Title: Winter dance
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: As he finished taking notes about the decree, Arthur realized his manservant had been silent for a long time and that was quite out of habit for him.
Word Count: 2001
Prompt: 57. Dance
Author's Notes: Ok... I got carried away a little with this one! ;) Thanks to derenai for the beta!
Camelot was covered by a thick blanket of snow. The streets were nearly empty as the cold had forced the inhabitants to take refuge in their houses, clustered around a raging fire. In the castle, the halls were deserted as all the nobles spent most of the time in their rooms, only going out for the most important meetings.
In the Prince's rooms, a huge fire was burning in the hearth. Furs had been laid on the bed and the windows had been closed by wooden shutters.
The Prince sat at his table, working on a new decree his father had asked him to amend. On the other side of the room, Merlin was absentmindedly stirring the fire with a poker.
As he finished taking notes about the decree, Arthur realized his manservant had been silent for a long time and that was quite out of habit for him.
Since his arrival in Camelot and his appointment as Arthur's manservant nearly a year earlier, it was like he hadn't really stopped talking.
"Merlin? What's the matter?"
Merlin snapped out of his reverie and turned towards his Prince.
"Merlin… I'm not an idiot!"
"That's still to be proven," Merlin murmured.
"I've heard you!"
Arthur stood up and came next to his manservant. Under their constant bickering, he was starting to like him. Merlin was different from all the other people. He was not treating Arthur like a Prince. And if that had been quite unnerving at the start, it was now more like soothing. For the first time in his life, someone was treating Arthur like a normal person. And he found that he needed that.
"Merlin… You didn't say anything in the past half hour… What's worrying you?" The Prince asked in the soft tone he realized he used only with Merlin and the small children.
"Nothing is worrying me… It's just that in two days, it's Yule…"
"You don't like Yule?"
Arthur was surprised. Didn't everybody like this celebration?
"I do! But… I was remembering the celebrations we do in Ealdor."
"Oh…" The prince didn't know how to answer that. It had never really occurred to him that Merlin could miss in life back in Ealdor. But now that seemed logical. Everything had to be very different for him in Camelot. And he hadn't seen his mother and his friends for a year.
Arthur put his hand on Merlin's shoulder.
"About the celebrations in Ealdor…What are you doing?"
Merlin blinked, incredulous. But then Arthur sat on the bear rug on the floor, dragging Merlin with him. The young man had to be completely lost. The Prince wasn't supposed to sit on the floor, in front of a fire, listening to his manservant's childhood stories. But Arthur didn't care about what was normal or not for him to do. He wanted Merlin to smile and to be happy.
"We… We decorate the whole village… With holly and evergreens. And for the Yule night, we add hundredth of candles! We put them everywhere! It's so beautiful! "
A soft smile appeared on Arthur's lips as Merlin relaxed and talked more animatedly.
"Oh and all the villager gather in the Elder's house. It's not that big but there is always a long table, full of food! Every one cooks something… There are so many sorts of breads! And fruits! And all these pies! You would love Enora's plum pie! It's so delicious! And the meat loaf of the blacksmith's daughter!"
"Merlin… I'm starting to get hungry, you know!"
They laughed and Merlin went on.
"So we eat all together. It goes on for hours, you know, to finish everything. And then, we clear all the room and some of the villagers play some music and we dance."
Arthur couldn't help but laugh at the simple idea of Merlin dancing. He was not able to walk without stumbling, let alone dance!
"Not really… I… Just once."
Merlin's tone had become more serious, nostalgic even, stopping Arthur's laughter.
"With my Mum…. Every year since I'm able to walk. It's always the same song… She loves to dance. And for this once, she comes to me and… "
A little sob interrupted Merlin's sentence. Arthur felt his heart clench in his chest. Merlin was clearly missing his Mum… But he soon went on.
"It's not sad, you know… It's just that I was thinking about all these memories… They are happy memories… But…"
"I wish I could have memories like that," Arthur confessed.
Merlin looked at him.
"Oh… I… I'm sorry. I haven't thought about your Mum…"
"No… It's okay. And I liked listening to you."
Arthur forced a smile to reassure his manservant.
"Yeah… And… I know it will not be the same but… Would you like to visit your mother when the weather will be more clement?"
Merlin's face lit up instantly and he moved slightly as if had wanted to hug Arthur but had decided against it at the last moment.
"Are you really asking me?"
"So, I take that as a yes?"
Merlin nodded vigorously. Arthur smiled and ruffled his hair before standing up.
"Go fetch my dinner Merlin… And you'll be dismissed for the night. I'll take a bath in the morning."
Merlin went out of the room and Arthur sat back at his table.
He was glad he had managed to make Merlin happy. But he wanted to do more for him…
Two days later, Arthur was pacing in his room, waiting for Merlin. He was stressed. He had managed to find a way to please his manservant but he couldn't help to worry about it. Would Merlin accept his invitation? And would he like what Arthur had ordered to be set for tonight's feast?
His thoughts were cut short by the entrance of Merlin… Without any knock on the door, of course.
"Merlin! Here you are! I thought I asked you to be there as soon as you had finished with Gaius!"
