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07 January 2007 @ 11:29 am
 
Title: Between Truths
Author: kepp0xy
Characters/Pairings: Gwen/Arthur, Merlin, a teeny bit of OT3, Uther.
Rating/Genre: R; angst, romance, smut
Spoilers/Warnings: All series 1 & 2 are fair game. Sex.
Words: 7330
Summary: Arthur finds out about Merlin's magic. And that Gwen has known for a while.

Author's Note: I offered my flist cards or fic for the holidays, and robinmarian asked for fic. She challenged me: not only did she want something smutty, but she wanted something plotty too ;D Her prompt was: Arthur got mad at Gwen because he discovered that Gwen knew about Merlin's magic but she kept it a secret from Arthur. They fight and end up making love.

My epic thanks go to mancalahour for helping me work through this one, almost each step of the way, ensuring it all made sense, and helping me get into Arthur's frame of mind. ♥!




Arthur yawned and Gwen grinned slightly, rolling over to blow out the last candle. She liked how Arthur's fingers dragged across her when she moved, as though keeping track of her in the dark, and how, when she shuffled back against him, he naturally shifted so she would fit in snugly against his body.

With his arm draped across her waist, Gwen could believe she had never before felt quite so safe, or comfortable, or... Well, at home, really. After his yawn, she thought their excursions had likely tired him as much as they had tired her - in entirely pleasurable ways, of course - and Gwen nestled herself closer to Arthur's chest, rubbing her head into the pillow for better comfort.

"I think Merlin has magic," Arthur said abruptly into the darkness.

And with those five words, all feelings of contentment vanished along with the air from Gwen's lungs. "Oh?" she managed, trying to force herself to remain relaxed in his hold.

Arthur made a thoughtful noise behind her, his fingers twitching against her stomach. "You don't sound surprised."

Guilt made the words sound like an accusation, rather than the observation they were, and Gwen squirmed to pull out from under his arm and rolled to face him. "No. I mean - yes, it's a surprise. What makes you say that?"

There was a long pause that set Gwen's heart beating wildly in her chest. He's figured it out, she thought frantically, guilt and worry winding through her veins like poison.

"Have you ever noticed how things just seem to..." Arthur trailed off thoughtfully. "Work out around him?"

"That could be luck," she offered weakly.

And just what was she doing? She had only agreed not to tell Arthur about Merlin's magic until Merlin was ready to reveal it himself. She had never said anything about flat out lying to her husband.

"Or..." Gwen forced herself to take a breath. And promptly realised something important. "You don't sound angry."

There was another pause and then Arthur sighed. "No," he agreed. "I mean, if it's true, I..." His voice faded into silence.

Gwen waited, listening to the harried beats of her heart in her ears before she tentatively slipped a hand across the empty mattress to touch Arthur's chest. Finding the warm skin over his ribs, she slid her hand up to rest over his heart, finding it beating nearly as madly beneath her palm as hers was in her chest.

"Arthur?" she whispered.

"I wish he had told me," he said quietly, sounding hurt. "If he does have magic, I wish he would have trusted me."

She knew each reason Merlin had not told Arthur; she knew each reason she had agreed to keep the secret. But none of them mattered, in light of Arthur's response. How neither of them had trusted him... Gwen's heart ached, for the mistrust of each one of them.

She walked her fingers up his chest to slide her hand beneath his arm and around his back as she tugged herself back against him. Arthur rubbed his cheek across her temple as she pressed into his hold, and Gwen held him tightly.

"I'm sure he has his reasons," she mumbled, lips brushing against the hollow of his throat.

But Arthur, normally one so willing to heed her words of comfort, only snorted. "I'm sure he believes so."

His arms tightened around her despite his reluctance, and his hands were large and warm against the small of her back. So for now, she would do her best to comfort him.

In the morning, she would speak with Merlin.


*



She felt very much as though she was sneaking around behind Arthur's back. Which, really, was exactly what she was doing, given she had made great effort to slip from his snoring side without jostling him at all before dressing quickly and silently.

She had even made efforts to muffle the creaky hinge of their door as she vanished through it.

It was far too early in the morning for Merlin to be awake. According to Arthur, Merlin had been bad before, but after Gwen and Arthur's wedding, Merlin's sense of responsibility to the prince had seemed to decline as quickly as a bird fell from a well aimed arrow.

Gaius was not in the main chamber, much to Gwen's relief. She rapped softly on Merlin's door, and waited. When absolutely no response came from him, Gwen created a fist, and pounded in the way she had seen Arthur do once before.

A loud groan came to her, muffled through the wood, before Merlin's voice groused, "Leave me be, Gaius. You know I shouldn't be at their chambers until well into the morning."

Gwen narrowed her eyes slightly, wondering what, exactly, Merlin thought she and Arthur got up to before his arrival each day, and deciding it important she find this out sometime in the near future.

