Title: Your Heart is Here
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin wonders about his place in Camelot, while Arthur makes sure he knows exactly where he belongs.
Word Count: 994
Prompt: #66 - Reasons
Author's Notes: PG for a tiny swear word. This sounds way too much like a Canon!verse Words to Speak Before I Sleep. Sorry about that! But anyway, Canon Divergence - Merlin as Court Sorcerer.
“Well that was incredibly dull. Honestly, I thought he'd never quit talking. The man loves his own voice, doesn't he?”
Arthur speaks to him very conversationally as he goes about the process of taking off his proper attire. It's a late night in Camelot, negotiations with foreign kingdoms always making those late nights seem even longer, and though, as Court Sorcerer, it's no longer his job, he still trails after Arthur and helps him prepare for bed.
Except, tonight, Merlin feels off. He goes about his routine as normal, folding shirts and picking up discarded trousers almost lazily—Arthur really is quite messy, and Merlin wonders how he ever managed it before, with or without magic—and listens to Arthur prattle on.
Without turning to him, he says fluently, “Yes, Arthur. I'm sure it was terribly dull for you. You always seem to forget I was there, too.”
He doesn't have to be looking at Arthur to see him scowl. It doesn't last long, Merlin means it all in good nature, and his king knows it. But only seconds later, he realizes that, Arthur might not have been talking about what he just said at all.
“Merlin,” Arthur drawls again, “Come here.”
The sorcerer puts the last of the clothes away, and turns to him. Arthur raises a brow, crossing his arms, and he notices then that Arthur has, in the time he's been tidying up, already gotten his nightclothes on. Instead of making some sarcastic remark, Merlin walks over, and says, rather tiredly, “Yes, Arthur?”
“What is it now, Merlin?”
The king scoffs, flicking him on the forehead. “Something's bothering you.”
“There's not. I'm perfectly alright, really.”
It's a terrible lie, and he knows it, but hopes vainly Arthur will let it go for tonight. Unfortunately, fate doesn't see fit to let it slide.
Arthur reaches forward and wraps his arms around his waist, pulling back gently to where he sits on the bed, Merlin stumbling to remain standing, but is still flush against him. “Hmm, I don't believe you. You're really bad at this lying thing, Merlin. I can always see right through it. Your lips do this thing where they're pressed tightly together, like you want to say something but don't want to embarrass yourself, and you always knit your eyebrows together like you're thinking too hard, which I'm sure you are. So go on, spill whatever is empty head of yours.”
“For the record,” Merlin mumbles, running his fingers through Arthur's hair. “I'm brilliant at secrets. I kept my magic from you for ten years, didn't I?”
“Not the point,” Arthur replies, then gives him a stern look. “Don't make me issue an order. Tell me.”
“It's really nothing,” the sorcerer insists, stilling his hand. “Just thinking.”
“Dangerous,” Arthur murmurs, then moves one of his hands to catch Merlin's fingers in his own. “What are you thinking about?”
Merlin sighs, too weary to put up anymore of an argument. “Earlier...that king suggested that I come to stay in his lands for a few months out of the year. You know...for...treaty purposes. Aiding allies, and the like.”
“And if you recall,” the king puts in, “I quickly shot the idea down.”
“But that's not what I'm wondering about,” he goes on. “Have you ever wanted to get rid of me? Am I becoming...too much?”
Merlin has come to expect a lot of things from his king, but of all those things he expects, he doesn't expect Arthur to laugh. The king chuckles as if it were the most ludicrous idea he'd ever heard, and he practically says as much as he pulls Merlin down with great ease onto the bed, rolling him then onto his back as he positions himself above him. He leans down and give him a quick kiss to his lips, before giving him a smile.
“Merlin, you are the only reason I am alive today,” he says, as if Merlin doesn't already know. “Why would I ever want to get rid of you?”
“So that's it, then?” the sorcerer asks, meeting his eyes. “You only keep me around because you feel you have some sort of debt to me? Because if that's the case--”
“No, Merlin—Gods,” Arthur scowls, brushing his hair back with his fingers. “That's not it.”
Merlin raises a brow, urging him to elaborate. Arthur flops down next to him, and Merlin rolls on his side to face him. The king absently brings up a hand to cup his cheek.
“You are the reason I am alive today, Merlin. But that's not...everything, you know that, right? You're the reason that this...that Camelot is as prosperous as it is. The reason that all of Albion is flourishing like it never has before,” Arthur says, and his eyes soften. “You're the reason I'm the man I am, today. And I love you for it. I don't want to get rid of you, I want you to stay here with me always. As my manservant. As Court Sorcerer. As Merlin. You can be whoever you want to be, I just want you to stay here. So no, I'm not “keeping you” as you so lewdly put it, out of misplaced debt. You can stop thinking that.”
Merlin flushes, and Arthur, the bastard that he is, smirks, but instead of making some teasing remark that Merlin would normally get, he just pulls him closer in his arms.
“You will...stay with me, won't you?” he mumbles, only moments later. “You won't go running off when you get bored, will you?”
The sorcerer puffs out a chuckle, the thought ridiculous, really, then tugs the king closer by the loose collar of his night shirt in for another chaste kiss.
“No, of course not,” he laughs quietly, resting his head against his chest. “There's no where else I'd want to be, really. My home's with you.”
Arthur hums at that, seemingly content, and Merlin is rather content with that, too.