Arthur Pendragon didn't like to be outdone. Especially by his friends. What's more, he didn't like his friends moving in on what wasn't theirs for the taking. No, he didn't like other men on his territory and he wasn't afraid to do something about it.
He didn't like to lose.
One day in Spring, when the flowers had just sprouted and made the fields alive with plumes, purples and blues flooding the gardens with reds and pinks adorning the bushes as the roses budded and bloomed.
As Arthur passed the front of her home he noticed how a new vase of flowers were sitting in the window. He looked through to see a man beyond the wild heather and lavender; scar on his cheek, stubble on his jaw and hair tousled atop his head. Of course, he should have known.
He turned on his heel, the lower town guards could wait another fifteen minutes. He, unlike his rival, had the royal gardens at his disposal, and a symbolic understanding with the woman subject to their affections. He plucked a handful of roses, eleven to be precise, and made his journey back to his new canvas.
He checked through the rear window of her home, his competition was no longer there. He smiled to himself and picked his way into the back of her home. She really needed to have a lock fitted on her door. He stole away the vase from the window and took the wild flowers from it and replaced them with the roses he had grasped in his hands.
He should have felt worse about doing this to his friend, but he wasn't losing his perfect woman to a man who couldn't give her anything.
He left the vase in the middle of the table, finding a scrap of paper and scribbling 'William' across it.
When Guinevere returned home that night she smiled to herself and picked the note from the table. She turned it over in her hands and returned it to the table. She ran her worn fingertip over the soft red petal. Even without a note she'd have known who had given her royal, Pendragon red roses.
One day in Summer when the sun was high in the sky Lancelot made his mistake; telling Arthur when he intended to meet with her. Like Lancelot, Arthur knew exactly when Guinevere would finish work and which way her route would take her. He also knew when she was scheduled to do her duties.
Arthur spied her as she walked across the courtyard with laundry in her arms, soon she would break for her dinner before she proceeded to serve the Pendragon's theirs.
"Guinevere," he greeted as she rounded the corner onto his calculated route. She greeted him with a smile before a knight came around the next corner, "I shall see you at dinner," he said with a smile, every intention to make the dinner run away long as possible. Lancelot was leaving at eight to travel to an outlying village with Gwaine. He couldn't possibly meet her if she was still working.
Morgana stationed herself opposite Arthur, she hadn't failed to notice that Arthur was eating incredibly slowly. She had finished her, albeit smaller, meal a good five minutes ago and Arthur usually wolfed down his food.
"They ride out to Theandan tonight on an errand for me," Arthur informed his father, "There had been reports of bandits. They shall scope the area for a couple of days and then return."
"Very well. Your new guards you say?"
"Yes, the best of them," he'd tried to convince his father that Elyan, Lancelot and Gwaine had been worthy of knighting but he'd refused. He'd allow them to serve Camelot but not to honour them. But when war came around Arthur knew he could rely on them. "Guinevere," Arthur signalled to his goblet with his most secretive smile.
Morgana watched him. He wasn't so slick with slipping his hand beneath the table to graze Gwen's, she couldn't see but Morgana assumed he squeezed it.
"When did you say they were leaving?"
"About now, with the summer sun they can reach Theanden just after dark."
"A wise move."
"Indeed," he caught Gwen's eye as she slowly shook her head at him with a small smile on her face, "that way they can catch these thieves without drawing attention to their presence."
One day in Autumn the final leaves fell from the trees. As time moved on so did Camelot. King Uther perished at the hands of Morgana, the kingdom in shock at their daughter's actions. They soon welcomed King Arthur as their sovereign. Every noble lady powdered their noses and hoped to be noticed by their king. But, by all appearances, he seemed fully focused on building Camelot up to be the most powerful Kingdom that the union of Albion had ever seen. He made peasants and commoners knights should they prove themselves worthy. Rewarded his most loyal followers.
Unlike his father he still took the time to adorn the training field with his men. He was still the best knight they had, he didn't want to fall out of shape and leave his kingdom weak and susceptible to attack.
One attack to the body, two sharp blows to the head. Arthur took no liberties when it came to training his men, even if he was paying attention to a non-attacking-back wooden dummy at that particular moment.
His men were taking a momentary breather, but he'd wanted to make the good example, carrying on through his pain barrier. He did stop, however, when he heard his men laugh with a distinctly feminine laugh mingling with theirs.
A laugh he would recognise anywhere.
As she laughed she reached out her hand grasping Lancelot's arm in a friendly gesture. Disgruntled and - if he was totally honest which he never would be - jealous, Arthur stopping beating the lifeless dummy and turned to his men. He sauntered over, throwing his training word to the ground and picking up on their conversation.
