Arthur waits until he's dismissed his valet before he turns back to Merlin.
Who's sitting on Arthur's bed, rubbing sleep from his eyes and yawning, loud and long and luxurious, like he's just had the best sleep of his life.
Which is unfair, given that Arthur spent six hours last night in a state of half-asleep, exhausted, near delirium, wondering why it was suddenly so hard to rest with the warm curve of his best friend's body next to his.
The desire to run the palm of his hand down Merlin's side or the tips of his fingers through the disheveled mess of Merlin's hark hair gathers inside Arthur. It blooms warm inside his chest, tingles a little through his hands, a rush of excitement that quickly settles at the pit of his stomach, heavy and dreadful.
He can't do this. All his life, he's been given nearly everything he's ever wanted, but this. This he can't just ask for or take or … He's not even sure it would ever be offered to him.
He pushes the dreadful heavy feeling away and lets it flare into anger.
"You don't need to come. I'm not…" He waves his hand, the movement vague, but bordering on dismissive. "Some responsibility of yours. You're not even awake, Merlin."
"What? I don't know – I'm up." Merlin untangles the blankets from his legs to stand from the bed, then stretch and scratch his chest. "Is that tea?" he asks, picks up Arthur's half-finished cup to drink, and, when he notices the look on Arthur's face, adds, "What? What's wrong?"
The press think we're together. Half of Britain believe we're a couple, Arthur doesn't reply. Nor does he say, You do that every morning, stand and yawn and stretch and blink around the room, muzzy and sleep-wrinkled.
"You don't even like museums." You like gardens, and wide-open spaces, the grass and trees and god only knows what you'll do with a degree in botany. "And you hate sitting in the limousine for hours on end." You'll fall asleep and look annoyed when I wake you. "And, besides, you're not really my travel companion, no matter what the tabloids call you."
"Oh. That." Merlin shrugs. "Actually, I totally am. I'm not bothered, though. I'd've stopped going to museum openings and charity banquets with you ages ago if I really didn't want to." Another stretching yawn and Merlin walks over to rest his hand on Arthur's shoulder. "All right?"
The flare of anger dies as suddenly as it rose. Arthur smiles, resigned to the new heaviness inside him, and leans into Merlin's touch as long as it lingers. "Fine. Go, shower and dress. And no ridiculous jumpers or fingerless gloves. Please tell me you brought sensible clothes."