Part 3: link

    Camelot is just starting to come to life for the day as the trio walks back to the castle. Arthur and Guinevere walk side by side with Merlin behind, pulling the cart. Arthur wants to take her hand but he knows he probably shouldn’t. Instead he hassles Merlin.
    “Come on, Merlin, keep up,” he teases.
    “I’m right behind you,” Merlin calls back.
    “It’s not like that cart is heavy, she hardly brought anything.”
    “Arthur, stop teasing Merlin!” Gwen says, playfully swatting Arthur’s arm. He immediately feigns injury and she laughs.
    They reach the doors and Merlin sets the cart down. He reaches into it, hoisting Gwen’s bundle of dresses into his arms with a grunt. He staggers. Arthur rolls his eyes and takes the large floppy bundle, swinging it up to his shoulder easily. Gwen picks up her small bag of delicates and Merlin gathers the rest of the things. They walk into the castle and head down the corridor towards Morgana’s former room.
    A few servants are just exiting the room as they get there, and they curtsy to Arthur and hurry off, toting brooms and buckets with them. Arthur opens the still-ajar door wider with his free hand and Guinevere enters. She looks around.
    The room is almost unrecognizable as having been Morgana’s. All of her personal belongings have been removed. The furniture has not only been rearranged, but most of it has been changed completely. Different bed. Different wardrobe. Different vanity. There are no drapes on the windows and no linens on the bed. Guinevere turns and looks at Arthur.
    “When you said ‘cleaned and emptied,’ you meant it!” she says to him, flabbergasted.
    Merlin and Arthur set her things down on the table. “This is your room. You may do whatever you like with it. I’ve had it left it this way so that you may choose to decorate it however you wish,” Arthur says to her, walking over to her and touching her shoulder gently.
    “Thank you, Arthur,” she says and impulsively steps forward and hugs him. Merlin busies himself by unbundling her dresses and hanging them in the wardrobe. He is secretly happy that they are comfortable enough with him to be open about their feelings in his presence, but still he doesn’t want to intrude on their intimacy.
    Arthur wraps his arms around her, squeezing his eyes together to maintain his composure. He really wants to lean over and kiss her until neither of them can think straight, maybe carry her over to the bed, and… perhaps having her under the same roof with me wasn’t the wisest idea, he thinks.
    Gwen steps away, smiles sheepishly, and turns to the table and her things. She looks. “Is this everything from the cart?” she asks, scowling.
    “Yes, everything,” Merlin says, turning back from the wardrobe. “Is something missing?”
    “My candlestick. The one my father made. It’s not here.”
    “Nothing fell off…” Merlin muses.
    Gwen sighs. “I must have left it on the table at home. At the old house,” she corrects herself.
    Merlin, seeing his opportunity to return to the lower town to look for Bronwyn, volunteers, “I’ll go back and get it. I need to put the cart away anyway.”
    “Thank you, Merlin. It’s such a silly thing, but I don’t have much of him for myself.”
    “Not silly at all. I’ll be back before you know it,” he says, turning to leave.
    “Take your time,” Arthur mutters to him as he passes.

