A/N: So uh I wrote this really late last night. It's not actually that cracky though.
So anyways, set in season 4, in a slightly AU world where Gwen and Lancelot are together and everyone is best friends again. Except I guess Morgana's still skulking around in the woods somewhere.
Arthur nearly bumped into Gwen on his way down to the stables one afternoon. She started guiltily at the sound of his stumble to avoid crashing into her and flushed when she realized it was him. Arthur frowned slightly and looked over her head to where she had been watching.
He didn't really know what had been so interesting to her; the courtyard was filled with people going about their daily business, merchants hawking their wares, children playing in the streets, Merlin laughing with Lancelot…
Arthur narrowed his eyes as Lancelot slung an arm around Merlin's shoulders companionably, Merlin seeming to lean into his touch, a small smile on his face.
"Sire?" Gwen said.
Arthur glared down at the courtyard as Lancelot brushed off a piece of hay from Merlin's hair.
He eyed Gwen, wondering how much she knew. "Are they—?" he asked.
Gwen blushed. "No," she mumbled. "Merlin never said…" Her words trail off as Lancelot executed a perfect courtly bow, expression utterly serious, took one of Merlin's hands and kissed it before striding off in the direction of the training grounds. Merlin darted off toward Gauis's house, a huge grin on his face.
Arthur met Gwen's wide eyes. "We're going to get to the bottom of this," he declared. His mind was spinning with speculation and suspicion. Merlin wasn't that touchy feely with everyone. Except for with quite a few of his knights, actually. Arthur's thoughts came to a stuttering halt before starting up again. No. He refused to entertain the idea that Merlin could be in some sort of weird relationship with all of his knights. Another part of him tried to get the rest of him to acknowledge the fact that Merlin never looked as carefree in Arthur's company, to little success.
"…'We,' sire?" Gwen was asking when Arthur put his thoughts firmly back on track.
"I can hardly do it alone," Arthur said, because the truth is, he'd gotten used to having someone with him on reconnaissance missions now. And as Merlin was currently the mark, Gwen would have to do.
Arthur spent the next week or so putting his scouting and tracking skills to good use, while Gwen's position as both Merlin and Lancelot's friend gained them valuable inside intelligence. Gwen looked a little exasperated when he referred to it as such, but continued to bring back reports and admitted to him one night that she thought he might actually be onto something.
Of course, Arthur thought smugly to himself. His instincts were quite sharp, after all. Then he realized he was alone in his chambers with Gwen late at night and considered for a moment whether he should be feeling any special sort of…feelings. When none were forthcoming, he decided to fake weariness and bid Gwen a good night.
"Do you think something's up with those two?" Merlin slid into the seat beside Lancelot, nodding toward Arthur, who was deep in discussion with Gwen.
Lancelot paused for a moment in sharpening his sword and gave a one shouldered shrug before returning to his task.
"How are things with you and Gwen anyway?" Merlin asked, forgetting that that particular question would set Lancelot off for the next hour or ten.
"And yesterday we went to that dress shop she likes, and it was kind of boring, to be honest, but don't tell her I told you that. I liked seeing her try on all those dresses though. She looked so beautiful," Lancelot sighed wistfully, caught up in the memory. Merlin steered him around a large pile of horse droppings in the middle of the street.
"And then we bought some bread and ate it sitting on that fountain—you know the one with the crack on one side of it—and I kissed her," Lancelot stopped at that and looked at Merlin significantly. He kicked him gently in the shin when Merlin didn't respond.
"What? Oh," Merlin said, watching Arthur whisper in Gwen's ear, looking shifty eyed. "That's very nice."
Lancelot rolled his eyes. "All right, Merlin, what's got you so distracted?"
"Them," Merlin said, nodding his head slightly in Arthur and Gwen's direction. "I mean, don't you think it's suspicious?"
"Not really," Lancelot said, unconcerned. "Anyways, why are you here anyways? Not that I don't appreciate your company, but doesn't Arthur always have you running errands this time of the day?"
"Nope," Merlin replied. "He gave me the day off." He watched Arthur and Gwen some more, wondering why his heart clenched when Arthur made Gwen giggle. He hoped he wasn't developing feelings for Gwen.
"Good for you," Lancelot grinned. There was a companionable silence for a while, broken occasionally by the sound of the sword against the whetstone.
"It definitely is suspicious," Merlin mused to himself.
"What was that?"
"Listen to what Gwen said to me when I asked her what she was doing today," Merlin said, instead of repeating what he had said. "She mumbled something about 'watching them in their natural habitat without any extraneous variables or distractions.'"
Lancelot tilted his head. "What does that mean?"
Merlin shook his head. "I have no idea."
And then Gwaine collapsed in an inelegant sprawl next to them, immediately launching into yet another tale of his drunken escapades from the previous night. Merlin laughed despite himself and consequently missed Arthur shooting a glare in their direction and walking off, Gwen shaking her head before following.
"Do you feel like someone's watching us?" Merlin asked Lancelot.
Lancelot stilled and listened carefully. Merlin noted ruefully that if he had been with Arthur and suggested that, the prince would have laughed at him and called him paranoid. "No, I think we're alone here."
