Pairing/s: Gwaine/Merlin, Arthur/Merlin
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine
Summary: Merlin finds that being desirable isn't as much fun as it's made out to be.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: 71 Despair
Author's Notes: Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. This is a follow-on from In Too Deep and These Things I'll Never Say
Merlin had paused after opening the door, thought better of it and stayed. He had more to say to Arthur. He couldn't bear his king's disapproval of Gwaine and himself.
That was when he'd seen Arthur turn suddenly vulnerable, believing himself alone. Arthur dropped his head into his hands and took deep, steadying breaths. It wasn't a side of him that Merlin had ever seen, and the servant knew it was too private a moment to witness. Quietly he tried to reopen the door, slip away without Arthur knowing. He knew he wasn't supposed to hear Arthur breathe his name.
Of course the door handle creaked and Arthur looked up. It was never going to be that easy. Arthur's broken expression wrenched at Merlin and he was across the room in a heartbeat, sliding to his knees in front of the king's chair.
"Sorry Arthur. I didn't mean to intrude."
He waited for the obvious comeback, something sarcastic about it not normally stopping him. Arthur stared at him, then dropped his gaze.
"Just go, Merlin."
There was something Arthur wasn't telling him, and Merlin wasn't going to leave until he found out what it was. He had a suspicion, something impossible that he'd never dared hope for.
"Is this still about Gwaine and I? It's not serious. We just... well, you know Gwaine, everything's a joke to him. We have fun, that's all. We could stop. If you asked me to."
Arthur looked up and Merlin felt the eternal draw towards him. It was always Arthur, and if his sudden suspicions were right it would be Arthur evermore. It wasn't as if Gwaine was ever going to want something serious from him. Gwaine would run a mile if he thought he was going to be tied into a relationship.
Merlin gazed into Arthur's eyes, drowning in the blue. "I'd do anything, if you asked me to."
And then Arthur had grabbed a handful of Merlin's shirt, dragged him close, and was kissing him. Merlin was practically in his lap, scrambling to keep upright, eagerly moving into the kiss, all tongue and teeth and hungry and it felt more right than anything had ever done.
Arthur hauled him to his feet, still all over him. Merlin could feel his king's hands roaming, sliding under his shirt, touching his back, slipping down below his waistband. He was being manoeuvred onto the bed, then suddenly Arthur froze.
"No. I'm not doing this."
Merlin blinked, sitting up on the soft mattress. His shirt was awry, the laces on his breeches half undone, his body reacting to the proximity of the man he loved more than anything. "What? Why not? Arthur..."
"Gwaine. You're not a joke to him. I've seen the way he looks at you. He loves you. I'm not doing this to him."
Merlin blinked again, confused. "No... Gwaine doesn't... he... Arthur, no he doesn't! We're friends, we have a good time, that's all."
"I know what I've seen. What kind of king takes another man's partner?"
"Just go, Merlin. Actually go this time."
Merlin scrambled off the bed, pulling his clothes together. Arthur was wrong about Gwaine, and he'd prove it. Gwaine would probably laugh at the thought of it, be glad of the excuse to go off with Percival or someone. Percival made his feelings clear, although Gwaine didn't seem to think so. Merlin had teased him about it, whilst Gwaine...
Gwaine had teased Merlin back about Arthur, but there hadn't been the usual glint in his eye when he'd done it. But that didn't mean Arthur was right.
Dismissed, Merlin wandered back to his room. He managed to dodge Gaius, who was out visiting patients, and just shut himself away, lying back on the bed and trying to get things clear in his mind.
The shock of Arthur's feelings... Merlin could still feel the way his hands had touched him, the way his tongue had probed his mouth, the deep kisses that went on and on, driving him crazy. He wanted more.
"Merlin?" There was a knock on the door, and a familiar face appeared round it a moment later. Of course Gwaine didn't love him, he was grinning, probably hoping they could take advantage of Gaius' absence. "Elyan thought he saw you heading here. Arthur let you off early?"
"Yes." It was, he thought, better not to say more.
"Great! Coming back to our room?"
And there it was, just a little flash of uncertainty, of hurt. Now that he was looking for it Merlin could see it for what it was, and see how quickly Gwaine covered it up with a smile. Gods, he'd been stupid.
"Whatever. Let's have an early night!" Gwaine waggled his eyebrows suggestively but there was a look in his eyes, a longing. It was the same longing Merlin had so recently seen in Arthur's eyes, and he was struck with the crushing realisation that Arthur had spoken the truth.
Merlin felt sick. Whatever else he might want, hurting Gwaine wasn't on the agenda.
"I'm really tired. I won't be any fun. Do you mind if I sleep here tonight?" The words tasted hollow.
Gwaine stayed, trying to persuade him to change his mind, and with each fresh attempt Merlin was cut deeper. He wanted Arthur, no question. But he couldn't hurt Gwaine in the process.
Eventually Gwaine left, saying something about going to the tavern. He looked downcast.
Merlin closed his eyes, trying to make sense of things. How had he got himself into such a mess? The thing with Gwaine was supposed to be fun. And Arthur...
If Arthur had said something years ago, this wouldn't be happening.
But he couldn't blame Arthur, only himself. He'd never rated himself as desirable, never considered even one person might love him, let alone two. A knight, and a king. He was just a servant, either one was more than he could ever hope for.
He had no idea what to do.