Genre: Pre-slash, fluff
Word count: ~2k
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers up to and including 2x09, “The Lady of the Lake”
Summary: In which Merlin smiles more than he should, consorts are discussed, and Gaius isn’t crazy.
A/N: So I’m supposed to be working on my NaNo novel, but last night I stupidly watched 2x09 while procrastinating and not only did my squeeing get in the way of writing the 1,000 words I needed to get done, but it stuck this evil little plot bunny in my head which proceeded to make a nest and build this entire story completely without my consent. Oh, Merlin fandom, why must you be so awesome?
Merlin couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day which, considering the all-too-recent death of Freya probably did seem pretty strange to those in the know, by which he meant Gaius. He wasn’t quite humming that night at dinner, but he did keep grinning through his soup (the kitchens were running a surplus) for no apparent reason, so of course Gaius noticed and called him on it.
When you looked at the situation objectively, it wasn’t even Merlin’s fault. As was so often the case with everything that went wrong in his life these days, the blame rested solely on Arthur’s shoulders. Merlin couldn’t stop flashing back to Arthur’s smile after his totally unprovoked attack (though Merlin had been expecting something like it – there was only so many times he could call the crown prince fat and get away with it). His smile had been so open and glowing and happy, a genuine smile that Merlin had only seen a handful of times. To have the prince direct that smile solely at him because he had – what, laughed? – was incredible. Unbelievable. So Merlin was totally justified for flashing back to the moment constantly for the rest of the day, because if he didn’t keep reminding himself of it he might never be able to believe it had actually happened.
But, as was the story of his life, despite Arthur being the one to cause this whole mess Merlin was inevitably the one that had to deal with the unpleasant aftermath. Namely, Gaius and his eyebrow.
“You seem awfully cheerful today,” Gaius commented when it became obvious that Merlin had had far too much practice resisting the eyebrow for it to draw a confession out of him on its own. At this point Merlin realized it would be better to bow to Gaius’s persistence before his mentor probed deeper and reminded him of Freya – who he was getting over rather quickly, he knew, but he’d rather not question the reasons behind that just now, thanks.
“It’s Arthur,” he admitted, which he thought sounded appropriately vague. “When I first met him, I would never have believed he could actually care about another human being.”
Gaius’s eyebrow went up another notch and, because Merlin actually could read body language when it wasn’t strange gestures that required their own instruction manual, he elaborated.
“He noticed I was upset about something and he cheered me up.” Merlin paused, staring into his cloudy, thin soup and remembering the way the prince had settled down beside him, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a lord to sit on the floor beside his servant. “I think we might really be friends.”
Gaius didn’t rebuke him for stating the obvious as Merlin had expected, but instead got this thoughtful look in his eyes. He pinned Merlin with it, making him wriggle under the intense scrutiny for a long moment before he spoke.
“I hope you realize what a wondrous thing you have accomplished,” he said finally. “I don’t think the prince has ever had a real friend before, never mind a decent relationship with a servant.” A suspicious twinkle began in Gaius’s eyes. “It may not have been your original intention, but I believe you have succeeded in securing yourself a place of honour in the next king’s court.”
Merlin gaped. “But I never – I wasn’t trying to –”
Gaius held up a hand. “I know, Merlin, it never crossed your mind, because you are not most people. Nevertheless, I can’t see Arthur being content to let you remain a servant when he has the power to change it.”
“What…what could I be, though? Take away my magic, and I’m just a farm boy from Ealdor.”
“First advisor to the king, I’d expect – much like my role at present. With years of training from me, I would hope you’d be at least passable.”
“Maybe…” Merlin hedged, still wary of the idea. The twinkle in Gaius’ eyes intensified, although his face remained as placid as ever. Merlin was instantly on the alert. “That’s a bad look. Why are you giving me that look? What now?”
“Judging by the way he looks at you these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something else in mind entirely.”
Merlin tried to communicate with his eyes just how completely unhelpful that was, but predictably enough that failed and he had to resort to verbal prompts. “Like what?”
“Oh…the King’s Consort, perhaps.”
Merlin suspected Gaius had meant to provoke some sort of reaction from those words, which meant Merlin probably wouldn’t like it. But he was Merlin, so he had to ask anyway. “What’s that?”
Gaius just sighed and resumed reading his old, musty scrolls, as if Merlin had intentionally deprived him of amusement. “I realize the last incident is not quite within living memory, but really Merlin, you work for the royal family – you should know these terms.” He rolled up the scroll he had been reading and set it aside, opening an equally musty, green-backed book instead. “A Consort is a co-ruler of sorts. He has all the same powers and responsibilities that a Queen would have, and is treated as a partner in the monarchy.”
Merlin’s mouth dropped open as his mind stuttered and stumbled over this new information. “But…wha…heirs?” he finally squeaked out.
Gaius shrugged as if they were talking about nothing more interesting than the ratio of water to actual nutrients in their soup (10:1, Merlin was sure). “The royal family is known adopt suitable heirs on occasion; helps with inbreeding, you know.” He flipped a page in his musty book. Merlin resisted the urge to pinch himself; not even he would torture his dreaming self with something this twisted. “Of course, magic was often used in those days too, to conceive an heir.”
