Eurydice (eurydice72) wrote,

Fic: A Plan, for Better or Worse (Arthur/Merlin)

TITLE: A Plan, for Better or Worse
PROMPT: Drunken confession of love
PAIRING: Merlin/Arthur
LENGTH: 1625 words
SUMMARY: Merlin drinks. Arthur has a plan.
WARNINGS/SPOILERS: Set between 2x03 and 2x04
AUTHOR NOTE: Yes, I cracked and wrote Merlin fic. It's not going to stop at this, unfortunately. I'm a tad head over heels.

A Plan, for Better or Worse

He didn’t do it intentionally. After all, he rarely gave Merlin a second thought unless he was in the room. Or there were chores to be done. Or he saw Gaius and mused on where Merlin could be if he wasn’t with the court physician or Arthur. Or…

Well. He rarely thought of Merlin unless he had very good reason to, at any rate.

So when he insisted Merlin have a drink with the rest of those celebrating the successful hunt, Arthur thought nothing of it. Merlin had done a good job – for a change – and helped roust the beasts for Arthur then to kill, all without falling on his face or scaring the animals away. Arthur wanted to encourage that sort of behavior as much as possible. Perhaps with the promise of reward, Merlin’s performance might actually rise to acceptable standards.

He failed to grasp one vital piece of information before doing so, however. The boy could not hold his ale.

Merlin giggled as he tipped the tankard back, straining to catch the last few droplets. Giggled. Like a girl. His pointed tongue darted out to lick at the metal rim, and when that didn’t suffice, he stuck his nose inside, as if to lick the very bowels of the container clean.

From across the fire, a bemused smile twitched on Arthur’s lips. He’d never seen Merlin like this before. Oh, certainly, he’d caught a glimpse of the bright smile, though usually in regards to something related to Gwen or Morgana or even the bloody horses, and he’d once seen the same color tingeing those gaunt cheeks when Gaius had praised him for a job well done about…something or other.

But this level of gleefulness…this wasn’t the Merlin he knew.

Thus, the plan began to hatch.

Grabbing a half-full skin of ale, Arthur rose from his seat and sauntered around the circle, stopping along the way to share in a joke or story with his men. When he reached Merlin’s side, he nudged Brandeles’ hip, waiting until he’d moved out of the way before taking his place.

“Not a bad day,” he commented.

Merlin grinned. “We’ve certainly had worse.”

“Much worse.” He nodded toward Merlin’s empty tankard. “You look like you could use a refill.”

Merlin’s head swung like a pendulum along the same path Arthur had noted, his brows shooting upward when he spotted his cup. “I do look like that.” He swung back in the opposite direction, honing right in on the skin dangling from Arthur’s fingers.

Arthur waited for the request to come, but when it didn’t, he cocked a brow. “Would you like one, Merlin?” he carefully enunciated.

“Oh, yes, please!”

He bobbled the cup as he whipped it around. With a small shake of his head, Arthur covered Merlin’s hand with his own, holding the tankard steady to best not spill as he poured. More than one knight glanced in their direction, though none were foolish enough to voice opinion on their prince serving his servant. Wise men, all of them. He was still charged enough from the hunt to take on anyone who dared to question him.

Nestling the skin firmly against a nearby pack, Arthur leaned back on his hands to watch as Merlin gulped at the fresh drink. The firelight did wonders for Merlin’s normally pasty complexion, adding vitality and character where the alcohol left off. He still looked young, of course – impossibly so, though it was such a perpetual state Arthur was long accustomed to minding he never sent the boy anywhere near the guards’ quarters in the last few days before wages were doled, for fear someone or other might decide he’d do as well as any of the wenches at the pub. Age couldn’t be helped. Innocence, on the other hand, was a rare commodity, and sometimes he wondered exactly how Merlin had managed to survive this long with his intact.

This crush on Morgana, for instance. Arthur didn’t believe for a second that Merlin would offend her, not with his wildflowers or clandestine promises of servitude, but he didn’t understand why she didn’t squelch the attention. Surely, it embarrassed her. Merlin was just a servant. She was a member of the royal family.

But then Arthur remembered the handkerchief he’d worn for luck during the tournament, and how easy it had been to accept a certain shy smile, and perhaps it wasn’t so unfathomable to know why Morgana continued to encourage Merlin.

For all his blundering, though, Merlin wasn’t a complete idiot. He had to know nothing could come of this infatuation. So it was Arthur’s plan to expose Merlin’s feelings here, to the knights and the other manservants, to be witness to a shade of the ridicule and persecution he might face should his feelings for Morgana ever come to light in court.

