Author: kepp0xy; graphics by la_esmeralda_
Warning: One fic may toe the line of R with mentions of sexual encounters, but even so, I would say the fic remains PG at most.
Summary: Seven ficlets about Arthur and Guinevere's relationship, from the beginning.
Author's Note: The idea of a "ficmix" was introduced to me by papered a few years ago. The idea is to create a basic fanmix, with added fics to explain the songs. This ficmix has 7 ficlets to accompany 7 out of the 8 songs - "Don't Forget to Breathe" is a bonus, meant to be for sometime around Arthur's death.
All graphics are by the lovely and obliging la_esmeralda_, be sure to take a look at her gorgeous works and shower her with the compliments she deserves. Thanks so much for your help ♥!
Comments are ♥ & concrit appreciated.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to BBC, images belong to BBC, songs belong to their respective artists & the lyric samples too. If I owned any of these things, I would be spending my weekdays very differently.
Arthur spots the movement - a twitching of curtains in Morgana's rooms - as he stalks back to the castle after a shift of evening guard duty. Gwen's face suddenly appears in the newly vacant space, and as the sun strikes her, relief reflects clear on her exhausted features.
He pauses, idiotically, to watch her; it had been a few days since last they spoke, and her absence irked him. Arthur always felt so keenly aware when she was near: could read her mood, whether she had slept, how easily she moved beneath her dress, whether she had worked or played in Morgana's service... Truly, he missed her smile, and was embarrassed by that honesty. But Guinevere always brought warmth with her, even in Camelot's darkest moments, which left him somehow lighter than he had been previously.
The daft urge to call out to her, alert her to his presence in the yard starts to rise inside him but Gwen lets her gaze drift from the sunrise breaking over the sea of Camelot's turrets and she spots him. When she sees him, her normally warm eyes widen as the relief vanishes. Arthur wonders for a moment if the grimace which crossed her face was meant to be a smile, but she vanishes, the curtain dropping heavily, with distressing finality, into place.
He feels immediately foolish, and glances around like an imbecile to see if anyone witnessed his discomposure. How stupid could he be? He runs a hand over his reddened ears which paint him embarrassed and disappointed, the strange heat of dissatisfaction blazing up from somewhere deep in his chest.
Once certain the courtyard is empty, Arthur takes a deep steadying breath and continues up the steps, shaking his head. He passes a noblewoman in the hall, hardly notices as she flutters her eyelashes coyly at him. What draws him up short is how her face falls at his cursory nod, his automatic response of late.
He realises with a jolt that he no longer notices the women of the court; had not thought, in trepidation, of his father's inevitable discussion on marriage, in weeks which were nearing months. His mind was constantly occupied with thoughts of Guinevere in any moments not filled with activity or responsibility, and when she was in his company...
"A simpleton could see," he mutters to himself in irritation. Hell, Merlin could probably see that she was no good for him.
Even so, in his mind, Arthur still sees Guinevere, quietly strong, so accidentally charming, and unknowingly beautiful, his heart feeling disconcertingly enlarged. As he reaches his chambers, he admits, with a frightening sense of decisiveness that warms him even as his stomach twists in anxiety, that he really would rather her companionship than her absence, stupid or not.
She had been walking back along the servant hall from a trip to the toilet when he found her. She was certainly taking her time, the novelty of balls having worn off ages ago, and only Morgana's desperation to be saved from the boredom of trite discussions had Gwen in attendance that night.
Arthur catches her off guard with a smile, which she returns warmly. Gwen always thinks their friendship is strange, a dichotomy based upon foundations of veracity in opinion, and conversations she is disinclined to call flirtatious. And though she can't entirely account for her feelings (in that, she is never honest about them), she finds she can't resist defying convention and logic and the lengthy list of reasons to avoid him when they are alone and equal like this.
She thinks nothing of his behaviour when Arthur ignores her protests, instead grasping her hands in both of his, leading her into a small, forgotten corridor, and insists she dance with him. The music only sounds in filtered and muffled strands through the stone around them, but it is clearly enough for Arthur as he pulls her to him, entirely solid against her soft form.
