Title: Deserve and Demand
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur,
Summary: Arthur thought he could be intimidating. Until he realised he couldn't.
Word Count: 999
Author's Notes: Just something canon.
To put it simply, the Crown Prince of Camelot was confused.
It was not a feeling Arthur experienced often and it certainly wasn’t a sensation he was comfortable with. But there was no other word for how he was feeling. He simply didn’t understand.
He bullied the servants. He couldn’t help it. His father surrounded him with friends that made it impossible to do anything else, even if he did feel a twinge of guilt when one of the maids ran off crying after lewd comments. He couldn’t show it though. Intimidation was part of being a leader, of showing that he wasn’t weak and he could keep in control of any situation.
With that in mind, Arthur thought he had become quite good at it. So when his father appointed that unruly peasant as his manservant, Arthur thought the fun was about to truly begin. Merlin was cheeky and defiant and there was still contempt in his eyes when he looked at Arthur, especially if he caught him teasing a servant who didn’t have the courage to answer back. Arthur was sure it would only take a few well timed jibes and he would be able to assert his authority over Merlin.
He hadn’t anticipated it to backfire. Merlin hadn’t even seemed to react. He had just given Arthur a scathing look that seemed to say `is that the best you can do?` before he had turned and walked off without a backwards glance. It was only Arthur’s pride that stopped him from running after his servant to demand he treated him with some respect. He knew respect had to be earned and so had vowed to up his antics, making it so Merlin would tremble before him. That would show his father that he wasn’t weak, that he was fit to lead.
But it simply wasn’t working.
For a month now, Arthur had thrown everything he could at Merlin. He had bullied him, thrown him in the stocks, thrown things at him and kept him working for far too long each day with the hope something would crack. Although Merlin began to look drawn (Arthur refused to feel guilty), the contempt in his eyes only grew. Arthur only cut back on the workload after he found himself cornered by Gauis.
He told himself it was curiosity as to what made Merlin tick that made him follow him one night. Arthur had dismissed him and gone to bed, only to feel too hot and move to open the window. He had known at a glance who was slipping across the courtyard and it had taken him moments to dress and steal after him. Merlin’s clumsiness was no act just in Arthur’s presence to annoy him (as the prince had suspected) and it was no effort at all on Arthur’s behalf to stalk him into the forest. His hand rested on the hilt of his sword and his fingers tightened with the thudding of his heart.
They didn’t go far. Arthur hid behind a tree as Merlin stepped into a clearing.
“I’m here.” There was hate in Merlin’s voice and Arthur realised he had been on the receiving end of mild annoyance in comparison. He couldn’t see anyone there…and then suddenly there was. The man seemed to just appear. He was huge – at least a head and shoulders taller than Merlin and three times as broad. He dwarfed the servant and Arthur’s hand tightened on his sword. But as he saw blue light crackling around the man and a burning gold in his eyes, fear gripped his throat. Why was Merlin meeting sorcerers?
Merlin threw down a small pouch and with a wave of his hand, the sorcerer opened it. There were a few coins within and his lip curled.
“That’s all I’ve got,” Merlin said, defiance in his voice. Arthur could see the way his hands were twisting behind his back. Arthur wanted to shout a warning but he was too late – the sorcerer’s eyes pulsed and Merlin was thrown to the floor.
“Have you forgotten that I can destroy you? I can destroy your entire family with what I know and you bring me this?”
“I-,” Whatever Merlin was about to say was stolen from him as the sorcerer kicked him sharply in the stomach. Arthur grimaced as Merlin was shifted back on the floor from the force of the kick.
“I won’t steal!” Merlin cried but the sorcerer twisted his hand and Merlin rose. Arthur almost yelled in horror as his servant’s feet left the floor and his hands scrabbled at his neck. The man was strangling him.
“Pity. You had the potential for so much more.” The sorcerer sneered as he moved closer, his hand tightening to a fist. As Merlin choked, Arthur knew he had to react.
“Let him go.” His voice rang clearly and his sword was drawn even as he walked into the clearing. Merlin’s eyes went wide. “Now.”
“Who are you?”
“I said; let him go.” Arthur readied his sword into a more ready position and the sorcerer glanced between them. With a snarl, he thrust his arm out and Arthur only had time to lower his sword as Merlin was thrown at him and they crashed into the floor in a tangle of limbs. Arthur shoved his servant off and jumped to his feet, but the sorcerer was gone. Turning, Arthur saw that Merlin was still on the floor, but was looking up at him. There was something in his eyes that had never been there before. Respect.
“Thank you,” Merlin said quietly. Arthur nodded.
“We’ll talk about this in the morning,” he said. He couldn’t have his own servants being blackmailed. Merlin paled but allowed Arthur to pull him to his feet. As they left, Arthur understood.
Merlin had never reacted to him because Arthur had never known what true intimidation was. Now he did know, however, he never wanted to be able to do it.