Part 45: link
Gwen sorts through the mail, standing just inside the doorway of their flat Wednesday evening. Bill, junk, junk, bill… what is this?
It’s addressed to Arthur. It looks like an invitation.
She ponders it, tempted to open it. She feels the heavy linen paper between her fingers, and turns it over, looking for a return address. None. Shit. I hope he’ll be Home soon. I know…
He goes to Sunshine on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so he’ll be at the studio.
Gwen picks up the phone and dials, hoping he hasn’t left already.
“Hello?” he answers, sounding slightly winded.
“Guinevere,” he says, and she smiles. He always sounds like he’s pleasantly surprised.
“I was just on my way out, what’s up?”
“Can Du pick up some supper? I’m feeling lazy.”
“Sure, what would Du like?”
“I don’t care. Whatever you’re in the mood for is fine.”
“Um, okay. See Du soon, Love.”
“’Bye.” At least now I know he’s on his way home,
she thinks, glancing at the envelope again. “What do Du think, Ig?” she asks, sitting on the couch. Iggy hops into her lap and presses his head into her shoulder, rubbing it under her chin, purring.
“You think Du want some love, yes, I know,” she says, obliging, rubbing his ears, stroking his chin.
“Are Du hungry, Baby?”
He meows and jumps down, padding to the kitchen.
“Of course Du are. Du are the size of a terrier,” she chuckles, following him to the küche to open a tin of Essen for him.
“Though I can’t imagine why Du find this appetizing,” she comments, wrinkling her nose at the smell of the cat food.
“Here Du are,” she sets his bowl down and then cleans and fills his water bowl. “Any Tag now, Arthur,” she mutters, impatient despite the fact that she made his trip Home longer Von sending him for food.
Gwen goes back out and flips on the telly. She stares at the news. She changes clothes, straight into pajamas. She grabs the nail polish remover and clippers and takes them back out to the living room with her and removes the polish and tidies up her toes for Arthur to repaint later.
Finally the door opens and Arthur enters with takeaway bags from a curry place.
“Hey,” he calls.
“Hey, yourself.” Gwen takes the bags from him and sets them aside, lets him KISS her a bit, and goes to unpack their dinner.
“You got cozy right away,” he chuckles.
“Told Du I was feeling lazy,” she says, handing him a napkin as they sit.
They work on their dinner, taking spoonfuls of the various dishes Arthur’s bought. Arthur tells her about his painting for Gaius. Gwen tells him about a rather hilarious and slightly unsettling phone conversation she had with Marcus Ryan.
“Yeah, and then he tried chatting me up,” she says. “Or at least I think he did. He told me that I had a very sexy voice.”
“Is he completely
stupid?” Arthur asks. “He fucking met
me. He was at the opening!”
“I know!” Gwen laughs, “I reminded him of that, and I told him that Du had a short fuse that was attached to a protective jealous streak when it came to me.”
Arthur laughs now. “Good.”
“He hung up pretty quickly after that. I mentioned it to Will, too, actually. Thought I should.”
“Probably a good idea. Especially if the company isn’t entirely happy with him.”
“Right,” she says. Then she makes her move. “Oh, this came for Du today.” Gwen reaches behind her and grabs the envelope.
“What is it?” he takes it.
“I don’t know. It’s addressed to you. Looks like some kind of invitation.”
He studies it, flipping it over. “No return address.”
“I know. Open it.”
He looks at her now. “This has been killing Du since Du got home, hasn’t it?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“You’re practically salivating, Guinevere,” he smirks.
“That’s the curry.”
“Maybe I’ll wait till after dinner…” he says, teasing her now, starting to set the envelope down. She snatches it from his hands.
“Oh, no, Du don’t,” she says, opening it now while he laughs at her.
Inside the outer envelope is another, inner envelope. “Do Du know anyone who might be getting married?” she asks. “It looks like a wedding invite.”
“Don’t think so,” he answers, leaning over now.
The inner envelope says Arthur & Gwen
. “Okay, so now this is weird,” Gwen says, opening the Sekunde envelope now.
“Oh. Your father is having a retirement party a week from Saturday,” she says, a bit surprised.
“And he invited me? us?
“It seems so,” she holds it out to him. “Week from Saturday.”
