Oh dear, thought Merlin. Arthur's been enchanted again.
He had perfectly good reason to think this, because the last time Arthur had stated cheerfully that his job was "to woo," had been when Lady Vivian was in town, and heaven knows that was Arthur at his enchantedest.
"I wish to make a proclamation of love," Arthur continued.
Yes, yes, they'd definitely been here before. Merlin decided to play along until he could discover who, exactly, the new object of Arthur's artificial affections was.
"I need your help in expressing my feelings."
"Of course," Merlin said, just as before. "Erm… feelings," he mused, though he knew exactly what he was going to say next.
"Feelings," Arthur echoed.
"Girls," Merlin continued.
He was not expecting a whack around the head at this point - he hadn't called anyone a servant yet - but a whack around the head is exactly what this statement got him.
"Ah!" Merlin cried. "What? I was saying it right!"
"No, MERLIN, not a girl, you idiot!"
Merlin frowned, confused, but then it dawned on him.
"Ah, sorry, sorry… a woman."
"No!" Merlin had thought that he had found the uppermost region of Arthur's voice a long time ago, but apparently indignation knew no vocal bounds. "No, Merlin, he is not a woman, or a girl, and just because his hair is-" and suddenly Arthur's voice plummeted to the absolute bottom of its range, "- so silky, and smooth, and luscious-" His voice jumped back up to the Zone of Indignation. "-does not mean you have the right to call him such!"
Oh. Oh, this was dreadful. Oh, Arthur must have been enchanted, must have, must have, because Arthur had made it painfully clear to Merlin last Beltane that he was not, nor ever had been, nor ever would be interested in men, a man, or any variation thereof.
"So, um, a man, then," Merlin stated, his mouth dry.
"Yes, Merlin. A man. How many times do I have to say it to get it into your thick skull. My love is a man."
And even though Merlin knew that Arthur was enchanted, he couldn't help being a little offended.
"But you said, last year at Beltane, you said -"
"I know what I said," Arthur waved off. "But who could have foreseen that a man of such perfection, of such wondrous beauty, of such glorious hair would come into my life?"
"Right, and um… who is this man?" Merlin asked trepidatiously.
Arthur flung himself despondently onto the bed. "GWAINE!"
And oh boy did Merlin suddenly need a drink.
On second thought, perhaps getting a drink hadn't been Merlin's best idea ever, because the moment he walked into the tavern, he was accosted by the object of Arthur's affections.
"Merlin!" Gwaine slung his arm around his friend's shoulders. "How goes it?"
"Hullo, Gwaine." Merlin replied glumly.
Gwaine frowned. "Now that, my friend, is not a good sound. Eliza! Give us a pint for Merlin here!" he called to the barmaid, who was, in fact, a direct ancestor of three future Prime Ministers, though that was a fact lost upon the patrons of The Rising Sun.
The barmaid of impressive legacy (among other things) obligingly brought the drink.
Gwaine waited until his friend had finished the first pint, and then bought him another.
"All right," he said, as Merlin wiped his mouth dry for the second time and slumped down onto the table. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Arthur's enchanted," Merlin half-mumbled, half-slurred in a way that would have been unintelligible to anyone except his designated tavern-buddy.
Gwaine chuckled. "Enchanted. Really?"
"'Tsnot funny." his friend glared. "Eezin love."
"Well, we already knew that," Gwaine said with a frown.
Merlin immediately shot up to his full seated height. "You already know?"
"… Well, yeah, Merlin, everyone knows, he and Gwen don't exactly make a secret of it now, do they?"
Merlin slumped back down again. "Nonononono you've got it all wrong. Arthur's not in love with Gwen, 'e's in love with you."
And with that Merlin promptly passed out on the table.
Dammit, thought Gwaine. Not again.
Arthur was a bit disgruntled. Merlin, despite all his protests to the contrary, was his best friend, and when he admitted to his best friend that he was in love, he didn't expect said best friend to dash out of the room without even saying goodbye. It was doubly unfair because Arthur had been busy being despondent, and couldn't spare the energy to tell Merlin to stop. The maintenance of despondency was an all-engrossing job. Merlin knew that! Idiot. The only explanation was that he had willfully left Arthur to remain here. Ah, well. Arthur had declared today a wooing day, and a wooing day it should be! He hopped off his bed, twirled dramatically for effect (this was one advantage to Merlin not being around - Arthur could twirl to his heart's content, a hobby he had never quite felt comfortable sharing with his servant), and strutted out the room. Down to Gwaine's chambers he marched. He knocked. No answer. He knocked again. No answer. He knocked a third time, just for good measure, but there was still no answer, and Arthur couldn't really say he was surprised. He knew where to look next. Off he pranced (another secret passion of his) to the tavern. Upon arrival, he took a wide stance in the doorway and swung the door open impressively. He was pretty sure there was a law that said Pendragons had to be impressive in everything they did. Or at least a common understanding among the people that it was so. He only had a moment to think of Pendragon prestige though, before his eyes zoomed in on those luscious locks. He made a beeline for them.
