More Than Just A Hug

After Merlin had washed his neckerchief of the antidote to Arthur's powerful living death potion, he tied it back around his neck and began to make his way to his chambers. Even now, his heart was still beating faster than normal; it was only fortunate that he was able to soak up enough of the potion with his neckerchief that he could administer one drop to Arthur. He shuddered to think what would become of him and Gaius if the prince had died. Uther would surely have had both their heads on the chopping block.

Merlin thought back to how peaceful Arthur had looked lying on the floor, even on the brink of death, eyes closed and a tranquil expression on his face. If it hadn't been for the severity of the situation Merlin would barely have been able to stop himself from stroking Arthur's fine blonde hair.

"Merlin!" called a voice as he reached the end of a corridor. Merlin looked up in surprise, his thoughts abruptly driven out of his head. His master was calling. He stopped in his tracks so Arthur could reach him. He noticed that Arthur was blushing slightly, and judging by the fact that he had just left the throne room, Merlin assumed that Arthur had been speaking with Uther. "I want you to know…" Arthur began, then looked down, as if he was still thinking of the right words to say, "that… I never doubted you."

Merlin nodded and smiled briefly, then realised the abnormality of the words Arthur had just uttered. He looked up at stared at him with an incredulous expression. At his reaction, Arthur looked away and said resignedly, "All right, maybe I did, but it's your own fault. You've got a suspicious look about you. Shifty. Like you've got…" he looked Merlin up and down and said his next words slowly, lengthening each syllable as they escaped his lips, "something… to… hide."

Merlin's heart had sped up again. Arthur couldn't know. What was he talking about? Surely he couldn't suspect him, he had kept his secret so well hidden all this time. Feigning surprise, Merlin glanced at him and said earnestly, eyebrows raised, "I am an open book – "

"I don't believe that for a second," Arthur interrupted, looking away again so his golden fringe fell slightly over his right eye, which was currently a cloudy blue. Merlin fell silent watching him. He loved the way Arthur's eyes would change colour depending on the time of day or his mood. Sometimes they were dark blue, occasionally brown, but mostly the light robin's-egg blue that was Merlin's favourite, and was what he was seeing now. The light from a window in the hallway cast its bright light on Arthur's hair so it framed his face with a golden light, almost like a halo. "However, I do know that without your help, I'd still have a troll for a stepmother."

Merlin laughed quietly, exhaling through his nose, but quickly checked himself and stopped when Arthur gave him a look. He still wasn't sure how Arthur viewed the situation, and didn't want to be disrespectful. They looked at each other briefly, but Arthur wouldn't meet his gaze as his eyes flickered to the wall behind him. To resolve the awkwardness growing between them, Merlin began to nod and smile again, aware that he was looking quite stupid in front of the prince. Arthur seemed to be doing something strange with his eyes – he would look at Merlin, then look away, glance at the floor, the wall, and back again. His mouth was set in a straight line.

Suddenly, Arthur stepped forward, an arm outstretched. "Well, thanks – woah…" Merlin had copied Arthur and reached out, anticipating a hug, but he was wrong. Arthur shrank away from him, hands up in a don't-touch-me stance. "What are you doing?" he asked, eyebrows furrowed, looking affronted.

"I thought you were going for a hug," said Merlin, feeling hurt and confused. He had served the prince for years now, and Arthur still treated him like a servant. He knew he would have gone for a hug if he were in Arthur's shoes, even if it hadn't been his intention. He began to mentally berate himself. How silly of him to think that Arthur ever saw him as a friend, let alone anything more like he did. He shouldn't have been so stupid to think that every action Arthur made was friendly; he only did it out of respect, after all. He was the prince, and Merlin was his servant. Nothing more.

"No," said Arthur, with a look that explained clearly that he didn't know why Merlin would ever think otherwise.

"No," echoed Merlin quietly.

They stared at each other with wary eyes, blue on blue. Arthur began to lower his hands ever so slowly, eyeing Merlin with a wary gaze, like he was some sort of animal who couldn't tolerate sudden motions. Merlin copied him again, palms facing him and moving his arms downwards, not breaking eye contact all the while. Merlin was sure he was blushing; this had to be some kind of record. Arthur normally never held a gaze for so long. Once again he felt the familiar sensation of losing himself in those cerulean eyes, admiring how they glittered in the light…

Arthur gave Merlin a look of disdain, but it had the opposite effect of what he had intended on him. Before he could turn away and leave, Arthur suddenly found himself up against the wall with Merlin's lips pressed to his. Merlin was in a fit of passion, wanting nothing more but for Arthur to recognize the love he had harboured for so long. He didn't care who saw him; his heart was fit to burst from his chest.

What he hadn't expected was for Arthur to respond to the kiss. Before long Merlin felt a pair of strong arms wrapping around his waist, holding him close. Arthur kissed him back, and Merlin found himself bending backwards in a dip. They broke apart, cheeks flushed, lips slightly swollen, eyes dark and clouded over.

"You like me," said Merlin, unable to suppress his grin.

"Shut up, Merlin," Arthur replied. Love you too. And with that, he left, arms swinging as he walked to the end of the corridor and turned to the next out of sight. Merlin gazed after him happily, heart still fluttering in his chest.

Author's Note:

When I was watching S02E06 I got so agitated when they didn't hug! Thank God they do later in S04.