Disclaimer: Don't own Merlin.
"This. Is. All. YOUR. Fault."
Merlin looked up from where his magic was milking Bessie, weeding the garden, trimming the hedges of the trees and picking fruit from high tress, placing them safely within baskets below him. "Yes, this is all my fault. It is actually part of my evil, sorcerer plan: to get all of my chores down in no time so I can laze around and be a total nuisance."
Arthur was not amused. "He brought her flowers."
"The nerve!" Merlin gasped as he brought his hand to his chest in mock-scandal.
"Flowers!" Arthur was apparently not listening to him. "Morgana does not even like flowers!"
"So she told him to take them away?" Merlin raised an eyebrow, able to imagine the woman doing just that.
Arthur's face fell. "She put them in a vase by her bed."
Lips twitching, Merlin felt a little bad for the guy, who was obviously not taking any of this well at all. "You could have worse brother in laws than Gwaine." At Arthur's incredulous and quite disbelieving look, Merlin tried to prove him right. "It could have been Clancy."
Arthur's eyes narrowed. "Make it believable. No way would Morgana ever marry that fat, pox-ridden simpleton."
Considering that Arthur was encouraging Merlin to encourage him, the warlock gave it another try. "Leslie."
"Oh." Arthur made a face. "There is Leslie."
Merlin nodded. Leslie was a nice enough fellow to be sure, and he wasn't truly that unattractive, but Leslie had a tendency to eat his boogers when he thought no one was looking. "Or Wilfred."
Arthur's face twisted further. "There is Wilfred."
Wilfred the handsome, who went through periods in which he believed he was a dog.
"And, there is of course, Dudley."
Arthur shivered. "There is Dudley."
Dudley, who was handsome, incredibly built and had his own house and crops, and who eyed Morgana with interest... when he wasn't eyeing Arthur with interest.
Merlin clapped the boy on his shoulder. "See? It could be worse than Gwaine."
"I am horrified at the fact that I have to agree with that."
Merlin grinned. "I have taught you to see the silver lining in even the darkest of circumstances! Stick with me and I will teach you all sorts of fun things."
Arthur raised an eyebrow at him, clearly unconvinced. "The last time you tried to 'teach' me something I could not sit comfortably for three days. Everyone kept giving me odd, questioning looks."
The warlock knew it was wrong to grin at that yet couldn't stop himself. "But look at how well you have behaved since then!"
He totally had the punch to the gut coming to him, and he laughed as he doubled over in pain and Arthur stormed away, the blush that crept up the blonde's neck bright and extremely visible despite the distance between them.
"You will be bored if I do."
Arthur sidled him with an ugly look. "I will somehow manage."
Merlin ignored the blonde's wishes. "But you are doing it wrong."
A muscle ticked in Arthur's cheek. "I am not doing anything. How could I be doing it wrong!?"
Completely ignoring the blonde's bad mood, Merlin threw himself on the grass next to Arthur and looked up at the clouds. "You are lost in your own thoughts and are not enjoying the beauty around you." He lifted his finger and pointed to the sky as his eyes flashed gold. "When you lay on the top of a grassy hill, with the wind whistling around you, you soak in the beauty of nature." He turned his head to the side to grin at Arthur as the clouds above them formed a dragon shape, and began to fly around. "Of course, a city boy would not know this, so just consider this yet another bit of free education."
Unlike usual, Arthur didn't rise to the bait. Instead he stared at Merlin before he cleared his throat and turned to look up at the sky, to watch the dragon and the other shapes and forms the clouds had taken on. "In Camelot there was never time to actually do this."
Considering that the younger boy never actually talked about his life in Camelot, Merlin remained silent, curious about just how much the blonde would choose to reveal to him.
"I was always in training, and my father always expected better of me so I had to work ten times harder than everyone else to prove myself to him." He let out a sigh. "I feel like a mockery of myself here in Ealdor, tending to the earth and working with animals." He sent Merlin a twisted, unhappy smile. "My father must not be at peace, seeing me like this."
Merlin stared at that face. "Then do something about it."
Arthur gave a tired laugh. "I like that about you, Merlin. You always believe every problem can be solved by just wishing it so. It is naive, but refreshing."
