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Love Is Evil, Or Is It?

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   Merlin really should’ve seen this coming. With the tournament, and all the visiting nobles riding into Camelot, and the subsequent feast, he really should have been prepared. Something had gone wrong during every other tournament Camelot had held while Merlin had been servant to the Prince, so he didn’t know why he had hoped this time would be the exception. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t. And now he had his hands even more full than usual running after an enchanted Prince Arthur. Or so he thought. It was really the only probable explanation for Arthur’s current behaviour.

   It had started halfway through the feast. The looks, that is. Shortly after that came the subtle and remarkably discreet touches to his waist and hips whenever he stepped closer to refill Arthur’s goblet. These had coloured his cheeks a deep crimson, and he’d been forced to duck his head to try to hide his face the best he could. Unfortunately, he was too close to Arthur for the Prince to miss it. As he ducked closer yet again, his suspicions were confirmed.

   Leaning closer, so his lips brushed Merlin’s ear, the Prince whispered, “You look good tonight, Merlin.” Merlin had nearly dropped the jug of wine in his surprise. Arthur had merely chuckled and sat back as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Merlin stared at the side of his head in shock and horror for a moment before hastily backing away. Honestly, he had been here the whole time, and had only got distracted one or twice for a moment or two, so how had someone been able to lace the Prince’s food with a love potion? And why in the world was the Prince now obsessed with him instead of the intended recipient of his affections?

   The night wore slowly on, and Merlin only grew to be more concerned with each passing minute. Namely because with each passing minute, Arthur got more affectionate with him. Really, it was becoming hard to hide, and even the King himself had glanced curiously over at his son. Arthur didn’t seem to notice, or care, so as soon as it was considered polite to do so, Merlin hauled Arthur out of his chair and proceeded to lead him out of the hall.

   As they left, he made sure to loudly say, “You’ve had a bit too much to drink, Sire. Best we get you to bed.” He didn’t want any suspicions aroused, or rumours started amongst the servants. A story as scandalous as that would spread like wildfire, no doubt.

   Arthur’s arm was a heavy weight over his shoulders, and he sagged a bit beside him, pulling Merlin off balance as they made their way through the relatively (thankfully) empty halls. His feet drug on the floor a bit, and it was then that Merlin realized that his lie wasn’t actually much of a lie at all. The Crown Prince of Camelot was well on his way to being drunk. Merlin had to fight the urge to laugh outright at the realization. The only thing stopping him being the thought of how hungover Arthur tomorrow was going to be a nightmare to deal with.

   “You’re a right prat, you know that?” He grumbles under his breath, not expecting Arthur to hear. When he hears an indignant grunt beside him, he looks over and it met with Arthur’s extremely affronted look.

   “I haven’t done anything.” He defends himself. Merlin fights back a smile at how truly indignant and haughty the Prince looks.

   “Not yet.” Merlin points out, his smile slipping past his defences at Arthur’s insulted huff.

   “You know, Merlin,” Arthur muses in his ear, “I often wonder why I let you stick around. You’re the worst servant I’ve ever seen. You never do as you’re told. You’re much too happy in the morning. It truly is a wonder how you haven’t stabbed yourself while polishing my sword yet.” He points out, surprisingly clear for someone so obviously intoxicated.

   “Thank you, Sire. It’s so nice to have my work appreciated.” Merlin retorts lightly. Arthur buries his face clumsily in Merlin’s neck and snorts out an unattractive laugh. The damn sound still ignites a flurry of butterflies in Merlin’s stomach, and he curses the day he had grown feelings for the man currently clinging to him.

   “It really is a mystery.” Arthur pronounces as his face reappears. Merlin gives him a teasing, cheeky grin.

   “Perhaps it’s my charming personality.” He laughs. Arthur cocks his head as he looks at him. He trips over his feet, and Merlin mumbles curses under his breath as he struggles to keep them upright. “Arthur, watch where you’re going, please. You can stare at me all you like once we’re in your chambers and you’re sitting down.”

