Merlin’s absently grumbling about princes who drag their innocent menservants out hunting when he realizes nobody’s told him to, “Shut up, Merlin,” for about ten minutes. Merlin knows from experience that Arthur can get into a lot of trouble in ten minutes, so when he looks around and doesn’t see him, he’s a bit worried.
Merlin ducks behind a tree to hide himself from the knights who are out hunting with them, and casts a spell to point him in Arthur’s direction. The spell leads him to the top of a short, steep hill with a small clearing at the bottom. Arthur is in the centre of the clearing, and it’s not a good scene.
Arthur’s not alone: there’s a woman in a long grey robe, her hands raised, chanting. She and Arthur are standing in large circles drawn in the dirt - Arthur’s stance is odd, slanted, like he’s not really in control. Fortunately, the woman’s back is to Merlin, so she hasn’t spotted him yet.
Merlin yells for the knights as he charges in. He doesn’t dare use magic in front of Arthur, no matter how out of it Arthur appears right now, so instead Merlin shoves the witch out of her circle with both hands. Her chant, which has been rising in volume, seems to finish just as she stumbles forwards out of the circle. There’s a flash of light surrounding both circles. A bolt of magic hits Arthur and makes him stumble back a few steps.
Three red-cloaked knights, Leon leading the pack, race down the hill towards the witch. Clearly realizing she’s outnumbered - and possibly having achieved her goal? Merlin isn’t sure if the spell took - she raises her hands again. There’s a noise like a thunderclap, and she disappears into thin air.
Merlin and the knights immediately turn towards Arthur. He scowls at their attention. Merlin, not at all cowed by this, rushes over to check on him.
“I’m fine,” Arthur says, brushing Merlin away. “We should go after her at once.”
“She cast something on you, sire,” Leon says. “At least rest for a moment. Do you feel any effects?”
“I’m fine,” Arthur insists.
“Sit,” Merlin orders, shoving Arthur’s shoulder. He does it gently - Arthur was just hit by some unknown spell, after all - and without really expecting Arthur to budge.
So Merlin’s surprised when Arthur’s legs fold under him and he sits, unceremoniously, on the forest floor.
Merlin considers the few words he’d recognized from the sorceress’ spell. He’d been too busy concentrating on stopping her to really listen - and he doesn’t regret that, because he’s pretty sure he managed to shove the witch out of her casting circle just before she’d finished the spell. He was hoping that would cancel the spell, but he’s now sure it didn’t, because one of the words she’d kept chanting was obey.
He meets Arthur’s startled blue eyes peering up at him, and he can tell Arthur’s realized the same thing he has.
Merlin didn’t stop the spell, he just transferred it to himself by taking the sorceress’ place in the circle. And now Arthur has to obey Merlin.
“Well,” Merlin says, “At least we know you aren’t dying, or something.”
“We do?” asks a knight.
Merlin starts to reply, but Arthur speaks loudly over him.
“Merlin, don’t be stupid. Just because I’m not gushing blood doesn’t mean I’m fine. A man can bleed for hours on the inside without anyone noticing.”
“We should get back to Camelot and have Gaius take a look at you, sire,” Leon says.
He looks confused at Arthur’s change of tune about the severity of the spell, but he’s apparently decided not to question it - Arthur’s agreeing with him now, after all.
“Fine,” Arthur says, and the knights go scurrying back to their horses. Arthur makes an aborted motion and looks horrified. Then, “Merlin, help me up.”
Arthur can’t stand.
Merlin forces a grin as he offers Arthur a hand. “Get up, lazy bones!” he exclaims jokingly. Leon frowns disapprovingly at this, but Arthur claps him gratefully on the shoulder once Merlin’s pulled him to his feet.
Arthur then tightens his grip on Merlin’s shoulder and pulls him aside. “Not a word to anyone, understand?” he hisses.
“Yes, but why -”
“Later. Alone,” is all Arthur says, before he mounts his horse and trots them off to Camelot.
Uther hovers while Gaius examines Arthur. Gaius can’t see anything wrong, of course, and Arthur intentionally keeps Merlin busy with chores so he can’t get a moment to whisper to Gaius. Finally, the king tells them that he, Gaius, and Leon will make plans for their next steps against this witch. Arthur is to rest, until the effects of the curse become apparent. Uther rests a hand on Arthur’s shoulder for a moment, then sweeps out of the room with Gaius on his heels.
“Why can’t we tell Gaius?” Merlin demands, as soon as they’re gone. “Why can’t we tell everyone? Then they could stop worrying you’re going to drop dead!”
