A/N: So, this how it happened.
Grrlinterrupted tweeted me and said, "please write me het Percival, I need a Percival/someone-with-a-vag pairing in my life." I hummed and hahhed and said, "okay. Prompt me but it will just be a drabbly thing because of reasons, blah blah etc." But once I started writing all the words fell out and I couldn't stop them. I actually really love this story but I know that hardly anyone is going to read it, because Sefa isn't a boy.
Thanks to MeraNaamJoker for the ridiculously short notice beta.
When she saw him standing over her, she was terrified. He was so huge, so powerful, and his boyish face was marred by a frown as they stared at each other in recognition.
She was frozen, with fear as well as from the icy rain that had soaked her to the bone. Her fingers clutched her apron more tightly. The few paltry coins from hours of begging in the mud of the back streets of Camelot clinked dully as she flinched away from him.
Sefa thought about running, but she was weakened by starvation and sickness. Helplessness washed over her in a wave as she saw her fate and accepted the inevitability of it.
But then his face softened as he said her name quietly, and suddenly she wasn't afraid anymore.
Confused by fever, Sefa wasn't sure exactly where he took her at first, maybe somewhere in the castle, or a safe lodging in a better part of the city. But there was a bed, and a fire, and she felt safe for the first time in weeks. Since she'd escaped execution and watched her father die, her life had been about survival, about getting through each day.
She slept, slipping in and out of consciousness as time passed without her.
Voices came and went. She wasn't sure if they were real or in her dreams. Some were strange to her, but she recognised the voice of Gaius. She tried to open her eyes, to force words from her parched throat. To beg for him to forgive her for what she'd done, for the terrible mistakes that she'd made. "I'm sorry..." His face swam into focus and his eyes were kind.
"I know, Sefa." His wrinkled hand was soft on her cheek. "I know that you were doing it for your father."
Another face came into view. Percival leaning down, his boyish face etched with concern. But then she drifted again, the effort of keeping her eyes open was too much.
She heard them discussing her in hushed tones, not asleep yet, just clinging onto the edge of consciousness.
"She'll live," Gaius was saying. "The fever has broken now. It's a good thing you found her when you did. We can talk to Arthur together tomorrow now that we know she'll survive this."
The door opened and closed with a heavy thud and she thought maybe she'd been left alone. But then huge, warm hands, calloused from wielding a sword took hold of hers. She felt gentle circles being traced on the palm of her hand, and she tried to open her eyes, knowing who she would see sitting by her bed and wanting to smile at him. But sleep claimed her again, and this time it was calmer and deeper.
She dreamed of him.
They were walking through summer fields hand in hand, warm sun on their backs. She tripped in a rabbit hole and he caught her, swinging her up effortlessly in his huge arms and righting her. He was so tall, bigger than any man she'd ever known, but with the sweet face of a boy. He leaned in close, backlit by sunshine and smiled into her eyes.
She never knew what Gaius and Percival said to Arthur, how they'd persuaded him to spare her. But as she trembled before the king, they flanked her, Gaius to her left and Percival's reassuring rock-like presence to her right, hovering close but not touching. She remembered how his hands had felt on hers while she was sick, and wished that she could feel them now, fingers twined tight and strong.
She held her head high and met the blue eyes of Arthur, King of Camelot. Guinevere stood by his side, and her dark eyes were full of compassion.
"I'm giving you a second chance, Sefa." Arthur spoke sternly, a hint of warning in his tone. "Don't waste it."
Sefa's previous role as servant to the queen had been hard work. But now, relegated to the duties of the lowliest servants in the palace, her days were filled with endless drudgery.
She was reduced to scrubbing floors, emptying chamber pots and mucking out the pigs. By the time she threw herself down on her thin pallet bed at the end of each long day, she was exhausted and aching. But she had a roof over her head, and food to eat, and a blanket to sleep under - and most of all, she had her life. Sefa was grateful for everything, even though the loss of her father was still a dull ache, lodged in her chest, that sometimes made it hard for her to breathe.
She lived for the times when she got to see Percival. Their paths crossed only rarely, but whenever he caught sight of her around the castle, he always had a smile for her. She'd grin back, shy and flustered, momentarily forgetting whichever task she was currently performing.
