Part 5: link
Arthur blinks his eyes open and looks at the clock on the bedside table. 11:15 p.m. He looks down at Gwen’s sleeping form in his arms. So sweet. So wonderful.
I could stay here all night and the rest of my life.
They fell asleep just over an گھنٹہ ago, blissfully spent after a rather strenuous day. Bugger. Iggy. Bloody cat. I have to go home, یا he’ll have my place a big mess.
He looks longingly down at Gwen again, and his دل hurts, wanting to stay. I don’t want her to think I’m taking off, never to return. Fucking cat.
Arthur eases himself out of the bed, gently kissing her forehead. She frowns and curls into the space he’s created, then settles back in with a sigh. Pee. Then trousers.
He pads through her small flat, finding his clothes after emptying his bladder. Back in her bedroom, he looks down at her, illuminated سے طرف کی the small bedside lamp they’d never gotten around to turning off.
Struck, he goes in تلاش of a sheet of paper and a pencil.
Gwen wakes, a shaft of sunlight in her face. She groans and turns over, flopping her hand over. He’s gone. Bloody hell.
She sighs, her disappointment hurting مزید than she would care to admit. Opening her eyes, she looks at the clock. 8:24. Well, I can go to church, anyway.
Rolling over again, she hears an odd crinkle. She lifts her head and sees a piece of paper on the opposite pillow. Dearest Guinevere,
Thank آپ for the amazing day. I
promise you I am not bailing on you. I have an ill-tempered arse of a cat that I need to go ہوم and feed before he destroys the place. Yes, I
know how it sounds. But honest, I have a cat. His name is Iggy. That’s the truth, and I ain’t lion.
Gwen bursts out laughing at the unexpectedness of him making such a ridiculously horrible corny joke. I’ve left my number below, but آپ know where to find me.
P.S. آپ look breathtakingly beautiful when آپ are sleeping. ------------>
She turns the page over. He’s sketched her while she slept. She sighs, her hand on her madly thumping heart, as she scans the drawing. It’s gorgeous. He’s captured every detail. The wrinkles in the sheets, every curl, every curve, every eyelash. The shadows falling at my hip, my shoulder. My kiss-swollen lips, slightly parted, my fingers clutching the edge of the blanket.
Gwen caresses the picture, careful not to smudge the pencil strokes. Then she flips it back over, and reaches for the phone to dial the numbers he’s written at the bottom.
He جوابات almost immediately and sounds very happy to hear her voice.
“Thank آپ for the drawing. It’s beautiful,” she says.
“It’s nothing. You
are beautiful,” he argues.
“You’re going to give me a large ego,” she teases.
“Can I see آپ today?” he asks suddenly.
“I’m going to church this morning,” she tells him.
“Oh. Can’t compete with God, I suppose.”
“Indeed not. But I’ve got nothing planned after.”
“You know where to find me, Sweet.”
Gwen smiles, finding she likes it when he calls her that. “That I do. See آپ later, then.”
“Put in a good word for me,” he says.
“Of course,” she smiles, “’bye, Arthur.” She hangs up, thinking, Going to put in a word for Helios and Cenred as well. They need it مزید than Arthur does.
She swings her feet to the floor, and her phone rings, again. Can’t be Arthur, I didn’t give him my number,
she thinks, and lifts the handset.
“You were supposed to call me!”
“Freya, I just woke up!”
“Did he spend the night?”
“No. He wanted to, but he had to get ہوم before his cat wrecked his place.”
“Fray, I can hear your eyes rolling. But it’s the truth. I just got off the phone with him, in fact.”
“So I suppose you’re seeing him again right away and have no time to spill all the juicy details?”
“No, I am going to church and you’re coming with me.”
“Of course. See آپ in half an گھنٹہ at the café.”
“Gwen, آپ dirty whore!” Freya teases, reeling from all that Gwen has told her.
“Jealous,” Gwen shoots back.
“So, he’s what? Kind of a pervert?”
