TITLE: A Day Free
WORD COUNT: 5600 words
DISCLAIMER: Oh, how I wish they were, but no, they are not mine.
SUMMARY: Gwen and Arthur get a day free of their responsibilities.
SPOILERS/WARNINGS: Set in a vague S4, but there's nothing spoilery.
NOTES: Written for robinmarian. She requested smut based on this manip. What happened ended up very fluffy and very schmoopy. I hope you like it, hon!
Part of Gwen couldn’t believe she’d finally managed to slip away, though clearly not the part that kept looking over her shoulder in search of anyone who might be following her from Camelot. The path was always empty, the only tracks hers. All she ever saw was the citadel rising from the horizon in all its morning majesty, solid and stalwart as it waited for her return.
Ahead lay the forest where Arthur had told her to meet him. Well, Merlin had actually been the one to tell her. Arthur had been away for nearly two weeks, traveling among the outlying villages with a few of his knights to ensure everyone was safe in light of the recent skirmishes Morgana had been sending his way. Gwen understood it was part of his duty, and before their relationship had become public knowledge, she would have tolerated it in patient silence. Now, however, as the days stretched on, she found herself missing him at all the oddest moments.
Like when the kitchen served chicken for Uther’s dinner one night and he spent more time talking at her than eating.
Or when she heard swords clanging against each other in the courtyard and looked out the window to see Leon and Percival having a playful go at each other.
Or when she caught a flash of a red cape in the corridor and her heart leapt in anticipation of seeing him, only to realize a moment later it was someone else.
Nights were the worst. He had come to her on several occasions, but nothing planned and surely not regularly. She had spent more hours alone in her bed than with him, and yet every time she curled onto her side and closed her eyes, her thoughts went straight to Arthur and the feel of him molded to her back. The sensations followed her into sleep, torturing her with what she could have if only Arthur were home, constantly shifting to more sexual images, until she woke up tense and frustrated, often short-tempered in the first few hours of her day.
Merlin had surprised the entire court by returning to Camelot on his own the day before. “Arthur’s fine,” he assured. “I’m just here to fetch some things for him.”
That wasn’t all, though. He’d cornered her at the well and relayed Arthur’s message, teasing her mercilessly when she forced him to repeat it.
“What about his patrols?” she asked.
Merlin smiled. “Aren’t you just as important?”
She wasn’t, but nothing would dissuade either Merlin or Arthur of that. And if she was being truthful, deep down in dark corners of her heart, she rather loved being so valued.
Slipping way without being questioned why had taken careful planning and only a single bribe. It was a glorious day to be away from her duties, too. Clouds drifted in lazy puffs across a jeweled sky, while a cooling breeze kept the heat of the bright sun at bay. Any other time, she would have taken advantage of the beauty, keeping her mount to a walk, admiring the rich countryside. But she was too close now to even consider stopping.
She heard a soft whinny first. Slowing down, she peered through the trees, searching for the familiar shape of Arthur’s horse. The foliage wasn’t dense at the forest’s edge, but the overhead canopy dappled the ground, making it hard to see very far. No sign of life that didn’t belong there. No other evidence she was anything but alone. Her mouth opened at the urge to call out to Arthur, but she quickly closed it again and drew to a halt instead. Better to look for him on foot than draw undue attention in case it was somebody else.
Keeping a hold of the lead, she guided her horse past the first line of trees, pausing when a branch cracked from farther in. The trail looked fresh, but it wound in a torturous ribbon around thick trunks and out of view. She gnawed at her lower lip. Was it better to look for Arthur, or wait here where he might more easily find her?
Something fluttered at the corner of her eye. As she turned to see what it might be, her horse sidestepped in the opposite direction, pulling her off-balance. She caught herself quickly, but her slight stumble deflected her attention so that when the arm banded around her waist, she gasped aloud in startled surprise.
“I hope that doesn’t mean you were expecting someone else.” Arthur’s amused voice hovered at her ear, but when she tried to twist back and look at him, the hold he had on her tightened. “Whoever he is, he can’t have you. I don’t like to share.”
Her smile came unbidden. If he wanted to play...
“And who said you get to have me in his stead?”
His low chuckle vibrated through her body. “Who said I’m giving you a choice?”
“I don’t believe you’d take a woman against her will.”
“You presume to know a lot about me, my lady.”
She wasn’t fond of the honorific, though some of the knights still used it in her presence. Arthur usually respected her discomfort, but here, under this pretense, it wasn’t so terribly awful. Any well-behaved gentleman would use it, and if she wanted to continue with their game, she couldn’t protest as was her wont.
