Rating/Genre: PG. Angst, humour, a touch of action/adventure, some awkwardness, and romance.
Characters/Pairings: Gwen/Arthur, Merlin, Morgana; a bit OT3/OT4 in the show, fairly gen sense of it; mentions of Gaius, Uther, Lancelot.
Spoilers/Warnings: Events of 2.02 & 2.04; see A/N for additional spoiler explanation
Summary: The 10 ways Gwen falls in love with Arthur with bonus 11 - the one way she tells him.
Author's Note:There are 11 ficlets herein, some of which were inspired by various clips from promo ads and set visits. I don't even consider the pieces speculation though, and if you weren't aware of the spoiler-content to begin with, you'd never be able to discern which was spoiler-inspired and which was simply story :] Beta'd by and_i who always lends me her ear and her mind, for which I'm ridiculously grateful. Any remaining mistakes are mine. Some sounding board credit goes to tater_mae - ♥, bb (... maybe). I also blame this partially on sellega. Comments are ♥ & concrit appreciated.
Her mindset had been not only to avoid him, but to ignore him if ever they did end up being in the same room. She knew it was childish and irrational, but it seemed that was the language he was intent on speaking, and no amount of wanting to talk about it was getting her anywhere.
And her heart already ached enough in her chest with thoughts of another man lost in some unknown land, that she didn't need the additional soreness brought upon by the hope of some contact dashed by eyes which slid right across her as though she were another stone in the wall.
So Gwen decided to speak his language. And generally managed to also ignore how it made her stomach twist in discomfort every time because it went so against her nature.
It was a chilly afternoon in the beginning of spring, and her arms were laden with Morgana's dresses fresh from the seamstress. There were five in total, making a delightful rainbow in the circle of her arms and Gwen was having a good day. One of the first in a few weeks - a combination of Morgana having nightmares (which didn't seem to terrify her quite so much anymore, but still disturbed her sleep and left her peaky) and a recent castle emergency which had Gwen doing a lot of avoiding and ignoring, had left her feeling tired and sour.
But flowers were beginning to bloom, Morgana was sleeping soundly once more, and the minstrels were starting to play in the outer yards again, no longer confined to their quarters or the king's court as in winter.
She heard Arthur before she saw him: a surprised shout which made her stomach drop because she did not want her day ruined - she was enjoying it. But she could not discern from which corridor the shout had come, and so continued warily, praying to whatever powers there were that she would be presented with opportunity to duck away (the corridors in this part of the castle were particularly slim and afforded little room for one person, let alone two crossing paths) before seeing him.
Just as she came to the next corridor, she heard the low murmur of two flustered voices and peered nervously down the hall. The sight which met her eyes held her frozen momentarily.
Arthur was bent double, helping an extremely distraught servant put linens back into a basket; it was evident they had crashed into one another in the small space of the corridor, resulting in the servant's washing to be strewn everywhere. Arthur was shaking his head, and saying something Gwen couldn't make out, though his tone travelled and it was shockingly... soothing. The servant's responses were high-pitched and nervous, and half the linens she threw into the basket missed; Arthur simply picked them up without comment and put them safely where they belonged.
Gwen allowed herself to watch a moment longer, letting the slow warmth of pride wrap around her heart in the simple way it had used to when she saw Arthur for the king he would become. She set aside her personal grievance and even smiled a little bit, as she would have before.
Then she straightened, turned around and took the last passage she'd walked by.
It took a lot of effort to ignore someone, and Gwen was growing weary of it. She wanted to move forward, to move past all this, but the constant cloud around Arthur if ever they were near one another was impossible for her to ignore. It hurt her, and she didn't like that he was hurting too.
But Arthur was a good actor; had she not known exactly the trouble he had, she would have believed that the way Arthur angled his back to her as he spoke with his father in the court had been natural and not forced.
But, against her wishes, Gwen knew better.
Morgana glanced at her with a raised eyebrow when Gwen sighed and Gwen forced a smile onto her lips, offering an apologetic shrug.
As they filed from the throne room nearly an hour later, Morgana linked her arm through Gwen's and leaned towards her conspiratorially. "I don't blame you for being bored. Court these days is deathly dull."
"For which we should be thankful," Gwen countered gently, giving Morgana's arm an affectionate squeeze. "It means nothing is wrong in the kingdom."
Morgana tilted her head, considering this, before she nodded regally and Gwen smiled a little, letting the silence sit comfortably between them. "That isn't why you sighed, then," Morgana said after a moment and Gwen looked at her curiously.
"You weren't sighing because the session in court was boring," Morgana stated, now watching Gwen with warm eyes that had Gwen feeling uncomfortably put on the spot. "Were you thinking of Lan -
"Excuse me, my lady," Merlin said, attempting clumsily to navigate around Morgana in the narrow hall.
"Careful, Merlin," Morgana warned as he almost stumbled over his trousers. "Where are you off to in such a hurry? Has Arthur got a fire for you to put out?"
"The opposite," Merlin said cheerfully, pausing briefly to chat. Gwen smiled at him warmly, and he returned the smile gratefully. Another symptom of the discomfort between she and Arthur had been an extension of that to her friendship with Merlin. That aspect, at least, was beginning to ease for reasons unknown to Gwen, and she was fervently thankful for his chipper smiles in her days again. "He's given me the rest of the afternoon off."
Gwen stared blankly at him and Morgana made a fairly unladylike noise in her throat. "I don't believe it," Morgana said.
"I know," Merlin said, sobering momentarily to eye them both seriously. But his indomitable grin broke through, almost making Gwen laugh. "My mum's visiting," he explained. "Arthur's letting me spend the rest of the day with her."
"How will he survive, I wonder," Morgana said dryly and Merlin winked, making Morgana's lips curl in amusement. Gwen had stopped being shocked by Merlin's utter lack of decorum long ago, and rolled her eyes a little, but was thankful, regardless, that the passages had cleared of nobility quickly, leaving no one to witness his show of familiarity.
"Have a good afternoon with your mother, Merlin," she said and he nodded his acceptance. "Tell her I said hello."
"You should stop by later, Gwen," he called, hurrying again down the passageway. "She'd love to see you." Then he rounded a corner and was gone. Morgana glanced at Gwen with raised brows and a skeptical expression, making Gwen giggle as they continued on sedately.
"Arthur's being uncharacteristically generous, don't you think?" Morgana said thoughtfully as they made their way into the central courtyard on unspoken agreement to take a stroll through the town. "He's been like that a lot recently. I wonder if Merlin is putting something in his wine."