   Arthur opens his mouth to protest, then seems to think over Merlin’s demand and shrugs agreeably as he dutifully looks ahead of them down the hall. Merlin would almost be surprised, if he hadn’t remembered the enchantment currently rattling Arthur’s mind. He carries on, letting out a sigh of relief once Arthur’s chamber doors come into sight.

   “Oh, thank God.” He groans, hoisting Arthur’s weight further up onto his shoulder as the Prince starts lagging. “Arthur, what are you do—“

   That’s all he gets out before Arthur has him neatly pinned against the wall, and surprisingly soft lips cover his own. He squeaks in surprise, then very unsurprisingly melts into the kiss. As Merlin reciprocates the embrace, Arthur presses closer with a fervour, practically devouring Merlin’s lips. He can’t help the needy moan that slips out of his throat as Arthur nips playfully at his bottom lip, tongue following after to soothe it. Arthur takes the sound as permission to lick at his lips again, his tongue slinking stealthily into Merlin’s mouth as the servant leans back against the wall.

   Arthur immediately presses closer, sliding a thigh between Merlin’s. Merlin whines, far too gone to be embarrassed about it, as his hands take on mind’s of their own and reach up to tangle in Arthur’s soft, golden hair. He had always thought it was impossible for a human being to purr, but that is exactly what Arthur does when Merlin pulls experimentally on his hair. The servant locks that information away for later. He doesn’t come back to his senses until he feels Arthur’s hand inching slowly past the waistband of his breeches.

   “Wait.” Merlin mumbles into the Prince’s mouth. He repeats it when Arthur pulls away with a confused look on his face. “This isn’t right, we shouldn’t do this.” He explains. He glances up and down the corridor to see if anyone has passed them by yet. There’s no one in sigh, and Merlin sincerely hopes no one passed while they were... otherwise engaged.

   Arthur’s eyes clear minutely. “Ah, yes. Of course. A public corridor is much too inappropriate a place to act as such.” Arthur replies. Merlin droops. He hadn’t meant being in the open hallway. He had meant doing this at all. To allow Arthur to follow through with such acts while under the influence of a love spell would be taking advantage of him. There was no way that Merlin could, in good conscience, do this with the Prince, no matter how badly he may crave it.

   The Prince’s hand is already reaching down to tangle with his, and pulling him swiftly toward his chambers. They only stumble a bit, largely thanks to Arthur’s alcohol intake. They do manage to get inside in one piece, however, and Arthur is immediately pressing the door closed, then pushing Merlin back into much the same position as before. Merlin gulps.

   “Now,” Arthur breathes, eyes darkening, “where were we?” He starts to lean closer, and it takes all of Merlin’s willpower to turn his head. Arthur pulls back, frowning, as his lips land squarely on Merlin’s cheek instead of his mouth. A genuine flash of hurt flits across his face, only serving to make Merlin feel more horrible.

   “I’m sorry, Arthur, but I meant what I said. We really shouldn’t. Can’t, I mean.” Merlin forces himself to say. Arthur pulls away, taking a step back to put some distance between them. He opens his mouth to say something, then looks away and reaches up to rub the back of his neck.

   “Right. Of course. If that’s how you feel then... right.” He says awkwardly. “You may go. I won’t require you further tonight.” He says deflatedly as he turn around and moves further into the room. Merlin watches his retreating back in confusion. That’s not how a typical love enchantment works. The one under the spell generally never gives up until they get what they desire. He definitely had to talk to Gaius.

   Peeling himself off the wall, Merlin mumbles, “Goodnight, Sire.” He pauses at the door, wondering if he should wait for a response. When none comes, he silently slips back out into the hall, firmly and securely closing the door behind him. This was unlike any enchantment he had ever seen. His concern for the Prince spikes at the thought as he turns and makes his way quickly up to his chambers that he shared with Gaius.

   He breathes a sigh of relief as he bangs through the door and Gaius looks up at him scoldingly. He ignores it as he announces, “Something is wrong with Arthur.”

   Gaius looks reasonably concerned as he settles his reproachful eyebrow and gives Merlin his full attention. “What seems to be the problem, Merlin?”

