A/n- Done for the Jane and the Dragon fic exchange orchestrated by the (amazingly) talented Lightening Flash.
Disclaimer: I'd like to, but I don't.
Summary/Challenge: "I'd like to read a fic about Jane willingly getting married. I would prefer her getting wed to Gunther, but Jester (or any other character original or not) would be fine as well. Yes, I'm a J/G shipper but I don't discriminate on any other pairings. I just think the idea would be interesting to see Jane's wedding. Along with the character's thoughts, reactions and all of that." Dedicated to SunRise19, whose request this is. I hope you enjoy your story!
My stomach was doing very odd things, very odd indeed. It was almost as if I was outside myself… outside and looking in on the flurry of activity that swirled round my person like a whirlpool.
My mother was somewhere above, to my left, but I was not aware. Instead, my eyes, fixated on their twins, were rooted upon the blushing figure in the mirror across from me.
I was so unnerved it was nearly maddening, and thinking back, I could recall how exactly he had asked it…
We had been sitting under the rather large oak near the edge of the castle grounds, near the forest. I remembered it so significantly, so brilliantly colored... it was the last rain of Spring, and we had been trudging back up from town when the downpour had nearly erupted upon us.
Scrambling, my hand in his, we darted over to the thick tree, taking refuge under its leafy branches where the ground was nearly completely dry.
I sat against the trunk, leaning my head back so that my eyes tipped towards the green canopy. Softly I felt a weight, and looked down to see his head in my lap, eyes staring up at me. I smiled, flashing teeth in his direction.
Large wet drops splashed onto the earth.
"What are you thinking?" He murmured when I had been silent for far too long, reaching up to tangle a finger or two in my still unruly hair.
"You," I answered truthfully, "About how this is so very different from what I had expected of us."
At that Gunther chucked deep, low, and reverberating- I loved that laugh.
"I was quite a handful for you."
"For everyone," I corrected.
"You changed me though, of that I am sure."
"It was simple maturity."
We had been fifteen. Well, I had been just fifteen; he had been going on seventeen when our first kiss had taken hold of us behind Smithy's armory. It was at the end of a particularly nasty spat, where he had grabbed my arms and I had fisted my hands in the front of his tunic.
He was knighted earlier that month, but I had not yet received the same honor. I would wait another three moons before I'd see myself kneeling before the King. I believe, upon reflection, that that childish jealousy was the cause the brief bitterness of words. I had insulted him, berated him- not how a lady, much less a Knight-in-training, should have acted.
The offense was about his work ethic. How he barely squeezed by training without doing any real effort. Pitiful. I knew, even then, that he was as dedicated to the Code as I was. It was a simple, swift way of knocking him down a rung or two.
I must commend him; Gunther refused to take my bait, stalking off instead, stone-faced and undoubtedly furious. Yet I did not let up, tailing him to the back of the yard where he suddenly whirled upon me.
At first, I attempted to wrench my arms from his iron grip, but when I realized he was deathly silent, I stopped, my heart jumping wildly. Gunther was eyeing me- a searing, and meaningful stare. My voice died within my throat, a jolting shiver running up the length of my spine.
My hands, seemingly on their own accord, had become flush against his chest.
The kiss was neither soft nor searching. Indeed, the amount of force behind Gunther's lips made me feel as if he was trying to imprint himself upon my soul rather than my body.
Winded, we broke apart, embarrassed but so alight.
That was the first time I had ever touched him so intimately.
While I had never admitted to anyone, perhaps not even myself before that moment, I suddenly knew why Gunther had always conjured such deep-rooted feelings in me- why I felt so alive when we sparred- why I could never look him in the eye for too long…
That memory was three years before the time in the rain.
"Gunther," I mashed my bottom lip between my teeth, listening to the downpour around us, "They are sure to worry if we do not return." I had lowered my hand to run through his hair, pulling at the strands like a coverlet over the juncture of my thighs.
He blinked his eyes closed, "Let them worry."
