Eles fumbled with her clean laundry; her original intention was to fold it. The group had agreed to slow down for a day. It originally started with Kohaku tripping over some laundry in the back of the car...repeatedly. A clean up day was decided; before they could go further there were plenty of things they needed to sort out.
Each other's moods was one of those things.
To be accurate, Gwindel's mood was one of those things.
They weren't sure what it was but they all silently thought for themselves that something wasn't right with him since the night before. His appetite was gone, they noticed with the left overs of dinner, and sat on his own at a distance playing with the hedgehog. He had done so for numerous hours now and Eles was beginning to predict that the hedgehog must have tired out by now.
"He's been like that for too long." Eles whispered, upset by the sight.
"It was really sudden. I don't know what he's moping about; he was fine a day ago."
Lucille nodded in agreement; Kohaku was absolutely right. Gwin was fine just the day before; silent as usual, but fine. "Earlier I thought it would be even better to have Kohaku drive rather than Gwin." He voice the extent of his concerns for older man.
Eles pouted, "What do you think it is?"
"That guy..." Kohaku sighed. "He's probably trying to talk himself out of killing Lucille and making a run for it."
Lucille stopped, blinking and staring at Kohaku. "You think so? What have I done?" He asked, feigning innocence.
"This is getting pathetic!" Kohaku snapped. "Lucille," he turned quickly to the singer, "go and knock some sense into him."
"Me? You're the expert at knocking things into people!"
"You know if I do this myself it won't end well."
"That's a good point." Lucille turned to Eles suddenly, "You should speak to him!"
"What? Why?" Her eyes became as wide as saucers, taken aback by Lucille's sudden proposal.
"He won't eat you no matter what you tell him." Kohaku began laughing bombastically before Lucille hit him over the head with one of the clean coats he was folding. "It's true!" He defended himself promptly.
"Kohaku isn't entirely wrong; he likes you Eles."
"Not much more than you two do, I think." She pointed out.
"Won't you at least try to speak to him, Eles?" Lucille asked with almost pleading eyes.
Eles stood up, exhaling. She turned away and made her way out of the back of the car to creep up on the older man. She didn't understand why her heart was beating so heavily in her chest; the others were right, and Gwin probably wouldn't be too cross with her if she went and asked him what was wrong. Why was she nervous then?
She took a seat beside him. Gwin looked at her for just a second before he turned back to the hedgehog. "Gwin..."
"You're quieter than usual..."
He did nothing but nod his head, obviously in agreement. Well, Gwin wasn't one to lie. She crawled along the grassy ground and sat across from him, reaching out to play with the hedgehog.
"It's my daughter's birthday today." He confessed quietly after some time.
"Oh." So that was why... She couldn't say she was surprised; everyone had birthday's sooner or later, and they had been travelling together for a while now. Naturally Gwin would feel troubled by this; he had changed so much since back then... She bowed her head in shame. Even though she hadn't said very much she felt like she had pried really hard and had forced it out of him. To someone as quiet as Gwin silence said a lot more than she ever thought was possible. "I'm sorry, Gwin."
"Don't be sorry." His words were monotonous; he didn't even flash her a smile like she thought he would.
"You're...really sorry...for what happened to her...aren't you?" He didn't reply to her question but the way he continued to pet and play with the small scurrying animal answered her question. "It's...good...in a way... Doesn't it mean you've changed? If you feel bad about it then it means you..."
"There's no way you can turn this into a good thing, Eles." Gwin finally looked up at the little girl, giving a very vague smile. "Please don't say anything."
Eles crawled over and wrapped her arms around his neck suddenly. He gasped, surprised. "Don't worry, Gwin. I don't think she's mad. I think she knows you love her." She had no doubt in her mind that Gwin took her words in. He petted her back lightly and she eventually let go, gave him a smile and then left him alone to ponder her words.
When she returned to the car she ignored Kohaku and Lucille's prying stares; she didn't want to say too much about Gwin's situation and instead hoped that Gwin would, sooner or later, return to them with some faith instilled in himself once more.
The change in him when he returned to the car and began driving wasn't miraculous; then again, she wasn't expecting miracles. Lucille was just breathing a sigh of relief that he was driving with a little bit more concentration. They entered a small village that seemed to be recovering steadily from the guignol virus. Kohaku and Gwin left to get fuel for the car, and Eles followed Lucille to help him with shopping for food and water. Eles had gotten used to it after some time; they were travelling a lot for days at a time and there wasn't always some place close enough for food or water or fuel. It was nerve wrecking but she hoped that if they were together they'd find a way through everything.
Seeing something that sparked a small idea, she scurried to Lucille's side and tugged at his clothing to come down to her height. He smiled at her quiet proposal, nodded his head in agreement before putting it into action.
That evening they sat outside the car around the small dwindling fire they had used to cook their meal with. Mildly cheerful, Eles ran back into the car to return with a small paper box in hand. Gwin wasn't paying attention; he had his head bowed as he once again began playing with the small creature in his hand. When he looked up he found a small cupcake being held out to him. Looking past it, he found Eles smiling, sweeter than the dessert she held out in front of her.
There was a short moment of hesitance before he took it from her. Looking to the other, he realized they all had one and sat back comfortably to eat. "Thank you," he whispered to her.
"I think she'll be happy if her father celebrates her life, even just a little."
"I suppose she would be."
Eles sat down promptly beside him, biting into her strawberry frosted dessert. When she looked up from the big bite she took she caught Lucille and Gwin staring at her, smiles on both their faces, "What?"
"Did your daughter eat so messily too?" Lucille asked Gwin, laughing.
Gwin resisted laughing as he turned to the girl, wiping at her nose that had dipped into the frosting, "Perhaps it's just something children do."
They laughed together for a while, and things eventually died down. Lucille looked back into the car and saw Kohaku snoring away on the back seat. "He's got the right idea."
"It's really late." Gwin agreed.
Eles was curled up against a log,
"We should probably take her in before she catches a cold."
Gwin nodded firmly and scooped her up gently into his arms. Placing her on her makeshift bed in the back of the car he tucked her in tightly with the jacket of his uniform.
Much to Lucille's surprised Gwin closed one of the doors and then went back outside. He sat down and looked up to the sky. "She's a great girl, isn't she?"
"She really is."
Lucille reached over and grabbed Gwin's shoulder; when he turned to look at him, surprised, he gave him a big smile. "Let's keep giving it our best, you especially; show your daughter at the end you're a changed person."
"I'll give it my best." Gwin gave a brief smile and turned back to look at the sky; he made that a silent promise to her. For his dear...