This AU fic is my husband't fault.
“All right, children,” Mr. Gaius says as he snaps off the music. At his words, the bodies on the floor gradually wind to a halt.
He calls them ‘children,’ a term of endearment actually, as they are all in their twenties. But to 70-year-old Mr. Gaius, they are indeed little और than children.
“I have an assignment for आप all,” he continues, and most of the dancers stifle their groans.
“Assignment? I didn’t think this was that kind of class!” Gwaine remarks from his place where he is lounging on the floor.
Mr. Gaius fixes him in his squinty stare and says, “Challenge, then. Is that better?”
“Proceed,” Gwaine says with a wave of his hand.
“Thank you. आप will see here I have three hats,” he motions at three गेंदबाज hats upended on the sideboard अगला to him. “One hat contains the names of all the girls, the next, all the boys. The third contains—”
“Dance styles,” Arthur’s voice pipes up from the back of the room, where he is perched regally on the windowsill.
“Indeed. I will draw the first girl’s name, and she will then step आगे to draw a partner and a dance. आप will have one week to choreograph and rehearse before presenting your dance to the rest of the class.”
This time the class does not bother stifling their groans.
“Look, do आप lot want to be professionals या not?” he says sternly, but his twinkling eyes give him away, as they always do. He loves them and they know it. Luckily they all respect him far too much to truly give him any grief. “Thought so. Now,” he reaches into the first hat.
“Elana,” he announces, and the blonde jumps up and walks over. She reaches into the सेकंड hat.
“Lancelot,” she says, trying to hide her disappointment.
She was hoping for Arthur, Gwen thinks, leaning quietly against a किताबों की अलमारी off to one side, alone. She pretends not to see the look of longing that Lancelot gives her across the room.
“Very good,” Mr. Gaius says as she reaches into the third hat.
“Cha-cha,” she announces with a smile. She deposits the papers into a nearby bin and goes to stand beside her partner.
“Excellent luck for our resident Latin lover,” Mr. Gaius winks, and Lancelot, who is of Chilean descent, nods back.
“Morgana,” Mr. Gaius draws the अगला name.
“Ooo…” the other dancers chorus, their foreboding tone teasing the brunette as she swings her hips past them to draw her—
Victim, Arthur thinks.
“Merlin,” she says, her voice not hiding her surprise.
Arthur snorts audibly. Merlin is Mr. Gaius’ grand-nephew and Arthur’s best friend. He is a sweet soul, kind and generous, while Morgana, Arthur’s half-sister, has justifiably earned the nickname “The Black Widow.”
“Interesting,” Mr. Gaius remarks with a smirk.
Morgana sighs and draws from the third hat.
Arthur glances over at Merlin, whose eyes have grown huge and skin has paled even further. He grins at his friend evilly and Merlin responds with a rude hand gesture.
“Very interesting,” Mr. Gaius says dubiously.
Merlin and Morgana dancing the Tango of all things. One of the most male-dominant dances, where the man is often quite literally throwing his partner around the floor, all bravado and confidence. I rock the Tango. Not so sure about Merlin, though, especially with Morgana as his partner, Arthur thinks as he watches Morgana sidle up to Merlin, where she leans against the तालिका, टेबल beside him and drapes her arm languidly around his shoulders. They do make a stunning pair, though, all pale skin and dark hair.
“Guinevere,” Gaius chooses the अगला name, and Gwen walks forward.
My choices are down to Gwaine, Arthur and Leon. Please let it be Leon. I’d rather deal with the ridiculous height difference than either Mr. Grabby Hands या Mr. High-and-Mighty.
She reaches into the hat.
Oh good. I get the girl who doesn’t talk.
Gwen pulls from the third hat, and stares at the slip of paper in her palm, willing the word on the paper to change. Anything but this one, please.
“Rumba,” she squeaks. Shit.
Now it is Merlin’s turn to break forth with the derisive snort. Arthur is the king of the Viennese Waltz, which allows him to be cold and detached. No one Tangos like him, and his Paso Doble impresses even the most patriotic Latinos. Arthur has bravado to spare. But the Rumba? The seductive, emotional, romantic, vulnerable dance often likened to making प्यार on the dance floor? Hardly his forte.
Instead of going to stand अगला to her partner as the others have done, Gwen returns to her place द्वारा the किताबों की अलमारी without so much as glancing in Arthur’s direction. She ignores the dirty look she gets from Vivian.
Arthur blinks in surprise, watching her. She’s so strange. He’s danced with her a few times, but she’s barely कहा three words to him. She’s a good dancer. A little short, perhaps, but skilled nevertheless. Cute, but seems to be lacking any personality. And I’m going to have to spend the better part of the week with her. Brilliant.
Gwen leans against the bookcase, contemplating Arthur out of the corner of her eye. Okay, he’s handsome. Of course he is. But he’s such a prat. Mister Macho, like he’s the king of this studio या something. Sure he can dance, but the Rumba? Does he even have any emotions other than pride?
“Vivian,” Mr. Gaius calls next. Now that her prime choice has been stolen from her, she takes her time sauntering to the hat to draw her partner.
“Gwaine,” she says pleasantly. He’ll do. She reaches her hand into the third hat.
“Samba!” she exclaims and skips back over to Gwaine, squealing girlishly as he pulls her onto his lap.
Several sets of eyes roll.
“That leaves Leon and Sophia, then,” Mr. Gaius declares. “Sophia?”
She stands and chooses their dance.
“Viennese Waltz,” she says. Leon smiles from his spot on a chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him. Sophia walks to him and delicately perches on his knee.
“Get to it, then,” Mr. Gaius commands.
“What, now?” Gwaine asks.
“You have one week, Gwaine, when were आप planning on getting started?”
The battle of wills begins. Arthur is waiting for Gwen to come to him, and she is having none of it. He’s not going to bully me. She slowly turns her face in his direction and blinks at him a few times. Are आप coming या not?
Arthur heaves a sigh and hops down from his windowsill. He trudges to her as if it is a great hardship. The other couples are already discussing song choices या heading for one of the smaller studios to start working out their steps.
They regard each other for a moment.
“So. Rumba, hey?” Arthur finally speaks.
“You any good with the Rumba?”
“Yes.” She doesn’t ask about Arthur’s Rumba. They both know that it is his weakness.