"What I mean, Arthur, is that if you miss Camelot that much, and your life there, use your time here to grow up, to grow strong, and then go back to fight for it when the time is right." Merlin wondered if Arthur would realize that the warlock knew exactly who he was.
"Thing is, Merlin, this new king is apparently accepted by the people of Camelot." And it was obvious that it hurt Arthur to admit that. "From what I have managed to hear from the few caravans that have passed through, the changes Agravaine is implimenting in the kingdom are being welcomed by those within." He let out a stuttered breath. "It would seem that King Uther lost more support following the Great Purge than he, or any of those in his court, could have ever suspected."
Merlin couldn't say anything positive about Uther, so he remained silent.
Arthur read the truth in his silence and let out a dark chuckle. "Why am I even telling you this? You obviously would be in favor of Agravaine as king. He is bringing back magic and the Old Religion to Camelot. All of that is in the best interest of sorcerers like you."
"It is," Merlin couldn't and wouldn't deny it.
Flinching visibly, Arthur angled his gaze away.
Merlin returned his gaze to the sky and the cloud-dragon swooped down magestically above them before performing pirouettes in the air.
A soft chuckle escaped Arthur's lips.
Melrin smiled in reaction to the sound as he had the cloud-dragon perform more stunts above them.
Arthur cleared his throat. "I came here to be alone, you know."
"No you did not."
"How could you possibly-?"
"If you had wanted to be alone, you would not have chosen the hill right behind my house." Merlin had bouts of wisdom now and again.
Arthur couldn't say anything to that, and merely continued to stare up above them.
When Merlin felt the warning in his barriers he shot up from where he'd been planting the flowers in his mother's garden for her birthday (that really was what he'd wanted to talk to Elena and Vivian about). His eyes had flashed gold as he activated the spell no one knew he had cast, and then he made his way languidly to the village center in time to see the group of riders descending upon them. His gaze found Lancelot, the only one who knew of his plan, and watched as Lancelot nodded and disappeared into the crowd to do his part. Merlin cleared his throat as he watched the riders draw closer and closer.
The man in the front of the group narrowed his eyes as he surveyed the people and descended from his mount. "Who is in charge here?"
Merlin was not "in charge", there really wasn't anyone who was "in charge", but he still stepped forwards. "Is there any way we can help you, sir?"
The man eyed him with little interest. "We heard that a group from Camelot have made this place their home, is this true?"
"A family, not a group." Merlin's voice was even.
"We have reason to believe that they are hiding from King Agravaine." The man stepped forwards. "We are here to take them back."
Merlin raised an eyebrow. "Of course." He motioned towards Lancelot, who had brought the visibly confused and very wary group forwards. Lancelot must've told them there was a plan in place (otherwise Merlin could see the men trying to fight) and they were visibly restraining from doing so and trusting him. "This is the family that have moved to Camelot."
The man moved passed Merlin and walked straight to Arthur, before his snorted and walked down the line. He then turned to the others. "If you are hiding them from us, we will find them."
Merlin nodded. "You can search our village, we have nothing to hide."
Confusion was plain on Arthur and the knights' faces as King Agravaine's men pushed passed them to search the village. Morgana had a smirk of suspicion on her face, and Guinevere didn't looked surprised at all, merely a little nervous. It appeared that Lancelot had forewarned her about Merlin's plan should Agravaine's men arrive.
In the end, Agravaine's men were forced to mount their horses and leave. The leader looked back a couple of times, but he nonetheless left.
The crowd dispersed, mumbled on how men from Camelot had no right trying to command people from Essetir, and a couple of them clapped Gaius and his family on their backs and told them not to worry, they were Ealdoreans now and wouldn't have to put up with that "rift raft" anymore.
Merlin wasn't too sure that this was the last time that they'd hear from the soldiers, he doubted Agravaine would rest until his nephew was dead, but at least for now things had worked in their favor.
Arthur watched the soldiers in disguise disappear and made his way towards Merlin. His gaze was on the hill, his expression unreadable. "You know who I am."
Not seeing a reason to deny it, Merlin nodded.
Arthur's gaze turned to him. "I know those men. They know me. They should be executing us this instance." His eyes narrowed on the warlock. "I am not sure how, but you protected us."
He had a feeling Arthur would not be happy once he found out he was bespelled considering his stance on magic. "As long as you and the others remain in Ealdor, anyone who does not live here will see you as half-starved, unremarkable and unfamiliar."
