Title: Freefall to Fate – AU Camelot [4/?]

Show: Merlin

Characters/Pairings: Gwen/Arthur, Lancelot, Uther, OCs (Gwen/Lancelot)

Rating: NC-17

Word Count: 4,449

Disclaimer: I obviously don't own Merlin, because if I did…let's just say it wouldn't be a "family" show.

Warnings: some clichés/plot devices, angst, character death.

Summary: Sir Arthur is assigned as Princess Guinevere's personal protection on the trip to meet her betrothed, Prince Lancelot. And thus began the freefall to fate.

Author's notes:

-First written for the "Challenge 04 – Alternate Universe" in the merlin_rarepair LJ comm (which accepted WIPs). This fic concept just soooo ran away with me.

-I should perhaps clarify that this is *not* a 'this is how the legend really happened' fic, more of an AU/Legend fusion (mostly AU with snippets from legend when it so suited me… which became more and more as I progressed). I also claim only minimal knowledge of the Arthurian legend.

-I should say that I took some really big liberties with the Arthurian legend in this chapter (character role-wise). But I've already bastardized the legend enough in my making it into an AU (makes the Merlin writers look like purists), so … meh.

I made Galehaut Lancelot's brother. In legend, some have interpreted them to be lovers, or at least Galehaut into loving Lancelot. But I was coming up empty on who could fill the role of Lancelot's brother, so I figured I'd make it into a brotherly love? Plus Galehaut is a warlord in legend(as far as I can figure) and warlord - [eventual] king isn't too much of a stretch, methinks. Then I made Galahad and Galeas (who is an alternate name of Galahad, so I made one person into two) Galehaut's sons, which I figured being Lancelot's son(s) - Lancelot's nephews wasn't too bad of a leap, especially since I can pretend that they got their namesakes from their 'father'. Then to finish it off, Elaine became Galehaut's wife, remaining Galahad's mother.

llllllllll

They barely spoke ten words to each other for the rest of the journey, lapsing them into an even more uncomfortable silence than two days previous.

Guinevere didn't know what to say to him, and she could not expect him to do any better.

She had just wanted to kiss him. Then, she had wanted to touch him. And then, to give him something. She had no other reason she could think of than that. She couldn't explain what made her decide to turn around in the river – while they were both stark naked. She didn't even know what made her suggest he bathe with her. And then she'd tempted herself with the snuck look at him while he undressed, despite herself.

All the while she'd been thinking that she would never have the chance with him again. So for once in her life, she acted. She did what she wanted instead of what was right, instead of doing the rational thing. And she did not regret it, really. She only wished it hadn't made things tense between them.

It was only a matter of time before Arthur and Guinevere reached the edge of the trees to see the castle of Benwick on the horizon. It took less than an hour to pass through the outlying farmland, and then they were finally upon the city walls themselves.

Arthur immediately approached one of the guards at the main gate.

"I am Sir Arthur of Camelot. I bring Princess Guinevere."

The guard stared at him in confusion, prompting Arthur to motion towards her. Guinevere took off her cap to let her hair tumble down and stepped forward.

"I hope that my father, King Uther, has arrived."

"Y-yes," the guard stuttered, in clear disbelief.

"Good." Guinevere couldn't help a small sigh of relief that her father hadn't befallen the same fate on the road from Camelot.

"Then you will send word to him. And King Ban."

The guard nodded to a servant boy next to him, who ran on ahead of them.

Guinevere and Arthur made their way through the town to the castle, receiving many strange looks and whispers. A woman dressed as a boy, walking ahead of a knight, would indeed be unusual. A few of them even gave hesitant bows, perhaps figuring out who she was.

Uther was already coming down the steps of the castle when they arrived, his arms outstretched.

"Guinevere! You're safe." The great relief in him was audible in his tone as he embraced her. "When I'd arrived this morning and heard you were missing, I –" Uther sighed and gripped her tighter. "I shouldn't have let you go. Or I should have had a battalion accompany you. "

"Don't blame yourself, father," she reassured with a squeeze to his arms. "I'm fine, now."

