remy

Merlin fic: Fools of Us All [1/2]

Title: Fools of Us All
Summary: Merlin accidentally makes everybody in Camelot fall in love with him. Everybody except Arthur, that is.
Characters/Pairing: Merlin/Arthur
Rating: NC-17
Warnings/Spoilers: If the rating didn't tip you off, there are swears and sexytimes in this fic. Also, a very minor reference to 1x07 The Gates of Avalon.
Word Count: ~11,300
Notes: Much, much love and thanks to jandjsalmon for getting her beta skills all up in here. This is my first time writing smut, so I hope it's as good for you as it was for me.



Merlin was getting out of hand. Or rather, the people around Merlin were getting out of hand, and Arthur wondered how much his reputation as a benevolent king would suffer if he ended up decking everybody who dared to impose themselves on his -- well, Camelot's resident sorcerer.

Merlin was a little bit special, no doubt. Through no fault or much effort of his own, he tended to just charm the trousers off people everywhere he went. Cooks known to wield spoons like lances against trespassers plied Merlin with little cakes whenever he ambled through the kitchens; normally gruff knights smiled and waved at him when he walked past the training grounds; even restless destriers allowed him to pat their noses and ate things out of his hand without biting his whole arm off when he found himself in the area of the stables.

There was nothing particularly disingenuous about it; Arthur had long ago accepted this phenomenon as part and parcel of Merlin, who was as much oblivious to it as he was with most everything else, his head stuck happily in the clouds half the time.

Of late, however, Arthur had begun to find all the fawning over Merlin far more irksome than usual. Twice in as many days he'd passed little clusters of chambermaids shirking their duties in order to crowd around each other and titter about how gorgeous Merlin looked now that he'd taken to wearing a bit of a beard -- which had been Arthur's idea, thank you. It had been something of a dare, actually, because for some reason he'd been sure Merlin would look hilariously pervy and not kind of stunning instead. Not that Arthur had formed an opinion about it either way.

And he was fairly certain that a minor scuffle had broken out yesterday after he'd heard Kay ask Bedevere what he thought Merlin's favourite flower might be. The answer, to which neither of them had even come close, was that Merlin was allergic to most flowers and therefore had not done extensive enough studies to appoint any species his favourite. Unrelatedly, Arthur decided that both Kay and Bedevere were morons.

To further incur suspicion, just this morning he'd seen Merlin loping hurriedly across the courtyard with a courtier, a laundress and two stable hands in tow, at least one of whom appeared to have been spouting poetic verse -- in a rather loud, surly manner, to be sure, but as fast as Merlin had been running to wherever he was trying to get to, whispering romantic couplets in dulcet tones was probably out of the question. In any case, Arthur rather thought poetry was a massive insult to all of literature, and Merlin was right to run from it.

It had been manageable, maybe a little amusing even, when the attention paid to Merlin had stemmed from more of a motherly sort of nature, when people made comments like, what a precious little lamb, that Merlin, bless his soul, or oh, isn't he just a duck. But something had changed overnight, it seemed, and now people didn't want to ruffle his hair or give him nice things to eat, they just plain wanted him.

It was sick-making.

Arthur himself hadn't even had a chance to speak to Merlin for a few days, as he'd ensconced himself in his chambers for hours on end trying to wrap his head around the myriad affairs of state that needed his undivided attention, so whatever virulent strain of Merlin-related madness that had taken hold of most of his staff apparently had just passed him by.

He couldn't help but feel he'd missed something vitally important while he'd been busy looking out for the welfare of his kingdom. And it certainly wasn't helping that, if all the palaver was anything to go by, Merlin had apparently been swanning all over the castle grounds giving people the vapours, with said people coming out of their swoons just long enough to gush about how handsome and lovely and handsomely lovely Merlin was.

Arthur didn't even know what the sudden attraction was; Merlin looked pretty much the same as he'd ever had. When he wasn't conducting official business, he still had the air of a callow, impecunious country boy, clad in too-loose tunics and scuffed shoes and silly scarves, and when he did conduct official business, he wore overflowing robes and Arthur's old boots and a silly hat (Arthur's idea also), so improvements in the wardrobe department were only by mere degrees. Merlin was really just a patchwork of oddities, bits and pieces moulded and beaten into an unlikely whole by someone's misguided force of will; his ears were ridiculous, face too long, hair a total disaster, cheekbones too high, lips too full, eyes the startling blue of a perfect midsummer morning sky, and -- well, now Arthur was just getting off track.

The point was -- Arthur wasn't actually sure what the point was, but it was very displeasing nonetheless and left a weird, achy sort of feeling in the pit of his stomach when he thought about it for too long.

He was saved from further investigation into intestinal troubles when his chamber doors fired open and Merlin catapulted in, eyes bright and colour high on his cheeks. Arthur felt unreasonably glad to see him, so much so that he didn't even bother dredging up the whole spiel on knocking, which Merlin had memorised by now anyway and would occasionally parrot to him behind his back.