Gwen makes a face. “I hardly think ‘pervert’ is the correct word. He has his likes and dislikes, just like anyone else. Some of the things he likes are just a little… unusual, that’s all.” She shrugs.
“Honestly, I can’t believe how… casual
آپ are about this.”
“Well, he’s just so relaxed about it, so matter-of-fact, that it makes it easy to not feel strange about it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone brave enough to just stand up and essentially say, ‘Hey, this is who I am, and I’m fine with it, and if آپ don’t like it آپ can piss right off.’ Which is kind of what he does. But in a nice way,” she says, furrowing her brow.
“Hmm,” Freya thinks about this. “I suppose you’ll never find yourself wanting for a foot massage.”
“That’s always a plus.”
“But still. آپ fell into بستر four times
with a man آپ met that morning. A kinky punk with a foot fetish.”
“Well, when آپ say it like that,
it does kind of make me sound like a dirty whore, doesn’t it?” Gwen says, but she is laughing.
“I didn’t mean that,” Freya apologizes.
“I know. It was all so strange. He’s actually very sweet. And smart. And talented.”
“He’s an artist. Wait, here,” Gwen digs into her پرس, تھیلی and pulls out his note, carefully folded. She smoothes the paper and shows Freya the drawing.
“Oh, wow, that is really good,” Freya sighs, taking the page. “He drew this when آپ were sleeping?” she asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Creepy,” she says, eyes still riveted to the drawing.
“It’s not creepy, it’s sweet.” Gwen takes the drawing and puts it back in her purse.
“You staring at it like that was creepy,” Gwen jokes. Freya sticks her tongue out at her.
“I just couldn’t get over how detailed
it was,” she explains.
The waitress brings their check, and Gwen looks at the clock. “Time to go,” she declares.
“Yes, آپ need to pray for your eternal soul after your sinful activities yesterday,” Freya says, laughing.
“Jealous,” Gwen repeats.
“Does he have any friends? A brother? A… a distant cousin?”
“Did آپ hear from Drag at all after he left yesterday?” Leon asks Merlin. They are in their پسندیدہ spot, enjoying the warm sunshine of a Sunday morning. Merlin shakes his head no, frowning slightly.
“I would wager he’s well-ensconced in a cozy بستر somewhere not too far from here, his arms wrapped around a little warm body, his nose tucked into some chocolate-colored curls,” Gwaine muses. Leon rolls his eyes.
“I hardly think so,” Merlin says, somewhat unconvincingly. Then, brighter, “He would have had to go ہوم at some point یا Iggy’d’ve wrecked his flat. Again.”
“All right, clever dick, where is he, then?” Gwaine asks, but just then the skulking figure of Cenred across the سٹریٹ, گلی takes their attention.
“He’s got a lot of nerve,” Ox says quietly, cracking his knuckles in a menacing sort of way.
Gwaine looks at Cenred, then squints to make sure he’s seeing things straight. Suddenly he bursts forth with a loud laugh. “Oi! Cenred! آپ look like a raccoon eating a tomato!”
“Fuck off, Mick,” Cenred hurls back, his voice slightly مزید nasal than usual.
“Oh, very clever, آپ are,” Gwaine says. “You got some nerve coming back ’round here, آپ know.”
“Why is that? This ain’t your
street. I can bloody well walk where I please.”
“Of course آپ can, mate,” Gwaine waves his hand indulgently, motion out of the corner of his eye making him grin slightly.
“Hey Gwaine,” Cenred starts up again. “When آپ see your girlfriend Drag, آپ can fucking tell him—”
“Tell me what, Beverly?” Arthur’s voice, calm and low yet not without menace, interrupts him.
Cenred spins. “Oh. Um, right,” he collects himself, shaken slightly سے طرف کی the surprise of seeing him so unexpectedly close. He tries to ignore the raucous laughter coming from across the way. “Yeah. آپ know my da’s a barrister, right? Well, I’m going to do آپ for assault, I am.”
“Oh, really?” Arthur asks, unperturbed.
آپ broke my sodding nose. That’s assault.”
