A storm is approaching and Hunith and Balinor have to learn to live together.
Categories: FPF Gen
, FPF Het Characters:
Mar 14, 2010 Updated:
Mar 14, 2010
Spoilers for episode 2x13 "The Last Dragonlord."
1. Chapter 1 by SlightlyTookish
Chapter 1 by SlightlyTookish
“It’s going to snow soon,” Hunith said as she wiped the last plate clean. “You know Old Thomas, who lives by the river? He said he can feel it in his knees whenever the weather changes, but I’m not sure if I believe that.”
Behind her there was silence, a familiar, stubborn sort of silence that made her sigh in frustration. Usually she was able to coax Balinor into a conversation, sometimes about interesting things like dragons or knights or life in the city but more often about mundane topics like crops and the weather, but she’d had no such luck today.
She glanced over at him and frowned. He was sitting hunched before the fire, brooding or sulking or doing whatever it was that he did on those days when his brows drew together and his shoulders were tense – the little signs that Hunith had learned to recognise, the signs that told her that he was thinking of home.
Usually he took those sulks outdoors, wandering along the river or in the woods, and Hunith pretended that it didn’t hurt her feelings a little that he’d rather be alone than confide in her. Once he’d been in a particularly foul mood and had disappeared for a night and a day. Hunith had been sick with worry all those long hours, terrified that Uther’s men had found him and wondering what she would tell Gaius.
When Balinor had returned late the following afternoon, looking rather sheepish and carrying a pair of carefully skinned rabbits in apology, she’d pushed aside her fear and her anger at being left alone without a word and had given him her brightest smile. She had no claim on him, after all, and it was foolish for her to believe that her home would ever be anything more to him than a reminder of his bitter exile.
But it was too cold tonight for him to go to his favourite haunts, and if Old Thomas was right about the impending storm, then they might be stuck indoors together for several days. Hunith didn’t plan on spending those days in a tense silence.
“Does it ever snow in Camelot?” she asked. She stacked the dishes in a neat pile and turned around to find that Balinor had finally wrenched his gaze from the fire and was watching her warily.
“Why do you care?” he asked.
Hunith shrugged. “I heard once that the winters are milder there but I don’t see why when it isn’t so far away, and when it’s closer to the mountains than Ealdor. But I’ve never seen Camelot in the winter so I thought I’d ask you.”
It took a moment but Balinor did respond, however grudgingly. “I wouldn’t call their winters harsh but it does snow there on occasion.” He hesitated a moment, his eyes flicking away before he added, “The dragons hated it.”
She imagined the dragons complaining about the weather as people did, and smiled as she came to sit near him. “Why?”
“They don’t like the cold,” he said, warming to the subject, just as he always did when she got him talking about dragons. These were the times that Hunith always looked forward to and sought out in her gentle way, when Balinor forgot his troubles and she could see the man he had been before, so happy and full of life. Each moment like this one made her more determined to help him, and was the reason why she hadn’t given up on him yet.
“The snow made flying difficult for them,” he went on. “Ice would form on their wings and–” He stopped suddenly, his shoulders drooping as he fell silent once more.
But Hunith wasn’t going to leave it at that, not when Balinor had finally seemed willing to speak at length for the first time that day. “What happened then?” she persisted. “Did you have to clean their wings? Or could they manage it themselves somehow?”
Balinor only shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Hunith bristled with irritation, though she tried not to let it show. “If you would just tell me–”
“All the dragons are dead now, except for one,” he said. “It doesn’t matter anymore.” He turned away from her and back towards the fire, but not before she caught a glimpse of his face and saw that he looked grief-stricken.
“But I can see that it matters to you,” she said. “I think you would feel better if you spoke about it. I’d like to hear more about the dragons. Will you tell me about them?” She placed an encouraging hand on his shoulder but he shrugged her off.
“Why do you ask so much of me?” he snapped. “You know nothing of the life I lived and you never will.”
It was no different than anything he had said or implied before, but for some reason his words at that moment finally made her lose the patience that she had clung to in the weeks since his arrival.
“And whose fault is that?” she demanded. “I’ve opened my home to you, and my–” Heart, her mind helpfully supplied, but she quickly pushed that thought aside. “I’m here and I’m willing to listen, but no matter what I do you insist on being a stubborn, miserable man all the time, and I – no,” she said, abruptly getting to her feet. “No, I know that you have suffered terribly and I will not add to that. Good night, Balinor.”
She turned away then, but not without seeing the expression on his face, a strange look of outrage and shock and guilt and something else that she didn’t recognise. But Hunith didn’t stay to figure it out; instead, she marched to her bed and with a vicious tug she drew the makeshift curtain she had strung across when Balinor first came to stay, separating her small space from the rest of the house.
She undressed quickly, going over their argument in her mind and still feeling furious at him. On the other side of the curtain she heard nothing but the sound of the fire crackling in the hearth, and she told herself that she didn’t care if Balinor left right then and there.
But after she blew out the candle and crawled into her bed, she lay awake staring at the ceiling for a long while, certain that at any moment she would hear the door creak open as Balinor left. No sound came to her ears, however, and eventually her eyelids grew heavy and she reluctantly succumbed to sleep.
Hunith woke the next morning to silence, not that that was unusual with Balinor around. She washed and dressed and tied back her hair and took several deep, calming breaths before she pulled aside the curtain to meet the day.
The room was empty and her heart sank at the thought that Balinor really had gone away during the night. She suddenly realised how much she’d grown used to having him around during past few weeks, and how empty her home looked without him sitting at the table or curled up in his bedroll by the fire.
But then she breathed a sigh of relief as she noticed that there was some sort of porridge cooking over the fire and that the table was set with dishes and mugs and something unidentifiable beside her plate.
She stepped over and picked it up; it was a block of wood about the size of her fist, which had been carved in the shape of a flower. Hunith touched the fragile, lifelike petals and smiled as the door creaked open and Balinor stepped inside, his hair and shoulders covered in snow.
“Old Thomas was right,” he said by way of greeting. “The storm is bad enough that I doubt we’ll be going far for a few days.” He closed the door against the wind and the cold and remained standing before it, brushing the snow from his cloak and watching her guardedly.
She watched him for a moment, so glad to see him again that she didn’t even mind that he was dripping snow all over the floor. But then she realised that she was staring at him and she had to look away, embarrassed.
“Thank you,” she said, holding up the flower. “It’s beautiful.”
He nodded and stayed quiet, but his wary expression faded and he looked almost pleased.
“I thought you’d gone,” she added. “I wouldn’t have blamed you, after some of the things I said last night.”
Balinor sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I’ve been an idiot,” he said.
Hunith fought back a surprised laugh.
“No, I have,” he insisted when he caught sight of her amused expression. “I haven’t been very fair to you, especially not when you’re risking so much to help me. But I was betrayed by Uther and in turn I betrayed Kilgarrah by helping to imprison him–”
“But you didn’t know that would happen,” she protested. “The king lied to you.”
“All the same, I’ve found it difficult to trust in another ever since,” he admitted.
“I understand,” she said before she remembered their argument from the night before and felt her face grow warm in embarrassment. “I mean, I’ll try to understand,” she amended. “But you’ll have to help me.”
“I’ll do my best,” he said, and she was grateful that he didn’t make any grand promises that he might not be able to keep. But then his earnest expression shifted and turned into something a little more cheerful and far more mischievous. “And I’ll try not to be so stubborn and miserable all the time.”
“If you can manage that at least some of the time,” she said, unable to keep from grinning at him in return. “I think we’ll be all right.”
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