Part 35: link
The afternoon of the show, Arthur is pounding লেবু drops like they are going out of style. He barely slept the পূর্ববর্তি night, even after seeking the comfort of Gwen’s embrace to calm his nerves. Three times. As a result, Gwen slept till nearly nine, but Arthur was still up with the sun, drawing just to pass the time.
They arrive at the gallery at four. The opening is at seven, but they are anxious and want to make sure everything is perfect.
“Look, people are already peeking in the windows,” Gwen says when they approach.
“Guinevere, they’re just walking past, of course they’re going to look in the windows,” he argues, but she can see the boyish grin lurking just below the surface.
She pulls the handle to find the door locked. “He’s in there, the lights are on,” she says, so Arthur pounds on the door.
A মিনিট later, Lance comes jogging out and opens the door for them. He hugs Gwen and slaps Arthur companionably on the shoulder.
“Wow, this looks amazing, Lance,” Gwen says, looking around while Lance locks the door again.
The paintings are all hung, the massive collage of drawings are hung on a movable দেওয়াল in the center of the room. “Wow,” is all she can say. They’ve been matted in white, a five-by-six grid. “It’s so understated and classy, but…”
“But it still demands attention,” Lance finishes proudly. “Drag, tonight is going to be phenomenal for both of us, mate.”
“Hmm?” Arthur asks from the other end of the room. He’s found the huge glass bowls filled with various kinds of ক্যান্ডি চকোলেট and is busy sampling.
“Arthur, leave the ক্যান্ডি চকোলেট alone,” Gwen says, turning. “Lance, is there someplace I can put these?” She holds up a জামা bag containing her dress and Arthur’s clothes for the evening.
“Yeah, over there,” he points to a door leading to his office and a restroom.
Two and a half hours later, the last painting has been straightened for the last time, and the exasperated caterer has just left.
“Arthur, really,” Gwen says when she sees the fare: Miniature versions of pub food. Tiny, bite-sized nuggets of fried মাছ with chips that are smaller than normal. Even tiny, bite-sized meat pies and, yes, Twiglets and bowls of nuts.
“Dear God, আপনি even got little chili dogs,” she laughs.
“I think she was going to have my head for that one,” Arthur says guiltily.
There is a tap at the door, and Lance opens it for Leon and Merlin bringing a portable tap for the lager.
“Oh, that is it,” Gwen throws up her hands. “Ale instead of champagne. This will certainly be memorable, if only for the food.”
“What?” Arthur asks innocently.
“I’m going to change,” she declares, striding to the back.
“I better go, too,” Arthur says, following.
“Behave back there,” Lance calls. “I will chaperone if I have to,” he threatens.
Arthur just waves his hand dismissively, but the thought isn’t entirely… No. She’d never let me anyway.
Still, watching her change into that dress, he gives it a go anyway, reaching around from behind, cupping a breast in his hand, stroking the nipple as he kisses her neck.
“No,” she says, but her head is falling to the side despite her protests. She reaches up and caresses his cheek, heat pooling between her thighs. She is just about to give in when reason takes over again.
“Arthur,” she says, removing his hand and turning now. “We can’t, Love.”
“Worth a try,” he grins, dropping his head to চুম্বন her lips one last time before they are glossed.
She thrusts a hanger at him. “Get dressed.”
Freya arrives পরবর্তি with Phil, and they যোগদান Merlin and Leon, who have simply stayed. Phil is wearing the black witch স্কার্ট that Gwen gave her with a tight black v-neck tee, Freya a simple peasant স্কার্ট and blouse.
“Well, আপনি two are quite the pair,” Merlin laughs when he sees them. “Day and night.”
“We noticed that,” Freya says, leaning up to চুম্বন Merlin.
Leon jogs out, having just finished hooking up the tap. “Phyllis, আপনি look gorgeous, my love,” he declares, leaning down to চুম্বন her cheek before leading her to a chair.
“Thank you,” she says, smiling. He hovers a moment, unsure, so she says, “Go take care of what আপনি need to do, Lee.”
Gwen and Arthur come out of the back, and Freya bounds over to Gwen.
“Darling, that dress is amazing,” she gushes, then notices Gwen’s necklace. “You wore it!”
