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A Gamble with Fate

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“Fruitful day’s hunt, Lord Bertilak?” Gawain asked, regarding the large man in the doorway of the keep’s hall. It was a stupid question, one that Gawain already knew the answer to. The Lord who he’d struck this unusual bargain with had a large boar slung across his shoulders. It was a fine catch, and Gawain knew it would feed the keep for a week if he had it sent down to the kitchens. Undoubtedly, he would. He had sent the both the previous nights’ winnings of their little game down there, he had no need of a carcass when there was pray little time to dress and eat it.


This game, Gods be Praised, was going to be the end of him. Each night, they exchanged that day’s winnings. Lord Bertilak had showered Gawain in game birds and in several braces of hare on the first night, and an eight-point buck the second. Gawain’s winnings were… Well, he was enjoying them, to say the least. On their first day, Gawain had won a kiss from Gemma Bertilak, the Lady of the Keep, who was quite beautiful, and a most charming woman, with hickory brown hair, moss green eyes and cheekbones so sharp you could cut yourself on them. Sheepishly, that first night, Gawain had pressed the simple kiss to Lord Bertilak’s lips. It had been odd, to say the least, but a bargain was a bargain and he found that he hardly minded it.


He also shared with Bertilak the knowledge that he had gleaned from the keep’s immense library, which he would need tomorrow morning when he set out to die at the hands of the Green Knight. It didn’t make him feel much better about dying, but as his Uncle Arthur was always saying, Knowledge is Power.


The second day’s winnings had been much the same as the first for Gawain. Another kiss, although much more lengthy and involved than the last, and more knowledge. The sharing of both had been therapeutically relaxing, although the first had excited him far more than the second. Still, it had been nice to let himself unwind with his host over dinner after a long day of information gathering. Lord Bertilak was just as skilled in the first as his Lady Wife was, and as that night wore on, Gawain made the decision that he was going to allow this game to progress in the way he knew the Lady was aiming for. He knew what he was doing. He’d read enough for that.


Gawain had seen off Lord Bertilak that morning, smiling cheerfully as he exchanged their now-familiar deal while Lady Gemma loaded his saddlebags and patted his hunting dogs affectionately. The sun rose as he rode off, brilliantly red and orange against the cloudbank. He had watched it for a moment, and tried very hard not to think of what his little brother would say about it. The little slip of a sea witch would have chanted the old sailors rhyme at him, “Red skies at morn, sailors take warn” before glaring disapprovingly at him. Mordred’s opinion hardly mattered, since the next dawn Gawain would see would be his death. The sky could warn him all it wanted, but today was going to be a good day. He had allowed the Lady to take him by the hand and lead him into the chamber she shared with her husband, held his tongue when she sent away her familiar old crone companion and eagerly helped her divest him of his clothes.


And now, Lord Bertilak was home. Gawain had waited for him, as had been his custom, in the keep’s hall, having waited, once again, to dine with his host, and exchange winnings. Bertilak smiled and tipped the boar off his shoulders and at Gawain’s feet.


“See for yourself, Little Knight. I’d say I’ve done well for myself today,” Bertilak responded, clearly amused by the slight look of awe on Gawain’s face at the sheer size of the boar.


“I think this prize is best utilized in the kitchen, if your staff has use for it,” Gawain smiled at the now familiar nickname and allowed his host to call for his staff to bring them supper and to take the hog off to be butchered. Coming from anyone else, it would have been an insult, but Gawain knew he was small in stature compared to his host and found it to be strangely endearing.


“I’m sure my people will thank you for your kindness, Little Knight. They all seem to think very highly of you,” Bertilak praised, moving out of the way of his staff and taking a seat across from Gawain at the trestle table. “Now what have you earned today, Sir Gawain?”


Gawain took a moment to study the wood of the table in silence. This topic was best broached delicately, and he needed a moment to think about how best to express the nature of his winnings. He was interrupted by a servant placing two goblets of wine between them, with a carafe of more off to the side.


“Ann,” Gawain started, turning a bright smile on the poor serving girl, “I think your Lord and I will be taking dinner a little later, and perhaps in his study. Do you think you could keep the food warm for us a little longer?”


The poor girl went wide-eyed at his attention, nodded quickly, curtsied politely and scampered off to send whatever food was on its way to them back to the kitchen. Gawain, having now created his opening, turned back to the Lord of the keep. The one who was staring curiously at him. Gawain met his eyes steadily and spoke with only a moment longer of hesitation. “My Lord, I think your winnings are best discussed in your private rooms.”


