That will be all Merlin, thank you.
#his eyes are saying stay forever (♥)
that’s actually all arthur ever asked for
#the soft look on merlin’s face ughh#he’s being so sincere#if arthur said yes merlin would have pulled up a chair#close enough in front of him for them to be touching knees#and it would be completely silent#as long as arthur needed it to be silent#both of them leaning forward in their chairs with knees touching and gazing at each other plainly#arthur steepling his fingers in front of his mouth#merlin still staring with that soft understanding look#hands clasping between his knees#their hearts thudding so loudly that one man fears the other can hear it (rie)
Arthur sits with his arms crossed and is slouching in his chair, head tilted towards the window. He is clearly wallowing in his own self-pity and distress brought on by Elyan’s possession. I have tried to help him so many times before but never felt as compelled to do something in quite the fashion that I do now. There was something different about the air today that made me more concerned for Arthur’s well-being than ever before. He breathes out in frustration which prompts me to attempt, again, to comfort him.
“It’s not your fault. You can’t be held responsible for everything your father did.” My voice is so low that I almost cannot hear myself. But I feel my expression soften when Arthur turns around. His eyes are wide and glistening as if he does not only mistrust what I am saying but his own thoughts as well. After a moment of pondering the King waves a hand effortlessly and returns his gaze to the moon outside.
“That’ll be all, Merlin. Thank you.” His voice trembles ever so faintly as he dismisses me. I won’t have any of it for a minute, though. I know that Arthur has no desire to be on his own tonight. Especially when everything in his life is considered; people he loved and trusted have all turned their backs on him or have died. Uther, Morgana, Lancelot, Gwen, and now Elyan. I am truly sad to say that even if Arthur is a clotpole and a right prat, he does get the short end of the stick in most things. A small angry part of me, the part possessing magic, says that he would find himself less at odds with the events around him if he was aware of my sorcery. Alas, I know that I cannot be bitter over something which I have so little control over. A time will come when he does know and that time will be blissful.
“You sure you don’t want me to stay?” I ask with dishes piled in front of me. I lift them off the table with the awareness that it is unlikely that King Arthur Pendragon would ever admit that he needs someone to keep him company. The poor man’s darkest hours have required him to be alone and he would change not for his servant, even if we often considered ourselves good friends. Once I have everything in my arms I realize that I cannot carry everything in one trip, not without using magic to keep it from tipping over and breaking. Since Arthur has not responded I set one stack of the dishes down and let out a tiny breath before announcing that I will have to come back once more for the remaining dishes.
Since Arthur is unresponsive I go about my duties without a second thought. I’ve been his servant for so long that even though I may hassle him verbally for each task he assigns me they all come naturally to me. I put little effort into each task unless it requires something above and beyond the ordinary standards. The halls and kitchen are empty along my walk, which is unsurprising since it is so very late. Agravaine isn’t even about but he is so bloodthirsty for Elyan’s death that I am hardly surprised, both by his absence and his cruel nature. I am not fond of him and wish desperately he would leave Camelot for good, but since he is Morgana’s spy there is no real way to lure him out without putting Arthur in harm’s way. And he does that enough on his own.
I take the liberty of soaking the dishes myself since there’s water that’s left over from earlier staff. It’s warm enough that I don’t worry much about heating it again either. I turn around and jog my way back to Arthur’s room. I go inside once more hoping that he’s moved himself in way, shape, or form but he has not from what I can tell. His eyes are still glued to the moon glowing outside his window with hurting eyes. Even though it is not my place to do this, I walk over and place a hand upon Arthur’s shoulder. When I squeeze I find that I was wrong initially. There is now a chair in front of Arthur that is placed facing him. I can feel my face scrunch in pleased confusion. Before I can even ask aloud if Arthur has accepted my offer, he tells me so.
“Please stay, but you’re not to say a word of it.” His tone matches the usual cockiness that decorates everything the King says. I feel my grin taking over but I wipe it away quickly as I dip into the seat placed for me. When I sit I note instantly that Arthur has perhaps misjudged how closely he placed us. Many would find it uncomfortable to be so close that our knees would be touching if either of us leaned differently in our seats. I try not to glance down with concern and I don’t dare push my chair out further in case it may offend Arthur, who is obviously vulnerable enough to have accepted my offer in the first place.