Merlin blinked, but decided he really didn’t want to think too deeply on the logistics of that. “It’s been…done…before?”
“Oh yes. I wouldn’t say it was common, but there is certainly precedent for it. Arthur would have no trouble reinstating the law, if he was so inclined.”
“But – but he’s not inclined! He likes Gwen!” Merlin feebly protested. Immediately he slapped a hand over his mouth. “Oh no, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that, I didn’t tell you that –”
“Calm down Merlin, who would I tell?” Uther, Merlin’s mind supplied, but he firmly stamped it down before it could show on his face, because that really was just paranoid.
“Anyway,” Gaius continued, “even if that were ever true, which I doubt, it certainly isn’t anymore. I suppose you wouldn’t notice, but the prince smiles more when you’re around.”
Merlin, of course, hadn’t noticed this, and despite the awkwardness of the current conversation the knowledge brought that silly, purposeless grin back to his face. Gaius took that as a victory and went back to his book with a smile and a shake of his head. Merlin took it as a defeat too complete and total to ever be redeemed, and retreated to his room. But no matter how much on he reflected on this tragic turn of events, he couldn’t quite manage to stop grinning.
The castle as a whole was widely under the assumption that Merlin suffered from a grave mental illness, but Merlin himself hadn’t believed the rumours until late the following night. He was preparing the prince’s quarters for bed and poking away at the hearth when suddenly, inexplicably, he said, “Gaius thinks I’m going to be King Consort one day.”
It was official. He was mentally ill and therefore held absolutely no responsibility for this conversation. Whatever happened now was Not Merlin’s Fault, and he would say so in front of the King himself if he had to.
It helped that the King would actually be on his side for once, what with Merlin’s history of lying and the whole stopping-his-son-from-killing-him thing. Merlin was pretty sure these weren’t good reasons to have someone on your side, especially since Uther had also threatened to execute him for that last one, but he would take what he could get.
“Pardon?” Arthur finally choked out. Merlin raised his head from the fireplace to see Arthur staring at him with wide eyes, his fork lying forgotten with his dinner. Merlin ducked back down into the hearth.
I think he’s crazy, of course, was on the tip of Merlin’s tongue but, being mentally ill and all, that wasn’t what he said.
“Do you know what that means? Gaius wouldn’t tell me.”
Merlin thought that, all things considered, that wasn’t as bad as it could have been, although Arthur did look like he had tasted something extremely unpleasant. And awkward. As Merlin didn’t know what awkward things tasted like, he would have to ask Arthur about it later.
“It’s…” and Merlin thought this insanity might be worth it after all just for the look on Arthur’s face, “a consort is basically a male queen.”
Merlin pasted a confused expression on his face. “Wouldn’t that just be a king?”
“No, there’s…” Arthur visibly rallied himself. “You can’t have two kings.”
“Oh,” Merlin said after he thought a suitable amount of time had passed for the information to settle in. “But…Uther is king…”
“Relax, Merlin,” Arthur sneered, retreating behind mockery as Merlin had known he would, “I don’t think that’s quite what Gaius had in mind.” The prince stabbed at his food and Merlin began to breathe again.
“Oh,” he repeated quietly and copied the prince’s action with a jab at the fireplace. One of the logs shifted, scraping coals down in a shower of sparks. “But how does that work? Don’t they need…heirs…” Dear gods, why was he still talking?
“There are ways around, I guess,” Arthur said, staring at his food, and why was he still talking? “Adoption…and other…ways…”
“Gaius said there was precedent.”
Arthur flicked a glance his way and then stared at the door. “I haven’t heard it spoken of much, but I suppose there would be cases…in the archives…”
The expression on his face looked thoughtful more than anything else and Merlin somehow managed to keep his mouth shut this time, so an almost comfortable silence settled in the room. Merlin still felt too awkward to do much more than poke at the burning logs, but he at least tried to make his pokes useful. Alas, the silence couldn’t last forever – although at least Merlin wasn’t to blame for breaking it this time. Instead, what Arthur said was somehow worse.
“You do realize that means you’d have to marry me?”
Merlin opened his mouth right away, but nothing came out for a long while. He was ready with qualifiers and dismissals galore, from like that would ever happen, you prat to the ever popular Gaius is crazy, but he looked at Arthur who was staring at the door with a tense but still thoughtful look on his face and somehow none of them made it out of his mouth.
Instead, all that came out was a soft “yeah”.
A long moment passed in which Merlin watched Arthur become almost rigid with tension before it all seemed to flow out of him in a great release of air. The prince finally looked at him and one of those genuine, carefree grins lit up his face and almost caused Merlin’s heart to stop. And then Arthur turned back to his food and Merlin turned back to the fire and thought how all of that had been kind of worth it.
It was even more worth it the next day when Merlin detected the unmistakable odour of musty old books on Arthur’s tailored clothes.
Maybe Gaius wasn’t so crazy after all.
- Current Location:@ home
- Current Mood: crazy