Bertilak looked Gawain up and down, clearly making a decision, and a judgement, before nodding gravely and rising from his seat. Gawain rose as well, and followed Bertilak out of the hall. Gawain followed him up the stairs in silence, the towering form of his host seeming more and more intimidating as the silence stretched on. He knew he was gambling, but with an appointment with fate at dawn, he felt as if one more chance to feel alive was hardly something he’d be comfortable passing up. Especially since the Lady had retired with her companion several hours previously. Neither of them spoke as they entered Bertilak’s room and seated themselves in the armchairs by the merrily crackling fire. Gawain pointedly avoided looking at the bed, rumpled as the Lady had left it after they’d cleaned up their mess this morning.


He could feel Bertilak’s eyes on him, patiently waiting for the moment of confession. Gawain took a deep breath and steeled his nerves. “Lord Bertilak, my winnings today, the gifts I have been given, I…”


“Sir Gawain, I think that this goes beyond what I had intended for our games,” Bertilak interrupted, looking the stuttering knight over with a practiced eye. “I would not force you to give me something you cannot justify or take pleasure from.”


Gawain shook his head, wincing slightly at how the words sounded coming out of his host’s mouth. “My Lord, I would ask you to call me Gawain, if -,” The knight paused slightly again before making his choice. Rising from his chair, he crossed the small space between them and bent to press a first, hesitant kiss to Bertilak’s mouth. He remained close, murmuring his next words against his host’s lips. “If we are to fulfill my end of the deal, which I am very much interested in doing.”


Gawain leaned in and kissed his host again, groaning in pleasure as his host deepened the kiss and guided Gawain onto his lap. His hands settled heavily on Gawain’s hips without grasping them, allowing some support while still making it clear that the knight was free to do as he chose while they kissed. It was only then that Bertilak chose to pull back, to see Gawain’s face as he responded. “Gawain, I would request the same of you, if we are indeed going to fulfil your bargain. But truly, it is unnecessary. You have fulfilled your end of the bargain with honor and proved yourself willing enough. There is no need to allow yourself to be taken advantage of if it is not truly something you would want. Or if it was simply for my sake. You are an honorable man, Gawain, and I do not want any bitterness between us.”


Gawain took a moment to consider, looking deeply into Bertilak’s entrancing green eyes as he sat back. He wanted this. He wanted Bertilak. He wanted to be held and cherished and to be alive for a few more hours. Of course, more than anything he wanted to go home to his brothers and Aunt and Uncle, to have back the year he lost to this quest. He wanted to see how much taller Mordred had gotten, he wanted to see which Knight had taken on little Gareth as their squire, he wanted to spar with Lancelot and be home.


But he couldn’t have that. He could have this. This was here, and available and he wanted this so badly he could taste it. “I want this. And so do you. I’ll be gone in the morning, and this may well be my last chance to try. I trust you to do well by me. Please, let me have this.”


Something indescribably sad flashed across Bertilak’s face for half a moment, but it was gone before it could be discussed. “Well, if you are uncertain, say the word and we can stop. But if you are adamant, Little Knight, I suggest we start again.”


Gawain shivered at the playful nickname, suddenly darkened with lust as Bertilak ran his hands up and down his thighs. He nodded, almost as an afterthought, before leaning back into Bertilak’s embrace. The green-eyed lord held him with ease, cradling the knight against himself as they delved into a series of slow, sweet kisses. He shifted slightly and slipped an arm around Gawain’s shoulders and deepened their kisses, letting his Little Knight melt into the embrace without any fear of release. Gawain responded in kind, having cupped his soon-to-be-lover’s face within his own hands, dark stubble scratching pleasingly against them before winding them into his chestnut hair.


Bertilak groaned, tilting his head into the hands as he kissed his way along Gawain’s jaw to his throat. The Knight bit back a whine, clutching Bertilak closer as the lord allowed his teeth to graze gently across his pulse. Gawain rocked against him, hips brushing his thigh as the lord broke from the kiss to dazzle him with a smile.


“You are incredibly handsome, my dear. May I see more of this skin?” Bertilak asked, one hand already creeping under Gawain’s tunic as the other reached for the belt he wore over it. The Knight nodded, almost frantically as he gently swatted away the one handed attempt to undo his belt. He cast it away with a thought about what would become of it, only to have any thoughts at all immediately erased by large hands racing along the pale skin of his back. The touch was like a firebrand, flooding his senses as he leaned into them. Bertilak pressed him forward, and Gawain gratefully leaned his whole weight upon his partner and tucked his face into the crook of his neck. For a moment, they just held each other close, reveling in the warmth of the other and the anticipation of what was to come.


