Arthur is standing at the front of the throne room. He is waiting, and he is not alone. The throne room is filled to capacity with courtiers, knights, servants,
and commoners. There are flowers, ribbons and bunting in abundance, and the room has never looked more festive. He waits, barely noticing his surroundings. His attention is fixed on the large set of doors at the back of the room.
To the casual observer, the young king appears calm. Merlin, Arthur’s trusted servant and closest friend, knows otherwise. He sees Arthur’s tapping foot, his hands clenched together so tightly that his knuckles are white and his unblinking eyes focused on the back of the hall. He can practically hear Arthur’s brain. It’s saying, Come on, come on, come on, come on… He sidles up to the king and says quietly, “Only a few more moments,” making a show of straightening Arthur’s cape and picking imaginary bits of lint off his shoulders.
“It had better be,” Arthur mutters out of the corner of his mouth, “because if I wait too much longer, I am going to die.”
“Relax, Arthur,” whispers Merlin. He gives Arthur a pat on the back and a smile and steps back to his place at the front of the crowd.
The doors open. All eyes turn to the back of the room. An awed hush falls over the large crowd as Guinevere enters, escorted by her brother, Sir Elyan. She looks resplendent in a silver gown tinged with the palest lavender. Snug bodice, flowing sleeves and skirt. Her hair is up, with a few tendrils cascading down to her shoulders. She is jeweled and looks more beautiful than many in attendance would have thought possible.
As she makes her way forward, all eyes are on her. Merlin pulls his eyes away from the vision walking up the aisle to check on his master. Arthur is completely transfixed. He is also not breathing.
“Arthur! Breathe!” Merlin whispers loudly. Arthur blinks once and resumes breathing. Merlin turns just in time to see Gwen sneak a glance his way for just a second to give him a little smile.
When they reach the front, Elyan kisses his sister on the cheek and clasps Arthur’s hand. He then steps back to his place, also in front.
Arthur takes both of Guinevere’s hands into his own. He strokes her knuckles gently with his thumbs and says, “You look…”
“…breathtaking?” she offers, with a sly smile, indicating that she clearly saw his reaction to her entrance.
Arthur chuckles as Geoffrey of Monmouth clears his throat, hinting that he’d like to begin the ceremony.
As the ceremony commences, Arthur and Gwen seem to be in a world where only the two of them exist. They manage to say all the correct words and do everything they are instructed during the ceremony, but it is clear that they are only truly aware of one another. Merlin cannot stop smiling. Even Gaius seems giddy with happiness for them.
Geoffrey concludes the ceremony, instructing the couple to kiss. Arthur pulls Guinevere to him, wraps her in his arms, and places a lingering, passionate kiss on her waiting lips. While this kiss is in no way improper, the intensity of their love for each other can be felt throughout the stunned crowd. Several ladies gasp and a few men are even pulling at their collars.
Their lips part and they stare into each other’s eyes for a moment. Gwen takes Arthur’s arm and they recess up the center aisle. The crowd bows and curtseys to their rulers as they pass.
After they have made their way up the aisle, Geoffrey announces to the crowd, “The wedding feast will commence in one hour’s time in the Banquet Hall.”
The feast is overflowing with food, drink, and guests. Arthur and Gwen are at the center of the head table. They are being gracious hosts, conversing gaily with anyone who happens to pass. When no one is attending them, however, they once again seem absorbed in only themselves. Always they are touching in some way: now holding hands, now her hand on his arm., now his hand on her shoulder. Once Gwen even dares to place her hand on his knee under the table, actually making the young king blush slightly in anticipation of what’s to come. Arthur often leans over and whispers into Guinevere’s ear, intentionally brushing his lips against the delicate skin there. Always she smiles.
Gwen has never been so happy, and her happiness is infectious. Having been born a commoner, working as a maid in the castle for most of her life, she has taken great care to ensure that all are given food to eat and treated well on this day, from visiting royalty down to the stable boys. All are to celebrate this joyous occasion and all do.
The night grows long, and the feast is winding down. People are beginning to retire to their rooms or homes, or simply passing out in the corridor if they so choose. Cleanup will wait till morning.
“Would it be rude of us to leave?” Arthur asks Gwen.
“Probably. But I think they’d forgive us.”
“We’ll stay just a little while longer, then.” He looks at Merlin and nods ever so slightly. Merlin stands and slips from the room.
