It’s been a month since Arthur found out about Merlin’s magic—not because Merlin made a mistake, but because he buried his face in the pillow beside Arthur’s head and said, “I’m a sorcerer. I’m tired. I’m sorry.”
Weariness made him feel so heavy that even fear couldn’t bring him to look up and gauge Arthur’s reaction. Arthur touched his back, and he didn’t flinch, but he did cry—just a little. When Arthur gathered him up and asked no questions, relief washed over Merlin like a drug and pulled him into the dark. He slept for hours and hours and woke feeling like the whole world had been washed clean and new.
It’s been a month of questions and demands, late nights in Arthur’s chambers showing off every spell he can do without setting the curtains on fire or permanently damaging the walls. Merlin’s heart swells with pride, but if Arthur doesn’t back off he’ll never get scrying down right, and they’ll never figure out where Morgana is.
After four days of trying and failing to perform the scrying ritual correctly, Merlin is exhausted and ready to throw the big stone bowl right out the window. At least half the frustration comes from Arthur hovering around him the entire time, touching his back and his hip, leaning too close and breathing at his neck.
“I need to focus,” Merlin says, squirming. “Don’t you have knights to train? Things to poke with swords?”
Arthur catches his wrist and holds it firmly, seeming to know exactly when to let up before the grip actually hurts.
“Come to bed.”
The sound of Arthur’s voice is just forceful enough to pull Merlin’s attention away from the table covered in a mess of candles and potions and herbs and artifacts.
When Merlin glances aside, Arthur reaches out and touches his throat in a slow slide of warm knuckles and smooth fingernails. Merlin shivers, thoroughly unused to this level of calm scrutiny.
“What?” he asks, swallowing hard.
“Let me take you to bed.”
Arthur’s fingers reach the back of Merlin’s neck and stroke through the hair at his nape. It tickles, the shiver of it sparking a tentative smile that Arthur echoes, looking down at the table. They haven’t quite figured this out. Merlin’s magic and Arthur’s awareness of all that he can do have disrupted the simplicity of their friendship.
Maybe now they really are two sides of the same coin, but balanced delicately on edge or spinning through time—because otherwise Merlin can’t bear to wonder which side faces the heavens and which is shadowed, carrying the weight of their destiny.
“What are you thinking about?”
Arthur watches him, frowning. There’s a shadow of hurt in the furrow at his brow, and Merlin realizes he never answered or gave any indication that yes, it’s what he wants, it’s what he’s always wanted, more than a purpose, more than anything. That yes, it’s what he wants so badly that sometimes when they’re hiding in the dark hours before dawn, mouth to hot mouth, he dreads the sunrise and wonders if he could steal more time, and how much, and how much of Arthur he’s allowed to keep for himself. Not for Albion, not for destiny, not for peace, not for Camelot. For himself.
“You,” Merlin says, breathes it really, the sound rattling out of him. “Me. Magic. Destiny, I guess.”
Then Arthur tugs him off balance and catches him and kisses his throat and jaw. The hair on his arms prickles up so hard it makes his skin tighten and ache. Arthur grazes his teeth along Merlin’s neck and bites at the tendon there.
“Stop thinking,” Arthur says. It’s a hot growl, wet and soothing where he’s left a bruise in the shape of everything they can’t figure out how to say.
Merlin laughs like falling and lets Arthur drag him to the bed.