The moment broke when Gawain shifted again, his patience wearing thin against the feeling of the solid and equally eager body against his. Bertilak laughed, almost kindly, before moving his arms so that one cradled Gawain’s hips and the other bracketed his shoulders again.


“I think now might be a good time to try that bed that you two forgot to make this morning.” Bertilak punctuated his words with a peck to Gawain’s freckled cheek as he shifted, rising easily from the chair with Gawain settled comfortably in his arms. The knight made a slight noise of alarm and locked his legs around Bertilak’s waist in a grasp at stability. The lord found it faintly amusing that such a little thing could be so strong, but shushed him soothingly as he carried the knight the half dozen steps to the bed before settling him delicately against the headboard. Gawain stared up at him in shock and awe, seemingly amazed at his partner’s strength.


“Perhaps you might be able to get your shirt off while I take off my gear,” Bertilak suggested, already shrugging out of the quilted doublet and belt before Gawain gathered his wits enough to begin pulling his own clothing off. Luckily, Gawain had the sense to pull his hose off as well, leaving him in just his small clothes by the time Bertilak looked up from doing the same.


“I see your wife has been busy with you as well.” Gawain’s chagrin was obvious as he took in the massive expanse of bronze skin before him. It might have been overwhelming if it hadn’t been interrupted with the same bite-marks and bruises that littered his own flesh.


“Ah yes,” The lord mused, pressing a finger to one particularly violent looking bruise on his shoulder, “you frustrated her. Not many people resist her charms as long as you. She, naturally, took it out on us both.” Bertilak almost looked smug as he reached down to prod gently at a similar bruise blooming on Gawain’s shoulder. He used the anchor as a focal point to swing his way onto the bed and straddle Gawain’s legs.


The knight shuddered and sighed quietly at the touch, baring his neck to the hands that were wandering across his torso to explore more tender spots. His eyes fluttered shut at the sensation of calloused hands gently caressing the freshly damaged skin and freely leaned into it.


Gawain was a vision of beauty, a pale, marked canvas that stretched out before Bertilak like a gift from a god. Here, nestled in his bed and shut out from the responsibilities of the rest of the world, the third most powerful person in the high kingdom was willing to allow him to pay him worship. And by the gods was he going to take the chance to do exactly that. Bertilak lowered himself gently and allowed himself to rest his weight on his elbows, skin just barely brushing Gawain’s own in some places, before placing a wet kiss atop a deep red set of teeth marks.


The knight’s eyes shut with a stifled gasp as Bertilak’s tongue made contact with the pulsing bruise on his collar bone. The moan that the lord drew out of him was long and stuttered, only switching to something else after Bertilak shifted so that one of his legs was between Gawain’s own, and one of his arms was free to continue to explore his skin while his mouth remained occupied. Bertilak switched to a deep purple bruise that graced Gawain’s chest and the knight arched into the sturdy body above him. A painful sounding thump and corresponding hiss made Bertilak look up from his task. Gawain had thrown his head back into the headboard.


“Are you alright?” Bertilak asked, concerned for the wellbeing of his lover.


Gawain rubbed his head and winced, nodding and reaching for Bertilak.“I’d like to move a little further down though. Pillows are more comfortable than wood.”


The lord did as Gawain bid and kissed him, enjoying the way Gawain’s hands stroked along his shoulders. Bertilak smiled indulgently and pressed a kiss to Gawain’s forehead before rolling onto his side to allow Gawain the space he needed to situate himself into a better position. Gawain quickly shuffled down and rolled onto his side, pressing the entirety of his front to Bertilak’s. The tanned expanse of Bertilak’s skin engulfed him, making him feel much smaller than just shy of six foot. It distracted him for long enough that the lord had looked down at him in concern. Gawain wouldn’t allow that. He wanted this. Doubts would get him nowhere. He smirked at his host and hitched his leg over Bertilak’s hip, hooking himself into the lord.


The contact was sudden and overwhelming, even through their smallclothes. The friction was enough to make Bertilak groan, and he quickly slid a hand up Gawain’s thigh, marveling at the galaxies of freckles that dotted it. The other, trapped under Gawain’s head, was virtually useless at the moment, but he wished he could do the same to the smooth expanse of the knight’s back. Then he recalled that moment of hesitation, the flicker of uncertainty in Gawain’s blue eyes before the fireplace and asked. “Gawain, are you sure you want this?”


Those same blue eyes flashed, suddenly full of righteous indignation. The knight hissed angrily and shoved the larger man bodily onto his back, locking his knee against his waist and bringing himself upright to be seated on Bertilak’s hips. He quickly snatched up Bertilak’s hands and pressed them into his own hips, relishing the way the calloused fingers instinctively latched on to help him balance.


