Part 31: link
“Hello, this is Gwen,” Gwen উত্তর her phone late Friday morning.
“Good morning, my love,” a smooth familiar baritone voice coos in her ear. “You left me sleeping in your flat this morning. That wasn’t fair.”
“You were dead to the world, Arthur,” she says, smiling. “I did try to wake you.”
“Yes, I shook your shoulder and kissed your forehead and talked to আপনি and everything.”
“What did I do?”
“You mumbled something like ‘the hedgehogs have taken my trousers’ অথবা some such nonsense, rolled over, and started snoring.”
“I don’t mean to be brusque, but is there a point to this call, অথবা are আপনি just phoning to hassle me for not waking you?”
“I thought I would call and see if আপনি were available for lunch. Seeing as how my trying to surprise আপনি on Monday ended poorly,” he says sheepishly.
She laughs, and he breathes. “Yes, I would প্রণয় lunch. Oh! Come a little early and আপনি can see my office. I don’t have your paintings back from the framer’s yet, but আপনি can help me decide where to place them.”
“They’re not done yet?”
“They are, but I couldn’t…” she leaves the sentence hanging.
“You couldn’t bring yourself to pick them up.”
“Where are they?”
“Michael’s Custom Framing.”
“That’s on the way; I’ll get them for you.”
“You don’t have to…”
“Yes, I do.”
Two hours later, Arthur strides through the doors, into the main lobby, prepared to deal with the snotty receptionist this time.
“Can I help… oh,” she says, recognizing him. “She’s on three now,” she adds, waving her pen vaguely in the direction of the lift.
“Thank you, Sunshine, always a pleasure,” Arthur answers, shifting the paintings slightly so he can press the button.
Arthur hears her sigh behind him, so he grins and says, “Ah, but আপনি remembered me, darling, didn’t you?” He winks at her and turns to walk into the lift. Okay, so she’s on three, but where? I’m sure it won’t be a private floor like Gaius has.
The doors slide open and he walks out, standing and staring, peering at the দেওয়াল of doors to his left, then the ones to his right. There are a few desks in a large area in the center, people sitting and typing, peering at manuscripts. People on phones. An older man pushing a কার্ট full of envelopes and packages.
“You lost, young man?” he asks, pausing near him.
“Um, can আপনি point me to Guinevere Degrance’s office?”
“Third on the left,” he points. “Delivery for her?” he asks, noting the paintings under Arthur’s arm.
“Something like that,” Arthur answers. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” the old man says, heaving his কার্ট along.
Arthur knocks on the door, noting that the nameplate on the outside of her office door is blank.
“Arthur!” she looks up, setting her pen down and standing.
“You don’t have a name yet,” he points, frowning.
“It’s on order. The one from my old ডেস্ক upstairs doesn’t fit,” she shrugs, leaning over to give him a quick kiss.
“This is quite nice,” he says, looking around. “You even have a window.”
“Not much of a view, though,” she says, reaching for her paintings.
“Oh, yeah, sorry, here,” he chuckles, handing them over as he looks out. “Lovely. A carpark.”
“I know. These turned out nicely. How much do I owe you?” she asks, holding up the garden painting, then the field painting.
“That was smart to match the frames. Especially because this is a small space,” Arthur leans over her, looking over her shoulder, ignoring her question.
“Arthur? The tab?”
“I paid for it. আপনি are not paying me back.”
She opens her mouth to argue, and he raises his eyebrows at her. “No arguments, Guinevere.”
There is a knock at her door. “Gwen?”
“Hmm? Oh, hi, Ron,” she says, as Arthur steps back so he isn’t hovering quite so intimately over her.
“Ron, this is my boyfriend, Arthur,” she introduces them.
“We’ve met, actually,” Arthur smiles, shaking the man’s hand now. “He helped me find your office.”
“Paulette didn’t tell you?” Gwen asks, frowning.
“Is she the stuck-up… person,” he settles on, “at the reception ডেস্ক downstairs?”
“No. All she ব্যক্ত was that আপনি were on three.”
Gwen rolls her eyes and Ron chuckles. “Nice to meet you, young man. So, Gwen, this is the friend of Will’s new bright star, then, right?”
