Arthur wholly believed the ancient Gods were trying to kill him.
It was a branch snapping that had Merlin’s eyes flying open. He’d finally gotten comfortable enough in the cold tent to fall asleep when he heard it. Beside him Arthur was rigid, his hand already on his sword and his eyes on the tent flap. “What was that?” Merlin hissed finally, pushing himself to sit up as the prince assumed a crouch, ready to strike.
Arthur waved at Merlin to stop talking as his eyes narrowed in on the low shadow right outside. A few paces closer and he could hear a faint scratching. Confused he tilted his head to the side as Merlin came up beside him. “Is it bandits?” He breathed quietly that earned him an exaggerated eye roll. Slowly he counted down on his hand before Arthur rushed out the flap and stopped dead.
Owlish black eyes stared at him from the remains of the fire pit. Arthur just stared back as the animal continued to munch away on their leftovers. Merlin crashed into his back at the sudden halt causing the creature to jump up and bare its tiny teeth at them.
“A raccoon?” Arthur groaned incredulously, his sword drooped to the ground as his vibrato faded. “I was seriously woken up by a Gods forsaken raccoon?” His voice took on an almost hysterical octave as he spoke. Behind him Merlin blinked rapidly before laughter bubbled out of him. Arthur growled and hoisted his sword back up, preparing himself to strike as the raccoon hissed at them again. “I’m going to kill it.”
“Oh you are not.” Merlin sighed in exasperation, his hand coming to rest on his Prince’s shoulder. Arthur looked at him with eyes filled with betrayal. Merlin met the gaze with an unimpressed look of his own. “Just leave it alone, it isn’t doing any real harm.”
Arthur grumbled under his breath that Merlin was right as he frowned and stormed back into their tent. Once his sword was safely stowed away again, Arthur flopped gracelessly onto the bed rolls and stared at Merlin with a pout as the other collected the blankets spread across the tent. “Don’t give me that look.” Merlin sighed with a roll of his eyes as he dropped the blankets on Arthur and kneeled down to fix his sleep spot. Arthur merely grunted in return, and shifted over just slightly when Merlin prodded at his side.
Finally Merlin laid down and instantly curled into Arthur’s side. His hand came up to rest on the Prince’s chest and as Arthur wrapped an arm around him Merlin continued, “You can’t kill every little creature that inconveniences you.” There was a long silence, and Merlin figured he’d fallen asleep again so he let his eyes close with a soft huff.
“If I see it again—“
“You’ll leave it alone.” A defeated sigh followed the statement and Arthur pursed his lips.
“I’ll kill it.” He grumbled under his breath. He could feel Merlin’s grin where his face was pressed against his shoulder. It made a smile inch it’s way across Arthur’s features as well.
With a muted chuckle Merlin sighed, “Just go to sleep, prat.”
He was certain now. As he slowly stalked forward, sword drawn and his eyes narrowed, Arthur knew the tiny devil was sent to destroy him. The raccoon was perched on the well, its back turned on the Prince. It seemed innocent enough but Arthur knew the truth.
He’d been minding his own business, settling his horse in after a long days hunt, when he heard it. The demon animal had been scratching away at a garbage bin outside a hut. It was getting ready to attack. Waiting for the opportune moment to strike.
Oh but it will never get the opportunity now, for Arthur saw it first. Now the little beast will pay dearly. Silently he crept toward it, sword raised above his head to strike. Just a few more feet and—
“Arthur Pendragon, what are you doing?” The raccoon whipped its head around, bared its teeth and took off toward the lower town. Arthur grit his teeth and let his sword drop. As he turned on his heel, he came face to face with an unamused Merlin. His arms were crossed over his chest, and one hand tapped on his forearm in irritation.
“Merlin!” He groaned in exasperation, “I almost had him!” He angrily jabbed his finger at the spot the raccoon had previously been. Merlin merely lifted both eyebrows and continued tapping.
With a huff of frustration Arthur stalked over, grabbed the others arm, and stomped into the castle. Behind him Merlin grinned, and raised one hand to stifle his laughter. “I told you to leave it alone, Arthur.” A grumble from ahead of him. “What would someone say if they saw the soon to be King getting into a fight with a wild animal?” Another deep grumble that could vaguely resemble an agreement, albeit a reluctant one. “Come now, you need to be rested for the coronation tomorrow.”
