Since Snow had risen to the throne the land had come alive, the Dark Forest had become less terrifying and the animals in other quarters thrived. So it hadn't taken Eric long to find the trail of a buck that would suit his needs. He and Adahy had followed the sprightly animal to the stream almost two miles in to the forest and Eric had taken the animal down without it knowing pain. Instead of taking the carcass home to prepare as his father had always shown him, Eric stayed inside the forest and did as the natives had once taught him. The natives had been hunting in the forests and farming in the fields long before any King built the palace on the cliff. They knew that life was precious and that you needed to respect what you had hunted.
Eric said a small prayer over the body of the buck and began to strip away the hide which he would take home to make into a new jacket for the winter; then he took the meat separating it in to piles for different purposes. The natives had taught him that everything that an animal could provide was special and that when you were done with the animal for your purpose the animal bones and scraps that you could not use would be perfect for the scavengers of the forest; who were continually hungry. It had taken him less than a day to hunt the buck, but it had taken far more than that to prepare the meat and make his way out of the forest; not that he minded the work gave him time to think about anything other than Snow White.
When he rounded his farmhouse he was surprised at what he saw, she was the last person he expected to see sat on his stoop in the pouring rain.
At the sound of breaking twigs she looked up and she couldn't help the smile that curved her lips. The Huntsman was a mess and he had never looked more perfect. His hair was plastered to his head from the rain, his clothes were splashed with mud and what Snow hoped was animal blood as she couldn't see any wound; as he expelled his breath it came out as a thick fog in the cold air and when he saw her he froze for a minute.
"My Queen," he said eventually bending a knee with his head bowed avoiding her eyes as much as possible,
"You're a mess Huntsman." She said softly pulling her wet hair away from her face,
"And I don't want to be fixed," He replied just as softly, at that Snow White stood up and stalked towards him,
"Who said anything about fixing you?" she asked her voice barely reigning in the anger that had risen in her. Eric finally looked up at her and saw pain in her wide brown eyes,
"No one, Your Highness, but I have had a lot of time in the last few days to think. I just needed to say that I do not want to be fixed; I am a broken man and I like being that way." For a moment Snow was worried that he had started to drink again; if he had this would have been a wasted journey as she was not going to argue with him in that state. Then she looked in to his eyes again and saw they were perfectly clear, and all she could smell coming off him was the rain and the earth. She sighed as she crossed her arms in front of her chest hugging herself to stay warm,
"I don't want to fix you." She said finally and smiled.
Eric had seen the moment of worry pass over Snow's face and he knew immediately what she had thought, he had seen that look on her face each time he had drank when they had first met. Her concern was as touching as it was annoying; but he could understand it, he hadn't really explained himself to her. While he had been out tracking the buck he'd had time to think and he had come to the conclusion that as much as he loved Sara, she wouldn't want him to be lonely and unhappy anymore than she would have wanted him to drink himself into an early grave. However he had to set some ground rules. He was never going to become a young lord, he knew that without trying. He was always going to want to live at the farmhouse on the edge of the forest and he would take as many minutes with Snow as he was allowed whether it was only a few in passing or hours when she was free or days when her delegations were done.
When she had told him she didn't want to fix him, she hadn't been lying; he sighed and let go of Adahy's reigns letting him find shelter in the barn from the rain that wouldn't stop falling from the sky.
He knew he should take Snow White inside and have her warm herself by the fire as her blouse was soaked through as was her velvet jacket, her leather boots would keep her feet dry, but the fabric encasing her legs was so wet that it clung to her thighs, but he couldn't bring himself to go inside and it didn't seem like Snow White had any more inclination to head indoors either.
"The last thing I would try to do is fix you." She said again her voice stronger than before as a shiver passed over her delicate frame. Eric watched as she took in a deep breath, "If I fixed you; you would no longer be the man that I..." she stopped for a second not sure if she should go on. Eric took a step forward so she didn't have to shout over the rain,
"I would no longer be the man that you... what Princess?" He said with a tender smile making her breath catch. Instead of finishing the sentence she ran the last few paces between them and crashed in to him wrapping her arms around his neck holding him tight and never wanting to let go. "I'm not entirely sure that you answered my question." He took in a breath to carry on talking, but Snow covered his lips with hers and silenced him with her searing heat. Kissing the Queen was far different to kissing Sara. Since both the women were worlds apart, but as Snow White moulded her lips to his he was as drunk as he had ever been with Sara and far more intoxicated than he had ever been even with the best grog and with this feeling Eric would willingly never be sober again. When they separated Eric looked into Snow's face and saw the flush in her cheeks and the puffy nature of her blood red kiss swollen lips and smiled.
