A/N: Welcome to another one-shot! This one is was prompted by a very simple concept-Arthur, Merlin, five senses-and I like the way it turned out. The first two were fairly easy, but once I got onto the next three it got quite a bit more difficult, and I'm proud of the finished product. This is Merlin/Arthur slash, established relationship. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I wish I owned it. If I wish hard enough will Colin Morgan and Bradley James appear in front of me? ...No, probably not.
Arthur knows every sound that Merlin makes. He knows the sound of Merlin's voice, even when it's just a distant murmur. He knows the sound of Merlin's breath, the way it catches in his throat, the way it rushes out when he exhales. He knows the sound of Merlin's footsteps—heavy and clumsy when he's playing servant; much lighter and softer normally; somehow both soft and clumsy when he's trying to be sneaky. He knows the way Merlin's tongue rolls over the soft vowels and summons the harsh consonants of his spells. He knows the lilt of country accent that is more prominent when Merlin is relaxed. He knows the curses that Merlin whispers under his breath when he drops something or hurts himself (a common occurrence). He knows the little yelps that Merlin makes when he is surprised, the growls when he is playful. He knows the moans—sometimes barely audible, sometimes loud as a scream—that Merlin makes every time Arthur touches him.
He loves these sounds. When Merlin isn't there, he listens for them and feels as though the world is infinitely too silent.
Merlin isn't classically handsome. His nose is too long, the nostrils too large; his ears are too big and his ridiculous haircut only serves to make them seem larger. His skin is pale and blemished. In fact, he's just plain goofy looking. Except…he's not. Arthur looks at him, sees all these features that should lead to Merlin being as ridiculous looking as he is clumsy. But instead…he's adorable. He has this charm, this grin that lights up his face and everything around him. And his eyes are beautiful. They're beautiful when they're that foamy celery green, beautiful when the light shifts and they capture the blue of the sky or the gray of the castle. And God, they're beautiful when they're gold, when they shift from green-blue-gray to that burnished shining gold, when they are in that in-between, gold laid over green.
Then there are his clothes. He cycles through the same few outfits: red shirt, blue scarf, brown jacket; blue shirt, red scarf, brown jacket. Almost always the scarf, almost always some splash of red, some splash of blue. In a way, it drives Arthur crazy; in another way, he adores it. He always knows what to expect.
(Arthur loves the blue shirt the best, because it brings out the blue in Merlin's eyes. But the red shirt…that has a mark of mine. It's his color, and when Merlin wears it, everyone knows whom he belongs to.)
Before Merlin, Arthur never really paid attention to smell. Oh, he did when it mattered, when he was near food or when he was tracking or when there were powerful scents, but he never paid attention to the more delicate fragrances. But with Merlin…with Merlin, he knows every scent. The smell of the his clothes: various herbs from being around Gaius; the faint scent of the soap from the laundry; smoke and food scents from the kitchens; wood smoke from the fireplaces; hay and oats from the stables; the clinging flowery scents of women he is around, like Gwen and Morgana and the ladies of the castle. Beneath all of those layers—they fade with the shedding of the clothes—is the scent of Merlin. His hands, unless he has bathed recently, always carry some smell of armor and the oil he uses to clean and polish it with. The smoke smell always clings to his hair as well. When he's just freshly out of the bath, he smells vaguely of the herbs used to scent the water. But beneath that, his skin smells like fresh rain—and his magic is lightning, crisp and sharp and like nothing else in the world. And before Merlin Arthur never even dreams that one can smell desire, but he can, and he does. It's musky, a little like wood smoke, a little like fire; when he smells it, he knows that it is passion, palpable in the air.
Arthur loves nothing more than to bury his face in the crook of Merlin's neck and just inhale, because all of the scents together mean only one thing: Merlin, Merlin, Merlin.
As a prince, Arthur is used to fine things. His bed is goose-down, his sheets softer than lamb's wool; even his clothing is made from fine cloths and lined to be softer, to slip over the skin like water. But he is also a warrior, so he knows the rough, chafing feel of armor and he has rough calluses on his palms. He is a man, after all, and it just doesn't do for him to have soft hands like a lady.
