Beta: The forever amazing souleswanderer and the wonderful starxd_sparrow
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Merlin and no money was made from writing this story.
Summary: “So, really, the whole magic thing. It’s good for party tricks and not much else, huh?”
A/N: This story takes place several years in the future of the current BBC series.
Arthur yawned, his hand idly rubbing his full belly, as he watched Merlin tidy up his chambers. “So, really, the whole magic thing. It’s good for party tricks and not much else, huh?” His voice trailed off, and he gestured with his goblet which sent half a cup of wine flying through the air. The droplets froze midair. “See, party tricks.” He gave a vindicated nod, and Merlin’s jaw clenched.
“I’ll have you know, your Highness, I’m the most powerful sorcerer in all of Albion,” Merlin replied. Granted, when Arthur finally learned of his magic, it was several weeks after Uther’s death when Merlin managed to set half of Arthur’s chambers on fire. Arthur had looked between Merlin and his smoking bed, shook his head, and laughed until tears streamed down his face. Considering the circumstances, Merlin didn’t really mind.
“Oh, really?” Arthur responded, drawing Merlin out of his daydream. Arthur’s crown was slipping down his forehead and nearly covered his left eye. He pointed to the leftover pork on his plate. “Turn this into a woman.”
Merlin eyed the few bites of grizzle and leftover grape stems on the plate. It shouldn’t be too difficult to – he shook his head at the absurdity of even considering Arthur’s demand. “As if I’d use my magic for your –” he waved his hand, unable to think of a suitable answer – “entertainment.”
“I could order you to,” Arthur replied, grinning. “I am king, you know.”
“As if you’d ever let anyone forget it,” Merlin grumbled.
“A lot of people would kill to be in your position,” Arthur replied, leaning the chair back on two legs. Whether it was the alcohol or Arthur’s need to push even the simplest things like sitting down to their very limits, the chair slipped and he nearly fell to the floor. He reached for the table, his fingers grasping the wood until the chair settled underneath him. Arthur collapsed onto the chair again and reached for his crown that had rolled several feet away.
“You’re welcome,” Merlin muttered.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to try to take credit for my clearly spectacular and well-honed reflexes. Honestly, Merlin, just because your magic is so obviously rubbish doesn’t mean you have to resort to lying about your abilities.”
Merlin’s jaw nearly fell to his knees. “You arrogant bastard!”
“Now, now,” Arthur chided, his eyes alight with amusement, “there’s no need for name calling. I could have you beheaded in case you’ve forgotten.”
“I’d love to see you try,” Merlin challenged, his arms crossing dangerously over his chest. Whatever Merlin considered a very threatening display of his sorcerer prowess only caused Arthur to laugh.
When his laughter had calmed, Arthur said, “We’re hosting important guests tomorrow evening. I was thinking you could help with the entertainment.”
Merlin eyed him skeptically. “Help how?”
“You know –” Arthur wiggled his fingers – “party tricks.”
Merlin’s jaw dropped. “You’ve got to be joking. Do you have any idea how powerful I am?”
Arthur tapped his fingers on the table thoughtfully. “I’ve weighed the risks of you possibly setting our guests on fire. I’ve asked a few of the servants to be prepared with buckets of water.”
Merlin spluttered, his fists clenching and releasing at his sides while his mouth opened and closed, too shocked to even force out the easiest of insults.
“Great, you agree, then. Not that you had much of a choice, but I’m glad you’re not putting up a fight. I do hate it when we argue, Merlin.” Arthur pushed away from the table.
“If you think –”
“I’m going hunting in the morning. I was thinking of looking for a white rabbit. Perhaps you can pull it out of that hat. You know, the one with the feathers,” Arthur explained.
“I can tell you what you can pull out of your arse, if you’d like,” Merlin offered, his face twitching with barely concealed rage.
Arthur sighed. “Has it really been that long since we’ve discussed your attitude and the proper way to address your king?”
“If my king wasn’t being such an unreasonable, stupid, arrogant, pompous, narrow minded –"
“I’ll see you tomorrow evening, Merlin,” Arthur said jovially. “Oh, and wear the hat!” He closed the door on Merlin’s string of colorful curses.
Arthur’s hunt was successful, and he and his knights started for the castle in the afternoon. Despite having people who were more than willing to bring him whatever he desired, Arthur still enjoyed the thrill of stalking his prey. His knights didn’t comment when Arthur insisted they trap the rabbit instead of killing it.
He joked with Gawain and Kay, their spirits high, as they rode across the meadow and over the rolling hill.
Arthur froze, his mount skittering to a halt and his eyes widening as he pointed at…nothing.
“Well, where is it?” Arthur asked. He blinked several times.
“Sire, it was here this morning,” Sir Gawain offered helpfully.
