Just a short oneshot. I kept feeling that Merlin should be a lot stronger than everyone claims, so I decided to let him show it. :D I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Merlin was going to swear off drinking, he decided. It had been Gwaine's idea of course, they had just successfully come back from a difficult patrol and Gwaine wanted a drink. Arthur had actually decided to come along, which he did from time to time; Merlin just wished he hadn't THIS time.

Merlin knew he couldn't hold his ale. He had drunk at least two pints when he decided to run his mouth.

"You know Arthur; I'm stronger than I look!" Arthur had been regaling the pub with a story of how he had fought off the bandits while Merlin cowered behind a tree.

"I really doubt that Merlin!" Arthur laughed and the majority of the knights joined in.

"I'll prove it to you Arthur!" Merlin struggled to stand and come over where Arthur was leaning against the bar. "However you want I'll…I'll show you I am."

Gwaine was the one who suggested the competition, "A challenge then!" Gwaine dramatically draped an arm around the king and servant. "And I know just the challenge."

Gwaine led the protesting Arthur and a slightly wobbly Merlin outside the tavern. Merlin needed Gwaine's help to stand facing Arthur. "Now what you do, is you put your right foot against his right foot so it is in between the two of you. No, not like that Merlin….Here like this."

With a little readjustment Merlin and Arthur stood with the outside of their right foot touching in the gap between them. "Now you clasp hands… No, not your left hand Merlin, you use the right."

Arthur stopped Gwaine before he could continue with the instructions, "I'm not going to challenge Merlin."

"Ah sire, afraid to lose to a girl's petticoat then!" Merlin sealed his fate then.

Arthur drew himself up at the comment, "I wouldn't lose to you! And if you're so sure you will win, you don't mind a punishment if you don't?"

"If you will accept the same." Merlin tilted slightly, and Leon helped to steady him. "My punishment for you, is two days where YOU, the king, muck the stables."

"Very well, if you win this challenge I will. However, when I win you will attend training, not as a target, but as a knight. You will fight in a mock battle with a knight of my choosing."

Merlin nodded solemnly and turned to Gwaine. "The next step for this challenge then?"

"Now the goal," Gwaine stated all too dramatically, "Is to knock the other opponent off balance. When the right foot moves from its position you've won. And we will have Percival be our judge and Leon the second. Because they haven't had as much to drink as I have, and I doubt they see two Arthur's." Gwaine grinned and stepped back from the two. "Begin!"

It was over in seconds, Merlin had already been leaning during the explanation of the challenge. Arthur merely contributed to Merlin's tipping. Merlin fell over.

"Well Merlin, I am looking forward to your battle tomorrow." Arthur clapped Merlin on the back and headed up towards the castle.

Sun glinted off the sword and right into Merlin's eyes, aggravating his headache further. No more ale, he decided firmly.

Arthur hadn't been joking when he decided to perform a mock battle. Merlin was given a practice blade, a sword with a dulled edge, and was reassured his opponent would be given the same.

Merlin watched Arthur pace in front of the knights. He knew he wouldn't face Arthur- who would want to watch Merlin be humiliated…again.

Arthur stopped in front of Leon and Merlin held his breath, the older knight would be a challenge. He had hundreds of battles behind him and a very strict and capable pattern. Arthur shook his head and moved to Gwaine, who was sitting with his eyes closed against the railing. Normally Gwaine's attacks were fast but Merlin had noticed that after a long night drinking the knight got even faster, and Merlin couldn't blame him- quickly disarming an opponent meant he could rest his aching head again. Merlin watched in disbelief as Arthur passed Gwaine up and stopped in front of Percival and Elyan. 'I'm stronger than I look!' Merlin heard his own voice echo in his head and suddenly he knew what Arthur was going to do. Elyan, a blacksmith's son, was one of the strongest of all the knights but Percival was even stronger, he was a force to be reckoned with.

"Percival." Merlin groaned Arthur wasn't going for just a punishment, it was to be full out embarrassment.

Gwaine struggled to his feet at Arthur's decision, "Arthur maybe you should think about that."

Arthur merely waved away Gwaine's and the other knights protests. "I'm not stupid, I leave that for Merlin. We will set a time limit, if by some miracle Merlin is not disarmed in the first few seconds. And should Merlin last two minutes against Percival I'll even believe that he is stronger than he looks."