   Merlin bites his lip, undecided on how much to tell his mentor. “I think he’s been enchanted. A love spell, specifically.” He says.

   “Well, what exactly is he doing that makes you suspect that?” Gaius asks calmly. Much too calmly for the situation at hand, in Merlin’s opinion. When he goes to reply, however, he flounders. How exactly does he explain what just happened between himself and the Prince? If word ever got out, the King might have him executed just on principle.

   “I, uhm... he’s just acting... strangely.” He fumbles out. He can feel his cheeks reddening. Gaius lifts The Eyebrow.

   “Merlin, I’m going to need a little more than that. Unless I have specifics, I have no hope in finding which love spell Arthur could he under.” Gaius informs him. Merlin groans, moving to sink down at the small table. He really doesn’t want to tell his father figure the whole tale. How embarrassing would that be? “I’m assuming you didn’t barge in here like a wild animal because you thought Arthur was perfectly safe. Out with it, Merlin.”

   Merlin sighs, but resigns himself to relaying the whole story, starting with the feast and ending with Merlin leaving Arthur’s chambers (he leaves out the bit about how much he truly enjoyed kissing the Prince). Gaius stoically listens, thoughtful expression on his face. Once Merlin is finished, he watches his mentor anxiously. When he still gets no response, he asks, “What do you think it could be? I’ve never heard of any enchantment behaving that way before.”

   To Merlin’s surprise, it actually looks like Gaius is barely holding back an amused smile. “Are you quite sure it’s an enchantment, Merlin? You, yourself, said that you didn’t know when the culprit would have had the time to give it to Arthur.”

   Merlin frowns. “Perhaps it wasn’t something he ate or touched. Maybe it was merely a verbal enchantment.” He says. Gaius shakes his head.

   “I doubt it. Even with all the activity going on during a feast, there is little chance anyone would risk performing such blatant magic in front of the King.” He replies. Merlin is well and truly stumped.

   “Well, what do you think is wrong with him then?” Merlin asks exasperatedly. That barely held back grin has returned.

   A chuckle escapes as Gaius replies, “It sounds to me like a simple case of drinking lowering the Prince’s inhibitions.” Merlin silently ponders this for a moment.

   “Yeah, but that would mean... No. No, absolutely not. There’s no way that’s true. Arthur would never... Me? No.” He rushes out, red flush now spreading all the way to the tips of his ears. He would glare at Gaius for so openly finding amusement in the situation if he wasn’t so busy staring off at the wall.

   After a moment of silence, Gaius says, “You wanted my professional opinion, and there it is. Now, I suggest you get some rest. There is nothing more can be done about it tonight.” Merlin nods and gets to his feet numbly. There was no way that Arthur could... like him, was there? No, it was a foolish idea. Gaius was mistaken. It had to be some kind of enchantment, didn’t it?

   Merlin doesn’t get much sleep that night, tossing and turning restlessly as he thinks over the physician’s words. Gaius truly was the resident expert concerning both magic and medicine in Camelot. If he truly didn’t suspect sorcery to be involved, then he was probably correct. However, that only left the option of Arthur actually being interested in Merlin like that, and Merlin wasn’t entirely sure what to do with that information. All he was certain of, was the he really didn’t want to face Arthur today.

   Finally, after pushing it for as long as he really could. He swung his legs out of bed and reluctantly got up. Gaius gave him a sympathetic smile as he slouched out for breakfast, but gave no words of encouragement. With growing dread, Merlin found himself making his way through the halls to Arthur’s chambers. He pauses outside the doors uneasily, closing his eyes and counting to ten slowly as he took a couple deep breaths. He could do this. It would all be fine. Maybe he’d get lucky and Arthur wouldn’t even remember.

   He pushes the door open and enters the room. His eyes easily stray to Arthur, who is sat up in bed already. Their eyes meet, and Merlin’s heart sinks. Arthur remembered. He could tell by the look on his face. He stands frozen in the doorway for a moment before slowly stepping fully inside and letting the door close behind him. What was he supposed to say? ‘Look, about last night, I thought you were under a spell, whoops, guess I was wrong, sorry?’

