Title: Favours are for the brave - or one idiot servant.
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen
Summary: Merlin is oblivious as to what a favour might mean. It's just a bandage, right?
Word Count: 1325 (sorry!)
Prompt: #263: Favor/Favour
Author's Notes: I honestly don't remember the episode where Arthur tears his own shirt to bandage Merlin's arm but I always thought it was cute how much Arthur took care of Merlin. Unbetaed.
Disclaimer: I do not own the BBC version of Merlin; It and Shine do. I am very respectfully borrowing them with no intent to profit. No money has changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended.
It was more an annoyance than anything else. Why Arthur felt the overwhelming need to rip the bottom of his good shirt into a bandage just to tie around Merlin's arm was idiotic.
It wasn't as if Merlin was going to bleed to death. Yes, it hurt, a sword-cut always did, but it was oozing a bit of blood, not gushing out, and Merlin kept thinking all the way back to Camelot that the bandage was more trouble than it was worth. He'd have to mend the shirt, too, not with magic either since Arthur might be oblivious but a perfectly woven garment would lead to questions and Merlin wasn't about to answer them.
Arthur, however, seemed pleased as punch and he kept looking at Merlin as if expecting him to smile back. As if the whole situation signified something. Which it did not.
Merlin was confused. In other circumstances, Arthur looking the way he did at Merlin would be wonderful. That come-hither smile, his intense blue-eyed glances, the way Arthur's hands kept reaching for Merlin, even his hovering gave off signals that if it were anyone else, would mean love, longing, even lust. Merlin was getting hard just thinking about it.
But he couldn't let Arthur find out how he felt. Arthur didn't want him that way. And pursuing it, pursuing Arthur's love, would only get in the way of whatever this was between them and Merlin wasn't willing to sacrifice it for an elusive hope of something more.
It didn't help that Arthur kept calling him names, saying them as if they were endearments. Idiot, girl's petticoat, worst servant in the five kingdoms, buffoon, and back to idiot – Arthur really did need to up his game a bit if he were to keep up with Merlin's more inventive insults, the cabbage-head. And Merlin would never admit that he liked the invectives, liked when Arthur turned his considerable bone-idled toadiness toward Merlin.
When they reached the citadel, Arthur leaned in close, murmured into Merlin's ear, "Come upstairs when you are done with your chores and I'll readjust your… bandage."
Not more chores. Annoyed, Merlin said, "It's not much of a wound. Gaius can take care of it."
Jerking back, Arthur blinked at that, frowned a bit, "I suppose he could." Then with shoulders slumping, Arthur turned away, walking up the stairs toward his chambers. As he passed Merlin, he said, "I'll be eating in my room. Arrange for it, and after that, you are dismissed."
Arthur sounded upset, but he didn't say anything further, just trudged up the stairs and into the hallway beyond.
As Arthur disappeared, Gwen came out, basket of laundry in her arms. When she spotted Merlin, she smiled, waved, and hurried down the stairs. "Arthur seemed a bit out-of-sorts. Not that he's always grumpy, but he hardly said hello to me. Not that he always says hello, but he was scowling and muttering about idiots as… oh, Merlin, are you hurt? Is it serious? Do you need Gaius? I can…."
Laughing, Merlin said, "Slow down, Gwen. It's just a scratch, not even worth bandaging." She gave him a little relieved smile, and he smiled back. "The clotpoll was fussing, too. Tore his own shirt – that I will have to fix by the way and that's just one more thing to do on top of all my other chores – and wrapped it around my arm. He was acting weird."
Gwen's smile turned curious, glancing up the stairs a moment before turning back to Merlin. "His own shirt? And he tied it around your arm?"
"Yeah." Merlin shook his head, rolling his eyes a little. "Even gave it a little tug and had the most idiotic smile on his face while he was tying it on. Plus the whole way back, he kept patting my arm, and hovering. Hovering! Like I was some kind of maiden he'd just rescued. It was embarrassing."
"Ummm, Merlin, did he say anything else? Call you brave? Although I'm sure I'm mistaken because Arthur's always been a bit hovery with you, making sure that he knows where you are and what you are doing and he's always asking after you and… ummm, yeah. Brave?"
"Gwen, slow down." Merlin had no idea what she was talking about. "Yeah, he did call me brave and he was watching me the whole time he was tying the bandage and smiling like he expected me to say something. Of course, when I didn't, he just started insulting me." Merlin shrugged. "Which is pretty normal."
Standing there, biting her lip as if wanting to say something and not knowing how, her cheeks turning pink, Gwen said, "I could be wrong. After all, bandages are just bandages, right?"
That sounded ominous. But Gwen knew more about the ins and outs of Camelot than anyone else he'd ever met and the gossip, too. And he had to know what she was talking about. "Gwen…."
Blushing harder, Gwen couldn't meet his eyes a moment. Finally she said, "Merlin, it's not a bandage. I think… I think it's a favour."
Merlin was confused again. "What does that mean?"
"A favour is what a knight gives his lady when he wants her to know that he loves her. And it's a way of signifying her love when she accepts it and continues to wear it."
As her eyes flicked down to the bandage – favour – and then back up to look at him again, Merlin had never seen Gwen so pink. Merlin was sure his face was flaming, too. "So Arthur thinks… and I didn't take it off and… oh."
Merlin's heart began to race. If Gwen was right, then Arthur was trying to… and he didn't realize and oh, dear. Merlin thoroughly bollocked everything up. But if Arthur… loved him or at least didn't hate him, then maybe, just maybe he could fix it.
Racing up the stairs, ignoring Gwen's babbling, it felt a lifetime before he shoved the door open, then slamming it and stalking over to Arthur, pointed to the cloth around his arm. "What is this, Arthur?"
At first, startled, and then smiling when he saw Merlin there, Arthur's face turned stony when Merlin demanded an answer. Waiting a long, long moment, sounding bored and put-upon, Arthur said, "A bandage. What else could it be?"
But behind the words, Merlin could hear the hurt, disappointment, even longing. And that was enough for Merlin.
Emboldened, Merlin reached up, curled his hand around the back of Arthur's neck and pulled him close. Arthur didn't even resist, just stood there, waiting. With his own heart beating fast and possibilities whirling in his head, Merlin could feel Arthur breathing hard and heavy, could see his eyes blacken, and as Arthur let his tongue slip out a little and wet his mouth, it was enough.
Merlin was lost.
He dove in, as frantic and hard as he'd ever been, exploring Arthur and matching touch for touch, it was wild and wonderful and impossibly right.
There were insults and brilliance and all too soon, they were both a hot, sticky mess.
"Had I known my tying a bit of linen around your arm would end like this, I'd have tried it a lot sooner." Arthur sounded breathless and satisfied and impossibly smug.
Although the impulse was strong, Merlin knew he shouldn't strangle the arse. He wanted another go around at making Arthur beg for it so he'd obviously have to put off the throttling a bit. "Don't do me any favours, Arthur."
"I already did." And pointing to the bandage, Arthur's smile grew wider, then pulled Merlin down for another kiss.
And Merlin was fine with it. As long as Arthur knew that Merlin was Arthur's as much as Arthur was Merlin's. And that tomorrow, Merlin would start looking for just the right linen to tie Arthur down and drive him back into ecstasy.
After all, favours worked both ways.