“My father will be very impressed with our trophies today,” Arthur said.

Merlin didn’t look away from his ale. He was too busy catching a stray droplet attempting to escape down its side. “Yes, I imagine he will.”

“So will Morgana.”

There it was, the slightest hesitation, the flicker of Merlin’s eyes away from his task at hand. Nobody else would have noticed it, but Arthur did. He’d expected it.

Then it was gone, and Merlin lowered his tankard to nod at Arthur. “I suppose.”

“I’ll be sure to tell Morgana of your part,” Arthur continued. “It’s an interesting tale.”

“Oh, no, you don’t have to do that.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not that interesting.”

“That’s a matter of perspective, don’t you think?”

Merlin shook his head. “Morgana would rather hear about what we might have seen today, rather than what we killed or how we did it. She’s not the same as you, sire.”

Laughter rumbled from the men surrounding them. Arthur smiled. “I should hope not. For hers as well as for your sake, Merlin.”

“You’re a hunter,” Merlin went on, as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “You’re bred for this. You come out here, and you’re almost one with it all. Sometimes, I can barely hear you moving when you’re stalking your prey.”

“Well, you make up for the noise, more often than not. One of us has to be stealthy.”

“But it’s more than that. It’s the way you seem to sense what’s to come ahead, the way you know the exact moment best to strike. You’re a great warrior, Arthur. And some day, the entire world will know what a great king you will be.”

Arthur’s smile remained firmly in place, though indulging Merlin’s accolades wasn’t what he’d had in mind. Under normal circumstances, he didn’t mind being told how wonderful he was. From Merlin, however, it felt a tad odd. Normally, the boy had no qualm telling Arthur what a prat he could be.

“What does any of this have to do with Morgana?” he asked.

Merlin tilted his head quizzically. “Morgana?”

“You know. The object of your…” He felt the weight of the other’s gazes heavy upon them, and debated briefly before exposing Merlin so blatantly. A man had a right to feel what he wished, but it was the prospect of Merlin’s eventual disillusionment that finally drove Arthur to finish, “…affections.”

Merlin stared at him for several seconds, his bright blue eyes unfocused and confused. Silence reigned as Arthur’s words sank in, only the crackle of a log falling in the pit snapping through the dusky night.

Then, a brilliant grin split Merlin’s fine features, followed almost immediately by an array of giggles so loud and so raucous, Arthur feared Merlin launching face forward into the fire.

“What’s so amusing?” he demanded.

Ale sloshed over Merlin’s hand and spilled onto his trousers before he could set it down. “You,” he managed between breaths.

“Me? What did I do?”

“You think…I care for…Morgana.”

Merlin’s breathing was starting to hitch from the vehemence of his laughter. Arthur ignored the chuckles starting to emanate from the other men to grab onto Merlin’s shoulder and firmly pull him upright again.

“That’s because you do,” he said. “You’re in love with her.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.” With more force than Arthur would have anticipated coming from such a scrawny young man, Merlin knocked his arm away, then proceeded to jab a long, pointy finger into Arthur’s shoulder. “I’m in love with you, you prat.”

The circle fell quiet. It made Arthur’s first thought of all right, now that sounds like the Merlin I know boom unnaturally loud inside his head.

Of course, his second thought wasn’t nearly as calm.

Or as clean of cursing.

Nobody spoke. He knew what they waited for, though he desperately wished Merlin would pass out or lose his stomach or do something to distract from the incredibly awkward silence prevailing in the camp. When it was obvious such divine intervention wouldn’t occur, he forced a broad laugh and reached for Merlin’s tankard.

“No more ale for you.” He tossed the last few dregs into the shadows, then took it with him as he rose to his feet. “Or you’re going to be in love with every knight in Camelot before the celebration’s through.”

The other knights joined in his merriment while he returned to his original place in the circle. Only when he was safely ensconced between two men he knew could hold their drink did Arthur glance across to see Merlin’s reaction.

His head was ducked, his cheeks bright red. Brandeles had resumed his spot, and now jabbed at Merlin playfully, repeatedly, until Merlin began to laugh again and rejoin the festivities.

His gaze never turned to Arthur.

Arthur decided after his initial annoyance that perhaps it was better for him not to.

…This time.

baby – feeding
cuddling by the fire
day at the beach
romantic holiday
baby – shower
playing instrument
unexpected date
baby's first holiday/celebration
blind date
lazy Sunday
shower together
New Year celebration
drunken confession of love
nurse back to health
cuddling in vehicle
first fight – making up
anniversary – one partner sick
feeding – erotic

Tags: fic, merlin/arthur, schmoop

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