Oct. 7th, 2013 05:35 pm
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[personal profile] ingenius
For [personal profile] thehoyden bbc Merlin, Arthur/Merlin "Can you even read?"
(and nowhere near as brilliant as her writing D:)

In early winter, a dear friend of Giaus’ passes away, leaving a notable number of medical and scientific books and scrolls to be delivered to Camelot, so as to further the cause of science.

Uther looks at the box the books are delivered in—very nice box, very boxy and geometrical and not at all containing dirty filthy books about enchantments and How To Dispose Of Your King In Eight Days Or Less—Merlin can barely contain his enthusiasm, his eyes growing so wide and round to be comical, and Arthur’s rooms, never very clean to begin with, fall into a state of near disastrous disarray.

Arthur is jealous and bored, entirely too used to monopolizing all of Merlin’s attention and way too spoiled. He tracks Merlin down, usually to some sunny little corner of the castle where one might be able to sit and have a read without a cranky court physician mixing and bubbling and sending you to fetch this and that, with every intention of giving him a good chastising and ordering him to rectify his mistakes, but then faced with the sight of Merlin curled up by the wall, reading his book with a look of open fascination (eyes bright, cheeks flushed, pretty pink lips parted slightly)—well, Arthur can’t help but get ideas.

Ideas that range from sneaking up on the unsuspecting fool and frightening him, to grabbing the book out of Merlin’s lap and running away with it to sitting there and just watching Merlin read which always makes Arthur feel a little creepy and wrong and is way more interesting than it had any right to be. It’s silly and childish, but after a few minutes of being grumpy Merlin always cheers up and picks up his end of the banter and pays attention to Arthur again.

But two weeks in Merlin’s become very apt at hearing Arthur sneaking up on him (“Oh, there you are, sire. Something you need me to fetch?”), improved his grip on his book and learnt to ignore Arthur’s staring—even that time Arthur brings his face in very close like he’s going to kiss Merlin (not like he thinks about it. Much).

It’s time for a change in tactic so Arthus sits down trying to look as innocent and harmless as possible and says “What’s that book about?”

Merlin lifts his head slowly, studying Arthur over the book’s edge with suspicion. Clever boy, Arthur thinks and grins wolfishly. After a moment’s silence Merlin said “Plant lore. From the East. Terribly boring book. You wouldn’t like it at all.”

“I don’t know,” Arthur said, leaning over until he could see the pages. “The pictures are nice.” They weren’t, but Arthur could lie and would lie, just to watch Merlin squirm.

“Maybe you should read to me from it.” Arthur suggested, shifting closer and enjoying the way Merlin tried to move away without actually moving. “Please?”

Merlin glared at him suspiciously and then—

“Oh,” he said suddenly, wide-eyed and amazed, the unease draining out of him and Arthur got a little inappropriately excited because that combination looked very good on Merlin. And then Merlin said “Can you even read?” and promptly killed any excitement Arthur might have been feeling in a very Merlin-esqu fashion.

“What?” Arthur spluttered. “Of course I can read you moron—” and stopped, momentarily overcome by earnest look in Merlin’s eyes and the hand coming to rest on Arthur’s shoulder. It’s not the first time Merlin’s touched him—he’s helped Arthur in and out of his clothes dozens of times—but this time it’s not an impersonal touch adjusting as ill sitting shirt or a physician(in training)’s hand putting salve on the bruises Arthur can’t reach. This touch is supposed to give comfort, assurance, and for one horrifying moment Arthur leans into the touch, and then can’t bear to pull away.

“It’s alright sire, really.” Merlin insists with sincerity that’s almost painful to hear, “No shame in it. It explains why you’ve been such a monumental prat the last few weeks. Giaus has a few simpler books we could start with—”

Arthur wants to argue, wants to put his foot down and make Merlin understand just how well he can read (very well, thanks to the finest tutors in the land) and maybe put Merlin in the stocks for his presumption, but--

It’s winter, there’s snow six feet deep covering everything and play fighting with the same group of knights in becoming boring. Hours spent with Merlin trying to teach him while Arthur does his best to convince Merlin he would best learn his letters if he maybe got to practice writing them with his tongue on Merlin’s skin, is a splendid idea by comparison.

“Yes,” Arthur breathes, taking hold of Merlin’s skinny wrist and feigning hurt and shame, “It’s been a terrible burden.”

“Don’t worry,” Merlin says in what is likely supposed to be a reassuring manner, “I’ve been reading since I was three. It won’t take very long. You’ll be reading by spring.”

Arthur grins.


And the rest are coming.
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