Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Uther
Summary: So when during Merlin’s second summer at the palace, the actual King of England, Uther Pendragon himself walks in on Prince Arthur tickling Merlin’s tonsils with his prick and bellows, “What the devil is going on here?” Merlin thinks he can be forgiven that his instinctively terrified response is, “I fell!”
Word Count: 1,000
Prompt: #244: Accidental
Merlin’s always been a bit accident-prone. That he never actually managed to break any bones as a child was nothing short of miraculous, but he did trip over his own feet often enough that his knees had permanent bruises until the age of fifteen or so. He hasn’t, strictly speaking, grown out of the habit; he’s just gotten better at catching himself.
For instance, just last summer, interning for his uncle Gaius at Buckingham Palace, he managed to stumble over a loose paver in the courtyard and, instead of falling on his face, he flailed out and grabbed the shoulder of the nearest person to steady him. He thought it was Gaius. The voice that asked, “Are you quite all right?” when he recovered his balance was not Gaius’s, nor did it sound overly concerned with his well-being. It did sound chillingly familiar, though.
Flinging himself away from Prince Arthur and apologizing, swearing, then apologizing for swearing was enough to land Merlin on his arse after all, mortified and wishing the ground would open up and swallow him whole. It also made the prince laugh, which Merlin assumed was why he hadn’t been immediately thrown in the Tower to rot for the offense. Especially since a tourist snapped a series of photos of the event and they were plastered over the tabloids for weeks.
He still isn’t quite sure how he avoided that same fate the time he flailed around while making a point to Will, another of the interns, and his wildly outstretched hand smacked Arthur square in the face. He gave the Prince of Wales a black eye, and he’s pretty sure that qualifies as attempted regicide or something. If it had been up to King Uther, a livid witness to Merlin’s gracelessness, things might have gone rather differently—more poorly—for Merlin.
But Prince Arthur just laughed it off again, telling his father, “That’s just Merlin. He’s a walking disaster, but Gaius assures me he’s a harmless one.”
“Dude,” Will hissed at him when they were alone in the corridor again, “why does the prince know your name?”
Merlin stared after him. “I don’t know.”
And so it went for Merlin. The king and prince hosted a dinner for palace staff, interns included; Merlin spilled his wine on Prince Arthur when they walked by one another. King Uther strode by him in a hallway; Merlin ran himself into a decorative suit of armor trying to get out of the way, sending it and himself crashing to the ground in a heap. Prince Arthur came to Gaius’s office for a physical; Merlin dropped an entire case of blood draw vials he was meant to shelve and they shattered all across the floor. He dropped the broom three times while sweeping up the shards, too, and Prince Arthur had to wait until he was done because he’d left his shoes in the outer hall.
So when during Merlin’s second summer at the palace, the actual King of England, Uther Pendragon himself walks in on Prince Arthur tickling Merlin’s tonsils with his prick and bellows, “What the devil is going on here?” Merlin thinks he can be forgiven that his instinctively terrified response is, “I fell!”
Understandably, this does not seem to impress either member of the royal family.
When Arthur has buttoned himself back up and Merlin has wiped the saliva but not the shame from his face, King Uther looks between them and shakes his head, sighing. “Is it serious?”
He’s looking at Merlin, who can’t possibly open his mouth to speak when the king just saw him putting it to the use he did. Also, he’s not sure he knows. It is for him, but the prince has always had a bit of a reputation as a player, and always with women, at least publicly. It surprised him when Arthur propositioned him the first time, his very first night back at the start of the summer, and surprised him more when it turned out the first time wasn’t the only time. They’ve been meeting up regularly throughout the summer, and Merlin’s enjoyed it, but Arthur’s never said if he considers it to be anything more than a convenient booty call; Merlin hasn’t dared to ask.
Arthur sticks out his jaw—Merlin can’t see it, but he can hear it in the stubbornness of his voice—and answers, “Yes.”
It’s more of a relief than Merlin expected it to be, to hear Arthur say that. He reaches out blindly, and warmth spreads through him when Arthur takes his hand and squeezes it. He still doesn’t dare look away from the empty air just to the right of King Uther’s ear, though.
King Uther sighs again, but his smile is genuine, if a bit crooked, when he reminds Arthur, “A harmless disaster, you said.”
Merlin is as amazed that he remembers that conversation as he is that, yet again, he hasn’t been disappeared to some secret, probably offshore, prison. It’s still not out of the question, he supposes, but the king doesn’t seem particularly murderous as he adds, “Do you have any idea what a headache fighting this out with the Church is going to be?”
(Merlin trips no fewer than five times at the wedding three years later, and is too nervous to avoid face planting two of the five. The papers are kind enough to print images of every single fall, along with dug-up copies of his first tabloid appearance, a gangly mess of seventeen-year-old sprawled at Arthur’s feet, along with all the other captured evidence of his clumsiness in the years since they started publicly dating. There are a humiliating number of pages dedicated solely to those photos. Most of the rags have taken to calling him The Prostrate Prince, though his being in the first same-sex royal marriage has tickled a few of the ruder ones into dropping one letter off that.
Despite all of Arthur’s jokes and teasing, he never once drops their daughters.)