Title: It's more than gold that glitters.
Warnings for the allergic: This is pure downy fluff.
Word count: 600
Summary: Merlin wonders why anyone would be crazy enough to leave the warmth of a comfortable bed.
A/N: I have toothache after writing this, jsyk.
The contrast of the nest-like warmth beneath the coverings and the bitter chill that snips Merlin’s nose when he dares to peek out from underneath them –– bones and limbs languid with sleep, still –– makes the empty spot beside him in the bed all the more baffling.
“Arthur?” he mumbles, lifting his head and trying to stop the pocket of warmth from escaping by fisting the covers to his chin. He blinks slowly, until the dim room retains its shape beneath his heavy eyelids. It’s barely dawn. Merlin locates the shape of his King kneeling by the chest beneath the window. “Arthur, I’m sure all your gold is still there. Come back to bed, it’s freezing.”
Without looking up from his foragings, Arthur waves a distracted hand at Merlin. “Light the fire, if you’re cold. I’ll be right there.”
Merlin wants to protest the thought of having to leave his warm sanctuary until he remembers he doesn’t have to. Not anymore. With a yawn, he stretches, stuffing his arms beneath the furs again with haste. Maybe it’s the yawn around the command that has the fire spring to life with unseemly enthusiasm, or maybe it’s his own exuberance at no longer having to hide from Arthur bleeding into his magic. Arthur looks over his shoulder at the loud roar and rolls his eyes at Merlin, who gives him a sheepish smile before snuggling deeper into the protection of the cushions. He lets his eyes drift closed and for a while lingers between dream and memory as he thinks of the night before. Of Arthur’s hands on his skin, of how Arthur kisses like it’s a destiny instead of a road leading to more, of how they murmur sweet everythings in the darkness when there is no room for breath between them.
Then the coverings are lifted and Merlin yelps when Arthur’s cold fingers splay over Merlin’s stomach. Arthur grins like a cat but there is something in his eyes that has Merlin push himself up on his elbows. “I have something for you,” Arthur says, before Merlin can ask. “It used to belong to my mother.” He looks like he wants to say more, but instead he lifts his hand.
From his fingers dangles a thin, golden circlet. It has no adornments. No precious stones or ornate curls or markings. It is just a narrow band of gold and Merlin knows exactly what it means. “Arthur,” he says, breathless. Merlin looks up, the firelight haloing a golden crown out of Arthur’s hair. He wants to say, I can’t accept this, it’s too much, it’s your mother’s but he knows it will only shatter the vulnerability in Arthur’s eyes into a wall of defense. “Arthur,” he says again, instead.
“Will you accept it?” Arthur asks, his fingers tightening slightly on the band of gold.
“Yes,” Merlin says simply. He can’t fight the smile though and he looks down, feeling his cheeks heat.
Arthur puts one finger underneath Merlin’s chin and lifts it. Carefully he puts the crown on Merlin’s head and then looks at it for the longest time. It is a comfortable weight and doesn’t feel cold against Merlin’s forehead. He still leans on his elbows, the covers pooling around his middle but he doesn’t feel the chill. Not when Arthur looks at him like that. Like he’s everything.
Then, Arthur smiles, soft and dear and wonderful, and says, “Perfect,” before pressing a soft, dry kiss to Merlin’s lips.
“Yes,” Merlin whispers, chasing Arthur’s mouth for more, easing him down into the pillows. “Yes, it is.”