Leon raised his hand to knock on the heavy wooden door in front of him, but at the last moment thought better of it. The civility of it would go unappreciated, and it wasn't as though he had to worry about the man inside being indecent. Even if he had managed to undress in the short time since his heralded return to Camelot, the man he was there to see was not the modest sort.
Besides, Leon was rather too irritated to bother with manners.
As Leon entered the room, though, and caught sight of the object of his frustration, all irritation fled his mind, replaced with fond amusement.
Gwaine sat at the table of his chambers, apparently engaged in an epic battle with the shoulder piece of his chainmail. It wasn't that he couldn't manage, Leon suspected, but that he was simply too tired to do it properly. The blush-worthy assembly of curses spewing from his lips hinted at just the slightest bit of bad temper, too.
It was a sure sign of how vested Gwaine was in his wrestling match with his antagonistic armor that he didn't even look up when the door closed.
After a few more moments of watching him struggle – admittedly not without a smile on his face; he wasn't a saint – Leon decided to take pity on the youngest Knight of the Round Table. Walking up behind him, he slipped his more practiced fingers under Gwaine's and lifted the ring of mail over Gwaine's head.
Only then did Gwaine seem to realize that he was not alone, and he turned his head to flash Leon a tired rendition of his usual charming smile.
"We've got to stop meeting like this," he said as Leon laid the mail on the table in front of him.
"Yes," Leon agreed. "If only you'd bathe first." He leaned down the necessary several inches to steal a quick kiss before straightening back up, his nose wrinkling. "Really, Gwaine, what is that smell?"
"Iron ore," Gwaine said, rising from his seat. If he'd had trouble with just the shoulder piece, Leon was curious to see how he would tackle the remaining body armor. Never one to shy away from a battle, Gwaine immediately engaged his newest opponent, continuing his answer all the while. "The place those men took Gaius…" Grunt. Rustle. Chink. "…was covered in the stuff…" One arm free. Two.
"So now you're covered in the stuff," Leon surmised. As Gwaine's head disappeared into the chainmail suit, Leon decided once again to take pity on him. If only because Gaius would be unavailable to tend to any injuries that might result from Gwaine's heroic efforts.
Gwaine breathed a sigh of relief as he was finally free of the armor. It, too, went to the table, where some unfortunate servant could assume the task of ridding it of that awful smell.
The doublet was next to go, and this time Gwaine managed unaided.
"By the stars," Leon groaned when he finally laid eyes on Gwaine's bare chest. His young lover was one big bruise, or at least he would be when all the color had finished blooming. He closed the remaining distance between himself and Gwaine to get a better look at the wounds. They appeared to be superficial, but Leon knew as well as any knight that superficial was not synonymous with painless. He imagined, now, that there might've been another reason for Gwaine's trouble with the armor. Bruises like that would be enough to make a man sore for days.
He examined the one over Gwaine's ribs just to be certain that a bruise was all he'd garnered.
"Stop prodding it," Gwaine yelped, arching to the side away from Leon's fingers.
Leon rolled his eyes. "I don't suppose Merlin looks like this."
Again, Gwaine grinned. "Just me," he said, and had he been in any better shape, Leon would have probably given him another bruise for sounding so proud.
"You do realize the object is to go uninjured, right?"
"Is it? Damn, and to think, all these years I've been doing it wrong."
That one did merit him a good cuff to the back of the head, and then Leon grabbed him by the arm and led him into the other part of the chamber. A tub sat in the center, already filled with water that Leon was now ecstatic he'd had the foresight to order. "You need a bath," he said as he hauled him over.
Gwaine chuckled and went right along with him, his eyes dancing. "Is that what that is?" he asked. Leon was fairly certain he was joking, but there was that niggling doubt in the back of his mind that couldn't be helped. "This has been a very educational evening, Leon. Thank you."
"You can thank me by dropping trou and getting in the bath."
He regretted the words the moment they left his mouth.
Gwaine, on the other hand, seemed to delight in them, his eyebrow arching suggestively. "Awfully forward of you," he teased, and then held up his hands. "Don't get me wrong. Not a criticism. I like this side of you."
Leon had learned some time ago that Gwaine got chatty when he was tired…nearly insufferable, in fact, only Leon was too fond of him for that. "Just get in the bath."
"Will you be joining me?"
"I think you've had enough fun for one night."
"That's cold, Leon. Cold."
"Which is what your bathwater will be if you don't stop stalling."
Gwaine's smile faded almost immediately into a sulk. "I'm not stalling," he protested. "I'm merely…waiting for the opportune moment."
Another thing about Gwaine when he was tired: he reverted to the behavioral standards of a child. Luckily for him, Leon found the look in those hazel eyes and the pout of those shapely lips to be rather endearing.
Of course, that didn't mean he would yield. It only took Gwaine a few moments to realize that, and finally, his shoulders slumped in defeat. Finally, he shed his trousers, and with some hesitation stepped into the bath.
"Are you happy, now?" Gwaine asked, and then scowled. "What are you smiling at?"
"Nothing, I just…I never thought I would see the day when a Knight of Camelot pouted."
Gwaine glared at him for a moment, and then very deliberately flicked water at Leon's face. How he managed to get the water to go the distance was a mystery, but the transgression was not one Leon would allow to go un-countered.
