A/N: Ok, this is…. way, way longer than I ever would have imagined it would be. And…. it's a bit sadder too, but not until the very end. There's slash, but…. It's mostly in Arthur's head, I think. You'll understand once you begin reading. I hope this doesn't disappoint anyone too terribly.
Disclaimer: I own nothing pertaining to Merlin BBC. All rights go to… other people, obviously. If they were my own… well, maybe things would be a bit different *grins*
Dedications: To chorus, who…. strongly hinted about how he wanted a new story up soon. Here you go. Lol. Though I…. I'm not really sure you'll like this. Sorry.
Genre: Humor, Romance, Drama, a bit of Angst.
To Be Of Royalty
"You are an idiot," Arthur says, slowly and with great care, as if he is speaking to the most stupid person on the planet, one that cannot tell the color green from red, and that is dumb enough to eat yellow snow (and really, who is dumb enough to do something like that?), and thinks that the sky is going to fall upon his head at any moment, just because an acorn or something similar hit him unexpectedly.
And right….. that does sum up the person that Arthur is talking to rather nicely, so yes, Arthur will continue with the slow, snideishly rude (and since Merlin is his manservant, is it really rude, or jus proper?) type of speech. Not because he wants to, or because he enjoys it, of course, but merely because he is a generous, kind person, and wants to make sure he is understood. Yes, that's the only reason…. It's not all because he loves the way Merlin's ridiculously large ears redden in annoyance and his eyes flash with some hidden challenge just waiting to be called upon. No, it's not for any of those reasons…. at all, except… maybe it is…. just a wee bit.
"I am not", Merlin wails, rather pathetically to be honest, after a moment of uneventful silence, sounding deeply offended as he does so. "And don't talk to me like that. I'm not touched in the head or anything. For god's sakes, this isn't even my fault!"
Arthur takes a look around at their surroundings, taking in yet another depressingly horrifying situation that they have managed to find themselves in, (and honestly, these things only ever happen when he's with Merlin. The boy just seems to be a magnet for all sorts of chaos), before turning back to Merlin with his eyebrows upraised and his arms crossed over his chest. The look that he is giving his manservant clearly says one thing. "It is, without a doubt, all you're fault."
This look leads to Merlin… not pouting, but something close to it, which is just…. adorable. No, no. that's not the word that Arthur is looking for. He means…. Oh bloody hell. Merlin pouting is adorable, like a kitten playing with a ball of yarn type of adorable, and there just isn't anything to do about it, aside from well…. for Arthur to be Arthur, which will, hopefully, be enough to hide the fact that Arthur finds All-Things-Related-And-Concerning-Merlin very, enticingly sweet, and huggable, and possibly, humiliatingly, goofy-smile-educing, and…. Arthur is beginning to think that he had been hit with some sort of spell. One that first began showing its side-effects not long after Merlin began working as Arthur's (awful, incompetent, useless, all but worthless) manservant. And this spell is an awful one, one that is more of a curse really. It is one that has given him the emotional thinking range of a thirteen year old girl. One that likes to squeal and flail around and draw hearts on paper when no one is paying him any mind. Not that Arthur has ever done any of those things… much. And if he does, it can all be blamed on the curse. The curse that seems to leave him on a constant level of Too-Many-Emotions and Too-Much Giddiness wherever and whenever Merlin is concerned, which seems to be all the freaken time now and days. God, it is like Arthur suddenly has a woman's monthly curse, without the cramps and bleeding and what not (thank the gods.) So yes, this curse that Arthur thinks he was hit with a while back is a really, dreadfully bad one.
Merlin continues to pout, sulking rather pathetically, and finally Arthur rolls his eyes, trying to look as put upon as he can. "Stop pouting, you idiot. Honestly, stop being such a bloody girl Merlin! Looking at me with those big, girly eyes of yours and trembling (pink, luscious, kissable…. No, no, no, no. Arthur can't think like that) lips isn't going to grant you any favors."
