"So you see," Guinevere explains, with a pained smile that says she's completely sincere, "even though I am married now myself, we do still care, very much. For you, personally, as well as for the relationship between our family and the Dragonlords. And that's why we wanted you to come."
"I understand," says Merlin, though his mind is reeling. "Thank you, Your Highness." The language is unusually formal for the two of them, and he feels the urge to bow, or kneel, or back away. Or else to step forward, thread his hands through her soft hair and pull her body to him while he kisses her, as he's dreamed of kissing her all along the journey to Camelot. He stands still and blinks, not knowing where to look.
"Obviously nothing's set in stone. You two can decide for yourselves. But we thought… if you did happen to hit it off, well, that would… we couldn't ask for a better ending than that."
Merlin makes himself smile and, finally, look at the beautiful errant prince. "No, I don't suppose we could."
Elyan has the noble bearing that Merlin's been working for years to adopt. His movements are precise and perfect. His body is made of sharp lines and angles that Merlin admires, even as he longs for the welcoming curve of Guinevere's back, the warm spread of her smile.
Merlin has been lonely since they named him Chief of the Dragonlords. He doesn't know how to talk to the other witches and warlocks who now bow down to him, and he doesn't get along with the non-magical royals who think themselves his equal or more. Guinevere always seemed to understand, and was always willing to fill the silences with cheerful talk, even when Merlin found his mind blank, his tongue tied.
"So, home at last!" Merlin says now. "You must have had some grand adventures."
"Not really," says Elyan, frowning briefly at the servant who carries away their plates.
"Is it good to be back?"
"It is what my father and sister wished."
At sunset on the roof of the castle Elyan pushes Merlin against a wall and tugs at his hair while he shoves their hips together. He is hard, and Merlin is aching.
"I can't be like her for you," he mutters against Merlin's jaw.
"No," says Merlin, "no, no one could."
Elyan works his hand between them and into Merlin's trousers, grabs his prick and starts to pull. Merlin grips Elyan's shoulders and feels the scrape of stone against his back. "Yeah," he grunts, as if his voice weren't powerful, with magic and monsters his to command. "Like that, yeah, please, yeah, yeah."
"I hope you weren't too disappointed," Elyan says as Merlin's preparing to leave.
Merlin shakes his head, not ready to put his hurt or his hope into words just yet, but says, "This can't be what you wanted either. Or you wouldn't have stayed away so long."
"Would you want to live shut up in a castle?"
Merlin doesn't answer.
The Dragonlords' seat of power is wherever their leader lives. Merlin used to think that would be Guinevere's castle one day, but after this last visit he understands he has no real reason to leave Ealdor.
Elyan prefers to come to him, if only for a few weeks out of each year.
"This is how it was before, when I was traveling. Far enough away from Camelot they don't see a prince, just a man."
"Out here you can be a Dragonlord's consort."
Aithusa, a dragon without speech, takes a liking to the man of few words and even deigns to carry him, along with Merlin, to a secluded spot on the mountainside. Elyan whoops with pleasure in flight and beams at Merlin when they're alone.
The family resemblance is strongest when he smiles, Merlin thinks. He leans in to kiss him and stops thinking of anyone else.
"Think of this as the roof of my castle," Merlin offers.
"I'll think of it as the edge of the world."
It's an honor to keep Elyan's secrets, even the ones he doesn't put into words. In the deafening distance no one else can hear his moans, or see the careful, practiced way he sinks to his knees, the way his eyes go half closed and his cheeks hollow around Merlin's cock. Merlin touches Elyan's face and feels the bone under smooth skin. He is dizzy and content. Grateful, at last, for hard angles.