It's how unresponsive he is to her conversation in lieu of the intensity of his stare that discomfits her; heart deciding, traitorously, to race when he is in position to notice it. The look on his face reminds her of someone trying to solve a puzzle, or come to a particularly sticky decision. Questions blossom on her lips like the first flowers of spring, but she fears the answers, and so she quiets, redirecting her attention away from his eyes to the only available space as he holds her so close. And Gwen notices that, as ever, Arthur is graceful; so easily comfortable within the bounds of his body, and peculiarly comfortable handling hers.
The thought means she misses a beat, trods on his foot. Her cheeks burn as hot as a wellmade fire, her words as awkward and silly as a child learning to speak, until the breath is vanished from her lungs as by magic when his lips pass across hers.
Gwen meets his gaze with eyes disbelieving, and Arthur nods at her, smile almost quirking his lips. They shatter their obfuscatory friendship when they kiss again; complicating everything and denying nothing with unspoken promises to create something more, something better.
"I love you more than I should." The whispered, agonised confession sends goosebumps over his flesh, prickling the skin uncomfortably as her hand tightens its grip on the back of his head and she inhales sharply, as though startled by herself.
Arthur thinks he ought to be accustomed to love from the people. But from Guinevere...
Her hot breath hits his neck, her other hand grasping his arm as though to keep him from running. He presses his nose into her shoulder, inhaling the subtle, intoxicating flowered musk that belongs wholly to Gwen before pulling back slightly to meet her gaze.
His pallet is dry as he stares into her wide, anxious eyes. He had thought she rarely feared; knows that is just what she understands isn't true of him. "I am falling," he breathes and then he's kissing her, pushing his mouth and body to hers as though that act would save them.
When she breaks from him hours, minutes, seconds, he can't tell how much later, she gasps, "Say my name."
He says it.
They tried, briefly, to be apart. Decided after harried discussions in silent, deserted corridors that it would be best. Safest for their hearts, minds...
Arthur surrendered first, as he knew he would. He burst, undignified, into Morgana's chambers when he knew she would be dining with Uther, and Gwen would be preparing her rooms for the night. "Something always brings me back to you," he said, resigned, when the door clicked shut behind him and Gwen had turned to him in surprise.
"No matter what I say or do, Guinevere." He stalked forwards as she clutched a chalice before her, pose almost as though she wished it a shield, he thought; but he believed her defences, like his, were as fragile as a chalice made of glass, set to fracture beneath the slightest pressure... Even so, she did not tremble as he stared down at her, awaiting her response like a man on trial.
Finally, her eyes wetted in frustration, shocking him. "Leave me be," she said. Her eyes travelled his face before she gestured to herself frantically. "Here I am, and I stand - You're on to me and all over me and I just can't - " The chalice clattered hollowly to the floor, in his mind shattering fragile like their strength, as her arms flew around his neck and she pulled herself against him, roughly reclaiming his mouth with her own.
Everything was so familiar: the soft fullness of her lips, the beat of her heart thundering against his breastbone, the blaze of her body on his. It increased the ache in his chest until he had her pinned to the wall and was kissing her with the same ferocity as a man guzzles water after days without. Gwen's hands found Arthur's, tangling their fingers together in a demanding insistence for his promise.
Later, Arthur pulled away, pressing a much softer kiss to the corner of her mouth, and she finally moaned, "I can't seem to let you go."
He rested his forehead against hers, relieved.
It was rare that Arthur fell asleep first, and yet his quiet snores ruffled her hair, Gwen biting her lip as she smiled. She was exhausted, yet exhilaration kept her from sleep; they had finally guaranteed a chance at forever.
Forever was the word Arthur had used earlier in the night... Swearing different and startling marriage vows into her skin, sealing each of them with a kiss, then bringing her to the most all consuming climax she had ever experienced. He had taken her entirely off guard, mood morphing quickly from the playful one which had taken them, kissing and laughing, from the celebratory ball into the nude and onto their bed: suddenly sobering, rapt as he laid her back across the pillows.
