"I think he's coming round!"
"Quick close the curtains slightly,"
"Come on gorgeous open those big blues!"
"What have I told you about touching!"
"I think you should open your eyes my friend before Arthur strangles Gwaine,"
"Out my way!"
Merlin choked out a laugh before descending into a coughing fit as the sounds of his friends bickering soaked through his slightly fuzzy mind. A hand gripped him firmly and he was lifted to rest against a firm chest that he was fairly sure belonged to Arthur from the feel of it, then a goblet was pressed to his lips and he sucked the water down greedily.
"Easy my boy, there's plenty of it, don't want to make yourself ill,"
"Gai's?" Merlin managed to say, cracking his eyes open. He was met with seven worried faces, all gathered around the bed and watching him. "Happened?" He frowned confused. Had he been poisoned again? It kind of felt like it.
"What happened is you are a stubborn idiot and we need to pay more attention to the fact you have the complete and utter inability to look after yourself while running around trying to look after everyone else!" Came the snap from behind him. The seven in front of him rolled his eyes as he smiled.
"You worked yourself, and we worked you to the point of exhaustion, getting soaked through with rain and then wearing wet clothes was the final straw. You passed out my boy, and you have had us all quite in a dither, you have been asleep for two days," Gaius told him, his hands already fluttering over him, checking his health.
"Fever?" Merlin frowned, shifting to check how sore his body was.
"No you just about avoided it, it was a close thing though," Gaius sighed.
"Mm…why am I in your rooms?" Merlin frowned suddenly realizing where he was.
"Because Arthur wasn't letting you out of his eyesight, he even had poor George move a full bath to where he would be able to see you from it," Gwaine smirked as Arthur snapped his name from behind him. Merlin absently patted the thigh that was running along his own leg before frowning.
"He's been given the permanent position of my man servant. It amuses me to see your expression when he is so proper," Arthur told him, trying to tug him so that he was lying in a more reclined position against him, except Merlin was now fighting with him.
"Your sacking me because I passed out!" he spluttered, confused as to why everyone in front of him suddenly looked so amused.
"No you idiot I am not sacking you because you passed out! I am relieving you of your man servant duties because you have other duties that are far more important for you to focus on," Arthur said exasperatedly. "Now stop thrashing around! You are just awake!"
"Yup Merlin, I think you will really enjoy some of those duties Arthur has in mind for you!" Gwaine wriggled his eyebrows. Merlin flushed and scowled at the man, unknowing that Arthur was doing the same behind him. Gwaine yelped however when Gwen smacked him firmly in the chest.
"I don't like George," Merlin muttered with a pout, allowing himself to be tugged and settled against Arthur's chest, before blinking confused when he realized he was being settled down against Arthur's chest, the owner of said chest not seeming inclined to move the arm that was firmly around his waist.
"I know that's why I hired him," Arthur said, his smirk clear in his voice.
"I'll go and get him some porridge," Gwen rolled her eyes, slipping off the bed and hurrying away.
"Erm…" Merlin suddenly realized that it looked as though the knights and Gwen had been settled on the bed before he woke. Well Lance, Gwaine and Elyan, there were enough chairs pulled up around the bed for Gaius, Leon and Percival. Merlin guessed Arthur had also been on the bed. Their swords were lying on the table or against the walls, no chain mail or armour was in sight, instead they were all of them in their breeches and shirts, even Leon! And Gaius and…
"Merlin you're awake!" Geoffrey smiled widely as he made his way over and settled his hand onto Gaius's shoulder.
"Geoffrey!" Merlin squeaked looking at the two concerned.
"Arthur has made a few changes," Gaius smiled, his eyes shining happily as he reached up and placed his own hand over Geoffrey's.
"Changes?" Merlin frowned.
"That can wait until you are better and have been awake longer than fifteen minutes," Arthur said practically into his ear. He wasn't able to prevent his shiver at the sensation, and he knew there was no way Arthur could have missed it.
"But…" He tried to protest.
"I have to agree with Arthur my boy, a fair bit has happened and you aren't well enough yet to hear it all," Gaius interrupted.
"Merlin," Arthur's tone was one which Merlin knew he wouldn't be shifted on, and one of the few times that arguing with him wouldn't work. So he settled for crossing his arms and pouting against the King's chest, much to the clear amusement of the Knights, Gaius and Geoffrey, the latter and Leon at least had the care to try and hide said amusement.
