Title: A Hasty Answer
Character/s: Leon, Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Leon doesn't think much about choosing a bedwarmer - until Arthur tells him he has to.
Word Count: 943
Prompt: #230: Heat of the moment
Author's Notes: Follows Warming Up.
Leon stepped into Arthur's chambers, bowing his head as he'd become accustom to over the years. He stood at the end of the table Arthur sat at, exhibiting more patience than Merlin, who hovered behind Arthur's seat, neither working nor putting on the believable air of someone who was. After another moment, Arthur looked up and offered Leon a seat at the table.
"Leon, good," Arthur said as Leon took a seat at his right. "I must ask you something."
"Is Merlin correct in telling me that you haven't chosen a bedwarmer?" Arthur laughed, not noticing how Leon ducked his head. "I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't correct but according to Merlin-"
"You asked for a list, so I brought you a list," Merlin interjected.
"According to Merlin," Arthur repeated, sparing no acknowledgement for the interruption, "you haven't chosen a bedwarmer. Is this true?"
Leon stared at the dark wood of the table, trying to avoid a conversation he was already a part of. "I didn't think it was necessary."
"It is absolutely necessary this year," Arthur said. "I'm being told that this will be one of the coldest winters of our lifetime. That means doing what we can for the people, offering them shelter and necessary supplies, and preparing the citadel for a long winter, including providing bedwarmers for every knight and noblewoman of the court."
"Sire, I'm sure with sufficient heating-"
"Every knight," Arthur repeated. He reached over to nudge Leon's shoulder. "I don't want to wake up one morning to word that my best knight froze to death in his sleep." Arthur laughed and Leon mustered a very succinct amused-sounding noise to humor him. Arthur slapped his hand against the table. "Then it's decided. You need a bedwarmer. Who is still available, Merlin?"
Merlin stepped forward, brandishing a small piece of parchment in his hands.
"At this time, everyone is spoken for except Narissa."
Leon flinched, his face involuntarily expressing distaste at the very suggestion. He knew Narissa and, more specifically, he knew of her in this context; Narissa had been his bedwarmer during the last winter the practice had been deemed necessary. They did not get along or, more specifically, Leon did not get along with her. He was of no mind to spend another winter sharing his bed with such a woman.
However, Arthur and Merlin had both missed his reaction to Narissa's name as Merlin had gestured with the parchment and nearly set it alight on a nearby candle.
"Is there anything you can do properly?" Arthur asked, waving away the smoke.
Leon could have sworn Merlin muttered something about keeping the kingdom together as he ran off to the window but he couldn't think on it as Arthur was readying a quill to make a mark on his original list.
"Narissa," Arthur said, more to himself than anyone else. "You know her, don't you? Well, that was easy enough. I will have the chambermaid contact her and see that-"
Arthur looked up from the blank space still next to Leon's name.
"I don't want a bedwarmer," Leon said quietly. It was, to some affect, true.
"Leon, we just talked about this." Arthur set down his quill, a touch of understanding in his gaze and tone. "It's necessary this year. You must take a bedwarmer. The first snow is expected within the week and you will need someone here when it arrives. All of the other bedwarmers are spoken for, it will be too dangerous to bring someone in from outside the lower town, and Narissa-"
"Gwaine will be my bedwarmer."
Leon spoke in a rush of panic, surprising everyone in the room, including himself.
"Gwaine?" Arthur asked.
"Gwaine?" Merlin repeated.
"He offered." It was the only answer Leon could provide.
Arthur stared at him, blinking a few times, and then looked down at his list. "How does Gwaine not have a bedwarmer?" he asked aloud.
"He doesn't?" Merlin came back from the window, leaning over Arthur to read over his shoulder. "I assumed he had one," Merlin said when Arthur fixed a stern glare at him. "Maybe even two."
Arthur rolled his eyes before quickly skimming over the rest of the list. Leon watched, counting in his head as Arthur ticked off the names of knights and noblewomen. Everyone else was accounted for and the total came out even... if Leon took Gwaine as his bedwarmer.
"Are you sure?" Arthur asked, eyeing the list and then Leon cautiously.
Leon had no idea why Gwaine had offered to be his bedwarmer. He couldn't know; Gwaine's actions and motives were a mystery to Leon at all times. But Gwaine had offered and Leon was willing to call his bluff before he would agree to spend another night sharing a bed with Narissa.
He nodded. "Yes."
Arthur and Merlin shared a glance, one shrugging his shoulders, and then the other. Arthur took up his quill to amend the list, his single inclusion of Gwaine's name next to Leon's standing out amongst rows of Merlin's handwriting.
"Thank you, Leon," Arthur said, sounding just as unsure as Leon felt. "I will see that the accommodations are made."
"Thank you, sire."
Leon stood from the table, pushing his chair in and bowing his head before he showed himself out. He walked back to his rooms without much thought, staring at the bleak landscape through the windows as he passed. The signs of winter were everywhere from the barren grounds to the extra furs laid out over his bed. Furs and heavy wool bedding, stacks of chopped wood, and now... a bedwarmer.
Leon had rarely ever felt so unprepared.