Category: Humour, magic revealed
Summary: Arthur attempts logical deduction. He puts 2 and 2 together and eventually arrives at 4. By detouring past 5.
Notes: This was a one-hour fic writing session one night. Thanks to Nicci_mac for cheering me on and to Nora-Charles for the read-through. And catching a rather embarrassing error XD
"Oh, Merlin," Arthur sighed, shaking his head at Merlin for the third or so time that day. "You really are such a clumsy oaf."
The look Merlin shot him was comically torn between outrage and guilt and Arthur had to wonder what was prompting that. Well, apart from the obvious, that Merlin wasn't the most elegant man to ever live. Quite frankly, Arthur was surprised that Merlin had survived childhood and teenage years, considering how accident prone he was.
This morning it had been a dropped plate. After Arthur's morning practice, it had been the ear shattering sound of Merlin dropping his armour and right now, barely past noon, it was a goblet, thankfully empty, hitting the stone floor.
"Look, I don't need you until tonight," Arthur said with a yawn as he flexed his shoulders, before retrieving a fresh shirt. The one from this morning was on the floor, soaked with sweat from practice. "Go ahead and annoy Gaius for the rest of the afternoon, I'm sure he can find something for you to do, that won't have you endangering anyone. Just make sure, you return before the feast."
He paused when he'd pulled the shirt down over his head. Merlin had the most peculiar look on his face and the stack of plates he was now holding as well as aforementioned dented goblet, were wobbling precariously in his hold.
"Merlin?" Arthur was trying his best to be patient, but perhaps his manservant was suffering from some mental ailment. Arthur winced when Merlin turned about-face to leave, nearly walking into the closed door.
"Oh, for the love of..." Arthur muttered, tucking his shirt down into place as he stalked past Merlin, opening the door for him. "Do try not to cause any harm to yourself either."
Merlin watched him like a rabbit caught in a snare would look at a predator approaching. Arthur's lips curved into a smile at the thought and he was surprised when an odd noise escaped Merlin.
"Well, go on then," Arthur said, frowning as he gestured for Merlin to leave. Which Merlin did. Like king Uther himself was hot on his heels.
Arthur shook his head with a sigh as he closed the door behind him and leaned his head against it, the rough wood cool against his forehead. He needed to figure out what was going on with Merlin, because for the past week and a half, things had gone terribly downhill. Arthur wasn't all that fond of secrets, especially not when they were kept from him, and something was obviously bothering Merlin.
Arthur could admit to himself that he missed the old, Merlin. The one who spoke up, the one who never let Arthur get away with anything his conscience couldn't stand up for anyway.
He wondered what might have prompted this. Sitting back down at the table, Arthur frowned and tried to trace back to when it had begun.
They had been on a hunting trip. Nothing important had happened there. Nothing out of the ordinary anyway. Well, Merlin had been trying to tell him something, but Arthur hadn't let him.
He knew about Merlin's magic, and had pushed Merlin on his arse in a patch of daffodils. He didn't want to hear Merlin confess to that. As long as he wasn't told, he could act the oblivious.
And do the occasional damage control, because damn it, Merlin was reckless considering he could lose his head if Uther ever found out.
No, even if Merlin had been annoyed with Arthur pushing him around that day, that hadn't been it either. It had merely earned Arthur a rough shove back and the sharp edge of Merlin's tongue and wit for the rest of the trip.
Which was far more enjoyable than Arthur would ever admit. There was something about Merlin freely telling him off that made Arthur happy. Ridiculously so.
Maybe he was the one with a grave mental illness?
They had made it back to Camelot, both in high spirits. He was quite sure there had been no tension between them at that point.
Arthur scratched the back of his head. Even if Merlin was trying to tell him about his magic, it shouldn't be making Merlin so clumsy.
