Merlin bit his lip as he pushed the door to Arthur's chamber open with his shoulder, the king's breakfast balanced on a tray in his hands. His eyes instantly fell on the sleeping blonde; the sheets had pooled at the bottom of the bed, having been kicked off in the night due to the sweltering summer heat, leaving Arthur laid almost bare, his breeches the only thing protecting his dignity. Merlin forced himself to look away from his king's naked, muscular chest, instead moving to set the tray down on the table. "Arthur," he called, glancing for as long as he dared towards the slumbering man. Arthur merely sighed softly in his sleep, burying his head deeper into the pillow. Rolling his eyes in fond amusement, Merlin tried again. "Arthur," he repeated, louder this time, to be rewarded with the blonde man startling awake, directing a sleep-fogged glare at his manservant.
"Christ, Merlin, has the sun even risen yet?" he grumbled, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and sitting up. Merlin was momentarily distracted by the flex of Arthur's muscles as he stretched out his arms, but recovered before the pause between question and answer became suspicious.
"It rose a while ago, sire. You told me not to wake you until later," he replied, moving towards the dresser to find a shirt for Arthur to wear. Unfortunately, this didn't go as planned; at the same time Merlin moved, so did Arthur, causing the smaller man to bump into the blonde, knocking them both to the floor. The silence in the room was palpable, neither man daring to breathe as they found themselves lying against the cool stone floor, Arthur on his back with Merlin's clothed chest pressed against his bare one, their noses barely an inch apart. Merlin's hands had gripped at Arthur's shoulders to steady him as they fell, and now rested there lightly, a parody of a lover's touch. Merlin didn't dare speak, transfixed by Arthur's eyes as he stared up at him.
"Merlin," the king breathed, the sound a mere whisper in the silent room. Neither could have told you who moved, but the next thing they knew, their lips were pressed tightly together, Merlin's hands once more gripping at Arthur's shoulders as the blonde's arms moved to wrap around Merlin's waist. The sorcerer moaned quietly as Arthur nipped at his lip, moving down his jaw to plan biting kisses on his throat and collar bone. "Merlin. Merlin."
"Merlin, are you even listening to me?" Arthur's irritated drawl interrupted his daydream, and Merlin felt his face turn bright red as he realised what he'd let himself do. Oh, God, what if he'd said something? He was incredibly glad that Arthur was riding ahead of him, and that his trousers were baggy enough that the tenting around the groin area wasn't too noticeable.
"What? Oh, yeah, sorry, must have, uh, drifted off a little there. We have been going a long time," he pointed out. "For that matter, where are we going? We must have at least reached Camelot's borders by now?" He heard Arthur sigh, and was reminded of the sigh from his daydream. His lips unthinkingly curled into a frown as he forcibly halted the thoughts, willing himself to stay controlled. Honestly, he'd managed it for six years, surely he could last a little longer?
"For the last time, Merlin, this is hunting. There is no particular destination. Now keep up, you're slowing us down," Arthur ordered, nudging his horse with his heels. Merlin groaned, picking up his pace.
"Yes, but hunting implies catching something," he muttered under his breath. Arthur pretended not to hear him, and ignored the snickering knight covering his left.
When they were on the path home, Merlin saw Arthur scowl, and looked further up the path; riding towards them at a very high speed was one of Arthur's messengers, a panicked look on his face. Merlin tensed, instantly on alert, and he felt more than saw Arthur do the same. "What news do you bring?" Arthur called as the messenger approached, halting his horse as the boy – for he could not have been much older than fourteen – did the same.
"Grave news, sire. It is your father, he has taken ill. Gaius… Gaius says he does not have much longer, sire. Half a day, at best. He is asking for you." The colour drained from Arthur's face, and his jaw clenched as he nodded tersely.
