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when the truth comes out

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Merlin is probably being a bit of a wanker. After all, Arthur is ill. Or he’s at least recovering. Two hours ago Merlin had been standing, worried sick, over the hospital bed where Arthur was asleep, looking pale and unfamiliar surrounded by hospital sheets.

But now Arthur’s awake, shirtless because the hospital gown was driving him mad, and the doctors said everything looks great. The only problem is that Arthur is hilariously drugged up on anesthetics.

Arthur blinks at him owlishly as he holds a biscuit out between them.

“Eat up,” Merlin says.

He grips his phone with both hands so he gets Arthur’s face back in focus. He’s a horrible human being. But then again, filming Arthur like this is payback for the time Arthur put those drunk pics from Ireland up on Facebook.

Not that Merlin doesn’t have plenty of drinking pics up on Facebook already, but the Ireland ones were especially mortifying for reasons he’s not willing to revisit.

Besides, Arthur’s procedure went well and he's fine, really, he’s just… very pleased right now. And loopy.

Arthur nibbles on his biscuit and makes a face. It’s the picture of a child being forced to eat something he doesn’t like and Merlin has to hide his snorts of laughter. He doesn’t hide them well enough. Arthur looks at him, his eyes narrowed and a little unfocused.

“Who’re you?”

Merlin bites his lip and Arthur disappears out of the camera frame when Merlin shakes with silent laughter.

“I’m Merlin. Eat your biscuit, Arthur, you need it.”

Arthur doesn’t listen, he just stares at Merlin intently. Then his face breaks into a blinding smile that catches Merlin completely off guard. He smiles softly back, suddenly reminded of the numbing fear he’d felt when Arthur was curled up in pain on the kitchen floor.

“You’re really pretty,” Arthur slurs.

Merlin stills in complete disbelief. It’s not like it should be a surprise, or anything. But Arthur’s never been particularly vocal about things like this, and the unguarded way Arthur says it, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, makes wonder spread in his chest.

“Eat,” Merlin says, hushed.

Arthur just stares at the biscuit, a little cross-eyed.

“Even drugged out your mind you’re a pain in the arse,” Merlin says, and reaches out to nudge Arthur’s hand closer.

“‘m not. D’you always nag this much?”

“Oh my god. Well, good to know you’re still yourself.”

“Sh.” Arthur puts a finger to his lips. “You talk too much.”

Merlin is about to tell him to shut his mouth and eat, but then Arthur winces a little as he shifts and he doesn’t have the heart. Instead, he sits in silence and fusses with the bed sheets a little. He pulls them further up on Arthur’s stomach.

“You are, you know. Really, you’re gorgeous.” Arthur’s smile is almost bashful. “Where’d they find you?”

“I came with you,” Merlin says because he can’t get himself to mess with Arthur’s head when he’s like this. There’s a limit even for him.

“Really? We should go on a date. ‘m good at dates.”

“Not as good as you think,” he says drily.

He’s saved from explaining that any further by the entrance of the nurse who had introduced herself as Elena earlier in the day. Merlin lowers his phone, but leaves the camera running.

“Hey, Merlin,” she says as she picks up Arthur’s chart from the foot of the bed. “Everything going OK?”

“Relatively,” Merlin says, and makes a face. “He doesn’t seem to want to eat, though.”

She purses her lips. “Not entirely uncommon. We can leave it for a bit and see.” She leans in and takes the biscuit from Arthur’s outstretched hand.

His head snaps up. “My gold!” he says, his mouth pulling into the shape of a perfect “o”.

Merlin and Elena share a look, and she smothers a laugh as she hands the biscuit back. “Here you go, Arthur, you can keep your gold.”

He gives her a beaming smile and Merlin can’t quite stop shaking his head.

“Isn’t he pretty?” Arthur points at him. “His hair’s nice. And his eyes.”

Elena bites down on her bottom lip, and Merlin looks away from her because oh my god.

“That he is, Arthur. You’ve made quite the catch there.”

Arthur makes a confused sound, and Merlin holds up the phone again without really thinking about it. He has to get that look on tape. There’s so much awe in it that Merlin honestly doesn’t know if he should laugh or cry.

“What?” Arthur says, looking between them.

“I’m your husband. You should eat your food, Arthur, it’ll make you feel better.”

Arthur’s eyes are wide. “You’re married to me?”

“Of course I am.”

Elena’s attempt to hold back her gleeful smile is horrific. She looks deranged. Merlin can definitely place a few bets on what’ll be the talk of the nurse’s station.

Arthur beckons her closer, leans in and whispers, “That’s my husband.”

Elena really needs to leave before Merlin starts crying or something else even more mortifying happens.

Thankfully, she does retreat only a little while later, that deranged look still on her face as she promises to come back to check on them.

“Wow,” Arthur says, and Merlin peers down at the still recording phone. He can’t quite get himself to turn it off. “Wow, your cheekbones are amazing. And your ears are sexy. Can you turn around?”

A surprise burst of laughter leaves him and Merlin says, “No. Eat your… erm, gold.”

Arthur nibbles at it and his tongue comes out to lick at the corner. “How long’ve we been married?”

“Not that long,” Merlin says, voice soft. “Took you a while.”

“I’m an idiot.”

Merlin can’t help it, he bursts out laughing.

He can’t stop, either, he just keeps going until his stomach aches with it.

“You’re completely daft,” he says, fondly.

Arthur beams at him, like Merlin just told him he’s the most brilliant thing. And then he just stops and looks at Merlin, like… like Merlin is something precious. Merlin’s chest feels tight.

“You’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”

---

“That was a sniffle,” Arthur shouts, triumphant. “That was definitely a sniffle.”

Merlin tries to wrestle the phone out of his grip. He clings to his arm when Arthur turns away in an attempt to shake him off.

“God, I regret this. Give it back.”

“No, I need to hear more of you weeping over how beautiful you are.” Arthur shakes him off and takes off into the living room.

Merlin sprints after him.

“You’re such a fucking arsehole. Fuck you!”

Climbing up onto the sofa, Arthur laughs and hunches his shoulders to hide the phone when Merlin tries to get go it. The only thing that happens is that Merlin ends up curled around Arthur’s back, one hand pressed to his shoulder as he tries to bend down over his head to reach the phone.

“You’re crushing me,” Arthur says, laughing. “Jesus.”

“Give it back.”

“No.”

Oh god, there’s definitely another sniffle on the video. Merlin sinks down against his back, and buries his face into Arthur’s neck. He lets Arthur play the rest of the video in silence. Arthur’s words from that day still stick in his chest and make it feel so full he doesn’t know how to handle it.

The flat gets really quiet when the clip ends.

Arthur reaches back and runs his fingers through Merlin’s hair clumsily. He pulls at it a little, and Merlin takes the hint, hooking his chin over Arthur’s shoulder. Turning his head, Arthur nuzzles against his cheek.

“You really are the prettiest man in all the land.”

Merlin can feel Arthur smirke against his skin.

“Oh god, shut up.”

Arthur laughs and mouths along his jaw.

“I’m being serious, Merlin. Everything in that video is the absolute truth.”

Merlin hides his smile into Arthur’s neck, and a feeling he can’t quite name blooms in his chest.