Spoilers: Upto 1x12 “To Kill The King”
Summary: He'd never given it much thought, but Gwen has. Arthur and Gwen friendship.
A/N: For starrylizard, prompt “Gwen and Arthur discussing swords”. Thanks to doylefan22 for betareading.
He knew she was a blacksmith's daughter – the blackmith's daughter. Their family line had produced the best blacksmiths spanning back a century or more. Yet Arthur had never considered that Gwen was anything more than a little knowledgeable on the matter. He'd seen her admiring well made armour and such at tournaments, though she could just as likely have been admiring the men under it for all he could reasonably tell. So he hadn't thought to take his sword to the workshop he'd used to.
He hadn't been quite prepared for the glare she'd shot him across the street when she saw him about to walk into Able's workshop instead.
It was later, after he'd already dropped off the sword for work elsewhere, that he'd realised she might have been unpleasantly reminded about her father's death, seeing him there with a sword not unlike those of the guard, those used to run him through – the very same her father had made. Arthur's had more embellishments and a stronger core, but the weight of it, the balance, was as good as any that had come out of her father's workshop – Uther commissioned only the best for Camelot's defence.
The next day, at midday, when he knows Morgana is otherwise detained and Gwen will be free of her duties, he goes in search of her to.. Well, he isn't actually sure. He's probably apologised too much already, offered any help he can give. What else is there to do? he thinks, as he rounds the street to her house, going over topics for small talk that he can prattle about if he never thinks of anything more meaningful to say.
However, when knocking on the door produces no result he becomes concerned. It's when he stops knocking that he's aware of sounds of the smithy, sounds coming from nearby, too loud to be Able's or another in the vicinity. He jogs off to the workshop, mind racing, and is shocked to find Gwen there, dressed in leathers over plain men's clothes, hammering out a piece of metal with more force than he'd have thought possible from those arms of hers. He stands watching as she finishes what she is doing, never once looking up to him, fully concentrating on her work. When she finally stops she glances up at him questioningly, clearly wondering why he's here.
The words don't come out and he stands there like a gaping fish.
“Yes?” she says demurely, pointedly amused at his behaviour.
“You make swords?!” he asks, blurting it out indignantly.
“It's the family trade. Just because my father didn't have a son does not mean we were about to break tradition,” she says brightly, though her cheerful expression falls a little as another thought occurs, “Just as well we did now, given that he's gone.”
Silence hangs uncomfortably until he drums up the conversation once more.
“So...what exactly are you making?”
“Well, I'm not as good as my father, yet, but I've done this before.”
He takes the enthusiastic start to the explanation as a good sign, Gwen happily steered away from further dwellings on recent events.
“I'm a bit out of practice mind you but it shouldn't matter too much – I'm making a simple sword for Merlin, something to practice with.”
“He does seem exasperated by the wooden swords.”
Gwen gives him a look that says 'What do you expect?' and shakes her head as she moves the sword to the water trough. Either she's learnt that look well from Morgana or it's a universal womanly talent – it doesn't much matter which though because he has no clue why she'd think that. Luckily she's good enough to humour and enlighten him with an answer.
“That's because you give them to little boys as well. He feels foolish. He has his pride too, as all men do.”
“Fine,” Arthur says feigning a modicum of annoyance to go with his usual indifferent attitude for anything Merlin related, “I'll bear that in mind. Next time he feels like being shown up it will be a little less humiliating. Unless he finds a way to embarrass himself more with an actual sword of his own.”
“Anyway,” Gwen says with a harder tone than he is accustomed to from her, “this doesn't need to be perfect as long as it's light enough.. I might make a few different ones to ease him into a proper weighted sword in the future.”
How many swords will it take, Arthur wonders. However many, any amount must be a lot of work for Gwen, done in addition to her maid's duties and at cost too. Of course he has no idea what she does in her free-time, but the idea of all those hours once full now sat alone may be what spurs her on more than a need to help Merlin. He doesn't voice any of the pondering, nor ask her reasons, merely replying quietly with the best, most sensitive response he can think of.
“It's very thoughtful of you.”
“Merlin has his talents. Fighting may never be one of them, but I want him to know how to wield a sword, to be able to protect himself. It's important. He can't always rely on you.”
There seems to be an unspoken thought there; that none of them can rely on anyone else. Perhaps for a time but certainly not forever. For Gwen, she could not rely on her father in the end, the time to truly grow up came too soon. And not on Morgana necessarily either. She cannot be eternally a maid after all.
“I understand. I'll leave you to your work then.”
If anyone were to ask him what he thought of Gwen previously, he would have said a pure and sweet girl, good and honest, hardworking but nothing more to her that he would know. He fears from now on he will have that image branded on his memory of a woman desperately trying to live up to what has been left for her, striking out the warmth, wanting only to survive. He knows he has seen her smiles, heard her laughter in the halls, seen her cheerful since her father's death, but he is suddenly quite afraid of the light in her dying, fading slowly away as one by one they are not there for her any longer.
It is all the more reason he must strive harder to keep his promises to her, and to see if he can make amends one day for what his father did to hers. Gwen will never hold him responsible – it is his own conscience that plagues him, rather than the accusations of others. All he can be relied on is to not speak up time and time again, for his own sake he holds his tongue and he knows where it does not cost him it costs others more.