Merlin mumbles incoherently as he turns over on the bed, his face smothered in the ridiculously soft pillow, all to get away from the sun as it pours in through the large window.
The large window.
His room doesn't have a window this large.
Or a pillow this soft.
For a moment he considers if this is a dream, a beautiful, wonderful dream, but it's the throbbing ache in his head that tells him it isn't. He'd startle awake if the mere thought didn't make him wince into the pillow, nuzzling further into it, instead. He'll figure out where he is in a moment, when he's certain looking up won't be the ultimate death of him.
Merlin's dozing off once more when something — or rather, someone — shifts on the bed, their body gently pressing against his while their arm drapes along Merlin's back.
Against his better judgement, Merlin opens his eyes, ignoring the hangover as he pulls away from his pillow just enough to see a head of blond hair. In an instant his breath catches. Blond hair. Big window letting sunlight in. Sinfully soft pillows. Is this...
It can't be—
Before Merlin can finish the doubting thought, Arthur shifts, pulling his face away from where it had been burrowed beneath Merlin's pillow. He remains asleep, much to Merlin's temporary relief as he attempts to recall memories from last night.
It all started when Gwaine — of course it starts with Gwaine, what hangover doesn’t start with Gwaine these days — decided to pose a drinking game to Arthur and the other Knights. Merlin, not willing to be left out, decided to take part as well, much to Gwaine's easy to spark delight, and Arthur's mild concern.
What was the game?
No, no, that's not important...
He remembers walking through the castle corridors, his arm thrown over Arthur's shoulders while Arthur's coiled around his, both of them stumbling in their drunken stupor towards the King's room. Really it's a wonder they didn't end up waking anyone up. But what happened next? Merlin groans softly as he attempts to think through the aching throb of last night's poor life choices, vaguely remembering trying to help Arthur into his sleep-ware.
Suddenly Merlin grins, barely containing the laugh as he remembers how he had gotten Arthur stuck in his shirt, both of them laughing wildly before managing to get it back on. The smile that had lit up Arthur's face had been so beautiful, so unbelievably pure, and so delightfully happy. Merlin never wants to forget it. He remembers grinning broadly in that moment too, and how Arthur's eyes seemed to shimmer with it, as if perfectly reflecting Merlin's smile back at him. Arthur had been leaning back against the wall in all his perfect glory, for the simple reason that the man couldn’t walk without any support. Merlin remembers how the blond had reached out his hand, uttering a chuckled “That’s not happening. To bed then.” They had clasped their hands together with Merlin ready to pull back to pull Arthur off the wall, but that’s not at all what happened.
Merlin gasps softly as it all floods back in an instant. He can remember the way Arthur’s arm felt as it coiled around his waist after having pulled Merlin into him, holding him close as if he were the most precious thing on this planet to him. They had been dancing around each other for the last few months. Small lingering touches here, flirty sarcastic comments there, threats of letting the other suffer their stupidity while both of them knew full well that they could never actually do that to each other. But they had never talked about it. They never went any deeper.
Then those ridiculously soft lips had tentatively pressed against Merlin’s, confident yet concerned, a concern that faded away when the kiss was so easily and quickly returned. He can’t even be certain how long they had stood there, kissing each other as if making up for all the times they could have but didn’t. For a moment Merlin lets himself settle back into his pillow, allowing himself to bask in the memory of Arthur’s lips against his own.
But then the unease settles in.
What if it was a mistake?
What if Arthur wakes up and doesn’t remember?
Judging by the fact Merlin still can feel his own clothes, and the fact they hadn’t been able to rid Arthur of a shirt, it’s safe to say the kiss is as far as things went. Still, he can’t seem to quell the anxiety that continues building. Perhaps he could simply magic Arthur off of him, lift him up gently, then bring him back down, then he could—
“Merlin.” Arthur’s voice is unmistakable, even when partially muffled by a pillow that’s very nearly in his mouth.
“Y-Yes, sire?” Merlin tries to keep the trepidation out of his voice but fails in doing so, his heart pounding in his chest.
“Stop that.” The King mumbles as he shifts to lie on his side, pulling Merlin against him with the arm that had been draped the dark haired man.
For a moment Merlin considers the possibility that Arthur is talking in his sleep. Granted, he’s never really heard Arthur talk in his sleep quite like this, but it was still a possi—
“You’re doing it again.” Arthur grumbles, cutting Merlin’s spiralling thoughts short, and he sounds… coherent… conscious.
