"This . . . are you okay?!" Gavin stammered urgently, standing up from the bed. "Do you feel unwell?!"
"I'm . . . this . . . why were you-" Gwen couldn't seem to finish any of her thoughts, and her voice was little more than a hoarse whisper from disuse.
The two of them simply stared at one another, neither moving.
He looked fine! Blistering happened in an instant, she knew, but his lips, his complexion . . . everything looked fine! Aside from a bit of red around his eyes, he looked just as he had a few minutes ago.
What was going on?
She'd had some colored balm applied earlier while preparing for the wedding - Gwen could still feel some traces of soft wax on her lips. But something like that wouldn't be enough to protect him from her, would it? Surely not.
Gavin's eyes focused on Gwen's mouth, as though his thoughts somehow mirrored her own, and his look of confusion intensified. Then he looked to the knife that lay at her feet.
"Why were you-" he began.
"What happened?" she blurted."You fell and . . . I thought-"
Gwen looked away from him to the spot where he'd been laying a second ago. Her own look of confusion was probably the match of his.
Gavin followed her gaze to the bed, then looked back to her.
"I was . . . I'm sorry. I just-" he glanced at the bed again, wiping a tear from one eye with the back of his hand. "I was upset. I thought something terrible had happened. But you're not . . . I mean, I didn't . . ."
He looked momentarily distressed and his voice trailed off.
Silence once more dominated the room as they stared at one another, and Gwen, not trusting herself to stand upright, carefully lowered herself into the nearby chair and tried to think.
Was he hurt? He didn't look it. He did seem disoriented though. Was it from the poison?
"I . . . don't understand," Gwen rasped. She frowned, and attempted to clear her throat a few times, an activity that drew a renewed look of concern from Gavin.
"No! I'm- . . . you need to- . . ." he stammered. Then, closing his eyes, he gave a growl of frustration and looked to the ceiling.
What the heck was going on!? He was far less articulate all of a sudden - he hadn't sounded like this when speaking to her earlier, not at all! Was the toxin affecting his ability to talk?
"I'm . . . it's t-that I-" he continued once more, half-stuttering the words, his voice sounding more and more frustrated. He sat down heavily on the bed and ran his fingers though his hair, like he was trying to think.
There was something familiar about the hesitation in his voice as he spoke, Gwen realized. It was almost like it was . . .
Looking lost in thought, Gavin appeared to realize something, turning to Gwen a moment later.
"You wish me to tell you something about myself?" Gavin asked, his words sounding as though carefully spoken. "What I've been wanting to say to you?"
"Yes," she agreed instantly, nodding.
"No!" he half-shouted, frustratedly burying his head in his palms. Then he calmed himself, sat up, took a quick breath, and gave her an earnest look. "You wish me to tell you," he repeated, not making it a question.
Gwen's brow furrowed in confusion.
"I do," she said, nodding slowly.
Giving her a desperate look, Gavin waved his hands as though encouraging her to continue speaking.
"I . . . wish for you to tell me . . . what you've been wanting to tell me?" she managed to say, haltingly. She had a feeling she looked about as confused as she sounded just then.
Gavin closed his eyes and fell backward into the bed, groaning as though exhausted, his hands covering his face. At first Gwen thought it was because he was even more frustrated than before, but when he finally removed his hands from his face, the expression she saw on it was one of profound relief.
"Oh, thank the goddess!" he practically panted, sitting back up on the bed. He turned to her, his eyes serious and alert. "Okay, this is hard to explain, but you're in danger. You can't do that again. Ever!" He gave her a slightly forlorn look. "Despite how much I really, really want you to. Are you feeling unwell? Dizzy? We need a towel, or . . . something to wipe your lips, just in case-"
His voice trailed off as his eyes darted around the room, eventually falling upon the tablecloth. In the blink of an eye he'd jumped up from the bed and dashed over to the table next to her, yanking away the cloth that had been draped over it. Food and silverware fell clanging noisily to the floor, and all the while Gwen simply sat in her chair, trying to piece together what was happening.