He takes it. “At his club. Of course. Shit, that means I’ll have to get a coat, at least.”
“You don’t have one?”
“Not since my days at public school,” he grins.
“Right,” she says, chuckling. Then she stops abruptly. “Shit,” she echoes him now, “I probably don’t have anything suitable to wear, either. I’m not accustomed to running with the posh set.”
“I’m sure Du have something, Love. Otherwise, go shopping with Freya and find something.”
“I notice you’re not volunteering to Shop with me,” she smirks.
“Dear God, no. I’d rather pluck my own nose hairs,” he answers.
“Gross,” she declares. “Good thing I’m done eating.”
“Bah, you’re not squeamish, don’t give me that nonsense,” he laughs. “You took your polish off,” he suddenly says, looking down at her feet when she stands.
“Yes. Something for Du to do later.”
“Oh, good,” he says, standing and helping clear. He walks to the küche and the phone rings.
“I’ll get that,” he says, setting his plate in the sink.
“Yes, we did. I think so, yeah. Sweet?” Arthur calls, “We are planning on going to that party, right?”
“Yes, Arthur, that’s why I’m freaking out about dresses.”
“Yes, we are. Oh. Hang on, I’ll get her.”
“What?” he returns to the phone before he can pass it off to Gwen.
“I don’t know. Hang on.”
“Guinevere, Ms. Pendragon would like a word,” Arthur announces.
“Be right there,” she calls, turning the water off.
“Go do the dishes, then,” she tells him, taking the phone and Küssen him.
“Bugger,” he grumbles, stomping to the kitchen.
“You tell him, Gwen,” Morgana laughs on the other end.
“Hi,” Gwen laughs with her.
“I’m coming to town Saturday to look at places to live. I thought we could go dress shopping after,” Morgana says.
“Oh!” Gwen exclaims, suddenly even Mehr petrified. Dress shopping with Morgana Pendragon?
“Um, yeah, that would be great,” she answers, hopefully sounding excited instead of terrified.
“Gwen, relax,” Morgana laughs. Guess not.
“Sorry,” Gwen says, “I’m just a bit overwhelmed. I’ve never been to a fancy event like this before. Actually, I would really Liebe your help.”
“Great. I’ll be done Von noon. We can have lunch and then we’ll shop.”
“Sounds… fun, actually,” Gwen says, then has a thought. “Morgana, can I invite…”
“Oh, my God!” Morgana cuts her off. “Yes, do
invite that little friend of yours who has our Merlin all tied up in knots! We’ll have a proper girls’ day!”
Gwen laughs then, deep down knowing Freya will be completely horrified at having a “girls’ day” with the woman who hopefully will be her future boss. She’ll do it for me, though.
“Great,” Gwen says, smiling.
“Oh, and I’ll be sending Arthur out shopping that day, too, with Gwaine.”
“Gwaine? Is he really the best person for that job?”
“Merlin has no fashion sense,” Morgana declares. “Do Du ever notice he basically wears very minor variations on the same bloody thing every day?”
Gwen laughs. “Yeah, I have. Freya is planning on doing something about that, actually. But Du trust Gwaine to help Arthur choose something appropriate? I mean, I know Du Liebe him and all, and I Liebe Arthur, too, obviously, but… it’s Gwaine.
Morgana laughs loudly now, and Gwen has to pull the phone away from her ear. “No, I don’t trust Gwaine,” she answers. “But I trust Jamison.”
“Who is Jamison?”
“The menswear clark at Harrod’s who will be holding three Suits for Arthur to choose from. Three Suits that I
will be selecting in advance.”
“Of course,” Gwen laughs.
“All right. I’ll pick Du up Saturday, then.”
“I’m going to call Freya right now,” Gwen says.
“Give my baby brother a hug for me.”
“Will do,” Gwen says, and hangs up.
“What was that about?” Arthur asks, wiping his hands on his jeans.
“Arthur, we have towels,” Gwen chides him. “Morgana is taking me shopping on Saturday. And I’m taking Freya along.”
She picks up the phone and dials.
“I can’t believe Du talked me into this,” Freya says to Gwen on Saturday, just before noon.
“It’ll be fine, Fray,” Gwen assures her.
