Author's Note - Just a random one shot. Really, very inconsequential but I thought, what the hell, I may as well write it.
A Day in the Life of Arthur and Merlin
A dark headed servant made his way slowly through the deserted hallways of the castle of Camelot, grumbling quietly to himself. He scuffed his already well-worn boots on the flagged stone floor and yawned widely, glancing out of the window as he did so and sighing with annoyance. The sun wasn't even making its first appearance in the sky and the birds hadn't even shifted from their roosts in order to begin the morning chorus, so why on earth was he up at this godforsaken hour?
Even the servants who lit the hearths weren't up and therefore the entire castle was freezing. A cold wind whistled through the draughty corridor and he shivered, unhappily, wrapping his arms around himself. He was thoroughly tempted to ignite a fire in the nearby fireplace but that would be both stupid and dangerous because it would take just one person to see or hear him and it would be his head on the chopping block.
Still, maybe he should have brought another jacket with him when he set out on this early morning 'jaunt'.
Passing through the courtyard, he was pleased to see that at least the guards were up and sharing in his misery. They stood, shivering, by the port cullis, their eyes staring straight ahead with their spears locked by their sides. It was as if they were frozen solid.
Merlin's breath misted the air and his feet crunched on the frost which coated the ground – the tiny ice crystals glinted in the gradually dying moonlight. He longed for the sun to come up and warm the earth. However, that wouldn't happen for a while yet and in the meantime he had job to do.
His footsteps echoed down yet another corridor and he then he paused, knocking on a tall oak door. There was no answer. That was expected but thoroughly irritating so Merlin thrust the door open and stepped inside, stopping for a moment so his eyes could grow accustomed to the gloom. Once they had, he spotted the lumpy outline of something on the bed.
Walking, huffily, over to the massive four-poster bed, he grabbed the edge of the covers and yanked them back. There was a cry of surprise as the occupant was subjected to the harsh coldness of the world outside of his warm nest and Arthur sat bolt upright in his bed, grasping blindly at the blankets which had been ripped so heartlessly from him.
"You said that we were going for an early hunt," Merlin stated with some satisfaction in his voice as he saw gooseflesh rise on his master's muscular arms. He crossed his own arms over his chest, not impressed.
Arthur glared at him. "Merlin, are you a complete buffoon? I think I would have remembered if I'd told you we were going on a hunt."
"No, I remember it perfectly," the servant replied, tartly, "You said, last night, just before you went to bed: 'Merlin, if you're not too incompetent to fit another thing in that thick skull of yours, then can you get all my riding things ready for an early hunt. I want my horse prepared as well. Don't forget.'"
Merlin's impersonation of his master was uncanny; he had the condescension and arrogance in the tone to perfection. He quirked his eyebrows as if daring Arthur to deny his words. Well, Arthur wasn't about to disappoint.
"I think you'll find, you idiot, that early doesn't mean before the sun has even made it over the mountains!" He reached out of bed and managed to cuff Merlin over the head with a certain gusto.
The manservant rubbed his head, dazedly, and frowned. "But…I thought…."
"And therein lies the problem," Arthur quipped, amusedly. Shaking his head, he climbed out of bed and stretched. He ran a hand through his messy blond locks.
"Does that mean I got up at this time for nothing?" Merlin finally groaned, his whole body sagging.
"Unfortunately for you, yes it does," Arthur agreed.
"Can I go back to bed then?" the manservant asked, hopefully.
"Of course not, Merlin, now you've got me up then we may as well set off. Will you fetch my knights?" Grinning, widely, the prince began picking up items of clothing which had been laid meticulously on his chair: a thick forest green jerkin, a leather jacket and black riding breeches.
Merlin made an indeterminable sound which reminded Arthur, somewhat, of a wounded puppy and looked imploringly at his master. "Sire, you can't be serious?"
"You have only yourself to blame," the prince laughed, clapping the slender man on the shoulder.
A reasonable time in the morning…
Merlin blinked tiredly and tried to fight back the black fog which was threatening to envelop his brain. It wouldn't do to fall asleep on a hunt. Arthur would only complain. Still, it was so tempting just to let the gentle rocking of his horse lull him to sleep…
"Don't even think about it," a warning voice stated as something hard hit Merlin on the back. He jerked in his saddle and looked around to see his master offering him an amused smile as he put his bow back over his shoulder. Then Arthur said, seeing he had Merlin's full attention, "Or next time I'll knock you off your horse."