Gwen smiles. “Yes, thanks in part to you. Arthur, Ron had Merlin’s manuscript squirreled away. I wouldn’t be here right now if he hadn’t helped me.”
Ron actually blushes. “Was nothing. I just hate to see all those hopes get tossed in the bin, আপনি know? And if one of them turns out successful, then that makes it all worth the effort.”
“Well, Merlin is over the moon, sir, and so is Guinevere. And me.”
Ron smiles and reaches over to his cart. “Mail,” he says, handing her a couple envelopes and a parcel that looks like a manuscript. “And…” he reaches over and hands her a hammer and two nails, which Arthur intercepts.
“I saw that he was bringing আপনি some art and I thought আপনি might need something to hang them with.”
“Thanks,” Arthur says.
“Can I see?” Ron asks.
“Of course,” Gwen says, motioning him over.
“These are very nice,” he says. “I like this one, the farm field. I was a farm lad myself, আপনি know,” he smiles. “Where did আপনি get these?”
“Arthur painted them,” Gwen says, beaming proudly at him.
“Indeed?” Ron asks, looking up, eyebrows raised.
Arthur merely nods, but his হৃদয় is pounding. He’s just the mailroom guy, but he likes them. And he may know people.
“You are very talented, Arthur. These are quite good,” he says, glancing at his watch. “Oh. Must dash. Gwen, just leave the hammer on your desk; I’ll pick it up later.”
“Thanks again, Ron,” Gwen says. Turning to Arthur, she asks, “Now. Where?”
“Here,” Arthur says decisively, lifting both paintings up and putting them on the same wall, separated, filling the মহাকাশ evenly.
“Not one on this দেওয়াল and the other on that?” she asks pointing to the opposite wall.
“No. Both on the same wall. Put your diploma অথবা something on that wall,” he waves over to the opposite space. “This is where these should go.”
“You seem quite sure of yourself,” she says, still not convinced.
“Go out there and then come back in,” he tells her, lifting the paintings back into place. “Quickly. I’m not Superman, here.”
Gwen scurries out, then walks back in. “Ah, I see. Anyone that walks in will see them. This দেওয়াল doesn’t get as much attention,” she says, pointing to the other.
Arthur goes about hanging the paintings for her, so Gwen decides to do a little work, opening her mail.
“Your neighbor may complain,” he says, hammer poised in the air.
“He’ll get over it. Proceed,” she says, waving her hand.
He no sooner starts pounding when they get another visitor.
“Gwen, what on earth… oh, I see. Decorating.”
“Sorry, Gary, just two paintings. We’ll be done in no time,” she apologizes.
Arthur smiles apologetically over his shoulder at the man, who appears to be in his mid-50s, with a kind face and intelligent eyes.
“Not to worry. I’ll take it as a hint to take lunch,” he says, looking at the painting that Arthur has just hung. “Very nice. Who’s the artist?”
“Him,” Gwen points. “My boyfriend, Arthur.”
“Impressive work, young man,” he says, looking over at Arthur, his eye flitting up to blink briefly at his unusual hairstyle, but he quickly recovers. “May I see the other?”
“Thank you,” Arthur says quietly, handing the picture to Gwen, who passes it over.
“Very nice,” Gary repeats. “Wisteria,” he says absently, nodding, as if he approves of the flower. He hands it back to Gwen, takes one last look at the field painting, nods again, and says, “All right. I’m off. Make all the noise আপনি want.”
“Unusual man,” Arthur comments.
“He’s really fantastic. Knows absolutely everything. Kind of taken me under his wing, actually.”
“That’s good,” he says, scowling, trying to straighten the painting on the wall. “There,” he declares, just as Gwen’s phone rings.
“Hello, this is Gwen,” she answers, hoping it’s not Marcus Ryan.
“Oh, good, আপনি got my message. Yes.”
“Yes, it’s good. All better. Fantastic,” she says. Arthur’s brows furrow, wondering who is on the line.
” she laughs, “I promise I didn’t.”
“Tonight? Um, should be fine.” Now Arthur is really puzzled, and he tries to catch her eye. Tonight is a Friday night. She shouldn’t be doing any work on a Friday night.
“Just after five, then.”