“Of course I did,” Gwen says, reaching up to the red Murano glass pendant that Freya brought her from Venice, hanging on a delicate স্বর্ণ chain around her neck. “It matches, আপনি know,” she grins.
“Hi Freya, thanks for coming,” Arthur leans over and kisses her cheek.
“Would not miss it,” she says. “Look at you, all dashing,” she comments, sizing him up in his charcoal trousers and white button-down shirt, left open at the neck.
“White স্যুইটস্ you, actually,” Lance comments, joining them. “And Gwennie, that dress is fabulous.”
Arthur arches an eyebrow over at Gwen again that clearly says gay
as Lance turns and smiles uncomfortably at Freya. “Hello, Freya.”
“Lance,” she says. “This is actually really great of you. I’m… impressed.”
“Does that mean আপনি forgive me?” he asks.
“Well, let me see… you’re giving Arthur his own gallery opening, which makes him happy, and that makes Gwen happy. So, yeah, I guess I can let আপনি live.”
“Good,” he says, actually looking relieved.
Gwen laughs, then points at the clock. 6:58. “Um, Lance?”
“Right. Holy hell, there are people outside already!” He strides purposefully to the door, pausing just a moment to greet the stationary Phil.
He opens the door and Gwaine is the first one in, a petite blonde on his arm. “Hey, Phil,” he says.
“Who the hell is that?” she asks.
“Phil, this is Emma. Emma, my sister, Phyllis.”
“How old are you, sixteen?” Phil asks.
“Nineteen,” she says defensively. Phil rolls her eyes in disgust. You can do better, Brother.
“Drag!” Gwaine exclaims hugging him tightly.
“Hey, Gwaine, Girl of the Day,” Arthur greets them.
“Emma,” she says.
“Okay,” he says noncommittally as Gwen walks up.
“Sparrow, আপনি look delicious,” Gwaine leers at her.
আপনি that আপনি shouldn’t wear that dress,” Arthur says while she laughs and Emma glowers.
“Thank you, Gwaine,” she says, looping her arm through Arthur’s. “Hi, I’m Gwen,” she introduces herself to Gwaine’s date.
“Emma,” she smiles, happy to finally meet someone nice.
“Have a look around, get a bite to eat,” Gwen says, “I need to mingle, and so do you,” she looks pointedly at Arthur.
“Yes, ma’am,” he salutes her, grinning as she walks away.
They see many familiar faces, and, better still, many unfamiliar ones. Gwen’s হৃদয় leaps to her throat every time she sees Lance put a red sticker on the placard পরবর্তি to a piece and walk back to the ডেস্ক with a customer. She catches Arthur’s eye when the first one goes back, someone they don’t know, an older woman who purchases the lake painting.
“Daddy!” Gwen declares when her father walks in with Ox, clearly straight from the Yard.
“Hello, Princess,” Tom greets his daughter, hugging her.
“And Ox, my darling, how are you?” she asks as he picks her up in a hug.
“Great,” he says, smiling down at her. He spots Arthur and heads over.
“Gwen, আপনি look beautiful,” her father says, studying her. “In fact, আপনি are positively glowing.
“Um, thanks,” she says.
“You’re not pregnant, are you?” he asks suddenly, just as Arthur happens to be walking over to greet him. The প্রশ্ন stops him in his tracks.
“What?” Gwen asks. “No! Dad!”
“Sorry, just have to ask,” he shrugs.
“Pendragon,” he greets Arthur, who found his feet again.
“Mr. Degrance, thanks for coming,” he shakes hands with the man.
“Wouldn’t miss it, wouldn’t miss it,” he says. Then he leans over and quietly says, “Well done, Arthur.”
“Th-thank you, sir,” Arthur says. He looks at Gwen, who is simply beaming. Did I just get approval?
“Arthur?” Lance calls to him.
“Oh, sorry, I…”
“Go,” Tom says. “Gwen can প্রদর্শনী me around.”
Gwen takes her father’s arm and they make a circuit of the room. He is intrigued দ্বারা the painting of the homeless Jeff, its gritty quality appealing to the lawman in him. As predicted, he loves the pensive Guinevere painting. He frowns over Arthur’s পছন্দ one, on display but not for sale as agreed, declaring it “uncomfortable” for him to look at, but allowing that it is a beautiful piece of art.
