Title: I'm Sorry
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur wants to do better.
Word Count: 690
Prompt: #287 "campfire" + thankful month
Author's Notes: Diamond of the Day reimagining (not exactly a fix it, but definitely a close cousin). More wearing hearts on sleeves in this reimagining than there was in this scene originally.
Could be read as pre-slash.
Merlin scrapes two stones together above the tinder. The sparks fly but don't catch.
"Why don't you use magic?" Arthur asks.
"Habit, I suppose," Merlin replies.
Merlin looks over his shoulder at Arthur.
Arthur nods. His expression tells Merlin to go on, light it with magic.
Merlin looks at the fire. His eyes hold a bright swirl of gold for the length of a heartbeat.
A small fire leaps to life.
"Feels strange," Merlin says.
"Do that again," Arthur demands.
Merlin is startled by Arthur's sudden change in tone. Arthur's demand sounds urgent, but it seems very unlikely to Merlin that Arthur would be interested in having more magic done near him. Then again, it's not like Arthur can lift a sword to chop off Merlin's head right now.... Can he? "What?" Merlin asks.
"Come here, and do that again. I want to see your eyes up close."
Merlin gets up and takes the few steps over to Arthur's side.
"Well sit down," Arthur says.
Merlin sits, but he still waits for Arthur to say something more before he does any magic.
"Are you waiting for another invitation, Merlin? I already said–"
"I know what you said," Merlin interrupts. He stares down hard at his crossed feet as he says, "But I also know how you feel about magic, and I'm not sure why you would have told me to get out of your sight yesterday only to tell me to come closer today."
Arthur looks at the side of Merlin's downturned face in silence.
Merlin's curiosity gets the better of him, and he looks at Arthur out of the corner of his eye.
"I thought I knew you," Arthur says, "but I didn't know about this."
"I'm still the same person," Merlin says quietly. His eyes plead with Arthur to understand that he isn't a threat.
"No, you're not the same person," Arthur states matter-of-factly.
Merlin's face falls, and he can feel the tingling behind his eyes that warns of tears returning.
"I trusted you as my servant, but that is not all of you," Arthur continues. "You've lied to me all this time. Now more than ever I need you to trust me with what you've kept hidden."
"I'm sorry," Merlin says, and in his heart he feels all of his regret and guilt about his decisions over the years to work from the shadows and direct Arthur's attention elsewhere when they could have shared in the knowledge that Merlin was Arthur's magical knight the whole time.
"I'm sorry, too," Arthur replies. "I'm sorry for making you feel too unsafe to put your trust in me all these years. But you've told me, now. I want to train my reflexes to react to every part of you as a reflection of how I feel about you and not as a reflection of what I was taught to believe about magic."
Merlin's eyebrows come together. "You mean... you don't resent me for lying to you?"
The corners of Arthur's mouth turn up as he says, "If I live through this, you'll be cleaning out the stables every day for the next two months – without magic – for lying to your king, but right now I want to know you as I haven't been able to before."
Merlin's eyes meet Arthur's to convey a heartfelt, silent thank you. "What can I do for you?" Merlin asks.
Arthur looks to his feet. "They need drying," he says.
Merlin smiles. He moves to kneel down by Arthur's feet so he can face Arthur's eyes and the boots at the same time. With a flare of gold in his eyes, Merlin pulls off Arthur's right boot. The left one slides off with another flare of gold. With his hand outstretched and his eyes changed to gold again, Merlin hovers the boots over to the side of the fire. They plop down haphazardly, and Merlin straightens them out by hand.
"Well, at least I can be sure that your clumsiness wasn't a lie," Arthur says with a smile.
Merlin grins back at him. "That's just part of my charm."