Part 27: link


    “Gwen! You got the results back?” Alice asked, her voice full of hope.
    “Yes, the nurse just called,” Gwen answered. “It’s positive.”
    “Oh, that’s wonderful!” Alice squealed, immediately excited. “Why don’t you sound happy, dear?” she asked, realizing that Gwen is strangely silent on the other end.
    “I am, but… I’m a little overwhelmed. I wasn’t expectin’ to be, well, expecting so soon… Though I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised, what with the frequency that Arthur and I… oh. You prob’ly don’t wanna hear ’bout that…”
    Alice laughed then. “I remember what it’s like to be a newlywed, dear. Even after this long. But there’s something else troubling you.”
    “Well, this baby is gonna be mixed, which is goin’ to bring its own set o’ troubles,” Gwen said, twirling the phone cord around and around her finger.
    “Gwen. If any two people can handle the difficulties that might come from bringing a mixed race child into this world, it’s you and Arthur. You’ve weathered so much just to be together; don’t lose hope now. You owe it to yourselves and to that baby’s future to continue to be strong and fight for what is right in this world.”
    “Thank you, Alice. That means a lot to hear.”
    “It’s the truth, Gwen. And every child comes with its own set of problems, no matter what color he is,” Alice laughed.
    Gwen chuckled a little now, too. “Thanks. I do feel better. Um, Alice?”
    “Yes, dear?”
    “You didn’t tell Uncle Gaius, did you?”
    “No. I almost did, but something stopped me.”
    “Can we keep this between us right now? I already feel bad that Arthur isn’t the first to know.”
    “Of course, dear, I won’t say a word. Not to Gaius, not to Morgana. This is your news to tell, and Arthur definitely deserves to know first. I understand that the only reason you told me is because you needed a recommendation for a doctor,” she chuckled.
    “Thank you, Alice.”
    “When are you going to tell him?”
    “I was actually thinkin’ it might be a nice Christmas surprise.”

    “Guinevere, are you all right? You seem a little distracted,” Arthur says at dinner that Friday, snapping Gwen out of her thoughts, replaying that afternoon’s phone call to Alice.
    “Hmm? Oh, sorry,” she says.
    “Still not feeling well?” he asks, reaching over to stroke her cheek. “You don’t seem feverish.”
    “I’m all right. Just thinking about the house,” she lies. I feel bad lying, but I don’t want to give it away. I can make it till Wednesday. Really, I can.
    Maybe.

