Pairing - Merlin/Arthur pre-slash
Rating - PG-13
Summary - Arthur sees Merlin use his magic when they are forced to shelter for the night in an abandoned cabin.
The flash of lightening lit the entire sky mere seconds before a sharp crack. A huge limb broke free from the tree trunk and fell into the path of Arthur’s horse. Already spooked by the lightening and thunder and the torrential rain, it reared in panic, throwing Arthur to the ground before bolting into the storm.
Merlin jumped down from his own horse as soon as Arthur fell, rushing over. He had seen the prince’s head connect with the ground, hard, and now he lay with his eyes closed. The rain pelted down on him but even that didn’t make him wake.
“Arthur, can you hear me? Please, say something.” Merlin turned as he heard the pounding of horse’s hooves, just in time to see his horse gallop away after Arthur’s. He got to his feet, yelling uselessly for it to come back. “Stupid horse,” he muttered, going back to Arthur. “Why didn’t I tether him?”
Arthur’s eyes fluttered open briefly. “’Cos you’re an idiot,” he murmured.
“I have never been so glad to hear you call me that,” Merlin told him with a huge sigh of relief. “Come on, Arthur, you need to wake up again. I can’t carry you and we need to get out of the rain.”
Arthur wasn’t much help, but he at least tried to get to his feet as Merlin hauled him up. Together, they stumbled through the forest, Arthur’s steps growing more controlled as he went although he still leaned heavily on Merlin.
They reached the old hunting cabin about ten minutes later, glad to be out of the storm. It wasn’t much to look at, just a single room with a fireplace in one wall and a cot along the opposite wall, but at least it was dry.
“This place is filthy.”
Merlin rolled his eyes. “Well it was the best I could do at short notice; sorry it’s not quite up to your high standards, your Highness.”
“Only you can manage to make that sound like an insult.” Arthur sat down on the cot and leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes.
Merlin looked and shook his head; if Arthur slept like that, he would wake up with a crick in his neck. He went over and shook the other man’s shoulder lightly.
“You can go to sleep in a moment,” he promised. “You really should get out of those wet clothes first, though. There’s a blanket you can get under and I can dry your things while you rest.”
He must be feeling bad, Merlin thought, as there was hardly any argument from Arthur as he stripped out of his soaked jacket, shirt and trousers. As he did so, Merlin saw the bruise that was forming across his right shoulder and down over his ribs from where he had hit the ground.
“Are you hurt anywhere else, except that and your head?” Merlin asked, seeing Arthur about to argue that he was fine, Merlin added, “Not that you’d notice, not with that thick skull of yours.”
“One of these days I’ll teach you to respect your betters.”
“Maybe when you introduce me to them, I will,” Merlin retorted with a grin.
As Arthur lay down and closed his eyes again, Merlin set about making this place a little more comfortable. He too was soaked through and so he decided that his first move ought to be warming the cabin up. Unfortunately, except for the few sticks already in the fireplace, there was no more dry firewood. There was also nothing to light it with, as his flints were half-way to goodness-knows-where, still in the horse’s saddlebags. With a quick glance back at Arthur, making sure he was asleep, Merlin stretched a hand on, holding it palm side down over the fireplace and muttered a few words under his breath.
His eyes flashed gold briefly as flames erupted around the kindling.
By the time that Arthur awoke the next time, the cabin was warm. He could still hear the rain pelting against the roof and the thunder rumbling overhead. Merlin sat by the fire, his clothes now dry, staring at the flames. When he heard Arthur move, he turned.
“Are you feeling any better?”
Arthur’s head was still aching and it hurt every time he moved, his ribs feeling as though someone had kicked him. Not that he was going to admit that to Merlin, though.
“Fine. Are my clothes dry?”
Merlin smiled at the sight of Arthur sitting on the bed, holding the blanket around his lap, his torso bare.
“Yes, but I kind of like you in just that.”
“Merlin, give me my damn clothes!”
Merlin tossed them onto the bed. “Spoilsport.”
Arthur dressed quickly, swaying slightly as he stood up and his head pounded, before glancing around.
“I don’t suppose there’s anything to eat?”
Merlin had checked the cabin from top to bottom while Arthur had been asleep, mainly out of boredom. It was a basic hunter’s cabin, just the bare essentials, but they usually kept an emergency supply of food in case of situations such as this. The cabin hadn’t been used in a long time and so of the food stored there, only the dried, salted meat was still edible. He had used a small bowl he had found to collect some rainwater, so they had something to drink, but it was hardly a feast.
