Arthur looked up from where he was sitting at his desk to meet Merlin's amused grin. He hadn't stopped smiling since that morning in the audience room where the three of them; he, Merlin and Guinevere had stood and damn-near started laughing when Uther declared the new champion, their own creation "Sir" William.
He looked down again but was conscious of the fact that Merlin was still looking at him with that face. He understood that Merlin would be amused, but there was something else.
"That's it!" the prince finally declared, "Why are you staring at me like that?"
Merlin shrugged, "I guess I'm just proud of what you did. It was very... noble."
Arthur looked down again, not quite knowing what to say. "Well... I still won, didn't I? I still proved I could beat people off my own back. That's what I set out to do... it doesn't matter if only you and I, and William, and... Guinevere knows."
"A wise and mature response, sire" the young servant replied, still unable to lose his smile despite the poignancy of what Arthur had said. The prince suspected Merlin was leaning towards something. "So," he went on, "what did you and Gwen do when I wasn't there?"
"Hope and pray that you wouldn't come back any time soon," Arthur said sarcastically, but quickly realised how it might have sounded to a servant whose mind easily fell in the gutter. Merlin's smile widened. "It's none of your business what I did or what we did. What could we have done?"
Merlin had a few good ideas. He looked away and shrugged. "You know," he finally said, still grinning, "Gwen was really impressed with what you did too."
Arthur's quill seized albeit momentarily before he carried on. "Oh, did she?" he said, trying to sound casual. He could feel his ears burning and even his cheeks were starting to feel annoyingly hot.
"Yes," Merlin said, putting down the clothes he had been folding and stepping forward. "She told me so—"
"Oh," Arthur said, pretending to be only vaguely interested. He couldn't help but press for more information. He twisted the quill between his fingers, avoiding eye-contact with Merlin. "Did she say... anything else?"
Merlin looked away and decided to take the plunge, and muttered under his breath: "Something about you being a rubbish lodger... but a good kisser."
Arthur's eyes shot up and his voice croaked out: "What! How—"
Merlin's eyes lit up. "I knew it! I knew it—something happened between you two! I thought you were acting funny the last few days..."
"Shut up, Merlin" Arthur muttered awkwardly.
"And in the audience room this morning you could barely take your eyes off her!"
"Just shut up about it, okay? Nothing happened."
It was a lie, and Merlin knew it. Of course he only knew what he saw. He didn't know what Arthur and Gwen were feeling. He meant no harm and Arthur almost felt sorry for snapping at him. Gwen's good nature was starting to rub off on him terribly. But this apologetic mood didn't last long when Merlin began to chant: "Arthur and Guinevere sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s..."
"Shut up, Merlin!" he grunted, interrupting the chant. The memories of that morning still fresh and sore in Arthur's mind and he didn't want to relive it again hours after it happened. Merlin didn't have a clue. "What are you, eight-years-old? You don't have a clue, do you?"
Merlin knew he had pressed the buttons and had got the answer he had wanted. He left the chambers, (to Arthur's relief), feeling a little triumphant. As he walked along he continued the chant under his breath, "Guinevere and Arthur sitting in a tree, doing what they shouldn't be..."
Note: I know that chant is anachronistic but if they can have talking dragons, griffins, unicorns, tomatoes, potatoes, sandwiches, jousting, castles, different costumes from several different periods and Lancelot (lol) in the dark ages then they can have the famous playground tease song.