Title: How To Fall In Love
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, vague allusions to Gwen/Leon
Character/s: Gwen, Leon, Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Gwen is his Queen. But she is not his wife. In which, Gwen notices things and Leon struggles to understand.
Word Count: 853
Prompt: #69 - Envy
Author's Notes: This one was a little hard for me. I had a few different ideas for it, and this one is the only one that came out right, in my opinion. I love Leon and I like the idea of how after Arthur's death, Leon sort of steps in as Gwen's consort. Hope you guys enjoy!
“I envy him, you know.”
Leon looks to Gwen curiously, watching how she swirls the red wine in her goblet idly. She turns to him, then looks down from her window and across the field, where he finds the king and his servant bantering loudly. Arthur says something and Merlin's face flushes, and he shouts something back while Arthur shoves him playfully. Merlin, who a strong wind would blow over, falls flat onto his butt, and Arthur points at him, laughing. Merlin smiles and makes another snide remark, and Leon finds himself confused.
“You envy him?”
He lets out a small chuckle. “And why is that, my lady? Would you want to be shoved around, as Merlin is?”
Gwen shakes her head. She smiles, too, but it's odd, almost somber. “No, of course not. But look, Leon. Do you see the gazes they share?”
Leon looks again, and he watches closer, now. He watches how Arthur offers his hand out, and Merlin takes it. Arthur yanks him upwards and Merlin stumbles straight into him, Arthur catching him by his upper arms. They stay like that for a moment, and he sees the way their eyes meet. He's seen that look before, it's somehow familiar, but he turns back to his queen.
“I don't understand.”
Gwen sighs, and she sets her goblet down on the windowsill. “The gazes he shares with Merlin are not the gazes he shares with me. Look at how carefree they are, the way they touch, the way they laugh. He is not king when he is with Merlin. Merlin is not his subject, he never has been. A blind man could see they're in love.”
“My lady,” Leon says, shaking his head. “You misunderstand. The king loves you, doesn't he? Has he not fought for you, despite your previous status? He has gone against all odds for you, willingly chose to marry you--”
“But he does not love me,” Gwen finishes, and her smile is definitely sad. “I may be his Queen, Leon, but I am not his wife. I do not hold his heart. That is in much more capable hands.”
The knight again averts his attention to the courtyard, only to see how Arthur hesitantly lets go, his fingers lingering on Merlin's arms for longer than necessary. Merlin gives him a completely different smile, softer, and he feels like he's intruded on something private, secret, something meant for Arthur and Arthur alone. He stares, curious, until Arthur raises a hand, brushing along the other's cheek, before he leans in, pressing a gentle kiss to Merlin's lips.
Leon can barely suppress his choke of surprise. Gwen puts a hand to Leon's arm.
“His heart has never been mine. It has always been his. I don't blame him, really. I don't think we ever really loved each other. Cared for, yes, of course, but every time he kissed me, I think he saw him, somehow,” Gwen murmurs, and Leon swallows.
“I cannot believe—my lady, how are you so calm about this? He's your husband, did he not...did he not banish you for the same thing? For such...infidelity?” he finishes, strained, but Gwen shakes her head anyway.
“I am calm, Leon, because I have already accepted it. I think I always knew this marriage wasn't about love. I blinded myself to it, but I think I've always known. He has done his duty as King. He gave Camelot a Queen. And now it's time for him to love,” she explains quietly, watching blankly as the two pull away from each other.
Leon too, watches how they breathe, and how they rest their foreheads together, arms wrapped around each other, thinking themselves secluded, as if no one else in the world is there, or matters.
“I would give anything to be so loved,” Gwen's sad smile returns. “That's why I envy him. Why I envy Merlin. He is loved beyond the moon and earth themselves. He would move the stars if Arthur asked him to, and Arthur would rip them from the sky so Merlin wouldn't have to. Their love only comes once in a lifetime, to take it away from them would be too cruel to bear.”
She watches the two longingly. “They would stop, if I told them to. But they would be miserable for all their days. I couldn't bear to see them unhappy. They are both my friends and I cherish them, and would not see them unwell because of something I did.”
“But still,” Leon mumbles, sighing heavily. “You have the right to be happy.”
She picks up her goblet and meets his eyes, now. There's a wry smile on her lips, but her eyes betray nothing of what she's thinking. “I do. And I think, I'll find it soon enough.”
With that, she walks by him, and he watches her go, every bit the regal Queen she was born to be. He passes one last look to the two outside, who are now heading back towards the castle, and back to Gwen, mulling over her words.
Though bewildered, Leon finds himself smiling.