He didn't miss Gwen's smile that she aimed his way, or the way her stance shifted so she was facing him. It should have been some big secret, that the King had a soft spot for the royal seamstress. Her brother a knight of Camelot, but it became one of those rumours that you merely accepted. So he fell in love with his half-sister's old maid, it was no great shock to them. If anything the people were happy for them.
The occasional noblewoman turned their noses at up it, but what they ignored wouldn't hurt them.
"My lord," she smile knowing perfectly well had it been just them he would have reprimanded her for using a title. He gave her a stern look before smiling, "We were just saying how you don't need to beat everything to a pulp to prove you're better than the rest of them. They know it."
"Just reaffirming the point."
"They get it," she said with a smile, her hand reaching out to clasp his forearm, thumb running over the only piece of bare skin between his chain mail and glove.
Arthur looked over to his closest friends, noting that Lancelot was looking at Gwen's hand, "Oh they get it," he smiled, turning his gaze back to Gwen and beaming down at her.
One day in Winter when the fires were all in need of stoking the King was stuck in a number of meetings all day. They were all menial and pointless and would achieve next to nothing, but they couldn't be done any other time.
"Merlin," Arthur beckoned his newly appointed advisor to him. He happily obliged and stood by the side of his friend's throne.
"Go to Gwen's," he said discreetly, "Give her this note," he handed him a scrap of paper, making sure Merlin had firm grasp of it before he left go.
"Anything else, my lord?" Merlin asked with a grin on his face.
"That will be all."
"Of course," he bowed sarcastically and backed his way out of the hall.
On his way down to her house, Merlin stripped himself of his new cloak, he hated wearing it, but Arthur was adamant he wasn't allowed to wear his neckerchiefs during court proceedings. Or, if he had his way, ever. Merlin however was more than happy to give his advice in his usual attire, preferring to save his money; he had a wife and daughter to attend to, he didn't want to be sponging extra money off of Arthur so he could have new clothes too.
As he approached Gwen's front door he heard laughter coming from behind it. He shook his head, he knew now why Arthur had sent him.
It wasn't though he didn't trust Gwen, it was that he didn't one-hundred-percent trust Lancelot. He was a good knight but he knew the knight's feeling for her. Sometime soon Arthur would be able to act on his feelings. Until then he was always worried that Lancelot might get there first.
Merlin knocked before he entered, something he had learned to do after walking in on many a thing he didn't want to see over the years and was greeted by a rush of warm air from Gwen's small home.
"Merlin, we were just about to eat dinner, come on, join us," she lifted another plate from her store cupboard and split the food she had prepared between the three of them. Merlin greeted Lancelot as he passed the table, rolling his cape up and discarding it on the bench before approaching Gwen.
He placed a friendly hand on her lower back, "Message from Arthur," he slipped her the folded note.
"Thank you," she kept it in her hand and gave Merlin his and Lancelot's plates, "Eat up."
He took it as his cue to leave her to look at the note in peace.
He heard her snort a laugh and watched her shake her head, "Everything alright?" Lancelot asked her before stuffing a large forkful into his mouth. Merlin looked at her amused.
Another day in spring when the King was stood up on the top of the high tower of his castle looking over his kingdom he was joined by a woman in her finest dress.
"My lord," she greeted looking out over the city, one she knew so well.
"I will never get used to that."
"Saving your King should earn you something."
"It's not anything I've not done before," she said laughing, biting her lip, her gaze wondering up to her sovereign only to see him already looking down at her.
"That was when I was the prince," he turned leaning against the turret beside him.
"Oh, of course," she replied mirroring his movement.
"You know, there is nothing stopping the world from accepting us anymore. There was nothing stopping us before, but I know you wanted me to stand by protocol, and now I am."
"I love you; I have for as long as I can remember. And if there is any way I know of making sure I never lose you again it is this; marry me. For the man that I am and the woman you have always been inside."
"I love you, I would never marry anybody else," he barely took the time to smile before he had her scooped into his arms and placed his lips on hers. It was like he had been deprived of her kiss for an impossible length of time.
He rested his forehead against hers, tucking a loose curl behind her ear, "Even Merlin?"
She laughed as she kissed him again, "Even Merlin."
No, Arthur Pendragon wasn't a man who liked to lose. Through thick and thin, he fought every competitor and rival with the same vigour, be it in on the battlefield or locking antlers about woman. But the competition for Queen Guinevere's heart was a battle that didn't need fighting. It had been his since as long as she could remember and no matter how much other men might try, it always would belong to him.