The Knight and the Not-Quite Lady, later chapter

One warm afternoon, Wynne sat alone in the solarium working her needlepoint after lessons. Her stitches were still large and uneven, but at least she had improved to the point where her work wasn’t marred by large knots and tangles. She sighed, thinking miserably that at least that small gain had come of her failed attempt at running away and then her fight with Gwaine. As she glanced up to look out the window and give her eyes a break from the close work, she thought about how much she’d give to have things as they were before. She shook her head and sighed again; it was no use to dwell upon it. even if Gwaine and Lady Retta weren’t courting, she had ruined any chance she had ever had with him. Blinking back tears, she bent her head to her work once more.

Wynne was so intent on her needlework that she didn’t hear the door opening and footsteps coming towards her. It wasn’t until the footsteps were a few feet away that her ears perked up. She looked up quickly to see Gwaine standing next to her, looking down at her seriously. “Hello, Wynne,” he said softly.

It took a moment for Wynne to find her tongue. She gulped and choked out, “Hullo, Gwaine,” before dropping her eyes to her lap.

Gwaine stepped closer and asked, “May I sit down?” When Wynne nodded, he sat down on the bench next to her. Her¬†flesh quivered as she felt the heat of his body through her thin, summery dress. “Leon made sure I got the pie you baked. Thank you; it was delicious.” He longed to tease her about it needing improvement, but he thought the better of it.

“You’re welcome,” she replied simply. She didn’t miss the fact that he didn’t mention the pie needing more sugar or less cinnamon, and she took it to mean he was still angry with her. She swallowed hard, trying to force down the lump that had risen in her throat.

Gwaine nervously fiddled with the hilt of the dagger he carried in his belt as he searched for the words he needed to say. “Rumor has it that you think I hate you.”

Wynne’s eyes widened anxiously. She thought he’d make more small talk before getting to the point, but apparently he wanted to get it over with. So be it. “The thought had crossed my mind.” She cringed inwardly at the squeak in her voice.

“Wynne,” Gwaine sighed, and then waited for her to look at him. “I don’t hate you, lass. I never did.” He gave her a brief, tight-lipped smile. “I was angry. Quite angry, in fact.” Wynne looked away quickly, not wanting him to see the tears welling up in her eyes. “And I was worried sick.”

“Worried?” she asked, looking up at him hopefully. “About me?”

His eyebrows rose in disbelief. “Of course, you foolish girl!” he exploded, and then pinched the bridge of his nose. His voice softened. “Of course, I was worried. When I heard you’d run away, all I could think about was something horrible happening to you–Saxons, or Morgana. You were lucky that the worst thing to happen was falling in a hole.” Wynne fidgeted; she knew how lucky she’d been. Gwaine’s mouth scrunched up the way it always did when he didn’t want to say something. “Wynne, you mean the world to me. Besides Merlin, you’re my best friend at Camelot. If anything happened to you…” He didn’t finish his thought; instead, he gazed at her, his eyes bright with unspoken emotion. “I never hated you, even though I spoke so harshly.”

A small part of her heart soared. So he did care about her, even though he was courting Lady Retta. She smiled to herself as she suddenly realized that her father and brothers would have been just as harsh with her if she’d done such a thing. She cleared her throat and responded, “I’m sorry…again…for running away. I just couldn’t take it anymore–Lady Magdalen always finding fault, the others always taunting me, Anora and Boris always wanting to be alone together…” She glanced at him quickly, not wanting him to misunderstand. “I mean, I’m happy for them; I just feel so alone and left out.” Gwaine smiled and nodded understandingly. She poked at her needlework with her needle and blurted out, “And then seeing you and Lady Retta cuddled up all lovey-dovey together.” She cringed inwardly again; she hadn’t meant to say that. She hurried to cover herself. “I mean, that didn’t bother me (What a big lie!), at least not as much as hearing the things you two said about me behind my back.” She glared accusingly up at him.