“Does this look like someone whose being forced into something they don’t wish for?” Gawain demanded, rocking himself into his host demonstratively, rougher than he had last time, to make him fully appreciate just how eager his body was to continue. “Does this look like an despondent partner, simply laying down to take whatever your lordship likes?” He rocked again, now smoothing his hands along the hard plane of Bertilak’s stomach and across his chest.

“No, I think not,” Gawain drawled, enjoying the wordless exclamation of pleasure that he wrung out of the lord. His own arousal was quickly growing to be more than he could think coherently through, but he could focus long enough to get his point across. “I think that this looks like someone who is very pleased with their choice of partner, and is of his own free will to leave whenever he so chooses.” He punctuated this with another rock, bracing himself against his partner as he bent to whisper the next words against his lips. “I think this looks like someone who would like to get on with it.”


“Anything. Anything you’d like. Anything for my Little Knight,” Bertilak panted, rubbing his thumbs along the ridge of Gawain’s pelvis. He stared up at the knight as if he’d hung the very stars in the sky before bringing one of his hands away to pull him into a kiss. Gawain tasted like spiced wine and honey, like sunshine, and Bertilak loved it. He chased the taste of honey, pushing for more access to Gawain’s mouth. The knight groaned at the intrusion, welcoming the now familiar feeling of Bertilak’s mouth against his own. He relaxed incrementally, just enough to let more of his weight slump onto Bertilak’s chest as his host traced a fluid line down his back and around his leg, relishing the way the Lord’s hands flared wide and possessive across his backside. He shivered as those hands settled around his knees.


Bertilak smirked into their kiss before throwing all of his weight into rolling them both over again. Gawain huffed, startled as his back suddenly connected with the bed. Bertilak pulled back, examining his new placement between Gawain’s thighs as the little knight recovered from his shock. It was precious, really, the look of startled indignation that Gawain now wore. Bertilak made a mental note to try to sketch it out later, to preserve this perfect moment in his journals for posterity's sake. Any thought future engagements was quickly wiped out of Bertilak’s mind as Gawain squirmed impatiently against him. It forced both of them to quickly acknowledge the position that he’d put them in, heat flashing through them both as Gawain found a better angle and thrust upward. They regarded each other for a heartbeat in silence before the Knight spoke.


“Bertilak, if you don’t get me naked and get the oil, I will finish this myself.” Gawain growled, leveling a stare at Bertilak that commanded armies and sent lesser beings cowering. Even laid bare of all his trappings, the Crown Prince of the Orkneys was every inch the Blood of the Pendragon. With an order like that, Bertilak felt compelled to obey.


The Lord of the keep slid off of the bed as gracefully as he was able and quickly moved to the little side table where he kept the necessary items. Gawain was already busy scrambling out of his own smallclothes with a frenetic energy that Bertilak couldn’t help but admire. “So lively, Little Knight,” he teased, smiling broadly at Gawain as he held up a small pot of oil, “Is this what you wanted?”


Gawain responded immediately, and with no less passion than he had at any other moment that evening. He glared at his host, balled up his last remaining shred of clothes and flung them at Bertilak. The Lord laughed, sidestepping Gawain’s assault with ease before slipping out of his own smallclothes and moving back towards the bed. Gawain had lain back, stretching out on the bed with his hands folded behind his head in the picture of relaxation. He looked every inch the regal king he was destined to become, appraising his bedmate with a hungry eye while ignoring his own state of arousal.


“Are you cert-” Bertilak began, hesitating again as he stared down at Gawain.


Gawain moved faster than the Lord could speak, and in the space between a heartbeat he jolted off the bed and snatched the pot of oil out of Bertilak's hands before he could blink. “Get on the bed and fuck me now,” Gawain ordered, eyes glittering like chips of ice as he unscrewed the lid to the little jar he’d just stolen. Bertilak did as he was bid and clambered back onto the bed, settling himself between Gawain’s long legs and reaching above the knight to grab a pillow. He slid it underneath Gawain’s hips and settled him carefully onto the cushion, pressing kisses to his pale calves as he arranged things to his liking. Gawain allowed himself to be shuffled around, not minding Bertilak's instinct to worry over him. He enjoyed being cherished like this, being cared for.


