Whew. I'm finally feeling alright enough to update this story. The season finale...that was heartbreaking and sad and it really took me days before I could even think about writing this story forward. Also, there was Christmas in between (I hope you all good holidays) and naturally I couldn't be on the computer. I'm sad that Merlin is now over and even sadder about the ending, but let's keep the fandom alive, shall we? :)
By the way, someone asked me if I have Livejournal or Tumblr, and no, I don't have a Livejournal but I do have a Tumblr. If you want to follow me on there, you can find the link to my blog on my profile page. :)
Also, there's something I want to ask you all. I'm thinking about starting a reincarnation fic set in the modern day when I've finished this fic. What do you think, should I do it?
Alright, let's get into it then. This is the last chapter. I was thinking to do one more chapter after this at first, but when I started writing, I just knew how I wanted to end this story. You'll see what I mean when you finish it, hopefully. :)
So now it's the time to thank you all. I couldn't have kicked my writer's block this effectively to the head without you. Your enthusiasm and positive feedback has given me so much more energy and confidence in writing that I can't express it well enough through words. Thank you. I mean it.
So, for the one last time, I wish you give a review and tell me what you thought about this chapter and this whole story - was it good, bad, worth writing for and reading for? Tell me honestly everything - whether it's good or bad - I truly appreciate it. And also, please let me know if you want me to start writing that modern day reincarnation story, because you really have a huge effect on me on this.
Okay, so here's the last chapter of In Deep Water. Thank you all and happy New Year! :)
Story: In deep water (Chapter thirteen)
During the next day and night, Merlin's fever went up and down.
Arthur stayed beside him all the time. Gaius had been treating some emergency case in the lower town, and he could only come to check in on Merlin from time to time.
The worst thing that there wasn't really anything that could be done. While Merlin was still out cold, his fever wasn't dangerously high, and his life wasn't in immediate danger. Gaius had given him some sleeping draught that kept him dreaming peacefully.
Arthur spent the day in the dark rooms of his own mind, turning thoughts and ideas in his head, trying to make sense of everything.
A lot of things started to click. Frightening amount of unexplained things and miraculous incidents suddenly made finally perfectly sense. Arthur wondered how on Earth he hadn't suspected anything or realized the truth himself. It had been there right under his nose. All he would have needed was to look closer.
But none of that mattered now, did it?
They were home. They were both alive.
When the night started to settle in, Merlin's fever finally got lower. Arthur buried his face into his hands in relief. He was getting rather tired himself, too. While he had gotten proper sleep before, he wasn't still fully recovered or rested.
Gaius had forbidden all visitors, and Arthur was actually very glad for that. He wanted to be alone and think. His thoughts went around in circles. Always the same doubts, always the same hurt - but always the same conclusion.
Merlin was his. No matter how he turned things around in his head, it was the very thing that never changed. Arthur wasn't ready to let him go - and he didn't want to. Merlin's secret was his now too, and Arthur knew that.
Arthur wanted just things to get back to normal. Like they had been before. He wanted Merlin to get better and be his manservant and they could go back to their usual banter and flying objects and smiles and laugh.
Arthur wanted all of that.
He didn't want to break it.
As much as his heart ached and as betrayed as he still felt, Arthur needed to give Merlin time to get better. Then...then Arthur could make some decisions. Gaius came back to the physician's chambers sometime after the sunset with dark rings under his eyes. He checked on Merlin and assured Arthur that Merlin should be fine, but he needed time to heal and recover.
Arthur thanked him and demanded that Gaius should go to sleep. Arthur told him that he wouldn't be able to get any sleep himself. Not yet. Gaius said that Arthur really needed to rest some more, but Arthur refused, saying that he had slept almost whole two days earlier.
Gaius' eyes flickered between Merlin and Arthur. Then he slowly nodded. Arthur knew he understood. Gaius understood that Arthur needed to be there. That he needed this. So after a moment of silence, Gaius told Arthur that he should wake him up if anything changed, and Arthur promised him that he would.
Then Arthur was alone in the room again.
Hours passed. Night darkened. The fire died down.
When Merlin started to shiver slightly, Arthur ordered a guard to light up the fire again.
