Bronwyn stumbles through the door to her flat at fourteen minutes past seven, kicks off her shoes, and gives serious thought to collapsing prostrate on the couch and letting George drag her off it when he deems it time to go to bed.
That plan, however, is foiled by the presence of George on the couch, laid out much like a stereotypical vampire in his coffin, hands clasped neatly on his stomach and a cool cloth over his eyes. She considers flinging herself on top of him and not leaving, possibly ever, but George is all angles and terrible at cuddling, so that probably wouldn’t end very well. “Long day?” she asks instead.
George doesn’t actually groan pathetically, because he likes to think he has too much dignity for that. He just gives a very good impression of it. “I might quit my job and go back to polishing banisters instead.”
“His Highness was being impossible?”
“Worse,” says George, and finally takes the cloth off his eyes. Bronwyn goes over to the couch and moves his feet so she can sit down next to him. “It was Merlin.”
Bronwyn tries to stifle a laugh, because Merlin’s rather a charmer, actually, and perfectly comfortable chatting to her or George or any of the staff for the royal family or the palace, which is what makes George despair of him so. Being a public relations flunky for the Prince is rewarding, from what George tells her, but there are headaches too. “What did he do this time?”
George makes a complicated grimace that manages to suggest a massive diplomatic incident. That, or catching him snogging the Prince of Wales in a closet. It wouldn’t be the first time. “I’m quitting.”
“No you aren’t, you need to support me in the manner to which I’ve become accustomed.” He stretches his feet out in her lap and raises his eyebrows. “No luck.”
“You’ll do it eventually.”
Bronwyn tips her head back against the couch. “I’m thinking I should go out for some West End productions. I can belt. Lady Helen’s got her claws in at the Met, I’ll never get in there unless someone poisons her. Or goes properly Phantom of the Opera on her and drops a chandelier on her head.”
George looks like he’s considering it. That’s why she loves him, really. In the end, he shakes his head gravely, like it was a serious suggestion. “I suppose I’ll just have to bring you flowers when you perform on the West End, then. Everyone will want to come cheer you on.”
“Especially Merlin,” she manages to say with a straight face before she succumbs to the urge to start giggling at the way he looks at her, all long-suffering affection. “Come on, then. I had a day full of miserable auditions and being told my vibrato isn’t nice enough and my breath support is abysmal. Tell me nice things.”
George hums and pretends very badly not to give her a worried look. “Tyr says hello. So does Sefa. Everyone does, actually.”
“So we should probably host dinner again soon, I feel like it’s been months since I saw everyone.” It’s been a week, but it’s been a long week. She misses getting to work with her friends, but she doesn’t miss scrubbing floors and polishing things in Buckingham Palace at all. Serving coffee isn’t a glorious profession, but Gwen is a lovely boss and gives her time off for auditions and encourages her to look for her big break. “So we should have Tyr and Sefa and Daegal and maybe Gwen? But Gwen is friends with Merlin and I think you would probably faint if the prince’s fiancé walked through the door of our flat.” He looks like he’s having heart palpitations of the bad sort at the very thought of it, and she hastens to move on. “Ooh, and maybe Kara and Mordred, if Mordred isn’t too high and mighty for you these days?”
“Maybe not Gwen. But the others, yes.” He pauses. “I’ll cook.” Which is his delicate way of saying he’s sick of cheese on toast and soup from a can. “Next week, maybe?”
“Yes, definitely. Give us the time to figure out a proper dinner party, and them to clear their schedules, not that anything, including duties to royalty, should supersede our sparkling company.”
George looks like he’s thinking about objecting, because George is a terrible workaholic and someday King Uther is going to acknowledge his existence and he is actually going to faint. (It’s anyone’s guess whether that will be from delight or terror.) “I suppose,” he allows, because he’s a very nice boyfriend who sometimes remembers that this is not in fact the Middle Ages.
Bronwyn grins and pinches his ankle. “Definitely, you mean. And come on, is everyone saying hello to me really all the gossip you’ve got?” It probably is, because George is hopeless about picking up gossip, but she has to ask.
He gives her an aggrieved look that makes the lack of answer worth it. “If they’re all coming to dinner you can just ask them yourself.”
“But I can’t very well ask Tyr if he’s still pining after Sefa while she’s sitting right there, now can I?”
“You have a phone.”
“I have a thirst for knowledge, George.” He rolls his eyes, and that makes him look like a human being again, and not like a particularly well-put-together scarecrow, which is what spending too much time around royalty tends to do to him. It’s a good thing he has her around to keep him from turning into a total stick in the mud. Bronwyn decides it’s as good a moment as any to move until she’s straddling him, propping herself up above him. He just gives her a curious look, only moving so far as to put an arm around her like he’s afraid she’s going to tumble off the couch. “I love you,” she informs him. “Sort of a lot, you know.”
George grins, which she’s fairly certain most of the people on a daily basis aren’t totally sure he can do. When he’s with her or their best friends, he makes terrible puns and talks constantly about how obsessed he is with work and doesn’t mind informing them that his first fictional crush was on the candlestick in Beauty and the Beast, and she feels sorry for everyone who doesn’t get that. “I love you too.”
She kisses him, a proper hello since neither of them was there to greet the other at the door tonight. “We should get married,” she blurts when they pull apart, and the stunned look on his face would be endearing if she weren’t busy being mortified. “I mean, I’ve been thinking about it. If you’ve been thinking about it?”
He nods, looking a little dazed. “I’ve been thinking about it, absolutely. But I thought, your career—”
“Fuck my career,” she says, a little giddy. “Marrying doesn’t hurt anymore, we’ll just hold off on kids. Is that a yes? I should kneel or something, right? It seems like the traditional thing to do.”
George wraps his arm a little tighter around her. “Once I’ve said yes, I’d say kissing is more traditional, you don’t have to go anywhere for that.”
“Are you saying yes, then?”
“Yes. Let’s get married.” He grins up at her. “Mr. and Mrs. Brass-Gale. Bronwyn Brass-Gale, up in lights.”
“Gale-Brass,” she counters. “It flows better.” She kisses him again, because they are getting married, and she loves him, and no matter how many awful days of auditions she has she comes home and he’s still there with his unshakeable faith that she’s going to be a star one day. “I’m going to have to get you a ring,” she manages when she pulls back.
“I might have one for you in the bottom of my box of sweaters,” he says, more than a little sheepish. “But we can find one for me as well, if you like.”
Bronwyn settles more comfortably on top of him. He’s still all bones and still, even after years together, doesn’t quite know how to mold his body to someone else’s, but she is committed to this cuddle. They are engaged, and they will cuddle until one of them decides they’ve got the courage to see if there’s any food in the fridge. “It’s a good thing we’re having a dinner party,” she says. “We can make it an engagement party.” She can’t help a grin. “Merlin’s going to be so pleased for us. Maybe he and Arthur will ask for an invitation to the wedding.”
She kisses the horrified look right off his face, and manages to keep him pleasantly distracted for a good ten minutes before he gets too bony to stay on top of for much longer. George smiles when she clambers off of him. “Dinner?”
“Dinner,” she confirms, and gives him a hand up once she makes it upright. That irresistibly leads to grabbing him into a ridiculous and terrible music-less tango (they can both do better, she made him take ballroom dancing with her ages ago, but she’s too giddy to care much about skill) all the way to the kitchen.
There’s only omelets and half a bottle of cheap wine in the flat for a celebratory dinner, but neither of them much cares.