It was only years of necessity that had made Terence into a morning person, but that particular morning, the pleasures of morning seemed completely inbred. He actually woke up smiling. He would have time to feel ridiculous about it when he remembered hours later, but in the moment, he was only thinking about the soft sheets and the morning light and his gorgeous wife still asleep in his arms. Relishing the unknown opportunity to doze and lie in a bit, he snuggled his face into Eileen's hair. He always told her how unusually fine and soft her hair was. "It's just because it's ginger," She'd scoffed. Still, she'd never stopped him from touching it often.
"'at 'ickles," a groggy voice slurred from the other side of the ginger. He smiled against her neck.
"Not sorry." Smirking, he made a reach down to her waist and she smacked his hand. He snorted, stirring her hair. She pulled the sheets around herself and turned.
"Idiot," She grumbled, eyes still closed as she wrestled the bedding until she was nestled against him. "A' least you're warm." She punched his chest like it were a pillow until she found a comfy spot.
"I do my best," he shuffled his arms around to accommodate her. He wrapped one around and let his hand rest on her waist, and this time she didn't slap him. Her skin was warm. And she was right, warm was a very nice thing. He started dozing off again, thoughts full of warm ginger, when there came a knock at the door.
The knock came a second time, and his eyes snapped open. Body frozen, he looked down and locked eyes with his wife.
"Damnit," he cursed.
"Oh god," she hissed, throwing the covers off and leaping out of bed in a panic. By the time he'd wrestled himself out of the sheets, she was already in her shift and brushing her hair. He actually took a moment to marvel, because really,
"How on earth did you do that so quickl-"
"Terence!" She hissed when she turned around. He frowned and looked down at himself. Blushing, he glanced around the room frantically.
"Well, do you know where they are?"
"Right where you left them, dolt!" She reached down to the floor and tossed the trousers at his face. He caught them as they fell, face frowning.
"Where I left them…?" he accused. She growled. The person at the door knocked again.
"Keep your voice down!" she whispered harshly.
"Why didn't you tell me you were having company today?!" He whisper-yelled back, hopping around with his breeches crooked around his ankles.
"I'm not!" She pulled a slightly wrinkled duster about herself. "I specifically told lady Aria that I won't be seeing anyone today!" As if she'd practicing dressing in a hurry, she did up her hair in a ribbon and powdered her face until the only odd one in the room was her husband. The door-knocker returned.
"Oooh," she glanced around the room, antsy, "quick, get under the bed."
Terence looked up, breeches mostly on. "What?"
"Shh! You heard me, get under the bed?"
"Why not the window?"
"You're shirtless, they'll see you. Under the bed."
"What am I, a dustball?"
"Damnit Terence," She came over and shoved his shoulders down until he was compelled to kneel. "Get!"
"It's filthy down there," his breeches rode down awkwardly (they hadn't been straight in the first place) as he got himself down on the floor. He got on his stomach, eye-level with his destination. "Ooooh, now that is disgusting,"
"Just go, go!" she kicked him, glancing at the door.
"Ow! Me being here was your idea, you know."
"I didn't know someone would come knocking."
"Course not – oh, god, I could teach your maids a thing or two about cleaning, you know-" he crawled forward on his elbows.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, just… shut up, they'll hear you." She kicked his protruding feet under the bed.
"Yeah, love you too." He said, voice muffled.
Eileen pulled a face, even though he couldn't see it. "I'm sorry," She did mean it. So long as he shut up.
He grumbled, settled into the dust and shut up.
Eileen shut the bedroom door as quietly as she could, smoothed out her dress, put on a smile, and answered the door.
"Your Majesty! Sir Gawain!" Eileen tried very hard not to stutter. "What brings you here this morni-" she caught sight of the light outside, "midday?"
Arthur smiled at her. "I am sorry for coming unannounced, Lady Eileen," He smiled. "I actually came here to…" He glanced down the hall. "But it's a bit of a secret as of now – do you mind if I come in?"
"Oh, no, of course," Eileen stepped aside and silently cursed. Arthur walked past and Gawain's expression changed.
"Where is he?" He mouthed.
Eileen glanced at Arthur, whose back was turned. She gestured toward the bedroom door. "Under the bed." Gawain obviously couldn't read her lips, and gave her a confused head shake.