Arthur shrugs. “You would know, mate. But,” he pauses, taking another step forward, “did آپ perhaps forget that the reason I broke your fucking beak is because you
were assaulting an innocent woman?”
“You can’t prove that,” he says weakly.
“I have five witnesses, including Guinevere, who will back me up. All آپ have is your idiot thug Helios.”
“Who the hell is Guinevere?”
“The woman آپ assaulted. She has a name.”
“Like I care.”
“You should, mate. Her father is a DI at Scotland Yard.”
Cenred pales slightly, but presses on. “You’re yankin’ me.”
Arthur shakes his head. “Not in the slightest.”
“What, so the two of آپ are great دوستوں now? Did the کتیا, کتيا دکھائیں her thanks سے طرف کی sucking your cock یا something?”
Arthur clenches his fists, but keeps them at his sides. “Yes, we are دوستوں now, in fact. And call her a کتیا, کتيا one مزید time and your nose won’t be the only thing I’ll have broken.”
Cenred opens his mouth to say something, but closes it again.
“First smart thing you’ve done… ever, probably. Now,” he says, “you even so much as look
at Guinevere again, آپ won’t have just me to deal with, you’ll have my mates across the سٹریٹ, گلی there as well,” he hooks his thumb in the direction of his friends, and Cenred foolishly looks over to see four sets of eyes watching him very closely.
The lads don’t know exactly what Arthur is saying to him, but they have a pretty good idea, so they endeavor to look as menacing as they can. Ox and Leon pull themselves up to their full heights, narrowing their eyes, Gwaine grins like the devil himself, and Merlin watches coolly, deceptively calm.
“Now piss off before I change my mind about pounding آپ some more,” Arthur says, turning and crossing the street.
“Look at that grin,” Gwaine remarks, watching as Arthur keeps catching himself smiling and twitches his lips back down, only to have the corners creep back up again.
“What are آپ wankers smirking at?” Arthur asks.
“Where did آپ disappear to yesterday, young man?” Gwaine challenges immediately. “No one saw یا heard from آپ after آپ took off with your little sparrow.” He loops his arm around Merlin’s shoulders and says dramatically, “Your mother and I were worried sick!”
Merlin squirms away from him and gives him a shove. “So, what happened?”
“Lads, that girl is amazing,” Arthur admits, giving in and grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
“She polish your knob, then?” Gwaine asks, earning him a slap on the back of his head from Ox. And Merlin.
“I am a gentleman, and gentlemen do not
discuss such things,” Arthur says haughtily.
“That’s a yes,” Gwaine mutters, just as Leon asks, “Since when?”
“She made me brunch, and I, um, ended up hanging around her flat until dinner, which she also made for me.”
“I tried calling آپ at 10:30, Drag,” Merlin says, raising his eyebrow.
“Yeah, I didn’t get ہوم till just after midnight,” Arthur says. “We fell asleep.”
“Right. ‘Asleep,’” Gwaine teases.
“Honest, we did. Eventually.” The grin comes back again.
“You like her, then,” Merlin declares.
“Yeah,” he admits, eyes scanning the streets for any sign of her. Bugger it all, I didn’t ask what time she was done with church.
“Looking for her, mate?” Leon asks.
“She کہا she’d find me. After, um, church.”
“Church?” Gwaine raises his eyebrows, surprised.
“Yes, church. What of it?”
“Nothing, I’m just surprised. I don’t think I’ve ever seen آپ interested in a church-going bird before.”
“I think it’s lovely,” Ox comments. “Someone should be praying for sinners like us.”
“Oh, yes, surprising words indeed from the one who wants to be a cop,” Arthur says sarcastically. “Wait. Cop. Guinevere’s dad is a cop…” he muses.
“Whoa, whoa,” Gwaine interjects before Ox can get مزید details. “Her dad’s a cop and she goes to church? And
she likes you?
I need to sit down,” Gwaine gropes blindly, pretending to feel woozy.
“Oh, piss off, you,” Arthur dismisses him.
“Did آپ tell her about your… thing? With the feet?” Merlin asks carefully.
He nods. “She was cool.”
“Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t say she was, like, into
it, but she was certainly a good sport,” he grins again. “Seemed to be enjoying herself,” he adds with a shrug. Oh no, she was definitely enjoying herself.
Merlin smiles and chuckles, slapping Arthur on the shoulder. “Hang on to her, then.”
“I sure as hell am going to try.”
“Wait, wait, wait. I’m still recovering over here and now آپ spring on me that this church-going cop-daughter is willing to indulge your weird fucking kinks as well?” Gwaine pipes up again.
Arthur turns and looks at him, saying nothing.
“Lucky bastard,” Gwaine finally says, and all five men start laughing, none of them noticing the petite figure that has just come into view.
“What’s all this laughter?” she calls, and they all turn and watch her approach.
“Do آپ have a sister?” Gwaine asks immediately, and Arthur shoves him.
“Pay no attention to him,” he says, smiling at her. “I hope آپ didn’t wear that to church.” She is clad in a white eyelet cropped peasant top, cut-off jean shorts, and wedge sandals, her smooth brown stomach contrasting alluringly with the white of her top. Her hair is braided so that it hangs over one shoulder.
“Oh, I don’t know, I think I
just found religion,” Gwaine comments, looking her up and down, noting her shapely legs and her navel winking at him from just above the button of her shorts.
Arthur glares at him while Guinevere laughs and approaches him, leaning up for a kiss. He gladly grants it, sliding his hands around her bare midriff, luxuriating in the feel of her skin beneath his hands once again.
“Hello,” she says, smiling that smile again.
“Look at him,” Leon whispers to Merlin. “He’s so hooked.” Merlin nods, agreeing.
“I’m sorry I had to leave,” he says quietly to her, forgetting completely about the four other men.
“It’s all right, I understand. And آپ apologized already anyway,” she smiles, raising her hand to stroke his cheek.
“How was church?” he asks, his hands still at her waist, idly caressing her bare skin.
“Uplifting,” she says with a smirk, and he can’t tell if she is joking یا serious. He puzzles for a moment and leans his head back down for another kiss. She smiles up at him, her special smile, as he leans in—
“I fucking knew
it!” Cenred shouts from the other side of the street, having slunk back out in time to see Arthur and Gwen greet one another.
Arthur instinctively steps between Gwen and the distant Cenred, and Gwaine and Leon start walking forward, into the street. Gwen peeks around Arthur’s shoulder and sees that Cenred is sporting two black eyes and one very red and swollen nose. She snickers behind Arthur.
Cenred bolts as soon as Gwaine’s boots step off the curb. As soon as he is out of sight, the laughter starts again.
“Fucking coward,” says Gwaine.
“Idiot,” mutters Leon as they turn back to rejoin the group.
“So how are my knights this morning?” Gwen asks, turning to Arthur’s friends.
“Fantastic, as always,” Gwaine answers.
“How are آپ doing, Gwen?” Merlin asks, angling his head to see if she bears any marks from Cenred’s slap yesterday.
Merlin, really,” she says, smiling at him, finding it impossible not to like the thin pale writer.
“What’s this, then?” Merlin asks, pointing, as she turns her head. Her braid has shifted slightly revealing a red mark on her neck that looks rather suspiciously like…
“Oh. Never mind,” Merlin says, blushing and dropping his hand.
Gwen quickly readjusts her braid, blushing as well, but too late.
“What? What?” Gwaine asks, leaning over to look.
“Nothing—Gwaine!” she exclaims, laughing despite herself when he shoves Arthur aside with a hip-check and lifts Gwen’s braid, revealing the bite mark she received while pressed against the دیوار of her flat yesterday afternoon.
She grabs her hair back, still laughing, as Arthur bodily tosses Gwaine aside, firmly but carefully. He doesn’t want to hurt his friend; he just wants to remove him.
“Sorry, Sweet, I didn’t mean to leave a mark,” he says quietly as Gwaine steps back over and flicks him on the ear.
“It’s all right. Nothing a little creative hairstyling couldn’t cover. Luckily it stayed put at church,” she says, laughing again.
