Summary: In which Arthur reveals which of Merlin's scarves he prefers.
Merlin stands in front of the fire, weary and exhausted hands frozen on his tunic, unable to move. Never before has the mere thought of making the effort to simply undress and get into bed been so utterly exhausting.
Merlin tenses ever so slightly as Arthur embraces him from behind. "Arthur, I'm just exhausted, I can't-"
"I know," Arthur mumbles, pressing a kiss to Merlin's temple, Merlin leaning back into the embrace with a sigh. "It's alright. It's been a difficult day; we both need our rest."
Merlin nodded, sagging against Arthur's chest.
"Then, let's go to bed, yeah?" Arthur smiles, "and, let me..."
Merlin relents, content to allow Arthur to undress him. Arthur gives a reverence to the action that it typically does not possess, taking his time with each item, dropping barely-there kisses to random parts of Merlin's bare body. Even though his eyes have fallen closed, a smile plays on Merlin lips. He remembers a time, not long ago, when he wondered if he could ever attain a true and real joy in his life. Those were dark days, indeed, days where the weight of the world had taken up residence on his shoulders.
It was a revelation when he realized that his joy had been right there in front of him the whole time, even if it was a happiness wrapped in an occasionally arrogant blond and royal package.
It's when the goosebumps begin to manifest on his legs that Merlin becomes aware that he's now naked. When Arthur picks him up and carries him to the bed, depositing him gently onto the bedding, it all feels like something from out of a dream. He notices, then, that Arthur is dressed only in the thin breeches he sleeps in. He looks extremely... cozy to Merlin, as though heaven itself could be found within his embrace; it prompts Merlin to get beneath the covers as Arthur climbs in beside him.
"Although," Arthur says softly, "will you do something for me?"
"You promise to let me go to sleep if I do?"
Arthur nods. "I promise."
"What is it?"
"Sit up a moment," Arthur instructs. He pulls Merlin up and much to Merlin's surprise, his free hand contains the blue scarf that he'd removed just a few moments earlier. Arthur leans close and before he can process what's happening, Merlin realizes that he's wearing the scarf.
And nothing else.
"There," Arthur says, as they both make themselves comfortable again. Arthur links his fingers through Merlin's own, Merlin scooting closer with a yawn.
"Why? he asks, blinking as he struggles to remain awake.
"Because, I love the blue one," Arthur replies, "it brings out the blue in your eyes so perfectly, and..."
Merlin waits for Arthur to finish, but the king is at a loss for words suddenly, his cheeks flushed ever so slightly.
"You were wearing the blue one the first time I ever kissed you," Arthur finishes after a moment.
When Arthur meets the eyes of the man who shares his bed and his heart, he is rewarded with an impossibly gorgeous smile. Merlin is a sight in this moment, from the way his black hair contrasts sharply against the pillow, to the way the scarf hangs from his neck, and the way it looks resting against the sparse smattering of dark hair on his chest. He looks warm, and soft, and so incredibly inviting, that it takes Arthur's breath away. Before he can pull Merlin closer, Merlin is suddenly in his arms, kissing him softly, his hands tangling in Arthur's hair.
"So," Merlin murmurs against Arthur's lips between lazy kisses, "does this mean that I should get rid of the red one?"
"Don't worry, we'll give it a proper burial," Arthur grins as he leads Merlin into another kiss.