The Equilateral Triangle
Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.
Merlin loves Arthur and Gwen together.
It is part possessive, he must admit, as he feels almost a part in creating it, as if they are a painting and he is one of the painters. It is part that they are his friends and they are happy together and that makes him happy too.
It is part something else he doesn't quite name, but seems strangely close to desire.
Gwen looks at Arthur and Arthur looks back, and Merlin wishes they would both look at him. Arthur laces his fingers in Gwen's, and Merlin wishes he was part of the knot too. Gwen dances and Arthur with her, and Merlin wishes he was both and either. Arthur laughs and Gwen smiles, and Merlin could watch and listen to it forever.
Arthur is light, Gwen dark, copper and gold on the throne of Camelot, both radiant and sparkling. A treasure, and Merlin wants to posses it.
Gwen smiles at him as if she knows, and perhaps she does. Perhaps she understands, because she is the heart to his magic and Arthur's courage.
Sometimes he is slightly jealous how well they fit together, as if the match was meant to be from creation. Sometimes, he just happy for the same reason.
Sometimes, Arthur kisses Gwen as if she is the dearest in all of Albion, as if she is a fight he cannot win and yet cannot surrender.
Sometimes, he looks at Merlin as if he could kiss Merlin like that too.
One day, he does.
Fate's servant. That's how Merlin thinks of himself. Not Arthur's servant. No. Never Arthur's servant. That would mean he saw himself as always destined to walk one step behind.
Merlin sees himself walking in-step. Next to, beside, adjacent, near. Near Arthur, the once and future king now king, and coming into it like a sun to a sunrise, bringing the dawn.
It's easy to be a little blinded. It is hard to look away still.
Arthur never looks away. Arthur is all steady gaze and eyes like the summer sky and kisses like a king – demanding, unyielding, wanting, but regal only to his cheeks blush and his lips are heavy and his breath heavy and he looks at Merlin from lowered eyelids.
"Idiot," he says. "Woolheaded idiot and sheep for brains."
"What did I do?" Merlin asks, slightly bewildered. He's never been kissed and insulted in one breath before.
"Just shut up," Arthur says, and kisses him again, until it is Merlin who is breathing heavily and thinking of insults. Clotpole, idiot, prat, all these things and king too – Arthur Pendragon by another name.
It takes an idiot to love one, Merlin figures, and so he does.
Gwen is no fool and Merlin doesn't treat her like one. So he tells her one evening, and she listens with eyes distant, as if what he is telling her is not all that new.
When he cannot think of anything more to say, he merely watches her, the crown on her head so normal now, as if she was always meant to carry it. Her dresses are silk now, but they do not make her more beautiful. They could not, when she has always been as beautiful as any can be to him.
Queen Guinevere. Gwen. As Morgana dreamed, and as Arthur caused and Merlin cheered.
Ever since, in his dreams, Gwen and Arthur dance in the throne room, clad in crowns only, and Merlin always watches, until Gwen holds out a hand and beckons him.
"Come, Merlin," Gwen says, and he takes her hand while Arthur watches them both, at least until Gwen takes her husband's hand too, and they are three, a dance there are no steps for besides those they can make up.
He always wakes then, with Gwen's words still echoing in him. Always her words, as if even his dreams know that Arthur might act it, but Gwen dares speak it.
He loves her for that.
"Merlin," she says after a while. Her voice has a touch of sadness, but it is also fond and holds no anger.
"I know I have no right," he says awkwardly. "Arthur loves you. You love him."
"He is not the only one I love," she says, and her kiss is soft like absolution.
Once, Gwen thought Merlin could take her heart. He held stars in his eyes and his gaze was bright and hopeful in a dark time – and she followed the gaze to see Arthur illuminated.
Once, she thought. Now, she knows.
Merlin has her heart. He too. And he has a part of Arthur's. Sometimes, Gwen finds herself a little jealous of that. But it is one emotion of many and she can let it be, knowing it won't be strong enough to stand against everything else.
Merlin is leaning into her kiss, braiding his fingers in her hair while her hand rests on his knee. He is careful, so very careful, as if he might break her or something if he puts even a little pressure on.
So she does instead, biting his bottom lip, pressing her fingers against his flesh and feeling it yield and tilting her head to angle the kiss better.
"Gwen," Merlin mutters hoarsely. She smiles at him as she stands up, holding out a hand.
"Come," she says, and he does.