"Here we go," Gwen swept into the room with a tray and a steaming bowl. And suddenly everyone was incredibly invested in the fact that Merlin ate. So with eight pairs of eyes on him and still feeling heavy from so much sleep it was no wonder he struggled to lift the spoon to his mouth and nearly spilt it everywhere. He was expecting some teasing remark, or annoyed growl from behind him, when instead Arthur reached around and gently took the spoon from it before lifting it to Merlin's lips.
Merlin was incredibly confused now. He still didn't really understand why he was in Arthur's rooms and why Arthur wanted to look after him himself. He wondered what all these changes were that Gaius was speaking about. And mostly he was confused by Arthur's interactions with him, he was lying resting against him for magics sake! And now the King was attempting to hand feed him.
Merlin attempted to protest, but all that got him was Arthur shoving the spoon in his mouth when it was open far enough. At least that was a fairly good sign that the King hadn't been enchanted with something or other. But it didn't stop his confusion as to what was actually going on as Arthur proceeded to patiently dip the spoon into the porridge and lift it to Merlin's lips until the bowl was mostly gone. The smiles the others exchanged even while they kept up a light chatter confused him as well.
He did plan on grilling them all for information and getting something from them when he finished eating. But to his annoyance he found that as he fended off the spoon Arthur was trying to get him to take claiming that was honestly full and couldn't eat anymore, his eyes were growing heavy and his body seemed to be drooping more and more into Arthur. Something the King obviously felt, because after one more attempt to get Merlin to eat one more spoonful he handed it over to Gaius, then readjusted them so Merlin was in a more comfortably reclining position while still resting against Arthur. He hummed when Arthur's fingers started combing through his hair as Geoffrey reached forwards to lift the sheets higher over him. He was surrounded by warmth and Arthur's scent, cuddling against Arthur, with the people he cared most about in the world besides his mother in the room with him, talking and laughing softly. Smiling a little he guessed that questions could wait as he drifted back off to sleep.
"No!" Merlin crossed his arms and scowled at Arthur, choosing to ignore Gwaine and Percival who he was frankly worried were close to wetting themselves as they laughed at the sight in front of them.
"Merlin!" Arthur scowled at him.
"No!" Merlin glared back pinching his lips shut as soon as he finished speaking.
"Merlin you will take your damn medicine now!" Arthur growled waving the little bottle at him.
"Not until you tell me what is going on!" Merlin scowled.
"You're not ready! You're not well enough!" Arthur snapped.
"Its been three days since I woke!" Merlin protested uncrossing his arms to throw his hands in the air.
"And you're still sleeping half the day and all night!" Arthur was fuming steadily now.
"And its making me more stressed out not knowing what's going on!" Merlin glared darker.
"You won't take your medicine fine! But I am not making you worse by telling you before you're ready!" Arthur shouted, slamming Merlin's vial down onto the beside cabinet before turning to storm out of the room.
"Fine! Be a prat!" Merlin shouted after him, snatching the vial and in a fit of pure anger and mostly frustration hurled it after Arthur. He heard Arthur's footsteps pause outside the room and a tired sigh before he carried on walking, making him feel even worse.
"Merlin, maybe you should listen yeah?" Gwaine suggested, clearly no longer finding it amusing.
"So you're on his side!" Merlin turned still furious eyes onto the knights who blanched slightly.
"No, I'm just saying that…."
"That you're on his side! Out!" Merlin shouted at Gwaine, startling himself as much as them.
"No! You all know something and I can hear you whispering and talking, and you all keep looking at me with these weird expressions on your faces and it is driving me mad! I don't know what's going on and you all refuse to tell me because 'you're still too weak Merlin'. I've had enough of all of your patronization! I thought at least you would know me better! If that's all your going to do then I would rather be by myself, so get out! Get out! Get Out!" Merlin roared, ashamed as he realized frustrated tears were filling his eyes. Percival seemed ready to argue but Gwaine shook his head nudging the knight towards the door.
"We just don't want to make you bad again, we all fell horrible for letting you get to the state that you collapsed, you worried us sick when you weren't waking up," Gwaine explained softly. He sighed when Merlin just scrunched down under the covers and turned his back to them. The two made their way out the door and Merlin waited a few moments before he waved his hand and listened to the lock clicking into place.
He knew he was being irrational and crabby, but his nerves were wracked and he was still feeling lousy, everyone was walking on egg shells around him. And he hadn't been exaggerated about the looks that they were giving him, there was something in all the knights eyes and Gwen's that was unnerving him, he couldn't put a finger on what the looks were and that made him more on edge, he didn't know if it was good or bad. Then George was glaring at him whenever he was in the room and Arthur's wasn't looking. The few times Arthur had wandered away from him and George had come into the room there had been pointed comments and sneers.
