Title: Shove Over!
Summary: Arthur's giving him amazing gifts, but he keeps avoiding Merlin, and won't answer Merlin's questions about a promotion.
Word Count: 1200
Prompt: Drabble #264 "Promotion"
Author's Notes: Sorry for running over on word count!
“Arthur,” Merlin called across the prince’s chambers, “What’s this?” He picked up the small parcel on the table; his name was scrawled across the top.
“Open it. It’s for you.”
Merlin unwrapped the parcel and found within a beautiful pair of warm gloves—fit for nobility. He turned to thank Arthur, but Arthur would not meet his eyes. “Thank you Arthur. They are wonderful.”
“Yes, well. Good,” said Arthur, rushing from the room.
Merlin approached the kitchens humming happily. The kitchens were buzzing with excitement. George was just leaving the kitchen with a platter of fruit, but stopped to talk to Merlin. “Merlin! Have you heard? Promotion Day is coming up!”
“Arthur, what is Promotion Day?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. Don’t…um…don’t worry about it.”
“Well, what is it?”
Arthur sighed. “Every so often the king declares a day for all promotions to be made. On that day any servant who has earned the right is eligible to be moved to the next higher position. It keeps things orderly, since we don’t have to move people around at all different times of year.”
Merlin looked at Arthur expectantly, grinning just a little bit.
Again, Arthur wouldn’t meet his gaze.
“Um, so,” said Merlin, picking at a loose thread on his sleeve, “has my work been satisfactory? You’ve seemed happy with me lately. Do you think…”
“Damn. Gotta go, Merlin. I’m late for an audience. Oh, and I’m having dinner in the hall tonight,” Arthur called as the door slammed behind him.
Later that night, when Merlin returned to Arthur’s chambers to ready him for bed, he found Arthur already asleep---sprawled across his bed, with his head tucked under his pillow. Concerned, he shook Arthur slightly and whispered, “Are you alright?”
Arthur grumbled, and mumbled, “I’m fine…I was sleeping. Go away.”
Merlin turned to leave and noticed another, parcel on the table. This one was bigger than the last. Again, his name was scrawled across the top. He picked up the parcel and took it down to his room. He sat on his bed, lost in thought. Arthur was behaving very strangely. Merlin strongly suspected that he had been feigning sleep. And he could not help but notice that Arthur had avoided answering his questions. He shook his head as if that would help clear his mind, and began to open the parcel. He gasped as he pulled out a gorgeous pair of new boots which were warm enough for the coldest weather, and fine enough for the richest noble. Merlin curled up under his covers, with the new boots snuggled closely against his chest. I will never, ever understand him, he thought to himself, as he fell asleep.
And so it continued for the next three days. Arthur avoided time alone with Merlin, avoided eye contact, and changed the subject when Merlin tried to question him about the promotion. And every day, there was another wonderful gift for Merlin. The gloves and boots were followed by an equally warm and gorgeous cloak, two beautiful embroidered tunics with complementary hose and britches, and finally, a new set of neckerchiefs in an array of rich colors and fabrics. Each day Merlin thanked Arthur, and Arthur curtly acknowledged the thanks and ran from the room.
Each night there was another gift.
Finally, on the night before the Promotion Ceremony, Merlin shook Arthur out of his false slumber. “Arthur, I know you are faking. We have to talk. Really.”
Arthur began to make a big show of having been awoken, but with one look at Merlin’s face, he gave it up. He sat up against his headboard, and Merlin sat on the edge of the bed.“What’s going on?” asked Merlin. “You seem happy with me. You’ve given me all of these amazing gifts for no reason, but you won’t answer me when I ask if you think I’m worthy of promotion.”
Arthur groaned, guilt apparent on his face. “Merlin. I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry. I didn’t…I couldn’t…I didn’t give them your name for promotion.”
Merlin’s mouth fell open, and he froze, shocked. Then he turned away and rose, standing with his back to Arthur to hide the wave of shame that threatened to pull him under. But quickly, outrage replaced the shame and he turned again to stare Arthur down. “What the hell, Arthur?”
Arthur scampered out of the bed and grabbed Merlin’s hands, pulling him back to sit by his side. “Please, give me a chance to explain. Please listen. Just listen. If you still want me to put your name in I’ll plead with my father to allow me to make last minute arrangements for you.”
Merlin watched Arthur warily. “Go on then.”
Arthur drew in a deep breath and gathered his courage. “If you get promoted, you won’t be my manservant anymore. I will have a new manservant who is here every morning and every night, who serves me my meals and putters around my room while I’m working. He’ll attend me at council, at banquets, on hunts."
Merlin’s eyes grew wide and his lips parted in understanding as he listened to Arthur continue, “And I would miss you. I would miss you picking breakfast off my plate, stealing my sausages, drinking my wine. I don’t want anyone else readying me for bed, and I cannot bear the thought of anyone else waking me in the morning.”
Merlin inched closer to Arthur until they were pressed together. He took Arthur’s hand in his own. “And the gifts?” he asked quietly, holding tight to Arthur’s hand.
Angling towards Merlin, Arthur placed his free hand on Merlin’s cheek, “I wanted...no...I needed to show you that I know you deserve so much more. You deserve a promotion, Merlin. Of course you do. And if you still want it I will try my best to make it happen. But I hope with all my heart that you will stay by my side. Officially, you would still be my manservant. Your rank would be the same, but I promise to privately pay you more, so you can help your mother more, have some nicer things for yourself--and I’ll give you more time off, and find every way I can to show you how special you are to me. I just want you by my side. All the time.”
Merlin leaned into Arthur’s palm against his cheek. He turned his head and placed a kiss there, then turned back to gaze at Arthur—who was no longer avoiding his gaze. “Are you sure, Arthur? You want me by your side all the time?”
“All the time, Merlin. I’m sure.”
“Then shove over,” encouraged Merlin, bumping Arthur’s hip with his own, and pushing him back into his pillows, “we can pretend to be asleep—or something—together. You should have known that I would never have wanted a promotion if it took me from your side. There is no other place I ever want to be.”
“Merlin, are you asleep?” Arthur whispered into Merlin’s shoulder. “I love you—so much. Thank you for choosing to stay with me.”
“Mmmfph,” answered Merlin, rolling over and kissing Arthur soundly before snuggling back into his side and falling back to sleep.