|The Drunken Truth
Author: Emiliana Keladry PM
Arthur can't figure out what is wrong with Merlin, but he fears his servant may be spending too much time in the tavern. Episode coda to "The Last Dragonlord."Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Arthur & Merlin - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,336 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 62 - Follows: 50 - Updated: 12-12-11 - Published: 10-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7488467
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Arthur couldn't figure it out. The morning had been very… interesting to say the least. Merlin had been extremely late again, but at least he came and Arthur didn't have to find another servant to attend to him. He hadn't said a word all morning to Arthur and when training began, things got weird. His servant was slow and winced at the loud sounds. Sir Leon pulled him off to the side and gave him something to drink, but instead of getting strange looks from the other knights, they gave him knowing glances and seemed fine with it. Merlin had accepted it, making a face at the taste.
"What did you give Merlin?" Arthur asked as Merlin chased the round target that he had dropped.
"Oh, something – something from Gaius, he asked if I would make sure that Merlin took it," Leon stuttered, avoiding eye contact.
"Alright," the prince commented.
It was a terrible lie. Things didn't stop getting uncomfortable. Merlin moved the target and tripped over his foot and two knights ran over to help him up. Arthur threw down his sword in frustration; if he had fallen over his foot they would have simply laughed at him in good character and not ran over to pick him up. For some unknown reason, the knights were handling Merlin with kid gloves. Arthur was too fed up to continue training and he dismissed all of the knights. Leon lingered, cleaning up some of the targets and sending worried glances at Merlin. Merlin came over to Arthur and helped him remove his wrist guards, avoiding eye contract with him.
"What is wrong with you today, Merlin?" Arthur demanded.
"Nothing, sire," Merlin mumbled.
"You are seriously getting on my last nerve."
Merlin threw down the guard. He turned away from the prince, running his fingers through his hair. It didn't matter. The warlock turned back to face Arthur.
"I don't care! You deserve it," he yelled. "I've got bigger things on my mind than keeping your royal behind entertained. Do you ever think of anyone besides yourself?"
"Don't 'Merlin' me! You have no idea what it feels like and I can't even begin to explain it to you!"
Before Arthur could say another word, Merlin stormed off the training field and disappeared into the castle. The crown prince stood in shock. What on Earth was wrong with him? Sir Leon slowly walked up to him and picked up the guard that Merlin had thrown. He lingered for a moment before handing it to Arthur.
"May I be honest with you, Sire?" Leon inquired.
"Sure, why not. Merlin just was."
"I do not mean to overstep any boundaries, but I know what is wrong with Merlin. Gaius told me last night when I brought Merlin home drunk from the tavern. I won't break his trust and tell you, but you should talk to him. Merlin is quite upset and hurt. He didn't mean anything by yelling at you."
"He's not been himself since the Great Dragon escaped. I don't know what's wrong with him. Merlin won't open up to me; I'm the crown prince."
"Though you might not say it aloud, you consider Merlin a friend and he needs you right now."
Arthur didn't protest, just nodded his head once in agreement. Though it pained him to admit it, he really did enjoy Merlin's company even if he could be a terribly lazy servant. He was very loyal and didn't deserve being treated poorly by Arthur.
"My Lord," a knight interrupted. "The king wishes to see you, right away."
"Tell him I will be right here."
The man quickly bowed and walked away. Arthur ran his fingers through his hair in frustration, not wanting to put up with his father at the moment. Leon reached out a hand and gently touched his shoulder to reassure him before moving away. The prince picked up his sword and sheathed it before going to see the king. Uther was in the council chambers, talking with a few men. He quickly dismissed them at the sight of his son entering.
"Ah, Arthur. We've got some business to discuss, have a seat."
Arthur sat down across from his father; not really listening as Uther spoke for his mind was on Merlin. He had to do something to get Merlin to talk to him and to make things right.
Three hours passed and Arthur was finally done listening to his father talk. He knew that he had to find Merlin. After checking his chambers and the stables, the prince headed to Gaius's chambers. He knocked once on the door and slowly opened it. Gaius was sitting at his work table, but he wasn't working on anything. The older man was just sitting there and it looked as if he had aged ten years in the past few days because of the stress from everything happening in Camelot. Arthur stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. Gaius didn't move or acknowledge his presence, which was strange. Arthur took a more careful look around the small area and saw a few bottles were broken on the floor, the liquid staining the stone. An uneaten bowl of soup sat at the table, cold and deserted. Arthur looked up and saw that Merlin's bedroom door was open a crack, but no noise came from inside.
"Gaius," Arthur said, getting his attention.
"Oh, I'm sorry sire. Is there something that you need?" the physician asked. "Are you well?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Have you seen Merlin?"
