Thunder sucks ass Part 2(final part)
Merlin looks after his reluctant (but not really) knights, and the three of them settle into a routine.
It’s when Merlin wakes the next morning, in those few minutes before Arthur and Leon stir, that he finally pieces together in his mind the two knights’ odd behaviour. If it had just been Arthur, he would have written it off as one of those odd, irrational quirks that people sometimes have. Like how he can’t stand the feel of velvet under his fingertips, or the shade of Arthur’s one and only purple tunic (that’s been pushed to the back of the wardrobe). But both Arthur and Leon? That’s a pattern.
He tries to think about it logically. He knows they aren’t... scared. Thunder, lightening, gale force winds and pelting rain, none of it frightens them. It puts them on edge, it makes them restless, ready for a fight. It makes Arthur do things like stand in the tactically safest place, or suddenly become a good chess player (though he would never mention that line of reasoning to Arthur, who seems to be of the opinion that he’s winning on talent alone, and not because Merlin is letting him). Crashes of thunder have the Prince reach for a dagger, and Leon sit as still as possible as battle strategies and escape plans blast through his brain in time with the flashes of lightening outside.
It’s a few moments before dawn that the epiphany moment come: The training.
Day in, day out, since they were old enough to understand not to run their fingers along the sharp edge of a blade. Constant vigilance, constant preparedness. The ability to jump into a fight at a moment’s notice, in less than a second, has been drilled into them for years.
He sighs when it all clicks into place, stroking a hand over each of their heads. No surprise they hate storms. He imagines it’s similar to that moment, that drop in your stomach when you realise you’re about to fall out of bed, or your chair is tipping back... except it lasts hours, except it’s not just bumping your head, it’s needing to launch into a fight for your own, and maybe someone else’s, life. He imagines being in a looping circle of fight or flight for hours at a time can be rather exhausting.
He makes a mental note to keep an eye on the other knights when they get back to Camelot, just to prove his theory, before he realises that the blondes in his lap are stirring. Merlin decides that, given how hard the last day or so has been for them, he’ll give them the dignity of waking up before him; he leans his head back against the wall and closes his eyes, forcing his muscles to relax and his breathing to deepen. They move their weight from him simultaneously, and Merlin’s hands, previously resting on their heads, fall limply to his lap. The servant can feel the tense atmosphere, but he manages to keep still and hold in his laughter. That is, until Arthur furiously, though slowly, whispers across the bed to Leon:
“Not a word, Sir Leon.” and Leon replies with the equally whispered:
“On my honour as a knight, I’ll never mention this again.”
Merlin snorts before he opens his eyes, watching the pink rise up their necks and blossom over their cheeks as he laughs silently into his hand:
“Considering.... considering I’m not a knight, do I have to make the same promise? Or can I go home and tell everyone that Camelot’s biggest and baddest like falling asleep with their heads rested against another, a hand stroking their hair?”
Leon straightens his back and clears his throat, looking away, but Arthur doesn’t even hesitate before he grabs a pillow from the other bed and whips it around to smack Merlin across the face with it. The servant falls to the side, holding his hands up in surrender but still laughing as he wheezes out:
“I’m joking, I’m joking! There’s no shame, everyone loves a cuddle every once in a while.-”
Arthur lifts the pillow again but Merlin just furiously shuffles back:
“-I wont tell anyone, I swear! I’m not a knight and I don’t suppose I have much honour, but I won’t tell anyone!”
Arthur narrows his eyes, but the weak smile that Merlin catches on Leon’s face out of the corner of his eye has the servant decide that he doesn’t quite mind being hit with the pillow once more. The Prince, however, drops it back on the other bed as he hums disbelievingly. He straightens his back, pulling his clothes to sit neatly as he steps purposefully to the window. It’s barely dawn out, but the storm had calmed to a normal shower, as opposed to a drowning downpour. He purses his lips before turning back to the other:
“This is likely the best weather we’re going to get for a few days, we’d best head back to the city as quickly as we can, in case it gets worse again. Pack up, I want to be gone as soon as possible.”
