Title: Truth Beneath Your Skin
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Of course, when Arthur burst into Merlin's room without so much as a knock while Merlin was bent over to pull up his breeches, he didn't apologize.
Warnings: Implied shenanigans
Word Count: 745
Prompt: Amnesty Post (#27: Tattoos)
Author's Notes: There may be a ridiculous number of drabbles from me this weekend. I'm a little sorry?
Of course—of course, because Merlin’s life was cursed—when Arthur burst into Merlin's room without so much as a knock while Merlin was bent over to pull up his breeches, he didn't apologize or back out or even avert his eyes politely.
He did close the door, but when Merlin turned, flushed with embarrassment and hastily clothed, he was standing on exactly the wrong side of it, looking a strange combination of bemused and concerned that shouldn't have suited his smug face so well.
It also shouldn’t have made Merlin’s insides feel light and squishy, but he was good at keeping secrets.
“Merlin,” the prince drawled.
Merlin knew his voice was slightly squeakier than was generally acceptable when he answered, “Sire.”
“Merlin,” Arthur repeated, to Merlin’s dread. It never went well when Arthur used his name more than once. His fate was definitely sealed when Arthur said it again, drawn out and speculative: “Merlin, are you aware that you have a druid tattoo on your arse?”
“Er,” said Merlin, and, “well,” and Arthur didn’t seem particularly impressed by either. “Yes, I am aware of that?” he tried tentatively.
Arthur leant back against the door, arms crossed and eyebrow cocked challengingly. His smirk started when Merlin asked more than said, “It’s a long and slightly humorous story,” and grew ever sharper as Merlin stumbled through, “Well, I say humorous because I know you’ll enjoy my suffering, but it was actually really unpleasant which is why I don’t like to talk about it.
“See, there was actually this druid camp not far from Ealdor, and one day I was out doing, you know, peasant things in the woods and I ran across it, and they weren’t very happy, and...”
And so on, until he’d woven his tale of captivity and torment, taking care to graphically detail the indignity of being marked against his will with the hope that Arthur would be disturbed enough to leave it be, maybe even leave entirely.
Instead, his royal highness waited for Merlin to stop rambling and asked, “Really, Merlin?” There was a slight edge to his voice, but Merlin couldn’t tell if it was amusement or anger.
“Really, yes,” he answered, and if he lingered on the second word a little too long to be entirely reassuring, it was only because Arthur had begun advancing on him. At least he hadn’t—yet—pulled out his sword or yelled anything about sorcery.
“Do you know, Merlin, that you may be quite literally the worst liar in all of Camelot?”
“I don’t, ah—”
“I mean really, unbelievably horrible at it.”
“Arthur,” Merlin said, trying for lightness with a smile and laugh that even he knew were unconvincing.
“Honestly,” Arthur continued, relentless, “you’re even less believable than Gaius, and if you don’t think I can tell when that old bat is trying to cover for you, I’m insulted.”
Arthur’s words were harsh but his tone was gently teasing, and he was so close in Merlin’s space that all Merlin could do was look into his eyes—and how was it he always made Merlin feel like the smaller of them?—and it was all very confusing, but also incredibly frustrating.
“Arthur,” he said snappishly, letting his annoyance get the better of him and override any residual nervousness, “if you’re trying to say something, would you just come out and say it? Because I have no idea what you’re going on about anymore. So if you don’t need me for anything that’s not paranoid mumbling, I promised Gaius I’d replenish the feverfew today.”
Arthur rolled his eyes and sighed, as though Merlin were the one being unreasonable about all of it. “I’m saying that I already know all your secrets, so you may as well stop lying to me.”
Merlin tried to hold back a disbelieving snort, but clearly he wasn’t successful because Arthur leaned in closer, which Merlin hadn’t thought possible, and said, “I’m saying that, tattoo or no tattoo, you don’t belong to the druids, Emrys.”
As Merlin’s jaw dropped in shock, Arthur caught it and pulled him in with a firm hand on his chin, declaring, “You belong to me,” before proving his claim.
Much later, after Merlin had collected no feverfew but several pleasant aches and bruises, Arthur traced the triskelion on one curve of Merlin’s bum as they lay side by side on Merlin’s mussed bed.
“Naturally,” he said, idle and sated, “we’ll need to get you the Pendragon crest on the other side.”