“Perhaps it’s merely wishful thinking.” Lifting her chin, she stiffened her posture within his arms, playing the role called upon her. “Am I so mistaken?
“That depends.” His arm loosened. Rather than step away, though, he bent his head and skimmed his lips down the side of her neck. His warm breath tickled across the top of her chest, wending its way beneath her bodice to warm other, more excitable portions of her anatomy. “Are you actually unwilling? Or might I be able to persuade you to accept my humble admiration instead?”
Arthur was not always so eloquent. More often than not, he stumbled over the right words to say to her, too worried about making a good impression than truly being himself. Over the past few months, he’d got better at it, but this surpassed most of his usual efforts. The game, maybe? The freedom of knowing they weren’t watched, that there were no pretenses to maintain?
She grasped onto that freedom like the life line it was, ready to relish it for whatever time they were allotted today. “I’m willing for you to try,” she said. “I cannot guarantee your success, though.”
“Half the glory of battle is risking it all without such a guarantee.” He nipped at her shoulder, causing her to gasp. “I’m more than happy to accept such conditions.”
So was she, though she already knew she’d mostly lost the battle. Her lashes fluttered shut, and she leaned back against his solid frame. He braced her effortlessly, affording her the chance to reach back and cup his nape. When her fingers laced through the ends of his hair, she had the random thought he would probably get it cut when he returned to Camelot, followed almost immediately with the regret she might not get such an opportunity to toy with it again any time in the near future.
Her grip tightened in reflex. Arthur responded with a low rumble in the back of his throat.
“The sunshine,” he said. But that was all, his mouth gliding again over her skin before he’d finished speaking.
When he didn’t elaborate, she swallowed against the tightness of her throat and murmured, “What about the sunshine?”
“I want you in it.”
“Are you cold?” she teased.
“I’m greedy for more than just feeling you.” His free hand folded over hers and the reins, taking control. “Find us a spot while I tether your horse.”
Mild worry shot through her. She remained rooted in place when Arthur finally released her. “We could be seen.”
His mouth, so tempting, begging her to forget their game and drown him in kisses, lifted in curious amusement as he wrapped the leather reins around the nearest tree. “So? I’m not ashamed of how I feel about you. The whole world can see if they want.”
She shot a nervous glance back at the lush grass rolling along the hill she’d just climbed. If she questioned why he’d wanted to meet in the forest, she risked spoiling their game. That was the last thing she wanted. She craved the wild abandon they so rarely found, Arthur shackled by his responsibilities, she bound by the restrictions of her status. One look at him, and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wanted it, too. It was more than what the sex would satisfy for them. It was satiating the need to simply relax and play for a few hours. Time stolen away from those who needed them. The knights. Uther. Camelot.
Boldly, she strode back into the gilded light, reveling in the warmth that bathed her face as soon as she was out of the shadows. Not another soul was in sight. Only a few birds flitted from tree to tree in the distance. The breeze had softened since she’d dismounted, but it tickled the swaying grass against her ankles, luring her farther out, away from the anonymity of the forest.
“I knew this was a better plan.”
Gwen glanced over her shoulder to see Arthur watching her, his head tilted as his gaze swept over her in rapt appreciation. “You find this more pleasing than feeling me?” she said, tossing his words back in his face.
“For the moment.”
“I’m not sure that’s a compliment.”
“It is. You’re radiant.”
The heat crawling into her cheeks was more about Arthur’s admiration than the sun. She smiled and dropped a small curtsey. “Thank you.”
“And now you’re blushing.” He ventured a couple steps closer, each one quickening her pulse. “Clearly, people don’t tell you that often enough.”
Her smile widened. “I have no complaints.”
“Perhaps I do.” He wandered closer. “But today, I’ll remedy that.”
She couldn’t contain her laughter. Flowery words were not his forte, his good fortune this morning notwithstanding.
He stopped in his tracks. “You find that funny?”
She immediately pulled a straight face, though it was so put on, she was fooling nobody. “Oh, no, of course not. It’s just you seem intent on admiring me from afar. If that’s to be the case, perhaps I should reconsider my original plans.”
“That can be corrected.”
With a sudden burst of speed, Arthur leapt forward and caught Gwen around the waist, lifting her off her feet for several breathless seconds. She squealed in delighted protest, and though she clutched at his shoulders to keep her balance, his arm was strong and steady at her back. She could never fall while he held her, truth she knew to the very marrow of her bones. Even when he dropped to his knees and tilted her toward the ground, she wasn’t afraid.
