Arthur knew that the day would be bad when, instead of the curtains being drawn and accompanying a chirpy or sarcastic remark from his manservant, instead he got a nudge and a “Wake up.”
Yup, today was definitely going to be a bad day.
Of course that was only a hinting factor, the real contributing factor was that today, a young wizard was to be executed for ‘crimes against the kingdom.’ Arthur knew that Merlin would be frosty today, and probably for a few days afterwards, always keeping himself reserved and in a corner through the entire execution, avoiding the ceremony afterwards and trying his hardest not to look arthur in the eye. That was the rotten part, that the only person that arthur truly trusted, saw him as a horrible being, that caused death and destruction, and couldn’t even look at him sometimes.
The execution itself went as it always did, uneventful.
Uther gave a speech warning those against the ‘evils’ of sorcery, trying to sway them in their paths, and about how this man in front of him had been ‘corrupted,’ and eventually, the drum began to roll.
The man looked the royals, each in the face, giving them one last look of pain, then turned to the side, giving someone in the audience a nod.
Arthur traced his line of sight to see a familiar figure dressed in a blue shirt, with a red neckerchief and tears tracking down his face, unashamedly looking the man right in the eye and giving him a nod of solidarity, before Uthers hand fell, Merlin flinched away from the scene, and the axe severed the head in one clean movement.
Arthur turned back to the crowd hoping to spot the red neckerchief again, only to see that the crowd had consumed the square in the usual pandemonium, swarming away from the head rolling around on the floor, and going home to discuss the hatred of the king.
Arthur swept back inside, following his father through the halls until they separate at the stairwell, arthur going to his chambers, and Uther to the throne room, no doubt to boast and brag about how quickly the execution went, and to receive praise for his judgment, arthur on the other hand only wanted to reside by himself, and finally remove the stupid cloak which had been choking him all day.
He opened the double doors to an empty room, with clothes still scattered around and his breakfast left on the table, still not removed from the room by his forgetful manservant, who seemed as absent as ever.
Arthur sighed and pulled off the cloak, draping it over the chair and gently pushing his hand through the fur at the top and the inside, meant to keep him warm when the weather took a turn for the worst.
He took in a deep breath and began to remove his armour, until he was left in his undershirt and trousers, and walked over to the bed, lying down on it. He let himself relax for a bit, almost drifting off until he heard the door open slightly, then shut.
Oh shit, not prat, or clotpole, or your (sarcastically) majesty, but sire. Merlin really didn’t want to talk today.
He began to mill around the room with his back to Arthur, picking up the discarded cloak which had been forgotten on the chair, and moved over to the bed, to find Arthur, spread eagle, lying down with his eyes closed facing the ceiling.
“Merlin, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
Merlin sighed and continued his path around the room, rearranging small things, making sure that they were properly dusted, before moving onto the next object, clearly avoiding looking at Arthur, and trying to keep himself busy.
Arthur gently opened one eye to see merlin at his left, rearranging a bouquet of flowers in their vase, keeping his gaze glued to the petunias which were before him.
“You knew the sorcerer.”
Merlin froze, every muscle in his body suddenly locking in place and forcing him to remain immobile. His breaths became quick and shallow and his hands began shaking. Arthur swore to this day that he could hear small, shaky breaths making their way through the shallow ones, almost as if Merlin were crying.
“Merlin, look at me.”
Merlin remained still, his eyes still straining to gaze only at the flowers, which had suddenly become far more interesting to him than the current conversation. His hands slowly curled into fists and he felt his nails dig into his palm, making crescents in the skin beneath them.
“Merlin,” Arthur stated firmly, this wasn’t a request anymore, this was a command from his prince and boss, and he knew he had to obey.
Merlin turned to face Arthur, his eyes still cast down, looking at his boots which were shuffling uncomfortably. One of his nails pierced his skin and he felt blood pool around the finger, before rolling to the bottom of his hand and dropping onto the tiles, then another, and another.
“Your eyes are red,” Arthur stated, “Have, Merlin have you been crying?”
Merlin remained silent, the blood still gently dripping from his hand to the floor, it would probably leave a stain of some point that merlin knew he would be cleaning up with a brush and some cold soapy water.
His breathing was still shallow, and he was trying his hardest not to look arthur in the eye, but he found himself flicking to them every so often, expecting to see disappointment and disgust lurking in the blue, only to find something that looked suspiciously like pity and… fear?
Arthur pendragon, was afraid.
Merlin's eyes quickly flicked back to the ground, but the damage had already been done, and he knew that he would have to look back at him. He knew that he would meet arthur's eyes and arthur would see how scared and upset merlin was. And he would know it was because of the sorcerer, because in some cases, arthur wasn’t completely useless.
“Merlin,” It wasn’t harsh, unforgiving or disgusted, it wasn’t commanding or spiteful, it wasn’t kingly, godly or knightly.
It was soft, and kind and forgiving, it made the back of Merlin’s eyes sting and he knew he was going to cry, he knew he was going to break if Arthur said his name in kindness one more time.
“Merlin, what’s wrong?” Instantly, the tears began to fall, tracking down his cheeks, wiping away the grime from working earlier, and settling on his jaw, not falling, but just waiting for a little while.