The prince in hiding merely stared at him in utter confusion. "Why? If my father were king he would kill you."
Merlin reached out and placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. "I choose to believe that now, should you be king, you would not."
Arthur was silent, his eyes wide.
Seeing Lancelot motioning him over, Merlin gave Arthur's shoulder a squeeze and went to see what Lancelot needed. He could feel Arthur's gaze on his back, but he didn't look back once.
Ever since the day that Agravaine's men came to Camelot something changed in Arthur. Or, maybe, better said, Arthur himself didn't change, but his interactions with Merlin did. The warlock wasn't exactly sure what had prompted the change, and was somewhat unbalanced by the change in their dynamic, but he tried not to let it show too much. Sure, he had enjoyed all the bickering (hell, he really enjoyed the bickering) but he also liked the fact that he could now talk to Arthur without the blonde storming away in a huff.
"You do not have to look at me as if you are wondering whether you need to throw me over your shoulder again." Arthur raised an eyebrow, clearly warning Merlin away from even considering that. "I am being level-headed about this."
"I can see that. It is what is making me suspicious."
Arthur snorted in laughter. "There is no pleasing you, is there, Merlin?"
"I can be easily pleased, I just do not think that you have changed your feelings that much concerning Morgana and Gwaine." Merlin rubbed down Bessie. "She is marrying Gwaine. I do not believe this tranquil front you are putting up." His eyes narrowed. "Unless you have planned to assassinate Gwaine before the wedding." His eyes widened. "Have you-?"
"No." Arthur rolled his eyes. "Gwaine, and his privates, are safe from me. Not from Morgana, but from me."
Merlin wasn't too sure he believed this change of heart. "Who mentioned his privates?"
"Stop looking so suspicious!" Arthur snickered in dark amusement. "I am going to hand my sister over to him and just let him deal with her evilness from now on. I will wash my hands clean of the both of them. He will come crying for me to take her back and I will just tell him "I told you so", just watch and see." He made a face. "Why anyone would want to marry Morgana I will never know."
"She is beautiful and has an incredible br-." Merlin sputtered as some of Bessie's food was thrown in his face. He spat it out and turned to glare at a glaring Arthur. "Brain. I was going to say brain! Why would I say "an" in front of breasts? Unless I only consider one of them incredible!"
Arthur's eyes narrowed further. "You keep your hands and attention off of my sister's brain, as well as her flowerbed."
Merlin blushed. "It isn't a euphenism!"
Arthur did not seem to believe him at all.
Did Merlin truly have the reputation of a rogue scoundrel? He must! It made no other sense for why Arthur seemed to find it his sole purpose in life to save any female around them from Merlin's "philandering".
Thankfully, though, Arthur changed the topic, his expression contemplative. "How fond are you of Cenred?"
The warlock's expression went highly amused. "You ask me this because he and I have tea and biscuits every sunday, yeah?"
Arthur glared at him. "Do not try to be smart, Merlin, it does not suit you." He cleared his throat. "Clearly I meant as a leader. As Ealdor's king."
Intrigued by the question, Merlin took a moment to think about it before answering. "Not overly. It is not as if he ever helped Ealdor with the bandits, or the drought, or when all the cattle died, or when the sickness took over that year when I was eight." His gaze rose to the ever-contemplative Arthur. "Why do you ask?"
"I just think that a king should be mindful of all his provinces, no matter how small." Arthur raised an eyebrow. "When I take the throne back from Agravaine I may buy this village from him. It is close to our borders."
Merlin's eyes widened and he let out a bark of laughter. "I do not think Cenred will just hand over Ealdor like that even if you give him a hearty sum, I do not think his pride would allow him to."
"Then I shall have to conquer Essetir and join it to Camelot." Arthur seemed decided in this.
The laughter bubbled in Merlin's throat. "Well, why not just join the whole of Albion while you are at it?"
Arthur eyed him curiously. "Why not?"
Merlin's lips parted. "You want to join the whole of Albion?"
Again, he merely asked: "Why not?"
Realizing that there was some seriousness in this conversation, Merlin narrowed his eyes as he examined the blonde. "I do not think that the whole of Albion will just accept Camelot's customs and dictates. Especially not when they have lived in freedom and safe from persecution because they lived in other realms."
