merlin has self esteem issues
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Merlin gets poisoned with something no one knows how to cure. And when a threat arises, Merlin doesn't hesitate, even if it will cost him his life. Arthur is determined not to lose him.
It's fine if he knows, though Merlin thought they narrowly avoided the topic yesterday. Barely. He also knows Arthur. He's too stubborn to let it go, but he is sincere. Only brought it up in gratitude. And assurance.
Merlin tries to estimate Arthur, though there's nothing to be found. They both know he also created the opportunity, the question. But Merlin can't confess and they both know that, also. And this time he finds he doesn't have to lie.
He fixes his eyes on Arthur. Finds his hand to hold. "I didn't do anything," he says.
Arthur stands very still. "You didn't?"
Arthur can't know. Him repeating the question means this is his last chance at confirmation to devalue his convictions. And this time he can honestly answer him, "No." He didn't have to. But he will next time. And he’ll make his excuses then if Arthur isn’t satisfied still from this moment. He’ll find the strength for it in his heart and the love he harbors there to fix the world in place.