“Good. So. Um…” he doesn’t know what to say to her. She is so quiet, so odd to his mind that she renders his brain pretty much useless. He feels like he’s alone in a car with a great-aunt that he only sees every five years.
“Come on, then,” she says, pulling him द्वारा the hand to an adjoining studio. He follows like a disobedient child.
Once alone, she takes a deep breath and decides to address the हाथी in the room.
“Look, I know I’m not exactly your first choice, okay? But moping around isn’t going to get us anywhere. I’m sorry I’m not as interesting or… as exciting as Vivian, but you’re stuck with me, so let’s just make the best of it, shall we?”
Arthur stares at her, mouth agape.
“That’s the most I’ve heard आप say in three years.”
“And don’t kid yourself about Vivian. I can’t stand her,” he bends down to tie his shoe.
“Could have fooled me,” she says, stretching.
“Well, if we’re clearing the air, I should mention that I guess I’m sorry I’m not Lancelot.”
“I have no interest in Lancelot. We are friends,” she says stubbornly.
“Is that what आप call it?”
“Look, Arthur, not that it’s any of your business, but I know he’s got a bit of a schoolboy crush. But that’s it, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Well, he sure seems to enjoy dancing with you, that’s all I’m saying, Guinevere.”
Guinevere? No one calls me Guinevere. “That may be, but… wait, why am I even defending myself to you?” She turns away, raising a leg to a barre on one side and bends low over it, stretching her hamstrings.
Not bad, Arthur enjoys the view as he starts to loosen up.
Gwen shakes his arms in hers, trying to loosen them. “You’re too tense; loosen up. This is not the Tango.” They’d been toying around with steps and choreography for a half घंटा now and have gotten close to nowhere.
“Oh, she finally speaks again, only to criticize,” he rolls his eyes. “You’re no और of an expert than I, आप know!” he snaps, jerking away.
“Well at least I can express और than two emotions!”
“Oh, really, I only have two emotions, then?”
“Let’s see, there’s pride, and… is ‘spoiled brat’ an emotion?”
“Then I guess I’ll go with anger.” She crosses her arms and goes to retrieve her water bottle.
“I’m not so sure that pride is an emotion, either,” he mutters.
“Prat,” she shoots over her shoulder at him.
“You heard me.”
“Ass,” she counters, unconsciously walking toward him.
“Hermit,” he slowly advances as well.
“That’s the best आप got?”
“I’m running out of adjectives.”
“Oh, very clever comeback, that. Is that even your natural color?” she asks, reaching up to lift a handful of hair to check for roots. When did we get so close together again?
He grabs her hand and pulls it to one side, and they both realize that they are now both trying not to laugh.
Another battle of wills: who will break first.
“Wait! I think I saw a grey hair!” she says, raising her other hand.
“You did not! It was just light blonde!” He grabs that one, too, and she struggles to get free.
“Let go of me, आप caveman!” she says, trying to pull her arms free. His grip is like iron, yet he is somehow not hurting her at all.
“Caveman, am I? Does that mean I get to hit आप with a club and drag आप around द्वारा your hair?” His face cracks just a little, and Gwen redoubles her own efforts not to burst out laughing, and spins, trying to free herself.
“Oh, no आप don’t,” Arthur says, spinning with her. She trips him in the process and they spill to the ground, Gwen landing on चोटी, शीर्ष of him.
“Oh!” she exclaims. The hardness of his muscles beneath his clothes registers slightly as she struggles to regain some balance to climb off of him.
“Stop squirming,” he says, trying to help her. Oh my God, if she keeps wiggling like this my body is going to get ideas of its own, he thinks, eyes drawn to the tantalizing cleavage suddenly right before his face, hips noticing her soft curves as she attempts to sit back and off of him.
“I see you’re getting along fine,” Mr. Gaius’ laughing voice floats towards them from the doorway.
“No, um, we… we fell,” Arthur says, finally grasping Gwen’s elbow as her knee narrowly misses his groin and he helps her up.
Much to his surprise, she reaches down to give him a hand up as well. Her dusky skin has taken on a pinkish tinge as she stands there, blushing furiously, not meeting his eyes.
“Yes, yes, आप ‘fell,’” Mr. Gaius repeats, as if he doesn’t believe a word of it. Arthur and Gwen can hear the quotation marks around the word “fell” in his voice.
“We did, sir,” Gwen says quietly. “We were… fighting, actually.”
“I see,” he says, arching an eyebrow at them suspiciously. “I trust you’ll get your differences worked out in time to impress me अगला week.”
“I haven’t told any of the others this, but there will be some visitors here अगला week that will be looking to be impressed as well,” he says cryptically. “Carry on.” He sweeps from the studio before they have a chance to ask any further questions.
“Let’s take a break,” Arthur suggests, walking over to the तालिका, टेबल to retrieve his water.
“From what, exactly? We haven’t gotten anywhere.”
He stops midway and looks at her. “What is with you, anyway?”
“Me?” she raises her eyebrows at him in surprise. I’m not the one with the attitude problem, she thinks, sitting down on the floor with her back against the mirror.
“Yes, you. We’ve been in this same group for three years now and you’ve barely कहा a word the entire time to anyone except Mr. Gaius and occasionally Morgana. And now we’re stuck together in this ‘challenge’ thing, and आप only speak to criticize या complain,” he says, picking up his bottle. He pauses, then grabs hers as well and brings it over, handing it to her before plunking down beside her on the floor.
“Thank you,” she says, taking the bottle, pondering it a moment. “And I’m sorry.” She takes a drink, then looks down at her lap.
“Me too. I’m not really angry at you,” he admits. He finds it bothers him, seeing her deflate like this. At least when we were fighting she was interesting.
“So what am I really angry at?” he challenges, raising an eyebrow at her.
“In a nutshell, you’re angry because आप hate this assignment and everything about it. आप hate that आप don’t have any control over what to do. आप hate the Rumba, because it’s your weakest dance. आप hate that आप got me as a partner. And the very fact alone that आप hate all these things makes आप angry as well.”
“Ouch,” Arthur says, frowning.
“I didn’t expect आप to be… to be right about everything. Well, almost everything.”
“What part was I wrong about?”
