the next day.
They had both had an experience with that already.
Percival took Jetta's arm and the two couples went separate directions after saying goodbye.
They walked through the Lower Town and the cool night air didn't stop Eira from being tired even though she was surprised at how well her evening had gone.
Gwaine pushed her playfully when he saw her sour expression.
''Did you not enjoy yourself at all?'' he asked.
''Yes, I really did, I'm just tired,'' Eira replied.
''So did Jetta turn out to be good company?'' Gwaine asked.
''Yes. You don't understand how nice it feels to have female company again. And we understand each other too,'' Eira explained.
''I'm glad. Percival thought it would be a good idea for you two to spend time with each other and talk about your girl problems,'' Gwaine said. He looked at Eira when he was met with a laugh.
''Girl problems?'' Eira asked, amused.
''Well you know, things you don't want to discuss with me. Or hear my opinion on, which happens to be most things,'' Gwaine said.
''Ok then, well thanks. I think,'' Eira said and laughed. A cold wind blew her hair back and she shivered. Gwaine noticed that she was cold and carefully put his arm around her, reminding her of the tightness, now vanishing, that had lay between them earlier
She took his hand. ''I'm sorry I got so mad at you today. I really can't tell you about what happened in the forest. But I'm fine, don't worry about it.''
''I'm sorry I confronted you like that, in the open corridor,'' Gwaine said and stroked her hand.
''We don't have to talk about it until you feel ready to,'' he continued.
''Thank you for attempting to understand this mess,'' Eira said and looked at the brown eyes intently watching her.
''And I promise that we won't leave to find the stone without you. I mean, Percival and I aren't going to be great female representatives of Camelot, are we?' Gwaine said.
She smiled gratefully and they continued walking until they reached the castle.
They decided to stop at Merlin and Gaius' chambers before heading up to Gwaine's.
Merlin opened the door, looking sleepy and slightly irritated.
''It's quite late you know. So how was the dinner?,'' he looked at Gwaine, expecting him to answer but Eira did instead. ''It was actually very pleasant, we both had a great time.''
Merlin nodded inattentively and then said, ''Gwen along with assistance from the court has figured out the exact route to get to the forest of Caerleon. We will have to leave soon,'' he said, now insecurely, and looked at Gwaine.
''I hope I recover sooner, because even if I haven't, I'm going with you,'' Eira said determinedly.
Merlin didn't say anything, but he nodded sympathetically and they said goodnight before their friend’s eyes started to close and he shut the door. He seemed awfully distracted, but Eira guessed that it was just nerves.
Gwaine and Eira walked to Gwaine's chambers, his hand around her waist, talking loudly and laughing. They were both in a good mood after the dinner and the tavern, even though it was late. Once they arrived at Gwaine's chambers, they lit a few candles to make the room more cozy as the strained space between their minds seemed to grow smaller. Gwaine put his feet up on the table at which they sat and they talked about the odd events that had occurred that day. None of them mentioned the fight. Eira didn't even want to let one though concerning the bandits cross her mind.
''So did you see Lillian again?'' Gwaine asked.
''Not since I changed before the dinner actually, I think she has been busy the whole day,'' Eira replied.
''Poor girl,'' Gwaine said.
''What? She seems content with the occupation of a maid,'' Eira said.
''No, I meant poor girl, God knows what she thinks of us,'' Gwaine replied, flashing his teeth in a grin.
A warm feeling of joy overtook Eira as she remembered how she had felt when she had seen Gwaine's face when he fell into the bath and she laughed even harder at the memory of Lillian's face when she had seen him.
''Well we can't really ask her what she thinks,'' Gwaine said and shrugged uncomfortably as if he imagined what that would be like.
Eira yawned and shortly after, Gwaine did too.
''It's been a long day, we should get to bed,'' Eira said.
''But first, there's something I want to give you,'' Gwaine said mysteriously and went to the table by the bed. He opened a little box and took something out of it.
He walked back to Eira and stood behind her.
''Close your eyes,'' he said and she did.
She felt his warm fingers put a cool, thin chain around her neck, and he gently guided her to the mirror.
''Can I open?'' Eira said excitedly.
''Open,'' Gwaine replied.
Eira opened her eyes and looked in the mirror.
Around her neck was a fiery, red stone attached to a thin chain. She couldn't look away; the color was almost hypnotising.
"It reminds me of you," he said, almost shyly.
She spun around and hugged Gwaine tightly. She then kissed him until none of them could breathe. ''Thank you so much! It's amazing! And beautiful!'' she exclaimed and kissed him again.
''Well, I felt like it was telling me something. I also knew it would look good on you, but I didn't expect you to be so happy after all we've been through,'' he replied and laughed.
She hugged him again and then stood there, looking at the proud knight. A warmth crept up into her stomach and her knees suddenly felt weak.
That had been the feeling gnawing at her more and more, for every second he looked at her almost, and she had learned that denying it wouldn’t work.
She loved him.
The passionate, brown eyes always full of excitement and the long, slightly wavy hair framing his face that always had the mark of someone who had recently been laughing. The loose, lowly-cut white cotton shirt drooping to provide a tantalizing glimpse of the tanned, warm skin of his solid chest and muscled figure. The dark brown breeches he always left to be without a belt, and his boots that she once found him thoroughly polishing all by himself.
''We should get to bed now,'' Gwaine said smiling, snapping her out of her dream.
Gwaine took his shirt and boots off as if he was drunk just to tease her. She laughed and pushed him away as she stepped out of her shoes and went behind the screen to change.
He then removed the cover and the extra pillows for the bed and blew out most of the candles, falling into the heap of soft blankets and covers and cushions with his eyes already closed. God, she loved him even more.