"Gwaine!" he said, impressively.
"… Arthur!" his love replied, nervously.
"mmmmf," said his manservant with his face in the table.
"Gwaine," Arthur began, in a voice that was simultaneously soft, gentle, loverlike, and incredibly impressive. "From the moment I met you, I thought you had amazing hair."
Gwaine sighed. He had heard this all before.
"But recently," Arthur continued, "I have come to realize that the rest of you is equally amazing, and more importantly, that I am hopelessly and irredeemably in love with you."
Gwaine could have recited the lines with Arthur if he so chose. Being fabulous could be tiresome sometimes.
"Gwaine whatever-your-last-name-is, will you be my King consort?"
… Well, that wasn't one Gwaine had heard before. Arthur was the first royal considerate enough not to say Queen. That certainly gave him an advantage. But the simple fact remained…
"I'm sorry, Arthur. I just don't love you."
Arthur was aghast. "But are you not impressed by my vast eligibility or my dashingly handsome good looks?"
Gwaine thought it over. "No. No, not really."
It was a very confused Gwen who entered the tavern five minutes later demanding to know who had made Arthur wail in a way she hadn't seen since he was ten.
Gwen took the news that her lover loved her no more surprisingly well - that is to say, she teared up, but did not sob, she began speaking very quickly, but did not yell, and, perhaps most importantly, she did not try to brutally murder Gwaine with nothing but a garlic clove and some grass. This had actually been attempted by several spurned lovers, and was surprisingly painful.
"Skdogn," Merlin said, "znshnaytd," which Gwaine so kindly translated for the bewildered serving girl as, "It's okay, though Gwen. He's enchanted."
"Actually, he isn't." Gwaine confessed. Another silent tear trickled down Gwen's cheek.
"Not the right thing to say, Gwaine," Merlin hissed, or something not at all resembling that.
"No, it's just… this isn't the first time this has happened." Gwaine continued. "It's the hair. My hair has the ability to make anyone forever and permanently attracted to men. It's a bit unfortunate, considering it works best on royals, and there's the whole issue of having an heir."
"That is unfortunate," Merlin intended to say, and from now on, I shall just print his intent and leave poor Gwen's view of the conversation to the imagination.
"So how come we're not both in love with you?" asked practical Gwen.
"Well, the hair is selective - like I've said, it has a taste for noblemen - well, and that one noblewoman, what was her name, Lady Vivian -"
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" Merlin exclaimed.
"-But it also only tends to work on people who aren't attracted to men to begin with, which is neither of you." Gwaine finished.
"Merlin?" Gwen asked, surprised.
"Yup!" Merlin confirmed, with a large up and down swing of the head to confirm, in case his answer came out as, "zzzzzghhh," which it in fact did.
"So that's why you were so oblivious to me."
"You liked me?"
Gwen did not answer because she had no clue what Merlin had said. Instead, she turned to Gwaine. "So, what do you usually do in situations like this?"
Gwaine shrugged. "Move. But I can't do that now. I've found a good place."
"You could always shave off your hair," Merlin joked.
There was a long pause. Suddenly the answer dawned on Gwen. "You could always shave off your hair," she said.
"Hey, that's what I said!"
"Merlin, you really should stop making that noise, you sound like a pig being attacked by a rabid chipmunk."
Meanwhile, Gwaine was hyperventilating. "Shave my head?"
Gwen drew him into a hug. "It's okay, Gwaine. It'll be okay."
And so Gwaine was forced to cut off his hair for the safety of Camelot.
Of course, the change was permanent - Arthur was well and truly homosexual now. But he and Merlin lived happily ever after, and after Gwaine discovered that no one loved him without his fabulous hair, he went crying to Gwen, and Gwen found that she loved him for the sacrifice he had given, and Gwen and Gwaine lived happily ever after despite having no comfortable ship name, so that was all right.