Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Argavaine
Summary: Victorian era AU. Agravaine has discovered their secret.
Word Count: 1225
Prompt: 108, exquisite
Author's Notes: Written also for mahmfic who asked for Arthur/Merlin, "beast".
As Merlin cleared the last jump, he heard clapping. Miss Elisabeth's ears turned as she walked past the fence. A gentleman--well dressed, self assured--leaned against the wood frame, smiling.
"That is an exquisite beast, young man," the gentleman said.
Merlin patted Elisabeth's neck. "She is. Not built for races, though. She's one of our trainings horses."
The gentleman nodded his head. "Lovely. Ah, perhaps I should introduce myself? Sir Agravaine, at your service."
Merlin swallowed hard and only barely remembered to shake the lord's hand. He had heard about him--repeatedly, from Arthur. There was some bad blood between Arthur and Agravaine, from before Merlin had been hired at the Pendragon stables. Merlin didn't know anything about it, only that Agravaine was a thorn in Arthur's side and greedy.
"Merlin Emrys," Merlin muttered belatedly.
Agravaine hummed thoughtfully and straightened. "A pleasure, Merlin Emrys. I'm sure I'll see you around."
Merlin's eyes narrowed as the gentleman left. Elisabeth shook her head and Merlin nodded. "I agree. Something isn't right."
Elisabeth whinnied and Merlin turned her to the stables, deep in thought.
Arthur stormed into the stables, face dark and mood clearly thunderous. The jockeys and stable hands all disappeared rather quickly and Merlin sighed as he finished brushing down Elisabeth. "Here comes trouble."
"Merlin!" Arthur bellowed.
Merlin bent his head down until it was touching Elisabeth and she made a querying noise at him. He kept brushing her. "Merlin!" Arthur yelled again. "If I had to track you down--there you are. Didn't you hear me yelling?"
Merlin lifted his head and raised his eyebrows. "I'm quite sure the town heard you. In fact, I think someone in London did."
Arthur put his hands on his hips. "Merlin."
Merlin sighed and put the brush down. He patted Elisabeth's side and left the stall. He stopped in front of Arthur. "Well?"
"My uncle wishes to see you," Arthur growled.
Merlin blinked once, then twice. "Me?"
"What did you say to him?" Arthur demanded.
"Nothing," Merlin swore. "Just my name and that we keep Elisabeth for training."
Arthur breathed in through his nose. "You swear that is all you said?"
Merlin nodded dumbly and Arthur growled. He grabbed Merlin's arm in a tight grip and began dragging him out of the stables. Merlin tried to get Arthur to let go, but it was futile. "Did I do something wrong?" he offered. But he hadn't--it was just best to go along with Arthur until the immediate mood had passed and then try to sooth it over.
Arthur shook his head. "No. But someone did and I will be addressing everyone before the day is through, mark my words."
Merlin sighed. He knew that tone and it didn't end very well.
Sir Agravaine smiled as Arthur dragged Merlin in. "Ah. There he is. Your star."
Arthur crossed his arms over his chest. "And I told you, you can't buy his contact. It doesn't work like that. Not here."
Sir Agravaine clucked his tongue. "Your father would have done it."
Arthur shook his head. "My father was a fool."
Sir Agravaine pursed his lips and turned to Merlin. "He doesn't look like much, though."
Merlin swallowed hard and found himself leaning toward Arthur. "Forgive me, but what is this about?"
Arthur's face pinched tight and Sir Agravaine tilted his head up. "I am here to buy you, Merlin. Or rather, your contract with Arthur."
Merlin's fingers played with the edge of his sleeve and glanced at Arthur whose face remained pinched. "I--well, I mean--"
"Ask him or leave, Uncle," Arthur growled.
Sir Agravaine frowned. "Merlin, I plan to open my own stables in the coming year and I'll need the best if I wish to have any chance at breaking into the business. I can offer you a handsome income with benefits. I--"
"No," Merlin interrupted. He glanced at Arthur again and then looked at Sir Agravaine straight on. "I'm sorry, but I must decline. I'm sure the offer is excellent, but I like working here and for Arthur."
Sir Agravaine's face was thunderous. "I have not named an income. I trust that you will gladly take this offer as--"
Merlin shook his head. "And I said no, thank you. My income is too much as it stands and I like the horses I work with. I don't like to learn new animals and there is much good I can do with the training regiments who come here for help."
Arthur smirked and put his hand around Merlin's shoulders. "You see, Uncle. Now, if this is all you wanted to see me about, I believe you have overstayed your welcome."
Sir Agravaine sighed and gathered his things. "I do wish you would reconsider, Arthur. We could have settled it like gentlemen and you would have not only saved yourself some money, but you would have been richer."
"Good day, Uncle," Arthur ground out.
Sir Agravaine swept out of the room without another word and Arthur locked the door behind him. "That man, Merlin--he must have heard of something. Are you sure you didn't even do anything?"
Merlin shook his head. "Not that I can remember. I've been very careful, like you asked."
Arthur sighed and rubbed his face. "Fine. I'll start interviewing the staff to find out if anyone has talked."
"What are you going on about?" Merlin asked.
Arthur slumped onto a chaise like a child. "When we were talking, he hinted that he knew which regiments came here and why here specifically."
Merlin frowned. "You mean he knows about my--"
"He does." Arthur nodded.
No one had ever hinted that they knew of the magical training that happened on the grounds, except for the crown who paid Arthur handsomely for the lessons Merlin was able to offer. And when they did have lessons, no one was allowed to see it except Arthur and the crown. Still, the training grounds were not completely hidden from sight, no matter how Merlin and Arthur both tried.
"You better write to the palace," Merlin said. "Let them know about this."
Arthur sighed. "Later. Come here."
Merlin frowned and sat next to Arthur on the chaise. "We need to send it out immediately. They have to know."
Arthur sat up and wrapped a hand around the back of Merlin's neck. "You told him you like it, being here and working with me."
Merlin's cheeks heated up as he remembered. "For you, Arthur. For you."
Arthur huffed. "For me? Without you, I'd be in squalor because of my father's gambling debts. No, our endeavors are ours, Merlin. To think, you were against it, being here and training the special forces."
"I was, but you made me an offer I couldn't refuse," Merlin whispered. He looked up through his lashes and smirked at his lover. "Not everyday one finds a passionate Captain to take him to bed."
Arthur's eyes darkened and he pulled Merlin in for a dirty kiss. "Not everyday a Captain is rewarded for his services with a sorcerer as skilled as you."
Merlin chuckled against Arthur's mouth and licked his lips. "How about you reward me now for my loyalty?"
Arthur sighed, but it was fond. "Later. In bed. I'll reward you so thoroughly, you'll never think of being elsewhere."
Merlin stole a kiss. "I like that plan."