Title: Sing A Sad Song
Category: BBC Merlin, (Canon), Gen.
Characters/Pairings: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen. Arthur/Gwen.
Summary: Arthur takes Gwen's advice on how to cheer someone up. One-shot.
"When someone's having a bad day, you give them a hug to cheer them up."
That was what Gwen told him once, when he wasn't having a particularly good day. He remembered staring out of the window with a lead weight on his chest, lost in deep thoughts about that stupid fight he had with his father.
And then he felt a tap on his shoulder. He rolled his eyes and, prepared to tell Merlin off and maybe even give him some more chores to do just to amuse himself, he turned around.
Only to come face to face with his beautiful lover, Guinevere.
Her graceful lips stretched into a resplendent smile for a moment as she stared her gentle and captivating brown eyes into his blue ones, and then she stepped forward and her soft, warm arms suddenly wrapped around him tightly, her cheek resting gently on his shoulder.
He remembered feeling that weight lift off.
He remembered feeling much more lighter and happier by the time she pulled away from him.
"What was that for?" was what he asked, his light voice and smile full of awe and love as he wondered how anyone can be so incredible and amazing.
"When someone's having a bad day, you give them a hug to cheer them up," was what she said, her hands clasped behind her back as she smiled widely up back at him.
He believed her.
And did just that when he couldn't take Merlin's sad eyes and face any longer.
He saw Merlin sitting on the floor, his shoulders hunched and his head bowed low as he polished the last of the boots with a cloth, his movements distant and half-hearted.
He just waited patiently, leaning on the wall beside him as he watched him, absorbing every detail about him.
Like his posture, defeated and slumped. And his eyes, sad and pained and dark from lack of sleep. His movements, feeble and weary. His body, skinnier than usual with his cheeks sunken in even more.
Arthur didn't know what was going on with his friend. And he doubted he ever will, considering how secretive and reclused the idiot was when it came to talking about his own problems, especially with Arthur himself.
He regretted making Merlin think like that, as if he couldn't be trusted, as if maybe he would mock him for it, especially since he knew that he never had to worry about being harshly made fun of when he turned to Merlin for support and comfort. It bugged him to know that, even though his friend had always, without any hesitance, consoled him through his adversaries, he didn't seem to believe Arthur would do the same for him. He knew it was somehow his fault Merlin felt that way, often in the way he treated him in the past and even in the present.
But for now, he would just have to do whatever he could to help him. And maybe one day, he will understand that Arthur wasn't as prattish, as the idiot would call him, as he thought him to be.
Merlin was finally done with that chore as he put down the boot and pulled himself up, almost falling back down a few times as his heavy and exhausted body tried to drag him down, before he managed to stand upright. He could feel Arthur's eyes on him the whole time, and he knew his friend had already noticed his awful state.
In truth, it wasn't anything recent that happened. It was just a pile up of past losses and close calls of losing the people he loved and dying himself a lot of times, and this overwhelming burden of his destiny and the fear of losing any more and taking the wrong choices and failing to -
He quickly looked at the dirty laundry basket at the foot of Arthur's bed, and began to sprint towards it, determined to keep his mind off of these thoughts.
When he reached there, he took a deep breath to calm himself and his shaking hands. He grabbed the handle of the basket and held it to his side, ready to begin his next chore and distract his mind from going anywhere near there as he turned on his heel.
But then, just as soon as he spun around, a pair of strong arms suddenly wrapped around his thin shoulders and back, holding him tightly to a broad chest.
It made him freeze in shock, every one of his muscles stilled and his breaths held back. And he dropped the basket to the ground.
Because he knew Arthur never hugged him.
He just didn't.
He didn't hug him when Freya was taken away from him, or when he lost his father (he knew Arthur didn't know any of that but still). He didn't hug him when they lost Lancelot, or when he almost died.
He couldn't help but wonder,
The warmth surrounding his smaller body increased as the arms strengthened around him.
He was hesitant at first, uncertain, as if he was hoping he wouldn't be doing something wrong by doing it.
But then his own arms rose up, slowly and gently encircling Arthur's shoulders. One hand slid at the back of his neck and the other curled into a loose fist against his shoulder blade, which soon tightened when he began to hug him just as hard, burying his nose into his friend's shoulder as he squeezed his eyes shut against the incoming tears.
Because when he was in his friend's arms, it felt like...like maybe he didn't really have to pretend to be okay all the time, maybe he didn't always have to be so strong.
Maybe it was okay to let go.
He was so tempted, to just cry out his anguish and let Arthur shoulder some of his tears.
He didn't give in though.
They remained like that, for a few long and peaceful moments. And Merlin found his heart to be less heavier than before, found his depression and pain beginning to fade.
Arthur pressed his nose briefly against his friend's ear, then gave a gentle rub to his back before slowly backing away, but his hands still lingered, now resting on his friend's shoulders.
"What..." Merlin began, one of his eyebrows pulled down and a side of his mouth quirked up in a strange mixture of amusement and puzzlement and in a questioning manner.
"You just looked like you needed it," Arthur answered calmly, letting a soft smile raise the corners of his mouth.
For a moment, Merlin just stared at him, his eyes soft and fond and awed, like a younger brother looking at his older brother as if he was his bravest hero ever, that annoying little brother who always followed his big brother around because he thought him to be the most amazing person he has ever known.
"Thank you," he then whispered, his smile widening slightly.
Arthur smiled back at him just as wide, removing one hand from his shoulder and reaching up to ruffle his black hair affectionately.
Then his expression became earnest. "Are you alright though?"
Merlin just smiled even more.
"I am now."
Author's Note: Thanks to all the people who reviewed/tagged/read my previous stories! I hope you readers enjoy this one as well.