It was six in the morning. Before the digital alarm clock sounded the start of the day the smart phone next to it started to ring.
A woman in her twenties reached out from under the duvet and grabbed the device as she wiped the sleep from her eyes. Through half closed eyes she checked the called ID.
ARTHUR PENDRAGON – Answer / Ignore
He must have landed in LA safely. Part of her couldn't bring herself to answer the call. For the first night in three years she had slept in their bed without him. But if she didn't answer he would only call her back again until she picked up.
"Morning," she mumbled, sitting up in bed.
"Evening," he replied, evidently amused.
"Right, yeah. What time is it there?" she picked up her clock and sat with it in her lap.
"Sooooo," she did the maths in her head, "eight hours behind?"
"Something like that."
"And how many hours away?" she said fiddling with the clock, wiping the dust from the top of it.
"Including the time it took at both ends in the airport?"
"Yeah," she cringed; that would make it more realistic but a lot more painful. It was weird to her. She'd not had a single day without him for the last four years; ever since they'd lived in halls together in their first year of university. Once they'd gotten together she'd spent nearly every night in his bed and once they'd moved in together three years ago she'd only slept without him just the once.
"All in," he sighed, "fifteen hours."
"I thought the flight was, like, nine?"
"Eleven. LAX takes days to get out of," he exaggerated.
"Oh, okay. How long until you come home?"
"I'll be home on Friday," Gwen sighed, "It's three days away."
"Three too many."
"You'll be fine."
Gwen through off her duvet and padded barefoot into the kitchen, "What if the roof starts to leak? Or there's a flash flood?"
"It's 30°C there."
"No, it's not. It's 6a.m."
"Well it will be later then."
"Flash flood, though, Arthur. Unpredictable!"
"You're panicking over nothing."
"No I'm not!" What if the microwave or the toaster blows up," he laughed at her, "It's not funny."
"That happened once."
"Yeah, so it can happen again! Both can! I'll end up in hospital this time out of shock and I won't have you to calm me down!"
"Then invite Merlin over. Or Leon. Or Gwaine. Or another manly man that's not likely to whisk you away from me.
"Fine okay. Macho party it is," she said tentatively putting two slices of bread in the toaster. She pressed down on the handle. They popped back up at her instantly. She squeaked.
"I'm fine," she declared and reached out to flick the switch, "Not turned on at the wall."
"Don't scare me like that!"
"Right, I'd best leave you to it. We've got an early start tomorrow and we've still go to locate the LA office," he and Morgana had travelled out to the American branch of their father's company for the first time since starting to work for him when they'd graduated from university the summer before.
"I love you."
"I love you too. Miss you."
"Miss you more," Gwen smiled sadly, "Bye Gwen."
"Bye," she hung up, putting her phone down on the kitchen counter and turned her full attention to the toaster, "Right, do not kill me," she said to it pushing down on the lever with closed eyes. When nothing went instantly wrong she opened her eyes, "I can do this!"
She grabbed the butter from the fridge and the jam found the cupboard and hit the coffee machine in. That she could manage.
The toast popped, distinctly black in colour, "Ah," she shrugged, grabbed a knife from the draw and started to scratch off the burnt layer.
Gwen padded around the flat in her pyjamas with a bowl in one hand and her phone in the other, held to her ear, "Have you actually eaten anything but cereal since he left on Monday?"
"I had toast," she defended as she sat down on the sofa with crossed legs, balancing her bowl I the middle and spooning for the chocolaty hoops into her mouth.
"Anything that's not a breakfast food?" Gwaine asked.
Her spoon stopped mid-way to her mouth, "I made a sandwich."
"Wow. Culinary genius." he'd been witness to several of her failures in the past. He knew exactly what she could manage to do with her time.
"Well, you know, I try."
"Not even ready meals?"
"The microwave scares me."
"You can cook them in the oven."
"The oven scares me too. It's all gas and likely to blow me up."
"Gwen, you live in a flat in Knightsbridge, in a building that has a doorman. I don't think the gas cooker will kill you."
"I doubt it."
"Can you still come over?" she changed the subject expertly. Still spooning large amounts of cereal into her mouth, "I invited Merlin too and he's bringing pizza."
"You couldn't get pizza yourself?"
"I've been on my own in this flat once in my life and that was Monday night," Merlin had come to keep her company Tuesday night ad had stayed in the spare room for the night, only leaving in the morning to go to work, "I don't like it and the building is old; I swear it's haunted!"
"Okay, okay. I'll come by after work. About seven?"
"Okay," she beamed, "see you later."
Back in the day when they had all been students at UCL, Gwaine had spent a period of his life living with Arthur and Gwen until he could afford his own place. Once he'd moved out, he'd never given them back their key.
"Hello?" he called out as he let himself in, "Anybody here? Gwen? Merlin?" the lights were off and they weren't in the living room as he had expected.
"Bedroom!" he heard Gwen shout, Bedroom? Just what have I let myself in for?
He pushed through into the room his best friend shared with his girlfriend and potential future wife, and settled his gaze on the pile of duvet and limbs on the bed. They were sat in darkness with the thick curtains drawn, the only light in the room coming from the TV.
"If I'd known it was this kind of party I'd have come prepared…"
Gwen launched a piece of popcorn at him but it fell short of hitting him by at least a metre.
"What are you watching?"
"How manly of you, Merlin."
"It's like being with Morgana."
"As long as that's all that's like being with Morgana," Gwaine chided with a joking grin on his face.
"Ewh," Merlin looked positively disgusted and looked between his two friends, "Gwen's my best friend. She's like one of the lads."
"No, Merlin," Gwaine said as he sat himself on the edge of the bed, sandwiching Gwen between him and Merlin, "You are like one of the girls."
Ten minutes later and they were out of popcorn. Gwen reached into the bowl only to find unpopped pieces of corn. She groaned, "What sort of mind-fuckery is this?" she held the bowl out to Merlin to held his hands up refusing to take the bowl.
"You ate it all."
"If you want more you know how to cook it," Gwaine said. Gwen grumbled and climbed out from under her duvet and over Gwaine, towards the door.
"If it blows up-"
"We'll call 999."
Gwen made quick work of putting the popcorn into the microwave and turning the dial. She heaved herself onto the cabinet and waited.
Suddenly the two men emerged from the bedroom at speed.
"What? Did Bridget and Darcy kiss already? Too much for your innocent minds?"
"We smelt burning."
Gwen looked at them, confused, before turning to look at the microwave. It was full of smoke, "Shit!" she jumped down from the side and made her way over to it. She opened the door. The influx of smoke made her eyes water. She coughed a few times and reached into the microwave.
She dropped the bag onto the side, "I don't even-"
"How long did you put it in for?"
"Christ Gwen! You know it's 1000w right? You only need to microwave popcorn for two and a half minutes."
"Well how do I know if nobody tells me?"
Merlin emptied the popcorn onto the side. Not a piece of it was edible; all black and brown, burnt to a cinder.
"That's," Merlin started, "That's talent."
They ended up falling asleep when they'd started watching Troy. It was on the TV and none of them could be bothered to go and find another DVD.
Gwen's alarm sounded at 6a.m. yet again and the three of them started to move. Gwen grabbed her phone and headed for the living room, having been banned from the kitchen until further notice.
She hit the green call button twice and led back into the sofa.
"Hey," Arthur answered nearly straight away, "You okay?"
"Yeah, just missed your voice."
"I miss you too. It's weird sleeping in an empty bed."
"Tell me about it. It's odd not having you here."
"I'll be back tomorrow."
They carried on talking for the next half an hour about inane things that had happened to them on their days apart. He'd laughed at her when she'd told him about the popcorn and she at him when he told her about he and Morgana had gotten completely lost on their way to the office that morning.
Merlin poked his head around the door and beckoned her, "Merlin says breakfast is ready."
"So you are eating properly? Gwaine mentioned something about cereal?"
"I'm a changed woman."
"With friends that can cook."
Living in halls wasn't something that Gwen had expected the posh boy in room five to go through with.
In the first term he's constantly ordered in food or offered to take them all out for dinner at least once a week. He'd even replaced the microwave when Gwen had broken it;
Don't put foil in this one. A x
She'd smiled and never did put foil in it. Or anything metal.
When they'd come back after Christmas, Gwen was shocked to see him still there. One morning before Gwaine had arrived back from Ireland and Percy and Owen were elsewhere, most likely still sleeping, she'd called him on it.
She's expected him to tell her it was a part of the deal he's made with his father wherein he had to make it through the year in halls or he'd cut him off. But no. He'd wanted to prove to his father that he could stick at something without his help; "And eating take out every night proves that, does it?"
She had a point.
From that moment on he's been set on proving to her that he could cook. And he had, quite spectacularly, succeeded.
She was impressed.
One evening, when Gwen's lectures finished at 8p.m. she had arrived back to their shared 'flat' with it full of the best smell she had ever encountered.
She'd gone to say something as she's come into the kitchen but it was lit by only two candles and the light above the cooker, "Expecting someone?" she had said after a few speechless seconds.
Her jaw dropped, "All this is for me?" she asked pointing around the kitchen.
"Bad 'oh' or good 'oh'?"
She opened and closed her mouth a few times before she spoke again, "Just 'oh'."
"Well, take a seat. It'll be ready in a minute."
"This is why Merlin banned me from going to the library with him, isn't it?"
"Might have been."
"Where're the others?"
"Paid them not to be here."
"I'm kidding. I got Gwaine to make sure they didn't come back until late," he didn't mention that he had in fact provided their friend with a couple of twenty pound notes just to ensure they didn't come back for a little while longer, "and Merlin to make sure you came back."
"Wow," he placed a plate in front of her and took his seat as he lowered his plate to the table, "This looks amazing."
"Wait until you taste it."
Arthur pushed through his front door six hours before he'd intended to. He'd managed to get onto the overnight flight from LA to Heathrow, "Gwen?" he called out.
She emerged from the kitchen quicker than he'd ever seen her move before. He'd barely had a chance to drop his suitcase before her arms were around his neck. Her legs dangled in the air, "I was only gone four days."
"Four too many," she stated wrapping her legs around his waist to give herself enough balance to kiss him. Arthur's hand slipped under the back of her shirt, running hot of her skin. She had her hands cupping his jaw, kissing him hard.
"I should go away more often," he smirked kissing her once again.
"No, you really shouldn't," their Irish friend said from the kitchen door, "Do you know how many disasters me and Merlin have saved her from?"
"I can't but imagine," he said lowering her to the floor, but keeping her close.
"She's a hazard to herself."
"I'll have to take her with me next time."
"Just because I-"
"She nearly killed herself cooking pasta."
"Oh dear god, that's a new low," he cup her cheek and made her look up at him, "Remind me to teach you a few basics."
"Well if you hadn't insisted on take out or cooking for me for the last four years I'd have been fine!"
Arthur couldn't help but laughed and kissed her on the forehead; "I'm dying for a good cup of tea."
"On it," she smiled, "That I can do."