They didn't know when it happened; nor, how it did. Neither could pinpoint the exact time when their boundary became blurred and their feelings deepened. When touches became just a few seconds longer. Glances were more than just looks; but, became messages. When did the strict line between Prince and Manservant become friend and friend, and then, lovers.
It was a gradual growth of trust through years of hardships and journeys. Arthur, the groomed Prince of Camelot, had his heart barricaded thick with an iron wall and only he had the key. His heart, although young, had been deceived into love only to find that it was merely his title and power they were after.
However, without him noticing, Arthur's wall would slightly crumble. It was small things. Mere inquires about how the servants felt and how Merlin felt throughout the day. Then, one day, Arthur glanced up and realized that Merlin was looking over his shoulder, helping him with a treaty. The (at that point) King couldn't believe that a mere servant – who grew up as a farm hand – was helping him with a pinnacle part of ruling a kingdom; and yet, when Merlin offered his council, he took it without a second thought.
Once finished, Merlin turned and flashed his goofy smile before refilling Arthur's cup of wine, the man easily slipping back into the servant mindset. Arthur glanced at the peace treaty in his hand and everything changed. His servant was no longer a servant; no matter how many times the man cleaned his room and shined his sword throughout the day. He had become Arthur's sole friend, confidant, and advisor.
Trust was something that was earned in Arthur's eyes. He couldn't just trust anyone with any detail, he was of royal blood – everyone wanted in. But as he watch Merlin start a fire, Arthur felt that he could share anything with the large eared man and know that it wouldn't be at the top of the gossip list in the morning. A fondness had enveloped the man in Arthur's eyes, one he wouldn't admit to anyone, but he knew he would lay his life on the line for the manservant – and he has in the past – or even his kingship or, Hell, the kingdom itself.
That night, when Gwen came to kiss him goodnight, it felt empty.
It felt cold.
Days swirled by and soon the leaves fell and snow blanketed the ground. Arthur kept his fire always going, not because he was susceptible to the chill – but because Merlin was. The man, as poor as he was, couldn't afford nice winter clothing and always entered the room with his pale skin tinted red and shivering so much the cups would rattle on the breakfast tray. Arthur swore the man had no meat on his bones.
So, when Merlin didn't show up one day, Arthur grew worried. Merlin knew his place as Arthur's unofficial advisor, and knew that Arthur wanted to speak to him about the estimated grain calculations for the spring; but, no cheerful wakeup call came and his breakfast arrived via a random servant. By lunch time, he ignored Gwen's advances when she brought him food and rushed to the physician's rooms.
Gaius greeted him in hushed tones and quickly explained that Merlin merely caught the flu and was unable to work. Arthur would've believed him if it wasn't for the worried glances the elderly man was casting over his shoulders. Demanding to see his friend, Arthur was escorted up the small set of stairs to find Merlin – paler than usual – quivering underneath three thin blankets as he fought for air. Deep, chest aching coughs racked the man's body before glazed blue eyes opened. A raspy, whispered name was Arthur's welcome before the King – forgoing status – knelt beside his servant's bed and ran a hand through the sweat matted hair.
This would be the point when Arthur would say that their feelings no longer only harbored friendship. Three sleepless nights were in Arthur's future. He kept vigil by Merlin's bedside. He held the man as he vomited into the chamber pot so he didn't fall onto the ground. He offered his body heat as Merlin shook violently throughout the fever. His hand rubbed comfort onto Merlin's back and sore chest. His voice soothed as thick, vile medicine was forced down his aching throat.
Three days of torture for both men; but, when Merlin opened his eyes and Arthur saw clarity; he swore it was all worth it. Months of bliss encompassed the two. While feelings were still held under lock and key, the two held an air of content as they worked together to forge a better kingdom. Merlin, behind the scenes, would give his King advice that Arthur desperately needed.