But for now... "It's not Gaius, Merlin," she called.

A loud thump, a muttered curse, what sounded like the shifting of several pieces of large furniture and then Merlin appeared, a complete mess, opening his door a crack.

"Gwen!" There was a brief pause as they looked at each other before Merlin scratched his head. "What're you doing here?"

She shifted her weight, and resisted the urge to dig her toe into the step. "Arthur... suspects you," she said heavily, wincing as Merlin's eyes widened and fear flashed brightly through them.

"Did you -

Shaking her head frantically, Gwen said, "I didn't tell him anything." Merlin stared at her, before his focus shifted so that he was obviously not seeing her at all. "Merlin..." She waited until he was really looking at her again. "I'll make some tea and then we have to discuss this."

He swallowed and nodded jerkily, before following her into the main room. "What did he say?" he asked nervously. Gwen bustled around the familiar hearth, studiously watching what she was doing and delaying having to face Merlin for as long as possible. "Was he angry?" Merlin persisted at her silence. "Do I need to pack? Gods, I should be packing -

"Merlin!" She spun around in time to see him freeze at the command in her voice - the hard note which had startled even her. "You don't need to pack. He wasn't angry... At least, not because you have magic."

Merlin stared at her for a long time before his expression crumpled as understanding dawned. "Because... Because I didn't trust him."

Gwen sucked in a deep breath, then bit her lip, nodding.

His shoulders sagged and he walked back towards her, dropping heavily onto a bench. She sat down slowly beside him, and did something she never had done with Merlin before, lacing her fingers through his, and squeezing his hand.

"I had good reason," he said forcefully into the silence. "He's the prince, Uther is still king and has no acceptance of magic. And Arthur has never been clear on his own stance on magic, he dithers like the town elder in Ealdor, and I had Gaius to think of, then Morgana, and then you and -

"I know, Merlin," Gwen said quietly, using her free hand to pat their clasped ones. "I know each reason."

Merlin sat still for a few moments, breathing heavily through his nose. "He won't care."

"No," she agreed sadly. "And most of the reasons seem a bit baseless now, don't they?"

She didn't know if Merlin's silence was agreement, or not, and when he spoke again, his voice was hollow. "What did he say exactly?"

Licking her lips, Gwen related the conversation, brief and insubstantial though it was. "It seemed to me that it was something he'd been considering for some time," she said softly, pouring out a mug of tea for Merlin. "Not that there was any one situation that made him realise it."

"Well, no," Merlin said morosely, staring into the steam from his mug. On days with more joy and less burden, Gwen had seen Merlin's eyes flash gold before shapes formed in the steam to make them both laugh. "I've only been using it to lighten my duties recently."

Gwen barely resisted rolling her eyes. To be fair, the amount of work Arthur set for Merlin had initially appalled her, even when Merlin had told herlongsufferingly that it had always been that way. Arthur had at least managed to look somewhat abashed, but had added that if it weren't for the fact that Merlin managed it all, he would have decreased his tasks list ages ago.

When she had found out about his magic, hundreds of puzzles pieces had fitted themselves into the overall picture neatly, and Merlin's mysterious ability to complete the obscene number of chores Arthur set him was one of those pieces.

"You've got to tell him," Gwen murmured beseechingly after a moment.

Merlin turned to her so quickly that his bony knees slammed painfully into hers. "How can I do that?" he asked desperately. "How can I say, after all this time, oh, Arthur, by the way, I have magic?" Gwen watched in horror as Merlin seemed to shrink, his wide eyes and desperate tone making him seem suddenly very young, like a little boy caught wrecking his father's best tunic. "Gwen, tell me, how can I just come out and say it?"

Mouthing wordlessly, unable to look away as Merlin's eyes began to shine with panicked tears, Gwen didn't know exactly what to say.

"I don't know," she finally admitted disparagingly, guilt flooding her as his shoulders sagged. "I... I'll be there with you. We'll... We'll tell him together."

It was the best she could offer him. Merlin blinked at her a couple of times before wiping a hand across his eyes and turning away from her towards the fire.


*



It took three days for Merlin to work up his nerve. Gwen had been surprised to find he was the cause of the hesitant knock on their door. While it was true he had indeed learned to knock since she and Arthur had begun sharing quarters (Gwen had a sneaking suspicion that Arthur had sat Merlin down for a very serious talk on what exactly Merlin would lose were he to enter their shared chambers without knocking first), he was still generally much more insistent with his knocks.

All it took was for their eyes to meet as Merlin crossed the threshold for Gwen's stomach to tie itself into tight knots. She hoped she managed a reassuring smile anyway, as the colour of Merlin's face made her wonder if a pail was in the room, in case he became ill.

