Pairing/s: Merlin x Arthur (or gen, depending)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin reveals his true self to Arthur.
Word Count: 880
Author's Notes: canon!AU, what-if. This is my first Merlin fic ever, and... I know the prompt is subtle, but it is there. Enjoy!
It's out of the question, Gaius had said.
The longer I wait, the worse it'll be, Merlin had insisted.
There was no talk of 'the talk' after this. But Merlin simply couldn't bring himself to hide any longer. Not from Arthur.
"You're acting weird."
Arthur broke both Merlin's train of thought and the silence in the room. "Don't just stand there. I'm hungry. You won't get lost," he chided playfully from the comfort of his bed, "I'm right here."
The prince's belittling of Merlin's cognitive abilities and overall worthiness as a human being were a mere shadow of what they once were. Instead, they now carried a certain warmth that the Prince only allowed himself to show to those he trusted, and 'those' amounted to a grand total of one of the kingdom's inhabitants.
Merlin, still standing by the door, felt a pit at the bottom of his stomach. The tray felt heavy and slippery in his hands, but it shouldn't. Really, he'd done this so many times now. It was a ritual - a game. An addiction.
"I thought we might try something new today," Merlin announced, wishing there was even one person in the entire world who could share the double-entendre.
"We? What makes you think I want your company," Arthur retorted with a chuckle.
Nothing escaped Merlin, and if the smile in the Prince's voice, or the crinkles around his eyes weren't evidence enough that he meant the opposite, one only needed to look around the room; the opened curtains, the wooden chair by his bedside, the extra goblet on his nightstand...
Then again, Merlin might be seeing things. And every time he played the game, he found it increasingly harder to shut the little voice that whispered to his ear: wishful thinking...
But this time, things might be different. Merlin walked to the bed with newfound confidence.
He placed the tray on the bedstand, sat on the edge of the wobbly chair nearby (he had yet to find a way to try and fix it without magic) and waited.
Arthur contemplated the contents of the plate. Well the one content; his so-called breakfast seemingly consisted of only one tiny seed, nothing more, nothing less. He blinked, and for a split second Merlin was tempted to listen to reason for once and call the ordeal a joke-
"This is a joke, right?"
Merlin deadpanned. "No."
Yet Arthur cracked a smile. "Ah, that's a good one. Payback's a wench, isn't she? It's for having put bread in your wine, at the banquet."
Merlin kept silent.
"It's... for having hidden your trousers before the banquet?" Arthur ventured, determined to amuse himself.
There's very little you can hide from me.
"Oh." Arthur clasped his hands in realization. "It's for having called you a-"
"There's something I need to show you."
This wasn't something that could be expressed with words. Merlin had learned that much. It was bound to lead to a long, gauche, painful, heated argument, and that wasn't the outcome he was aiming for.
He could tell Arthur had come up with, and dropped a tasteful retort, for he sat up and knit his brows in confusion. "Why are you being so serious?" He asked in a low voice. "It's not like you."
Merlin returned Arthur's hard gaze, took a deep breath, telling himself that this time things might be different.
His rational side knew very well the inner voice was lying, but he couldn't help but give in. What if really, this time...?
He lifted a trembling hand above the plate.
"What are you doing?"
Of course, Merlin could perform this trick with his arms tied behind his back, but he absolutely needed something to detract Arthur's gaze from the unnatural brightness in his eyes. The little seed began to shake and trash around in the earthenware plate, and Merlin spoke, again for Arthur's benefit:
The seed stilled, and there was silence. Then as Arthur's brows furrowed further, Merlin knew the seed was swelling; then Arthur's eyes widened, and both the sprouting seed and the prince were watched with rapt attention.
From the corner of his eyes Merlin could see a thin stalk stretching out, young leaves unfolding and immediately turning to the sunlight in his irises that itched as thickening roots encroached themselves in the plate. But the real transformation was taking place on Arthur's features, who after years of companionship really shouldn't be this hard to read to Merlin.
His gaze was blank; his body, immobile save for the ever intensifying creases on his forehead. Merlin recognized confusion when he saw it; he withdrew his hovering hand and braced himself for Arthur's reaction.
The prince had an unreadable look on his face.
Soon his eyes began dancing around the room erratically. He flinched when Merlin made a move to reach out for him, like the manservant's hands were on fire.
The prince finally returned his gaze.
And in it, Merlin saw fear.
"No..." he deplored, softly, feeling the sting in his irises rise again, hating that he never came up with more soothing words, hating that he always gave up and ended up saying, for Arthur's benefit: