I wrote this for the second round of the livejournal community 4_evermore's Last-Author-Standing contest during the Merlin haitus of 2010-2011. It placed first. Thanks go to Sarah and Nick, who never let me down when it comes to Arthurian Legend. All my love.
I. My own true lord! How dare I call him mine?
The Great Hall was swathed in red silk panels, hanging from the beams to puddle on the floor in rich decadence. Arthur was kneeling at the feet of his father, a last act of submission. Uther, grown pale and thin in the last months, set an extravagant crown of gold on his blond hair. The young King Arthur rose, turned, and the even the walls of the hall seemed to bend in acknowledgment.
Lying atop the plush bed in Arthur's chamber that evening, Gwen rolled over on her stomach and watched Arthur as he hung his cloak in the wardrobe door, sure that Merlin would properly take care of it in the morning. Kicking off his shoes at the foot of the bed and loosening his shirt, Arthur sat on the bed next to her, reaching out to feel her hair in his fingers.
"My King," she whispered, lowering her head.
"Guinevere," he half-teased, half-warned.
"Your Majesty," she continued. "My Gracious Lord."
"That's enough of that," Arthur protested and caught her lips with his.
"Hmmm," Gwen hummed contentedly, breaking the kiss and leaned away. "Promise me we can stay like this forever."
"Like what?" Arthur asked, distractedly kissing her shoulder.
She pushed herself up so their eyes were level. "Promise me that we'll always be together. Promise me that I'll be your wife someday and we can spend every night like this."
A smile broke out over Arthur's lips. "Are you asking me to marry you, darling Guinevere?"
"I suppose I am."
"That won't do," Arthur complained. "I'm supposed to be the one asking you." His tone was light, his pride wounded maybe, but only in the best of ways.
"Just promise," Gwen prodded.
Kissing her nose, Arthur replied. "Of course I'll marry you, Gwen. I promise."
I. She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck
Gwen's legs, her shift pulled up above her knees, were wrapped between and around his own. Her neck, long and taut, stretched beneath his lips as she arched into him. The soft, rounded tops of her breasts heaved and begged to be released from her corset. "Arthur…" she breathed his name as she exhaled.
"Guinevere," he breathed back, leaning to bite at her ear and feeling her toes curl. His fingers pushed the hem of her shift higher, skimming over her smooth inner thighs.
"Arthur," she warned, as she melted into the sheets. "We can't."
He knew her weaknesses, he knew her body and as he licked the skin under her chin, he offered a solution. "Marry me, Gwen."
She laughed, breathlessly, as she wiggled her skirt back to appropriate lengths. "Not like this, Your Majesty."
II. In the pause she crept an inch nearer, and laid her hands about his feet
It was impossible not to notice the tension between Lancelot and Gwen, and as often as Arthur reassured himself, it still stung to see their eyes meet across the hall. He had rarely seen them share a touch – not even of hands – and it was rarer still to hear them address each other. Yet, something was there.
"Lancelot did well in the joust today," Arthur commented off-hand once, just to see how Gwen would react.
"That he did, my Lord." The room was quiet for a moment, the silence an uncomfortable one. Finally, Gwen spoke again. "Is something wrong, Arthur?"
"Do you love him Gwen?"
The blood rushed in his ears so loudly he was afraid he wouldn't be able to hear her answer. He watched as a myriad of emotions played across her face – surprise, defense, fear – and settle on a look which broke his heart.
"Not the way I love you, Arthur. Never the way I love you." She was infinitely sincere in the way her skirts pooled around her legs as she knelt before him, wrapping her small fingers around his ankles.
"Gwen – Guinevere! – Get up! Don't –"
She kissed the very tips of his shoes. "I've never loved another as I love you, Arthur Pendragon."
Arthur pulled her up by her shoulders. "Marry me, Guinevere."
Devastatingly, she shook her head. "Not like this."
III. Wonders ere the coming of the Queen
The only aspect of royalty missing from Gwen's person was a title. Even a simple crown (she described the traditional one as "dripping") adorned her head. She dined with him, counseled him, sat by his side in meetings and slept in the chamber adjoined to his. After services, they would pass out alms at the gates and the townspeople would smile and kiss her cheeks like the daughter she was.
Arthur had taken to proposing once a day – maybe more – and was always ready with the ring for the moment she obliged him and said yes. With frequency came a lessening of creativity, and Arthur often found himself tacking the proposal to the end of another question.
"Will you dine with me for supper and will you marry me?"
She would laugh, smile, kiss him perhaps, and then answer, "I'll be there for dinner."
At dinner, he would ask for the salt and her hand in the same breath. He would kiss her goodnight and whisper propositions in her ear. A note with the question would appear on her breakfast tray every morning.
Always, her answer was a playful but resounding, "No."
"Someday, someday soon, I'm going to ask you to marry me, Gwen."
She pressed her needle through an apron, finishing a delicate flower on the pocket. "Honestly? You're giving me warning now? As if I need more time to think it over?" She winked.
"But one day soon, I'm going to ask you and mean it," he explained.
"You haven't meant it yet?" she teased.
"I'll say yes when I'm ready to be queen, Arthur. And the day will come. Until then…" she trailed off.
"I know," Arthur laughed. "'Not like this, Sire.'"