Title: For you, for you, for you.
Pairing/s: Can be read in different ways.
Character/s: Arthur, Gwen, Merlin, Gaius, Gwaine, Mordred, Geoffrey, bunch of knights.
Summary: There are twenty-six chairs at the table, not counting the two thrones. None of them belong to Merlin.
Warnings: Angsty before the happy ending.
Word Count: 952
Prompt: #20 Kissing
Author's Notes: Can it be season 5 now?
One by one, the knights will kneel before their King. They will kiss his hand, and his sword will kiss their shoulders in return. Then the Queen will pull the kneeling man to his feet, and lead him to his chair.
Geoffrey calls the first name.
There are twenty-six chairs, not counting the two thrones. Gaius is the only chosen one who is not a knight. He will sit at the table as Court Physician and advisor to the King. After his long, faithful service to Uther and Arthur both, he deserves his place of honour at Arthur’s right hand. The old man kneels with some difficulty, and once the vow has been taken, Arthur and Guinevere both help him to his feet again.
Gaius catches Merlin’s eyes for a moment, but for once Merlin doesn’t know what his mentor is trying to convey: sympathy, pride, worry?
Merlin stands at Arthur’s shoulder. He is hollow and hungry.
Another man kneels, and another man, and another man, and not one of them has done for Arthur and Camelot a tenth of what Merlin has done.
“I thought we had gone through this already,” Gwaine mumbles, cheeky smile in place, when it’s his turn to kneel.
“This time you get to wear the cape,” Arthur mumbles back.
“I think you just want to see us on our knees again,” Gwaine says against Arthur’s knuckles.
Arthur fights a smile as he lowers his sword to touch Gwaine’s shoulders. “I could lop your head off, you know.”
Guinevere masks her laughter with a discreet cough. “Arise, Sir Gwaine.” She pulls him away, but throws a look full of humour back over her shoulder.
Geoffrey calls the next man.
What’s wrong, Emrys? Mordred’s voice whispers in Merlin’s head, as the man himself kneels with humble mien before Arthur. Do you long so for the touch of his hand against your lips? Were you always so eager to kneel?
Merlin’s reply is a silent roar, his head gone dizzy with anger. He is beginning to feel like he would rather kill Mordred than endure those evil eyes on his soul for another moment.
Poor Emrys. Arthur will never love you. If you revealed the truth to him, he would strike you down where you stand. Don’t worry, though. He will be dead soon. Then you can kiss him all you like.
Merlin is so full of chaos that he doesn’t know himself. He is reigning himself in so hard that he doesn’t notice he has lost his surroundings. Doesn’t hear the choked sound that escapes his bloodless lips.
The touch of a hand on his forehead cuts through the red haze. Merlin opens his eyes and blinks sluggishly at Arthur.
“Merlin? Gaius, I think he’s sick!”
Arthur’s hand closes around his own, which is clenched so hard it’s gone numb. Merlin is shaking.
Arthur looks worried, and Merlin takes courage. “The half cannot truly hate ...” he says to himself.
But he will hate you. Because you’ve lied to him. Humiliated him. Because you failed to save Uther.
“Come on, you idiot. You could have told me you were coming down with something.” Arthur drags him towards the chair that Gwaine has pulled out, and towards Gaius, who waits anxiously.
“Arthur.” Merlin leans gratefully against his king. “Arthur, I’m sorry.”
“I hope you are; you’ve managed to completely disrupt the whole ceremony.” But Arthur doesn’t sound angry at all.
Emrys, Mordred sing-songs.
Merlin sits down in the chair, and Gaius bends over him, touching his forehead and pinching his wrist to feel his pulse. Then the old man straightens up to irritably shoo away all the people hovering around them. All the knights, the King and Queen, and even Geoffrey, are all gathered in a circle. Gwen kneels next to Merlin and wipes his forehead with her handkerchief.
Gaius scowls. “Give him some space, all of you. You too, Sire, go on, continue the ceremony.”
Arthur stays, though, until Gaius answers the unspoken question in his eyes.
“Merlin will be fine. He’s overworked himself, that’s all. A bit of rest should see him back to himself again.”
Arthur nods like he never expected anything else.
Gwaine, who also refused to back off more than a couple of steps, clucks his tongue disapprovingly. “No wonder he’s overworked himself; he does the work of three men. I’m not sure you deserve him, Sire.”
Arthur raises an eyebrow. “You think very highly of him, Sir Gwaine. Highly enough to have put him in my chair. Should I be worried?”
Gwaine shrugs, arms crossed over his chest. “Maybe I’m trying to make a statement. I think Merlin should have his own chair.”
Arthur grins down at Merlin. “How does that sound? Want to be a knight of the round table?”
The fog in Merlin’s head lifts a little, along with his heart. Through the crowd, he finds Mordred’s cold eyes, but the chill cannot touch him now.
“I don’t know, Sire,” he says, voice hoarse, but his own. “This chair isn’t very comfortable.”
Arthur laughs. “To bed with you, since Gaius will verify your excuse. I’ll get George to pick up your slack for today, and maybe Gwaine will help out, since he finds me such a cruel master.” He puts an arm around Guinevere’s waist and they walk back to pick up Arthur’s sword where he’s left it. The ceremony goes on, while Gaius supports Merlin out the door.
“Are you alright?” Gaius asks when they are alone, words loaded with all the secrets that the two of them share.
Merlin lets himself think about the answer for a moment. “I will be,” he says finally, and means it.