And there was something, something happening that had everyone was buzzing over, Merlin could practically feel the mixture of emotions from here running through the castle. Gaius and Geoffrey seemed run hectic with something, but both were smiling happily over whatever they were working on. Arthur seemed to be digging through the piles of paperwork that Merlin knew weren't the normal mountains of paperwork he had, those were in a separate pile for him to attack through.
Huffing and realizing he had worked himself up so much there was no way he could nap again he sat up and glared at the pile of papers. Arthur had been so busy with the mysterious pile and with looking after Merlin that he was often scribbling away at the other pile until at least one in the morning. Grabbing the fur blanket that Arthur insisted he keep over him Merlin wrapped it around his shoulders to cover him in Arthur's sleep shirt, he kept getting dressed in Arthur's clothing despite his protests! And he made his way to Arthur's desk, it was a little slow going as he tired easily and his body was still aching, but he got there and flopped into Arthur's chair.
The mysterious pile had disappeared of course, couldn't leave it where Merlin could read it. But the normal pile was there, so Merlin pulled it towards him and started going through it, separating what had to be read by Arthur, managing what he could, and taking notes on what he could do the majority of but Arthur had to deal with. At least the work distracted his mind from the confusion that was swimming around in it.
Though if he was being honest with himself the situation that was causing him the most distress and confusion was Arthur. The way he was being with him, insisting that he stay in his room, in his bed and wear his clothes, the touches and the closeness, the looks he gave Merlin. He could almost imagine that Arthur felt something for him beyond friendship. But he knew that was his own wishful thinking talking, his longing for Arthur to feel about him the way he felt about his King. But Arthur loved Gwen and Merlin knew that it would never be that way between them, which was what made this even harder for him, to have Arthur caring for him like that made his heart ache and break all over again, for probably the millionth time if he was honest.
And having Arthur like this now, after how things had been the last few months before he had passed out made it more difficult to bear. Since Arthur had become King they had had literally no time together alone, there had always been an advisor or one of the knights, or Gwen, or Gaius talking about the recovery of the knights, or people wanting to talk to Arthur about repairs or jobs or an endless stream of things. The only time that he had spoken to Merlin in the last two, nearly three, months was all official business. None of their usual banter or friendship. And Merlin had been terrified that that was what their lives were going to be like from then on, that maybe he had fulfilled his destiny by seeing Arthur become King and now Camelot, and Arthur, had no need of him. For Arthur to go from that to how he was now was confusing and hurtful to Merlin and made him prickly and resistant to his help. He knew he had over reacted, but he was tired and fed up and hurting.
He wasn't sure how long he worked for, he had made a considerable dent in the paper work, when he was aware of the door handle turning, then some cursing and a bang when it wouldn't open. He ignored it and carried on working, not listening as someone tried to shove the door open, before a series of hammering on the door came.
"Merlin open the damn door!" Wonderful, Arthur.
"No!" Merlin called back calmly, scratching away with the quill at another document and then setting it aside to dry.
"Merlin, let me in!"
"No, leave me alone!"
"You can't lock me out my own chambers!"
"I already have!"
"These are the King's chambers!"
"Should have thought about that before you made them my convalescing chambers!"
"Merlin, open the damned door right this minute!"
"Or what? You'll break it down?" Merlin snorted. He heard Arthur cursing before he stomped off. Merlin relaxed the tension and went back to working, Arthur would not doubt be off to sulk and pout for an hour or so before attempting to actually kick his own doors down.
Or so he thought. He started when he heard the sound of a key in the door and the key on his side falling out, but before he could even stand the door was opening and Arthur was storming in looking thoroughly annoyed.
"What…Merlin what are you doing?!" Arthur spluttered seeing Merlin behind his desk instead of in his bed.
"Working because I was totally bored out of my mind and you keep shouting at me for having made myself ill not eating and sleeping properly and over working myself when you aren't sleeping properly. By the way Lord Campbell is trying to lie about the amount his lands pull in every year in gold and harvest, I would guess that he is asking for more from his tenants than he should be," Merlin muttered with a glare at the paper in front of him.
"Is he? Have you found proof? I always thought he was…No! Merlin you're supposed to be resting!" Arthur stopped himself shaking his head before he finished the distance between them and scooped Merlin up, much to his loud and clear protests and carried him back to the bed. "Stop. Hitting. Me!" Arthur growled dumping Merlin on the bed.