Gwen laughed and shook her head, telling Morgana she was being ridiculous, but secretly agreed. They may have been treating each other with forced aloofness, but elsewhere in the court, Arthur was being increasingly gracious.
Gwen opened the door cautiously and stuck her head around the corner. "Merlin?"
There was a clatter and suddenly he stood before her, looking wide-eyed and disoriented, his hair sticking up at odd angles. Had the situation not been so serious, she may have laughed.
"Gwen. Hi." He turned away from her, moving in urgent, jerky movements across Gaius' main chamber and Gwen stepped inside, quietly shutting the door behind her.
"Merlin?" she said tentatively again, and he spun around stiffly. "What are you doing?"
He gaped at her a bit before he sucked in a breath. "I'm trying to find proof," he said with a forcefulness born of desperation. "Proof that Gaius does not practise magic. But how do you prove something that isn't? There's no proof that is but there's not any proof that isn't. And Uther, he only wants proof that's proof, you know?"
Gwen couldn't say she did know; her own experiences with Camelot's legal system had been based on evidence: sometimes inexplicable and sometimes - painfully - not.
"So I can't prove that Gaius doesn't practise just by having no - no books or - or potions, because maybe I've just hidden them, right? And just because they're absent to begin with, Uther doesn't care because the witch-finder -" Merlin laughed bitterly. Gwen did not like the sound. "The witch. Finder. says so."
Merlin ran his hands through his hair and Gwen stepped forwards, grasping his wrists gently so she could see his face. "Merlin," she began firmly, "we'll help him." She wasn't sure if she believed they could, but of course they'd try. "Morgana will be here soon, she's just speaking with the king, and then we'll -
Merlin's long arms wrapped tight around her, and Gwen puffed out a breath of surprise, wrapping her arms around him in return. "Thank you," he said hoarsely, before letting her go abruptly. Gwen stood dumbfounded for a moment before shaking her head to clear it.
"I'll make some tea, and you can tell me what happened exactly," she said gently, leading the way to the fireplace. Merlin followed, sitting down heavily and staying silent as she put water in the kettle and hung it above the fire. Taking a seat across from him, Gwen tucked her feet beneath her chair and said, "So, he was arrested this -
The door of Gaius' chambers opened again, and Arthur announced his presence by saying loudly, "Merlin. Get up, we've work to - Guinevere!" He froze mid-stride when she leaned to see around Merlin, frowning reproachfully. His expression went from startlement to sadness to annoyance and Gwen lost her patience, her frown deepening as she straightened in her chair.
She was here for Merlin.
Arthur cleared his throat and continued forward, standing awkwardly next to them for a moment before sitting stiffly on one of Gaius' work benches. "Merlin," he began again, and Gwen was equal measures relieved and irritated that Arthur had evidently gone back to ignoring her. "There must be a way to prove Gaius' innocence."
Gwen looked at him in surprise, seeing out of the corner of her eye as Merlin did the same. "What do you mean?" Merlin asked slowly.
"Gaius has been in my father's court for decades. He helped with the great purge. He's no sorcerer, it's not possible."
A silence fell over them as Merlin digested those words, and Gwen couldn't help staring at Arthur, who was studiously looking not at her. She supposed she shouldn't have been shocked to see him here, after all he had defended Gaius before the court. But she had honestly thought he would take things up with his father in private next, likely after Morgana had finished speaking with the king.
Merlin cleared his throat in a way that sounded a little painful and Gwen quickly redirected her attention. "I know," he said roughly, suddenly looking absolutely exhausted. He rubbed his eyes, shoulders hunching forward, and shook his head. "But I don't know how to do it."
Gwen opened her mouth, but Arthur beat her to it, saying, "We'll help." She looked at him again in surprise as he continued, "Morgana... Guinevere and I." If the last came out a little choked, the look he gave her was mostly clear of any previous emotion.
It was a look she had shared with Morgana hundreds of times, that she had shared with Merlin a few dozen... The look of camaraderie for a friend in need, where little else mattered.
Swallowing down an emotion that felt a lot like relief, Gwen nodded before looking back at Merlin. "We'll do everything we can."
Merlin looked up, appreciation all over his face as he glanced between them; Gwen wondered if she and Arthur had finally reached some kind of silent truce.
"What could you possibly want to go back to them for?" Arthur asked. Gwen had thought it a mistake to let Merlin tell Arthur of Morgana's plans, but Merlin had insisted and Morgana was being inexplicably deferential to Merlin these days.
Morgana straightened and raised her chin, staring at Arthur with narrowed eyes. "They have something I want," she said haughtily.
Gwen glanced at her nervously; having now had experience with kidnapping herself, she could honestly say that nothing would ever make her want to return to the barbarian's company. Yet Morgana had dedicated herself the last three weeks to finding the druids.
Arthur crossed his arms over his chest, planting his feet firmly in response to her aggressiveness.
"So are you going to help me or not?" Morgana pushed, impressively ignoring how much Arthur's posture said, definitively, no.
"I'm not going to help just because you demand it, Morgana," Arthur said harshly. "Do you understand at all how dangerous they are? They murdered six of my knights, and Gaius said there was not a single mark on any of the fallen men."
Gwen did not miss how both Merlin and Morgana winced with this news, and was suddenly overcome by the feeling of not knowing as much as they did.
"How do you justify wanting to return to people who can do that?" Arthur pressed, brows raised high.
Morgana looked at her, but the most Gwen could offer was a small twitch of her lips. Though she hated the idea of going against Morgana, Gwen was solidly in support of Arthur in this. Her stomach tightened guiltily as she saw Morgana's bravado falter, before it slid off of her mistress entirely like a silken shift.
"Please, Arthur," she said imploringly, and Gwen looked away, feeling terrible for not being more supportive.
Merlin finally spoke, in the voice Gwen recognised as the one he reserved for times when he needed to reason with Arthur, saying, "She'll only be gone for a day." Arthur snorted in disbelief, but Merlin carried on relentlessly. "We can help her arrange that."
"She'll only be gone a day if they don't take her again," Arthur said. And with a wash of relief that only made Gwen feel as though she was betraying Morgana the more, she raised her head and watched Arthur closely. "Morgana, my father would go mad if you went missing again. We all would. And you're under a closer watch as it is. If I were to agree to help with this idiocy, how would we even manage it?"
"We have a few ideas on that," Merlin offered helpfully.