Uther pulled back to assess her better and see that she was in one piece, finally giving into the question on his mind. "But what, dear, are you wearing?"

"My dress was far from inconspicuous, father. So I suggested disguising myself as Sir Arthur's squire."

The king shook his head in amused disbelief. "Well, whatever it took to make sure you arrived safely."

"Uther, is that your daughter?" a jovial voice boomed.

"Yes, Ban. She might not look the princess in her ruse, but this is Guinevere."

The other king smiled, the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth creasing from much use. "Well she is still very beautiful despite the costume."

"Thank you, my lord," she answered with an awkward curtsy in her trousers.

"Guinevere, as you must assume, this is King Ban. And the lovely young woman next to him is his daughter-in-law, Princess Elaine, Prince Galehaut's wife."

Elaine, a tall blonde woman who looked several months with child nodded and smiled her greeting. "You will forgive my lack of curtsey," she said with a touch to her stomach.

"Galehaut and Lancelot are out among those looking for you along the road – to which I have already sent a message about the good news. And I must also ask how you arrived here before the search party found you."

Arthur stepped forward. "We took the west road, my lord, after being attacked. It was the closest route from where he had fled to."

"This is Sir Arthur," Uther explained. "He is one of Camelot's finest, who I had assigned as personal guard to my daughter for the journey. With good reason, it seems, seeing as he has delivered her safely to us."

"Your majesty," Arthur greeted with a bow.

King Ban nodded. "Of course. You are an honored guest for your duties."

"Thank you, your majesty."

"Well," said King Ban with a clap of his hands. "Let us get on to the tasks ahead of us. We still have a lot of work for the wedding tomorrow, especially when we abandoned most of them in favor of searching for the bride! But since the excitement is thankfully over, we must get back to business. Now if Elaine could show Guinevere to her chambers, into a change of clothes, and get her prepared for tonight and tomorrow."

"Certainly, my lord," Princess Elaine answered, motioning for Guinevere to join her.

"And then, Uther, perhaps we can steal your man just long enough get a better idea of our highwaymen problem on the road before we let him have some well-deserved rest."

The remainder of the men's conversation was out of earshot as the two women moved towards the guest quarters.

Guinevere was surprised to learn that, despite looking no more than two months away from giving birth, Elaine walked rather quickly and still seemed full of energy.

"I would assume, my dear, from what was found of your caravan and what you bring with you now that all your things were stolen by the bandits."

"Yes, they were."

Elaine sighed, "That is so unfortunate."

Guinevere shrugged. "They were just things. Nothing of consequence."

"But your wedding dress!" Elaine's gait paused and she shook her head. "Listen to me fretting over the bridal gown when we nearly lost the bride. You're right; what is important is that you arrived safely." She resumed her quick pace down the hall, her purpose not easily forgotten. "Now don't you worry about your clothes. We will find something for you to wear in the meantime to get you out of that outfit and a wedding dress will be started on right away. Some sacrifices might need to be made for the sake of time, unfortunately…"

"That is no bother. I really do not mind what I am married in."

Elaine laughed. "Of course! What matters is that you are being married. Now here we are at your chambers."

Guinevere turned into the room after Elaine to see a flurry of maids filling up a tub, laying out dresses and materials, and bringing food.

"I assumed you would want a hot bath and a warm meal upon arrival, so I sent for one as soon as I heard the news."

Guinevere was reminded of her bath that morning, but hardly thought it a good idea to mention it.

"Thank you, my lady. That is very kind of you."

"Please, Guinevere, call me Elaine. We will be sisters shortly."

Guinevere smiled weakly. "So, we will be, Elaine."

She was soon beckoned behind the screen by a few maids while the last buckets of water were poured in. One maid set to help undress her, a little hesitant for a moment as she was obviously used to taking off dresses. Finally, Gwen was naked and the maids went back to the other side of the screen for her to bathe.