"Arthur," Merlin squeaked, his back braced against the door he'd flung shut, as though he was expecting someone to batter it down. Behind him, a dull thud and muffled "oof" filtered through from the outside of the chambers. "Help me."

Arthur pushed aside the papers he'd been reading for the past hour (and failing for most of that hour to digest any salient information). He looked up at Merlin with practised imperturbability. "You've been mentally unhinged for years; I think it's safe to say you're beyond help now."

"Not funny. I'm being hunted down!"

"What did you do?"

Merlin bristled, abandoning his position at the door. "Why are you so quick to assume I've done something wrong?"

"Have you?"

"Well," said Merlin, shifty.

Arthur rolled his eyes, nearly spraining himself from the workout. He pushed past Merlin and pulled open the door, and upon seeing the distressed faces of the two stable hands he'd spied in the courtyard earlier, barked, "You can't have him. Go away." Arthur was not fond of slamming doors, but he thought it was all right in this case and hoped it caused significant bruising. That would teach them to stalk his -- Camelot's resident sorcerer. He turned back to Merlin. "All right. Let's have it."

Merlin opened his mouth to confess and stopped short, suddenly looking at Arthur warily with a sidelong stare. "Hang on. Aren't you attracted to me?" he asked suspiciously.

It was such an abrupt change of subject and so pointed and penetrating a question that Arthur felt his heart undergo a minor implosion. "What? Where did you hear that? It's a lie. A filthy, horrible lie," he blurted, which might have also been a lie.

Merlin looked stunned for a moment, like he'd just run into a stone wall, and then mustered up a relieved laugh. "Oh, thank god, Arthur," he breathed. "I'm safe with you!"

"What -- Of course you are. I'd never let any harm come to -- Wait, are you hurt? Did someone hurt you?" Arthur asked, his heart rapidly patching itself together just in time to clench painfully at the thought of someone laying hands on Merlin. Immediately, he stepped forward to check Merlin for injuries and find out who he needed to have killed, but the idiot only laughed.

"No, no, nothing like that," Merlin said, his smile warm like the sun. "It's just that --" his smile faltered "-- er, I may have unleashed a fairly strong love potion on, er, you know, the castle?"

"What?" said Arthur, and it was really remarkable how many times he had to use that word when Merlin was involved. "Why?"

"It wasn't on purpose! I just -- fell."

"What were you doing with a love potion in the first place?" Arthur demanded, appalled that Merlin would resort to such a thing, and simultaneously wondering which comely maiden in Camelot he'd have to destroy so Merlin could safely direct his affections elsewhere. Not that Arthur had a particular direction in mind.

Merlin dragged a chair out from the table and flopped into it without asking for leave, the insolent whelp. "You know how you were complaining last week about how the marshal was having trouble getting your two best horses together for breeding because they hated each other on sight and were doing a lot of biting and kicking?"

"I recall remarking upon it in a calm and level tone, yes."

Wisely, Merlin chose to leave that statement alone and said, "Well, I wanted to help, so I did some research and modifications, and brewed up a potion that theoretically would have made the horses have, ah, amorous feelings towards one another."

"And?"

"Inconclusive?" Merlin ventured. "See, I was on my way to the stables a couple of days ago with the potion, and I tripped in the courtyard and spilled it all over myself, so I assume the horses are still plotting against each other."

"I see," said Arthur, glad he didn't have to destroy anyone after all but also just a little exasperated. "God, is that why everyone's been insane and mooning after you? I knew there was something horribly awry."

"Those flagstones are very uneven," Merlin said, slacking on the conversational pace.

"Merlin," Arthur groaned, for lack of anything better to say besides pointing out how thousands of other people managed to pass through the courtyard everyday without meeting their bloody ends. He knew Merlin. He'd seen Merlin rain down destruction on Camelot's enemies in the middle of a charred and bloodied battlefield, grapple with the ancient rules of the Old Religion and emerge the stronger, wield the balance of nature in his hands and willingly let that heady power go simply because he was better than that. Merlin was the most powerful sorcerer the world had seen in an age, and yet he still hadn't managed to master the basic fundamentals of walking in a straight line.

Merlin smiled awkwardly, shrugging.

"So, every person in the castle has been madly in love with you since?" Arthur clarified.

"Yeah. I suppose it would be flattering in a way, except for the part where it's just mostly really weird and awful," Merlin said slowly, his mouth gradually twisting downwards and face turning wan. "Do you know someone tried to grab my bum yesterday?"

"What? Who?" Perhaps he'd been too hasty in assuming no one needed to be eviscerated after all.

"The rat-catcher. Said I was his favourite," said Merlin forlornly, and nodded when Arthur made a disgusted noise at the mental image of the crusty old man coming on to Merlin. "That's just wrong. He hates everybody."