The soft grass cushioned her shoulders and tickled across the back of her calves where her skirt rucked up to her knees. Arthur’s broad shoulders blocked out the worst of the sun’s glare, and she smiled up at him with ease, her heart skipping a few beats at the way his eyes had darkened with desire in the space of the last few moments.
“This is definitely not afar,” she said.
His arm remained behind her back, his weight braced on his elbow and hip. Shivers began to cascade along her skin, radiating out from the tiny circles he massaged along her spine as he gazed down at her. The corner of his mouth lifted in a small smile of acknowledgment, but his attention was fixed on hers, especially when she caught the corner of her bottom lip between her teeth.
Slowly, he leaned down. She held her breath, anticipating the kiss to come, but at the last moment, he turned to the side, the tip of his tongue tracing over the very same spot she’d just bitten. Such a feathery touch, barely touching skin, but the inside of her mouth prickled, and she had to swallow against the influx of sensation he prompted.
“So many places on you to admire...” His murmur heated her cheek, and his lips glided along her jaw for several inches before stopping to allow Arthur to taste a specific spot again. “Please tell me you have nowhere to be. That we have the whole day together.”
His prolonged absence would surely be harder to explain away, but if he wished the entire day, she would give it to him gladly. “I am yours, for as long as you desire me.”
At that, Arthur drew away with an amused smile. “Dangerous words.”
“If you mean them, your intended will never get you back.”
He was toying with her in their little make-believe, but the fierce possessiveness in his tone was undeniable. She responded as best she could, by coiling her arm around his shoulders and drawing him back down, her lips parting at the last possible moment to take his in the deeper kiss she wanted. The one she needed. The one she’d been waiting for from the moment he’d left her in Camelot.
The teasing ended at the first touch of her tongue to his. A low moan rumbled in the back of Arthur’s throat, and his embrace tightened, drawing her more closely into his chest, refusing her the space to breathe. He swept inside the warm recesses of her mouth, inviting her to do the same, but her head was already swimming, the tumult he created inside her skin obliterating anything but the basest needs. When she tried to roll against him, Arthur slid his free hand down to her bottom, cupping it through her skirts to keep her in position.
She couldn’t argue. Even through their clothing, his arousal nudged against her stomach. His desire for her was as great, if not more, as hers for him, so it would only be a matter of time before they were both satisfied. She had to trust Arthur not to waste a moment they had together, even if he did claim to have the entire day to bask in the sunshine and their freedom.
His thin shirt was warm from the heat hammering down onto his shoulders. Though her palms were sweaty from the ride, she caressed everywhere she could reach. When he was out of his armor and mail, there was no hiding the hard-earned muscles that proved him such a fearsome warrior, and these opportunities came too few and far between. The only thing that would make it better would be for the shirt to go, but to make that happen, he would have to stop kissing her first and that wasn’t a step she was ready to take yet.
He tasted of iron and sunshine, of all the hours he spent ensuring his kingdom was safe. Though he wasn’t king in name yet, it was only a matter of time. Already, the people of Camelot were adjusting to the new order of things, of knights who weren’t of noble blood, of companions that weren’t of royal. She had always known he would be a great leader someday, but to be there at his side, to see it so close, was more than she had ever envisioned. Sometimes it overwhelmed her. Sometimes she wished he’d actually meant it when he said he wanted to leave Camelot behind and lead a simpler life.
But then he wouldn’t be Arthur. He wouldn’t be the man she loved. For all the tedium she had to tolerate, she wouldn’t change a bit of it if it would mean changing him.
When he finally pulled back from the kiss, his already full mouth was swollen and wet, his breathing as ragged as hers. He dragged his hand up her side, slowly, as if testing to see if she would try and move again. Gwen didn’t. Couldn’t. She was trapped in the moment, too dizzy to do anything but see what he would do next.
His fingertips traced the neckline of her bodice. He touched no skin, just the clean curve of fabric, but his proximity sent her blood racing, her pulse pounding so hard she was certain he could see it in her throat.
“You entrance me. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you a witch.”
“How can you be sure I’m not?”
“The same way you can be sure I wouldn’t take a woman who didn’t want me.” He rested his fingers along the upper swell of her breast, directly over her heart. “This is how I know. In here.”