“Excellent idea, you’re right,” Arthur says. “Let’s just call my father back, and tell him I’ve been enchanted to do everything you say. You remember how my father likes to break enchantments, correct?”
“Oh,” Merlin says.
“Remind me, how?” Arthur asks.
If you ask Merlin, that’s driving the point home a little more than necessary, but he answers anyways, because Arthur just lied to his father for him.
“He kills whoever appears to be controlling the enchantment,” Merlin says, very quietly. “Thank you, Arthur.”
Arthur gives him the curt nod that means, “I accept your thanks, but they aren’t really necessary because I did it because I love you.” At least, that’s what Merlin likes to interpret it as.
“So, what now?” Merlin asks.
“Now, we hope Leon catches the witch and ends the spell,” Arthur says. “Oh - and order me to do anything, and you won’t like what I order you to do.”
Merlin sticks his tongue out. He’s not going to order Arthur around, but not because he’s scared of him.
Scratch that. Merlin really hadn’t intended to order Arthur around. Not because of Arthur’s threats, but because Merlin wouldn’t take away anyone’s free will, and he wouldn’t betray Arthur’s trust either. At least, not when it wasn’t necessary.
It’s just that saying, “Rise and shine!” to Arthur every morning is such a habit.
Arthur jumps out of bed and snaps, “I’m going to kill you.”
“Accident!” Merlin yelps, holding his hands up peacefully. “Sorry! Don’t rise and shine!” - except then Arthur drops, immediately, off his feet and out of the sunshine, rolling under his bed - oh dear, how long has it been since Merlin’s cleaned under there, shit - “Do what you want!” Merlin says, panicking.
Arthur rolls out from under the bed and stalks predatorily towards Merlin. “Not that either,” he snarls.
Merlin thinks hard as he tries to dodge Arthur - but Arthur’s faster, grabbing Merlin by the shoulders and shoving him up against the wall. One of Arthur’s hand slides around the side of Merlin’s neck, and Arthur’s whole body leans in close even as his muscles strain in an attempt to twist away -
“Do what you will,” Merlin tries desperately.
Arthur immediately lets him go and steps away. Merlin reaches automatically to his back, which connected with the wall when Arthur shoved him, but there’s no hurt there to soothe - Arthur managed to be gentle with him, despite -
“Did you really want to hurt me?” Merlin asks, his voice trembling a little. He’s not scared - he knows Arthur would never really hurt him - but he hadn’t thought before that Arthur would want to, even for a second.
Arthur’s looking away, breathing hard, but he turns back and meets Merlin’s eyes as he says, “No! I was going to - uh, that is, I’d never - look, if I do anything like that again, order me to stop, understood?”
Arthur suddenly brightens. “Hey, now that you’ve told me to do as I will, perhaps I don’t have to follow your orders anymore?”
“Only one way to find out!” Merlin grins obnoxiously, but raises his eyebrows to ask permission.
“Fine,” Arthur says. “Tell me -”
“Hug me,” Merlin orders.
He’s suddenly wrapped up in strong arms and pulled against Arthur’s warm chest. It’s instinct to hug back and snuggle in…
“Merlin.” Uh oh. Arthur’s voice manages to succinctly imply, I don’t know if you’re a fool or deliberately antagonizing me, but either way you’re in huge trouble.
“Sire,” Merlin returns.
“Let go, and let me stop hugging you.”
“Oh. Right. Er, do as you will,” Merlin says, since that worked last time.
Arthur steps away quickly. “Why did you make me do that?”
“I couldn’t tell you to do something you’d usually do,” Merlin says. “I wouldn’t’ve known if you were doing it of your own free will!”
“…Except I would’ve told you,” Arthur says acidly.
“Good point!” Merlin squeaks. “Won’t happen again!”
“No, it most certainly will not.”
Arthur’s glaring at him, and Merlin would feel bad, except, well, there are a lot of ways to hug someone, right? Gwaine claims Percival once killed a man by hugging him. Arthur could’ve squished Merlin half to death, or barely touched him. He didn’t have to cuddle Merlin in the sweetest, most perfect hug Merlin’s gotten in ages. That part was a choice, and Merlin can’t help the smile that grows on his face at the thought.
“Stop looking happy,” Arthur orders grumpily, plopping down to eat his breakfast.
Merlin compromises by turning away to fix Arthur’s sheets, so Arthur can’t see his expression anymore.
