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He Wasn’t Man Enough For Me

It was five o’clock and most of the guests had already arrived. If Merlin hadn’t anticipated several delays in getting ready, he would have been just as late as the man of the hour. 

Merlin rolled his eyes and chuckled before setting his smile in place to greet the guests. 

He drifted through the crowd of important faces with half the grace and charm as the man of the evening and he figured that had to count for something since most of the guests were unknown to him. 

“Where is that cad, anyway?” Someone asked. 

Merlin laughed, “Held up with business. You know he always manages to be fashionably late.”

The woman laughed, “To everything!”

Gwaine Lionheart was a man who had cultivated a great number of connections over his lifetime and most of them were there to congratulate him on his recent engagement.

In Gwaine’s mind, that meant throwing a party complete with alcohol and good feed in his exceedingly large house. It had been Merlin’s intervention that kept it to a more upscale party. 

No poles, Merlin told him. 

Gwaine winked at him, Whatever you say.

He’d paid for that little victory with a hoarse voice for a few days after, but there wasn’t a pole in sight and that was really all that mattered.

Merlin was just being kicked out of the kitchen by the event manager who told him to enjoy the party rather than warning the runners to bring the bartender more of certain kinds of alcohol when he heard the voice.

“Merlin?”

He turned around to see the man standing there and the woman on his arm. He smiled brightly, happy to see the man before catching the gleam on the woman’s finger. There was a time when he would have cringed at his appearance, but that was several years ago when his feelings had still been hurting and he’d made the decision for them both. 

He’d been informed that Arthur had gotten married a few months ago, but he’d been out of the country at the time and couldn’t make it back to meet Arthur and his illustrious new wife Vivian. He’d sent his gift and congratulations along with Guinevere and Lancelot.

“Arthur,” he greeted, “Glad you could make it! This must be the illustrious Vivian. She’s more lovely in person!”

Arthur winced and nodded as Vivian smiled devilishly, “Merlin, a pleasure.”

Merlin shook her hand, “Not sure why you settled for this clot pole, but I’m sure there’s enough alcohol for you to forget about it! Enjoy the party, yeah?”

“I’m sure we will,” Vivian said, “And I doubt there’s enough alcohol in the world for that.”

Merlin chuckled as Vivian pulled Arthur away. She sneered over her shoulder at him. Arthur gave him a longing look over his shoulder, and Merlin laughed as he leaned against the bar.

She was as beautiful as he’d heard, probably as well connected too. Merlin hoped he was happy. He swiped a glass of liquor before he caught sight of Guinevere and Lancelot across the room. Grinning, he snuck up behind her and hugged her tightly. The woman greeted him lively, bouncing in her heels somehow, squealing and hugging him tightly. 

It had been so long since they’d seen each other after all. They talked about everything in their time apart, but there was nothing like being in the same room with someone. He hugged Lancelot too and told them both to get a drink in their hands before Gwaine finally made it to his own party. 

He’d shooed them off to get drinks when he felt eyes on his back, tracing up his spine.

About time he got here…

How he managed to sneak in without a resounding greeting, Merlin had no idea, but he turned and searched the crowd for Gwaine. His social batteries were quick to drain without him and might have been heading towards half empty. 

He searched the crowd growing more and more disappointed as he didn’t see him. It wasn’t until his eyes landed on Arthur that he realized that the eyes staring him down like prey were not Gwaine’s. Vivian turned around and frowned, pulling Arthur out of his sight she glared at Merlin as Lancelot and Guinevere came back to him. 

“He’s still not here?” Guinevere asked. 

Merlin checked his watch, “It’s only been fifteen minutes. Everyone hasn’t arrived yet, I’ll give him a call.”

Merlin headed to get a drink before heading out to the balcony. As he pulled out his phone, he heard the clicking of heels coming after him. He turned and felt the cold slosh of liquid across his face, he gasped at the proud face sneering at him. 

Vivian. 

He thanked his lucky stars that Gwaine was running so late because the scene the man would have caused was not something he could deal with tonight.

“Stop staring at my husband,” she said. “He’s mine.”

“You…” Merlin blinked and wiped his face. He breathed in again, reigning the lightning back from blowing the woman over the balcony. Instead, he smiled, “I think you have something confused.”

“I have eyes,” she said. “With that hurt expression on your face.”

“Has he not told you the truth?”

She gawked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You should ask him,” he said. “Hopefully you won’t find out why we couldn’t work.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Do you know anything about us?”

“Other than you were pining after him? What else could I possibly need to know?”

Wow… he thought. It seemed that Arthur had really been in a mood if that was the lie he told Vivian and who knows who else. 

“Do you know I dumped your husband?”

She gawked, “You’re lying.”

Merlin shook his head, catching Arthur’s eye through the window, “He takes you from behind, doesn’t he?”

