Title: Missing You
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Leon
Summary: Merlin has been gone for a while and Arthur realizes he is missing his manservant.
Word Count: 1571. Oops, way over this week.
Prompt: #76 Nervous
Author's Notes: Thank you toinspired_being for beta’ing my drabbles.
Arthur stared at the red canopy over his bed. How could this have happened? He thought back over the past few weeks and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Merlin was his usual impertinent self, brazen in his criticism of the Prince as always. Arthur continued to chide him for his lateness and never hesitated to tell him to 'shut up' whenever he talked too much.
Merlin had gone to visit his mother in Ealdor twelve days earlier. Twelve long days ago and Arthur didn't expect him back for another day at least. That meant it was George waking him up, George bringing his meals, George dressing him. Ever efficient but exceeding dull, not-Merlin George.
Arthur had stunned himself early that morning with the realization the gnawing feeling in his gut was because he missed Merlin. He was anxious to see that cheeky grin and those impossibly blue eyes. To hear the sing-song voice crying out 'Up and at 'em' as he threw open the draperies in the morning. To appreciate his serious side when he counseled Arthur with wise advice.
Oh gods, could it be? Had he fallen in love with his manservant? There was a physical attraction; of that he was sure. Many times he had to force his staring eyes away from Merlin's mouth, wondering how it would taste. He longed to stroke the tendons in that neck and pepper Merlin's jawline with kisses. And his ears, his large beautiful ears begged for attention from Arthur's lips.
The sky was beginning to lighten at the window, brightening the edges of the closed draperies, heralding another day. George politely knocked at the door before opening it. Merlin never knocked--he just barged in. George set the breakfast tray down on the table and quietly announced, "Breakfast is ready, sire."
Arthur closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He set aside his thoughts of Merlin and rose to face another day.
Arthur knew Merlin was back--he'd seen him arriving at the citadel during sword training. He almost missed parrying a thrust from his sparring partner as he caught a glimpse of Merlin dismounting from his horse then taking his pack and saddlebags up the stairs to his quarters with Gaius.
"Arthur, is your mind elsewhere today?" Sir Leon inquired. "I wouldn't want to injure you by mistake."
"No, Leon. But I need to attend to some other matters, so we'll resume tomorrow." With that dismissal, Arthur headed back toward his quarters.
Arthur paced nervously in his bedroom. He needed help to get out of his plate armour, but should he send for Merlin? What would he say to him? Had Merlin missed him too? He realized with a start he had no real idea how Merlin would react to Arthur’s newly-recognized feelings? Maybe he shouldn't say anything. What if Merlin was disgusted by him? He didn't know if Merlin was attracted to men. As far as he knew, Merlin hadn't dated anyone in the two plus years he'd lived in Camelot, male or female.
While Arthur dithered over whether to call for Merlin, there was a commotion at the door to his chambers and Merlin entered clumsily. Before he even thought about what he was saying, Arthur barked, "Merlin, you idiot! What is it with you never knocking? That's what a closed door means--you ask for permission to enter by knocking," Arthur concluded sternly.
Merlin just shrugged his shoulders and grinned at Arthur. "Hullo, Arthur. Good to see you too, clotpole."
"Merlin, you can't call me that," Arthur stated with exasperation. "Get me out of this armour, would you? And I need a bath." As soon as Arthur uttered the word bath, his heart fluttered and he bit his lower lip nervously. All of a sudden something he'd done hundreds of times seemed impossible--to be naked in front of Merlin. He found he could barely even look at Merlin now, fully clothed.
Merlin spun Arthur around to unbuckle the leather straps holding his plate armour in position and then lifted it over Arthur's head. Arthur automatically bent over to assist in the removal of his chain mail. After Merlin set the heavy garment aside, he aided Arthur in removing the padded jacket he wore under the mail. As Merlin grabbed the hem of Arthur's linen shirt to lift it up and remove it, Arthur grasped Merlin's forearms and stopped him. "No, I'll do it myself."
"My, haven't you gotten self-sufficient! You're sure you can do it?"
Arthur didn't answer verbally; he just glared at Merlin. "Why don't you fetch the bath water now?"