The sound of a chair scraping across the floor and a female sigh got Guinevere's attention.

"I hope you are not being worn out, Elaine," she called, assuming that the woman was finally resting a moment.

Elaine laughed. "I'm used to it. This will be my third child."

"Who are your others?"

"Two boys. Galahad is seven and Galeas is just four. I would like this one to be a girl, but I suppose I'll always have more chances."

Gwen nodded to herself. Her father had explained how Lancelot had been groomed to become a king alongside his older brother, incase Galehaut died before having heirs of his own. But now with at least two sons, it was sure that Lancelot was no longer in line to be king of Benwick. His preparation to become one, however, was what made him such a strong candidate to become king of Camelot. That, and the friendship between the two current kings. Just as Uther trusted Ban's ability at being king, he trusted Ban's sons to be brought up the same way. Uther couldn't have found a better husband for her.

"Is something wrong, Guinevere?"

Guinevere realized how she'd grown quiet and dropped the conversation. "I'm sorry. I'm just a bit tired, I suppose."

"There's no need for apologies, Guinevere. I can only imagine what you've been through. So after we have you fitted in one of my old dresses for tonight and measured for your wedding gown, you can have some rest."

lll

A few hours later, Guinevere was gently roused from her slumber by a servant.

For a wonderful moment, Guinevere thought she was still somewhere in the forest with Arthur and able to spend at least one more day alone with him. And then once she realized she was in a bed and not on the ground, she wondered if she were in her room at Camelot and it all just been some strange dream.

But, no. She was in Benwick. Her welcoming feast was in an hour. And tomorrow…

Tomorrow she was getting married.

The seamstress' assistant arrived with the refitted dress from that afternoon. Elaine had decided the blush colored one had suited her best. The shade garnered a few teasing comments from Elaine about Guinevere soon being a blushing bride, at which Guinevere tried not to look distressed over.

"Are you nervous, Guinevere?"

"No," she lied. Well, maybe it was a lie. Guinevere didn't know what she felt anymore.

Elaine clucked and linked arms with her as they walked down together. "I was nervous, too, the first time I met Galehaut. But there is nothing to worry about. Lancelot is a fine man and he will think you are lovely."

Guinevere nodded, a lump now lodged in her throat. She might have had those worries a few days ago, but that all seemed so trivial right now.

All eyes seemed to be on her the moment she and Elaine entered the banquet hall. She quickly found King Ban and her father standing at the head table. On either side of the kings were the two princes. Lancelot would be next to her father. Like his brother, he was tall and of a muscular build, with tan skin and dark medium-length hair.

She and Elaine curtsied to the head table and parted to take their respective seats at either end of the table– but not before the blonde gave her arm a reassuring squeeze.

Guinevere should have been very pleased to have such a man as her betrothed. Through the duration of the feast, she could tell that Prince Lancelot was kind, chivalrous, intelligent, and even rather handsome. She found no apparent faults with him, no annoying habits. He did not chew his food loudly or laugh obnoxiously while she sat next to him, exchanging pleasantries.

Guinevere had never been a romantic, but instead very practical. So she hated the disappointment she felt that Lancelot stirred nothing from within her. If she had met him a week ago, she would have been perfectly content with such a match. But the fact remained that the past few days had happened and it had changed things… changed her.

While Lancelot described Benwick to her, a topic that would have interested her at one time, her eyes strayed down the others tables on either side of the banquet hall. Finally, she found Arthur, although she had not realized she'd been searching for him until then.

She was surprised that he had already been looking at her when she laid eyes on him, but he did not break his gaze on her. Her mouth went dry as she locked eyes with him. After a few seconds, her stomach began to ache so that she placed one hand over her abdomen and closed her eyes as a chill racked her.

"Guinevere?" Lancelot's voice called softly. "Are you alright?"