Except… they probably will, since the way Merlin is looking at him now, with big, too-blue watery eyes, and those oh-so-pink lips of his that are puckered ever so slightly, with the bottom lip sticking out quite enticingly…. Arthur wants nothing more than to grab his manservant and…. Well, he wants to do very wicked things to the lad. But of course, he won't, because he's the Crown Prince of Camelot and, if nothing else, he does have some self control, and he can restrain and contain this… lust that he is feeling. Because it can't be anything more than lust. It just isn't possible for it to be. Arthur doesn't ever feel more than lust, for anybody, and especially not for some brainless twig of a man such as Merlin.
"It's not even that bad in here," Merlin mutters, sounding annoyed. "I don't get why you're so upset. It's not like we're dying or anything. We aren't even starving. That bag of yours you have had me lugging around as if I'm some sort of pack mule is filled with all sorts of food that will satisfy your…." And here Merlin trails off a bit, muttering instead of actually talking clearly, but Arthur is pretty sure he catches the words "spoiled, princely arse" somewhere in his manservant's muttered rant. No wonder the boy ends up in the stocks so much.
Arthur begins looking at Merlin, once again, as if he is the most idiotic nuisance of a person ever to exist. And really, Merlin just might be. "Merlin," he says, drawing out the name as he begins to speak slowly once more, because he honestly doesn't think this boy understands…. well, anything. "Merlin, first of all, you practically are a pack mule. You are my manservant, and carrying around my possessions, no matter what they may be, whether they are heavy or useless or utterly worthless, which my belongings never are, aside from the heavy part…. is your job. Secondly, we are trapped inside of a cave. We are trapped inside of a cave because, somehow, and I really do not know how, but I do know that it is somehow all your fault, because it is always all your fault, an avalanche of rocks and gravel came raining down on the entrance and has trapped us inside. And the only source of light we have is from the cracks in the ceiling of the cave, because I can find no wood or anything else necessary to create a fire, and it will be dark soon, so we will not even have that little bit of light. I'm pretty sure they'll be no moon tonight. And the food in my pack will last us less than a day, if we are lucky, because it really isn't enough to be shared by two grown men. Then again…. . you aren't exactly a man. You're all scrawny (lean and slimly built) and weak (vulnerable, in need of protecting and sheltering, which makes Arthur feel both protective and possessive… for reasons unknown) and accident prone (in a cute, clumsily endearing type of way, that Arthur can't help but find very, very… amusing. And fuck, desirable as well, though he honestly doesn't know why). I should just let you starve, since this is all your fault."
"It wasn't my fault!" Merlin says, focused on only that one thing that Arthur had said, or maybe he's simply choosing to ignore everything else in favor of that one thing that he can argue against without any embarrassment, but still, somehow, Arthur knows that Merlin's protests are nothing but lies. Maybe it's because his manservant is complete rubbish at lying, and begins fidgeting whenever he does tell even the smallest little fib (At least that's what happens when he tries lying to Arthur, and Arthur does not feel his heart melt just a little, every single time, at the knowledge that Merlin just… can't be dishonest with him.) Or maybe it's because Arthur had…. seen what Merlin had done, what Merlin is capable of doing. But really, Arthur isn't thinking about that. He tries to never think too closely on the things that he sometimes (more often than is comforting, because if he sees so much, Lord knows what others are capable of seeing and just…. no, no one else can ever know) sees his manservant do. Because thinking of those things will lead Arthur to thinking of Merlin with his head planted on an execution block, or being tied to a stake and burned, being stoned by cruel and angry villages, or…. some other awful form of execution, and Arthur does not like thinking of those things, not at all. Because he doesn't want to have to look for a new manservant. Yes…. That's why the thought of Merlin being killed due to his father's strict, unbendable laws make Arthur feel sick, and angry, and that's why his heart always begins to ache this way when the thoughts enter his head.
"Just shut up Merlin," Arthur says, hoping that the silence will help him rid his mind of its troubling thoughts. And maybe it would, if his manservant would actually obey a command and do as he is told, for once. But of course, this is Merlin he is dealing with, and Merlin never does as he should. It's as if his body and mind deliberately strains to go against anything and everything so much as resembling an order.