“Dinner after would be great.” She finally glances up at Arthur, sees the look on his face, and gives him a completely perplexing thumbs-up. Well, that’s no help. But it’s something good.
“All right, Lance, see আপনি then,” she says, hanging up the phone. Oh, Lance. OH.
“Lance?” Arthur asks quietly.
Gwen stands. “I left a message with his service this morning that আপনি had come crawling back to me and begged my forgiveness, so the প্রদর্শনী is back on,” she says, glancing out the door before standing and slowly wrapping her arms around his waist.
“Back on?” he asks.
“He was going to scrap it when আপনি acted like a… what was the word he used? Shitbag. I asked him to wait.”
“Thank you,” he says, overwhelmed that even when he had hurt her so badly, when she was probably as heartsore and as broken as he was, she still had the goodness in her হৃদয় to extend him another chance, to wait for him to come around.
“I don’t deserve you, আপনি know,” he says, squeezing her.
“I know,” she says, her lips curling into a wry smile, teasing him.
“But I definitely need you,” he whispers. “And I প্রণয় you.”
“Arthur,” she says quietly. “I need you, too, don’t আপনি know that? When আপনি were gone it felt like half of me was gone as well. I was empty.”
“Really?” he asks, blinking at her.
“Yes, really, আপনি impossible man.” She leans up and, with another quick glance out her door, gives him a kiss. “Now. I’m hungry, and আপনি promised me lunch.”
She pulls away from him and takes his hand, leading him out her office door.
“So what’s tonight?” he asks.
“Oh yeah. We’re going to Lance’s gallery to talk about your show. Then dinner.” She says this as casually as if they were discussing the weather, pressing the button on the lift.
Arthur is waiting for Gwen outside her office on his motorcycle when she emerges from the building at four মিনিট past five.
“Ooo, I প্রণয় a man who is punctual,” she says, grinning at him as she climbs on behind him and wraps her arms around his waist and স্নেহ চুম্বন his neck.
“Jacket,” he says, waiting.
She makes an exasperated noise and shrugs the oversized জামা on.
“Do আপনি want
your father to kill me?” he asks.
She says nothing and leans into his back again, arms resuming their place about his middle.
Arthur is about to start the motor when a horrifying thought occurs to him. “You didn’t tell him, did you? Your father? About what I did?” he turns around and looks at her, eyes wide.
“No,” she chuckles. “Not yet, anyway.”
He hesitates again. “I’m nervous, Guinevere.”
She kisses his neck again, then his cheek. “I know. It’ll be fine, Love. But we shouldn’t keep him waiting.”
Arthur starts the engine, which, still warm, takes immediately. As he follows Gwen’s directions, he keeps reminding himself: Be good. He’s not after her. He’s giving me a fucking gallery opening. So fucking be nice, even if he’s a complete twat. Even if he’s completely charming and intelligent. Especially then.
“Right up here, on the left,” she points, giving him another squeeze, as if she can feel his anxiety.
They climb off the bike and she stows the জ্যাকেট in its place. Taking his hand, she looks up at him. “Come on.”
Arthur looks at the building, a simple storefront with a red door and a large plate glass window to one side. The painting currently hanging there looks strangely familiar; he’s seen it somewhere before but cannot quite place it. The sign above the entrance says Galerie Etienne.
I thought his name was Lancelot,
he muses, walking through the door, trying not to be put off দ্বারা the use of the French spelling of gallery, reminding himself that Lance is half French. But he still may be pretentious,
he thinks sarcastically.
“Gwen,” Lance calls to her, smiling broadly as he strides forward. Arms outstretched, he embraces her shoulders and kisses her on both cheeks. French twat,
Arthur thinks, but to his credit, remains still.
“Sorry we’re a little late,” she apologizes.
“Nonsense, you’re not late at all,” he waves her off, glancing at Arthur.
Arthur is studying the other paintings on display. I know this artist,
he thinks, it’s on the tip of my tongue.
“Um, Lance, this is Arthur Pendragon. Arthur, Lancelot Delacroix.”
Lance slowly extends his hand, still unhappy about সাম্প্রতিক events. Arthur smiles and shakes it warmly, trying his hardest to be friendly. “Drag,” he says.
