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Love and Magic

Title: Love and Magic
Fandom: Merlin
Rating/Pairing: PG-13, Arthur/Merlin
Summary: Sometimes, love is stronger than magic; sometimes, even the illusion of love is enough. Written for undermistletoe 2008, Random Challenge Week, prompt 12: Clichés (Pretending to be gay, amnesia, bodyswitch, genderswitch, etc.)




"This should be interesting," Gaius said, regarding Merlin with a raised eyebrow and the sort of sour expression he got when he was trying not to laugh.

"Er," said Merlin awkwardly. There was still tomato in his hair, even though he'd tried washing it out, and his shirt bore the telltale stains of where he'd been. If only he could go at least a week without ending up in the stocks... "It's a long story."

"When is it not?" Gaius flapped a hand at him. "Go on, I want to hear this."

"Um. Well, the whole thing sort of starts with the other night when I woke up -- I mean, when the dragon woke me up -- not that I talk to dragons, because that's ridiculous -- and, well, really it starts earlier, when Uther -- that is, when the thing with Arthur -- I mean --"

Gaius held up his hands. "Start somewhere," he suggested, "and go on from there."

"Right." Merlin swallowed hard. "Okay, um, there was one night where I woke up because... because I had this, well, feeling..."

#

"Merlin..."

The whispered voice, breaking into Merlin's restless sleep, was annoyingly familiar. Once he was awake and sitting up, the call repeated, and it definitely wasn't Gaius -- or Arthur, for that matter -- so after getting dressed enough that he wouldn't freeze, Merlin trudged down the cold stone steps. (Given the time of year, it was incredibly tempting to whisper a warmth spell, but he didn't dare. Not in Uther's castle, not for a luxury.)

"What now," he said when he reached the bottom. He was too cold and tired and sore from the day's exertions to bother hiding his petulance.

The dragon, though, was unperturbed. As always. (Stupid dragon.) "Merlin," it repeated, and the warmth of its breath coiled around Merlin like a snake. "It is time."

"For what? And couldn't this have waited until morning?" He stifled a yawn; it had been a long day.

"For you to fulfill the other part of your destiny."

Merlin stared at the beast. "The -- what?" Surely there wasn't more. It was bad enough just trying to help Arthur!

The dragon made a contented humming noise, and looked far too satisfied with itself. "You must become one with your prince."

"I what?"

"You and Arthur," the dragon said patiently. ("I got that part," Merlin muttered, but the dragon ignored him.) "You must share yourselves intimately."

"I -- what?" Merlin said again. "What does that even mean?"

"You are not a child, young warlock. You will do what you need to, for the sake of the kingdom. For Arthur's sake."

Oh, yes, that clarified matters a lot. Merlin shook his head. "I don't understand."

"You will." The dragon launched itself into the air and flapped ponderously away, chain trailing behind it. "When the time is right."

"...Right," Merlin said finally, speaking to the emptiness in front of him, "sure, thanks for being so helpful." When the time is right, indeed! How was he supposed to know?

But as he was making his way back to his room, he became aware of a buzzing feeling in the back of his head. It was the resonance created by magic, strong magic, somewhere in Camelot.

Merlin frowned, and shivered slightly.

#

"...and then the next morning, um. You know the girl that showed up a few days before that?"

"Syrene, yes," Gaius said. All of Camelot knew her name, given the recent events.

Merlin shifted uncomfortably, flushing with embarrassment. "The morning after was the day Uther announced the engagement."

#

"It's insane!" Arthur hissed. He was pacing back and forth in his room (which seemed far too small to contain his fury), fists clenched, eyes narrowed, all but vibrating with outrage. "My father can hardly expect me to marry her -- I barely even know her! She doesn't have any political weight, she doesn't have any useful land, she whines all the time, and he didn't even ask me first. He's somehow convinced that I love her, on top of everything else." He whirled, jabbing a finger at Merlin. "You. Find me a way out of this. There must be something."

Merlin had been staying out of his way, nodding at appropriate times but not saying anything. Now, with Arthur focused on him, he said, eloquently, "Er."

"I can't marry her," Arthur said. "And my father doesn't have any good reason for it. If I didn't know better, I'd say he'd been enchanted or something!"

At his words, Merlin remembered the buzz of magic the previous night. It made perfect sense as an explanation for Uther's sudden announcement -- and it wasn't the first time someone had tried sorcery to get at Arthur -- but they didn't have any proof. "Maybe he has, sire," he said cautiously, "but ... who'd tell him?"

Arthur sighed, and sat down on his bed, drained of the angry energy that had been fueling him. "I know," he said softly.