“And since he’s not selling it, I guess I can take হৃদয় in the knowledge that your naked back surrounded দ্বারা sheets after doing God-knows-what won’t be hanging someplace… random. অথবা public.”
“Dad, really, you’re being ridiculous.”
He likes all the drawings, and actually seems rather taken with the one of Merlin’s mother. “Who is this?”
“Merlin’s mum, Hunith.”
Gwen looks at her father. “She’ll probably turn up sooner অথবা later. Thinks of Arthur as another son, আপনি know.”
“Hmm.” They go to the পরবর্তি piece. “Who is this,
now? She’s gorgeous.”
“Arthur’s twin sister, Morgana.”
“She looks nothing like him.”
“She looks like their father, he looks like their mother,” Gwen explains. “She’d be here, too, but she had to be in Rome and couldn’t reschedule.”
They reach the collage, which Arthur keeps referring to as G30. “Um, আপনি may not want to look too closely at this one,” Gwen says, standing in front of the one where her backside is showing.
He scans it quickly and says, “Okay. I’ll take your word.”
Gwen looks over and sees that Mr. Gaius has arrived, and he’s brought someone along. “Dad, go get some food. My boss just walked in.”
“All right,” Tom says, kisses her on the cheek, and heads over to the tables.
By the time Gwen reaches Gaius, Merlin has already found him.
“Mr. Gaius, I’m so glad আপনি came!” Gwen says, joining them.
“Guinevere, আপনি know I wouldn’t miss it,” Gaius says, and leans over to চুম্বন her cheek.
“Well, thank আপনি all the same.”
“Gwen, this is Marcus Ryan,” Gaius indicates the young man with him. He is short and stocky, with lank brown hair. “Marcus, Guinevere Degrance. Your editor.”
“Oh, um, nice to meet you,” he stammers, clearly shocked at seeing her face to face.
“Yes,” she says, the look on his face not হারিয়ে গেছে on her. “I take it আপনি were expecting me to be bookish and plain? Perhaps even fat?”
“Um, yes, actually. After the way আপনি laid into me on the phone, yes, I was,” he admits.
“Well, আপনি were definitely wrong, mate,” Merlin laughs.
“Are আপনি the artist?” Marcus asks.
“This is Merlin Emrys. He is a writer as well, Marcus. First book will be published early পরবর্তি year,” Gaius introduces them.
Arthur finally makes his way over, popping M&Ms into his mouth. “Mr. Gaius, glad আপনি could make it,” he says, shaking the older man’s hand.
“Nice to see you, Arthur,” Gaius greets him, smiling. Arthur notices the way that the young man with Gaius is appraising Gwen, so he puts his arm around her possessively.
“M&M?” he asks her, then feeds her one. Got it, twerp?
“After seeing the paintings Gwen has in her office, I had to come and see what else আপনি had to offer the world,” Gaius chuckles. “Oh, this is Marcus Ryan. And I trust আপনি know young Merlin already.”
Arthur laughs. “My whole life; can’t seem to shake him off,” he says. “Marcus, nice to meet you,” he says politely, still giving the hands off
Gwen pinches Arthur surreptitiously. Okay, so she noticed.
Merlin is chatting with Marcus now, and Gaius turns to Arthur, his face a question. “Perhaps আপনি can clear up some confusion for me, Arthur.”
“I’ll try,” Arthur answers, unsure of where the old man is heading.
“Gwen introduced আপনি to me as Arthur, but everything here says ‘Drag.’ Which is it?”
“Ah. Drag is just what my mates call me, because I don’t especially like the name Arthur.”
“Why Drag, if I may ask?” Shit.
“It’s from my last name, Pendragon,” he says quietly, just loud enough for the old man’s ears to pick up.
“Pendragon?” he raises his eyebrows.
“Yes, sir, my father is your friend Uther Pendragon,” Arthur finally admits.
“Well, he’s আরো of a business acquaintance, but I did not realize he had a son. He does not speak much of his personal life, but I do know he has a daughter.”
“My sister Morgana. She lived up to his expectations. I did not. So he does not speak of me often, if at all. And that’s why I’m not using my full name for this show. I don’t want people thinking I bought my way in because of my name.”
