The banquet hall was alive with festivity. Another magical creature vanquished. The city of Camelot and its people kept safe another day.
The celebrations, while centred in the castle, seemed to spread throughout the whole of city and everyone was in high spirits . . . well, almost everyone.
It seemed that the surrounding lavish decorations and jovial atmosphere could not sway Prince Arthur's slowly darkening mood. In all honesty though, this was not exactly uncommon, especially recently, in fact the royal's boughts of ill-temper appeared to be happening much more frequently and for much longer as of late. If you asked Merlin, he'd say that the Arthur was brooding – which of course was not the case, Arthur was a Prince and Prince's do not brood! They merely . . . contemplated their more unfortunate situations . . . deeply, sometimes so deeply that their countenance may lead someone of lesser intellect and observational skills (Merlin) to misconstrued it as a from of brooding, but as we've already established, that's utterly ridiculous and completely untrue! And, frankly, it was just unfair that Arthur should be left to argue against Merlin's all-too-easily-imagined opinion when it was entirely Merlin's fault that he was in this mood in the first place! As was usually the case. Really, if it wasn't for all those damned drunken nobles fawning all over his manservant, then he'd be having a lovely time enjoying the celebratory feast which was essentially being held in his honour.
Scowl firmly in place Arthur glanced in the direction of said manservant, who was in the process of subtly trying to avoid a young nobleman’s wandering hands as he filled the lech’s goblet. Arthur's fingers tightened around his own goblet as his eyes narrowed at the spectacle.
When Arthur's king he'll make touching Merlin a prisonable offence.
Well, for anyone other than himself of course . . . and, he conceded that perhaps he could let friendly touches that clearly held no lecherous intent slide – so long as they were brief . . . very brief . . . and if that Noble’s hands wander any further south he'll have the damn things cut off! Then just out of spite he'll have the rat-bastard hung – well he has to make some kind of example if he wants his rules to stick and it's not as if anyone will miss the creepy little whelp . . .
Breaking himself out of his murderous musings Arthur realised that his cup had run dry without him noticing. Immediately taking the opportunity to rescue his Merlin from that swine's advances, he summoned the raven beauty to refill his cup. Naturally even this simple task could not be performed without Merlin managing to trip over thin-air, Arthur often wondered how anyone could be that clumsy – but then again maybe this stumble was caused by Merlin's haste to get to Arthur. Yes, Arthur much preferred that idea . . . what Arthur didn't prefer however was the fact that Merlin had chosen to wear his red tunic for today's banquet – as Arthur's eyes tracked the approaching form of his manservant, he mused that while he would admit Merlin wearing the same shade of red as the Pendragon crest gave him a kind of possessive pride, Arthur personally preferred it when Merlin wore the blue tunic that went so well with the colour of his eyes. Not that Arthur made a point of noticing things that colour co-ordinated with Merlin's eyes or anything girly like that . . .
As Merlin finally reaches his destination and bends to pour the requested wine, his eyes briefly catch Arthur’s and the young prince feels his breath hitch.
When Arthur's king he'll make a decree stating that Merlin should only ever wear blue clothing – to match his beautiful eyes.
Those eyes really were stunning, their shape, their colour – a brilliant, vibrant blue but, when caught in the right light or moment, sometimes a fiery gold - and above all their shining innocence, could bring men with the strongest of wills to their knees – so Arthur could hardly be blamed for falling so completely under their spell, after all he'd always had a soft spot in his aching heart for the incredible young man. It amazed Arthur how Merlin, even now, managed to retain that perfect innocence in his eyes – after all those eyes had seen it shouldn't be possible, but then, this was Merlin and Merlin always did have a habit of making the impossible a reality.
Arthur's more poignant train of thought vanished almost instantly when Merlin managed to knock a spoon off the table in his attempt to move away. Instantly he dived under the table after it, presenting Arthur with a glorious view of his rear-end in the process and the prince's breath hitched for an entirely more carnal reason this time.
When Arthur's king he'll change that last decree to say that Merlin mustn't wear clothes at all . . .ever.
Well, O.k. So maybe that one wasn't too realistic – after all if Merlin never wore clothes then everyone would get to see him naked and Arthur's sure the jealousy of that would drive him mad within a day. So no, the clothe-less rule would not be going ahead . . . but maybe there was a way around it – if he just made Merlin his sex-slave then . . .
It was at that moment that Merlin resurfaced from under the table with the spoon, his cheeks flushed and a simply adorable lop-sided grin of achievement on his face and Arthur knew. He knew his feelings for this incredible boy ran so much deeper than those of mere lust and sex. Merlin deserved so much more than that, he deserved . . . everything – and Arthur was going to do everything in his power to give him just that.
When Arthur's king he's going to marry his Merlin.
High King-Consort Merlin had quite the ring to it – assuming of course he said yes. See it was all very well and good Arthur spending his days dreaming up the perfect proposal and basking in the imagined bliss of future married life with Merlin but none of it was a certainty, not without knowing Merlin's true feelings – which brings Arthur to the glaring problem he must face before he can even begin to plan for marriage.
When Arthur's king he'll finally be able to tell Merlin how he feels.
