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My Best Friend's Boyfriend

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Gwaine was known for making impetuous promises that he never intended to keep, but when he said, “Percival Thomas Cooper, if you do this for me, I’ll be your slave for life,” he seemed serious.

Percy frowned up from the bench press, his eyebrows furrowing not from the effort of the rep so much as the sincere worry he saw on his friend’s face. “You want me to pretend to be your boyfriend.” With a small grunt, he hoisted the weight back into its holder and exhaled.

“Yes, well, you don’t know how Mummy is,” Gwaine said, tossing his hair over his shoulder in a way that Percy shouldn’t find endearing. “She expects me to bring the lad I’ve been seeing to the reunion. If I don’t, she’ll know I was lying.” His face had taken on the expression of a wounded puppy, and despite his reticence, Percy felt his resolve melting.

“You probably shouldn’t have lied to begin with,” he said, starting another set of ten. One of the things he’d learned about Gwaine in the years since they’d met was that he was ashamed of the privilege in which he’d been raised, but until now Percy hadn’t gotten the impression Gwaine gave a fig what his family thought about his promiscuous lifestyle. He certainly made no attempts to hide it; just last week they’d been out at a club and Gwaine had pulled a set of twin brothers right under Percy’s nose, even had the audacity to ask if he’d like to join them, completely oblivious to the knife twisting its way between Percy’s ribs.

“I know, I know. But alas, now the piper has come to be paid.”

Percy tried to ignore Gwaine’s stare as he slid out from under the bar and grabbed his water bottle, taking a swig in the hopes of calming his beating heart. His friend had no fucking idea what he was asking, what it meant to him, and he meant to keep it that way.

Instead, he chose to deflect. “Ah, little man. Nearly twenty-six and still afraid of what Mummy thinks.”

“Perce,” Gwaine said. “I promise. I’ll do anything you want.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, trailing a finger down one of Percy’s sweaty biceps. The touch sent a curl of heat down to Percy’s cock. Damn Gwaine.

“You can save your sexual favours, G,” he said, standing and leading the way towards the gym showers. If it had been a one-off he was after, he would have taken Gwaine up on his flirtation ages ago. It was Gwaine’s way with everyone; he was an inveterate slag who came out with a rash at the first mention of monogamy. Unfortunately, his free-spiritedness was one of the reasons that Percy loved him. “Why don’t you ask Leon?” It was a last-ditch attempt to save himself from a weekend of heartache, acting out a fantasy he’d never ever have.

Gwaine wrinkled his nose as they approached the lockers. “They’d never believe I was dating Leon.”

“Why not? He’s more your class, anyway.”

Percy’s father had been a butcher before he retired, and he himself was a first generation uni grad. He’d only gotten into Cambridge by slogging his guts off, his parents determined he’d rise above his class; though he’d learned to pass decently enough, he’d never truly felt like he fit in unless he was on the rugby pitch. That is, until he’d met Gwaine—brash, bold, exciting Gwaine, who didn’t give a fuck and wasn’t afraid of taking too-big-for-his-skin, East London-accented Percy under his wing. Over the years his accent had changed, but Percy’s feelings never had.

“You know I don’t care about any of that,” Gwaine said, ripping his shirt off over his head, his jogging bottoms following soon after. Percy swallowed and let his eyes linger on the shapely arse, the curve of Gwaine’s well muscled back, before glancing away. “And anyway, it’ll be fun. We’ll have a right laugh. Come on, mate. Whatd’ya say?”

A hand on his arm forced him to turn around again; this time Percy made sure his eyes never strayed below waist level. “It’s next weekend?” he asked, throat dry.

“Yeah.” Gwaine’s eyes lit up, a smile spreading across his handsome face. “You’ll do it?”

“Yeah, I’ll do it.”

He was in such deep shit.

***

The drive to Devonshire took nearly four hours, and in that time they created a backstory as to how they’d met, keeping it simple and close to the truth. A little too close, Percy thought, shifting uncomfortably in the passenger seat. Gwaine’s tiny sports car barely gave him enough room to sit, let alone stretch his legs, but it was the conversation that made him long for escape.

“So basically,” Gwaine said, “after we met at uni, we became good friends, but it wasn’t until last year that we realised we were completely gone on each other and had been all that time.”

“Sounds good,” Percy agreed, staring out the window at the rolling green hills.

“Who made the first move?”

“I dunno. You?”

“Hmm.” Gwaine seemed to consider this proposition. “I think it’s better if it were you—it would make more sense given my dating history. How about this: we were out one night with a group of lads and you saw me flirting with someone and it filled you with such a powerful, rageful jealousy—”

“Rageful isn’t a word.”

Gwaine rolled his eyes. “As I was saying, a powerful, rageful jealousy, that you ripped me out of the bloke’s arms and carried me off to have your wicked way with me.” His voice grew lascivious. “Several times over.”

“I think that’s a little more detail than Mummy needs,” Percy said, trying to ignore the tightening in his groin. He’d wanked to that imagined scenario more than once.

His friend nattered on, oblivious. “They expect me to be shocking. It’s part of my charm.”

“You’re an arse.”

“I’ve got a nice one. Or so I’ve been told. You love it about me; you’re always groping it and grinding against it. That’s great, right? An added detail.”

“Sure, great.” Percy decided he’d entered his own personal hell. “Well, all right then. We’ve got our story,” he said, desperate to change the topic. The last thing he needed was more visuals of his and Gwaine’s supposed first night together, or to think of grinding against his arse. Whenever they danced together at a club, he made sure to keep his pelvis clear, lest Gwaine feel his rather prominent erection.