Leon nods immediately, having made the rapid switch from friend to subject in the space between Arthur turning away from the window, and beginning to speak. Merlin rolls his eyes, but dutifully stands up and begins packing away, starting with the chess set and book he’d left out the previous night. Over the course of the next few minutes, both knights catch Merlin’s eye and give him a small, appreciative nod, which he returns with soft smiles and rolled eyes.
So bloody macho.
The next storm that hits Camelot hits big.
The previous two had barely lasted half a day; the heavy winds blew the bulk of the thunder and lightening over the city after only a few hours, and the surrounding rain only lasted three days at most. It gets to day five of the constant thunder when Merlin starts seriously wondering about whether he could do something to magically stop it. Merlin himself is loving it; he’s spending an hour outside every morning, just standing in the downpour and feeling wonderful about everything. But keeping Arthur busy during the day is constant, hard work, and staying with him, playing chess or planning speeches or helping him train (in his room, with the table pushed to the side) or or or until he’s tired enough to sleep is... exhausting.
That, as well as the fact that he’s developed a habit of popping into Leon’s room on the way to his own bed, only to find the man sat stiffly at his table, staring intensely at his picked at dinner and bouncing his leg like his life depends on it, flinching at every howl of wind and flash of lightening and crash of thunder. Which only ever ends in Merlin sticking around for an hour or two, helping him memorise battle strategies or planning training sessions for the rookie knights.
It gets to the point of Gaius tutting at the bags under his eyes, and Gwen and Lady Morgana independently pointing out how exhausted he looks for him to give in and decide that something has to change. He loves storms, he really does, but now Merlin knows how much his friends have been suffering, he feels guilty for all those hours spent in the middle of nowhere staring at the sky. He promised himself a long time ago that he’d never stop loving storms, and he isn’t going to let this be the thing that breaks that promise.
It’s the seventh day—Merlin has every faith that Uther will start screaming accusations of sorcery any day now—when the servant decides to, once again, give up on coming up with anything clever.
Normally, Arthur demands that Merlin doesn’t take his dinner tray back to the kitchens until he leaves later in the night, so the Prince can avoid being alone (not that he’d admit that) but Merlin insists this evening; he makes up some lie about the smell making him feel ill, and darts off before Arthur can argue. He hurries down the corridor, knowing he only has a short amount of time before Arthur gets antsy (or anstier) and follows him, so he rushes into his own room before even the kitchen. He rifles through his wardrobe and pulls out the ever boring Oresteia Trilogy, grinning to himself before darting down the steps and out of the chamber again, throwing barely a glance in the direction of Gaius’ raised eyebrow.
Next, he does run down to the kitchens, dumping the tray and sprinting off before Cook can yell at him for... something or other; though he doesn’t head back in the direction of The Prince’s chambers just yet. He makes a detour, stopping outside of Leon’s room and hiding the book under his shirt before knocking and entering. Leon is in the same position Merlin normally finds him in, though instead of smiling, he frowns in confusion:
“Merlin? You’re here a little early, is Arthur alright?!”
Merlin nods and gives him a small smile, knowing that the man was already on edge enough; leading him to believe something was wrong would not help the situation:
“Yeah, yeah everything’s fine. He did ask for you though.”
Leon’s frown deepens and he quickly stands, grabbing a sword and heading to the door. Merlin steps in his way, carefully taking the sword from his white-knuckled grip and smiling up at him bemusedly as he places the blade softly back on the table:
“You won’t need that, I promise. No need to panic, Leon.”
Leon flushes slightly, but his embarrassment is quickly forgotten at the next crash of thunder. Merlin looks away quickly, not wanting to make the knight feel even more humiliated (because he knows that saying “there’s nothing to be ashamed of” would make it a hundred times worse) and heads out into the corridor, finally making his way back to the Prince’s chambers. They make quick time; Merlin doesn’t bother trying to make small talk, though he does almost consider asking Leon to recite a plan for situation B4-2 (twice as many bandits as knights, with a long range element).The only thing that stops him is the fact that he knows that, once Leon gets going, it will be considerably harder to get him to stop, and that’s not tonight’s aim.
Arthur stands abruptly, clearly annoyed, when Merlin pushes Leon through the door first:
“For Gods’ sake, Merlin, I told you to do that whe- Leon?-”
Leon copies Arthur’s frown of confusion, bowing briefly before standing to tense attention:
“-Is everything ok??”