“It’s Morgana bloody Pendragon, Gwen. Du do remember that I’ve been preparing my résumé in the hopes of securing a job with Pendragon Financial once she takes over, don’t you?”
“Exactly why Du need to meet her,” Gwen pokes her friend in the shoulder. “Give Du a leg up.”
“Or make me look like a kiss-ass,” Freya protests.
There is a knock at the door, and Gwen goes to open it.
“Gwen!” Morgana exclaims, hugging her, looking around the flat. “Cute place. I see Du haven’t let my brother invade too
much,” she laughs.
“It helps that he has his old flat as a studio Weltraum now,” Gwen says, “keeps most of the art mess there. Morgana, this is my friend, Freya Olson. Freya, Morgana Pendragon.”
“Nice to meet you,” Freya says, holding her hand out.
Morgana ignores the offered hand and hugs her instead, making Freya jump. “Any woman willing to datum Merlin deserves a hug,” she laughs.
Freya cannot help but laugh as well, knowing that Morgana, like Arthur, has known Merlin for most of her life and probably loves him like another brother.
“Thanks for allowing me to tag along,” Freya says.
“Wouldn’t be a proper girls’ Tag with just two, would it? Besides, I’m sure Gwen trusts your opinion Mehr than she does mine, anyway,” she laughs.
“Well, I have known her longer,” Gwen jokes, reaching for her purse.
They walk outside and are confronted with a huge silver Rolls-Royce idling on the curb.
“Morgana, when Du sagte you’d pick me up, I wasn’t expecting a driver,
” Gwen says, stopping.
“You don’t honestly expect me to drive myself
all the way down from Glasgow, now, do you?”
“I suppose not,” Gwen laughs. I don’t know that I’ll ever truly get used to her.
They chat over lunch, Freya and Morgana growing Mehr comfortable with each other, laughing together as Morgana regales her with stories of Merlin when he was younger, Freya gradually leaking small details about their relationship.
Finally Morgana can take it no longer. “So, Freya. Is Merlin… a good
“Good? Yes, he’s wonderful, really. He would literally bend over backwards to make me happy if that is what I asked,” she answers.
“I’ve no doubt of that, but… I’m sorry, I simply must
know,” she leans over close. Here it comes,
Gwen thinks, having a very good idea about what Morgana is going to ask.
“How is your… love life
“Um,” Freya hesitates, biting her lip and looking to Gwen for help.
“Sorry, Love, I can’t help you,” Gwen says. “I did warn Du that she is quite blunt sometimes.”
Morgana laughs now. “Come on, wouldn’t Du be curious? I mean, he’s my brother’s best friend. So naturally
I’d be curious about this. Du know…”
“You fancied Merlin?” Freya asks.
“Once upon a time, I might have had a little crush, yes. Now my curiosity is just that, though. Curiosity. I promise. I’ve got Gwaine wrapped around my little finger, what Mehr do I need?”
“Good point,” Gwen allows.
“Gwen, you’ve got a brother, back me up here. Didn’t he have a friend oder two that, shall we say, piqued your interest?”
Gwen thinks. “Well, he’s two years younger than me, so it’s not quite
the same thing,” she hedges.
“Pete,” Freya says.
“Oh, shit, I forgot about Pete,” Gwen says, her eyes growing wide.
“Pete?” Morgana asks.
“One of Elyan’s mates. A drummer.”
“Yummy,” Morgana declares.
” Gwen agrees. “He had these arms
that were not to be believed on a 16-year-old…” she trails off, remembering. “He was dumb, though. But cute. And built.”
“Sounds like a good combination to me,” Morgana declares saucily. “And I’m certain your brother took notice of one oder two of your Friends as well, yes?”
Freya, not having learned to not drink while Morgana is speaking, chokes on her water and almost sprays the table.
“Oho, there’s a story!” Morgana exclaims once Freya has recovered.
“Yes, there is, and he’s still carrying a bit of a torch even now,” Gwen laughs. “Tell her, Fray.”
“Oh, God,” she starts. “It was the first time I spent the weekend at Gwen’s house when we were at university. Elyan was sixteen.”
“Almost seventeen,” Gwen adds.
“Doesn’t matter,” Freya shoots back, laughing. “He visited the room I was sleeping in one night and offered to let me make a man of him.”