Then, in the midst of spring, Arthur found Merlin's deepest secret. It cause a riff between the two men, one that threatened their friendship. In the heat of battle, Merlin – worried for his King's life – threw himself in front of a fireball; but, also threw one back at the opposing sorcerer. Plus, the barrier that Merlin subconsciously cast in front of himself was a clue as well. Disgusted, Arthur ordered Merlin away. To stay out of his sight until he knew what to do with him.
Arthur would later claim it was the longest 48 hours of his life. He marched down to the physician's chambers in the morning and demanded to see Merlin. There in the threshold, Arthur questioned his friend, and the countless tales of heroism was revealed. Four hours later, Arthur found himself with an arm full of Merlin and tears of relief soaking into his tunic as Arthur proclaimed that Merlin was pardoned and, more importantly, still was in Arthur's heart.
By now, Gwen had moved on and found herself with Lancelot, the knight overjoyed to have his princess. Meanwhile, the council was starting to throw hints at the King about his future Queen and heir. Arthur had no qualms with it. He knew he would father no children and already made mental plans to name Gwen's and Lancelot's first child as heir to the throne. It was hard to picture a child being sired by him when his heart was held captive by a sorcerer, the very sorcerer he had in his arms and sleeping on his chest.
It happened rather quickly. It was mere days after Merlin's reveal and Arthur revoked his father's law against magic and, unbeknownst to the kingdom and council, started to find a way to make Merlin's advising role official; but yet, give him a title that was higher than the men Arthur already had. Merlin, being his curious self, peered over Arthur's shoulder and found the plans hidden beneath the armory inventory list that the King was working on.
Confused, Merlin screamed and commanded to be told why Arthur was doing this. Arthur was baffled. He thought Merlin would be overjoyed that he would no longer have to be Arthur's servant; nor, be a peasant. Then in a sad, tear-soaked voice, Merlin softly asked if Arthur was attempting to get rid of him.
Arthur felt his heart break. To get rid of Merlin was as if Arthur would have to give up half of himself. It simply wasn't done. Arthur – who was never good at giving his emotions words – marched over to the sniffling manservant and did what he was known for – action. Lips met lips and it was done. No words were need; but yet, everything was said in a simple kiss, a glance and a soft caress.
Nothing was said as Arthur made love to Merlin for the first time. Nothing was said as Arthur gathered Merlin in his arms. The embrace only tightened when Merlin fell into tears when Arthur said that tomorrow he was going to officially state that Merlin was to become his Court Sorcerer and Head Advisor, that he would finally get the gratitude he deserved and the title he rightfully earned.
When sunlight filtered in, Arthur finally got to experience waking up with someone he loved and trusted. At the council meeting, he ignored the screams and complaints from the men when he stated that Merlin's title would no longer be of a servants. He just focused on Merlin, the black-hair man smiling softly from the corner, his head bowed. Arthur couldn't help but narrow his eyes a bit when a revelation sparked.
He wasn't giving Merlin enough.
He deserved more.
Arthur called the attention of the men and made one more announcement.
Merlin was to be courted.
By the King.
Chaos filled the air.
Arthur tuned them out as he stood and walked to the other side of the room, gathering the shocked man into his arms. He felt shaking arms wrap around his neck and a head resting on his shoulders. Yes, he knew he made the right decision. Merlin didn't deserve the title of Court Sorcerer; nor, the rank of Head Advisor.
He deserved the title King.
Arthur looked at the lithe man in his arms. Merlin was the reason why he got up everyday to rule Camelot. Merlin was the one voice that gave reason to his choices. Merlin was the one that talked him out of stupid decisions. Merlin was the one beside him through everything.
Merlin was the reason why Arthur…was Arthur.
Merlin was the one that made Arthur grow from his selfish, prat-like Princehood to his mature, head-on-his-shoulder King status. And when he passionately kissed Merlin in front of the council, Arthur knew that what he was doing was right.
He was born to be King.
But Merlin was what made him be a King.
And Camelot deserved to know who truly ruled her.
It wasn't a king.
It was two Kings.
One of royal blood.
One of peasant.
One a knight.
One a sorcerer.
Direct opposites; but yet, together whole.