Leon’s posture falters and his frown deepens as Arthur begins to panic slightly, but Merlin turns back around from locking the door behind him, a guilty-looking smile on his face:
“I... may have lied. I wanted you here, not Arthur.”
The two knights turn on him with raised eyebrows, and Merlin can tell that Arthur is about to throw something, so he takes an extra few steps into the room and pulls the book from it’s hiding place:
“Look, I don’t mind spending time with either of you. I don’t mind... looking after you, but I’m exhausted. I’m getting maybe three hours of sleep a night because I have to stay up to make sure you two are looking after yourselves, and then toss and turn myself because my room has three external walls and is, frankly, freezing. So we’re going to try something else.”
Both of them stare at him with wide eyes, but Arthur is the first to stutter out a response:
“Merlin, you don’t... you haven’t been... we do not need looking after-”
Merlin’s face drops into something deadpan:
“Arthur. It’s almost midnight. If there wasn’t a storm over us now, I’d have been asleep hours ago. As it is, if things don’t change, I’d be in here for another hour at least, and then spend two in Leon’s room, and another two in my room before I finally get some sleep. I’m exhausted.”
Arthur frowns, pulling himself to his full height and letting a little of his embarrassed anger show:
“Well it’s not like we asked you to do that. If you want to be dismissed, then go, we don’t need you to-”
Merlin rolls his eyes and ignores him, interrupting his little pratty speech to wander purposefully over to the pile of furs and pillows and blankets in front of the fire. He leans against an armchair, and makes sure there’s plenty of room around him:
“And exactly when have I ever given you the impression that I would be able to sleep well whilst knowing people that I care about are suffering? Come sit down you idiots, it worked perfectly well last time, and frankly, I’m out of patience. There is nothing wrong with you, there’s no need to hide it, there’s no need to be an arse about it.-”
He turns around to glare half-heartedly at the two shocked men, but his face and voice quickly fall into something softer:
“-You’re my friends, will you please just let me help?”
Arthur is the first to crack this time, sagging slightly and running a hand through his messy hair before nodding, almost to himself, and walking towards Merlin’s nest, dragging his socked feet along the floor. In moments such as these, it’s impossible to miss that the constant adrenaline and lack of sleep have been weighing the Prince down. He sits down heavily, glad for the fact that he was already in comfortable sleep clothes and had taken his boots off, wrapping himself in a blanket and turning back to Leon. The other knight looks nervous, like he isn’t quite sure if he’s... invited. There’s a difference between being forced to stay in an inn, where he was going to have to share a bed anyway, and getting comfy in the Prince’s chambers.
Arthur just gestures him over with a nod of his head before turning to the fire and slouching against Merlin’s side, his head on the servant’s shoulder as he stares into the flames, flinching only a little at the next round of thunder. Leon hesitates for just a moment more, but Merlin calls his name softly, and that in conjunction with the booming outside has him quickly toeing off his boots and shuffling over to the hearth, settling on Merlin’s other side and leaning back against the chair.
Merlin smiles to himself softly, fidgeting slightly to make himself comfortable and resting his head atop Arthur’s before opening the book where he’d left their last bookmark. He reads quietly, and though it takes longer for the two knights to drop into restful sleeps this time, he doesn’t mind, turning pages until the fire has burnt down to embers before he sets the book aside and pulls another blanket over the three of them. He curls his legs under himself, moving slowly so he doesn’t wake anyone as he nestles into Leon’s side, resting an arm over Arthur’s back to ensure he doesn’t slip away during the night.
He thinks that maybe it’s silly, how much he loves this, but really, it’s mutually beneficial. Arthur and Leon get to sleep easier, get to calm down, get at least a few hours of peace, and Merlin gets to relax without having to worry about someone trying to kill the Prince when he’s not looking. Plus the warmth of two knights who burn like furnaces definitely keeps him comfy during the night. That’s nice too.
When Arthur wakes the next morning, he’s curled up on his own in a nest of bed-themed detritus, with a crick in his neck that he doesn’t quite mind.
The thunder is still going, but he finds it doesn’t bother him so much, and he stretches out like a cat, clicking his spine and knees and neck and ankles and wrists and fingers in all the right places as he groans. He can hear someone shuffle around the chambers, and it disturbs him how unworried he is. Because he knows it’s Merlin, and Merlin is nothing to be worried about.