“He did not!” Morgana nearly shouts, laughing. “Gwen, please tell me Du have a picture of your brother, I need to see what young Casanova looks like.”
“I think I do, hang on,” she says, digging into her geldbörse now. “Aha,” she pulls out a Foto and hands it to Morgana.
“Took it while I was visiting him this summer.”
“Hello, darling,” Morgana says to the photo. “He’s cute. Du have the same eyes.”
“And that’s about it,” Gwen chuckles.
“So,” Morgana looks at Freya again, handing the Foto back to Gwen. “Spill. Because if our Merlin is not a good lover, I will have to find him and slap him around a bit, Du know.”
“He’s very sweet,” Freya finally relents, knowing there’s no way out of it. “Loving. Giving.” Her eyes go a bit soft as she thinks about him.
“Well, he would be, wouldn’t he?” Morgana agrees, smiling fondly.
“And surprisingly passionate,” Freya adds.
“Really?” Morgana and Gwen chorus.
“Yes, really. I was surprised, too. He’s very… expressive. Maybe because he’s a writer, who knows? But he makes me feel like I am not only the only woman in the world but also the most beautiful and desirable woman in the world. Like he exists only for me.”
“Wow,” Morgana sighs.
“He’s very private, isn’t he?” Gwen asks. “Like Du are the only person that sees that side of him.”
“Yes, how did Du know?” Freya asks.
“Arthur is exactly the same way. I know I see a side of him that no one else sees.”
“Why are men like that?” Morgana asks, and the other two immediately know that Gwaine has an unseen side as well.
“Too busy being men, I guess,” Gwen laughs.
“Well, Freya, I am very happy for you. Merlin is the best ever. He’s like another brother, really.”
“I gathered that,” Freya smiles.
“And speaking of Fragen on my mind, Gwen…”
“Uh oh,” Gwen says.
“No, I do not
want to know about my brother’s skills in the bedroom. I already know Mehr than I want to in that area. What I am wondering about is how he is keeping his flat and living with you?”
“He didn’t tell you?” Gwen says.
“Tell me what?”
“He has a… I guess it would be a benefactor. Benefactress, to be exact.”
“Oh?” Morgana’s eyebrows lift, intrigued.
“Have Du ever heard the name Annis Caerleon?”
“Well, I hadn’t either. But she’s decided that Arthur is her Weiter protégé. She’s officially an art dealer, but she has taken Arthur under her wing. She’s paying the rent on his flat. And the phone.”
“And this doesn’t trouble you, that this woman is so heavily involved in his life now?”
“Not at all,” Gwen waves the insinuation away. “Annis is lovely, and she and I get on famously. She’s very smart. Shrewd. She bought a bunch of his work, and has already sold one. The big collage.”
“To a spa in Bath, even,” Freya adds.
“Don’t know, sorry. I’ll find out, though,” Gwen promises. “Annis is actually just the person Arthur needs to gain recognition. She has connections all over the world.”
“Hmm,” Morgana nods, thinking.
“There’s nothing funny going on, Morgana. Annis is actually rather… motherly toward him.”
“Oh, she’s older?”
“Yes. And Lance has known her for years.”
“Oh. I’m sorry for the insinuation, Gwen, really. I’m just looking out for my brother. And you.”
Morgana gestures to the waiter for their check. “Lunch is on me, ladies, and no arguments. I invited Du out, I’m paying.”
“But I invited Freya,” Gwen teases.
“No, Du were about
to invite Freya and I beat Du to it, I think you’ll find,” Morgana grins at them.
She hands the waiter her credit card without looking at the bill. When he returns, she pauses a moment, figuring the tip.
“Three pounds,” Freya says before she can help herself, then rattling off the total. Accurately. Without having seen the bill.
Morgana looks up, shocked.
“Sorry,” Freya turns beet red.
“No, don’t be. How the hell
did Du do that?”
“Just something I can do,” she shrugs.
“Didn’t I tell you, Morgana? Freya is amazing with numbers.”
Morgana puts down the numbers, signs the bill and then looks at Freya. “Where do Du work?”
“I’m a teller at Albion Bank,” Freya says, trying not to make too much of a face.
“Hmm,” Morgana says noncommittally, and stands. She learned that from Uther,
Gwen thinks, biting back her grin.
