Spoiler(s): probably both seasons of Merlin
Summary: even when he's not, merlin is always there.
Author's Notes: this is slice of life and thus has no plot. also my first merlin fic and thus making me very very very nervous. unbeta'd so all mistakes are mine and please don't hesitate to point them out (please?).
Merlin’s lost count of the number of times he’s had to save Arthur’s life, and he's not even counting the times before Uther’s death. Of course, he understands why everyone's trying to kill the new King of Camelot, but did they have to do it so often? Ever since the coronation, there hasn’t been a week without an assassination attempt on Arthur. It was almost like clockwork – Oh, look, someone tried to kill Arthur. That must have meant a week has gone by. – but with far more fear and high blood pressure than Merlin can stand.
There was that one time where Mercia simpered and dripped honey for a peace treaty, after the first one fell through, and Arthur, exhausted and grieving, had agreed to allow a delegation into the castle. They didn’t even wait for the end of the first day to poison Arthur’s cup. Thank the gods Arthur always uses the goblet Merlin gave him after that first attempt involving Nimueh. When it had glowed sickly green, Arthur’s eyes had snapped fire and Merlin’s eyes had burned gold, and Mercia couldn’t have run out of the kingdom fast enough.
Chambermaids now have to pass through a faintly glowing doorway in order to get into their King’s rooms after that incident with Arthur's dinner and the steak knife finding itself imbedded into Arthur’s chair. Merlin didn’t think any of them wanted to attempt anything again, after they saw the pile of ash created by Merlin’s instinctive reaction. But, no matter how unlike it was to happen again, Merlin didn’t want to risk the chance of coming back from gathering herbs to see a bloodless and soulless body in Arthur’s stead. He saw it in his dreams (nightmares) more often than he would like.
Those that wanted audience with their King learned that gold was scarier than steel as the Court Magician ran glowing eyes over each and every one of them, even after they’d been searched by the King’s Knights. Sellers and traders that wanted to market to the castle had to go through an interview with the Court Magician, pale face intent and sharp eyes searching. Many people had almost forgotten that Merlin’s eyes weren’t always furiously gold and blazing, and that they used to be sparkling blue and laughing.
People whispered in the halls and in alcoves away from prying eyes and sharp ears that Merlin was taking this too far, that Merlin was getting too paranoid. But then sharp steel or iron or copper would slice through air and not their King’s throat and the whispering would stop for a time while everyone breathed relief. Merlin found cricks in his neck that weren’t there a week ago, and had headaches that would last the entire afternoon, but he didn’t dare stop the magic from flowing, fearing with a bone-deep ache that if he ever let his guard down, the consequences wouldn’t be as easy as another Witchfinder. Not that that was easy, but that was far easier to fix than death would ever be.
Arthur watches Merlin from his vantage point on the turrets. His magician was scurrying around, still used to doing everything himself, still used to the routines of Arthur’s manservant, even though he has a new one now, one that bows properly and doesn’t say “Sire.” as if he’s mocking him, one that is completely and utter boring. He wishes he had more time for his friend, but Kings have so much to do and apparently Magicians also have a lot more to do than he’d thought. Arthur smiles, imagining the glare he’s sure he’ll receive when he tells Merlin that.
There’s a clamoring on the stairs. He sighs gustily, waving away a page scuttling towards him, already knowing which minister was summoning him now from the expression on the boy’s face. He dares another glance back down into the courtyard, but the deep blue color of the Court Magician’s robes has already disappeared from view. Resigned, he turns, the weight of the crown and blood-red cloak heavy on his shoulders. Time for another meeting and another week. Hopefully, there's no silent assassin hiding behind the tapestry this time.
So, of course, the page boy turns out to be a trained murderer and Merlin is molten and snarling again. But, even with blood flowing out of his arm, Arthur is glad for the chance to see him. He doesn't get to do that much anymore.
Merlin smiles as Arthur drops into his chair gracelessly, arm bandaged and healing nicely. It’s one of the few times they are alone and he treasures these rare moments, keeps them close to his heart. He misses the times when such moments weren’t so few and far between, when it was just them, laughing together and insulting each other by turns. Those times seem so far away now, lost somewhere in Arthur’s heavy bearing and Merlin’s velvet robes.
Arthur groans, rolling his shoulders, and Merlin, by habit if nothing else, gets up and takes off the cloak, draping it across an abandoned chair. His hands begin kneading at tense muscles, rubbing firmly at knots, and Arthur’s head rests against Merlin’s chest, relaxing fractionally. His eyes close and Merlin watches as dusky lashes sweep across tanned cheeks and wishes. But wishes are tremulous and fragile, and these are blown away by a non-existent breeze within his mind. Arthur’s breath evens out and Merlin’s mouth curves, eyes glowing softly amber as he moves Arthur onto his bed, clothes and boots obediently storing themselves away.
A pale hand smoothes away soft gold hair and Merlin drops a kiss on his King’s forehead, the wash of magic blanketing his master in comfort and security. The soothing saffron fades slowly from his eyes, tender blue easing back into place. But, Merlin knows, even when his eyes are sharp gold, or rich halycon, or loyal blue, Arthur would only see love.