A/N: Nothing much to say really, just keeping up the good old author notes tradition...Okay so I've now written the chapter and have come back to chat about it. This is it folks, the chapter you've all been waiting for. Well, the second chapter you've all been waiting for. Guess what happens? No, I'm not going to tell you, you have to read it to find out.
Merlin was in trouble. Merlin was in serious trouble. Merlin was, in fact, somehow in even more trouble than he had been previously. In fact, if he didn't know better – and honestly, he wasn't so sure he did – he'd say that trouble seemed to follow him around. It was stalking him. Every time he turned his had it seemed to leap behind a corner, only to emerge in front of him mere seconds later. Why him? Honestly. What had he done to deserve trouble's undivided attention? He certainly hadn't invited it...well he was a tad reckless when it came to pretending he didn't have magic. But only a tad. Okay, maybe a little bit more than a tad. Actually, now that he really thought about it, he generally did invite trouble to his doorstep. In fact, he pretty much went to the trouble ('scuse the pun) of hanging up its coat, and telling it to make itself at home. Okay, so he was practically friends with trouble. Still, he most certainly had not invited it to tea last night. He'd just...failed to realise it planned to jump in through his regrettably open window. Yes, he had pretty much walked right into Morgana and Gwen's little trap. If only he'd paused for just three seconds to consider the implications of the new 'rules'. Three seconds. But no, instead he just ploughed right into it with all the finesse of 3-legged chair. So he probably deserved it. Actually, no he didn't. He deserved some kind of punishment, but this was just too cruel. He literally was going to end up a walking target. Literally.
"Why me," he moaned mellow-dramatically, dragging the skin of his face down with his hands.
"Why you, what?" Arthur's coarse and incredibly distinctive voice sounded in his ear. Merlin's heart stuttered and missed a few beats as he leapt gracelessly off of the chair he was slouching in, tripped over his own feet and somehow managed to drag Arthur down with him, even though Arthur had been standing behind the chair. Which, if you do the math, meant that Merlin was lying face down on the ground, a chair resting painfully on his back, with Arthur draped unceremoniously on top of it. There was silence for all of three seconds as they both digested the ridiculousness of the situation.
"Arthur," Merlin muttered into the floor.
"Yeah?" Arthur replied, still draped over the chair and seemingly possessing no inclination to move.
"Get off me" Merlin's muffled voice didn't quite reach Arthur's ears. Carefully, Arthur tilted himself just a little bit closer to the back of Merlin's head.
"What was that?" He questioned, balanced somewhat precariously.
"Get. Off. Me." Merlin growled and started to move, upsetting the chair and by way of the domino effect, Arthur. The chair rolled off his back taking Arthur with it and then promptly turned the tables on him. The sight, once Merlin had bothered to part ways with the floor, was comically amusing. Arthur was lying on his back glaring daggers at a chair. The fact that he hadn't even moved to shove it off him made the situation just that slight bit funnier. Merlin laughed. Arthur moved the glare over to him and promptly shoved the chair off of his front.
"It's not funny," he groused as he got to his feet.
"Just a little bit," Merlin held up two fingers to show him just how funny he thought it was.
"Hmph," Arthur glared at him a little bit more before seeming to realise why he'd caused the chair-accident in the first place.
"So why you?"
"Why me, what?" Merlin hedged, he'd hoped Arthur had forgotten that.
"You know," Arthur waved his hands in the air, "why have you been moping around the castle like someone stole your last clean neck-thing – if you even clean those things - all day, yelling 'why me?' and 'what did I do?'," his arm waving became somewhat ridiculously mocking along with a facial expression that, under any other circumstances, would've caused Merlin to laugh himself silly, but, seeing as a lot of things were at stake – most notably Merlin's status as 'not a walking target' – simply caused him mild annoyance and a small amount of panic.
"It's only mid-morning," he pointed out, hoping to distract Arthur into some kind of argument. Unfortunately his ploy failed, Arthur was as uncompromising and irremovable as a pit-bull once he had his teeth sunk into something interesting. Or even something remotely more interesting than boring. Or just, anything at all that he wanted to know.