“Not quite,” Gwaine said. “How do you feel about public displays of affection?”

Percy groaned inwardly.

***

“Hullo everyone! This is Percival,” Gwaine called to the great room full of Mountbattens, at least forty in number. “We’re terribly in love.” All around them, conversations died, and mortification spread through Percy like a forest blaze. He had known Gwaine wanted to make a grand entrance, but this wasn’t exactly what he’d expected. A few people tittered, and an elderly woman seated on a nearby settee looked ready to faint. Gwaine’s arm wrapped snugly around his waist to give a comforting squeeze.

“Gwaine dear,” said an elegant woman of about fifty, walking towards them with outstretched hands. She wore a white dress, and from the taut skin around her eyes, Percy suspected she’d recently had work done. “How good of you to come with your . . . friend.”

“Hello Mummy,” Gwaine said, leaning towards her and kissing her cheek. “You look ravishing, as always.”

“And you’re Percival, the young man my son has told me so very little about.” She gave him a tight smile.

“Yes, Ma’am. Pleased to meet you.” He took her hand and, not sure if he should kiss it or no, decided to go for it, bringing her knuckles to his lips. This appeared to please her; her expression grew sincere.

“That’s quite a distinguished name, my dear. Where is your family from?” Thankfully, by now the room had begun buzzing again, leaving them to their introductions. Gwaine acknowledged a few people but didn’t leave his side.

“East London,” Percy said, watching her smile falter just for a moment. She didn’t appear to know what to say, but then, with the grace and falsity of good breeding, recovered.

“Splendid. Well, you both must be exhausted from your trip. Take a little time to yourselves before dinner; Merlin will show you to your rooms.”

A young, dark-haired man instantly materialised beside her, giving Percy a smile and a knowing wink. “Just follow me.”

“Hello, Merlin,” Gwaine said. “You’re looking fit.”

The servant, a footman by the look of it, pinked about the ears, and the unsettled feeling in Percy’s gut intensified.

“Gwaine,” his mother chastised, “don’t be so beastly.”

“Sorry.” Gwaine smiled cheekily and slapped Merlin on the back. “Good to see you, lad.”

“Dinner is at seven thirty,” Gwaine’s mum called as Merlin led them away.

“You mustn’t mind Mummy,” Gwaine said as they followed Merlin down a wide corridor lined with ancestral portraits. “She’s horrible, I know, but she’s also rather lovely.”

“It’s fine,” Percy said through gritted teeth, not really wanting Merlin to overhear. “But did you have to announce we were in love before I’d even met your mother?”

They turned up a red-carpeted staircase, and for the first time Percy understood the extent of the wealth Gwaine talked about with only derision. The estate was huge, more of a palace than a house, one of those old country manors that gave public tours.

Gwaine bit his lip. “It was too much, wasn’t it? I thought it’d be funny.”

Of course he did; this was all a laugh to Gwaine. Percy would have to start treating it like one, too, and forget about Gwaine’s enthusiasm over the story they’d concocted in the car.

When they finally arrived at their destination, Percy was surprised to be shown into the same suite as Gwaine, finally understanding what ‘rooms’ had meant. There was a sitting room, a full bathroom with a giant claw-footed bath and, in the bedroom, one four-poster, king-sized bed.

He was speechless, having thought that Gwaine’s old-fashioned mother would have objected to such an arrangement. Apparently he’d been wrong, and he’d have to spend two nights sleeping in the same bed as Gwaine, his pretend fucking boyfriend. A horrible thrill of excitement shot through him.

“This is it,” Merlin said, setting down the bag he’d carried. “Unless there’s anything else, I better get going.”

“Her majesty awaits,” joked Gwaine.

Merlin smiled. “Exactly.”

“Mate, I can’t believe you’re still here,” he said. “I thought you were quitting.”

“I am, I am,” Merlin said. “But I need the money.”

“Your dad?”

Now that they were in private, it was easy to see that Gwaine and Merlin knew each other well, and that their relationship was an informal one. Percy couldn’t help wondering how informal.

“Yeah,” Merlin said. “I’m still looking for another job but there’s not much out here, you know?”

Gwaine scoffed. “Why do you think I left?”

“Right, well. Like I said. Good to see you, Gwaine. Welcome to the madhouse, Percy,” Merlin said, winking again before letting himself out the door and leaving them alone.

***

At dinner, Percy found himself seated between Gwaine and a talkative blonde woman named Elena, one of the many legions of cousins. He’d been formally (and less embarrassingly) introduced during cocktail hour, but was still having difficulty with names, since Gwaine had more relatives than had peopled their entire year at Cambridge. Most of them were distressingly attractive—his cousin Arthur Pendragon, another from the blond side of the family, was straight out of some bloody magazine. And then there was Mordred, a brooding, sullen lad of about seventeen who kept shooting daggers of teenage angst at everyone. Percy especially liked Gwaine’s Uncle Gaius, the oldest remaining member of the family and its patriarch. Still, he’d always been shy of new people and was thankful that Elena didn’t seem to require much help in carrying the conversation. He could barely get a word in edgewise if he’d wanted to.

It was all fine until Gwaine, who was wrapped up discussing politics with Arthur, gave Percy’s knee a squeeze under the table, lingering there and tracing slow, maddening circles just at the most sensitive part of his inner thigh. He certainly was taking the concept of PDA seriously, though this particular gesture was hardly public. Percy coughed into his napkin, unable to think of anything but the warm pressure of Gwaine’s hand. He considered batting it away but figured that would draw attention and comment, and so grit his teeth and tried to follow what Elena was saying—something about a film she’d recently seen that sounded horrid, but which she’d apparently loved.

