gwyllion: Merlin-Forever (Merlin-Forever)
[personal profile] gwyllion
Title: The Edge of All I Know
Author: gwylliondream
Genre: canon era
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Rating: PG
Words: 5,132
Warnings: None
Summary: When Merlin uses magic to save Uther’s life, the king shifts his views on the ancient practice of sorcery. Can Arthur do the same?
A/N: I wrote The Edge of All I Know as a [community profile] merlin_holidays pinch hit for Cookie. Thanks so much for all the prompt notes that you left in your gift request. I tried to include as many of your likes as I could. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a magical Merlin holiday! Thanks to my awesome beta, [profile] gilli_ann!
Disclaimer: I did not create these characters. No disrespect intended. No profit desired, only muses.
Comments: Comments are welcome anytime, thanks so much for reading.



Days had passed, but the sting of poison still lingered on Arthur’s tongue. He cursed himself for complying with the troupe’s requests and his people’s cheerful appeals.

Even Merlin had insisted that Arthur should greet the birthday celebration with joy, instead of scorn. As much as Arthur enjoyed hearing Merlin’s thoughts, a manservant could be easily ignored. But when Uther’s face lit up with delight after Arthur told him about the festivities that would take place in the great hall, Arthur knew he had to embrace the spirit of the day. He knew he should try to be a good sport, for his father’s sake.

In hindsight, Arthur wished he had ignored the childish antics, avoided the juggling and acrobatics that worked to distract him and catch him off-guard. The evils of sorcery always lurked where he least expected.

Arthur tried to follow his daily routine with stoic dignity. He regretted that he hadn’t tried harder.

A poisoned apple.

A swordfight.

A mortal wound.

A prince’s tears.

Magic.

Now Arthur stood at his father’s bedside, watching and waiting while the sorcerer plied his trade. How quickly his happiness had turned to dust.

The scent of smoking herbs permeated the air in Uther’s chambers. Arthur wrinkled his nose, but said nothing. He relied on Gaius’s confidence in the sorcerer. The two older men surely remembered the days when magic ran free in Camelot before Uther outlawed the practice and burned its practitioners on the pyre. Gaius and the sorcerer weren’t fearful of Uther’s retribution now. Their willingness to help made Arthur understand the grave nature of Uther’s affliction.

The sorcerer, clad in a ratty old robe, his unkempt hair a tangle of grey, looked as untrustworthy as they came. He doused the bundle of smouldering herbs in a bowl of water at Uther’s bedside.

For a brief moment, Arthur admired the bravery the old sorcerer displayed, using his skills to help the king who would have him killed without a second thought. If the sorcerer failed, certain death awaited him. His eyes gleamed with a familiar blue, although Arthur could not place where he had seen them before. Perhaps Arthur had once watched his relations burn in the courtyard. Perhaps they had been dispatched by Arthur’s own sword. Uther’s edicts impacted every aspect of Arthur’s upbringing. And Arthur had always yearned to emulate his father.

Arthur listened as the sorcerer cast his spell, the strange words tumbling from his wrinkled mouth. He turned his attention to his father. With clasped hands, Arthur willed Uther to fight, to live.

At first, Arthur dismissed the slight movement of the bed clothes as a trick of his imagination. But when Uther stirred further, Arthur drew close, hoping against hope for the sorcerer’s success.

“Arthur?” Uther said, his eyes blinking open.

“Father?” Arthur choked out in disbelief, even though he could see the proof of magic’s power with his own eyes.

Bubbles of spit blossomed from Uther’s mouth. His face pinched tight with pain.

“What is it?” Arthur shouted. “What’s wrong?”

In a panic, Arthur prayed to all the gods for Uther’s pain to be relieved, but most of all he prayed that he would be forgiven for disobeying his father’s most stringent mandate—the laws against sorcery. He remembered the pride Uther had spoken of on the fateful day when Arthur told him about the birthday feast. But Arthur had failed his father, nonetheless, by permitting the use of magic. The shame of it filled Arthur with despair. He had so recently received his father’s blessing, but now he realised that he didn’t deserve his father’s words of love and encouragement.