"I think I'm just tired," she whispered. It was the second time she had used that excuse today. How many more times in her life would she have to use it?

"That's perfectly understandable. Might you wish to retire early?"

Gwen thought for a moment, finally opening her eyes to glance back at Arthur before returning Lancelot's gaze. "Yes, I think I will."

lll

Arthur watched them as they left the banquet hall, biting his cheeks to keep himself from glowering. Seeing her hand in his, however genteelly, made him feel strangely empty. He caught her eyes a third time that night, her face almost apologetic, as she left with Lancelot.

The only consolation was that the prince returned alone not long after. Which was ridiculous, since in a day's time, Lancelot would be allowed to spend all the time alone with her he wanted – a thought which made Arthur's insides squirm.

lll

"Your majesty," Arthur bowed stiffly as he entered the king's guest chamber after the feast.

King Uther granted him one of his few smiles. "Sir Arthur. You must know why I wished to see you."

The knight paused, Uther's smile confusing him. "I apologize, your majesty. But I don't."

"So modest, Arthur," he laughed heartily. "I wish to repay you for keeping my daughter safe."

Arthur nodded slowly.

"Now over the years, you've certainly collected a large amount in prize money from tournaments. So I thought that perhaps there was something else you might want… A reward of a different kind."

Arthur was beginning to feel obtuse, but perhaps that was because he was so preoccupied with another thought.

"I thought it possible that you might wish to marry a certain Lady." There was no doubt in Arthur's mind that he meant Morgana.

"Oh," Arthur answered stupidly before collecting himself. "That's very gracious of you, your majesty. But," he wet his lips, "I will have to politely decline your offer."

The king was silent for a moment, making Arthur dread that the king could read his mind.

"Perhaps there is another lady, who you wish to marry? I can put in a good word for you; and as king, my word goes very far."

Arthur shook his head. "There is yet any woman whom I would wish to marry, your majesty. But I thank you."

"Then is there anything you do want as your reward?"

"Only to continue in your service, your majesty. I did nothing more than required of me in my duty as a knight, so I ask for nothing more."

"But you went above and beyond –"

"It is what a good knight does, your majesty," he interrupted. It would be otherwise rude to interrupt the king, but Arthur was less caring at this point and luckily Uther was in a charitable enough mood to let it slide.

Uther studied the knight for a few more moments, and then said, "It's late. And I'm sure you must be very tired from the past few days. Remember that it will never be too late to reconsider, if you ever require something or need a favor in the future, merely come to me."

"That is exceedingly kind of you, your majesty."

Arthur bowed at his dismissal, Uther calling out as he opened the door.

"I am indebted to you, Sir Arthur. I will not forget that."

Arthur gave a courteous nod and left.

lll

After a half hour of pacing hallways, Arthur somehow ended up at Guinevere's door.

He regretted knocking as soon as he did it. She was probably asleep. And even then it was a bad idea to be alone with her. It wasn't right, and especially considering –

But the door opened in a surprisingly short amount of time.

"Arthur?"

"I…" He stared at her for a moment. "I – don't know what I'm doing here," he rushed. "Forgive me."

"No," she said, quickly touching his elbow. "Please, Arthur. Come in."

He nodded. He did not want to be seen standing outside of her room this late and whatever might be said by them would not be something they'd want overheard.

So Arthur walked to the center of her room, arms folded behind his back as he faced her.

"I'm sorry for disturbing you at such a late hour," he began politely.

"It's no matter. I couldn't sleep." She wet her lips as a moment passed. "So why are you here?"

It was not an accusation. He could tell she just wanted an honest answer.

"I suppose I came to… apologize. I should not have acted that way. I should not have had you… do that."

"I did nothing I did not want to do, Arthur," she replied gently.

"But it was dishonorable of me."

Guinevere placed her hand on his chest. "I do not believe that, Arthur. If anything, I am the one to blame. I don't know what I had been thinking. I'd never done anything like that before. I just –" she stopped her rambling and lowered her head. "I hope you don't think less of me."

