Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Lancelot.
Summary: Arthur knows about Merlin’s secret, and there are times when it pains him to think that Merlin won’t ever tell him about it.
Word Count: 850.
Prompt:152 - Sir Lancelot.
Author's Notes: Hello again, it's been ages since the last time I wrote something for the comm and I miss writing every week for the challenges but uni keeps me too busy. Though I like being back! Also, this isn't betaed. Hopefully there won't be many mistakes, but if you find any, feel free to point them out :)
Arthur knows about Merlin’s secret, and there are times when it pains him to think that Merlin won’t ever tell him about it. It’s been almost a year ever since Arthur learnt about Merlin’s magical abilities, and he’s yet waiting for Merlin to come forward and tell him. A few years back, Arthur would have comprehended Merlin’s reluctance and his concern, but these days, after Arthur’s demonstrated him that he’s nothing like his father, he’s feeling less and less confident about Merlin confiding in him enough to share his worries with him. Especially since he’s already found someone whom he can do so with.
Sometimes Arthur pretends he doesn’t see when Merlin turns immediately towards Lancelot when they are facing a magical threat, how Lancelot always finds an excuse to cover up for Merlin, and other times, Arthur pretends he doesn’t care. But in truth, it eats him inside to see the man that owns his heart going to another for comfort.
The bandits catch them by surprise at dawn, but Arthur and the knights - and Merlin, for that matter - easily fight them off. When they first met and it was just the two of them travelling alone, Arthur would have shoved Merlin away, pulled out his sword and dealt with the danger. And after, he would have turned to see Merlin sprawling on the ground, eyes wide and fearful, with a ring of golden reflecting in his eyes still. But lately, Merlin doesn't need Arthur's protection at all, Lancelot has got Merlin's back as Merlin deals with the threats Arthur fails to ditch.
As calm settles once again around them, Arthur heads for Merlin, feigning that the glistening in Merlin’s eyes is a sheen of the fireplace like he would have thought it was in the earlier days.
“Everything alright?” Arthur asks.
Merlin nods at him quickly, looks him over with a picked up breathing. “You?” his voice is fierce and the unconditional concern he always shows for him is the only thing that keeps Arthur going.
When Lancelot dies at the veil, Merlin mourns for weeks, months.
He probably believes Arthur doesn’t notice his swollen eyes, his accentuated clumsiness and muteness, and later on, his gloomy mood. Merlin probably thinks he can fool him, but Arthur knows him well, and he wishes he could comfort Merlin the way he deserves. He wishes he could just approach him and confess him that he knows and that he can rely on him. But he fears it won’t be welcome. Their relationship has shifted in time, become more detached and mature, like their lives have, and if Arthur hasn’t confronted him before about it is because he hopes Merlin would tell him willingly. Arthur trusts that he will.
Arthur blows the horn because he wants to see his father again and needs him to tell him he’s doing alright and that he’s proud, that he’s doing a good job as king. But his father opines just the opposite to what he was expecting to hear, and Merlin, always Merlin, is there in the journey to make his father go back to where he now belongs.
That's why when Uther’s about to confess Merlin’s secret, Arthur makes the horn sound as hard as he can. He doesn't want his father to spoil it, he can’t have Merlin not telling him. Arthur wants it to be him.
That night, when Merlin’s gathering the remainings into the tray, about to turn and leave, Arthur stops him by saying, “I hope you know you can trust me, Merlin.”
Merlin glances at him, his hands halt midway. “Sire?” he asks and in times like these, when the atmosphere around them morphs into something more serious, Arthur wishes Merlin wouldn’t address him like that.
“I know things are different now, but we can still be the same with each other,” Arthur says, allowing himself to wear his heart on his sleeve for once. “If you ever want to talk about something, you can come to me.”
Merlin’s chest rises and falls rapidly, his wide eyes move swiftly across Arthur’s face. Arthur can almost hear the gears inside Merlin’s head turning as he makes an effort to pin Arthur down. “I—” he wavers. In that moment, Merlin’s eyes tell him a million things, but his lips won’t tell Artur what he most desires to hear. “Thank you, Arthur,” he finishes and Arthur nods once, sighs when Merlin whirls around.
So not tonight, either.
Merlin hastily grabs the tray and pushes off the table, heading for the door as Arthur watches the emotions play across Merlin’s features; confusion, frustration, need.
Taking the cup of wine to his lips, and feeling a pang of disappointment in his heart, Arthur observes Merlin go. There’ll be a day when Merlin will finally be prepared to share his secret; that secret that’s becoming a burden, Arthur thinks bitterly. And that day Arthur will put Merlin’s mind at ease and all his worries to rest. There’ll be a day when Merlin will finally trust him as he trusted Lancelot, but that day, it seems, won’t be today.