Uther cried out in pain, gasping for breath. Tears welled in Arthur’s eyes when he understood how much he had failed his father by engaging a sorcerer, his final act while Uther still lived.

“Do something,” Arthur choked out, urging the sorcerer.

The sorcerer’s eyes flitted from side to side, searching frantically for a way to remedy the spell.

“Sire?” Gaius asked, sensing the swift deterioration of Uther’s condition. When feeling for Uther’s pulse, his withered fingers found a chain around Uther’s neck. Gaius gave it a tug. Arthur saw that an amulet suspended from the chain burned Gaius’s fingers. Acting quickly, Gaius wrenched the amulet free.

Arthur watched while Uther gasped and started breathing again.

“What is that?” Arthur asked.

“I believe it is a witch’s curse,” Gaius said. “Its design displays a powerful symbol of the old religion.”

“How did it get there?” Arthur asked. He should have known not to trust his father’s life to sorcery.

Uther’s eyes slid shut again.

Arthur looked accusingly at the sorcerer. He’d end him right now if he had no answer.

“The amulet!” the sorcerer cried. “It’s nothing I used. It’s working against my spell.”

“Can you reverse its power?” Gaius asked, eyebrow raised and fingers clenched around the offending trinket.

The sorcerer seemed to muster his resolve. He spread his hands over Uther’s chest and fervently cast his spell again, his eyes flaring with fire. His voice deepened as he pleaded in some long lost Druid tongue that Arthur had never heard before.

With the sorcerer’s spell renewed and the amulet removed from around Uther’s neck, the muscles of the king’s face relaxed. Uther’s eyes went to the sorcerer’s. His breathing eased.

The sorcerer continued his spell, his hands shaking and voice quavering as he fought to force out the final words in the ancient language.

Arthur took Uther’s hand. He glanced at the sorcerer, who finished his spell. The sorcerer gripped at Uther’s bedding, before collapsing to the floor, his magic spent.

“Arthur,” Uther said. “Arthur, come near, son.”

Arthur leaned over his father. He touched his cheeks with reverent hands, making sure that his pain had subsided.

“Father, you can speak? Are you in pain?” Arthur asked, his lips parting in a tentative smile.

Uther took Arthur’s hand and said, “You’ve done well, my son.” The colour had returned to Uther’s cheeks. He no longer looked like death would soon greet him.

Arthur rested his head on his father’s chest. He closed his eyes and listened to the steady beat of Uther’s heart. At last, Arthur felt that he had made the right decision when he took his manservant’s advice to call for the sorcerer. Arthur’s thoughts turned to the sorcerer. He’d want to be paid for his efforts. And Arthur couldn’t wait to hear Merlin gloat when he told him that his plan succeeded. He’d probably want a day off—and Arthur had already decided that he would gladly give it to him. Perhaps he’d arrange for them to enjoy the day together in a private glade on Camelot’s outskirts. They could splash their feet in the sparkling stream and nap together in the cool grass. Merlin would like that.

Uther’s hands petted Arthur’s hair. Arthur opened his eyes. The sorcerer lay motionless on the floor. Gaius knelt at his side. He spoke to him softly, urging him to awaken.

Arthur watched as Gaius stroked the sorcerer’s forehead, murmuring his encouragement. Gaius’s hands seemed to stoke the wrinkles away from the sorcerer’s skin. Arthur lifted his head from Uther’s chest to get a better look. His mouth fell open when the sorcerer’s hair turned kettle black and his blue eyes opened and blinked up at Gaius.

Arthur cried out, “Merlin?”

~

Arthur kept to himself in the hours that followed. He couldn’t bear to speak to Merlin. He couldn’t even stand the sight of him.

The hours turned into days, the days turned into a week.

Arthur avoided Merlin at every turn. He sent George to tell Merlin that he did not require Merlin’s services when he dined with his father. Arthur could capably pour a pitcher of wine and lift the lid on the platter of food that the cook sent for the evening meal.