He allows himself a few more moments of warmth before he stands, taking one of the blankets with him as he shuffles out to the centre of the room, eyeing Merlin with puffy eyes and a slow brain:
“Did Leon slip out last night? I think I might have fallen asleep first this time, I didn’t notice him leave.”
Merlin hums, and Arthur frowns slightly when his brain kicks into gear and he realises that, despite having his back to him, and despite Arthur’s incredibly quiet movements, Merlin had known he was there:
“Hmm, no. He only left about an hour ago. I know you’ve got a free morning so I left you to sleep for a little while, but you do have lunch with your father in about an hour. Other than that, it’s just paperwork for the day, unless you have something else in mind?-”
Arthur nods in understanding, before frowning slightly and shaking his head, wondering over to the changing screen, where Merlin has laid out his clothes on a chair:
“Ok, uh... no, paperwork is fine. I can’t be bothered to sort out anything else.”
Merlin hums again, turning around from whatever he’s sorting on Arthur’s desk and gesturing to the clothes. Arthur shakes his head, deciding he can manage perfectly fine this morning; secretly, it’s because he thinks he’s too tired and warm and fuzzy to let Merlin get that close to him without doing something stupid like kiss him. Merlin nods in understanding (Arthur hopes to God it’s not real understanding) and turns his gesturing hand to the desk:
“I’ve gone through most of it, sorted it into things that need doing today, things that need doing this week, and things that have to happen at some point in the next few months. I’ve taken the liberty of signing your name on a bunch of things as well, but if you want to double check anything, I haven’t sent them off yet.”
Arthur changes quickly, thankfully, and wanders out from behind the changing screen a few moments later, nodding and sending a small smile his servant’s way:
“Thank you, Merlin, for this and for... last night. You were right, I suppose, we were making things more difficult than they had to be.-”
Merlin beams, but the Prince doesn’t give him a chance to respond, he just clears his throat and walks purposefully to the desk, waving a hand towards the window:
“-Have you gone and done your... thing, yet?”
Merlin’s face falls into a frown and his movements stutter as Arthur passes by him to sit down:
“Oh, uh... no. No, I haven’t had time, and I... didn’t want to leave you.”
Arthur pauses momentarily, but doesn’t look up from the pile of papers in front of him. He begins moving again after only a few moments, his response sounding like an odd mix of reproachful and bashful, though the pink tips of his ears have Merlin believe that the scales are tipped more towards the bashful end:
“You could have gone, I would have been fine, Merlin. I don’t need you babysitting me every second of the day.-”
Merlin grins and opens his mouth to say something, but Arthur quickly looks up, pointing the quill in his hand at the servant’s face with a stern expression:
“-Not a word, Merlin. I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself. Go.”
Merlin’s smile turns soft, and Arthur looks away before stupid, blush-y thoughts enter his mind. The dark-haired man blusters around the room for a few more minutes, poking some more life into the fire and re-shutting the curtains again in an effort to drown out a little of the noise crashing through the Kingdom outside; he casts an appraising eye over the room before moving towards the door and settling an unreadable expression on the Prince:
“I’m sure I won’t be long, less than an hour I’d imagine. Can’t have you babysitter-less.”
Arthur just huffs and shakes his head, fighting to keep the smirk off his face as he continues to not look up. Merlin giggles quietly and runs from the room, shutting the door behind him with a soft click.
That night, Arthur stops himself from questioning why Merlin leaves his chambers with the dinner tray early.
Though Leon does look surprised to see him at such a time again, looking up from his thankfully empty plate with a small frown:
He seems less panicked than he had the night before, which Merlin smiles at as he raises the book and waves it in Leon’s direction:
“Come on, if we start early we might finish tragedy number one tonight.”
Leon bites his lip nervously and straightens his back, doing nothing more than blinking at the next crash of thunder:
“Are you... sure? Did Arthur... is he ok with... this?”
Merlin rolls his eyes and walks closer, settling a soft hand on Leon’s shoulder and giving him a sympathetic smile:
“Yes, and if not then I’d just force him anyway. So come on.”