Arthur interrupts his work with a loud sigh. “We need to figure out how this works,” he says. “There’s no telling how long I’ll be at the mercy of this curse. I need to know exactly what it does.”
“Such as, what if you tell me I should do something? Am I still obligated to do it? Tell me -”
“You should hug me,” Merlin blurts.
Arthur raises his fork threateningly. “I swear, Merlin, try that one more time and -”
“So it seems only direct orders work,” Merlin says quickly.
“Indeed,” Arthur agrees.
“What if you don’t hear them?” Merlin wonders aloud. He goes to the other side of the room and whispers to the wall, “Come over here and give me a hug, Arthur.”
He can barely hear himself, he whispers it so quietly, but seconds later he’s encased in another hug, one that’s rougher and threatening-er and growly-er than the first.
Specifically: “Did you hear about the time Percival killed a man by hugging him?” Arthur growls in Merlin’s ear.
“Seems like a nice way to go,” Merlin says.
Arthur starts squeezing tighter and tighter until, for his health and safety, Merlin has to end this game of hug-murder chicken.
“Let go,” he squeaks.
Arthur steps away. He’s frowning, so Merlin starts to apologize, but Arthur waves him off. “It’s just worrying. You could be miles away and I’d still have to listen to you.”
“I’m not going to make you do anything!” Merlin says, indignant.
“I know,” Arthur says, gratifyingly. “You know there’s no one I’d trust more with this. But there’s also no one I’d trust less with himself. And if the witch knows you now control me, and she captures you - ”
“I still wouldn’t betray you, Arthur,” Merlin says. “Ever.”
“A man never knows how he’ll hold up under torture, Merlin,” Arthur says. “Besides, she could just put the same spell on you - and let me tell you, no one could resist this.”
Merlin thinks someone with his particular skill set might be able to, but it’s not like he can tell Arthur that. Instead he says, “So I’ll be careful not to get myself captured or enchanted by the witch. Hopefully the knights will catch her soon, anyways.”
“Hopefully they won’t become enchanted themselves,” Arthur says darkly.
Merlin can’t help thinking that the knights’ chances might be better if they knew exactly what they were up against, but Arthur gives him a scowl like he knows exactly what Merlin is thinking.
“We can’t warn them, Merlin,” Arthur says. “The king would have your head. And then I’d have to deal with George and his armour-polishing jokes.”
“A fate worse than death,” Merlin agrees.
Merlin spends his free time looking through Gaius’ books and trying to find a way to undo the curse. He finds one relatively easily. Unfortunately, much like the original spell, it involves magical circles and chanting and bright flashes of magical light, all of which would have to be performed in Arthur’s presence.
Merlin sighs, lets the book thud shut, and hopes the witch hunt goes well.
The witch hunt doesn’t go well. A week passes without news of success from Leon and the knights he’s leading.
It isn’t a particularly good week for Merlin, either. In theory, having the power to order Arthur around shouldn’t make much of a difference to Merlin. After all, a manservant should never order a prince around. But Merlin’s never been a particularly good manservant, and the spell makes his habit of never treating Arthur with any sort of deference both very obvious, and extremely inconvenient.
Telling Arthur to shut up means Arthur can’t pry his mouth open at all, and has to get Merlin’s attention by stomping over and flicking Merlin’s forehead - hard - and then pointing at his own lips.
Telling Arthur to stop complaining about his dinner and just eat isn’t quite as bad, because Arthur can still - through a large mouthful of food - say, “Let me stop eating or I’ll take a bite out of you.”
Ordering Arthur to go to sleep is creepily effective - it’s fortunate he’s just gotten into his bed, because he immediately flops onto his pillows, already snoring before his eyes have even fully shut. Merlin looks him over and pokes him a few times, and Arthur doesn’t stir. Merlin says, “Wake up,” just to make sure he hasn’t put Arthur in a coma. Arthur opens his eyes and squints up at him, then says, “Leave, now, and don’t say another word until morning.”
“That’s fair,” Merlin says, backing off with his hands up.
“What part of not another word do you not understand?” Arthur bellows, and Merlin retreats faster.
When Arthur tells Merlin to go clean out the stables, Merlin mutters a suggestion for Arthur to do something very vulgar. It’s by far not the first time he’s ever done so, but it’s the first time Arthur’s started moving to actually do it. Merlin immediately remembers the spell and yelps, horrified, “No! Don’t do that!” and Arthur stops.
They stare at each other for a few long moments.
“What did you just tell me to do?” Arthur finally demands.
