A/N Just a note on where this one shot is set. I was thinking very early in their friendship, when the term 'Idiot' actually meant that, so early season 2 late season 1.
And sorry for all the PotHS readers, I don't have an update for you today. :(
Thanks to everyone who reads, reviews, favorites or follows! Enjoy!
Merlin was angry with him, and Arthur couldn't understand why. Well, that wasn't strictly true, he knew exactly why. Merlin had been late with breakfast again, making Arthur late for a meeting with his father, so he had thrown Merlin in the stocks. As soon as he was out (he had only spent the morning in them) Arthur had ordered him to get ready for a hunt. Then Arthur had decided to go in the direction of the forest that was supposedly infested with bandits. Arthur had called him an idiot and a coward and led the way.
So Arthur knew that Merlin had good cause to be upset.
"Bandits always attack you. I should just leave now, save myself." Arthur could hear Merlin muttering, not quite under his breath.
"Shut up, Merlin." Arthur took a deep breath and focused on the tracks he had found. He heard a rustle behind him and ignored it; Merlin must have tripped, again.
"Sire." Merlin's voice was different, and Arthur never heard his title unless something was very wrong.
Arthur whipped around to find Merlin with a sword to his neck and a bandit more than twice his size holding him.
Arthur started to raise his crossbow but the tightening of the sword against Merlin's throat stopped him.
"Thought so. You wouldn't want to hurt your servant now, would you?" The voice came from behind Arthur this time, and he turned partially so he could see three more men come out of the woods.
He could hear Merlin's snort, "Him? Care? He put me in the stocks this morning and beat me yesterday."
Arthur frowned, that wasn't strictly true, he had beat Merlin…in a training duel.
"In fact," Merlin sounded almost hopeful, "I've been thinking about leaving. Could I stay with you? I can cook and you can hold him for ransom."
"Merlin?!" Arthur looked at his servant, someone he was starting to consider his friend—though he was loathe to admit that to anyone.
"He doesn't appreciate what I do for him. Calls me names and throws things at me." Merlin slumped down in the bandits grasp, his tone bitter. "His Highnesses horse gets treated better than I do."
Arthur heard a bandit laugh as he drew nearer, he turned realizing his mistake, shocked by Merlin's admission he had put his back to the three other bandits. As he was knocked out he could hear a gravelly voice, "Of course you can come with us boy."
Arthur could hear Merlin laughing as he came to. For a brief moment he thought everything was fine, that he was out of the forest on a hunt and Merlin was his manservant. Then it call came flooding back, Merlin being an idiot and complaining about going out, Merlin handing over Arthur to the bandits almost gladly.
Arthur shifted slightly, he knew he was tied to a tree and could feel the lack of weapons on his hip and boot.
The laughter and voices cut off and Arthur heard footsteps coming closer and he decided it was about time he opened his eyes.
Night had fallen and the bandits were sitting around a fire to Arthur's right. It was Merlin that had come nearer.
"Traitor." The word dropped, unbidden, from Arthur's lips but he couldn't—wouldn't take them back. He had trusted Merlin, come to think of him as a friend, and now he had been handed over. "I trusted you, and you betrayed me."
"Do you blame me, sire." Merlin's voice was quiet but it carried in the night air. "You treat me as an idiotic servant. These men care about what I say, they listened to my advice. They even gave me your sword."
Arthur could see his sword and scabbard belted on to Merlin, looking ridiculous on his thin frame.
"I think you're a coward. How long have you been planning this? Waiting to hand me over?" Arthur turned away as much was possible while tied, "Just leave me."
He watched in the corner of his eye as Merlin untied his neckerchief and came closer. For a brief moment Arthur thought he would strangle him with it. Merlin tied it on a gag, leaning close to tie it off.
"Trust me Arthur." Merlin whispered, but Arthur just glared at his retreating back. Trust him? He had betrayed him, the only thing that would make it worse was if Merlin had magic. Arthur let out a huff, Merlin looked ridiculous with a sword, he couldn't be a sorcerer.
Arthur didn't want to but he couldn't help but watch as Merlin settled into the bandit camp. Merlin puttered around, making a meal and rolling out the bed rolls. He acted as if nothing was different, and Arthur could see the routine was the same as the knights; with one difference the bandits thanked Merlin, one of them even helped to clean-up. Then one by one they went to bed. Arthur stayed awake, too furious to relax and sleep, even though he knew it would be wise to get some rest.
Merlin stirred after a few hours. He sat up catching Arthur's eye and put a finger to his lips, Arthur huffed—he couldn't have said anything if he wanted to.
Merlin rolled up his set of blankets and padded quietly over to Arthur.
"Sire." He said so quietly Arthur considered pretending he hadn't heard. "We can leave now. I'm going to untie you, and we'll head that direction." Merlin pointed behind Arthur to the left. "Please wait to get upset over there." Merlin looked pitiful and Arthur was eager to get away so he nodded once.
They were nearly a mile away before they stopped. Arthur pointed his sword at Merlin, who had given the weapon back—he really was as stupid as he looked. But instead of looking scared Merlin looked smug.
"It worked." Arthur paused at the statement.
"What do you mean it worked? Betraying me? Or convincing me you could be my friend?" Arthur could feel his anger rising, but did his best to keep his voice low.
"I am your friend Arthur." Merlin had the decency to at least look surprised at that. "I knew we couldn't fight our way out when we first got caught, not when I was held with that sword at my neck and you were going to be fighting the three others. I mean you are good but you can't fight all of them off while protecting me. So I tricked them, convinced them I had swapped sides and was ready to pay you back for what you have done to me. Then I laced their food with a slow-acting poison, they'll be asleep until morning." Merlin started walking away. "And if we get going we can reach Camelot by dawn."
Arthur just stood there, thinking everything through and he could feel his anger edging away. Maybe Merlin was smarter than he looked.
A/N You know what I might make a series out of this "~~~ Than He Looks". Feel free to send in words and ideas (I have an idea for Braver), most of them will probably be Merlin getting them out of scrapes WITHOUT magic, but one will probably end up being along the lines of"More Magical Than He Looks"-and be a magic reveal. [One day, but don't count on it being before June.]