“But the boy saved my life,” Uther said while they dined in his chambers. “You could at least show him some appreciation.”

Arthur played with the food on his plate. He did not intend to thank Merlin, even if he saved Uther’s life. The betrayal of Arthur’s trust left a deep scar on his heart. He mourned the loss of his manservant and the friendship he had with Merlin before he knew about his horrible lie.

~

Avoiding Merlin in the morning proved more difficult for Arthur. For weeks after Merlin’s revelation, Arthur rose before the sun and made his way to the stables, hoping to forget about Merlin’s cheery morning greetings. He’d watch the groomsmen tend to the horses, turning them out to graze on the last remaining grass of summer.

Sometimes Gwen would join him when she delivered fresh horseshoes from the blacksmith’s forge.

“I hate to see you so sad,” Gwen said with a frown. “It’s because of Merlin, isn’t it?”

Arthur kicked at the straw that covered the stable floor.

“I don’t understand how you can be so happy for him,” Arthur said. “You were his friend when he first came to Camelot. How can you forget his lies?”

“Oh, Arthur,” Gwen said. “You need to look beyond that. He only lied so he could stay in Camelot. He never meant any harm. And he saved your father’s life.”

Arthur couldn’t understand how Gwen could be so forgiving. He’d never forget how angry he felt when the old sorcerer who saved Uther’s life turned into Merlin, his Merlin, before his very eyes.

~

When Arthur roamed the corridors of the castle, Merlin seemed to appear around every corner. If absolutely necessary, Arthur greeted him with a short grunt and continued on his way, unwilling to discuss the secret of Merlin’s magic that he had kept for so long.

Arthur rode off to hunt alone, but he barely made an effort to aim his bow when a deer crossed his path. Hengroen sped over forest and meadow until a sweaty lather dampened his coat.

Stopping by a trickling brook, Arthur let the horse rest. It would not do to overwork him, not when Hengroen had carried him away from Camelot and away from Merlin.

In his mind, Arthur replayed every hunt of the past that had taken him and Merlin far from the castle. Every camp they had shared on patrol. Every quest that sent them adventuring in foreign lands. Merlin had never told Arthur the truth, no matter how many skins of wine they had shared during sleepless nights around the campfire, no matter how much Arthur had put his trust in his seemingly guileless manservant.

Arthur thanked Hengroen, petting his sable coat while he drank. The horse had carried him far from Camelot, but not far enough that Arthur could forget Merlin and the deceit he had wrought for so long.

~

In the months that followed, the ground grew hard with frost and the first snowflakes fell from the sky. Uther recovered from his injury and grew stronger. The ragged wound that he suffered on the anniversary of Arthur’s birth faded to a thin scar, hardly noticeable, even when the king disrobed to bathe. Uther could barely lift a sword in the days before Merlin cast his spell, but now Uther proved a formidable opponent in the fighting ring as well as ahorse at the joust. While Arthur rejoiced at his father’s newly-healed body, the wounds from Merlin’s betrayal still made Arthur’s heart ache.

Arthur looked at his father through new eyes. He hesitated to trust the man who, for years, had taught him that the use of magic must be solidly rejected, only to have a complete change of attitude after Merlin’s revelation. Arthur felt relieved that his father would live for many more years if his health held, but something akin to jealousy flared when he saw the attention that Uther lavished on Merlin. Arthur often caught the pair deep in discussion when he came upon them. Uther and Merlin sometimes sat at the head table in the great hall, their heads close together, long after the plates from the evening meal had been cleared away.

“Merlin says he can cast a spell of protection around Camelot’s borders,” Uther said, tapping Arthur’s shoulder with a gloved hand. “What do you think of that?”

Arthur wished he had left the table sooner, so he didn’t feel obligated to answer his father.

“That’s incredible,” Arthur said, remembering the times when Merlin polished his armour in no time at all, or when he found his clothing mended before he had a chance to point out a tear to his manservant. “It explains much.”