“Yes, I’m aware of that, Gawain. Thank you.”
“Perhaps we took a wrong turn?” Sir Kay suggested.
“I know where my own castle is,” Arthur growled.
Arthur nudged his mount forward, and he rode across the packed dirt, his knights whispering behind him.
“Castles don’t just disappear,” Arthur muttered. No one said the obvious that, yes, apparently they do.
“Lose something?” a cheerful and very familiar voice asked.
“Merlin,” Arthur barked. He turned his horse and saw Merlin sitting on a log several yards away. He pointed to the wide expanse of black dirt. “Put it back.” His knights looked on, slack-jawed at the inconspicuous man. Yes, they knew he was a sorcerer - Arthur had told them the moment he found out (though most of them had already suspected it). If it took a sorcerer to keep their king safe, then so be it.
Merlin coughed and continued sorting herbs into carefully constructed piles. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“The castle, Merlin.” Arthur slid out of his saddle and passed the reigns to Gawain before stalking forward.
“My castle! What have you done with it?”
“You wanted party tricks,” Merlin said, leaning back and waving his hand casually. “I gave you party tricks.”
“You made my entire castle disappear,” Arthur said, his voice deceptively calm.
Merlin glanced around him. “It would appear that way, yes.”
“Put it back.”
Merlin tapped his lips thoughtfully. “Let me think about it.”
Arthur tossed his hands in the air. “You idiot! What can there possibly be to think about?”
“That didn’t sound like ‘Wow, Merlin. You’re actually a great and powerful sorcerer after all.’”
“If you’re fishing for compliments, you’re not going to get any from me,” Arthur snapped, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Fine, enjoy your feast. That is if your guests can find the castle.” Merlin rolled to his feet and started walking away. “I wonder if Mercia is hiring,” he mumbled.
“Sire, a word of advice?” Gawain offered quietly.
“Unless you’re offering to bring me his head, I don’t want to hear it.”
Gawain shared a knowing look with Kay who barely suppressed a smile. “You do realize what he did today, don’t you? That’s not your everyday party trick as you like to call them.”
“He’s showing off!” Arthur snapped.
“For you,” Kay said reasonably.
“If you expect me to believe this little display of temper is somehow for me, I’m going to have Gaius examine you both as soon as I figure out where he and the rest of my loyal subjects went.”
“To be honest, sire, I haven’t seen that boy do anything that wasn’t for you since he arrived at Camelot years ago.”
Arthur sighed, running a hand through his hair. Okay, so they had a point. Maybe.
“Merlin,” Arthur called. “Wait a second.” He jogged across the grass to where Merlin was walking slowly toward the road. “We need to talk.”
“Still deciding that, are you?” Merlin asked. Arthur grabbed his shoulder when he didn’t stop walking.
“Stop being an idiot,” Arthur snapped.
“Great way to start the conversation,” Merlin deadpanned.
“Look, you don’t have to wear the hat, okay?”
“If you think this is about that stupid hat –"
“I never actually expected you to entertain my guests either.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Then what is the point?” Arthur asked.
“I made your castle disappear,” Merlin said flatly. “Do you really think entertaining a few noble visitors would be that much of a challenge?”
“The way you were blathering on about it, what was I supposed to think?”
Merlin glared at him. “Would you like to see what else I can make disappear?” He lifted his hand like he was going to snap his fingers, and Arthur’s hand closed tightly around his own.
“Stop it.” He didn’t release Merlin’s hand, and Merlin made no effort to pull away. “Tell me what you want.”
Merlin looked away, his foot kicking at a stray pebble. “What I’ve always wanted.”
Arthur used his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Which is?”
Merlin shrugged, his eyes downcast. “To serve you.”
“Did you ever stop to think I knew how powerful you were, and I didn’t want you to become a weapon for me? Did you ever consider that I didn’t want you to think I just kept you around because you were a powerful warlock rather than just my bumbling Merlin?”
Merlin blushed, his hand tugging on his handkerchief. “Oh.”
Arthur smiled and shook his head. “Idiot.”
“What if you could have both?” Merlin asked. Arthur lifted an eyebrow curiously. “A powerful warlock and wise, intelligent, and so very brave Merlin?”
Arthur considered this for a second. “I prefer bumbling Merlin.”
“That’s good,” Merlin said, bumping Arthur with his shoulder. “I happen to know him. I’ll put in a good word for you.”
Arthur growled; it was a sound deep in his throat, and wrapped his arm around Merlin’s shoulders, squeezing a bit harder than necessary. “So if you’ve quite finished with your tantrum, will you put my castle back now?”
Merlin sighed. “If I must.” His eyes flashed gold. Arthur’s gaze didn’t leave Merlin. He knew his castle would be standing there when he turned around, and actually, he quite liked the view from this direction.