Gwaine turned to her, his expression a mixture of confusion, amusement, and something he couldn’t quite decipher. His mouth worked wordlessly for a moment; there was so much wrong with what she had just said that he wasn’t sure where to begin. Finally, he blurted out, “What do you mean, ‘cuddled up all lovey-dovey?’ When was this?” He knew there had been times when he’d been drunk and done some things he couldn’t remember, but he doubted Lady Retta had ever been involved.

Wynne cocked her head, giving him a don’t-play-stupid-with-me look. “That day you two were sitting beneath the big oak tree, over by the moat. You had your arms around her, and she was lying against your chest.” Wynne recalled every detail of that day, from the weather, to what they were both wearing, to the awful things she’d overheard.

Gwaine looked away, searching his memory for whatever scene Wynne had witnessed. When he finally recalled something resembling what Wynne said she’d seen, he smacked his forehead and chuckled at her misinterpretation. “Wynne, lass, we were sitting beneath the oak tree, and it may have looked as though we were cuddling, but there was nothing lovey-dovey about it.”

Wynne stared at Gwaine, a mixture of irritation and confusion in her eyes. If sitting that close together wasn’t lovey-dovey cuddling, then what was it? “You mean…you’re not courting her?” she asked. She knew she had probably betrayed her affection for him, but she didn’t care; she needed to know.

“No, lass,” he replied, laughing. “We’re not courting, not even close.” His dark eyes sparkled as he searched her face. A part of him suddenly realized what his earlier indecipherable feeling had been. he had sense that Wynne was jealous over seeing him with Lady Retta, and to his surprise, that realization pleased him. He pushed that thought from his mind and continued, “Wynne, Retta and I grew up in the same village. Our parents were good friends, and so we became close friends as well.” He laughed shortly. “We had to suffer through formal dance lessons together, which is why we dance so well together; we’re each quite familiar with the way the other moves.”

That makes sense, Wynne thought, but it still didn’t answer the question that bothered her the most. “Then why were you…?”

Gwaine laid his arm easily across her shoulders and gave her a sad look. “Retta’s cousin Amelia…had died in childbirth a couple weeks before, and Retta had just gotten word of it that day. She was devastated to hear the news, and very upset that she had missed the funeral. We were sitting so closely together because I was comforting her.”

“Oh…” Wynne replied, feeling horrible not only for her misinterpretation of what she’d seen, but also for the unwarranted nasty thoughts she’d had towards both of them. Still, there was something that was yet bothering her, something that she couldn’t see how she’d misinterpreted. “Then why were you saying all those awful things about me? She¬†said I’m clumsy as an ox, and you said you’ve never had such a horrible dance partner, and that your feet still hurt whenever you think of dancing with me…” As she listed the things she’d heard, she got angrier, and her voice grew louder until her chest heaved as she practically yelled, “It’s bad enough hearing those things from Lavinia and Reginald, but to hear them from someone I thought was a friend is…too much.”

Gwaine’s eyebrows came together, and his eyes widened as he sorted through her accusations. Suddenly, it clicked, and his shoulders began to shake with suppressed mirth, building up till he at last doubled over with laughter. When he straightened up, tears ran down his face as he looked at Wynne, whose eyes flashed with indignation. “Oh, Wynne,” he exclaimed, gathering her stiff body into his arms. “I can certainly understand how you thought that.” He drew back and kissed her forehead before explaining, “Those things we said weren’t about you at all, lass. We were reminiscing about Amelia. She took lessons with us, and she was a truly horrible dancer.” He couldn’t help chuckling at the memory. “Lass, you tell yourself what an awful dancer you are, but truly, next to Amelia, you are pure grace and elegance.”

Wynne couldn’t believe there was a worse dancer than she was. She smiled sheepishly and asked, “Really?”

“Really,” Gwaine replied softly, smiling tenderly at her. “Wynne, you remind Retta…and me…a great deal of Amelia. That’s part of the reason she’s taken such an interest in you as a pupil. For all your awkwardness and all the things you think are so unbearable about you, you have a good heart and such a sweetness about you that she and…others…can’t help but adore. Just like Amelia.”

Wynne looked away, blushing. If he and Retta knew half the things she’d thought about them throughout this whole misunderstanding, they certainly wouldn’t think of her as sweet.

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