AN: So chapter one was very Eric-less. I'm sorry about that. This chapter however is chock full of Eric. I apologise in advance at what happens to the pair of them. I was listening to Michael Ball when I was writing to the last section and "Who Needs to Know" clearly brings out the worst in me.
I'm sorry that it's taken me a while to update, but life has really gotten in the way. I'll try to update quicker this time. Well I hope to anyway.
He had made her the necklace not long after the afternoon where Snow had come to find him at his cottage in the pouring rain. He had based the piece on an old folk song that he had heard in one of the taverns he used to frequent in his days of brawling and drinking and it went along the lines of;
Here is my heart for you to hold,
Within a ring of thorns,
Protect it sweet from those you meet,
That want to do it harm.
For you I pray that it will stay,
Forever in your arms,
To grow, to bloom, to thrive.
To this day it surprised him that something he had heard in those grog soaked days had stuck and when Eric had found the rose quartz he knew exactly what he wanted to make for Snow. He knew with a nagging certainty that he could never give her a ring; as that was an object that would draw too much attention, but a necklace pendant she could hide. This is what he had imagined she would do; what he hoped she would do if he asked her. He had never thought though that she would actually wear it around her neck always.
As he ran his fingertips over the quartz he remembered when he had given her the necklace, it had been a sunny day in spring and he and Adahy had just come back from the market after he had sold some more of his wares. He had ridden up to his cottage to once again see Snow on his stoop huddled in on herself against the sea breeze. She had looked tired and a little sad which had pierced him so soundly that he had nearly fallen off Adahy in his rush to get to her side; it was a moment where he had never hated stirrups more.
"Snow what are you doing here?" he'd asked as he knelt before her, she's looked up in to his eyes and smiled, but it didn't warm him the way it normally did, it didn't even reach her eyes.
"I missed you," She said simply with a gentle shrug of her shoulders. She was so casual that it put Eric on guard,
"You aren't shirking your Royal duties to be here are you?" He asked with what he hoped was mild interest and not full blown concern. Snow's face immediately soured and stood up tipping Eric off balance and he fell splayed on his back in front of his own door.
"I had free time!" She said with almost childlike indignance as she rested her hands on her hips. "I made our last meeting of the council as long as possible so as to not have to reconvene this week. I then sat for several hours with my new subjects listening to all their ailments. I made sure that I would have a free day to meet you." She finished and sucked in a breath before continuing, "So imagine my surprise when I ride out this morning to find that you aren't here and I have no way to get in to your cottage?!" Eric couldn't tell if she were mad at him for not being present or the fact that she was locked out of his rambshackle cottage. He pushed himself off the floor in one fluid motion and with a lopsided grin on his face he captured Snow's between his callused hands,
"I'm sorry I wasn't here to... receive you." He said with a smirk in his voice that made Snow's heart race, "But a lowly Hunstman must eat and deer can only go so far," Snow looked in to his eyes with such a piercing look that it stole his breath,
"I keep telling you that you could become the official Royal Hunstman yet at each turn you refuse me." Eric sighed at the ongoing argument that they were having,
"You know I couldn't accept that," He murmured tracing her cheek with his thumb.
"I'm not asking for you to move to the palace, but then at least we could see each other more."
"People would question it," he said for what seemed the millionth time,
"Do you not think that I do not know that?!" Snow argued her eyes becoming damp with tears, "Do you think I care what people think?!" She placed her hands over his to still them in their movements. Eric looked away from her hypnotic eyes and shook his head slowly,
"You should." He said finally his jaw set with grim determination, "You really should care what people think," he repeated before he brought her lips to his and kissed her soundly with only his horse as a witness.
When they broke apart he slid his hand in to his pocket with a mysterious smile on his face,
"I didn't only go to sell my newest pieces, I had to collect something from the blacksmith." He said softly, "Close your eyes," Snow did as she was asked and Eric took her right hand in his before he placed something heavy and warm in her hand, he wrapped her fingers around it before he whispered, "Open your eyes." Once again she did as she was bidden and in the centre of her palm there was a wrought iron key. "If you insist on making these trips, you should at least have a way of getting inside my cottage." Snow looked at him with shock plain in her features for a few seconds before she jumped in to his arms and wound her arms around his neck. "It wouldn't be good of me to let the Queen sit out and get a chill. I was going to give this the next time we met, but as always you catch me by surprise and my plans crumble at your feet." Snow felt the blush cover her cheeks at his hushed words. "But this is not the only gift I have for you," he finished placing her back on the ground with a wolfish grin that spread heat all over Snow. He took her hand in his and used the new key to open the door.
