Title: Arthur's Coat
Spoilers: Mild photo spoiler from S2.
Disclaimer: I own nothing from the BBC/NBC/SyFy show Merlin, and I make nothing from writing about it either. Suing me would be silly, as all you would get is a very grumpy King. This particular story, however, is mine. So hands off ;D
Author note: If you want to see the photos of "the coat," they are posted on my LiveJournal page (link is in my profile). It's his rust-colored, suede duster.
Summary: What the offer of his coat means to Morgana and Arthur.
Based on a "what if" when I saw the photos of Morgana in Arthur's coat.
Written first in Morgana's POV, then Arthur's
"Go on, take it."
Did he see that I was cold? Standing out in the courtyard with him, I sometimes wonder if he sees me when I am right beside him. Did he feel me shiver?
His coat was dangling on the ends of his fingers, held out toward me. Arthur waited, the expression on his face one of indifferent impatience, as if I was nothing more than a bother. It was a look I saw often. But something in his eyes gleamed at me. Usually I can read him like a book, after so many years together I know his every tick, every quirk, every look. Each and every button to push. And yet there are the times, like now, when he hides himself away from me, where I can't see.
I realized I'd been staring at him for too long, and I quickly reached out and grabbed the coat. His favorite coat, the one he was never without. Our fingers brushed ever so quickly, and yet in those brief seconds I felt the rasp of the calluses on the tips, and it sent a shiver straight down my spine. As if I could feel those rough pads sliding down my bare back. It was an odd thought, one I'd never had before. And one that made me pause.
Recovering my voice, I retreated behind a haughty mask and said, "Thank you."
Arthur shrugged. "It's nothing. You know you shouldn't be out here in the cold in that gown. It's far too revealing. You'll catch your death, parading about like that."
My mouth tightened. What business was it of his what I chose to wear? I didn't need his opinion about my wardrobe, or anything else for that matter.
And Arthur had always liked me in red. Especially the other month, when I wore my favorite red gown to Lady Helen's performance. I know I had his tongue practically hanging out of his mouth. Not that that was my intention. It was just an additional benefit. Having him heel at my side like Uther's favorite hound had felt rather good. At least until he'd opened his mouth. Rather like now. He would be ever so much more likable if he never spoke.
Annoyed, I swept his coat around my shoulders, stuffing my arms in the sleeves. And knew immediately it was a mistake. I never should have taken that coat.
Because it smelled of him.
It was still warm from his body, and his scent filled my nose. The masculine scent that was only Arthur's: his sandalwood soap, his musky sweat. The slight tang of horse, and the stronger whiff of leather and steel. My one weakness where Arthur was concerned was how his smell affected me. It drew me, and at times I was unable to stop myself from approaching him, adjusting his armor, touching his sleeve, brushing by his chest. The reward was fleeting, and I always hated myself afterward. How dare he have any power over me? It was only Arthur, whom I'd grown up beside, whom I'd been around everyday of my life since I was ten. Why did I care what he smelled like?
Panicked that he'd seen my reaction, my wide eyes darted up to his face, but thankfully his attention was focused elsewhere. Upon his father, as Uther droned on and on about the safety of the kingdom. Relieved I was unnoticed, I surreptitiously allowed myself the small indulgence of turning my nose slightly into the coat collar, letting my eyes drift shut as I took in a deep breath.
And there it was. Tickling my nostrils, rushing through my blood and into my brain. I wanted to roll in it, sleep in it. I wanted that scent all over me. I wanted to be able to smell it on me even after I was forced to give back the coat. I wanted it imprinted into my skin, like the ink markings I've heard the old Romans use to mark their slaves. To mark me. I couldn't seem to help myself.
But I was very careful my face revealed nothing. Not now, not ever. My eyes I couldn't vouch for, and I worried revealed far more than I was comfortable with. It was so frustrating. I didn't want to feel this way. Perhaps this was only a strange quirk I had, and didn't have to mean anything. Unless it meant something to him first.
These past several months, I managed not to look at him any more than I had to, and tried to block out the gorgeous rumble in his voice when he spoke to me. Those senses I could control. But smell always snuck up on me and caught me unawares. Just like now.
And now it was too late to withdraw. Every part of my brain and body was attuned to that scent. It was all I could do to keep my arms wrapped around myself, and my face serene. My eyes, I feared, were alive with the fire I felt within me. What I really wanted to do, what I fought against, was dragging Arthur back into the castle and molesting him in a dark corner. Who would have thought I was capable of that? Ice Queen that people think I am. If they only knew.
If Arthur only knew, he'd go running as fast as he could in the opposite direction. And as much as that annoyed me to no end, it hurt too. Would he ever think of me as more than a nuisance? A childhood playmate? A sometimes friend and conspirator? Probably not. And I would do well not to think of him as any more either.