“Please call me Drag. Everyone does. Well, everyone except Guinevere.”
“Um, all right,” he says, brows furrowing slightly.
Suddenly it hits Arthur. “Delacroix!” he announces triumphantly. Gwen looks at him.
“Etienne Delacroix! I’ve been trying to remember where I’ve seen these paintings before; it’s been on the tip of my tongue and my brain just put the pieces together, sorry,” he laughs.
Gwen squeezes his hand. “Etienne Delacroix was Lance’s—”
“Father,” Arthur finishes, turning to look at Lance, suddenly liking the other man a little আরো based on nothing আরো than his respect for the elder Delacroix’s work. “I must admit, he is an influence; I প্রণয় his work. It’s so… visceral, so primal. Passionate.”
“Thank you, that means a lot to hear আপনি say that, actually. This place is dedicated to his memory, so it is only fitting that the first works I have on display are his,” Lance nods, finally smiling at Arthur, pleased that he seems to hold his father’s work in high regard.
“Your father was a great man,” Arthur says. “They did a big write-up on him in the Times
when he died.”
Lance chuckles. “Yes, Gwen told me the same thing.”
“I have a copy of it, if you’d like to see it sometime,” Arthur offers.
Gwen is surprised. Wow, who would have thought?
“Yes, I think I’d like to see it, thank you. I was with him in Paris when he died, so I didn’t see any press here.”
“So…” Gwen interjects, “how does this work, exactly? How do we get this ball rolling?”
“Well,” Lance says, leading them to some red leather chairs just behind the front window, “we go through Drag’s works, choose the best ones for display, advertise, and hope people প্রদর্শনী up and buy stuff. Simple.”
“See? Simple,” Arthur jokes, giving an overwhelmed look to Gwen.
Gwen laughs, reaching over to take his hand. “He’s a bit overwhelmed দ্বারা everything yet. He just found out about this last night.”
“So… does that mean he didn’t call আপনি until yesterday?” Lance asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Hey, I didn’t call, I went over to her flat. Apologized in person,” Arthur defends himself. Please don’t tell him that Merlin dropped me off,
he thinks, glancing at Gwen.
“Hmm,” Lance says, narrowing his eyes a bit.
“Lance, we’re good. Let it go. He groveled the appropriate amount, and I didn’t let him off the hook easily.”
“Fine,” Lance sighs, raising his hands in surrender.
“I would have bent down and kissed her feet if she would have let me,” Arthur supplies.
Gwen gives him a sideways glance, knowing he’s trying to make her laugh now. You won’t win.
“Um… yes. All right, I’ll leave it,” Lance says, seeing something pass between the two of them, but he decides he really doesn’t want to know.
“So. When can I see what you’ve got?”
“But sir, we’ve only just met,” Arthur blurts before he can help himself.
Gwen laughs loudly, and Lance opens his mouth, dumbstruck for a moment before he starts laughing as well.
“Sorry, mate, I can’t help it sometimes. All my paintings are at my flat.”
“In a closet,
” Gwen adds. “Except for two of them, which I have commandeered for my office.”
“Well, your paintings definitely won’t sell if they’re hiding in your closet,” Lance says. “And how does three weeks from today sound? We’ll open on a Friday night; have a big opening party with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Oh, and we’ll need flyers.” He’s rolling now, talking fast, ticking off a mental checklist in his head. “Now, আপনি can নকশা the flyers yourself অথবা I can contract someone. Many artists wish to do their own.”
“Gwaine,” Arthur says, looking at Gwen.
“Gwaine?” Gwen asks.
“He’s a brilliant graphic artist. This would totally be his thing,” Arthur says.
“Who is Gwaine?” Lance asks.
“He owns the tattoo parlor where I work,” Arthur explains.
“Tattoo… parlor…” Lance says slowly, taking in the concept of this brilliant painter tattooing people for a living.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that?” Gwen laughs. “He has to pay the bills, আপনি know.”
“Yes, yes, of course. Well, we’ll see if we can’t do something about that,” he says, looking up, হারিয়ে গেছে in thought for a moment.
“Lance?” Gwen prompts.
“Right. Sorry. So, find out if this Gwaine bloke will do your flyers. Get me a নকশা and I’ll get them printed up, have some made large for posters. Then we send the flyers out to the appropriate people.”