Arthur's face clouded at the implication. "Do you really think, Merlin, that if I were king and Ealdor belonged to Camleot, that I would have you burnt at the stake for being a sorcerer?" He took a step forwards. "Do you truly believe that I would do that?"
The taller youth eyed the shorter one in contemplation. "I would hope not, but it is what you were taught, Arthur, to hate my kind and kill them on sight."
"I might have been taught that, and I do believe that there is evil magic out there, but that does not mean that I cannot think for myself and come to my own conclusions." A muscle ticked in Arthur's cheek, some disappointment in his blues. "You are an idiot, and you are insufferable, and you are mind-boggling clueless, but you are not evil."
Emotion choked in Merlin's throat and made his voice sound odd as he whispered: "Thank you."
Arthur nodded and looked away.
They stayed there, an awkward silence befalling them. Merlin had a feeling that something important had just happened, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out exactly what.
Despite all the speculation in Morgana and Gwaine's direction, Leon and Freya were the next to marry, and Leon moved into Freya's small yet cozy house. He doted on her with the same faithfulness with which he tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to serve Arthur, and Merlin had never seen the quiet, timid, scarred girl this happy. The village, overjoyed for the orphan, celebrated her wedding for three straight days. The newly weds were happily at home for most of the celebration, but to be truthful the celebration was more for the village than for Freya and Leon, and everyone rejoiced and drank and enjoyed themselves.
Merlin might have enjoyed a little too much, because he was actually quite tipsy (some bushes had exploded due to his wonky magic) and he laughed a bit too loudly and stumbled somewhat.
Arthur kept sneering at him and calling him a lightweight, but he always managed to steer Merlin away from any dangerous situation the drunk warlock got himself in (like when Merlin admitted that he could heal himself from most injuries and offered to stab himself with a pitchfork to prove it).
"I was wondering when you would get to see Merlin drunk." Will was enjoying this far too much. "Two more goblets and he will be stripping."
Arthur choked on his own sip of meade.
Will snickered. "It is not as if it is not something you have not seen already."
Arthur blanched and then went red. "I have not seen him naked!"
"Oh, yes, of course." Will nudged him shoulder into Arthur's before he brought his finger to his lips as if they were sharing a monumental secret.
"Oi!" Merlin stumbled towards Will. "He has not seen me naked."
"Sure, of course." Will nodded placatingly, not at all believing him.
Merlin fanned himself. "Is it hot in here?"
Will turned his devilish eyes on Arthur. "Here it comes!"
Arthur dropped his goblet the second Merlin reached for his neckerchief and threw it to the ground. The blonde scooped up the drunk warlock and threw him over his shoulder. "That is it. I am taking you to Hunith before you scar any impressionable minds."
"Of course you are." Once more Will gave them a large, overly-exaggerated wink as well as a thumbs up.
Arthur, face reddening, shook his head as he began to storm away in the direction of Merlin and Hunith's hut.
Merlin, hanging upside down on that back, stared at Arthur's butt and did what felt natural. He slapped it, and then burst out laughing.
Arthur froze and then slapped Merlin's butt, hard. "Stop that!"
In retaliation, the warlock slapped it again, and let out a pained laugh when Arthur slapped him again.
"Merlin, I swear to-do not pinch me!"
"Ouch! I did not pinch you that hard!" Merlin whined.
"Stupid sorcerer," Arthur huffed under his breath. "If most magic-users are like you we should have taken pity on them."
"Oi!" Not too drunk not to recognize the slur against him, Merlin stretched and squeezed both cheeks.
Arthur squeaked and jumped a little. "Merlin!"
The warlock, having enjoyed that reaction, continued to knead those cheeks.
Arthur hurried his pace and continued to slap his butt. "Stop it! Refrain-! Stop!"
Merlin merely snickered like a misbehaving child. It was how he missed that they were in front of his house, and that Arthur was knocking on the door desperately.
The door opened and his mother was treated to the sight before her.
Hunith, for her point, merely raised an eyebrow.
"He was about to strip," Arthur's voice was strained.
"Again?" Hunith sighed.
"I have brought him back with some dignity intact." Arthur tried to put Merlin down, but the warlock had a firm grip on his butt. "Oi! Merlin! Let go!"
