heofona_gehlidu: (arthur merlin by your side)
[personal profile] heofona_gehlidu
Title: De arte honeste amandi (The Art of Courtly Love)
Fandom: Merlin
Rating:
Warnings: None
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Wordcount: 1924
Summary: Arthur attempts to woo Merlin, with mixed results
A/N: A fluffy present for [livejournal.com profile] fanged_angel, unbetaed so mistakes are mine alone



“What on earth is the matter with you?” Gaius asked as Merlin stumbled down the steps and slumped into the nearest chair. “You look as if you haven't slept at all.”

“I haven't.” Merlin rubbed at his eyes. “There were cats fighting and yowling outside my window all night.”

Gaius, to Merlin's annoyance, merely looked amused by this news. “Well, they do that. Try to ignore it.”

Aggrieved by the lack of sympathy, Merlin scowled at the plate Gaius placed in front of him. “Ignore it? Gaius, this is the third night! Why do they have to fight outside my window?”

Gaius opened his mouth as if to say something and then seemed to think better of it. “Throw water on them if it bothers you that much,” he said instead after a moment's hesitation.

Merlin liked that idea. He liked it very much.

***

Arthur, it appeared, had also been kept awake all night, although his expression when Merlin innocently asked if there had been cats fighting outside his window was furious enough to discourage any further questions in that area.

“Aren't you going to finish your breakfast?” Merlin asked eventually. Arthur had been toying with the same apple for a good hour and it was starting to make Merlin feel uneasy. The fact that Arthur seemed to be mostly watching him make the bed didn't help. Surely Arthur wasn't under the hold of some enchantment again?

“I'm not hungry.”

Merlin's heart sank. Definitely magic.

“Have you drunk anything unusual lately? Eaten anything that hasn't been tasted for you? Met any strange girls in the woods?”

“Shut up, Merlin,” Arthur said irritably, and that was more like it. Merlin's heart lifted a little. Maybe the enchantment wasn't as serious as he had feared.

“I could get Gaius, if you like,” he offered.

“I'm not sure Gaius can help with this,” Arthur said, giving Merlin another look that was probably intended to be deep and meaningful but actually just made him look cross-eyed.

“All right.” Merlin resolved to ask Gaius about it as soon as he was done with his duties. “I'll clear away the plates then, shall I?”

Something hit the door seconds after it had swung shut behind Merlin, and if Merlin hadn't known better he could have sworn it was an apple.

***

“I think Arthur is under an enchantment,” he told Gaius later.

“What, again?” Gaius looked understandably alarmed at this news.

“I know, he's not a fast learner.” Merlin dropped into his usual chair and looked imploringly at Gaius. “But we have to do something.”

“Tell me the symptoms.”

Merlin thought for a moment. “He's not eating much. And he doesn't seem to be sleeping. And he watches me all the time. Oh, and I've had to wash his sheets four times this week already.”

“Why would you ... oh.” Gaius, to Merlin's fascination, actually blushed. “I see.” He cleared his throat. “Well, has he eaten anything he shouldn't have done?”

“I don't think so.” Merlin mentally reviewed Arthur's activities over the last week or so. “And he definitely hasn't been rescuing any damsels in distress lately either.”

“He's learned one thing at least then.”

Merlin frowned to himself as he remembered something else. “Oh yes, and he was sniffing me yesterday.”

Gaius raised an eyebrow. “Sniffing you?”

Merlin nodded. “I told him I'd had a bath the night before and he just mumbled something and walked away. Gaius, this is serious!”

“Yes.” Gaius cleared his throat again. “In the absence of any mysterious maidens..”

“There definitely aren't.”

“Then I can't see that this odd behaviour is sinister.” Gaius raised a hand to forestall Merlin's protest. “Yet, at least. I suggest you keep a close eye on him, Merlin. Just in case.”

***

“Merlin,” Arthur said irritably, later that evening. “What are you doing?”

Keeping a close eye on you, Merlin thought grumpily. It was hardly his fault; he was only following the instructions Gaius had given him. “Cleaning the table?”

“From underneath?”

“You'd be surprised how much dust builds up under here.”

Arthur was looking down at him with that strange glint in his eyes again and he looked flushed – surely he wasn't coming down with a fever as well? Merlin made a mental note of that so he could tell Gaius later.

“Merlin, get out.”

“What about the rest of your dinner?”

Arthur cleared his throat – some sort of illness was obviously going around – and tugged his jacket down. “Just ... go. I don't need you tonight.”

Merlin carefully backed out from under the table and got to his feet. His knees were hurting from kneeling on the floor. “Are you sure?”

Arthur's breathing was somewhat laboured, Merlin noted. “Oh yes. Out. Could you try doing what I tell you, just this once?”

Merlin went, resolved to tell Gaius about these new symptoms as soon as possible.

***

The cats were fighting outside Merlin's window again that night but this time Merlin was ready for them. Taking up the bucket he had filled with water before going to bed, he went to the window, opened the shutters, carefully leaned out, and upended the bucket.

The yelp from the courtyard below was not at all feline.

***

Princes of Camelot, Merlin was rapidly discovering, were not at their best at two in the morning, even when their loyal servants had retrieved them from the courtyard and returned them wet and shivering to their own chambers.