The last word was said in a bit of a wail, so Arthur, feeling somewhat compelled to soothe away the worry and make Merlin feel less poorly about his invention being so inadvertently successful and potent, temporarily set aside his plans for accidentally heaving the rat-catcher off the battlements. "It's not your fault," he said kindly, grasping at invisible straws. On second thought, "All right, so it is actually entirely your fault, but, erm -- I'm not throwing myself at you, so that's something, isn't it?"

Merlin shot him an inscrutable look, and then sighed quietly, as though disappointed, which was preposterous. "Yeah, you must have a constitution of steel."

Of course he did. Arthur hadn't spent years undergoing Merlin's torturously slow hands peeling clothes off him and gently washing grime off his skin after a hard day's work without figuring out how to batter the sensory overload into submission and layer tar over his heart every time Merlin smiled warmly at him in the process. Some ill-conceived, botched magic wasn't going to catch him out now. Though if he'd known beforehand that any advances could be chalked up to being ensorcelled, he might have -- well, no, he still wouldn't have. It wasn't befitting behaviour for a king, and he liked Merlin too much to do that to him besides.

Arthur dragged his focus back to the exigency at hand -- and it truly was a bit of a crisis; he couldn't have his best and only sorcerer constantly beset by lovesick, lust-filled fools, and if not for Merlin's health and sanity, then his own. He was fairly certain he'd have to start running people out of the castle soon if this didn't stop, and he really didn't want to since it wasn't their fault they couldn't help pawing at Merlin. "Merlin, if that happened two days ago and people are still chasing you now -- how long is the enchantment supposed to last?"

"No idea," said Merlin, his shoulders sagging. "I mean, it'll wear off eventually; all spells do. But I did make this one rather strong. It was for horses. They're quite large, you know. And given that I poured the entire batch down my front, it may be a while. I've been trying to work up some kind of antidote, but people keep barging into my rooms and shouting poetry at me, so it hasn't been going very smoothly."

"Well, you can't hide in here forever just waiting it out," Arthur said reasonably, at which point an insistent voice in his head piped up with, yes, he can, stop ruining everything, you want him to stay forever.

Arthur might have considered the thought a result of being in the very near vicinity of someone who'd just confessed to magically making everyone fall in love with him, but if he was being perfectly honest with himself -- which he tried never to do, because that way lay madness and also a little bit of heartache, and only an idiot of the greatest proportions would willingly subject himself to either of those things -- he knew it had nothing to do with the potion. The sad truth was that Arthur had been harbouring these kinds of horrible thoughts for years, and magic probably wasn't going to change that one way or the other. He told the voice to shut its gob, and put in a rush order for additional fortifications on his traitorous heart. He'd tar the sorry thing to hell and back if he needed to.

"-- pheromones," said Merlin.

"What?" said Arthur, realising rather belatedly that while he'd been trying to wrestle with his mental health, Merlin had been speaking all this time, and at length about -- something.

Merlin gave him a baleful glare. "I took two baths. Didn't help," he said, enunciating each word like Arthur was hard of hearing on top of being dim.

It was very irritating how Merlin didn't care what Arthur wore on his head, and was the only one of the court advisors who never hesitated to speak freely, whether he agreed with Arthur or not. Arthur rather liked that about him, which was also irritating. "Didn't anybody tell you you can't speak to your king that way?"

"You may have mentioned it. Probably while I wasn't paying attention."

"Yes, that narrows it down."

Merlin chuckled, crinkling his eyes into little half-moons. "This is a right mess. Sorry."

"Don't be," Arthur said at once. As far as Arthur was concerned, Merlin had already built up such a deep reserve of goodwill and magnanimity in everything he'd endured for Arthur's sake throughout the years that forgiveness was something he would never have to ask for.

And it was probably a little silly, but in a way, Arthur welcomed this odd predicament. It felt a bit like old times, when it was often just the two of them running off on inadvisable adventures, when they understood and trusted each other implicitly even if nobody else did, when his crown wasn't so heavy and Merlin hadn't yet bloodied his hands in war. He wasn't so foolish as to think that youth could be recaptured in any way, but in the intervening years between his taking on the mantle of kingship and where he and Merlin stood now, their friendship had suffered a little from all the duties they'd taken on over the years, leaving less and less time for each other and their occasionally stupid ideas of entertainment, and he often wondered if it was all irrevocably lost.

They were both remarkably busy most of the time now, what with keeping a kingdom running at full capacity, and sometimes Arthur wished there was nothing extraordinary about Merlin beyond being Merlin so that the promotion to court advisor wouldn't have been deserved or necessary, but he knew he was just being selfish when he thought it because without Merlin's magic, Camelot would have fallen ages ago. And loath as he was to admit it, Arthur missed having Merlin around all the time and getting underfoot, not just because it still threw him off that everything was done perfectly to his specifications now and there was nobody to berate about being useless and clumsy and Merlin.

"All right," Arthur said, making a snap decision. The kingdom could wait. "Pack your things."

"What?" said Merlin, and Arthur awarded himself a point for throwing him off kilter. "You're not sacking me, are you?"

