So I've decided (well, commanded by Queen ElegantPaws) to expand the Punk chapter from One Thousand Tomorrows to a full-length fic. Hope you enjoy. The first couple chapters will be familiar.
London, summer 1977
I hope those ruffians aren't loitering around again. I hate walking past them, Gwen thinks as she walks down the street, on her way home from some Saturday morning shopping. Her bag in her arms with some groceries from the market; she rounds the corner and surveys the street ahead of her.
They're there. The five of them on one side. On the other, one man on a bench, reading a newspaper. I think I'll stay on newspaper man's side. If nothing else, I won't have to walk through that cloud of cigarette smoke.
She proceeds up the street, enjoying the morning sun on her shoulders, thinking about her plans for the day, her little brunch she's going to go home and make, her brother far away in America…
"Well, well, what have we here?" The seemingly innocuous man with the newspaper is now blocking her path.
"Excuse me," she says, stepping to the side, trying to pass.
"Don't be rude, darlin', I'm tryin' to talk to you, is all," the man says, stepping with her to block her path again.
Gwen swallows uncertainly, looking up at him. He's big. Kind of scary.
"I'm sorry, I… I need to get my groceries home," she tries again, sidestepping once more to no avail.
"Don't be like that, love, I just want to get to know you better," he says, reaching his hand out to touch her cheek.
She jerks her head away from him, scared, and tries to back up. She backs into another man. He's not alone.
"Come now, doll, Helios and me, we just wanna be friends, ain't that right, Helios?" the second man coos greasily into her ear.
"Nah, Cenred, I think I wanna be more than friends," Helios disagrees, stepping forward, closer. Gwen holds her shopping bag in front of her like a shield, but he rips it from her hands and drops it on the bench on which he had been sitting.
"Please don't touch me," she begs, tears welling in her eyes.
"Darlin', I intend to do more than just touch you," he says, his voice a growl as he closes in on her.
"That's it," one of the five across the street makes up his mind and starts crossing. They noticed the situation shortly after she backed into Cenred.
"There he goes," one of his companions remarks, rolling his eyes.
Halfway across the street, he sees the small woman raise her knee sharply into Helios' groin. He grins as he watches the large man drop to the bench, doubled over, his hands clutching himself.
"Oh!" Gwen cries out as Cenred spins her around. He reaches back and slaps her. Hard.
Gwen's hand flies to her stinging cheek, soundless sobs wracking her just as Cenred is bodily flung away from her. She gasps in shock. What now?
"Oi, Cenred, ain't your mum taught you any manners? You do not hit a lady," a third voice says, but Gwen cannot make him out through her tears. He is just a black blur.
"Yeah, and what are you going to do about it, Drag?" Cenred spits back.
Gwen hears the squelchy crunch of a nose being broken by a well-aimed fist.
"Stay down or I'll crush your hand under my boot here. You won't be able to have a proper wank for at least a month."
"Piss off, Drag," Helios croaks from his spot on the bench, where he is slowly recovering.
"Helios, if you have a brain in that big bald head o' yours, you'll keep your gob shut before I make sure your bollocks are permanently wedged inside your body cavity," the man says, smacking Helios on the back of the head before retrieving Gwen's shopping from the bench.
He carefully approaches Gwen and gently pulls her away from her two assailants. "Are you all right, miss?" he asks, the tone of his voice changing from razors to velvet, his hand warm and comforting on her elbow, where his thumb absentmindedly strokes the soft flesh there.
"I… I think so, mostly just scared. Thank you…"
"Drag," he supplies. She's trembling. But I don't want to scare her further by putting my arms around her.
She wipes her eyes and looks at him. He's one of the ruffians I'd been avoiding. Punks. She surveys him quickly, noting his low-slung torn black jeans with a wide belt dotted with silver studs, his black t-shirt emblazoned with The Sex Pistols across the front, his pierced ears and nose and a black Mohawk haircut. Who pierces their nose?
"Drag?" she asks, trying to distract herself, calm herself. What an unfortunate name.
"Ain't my given name. It's from my last name, Pendragon."
"What's your real name?" she asks. Why am I interested? He's just a punk.
"Arthur," he admits, pulling a face.
"Well, Arthur, I'm Guinevere. Most people call me Gwen." She wipes away her tears with the back of her hand and takes a deep breath.
"I like Guinevere much better," he says, a small half-smile curling the corner of his lips.