Arthur sat alone, sometimes watching Merlin and sometimes staring at the flames.
Shadows danced in the room, making it look eerie.
Sometime after midnight, Merlin suddenly moaned a little. Arthur was instantly on full alert, crouching closer to him, breaths quickening.
Merlin's eyelids flickered. Arthur suddenly felt his heart getting heavy in his chest. While it was filled with worry, there was also deep affection. Merlin opened his eyes slowly and hazily. Arthur looked at those familiar blue eyes wandering distantly for a moment before they found Arthur.
A weak smile filled Merlin's lips. Arthur felt a deep sting somewhere deep inside his chest, and had to swallow hard.
Merlin blinked slowly, clearly tired. He breathed in and out, just looking at Arthur. Arthur could see his exhausted eyes scanning for injuries and wounds, and filling with relief when they were all bandaged.
This moment was peaceful. It was natural and easy, just like it always used to be with Merlin. No words were needed. Arthur looked at Merlin - his blue eyes, dark hair, pale skin. No matter what he did, Arthur could feel his anger and hurt dulling all the time. The shock was fading. The anger was dying out.
It almost scared him, because Arthur started to feel thankful. If Merlin really was a sorcerer, then why didn't he seek any credit? Why did he keep cleaning boots and making beds when he could do anything he wanted, get anything he wanted? With all that power, Merlin still chose to be a servant?
Yet here Merlin was, lying half-dead because he would always follow Arthur everywhere, would do anything for him.
Arthur suddenly knew it. It had taken time, but seeing Merlin like this, under the blankets, on the warm orange light of the fire, Arthur could only feel fierce rush of affection.
Merlin was his.
Arthur could never hate magic enough to let go of him. He was once again reminded that even as ridiculous and stupid it seemed, Arthur was defenceless and powerless here. He wouldn't need to choose, because there wasn't any choice anyway, there never really had been. He would just have to deal with the consequences.
-Arth...ur?" Merlin whispered.
Arthur just nodded, flashing a shaky smile.
Merlin glanced around, slightly confused.
Arthur sighed. -We're in Camelot. You're safe...We both are. You still have a light fever, but it should be gone by the morning." he said quietly.
He knew there was something off about his own tone - it was too thick, too emotional, too troubled. He couldn't hide his inner turmoil. It caught Merlin's attention too. His brows furrowed and his eyes studied Arthur's face. -Are you...alright?" he said, sounding worried.
Arthur nodded, drawing a hitching, quick breath. -Yes, Merlin, I am alright." He looked away. -I'm just...relieved that we're back."
There was a silence filled with the fire rattling on the background. The air seemed suddenly thinner and heavier to breathe in.
Arthur forced himself to look back to Merlin. Merlin looked disbelieving. Even being only half-awake, he knew Arthur too well. -Arthur..." he said, a question in his voice.
Arthur leant slightly forward. Their faces were now close to each other, and the light of the fire was dancing on their faces. In a fleeting moment, Arthur looked into Merlin's eyes, and saw the same person there always had been before.
Not malice. Not façade.
Who was looking at him with his blue eyes, confusion and tired worry in them.
Arthur swallowed. Everything is alright, Merlin. You just...gave us quite a scare. You should get some rest." he said.
Merlin still eyed him with confusion, but it settled a little, and exhaustion was clearly taking over.
-Just sleep. I'll be right here." Arthur said with a quiet voice, turning his head away.
It was so hard. It was so hard, but Arthur knew now he could get through this. Somehow.
He knew Merlin wanted to ask him about his odd behaviour, but there was only silence. When Arthur finally turned his head towards Merlin again, his eyelids had already drifted closed and he was sleeping again.
Arthur let out a long, shuddering breath.
The night continued. Shadows kept him company.
Days went by.
Slowly but surely, Merlin started to get better. His fever went down for good, and he started regaining his strength. Soon he was sitting up and talking to Gaius and moving around a bit in the physician's chambers.
His breathing and voice got finally back to normal, and Arthur was satisfied to see the simple gesture of air flowing in and out without trouble.
Arthur's wounds healed quickly. It seemed there was some magic at work on the side of his head, because the cut on it shrank to a scar with an impressive speed. It was no doubt thanks to Meria.