"You're such a good friend to me-eeeah," Merlin retorted, sarcastically only to be thwarted by a badly timed yawn.
"I do try," Arthur smirked and rode casually past his lagging servant. He rolled his eyes at his lack of manners. "As much as I love seeing what you had for breakfast, Merlin, would you mind closing your mouth next time?"
"I didn't even have breakfast," Merlin muttered, darkly, but his companion didn't hear him.
The hunting group progressed through the forest at a reasonable pace with the horses enjoying the cool, crisp air and the frosty leaves and berries that they could pick at on their way. Merlin had to tug at his steed's reins several times in order to stop him pigging out completely – he'd stopped so many times that the knight behind him, Quentin, was getting beyond annoyed. He kept huffing and groaning and making altogether unpleasant comments behind the young manservant's back. Merlin desperately wanted to turn round and point out that he wasn't deaf, thank you very much, but was constrained by damned etiquette. As a servant, he wasn't allowed to speak against or ill of his betters – in this case, Quentin – and although he ignored those rules for Arthur (because, frankly, he deserved it) he couldn't with the other knights. They would either beat him there and then or take the case straight to the King.
He was safe in the knowledge that however much he irked the Prince; he would not be reported or punished. Well, beyond a spell in the stocks but even those had become more infrequent. Perhaps, Arthur was actually warming to him.
As if to nip that idea in the bud before it had even had time to flourish, the numbskull himself had very agilely turned in his seat and hit Merlin, hard. The manservant yelped and found himself slipping from his horse and dropping painfully on the floor.
"Ow!" he scowled up at his master, rubbing his head, "What on earth was that for?"
"You were daydreaming and not talking to me," Arthur shrugged.
"You've never complained before," Merlin protested, "Usually, you say you like it when I'm quiet. You said my voice was like a woodpecker drilling constantly into your head."
Ignoring him, Arthur suddenly tensed in his saddle. "I can hear something."
"Is it the stag?" Quentin asked, standing up in his stirrups as if that would give him a better perspective. Merlin just thought he was a complete idiot because if Arthur said he heard something then he was hardly going to see it, was he? Fool.
"I believe so," the golden haired man nodded and kicked his horse sharply. It lurched into a canter. Arthur threw a glance back over his shoulder as he went. Merlin could barely hear him over the thundering of hooves as the rest of the knights gave chase but he could just about make out: "You….stay….clumsy….don't you get….trouble."
Roughly interpreted, he assumed that Arthur meant he should stay behind and miss out on the rest of the hunt because he was too clumsy and loud and tended to just ruin the whole stratagem. The last part, he guessed, meant don't get into trouble, Merlin, or there will be hell to pay. He hated the way that Arthur always assumed he would do something wrong in his absence. He could look after himself; he wasn't a child.
Sullen, the boy dismounted, tethered his horse and then collapsed in a natural seat in the roots of a tree. He stuck his leather bag behind his head and closed his eyes. There was no doubt that he'd be here for the long haul and if that was the case then he may as well get some sleep.
Arthur was hot and sweaty and in dire need of a wash. He could feel a layer of grime already forming on his skin, sticking itself to his perspiration. His hair was damp and caught in the moisture on his forehead and the nape of his neck – rather than golden blond it was dark and mud coloured. There was a particularly annoying droplet of sweat working its way down the bridge of his nose and off the tip. He wiped it away, irritably.
All he wanted to do was find Merlin, wherever that damn servant had got to, and then send him ahead to draw up a bath which Arthur would be able to sink into as soon as he arrived back. He had been tempted to scrub himself in a small stream but it wouldn't really compare to the clean water he'd get at the castle so he just spurred himself on.
They had caught the stag as well and that was weighing heavily on the back of his horse, its head lolling on the animal's damp rump. It had been a magnificent creature with huge antlers and a thick winter coat but now it just lay still; its glory stripped from it and its eyes glassy. Sometimes, Arthur felt regretful of what he had killed, like today for instance. That didn't used to happen but now it was more frequent and he blamed a certain dark haired manservant for making him see things in a different light.
Why did Merlin always to make things so damn difficult? He'd just waltzed into Arthur's life and turned everything on its head.
The prince trotted slowly back into the clearing where he'd left his servant and groaned when he saw that the boy was not present. This always happened. He couldn't leave him alone for a minute! Arthur dreaded to think what trouble he'd got himself into this time; judging by the fact his horse was still here and all his other belongings….quite a lot.
