"Merlin, I'm getting married tomorrow."
Merlin hums thoughtfully, not lifting his head from the spot on Arthur's chest, his body too sated to move more than a few inches at the moment.
"Are you listening to me?" There's a finger jabbing Merlin in the side, right where he's ticklish. Arthur discovered that fact earlier, when he was trailing down Merlin's lithe torso with only his mouth. "I'm getting married tomorrow. To Guinevere."
"I know," Merlin chuckles softly, squirming out of the way of Arthur's traitorous touch. "Arthur, I know, Gaius knows, the knights know, the whole kingdom knows, and we’re all happy for you. The both of you. Gwen will be the best queen for you and Camelot."
There's a pause, and Arthur clears his throat. "Right. It's just that, after I get married, I can't do anymore of...this."
Arthur gestures down to their naked bodies, intertwined with the sheets as much as with each other. Merlin turns his head to gaze up at him, at his king, a man so beautiful and golden that he could replace the sun. "...I get it. You don't want us to be together any more, I understand."
Storm clouds roll in front of Arthur's sky blue eyes, and he shakes his head, his jaw clenching as he struggles to choose the right words. "That's not what I meant... I just... I can't..."
"Shh, I know," Merlin whispers as he inches up the length of Arthur's body, pressing their lips together for what will probably be the last time. He then pulls away, ducking his head so Arthur doesn't see the tears in the corner of his eyes. This day has been coming for awhile now, and Merlin is just glad they can have it on their terms. "I know."
"You should go to him."
Arthur blinks in surprise; those are the last words he's expected to come out his newly crowned queen's mouth. "...Guinevere? What are you saying?"
Guinevere smiles sweetly up at him, a heavenly vision in silks and lace, and he's once again reminded of her beauty, both inside and out. She leans over the arm of his chair, her whisper in his ear barely audible over the boisterous din of the feast they're attending. "You should go to him," she repeats, no trace of jealousy in her voice, "He misses you as much as you miss him."
"I don't miss him," Arthur responds much too quickly, dramatically rolling his eyes as he wills his heart to stop fighting the confines of his chest. "I see the idiot every day, sometimes more often than I would like."
Guinevere frowns and shakes her head, some of her curls escaping from her ornately braided plait. "That's not what I meant. Listen, you know you made me the happiest woman in the world when you asked me to become your wife."
"And I the happiest man when you agreed," Arthur says, taking her hand in his and placing a kiss against her knuckles. Guinevere smiles at the gesture, her cheeks rosy as she continues, "But I'm not the only one who makes you happy."
Before Arthur could protest, Guinevere holds up a hand. She's still smiling, but it's turned solemn, as if she's accepted the situation with an infinite grace and wisdom beyond her peasant background. "It's okay Arthur. You have such a big heart, there's plenty of room for the two of us. I'll see you in our chambers later if you really want to make it up to me. But for now, go to him."
After one last moment of hesitation, Arthur places his lips against her brow, murmuring words of love and gratitude before rising from his seat. All eyes instantly turn on him until he assures them to return to the festivities with a wave, just needing to excuse himself for a moment.
Merlin’s gaze widens at Arthur’s approach, placing down the wine jug after refilling some visiting noble’s goblet. “Is there something that you need, Sire?”
You, I need you, is on the tip of Arthur’s tongue. But he manages to exercise what little self-control he has remaining, stretched tight and thin from being in such close proximity to Merlin. “Yes, Merlin. A word with you out in the corridor. Now.”
An outsider to their conversation would think Merlin has committed some personal grievance to the king, but Merlin recognizes the underlying current in Arthur’s tone. His eyes widen, and he shoots a questioning glance in Guinevere’s direction. She beams at them both, nodding only once, the catalyst that finally spurs Arthur to drag Merlin out of the banquet hall.
They barely duck into a nearby aclove in time, away from the peering eyes of the guards, before their hands roam hungrily over each other’s bodies. Like they’ve been denied food for weeks, not this unexplainable attraction that they both share and really couldn’t deny, no matter how hard they’ve been trying to fool themselves.
“But,” Merlin says, gasping for air as Arthur sucks bruises into his neck to make up for lost time, “But what about Gwen... I thought...”
“Apparently, you don’t know everything,” Arthur growls, halting any further thoughts on the matter as he captures Merlin’s mouth with his own.