"I still say it's not that bad in here," Merlin says, a little wistfully as he brings his long legs up, feet planted firmly on the ground, so that he can rest his chin upon his bony knees as he wraps gangly arms around his skinny (not at all drool worthy. Not one bit) legs. Arthur resists the urge to stare… too openly. And the only reason he is staring at all is because Merlin is so bloody thin and it sort of surprises Arthur. Yeah, that's it. Merlin is so thin that Arthur can't help but stare at the younger boy, since Arthur himself is so well built and muscular and not quite burly, but not exactly lean either, and think about how he needs to start feeding Merlin properly. And that does not lead to him imagining the two of tangled up together in his large, comfy bed as he feeds Merlin sweet, juicy fruits and warm, fresh bread and sharp cheese. No, that would be girlie…. And perhaps it would be due to the curse that has set him to thinking like a thirteen year old girl. It would be… if those kind of thoughts even existed within Arthur's mind, which they don't. Thinking of having Merlin eat food off of him is more acceptable, a little less girlie and a lot more hot and wank-worthy, but Arthur doesn't have those thoughts either, he really, truly, doesn't (at least not often. Maybe like a half a dozen times a day, which… is not much at all. Not really, considering the fact that Arthur is a man, and that he hasn't allowed himself to bed anyone properly since…. Oh shit, since Merlin came along and barged into his once peaceful life.) His staring has nothing to do with the way Merlin's pale skin looks right now, with shadows and fading sunlight hitting it all at once to set off a rather startling contrast. And it has nothing to do with the way Merlin's hands look wrapped around his knees, all finely sculptured bones and long, thin fingers, and knobby, pale skinned wrists that Arthur knows he can wrap just one of his own hands around and just… hold on to, or pin down without much effort (though he knows that, even if he did manage to pin Merlin down, Merlin would never be defenseless, would never be submissive. And that does not excite Arthur at all). And it truly does not have anything at all to do with the way Merlin is smiling at him, just a slight tilt of his too-too-pretty mouth, as if he's puzzled about why…. Arthur is staring at him.
Merlin smiles shyly, all self-consciously upturned lips and just a hint of not-quite-perfect teeth, and Arthur struggles to…. breathe. He has to breathe, in-out, in-out. He thinks he may be getting a bit clastaphobic due to being trapped in this cave for so long. There isn't any other reason or explanation for the fact that he suddenly feels too hot and like he's just been punched violently in the gut.
"So do you think anyone will come looking for us soon," Merlin asks, and he sounds… Not frightened, or anxious, or even a little bit wary. The odd boy actually sounds kind of cheerful, as if he couldn't care less whether or not anyone ever comes looking for them at all. All Arthur can think is, "Dear lord in heaven, does Merlin want to die in here? Does the idiot have an ever present death wish?"
Arthur gives him a look filled with exasperated disdain (and if there is a bit of fondness in there too, no one will ever know. Merlin is too oblivious and dim to ever see it himself, and there is no one else around). "We were supposed to be back at the castle hours ago Merlin. Yes, I do believe someone will, if they have not and are not already, come looking for us. And they will find us, hopefully before I have to murder you or kill you to gain some sort of nutrition in my body, since, as I said before, the supplies we have are not nearly enough."
Merlin gasps in mock horror, or maybe it's actual horror. Arthur thinks that there is at least a hint of it in his manservant's tone and shinning in his eyes. "You would never eat me!"
No, Arthur would never eat Merlin. After all, there isn't enough meat on the young man's bones, and he really doesn't want to have to clean up the mess of blood and flesh and more blood and bones if he were to kill Merlin, and well…. there may be other reasons as well, like Arthur's reluctance to find a new manservant ,not that that means anything. But Arthur just smiles mysteriously. No need to let Merlin know that he really is quite safe with him.