“It won’t hurt, Gawain. I promise,” Bertilak murmured, leaning up to kiss his little knight softly and dip his fingers into the oil. Gawain nodded sharply and gripped the jar tighter as Bertilak stroked his oil slicked fingers downwards. Gawain forced himself to relax as one finger slipped inside of him. It was a strange sensation, a not-unwelcome feeling of being full in a very different way than he’d ever felt before. He gasped and shivered, unsure of how else to react to the warmth of Bertilak’s hands. The lord merely grinned up at him and reached up to tug Gawain into another blinding kiss.


It hardly detracted from the odd feeling of the finger, but it released the breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding as Bertilak stole it from his mouth. He wound his arms around Bertilak’s neck and pulled him into a deeper kiss as a second finger prodded at his entrance.  He hiccuped another gasp into his partner’s mouth as the feeling of being full doubled. Bertilak hushed him gently and skimmed his free hand up Gawain’s side, another distraction as he adjusted to the feeling. Bertilak had barely been still for a heartbeat before he pulled his fingers out almost all the way, pushed them back in and twisted. Pleasure burst through Gawain’s body as he reacted instinctively to whatever Bertilak has just done to him. It had felt indescribably good, and he looked up at the larger man in shock.


“Doing alright, Love?” Bertilak asked, humor sparking in his green eyes as he stared down at the look of shock and wonder on Gawain’s face.


“What…” Gawain licked his lips cautiously and shifted ever so slightly in Bertilak’s grasp, trying to understand how that had happened. He suddenly realized that he was breathing harder than he had been a minute ago, pulse racing, and harder than he ever had been in his life. “Do it again. Bertilak, do it again,” he demanded, shifting again in the grasp of the other man.


The lord smiled devilishly down at Gawain and obeyed, repeating the motion from before and brushing his finger past the spot inside of his lover that that sent him to moaning and twitching again. Bertilak repeated the motion again and set to sucking a new bruise into Gawain’s neck, relishing the chance to leave his own mark on the Knight as he writhed underneath him. He began to stretch Gawain out, occasionally dipping them into the pot he’d had to rescue from Gawain’s grasp, lest the little knight shatter the clay in his hand. As soon as he’d pried the oil free, Gawain had switched to a white knuckled grasp on the sheets, and knotted his other hand firmly in Bertilak’s long hair, demanding that the lord continue to find places to mark on his throat and chest as he manipulated his body.


Without Gawain’s notice, Bertilak had managed to successfully slide three fingers into the little knight and stretch him well as he continued to send shockwaves of pleasure through him. He paused for a moment to assess the state of his lover, sitting up ever so slightly to appreciate the full view in front of him. Gawain had practically melted into the bed, panting and staring up at his lover with wonder and expectation in his eyes. His breathing evened out slightly as Bertilak withdrew his fingers.


“Last chance, Little Knight,” Bertilak grinned at Gawain, who still lay dazed on the bed. Gawain blinked several times before he refocused on Bertilak and processed the words coming out of the lord’s mouth. The flash of emotions across his face was almost comical, and Bertilak had to restrain himself from laughing at the little knight.


“I swear to the Gods,” Gawain gasped, jerking upright and lunging for the pot of oil in one sudden movement.


Bertilak beat him to it, snatching the pot of oil away from Gawain’s grasping fingers. “Oh no, don’t even think about it. We’re going nowhere unless you can consent.”


Gawain slumped back onto the bed and made the most piteous noise Bertilak had ever heard. It was the kind of noise that made him wince in sympathy. The impulse to reach down and kiss away the look of borderline agony on Gawain’s face as he closed his eyes in defeat was so strong that he almost gave in immediately. But no, this was bigger than both of their impulses, and they both knew it.


“Bertilak, I want you inside of me,” Gawain hissed through clenched teeth, clearly hating the sentence as it came out of his mouth. The anger made Bertilak continue to hesitate. He wasn’t going to push either of them if he wasn’t certain. Then Gawain’s tone changed to something more than anger. He dropped the pretenses and looked up at Bertilak with determination and lust in his eyes. “Please, please I need you. I want to feel you, and I want you to feel me and I-”


Gawain was cut off as Bertilak picked up one of his legs in his free hand and pulled it over his shoulder, kissing it delicately at the knee as he produced the jar of oil again. “All I needed was a yes, my dearest Little Knight, but of course I would be happy to do all of those things. Relax now.”


He then slicked himself up and slid forward and into Gawain. Bertilak moved as if they had all the time in the world, slow and steady, keeping one hand on Gawain’s shoulder to keep them both in place.


