Title: The Maze
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: They had survived the encounter with Anhora. Now all they needed to do was get back.
Word Count: 974
Author's Notes: For once keeping something short without it expanding into a full story! YAY!
Arthur groaned and opened his eyes to find Merlin’s grinning face swimming above his.
“Please tell me I’m not dead.” He moaned, his palms feeling for the floor as he pushed himself upright. Merlin’s grin didn’t disappear as he helped the prince sit up.
“Nope, not dead, Sire. It was just a sleeping draught.”
“Thank god. Because if your face is the first thing I see when I actually die, so help me, I’ll…”
“Kill me? But surely that would mean I would already be dead?”
“Shut up.” Merlin’s retort died on his lips and Arthur took that chance to look around them.
“Where is he?”
“Anhora? He kind of disappeared after you proved that you were willing to sacrifice your life for mine.” Arthur glared at his servant, a reminder to never tell anyone about that ever again. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but judging by the still-grinning face of the younger man, Arthur had a feeling he wouldn’t be living it down for a while.
“It worked though, you lifted the curse.”
Humour aside, Arthur felt a weight lift from him to know that it had been enough to free his people. Being responsible for causing them suffering like that was not a feeling he ever wanted to experience ever again. As Merlin fell quiet again, Arthur used that time to awkwardly pull himself to his feet.
“Come on, let’s get home.” He was walking even before he had finished talking, leaving Merlin to scramble up after him. The salty breeze was refreshing and Arthur found himself smiling as he drank in the sight of the sea. He had only seen it once before, and wasn’t sure he was ever going to see it again. Finally, however, he turned his back on the view and walked straight back into the maze.
Four hours later and he was yet to walk out of it.
“Well? Which way did you go here?”
“I don’t know, Arthur, they all look the same to me. They do call it a maze for a reason, you know.”
“Shut up, Merlin. You must remember something?”
“Why do I have to be the one to remember something? You came here too.”
“I was on a mission to save the kingdom, I didn’t pay attention to where I was going.”
“And I was on a mission to save you, neither did I.”
“As if I needed saving. Let’s go this way.” Fisting his hand in the top of Merlin’s shirt, Arthur dragged his servant down the next path that caught his attention. He was sure it was the right one, it definitely went East – the one direction that Arthur was certain they had to head in. But all that happened was that he managed to run into another dead end.
“This is absurd. This is the real test. The sleeping draught was just a diversion, he plans to kill us in here.”
“I might have a way of getting us out.” Arthur lifted an eyebrow as he stared at his servant in incredulity. The day Merlin had a plan to save them when Arthur was feeling completely lost was the day Arthur wondered whether he should truly be prince. However, given the fact that the sun was beginning to go down and Arthur didn’t feel any closer to getting home than when he had first woken up back on the beach, Arthur knew he had to put his pride to one side.
“Well, I’ve heard it said that if you always keep your left hand resting on the hedge, then it would lead you out.”
“Got any better ideas?” Arthur just huffed and refrained from answering, determined that he wasn’t going to tell Merlin he thought it might actually work. At least it should stop them from going in circles the way they had been for the last however long it had been. Merlin seemed to take his silence as permission to continue and placed his hand against the hedge. When he looked pointedly over his shoulder at the prince, Arthur huffed. Still, he stepped in behind Merlin and let his hand rest against the prickly undergrowth as well. He didn’t see his servant’s eyes flash gold now that Merlin was sure that his master couldn’t see him.
Arthur hated admitting that he was wrong. It didn’t matter what the situation was of who had proven him wrong, the prince just didn’t like to back down and accept that he had made a mistake. The fact that Merlin had already heard him apologise once since coming to Camelot was a miracle in itself. But when, half an hour later, they stumbled from the maze, Arthur knew it was because of his servant that they had made it out.
He knew that he should thank Merlin, make the younger man aware of quite what he had done. He had found them the way out when Arthur himself could not. He had already swallowed his pride and tried to sacrifice himself for Merlin already that day, what was an apology after he had attempted to die for the man?
So when Arthur simply rolled his eyes, told Merlin to hurry up and leapt up onto his horse, Merlin grinned. He seemed to know that was the closest to saying thank you Arthur was ever going to get. As he too mounted and followed the prince, he found himself wondering what would have happened if they had been lost in the maze for longer. Would Arthur have been able to say thank you?
Merlin thought about it the whole way home. But when Arthur tossed him the reigns and told him to bed the horses down, he knew. Arthur would never be able to say thank you. But Merlin still knew he meant it.