"I see. Merlin," he called shortly, and Merlin whipped his head round to look at the king. Arthur held a hand out, and had one foot out of the stirrup, eyeing his manservant expectantly. Merlin nodded, moving closer and gripping Arthur's forearm, pushing up on the empty stirrup with one foot and allowing the other man to hoist him up smoothly onto the horse behind him, waiting for Merlin to wrap his arms firmly around his king's chest. When Arthur had taken his stirrup back, he looked towards the messenger. "Lead the way," he urged, waiting for the boy to turn his horse before they both set off at a gallop. Three knights followed, the rest staying behind to ride with those on foot, and Merlin leant forward as Arthur did the same, urging his horse as fast as it would go. It had been a long time since the two had shared a saddle, and Merlin felt sick to his stomach at the thought of what awaited them back at the castle. Yes, he'd never particularly liked Uther – there were only so many times he could stand being thrown in jail before it grated on the nerves – but the man was still Arthur's father… it would be a hard blow to the young king, if Uther died. Truthfully, they had all been expecting it for a while now; Uther wasn't as young as he used to be, and it was starting to take its toll on him. Still, Merlin had expected for the man to make it to the end of summer, at least.
Merlin could feel the tension and fear radiating from Arthur's frame, and wished he could do something to soothe his king. No doubt Arthur would push him away after this, as he always did when something in his life wasn't going to plan. He had pushed him away when Camelot went through a plague, he had pushed him away when he and Morgana hadn't been speaking, he had pushed him away when Uther had considered not crowning him on his eighteenth birthday… Merlin was sensing a pattern.
The highest turrets of the castle came into view as they drew closer, and they soon entered the town, people rushing out of their path as they sped past, panicked looks on their faces. The messenger didn't stop until they were in the castle courtyard, and Arthur practically flung himself off his horse, waiting for Merlin to do the same before thrusting his reins towards the nearest person, already sprinting towards the castle doors. Merlin had no choice but to follow – he'd spent the best years of his life following Arthur, and knew he would do so for the remainder of it – trying his best to keep to his king's pace. The rest of the castle staff seemed to be well aware of what was going on, merely watching with sympathetic looks on their faces as Arthur ran past, blonde hair messy and plastered to his forehead with sweat. Neither man stopped until they reached the door to Uther's chambers, where Arthur came to an abrupt halt.
The blonde reached towards the doorknob, but his arm fell before it got there, a defeated sigh escaping his lips as he hung his head. "Arthur," Merlin breached, tentatively resting a hand on the taller man's shoulder, trying desperately not to think too much on the wonderful heat under his fingertips. "He'd want you by his bedside."
"I know, I… he's my father, Merlin. How can I just sit there and watch him die?" he whispered bitterly, a dark frown twisting at his lips. Merlin squeezed his shoulder gently, amazed he hadn't been reprimanded.
"I don't know, but rather that than he dies without you, and you spend your days regretting that you never got to say goodbye," he told him softly. Merlin wished he had gotten to say goodbye to his father; then again, he'd never gotten to say hello, either. Arthur nodded to himself and squared his shoulders, reaching out to twist the doorknob. Pushing the door open, the two entered the room, the depressing atmosphere so thick it was almost like they were already in mourning. Morgana was already at Uther's bedside, his wrinkled hand clasped between her pale fingers, shiny tear-tracks down her cheeks. Gwen stood dutifully behind her, looking like she herself might cry. Gaius stood on the opposite side of the bed, holding a cup of water to Uther's lips. The three looked up when Arthur entered, and Morgana managed a weak smile.
"You came," she breathed, her voice cracking slightly. Arthur moved to kneel by her side, taking one of her hands in his own and squeezing gently.
"Of course I came, where else would I be at a time… at a time like this?" he replied with a slight half-smile. His eyes met Merlin's, and something passed between them, an understanding. Morgana would never know of his hesitation at his father's deathbed. "How is he?" he asked, turning to Gaius. The old medic frowned, looking ten years older.
"I'll be honest, sire, it doesn't look good. Uther's heart is weak, it's struggling to keep pumping," he explained. Arthur winced; Morgana always said it'd be Uther's heart that would be the death of him. He'd been forced to bed rest many times in the past, in order to give his poor old heart a break. Evidently, this was one time too many.
