It was time to keep their bargain, and ashamed though he was to admit it, Gawain was trembling slightly as he approached the lord of the castle. Would he guess who had given Gawain the kiss? Could Gawain give the same kiss to a man as he had received from a woman? His host's courteous kiss of friendship was nothing like the lady's kiss of this morning: the lingering brush, the soft parting of lips as they nudged against each other, the mingling of breaths, the languid smiling withdrawal.
Halting in front of the lord, just a breath away, Gawain reached up and put his hands behind the man's neck, remembering as he did so the lady's slim shoulders under his hand that morning. He gently tugged with his hands till the lord bent his head, then steeling himself he pressed his lips to the other's. He closed his eyes and parted his lips, then the other's arm wound around his back and pulled Gawain hard against him, and Gawain gasped at the shock and the unexpected jolt that ran through his body.
The lord was kissing Gawain in earnest now, licking teasingly at his lips as if to steal away all traces of the earlier kiss. Gawain shuddered at the sensation; the demanding licks, the rough beard scraping at his cheek, the lord's hands on his shoulder and hip gripping him strongly, holding Gawain body to body with him. There were no thoughts of the lady now; this was nothing like a woman's kiss, no delicate softness in the embrace but solid muscle radiating heat from beneath the hunting tunic.
Gawain heard himself moan into the lord's mouth, felt his fingers curl into the heavy fabric of a hunting cloak, but all he could think of was pressing his body closer against the other's, sealing their mouths together more tightly.
Abruptly, the other man stepped away, gently pushing Gawain away from him. Gawain stumbled back a step, gasping, still dazed from the kiss. He stared at the lord in confusion, and the lord smiled at him with gleaming eyes.
"I find you are an honorable guest indeed, Sir Gawain; you pay your debts to the fullest, with all your heart and body."
"I—" Gawain abruptly recalled that he was in the hall with all the knights and ladies of the castle looking on, and he blushed to his neck. He collected himself, and was able to answer the lord in a normal tone, and they sat down at table, talking as if nothing had happened.
When Gawain chanced a look at the lady of the castle that evening, she was smiling a secretive little smile. And when she came to him the next morning, Gawain's body was humming with tension, but he did not send her away. And as she bent to kiss him, he could not tell whether the thrill that ran through him was because of her, or because of the thought of what would happen that evening.