The feeling was completely unlike the earlier sensation of fingers, and he moaned at the sheer sensation of fullness that began as Bertilak inched forward. He moaned again when Bertilak scraped over that spot that made him writhe, still willing himself to be boneless as the Lord bottomed out. Then he thanked all the Gods that he inherited his mother’s innate flexibility and hooked his leg around Bertilak’s back to pull him down and into a kiss. It bent the knight almost in half, but he hardly cared as he savored the full feeling of the lord inside of him. They both stayed relatively still, kisses devolving into gentle, reassuring presses of lips as Gawain adjusted to the feeling of having Bertilak inside of him fully.


“Move. Move Bertilak. I can take it,” Gawain panted, trying to sound like he wasn’t entirely overwhelmed. The lord pressed a kiss to his forehead and moved back to where he was before to get the best angle before shifting ever so slightly out of his knight before pushing back in. Gawain hissed out a breath, still unused to the intrusion. Bertilak, sensing the unease from his partner, reached down with his free hand and took Gawain’s largely forgotten member into it.


Gawain yelped, surprised from the sudden stimulation. It wasn’t as if he’d forgotten that he was so absurdly aroused that he was dripping, he didn’t think he could put that out of his mind if he tried. But he’d been so focused on adjusting to the new sensations that Bertilak had presented that his own visceral need had been put aside. Bertilak stroked it slowly, drawing pulsating pleasure out of his partner as he moved his hips at the same rate. He couldn’t help the moan that spilled out of his lips as Bertilak shifted slightly and rolled over that spot deep inside of him that he’d found with his fingers.


“Yes, oh Go-” Gawain’s words were cut off by a frantic moan as Bertilak repeated the motion and arched into any inch of Bertilak’s skin available, chanting, “Yes yes, Bertilak, ye-”


He was cut off by another loud moan as Bertilak repeated the motion and punctuated it with a particularly well timed twist of his wrist. He barely had time to pull air back into his lungs before Bertilak was pulling him up and into his lap. Bertilak carefully guided his legs around his back, cradling Gawain with his other hand. The abrupt change in positions as they kissed intermingled their breaths and sent sparks flying through Gawain as he knotted his hands in the lord’s hair.


“You’re so perfect, Little Knight,” Bertilak murmured, pressing a kiss to the underside of Gawain’s jaw before reaching between them and paying attention to Gawain’s neglected member, “So beautiful. Come for me Love.”


Gawain writhed in Bertilak’s arms, screaming out his lover’s name as he immediately caved to the lord’s requests. He clawed red gouges out of the lord’s back as his pleasure mounted, his entire body tensed with the force of the release. Bertilak responded in kind, choking out Gawain’s name as he came crashing down from his own high.


A moment later, they were both back on the bed, with Gawain pinned firmly underneath his lover. The pressure of Bertilak grounded him in the moment as he pleasantly floated in a haze of afterglow, breathing deep and in time with the other man. He felt as if for this one moment in time, he was entirely untouchable. A war could rage for a decade outside the confines of this warm little room and so long as he was settled here under Bertilak, he would never even realize it.


Bertilak gently stroked his hand up and down one of Gawain’s arms and the knight basked in the soothing feeling of it, allowing himself to feel some of the bone-deep weariness that had accompanied him through his entire quest. It was almost enough to let him fall asleep like this, disgusting and hungry. Just as he was drifting off, Bertilak shifted and made to pull out. Gawain whined wordlessly and tried to lock a feeble hand around his wrist to keep him in bed.


“Dear, trust me, you do not want to fall asleep like this,” laughed Bertilak, pressing a kiss to the side of Gawain’s head before pulling away enough to slip out of him. He then grunted and levered himself off the bed and toward the wash basin. Gawain watched foggily as Bertilak quickly cleaned himself up and then turned towards the door. If the knight had even a semblance of the ability to think coherently enough to process what Bertilak was doing, he might have protested at the possible invasion of his privacy. But as it was, Bertilak merely scooped a covered tray off the floor and promptly closed the door again before approaching Gawain with the tray and a rag. He scooted the tray onto the bedside table with the little pot of oil he hadn’t noticed Bertilak put down.


“Gawain, Love, can I clean you up? Gemma dropped off dinner while we were busy and I want to make sure you have something to eat and drink before you fall asleep,” Bertilak murmured gently, stroking one hand down the fine planes of his lovers face. Gawain nodded sleepily, leaning into the lord’s hand as he allowed himself to be carefully cleaned up.


When Bertilak decided that he was sufficiently clean, he peeled back the blankets on the bed and motioned for Gawain to get under. The knight obeyed, stifling a yawn and shuffling over so the blankets lay across his lap as he leaned against the headboard. Bertilak grimaced momentarily before discarding the topmost blanket and the rag he’d been holding before carefully cleaning his hands off again. He then pressed the water skin that had been on the tray into Gawain’s hands. Gawain took a drink from the water skin as Bertilak slid under the blankets next to the knight and balanced the tray on his lap. They sat shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip in the bed, close enough to share whatever was on the tray.