As Merlin readied Arthur for bed, the Prince’s eyes were on the window. As Merlin laid beside him, pulled up the covers and blew out the candle, Arthur could still feel the soulless eyes. They bore holes through him. As they drifted off to sleep, Merlin soon quietly snoring beside him, they both knew Arthur wouldn’t stop there.
Fortunately, for Merlin at least, it would be many, many months before Arthur came face to face with his foe again.
Fortunately for Arthur, Merlin wasn’t out with the King when it happened.
Unfortunately for Arthur, Merlin wasn’t with the King when it happened.
Arthur and his small group of knights were returning from an outlying town. They had just set up camp for the night, deciding it best to finish the last 4 hour ride in the morning, when it appeared. The scuffling started small around Gwaine’s bed roll, and all of the knight’s attention was pulled toward it. Arthur pulled his sword out the second the little black beady eyes locked on his.
Beside him Percival gave him a confused look before asking quietly, “Has this creature offended you in some way, Sire?” Arthur shifted his grip slightly and narrowed his eyes at the raccoon as it stood up on its back feet. Its small head bobbed slightly as it surveyed the threat.
“This monster has been terrorizing Merlin and I for the better part of a year.” Gwaine and Leon exchanged befuddled looks as Percival’s brows furrowed. “Everywhere I go I can feel it staring at me. When we’re on a hunt, or taking supplies to Hunith, or just out for a night stroll. Merlin won’t acknowledge its nefarious plans but I know the truth.” He took a few steps closer, sword pointed at the creatures chest as it hissed, tiny sharp teeth glinting in the firelight.
“Has it ever actually attacked you or Merlin?” Gwaine asked slowly, taking an unconscious step away from the imminent fight. Beside him Leon seemed to make the decision to follow him. Arthur now stood only a few feet away and could see the raccoon’s claws just as well as its teeth. He couldn’t back down now though. He had a score to settle with the little beast.
“Arthur—“ Leon warned tentatively, his hand extended to pull the King back, but it was too late.
In a flash of dark fur and a high pitched screech the animal lunged at Arthur. In turn, the mighty King of Camelot, screamed, dropping his sword to fight it off by hand. All three knights stopped dead in their tracks as they watched the struggle between man and beast.
“Should... should we help him?” Leon asked slowly as Gwaine doubled over laughing as the mighty warrior tussled on the ground with a raccoon. The raccoon clearly winning as Arthur’s shirt was shredded in the process.
Percival came up beside them and sighed, “It will give up soon enough.” At least they hoped it would without too much damage. Give up it did after a while, Arthur triumphantly running it off toward the woods again. He marched back and dropped to the ground panting and wincing slightly.
Arthur looked up at his most trusted knights, his lips a thin line. Slowly he picked up his discarded sword without taking his eyes off of them. He pointed it dramatically at each in turn and hissed, “The Consort doesn’t need to know about this.”
They all agreed without hesitation and only mild laughter.
He should have remembered.
“Honestly Merlin,” Arthur began as Merlin dumped another bucket of water into the tub, his tongue stuck out just slightly through his pursed lips, “Let George do his job. You aren’t my manservant anymore.” He could see Merlin roll his eyes as he tested the water with one hand and frowned. With a quick whispered word, and a flash of gold in his eyes Merlin finally deemed it warm enough. He stood up and turned to his husband with a cheeky grin.
“And let George get his hands all over that glorious naked body, no way.” Arthur dramatically rolled his eyes, yet returned the grin anyway as the warlock can over to undress him. “I haven’t seen you in a week, Arthur.” Merlin said softly as he slid his hands down the King’s arms, his shirt going with it. “Let me take care of you, yeah?” There was such adoration and love in his eyes that Arthur was helpless to it as he leaned over and pressed their lips together.
The smile Merlin returned could be felt as he sighed happily. “As wonderful as this is,” he murmured finally, his cheeks and ears flushed, “Your bath is getting cold.” Arthur snorted and dropped his towel on Merlin’s head, earning a muffled squeak of indignation.
