Title: Corrected Mistakes
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur (vague)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: When a knight behaves less than honourably, Arthur vows never again.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Not happy with this one but there we go.
Arthur sat staring into the fire and wondered what was taking Merlin so long. He had only told his servant to accompany the knights on their hunt to fetch some firewood and whatever herbs he always used to make their food actually edible. In all honesty, he had expected the servant to be back by now, giving them a few moment alone before the knights returned. Sitting here on his own, Arthur regretted saying that he would guard the camp.
There was nothing to guard against; the horses were correctly tethered and the fire was under control. This was a peaceful part of the forest, it was why they were camping here before venturing into dangerous territory the following day to make sure the bandits were firmly driven from their borders. Arthur didn’t care if they killed them or not, as long as they were someone else’s problem.
But suddenly he realised that he could hear something – someone crashing through the undergrowth noisily. Arthur jumped to his feet, sword at the ready only to relax when he caught sight of a flash of red through the trees and knew it was one of his own knights. However, he didn’t let his guard down entirely and found that he was tensing when he saw that the man was stumbling.
“Galahad? What happened?” The man drew to a stop and peered at the prince. There was an ugly wound on his head and Arthur was surprised that he was even still standing.
“Your bloody servant, Sire. The brat smacked me over the head, didn’t he? Probably after gold or something like that.”
Arthur stared. “That’s not like Merlin.”
“Well, then, maybe you don’t know him all that well. Sire.” The title was added on as an afterthought and Arthur felt his mind traversing through memories, trying to work out why something didn’t feel right.
“Stay there,” he ordered, striding into the trees the direction the man had come from. It was only when he was away from the camp did he recall that Galahad was a thug towards servants, taking pleasure in the fact that if they fought back, he could just use his status to have them sacked, or in the stocks at least.
Arthur quickened his pace.
The man had made a grave error if he thought attacking the personal servant to the Crown Prince was going to go unnoticed. Not only because Arthur would make him pay, but because Merlin was no ordinary servant. He would fight back.
As it was, Arthur only found Merlin by almost tripping over him. The man was curled into a tight ball.
“Merlin? Merlin, it’s me.” Gently, but firmly, he forced Merlin to straighten out and swore when he saw that Merlin’s face seemed to be a mess of blood. Forcing himself to keep calm, Arthur took stock of his other injuries. Merlin was cradling his ribs and his clothing was askew, but he was already beginning to focus on Arthur a little more.
“I hit him, Arthur. He came at me, I couldn’t stop him. He was crushing me and then there was this stick in my hand and I hit him…”
“Hush,” Arthur couldn’t believe how lucid Merlin was. But then he remembered how head wounds seemed to bleed a lot. He untied Merlin’s scarf and unhooked the water skin from his belt. Drenching the material, he set about cleaning up Merlin, relieved when a small yet deep cut was revealed. It was nasty, but it hadn’t been as bad as Arthur feared. He knew he should have never sent Merlin out with the knights. Or he should have checked which knights were going at the very least.
“He said he would have me flogged if I told, he’ll kill me for hitting him…” Merlin was mumbling and Arthur knew that he was no longer in the here and now. He was trapped in the moment where Galahad had clearly sprung at him. Arthur gave his shoulders a tiny shake, trying to force the man to focus but being mindful of his wounds.
“Merlin, look at me. He’s not going to touch you.”
“But he’s a knight.”
“And I’m a prince, you idiot. Which one has more authority?” Merlin simply stared at him and Arthur wasn’t sure if he was lucid or not. Then Merlin softly smiled, despite it splitting his lip again and causing a bright bubble of blood to burst on it.
“You’ll take my side?”
“Always,” Arthur murmured, sliding an arm around Merlin and trying to ease him into an upright position. Merlin hissed and struggled.
“I’ll stay here.”
“Don’t be an idiot, Merlin. You can’t stay here, something will probably eat you. You’re coming back to camp.”
“Merlin, do you trust me?”
Merlin looked at him through tear filled eyes and nodded. It hurt Arthur to see the usually sarcastic servant like this. Galahad must have given him a real scare for Merlin to not be ranting about how Arthur should throw him out from Camelot – probably from the top of the battlements if he was in a bad enough mood.
“Then trust me now. I’m not going to let him hurt you, alright?”
“Alright.” Somehow, Arthur knew that was what Merlin had been waiting to hear. For as soon as he said it, Merlin passed out.
Arthur let out a call for help, immediately hearing the knights crashing towards them. For now, he just held Merlin against him and reassured himself the man was breathing.
He would never make this sort of mistake again. Not only the actual attack, but Arthur was going to make sure men truly earned their knighthood rather than just being granted it because of their birth. His father might have his ideals, but Arthur had his own.
In his ideal Camelot, knights did not attack servants. Status wouldn’t matter when Arthur was king. His men drew closer, but Arthur found he was too busy promising Merlin this to truly notice.