But then Arthur turned around and they both had to school their expressions into pleasant smiles.
"I came to ask your help with something, actually." Arthur said, unaffected by the invisible tension in the room, "Guinevere's birthday is coming up in a few months, and I wanted to do something special for her. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure what my queen would enjoy the most. I can plan tournaments and feasts well enough, but Guinevere is…" he paused, and looked a little sad, "I can't say I always… know what she expects. Wants. Seeing as you are a lady of the court, I was hoping you would be able to help me." He was so humble and so helpless a king, for a moment, Eileen forgot her husband's dusty hideaway and felt for Arthur.
"Oh, Your Majesty… I, I can try. But I can't say that I'm the most, um… ladylike of all the ladies in Camelot."
Arthur smiled. "Perhaps not, milady, but if anything, you understand ladies of the court far more than I do."
"Very well," Eileen "W-what were you…" suddenly she froze, her eyes locked onto the couch behind Arthur. Draped over the back and in plain sight was Terence's shirt, court livery and all. Unmistakable. She paled. "Um, th-that is, what were you thinking, your majesty?" Arthur had noticed the change in her demeanor, and begun to frown. "Sorry," she smiled, "I thought I saw a mouse," she said. Arthur began to turn and look, but she shot her hand out and touched his arm. "It's nothing," she reassured, and he was so surprised by the contact he let it go.
"Of course," although rather confused, Arthur continued, "Well, I thought it ought to be a court-wide celebration. … well, a feast, most definitely. But I'm not sure if a tournament would be a good idea or not. Guinevere sits through matches for pomp's sake, but I know she doesn't actually enjoy watching two knights whack each other with swords, and I can't help but wonder…"
Eileen was only half listening to him. Her mind was caught on the shirt that her stupid husband had left lying on their –her- couch for anyone to see. True, it wasn't entirely his fault for forgetting about it, but couldn't he have at least tried to make it land somewhere less conspicuous?
"…would you agree, Sir Gawain?" Arthur turned, but Gawain had moved. Arthur turned around, until he faced the couch behind which Gawain was now standing. Eileen's heart jumped, but then she realized that Terence's shirt had disappeared.
"Yes, of course, Sire." Gawain said. Arthur was frowning.
"When did you get over there?"
"Oh," Gawain smiled, "Just enjoying Eileen's flowers," he gestured to the box of flowers in the window. "but about this party." As he walked back toward them, Eileen's eye just barely caught him shoving livery underneath the couch with his foot. Arthur missed it entirely, and began nodding.
"Yes, I was hoping that we could plan it far out enough to invite some of the French to join us. I'll never understand it, but Guinevere is enamored with some of the French ladies of court, and I do want her to enjoy herself, so I thought it would be a good idea to…"
As Arthur sketched out his guest list, Eileen shot an indebted look at Gawain.
His eyes said it all. You're both idiots.
It didn't take long to sort out the details. Even in her flustered state, Eileen managed to sort out a proper party for the queen: A feast, no tournament, and an update to the court gardens as a present. There would be food and song, and an emphasis on fashion (which Arthur and Gawain both grumbled over) and all together, it would make Guinevere's ladylike heart happy. It seemed to satisfy Arthur, so he thanked Eileen and began to take his leave.
"Actually, if you wouldn't mind, milady," Gawain said for Arthur's benefit, "I have a letter for you, from Lynet in Orkney. If you care to write back, I can take your reply out tomorrow."
"Oh, yes, I can write it up presently," She said, probably too eagerly. Arthur smiled at the two, bid them a good day, and left. As soon as the door closed, Gawain's and Eileen's smiles disappeared.
"Terence?" Gawain called, glowering at the room around him, "The hell were you thinking?"
"It's not my fault," a muffled voice said from the bedroom. A hollow smack. "Ow!" Terence appeared a moment later, fastening his trousers and covered in dust from head to toe. Eileen snorted at the sight. Gawain laughed.
"Serves you right," he said, as Terence blew a dust bunny from his eyebrow.
"Gray suits you," Eileen giggled, "though I wasn't aware you were getting on that much," she gestured at the dusty streaks in his otherwise brown hair. He glared at her. "I'm sorry!"