"Why do you always think I'm going to sack you?"

"Well, you've done it before," Merlin said mulishly.

"Only twice," Arthur pointed out, "which I reneged on both times. And if I couldn't get rid of you then, when you were a lying, cheating, secret criminal sorcerer --" Merlin formed a rude hand gesture "-- I'm certainly not letting you go now. Put that away; you're not helping your case."

Merlin's lips quirked upwards. "Fine. What am I packing for, then?"

"Well, Merlin," said Arthur, relishing the feel of the name on his tongue, "we're going hunting."

"Aargh," said Merlin, drawing the groan out like the way some of their less talented bards chose to perform melodramatic death scenes. "Is unemployment still on the table?"

"No," Arthur said blithely. "You missed your chance. Besides, do you want an afternoon out of the castle and away from prying eyes and filthy hands and insipid poetry or not?"

"I see your point," Merlin conceded, propelling himself out of the chair and making for the door. "But I'm not killing anything. Or skinning anything. Or baiting large beasts with my apparently very expendable person."

"Like you ever did any of those things to begin with," said Arthur, because he hadn't taken Merlin along on hunting trips all those times under the impression that Merlin was skilled or helpful in any way.

In the beginning, he'd dragged Merlin out with him because he wanted to teach Merlin the ways of the wild. Then, sometimes it had been because Merlin had been impudent, and nothing dashed his spirits faster than crunching around in the undergrowth and being a decoy for big, scary things with lots of teeth. Eventually, though, Arthur had brought Merlin along just because it was boring without him there, and though Arthur went hunting a lot less frequently now, he still sort of missed Merlin gadding about and trying his stealthiest to shoo the cuter animals out of range whenever he did get the chance to put his crossbow to use. And now that Merlin sorely needed a respite from castle life, Arthur decided that here was a rare and perfect opportunity to get Merlin out there with him again, and felt rather pleased about it.

So, of course, it was doomed for failure from the start.

*

They emerged from the depths of the forest a short time later, Merlin perched precariously on his horse, looking slightly pallid and queasy, and Arthur riding just ahead and feeling a little put out. Trailing merrily alongside, a cavalcade of impossibly docile woodland creatures who seemed unaware that Arthur had just murdered several brace of their brethren and were perfectly content to follow in Merlin's wake, hoping for a nice pat or two and possibly a lifetime of happiness. Occasionally, Merlin looked back at them with a mixture of wretchedness and curiosity on his face and tried to tell them to go home, but they only chirped or hooted or squeaked at him affectionately.

"Oh, god," Merlin said.

"Would you like me to shoot them?" Arthur offered gallantly, eyeing their furry and feathered retinue with a mistrustful glare.

Thankfully, by the time Merlin and Arthur reached open road, the animals' natural instincts kicked in and told them it would be extremely unwise to leave the shelter of the forest just for the unrequited love of the sad, pale man with a nest atop his head, and disappeared into the green expanse in short order.

"Oh, god," Merlin said again as the last of the creatures bounded out of sight and the castle bloomed into view.

"Well, at least now we know your love potion works on animals, too, great and small."

"You could have left the bear alone," Merlin grumbled.

"What -- No, Merlin. I could not have left the bear alone. It was about to attack you. Just because you have a criminally soft spot for furry things doesn't mean they feel the same about you. I mean, non-magically, anyway. Also, it was a bear. They will eat you, as a rule."

"He was only trying to be friendly. He wasn't going to maul me or anything."

"Well, it wasn't going to give you a nice hug and let you on your way, either. I don't think you fully understand the logistics of a bear attack, Merlin. I saved your life; now stop moaning about the bloody bear," Arthur said, wanting a little more credit for effectively stopping a giant animal's mad rampage (which, admittedly, had been less 'mad rampage' than 'quiet lumbering', but it was the thought that counted, or so Arthur had been told). "Anyway, it'll live. I only just scratched it."

Merlin worked up a smile, like he knew Arthur specifically hadn't killed the thing on the spot because it would have upset him. Arthur himself was choosing to believe that he'd been merciful purely out of practicality; lugging a bear carcass home between just the two of them would have been a nightmare. And also he hated when Merlin got sulky at him.

They rode back in relative silence, with the occasional sparrow or thrush alighting on Merlin's shoulders, until Arthur decided that enough time had passed that he could rib Merlin about being just a dress away from larking through the forest and singing about his true love. When that didn't go over well, Arthur segued smoothly into awful, ribald jokes about bestiality, which Merlin countered by trying to push him off his mount, and in their ensuing bickering and mild violence, punctuated loudly with Merlin's boyish laughter and those disarmingly sweet grins Arthur was sometimes convinced Merlin reserved just for him, Arthur felt more content than he'd had in a long time.

*

"I wonder," Merlin said quietly, when they reached home and the stabled horses whinnied and stamped loudly at the sight of his return. His eyebrows knotted together briefly.

