The fire was hot, the knights were asleep, and it was Arthur's turn to be on watch. Leaning against a tree, right next to Merlin, Arthur yawned and gazed into the fire, trying his very best to keep awake. Then, there was a noise. A faint sort of... shifting noise. And then something soft fell on his shoulder. That was when Arthur knew things were about to get hairy.
Raising an eyebrow and turning his head, he found it to be Merlin.
Merlin had fallen asleep on his shoulder.
Clearing his throat and scanning the camp for any wandering eyes (it was painful to even think about the kind of remarks Gwaine would make), Arthur promptly started ignoring that this was possibly the most adorable thing he had ever seen. (His masculinity was at stake here)
"Merlin," Arthur whispered.
No response. Consequence number one of working him to death during the day: the servant slept like a log.
"Merlin!" Arthur whispered a little more intently.
Merlin shifted a little, but stayed silent. Arthur sighed, but hadn't the heart to try harder.
"Gaius, I don't want to talk about it." Merlin mumbled almost unintelligibly into his shirt, his voice thick with sleep. The lad obviously wasn't fully conscious yet.
"Oh, really?" Arthur retorted, laughing quietly to himself. It was a lot more fun than it should have been.
It soon became this odd little game: see what sort of weird responses you can get out of Merlin when he was asleep every night.
Needless to say, Arthur found it hilarious.
Merlin found it marginally less so. Okay, maybe quite a bit more than 'marginally'. He did not like his growing chore list one bit.
"Merlin, don't you think we need some more firewood?"
"Merlin, would you be a dear and gather some more firewood?"
"Merlin! Stop being lazy and get us some God forsaken firewood!"
Oh, the glares he got.
But then, one night, instead of quiet, strange little mutterings, Merlin started shaking, his expression contorted into one of fear, and... sorrow.
A nightmare. Oops. Maybe he hadn't really thought this through.
"Morgana, you must understand..."
That set Arthur's teeth on edge.
Extending his arm, he shook Merlin awake.
"Merlin, wake up," he said roughly, "you were having a nightmare."
Merlin's eyes flew open. It took a second for him to realize where he was, but when the lucidity entered his eyes, he said softly, "Sorry."
Merlin's strangeness never ceased to amaze.
"Don't apologize to me," Arthur grumbled. "Was your nightmare."
Merlin had no answer.
"You alright?" He asked after a minute. Merlin's face still looked just as spooked as before.
Merlin nodded curtly (which obviously meant, 'no, of course I'm not okay, what a stupid question') and his eyes wandered over to the dimming flames. (that or he was admiring his hard-earned stack of firewood) (seriously it was actually pretty impressive)
"Merlin?" Arthur asked again. Merlin's head was still lightly resting on his shoulder- either Merlin didn't actually realize it was there, or he was still so shaken by the nightmare that he needed that extra comfort, pulling him back to Earth.
Arthur felt like he needed to do something, but he hadn't the faintest what. A question, unbidden, lept into his thoughts. What would Merlin do?
"Yes, your royal pratness?" Merlin's soft answer came after a pause. His voice shook- only slightly, as if he was making an effort to hide that.
Arthur sighed, deciding on a course of action. "Why were you dreaming about Morgana, Merlin?"
"What?!" Merlin's head flew off of his shoulder, turning to look him right in the eye. "How-!" He started.
Arthur rolled his eyes. "You were babbling unintelligibly about her just a moment ago."
Merlin's eyes grew wider, and Arthur could tell that he was worried about what else he might have heard. The thought! As if Merlin had anything to hide.
"Did you... hear anything... strange?" Merlin asked with badly failed nonchalance.
Arthur waved a hand dismissively, saying, "Calm down, you pansy, it was all barely understandable anyway."
Merlin glared at him, but the prince noticed how he let out a breath of relief. "It's not as if I can chose what I dream about, Arthur."
"No no, of course not, Merlin," Arthur said, smirking, his voice thick with sarcasm.
Merlin sighed, but his eyes were smiling. Then, as if it was the most casual thing in the world, he lent back against the tree again and placed his head once more on Arthur's shoulder. His eyes fluttered closed.
Arthur stared down at the dark, curly locks with a look of complete incredulousness.
An upset sounding groan that may or may not have been a sentence came from the vicinity of the boy's head.
"Merlin, your head."
"Yes, Arthur," Merlin's voice was muffled, his head once more pressed into Arthur's shirt. "I am very aware that I have one and you do not. No need to make a fuss."
Arthur lamented at the fact that there were no goblets in the general area to throw at the man.
"Merlin, you are aware that I am the future king of Camelot?"
"All too aware, Sire."
"And yet you-" Arthur started, but Merlin interrupted him.
"Arthur, there's this thing called sleep that I would very much like to acquire at the moment, if you don't mind."
Arthur gave up, instead opting for grumbling to himself inside his head.
"Thank you," Merlin sighed into his shoulder.
Arthur continued to grumble to himself silently, refusing to admit that the world really did need to invent a word stronger than the word 'adorable'.
He supposed that was what the word 'Merlin' was for.
Yes, I might have ended a sentence with a preposition... I mean- *waves hands in a magical manner* What preposition? I see no preposition.
Thanks for letting me have a bit of fun. :)