“Getting आप as a partner. I don’t hate that,” he admits, quickly taking a drink of his water again, looking away.
“Thank you. I don’t hate having आप as a partner, either, honestly.”
“Well, I wasn’t thrilled when I saw your name, but I’m getting over it,” she smiles.
She’s actually not bad once आप get to know her. “So what’s your deal, then?”
“Yes. How come आप never talk?”
“I’m talking now, aren’t I?”
“Guinevere, आप know what I mean.”
There he goes again with that ‘Guinevere’ stuff, she thinks, telling herself that she doesn’t like it.
“I’m shy,” she says simply.
“Shy? But… you’re a dancer…”
“I know. Dumb, right?”
“My mum signed me up when I was a kid. She thought it would help bring me out of my shell.”
“Did it help?”
“A little,” she looks down and picks at the label of her water bottle. “I still can’t talk to people.”
“I’m a people. A person,” he says, and she chuckles.
“One on one I’m sort of okay. Once I get comfortable. But in a group, well, आप know.” She still doesn’t look at him. He can sense she is still uneasy. I wonder if landing on me unsettled her, too?
“Yes. But,” he hesitates, unsure if he should say it. “I’ve seen आप dance. In front of people. आप seem fine. You’re… very good, actually.”
“I pretend that I’m alone. It’s easier when the audience is all people I don’t know, too. They don’t know me, I don’t know them; I’ll never see any of them again.”
That sounds very lonely, he thinks, but says nothing. He takes another drink of his water, peeking at her as he does so, watching her fidget with the hem of the flannel कमीज, शर्ट she has on over her leotard.
“All right, enough break,” he stands, and holds his hand down for her. “Let’s try to get something accomplished before Big G comes back in to yell at us some more.”
Another घंटा and a half later, they’ve made decent progress. Gwen is getting और comfortable with Arthur, and now that they understand one another, the bickering has slowed. They even laugh a few times.
“Goodness, is it that late already?” Gwen says, looking at the clock. It is past ten p.m. “We must be the only ones still here.”
“Probably,” Arthur says, stretching his arms up over his head with a groan, which is immediately followed द्वारा a yawn.
“Well, that settles it, then: we’re done for tonight.”
“Yeah,” he agrees, picking up his now-empty bottle as Guinevere puts her flannel back on over her leotard.
Pity, Arthur finds himself thinking as she covers herself in the shapeless garment. Where did that come from? He quickly turns and strides to the door, holding it open for her before switching the lights out and following her out into the main studio area.
“About time,” Mr. Gaius’ voice drifts out of nowhere. Gwen jumps in surprise and bumps into Arthur, who instinctively grabs her.
“We thought everyone was gone,” Arthur says, chuckling. He sees Mr. Gaius sitting behind a desk, a small lamp the only illumination.
“I practically live here. Go home, आप two,” he says with a smile. He was secretly pleased that Gwen had drawn Arthur’s name. Out of all the dancers there, they have the greatest potential, and he can already see the chemistry building between them. He’ll draw her out, she’ll pull him back. Balance.
“See आप tomorrow,” Gwen says, pulling her पर्स and flip flops from her locker while Arthur changes his shoes as well.
“You don’t have to wait for me,” she says, noticing Arthur is standing nearby.
“It’s late, I’ll walk आप out.”
Really? “Okay.” She grabs her जैकेट and they head out.
“Where’s your car?”
“At my flat. I walked.”
He stops. “You are not walking home, alone, this late. I’ll drop आप off.”
“That’s really not necessary, Arthur, I’ll be fine.”
“Guinevere, it’s 10:30, it’s pitch black, and it’s cold out. And आप are wearing flip flops, what on earth is wrong with you?”
“The cold feels good on my feet. आप try wearing three-inch heels sometime, hot shot.”
“Come on,” he grabs her hand and pulls her towards his car.
“Wonderful Tonight,” Gwen suggests.
“Meh. Um… Open Arms,” Arthur counters. They agreed to arrive early अगला दिन to peruse Mr. Gaius’ CD collection to find some music.
“I am so over Journey. Someone Like You.”
“Van Morrison या Adele?”
“Arthur, can one Rumba to वैन, वान Morrison’s Someone Like You?”
“Point taken. I am so over Adele,” he rolls his eyes.
“Fine. What have आप got?”
“Um, Unchained Melody?”
“Cliché. Endless Love.”
“I can never hear that song without thinking of the movie Happy Gilmore.”
“Haven’t seen it,” she says, flipping through और discs.
“You should. Hilarious. Ah. Never Tear Us Apart.”
“Great tune…” he sells it, waving the disc at her.
“Maybe. Keep it out. My दिल Will Go On?”
“I’m going to pretend आप didn’t just suggest that. Hero.”
“Enrique या Mariah?”
“Oo, first name basis, are we? Enrique, naturally.”
Naturally. ‘Let me be your hero, baby.’ Typical of him.
“Eh,” she makes a face. “She Will Be Loved.”
“No,” he repeats, sticking his tongue out. “Let’s Get It On.”
“The song. Let’s Get It On. Marvin Gaye.”
“I’m going to pretend आप didn’t just suggest that,” she laughs, repeating his words back at him.
“Aha. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” she holds the disc up and looks at it.
She shows him the CD. “Roberta Flack, 1972? Great tune. It’s perfect. Perfect for the Rumba. It’s romantic, sexy, emotional, it has everything.” She sets it aside, noting that he doesn’t look convinced.
“Every Breath आप Take,” he suggests.
“Oo, प्यार Sting, but that’s a trifle fast, I think. She’s Got a Way.”
“Possible. A little one-sided though, isn’t it?”
“What, and Hero isn’t? Fine.” She puts it back, looks at her watch, and sighs. “Okay, grab INXS, I’ll bring Roberta. Let’s go into the other studio and listen.”
She stands and leads the way to the studio they were in the पूर्व night, and walks to the stereo.
“See, it could totally work,” Arthur says as they listen to his selection.
“It’s a little fast,” she says. Her eyes are closed as she listens, and Arthur finds his eyes continually drawn to her. He peels them away again to pay attention to the song.
“Maybe.” He tries closing his own eyes, the way she is, to really listen. I can see us dancing to this song; spinning, floating, my hands on her body as I hold her, lift her, dip her. She clings to me, then sweeps away, before returning to my embrace…
The song ends. “Arthur, are आप awake?”