Fortunately, Arthur had learnt to deal with these disappearances with a level head. The first few times had been a completely different story. He would immediately start to track the servant and then hopefully deal with whatever was causing the boy mishap this time. Sometimes it could be he'd fallen in a ditch and couldn't get out; other times he'd just forgotten the time; at worst, it was something more life threatening like a mythical creature on the loose or he'd fallen down a hidden precipice. Arthur didn't really like those times. The amount of times he'd had to cart an unconscious, wounded Merlin back to Gaius was ridiculous.
He really was a magnet for trouble. And yet Arthur repeatedly let his guard down.
Cursing himself, the young hunter set off in search of his missing friend.
As it turned out, the manservant wasn't actually that hard to find. But, as Arthur had predicted, he had managed to land himself in a whole heap of trouble; this trouble being a group of bandits who looked rather rough and ready to fight. Merlin had been arguing with them, provoking them, just as the prince arrived. Sometimes, that damn boy didn't know when to keep his mouth shut.
"My master is the Prince of Camelot, I'll have you know, and if he finds out that you've laid a finger on me, he'll…."
"I'll what, Merlin?" Arthur stepped in at just this point, his sword out and pointed at the bandits. He twirled it experimentally in his hand.
"Arthur!" Merlin looked relieved to see him. Then he turned back to his captors with a smug expression on his elfin face. "See. I told you he was the prince."
"Shut up, Merlin."
The chief bandit, a nasty looking fellow with a long scar that ran from just beneath his chin to his collar bone and malicious eyes, grabbed the young dark haired man and held a jagged dagger at his throat. The blade glinted in the sun – it looked cold and metallic and deadly. A drop of blood beaded at the tip, bright against Merlin's pale skin.
Arthur felt the grip on his own weapon tighten, reflexively.
"You really the Prince?" the scarred man asked, sceptically.
"He doesn't look like a Prince to me," another fellow said, his yellow teeth stretched into a wide grin.
Chief bandit scrutinised Arthur. "Nah, I think he might be telling the truth, Giuseppe, look at the crest on his clothing. That there is the Pendragon crest, I'd recognise it any day."
"What do we do then?"
"We ransom him. Think of the price on his pretty head." He sneered meanly.
"I think you'll find you'll have to catch me first," Arthur stated, coolly.
"Yeah, you'll have to catch him first," Merlin repeated, pointlessly.
"Shut up, Merlin!"
It only took four blows, five at most, for Arthur, a skilled swordsman, to take out almost all of the robbers. They dropped like marionettes with their strings cut. Merlin watched mesmerised, still tethered to the chief bandit, as his master practically danced around the clearing, his sword swishing and slicing and his feet bouncing lightly on the leaf-strewn ground.
He was so good at this. Born into it, one could say.
Eventually, the young prince turned on the remaining thug who was staring at him with stunned, terrified eyes. His whole body was trembling around Merlin and yet he still managed to hold the youth in his vice-grip. Merlin desperately wanted to break free and not have Arthur do all the work yet again but the blade was so close to his windpipe. In fact, it was going deeper and he let out a hiss of pain that he saw his master immediately register.
Eyes narrowing, Arthur leapt forward; lithe like a panther. Merlin watched him, wondering what the crook would do next and then found out as he was knocked forcibly over the head with the hilt of the dagger.
He fell gracefully to the floor and knew no more.
Arthur stumbled into the courtyard, his servant flung haphazardly over his back, snoozing lightly. At least that blow to head hadn't done too much damage, the prince smiled ruefully to himself. He shifted slightly, in order to spread Merlin's weight, and the boy mumbled quietly - perhaps complaining about Arthur's shoulder sticking in his chest, if the young man heard correctly.
Sighing with a sort of affectionate exasperation, Arthur hefted the servant higher and fobbed off the attentions of several worried looking staff and knights who had rushed up to him, upon his arrival.
"I'm fine. Just fine," he assured them, breezing (well, breezing as much as one can carrying a full grown man) passed.
One of his knights, who'd he'd lost earlier, Sir Quentin, was offering to carry the unconscious Merlin but Arthur refused, adamantly, if there was anyone to shoulder his ridiculously accident-prone servant to the physician's quarters it would be him and him alone. He wouldn't want people thinking that he couldn't even care for his own servant.
However, he realised, as he barged through a large door into one of the many passages of the castle that he would have to face Gaius' wrath at the other end. He was certain that the physician must be weary of Merlin's constant mishaps and Arthur's guilt-ridden face appearing at his door. Still, these things happened. To Merlin, more often than most.
