“So, nervous?” Gwaine asks, patting down his formal jacket as though he finds the garment alien.
Merlin gives him a wobbly smile and adjusts his bow tie, which is sitting askew, and looks as though it's been cannibalised by dogs who've taken it for a chewy toy – Merlin is the proud owner of a hamster that is mostly fond of lettuce not clothing articles – a last proof of the fact, if any was needed, that he'll never be smooth and perfect and he'll be sure to trip up and give the whole nation a spectacle that won't soon be forgotten.
“Actually: yes,” says Merlin.
Gwaine laughs. “I thought you impervious,” he says. He moves closer and adds, “I thought you didn't give a damn about what those toffs think.” He pauses, gesticulates in his usual flamboyant, Gwaine fashion. “I'd help you with that, but we both know this kind of stuff is foreign to me. I'm a man for casual wear.”
“You're a horrible best man, you know that?”
“I'm wounded, insulted I–”
“I'm going to fail, aren't I?” Merlin asks, deliberately not looking in the mirror. “I mean, Uther will have a fit, Morgana will cackle evilly and I'll be a laughing stock.”
“Hey, I told you not to marry the stuck up pillo– ”
Gwaine is interrupted by someone climbing thorough Merlin's bathroom window, however weird and borderline crazy that sounds. Mostly because a) Merlin's never been burglarised and b) Merlin's life has never looked like an American sitcom. And it's impossible; it shouldn't be because he's supposed to be dressing now, to be driven to church at 10.30 sharp and there's no way on earth he can be here. It's not as if Merlin hasn't been fed the schedule, time and time again over the past four months.
“Arthur!” he exclaims, giving up on the bow tie. He's not the Doctor after all. Besides he's kind of too happy, despite the panic-induced stomach roiling, to care about fashion; let the press deem him the worst dressed man of the year.
Arthur always gives him the warm fuzzies and that's all that counts.
“Where are your watch dogs?” asks Gwaine, walking past Arthur to lean out the tiny window, as if he's bona fide checking the street for gun toting men in black.
Arthur smirks and says, “My security detail? Gave them the slip.”
“Why?” asks Merlin, stepping so close to Arthur they're nose to nose. It's not because they mean to be romantic. It's just that Merlin's bathroom is so small they're both wedged between basin and tub.
“Because,” Arthur says, “I need to help you dress, dunce. Otherwise you'd be lost.” He tuts in that way of his that used to drive Merlin mad and still does from time to time, mostly when Arthur is not smiling like a loon, eyes all wide, as he is now, for that always hits a soft spot Merlin has that makes him incapable – mostly – of feeling peeved.
And then, ever pragmatic, Arthur acts, retrieving the damned tie, crossing one of its ends over the other and doubling it over itself. In a flurry of movement he loops the first end he'd grabbed a hold of around the knot's centre and deftly makes it poke through the loop behind the cringle.
“There,” he says.
“Is this why you came?” asks Merlin. After all, Merlin's quite sure he could have done it himself after youtubing the procedure.
“No,” says Arthur, cupping Merlin's face now that he's done and kissing him, a little sweetly and a little proprietorial, his tongue touching the tip of Merlin's and slipping under it. The kiss gets deep for a few seconds, then he grunts, ruffles Merlin's hair and steps away. “That's why I came,” he says.
“That's saccharine,” Gwaine says.
“Shut up,” Merlin tells him. “You don't mean it.”
“I'm still a supporter of multiple contemporaneous relationships,” Gwaine says grandly. “Long live polygamy and all that.”
Merlin shakes his head; Arthur makes to climb out the window. “You know, I'm glad. If you'd vied for Merlin, you'd have had to be let down gently. And one tends to... sort of like you.”
“Who says I'd have lost?” Gwaine asks, pride wounded.
“The man who's marrying him in front of all the nation,” answers Arthur, absurdly smug. He sits astride the window sill, ready to climb over and slip out. “See you at the abbey, Merlin. Got to get MI5 to find me. Make them believe they're competent, you know.”