Title: Save the Last Dance
Pairing: Merlin/Arthur though mentions of Arthur/Gwen
"Arthur? Why do we have to leave so early?" Merlin complained, trailing after the Prince down the stone corridors, away from the great hall, in which a grand ball was taking place. The music was loud and followed them from the hall and down the corridor as they walked.
"Because I'm tired. So I excused myself and am going to bed."
"But you had loads of girls left to dance with! It's only halfway through the ball now!" Merlin wanted to stay, and though it had torn at his heart to watch the Prince dance with all those women, he would try anything to get to go back. The grand hall had been decorated beautifully with reds and golds and it was such a magical atmosphere, which was ironic in a castle where magic was banned.
"But I'm tired, so I left." Arthur argued.
"I'm surprised you wanted to leave all those girls that you were flirting with." Merlin attempted to hide the tone of jealous that was begging to come through.
"I wasn't flirting with many."
"Oh, because seven isn't many at all." Merlin rolled his eyes.
Arthur punched his arm playfully. "Shut up Merlin."
"Why don't you Arthur."
They both stopped when they heard an awkward cough behind them. They turned at the same time to see a maid, who was looking taken aback and staring at
Merlin as though he was evil.
Arthur groaned, just loud enough for Merlin to hear, and turned away from the maid and carried on down the corridor, grabbing hold of Merlin's shoulder and steering him along with him.
"Merlin," Arthur hissed. "What have I told you about speaking to me like that in front of the other servants? Hardly anyone in the kingdom calls me Arthur, let alone saying my name like it's an insult. I've heard what people say you know, they think I'm too lenient with you and that I let you get away with everything."
"Well sorry." Merlin grumbled.
They walked in silence for a little longer before heading up the stairs, the music from the hall still echoing behind them.
"So why did you want to leave so early?"
"But I was having fun."
"And that's why I wanted to leave. I enjoy making your life miserable; it's my job as your Prince. Also I don't want you having too much fun Merlin and that's what you were doing, having way too much fun."
"Wait..." Merlin pondered. "You wanted to leave because I was having fun?"
"I was joking." Arthur said quickly.
"I don't think you were because it makes sense, you knew I was having fun so you excused yourself so I had to leave too because I'm your manservant."
Arthur didn't reply, and just huffed in irritation.
"And I know why you wanted me to leave." Merlin realised.
"And why's that?"
"Because I was dancing with Gwen, and you like Gwen." Merlin studied Arthur closely, positive he was right. He wanted so much to be wrong, and his stomach twisted with upset and jealousy, but he knew he was right.
Arthur's lips pursed, but he didn't respond.
"You were jealous of me because I was dancing with Gwen." Merlin tried again. "And that's why you didn't want to dance with those other women, and that's why you wanted me to leave." It unravelled so easily in Merlin's head. Arthur did love Gwen, and he couldn't lie that it didn't hurt. So badly.
"But there's nothing going on between you and Gwen?" Arthur asked, not looking at Merlin. He was looking at the door of his rooms instead, which was at the other end of the corridor.
And then Merlin's heart shattered. It was true then, Arthur didn't want anything to be happening between Merlin and Gwen because Arthur loved Gwen. He took a deep breath. "No, of course not. We're just friends. We only danced because we were bored and the music was so lovely so she asked me if I wanted to dance."
"Hmm." was all the response Arthur gave, opening the door into his rooms.
It was a warm summer's night, so Merlin followed Arthur inside and then headed straight to the window to open it. The night air was pleasant and the music from the great hall filled the room, as all the hall windows had been opened at the start of the evening, so the sounds travelled easily through the night air and drifted wonderfully up to Arthur's window and into the room.
Merlin turned around to see Arthur had slumped in his wooden chair.
Merlin glanced at the bed quizzically and then back at Arthur. "I thought you said you were tired."
"I'm not anymore. Though you can tidy the room up a bit if you want." Arthur gestured around the floor, where he'd scattered the clothes he'd worn that day.
"You brought me away from dancing and now you want me to clean?"
They didn't speak for a while and just listened to the music. Merlin had counted that he'd missed three tunes already since leaving the great hall and he wasn't happy. Though if there was one person he'd rather be with than having fun at the ball, it was Arthur.
"So, you were jealous?" Merlin said, picking up Arthur's clothes on the floor, feeling Arthur's eyes watching him.
"Huh?" Arthur asked, as though being pulled from a day dream.
"You were jealous?" Merlin repeated.
"Yes, actually." Arthur said snappishly, as though disliking admitting it.
Merlin flinched, realising just how much Arthur must like Gwen to have pulled Merlin away from the ball so quickly in his jealousy.
"Gwen's a lucky woman." Merlin swallowed.
"She was this evening." Arthur agreed.
Merlin spun around. "What?"
Arthur was watching him intently, as though Merlin were the deer that Arthur had hunted that very afternoon.
"Do you really want to know why I left the ball?" Arthur asked, eyebrow raised, sitting up in his chair, still staring at Merlin with that piercing gaze of his.
"I was bored and jealous. I was bored of dancing with all those women who think they have a chance with me, when they have anything but..."
Merlin held his Arthur's stare, willing the tears that were beginning to threaten his eyes to leave. Gwen was the only woman for Arthur, it seemed.
"...and the only entertainment I got all evening was watching you dance. Not you and Gwen. Just you."
"It's true. You dance remarkably well, so gracefully. Which is odd because you are incompetent at mostly everything else – walking and keeping balance and such. I'm surprised you could even dance in time, never mind dancing well. Where did you learn ballroom?"
"I didn't. I just picked it up from watching you at all the other dances you've been at." Merlin admitted.
Arthur's eyebrow rose further.
Merlin blushed and looked down.
"And you were jealous of my dancing ability?" Merlin teased quietly.
"Of my dancing well with Gwen?" Merlin dreaded the answer, but he had to ask it.
Merlin looked up, questioningly.
"I was jealous..." Arthur took a deep breath. "...Of Gwen."
Merlin knew his eyes had widened in disbelief, but he couldn't disguise his surprise. His heart was now beating too loudly for him to care.
"Then what was the real reason that you wanted to leave the great hall early?" Merlin asked quietly, his gaze now seductive as it met Arthur's.
"I wanted...I wanted to save my last dance for you."
And then there was silence as the music died down and the next tune started.
"If you wanted to dance with me of course." Arthur looked away awkwardly.
Merlin smiled softly and held out his hand. Of course he was going to accept. He'd really be an idiot not to.
Arthur looked back to Merlin's hand, a small smile beginning to play on his lips as he took Merlin's hand and let his manservant pull him up from his seat.
In seconds, Merlin had his hand on Arthur's shoulder, and Arthur had his hand on Merlin's hip, keeping their other hands clasped tightly together. Merlin pulled Arthur closer to him, until they were completely touching, smiling into Arthur's ear.
"It'd be an honour to dance with you my Lord."