“Hmm? Yes. I think we should dance to that one,” he croaks, blinking a few times to shake the surprisingly stirring तस्वीरें from his brain. He clears his throat and quickly raises his water bottle to his lips.
“Well, let’s be fair, आप have to listen to my choice as well.” She changes the disc and the song begins.
“There’s nothing to this song,” Arthur complains just after it begins. There’s hardly any accompaniment, and what’s there is so soft I can barely hear it.
“Shut up and listen. Listen to the words,” she says, sitting beside him now. She closes her eyes again.
His eyes drift to her face again, and this time he lets them linger. She really is lovely. Different. Not classically beautiful like Vivian या even Morgana. Yet… there’s a quality there. There is something और to her, deeper. His eyes drift down. She has amazing lips. He realizes his hand is lifting, fingers itching to touch those lush lips of hers, and he quickly withdraws it. Then those lips part slightly and she takes a deep breath followed द्वारा a long sigh.
He shuts his eyes quickly then, and listens obediently. Not a bad song, actually. Sensual. Longing. Plaintive. The तस्वीरें of them dancing return to his brain. She drifts into my arms and I hold her like I never want to let go. Yet I turn away, and she follows, beckoning me back. Her hands caress my face, my neck, run down my chest before she twirls away, skimming along the floor gracefully, only this time I give chase, pulling her back. She winds a leg around mine and suddenly my lips are brushing softly against hers, her hands are in my hair, and we sink down, down as I claim her lips with mine, willing them apart as my hands mold to her curves, her body writhing beneath me…
Something warm and soft touches his hand, and Arthur’s eyes fly open. He looks down to see her small hand searching for his, fingers twining with his once found. Only then does he realize how rapid his breathing has become.
Mother of God.
The song ends and Arthur is silent, confused द्वारा his own emotions.
“Well?” she asks softly, releasing his hand, embarrassed, as if she didn’t realize she had taken it.
What the heck can I say? That the song made me want to rip your clothes off? “It’s good. Really good. A little…”
“I don’t know. Girly?”
She exhales sharply, frustrated with him. She scowls, thinking. “Wait.” Suddenly her face brightens, and she picks up her mobile, searching for something.
“What are आप doing?” he asks, leaning over to look.
“Looking for something my brother sent a few weeks ago.”
“Bugger.” She gives up looking and dials instead.
“Hey, El. No, nothing’s wrong, I need a favor. A small one.”
“You remember that MP3 आप sent me a while back? The one आप thought I’d hate?”
“Yes. Can आप send it again?”
“Yes, now. Please.”
She hangs up the phone and waits.
“Does your brother regularly send आप MP3s?” Arthur asks.
“Yeah, he works in the recording industry. He wants to हटाइए to LA and become a record producer.”
Arthur raises his eyebrows. “Good luck with that.”
“I know, right?” Her phone buzzes. “Aha. Thank you, Elyan.”
“What did he send?” Arthur leans in again.
Wow, he smells really good. Wait, shut up. “You कहा the song was too girly. Well, how about this version?” She pokes the phone and the song starts again, this time द्वारा a different artist.
“Is that…?” Arthur asks.
“Johnny Cash. Can’t get much manlier than him, Arthur.”
They listen again, and this time Arthur decides to keep his eyes open. Gwen shuts hers again.
It’s so sad, this version. The longing laid bare in his ragged old voice. I can completely see us dancing to this version, she thinks. We sway together, his arms, his strong arms holding my hips as I lean back, extending before he draws me back in, lifting me. I land and spin around him, my arms on his shoulders, clinging, dragging my feet on the floor as he runs आगे before turning toward me again, my leg kicks high and he catches it, sliding along its length, wrapping it around his waist before spinning me away. I glide back into his embrace, and his hands cup my face, his blue eyes looking deeply into mine before he drops his head, चुंबन me. I melt into his arms as he leans into me, my arms sliding up around his neck, fingers in his hair as we fall to the floor – no, the bed, soft and inviting, his hands skimming to touch…
Gwen’s eyes open wide, just before the song ends. Her cheeks are warm and she knows she’s blushing. Luckily Arthur isn’t looking at her, so she quickly grabs her water, drinks some and then pours just a little into her hands, which she then pats on her neck and cheeks. Where did those thoughts come from?
“Yes,” Arthur says quietly. “We should do this song. This version.”
Gwen takes a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. “Good,” she says simply.
“It’s so… raw,” he says, still shaken द्वारा his own thoughts.
“Not working yet?” Mr. Gaius says, striding into the room.
“Ah, but we are, G. We’ve just chosen our song,” Arthur says, standing. He automatically lowers his hand for Gwen, and she takes it and stands.
“Very good,” he says.
“Hard part’s over,” Gwen says.
“Yes, now all आप have to do is everything else,” Mr. Gaius laughs. “But I know I don’t have to worry about आप two. Merlin and Morgana, however…”
“That’s an interesting pairing if ever there was. Is she trying to convince him that she should lead and he should wear the dress?” Arthur asks.
“No, though it wouldn’t surprise me,” he laughs again. “All right, enough chit-chat. Get to work.”
“Slave driver,” Gwen says.
“I heard that,” Mr. Gaius calls back, and Gwen laughs.
“Cheeky, Guinevere!” Arthur says.
She blushes and slaps her hands over her mouth.
Arthur laughs. “I meant that as a compliment. You’re far too serious.”
“Ah, actually dancing, what a novel idea,” Mr. Gaius says, walking into the studio to find Guinevere in Arthur’s arms in the middle of the floor. The two dancers separate, grinning sheepishly.
“Thought we’d give it a whirl,” Arthur says.
“Let me see what you’ve got,” Mr. Gaius says, leaning on his cane.
Gwen picks up the remote for the stereo and switches on the music.
“Nice choice,” their instructor comments.
He watches. Flawless technique, of course. Arthur is stiff, as I expected, but he’s trying. She’s being very patient with him, however, and it’s holding her back. She’s even और reserved than she usually is.
Three-quarters of the way through, they stop dancing. “That’s as far as we’ve gotten,” Gwen says, turning the song off once again.
“Good start. Your technique is perfect, as I expected,” he says, fixing them in his squinty stare, and they know what’s coming.