"Nope!" Merlin chuckled. "She thinks that we flirt."
"I wonder what would give her that idea," Arthur growled. "Could it be the fact that you will not let go of my buttocks?!"
"Nah." Merlin didn't think so. "It has to be something else."
"So help me, if you do not-."
Hunith giggled before she cleared her throat. "Merlin. Behave."
He pouted and let go of Arthur, allowed himself to be set on his feet and leaned into his mother's arms.
Arthur was shocked. "How did you get him to listen to you?"
"I am his mother," was Hunith's proud answer as she looked him up and down. "I expect you to come calling by the house tomorrow evening and have dinner with us." At Arthur's expression she smiled. "I want to better know the young man courting my son."
Arthur blushed. "I am not-!"
"Eight sharp." And with that Hunith led Merlin back inside.
Merlin waved goodbye to a shellshocked Arthur before his magic shut the door.
Hunith must've scared Arthur the way she did Merlin, because Arthur had not only appeared for dinner the next night, but every night after it. He'd started bringing Gauis when she insisted (Morgana was busy bossing Gwaine) and the two men ended up somehow becoming staples in the Emrys household. Merlin did not know how to take it (at least it wasn't awkward like it had been at first) and he was sure that everyone in the village were convinced he and Arthur were together by now.
"Delicious as always, Hunith," Gaius praised.
Arthur looked at his guardian in shock, obviously not thinking much of Hunith's cooking (although he never showed it to the woman's face) and worried about Gaius' health.
Merlin knocked his foot sideways into Arthur's in reproach.
Properly scolded, Arthur lowered his gaze and stuffed his face with the food.
Hunith caught him doing so, beamed, and then turned to Gaius. "You flatter me too much, Gaius."
Merlin and Arthur shared grins.
Hunith (who had always known the truth about the "family" from Camelot - she had vouched for Gaius) sat down once more and smiled at Arthur and Merlin before she turned to Gaius and placed her hand on his. "I am so glad that you came to us for help, Gaius. I had wanted Merlin to go to Camelot to meet the boy prince you wrote so much about, I knew that they would become close rapidly... even though I never expected how close they would become."
Gaius nodded, although he raised an eyebrow at them.
Arthur blinked. "Wait, you wanted Merlin to go to Camelot?"
Hunith nodded. "I tried over and over to send him to Camelot last year, but he refused each and every time."
Arthur's mouth fell open and he turned to punch Merlin in his arm. "Why did you not want to come to Camelot?"
Rubbing his shoulder, Merlin pointed to himself. "Sorcerer."
Arthur's lips pursed. "I concede to that point."
Merlin gave him a grin and then nudged his shoulder into Arthur's. "Anyway, even if I had been in Camelot, our paths would probably never have crossed that frequently and you would not have had the pleasure of having my free education."
A scoff escaped those lips as Arthur shook his head. "Please, Merlin, you would have been unable to stay away from me."
It was Merlin's time to scoff. "I think I would have been able to stay away just fine. If anything I would have avoided you like the plague."
Arthur's lips parted in outrage. "If anyone would avoid anyone, it would be me avoiding you!"
They then started to argue about who was more avoidable, and totally missed the amused looks Gaius and Hunith shared.
"This shed..." Arthur took a step backwards (and out of the shed), gave the shed's exterior a look, and then stepped back inside. "It is considerably larger on the inside than it appears to be on the outside."
"A bit." Merlin kept his back to Arthur as his magic brought in more and more things to be stored for winter.
"A bit?" Arthur raised an eyebrow. "From the outside the width seems about arms-length, yet inside..."
"Magic," Merlin reminded with a point to himself.
Arthur pursed his lips. "Why have you not done the same thing with your house?"
"We do not need a bigger house." He motioned to the amount of dried and potted supplies stored within. "What we do need are considerable supplies to survive the winter." At Arthur's look, he fidgeted. "What?"
"I have decided to unite Albion when the right time comes." Arthur eyed him. "The Druid people, and all those with magic who wish to live in peace, will be treated with the respect they deserve." His blues bore a hole into Merlin. "I give you my word."
Merlin's eyes widened as he stared at the prat who, for the first time (in Merlin's eyes at least) truly looked like a future king. He realized that the blonde was waiting for some sort of answer, and he smiled and gave a little bow of his head. "I believe you."