    “I thought it was going well,” he says, puzzling.
    “It is. I was just doing a little mental decorating,” she says with a smile. She stands and takes their plates to the sink. Mentally decorating a nursery.
    Arthur comes up behind her and wraps his arms around her waist, kissing her neck. “I did tell you that I love how the plans turned out, didn’t I?”
    “A couple times. Can you bring the rest over?”
    “Okay,” he says, nipping her ear once before going to get the rest of the dishes from the table. “It’s a shame that we have to wait until March to break ground,” he sighs. “Too much snow, ground too frozen.”
    “I know,” she agrees. “If we were in Memphis, that wouldn’t be a problem.”
    “If we were in Memphis, we wouldn’t be married,” Arthur counters, taking up his trusty dishtowel.
    If we were in Memphis, I wouldn’t be carrying your child, Gwen adds mentally.
    Gwen washes, Arthur dries and puts away. He learned very quickly that Gwen hates drying dishes.
    “I want one of those automatic dishwashers in the new house,” Gwen declares, scrubbing a pan, scowling.
    “Definitely,” Arthur agrees, pulling open the silverware drawer to drop in the cutlery.
    Dishes cleaned, Gwen goes to wipe down the table while Arthur puts the last dishes away. She is leaning over the table, wiping the surface with a dishcloth, when she feels Arthur sneak up behind her, pressing against her, leaning into her.
    “Arthur…”
    His hand slides down over her backside. “Well, stop pointin’ this round little thing at me…” he teases, his lips brushing her ear as he speaks.
    “It ain’t exactly little,” she argues.
    “Hush. It’s perfect,” he says, giving it a squeeze before turning her in his arms so she is facing him. He gently takes the dishcloth from her hand and tosses it across the kitchen and into the sink.
    “Nice shot,” she says, just before his mouth covers hers, kissing her passionately, deeply. She feels the edge of the table against her hips as he leans over her. His tongue slides along hers, exploring her mouth.
    He pulls away for a moment, picks her up, and sits her on the table.    
    “Arthur!” she squeals, surprised. Arthur grins and pushes his way forward, between her knees, sliding her skirt up as he presses closer.
    The first thing Gwen does when she gets home, if she is wearing a skirt or dress, is take off her shoes. The second thing is take off her nylons, even if it’s cold. Arthur’s grin broadens as he slides his hands over the soft bare skin of her legs, dipping his head to kiss her again.
    “You are terrible,” she gasps, leaning her head back as he kisses down her neck, his hands now working the buttons on her blouse.
    “Terrible?”
    “Did I say terrible?” she says, her voice a husky whisper as she reaches for his belt. “I meant wonderful…”
    “Better,” he rumbles, slipping his hands into her opened blouse to reach for the clasp on the back of her bra. “Wait, this doesn’t work…” he mumbles, pushing her shirt off so he can remove her bra while she giggles at him.
    He leans forward and takes a stiffened nipple into his mouth, kissing and sucking as he slips a hand up under her skirt. One of Gwen’s slippers falls off her foot and lands on the linoleum with a soft slapping sound.
    Gwen giggles and kicks off the other one, then wraps her legs around Arthur, pulling him closer. Then she uses her feet to shove at his opened pants until they drop to the floor.
    “Talented,” Arthur mutters, a bit impressed.
    “I can pick things up off the floor with them, too,” she answers, cupping his face between her hands to kiss him as he chuckles at her.
    His other hand worms its way under her skirt and with a little tugging and wiggling, her panties hit the floor. Arthur steps out of his pants and a moment later, his underwear joins Gwen’s.
    “I’m gonna have to clean this table again,” she gasps as he touches her, drawing more small, sweet gasps from her.
    “It was on the list,” Arthur reminds her, placing wet, sucking kisses on her neck. Her fingers find him now, stroking his length, pulling him closer with one hand while the other clings to his neck, holding herself upright.
    “Oh…” Gwen moans as Arthur presses his hips forward, entering her slowly, sliding out and back in again, torturing them both.
    Her head drops back momentarily and Arthur runs his tongue along the column of her neck from the hollow of her throat up to her jaw, kissing his way up to her ear, which he nibbles a little.
    “Faster,” she whispers, her hand in his hair, her legs around his waist.
    “Taking my time,” he says, smiling against her ear.
    “Faster,” she urges, pulling his hair.
    Wow, Arthur thinks. He moves faster.
    She moans again, scraping her nails lightly on his scalp.
    “Oh… Guinevere…” Arthur groans, loving how bold she’s getting, discovering he kind of likes this take-charge side of her.
    “Oh… harder…”
    He doesn’t argue this time and thrusts harder. The table scoots on the floor and Gwen giggles again for just a moment before it turns into a whimper.
    “Arthur,” she moans his name, clinging to him. “Oh, Lord… oh…” Gwen clamps her legs tight around him, crying out as she comes, nearly lifting off the table.
    Arthur grunts, thrusting a few more times before he follows, his arms tight around her, his face in her neck.
    Gwen relaxes, releasing him from her grip and he slides gently back. He kisses her nose.
    “I love you so much,” he says quietly, leaning his forehead against hers in that way he has.
    “I love you, too, Baby,” she answers, stroking his cheek with her thumb. “I should get down off of this table.”
    He helps her down, and her skirt falls down to her knees. “This is an interesting look,” Gwen says, looking down at herself, clad only in the skirt. She grabs her shirt and puts it on, not buttoning it but just holding it closed. Scooping up her undergarments, she heads to the bedroom. “I’m going to put my pajamas on. You clean the table.”
    Arthur laughs, pulling his underwear on but not his pants. He goes to the sink and grabs the dishcloth.
    “Use hot water!” Gwen yells, knowing he’d likely just wipe it down again without re-wetting the cloth.
    Arthur scowls. “How does she do that?” he mutters, turning on the faucet to get the water hot.

xXx

    By Sunday afternoon, Gwen cannot stand it any more. Three more days. Christmas is Wednesday. You can make it to Wednesday.
    But I don’t want Arthur to keep asking me if I’m sick. And it’s killin’ me to not tell him.