I smiled despite myself, quickly dipping my head to catch the tip of his nose with a kiss. Gunther opened an eye, frowning in my direction. Again, I grinned.
But the smile slowly faded as I caught the flicker of emotion behind his gaze. His mouth was set, not in a frown but in a very thin line, as if he were trying to appraise the look of me. Despite myself I blushed, casting my gaze elsewhere.
But a shift made me to glance at him again. Gunther had turned as he gradually sat up, laying one palm down on either side of my hips, leaning forward with his upper body. He was pitched forward towards me, so that our foreheads nearly touched.
Again, I felt heat rising up my neck to pool in my cheeks.
Gunther made to kiss me but stopped, pulling away. I saw that same flicker- was it unease? I could not tell.
"Jane," he began slowly, the childish note of nervousness creeping back into his voice. I blinked at him, waiting with a flutter in my breast. "You and I are both Knights… very accomplished Knights at that," Gunther picked up my hand, turning it over so he could brush my fingertips along his mouth as he spoke. "I would do anything to protect you, you know that."
A swell of heated pride and love sang through my veins… even if I did not need protecting.
My fingers danced over his words. "I love you Jane."
It was not the first time we had declared ourselves.
Gunther blinked slowly, "I will always love you."
Something within me, perhaps inherent and deep-rooted, sprang to life. My palms suddenly felt very hot, and- and was Gunther leaning just a bit too close? Everything was thrown into a sharp relief. My breath hitched, as if his next words would throw me off some terrible height.
"Please Jane," and now he caught my gaze and held it, "Be my wife."
"Jane!" I turned around in my seat to see Pepper in the doorway. Her eyes were wide and bright, "I have just come from the King's hall, and everything is set accordingly."
My mother pulled hard against the straps on my dress. "Very good," she murmured, as if Pepper had been addressing only her. I hiccupped a breath as my waist contracted with each cinch.
The dress, even though I was keen on keeping my body away from bushy lace and cloth, had been my mother's when she wed my father. White with rich peach trim it was, made to reflect the colors of the season. As it happened, it was just the beginnings of Summer-
Another hiccupping breath.
"Perhaps you should, um, stop," I squeaked as the ribbons were tied off.
"It is all that training you do, Jane!" Mother's words were scolding but her tone was thick with happiness.
I turned my head to where Pepper was still framed in the doorway, "Where is Gunther?" Just at his name I felt my heartbeat in my ears. Pepper smiled knowingly.
"Already with the King."
"Oh," I looked down at my clasped hands. "Alright then."
Two quick steps and she was by my side, bent down level with me. "Jane," Pepper began, a hand smoothing out my bouncing red hair, "You have absolutely nothing to worry about." I bit my lip. "Why not just a month ago you were beside yourself with happiness!"
"I am happy Pepper…" I trailed off, abashed. "Just nervous."
"Nervous about what? Trust me Jane, that poor man waiting for you in the hall is ten times as nervous as you are. What matters is that you want this, that you love him."
"I do love him," I whispered.
"Good. Then you should be fine."
My mother hurried over, "Come, come! If everyone is waiting for you then you mustn't be late for your own festivities."
Pepper clutched my hands and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. "I am going to find Rake. See you in just a little." With an encouraging wave she exited down the tower staircase. With her gone, I felt the familiar surge of nerves.
"Do not become finicky on me Jane, I simply refuse to have you fainting." She scooted the back of the dress around on the floor, making it easier for me to walk towards the stairs.
I stood slowly, afraid with the way I was molded into the dress I would simply tip over. Once I righted myself, I stole a glance in the mirror. My reflection gave a nod of encouragement, and I went to step out into the sunlight.
A great whooshing noise right above me.
Grinning, I peered up to see Dragon circling overhead. He landed with a flop in the yard as I descended the staircase, giving a low whistle of approval as I came around the bottom step. This only furthered by my blushing.
"Dragon, please!" My mother had come down quickly after me, "We don't need Jane's dress to get dirty. I rolled my eyes while she preoccupied herself with the back hem of the garment. I caught Dragon's gaze and he winked, giving me a thumbs up.
