Harlequin's Slash Fic

Taking Care

Title: Taking Care
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Annis/Guinevere
Category, Word count: Short story; 2924 words
Rating: NC17
Summary: More than two years after Camlann, the two widowed queens seek each other’s companionship.
Notes: My first femme-slash! Be gentle with me…



Taking Care

The feast would last well into the night, but as those determined to see it through settled in for the long haul, Queen Annis of Caerleon turned to Queen Guinevere of Camelot and asked if her host would take offence if Annis retired.

“Of course I wouldn’t,” Guinevere replied. “I was thinking it was time myself.”

The two queens stood from the high table, and – led by Sir Leon – those who were still capable of observing the niceties also stood to do them honour, while the queens tactfully ignored those who were no longer capable of being quite so proper. Dear Gaius had nodded off to sleep where he sat – but when Guinevere looked around for assistance, Sir Percival quickly stepped forward and promised to ensure Gaius made it to his bed safely.

“Goodnight, then,” said Guinevere to those nearby. “Sir Leon, I’ll leave our guests in your hands. I know you’ll see they receive everything they need.”

“Goodnight, my lady,” they all replied, and “As you wish, my lady,” Leon added. “Thank you.”

The queens in their full long skirts swept towards the door at the back of the dais – where Annis paused beside her maid, who was sitting on a bench deep in happy conversation with one of the Camelot servants. “Teryn,” Annis called her – though once the girl had obediently sprung to her feet, Annis paused as if having second thoughts.

It was clear to Guinevere that the two young women were becoming fast friends, and there was a resigned hint of dismay on the Camelot girl’s face at having their conversation curtailed. Well, building and maintaining treaties wasn’t only the province of princes. “Perhaps you’d like to stay here a while longer,” Guinevere said to Teryn, “if your lady will permit me to take care of her tonight.”

Annis considered Guinevere for a moment with a thoughtful gaze. “Never mind that,” Annis eventually said, “but I would be glad of your time, Guinevere, if you can spare an hour.”

“I’d be very happy, of course.”

And so Annis nodded to her maid, giving her permission to stay, and the other girl – Alma, Guinevere thought her name was – beamed up at them both in gratitude.

The two queens swept on, with Guinevere steadily pacing beside the taller Annis, escorting her to the finest guest chambers the castle could offer. The two women remained silent. Once they’d arrived in her room, Annis turned the key in the door behind them as if by habit. Guinevere was pleased to see that everything appeared welcoming and orderly, and a fire blazed cheerfully, casting glints on all the glazed and polished surfaces.

“Perhaps you have had enough wine for the night,” Annis said, “but would you care to share a cup with me? Well watered, if you like.”

“I’d be honoured,” Guinevere replied. She nodded a courtesy as she received the tumbler of red wine from the queen’s own hands, and then the two of them settled opposite each other in the chairs placed either side of the fire.

They fell silent again. Annis seemed to be pondering something of weight, though Guinevere couldn’t tell what; Annis often appeared regally inscrutable. Guinevere was left to ponder the fact that there were so many differences between the two of them. Annis had always treated her with friendship and dignity, but Guinevere was all too aware that Annis was of royal blood and perfectly entitled to rule Caerleon in her own right. Guinevere was only entitled to rule Camelot because Arthur had wished it so. She sighed…

Annis looked at her with those bright sharp eyes, and said, “You show great wisdom.”

Guinevere laughed a little under her breath, and replied, “It’s kind of you to say so –”

“No, you do. It’s wise of you to have Gaius sit beside you at the high table.”

“Ah, then I understand, if it’s Gaius who makes me look wise. I could ask for no more knowledgeable or careful advisor.”

Annis inclined her head. “True.” Then she relentlessly continued, “But it is wise of you to keep Sir Leon at arm’s length.”

Guinevere took a breath; changed her mind about how to answer; took another breath. “Sir Leon is the best and most loyal of friends.”

“Granted. He is very fond of you.”

“We grew up together, that is all. Leon is… like a second brother to me.” And of course Annis knew of Guinevere’s humble beginnings, so there was point in dissembling. “My mother worked as a maid for his family.”

Annis nodded. “I am not accusing you of impropriety, my lady, but complimenting you on avoiding the appearance of it.”

“Please call me Guinevere,” she asked, and not for the first time.

“Very well. Guinevere.” Annis smiled at her, and those bright eyes seemed somewhat warmer.

“I love Leon dearly,” Guinevere continued, “but it’s hard to imagine feeling romantic for a man I once collected tadpoles with… and he will probably never forgive me for the time I rubbed mud all through his hair… I think I told him some nonsense about helping it grow!”

Annis laughed at the tale, though she soon sobered again. “And yet it would be understandable… We are each alone, you and I, and in need of a trustworthy friend.”