    “Guinevere?” Arthur asks, interrupting her thoughts.
    “Hmm?”
    “You were singin’, and then you just stopped. You okay?”
    Hell with it.
    “I want to give you one of your Christmas gifts, Arthur,” she says, standing.
    “What? Now? Why now?” Arthur puzzles, watching her walk into the hall, to the closet. She returns with a box, about the size of a shoebox.
    “You’ll understand when you open it,” she says, sitting beside him. She places the box in his lap.
    “Okay…” he says, tearing the paper with the abandon of a child. Gwen laughs at him.
    It is a shoebox. He raises an eyebrow at her.
    “It’s just the box. I didn’t buy you ladies’ shoes.”
    He chuckles and opens the box to find some soft, pale green material. He pulls it out and unfolds it, and when he does this, another small parcel falls in his lap. It makes noise. He forgets the material a moment as he lifts the small, irregularly-shaped gift, pondering it.
    Gwen bites her lip, nervous and also trying not to laugh at the fact that he hasn’t realized that the green thing is a baby blanket.
    He tears through the paper and stares at the object in his hand. It is red and green, a round handle at one end and a ball on the other, connected by a thin strip of plastic. On the ball are the words Baby’s first Christmas.
    Time seems to stop as Gwen stares at Arthur staring at the rattle.
    Then he gives it a tiny shake, and it makes a soft rattling noise. The corners of his lips turn upwards into the tiniest smile. He looks at her and just whispers, “Really?”
    She nods, afraid to speak. Afraid to breathe. His hand drops down and he rubs the blanket between his thumb and forefinger, suddenly realizing what it is.
    “Really?” he asks again, his voice breaking slightly this time.
    She nods again. “Can you say something besides ‘really?’” she whispers.
    He shakes his head no, reaching for her and holding her tightly to him, burying his face in her hair.
    It is then, when she feels him tremble slightly, hears his breath hitch, that she realizes he is crying.
    “Are those happy tears?” she asks, still whispering. She feels him nod against her neck and squeeze her even tighter.
    “The happiest,” he finally manages, still hiding in her hair. He sniffles.
    “Don’t be gettin’ no snot in my hair, now,” Gwen says, her breath hitching a watery laugh.
    He leans back finally, and she wipes his tears. “I love you so much, Arthur,” she says quietly.
    He pecks her lips lightly. “I love you so much, too. Heh. I guess we shouldn’t really be too surprised,” he says, kissing her softly. “We have been rather… busy…”
    “I realized that, once the shock wore off,” Gwen says, blushing.
    “So this is why you’ve been so distracted? How long have you known?”
    “Found out officially on Friday. But that’s why I’ve been so tired lately. And then last Wednesday I threw up right after you left for work. Thought I was sick; then I looked at the calendar and it hit me.”
    “So you’ve been to the doctor?” he asks, holding her hands, the rattle resting on the blanket, still in Arthur’s lap.
    “Just to get tested. I have an appointment the day after Christmas,” she says. “Um, Alice helped me find a doctor…” she admits.
    “Oh. So she knows, then,” he says, sounding slightly disappointed.
    “Only because I didn’t want to just randomly choose a doctor, Baby, honest. And I swore her to secrecy. She didn’t even tell Gaius.”
    “I understand,” he nods.
    “I really wanted you to be the first to know. I suppose I didn’t have to tell you that Alice already knew, but I didn’t like keepin’ that from you any more than I liked keepin’ the news itself from you. That’s why I had to give you this now,” she says, running her hand over the blanket. “I couldn’t stand it any more.”
    “Yeah, I suppose it probably was pretty hard to keep in,” he says, smiling now.
    “I don’t want to tell everyone just yet, though. At least not until we’ve seen the doctor, anyway. I can’t be that far along, so things could still, you know… happen…”
    “Shh, don’t even think those thoughts, darlin’.” He wraps his arms around her reassuringly. “We’ll see the doctor and he’ll tell us that everything is perfect. That the baby is perfect, just like his mama.”
    “Or her mama.”
    Arthur’s eyes grow wide. “Oh, God, a girl…” he gasps. Gwen realizes he’s not lamenting the possibility of not having a son; he’s overwhelmed by the thought of a daughter.
    A daughter would have him wrapped around her little finger so fast…