“Let’s go shopping,” Morgana declares.
The Tag of the party arrives, and Morgana appears at their door.
“We’re going to the salon,” she tells Gwen. Orders.
“You and Me. We’re going to have our hair done. And nails.”
“Morgana…” Gwen starts to protest, though she knows it’s hopeless.
Arthur shuffles out from the kitchen, still clad in his shorts though they had just finished lunch.
“It walks!” Morgana declares. “You’re really putting an effort into the day, Arthur.”
“No point in getting dressed until I have to get dressed,
Mo,” he shrugs, bending and Küssen her offered cheek.
“You stink,” she declares.
“Haven’t showered yet, obviously.”
“Well, have done Von the time we get back,” she declares. “Gwen, go put on a hemd, shirt Du won’t have to take off over your head later.”
“Um, okay…” she says.
“Gwen, the salon is my treat, Von the way,” Morgana calls after her.
“No it bloody isn’t!” Gwen yells back.
“It will be once Du see how much it’s going to cost,” she sings back, laughing.
“Mo, don’t push her,” Arthur warns. “She’s freaked out enough about tonight, don’t make her feel like she’s your charity case on oben, nach oben of that.”
“But I want
to treat her,” Morgana explains.
“Morgana,” Arthur says, taking her hand, “she’s not the type of person who’s friendship Du have to buy. She likes you. For you.
Morgana’s face grows tight for a minute, but then she blinks back the very beginnings of tears that wouldn’t even be noticed Von someone other than her twin brother. She smiles at him and squeezes his hand. Then she reaches into her geldbörse and hands him a box.
“What is this, now?” Arthur asks.
“Just something to quell the urge Du will undoubtedly have to wear your necktie as a belt, my dear,” Morgana says airily, just as Gwen appears wearing a button-down blouse.
“What’s that?” Gwen asks, coming over to look as Arthur opens the box.
“A tie tack,” Arthur says, grinning. It is indeed a tie tack, but it is in the shape of a tiny skull and crossbones, all encrusted with rhinestones except for the eyes, which are rubies.
“That’s really cool,” Gwen declares.
“Those aren’t real diamonds, are they?” Arthur asks, hoping they aren’t.
Morgana looks at her watch. “Shit. We need to go.”
“We will discuss the matter of payment on the way, Morgana,” Gwen says sternly as the two women walk out the door.
“That’s my girl,” Arthur says after the door is closed.
Gwen returns two hours later, hair and nails done. Makeup, too.
“Holy shit, Guinevere,” is all that Arthur can say.
“You like it?”
“I like it very much,” he says, walking over to her, checking out her hair, which is half up with the rest cascading down her back in soft curls.
“They wanted to put it all up, but I had them leave some long because I know Du like it that way,” she says.
He buries his nose into her neck. “Doesn’t smell right,” he complains.
“Of course not, they don’t have the same products I do, silly,” she says, gently pushing him away.
“I suppose I can’t KISS you,” he pouts.
“No, you’ll ruin my lipstick.”
“Hmph,” he snorts, bending to KISS her neck instead, nudging his way inside her collar.
“Don’t start that oder you’ll ruin my hair as well,” she giggles as he continues to kiss.
“But your nails will be fine,” he mutters against her.
He lifts his head. “Fine. Let’s go get dressed. We need to leave soon.”
“You’re not wearing your nose ring?” she asks as he follows her back to the bedroom.
“It’s been bugging me lately. Since that cold. I’m thinking of ditching it.”
“Yeah, when I put it back in, it just didn’t feel right. Kind of uncomfortable. Weird?”
“Maybe; I don’t know much about nose jewelry, I’m afraid.” She pulls her dress out of the wardrobe, covered in a plastic kleidungsstück bag, tied at the bottom. She wouldn’t let Arthur see it, so in return, he wouldn’t let her see his suit, either.
He tries peeking, but all he sees is a flash of black silk before she scurries off to the bathroom with it, giggling maniacally.
“Guinevere…” he calls after her, exasperated.
“Just get dressed!” she yells back through the closed door.
Arthur is struggling with the cufflink on his right wrist when she emerges, barefoot still but in the black silk he saw earlier.
