Title: More Than I Should [Part 3]
Rating: Teen and Up
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin finds it hard to ignore the feelings he might have for Arthur with him being so close and Merlin's brain more rattled than usual.
Warnings: talking about feelings, Merlin's waging war inside his head, Arthur's a bit oblivious
Word Count: 1,200
Prompt: #298: Cure
Author's Notes: Might be a stretch for the prompt but, then again, maybe not
Part 1 / Part 2 / AO3
They’ve seen each other in much less, Merlin knows this—a certain unforgettable trip to Paris comes to mind first. But after his realization earlier in the day, it feels different now. More indecent, more…improper. Merlin has never been one to care about propriety and decorum but right now, he’s acutely aware of it.
He pulls the comforter up around his shoulders in a vain attempt to salvage his modesty. “What are you doing here?”
“Thought I’d keep you company during your forced insomnia.” Arthur walks further into the room, footsteps muffled by the carpet, the dim moonlight streaming in through Merlin’s window throwing his features into sharp relief. He takes in Merlin’s state of undress and the comforter and smirks. “By the looks of it, you need it.”
Arthur’s dressed in a simple dark red t-shirt and grey sweats, a rare sight for the prince. Merlin is one of the few who ever gets a glimpse of him like this, casual, relaxed. Himself. It’s his favorite side of Arthur. The real Arthur.
Merlin groans as he flops back on the bed and curls up. “I just want to sleep.”
“And you can.” Arthur says. The bed shifts and dips and then there’s a warm brush of skin against Merlin’s back as Arthur lays down beside him before it withdraws. Merlin stifles a shiver at the proximity. “In an hour and a half.”
“What are you, my babysitter?” Merlin mumbles into the pillow.
There’s a smirk in Arthur’s voice as he says, “No, that’s your job.”
“Piss off, I’m on leave.”
There’s a pause, silence falling between them. Arthur’s steady even breaths fill the room. An owl hoots outside, muffled through the thick glass. Merlin remains curled on his side, his back to Arthur, so close yet so far. He allows himself a brief moment of longing, wishing for Arthur to move closer, for his arms to wrap around him and lull him into the warmth of sleep. Then he pushes the thought away.
“For how long this time?” Arthur finally asks, his voice softer, trying for an air of nonchalance. He misses the mark spectacularly, sounding more concerned than anything.
Merlin sighs, sinking further into the mattress and a step closer to unconsciousness. “Just a week. Gaius wants to make sure there is no lasting damage.”
“Too late for that,” Arthur teases. “You’re already mental.”
“Have to be to look after your sorry ass.”
The bed shifts again under Arthur’s weight as he moves, his arm just brushing against Merlin’s back. The spot becomes a warm beacon, a shining light in the sea of growing black. “I’m a delight,” he counters and Merlin can imagine him straightening up, that high and mighty look on his face that screams prat.
“Yes and so is liverwurst,” Merlin murmurs. His thoughts are scattering, the waking world fading, leaving behind nothing but that warm line on his back that is Arthur.
“Some people think so.”
“Yeah, some people.” His words are a mumbled mess as sleep envelopes him.
That spot on his back turns into a warm hand on his shoulder, shaking him into wakefulness. His eyelids feel heavy as he peels them back.
“Hey, no you don’t. No falling asleep.” If Merlin didn’t know any better he would say there was a touch of fear in Arthur’s tone. But he brushes it away as his muddled brain playing tricks on him and resolutely closes his eyes again with a groan.
“Seriously, Arthur, I’m fine.” He waves Arthur’s hand away as though he’s annoyed but really all he wants is to grab on and pull him closer.
Maybe he hit his head harder than he thought.
A little over two years he’s been under Arthur’s employment. Two years shadowing Arthur as he parades around the country, going to this event and that ball, talking with celebrities and dignitaries, signing papers and kissing babies. The works. They had grown closer over the years, very close. Merlin had ignored the signs and denied his evolving feelings, telling himself it was nothing more than the job and their friendship playing tricks on him.
He really couldn’t dismiss it anymore.
Arthur answers, sounding exasperated and concerned and completely unaware of war raging inside Merlin. “You hit your head so hard you threw up and could barely walk. I wouldn’t count that as fine.”
Merlin sighs, pulling the comforter tighter around his body and snuggling in. “Nothing a bit of sleep can’t cure.”
“Not yet, it won’t.” Arthur’s hand is back, giving Merlin a quick shake to wake him up further. It works, unfortunately but Merlin is nothing if not stubborn. He refuses to open his eyes.
God, he just wants to sleep. Maybe everything will be right in the morning and this will all have been some bad—wonderful?—dream and Merlin can go back to studiously ignoring he has feelings for his charge and Arthur can go back to being the prince of prats.
“You worried about me?” Merlin teases, fishing for banter.
There’s another pause, silence settling over the room for a moment. Merlin nearly turns over to see if perhaps it’s Arthur who has fallen asleep but the silence is broken not a second later.
“Yes.” The word is a whisper, barely audible even in the quiet room. But Merlin hears the admission in Arthur’s tone, the underlying message and before he can stop himself, he turns his head to look over his shoulder at Arthur.
Arthur’s lying on his back, hands clasped over his stomach, hair sticking up in a blonde fan where he lies against the pillow. White soft moonlight is playing off the golden tufts, giving his head a glowing halo and twinkling off his blue eyes. The sight doesn’t help Merlin in the trying-to-ignore-you-might-be-a-bit-in-l
Yes, definitely hit his head too hard.
“I’m always worried about you,” Arthur says, eyes fixed on the ceiling above. “I don’t mean to be and I know it’s your job but—,” he sighs, his features softening, bare and open. “I can’t help it.”
Merlin speaks before he can fully comprehend what he’s about to say. “I worry about you too.”
He’s absolutely certain now that he has brain damage.
Admitting his feelings, breaking down that carefully constructed wall of ignorant friendship between him and Arthur, that’s something that can’t be rebuilt. He’s fully aware that Arthur has a taste for men, he’s one of if not the only person Arthur has told so far. And to put Arthur at ease, Merlin had come out as bisexual to him. But none of that means that Arthur feels anything but friendship toward him. Admitting his feelings now could very well ruin their friendship and Merlin’s career. No matter how Arthur might respond. It would add strain and weight to Merlin’s job and could jeopardize Arthur’s life.
But if Arthur is admitting his own feelings, Merlin knows he can’t lie to him. He won’t. He couldn’t live with himself if he did. He couldn’t remain by Arthur’s side, as his friend.
Arthur chuckles with a shake of his head. “It’s not the same.”
The message is clear enough. Merlin turns his body to fully face Arthur.
“Are you sure?”