“Your brother is a knight.”
Five simple words. Five words that Guinevere has heard several times, but never from Arthur’s lips.
“Yes, Arthur, आप knighted him. I was there.”
“Guinevere, listen. Think. Your brother is a knight.”
“Arthur,” Gwen sighs, placing her hand on his cheek in that way that she has, “I’ve had a long day. Your father was particularly trying today, and while I appreciate your playful guessing game, I’m really—”
Arthur silences his lips with his own; a soft, tender kiss. An apology. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t intending to make your दिन और trying than it already was. आप know how much your care of my father means to me,” he says softly, idly winding a dark mahogany curl around his finger.
“So why were आप going on about Elyan, then?” she asks, smiling up at him.
“Well, Merlin mentioned it, actually. Then we looked into it. Even talked to Geoffrey. Your brother’s station automatically elevates yours, Guinevere. If he’s a knight, that makes आप a Lady.” He smiles down at her, his blue-grey eyes twinkling at her.
“Titles don’t mean anything to me, Arthur,” Gwen says, looking down.
He lifts her chin with his fingers. “Guinevere,” he says, his voice ever a caress when he speaks her name. “If आप are a Lady, this means I can properly – and publicly – court you. And no one, not even my father, can say a word against it.”
She gasps, the realization of his words hitting her square. She’s always kept her feelings carefully in check, hoping but never hopeful, always preparing herself for the ultimate disappointment: a political marriage for Arthur that he won’t be able to worm his way out of.
“Say something,” he whispers, bringing her out of her secret thoughts.
“Something besides ‘what if.’ या ‘but.’ Anything except those two things,” Arthur interrupts her, and Gwen sees the anxiety behind his eyes, the fear.
Fear. He’s actually afraid I’ll say no. That I’ll turn him away.
“About what? The rules या you? The answer to both is yes,” he says, still gazing intently down at her, close but not touching. It is almost as if he is afraid that if he touches her, she’ll disappear in a puff of smoke.
The air is thick between them, standing in Arthur’s chambers as the sun sets behind him.
“I never let myself hope…” Gwen finally says. “I always dreamed, but…”
“Did आप doubt my word, Guinevere? I told आप that once I was king, things would be different,” he says, reaching for her hand now. He raises it to his lips and kisses her knuckles once, twice, a third time.
“You’re not king yet, Arthur,” she whispers, mesmerized द्वारा his lips on her skin as he turns her hand over and kisses her palm. The surprisingly intimate act brings forth another small gasp.
“I may as well be, with my father’s health the way it is,” he admits, frowning for just a moment, “but it turns out I don’t have to be to get my way.” His frown vanishes, transformed into a crooked, boyish smile.
“And आप do like getting your way,” she smiles, and he kisses the inside of her wrist now.
“Is that a yes?” he asks quietly.
Gwen blinks twice. “I have a choice?”
“Of course आप do. आप can tell me no,” he says, चुंबन her palm again, trying to further convince her with his lips as well as his words. “Though I truly hope आप don’t.”
Gwen curls her fingers under his chin and her eyes close as his lips touch her skin again. “Yes, Arthur. For you, I will be Lady Guinevere and आप may court me to your heart’s content,” she answers, whispering again.
“My दिल can only be content with आप holding it, Guinevere,” he says softly, tugging her hand up around his neck now as he leans in to किस her, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her close.
Gwen’s lips smile against his and her hand strays into his hair, its warm tendrils silken between her fingers.
Arthur softly touches her lip with his tongue, sliding it along the plump flesh there, coaxing them apart for him. She sighs and acquiesces, meeting his tongue with her own, not realizing that they’re moving until she feels the edge of the तालिका, टेबल behind her hips.
“Oh!” she squeals as he lifts her, setting her on the table, raising her up so her face is और level with his. He immediately kisses her again, leaning into her, groaning softly when he feels her parted knees pressing the outsides of his hips.
Arthur’s hands caress her back, one sliding up to tangle in her hair as their tongues slide and twist in a delicious dance.
He feels her leg wind around his leg now, and it jolts him back to reality. He pulls away suddenly, breathing heavily. “Sorry,” he gasps, “I think I got carried away.”
“You carried me right with you,” Gwen smiles, dropping her leg quickly but keeping her arms around his neck, not letting him go too far away.
“Sorry,” he apologizes again, his fingers picking at the material of her dress on her back.
“I came along quite willingly, Arthur.” She smiles sweetly at him and his दिल sings.
“Oh, for goodness sakes, Arthur, exercise a little discretion!” Agravaine blusters at them, heading to the king’s chambers only to find Arthur standing quite close to Gwen, holding both her hands, and चुंबन her cheek.
“Uncle, we are doing nothing wrong,” Arthur says with an exasperated sigh, turning to face Agravaine, still holding one of Gwen’s hands. I knew this conversation would be coming.
“You’re lucky it was me that encountered you. How would it have looked if someone else had happened upon you, the prince, out here in the corridor, right outside your father’s chambers no less, canoodling with a servant?”
“Agravaine, I’ll thank आप not to address Lady Guinevere in this manner any more,” Arthur says evenly.
Agravaine goggles. “Lady Guinevere?” he sputters, almost as if the words taste bad.
“You heard correctly. Sir Elyan is a Knight of Camelot and he is her brother. Therefore, Guinevere is a Lady of the court. आप may check with Geoffrey if आप do not believe me,” Arthur informs him.