"Well that's how incredibly irritating it was," Arthur informed him, not taking the bait, "You made a few hours seem like an entire day."
"Welcome to my world," Merlin muttered under his breath.
Arthur chose to ignore his comment in favour of remounting his attack on Merlin's privacy, "so, why you, what?"
Merlin sighed, and then got really, really, angry.
"Not everything in the bloody castle revolves around you!" He yelled. (Little did Arthur know...)
Arthur blinked, then smirked, "...so, PMS then, I get it. First guy to experience it... you're turning into a girl, how embarrassing." He then ducked out of the room, mouthing 'we'll talk about this later', quicker than Merlin could formulate a plan to get back at him.
Merlin scowled and went back to his moping, now in a considerably darker mood. Damn Arthur, and for that matter, damn Gwen and Morgana too. How on earth was he going to do this? Just walk up to Arthur and plant one on him? Yeah, that'd work out fantastically. He could just see it now. Arthur'd punch him in the face and then sentence him to the stocks for eternity, after using him for target practice of course. And then there was the fact that he was supposed to declare his undying love for him. Sure, maybe Arthur would laugh that off, but if he then kissed him? He was doomed. But...what if Arthur didn't punch him in the face and sentence him to the stocks? What if he...dare he even think it, liked it. Wait, why was he thinking this anyway? It wasn't as if he liked Arthur or anything, so why would he be thinking about Arthur liking being kissed by him? It had to be because...he really didn't want to end up in the stocks for eternity. Yeah, that was it. And Arthur possibly liking the kiss and not throwing him in the stocks was way better than the alternative. Way, way, better. So much better, the word didn't even begin to cover it. So now back to the problem at hand...what if he accidentally kissed Arthur? Yeah, that'd work; right after he told him he loved him. He'd never connect the dots. Oh, who was he kidding? No-one was that dumb. There really was no way to escape it; he was going to end up in the stocks. Unless Arthur liked it... which he wouldn't, so yeah, he was going to end up in the stocks. Damn Gwen and Morgana! Well, he was going to give them a taste of their own medicine come next truth or dare meeting. Hah, he'd dare them to kiss each other and see how they liked it! If he was alive...and honestly, there was a very good chance he wouldn't be. He'd have to leave it in his will or something.
Merlin chuckled out loud at the thought, 'Dear Arthur, in my will I give you...MY REVENGE. Please dare Gwen and Morgana to kiss each other. Yes, you read right.' He laughed some more, visualising the expression on Arthur's face. It would be priceless. Only, he wouldn't be there to enjoy it. Merlin scowled. Arthur, who'd come back to tease Merlin about becoming a girl, got waylaid and had been standing in the corner watching Merlin stare at the wall like a zombie for the past five minutes. A zombie who periodically laughed out loud and then promptly glared at nothing. He moved to stand directly in front of Merlin. Merlin didn't seem to notice. He waved his hand over Merlin's face...no response. He poked him.
"What?" Merlin shouted, mostly unaware of what was happening, as he leapt out of the chair and promptly bowled his assailant over with his skilful clumsiness. He'd closed his eyes somewhere during the process of falling and landing on the...soft ground? Wait, the ground wasn't soft. He gingerly opened one eye. The softness was Arthur. Oh boy. He was lying on top of Arthur, nose a mere centimetre away from his chin. A slight flush graced Merlin's cheeks as Arthur raised an eyebrow. Merlin panicked.
"I, er...I, I love you!" He burst out almost hysterically, voice atypically high, before almost starting a nose war as he tried to kiss him...for the dare, not because he wanted to. For all of three seconds Merlin felt a sort of warmth against his lips that was...kind of nice. He then quickly realised that said warmth was about as yielding as a brick wall. Conclusion: Arthur was not happy. His hypothesis was somewhat proven true when Arthur roughly shoved Merlin off of him and sprang to his feet, backing up against the wall. Merlin rolled into a sitting position.
"Ha ha?" He tried, watching as Arthur did a rather impressive impersonation of a fish. Arthur blinked a few more times, reddened, and then literally fled the room. Merlin barely had time to register he was moving before he was gone.