Merlin shivered, the feeling of being watched not fading. He didn't sense any danger though, so he strips off his shirt and dips a toe into the water, yelping at its coolness.
Lancelot laughed and waded straight into the water. "It's fine, Merlin," he called.
Merlin sighed and dove in after him. After returning exhausted and splattered in mud from Arthur's hunting trip, he definitely deserved a break and a bath.
Gwen rolled her eyes inwardly at Arthur's thunderstruck expression.
"Do you see that?" he demanded. He waved his arms for emphasis.
She nodded in response, not that he noticed. Arthur was much too wrapped up in watching Merlin and Lancelot swimming and splashing each other. Well, watching Merlin at least.
"Poor Arthur," she murmured to herself.
"What?" Arthur asked distractedly, eyes fixed on Merlin's wet body.
"Nothing," she said. It wasn't for her to gossip about the prince's love interests, after all, even to the prince himself.
Arthur was tapping his foot impatiently. "Hurry up Merlin," he snapped, eyes already fixed on the gate. His horse stomped and chomped at the bit, as eager to leave as his rider was.
"Sorry, sire," Merlin said, hurriedly tying bundles onto his saddle. His ankle ached slightly from when he had slipped the day earlier after climbing out of the pond and he wondered how painful it would be to heave himself into the saddle.
"Want some help?" a quiet voice said in his ear. He jumped and then nodded in gratitude. Strong arms lifted him up onto the horse.
Lancelot gave him a mock-salute before continuing on his way, probably to Gwen's house.
Merlin looked up to see Arthur staring at him. When he saw Merlin looking back at him, Arthur spurred his horse on without another word. Merlin continued to watch the stiff line of his back and wondered what was bothering Arthur this time.
"His hands," Arthur gritted. "Were on his waist."
"But Merlin couldn't get on the horse because his ankle still hurt," Gwen pointed out, before realizing that Arthur had already stalked off. She shrugged and went to collect the laundry.
Merlin was out gathering herbs for Gaius in the forest when something large and heavy crashed into him. "Ooph," he said, and then they were rolling and rolling down a thankfully grassy hill into a heap at the bottom.
He shoved at the limbs and branches he was tangled up in. "Merlin?" Lancelot said breathlessly. "Are you alright?"
"Get off of me," Merlin groaned, shoving halfheartedly at Lancelot shoulder.
"Sorry," Lancelot said, looking contrite. "I er… I tripped."
Merlin rolled his eyes. "And before you tripped, were you distracted by composing poetry in your head?"
"Just get her some flowers," Merlin suggested. "She always loves flowers." He shoves at Lancelot again. "Now get off of me."
Arthur was still fuming about the scene they had stumbled upon in the forest hours later.
Even Gwen had to admit, it looked pretty suspicious. She and Arthur had been planning their next move when they had happened to see Lancelot headed in the direction of the woods. Arthur had mentioned that Merlin had told him that he was going to pick herbs for Gaius today, and they had looked at each other and ran out of the castle.
They'd wandered around the forest, not seeing any sign of either Merlin or Lancelot, until they had looked down a large hill and saw the two of them lying in a tangle in the grass on the bottom of it. Arthur had turned bright red and Gwen had probably not been far off.
The screech of Arthur's chair broke into her thoughts and she looked up.
"That's it," Arthur said. "We're going to talk to Merlin."
"Are you in a torrid affair with Lancelot?" Arthur demanded once they burst into Merlin's room.
Merlin blinked, expression hovering between annoyed and confused but leaning towards the latter. "What?" he said. "What in the world gave you that idea?"
"You're always spending time with him," Arthur said sullenly.
"You touch each other a lot," Gwen piped up.
"You look happy when you're with him," Arthur said, not adding that Merlin hadn't looked as happy when he had been with Arthur the past week.
Merlin seemed to hear the unspoken words anyways and glared at him. "That's because he's not a prat," he said.
The door opened and Lancelot walked in. "Hey Merlin—" He grinned when he saw Arthur and Gwen there as well, as if he hadn't been rolling around with Merlin in the woods just a couple hours earlier.
"He walks into your room without knocking," Gwen said, steamrolling right over Lancelot's attempted greeting. She continued with, "That's a sign that there's trust. And affection," just as Merlin said indignantly, "I run into Arthur's room all the time without knocking!"
"A sign of trust, you say?" Arthur drawled thoughtfully, looking over Merlin's head. "And affection?"
"She said it's mutual, you prat," Merlin said, looking much too pleased at Arthur's sputtering.
"I see you two have a lot to work out," Lancelot said, amused. He turned to Gwen. "I think we need to talk."
"Yes," Gwen agreed, shooting a guilty look at Arthur, but he just crossed his arms. He refused to feel any sort of guilt for his actions over the past week. It had all been perfectly reasonable. And within his rights. And—
His thoughts were interrupted by a hesitant brush of lips against his own, which he automatically responded to eagerly. And there was no way he could mistakenly interpret the look in Merlin's eyes, fond, exasperated, and loving.
Or what happened next.