Her jaw dropped and she stepped back. Maybe, she was shocked that he would mention or that he was right. He didn’t know and he didn’t care.

“And if you face him, it’s dark, isn’t it? Dark enough that you can’t see his face?”

“H-How did you know that?”

“But he really gets into it when you’re face down in the dark with just enough moonlight to see how pale you are.”

Vivian swallowed and took another step back. Her head dropped as he walked past her and back inside. He passed Arthur and the group he stood with as he hastened to the bathroom to wash the stickiness from his face. 

“Thank the gods I’m wearing black,” he muttered blotting the champagne from his shirt. When it was significantly less sticky, he ran a bit of magic through his fingers to help it dry as he pulled out his phone and he hit Gwaine’s contact. He heard the door open behind him and Arthur came up behind him. He looked in the mirror at Arthur’s desperate face.

“I didn’t want to.”

“She seems to really love you.”

“Merlin,” he said, “Is there nothing left? Don’t you think about it?”

Merlin smiled as the phone rang and he ran his hand through his hair, drying it back into its former style. 

“No actually. I don’t.”

Merlin, love?

“You’re lying.”

Arthur stepped forward and Merlin held out a hand and Arthur froze in place. Arthur remembered that day in the apartment when he’d found out what made Merlin so special. In his eyes, Merlin saw the memory of that invisible force pushing him across the room while Merlin devolved into a panic. There was no force now, but he knew the gesture when he saw it.

“It would be best if you went back to your wife Arthur.”

“Merlin–“

“I meant what I said then,” he said and pressed the phone to his ear, “Yes, I’m here.”

Is the princess chasing after you, love?

Merlin snorted and walked out of the bathroom past Arthur and down the hall to the small sitting room, “Well, he would have a chance if someone wasn’t late. Where are you?”

It isn’t my fault this time,” he chuckled, “It took a while to get through all of their good wishes and so on. I’m pulling up now.

“Thank the gods, I don’t know how much more my social battery will hold out. The event manager definitely hates me.”

She does not,” Gwaine said, chuckling, “She just wants you to let her do her job!

“I could kick you.”

Will you kiss it better if you do?

“I’m hanging up now.”

Gwaine laughed, loud and bright as Merlin hung up and shook his head. 

As expected, he heard the resounding cheer of people greeting Gwaine and the way his joy carried through the house. He felt it warm in his chest as Gwaine walked into the main room. Shaking himself free from the downturn in his mood, he put his phone in his pocket and walked out just as Gwaine got himself a glass of whiskey and was chatting up Arthur’s wife. 

He never stops.

Arthur flushed, glaring at him as Gwaine said something about her being far too lovely for a princess. She outright giggled and Merlin shook his head and approached him.

“Be nice to the guests,” Merlin said. 

Gwaine grinned, “There you are.”

Before Merlin could protest, Gwaine swept him into his arms, cupped his face, and kissed him, tasting faintly of whiskey and whatever he had for lunch with his latest client.

“Better?” Gwaine asked, nipping at his lips.

“Fully recharged, thank you,” Merlin laughed as Gwaine turned back to the shocked faces of Arthur and Vivian. 

“Look at what the princess managed to pick up for himself!” Gwaine laughed, “I’m suspecting that it took a lot of work, maybe a few prayers to old gods, and probably a very nice marriage proposal.”

Merlin snickered, “I’m sure Arthur managed to charm her properly or be charmed.”

Gwaine snorted and sipped from his glass, “Right, charmed. Well, lovely Vivian, I hope he follows through on all of your hopes and dreams. It was a pleasure to meet you, but I have a feeling that if I don’t mingle a little more, I’ll have several people to answer to.”

“Starting with me,” Merlin said as Gwaine kissed his cheek. 

“Always with you,” Gwaine growled into his ear. 

Merlin smiled at Arthur and Vivian, “Enjoy the party.”

“I–”

“It’s fine,” Merlin said, “It’ll stay between us.”

Gwaine’s laughter rang out and shuffling came next as Percival caught him around the neck.

“You lucky bastard!”

“Luckier than you!”

Merlin shook his head, “Excuse me, I have to save several glasses from imminent destruction.”

He walked towards them but he was turned by Lancelot and his arm around his shoulder.

“It’s fine, Merlin,” Lancelot said, “The better question is if you’re okay.”

“Of course! Gwaine is here.”

Guinevere cooed at him. 

Eventually, Gwaine had mingled enough, and the very elegant music lured him onto the dancefloor. With Gwaine leading, Merlin lost sight of everyone else.

“People think you’re a good influence on me,” Gwaine said, “Says they’re surprised everyone is still dressed and not jumping in the pool…”

“This is not that kind of party!”

“Ah well, you’ll have to stay out of my bachelor’s party, love. I can’t have them thinking I’ve lost all of my wicked ways.”

Merlin chuckled, “Do what you must, love.”

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