Gwen had never expected... She knew that he loved her, it was an inescapable fact clear as a sunny day in how he treated her, and the way he looked at her, how he touched her... But Arthur had never been one for using words to express his emotions; he was a man of action. She had told Merlin so the day they met.
Their vows before the court had been traditional. Neither had minded, the ceremony itself simply something that had to be done in order for their love to be recognised and accepted, to enable Gwen to be crowned as queen some day. Of course Gwen had enjoyed it; she suspected that even Morgana secretly wanted a grand wedding, when the right man came along. And she knew that Arthur liked it; he tried to hide it, but a part of him always did enjoy playing at court.
Gwen could still feel where he had branded her skin with his words: the hollow of her throat, lingeringly above her heart, slightly below her right nipple, directly upon her solar plexus, three different spots marked her ribs and stomach, a promise for each hip and four more scattered across her abdomen and thighs.
He had worshipped her, and she had nearly perished from it. Gwen's body reacted strongly, almost fiercely out of control, her breath coming in sharp gasps, stomach flipping and swooping, her nerves tingling, sending goosebumps racing across her skin all because her heart was pounding a desperate tattoo in her chest. When Arthur rose from beneath the covers with skin glistening a bit with sweat in the firelight, eyes searching her face before ducking his head to dust his lips across hers, Gwen clung to him desperately.
Then Arthur's final oath, breathed across her mouth and simple, "Until we touch the last time, I will love you." It burned on her lips, promise pouring as molten metal into a mould down her throat to enshroud, incandescent, perfect around her heart.
Arthur shed more than armour in their chambers, allowing his head to hang with the weight of grief when they retreated there. Guinevere's slim fingers were adept at their work: unknotting, loosening, unclasping, freeing him of the solid metal which protected his body from the sting of metal as it did not protect his heart from the ache of sorrow.
He took solace when her touch lingered, particularly when he was entirely disrobed and her hands spoke as her voice did not. They remained silent on these days, as on few others; the quiet a balm that gave him peace. Arthur closed his eyes when Gwen finally drew him down to her, arms tight around his shoulders as his were at her waist. He always marvelled that so strong and vital a woman was so small and soft in his hold.
It was the dearest favour Gwen bestowed upon him: gift of comfort and warmth when the world was bereft of it. They went to their bed, Arthur laid his ear to her heart, the steady throb reminder of so many good and light things when there was little but shadow to be found.
"I do love you," she said, hands passing through his hair. No matter he had heard it thousands of times in thousands of circumstance, it always meant as much as it had the first time. And Arthur slipped to sleep, Guinevere taking him, for the night, far away from grief and guilt and pain.
Gwen had placed her faith in Arthur years ago, long before Merlin was known Sorcerer of the Court, even before the time of her father's death. She thought it likely he didn't know, or did not realise how deeply her belief in him went. He would joke that Gwen believed in him more than he did, that it was she who spread goodwill through the kingdom; Arthur and his belief in these false truths caused her to ache in ways no one else ever had.
The moonlight filtered through a crack in the drapes where she had taken little care in closing them earlier. It fell upon him, casting him in a haunting pale glow as deep breaths slipped through his parted lips, eyes busily seeing things she could not as he dreamt, his hair tousled and messy. He was older now, crow's feet marking him aged but generally happy, lines at his lips noting the weight of duty and leadership. Some grey shot in spurts through his blonde, and when there was shadow along his jawline, her thumb brushed affectionately across a field of iron bristles.
She supposed she regarded it as her burden: Arthur would never know how good he was, that he was a sovereign Camelot would not ever see the likes of again, that he glowed with the strength of his leadership and kindness. Gwen was the keeper of this knowledge, she was the person to whom he laid himself bare, and she was the soul in the kingdom who could make him aware, in the barest of stolen moments, that he was worthy of all the good things in life, deserving none of the bad.
Overcome, as she sometimes became by the magnitude of her mandate, Gwen kissed his brow, and Arthur shifted in response, hand on her fragile hip tightening briefly.