Summary: It had all been Arthur's fault.
Word Count: 2121
Author's Note: Written for the "Finding Self" square of my Cotton Candy Bingo card.
Because I Loved You
Merlin didn’t have opportunities like this very often. “And when you’re done with that, you can wash my clothes, polish my armor, and clean my room.”
“Of course, sire,” Arthur replied tensely from Merlin’s body. “Is there anything else I can do for you, your most royal highness?”
“Actually, you could....” Before Merlin could finish his sentence, Arthur had dashed off around the corner. Merlin shrugged and turned back to Morgana, who was laughing at him. “You’re really bad at being Arthur, you know.”
“I know, I’m not going to fool anyone, am I?” Merlin sank down on Morgana’s bed and buried his face in his hands. “Oh God.” He stifled a sob.
“Do you two remember what happened to switch you?” Morgana asked. She was only trying to help, but Merlin wasn’t prepared to explain to her all about his magic.
“I don’t know what happened,” he lied.
It had all been Arthur’s fault.
“Merlin,” Arthur ordered. “Where’s my breakfast?”
“Right here sire.”
“It’s stone cold! Heat it up!”
“Of course sire.” Merlin muttered a spell.
“I need my armor.”
“Here you are sire.”
“Fetch my sword.”
“Straight away sire.”
Arthur was still ordering him around when they went outside to join the knights on the training grounds. “I need water, Merlin.”
“As you wish sire,”
“Toss me that shield.”
“Whatever you say sire.”
“Put on some armor so the knights can use you as target practice.”
“I live to serve you sire.”
As he was being pummeled by knight after knight, all Merlin could think about was getting back at Arthur. He wanted Arthur to know how it felt to be ordered around all day. Like the only thing Merlin needed to accomplish was Arthur’s chores. He didn’t have important things to do, like protect Arthur from the latest onslaught of magical attacks or anything. The desire for Arthur to see things from his perspective was so overwhelming that it had somehow stirred Merlin’s magic.
One second he was feeling his skin heat up and his power shining in his eyes, the next he was leaning against a post, surrounded by knights, his body heavy with pounds of armor.
He looked out at the training field and saw his own body being attacked by Sir Percival. “Stop!” he shouted. Percival stilled immediately, and Merlin’s body looked up with wide eyes. “I think that’s enough for today. Merlin, accompany me to my chambers please.” He turned and walked towards the castle, hoping that Arthur had enough sense to follow orders just this once.
When they were inside and had found an empty hallway, Arthur turned to Merlin angrily. “What the hell is going on, Merlin? Why am I in your body?” He drew Merlin’s thin frame up to loom over Merlin threateningly. Merlin had never noticed how much taller he was than Arthur. He didn’t like it being used against him. “Did you have something to do with this?” He poked Merlin hard in the chestplate.
“I...,” Merlin searched for an answer that didn’t involve revealing his magic. “I was, um....”
He was saved having to answer by Morgana and a few of her maids rounding the corner. “Arthur, Merlin! Not that I don’t enjoy your visits, but is there something you needed to talk to me about? Because if not, I have important things to do.” She opened the door to her chambers, which Merlin only just realized were across the hall from where they stood. “Well?”
“It’s nothing, Morgana,” Arthur snapped, rolling his eyes. “You have fun being pampered. I know it’s so rough for you.” He began to walk down the hall. “Come along, Mer...Arthur. We don’t want to bother the pretty princess.”
“Stop right there,” Morgana ordered. Arthur stopped his escape and turned around. “In my chambers, both of you.” When they didn’t move, she shouted “Now!” and left them in the hallway.
Arthur and Merlin shared a quick glance before obediently following. “Morgana, it’s not what you think,” Merlin tried. “We were just....”
“You two have switched somehow, haven’t you? I don’t know how, but you have.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at them. “Am I right?”
“Right,” Arthur conceded. “I don’t know how it happened either, but here we are.”
“Yes, well,” Morgana looked them both over. “You’re going to have to act the part until you switch back. It wouldn’t be good for Merlin if the king found out. He’d be accused of trying to take over the throne through sorcery.”
Arthur glared. “If you think for one second that I’m going to follow his orders, then you are sadly mistaken.” Seeing Arthur try to maintain his royal presence in Merlin’s body was just hilarious, and Merlin burst out laughing.
Morgana glared right back at Arthur. “Do you want to watch Merlin’s execution, just because you were too much of a prat to play along?”
Arthur looked down, chagrined. “You know I don’t want that,” he said in a small voice. There was something tingeing his words that Merlin couldn’t quite put his finger on. “Let’s get started then.” Arthur turned to Merlin. “Take advantage of this, Merlin. It won’t ever be happening again. What are my orders sire?” He smirked at Merlin, obviously expecting to be let off easy.
Ha! Not if Merlin could help it. He was definitely going to take full advantage of this opportunity. He listed off his regular chores and delightedly watched the prince dart away.
“You’re really bad at being Arthur, you know,” Morgana laughed at him.
Reality came crashing in. He really was bad at this. “I’m not going to fool anyone, am I?” he despaired.
Morgana comforted him some more before he remembered something important. Gaius didn’t know he and Arthur had switched. They had been working on a magical problem before this had started, and if Merlin didn’t hurry, Gaius was going to unwittingly reveal Merlin’s magic. “Sorry, I have to go,” he told Morgana as he rushed out of her chambers.