“But?” Arthur supplies.
“But, it’s lacking something. It’s lacking feeling. Longing…”
“Romance,” Gwen adds quietly.
“Exactly.” He points with his cane.
“The audience needs to feel it. If they’re not breathing heavily and pulling at their collars द्वारा the time आप finish, आप haven’t done your job. आप need to make love to her, Arthur. On the dance floor. With your clothes on.”
“Um… okay,” Arthur says slowly. I know that. I do. But it scares me, and I can’t admit that. Not to him; not to Guinevere.
“Less perfection, और porn,” he announces, waving his free hand in the air as he turns to leave the room.
“Well, then,” Arthur says, looking at his shoes.
“Um… shall we try again?”
“Yes.” She switches the संगीत on, and they begin again.
There’s not much improvement. Gwen drops Arthur’s hands and spins away in frustration.
“Honestly, Arthur, if that’s how आप make love, it’s no wonder you’re still single!”
“Hey, I’ll have आप know I’ve never had any complaints about my skills in the bedroom!” Well, okay, there was that one time…
“It’s not your skills that I’m questioning, Arthur; it’s the emotions driving them!”
“Well, आप know I only have two, आप कहा so yourself!” he shoots back, turning away.
She raises an eyebrow at him. “Arthur,” she says, no longer shouting. “You have to think romance, not a quick hard shag followed द्वारा आप sneaking out of her flat before she wakes.”
Arthur’s mouth opens to retort, then closes sharply. That was a little too close to home. He walks away to wipe his forehead with a towel and take a drink of water.
“What are आप afraid of, Arthur?” she asks, her voice barely audible.
He doesn’t answer, and she walks over to him, placing her hand on his shoulder. He shrugs it away. She is far too smart.
“Arthur,” she repeats, stepping closer again.
“I’m not afraid of anything,” he says, and she touches his elbow, gently.
“Maybe that’s your problem. Maybe आप should be a little और afraid.”
He turns and looks at her.
“And maybe I should be a little less afraid,” she admits, looking down.
He lifts his hand to her chin, raising her face to look at him. Succumbing to temptation, he strokes her lower lip gently with his thumb, bringing forth a small gasp from her.
Arthur rushes into the studio, irritated द्वारा a traffic accident that was in his way en route.
“You’re late,” Mr. Gaius warns over the tops of his पढ़ना glasses.
“I know, she’s going to kill me,” he says as he hurries past.
He reaches the door to what he now things of as their studio, and can hear the संगीत playing on the other side. She started without me?
He quietly pushes the door open and steps in.
She is indeed dancing without him. And she looks amazing. Not wanting to disturb her, Arthur closes the door soundlessly and walks slowly forward, transfixed. He watches the long, lean lines of her body, graceful limbs strong and muscular yet undeniably feminine.
She is beautiful. These are the तस्वीरें that have been haunting my dreams every night. His mouth goes dry.
He comes closer, hardly daring to breathe, watching her twirl and sweep, graceful as a swan, effortless, entrancing, vulnerable.
Dear God, I want her. So badly. But… it’s और than that. I want to hold her, protect her, love her as well as make प्यार to her.
He is almost upon her, and she spins around, right into his arms. She jumps slightly, and he joins the dance.
“Don’t stop,” he mutters, gazing down at her. Did her knees just give way a little?
They continue, incorporating the things they’ve already worked out with some new moves, and Arthur finds he’s not paying as much attention to the steps and the motions as he is to Guinevere and the music.
Who is this Arthur? Gwen wonders, swept away with him as he leads her effortlessly, seductively, pulling her gently with him, keeping her from retreating back inside her protective shell.
The song ends with Arthur and Gwen on their knees on the floor, locked in an embrace, Arthur’s hands framing her face as she looks up at him, her hands on his chest.
That’s it. I’ve died, Gwen thinks as his eyes bore into hers with a passion that he didn’t know he had. She can read the desire on his face and it frightens her. But I can’t… no, I don’t want to back away.
“Guinevere,” he whispers, just before dropping his head, touching his lips to hers once, softly, almost caressing her lips with his own.
When her fingers curl into his shirt, gripping the material there, he descends again, hungrier, longer, but still gentle, as if she were a rabbit that he doesn’t want to frighten away.
Mr. Gaius quietly closes the door behind him, smiling as he walks to the अगला studio.
“Guinevere, relax,” Arthur says, holding her shoulders gently. She just slipped, again, and almost stepped on Arthur’s foot. Again.
“It’s tomorrow, I can’t,” she says, sitting down on the floor, the practice स्कर्ट she’s wearing pooling around her. “I think I’m coming down with something. I won’t be able to dance tomorrow because I’ll be घर throwing up.” She holds her stomach; raises her hand to her forehead to check her temperature.
Arthur sits beside her and puts his arm around her shoulders, pulling her over to lean against him. “No, आप won’t. You’ll be here, with me, dancing your little दिल out, and we’ll impress the socks off of the class and whatever mystery guests G will be dangling in front of us,” he says, चुंबन the चोटी, शीर्ष of her head.
“No, I am completely going to vomit, humiliating myself, and no one will ever want to see me dance again and I’ll be forced to go… go work at the Post Office या wherever it is that weirdo hermit-types generally work.” She picks at her skirt, close to tears.
“What happened to pretending आप are alone?”
“This is different. This is for the rest of the group. Our friends. Well, और your फ्रेंड्स than mine…”
“How is that different?”
“Because I know them and they kind of know me.”
“Why is that a bad thing?”
“Because… because if I do poorly I could never look them in the eye again. If I do well they’ll think I’m just some stuck-up कुतिया, मतलबी who thinks she’s too good to talk to them.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“Thank you, very supportive.”
“What I mean is that’s not going to happen. Guinevere, before last week, I didn’t really know you. But I never thought anything awful about you. I thought आप were a little odd, yes, but that was based largely on the fact that आप were so quiet. All I knew was that आप were an excellent dancer. Let them get to know you. Let this be the start of that.”
Gwen chews at her lip, brows furrowed. “I don’t know if I can,” she finally says.
“I’ll help you.”
She considers it a moment. He thinks he’s gotten through, but then she crumples again, leaning forward, burying her face in her skirt, curling herself into a little ball.
