Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Leon
Summary: A sorceror dedicates his deeds to Arthur.
Word Count: 1263 (sorry)
Author's Notes: Canon AU. The prompt made me think of a knight-errant who performs heroic acts in the name of his love.
Arthur was studying a trade document and Merlin was mending clothes by the fire when a knock sounded on the door of Arthur's chamber.
"Enter," Arthur called.
Leon strode into the room and stood respectfully with his hands behind his back. Arthur motioned for Leon to speak.
"I've received another report of a helpful sorcerer, Sire," Leon said. "It was an old man this time. He aided one of the border villages."
"I see," Arthur said, sighing. "Was he particularly dangerous?"
Leon furrowed his brow. "All magic is dangerous, Sire, and this one seems as powerful as the last. He calls himself Dragoon."
"What magic did he perform?" Arthur asked. "Were there any deaths?"
"No, Sire, nothing like that at all. As the villagers tell it, there's been a sheep sickness thinning their flocks. Last month, the sorcerer just appeared in the centre of the village, quick as lightning, they said. They were frightened, but he told them he knew about the sheep and was there to help. He used his magic to heal the animals of their sickness and would accept no payment."
"Yes, we heard of this sickness from a petitioner," Arthur said. He couldn't remember if Leon had been in the throne room when the villager had begged for help, only to be met with Uther's cold dismissal. However, he definitely remembered Merlin's presence there, as well as Merlin's still-unexplained absence from his bed the following night.
It was difficult, but Arthur managed not to let out another sigh. "Is there any trace of the sorcerer? And has the sickness passed?" he asked.
"There's been no further sign of him. The sheep are well and the villagers are happy," Leon said. "But there's something more. It's the same as the other report we had, of the sorceress who called the rain. Just like her, this sorcerer said his duty was to serve Prince Arthur of Camelot, the noblest and handsomest man in the land." He paused, then, and looked intently at Arthur. "My concern, Sire, is that these two may belong to the same cult. No sorcerers owe allegiance to Camelot."
"Hmm," Arthur said, pretending to consider the warning. Lying to Leon was always difficult, and Arthur cleared his throat and took a moment to adopt the proper tone of nonchalance and authority. "Thank you for informing me. I'll take all of it under advisement, although the healing of livestock doesn't seem like a reason for alarm, even if magic was used."
Leon stared at Arthur in confusion for a moment, but to Arthur's relief, he finally nodded, once. "As you say, Sire."
"I also thank you for coming to me directly, as we discussed, instead of bringing this matter before the court. I have my father's trust, certainly, but some of the courtiers might assume that I've been consulting with sorcerers. And I'd hate to see my father angry at their gossip. He can be rather unforgiving."
"Of course, Your Highness," Leon said, bowing to Arthur and leaving the room.
Arthur pushed his chair out from his writing table, strode to the door, and locked it. Merlin had continued to face the fire throughout Leon's report. He still had the mending in his lap, but his work had ceased.
Arthur walked over to him and placed a hand on his head, stroking his fingers through the soft black hair.
"Another disguise? You ridiculous idiot," Arthur said, gently, still lightly petting Merlin's head. "I can explain this to my father when he hears of it, just like I did the last time. I know the subtleties of courtly life, and after all, I'm naturally diplomatic. But what if you were caught somehow? What then?"
It terrified Arthur to imagine any harm coming to Merlin, to contemplate living without this brave fool of a man at his side.
Merlin rolled his eyes. "You're not diplomatic. You're the opposite of diplomatic. Just this morning you told me that my elbows were so pointy they'd given you a nightmare that a dead tree was attacking you." He stuck out his bottom lip in a mock pout.
Arthur laughed and moved in front of Merlin. He cupped Merlin's face in his hands and planted a wet kiss on that dear, plump bottom lip. Merlin chuckled back at him.
But this situation was serious. He took both Merlin's hands in his own and knelt before him.
"Why do you do it? Do you long to be away from the routines of Camelot? Do you feel like I hold you back?" These fears had been plaguing Arthur since he first learned of Merlin's secret quests.
Merlin's surprise warmed Arthur's heart. "No, nothing like that! I'm proud to serve you, and I'm content in Camelot. It's not wanderlust at all. I...." He trailed off, biting his lip.
"Why do you tell them you're doing it for me?" Arthur asked.
Merlin blinked at him. "Because I love you, Arthur," he said, as though the answer was obvious. "And I believe in you, in the kingdom you'll build one day. You've already started building it, even now. Your people are loyal to you and to Camelot, not to your father. This is a way that I can help you, by doing brave deeds in your name." He swallowed. "I want the people to know that you protect them, that's all. I'm just—my magic is just one of the tools you use to do it."
For years now, Arthur had commanded knights to fight and die for the glory of Camelot, but he definitely didn't command Merlin, who rarely followed anyone's instructions. Merlin's deeds, and the gratitude of the people, were his gifts to Arthur, left at his feet like the kills of a proud mousing cat.
Yet Merlin had never asked for affection or accolades; he'd been at these deeds for a year without Arthur's knowledge, until he'd told Arthur about his magic. The court had learned of Merlin's last adventure, ending a drought while wearing the guise of an ancient woman; in private, Merlin had admitted his actions to Arthur. The old woman and man weren't his old disguises, either. He said he'd worn a different face every time; no bard would ever sing songs about him.
When Arthur learned the truth, he knew his own duties: to keep Merlin as safe as possible, and to spend every free moment showing Merlin how deeply he was loved. He hadn't yet failed in either task.
Arthur stood up. He lowered his head and kissed Merlin again, and together they fell into Arthur's luxurious bed.
Merlin used his magic to remove their clothing, and Arthur kissed into the soft skin of his neck.
"You must promise me something," he murmured into Merlin's ear.
"What is it, Arthur? Anything," Merlin whispered.
"Promise me that you'll always be careful. I couldn't bear to lose you," Arthur said.
"You never will," Merlin replied. He wound his arms around Arthur's waist and embraced him tightly, burying his nose in Arthur's neck.
"If it's dangerous, I should be with you. You can disguise me, too, can't you?"
"Hmm, that's an idea," Merlin said, tracing Arthur's jaw with his fingertips. "How would you feel about being magicked into a bird? I could say you were my familiar."
Arthur pulled back and narrowed his eyes at Merlin. "Would you be able to change me back?"
"Of course. I'm very powerful, you know," he said. "Even Leon said so."
Somehow Merlin's boasts didn't fill Arthur with confidence, but they could work out the details later. They had time.