"I'm dying, son," the elder Pendragon rasped, drawing Arthur's attention to his father. Uther, for the first time in his life, looked old. His wrinkles were deep, his thinning gray hair matted with sweat, green eyes glassy and dull. He seemed to have aged decades in the hours since Arthur had seen him last, and even Arthur could tell that he was hanging on by a thread.
"Father, I-" he began, only to be cut off by the slightest shake of his father's head.
"No, Arthur, let me speak. I've said my goodbyes to Morgana… it's your turn," he urged, his voice breathy and laboured. "I've always been proud of you, even when you disobeyed me. I may not have shown it, but… you're my son, and I love you. You're a true king, worthy of Camelot, and I can die peacefully knowing that the kingdom is in your capable hands." Arthur felt the lump in his throat grow, tears stinging at the corner of his eyes. Uther lifted a shaky hand, cupping the back of his son's head and pulling him close. Arthur leant forward, burying his nose in his father's shoulder as he used to do as a child, choking back a sob. "Do not mourn me, my son, but live for me; make sure you have no regrets when you get to my state," Uther whispered, pressing a soft kiss to his son's blonde locks. After a long moment, Arthur pulled back, a look of fragile resolve on his face. Merlin could see his lip quivering, the tears barely held back. "Merlin," Uther called, raising his voice as much as he was able. Merlin looked up, startled at being addressed. Uther's face softened into the closest thing to a smile he'd ever had in reference to Merlin. "Look after him. You've done well by him thus far… he needs you." 'Not as much as I need him' Merlin thought automatically. He nodded, a serious expression on his face.
"I'll lay down my life for him if need be, sire," he vowed honestly. Uther nodded, satisfied, and looked towards Gaius.
"It's time, old friend. Now I expect it to be many years before I see you again, you hear? You're needed on this earth for a while, yet," he told him with a wry smile. Gaius managed a small chuckle, gripping Uther's other hand tightly.
"I'll do my best, sire," he promised. Morgana let out a gasping sob, burying her head in Arthur's shoulder. Arthur released her hand, wrapping an arm tightly around her, kissing her hair.
"Be strong for each other. May you find both love, as I did with Igraine… if you truly love someone, hold on and never let go, regardless of their status. Everything is only secondary to love," he reminded them. At the mention of love, Merlin couldn't help his eyes from straying to Arthur, gazing upon him wistfully for the shortest of moments, before concentrating back on Uther. His eyes met with the former king's, and widened as he caught the barest of nods, Uther's green eyes surprisingly lucid as they bored into Merlin's. Did… did Uther know about his feeling for Arthur? And, more importantly, had he just given his blessing? No, he must have been mistaken.
As Uther's eyes drifted closed, a heavy feeling settled in Merlin's stomach. He didn't need to check the man's pulse to know he was dead. Morgana's sobs grew louder, and Gwen moved forward, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder as she was cradled by her brother in all but blood. Gaius let out a long sigh, and Merlin moved quietly to his side, eyeing him tentatively. "Do you… need me to do anything?" he offered, but Gaius shook his head.
"No, no… just stay with Arthur. He's going to need you over the next few weeks," he murmured. Merlin shot him a wry smile, glancing at the blonde king.
"Yes, but how long will it take him to admit that?" he replied dryly. Gaius admitted his point with an upturn of his lips, and the two parted, each to do their respective jobs. God knew someone in the room had to stay strong.
Merlin leaned against the doorway, staring across the room at the hunched figure sat on the windowsill. Arthur had his knees tucked up to his chest, arms folded over the top, his chin resting on his elbow as he gazed morosely out the window at the black flag fluttering in the breeze, raised high in the opposite turret. He'd been in that position nearly all day every day for three weeks, leaving only when forced to eat or attend meetings he couldn't possibly avoid.
The sorcerer couldn't help but let out a soft sigh, his heart aching in sympathy with Arthur. He wished he could do something to ease the pain, but… even if he could, it was unlikely Arthur would accept it from him. However much their relationship had improved over the past six years, and however much Merlin liked to call them – dare he say it – friends, he was still just a manservant, and Arthur was king of Camelot. It wasn't done.
