Title: Future Planning
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin, Gwen/Lancelot
Character/s: (In this chapter) Arthur, Merlin, Leon, Gwaine, Morgana, Gwen
Summary: Arthur isn't one for sitting around waiting for something to happen. Neither is Morgana.
Word Count: 1833 (sorry!)
Prompt: 94 Caring
Author's Notes: Thanks to the lovely fififolle for the beta. This is the next part of 'His' and 'The Cold Light of Morning'
Arthur Pendragon had never been one for just sitting around doing nothing, especially when he felt that there was action that needed to be taken. And having his birthright ripped from him by someone who obviously cared only about raising themselves up to the throne was something he definitely had no intention of sitting back and letting happen.
It wasn't too bad for the first day or two, but after that he grew restless. There was no useful news from Camelot, nothing to indicate what might have happened after they left. All that the few travellers that passed through the village had to say to them was the talk of Arthur and the various versions of his flight with Merlin. He was in turns bewitched, kidnapped or murdered by an evil sorcerer posing as an omega.
"None of the stories seem to be showing how I was really just a poor, innocent, gentle omega that you trapped in your room and ravished brutally," Merlin pointed out after one of the merchants in the market square, having no idea who he was speaking to, had told them how Arthur had been murdered by the demonic sorcerer and that his dismembered corpse had been found at the castle gates.
"At least you're mentioned," Gwaine told him. "Leon and I might as well not exist. Shows how much we've been missed." He took a long swig of his ale. "I knew there was no point in signing up as a knight again. Never ends well." He looked towards the bar, where Elaine, Edmund's wife was working. "I'd have been better off as an innkeeper. All the ale I can drink, and nobody looking to run you through."
"You'd drink all the profits," Leon pointed out. "Besides, there's no chance of either of us returning to that life anytime soon. No other king will take us after we walked out on Uther's service. The less stories we're included in, the sooner we can go back into service and the better I'll like it, thank you."
"You might like that, but I'd like to be remembered in song and legend. Sir Gwaine and the evil sorcerer... preferably while I'm still alive to bask in the glory. Hey Merlin, maybe you and I could stage a battle where I defeat you heroically in a public place and rescue the princess from your wicked clutches? Could you make yourself look just a little bit fearsome first though? Because at the moment it would look as if I'm kicking a puppy!"
Arthur rolled his eyes, though he didn't miss the annoyed look that Leon gave Gwaine, who ignored it. Gwaine didn't have a problem with magic, having been raised in a land where it was accepted. He and Merlin had become friends during their escape, and Arthur wondered if Leon was starting to feel left out. Arthur minded it less than he thought perhaps he should. He supposed it was the soulbond, constantly leaving him in no doubt that Merlin was absolutely and totally his. The taller knight was still not comfortable with magic, though Arthur knew him well enough to see how hard he was trying to accept it. It would, he thought, probably be better if Gwaine didn't continue with his constant goading.
"It wouldn't look like that for long," Merlin retorted. "Sir Gwaine, the alpha knight bested by an omega. They'd talk of it for years!"
"The worst omega ever," Arthur stage-whispered in Merlin's ear, then laughed at the mock-offended look he received in return. Leon didn't laugh and Arthur belatedly realised that it was probably what Leon was thinking anyway, although not in jest.
"Gods, you two are sickening." Gwaine drained the last of his ale, then called Elaine over for a refill.
"We don't have an endless supply of gold," Leon warned, watching the tankard filling up. He covered his own when Elaine moved around the table.
Arthur didn't need reminding of that particular problem. There wasn't enough work in the village, although Gaius had been kept busy with endless requests for potions and remedies that Merlin had been helping him with. The rest of them had very little to do. It wasn't the harvesting or planting season, and nobody needed a swordsman. Arthur had been raised to be king. Leon and Gwaine had trained most of their lives to be knights. The truth of the matter was, with those occupations taken away, Arthur didn't really know what else they could do.
At some point he knew he would have to return to Camelot. He couldn't stay away. No matter what his father had done, he couldn't leave his beloved land and people to fall victim to Agravaine's greed and ambition. Merlin had explained the dragon's prophecy to him, and once he'd got over the shock of it all Arthur had just become more determined to regain his rightful place and have his loyal friends reinstated. But from a distance, with no news, it was difficult to make any plans. He feared for Merlin's life if they dared go back across the border, and whatever he felt for Camelot and his duty to it, what he felt for Merlin was stronger. If it came to it, he thought that he might try to leave Merlin behind, somewhere safe. Though the more he saw of how powerful Merlin's magic was, the more he doubted his own ability to stop him doing anything that he didn't want to. And he would never want to leave Arthur's side, particularly if he thought Arthur was putting himself in danger. Almost as if Merlin knew what he was thinking, he turned and smiled fondly at Arthur. It was wonderfully distracting from everything else and Arthur had to make a real effort to concentrate on what Leon was telling him.