He drops the cufflink to the floor. The dress is simple, black silk, fitted with a straight but flowing skirt. He stares at the one completely bare shoulder, exposed Von an asymmetrical neckline that covers one shoulder, arm bare.
“Wow,” he croaks. She bends to pick up the silver cufflink and affixes it in his right cuff.
“Thank you,” she says, and then reaches up to straighten his tie.
“That dress is unfair…”
“Me. I’m going to have this,” he reaches up to caress the bare shoulder, “staring at me all night.”
Gwen just smiles and removes the skull tie tack from its box and pins it to his tie, which has a wide diagonal stripe, black on black, the stripe almost indistinguishable.
“Not to mention we’ll be in a room with a bunch of rich wankers who won’t know who Du are and—”
“If Du finish that sentence with ‘who Du belong to’ I am going to take this tie tack back off and stab Du with it,” she threatens.
Arthur closes his mouth and reaches for his coat, which, like his trousers, are the blackest black Gwen has ever seen.
“I like the red shirt, Arthur. Unique touch.”
“I thought so. The bloke at Harrod’s was very helpful,” he says, and Gwen chuckles.
“Guinevere, what do Du know?”
“He gave Du three Suits to choose from?”
“Yes, how did you…? Morgana.”
“You didn’t honestly think she’d let Du and Gwaine go shopping unsupervised,
He pouts again, and Gwen brings her hand to his face, feeling his smooth cheek, only just shaved that afternoon (they had done his head the night before).
“Don’t be cross, she’s just happy that Uther wants Du to come and wants Du to make a good impression.”
“I know,” he sighs, then looks down at her again. “God, Du look beautiful.”
“I’d better; this thing is Chanel. I plan on being buried in it when I die.”
“Name?” They are greeted rather haughtily Von a weed with a thin mustache in a grey suit.
“Arthur Pendragon and Guinevere Degrance,” Arthur Antwort with equal disdain.
“Pendragon?” the man asks skeptically.
“Yes. So I’d appreciate it if you’d drop the attitude.”
“This way, sir.
better,” Arthur says sarcastically. Gwen slaps his arm.
They are shown to a private room in the back, Gwen drawing many looks as they walk through.
“This is one of those ridiculous Clubs that doesn’t normally allow women, isn’t it?” Gwen asks quietly.
“Yeah, stupid sexist idiots.”
They enter the room, and Arthur scans the crowd. One oder two familiar faces jump out at him. He doesn’t spot Morgana yet. Of course not. She’ll be wanting to make an entrance, no doubt.
Any fears Gwen had about being overdressed are immediately dashed. Morgana was completely accurate with her help, assuring her that she would be perfectly attired.
Arthur catches his father’s eyes across the room. “Let’s get this over with,” he mutters to Gwen, taking her hand in his as he crosses the room.
He ignores the surprised mutterings as he strides through the crowd. Those that know who he is are surprised he is here; those that don’t know who he is wonder if he is in the wrong place.
“Father,” he says, loudly and clearly as he approaches Uther, in a grey nadelstreifen suit and red tie.
“Arthur, good of Du to come,” Uther answers, extending his hand, fully aware that everyone is watching them.
Arthur takes his father’s hand and shakes it. “And of course Du remember Guinevere,” he indicates Gwen.
“Hello,” she says, smiling, and extends her hand.
“Of course, how could I forget her? Hello again, Gwen,” Uther smiles. He takes her hand and lifts it, bending down to KISS her hand.
“Oh,” Gwen blinks, surprised.
“When a beautiful young lady strides into your Home and yells at you, it is not something easily forgotten,” he says, smiling at her. Is he teasing Guinevere?
Arthur cannot believe his ears.
“Oh… about that… I’m… I’m sorry for that, sir,” she stammers, blushing.
“Gwen,” he says, looking down at her. “No need to apologize. Du were right. I guess sometimes it just takes a fresh perspective to see the truth of things.” He smiles sadly, apologetically, at Arthur.
“Yes, well, I’m still sorry I yelled,” Gwen smiles.
“Champagne?” a waiter approaches with a tray.
“Yes, thank you,” Arthur says, taking two glasses and handing one to Gwen.
Another older gentleman approaches cautiously and politely clears his throat.