“Please, we both know you would never let that happen.” Arthur shot back as he lowered himself into the tub of steaming water. A soft sigh escaped his lips before he continued, “Not when you could literally heat it back up with just a thought. Bring me that cloth will you?” Said cloth was chucked at his head and he couldn’t help the laugh that came out as Merlin came back into view with two goblets of wine. “Gods I’ve missed you.” He chuckled as he took the offered goblet.
“That so?” Merlin asked with a cheeky grin, “You’ve missed being abused by washing cloths?” Arthur threw him an unimpressed look before rolling his eyes as they went soft.
“I honestly have. It’s always, sire this, and your majesty that and fake politeness people assume I require. There’s just something about you that keeps me humble, Merl.” Arthur could feel his own face flush and hoped he could play it off as the warm water as he sunk down to cover his chin. Merlin smiled warmly at him from where he sat by the tub, his arms propped up on the rim. One hand held his wine, the other hand had his chin resting on it. The soft twist of his lips could only be described as self indulgent.
“Are you upset no one will call their King a dollophead to your face?” A half hearted splash and the wide bright grin was back on his Consort's face. Merlin sat the wine down and pushed up his sleeves to his elbows, Arthur was vaguely thankful it wasn’t one of the nicer tunics. He picked up the cloth from where it was floating in the water and said, voice going soft again, “You’re their hero, their leader, Arthur, they respect you.”
He languidly ran the cloth over Arthur’s chest as he continued speaking, “You may still be a prat to me, but honestly? You deserve all the devotion and respect they give.” His hand stilled on Arthur’s neck and Arthur just closed his eyes with a small smile. “Obviously I don’t count in that because when have I ever given you respect?” Arthur cracked his eyes open with a raised eyebrow. There was a mischievous twinkle in Merlin’s gaze as he continued washing down Arthur’s other side.
Well then. Two could play that game. “Now, I do believe there was at least that one night, after your coronation.” Merlin’s eyes widened and his face went slack as the color seemed to a lovely shade of red. “I do believe you spent all evening saying— oh what was it—“ he took a long drink of wine then smiled as he slowly drug his gaze over to Merlin, “Oh yes... Oh, please, Sire.” Merlin dumped water on his head as soon as Arthur ended the breathy imitation.
“Using our nighttime activities against me is a low blow and you know it, Sire.” The way he said the title was so reminiscent of when he was just Arthur’s manservant that it made his heart jump. Merlin moved to sit behind him and started gently messaging his scalp.
Arthur sighed at the pleasant feeling and leaned into the touch more as he shot back, “You dare call your King out on cheating, Sire?” The title rolled off his tongue, sticky sweet and saturated with teases. Arthur leaned forward as Merlin’s touch moved to wash his back.
Merlin however, didn’t take the bait. His hands had stopped on Arthur’s shoulder blades and the King froze, suddenly fearing he’d overstepped and read the situation wrong. “Merl? Merlin? I’m sorry I—“
“Arthur, why is your back all scratched up?” His fingers grazed over the long scratches across Arthur’s back and Arthur felt the color drain from his face. Merlin pulled back and gave him a quizzical look, his eyebrow raised as Arthur turned in the tub to look at him face to face.
The reminder of that first night came flooding back. Merlin telling him to leave it alone, over and over the raccoon coming back. Over and over, Merlin saying to leave it alone. He knew Merlin could see the fear creeping over his features as his Consort slowly folded his arms over his chest. Both eyebrows were raised now, as if saying ‘go on, entertain me.’
“I’m having an affair?” Arthur blurted, hand rubbing nervously at the back of his head.
The silence in the room was almost suffocating as Merlin continued to just sit there. Arms crossed, brows raised and his lips pursed in a disbelieving frown. Finally he slowly unfolded his arms and picked up his forgotten wine goblet. Without braking eye contact he drained the cup and set it on the ground. He folded his arms on the side of the tub and leaned in, as if he were about to tell a life changing secret.
“You got into a fight with that blasted raccoon.”