Merlin is incredibly relieved he spoke quietly enough that Arthur has to ask.
“It’s definitely better if you don’t know,” he says.
After the first week has gone by, Leon sends a messenger with news. There’ve been no new run-ins with the witch, but the knights found a campsite containing magical supplies and a book full of curses, giving them renewed purpose to find her.
It also gives Merlin renewed worry about the whole thing, which is probably why he ends up having nightmares.
Merlin’s not even mad to be roughly shaken awake, because it brings him out of the nightmare where Arthur was dying, and into the waking world where Arthur is glaring and shaking him, but alive.
“All right, all right,” Merlin mumbles, batting Arthur’s hands away and sitting up in bed. “I’m awake. Why are you here?”
“I don’t know, Merlin,” Arthur says acidly. “Why am I here?”
Merlin frowns. He has no idea why Arthur has chosen to appear, barefoot and dressed for bed, in Merlin’s room in the middle of the night. “I was sleeping. How should I know?”
“Because you talk in your sleep,” Arthur hisses. “I had to run across this entire castle.”
Oops. Merlin does, vaguely, remember telling dream-Arthur to run. “Sorry.”
“I should say so!”
“Well, it’s not like I can control my dreams!”
“True,” Arthur says, and Merlin’s about to be mildly appeased, but Arthur continues, “Perhaps we ought to gag you, so it won’t happen again.”
“You can’t gag me!” Merlin protests.
Arthur smirks. “Oh, I bet I can.”
Merlin scowls and crosses his arms. “Look, it’s nearly morning anyways. I just won’t go back to sleep.”
“Good,” Arthur agrees. “You can go fetch my clothes from my chambers, because I am certainly not walking through the castle dressed like this again.”
Arthur doesn’t tease Merlin for dreaming about him as much as Merlin had expected. Merlin’s a bit thrown, but then he realizes Arthur must’ve heard whatever he was saying as he dreamed Arthur was dying. It seems Arthur’s decided to take pity on him, because he doesn’t actually bring it up at all until night.
By the end of the day, Merlin is yawning every few minutes. After one particularly huge yawn, Arthur narrows his eyes.
“How often do you talk in your sleep?” he demands.
“I don’t know,” Merlin says. “I’m never awake to hear it.”
“Clever,” Arthur says. “Fine. You can sleep on my floor tonight.”
“Uh,” Merlin says. “I’d rather not.”
“And I’d rather not be dragged across the castle because of your weird dreams. If you’re in my chambers, I can wake you up before I do anything.”
That’s actually a good idea, but Merlin still narrows his eyes. “I’m not sleeping on the floor.”
“Are you asking to share my bed, Merlin? Rather brazen, don’t you think?”
Merlin splutters. “You’re the one insisting I sleep in here!”
Arthur smirks. “I suppose I can allow you the honour.”
“Honour?” Merlin scoffs. “How is it an honour to-”
“Unless you want to sleep on the floor after all?”
Merlin tactfully shuts up.
Arthur’s bed is big enough for two people to sleep in without touching, which is what Merlin and Arthur do, although Merlin's very aware of just how close they are. Once he manages to stop thinking about that long enough to fall asleep, though, it’s the best, most comfortable night’s sleep Merlin’s ever had.
Waking up to Arthur lying next to him isn’t bad either.
Arthur’s awake too, so Merlin says, “See, I don’t always talk in my sleep.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Arthur says. “You woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me not to feed my horse any more cake.”
“Huh,” Merlin says. He tries to remember that, but he can’t recall dreaming about horses or cake. Besides, thinking is hard when he’s so warm and comfortable and sleepy, and within seconds he’s drifting off.
“Oh, sorry. Feed Llamrei all the cake you choose to,” Merlin says, not sure why Arthur would even care if he reversed that particular order. He closes his eyes again and snuggles into his pillow.
“Merlin.” Arthur kicks him in the leg.
“Get out of my bed, and go get us breakfast.”
After they sit down to breakfast together, Merlin begins his chores for the day, starting with dressing Arthur.
Dressing Arthur has become a lot simpler, because Arthur immediately moves however Merlin needs him to, and stays there without waving his arms around to emphasize whatever he’s saying as he often does. But Merlin has started to feel horrible about manipulating Arthur like a marionette with his absent-minded orders, and tries to phrase everything as a question, like, “Will you please lift your arms?”