The hatred of magic ran through Arthur’s veins. He’d never see a way to look at magic differently.

Arthur couldn’t look at the two men again. He pushed his chair away from the table and left, his boot-heels tapping against the floor of the great hall. The door shut with a loud thud that shook the dust from the wall sconces, leaving only the finality of silence.

~

Days later, Arthur tugged his cloak around his shoulders and rode the border between the perilous lands and the kingdom of Camelot. He could patrol and protect the border just as well as words uttered by a lying sorcerer. When the bandits attacked him, Arthur managed well enough to defeat them with his sword. If Arthur noticed that no seemingly divine hand assisted him in the skirmish, he would keep the knowledge to himself. He rode back to Camelot with hurt pride and a bloody gash on his arm from where a bandit’s knife pierced his mail.

Arthur went to Gaius’s workshop and, finding the old man alone, he agreed to let him look at the injury. Gaius helped him out of his mail and instructed him to sit at the edge of a low bench while he examined the wound.

“You could have just as easily asked Merlin to look at this,” Gaius said as he used a damp cloth to wipe the blood from Arthur’s arm.

“I’d rather not,” Arthur said, his jaw clenched.

Gaius hummed his disapproval. He cut himself a length of thread and sterilised a needle in a candle’s flame.

“This may pinch a bit,” Gaius said as he began to stitch the wound closed.

“I’ll be fine,” Arthur said. He had battled warriors and led armies. He wouldn’t let the tiny prick of a needle piercing his skin bother him. He closed his eyes while Gaius worked.

“Have I told you that I studied the amulet that we found around your father’s neck on the day that Merlin healed him?” Gaius asked.

“No, I can’t recall that you did.” Arthur said. He cringed at the thought that Gaius wanted him to show Merlin the same reverence that he and Uther did. “Did you learn anything?”

“Not much, but I suspect that Morgana used the charm along with a spell to bring harm to Uther. She has wanted Uther dead for some time now,” Gaius said.

Arthur swallowed. “If she wants him dead so badly, why hasn’t she struck again?” he asked. “She’s had many opportunities since Uther regained his health.”

Gaius made another stitch. The prick of the needle made Arthur wince.

“Merlin has used his magic to protect the kingdom from her dark sorcery,” Gaius said, as if it should be obvious even to a simpleton. “She has no power over the kingdom now, nor will she ever, as long as Merlin is here.”

“Merlin,” Arthur said with a huff.

It hurt to say his name. Arthur had called it out enough times while Merlin served him. How he missed the manservant he knew and trusted. Merlin always listened carefully to Arthur’s thoughts. He offered well-considered advice if Arthur asked for it, and he often did so. Arthur shouted Merlin’s name to caution him when an arrow flew his way, when a bandit threatened to strike, or when any other dangers found him. Now, Arthur doubted that he’d ever call out Merlin’s name again.

“Hold still,” Gaius said. “I’m nearly finished.”

Arthur felt the tug of Gaius’s fingers as they knotted the thread.

“My father thinks highly of him,” Arthur said.

“I think highly of Merlin as well,” Gaius said. He wrapped a clean strip of bandaging around Arthur’s arm. “I don’t understand why you can’t come to terms with his magic.”

“Magic,” Arthur said. “I think Merlin has used his magic to bespell my father. Why else would he have changed his mind about allowing Merlin to practice magic in Camelot?”

“If you would take the time to talk to me about it, maybe you wouldn’t be so quick to believe the worst,” Merlin said. He walked into the workshop from his alcove room, just the way Arthur had seen him do a hundred times before.

It angered Arthur to think that Merlin had been listening to his conversation with Gaius the entire time that the physician stitched his arm. Arthur looked Gaius up and down, trying to determine if he knew that Merlin had been lurking nearby, spying on Arthur, hoping that he would share his thoughts.

Arthur’s eyes met Gaius’s, but Arthur refused to look at Merlin.

