I wanted something small and soothing?

Title: A Silent Companionship
Rating: PG
Universe: Fae & Fairies
Characters/Pairings: Rue the River Gnome, The Grey Champion
Summary: To imagine the friendship of a lowly river gnome and a fae champion would be the height of foolishness. Rue doesn't particularly care. It's a quiet thing they have, her winter knight and her. A silent companionship.
Wordcount: 1543
Warnings/Notes: Fairies, silence, dangerous people, silent companionship
Claimer: Mine

A Silent Companionship

From what Rue could figure out, her knight was the champion of one of the Grey Ladies. She wasn't completely sure, he'd never said so, but he seemed to have too much gentility for the darker courts, and too much lethality for the lighter ones.

He was without doubt a champion, though. That much she'd never had to be told. He was quiet, fearsome, honed and whetted to be someone's blade. His face had been schooled to impassivity long ago, and he wore his sword with silent ease. He didn't speak much. He never asked for anything, nor demanded it either. He had all the patience of winter, as still as a frozen pond, and as dangerous too.

The first time he'd appeared, she'd been terrified. He'd been wounded, his blade in his hand and his long, winter hair in a blood-flecked snarl about his face. The face itself had been a mask. There'd been no anger in it, no threat or ferocity. It had only frightened her worse, when the sword in his hand had clearly been blooded not so long before. She'd known from the first that he was a greater fae. A knight, a champion of one of the great powers, who would care not one whit should he happen to slay some little river gnome who strayed into his path at so very obviously the wrong moment.

Though in truth, he'd strayed more into her path than she into his. He'd stumbled quite literally into her garden, aiming to drink from the brook and rest himself against her willow tree, unconscious of her small, crouched form by the flowerbeds. She'd been utterly silent, frozen in terror at his appearance. It had taken him a few moments to realise that he wasn't alone, that he'd strayed onto someone else's territory. When he had, finally lifting his head and catching sight of her, she'd been sure she was going to be killed.

He hadn't struck her, though. Then, or any time since. He'd blinked at her, that first time, wary and on edge and, when she thought of it afterwards, more than half-dazed. In hindsight, he must have been rather badly hurt, or else rather badly exhausted. She'd seen him fight a time or two since, and it must have been a fearsome battle indeed to leave him so battered and so lost afterwards. He'd inclined his head to her, his weight still borne up by her willow tree, and apologised gravely for his intrusion.

She'd offered him some tea in response. Reflexively. She hadn't meant to, she most decidedly had not meant to invite a wounded, possibly murderous greater fae into her home minutes after he'd staggered armed into her garden, it was just ...

She didn't know. Even now, she wasn't completely sure what instinct had moved her that first evening beside her brook. Manners for manners, maybe, but there'd been something else as well. He'd been so fearsome-looking, even manners should have faltered in the face of him. But he'd been ... quiet. That was why. Then and now, he'd had such a quiet in him. Such a longing for quiet. Even in those first, terrifying few moments, she'd sensed that. She'd known, or at least imagined, that no one in such need of quiet would break it without cause.

He'd borne her out in that. Initially, she still thought, mostly because he was too tired and too stunned to do much else. She'd brought the tea to him, greater fae being somewhat too tall to fit in her little house, and from the faint flicker of expression when she'd re-emerged she thought he must have expected her to burrow in and not come out again. She had thought about it, to be fair, but then the kettle had boiled and past a certain point it was just churlish to go back on an offer. Hospitality first and foremost, hmm? She'd brought him out some willow-bark tea, in the largest cup she possessed, and sat rather warily with him until he finished it. In silence. He hadn't been much prone to talking, her knight. He mostly still wasn't.

When he'd left, a little calmer and a little more focused, she'd thought that would be the end of it. Hoped, really. The greater fae could be odd about debts, and dangerous about them too. As genteel as he'd been for that hour or so in her garden, he'd arrived with a sword in his hand, fresh from what had obviously been a very fierce battle. He wasn't the sort of thing a lesser fae like her wanted to invite into her life.

He was so very hard to refuse, though, and not because he made demands of her. He didn't. He never had, not from the very first. He was hard to refuse because ... because he so clearly needed ... not her, exactly, but what she offered him. What her garden, and her tea, and her silence meant. He'd come back. Hesitantly, a grim, silent presence appearing in the shade of her willow tree, asking without words for permission to stay. He'd returned once, and then again, and then again, when each time somehow she forgot to turn him away. He drifted in and out of her garden like the seasons, her own private winter, more gentle than many might think.

It was foolish, wasn't it, to feel such ... proprietary care, for so great and fearsome a being. It was such a foolish, foolish notion. She didn't even know his name. Not his real one, of course, none but those he pledged his life to would know that, but not even his common one either. He'd never offered, and she'd never asked. She wasn't entirely sure he knew hers, come to that. She couldn't remember if she'd ever told him. They didn't tend to talk very much. It was ... it was a quiet thing they had, her winter knight and her. It was a very silent companionship.

And yet. Yet it was perfect, for all that. She'd come to know him, in these long seasons, as well as she knew her house and her willow tree and her brook. Not in words, but in other ways. Small familiarities, traded without thought. She knew the flickers of expression that lay beneath that impassive mask. She knew the tiny slump of his shoulders when he let himself unwind. She knew what his face looked like, tipped up into the dappled sunlight beneath the willow tree. She knew the warmth of his arm when he sat beside her, and the tickle of his long hair against her cheek. She knew the faint, ever-present gratitude in his eyes when she offered him a cup, when she didn't turn him away, when she let him have silence and peace and simply her warmth against his side.

She knew the absolute terror of his power used calmly and dispassionately in her defence. She knew the sight of him standing in her brook, his sword calm and clean in his hand, simply standing there while a sharp-clawed hunter decided abruptly to seek other prey. She knew the small hunch of his shoulders as he turned afterwards, unsure of her reaction, half-certain of her fear and her rejection. She knew the not-so-faint shining of his relief when it didn't come, or mostly didn't come, her initial terror aside.

She knew ... she knew so much of him. Little things, all, but so many of them, and so perfect. She knew a powerful, fearsome thing, who longed for quiet and a space to sit in sunlight and silence, and a gentle presence to let him sit beside them. She knew nothing, and she knew so much, and for all his secrets she thought the parts she knew were all the ones that mattered.

He was a champion of the Grey Ladies. She was nearly sure of it. She didn't think the Dark, though she supposed that someone who served in so cruel a court might need peace and silence all the more. He would be dead, though, had he nursed such fragility among the dark courts. As fearsome as he was, he would be long dead for having kept such gentility there. The Grey, she was almost sure. Almost. Almost.

And yet, even were he Dark, she didn't think she would turn him away. Not now. Not knowing what she knew. Be he fierce, be he fearsome, be he terrible, she would never send him away. Not while he needed her still.

The height of foolishness, hmm? A river gnome, thinking to keep a fae knight sane, thinking she had the power where all others had not. Such a staggering folly, that.

And yet he came, and yet she let him. And yet he asked, and yet she allowed.

And yet he needed, and yet she needed in her turn.

He was so dangerous a thing, her knight. Too dangerous, far too dangerous for a little thing like her, with her garden and her tree and her brook. A far greater and more fearsome thing than someone like her should be allowed.

And bollocks to that then too. If they wanted him, they could claim him.

To her, he came by choice.
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