“Cook says ...” Sefa swallows. “We aren't to tup the knights.”
“Well now. I'm not much of a knight, am I?”
“You're still a knight.” And the most gossiped-about knight there is. There's no one in and out of Lady Isolde's chambers, but they still whisper about her. “Why me?”
“You know, I think you actually want to know.” Sefa nods. She's quiet. She isn't one of the pretty girls who get raps on the knuckles from cook for flirting with Sir Gwaine. There's no reason she ought to be standing here in the corridor, with Lady Isolde's work-rough fingers trailing across her cheek. “It's because you're nothing like him.”
Everyone knows the story of how Lady Isolde was knighted, and who she lost. “That's not a very good reason.”
Just like that, Lady Isolde retreats, and Sefa breathes. “No, perhaps not.”
Sefa doesn't look up. “Both require stitching. Is what they're saying true?”
“That I'm King Arthur's whore? I don't think Guinevere would stand for it.”
“That he said those things to you. I suppose it is.” Sefa glances up. Lady Isolde is leaning against her bedpost, sweating, jaw clenched. She refused the ale Sefa offered to take the edge off the pain. “They always say such things. I'm glad you stabbed him.”
“Really?” A sideways glance. “I believe you are. The cook tells you not to tumble the knights, but does anyone tell the knights to leave you be?”
“I wouldn't know. I'm not a knight.”
“You're a puzzle, though.”
“Not really.” Sefa knots the last stitch. She can't be a puzzle. People like to solve those.
“Aren't you?” Lady Isolde grabs her arm before she can move too far away. “What happens if you tup the knights, Sefa?”
“Talk. Whispers. Insults, sometimes. Why do you care?”
“Because I like a puzzle.”
Isolde wipes the tears from her cheeks, businesslike, but her mouth is still trembling when she turns. “Do you have a country sweetheart you miss, Sefa? Someone else?”
“Only my father.” It's as honest as she can be. “Is there someone you'd like me to send?”
Isolde crosses the room. “Stay.”
Sefa reaches out and closes the last distance between them, her fingers catching on Isolde's sleeve. “Why?”
“Because I'd like you to.” There's no jest to it.
Sefa holds on. “Then I'll stay.”
“Simple as that? You'll risk cruel gossip, just because I want you to stay?”
Sefa has no answer. She kisses her instead. Her inexperience must show, because when Isolde pulls away she's concentrating again, not thinking of her dead sweetheart, and then her arms are around Sefa and Sefa only has to say yes for all concerns about her inexperience to disappear.
Sefa pulls her skirts into a heap on her belly, so she can see Isolde's messy braid and her dark eyes and the wink she gives just before she spreads Sefa's legs and puts her mouth between them.
“Oh, what,” Sefa says, but sound leaks even through stone walls and she bites her hand, surprised at the high pained noises she finds herself catching.
Isolde feasts on her like she's something delicious to drink down, with wet noises that make Sefa's cheeks hot. She'd expected to feel ravished, if she ended up on her back in a knight's cot, but that's not it at all. Her body tightens under Isolde's clever mouth and firm grip, and there's no shame to it.
Instead, Sefa goes over a crest she didn't know was there, hand falling from her mouth as she laughs, giddy and helpless.
When she looks, Isolde is looking back with her mouth red and wet and something strange in her eyes. Something thoughtful. “Why me?” she asks, Sefa's question thrown back at her just when she doesn't have an answer.
“Because if I'm to tup a knight, it may as well be you.”
One corner of Isolde's mouth tilts up. “That's not a very good answer.”
“Perhaps not.” She reaches out. “But you can come up here and help me find another one.”