"We don't even know who's casting the enchantment, if there is one. I mean, killing the sorcerer also causes all of the spells to stop working, but we can't just kill Syrene, and she may not be the source of the spell anyway, so we need to find some other ... huh." The dragon's words filtered back into Merlin's brain, hazy like a remembered dream, and he bit his lip. "Tell me: would your father break the engagement if you were in love with someone else?"

Arthur stared at him, puzzled. "Probably. If he had enough evidence to believe it. But then he'd make me marry whoever it is, instead! And who would I pick? Don't you dare say Morgana," he added, gazing skeptically at Merlin; "she's so far out of the question that I'd put you in the stocks just for suggesting it."

"Er," Merlin said.

"There's always Gwen, I suppose, but my father isn't likely to think I'm in love with the daughter of a blacksmith."

"Um."

Arthur huffed with impatience. "Yes, what is it?"

"You need to find someone that your father would believe you are in love with, but someone you can't marry."

"Once again," Arthur said dryly, "your keen intelligence astounds me. Yes! I do!"

"There is one person who fits that role," Merlin said. His voice squeaked.

"And that would be...?"

"Uh. Me?"

#

Gaius' mouth twitched with a suppressed smile. "Ah, Merlin," he said. "You always have such ... interesting solutions to problems."

Merlin stared at the floor. "It made sense," he muttered defensively. "And the only other option I could think of was to counter-enchant the king, and I don't know if I could do that, let alone without getting caught, and if I did get caught I'd get blamed for the whole thing, because Uther would never believe the first part was sorcery, and then I'd end up dead, and that would be really bad--"

"Yes, Merlin, I think I get it." The smile Gaius had been fighting finally broke free. "So did Arthur agree to your plan?"

"Eventually," Merlin said, and his face turned bright red.

#

"I've never done this sort of thing before," Merlin said. He was shirtless (or rather, the shirt was off his chest, but he held it in his hands, twisting it with nervousness) and barefoot and completely ill at ease. "I mean. Um."

"It isn't hard to figure out." Arthur tilted his head. "Undress me," he commanded.

There was enough of a fire in the fireplace that the air in the room was warm, but Merlin shivered anyway as he dropped his own shirt and started to remove the layers that Arthur was wearing. One after another came off--

("Aren't you going to fold them?" Arthur said, looking at the crumpled clothing with a frown.

"People in the throes of passion don't worry about wrinkles," Merlin said. "They're more concerned with, er, the other person."

Arthur rolled his eyes but didn't protest more.)

--until the prince was completely bare. He had a pretty impressive body, Merlin admitted to himself, well-sculpted muscles rippling under skin that gleamed gold in the firelight--

("You're staring," Arthur accused.

"Oh," Merlin said, and closed his eyes tightly.

"You're also wearing too many clothes, I believe."

"Oh." Merlin cleared his throat. "Right.")

Merlin didn't dare look at himself once he was naked. In comparison, he knew, he was scrawny and awkward and ... well, not the sort of person Arthur would fall in love with.

This wasn't love, of course, except for the part where they had to be believable enough that Uther would have no choice but to call off the other engagement.

"We should probably kiss," Arthur suggested, after a few moments of silence.

"Er, yes, I suppose." Merlin stepped closer. Bare-skinned, he could feel the warmth of the fire behind him, and the heat radiating from Arthur in front of him. He put his hands on Arthur's shoulders, jerked them away as if he'd been burned, rested them on Arthur's waist instead, pulled back again, and settled for clasping his hands behind him and leaning his head forward for a kiss.

"You are an idiot," Arthur said fondly, and then large warm sword-calloused hands guided Merlin's head to where it needed to be in order for them to kiss. It was nose-bumpingly awkward and messy and Merlin suspected he was doing it wrong, but after a few moments he stopped caring about that, and just let himself sink into the kiss. His eyes fluttered closed, and he moaned slightly when Arthur pulled back.

"That was nice," Merlin said. His voice was wobbling just a bit. So were his knees.

"We're not done," Arthur said impatiently.

"I knew that."

"Come over here." Arthur strode over to his bed and flopped down crosswise, feet on the floor and legs spread in a wide V. "Kneel," he said, indicating the patch of rug-cushioned floor in front of him, "and service me."

"Serv-- what?"

Arthur gave him an irritated look. "We're pretending to be in love, right? And I know you have a mouth, because idiotic drivel comes out of it, so you might as well apply it to something useful."

"Oh," Merlin said, understanding, and he dropped to his knees between Arthur's legs. "Yes, sire."

