Title: So Much For My Happy Ending
Pairing/s: Gwaine/Merlin, Arthur/Merlin
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine
Summary: Gwaine's hungover. Then he finds Merlin is going on a trip, without him. It doesn't look good for poor Gwaine.
Word Count: 1266 (Um... yeah it was 1000... well, 1039 actually, but then I sent it to beta and further angst suggestions came back... Sorry)
Prompt: 72 Acceptance
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 and Complicated.
So Much For My Happy Ending
Gwaine's day started badly.
He'd woken in the morning to find himself face down on his bed, fully clothed with a crick in his neck and an ache in his heart. Percival went on patrol with him, and he was grateful for the company of the quietest knight. Anyone else might have tried to make conversation, and he wasn't ready for that.
There was no training; Arthur had locked himself away doing who knew what kingly business, and Leon had been summoned to him. If it wasn't for his thumping headache Gwaine might have been pleased at the respite. Arthur trained hard, and expected everyone else to do the same. It meant they were the best, but it also meant that there was rarely a day when he didn't ache.
When they returned, there were two figures heading for the gateway. Gwaine was surprised to see Merlin at Leon's side. They were packed for a long trip, one Merlin had said nothing about. Gwaine pulled his horse in front of them, effectively blocking their escape. He didn't like the look of the bulging saddlebags, but perhaps there was some quest he didn't know about? Merlin had been quiet, Leon had been summoned to the king... Yes, a quest would explain everything. Everything was going to be just fine.
"Where are you two going?"
Merlin looked a little shamefaced and said that he was going back to Ealdor to visit his mother.
That wasn't a quest. It was something they'd talked about from time to time. Merlin missed his mother, but Gwaine was supposed to be the one taking him. Not the most senior knight. He looked up at Leon, suddenly wary.
"Why are you going with him? I could take him."
"The king asked me to escort Merlin," Leon answered. Merlin just looked uncomfortable.
Gwaine had a bad feeling about all of this. He leaned over and caught the reins of Merlin's horse, just in case his lover suddenly decided to make a bolt for it.
"Why's Arthur suddenly letting you go? You've asked before, what's changed?"
Leon and Percival were moving away, giving the pair of them a little space. Merlin didn't look grateful for that. He looked wary, glancing at the open space beyond as if he wanted to escape to it. He didn't reply, so Gwaine asked again.
"What's happened, Merlin?"
"I need some time. Arthur said I could go home. Maybe bring Mother back if she wants to come, he'd find her a place."
"That's good of him. And sudden. Why? What do you need time for? Why are you avoiding me?"
Merlin met his gaze then. He still looked uncomfortable, guilty, and just said one word.
Arthur. The single word spoke volumes and confirmed Gwaine's greatest fear. It was always going to be Arthur but that didn't mean Gwaine was ready to hear it. The word twisted like a knife in his gut and he could feel the jealousy rearing up. He'd always known it was going to happen and thought he'd accepted the inevitability of it. Yesterday, Arthur's face when he'd blown a kiss to Merlin... He wondered if that was the catalyst? Had he sealed his own fate with that one stupid gesture? He tried to hold his own anger and frustration in when he spoke again, but it was difficult.
"You got what you wanted then. Did you spend last night with him, is that why you sent me away?"
"Was it this morning? Did you go to him this morning?"
"I'm his manservant. I go to him every morning. I haven't slept with him."
"Yet. You haven't slept with him yet."
Merlin didn't confirm or deny that, so Gwaine persevered. He was torturing himself, but he had to know.
"So why are you leaving? I would have thought you'd want to stay now more than ever."
"He's worried about you. I have to make my mind up, decide what I want."
"Seriously?" Gwaine almost dropped the reins. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "But you know what you want. Everyone knows what you want. Gods, Merlin you've landed yourself the king. The king!"
"I didn't know. I thought we were for fun, you made out it was almost a joke."
"Well you got that bit right!"
Merlin looked briefly startled at that, hurt almost, but then shook his head and looked down at his horse's mane, twisting his fingers in it. "That wasn't what I meant."
Behind him, Gwaine could see Arthur was coming down the castle steps. He must have been watching and seen Gwaine confronting Merlin. Merlin followed his gaze, and looked panicked.
"I should go."
Gwaine didn't let go of the reins. "I think Arthur wants to say goodbye. You wouldn't want to go without saying anything, would you?" It sounded bitter, but he didn't care. It was how he felt. The fact that Merlin had been about to up and leave without saying anything was cowardly.
Merlin got it. "I'd left you a note. I thought it would be easier if I wasn't around for a while. Then when I come back we could talk."
Arthur was hurrying across the courtyard. Gwaine had thought he'd found his place at Camelot, but he wasn't so sure now.
"I might be gone when you get back."
"Don't. It's your home."
Arthur reached them. He glanced worriedly up at Merlin who just shook his head. That was enough for Gwaine. They were communicating without words. He wasn't going to stick around to watch how that developed. But he had one thing left, one thing that Arthur didn't know about Merlin. It was beneath him to hint at it and upset Merlin, but Gwaine wasn't feeling particularly noble or charitable so leaned closer as if he were going to give a farewell kiss. Instead he turned his head and whispered in Merlin's ear.
"And how do you think he's going to feel about you when he finds out the truth about what you are?"
Arthur heard. Gwaine didn't know how he could have done, but he did. "You mean the magic?"
There was a small gasp from Merlin, and Arthur looked up at him, a wry smile on his face.
"What, you think I don't know? I've seen you use it countless times. I'm not stupid."
There was something that changed then, across Merlin's face, his expression lifting into a wondering and relieved half-smile.
Gwaine knew he'd lost. He let the reins go, almost throwing them at Arthur and never mind that he was the king. Turning his horse, he rode off back to the stables without another glance.
He handed over the horse to one of the stable boys, and headed for the kitchens. Bread, cheese, water, all packed up in moments and then he was back at the stables asking for another horse.
Percival was there.
"No." Gwaine threw the provisions into his saddlebag.
"You're coming back?"
"I don't know." The horse was ready, he mounted and went to ride off, but Percival caught the reins just for a moment.
"You belong here. Come back."
Gwaine didn't answer. He didn't feel as if he belonged anywhere.
He rode out, noticing Merlin and Arthur as he went through the gate. Kicking his horse faster he galloped past them, not wanting to see any more. Then he could ride, and never stop, just the pounding of his horse's hooves on the grassland beneath them, and try to forget.
He'd accepted that he had lost. That didn't mean he had to like it.