The servant pulls him up and doesn’t wait for a response before he begins dragging the knight towards the door by the hand; though Leon gives in pretty quickly. He’s still obviously nervous, worried about being rejected or laughed at, even though he knows Merlin would never, and Arthur is in the exact same boat as him.
They make it to the Prince’s chambers in record time, and Leon is shocked to see Arthur already sat in front of the fire, waiting. He seems nervous, almost as nervous as Leon, but when he turns to see the two of them walking through the door, hand in hand (maybe he glances down at their joined hands, but if he does, he clears his throat and looks up again quickly), he immediately relaxes, and so does Leon. The Prince frowns playfully at Merlin:
“Took you long enough, come on, I want to see if what’s-his-name dies.”
Merlin raises an eyebrow and laughs, but drops Leon’s hand and casts an appraising eye around the room. In the five minutes he’s been gone, the Prince has managed to draw the curtains, light most of the candles (he’s only missed one or two, bless him), turn down the bed, (though whether it would be used or not was still in question), and get the fire going. The servant nods, satisfied, as Leon wanders over to the pile of blankets, settling with only a foot or so of space between himself and Arthur. Merlin follows just behind him, standing in front of the two of them with his hands on his hips and his eyebrow raised:
“I know I'm skinny but I’m a little broader than that, shuffle over.”
Leon shuffles with a quiet apology, Arthur shuffles with red cheeks.
Merlin sits in the gap the moment he’s able, and takes the two of them leaning their heads on his shoulders as a prompt to start, opening the book and reading in a low, soft voice.
The ninth day of the storm, and the third night since the three men started their new routine, Leon is ready and waiting when Merlin turns up to fetch him. He’s in softer clothes this time; not sleep clothes, because he still had to walk to the Prince’s chambers and then back again at some point early in the morning, but a loose, summer tunic and trousers, and shoes that are easily taken on and off.
When they get back to the room, Arthur is sat on the near side of the bed instead of in front of the fire. At Merlin’s questioning look and Leon’s carefully hidden bewilderment, Arthur smirks slightly:
“I figured we shouldn’t force Leon, as the old man among us, to continue to sleep on the floor.”
Merlin snorts in amusement and clambers up onto the bed without further prompting, sitting in the middle with his back against the wall like he had all those weeks ago. Leon opens his mouth and widens his eyes as the other two laugh, throwing his arms up:
“I’m only six years older than you, I’m not even thirty yet!”
Merlin just shakes his head with a grin on his face and pats the space besides him:
“Come on, Grandpa, bed time.”
Leon huffs but dutifully joins the other two on the bed. He’s grumpy enough to refuse to look at them and cross his arms sulkily, but not grumpy enough to leave any space between himself and Merlin, and they sit pressed against each other, like normal. The servant makes grabby hands at the book he’d left sat on Arthur’s bedside table that morning and the Prince passes it over quickly, eagerly, blushing at Merlin’s grateful smile.
The servant begins to read, drowning out the thunder with tales of war and victory and loss and sorrow.
The tenth day of the storm, and the fourth day of reading, Leon meets Merlin in the corridor on the way to the Prince’s chamber. When the knight wasn’t in his chambers, Merlin had correctly assumed he’d already made his way up to Arthur’s room, and gives him a pleased smile when they run into each other outside the doors.
There’s no preamble this time. No raised eyebrows or confused looks or nervous expressions. Leon mutters a quiet “Good evening, Arthur” as he climbs up onto the bed after Merlin, and the three of them are asleep with half a candle mark, the finished book resting on Merlin’s stomach.
Eleven days after the storm had begun, the sky is bright and blue and quiet.
As normal, Leon and Merlin wake early; the two of them wander down to the kitchens, conversing easily over a quick breakfast before parting ways, not seeming to realise the change in weather. The servant makes the journey back to Arthur’s room quickly, barging in with breakfast to find Arthur sat on the edge of the bed, gazing at the window. His expression is... odd, a mix of emotions in which Merlin can’t quite place which is more dominant; happy, or sad?