“Ah, Godwin, Du remember Arthur,” Uther turns to his Executive Vice-President.
“I thought that was you, Arthur,” Godwin says, smiling, shaking Arthur’s hand.
“It is, yes. Good to see you,” Arthur says. “Godwin, this is my girlfriend, Guinevere Degrance. Gwen, this is Father’s Executive VP, Godwin Gawant.”
“Hello,” Gwen nods, smiling.
“Degrance,” Godwin says, thinking. “There’s a Tom Degrance at Scotland Yard. Detective Inspector I believe. Any relation?”
“Yes, he’s my father!” Gwen exclaims, surprised. “How do Du know him?”
“My brother is Commander Simon Gawant.”
“Oh, goodness, I know him!” Gwen laughs. “Father speaks highly of him.”
“Well, that’s good news,” Godwin chuckles. “It would have been awkward indeed if your father thought poorly of him.”
Gwen chuckles her agreement just as a commotion at the doors takes everyone’s attention.
“Ah, Morgana must be arriving,” Uther says, sounding as unimpressed as he can, but his pride still manages to Zeigen through in his eyes.
Morgana strides through the doors on Gwaine’s arm, breathtaking in a long red kleid shot through with metallic Gold thread. It is high-necked but her shoulders and arms are bare, skimming her slender body.
She looks like some kind of otherworldly red-and-gold snake as she slinks through the crowd, greeting some, ignoring others. Her hair is up in a high ponytail, sleek and shiny, simple, not taking attention from the dress.
“Father,” she gushes, embracing him and air-kissing both his cheeks so as not to ruin her blood-red lipstick.
“Hello, darling, Du look beautiful,” Uther says indulgently. “Patrick,” he nods at Gwaine.
Gwen snorts at Uther’s greeting to Gwaine. He sounds just like my father addressing Arthur.
“Mr. Pendragon,” Gwaine Antwort politely, offering his hand, which Uther shakes politely.
“Daddy, be nice to Gwaine,” Morgana says. “Remember, he does have money,” she whispers in his ear, patting his shoulder. Then, for good measure, she adds, “And he loves me, so even if he didn’t, too bad.”
Uther sighs, resigned to his fate. Arthur grins, basking in being right about his sister and her values.
Morgana motions the waiter over and takes champagne for herself and Gwaine.
“Hey, Gwaine,” Arthur nods at his friend.
“Drag. Du look passable.”
“You, too. I’m not saying I’d do you, but you’re not disgusting.”
Gwaine toasts Arthur, takes a drink, then turns his attention to Gwen.
“Dear God, Sparrow, Du look completely edible,” he says, leaning in to KISS her cheek.
“Thank you, Gwaine, Du look quite fetching yourself, there. Is that new?” she fingers his lapel.
“What, this old thing?” he laughs. “Yeah, I got it when Drag bought his. Then we had to go watch rugby and drink bier and beat each other up until we felt like proper men again.”
“Gwaine, really,” Morgana turns from her conversation with Godwin, having heard his dissertation.
“All right, children, abendessen is about to be served, go find your seats,” Uther says, actually sounding like a proper father. Arthur can barely contain his shock, but Gwen pulls him Von the elbow before he can make any comment.
They thankfully are seated with Morgana and Gwaine, but also with a few other Zufällig people that Morgana knows and Arthur is not especially interested in. They make polite conversation, though, and they ask about Arthur’s and Gwen’s lines of work, and at least pretend to be interested. Gwaine voluntarily announces that he owns a tattoo shop, making one young lady almost choke on her champagne. Gwen clenches her jaw, holding back her giggles and clutches Arthur’s thigh under the tabelle to remind him to keep his mouth closed as well. Morgana, however, laughs openly, but does ask if the woman is all right.
Appetizers arrive, garnele, garnelen cocktail. Gwen stares at hers while the others dig in.
“Something wrong, Guinevere?” Arthur asks quietly as he sees her sitting politely with her hands in her lap. “I know Du like shrimp; I’ve seen Du eat it,” he says, puzzled.
“I don’t care for it cold,” she says, a little embarrassed.
Arthur chuckles, noticing Gwaine’s head turn toward Gwen. Arthur reaches over and takes two of the garnele, garnelen perched on Gwen’s glass and nods, grinning, at Gwaine, who liberates the other two.