Arthur looked at him sharply, his face tightening in disapproval. "I still don't know why you're keen on this, Merlin. You'll be explaining that to me later."
"I'll be going whether you help or not," Morgana finally snapped, reticence lost in the face of near certain denial. It was the last tactic left to her, and Gwen had been wondering when she would use it; she had witnessed enough of these sibling-like feuds between Morgana and Arthur to know how this would go. Never previously, however, had the consequences felt so dire. "So if you're not going to help, get out."
There was a pause in which time Gwen felt certain Arthur would acquiesce, and it was clear that Merlin and Morgana thought so too, as they stood still simply waiting for his response.
But Arthur turned towards Gwen, making her eyes widen in surprise. "Guinevere," Arthur said. Gwen glanced at Morgana and Merlin. Finding their expressions equally confused, she looked back to Arthur with a small nod. "How do you feel about Morgana going?"
A strong feeling of gratitude moved through her - no one had asked her that before - and Gwen raised her chin a bit in response.
"Gwen already said she'd help however I need," Morgana said in a way which made it seem more like she was scolding Arthur than answering for Gwen. But Gwen had to bite her lip against speaking out with the truth.
"I was asking Guinevere," Arthur snapped, glancing icily at Morgana before looking at Gwen again. "Of course you'll help," he said in a way which oddly made her feel like he understood her entirely. "But how do you feel about it?"
Gwen held his eye for a moment before turning her head to look at Morgana apologetically. "I don't think you should go. It isn't safe," she said sadly and Morgana looked positively stricken. "I'm sorry, Morgana," Gwen said quickly, feeling absolutely wretched. "I will help, of course I will, but I don't understand why you want to go."
The room was silent in an awkward way following Gwen's words. Morgana was staring at Gwen as though she hadn't ever quite seen her before and Gwen watched her anxiously in return, waiting until Morgana's eyes began to soften again as Gwen's reasoning became clear to her. "I understand," Morgana said quietly, and took Gwen's hand tightly in hers. "But I need to go."
Closing her eyes briefly against a wave of nausea, Gwen nodded weakly and looked at Arthur. His lips were tight, shoulders ridged and his eyes were trained on her face, as though he was waiting for her to react. If this was going to happen, Gwen thought unhappily, and in any way that could possibly ensure that Morgana would actually return to them, they needed his help.
Before she could even muster the enthusiasm to speak, something must have shown in her face because Arthur's shoulders sagged slightly. "All right," he said reluctantly, looking away from her towards Merlin. "What are these ideas of yours?"
Gwen comes upon Arthur as she's pushing through a throng of people running in the opposite direction. He's the one ushering their retreat and this distresses her, as it seems like something she really ought to be doing, but she can't find Morgana and the last person she'd asked said something about seeing 'the brunette beauty' (pig, Gwen had thought) at the bloody front of battle.
Arthur has a gash on his forehead which worries her to the point that she's reaching for her skirt and tearing a length from it before realising what she's doing.
"Guinevere!" He's shouting when she reaches his side, and she's never actually seen him look quite this anxious in battle before. "What are you doing here?"
Her hands are reaching up to wrap the green linen around his head even as she responds with a breathless, "Looking for Morgana."
"Morgana - ah." He winces when she pushes the cloth to the gash, but raises his hand to help as she stretches to her toes to tie it at the back of his head. "Why would she be -
"I don't know," Gwen says worriedly, biting her lip. A scream rends the air and has them both staring nervously down the street. "Where are your knights?" she asks as another person runs past them towards the relative safety of the keep. She knows he set out with twenty.
Arthur gestures vaguely and glances at her. "Five fell from raining arrows. I sent ten to the lower boundaries. Three scattered and two came upon fallen family members. I sent them back." He looks towards the castle, and frowns. "They were meant to send replacements."
"I'm sure they're on the way," she reassures without thinking and he's looking at her again. She shies away from his expression and he clears his throat, looking stern once more.
"Get back to the castle, Guinevere."
"Not without Morgana," she says firmly, lifting her skirt in preparation to move forwards once more.
"You can't be certain she's out here!" Arthur cries, frustrated, and Gwen frowns at him.
"It's the only information I've got," she says stubbornly and Arthur's nostrils flare worryingly. Just as he's clearly mustering some kind of counterargument and Gwen's deciding to go on regardless of his words, a loud bang sounds and rocks the earth beneath their feet.
Arthur's shouting, "Move!" and has his hand on her back, ushering her towards the safety of a small stone building and forcing her inside as another boulder smashes somewhere to their left. The door slams shut behind her and Gwen spins back, thinking he's left her alone, only to find Arthur staring apprehensively at the matted straw roof.
"I'll not wait out the siege in here," she warns and Arthur's head snaps down to look at her.
With a sigh, he shakes his head and turns his back on her, striding the length of the room they're in, investigating the walls. "Until the barrage ends, then," he mutters and Gwen can accept that; regardless of the instability of these walls, she'd rather be in here than out in the open with boulders smashing haphazardly through the lower town.
Another hit rocks the ground and Gwen grips a wooden beam to keep from falling down. "How long do they last?" she squeaks, clearing her throat as Arthur glances at her.
"A few minutes to half an hour," he responds, looking frustrated. "It depends how quickly their men manage to drag new ammunition to the front."
Gwen nods and scrutinises the beam she's clinging to before surveying the building they've taken cover in. She doesn't mean to study his profile in the time it takes for three more hits to nearly deafen her, but there's not much else to look at once she's realised this is some sort of store room.
He's obviously anxious to get back outside; his fingers are twitching at his sides, and his jawline is tight, his brows drawn. Camelot has not faced a siege in nearly four decades, and Gwen wonders if perhaps the knights are ill-prepared to handle the event. They need their leader, she thinks, even as Arthur tilts his head, listening hopefully as there's a brief pause.
He sighs dejectedly when another boulder hits, sounding distressingly close and lets his head drop in irritation.
"How are you?" she asks, not actually meaning to, and Arthur looks towards her without lifting his head.
His smile is wry as he considers her and he takes a deep breath before answering. "We weren't prepared for this," he says honestly, tone strained. She sees as he hesitates, studying her face in a way which would have confused her before, but that she has come to accept. "I'm worried," he admits softly, dropping his eyes to the ground as his toe digs into the dirt floor.
Gwen frowns in sympathy, her heart pattering nervously and she wishes there were words to ease his concern but nothing comes to mind. "You'll lead us through," she finally says forcefully, but thinks that perhaps he didn't hear because there's a scream and a child begins to cry just as she speaks.
