Summary: Arthur wants a sweet after dinner. Merlin just wants to go to Gwaine’s chambers and cuddle with him.
Warnings: slight homophobia
Word Count: 1770
Author's Notes: The prompt was: Things have been especially hectic in Camelot, lately (Set between S4 and S5?), and Merlin is running himself ragged, trying to protect Arthur (Who just has to make things as difficult as possible. He means well, but he's a royal handful.). Gwaine steps in and does what he can to make sure someone is taking care of Merlin, too. kleinefee92I tried to stick to it as much as possible. I had a lot of fun writing this. Thank you so much for the prompt! I hope you like it.
beta'd by the wonderful inspired_being. Thank you so much for your beta. Any remaining errors are mine.
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
“I don’t even like mushrooms!” Arthur says, his face is a mixture of confusion and irritation. Merlin barely conceals the amused smile that’s tugging at the corners of his lips.
“How was I supposed to know that?”
“Besides, you could have just gone to the kitchens instead of going to the forest to pick mushrooms!”
“Well, fresh is always best, isn’t it?” Merlin quips.
“These don’t taste fresh!”
Merlin rolls his eyes. The truth was, he wasn’t out there picking mushrooms. He’d hastily put the dish together for Arthur with mushrooms from the kitchen that were probably a few days old.
How could he tell Arthur the truth about following a rumor, to make sure Arthur was safe from the sorceress who had been spotted in the lower town? The rumors said it was Morgana, but the sorceress turned out to be a harmless woman running for her life. She had been chased out of her house by villagers of her own town who had discovered her magic. Merlin had treated her wounds, provided her with supplies and helped her escape.
“Just eat them,” he sighs, his level of irritation rising when Arthur makes a face. If he only knew who Merlin was and what he’d done. If he only recognized him for who he was… he halts that train of thought and sighs. If Arthur knew, Merlin would be imprisoned, or executed.
Arthur wants a sweet after dinner. Merlin just wants to go to Gwaine’s chambers and cuddle with him. His usual protests and quips about him getting fat don’t work to curb Arthur’s cravings, so Merlin has to walk all the way down to the kitchens to get something sweet. The cook hates him, which makes it more difficult for him to get a pudding than it should be.
He walks down a corridor, anticipating the warmth and comfort of Gwaine’s (their) bed, the assurance of having a warm hand draped over him and Gwaine sleeping with his chest pressed to Merlin’s back, when someone pulls him into an alcove. He jerks, dropping the bowl of pudding in his haste. Gwaine catches it, looks at the pudding, then at Merlin and back at the bowl in his hand. He’s about to taste a spoonful when Merlin quickly takes the bowl away from Gwaine’s grabby fingers.
“Ask your servant to fetch you a pudding,” he says when Gwaine looks at him like a denied puppy.
“I already told him to go,” Gwaine says, pressing his lips hard to Merlin’s. It’s over quickly and Gwaine is looking up at him with dilated pupils. “I was hoping you’d come early tonight.”
“I can’t. Apparently Arthur hates mushrooms. He didn’t mind when he didn’t know the ingredients, though. I think he just likes being a prat.”
Gwaine laughs. “You know he does,” he says, attempting to reach the pudding again. Merlin steps out of the alcove and holds the bowl well out of Gwaine’s reach.
“I’ll be there as soon as he excuses me for the night,” he smiles at Gwaine before rushing off to the King’s chambers, ignoring Gwaine’s half-hearted tries to make him stay.
“I need you to write a speech,” Arthur says, pushing his chair back and standing up as soon as Merlin enters the chambers. Merlin hands him the bowl of pudding and blinks at him.
“A speech,” Arthur repeats slowly, as if talking to a child who doesn’t quite understand language yet.
“Why can’t you write it?”
“Because I have other kingly duties to do.”
“I have duties to do, too.”
“They aren’t kingly. Now write me a speech.”
“I’ll just make the bed and go write it in my room,” Merlin sighs as he heads towards the bed. Arthur waits until Merlin has run his hand over the covers to smooth them out and gathered the parchment and quill before he speaks.
“No. Write it here and then go.”
“Why can’t I write in my room?”
“Because I say so.”
“You’re being a prat.”
Arthur just raises an eyebrow at Merlin, only looking away when Merlin sits down at the table with the parchment in front of him and a quill in his hands.
It’s late when Merlin makes his way to Gwaine’s chambers, opening the doors as softly as possible, and managing to stop the worst creak. He locks the door behind him and walks up to Gwaine, who’s bundled under a pile of blankets on the bed. Merlin laughs softly; Gwaine must have kicked out his manservant before he had the chance to make the bed. He uses magic to smooth out the blankets and then sits on the edge, removing his boots and his belt.
The room is warm and softly lit by the fire; the moon can be barely seen through the thick clouds covering the sky. There will be a thunderstorm tonight. Merlin can sense it in his heart; in his bones. His magic curls lazily in his belly, content.