“Thank you, Gaius,” Arthur mumbled before getting to his feet. He tucked his mail under one arm and walked out the door without giving Merlin so much as a glance.

~

One week before Yule, Uther called Arthur to his chambers.

Yule had always been Arthur’s favourite holiday. Fragrant garlands decorated every mantle in the castle. The cook prepared buttery pastries and rich plum pies, fit for a hungry prince with a sweet tooth. If the people of Camelot were lucky, a sprinkling of snow would dust every building and courtyard. But now, Uther threatened to sully Arthur’s favourite holiday by elevating Merlin to the position of Court Sorcerer of Camelot.

“I plan to announce it at the Yule feast,” Uther said.

Arthur slammed his goblet down on the table. “Father, do you think this is the right course of action?”

“I’ve spoken to Merlin, and he has agreed to accept my offer,” Uther said, folding his hands in front of him.

Arthur struggled with his father’s change in attitude after Merlin had masqueraded as a hapless manservant for so long. “And what if Merlin uses his magic to do evil?”

“Nonsense, Arthur,” Uther said. “He would never.”

“What makes you so sure?” Arthur asked. “Did Gaius tell you that he suspects Morgana used magic to charm the amulet that almost took your life?”

“You mustn’t compare Morgana with Merlin,” Uther said with a wave of his hand. “All magic users are not alike.”

Arthur could not believe his ears. “But what if Merlin surprises you? What if he tries to use the same magic Morgana used to try to kill you?”

“Morgana had many troubles,” Uther said, shaking his head. “Although she broke my heart when she left Camelot, the hatred she had for me had nothing to do with magic. Merlin has no such hatred in him. He would never use magic against me.”

“How can you be so sure? Arthur asked. “You have spent a lifetime cautioning me against the evils of magic—”

“And Merlin has spent a lifetime protecting your sorry arse,” Uther spat.

“What do you mean by that?” Arthur seethed, his fingers tight on the stem of his goblet.

“Merlin has saved your life a hundred times,” Uther said. “He is bound to serve you until the day you die. Every time your life has been in danger— in battle, in the jousting ring, anywhere in the realm, Merlin has used his magic to save you. He told me so, himself.”

“And you believe him?” Arthur asked.

“He serves Camelot, and he serves it with his full loyalty,” Uther stated through clenched teeth.

Arthur could not possibly feel any worse. Not only had Merlin deceived him about magic, but now he had convinced Arthur’s own father to doubt his fighting skills.

“Merlin has saved us all, at one time or another. If Morgana dares show her face in Camelot again, I have every confidence that Merlin will deal with her accordingly. Merlin tells me she is merely a seer and a novice magic-user at best— Morgana is no match for Merlin’s power,” Uther said.

Arthur had heard enough. He rose from the table and left his father before Uther could argue further that he had been blind to magic’s benefits until Merlin saved his life.

~

Arthur rested his back against the door to Uther’s chambers. His mind reeled with the claim that Merlin had come to his rescue all those times. The more he thought about it— the errant knife that missed him by a hair, the mysterious rockfall that blocked his enemy’s progress, the strange illnesses that befell his foes— Arthur began to believe that Merlin had been responsible for his safety all along. Perhaps Uther had told the truth.

Now that Merlin had saved Uther’s life, the king had little difficulty accepting that Merlin had magic. Arthur wished that he could do the same. But Arthur’s heart ached with the knowledge that Merlin had kept his magic a secret from him. Arthur had told Merlin his deepest secrets, but Merlin had not trusted Arthur with his own. There certainly had been plenty of opportunities for Merlin to disclose his magic in the years that they had spent as each other’s shadows, two sides of the same coin. Worse than the feeling of betrayal, Arthur missed Merlin, and the happier times they shared before.

Arthur wandered down the hall to his own chambers. When he swung the door open, Merlin stood leaning against Arthur’s table.

“Arthur,” Merlin said. He reached out with one hand, as if he wanted Arthur to join him, but he did not move forward.

“Get out,” Arthur demanded. He looked at the floor so he did not have to feel the pain of being confronted by his lost friend.

