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Love Is in the Water

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“Leon and Elyan? When did that happen?” Merlin asks, leaning close to Arthur while George tops up Arthur’s goblet of watered wine.

“What are you...?” Arthur starts but trails off the moment he looks in the direction of the knights’ table, his mouth dropping open in shock.

“Should I tell them to take it somewhere more private?” Merlin asks, amused by Arthur’s reaction to a quite impressive snogging performance.

“Ummm, yes, that… would be wise,” Arthur stammers out, gulping down half of the freshly poured drink.

Loud clatter draws their attention to the other side of the hall. A plate surrounded by a pile of food lies on the ground. In its place on the table sits one of the ladies of the court while yet another lady peppers kisses down her throat and works on unlacing her dress.

“No, don’t run away! My heart sings for you,” sounds a cry from somewhere to the left and a moment later they see a servant rushing towards the door with Gwaine following right behind.

“Sire!” a breathless moan comes from his right as one of the council members watches him with a dazed look.

The hall rings with countless voices, declaring love or shouting in confusion.

“What is going on?” Arthur yells, getting out of his chair in haste as he sees the besotted councillor approaching.

“I have no idea,” Merlin says, trying to feel for any enchantment that could be the source of the mayhem.

“My love! Let’s spend years polishing armour together!” George tosses himself to his knees in front of Merlin.

“Light of my life!” the councillor cries out, reaching for Arthur.

“Retreat!” Arthur orders, grabbing Merlin’s arm and dragging him away and out of the hall.

Merlin won’t fight him on this.

 

***

 

“Even Gaius?” Arthur asks.

“Even Gaius,” Merlin confirms, willing the imagery of Gaius pining over a random guard to leave his brain forever and never return.

***

 

“It can’t be the water,” Arthur says.

“What else could it be? There’s nothing else that could link all the victims,” Merlin insists.

“We both drank the water.”

“That’s a good point…” Merlin says, letting his magic sweep the contents of the bowl once more. “But I can definitely feel some enchantment in the water.”

“Can you break it?” Arthur asks.

“I can try,” Merlin says, but doesn’t feel at all hopeful.

 

***

 

“Just don’t let him go on one of his destiny tirades,” Arthur grumbles, staring at the sky.

“As if that was possible,” Merlin says with a snort.

“What good is being a dragonlord then?” Arthur asks, shooting him a displeased look.

 

***

 

“Could you maybe stop laughing and tell us if you know of a solution?” Merlin asks, annoyed.

Kilgharrah most definitely has no intentions of stopping, his booming laughter spreading far and wide.

‘Dragonlord,’ Arthur mouths at him.

Merlin scowls back.

 

***

 

“Have you thought about what might be uniting those unaffected by the enchantment, young warlock?” Kilgharrah asks, his tone full of mirth.

“I… We...” Merlin trails off.

They were only thinking about those affected.

“The status of their love life perhaps?” Kilgharrah continues, smug as usual.

Couples. Married. Courting. Pining...

“That can’t be it. Neither of us is in love,” Merlin objects, gesturing at himself and Arthur, fully aware he’s lying to himself.

“Is that so?” The smugness in the dragon’s voice intensifies.

Apparently Kilgharrah is also aware of his blatant lie.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Arthur asks, not catching on just yet.

“Exactly!” Merlin says. “Does it matter who is and isn’t affected? Do you know how to stop the enchantment?”

Kilgharrah’s answering teeth-revealing grin is anything but comforting.

 

***

 

“So, sex magic…” Arthur breaks the silence on their way back to the castle. “Have you…?”

“What? No!” Merlin shouts, way louder than is necessary.

They get past the first flight of stairs by the time Arthur speaks again.

“Who is it you love then?”

“I… uhm… what?”

“We need to get them? For the ritual?”

“That’s not... We won’t need them,” Merlin stammers out, avoiding looking at Arthur. “I can just pay someone to assist me with the ritual.”

“You want to perform the ritual with a whore?” Arthur asks, stopping so abruptly that Merlin nearly crashes into him. “Why? Is the one you love already spoken for?”

“I… don’t know?” Merlin says because he truly has no idea who is keeping Arthur from succumbing to the effects of the enchantment.

“Then we’ll confront them immediately,” Arthur says with strangely aggressive resolve and continues stomping towards his chambers.

“Wait, Arthur! It’s not that simple!” Merlin pleads with him.

“Of course it’s that simple,” Arthur says, barging through the door and heading straight for the bowl of water waiting on the table. “You’re the most powerful magic user in the kingdom. And a dragonlord. And you’re actually a decent person. Anyone who’d reject your advances would have to be stupid.”

“Well, you are a bit thick,” Merlin mutters to himself.

“What was it?” Arthur asks, water dripping off his face after his quick face wash.

“It’s just not that simple, alright?” Merlin insists. “Would you just stride to whoever you love and tell them?”

“That’s not the same.”

“It’s exactly the same!” Merlin cries out. “The cost would be too great if they didn’t… and they wouldn’t!”

“You can’t know that!” Arthur shouts back.

“I know he loves another!”

“He? So it’s a he?” Arthur latches onto Merlin’s slip-up. “Is it Gwaine? No, wait, the enchantment worked on Gwaine. Lancelot then?”

“No!” Merlin objects. “Just leave it be! I beg you. Arthur!”

He can’t take much more of this torture.

“You shouldn’t… You deserve better than a whore. You deserve to be loved and cherished,” Arthur says, his expression fully earnest. “I could… if you can’t ask the one you love, I could… I know I’d be a poor substitute but still…”

There’s something raw and vulnerable in those words, in Arthur’s eyes. Could it be that..? Merlin’s insides flutter with hope.

“Who is it you love?” Merlin asks softly, taking a few steps closer towards Arthur.

“It’s not important,” Arthur says.

“It’s important to me. It could change everything.”

Something shatters in Arthur’s expression. He steps back as if he were dealt a physical blow.

Merlin could have kicked himself. ‘It could change everything.’ What a stupid thing to say. He walks around the table, plants himself right in front of Arthur.

“Is it me? Do you love me?” he asks, not surprised in the least when Arthur avoids meeting his gaze. “Maybe I was wrong when I assumed my feelings wouldn’t be reciprocated,” he forces out of his suddenly dry throat.

Arthur looks up at that, his eyes wide with surprise.

“Was I wrong?” he asks in barely a whisper.

Arthur getting rid of the last few inches of distance between them and leaning in for a very enthusiastic kiss is all the answer he needs.

 

***

 

“You forgot to recite the words of the ritual,” Arthur says, his words slurring together in his blissed out state, liquid proof of his satisfaction covering his stomach, a few droplets stuck in his chest hair.

“Gods, I did,” Merlin gasps out, the post-coital blush intensifying with the absolute mortification of getting so lost in the moment.

“I guess we’ll have to go again,” Arthur says with a dramatic sigh.

“What a terrible prospect...” Merlin play-complains in return.

 

***

 

On the third try, Merlin finally remembers to finish the ritual.

They celebrate by going for round four and fall asleep in the middle of a valiant attempt at round five.