Arthur's gaze never broke, almost glassy-eyed as he watched the flag ripple, and Merlin mentally cursed the rules of propriety. He'd never been much for rules, anyway. Moving forward, he walked near-silently over to Arthur's windowsill, slipping into the gap between Arthur's back and the wall, bending one leg so he could pull Arthur in between them, coaxing the young king to lean back against his chest, sliding thin arms around the blonde's trim waist. It was testament to the almost trance-like state Arthur was in that he struggled very little, a deep exhale escaping his lips. Merlin's heart clenched at the sound; Arthur, his strong, fearless Arthur, sounded so utterly broken. Yes, at times the two Pendragons hadn't gotten along very well, but Merlin had never doubted that Arthur loved his father, and that Uther returned that love.
"You going to move today?" he asked quietly, chin almost on Arthur's shoulder. He couldn't help but wish it were under different circumstances he was holding Arthur so intimately. Arthur shook his head mutely, eyes still on the flag outside the window. "Okay. But you need to go out there soon, Arthur. The people of Camelot are mourning, too, and they're confused. Word of Uther's… passing has already spread through to further lands. They're camping on the outskirts of Camelot, hoping you'll come to a decision. The guards don't know what to do with them," Merlin murmured softly, staring over Arthur's shoulder off at the horizon. Sure enough, thin trails of smoke wisped into the air to join the grey rainclouds overhead; telltale campfire smoke.
Merlin felt more than saw Arthur's brow furrow, and the blonde turned his head slightly to get a better look at Merlin's face. "They? Who's they? Who's camping outside Camelot?" he asked, perplexed. Merlin lifted a hand, pointing out the window towards the smoke trails.
"Over there. Those who weren't welcome when Uther was alive… the magic users. They've come from all over, hoping your views will differ to your father's and you'll give them refuge," he explained quietly. He privately shared their hopes; he knew Arthur would never banish him, the blonde had known about Merlin's magic for years, but… he couldn't quiet the traitorous voice in his mind that told him that Arthur was just making a special exception for him, and his opinion of magic-users as a whole was the same as Uther's.
"Oh," Arthur replied, the sound barely a whisper. He tentatively reached out a hand towards Merlin's outstretched one, pulling it back to rest against his stomach, his own hand covering the smaller one. Merlin's skin tingled at the contact, and he desperately fought a blush. Now wasn't the time.
The two sat like that in silence for a long moment, Merlin relishing in the contact, until Arthur shifted between his legs, twisting until they were face to face, only two or three inches between them. Merlin instantly noticed the look of resolve and determination on Arthur's face and felt his lips curling into a grin. That was more like the Arthur Pendragon he knew and loved. "I had better call a meeting, then. It looks like it's about to rain, no need to keep those poor people out there any longer than need be," he told him, some of the light returning to his eyes. Merlin's eyes widened, and he grinned.
"You're letting them in?" he asked in disbelief, and Arthur shot him a bemused look.
"Of course I'm letting them in, Merlin. Christ, you'd think that by now you'd have gathered the fact that I don't care. Honestly, if I had a problem with magic, you'd have been out on your arse years ago. Didn't think you were that special, did you?" he asked, making Merlin blush. His mouth opened and closed like a fish as he searched for a retort, causing Arthur to let out a quiet laugh as he got to his feet. Merlin missed the warmth immediately, but felt his heart swell a little at the laugh; Arthur hadn't laughed since Uther had died. "Come on, Merlin, I don't pay you to stand around gaping!" Arthur prompted from the doorway, sounding so much like his old self that Merlin didn't mind the snipe. He merely grinned, standing to follow his king out of the bedroom.
