Two months later, Merlin lazed into Arthur's chambers and dropped himself into the nearest chair. He propped his feet up on the second nearest chair and let his eyes close for what seemed like the first time in weeks. He was just on the precipice, right about to sink into sweet, darling sleep when Arthur's chamber door opened and closed with a bang. Merlin jerked upright in his seat.
"Ah, you're back," Arthur greeted. "I've received word of a previously unknown Druid camp to the north. When will you be ready to leave?"
"Go away," Merlin muttered. If he hadn't been cranky upon arrival, he certainly was now. All hopes of a decent night's sleep and a hot meal were being chased away. Bracing himself on the arms of the chair, Arthur leaned in close.
"My chambers," he reminded smartly, with a bit of a grin. When he moved for Merlin's lips, Merlin ducked under his arms and out of the chair.
"No. I mean it Arthur," he spat, anger that can come only from being constantly cold and sleep-deprived welling up in his throat. "I'm not going anywhere until I've had a good rest. It's been barely a month since I recovered from your sword-happy incident, and only because you made me use magic. Do you know how much power it took to heal myself? I'm still drained and you keep making me go—" and then he stopped, because Arthur's face resembled that of someone who had just been hit on the back of the head.
"Oh, oh…Arthur," Merlin reached out and took his hand. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring that up. But you know what I'm saying. I'm completely exhausted. And—" Arthur raised his eyebrows in a question. Merlin felt his ears burn before he said it.
"I, well…I don't see you often, do I?" As he watched a smirk crawl over Arthur's face he felt his cheeks burn too.
"Stuff it. Not a word," Merlin warned. "I'll turn you into a toad."
"You accepted my offer to become Court Sorcerer," Arthur reminded, moving closer. Though this wasn't the first time in the past two months that Arthur had approached him with a decisively non-kingly look in his eyes; it still made Merlin's heart throw itself recklessly against his ribcage.
"I didn't know I'd have to wear this ridiculous outfit." Merlin threw his arms up to emphasize the impeding length of the sleeves and kicked his left foot out to indicate how often he stepped on the troublesome magenta robe.
"It also means having to be my envoy to the Druids whom my father persecuted the last twenty years of his reign. It puts you far too distant from me." Arthur's nose was touching his. Merlin was sure he looked like a strawberry with black hair; his face was so hot.
"I promise," Arthur continued, "Next time you go out, I'll come with you and make my amends to the Druids in person." Arthur's warm breath danced over Merlin's lips and he felt his throat go dry. When Arthur kissed him, a pleasant heat shot down his spine, making him squirm and goose bumps break out on his skin.
Merlin still felt uncomfortable enjoying Arthur's touch as much as he did. Arthur had been able to adopt an easy, flirtatious manner with him when they were alone. Merlin, however, had much more trouble accepting Arthur's rough fingers on him, even though they felt brilliant, and the way Arthur's firm and broad chest felt on his back at night when they shared a bed, even though it made him delight and snuggle closer.
"Sorry," Arthur muttered, and Merlin realized his hand was on Arthur's chest, pushing him away. Merlin dropped his head onto Arthur's shoulder. Crap.
"Me?" Arthur offered, a painful grin on his face.
"It really isn't. I've thought about it a little, with you, nothing more than a passing fancy though." Merlin felt his face turning pink again. "I mean, I'm still getting comfortable in my own skin again, so it really is—"
"You," Arthur supplemented again.
"Right." Now Merlin knew his face was red, he felt his skin tingling all the way up to his ears. "You know, if we had a little more time to spend together, I might get comfortable quicker." As a spur of the moment after thought he added quietly, "And we could do stuff quicker."
For a split second Merlin thought, hoped Arthur hadn't heard him. But then, for the second time, Arthur got a look on his face like someone had whacked him with a piece of lumber and his face colored. That look disappeared as soon as it came however, and Arthur cuffed Merlin around the head with a,
"Ha, go to sleep, you!" And pushed Merlin onto his bed. "We'll leave for that camp first thing in the morning." At long last, it was Merlin's turn to give a sly grin.
"Shut up, Merlin."