"Sorry… But I met Gwen in the hall and she was carrying a lot of clothes for Morgana so I offered to help her."
Arthur couldn't find anything to oppose to that.
"It's ok… So… For tonight's feast, I had some clothes made for you."
Arthur saw Merlin tense and reassured him immediately.
"No hat involved!"
His manservant relaxed immediately and came closer to the bed to look at the garments. On the cover, laid a pair of woolen dark blue breeches, a dark blue tunic and a lighter blue velvet vest, embroidered on the cuffs, the golden threads drawing vines and leaves patterns. It was simply beautiful. Far too beautiful for a manservant.
"Arthur… I… I can't wear this!"
"You don't like it?" The Prince asked, disappointment visible on his face.
"No! It's really beautiful but… It's too much! I'm just a servant, I can't wear such luxurious clothes!"
"Merlin… You are not just a servant. You’re the Prince manservant! And this is a gift…"
"And I would really like it if you accepted to wear theses clothes tonight."
The last argument seemed to reach his target as Merlin looked back at the garments. His let his hand wander on the velvet of the jacket.
"I… I'll wear it."
"Great! Oh, and I've ordered some servant to get a bath ready for you, too. So I was thinking we could get ready now… And go see how the last preparations are going…"
"As you wish…"
Arthur smiled to Merlin and called for the servants to get their bathes ready.
Half an hour later, Merlin came back in Arthur's room, wearing his new clothes. And Arthur had to gather all his self-control not to drool at the sight. Merlin was stunning. As the Prince had prevised, the colour of his outfit brought out his eyes. And he had a new presence. He wasn't like a servant, he could perfectly pass for a nobleman. He was beautiful.
"It's ridiculous… I look ridiculous," Merlin mumbled, looking at his feet.
Arthur came closer and lifted Merlin's chin.
"You look great. Really."
"You're making fun of me, I know it!" Merlin nearly pouted.
Arthur looked at him intensely.
"No, I'm not."
Merlin didn't object but looked back at the floor, blushing furiously.
"So? Are we going to see the Great Hall?"
When Merlin entered the Hall, it was strangely empty of any servants. But he was distracted by the setting. The walls had been covered in evergreens and hundredth of candles were lit everywhere in the room. It was splendid.
Arthur looked at Merlin expectantly. He saw his eyes glowing when he spotted the décor. And how his mouth opened slightly as he spotted the big table along the wall with the still empty plates, waiting to be filled with food.
"It's like… Arthur, it's like in Ealdor!" Merlin exclaimed, turning to face his Prince. "It's wonderful!"
"So, you like it?" the Prince asked, still unsure.
"Of course! Thank you!! Thank you so much!"
And this time, Merlin didn't prevent himself from hugging Arthur. Arthur who gladly returned to gesture. He encircled Merlin's waist with his arms and draw him closer.
But soon, he ended their embrace not trusting his self-control anymore. Having Merlin in his arms was so pleasurable… Very unsettling, too. And there was still a last surprise for his manservant.
"Merlin… I have something else for you."
Merlin looked at him, pleased but also curious.
"Wait here for a minute, will you?"
Merlin nodded and Arthur went out of the Hall. When he came back a few minutes later, he was followed by some of the Court musicians who set up in a corner of the room. Arthur stood next to Merlin and slowly took his hands in his.
"Merlin… What was the song you used to dance to with you Mum?"
Merlin's eyes opened wide but he answered.
"Of a Rose Sing We."
Arthur didn't know this song but one of the musicians nodded and they started playing.
The Prince drew Merlin in the center of the room and put his hands on his waist.
"Shall we dance?"
Merlin blushed but he put his hands around Arthur's neck.
They danced slowly, a little stiff at first but they relaxed more and more as the song went on.
And when it ended, Merlin was leaning against Arthur's chest as the Prince held him tightly.
"I knew you would never accept to dance with me tonight, during the feast with everybody around so…"
Merlin looked at Arthur, his smile was brighter than ever, his eyes reflecting the flicker of all the candles around them.
"It was perfect. Thank you."
And Merlin kissed Arthur just at the corner of his lips.
"If you're happy, I've reached my goal."
Ten years later.
Arthur went to the Great Hall to check on the last preparations for the Yule feast.
Merlin was there, in the middle of the room, murmuring strange words, his eyes glowing gold as evergreens and vines were growing on the wall.
Arthur looked around him admiringly as little glowing balls were starting to float around.
Silently he went to Merlin and took him in his arms.
Merlin giggled and Arthur kissed his neck, his arms circling him.
"So? Will you finally dance with me tonight? " the King asked.
"I suppose I have no choice… It would be quite a scandal if the Consort turned down the King's invite?"
"So you're only doing this for the protocol?"
"No… I love to dance with you. But our little private moment was fine for me."
Merlin turned in Arthur's arms to face him.
"I was just happy to have you for myself."
"Mmm… Perhaps we can dance together in the privacy of my room later…"
"Are you suggesting a more horizontal kind of dance?"
"Or we can do it against the wall!" Arthur answered before kissing his husband.
Merlin kissed back.