“Here's your breakfast, sire,” Merlin chirps, perky as usual, as he places the platter of food in front of Arthur. Arthur barely nods before he begins to eat, but this time Arthur's eyes don't stop looking at him. After a moment of being held by his intense stare, Merlin looks down at himself and checks everything – he's completely dressed, check, he's clean, check, there are no sudden random appendages growing out of him, check. Merlin fidgets and then blurts, “What is it?”
Arthur blinks in momentary surprise, and then sighs in exasperation. “Is that seriously the only outfit you own, Merlin?”
“What? No, of course not!” Merlin crosses his arms, feeling a little defensive.
“Are you sure about that? Because I never see you wear anything other than that outfit.” He pauses, and then grins. “Well, except that one time when you wore those dress robes--,”
“Okay that's enough of that!” Merlin interrupts, as he doesn't want Arthur to bring that up again or to get any ideas about it. He shudders just in remembrance.
Arthur looks smug about the reaction, which makes Merlin want to throttle him, but only a little. “Seriously, Merlin, it's embarrassing how little regard you have for your own appearance.”
Merlin narrows his eyebrows in confusion. What on Earth has gotten into Arthur today? “I'm... just a servant though, Arthur.”
Arthur nods. “Exactly! You're my manservant, and so it reflects poorly on me. C'mon Merlin, we're gonna go to the tailor's to get something new for you to wear.” Before Merlin could even protest Arthur stood up and went towards the door, and the only thing the greatly confused servant could do is follow him.
Merlin is standing with arms and legs akimbo as the tailor carefully takes measurements of his body while Arthur is spouting off what he wants for him.
“Of course we have to get the cheapest fabric for him as he will undoubtedly get it dirty all the time. His clothes are always baggy and unsightly so make sure these aren't. As for colors--,”
“Do I get a say in this at all?” Merlin groans.
“No, of course not, your fashion sense is to never be trusted. As I was saying, Merlin stands out on his own simply because of his ears--,”
“--so he definitely shouldn't be wearing bright colors. Very dark blue should suffice. Lastly, put the Pendragon insignia on his tunic--,”
“Oh you have GOT to be kidding me.”
“How dare you insinuate that I am anything other than very serious, Merlin. Make it small, because a big one would be utterly tasteless.”
“No, seriously Arthur, I refuse to wear a tunic with your insignia on it.”
“Is that so? Would you rather wear a dress instead? Because we can arrange that.,” Arthur smirks. While Merlin splutters over the thought, he says, “That should be all. How long do you think it'll take?”
“It should take about two days, Your Highness,” the tailor replies meekly.
“Excellent. C'mon then Merlin, you have a lot of chores to do, starting with cleaning out the stables...”
Merlin glares at him. “Sometimes I really can't believe how much of a prat you are.” Arthur just grins.
Merlin picks up the outfit two days later on his order. He was strangely adamant about seeing him wear it, which only seemed to further confirm Merlin's suspicions of enchantment. The only thing is, what kind of enchantment would make Arthur behave this way? He couldn't think of any reason why a sorcerer would want Merlin to change his clothes. Gaius had only laughed at him when he mentioned it, which was incredibly unhelpful, thanks Gaius.
The clothing is certainly tighter than he is used to, but not actually uncomfortable. Begrudgingly Merlin has to admit to himself that the dark blue tunic and sleek black pants actually look decent, though he would never admit that to Arthur. Even the insignia isn't quite as much of an eyesore as Merlin expected – it's truly small, and stitched in a lighter blue color right next to his right collarbone.
However he's running late so he quickly grabs breakfast for Arthur and brings it to him. “Here's your breakfast,” he says, a little surly.
Arthur grunts and takes a bite before looking back up at Merlin, where he promptly stops. “Merlin, you look...”
“Like an idiot? I know,” Merlin says, clasping his hands behind his back.
“No, no. I mean, well yes, you always look like an idiot but you are one,” Arthur grins briefly, “But I meant that you look good.” He stands up to walk towards him.
Merlin blinks. Now it really feels like something's wrong. “Uh... thanks, Arthur.” He pauses. “Are you sure you're alright?”
Arthur stops in front of him, only a few inches away, and frowns, looking at Merlin as if he were the crazy one. “Of course I'm fine.” He reaches his hand out and his fingers graze against the insignia. Merlin's breath hitches on its own accord. “Nice insignia.” The look in his eyes isn't smug or arrogant, it's almost... gentle. He looks--
For a brief moment in his mind's eye Merlin sees himself leaning in, closing the distance between them to capture those full, pink lips. Instead he swallows and says, “I'm not your property, Arthur.”
That seems to snap Arthur out of whatever trance he was in. His hand slips away from him and Merlin feels unexpectedly colder. He smirks arrogantly but it doesn't reach his eyes. “You're my servant, of course you are.”
Looks like Arthur's back to normal after all. “That doesn't mean you own me, you stupid prat! What is wron--.” Arthur interrupts him by grabbing his tunic, bringing him even closer and kissing him. Maybe Merlin thought too soon about Arthur's normality, but Arthur is actually kissing him and so there is only one way to respond – by kissing him fervently back.
Arthur eventually pulls away and Merlin stares at him, flabbergasted. “Arthur... what--,”
“Shut up Merlin.” Arthur looks away and starts to step away from him, but Merlin stops him by pulling on his arm.
“You know,” Merlin says with a cheeky grin, “If you want me you could have just said something.”