“Especially because I don’t have any money anyway,” he laughs now.
“Well, I am sorry for your father; he apparently does not know what he is missing,” he declares. “Now. I need to go take a look around and see if I can’t find something to buy,” he winks at Arthur and saunters away, pulling Merlin and Marcus with him.
Arthur finds Gaius a short time later, standing in front of his bowl of ফলমূল painting. He is smirking, his face amused.
“You’re the first person who has noticed it,” Arthur whispers to the old man.
“Truly? Not even Gwen?”
“I don’t think she looked that closely. I tried to teach her to paint one night, and gave her a bowl of ফলমূল as the subject. I think she’s bitter,” Arthur laughs.
“I have to have this one. I প্রণয় it. I keep coming back to look at it, and it makes me laugh every time.”
“I’ll get Lance.”
Arthur returns a moment later with Lancelot. “Lance, this is Will Gaius, Guinevere’s boss. He wants this painting.”
“Pleasure to meet you, sir,” Lance says. “I’m sorry, am I missing something?” he asks, seeing the amused expressions on both men’s faces.
“Lance, look at the painting. Really look,
” Arthur says.
Lance stares, his eyes poring over it. Finally, he sees it. One of the grapes has a little happy face on it.
“How on earth did I miss that?” he laughs, reaching into his pocket for his sheet of stickers.
“Sharp eyes, me. Have to have, in my line of work,” Gaius says with a wink.
People stream in and out. আরো and আরো red stickers appear. Arthur has to end up tacking a sign to the দেওয়াল that says Not for sale
beside the painting of Gwen’s back because so many people have inquired after it.
Hunith is completely mortified but very flattered to have her portrait up. She gushes over the painting of “her two boys,” actually crying a little. Gwen thinks she is just lovely and tries to convince her father to talk to her, but he refuses, actually hiding behind Ox until he feigns tiredness and leaves, but not before buying the single sketch of Gwen’s face, the close-up that Arthur had isolated from the collage.
Freya comes down with a migraine and apologizes profusely to Gwen and Arthur, but insists that Merlin stay and support his friend. She whispers something in his ear that makes him blush before she leaves, but Merlin will not tell, no matter how much Gwaine threatens. Gwaine’s তারিখ gets bored and leaves, pouting furiously when Gwaine hails her a cab and stays behind. Some of the pub patrons come in, and one even manages to buy the creepy doll’s head sketch, declaring it “fucking genius.”
“These are all of you.” Gwen turns at the voice behind her.
“I’m sorry?” she asks the woman. She is an older woman, probably in her late fifties, tall and slender, with auburn hair. She is still quite beautiful and is a striking and imposing figure in the center of the gallery.
“These drawings,” she gestures to the large collage, “they’re all you.”
Gwen’s cheeks color slightly and she looks down, a bit embarrassed. “Yes, um, they are.”
“You are his muse?” she asks, but somehow Gwen doesn’t really think it’s really a question.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” she answers, “I’m his girlfriend.”
“If আপনি insist, my dear,” she says archly.
“I’m sorry,” she apologizes with a little chuckle, “I’m Gwen,” she says, offering her hand to the woman.
“Annis,” she answers, shaking her hand. “So, Gwen: Tell me the story of these sketches.”
Gwen exhales heavily. “We had a fight.”
“Of course আপনি did.”
“He was being… unreasonable, and I threw him out of my flat. For the পরবর্তি four days, this,” she gestures to the sketches, “is what he did.”
“He drew thirty sketches of you, from memory?”
“Goodness, no. There are much আরো than thirty,” Gwen laughs. “But yes, they are from memory.”
“You didn’t call him অথবা see him for four days after আপনি tossed him out?” she asks, smiling slightly.
“Nope. I told him that when he was prepared to be an adult he could call me and I’d think about speaking with him.”
Annis laughs. “Good girl. These artist types do need a firm hand,” she says knowingly. “I trust he came crawling back, since আপনি are here now?”
“Yes, we’re good now, thanks.”
“How did আপনি select which ones to use for the collage?”
“We sorted through them, Ar— I mean, Drag and Lancelot and I, and chose the best and most interesting ones. I had final say over which ones were included, and then we just had to figure out how to put them together to make them look cohesive,” she shrugs.