“You could have killed me, Merlin,” Arthur said as angrily as he could around the chattering of his teeth. It hadn't been the warmest of evenings even before Merlin had emptied a bucket of cold water over him. In retrospect, perhaps he shouldn't have let go of the bucket.

“I thought you were a cat!” Merlin protested. "It sounded like a cat. Cats."

“So you routinely try to kill cats, do you?”

Merlin bit back his immediate reply to that and concentrated on getting Arthur out of his dripping wet tunic instead. “At least the bucket didn't actually hit you.”

“Lucky for you it didn't.” Arthur went into a whole new fit of shivering as Merlin went to work on his drenched trousers. “Though your aim seems to be good enough with water.”

With Arthur safely out of his clothes, Merlin wrapped him in a blanket and pushed him closer towards the fire's warmth. “There. I'll fetch you a hot drink. Don't want you getting a cold.”

Arthur sat on the rug before the fire and glared resentfully at Merlin. “Perhaps you should have thought of that before you tipped a bucket of water over me.”

Merlin ignored that and went to fetch the drink. Arthur grabbed it from him as soon as he returned, grumbling under his breath as he cradled the mug in his hands. Merlin started picking up Arthur's discarded clothes and tried to ignore the way the blanket was starting to slip on Arthur's shoulder, revealing expanses of skin bronzed by the light of the fire.

“What were you doing out there, anyway?” he asked, to cover his own distraction.

“What?”

“What.Were.You.Doing.Out.There?” An awful suspicion was forming in Merlin's mind but he couldn't begin to think too deeply about it when Arthur was looking at him like that.

Arthur mumbled something.

“What?”

“Oh for goodness sake, Merlin.” Arthur made what was probably meant to be a dramatic gesture and sent the blanket sliding down even further.

The throat clearing was definitely catching.

“Merlin?”

“I'm fine,” Merlin managed. The suspicion was back, more strident than before. He cursed his mind, and the images it so helpfully provided for him. “You were singing, weren't you?”

Arthur blanched, and for a moment Merlin thought he was going to run away, but then Arthur's jaw tightened and his back straightened and he glared defiantly back at Merlin. “What of it?”

“Why were you singing outside my window?” If this was some kind of enchantment, it was certainly a very strange one. “And last night, and the night before, and the night before that! How am I supposed to serve you when I can't sleep because you're singing outside my window every night? ”

Arthur's bravery seemed to have deserted him: Merlin managed to decipher a few words from the mumbled reply.

“I've never heard it called that before.”

Arthur went bright red. “Merlin!”

“That's my name, yes.” Merlin bent over to pick up Arthur's shirt. The distinct whimper from the direction of the fireplace only confirmed his theory. He was going to have to tell Gaius about this.

Arthur ran a hand distractedly through his hair and the blanket slipped even further. “I don't think 'woo' means what you think it means, Merlin.”

“If it means annoying your servant and keeping him awake all night I'm not sure I want to know,” Merlin retorted.

“If I'd known you were going to be like this about it I wouldn't have bothered.”

“About what?” There was no response. Merlin took a deep breath. “Arthur, are you trying to court me?”

Arthur's blush intensified but the courage was back, to Merlin's relief. “Y-yes. Yes.”

“Oh.” Merlin realised he was hugging Arthur's shirt to his chest and he quickly set it down on the table. “Good.”

Arthur frowned. “Is that it?”

Merlin frowned in turn. “What am I supposed to do?”

Arthur looked as if he was recalling some childhood lesson. “I think you're supposed to acknowledge my affection and give me some sign of your affection in return.”

“Like what?”

Arthur waved a hand. “A ribbon or something. And then I fight for you in a tournament and you watch me and I read you some poetry and we go for a walk in the gardens. And so on.”

"Until we die of old age?"

"There are rules, Merlin!”

There was a long moment of awkward silence, during which Arthur looked studiously at the floor and Merlin tried very hard not to use his magic to coax the blanket down even further.

“It all sounds a bit dull,” Merlin said eventually. “I don't think I have any ribbons. Can't we skip straight to you taking me to bed?”

Arthur made a strangled sound and went bright red again.

“I don't mind watching you fight,” Merlin went on. He took a step towards Arthur. “I really like it, actually, but the rest of it ... well, we could be doing other things.”

“Like what?”

“This.” And Merlin leaned down and kissed him.

***

Later, as Merlin lay in Arthur's bed watching Arthur sleep, he decided that this was something he probably wouldn't be telling Gaius about.

***

“No more singing,” he told Arthur sternly, a little later after that.

“No more,” Arthur agreed. His eyes rolled back in his head. “Oh, there...”

“No more courtly love.”

“Oh no,” Arthur said, more decisively this time. “Definitely not.” His hand cupped Merlin's jaw, turning Merlin's face towards him. “And if you don't get on with it I'm going to have you put in the stocks for a week.”

Merlin grinned and rubbed his face against Arthur's fingers until the blush rose in Arthur's face all over again. This, Merlin decided, was a much more agreeable way to lose sleep. In fact, he planned to lose as much sleep as possible from now on.

“I always knew you were a romantic at heart,” he teased, and Arthur's blush deepened.

“Shut up, Merlin.”

“Yes, sire.”



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