    Guinevere is staring at the widows, hands on her hips. Then she fusses with her things on the table. Putting something here. Moving it there. She stops and stares at the bed. Then the windows again. Ponders the placement of the vanity in relation to the windows.
    “Guinevere.”
    That voice behind her. She stops, closing her eyes. Sun, moon, and stars, when he says my name like that… she thinks. His voice speaking her name has a tactile quality; she can feel it like a caress over her entire body, as if his hands – no, his lips – are brushing over every inch of her skin, his warm breath heating her and giving her the chills simultaneously.
    She turns around to find him walking slowly towards her. Her heart speeds up and she feels warm all over. Her lips part and she unconsciously licks them in anticipation of what she hopes is about to happen. She takes a step forward herself and finds herself in his arms, his hands roving her back, up under her hair, reaching her neck. He leans in and kisses her, holding her head gently in one hand, the other stroking the small of her back. She winds her arms up around his neck and feels his tongue asking for entrance. She parts her lips, allowing him in to explore the warm corners of her mouth. She makes a small noise in the back of her throat and meets his tongue with her own, stroking back, kissing him back as fervently as he is kissing her. Surprised and delighted, he groans into her mouth and backs her up to the table, picking her up and sitting her down on it. He moves in closer, pressing against her knees so that they part slightly, allowing him to nestle into her.
    Guinevere is past all thought. Somewhere deep down it registers that he’s gotten her into a very indecent position, but she doesn’t care. Her hands roam through his hair as he continues kissing her, nibbling and sucking on her lips as if she were made of nectar. He leaves her lips and moves down her jaw and starts planting scorching kisses on her neck, creating a current of new sensations that course through her. She sighs, breathing heavily, eyes closed, head back. Guinevere tilts her head down slightly, taking Arthur’s earlobe in between her teeth. She bites it lightly and then sucks the tender flesh there. Her tongue suns along the outer shell of his ear, then snakes in to tease the sensitive inner bit. Arthur’s eyes fly open as goosebumps rise on his skin at the unexpected pleasure. She fights the urge to wrap her legs around him.
    There is a knock at the door. They freeze, both silently thanking Merlin for having the forethought to close it completely when he left. Arthur stands, looking completely disoriented. Gwen hops off the table and says, “Just a moment.” She looks at Arthur, who has decided that he needs to sit at the table for a few moments to avoid some obvious embarrassment, and sees what she’s done to his hair. She quickly straightens it out for him and then trots to the door, mind whirring, trying to think of excuses.
    She opens the door and breathes a sigh of relief. “Gaius,” she says, smiling and stepping back so that he may enter. She won’t be needing any of those half-formed excuses after all. Arthur is still seated at the table, diligently inspecting the embroidery on Gwen’s mother’s blanket, still folded on the table.
    “Good morning, Gaius,” Arthur says casually.
    Gaius stifles the knowing smile playing over his features and says, “Good morning, Sire, Gwen.” Their flushed faces and swollen lips have not escaped his attention.
    “I brought you some flowers to welcome you to the castle,” Gaius says, presenting Guinevere with a lovely bouquet of wildflowers.
    “Thank you, Gaius, they’re lovely,” she says, hugging him, “only I don’t know if I have anything to put them in…” she looks around the room.
    “Good thing I’ve thought of that as well,” he says, producing a beautiful glass vase, which he places on the table. He pours some water from a pitcher nearby and she places the flowers in.
    “I’m very happy you’re here with us, now,” Gaius tells her. “One less thing I shall have to worry about,” he adds, his grandfatherly concern showing.
    “You needn’t worry about me,” Gwen assures him. “And now I will be more available to assist you when you have need,” she says. She enjoys helping Gaius care for the sick and injured, and Gaius has complimented her skills as a nurse many times.
    “Yes, speaking of that, I really must be going into town to see to the new blacksmith. He’s gone and burned his foot quite badly, I am told.”
    “Thank you again, Gaius. Oh, do tell him if he needs anything he should look in on Elyan. He has all our father’s old tools.”
    “I’ll do that, Gwen, thank you. Arthur,” he nods at the king, who gives him a smile and a wave. Gaius conscientiously shuts the door tightly behind him, finally allowing himself that smile.

    Guinevere leans against the door and looks at Arthur seated behind the table. “Do you think he knew?” she asks.
    “I am almost certain he did,” he replies, face completely neutral. They look at each other, and suddenly Gwen starts to laugh.
    “Poor Gaius!” she gasps between giggles.
    “Poor Gaius!” Arthur repeats, incredulously, “What do you mean, Poor Gaius?
    “Well, put yourself in his shoes. He must have been mortified.” She crosses back over to Arthur, who is now standing.
    “I suppose you’re right. It probably is a good thing he knocked when he did,” he muses, noting how close she is once again.
    “Probably,” she says, now standing directly in front of him.
    “Guinevere, I’m sorry if I… went a little too far just now. It was improper and unfair of me to do that.”
    “Arthur,” she says, stepping closer yet and placing her hands on his chest, “I could have stopped you at any time,” she runs her hands around his ribcage, under his waistcoat, so she is holding him around his middle, “if I had wanted to,” she concludes.
    Arthur draws in his breath at her intimate touch and looks up briefly. “Guinevere…” he cautions.
    She feels a lump next to her elbow. “What’s this?” she asks, drawing her left arm out and reaching into an interior pocket of his vest.
    “Nothing,” grabs for her hand, but she has already drawn out the white linen handkerchief he had tucked in there.
    “Is this my handkerchief? The one I gave you before the tournament all those years ago?”
    “Yes,” he admits sheepishly. “I have carried it with me every day since then.”
    She is incredibly moved by this simple admission, having had no idea that he even still had it, much less kept it with him. This simple sentimentality only endears him to her further. She folds the cloth neatly and leans up to kiss him as she tucks it back into his pocket.

Part 5: link