Arthur sighed, and said, "You really are the worst servant I've ever oh God Merlin do that again," and his head dropped back. Merlin, a bit pleased at the reaction, took Arthur's flesh into his mouth again, alternately sucking it and teasing it with his tongue, and--

#

Gaius cleared his throat sharply. "I don't need the details, Merlin."

"Oh. Right." Merlin shifted; his trousers had gotten a bit uncomfortable. "So, um. Skipping that, we ... we did a bunch of ... um ..."

"I get the picture."

"Yes. And then the king came in. Which, you know, was the point of the whole thing, but we'd kind of forgotten, by that point..."

#

"Arthur, there you are, I've-- oh dear." Uther stopped, staring at the two of them. Merlin stared wide-eyed back; Arthur, either too far gone to hear his father's entrance or pretending to be so, kept doing what he had been doing, until he gave a choked-sounding cry and thrust deep into Merlin and filled him with liquid warmth.

"Arthur," Merlin said.

"Mmph."

"Arthur," he repeated.

Arthur bit lightly at Merlin's shoulder. "You talk too much."

"Arthur," Uther said, and Arthur's head snapped up.

"This isn't what it looks like." Merlin whacked him on the arm, and he gave a full-body shake, visibly recalling why they were doing this. "Actually, no. It is. I'm, uh, in love with Merlin."

"In love," Uther echoed. He didn't sound terribly happy.

"Yes." Arthur clenched his teeth, defiant and scared and angry all at once, playing his part with complete abandon. "That's why I can't marry Syrene. I'm sorry," he added quickly. "I just..." He looked down at Merlin, a question in his eyes, and (when Merlin nodded just enough for him to see) leaned in to kiss him. "I can't give this up."

"I am your father," Uther said, "and your king. You will obey my orders." He didn't sound angry so much as thoughtful, like he was testing Arthur to see how he would react.

"And I am the heir," Arthur said evenly, "and what kind of king would I make if I valued a hastily-made promise -- that is, my engagement to Syrene, which was not even of my doing -- over a longer-held promise made out of love?"

Uther regarded the two of them. Merlin wished he had clothes on, but he couldn't exactly move, since Arthur was more or less pinning him down. He settled, instead, for staring at the ceiling.

"How long has this been going on?" Uther asked softly.

"Months," Merlin said, at the same time as Arthur said, "Weeks, at least," and they looked at each other. "A really long time," Arthur said.

#

"I have some experience with your attempts at telling lies," Gaius said. "You need work. Much more work."

"I know," Merlin said miserably. "But at least Uther believed it. Obviously." The engagement had been called off, and Syrene had left that night, a hasty departure that of course had nothing to do with Arthur taking her aside and threatening to expose her sorcery now that Uther wasn't completely under its hold.

"So..." Gaius quirked one side of his mouth in a smile. He reached out and pulled a piece of lettuce out of Merlin's hair, holding it where Merlin could see it. "Can I assume that your story will eventually end up with a reason why you ended up in your favorite area of Camelot?"

"Oh, that." Merlin grabbed the lettuce back and started shredding it into the smallest pieces he could manage, letting them fall to the ground like tiny green snowflakes.

("You really love him?" Uther had asked, for about the seventh time.

"Yes, father." Arthur didn't quite roll his eyes.

"Very well." The king sighed. "I shall make the appropriate arrangements." His gaze flicked to Merlin, standing meekly behind Arthur. "As for you...")

Merlin let the last piece of lettuce fall to the ground. "Well, things didn't go according to plan, so Uther had to punish someone, right? And he could hardly put Arthur in the stocks. So." He shrugged. "I was the best choice. Especially since he could accuse me of, uh, assaulting the prince, sort of."

"I see," said Gaius. He looked closely at Merlin. "You and Arthur being in love with each other: that was only an act, right?"

"Of course," Merlin said, all wide-eyed innocence. Sure, it was his destiny to protect Arthur, but that was all. He didn't even like Arthur, not completely...

"Hmm," Gaius said.

He may have said more, but Merlin was too busy gazing at a nearby candle (and not at all thinking of Arthur's fire-lit skin) to hear him.

###

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
suzvoy
Dec. 13th, 2008 09:03 am (UTC)
HAHAHAHAHA!

That was sooo much fun :D Thanks!
suaine
Dec. 13th, 2008 10:33 am (UTC)
That was quite brilliant. Merlin's awkwardness, Arthur's assurance, the way they get lost in the illusion because it's real despite themselves. Aww, boys!
fleurrochard
Dec. 13th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
Heeeeeeeeh! Oh, that is great. (And yes, it is only an act, of course! *g*)
de_tensai
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Awww...
This is probably the 2nd or 3rd time I've read this. Still love it :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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