Merlin follows his eyeline, finally seeing the clear skies as Arthur wipes the expression from his face and stands to get dressed. The servant sighs and shakes his head, smiling to himself silently without a word as he realises that Arthur is anticipating having to fall asleep alone tonight. He absent-mindedly wonders if Leon has realised yet as he lays out the Prince’s breakfast and lists off the day’s order as if he hadn’t a care in the world:
“Morning, Sire! The kitchens are running low on fresh meat, so The King’s ordered a bunch of hunts to be sent out over the next few days. He wants you close by because of those land negotiations going on, so we’re only going to be camping one night, we’re heading out in a few hours. Leon will be leading another hunt, I’m afraid, but we’ll see him when he gets back in three days. Before we head off you have a meeting with your father, hopefully the weather’s put him in a good mood, and if not we’ll just have to come back with a stag tomorrow afternoon and he’ll cheer right up.”
Arthur hums from his place behind the changing screen, and Merlin rolls his eyes when he realise the Prince likely hasn’t heard anything he said. He makes his way across the room quickly, rapping his knuckles on the screen before stepping around and huffing good-naturedly at Arthur, who just stands staring at his folded clothes as if they’d offended him somehow. Merlin moves around to be in front of him, lifting a hand to ever so gently brush the hair back from Arthur’s forehead; the Prince’s gaze snaps up to him and he blushes, though Merlin politely ignores it as his mouth twitches up affectionately:
“You need a haircut, it’ll start covering your eyes soon. You don’t fancy having to flick it about like Gwaine did, do you? I suppose it was rather charming though.”
He drops his hand and gestures for Arthur to raise both of his so he can get the soft sleep shirt off. Arthur does as he’s told, but frowns:
“You found Gwaine... charming, did you? Didn’t know he was your type, Merlin?”
Merlin smirks as he turns around to throw the shirt over a chair and pick up today’s tunic; his face is wiped blank by the time he turns around again, and begins manhandling Arthur into the shirt:
“Hmm. What can I say, dark hair, stubble, and a lack of self-preservation really does it for me.-”
Arthur internally smirks at the confirmation that Merlin likes men, and luckily, before he has time to catch up with Merlin’s actual description, the servant tugs his trousers down and continues speaking, tossing a clean pair of underwear in the Prince’s face and turning around:
“-though I suppose the odd blonde has caught my eye before.”
Arthur’s internal smirk becomes external, but then Merlin tilts his head to the floor, and the Prince spies the very top of one of his scars poking out from under his shirt. His smile falls at the reminder of Merlin’s secrets, at the gap that would remain between them even if Merlin decided to one day be honest. Arthur is a fighter, Merlin is a healer. Arthur is a Prince, Merlin is a servant. Arthur can’t stand storms, Merlin loves them more than almost anything.
He could list a hundred other reasons why it wouldn’t work, and Merlin’s safety is number one, but a small, hopeful voice in the back of his head reminds him that Merlin is admittedly good at looking after himself, and obviously good at keeping secrets. The voice sounds suspiciously like Merlin himself, but Arthur doesn’t have time to question that before said voice starts yelling at him from behind his eyes about staring at Merlin’s back instead of changing.
Thankfully, Merlin was right in saying that the weather had put Uther in a good mood. The servant casually considers that Uther was a knight too, a long time ago, trained like them. He wonders if he paces his room and loses sleep and recites battle plans like a mantra. He wonders if Uther’s servants care enough to stay for hours playing chess with him, or read him to sleep. He pities the man for all of two seconds before he realises how tense the short meeting made Arthur, and he decides he doesn’t really care anymore.
Arthur and Leon’s parties ride out of the city together, and no one questions when Merlin hurries his horse to the front to ride with them, especially when Sir Leon gives him such a bright grin, and Arthur doesn’t scold him. Though their sunny dispositions quickly drop when they reach the wood’s border and realise that this is where they separate. Merlin sends Leon a soft smile, and the knight just nods at him stoically before bowing to Arthur as best he can from the saddle, and leading his hunting party to the East. Arthur watches them go, his gaze flicking between Leon’s retreating back and the clear blue sky, before he finally pulls his horse's reins and directs her West.
All the knights seem pleased at the change in weather, and Merlin, for once, keeps quiet on the hunt; he looks away when they make the shots, attempts to stay back at base camp as often as he can, but he doesn’t scare anything off, and he prepares small meals without a fuss. He’ll never stop clattering about when Arthur insists on hunting for sport, but hunting for food, he supposes he can deal with. Especially when it’s that or go hungry.
