Title: Flash of Fear
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur (if you want it to be!)
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gaius
Summary: Merlin adored storms with every fibre of his being. So what was wrong with Arthur?
Word Count: 998
Author's Notes:See! I can do innocent!
Merlin leant out of his window as far as he dared, a wide grin on his face as he watched the lightening tear open the skies over the forest. He had always enjoyed storms, ever since he was a child. Although he wasn’t sure whether it was him enjoying them, or his magic. The sheer power of the display in front of him made his magic almost hum happily and it made Merlin feel vibrant and alive. It almost made him feel as if he was the one with electricity racing through his body and the young warlock couldn’t help but let out a giddy laugh as the deep rumble of thunder answered the flashing light.
“Merlin, what are you doing?” As Merlin turned, Gaius pulled him back from the window and slammed it shut. Merlin managed to school his expression into something more neutral, but he couldn’t resist stealing a glance out of the window every few seconds even as his mentor took up a position in front of him that Merlin just knew meant a scolding was on its way.
“Shouldn’t you be with Arthur?”
“The prince, Merlin. You know, your master, your destiny…”
“I think I know who the prat is. And no, I shouldn’t, he banished me for the night and said it was on pain of death should I return.” Merlin rolled his eyes as he thought about how dramatic Arthur had been behaving. He had been acting odd all day, but his servant had just assumed the approaching storm clouds had stopped the prince going for a hunt and that had meant he took his mood out on Merlin like usual. But what had started off as a bad mood had turned into something else entirely by the time Merlin had been dismissed for the night. If Arthur was fuming, Merlin knew how to act around that side of the prince. But it wasn’t as if Arthur had been angry. It had instead been a mood that Merlin hadn’t quite been able to place and that had unnerved him. He had been grateful for the chance to flee rather than tiptoeing around Arthur all evening. Judging by the expression on Gaius’ face, however, the old physician did know what was troubling the prince.
He disappeared down the stairs and Merlin found himself following, curious. Gaius was rummaging in his potions by the time Merlin got there and before the younger man could ask what he was looking for, the physician pressed a phial into his hand.
“Take this to him.”
“That’s a sleeping draught.”
“How observant you are, Merlin. Now, if you please.” Utterly bewildered, Merlin clenched the bottle in his hand as he walked towards the door. It was only when he reached it did he realise that he had no idea what this was about.
“Gaius?” The old man paused. Merlin could see the indecision running across his face. The man usually took patient confidentiality seriously, but things weren’t always that clear when it came to Arthur. Merlin had a right to know – not only because it was his destiny to protect the man (even if that was from himself) but because it was his job as Arthur’s servant to make sure the prince had everything that he needed. Eventually, Gaius sighed, motioning Merlin towards a stool.
“I’ll make it quick as I don’t want to leave him waiting, but you need to know. Otherwise you’ll probably say something that will make it worse.” Ignoring the insult, Merlin sat and stared at his guardian expectantly. He thought he knew everything there was to know about Arthur, but now it seemed he might be wrong.
“The first time Uther clapped Arthur in chains for disobeying him, he was little more than a boy. Only just came up to my shoulder if I remember rightly. The king ordered for him to spend the night in the cells, which were thankfully empty at the time. Arthur took it well – he paled but didn’t cry as Uther had expected him to do so. But there was a storm that night, so severe that dust was falling into the cells. You’ve been in them with the castle crumbling, you know how that feels? But rather than being a powerful warlock, Arthur was a terrified child. A stone fell in, his door was blocked and it took almost until late the next afternoon to get him out. He held his head high the entire time, but since then…”
“He hasn’t liked storms,” Merlin finished quietly. Gaius looked at him long and steadily, almost as if he expected Merlin to try and tease the prince. But that was the furthest thing from Merlin’s mind. Gaius was right; he had been in there with things collapsing. More than that, he knew what it felt like to be trapped behind stone and not be able to get out, the troll had seen to that. He could understand Arthur’s terror. Without another word, Merlin stood and left.
He made it to Arthur’s chambers in record time, letting himself in to find the prince sitting cross legged on his bed, hands clenched in the sheets and clearly going through the breathing exercises Merlin had seen him do at training. He didn’t seem to notice his servant enter and Merlin simply placed the bottle quietly next to him and turned to leave. This felt like a private moment that he was intruding on.
Arthur’s voice was a whisper and his hand had already found the bottle by the time Merlin turned. When Arthur turned to look at him, there was such a pleading expression on his face – the like of which Merlin had never seen on his prince’s face before – that there was no option as to what his answer would be. As Arthur drained the contents and his eyes rolled up in his head, Merlin was there to catch him and gently guide him back to the pillows.