"Merlin!" Arthur said in obvious surprise. He leaned back from the treaty he had been editing. "You're right on time. Though I didn't actually expect you for several hours."

When Merlin didn't rise to his needling, Arthur frowned and put his quill down. "What's the matter?"

Merlin looked at Gwen before hunching down a little and facing Arthur again. "There's something I need to tell you."

Arthur glanced at Gwen then, and she suddenly wished she wasn't privy to this conversation. It was, for the most part, something that ought to be dealt with between the two of them. But she had promised Merlin.

"If this is about Sir Aldwin's saddle, I already know -

"It isn't about a saddle," Merlin said, although there was a flash of relief upon hearing that which made Gwen wonder what the story was about Sir Aldwin's saddle. "I... I'm begging you, Arthur," Merlin said weakly, and Gwen clasped her hands together tightly, her stomach heaving with worry for Merlin. "Don't think less of me."

Arthur's expression turned to a frown of alarm and he rose quickly to his feet. "What is it, Merlin?" he asked sharply. Gwen tried to catch his eye to give him a reproachful look, but Arthur was rounding the table, and his anxiety was buffeting her even as he focused on Merlin.

"It's not a big deal," Merlin muttered. Though Merlin was the taller of the two men, his cowering form appeared almost childlike in the face of Arthur's set stance. "Just, some information you should know."

"Spit it out," Arthur barked. Wincing, Gwen wasn't sure who she wanted to approach more; Merlin to bolster, or Arthur to calm.

But she was proud, as Merlin swallowed and forced himself to straighten, meeting Arthur's fierce look. "I... I have magic."

The silence was echoing, and seemed to last an eternity before Arthur sighed, the set of his shoulders loosening. "Is that all?" he muttered, almost sounding relieved. He leaned back against their table and crossed his arms over his chest.

Gwen stared blankly at Arthur, and she hardly needed to look at Merlin to know he probably looked much the same.

"What?" Merlin finally managed, causing Arthur to study Merlin's face.

"I was expecting you to tell me you'd accidentally... poisoned the wine supply, or, I don't know, managed to somehow leak defense information to Odin." Arthur glanced between them, and Gwen inhaled sharply when his gaze lingered on her face, suddenly a little suspicious. But he looked back to Merlin and raised a brow. "Honestly Merlin. I can't say I knew, but I'm not surprised, either. No one could possibly be as lucky as you seem to be."

"Thanks," Merlin said sourly, and Gwen was relieved when Arthur's lips twitched. "But... So, you're not angry?"

"Furious, actually," Arthur said bitingly, pushing away from the table and walking back to his seat. "But I can understand why you wouldn't feel like you could tell me. Your reasons are all idiotic, of course, but that's no surprise."

Tempted though she was to speak up, Gwen now felt she was almost acting as voyeur as her husband and her best friend sought to mend the space between them.

"And it does clarify a lot of things," Arthur added, dropping inelegantly into his seat.

Merlin made a disgruntled noise, starting to walk towards Arthur. "You have no idea how many times I've saved your life with it -

"I'm sure."

"And defended the kingdom!"

"Of course."

Gwen glanced at Merlin; he had crossed his arms over his chest, his lips were a thin line and his boot tapped irritably against the stone floor. "One thing I can't do, though," Merlin said, eyes narrowing as he waited for Arthur to look up.

"Only one thing?"

"There's no changing a prat into a prince."

"Ah, so magic isn't as infallible as we all feared," Arthur said, rolling his eyes and looking back at the parchment.

"You know, even Gwen has asked if there was a potion -

Gwen's heart contracted painfully and her stomach fell fast through the floor. Arthur looked towards her slowly, as realisation dawned on him. Where his expression had been annoyed but sympathetic, he now cleared his face into a neutral mask. Gwen thought she knew exactly what that mask hid.

"You knew?" he asked. The room seemed to echo the words back to her, his tone so carefully balanced, so falsely calm. "You knew?" he repeated when she remained silent.

Swallowing thickly, Gwen nodded once. "Yes. I knew."

There was a pause before Merlin took a hurried step forwards. "It isn't Gwen's fault. I begged her not to say anything - not while your father still reigned, and I didn't really leave her a choice -

"Guinevere always believes in choice," Arthur said, still in the same, forced voice of calm. It reminded Gwen of the stillness in the air before a great storm broke. "I understand your hesitation, Merlin. I would probably do the same in your place. And - your secret is safe with me."

Merlin looked quickly at Gwen and back again at Arthur. He didn't understand what was unfolding in front of him, Gwen thought sadly. He didn't realise that Arthur didn't see a betrayal from Merlin; he was hurt, certainly, baffled. But not betrayed.

She, on the other hand... She had vowed honesty and pledged eternal trust in him. On his death bed, during the siege, on their wedding day, and dozens of times before and after. It was something she knew he viewed as the foundations of their relationship.