She still hadn't had a chance to thank him properly.
One day, she was carrying a mountain of pillow slips fresh from the laundry up to the linen closet on the second floor. With the laundry folded and pressed, and piled high in her arms, she could barely see around it. The shock of collision with a solid body encased in chain mail made her start and drop them to the floor.
"I'm so sorry," she muttered hurriedly, dropping to her knees immediately to pick them up, expecting to be chided for her carelessness.
"It was my fault. Let me help." Large tanned hands and bare muscular arms made her lift her head to find blue-grey eyes, a stubbled jaw and a sweet smile.
"Percival," she said with an answering smile, hands stilling as the pillowcases lay forgotten between them.
"How are you?" He studied her intently, concern on his face. "Are they treating you well?"
"As well as could be expected," she replied honestly. "And better than I deserve." He didn't argue with that, and she knew that it couldn't have been easy for him to forgive her. She was achingly, constantly aware that her actions had cost the lives of men of Camelot. "Thank you," she said quietly, holding his gaze and pressing her lips together for a moment while she searched for the words. "I owe you my life. I won't forget it."
He stared back at her, and she dropped her eyes. It was too much. He made her feel too many things; guilt and gratitude all twisted up with a strange yearning that was new to her and frightening in its strength. She stared at her hands and watched as his moved to cover them, taking them and squeezing.
"People deserve second chances." His voice was rough and she couldn't look back up. It was too overwhelming; she didn't know how to be with him, how to talk to him.
"I should get on," she muttered, pulling her hands away gently and starting to refold and stack the pillow slips.
She expected him to leave immediately, but he stayed and helped her, giving her a hand up from the floor and making sure she had them all before he finally bade her farewell.
It was a bitter January evening. The light was long gone and darkness had crept in. The sky above was black as pitch, clouds masking any glimpse of the stars, and the wind cut through Sefa's clothes like a sword of ice.
She'd been out feeding kitchen scraps to the pigs. The mud clutched at her feet as she struggled back to the door of the kitchens. She stumbled but failed to right herself, unbalanced by the weight of the wooden bucket in her hand. As she fell onto the cold, sticky path some urchins laughed at her - adding insult to injury.
She sagged on her hands and knees in the dirt, lacking the will to force herself back up and face the scorn and amusement of the other servants. They hadn't fully accepted her, even after two months of her working her fingers to the bone alongside them.
Suddenly, there in the mud, with a few tiny flakes of snow starting to fall around her, she was achingly aware of everything she had lost. Her thoughts turned to her father. She had never had time to grieve after his death; she'd been too busy trying to stay alive. Her sorrow rose inside her now like a tidal wave threatening to wipe her out.
Not now, not here.
It was humiliating enough to be on her knees in a muddy puddle without being caught crying too. She forced herself to her feet and stumbled to the castle door, leaving the pail where she'd dropped it. Once she was inside the castle she ran, wet skirts catching on her legs and silent sobs tearing through her chest. Finally she found a place to stop, a small alcove in a quiet corridor near the armoury. She collapsed against the wall and let her body slide down it, her grief carrying her down into a crumpled, muddy heap. She wrapped her arms around her knees, hid her face in her skirts and wept.
Lost in her grief, she didn't even hear the footsteps approach. "Sefa?" The sound of Percival's familiar voice and a soft touch on her hair as he crouched beside her were the first things she registered. She raised her head, the tears still falling unchecked. She was beyond mortification, the loss of her father a pain so strong that she could hardly bear it now that she was finally facing it.
He wasn't alone. Two other knights were with him, the queen's brother and the one with long brown hair and a cheeky grin.
"What's wrong with her?" The one with brown hair - Gwaine, she thought - stooped, concern on his face. "Should we take her to Gaius?"
"No," she gulped out. "No, I'm fine." The hitching sob that followed belied her words and Percival's hand was warm and soothing on her back as she heaved in a breath.
"Just leave us," he said. "I'll take care of her."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Gwaine. Just go." Percival's voice was insistent.
"Okay," he backs off. "We're going." The two knights exchanged knowing smiles, but they turned and went, leaving Sefa and Percival alone.