Another part of Arthur that would make him such a wonderful king. He believed in the good of people, in spite of all the bad he’d seen. He needed to believe that honor and love were worthy to fight for.
Gently, Gwen caught his wrist and guided it downwards until his palm covered her breast. He was hesitant at first, but then his grip firmed, the weight welcome when he squeezed the tender flesh. His head bent again, and her eyes shut as he blazed a path from the hollow of her throat down to the edge of her bodice.
Then he went farther, over the cotton, mouthing it firmly until he met the taut peak of her nipple poking through the fabric. There he stopped. She held her breath, waiting for what was to come.
Seconds ticked too slowly. She was ready to beg, the plea forming on her lips, when he caught the covered tip between his teeth and pulled.
Gwen arched away from the ground with a small cry. She couldn’t have been loud—she lacked sufficient breath for that—but it seemed like a scream to call down the heavens. She caught the back of his head and tangled her fingers in his hair, forcing him to stay where he was, to prolong the burn in that tiny piece of flesh. Their lovemaking was usually tender, furtive if they lacked time, but this was unlike anything they’d shared to date. This was a passion left too long to simmer, hard and rolling. She was surprised by how badly she wanted it. She refused to compromise for less now that she’d had a taste.
Arthur took her hint and increased the pressure. Reaching for her skirt, he yanked it the rest of the way up, baring her legs to the driving sun. He didn’t have to coax her thighs apart. They parted as soon as they were free of the garment. Gwen cried out again when his rough fingers grazed across her inner thigh, tugging away her underclothes, seeking the moist folds that burned for his touch.
“Yes...” she hissed. She lifted her hips to give him room to toss the garment aside. Then, bending her right leg, she braced her heel against the grass to give him better access, her left left pinned beneath Arthur’s solid body. The breeze cooled her hot skin, but only until she felt him part her outer lips, his fingertips becoming slick where they traced her opening.
He let go of her nipple, and with it, her breath came out in a whoosh. “You’re so ready,” he teased. “Is this all for your intended meeting?”
“It’s for you,” she panted. “Please.”
“Please what?” He seemed determine not to touch her where she might find immediate relief, bypassing her clit entirely. “I’m quite satisfied with how this is progressing.”
“Oh, really?” A nudge of her knee pressed it against his arousal. When he jerked, she laughed. “Something tells me this isn’t all you desire.”
He moved so swiftly, she had no hope of stopping him. Sliding down her body, he settled between her legs, shoving the skirts even farther out of his way. They bunched at her waist, and she met his eyes over the small mountain of material before he grinned and dipped out of sight.
Gwen gasped when his broad hands pulled her swollen labia apart, forcing her legs to widen their stance. A lick over her pussy followed, wide and wet as he used the flat of his tongue to gather her juices. Though she scrambled to reach for him, her thighs were already beginning to quiver, alternating between scalding and ice-cold with each touch of his mouth to her sex.
The first lick had merely been a warning. He turned to nibble at the delicate outer lips first, each bite the perfect blend of pleasure and pain. Without being able to hold him, she had to grab onto the ground, her fingers fisted in the grass, nails practically embedded in the dirt. Her hips squirmed with each touch. She tried to get closer, but Arthur’s grip was unshakable, keeping her trapped with her body on display. Anywhere else, and she might feel self-conscious. But not here. Not with Arthur.
This was just for him. Only for him. Her body was his to worship, his to love.
He took his time savoring the soft flesh, enough for her breath to even out, her muscles to slacken. The tight hold he’d maintained relaxed, and his palms smoothed along her legs, sliding around to scoop beneath her butt. He kneaded each cheek, but if she’d thought the shift would give her more freedom, she would have been sorely mistaken. If anything, he was more firmly placed between her legs, her hips controlled by him. When she would grind against his face, he would hold her still.
Her only hope was to curl her legs around his shoulders. Arthur was many things, but he still only had two hands.
Sweat trickled between her breasts, slicking beneath the curve to begin the long, slow drip down her side. She could wipe it away with a swift sweep of her hand, but that would mean releasing her already tenuous grip on the ground, sacrificing balance for comfort. The trade wasn’t worth it. Besides, the edge it created sharpened her senses. Every lick branded her. Every touch burned.
His mouth shifted upward, while one of his hands came around to her front. He flicked at the tip of her clit at the same time two fingers slid effortlessly into her wet channel.
Gwen gasped. “Don’t...”
She cried out in frustration when he lifted his head. “You want me to stop?” he teased.