After the seventh and final course, Gwaine left off torturing him, and the genders separated, the men going to the billiard room for cigars and port, and the women to gossip and play cards. It was like a bad rendition of Pride and Prejudice.

Percy enjoyed billiards, though, and won his first round of 8-ball against Gwaine handily, receiving a smack on the arse for his good fortune. He played Arthur next, and then purposefully lost, longing to sit and rest feet that ached from his new loafers.

It was then he noticed Merlin standing in the corner, serving tray in hand. Percy followed his gaze and noticed he was staring blatantly at Arthur Pendragon. He must have felt himself being watched; he turned to where Percy sat and, blushing, resumed collecting the empty port glasses. Ah, so that’s how it was.

“Having fun?” a familiar voice asked, close to his ear. Percy turned to find Gwaine, looking more than a bit pissed, sprawled out on the settee next to him. He’d undone his tie and unbuttoned his collar, and Percy’s eyes darted to the tease of chest hair.

“More than I expected to,” he admitted, heart thumping as Gwaine moved closer, resting his head against Percy’s shoulder. He smelled of cigar smoke and the hair product he always denied using.

“You’re a legend, mate.” Gwaine had always been a sentimental drunk; his words came out thickly. “Doing this for me. No one else would.”

“Yeah, well someone has to look after you.”

“You always do, don’t you. Huh.”

Percy sighed and drained his glass, then set it down on the side table. Gwaine had somehow managed to snuggle even closer, insinuating his arm across Percy’s stomach. He looked around to see if they were being watched, but most of the men were crowded around the table watching Uncle Gaius take on Mordred.

“Mmm tired,” Gwaine mumbled. Even so, his hand was creeping down to the hem of Percy’s shirt, fumbling there to untuck it. Gwaine was also a horny drunk, and Percy didn’t have the fortitude of a saint.

“I know. Let’s get you to bed.”

Gwaine let himself be manhandled upright, grumbling a little in objection. “No fun, Perce.”

They managed to make it out of the room without a debacle, Percy wondering all the while how Gwaine had managed to get so pissed off his arse. He nearly carried Gwaine up the stairs and into their shared room, easing him onto the bed with a quick beating heart. But before he could step away, Gwaine was upright again, tugging at his waist and trying to pull him onto the bed.

“Let me suck you off,” Gwaine whispered, palming Percy’s rapidly hardening cock. “Come on.”

“You’re drunk,” Percy said, though it was hardly an objection. Gwaine looked up at him with sleepy eyes.

“So.” The hot pressure of a mouth replaced the hand groping him through his trousers. Gwaine’s mouth. “Fuckin’ want it,” he said, reaching between Percy’s legs to cup his balls. Percy hissed, losing his mind and pressing into it for a moment, letting Gwaine stroke and mouth at him until his cock was begging to be sucked for real.

Gwaine laughed a little . . . it had the unnerving sound of triumph.

“Gwaine. Stop.” Somehow that laugh gave him the strength to step back. “We can’t.” He was breathing heavy as he adjusted himself. Gwaine bit his lip, still staring at his crotch, then threw himself back on the bed and flung an arm over his face. His own trousers bulged at the front.

“Fuck. I’m so drunk.”

“Yeah,” Percy said, hurt even though he’d brought it on himself.

***

On Saturday morning when Percy woke up, the side of the bed that Gwaine had slept on was already empty. His heart lurched a little; this is what he’d always been afraid of, and yet they hadn’t even really done anything. He considered packing his things and sneaking away so that he didn’t have to experience the rest of the painfully awkward weekend, but was still laying in bed, paralyzed by indecision, when Gwaine emerged from the bathroom clad in nothing but a towel.

“Good morning, you great oaf,” he said, smiling. “I thought you were going to sleep the day away. Best hop in the shower. Mummy abhors when people are late for brunch.” He punctuated the last statement with a roll of his eyes, then promptly dropped his towel.

“Right,” Percy said. So either Gwaine didn’t remember, or he was going to play it like nothing had happened. Either of those options was preferable at this point to the doomsday scenarios Percy had contemplated. He willed down his morning wood, an impossible task with the way Gwaine was parading around naked, and slunk out of bed towards the shower.

They passed the morning playing croquet in the garden, then had tea and sandwiches arranged on silver platters Percy figured were worth more than his life. Everyone was gracious and welcoming, and Gwaine was as attentive and kind as if they’d really been lovers, instead of almost. But one thing had changed: Percy noticed that Gwaine was no longer making overt advances towards him; in fact, they’d barely touched the entire day. At one point, Percy would have been relieved at the abatement of the shock and awe policy; now, however, it only made the weight that had settled on his chest at the beginning of the weekend heavier.

“What are your intentions towards my son?” Gwaine’s mum, who had finally allowed Percy to call her by her given name, Eleanor, said to him once they’d finished tea. They were walking through the gardens and admiring her prized rose bushes when the comment came, taking him unaware. Luckily, Gwaine was far out of earshot, chatting with Arthur, who’d just joined the group after spending a mysterious morning elsewhere.

Percy cleared his throat. He had no idea what to say. “Um. Honourable?” Sort of.

“Let us speak frankly,” Eleanor said, threading her arm through his. “I can tell you care very much about Gwaine. Until now, I’ve worried about him. He may not believe it, but I have come to accept his . . . lifestyle. His . . .”

