Sometimes, when the battle was finally over, the King would stand on the field alone, his face shining with sweat and grit, his sword and armour dripping in blood. His head would bow to dead soldiers, the world’s weight on his strong shoulders, his eyes glistening. He would stand for long moments, before walking into his tent.
Merlin wouldn’t be able to help himself, after seeing his King like that, and he’d wrap his arms around him, whispering that everything would be okay. That Arthur was a great King, that the deaths were not his fault—that they chose to die for him. Merlin would use his magic to try and comfort him, tending the fire and fluffing the pillows as they lay back onto the furs, Arthur’s body heavy with exhaustion and guilt.
As Arthur tried to fall sleep, Merlin would lean over and murmur into his ear, to try and relax him. “You, Arthur Pendragon, have always, and will always, take my breath away.”
And Arthur, knowing where Merlin’s allegiances always lay, would kiss Merlin’s fingers, thinking of how his magic had saved him and his kingdom over and over again. “Without you, I would be nothing. Not a king; not even alive.”
They’d fall asleep, curled around each other and everything, for those precious few hours, would be perfect.