AN: So I wasn't going to write a second chapter originally and then someone reviewed and said it would be interesting to see Arthur's reaction… then I wrote this chapter and wasn't sure if I liked it so it's basically been gathering dust in my hard drive… but I don't think any work whether good or not so good should go to waste and I know some of you will enjoy it so here it is:
"Where is that imbecile?" Merlin cringed from his room when he heard the loud voice of his master and the slam of a door against a wall.
"He is unwell, sire," Gaius stated sounding flustered.
Merlin pulled a shirt over his head tenderly, and walked to the door breathing to try and calm his nerves. He had no idea how Arthur would react to his injuries. Would he make fun of him? Would he be angry? Would he call Merlin a wimp?
"Unwell?" Arthur asked. "My father said that he was helping you with work."
Gaius hesitated and that was enough, Merlin heard Arthur's footsteps heading towards his room. Merlin looked much better than he had upon entering Gaius' chambers. His nose no longer bled and he had changed his clothes to hide the tears that the pitchfork had made. His ribs had only been bruised but it was enough pain to make him walk slowly and with a slight limp, but other than that the only evidence that he had been in a fight were the bad bruises covering his eye and jaw and a cut on his cheekbone.
So he decided it would be better to face Arthur in Gaius' chambers than to allow Arthur to barge into his private quarters demanding answers… just what he was going to tell the prince Merlin had not quite fathomed out as of yet.
Opening the door he walked slowly down the steps, keeping his eyes on Arthur who had stopped halfway through the room and stared at Merlin with an expression the manservant could not read.
"What the hell happened to you?" Arthur asked.
Merlin laughed, "Couldn't keep my big mouth shut," Merlin joked calmly. "Can I do anything for you, sire?"
Arthur just continued to stare at him, a suspicious squint coming to his eye.
"Who did this to you?" he asked.
Merlin cleared his throat and shifted his weight uncomfortably.
"There were some guards…" he began but was not sure how to finish.
Arthur's eyes widened. "Who?" he asked, his voice dangerous and angry.
"That coward!" Arthur interrupted Merlin this time. "I'll have him stripped of his rank!" he shouted heading towards the door. Merlin took a few weak steps after him.
"Your father already took care of that, sire." Merlin spoke loudly. Arthur stopped and turned halfway towards Merlin, still facing the door somewhat.
"What?" he asked, his voice betraying his surprise.
"He…came across us…during the… incident," Merlin stuttered out the words. His cheeks were as red as beets. To admit that he had his butt kicked was really… embarrassing, if not downright humiliating.
Arthur hesitated as he thought this over. "Where are they now?" he asked.
"The dungeon," Merlin stated simply.
Arthur stood staring at Merlin for a long time and Merlin stared back, trying to read his master.
"I need to visit the market. With your leave, sire." Gaius spoke up startling both of them as they had both forgotten he was there in the first place. Arthur nodded to him.
Merlin's ribs ached from standing for so long and moved over to a stool by Gaius' table. He sent a questioning look Arthur's way and Arthur offered a simple nod in return. Merlin eased himself stiffly into the seat as Arthur walked over slowly and sat next to him.
"How bad?" Arthur asked.
Merlin paused, thinking of how to respond. "A few bruised ribs but Gaius says I should recover quickly," he responded.
Arthur nodded and then leaned closer to Merlin, resting his elbows on his knees and folding his hands together.
"Merlin…" Arthur began. "I'm sorry."
Whatever Merlin had expected was not that. Arthur hardly ever apologized for anything, and this wasn't even his fault.
"What for?" Merlin asked.
Arthur glanced down at his hands. "Those are my men, Merlin. They may not be knights but they still have a responsibility to protect the citizens of Camelot… which includes you." Arthur glanced up at Merlin who continued to watch the prince carefully. "And I am their leader, and as such am responsible for their actions."
"You couldn't have known, Arthur." Merlin offered.
Arthur shook his head. "I knew Benton's cruelty, and the stupidity of the two that followed him. I just never believed he would act on it." He shook his head dolefully. "I am sorry for that oversight and want you to know that it will not happen again."
"Arthur… I…" Merlin stuttered, at a loss for words but when Arthur looked up at him with the most honest eyes he had ever seen from the man he could only think of two words that would suffice: "Thank you."
Arthur nodded and then leaned back in his chair, his posture growing more relaxed. "Not saying that you didn't deserve it, of course," he joked.
Merlin chuckled and then winced slightly glancing at Arthur as though it were his fault.
"Oh quit being such a wimp," Arthur stated clapping Merlin on the shoulder, enough to make his manservant wince but gentler than he normally would have.
Merlin rolled his eyes as Arthur stood up and walked towards the door, turning one last time to glance at Merlin. "See you tomorrow then?" he asked.
"Bright and early." Merlin responded and then Arthur was gone.
Merlin sat a moment longer thinking. Arthur carried the same desire to protect his people that Uther did. Merlin sometimes forgot, in his role of protector, that Arthur considered himself responsible for Merlin as well. Until this moment, Merlin never really realized that Arthur considered it his responsibility to protect Merlin. It was one of the reasons why Merlin respected Arthur Pendragon as much as he did and one of the reasons he would protect him or die at his side.
AN: So I hoped you enjoyed it! It kind of wrote itself so I hope everything turned out alright and that the two men stayed in character. As always, leave a review!