Since it is unnaturally quiet I can’t decide where I should be looking. Every so often I glance at Arthur who still stares out the window in spite of my company, but I don’t allow myself to linger on him. I decide to occasionally glance around the room. I am made to clean it regularly so I conclude that there is nothing that I can really do to keep myself occupied physically. And since he’s invited me to stay I can’t just turn around and leave with the dirty dishes that remain. As I bite my lip I drop my chin down into my chest and close my eyes for the time being.
“Why do you offer to stay when nobody else will, Merlin?” Arthur asks gruffly, almost as if he didn’t mean to say it out loud. I don’t lift my head at first since I don’t immediately grasp that Arthur expects an answer. I have an idea of what he looks for in my response. He wants to know why I haven’t abandoned him yet. He confirms this soon after I’ve thought it, “Everyone else around me leaves or betrays me somehow. It is as though I am destined to have no one. And yet you remain in spite of the disgusting way I treat you.”
I wouldn’t describe his treatment as ‘disgusting’ but arguing with Arthur’s fragile conscience would be pointless. Not to mention, it would be counterproductive to my presence here. No, Arthur needs someone to reassure him. My hand reaches out and pats his knee a couple of times and then I lean forward to ensure Arthur is paying attention to me when I speak. He has a terrible habit of not doing so, after all.
“I stay because nobody knows you in quite the way I do. I think, better than anyone else I know that you’re a good man with good intentions. You always do the best that you can with what you’ve been given in every circumstance. Nobody has the right to ask for more than that.” There is always truth in my words when I speaking to Arthur, lest the situation calls for less than that. Obviously a lot of our bond is built on the concept that I’m an ignorant, clumsy, foolish servant who doesn’t have magic or sense enough to defend myself. I know that if Arthur was fully aware it would change the dynamic of everything, if not possibly get me killed. But those are matters for another time and day. I realize I am so caught up in my own thoughts that I haven’t noticed Arthur is looking directly at me now. I raise my head and straighten my posture since I am in the presence of a king, no matter how informal. I do respect him as my master to some degree always, so this is how I decide to show it in this moment.
“You don’t know me, Merlin. Not that way you should for being around all the time. I am not the courageous and fearless leader you believe me to be. In many ways you are blind because you are so close.” This is the part of Arthur speaking which is derived from his sorrow regarding Gwen’s banishment. There is certain deadness in his voice that you can tell is associated with the breakdown of their relationship so quickly. But I hear his statement loud and clear. He is not necessarily telling me that I do not know him so much as I believe him to be asking me to know him more. I punch his other knee lightly and playfully in hopes of bringing a smile, not matter how small, to his face. At first Arthur looks down with furrowed brows but does eventually lift his face with a smirk plastered over his lips.
“If I were as blind as you clam – then I would worship the very ground you walk on.”
“No, no. You don’t do that.” Arthur didn’t miss a beat to remind me subtly that I am often defiant and mouthy. I am not what most people would define as an ‘ideal’ servant. The King wouldn’t trade me for the world, though, and I know that in my heart.
“But I suppose I should. You are a great man and a great King. Like your knights, I would follow you until the end of time. But I don’t do it for Camelot. I do it because I have faith in you and what you are trying to create.” My honesty somehow turned into a bit of a confession at some point during my small speech. My loyalty to Arthur is unwavering, and possibly unnerving. I assume the latter based on the strange expression that Arthur wears. He seems to be contemplating something and I can only guess that it is whether or not he should have invited me to stay. Presuming that I have crossed a line of the personal sorts I tilt myself to the side in order to leave. As I had suspected earlier, my knees knock into Arthur’s as I am trying to move away. The one thing I hadn’t expected was for the King to place his palm over my thigh and push me back down. I catch him shake his head slowly before he starts looking back to the window chuckling.