The wood burns, fire crackles in the fireplace and flames reach upward. Merlin remembers the previous week when Arthur ran into the house, which had been consumed by flames, and Merlin followed him. He remembers the back of Arthur’s boots as he crawled across the floor to get to the child who was crying. He remembers the way the house nearly collapsed on Arthur, the way the smoke was choking Merlin.
He blinks away from the memory and looks out the open window. There will be a thunderstorm tonight. He stands up and closes the window. When he turns around, Gwaine is blinking at him with sleep eyes.
“Hey,” Merlin says softly as he makes his way to the bed.
“Hey,” Gwaine echoes him. “It’s late. What were you doing?”
“Arthur needed me,” Merlin replies, remembering the way Arthur slept peacefully while Merlin burned candles at his desk. He’s going to get back at Arthur for that. Maybe he’ll put too much salt in Arthur’s breakfast, or make him trip and fall during training tomorrow.
“Come on,” Gwaine says, pulling Merlin out of his thoughts. Merlin gladly abandons them, slipping under the covers. Gwaine is quick to slide closer, put his hand around Merlin’s waist and press soft kisses to Merlin’s shoulder.
“I missed you,” he whispers against Merlin’s shoulder.
Merlin smiles, but doesn’t answer. He knows Gwaine doesn’t expect him to.
He slips away from Gwaine’s chambers before first light, moving back to the small room in Gaius’ quarters. The bed feels cold and empty without Gwaine’s warmth.
They’re everywhere, bandits with their maces, swords and axes. Arthur cuts through them, trying to get to Merlin who’s been hit. Arthur saw him collapse to the ground less than a minute ago, but the bandits are everywhere.
By the time Arthur finishes the last bandit, he can hear pained grunts from his knights. He searches for Merlin in a sea of red cloaks and blood-stained swords. Merlin must have dragged himself away from the battle because he’s leaning back against a tree with Gwaine by his side, checking for injuries.
Arthur is about to approach them and ask Merlin if he’s alright when he notices it. Gwaine’s face is too close to Merlin; he’s whispering something. Merlin’s face is distressed, a layer of sweat on his face. Arthur can see blood soaking the shoulder of his tunic, but Merlin manages a small laugh at whatever Gwaine says.
And it clicks, the countless times he’s caught them looking at each other, the way Merlin looked worried when Arthur sent Gwaine with the other knights on a campaign for three weeks.
It’s like the ground shifts beneath his feet. He doesn’t know how long he has been staring at the tender moment between his manservant and his knight when Leon calls him, snapping him out of it.
“Arthur knows,” Merlin says very quietly, sitting across from Gwaine as he eats from a plate. Gwaine had dismissed his manservant as soon as Merlin had entered; his mouth set in a frown and his eyes wild. Thankfully for them, Gwaine’s manservant had already served more than enough dinner before Merlin entered.
“Oh,” Gwaine says, thoughts going through his mind at lightning speed. What will Arthur do now? Will he execute Merlin? Probably not. If that was the case, Merlin would be in the cells and not sitting across from him. Something in Merlin’s expression tells him that he’s on the wrong track.
“About your magic?” Gwaine asks slowly quietly.
“No!” Merlin hisses, eyes wide. “Not about that! About—about us, what we—are.”
“Oh,” Gwaine says, both disappointed and relieved at once. “How did he react?”
“He doesn’t—he was fine with it. He said as long as we’re not hurting anyone, he doesn’t have a problem.”
“Oh. Good then.”
“Mm, don’t go,” Gwaine murmurs into Merlin’s neck when Merlin tries to get out of the bed. The sun will rise soon.
“I have to. Your manservant will be here soon.”
“Doesn’t matter. We have nothing to hide.”
“Of course we do!” Merlin hisses, trying to get away. Gwaine doesn’t let him.
“Not anymore. The King has no problem with us,” Gwaine says sleepily. Merlin continues trying to get away half-heartedly for a few seconds before he gives up.
“It’s not just the King, though. Everyone will know; servants, knights, everyone.”
“It’s the King I’m concerned with.”
Merlin doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t make any more efforts to leave. Gwaine hums happily and in a few seconds Merlin feels his breath even out. He laughs. The first rays of sun are already entering through the open window and Merlin lies awake. Gwaine’s manservant will be arriving soon and he doesn’t know how he’ll react. He doesn’t know how long he lies in the bed, eyes open, imagining all the ways this might go wrong.
There’s a perfunctory knock on the door before it opens. The man stops short when he sees Merlin in his master’s bed, but only for half a second before he schools himself. If he’s surprised by what he sees, he doesn’t show it. In fact, he almost looks… happy for them. As if the sight of another naked man in his master’s bed is endearing to him. Merlin thinks maybe it is. Gwaine was never one for discretion and maybe his servant has known about them all along.
Merlin sits up, trying to cover all of his naked body with blankets. When Gwaine’s servant goes down to get breakfast for Gwaine, Merlin slips out of the room.
Arthur will need him soon.