He sprinted all the way to Gaius’s rooms, ignoring all the people bewildered by the prince’s mad dash. He burst into the room to find an angry Arthur surrounded by broken vials and overturned furniture. Gaius was trying to placate the prince to no avail. “Merlin, there you are,” Arthur bit out, fury making his face appear absolutely terrifying. “It seems you’ve been hiding something from me.”
“Your room. Now!’
Merlin obeyed, practically running up the stairs and into his room. He tried to explain one more time. “Sire, you have to believe....”
“Believe you?!” Arthur shouted as he slammed Merlin’s door. “How the hell am I ever going to believe you again?” he asked, advancing on Merlin until he was backed into a corner.
“Arthur, please,” Merlin begged. “I’m so sorry.”
Arthur shoved him against the wall, Merlin’s own arm cutting off his air. “You are a traitor to Camelot. What was your plan? Get close to the prince to have a shot at my father? I could have you hanged.”
“But if you kill me, then you kill your body.” Merlin didn’t mean it to sound like a threat, but that’s what Arthur appeared to be taking it as.
Using strength Merlin didn’t know his body possessed, Arthur slammed Merlin to the ground and leaned more of his weight against his throat. “You dare threaten the crown prince?”
“I’m...sorry,” Merlin gasped. “I didn’t...mean it that way.”
Arthur’s eyes turned icy cold. “Switch us back this instant, or I promise, before your execution, I will have you begging for death.”
“You’re the one who did this. Now reverse it!”
“I don’t know how! I don’t even know how I did it in the first place. You have to believe me.”
Arthur studied his face for a few moments before standing up. “Very well,” he conceded. “But until you figure out a way to switch us back, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”
The next few days were a complete hell for Merlin. Every morning, he had to wake up and go straight to the training fields, where knight after knight pummeled him mercilessly. In the afternoons, he had to sit through hours and hours of council meetings, making important decisions that would affect the whole of Camelot. Every evening, he had to prepare for the next day’s meetings. He hardly had any time to himself. And what little time he did have was spent under Arthur’s intense supervision.
“No, Arthur,” Arthur would say to him in front of the other knights. “You should have parried left.”
No, Arthur. You should send more soldiers to the northern border.”
“No, Arthur. You should study the grain harvest, not the crop rotation schedule.”
Finally, Merlin had had enough. “Stop!” he shouted, Arthur’s voice filling the entire room. “I get it! You’re so much better at being the prince than I am. Can you just leave me alone? I’m trying my best.”
Arthur laughed at him. “Not as easy as you thought, huh?”
“No.” Merlin flopped down onto the bed. “I guess there’s a very good reason you’re such a prat. The stress is making me want to behead everyone.”
Arthur flinched. “About that. I promise I’ll make your execution as quick as possible.”
Merlin grew silent, uncomfortable. “Is there anything I can do to make you forgive me? To show you how sorry I am for lying?”
Arthur sat on the bed next to him. They sat quietly together for awhile as it grew darker and darker outside. It was fully dark, deep into the night, before Arthur broke the suffocating silence. “You lied to me. For years. I trusted you as my closest friend, and you betrayed that trust. I’m not sure I can ever forgive you.”
“I’m sorry Arthur,” Merlin spoke softly. “I didn’t want to hide it from you. I almost told you so many times, but everyone kept warning me to keep it a secret. They said you wouldn’t understand. That you’d kill me on the spot. And then I wouldn’t be there to protect you. How could I tell you when everyone around me was telling me not to? How could I leave you vulnerable?”
“I loved you, you know,” Arthur whispered. “I loved you and you betrayed me.”
“You....” Merlin was at a loss for words. “You loved me?”
Arthur took Merlin’s hand. “It was stupid, I know. But I couldn’t help it. Your annoying face. Your bumbling about. I loved it all.”
“But you can never love my magic?”
“I’m not sure anymore.” Arthur laughed humorlessly. “You bastard. I had my life all figured out before I met you. But you turned everything upside down. Why do you think I kept you as my servant? I could have anyone I wanted, and yet I chose the biggest idiot in the kingdom.”
“Because you loved me?”
“Because I loved you.”
Merlin ran his thumb over Arthur’s knuckles. “I think I may have loved you too.”
Arthur’s head snapped up.
Merlin took a deep breath. “I thought I was protecting you because it was my destiny, but now I think it was much more than that. I think it was because I loved you.”
“Do you still feel the same way?” Arthur asked.
Merlin smiled at him. “I’ll always feel the same way.”
Arthur leaned forward at the same time as Merlin. They met in a brief kiss. It was a bit odd at first, kissing his own mouth, but it didn’t matter to Merlin. He was kissing and Arthur seemed to be accepting Merlin for everything, magic included.
They were enveloped by a cloud of gold. It shimmered and shone and covered them from head to toe. This was not a deterrent, as they continued to kiss gently.
There was an odd shifting sensation and Merlin opened his eyes. His own eyes, he realized as he looked at Arthur’s face before him. “We’re back!”
Arthur looked down at himself. “My own body!” he exclaimed. “I’m me again!”
Merlin laughed and hugged Arthur, who embraced him back.
Arthur pulled away and leveled a serious gaze at Merlin. “I, Arthur Pendragon, formally pardon you of wrong-doing. But only on the condition that you use your magic for the good of Camelot, and you don’t cause havoc by switching places with the prince again.”
Merlin laughed. “You don’t have to worry about that. I’ve had enough of being the prince for a lifetime!”
“And I enough of having magic. It’s so stressful! I don’t know how you do it.”
They smiled at each other once more, before leaning in to resume where they had left off.