Expression blank, he took the pitcher from beside the bath, dipped it in the water, and held it over Gwaine's head.
"You wouldn't," Gwaine said.
Leon said nothing. He imagined it was answer enough when he turned his wrist and sent the contents of the pitcher cascading down onto Gwaine's dirt-covered hair.
He hadn't thought Gwaine would react so violently, and he certainly hadn't thought, in his efforts to avoid the impromptu waterfall, he would manage to catch his bruised rib on the edge of the tub.
Gwaine cursed, and Leon felt a pang of guilt in his chest. Frowning, he knelt next to the tub. "Sorry."
Gwaine shook his head with a smile, but it was considerably more strained than before as he held his side. "No harm done," he said.
Leon found the assurance lost a little of its weight when he tried and failed to grab the cloth from beside the tub. Moving his arm just so seemed to tweak his side, and he slid down in the tub with a miserable huff.
This time, Leon's aid had nothing to do with pity. "Here," he said, taking the cloth Gwaine had intended to grab and wetting it. He knelt, then, beside the tub, resting his elbow on the side as he cupped Gwaine's face with his spare hand.
With gentleness not expected of a trained knight, he carefully cleaned the grime off Gwaine's face. When his actions were met not with protest, but with a weary, grateful smile, he continued on to the rest of him. Where dirt gave way to bruises, he was especially cautious, though not all pain could be avoided.
Gwaine's eyes were nearly closed by the time Leon finished ridding his skin of the iron ore and dirt. His head had started to lilt to the side, and it was only when Leon tipped it forward so that he could wet his hair that Gwaine stirred again.
His hazel eyes blinked blearily as Leon eased his fingers through his thick hair. Knots caked in by muck and filth gave way to the lightly-scented soap and Leon's skilled fingers. But Gwaine's hair was not the only thing to melt under Leon's ministrations.
Leon always found it oddly charming how much Gwaine enjoyed having his hair petted. He'd wondered if it might be some childhood thing, but from what he'd learned of Gwaine's childhood, he somehow doubted it. Whatever the cause, Leon appreciated it, because it gave him a surefire way to tame the young man…to calm him after some upset…to help him sleep after some injury.
To lull him to sleep in the middle of a bath.
He allowed himself a small smile as he finished rinsing the last of the soap out of Gwaine's hair. It was a relief to have a lover that no longer smelled of iron ore or looked like he'd only just crawled out of a pig sty.
Now the challenge would be to get him out of the bath.
"Gwaine…" he tried. "Gwaine, you cannot sleep here."
"Why not?" Gwaine muttered, but his eyes opened all the same and he started to push himself up.
When Leon offered him a hand, he accepted it, and Leon pulled him up out of the tub. "Up you get," he said, draping a linen terrycloth around his shoulders as Gwaine stepped out of the water. "Can you dry yourself?"
"I have managed all these years," Gwaine said. It was meant in good spirit, and Leon couldn't help laughing at the near-slur he said it with. He really was exhausted.
That thought in mind, he was quick to grab a fresh pair of trousers for Gwaine. When he came back, Gwaine accepted them gladly and pulled them on, leaving the towel to lie atop his head.
"I'm going to bed," he announced almost grandly. The moment he took a step, though, he pitched forward.
Leon caught him, pulling his arm over his shoulder and slipping his own arm around Gwaine's waist. "Are you now?" he chuckled as he walked the younger man over to the bed.
Gwaine nodded, the towel still somehow managing to stay balanced on his head as he plopped down. He started to lie back, but Leon stopped him short.
"Are you forgetting something?" he prompted.
Gwaine's brows knotted. "Am I?"
It was times like this that Leon was reminded of just how young Gwaine really was. He was hardly more than twenty years, and with his eyes heavy and his lips pouted, he really did look it.
Chuckling, Leon took the corners of the towel and gave Gwaine's hair one last ruffle before he tossed it to the end of the bed.
"Oh." Gwaine looked confused, like it hadn't even occurred to him that he'd had a towel on his head. "Is that all?"
"I think so."
Gwaine dropped like a lead weight. Leon, for one, was just pleased he managed not to hit his head on the bedpost. He made to leave, then, only to be stopped by a hand at his wrist. He turned, and Gwaine muttered something unintelligible, tugging once again at his wrist.
"Gwaine…use your words."
"I said," Gwaine muttered, lifting his head just far enough out of the pillow that Leon could sort of understand him, "stay."
"I think I heard considerably more syllables than that," Leon teased. All the same, he was already kicking off his boots. It had been a long day, worrying about Gwaine, then trying to track Gwaine down, then taking care of Gwaine…not to say he wasn't worth it, but it would be nice to sleep. And his room was so far away….
One corridor was far, right?
The moment Leon got settled in the bed next to Gwaine, the younger man curled into him. A soft grunt broke from his lips as he moved his arm just so, but even with his bruises, he managed to get comfortable in a matter of seconds.
Leon was comfortable, too, his arm across Gwaine's hips and his face mere inches from Gwaine's. He loved it when he smiled; there was no doubting that. But it was in moments like this, when there was no smile or scowl or sneer on his face – only peace – that Leon thought he was most beautiful. And he was beautiful, body and soul…
…if only he'd bathe first.