“You had final say?”
“Um, yes, some of the sketches had a… bit আরো of me than the others…” she answers, biting her lip.
Annis laughs again. “Welcome to the life of being a muse, darling.”
“I realize that at some point I’m going to have to deal with that, but I’m not quite
there yet,” Gwen smiles.
“I would like to buy this piece,” Annis says simply. “And… three of four others,” she says, eyes scanning the room expertly.
Guinevere gasps as Annis reaches into her small clutch টাকার থলি and produces a card, which she hands to her.
Gwen takes it with a trembling hand. She’s an art dealer?
she thinks as she reads the card. “Thank you, Annis. Come, I’ll take আপনি to meet Drag.”
“I would প্রণয় that, thank you.”
She ushers the older woman to where Arthur is chatting near the front with Gwaine, Leon, and Phil. Gwaine’s eyebrows rise as Gwen approaches, assessing her mature but beautiful companion.
“Excuse me, I need to borrow him,” Gwen says, gently taking Arthur’s elbow.
“Anything for you, Sparrow,” Gwaine says with a wink. He takes a moment to give Annis an appreciative glance before turning away. Phil sighs exasperatedly.
“Arthur, this is Annis Caerleon. She’s an art dealer, and she’s interested in buying several of your works. Including the collage. Annis, Arthur Pendragon,” Gwen introduces them, and Arthur groan inwardly at Gwen using his full name.
“Drag,” he corrects, shaking the woman’s hand.
“Very pleased to meet you, young man,” she says, completely unfazed দ্বারা his unorthodox appearance.
Across the room, Lance looks up from his conversation with Merlin and Ox. “Excuse me, gents, I need to go যোগদান that conversation,” he says, motioning to where Arthur and Gwen are talking with Annis.
Merlin looks. “Okay.”
“She’s important,” he explains.
He strides over to them, and Annis spots him. “Lance, darling, so nice to see you!” she says warmly, embracing him and স্নেহ চুম্বন both his cheeks.
“I see you’ve met the man of the hour,” Lance says.
“Yes, he’s just wonderful. And আপনি were right; his work is fabulous. I প্রণয় it, thank আপনি for inviting me. I’m prepared to buy several.”
“Really? That’s fantastic!” Lance’s face lights up. “Drag, this woman has contacts in all the major art centers all over the world. Paris, New York, San Francisco, Venice…”
“I can make sure your work gets seen, Drag.”
“Wow. Um, wow. That’s… I’m overwhelmed, sorry,” he stumbles over his words, clutching Gwen’s hand in his, his thumb stroking the back of her hand anxiously.
“I’d like to see the rest of those sketches sometime as well,” she points to the collage. “Your charming little মুসে here let the cat out of the bag about there being more.”
“Muse?” Arthur turns and looks at Gwen, smirking.
Gwen shrugs. “Her word, not mine,” she chuckles.
“I think she’s right,” he says, reaching up to touch her face.
Annis watches them, noting the light in his eyes as he looks down at her, the way her lips part and her breathing speeds up as she looks up at him. They certainly do প্রণয় each other. I wonder if they know it yet.
“Arthur,” she chides him gently, “public place, Love.” She gently removes his hand from her face and turns to face Annis and Lance again.
“They’re always like that. It’s disgusting,” Lance mutters to Annis, grinning.
“Oh, most certainly. Come, Lance. We have paperwork to do,” she takes his arm and is about to turn, but then stops.
“Pendragon?” she asks. Here it comes,
Arthur sighs. “Yes?”
Pendragon? As in financial wizard Uther Pendragon?”
“Yes,” Arthur rolls his eyes. “He’s my father, but don’t ask him to admit it.”
“Hm,” a humorless laugh from Annis.
“Arthur Pendragon, disgrace of the mighty Pendragon family, at your service, my lady,” he bows with a flourish.
“I’m sure you’re not, my boy. And if your father doesn’t acknowledge you, it is truly his loss.” She turns and walks to the back of the gallery with Lance.
Arthur throws his arms around Gwen, enveloping her in a huge tight hug, lifting her off her feet. “Thank you, Guinevere,” he says into her hair.
Part 37: link