Title: Clouds and Silverlinings (Chapter Seven)
Rating: Gen (Some previous chapters are NC-17)
Pairing/s: Elena/Gwaine, Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Elena, Gwaine
Summary: In which Elena and Gwaine are sickeningly romantic and Merlin and Arthur are not.
Word Count: 1132
Prompt: #345 - Romance
Author's Notes: Didn’t really turn out like I planned (when does it??), so probably not hugely romantic. Sorry! You can find the previous parts of this story on AO3 here.
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6
By the time Arthur had finished his discreet missive to Morgana—or at least, as discreet as he could make it given his outrage—and passed it to John to deliver, the dinner hour was almost upon them.
He made a brief stop in the East Wing, to speak with Gwaine’s mother, knowing that the Countess liked to converse with all their visitors. She had been most excited that Gwaine was settling down and ready to carry on the family legacy. Even the fussy old lady couldn’t find fault with Elena. Of course, conversation soon turned to Arthur and she made subtle enquires about his own marital prospects; talking about how it had been such a shame that Guinevere Leodegrance had turned out to be such a heartless hussy. The whole prospect of marriage, along with his disastrous relationship with Guinevere (his fault, not hers) made him immensely uncomfortable. He had done his best to deflect the shrew lady’s questioning and defended Guinevere’s honour, though he wasn’t sure he was successful. He told her of his intentions not to go courting for some time, and instead to focus on his literary pursuits. He hadn’t actually decided up until that point what he had intended to do in order to fill his time. But now with his thoughts had turned firmly towards his writings, he made his way to the dining room.
Shortly after the gong sounded, Gwaine and Elena emerged arm-in-arm, gazing besottedly at each other. It was disgusting. And dangerous to boot. Arthur almost wished they would slip on the stairs, his heart jealous and sore as with how he had denied his own happiness only a few hours before.
He suppressed the urge to smile when Elena did indeed slip on the last step. But she merely giggled and Gwaine grinned genially as he steadied her. He stiffled a sigh and straightened his back.
“Miss Elena,” he said, as they approached, taking her hand and placing a kiss on it. “You are looking simply stunning this evening.”
Elena smiled widely at him. “Thank you, Mister Pendragon.”
“Please, call me Arthur,” he insisted.
“Arthur,” she amended.
They were interrupted by the clearing of a throat, and standing there behind them was Merlin, looking awkward and inelegant, the complete opposite of Elena.
“Sorry,” he said. “I left my… my paints are through here. In the solarium?”
“Merlin!” exclaimed Elena, clasping his hand. “Nevermind about those. Have you and Arthur agreed a date for you to commence Morgana’s portrait?”
Merlin exchanged a furtive glance with Arthur. “Um, not as yet.”
“Well then,” she said cheerfully. “You must join us for dinner, so that you may discuss it.”
“Oh. No. I just—I just want to...” Merlin tried to edge past her, feeling for the door knob behind him. “...get my paints.”
“Nonsense, Merlin. I insist! Surely, you must be hungry.”
Merlin glanced between Elena and Gwaine before fixing Arthur with a pleading stare. Though, what he thought Arthur could do as a dinner guest Arthur didn’t know. He didn’t want this arrangement anymore than Merlin did.
Shoulders slumping with resignation, Merlin said, “I, uh, I’d be honoured, Miss Elena.”
Gwaine thumped him on the back. “Good man! Now, shall we proceed to dinner?”
Watching as Gwaine and Elena fed each other forkfuls of food, despite eating the same dish, Arthur sighed. It had been one soppy thing after another with this dinner. Why had Arthur agreed to subject himself to it? Gwaine had become a giddy romantic now he had a fiancee. Flowers delivered to the table, love-sick gazes. He was truly a changed man.
To make it worse, Arthur had to suffer through it in an uncomfortable silence with Merlin by his side. Neither of them had dared to speak much. Only really when Gwaine or Elena engaged them in conversation, and they certainly avoiding speaking with each other unless necessary. But nonetheless, Arthur had been painfully aware of Merlin’s presence at his side, much like one would feel the heat if they were sitting directly beside a roaring fire.
Elena patted her mouth with a napkin. “Gwaine darling, we must send our regards to cook. That was simply divine!”
“Of course, my love,” he agreed.
“Arthur, are you sure you’re quite well? You’ve barely said a word all night,” Elena said with concern.
Arthur glanced up from his half-finished plate of food, schooling his face. “Oh yes, I am quite well, Miss Elena. Please, forgive me, I was lost in thought.”
“And Merlin, you’ve not talked much either. I wouldn’t worry, but normally you’ve plenty to say,” she pointed out.
Merlin grimaced and shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry,” he mumbled.
“I’ve an idea that will cheer him up. Merlin, why don’t you fetch your paints before dessert arrives? And while you’re there, you could show Elena Mother’s portrait. It’s almost done now.”
With a relieved look Merlin hurried out of his chair. “With pleasure. This way, Miss Elena.”
When Merlin and Elena had left Gwaine lounged back in his chair and just looked at Arthur without a word.
“What?” asked Arthur with a scowl.
“I could ask you the same. What’s up with you and Merlin. You were acting peculiar at tea and now you—and Merlin, I might add—have been positively frigid and quiet all night.”
Looking away, Arthur started to play with his fork. “I’ve no idea what you mean,” he said cooly. “Just because you and Morgana—” Arthur practically spat her name at Gwaine, “—have decided to engage Merlin in my service, does not mean I have to like the man. Nor does it mean I have to be civil and engage him in pointless chit-chat.”
Gwaine smiled at him, slow and sly. “Oh, from what I heard you more than like Merlin. At least, you did the night you stayed over.”
Arthur opened his mouth to issue a shocked denial.
“You were both rather loud, you know.”
Clutching at the table, Arthur felt as though he couldn’t breath. His heart beat hard in his chest. Oh God. Gwaine knew. Who else?
“Don’t worry,” Gwaine reassured him. “Elena doesn’t know. I told her it was Pellinore and a serving girl we’d been hearing.”
“He’s heartbroken, you know,” Gwaine said, casting his eyes over to the Solarium where Merlin was gesturing with Elena. “I think you are, too. You were never like this with Gwen. Do yourselves a favour and sort it out.”
Arthur scowled. “There can be nothing between us. It can never be.”
Gwaine shot him a skeptical look as he rose to greet Elena. He pulled out her chair and helped her sit and smiled at Merlin.
“Now, where were we?” he asked. “Arthur, you were telling me about your future plans?”