“Don’t you dare.” Which had really been at least her intent in speaking in the first place. Her body was a finely drawn bow, quivering in anticipation of its pending release. Too many hours without Arthur there manifested in this tension just beneath her skin, ready to be set free. “I need more.”
“More?” His voice had gone soft and deadly. Inside her pussy, his hand twisted and somehow became thicker. She realized a moment later he’d pushed a third finger in to join its mates. “Like this?”
“Yes. No.” How did he expect her to answer questions like this? Especially those that weren’t so easily resolved. She kicked her heel into his shoulder blade, trying to get his mouth back on her, but got only a laugh in response.
“So impatient,” he said. “You’re not trying to speed this along so you can make your other assignation, are you? Because I already warned you—”
“Just want you,” she breathed, hoping it was enough. “Whatever it takes, I’ll do it. Just...”
Her desperation must have been too much for Arthur to withstand. She lost sight of him, followed a moment later by his lips suckling gently at her clit.
Gwen writhed against the ground, straining for more contact. This was what she’d wanted, but Arthur’s torturous pace kept her poised on the brink rather than hurtling over the edge. Slowly, he stroked his fingers in and out of her clenching pussy, while his lips and tongue set her nerve endings on fire, but each gesture only added to the need she couldn’t seem to slake. Her skirts weighed her down, scraping along her oversensitive skin, and her bodice itched where it got caught beneath her breasts. Too much for her to take, and yet, not what she really craved.
His fingers hooked inside her. At the same time, the crooked tooth she thought so adorable caught her clit along the edge of the hood.
The scream tore from Gwen’s throat as her orgasm ripped through her. All her muscles contracted, fighting to keep Arthur inside, while the cresting of her blood drowned out everything else. She stopped caring about her restrictive clothing, and the way Arthur wanted to torment her, and the world in general. What else mattered except here and now, she and Arthur? Nothing, nothing at all. Because for a few precious hours, they could escape responsibility and savor what made the fights worth it.
When she finally began to come down from the heated rush, she blinked her eyes open to find Arthur stretched out at her side. His mouth and chin glistened from her juices, and without thinking, she rose to kiss him, tasting herself upon his lips, knowing what it did to him when she abandoned propriety. He kept it gentle, more so than she would’ve been able to manage if she was in his shoes, forcing her to slow down. His caresses, however, belied his outer calm, firm and possessive where he filled his hands with her flesh.
He hesitated at the laces keeping her bodice shut. “May I?” he whispered.
“No.” She caught his wrist. His pulse raced beneath her fingertips. “Let me.”
Her liquid muscles protested when she sat up and pushed Arthur to rest flat on the grass. Pillowing an arm beneath his head, he drank in every detail with desire-darkened eyes as she untied the fine cord,. She had to stand to pull the garment over her head, but the few moments she lost sight of him had her quickening to toss it aside.
When her nipples tightened further under the warm sun’s direct rays, Arthur’s nostrils flared. “Come here,” he said, his voice barely above a growl.
She cocked a hip, suddenly confident in the face of his obvious lust. “Are you always so bossy? What if I don’t want to?”
His brows shot up. “And you took your dress off...why, then?”
“It’s not proper.”
“I never claimed to be a lady.” She smoothed her hand over her lower belly, threading her fingers through the tight curls covering her mons. Her clit was still quivering from the force of her orgasm. If she dared to touch it, she wasn’t sure her legs wouldn’t buckle. “Didn’t you call me a witch?”
“This is no false bewitching.” He startled her by sitting up, reaching over his shoulders to haul his shirt over his head. Bruises faded along his arm and chest, badges from recent skirmishes, and her stomach knotted as she held back from fussing over him. They would be gone by the time he returned to Camelot, forgotten by everyone but Gwen. She needed to hold strong and not draw undo attention to them. “What I feel for you is very real.”
“Don’t all enchantments feel real?”
He leaned back on his hands. Her mouth watered at the sculptured display of his chest. “Trust me. I’m well acquainted with those sorts of magics. There is no comparison.”
Under the heavy intent of his gaze, her brave posing turned self-conscious. She fought against it by closing her eyes and tilting her head back, embracing the full swathe of sunshine along her throat and breasts. Her hand trailed upward, searching out the lush lower curve, and her breath hitched when her nail scratched over the puckered edge of her nipple.
So did Arthur’s. She wasn’t sure if she heard it because of her heightened awareness of him, or because he really was that affected by her.