"What?" Arthur asked, dismounting.

Merlin worked at removing his bay's reins while it chewed gently at his hair, a harmless habit Merlin had never really bothered to quell. "It's just -- our horses. They haven't been acting any differently towards me," Merlin mused. He glanced at the other horses in their stalls. "Those ones are getting excited, and there was that whole debacle with the forest animals -- which we will never speak of again -- but our horses are fine."

Arthur frowned and thought on this for a moment as he watched Merlin absently pat at his horse. "Well, considering the circumstances, that's easy, I think. We've used these two horses fairly exclusively for years, so they already know you and love you. You know mine won't let anyone but you or me touch him," he said, and stroked his palfrey's mane appreciatively, as though unbridled testiness and bad manners were desirable qualities in a mount. "I don't think magic can force what's already there, can it? It wouldn't need to."

Merlin threw him a sharp, curious look and then blinked it away. "That can't be it," he said. "If that was true, then it would mean that you love m-- Mm. Well." He coughed, strained, and then pretended very badly to have trouble with the reins.

In the meantime, Arthur froze, his heart exploding in a horrific cascade of shrapnel and tar and denial. Unfortunately, none of those things managed to wreak any damage on the rest of his vital organs, so he remained alive and rooted to the spot while his mind worked furiously to calculate the exact formula that would send him back in time, so he could stop his idiot self from carelessly revealing things no one needed to know.

Which was possibly the dumbest idea he'd ever thought of, but, all things considered, he was a bit desperate, not to mention being completely distracted by his stomach churning spitefully with the awful, sickening knowledge that the reason why the magic was having no effect on him was because there was no way he could love Merlin more than he already did.

This, he remembered, was why he hated being honest with himself about Merlin. All it got him was an inordinate amount of gooey and inappropriate feelings that he had no idea what to do with, and a bad spot of indigestion besides. It was all extremely untoward. Arthur frowned very hard at his feelings, but they remained oblivious and stupidly in love.

"Yes. No. I mean, what?" Arthur tried to salvage, but only managed to painfully shame his elocution tutors instead.

"Nothing," said Merlin quickly. And for good measure, added, "Nothing. Ah, I'll just take these dead animals to the kitchens for you, shall I?"

"Right. Yes. Good," said Arthur, relief strongly tempered by an odd disappointment. He watched Merlin, red-faced, fumble with the carcasses, and tried to think of a discreet way to throttle himself.

*

Arthur retired to his chambers ready to throw himself into a fit of blinding misery. He couldn't fathom how people the world over managed to be in love and not want to drown themselves in boiling oil all the time. He was the king, for pity's sake; he shouldn't have to deal with such trifles. He had a kingdom to run and people to protect; he didn't have time for things like love, or Merlin, or Merlin's stupid, beautiful face. Or Merlin's dexterous hands, or devastatingly brilliant smile, or wretchedly pretty eyes, or the way he got excited and curious about little things, or his exasperatingly, wonderfully soft heart, and Arthur was seriously this close to punching his feelings in the face.

Distantly, outside the room, somebody slaughtered a cow. Arthur lifted his head and stepped out of his nice, warm, miserable wallow, shuffling over to the door to look into why his corridor had suddenly turned into an abattoir.

The first thing that came into view was Merlin dashing past and shouting, "No thank you!" over his shoulder. The second was a burly squire, whapping at a lute and severely assaulting every ear within a five-mile radius with what Arthur generously assumed to be a romantic ballad that he seemed to be making up on the spot.

"Oh, sweet Merlin, you are my destiny!" he belted with great bovine incompetence, lolloping past Arthur's door. "You make my knees weak and my hands go clammy!"

Arthur wrenched the lute out of his hands and flung it against the opposite wall, where it splintered and twanged sadly. "You," he ground out, glowering as hard as he could at the squire. "Take your infernal instrument and get out of my sight before I do the world a favour and remove your larynx with my bare hands."

The squire uttered a frightened peep and picked up the remains of his lute before beetling off in a hurry.

"Merlin," said Arthur to the corridor.

Merlin peered at him from around a corner. "Er, thanks," he said, coming forward. "Very menacing, sire."

"That was the idea. People ought to fear their king anyway. Which is yet another lesson you've failed spectacularly to learn."

Merlin laughed softly. "It's probably because I didn't have a very good teacher. Your people don't fear you, Arthur, not really. They serve you because they love you."

Arthur wasn't quite sure what to make of that, and certainly didn't want to read too hard into things for coded messages that may or may not exist, so instead he cleared his throat. "I see it was imprudent of me to leave you to your own devices. It hasn't even been twenty minutes since I saw you last and already people are composing epic songs about you."

"Between that and the scullions who've set up camp outside my rooms, I'm not sure I'll survive the week," Merlin said, rather macabrely.