"I can still chase him off, you know. Just say the word!"
I laughed, which was difficult considering I barely had room to breathe. "Believe me, chasing Gunther off is the last thing I want to do."
"Right, right. Of course. Just checking."
It was hard for Dragon, I knew that. To watch the girl who had once looked upon him as the soul riveting force in her world grow into a woman capable of such love… I was sure it was difficult. We were still as close as ever, but Dragon knew he no longer had such an absolute hold upon my heart.
"Well," he said, "Best be getting on then."
I nodded before turning towards the hall, and Dragon following as I came near the arched doorway. The doors had been thrown back, but I could see nothing from my angle; I would have to step inside and take an immediate turn to face the King's chair. A shallow, shaking breath; I tried to calm myself.
My mother came around the side of me, pulling me into a brief hug. "Jane, you look beautiful." She let go but held one of my hands in both of hers. "I love you."
"I love you too Mother."
I clenched my free fist.
Swirling, tumbling butterflies.
Tactful as ever, Dragon poked his head into the room, to say rather loudly, "Found Jane!" The voices inside immediately ceased their whisperings. I could hear the distinct click-clicking of boots walking towards our direction
Taking my hand, my mother gave me a swift kiss on the cheek and left me, going inside to take her place among the group with my father.
I smiled, closing my eyes briefly before following. Looking up, my heart hammering loudly as heat flushed my face
The King and Queen, dressed in all their finery, sat upon the dais at the head of the room with the royal children. Beside her mother, the young Princess watched with wide eyes. The girl smiled and made a small wave in my direction. My hand moved feebly, as if I were trying to return the gesture but couldn't find the strength.
Below stood the clergy man, a Priest from town, and on either side of him the members of the court- my family, my friends- stood in two rows lengthwise, leaving a small space for me to walk.
And now, just steps from me and moving closer, was Gunther. Pepper was right, he was as pale as I had ever seen him. Coming to me, we caught each other's gaze and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly- a nervous smile. I noticed his hair was pulled back with a loose white ribbon save the strands what had fallen out to frame his face.
He was dressed in dark jade velvet rimmed in fine silver silk, and I distinctly thought that perhaps his father had once bought the tunic for him to wear precisely for a day such as this. Gunther had found it tucked away inside his father's private trunk amidst the barrels of mead and spices in the cellar of their old home in town. He had been moving the things, selling most, deciding now that Magnus was gone that it would be much more practical to live in the castle.
Sad really, that the man never lived to see his son knighted.
Just three months prior to the ceremony the Merchant's ship had been attacked on the way to safe waters. None were left alive.
It was hard for a time to see how deeply the event had hurt Gunther. His father was never close with him, but he was still Gunther's blood… maybe more so, Magnus had always held the key to his son's ancestry. Now it seems that he will never know his mother.
I forced myself to banish such thoughts.
I would not dwell on such things today.
Gunther had offered his hand, and without hesitation I took it, feeling his fingers curl possessively, warmly, over my skin. Swiftly he brought his lips to kiss my knuckles, turning me in the process so he was by my side.
Ahead of us the Priest cleared his throat.
Slowly we came forward, and I looked round the hall to catch sight of the others. Mother and Father, both beaming proudly; Pepper and Rake just to my left, and I could see that Pepper had tears in her eyes. I quickly looked away, afraid her emotion would cause me to cry as well.
Jester was ahead of them in the crowd. He was smiling a deep, knowing smile. I blinked up at him, flashing a grin in his direction. Jester was my best friend, besides Dragon of course, for so very long. I knew what feelings he once harbored for me… if he still did, I was not aware. It had been a short confession, just after Gunther had begun courting me.
"He is very lucky," I turned to watch him pick up the lute from its position against the table. "If Gunther had not acted soon enough, I would have."
It was the most candid remark I had ever heard.