"Are you sure?" he asked her cupping her face in his hands. "What I mean to say is; you have a Prince Charming living in the castle that I know for a fact is in love with you." Snow wrinkled her nose in the way that had first made Eric take a second look at the girl who was much younger than he was. It was that facial expression that he had found adorable and with it had tried to quash the feeling it brought forth. He almost laughed now, that it hadn't worked at all, by that point she had already mystified him.
"He is in love with the girl I used to be when the pair of us were still children. I am not that girl anymore and he is not that boy I used to chase." Eric's brow furrowed and his hands fell on to Snow's shoulders,
"You know that isn't the best way to get a man to say yes." He rubbed his thumb in circles over her pulse point, "Telling the man you want that there was another that you used to dream about," Snow wrinkled her nose again and shook the rain out of her hair.
"I didn't mean it like that." She said fumbling over her words. "I was trying to say that although thoughts of him had got me through my days in the tower, once I was free and I had seen him again, he was no longer the man I thought he was. Or the man I wanted... What he desires and what I desire are not the same..." she paused for a second trying to find the right words, "I'm not saying this right at all..." she ran a hand over his face feeling the stubble under her palm and tried to concentrate, she had planned this all out, but now that he was here and so close she had no idea what to say.
"What are you trying to say Snow?" he asked his voice hushed as he put his lips to her ear. She took a deep breath,
"There was a reason why William's kiss didn't break the dark magic." She said trying to keep her voice level, "For true loves kiss to work it not only has to be a sacrifice it has to be reciprocated or so I have been told." Eric laughed softly as if he had been caught out,
"At that moment I would have done anything to bring you back, I felt I had failed you terribly." Snow kissed his cheek,
"It was my fault I was led in to the wood by William." Eric froze and Snow could feel him pulling her in closer, "I should say who I thought was William." He loosened his grip so he was no longer hurting her. "I was tricked, but if it hadn't been for you, she would have had my heart right there and then." She laid her hand on top of his that was still on her neck. "Even if she had taken my heart then, she wouldn't have had it." She continued to say with a playful smile on her lips. "I think even then it had belonged to someone else; his name is also very appropriate for the position." She laid her head against his chest and he placed a kiss on the crown of her head.
"It would seem that someone has been doing some research of her own." He said playfully Snow glanced up to look at him from under her long eyelashes.
"I was interested in names, I was trying to find the best one for my mere," She said with a smile curving her lips.
"And you thought Eric was the best name for a female?" Knowing she was caught her face flashed red with the deepest of blushes, "I didn't think so," he murmured kissing the crown of her head again. While they had been talking they had forgotten about the rain, but now that they were still the pair of them could feel the ice cold fingers of water running rivulets across their clothes.
"Let me see to Adahy," Eric murmured "and then we'll go inside and get you dry." He turned from her slightly and she took his hand, "What sort of host am I letting the Queen get wet?" Snow laughed at that and leant in to the taller man letting him shelter her from the rain,
"I think you are the sort of host that knows exactly what the Queen wants and lets her have it." Eric squeezed her hand and even without looking at him she knew he was smiling.
"Check," he said as they walked in to the stable briefly sheltering from the rain, Snow laughed again and danced on tiptoe across the hay,
"I think I have the winning move," she said as she danced closer to him her wet hair swaying like a glossy version of the night sky,
"Are you sure about that?" Eric asked putting his hatchets on the wall where they belonged before walking to Adahy,
"Yes I am." Snow said and tapped him on the shoulder, he turned to her and she kissed him again. "Check mate," she said against his lips and even though he didn't want to admit it, she had him beat fair and square.
AN: When making up the chess board I needed the most simple version of a box that was somehow linked, so if the design seems familiar then that is because it is the one that the Evil Queen gives the Huntsman in the Disney movie. You can actually get lacquered chests in that shape!
The names of characters in this story are of great importance, Eric can mean 'eternal ruler or Prince' oi oi! William can mean 'desire and protection' so pretty apt those names be!
The old man is called Thaddeus because it is Aramaic for 'heart' and it is he who makes Eric take a chance on his heart.
I really enjoyed writing this and well it made me want a personalised chess board even though I am awful at the game.
I hope you enjoyed it too. xx.