These developments were slightly alarming; Arthur imagined a gang of scullions getting handsy with Merlin and wished he'd kept the lute so he could bash it over their heads. "All right, that's it. You're staying with me from now on," Arthur ordered. "Clearly, I'm the only sane person left in this entire castle, and I won't have you besieged in your own quarters like a treed beast."

"No, Arthur," Merlin sighed. "I caused this problem and I'll get it under control."

"Right. I've seen you running away from people at least three times today. I would hardly consider that getting things under control, Merlin," Arthur scoffed, and with a sweep of his hand, ushered Merlin inside his chambers. Closing the door behind him, Arthur added, "Besides, my presence seems to be something of a deterrent, so you should be safe here. And don't think you're imposing, either. This room's big enough for you and fifty of your idiot admirers."

Merlin went silent for a moment, brows furrowed and lips twisting, clearly having some kind of internal debate, which Arthur increasingly feared involved Merlin trying to think of the gentlest way to say, Oh, dear god, please no. He was about to loudly rescind the offer when Merlin, shrugging hesitantly, smiled and said, "Erm, okay."

One voice in Arthur's head cheered, while another called him an arrant masochist. Between the voices pitching up all the time and the fact that he'd just invited the object of his secret affections to spend, given the unknown duration of the potion, possibly the rest of his life with him in complete chastity, Arthur wondered if, in centuries to come, historical annals would pin his legacy down to just four simple words: King Arthur -- totally deranged. He'd have to make sure he was extra nice to Geoffrey from now on for additional insurance that future generations wouldn't look back on him in mocking hilarity.

They passed the rest of the day ankle-deep in work since kingdoms didn't stop running just because their king was hopelessly infatuated with his former manservant, and aside from a non-topical, heated discussion over who had saved the other's life more times (Merlin won, smugly, and wouldn't let Arthur count the bear attack), the afternoon sailed by fairly uneventfully. Arthur ordered a couple of servants to haul in and make up an extra bed, and glared daggers at them whenever they tried to curry Merlin's favour, which seemed to amuse and mortify Merlin at once. It turned his cheeks a becoming shade of pink, which Arthur tried very hard not to notice, and then silently pleaded with the floor to crack open and swallow him up when noticing was the only thing he seemed to be capable of doing.

At dinner, since a cauldron of boiling oil wasn't readily available, Arthur attempted to drown himself in wine, in the hopes that annihilating his liver would be distracting enough that it would put him off the fact that Merlin was spending the night in the most platonic way possible and that making Merlin stay with him was probably the stupidest thing he'd ever done to himself, especially considering he might have to keep this up for who knew how long. On his sixth cup, Arthur silently revised his historical record to: King Arthur -- severely mental; death by raging alcoholism.

Incidentally, debating with himself over whether he wanted to be known for the rest of time as 'severely mental' or, more succinctly, 'completely fucking insane' was the last thing he remembered before a shaft of sunlight blazed holes in his eyeballs. Arthur awoke to a pounding headache and the suspicion that a vole had mistakenly crawled into his mouth sometime during the night and spontaneously combusted on his tongue.

"Arthur."

"Nngh," said Arthur, praying for the sweet release of death.

"Arthur." This entreaty was accompanied by a shake of his shoulders, and then a light slap across his cheeks.

"If you do that again, I will personally chop your head off and serve it to my dogs," was what Arthur wanted to say, but it came out more like, "Snnx."

"Oh, for the love of --" Merlin bodily pushed Arthur up and out of bed, directing him with some difficulty to the bath chambers, and stood him in front of a basin of clear, cold water. "Wash," he said mildly. "God, Arthur."

"Stop shouting," said Arthur, and obediently splashed water on his face, while Merlin dragged a damp towel over his neck. It left him feeling only minutely better for a brief moment before a procession of drummers started up a rousing march across his brain. "I'll shower you with gold, Merlin, if you kill me now."

"I told you not to drink so much," Merlin admonished, and disappeared back into the bedroom to give Arthur some privacy now that he was at least conscious enough to make the rest of his morning toilet without risk of falling down.

After torpidly getting through his usual morning routine, cleaning his teeth with a little extra vigour and thoroughly rinsing the vole's remains out of his mouth, Arthur returned to find the windows considerately shuttered against the bastard sun, and Merlin sitting cross-legged on his bed with a pillow laid across his knees and an overly polite, flourished gesture for Arthur to lie down, which made Arthur laugh in spite of his condition.

Arthur did as he was told without argument, busy trying to think up valid reasons to get all percussion instruments permanently outlawed, and almost purred aloud when Merlin's fingers descended upon his scalp, gently soothing his ills away. As the thumping drumbeats faded away into oblivion, Arthur smiled and sighed, wondering how much offence Merlin might take if he demoted him to court masseur (whose services nobody but Arthur would be allowed to enjoy ever).

Merlin's upside-down face appeared over his head. "Better?" he asked.

"Much," Arthur said gratefully, and made no move to get out of the nice cradle of Merlin's lap. He felt the slight vibration of a chuckle rumble through Merlin's body as Merlin's fingers moved downward to work the stiffness out of his shoulders, deep warmth suffusing his skin, which he wasn't sure was magic or just Merlin.

