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CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Ignorance is bliss
Guinevere was dreaming. It was a beautiful, clear day and the market around her was bustling, despite it being early morning and the stalls only just set up. She smiled happily at a few of her neighbours and greeted some of the children, working her way through the crowds that no longer seemed to hinder her.
"Merlin you idiot. I can't believe you lost her!" The crown prince was berating his servant, as per usual.
The idiot replied just as scathingly. "I looked everywhere for her! It's not my fault she ran off in the first place."
Gwen rolled her eyes, arguing over a girl, were they? She stopped to inspect an apple cart, but the Princes' voice cut through her thoughts again.
"You didn't think to look for her in her own house!" The Prince spat back.
Merlin sighed. "Well that was my fault. Oh, and It's this way." He pointed down towards the thick of the market, where Guinevere stood.
His master backtracked and followed the direction the servant indicated. "I knew that." He muttered.
"Anyway. I still think she could be anywhere by now. You didn't see the state she was in. How was I supposed to know you would wake up demanding to see her?" Merlin sighed, tailing the prince down the road.
Gwen amusedly noted the confusion at the mere presence of the future King. He and his manservant appeared to be searching for someone – this girl, she presumed – and were scanning the faces of the crowd in somewhat disguised desperation.
"Gwen?" Someone called her name, and she realised it was Merlin, his face hanging open with shock. She smiled and waved.
"GUINEVERE?" His master pushed him aside, struggling through the crowds as if they couldn't pass fast enough. She stood in confusion, a forgotten apple in her hands. He made it and stood before her, desperation now painstakingly obvious. "It's you!" He panted "It's actually you!"
"Sire?" She queried, now thoroughly confused. She didn't notice that the apple rolled out of her hands back into the fruit cart.
His eyes met hers and latched on. "I remember you, Guinevere. I remember you."
She became aware of the market place gossiping around her. Well really, this is a strange dream.
"I remember you telling me off for being ungrateful at Hunith's, I remember you talking to me when I was on the brink of death. I remember hugging you when I returned from the dragon attack. I remember staying around your house under the guise of Sir William." He stands before her, expecting any sort of response but she doesn't react at all. "I remember you comforting me, time and time again, stopping me when I was about to do something stupid, helping when I was at my lowest points. I remember I love you, Guinevere. And nothing would ever change that."
Somewhere in his big speech the market had fallen silent to listen. The maid couldn't fathom a response and chose to chew on her lip in confusion. Okay. I could do with waking up now. This is a cruel game.
"Gods, don't do that!" He cursed, before closing the distance between them and kissing her with all his might.
She gasped against his mouth as the sound came rushing in. The market roared around them, cheering and crying with joy. His hands were on her hips, she realised. This wasn't a dream.
She pulled away, and laughed, laughed with sheer relief. "Oh, Arthur!" She grinned with her hands around his neck – she must have placed them there at some point during the kiss – "That's amazing but you're forgetting something." She smiled as his face flooded with such innocent confusion. "You've forgotten something very important."
He looked so worried; bless him, so she smiled benevolently up at him. "You're forgetting our relationship was always a secret."
And it seemed his people's cheers dawned on him as well as he looked up and around, absorbing what he had just done. Then, he laughed. A genuine smile broke out over his face and he found Guinevere's hand, clutching onto it, drawing strength.
"Well then. I think we ought to have a word with my father." And he beamed down at her. His Guinevere, His Queen.