Title: Death Will Set You Free (Part 2)
Pairing/s: (Pre) Gwaine/Leon
Character/s: Gwaine, Leon
Summary: Facing a dire situation gives Gwaine an opportunity to ask long put off questions. Leon sees the purpose behind the questions.
Word Count: 848
Prompt: #400 - Oblivious
Author's Notes: Follows Death Will Set You Free.
Time had lost all sense of meaning.
The cell was dark, devoid of windows or anything that could indicate the time of day. Leon had been attempting to count the days based on the hours that he slept but sleep began coming to him in fits - short and long lengths, none of them restful - and he lost track some time after day three. There was no way of knowing how long they'd been there, no way of knowing how long they would remain.
Time passed according to rules Leon didn't understand.
He leaned his head and shoulder against the wall at his side.
For once he was content in not knowing.
"What would you do if you weren't a knight?"
The question came through the dark, Gwaine's voice worn and weak after days without water.
Leon could picture his expression without opening his eyes: curious, tired, oblivious to their fate.
"I would return home," he said, imagining the light of his family hearth. "I would help my brother run the household and take care of my mother."
Leon turned his head the minimum amount required to look at Gwaine, the response dismissive in a way Leon hadn't expected. Gwaine shook his head, hair falling over his face.
"What would you do," Gwaine rasped, "if you weren't bound by duty or family obligation? If..." Gwaine seemed winded from his earlier outburst. He took a long breath. "If you could do anything you wanted?"
Leon considered the question for the first time.
"That isn't what you asked."
Gwaine mustered a sneer but it lacked any malice. "I know. What would you do?"
Leon let his gaze linger on Gwaine's face before turning back to the wall in front of him. The stone walls of the cell bled into an endless stretch of grey in the darkness. He longed for sunlight, more so than food, just as much as water; Leon longed for the warm, illuminating rays of the sun.
The break of dawn over the high roof of a stable.
The drench of sun on an open pasture at noon.
The glow of dusk filtering through trees by a river.
"I would raise horses," he whispered, childhood memories rushing through his weary heart.
Leon turned his head towards Gwaine again. Gwaine's interest was piqued, intrigue easing the gaunt lines on his face.
The questioning made sense; it was vital to distract from the gnawing ache.
"I have an uncle on my mother's side," he explained. It was an effort to speak. "He has a farm on the southern borders of Camelot. He raises horses for Uther."
Leon took a slow breath. He could almost smell the hay.
Gwaine smiled. Leon found that he did too.
"What kind?" Gwaine asked.
"Mainly coursers. Brown, black, and every so often one as gold as honey. My mother would send me there in the summer." Leon looked down at the trenches in the dirt beneath his feet. "I loved it."
Chains rattled on Gwaine's side of the cell. Leon kept his head down. The raw skin under his shackles was easier to stomach than those under Gwaine's.
"What did you do there?"
"Anything my uncle needed help with. I fed horses, I mended fences. I mucked out stables. He even let me help birth foals."
Gwaine laughed. Leon turned, despite the effort.
"I can't imagine you shoveling horse shit," Gwaine said, mirth bringing a familiar life to his face.
Leon rolled his eyes, basking in Gwaine's laughter as he settled with his shoulders against the wall. Gwaine had always made fun of him, teasing Leon about his mannerisms and his upbringing. He had even called Leon 'my Lord' once; he rode off bursting with laughter before Leon could even think to respond.
The sound was a comfort when Leon had none.
"And you?" he asked, waiting for Gwaine to catch his breath. "What would you do, if you could do anything?"
Gwaine's eyes fell as he wrung his hands together.
"You're dying of thirst in a cell," Leon pointed out.
"With you." Leon felt Gwaine's gaze lock onto him, the weight of two words filling the air around them. Gwaine clenched and unclenched his hands, never looking away from Leon. "I would do anything... if I could do it with you."
Even in the dark Leon could see the glossy shine of Gwaine's eyes. He could feel the unspoken sentiment welling in his chest, stronger than hunger, more painful than thirst. He knew Gwaine understood. It was there, it had been there for some time. Every glance on patrol, every embrace after battle, every moment of every day carried so much more than camaraderie and friendship.
They both understood. They never spoke of it.
There was never time.
"Is it too late?"
Gwaine's voice broke on something other than fatigue or thirst.
Leon found that his did too.
"It's never too late."
Gwaine sighed as his head fell back against the wall, his growing smile a beacon in the dark.
Leon counted every breath he took.
There was still time.