But his head rises and he draws a deep breath and Gwen realises with a start that this is the first she has spoken to him, encouragingly, in ages. And it feels... natural. Again. At last.
"I think they've stopped," he says after a moment and Gwen tilts her head to listen. "Still intent on finding Morgana?" he asks tightly and Gwen's lips purse, her nod firm when he looks at her.
"All right," he says, clearly unhappy about her decision. "We'll go together, as we're headed in the same direction."
"Honestly, sire, you don't have to -
"I'll not hear of it, Guinevere." And before she knows it, her hand is wrapped tightly in his and he's drawing her towards the door. She wants to protest, but it's nice, comforting, and she twists her hand a little bit to grip his better.
If Arthur has any reaction, he does it internally, and Gwen's thankful. Because it means nothing.
She follows his lead, crouching a bit as they run through the streets, staying close to the walls. Gwen swallows tears as they avoid dead bodies - commoner and knight alike - and tries not to think that war unites the people of Camelot like no other event can. They become equal in the face of battle and death.
It sickens her that this is what it takes.
A scuffling sound ahead has Arthur pulling them both back against the wall of what had been a bakery, but was now looking distressingly like the ruins Gwen had seen some years ago on a trip with Morgana. He glances at her and presses a finger to his lips before squeezing her hand lightly and tugging her forward. They stay near to the wall and Arthur looks tensely around the corner into the next lane before a flash of indignation crosses his features.
His hand tightens on hers again as he steps out, standing tall and looking murderous. "For the love of - Morgana, what the hell are you doing here?"
Arthur saying her name sends Gwen's stomach unclenching in relieved swoops as her heart pounds desperately to see her mistress safe. She doesn't realise she's tightened her grip on his hand until his thumb smooths something like soothing lines into the top of her wrist as she stumbles over rubble in her eagerness.
It's when Gwen steps out from behind the wall that he drops her hand and she tries not to feel the patter of disappointment at the loss of contact. It all means nothing, after all.
Morgana is ahead of them, the arm of a man, clearly badly injured, slung over her shoulders. Relieved that Morgana - at least - looks fine, Gwen dashes to her side, immediately sliding beneath the man's other shoulder to help with the load as Morgana glares daggers at Arthur. "I'd ask the same of you. Aren't you due on the battlements?"
"That's where I'm headed," he snaps back, and is then running past them, not nearly as cautious as he'd been when he was moving through the city with Gwen. "This isn't over!" he shouts back at them.
Morgana looks as though she's considering shouting back, when the man between them moans, and she mutters, "We'll see," instead.
"Really, though, Morgana," Gwen says through puffs as they struggle to support the man wheezing painfully between them. "Why are you here?"
Morgana looks at her around the man's head, and her eyes become distant in the way Gwen is quickly learning to fear. "I... There was something I needed to do."
Gwen swallows her questions and protests and declarations of concern and merely nods, turning her attention forward once more. They have a long way to go to reach the safety of the keep again.
The bucket of useless metal was far heavier than Gwen anticipated and it fell to the cobblestone with a clatter, pulling her down with it. A shuffle of boots alerted her to someone dashing over to see if she was all right, though she hadn't thought Rodrick had been so far away as to necessitate running.
"I'm okay," she said with a laugh, dusting her hands as she stood. "It was just a bit heavier than I... thought." It was not Rodrick who had rushed over to her, but Arthur, who looked a bit unsure of himself now that he stood before her.
His eyes flashed to her hands before finding her face again and he cleared his throat. "What are you doing?" he asked, gesturing to the bucket.
"Joseph's roof needs repairing," she began and Arthur stiffened, looking up at it tensely.
"Not from the siege -
Gwen shook her head. "No, their home received little damage during the siege," she said reassuringly, hardly resisting the urge to pat his hand.
Arthur had been the instigating force behind the push to repair damage done throughout the lower town from the fire arrows and catapult attacks. Gwen had watched as he slipped into a mood she'd never witnessed; conscientious and driven to ensure anyone who needed their homes or businesses repaired received the aid to do so.
Morgana had even managed to convince Uther to let her help in the cause, so she and Gwen had spent three and a half weeks working in the lower city, going from door to door to examine the extent of damage. It had been heartbreaking at times but incredibly gratifying for them both and Gwen had felt a small tinge of regret when the work had been finished.
But working that way had put her close to Arthur frequently, and she had always felt a strong wave of emotion whenever she saw the look on his face as he heard the damage reports, or when he performed inspections of the work that had been done to repair it.
At his relief now, Gwen smiled a little and looked over his shoulder to the roof. "No, just simple maintenance," she said, and was embarrassed that a little weariness slipped into her tone.
When she looked back at him, she found him studying her face before he glanced away down the street. "I assume Morgana's at dinner?" he asked distractedly and Gwen followed his gaze to see what had caught his attention.
A pile of fire wood, apparently.
She bit back a sigh as she turned forwards again and nodded. "Yes, but she also let me go early to help here."
"I'll let you return to work, then," he said, walking away from her and Gwen wished she could follow the reasons behind his behaviour.
She returned the following evening, around the same time, to find Joseph and his son standing with hands on their hips looking up towards the roof with furrowed brows.
Gwen slowed as she reached them, following their gaze to find a team of three men working quickly in the fading light. Her jaw dropped, and she began, "Who -
"Don't know," Joseph responded, scratching his chin thoughtfully and tilting his head. "Showed up this morning saying they'd been paid to come until the work was done."
"We asked who paid," Rodrick said, sounding bewildered. "But they shook their heads and said a messenger had only delivered the message and a sack of coins."
"Not their place to question," Joseph added.
"That's what they said," Rodrick agreed.
Gwen looked back up at the workers before bidding the two men good night. She walked slowly home, thinking only of Arthur.
She mostly only catches glimpses of them, from windows or through opened doors, as Arthur demonstrates the use of a certain blade, or Lady Georgia makes some comment that has his face looking stunned, and then impressed.
Those expressions are familiar to Gwen; it makes her a little uncomfortable. And possibly her heart aches in whispers, but it bears no thinking about and so she doesn't.
Lady Georgia is in Camelot for two weeks before Gwen actually witnesses, up close, as Arthur interacts with her. He's kind with his words, and thoughtful in his actions. There's still bravado in his shoulders, and arrogance in his voice, but Lady Georgia is a noble - even if she is nearly as casual with Gwen as Morgana - and so the behaviour of royalty is well familiar to her.