Camelot with magic was definitely a much different place to Camelot without magic, but no one could find it in themselves to argue the changes. Yes, with the sudden influx of people, things like food and housing had been a little lacking, but once the magic-users offered their services, the town was soon flourishing. Creatures of the fey worked their nature magic on the crops, producing bountiful harvests, and with the aid of magic and sorcery, many jobs in Camelot were done with ease, allowing the town to expand and develop. Street performers displayed their talents, delighting children an adults alike, and alchemists and sorcerers set up shop at the market, bringing a selection of enchanted items and potions for the townsfolk to enjoy. Some people were wary of the newcomers at first, having been around for years of Uther's anti-magic propaganda, but the magic-users soon proved to be a likeable and trustworthy bunch, integrating themselves into Camelot seamlessly.
The repeal of the ban on magic also meant that Merlin was free to practice and use his abilities in the open. While Arthur had forbidden Merlin using magic for his duties, claiming it to be cheating, he had come along in leaps and bounds now there were other, more experienced sorcerers to teach him.
Now, however, Merlin was sat in the dining hall with Arthur and Gaius, having a late lunch; Arthur had kept him out hunting all afternoon. He had finished his meal, however, and was occupying himself by gazing across the table at Arthur, who was still eating. Gaius merely sat off to one side, watching with a small knowing smile on his face as he absently nibbled at some bread. Merlin let his thoughts run away with him, daydreaming of a world where not only did Arthur return his feelings, but they were able to be together openly without scorn. His dream of magic being acceptable in Camelot had finally come true… why couldn't the same happen for homosexuality?
"Merlin, you're staring," Arthur pointed out flatly, startling his dark haired manservant.
"What? Staring? I wasn't staring. Was I staring?" he babbled, alarmed at being caught out.
"Yes. It's unnerving," Arthur informed him. Merlin bit his lip, forcing his eyes back down to his plate. "Well?" Arthur prompted after a long moment of silence. Merlin looked up, confused, causing Arthur to sigh in exasperation. "Are you going to tell me why you were staring?"
"Oh," Merlin realised, catching on. "Uh, not really, no." Arthur grit his teeth, rolling his eyes heavenwards.
"That wasn't a question, Merlin," he told him pointedly. Merlin flushed, not meeting Arthur's eyes.
"Right. I, uh, was just wondering if things were going to, uh, change. Y'know, since Uther's… gone," he muttered sheepishly. Arthur's expression hardened slightly at the mention of his father, but he gave Merlin a strange look.
"Merlin, there are sorcerers wandering the streets of Camelot without being set on fire, I think that's change enough," he pointed out wryly. Merlin's blush deepened, his normally pale skin likening to the colour of a tomato.
"I meant change, y'know, between us," he stuttered, causing Arthur to raise his eyebrows.
"Why would anything change between us? Just because magic is openly accepted now, doesn't mean you can stop being my manservant," he assured him with an amused chuckle. Merlin resisted the urge to groan; Arthur just wasn't getting it!
"The change I envisioned had nothing to do with my magic," he murmured under his breath, hoping Arthur didn't hear. Unfortunately, luck was not on Merlin's side, and Arthur's blue eyes looked at him in confusion.
"Merlin, what on earth are you blabbering about?" he questioned with a shake of his head. Merlin kept his mouth shut, staring resolutely down at the table. He'd already said far too much, him and his big mouth. He really needed to learn when to shut up. "Merlin. Spit it out," Arthur ordered sharply, though there was a definite note of concern to his voice. Merlin sighed in frustration and steeled himself, lifting his gaze to meet Arthur's. He'd bottled it up for so long… he felt he'd explode if he didn't say something now.
"I'm bloody in love with you, for Christ's sake!" he exclaimed, startling both Arthur and Gaius as he stood abruptly. "I've been in love with you for six bloody years, but you've been too frigging thickheaded to notice! And stupid, naïve little me hoping that maybe, just maybe, something might happen between us now Uther isn't watching your every move!" he burst out.
There was a pregnant silence in the large hall, in which Merlin realised exactly what he'd just said. Arthur at with his eyes comically wide, his mouth agape with shock as he stared at the younger man. If Merlin had looked at Gaius, which he didn't, he would have seen the old healer watching the two with an expression of complete bemusement, chuckling silently to himself. He'd been wondering how long it would take Merlin to let his little secret slip; he was quietly amazed he'd managed to stay quiet this long.
