Title: Inside Out – Part 3
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin and Arthur aren’t talking to each other. Until they are.
Word Count: 1345
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 419:bingo-round 2- drowning
Author's Notes: none
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Merlin felt like he was being turned inside out. Arthur refused to talk to him and the day after their argument, Arthur went off hunting with Leon and some of his old hangers-on and left Merlin behind. Deliberately.
It would have been fine. Arthur sometimes went hunting without him when Merlin was sick or if Gaius begged Arthur to let Merlin help him when illness struck Camelot but never without a good reason. Never like this. It was a slap in the face.
More importantly, it was an obvious warning not to question Arthur too closely about anything. Certainly not about faires or his relationship with Uther.
It even poisoned Merlin’s pleasure at going back to the faire with Morgana and Gwen. When Morgana started to ask about the bruises around his neck, Merlin just shook his head and talked about maybe trying for another prize for Gwen or watching the puppet show. Luckily, both took the hint, although Gwen looked sad and Morgana was scowling a bit. But soon they were laughing at Merlin’s pathetic tries at knife-throwing, and the moment passed.
Arthur came back the day after the faire left. The party had been wildly successful, with two deer and a boar to fatten the larder. But he didn’t ask for Merlin, didn’t send for him at all.
Merlin wasn’t going to take it lying down, though. He had been doing his chores while Arthur was gone and Arthur’s chambers had never been so clean, his armor and swords gleaming, even Arthur’s shirts mended properly and put away.
So after a day of being ignored, the next morning, Merlin barged in, not knocking, and set down Arthur’s breakfast, then began to open the curtains.
Under the covers, there was a muffled sound of grumbling, then as Arthur shoved his head up, he said, flat and hard, “Get out. George will attend me until I say otherwise. You are dismissed.”
For a moment, Merlin didn’t say anything. If the prat wanted to sack him, then he better have a damn good reason, other than a stupid fit of pique. “George has been reassigned. The other servants are all busy with cleaning up after all the guests, so unfortunately, Sire, you are stuck with me for now.”
“I don’t want you here,” Arthur snarled. The glare Arthur sent him would have killed a lesser man.
Instead of yelling back at him, in a very calm voice, trying to make it sound like it was nothing when it was really everything, Merlin said, “Well, you can starve for all I care, but Gaius would glare at me if I came back so unless you are prepared to throw me out and we both know you can, thanks for asking about the bruises by the way, I’ll just do my bloody job.”
When there was only silence, Merlin counted it a win. He started to lay out Arthur’s clothes for the day. “You have a meeting in half an hour with your father, then the council meeting, and afterwards several petitions. I think you will find the one about the pig getting into a lady’s chambers, chomping on her shoes, then dragging her best dress through the mud, might be fun. I will bring you lunch after. Afternoon is training, although you might go easy on the knights as some of them were pretty much in their cups for most of the faire. There is nothing planned for supper. I assume you will let me know if I am to bring it here or you will be eating with the king.”
Walking over to the writing desk, Merlin took up the parchment, then held it up for Arthur to see, then put it back down. “I’ve written a speech for the Tinker’s Guild awards tomorrow. Please let me know what else you need me to do. Otherwise, I will see you at lunch.”
The silence was deafening. Bowing, Merlin walked out, then as the door closed behind him, there was a clang of metal, probably a goblet, bouncing against the wood.
That went as well as Merlin expected. As in not at all.
Arthur continued to be an arse for days. Merlin was finding it harder and harder to deal with him. He didn’t sack Merlin which was a win, but the continued silence was getting to Merlin.
Other people were noticing, too. Merlin even heard Morgana yelling at Arthur, and Arthur was an absolute pillock after.
It all came to a head a week later. Uther went into a tirade about some such nonsense or other that Arthur had no control over, but as always Arthur just stood there and let his father blame him for everything.
Afterwards, everyone scurried out of Arthur’s way. By the time dinner came, the practice dummy in the training yard was nothing but straw bits and kindling and another of Arthur’s swords was ruined.
Merlin decided it had gone on long enough.
Bringing in dinner, he found Arthur with his head in his hands. When he finally looked up at Merlin, he could see that Arthur was exhausted and his eyes red.
Looking away, letting Arthur have some privacy, Merlin said softly, “When I was six, maybe seven, I almost drowned. The bigger boys loved to play in the deep end of the creek but in the spring, the water runs swift through rocks and churned mud. My mum had told me time and again not to play there, but you know how kids are, they don’t listen to parents, not when there’s a shiny thing to explore.”
Arthur was frowning at Merlin, but he didn’t tell him to shut up, just sat there, silent, listening.
“My mum found me after, covered in mud, water in my lungs, and she tells me for days afterwards, my life hovered in the balance.” Merlin shrugged. “I don’t remember that part, but for the longest time, I refused to learn to swim, refused to go near water at all. Even now, I’m hesitant to go near water deeper than my knees.”
“I noticed you seem to avoid baths,” Arthur said. A normal voice, and a little sarcastic. Like it used to be.
“Well, you take too many so we balance out.” Merlin gave him a little smile, then said, “You’ve met my mum. Afterwards, she treated me like glass. She’d follow me around, make me tell her every place I’d been, what I’d been doing, and I felt like I was drowning all over again. But I love my mum and I couldn’t tell her how I felt.”
Merlin took a step toward Arthur. “But it couldn’t last. I’d been rebelling more and more, sneaking out, doing stupid things that only made things worse. One day, I fell out of a tree – don’t ask, and I hid my sprained ankle. It hurt like blazes, but I knew if I told her, she’d never let me out of our hut ever again.” Merlin hobbled a few steps, mimicking an injured ankle. “Only a kid would think a parent wouldn’t notice something like that. But when she asked, I blew up at her.”
“Your mother is a saint,” Arthur said. “I’m surprised she didn’t kill you somewhere along the way just to have some peace.”
Merlin snickered. “Yeah, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But she listened and she thought about it and as she was bandaging up my ankle, she agreed to back off. I think we were both surprised.” Merlin gave a little laugh. “But it worked. I took less chances because I wasn’t rebelling, and she could count on me more often because I was more careful.”
“And the reason for this story?” Arthur said.
“I had to stand up to my mum, even though I loved her so much, even though she was doing what she thought was right,” Merlin said. Then hesitating, worried that Arthur might take it the wrong way, “I think you need to stand up to your father. Otherwise, it’s going to kill you one day.”