   Turns out he had nothing too much to worry about, because it’s Arthur who breaks the tense silence with, “Merlin, about last night. I am sorry if I put you in a position that made you uncomfortable. That was never my intention, and I promise that it shall never happen again.” He looks like he’s been chewing over these words, rehearsing them, for a while. Merlin isn’t entirely sure what to say, but he’s pretty sure breaking out into hysterical laughter is not the appropriate response. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what he does.

   Arthur’s face flashes with hurt, much like it had the night before, and Merlin struggles to compose himself. It’s not his fault, really, that the entire situation is just so ridiculous. Once he feels like he is once again capable is proper speech again, he slowly crosses the room. Arthur is eyeing him warily as he approaches.

   “Arthur, you have it all wrong. I thought you were under the influence of a love spell, and I didn’t want it to seem like I was taking advantage of you.” Merlin explains. Arthur stares at him blankly for a beat or two before he suddenly looks indignant all over again.

   He splutters out, “A love spell? Why on earth would you think that?” He has a decidedly red face now. “And the idea of you ever taking advantage of me is just preposterous.” He adds on with a huff. Merlin bites back a grin, spreading his arms in a helpless shrug.

   “Well, I mean, to be fair, it seemed like a probable enough explanation.” Merlin argues. Arthur gapes at him.

   “Why?” He demands. Now it’s Merlin’s turn to stare incredulously.

   “Why?” He repeats. “Because you’re only the Crown Prince, that’s why. In the time I’ve known you, I haven’t seen you display feelings for anyone, let alone me, so how was I supposed to know that you pressing me against the wall and snogging me senseless was genuine?”

   “Well I can’t exactly let the whole kingdom see me making eyes at my servant, now can I? There is a certain sense of propriety and station that needs to be considered here.” Arthur argues back. “And besides, I don’t remember you exactly caring about that at the time last night.”

   Merlin blushes a deep red at Arthur’s words. There is absolutely no way he can get himself out of that one. Whether he had meant to keep his feelings for the Prince unknown or not, they were out there in the open now. At least partly, anyway. He jumps slightly as he hears the rustle of bed linens, followed by approaching footsteps. He blinks owlishly once Arthur’s face appears in front of his, almost dangerously close.

   Arthur grins as he says, “Now, can we both just agree that you are an idiot?” Merlin scowls. He fails to see how this whole misunderstanding is entirely his fault.

   “Only if we both agree that you’re a prat.” He counters. Arthur’s grin widens as he steps just a bit closer. Merlin’s heart rate explodes, the poor organ beating double time.

   “You know, I could have you put in the stocks for addressing me like that.” Arthur warns teasingly. Merlin can’t help but roll his eyes at the empty threat.

   He lifts his chin defiantly and says, “I’m sure you’d love that, wouldn’t you?” Arthur’s eyes glitter dangerously, in all the best ways, as he advances further. Merlin stumbles back until he is once again trapped against the door. Arthur’s grin is borderline predatory as he steps fully into Merlin’s space, boxing him in.

   “I’d much rather just keep you locked up here.” He says, voice low and silky. Merlin can’t hold back the groan that those words illicit, and Arthur looks much too triumphant as he dives back in and presses their lips together. Merlin wastes no time in wrapping his arms around the Prince’s neck, fingers tangling in the hairs at the nape of his neck. Arthur’s own restless hands move to his waist, tugging gently on his tunic.

   Just like the night before, Arthur’s tongue makes its way into his mouth, and Merlin goes weak at the knees. A tiny, helpless moan is ripped from his mouth as Arthur once again slots his thigh in between Merlin’s legs. He tugs on the handful of hair that had made its way into his hand, and Arthur moans. Loudly.

   Merlin somehow manages to pull away breathlessly. “Perhaps we should move this away from the door to your chambers, Sire.” Arthur doesn’t reply, just steps backwards and tugs Merlin with him. They stumble through the room, refusing to let go of each other. As they reach the bed, Arthur gracefully spins them, leaving Merlin to tumble onto his back, Arthur following on top of him. As Arthur kisses him hotly again, Merlin has to admit that this is the best love spell ever.