Arthur raised her chin with his knuckle. "I could never think less of you."

"I just, I felt…"

"I understand," he answered quietly. He more than understood – he'd felt it, too.

He covered the hand on his chest with his, his other hand still holding her chin, thumb grazing over her jaw.

"I'm getting married tomorrow," she whispered. But the way she said it and the look in her eyes, it sounded like a plea.

The space between their bodies had shrunk to practically nothing and Arthur could feel his heart thumping against his ribcage – against her hand.

Arthur took a deep breath. "I was never allowed the chance to repay you."

"What do you mean?"

"For… in the river."

Guinevere tilted her head a fraction. "Oh. I thought that… I thought that if anything, I was repaying you. Because you saved me."

"No. You said you did that because you wanted to," he answered, several seconds passing while he only breathed unnaturally heavily. "Now let me do something because I want to."

They stood silent for a moment, when he hurried, "Unless you don't want –"

"Yes," she interrupted boldly, her voice then growing softer. "Yes."

His hands drifted to the sash of her dressing gown. "You trust me?" he whispered.

"With my life."

He nodded, pulling the end of the sash until it came free of its knot. Then both hands were on her shoulders, pushing the dressing gown off her so it whispered to the ground.

Arthur swallowed, tentative of the next step. So he rested his fingers on the front laces of her nightshift. He felt her breath hitch, her breasts shuddering against his hand. But Guinevere's gaze on him did not falter when he began to undo the laces, save for when they flickered down to watch his hand work. Once the strip of skin down to her navel was visible, he pushed off her shift just as he'd done with her dressing gown.

Arthur's eyes couldn't help but travel over the body he'd resisted looking at before. He finally stared back up at her, after what was probably an indecent amount of time, to find her gaze. He could not quite discern her expression, somewhere between nervousness and excitement, fear and curiosity. But even in her hesitance, she looked back at him expectantly.

His hand finally found her face, almost afraid to touch any other part of her, to kiss her. Fingers laced into his hair as she kissed him back, no less bold from her nakedness being in plain view. He then felt her pull closer to him, but he grabbed her upper arms before their bodies actually connected.

Guinevere looked back at him, startled at his sudden change.

"This is about you," he whispered raggedly. He didn't think he could handle having her whole body pressed against him. This would already be a test of his wills.

She looked at him in confusion, but nodded her head. So he guided her back to sit on the edge of her bed. He kneeled in front of her and resumed their kiss.

The kiss was becoming much more intense than that morning had been. Guinevere' breaths came in ragged pants and her occasional moans only increased his fervor. He knew she was inexperienced, but she did not lack enthusiasm, returning his ministrations with every determination.

His hands went to her waist and began a slow journey upward. His thumbs brushed the undersides of her breasts experimentally, at which Guinevere sighed. Taking this as permission, he cupped them fully.

Guinevere arched against his hands, whimpering softly as he massaged them. He then took one nipple between his thumb and forefinger, making her gasp.

Arthur broke the kiss, finding her earlobe and sucking it between his teeth before moving down to kiss her neck. From there, his mouth traveled to her breasts, pushing her back until she was half lying on the bed. He felt the brush of her fingers at the back of his neck, making him shiver all the way down his spine. When he sucked roughly at her nipple, that hand of hers then fisted into his hair as a sharp "ah!" escaped her.

His hands were at her legs now, his thumbs brushing the insides of her thighs so that she was parting them for him, trembling as his hands moved higher and higher.

"You alright?" he whispered against the skin of her stomach.

"Yes," she replied breathily. His thumbs then ran over her outer lips, and she opened her legs even more. "Oh, yes."

Arthur could smell her arousal and even see how glistening she was in the dim light. This time it was him that moaned. Then he brought up one finger and ran it down her center.

Guinevere whimpered above him, and he saw her fist the bed sheets at either side of her.