Gaius stood up and began to clean up the room, not answering the question at first. He paused at the sight of a blue shirt lying on the floor that most likely belonged to Merlin.
"He's gone," Gaius murmured. "Merlin left for Ealdor; he wanted to see his mother. I don't know if he will return."
"When did he leave?"
"About two hours ago, we argued. He packed up and left. I'm sorry. Merlin should have come and told you that he was leaving, but he did not. He's not been himself lately."
Gaius stopped him before he left. "I must warn you, sire. Merlin is quite angry and hurt. You don't approach a wounded animal quickly, but with intent and silence. He will run if he gets upset again."
"Thank you, Gaius."
"And Arthur… please bring him home."
Arthur didn't say another word as he left the physician's chambers and headed to his room to quickly pack a few things. He had to go find Merlin and stop him from leaving. Arthur needed to talk to him and he wasn't going to take "no" for an answer. No one bothered him as he put some clean clothing into a bag and went to the kitchens to get some food. He had a servant prepare his horse to leave. Arthur knew that he should inform his father he was leaving, but Uther didn't really care for Merlin and wouldn't approve. Margaret, the large yet gentle woman that headed up the kitchen, handed him a wineskin filled with some of the finest wine in Camelot in case Merlin wasn't very cooperative. She must have noticed the young man's strange behaviors in the past few days.
The prince mounted his horse and quickly rode out of Camelot, headed in the direction of Merlin's village. His servant hadn't taken the horse that he normally rode, so Arthur assumed that he was on foot. Merlin did have a few hours head start. It was already late afternoon and he hoped to find him before it got dark. The heat outside was cooling as Arthur went down the road, keeping his eyes peeled for Merlin.
After two hours of riding, Arthur finally saw his servant. Dusk had fallen by that time. Merlin was slowly walking down the side of the road, kicking rocks with his feet and seemingly ignoring the sound of Arthur's approach. Arthur came up beside him, slowing the horse down. Merlin stumbled slightly and the prince saw the reason for it. His servant was clutching a wineskin and drinking from it. He was clearly slightly inebriated. It took Arthur a moment to realize that Merlin was muttering to himself as he walked.
"I had a right to know… it was my right."
"Merlin," Arthur said, getting his attention.
Merlin stopped walking. "What do you want Arthur? I quit. I'm headed home. Find someone else to wash your royal socks."
"I thought you might need someone to travel with."
"Nope, I'm fine alone."
"Well, too bad Merlin. I'm coming with you."
"I don't need you!" Merlin yelled, almost toppling over.
He took a long swig from the wineskin and Arthur grimaced. This wasn't going to be easy at all. Arthur jumped down from his horse and began to walk beside it, moving slow to keep at Merlin's staggering pace.
"You really are the biggest prat I've ever known! I can't even… leave Camelot to get away from you!"
Merlin took another drink and kept walking.
"Were you planning on going all night or making camp somewhere?" Arthur asked, ignoring the harsh comment from his drunken servant's mouth. He wasn't in his right mind. "Merlin?"
A strange humph came out of the younger man's mouth before nodding. Merlin walked off the road and towards a small clearing in the forest. Someone had stopped there before, which was evident by the fallen logs and fire pit. It would do for the night. Merlin went about finding sticks for the fire. Arthur tended his horse and went to help his servant, picking up some sticks. The two finished and sat down. Merlin's hands were shaking as he tried to light the fire using the flint rock. He couldn't keep his balance. Arthur gave him a few moments before reaching over and trying to assist him.
"I don't need your help!" Merlin yelled, yanking the rock back and falling on his butt. "It's your fault! You caused all of this! You and your damn father!"
"Merlin, what are you talking about?"
He was silent for a minute. "It's my fault too. I couldn't save him."
Arthur didn't reply. Save who? He picked up the flint and started the fire, adding sticks to the flames to make it grow. The night air was cold and Merlin shivered. Arthur quickly moved to get a blanket from his horse and frowned at what he found. It was the dragon that Balinor had carved before he died. It was wrapped in the blanket in Merlin's pack. There was something about Balinor and Merlin that Arthur couldn't understand. He had wept when the man died. Why? Arthur returned and saw Merlin quickly wipe away a tear with his sleeve. Arthur draped the blanket over Merlin's shoulders and he gently pulled it tight without a comment. Arthur set the dragon before Merlin and he quickly grabbed it. The prince sat across from him, wrapping his own blanket around his shoulders and hearing the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance.
"So much death… and I caused it all. The one person… and I couldn't save him."
Merlin wasn't making much sense.
Arthur pulled some bread out of his bag and offered some to Merlin, but he shook his head. With only wine in his stomach, the young man would surely be ill. The prince tried again, but Merlin refused to take any of the bread.
