Merlin is drawing a bath for his master. He is pouring the last jugs of warm water into a large tub, whistling a jaunty tune. His life as a servant has been a lot easier since the wedding. Arthur’s general mood has improved tenfold now that he can openly show his affections for Guinevere, and marriage suits him well. Gwen makes Arthur happy, and when Arthur is happy he is nicer to Merlin. Not only that, but Gwen gets displeased when Arthur is unnecessarily cross with Merlin. And Arthur has learned, like all husbands, that the key to a happy marriage it to not make one’s wife displeased.
Arthur enters, tosses his sword on the table, and walks towards Merlin. He walks past Merlin and says, “Honestly Merlin, must you?”
Merlin stops whistling. “What?”
“Sorry,” says Merlin, as Arthur continues around past the screen to undress. Merlin sees motion out of the corner of his eye. Guinevere has silently slipped into the side door of Arthur’s room. Merlin is about to say something to her, but Gwen puts a finger to her lips, indicating that he be quiet. Merlin smiles and starts humming. He finds he rather enjoys needling Arthur now. He also hums to help disguise any noise Gwen might make as she walks into the room. What is she doing? He wonders, as she comes close to the tub, but hides. Oh.
Arthur comes out from behind the screen, saying, “Merlin,” in his annoyed tone.
“Hmm?” Merlin looks up. “Oh, sorry. Haven’t you ever had a song running ‘round in your head? You’ve heard a song somewhere and it just keeps singing over and over?”
“Why is your face all red?” Arthur asks.
“Is it?” Merlin hadn’t realized that Gwen’s presence in the room has made him blush. “Must be the steam.”
“Oh, good. I could use a nice hot soak.”
Arthur steps into the tub and sinks down low, resting his head on a rolled-up towel Merlin has placed on one edge. He will sit and soak, eyes closed, for several minutes. This is his habit. Merlin knows this, and apparently so does Gwen. She peeks out from her hiding place and catches Merlin’s eye. He looks over. She looks at Arthur. Merlin nods. Guinevere comes out of her hiding place and shoos Merlin from the room.
“Merlin, hand me the soap, would you?” Arthur asks, holding a dripping hand aloft, palm-up, eyes still closed. Gwen picks up the soap and a cloth and crouches down behind Arthur. She soaps the cloth and starts rubbing it slowly on Arthur’s shoulder, down his chest. Arthur jumps as if a snake has bitten him.
“What the hell—“ he shouts, grabbing at the hand holding the cloth. Gwen clamps her teeth together to keep herself from laughing. He looks and sees a delicate brown hand instead of a large pale one. He sinks back down into the bath, submerging himself totally. He wants to hide. Guinevere reaches into the water and pulls him up by his head, now crying she is laughing so hard.
“Arthur,” she manages, and kisses him. His face is bright red and he wants so much to be angry, but Gwen’s kiss puts any thought of that from his mind.
“Arthur, I didn’t mean to shock you like that, honest,” she tells him, still giggling, “you should have seen your face.”
“Yes. Very funny,” Arthur says, trying very hard not to smile now. The wheels in his head are beginning to turn. He kisses her back in a very delicious way. Then he picks up the soap, puts it in her hand, and says, “Get to work, woman.”
She arches a brow at him, but takes up the soap, determined to make this the most memorable bath he has had. Instead of using the cloth, she soaps her bare hands and rubs them on his shoulders, massaging the tight muscles, working her way down his back. He leans forward to allow her better access to his broad back. She kisses him on the back of his neck, then brings her hand around to his chest. He leans back and she bites his earlobe softly. He smiles as her slick soapy hands roam lower, below the surface of the water. She moves from behind Arthur and now is next to him. Up on her knees, she reaches lower still, bringing her hands closer, backing away, torturing him. Arthur sees his opportunity. He grabs her and pulls her into the tub with him, fully clothed. Water splashes everywhere as the tub overflows.
He has her across his lap, her legs resting on the edge of the tub with bare feet sticking up in the air.
“Still think this was a good idea, clever girl?” he asks her, but before she can answer, he kisses her deeply, his left hand holding her head at the nape of her neck. She has wisely worn her hair up. His right hand is working at the wet laces on her wet corset. She can feel his manhood prodding her beneath the water. He works on the garment while she does sinful things in his mouth with her tongue, moving her hips against him under the water. Distracted, using only one hand on wet laces, Arthur still manages to loosen the corset.
Gwen feels the garment give and breaks away, looking down. She raises her eyebrows at him and says, “You’re improving.”
He grins, saying, “I’ve had some practice.” His right hand is resting on the bare skin just below her neck, and he is caressing the soft skin there gently with his thumb. He trails his hand down the center of her chest and wraps it around her waist, then snakes it down so he is holding her bottom. He leans over to kiss a trail starting at her collarbone, working his way up her neck.
“You’ll be fully qualified to be my maid before long—ow!” Guinevere teases. He bites her neck as his way of responding. He stops short at her cry, once again afraid that he’s hurt her, but when he hears her giggle he returns his lips to the place he has bitten and runs his tongue seductively over the spot, sending pleasing chills through her body. He then roves back down her neck, working his way to her breasts. She slips her right hand down between them to grasp and stroke him under the water and he groans, suckling at her breasts through the wet material.