"Come on." He tried to help her to her feet, but she was dizzy from grief and exhaustion. When she stumbled, putting a hand out to right herself, his arms were around her and he scooped her up like a child.
The tears still slipped from her eyes, but sluggishly now as though she was running dry. She let her head rest on his shoulder and took comfort from the warmth and strength of his arms. It may have been an embrace born of necessity, but it was more affection than Sefa had known for longer than she cared to remember.
Percival took her to what she assumed must be his chamber. It was a small room, sparsely furnished, but there was a fire burning in the grate, and warm water steaming in a bathtub alongside it. A plate of meat and bread sat on a small table. When Sefa's eyes fell on it she realised she'd barely eaten all day. She'd missed lunch because the cook gave her a mountain of potatoes to peel and she hadn't finished them in time. Percival sat her down on the edge of the bed and knelt before her, unlacing her boots with his thick fingers and taking them off.
"Your feet are frozen," he said, warming them gently with his hands.
"Your shirt." She gestured to the mud that was smeared on it from her skirts. "I'm sorry."
"No matter," he said with a shrug. "I have plenty more." His hands were still holding her feet, bringing the circulation back to life as he pressed them between his palms. "Why were you crying?"
"My father," she said. "I know it's been months, but..."
He took her hands in his, a deliberate gesture of comfort, and looked into her eyes as he spoke. "I understand. Grief can take you by surprise; the smallest thing can trigger it months afterwards. Years even..." The pain on his face was raw and real.
"You've lost people too." It wasn't a question.
"My parents." A muscle in his jaw flickered, and his grip on her hands tightened just a little.
She squeezed back. "I'm sorry."
He appeared to shake himself, visibly pushing his own grief aside to focus on her again. "You're still freezing," he said, frowning. "And your dress is wet through." His brow furrowed and a flush rose in his cheeks. "You should have my bath. If you want... I can leave you and come back in a while, maybe find you some dry clothes."
"I shouldn't," she protested. "You've done enough..."
"You need to warm through; you're covered in mud." He sounded determined, and she lacked the strength to argue.
"All right," she said. But when she stood and reached behind to unfasten her dress, black spots clouded her vision and the floor tilted beneath her feet. It was only Percival's strong arms that kept her upright.
"God, Sefa," he sounded concerned now. "Maybe I should fetch Gaius after all."
"No," she bit out sharply. She trusted Percival. She didn't want anyone else to see her like this. "No. I just... I just need to warm up." Her stomach growled and reminded her of the other reason that she was so dizzy. "And I need to eat," she admitted, cheeks warming with a blush despite how cold she was. "Help me." Her chilled fingers were clumsy on her buttons, and Percival pushed them aside, undoing them for her as she supported herself on the wall by his bed.
As her outer garments dropped to the floor, Sefa supposed that she should feel self-conscious. She'd never been alone with a boy - with a man - before. She'd never undressed in front of anyone. But she felt safe with Percival, and it didn't feel wrong to let him help her like this. She kept her back turned as she drew her slip over her head and stepped out of her underskirts. The chill of the air made her shiver, her nipples standing out hard as she covered them with her hands and turned to face him.
He kept his eyes fixed high, not looking at her body as he helped her over to the bathtub. His cheeks were bright pink with colour and he was obviously uncomfortable. She wondered whether he'd ever seen a naked woman before, or whether he was as innocent as she was.
She hissed as she lowered herself into the tub, the heat making her skin tingle as the blood rushed back to the surface. The water was opaque and milky-white, scented with oils. She let herself slip down until it covered her up to her collar bones, her nudity hidden.
He seemed to relax then, and smiled shyly at her before moving to get the plate of food from the small table.
"Can you manage this?" He offered her a small piece of bread. His fingers were muddy from her clothes and boots, but she accepted it anyway. Her mouth was dry and she struggled to swallow, so Percival fetched a cup of wine and held it to her lips so she could drink. She raised a hand from under the water to take it, sipping gratefully at the dusky-tasting, crimson liquid.
He took the cup back and offered more bread, in his fingers again, and Sefa took it, keeping her hands in the warmth of the water. His thumb brushed her lower lip as she parted them for him and she felt heat curl in her belly that wasn't from the wine.