"I… I have to go," Merlin stammered, turning on his heel and fleeing the room. Arthur stared after him for a long moment, his expression almost wistful. Then he sighed, letting his forehead fall to hit the table.
"Oh, Christ," he groaned to himself, ignoring Gaius' laughter.
Merlin practically ran from the hall, hurrying through the castle halls in a desperate attempt to get as far from Arthur as possible before the man could whack him one, or worse, have him thrown in the cells. Why was he such an idiot? Why did he have to open his mouth and admit his feelings for Arthur? Arthur's reaction made it clear that he didn't, in fact, return Merlin's feelings, and now probably thought Merlin was some disgusting freak; magic might be accepted, but homosexuality was not. Great, just great.
"Merlin? Is everything alright?" Gwen's soft voice called in concern as he narrowly avoided knocking her over in the hall. Merlin's stride faltered, his shoulders slumping.
"No, not really. Arthur knows," he replied, his voice hollow. Gwen was the only person he'd revealed his feelings to, though he got the feeling Gaius knew. Gaius knew everything.
Gwen gasped, immediately moving to hug him in sympathy. "Oh, Merlin," she sighed, squeezing him tight before releasing. "Want to come hide out in Morgana's room for a while? She won't mind, and Arthur's not likely to look for you in there," she offered, earning a small half-smile from her dark-haired friend.
"Thanks. Oh, God, Gwen what have I done? He'll banish me for sure, this time!" He moaned despairingly, hanging his head and allowing Gwen to lead him by the arm. Gwen patted his shoulder, offering up a small smile.
"I'm sure he won't banish you, Merlin. He might be a little… awkward around you, but it's not your fault. You can't help the way you feel about him, I mean, people don't get to choose who to fall in love with. Not that it's bad that you're in love with him or anything, but it's not exactly good, either." She stumbled over her words, and Merlin couldn't help but smile a little. Gwen always cheered him up.
"I know what you mean, Gwen. And yes, it's not good, but… I think, if I could choose who to fall in love with… I'd still pick him. Every time," he admitted ruefully, causing Gwen to let out a little 'awww'. The two of them slipped through the door to Morgana's room, finding the woman sat at her dresser, brushing her hair.
"Merlin needs a place to hide from Arthur," Gwen informed her, and she smiled warmly.
"Sure, pull up a chair. What's Arthur done this time?" she asked casually; it wasn't the first time Merlin had taken refuge in her rooms, usually in anger at some idiotic thing Arthur had done. Merlin just shook his head, sitting in one of the chairs at the table, folding his arms and laying his head on them.
"Nothing, it's my fault this time. I just had to say something! God, I'm such an idiot!" he groaned, squeezing his eyes shut tightly. Morgana gave Gwen an enquiring look, but she shook her head silently, perching on the end of the bed.
"Right. Anything I can do to help?" Morgana asked, gaining only another shake of Gwen's head in reply. The two women glanced over at Merlin, then shared a look, before going back to their own business. Merlin would talk to them when he was ready.
It was nearly twenty minutes before the door to Morgana's room burst open, and the two women looked up in shock, seeing Arthur standing in the doorway. His hair was messy, and he was breathing slightly heavier than normal, as if he'd just been running. "Arthur, what part of the word privacy do you not understand?" Morgana exclaimed indignantly, but Arthur ignored her, his eyes fixed on Merlin's slumped figure at the table.
"Merlin," he panted, only for the manservant to ignore him. "Merlin, for God's sake, look at me!"
"Sod off," Merlin retorted, his voice muffled by his arms. Arthur rolled his eyes, taking two long strides into the room.
"Oh, for the love of…" Arthur trailed off, standing behind Merlin's chair and gripping him forcefully by the neckerchief, pulling him up until they were almost nose to nose. "I love you too, you moron," he muttered, pressing his lips to Merlin's. It took a moment before Merlin's brain could catch up, the shock that Arthur was kissing him causing him to stand there, unresponsive. Until, of course, Arthur's hand slid to tangle in his hair, pulling him closer. Their tongues dueled fiercely, both high on the relief and joy that the other felt the same way. Merlin was almost sure he was dreaming; he'd fallen asleep at Morgana's table, and he was dreaming that Arthur was kissing him. It had to be the only reasonable explanation.