xXx

    “I’m just gonna work till noon today, then I’ll be home,” Arthur tells Gwen over breakfast. “For the week. Takin’ Thursday and Friday off, too. I want to go to the doctor with you.”
    “They may not let you in,” she says. “He’s probably goin’ to be checkin’ me… down below.”
    “Well, I am an expert in that area, you know,” he teases.
    “Arthur!” she swats him with the dishcloth. “Somehow I don’t think the doctor will be welcomin’ your particular brand of expertise.”
    “Still goin’ with.”
    “We’ll see. You may have to wait outside during the actual exam, though.”
    “Fair enough,” Arthur says, standing and bringing his bowl to the sink. He starts washing it and Gwen shoos him away.
    “I’ll do this. You’ll be late otherwise,” she says.
    “How are you feeling?” he asks, cupping her cheek with his hand.
    “A little tired, but okay. It helped that you had grits and not eggs this morning. They smell funny to me right now.”
    “Really? That’s odd.”
    She shrugs. “I’ll probably take a little nap later. Someone kept me up too late last night.”
    “We were celebratin’,” he grins.
    “Yes, what was it you said? ‘Reenactin’ the event that caused the need to celebrate.’”
    Arthur just grins broader and leans down to kiss her goodbye.
    “Stow that silly grin, Pendragon, or people are goin’ to think you’ve gone simple,” she calls after him. She can hear his guffaw as he closes the door.
    Definitely getting her the right thing for Christmas, Arthur decides in the elevator.

xXx

    Christmas Eve, Arthur waits until Gwen is in the shower, then dashes downstairs to the parking lot. He returns just as Gwen is emerging from the bathroom, so he quickly plops down on the sofa and grabs the newspaper.
    “You were outside,” Gwen says casually.
    “What? Don’t be silly,” Arthur says, surprised, trying to sound innocent.
    Gwen passes by him and runs her fingers through his hair, dislodging some quickly-melting snowflakes.
    Shit. “Oh, um…”
    “I don’t need to know,” she says. “It’s Christmas and I trust you.”
    She is always a half a step ahead of me. “You’ll find out soon enough,” he says. “When your hair is dry. Don’t want you catchin’ cold, not with the baby and not with your solo tonight.”
    “Solos,” she corrects, sitting down and turning the newspaper right-side-up.
    I am so bad at this cloak-and-dagger stuff, Arthur realizes. “More than one?”
    “Yes, Alan somehow roped me into another one. I was just doin’ the one with the choir, but then he wanted me to do another, all by myself, during the offering.”
    “He likes your voice, darlin’. We all do.”
    “I agreed on the condition that I could pick the song,” she grins. “Gonna go all southern gospel on you poor unsuspecting northerners.”
    “What did you pick?”
    “I Wonder as I Wander.
    “Nice,” Arthur nods, smiling.
    “I wish Merlin were here to play it with me. He’d do it up right.”
    “Oh, Lord, Merlin! He’s gonna lose his mind when we tell him the news!” Arthur laughs.
    A short time later, Arthur bundles Gwen up in her parka and scarf and leads her to the elevator.
    “Where are we going?” Gwen asks.
    “To get your Christmas gift,” Arthur says. “As if you didn’t know that.”
    “I didn’t want to assume.”
    The elevator dings and the doors open. Arthur leads her into the lobby. “Can I trust you to keep your eyes closed or do I need to blindfold you with your scarf?”
    “I can keep my eyes closed. We don’t want people thinkin’ you’re kidnappin’ me,” she chuckles.
    “All right, close your eyes.”
    She does, and she feels him take her hand and tuck it into his elbow. He slowly walks her outside.
    I think I know what he got me, Gwen thinks, but plays along anyway.
    “Okay,” he whispers close in her ear. Gwen opens her eyes to see a brand new light blue Impala parked in her space.
    She gasps and her gloved hands cover her mouth. Tom’s car is gone.
    “I know that was your daddy’s car,” Arthur says quietly, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “But it was startin’ to get unreliable.”
    Gwen still stares, conflicted. It’s a beautiful car. And he’s right, Daddy’s car was getting harder and harder to start. Plus there were a few other things I hadn’t told him about. “Thank you, Arthur,” she finally says, reaching over to his hand on her shoulder.
    “If you don’t like this particular one, Frank says that all we have to do is bring it on back and you can pick out whatever you want.”
    “Except Daddy’s car,” she says, smiling a little, attempting to joke.
    “I know, darlin’. It’s hard. I’m sorry it had to go, but…”
    “You don’t have to explain, Baby, I understand. It’s just a thing, anyway,” she says, stepping forward now to run her hand across the top of the car. “Daddy would rather have me safe than hang on to his car out of stubborn sentimentality.”
    “Your daddy would rather have both of you safe,” Arthur says, putting his hand on her stomach. Gwen hardly feels it through her thick coat, but she appreciates the attempt. He’s been preoccupied with her stomach since Sunday, and she doesn’t think it’s going to get any better any time soon.
    “Do you like it?” Arthur asks cautiously.
    “I do,” Gwen says. “Thank you.” She turns to face him and leans up to kiss him. He wipes the one tear that fell from her cheek.
    “Do you want to go and see if there’s anything you like better?”
    “Today? It’s Christmas Eve!”
    “Frank said he’d go in if you wanted to pick something else,” Arthur says.
    “Frank’s decisions are led by his wallet,” Gwen says, chuckling.
    “He’s not married,” Arthur offers by way of explanation.
    “Right. But no, I like this car. I do appreciate the fact that you got another Impala. Trying to soften the blow, maybe?” she asks, raising her eyebrow at him.
    “Maybe a little,” he grins.
    “Can we take it for a drive?”

