Title:Just One Flaw
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur is worried about Uther's plans for the Prince to enter into an arranged marriage.
Word Count: 741
Prompt: #65 Flaws
Author's Notes: Thanks to inspired_being for beta'ing my stories.
"You're very tense today," Merlin observes as he massages Arthur's stiff neck and shoulders while he soaks in the tub. "Hard day of training?"
"Nothing out of the ordinary in training today." Arthur closes his eyes as Merlin's knuckles dig deeper.
"Ah, then it must have been the meeting with your father this afternoon."
"You heard about that?" Arthur turns his head and peers at Merlin with narrowed eyes.
"With the windows open to let the breeze in, the entire castle heard most of the shouting, I’d gather. And those who didn't would have heard it from the castle gossips right afterwards."
"Father knows how I feel about arranged marriages, but pays no attention. He's angling to find the best dowry to add to Camelot's power and wealth, regardless of my wishes. So I am to be paraded about next week as a prize to the richest lord or kingdom who will serve as the best allies."
"Calm down and try to relax," Merlin urges as Arthur becomes more agitated. "I would have thought the young ladies would be competing as the prize for you to pick."
"No Merlin, that's not how this is done. On the surface, I'm to choose a bride, but it is really my father's choice."
"Surely you have some say in the matter?"
"Very little, according to my father. His marriage to my mother was arranged and they ended up loving each other dearly, so he sees no issue with arranging a marriage for me. I can't imagine marrying someone I don't love."
"And is there a special someone you love who you want to marry?" Merlin asks wistfully, his heart aching.
"Merlin, there's no point in talking about it. I've told you before, it won't work out."
"And I still don't understand, since you won't tell me who it is." Merlin tries to suppress his jealousy and fails. Just who is Arthur's secret forbidden love?
Arthur swats the water, dousing Merlin with the splash as he petulantly states, "I'm not saying anything more."
The days pass by quickly and Arthur is still at odds with his father over the arranged marriage. The castle is bustling as visitors descend upon it. Merlin has been busy helping prepare the guest chambers so he hasn't seen Arthur much to gauge his temperament. Finally, the afternoon before the first night of banqueting, he attends Arthur to assist with his bath and dressing for dinner. He finds Arthur in a sour mood.
"So nothing has changed your father's mind?"
"Nothing. I'm at a loss as to what further I can do. He's been in conference with Lord Edward since this morning."
"And I understand you've been with his daughter, Lady Katherine all day. Hunting with falcons?" Merlin removes Arthur's vest and unbuckles his belt. He lifts the tunic over Arthur's head.
"Yes," Arthur sighs heavily. "She's a lovely young woman: beautiful, smart and witty. A good horsewoman and she enjoyed the hunt. Perfect, really, except for one flaw."
Merlin has the bath ready and Arthur ducks behind the screen to finish undressing and don a towel. "She sounds ideal for you. What's the flaw?"
Arthur comes out from behind the screen, with an earnest, hopeful expression. "She's not you. You are the one I love."
"Wha-what do you mean, Arthur?" Merlin is stunned. Arthur can't mean what he's saying, as much as Merlin's heart is leaping at the words.
"Exactly what I said, Merlin. I love you--your kindness, your faith in me, even your idiotic clumsy ways."
Merlin is starting to believe. "You love me? You really do?"
"Yes, I do." There is a brief pause while they stare at each other. Arthur clears his throat. "Now, Merlin, it is customary to respond in kind--if you do, that is?” A note of concern creeps into Arthur's voice.
Merlin isn't following what Arthur is saying. "If I do what?"
Arthur grabs Merlin's upper arms and shakes him a little. "You idiot! Do you love me or not?"
"Oh, yes. Yes Arthur, I've loved you for ages. I just never dreamed you'd feel this way too," Merlin says with wonder. "Say, if I'm your secret forbidden love, I thought you said 'it'd never work out'?"
"It won't be easy, I'm sure. But all this talk of arranged marriages has made me determined to try, if you are willing, that is?"
In answer, Merlin sought out Arthur's mouth with his own.