“Appropriate being…?” Arthur asks.
“Well, your বন্ধু and family, you’ll want their support, obviously. And anyone in the art community that আপনি may know. I have a few names floating around in my head that I’ll send them to as well. We’ll tack some up in key locations. We want people to come. And buy. And, God willing, commission.
“Wouldn’t that be nice,” Arthur sighs wistfully at the prospect of someone paying him in advance just because they want him
to paint something for them.
“So. Back to the important question: when can I see your paintings in person?”
“…and then Guinevere thrust her knee into his bollocks, and he collapsed on the bench,” Arthur says, pausing to take a drink of water. Lance chuckles at Gwen’s bravery, already knowing that while she is small, she is not to be taken lightly.
“But then that other idiot Cenred decided to slap her and that was it.
” Arthur’s face clouds.
“What? Gwen, আপনি didn’t tell me any of this,” Lance gasps, shocked.
“When did I get a chance?” she asks. “And stop looking like a scandalized old lady. I’m fine now. আরো than fine,” she says, smiling at Arthur, reaching her foot over to him under the table.
“So what happened then?” Lance asks, looking from Gwen to Arthur and back.
“I punched him,” Arthur says. “Broke his nose.”
“It sounded really disgusting,” Gwen laughs. “Like a wet crunch.”
Lance makes a face, looking down at his plate. Somehow this স্যালমন মাছ doesn’t look so appetizing anymore.
“Sorry,” Gwen says, seeing him poke at his fish. She takes a big scoop of her risotto, just to needle him.
“Squeamish, Lance?” Arthur asks, amused.
“No,” Lance answers.
“Yes,” Gwen amends.
“All right, so then what? আপনি punched this… Cedric person…”
“Cenred,” Arthur corrects. “Beverly Cenred, actually,” he smirks.
“Family name. Allegedly.”
Lance laughs. “I’ll never complain about my name again.”
“So, yeah, I punched him, and then introduced myself to Guinevere like the proper gentleman that I am,” he says straightening in his seat.
“Right. And it was, what? প্রণয় at first sight?”
Arthur is puzzled as to why Lance is so interested in how they met and their relationship. Seems odd for him to be so curious about his ex’s current relationship. But hey, this is my opportunity to be alpha male without getting in trouble.
“Well, truth be told, I’d had my eye on her for about a মাস before I actually talked to her. Rescued her. Whatever it was,” Arthur admits.
“Let’s just say he was very charming and sweet and he took me to meet his বন্ধু who were standing across the রাস্তা so I wouldn’t have to feel like I had to avoid them any more. Then he drove me প্রথমপাতা to my flat to make sure I was okay and I got প্রথমপাতা safely,” Gwen says, setting her fork down across her plate and putting her napkin back on the table, full.
“And she invited me in and made me brunch.” Eventually.
“Oh, really?” Lance asks. He’s not buying it,
“Okay, okay, I eventually
made him brunch,” Gwen laughs, blushing a little bit.
“Gwen!” Lance exclaims, his eyes widening.
” she challenges. Arthur wisely studies his steak, cutting a bite very carefully and precisely.
“Nothing. I just didn’t think…”
“Are আপনি insinuating that I have become a slut?”
“No! No. No. Honest,” he says, trying to dig himself out of the hole he’s somehow gotten himself into. “I’m just… surprised, that’s all.”
Gwen laughs. “I was, too.”
Arthur chokes on his bite of steak. Gwen pounds his back and he reaches for his water.
“Okay, Love?” she asks once he regains himself.
“I need some dessert,” he croaks out.
“Of course আপনি do,” she smiles.
Arthur gets a slice of লেবু merengue pie, Lance orders crème brulee. Gwen steals bites of both.
“Pub?” Arthur asks, once the waiter leaves with the paid bill, that Lance insisted on paying, citing it as a business expense.
“What pub?” Lance asks.
“Yes,” Gwen says to Arthur, then turns to Lance. “You’re new in town again. আপনি need to meet some people. You’ll probably get to meet Gwaine, I’m sure he’ll be there.”
“All right, then. I’ll follow you.”
Part 33: link