"Well that went well," Merlin muttered. Oh well, at least he hadn't been sentenced to the stocks...yet. There was still time, he supposed, to flee the castle. It'd probably take Arthur awhile to get over the shock. The idea was awfully tempting. Hmmm...Tempting; kind of like the thought of kissing Arthur again. Hang on, what? Where did that come from? He most certainly did not want to kiss Arthur again, once was bad enough! It didn't matter that his lips were warm...kind of like a fire, he supposed, when they weren't pretending to be a brick wall or some other unmovable object. He momentarily considered what it would be like to kiss Arthur and have him respond. Then slapped himself. He was not having these thoughts. Not about Arthur – a guy! – although, to be honest, Merlin had kind of accepted that he just wasn't into girls. Not really and probably not ever. So maybe the fact that he was Arthur; heir to the throne, irritating, childish, handsome (his traitorous brain snuck in), Arthur. And he was Merlin; lowly, man-servant boy, magic-using, trouble-attracting, Merlin. There was no way Arthur would ever feel the same. Not that he felt anything beside slight annoyance for Arthur. But if he did, Arthur would never return those feelings. Not in a million centuries. Which kind of sucked because as much as Merlin might try to deny it, he sort of knew he had it bad. There really was no other conclusion he could draw from the cold hard facts. Oh well, he'd live with it, it wasn't like he was going to actually tell Arthur. Oh wait, he already had. Guess the cat was well and truly out of the bag. Except that, he could just claim it was the dare. Which was true, he had been dared to do it. Arthur need never know it was kind of how he actually felt. These things didn't last long, did they? Surely he'd move on in a few weeks, months, years, decades...eventually. Oh scratch that, he was going to end up a lonely old hermit like Gaius, living in the castle and serving the king for the entirety of his miserable, unrequited, life. And you know what? He'd just come up with another reason why they couldn't 'work'. He did magic. Arthur was sort of sworn against magic. Bit of a clash in viewpoints there. Especially considering the penalty for casting magic was death. 'Oh hi Merlin darling, what? You CAST MAGIC? DEATH!' How awkward. Perhaps not as awkward as actually hearing Arthur say 'darling' but fairly awkward none-the-less. So he had many perfectly good reasons for not having a relationship with Arthur and only one reason to. It was a good reason though, if overly simplified. He liked Arthur. It was perhaps the best reason on which to base any relationship. Pity the cons were so convincing and potentially ending in death. So he supposed he'd better find Arthur and tell him it was a dare before he did something Merlin would regret. Like pronounce him a 'walking target'.
Now where would Arthur be? Probably whacking something with a sword, that tended to be his stress relief method. And also his method of coping with pretty much everything in life. Someone insulted Arthur? Give him a sword and he'll go whack out his anger. Some evil troll tried to become his step-mother? Give him a sword and he'll go whack out his frustration. Some sorcerer woman bests him publicly? Give him a sword and he'll go whack out his embarrassment. There wasn't much that Arthur couldn't whack out with a sword. Merlin left the room and ran smack bang into the object of his musings.
"Sorry," he apologised, raised his eyes, and then froze. Arthur was staring down at him with an unreadable look in his eyes. He stepped back.
"Listen," Arthur looked distinctly uncomfortable, "about before..."
"It was a dare!" Merlin blurted out before Arthur could say something like 'I'm sending you to the stocks', "I'm sorry but I had to do it or I wouldn't have. They said I couldn't tell you till after and by then you'd fled and..." Merlin babbled, oblivious to the way Arthur's face seemed to fall slightly at his words.
"Oh," he said quietly, "Right, of course." He grinned half-heartedly and clapped Merlin on the shoulder, "I have to get back to um, work, now so...yeah, glad we got that cleared up." He turned around and walked back the way he'd come. Merlin watched him go, a sad look on his face. Well, he hadn't expected it to get any easier. A little part of him had held desperately onto the hope that Arthur might just return his feelings. It was clear now that he didn't however, and he just had to let that hope go. It would only bring trouble, and he had enough of that already.
A/N: So I'm seeing a few more chapters here in terms of getting them both on the same page...