A/N: Thanks to everyone who read my last Merlin fanfic and followed/favorited me! It really means a lot! This one is shorter than I'd like, but I figured I'd post it anyway since I couldn't think of a way to continue The Return of Arthur, and this idea has been in my notes for a while. Enjoy!
The snap of a twig and the rustling of a few branches signaled Arthur's return. The fire crackled peacefully as a gust of autumn wind blew through the forest clearing, tossing sparks into the cool air and a few fallen leaves across the ground. The knights' deep breathing tempted Merlin to experiment with some magic, maybe create a dragon out of the fly-away embers, but some quiet conversation and a few chuckles from the nearby group quickly dissuaded him. It was unseasonably cold for the time of year, and through his thin jacket, Merlin shivered despite his closeness to the warmth of the flames. It seemed the Dorocha attack wasn't yet behind him as he had thought. Even just the cool spring breeze sent a tremble down his spine and caused a sort of frigidness to settle in his bones. The chill Merlin felt increased with every gust that threatened to extinguish the struggling fire, and only brought forth reminders of his time spent practically frozen by the Dorocha, when he was so cold he couldn't move, couldn't blink…
"Cold night, isn't it?"
Arthur sat down heavily on the log beside Merlin, shifting his boots in the dirt as he rolled his shoulder, wincing as he attempted to sooth an aggravated old injury. He sent a quick glance over to the knights, taking note of how they had settled into a deep sleep, then looked to Merlin, noticing how he seemed curled up and how his shoulders quaked slightly.
"Windy too," came Merlin's quiet reply. "Makes it hard to keep the fire going." It was silent then for a while, the pair sitting companionably, staring into the fire as Gwaine's snores filled the clearing. Then a quick shuffling and-
"Take it." Arthur had removed his Camelot-red cloak, nudging Merlin while holding the cloak out so the fine cloth rested slightly on the forest floor. Merlin's surprised face was its own response.
"Oh please, Merlin. Any fool would be able to tell that you're practically freezing- shivering by the fire while it's not even that cold out. Take it."
Merlin smiled sheepishly and wrapped the cloak around himself, grinning to himself at the King's poorly veiled concern. The fabric was finer than anything he owned. Arthur continued, his tone softer as Merlin admired the borrowed cloak, "It's the Dorocha isn't it? The attack is still affecting you?"
"Yeah, a bit," Merlin answered quietly, a small smile on his lips. "I just can't seem to ever get warm. I'm sure it'll pass soon."
Arthur nodded, then smirked slightly. "I suppose now when you act like such a girls' petticoat at the weather, you'll at least have a valid excuse."
Merlin smiled and smothered a soft laugh, nodding good-naturedly. "Unfortunately, I doubt you'll ever have a 'valid excuse' for being such a clot-pole."
"Shut up, Merlin." Arthur shoved Merlin as he laughed, but not hard enough to knock him off the log they both sat on. Soon the quiet laughter faded and the two sat in silence for a few moments longer, an owl hooting in the distance and the fire crackling between them.
Merlin broke his gaze from the fire, turning to the king who looked back at him.
Shrugging off Merlin's grateful expression and the emotions that followed, Arthur replied,
"I'll need that cloak back, you know. Not now, obviously, but…you can't keep it."
A long-suffering sigh and then-
"Whatever you say, sire."
A pause and then a minute later, quietly as though he wasn't quite sure if he wanted to be heard, the king spoke.
The words brought an easy smile to the warlock's face, and as the night got longer, Arthur remained at Merlin's side in companionable silence.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Comment and I'll be eternally grateful!