Even attempting something like that before would be far too dangerous – Arthur would never wish harm upon his father but the fact still remained that while he was alive Arthur could never act on his feelings, if his father ever found out how his heart beat for Merlin and Merlin alone – well, he shuddered to think what the consequences would be for his beautiful servant. Arthur loved Merlin with all his heart, he loved him too much to allow him to be harmed by his fathers hand, he loved him too much to risk him by admitting it before it was safe for him to do so. Although Arthur will admit that in those moments when he's all alone in bed at night he allows himself to dream, to dream of what it could be like if things were different – would Merlin accept his affections with open arms as he did in Arthur's mind or would he turn away from his prince? Would he even believe Arthur or would he claim Arthur's declarations of love to be hollow in the face of his 'courtship' with Guinevere? As that though entered his mind his eyes strayed to the lady in question standing close to the wall holding her own serving jug, a guilty pain twinged through his heart as he thought, not for the first time, that this whole mess of a situation was in no way fair to her.
When Arthur's king he'll give Guinevere and Lancelot his blessing to marry.
All things considered Arthur did view Gwen as a dear friend to him. He knows she has no real romantic inclinations towards him as he has none towards her – they were both of them hiding their true affections for another and allowing themselves to be viewed as the 'worst kept secret in the castle' even though nothing of the sort was true. Gwen knew of his feelings for Merlin and being the kind-hearted soul she is, was all too willing to give up her own happiness and play along with this rouse to keep anyone from finding out where his heart truly lay and thus keeping her friend safe. After all she has done for Arthur and for Merlin, she more than anyone deserves her own slice of happiness and when the time comes and he can reveal his feelings to Merlin he will ensure that Guinevere can finally be with her true shining knight. Her Lancelot. Allowing the guilt to eat further away at him Arthur thought bitterly on all the secrets they had to keep. It wasn't fair. Not on them and not on Merlin – but then Merlin doesn't exactly come without his own list of dangerous secrets does he? And that's just one more thing that makes Arthur fear for him.
When Arthur's king he'll find a way of making Merlin tell him his secrets.
Not that Arthur isn't already aware of the big one – that's another reason that Arthur needs to stay away and not draw attention to Merlin. But there's more, Arthur isn't stupid he knows he doesn’t know everything but he knows enough to understand that it doesn’t change the way he feels about his servant, nothing ever will and in time he will make Merlin trust him enough to tell him all that he does not yet know as well as all that he does.
His love always looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders – which in some aspects Arthur supposes he does, but he knows that most of it is the weight of his secret. If only he knew that it wasn't a secret – it didn't have to be, not from Arthur, not from his prince, his friend. So many times when Arthur's seen that familiar shadow cross Merlin's face he's wanted to scream “I know! I know about your magic and I don't care! It doesn't change anything for me other than to make me realise how truly brave and incredible you really are.” For as much as Merlin tries to hide his abilities they were clear to Arthur almost from the beginning – how could Arthur not see when he can barely take his eyes off him? But for his sake the prince pretends he doesn't. he ignores Merlin's reckless behaviour when he needs to use it. He listens to his ridiculous excuses and explanations. He doesn't say it out loud because if he does someone could hear and then Merlin would be taken from him and he would be utterly powerless to stop it. Merlin protects Arthur with his mystical words of magic and Arthur protects him by saying no words at all. That is the way it must be, for now at least – but he swears that one day Merlin will get the recognition he deserves and not just because of Arthur's feelings, but because he has earned it time and time again.
When Arthur's king he'll make Merlin his official Court Sorcerer and Advisor (and repeal the ban on magic of course).
It pains Arthur bordering on the physical to have to keep ignoring Merlin, treating him like he doesn't matter when he's the one who matters the most, acting as if he thinks his servant is an idiot when there is no one whose council he trusts more. Having to hurt his Merlin, as he knows he does, every time he dismisses him seemingly without a second thought - but every time he does he takes comfort in the thought that it isn't forever. That Merlin proves himself deserving of everything he shall receive every time he bears Arthur's abusive façade and still remains unwavering in his loyalty and his love – perhaps it is not the kind of love Arthur hopes for but there is a chance it could grow from brotherly love to something more on Merlin's part and that is all Arthur needs to keep himself going – to bide his time and wait until he can give Merlin the world and when he can, he will, gladly. He'd give Merlin his still beating heart if he wanted it. He knows it won't be an easy transition though. Giving a servant, a peasant, such a high position in court will be controversial enough - but the initial backlash of reintroducing magic to Camelot after twenty years of fear, pain and hatred will be a thousand times worse. Despite knowing this Arthur knows he could never waver in his decision – it's too important. He needs to prove to himself that he is not his father and to Merlin that he is and will always be safe in his own home . . .
Glancing up through his increasingly troubled thoughts Arthur spots that Merlin must have moved away and back to the wall some time ago and as he stares mesmerised by his servants beauty, Merlin turns and catches his eye, a small reassuring smile gracing his lips. A smile Arthur knows is reserved for him and him alone and suddenly the future, the crown, the kingdom doesn't seem so daunting any more.
When Arthur's king it doesn’t matter what else happens because he knows he'll have Merlin by his side and always will. It is their destiny to be together and no matter what, Arthur knows that the world they create together will be the stuff of legends.