Summary: He didn't react, just forced a smile on his face and wondered how long until someone noticed he was dying inside.
Word Count: 808
Author's Notes: Not a lot! :)
He didn’t react when he saw Gwaine and Merlin joking around about something. Their smiles were easy and free, they didn’t care at all. Arthur had thought that these two men never guarded themselves around the prince, they certainly spoke their mind to him. But no matter what they said to him, it wasn’t quite with the same carefree expression they had with each other. Despite Gwaine’s promotion to a knight, there was no true station difference between them, they were friends without worrying about what the rest of the world thought.
He didn’t react when he saw Merlin and Lancelot exchange meaningful looks before they both made some excuse and hurried out of the room. How could he show how hurt he was that it wasn’t him that Merlin was telling everything to, when the result was that the kingdom was safe? He knew their secret discussions somehow resulted in Camelot being saved, one way or another. They had their secret, who was he to react to how much it was hurting him?
He didn’t react when Lancelot’s hand brushed against Gwen’s in the corridor. Her brilliant smile every time she saw the man was so true and heartfelt, and Arthur knew that she would never look at him like that. It didn’t matter that he loved her. He knew that Gwen did love him, but just not in the way that she loved Lancelot. All he wanted was for her to be happy, he was not going to be the one to stand in the way of that. He could whine and demand that she loved him all he liked, but it would never quite be the same compared to what they had together.
He didn’t react when he saw Gwen talking quietly to Leon about something that had happened when they had grown up together. Before either had arrived in Camelot, before either of them had taken up residence or position here in the castle, they had just been carefree children playing happily together. They had known they couldn’t be friends when they grew older, and so had made the most of it while they could. Who had been Arthur’s friend when he was growing up? No one would dare because of Uther, or they would dare and just care about his title rather than how he was feeling. He couldn’t react, he couldn’t take away something from them just because he wanted that experience himself.
He didn’t react when Leon took control of training when Arthur had other duties. He watched from afar as he corrected Percival’s footwork, carefully showing the giant of a man the best way to maintain his balance so that his opponents couldn’t use his size against him. It didn’t matter that Arthur had tried to tell him the same thing countless times, it was Leon that Percival was listening to, Leon was the one who managed to get him to perform a manoeuvre Arthur had been struggling to teach for weeks. How could he react to that when it meant that his kingdom was stronger?
He didn’t react when Percival and Elyan walked away from training together, shoulders bumping and laughter falling easily. They were as relaxed as Merlin and Gwaine, stories from their pasts falling casually from their lips. They didn’t need to worry about saying something they shouldn’t. They had both travelled around, they had both got into scraps and into love, and had both emerged from everything unscathed. They had things to talk about, stories to share. Who did Arthur have to be able to recall adventures from when he was young? Had he even had adventures, all he could remember was his duties. But as with Leon and Gwen, he was not about to take that away from his men.
He didn’t react when Elyan stopped by the armoury to help Merlin fix some of Arthur’s chainmail from where he accidentally got a little rough with it. It didn’t matter that Elyan was a knight now, he knew how to handle the metal and so was there to lend Merlin a hand. They worked well together, side by side. One as dark as the night, one as pale as the snow. A perfect contrast, and their work showed it. Arthur knew he couldn’t complain, not when it meant his armour was in perfect condition and therefore saved his life during the next attack that they hadn’t planned for.
How could he complain when his friends and family were happy and safe? All he could do was force a smile on his face and pretend that he wasn’t dying of loneliness on the inside. He laughed and he joked when the time was right, all the while hoping that someone noticed his smile didn’t reach his eyes. Until that happened, all he could do was pretend.