Author's Note: I adore this pairing. From the first episode I saw of JatD, I loved their interactions. This was inspired by Gunther's line in the episode "Mismatched".
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Liking Jane was difficult.
She was easily angered, stubborn, and completely incompetent in the arena. Her best friend was an overgrown, flying reptile, followed by that bumbling Court fool. She was emotional, sensitive, and way too concerned with what was "right".
Liking Jane was difficult, and Gunther never much cared for difficult things.
He much preferred finding the easiest solution—such as borrowing a copy of the test rather than studying. It was an underhanded trick he had learned from his father, but it served him well at times. While Jane came up with complicated strategies, he instead searched for the easiest and most straight-forward solution. Sir Theodore said both skills were valuable, but Gunther liked to think his was more appreciated. After all, as their mentor had often said, a simple solution is the best solution.
So when he began noticing Jane was different… Well, he had always known she was different. A lady-in-waiting who wanted to be a knight? Ridiculous. And climbing the mountain to face down a terrible, fire-breathing dragon? All right, so that was a little bit idiotic—and a little bit brave—but that was Jane in a nutshell.
To put it simply though, Jane did not act like other girls. He was used to girls giggling and batting their eyelashes and…doing embroidery.
Jane did none of those things.
Instead, she practiced every moment she could with the dummy in the practice yard. She did not giggle, she snorted. She did not bat her eyelashes, she glared with a fierce determination that almost frightened him. Almost.
Yes, Jane had always been different. But for years, Gunther simply saw her as another squire, as someone to compete with for Sir Theodore's approval. She had just been a rival. And so he treated her like he would any of the village boys.
But then he began noticing that she was different. Different from him and most definitely different from the village boys. If he had anyone to talk to, he was sure they would have said he finally realized that Jane was a girl. He would have scoffed and said that he had always known Jane was a girl. After all, what parent would name their son Jane?
And the person would have looked at him, a deep, piercing look that would make him feel exposed and say that yes, he had always known that Jane was a girl, but now he knows that Jane is a girl.
Sometimes, Gunther was glad that he didn't have anyone to talk to.
Because liking Jane was difficult. Every time he tried to compliment her—or at least not verbally attack her—she immediately got defensive and accused him of playing with her mind. Or when he tried to teach her how to shoot a bow. She pulled away from him with a glare, declaring that she was perfectly capable of shooting by herself. He wanted to point out that she had not hit the bull's eye once, but he held his tongue.
It was much easier when he could be as mean as he wanted to her and not worry about the brief flash of hurt that would show in her eyes before anger masked everything. He discovered that Jane could speak lies and keep certain things from showing on her face, but her eyes always told the truth. She had never learned to keep a mask on at all times.
Gunther had learned that lesson long ago and he hoped Jane never would.
No matter what happened, though, he kept that thought in the back of his mind: Liking Jane was difficult. And he despised difficult things.
He could never pinpoint when it happened. Maybe it was sometime between Jane actually beating him at staves or their three-day patrols on horseback—that was Sir Theodore's idea of a sick joke. Whenever it was, it didn't matter. It had happened, and that was that.
Liking Jane had stopped being difficult.
She laughed with him on their patrols, instead of at him. And he found himself laughing along—a real laugh, like he had never laughed before. She told him stories—mostly about Dragon—and he told her about growing up in the village, outside of the castle walls—mostly embellished. And at night, she would sit with him and point out the shapes in the stars and tell of the great legends that the shapes represented.
He never saw the shapes in the stars, but he didn't tell her that.
They were friends, however unlikely it seemed. The first time Jane used that word in the same breath as his name, Gunther nearly fell off his horse. Jane had a small circle of friends and it had always been an exclusive club. To hear that somehow, over the years, he had been brought in to that group… He simply didn't know what to think.
But still, in the back of his mind, he still insisted that liking Jane was difficult, and he hated difficult things.
And even if he were up for a challenge, he was no fool. He saw the way Jester stared at her, his eyes glazed over and a lovesick expression clearly visible on his face. One would have to be blind to miss it.
He was tempted to ask Jane if she needed her eyes checked. She seemed to be the only one in the castle who could not see it. And he swore that, even if he decided to take on a challenge for the first time in his life, he would not reduce himself to a puddle every time Jane was around. He was better than the Jester—he was a knight and would conduct himself as such.
And so he settled for simply being Jane's friend.
Until the night Dragon was injured on patrol.
It was a well-known fact that dragons were not easily injured. It was also a well-known fact that Jane did not easily cry. So when Jane banged on his door in the middle of the night, blabbering on about Dragon and the hole in his chest and tears streaming down her face, Gunther took notice.
Once the doctor and Smithy were there, doing the best they could to patch up the unconscious creature, there was nothing left for Gunther to do but sit with his friend. She was using his shoulder as her handkerchief—he did not want to ask if it was tears or snot that was soaking through—and she looked an absolute fright.
Some girls could still look devastatingly beautiful while crying. Jane was not one of those girls. Her eyes were puffy and red, completely clashing with her hair. He was pretty sure that her nose was running faster than a river and her voice was shaking and weak.
And Gunther had no idea what to say. He did not wish to lie to her, to say that everything would be fine. But he did not know what else to do.
As he sat there in silence, one arm around her shoulders, he realized that out of her group of friends, she had chosen him. Time had been of the essence, and she left the castle to find him in the village. That revelation warmed his heart and he tried not to smile. The last thing he needed was an emotional knight directing her anger at him.
In the aftermath of that night, Jane spent most of her time tending to Dragon, trying to nurse him back to health.
Gunther spent most of his time alternating between helping her and avoiding her. Because, much to his dismay, the mantra in his head had changed.
Not liking Jane was difficult, and he hated difficult things.