Title: Heavy Is the Book That Clobbers the Servant
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Merlin cleans. Arthur butchers words. Sometimes he just wants to hit his servant in the head with a book.
Word Count: 550
Prompt: #28 Jealousy (#35 Amnesty Post)
Arthur scratched out another section of hasty scrawl and began idly calculating the share of his personal wealth that went to discarded parchment. He'd never been a man of words, and penning a missive was particularly difficult when Merlin was flouncing about his chambers, tidying everything in sight except the king's syntax. The skinny git had been spontaneously volunteering his rhetorical assistance for months, but had apparently decided it was time to make Arthur beg for the privilege of recycling his pretty words.
He tried to put it out of his mind and focus on how he should word his unofficial endorsement of Nemeth's pressure on their neighbor. Instead, he found himself watching Merlin's precarious efforts to swipe his rag across surfaces no one would ever see. It was infuriating, though not for the reasons he allowed Merlin to presume.
Arthur had always thought of himself as fair-minded. He had made great strides in convincing the nobility to admit that they weren't the only ones with sharp wits or strong swords. Ironically, he had his father to thank for laying that foundation. Despite his belief in the superiority of the lords and the irrelevancy of the peasants, Uther had been practical enough to recognize the value of the tradesman. Much of Camelot's wealth had been bought in blood, but an even greater amount had been accumulated on the backs of blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, bricklayers and a hundred other ordinary people whose activities had been encouraged by the crown.
Merlin, of course, had piled a mountain of shattered preconceptions on top of that foundation. Arthur had relentlessly mocked him, as was his right, but Merlin had never bowed. Even his obedience was insolent. Time and time again he had insisted that Arthur was exceptional; yet Merlin's integrity put the lie to the nobility's traditional claims of superiority. He was a man of liberally expressed convictions, and the king often envied him that. Arthur had to consider how his own reactions would be viewed by the court, his enemies, his people. But Merlin could act. Though his days were filled with the dullest, most onerous tasks Arthur could devise, he was nevertheless the freest man that Arthur had ever known.
The king felt his irritation rising, directed as much at himself as his servant. He'd long ago established a straightforward prescription for situations like this. Winging a book at his servant's head was not an action befitting Arthur's station. But where Merlin was concerned, custom (and even nature herself) held little sway.
It was a hefty tome, filled with the cramped scribbles of several generations of seneschals. Arthur had found that ledgers made the most satisfying thump. Poetry packed more of a sharp wallop, but there was something immensely gratifying in using the detritus of bureaucracy to punish Merlin's insouciance. The dark head dipped like a rabbit plunging into its hole, and the book smashed against the far wall with a papery thud.
"What was that for?" Merlin demanded, as though he didn't already know.
"You missed a spot."
Arthur returned to his pathetic attempts at eloquence. Merlin huffed and collected the book, depositing it on the desk with a pointed slam. He observed Arthur efforts for a few moments, then snatched the quill from his king's hand with a long-suffering sigh.