They're laughing when Gwen enters; Arthur's eyes flash to meet hers, for only a moment in recognition of her entrance, before they fall back to Georgia's face. Georgia, for her part, turns attentively to Gwen, asking sweetly if it were possible to bring another flagon of wine though she knows the hour is late.
Gwen acquiesces of course, but it's as though Arthur knows something in Gwen's chest reacts disturbingly (it's ridiculous, Gwen convinces herself) because he looks at her again, and holds her gaze this time, his eyes revealing nothing of his reasons for doing so. But Georgia's hand falls on Arthur's fleetingly and his attentions are diverted, and Gwen moves swiftly from the room, denying that she feels anything like jealousy or longing.
Instead she forces herself to be impressed by the prince; he has learned, since their flirtations, how to respectfully court a lady. It would be easier, now, for him to find a suitable woman for his heart and for the throne.
"You should probably know," Arthur begins glibly as Gwen smothers a yawn and sits down opposite him by the fire, extending her hands to the low flames. It isn't until she looks up at him curiously, and raises her brows at his smirk that he continues. "I'm not the only one here who snores."
Her eyes widen reactively and Gwen tries quickly to hide that response, though her hands have suddenly gone a little clammy with the reminder of their dinner together, which feels so long ago. "Oh?" she asks after a moment, glancing over her shoulder at the sleeping form of Morgana: nearly silent, as always. "Merlin gives you a run for it, does he?"
Arthur's smile turns devilish, and Gwen thinks that she's thankful his morose mood has passed. With Georgia's departure, he's been sullen and even Merlin has been getting annoyed with Arthur's lack of enthusiasm - he didn't even seem to take pleasure from needling his servant.
"No," he drawls, but then cocks his head. "Well, yes. This little wheezy whistle -" And Gwen can't help but laugh at that, quickly raising a hand to her mouth so the sound doesn't wake the others. It's early; the light is still blue in the forest as the sun rises, most birds have not even begun their morning song. "But he isn't who I was referring to."
"Morgana makes little noise while she sleeps," Gwen says positively, pulling her cloak closer around her shoulders as a breeze moves through their glade.
But Arthur's shaking his head, and there's a look in his eyes which throws her off guard. A lightness and warmth she's not seen from him since... Since before she last sat across a fire from him. It makes her swallow thickly and fight to keep her stomach from tying itself in knots; they had been down that road, and discovered it led nowhere.
"You snore," he says, utter satisfaction dripping heavily from his voice and Gwen forgets all about feeling uncomfortable with his expressions because he's flat out lying.
"I don't snore!" she hisses and Arthur chuckles, nodding vigorously.
He sing-songs, "I thought there was a bear snuffling around the camp. Then I thought, 'gods, Morgana is a loud sleeper' before I realised that it was coming from you." He emphasises the last words in a way Gwen thinks she should find infuriating but instead has her in giggles.
"How would you know," she begins accusingly, leaning towards him and (conveniently, as it's chilly) closer to the fire. "I was sleeping next to Morgana."
He shakes his head, grinning widely. "You were sleeping ahead of her, and I had the time to figure it out."
She frowns, looking at the fire to contemplate this new information, and only looks up with Arthur's deep chuckle. And it dawns on her that he is lying. "You liar!" she cries and hardly restrains herself from throwing a twig at his head.
He's nodding gleefully, eyes bright, sparkling in the dim firelight, and Gwen wishes she didn't see how handsome he is in this moment. In most moments, if she's honest. "As if so inelegant a sound could come from you," he says between guffaws before his expression stiffens slightly as though he's said too much.
Gwen tries not to feel flattered, glancing instead at the fire and making a disagreeable sound in her throat. "You should hear me when I scrub the floors," she mutters amicably to dissipate tension and she looks up to find Arthur's expression gentle, laughter fading slowly from his face.
"You do talk in your sleep, though," he says softly and Gwen's certain of the blush on her cheeks now.
"Nothing too embarrassing, I hope," she says, hardly forcing herself to hold eye contact with him.
He shakes his head and smiles with something like affection, setting her heart beating traitorously in her chest. "Mostly indiscernible mutterings," he assures her and Gwen is halfway to believing him before there's a flash of something else in his eyes that she can't read.
About to press for more, Merlin interrupts them with a noisy groan which would give Gaius in his grouchiest, most righteously annoyed physician mood a run for it and causes Morgana to wake with a surprised gasp behind Gwen.
The row between Arthur and Uther had been whispered about incessantly amongst noble and commoner alike since it occurred four nights previous. Whenever Gwen passed anyone, they would not meet her gaze (or anyone's gaze) for fear of looking at the wrong person.
Gwen was possibly the only one in the kingdom (besides Morgana and Merlin) who was walking with any bounce to her step. She tried to hide it, by following the standard set by everyone else: eyes downcast, moving quickly through the halls, speaking in near whispers when necessary.
But she knew, by the brightness in Morgana's eyes and the grin ever-hovering around Merlin's lips, that they felt exactly as she did and recognised the subtle brightness in her demeanour.
She would be the first to condemn Uther for unjust behaviour, but his most recent actions had finally tipped the scales for nearly everyone. For three weeks the dungeons had held captive a family of five. It was not that they had been caught committing any magical crime, or indeed, that there was any evidence against them.
But there had been rumours.
They were new to Camelot, apparently from across the sea, and their language was different. But Gwen had interacted with them, helping a few times with their purchases in the market, and their shy smiles of appreciation had always warmed her heart. She had thought they were incredibly brave to come so far a distance, and had longed to know their language so she could ask them about their travels.
But the rumours had reached Uther's ears by their fourth month in Camelot, and Arthur had been instructed to arrest them all shortly thereafter. Morgana told Gwen in whispers the same night that she and Arthur had convinced Uther to give them trial, but Morgana had looked dreadful, pale and covered in a cold sweat, causing Gwen to insist she stay the night.
The trial had lasted three weeks until Arthur finally had enough. Gwen could not really understand why the court had been so surprised; she had seen his dismay increasing and outrage brewing with each inequitable day that passed. And the night before the now infamous argument, Arthur had come to Morgana's rooms while she was attending her (at that time, enforced) dinner with Uther, speaking in furious whispers with Gwen.
She had initially been shocked that he had stayed to talk to her, thinking that perhaps he simply needed another mind as he had sent Merlin to help Gaius with his nightly visits to the prisoners. Her bafflement had increased when an argument sparked between them just after his arrival, voices rising until Gwen remembered herself and hissed a warning against his volume.