At least this time he didn't have many visible injuries. Perhaps, Gaius would forgive him that.
Merlin let out a grunt of what sounded like pain and Arthur glanced at his pale face anxiously but the hurt seemed to have passed because his skin was smooth and untroubled. It was just like Merlin, to worry him like that….idiot boy.
"Glad you've decided to come back to the land of the living just as the rest of us were about to push of to bed. You always were bad at timings."
The young warlock blinked, timidly, in the flickering glow cast across his face from the torches which hung in brackets on the wall and a candle that seemed to be uncomfortably close to his cheek. Its warm seeped into his skin.
He recognised that voice. Who….? Attempting to place it in his soupy brain was a difficulty, like searching for a stick in a murky sea of silt. Eventually, though, he realised who it was and groaned internally. He was undoubtedly in for a tongue lashing. When Arthur got into the swing of things, there was no stopping him.
His eyes focussed slowly on the man who sat on a low wooden stool beside his bed and he smiled, weakly, hoping it would appear as a peace offering. Many a time had he been told his grin was utterly charming (his mother claimed it could melt butter in a dead of winter); hopefully, he would help him now.
"Arthur?" he said, his voice sounded woolly and distant.
"Who else?" Arthur replied, "Have you been enjoying your snooze?"
Merlin sat up slowly in his bed and rumpled his hair with one hand, looking at Arthur with confused eyes.
"It was hardly a snooze."
"You're right, more like a deep, deep slumber. I shook you, Gaius gave you potions and I tried shouting in your overly large ears…"
"Even sitting on your head didn't wake you. I thought you were a lost cause," Arthur smirked, evilly.
"You sat on my head?" Merlin repeated, incredulously.
The prince paused and then shook his head, laughing. "Of course not. I think Gaius would have beaten me with a stick if I had. Honestly, he cares for you an awful lot, its ridiculous. I don't really see the point."
Smiling slightly, Merlin said, "You care for me too. You looked really worried when I was knocked out…and you're here now."
"That is a good point," Arthur nodded, pursing his lips as if considering. Then he stood up. "Perhaps, I should leave before you get too many ideas about how much I love you."
Merlin looked so upset by his abruptness that the blond haired man immediately felt guilty. He'd been through enough today without Arthur winding him up as well. The boy's forehead had wrinkled into an unhappy frown and his mouth was open as if to say something in protest.
"Just kidding, Merlin, didn't realise you'd be so upset to see the back of me."
"I'm not," the manservant replied, teasingly, his easy smile returning, "I'm actually offended that you think I want you to love me."
"That's it, I really am off now. I need to have a bath, which I will have to run by myself because someone is too much of an idiot to fulfil such a task and then I've got to sort some paper work for Father."
"Don't drown yourself," Merlin said in a mock serious voice.
Arthur laughed. "In the bath or in the paperwork?"
"I'm not sure which is more dangerous." The boy had a gleeful glint in his eye.
"All right, I can see you are very much recovered. I expect to see you in the morning, bright and early."
"Can we clarify early?"
"After the sun is up unless you want to be thrown out my bedroom window."
"I'll bear that in mind."
Night has enveloped the land…
Arthur blew out all his candles and sighed to himself. This had to be the fifth time this week that he'd put himself to bed, it just showed how often Merlin managed to get into scraps. It wasn't that he couldn't undress himself or wash himself but he preferred to have the company and the friendly banter of his trusted manservant. Still, it would be better for the boy to recover than to come and serve him, he knew that.
Pulling pack the covers, he slid between the cold sheets and shivered until he had warmed up. Sometimes, if he remembered, Merlin would heat up some stones in the hearth and put them under the blankets to warm the space but, obviously, tonight he couldn't have.
He pondered at the day he'd just had and the problems which had occurred.
Tomorrow, he would keep a much closer eye on his manservant. In fact, if he didn't let him out of the castle at all then he wouldn't be able to get hurt or lost. Mucking out his stables, cleaning his armour and mopping up the castle hallways should suffice. But, knowing Merlin, he'd manage to get kicked by a horse or slip in a puddle of soapy water. Actually, Arthur did recall the memorable occasion when the clumsy fool had trodden in a bucket as he hurried down the corridor and then skidded several metres before plummeting, painfully, down a flight of steps. He'd had a bruise the size of a turnip on his bottom the next day (unfortunately, he'd decided Arthur should witness the magnitude of it too and the prince swore he was now scarred for life).
Maybe, he'd forgo the mopping then.
Merlin couldn't harm himself darning socks, could he?