"Then don't lug me around!" Merlin snapped straightening himself up.
"Why must you be so difficult!" Arthur groaned.
"Because your making it hurt more!" Merlin said before snapping his mouth shut.
"Are you still feeling sore? Should I get Gaius? I told you you needed to take that potion!" Arthur went from annoyed to concerned rapidly.
"I'm fine Arthur! Its not that sort of hurt, just…ignore me," Merlin muttered trying to fend Arthur off.
"What sort of hurt then?" Arthur was bending over him, his blue eyes sharp as they traced his face.
"It doesn't matter," Merlin whispered, clutching his fur blanket closer around him as though it would shield him. Arthur gripped his chin and lifted it to make him meet his eyes.
"It does if something is hurting you," Arthur said in the gentle tone that he rarely used with Merlin.
"I'm just being silly and…wanting things I know I will never have. I just need to stop being so stupid," Merlin shook his head, desperately trying to tug his chin away, when Arthur wouldn't relent he turned his eyes downwards instead.
"I may think you are idiotic, but you are far from stupid Merlin," Arthur said softly.
"That doesn't make sense!" Merlin huffed.
"Well you are a bit of an idiot, especially if you are think the way I think you are. But if you are feeling stupid for what I think you are then there is nothing to feel stupid about," Arthur was starting to grin, Merlin could hear it in his voice.
"You don't know what I'm talking about," Merlin muttered before gasping when Arthur's lips slanted over his own and pressed down gently. His eyes snapped up and met Arthur's in shock.
"I am fairly sure you have had me from the minute you ran into my rooms and tried to warn me about Valiant, just as you will always have me and my heart, no matter what choices we make or where we are," Arthur said softly, stroking his fingers over Merlin's face.
"Gwen, you love her," Merlin shook his head frantically trying to pull away.
"No. Well yes, I love Gwen but as a friend and someone I can trust. Not as my lover and not as my wife. I…was a fool. I thought you would never feel the same way for me that I felt for you, and I felt embarrassed and hurt, so…I turned my attentions to Gwen, knowing that her heart lay elsewhere with someone she could not be with as well," Arthur winced.
"But…you…no," Merlin shook his head looking stunned.
"I have been assured by every one of our friends that we feel for each other in the same way. Also that if we do not get our acts together and stop hurting each other they are going to lock us into a room together and not let us out until we have had hot, sweaty messy sex," Arthur grinned. "Gwaine suggested the last bit, and I think Leon nearly passed out from a nose bleed,"
"Arthur I can't…I yes…I love you but I can't," Merlin tried to ignore the way Arthur's face fell and pleading eyes turned to him.
"You want a list! Arthur you're the King! I'm a servant! You are expected to marry and have a queen sit beside you on the throne! You are expected to produce and heir to take your title and carry on your line! Not to mention the hundred and one other…." Merlin was cut off when Arthur kissed him again, this time more insistently. His lips slammed into Merlin's and the force of his body drove Merlin back into the bed, Arthur's hand came to rest on his hip, the other on the bed beside Merlin's head as his lips worked Merlin into a frenzy of want and need. His heart not letting him push Arthur away, turning the hands that he had pressed to Arthur's chest to push him away into fists clinging onto Arthur's shirt.
"Firstly you idiot," Arthur said between kisses. "I am King yes, and you will not be the first King Consort to sit on the throne beside a Pendragon. My father did not approve of such relationships and while he didn't ban it, it was known that any indulging in them should keep them quiet. You have surely heard of the Kings that ruled together! Secondly we will find a way to ensure heirs, for myself and for you, either through magic or by different means – though in no way touching anywhere near the deal my father made for me. And thirdly I may be King, but until the time of our marriage you are the Lord Court Sorcerer,"
Arthur leant back and waited for it to sink in, watching Merlin's face closely and carefully to make sure that he did not get himself too worked up and knock back his healing process.
"I?" Arthur urged.
"Oh god you know!" The sound Merlin made was so painful Arthur was sure his heart broke as he watched the man he loved curl up on himself hands coming to cover his eyes but not before Arthur saw the tears in them.
"Yes I know. Is it so terrible that I do?" Arthur frowned.
"I never meant to lie to you, I didn't want to I swear Arthur, I wanted to tell you so many times, I started to say many times but I couldn't, I didn't want to see you looking at me in disgust and I…I'm so sorry, I am so so so sorry Arthur!" Merlin was trembling like a leaf as the words poured out of his mouth in a rush. He startled badly when Arthur gripped his shoulders and tugged him upright…and into a tight hug.