“What use would I have for someone like you following me to the end of time, Merlin? You are quite possibly the worst servant I’ve ever met.” Arthur tries to keep a straight face while he is insulting me but he just can’t. The way his cheeks tighten as his grin widens gives it away. He is very pleased to have me no matter what he says. Besides, I am finding that while I have attempted to bring some happiness to the King he has given me some back as well. As a result eyes are glued to Arthur now.
As I was describing earlier, about the air of things today, I feel yet another shift when Arthur’s gaze meets my own. Everything becomes unearthly silent but it’s not uncomfortable as it was a short while ago. Instead everything seems to be exactly in its place and my heart picks up pace as things settle. Not having forgotten what the Arthur said I lift my hand to his shoulder and squeeze it tightly once more.
“Yet you can think of no better pair, can you?” I challenge him jokingly but it feels significantly more sincere than I had intended. Arthur must sense it too, I figure, since I feel him tense for a moment. I start pulling away but he grabs me and before I can process what is even happening he’s pulled me into a hug. At first I do not match the grip that Arthur has around me because I am startled. As I make peace with the reality of our embrace, and that he is being truly affectionate on his own accord. I understand that he is genuine and begin hugging him back. We remain like this for so long that I cannot even begin to guess how much time has actually passed.
Arthur never made an effort to pull away so neither do I. It feels nice to get his appreciation for once. Very rarely does his thank me or even acknowledge the role I play in his victories. This is a selfish act without a doubt but I will not regret it, of this I am sure. Even though I have no desire to end this moment, I am also instinctually designed to question all good things which happen to me.
“Not that I am not enjoying this hug, but I dare to ask what has prompted it, my Lord.” Arthur doesn’t let go but instead shrugs his shoulders forcefully. He hits me in the chin and causes me to bite my lip open. I have to pull away now, against my better wishes, and reach around the King in search of a napkin or some sort of cloth. When I find that I took them all with the first load of dishes I wipe the wound on my sleeve hesitantly. When Arthur sees the amount of blood he gets up and walks over to the fresh water pitcher I’d brought earlier in the evening. He rips a piece of the table cloth off and then tears it into two pieces. One is dipped into water briefly and the other is left dry. I am mesmerized that he is being kind to me even further than he already has but I suppose I should let it go for now. He is vulnerable, I remind myself, and will do things that aren’t in his usual nature.
“Open.” Arthur commands when he is sitting back down. He uses the wet cloth to wipe away my blood. The gash isn’t as big as the amount of bleeding might have suggested but Arthur uses the dry cloth to sop up further bleeding for a few minutes. When he pulls it away there is thankfully no more blood coming out. “May I?” he asks before pulling my lip out once more to ensure that wound has been tended to properly.
Arthur twists away to put the soiled cloth strips on the table. I am smiling wildly when he shifts back and I find myself muttering an unintelligible ‘thanks’ to him. Things become quiet again and I can feel myself nodding off. It has been a long day, especially since I spent so much time searching and studying the shrine which Elyan had unintentionally disturbed.
The next thing I notice is King standing up abruptly and trying to pick me up. I wiggled about in fright before I realize it is just him. In response to my panic he hushes me and pats my head sweetly. He explains that I had fallen asleep and that he, too, was tiring. Apparently he was going to move me to a chair to rest properly. Since I was awake now I told him I would just go back to my chambers with Gaius. Arthur leaned down to help me to my feet but pulled back into another embrace. I smacked his back quickly so that he could get to bed himself but before I pulled away his palm wrapped up over my cheek and he pressed a kiss – yes, it was most definitely a kiss – into my hair just behind my ear.
“If you leave now it will raise more questions than if you stay. Make yourself as comfortable as you can, Merlin. I expect breakfast on the table when I wake tomorrow.” He laughs at the end of his statement in his manly attempt to hide how loving he’d just been towards me. I find myself slightly curious if he meant to be so affectionate platonically or not; but I am quite sure that the alternative would be more of an scandal than my having magic. I leave it all behind me for now and kick my boots off, slide my neckerchief off, and then set all these things next to the chair I was to sleep in. When Arthur carries a blanket over from his bed he smiles kindly and speaks one last time before my eyes flutter closed, “Thank you.”
Added by yours truly, alix-black