He carried on feeding her bread and they shared the wine between them. They didn't speak for a while. Percival's eyes were dark, and when they skimmed lower over her shoulders as though he couldn't help himself, she felt the tingle of warmth and pleasure again, stronger now. She pressed her thighs together beneath the water, squeezing tight.
When all the bread was gone she let herself slip right beneath the surface, rinsing her hair and combing through the tangles with her fingers. She came back up, gasping in a breath and pushing the water from her eyelids. Percival's eyes met hers as they opened. He was so close she could have touched him. He was still right there beside her bath even though there was no real reason for him to remain there now. Sefa saw the longing on his face that matched her own, and felt bold.
"Percival." She reached out with bath-softened fingertips and grazed the stubble on his jaw. His eyes flared dark as his hand came up to cover hers. "Sweet Percival." He flushed, a bloom of pink under her touch, and without thinking about her nudity she sat up and leant forwards to press her lips to his.
They were soft under hers and he parted them with a surprised breath. She curled her hand around his neck as she tasted the wine on his lips. He kissed her back then, and it was tentative and clumsy, neither of them sure in their movements. But the soft touch of his lips and tongue and the careful slide of his hands - over her shoulders and spanning across the wet skin of her back - made her moan and feel desperate for more of him. He moved closer, pulling her against him as much as the bathtub between them allowed, and he groaned into her mouth as their tongues slid together.
Finally they pulled apart, gasping for breath and Sefa giggled. She felt elated and dizzy with something other than exhaustion, and full of a new and different hunger now. Percival grinned back at her, his face open and joyful, and she wanted him so much it was like an ache inside her.
She looked down at his shirt and laughed again. "First mud, now bathwater. I think that shirt's done for." Her tone was calculated to tease and he didn't miss it.
"I suppose I should take it off?" He tilted an eyebrow, mischief on his face.
"I think it's for the best," she nodded, "and it's only fair." She gestured to her breasts and thrilled at the heat that flared in his eyes as he followed the movement of her hands. His eyes lingered greedily, drinking in the sight of her. "Well, come along," she chided. "The water's getting cold."
His eyes snapped back up to hers as he realised what she was offering. "You're sure?" he asked, and she nodded in reply.
"One moment." He leapt up and went to lock the chamber door. "Gwaine is very bad at knocking," he explained with a sheepish grin. And then he stood before her and stripped his shirt off.
Sefa stared unashamedly, taking in the fine muscles of Percival's torso and the golden smoothness of his broad shoulders. The dusting of hair on his chest glinted in the light from the fire and candles as he moved. He kicked off his boots next and then went for the laces on his breeches. She held her breath as she waited to see him, unable to look away. His legs were sturdy, strong thighs flaring beneath slim hips, and his cock hung heavy and thick in a nest of darker curls, filling more even as she looked at him. She felt a thrill of fear and excitement at the thought of that inside her, and she wanted it. She wanted to know how it would feel to be joined with him that way, their bodies tangled and moving as one.
She looked up at him and realised that she'd been caught staring. "Sorry," she blushed. "I've never..." she broke off, feeling silly. I've never seen one before. But she knew that he would realise what she meant.
"It's okay," he smiled, cheeks pinker again. "It likes the attention." She couldn't resist another peek, and he seemed to be right. His cock was bigger now, harder than ever and pointing at her, bobbing gently as he stepped towards her to climb into the bath.
The bath was a good size. It had to be, she supposed, to fit Percival into it, even alone. But with the two of them it was a glorious squash of limbs and giggling, and water slopped over onto the flagstones as they tried to find a position that worked, but still allowed for kissing. Nothing was entirely satisfactory. If one of them lay over the other, then the person on top was mostly out of the water and got cold. Sitting in the middle wrapped around each other worked best and they kissed like that as the water cooled.
Sefa learned the feel of Percival's glorious chest under her palms, the peaks of his nipples and hard planes of muscle. He explored her breasts with tentative touches, making her moan as he circled her nipples with his thumbs and kissed down her neck to lick at the tender spot behind her ear. She kissed his neck too, loving the bump of his Adam's apple and how it vibrated under her lips as he hummed with pleasure. They kept their hands above each other's waists for now; but his cock was a hot, hard presence against her belly, and her sex felt full and swollen with the need for it inside her.