She had just severely shaken them.

"It was not my secret to tell," Gwen said weakly, trying so very hard not to sound pitiful.

She didn't believe she had done anything wrong exactly. She and Merlin had spoken at length, multiple times, about revealing the truth to Arthur. But Uther was a major hindrance to their plans, and time slipped away from them before they could come up with anything viable.

"Perhaps not," Arthur said and Gwen eased slightly. "But you didn't need to lie about it."

She had no response to that. She had thought the very same thing herself, the same evening he had voiced his suspicion and she had countered him.

"I... don't disagree, my lord," she said, very quietly.

Arthur stared at her for another moment before his mask faltered, and he looked away. "Guinevere, if you don't mind leaving, Merlin and I have things to discuss."

He had never, in all the time since they began interacting with each other with any semblance of awareness, dismissed her. More than if he had stood and begun bellowing at her, his polite and distant dismissal stung.

And she hated that he hadn't even looked at her.

Gwen glanced at Merlin, finding his eyes wide as two full moons. She tried to give him a reassuring smile though she felt as though the floor was crumbling beneath her.

"Of course," she murmured, dropping quickly into a curtsy and leaving the room. Thankfully she had tasks she could attend to in the lower towns.


*



Gwen returned to their chambers to find Arthur walking moodily back and forth past their dining table. It was a relief, if she was being honest, as they always went to dinners with his father together in quiet display of solidarity. Gwen had been scared Arthur would abandon her that night.

His head snapped up with her entrance, before giving her a look that clearly warned her not to utter a word. He strode to her, took her hand to complete their usual tableau, and led her from their chambers towards the king's dining hall.

Uther waved them over as they entered, greeting Arthur warmly, and Gwen in the tolerant way she was now accustomed to. She understood exactly where she stood with Uther, and why Arthur had been allowed to marry her.

It had not been an easily won fight for them, but as Uther had felt it shameful to bring before the court, no one else had known the battle was happening behind the closed doors of the throne room, in fierce rows between father and son, with Gwen standing as awkward and furious witness.

Ultimately, Uther had relented because he feared he was losing Arthur more and more each day. Gwen could almost see him thinking of Morgana each time disagreement sparked between he and his son, and where Uther did not feel able to parry blows with Arthur over political matters, he had used Gwen as appeasement because it was the one thing he felt he had absolute power over.

It had not fostered any feelings of affection or trust between them. And though Gwen sometimes felt badly for it, Arthur would carry the dinners they shared with his father, almost constantly chatting in order to keep Uther's attention diverted.

Not this evening.

Silence was heavy and stifling in the king's dining hall. Gwen had taken her habitual seat on Arthur's right, away from the king, but for all that she felt Uther's eyes boring into the top of her head as she bowed over her meal, she might as well have been cowering at his feet.

Arthur ate quickly, and Gwen could do little more than push her food around aimlessly with her fork.

"How fairs the treaty you're drafting?" Uther asked in the lull after their main dish had been taken away and before dessert was brought out.

"It's proving a bit more challenging than I anticipated," Arthur said in clipped tones, avoiding his father's eye, though Gwen wasn't sure why that would be. "But I expect it will be finished by midday tomorrow."

Uther hmm-ed thoughtfully. Gwen risked a quick glance at him and immediately wished she hadn't. His hand was to his chin, and his eyes were still set on her.

"The delay is not due to some... distraction?" Uther prompted.

Had she not found fault in him previously, she would have immediately thought less of him then. It seemed Arthur was in no mood for Uther's games at finding out how their marriage was going; a constant line she and Arthur walked, to avoid telling Uther more than they wanted him to know. And they wanted him to know very little to begin with.

"No, father," Arthur said shortly, finally looking up and forcing Uther to meet his gaze. "Everything is fine. The treaty is merely proving difficult."

"You say I'll have it -

"By midday tomorrow."

There was a brief pause as a serving girl placed a dessert before each of them, and hurried from the room.

"And you, Guinevere," Uther said, causing Gwen to nearly drop her spoon in shock. He rarely ever addressed her directly - due in large part, Gwen was sure, because of Arthur's constant talk. If it was possible, Arthur seemed to stiffen even more beside her. "How go your plans for the lower town?"

"Well, my lord," she said, sounding slightly choked in her surprise. "The preparations for the new well ought to be done by week's end. Already a couple of shop keepers are considering moving their locations for better access and in anticipation of heavier custom."

This news caused Arthur to look at her, and she smiled weakly at the pride in his eyes. It was a brief moment, however, lost with Uther's begrudging, "Well done."

"Thank you, sire," Gwen said, disingenuous. She smiled at Uther, though. For Arthur's sake.