With the cover off the tray, Gawain could finally see that the food underneath was easy enough to eat. Mostly bread and some meat and cheese, more than an adequate dinner. He passed the water skin back to his host and began eating off the tray with gusto. He hadn’t realized he’d been so hungry. Bertilak smiled at him with an indescribable look in his eyes and nudged the food closer to him. Not so bad for a last meal after all.


But Gawain didn’t want to think about that. Not now. Not when his last night had been going so well. He was leaving tomorrow’s problems for tomorrow. He knew damn well that he had hedged every bet in his favor, and knew all there was to know about the fate that lay ahead of him. He knew that tomorrow he would face his judgement. There was nothing else for it tonight but to enjoy himself one last time, so he gave himself over fully to gentle feeling of Bertilak kissing his hands and cheeks with the utmost of care and allowed the larger man to settle him into the warm embrace of the blankets and Bertilak’s own arms. He forcibly put the events of the next day out of his head and let Bertilak curl comfortably around his back. The feeling of safety and his own exhaustion quickly had him drifting off to sleep.

Gawain felt the magic of the morning pulling him from his bed. Destiny was calling him with that same blood-tinged sky that it had issued forth the morning before. Even though he couldn’t see the dawn, he felt the ache of it in his bones. His path was set for him, down to the change of clothes he’d left in his horse’s stable and the tack he’d already laid out.

But he was absolutely loathe to get out of bed now. Somehow in the night they had shifted from both laying on their sides to Gawain laying tucked into Bertilak’s shoulder, half sprawled across his chest. It was an infinitely comfortable position, and the lord had slung his arm him in his sleep, effectively pinning the knight against him. The warm feeling of being safe radiated from the lord laying next to him, and outside this bed lay an entire world that would kill him within the day.


Gawain sighed, knowing that what had happened was never meant to last. He had responsibilities to tend to and a deal to keep. Backing down from what he knew to be the correct course of action was the opposite of everything that he as a Knight of the Round Table and as a Pendragon stood for. He couldn’t begin to fathom what would happen to the kingdoms if he failed to meet the Green Knight that morning. He never wanted to think about it, because it wasn’t happening. He pointedly ignored the protesting side of his brain and prepared to get out of bed.


Because he had no wish to wake the man who had graciously allowed him into his home and bed, Gawain tried to move slowly. He didn’t want Bertilak to have to see him leave. It would be hard enough to part ways with his host asleep like this, but it would be harder still to leave if Bertilak knew that he was going. Better to sneak off now and allow the lord to think the worst of him. Having steeled himself to the notion of riding to his death, Gawain began to inch his way out of Bertilak’s grasp and out of bed.


“Just where do you think you’re going, Little Knight?” The voice was gravely with sleep and so unexpected that it made Gawain jump. The knight looked up to find that Bertilak had not only awoken, but had also tightened his grip on Gawain’s waist. He was staring expectantly up at Gawain, as if he couldn’t believe that the knight had the gaul to be leaving his bed at such an early hour.


Gawain sighed and closed his eyes, letting his shoulders drop in defeat. He’d failed step one of the day, and any fleeting chance of the rest of the day going well flew out the window. He inhaled slowly before opening his eyes. “I need to go. I must fulfill my end of the bargain. I’ve already stayed too long.”


“Well then, go if you must,” Bertilak sighed, releasing Gawain from his grasp. The knight immediately sprang out of bed, wincing at the cold as he began searching for his clothing amongst the scattered remains of cloth all over the ground. “But it is entirely unnecessary.”


“No, I think it is. I can’t possibly just… No,” Gawain rambled, becoming slightly frantic as he finally located his smallclothes from where he’d tossed them. He was running short on time, he had to be at the meeting spot by the time the sun crested the horizon.


“As I said, you’re welcome to go, but just know that there’ll be nobody to meet you there, my dear,” Bertilak sighed, carefully watching Gawain’s reaction. The knight froze and dropped his smallclothes as he stared at Bertilak.


“You fucking bastard!” Gawain snarled, “I knew it. I knew it was you.”


Bertilak had the good grace to look mildly ashamed of himself as Gawain advanced on him. “In my defence, I wasn’t allowed to say anything until today. Part of the game, you know how it is.”


“Part of the game? That’s what this was to you? A game?” Gawain yelled, his anger growing as he approached the bed again.


