Title: Does it Matter?
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Somehow, he knew this wasn't the first time Merlin had protected him.
Word Count: 911
Author's Notes: This took ages to think of, hope you like!
His eyes opened just a crack, the pounding in his head reminding him of the blow that he had just taken. Waking up didn’t seem like a good idea, but the alternative was leaving Merlin at the mercy of the bandits. Arthur knew that he wasn’t always the most caring of masters, but even he didn’t like the idea of staying out cold to wake up to his manservant’s mangled body in a few hours time.
He could hear the jeering laugh of the men and knew that he might already be too late. Carefully, trying not to draw attention to himself due to the fact that sitting up was a challenge (Arthur was adamantly refusing to think about the fact there would be very little he could actually do to help considering he was having trouble moving), the prince managed to use the tree as a support in order to force his protesting body into an upright position.
Arthur could see that Merlin was surrounded. The sword he had thrust into his servant’s hands when they realised that the attack was coming was outside of the circle that the lanky man was in the centre of and Arthur was hard pushed not to groan. He really needed to work on Merlin’s self-defence skills when they got out of this, especially if he couldn’t even hold onto a sword for any length of time. All of the bandits were armed, their swords pointing into the circle and keeping Merlin trapped. Now and again, one would jab forward, looking as if they were going to run the servant through. Arthur knew he should be astonished that Merlin wasn’t even flinching, but somehow, it came as no surprise.
“Get on your knees, boy.”
Arthur bit his lip. Part of him loved the fact that Merlin wouldn’t go down without a fight, but he also knew these kinds of men. They were going to make him regret defying them. There was no way that Merlin could win, he was unarmed and surrounded. For once, Arthur just wanted the man to make it easier on himself this time.
“Do as we say. You are unarmed. Don’t be a fool.”
“Who says I need to be armed?”
The bandits all laughed again, clearly believing that they had their prize and were looking forward to enjoying their spoils. Arthur felt sick, and he wasn’t entirely sure that it was all to do with the blow to his head. But Merlin was just standing there, as calm as he ever was. Arthur thought he looked like the centre of a storm somehow. It was as if there was all of this power whipping around him, yet he alone remained unaffected by it. One of the bandits made to step forward, and that is when it happened.
Merlin’s hands rose in front of him and Arthur at first believed it was some last attempt at defending himself. He was right…and at the same time he was so wrong. Merlin was defending himself, just not in the manner that the prince believed. The bandit didn’t take another step before he was blasted backwards. Merlin hadn’t so much as touched him, yet Arthur knew that he was the one who had caused the flight. The rest of the men all shifted, until another started forward in anger. This time, it wasn’t just him that went flying but the men standing to either side of him. The others cast dubious looks at each other.
“I did warn you,” Merlin said quietly and Arthur felt himself shiver at the sheer power in his servant’s voice.
Merlin had magic.
That was the only explanation for what had just happened. His most loyal servant, his best friend, had magic. Arthur felt his head whirl and was almost glad that he didn’t have the strength to stand up. Merlin wouldn’t have ever told him, Arthur was aware of that much. Why else would he wait until his friend was supposedly unconscious before defending himself? Arthur shivered again, realising that Merlin would have let anything happen to him if it meant keeping Arthur safe. And if keeping the prince safe meant hiding who he really was… Arthur realised that amongst his anger and fury (he was refusing to admit fear) over what he had just seen, he had just learnt how loyal Merlin truly was.
As he sat there, slumped and barely conscious, watching his hopeless servant casually defend them both against the rest of the bandits, Arthur realised that his anger was gone. He was losing the fight to stay conscious, but he almost didn’t mind. He trusted Merlin to keep him safe, for he realised that this wasn’t the first time the servant would have done so. He could pass out now, for he knew that Merlin was safe and didn’t need him for protection.
And somehow, Arthur didn’t mind. It was almost as if he had accepted what he had seen almost before his brain had finished processing the events playing out in front of his mind. What did it matter if Merlin had magic? At least that meant Arthur didn’t have to drag him to the training ground in order to try and get him to at least attempt to defend himself.
As the final few bandits turned and ran, Arthur could sense Merlin beginning to turn towards him. Rather than let Merlin know, Arthur took that moment to simply pass out.