Arthur's grin was quick and large before he cleared his throat and looked away.
Merlin's lips twitched, unable to stop himself. "Does that mean I should start calling you Your Highness from now, as practice?"
When Arthur returned his blues on Merlin, he wasn't as annoyed as the raven-haired lad would've hoped, in fact, he was grinning teasingly himself. "Only if you want to start walking on your knees."
"Excuse me?" Merlin gaped.
"Do you know how to walk on your knees, Merlin?"
There was something distinctively naughty with that question, and Merlin blinked and just stared at Arthur for a couple of seconds before he shook his head. "No."
Arthur smirked. "I shall have to teach you then."
An eyebrow raised high, almost Gaius-like.
Arthur cleared his throat and looked away. "Well, carry on then. With your work."
Amusement began to color through Merlin once more at the imperious tone. "Of course, Your Highness."
Once more, Arthur merely grinned wide and cocksure.
Once more, Merlin had no idea how to react.
King Agravaine's people returned, this time with a warlock. Merlin realized that since they were unable to find Arthur and his group despite all of their searching they'd begun suspecting sorcery, and had brought a warlock to combat magic with magic. He tried to play unconcerned, but the warlock was powerful, Merlin could feel the magic within him and he was worried that he would feel the magic surrounding those from Camelot. He especially grew worried when the warlock zeroed in on Arthur, but soon after the warlock approached Arthur it became apparent that he, in fact, did not suspect a thing.
It was due to Merlin's watchful gaze on the warlock and a flustered (and flummoxed) Arthur that the Ealdorean sorcerer realized the very second that it dawned on Arthur exactly what Merlin's spell had done. The blonde froze before he turned puce and fixed a glare on Merlin that promised him all sorts of hell. Arthur had then said something to the warlock leaning in close to him, had turned and stormed away, and wouldn't come near anyone until the guards from Camelot had left and disappeared from sight.
But when they were gone be made himself seen... and heard.
"YOU MADE ME A WOMAN!"
Merlin didn't even look up from where his magic was arranging the supplies.
Arthur slammed the door to the shed shut. "You said that when people who weren't from Ealdor looked at me they saw someone half-starved, unremarkable and unfamiliar! You did not say that you made me look like a "buxom beauty with 'child-bearing' hips!'"
"Did he really call you that to your face?" Merlin couldn't keep the amusement from leaking into his tone. "He truly was enamored with you. I am surprised he did not offer to take you away from the drudgeries of this life and instead set you up happily in Camelot." When all he got was silence, Merlin gazed over his shoulder at the humiliated expression on the boy's face and snickered. "He did offer."
"This is not humorous!" Arthur glared.
"If it makes you feel any better, Gaius' fake bosom is far more buxom than yours."
Arthur paused. "Is Gauis a woman a well?"
"Everyone who came with you has had their gender reversed." Merlin gave a little shrug. "Guinevere looks like a sweet boy on the verge of adulthood, Elyan like a distrusting, somewhat scary woman, Morgana looks somewhat like Gwaine but more muscular, Gaius is a matronly, well-padded woman, and Leon is about the prettiest female I have ever seen." He returned to what he was doing. "To be honest, I am surprised the warlock fancied you over Leon."
"Excuse me?" Arthur sounded highly insulted as he stormed towards Merlin. "What do you mean Leon is the "prettiest female"? Are you saying he is prettier than me?"
"He makes a prettier girl than you do." Merlin gave a nod, not at all taking Arthur's insult seriously. "You have your... attributes... going for you, but Leon's face is angelic." He then yelled when Arthur punched his arm, hard. "Ouch! What was that for!?"
"For lying to your future king." Arthur glared at him. "There is no way that Leon would make a prettier woman than I would!"
"If it makes you feel any better, I am sure that Gwaine would be a prettier woman than Leon."
"No. That does not make me feel any better!" Arthur's eyes flashed with warning. "You stupid warlock!" And with that he turned and left, slamming the door behind him.
Rubbing his throbbing arm, Merlin blinked as he stared at the closed door in confusion. "Was it something I said?"