However, his leg was another story. Arthur kept limping badly for weeks, and Gaius didn't let him walk any more than it was necessary.
Arthur was busy. He had to go to the meetings and arrange funerals and sent patrols after the beaten bandits. He was partly glad that he had a lot of things to do and they kept his mind occupied, and partly he was frustrated because he didn't have time to think things through.
He visited Merlin every day briefly. Arthur talked with him shortly but he felt awkward and everything he said or did seemed strained or highlighted.
Merlin noticed it, of course. He asked Arthur if something was wrong or had something happened that he didn't know of, but Arthur bit his lip every time and told him that the hellish patrol had taken its toll on him and everything that happened during it.
Merlin believed him. Clearly he thought that him nearly dying was still bothering Arthur. Merlin even told Arthur that it wasn't his fault that he had almost drowned. Arthur's tensed replies seemed to work with that explanation.
At least for the first few days.
Then Merlin got suspicious, confused and somehow sad. They both knew something was off. Arthur couldn't act fully naturally around Merlin. He felt strained and troubled. He had trouble looking Merlin in the eyes for long periods of time, and he tried to mask their poignant distance between them with hurried excuses and half-hearted half-truths. The rift between them was widening anyhow.
Days passed, and they turned into a week.
More than once, Arthur stared at the ceiling on his own royal bed and thought things through during the nights. It was a dead-end, really.
Another week passed.
Arthur's anger was gone. So was the shock. The hurt and anxiety were left. He had so many questions he wanted to ask from Merlin, and he knew that he couldn't keep this façade up for long. Merlin and him knew each other too well, and when they would get back spending their days together from the morning to the late night, Arthur knew that Merlin would want to know what was bothering him.
The most frightening thing about it all was that the more time passed, the less the whole thing bothered Arthur.
He was starting to get used to the thought of Merlin having magic. He was starting to forgive Merlin.
Arthur had no idea how he was doing it or how was it even possible.
But very slowly, the fact that Merlin had magic wasn't constantly on his mind. It didn't keep him up every night or weigh him down him like a heavy cloak. The lies Merlin had told him seemed more reasonable now. Arthur started to see all of the past years in a whole new light.
When days went by, Arthur thought about the whole thing less and less. He was getting back to his routines, he was healing - both inside and out.
Arthur found this unnerving.
He was harbouring a sorcerer.
In his own kingdom.
He was the king and his closest friend was a sorcerer.
Arthur knew that it should have been all kinds of wrong. He was the king of Camelot.
Yet, he felt sick for even considering the idea of revealing Merlin's secret to anyone. He didn't want to risk Merlin's life. He had almost lost Merlin already, and he had decided that it could never happen again.
So Arthur stayed quiet.
More days passed.
His anger lessened, his hurt dulled.
The knife of betrayal that had sliced his heart and pride, was starting to lose its sharpness.
It took almost four weeks for Merlin to get fully recovered, or at least enough to work. His wrist was still healing, but otherwise he was fine. Gaius nor Arthur had let him do anything for weeks, which had frustrated Merlin to no end.
When the day came when Merlin finally got back to his work, Arthur's emotions were more or less under control and only his magnified self-awareness was left. He fought the urge to stare at Merlin all the time. It was like he was waiting Merlin to use magic all the time, like he would suddenly turn into a malicious sorcerer.
He didn't, of course.
Merlin noticed Arthur's odd looks and too long pauses. While they both tried to act normally, something was off. They both just let it be for a few hours during the morning, but then Merlin finally snapped.
-What's wrong, Arthur?" he asked, lowering some clothes on the table and looking at Arthur demandingly.
Arthur swallowed. He knew Merlin wouldn't let this go. Of course he wouldn't. -What do you mean?" he said warily, not looking at Merlin directly.
Merlin shook his head, looking worried. He gestured distantly at the empty space between them. -This. There's something that has been bothering you ever since that patrol, and you're acting weirdly. What is it?"
Arthur bit his lip. -I told you before...it's...We almost died. Dozens of my men died during the battle." he said, staring at the floor. Arthur didn't even know why he was holding it back. Why was he lying now? Merlin's life wasn't in danger anymore. Merlin was fine, almost fully recovered. He was in a good shape already, enough to go through with this. There wasn't a good reason to postpone this any longer. They could talk. They should talk about this. Arthur should open his mouth and let Merlin know that he knew now.