"But," Uther said after accepting her thanks with a nod. "The court treasurer informs me that you are spending more than anticipated."

"I think I'm done for the evening," Arthur announced, standing abruptly. While Gwen had no intention of staying longer than need be, she was still thankful that decorum dictated she leave with Arthur, and so she stood as well.

They bid Uther farewell, though he watched with narrowed eyes and dismissed them with the wave of a hand.

Once in the hall, Arthur turned and began striding hastily away from her.

Gwen hesitated, then lifted her skirt, dashing to catch up with him. She kept pace with him for a few steps before saying tentatively, "I didn't know the treaty was causing you trouble."

Arthur stopped mid-stride and Gwen had to backtrack quickly. Arthur stared at her mutely before releasing a long sigh. "It hadn't been," he said tightly. "Before I discovered my wife and my manservant took me for a fool, and made me into an idiot."

Gwen frowned, and shook her head. "We did no such thing," she protested, becoming a little defensive. They should have told him, yes, but neither of them thought he was a fool...

"No?" Arthur asked sharply. "You relied upon my trust in you both to sustain the lie. After speaking with Merlin, I know the extent to which he went to protect himself, and I can't... I don't blame him for it. Though I don't entirely forgive him for it, either."

Gwen opened her mouth to reply, though she hadn't quite figured out what to say, when Arthur shook his head forcefully and cut across her.

"But you, Guinevere. In our bed, after we... After we had made love, you tell me Merlin is merely lucky. You could have stayed silent! But instead you lied to me."

"I honestly didn't mean that - It was just an automatic response..."

"That may be worse," Arthur informed her stiffly.

He dropped his head, breathing heavily; Gwen's heart ached in her chest. She did not think that she was wrong to keep Merlin's secret, though she did wish she hadn't lied the night Arthur had voiced his suspicion. But surely Arthur -

"I had thought that Merlin's fear of retribution under my father had blinded him to the reality that I have always defended and looked after him. That would have been understandable. But... Guinevere, what blinded you? After all that we've been through, and all that you claim to see in me and in our future... Why didn't you know better?"

Her mind went entirely blank, all she seemed capable of doing was feeling awful. No words rose to her lips, nothing she could think to do seemed apt to soothe him.

At her silence, Arthur snorted and nodded hopelessly. As he turned to walk away from her, Gwen reached out a hand, but couldn't actually bring herself to stop him. She didn't know what to do or say to make things okay, and perhaps they both needed a little more time apart to think it all through.


*



"I fear I overreacted," he said quietly the instant she entered their chambers a couple of hours later and Gwen stilled, before closing the door behind her. "I know it was a difficult position to be in, and I don't envy you that place."

He was standing by their window, looking out across Camelot. Gwen bit her lip before moving towards him. It was a favourite place for him when he needed time to reflect: looking out over the people and the place he would one day be responsible for.

So many things that would have minor consequences in the overall run of an individual's life for anyone else, could have potentially enormous consequences upon an entire kingdom when they happened to Arthur.

He saw goodness, when he looked out over the towns. It humbled him, and brought him hope. And even when it weighed him down - the duty and the reality of so much under his care - she knew he found solace there.

And if the town failed to bring him peace, he would turn to her.

She lightly touched her fingertips to his lower back, and when he did not flinch, or move away, Gwen took heart, letting her hands slide around to his front, clasping together tightly across his stomach. She leaned into him, nuzzling her face between his shoulder blades before she spoke.

"We both wanted to tell you," said Gwen quietly. "But Merlin did not want you in the same position I was, and I didn't want you there either." Arthur was unmoving, his arms still crossed over his chest, not ready to entirely relinquish his hurt or anger. Gwen didn't blame him, though she wished he would turn to face her.

"And," she said slowly, closing her eyes against a wave of fear. He was tired of deception, and so she would give him the whole truth. Merlin had been unable to admit his distrust in the face of Arthur's acceptance. But Gwen had a feeling Arthur needed to hear it. "We weren't sure... If your loyalties would be tried too brutally... Or where they would ultimately lie."

Arthur was quiet for a few more moments before he sighed and absently ran a finger over the back of her clasped hands. He dropped his head, which Gwen adversely recognised as a good sign. If he was prepared to look away from the comfort of Camelot's roofs and the flickering of candlelight in windows, he had come to accept the situation.

"You're not keeping anything else from me?" he asked, tones not demanding, or judging, but vulnerable and wary.

Gwen took a moment to make sure her answer was true before she said, "No."

He nodded. Gwen hugged him tightly until his fingers drew more lines across her hand, moving slowly up her arms.

"Can I tell you something?" she asked, unclasping her hands and sliding them along his abdomen, encouraging him to face her as she went. Arthur did turn, looking down at her with sad, resigned eyes and Gwen compulsively brushed her fingers through his fringe. "It's part of the reason I knew I had to help Merlin."