“Look, I, I don’t want to talk about it, I, I’m fine,” he whispered, barely able to be heard.
“No you’re fucking not, Merlin please, I’m your friend.”
Merlin took in a sharp breath between his teeth, almost as if the word offended or hurt him, but one thing at a time, and right now Arthur had to help the man crying in his room.
Merlin sniffed and looked back up at Arthur, his eyes still brimming with tears.
“I knew him.”
“Knew who?” Arthur thought he knew, he wished he didn’t, hoped with all his heart it wasn’t, but he was sure it was.
Arthur was frozen, his face a stoic mask and his body completely immobile, but whilst he was physically still, his brain was rushing at the speed of a frightened stallion.
“You, knew him?” he wanted to ask everything, how, who, why? All questions that came to mind, but that would only help him, not Merlin.
“His name was will, and he used to live in Ealdor, he was my friend.”
Before Arthur knew what he was doing he had engulfed Merlin in a hug, his arms wrapping around Merlin’s waist, pulling him close and holding him steady. Merlin nuzzled his head into Arthur's neck and began to sob, gradually slipping to the floor, until the both of them were sitting on the ground, relying on each others embrace, where Arthur held Merlin delicately, whereas Merlin had let his hands wrap around Arthur’s biceps, holding onto them for dear life.
Arthur looked towards Merlin, who had stopped sobbing, and had moved on to periodically sniffing, but who was still lying on Arthur, his eyes half closed and his cheeks redder than before, almost the same shade as the tip of his nose.
Arthur bent down and placed his chin over Merlin's head, pulling him ever so closer, guilt consuming arthur a little more, every time he thought more about the situation.
“I’m sorry.” Merlin looked up at him, his eyes flicking between Arthur’s and waiting patiently for him to continue.
“I’m sorry you had to watch your friend die, I’m sorry I didn’t stop it from happening,” Arthur had his eyes closed, his brow was knitted together and he looked truly remorseful.
“Arthur-” Merlin brought up his hand and rested it on Arthur’s cheek, tethering him to reality.
“You’re not the one who killed him.”
Arthur nodded, but still felt guilt building up in his stomach with every second that he thought about it.
Merlin’s hand tilted Arthur’s head gently towards him, guiding him to look at Merlin’s deep blue eyes, which seemed to glow ever so slightly, perhaps it was the sunlight in them? He didn’t care, all he realised was that they were getting ever so closer, and occasionally flicking towards his lips.
He began to lean in, hesitantly and gently, his own hand making its way to Merlin’s cheek, before their lips gently brushed together, then were crushed against each other in desperation.
They moved in an almost rehearsed synchronicity, yearning to stay connected for an eternity, their lips merging in a fit of passion, as Arthur felt a feeling deep in the pit of his stomach, an almost painful fiery jab of something that could only be described as pure, unadulterated elation, urging him to hold Merlin tighter and keep him here forever. Merlin reciprocated, gripping Arthur’s shirt, desperately trying to eliminate any sort of space between the two of them, not caring that the shirt cost more than every house in Ealdor combined, he just wanted Arthur closer to him.
Arthur was gripping Merlin’s hair, tangling the strands between his fingers and pushing Merlin closer towards him, messily and hungrily devouring his lips in a frenzy, tears streaming down both their faces as they thought of the circumstances that brought them together, yet only letting it fuel them further and further until they had to come up for air.
Merlin gasped, panting, with his eyes closed, as his forehead rested against Arthur’s, who seemed to be in the same state as him, and felt himself give a small smile, before moving back in and giving the crown prince a gentle peck on his lips.
“Arthur, I- Oh dear gods.”
Arthur and Merlin turned towards the door to see Morgana standing at the entrance, her eyes wide with a tray of cakes on them, completely speechless at the sight in front of her.
“MORGANA!” Both Merlin and Arthur chorused, as they tried their damned hardest to get to their feet and regain some sense of composure, despite how far away composure may seem considering their crumpled clothes, swollen lips and messy hair, pointing in all manner of directions.
The more they struggled to get up, the worse it seemed to make it, getting them more and more tangles, almost like a Chinese finger trap, the more you try to escape the more you seal your fate.
“We were just-”
“You see I-”
“OH would you shut it please you two,” she stated, with an air of finality, “You must think me completely blind or a fool.”
Both of them gulped.
“Anyway, Arthur, I brought these up for you, you seemed stressed earlier, however I wouldn’t be opposed to you sharing them.” she said with a cheeky smile, and closed the door behind her.
They both looked at each other, then laughed before finally untangling themselves.
They looked towards the tray in curious wonder, at a small array of pastries, mostly french or danish, before seeing a small round object that looked suspiciously like a cake of sorts… in a ….cup?
“Is that a, a cake?”
“In a cup… a cake cup?
They lifted a small bowl with frosting in it, before looking at one of the small cakes, and dipping it in, before merlin lifted it to his lips, taking a small bite and feeling his own eyes light up, dang, this tastes good.
Arthur was still looking at the cake, confused and completely weirded out by a pastry, whereas merlin seemed to be wolfing his down with vigour, until he saw Arthur take a bite and recoil at the almost savory tread.
Merlin laughed and brought the bowl towards Arthur, with a wicked glint in his eyes.
“Frost the damn cupcakes.”