Guinevere looked away, confused by a jumble of conflicting desires even now. It was more than two years since she’d lost Arthur – and she’d known all along that if she wanted to honour Arthur’s wish and remain Queen of Camelot, then the only man she could possibly marry was his cousin Constantine. Marrying anyone else would only invite challenge after challenge… Constantine wasn’t an option, however, as Arthur had disliked him even more than Guinevere did. No, she would need to remain alone. The treasure hoard of memories of her years with Arthur would suffice. There were so many people in the world who’d had far less bounty in their lives.

“It is a man’s world yet, Guinevere,” Annis was opining, “and we are denied a consort, you and I, even if a king in our position could take whomsoever he liked.”

“Yes,” said Guinevere, even as she reflected that perhaps she wouldn’t have it any other way, not for herself. Though she couldn’t deny that her body and her heart and her mind yearned for companionship, it was as yet no real hardship to remain true to Arthur’s memory.

“One such as Sir Leon would be ideal…” Annis concluded with a sigh.

Which was when something belatedly occurred to Guinevere. “Oh! Are you asking if… if Leon is… free to make his own decisions?”

“No. Oh, no.” Annis chuckled under her breath. “Though it is a kind thought, my lady, I would not deprive Camelot of its finest knight – even if I had the powers with which to do so.”

Guinevere wanted to offer an honest compliment, even if the thought of Leon so caught between different demands was not a happy one. “If any woman had the powers to make him question his loyalty to Camelot, my lady…”

“And now you really are being far too kind.” Annis seemed pleased, though, as well as sceptical.

“Well, then…” said Guinevere, wondering where this had all been tending, if it wasn’t the seduction of Sir Leon.

“Well, then,” said Annis, putting her tumbler of wine aside.

Guinevere stood. “Shall I help you prepare for bed, my lady? Teryn has not yet returned – and I did mean it when I offered.”

“I thank you,” said Annis, also standing. “I do not need much assistance, though it is a comfort. I have put aside… much of my own vanity, these past years.”

That made Guinevere blush for her own corsets and velvets and finery.

“No, do not think I criticise, my dear. You are very beautiful, and a little gilding on you is entirely apt, while on me it would look foolish. Oh, Guinevere… sometimes I think that half the task is done for us, if we mere mortals can but look the part of a prince – and you certainly do that.”

“You are very fine, my lady,” Guinevere murmured as she circled Annis and reached to draw her outer robe back down from her shoulders. “You always look strong, and thoughtful, and full of purpose.”

“Do I?” Annis asked a little wistfully, as she watched Guinevere begin untying the laces on her sleeves. “I trust that I do… and who but a fellow queen would be brave enough to tell me otherwise?”

“You can trust what I say. Arthur showed me… that I could always be honest with you, Annis. Indeed, he said that I should be.”

“Did he…?” Annis said on a breath. She seemed to require no answer. “That is a compliment.”

Guinevere helped Annis out of her dress, and then carried it and the robe over to the cupboard in which she could hang them. When she turned, she found Annis had sat on the side of the bed in her undershirt. With no thought that it should be otherwise, Guinevere knelt on the stone floor to untie Annis’s shoes and take them off, and then slipped down her stockings, first one and then the other, revealing her long pale legs and her fine ankles.

“I have missed this,” Guinevere confessed, placing the shoes just so by the side of the bed, and then decorously rearranging the skirts of Annis’s remaining garment. If she let her hand shape itself to the elegant strength of a calf for a fleeting moment, then she could pretend that neither of them were even aware of it. Guinevere stayed where she was, and smiled up at Annis. “You know that I was once maid to Morgana?”

“I am sure you took great care of her.”

“There was a time… oh, such a long while ago now… when we were very happy together.”

Annis reached a hand down to help Guinevere up. “Would you like to brush my hair? I should like it, if you would.”

Guinevere smiled, and rose. She reached to unfasten the gold necklace from around Annis’s throat, and went to place it carefully on the table by the bed. She brought back the hair brush that she found there – and when Annis patted the bed beside her, Guinevere stepped out of her shoes and clambered up there, to sit with her legs curled under her, and her corsets holding her torso upright. She was very aware… of her body and its shape and its curves.

Annis wore her hair loose around her shoulders, but a layer of it was caught behind, and threaded in an intricate knot through the gold circlet she wore for a crown. Guinevere worked to unfasten this with delicate fingers, determined that Annis should not feel a tug on even one strand of hair. Soon Guinevere lifted the circlet free from Annis’s head, and placed it reverentially into the queen’s hands. And then Guinevere simply sat there beside the woman, and brushed out her long beautiful hair.

A quiet grew between them, in which could be heard only the crackling of the fire, and the draw of their breath, and perhaps very faintly a thread of music and cheerful voices from the hall across the courtyard.

Eventually, once Annis’s hair had been transformed into burnished gold, Annis turned, and took the brush from Guinevere’s hand, then placed it and Annis’s crown down on the bedcovers nearby. And then Annis lifted her hands to either side of Guinevere’s face, to shape cool palms to her cheeks and push fingertips into her hair. A shuddering sigh shook through Guinevere – and Annis murmured, “So very beautiful” – and then Annis was kissing her.