The day Morgana married Gwaine the women of the village wore black. They were quite in mourning due to the fact that they knew that they would never get the handsome rake back. It was more than obvious that for Gwaine there as only Morgana, and that that was a good thing too because she would probably do something worse than murder should he even think of straying. The newlyweds moved into Gwaine's dwelling, and Morgana began to boss him almost immediately, something which he seemed to enjoy, despite how much he denied it to Merlin later.
Gaius must have been suffering from that "empty nest feeling" Hunith kept uttering on about, because the man spent most of his time out of the house working.
That meant that Arthur spent more and more time with Merlin. The warlock had given up on trying to convince everyone that he was not buggering the poor boy, he had a feeling that the village just wouldn't believe it. In their eyes, he'd probably taken Arthur against every surface of the village, and he just didn't have the strength to try and rectify that misunderstanding anymore.
He mostly didn't have the strength because he had to save it all to handle Arthur, who had been in a crappy mood ever since he'd found out that anyone who didn't live in the village saw him as a "buxom beauty".
"When I take back Camelot you will become my manservant."
Merlin sent a look over at Arthur as they lay on the hill behind Merlin's home and watched the clouds together, something they had been doing more and more often lately. "Not even the Court Sorcerer? Manservant?"
Arthur's lips pursed. "You do not deserve to be Court Sorcerer."
Yep, he was definitely still irked about being seen as a girl by outsiders.
"Anyone who think that Gwaine and Leon are better looking than I am is definitely daft."
Merlin blinked in confusion. "I do not think they are better looking than you."
"Yes, you do." Arthur turned his head to glare at him. "You said so yourself."
Merlin's mouth fell open. "I never said that!"
"Yes you did!" Arthur's glare darkened. "By saying that Gwaine and Leon would make prettier women than me, you insinuated that you think they are better looking than I am!"
What-? Okay. Merlin could somewhat see how Arthur would think that. "But I do not think that they are better looking men than you are."
Arthur opened his mouth, closed it, and narrowed his eyes at Merlin suspiciously. "Are you merely saying that because you want to be Court Sorcerer?"
Merlin laughed and turned back to look up at the sky. "No. I think you are quite handsome."
There was silence before Arthur cleared his throat and looked up at the sky once more as well. "Well, of course you do. You are not blind."
Rolling his eyes, Merlin chuckled and reached out to run his fingers over Arthur's golden hair, not even realizing what he was doing.
Comfortable silence fell between them.
To say Arthur's mood improved greatly after that was an understatement.
Merlin stared at his mother in confused shock. "I think I heard you wrong. Please repeat that."
Hunith wrung her hands together. "I know it must come as I shock to you that Gauis and I-."
"No, I realize that you care for each other. I am happy for you." Merlin shook that part away without care. "What I do not understand is why you two are "bequeathing" Gaius' house to both Arthur and I."
"We want you to be happy, as we are." Gaius spoke up. "I want to marry your mother, and while you are in no way asked to move, we suspect that you will like to take the opportunity to live with Arthur. I know that he would be happy if you did so."
Arthur's mouth opened and closed, a blush dark against his skin.
Since the blonde was going to be no help in dissuading Hunith and Gaius that they were in no way a couple, Merlin realized it would all rest on his shoulders. "Arthur and I are not seeing each other romantically."
Hunith's eyes widened and a worry tinted her expression. "Have you two broken up?"
Gaius frowned at Arthur with a raised eyebrow.
Merlin sighed. "We-."
"We are fine." Arthur stood. "Thank you Gauis, Hunith." He kissed the woman on his cheek. "I will make sure he does not strip in public ever again."
She smiled at him. "I know you will." She then hugged him tightly. "I know that you had a mother once, but I would love if you would think of me as one as well."
Arthur gulped and hugged her back. "Thank you."
Gaius nodded in approval as he clapped Merlin on his back fatherly.
Merlin just wasn't getting what was happening.
Arthur winked at Gaius and then grabbed Merlin's hand. "I am going to give Merlin a tour of the house."
"I have already seen it!" And yet Merlin was dragged out anyway. He stuttered in confusion as Arthur dragged him all the way towards his house. "What are you doing? Why would you tell them that? They will now never be convinced that we are not-hey!" He stumbled as the door was opened and Arthur flung him inside. "What the-?"
"Merlin, shut up." Arthur grabbed Merlin and pushed him against the wall as he kicked the door closed and then kissed Merlin, effectively shutting up the shocked warlock.
