She isn't expecting him to show up at her door in the rain with an armful of purple-and-white flowers, bleeding from a cut on his cheek, but then Arthur Pendragon has never been precisely predictable.

"My lord," Gwen says, startled.

"So," he begins. "These are for you."

She blinks at him, propping her broom against the wall. "Oh," she says.

"See, it's like this," he says. "It's not like I was like, 'Oh, I'm going to go pick Gwen some flowers today, won't that be a lark,' not that you don't deserve it, that's not what I'm saying, it's just that I'm not the sort of person who goes mooning about picking flowers for people, that's Merlin's area and he's welcome to it. But we were scouting up in the mountains and we came across a little hollow in the woods with all these flowers and they reminded me of you in - you know - your dress, so I just thought I'd take some, I don't know why, stupid idea really, and just my luck, it turns out that hollow is guarded by a flock of - what are they called?"

"Stymphalian birds," Merlin calls from where he is lurking in a very obvious way behind a street stall.

"Oh," Gwen repeats.

He goes on in a rush. "So I took the flowers and the idiot things are apparently very protective of their flowers and they tried to kill me and then Merlin tried to help which I think we both know is just never a good idea and so I was fighting off the birds and Merlin and I'm bleeding and I'm fairly certain I've thrown my right knee but I got them for you anyway anyway and will you just take the stupid flowers?"

And he's still holding them all and he looks frankly completely ridiculous but earnest and his hair is wet and his eyes are extraordinarily blue and she told herself she wasn't going to hurt herself over him like this all over again but she cannot help it - something in her wrenches and gives way.

Gwen smiles. "Thank you, my lord," she says, reaching for the flowers. A blossom or two drifts to the ground as Arthur shifts the bundle into her arms, and he bends for one, twirling the little purple flower between his fingers.

"You like them?" he says.

"They're lovely," she says, and they are. But then she is seized by awkwardness, and she adds, "Would you like to--I don't know--come in?"

"No, no," he says instantly, "My father expects me for dinner. I have to get going, actually. I just, you know. Wanted you to have them."

"All right," she says, and smiles again.

But he doesn't go anywhere for a moment, and he is Arthur Pendragon standing before her with hope in his eyes and a flower in his hand, bleeding for her, and she wishes wretchedly that she'd never met him even while she wants to grab his hand and make sure he never walks away from her again.