This is an AU ending to the episode 'Gwaine', and was born of a comment made by sophielou21 on the discussion thread at the Arthur/Gwen community on LJ, camelot_love. The title is a reference to Merlin's take on the situation, or possibly Gwaine's, but definitely not Arthur nor Gwen's.
Anyway, hope you like.
After saying goodbye to Gwaine, Merlin made his way to the training green where he knew Arthur would be. Training didn't officially start for another half an hour or so, but Arthur always got there early when he was frustrated about something. He hadn't said anything, but Merlin could tell that the prince was upset he hadn't been able to do more for Gwaine.
Sure enough, Arthur was on the training green, but he wasn't training – he was standing on the parapet on the other side of the green, without his armour on, with his back to Merlin. He made his way over to him.
"Morning!" He said cheerfully as he stopped next to him.
Arthur didn't say anything – that wasn't unusual, and Merlin didn't take it to heart. Instead he looked over the parapet, to see what was so interesting. The view from the green was of the path leading down to the West Gate of the castle, which eventually led to the West Gate of the city; Merlin immediately saw what – or rather whom – the prince was watching.
Gwaine looked nonchalant enough as he strolled down the path, but a few moments later he looked back towards the castle. He saw Arthur and Merlin watching him, and lifted his sword in a salute before carrying on.
Arthur shifted his weight. "It's a shame – he would have been a great knight," he said.
Merlin smiled slightly. "Maybe one day he still will," he said.
"The rules won't allow it," Arthur said immediately. "Knights are noblemen – always have been, always will be. It's the tradition."
Merlin wondered what Arthur's reaction would be if he told him that Gwaine actually was a noble, but Arthur had leant forward on the parapet, frowning down at Gwaine. Merlin looked back and saw that Gwen had appeared from somewhere and was stopping to talk to Gwaine. Merlin started to smirk.
"They seem very friendly," Arthur said in what he probably thought was a casual tone.
Merlin's smirk became a fully-fledged grin at Arthur's reaction to seeing Gwen talk to Gwaine. Gwen had told Merlin about her first meeting with Gwaine, but he had a feeling she hadn't mentioned it to Arthur.
"Why should you care?" He said.
That seemed to snap Arthur out of his staring for a moment, and he straightened up, looking a bit embarrassed. "I..."
Merlin had no clue what he was going to say, because he glanced back at Gwen and Gwaine and saw that she was laughing at something he'd said, and had reached out to put her hand on his chest. Arthur saw this, stopped mid-sentence, and was suddenly... well, gone.
He muttered something as he went that sounded suspiciously like 'oh hell' and within seconds he had disappeared through the archway next to the parapet, which led onto one of the castle's many staircases. Merlin burst out laughing and leant on the parapet, looking down on Gwen and Gwaine's innocent conversation. Arthur was usually so cool and collected, so it was a rare treat for Merlin to see him so rattled – and Gwen was so good at rattling him. He felt for the two of them, because their situation was less than ideal and would probably end in heartbreak for both, but boy was it entertaining.
Gwen said something to Gwaine and then stood on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. He started to say something to her in return but stopped, staring over her shoulder towards the castle – Gwen looked too and also froze. A moment later Merlin saw Arthur running towards them, weaving through the people on the path. He must have fallen down the staircase to get to them that fast.
Merlin shook his head. "Oh my god..." He grinned again and settled in to watch the show.
Arthur hadn't fallen down the staircase, but it had been a close thing. Luckily no-one had been coming up the tight spiral at the same time, because they would have been barrelled over. He took the steps three at a time, his hands against the walls for balance.
He knew what he was doing was stupid – beyond stupid – but he couldn't stop himself. A year ago he had stood by and tried to ignore Guinevere and another would-be – or rather should-be – knight, but that was then and this was now and Arthur wasn't prepared to do so again.
He burst out of the doorway at the bottom, through another archway and onto the top of the path. There were a couple of people making their way through the archway – they jumped out of the way with shocked looks on their faces. Arthur mumbled an apology but he doubted they heard, since he didn't stop or even slow his pace. He did falter in his steps when he caught sight of Gwen and Gwaine; he was smiling down at her and Guinevere – his Guinevere – was kissing him on the cheek.
