Merlin shivered in the cold, leaning over the balustrade to stare out at the thousands of stars littering the night sky. No other living soul was around- not even the night guards had passed this section of the wall yet. It would be so increasingly easy to just allow his eyes to flood gold and create gorgeous little pictures in the stars.
It seemed on the coldest of nights the stars burned the brightest. He shivered, wrapping his arms around himself to try to preserve the small amount of body heat he had left. His breath puffed into the air, bright white against the dark sky. Merlin licked his lips to keep them from cracking from the cold and then bit his bottom lip, leaning farther against the stone in appreciation of the splendor of the sky.
It wasn't normal that he got the chance to get away from his work for long enough to climb to the very top of the castle walls and stare openly out at the sky. He greatly doubted anyone else would understand his burning desire to just watch the sun burst over the treetops and eat away the remnants of the dark. He snorted softly to himself when he considered explaining this to Arthur, the man who would rather kill something than appreciate its beauty.
He was about to call it a night and turn inside- it was too cold to wait for the non-existent sunrise- when a noise on the small staircase behind him caused him to turn, confused. His face spasmed for a moment between fear and joy- Arthur was standing on the stairs, holding a small basket.
"I was just coming inside," he quickly justified his actions. "I know, I was supposed to get you up... wait," he paused, confused. "What in the world are you doing up so incredibly early?"
Arthur's stern expression twitched into a small smile. "I'm here with this," he lifted up the basket. "It was supposed to be a clear night tonight. I heard you asking Gaius. So I figured you'd be up here, like you always are when you sneak away from me in the middle of the night."
"Arthur, I'm sorry..."
Arthur waved his hand gently, moving up towards Merlin. "I figured you'd be cold. It's bloody freezing out here! So...," he bent down to dig through his basket, leaving Merlin bewildered but with a growing sense of hope, "I brought a few blankets, two pillows, and an entire jug of freshly made tea." He laid the aforementioned things on the ground with a toothy grin, enjoying the spreading look of amazement on his manservant's face. "Sit with me, then, instead of blubbering like a fish?"
Merlin didn't know what to say, and instead just sat down next to Arthur, beaming. "You'll watch the sunrise with me?"
"Geez, Merlin, I said you're an idiot and I stick with that, but today you're incredibly dense. Of course I'm going to watch it with you! I wouldn't drag all this stuff up here with me if I wasn't. Now come here, idiot, you're going to catch a cold." He opened up his cape and held it invitingly open, body heat already warming the space next to him without Merlin to assist.
Needing no other warning, Merlin ducked into the spot, snuggling close. "The stars are gorgeous, aren't they?" Merlin whispered reverently.
"Mmmm," Arthur whispered, more preoccupied with the boy sitting next to him, dark blue eyes glittering with the reflection of hundreds of stars, pale skin almost white and red lips standing out against it. "Gorgeous."
Merlin turned to look at Arthur, elbowing him playfully when catching him staring. "The stars, not me, you prat," he scolded lightly. Arthur flushed lightly, turning to dig through his pack and pour them two small cups of tea. He handed one over to Merlin, who clutched the cup to his chest for the small bit of warmth it offered, taking a small sip.
Arthur smiled, putting his own tea down in favor of wrapping one arm around Merlin's back. Together this time, they stared up at the sky. "My Father used to say that the stars were the souls of the brave. The men and woman who died doing something honorable. He said that the brightest were the souls of the fallen Kings and Queens, and then the Knights and other nobles. Even peasants, manservants like yourself, Merlin, get a star if they prove themselves valiant. I used... I used to stare forever at the brightest one in the sky," he pointed to the brightest star, glittering brightly. "I believed it was my Mother, watching."
Merlin found his spare hand, clutching it firmly. "It is her. I believe it."
"Would she be proud of me now? Sitting here, pressed close with my manservant?"
Merlin bit his lip lightly, and then glanced up at Arthur. "Are you happy, here with me?"
"Happier than you'll ever know," Arthur responded without a moment's hesitation, dragging Merlin closer so the other boy was almost sitting in his lap.
"Then she'll be proud. Mother's only ever want their sons to be happy, Arthur. My mum told me that hundreds of times. It doesn't matter what we do or who we share ourselves with. As long as we're happy."
Arthur opened his mouth to respond but was cut off when the sky chose that moment to burst forward in a light show of yellows, oranges, purples, pinks, and golds. Merlin choked back a small cry of astonishment, mouth dropping open to witness the spectacle of the sun, banishing away all of the stars and eating up the blackness of night.
The King glanced down at his servant, smiling widely. "I think that's all the sign I need," he murmured, Merlin's eyes flicking away from the sun for a single moment. That's all Arthur needed. He bent down and gently pressed a kiss onto Merlin's lips.
Under the light of the brand new sun, safe in the security that they were alone and the Old Religion wanted this, Merlin wrapped his arm around Arthur's neck and dragged him down, kissing him firmly.