But my musings were quieted as we slowed to a stop in front of the dais and in front of the cleric. Still grasping my hand, Gunther moved into a low bow and I a curtsy.
I could almost hear, almost feel Dragon smirking in the back of the room.
The Priest raised his hand, to where we stood straight again, and then lowered it. Gunther knelt, as I did, upon the ground with both knees, our heads bent, as was proper before Church and King.
"In witness of our Sovereign and God we do confirm ourselves…" the man began. I felt my future husband give my hand a squeeze; the priest rambling on with many praises for Kings both Earth and Heavenly.
My mind was buzzing, so the prayers spilling above us barely reached me. We were so close, Gunther was so near me; I almost looked at him, almost turned my head, but I remembered the custom and kept my gaze stone-bound.
After a few more lines my knees began to ache. I scrunched up my nose.
Finally, as a wine goblet now raised above us was lowered, we were made to stand. First Gunther was passed the chalice, then I, and I took what little sip I could, handing it back to the clergy man as he dipped in a finger, signing a cross on both our foreheads.
Turning, the goblet was set down, and the man looked to his left. Smithy stepped away from the crowd and handed over his creations.
Two silver rings.
As soon as the castle knew of our engagement did Smithy begin creating those rings. We had expected nothing, for ceremony bands were uncommon save for royalty, but Smithy had melted down an old silver buckle to make them. The pair were plain, beautifully so, and had a brushed look about them. Gunther's was just a tad thicker too…
The priest took the bands, laying them upon the leather book in his hand, murmuring a blessing as he passed another sign over them. Passing mine to Gunther and his to me, we finally turned to look at each other.
I blushed crimson. Gunther let go of my hand, cradling it instead, slipping the cool silver over my finger until it fit snugly against the knuckle.
Heavy. Solid. A welcome weight.
I lifted my own hand and was so surprised-
I was shaking, my fingers shivering very slightly. I must have looked truly stunned because the man still holding my wedded hand chuckled. I set my mouth firmly, slipping the ring upon Gunther's finger, sliding it forward as he had done to mine.
Watching the metal cling to his skin… God it was beautiful…
Briefly I had the notion that I was going to cry-
I was going to-
"By the Lord our God and our beloved King, you are forever and always joined by Holy matrimony. May God bless this union."
Gunther leaned in, pulling me, and I fell firmly against his chest. Tipping me, his lips found mine, and pressed.
There was a sound, a noise, a cheer, but I was deaf to it.
All my being was centered on the one moment, the one contact.
I could taste salt among the kiss, and it was unclear if the tears were mine or not.
Needing air, we broke apart, Gunther's lips still grazing mine.
"I love you Jane."
I could hear Dragon whooping in the background. I could hear the Princess clapping and Pepper crying with joy. I could hear and hear and all the noise culminated into a singular moment of unbridled joy.
My heart rose like a bird against my ribcage.
Tears streamed down my face.
"I love you too."
A/n- Well… that was emotional.
Some marriage notes for your reference:
1. Until the ninth century marriages were not church involved. Up until the twelfth century there were blessings and prayers during the ceremony for couple. (Jane and the Dragon takes place in ninth century England, so they would have been some of the first to use priests in weddings)
2. There were rings, but not expensive ones.
3. Unrelated but interesting: it was common practice in England for the local brewer to give the new couple a months worth of mead on their wedding day. Supposedly drinking the alcohol helped the man 'perform' woman conceive (doesn't this sound completely idiotic?). If the woman did conceive, all the credit would go to the brewer (WTF?). This is also where we get the term Honeymoon- 'honey' because of the taste of the mead, and 'moon' because they were given a months supply.
Anyway, I just want to say that I am very, very glad I got this prompt. I myself am getting married October twenty-fourth of this year (to my high school sweetheart of four years) and this piece was very cathartic for me. I was able to express in Jane the little nuances, ideas, and emotions that I'm feeling and it was really fun to write.
Thank you to Lightning Flash for the beta and thanks to SunRise19 for the awesome challenge!
Please tell me what you think!