Title: What am I?
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: “Take a breath for me, Merlin,” Arthur instructed, heat breaking a little as he watched Merlin struggle to follow the order, trying to breathe evenly, “take a breath, and tell me what it was I said.”
Warnings: Uhm.. some swearing?
Word Count: 966
Author's Notes: Ugh, okay I'm not very happy with the ending of this one, but I'm going out in a sec and if I don't post it now I probably won't have time today asdfghj (also I was running out of words :O). I've used the prompt in a pretty abstract way tbh, but I hope you can still spot it in there. Oh and, again because of the timing thing, I haven't been overly thorough with reading through/editing so I'm really sorry if there are any stupid mistakes.
This is a sequel to Heavy, carrying on from where Arthur walked into his chambers to find Merlin cleaning up with magic, and wearing his crown.
Arthur walked inside and shut the door carefully behind him, his eyes never leaving Merlin’s face. For his part, Merlin had gone very pink, blushing softly from the base of his neck to the tips of his ears. He wouldn’t look at Arthur, his gaze instead directed at his own shoes.
The King raised an eyebrow as he moved closer to his manservant, whose distress became more apparent with every step: beneath the crown, Merlin trembled, the corner of his bottom lip sucked in between his teeth, like it always was when he was upset. He wore the expression of a little boy who had been caught with his hand buried in the sweet jar.
Except Merlin wasn’t a boy, even if he was skinny and clumsy, and could make his eyes wide like a puppy when he was confused, or wanted something. Merlin wasn’t a boy, and it wasn’t sweets he was reaching for.
“If anyone else had walked through that door, you’d already be on your way to the dungeons.” Arthur was looking pointedly towards where the mop and bucket had fallen, and was referring to the magic which he could almost taste, still mingling in the air.
“I shouldn’t have to hide.” The ‘anymore’ went unspoken, and hovered between them. Arthur had been crowned King a little over a year ago and it had been a few months later that he found out about the magic and yet... nothing had changed.
“You know it’s complicated,” Arthur didn’t sound annoyed or angry, only weary: they’d had this conversation many times before and usually this would be the moment Merlin argued back, but now all that happened was his shoulders slumping forwards and his head hanging.
Arthur was right before him in a second, hands on his thin upper arms, forcing him to uncurl and then feeling his chest constrict slightly when the crown atop the young man’s head slipped slightly in those dark curls.
“Why?” He murmured, reaching up to gently tap at the band of gold. Merlin’s face went impossibly redder, and suddenly he was stumbling, tripping over his words.
“You said... I want... I don’t-“ Arthur’s hand dropped to cup Merlin’s face firmly, a thumb rubbing over his cheekbones and the dark skin beneath his eyes. On the edge of his black lashes were clinging tears, gathering and gathering, until Arthur brushed them away before they could fall.
He had only seen Merlin distressed like this on a very few occasions, the most memorable of which had been when he found out about the magic. How did someone forget the terror of watching the person they love stop breathing? It was happening again now- Merlin’s chest rose and fell rapidly, hands balled at his sides.
“Take a breath for me, Merlin,” Arthur instructed, heart breaking a little as he watched Merlin struggle to follow the order, trying to breathe evenly, “take a breath, and tell me what it was I said.”
Merlin was ever so slightly taller than Arthur, and it took the King’s touch to the back of his neck to make him lean forwards and allow the older man to press a kiss to his forehead, comforting and encouraging.
“You said,” Merlin whispered, “maybe I’d be king someday... with you,” and his gaze flew upwards to catch Arthur’s startled expression, before he hurried on, “I’m not saying I want that! I’m not asking for that, I just... you know what I am, now. You know what I can do. But you’ve ignored it, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know what you want from me and I-“ he pressed a hand over his mouth, and sighed into his own fingers. Arthur only stared, feeling a little breathless himself.
“Arthur,” Merlin tried again, voice ever so slightly steadier, “two months ago, you let me fuck you.”
They hadn’t spoken about it afterwards, and Merlin was so blunt it was like a punch to the gut.
They hadn’t spoken about it, but Arthur could recall every detail: the burning shame he had felt before, and then the pleasure of knowing that Merlin was finally, truly, a part of him. Inside him. There had been devotion painted over every movement and every touch.
“How does that work?” the more-than-a-manservant asked, softly, “where do I fit in? I know I’m not just the servant everyone else thinks I am. I’m more than the boy you fought with when I first arrived. But I also know I’m not a king,” and he pulled the crown from his head, “so what am I?”
Arthur gently prised the crown from Merlin’s grip, and set it aside. There was a moment of silence, and then he pulled the man to him, hands locked around porcelain hipbones.
“You’re mine,” he told him, running his fingers up and down Merlin’s sides, “and you are invaluable to me. Your magic is invaluable to me. Everything you are-“ he broke off, looking away. There weren’t enough words to explain to Merlin how the reason he hadn’t been knighted or named court sorcerer, or even had a bloody coronation (because with his bravery, gifts and love, God knew he deserved it all) was because none of them were good enough.
Then, Merlin leaned forwards, and pressed his lips to Arthur’s, pulling away again before it could get any rougher.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, “I was being stupid.”
“No,” Arthur disagreed firmly, “no you weren’t.”
Outside the night was dusty and dark, the great city like a babe in a young King’s arms. In a few years, maybe the burden would be shared by two men, joined by stupid destinies and a pair of silver rings around their fingers.