“Turn around,” he says to Arthur’s back, even though it’s been over a week and he really should know better. “Shit, sorry, I mean, will you please…”
Arthur’s already done turning, and he rolls his eyes. “Relax, Merlin.”
Merlin blinks. “I thought it would horrify you, having no control.”
Arthur shrugs. “If you were doing it on purpose, or to make fun of me… yes. But you’re just doing it because you’re an insolent idiot who’s never known how to treat his betters-” (Merlin protests; Arthur smirks) “-with respect. Keep being careful, especially when we’re around others, but you don’t need to be so worried about making me turn in a circle.”
“It doesn’t feel…bad? Or at least odd?”
Arthur considers. “It feels like one of those dreams where you can’t quite seem to get control over what your body’s doing. But not a nightmare - just the sort of dream where it seems normal.”
“Huh,” Merlin says. He hands Arthur his sword belt. “Put this on, then, prat.”
Arthur does it, and then cuffs Merlin gently around the head. “Clotpole.”
Sleeping in Arthur’s bed quickly becomes almost normal for Merlin. A very nice normal. Not that Merlin’s thinking about it, because if he spends too much time thinking about sleeping next to Arthur, and the (obviously never going to happen) possibilities it opens up, he might start dreaming about them. And then he might start talking in his sleep about them.
So Merlin is determinedly not falling asleep thinking about how Arthur’s only a few feet away from him, or how if Merlin reached out he could touch Arthur’s soft hair, or how when he opens his eyes he can see the moonlight glinting off Arthur’s bare chest.
He thinks he deserves credit because he actually sleeps next to Arthur for nearly four whole nights before he has a dream that Arthur’s holding him.
The dream doesn’t go away when Merlin wakes up. Arthur’s got his arms around Merlin and is sprawled on top of him, using Merlin’s shoulder as a pillow, and it’s so nice that Merlin almost doesn’t want to complain about how he can barely breathe and can’t feel his left arm.
He pokes Arthur with the hand he’s entirely sure is still attached to his body. “Arthur? You’re crushing me.”
Arthur slowly raises his head and blinks blearily down at Merlin.
“Would you move, please?” Merlin asks.
Arthur starts to pull away, but he doesn’t go far. He smirks. “Nope. Apparently, you wanted to cuddle.”
Well, of course Merlin wanted to cuddle, but how does Arthur know - oh.
Merlin can feel himself turning red. He quickly counter-orders, “Let go of me,” and Arthur obediently releases him and returns to his own side of the bed.
“Sorry,” Merlin says. “You should’ve woken me up. You didn’t have to keep holding me.”
“I didn’t wake up myself - I’ve gotten used to ignoring your sleep-talking. Besides, you’re not a bad pillow,” Arthur teases.
Merlin’s too busy blushing and trying to wake up his arm to respond to that.
Merlin wakes up in Arthur’s arms again the next morning.
Arthur rolls away without Merlin telling him to, and Merlin smiles about it all day.
A fortnight after Arthur was cursed, Leon and the knights he was leading troop back into the castle. Merlin stands to one side of the throne room as Leon reports to Arthur and the king that he’s failed to find the witch.
“She appears to have fled, sire,” Leon says. “It seems that after her attack on the prince failed, she did not even stay in Camelot long enough to pack up her belongings. By now, there’s no trail to pick up, and she’s likely very far away.”
Uther nods. “While it’s unfortunate she won’t be brought to justice, if the witch is not in Camelot any longer, she is at least no longer a danger. There is no point to continuing to search for her - unless, Arthur, you’ve shown any signs of being under a curse?”
“No, nothing,” Arthur says. “I agree, Father, the search needn’t continue.”
Merlin tries to wave discreetly and catch Arthur’s eye. He has questions to ask, like how exactly Arthur intends to break the spell without finding the witch, or whether Arthur’s happy to be under Merlin’s command for the rest of his life. When Arthur does finally notice his waving, though, he just glares at Merlin until he stops moving.
Merlin frowns at him suspiciously for the remainder of the discussion.
When they return to Arthur’s rooms, Merlin immediately opens with, “You’re not planning to do something stupid to get rid of the spell, are you?”
Arthur gives a huff of laughter. “Maybe.”
“You can’t go after the witch yourself,” Merlin says. “She set that trap up for you specifically, she’d be thrilled if you went after her.”
“I know that,” Arthur says, rolling his eyes. “I didn’t mean that sort of stupid.”
“Oh good,” Merlin says. “Stupid and original, even better.”
Arthur grins at him, then says, “Order me to tell the truth.”