But the more they spoke, and Gwen relaxed as Arthur calmed, watching her instead of storming back and forth across the room, the more she wondered if he had actually come to see her. It had been strange how easily they moved from awkward greetings to hushed argument and finally muttered counsel; it felt almost as though their hearts had beat in tandem, eventually taking only solace and encouragement from one another.
He had finally taken a seat at Morgana's centre table, leaning back heavily with closed eyes and they fell silent for a time. Gwen was left standing by the fire, eyeing the hardset line of his shoulders, wondering if her hands had the skill to ease the tension from them.
She sat down across from him after a blush had started to creep over her cheeks, and pretended to be focused on the dress she had been mending with his arrival, rather than allowing that she was completely aware that his eyes were now lingering on her face.
He had cleared his throat thoughtfully just as Gwen was finishing the mend and had begun to wonder what she could possibly do to busy herself with next. She looked at him, and Arthur gave her a soft smile before standing. Gwen had stood hurriedly, following quickly to walk with him to the door. With his hand on the knob, Arthur paused, looking down at her as she stood beside him.
He murmured his thanks, to which Gwen gave him a quirk of her lips, managing to hold his gaze solidly this time as he hesitated. Arthur's eyes drifted down to her lips, making her stomach swoop, before finally meeting her eyes again.
Through parted lips, Gwen drew a sharp breath which made Arthur sway towards her -
But then he had the door open and was bidding her good night as he moved through it and down the hall.
The following day, when Uther pronounced the family guilty of sorcery, Arthur had let loose a storm of fury which even Uther had been unable to smother. Gwen had been a part of and witness to multitudes of ringing silences and never had one been so wrought with tension before. It seemed to go on for an eternity by the time Uther coldly conceded to Arthur's points and ordered the family released with the dawn.
Gwen had felt Morgana tremble in relief beside her, just before Uther had ordered the room cleared - excepting Arthur.
Gwen sighed now, making her way back towards Morgana's chambers. She could not shake the sense of accomplishment and pleasure with Arthur's success, but she did worry for him. No matter their differences, he loved his father, and he would hurt with the distance their row must have put between them.
Glancing out the window, Gwen spotted Arthur walking through the courtyard with Merlin. His expression was grim, but Merlin stumbled and muttered something with a sour face and Gwen lifted her chin biting back the smile which wanted to blossom fast on her lips in response to Arthur’s sudden laughter.
A twig snapped beneath her heel and Gwen froze, straining nervously for any sound. Night was beginning to fall for the second time, and she wasn't entirely sure what she could do with herself for this evening. For the previous, adrenaline had kept her awake and so she continually moved to stay warm.
Today, she was exhausted.
And starving. And sore. And freezing. And terrified.
But she tried not to think of all those things. At least these bandits had merely been robbers, keen on only stealing money - and Morgana was not with her, another relief. But her horse had bolted with the sounds of their cries, and even the burly bandits could not stop it before it had led her deep into the forest before throwing her to dash towards some unknown destination.
Certain there were no respondent rustles or murmurs to the twig, Gwen continued forward again. She had now proven the rumours that these forests contained bandits true, and was not keen on seeing if the other rumour - that druids now inhabited them - was equally accurate.
It was down to her to find her way back. She knew Morgana was likely having a fit, she was only meant to be gone a day to collect the last of the debts owed her father, but no one would heed her mistress, nor allow her to ride off to look for Gwen herself.
Gwen was alone.
She lifted her hand to her lips, forcing a sob which made her throat sore back into her mouth. There was no use crying over it; her tears would not get her home.
The sound of something falling heavily to the ground somewhere behind her froze Gwen where she stood. Perhaps her ears were betraying her, but she would have sworn that whatever fell sounded far too large to be a mere branch, and possibly also gave a muffled cry.
Her heart pounding, Gwen dashed behind a tree, pressing her back tight against it and praying to whatever powers there were that she would not come face to face with another bandit, or druid, or... bear, or something worse.
After a few moments of silence - or she hoped it was silent, it was nearly impossible to hear over her harried breathing and equally impossible to silence herself - she risked leaning around the tree to take a look.
She saw Arthur first. He had been staring curiously at the tree before his eyes lit upon her face and a relief so powerful washed across his features that it made her knees weak.
Stumbling out from behind the tree she saw Merlin standing just behind Arthur, looking filthy, covered in mud and brambles. Before she had time to process that thought, armour obscured her view and she was held tight against Arthur's chest.
"This has to stop, Guinevere," he bit out, arms tightening as she squirmed a little in his hold. But if he feared she was trying to withdraw, he hadn't needed to. Gwen's arms had flown around his back the instant she knew what was happening; she had merely been trying to readjust against him for better comfort.
Relief was making her feel faint, and the unfortunate effect Arthur had on her was making her chest ache because her heart seemed to grow so with his unanticipated appearance. Without thinking of it, she pressed her face into his neck and took a deep breath to steady herself. "I didn't think anyone would come," she gasped, biting the inside of her lip the instant the confession had left her tongue.
He made a noise she didn't understand, holding her ever closer to the point that his armour was starting to prod her painfully and she was almost finding it difficult to breathe, but she couldn't quite bring herself to care. "I will always come for you," he whispered ardently and she tucked her face tighter to his neck, swallowing down a lump in her throat.
She couldn't be sure exactly what that meant, and where she may have pressed for an explanation previously, she did not want the potential argument right now. So she clung to him - weak for only a little longer.
A few quiet moments passed before noises filtered through the forest, indicating that others were joining them. Gwen looked over Arthur's shoulder, frightened they were bandits, only to discover two knights coming out of the trees, soon followed by a third. "Arthur - your men," she said nervously, and did then reluctantly try to extricate herself from his hold but Arthur did not relinquish to her the slightest space.
"My father knows we're here," he explained. Gwen could not tell if the uneasiness under his tone was because of Uther or because he feared her reaction. "The dungeon awaits my return; the stocks for Merlin, Leon, Alric, and Gareth."
"Then why -
"Merlin requires no explanation," he said and Merlin quirked a smile which was affectionate, if a bit shadowed by concern. "Leon tells me you helped his wife when their children were ill." Leon nodded his head to Gwen in an appreciative sort of way. "You took care of Alric during the siege, helped him last the night before Gaius could reach him." Alric gave her a crooked smile, but Gwen had always felt badly that she had been able to do nothing to save his eye. "Gareth says you make delicious food." Gwen chuckled as the man licked his lips before giving her a wink, and Arthur finally let his arms slide from her back.
