Summary:Merlin is getting better but Arthur still has to take a decision
Warnings:mention of sexual slavery
Author's Notes: Thanks to derenai for the beta. Part of my "My special one" series.
Three weeks had passed since the incident after Merlin’s presentation to the Court. The young man had now fully recovered but Arthur knew it was just a façade.
He had watched Merlin closely during these three weeks. The first day, when he had been mostly sleeping, Arthur had kept Merlin in his rooms. After a few days, though, the Prince had needed to go back to his duties and Merlin had gone back to his own room. Still, Arthur visited him at least twice a day.
They didn’t talk very much but Merlin seemed grateful for Arthur’s visits.
That’s when Arthur had noticed that even if Gaius said Merlin was going better, the young boy was psychologically still very frail.
More than once, Arthur had seen tears strains on his jaw. Merlin was still very thin and didn’t eat well even when Arthur tried to encourage him. And the most visible sign of him being unwell was his lack of smiles and enthusiasm. When Arthur had first met Merlin, it was his smile and the glint in his eyes that had attracted him. Now it was like Merlin had been put out.
Arthur knew it wasn’t only due to the nobleman’s assault. He had thought about it a lot during the past weeks and he had finally taken a decision.
It would be the first time a Prince of Camelot would break the tradition like this but Arthur cared a lot about Merlin and seeing him so unhappy was just breaking his heart.
The Prince waited for another week before going to see Merlin. When he entered the room, Merlin was sitting on a chair next to the window, looking outside.
“What are you looking at?” he asked gently, not to frighten the young man.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Merlin just nodded.
Arthur took another chair and put it next to Merlin’s.
“Merlin, I need to talk with you about something really important.”
“Another tradition?” he asked with a voice full of mockery but Arthur could also hear some fear.
“Not really… I… I need to ask you a very important question.”
Merlin turned to face Arthur and looked at him, very concentrated.
“Would you like to go back to Ealdor?”
“With you? For a day?” Merlin asked, clearly surprised by the question.
Merlin looked at Arthur and didn’t answer. He didn’t seem to understand what the Prince was asking him.
“Merlin… If you could, would you like to go back to live in Ealdor?”
“Are you… serious? You’re not kidding me, are you?”
“No Merlin… I’ve thought about it a lot and… I want you to be happy and you’re clearly not happy here in Camelot so…”
“I can really go back to Ealdor?”
“I’m the Prince and a Prince’s word is something very precious Merlin. I wouldn’t joke about something like this.”
And then the Prince had a lap full of crying and giggling Merlin. He put his arm around the young man and held him close, as Merlin thanked him again and again. It was probably the last time he had the opportunity to have Merlin in his arms after all.
Four days later, as the morning sun was barely appearing behind the trees around Camelot, Arthur watched Merlin from the windows of his chambers. He was accompanied by two Knights as he was leaving Camelot.
They had said their goodbyes the evening before, dining together. Merlin had thanked Arthur again and again. Arthur had wished him a wonderful life. And when the sun has set, Merlin had left Arthur’s rooms, kissing the Prince just before disappearing in the hallway.
Arthur still could feel the sensation of Merlin’s lips on his.
When Merlin’s horse finally disappeared between the trees, Arthur sighed.
He couldn’t believe he had broken Camelot’s rules and traditions for Merlin. He knew people would talk about this, he knew some would perhaps see him as a coward, he knew his own father disapproved of his decision but he knew it was the right thing to do.
The hardest part was probably that he had finally realized that he not only cared for Merlin. He loved him.
The salty taste on his lips made him realized he was crying.