Pairing/s: Merlin, Arthur/Gwen
Summary: Arthur notices something about Merlin that seems different. He decides to solve this problem.
Word Count: 1047
Author's Notes: Sorry for the delay in posting this. You asked for a gen fic, and I hope you enjoy it. I envision this happening just after 'The Disir' in Season 5.
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Merlin’s attention was drawn to the King as he stayed seated for supper. “My lord?” he inquired, as he was meant to, his tone flat and detached rather than having its usual sense of humour.
Arthur watched him carefully, his gaze studying him the way he would never have any other servant. “I said you’re quiet.”
Merlin dipped his head as a sign of respect, although, personally, it was more for personal gain as he wished to have some form of delay before he was meant to speak. “I thought you would find that a welcoming change, Sire.”
Arthur did not smile, nor did he reply with a quip. He simply continued to eye his manservant as if he held a secret that he wished the King would not know.
“Perhaps,” Gwen said in a gentle voice that interrupted them, “Merlin is exhausted.”
Arthur eyed Merlin once more, suspicion in his gaze before he agreed. “It was a trying day. You’re dismissed, Merlin.”
Merlin nodded, making his way back to his chambers without so much a glance or quick smile towards the Queen as he was customarily known to do. He missed the concerned look that the Queen and King shared, his mind elsewhere.
Gaius met him with warm soup, which Merlin accepted without another word. He took his place at the table and picked up the wooden spoon, when in fact, he had no appetite.
“What’s wrong?” his mentor asked him, concern in his eyes.
Merlin shook his head, unable to find the words that he needed to say. “I failed him,” he said finally. “I failed Arthur.”
Gaius smiled in recognition of what the young warlock spoke of, although he could not agree so readily. “You did what you thought was right.”
“I sealed his fate. I sealed Camelot’s fate.”
“What happens to Camelot is not based on your actions alone. You cannot place them all on your shoulders.”
“And if Camelot falls because of me?”
“It won’t,” Gaius said with determination. “You won’t let it. Now eat. Or if you won’t, I will.”
Merlin felt a small smile tug at the corner of his lips as Gaius reached for his bowl and he pulled it towards him to keep the old man’s hands away from his only supper.
“That’s more like it,” his mentor said with a smile. Standing up, he clapped Merlin on the back and made his way to the cot he slept on.
Merlin started on his supper only to be interrupted when a short knock was heard at the door. Confused, he dropped the spoon into the bowl of soup and made his way to the door. Arthur stood on the other side and he wasn’t dressed in armour.
“What happened?” he asked, panicked.
“Nothing.” Arthur shrugged, his behaviour one of complete nonchalance. “Come with me.”
Arthur turned on his heel and started towards the stairs, and unsure as to what to do, Merlin followed him.
“How long have you been my servant, Merlin?”
“A few years now, Sire.” Merlin followed the King up the stairs and through a hallway frequented by knights to reach the courtyard during an attack.
“Are you happy working for me?”
Merlin faltered as they reached the courtyard at the dead of night and continued to walk. “Ecstatic.”
“Careful, Merlin,” Arthur said with a hint of warning, although that warning was accompanied by a short laugh. “For a moment there I almost believed you.”
“I’m sorry, but, where are we going?”
“You’ve never been one for patience, have you?”
“Neither have you, Sire.”
Another laugh escaped Arthur as he finally led them both to the part of the castle that were hardly ever frequented by guards. There, propped up against the stone wall were a pair of wooden swords and shields. Picking up one of each, Arthur tossed them both to Merlin, who very nearly dropped them.
“All right there?” Arthur asked, his tone mocking as he picked up the remaining sword and shield. “Ready?”
Merlin eyed the sword and shield in his hands as if they were nothing but ridiculous toys for a ridiculous situation. “Ready for what?”
Straightening his shoulders and taking his stance, Arthur nodded towards him. “Hit me.”
This time, Merlin did laugh. “I’m not hitting you.”
“You’re clearly upset about something, and the best way to work through it is by doing something physical. This will help. Trust me.”
Merlin continued to chuckle, his grip slackening on the wooden weapons. “Arthur, I am not hitting you.”
“Don’t worry. The guards are nowhere near us. They won’t kill you for attacking your King with a child’s toy.”
“That’s what this is?” Merlin asked sarcastically. “A child’s toy?”
“Isn’t it? It’s better than steel, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah, much better.”
Arthur’s gaze narrowed. “Are you mocking me, Merlin?”
“You, Sire?” Merlin asked with wide-eyed innocence. “I would never!”
“You asked for it.” With the stealth of a man who has practiced nothing else but sword fighting for years, Arthur lunged towards Merlin. Merlin put up the shield just in time to block the blow, which in all honesty, wasn’t that hard. Arthur advanced making broad strokes that were easily stopped, and Merlin did stop them, all the while his own sword held uselessly in his other hand.
“Try, Merlin,” Arthur said with encouragement. “It will make you feel better.”
“I doubt that.” Merlin managed to push his weight behind the sword and make Arthur take a step back.
The King grinned. “Finally! A worthy fight.”
They fought as a pair of siblings might, with light brushes and big grins. When Merlin finally conceded defeat by dropping the wooden weapons with a loud clatter and falling to the floor to catch his breath, Arthur put down his own weapons without so much as a halted breath.
“Feel any better?” the King asked as he sat down next to Merlin.
Merlin couldn’t admit that Mordred, the source of his problems had disappeared from his mind since they started sparring. Instead, he said, “You know what would really make me feel better?”
“Giving me a day off.”
“Oh Merlin, when will you ever learn?” The King punched his harm as a loud laugh escaped him. “I’ll never give you a day off.”