Merlin stares at Arthur with wide, blue eyes again, though this time he looks just a little uneasy. He looks at Arthur, then at the blocked off entrance to the cave, then back again, in quick succession, as if trying to decide if breaking them out may be safer for them then staying here with Arthur, damn the consequences that would come with what he'd have to reveal. Arthur mentally laughs, and it sounds very smug and not a little bit evil.
"Someone will find us soon," Merlin says, but he sounds rather unsure.
Arthur shrugs. "I just hope for your sake that they do. And for my own, to be honest, I don't think that you would taste all that good."
Merlin huffs. "Why sire, thank you so much. I never knew that you cared to such an extent." His voice is filled with sarcasm, but Arthur knows that there's something behind his words, something more than just playful banter, something stronger and surer and unbearably true. Maybe it's just Arthur though, since he knows that he does…. care for Merlin, somewhat.
"I may care more if this wasn't all of your fault." Arthur mutters, having to force annoyance into his tone.
"It isn't my fault!" Merlin insists. "It's not…. I mean, it isn't like I made the rocks come crashing down on the entrance… and…. And…. At least we escaped from that beast that was coming after us."
"Yes," Arthur says, rolling his eyes. "At least we escaped from the beast. But really, that beast is outside, causing who knows what kind of havoc upon any people or villages that may be nearby, while you and I are stuck within a cave, unable to do anything but squabble. Excuse me if I can't be more appreciative. It really would have worked better if the beast was trapped in here and we were outside, able to roam freely and go home."
"It wasn't my fault. It isn't my fault still. I have no control over how these things turn out," Merlin insists, suddenly looking pale, as if he is afraid that Arthur may be onto him (and Arthur has been onto him for a long time now, more than just onto him. He's been fully aware of… these things that Merlin can do, for ages now, not that Merlin is aware of that.) Arthur still feels his heart clench though as he sees just how frightened Merlin is of Arthur knowing the truth about him. Arthur would never cast Merlin aside, or turn him in, as is his duty, for something he has no control over. It's obvious that Merlin isn't evil, and even though Arthur was angry when he first found out about…. Merlin's magic (and fuck, that's still so hard to even think of, because that word has only ever been used when referring to bad things in his life, and Merlin just…. he just doesn't fall into the same category), and had felt betrayed on a level previously unknown to him, he's over that now. After taking some time to think, Arthur had found that he just didn't care about what Merlin could do with a few well placed words in a language unknown to him, and a flash of his eyes. It doesn't matter at all. And that sort of frightens Arthur, though he'd never admit it. Because it just shows how much power Merlin has over him, to have his ensured silence.
"Just shut up Merlin," he says eventually, those four words holding so many different meanings, like; Merlin, you're an idiot, or, I'm tired of all of your bullshit Merlin, or even I will kill you if you do not obey me, because that's all he can say. If he doesn't say that, if he doesn't say something rude and offensive and almost, carelessly uncaring, then who knows what kind of mushy, heart-felt confessions he'd be dishing out to the younger man, just to reassure him and to see him smile that crazed, goofy smile of his. And fuck, there goes the curse, acting up and making him a girl again. Maybe it was Merlin who had cursed him, to pay him back for making him wear that ridiculous, feathered hat.
Merlin's lips curl into a sneer of distaste. "Prat," he mutters under his breath, clearly displeased.
Arthur's lips twitch into a small, almost unnoticeable smile against his will, despite the disappointment he hears in the other man's voice. There is the attitude he has gotten so use to. "Idiot," he says, and goes back to watching the thin boy as Merlin closes his eyes.
