Summary: Modern royalty AU. After an assassination attempt against the Prince of Damolot, Arthur Pendragon, he discovers that his cook Merlin has magic. Something he never thought was possible.
Warnings: mentions of violence, very mild angst, secret relationship, bad language?
Word Count: 2k
alx_diamond, I'm afraid this isn't quite what you were expecting, but I tried to incorporate your likes, I hope there's something in this you can enjoy 😊 Happy Holidays! 🎆🎇
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Merlin found Arthur pacing in one of the halls. By the looks of it he was prepping for his grand speech, he reminded Merlin of an athlete before a competition: jumping in place, rolling his shoulders and repeating under his breath the words he'd spent all night writing and rewriting until he was satisfied with them.
He observed him a couple of seconds more with a smile on his face. He cleared his throat attracting the prince's attention. "Were you looking for me?"
Arthur turned on his feet, his fringe falling on his eyes. "Ah, Merlin, yes. How are the preparations coming?" Arthur asked, adopting a mellow inflection that had Merlin grinding his teeth. More often than not following protocol and speaking like a posh twat drove him up the wall
"Well, the food is coming along rather nicely. I dare say this is my best," he answered, "As for the rest I still believe the ball is a terrible idea."
Arthur sighed loudly. He'd heard every single one of Merlin’s objections—Merlin didn't care to hold back—and the celebration was still happening. "Merlin, I thought I'd made my stance clear before," Arthur said coming closer to Merlin, he put his hand on Merlin's shoulder, a casual, friendly gesture.
"But, Arthur—" Arthur's eyes went wide as if he thought someone was listening in. Merlin scowled. He hated having to keep appearances, the nation wasn't ready for them yet. He exercised his patience on a daily basis.
"Your Royal Highness," Merlin said making an exaggerated gesture of obeisance. "I'd be most grateful if you gave me a minute of your time."
"Don't be obnoxious, you know I hate it when you act like that," Arthur complained and dared to pout. He knew full well how Merlin felt about the pout.
"You started it," Merlin returned. He moved just a fraction closer, the tip of his trainers touched the toe of Arthur's awful leather brogues.
"You're not going to behave tonight, are you?"
"I fucking hate making polite conversation. Feels phony."
Arthur made a tsk-tsk sound shaking his head. "Merlin, Merlin. What are we going to do about that mouth of yours?"
"Whatever you see fit, Sire," Merlin answered smirking. Arthur drew in a breath and stepped back. He smoothed his clothes, though they were starched to perfection.
"You don't have to worry. It'll work out. I'm doing this for the safety of our country. Damolot needs allies. I need them if I'm to— become King."
Merlin understood that it was hard for Arthur to think of a future without his father and on top of that having to prove himself to keep the political allies his father had made during his rule as sovereign of Damolot. It still didn't mean Merlin trusted every single person that'd surrounded Arthur since the King's health had begun to deteriorate. Sometimes he thought not even all the magic in the world would be enough to keep him safe from harm.
"I know what you're thinking and I'm not an idiot. You've heard the saying, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," Arthur told him giving him one of his winning smiles. Merlin wanted to be half as confident.
"That's from a movie," Merlin protested, Arthur only shrugged. "I will never understand royalty, it's the twenty first century and you're still a bunch of snooty arseholes with a hunger for power and expensive taste."
Arthur grimaced. "Merlin, I just want to do what's best for my country and my people."
"I know and I believe in you. I'm only asking you don't lower your guard."
"I won't. I promise."
The Royal Palace had received several visitors in the past two weeks. Heads of state, monarchs, an envoy from Amata and distant relatives with dubious claims to the throne. Suddenly, Arthur had more cousins than he could remember. Though Eliabella, Culhwch, Goreu and Gracia had certainly made an impression.
It was hard to keep up with the daily developments. Everyone wanted to know what would happen once Arthur stepped up and took the throne. It was treated as a fact, a reality. Arthur couldn't stop and feel pain for his ailing father. Merlin saw them as vultures, waiting for the right moment to strike.
That night, before the ball, Merlin seized the opportunity and laid a protection spell on Arthur's ring when he was otherwise preoccupied. Too busy pulling Merlin toward his quarters to notice the murmured incantation.
Merlin kept his eyes on Arthur as he engaged in conversation with the guests in the Grand Hall. There was violin music, several tables were adorned and food was being offered. The drinks had started to flow much earlier. Arthur made sure he spoke with everyone who would take it as a personal affront if the prince didn't attend to them. Arthur had been bred to be a gracious host.
He saw Gwen doing rounds with a tray, moving swiftly across the room. Merlin had asked her to keep her eyes and ears open. She had the ability to learn gossip before anyone else. She had a way with people.
Merlin was on edge. His magic felt charged, like an electric current about to burst. He tried to settle it, however it was impossible, causing him to walk around, and run back to the kitchen to check the food to occupy his mind. Then he made sure he knew where every single one of Arthur's cousins were at all times. Gwen reported nothing amiss.
It happened too fast.
Merlin had started to relax when the sound of gunshots echoed in the hall. The music stopped, the chatter ceased, a deathly silence that preceded chaos. Then there was screaming and people running in different directions, pushing and shoving, stomping to the nearest exit. In Merlin's mind there was only Arthur.
