Summary: Or How Sir Gwaine Tried to Win the Girl of His Dreams and Merlin Finally Realized That She Was In A Relationship (Fem!Merlin/Gwaine; Arthur/Gwen; Lancelot/OC)
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin (girl or otherwise).
Note: So this was inspired by a comment that all girl!Merlin stories have Merlin with Arthur (which is fine!), but gave me a hankering for girl!Merlin/Anybody-else. So here it is! Throw in a happy ending for Lancelot and a street magician with a grudge, and you've got this story!
Chapter 1: In Which Sir Gwaine Works Up the Courage to Ask Out Our Fair Maiden
Gwaine had a problem.
It wasn't that he was unused to problems- he almost always had something or other going on that required immediate attention, but this problem was particularly vexing.
A part of that feeling was because he even had a problem at all.
From an outside perspective, life for Gwaine should be perfect. Morgana had been kicked out of Camelot, one of his dearest friends (not that he'd ever admit to it, unless drunk) was happily married to a sweet girl, and he had finally payed off his debt at the tavern (he had, of course, immediately started to amass a new one, but that was beside the point).
But no, what should have been a brilliant time in Gwaine's life was marred by one, tiny, unresolvable issue.
Or, more specifically, how Merlin made him feel.
See, Gwaine had been, for quite some time, Merlin's best friend. And, even before she herself had admitted it, before he joined the knights, Gwaine had told anybody who asked him that Merlin was his only friend.
He was fine with that.
He was humbled by it, in fact. From the moment Gwaine had met Merlin (he saved her and Arthur from some thugs in a tavern, she healed him and helped get him to his room when he was too drunk to stand), he had noticed that there was something different about her.
Gwaine had seen her walk into the tavern that day, but paid her little mind other than to note that she was, in her own way, quite pretty, but, since he had several other (arguably more beautiful) maids to satisfy those urges, he cast Merlin out of his mind until he had to step in to prevent her and his Royal Prat-ness from being beat to a pulp.
The last thing he remembered before passing out from the knife wound was a lilting voice by his head and soft hands pressing down on the wound.
When he woke up, it was to Merlin beaming her signature smile (or at least, what he now knew to be her signature smile) at him, carrying a tray of food. Over the course of the next few days, Merlin had proven herself to be loyal (to Arthur), caring (to a fault), patient (for putting up with him) and very, very, special.
So, when Merlin said that she'd miss Gwaine and that she wished he'd stay, he took it as a compliment of the highest order.
Many weeks later, as they sat by the fire together, resting before they continued on their search for Arthur, and Merlin had told him that she'd do the same for him, something had shifted, not that he'd noticed at the time.
It wasn't until many, many months later (after Gwaine had helped Merlin and Arthur find the Cup of Life, after he'd been knighted, after he'd help take back Camelot from Morgana for the first time), that Gwaine realized that something was different.
Being knighted and being best friends with the Prince apparently had it's perks, since Gwaine became more aware than ever of the looks being thrown his way (by both men and women).
Before, he would have been all over the opportunity, but for some strange reason, he found that he couldn't bring himself to do it, and he couldn't figure out why.
None of the other knights were any help (they simply rolled their eyes at his behavior). Arthur was too besotted with Gwen to pay any mind.
As for Merlin- well.
Gwaine knew that Merlin, being as kind and helpful as she was, would be more than happy to help him figure out why he had hit such a slump, but for some strange reason, despite everything else he had shared with her, the thought of Merlin knowing about his personal habits gave him a strange feeling in his stomach.
The feeling grew and grew and grew until that night, at the veil, where Merlin somehow managed to get past him and Lancelot and Arthur, and willingly gave herself up to be sacrificed (the Cailleach, surprisingly had not had Merlin walk through the veil, but had instead stuck true to the idea of a blood sacrifice and stabbed Merlin in the abdomen).
Gwaine had pressed down on the wound with all of his might, doing his best to ignore how it just wouldn't stop, trying to keep the blood from escaping. For only a second, Merlin, in a shockingly lucid state, had looked up at him, eyes wide and as blue as ever, before blood loss caused her to pass out.
