Title: Servant to Servant
Character/s: Merlin, George
Summary: Merlin, who doesn't know what to do after Arthur is gone, receives sage advice from an unlikely source.
Word Count: 1000
With nothing other than the stars to guide him, Merlin headed toward the forest, where he hoped to find some peace. Being the late hour it was, that shouldn't have been a concern, but his luck such as it was, Merlin knew he would probably run into the patrol Leon was heading up this night; the thought made him groan. Where Percival was understanding and respectful of Merlin wanting his space, Leon was emphatic and unyielding when it came to making Merlin face the facts of what faced him.
As if Merlin didn't know.
It had been two weeks since Arthur's passing and, with the exception of a few hours of blissful respite, Merlin hadn't been left alone since his return. He was grateful for everyone's concern, but with Percival, Leon, and Gaius taking turns being his shadow, Merlin hadn't done much of anything over the past fourteen days. He was near his breaking point.
For ten years his life had been centered on Arthur. Maybe that wasn't a long time compared to how long Gaius had been a physician, or when measured against the many years Geoffrey of Monmouth had been the court genealogist, but it was a long enough time that it was difficult for Merlin to recall how he'd spent his days prior to being rewarded with being Arthur's servant. He'd not only taken care of Arthur's almost every need during that time, he'd used his magic to protect him. Ensuring his master's safety had been Merlin's sole objective; he had been told it was his destiny to do so. He had fought valiantly against such, but eventually he'd accepted his fate and had then fought with everything he had to protect Arthur.
"Merlin? Is that you?"
George. Merlin took a deep breath. It seemed the fates were against him. But, at least it wasn't Leon. Merlin closed his eyes and sighed. What was it going to take for him to get some privacy? "Yeah. It's me. What're you doing out this late?" he asked, uninterested in the answer.
"I saw you leaving and was worried," George replied as he emerged from the cover of a copse of trees. "Gaius tol--"
Merlin threw up his hands, palms up. "Let me guess. He told you to keep a close eye on me. He's worried about me and doesn't trust that I won't do something foolish?" Merlin asked, rolling his eyes as he raised a brow and shook his head when George nodded. It figured.
"No one has ever cared enough to worry about me, so don't mock their concern, Merlin. You don't know how good you have it," George said, censure in his voice.
How good he had it? Merlin wanted to laugh … or cry. Arthur was gone. Merlin's reason for being in Camelot no longer existed. Arthur had not only been his closest and best friend, he had also employed him. George had a job. He had a purpose. He could never understand. Merlin looked up at the stars that dotted the sky. He then whispered, "I know how good I had it, George." He then looked back toward the other. "Why do you stay in Camelot?" he asked, curious. George had no one in Camelot; he could go anywhere. Why Camelot?
"As you know, I don't exactly fit in, Merlin, but, at least here there er… are a few people who seem to think I matter."
Merlin hadn't missed the pause before are and he thought George should have said were. It's what he'd meant, after all. "I don't know that there's a place for me here anymore," Merlin said as he shrugged his shoulders. "I no longer have a purpose and I need to find one."
"Whether you remain here or leave, you'll be fine, Merlin; everyone respects you, but I think there are a great many people who would be sad to see you leave. You've got to do whatever's best for you, but just know that I don't want you to go," George said, sounding sincere.
Merlin couldn't help but smile; he knew that he wasn't one of George's favorite people. "Thanks, George. I don't know what I'll do, but it's good to know I have someone on my side."
"You've a good deal more than just me wanting you to stay, and I think you know that," George said, taking a deep breath. "Er, I don't know that I should say this, Merlin, but you should know that I thought highly of Arthur; he was always considerate and complimentary to me, even when I knew he wished for me to not be around. I know he teased you about how much better I was as a servant, but that wasn't what he truly thought. When you weren't attending him it was obvious he wished you were."
Merlin stared ahead, his mouth open. It was moments like these when he had the urge to cover his ears. He didn't want to hear this. It was too much. He nearly said something caustic, but then he remembered that George was only doing as he'd been told. Merlin deflated, mentally and physically. He'd just about reached his breaking point. "I've told them I'm fine. But I'm not," he said, emotionally exhausted. "I don't know what to do now, but I need to take some time for me and find out what it is I need to do. No one understands. They all want me to talk about how sad I am that Arthur is no longer here and they want me to let them take care of me. But I'm not a child who needs to be coddled. No one understands," he repeated. "They all have their duties. What do I have now?"
"More than most, Merlin," George replied. "You have time to think about what you want to do, but whatever you decide, you should use your gifts. You helped Arthur. Now you can help someone else."