“Sexuality?” Percy offered, immediately regretting it. Eleanor’s nose wrinkled distastefully in a way that suddenly reminded him of Gwaine. Perhaps it was a Mountbatten family trait.

“Yes.” She nodded, her eyes on Gwaine’s back. “It is good to see him serious for once about someone. What I’m trying to say is, I know you will take good care of him.”

With that, she released his arm and quickened her pace, and Percy was left with a gaping mouth, trying to comprehend what had just happened. Had Gwaine’s tight-arsed mother really just for all intents and purposes welcomed him to the family?

He sighed and wished he hadn’t quit smoking the year before; he’d have given anything for a fag. If it had been the previous day he would have immediately shared this new development with Gwaine and maybe they’d have had a laugh: not so much now. He felt more than a little guilty as he watched Eleanor’s retreating figure.

That evening, dinner was a more relaxed affair, set up as a buffet. People got little plates of food and drink and mingled, and Percy helped himself to his fair share, and more, of champagne—the real stuff, not the kind he and Gwaine used to purchase from Tesco at uni. Maybe tonight he’d be the one to get good and pissed.

“So you and Gwaine met at university,” said the old, partially deaf woman who Gwaine had initially scandalized by his declaration of love. Aunt Amelia.

“Um. Yes.”

“That’s very modern. You young men today are very modern.” She said this as if it she were pronouncing the name of some very rare and infectious disease.

Percy took a giant gulp of champagne. “I suppose.”

“Another drink, Percival?” someone asked from behind him. He turned and smiled to see Merlin standing there with a full, uncorked bottle.

“May I ask your help?” Merlin said. “I can’t quite get this one opened.”

“Of course.” Percy excused himself and stood, grateful for the interruption.

“You looked like you could use a little saving,” Merlin whispered once they were out of earshot.

“Did I ever. Ta, mate.”

Merlin was wearing a black dinner jacket, as were all the men. Percy wondered how he must feel to be a servant in this household, especially since he suspected there was more to Merlin’s relationship with Arthur Pendragon than anyone knew. He’d seen the two of them speaking together quietly just an hour before, their heads almost touching. And now that Percy was helping Merlin with the champagne, he felt Pendragon’s eyes boring a hole into his skull from across the room.

The cork came out without much fuss, and Percy handed the bottle back to Merlin, who then refilled his glass.

“So, you and Gwaine. I really didn’t ever think it would happen.”

Percy’s eyes widened, and Merlin hurried to continue. “I don’t mean to offend you. I shouldn’t have—”

“It’s fine,” Percy said, taking another sip. “And anyway, you’re right. We’re not.”

“But I thought—”

“It’s just a farce. He didn’t want to tell Mummy he’d lied about being in a relationship and I, tosser that I am, agreed to help.”

Merlin nodded carefully, looking as though he understood. “But for you it’s not. A farce.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Percy sighed. He’d carried his secret within him so long, perhaps it would feel good to unburden himself. And Merlin seemed trustworthy enough. His eyes automatically tracked across the room to where Gwaine was talking with his mum. “Nope.”

“I’m sorry. I thought for sure . . . the way he looks at you.”

Percy scoffed, then waved his hand in dismissal. “So, have you and he ever—”

The laugh that cut him off told him all he needed to know. “Never. Just. No.” Merlin sighed. “No, I have another problem.”

“I gathered. Your problem is giving me a death glare.”

“Let him.” Merlin smirked.

They were quiet for a while, and then Merlin had to go fill more glasses. When he returned, Percy helped him open another bottle. “Can I ask why?”

“Why what?”

“Why it’s a problem? Is it the . . . servant thing?”

“Oh, you mean because he’s so posh? No; he’s not out.”

“Oh. Shit.”

“Yeah. His father isn’t here, Uther, but he’s a nasty piece of work.” Merlin shuddered. “But yeah, he’ll be cut off.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah.”

“God, life’s bollocks, isn’t it?”

“It’s terrible. Listen, do you want to go have a fag? I’m dying here.”

Percy grinned. “Lead the way, mate.”

***

It was a relief to be away from the party out underneath the stars; they’d taken two bottles of champagne with them and Merlin tossed him a fag and a lighter. Percy lit up, letting the first drag burn its way into his lungs. The garden was much more pleasant without a bevy of chattering Mountbattens.

“Are you gonna get fired?”

“Nah, Freya’ll cover for me. After the day I’ve had, I think I deserve a drink.”

“Cheers to that, mate.”

“Even if I do, so what? This job is crap.”

They clinked their bottles together, drinking straight from them. As the wine warmed his veins and the nicotine rush hit him, Percy felt his muscles start to relax.

“So, you’re off tomorrow. What then?” Merlin asked.

“Dunno. We’re mates; we’ll keep being mates, ‘suppose.”

“Maybe you should just tell him.”

“You said it yourself, Gwaine’s not the type to settle down. And I don’t like sharing.”

“Fuck sharing.” Merlin hiccoughed and giggled, taking another swig. “Arthur was going to marry this twat named Sophia.”

“Seriously?”

“He’s not now. I don’t think. We fought about it this morning.”

“How long have you two—”

“Been shagging? Ten years. Well, not shagging, but in love and all that. After my mum came to work here when I was thirteen. That’s when I met him.” His voice grew fond. “Stupid blond prat.”

“That’s a long time.” Percy hadn’t known Gwaine for quite as long, but almost. “Do you think he’ll ever get the courage to stand up to his father?”

