Character/s: Gwaine, Leon, Original Characters
Summary: Gwaine feels displaced and disrespected. He plans to leave and venture off on his own - just before he's drafted into being the squire for a young lord.
Warnings: Canon AU
Word Count: 1,327
Prompt: #271: Potential
Author's Notes: My apologies for the length. I had trouble wrapping things up. To clarify "Canon AU", this drabble takes place in a kingdom that is near, but is not, Camelot. It also takes place some years before the series. Gwaine is about ten years old here.
Gwaine stumbled, nearly falling to the ground as he was pushed into the small home. He caught himself on the edge of the table, his hair falling over his face as he glared at Segar. The man threw the door to his home shut with as much force as it could withstand. He glared back at Gwaine, circling the table until they stood face-to-face on opposite sides.
“Stealing from the kitchens?” Segar shouted, his voice filling the small space. “Again?”
Gwaine stood his ground, no stranger to shouting. “I was hungry.”
“Don’t insult me, boy,” Segar warned. He spread a large hand over the table between them. “We’re already stretched thin trying to feed and clothe you. It isn’t much but I still expect some gratitude.”
“All I said was that I was hungry.”
“You’re lucky they didn’t cut your hand off.” Gwaine unconsciously touched a hand to his wrist, shaking off the phantom pain when he realized what he was doing. “And what were you doing near the kitchens anyway?” Segar asked, his voice rising again. “You were supposed to be at the stables. The stable master was willing to give you another chance.”
Gwaine frowned at the smell still stuck in his nose. “That job is shit.”
“We all have to earn our keep.”
“It’s actually shit!” Gwaine shouted despite knowing how raising his voice made Segar’s hackles bristle. “Horse shit, nothing but horse shit from dawn to dusk. I never got near a horse!”
“I never said you would!”
“I’m not going back,” Gwaine said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Segar leaned across the table. “You need to learn your place.”
“I know it’s not standing around in knee-high shit all day.”
“You ungrateful little-“
Segar cut himself off with a heavy pound of his fist on the table. He pushed away, turning to the other side of the room, giving Gwaine a moment to collect himself. Segar had never hit him but the man had a temper and was still an arm’s length taller than Gwaine stood. He looked to the back corner of the room where the straw bed Segar’s wife made him lay. His pack was still there hidden beneath the thin blanket.
He could leave soon. Tonight, if he really wanted to.
“I swore to your father that I would look after you.”
Gwaine looked back to Segar, hiding away any thoughts of leaving to keep his expression neutral. Segar stood near the room’s lone window, contemplating the cloak that hung from the wall next to it. The cloak was battle worn and featured a crest Gwaine knew well and hated. Segar turned to Gwaine, giving a faint nod to the scowl on Gwaine’s face.
“He was a great knight and a good man,” Segar said, moving away from the cloak. Gwaine let his gaze fall to the table as Segar approached. It was always uncomfortable to discuss the tenuous connection that kept Gwaine in Segar’s house. “He was my friend and I gave him my word. But that doesn’t mean you’re not testing my patience, boy. I have a family to feed and if you do something stupid that endangers their safety or well-being, I will choose them over you. Do you understand?”
Gwaine nodded. His lesser importance didn’t deserve a spoken answer.
Gwaine glanced at the window after Segar walked away. He took a guess as to the time and began counting the hours until nightfall.
It was clear where he stood in Segar’s household.
He would rather be on his own.
Segar returned to the table with a bowl of water and a cloth. Gwaine was forced to look at him, confused by the silent presentation.
“Wash your face.”
“Because before you got caught stealing from the kitchens, again,” Segar said, anger evident in his emphasis, “I found you another job. And I can’t take you into the manor house when you look like you’ve been in the sty with the pigs.”
Gwaine looked down at the bowl and cloth and back up at Segar as he went over Segar’s statement a few times in his head.
“We’re going to the manor house?”
“Yes,” Segar said, sounding regretful. “God help us all.”
Segar kept to a quick pace as they walked through the halls of the manor house. His heavy hand on Gwaine’s shoulder forced Gwaine to keep pace with him. There was no opportunity for Gwaine to look around at the finery or the other people if he didn’t want to get tripped up by his own feet. Not until they stopped in front of a pair of carved doors on the second floor.
Segar knocked with his free hand, keeping a firm grip on Gwaine’s shoulder.
Gwaine entered the room first, guided by Segar’s hand. The room itself was many times larger than Segar’s home featuring a hearth wider than Gwaine’s arm span and a row of windows over looking the fields that led to the river. A large table covered in armor and weaponry faced the windows. Gwaine’s eye got caught on the shine of a sword that looked to be the perfect length for his hand.
Segar’s hand kept Gwaine from wandering.
“Sir Kay,” said Segar, bowing his head.
“Segar.” The knight’s voice demanded attention. Gwaine took an unconscious step back as he approached. “What brings you here?”
“Hewet told me you were still looking for a squire for the young lord.”
“Squire?” Gwaine hissed. “I don’t want to be a squire.”
“Be quiet.” Segar’s hushed words were accompanied by a firm squeeze on Gwaine’s shoulder. “Gwaine will be able to handle those duties. He’s impulsive, I won’t lie, but he’s also strong and has a good head on his shoulders when he decides to use it. He’s quick, teachable; he has great potential.”
Sir Kay moved even closer. He kept a hand on the hilt of his sword as he took a few steps around Gwaine and Segar, looking over Gwaine like he was a cow at the market. He eventually stepped back and met Gwaine’s eye.
“I know you can speak. Can you read?” Sir Kay asked.
“Some,” Gwaine answered honestly.
“How did you get into the kitchen larders this morning?”
Gwaine tried not to let on that he was surprised by the sudden turn in questioning.
“They were unlocked,” he answered, again honestly.
Sir Kay threw his head back in a booming laugh that was over as soon as it’d started. “That sounds less like thievery and more like Cook’s incompetence. Segar,” he said, speaking with less levity, “I’ll take your word on the boy’s potential. As long as he can keep up and the young lord approves, he can have the job.”
“Thank you, Sir Kay,” Segar said, bowing his head again.
A protest was primed on the tip of Gwaine’s tongue when Sir Kay called back over his shoulder.
“My lord, may I have a moment of your time?”
Gwaine frowned, his dislike over being shuffled around like chattel growing when “the young lord” joined them in the forward part of the room. He stood a hand taller than Gwaine and couldn’t be more than two or three years older than him. His clothes were clean and without flaw and his hair looked like it had been recently washed. His face was soft from lack of hardship and never knowing what it was like to go without.
Gwaine hated everything about him.
“Gwaine.” Sir Kay’s voice again demanded his attention. “This is the Lord Leon Degrande, second son of Rowley Degrande, the Marquess of Harrowhill.”
Gwaine nodded because he knew he was expected to do something.
“My lord,” Sir Kay continued, turning his attention the soft, spoiled, surely arrogant young lord. “This is Gwaine. He’ll be your new squire.”
The Lord Leon Degrande, second son of Rowley Degrande, the Marquess of Harrowhill looked right at Gwaine…and smiled.
“It’s very nice to meet you.”