“I’ll leave, but only after you hear me out,” Merlin said, dropping his hand.

Arthur didn’t touch the door, but he heard it close behind him. He caught a glimpse of Merlin’s eyes as they flashed gold. Merlin’s powers were useful for simple tasks, as well as for grand feats of protection. How many times had Arthur narrowly missed seeing Merlin’s eyes actually changing colour? He had never mentioned the odd light in Merlin’s eyes before, blaming it on the sun in his eyes, or a trick of his mind in the heat of battle. Arthur wondered what else Merlin could do, given the motivation.

“I’m listening,” Arthur said, folding his arms across his chest. He would listen to Merlin’s words, but his heart would not budge, not when he had been betrayed so severely.

Merlin crossed the room to where Arthur stood. “I’m sorry,” Merlin said beseechingly. “If I had thought that you might someday accept me as I am, I might have been convinced to tell you about my… talents.”

Arthur huffed out a breath. “Your so-called talents did nothing but enable you to lie to me, to my father, to the entire kingdom.”

“I never meant to hurt you,” Merlin said slowly, carefully. “And really, is an omission of the truth the same thing as a lie?”

“Merlin, always trying to make excuses…. Yes, it is the same thing as a lie, in this case,” Arthur said, ready to defend his words.

Moments passed, and Arthur wondered if he should just open the door and send Merlin on his way.

“If I had known that by saving Uther’s life, I could make him see that magic may be used for good,” Merlin said. “I would have exposed my sorcery to him, and to you, long ago.”

Arthur tried to avoid looking directly at Merlin. Nevertheless, his eyes roamed over Merlin’s ratty clothing that he had worn from the day he first arrived in Camelot. The same stupid neckerchief dangled messily from around his neck. Surely he could have magicked up more suitable clothing if he had so much power.

“I would have told you sooner,” Merlin said, his eyes finding Arthur’s, “had I not feared for your life.”

To Arthur’s ears, Merlin sounded sincere. But Arthur would not be duped again.

“My life?” Arthur asked, prepared to doubt whatever Merlin told him.

“I needed to keep my secret so Uther wouldn’t burn me on the pyre,” Merlin said. “If he had done so, you’d have been left without my protection. You could have been killed a hundred times, had I not intervened.”

“Why am I so important?” Arthur asked, the flood of his emotions rising to the surface. “You could have used your magic to protect some other prince in some other kingdom.”

“Arthur,” Merlin said. “You’re destined to become the greatest king that Albion has ever known. If you die, the prosperous and peaceful kingdom that you are destined to create will never be. I couldn’t let that happen.”

“This doesn’t change anything, then,” Arthur said, his eyes flicking over Merlin’s face. He had heard his share of prophecies in his lifetime. He knew that they were only as important as they were believed to be. “You still live.”

“And I’ll protect you until the day I die,” Merlin said. “Whether you like it, or not.”

Even with Merlin’s misguided belief in this so-called great kingdom of Albion, Arthur still felt the pain from Merlin’s lack of trust. “And what about our friendship?” Arthur asked, speaking before he thought. “Another of your lies?”

Merlin stepped into Arthur’s space and rested his hands on Arthur’s shoulders. Arthur could feel Merlin’s breath on his face. His hands were warm where they touched Arthur’s tunic.

“Never,” Merlin said.

Arthur sighed. “How will I know you haven’t bespelled me into caring for you?” he asked, his voice breaking. “How do I know that you haven’t used your magic to serve your own selfish needs?”

Merlin bit his bottom lip. He seemed to be deep in thought. Finally he spoke again, “My eyes change colour when I use magic,” Merlin said.

Merlin found Arthur’s fists where they were tucked beneath Arthur’s arms. And yes, perhaps he had seen the flash of gold in Merlin’s eyes before, but not now. Without using any magic at all, as far as Arthur could tell, Merlin stroked Arthur’s hands with his fingers until his fists uncurled.