Arthur doesn't really know when he began feeling…. more than he should, but not as much as some would think, or do think, or even try to goad him into conversation about. It's not as if he is in love with his clumsy manservant or anything *insert nervous laughter here*. He doesn't even want to admit that he's feeling anything, much less more than is expected of him, or even allowed of him, but it's so obvious that there's no point of even trying to deny it. It all seemed to happen so quickly though; every little thing that has happened since Merlin entered his life. From their first meeting, which involved a lot of aggravation (and bafflement, because who the hell did that boy think he was, to talk to the Crown Prince that way?) on Arthur's side, and even more disrespect and insubordinate on Merlin's, to the first time Merlin saved Arthur (and God knows how many times, in all, the boy has saved him since then, and how many more times he'll continue to save Arthur, since it doesn't look like Merlin is ever going anywhere) to the first time Arthur went out of his way to save Merlin (and for fuck's sakes, Merlin had been…. dying. The boy had almost been dead. That's something Arthur cannot stand to think of, but had seen, with his own eyes. He had seen Merlin burning with fever, so pale and soaked with sweat and looking so frail. It's a sight Arthur doesn't think he can ever rid his mind of) there has been something between the two of them. Something strong and unbreakable and never-ending. Like destiny, maybe, except Arthur doesn't believe in rubbish like that. If he was one to speak in riddles, he might say that they were two rags cut from the same cloth (and that sounds awful, doesn't it? See, Arthur isn't good at this) or something just as ridiculous, but he doesn't speak like that, and so he won't.
Arthur hears Merlin sigh quietly, and when he focuses his gaze on the other man once more, he sees Merlin shiver violently. Oh, for fuck's sakes, Arthur thinks, cursing fate and the Gods and every other power that seems to rule over his life and enjoy causing him extensive amounts of misery just for their own amusement. You can't be serious.
Merlin shivers again, not saying a word as he does so. No pouting or sulking or whining, and it figures that the boy is unable to shut up when he's fine, but as soon as there actually is something wrong with him, or troubling him, he's as silent as a mouse. It never fails to annoy Arthur, and to trouble him as well. How can he ever know if Merlin is in pain, or danger, or any kind of distress, if the other man will not tell him? Then again… Arthur does usually figure it out for himself. Silence really does speak louder than words at times.
Arthur bites his lip as he tries to decide what to do. It's not as if he wants Merlin freezing to death or anything. And it's getting colder, now that the night is coming upon them. He has his cloak, which is thick and warm and most likely big enough to envelope Merlin twice over, maybe even three times over (and alright, Arthur will admit that Merlin isn't that tiny), and as willing as he is to just hand it to Merlin so that the younger man can be warm, he knows how stubborn Merlin is, and Merlin would never accept it. He'd rather make himself sick than to allow Arthur any discomfort, at least when it counts.
Arthur sighs again, this time in a mixture of exasperation and annoyed acceptance (though he isn't really that annoyed, even if he should be. He doesn't mind doing what he's about to do…. even though he really, really should. He isn't going to think about that though. There probably isn't even anything to think about. It's nothing…. It'll always be nothing) before rising a bit from his seated position against one of the rough walls of the cave so that he is on his knees, rather than his(firm, glorious, maybe a bit egotistic *coughcough*) arse. Merlin looks up at him sharply as he notice his movements, looking unsure about exactly what Arthur is doing now, before Arthur begins to move forward a bit, walking upon his knees on the hard ground of the cave.
"Arthur," Merlin questions, as insubordinate and disrespectful as he always is when it comes to rank and the proper servant-master relationship. It often surprises Arthur how little he cares for such things anymore, at least where Merlin is concerned. He'd probably have any other servant who dared to speak to him that way thrown in the dungeons. And no, that doesn't mean a thing. Merlin is not special, aside from how special he is in that crazy mind of his. "What are you doing?"
"Shut up Merlin," Arthur says immediately, more out of habit than anything else, before he moves to sit beside his manservant, close enough to where their sides are pressed together rather intimately. It may just be his imagination, but he thinks that he hears Merlin swallow thickly. Yeah…. Probably just his imagination, not that he has any reason to be imagining such things. Being in this cave for so long is making him a bit touched in the head, he supposes, and prays that Gaius has some cure for him once they finally return to Camelot.
