Merlin’s eyes were wide, and he was gripping the door so hard his knuckles had gone white. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked, his voice gone that peculiar kind of quiet that only happens on the edge of pure anger.
Arthur flushed and hid his hands under the table. “It most certainly is not,” he said loftily, “and it’s not any of your business in the first place.”
“That was magic.” Merlin’s voice was quaking now, his hands balled up into fists at his side. “You were doing magic, right here where anyone could walk in on you.”
“You’re the only one who just walks into my chambers, and I gave you the day off,” Arthur countered, as though this was really all Merlin’s fault. Merlin erupted.
“I’ve been keeping my magic a secret for years, YEARS,” Merlin shouted, grabbing Arthur by the shoulders and shaking him, “and you’re doing it like there’s nothing to worry about, like it’s just a bit of stupid fun, you cow-poxed lily-faced dollop-headed PRAT!”
Arthur wriggled out of Merlin’s grip and stepped back to stare at him. “You do magic, Merlin?” he asked, jaw slightly agape. Merlin wanted to slap the stupid look off his face, so he did. Arthur yelped in pain.
“Of course I bloody do magic!” Merlin shouted, “Are you completely thick? How do you think you survived all of your half-baked quests, your charm and intellect?”
“And my courage,” Arthur added sulkily, which earned him another slap. “Stop doing that!” he said.
Merlin stood so that his face was only inches apart from Arthur’s. “I have saved the kingdom with my magic more times than I care to count,” he hissed, “and I haven’t been able to say a thing about it, I didn’t even get knighted when you were passing knighthoods out like sweets, and all this time you were doing magic in secret?”
Arthur smiled at that. “Now that you mention it, not exactly,” he said.
“Oh?” Merlin asked. “And what’s the technicality.”
Arthur held up his hands, palms out. There were some strange little metal devices affixed to each palm. Arthur slapped them together, and a cloud of colored smoke and sparks sprayed forth. “The ‘magic’ part,” he said. “That would be the technicality.”
Merlin looked like a startled deer. Reeling, he backed away until he ran into the table, against which he slumped helplessly. “Oh god,” he croaked.
Arthur was laughing. “I already figured it out, about you,” he said, removing the devices from his hands. “I told Gaius about it, and we both agreed this would be a lot more entertaining than just telling you I knew.”
“You are the worst prince,” Merlin said, staring at the floor, waiting for his heart to stop racing.
“Oh,” Arthur added, “and you’re mucking out the stables for that slapping bit, that was completely uncalled for.”