His eyes fluttered closed briefly before he opened them to look at her critically. "Do I want to hear this?"

"Absolutely," she whispered and stepped back. Gwen sent her hands towards the hem of his shirt as Arthur looked on with narrowed eyes. When she began to lift the material, his hands caught hers and Gwen looked up to find him looking unimpressed. "Please?" she pleaded softly.

He studied her before releasing a great sigh and lifting his arms so she could pull off his shirt. Gwen glanced up at him nervously, but he was watching her impassively and so she licked her lips and laid her hand over the twin marks of the questing beast, hidden beneath the score marks from the Great Dragon.

"Do you remember what happened?" she asked.

"Which time?" he responded shortly. Gwen bit the inside of her bottom lip to keep from sighing; she was fairly certain he knew which scar she referred to. But Arthur was more sensitive than most knew, and he was clearly not ready to be particularly cooperative.

"When you were bitten," Gwen said gently.

Arthur nodded stiffly. "It was the questing beast, and Gaius found some old wive's remedy to counter the effects."

Gwen shook her head. "No," she said gently, pressing the heel of her palm more firmly against his shoulder. "Merlin went to a place called the Isle of the Blessed, and negotiated with the sorceress Nimueh for some kind of liquid life to revive you."

This information broke his neutrality and a concerned frown appeared on his face. "What did he negotiate with?"

"A life for a life," Gwen whispered. Arthur sucked in a sharp breath, tipping his head up to look at the ceiling. "Nimueh tricked Merlin," Gwen continued softly, watching Arthur carefully as she spoke. "He thought he was exchanging his life for yours, but she tried to take his mother instead." Arthur dropped his head to look at her in shock. She nodded and recognised the agonised remorse that passed over his face as he closed his eyes. Gwen brushed her thumb over his eyelid, resting her palm against his cheek. He leaned into her hand, before opening his eyes slowly. "Merlin returned to the Isle, and battled her. It was her life, in the end, that was exchanged for yours."

She rested the pad of her finger against the pinpoint wound from an assassin's false lance. "It was his magic that set the assassin's saddle loose in the final jousting match." She leaned into him and pressed her lips above his heart. "It was not some ailment from a distant land that caused you the sharp pains in your chest. Merlin fought Morgause's rogue servant for your right to keep your heart. It was why his wrist was fractured, and his eye infected for those weeks two years ago."

She closed her eyes briefly when Arthur's hands rose to her back, keeping her flush against him. Her ear now pressed to his chest, she could hear the throb of his heart; a little faster than was usual. Gratitude washed through her as she took a moment to listen, just as it had on the night after Merlin had first told her all these stories.

She took a deep breath then wrapped her arm around his back, seeking the familiar gouge on his left side. "It was with a whisper of a spell that the Mercian guard's blade only nicked you."

"That was more than a nick," Arthur grumbled and Gwen smiled slightly in relief, tipping her face up to look at him.

His smile was wry, and still didn't quite reach his eyes, but Gwen held his gaze steadily, her heart thrumming for him to understand, and forgive.

"He's aided you, and me ... At one time, Morgana -" Gwen tried very hard to keep her voice from hitching at the mention of her former mistress, "- This entire kingdom in hundreds of other ways with his magic and without," she said imploringly. "I couldn't lose his friendship, of course. But I couldn't risk Camelot losing him, after all he's done for us, with no thank you, and little hope of return... We all need him, Arthur. If not for friendship, then for survival."

Arthur stood just watching her for a moment, and Gwen waited. Finally, one of his hands left her back and he pinched a stray curl of her hair, tucking it tenderly behind her ear.

She turned her head with a sigh of relief to press a kiss into his palm. He dropped his hand when Gwen looked up again and he cleared his throat.

"Were there other instances," he began gruffly. Gwen watched the familiar routine of Arthur accepting events, and trying to move past them in the only way he knew how... Through mischief. "That led to scars which you can touch and kiss and tell me stories of?"

Gwen fought back an amused smile, before she licked her lips and shook her head. "Not that I know... But I can make some tales up," she said lightly, dropping her chin down to look up at him through fluttering lashes. "I am told I can tell a decent story."

He tilted his head, as though considering her offer and Gwen pressed her body fleetingly against his before swaying back. "I don't know," he said, cheekily. "You appear over dressed for the task."

"Mmm, something easily rectified," she responded, already making room between them to unlace her bodice.

Arthur ducked his head, stealing kisses from her lips as often as he gave them to her cheeks, and then shoulders once they were revealed. As soon as her dress fell, Arthur made quick work of his trousers before throwing his arms around her and tugging her inelegantly into him.

At her indignant giggle, he showered kisses across her face before muttering, "I don't hear any storytelling, Guinevere. I thought you were good at this."