In his arms, she feels like her bones have turned to liquid. She wonders if he will always turn her to jelly like this. I hope so, she thinks vaguely as his lips return to hers for a nibble.
“Guinevere,” he croaks, “the water is getting cold.”
“So it is,” she gasps, then tries to figure her way out of the tub. She kisses him once and says, “I’m a bit trapped here, you know.”
He places his arms under her and helps her out of the tub, lifting her until she can regain her own balance. He stands, saying, “Did you honestly think you’d be able to get through this without ending up in the tub with me? Pass me that towel, please, love.”
She passes him the towel and says, “Why do you think I wore this dress?” He looks at her and notices that she is not wearing one of her new, queenly gowns. Instead she is wearing one of her old dresses. The pink one. The one she wore to their picnic when they met in secret in the wood. Arthur smiles, remembering the good parts of that day, refusing to acknowledge the bad any more. They no longer matter.
“We’ll need to get you out of that wet dress before you catch your death,” he says wearing a wolf’s grin. He splashes across the wet floor, towel around his waist, to help Gwen remove the dress. It is soaked and heavy and rather stuck in places, so he just decides to tear the garment. Guinevere rolls her eyes and sighs. Men, she laments. To Arthur she says, “Honestly, Arthur, are you that impatient?” He just grins.
Arthur reaches for another towel and dries her, wrapping her in it, keeping her warm. The sun has gone down and the air is starting to cool. He stands in front of her, admiring her beauty, wondering if these weeks since the wedding have been a dream. They certainly have felt like it. He pulls her to him and wraps his arms around her, just standing and holding her. She hugs him tightly in return, head turned to the side against his chest, eyes closed.
In one swift motion, he bends and whisks her into his arms and carries her to their favorite place in front of the fire. He sets her gently on the rugs and cushions that have been added. Since their wedding night, they often spend time here, talking, not talking, making love, even dining. He has made sure that they will be comfortable there by having rugs and thick-furred skins lain on the floor, and Gwen has made large flat cushions as well as cylindrical bolsters for them to lay on. It is their cozy retreat. Arthur stokes up the fire, ever aware of Guinevere’s experienced eyes watching him stack the logs and prod the fire back to life. He knows that she can do a better job at this than he can, and that she lets him do it anyway.
He joins her on the floor and immediately reaches for her, his hand on the back of her neck, pulling her face towards his. He pauses just before kissing her, breathing in her lavender scent, eyes closed. He nuzzles her nose with his own, then kisses her hungrily, leaning into her, laying her back on the cushions. They grab for each other’s towels simultaneously, and Arhur cannot help but smile against her lips. She is all hands, stroking the now-familiar sinews and angles of his muscular frame, finding all his favorite places.
He pulls her up so that she is halfway sitting, still kissing her, and reaches up and undoes her hair. He throws the hairpin somewhere, absently thinking Merlin can find that later, and lays her back down, pressing into her. He reaches one hand down to stroke her center, and she leans her head back and moans, breaking her lips free of his. Arthur returns his lips to her neck, her collarbone, knowing she is sensitive there. With his one hand still between her legs, the other caresses a breast, softly teasing it to life before visiting it with his mouth, biting gently, then swirling his tongue around its taut nub, causing a torrent of sensation that makes Gwen cry out again.
Her hands are at his head, hands full of his hair and she holds his head to her. He loves it when she gets demanding and increases his efforts. Finally she can take no more and pulls his head up, looks him in the eye, and says, “Now.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he says, moving over her, hovering just outside her opening. He presses against her, but does not enter. He leans down and takes her earlobe in his mouth, biting it gently, sucking it into his mouth. Now he’s just toying with her.
“Arthur,” she breathes, grabbing his backside and pulling him into her. He gives in, burying himself deeply, with a satisfied groan. She wraps her legs around his thighs, pulling him to her with each thrust. Her hands reach up to caress his chest. He reaches up with one hand and takes one of hers in it, lacing their fingers together, then brings their hands back to the floor. He repeats the action with the other hand, pinning her hands on either side of her head. He leans down and kisses her, their tongues darting and chasing one another. Her pinned hands are exciting and frustrating her, she wants to touch him, wants him to touch her, but her hands are being held immobile in a very thrilling way. She can feel her whole body start to tingle and she moans into Arthur’s mouth. He growls and increases his tempo, and they climax almost simultaneously, locked together at the lips, hands, and groin.
Arthur eases himself down, careful not to collapse onto her, and rolls them on their sides. He gazes at his wife. Her eyes are closed and she has a small smile on her face. She looks beautiful and content. He kisses her forehead and she opens her eyes. Their soft brown irises are always his undoing, and he kisses her very softly. He bundles her into his arms and she snuggles her head against his chest. Her leg is still draped over his thigh. She moves it off, and he makes a disappointed noise in his throat. She puts it back, even though her hip is getting stiff.
“I don’t think I’m ready to have you take over administering my baths just yet,” Arthur says after a time.
“Why is that?” Gwen asks, feigning innocence.
“Because I’d never get clean. You are far too distracting,” he says, with mock seriousness.
“Oh yes, it’s completely my fault,” she counters, “but I wasn’t the one that pulled me into the tub.”
“Well, if you’re going to get hung up on details…”