Merlin was drunk. Horribly, inadvisably drunk. The love of his life was getting married to somebody else in a few hours, and all he wanted to do was forget.
“You know that Arthur can't be the love of your life, mate. You don't have the—”
“Shut up, Gwaine. Didn't your mum tell you that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?”
They were sitting side-by-side in a sticky booth at a sketchy pub near Westminster Abbey. The wedding wasn't for a few hours, but the street outside was crammed with people hoping to get a glimpse of the prince and his new bride.
Merlin groaned and leaned into Gwaine’s warm body. He'd never let himself before, not wanting to lead him on while he waited for his Prince Charming. But the soul marks hadn't appeared by his twenty-first birthday, and if they hadn't come by then, they never would. Merlin still hoped that maybe…. But in the absence of a soulmate, the king expected his son to marry for a political alliance.
“How come I couldn't be the princess of a strategic kingdom? I could be as good a princess as that Elena is. That girl can't even walk without running into something.” Merlin dropped all the way into Gwaine’s lap and blinked up at him.
Gwaine stared down, a funny look on his face. “I think you'd be a crap princess, mate, but any guy would be lucky to have you.” Gwaine gently petted Merlin's hair, then ran his fingers over his cheeks and nose, forehead and chin. When he got to his lips, Merlin popped them open and sucked in a finger. After a long moment, he grabbed Gwaine’s fingers with his own.
“Take me home?”
Gwaine stilled, looking hesitant, but then nodded yes.
They ended up in Gwaine’s flat. Merlin was determined to kiss away all his longing, a first step towards moving on.
“You sure about this, Merls? There's no rush.” Gwaine’s eyes shone with something akin to concern. Or maybe Merlin was just drunk.
In response, Merlin fell backwards onto the bed and pulled Gwaine on top of him. Gwaine grinned his impish smile, and Merlin kissed it right off his face.
They quickly lost their clothing. Merlin begged Gwaine to get on with it, but there was a pause while Gwaine went to find some oil. Merlin lay face down on the bed, dismayed to find his eyes prickling with tears. He tried to banish all thoughts of a certain blond prat kissing his new bride in front of thousands of people.
Without warning, Gwaine dripped oil on his bum, and then rubbed it in with deliberate strokes. Merlin couldn't help but tense as the hands moved closer to their destination.
“You okay? You've done this before, yeah?”
Merlin hadn't done it before. He'd always been waiting for Arthur, but without the soul marks, the prince was unattainable. Merlin was merely one of his servants, the difference in their stations too great.
There was no way that Merlin would share that info, though. Gwaine would probably get all noble and not want to take advantage, or some rot like that. And Merlin fully planned on having all thoughts of Arthur fucked right out of his head.
Gwaine went back to preparing Merlin. He abruptly froze. Then he started laughing hysterically.
Merlin sprang up from the bed, face turning red. “What the hell, Gwaine?”
But Gwaine just laughed some more. After a long moment, in which Merlin was seriously considering slapping him across the face, he managed to catch his breath.
“You really haven't done this before, have you?”
“Er, well, not exactly.” Merlin felt his face growing even hotter.
“You didn't seduce that prince of yours even once?” Gwaine looked genuinely surprised by this fact.
“If you're just going to make fun of me, I'm going to—”
“Merlin, you silly thing. If you had seduced the prince, he would have found his name on your arse.”
Merlin stared at Gwaine. Uncomprehending.
Gwaine took pity on him. “The reason you never found your soul mark, you nit wit, is because it was in a place you never thought to look.”
Comprehension ripped through Merlin like lightning. “That's not funny.”
“If I'm lying I'll personally let you shave my head. I'm sure his is in the same spot. How the two of you never…. I mean, with all that eye-fucking…. Here, I'll take a picture.”
God, no…. But he had to know for sure. “Use my phone. I don't trust you with a photo like that.”
But there it was, a tiny “Arthur Pendragon” written in the most intimate of places. Oh god oh god oh god what to do what to do?
Gwaine smirked. “Don't you have a wedding to stop?”
He did, he really did. Soulmates had precedence, but once Arthur married Elena, dissolving the marriage would be an act of political aggression. He had to see Arthur right now.
He threw on his clothes (casual and not at all fit for a royal wedding) and ran. The Abbey was not far, but the press of the crowds slowed him, causing him to panic. When he finally arrived at the cathedral, the wedding was about to start. There was security everywhere.
He ran from guard to guard till he found Leon. “Leon! You have to let me in! I need to see Arthur!”
Leon looked stunned to see him. “I thought your mum was in hospital?”
“Just let me in, please. It's an emergency!”
Leon pointed through the entrance of the church. “He's over there. But you don't have long.”
Merlin sprinted as though the hounds of hell were after him. He skidded to a halt in front of the disapproving groomsmen. Arthur stood there, impossibly handsome in his officer's uniform. Merlin felt like a sweaty slug in comparison. Was it a mistake to come?
The wedding march began.
“Arthur!” Merlin yelled. “We need to talk!”