“I may as well find myself a nice cave in the woods somewhere and start talking to squirrels.”
She’s लॉस्ट it now. He takes her द्वारा the shoulders, sitting her back up. “What are आप so worried about, really?”
“That… that they’ll laugh at me. या worse, think me foolish,” she whispers.
Arthur scoots around in front of her and pulls her into his arms. “Shh, I won’t let that happen,” he says softly.
“And how exactly are आप going to accomplish that?” she asks into his shoulder.
“I’ll be right there with you. आप can… borrow some of my confidence. I’ve got plenty to spare, आप know,” he tries joking, trying to get her to smile again. “They’ll प्यार you, Guinevere, all of them. आप have nothing to worry about,” he adds, looking down at her and gently resting his hand on her cheek. He looks down into her soft brown eyes and strokes her cheek gently.
“Stop, Arthur,” she says, pulling away from him. He is too sweet, too warm, too irresistible.
“Stop what?” he asks. “I was trying to help, आप know.”
“Stop talking to me like that; touching me like that.”
“Like what?” he asks, also getting upset now.
“Like… like आप प्यार me.” She scoots away and looks at her hands in her lap.
“And stop saying my name like that! Do आप know what it does to my insides when आप do that?” A tear escapes and rolls down her cheek.
“But don’t आप see that I do प्यार you?” he says, moving closer to her again.
“No, आप don’t,” she says. “You just think आप do.”
“I know I do.”
“No. It’s this dance. You’ve gotten so embroiled in pretending that आप प्यार me that you’ve convinced yourself that आप actually do.”
“Don’t presume to tell me how I feel, Gwen.”
“Well, that’s what this is.” I wish it wasn’t.
“I beg to differ,” he says, scooting closer still. He reaches up and wipes the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. She stares at him, lips parted, the heat from his hands scorching her skin.
“Does this,” he caresses her face with his palm, and her head turns into it unconsciously, “feel like make-believe? Does this,” he leans आगे and places a lingering किस on her lips, causing her eyes to flutter closed and her insides to melt like butter, “feel pretend?”
“No,” she admits, breathing the word against his lips, hovering so close. “But…”
“No buts,” he says and kisses her again, and this time his tongue slides आगे to tease at her lips, asking for entrance.
Guinevere almost succumbs, then pulls away suddenly, breathing heavily, cheeks flushed.
“You don’t even know me,” she says. Why are आप still arguing with him? She bites her lower lip anxiously.
“Oh, but I do, Guinevere,” he says, his voice low and seductive, and she knows he कहा her name like that on purpose.
“I know that your प्रिय color is lavender. I know that आप always smell like vanilla. I know that for some reason आप hide behind your shyness, not letting people see how wonderful आप really are. I know that when आप are confused, your face gets all pouty and scrunchy in a way that makes आप look like आप are four years old, and it’s adorable. I know आप wish आप were taller. आप like elephants. Your skin feels like satin under my hands. आप have the most beautiful lips I have ever seen, and they feel as good as they look. You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met. आप wear that ghastly flannel कमीज, शर्ट because it belonged to your father. आप see right through all my bullshit and call me out on it. And,” he says, pulling her into his arms again, “you don’t want to admit it, but आप प्यार me, too.”
He kisses her again, no longer polite and tender, but passionate and hungry, tongue demanding entrance. She whimpers softly in the back of her throat and parts her lips for him, allowing him in, meeting his tongue with her own, चुंबन him back, her need matching his.
“I’ve been keeping a secret from you, children,” Mr. Gaius announces on the evening of the challenge.
“You’re only 35 years old?” Morgana calls out.
“You’re really a woman?” Gwaine guesses. Leon shoves him.
“Tonight’s losers get to stone the winners?” Vivian tries. “That’s pretty dark, Viv,” Gwaine says, laughing.
“All right, all right, settle down. We will be dancing not only for each other this evening, but also for some special guests,” he looks back at Arthur and Gwen, who are sitting cozily in Arthur’s usual windowsill, and Arthur nods just slightly. We won’t say a word.
“Guests? What kind of guests?” Elana asks. She looks nervous.
“Professional ballroom dancing judges.”
There is a collective gasp from the group. Gwen looks at Arthur, her eyes wide, and he wraps his arm around her reassuringly. “Don’t worry,” he whispers into her ear.
“Yes, yes, I am evil and unfair. But if I had told आप any sooner आप would have all completely लॉस्ट it. So. There’s nothing आप can do now except go and get your attractive backsides dressed so we can start. आप have two hours.”
The dressing rooms are a flurry of activity. Well, the ladies’ dressing room is a flurry of activity. The men have not yet started to dress.
Gwen pulls the dress she is intending to wear from the rack and holds it up.
“Oh, you’re not wearing that,” Morgana swoops in and plucks it from her hand and hangs it back up decisively.
“What? Hey!” Gwen says, turning.
“Darling, I don’t know what spell you’ve cast over my brother, but whatever it is, it’s a good one. Therefore, आप need to wear something that is going to not only impress those blasted judges, but also bring Arthur to his knees,” she says, taking Gwen’s hand and pulling her to a different rack.
She flips through the dresses, the hangers making a metallic scrape as she slides them along the pole. “What is Arthur wearing? Wait, let me guess: White shirt, and… black trousers?”
“Grey,” Gwen says, giggling. Arthur is notorious for his white shirts. He does look incredibly sexy in them, she admits to herself. But then he’d look sexy wearing a potato sack.
“Aha, here we are,” Morgana pulls out a revealing dress consisting of a lavender leotard with an open back and asymmetrical neckline with only one strap, and a flowing white स्कर्ट with multiple slits to reveal as much leg as possible.
Gwen stares at it. It is gorgeous and sexy, but can I pull it off? Am I ब्रेव enough?
“Put it on, Gwen, then decide,” Morgana thrusts it at her and pushes her towards a cubicle, swinging the curtain closed.
A few मिनटों later Guinevere’s head pokes out from around the curtain, hiding behind it.
“Gwen…” Morgana cajoles, “I’m not coming in there. आप have to come out.”
Shyly she steps forward, arms crossed in front of her, holding her stomach.
“Put your arms down, girl.”