“Doing what?” Merlin asks, cursing his own curiosity, fearing it would bring an end to whatever it is… this is.
There’s a pause that has Merlin’s nerves fluttering all over again, but the fluttering changes into something warmer as his eyes look over Arthur’s face, noting the smile that slowly curls on his lips… like a beautiful fragment of the smile Arthur had worn last night. Then it shifted into more of a smirk. Oh no.
“Thinking.” Arthur finally responds with that trademark drawl that makes Merlin wants to kiss it and punch it off his mouth in equal measure.
“Precisely where you should be, yes.” Arthur muses as he slowly lets his eyes open, wincing slightly as he does, though he doesn’t seem to regret the action given the way those beautiful blue eyes sparkle as they trace over Merlin’s face. But then they dull for a moment, something seeming to click in the King’s head as the arm around Merlin loosens for a moment, making Merlin’s heart stutter in fear. “Unless I’ve overstepped then you—”
Merlin silences Arthur in an instant by crashing into him, firmly pressing their lips together while his hands clutch at the front of Arthur’s shirt, scared he’s reading this all wrong, scared this is the wrong choice of action, but he can’t stand to lose this chance. So Merlin allows himself a final and desperate hope, pouring it all into the kiss, along with just how much he truly cares for the man he has come to love.
Instantly Arthur relaxes beneath Merlin’s touch — beneath Merlin’s lips — his arm once more tightening around the lanky man who had gone from servant… to friend… to best friend… to hopefully…
“Stay with me…” Arthur asks, soft and vulnerable as he pulls away from the kiss just enough to speak, his forehead resting against Merlin’s as if afraid the other will fade away if he doesn’t.
“I never left?” Merlin questions, oblivious and confused as to what Arthur meant. Whether that’s the fault of the hangover, or the one braincell he and Arthur seem to share, remains to be seen.
The exhaled laugh is filled with adoration as much as it is exasperation as Arthur shifts his gaze, locking their eyes together as he takes a deep breath, steadying himself. “You’re really something else.” Arthur teases, because truly, the King wouldn’t have it any other way.
Silence falls between them as Arthur’s face turns softer, more vulnerable than Merlin has ever seen it before, and it takes his breath away. Arthur is beautiful, and Merlin can’t help but feel exhilarated, though it is quickly tempered by concern, afraid of what makes Arthur look so soft.
“I mean… stay with me… as my partner… and maybe — if I don’t drive you crazy — my… husband.” Arthur starts out strong before getting a bit softer, and Merlin can nearly feel the nerves eating away at the King who stares at him with a mixture of hope and love.
A whirlwind of emotions sweep through Merlin, from amusement to shock to self-doubt to excitement, each one vying for his attention. It leaves Merlin stumbling over words he can’t seem to fully form, stuck somewhere between You already drive me crazy and I can’t live without it and Surely you can do better than me.
The longer Merlin’s shocked silence carries on, the more Arthur’s eyes fill with a quiet unease, a look Merlin knows well. Arthur feels he’s made a mistake, that he understood something wrong, and it has Merlin scrambling to speak whatever words were able to fall out of his mouth. “I— but how would that— I’d love— but it’s— are you— it could be—”
“Right, thinking, stop it.” Merlin manages to catch his tongue as he looks into those blue eyes once more, letting them bring him stability and comfort as he takes a slow breath, forcing himself to slow down, to speak properly. “I… are you sure?” Merlin asks, soft, gentle, and absolutely terrified that Arthur, in this quick moment, will realise the error of his ways and subsequently kick Merlin out of his bed.
Arthur’s hand comes up to cup Merlin’s jaw, his thumb caressing along the sorcerer’s cheek, offering a genuinely soft and adoring smile. “Merlin… you’re the only thing I’ve ever been sure about.” His voice, though still soft, holds a familiar strength to it again; the King has once again found his confidence, and it’s breathtaking.
Merlin’s eyes shift between Arthur’s, trying to comprehend what it is that Arthur had just confessed. When it finally hits, it knocks the air out of Merlin’s lungs once more, his tongue once again fumbling for the words he has always wanted to say. In truth, he only needs one.
“Yes.” Merlin manages to whisper before pressing their lips together once more, excitement singing through his veins, only to stop suddenly. Pulling away from the kiss sharply, Merlin looks at Arthur with slightly wide eyes, earning him a confused look from the King.
“What are we going to tell the Knights? Will the people accept it? Can you actually marry a ser—”
Arthur exhales with a lopsided smile and a shake of his head.