Eventually, lack of air became a problem, and the two parted, their breath mingling as they stared at each other dazedly. Merlin pinched his arm sharply, and winced. "I'm not dreaming," he murmured stupidly, hardly daring to believe it. That meant that Arthur had really declared love to him, and kissed him. Did he mention that Arthur had kissed him!
"No, you're not dreaming. God… we've both been so stupid!" Arthur muttered, one hand lightly on the small of Merlin's back, the other still in the younger man's dark hair. "…Six years? Really?" Merlin nodded wordlessly, and Arthur laughed breathlessly. "That's six years more we could have had. Why didn't you say anything sooner, Merlin?" he asked peevishly, and Merlin shot him a look.
"Excuse me for being under the impression you fancied women. Besides, I'm a servant, you're the king of Camelot. It's not proper," he snapped in reply. Arthur rolled his eyes.
"Oh, sod propriety. What's the point in being king if I can't bend a few rules along the way?" Arthur's hand slid down to gently cup Merlin's cheek, a tender look in his eyes. "I love you, Merlin, and for God's sake, I'm going to listen to my father's advice and hold onto you no matter what," he whispered fiercely. Merlin swallowed the lump in his throat, feeling his heart skip a beat.
"So I can keep my job, then?" he joked quietly, a nervous smile on his face. Arthur laughed, pressing their lips together once more. For everything Merlin had dreamed of Arthur's kisses, the real thing was by far better than any of his imaginings. God, it was wonderful. Arthur's lips were slightly chapped, firm against his own, and he was clearly a skilled kisser. Merlin pushed the thought of where Arthur might have acquired those skills to the back of his mind, losing himself in the kiss. He never wanted this to stop, ever.
"Boys, as wonderful and sickeningly sweet as your forbidden love is, would you mind taking it to your own room?" Morgana's voice interrupted, and Merlin reluctantly broke the kiss, looking over at Arthur's pseudo-sister. She had a smile on her face, but was looking at them pointedly, one arm gesturing to the open door. Arthur grinned at her, keeping his arm around Merlin.
"You think it's wonderful?" he asked; trust him to only focus on that part of the sentence. Morgana rolled her eyes.
"Of course I do; it's been torture watching you two pussyfooting around each other all these years! I was on the verge of doing something about it myself!" she pointed out. Arthur and Merlin shared a look.
"Wait… you knew?" Merlin asked slowly. Had he been that obvious?
"Merlin, I hate to tell you this, but everyone and their mother knows that you and Arthur have been madly in love for years. Why do you think Uther tried to marry me off so many times before he… before he died. He knew he wouldn't be getting an heir to the throne out of you," she added with a nod towards Arthur. The blonde's eyes went wide with shock.
"Father knew?" he asked, bewildered. Morgana nodded.
"Now… out?" she prompted, pointing once more to the door. Arthur sighed, before turning back to Merlin, a small, almost shy smile on his face as he reached out a hand to twine his fingers with the younger man's. Merlin grinned broadly, squeezing his hand back.
As much as he hated what Uther's death had done to Arthur, he couldn't help but be slightly glad; who knows how long it would have taken for their feelings to be revealed had he lived? He liked to think Uther was happy about him and Arthur being in love. He assumed he must have been somewhat alright with it, if he'd known, as Merlin was still around and not locked in a dungeon somewhere. Still, he mentally thanked the man for inadvertently making Merlin and Arthur admit their feelings. "Merlin?" Arthur interrupted, drawing the younger man's attention. Arthur was smiling at him bemusedly, the two stood in the corridor, hands still clasped between them. "I swear, you've got your head in the clouds more often than not. Useless prat," he muttered fondly, making Merlin grin.
"Yeah, but you love me anyway," he retorted smugly. Arthur just laughed, tugging Merlin closer. He couldn't find it in him to dispute that comment.