Gwen squirmed her way loose - not without intentionally rubbing against him a few times, eliciting satisfying groans from his throat - and began walking backwards towards the bed.

After a moment's lingering consideration of his form before her, Gwen pointed to a mark on his ribcage. "Do you know how you came to receive that?" she asked, meeting his gaze and trying to ignore the heat in his eyes as he surveyed her from toe to forehead.

Dutifully, Arthur glanced down at himself and snorted at her selection. "I believe a certain future queen was overzealous a few nights ago in her ministrations," he said, cocking an eyebrow at her.

A flush did rise to her cheeks, but Gwen straightened her shoulders, only jolting slightly as her thighs bumped into the bed. "Incorrect, my lord," she said, quickly scrambling backwards onto the mattress as Arthur strode towards her. "It was the mark of a harpy."

He scoffed, not hesitating in the slightest before he followed her up onto the bed. For a moment, the only sound was their panted breaths before Arthur's arms wrapped around her waist. As soon as their mouths touched, he pulled her down as he twisted to lie back against their pillows.

Her teeth hurt a little from banging against his when she landed, but she quickly forgot that as Arthur pulled back slightly, sucking her bottom lip into his mouth. Unwilling to loose sight of her task - and entirely too tempted as Arthur's tongue slipped teasingly across her trapped lip - Gwen sent her fingers wandering purposefully down his chest.

Her mouth was entirely free with Arthur's grunt as her hand wrapped around him. She smiled sweetly, and breathed, "I thought I was meant to be telling you stories," as his lids drooped with her hand's insistent tugging.

"Your lips were - ngh - giving me a detail...ed account of - ah! - of... Oh, sod it."

One of his hands wrapped around the nape of her neck, dragging her mouth back against his.
As his hand slipped into her hair, Gwen moaned as his other massaged down her back. She tried to focus on rubbing him consistently, keeping up the rhythm she had set, that his hips now matched.

But when his hand finally went low enough, his long, strong fingers grasping and squeezing her bum, Gwen's hand faltered. She gasped around his tongue as desire pulseddemandingly through her.

Arthur made a noise in the back of his throat, rolling them suddenly so Gwen was beneath him, her hand trapped around his cock pinned against her thigh. Even as her fingers squeezed him compulsively, her other hand slid into the hair at the back of his head as he began mouthing her collarbone.

"I should," she gasped, desperately clinging to reason, trying not to succumb to the temptation to just... to just... No. It was she who would lavish him with attention this time. "You don't have stories to tell," she insisted roughly, shifting her body and knocking his face from her chest, moments before he'd have reached her breast.

"If memory serves," he said, head tipped up to look at her. His face twitched as Gwen's fingers tightened around him, and then stroked as best she could. "Your stories were -

His hips jolted when she shifted her thigh to brush against him, and his eyes closed as Gwen sent her fingers stroking along his neck, a spot she had learned long ago was particularly pleasurable for him. She indulged in watching Arthur pant around pleasure, his face turning red and his lips falling open.

Then she slid her hand to his shoulder, and pushed gently until he willingly rolled to his back.

She moved quickly to straddle his thighs, leaning over him to kiss him lightly. His erection bumped her stomach as she went, and Gwen swallowed his resultant moan with a relish.

"My stories are worth telling," she murmured when she pulled back slightly. She waited for his eyes to open before she straightened again, tilting her head to study him

Arthur huffed impatiently and propped himself on his elbows to look at her. "Continue," he said, sounding strained.

She reached forward and touched the tip of him delicately with her fingers, smiling as Arthur groaned again and dropped his head back. It gave her an inviting view of his neck, of the way the flush on his cheeks actually began at his shoulders, crawling up his neck and higher.

She rubbed little circles into the sensitive head until Arthur looked up at her again in frustration, blond hair an incredibly arousing mess combined with his eyes so dark with desire.

"This story," she husked, bending forwards to breathe across him. Gwen kept her eyes locked on Arthur's. "Has nothing to do with Merlin."

And she took him into her mouth. Gwen swore she could feel his moan in the very pit of her stomach, and she slowly ran her tongue along him to hear the sound again.

Then she placed her hands on his hips to steady him, before she began telling her story. Gwen slid her mouth off him, and sucked him in again, mapping his length with her tongue. She ran her teeth very lightly across him as she moved up, kissing the throbbing tip tenderly before taking him deep into her mouth.

Gwen let her lips, her teeth, her tongue tell Arthur a story of pleasure between them, feeling a thrill race across her skin when his hand found her shoulder. Only then, with his desperate squeeze for balance, did Gwen let the story unravel to lend herself fully to a rhythm which would lead him to climax.

He was getting close when he urgently gasped, "Gwen!"

She flicked her tongue against him; his whole body trembled; he begged, "Gwen, stop!"