"We need to find out what's happening in Camelot. Perhaps the king will have relented," Leon said. "I could go back and find out."
"And be executed as a traitor? No, I won't risk you. We stay together. Father will see through Agravaine in time, he has to. But you're right that we need information."
"I'll go to Tamworth," Gwaine told him. "It's a busy place, people will know the latest news."
"You'll just sit in the taverns," Leon accused.
Gwaine shrugged. "Best place to find out what's going on."
"I'll come with you." Leon got to his feet, then reached over and took the half-finished tankard of ale away from Gwaine, ignoring the indignant protest that provoked. "Just to be sure. You've had enough for one evening. If we leave at first light we'll be there and back in a day."
"We should all go." Arthur started to get up, but Leon stopped him with a firm hand on his shoulder.
"You'll be recognised in a place that size. Nobody is going to look twice at Gwaine and I."
"At you, maybe," Gwaine retorted, trying unsuccessfully to retrieve the tankard again. Leon held it up out of reach.
Arthur reluctantly accepted that Leon was right. But he wondered how the pair of knights would survive a day without someone to stop them sparring.
Morgana's concerns about the stranger she had seen Gwen talking to the previous day appeared to be well-founded.
His name was Lancelot, which Morgana thought was faintly ridiculous. Gwen didn't appear to care. Her usual cheerful nature had moved up a notch, she had come into Morgana's rooms that morning with a huge bunch of flowers, humming happily to herself and apparently unable to stop smiling. It was a little nauseating, but when she mentioned this to Gwen the other girl just laughed.
"Oh, my lady, you'll like him when you meet him."
"Doubtless not as much as you do!"
"He's kind. He carried water back to the cottage for me last night so that I could bathe. That takes such a long time, and the buckets are very heavy. And then he mended the back door so that it doesn't keep falling open. And then he..."
Morgana held up a hand. "He's obviously a saint. Why is he here?"
"He wants to be a knight. He's gone to the king to request it."
"Surely he isn't of noble birth?"
"Well... no. But we're short of knights, since... what happened."
"Uther will never allow it. He's as narrow-minded on that as everything else. Your Lancelot is wasting his time."
That, at least, stopped Gwen's overly cheerful smile. "He can still try. There were more stories about that beast last night. Apparently it attacked another village. People say it's moving closer to Camelot. We surely need all the knights we can find."
"And you'd like him to stay. You care for him." It wasn't a question. "Do you think he feels the same?"
"I'm sure he does!"
The way Gwen's face lit up again just at the thought of Lancelot was enough of an answer. Sometimes her beta maidservant really did do an excellent impression of an omega. It was a wonder she'd ever made it onto the staff of the royal household. Still, with Arthur gone Morgana supposed the ban on omega personal servants would be lifted anyway. Arthur didn't know how lucky he'd been, if he'd not encountered Merlin then the worst that would have happened to him was that some tasty omega princess in heat would have been put in front of him at an appropriate time. Whereas Morgana was going to get another alpha, and not a young or attractive one either. She envied Gwen. From what she had seen, Lancelot was delicious.
"So when he leaves, if you can't find your brother then perhaps this Lancelot could be persuaded to escort us to Arthur?"
"I'll ask him," Gwen promised. "But he's determined to become a knight of Camelot."
"Uther won't allow it," Morgana repeated. "So standing at Arthur's side should be perfect for him. The knights here will be weakened without Arthur or Leon to lead and train them."
There was a sharp rap on the door, and the familiar, unwelcome sound of Uther's manservant's voice sounded.
"Princess Morgana, the king requests your presence. He wishes to speak with you on the matter of your forthcoming marriage."
"There is no forthcoming marriage!" Morgana shouted back at the closed door. "Tell him I won't see him until he accepts that!"
"Marriage?" Gwen gasped.
"Uther was here this morning. He's given up on trying to make me accept him as my father, and is simply demanding I marry that vile little man. So you see, exile with my brand new brother seems ever more appealing."
There was further rapping on the door. "The king insists that you attend!"
Morgana tried to ignore it, but knew she wouldn't be able to do so for long. "Hurry. Go and speak with your Lancelot, see if he will help us." She glanced back at the door worriedly. "I fear that I may be running out of time."