But it was enough for Gwaine to finally understand.
He was in love with her.
Despite the earth shattering revelation, not much changed.
Merlin survived and thrived, as she always did. Gwaine went on being her friend, not really sure what to do now. He helped Arthur find her when she disappeared (even exhausted and covered in mud, she still grinned like a mad-woman) and stood by her side when she searched for Gaius. He had protected the aging physician when trapped in the dungeons by Morgana, partially because it was in the Knight's Code, partially because he liked Gaius, but mainly because he couldn't bear to imagine Merlin's devastation if something happened to him.
When had he become such a sap?
But therein lay the problem.
Months had gone by. Tristan was now Arthur's chief advisor, taking over Agravaine's place, Gwaine had become a sap, and he had fallen in love with a girl who still had no idea what she did to him.
Gwaine had first tried denial. He ignored Merlin. Refused to look her in the eye, determined that this whole issue was nothing more than a silly infatuation, a crush. But avoiding Merlin was difficult, since she was constantly running around for the king and going with the knights on patrol.
The more time he spent with her, the harder it became to convince himself that this was nothing. She would smile or laugh or stick her tongue at Arthur and Gwaine would have to resist the urge from grabbing her and- well, let's just say performing activities that weren't quite fit for public viewing.
It didn't help that Merlin's comfort level with the knights had risen to the point where she had grown quite physical with them: squeezing their hands in encouragement, hugging them when they were down, even kissing them on the cheek every now and then.
(When she had done that to poor Percival for the first time, he had almost broken the fork he had been holding in surprise).
So, finally resigning himself to the fact that he was in love with Merlin (brilliant, beautiful, cheerful Merlin), Gwaine resolved to do something about it.
Gwaine had never had problems with women, as mentioned, but this was Merlin. He couldn't go about things the normal way. Besides the fact that she deserved better, he couldn't risk ruining the friendship that he valued so greatly.
He had tried to be subtle at first: helping her with her chores, carrying things for her, and the like, but she had brushed it off as just a friend caring for another friend.
That was thing about Merlin. She made friends far too easily. Gwaine had always admired that about her (if she had been any different, she probably never would have bothered to get to know him), but right now, with her so accustomed to people being nice to her, Gwaine's actions went unnoticed.
"Subtle" had flown out the door a few weeks ago at the tavern, where he, the knights, Arthur, and Merlin had been relaxing after a long patrol. They were all a little tipsy, but none more so than Gwaine.
Merlin had been laughing at a story Percival was telling when somebody (one of the drunk guards, Gwaine had recognized) made a lewd comment about her and her relationship with the knights.
Merlin awoke protective feelings in even the hardest of hearts (she was just so small and innocent looking and happy), so the guard should have expected about half the tavern to rise up in her defence, which it did.
What Gwaine should have expected was Merlin to defend herself. He had seen her do it countless times, after all. She would defend herself against Arthur with a quick retort. She defended herself against arrogant nobles by "accidentally" spilling wine on them or getting rat poop in their favorite shoes. She was useless with a weapon, but she somehow managed to make it through even the most difficult battles unscathed.
(Gwaine had a theory about that, but he couldn't bring himself to dwell on it, knowing what it would mean for her, so he let her keep her secret, wondering if she thought he was too thick to notice and if she would ever trust him enough to let him in on it.)
He should have known that she would have no problems defending herself against drunk men in the tavern, but maybe he himself was too drunk to think it through. Before anybody could say anything in Merlin's defense (or before Arthur could have him beheaded, Gwaine thought ruefully), Merlin had gotten up and moved to stand face to face with her accuser, who was standing on wobbly legs.
"Take that back," she said firmly.
The man had shaken his head slowly. "No."
Merlin's scowl deepened. "Well, then, lucky you, because a girl is finally going to touch you in your little, special place."
Then, Merlin brought her foot up in one of the most spectacular kicks Gwaine had ever seen, hitting the man right in the groin. As he collapsed to the floor, Merlin's friends erupted into cheers and Elyan ordered a new round of drinks for them all.