More people have gone home, and the remaining guests are mostly knights. Some of them are apparently planning to sleep on the banquet tables. Arthur stands and offers his hand to his bride. She takes it and stands. They look around the room. No one seems to notice them, so they exit quietly, unnoticed.
As they walk hand in hand to Arthur’s chambers, Guinevere turns to Arthur and asks, “What did you send Merlin off to do?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Arthur says, a little too quickly.
“I saw you nod to him and then he left. What are you up to?” She smiles.
“Nothing that you need be concerned with,” he says, trying not to smile.
They reach the door to Arthur’s room just as Merlin is emerging from it. He sees them and stops. Gwen arches an eyebrow at him.
“Um, I was just… setting a fire in the fireplace for you,” he says, not very convincingly, “can’t have you catching a chill, now.” He turns and walks very quickly down the corridor, away from them. Arthur rolls his eyes to the ceiling and exhales, knowing exactly what kind of look Gwen is giving him.
He faces her, and before she can say anything, he starts, “I’ve heard it is traditional for a new bride to be carried across the threshold.”
“Well, that’s only for entering a house, not – whoa!” Gwen answers, as Arthur cuts her off by scooping her up into his arms.
As his hands are full, he kicks the door open and carries her in, then kicks the door closed behind them. He plants a quick but scorching kiss on her lips before he plants her on her feet. He turns and locks the door with a deliberate click.
Gwen gasps as she looks around the room. It has been beautifully arrayed with flowers and candles. Brand-new linens have been placed on the bed, and there is a tray with fruits and assorted biscuits and small cakes on the table next. Merlin has been busy, indeed. Arthur walks up behind her, wraps his arms around her waist and whispers, “Surprise,” brushing his lips against her neck as he does so.
They stand regarding one another for a few moments. They both know what they are supposed to do, what they want to do, but they are suddenly shy with one another. Arthur clears his throat. He wants her so much he can hardly stand it. And now I stand here like a jackass, he thinks. Come on man, look at her. She’s yours. YOURS. You are a warrior; a knight. Conquer.
He takes her hand and leads her to the bed. There he hesitates again.
“Arthur?” asks Gwen. He bites his lower lip and looks to the side.
“Are you… nervous?” she asks.
“No! Yes. I don’t know. It’s just…”
“Yes?” She takes his hand.
“It’s just that I’ve been trained my whole life to be a warrior; to kill. I’m afraid that I might, well, injure you.”
She smiles, understanding. Looking him in the eyes, she assures him, “You won’t.”
“How can you be sure?” He asks, looking back into her deep brown eyes.
“Because I trust you. And besides,” she says as he shoves him down so he is seated on the bed, “I am not that fragile.”
His eyes grow wide with surprise and he laughs loudly, falling back on to the bed. As he does this, Guinevere removes her shoes and crouches down at his feet. She pulls off his boots and Arthur sits bolt upright, surprised.
“You don’t have to…” he starts.
“Shh. I know I don’t, Arthur. I want to.” She steps back, reaches her arms back and undoes the laces on the back of her dress. It falls in a silken puddle at her feet and steps out, standing in her shift. The thin white material makes an enticing contrast with her soft brown skin, eliciting a groan from Arthur. He reaches for her.
“Not yet,” cautions Gwen sternly. She removes his hands from her waist and places them in his lap. She reaches for his belt, making him actually jump with surprise. Belt gone, she starts to work removing his mail shirt, chuckling quietly at Arthur’s reactions. The daughter of a blacksmith, she knows what she is doing and has him down to his undershirt in no time. Arthur is thoroughly enjoying her attention, and relaxes.
When she takes his shirt off, he can take it no longer. With a masculine grunt, Arthur grabs her. He pulls her down on to the bed, on top of him, and kisses her with all the passion that has been building for the past five years. He rolls them over and he is above her, teasing her tongue with his. He feels as though he is going mad, he has waited so long to be in her arms. Guinevere’s head is swimming, her need for him making her dizzy.
He pulls at her shift. “How do you get this off?” he asks, clearly frustrated at the mysteries of female clothing.
“Here, let me,” she says, and pushes him off. He starts throwing pillows everywhere and yanks back the bedcovers. She gets up and pulls several pins from her hair and it falls down in a cascade of dark curls. She then removes the thin garment and returns to the bed where a stunned Arthur is standing, waiting for her. He is once again awestruck by how unbelievably beautiful she is. He tries not to stare, but he cannot help himself. She is magnificent, better than he could have ever imagined. He reaches for her, but she manages to evade his grasp and yanks his trousers off.