"You shouldn't even be here!" Merlin shouted. "I am going home! To tell… to tell…"
"To tell what?"
"It's none of your damn business!"
Merlin stood up. He lay down on the hard ground and covered himself with the blanket. He had nothing else to say to Arthur. The prince knew it was only a matter of time before Merlin became ill. Arthur couldn't sleep anyway.
The storm slowly came closer and it began to rain as the night went on. Thunder rumbled overhead, but Merlin didn't wake. Arthur was soon drenched for the trees didn't provide much cover from the rain. Over an hour passed and the rain didn't stop. The fire had long since gone out and it was dark, the only light came from the lightening streaking across the sky at random intervals. The moon was hidden behind the black clouds, blocking out any other light. Arthur shivered in the cold. He started to get up to wake Merlin so they could find shelter when he heard the young man talking in his sleep.
"Please, no please. I can save you… I can't do this alone… Father… no."
His father? Merlin had mentioned that he never met his father, so why was he speaking about him? Arthur didn't move.
"It's my fault… please. Father… Father!"
Merlin rolled onto his back and Arthur saw the tears falling from his eyes, even as he slept. The tears mingled with the raindrops. He tossed and turned in his blanket, fighting the nightmare. Arthur hadn't noticed how pale Merlin's face had become. The carved dragon was clutched in Merlin's hands. A rough part of the wood has cut his hand and the rain was washing blood from his skin. Arthur stood up and moved to sit beside him.
"I couldn't save him! Father!" Merlin yelled, still asleep.
"Shh… it's alright," Arthur mumbled, gently touching his head.
It was in that moment that things came into place. Tears… Merlin had shed tears for Balinor and was keeping the dragon close to his heart. He couldn't save… his father. Balinor was Merlin's father. Merlin was the son of a dragonlord. That was why he'd been so quiet on their journey to find Balinor. That was the pain that Merlin said he couldn't understand. Before Arthur could continue that train of thought, Merlin bolted to a sitting position. He turned away from Arthur and threw up. Arthur gently touched his shoulder to comfort him. Merlin flinched and moved away from his touch. The prince moved to get his water and handed it his servant, sitting down beside him again. Merlin rinsed his mouth and sat silently, letting the rain wash away his tears.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Arthur asked after a long moment.
"Tell you what?" Merlin whispered.
"That Balinor was your father."
"I didn't know. Gaius told me who Balinor was right before we left to find him. My mother never mentioned him. I didn't know what kind of person my father was. I only knew my father for a day. It's my fault that he died."
Arthur looked over at his friend. "It's not your fault, Merlin. It was Cenred's men that killed him."
Merlin shook his head. "No, you don't understand. I set the dragon free. If I hadn't done that… those innocent people wouldn't have died and we wouldn't have had to find Balinor. He would still be alive."
Somehow, Arthur wasn't surprised that Merlin had freed the dragon. He had acted so guilty when the dragon was attacking Camelot and a part of Arthur's heart knew that Merlin had done it. He wasn't angry. Yes, it had been a poor decision, but it was over now. The dragon was dead.
"You couldn't have known that the Great Dragon would attack Camelot or that Uther would want a dragonlord and that your father was a dragonlord. You didn't know. I forgive you for it. The Dragon is dead."
A heartless laugh escaped Merlin's lips. "His name is Kilgharrah. A dragonlord's power is passed from father to son. When Balinor died, his gift was passed to me. I'm the last dragonlord."
"I couldn't kill Kilgharrah. I sent him away and he won't come back. He has no choice; a dragon can't disobey a dragonlord's command." Merlin finally glanced over at Arthur, seeing the blank stare on his face. He panicked. "Please, Uther will view the son of a dragonlord with the highest suspicion. Please, don't tell him –"
Arthur interrupted him, "I won't tell him. Your secret is safe with me. I wish you could have trusted me and told me that Balinor was your father. I could have helped you try to save him. He was worth your tears Merlin. I'm sorry that I said he wasn't."
"Thank you Arthur."
"We should get you back to Camelot and to Gaius. You'll die of fever in this rain. I can't have you getting sick again."
Merlin nodded. The prince stood up and offering his hand to Merlin. Merlin slowly got up, feeling sick and unsteady. His head was spinning. That wine hadn't been a good idea. Arthur didn't speak as he helped Merlin onto his horse. He wrapped the blanket around Merlin's shoulders again, though it did little for warmth. It was drenched. Arthur gathered his things and got on the horse behind Merlin. It wasn't very comfortable, but it would have to do.
