The evening had grown into deep night. The 'modest' gathering that Hilde and Gunther presided over for the sake of raising positive publicity for Avalon and funds for Hilde's latest pet project was a success. It was something that Hilde should have been grateful for, but her mood was soured by the fact that she had forgotten her wedding anniversary and Gunther's dramatics earlier. Sitting together in the big black humvee with a horse trailer with the Clydesdale named Horatio behind and their entourage making up most of the traffic about them at the late hour, Hilde glared out at the cold moonlit countryside as they made their way back to the farm.
"You're quiet," Gunther said, knowing that Hilde was probably contemplating gelding him for his choice of dramatic entrance.
"It wasn't necessary," Hilde spat peevishly. Gunther smiled. In the dull glow of the dashboard lights, his expression seemed ominous in the reflection that she saw off the window. "The last thing we need is for there to be people talking about how we're creating a scene and making..." she started when Gunther interrupted her.
"You're beautiful when you're angry," he said fondly, "You always have been." Hilde shut her mouth and scoffed, turning her gaze back out the passenger window. As much as she hated to admit it, she was flattered by the excessively romantic gesture and the way Gunther made a point through out the evening to do little things that were vestiges of romantic gestures from the first lifetime they lived together. His insistence upon sharing the same plate and glass as her drew a few small whispers. At one point one of the others sitting at the table asked and Gunther explained pleasantly as Hilde was distracted by Walker's introduction of another NYC socialite who was interested in getting some of the drama of Avalon behind his business. He was fairly certain that the social pages the next day would speak of the 'quaint romance' between his wife and himself.
It was clear to those who watched them that Hilde was the center of Gunther's universe and that Gunther was the center of Hilde's. Lifetimes of knowledge of the other's moods and attitudes lead to the couple acting as one more often then not. Gunther knew that his very public displays of affection irritated Hilde. If she had things her way, their romance would have been quiet as the grave and none but their closest companions would know of it.
Gunther suspected there was some deeper meaning to Hilde's discomfort with attention. He glanced over at her and read the way her body set in her seat. He could see the anger in the set of her jaw, the embarrassment in the color on her cheeks, and pain in how she unconsciously wrapped her left arm about herself. Defensiveness was the closest he could describe her demeanor beneath the anger. Gunther turned his attention back to the road. He broke the silence that had built up between them with a quiet observation, "It's not me you're angry with."
Out the corner of his eye, he saw Hilde stiffen and look over at him suddenly. He didn't need to look to know that her expression would be one of surprise. He suspected that there was more to the story of Brynhildr in this lifetime then Hilde was willing to admit. Gunther, however, decided it was time for the shadows to be cast out of his wife's eyes. He willed himself to stillness and silence, though he wanted to ask her a thousand questions.
Very quietly, Hilde said, "No." Gunther nodded. As the sign for their exit grew larger before them, the radio crackled to life. One of their convoy reported that one of the eager photographers was still following them. It was not a surprise. Gunther knew as soon as he saw the young man's face at the edge of the crowd as he rode past that he was going to be hounded. Gunther reached for the radio when Hilde's hand settled lightly on his thigh.
"Just drive," she said very quietly. Gunther nodded. They took their exit and he set his hand over her's. "I was fourteen," she continued in that terribly quiet tone, "he was eighteen. He loved to make a show of how much he loved me." Gunther went deathly quiet and still. He has suspicions but he didn't voice them. "Mom didn't approve of him," Hilde sighed, "but everyone at school said that we were the perfect pair. I ... I did my best to not let anyone know. I guess I was too good at it."
"What did he do?" Gunther said, unable to keep the anger from warming his tone. Hilde moved to pull her hand away from him but Gunther tightened his upon hers, holding it still. Hilde looked out the window and didn't speak for a long moment.
"The question is what didn't he do," she said so quietly that it was almost lost in the road noise. Gunther nodded and let out a slow breath. "I tried to stop him," she whispered, "He... He was stronger then me. He said he was going to tell the whole school how I was a whore. He said he'd kill my family." Hilde's voice cracked and she gave a small choked sob.
"Did you tell anyone?" Gunther asked. He didn't need to look to know that Hilde had shaken her head. "Not even Tom?" he said softly. Hilde quietly began to weep. Gunther gripped the steering wheel with both hands, careful not to close his hands too tight. The desire to track down this nameless person and kill them was so strong that he could nearly taste blood. "Have you been punishing yourself?" Gunther asked after Hilde's tears subsided. "Is what we do your ... atonement?" he said, carefully choosing his words.
The radio crackled to life again and Gunther ignored it. He was more interested in knowing if their foray into the darker side of pleasure was moved by anything other then bliss. "No," Hilde said, suddenly sounding terribly distressed and Gunther's heart nearly broke to be the cause of it, "A thousand times, no. You make me feel safe. It makes me feel safe." Gunther nodded slightly.
"And now?" he asked, "Do you feel safe now, Brynhildr?" He could feel how she trembled in the hand that lay upon his right thigh and nearly smell the anxiety wafting off of her. Hilde thought about lying but chose silence. She turned her gaze back out the window. "I see," Gunther said. They turned down the road to the farm. Behind them, Horatio pawed at his trailer and shook his head. "Steady boy," Gunther muttered, sounding a little less solemn and more like his usual dark humored self, "Keep it up and you'll wear a hole in the steel."
Gunther picked up the radio as he turned up the drive into the wood to the longhouse. "Block the lane," he said, his tone flat. The subordinates who heard this questioned what had soured his mood but the last two vehicles of the caravan stopped at the end of the lane. Their over eager pursuer swore and drove on. After turning around and discovering that the vehicles at the end of the drive weren't moving, the frustrated man left. Away at the longhouse, Gunther parked the vehicle and walked around to Hilde's side. He ignored their men as they tended to Horatio.
Gunther opened the door and saw Hilde sitting there on the verge of tears. He said nothing but stepped up beside her. He leaned into the humvee and snarled his hands into Hilde's hair. He pulled her roughly towards him as she gave a small yelp of surprise. His mouth closed over hers with crushing force. Tears wet on her cheek that smelled of sugar maple sap, Hilde closed her eyes and shivered. She expected Gunther to gentle the kiss after a moment but he didn't. He gave a low growl when he finally broke the kiss, his anger quickly transmuting into arousal.
"You are mine, Brynhildr," he said. In any other situation, that low, fierce statement would have made her knees weak and her cheeks burn. Instead, she simply wanted to cry. As her lower lip quavered, Gunther nearly dragged her from the vehicle into another kiss. Hilde put her hands flat against his chest. Suddenly, she found the fact that he was still wearing armor comforting. It was a visceral reminder that he had the capacity to kill any who would try to harm her. Gunther broke the kiss and then stooped slightly. Before Hilde realized it, he had swept her up into his arms.
A few knowing smirks then turned to confusion when the night watch saw the distress in Hilde's eyes. One opened the door for them, starting to open his mouth to ask when Gunther growled, "See to it that we are not disturbed." Hilde hid her face against his shoulder when she realized that at least one of their men had seen her in her weakness. Gunther strode the length of the dark hall, navigating about the cots of those who were sleeping there easily. He set Hilde on her feet briefly to open the door into their apartment. Gunther then pulled her in after himself.