Once they were over the threshold Eric closed the door and led Snow across the room to the Ottoman he had built was against the furthest wall. He sat to one side and pulled her down next to him all the while she eyed him expectantly.
"What about Adahy?" She asked after a second and Eric shrugged,
"He'll wander in to the barn, I'll see to him later." Snow nodded feeling a little nervous as Eric leant over the Ottoman to retrieve something from the chest he had on the floor. "I've been making this for you for a while now, each time I thought it was finished I decided to start all over again." He fumbled with a cord on a leather purse for a second before he handed it over to Snow, "but I realised that everything is always changing and that I should use this as a representation of a certain moment or feeling." Snow was confused, but knew better that to question Eric when he was in the middle of opening his heart to her. "I hope you will wear this always and know that you are loved even if it is beyond sense and reason." He finished as the necklace fell in to Snow's palm. She looked down at the leather cord and the pendant it held and felt her heart skip a beat.
"Eric it's beautiful," she mumbled as she held it in front of her eyes. He took the cord in his hands and lengthened it to put it over her head all the while she stared at the intricate detail of the piece. After she had finished staring at the quartz she leant forward and rested her head on his shoulder as he enveloped her in his warmth.
"When do you have to go back to the palace?" he asked carding his hand through her long ebony hair,
"Soon," she admitted with a sigh, "But I do not want to think about it, I am here with you and that is all that matters." She kissed his cheek softly and crawled in to his lap, "I am going to make the most of the time we have."
"What are you thinking about?" Snow asked and Eric was brought back to the present with a slap.
"The day I gave you this," he said softly letting the pendant drop from his hands, "I never thought you would always wear it. I hoped you would, but I didn't quite believe it."
"Ye of little faith," Snow said with a smile as she took his hands in hers and smiled up at him, "There is no one else." She murmured with such sincerity that Eric was taken aback. "I'm sorry that we haven't been able to see one another recently, but..."
"Duke Hammond is causing more trouble than usual?" Eric asked with a smile as he sat down again opposite Snow. She nodded and chewed at the side of her thumb as if deep in thought,
"He wanted a new tax, which of course Saalik and the other members refused. Why can it never be easy?" she asked with a sigh as she leant back in her chair,
"Nothing that you ever want is easy," Eric said with a smile, "And my Queen it shouldn't be, in my experience if something is easy then it is too good to be true." Snow took his hand again and entwined their fingers across the table feeling his warmth seep in to her skin. She looked up at Eric her eyes hooded and dark,
"Will you stay tonight?" she asked simply, but they both knew the answer was as far from simple as they could get. "Please?" she begged and Eric felt his will crumble.
"Whatever my Queen commands," he whispered with humour colouring his words.
"It was not a command," Snow chided, "it was a request." Eric laughed and as always it was a deep throaty sound that took the chill out of Snow's bones,
"Whatever my Queen requests she will most likely not be denied." He replied standing and pulling her with him, "You should know by now Snow I can deny you almost nothing," When she turned and smiled at him it made his blood boil in his veins. Without thinking he pulled her into his chest crushing her in his arms. He heard her laugh breathlessly at being caught off guard and felt her soft little hands push off the pads of muscle on his torso so she could breathe. When his eyes found hers he saw the delight dancing behind them and then felt Snow raise herself on tiptoe so she could brush his lips with her own. The contact was brief and chaste, but it was enough to make Eric's iron will snap. He bundled Snow up in his arms and held her close all the while muttering sweet nothings against her lips, until his tongue tripped over the one secret that he had always wanted to keep buried.
"One day I will be the man to stand next to you while you take your rightful place on the throne. First I have to clean my soul from the stench of blood and bone." Snow gasped at the revelation she was hearing and captured his face between her hands caressing his cheeks with the most infinite care finding in his eyes the ghosts of the past that never seemed to let go of Eric no matter how hard Snow tried.