She does, and Morgana smiles broadly. “You look fabulous, Gwen. Did आप see yourself in there?” She points to the mirror inside the cubicle. “Did you?”
Gwen nods, and notices Vivian, Sophia and Elana stealing glances at her. She smiles weakly at them.
“You look really good, Gwen,” Elana says, stepping over. “Really, आप do. आप have such a cute figure, and आप never दिखाना it.”
“Thank you,” she says, taking a deep breath, her confidence growing.
“Really. I would kill for tits like yours, I really would,” Morgana says, grinning. Gwen laughs at this, louder than any of them expected, and she claps her hand over her mouth.
Outside, Arthur’s head snaps up. Was that Guinevere?
“What, um…” Gwen starts to ask.
“Yes?” Morgana says, trying to draw her out.
“What are आप wearing for your dance?”
Morgana smiles, and pulls her over to where her dress is hanging. She holds it aloft. It is all black and all फीता and it looks like it will fit her like skin.
“Wow,” Gwen says. “You are going to look… dangerous in that.”
Morgana holds up a pair of patent leather spike heeled boots and grins. “I know.” She sets the boots down. “Now, about your hair…”
Gwen peeks out of the dressing area. She’s supposed to go out and watch. They are dancing in the same order drawn, so that means she and Arthur are third. She scans the room, looking for Arthur. She sees him off to the side, laughing with Merlin. He looks incredible. Flowing white कमीज, शर्ट with a deep v-neck, hair artfully tousled, snug light grey trousers outlining his… form quite pleasingly. She keeps her eyes pinned on him until finally Merlin spots her and pokes him, pointing.
He saunters over, walking casually, as if he had no idea how to properly be nervous.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, seeing her worried face.
She steps out from behind the door and his jaw drops. “Guinevere, you… आप look…” I’ve run out of adjectives again.
“I hope it’s a good word you’re searching for,” she says.
He blinks a few times. “Are आप even aware of how unbelievably beautiful आप are?” His eyes drop to her lips, wanting nothing और than to किस them, but he knows that before a performance is not the time to be चुंबन the carefully-applied shimmering lip gloss from those lush lips.
The look on her blushing face tells him that she isn’t, and he chuckles and pulls her to him, wrapping his arms around her. “I’m not sure I want everyone else to see you, though. I’m feeling greedy.”
“Your sister picked this out, आप know. And,” she leans back to look at him, “I actually tried talking to them. Well, not Vivian. She was too busy giving me dirty looks.”
He hugs her again, pleased at her efforts. “I like your hair that way,” he says, leading her to the chairs lined up on one side of the dance floor, his hand resting on her lower back.
“Morgana did that, too,” she says. Her hair is in loose, soft waves, nothing fancy, but different than the braid या chignon she usually wears.
She walks past Gwaine and he almost drops his water bottle. Arthur snickers. They sit beside Merlin, who is dressed all in black to match his partner, save a red necktie. He actually looks quite dashing, his pale skin and unique angular features highlighted द्वारा all the black, and his hair is slicked back away from his face rather than in its normal tousled style.
“You look nice, Merlin,” she says, leaning आगे to speak to him across Arthur.
“You look beautiful, Gwen,” he smiles at her.
“Thank you,” she says, then leans back.
Morgana makes her entrance, looking like a dominatrix on a mission as she strides across the floor. Her hair is pulled back into a twist adorned with black roses.
“Where do आप find black roses?” Arthur says.
“They’re silk, Cabbage Head.”
Morgana sits beside Merlin, taking his hand in hers and pulling it into her lap to hold. She leans forward.
Gwen leans आगे and looks at Morgana.
“Well?” Morgana asks.
Guinevere grins and blushes again.
“Excellent.” Both ladies sit back as the rest of the group sits and Mr. Gaius enters with the judges.
“Everyone set? Everyone here?” Mr. Gaius surveys his children, and counts ten heads. “Very well. I will introduce our guests before we begin.”
He turns. “This is Anne Carlin, from New York. अगला is Cedric Fyrien from Los Angeles. Third is our local boy, Terence Helios.”
The dancers applaud and the three judges sit.
“First up, we have Lancelot and Elana and their Cha-cha,” Mr. Gaius announces, and the lights dim.
Their dance is good, but not great. “They fought a lot,” Arthur whispers to Gwen. “He kept yelling at her in Spanish, I guess.”
Gwen stifles a giggle. She watches as they twirl and glide gracefully, but the beauty of the dance and the joy of the song is not reflected in their faces. Technically good; not great, and emotionally lacking.
They finish and bow for their applause, and the best thing Arthur can think to say is, “At least no one fell,” which he again whispers to Gwen.
Merlin and Morgana stand to step backstage for a few moments before their dance. Lancelot and Elana come out and sit. Apart from each other.
Mr. Gaius peeks backstage, then comes back out. “Our अगला couple is Merlin and Morgana, dancing the Tango.”
“God help them,” Arthur mutters, and Gwen smacks him lightly.
The song begins. They have chosen to go traditional, old-school Tango danced to beautiful minor-key accordion music.
“Oh my God,” Arthur whispers. Merlin is not Merlin; Morgana is not Morgana. Merlin is commanding, proud, making demands with which Morgana complies. They have both transformed their personae so completely to match the needs of the dance.
I have never seen Merlin like this. He’s a badass. Hell, I’ve never seen Morgana like this. Submissive. What on earth must have been going on during those rehearsals?
Merlin slides Morgana on the floor, spinning her as she clings to him. He dashes her away, movements sharp, precise, almost cruel.
Wow, Gwen thinks.
The song ends with Merlin standing arrogantly and Morgana on the floor, hanging on to his leg, as if she is begging him not to leave.
The room erupts with applause. Arthur stands and whistles for his best friend and his sister.
Arthur and Gwen पार करना, क्रॉस to go backstage in preparation. They see Merlin and Morgana when they go back.
“Wow, that was amazing,” Gwen says to them.
“Yeah, who are आप and what have आप done with the real Merlin and Morgana?” Arthur asks, raising an eyebrow at them.
“Thanks, Arthur, break a leg,” Merlin says, laughing. He starts to walk out, following Morgana.
Arthur grabs his friend’s elbow. “Are आप shagging my sister?” he asks quietly.
Merlin turns and looks at him. “You shagging Gwen?” he counters.