He moved without being aware of what he was doing. He went into overdrive only knowing that he had to get to Arthur. Fast.
Merlin found the attacker, he was in the middle of the hall, a gun in his hand aimed toward the main table. He recognized him as one of the men who had arrived from Amata two days ago. Merlin silently stopped the incoming bullets, his magic menacing and effective, shielding the people behind him. "Ic þé wiþdrífe," he intoned, sending the man flying backwards causing him to lose conciousness. A few tables had been upturned, the hall was empty, and the chandeliers were quivering on the ceiling. Crystals slapping one against the other. Merlin was breathing heavily by the end of it, magic coursing through him wild.
In the commotion no one paid him attention. They had run for their lives without a glance back.
But it had been too late, Arthur had seen him. He was staring at Merlin, at the mess around them, his jaw tightened, his hands were fists. The shock and betrayal on his face would be hard to forget.
Arthur wouldn't talk to him. He shut himself in his room claiming he needed to rest after what he'd gone through. The prince was alive and it was all that mattered. Privacy and free time were granted.
Had the circumstances been different Merlin would've joined him in his withdrawal from the world.
When he finally came out, he looked refreshed and as beautiful as ever, and it hurt.
They accidentally ran into each other on the stairs. Morgana had asked for breakfast in bed and Merlin had personally complied. Arthur's face shuttered and he walked away without acknowledging Merlin's existence.
Merlin didn't know how to reach him, how to tell him that his indifference hurt.
Magic or not, Merlin was still the same.
The following week news of the attempt at ending Prince Arthur's life was featured on the papers and local news, it had even made international headlines.
Witnesses had claimed the assailant had suffered from a seizure, before he could reach the prince. Obviously luck had been on his side.
That had become the official press release: Prince Arthur, the Luckiest Man Alive. People were even beginning to claim Arthur had made a deal with supernatural forces to keep his empire. Merlin had laughed until his stomach hurt and he forgot about the pain in the middle of his chest when he thought about Arthur.
It was midnight and the palace was quiet. Except for him. It was the third night in a row where all he did was turn from side to side on his bed.
Giving up on sleep Merlin had gone down to the kitchens to find himself a snack, but had ended up making cobbler. One of Arthur's favoytes.
He was on a stool, waiting for it to come out of the oven when he heard steps behind him. He cocked his head to the side and was surprised to see Arthur. His stomach tightened.
"So this is where you're hiding," he said, almost accusatory as if Merlin had been the one avoid him.
Merlin swiveled on his seat to face Arthur. "I thought you said this was my domain. Unless you said that in the heat of the moment and you've come to tell me I'm being banished from the palace, as you already have from your life."
Arthur inhaled sharply, his body stiffened. "Merlin, I don't—I have no idea what happened, I can’t begin to understand. I didn't even knew magic was real, I thought it was fantasy, something out of children's books. And you, you kept this from me. This huge part of yourself."
"I thought you'd be angry," Merlin said looking down at his lap. "I thought you wouldn't understand. That you'd fear me."
Arthur strode over coming to a stop beside him, close, but not close enough. The last time they'd bothered to keep their distance was when they'd met.
"I am angry. So angry you have no idea," Arthur said, his mouth was set in a hard line, Merlin flinched. "But I'm not angry because of what you think. You're right I don't understand the first thing about magic, but you never gave me the chance to. In the midst of everything, of almost being killed and my confusion about what I'd seen, I realized that what hurt the most was you hiding who you are from me and feeling like you've deceived me. I always thought we were supposed to be honest with each other."
Merlin felt a knife twisting itself in his chest. He never meant for things to end like this: with both of the full of regret and hurting. "Arthur, my people have been prosecuted for centuries. The magic population was decimated to a few hundreds across the globe. We're rare. Since I was a kid I was taught to keep my magic hidden and never trust anyone."
"Not even me?" Arthur scoffed.
"I never knew how to tell you, my chances were few and saying, 'hello, I'm magic' isn't as easy as it sounds," he said, "Arthur, I promise that since we met I've only used my magic for you." Merlin took a chance and slipped his hand in Arthur's. He didn't pull away, easing a bit the knot on Merlin's chest.
"Show me," Arthur muttered suddenly, Merlin had to lean in to make sure he had said something. "Show me your magic. Please."
Merlin swallowed, that was it. The first time he would use his magic in front of someome else, the first time he'd trust Arthur with this part of himself. He made two cups, two plates and cutlery arrange themselves in front of them. "Table's ready."
"Your eyes," Arthur said sounding breathless.
Merlin touched the spot below his eyes. "Right. They change colour."
"I'm so fucking mad at you and I'll probably be for weeks. I will need time to process this," Arthur said, his eyes narrowing.
"That's alright, I am too. Don't think it feels nice to be avoided." Arthur had the decency to look remorseful. Merlin squeezed his hand. "I guess I need to learn to trust,” Merlin said, already knowing eventually they'd get the hang of things.
Arthur assented, he looked thoughtful. "You know, I'm still amazed by how you stopped that man. It was brilliant—brilliant and dangerous. I can't believe it was my cook the one who saved my life. I knew there was a reason why I keep you around."
Merlin laughed, he felt lighter.“If you have any questions I can give you answers.”
Arthur shook his head leaning forward to press a kiss to the corner of Merlin’s mouth. "Tomorrow. Tell me more tomorrow."