But in Merlin, he finds contradictions. On the outside, Merlin is all crudeness; his clothing is worn and tattered and harsh against the skin. The scarves are of a softer material, but they are still lesser made things that scratch his skin. Merlin too has calluses on his hands—they are on his fingertips and on the roughs of his palms, but everywhere else Merlin's skin is ridiculously soft. And warm. Merlin's skin is never cold, as though his magic is humming through his blood and heating his skin from the inside out. The magic, when it is tangible, feels a little like fire, or like lightning. It stings a bit. Just a touch, just enough to make its presence known, just enough to say that he is not its master, that it has the power to harm. It stings and it numbs, and is like ice-fire, like the feeling coming back into one's limbs after they have been exposed to the cold for far too long.
Arthur knows every line and contour of Merlin's body. He is significantly aware of the differences between a man's body and that of a woman; he is, after all, aware of his own figure. But when it comes to Merlin this awareness is heightened. Merlin's body is a curious mix of hard surfaces and sharp angles—the hard planes of his chest and stomach; the tense muscular lines of his arms and his back; the sharpness of his elbows and his knees; the curve of his neck; the delightful softness of his lips. Their bodies should not fit together. His arms should search for a place to rest, his legs search for the proper positioning; their chests should grate across each other like metal and rock. But they do fit. He fits better with Merlin than he has ever fit with any woman. He knows how their bodies align, knows the contours where he fits in.
And, even more than how they fit, Arthur knows exactly where to touch in order to make Merlin scream. (And oh, he loves it.)
Taste is another one of those things that usually slips right by Arthur. Sure, he tastes food when it's in his mouth, but most of the time he doesn't pause to savor and mull over the tastes. He knows when something tastes bad—like the rat soup and God he wants to murder Merlin for that one—and he knows when he tastes something exceptional—he is a prince, after all, and therefore he has had some of the finest food in the kingdom—but in general he doesn't pay a lot of attention to what he's putting in his mouth. Fact of the matter is, he's almost always distracted by something else when he's eating. His thoughts are on his father or the drills he's going to put his knights through or the muddle of politics he has to slog through or the treaty with the neighboring kingdom being signed next week or the current magical malady belaying his people. So while he tastes things he doesn't really taste them.
Oh, but he tastes Merlin.
Merlin's mouth is sweet. There's no reasonable explanation for why every time he kisses Merlin he should come away tasting sweetness on his tongue as though he'd just bitten into a piece of sugar beet or swallowed the nectar of a honeysuckle flower. But he does. Every time he comes away with that sweetness on his tongue, and he loves it. (The one exception is when they return from battle and then the taste is sweet mixed with copper and iron, honeysuckle mixed with blood, and it should probably disturb him a little more than it does, but he's normally just grateful that they're both alive and—relatively—unharmed.)
Merlin's skin tastes of salt and metal and rain. His hands have the metal taste; the taint of steel that sinks in from the hours spent polishing armor. His body tastes like salt when he's been working. It's the remnants of sweat, which by all rights really should disgust him, but it doesn't, because when the salty taste mixes with the sweetness in his mouth there's nothing better. And beneath it all is the rain. Merlin smells like fresh rain and that's what his skin tastes like after he uses magic. Sometimes Arthur tilts his head back and lets rain fall into his mouth and the taste is the same: cool, somehow earthy, and almost bitter when it reaches the back of his throat. And the magic itself—which he tastes as it dances across Merlin's skin in a sequence of golden arcs—is the lightning to the rain, a taste like burning metal, sharp and painful and metallic and almost acidic like citrus at the end. It leaves his mouth numb and when the feeling comes back every other taste seems somehow duller. It leaves him wanting.
That's how everything about Merlin leaves him: wanting more and more and knowing that nothing else can ever compare. But really, Arthur wouldn't have it any other way.
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