When the water began to feel cold, they climbed out, and dried each other in front of the fire. Percival added more logs and got it blazing higher. When he laid Sefa down on the bed, the heat of his skin and the matching heat rising inside her at his touch were more than enough to keep her warm.
They lost themselves in kissing and touching again. There was little need for words; they used the language of their bodies to communicate, a language as old as time. Each shiver and moan taught them something new about shared pleasure. When Sefa curled her fingers around Percival's cock for the first time and stroked him lightly, she was fascinated by the velvet-softness, the mysterious textures of the hardness beneath the shifting skin. There was wetness leaking at the tip and she wanted to taste. She kneeled over him and the sound of his throaty gasp as she sucked him down sent a new wash of heat between her thighs. She lapped his balls and watched the magical movement of the wrinkled skin of his sac. His body was a mystery that she was determined to unravel.
When she moved to take his cock back into her mouth again he stopped her. "My turn," he said with a smile and rolled her over onto her back as she laughed, delighted.
Percival gave as good as he'd got. It felt like he'd kissed every inch of her - with particular time taken over her nipples. By the time he finally lay between her thighs and grinned up at her, she was squirming and panting, her body slick with sweat from the heat of the fire and with need for him.
He pushed her thighs wide and she watched as he licked her, her hands finding his hair and fingers twisting into it as she arched into the heat of his mouth. She guided his head a little higher and showed him by the sounds that she made where it felt best; where the pressure of his tongue made that feeling curl tight in her belly, the tension growing with each pass.
The stretch and sting of his fingers sliding inside her made her hiss, but when he tried to pull them out she stopped him. "No," she urged. "Don't stop, it's good." He moved them in and out of her, and she was so wet that they moved easily, despite how tight she felt around him and how thick his fingers were. He kept up a steady rhythm and licked that spot again, over and over until it crashed over her. Waves and waves of unbearable pleasure that left her gasping and shuddering, calling out his name as he took her through it.
He moved over her and kissed her lips, and she tasted herself. His cock was pressing against her and she opened her legs for him, drawing him in with her hands on his hips.
"Yes," she said when she read the hesitation on his face. "Yes, Percival."
His face was raw and open as he pushed inside. "God... Sefa," he groaned, his jaw slack and body taut with tension under her hands. She bit her lip to stifle a cry. It hurt, sharp and shocking for a moment, but as he moved it was already turning into something she wanted, something she needed.
His lips were on her neck, her cheek, her shoulders as his cock dragged in and out of her and his breath came in hot, broken gasps. "Sefa," he said again, desperate.
"Yes," she wrapped her legs around his hips and urged him on. The fire in her belly had settled to dull embers now, a memory of the intense pleasure of before but no less enjoyable for that. He fucked into her and she welcomed him in, meeting each thrust with a lift of her hips.
When he pulled away and guided his cock out of her, she was confused for a moment, but then realised what he was doing and why. He knelt between her thighs and she reached down to touch his balls, high and tight as he stripped his cock, his hand a blur of movement. Sefa watched in wonder as he came, crying out as his cock jerked in his fist and spilled, hot and sticky on her belly.
She reached out to touch it, feeling the texture with a fingertip.
"Sorry," he grinned down at her. "I didn't want to cause more trouble for you."
She forced a smile. "Of course." The thought of having a baby growing inside her that belonged to Percival didn't seem so terrible to Sefa. But she knew that it was the last thing she needed, given her status and reputation within the castle.
Percival wiped her clean with the edge of the sheet and then helped her up, rearranging them under the covers now and pulling her into his embrace. She went willingly, loving the feel of his strong arms around her as her body relaxed against his.
He looked into her eyes, suddenly awkward again. "But perhaps..." he paused. "Perhaps eventually," he said.
She frowned, puzzled.
"Maybe we could make a baby one day," he held her gaze, "if we were married for instance. I mean... I know it's too soon for that too. But maybe..." his voice trailed off.
"Maybe." She let the swell of happiness inside her show as she smiled at him. "Yes. Maybe one day."