He kisses her tenderly, deeply, then works his way down her neck. She arches her head back and purrs, further inflaming her new husband. Somehow they have made their way back onto the bed, but neither is quite sure how they got there. Arthur, wanting to savor every moment, takes his time, getting to know every inch of Guinevere’s body with his hands, his lips, his eyes. She returns the favor, caressing every muscle and kissing every battle scar she finds. Arthur marvels at her boldness. He cannot believe how lucky he is.
Finally he can wait no longer, but he is still nervous that he’s going to hurt her. He positions himself above her, but waits. He looks down at her, almost as if he is asking her permission. She looks so tiny beneath him. I’m going to split her in half if I do this, he thinks. Gwen opens her eyes and sees him gazing at her. She understands his concern and lifts a hand to his chest. She wants him, and wants him to know this. Biting her lower lip slightly, she runs her hand down his torso and takes him in her hand. She whispers, “Please.”
Arthur’s eyes roll back in his head at her gentle touch, and he lowers himself down atop her. With her hand guiding him, he enters her as gently and as slowly as he is able, holding his breath. She gasps, and he freezes.
“Are you all right? Did I hurt you?” He asks, eyes wide. She takes a breath and says, “It’s all right,” she assures him, “I'm fine. I promise.” She strokes his cheek. He turns his head and kisses her palm. She moves her hand back around his shoulders, wrapping herself around him, arms and legs holding him as though she never wants to let him go. She can feel his powerful muscles under her hands, between her thighs. They move together, still touching, exploring, learning. Finding a comfortable rhythm, their bodies rock in the culmination of a dance they started long ago. Their sweat mingles together on their skin. Arthur kisses every inch of her that he can reach, Gwen digs her nails into his shoulders as the initial pain turns to pleasure that she never would have thought possible. She moans, which inflames Arthur’s passion further and his tempo increases. Finally, they finish in a sweaty, satisfied heap of warm flesh and lay together, still joined, limbs intertwined. Arthur closes his eyes and whispers, “I love you, Guinevere.”
Gwen runs her fingertips along his brow. He opens his sleepy eyes and she whispers, “I love you, Arthur, always.” Arthur smiles, closes his eyes again, and kisses her softly. He holds her tightly in his arms and they fall into a blissful slumber.
Gwen awakes. For just a moment, she is not sure where she is. She feels the weight of her husband's arm on her stomach and remembers. Husband. The word alone makes her heart beat a little faster.
In the dim light cast by the few remaining candles, she looks over at his sleeping form. Arthur is sleeping deeply on his left side, facing her, his left hand curled under his chin. His right arm is draped across her middle as though, even in sleep, he needs the reassurance of her presence. His face relaxed, free of care, he looks very much like the impossible boy she met all those years ago when she first came to work at the castle.
Guinevere closes her eyes and tries to go back to sleep. Awake. She sighs, and slips out from under his arm. A little sore, but not terribly so, she thinks as she stands. Looking down, she sees his white linen shirt on the floor where she had dropped it earlier. She picks it up and holds it to her face, inhaling his scent. With a twinkle in her eye, she pulls the shirt on over her head. It falls almost to her knees. She walks over to the fireplace, stopping to select a large log and some smaller pieces of tinder from the wood box. She places them on the embers still smoldering in the fireplace and they catch almost immediately. Seeing the pillows that Arthur so carelessly tossed around the room before, she walks over and collects them. She takes them to the rug in front of the fireplace and makes herself a cozy seat.
Arthur is dreaming. He is reaching out for something – no, someone – with his right hand. Someone who is not there. Wait. Not dreaming. As he slowly rouses from his deep sleep, he realizes that his is indeed reaching out for someone who should be there. He gropes the bed with his right hand. No one. He opens one eye. Empty. Don’t tell me it was a cruel dream, he thinks. As he wakens further, he realizes that he has no trousers on. He raises his head and sees Gwen’s gown still in a rumpled mess on the floor. Not a dream, then, he thinks, so where is she?
“Guinevere?” Arthur calls softly. No answer. He lifts up onto his elbows and sees a russet-colored stain on the bed. He sits bolt upright in bed and says in a voice edged with panic, “Gwen??”
“I’m here,” Guinevere calls from her spot in front of the fire.
“Is everything all right?” he asks, still worried.
