Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Serving Arthur would be hell, Merlin was sure of it. Until he changed his mind.
Word Count: 999
Author's Notes: I'm loving these new word prompts!
Merlin watched as Arthur spoke quietly with a chambermaid before sending her on her way with a gold coin clutched in her hand. For a month now, he had watched his master beat older knights in their training sessions in almost humiliating ways. He had watched as Arthur boasted and showed off in front of his noble friends and had decided that both the dragon and the king – after all, he was the one to appoint Merlin Arthur’s servant – had both got it wrong. There was no way he was cut out to deal with the arrogant prince. He was more likely going to get himself beheaded than he was at actually helping Arthur in his journey to become king.
The prince was a prat, through and through.
But this was a side of him he had not seen before. A newcomer, some noble from the north, had been giving the servants grief. Beating at the young men who didn’t move quickly, cornering the maids with lewd intentions when no one else was around.
Merlin didn’t realise that Arthur had been aware that something was wrong.
Until he had turned up to work, late with a black eye and in a foul mood. He had only been walking down the same corridor as the noble when the man had decided that servants shouldn’t even be in the same part of the castle as him. Merlin knew the loud and obnoxious words hadn’t been aimed at him. But the servant just in front was little more than a child and Merlin had interfered before it crossed his mind that he would be the one to bear the punishment.
He hadn’t minded, not when it meant the boy had got away. But he certainly hadn’t been in the mood for Arthur’s usual jibes about his clumsiness. To his surprise, however, Arthur had gently caught his chin and tilted his head towards the light, examining the injury with barely concealed fury before storming out of his room without a word.
Merlin hadn’t known what to make of it. Until he had started seeing other signs. Arthur was going out of his way to make sure the servants were approaching the man in pairs; someone was always there to run for help. Knights were seen patrolling more and more corridors during the day as well as at knight and concealed alcoves suddenly found themselves the home to a vase or some other ornament.
Even with the changes taking place around him, Merlin was still determined to think of Arthur as the prat he had to serve. The man never showed any kindness when he was out in the public eye. He would punch his friends sooner than share pleasantries with them and Merlin found that he was constantly on edge.
Until Gaius said something about receiving Arthur’s message and to tell him it was all in hand.
Merlin had relayed the words without having a clue what they meant. But as Arthur had gone to turn away, he found that his hand had stuck out and he had caught the prince by the sleeve. It didn’t dawn on him that it might be a bad idea, not even when Arthur had looked at him with raised eyebrows and an incredulous expression on his face. But Merlin had ignored that and instead demanded to know what Gaius had meant.
Initially, he didn’t think that Arthur would answer. But after some gentle coaxing (and even more yelling), Merlin found himself discovering that Arthur had been making sure that Gaius had enough supplies and ointments for the amount of injuries that were cropping up amongst the serving staff, offering money to help purchase more if the physician didn’t have enough.
Arthur’s face was flaming by the time he was finished, but Merlin found it was all falling into place.
Arthur was a fool and a bully when amongst his friends.
It was enough to keep them respecting him and therefore toeing the line. This newcomer hadn’t yet been accepted and therefore Arthur had no true influence over him.
Instead the prince was trying to make the castle as safe as he possible could for all those unfortunate enough to have to deal with the man.
Merlin had a feeling he might have misjudged Arthur as he watched him. The prince was watching the maid go with a drawn look on his face. Merlin knew what the coin was for. Arthur had been sending servants down to the markets for some added treats; food mainly to share among the staff as a way of trying to compensate what they were having to go through. Off his own back and reaching into his own pocket, he was trying to make amends for something that wasn’t his fault.
“What are you gawping at like the idiot you are, Merlin? I thought I told you I had training to get to?”
“Yes, Sire,” Merlin turned away to hide his smirk. Now that he had a new understanding of Arthur, he was beginning to understand why the man insulted him so much as well. It was Arthur’s way of saying that he believed Merlin could handle himself.
In a strange way, it was Arthur’s version of a compliment.
As he started to gather his master’s things for his training session, Merlin knew he was beginning to change his mind. Serving Arthur wouldn’t be so bad after all, not when the man seemed singlehandedly determined to set everything right in the castle without letting anyone officially know.
“Merlin, come on!” Arthur was halfway down the corridor by the time he called back and Merlin cursed, hurrying after him while being laden down.
It didn’t seem to matter whether he was changing his mind about his master or not. Arthur was still just as determined as ever to make his life awkward. But as he passed a patrol that hadn’t guarded that corridor a week ago, Merlin knew it would be worth it.