Title: These Things I'll Never Say
Pairing/s: Gwaine/Merlin, Arthur/Merlin
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine
Summary: It wasn't easy, being the king.
Word Count: 999
Prompt: 69 Envy
Author's Notes: Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. This is a follow-on from In Too Deep.
These Things I'll Never Say
It had been a mistake to ever let Gwaine return to Camelot.
Arthur watched him walking across the courtyard, not a care in the world, joking about something with Percival. The man flicked back his hair, once, twice. Gods, that must be so annoying. Arthur wondered if he should bring in a regulation haircut for the knights. Gwaine wouldn't look so fine without his perfect hair. People wouldn't find him so attractive.
Gwaine was one of Camelot's finest knights. He was brave and loyal and there was nobody that Arthur would sooner have at his side in a battle. But beyond the battleground... No, if Arthur were honest he'd rather that Gwaine wasn't there.
Gwaine said something, and Percival gave him a fairly gentle shove but it still almost sent Gwaine sprawling. Arthur smirked to himself, then instantly regretted it.
"What's funny?" Merlin was at his side instantly, pushing past to look out over the balcony. Because Merlin would do that, push past the king without a second thought. And, Arthur reflected, he would let him. He'd let Merlin do anything, within reason.
His father would have had the head of any servant who'd dared do such a thing.
There were many things Uther would have had Merlin's head for if he'd known about them. Things that Arthur had to pretend he was unaware of because he didn't want to deal with them. Feigning ignorance was an easy option.
He wondered if Gwaine knew about the magic? Whether it was something that Merlin felt he could trust the knight with but not Arthur? It cut into him, the thought of the two of them lying awake, agreeing that he couldn't be trusted with that secret. Arthur had carried it faithfully for years, and Merlin didn't realise. There were many things Merlin didn't realise.
Merlin was leaning over the balcony, grinning down at Gwaine and waving. Both the knights waved back, and Gwaine blew a kiss. The sight cut through Arthur like a knife, and it was all he could do not to pull Merlin back possessively. But Merlin wasn't his, not in that way. Gwaine had every right. Arthur, king or not, had none.
"If you've run out of work, Mer-lin I can find more," Arthur muttered. His manservant grinned at him, probably thinking he wasn't serious, although surely Merlin knew him better than that by now? Perhaps he just thought that if he played along then Arthur wouldn't follow through with the threat. To be fair, these days Arthur probably wouldn't. He relied on Merlin more than he ever could admit.
Gwaine was still looking up, even though Merlin had gone back to his duties, and saluted Arthur. It was a gesture of respect to his king, quite different from the waving and smiling that had been aimed at Merlin. Arthur couldn't remember the last time someone had just smiled and waved to him, relaxed and friendly. Sometimes he wanted nothing more than to go back to the days when he could ride out with his knights and watch them all slowly forget that he was the prince and just treat him as if he were one of their own. They never, ever forgot that he was king, and Arthur never could either.
He wondered if Merlin had taken Gwaine home yet. He couldn't recall when they could have done because Merlin was always busy working for Arthur. Arthur had been to Ealdor once. He'd met Hunith, been welcomed not because he was the prince, but because he was her son's friend. He could only imagine how much more warmly Gwaine would be welcomed as her son's lover. Hunith would adore Gwaine. Everyone adored Gwaine. He had an easy-going charm that Arthur could only dream of. He had Merlin.
Arthur followed Merlin back inside, then realised that his manservant was watching him with a slightly worried look on his face. He'd picked up the broom he'd dropped, but wasn't any closer to sweeping the floor.
"Now what's the matter? Oh, I'm not going to give you any extra work, you've got enough to get wrong as it is."
"It's not that. Though, thanks, I might get to sleep before midnight then!"
Arthur sat down at his desk heavily. "What then?"
Merlin dropped the broom again and came over. There was, Arthur realised, no chance of the floor getting cleaned any time soon.
"You don't approve of Gwaine and I."
It wasn't a question. When Merlin was this close, leaning towards him, Arthur could see the edge of a bruise on his neck where his neckerchief didn't quite hide it. He stared at it for a moment until Merlin realised what he was looking at and covered it.
"What the two of you do is your own business."
"But you don't."
"I'd rather you were more discreet."
Arthur would rather not have gone to speak to Gwaine one evening. He'd rather not have found out about the two of them that way, hearing them through the door. He'd rather not have stayed there, listening, pressing his burning face against the cold stone wall until he couldn't stand it any longer. He would rather have known of Merlin's preferences a long, long time ago so that it could have been him. He would rather it was him.
He couldn't tell Merlin any of that.
"Sorry. I'll speak to him about it."
"Do that," Arthur snapped. When Merlin went to pick up the fallen broom again, he waved him away. "Go. I have work to do."
He could feel Merlin's eyes on him, but he didn't look up from the report Leon had left him. Not until he heard the door close.
Alone, he could put his head in his hands and take deep breaths until he calmed down. Alone he could pretend he wasn't king, just for a moment, and try to nurse the ache in his heart. Alone, he could be himself.
Beside the closed door Merlin watched him.
Continued in Complicated here