But somehow, the thought terrified him. He didn't want to say anything. He didn't want to smash everything to pieces.
Merlin sighed. -I understand that upset you, but you can't delve in it, Arthur. It wasn't your fault."
Arthur nodded slowly. He glanced at Merlin, trying to hide his nervousness. He felt torn and there was a small knot in his stomach. Merlin's genuine worry made Arthur feel somehow bad. Like it was him that was keeping things and lying and not the other way around.
There was a short silence. The tension that had settled between them during the four weeks felt suffocating.
-Are you sure that's all?" Merlin asked carefully.
Arthur didn't look at him. His heart was beating quickly, adrenaline running in his veins. He was in two minds, torn into so many directions. This could be the moment of truth. Slowly, Arthur turned to look at Merlin.
Merlin was standing there, with a bandaged wrist, looking at him with blue, worried eyes. He looked just like he always had.
All of a sudden, even the last remains of Arthur's doubts faded away. This was Merlin. This was the person he had always known and cared about. This was his loyal servant, his friend.
There and then, in the familiar space of his own chambers, Arthur suddenly found peace.
It spread through his heart like healing, warm water. Acceptance. Of course there would be always things he couldn't forget or fully forgive, and he wasn't alright with the lies and the magic, but he was alright enough to live with this all. He would be alright.
This sensation had been building up somewhere deep inside Arthur through these weeks, through all the silent nights, through his troubled thoughts, lonely moments. Arthur could remember vividly the moment at the river shore, staring at Merlin who wasn't breathing, remembered the pure horror and the crushing grief he had felt, and he knew he would never let that happen again.
Everything seemed to click, right there and then.
Suddenly Arthur felt true joy for the first time in weeks. He let out a small, weak but genuine smile. Merlin looked surprised but relieved to see it. He studied Arthur's face with slight confusion. Arthur let out a breath.
-Actually, there might be something else that's been bothering me." Arthur said slowly.
Merlin tilted his head and listened intently.
There was a moment of hesitation. Then Arthur sighed. -I haven't had my lunch yet." he said dramatically.
Merlin huffed and quirked an eyebrow at him. Even if he looked relieved that Arthur was finally giving an attempt of joking around, he was clearly still bothered of the unspoken, heavy curtain-like distance between them. Merlin hesitated a moment but then moved towards the table, grabbed the silver plate with wine glasses on it and took first steps towards the door.
-Fine." Merlin said. -But I'm not letting this go, Arthur. " he assured. Arthur suddenly knew exactly what he was going to do.
He tilted his head, smiling a little. -Yes, well, I just noticed that my chambers need some cleaning to do." he said a hint of playfulness.
Merlin was already walking towards the door. -I see what I can do." he mumbled, disappointed.
Arthur chuckled quietly. His heart was beating fast and adrenaline thrumming inside his veins. He took a deep breath before he talked, locking his eyes at the back of Merlin's head.
-Why don't you just clean it with your magic?"
The sound of breaking glass filled the room when the silver plate fell out from Merlin's hands and crashed to the floor. Wine spilled to the floor tiles and the glass broke into hundreds of tiny pieces. Merlin was completely frozen now, staring at the fallen plate, his body tensed, hands stuck in mid-air - just like someone had suddenly stopped time.
The silence in the room seemed deafening.
Arthur couldn't help but to grin a little, even if his heart was beating quickly and emotions churned in his chest.
It took several seconds for Merlin to recover. Then he knelt towards the fallen plate. Arthur could see his hands were shaking. Merlin let out a nervous chuckle.
-That was a bad joke, Arthur." he mumbled with a shaky voice, not turning around or even glancing at Arthur's direction. -Now I have to clean this first." he mumbled with an unsteady tone.
Arthur had to bit his lip not to laugh. He had no idea why he was finding this partly hilarious and partly frustrating as hell - why was Merlin still trying to lie? Arthur felt a flash of anger while on the same time he really had to fight back not to laugh. It seemed fitting that it was Merlin causing it - he drove Arthur to the walls from time to time, but he could also make him laugh and smile like no one else could. Arthur took a deep breath and his face fell.