They painted such a picture of domestic bliss that Arthur's heart felt fleetingly happy before being crushed by the slap of reality that told him in no uncertain terms that none of this was real, that Merlin was probably only doing this to be kind, and that Arthur was seriously delusional if he thought this was going anywhere. It was enough to drive a man to drink. Again.

Which was exactly what Arthur did later that night, after a day of long walks with Merlin along lesser-used roads where only a few birds found them and declared Merlin's bony shoulders a perfect perch; intense scowling at anyone who dared make cow eyes in Merlin's direction; ordering squads of servants to clear out the abundance of dried flowers and love letters that had piled up outside Merlin's rooms; poring over dusty books to see if they couldn't find some way of making Merlin absolutely repellent to the rest of the population.

The last clear image he had was of Merlin frowning at him, and the last coherent thought he recalled was that history might also celebrate him as King Arthur -- the saddest and most pathetic man who ever lived.

There was also a vague, swimming vision of Merlin smiling sadly while sweeping the damp fringe off his forehead and cupping his cheek, but that one obviously could be ascribed to drunken hallucination. Obviously.




Continue to Part 2/2

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King Arthur -- severely mental; death by raging alcoholism.

Hahaha! And the vole, okay, the VOLE. That's hilarious. :D

Edited at 2009-07-13 05:43 am (UTC)
THAT IS SO BRILLIANT I CAN'T EVEN PROCESS IT FULLY.

Everything, the sweetness of Arthur, the fact that he clearly misses having Merlin for himself all the time, Merlin with scruff (because seriously it just made the image of Colin doing Shakespeare flood in my mind) and just the way you write it, how Arthur is not jelaous, no ofcourse never jealous but just royally dismayed and just...this, really.

My fav:
Arthur wondered if, in centuries to come, historical annals would pin his legacy down to just four simple words: King Arthur -- totally deranged. He'd have to make sure he was extra nice to Geoffrey from now on for additional insurance that future generations wouldn't look back on him in mocking hilarity.
DID YOU TAKE A WRONG TURN SOMEWHERE BECAUSE YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY BE TALKING ABOUT MY FIC. But if it so happens you are, thank you very, very much! :)

Bearded!Colin is a total kink of mine, so I try to work it in as often as possible, heh. And Arthur was just so much fun to write here, being all silly and at a loss and frustrated at having feelings. *pets him*
What a beautiful first part, hon!

I really like it^^

I like how funny it is (and poooor Merlin has to run away from scaring admirators) and much you succeeded to show us how much Arthur is suffering.

Beautiful!♥
if I couldn't get rid of you then, when you were a lying, cheating, secret criminal sorcerer --" Merlin formed a rude hand gesture "-- I'm certainly not letting you go now. Put that away; you're not helping your case."

<33333 FOR THIS.
:D I don't think Arthur will ever let that go; he'll still be harping on it when they're old and grey and eating through straws.
So to make feedback easier on myself, I'm keeping a running tab of my thoughts:

This line: Immediately, he stepped forward to check Merlin for injuries and find out who he needed to have killed --> D'awwwwww! Just.....AWWWW!!! SO PAINFULLY SWEET!! Also, I loved how Arthur kept going back to that idea of needing to have someone killed for coming onto Merlin, LOL!

Oh my goodness the paragraph about how Merlin couldn't walk straight cracked me right up! That is SO Merlin, LMAO ;D

Totally loved the whole sacking/unemployment conversation! Hilarious ;)

This melted my heart just a little: the reason why the magic was having no effect on him was because there was no way he could love Merlin more than he already did. --> Poor Arthur...so in denial! But just AWWWWWWW!!!! Seriously, you're killing me here ;D

Hahaha, Arthur getting drunk just to avoid thinking about how Merlin was staying with him. Too amusing and I totally can see Arthur doing that. He likes to deny things a lot, me thinks ;)

Gah! I need to sleep. So, so, so badly! I will finish tomorrow, I promise :D :D THIS IS AMAZING!!! :D
I love when people do this and should do it more often myself, because it's always really nice to know what bits resonate with people, so thank you for pointing out what you especially liked!

The boys were great fun to write, particularly Arthur and his endless well of denial and violent tendencies.
I completely loved both parts of this. Giggled idiotically all the way. Please keep writing.
Merlin was the most powerful sorcerer the world had seen in an age, and yet he still hadn't managed to master the basic fundamentals of walking in a straight line.

...people keep barging into my rooms and shouting poetry at me, so it hasn't been going very smoothly.

