Story Title: Steady
Rated: PG-13 for vague gore and vaguer sexual situations
Status: Complete || 800+
Summary: [Arthur/Merlin] "Steady," Merlin says.
Steve's Notes: Written for hermette's fu-a-thon on LiveJournal, for this prompt: Arthur has magic, and Merlin guides him through it. This prompt grabbed me by the boo-boo and I just had to write it. For copperiisulfate.
Disclaimer: Merlin © BBC


Arthur never knew and those who thought they knew, who dared to have the notion creep into the periphery of their mind, kept it there. It was like a wolf that circled too close to the fire; it was too dangerous to let it come close, but it was impossible to keep away.

And, like a wolf, it crept closer and closer, until it snapped its jaws and it was too late.

.

Arthur would have to be daft, as daft as Merlin pretends to be, to be ignorant of Merlin's magic. Merlin and magic are synonymous, and sometimes, Arthur thinks Merlin and magic are symbiotic too. He thinks this when he sees Merlin's tongue and teeth and lips contorting and forming Old and long-forgotten words, when Merlin's eyes break from blue to gold, when Merlin is careless and bothers with little more than a gesture.

At first Arthur wants to draw his blade and cut Merlin open, neck to navel, spill his guts like the animal he is. Yet he thinks of the gentle way Merlin wraps his fingers around the stalks of Morgana's flowers, Gaius' herbs, and how those fingers would twitch as he bled to a painful death. So he thrashes his knights instead and calls it training, and dismisses Merlin from his duties.

Arthur remembers hating that Merlin was magic, that magic was Merlin. He cannot remember when it filled him so full, he feared he would burst.

.

The druids will tell Arthur, one day, that Merlin was born of a mortal man and a mortal woman, but he was born of magic, too. Before that, Merlin will tell Arthur that he was born of Uther and Ygraine, but that magic was the only reason he came, screaming and bloody, into the world that he would conquer, and unite.

.

"Steady," Merlin says, stutters through his teeth, his fingers tripping over Arthur's body. "Steady."

Arthur would tell Merlin to shut up, to just do it, to stop treating him like he's going to break, but he has no air in his lungs and his world is narrowed down to the tilt of his hips and the burn of Merlin pushing inside him, fitting them together. It's wonderful and horrible and when the candle flame by the bedside bursts, Arthur hardly notices.

But Merlin notices, as subtle as the magic is, and his eyebrows furrow deeper over blue, blue eyes.

.

A sword cannot be anything but a sword. (But it can be more.)

Love cannot be anything but love. (But it can be more.)

Magic cannot be anything but magic. (But it can be more.)

.

It is the small, insignificant things. It will never be anything but the small, insignificant things. Tiny bubbles of good luck and coincidence—a convenient hole, perhaps, or a clothes that snag in the machinery of armor—that are too frequent, too odd to be anything but. Arthur has always noticed, but he always thought, Of course.

"You're magic," Merlin says, when the fire dims even though Merlin's eyes have stayed blue, blue, blue. "You're—"

"Don't be ridiculous, Merlin," Arthur snaps, as sharp and as hard as iron. "Don't—"

.

"Steady," Merlin says.

"Steady," Arthur mocks.

.

Somewhere, a wolf gets too close and snaps its jaws at its prey. The prey twitches, the prey convulses, and with their guts spilled out on the ground for a feast, the prey dies.

.

"I am not magic!" Arthur roars, overturning his heavy wooden table. His muscles and tendons stand out like cords beneath the veneer of his golden skin; his hair circles his head in a disarray of gold; his eyes burn molten gold with anger. "I. Am. Not!"

He rips his bed curtains from the frame, he tears the tapestries from the walls, he throws all his clothes out from the armoire and the chest of drawers. Mirrors are broken, pots are shattered, and the meal Merlin has brought him splatters against a wall, cold and untouched.

"But you are, Arthur," Merlin murmurs when Arthur's rage is spent. "You are."

.

No one will see the magic Arthur possesses. It pales in comparison to Merlin's; Merlin, who can conjure without a thought, Merlin, who can talk to and command dragons, Merlin, who can defy the balance of life and death and time.

It pales. But it's still there, stitched inside of him. It keeps his bones together and his sinews tight, his teeth and eyes in their sockets, his skin over his muscle. It is the weave of his body, if not his soul, for he was born of it as he was born of Uther and Ygraine.

He is magic, as Merlin is magic, as magic is them.

He remembers being frightened by it. He can't remember when it filled him.

.

"Steady," Merlin says.

And steady, Arthur stays.


end.