His full lips, lips that look very kissable. What? "Why did you help me?" she asks suddenly. "I'm sorry… I should just be thanking you, not asking why," she backtracks, embarrassed at the question. His hand is still holding my elbow. I really just want him to hold me and tell me everything is all right. Too much to hope, probably.
"Helios and Cenred are a couple of tossers. I couldn't just stand there and watch them do that to you," he says. Not to you. Of all people.
Arthur has noticed Gwen every time she has walked down the street over the past month. He has noticed her long dark curls glinting in the sunlight. He has noticed her skin, the color of chocolate milk; skin that looks so soft and luxurious that he longs to touch it. All of it. He has noticed her slender, shapely limbs and lush curves. He has noticed that her smile makes the sun look gloomy. He has also noticed that she avoids him and his friends like the plague.
Time to put a stop to that nonsense.
"How's your face?" he asks.
"It stings," she says, then gasps as Arthur reaches forward to wipe a dot of blood from the corner of her mouth. Should his touch make my stomach flip like that?
"Blood," he explains, showing her the evidence on his thumb, which has a silver ring on it. "If it makes you feel any better, I think I broke his nose," he smiles.
"I heard that," she manages a small smile.
"Can I… can I give you a lift home?" he asks.
"You don't have to, really, I'll be fine." Yes, please.
"No, come on. Please," he asks. "I just want to know you've made it home safely," he adds, looking down at his feet.
He is actually very sweet, Gwen thinks, looking down at his feet as well. Scuffed black combat boots. Of course. "If you insist," she gives in.
"I do at that. Come on," he slides his hand down her forearm and takes her hand to lead her across to his friends. "I want you to meet my mates first. That way you won't feel like you have to walk on the other side of the street when we're about."
"Oh, I…" she stammers. He noticed.
He laughs it off. "I understand, really. I mean, look at us. If I were you I'd probably do the same. But you know what they say about judging books by their covers."
Smart, too, she thinks, finding herself inexplicably drawn to this strange man. There's something about him that makes me trust him. Like I know he won't let any harm come to me.
They reach the other four, who have been watching very intently since Arthur left them. "All right, you lot, best behavior," Arthur announces.
Gwen coughs as she approaches, the smell of cigarette smoke assaulting her lungs.
"Gwaine, put out that fag, will ya? Can't you see that our guest disapproves?" Arthur yanks the cigarette from his friend's lips and tosses it into the wet gutter, where it hisses, dead.
"Hey!" Gwaine protests.
"Lads, this is Guinevere," Arthur introduces her.
"Gwen," she corrects.
"Are you all right, Gwen?" one immediately asks, the concern plain on his face. He is tall and thin, with pale skin and bright blue eyes beneath black hair that is sticking out in spikes in every direction.
"I'll be fine, thanks to Ar— Drag," she says, catching herself. Don't want to embarrass him in front of his mates.
"I'm Merlin," he says, holding out his hand, which she takes, noticing his fingernails seem to be painted black. Where does one even find black nail polish? she wonders. "I have the unfortunate honor of being this clotpole's best mate," he laughs as Arthur thumps him lightly on the back of his head.
"This is Leon," Arthur says, pointing to a tall man with long, unruly reddish-brown curls in a white Clash t-shirt and blue jeans that appear to be held together exclusively by safety pins.
"And Ox," he indicates another man, just slightly taller than the strikingly tall Leon, and twice as wide. His body is thick with muscle beneath his black t-shirt bearing an anarchy symbol on the front and the sleeves ripped off to display his impressive arms. His hair is buzzed down very close to his head and he has a small silver hoop earring in one ear. He nods at her and smiles, and Gwen cannot help smiling back at the one real surprise: his sweet boyish face.
"Ox?" she questions.
The large man sighs. "My name is Percival, actually, which is bollocks for a name. And Percy sounds like a poof. So they call me Ox, on account of my last name being Oxley."
"And you're as big as one," Merlin points out, laughing, and Ox nods in agreement, grinning sheepishly.
"And…" Arthur motions toward the last man.
"Gwaine?" she supplies, turning her smile from Percival to Gwaine.
"At your service," he says with a wink, his long dark hair falling in his face. He reaches up and sweeps it back, and Gwen sees a large tattoo covering his entire arm. It appears to be of Celtic knot patterns, surrounding his arm like a sleeve.
"Like it?" he asks, seeing her looking at it.