“What?” Merlin says, so completely shocked that he genuinely wonders if he misheard Arthur.
“I want to tell you something, and I want you to know I mean it.”
“How will this help with the spell?” Merlin asks.
“You’ll see,” Arthur says.
“This is stupid,” Merlin says. Has Arthur really thought this through? True, Merlin’s pretty sure he knows all of Arthur’s secrets already - but this still feels like invading Arthur’s privacy.
“Maybe. Go on.”
Merlin’s still hesitant, but Arthur looks calm and determined, so he quietly says, “Tell me the truth, then.”
Arthur speaks slowly, clearly picking his words carefully. “I never want to see you hurt, Merlin. I would never intentionally do anything to harm you.” He pauses, then says meaningfully, “Including turning you in for treason.”
Merlin finds himself short of breath. “You mean because I’ve been ordering you around these past few weeks, right?”
“No,” Arthur says. “I mean because you’ve been a sorcerer for as long as I’ve known you.”
Merlin closes his eyes.
“I’m not ang - not very angry,” Arthur says reassuringly, stumbling over his words as if being forced to reconsider them. “I’ve known for a while, and I’ve been trying to find a good way to tell you, and swearing under a truth spell that I wouldn’t punish you for it seemed pretty good.”
“You knew, and you’re not doing anything?” Merlin demands. “You let a sorcerer have the power of an obedience spell over you? Why would you do that?”
“Because I love you.”
“W-what?” Merlin says. That’s something he never thought he’d hear Arthur say. His eyes feel almost as wide as Arthur’s look - holy shit, Arthur didn’t mean to say that.
“Of course I care about you, you’re my best friend,” Arthur says, but then - apparently helplessly - continues, “But you’re more than that too. You’re so important to me. I’m - I’m in love with you.”
Merlin has a wild urge to tell Arthur to hop around in a circle, just in case the spell’s worn off or mutated and he doesn’t really mean what he’s saying, but he doesn’t. Partly because Arthur would probably murder him, but also because he can read in Arthur’s face that it’s the truth.
When Merlin quietly processes this for just a moment too long, Arthur turns red and looks at the floor. He’s clearly embarrassed and dejected, and Merlin has to reassure him.
“I love you too,” he blurts out. “I mean, I’m in love with you too.”
Arthur looks up, his expression open and tender and loving and for a second Merlin actually thinks they might be about to have an intelligent emotional conversation, except then Arthur gives Merlin the sort of smirk that means he’s about to make some sort of joke at Merlin’s expense - and, really? Right after Merlin’s said he’s in love with him? - but he’s forgotten that he’s still obliged to tell the truth. He’s forced to swallow whatever untrue thing he was about to say, and instead tell Merlin, “I feel like the luckiest man in the world to hear you say that, and I hope I can be worthy of you.”
“Aww,” Merlin says.
Arthur’s blushing even harder. “Will you please undo the truth thing, so I can make jokes about being too good for the likes of you?”
“Hmm,” Merlin teases. “That depends. Will you still tell me you love me?”
Arthur meets his eyes, and this time Merlin’s pretty sure he’s telling the truth of his own accord. “Every day, if you let me.”
Merlin smiles helplessly at him. “All right. In that case, do what you want.”
Arthur sighs theatrically as he moves forward, towards Merlin.
“We’ve been over this, Merlin,” he says, as he gently pushes Merlin back against the closed door.
“What I want -” Arthur continues, and then interrupts himself to lean in and kiss Merlin.
Merlin obviously kisses back, but too soon Arthur pulls back by about an inch to say, “- is to push you into a wall -”
He punctuates this with another kiss, and then finishes, “And kiss you, and then maybe-”
Merlin interrupts Arthur this time, regretfully holding him off from another kiss, to say, “Do what you will,” because he doesn’t want Arthur to do any of this if it’s not entirely his choice - even if it’s very clear Arthur’s enjoying this as much as he is.
Arthur doesn’t move - not pulling back, not taking his hands off of Merlin - and then he says, “Okay,” and closes the inch of space between them for another kiss.
Eventually Arthur pulls away and takes half a step back.
“So,” he says, “You can take this spell off, right?”
It takes a few seconds for Merlin’s brain to catch up, and realize this was where Arthur had meant for their truthful conversation to go. Not that he thinks Arthur’s disappointed by the detour.
“Oh,” Merlin says. “Yeah, sure, as long as you’re okay with me putting you in a magical circle and enchanting you?”
Arthur grins. “I’m always enchanted by you.”