Their lips were dry at first but soon moistened, and Guinevere kissed back hard, trusting in Annis’s strength, intrigued by the slight spice of her lip colour, licking at it – until Annis couldn’t help but lap at it, too, and then Guinevere took Annis’s tongue into her own mouth and suckled gently, feeling drowsy with need.

Without breaking the kiss, the world shifted around them as Annis toppled Guinevere onto her back, Annis with her all the way, kissing and licking and nibbling confidently, one hand at the nape of Guinevere’s neck, tilting her head back – while the other hand found its way past layers of velvet and cotton skirts to Guinevere’s stockinged legs, running steadily up to where the ribbons bound the stockings in place, and then on up to her bare thighs. Guinevere gasped, and Annis lifted her head a little to watch her face as finally Annis attained her goal, slipping her hand flat in between Guinevere’s thighs and shifting slowly up and further up until the knuckle and ball of her thumb was hard against Guinevere’s cunt, and she was wet, she was already so wet with need…

Annis chuckled in happy victory, her golden–brown hair falling down around Guinevere’s face – which felt so flushed, so naked… As Annis began rubbing against Guinevere, the tip of her thumb threatening or was that promising possession with each thrust, Guinevere sighed and let her eyes drift closed…

“No, look at me, my darling. Stay with me.”

It wasn’t a command, but it was said so encouragingly, so hopefully that Guinevere couldn’t help but obey. She looked up into Annis’s bright gaze, so intrigued – each of them so intrigued with the other – and she squirmed a little, keeping her thighs pressed close either side of that devastating hand, but also rocking herself down against it even as it rubbed at her. There had never been anything like this – neither Morgana nor Arthur had ever done anything quite like this with her, and it was so strange and yet so direct that Guinevere hardly knew what to do with herself.

Annis was kissing her again, and now suckling at Guinevere’s tongue, such a gorgeous feeling in which Guinevere felt she’d lose herself – and somehow with her corsets exquisitely tight in between these two glorious sensations, it kept them separate, even though it was the one woman causing both – and so even though it had been such a long time since Guinevere had felt this intense pleasure, it was still an age before she glimpsed the end approaching.

When it did, it rushed hard at her, and she arched back with a cry, quaking as if the castle might fall down around them – Annis staying with her, judging perfectly when to turn gentle while remaining insistent, and pressing tender kisses to the plump curves just above the bodice of Guinevere’s dress.

And then finally she was done. Guinevere lay there in delightful disarray, and Annis settled in close beside her to hold her steady until the world righted itself around her again.

At last she opened her eyes, and found Annis there watching her with fond amusement. “My lady,” Guinevere whispered on a breath.

“My queen…”

“I thank you. Oh, how I do thank you.”

“It was my pleasure.”

Guinevere grinned. She could hardly even remember the last time she’d grinned. “No…” she said, shifting up to lean over Annis. “No, this will be your pleasure.” She kissed her, and then spent a lovely long while driving Annis wild by biting and gnawing on her nipples through the cotton undershirt, and then she had Annis sit on the edge of the bed again, so Guinevere could kneel at her feet – she didn’t care about the stone floor, in fact she liked it – Guinevere knelt at her feet, and placed two strong hands on her thighs so Annis couldn’t move other than to fall back – and then Guinevere tongued her… wriggling the tip of her tongue against Annis’s tenderest flesh, before soothing her with wet swathes, and then tormenting her all over again.

Sensing restless movement, Guinevere glanced up to see Annis distractedly palming her own breast. Guinevere withdrew her tongue and pressed a kiss to the woman instead; when Annis begged for more with a groan, Guinevere said, “Touch your breasts. Remember me biting you.”

Annis let fall a moan, and obeyed with her own fingers pinching at her nipples before rubbing at them – and Guinevere dropped her head again to rasp the flat of her tongue across Annis’s already sensitive flesh – and moments later as Annis’s thighs tautened and her whole body arched in need like a bow drawn for firing, Guinevere thrust two fingers within her, and Annis came with a shout.

When Annis finally stopped trembling, she helped Guinevere off with her finery and velvet and corsets, and the two of them climbed into the bed together, holding each other in a kind embrace, snuggled down warm within the blankets with only their cotton shirts between them. They were silent for a long while, listening to a maudlin ballad being played in the hall, listening to each other breathe – but neither slipped away into sleep.

Finally Annis asked, “What are you thinking, my lady?”

“I was thinking about… how a border dispute might be created.”

Annis laughed. “Oh, why?” she asked, though Guinevere was sure that Annis knew very well.

“So that I must come to Caerleon for a long season of negotiations.”

The laugh turned into a happy chuckle. “Beltane is only a month or two away. Why do you not come to Caerleon to celebrate? That would be a far pleasanter cause.”

“Very pleasant indeed,” Guinevere agreed, before she captured Annis’s mouth in yet one more kiss. And thus all was settled between them.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

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