Emmeryn looked down at Gangrel’s sleeping face. She let out a breath; she hadn’t known she’d been holding. He no longer seemed to be in pain at least. The arrow had done a fair amount of damage but she had been assured by the cleric and with her own rudimentary healing skills that he would be fine in few days. He just didn’t look fine, she told herself repeatedly.
For all that she disliked Gangrel’s straightforwardness, and tactless behavior, seeing him unconscious and expressionless was worse. He always had something to say or some strange face to make when they were being counseled by different members of the elite. Today she had been alone, listing endlessly to the Council members prattle on about how disastrous the marriage treaty was going and how they had known all along that it would turn out poorly.
She had forgotten how long winded some of them could be since Gangrel had been there to shut them up or at least make them uncomfortable enough to move on. He somehow made those talks enjoyable or bearable by throwing her looks that showed all too well how they both felt. He had only been in Ylisse for a few months but already she couldn’t fathom how she had gotten through those meetings before he had been there. It was a rather disturbing thought, depending so much on the Plegian King.
“My lady, you should retire to bed, it’s getting late.” Emmeryn met her knight’s worried expression and smiled lightly.
“Phila…I think I’ll sleep here tonight, if that isn’t a problem.” The other woman looked at her a bit taken aback. Emmeryn was surprised herself, she hated the few times Gangrel stayed through the night. Although she was extremely embarrassed to admit it to herself she had grown to really enjoy being intimate with the other monarch, but after it was over he usually left for both there benefit. It was very strange and awkward when he didn’t, neither knowing how to interact with each other after they were finished. Should he hold her? Should she put an arm around him? It always ended up with them on either side of the bed trying desperately not to touch.
“The Royal Cleric said he would be fine, my Lady. Surly there is no need to make yourself uncomfortable for his sake. If his condition changes someone will fetch you immediately.” Phila, Emmeryn knew was only trying to look out for her wellbeing, but it still made her slightly upset that the knight assumed that sleeping with her injured husband was unbearable for her. No, she didn’t love Gangrel but she could admit that he was becoming a friend. A friend that she realized she needed quite a bit.
“He is my husband, Phila. I don’t want to be fetched in the middle of the night if he takes a turn for the worse, I want to stay with him and make sure he’s safe. He’s earned that much from me, considering one of my own people tried to execute him.” Phila looked away; not at all pleased Emmeryn had defended Gangrel. She was probably also upset by Emmeryn’s punishment for the perpetrator.
“The man was only concerned for you. He only wanted to protect his Exalt, my Lady, and I can’t help but feel similarly.” Emmeryn stood abruptly from her chair by Gangrel’s bedside.
“Protect me? No, Phila, he wasn’t! The man just wanted to murder Gangrel because he was different. It was his hate that made him act, not his love for me, nor his devotion! If it had been perhaps I would have spared his life like I intended, but he showed his true colors when he spoke to me.” Emmeryn seethed, having listened to quite enough hate speech that day. “Don’t ever think I would be pleased by murder in my name Phila! Now go and return to your rounds.”
As the knight left in shock, Emmeryn started to take off her day clothes and slip into a sleeping dress for the night. With a heavy sigh she undid the clasp of her cloak, letting it fall to the floor, nerves too frayed from the last few days to care that it would be wrinkled tomorrow. She then slipped out of her shoes and leggings; until finally she pulled loose the sash keeping her dress closed and slipped it from her shoulders. She stood there naked facing the wall for a few minutes enjoying the air against her skin.
“You look nice like that…” She turned around in surprise at the groggy words, only to see Gangrel looking at her though half lidded eyes. She didn’t bother to cover herself as she walked back over to the bed. He had seen her naked many times by now; there was no point in being shy.
“You’re awake.” Emmeryn said softly, feeling a bit of relief when he grinned as best he could. He was still quite weak from blood loss. That seemed to stop him little as he slowly wrapped his fingers around her hip and urged her closer with a weak tug. She complied and sat next him, leaning forward so he could easily see her face.
“Hard to…sleep with you…yelling at the help.” Emmeryn looked away, embarrassed that she had woken him when she had been trying so hard to defend him to Phila. Seeing her distress, Gangrel moved his hand to her hair, forcing her to look at him. His thumb gently moved over her bottom lip. “Thank you…for, well everything I suppose.”
“You heard what I said to Phila?” Suddenly, Emmeryn felt rather ashamed for berating the other woman. Husband or not, Gangrel was a Plegian, and a past enemy of Ylisse. She didn’t feel like she should be thanked for going against her people’s wishes, or beliefs.
“…Parts. How bad is it?” Emmeryn couldn’t help but smile, and shake her head. Gangrel was still grinning like a hyena, even though he had no idea if he would live or not. She took his hand in hers’.
“You’ll be absolutely and positively, back to your old self in a few days.” His grin widened, pleased to hear the good news. She sat there holding his hand, running her fingers over the rough, calloused skin of his knuckles for a few silent minutes not sure if she should say anything else. He never broke eye contact with her, but it didn’t frighten her like it used to. “I missed you during the meeting today. Old man Benjamin just would not stop talking. Kept me in the Hall until dinner.”
“Sucks…sorry I couldn’t make it. Anyone say…anything good about me?” By that he meant ‘anything bad’. It was strange that she knew what he meant but she did. With a short laugh, Emmeryn tried to recall some of the best insults she had heard.
“Well, Sir Dwain called you ‘a filthy heathen.’ Though that was nothing compared to Sir Owen who whispered to Lady Victoria, ‘Gods do you think the next sniper will get him?’ to which she replied ‘One can only hope. If he lives any longer he will have us eating out of the gutters’.” Emmeryn had actually been rather shocked at the time that the people in court had said so many terrible things about Gangrel in front of her, but after talking to the would-be assassin she realized that everyone assumed she hated him as much, if not more so then them.
“I love it…” Gangrel breathed putting his head back, exhaustion getting the better of him. Emmeryn crawled over him, careful not to hit him with her legs, to the other side of the bed. She got under the light summer blanket and pushed herself close to him, resting her head on his shoulder, and wrapping an arm around his chest lightly. It was strange to be so intimate with him—sex didn’t count, it was necessary if they wished to unite there two countries with a sole heir. His weight and body heat wasn’t unpleasant though, easing the tension in her muscles that had accumulated over the past few days.
“I’m so sorry.” Emmeryn buried her head deeper into his shoulder, breathing in his strange sent, that reminded her Plegia. She was surprised when she felt his arm weakly wrap around her shoulders and back, almost comfortingly.
“Don’t be…not your fault.” He managed, already half asleep. Emmeryn moved her hand to his neck and face, lightly kissing his cheek as he began to doze off. There was a tightness in her chest as she settled back down to do the same. Gangrel could have died the other day, and although she hated to admit it she would have grieved the loss. She would have missed him a lot more than she ever would have thought and that single thought shook her to her core.