“Who knows, but I’m tired of waiting.” Merlin sounded wistful. “It’s a bit cold out here. Maybe we should go back.”

For a reason he didn’t quite understand, Percy was resistant to leave. He patted Merlin’s back, feeling how thin he was through the suit. A strange urge to protect Merlin from Arthur’s emotional fuckery came over him, made stronger when he noticed Merlin was tearing up. He slid a little closer and put his arm around Merlin’s shoulders.

“Sorry,” Merlin sniffled. “I don’t usually break down in front of complete strangers.”

“I don’t usually hug complete strangers.”

“Then we’re even.”

They laughed like idiots, and Merlin’s arm slipped behind him, squeezing back. “You’re all right, Percy.”

Percy was about to reply when “what the bloody hell is going on out here?” boomed from the doorway behind. Both Merlin and Percy turned around, confronted with the backlit figures of Arthur and Gwaine. Their stances radiated anger.

“What’s it look like?” Percy asked, holding up the stub of his fag. “Smoking.”

“Merlin,” Arthur said, “I can’t believe you. Just this morning you said—”

“Oh, shove off, Arthur,” Merlin stood, unsteady from the large amount of wine he’d drunk in such a short period. “I’m just having a drink with a friend. I’ll do what I like, thank you very much. You’re not the boss of me.”

The two of them continued bickering, but Percy was no longer focusing on what they said. Gwaine was motionless; even in the darkness Percy could see his eyes were wide.

“Perce,” he said.

“Hey.”

“I couldn’t find you.”

“Just popped out for a fag.”

“You don’t smoke anymore.” Percy hopped up and walked towards Gwaine. By now Merlin and Arthur had stopped fighting and were snogging each other for anyone walking by to see. Percy gave Merlin a mental fist-bump.

“I know. I just felt like I needed one.”

“Because of me. Listen, I’ve been a right arse, and I know it. I’ve been thinking all day about what happened last night—”

“Don’t, G,” Percy said, his chest pumping with quickening breath. “Just don’t.” But Gwaine was still moving closer, and when they were close enough to touch, Gwaine pulled him into a hug.

“I think I figured it out. I think you have feelings for me.”

An uncomfortable flare in the pit of his stomach made Percy try to pull back, but Gwaine held him fast. Though he was nearly six inches shorter, he was strong. “And just being here with you, talking about you like I love you, made me realise something fucking scary as hell.”

In spite of his panic, Percy started to relax, thankful that Merlin and Arthur had made their exit, and that he and Gwaine were alone. “That you’re the worst liar in the whole bloody world?”

“No, you arse. Stop trying to ruin my moment. That I do. I love you.” Gwaine was kissing his neck now, slipping a thigh between his legs. Stubble scratched roughly against Percy’s freshly shaven face.

“You’re drunk.”

“Haven’t touched a drop.”

“You’re horny, G, s’not love.” The evidence of Gwaine’s arousal was prodding against his leg, hard and wanting. Sure, maybe Gwaine found him attractive, but that wasn’t exactly news, nor was it particularly flattering—he found half of London attractive. The male half.

Gwaine pulled away so he was looking up into Percy’s eyes. “Don’t tell me that; you don’t know how I feel. I didn’t even know,” he said, laughing. “Not until this morning; but then it just seemed so stupid to not have known, because I think maybe I always did.”

“Don’t take the piss.”

Gwaine’s smile fell. “Maybe I’m not a prize, I know that. I’m full of shit half the time and lord knows I’ve put you through hell. But I loved waking up with you this morning. I watched you sleep, wanted to kiss you—not even to get off, just to kiss you. I love the way you take care of me when you think I don’t notice. Who else would have come here and put up with my insane family?” He took a step back, and Percy immediately felt the loss, wanted Gwaine’s body against him again, but more than that, he wanted to believe Gwaine was telling the truth.

“No one gets me like you do. I don’t have fun with anyone like I do with you. You’re my best mate. Bloody right I want to fuck you. You know I love your body—who doesn’t?—but I love what’s inside it even more. So don’t tell me I don’t know how I feel. I don’t even know if I want to feel it. Scares the piss out me to think I might lose you.”

Though Percy’d consumed a vast quantity of alcohol, Gwaine’s words sobered him like nothing else could. He watched his friend pace in circles, tugging at his gorgeous hair, unsure, and something unravelled within him. Whatever this was, he was in it, would give it his all and consequences damn the consequences.

“Fuck, Perce, will you say something?”

Instead of speaking, Percy did one better; he yanked Gwaine towards him and took his face between his hands, then brought their mouths together forcefully in a clash of tongues and teeth. Their lips were greedy and their chins scraped together, and Percy poured all of the longing he’d felt, all the jealousy and possession into that kiss. When they finally broke apart, Gwaine seemed dazed.

“Holy shit, mate,” he said. “If I’d known you could kiss like that, I would have snogged you ages ago.”

Percy rolled his eyes, but couldn’t think to utter a retort; Gwaine was full of it, as always, and fuck if he didn’t love him for it, even if he wasn’t ready to say the words—not yet. They stared at one another, the noises from inside the house filtering into the night from where the post-dinner party had gotten louder. He wondered if they’d be missed or if he even cared whether they knew he was about to fuck the prodigal son on that four-poster bed upstairs. Maybe something on his face gave him away; a slow smile of comprehension spread across Gwaine’s.

“So remember what we were talking about in the car?” Gwaine asked, arching a teasing eyebrow. “Care to make that fantasy a reality?”

