iv

"Don't tell me that nothing can come of it!"

Arthur was pacing. Well, as much as he could pace in Gwen's small one roomed house. His arms were stiff by his sides, only occasionally throwing them about to reinforce his point, and his eyes seemed to be either rolling or glaring. Guinevere, in the mean time, was sitting quite still on the edge of her wooden bench, currently nursing a cup of hot ale and watching Arthur brood.

"You cannot just give up- I won't let you. I won't-"

He cut himself off, sighing in an exasperated way, and turning sharply to look in Gwen's direction. But she refused to look up. It was an argument they had had many time s before- the only real thing that they ever argued about, but one that never the less seemed to reappear every month. Gwen had tried; God knows she had tried, but it seemed that they were each as stubborn as the other- and neither were willing to back down on the issue. So all she could do was sit silently, and let the Prince vent.

"I refuse."

Arthur stated, and sat opposite her, arms folded on the table and eyes boring into Gwen's cheek.

"Sorry?"

"I refuse."

"You refuse?" She smirked, half amused, half annoyed. "What on earth does that mean? You cannot just refuse; this isn't a matter of choice-"

"That's exactly what it is, Guinevere." He reached out and stroked a thumb over her calloused palm. There was a time when the state of her hands had embarrassed her in front of Arthur, but that had passed after months of him touching and holding and playing with them. She saw that his were rough too- from fighting and weapon training- but to Gwen they were just Arthur's hands, the ones that fit so perfectly around her own.

"I won't give you up." His eyes were hooded, the blue seemed darker in them today, more resolute and determined than she had seen them before. "Don't ask me to, because I can't."

"You don't have a choice Arthur," She flipped her hand over and grasped on to his tightly. "Neither of us do. Do you really think that we have any say in this?"

The reality of the situation had hit them not long after Arthur and Merlin had returned from killing the Dragon. Gwen had been so relieved, so unbelievably happy that he had come back to her that for once she had thrown caution to the wind. She had ran to him and held him close, breathed in the smell of his hair, revelled in the feel of his arms on her waist- and suddenly she found herself not really caring anymore. How could anyone tell her that this wasn't right? That the sensation of having Arthur so close to her was anything but perfection? Words had tumbled from their mouths that night. Promises and revelations had dripped from their tongues; kisses had been planted on his neck and her shoulders.

And to them both, that night had been the start of it.

But after months of sweet whisperings and secret meetings and stolen glances and hidden embraces Gwen had begun to see that maybe this was it. Maybe she could only ever have her Prince when no one else was using him.

And of course, Arthur hadn't taken this too well.

"Why shouldn't we?!" His deep voice reverberated off her close walls, and Gwen started from her ministrations. "It's our bloody lives! It's our future- who the hell can dictate what we do?"

"Your father?" She hissed, fighting back the bite in her eyes. "Social decorum? The people of Camelot? You are going to be the greatest King this place has ever seen- you cannot diminish that by marrying anyone less than perfect! You need a Queen who knows how to rule, who will inspire you and add to your prestige, not taint it-"

"Stop!" His fist slammed down, and knocked her tumbler clean off the bench. He jumped up and ran to her side, kneeling and fisting at the lilac folds of her dress. "I won't listen to this- not again."

"Arthu-"

"No." He breathed, rubbing circles into her knee. "You are the only person fit to be Queen, Gwen. I could look for the rest of my life, run around the world till I'm ninety and I still wouldn't find anyone more suited to rule- to rule with me."

He looked down and she found herself missing the steel of his eyes on hers. "Truth is," he murmured, playing with a loose thread on her dress, "is that I don't want to do this without you. I've been groomed for this my whole life- taken it as an inevitability- until you told me that this wasn't just a birth right, it was a gift. A gift that is completely pointless and hollow and meaningless if I can't share it with you."

Gwen slipped from her seat and fell down beside him on the floor, her hands automatically going up to cup his cheeks and stroke his neck. "Arthur..." she breathed.

"So you have to stop." He titled his chin to look at her, and in some vain attempt to compose himself in front of the woman he loved. "You just have to stop it. Please."

Gwen wasn't sure whether it was the wet glisten in his eye or the soft strained chord of his voice, but something made her promise that she wouldn't bring up this topic again...not until she really really had to. So she tipped her head down and caught his mouth with hers, letting her lips say what she couldn't.

I love you. I love you. I love you.