kageygirl: (arthur ring handporn)
[personal profile] kageygirl
So, true story: [livejournal.com profile] shetiger has mind-control powers, and I am but an instrument of her will. I swear. I shake my fist in impotent rage at her every day. (And then she gives me cookies, and we're cool.)

Merlin/Arthur, PG, 982 words. Spoilers for 1x13, "Le Morte D'Arthur."

Summary: Magic isn't the only habit that might get Merlin in trouble.


The storm had been distantly threatening for most of the morning, but it swept in with a vengeance just as Arthur was about to begin the day's training, with lightning and angry gusts too dangerous to stay out in. And now, thanks to a quirk of weather, Merlin was possibly going to get himself horribly executed over a silly, pointless habit.

He's not even sure why he did it today, of all days, but he's got no time to think about it. Arthur's heading back to his chambers with all speed, radiating muted annoyance, and Merlin has to scramble to keep up with him.

His hands are shaking as he strips Arthur's armour off of him, and he hopes Arthur will attribute it to the cold wind that blew in just before the storm broke, to the rain that doused both of them. He hands Arthur a towel as he goes about gathering dry clothing for him, moving as slowly as he dares without raising suspicion, trying to plan ahead.

"You're unusually quiet today," Arthur says, as Merlin offers him his tunic. Merlin meets his eyes for a startled moment before looking away again. "Not that I'm complaining," Arthur goes on, and Merlin gives a bare smile to the trousers still in his hands.

"It's the lightning," Merlin says, without looking up. "I've seen it do--terrible things."

That much, at least, is the truth, though he's using it to cover a different lie. He wonders, sometimes, which will happen first--that he'll stop lying, or that he'll forget how to do anything else.

"I've known it to turn great old trees to splinters and kindling," Arthur says, close by. "That is why we're inside, you know." His hand closes over Merlin's for a moment, then he takes the trousers and steps back to change out of the wet ones. Merlin tries to get hold of himself, because he's about to have to be very careful.

Arthur never wears his jewellery while he's training or fighting or hunting or out on patrol, of course, not wanting to be snagged or distracted in a dangerous moment. He keeps it in a small mahogany box in his desk when he's not wearing it--or, more often, has Merlin put it there, while he's dressing the prince for such an outing.

At least, that's Arthur's intention, he's sure.

The little dragon's claw pendant is first--Merlin holds it out, and Arthur takes it, sliding it over his own head, an exchange they've done so often it would be automatic, if Merlin weren't acutely aware of every movement he's making right now.

Next, the coiled silver bracelet he wears around his right wrist, and the ring. Merlin puts his back to Arthur as he takes out the bracelet, and slips his hand into his pocket, where he's got the ring nestled safely away. He tries to pull it out as inconspicuously as possible, hiding the movement of his hand behind his body, acting as if the ring were in the box where it was supposed to be. He doesn't dare use magic to help, not with Arthur so close.

It's an idiotic habit, truly, because if Merlin gets caught, the implication is clear. Merlin would be extremely lucky to just lose his hands at the block. Stealing from the royal family is so very unforgivable that Merlin thinks they need a new word for it. But he's not stealing, he's not, he just...

Sometimes, when Arthur's fighting, or out patrolling with the guard, Merlin holds onto the ring.

He keeps it in his pocket, and checks on it far too many times during the day, and generally distracts himself from other things he should be doing. And when Arthur returns, Merlin puts it back while Arthur's washing himself up, instead of looking him over to see that he's not hurt. Instead of staring at the fading pink scar over his heart.

Merlin's can't be sure exactly when this particular madness of his started, but he knows what it started after.

And it is madness, because there's no reason he should have done it today, on a routine training day. And today Arthur hasn't even had a chance to dirty himself, and--

And Merlin can feel Arthur's stare weighing on his back, and so he turns around, holding out his hands.

For another minute, Arthur watches him, before fitting the bracelet over his wrist. He slides the ring onto his finger and then pauses, looking down at it strangely, as if the weight or the fit were unfamiliar.

Or as if, Merlin realizes in dawning horror, the ring were still warm from the heat of his body, buried as it was in his pocket, while the room is chilly around them. He tries to school his face into a neutral expression as Arthur looks up at him. Arthur's own face is unreadable, but his eyes are searching.

Merlin once told Arthur he knew him, and sometimes he does. But at other times, he really doesn't know what Arthur sees, what Arthur wants to see. And so he waits for his doom to fall.

Eventually, Arthur gives him a half-nod, and steps back, waving to the pile of arms and armour on the table. "Make sure everything's dried and polished. I don't want anything to get rusted."

"Of course, sire," he says, and steps forward, eager to be away for a bit, to catch his breath and call himself many deservedly insulting names.

He's bent over the table, gathering everything into a transportable pile, when he feels Arthur's hand on his back, fleeting. Then Arthur shrugs on his long coat and walks out the door.

Merlin changes his course and makes sure the fire's built nice and high before he leaves, so that Arthur's comfortable when he returns. Even though, to Merlin, the room seems warmer already.
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