At that disheartening thought, I involuntarily took another deep breath, and let out a small sound. I refuse to call it a whimper. That would be too humiliating. Shocked at my own behavior, my eyes again flew up to see if anyone heard me, and they collided with Arthur's. Arthur's eyes, which now held that gleam again. The one I hadn't seen in weeks.
My mouth kicked up at the corner. Could it be? Perhaps there was something there….
"Go on, take it."
I'd sensed her shiver when she came up beside me in the courtyard. Whenever Morgana was within ten feet of me, I knew where she was and what she was doing. I didn't even have to have my eyes on her. Which is why I've been trying to stay as far away from her as possible. It was enough to drive a man mad.
How could I function when the "untouchable woman" was always around, looking absolutely beautiful, her laugh sparkling in my ears, her silks and satins brushing me with excruciating softness as she passed me by? I knew she was doing it on purpose, trying to bully me into submission like a trained lapdog. Well, I wasn't bloody falling for it. She could try, but she wasn't going to lead me around by my man-parts.
The night of Lady Helen's concert in the great hall was the last straw. When I saw her in that red dress – my favorite color – floating across the floor and captivating every male set of eyes present, I knew I was in trouble. I needed to ask for help from a higher power to keep from sweeping her from the room and molesting her in a dark corner. As it was, I couldn't keep from crossing the hall to talk her, trying to charm her, and when that didn't work, ended up hiding behind a shield of sarcasm. Not a torture I'd like to repeat.
So I stayed away from her. What else was I supposed to do? It's not like I could have her. And marriage, well, aside from whatever fever invaded my brain when Sophia was in the castle, marriage wasn't something I'd planned on doing for some time. Although if this madness continued, who knows what idiocy I'd be capable of? Maybe even that.
Today, Father called the people of Camelot together again to pontificate about the dangers of magic, though now that Nimue was dead he was slightly less fanatical about it. Still, it was something both Morgana and I had been required to attend, and so we stood, on a cold day, in the courtyard.
She shivered, and of course I noticed. I couldn't have her catching a cold. The thought of Morgana deathly ill again made my insides clench. I took off my coat and turned to hand it to her, and my traitorous eyes immediately went to the neckline of the gown she wore. What little there was of one. The blessed thing was red – God, again? – and made of some thin, silky material that flowed around her curves, and did nothing to keep her warm. But it sure did that for me. I certainly didn't need my bloody coat, and in my armor I was boiling. I tried desperately to school my features into indifference, to hide the flare of heat underneath that I was afraid already rode my cheeks.
When she hesitated to take my coat, I just flat out told her to. She needed to cover up, not only to stay warm but to keep every other knight that could see her from ogling her chest. If I caught any of my men staring at her, they'd be mucking out the royal stables for a month.
Morgana grudgingly gave in, and took the coat from me. When her petal-soft fingers brushed mine, I almost jerked my hand back. Even that small touch was apparently more than I could handle. When she thanked me, I snapped, "It's nothing. You know you shouldn't be out here in the cold in that gown. It's far too revealing. You'll catch your death, parading about like that."
She was annoyed with me now, but honestly, I didn't care. I desperately needed some distance from her, some protection. Her and that dammed red dress.
She swept the coat around her, and a teasing note of tea rose journeyed up on the breeze to my nose. That smell, it was her flowery soap, though Morgana's unique scent was so much more than that. It was the spicy musk of her skin, the coolness of her silks, the sweetness of her breath, all presided over by that rose. It was a scent I knew better than any other. If I was blind in a room full of people, I could find her instantly.
And now that scent would be lining my coat. Jesu, that thought alone triggered some kind of territorial streak in me that I have never felt before. Because not only will the smell of her linger on when I take back the coat, but my scent will also mark her. At some base, animalistic level, that knowledge thrilled me.
I snuck a glance down at her, and found her covertly nudging her nose in the collar, taking a breath. Her eyes were closed, and her face looked serene. I bit my lip to keep from groaning. My hands flexed with the need to grab her and fold her in my arms, pressing her face – and that nose – into my chest.
When she took another breath and let it out with – God help me – a whimper, every drop of blood that wasn't rushing to my face was rushing downward. Thankfully I was frozen in place by my sudden and vicious desire, or I may have taken her right there in the courtyard. Instead my eyes burned her with the fire I was unable to bank. Whether she felt that scorch or she shocked herself out of her own stupor, Morgana's startled gaze flew up to mine.
Of course I was too far gone to hide anything, and curse her that she didn't see something to take advantage of. That luscious mouth quirked up at one corner, her eyes danced with mirth. And I knew in that moment I was in trouble. There was no going back; she wouldn't let me take the coward's way out again. It was time for me to stop running, and act like the adult I was supposed to be. My own mouth joined hers in a wicked grin. Truthfully, that excited the hell out of me.