Before I start this, just a few things I want to mention. I've only seen seasons 1-4 of Merlin so that's what I'm going off of when I write this. I don't think any of it'll be specific to, or have spoilers for, any specific episode or season but if you haven't watched up to that point you may not want to read. If I mention Morgana it'll be season 1 Morgana even if Arthur happens to be king or the timeline otherwise doesn't line up with that.
Also, constructive criticism. I am well aware that I am not a great writer and the reason I'm doing this is so that other people can read it and tell me what I'm doing wrong so I can get better. So, I'd much prefer a criticism or suggestion to just a gushing compliment (although gushing compliments are nice).
As for ratings, I'm not really clear on what ratings for fanfiction are so I'll just let you know what you can expect from each story - kissing, nsfw, etc.
And lastly, this one is much longer than probably all the other ones will be. I don't know how it got so relatively lengthy.
"You're not scared are you?"
Merlin tramped through the snow silently for a few seconds before answering. "'Course not, sire."
"Yeah, of course not," Arthur chuckled. "You know you haven't said more than two words the whole time we've been out here?"
"I just don't like hunting. And I don't understand why you always insist on me coming with you; I'm certainly not good company. I'm cold and the bottoms of my trousers are damp. Oh and being your manservant isn't a bunch of fun either." He breathed a heavy sigh and whispered an apology. All those things may have been true but Merlin was really just in a sour mood.
"Someone's awful grumpy. Look, the reason I insist on you coming is because I need to eat and, well, I can't be expacted to make my own food, now can I? But as much as it pains me I also enjoy your ridiculous prattling. And you're my friend. I don't totally detest having you around."
Merlin raised his eyebrows. Arthur simply smiled lazily.
The knights (and Merlin) were to spend the night in the forest and then set off for return to Camelot in the morning. But Merlin couldn't seem to get to sleep so he quietly left the group of snoring knights, taking care not to step on any outstretched limbs. Gwaine was clutching an apple to his chest which made Merlin smile and wonder where he kept all these apples.
Once out of earshot, and after taking a good look around, he used a quick spell to dry the bottoms of his trousers which were totally soaked through, and cast another to keep them dry. And then he was trekking through the shin deep snow. Merlin quite liked the snow but it was much harder to appreciate its beauty when one was so cold. Several minutes passed and Merlin was shivering when he came across a small clearing, almost perfectly circular. The trees around were especially densely packed so there was very little snow on the ground. If he'd spared it any thought he might have figured that the clearing had been made my magic.
Instead, he simply flopped on the ground ungracefully, his left arm bent under his head and his right stretched out to his side, and simply let his thoughts run away with him. He thought of his mother and how he was always worried about her. And how he wished his father could have gotten to know him and seen his mother again. He wondered what his life would have been like if he'd never come to Camelot or if he'd never stepped in for the poor kid Arthur had been terrorizing when the two had first met. Mostly he thought of Arthur. How nervous and incompetent he was feeling as king. He wished he could do something for him, wished Arthur felt he could talk to him. More and more often he'd found himself wishing that he could simply squeeze Arthur's hand. Just to show him that he was still there and always would be. Merlin had started noticing other thoughts like these since Gwen had been banished. The King just seemed so broken and Merlin wanted to hold him and fix him. What started as not wanting his friend to be in pain had slowly started to become something else. A feeling that, if he were completely honest with himself, had always been there to some degree.
Arthur was beautiful. There was no denying that, with his golden hair and impossibly blue eyes. But it wasn't right to want anything from him. He was King and Merlin only his manservant. And both of them men. At least, this was what he had tried to tell himself, that it wasn't right. Being friends with Gwen, and knowing how much each of them loved the the other, had made things easier. He'd believed that the two of them were destiny. But now he wasn't so sure about anything.
Merlin's thoughts had only started to make the days harder. Arthur seemed to take every chance he could possibly find to take off his shirt and, at the sight of his bare chest, Merlin could feel an inexorable blush creeping along his cheeks. Attending to Arthur's bath was a nightmare of pounding pulse and shaking limbs.
His thoughts were interrupted by the snapping of a twig, causing Merlin to sit up and twist his head around wildly. The nature of his thoughts made him feel vulnerable, exposed, as if anyone nearby could have heard them. A tall figure was emerging into the clearing but the darkness hid them from him, until suddenly the clouds shifted and the full moon shone perfectly and clearly down to earth. Its silvery light dripped through the trees like water and cast the new person in a mercurial glow. It turned his golden hair white and his tan skin pale. His blue eyes became even bluer. No crown could make him look more royal than the moonlight did that cold and snowy night.
"Arthur?" Merlin said, ruining the moment and causing it to fall all around them like the shards of a smashed looking glass, sharp and bright and colorless. "What are you doing creeping 'round the woods at night?"
"Following you. What are you doing creeping around the woods at night?" The two smiled, thinking of a time when they'd had a similar exchange.
Merlin lay back down. "Couldn't sleep," he said. Arthur walked over beside him, took his sword belt off and lay next to him.
He looked perfectly comfortable, which Merlin couldn't help but be surprised at, since the frozen ground was a far cry from his soft kingly bed. Far from comfortable, Merlin felt this was either unbelievably awkward or unbelievably wonderful. He couldn't seem to reconcile his feelings. But the longer they lay there the more he seemed to think it was alright. Good, even. The snow and moon had stolen all the colors and made everything surreal. And that surreality made it safe. They were in a time separate from time. Emboldened by this realization, Merlin noticed that Arthur's hand was lying, palm up and fingers partially curled, only inches from his own and, in a gesture both simple and complex, reached out and laced their fingers together. He bit his lip. Arthur didn't move but, looking at him out of the corner of his eye, Merlin saw that his eyes were closed and the corner of his lips had curled up just a little.
Merlin closed his own eyes then and soon fell asleep. There, in the middle of clearing in the dark woods, two boys slept, hands linked loosely and identical smiles adorning their dreaming faces.
I am quite proud of this one but I know as this challenge goes on they will get shorter and sloppier. Anyway hope it was alright.