Rating: PG-13 ish
Warnings/Spoilers: Season 1, Le Morte d'Arthur more specifically
Summary: If Merlin wasn’t so exhausted, it wouldn’t have happened. Magically rearranging furniture, and Arthur finds out.
A/N: Inspired in part by feilongfan’s tour of Arthur’s chambers. Unbetaed and written fairly quickly, seeing as this idea just wouldn’t let go (and also wasn’t really what I had planned for my second Merlin fic, but oh, well!). I have no idea if anyone’s done something like this before, so if they have, apologies for being repetitive! (Also, really, I fail at titles.)
If Merlin wasn’t so exhausted, it wouldn’t have happened. But it turned out two trips to the Isle of the Blessed and back, along with thinking he was going to die, nearly dying, and then having some kind of magic upchuck that resulted in a storm and the death of the most powerful sorcerer Merlin knew, well, all of that was very draining on a person.
Merlin would have liked a bit of a break after that (a month would be best, but he’d settle for a week), but no, with his mother alive and well and on her way back to Ealdor the day after Merlin and Gaius returned, Merlin was called right back to work. Arthur said nothing about the conversation they’d had before Merlin left, or about Hunith’s mysterious illness, he just went right back to ordering Merlin about.
True, part of Merlin was a little relieved at that, that nothing had changed between them and he could just go right back into something normal, something that was as far removed from the isle as possible. It let him focus his mind away from the terror, from the terror he’d felt of losing and the terror of winning, because when he’d stood up after Nimueh considered him dead, he hadn’t been quite sure who was in control; him or the magic. He’d wanted it, he’d wanted her dead more than he liked thinking about, wanted her to pay for what she’d done to Arthur, to Gaius, to his mother. He hadn’t even thought of stopping, not until long after it was over, but if he had considered it, he wasn’t sure he could have stopped.
He still saw her, at night, when he was so exhausted all he wanted to do was sleep, but every time he closed his eyes he was back on the isle. It had just been too much. Too much worry in too little time, too much fear, too many people he’d thought he might lose, too many times he thought he would be dead. He’d been sure he was going to die. He’d resigned himself to death, and now he wasn’t entirely sure what to do with life.
So when, a week after Merlin got back, Arthur idly commented, “I think I liked my bed better by the archways, Merlin. Let’s move it again”, Merlin snapped.
He didn’t really even mean to, it was just, this had to have been the seventh or eighth time that Arthur decided he didn’t like the way his room was arranged and got Merlin to help him move things, and Arthur’s bed and table were heavy and Merlin was just so very tired.
He’d tried, really he had, he’d said, “You’re supposed to be resting, you know, I don’t think rearranging furniture is the best way to go about that.”
And Arthur’d nodded and said, “Well, then, I suppose you’ll have to move it yourself,” and then given him this look, this insufferable, arrogant look that said he was fully expecting Merlin to humor him, because Merlin always did, and then Arthur would get to enjoy watching Merlin huff and puff and try to move Arthur’s heavy bed by himself. And of course, Merlin would ultimately fail, because there was no physical way he could move that bed, and Arthur would mock him for being a girl, and say something about how Arthur was a saint for putting up with Merlin’s shortcomings and that Arthur would just have to suffer with the room the way it was for the time being.
And Merlin just – couldn’t. Before he realized what he was doing, he gestured at the bed, which shimmered and shifted and, quite suddenly, was by the archways. The table had shifted to make room for it, the chairs lining themselves up neatly along its new angle, and the whole room had a sort of hazy golden glow.
Merlin wasn’t tired enough not to realize how truly and completely fucked he was. This wasn’t the way he’d wanted Arthur to find out. He’d wanted it to be because Merlin finally felt it was safe enough to tell him, or during one of the heroic, life-saving uses of magic Merlin frequently did around Arthur. Not because Arthur was being a prat about the arrangement of his room and Merlin was too exhausted to put up with him.
When the glow faded, Merlin didn’t want to look at Arthur, but he was pretty sure refusing to meet the prince’s gaze would be worse, so he forced himself to glance over.
Arthur was staring at his bed like, well, like it had just moved across the room, all on its own accord. He opened his mouth, closed it, paused, opened it again, and then snapped it shut. Merlin had the fleeting thought that he looked rather fish-like, and then had to squash the hysterical and slightly desperate urge to giggle.
Really, it wasn’t fair. It definitely wasn’t as though Merlin hadn’t experienced enough terror and anxiety recently, he completely wanted some more. The thought of having his head chopped off or being burned at the stake, that was really what he needed.
“Well?” Arthur asked, still looking at the bed.
Merlin didn’t say anything. Mostly because he was pretty sure anything he said wouldn’t be the right response.