As she sat down, face flushed, all Gwaine could think of was how absolutely, irrevocably, head over heels in love, he was with this woman.
So, being more than a bit drunk, and incredibly proud of Merlin, he leaned down and kissed her.
Gwaine's memory of the rest of the night was blurred, but his memory of that kiss would probably be burned into his mind until the day he died. Merlin's lips were soft, and tasted faintly of the ale she had been drinking. Even through the smell of sweat and dirt that permeated the air of the tavern, Gwaine could still make out the scent of fresh herbs and grass after it had rained and Merlin, Merlin, Merlin.
At first, Gwaine had been convinced that she was kissing him back because she raised her hands to cup his face, but then she was pushing him away and staring at him oddly.
Before Gwaine could worry that he had ruined their friendship, Merlin had smiled at him.
"How much have you had to drink today?"
Gwaine had frowned and tried to understand why it was so important. "Just- A lot."
Merlin had snorted while the rest of their friends guffawed, and then helped him stand up and get to his room, the kiss all but forgotten by her.
Sometimes, though, Gwaine would imagine that Merlin really had been about to kiss him back, in that moment when her small hands rested on his face, before she had pushed him away, and he would imagine what a real kiss from Merlin would feel like.
It was that thought that convinced him he had to end all this sidestepping. He had tried being subtle, he had tried being overt, so now he was going to do the only thing that he could think of.
He was going to ask her on a date.
There was going to be a small festival in the lower town, with jugglers and acrobats and performers, and Gwaine remembered how gleeful Merlin was at Arthur's birthday party, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Gwaine saw his chance one night as the knights and Arthur were coming home after investigating the claim of bandits in a small village to the north. The search had proved unfruitful, since the bandits were long gone, but the villagers were relieved to see their King, and were in a much better state when the group left.
About a day's ride away from Camelot, they stopped for the night, and Merlin offered to go get more firewood before she went to bed, since their fire was dying out. Gwaine offered to with her.
Merlin raised her eyebrows. "It's just firewood, Gwaine."
"There're still bandits about," he shrugged, aiming to look nonchalant as he picked up his sword. Merlin nodded and headed off into the woods. As Gwaine went to follow, he did his best to ignore the knights' smirks and knowing looks and Lancelot's quiet, "Good luck."
Apparently, everybody but Merlin knew of his affection for her.
"You're awful quiet," Gwaine offered, as Merlin inspected a chunk of wood. Deciding that it wasn't suitable, she threw onto the ground and looked up at him.
"Just tired, I s'pose." She blew a strand of hair out of her face as she bent over to grab some pieces of pine. Gwaine tried not to stare.
"Ah-" He started. He coughed, "Arthur working you too hard, then?"
"No more than usual," Merlin said, straightening herself back up. Gwaine told himself that he wasn't too disappointed (he was).
"Wondering whether or not you had any time off coming soon," he said. "They're having that festival in the lower town. Thought we might go together."
Merlin blinked and, for a minute, Gwaine thought she was going to turn him down. Then she smiled. "That sounds great! I've been meaning to go! I thought about asking Arthur for a day off, but was worried he'd say no, but if I tell him I'll be with you, he might say yes, and, even if he doesn't, I can always tell Gwen. She'll have him give me the day off."
"You love having her on your side, don't you?" Gwaine joked, trying not to make the fact that his heart was threatening to burst out of his chest obvious.
She said yes, she said yes, she said yes.
Merlin smirked evilly. "It has its advantages, I must admit," she said loftily.
Gwaine couldn't keep the smile off his face as they headed back to camp, finally having gathered enough wood. Gwaine took it from her, ignoring her confused look, leaving her free to go to sleep the moment they arrived back.
As Merlin buried herself in her bedroll, Gwaine threw the wood into the fire and winked at his friends.
Lancelot could keep his luck. Gwaine had a date with Merlin.
AN (2): Hope you've enjoyed the first chapter! The story is complete, with six chapter total, and I'll post about one chapter a week!
I appreciate any feedback!