Title: A Worthy King
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwen
Summary: Merlin helps Arthur take stock of his first year as king.
Word Count: 779
Prompt: #51 Anniversary
Author's Notes: Set between Seasons 4 and 5. Thank you to inspired_being for the beta!
Merlin shook his head. Arthur wasn't acting normal. He actually said “Thank you” to Merlin when he served him breakfast. He definitely was distracted by something and it seemed to be a melancholy something.
When Merlin returned from the armoury, he had to call Arthur's name twice before he roused the King from his pensive position staring out the window. "Arthur, what's the matter with you? You're a thousand leagues away from here."
"Hmm? Oh, nothing."
"It doesn't seem like nothing to me."
Arthur's irritation level rose. "Just help me change my clothes, alright?"
Merlin pulled Gwen aside after the round table meeting ended and discretely asked, "Do you know what's going on with Arthur? He seems to be lost in thought frequently and rather sad."
"Yes, I've noticed. But when I asked him, he refused to talk to me about it. He just said it was something he needed to resolve himself," Gwen replied with concern.
Then Gwen's eyes grew wide and the words tumbled out. "Oh, Merlin, do you think it could have anything to do with the anniversary of his coronation next week? It's been a full year since he was crowned King."
"That's a possibility," Merlin commented as he mulled the idea over. "His coronation anniversary is also the anniversary of his father's death."
Merlin decided on using a direct approach the next time he found Arthur staring out his window. "So, what's this about, Arthur?"
"What?" Arthur turned from the window to stare at Merlin.
"You and the mood you’ve been in the past few days. And don't tell me it's nothing again. You really shouldn't shut your friends out, you know."
Arthur snorted in response. "You wouldn't understand."
"Try me," Merlin urged.
Arthur looked at Merlin closely, and then he shrugged his shoulders. "Alright." He blew out a big breath and ran his hand through his blond hair. "Next week it will be one year, one year as King of Camelot." He stopped there.
"Yes. Go on," Merlin urged.
"Well, I've been wondering if I have been a worthy king. Worthy of my people, worthy of my father."
Now Merlin was the one snorting. "Arthur, underneath that prattish surface, you have so little self-confidence, it's amazing you can rule at all."
Arthur merely raised an eyebrow in response.
Merlin shook his head and sighed. "Arthur, you are a better king than your father. Didn't you avoid a costly war with Annis and Caerleon, bringing peace and a new ally to our lands?"
Arthur conceded Merlin's point with a short nod of his head.
Merlin continued. "You've also achieved a truce of sorts with the Druids. You have shown them respect, where before there was only hatred, fear and injustice."
Arthur frowned at the floor, not meeting Merlin's eyes.
"When you freed Excalibur from the stone, your right to the throne of Camelot was acknowledged. You were able to defeat Morgana and Helios and regain control of the citadel and the Kingdom. Your people rejoiced in your victory. Can you not see how beloved a king you are?"
"But is a beloved king a strong king?" Arthur was pacing now, back and forth in front of his table.
"If your goals are justice and prosperity for all your people, you have achieved that, Arthur. If you wish to be feared and rule with an iron fist like your father, you have failed."
"You make it sound so black and white. It's just that, I wonder what my father would think of what I've done with his Kingdom."
"Arthur, I doubt you will ever stop wondering that, but know Camelot is your Kingdom now and you make the choices as to what is best for your people. You aren't the same man as your father, so your choices won't be what he would have made all the time. But you will join the five lands of Albion together and become the greatest king Albion has ever known."
"There you go again, talking like you know the future. I really don't understand where that comes from, Merlin. How can an idiot like you sound so wise?"
Merlin grinned broadly. "It's a skill I have."
Arthur sidled up to Merlin, returned his grin and gave him a shove with his shoulder. "Well, don't lose that skill. It comes in handy sometimes."
Merlin returned the shove and said, "Of course, Dollop Head."
"That's King Dollop Head to you," Arthur cheerfully admonished as he tried to get Merlin in a headlock, but the servant slipped away. Merlin’s work was done here for now.