“Not yet,” Arthur winks and releases him.
Gwen is fidgeting with her skirt. Arthur takes her hands in his and kisses them both.
“It’s just the two of us out there. No one else is in the room, Guinevere. Only us,” he says, looking down at her lovely face.
She closes her eyes.
Mr. Gaius peeks in. “Ready?”
Gwen opens her eyes. “Yes.”
They go out to the floor, and take their places. They’ve decided to start the dance apart from one another, Gwen in the center alone, Arthur off to one side.
We should start the dance that way, Arthur had कहा once they remembered where they were and what they were supposed to be doing that day. You start alone, and I come up on आप and शामिल होइए you. It’ll be very… effective. It was tonight.
The song begins, and Gwen raises one arm languidly over her head, then back down, followed द्वारा a graceful spin. She takes a few steps, and as she wraps her arms around herself, evoking the loneliness she is supposed to be conveying, Arthur reaches her just as the vocals start.
They continue, both only aware of each other, लॉस्ट in each other, dancing almost thoughtlessly they know their steps so well. He lifts her effortlessly, high off her feet, then brings her back down, close, their bodies touching as she slides down his front until they are face to face, foreheads touching. She twirls away and he gives chase, reaching her fingers with his, the smallest touch beckoning her back, back into his arms, where he places his hand on the side of her neck and bends her backward and around in a circular motion until her face is once again tantalizingly close. She lifts her hands to his face and places them on either side, caressing briefly, down to his shoulders and along his arms, pulling back again. He takes one hand and spins her several times before draping her back across his bent leg.
“Look at them,” Merlin whispers to Morgana. “I feel like a voyeur.”
“I know, it’s deliciously naughty, isn’t it, my pet?” she whispers back.
“Ugh, that’s your brother,” he whispers, and she chuckles.
“I प्यार getting a rise out of you,” she breathes close in his ear, her tongue flicking out briefly against his earlobe, and he shivers.
The dance finishes as rehearsed, Arthur and Guinevere kneeling together in the center, his hands on either side of her face, gazing lovingly down at her.
“Oh God, I really want to किस you,” Arthur mutters, not moving his lips.
“Don’t आप dare,” Gwen replies.
Then they notice the silence. They break their pose and stand beside each other. Arthur gently takes Gwen’s hand.
Finally the room erupts. All their fellow dancers stand, clapping and cheering. Even the judges are standing. They look over at Mr. Gaius and he is beaming proudly at his तारा, स्टार pupils.
They make their bows and head backstage.
“I think they were stunned,” Arthur says.
“Freaked me the hell out,” Gwen says, hopping around, burning off nervous energy.
“Stop jumping!” Arthur laughs, and grabs her, hugging her tightly.
Gwaine and Vivian come backstage.
“Great, thanks, now we have to follow that!” Gwaine complains, smacking Arthur lightly on the back of his head as he passes.
Vivian stomps past Gwen, pointedly not looking at her.
I wonder if she realizes that I am completely fine with her ignoring me? Gwen wonders.
Gwen and Arthur turn to leave the backstage area to rejoin the audience just as Mr. Gaius looks in on Gwaine and Vivian.
“Yep, just as soon as this chubby I got from watching those two settles down,” they hear Gwaine say as they exit. Arthur laughs.
“Was he serious?”
“Could be. Who knows with him?”
Their Samba is actually very good. It is one of Gwaine’s strongest dances, him being the showman he is. And Vivian is always happy to shake what the Lord gave her, so their Samba is greeted with riotous applause. It was gleeful and sexy, saucy and naughty, everything a Samba should be.
“Finally, Leon and Sophia and the Waltz.”
Gwen has been looking आगे to this one. Leon is tall, slender, and quite graceful, which is unusual for one so tall. Sophia is newer to the studio, so Gwen is quite interested to see how she does.
It is a beautiful Waltz, smooth and flowing, they seem to float around the floor. Perfect frame; perfect technique.
Then Sophia’s heel gets caught in her स्कर्ट and she stumbles. Leon holds tight, and she doesn’t fall but she turns bright red.
“Oh no,” Gwen whispers, squeezing Arthur’s hand.
They recover as gracefully as they can, but the stumble rattles Sophia. Gwen can see Leon squeeze her hand; giving what little emotional support he can during this dance.
They finish and are met with enthusiastic applause, and Leon gives Sophia a large hug, picking her up as he does so. Gwen can see him whispering in her ear, presumably reassuring her.
He sets her down and asks her, “Are आप okay?” She nods, and they head to their seats rather than backstage, where he puts his arm around her shoulders.
A crass sound rouses Gwen from her sleep. Who the hell is calling me at this hour? she thinks, groping for her mobile. It can’t be any later than… she looks at the clock. Oh. Nine a.m. She sits up slightly, hugging the plush duvet around her chest.
“Hello?” she says, trying not to sound like she just woke up.
“Who’s calling you?” a groggy voice complains beside her.
“Yes, this is she. Oh, hello!”
Arthur sits up, rubbing his eyes, looking at Gwen quizzically. “Who is it?” he whispers. She waves a hand at him. Shut up.
“Yes, Miss Carlin, thank you.”
“Anne Carlin?” Arthur mouths the words.
“Well, yes, of course. No, I didn’t have any regular partner before, but I am quite content keeping Arthur as a partner, yes.”
Arthur grins at this and scoots closer to her warm naked body, cuddling up against her.
“Of course. Well, um, I think I’m interested, but I can’t speak for him.”
She feels Arthur nod vigorously against her ribcage.
“Um, well, he’s actually right here. Would आप like to save yourself a सेकंड phone call?”
She hands the phone to Arthur, smiling. He kisses her hand and takes her phone, sitting up.
“Hello,” he says.
“Yes, Miss Carlin, of course.”
“As long as I’m guaranteed that Guinevere will be my partner, yes.”
“Thank आप very much.”
“Great. Two weeks from today?”
“That work for you?” he asks Gwen. “To get the process started?”
She nods. “Yes, that’s fine. Great, I’ll look for them.”
“Thanks very much again. Have a good day.”
He hangs up and leans over Guinevere, चुंबन her thoroughly before pulling back a little, looking into her sleepy brown eyes. He grins at her, saying, “We’re going to New York.”