Summary: Arthur finds out Merlin hasn't been going to the tavern.
Word Count: 1461
Author's Notes: Happy Christmas, all!
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Arthur decided this time he’d throw Gaius into the stocks with Merlin. The old physician had lied to him. Gwaine had asked Arthur where Merlin was, letting Arthur know that his miserable servant hadn’t been in the tavern at all. Arthur stalked toward the physician’s chambers and was about to throw open the door when he heard Merlin cry out and Gaius quickly shush him. “Stop being so dramatic, Merlin. This cut is nothing compared to what you’ve gotten before.”
Arthur’s hand stilled on the handle of the slightly ajar door. “Maybe not, but it still hurts, Gaius.”
“If I were you, I’d figure out what you’re going to tell Arthur when he comes looking for you. It shouldn’t be long if I know our prince.”
Merlin sounded almost resigned as he asked, “Did you tell him I was in the tavern again? Gaius, why do you always do that? I’m never there, unless it’s to fetch one of the knights.”
“I’m sorry, my boy, it just slips out.”
Arthur stepped closer to the door when he heard Merlin mumble, not quite sure what he was saying. “Well, I’m sorry, Merlin, it’s not as if I can tell him the truth, now, is it?”
“No.” Merlin’s voice was grudging as he agreed with his mentor. “I’m rather fond of my head being attached to my body, thank you.” He sucked in his breath again at whatever Gaius was doing to treat whatever wound he had gotten doing whatever secret thing would get him killed if Arthur knew what it was. “This sorcerer was just stupid, though. I think I’m almost more annoyed that I let him get that knife through before I killed him.”
Killed him? Merlin killed a sorcerer? Merlin hid behind trees, he didn’t face off against sorcerers.
“Did you find out if he was working with Morgana?”
“No, he was by himself. I swear, the Pendragons have more sor- ow! - sorcerers after them than anyone in the known world.”
“They’re lucky to have you protecting them, Merlin. Here, drink this. It’ll help dull the pain. It would be so much easier if you would just manage to figure out those self-healing spells, you know.”
Arthur listened to Merlin gulp something down as his mind buzzed. Self-healing spell? Merlin protecting him and his father? What was going on with the world? He heard some shuffling around and stood up straight. It sounded as if Merlin was putting his jacket back on.
“I know, Gaius, healing spells just aren’t my thing. Ask me to fling an idiot bandit into a tree, sure. Redirect a crossbow bolt from impaling one of the knights, no problem. Even conjure up wind and rain and everything to protect that dollophead from himself and the arses determined to kill him. But those stupid healing spells elude me every time.” Merlin hissed when he must have done something to pull on his wound.
“I’d better get to Arthur’s chambers and at least try to clean them up a bit before he’s done with training or trying to track me down or wherever he is right now. Get his bath nice and toasty as he likes it. Maybe he won’t throw too much at my head for supposedly being in the tavern again. I really wish you’d think of a better lie, Gaius. I won’t be able to keep saving him if he sacks me, you know.” Merlin’s voice was coming closer, so Arthur ducked into the alcove near the physician’s chambers.
He had a lot to think about. He didn’t pounce on Merlin as the young man hurried past, tripping over air, as usual. He just watched him leave without saying anything and stood in the alcove for another few minutes before he could make his feet move.
Without any actual thought as to a destination, he headed toward the armory. Slipping on some mail, he took his sword out to the training grounds and hacked at a training dummy as his mind played the conversation between Merlin and Gaius over and over while he ignored the knights on the training field. Merlin had magic. Gaius knew about it and covered for him. Merlin used that magic to protect Arthur and his father from evil sorcerers, including Morgana. Arthur’s mind went back to all of those random tree limbs falling. He remembered that strange, glowing ball that led him out of the cave when he got the Morteus flower. He remembered Ealdor and Merlin’s friend Will claiming to be a sorcerer the same day Merlin was going to tell Arthur something important. The dwarf on the bridge claiming Courage, Strength, and Magic were necessary for Arthur to finish his quest and suddenly Gwaine and Merlin showed up to pull Arthur’s fat out of the fire. The first time Arthur and Merlin met Merlin had even said he could take Arthur apart with less than a blow, then Arthur tripped over things that hadn’t been there during their mockery of a mace fight.
“Arthur? Arthur!” The voice was Merlin’s, but Merlin was up in his chambers, pretending to be a dutiful servant. Arthur pulled himself from the incessant noise in his head and shook himself. He looked over to the side and saw Merlin frowning at him with a tray in his hands. “Arthur? Leon said you’ve been out here for hours. It’s getting dark out. You need to eat.”
Merlin put the tray down on the bench near the training dummy and walked over to reach for the sword in Arthur’s hands. Arthur pulled it back, the tiniest mote of fear rushing through him. Merlin was a sorcerer. That meant Merlin was evil. Right?
Merlin frowned even harder and simply reached out and took Arthur by the elbow. “Come on, Arthur. You need to sit down. What's wrong? Is it Uther? Is he doing worse? Gwen didn’t tell me he was.” Merlin guided Arthur to the bench. “Here. Sit. I brought you some ham and bread, and even some of Mary’s honey cakes.” Merlin picked up the tankard, “And here’s some nice, warm cider.”
Arthur let himself be guided and sat down. He even let Merlin press the tankard into his hands. This was Merlin. This was the man who took care of him. This wasn’t an evil sorcerer. This was the man who tripped over nothing. This was the man who, if he himself managed to wake up early enough, woke up Arthur in an obnoxiously cheerful manner. This was the man who got frustrated when Arthur was being careless with his own safety. This wasn’t a man who would ever hurt him.
He looked up into Merlin’s face as he leaned over him, reaching for the plate of fruit as he babbled about the kittens that the kitchen cat had just given birth to. Merlin stopped speaking as he realized Arthur was just watching him and turned his way, his blue eyes mesmerizing in the failing sun. Arthur could see the glowing reflection of the sunset and realized he’d seen them glow with sorcerer’s gold before but never dared to recognize it. He wanted to stare into those eyes forever, sure he’d never see malice, only the affection that couldn’t be drowned out by the exasperation he knew he inspired in Merlin.
“Where were you hurt, Merlin?”
Merlin jerked back. “What? Arthur, I’m fine. You’re the one that’s-”
“Please don’t lie to me anymore, Merlin.” Arthur could feel his heart pounding as Merlin’s eyes grew larger. “I heard you and Gaius talking in his chambers. I know you fought a sorcerer. I know you weren’t in the tavern.” He swallowed and continued quietly. “I know you’re a sorcerer, too.”
Merlin cringed. “I’m not. Not a sorcerer, that is,” he whispered. “I’m a warlock. I was born with magic. I’m just now learning how to use spells and such.” Merlin turned and sat next to Arthur, slumping as if all the strength had left him.
Neither man spoke for a few minutes. Arthur finally regained his voice and repeated his question, “Where were you hurt?”
Merlin looked up at him, mouth tight, his eyes betraying his fear. “My arm. He threw a knife at me and I wasn’t able to deflect it fast enough.”
“I see.” Arthur nodded. “Well, we’ll have to work on that, I guess.” Arthur smiled a tiny bit at the look of shock on Merlin’s face. “I’ll let your injury heal first, of course. That should give you time to tell me everything.” He stood. “I’m tired. I want a very hot bath.” He looked down at Merlin. “I’m assuming you can make that happen even with an injured arm?”
Merlin grinned up at Arthur and took the hand he had extended to him, his eyes gleaming and so beautiful that Arthur could just drown in them. “I can do that.”