"I gave no order," he continued, stepping back to stand a little stiffly in front of her. "Just asked for volunteers, with no expectation, or judgement against those who did not come."
Gwen nodded and licked her lips. "And you?" she asked quietly, fearing the answer. If he said so much as the first syllable of Morgana's name, Gwen wasn't sure exactly what she'd do.
He cleared his throat and glanced between her face and his feet a couple of times, increasing Gwen's wariness tenfold. Finally Arthur managed to train his eyes on hers and he said, quietly, "I respect all members of my kingdom."
It seemed to Gwen as though that was really all she had ever needed to hear from him. She smiled hugely at him, and Arthur cleared his throat with a nod in almost bashful acceptance of her pride.
"Um, we should get moving," Merlin voiced chirpily, walking forwards and drawing something from the bag he carried. "We didn't know the state you'd be in if - when we found you," he said by way of explanation, passing her a cloak. "And you look cold now."
But Arthur pulled the cloak from her hands, throwing it easily around her shoulders and handing her the ties.
"We also took care to bring a horse along," Alric said and Gwen looked up at him with a small smile. "Was Gareth's idea," he added with a nervous glance to his cohort.
Gareth nodded to Gwen before rolling his eyes at Alric, then turned to lead the way from the forest, Alric and Leon following. Merlin gave her another, warmer, smile before moving in their direction too. Gwen looked up at Arthur, who was watching her apprehensively. "Are you hurt?" he asked.
"A little," she said softly, thinking of the brambles she'd walked through earlier which managed to scratch her legs through the material of her dress as well as her arms, and how sore her entire body was from constantly moving since her fall. "But it's fine. Could have been worse."
Arthur's face seemed to pale, but perhaps that was a trick of dusk falling over them. He swallowed, looking a little vulnerable, before offering his hand to her and Gwen hesitated. "For balance," he offered weakly, and Gwen couldn't keep the smile from turning her lips as she linked her fingers with his.
"For balance," she agreed and Arthur led the way towards the horses.
Morgana had left them a little more than an hour previous, complaining of head ache which had all of them standing in concern. But she had insisted they stay (“You, especially, Gwen.”) before pressing a light kiss to Merlin’s cheek (“It’s his birthday, Arthur. Do you think he gets any kisses any other time of the year?” “Hey!” “You know it’s true, Merlin.” "Yeah, but still...") and sweeping from the room with an affectionate smile for each of them.
Merlin was now fitfully nodding off in his spot by the fire, cheeks flaming the bright red which showed he had drunk far more of the cheap ale (gift from Gaius) and expensive wine (gift from Morgana) than he really ought to have. Gwen was sitting with her feet stretched on the hearth, and Arthur was seated behind her at Gaius’ main work table, flipping idly through a book on the various monsters thought to have been fairly common in Camelot’s forests in the years before his birth.
Every once in a while, Arthur would comment on the stupid appearance of a beast, or how he was begrudgingly glad a certain species no longer inhabited the woods. Merlin would mutter brainlessly about how he had seen worse which had Gwen laughing at Arthur’s severe disbelief and Merlin’s brief fury (brief, because he would quickly forget what it was they were bickering about) and it was, all in all, a phenomenally wonderful evening.
Finally Merlin dragged himself to his feet, saying a watery thank you and good night before crashing into walls and tables on his way to his bed. He waved wildly before shutting the door behind him.
“He really has absolutely no tolerance for alcohol,” Arthur said, sounding an amusing blend of highly entertained and utterly bewildered. “Really. It’s shocking.”
“Mm,” Gwen agreed, nodding as she, too, stood and began moving around, straightening the room.
Arthur shifted on his bench to watch her. “Do you want a hand?” he asked and Gwen looked up at him from where she had been bending for Morgana’s forgotten chalice.
“No, that’s all right,” she said, smiling softly. A flash of disappointment crossed his features and Gwen added hurriedly, “You could tell me of more beasts, though.”
He raised a brow curiously, eyeing her in a teasing way and Gwen waited patiently for the coming joke. “Have a mind for adventure, do you, Guinevere?” he asked lightly and Gwen grinned broadly, shaking her head and going back to her work, knowing he didn’t need a response. “Not exactly light pre-bed reading,” he added thoughtfully, turning back towards the book.
But he read to her (with colourful commentary) of the ibex, with its indestructible horns, and then laughed loudly (which had Gwen shushing him quickly) at the muscaliet (“Guinevere, you’ve got to take a look. Here – see its snout?”) by which time Gwen had nearly finished, so she took a seat beside him, leaning over the book to see.
She crinkled her nose and tilted her head. “It’s more grotesque than funny,” she said incredulously, looking up at him. He was staring at her nose with a somewhat dazed expression and seemed startled to realise her eyes were upon him, glancing away quickly, clearing his throat.
“It’s getting late,” Arthur said firmly, closing the book and standing. He stepped over the bench, sliding the book back into its spot on Gaius’ bookshelf.
Gwen sat still, staring intently at the flickering flame of the candle he had been reading by. They had had too many of these moments recently – no, not only recently. She ought to stop deluding herself in thinking the fluttering of her heart was a recent development, or that the attention Arthur gave her was a surprise.
“Is there anything left to be done?” he asked from behind her.
“I’ll take care of it,” she said listlessly, and she could almost hear Arthur hesitating. But then she heard distinctly as his coat dragged across the back of the chair it had been hung upon.
Gwen didn’t know how much longer she could just pretend that this was all nothing. Nearly all of Arthur’s actions had meaning to her, and she herself had been acting in ways that were inexplicable unless she admitted…
She heard him putting on his coat as she reached her decision, taking a deep breath and standing quickly. "Wait - Arthur -"
He turned and watched her curiously as she made her way towards him through the maze of benches and work tables that was Gaius' front chamber. "Yes, Guinevere?" he asked once she'd reached him, standing nervously just in front of him.
"I just wanted to say - well, ask, really..." Gwen glanced up at him, and all she saw were raised brows and a curious expression. She wasn't sure exactly what she had been expecting, but for some reason that reaction disappointed her. She took a deep breath anyway, tightly fisted her hands at her sides and said, "What did you mean, when you said you would always come for me?"
