Summary: In which Merlin is a Sidhe, and Arthur isn't that oblivious afterall.
Word Count: 2150
Author's Notes: Dear little_huntress, I hope you like this fic. It was a challenging prompt for me, but in the end I had fun writing this fic.
Huge thanks to 5leggedcricket for the quick beta. (you're the best!). <3
Thanks to the awesome mods of this comm who arranged this fest! <3
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.
The first time Arthur notices something odd about his manservant is when they’re stranded out in the snowy woods in midwinter. Arthur knew that hunting in winter isn’t a very easy task, but he was bored out of his mind and he hoped to catch a few rabbits when he ordered Merlin to pack supplies for a hunting trip. Now he’s busy freezing his arse off while pretending not to feel the cold. However, when he glances at Merlin, he genuinely doesn’t seem to be cold at all, and Arthur is so surprised he forgets to sneakily rub his arms for a second. It’s not like Merlin is wearing special clothes to protect him from the cold. If anything, Arthur’s expensive furred clothes are a lot warmer than Merlin’s usual jacket and scarf—even with an extra cloak—and Merlin should be shivering and whining about the cold by now.
“Aren’t you cold?” Arthur asks, scowling at Merlin, who turns his head to look at him with raised eyebrows.
Merlin hums distractedly He has been strangely quiet ever since they left Camelot and entered the forest. It’s not that he isn’t speaking, it’s just that his heart isn’t in it. It’s making Arthur’s annoyance flare up every time they talk.
“Aren’t you cold?” Arthur repeats.
“Of course I am,” Merlin answers quickly, and he’s less distracted now, paying more attention to Arthur. His voice is perfectly steady, though, and his teeth don’t seem to be shattering like Arthur was expecting them to. Merlin hasn’t whined about the cold even once this whole time and...and it’s just frustrating and a little bit scary.
“You don’t look very cold,” Arthur challenges, eyes narrowed. He doesn’t exactly have a reason to push this topic, but Merlin has been too quiet during this trip, and Arthur is getting worried. It’s not something he would ever admit out loud, but he likes Merlin’s constant prattle. The absence of it leaves Arthur feeling unsettled.
Merlin bites his lip when Arthur continues to scowl at him, and Arthur is momentarily distracted. It takes him a moment to shake himself out of it and stop staring. By the time he does, Merlin has composed himself.
“I am, but I just don’t get cold often. And these clothes are enough,” Merlin replies. He smiles at Arthur in that disarming way of his that makes Arthur’s heart jump in his chest. He doesn’t miss the teasing glint in Merlin’s eyes, though, and Arthur groans even before the next words are out of Merlin’s mouth.
“Were you worried about me, my Lord?” Merlin says, teasing, fluttering his eyelashes. Arthur doesn’t dignify that with a response, even though the answer to that question is yes.
The second time is an accident.
Arthur is just out for a stroll after a particularly frustrating conversation with his father when he sees him crouched down. Arthur is not expecting to see him here. Merlin is supposed to be cleaning the stables, and not wandering around the woods like a person with nothing else to do. But when Arthur sees the loose jacket and a messy mop of dark hair, he knows that it can’t be anyone but Merlin.
He’s just about to call Merlin’s name when he notices that Merlin is talking animatedly. Merlin’s back is blocking the view, though, so Arthur cranes his neck to get a better view. He blinks. It’s a rabbit, a white rabbit, with glowing golden eyes. Arthur barely manages stop himself from sucking in a sharp breath, but he must have made some sort of noise, because both the rabbit and Merlin turn to look at him. For a second, Arthur thinks that Merlin’s eyes are golden to match the rabbit’s. His skin appears to be glowing with an almost blue tint to it, and his ears seem a lot bigger and pointier than usual. He looks... otherworldly, and Arthur would have reached for his sword if he didn’t know it was Merlin standing in front of him.
He blinks again, and when he looks back down at the rabbit, it’s gone. Merlin gets up, and he seems to have lost that ethereal glow.
“What was that?” Arthur asks a moment later, trying to get his thoughts in order.
Merlin shifts nervously. “Um, a rabbit?” He blinks innocently at Arthur from under his eyelashes, and Arthur can’t help but think about just how fuckable Merlin looks, and then scolds himself for getting distracted.
He knows there’s nothing else that Merlin will say about this, though. Not if what Arthur just saw was real.
There’s no point in asking Merlin, so Arthur does what Merlin expects him to do. He teases Merlin about talking to forest animals of all the things, and tries not to notice just how relieved Merlin looks when he thinks Arthur has let it go.
Arthur doesn’t let it go. He knows what he saw, and he knows now that there is something about Merlin, something that he has been hiding from Arthur for a long time. And he’s certain now that Merlin has magic. The thought that Merlin has been lying to him for so long, that he didn’t think Arthur could be trusted, hurts.
Arthur prides himself in being more accepting than his father. He doesn’t think that magic is inherently evil. He knows that it’s the people who choose to use it for evil give it a bad name. He’s never actually said this to anyone before, because he’s the crown prince and he can’t be seen actively opposing his father’s beliefs. And while he’s not particularly vocal about his beliefs, he thought that Merlin knew how different he was from his father.
He doesn’t think that Merlin is capable of harming anyone, but he doesn’t just want to dismiss this new information, especially since Merlin has been lying to him for years now. So he decides to investigate this issue further and gather more proof.