“I won’t order you to come to me, then.” His seductive tone was too alluring to resist. She peeked through her lashes to find him rubbing at his covered erection. “But I would ask. If you wish.”
The time for teasing was gone. Her toes sank into the grass with each measured step, her heart choosing now to start accelerating again. When she reached his side, she knelt and molded her hand over his. A wet spot seeped through the fabric already, and she stretched her thumb to rub it into the tip of his cock.
Arthur grunted, his hips jerking, but otherwise he held still, allowing her the power to proceed how she wanted. As tempting as it was to just stroke him like this, she craved his thick cock sliding into her, filling her to the point of breathlessness. The rest of his clothes had to come off for that, and she reluctantly let him go, focusing instead on more practical matters.
Once they were both naked, she resisted the urge to take her time and explore the smooth planes of his body. She could do it for hours, given the luxury, but that required more patience than she thought Arthur possessed at the moment. His shaft rested heavy on his stomach, jumping every so often when one of her touches excited him further. Straddling his hips, she trapped it between their bodies, nestled amongst her slick folds.
His broad hands grabbed her and rubbed her along his length. The head of his cock nudged against her clit on each slide.
Crying out at the sparks shooting through her midsection, Gwen braced her hands on his chest to keep from falling. Her arms trembled, her body back on the brink again. He wasn’t even inside her yet, but already, her breathing was becoming more ragged. With his help, she rolled her hips along his. She clenched when he passed so close to her opening, then gasped when he glided against her clit.
“I don’t think I can wait,” he confessed.
Her needs reflected in his eyes, and she shook her head. “I don’t think I want you to.”
Together, they pulled up his body, using her natural curves to catch the end of his cock. As soon as he rested at her opening, she reversed direction and sank down the length. A soundless cry formed on her lips. So full. She felt like she was flying, though she’d never been so firmly held before. Arthur had that effect on her, regardless of how long it had been since their last encounter.
A shudder wracked through him. His grip tightened, and his head turned to brush his mouth across the fingers she had curled around his shoulder. “Ride me, Gwen.”
Pretense was past. “Yes, oh yes,” she breathed, and bent to take the kiss she needed now, from her friend, her lover, her future king.
She began slow, incapable of anything but the shallowest of strokes. Only a couple inches escaped her heat before she slipped back down, not even enough speed to create the slap of skin against skin they both loved. Whenever he was fully sheathed, he used his hold to grind her clit into the coarse hair at the base of his cock, hardly incentive to force a greater separation of flesh from flesh but more than sufficient to stoke the burn inside to incendiary proportions.
Nature and need won out soon enough.
Everything sped up, from their kisses to their hands to the drive of her body onto his. Arthur’s fingers tangled in her hair, pulling at her scalp as he clutched her closer, while her nails dug into his shoulders. They would both bear marks when they returned to their lives, but they would be worth it for the hours they got together today.
Her name was a prayer uttered between kisses. She would’ve pulled back to meet his gaze, but a harder thrust made it impossible. Her second orgasm claimed the last shreds of her control. When her tempo faltered, Arthur took over, unrelenting for the few strokes it took before his body locked beneath hers. She swallowed his groans, gladly, hungrily, reveling in their lost moments for the sanctuary they were. Their sweat and her juices and his release weren’t the only bonds fusing their bodies together.
Just as everything had accelerated, now the world slowed back down, returning to its former pace, brilliant and warm and comforting. Gwen slumped against Arthur’s chest and closed her eyes. She smiled when he brushed a kiss along her temple.
“I’m glad you sent the message with Merlin,” she murmured. “I was going mad for not seeing you.”
“Why do you think I sent him back to Camelot? You’re hardly the only one.”
“Will you be home soon?”
When he buried his nose in her hair, his breath ruffled against her scalp. “Another week, at least. We’ve had to do some rebuilding along the way. Not everyone escaped as unscathed as I would’ve liked.”
And that was why she loved him so. Because in the light of Morgana’s wrath, he could have stayed within Camelot’s walls, safe and sheltered. Instead, he chose to be there amongst the people who needed him most, working as hard if not harder than any of his knights, doing what had to be done regardless of his station. Her own needs felt selfish in comparison, but he understood how important a few moments to themselves really were. It allowed him time to regroup his strength, and she was secure in the knowledge he would never judge her for them.
“I’ll be waiting,” she said, and then, “I love you, Arthur.”
His response was in the tightening of his embrace and the echoed endearment against her hair. His only embellishment was a single word.