xXx

    Gwen’s solos are the talk of the late Christmas Eve service, but Gwen is exhausted being up so late now that she’s pregnant. Church lets out at midnight, and Gwen falls asleep on the way home.
    “Take good care of her,” Alice had whispered in Arthur’s ear when he hugged her and wished her Merry Christmas.
    “I will,” he answered softly. Then, louder, he asked, “What time tomorrow again?”
    “Noon, silly,” Alice laughed. “Take your wife home, Arthur, she looks exhausted.”
    Arthur pulls his car into its space and turns off the engine. He looks over at Gwen. She’s sleeping soundly, so he exits the car and moves around to the passenger side. He opens her door and gently slips his arms around her, lifting her very carefully from the car.
    She mumbles a protest, but settles back in, unconsciously nuzzling his neck.
    I hope people don’t think I’m doing anything shady, Arthur thinks. He gets to the doors of the building and stares at them.
    Shit.
    “Let me get that for you, Arthur,” Mr. Peplinski, their neighbor across the hall, comes to his rescue just as he is trying to reach for the door with the hand under Gwen’s knees.
    “Thanks, Harry,” Arthur says quietly.
    “Is she all right?” Mrs. Peplinski asks.
    “Sleepin’ like a log,” Arthur answers. “Late church service.”
    “We’re just coming from mass ourselves,” Harry says. He pushes the elevator button.
    Evie smiles. “Harry would have just woken me up,” she chuckles. They are all speaking softly, so as not to disturb Gwen.
    “That’s because I have a bad back,” Harry protests. “I’m too old to be sweeping you off your feet now.”
    “She’s a lucky girl,” Evie says, smiling fondly now.
    “I’m the one who is lucky,” Arthur says. The elevator doors open and they all exit.
    “Merry Christmas,” Harry says, taking Arthur’s keys from where he had them clutched in his hand and unlocking their door for them.
    “Thanks again. Merry Christmas to you, too,” Arthur says. Harry sets the keys down on a small table just inside the door and then goes to his own already-open door.
    “Ah, Guinevere, my love, what am I goin’ to do with you?” Arthur asks softly. He carries her through to the bedroom and lays her on the bed. He pulls her shoes and coat off and gradually, carefully, undresses her.
    Good thing her hair is already braided. I don’t know how to do that. He awkwardly pulls one of her flannel nightgowns over her head, bringing another whimper from her. She opens her eyes for a second and looks at him, confused.
    “Go back to sleep, darlin’,” he whispers, kisses her softly, and tucks her into bed. Arthur pads back out to the living room, puts a small, wrapped box under the tree, and heads back to the bedroom, not even noticing the large, flat gift leaning against the wall, tucked behind the tree.
    He strips to his underwear and climbs into bed, curling up behind Gwen, who is now on her side.

Part 29: link