As his stomach gave summersaults and his heart throbbed in his throat, Merlin's eyes widened as suddenly - oh - realization hit. He gripped the blonde by his shirt and pulled him closer as he kissed him back.
Chuckling into the kiss, Arthur angled his mouth to kiss Merlin harder, to invade his mouth with his tongue and lay claim to him. "Idiot sorcerer."
Arthur's laughter was hoarse as he bent to his knees.
Merlin's eyes widened. "Wh-what are you-?"
"I am going to teach you what it means to walk on your knees." Arthur's smile was sin as he yanked Merlin's trousers down. "I can take you apart with one blow."
"I can take you apart with less than that." Merlin's lips curled in a cheeky smirk as his eyes flashed gold. "It is, after all, my duty to educate you..."
Outside, magic erupted in the skies in a dance of color and beauty.
"It is not manly to try to back out of a wager." Morgana raised an eyebrow at the men as they all watched Merlin and Arthur both walking oddly the next day. "I was the only one who put down money on them both."
"I cannot believe that I lost." Leon pouted; he'd lost by betting (quite faithfully) that Arthur would top. "I was so sure."
"So was I." Elyan was pouting as well.
"My money was on Merlin, now I cannot take Bessie out," Will bemoaned. "I was so sure I would win the wager that I made plans!"
"I should never have bet against my wife," Gwaine grumbled.
"True," Morgana agreed. "Now you know better." She then turned to Lancelot, who (by not having entered into the wager) had been trusted to hold the purse with the money everyone had wagered.
"A bet fairly won." Lancelot handed it over with a smile. "What do you plan on doing with all that?"
Morgana smirked. "It is not all mine. I went in half-half with a silent partner."
Everyone's eyes widened.
Gwaine leaned forwards. "You never told me this! Who is your 'silent partner'?"
At that very moment Hunith appeared, all sweet and lovely. She noticed the pouch in Morgana's hands and her smile grew less sweet and more cunning. "Is that our winnings?"
"Yes!" Morgana grinned evilly as she looped an arm around Hunith and they began to stroll away, shocking every male there. "What should we buy with it?"
The women shared evil giggles and continued on.
The men, eyes still wide, turned to each other in shock and felt sorry for Merlin and Arthur for having such conniving and somewhat scary women in their lives.
"Okay, I will let you be Court Sorcerer."
Merlin laughed, his hands to his stomach as they stared up the ceiling of their bedroom, which had become transparent so they could gaze at the stars. "You are so magnanimous, milord."
They shared smiles before their gazes returned to the sky as Merlin pointed out different constellations.
"I never had time to learn the constellations as a child." Arthur stared up at the stars. "Father always thought my time was best served learning to be a warrior worthy of being king."
"Well, I'll make it my mission to educate you on all you've missed out on," Merlin promised.
Arthur turned to stare at him and smiled. "Just do not let it go to your head."
Merlin grinned brightly. "I cannot promise anything."
Chuckling, Arthur gazed back up at the sky. "One day, Merlin, I will be King, and you will bumble your way through your duties as my Court Sorcerer." He smirked. "How can I not appoint you in that position considering my own sister has seen it in vision?" Arthur was taking his sister's magical revelation (even if she had only told her husband and her brother) fairly well. Then again, Arthur was living with a warlock, so to react badly would have been quite hypocritical of him. "At least her power is proving useful. Otherwise we never would've known that the men were placing wagers about who... about which one of us... dominates."
Merlin snickered at Arthur's struggle with that last sentence. "True."
"Imagine if we had not known." Arthur shook his head at the thought. "At least we knew it advance and took the precautions to confuse them." He grinned. "Let them try and figure out which it was!" He pillowed his hands behind his head. "Maybe my sister is not as evil as I originally believed."
Merlin chuckled and had a sneaking suspicion that Morgana mightn't have warned them out of the goodness of her heart, but he let Arthur live with that belief. He merely leaned his head against Arthur's, smiled when Arthur's hand found his, and gazed up at the sky together.
One day Arthur would regain his throne and would rule a united Albion as its much-beloved king, all with Merlin at his side as his long suffering (and ever cheeky) Court Sorcerer and Consort.
But for right now, they were just youths on a bed, staring up at the stars, teaching each other the meaning of love.