The ride back to Camelot was slow. They had to stop several times for Merlin to throw up. It was a fight to keep him conscious. Merlin drifted in and out, clearly not feeling well. Arthur pushed his horse through the storm and after a few hours, they finally arrived at the gates. The two guards quickly let him pass and he rode through the lower town to the citadel. Arthur dismounted the horse and Sir Leon helped Merlin down. They were lucky that he was on duty. Leon helped Arthur take Merlin to Gaius's chambers, knocking on the door when they arrived.
"Merlin!" Gaius exclaimed.
It was clear that the older man hadn't slept. Leon and Arthur helped Gaius change Merlin into dry clothing and tuck him into his bed. Luckily, the warlock hadn't woken up when they were dressing him. He would have been quite embarrassed. Gaius thanked them both. Leon smiled and left the three alone.
"You should go change, Sire," Gaius suggested. "You'll get sick in those wet clothes."
Arthur nodded once. "I'll be back. I'm not leaving him alone."
Gaius stopped him before he left. "Thank you for bringing Merlin home."
The prince gave him a half smile. They were both glad to have Merlin back.
Merlin's head was pounding and every little sound was amplified greatly. He winced, opening his eyes as the sunlight poured in the window. Merlin quickly closed them and tried to roll onto his side, but was twisted in a blanket. Someone stood up from a chair and went to close the curtains. Merlin wasn't sure how he got back to his bed, but he was grateful. His stomach rolled uneasily and he hoped that he wasn't going to be sick again. That part of the night was clear. Slowly, the rest of the evening came back to him. He'd yelled at Gaius and broken a few bottles before leaving to go home to Ealdor. There was wine involved. Then Arthur… oh, Arthur came and he yelled at him. The rest of the memories rushed at him. Merlin had admitted the truth about freeing Kilgharrah and about Balinor. The warlock groaned as the person in the room sat down in the chair again. Merlin slowly opened his eyes, grateful that it was dark this time. There were two people in the room. Gaius was beside him and Arthur was seated at the end of the bed. The older man helped him sit up, propping the pillows behind his back.
"Drink this, it tastes horrible, but you'll feel better," Gaius said, handing him a cup.
"Thanks," he mumbled, taking a sip. "Gah, that's terrible!"
His stomach churned.
"Drink all of it."
Merlin forced himself to swallow the thick and chunky liquid. At least it lessened the pain in his head and he could focus a little more. Luckily, his stomach managed to keep it down. Gaius took the cup from him and set it on the nightstand. He put his hand on Merlin's forehead. Merlin leaned into the cold touch, enjoying the contact. Gaius pulled his hand back after a moment.
"Your temperature is slightly elevated. How do you feel?"
"Awful… I'm not drinking again for a long time. My head is pounding."
"That potion should help you feel a little better." Gaius paused, not caring that Arthur was in the room. "Merlin, don't ever do that to me again. You had me very worried."
"I'm sorry, Gaius. I won't do it again."
"Good." Gaius patted his hand, before pulling him into a tight embrace. He released him after a minute, adjusting the pillows behind his back. "I am going to make you some soup. Don't try anything."
"I won't. Thanks."
Gaius left the two alone, shutting the door behind him to give them some privacy. Arthur didn't say anything, just sat silently at the end of Merlin's bed. Merlin blushed, hanging his head.
"Arthur, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you yesterday," Merlin apologized.
The prince nodded, pursing his lips.
"And I'm sorry I –"
"Shut up, Merlin." Arthur put up his hand to stop him from talking again. "You don't need to apologize. I understand. Just don't do it again. If you have something on your mind, please tell me about it. I hate seeing you in so much pain. And I'm sorry about your father. I can't imagine how that feels."
"Thank you, Arthur."
The prince stood up and moved to the chair that Gaius had vacated. Merlin noted that he looked exhausted. He had probably spent most of the night sitting with him and making sure that Gaius was tending him frequently. The clot pole… he really was a good friend.
"I've given you today and tomorrow off," Arthur stated. "I expect you back, healthy and sober after that. And I almost forgot." He pulled a sheet of paper out of his jacket pocket and unfolded it, handing it to Merlin. "It's your bill from the tavern. You owe me."
"Thanks, I'll pay you back."
"I know you will, Merlin. Now get some rest. You're gonna need it for the list of things that I'm saving for you to do when you get back."
Merlin groaned. "Prat."
Merlin smiled. It still hurt that Balinor was gone, but at least he didn't have to lie to Arthur about him and he was okay with Merlin being a dragonlord. Not that Arthur understood what that meant. He didn't need to know the details. The prince would deny it, but he really did care for Merlin. Merlin smiled as Arthur tried to hit him on the head. He could get through this.
Sorry for the long delay in posting the final part. Hope you enjoyed it!