Merlin nodded and left. Maybe now Arthur could think straight. Having Merlin right in front of him was so distracting--the pale ivory skin contrasting against the black hair, those cheekbones he ached to trace with his fingers, the pout of his rosy lips. Arthur shook himself mentally as this line of thinking wasn't getting to the root of the problem: what to say to Merlin. Should he declare his feelings or try to find out if they were reciprocated first. The second choice seemed less risky to Arthur. It would save him the embarrassment of outright rejection, so he decided it was the best course of action.
While he was contemplating what to say and chewing on his thumbnail, Merlin returned bearing two buckets of steaming hot water, followed by several other servants doing the same. While the water was added to the tub and the temperature adjusted with some cold water, Arthur stepped behind the screen to undress.
Starting out with an innocent enough question, Arthur asked, "How is your mother, Merlin?"
"She's doing well. Tired from all the work at harvest time, so I was glad I could help her out. I really appreciate you allowing me the time off to go visit her. She sends her thanks to you also. Your bath is ready."
Arthur stepped out from behind the screen clad only in a towel, only shedding it once Merlin discretely moved to the fireplace. Then he lowered himself into the tub. Now a slightly more personal question. "So is Hunith pressuring you to settle down and raise a family? It seems all women love babies."
"No, she hasn't said anything but I know she would be happy for me if I found someone special."
"And have you?"
Merlin squirmed as he stoked the fire. He turned to look Arthur in the face. "Why the sudden interest in my personal life?"
Arthur tried to affect a disinterested air. "Just curious. I don't think you've gone out with anyone since you came to Camelot? Except, maybe, Guinevere?"
"Gwen? No, we are just friends... There is someone special, but they don't know how I feel." The tips of Merlin's ears began to turn red as he started blushing.
"Why not? Surely she, or he, would at least be flattered or perhaps more?"
"It's not that simple. I'm just a servant and, well, he's not. It's impossible."
Ah ha! Arthur thought. He still stood a chance, since this situation with the special someone, was 'impossible.'
Before Arthur could say anything further, Merlin piped up, "What about you, Arthur? Do you have a 'someone special'? There have been lots of young ladies that have come to court hoping to catch your eye."
Merlin had given him an opening, should he step through it? With a deep breath, he plunged through. "Yes, there is someone. But like you, I haven't spoken of my feelings."
"What's stopping you?" Merlin asked with interest.
"You know my father wants my marriage to be one of political advantage. He's not concerned about my feelings, so that will make it difficult. But I am determined to marry for love. More importantly, I'm not sure how my feelings will be received." Arthur had averted his gaze from Merlin and was studying his knee with great concentration.
"Just speak to the person, Arthur. As you said, at least they'll be flattered. Tell me who it is for a start."
"Promise me you won't laugh," Arthur pleaded, chancing a quick glance at Merlin's face.
"I won't," Merlin responded earnestly.
Arthur closed his eyes and licked his lips nervously. "The person I have feelings for is a certain manservant."
There was a long moment of silence. Arthur opened one eye and found Merlin staring at him with his mouth open.
Merlin regained his voice and managed to sputter out, "Y-you're in love with George?" He bit off the nervous laugh threatening to escape.
"NO, you dolt!" Arthur shouted, "I'm in love with you!"
Merlin's expression turned from dis-belief to wonderment. "Really, you're telling me the truth?"
"Yes," Arthur said dully. This wasn't going well. He shut his eyes again.
Merlin moved closer to the bathtub. He laid a hand on Arthur's shoulder, causing Arthur to startle and open his eyes to look at Merlin's smiling face.
"Arthur, it's alright. You're my 'special someone', you cabbage head." With that Merlin bent over to give Arthur a kiss, but Arthur pulled on his upper arms. Merlin lost his balance and fell into the tub, landing face first on Arthur's wet chest. Arthur pulled him up so they were face to face and gently pressed his lips to Merlin's. Merlin responded by pulling Arthur closer with a hand behind his neck.
When they broke for air, Arthur muttered, "Idiot."
"Prat," Merlin responded with affection.