She paused and lifted her eyes to his face. Arthur swallowed thickly, moving his hand from her shoulder to just beneath her chin. In sudden understanding, Gwen let him slip from between her lips with a quiet pop.

"Are you," he panted, watching as she raised herself to her knees. "Can you - gods - Are you ready?"

Licking her lips, Gwen shuffled forwards. One of Arthur's hands immediately found her inner thigh, sliding up to feel the wetness of her core and whimpering loudly to discover how slick she was. His eyes pinched shut as Gwen placed her palm on his chest for balance and then took hold of him again - damp with her saliva, hot and quivering.

"Arthur," she murmured as she guided him in.

They were still for the space of a beat before Gwen raised herself to sink down heavily upon him with a soft moan. He muttered a curse in response and before she knew it, Gwen was on her back and beneath him again.

Arthur's rhythm was feverish, his mouth demanding on hers. Each thrust was deep and fast; Gwen arched against him, desperate to match. She shifted, wrapping her legs around his waist and her name was an appreciative groan from Arthur's lips as he pushed more deeply and lit new sparks of pleasure through them both.

She cried out as his thrusts became harried and disjointed. Gwen nipped at his lip, and she thought her nails may have bitten into his back as he started grunting desperately.

Gods, she was getting close.

Arthur stiffened, and released with a shout muffled moistly against her shoulder.

Her hips snapped against his, even as his final groan of rapture faded. Gwen whined and writhed, and finally mewled in relief as Arthur found the cognizance to slip a hand between them, and deftly pushed her to the brink.

Pleasure flashed white behind her eyes, setting her body alight, pulling a high cry from her throat.

Then his mouth was warm and soft on hers, and, satisfied, Gwen curled her fingers into his hair to keep him kissing her for just a little longer.

"I have to say," Arthur muttered, as he rested his forehead into the pillow, panting against her neck. "I'm relieved Merlin had no part in that story."

Her laugh rumbled in her stomach and left her throat sounding breathless. She grasped at his middle, nudging him with her fingers until he rolled to lay beside her. Gwen always liked touching Arthur after they made love; he hmm-ed contentedly as her hand skated across the damp skin of his pelvis.

"I don't know," she murmured thoughtfully after a while. His hand had come to rest on her back, and she was lying across his chest, chin propped on her hand as she drew circles into his shoulder. "Merlin may have introduced some interesting twists to the tale."

Arthur was silent for a moment before he caught her fingers in his and Gwen glanced up at him, forcing her expression to remain innocent. "This conversation had better stay metaphorical," he said, looking so serious that Gwen had to fight back a huge laugh. "There is no way I would like Merlin handling me in the same way you do."

"I wouldn't dream of bringing this conversation into reality, Arthur," Gwen said quickly. The giggles she fought back were starting to shake her body, and Arthur rolled his eyes slightly. But then she added, "Well, I may dream of it..."

"Guinevere!" Arthur cried in shock, and as Gwen shrieked in laughter, she found herself pinned beneath him, his mouth moving playfully over hers, capturing each of her errant giggles.
 
 
 
nurse_stineynurse_stiney on May 8th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)
Ok, I'm so glad you ended it with LOLZ, because AHAHAHAHAHA with that last convo, a whole bunch of slashers probably died a little inside. :P
I'm also very glad I saved this smutty goodie for last, because you really handled such a giant Touchy Subject incredibly well. I know it's early, but man I'm DYING to see how it happens in canon, and will Gwen be involved, and just how PO'd will Arthur be, and just...AAAHHH one can only hope it ends in smutty goodness like yours did. :D BRILLIANT!
kePPy: Merlin: M&G detectiveskepp0xy on May 10th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
thank you for the high compliment! It is going to be spectacular when Merlin reveals his secret... I mean, it's about time, really. Given all the close calls. But just so long as someone from the OT4 learns his secret sometime in series 3, I'll be happy :)
alwaysadream963alwaysadream963 on September 4th, 2010 12:53 am (UTC)
There is so much goodness in this story.

First, I love that Arthur and Gwen are married while Uther is still King. This is a secret wish of mine for cannon. I think it would mean so much that Arthur risks everything for Gwen like that. The romantic in me just loves it. (As well as the fact the Gwen is not a "noble")

I also love the way Arthur just reveled to Gwen how he suspected Merlin of magic - so Arthur! He so needs to find out (SOMEONE needs to find out and I would be perfectly happy with it being Gwen)

Love the Merlin/Gwen bffery as well as Arthur/Merlin bffness. It really resonates in this story how much Merlin means to Arthur, you did such a fantastic job. Not to mention the last bit as a shout out to all the A/M shippers out there. I thought that was brilliant!

And can I just say - you "have a knack for the steamy!"

Just hope Merlins reveal is something akin to this! :D