There was the sort of echoing silence which signalled the overstepping of bounds, and Gwen wondered when that had started to feel natural for her around Arthur, and also a little as though he liked it when it happened. And maybe she did, too; enjoying that risk, moving outside of where she was comfortable. But then he said, "What?" in a very distracted way and Gwen stopped her thoughts from rambling.
"Did you really mean you would come for me because I am a member of your kingdom, or because I'm... something... else...?"
She hardly realised she was staring resolutely at his feet until they shifted to bear his weight differently and so she lifted her head, forcing herself to meet and hold his gaze again. The expression that met her this time was a little pained, and definitely very nervous. "Look, Guine -
"I just ... Can you please tell me honestly?"
His forehead rumpled as his brows dipped low in a rebellious frown, but the tight line of his lips told her that if she just waited, he would tell her. After a few moments of only staring at each other, Arthur finally breathed out heavily through his nose. "Both," he said, softly and grudgingly, and really not understanding at all how brilliantly that made her feel. She could see that as a wince crossed his features, as though he was waiting for the executioner's axe to fall. "I meant both."
She had never felt so strongly the need to kiss anyone before (and that desire had arisen several times, none too few of them in relation to Arthur) but Gwen bit her tongue to waylay that want. It took too long to master, and Arthur was turning away from her with a hollow sigh.
"And," she said quickly, her hand gripping his elbow as he had done to her, oh so many nights ago. Arthur turned back slowly, looking first at her hand on his arm before seeking out her face again.
She had fully fathomed the main issue for Arthur ages ago, in the darker days after their return from Hengist's so-called castle as she had come to accept that his affections were not passing infatuation. When her lonely thoughts turned once more to the reasonable, and when Lancelot's actions were made clear to her in the crisp nights of winter. Arthur's reluctance lay exactly where he had originally said: Uther would not allow it. And with all the resultant complications that followed.
Which meant - if she chose to let herself love him freely, if Arthur chose to intentionally reciprocate, and only if Arthur could comprehend her own reasons for reluctance as well - that they were left with a single option.
"And," she said again, softer this time, breath feeling constricted in her chest so that she had to swallow to ease the tension. "If I wanted to wait... For you. Until -
"Until I am king," he breathed, eyes wide and disbelieving, his whole body frozen.
Gwen nodded anxiously, not really wanting to say the next part of her thoughts for fear of hurting him. But it had been subject of much thought and frustration in the last months, when she had actually allowed herself to get anywhere near pining.
"Do you know what you'd be asking of me?"
Arthur looked away from her as though she had slapped him. He carefully pulled his arm free from her hold, and made a show of checking the fall of his coat. "I know exactly," he murmured sullenly, still staring resolutely at his fingers tugging ineffectively at the brown material. "That's why I would never ask."
Before she had a chance to respond he was moving out the door and Gwen stood dumbfounded for a moment before exasperation pulsed through her, causing her to lift her skirts and hurry after him.
Nearly catching up with him in the courtyard between Gaius’ chambers and the castle main entrance, she called, "You would be asking me to become a queen."
Not that she had believed at the beginning that she could... In fact, she really didn't know now if she was capable of ruling a kingdom; the thought made her faint with anxiety. But she absolutely loved Camelot, with its glorious mix of people, and when she thought of Arthur, she didn't want to be anywhere else...
Arthur turned sharply and was staring at her with a stiff neutral expression. There was too much distance between them, Gwen thought, but found herself incapable of movement as he watched her. She added a hurried, "If we got that far."
A wave of emotion broke his mask, but it was so swift that Gwen would not even let herself guess at what the emotion had been. "I know that," Arthur finally said quietly.
Gwen wasn't even sure he'd heard her because she had spoken so softly, but then Arthur let out a wry puff of breath, something like a bitter chuckle, and looked briefly skywards. "Of course," he said, both hollow and annoyed. "Guinevere. How could I not?"
"This whole time?" she asked desperately. If he had known, since the beginning, they could have avoided all this distance and so much heartache if only they'd just talked about it. Her heart was thudding painfully in her chest as she waited for his answer.
His jaw had tightened and lifted a bit defensively. "No," he admitted. "Not at first."
It was unseemly how relieved Gwen felt with that information. She nodded, taking a deep breath. "Then," she said softly, and Arthur began walking towards her, finally closing the too-big distance between them. His expression made her swallow thickly; it was the look of a man clinging to a last, previously undiscovered shred of hope. She was, by now, used to Arthur looking to her for faith and support, but this was new and terrifying.
"Then, if I wanted to wait," she tried again, fighting to keep her voice from trembling as her heart did. "Would you... Would you want me to?"
There was a pause that could only have lasted a second but which seemed to go on forever, before Arthur said roughly, “Would you want –
“Arthur, ple –
“Yes.” He looked as though he was near to running away, that it was taking every part of his resolve to stay standing in front of her and Gwen took a deep breath. “Yes, Guinevere. I want you to wait. I’ve always wanted you to –
Gwen pressed her mouth softly to Arthur's.
She had risen to her toes, intending the kiss to be a swift caress, but as Gwen began to move away, lowering herself to her heels, Arthur followed. He tilted his head and parted his lips slightly, allowing their mouths to fit together to much greater satisfaction, and Gwen sighed. It was with this that Arthur went to pull back, but Gwen found herself following without thinking.
With her lungs protesting, Gwen finally broke the kiss, leaning her head back slightly. She hadn’t even noticed when Arthur’s hands had gripped her arms, or when she had wrapped her fingers around his elbows. She supposed their closeness was due in part to her having moved forwards to reach him, but she was still surprised to feel the heat from his body just barely touching hers. They seemed trapped in a moment of disbelief, staring at each other until finally Arthur licked his lips.
“I take it,” he started, very hoarsely and so cleared his throat to try again. “I take it you’ll wait then.”
Gwen laughed joyfully and Arthur swiftly kissed the corner of her mouth and she really did not think that she had ever felt anything quite so delightful as that.
“Yes, I’ll wait,” she whispered, watching with warmth spreading fast throughout her as Arthur closed his eyes with a sigh of relief.
He opened them after a moment and looked at her with a touch of trepidation. They had learned, in recent weeks, how to be in each other’s company in friendship, but this was new. And given their propensity for challenging each other and rousing frustration, Gwen could guess this would not be anything resembling easy.
But they would be fine. They would just... move forward.
So Gwen smiled reassuringly and recognised in astonishment the liquid change in Arthur’s eyes which meant he was about to kiss her again. Her smile still curved her lips as she tipped her chin up to meet him halfway.