“I may have seen them before,” Arthur said, wanting to bat Merlin’s hands away, but knowing he wouldn’t do so as long as Merlin didn’t rely on magic for his response. His eyes remained as sparklingly blue as ever.

“Know that I have used my magic for you, Arthur,” Merlin said, his lips close. “Only for you.”

“How can you expect me to believe you?” Arthur asked, his voice a hoarse whisper. Without flinching away, he let Merlin take his hands.

“I only live to protect you, Arthur, to serve you. Whatever you wish,” Merlin said. “I would give to you.”

Arthur thought for a moment. “I don’t suppose you can bring the old Merlin back,” he said. “The Merlin who valued our friendship… the Merlin who had my trust.”

“Maybe not,” Merlin said. “But I can bring back the way I felt about you before my revelation made you so angry.”

Merlin’s fingers were warm on Arthur’s hands. The room had become so silent that Arthur scarcely dared breathe. Merlin turned his hands beneath Arthur’s so they were palm to palm.

Outside the tall windows of Arthur’s chambers, the snow fell. Huge, wet flakes stuck to the glass and gathered on the sills.

Merlin leaned forward and pressed his forehead to Arthur’s.

Although Arthur could see that Merlin’s eyes had not flared gold, the warmth of Merlin’s friendship filled his heart again. He understood Merlin’s explanation for why he had kept his magic a secret. Perhaps the prophecies about his reign were true. But for now, he liked the renewed closeness with Merlin. Arthur tilted his face so he could press a soft kiss to Merlin’s lips.

Arthur felt Merlin give a slight gasp before kissing him back. Merlin’s lips were as warm and silky as Arthur had dreamed they would be. Arthur smiled when Merlin sucked gently on Arthur’s bottom lip. Arthur took Merlin’s hands and drew them around his own waist, wrapping himself in Merlin’s embrace.

When he pulled back, Arthur saw the unguarded desire in Merlin’s eyes. He slid his hands along Merlin’s arms and upward until they framed Merlin’s face. He leaned forward, knowing another kiss wouldn’t be rebuffed, knowing that Merlin had his trust again.

Arthur’s entire world narrowed to Merlin’s lips on his, and their bodies aligned in an embrace. He let his hands roam over Merlin’s back, pulling him closer. His eyes fell closed as he let himself experience the pleasure of Merlin’s mouth, pressing kisses to his jaw, his throat, the sensitive skin below his ear. He tilted his head and groaned, his skin tingling as Merlin kissed him. His hands spread wide on the small of Merlin’s back to hold him in place.

Merlin drew back, breathless, and looking toward the window, said, “Look, Arthur, it’s snowing.”

Merlin’s hand closed on Arthur’s wrist and he led him to the window.

“It looks like it will be a snowy Yule, this year,” Arthur said, looking over the castle grounds, dusted in white.

“The Yule feast,” Merlin murmured, ducking under Arthur’s arm. “It’s only one week away.”

“Yes,” Arthur said. “My father told me he plans to appoint an official Court Sorcerer at the feast.”

Merlin wrapped his arms around Arthur’s waist. “Will you accompany me?” he asked. “I know you’ll be there anyway, because you won’t want to disappoint your father, but will you sit by my side?”

Arthur kissed the tip of Merlin’s ear. “I can think of no greater honour than to sit beside you when my father names you the official Court Sorcerer of Camelot,” he said.

“My magic,” Merlin continued tentatively, “Would you like me to show you some of it?”

“If you’d like to,” Arthur said. And for the first time, he felt giddy with excitement, wondering what Merlin could do with his power.

“Here,” Merlin said, stretching his arm over the courtyard. “Watch this.”

Arthur watched as Merlin’s eyes flashed gold. Above the courtyard, the sky swirled with orbs of light. They danced across the darkness of the night sky, illuminating the castle spires and the rooftops of the lower town.

Arthur held Merlin close. He knew that he had many things to learn about Merlin and his magic, but they could wait until later. Tonight, together, they watched the new snow falling.

The end
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