“Yes, everything’s fine,” she replies, “I just woke up and could not sleep.”
Arthur gets of out bed, pulling a sheet from the bed and wrapping it around his waist. He walks over to where she is sitting like a pampered pet in front of the fire.
“Is that my shirt?” he asks, smiling.
“Yes,” she replies. He sits down close beside her and looks at her, a look of worry on his face.
“What is it, Arthur?” she asks.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he asks, not convinced.
“Of course. I just couldn’t sleep. Why?”
“Well, I woke up and you were gone, and then I saw this bloodstain, and…”
“Oh, that,” she says, “that is normal for the first time.”
“It is?” he asks, and makes a mildly disgusted face. “Well, somebody might’ve told me that. Awfully jarring to wake up and find I’m in bed with a bloodstain instead of a wife.” Gwen laughs and leans over to kiss him.
“I promise I am completely unharmed,” she reassures him, and kisses him again.
“All right, I believe you,” he says between playful kisses.
Arthur reluctantly stops kissing her and asks, “What was it you were doing over here, alone?”
“Just thinking,” she says, looking at the fire.
“You. It’s just… if anyone had told me when I was a girl that I’d end up married to you, I never would have believed them.”
“Well, yes, the whole maid-prince thing,” he offers.
“Not just that. You were a complete prat. Insufferable,” she says, looking at him with mock reproach. He laughs, and says, “Yes, I suppose I was.”
“But who was to know then that you’d grow into the amazing man that you are today? That is the man that I love.”
Arthur raises his hand to her cheek and says, “I would not be the man I am today were it not for you.” She smiles, and turns her head to kiss his palm, mirroring his earlier action. He scoots closer and puts his arms around her and they sit cuddled for a few silent moments, watching the fire crackle.
“That shirt looks better on you,” Arthur says after a time. Gwen laughs, and Arthur smiles. Then he says, “You don’t do that nearly enough.”
“What, wear your clothing?”
“No, laugh,” he says, also laughing, “I love the sound of it.”
“Well, hopefully there will be cause for much laughter in the coming years,” she says, turning in his arms to face him. He kisses her nose. She looks up into his blue eyes and sees the same look in them that she saw all those years ago when he was hiding out at her house.
He bends his head and kisses her passionately, and they are soon on the floor together, kissing and touching as though they cannot get enough of each other. The sheet around Arthur’s waist comes undone and he pulls his shirt off of her.
This time they are a little braver, more certain of themselves. Arthur nibbles at her ears, Gwen is bolder with her hands. She manages to roll him on his back, much to his surprise, and straddles him.
Arthur groans wordlessly, but he is smiling. Gwen leans over to kiss him, and he twitches a little. She sits back up and looks at him, puzzled.
“Your hair. It tickles,” he admits.
Gwen raises an eyebrow. “Oh really?” she asks, clearly getting ideas.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” he says quickly. He gathers her hair up in one hand and uses it to gently pull her head down to his for another kiss, his hand wrapped in her hair at the nape of her neck.
Gwen shifts her weight slightly, allowing him entrance once again. She sets a slow pace, lingering, torturing him with pleasure. It is her turn to nibble his ears, his shoulders, and his lips. Arthur frees her hair from his grasp so his hands can do some exploring of their own. He loves having her on top of him.
As the fire dies down, Gwen arches her back and cries out softly with pleasure. Arthur groans again and surrounds her small form with his strong arms as she lay down atop him, her head on his chest. Arthur reaches over for the sheet and covers them with it, caressing her back as he does so. His hand trails downward to cup the lovely curve of her backside. He kisses the top of her head. She looks up and smiles at him.
“I once told you that you never cease to surprise me. I’m very pleased to discover that this is still true,” Arthur says to her.
“To be honest, I was a little nervous. I didn’t want you to think I was wanton,” she says to his chest. She doesn’t want him to see that she is blushing.
“Well, if we’re being honest,” he begins. Gwen prepares for the worst. Arthur lifts her chin to look at her, and continues, “I rather enjoyed having someone else in charge.” Arthur grins at her and she exhales with relief. He laughs and rolls them on to their sides. He reaches for a couple of the pillows, scattered once again, and places them under their heads. Then he stands, throws some more wood on the dying fire, pulls a heavier blanket from the bed, and brings it back to the rug where Guinevere is waiting. They snuggle down on the thick rug covering the floor in front of the fire and fall asleep again, wrapped in each other’s arms.