-It wasn't a joke, Merlin." Arthur said in a serious tone.
Merlin's hand froze in to the mid-air once again.
Arthur had to cross his arms over his chest to keep his composure. He was almost shaking, too.
Suddenly Merlin's hands were nervous and very fast, trying to gather all of the pieces of broken glass to the silver plate. -I'm sorry." He stuttered. -I'm so sorry I broke them. I'm just clumsy sometimes, you know? Of course you know that, Arthur, you always remind me about that, it was a stupid question so why did I even said it aloud? It makes no sense. Gaius always tells me I should think more before I open my mouth..."
Arthur couldn't help but to feel empathy for Merlin's nervous mumbling and his shaking hands. Without even realizing it himself, Arthur smiled fondly. Stupid idiot. His loyal, favorite idiot. Merlin really hadn't been playing any games. He really was like this.
-...and I do listen to him, I really do, it's not that. I'm just clumsy, and sometimes I knock things over. It will be hard to get the wine stains off the floor, though, it's red wine and it will get sticky if it dries..."
-Merlin." Arthur called.
Merlin got instantly quiet. He kept fidgeting his fingers, however, almost hysterically trying to clean up the mess. He didn't move or try to get up, and his back was still turned to Arthur.
Arthur sighed and started to walk towards Merlin. Merlin froze, clearly very aware of the approaching king and he suddenly crouched smaller, like trying to be invisible.
Arthur stopped next to Merlin, tilting his head. The silence in the room was heavy and brooding, and the only sound was the small shuffle of the broken pieces of glass. When Merlin showed no signs of stopping the nervous gesture, Arthur sighed and knelt down next to him, careful not to crush any more of the glass.
Merlin's hands finally stopped. He hung his head so Arthur couldn't see his face. Arthur could see that Merlin was badly shaking, skin suddenly pale.
The tension could be cut with a knife.
-Merlin?" Arthur called softly, almost gently. Merlin breathed quickly in, too quickly, and it sounded odd. He stayed frozen. Arthur stared at him. -Merlin, look at me." he said with a quiet but demanding tone.
Slowly but surely, Merlin did what he was told and lifed his head. When his face came into view, his blue eyes were widened and laced with panic, even though he was trying to cover it up. All colour had drained from his face and Arthur started seriously worry that he just might faint. Merlin had a look of hidden fear and shame on his face.
Arthur briefly wondered how on Earth Merlin had managed to lie about this for so many years.
Merlin studied his face hurriedly, clearly unable to read what Arthur was thinking. Then suddenly his eyes started to glisten and he bit his lip hard.
-I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, Arthur." he whimpered, and he looked even more paler. His eyes slided frantically to the floor, his hands shaking badly.
-I...I'm...How did you..." he stuttered, voice shaky. He covered his mouth with his healthy hand.
Arthur felt slightly bad for Merlin - he was truly caught off guard and shaken. If there had been any doutbs about Merlin being evil, which Arthur didn't have anymore, they would have been wiped out that instant.
Merlin was breathing very quickly now. Arthur sighed. -Stop that, or you'll make yourself faint." he said.
Merlin squeezed his eyes shut and dropped his hand instantly. He clearly tried to calm himself down. Arthur watched in awe how deeply this affected Merlin. They stayed like this for some seconds.
When Merlin finally managed to open his eyes again, he didn't look at Arthur. He looked sheepishly at the red wine on the floor. He opened his mouth to say something, but his voice broke and he had to swallow first. -H-how...did you..."
-Find out?" Arthur finished. He sighed. -The patrol. The bandits saw you and their leader told me."
Merlin shook his head fiercely, clearly remembering the patrol. -At...at the river?"
Arthur nodded and let out a heavy sigh. -You almost sent them flying all the way to Mercia from what I've heard." Arthur said, voice tense. Merlin looked up with his wide eyes and then dropped his gaze again, shaking violently.
Merlin shoulders sagged even lower. -Not supposed to...I didn't...I'm...You're..." Merlin choked back a sob. -I'm so sorry." he managed to finally stutter out. Then he took a deep breath. It took him some long seconds to gather his voice. -Yes, Arthur, I have magic. I was born with it. But...I've only used it for good and for you, Arthur, only you. You have to believe e. I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but..."
