Arthur was sitting at the high table. Gwen had left him alone to speak to Elyan on the other side of the room.
Around him, nearly everyone was dancing or chatting animatedly. The last night of the Samhain festivities was always celebrated by a big banquet. Nobles, Knights and servants mingled freely. It was the last night before the dark season, a night where anything could happen and be forgotten by the morning if you wanted.
Arthur looked at the revellers. Sir Leon, always so strict, was laughing out loud with his arm around a maid’s waist, listening to Gwaine’s tale. Gwaine who had clearly drunk more than a reasonable amount, and Arthur discovered he wasn’t the only one. Ale and mead flowed in the room with everyone, nobles and commoners alike, sharing pints.
Near the large fireplace, a small group played music and people danced. That’s where Arthur spotted Merlin.
He too was dancing, more slowly than the music, nestled against Percival. Merlin had his eyes closed while Percival looked at him like nothing else existed around them.
It wasn’t as surprising as it could have been for Arthur to see his manservant and his Knight in such an intimate embrace. Whatever some may think, Arthur wasn’t blind. He had seen the gentleness in Percival eyes when they were on Merlin, he had seen the rosiness of Merlin’s cheek when Percival was close. And tonight, it looked as though they had finally been open about their feelings for each other.
Arthur had to admit they looked good together. Merlin's thin body against Percival's more muscular one. Merlin looked fragile and Percival, like a shield, was protecting him. Arthur knew better, though. He knew how strong Merlin truly was and that behind the muscles, Percival hid a golden heart. Though, seeing Merlin surrender like that, oblivious of everything apart from his partner was a revelation. How strong Merlin may have been, he sometimes need to be held, to be protected, to let go of all the pressure he was always carrying on his shoulders.
There had been a moment when Arthur had thought he could have been the one to help Merlin, to care for him but that would have meant so many sacrifices, so many risks, and so many changes. Arthur had let his duty take the upper hand, hiding behind him to justify his choice when he had just been a coward.
Now, someone else was there to take care of Merlin, to help him support the weight of his destiny.
Arthur watched as Merlin finally opened his eyes and looked at Percival. They exchanged a smile overflowing with feelings and promises and suddenly, Arthur felt as an intruder for having witnessed that moment. So intimate, and so precious.
The rest of the night was theirs now and perhaps longer if they wanted it to . Arthur stood up and left the hall without anyone noticing. He walked to his rooms but turned left and climbed the donjon until he came out.
From there, he could see all the town. Fire still burned in the houses below. The town under him, glowing.
Arthur wasn’t sure he had always made the right choices, but in the end, the people he loved were happy and his realm was thriving.
Arthur truly felt satisfied. It wasn’t a bad start.