He bends and kisses the bite mark and gently puts her braid back in place.
“I will have to wear something with a higher neck to work tomorrow, though,” she says, smirking at him.
“Sorry!” he apologizes again, while his دوستوں start to snicker at them.
She leans in close to him, up on her toes. With a soft kiss, she whispers, “However, اگلے time آپ feel the urge to sink your teeth in, perhaps آپ could do so in a less-visible spot.”
“Mmm, I like the sound of that,” he says, eyes twinkling.
She drops back down from her toes and turns, looking at the group. “Really, lads, it’s like Satan’s back yard out here today, and آپ all insist on trousers and boots. You’re going to die of heat stroke.”
It is indeed an oppressively hot day, humid, not a بادل in sight. The pavement shimmers in the heat and the birds are even quiet.
“Hey, I’ve got air conditioning,” Arthur points to the massive holes in the knees of his very-worn jeans.
“And I’ve got no sleeves,” Ox helpfully points out.
have sleeves, Ox,” Leon says. “Even in winter.”
“They’re always too tight,” he complains.
“He just likes to دکھائیں off his arms,” Merlin whispers, but he does so loud enough for them all to hear, even Ox, who reaches over to thump Merlin on the head, but the pointy spikes of hair give him pause.
“Defensive hairdo,” Merlin says, grinning at Gwen, who laughs again. I really like his friends.
“So, what is it آپ blokes do out here, anyway?” Gwen asks, wanting to know مزید about them. Arthur’s hand snakes around her waist, holding her lightly, his thumb stroking her skin idly.
“Not much,” Gwaine answers. He’s obviously the chatty one of the group,
“Smoke, have a bit of a chin wag, watch birds…”
“Loiter,” Gwen supplies.
“Yeah, basically,” he grins.
“And آپ have a tattoo parlor? Where is it?”
“Two blocks south, one over.”
“Why don’t آپ hang about there?”
“’Cause it’s a total crap neighborhood,” Arthur says.
if I’m hangin’ ’round outside my own place when it’s not open, people want me to open up and ink them,” Gwaine adds.
Gwen wrinkles her brow. “What kind of people?”
“Drunks, mostly,” Arthur says. “We do try not to tattoo people when they’re drunk,” he adds.
“And آپ three, what do آپ do?” she asks.
“Um,” Merlin starts, pausing.
“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be nosy. I’m just a curious person,” she explains hastily, a little embarrassed.
“No, no, it’s all right. Leon manages a pub, and I’m a barman there. Really I’m a—”
“A writer, I know, Drag told me that,” she smiles.
“Ox is the bouncer,” Leon says, slapping him on the shoulder.
“I’m sure his mere appearance is security enough,” she smiles at him, and is surprised when he blushes. “Which pub?”
“The Dragon’s Head,” Leon says. “You’ve never heard of it.”
“You are correct there,” she smiles.
“It’s a punk pub. اگلے to Excalibur,” Arthur explains.
“Excalibur Tattoos,” Gwaine says grandly.
Arthur rolls his eyes. “Are آپ hungry? I could do with some lunch.”
“Starving,” Gwaine answers.
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
“Yes, lunch would be nice,” Gwen says, “what did آپ have in mind?”
“Fish and chips?”
“Yum. Then I want to see your flat,” she says.
The lads wince and groan, worried about Iggy.
“What?” she asks, puzzled.
“Iggy,” Leon says. “He doesn’t like anyone.”
“He likes me,” Merlin says.
“That’s because آپ smell like sardines,” Gwaine jokes.
“He tolerates me, Leon, and Ox,” Arthur explains. “He does inexplicably like Merlin, and none of us can understand why. But he hates Gwaine.”
“Oh really?” Gwen is intrigued now.
“Well, he knows Gwaine hates him,” Merlin explains.
“I don’t hate
that fucking cat, I’m allergic to him. There’s a difference.”
“Not to him. He takes it personally,” Merlin says.
“I’ll take my chances,” Gwen says, slipping her hand into Arthur’s.
Part 7: link