Over the next two weeks, he makes a point to be more alert around Merlin. He notices a lot more than he used to. Merlin seems to use his magic pretty regularly, and Arthur is amazed to see just how often Merlin goes unnoticed.
The library is filled with books on magical creatures (and how to kill them), but he can’t find anything that resembles Merlin. The only thing that comes close are the Sidhe or fairies, but even they aren’t a very close match.
The records talk about how ruthless and cruel they are, how they stop at nothing to gain what they want. They have no sympathy for anyone but their own kind. Merlin is kind and gentle. He likes helping people. He’s accepting and loving and Arthur knows that there are at least half a dozen people that he’d willingly give his life for, and he’s nothing like what the records state.
The physical descriptions match, though. And the fact that some of them have the ability to talk to animals. Some of the things he’s noticed Merlin do are mentioned in the records.
By the end of the second week, Arthur is convinced that Merlin is a faerie and that the records they have in their library are inaccurate.
Winter is just ending and the snow has started to melt when Gaius sends Merlin on an errand to collect herbs.
Following Merlin without being noticed is a lot more difficult than he anticipated, and by the time it’s mid-morning, he’s exhausted. Merlin hasn’t done anything that even so much as hints at magic. He’s just walking around, occasionally stopping to grab a few herbs and dump them in the basket that he’s carrying.
He watches as Merlin looks around and sighs wistfully. He’s pouting, and Arthur still just wants to walk up to him and kiss that pout off of his face. It’s amazing how his affections for Merlin haven’t changed a bit, even after finding out that Merlin is not human.
Merlin looks around again, this time with intent, and Arthur ducks behind the bushes again in case Merlin sees him. After waiting for a couple of seconds, he peeks from behind the bush. Just then,Merlin extends a hand towards a small amount of snow on the ground and chants some words. The snow shifts, comes together and forms a— a small snow dragon. Arthur stiffens instinctively when the small white dragon starts moving. It flies up from the ground, and perches on top of Merlin’s shoulder.
Merlin smiles to himself, and resumes his work.
Three days after that, Arthur walks into his chambers after dinner with his father and finds Merlin staring down at the papers on his desk. He feels his stomach flip. He placed all the texts about the Sidhe that he could find on his desk, specifically arranged for Merlin to find, so they could finally talk about this. He feels a bit silly now; he could have just sat Merlin down and asked him, but he tried to initiate that conversation multiple times in the last few days and backed out of it every single time.
The door to Arthur’s chambers is creaky and noisy, but Merlin doesn’t seem to notice Arthur walking in and closing the door behind him.
He waits for a few seconds for Merlin to notice him, and when he realises that that’s not going to happen, decides to speak.
“You are one of them, aren’t you?” Arthur asks, hating himself when Merlin turns to look at him. Merlin looks like he’s seen a ghost. There’s no colour in his face, his eyes are wide, and he’s barely breathing. Arthur hates that he put that expression on his face. All he wants to do, is to close the distance between them and put his arms around Merlin and tell him that he’s not angry, that it’ll all be okay, that he won’t let anything happen to Merlin.
Merlin’s mouth opens and closes a few times, like he’s not sure what kind of answer is expected of him.
“My father was. My mother is human,” Merlin says, his voice somewhat unsteady. He doesn’t blink, doesn’t break eye contact, nothing to indicate that he is ashamed of what he is.
Arthur waits while he thinks about that. It somewhat makes sense now. There’s no information about creatures like Merlin because he’s probably the only one of his kind. Even if he is not, this has to be rare.
He pulls himself out of his thoughts when he realises just how long the silence has stretched. Merlin is looking at him nervously.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks, because there’s nothing else he can think of to say to Merlin right now.
“I didn’t know how you’d react.”
“Did you think I’d hurt you?” Arthur asks. The swiftness with which Merlin shakes his head tells him that Merlin really doesn’t think that Arthur would hurt him. It soothes something inside Arthur. “Why, then?” he asks again.
“I didn’t want to— I don’t want to leave you, Arthur, don’t make me go,” Merlin says, and there’s a hint of desperation in his voice that makes Arthur ache. It’s the first time Merlin breaks eye contact. He looks so small then, with his shoulders slumped, and his hair falling on his forehead. Arthur doesn’t like seeing Merlin this way. He stares at him for a few seconds. There has to be something there, he thinks. He’s thought about this ever since he figured out that Merlin is not entirely human. He doesn’t know why Merlin has stuck around for so long when he could just leave. There has to be something here. Why else would Merlin stay?
“I don’t want you to leave me,” he says firmly, feels his heart thudding wildly in his chest. He takes a few steps to cover the distance between them. When Merlin looks up, Arthur gathers up all the courage he has and closes the distance between them.
He takes Merlin’s face in his hands and leans in to press his lips to Merlin’s. There’s a moment of panic where Arthur thinks that he got it wrong, and he’s just made a fool of himself by kissing Merlin, but then Merlin relaxes under him, his hands coming up to grab at Arthur’s hair.
It’s Merlin who walks them back towards the bed and pushes Arthur on it. He breaks the kiss long enough to climb onto the bed beside Arthur and leans down to kiss him again like he can’t help himself.
Arthur doesn’t really know how they’ll keep this hidden, or how he’ll keep Merlin safe and away from the pyre. He can think about that tomorrow, though. Right now, there’s no room for anything but the sound of Merlin’s soft snores in his ears, as Merlin sleeps curled up in his arms.