“I think I shall,” Agravaine answers, his voice icy.
“Thought आप might,” Arthur answers. “Now if आप will excuse me, I was just asking Lady Guinevere if she would accompany me to dinner.” He turns to Gwen. “My lady?”
“I would be honored, my lord,” she answers, taking his arm and sweeping past Agravaine, not giving him so much as a glance.
“You are certain? This is legitimate?” Agravaine asks Geoffrey, almost trembling with anger now.
“Indeed so, my lord. Prince Arthur knighted Sirs Elyan, Gwaine, Percival and Lancelot, all of common blood. Unorthodox, yes, but apparently legal. As the brother of a knight, Guinevere becomes a Lady. And since Sir Elyan is her only living relative, it makes the matter even simpler, as there are no other relatives around that would be affected.”
“Elyan is her younger brother,” Agravaine plays his last remaining card, but it is a low number.
“Does not matter,” Geoffrey waves his hand dismissively, then looks hard at Agravaine. “Lord Agravaine,” he says, “am I correct in assuming that आप have a problem with Guinevere becoming a lady of the court?”
“My opinion does not matter. It is already done,” Agravaine says carefully.
“Guinevere may have been a servant, but I have known her for a very long time and have dealt with enough nobles to know that she is और than worthy. In fact, she has और nobility in her than many of those who have been born to it,” Geoffrey says, coming just this side of claiming that Gwen is और worthy of being noble than Agravaine.
Agravaine does not miss the implication. “I see,” he says, turns on his heel, and leaves.
“Arthur, what is this?” Gwen says as Arthur leads her to his chambers for their meal. “I thought we’d be dining in the hall.”
“I prefer to dine in private with the woman I love,” Arthur says, opening the door for her.
Gwen gasps as she enters. The तालिका, टेबल has been set for two, a sumptuous display of rich तालिका, टेबल linens and flowers, candles flickering softly in the dusk. She can see Merlin standing just off to one side. He looks like he’s biting the insides of his cheeks to keep himself from grinning like an idiot.
“Hello, Merlin,” she says, walking to the table.
“My lady,” Merlin answers.
“None of that, Merlin, I’m still Gwen to you,” she says as Arthur holds her chair for her to sit.
“Not according to him,” he nods at Arthur, who glowers.
“Thank you, Merlin. That will be all,” Arthur says.
“You’re sure?” Merlin asks.
Arthur raises his eyebrows at him: Get out.
“Enjoy your dinner, my lady. Clotpole,” he nods at Arthur and scurries out the door before things start being thrown.
“You should be nicer to him, Arthur,” Gwen says gently.
“Hmm,” Arthur grunts noncommittally, fidgeting. He pours their wine and Gwen notices his hand is shaking slightly.
Gwen looks at her plate. Herb roasted chicken with root vegetables. There is warm रोटी with honey.
Her favorites. She smiles. “How did आप know?” she asks him.
“This is my favorite,” she explains.
“Well, yes, I know. Why are आप surprised?” he asks.
“I guess… I guess I shouldn’t be,” she says, flushing slightly.
“I’ve, um, kind of made a point to find out as much as possible about you, Guinevere,” he admits. “I’ve been driving Merlin crazy for the past two days.”
“You could have asked me,” she laughs, finally eating.
“Well, I couldn’t plan this wonderful and romantic surprise for आप if I followed आप around asking आप all kinds of questions, now could I?”
She laughs again, and reaches over to squeeze his hand. “You are sweet, Arthur.”
He smiles and picks at his food, not really eating.
“Is something wrong?” she asks. “Don’t tell me that my प्रिय dish is your least favorite…”
“No, no, not at all! आप know I eat nearly anything,” he chuckles.
He is nervous.
“Then what is troubling you? आप seem anxious.”
“Remember what I कहा about my दिल being content?”
Gwen puts her fork down. Oh, no. She looks at her hands. “Yes,” she mutters, her voice nearly inaudible.
“Oh! No, Guinevere, don’t worry, please, just let me finish,” he suddenly blurts, realizing her misunderstanding.
“Oh?” she looks up, and he reaches for her hand.
“I know we’ve only been officially courting for two days, but… well, we both know that our feelings for each other go back much further. This courtship thing was basically just for show…” he trails off a moment, biting his lower lip.
“Guinevere, what I really wanted to ask आप the other दिन is… will आप do me the honor of being my wife?”
Gwen blinks at him a few times, watching the anxiety behind his eyes, the expectation in his breathing. Does he honestly think I’m going to say no? she thinks.
“Yes, Arthur,” she breathes, tears falling from her eyes.
He lifts her hand to his lips, but, not satisfied, tugs it towards him, pulling her gently from her chair and into his lap.
“Yes,” she whispers again, this time into his ear as he holds her close, squeezing her tightly, pinching his own eyes tightly closed to try and stop his own tears from falling.
“Say it again,” he whispers, “please.”
Gwen leans back looking down into his face. She reaches up and wipes the tear from the corner of his eye and says, “Yes, Arthur, my love, I will marry you. I will be your wife.”
Arthur closes his eyes, letting her words wash over him and when he opens them, her lips are descending on his, so he just closes them again, लॉस्ट to her kiss.
When they finally surface, for air only, she nuzzles his nose with her own and asks, “Is your दिल content now, Arthur?”