The first time Arthur had noticed Merlin acting oddly... or more oddly than normally, had been the morning after the hunting trip, when Merlin had come to wake him up. Arthur had pushed off most of his night clothes and the covers during the night. It had been hellishly hot outside, the night not offering much relief.
That had been the morning where Merlin had nearly backed into the fireplace. Thankfully, it being midsummer, it hadn't been lit.
It had been a mess, but at least Merlin hadn't been burned.
Arthur shivered at the thought of a different sort of fire. The sort his father was far too fond of. Maybe he would have to accept that little talk with Merlin, because it seemed Merlin had no sense of survival.
So far, Arthur was fairly sure it was all just dumb luck keeping Merlin alive.
Deciding that he would corner Merlin after the feast, Arthur smiled happily to himself. Nothing like fixing a problem after a good workout and a filling lunch.
Unfortunately, the feast turned out to be a bit of an eye opener and once again Arthur found his plans turned upside down by his wayward manservant.
Who was, first of all, late for dressing Arthur, which meant arriving when Arthur had his breeches around his ankles, fighting with the tangled laces.
Arthur turned, nearly falling over, when Merlin slammed the door open, only to come to a complete halt right inside.
"Well, don't just stand there and stare like the idiot we all know you are," Arthur huffed. "Fix this."
Merlin glared at him and it was the first normal thing Arthur had seen in a while. Which made him happier than he cared to think about. That look and attitude from Merlin always made Arthur think of a puppy trying to stand up to a pack of wolves. Had about the same effect on Arthur too.
It also made Arthur want to pet Merlin's head, maybe scratch behind those ridiculously big ears. He might even attempt that at some point, just to rile Merlin up.
"Well, I'm sorry that Gaius had some things I had to finish," Merlin muttered as he avoided looking Arthur in the eye.
Arthur frowned. He would have to keep Merlin on his toes or they'd be back to the odd tension between them. Which made Merlin even clumsier than normally.
"Well, keep in mind that you're my servant," Arthur said with a grin. "My manservant, who is missing his hat, as far as I can tell."
Merlin growled at him as he knelt to untangle Arthur's breeches.
Arthur stared down at the dark unruly hair and swallowed hard. He could see the tips of Merlin's ears turning slightly red, but he was far too focused on keeping his own decorum with Merlin kneeling at his feet.
He would have to be careful, or he would be giving something away he wasn't supposed to. Taking a deep breath, Arthur calmed himself. He'd been good at keeping these urges under control lately, but Merlin never made it easy for him.
So, yes, the feast.
Arthur was dressed and sat down at his father's side just in time, if judging from Uther's glare was anything to go by. Combined with the smirk from Morgana, Arthur did.
The food was rich, the hall was swelteringly hot, the air stale and Merlin kept leaning in over his shoulder to refill his goblet. Always a little to close.
It might have helped if Arthur didn't drain it as often as he did. Unfortunately, he couldn't focus on figuring Merlin out as he was steadily sinking deeper and deeper into his own trouble. The more he drank, the more Merlin was there, pouring wine. The closer Merlin was, the more Arthur drank.
Thankfully he could tell that the wine had been watered down significantly. He knew that Merlin had taken to doing that out of spite, because he hated dealing with Arthur drunk off his arse.
It annoyed Arthur because it wasn't Merlin's job to keep him from getting drunk. On the other hand, Arthur was a little grateful, because he wasn't sure if he could keep from doing something stupid if he became too drunk.
As it was, he was pleasantly buzzed when the feast drizzled out somewhere in the early hours of morning. Waving at Merlin, Arthur allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. At least Uther had gone off to bed earlier so Arthur was spared the disapproving glare from him.
Not that Uther minded Arthur drinking or being drunk, but Arthur was leaning on Merlin, a hand around his back, palm fitting surprisingly well over Merlin's hip. Also, face buried in Merlin's neck? So the best place Arthur could think of being.
"Arthur, damn it," Merlin muttered and Arthur grinned. "I'm not carrying you up the stairs."
