Title: Broken Promises
Pairing/s: pre-Merlin/Arthur, Lancelot/Gwen, Arthur/Gwen
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Gwen has been seeing Lancelot behind Arthur’s back.
Word Count: 957
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 465: Honeymoon;
Author's Notes: Unbetaed. Infidelity
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
The loud clank of something heavy hitting the wall startled Merlin.
Jerking up, banging his head on the underside of Arthur’s bed where he had been searching for rats and dust bunnies because the unending whinging of the prat was really annoying and Merlin was a crap servant but honestly no one liked to clean under beds so he left it for last, Merlin finally slid out and looked around.
Arthur was sitting there, scowling down at the gold ring between his fingers, turning it over and over again. He looked angry enough to eat granite.
Usually, when Arthur was that furious, it was best to tiptoe out and come back hours later. At least then, he wouldn’t be lobbing heavy objects at Merlin, just yelling at him or maybe threatening a session in the stocks.
But Arthur looked up as Merlin started toward the door and Merlin was caught fast. “Umm, I’ll just come back later, shall I?”
That was odd. If nothing else, Merlin expected to be called idiot or girl’s petticoat or something equally non-inventive. Merlin’s insults were much better, but it looked like Arthur was not in the mood for a bit of jollying up.
He could have left. He could have minded his own damn business, but Arthur looked so miserable that Merlin sighed and sat down next to him.
“She left me,” Arthur said, staring at the ring in his hand.
Merlin didn’t have to ask who. There was only one woman Arthur had ever been interested in and Gwen seemed to like him back.
“I gave her this ring and she promised to love me, to be my wife, and never leave,” Arthur murmured, fury and grief warring there. “She made a vow and then she broke it.”
With that, he threw the ring away. It bounced a couple of times, pinging against the stone, then lay there, of gold and accusations and lost futures.
“She lied about love and fidelity and how I was the most important man in her life. And all the while, she was seeing Lancelot behind my back,” Arthur spat out, bitterness lacing his voice. “If my uncle had any say, he’d have them both strung up for treason.”
Horrified, Merlin said, “But the wedding is next week. She’s… he’s… you aren’t going to kill them, are you?” He was already thinking of ways to smuggle them out of the castle if it came to that.
Shaking his head, Arthur said, “If we’d been married already, it would have been far worse for them both.” He looked up at Merlin then. There was grief in his eyes and despair. “As it is, I’ve banished them. They have until sundown, then their lives are forfeit.”
“Arthur, I don’t think… Gwen would never deliberately hurt you. You have to know that,” Merlin said.
“It doesn’t matter. She made me look a fool. She lied to my face, and I can’t forgive her for it,” Arthur snapped. “It’s done. We’re done.”
Merlin reached out, laying his hand over Arthur’s, trying to ground him. “Better you know now than after.”
“Better I had never loved at all,” Arthur snarled, jerking out of Merlin’s reach. “My father was right. Love is a trap. I’ll not fall for it again.”
“Arthur…” Merlin didn’t know what else he could say. That love was everything, that even if you loved someone and they didn’t love you back, it was still worth it. That unrequited love was wonderful and terrible, but it made Merlin feel alive every time he saw Arthur. That he wanted to wrap himself around the man he loved and never let go. Even if Arthur thought it ridiculous or a trap or completely beyond the bounds of their relationship, Merlin would never love Arthur less for it.
But he said none of those things. It wasn’t the right time.
All Merlin could do was be there for Arthur, in whatever way Arthur needed him and accept that it could never be anything more.
Arthur stared down at his hands again, then closing his eyes, he said, “When I do marry, it will be for advantage alone. No joyous honeymoon, no sweet words of devotion, just straight to work after.”
“Maybe things will change. I know your people love you. And maybe someday, you’ll find someone else and….” Merlin said but Arthur cut him off.
“Love is for peasants, not princes and certainly not kings. Only a fool would think otherwise,” Arthur said, shaking his head. “And we both know you are a fool but today is not the day to prove it once again.”
With that, Arthur waved toward the door. “Now, go wash up. You’ve dust in your hair and it’s annoying. And you are dismissed for the day. Come back in the morning. And Merlin,” Arthur said, hard and final and unyielding, “We will not speak of her or this again. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Sire, but if you need to talk….” Merlin said but Arthur shook his head, looking back down at the ring glinting on the floor.
“She is dead to me, just as love is. Now, go.”
There was nothing else to say. But as Merlin moved toward the door, he looked back to see Arthur curling inward and his face wet with tears.
He couldn’t bear it. Ignoring Arthur’s protest, Merlin leaned over and gave Arthur a quick hug, squeezing tight, and then letting go. He didn’t say anything, though. What was there to say that hadn’t already been said.
He just stepped back and closed the door behind him, and let Arthur mourn.
And hope that someday Arthur would see Merlin for who he truly was and love him back anyway.