Gwaine spotted Arthur first – he was about to say something to Gwen but stopped when he saw Arthur running towards them. Arthur immediately slowed to a jog, hoping to look casual but with a feeling he was failing... Gwaine was certainly giving him a funny look. A moment later Gwen looked over her shoulder and saw Arthur, and the look she gave him was pure shock – and then embarrassment.
Arthur started to regret his snap decision. A little. Maybe. He looked over at Gwaine again, who was now smirking just a little bit, and all his regrets faded.
He skidded to a halt next to them, breathing a little heavily and realising, very suddenly, that he had no idea what he should say. Why the hell was he even here? What was he planning on doing right now – knocking Gwaine out and carrying Gwen off somewhere over one shoulder? Tempting as that thought was, Arthur could think of fifty reasons why it was a bad idea, not least of which was what Gwen would do to him if he tried.
Speaking of whom, the look Gwen was giving him right now would floor a lesser man – luckily Arthur was made of stronger stuff and... well, he looked away. Quickly.
Instead he turned to Gwaine. "I just wanted to say... you know, sorry, again, for everything," he said. "And thanks. Again."
Gwaine was still smirking – in fact, Arthur was sure it was even bigger than before. "You're welcome – and there's no need to apologise," he said. "I appreciate everything you did." His smirk became more of a smile, and Arthur started to feel a little bad... right up until Gwaine turned the smile on Gwen.
Arthur folded his arms and angled his body so that he was standing a little bit in between Gwaine and Gwen. He could practically feel Gwen's eyes boring into the back of his head.
Gwaine's smirk was back. "And it was nice of you to come and say so. Again."
Arthur refused to look embarrassed. Absolutely refused. "Yes, well..."
"Gwen here was just thanking me as well, actually," Gwaine said, full-out grinning now. Arthur took the risk of glancing at Gwen; she was suddenly very interested in the floor. "For saving you, I mean."
Arthur's head snapped back to Gwaine, and he was unable to hide his satisfaction. "Really?"
"Yes," Gwaine said, starting to smirk again. "You're lucky to have such... affectionate subjects."
Arthur started to sense danger, slightly too late.
Gwaine wasn't finished. "Though I'm guessing you already know how lucky you are..."
It was time to put an end to this. "Goodbye, Gwaine," Arthur said firmly.
Gwaine grinned and bowed his head. "Goodbye Milord," he said. Then he bowed the exact same way to Gwen. "Milady."
Then, without another word, and still grinning, he turned and left.
Left standing alone with Gwen, it took Arthur very little time to completely regret the last five minutes. Gwen had looked friendly with Gwaine, yes, but she was a friendly person, and Gwaine had said himself that she'd just been thanking him for saving his life... he should have just stayed up on the parapet and kept a safe distance. Sure, Merlin probably would have made some sort of snarky comment, but that would be infinitely better than the silence radiating from Gwen.
Arthur looked down at her – she was standing with her eyes closed, looking absolutely mortified.
Arthur cleared his throat. "I, um..."
Gwen's eyes flew open and she pinned Arthur with a look that made him shut up straight away. She shook her head slightly, gave him another look, took a deep breath and walked away, up the path towards the castle.
Arthur stood still, watching her go and trying to decide whether she was too busy to stay and talk, too embarrassed to speak, or just waiting for a private moment to hang him out to dry. He guessed it was probably a combination of the three.
A couple of people on the path bowed to Arthur as they went past him, and he nodded in return but kept his eyes on Gwen. After a while he looked up at the parapet. Merlin was still there, and had obviously witnessed the entire exchange. As Arthur looked, Merlin raised his hands and started clapping. Very slowly.
Arthur resisted the urge to make a rude gesture at his impertinent manservant and instead started to make his way back up the path. It was almost time for training, and Arthur had a feeling that his armour was going to be in dire need of a good scrubbing when it was over.