The Ineptitude of Men in Love
Cover for The ineptitude of men in love
Beautiful cover done by Nicci_mac

Pairing: Merlin/Arthur
 
Category: Humour, denseness, obliviousness
 
Rating: PG
 
Summary: Arthur's acting out of character which freaks Merlin out. Stupidity ensues.
 
Notes: Done for Nicci, because she shared one of her manips with me. Safe to say when she makes use of my favourite screencap of Arthur, it puts the muses to work.
Thanks goes to Nora Charles for picking out errors and generally making me trim the story (it's her super powers, I swear!)

Merlin swallowed hard when he noticed the figure leaning against the closed door to Gaius' rooms.

"Ah, Merlin, there you are," Arthur said, pushing away from the wall the moment he caught sight of Merlin.

Merlin sighed to himself. So much for steering clear of Arthur. He could have sworn Arthur would be out of his hair for a few hours, busy making life hell for his knights as per usual.

"Anything you need?" he asked politely enough. If he tagged on the 'sire' Arthur might think something was amiss, but he had best try to stay on his good side. Either way, he hoped for a small opportunity to escape Arthur for a while.

A hope that Arthur extinguished with a sunny smile a moment later.

"Oh, I need a great deal of things, Merlin," Arthur said, slapping his hand down on Merlin's shoulder. The hand stayed where it was and Arthur's arm lay heavily across Merlin's shoulders as he was led like a lamb to the slaughter.

"Anything specific?" Merlin asked, resigning himself to spending the rest of the day being tortured slowly by Arthur's too close presence.

Arthur looked as if he were considering his answer as they made their way up to Arthur's chambers, but Merlin could tell that it was fake. Arthur looked like a man with a plan and this was merely playacting.

Merlin took a deep breath as they finally stepped inside and made his decision. "Arthur, can I ask you a question?"

"But of course, Merlin. Anything." He still did not let go of Merlin's shoulder and the arm felt, if possibly, even heavier than before.

Merlin gave Arthur's hand on his shoulder one last look, feeling as if it was a snake about to strike. He didn't dare turn his head to face Arthur, because he was so close that if he did, they would be breathing the same air and he might possibly not say what was on his mind and instead do something foolish.

"Is something wrong?" Merlin finally managed to get out, wincing. That wasn't exactly the most eloquent line he could have come up with.

"With what?" Arthur asked, his voice neutral.

Merlin refused to look at Arthur. "You've been acting a little out of the ordinary for a while now," he said quietly.

"Huh," was all the reply he got from Arthur.

"I mean," Merlin said, fumbling for the right words, feeling the urge to kick himself for losing ground like this. "I mean you haven't yelled at me, you haven't been anything but civil and... eh..." Merlin paused. How was he supposed to say to Arthur that all the touching was not so much unsettling as confusing?

Arthur's hand on his shoulder tightened a little, then relaxed. "Out with it, Merlin," he said. "That's not what you were going to say, was it?"

"Well, it was but..." Merlin let out a deep sigh. He took a step forward, out from under Arthur's touch, turning around to stand in front of him. "I'm just not used to you being so..." he was going to say nice but instead it seemed his mouth took over and bypassed every intelligent thought in his mind. "You've been getting a lot closer than normally."

Arthur pasted on a frown, but Merlin noticed the flash of something else that crossed his face first.

"Not that I mind," Merlin said hurriedly. "I just couldn't help wondering if you might have eaten something odd, or drunk something or if maybe there was a spell..." Merlin snapped his mouth shut. He really should learn how to stop before he started blithering like that.

Arthur's shoulders sank and he stared down at the floor for a moment. "Well, it was worth a try, I guess," Arthur muttered to himself, and Merlin wasn't all that sure that it was supposed to have been loud enough for him to hear. When Arthur raised his head again, he had a look of resignation on his face.

Merlin wondered what Arthur was on about, but he wasn't given much time.

"Might as well take the rest of the day off, Merlin," Arthur told him as he walked past him, leaving Merlin on his own. "Go on. I won't require your services for tonight."

The thought that he was missing a huge piece of the puzzle annoyed Merlin. He was sure it was there, but it didn't fit. He turned around and followed Arthur a few steps, around the table where he stopped and stared at Arthur's stiff shoulders.

Arthur turned his head a little, though not enough to meet his eyes. "You heard me. You may take your leave."

Merlin opened his mouth to argue.

"Now."

Reaching out, Merlin hesitated, his hand hovering right above Arthur's shoulder. Pulling his arm back and letting it fall to his side, his hand curling into a fist, he made his decision. He could think of no explanation for Arthur's sudden change of mood, but he had a bad feeling that if he left right then and there, it would only get worse between them.

"Are you hard of hearing?" Arthur asked, his voice low and menacing.

"Let me ask you a question first," Merlin said, just as quietly, but he was careful to keep his voice neutral.

"No," Arthur said. "You're a servant, I tell you to leave, you leave."

Merlin couldn't help the snort from escaping him. "And I always do as you tell me," he said, this time more than a little amusement slipped out.

Which turned out to be a really bad idea, because Arthur whipped around, his eyes dark with anger. "There are far worse things that I can do to you, than send you to the stocks as punishment for your insubordination and for mocking me."

Staring at him, Merlin wondered if perhaps this time he had gone too far. However, it nagged him that Arthur seemed to be swinging wildly from nice and happy to absolutely furious.

Arthur took a step forward and Merlin took one back. Something ugly flashed through Arthur's eyes as he took another and Merlin found his retreat cut off as he felt the edge of the heavy table against the back of his arse.

Oh.

"Arthur..." Merlin tried to get out, but was cut short as Arthur pinned him in place, breath hot on his face. Merlin leaned back, regretting it instantly as Arthur followed. He couldn't see a way out of the situation and he knew it was a matter of seconds before Arthur, who was plastered against his front, would feel just what this display of power was doing to Merlin.

The soft exhalation and the stillness of Arthur's body made Merlin close his eyes. He was awkwardly bent back over the table, bracing his hands behind him, the soles of his feet barely brushing the stone floor.

Arthur's body was almost unbearably warm against his and the thigh between Merlin's was rock hard and burning through his breeches. Merlin felt his face heat with both embarrassment and excitement.

Merlin might possibly have whimpered as Arthur rolled his hips and Merlin realized just how that bloody puzzle piece fit. He slid down a little further, bracing himself on his elbows.

Arthur's breath was hot against his face and a moment later, Merlin felt the shift in his body, the friction causing him to breathe a little faster, a little more shallowly. Arthur's warm hand cupped his chin, the callused fingers sliding along his throat.

"Merlin, open your eyes. I'm not going to hurt you." Arthur's voice was low and thick, void of anger.

Merlin forced his eyes open and found Arthur staring intently into his eyes, the blue almost eclipsed by the pupils. Arthur was, if possibly, breathing even faster than Merlin was.

"I know," Merlin said and felt something strange rushing through his body when Arthur's eyes widened a fraction. Almost as if he were surprised. Then his expression changed and Merlin would have worried if he'd had enough blood flowing to his brain.

Arthur not only looked like the cat that had caught and eaten a jackdaw. His self satisfied grin was more akin to a cat that had cleaned out a cage of a family of jackdaws.

Oh, Merlin thought to himself as Arthur's lips brushed against his. He might have tried for other thoughts as well, but it all drowned in 'good', 'Arthur', 'kissing' and 'hot'.

Then again, perhaps thinking was overrated.

The End