“Oh, no. Absolutely not.” Bertilak sighed, sitting up in bed. This was not how he had intended this conversation to go.


“Can you just kill me now then? Because I’m really tired of your games. I’ve been playing them for an entire year and I’m tired of living with your axe over my head.” Gawain spat, some of the anger leaving his body at the admission.


“No, no darling Little Knight, absolutely not!” Bertilak clarified, reaching for Gawain as he spoke, “I never wanted to kill you. I didn’t want to back then and I don’t want to kill you right now. I broke our game last night before we came to bed. The only one of us who had to obey the year and a day rule was me. I’m so sorry love, I thought you’d figured that out when you came to bed. After all, you’ve had me figured out for a week at least.”


Bertilak grasped Gawain’s hands gently as he spoke, and pulled him close enough to the bed to be able to wind his arms around his waist. Gawain was shaking. Bertilak couldn’t tell if it was from shock or anger or exhaustion, but the knight’s pulse was racing and his breaths were stuttering worryingly in his chest.


“Come back to bed, love. It’s alright. Everything’s alright. I’ve got you, you’re safe,” Bertilak promised, gently running a hand along Gawain’s spine in a soothing gesture. It didn’t stop the shaking.


“Fucking fae. Your fucking games and rules will be the death of us all,” Gawain breathed, his eyes screwed shut in agony. Still, he allowed Bertilak to tug him back into sitting on the bed.


“Likely,” Bertilak agreed, thanking his lucky stars that Gawain was starting to calm down, “But I’m not fae, Love. Never was.”


“I-what? Then who a- Excuse me?” Gawain stuttered, turning on his lover in shock, still shaking like an autumn leaf. “But your wife is fae, she lost her glamour when she thought I wasn’t looking. And my aunt is here, and she’s thick as thieves with all of you fae. How are you not fae. You were green.”


“Yes dear, I am The Green Man,” Bertilak sighed, watching the look on Gawain’s face as the Knight processed his words.


“I- A god. You’re a god. I fucked a-”


“Gawain, honey you need to breathe,” Bertilak commanded, taking Gawain back into his arms and pulling the smaller man against his chest. “You’re fine. We’ll talk about all of this later. I’ve got you. I’ve got you now Love.”


Gawain’s mind was racing. In the last seventy-two hours he had gambled with his life, six times, with a God and his Fae wife. And he was going to live through it. Not only that, but Bertilak, Lud, The Green Man, whatever he was calling himself this time, had taken him back into his arms. This god had slept with him after breaking a deal, knowingly releasing Gawain from whatever hold he ever might have had on him just to spend an intimate night together. And now he wasn’t even upset with Gawain for screaming at him.


Gawain burst into tears as Bertilak maneuvered him back under the covers and cradled him against his chest. The God merely held him and let him cry, making occasional comforting noises and continuing to rub his hand across his back. Bertilak let Gawain sob himself out, let the tears stop and the shaking gradually ease until there was nothing left but a few stray tears and a pair of very red eyes.


“I really am sorry, Love. I wanted you. I’ve wanted you since you walked into this keep with humility, asking for information and a place to sleep. You proved yourself three times over by continuing to feed my keep with your rightful winnings, while still giving me what I won. And that’s why I cancelled our deal, even though you made the right choice every time it was presented. I couldn’t meet you out there as your judge. I just wanted to meet you here, on equal footing. To be able to love you honestly,” Bertilak explained, cradling Gawain close as the knight looked at him with bloodshot eyes.


“We’re going to talk about this more later,” Gawain said, with an attempt at sounding stern. “Right now, I’m too grateful to be alive to be angry. And tired. Very tired.”


“You have every right to be furious with me. By the Stars, I would be. But please, sleep. I will be here when you awake. You’re safe. Rest,” Bertilak promised. He knew that those few words didn’t even come close to making things right with Gawain. He knew that Gawain may well never forgive what he had done. Part of him knew that Gawain shouldn’t forgive anything at all. But for now his Little Knight was here in his arms and drifting back off to sleep. He looked peaceful in a way that he hadn’t looked since he had arrived.


“Bertilak, stop worrying. I’ll stay. I’m upset, but I’m here and I’m not leaving. Not for a while yet. I’ve been traveling for six months and you, divine one, are going to help me recover. Now let me sleep,” Gawain murmured sleepily, finding Bertilak’s hand with one of his own and entwining their fingers. Bertilak obeyed his lover, shifting slightly to pull them both into a more comfortable position before enjoying the sight of Gawain falling asleep, pleased in the knowledge that he was able to love his Little Knight.