"It's… interesting," she says, leaning forward for a better view.
"Drag did it," he nods at Arthur. Gwen blinks in surprise. He tattoos people? Does he have any?
"Oh," she says, at a loss for words.
"All right. Now you know us, so you don't have to be worried walking past," Arthur says.
"In fact, do walk on our side of the street. We'll protect you," Leon adds. It sounds corny, but Gwen cannot help but believe him when she looks up and sees the earnest expression on his face.
She looks at the others, who nod in agreement. She smiles again at them. "Knights in shining… chains and safety pins, yes?" she says, a little cautiously, not sure how they'll react to the tease.
She breathes again when they laugh and nod, muttering agreeable comments amongst themselves.
"I'm going to take Guinevere home; make sure she's all right and un-accosted by any other wankers like Helios and Cenred. Catch you later," Arthur says, waving his free hand at them just before taking Gwen's hand again to lead her toward a nearby alley. He still has her groceries in one arm.
"Un-accosted," he hears Gwaine mutter as they walk away. "Un-accosted by someone other than him, he means," he says suggestively, laughing. Merlin shushes him as Arthur shoots him a dirty look over his shoulder.
"Here we are," he says, indicating a large black and red motorcycle hulking menacingly in the nearby alley. "Guinevere, this is Morgana," Arthur says, carefully placing Gwen's grocery bag into a leather saddlebag on one side of the bike.
"Morgana? You named your motorcycle?"
"I did," he says, swinging his long, lean leg over the machine and hoisting it upright. "Can you manage in that dress?"
Gwen is wearing a flowing floral-patterned lavender sundress. The skirt is long and full, so she gathers it up in her hands and gingerly swings her leg over the seat behind Arthur. She adjusts the material as best she can, propriety fully intact. "Okay, I think I'm good."
"Hmm," he turns slightly, looking at her. So much bare skin. "There's a leather jacket tucked behind you. Put it on, please."
"Safer for you. You're… too exposed," he motions to her shoulders, eyes dropping to her tantalizing chest for the briefest of moments. It would be a crime to mar that beautiful skin should we take a spill.
"Um, okay," she reaches behind her and pulls out a black leather jacket and shrugs it on over her shoulders. It's too big, but she cannot help feeling comforted by its presence. It smells good. Not like smoke or anything. "You don't smoke," she comments.
"How can you tell?" he asks.
"Your jacket smells good," she shyly says.
He chuckles. "Check the pockets. You'll find my vice in there."
Her eyes widen as she cautiously pokes her fingers in a pocket. They slowly withdraw a packet of sweets.
"Candy?" she laughs.
"Sugar junkie, me," he grins, then turns his attention back to his bike. He attempts to start it up. It sputters briefly, then nothing.
"Is there a real Morgana? Like, a human?" she asks, finding herself hoping that there isn't.
"Yeah," he says, stomping the bike to life again. This time it almost takes. "She's my sister."
"You named your motorcycle after your sister?"
He attempts a third time, and the engine catches, the noise deafening. Three seconds later, it conks out again.
"Yes. Because they both can be quite a bitch when they want to," he explains, trying a fourth time, and Gwen's laughter is drowned out by the roar of the engine as it fires up and takes.
"Hang on," he hollers over his shoulder, and Gwen bites her lower lip as she slides her hands around Arthur's waist.
He's got a nice body, she notes, feeling a firm stomach under her hands, a muscular back in front of her.
Arthur, keenly aware of her body pressed against his back, puts the bike in gear and heads out of the alley, following Gwen's pointed directions to her flat.
"Thank you again, Arthur."
"Any time, Guinevere."
She looks up at him a moment. She quickly lifts up on tiptoe and kisses his cheek before sweeping past him with her bag to hurry up the steps to her door.
Oh well. She'll be passing again. He turns back to his bike.
He turns, not sure he's heard her, her voice was so soft.
"Would you like something to eat? I was going to make myself some brunch," she indicates her shopping, biting her lip nervously. Why am I inviting him in? Why is my heart pounding like a bass drum?
Yes, please. I'll stay for dinner, too, if you would but ask. "Sure," he says, removing the key from the ignition and shoving it in his pocket.
"Consider it my way of properly thanking you," she says as he hops up the steps, skipping every other one. Some other options are occurring to me as well, though…
"Not necessary, but I am hungry," he grins at her. And I can think of another way you can properly thank me.