"Aye, but a shirt would suit you better. Yours is under the couch. Well, now it is." Gawain eyed the furniture. "You're welcome."
Terence flushed and brushed himself off further. He went over and dug out his tunic and brushed it off, as well.
"You know, next time you two decide to…" Gawain waved his hand vaguely around, avoiding eye contact, "You could at least to be a little more bloody careful!" He looked around the room and eyed Terence. "I don't exactly see hers lying around anywhere, lad, the problem's you."
Terence turned beet red. "Still not my fault," He muttered underneath his breath. Eileen turned red, too. Gawain rolled his eyes.
"Eileen, lass…" he finally looked back at them, "at least try to keep your idiot in line."
"Oh, I do." She said, and paused. "Will," she corrected. Gawain would have missed it, but Terence's blush spread to his ears and he ducked his head. The knight sighed and closed his eyes like a longsuffering father.
"As bad as newlyweds, you are," he grumbled, choosing to ignore the fact that they were, in fact, newlyweds. "You," he pointed a finger at Eileen, "don't let him do that again. And you," He pointed a finger at his squire, who was covered in dust, hair tousled, bright red, looking like a guilty schoolboy, and rebuttoning his mis-buttoned tunic. "Just… put your shirt on and go back to the rooms. I'm hungry." He stalked toward the door, grumbling. "Idiots."
After Gawain left, Terence stood there, considering his prospects of sinking into the ground. "He'll never let me live this down, you know."
"Well it's only half your fault," Eileen said, coming over to help him dust off the dirt and refashion his hair. "I am sorry, dear." She said. He sighed and looked down at her.
"Well. I'm sure you can make it up to me later." She smiled and pulled him down for a kiss. He'd just reached out to put his hands on her face when she pushed him away. "Now go on, go make lunch for your other wife."
"Oh, you know about her? I was hoping to tell you at a better time," Terence kidded, smirking, "Demanding as a mad baby, sometimes. And he turns-"
"Yes, she turns all purple when she's angry."
"Yes, I saw." She fixed his collar. "But purple will never do at court tonight, so you'd best go."
"Alright." He leaned down and pecked her cheek. "Milady," he said, and gave her hand a squeeze as he left. She smiled after him.
When she went back into her room to change, she peeked under her bed. She grimaced horribly. Ooh, that was nasty. She really ought to... well, just in case.
When her handmaid came in an hour or so later and found her lady on her hands and knees dusting the floor beneath her four-poster, she would ask what on earth what she was doing, and Eileen would blush and stand to her feet. "Nothing," she said, "Just… spring cleaning."
That night, at dinner, Gawain was no longer purple. One color, however, had stuck around.
"Squire Terence, you aren't going gray are you?" Arthur jested the youth. Terence frowned and touched his hair. When he drew back dusty fingertips, he turned bright red.
"Uh, no sir," He said, hoping to God above that Arthur wasn't remembering his visit with Eileen that morning and somehow realizing that Terence had been there. "It's just, um…" He glanced at Gawain, whose face was turned away in an entirely your own damn fault sort of way. "I was cleaning earlier."
Gawain snorted, he couldn't help it. Terence turned a bit pinker and Arthur, lost in the joke, just shook his head. "Of course, I'm sorry. Well, I'm sure your master is grateful for a clean room," he said amiably.
"Aye," Gawain added, reaching for his goblet. "At this rate, the whole castle will be spotless at Terence's behest."
Arthur was unsure of what to think of that, so he chuckled agreeably and went back to his meal. While the king's attention was elsewhere, Gawain motioned for more wine. As Terence refilled the goblet, he glared every mental dagger he could muster. Gawain smiled.
"Live and learn, son. Subtly can be everything."
"And you would know?" Terence said incredulously.
"Your ignorance is proof that I do."
Terence faltered, staring openly. Happily, he'd jumped just in time to finish pouring, and Gawain took a long swig from his drink.
"Oh, God," Terence said, unable to not think about it.
"Learned your lesson?"
"Oh, just shut up."
Gawain laughed. "Missed a spot," he said, pointing to Terence's hair. The squire grimaced and wiped at his head. Gawain laughed some more.