Title: It's All About You
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin pre slash
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: When Arthur wakes up to find himself captured and alone, he would never have guessed the real reason why.
Word Count: 1534 (Oops! Sorry!)
Prompt: 66 Reasons
Author's Notes: Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. Sorry I got carried away and went over the word limit, I'll try not to do it again!
It's All About You
It had been nearly an entire day, and Arthur was still none the wiser as to why he was there.
The ambush had been sudden and efficient. He hadn't seen the men until it was far too late and they were surrounded, Merlin knocked from his horse and unconscious on the ground. Arthur could remember being pulled from his own horse... and then nothing until he'd woken up in the dungeon where he now sat.
He'd tried banging on the door and yelling, but nobody had appeared. Arthur wasn't used to being ignored, and it rankled a little. His father would have a search party out by now, and when they arrived Arthur was going to teach those... whoever they were... not to ignore the crown prince of Camelot. He didn't mention that part. There was, after all, a good chance his captors intended killing him and returning his head to Uther in a basket, and he didn't want to give them any additional incentives for doing so.
Merlin wasn't with him. He hadn't been in the cell when Arthur awoke, and there had been no sign of him since. If he was lucky his captors would have left his useless manservant behind, Merlin would have woken up and raised the alarm, and half of Camelot would be out searching for Arthur right now. If he was lucky. More likely Merlin was still unconscious or worse... but Arthur didn't want to think about that. He'd seen men die from less. He wasn't going to think about that either. Merlin would be fine.
Arthur kicked at the door again, trying to find a weak spot. He suspected that the only weak spot so far was his foot, or possibly his shoulder. Both were going to be extremely bruised by the morning. The door, on the other hand, stood firm. That didn't stop him trying again, and again.
Hours later the door finally opened. Arthur stood as soon as he heard footsteps, intending to rush the guard. Instead he caught his manservant who was thrust inside and the door slammed behind him. Merlin was alive, and Arthur was shocked at how relieved he felt at that revelation. However, he wasn't free, and given that they were expected to be out riding all day there was a good chance nobody had even realised they were missing yet.
Merlin looked exhausted. There was a huge bruise darkening his temple and he slumped into Arthur's arms. Arthur supposed that if he hadn't been there then Merlin would have just collapsed on the floor. There were shackles on his wrists and the skin beneath was bloody and sore. Arthur wondered if his servant had been strung up by them. Their captors were cowards, he thought, to attack his helpless servant.
Perhaps because of that, he cradled Merlin against him, helped him take a sip of what remained of the water they'd been left and was gentler than usual when he asked who their captors were, and what had happened after Arthur had passed out. Merlin didn't seem to know, though Arthur got the distinct impression he just didn't want to tell Arthur. Still, he persevered.
"What do they want? Are they going to hold me to ransom?"
Merlin shook his head. "I don't think so."
Merlin looked up at him, and Arthur could see hurt and actual fear in his eyes. When he got his hands on whoever had done this, they were going to pay.
"They threatened to. Arthur," he held up his hands, showing the iron cuffs at his wrists. "You need to get these off me."
Arthur couldn't see any reason why that would make any difference to their situation. There was no chain linking the cuffs, they wouldn't hinder their escape in any way. "We can get those off when we're back at Camelot. At the moment we need to concentrate on finding a way out of here. Where are we? How many guards are there? Do you think you'll be able to remember the way out?"
Merlin picked up the water jug, then looked rather disappointed at finding it empty. Arthur felt slightly guilty, having kicked it over in a fit of temper earlier, and covered that up with more questions, none of which Merlin was answering to his satisfaction. Again his servant insisted they needed to get the cuffs off his wrists, and was tugging ineffectually at them. It was pathetic really, and typical of Merlin. He was so helpless whenever there was any sort of trouble. He was lucky to have Arthur there to protect him.
Except Arthur knew he wasn't doing the best job as far as that was concerned at the moment.
"Stop playing with the bracelets, Merlin, and let's see if we can break down the door if we both put our backs into it."
Merlin just looked at him, then resumed his almost frantic pulling at the cuffs. The sores were starting to bleed again.
That got Arthur's attention.
"We have to get them off."
They were cold iron, and seemingly welded on with no obvious way to remove them. Clearly the work of sorcerers. They were probably hurting Merlin in some way. No wonder he was so desperate to remove them. Arthur's anger flared up anew, how dare these people take out their hatred for his father or himself on his delicate servant?
The sound of heavy footsteps outside caused them both to look at one another in panic.
"They'll take me this time, Merlin, don't worry."
Merlin was shaking his head again. "Arthur..."
"No, it'll be fine."
"It won't. Arthur, you know I'm completely loyal to you, don't you?"
It was a strange thing to say. Arthur had never had any doubts. If he thought about it there was nobody that he trusted more. His manservant was shaking now, still scrabbling at the cuffs but his eyes were wide and fearful and fixed solely on Arthur.
"I've never done anything that wasn't for you. I never would."
It was almost as if he were afraid of Arthur rather than the people coming for them. It distracted Arthur, stopped him thinking of attack strategies, and meant that when the door opened he wasn't even on his feet. Certainly there was no chance of launching an ambush. He cursed his own stupidity and stood up quickly, keeping himself between their captors and his vulnerable, terrified manservant.
None of the men looked even remotely familiar. He stood his ground as one tried to shove him out of the way.
"We want Emrys."
"Well we don't know who that is. And torturing my servant isn't going to help you, he doesn't even know which day of the week it is half the time! If you're going to take one of us, I'll go but leave my manservant out of it."
For some reason they found that quite amusing. One of them drew his sword and pointed it at Arthur's throat.
"Stay back, Princeling. We only want Emrys. You're expendable."
A nasty suspicion started to form at the back of Arthur's mind. He looked at Merlin, who was looking anywhere but at Arthur now and still worrying at the cuffs. Made of cold iron, something that was known to suppress magic. And he'd heard of Emrys, though until that moment he'd had no inkling who it might be. Their captors were still talking.
"Take them both, we can use Pendragon as leverage. The boy's stupidly loyal."
Merlin protested at that, and Arthur glared at him. He was quite sure he didn't need Merlin's protection. The men holding them ignored them both.
"Strange, when the Pendragons hate sorcery so much."
"It'll work, you'll see."
Later, kneeling at the feet of his captors, the axe that had been at the back of his neck lying useless on the floor, Arthur saw Emrys for himself. Blazing and golden and furious, and all his. Arthur still wasn't sure exactly what it was they had been demanding Merlin do with his magic, and wasn't sure that he wanted to know either, but he was quite certain that bringing the castle down on everyone except the two of them wasn't it. There was no sign of life under the rubble. They'd been fools to remove the cuffs.
Arthur coughed a little at the dust, and Merlin - all Merlin now, the terrifying warlock hidden away once more - hovered nervously in front of him, reaching out tentatively to help him to his feet.
Arthur cautiously took the outstretched hand. He knew now the reason they'd been captured. He could understand Merlin's reasons for never telling him about the magic because he was going to hide it from his father himself for those same reasons. But what he couldn't understand, and didn't think he ever would be able to, was the reason why such a powerful sorcerer would want to devote his life to Arthur, or why he was looking at him with so much hope and love in his eyes now.
He felt just a little humbled, and prayed that he was going to be worthy of such devotion.