-What? Why didn't you?" Arthur cut in, his voice a bit more harsh than he had intended.
Merlin looked miserable. -I was afraid you'd execute me if I did."
Arthur stared at Merlin for a long while, unsurprised of the explanation but still shocked about it. -No, Merlin. I wouldn't have done that. I won't do that."
The silence between them was ominous.
Merlin looked up, tears in his eyes. -Then what are you going to do, Arthur?" he whispered.
Arthur took a deep breath. He locked eyes with Merlin. -Nothing."
Merlin blinked in surprise, and he opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. Arthur huffed.
-I'm not going to do anything, Merlin. Since you don't seem to be plotting any treason or using magic for evil purposes, I have no reason to do anything about it."
Merlin looked dazed. -But..." He stared at Arthur. -But how..."
Arthur shrugged. -I don't know. I don't even really know why. I just know that I can't send you away or...hate you." he said, his voice getting thick.
Merlin looked at him with dozens of emotions flashing in his eyes. -Arthur..." he whispered.
Arthur just shook his head. -I'm just...glad you're here, Merlin. And alright." He could feel adrenaline thrumming in his veins.
One tear broke free and rolled down Merlin's cheek. -Thank you." he breathed out, and he sounded like he meant it more than anything he had ever said before.
Arthur just nodded. Everything he had felt or thought during the few past weeks and the patrol flashed inside his mind - and then all of the memories he had about Merlin, all those years they had spent together. He couldn't be sure, but he guessed that Merlin had been the secret guardian angel he had joked about more than once. Arthur felt the urge to thank Merlin for being always there by his side, but couldn't do that yet. That would have to wait. Someday he would thank Merlin, that's what he promised to himself right then and there.
They stayed there for a few more moments, Merlin wiping his eyes and brushing the tear off his cheek, trying to calm himself and his breathing down.
-What now?" Merlin finally uttered quietly.
Arthur raised an eyebrow. -What do you mean?"
Merlin let out a desperate chuckle. -What happens now, Arthur?"
Arthur shrugged a little. While he knew that Merlin meant to ask the question in the larger scale, Arthur didn't have a good answer to that. -I'd truly appreciate if you could get that lunch." he said.
Merlin chuckled nervously and happily, and it turned into a quiet sob.
-So...I'm still...We're still...?"
Arthur let out a faint smile. -Yes, you're still my servant, Merlin." he confirmed. -Though still a lousy one." The look on Merlin's face was filled with overwhelming relief. It took everything from Arthur to say the next words. Despite all the hurt and feelings of betrayal, he forced himself to say them. -And you're still my friend."
Merlin blinked hard, tears filling his eyes once again. His face twisted and he looked like he was going to break down into crying. -T-thank you, Arthur." He tried to continue, but couldn't talk. Instead, he kept looking at Arthur with the most relieved, grateful and happy look on his face, and Arthur felt uncomfortable being looked at like that. The pure joy radiated from Merlin. Arthur could tell how much this meant to Merlin, and he had no regrets of making this decision.
He had no regrets at all.
-But you need to promise me, Merlin - no more lies." Arthur said seriously.
Merlin nodded solemnly. -I promise." he said with a choked voice. His breathing was loud and irregular, filled with emotions.
Arthur eyed him with a sharp look. -And you have a lot of explaining to do."
Merlin nodded. -Anything you want to know." he mumbled with sincerity. Then he finally broke out into a tearful chuckle, and covered his mouth with his hands, staring at Arthur like this was the best day of his life. He looked at Arthur with such admiration and care that it made Arthur smile.
Stupid, loyal idiot, Arthur thought fondly.
For a moment, they just looked at each other through new eyes, and it felt right and good. Arthur was glad he had managed to forgive Merlin. He was happy that Merlin was here, right there beside him like he always was. They should be okay. They would be.
Finally Merlin broke their eye contact and looked down at the broken glass. He reached his still shaking hand towards the pieces, but Arthur interrupted him.