“You want me to fuck you, G?” He hadn’t meant the words to come out as they had, dark and full of obvious desire. They were still holding onto each other, bodies pressing close again, and Percy had no doubt Gwaine could feel the entire length of him. He could certainly feel Gwaine’s unflagging erection.

Lust replaced amusement on Gwaine’s face. He swallowed. “Yes.”

“I have conditions.” It killed him to have to say it, to risk losing this, but he couldn’t go through with it any other way.

There was a twinge of fear in the “what?” that followed.

“You know I’m not the one-off type, so if that’s what this is, I’m sorry but I can’t.” He stroked Gwaine’s arm through his crisp cotton shirt, feeling the muscles there. “I’m not saying this is wedding bells, I’m just saying I’m looking for a chance. A real chance.”

Gwaine paused just a second before nodding. “I don’t want a one-off.”

“But if it doesn’t work, this might fuck up our friendship forever.”

“Might not,” Gwaine said. Now that he thought he was in, his cheeky grin was back. “Especially since I don’t plan to let you go.” He pressed a kiss to Percy’s jaw, tongue coming out to tease. “Now will you please take me upstairs and fuck my brains out?” His cock rubbed against Percy’s thigh, and all further objection seemed like a waste of time, and a bloody stupid one at that. He turned his head and captured Gwaine’s mouth in a full kiss, thrusting his tongue against Gwaine’s to taste him. Gwaine responded immediately with a moan and hands that reached up to grasp Percy’s shoulders.

Only the maintenance of decorum stopped Percy from carrying Gwaine like he had the night before. The two of them laughed like naughty schoolboys as they snogged their way down the hall, sneaking by the drawing room and up the stairs, in the process nearly mowing down Gwaine’s Aunt Amelia, who thankfully was nearly blind as well as deaf.

Once they were safe within the privacy of their room, Percy grasped Gwaine at the waist and lifted him so that Gwaine was forced to cling with his arms and legs, the action driving their pelvises together as Percy made his way to the bed with purpose, Gwaine all the while mouthing at his neck, all traces of his usual bravado gone. He tossed Gwaine unceremoniously onto the bed and followed after, covering him with his body and grinding down to give his aching cock some relief. Gwaine’s mouth was hot and wet, his tongue soft. Percy kissed him again.

“Naked. Naked would be better,” Gwaine muttered in-between kisses. “Fuck, I want to see you.”

“You’ve seen me,” Percy teased, running his thumb along the seam of Gwaine’s lips. He got a bite for his trouble, then a soothing lick.

“You know what I mean, you arse.”

Percy did, but he liked this desperate, pliant Gwaine. He hid a smile against Gwaine’s neck.

“You’re gonna make me beg for it, aren’t you?”

“Not beg,” Percy said, letting his teeth graze against the stubble. “Just ask nicely.” He ground his cock down again, feeling Gwaine’s body shudder in reaction. Suddenly, he was tired of the game, wanted to see Gwaine just as badly, get his hands on that perfect arse.

But it was Gwaine’s whispered “please” that finally undid him. He thought he may have growled as he moved off Gwaine long enough for them to rid of their kit, garments flying through the air. Since they’d left the light on, Percy could see it all—watched with greedy eyes as Gwaine bared himself, so different and more intimate now that he was aroused, his cock full and glistening at the tip. When they were fully naked, Gwaine considered him almost shyly, his eyes widening as they took in Percy’s massive erection.

“Jesus, how is that going to fit?”

“We’ll make it work.” He’d had plenty of experience preparing people for his cock, knew how to take his time and do it right, but he wasn’t sure he’d have the patience tonight. He’d have to, for Gwaine. The look Gwaine was giving him infused him with a heady sense of power. For once, he was in charge. “On your hands and knees.”

It was almost funny how quickly Gwaine moved, presenting his pert arse and gazing over his shoulder through a curtain of hair. Percy grinned and moved behind him, cupping both cheeks and spreading them to see the puckered hole. Gwaine moaned.

Gwaine’s arse really was a thing of beauty, but Percy didn’t have time to contemplate it for long. He ran a finger down the seam to prod gently, testing the reaction. Gwaine shuddered and moved back, trying to catch his finger. He smiled and gave the arse a playful smack, then spread the cheeks wider and, without further ado, applied his mouth.

At the first touch, Gwaine made a strangled sound and arched back, and Percy’s own erection leapt as he ran his tongue around the rim in a slow, wet tease. Gwaine had showered just before dinner and the pleasant smell of soap mingled with his natural musk. It made Percy grin.

“You planned this, didn’t you?” he asked between licks. “Did you wash yourself for me?”

“Fuck, yes.”

“You must really like having your arse eaten, G.”

“I do. Fuck.” Gwaine was panting now, shamelessly grinding his arse to get more of Percy’s tongue. The enthusiastic response only made him more eager, and he sucked and licked and laved the hole until his jaw ached and Gwaine was nearly sobbing, his cock hanging heavy between his legs, leaking onto the sheets.

Percy only paused a moment to retrieve the lube and condoms—perhaps he had packed a little hopefully after all, better to be prepared and all that—and then he was back, slicking his fingers and prodding at Gwaine’s entrance, just a gentle tease before he thrust two fingers inside, the muscle giving way to velvet heat. Gwaine gasped, a sound which became a long, drawn-out moan as he pushed back to take the intrusion.

“That’s it,” Percy said, gripping his own cock in a comforting squeeze and pumping as Gwaine began to ride his fingers. It was such a gorgeous sight he worried he’d come before he even got inside. “You like that. Fuck, you’re such an arse slut, G.” Instead of a rejoinder, Gwaine wriggled down on his hand, an invitation for more. “Can you take three?”

