"This crown is heavy," Guinevere whispers into Arthur's ear. The coronation feast is in full swing and with everyone eating they have some time to talk to one another relatively uninterrupted.
Arthur chuckles, telling her, "Yes, in more ways than one sometimes." Then he lightly kisses her earlobe before straightening back up. The soft caress of his lips makes her skin tingle.
She looks at him, up at his crown, then back at him, a smirk on her face.
"What?" he asks.
"My crown is prettier," she smiles.
"Well of course it is. A king shouldn't have a pretty crown."
"Mmm," she nods noncommittally.
"You have to admit, I would look pretty silly wearing your crown."
"True," she laughs, reaching for her goblet.
Arthur seems lost in thought for a few moments as he silently eats his food. He is staring off into space, deep in thought. Or memory.
"You all right, Arthur?" Merlin has come to refill his goblet.
"Hmm? Oh. Yes, Merlin, fine, thanks," Arthur says. Merlin notices a slight flush in the king's cheeks, and suddenly he is very curious about what had distracted Arthur. But perhaps I don't want to know, he thinks.
Arthur looks over at his wife. His queen. She is radiant. More beautiful each time I see her, he thinks. And now that I know what I've been missing out on all this time… He allows the thought to go unfinished and shifts uncomfortably in his chair.
"Guinevere," he turns to her.
"Yes, Husband?" she smiles.
God, I love the sound of that. "Don't think I didn't notice that… look you gave me at the end of the coronation."
She feigns innocence. "What look would that be, Sire?"
He leans in close, muttering in her ear, "The look that made me want to rip your dress off and have you in front of the entire kingdom."
She looks at him levelly. "Well, you were the one that decided to kiss me. I don't think that's standard protocol for a coronation."
"I didn't see the harm," he says with a shrug. "And I couldn't help myself. The minute you knelt in front of me…"
"What?" she asks, curious.
"Let's just say that I had trouble keeping my eyes where they should be."
"So it's my fault?"
"Well, clearly." He grins at her, and his eyes drop to her cleavage again, making his point for him.
She glares at him with mock severity. He leans over and kisses her again.
"I'll deal with you later, my delicious king," she whispers into his lips, eyes slowly opening as she lifts her gaze to his eyes.
"That would be the look," Arthur groans and adjusts his position in his seat again. Merlin returns, with a goblet full of very cold water. He places it in front of the king, whispering, "Thought you might need something, um, cold, right now," before hastily disappearing.
Did he just… No, he wouldn't be that brash. Would he? Nevertheless, Arthur picks up the goblet and downs the entire thing quickly, fighting the urge to just pour the contents into his lap. He puts the heel of his hand to his forehead for a moment, pain surging through his head. How did he get that so cold?
"Arthur?" Gwen asks, noting his strange behavior.
The pain passes as quickly as it came, and he says, "Hmm? Oh, I'm fine. Just drank that too fast, I think." At least it distracted me from thinking about… well, that didn't last long.
"Water. It was really cold, and it made my head hurt," he explains.
She gives him a puzzled look, but a courtier approaching to pay his respects to the new queen diverts her attention. She politely speaks with him for a moment before he leaves, bowing to them both.
"I have to say, serving at a feast is much more interesting than dining at one," she says to Arthur once they are alone again.
"How so?" he is intrigued.
"Oh, you have no idea how much fun we – I mean, the servants – have when they're not within earshot of a noble."
"Oh really?" Arthur looks as though be may get offended, and Gwen diffuses him immediately.
"Nothing bad or immoral or disloyal, I promise. Just a little… naughty. A lot of gossip, that kind of thing. A lot of poking fun at the nobility. How much this one is eating, how much that one has had to drink, who pinched who's backside, which Lord is dallying with what Lady under the table…"
"Guinevere!" Arthur laughs, taken aback.
"Oh, Arthur, really, what did you expect? That we were back there concentrating on our jobs, slaving away like drone bees? Servants are people, just like everyone else," she reminds him, her voice just a tiny bit reproachful.
"I guess I still sometimes forget that," he says, thoughtfully twisting his mouth to the side, a little embarrassed.
"And you will do nothing at all about it, either," she informs him. "It's the only fun some of them get and no harm is being done, so leave it be."
"I wasn't going to do anything," he says, knowing better than to argue. "Honest."
She leans over and kisses him, quickly running her tongue along his lips before pulling away, leaving him just slightly dazed.
"How long till this feast is done?" he asks her, and she chuckles as she lifts her goblet to her lips.
An approaching lord, wishing for a few words, diverts Arthur's attention from his wife. Lord Owen, not one of Guinevere's favorite lords. Neither is he one of Arthur's.
She quietly surveys the room, taking a sip of her wine. Her eyes pass over the faces of servants she calls friends, courtiers, and Arthur's closest knights. She avoids her brother's face. She is still angry with him.
Her quiet moment to herself is interrupted by the voice of Nagging Guilt, her nemesis since the betrayal. He lives in the deepest, darkest recesses of her brain and he likes to come out when Gwen's mind is not otherwise occupied.
You don't deserve any of this, he says.
Be quiet. I know I don't. But Arthur has forgiven me. So go away.
Forgiveness is not approval.
The Guilt is using her own father's words against her. She heard him say those very words to Elyan, many years ago, the first time he found himself in major trouble. He destroyed some property during a night of drunken revelry with some of his "friends."
I can forgive you, son, but know this: Forgiveness is not approval. Never forget that, he had said.
"Guinevere?" Arthur's voice drifts into her consciousness, and her clouded face brightens.
"Yes, my lord?" she turns to him.
"Are you all right? You looked… troubled for a moment. And don't call me that," he lovingly smiles at her.
She returns his smile and looks down, blushing slightly at being caught at old habits. "Sorry. I know you hate that."
"I don't mind 'My lord' half as much as 'Sire.' Especially from you. Even before we were married I hated when you called me that." He lifts her hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles. Then he turns her hand and kisses her palm, his lips on the sensitive skin there lighting a fire in her belly, and she gasps just slightly, lips parting. Arthur sees this and it brings an impish smile to his face.