Arthur so badly wanted to press his fingers inside of her, both to bring her pleasure that way and so he could feel her warm, soft body. But he was afraid to put so much as a finger in her and risk jeopardizing her maidenhood, and therefore her future husband's opinion of her. Or perhaps it was a more selfish reason. Because the knowledge of how she would feel, so hot and tight around his fingers, would be too much – either too much of a temptation or bring him too much jealousy of what he couldn't have. He was probably tempting himself too much already just by having his finger trace her slit. But he could tell from her whimpers that she liked it and he didn't want to take that pleasure away from her.

Instead he opted to replace his finger with his open mouth, pressing it over her lips, so that she shuddered. Then his tongue ran around the edge of her opening before slipping just the tip of it between the folds, hearing her quiet gasp.

She tasted sweet and fresh, compelling him to spread her wide with both hands on her thighs and lick up all he could of her, exploring every crevice with his tongue and enjoying how her body shook and shivered.

He licked up to her clit, flicking his tongue against it and sucking on it. This, of course, got the best response: Guinevere arching up from the bed, gasping, "Arthur. Oh, Arthur. Arthur, please. Arthur–!"

He kept going, blood surging at the sound of his name, wondering if she even knew what she was begging for. But, by God, he was going to give it to her or die trying. Soon she couldn't even form his name anymore, just wordless sounds and cries that she bit back until finally her body pulsed against him and she moaned.

Her breathing came in deep gasps as she winded back down, while Arthur gently licked up the wetness that remained and rubbed tender circles into her hipbones with his thumbs. He only stopped when he felt her fingers running through his fringe, which had been sticking to his sweaty forehead until then.

He looked up to meet her eyes, finding her propped up on one elbow and staring down at him. Her expression was soft, her eyes shining and her smile shy, as she just continued to stroke his hair. No woman had ever looked at him like that.

"Arthur?" she whispered.

His mouth went dry, despite its watering a moment previous. He felt her hand move to the back of his head and tug him to her.

Guinevere pulled him up close to her so that his upper body was hovering over hers, his arms resting on either side of her, his hips coming close to hers so that he had to fight every instinct he had to not grind his erection between her open legs. She tried to bring him closer still, but he braced against her, resisting her waiting mouth. When he would not kiss her, Guinevere's eyes fluttered open after just drifting shut in expectation.

"Arthur?" This time his name carried her confusion, worry, perhaps even hurt.

He stared down at her, wishing he could take what she was offering. But he knew he couldn't – and she would, too, if she were thinking clearly instead of with a mind hazed by want and need.

"I should go," he murmured.

Guinevere's eyebrows worked together as she bit her lip.

He stretched up, pressing a long, tender kiss to her forehead, before receding. He wasn't able to look at her again as he stood and left the room.

Arthur found the closest alcove and took his cock out in his hand. Closing his eyes and resting his forehead against the cool stone wall, his hand moved while he imagined that he had stayed in her room to make love to her. It did not take long before he was clamping down on his moans and finishing off. His breath still shuddered as he laced back up his trousers, not daring to leave the dark corner until he stopped shaking.

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Author's note: Here's the deal, FanfictionNet readers,

I posted the first 3 chapters of this fic to my LJ account awhile ago, with the thought that I would post to FanfictionNet when I finished the whole thing. As you can see, I decided against doing that. But you should know that the first three chapters had three month gaps between them, and the fourth chapter came after a two month gap. I always hope that I will not go so long without updating this fic, but with having other stuff to do & occasional writers block, that doesn't always happen.

Long story short: just because it seems that I've been cranking out this story due to the short time between posting the past 4 chapters, I can't promise that updates will continue to happen speedily, only that I will try. I do plan on finishing, it might just take me awhile.

Apologies & thanks for reading,

dfriendly

PS: Because of my possibly irratic updates, if you want to catch future chapters I would suggest Story Alert or Author Alert.