Merlin eyes him wearily, as if he is honestly afraid that Arthur is going to spring upon him at any moment (and doesn't that bring about an interesting train of thought?) and take a bite out of him (an even more interesting train of thought, with rather nice mental images, if Arthur would just let himself see them), as he had joked that he may need to do earlier. Arthur just scoffs, annoyed now that this thin nuisance of a man can't seem to trust him as Arthur wishes he did (no, not wishes…. Just…. Merlin should trust him. He should trust Arthur because Arthur is the Crown Prince, and that trust is but another right, or privilege, that comes with the title.) "Just shut up Merlin," Arthur says again, with more force this time, when Merlin goes to open his mouth and say something even more stupid than usual. And Arthur doesn't notice, or he'll claim that he doesn't notice, how there is a large extent of sadness in his own voice all of a sudden, as if he has been kicked and beaten and rejected by his most beloved. The thought alone is ridiculous, so he would never bother noticing such things.
Finally, he pulls one side of his cloak away from himself, draping it around Merlin instead, and wraps one arm around Merlin's thin shoulders underneath the cloak, making sure that Merlin stays firmly rooted to his side. And this time, when Merlin inhales sharply, then sighs as he snuggles into Arthur's body, as if he is accepting something beautiful, as if he is being granted his greatest, most treasured wish, Arthur knows that he's not imagining it, and somehow, in that one instant, it's as if he's being hit by some kind of boulder, one that knocks all doubt out of him and leaves nothing but this obvious truth to what he feels, because he knows that everything he has been denying is nothing more than a wasted effort. And nothing but pain comes with that realization.
This, this thing that is going on between himself and Merlin, can't be denied. It is fate and destiny and the greatest, most fulfilling part of life all rolled into one package. But since he is not just Arthur, a man who wants and needs and…. And maybe even loves, to an almost unbearable extent, but Arthur Pentadragon, Crown Prince of Camelot and Future King, he must continue to deny everything. Not because he wants to (because he suddenly doesn't want to. It's like a dam has been open within him, and everything is trying to rush out of him and make itself known), or because he is too proud to admit what are his deepest feelings, but because he has to. It is his duty to.
He sighs, nothing more than a small puff of breath that holds a large extent of sadness and loss and heartache too keen for someone of his age, before pulling Merlin closer to him, knowing that he only has but a few hours before his knights come to rescue him and the fumbling, clumsy man they know as his manservant. He only has but a few hours before he must release the other man and…. honestly let him go. Not so much physically, because no matter what, Merlin seems meant to be at his side, and Arthur isn't really sure he could live without Merlin at his side, at least not anymore, but emotionally, and…. in any other way that's possible. Because, try as he might to deny what he's feeling, or to play ingnorant to the turnover going on within him, it does no good. He knows that now, though he does not know why these realizations have hit him so suddenly. Perhaps it is because of how close he is to Merlin now, and touching the boy, pulling him into some awkward shadow of a lover's embrace, is all it took for him to realize how much he wants to be just that; Merlin's lover.
Above all else though, he knows that there's nothing he can do about his feelings, not now, not ever. This is just one more thing that he wants with an acute sense of pain and longing, but cannot have. All because he is to be a king.
"Arthur," Merlin says beside him, looking far too comfortable now as he snuggles against Arthur's side. "Are you alright?"
Arthur forces his cockiest grin to spread across his face, falling behind the ever present mask that comes with being who he is. Funny, but he hasn't used it around Merlin in such a long time. "I'm fine Merlin. After all, I'm the prince. Why wouldn't I be?"
A/N: Well…. I'm done with this. And…. I'm sorry I had to end it one such a sad note. It just…. it didn't seem like there was any other way. And I don't mean just about ending it. I mean…. I thought about what Arthur was feeling (and practically felt what he was feeling, for God's sakes) and how he'd react and suddenly… this made sense. Because he's so stubborn and emotionally inept most of the time, of course he'd begin by denying his feelings, or finding something or someone else to blame. But something would happen to make a bell go off in his head and make him realize "God, I'm feeling this, and I can't just make it go away by saying it doesn't exist." But once he's ready to accept things, he'll realize that… it's just not possible. Because Arthur is not just a man. He's destined to be a great king, and that places a large burden on his shoulders that leaves no room for the things he wants most. I hope that you guys understand that, and see where I'm going with this and why I had to end it like I did. And I hope I didn't disappoint of anger anyone too terribly.