Title: The Choice Not To Choose
Pairing: Arthur/Gwaine (side Arthur/Merlin and Gwaine/Merlin)
Characters: Arthur, Gwaine, Merlin
Summary: In being unable to let either of them go, he lost them both.
A/N: Written in response to this prompt on KMM25. Yes, I am slowly but surely filling all the Arthur/Gwaine prompts, what of it?
Here on AO3.
It wasn't that he didn't love Arthur. Or Gwaine. He did. Very much so.
Too much, perhaps.
He'd stare at them for hours, roll his eyes at them, laugh at them—with them—enjoy the tingling feeling that spread like a virus when one of them smiled. And oh, when they smiled at the same time, the world ground to a halt. They were wonderful. Impossible and wonderful. And Merlin was a selfish, selfish man. He wanted them both. Couldn't stand the thought of parting with either one of them. Hated the idea of letting one of them go.
They asked him, now and then, if he'd made up his mind. If he knew.
He told them no, he didn't. But he would. Eventually, he would. Could they give him a little more time? He was so very, very sorry—but he needed more time. Couldn't do without.
Gwaine was surprised at Arthur's patience. His willingness to let the matter drop. Because the man wasn't willing—everyone with eyes could see that—but he pretended to be. For Merlin's sake. For Gwaine's, too, probably. Gwaine didn't know. Didn't care, either.
He'd assumed Arthur to be a prat. A possessive, self-entitled prat. And he was that, could be unbearable at times.
But there was this other side to Arthur, too. This gentle side. An insecure, undemanding side that made the corners of Gwaine’s mouth rise. The man was selfish, oh yes, possessive too. And yet, in some things, he could be more selfless than any other.
The more Gwaine looked at him, the more he saw.
It had been hate at first sight.
With his perfect hair, his lazy grin and his easy behavior, Gwaine soaked up Merlin's attention like a sponge, made him laugh, smile, light up whenever he entered the room. Arthur had known Merlin for a long time, was his best friend, had been well on his way to becoming more than that.
But Gwaine's arrival changed all that.
Merlin would have ended up in Gwaine's bed that very first night had Gwaine not noticed the way Arthur's eyebrows furrowed, the way his fists clenched just so. He'd asked Merlin if there was something he should know. And Merlin—Merlin had told him he didn't know if there was.
Gwaine didn't sleep with Merlin that night. Or the night after that.
It seemed they were both patient people. Patients. Sitting in the waiting room, waiting for the Doctor to show and call one of them inside.
They sat there, calmly—patiently—and talked to one another, got to know each other better. Moved from dislike to acceptance to possibility.
And then one day, a decision was made.
"I've made a choice," Merlin told them solemnly, his eyes cast down. "I have."
Gwaine's hand covered Arthur’s. Squeezed.
"You haven't." The words were spoken by Arthur, though Gwaine uttered them, too. In his mind.
"Yes, yes, I have."
Two emphatic smiles. "Merlin, you don't have to choose. You'll never have to."
Realization dawned on Merlin then. And he could only stare.
In being unable to let either of them go, he lost them both.
It hurt, oh, very much, painfully so.
But it was a relief as well.
For now he could love them both, the two of them, the men who made his heart swell and his smile widen. He could love them both and be free of guilt. Of decisions. Of cowardice.
Watching them love each other was more gratifying than loving but one of them himself.
It wasn't an easy solution. But it was the best one.
Merlin chose to accept it, cherish it, live with it.
And love from afar.