AN: This is my first slash story ever, for Merlin or any other fandom, so I'm a bit nervous, but I think I did it justice. I needed Merlin comforting Arthur, and I needed something loving, and this is what came out of that.
In My Weakest Moment, You Make Me Strong
The coronation ceremony is done. Respects have been paid to the late King Uther Pendragon. A celebration has been thrown to honor the new King Arthur, long may he live.
It has been the longest day of Arthur's life.
He retires to bed early, dismisses Merlin for the night, and disappoints his knights and the court who want nothing more than to give their condolences and tell him what a good job they know he's going to do.
Arthur closes the door to his room behind him to find the peace and quiet he has so desperately wanted all day. Only now that he has it can he finally allow the weight of what has happened to crash down on him. Only now does he realize that it's too much for him to handle.
His father is dead.
He is king now.
His father is gone and he has to do this all alone and oh gods he can't do it.
The room shrinks around him. He feels the walls closing in and he can't breathe, his heart will burst, it's too much. He's gasping for breath as he drowns. Despite the fact that his lungs are working overtime to get him air, he gets nothing. There is nothing. He is nothing. He can't do this. He collapses in his chair and puts his head in his hands, gasping desperately for air that just won't come. His chest expands to the point where he's afraid it might burst, afraid the pressure is going to kill him. Fear for his life makes him panic even more, and he's panting now.
And then he feels it. Through the haze of paranoia and pain, he feels someone rubbing his back gently, hands firm yet comforting. He looks up to find Merlin kneeling next to him, gazing at him with concern. He hears Merlin whispering soothing words to him, and he can only catch pieces of what he says. "It's okay...you're going to be fine…just breathe through it."
Arthur puts his head back down on his knees and wills himself to calm down. Wills the room to stop spinning, his breathing to slow down, his chest to stop aching. When the panic finally stops, Arthur is sweating and shaky and he feels like he's going to throw up but he's alive. He can feel Merlin still rubbing his back and he's grateful that Merlin has come.
Then Arthur goes to stand, and as the room sways around him he realizes he's still not all right. Not by a long shot. He can breathe again, but his father is still dead and he is still king and he's not ready. He can still feel the crown pressing down on him even though he took it off an hour ago.
It's too heavy, all of it. Even the cloak he wears is too heavy; it's threatening to crush him under its weight. He tries to tear it off and he gets the cords tangled. Then he feels gentle hands – Merlin's hands – cover his own, coax his hands away and use deft fingers to untie it for him, remove it from his shoulders and place it reverently on a chair.
He was wrong. It wasn't the cloak. It was the armor. Oh gods, the armor, it weighs a ton. He can't get it off fast enough. His hands fumble at it, and he's shaking so badly now that he can't grab hold.
And Merlin's there again. He grabs his hands and holds them this time, firm and yet gentle, forceful and yet caring. He holds his hands for a moment and says quietly, "It's all right, Arthur. Let me help you."
The words are simple, but they mean so much to Arthur he can't bear it. He wants to say thank you, wants to say so much to Merlin, but he can't make his mouth work, so he just nods.
Merlin lets his hands go and gently removes his armor piece by piece, carefully placing each one on the table to be taken care of later. As each piece comes off Arthur finds it easier to breathe. His heart slows; the burning in his lungs lessens. By the time Merlin has him down to just his shirt and pants, Arthur's breathing normally again and all he can feel is shame.
He's ashamed of himself for losing control like this. He's king now, he can't afford to lose control. He can't afford for his people to see him weak. He looks up to meet Merlin's eyes, prepared for the disappointment he's afraid he will find.
Arthur's heart skips a beat and he gasps slightly at the intensity of the emotion in Merlin's gaze. What he finds is far from disappointment. In Merlin's eyes, Arthur finds concern, acceptance…and love. More than anything he feels love, and Arthur realizes he should have known better. If anyone accepts him for who he is – sees him not just as Sire and King, but as Arthur and friend and maybe something more – it's the man in front of him. If he can trust anyone to see him in a moment of weakness, it's Merlin.
Merlin's gaze pierces his soul with such intensity that Arthur has to look away. His heart aches with gratitude, and he's surprised when a tear falls down his cheek. He reaches up for it and Merlin's hands are there again, touching his cheek and brushing it away for him.
Then Merlin touches his chin and gently lifts his face up, and Arthur has no choice but to look at Merlin. He sees Merlin looking back at him, and he sees that Merlin is barely holding it together himself, that he's being strong for him, for his king. The concern, the acceptance, the love are still strong in his gaze.
So when Merlin says, "It's all right, Arthur, I've got you," Arthur lets himself go.
Tears fall, he feels himself break, but it's okay, because Merlin is there to catch him.
He doesn't know how long he cries. Hours maybe. Days. The only thing he's aware of is Merlin. Merlin's arms around him, holding him close. Merlin's hands running through his hair, soothing him. Merlin whispering in his ear that it's okay. To let go. That he's here and he's not going to leave him, not ever. That he's strong, stronger than he knows. That he will get through this. That they will get through this.
At some point Arthur's knees buckle and he lets Merlin guide him to his bed, where he collapses. Suddenly, tears that were silent before become loud. A body that was taut begins to shudder. A man who will be king becomes a little boy again. Arthur lets the tears flow, lets the sobs wrack his body, lets himself feel everything he's tried so hard to keep in since his father died…lets Merlin hold him.
If his knights saw him like this, if his people saw him, they would know that Arthur doesn't have what it takes, that he can't be king. They'd lose faith in him, and he can't afford that because he doesn't have enough left for himself. But Merlin…Merlin has faith in him. Merlin is the only one he can trust to see him at his weakest, to not judge him. Merlin is the only one who can see him like this: vulnerable, broken. Merlin is the only one who can hold him like this. The only one he needs. And it's not until this moment that Arthur realizes how much he needs him.
The tears finally stop and he looks up at Merlin, and he knows his heart is wide open; that if Merlin cares to look he will see everything Arthur feels written there on his face.
How much he appreciates him. How much he needs him. How much he loves him.
He wants to say something, but all he can manage is Merlin's name, harsh and choked out from his aching throat.
And if he hasn't said it in his eyes he's said it in Merlin's name, because Merlin smiles at Arthur and kisses him softly on the cheek, lips tracing the tracks his tears have made. Arthur feels the warmth of it spread through his body and he looks at Merlin in wonder.
Softly, Merlin says, "I know. Me too."
I need you. I want to help you. I love you. It's all right there between them, in front of them, and no one needs to say it because they both feel it.
No one needs to say it. So Arthur shares it with a kiss. It's moist and warm and maybe a little salty but it's perfect because it's them and they don't need anyone else.
Merlin pulls away first, a question in his eyes. He still wants to know what he can do for Arthur, what Arthur needs.
Right now, Arthur needs Merlin.
"Stay with me?" he asks, voice cracking as the emotions of the past few days threaten to destroy him.
But he doesn't need to worry, because Merlin is here.
Arthur kisses him again, fierce and needy, wanting. He wraps his arms around Merlin and doesn't let go.
When Arthur wakes in the morning, he finds Merlin's hand in his, Merlin's body warm and close and wrapped around his own. Sunlight streams in through the window and Arthur feels a tiny spark of hope at the sight of it. It's a new day, and even though he's still King and his father is still gone, he has Merlin by his side and he feels like he can face anything.
AN: Hope you enjoyed my first slash fic. Have a Happy Merlin Day, and remember reviews are love. :)