"Uh-huh," Arthur mumbled, nuzzling Merlin's neck.
No one paid them any attention and somehow, they managed to get up to Arthur's chambers. The wooden door closing behind them, Arthur gave into the drunken urge of putting both his arms around Merlin, leaning against him, sniggering when Merlin stumbled back a step from the heavy weight.
"You're a lousy servant," Arthur muttered, nose still happily squashed against Merlin's neck. Right below one of those adorably big ears. "But you make a pretty decent friend."
Merlin stilled, stopped trying to pry Arthur's hands off his arse. Arthur wondered how they'd ended up down there in the first place.
"I eh..." Merlin cleared his throat. "You're my friend, Arthur," he tried, tugging fruitlessly at Arthur's hands.
"Uh-huh," Arthur agreed, completely focused on trying to figure out what exactly Merlin smelled of. There was a bit of smoke from the fires, a little herb scent as well, probably from what he'd been doing for Gaius earlier.
Arthur wondered what Merlin might taste like. If he licked his neck.
"So... I ah... sort of have something I think you should know," Merlin said, words haltingly leaving him, breath hot against Arthur's neck.
"I already know," Arthur said, nuzzling the warm skin again and grinning as Merlin shivered.
"You... you do?" Merlin said, voice going very quiet, barely audible. "Oh... and um... I guess judging by...." Merlin's breath hitched as Arthur squeezed his arse experimentally. "By your hands... you don't mind?"
"What's my hands on your arse have to do with your magic?" Arthur asked, frowning.
Merlin stilled completely, Arthur wasn't even sure he was breathing anymore.
"You... you know...." Merlin trailed off.
"Yeah, you don't have to tell me that," Arthur said with a sigh. He was sobering far too fast and at least he could use the conversation about magic to get Merlin's mind off being groped. Though he still didn't get what Merlin's arse had to do with his magic.
Resigning himself to doing some serious covering up, because he couldn't let Merlin think that Arthur was anything but a friend to him, really.
Leaning back a little, Arthur wobbled a little. Okay, maybe he wasn't sobering quite as fast as he'd thought.
Merlin grabbed his arms and held him in place. They were so close, and Arthur tried not to go cross eyed from attempting to look into Merlin's eyes.
Not that Merlin was noticing, because he was staring at Arthur's lips.
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone," Arthur said quietly.
"Um...," Merlin still wasn't looking him in the eyes. Which puzzled Arthur a little.
"Spit it out," Arthur said with as much annoyance he could muster. Which, in his state, wasn't much.
"I thought I'd take the smaller secret first and then work my way up to that one," Merlin admitted, eyes flickering up to meet Arthur's, finally. A flush was colouring those ridiculously prominent cheekbones.
Which Arthur found absolutely irresistible. Not that he'd admit that if he'd been sober.
"So, what's the smaller secret?" Arthur asked curiously.
Merlin just stared at him like he was an idiot.
Arthur frowned and tried to take in the situation. If Merlin thought it was obvious, there had to be something Arthur was missing. Then Arthur took in the fact that Merlin's arms were around him as his were around Merlin's, their bodies flush against each other, quite happily so, if he were to judge from the hardness pressed against his own.
Gaze dropping to Merlin's lips, Arthur licked his lips and nodded. "I think I might have overlooked that little secret," he admitted. Heat spread through his body and he started to smile, outright grinning, probably looking like a lunatic if he were to judge from Merlin's slightly alarmed expression.
Arthur leaned in and pressed his mouth against Merlin's, biting lightly into Merlin's lower lip, not enough to hurt of course, just enough to make sure Merlin couldn't doubt Arthur's intentions.
"Oh bugger," Merlin mumbled, not for a second taking his eyes off him as Arthur guided him backwards.
"Sure, if you want to," Arthur replied, laughing as he pushed Merlin down onto the mattress.
Arthur kind of maybe liked secrets after all.