Oh, God. And then all the animals were in love with Merlin too, and Arthur was writing his legacy of deranged alcoholism and it became apparent that trying to quote my favourite bits would be essay-like and weird at this point. I think it's clear that my love for this fic can no longer be contained within any few quotes, but must in fact encompass the whole amazing darn thing. And it's only part 1!
This was an absolutely delightful story - such a perfect mix of funny and endearing and yes, they so deserve the happily ever after! Thank you for sharing this gem!
Aw, thank you so much! It makes my heart happy to think that they grow old together, probably bickering all the way. :) Thanks for taking the time to read and comment; I'm really pleased you enjoyed it!
This whole thing made me smile so hard. :D

There was nothing particularly disingenuous about it; Arthur had long ago accepted this phenomenon as part and parcel of Merlin, who was as much oblivious to it as he was with most everything else, his head stuck happily in the clouds half the time.

*g* I don't know why, this makes me think of the cast diaries and Bradley 'complaining' about everyone loving Colin. And I kind of hope that Merlin never really grows up; he's too adorable with his head in the clouds.

"What? Where did you hear that? It's a lie. A filthy, horrible lie," he blurted, which might have also been a lie.

Oh, Arthur. I have no words.

Merlin was the most powerful sorcerer the world had seen in an age, and yet he still hadn't managed to master the basic fundamentals of walking in a straight line.

I shake my head in pity while simultaneously collapsing into giggles.

Merlin chuckled, crinkling his eyes into little half-moons.

I am a complete, complete sucker whenever someone mentions Merlin's half-moon eyes. A sucker, I tell you. ♥

In the meantime, Arthur froze, his heart exploding in a horrific cascade of shrapnel and tar and denial...Arthur frowned very hard at his feelings, but they remained oblivious and stupidly in love.

*weeps* I feel so bad for him that I want to pick up all the bits of his heart and give them to Merlin to fix. I think Arthur should listen to that voice of his and those pesky feelings a little more , because clearly they have the right of it.

...wondering how much offence Merlin might take if he demoted him to court masseur (whose services nobody but Arthur would be allowed to enjoy ever).

Ohhhh...I...uh...would not object to this. *incoherent*

...after a day of long walks with Merlin along lesser-used roads...

That's ridiculously romantic, taking long walks together! I know Arthur wanted to hold Merlin's hand. *g* The only people they can fool is themselves, of this I'm certain. :3

Merlin smiling sadly while sweeping the damp fringe off his forehead and cupping his cheek...

Poor, tortured Arthur. He breaks my heart with his self denial and destructiveness! ;_; *hugs him*
Yay, thank you! *hugs your comment* I love it when people take the time to point out all the things that resonated with them.

Icon used is the reason why I wrote about Merlin's half-moon eyes. :D
"That can't be it," he said. "If that was true, then it would mean that you love m-- Mm. Well." He coughed, strained, and then pretended very badly to have trouble with the reins.

I just squee'd for the adorable awkwardness.

King Arthur -- the saddest and most pathetic man who ever lived.

BAWWWWW! I want to hug Arthur so much right now. I mean, even more than usual. *goes off to read part 2 gleefully*
:D
"And he was fairly certain that a minor scuffle had broken out yesterday after he'd heard Kay ask Bedevere what he thought Merlin's favourite flower might be. The answer, to which neither of them had even come close, was that Merlin was allergic to most flowers and therefore had not done extensive enough studies to appoint any species his favourite. Unrelatedly, Arthur decided that both Kay and Bedevere were morons."

I love Arthur and his little rants. By “unrelatedly” does he mean “because they want Merlin”?

"what a precious little lamb, that Merlin, bless his soul, or oh, isn't he just a duck. "

You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if Merlin had nightmares about being called a duck and people pinching his cheeks, then jerking awake only to turn Arthur into a duck. :P Maybe that’s how Arthur found out about his magic.


"You've been mentally unhinged for years; I think it's safe to say you're beyond help now."

Such an Arthur line

"Those flagstones are very uneven,"

Perhaps, Merlin, your feet are uneven…I think I’m channeling the prince…

"Do you know someone tried to grab my bum yesterday?"

.....And it was me

"You may have mentioned it. Probably while I wasn't paying attention."

Which means Arthur, the king, or gaius said it

"Thankfully, by the time Merlin and Arthur reached open road, the animals' natural instincts kicked in and told them it would be extremely unwise to leave the shelter of the forest just for the unrequited love of the sad, pale man with a nest atop his head, and disappeared into the green expanse in short order."

Sad, pretty, pale man

"Oh, sweet Merlin, you are my destiny!"

Not according to the dragon on the basement!!
Delightful story, especially as rendered by the mighty Fayjay in audiobook format, which is how I listened to it. I love all the little lines such as "The flagstones are very uneven." Just killed me! Your Arthur is a stitch. Now I'm curious what other good stuff you've written...
Thanks muchly! She did a fabulous job with it, didn't she? I had a blast writing Arthur in this, so I'm really glad to hear you had fun with his antics :) There's a 'Merlin fic masterlist' tag over on the right if you're interested in more fic! Thanks again for your comments!
I liked how Arthur misses the old days and is trying to bring them back.That is so sweet.He's so in love.
The title bits were so funny.