He rocked them slightly rubbing his hand up and down Merlin's back and murmuring words that while Merlin's couldn't quite make them out over the sound of his own racing heart and tears, the tone was clearly comforting.
"Merlin I understand, I understand. I was angry and first and hurt, but I knew that by the time I found out it wasn't about you not trusting me. Its ok," Arthur soothed, the words sinking in.
"How…how long?!" Merlin choked.
"About four years," Arthur shrugged wincing when Merlin let out another sob. He buried his face into Arthur's shoulder and clung tightly to him as though waiting for him to shove him away. Arthur frowned when he could hear the trembling apologies coming endlessly from Merlin's lips matching the trembling in his body. "Enough!" Arthur released him with one of his arms from around Merlin to grip his sorcerer's chin.
"I'm sorry!" Merlin choked making Arthur groan.
"Merlin, stop apologizing! I understand! I know why you hid it. I wish that things had been different, that you could have come to me and we didn't have to lie to each other. I wish that you hadn't felt that you would have been putting me in a horrible position between you and my father. But they are as they have been, and we cannot change them now. Our future however is now in our hands," Arthur smiled.
"Arthur," Merlin could feel the longing in himself to give in, to accept this.
"Stop fighting. Merlin, we have both been fools, and we have lost enough time because of it. You said once that it was my destiny to become the greatest King Albion has ever known, well that may be true, but you are destined to be at my side if that is the case," Arthur smiled running his fingers through Merlin's hair.
"Can you trust me?" Merlin had to know before anything else happened.
"I have always trusted you Merlin," Arthur shook his head his 'you're an idiot' expression on his face. It was this more than anything else that had Merlin relaxing before he used the energy he had to throw himself at Arthur, crushing their lips together.
"Does this mean you're going to give in?" Arthur asked with a grin when they parted, his hands gently settling Merlin into a comfortable position resting against him still. He tugged the covers up a little more to make sure Merlin was tucked in.
"Yes I'm giving in, but I'll always maintain it was because you caught me when I was ill," Merlin grumbled into Arthur's chest as he snuggled closer.
"I can accept that," Arthur chuckled.
"So how long do I have to stay in bed?" Merlin sighed.
"You have to stay in bed for another day or two, but we will be busy talking about plans and laws for regulating magic and helping bring it back into the land. Plans to send word to Druids and other magic users to make talks with them about having peace. You're going to be busy," Arthur smiled.
"I…can't believe this," Merlin shook his head.
"I've been waiting for this to happen for so long, and it does when I'm asleep," Merlin snorted.
"Just be thankful, its gotten the both of us out of a lot of loud and annoying meetings with the council mens reactions to my new laws," Arthur snorted.
"Lazy," Merlin poked him in the side.
"At least you won't have a shock when it comes to taking over the Consort duties," Arthur hummed thoughtfully.
"Why?" Merlin frowned.
"You have practically been doing them all except public appearances since we took Camelot back," Arthur smirked as Merlin gawped at him.
"Hey, I didn't have you doing them all, half of them you took on to do yourself," Arthur looked particularly smug about this.
"Clotpole," Merlin grumbled settling back down against Arthur's chest as he felt sleep tugging at him. "By the way, George is not undressing, dressing or preparing baths for you,"
"Why not?" Arthur frowned looking down at the mop of black hair on his chest.
"Don't like the way he looks at you….or me," Merlin huffed.
"Then I will have him reassigned and I…we will interview new ones," Arthur squeezed him. "Merlin, we're together, and you are to be royal Consort, you have a say in things like this," He sighed seeing the stunned look on Merlin's face.
"Ok…there is a lad down at the stables, his father dies last fall, and he and his mother are struggling for money, I don't think he has been eating properly for months. A position in the royal household will pay much better, but the steward would never think of him," Merlin said, practically half asleep.
"What's his name?" Arthur smiled fondly, Merlin was such a bleeding heart.
"Galahad, he's a good boy," Merlin mumbled.
"I will have him sent for. Go back to sleep Merlin, you over did yourself," Arthur comforted him, rubbing his back.
"Ok," Merlin nodded making Arthur chuckle when he realized Merlin was practically asleep already.
"Go to sleep. I'm here, and we have everything to look forward to now," Arthur whispered staring down at the man he couldn't imagine not having in his life.