“I’ll have to if I’m ever going to sit on that horse cock of yours,” Gwaine gritted through clenched teeth.

Percy chuckled and left off stroking himself to get more lube, which he applied in a steady stream, wetting Gwaine’s crack so that his fingers made obscene, slick noises as they penetrated deeper. He cupped his hand, adding a third finger and reaching for that place inside that he knew would ease the sting.

“Fuck, Perce,” Gwaine said, reaching down to hold his own cock, which was almost purple with arousal. “I’m gonna come if you keep that up.”

“That’s the plan.”

“I want to come while you fuck me.”

The thought of Gwaine getting off while he was deep inside, the way that would feel, was all the incentive Percy needed. He withdrew his hand and wiped the excess lube on the sheets, sparing an instant of regret to whomever would have to change them, and hoping for Merlin’s sake it wouldn’t be him.

“How do you wanna do it? Like this?” He got up on his knees and took his aching cock in hand, teasing Gwaine’s rim for a moment and, for a heady moment, imagining pushing into him bare. He hissed and pulled back just on the edge of losing control. “Or do you want to ride me? Might be easier. Not as deep.”

“No, I want you to fuck me like this; I want it deep.”

“Jesus, G.” Percy said, the words spoken in a whisper. He grabbed a condom and sheathed himself with trembling hands. Gwaine regarded him with a sly smile over his shoulder.

“I haven’t got all day, big man.”

“Have patience, little man.”

They looked at each other, both grinning, and the weight of what they were about to do dissipated; it was just them, just Gwaine and Percy, and everything was going to be all right.

Percy spread Gwaine’s arse with one hand and lined himself up with the other, beginning the first push inside. He watched his cock start to disappear, the pressure of Gwaine’s arse taking him making his balls draw up. He moved as slowly as he could, but once it was started he couldn’t have stopped for anything; luckily Gwaine didn’t seem to want him to stop. He was breathing heavily, his head hanging between his shoulders as his ribs pumped. Percy reached out and ran his hands along Gwaine’s sides, trying to offer some comfort, wishing he could see Gwaine’s face. “All right?” he asked tightly.

“Yeah,” came the winded response, “keep going.”

“You feel so good. God.” Another inch disappeared and he had too look away, focus on something else or he’d come. The sight of Gwaine trembling and trying to rock back onto him as his arse opened to accommodate the girth wasn’t really helping. He settled for closing his eyes and going over a couple of complicated rugby plays until the immediate urge had faded.

Once he was snug in the clench of Gwaine’s body, he allowed himself to look again, see his cock firmly embedded in the tight flesh. He groaned. “Fuck G, looks so amazing.”

“You’re massive, mate.”

“Yeah, you feel me?” The need to move was overwhelming; he started a slow withdrawal, hissing at the way Gwaine’s body clung to him, like it would keep him there.

“I feel your cock in my bloody throat. Jesus.”

Percy grunted and pushed back in, gripping Gwaine’s arse for leverage. He started to pump his hips slowly, trying to angle towards the place that had set Gwaine off before and, he thought from the sharp intake of breath, succeeding.

“Yeah, fuck me with that huge cock. Come on.”

The challenge destroyed the last of Percy’s restraint; he gave in to his urge, fucking Gwaine like he wanted with long, punishing strokes. Gwaine groaned and arched his back, meeting him thrust for thrust. The room filled with the sounds of their skin slapping together and inarticulate grunts that Percy thought might be his, but wasn’t sure. He’d never wanted to come so bad but held off, wanting Gwaine to get there first so that he’d never desire another man, never want anything but this. Underneath him Gwaine was asking for more, harder, faster, taking his cock like no one had before, enclosing him in blissful heat. He’d known sex with Gwaine would be good, but the reality was far beyond anything he’d ever imagined, better than any fantasy.

“God. I’m gonna come,” Gwaine said, reaching between his legs. The action drew Percy back to the moment. He leaned forward, sacrificing the force of his thrusts to get his hand on Gwaine’s cock. Fuck, he was dripping, ready to burst he was so hard. Percy squeezed and stroked him and Gwaine convulsed as he coated Percy’s hand with release. His arse rippled on Percy’s cock, and the pressure pushed him over the edge; with a few more deep thrusts Percy was filling the condom with hot pulses of come, still stroking Gwaine through aftershocks.

When he recovered he realised he had collapsed onto Gwaine’s back, pushing him into the mattress. His cock was still deep inside, long even when it wasn’t fully hard. Gwaine groaned and squeezed around him.

Percy did the only thing he could do; he wrapped his arms around his friend and sought his mouth, and they kissed, moving gently together. The angle was awkward and sloppy, and he felt Gwaine’s smile against his lips before he saw it.

“I don’t think I can move,” Percy confessed.

“I don’t think I want you to move.”

“But I’m crushing you.”

“Breathing is overrated.”

He kissed Gwaine again and then, exhaling sharply, withdrew from him, tying off the condom and tossing it to the floor before flopping back on the bed. His cock lay sensitive and spent on his thigh. Gwaine, devil that he was, kissed it, then took the head inside and fuck sucked the last drops of come from him. The pressure made Percy’s toes curl in a mix of pain and pleasure.

“Ugh,” Gwaine said, scrubbing his tongue. “Latex.”

“Serves you right.”

Gwaine curled up next to him, resting his head on Percy’s shoulder. “But you tasted good. I’d like some more. Do you have another load in there for me, Percival Thomas?”