When it comes time to set up to sleep, Arthur pulls Merlin into their tent with a little more vigour than normal. The servant doesn’t miss the way Arthur doesn’t assign him a watch shift for the night, but he doesn’t question it, just sets about readying them both for bed. Merlin also doesn’t miss the way Arthur eyes Merlin’s own bedroll with slight distaste, but he does mention that, in a roundabout, not-really-at-all kind of way:
“I’m sleeping with you tonight, I haven’t slept outside in weeks and it’s freezing and I would like to keep all of my fingers and toes. Shove over.”
He unceremoniously pushes Arthur to the side, picking up the corner of his bedroll and unbuttoning one side before doing the same to his own, laying them next to each other like one big bedroll. Arthur rolls his eyes, but doesn’t say anything, just huffs as if it were some inconvenience instead of a huge relief.
Perhaps Arthur now being unable to sleep without a little extra body heat isn’t the healthiest, but that’s something to be better, and subtly, dealt with when they get back to Camelot. Merlin worries for Leon, but he also knows the man is like Arthur in that he’d never complain, and would just get on with it with a little scowl on his face that can easily be played off as serious professionalism.
Merlin falls asleep easily, after Arthur of course, and after the Prince had shuffled in his sleep to press his head into the crook of the other man’s neck, an arm thrown across his stomach. The servant rolls his eyes fondly before shifting, turning over to pull Arthur closer, tucking the blonde’s head under his chin and wrapping him in his long arms.
Merlin reminds himself to tell his two knights his forever-comforting advice when they all get back home: that another storm is always on it’s way, as long as the world keeps going on living. Maybe they’d hate that because of the thunder and lightening and gale force winds, but likely they’d love it, because it means they’ll always get to fall back into their little routine, as long as the world keeps going on living.
The weather stays sunny for a long while, and whilst Merlin keeps on staying to play a round of chess with Arthur, and always pops his head through the door to say goodnight to Leon, the servant and the knight go back to sleeping in their own beds. They all toss and turn for a few nights before they fall back into their normal lives, though no one misses that the three of them are considerably closer than they used to be.
Morgana does consider mocking it, but when she realises that she’s never seen Arthur have so much fun (that wasn’t at another’s expense), and she’s never seen Leon have any fun at all, and she decides to let it go. Let them piss about on the training field, let them make faces at each other during feasts, as long as Uther never catches on, they’ll be fine.
True to Merlin’s advice, a storm does eventually come around, a few months later when two seasons have passed. When Merlin drops off Arthur’s dinner tray, he detours to the library instead of Leon’s room, picking up a nice heavy book and making his way to the Prince’s chambers. He shuts the door behind him quietly, a satisfied smile at the confirmation of Leon making his own way here. The satisfied smile quickly morphs into a smirk when he realises that neither of them have noticed him enter, obvious by the pink of Arthur’s cheeks and the encouraging, slightly teasing smile on Leon’s. The servant clears his throat and they jump apart; Leon’s grin grows as he pats the space between them on the bed, and Arthur looks away.
Merlin really should let Arthur know that he’s not as subtle as he thinks, but he thinks perhaps that’s why Leon is smiling so much. He also thinks that perhaps it might be time to let go of his secrets. Arthur may be less overt about his disdain for his father’s views on magic than he is about his feelings, but Merlin still notices; he always notices.
With another rumble of thunder that has the two knights shifting uncomfortably (a vast improvement from the manic-ness it would have sparked all those months ago), Merlin pushes those thoughts to the back of his mind to deal with another day, and settles in his spot.
The two knights shuffle down the bed slightly, leaning into Merlin’s sides; Leon raises an eyebrow at Arthur, Arthur shoots Leon a withering glare, and with that, Merlin opens the first page of a new story, and begins to read.
Maybe it’s a little anti-climactic, but I kinda like the softness of a simple ending😅 I hope y’all enjoyed this!! I’m a fan of the Leon-Arthur-Merlin chaotic friendship. Leon tries to pretend to be the mature one, but he’s just as much of a little shit as the others :D
Let me know what you think!!
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