Gwaine started to protest again but Merlin overrode him. "Shut up Gwaine. I lost the bet last night, Arthur is perfectly in his right to do this. I'm ready when you are Percival."

Percival accepted the sword Arthur held out for him and came to face Merlin. Merlin managed to drag the sword off the ground the face the larger man. For a brief second he considered using magic but decided against it, this would be done by his own strength. At the same time he decided he would last the two blasted minutes. Merlin would prove to Arthur he wasn't weak or a coward, and with that he struck.

It was quick move to Percival's legs more to set the knight off balance than actually connect. Percival knocked it aside easily and followed through with a slashing motion. Merlin skipped back and brought the sword up and nearly dropped the connected with a clash. Merlin knew his best bet was how fast he was, Percival was stronger and a more capable swordsman. Then again Merlin trained with Arthur. Soon they were exchanging more and more blows; each time they connected Merlin's sword would vibrate in his hand and was harder to hold, but still he dodged and fought back.

He dashed around Percival and managed to cut a shallow scrape along his lower back and then promptly fell over a loose stone. Percival turned and brought his sword up in a two handed grip, Merlin just managed to get his own sword between himself and the falling blade. They collided with so much force the blade in Merlin's hand jumped and he found his fingers were to numb to grab ahold of it again. Percival leveled his blade at Merlin's throat and they stopped, both breathing heavily.

Then Percival tossed aside his own sword and helped Merlin to stand. "Well done." It was rare the quiet man complemented anyone, particularly Merlin and it made Merlin smile. They both turned towards the audience, realizing it was too quiet.

Gwaine was sitting on the ground mouth gaping open, Leon and Elyan looked just as shocked, while Arthur was giving Merlin a very odd look.

"Did I make it two minutes?" Merlin looked hopefully to the timer that had been set up on a table nearby. Suddenly Gwaine was up and hurrying towards him.

"Are you sure you are Merlin?" He looked into his eyes and then began moving Merlin's arms in exaggerated motions, "The same one who will lose his own head if it isn't attached. The Merlin that drops Arthur's sword every day?"

"Yes, I'm Merlin!" He pulled back from Gwaine, "Why would you ask such a ridiculous thing?"

It wasn't Gwaine that answered, but the page who timed the matches. "Sire, the time went over the two minutes."

Arthur turned to the young boy, "How much over?"

"I turned it three times and it was only halfway the third time when the stopped. It was five minutes sire." Arthur dismissed the boy with a soft 'thank you' and turned back to Merlin.

"Five minutes, we fought for five minutes." Merlin grinned, he had done it! No magic, hung-over, and against Percival. He had proved he wasn't weak, that he was stronger than he looked!

He felt a hand clap his back and looked up to see Percival grinning down on him, and then Gwaine was there pounding his back.

"Hey, Princess! You know what this means? You have to admit Merlin is strong!" Gwaine's voice broke through all the others.

"Alright, Merlin you are not as weak and pathetic as I thought you were. Now that we have finished this ridiculous charade I would like to train my knights. Go and collect my armor."

Merlin gave Arthur one of his dramatic mocking bows, grinning the whole while. As he was walking away he suddenly was stopped when he heard Arthur's voice.

"Merlin, how did you get to be so strong?" Merlin spun around, his grin not dampening in the least as he told his king his secret.

"Doing your chores! I carry your armor, I polish your armor, I carry your sword, I've helped the blacksmith fix your sword and armor, I carry your dirty laundry, I care for the horses, I muck the stables, I gather fire wood on patrols, I collect water during those as well, I wash your floors, and before all that I was a farmer!"

Merlin turned back to fetch Arthur's armor, but Arthur's voice stopped him again. "How did you learn to fight?"

Merlin rolled his eyes. "I go on patrols with you I've watched you fight bandits, besides I'm your training dummy. I would have to be really stupid to not have picked anything up from those." Turning away Merlin began walking back to the castle, whistling all the while.

The knights looked at each other in surprise; they didn't realize how much it took to do the servant's chores.

Arthur motioned Leon over, "When we get the chance I think we need to develop a new training system that resembles a servants work life, without letting the knights know that is what they are doing."

Leon smiled and nodded, he would ask Merlin for help with it. The knights turned back to training, each grinning as they thought about how the Merlin they thought they knew so well could still surprise them.