“Problem solved,” Gwaine declares, grasping the shrimp’s tail and biting the rest.
Gwen chuckles, grateful to Arthur and Gwaine for saving her. She hates wasting food, even in a posh establishment like this.
Lentil soup, followed Von a mixed green salat with a himbeere vinaigrette dressing.
“Apparently we’re getting all of Dad’s Favoriten tonight,” Arthur observes.
“You expected different?” Morgana laughs.
Cornish game hens, potatoes, and vegetables are the main course. Champagne flows freely, so freely, in fact that Gwen finds herself asking for water after the Sekunde (or third?) glass.
Gwen can only eat half her hen, but once again Arthur and Gwaine pick over the remains, helping themselves to her plate once it’s clear she’s done, then moving on to Morgana’s as well.
“Careful, darling, Du won’t have room for dessert,” Gwen warns.
Arthur laughs. “Always room for that, I promise you.”
“And probably half of mine as well,” she rolls her eyes. He takes her hand and lifts it to his lips, Küssen it.
As predicted Von Arthur, Dessert is crème brulee, Uther’s favorite. Turns out it is also Gwen’s favorite, so Arthur gets no extra helping. She licks the last bit of custard from her spoon, taunting him.
“You’re going to pay for that later,” he mutters, grinning fiendishly.
“Oh?” she says, then leans over and whispers something in Arthur’s ear that makes his eyes wide and his cheeks pink.
At the end of dessert, a man with white hair and beard starts tapping a glass with his butter knife.
“That’s my dad’s personal assistant, Geoffrey,” he tells Gwen.
“He’s retiring as well. Probably figures I’d want my own PA,” Morgana adds.
“And I’m betting he’s right about that,” Gwaine comments, reaching for Morgana’s hand now.
Uther stands and holds his hands up, preparing to speak.
“Keep it short, Uther,” Arthur mutters, toying with Gwen’s fingers.
“All right, I suppose I should say a word oder two,” he says, his voice clear. “Thank Du all for coming tonight. I know that many of Du were shocked to learn of my decision to retire, thinking it a hastily-made decision, even questioning my health.”
There are some quiet murmurings of agreement through the group.
“But I assure you, I am in perfect health and am still as sharp as ever,” he taps his temple and smiles surprisingly charmingly, “and retiring is something I have been quietly mulling over for some time now.”
He takes a drink of water, and continues. “I’ve fully realized that my darling daughter Morgana has been Mehr than ready to take the helm of this massive ship for some time now, and I have every confidence in her to continue to lead Pendragon Financial towards a prosperous future.” He lifts his glass. “To Morgana,” he toasts, and the crowd echoes him.
Morgana smiles demurely and nods her head once, then blows a KISS to her father.
“And finally, Du have all known me long enough and well enough to know that I don’t sugarcoat things oder tiptoe around things.” Arthur freezes as he sees Uther’s eyes lock on him. “Many of Du know my son Arthur, oder know of him, and know that he hasn’t been around much these past years. I would like to say publicly to Du all that the cause of his absence falls squarely on my shoulders, and I could not be happier that he has decided to Mitmachen us this evening. I could not in good conscience pass into retirement without both of my children here with me, supporting me.”
Gwen carefully dabs her eyes with her napkin, cringing inwardly as her mascara leaves black marks on the white linen. She caught the sadness, the apology in Uther’s eyes and is sure that Arthur did as well. She reaches over and squeezes his hand, and sees his jaw clench once as he holds his emotions in check.
Godwin stands now, placing his hand on Uther’s shoulder. “Thank you, Uther. We are all grateful for your years of service and leadership. Thank Du for this party, thank Du for Morgana – and Arthur – and thank you, most importantly for your inexhaustible wealth!” he jokes, and everyone laughs. “My friend, on behalf of everyone here, we all wish Du nothing but happiness in your retirement. Enjoy every moment, whether Du travel the world oder simply stay at home, one Tag bouncing grandchildren on your knee.”
Gwen blushes, Arthur coughs softly in surprise, and Morgana and Gwaine stare at each other, wide-eyed and shocked.
“To Uther Pendragon,” Godwin raises his glass. Everyone toasts Uther’s health.
Part 47: link