He handed half of the supply to Arthur, noting the prince’s disappointment as he took a bite. Merlin could sympathise; the stuff tasted awful. He was tempted to change the flavour slightly but there was the risk that Arthur would see him using his magic. Instead, he forced himself to chew the meat, trying not to think too hard about what it actually was.
Three hours later, with the storm still raging outside, the fire began to die. It had consumed the small amount of sticks that had been stored in the cabin in no time at all. Merlin glanced across to Arthur, still laying on the cot and saw him shiver.
Silently, Merlin moved across to the fireplace and crouched down. A few whispered words and a flash of gold and the fire roared into life again, the room becoming instantly warmer as a side-effect of the spell. Merlin smiled in satisfaction and turned to go back to his seat near to Arthur, only to find the prince sitting up and staring at him, wide-eyed.
“Tell me I didn’t just see what I thought I saw,” Arthur asked in a low voice.
Merlin froze, his heart pounding as his mind whirred. He’d seen him. Arthur had seen him.
But Merlin couldn’t bring himself to meet Arthur’s eyes, can’t bear to see the disappointment, the loathing, the fear. Instead, he followed his instincts.
“Where are you going?” Arthur demanded as Merlin bolted for the door.
“We need more firewood,” Merlin mumbled, vanishing out into the storm, the door banging shut behind him.
By the time it began to get dark, Merlin still hadn’t returned and Arthur was beginning to get concerned. He’d had hours to try and wrap his mind around the fact that inept, sarcastic, couldn’t-fight-his-way-out-of-a-paper-ba
Was he really as self-centred as Merlin sometimes told him he was? How could he not have noticed?
A better question is, what do I do about it? he thought. He had a responsibility to tell his father that there was a sorcerer in Camelot.
Getting up from the cot, Arthur decided to leave decision until he had sorted out his immediate problem of finding Merlin. Reluctant as he was to venture out from the relative warmth of the cabin, he couldn’t just leave Merlin out there to freeze to death or get struck by lightening or something. No matter how much he tried to avoid it, he had developed something of a fondness for the big-eared idiot.
As it was, he didn’t have to look far. No sooner than he had opened the door than he found his wayward servant. Merlin was sitting against the outside wall of the cabin, his back pressed up against the damp wood and his knees hugged to his chest. The eaves provided him with a small amount of shelter but he was still soaked. His clothing stuck to his skin and his hair was plastered to his skull, shivers running through him every so often.
“Merlin, what are you doing out here?”
At the sound of Arthur’s voice, Merlin jumped, startled. He turned to Arthur with wide, panicked eyes.
He began to scramble to his feet but Arthur grabbed his arm before he had chance to flee again.
“Come back inside,” he said softly.
Merlin frowned at him. “Why? What are you going to do to me?”
“Well I was planning to let you get warm and dry,” Arthur told him. “But you can stay out here in the rain if you wish.”
Though still wary, Merlin allowed himself to be led inside. Arthur saw another shiver run through Merlin and shoved him in the direction of the bed.
“Get in,” he said. “Your clothes can dry whilst we get you warm again.”
Merlin did as he was told, glad to be out of the wet clothes, and huddled under the blanket. When Arthur climbed in beside him, he stopped Merlin’s questions with a glare.
“We’re sharing body heat, that’s all.”
Hard as he tried, Merlin couldn’t relax, however.
“Arthur, what are you going to do?”
“Right now? I’d like to get some peace and quiet.”
Merlin sighed. “I meant about what happened earlier.”
Arthur turned to face Merlin, propping himself up on one elbow. He hated to see that look in Merlin’s eyes, like a puppy waiting for its master to scold it.
“I won’t tell my father.”
“You’re not angry with me?”
Arthur rolled his eyes and nodded. “Of course I am! You kept this from me for years. Didn’t you trust me?”
Merlin shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t want you to have to choose between this and Uther. If you’d known, you would have had to.”
“We’ll talk about this later,” Arthur announced decisively. He lay down again, getting comfortable. “Now we might as well get some sleep; that storm’s not going to break tonight.”
Merlin awoke later that night, a little confused at first until he remembered where he was. At some point, Arthur had moved them around until he held Merlin’s body tight to his chest, and it was Arthur’s moving about that woke him up.
“Merlin?” Arthur’s sleepy voice asked. “I don’t suppose you could…”
“Get that fire going again? I’m cold.”
Merlin laughed and there was a brief flash of gold in his eyes as the fire roared back to life.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.