Arthur watches them both as she walks into their bedchamber, Merlin in hand. For a moment, he still merely looks, then walks over and kisses her lightly. Merlin kisses her neck and Arthur tilts his head to do the same, until both men are kissing the same spot and then each other.
Arthur kisses Merlin, and Merlin closes his eyes and she kisses Arthur's chest, arching against him and Merlin against her until the space between them all is skin and cloth.
Cloth is too much. It must go, and they make it.
Arthur's skin is battle-scarred. Merlin's is soft. She delights in touching both, the contrast a sensation in itself. Merlin's lips are constantly upturned, Arthur's always slightly parted. She kisses one after the other, watching them kiss each other and tasting the faint moisture of Arthur's kiss on Merlin's lips, and Merlin's on Arthur's.
She kisses Merlin's chest while Arthur's mouth has a far lower target, and it is she who feels more than hears Merlin's strangled cry as his body tenses. She straddles Arthur while Merlin touches them both, as if making a map of their skin by touch. She falls against the mattress as Merlin presses her down and thrusts, Arthur at his back following every movement. She lies between them, Arthur at her front, Merlin at her back, finding a rhythm of three. She watches, as Arthur leans back against Merlin, and Merlin's cheeks seem to blaze.
Gwen is not sure if she and Merlin are sharing Arthur or Arthur and her are sharing Merlin or even if Merlin and Arthur are sharing her.
She is just sure they are sharing something.
In the morning, she finds Arthur outside, watching the dawn with his face beautifully lit by the first rays of sun. She does not speak, merely leans into him, feeling his hand settle on her hip.
"I do love you," he says.
"I know," she says, tucking her head under his chin. "Arthur, you need not feel you should apologize. If we did wrong, we both did."
"Merlin is just..."
"Merlin is not just for either of us," she says, and he looks slightly rebuked. Then he smiles, and she remembers all the other times she's rebuked him to his pleasure.
She does see the royal in him. That's just not all she sees, and not all he wants to see in himself either.
"I love you," he says again, kissing her and rubbing his nose against hers so lightly it's almost insubstantial.
They do not move until the sun is far above the horizon, caressing them both with the light of a new day.
"Merlin, you are not completely hopeless..."
"Merlin, I have come to a realisation..."
"Merlin, yesterday was..."
It is hard to say anything to Merlin, Arthur finds. Even when Merlin is not really there and is represented by a mirror staring dumbly back at him.
"Merlin, despite your many shortcomings and keeping of secrets, I have..."
"Merlin... I love... I like... I tolerate... Oh, you idiot, do shut up."
"You're telling me to shut up when I haven't even spoken?" Merlin asks from the door, and Arthur whips around, feeling like the greatest fool in the kingdom. But Merlin's smile isn't just mocking, it seems slightly radiant too.
"I will until the day I die," Arthur says, a promise he intends to keep.
"I know," Merlin says softly, walking over and looking at him with eyes that seem to hold a whole world and all the magic in it.
Guinevere sits in the throne room listening to several peasants that have come with concerns about the harvest and taxes, and Arthur watches from the shadows as she speaks and listens in equal measure.
She is the best queen Camelot could have, he thinks. She taught him a royal must also serve, and serve its people well.
He is working on that.
When the peasants leave, he steps forward carefully, keeping as silent as possible until he can grab her from behind and swing her around until she's laughing and laughing and all the room is filled with the sound.
Warrior. That is what he was raised to be, Arthur knows. That is what his father would value in him, prowess with weapons and war and tactics.
That is not the only way to fight, he has learned. Guinevere might not wield weapons, but she is still a warrior. She just fights with her heart. Merlin fights for what he holds in his heart with magic, and sacrifice when he must.
Merlin at one side, Gwen at another. Arthur thinks of them as his, but knows they are also each other's, and both would probably tell him off for the arrogance in assuming ownership. Merlin by mocking, Gwen with an angry speech.
As they should. He thinks maybe, just maybe, that he is theirs and they've formed him between themselves.
Merlin and Gwen. He can see them sometimes exchange smiles when they are happy with a decision he's made, and see them stand at the walls of Camelot and marvel together at how the kingdom is changing. He can see them share easy banter and open hearts, and sometimes he's a little jealous that it comes so easy to them. He is still learning, and they're still forming him.
Sometimes, Arthur watches Guinevere and thinks he could not live without her.
Sometimes, he watches Merlin and thinks the same.
Most of the time, he watches them both and hopes he will never have to.