Title: Riding Lessons
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur (if you want)
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Merlin had more than one secret he was hiding.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Hope you enjoy!
Surviving his first week as Arthur’s servant was no mean feat. Merlin hadn’t revealed his secret by turning the prat into a frog and was already getting better at ducking both the flying objects and insults that flew his way several times a day. But his magic was not his only secret and Merlin wondered how long he would be able to keep the second hidden.
As it happened, only about a month.
Arthur was bored. The kingdom was peaceful and apart from the usual training sessions, there was nothing for Arthur to do. Merlin didn’t know what to do with a restless Arthur.
It was a bright sunny morning when Merlin burst into Arthur’s chambers (late) and found the man already dressed.
“I wasn’t that late!” he protested nervously. Gaius wouldn’t forgive him if his tardiness got him fired. Arthur shot him a scathing look.
“I stopped expecting you on time by your second day.”
Merlin pulled a face in response and saw Arthur’s lips twitch in amusement before he covered it up. He knew not many servants would respond to the prince in that manner but Merlin didn’t care.
“And you're dressed.”
Arthur rolled his eyes.
“Your powers of observation astound me,” he said drily. “We’re going hunting. Get some provisions and meet me by the stables.”
Merlin nodded and headed towards the door. If Arthur was out in the forest all day, he would finally have the chance to study the magic book his mentor gave him.
Excitement welled in him and there was a bounce in his step when he took the provisions down to the stables. He had to get the stable boy to help him with Arthur’s horse – he had no idea what he was doing and didn’t think the fact he had saved Arthur’s life would get him very far with the king when his horse threw him off because of a bad saddle.
When Arthur arrived, he looked around.
“Where’s your horse?”
“My…horse?” Merlin’s excitement burst and his stomach sunk. “What do you mean?”
“You can’t keep up with me on foot.”
“Honestly, Merlin, are you my servant or not? Of course you are, I can’t be expected to carry everything, can I?”
Horror fogged his mind and Merlin couldn’t think of a response.
“I don’t have a horse,” he ended up saying. This time, he heard Arthur’s eye roll.
“Naturally, most servants don’t. That’s why they use the palace ones.”
Arthur said something to the stable boy – who glowed at being addressed by the prince – and disappeared into the stables. A few moments later and he returned, leading a saddled horse. He took it over to Merlin, who took the reins in a daze. The horse nuzzled his shoulder.
“Come on then,” Arthur said cheerfully, swinging himself into the saddle. Merlin continued to hold the reins.
Arthur trotted from the courtyard, turned around and came back when his servant didn’t move.
“What are you doing?”
“Yes, I can see that. Come on.”
Merlin recognised the bite of impatience to Arthur’s voice. He looked at the horse, then back at Arthur. He didn’t want to say anything; he was too embarrassed. Arthur would mock him; Merlin knew it. But he didn’t see what option he had – the prince was watching him in growing annoyance.
“I’m waiting, Merlin.”
Merlin looked around, checking the stable boy was out of ear-shot. He was certain that the youth wouldn’t have this problem.
“I can’t ride,” he mumbled, feeling his ears turn red. Arthur snorted in disbelief, then realised that Merlin was being serious.
“You live in the country!”
“We didn’t have a horse!” Merlin said defensively. Arthur dismounted and Merlin purposefully looked the other way. His flushwas spreading. Will had been able to ride – his father had taught him on the mare that the entire village owned. But Merlin had always been too unpredictable with his magic and his mother hadn’t thought it was a good idea.
Arthur walked closer. “It’s easy.”
“Maybe for you,” Merlin said, staring up at how high the horse was. His embarrassment was turning to anger. It was alright for Arthur, he had been riding probably before he could walk.
“Shut up, Arthur.”
He couldn’t look the prince in his eye. He knew it wasn’t his fault but he felt ashamed that he couldn’t ride. Arthur didn’t say anything but pulled the reins from Merlin’s slack hand.
“Come with me.”
Even Merlin knew an order when he heard one and he mutely followed Arthur out of the courtyard and towards the forest. Arthur led the horses for nearly an hour but Merlin didn’t dare complain. Eventually, the prince stopped in a clearing and tethered his own horse to a nearby branch.
“Up you go.”
“Merlin, I can hardly have a servant who can’t ride. Come on.”
To Merlin’s astonishment, Arthur was a patient teacher, even when it took half an hour of protesting before Merlin would even attempt to get on the horse. Arthur simply held its head and stroked it calmly while Merlin hopped around and cursed as he tried to get up.
Once he was astride the horse (and trying not to look at the ground; it seemed a long way off), Arthur began explaining what he needed to do.
He didn’t ride more than a step that morning, but Arthur announced they were returning to that clearing every day until Merlin was confident.
Merlin didn’t know what embarrassed him more. The fact that he couldn’t ride, or the fact that he had completely underestimated Arthur and the man was an effective teacher when Merlin thought he would just mock.
When they returned to the castle mid-afternoon, Merlin scuffed his feet.
“Thank you,” he mumbled, flushing red again. Arthur just tutted at him, gave him the reins and told the stable boy to teach him what to do.
Merlin knew that Arthur didn’t know what to do with thanks and he smiled.