“Aren’t you going to offer some kind of explanation for this?” Arthur pressed.
For a brief, ludicrous moment, Merlin felt hope. He could just come up with some kind of cover story. For why Arthur’s room rearranged itself. Sometime in the next two seconds. Maybe Arthur could be convinced that his room had been this way the whole time, honestly it had, and it must be some leftover fever or a side-effect of the potion that cured him that made him think differently. Right.
“I’ve only got one,” Merlin said. “And you don’t want to hear it.”
“Oh, I really do,” Arthur replied, turning to look at him. There was anger in his eyes, but not hatred or fear, and Merlin didn’t know what that meant for him.
“I’m magic,” Merlin told him, even though he really didn’t need to say it. Maybe Arthur needed to hear it.
Arthur waved a hand at his room. “And this is how you use it?”
“Yes – no – sometimes,” Merlin said. “Usually I use it to save your life, actually.”
Merlin thought he’d be more panicked than this. Freaked out, pleading for Arthur not to have him executed or banished, frantically trying to show Arthur that he’d only used his magic for him, always for him. And Merlin was terrified, a little, and he did want Arthur to know it was all for him, but Merlin was still just tired. A week ago, he’d twice decided to die, maybe it was only fitting that it happened now.
“I just want you to know,” Merlin said, quietly, desperately. “That it was worth it.”
Arthur’s brow furrowed. “What was worth it?”
“Execution,” Merlin replied. “It was worth it, to save you. To know you. To stand by your side, for however short a time.”
Arthur stared at him, his jaw clenching. Finally, he sighed. “You’re not facing execution.”
Something tightened in Merlin’s chest. “I’m not?”
“I can’t very well execute someone who’s just told me that it’s worth dying just to know me, can I?” Arthur asked, glancing away again. “I don’t – you are not evil. You’ve saved my life, more times than I knew, apparently, you’re –” He waved a hand in a gesture that looked like nonsense, but could very well have meant “you’re a weird old man with a funny hat, please dance a jig” for all Merlin knew. “Incompetent. You’re too incompetent to be evil.”
Merlin scowled. “I’d say it’s the evil ones that are incompetent, considering I always manage to stop them from separating your royal head from your body.”
“Yes. That,” Arthur said, pointing at him. “I’ve just found out you’re a sorcerer and am attempting to be noble and reassure you that your life is not in danger and that, for some reason, I am disobeying one of Camelot’s strictest laws for you, and you are arguing with me. That is incompetence. It’s more than incompetence, it’s idiocy. You are an idiot.”
“You’ve told me that before,” Merlin told him, the tiniest hint of a smile tugging at his lips.
“Yes, well, it never stops being true. Obviously now more than ever.” Arthur stepped forward to examine his bed, and just like that, the tension was out of the air. “You better not have damaged my things. If my bed is suddenly lumpy – what?” he asked, looking up to find Merlin staring at him. “Oh, god, you’re not going to cry, are you? If you start crying, I take it back. I will have you executed.”
“I’m not crying,” Merlin replied defensively, refusing to admit that he may have sniffled a bit. “It’s just, that’s the third time in a week, that I thought I was going to die. I was ready for it. I’d said goodbye, I knew what I was dying for was worth it, and now – now I’m still here.”
Arthur’s eyes darkened a bit. After a moment, he stepped back over to Merlin and then closer, getting in Merlin’s personal space to lay a hand on Merlin’s shoulder. “Some day – not now,” he added hurriedly, “but some day, I will ask you exactly what you meant by that, and I will want you to tell me everything.”
“Then what do I do now?” Merlin asked, and hated a little bit that he sounded so lost. He wasn’t lost, not really. He still had a destiny, and everything he’d had before that had made him happy, made him feel alive. It was only that he’d let that go, all of it, laid it to rest and he wasn’t sure how to get it back.
“You find something new to live for,” Arthur replied softly, like he knew what Merlin was thinking.
Merlin looked at him, really looked, and remembered how many times Arthur had gone into something thinking – knowing – that he would die, and thought that maybe, maybe Arthur did know what Merlin was thinking.
“I can do that,” Merlin said, and kissed him.
Arthur stiffened, but only briefly, and then he kissed him back.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Arthur said after a moment. “The bed was better off by the windows.”
Merlin’s eyes widened. “You have got to be joking.”
“It’s further from the door that way,” Arthur continued. “With a whole table between them. Less chance for sound to get out.” He raised one eyebrow and smirked.
Merlin stared at him, then decided that wasn’t worth answering. He kissed him again and tugged him back towards the windows, sending them tumbling towards the place the bed would be when they landed.