"You have the purest soul of all the men I know," she whispered placing soft kisses on his cheeks and forehead still trapped in his embrace. She tried to make him look at her, but his eyes kept wandering away from her soft gaze. "You Huntsman are worth any ten men that are at my back." He laughed then, but it was hollow and Snow felt that she had lost him. It was at moments like these that she wished she had met Sara, because she had made Eric forget. No matter how Snow tried he was prone to dark moments of contemplation. She had noticed that recently he had schooled himself to not show this weakness in front of her, but sometimes when his passion overrode his senses his lock on the secrets he kept from her was pried open and she saw the wounded man and the lost child that he kept inside. She pushed off from his shoulders so that he would have no choice to put her feet back on the floor as the last thing he wanted to see was Snow hurt. He did as she suspected and she left his embrace to hunt for something she had commissioned; that she hoped would bring Eric back to her from the veil of ill will he was now shrouded in.
Snow knew she had put it in a place that no one would stumble on it accidentally, but that also meant that now she could no longer find the item.
Her mad dash around her rooms however seemed to snap Eric out the dark place he had stumbled into and he chuckled with genuine delight as he watched Snow.
"What have you lost your Highness?" he asked with soft mocking. Snow turned from a box of trinkets and smiled,
"I'll know it when I find it," she replied and carried on in her search. Eric stood watching her as she flitted around her rooms with what seemed to him an entire lack of sense. As he was getting dizzy watching Snow run to and fro and he knew he could not help Eric sat on her bed and took off his boots all the while intently watching the woman years his junior try to find something that appeared to mean a lot to her.
He knew when she found it because she made an unrestrained sound of excitement in the back of her throat. Eric had been expecting the item to be small since she had looked in all her chests and trinket boxes, including the one for the chess set he had made her all those years before. He was mistaken though; the item in her hands was rather larger than a small trinket.
Snow looked up at him from where she stood across the room and smiled a soft knowing smile that he could do nothing, but respond to it in kind.
"I've been thinking of a way for you to always have something of me when I'm not with you..." she said sounding unsure of herself for a second, "You aren't a man for jewellery or trinkets that have no use; so I had to think of something that I could have made that you could use. I'm not saying this right," she finished sounding defeated. "This was supposed to be for another occasion, but having you here I can't think of a better one." With that Snow made her way to her bed and sat opposite Eric still holding the item to her chest as if she was in an internal war with herself about giving him the item. Eventually she took his hands in hers and placed the item in them. Eric felt the weight in his hands and knew what Snow had made for him and it made him smile. He unwrapped the oilskin and inside was a blade with a deer antler hilt.
"It has good weight," he commented as he turned the blade over in his hand.
"So I was told," Snow replied with a gentle shrug of her shoulders, "I may have been taught how to hold and wield a sword, but I still don't fully understand what is meant by the weight of the items, they all seem unnecessarily heavy to me." Eric barked a laugh and took her hand in his placing the hilt in her hand,
"All swords and knives need good weight and balance my Lady to make them fit for their purpose," Eric said tracing his fingers over the back of her hand as he wrapped her fingers around the smooth hilt. "The weight of the hilt should be equal to that of the blade to have control. If the blade is too heavy you over compensate and move too slow, too light and you never really know what you need to do." Snow looked up in to his eyes and saw in them the burning passion that had been missing mere minutes before. She dropped the hunting knife and captured his face in her hands, kissing him with as much fire as she could muster not that it was hard. Eric replied in kind lifting the hunting knife off the bed and placing it on the floor next to his boots.
The light from the fire glinted off the knife's design showing it in sharp relief; along the blade was a single rose in full bloom and along the hilt there was an old oak tree rising from the pommel to the bolster, but unlike the oak tree that made up Snow's family crest; this oak tree was also in full bloom. Not that Eric would notice this until much later,
"Thank you," he mumbled against Snow's lips as he pinned her down into her mattress watching her pupils expand to swallow up the dark brown of her eyes as she exhaled softly,
"You don't need to thank me," she replied with a smile and fisted her hands in his hair bringing his face the last few inches to hers. "Just promise me that tonight you'll stay,"
"On my life's blood my Highness, tonight I will stay." He told her his voice a low growl as he brought their lips together again.