“You’re incorrigible,” Percy said, grinning at the ceiling as Gwaine bit at his shoulder.

“But you love me.”

Silence. Percy bit his lip, heart picking up speed again.

“You do love me, don’t you? Just a little?” Gwaine asked. He was teasing, but his eyes were serious.

“Yeah. God help me, I do.”

***

The next day Percy woke slowly; the first thing he noticed was a warm mass settled against his body. The weight was alive and snoring softly, and he smiled, the memories of the night before rushing back. Gwaine had certainly made good on his promised blowjob; his mouth was as wicked as his humour, and he’d spent a very long time worshiping the cock that twitched now with morning arousal. Talk about incorrigible. But that didn’t account for the content, easy feeling that curled its way through Percy’s chest as he watched the man beside him sleep.

Could it be that he’d finally have what he’d wanted for all of these years? The words they’d spoken last night made it seem so, and yet a tiny worry crept unwanted into his thoughts: what if Gwaine regretted it?

That fear was put to rest, however, as a hand moved down between his legs and palmed him through the thin layer of the sheet.

“I thought you were asleep.”

Gwaine lifted his head and blinked, still teasing Percy’s cock. “I can’t sleep with all that thinking going on in that head of yours.”

Percy snorted.

“The one on your shoulders, dirty man.”

Percy could have made a joke, but he didn’t want Gwaine to stop what he was doing, so he kept his mouth shut. “How do you know I’m thinking about anything?”

“Because you always are—you’re the strong, silent one with the deep thoughts and I’m the chattering idiot who can’t keep my mouth shut.”

“That’s a pretty apt description of us.”

“Hey.” Gwaine batted him with his free hand. “You’re supposed to object and say all of the rubbish I talk is brilliant.”

During their exchange, Gwaine’s hand had slipped under the sheet and coaxed him to full hardness. Percy sighed as fingers gripped his length more firmly. “If you keep doing that, I’ll tell you anything you want to hear.”

“Hmm. How about that you don’t regret last night.” Another stroke, this time up and around the sensitive head, a finger slipping under the foreskin.

“I don’t regret last night.”

“And you believe what I told you is true, that I don’t want a one off. That I—” In the bright light of day, the L-word suddenly seemed more profound, even frightening. He saw Gwaine struggle with it in the way his hand sped up and his eyes closed. For the first time he noticed Gwaine’s erection tenting the sheets as his hips shifted. He pulled Gwaine closer, silently encouraging him to ride his thigh.

Gwaine kissed the side of his mouth, avoiding tongue, which was probably for the best since neither of them had bothered washing up the night before. “Love you,” he said, just a whisper he mouthed into the edge of Percy’s jaw.

“I believe you,” Percy said, sighing as he came into Gwaine’s hand.

***

“It was so nice to meet you, Percival. I daresay you’re the sweetest of Gwaine’s blokes that we ever met, not that we’ve ever met any actually, since you know, well, I suppose as a gay man it’s hard to form a strong attachment—” Percy stared blankly at Elena as she completely mucked up her goodbye, thankful for the grimace Merlin sent his way as he helped with some of the older relatives’ baggage.

But even her ignorance couldn’t interfere with his good mood. He smiled and walked away from her, midsentence.

His farewells to the rest of the guests, especially Eleanor, who Percy would forevermore secretly refer to as Mummy, went more smoothly. She was gracious and invited him back any time, and he accepted the offer, though with the way Gwaine was pacing around, itching to leave, he doubted they’d return any time soon.

For their part, Merlin and Arthur seemed to have reconciled. They were talking together in the far corner of the room, and Percy was surprised to see Arthur kiss Merlin on the cheek. Even from twenty yards away he could see the huge smile that bloomed on Merlin’s face as he regarded Arthur, soppy-eyed.

“Ah, true love,” Gwaine said, poking him in the side. “Stop staring.”

“You’re staring.”

“I’ve had to put up with them for years; I’ve earned the right.”

“You knew?”

Gwaine rolled his eyes. “Of course. I was the only one, though if you ask me they never hid it very well. I suppose it’ll be all out in the open now. Aunt Amelia will probably have a stroke, but she’s lived long enough, the daft old cow.”

“Good for them.”

A few people seemed to have taken notice of the couple for the first time; conversation rose, became excited.

“I was wondering when Arthur would finally make an honest man out of poor Merlin,” came a feminine voice from behind.

Percy and Gwaine both whirled around. “Mummy!” Gwaine exclaimed. Eleanor was standing with a satisfied smirk on her face. She patted her perfectly coiffed hair.

“Don’t look so surprised, boys,” she said. “It doesn’t suit you. And Percival, I’m glad to see you finally knocked some sense into my son.” With that statement, she turned and walked away.

“So it looks like you didn’t put one over on dear old Mummy after all,” Percy teased, hugging Gwaine from behind.

“I can’t believe it.” Gwaine’s voice was coloured with disbelief. For once, someone had shocked him.

“All of this was for nothing, then. She knew you were lying the whole time.”

Gwaine turned around in Percy’s arms and cocked his head, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “You and I both know it wasn’t for nothing.”

“I guess we do,” Percy agreed, leaning down for a kiss.

“Now let’s get out of here,” Gwaine said. He grabbed Percy’s hand and started towards the door.

Percy laughed at the urgency. “What’s the rush?” A few people standing by parted to let them though, offering hasty goodbyes.

“The sooner we get home, the sooner I get you naked.”

“I like how your mind works,” Percy said, following him out the door. He liked the sound of home.