-Leave it." Arthur said. -Someone else can do that. You still have to let your wrist heal." Then he got up, still distantly wincing because of his injured leg. -Come on, Merlin, get up."
Merlin was still breathing quickly and it took a moment before he shakily started to get up. Arthur watched him to struggle to stand. When he finally managed to stand up, Merlin turned to look at Arthur. Arthur realized all of a sudden that Merlin was swaying on his feet, and noticed that Merlin was still pale as a sheet. He looked oddly disoriented.
-Merlin, are you alr..."
Before he could finish his sentence, Merlin tried to take a step forward but his knees buckled and he ended up falling towards the ground. With a quick movement, startled Arthur was fortunately faster and managed to grab Merlin before he fell. Arthur cursed under his breath while Merlin collapsed against his chest, hitting his forehead to Arthur's collarbone.
-Merlin?" Arthur hissed, slightly worried. He tightened his grip around Merlin, trying to stop him from sliding to the ground which was still covered in pieces of glass. He shook Merlin a little.
After a few seconds, Merlin let out a soft moan that was muffled by Arthur's shirt, and he seemed to find some strength in his legs again and struggled stand. Arthur let out a relieved sigh.
-Come on, you need to sit down for a moment." he told Merlin, and glanced at the chair closest to them. Then he took a firm grip around Merlin and partly carried and partly dragged him towards the chair and then lowered Merlin onto it.
Merlin slumped to the chair, head rolling to the back rest. His eyes flickered a little and Arthur gave his cheek a gentle slap. -Hey, stay awake." he commanded, and felt ridiculous for worrying so much. -Merlin, you girl, don't you faint." he said demandingly.
Merlin blinked his eyes open and it took a moment before they cleared.
Arthur watched him closely, and reached for a water glass. He more or less shoved it into Merlin's hand. -Drink." he ordered, and didn't say anything before Merlin did as he was told. Then Arthur took the glass and put it to the table with some unnecessary force.
Merlin let out a tired but bright smile. -Sorry." he said.
Arthur rolled his eyes. -I should have guessed this. You swooned like a girl."
Arthur really thought he should have guessed it - Merlin had been breathing way too quickly and he had been pale like a ghost, and stood up too quickly. It wasn't the first time Merlin had fainted - usually Arthur could tell when he saw the warning signs. This time he had been too occupied with his own, still quickly rushing thoughts.
Merlin huffed and shook his head a little. -Did not swoon."
Arthur chuckled and crossed his arms. -Yes you did." He shook his head, the worry lessening. He eyed Merlin with sparkling eyes. -Idiot."
Merlin smiled brightly, and carefully sat up a little. -Prat." he whispered like it was the best compliment in the world.
Arthur rolled his eyes. -I'm still the king, Merlin. You should remember that."
-Sure, Arthur." Merlin said, now his voice already getting close to its usual playfulness and having shades of their usual banter. He flashed a grin.
He was fortunately regaining some colour to his face.
Arthur couldn't help but to smile. The massive chunk of ice and hurt in his chest startled to melt. All of the wounds of the lies started to heal, just like the cut on his head - like magic was involved. And magic was involved. Merlin was involved.
And Arthur was getting used to that thought.
Merlin took a grip from the table to pull himself up but Arthur stopped him. -Just...sit down for a minute. I don't want you hitting your head or rolling off the stairs if you decide to faint once again."
Merlin leant back and laughed a little. Arthur couldn't begin to understand how much he had missed the sound of it. They locked eyes, and their eyes were sparkling. The moment was so familiar, so warm, so safe. Arthur knew that they could work things out. They could make it all work, somehow, because he wouldn't let anything bad happen to Merlin, and he didn't want anything more than to keep him here beside him where he seemed to belong.
Dust danced slowly in the pillars of sunlight that streamed through the windows. The silence in the king's chambers were now peaceful, despite the spilled wine and broken glass on the floor, or the dirty clothes on the table or the slightly pale sorcerer sitting on the king's chair.
They would be alright.
The room would be once again filled with laughter, banter, flying objects and deep conversations. It would take time before Arthur could fully forgive and fully understand. It would take him even more time when he could finally see the true extent of everything Merlin had done for him, and it would take even more longer for him to say those words to Merlin - thank you.
But someday, he would.