Okay so this is my first Merlin fic. It's sort of a missing scene/tag to the episode "The Poisoned Chalice". I've kinda been having a love hate relationship with this one but I've finally finished it. Enjoy
"No!" Arthur watched in absolute horror as his father crushed the flower.
"You will find yourself another servant." It came out as a low growl clearly showing his anger
Arthur couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You would sacrifice another man's life because you are angry with me! Will this be the legacy of the Pendragons? Spite!"
Uther turned to his son, his expression softening ever so slightly "It is a tragic loss but a necessary one. You need to learn the order of things and I fear this is the only way it will get through to your stubborn head." He turned suddenly and left leaving Arthur no room to reply. The prince let loose a frustrated yell that he was certain the whole kingdom heard. Remembering the flower, he fell to the ground reaching as far as far out as he could but it still wasn't enough. There wasn't much he could do if he had it but just possessing the flower gave him hope. He was about to pull his hand back and try to find another method when something soft, like silk brushed against his fingers. Arthur looked up to find the solemn face of a guard and realized the man had pushed the flower towards the cell.
"It's not much considering, but it's all I can do, sire."
Arthur gazed up at the soldier in amazement. "Thank you" he breathed. The man merely nodded and Arthur promised himself that he would remember this guard's face so that he could thank him properly once he was out of this stinking cage. No matter what the outcome. The man was defying his father, the king, by his actions and Arthur could ask no more of him than that.
Once his goal was attained the proud prince of Camelot had nothing better to do but fall into the heap of straw at the back the cell and allow his head to bang against the brick as he laid it back. He couldn't believe the audacity of his father. How could anyone allow a man to die knowing he had the power to stop it? A king would certainly be more endearing to and inspire more loyalty from his subjects if he showed he valued their lives, wouldn't he?
Arthur's mind raced to the conversation he and his father had before he set out to find the flower. Uther couldn't understand why his son was so upset over a simple manservant. The prince wondered briefly over the same question but found he already knew the answer. Merlin was no ordinary servant; a fact which was clear from the day they met. The raven haired commoner had the gull to defy a prince. It was a surprisingly refreshing change from the way everyone else treated him. From the servants who did everything he asked whether out of fear or reverence, to the men born from more noble blood. They either dummied up to him to gain favor in the eyes of a future king or treated him with far too much formality. Even his knights, although they would fight by his side and even lay down their lives for him, would do so only because it was what they were taught was their duty from the day they were born, not out of loyalty. He hadn't earned that, not yet.
No, Merlin was different. Arthur had been furious the day Merlin became his servant but he couldn't help the gratitude he felt for the man who saved his life. The boy hadn't grown up in Camelot. He wasn't given the same ideas of duty and honor that the knights had, yet Merlin gave this intense loyalty that he only showed to his friends. A point he made very clear when he tried to take the blame for Gwen. It was ludicrous for Merlin, a mere peasant, to consider Arthur, a soon to be crown prince, his friend. The even stranger notion was that Arthur found himself considering Merlin to be a friend as well.
"Food for the prisoner" a familiar voice cut through Arthur's thoughts and when he looked up he saw none other than the object of Merlin's affection. The gentle Guinevere made her way into the cell, placing her plate on the bench as instructed. Hope surged through the prince. If she was here then Merlin was still alive. He had to be. Arthur walked as quickly as he could whilst feigning disinterest. This was his one chance and he wasn't about to alert the guards to his plans. One was kind enough to aid him but he couldn't count on them all to defy the king. Placing the flower gently in the center of the plate he called back to her, "Wait a minute," he heard himself say "I couldn't possibly eat this. It's disgusting. The state it's in, I'm not sure it is fit for anyone." In truth he was famished. He hadn't given much thought to his own needs until after he was thrown in the cell, his mission taking up the majority of his mind. Still he wasn't going to allow simple hunger to stop him now.
Gwen retrieved the seemingly offensive tray and made her way out of the cell. Arthur's heart nearly leaped from his chest when the guard beckoned her back but it settled again when he realized it was just for the food. Then another servant came with a noticeably larger tray but the brilliant Gwen ran the moment she saw her. Unfortunately the guard was good at his job.
"You there, stop!" he called out. He made to run after her but Arthur managed to stop him.
"Let her go." He said.
The guard looked perplexed as he came back to the cell "But sir, she could have been…"
"She is Morgana's maid servant" Arthur insisted. "Most likely she was sent to see how I was doing. Gathering material for Morgana to tease me with no doubt." The somewhat volatile relationship between the king's son and his ward was known throughout the castle and as Arthur hoped, the guard accepted it without question. "Yes sire" was all he said.
The other servant girl set her tray down much like Gwen had done. This time Arthur was happy to note that the plate had a fully stuffed sandwich as well as some grapes and even a cup of wine. He sent the girl away with a wave, sat back down with the tray in hand and began devouring his food. He prayed to God that Gwen made it in time. Despite all odds he and Merlin were friends and he'd be dammed if he let his friend die.
Morgana walked down to the dungeon to find Arthur lazily tossing hay above him and watching it as it slowly fell back to the floor. "So this is what a prince does when he is bored. Did you get tired of bashing your head against the wall?" She teased.
Arthur shot upright and raced to the cell bars. "Morgana," he pleaded "any news?"
She quirked a smile at him, "If by news do you mean you are getting out of here, then yes." As she said this a guard unlocked the door but Arthur refused to step out. He was practically fuming.
"I don't care about that!" he shouted. "You know what I meant. What of Merlin?"
Arthur looked at her with such pain in his eyes that Morgana almost hated to goad him further. "You know, you're cute when you worry." Almost.
"Morgana!" he warned.
"Calm yourself" she finally conceded. "Of course he's doing fine. Do you think I would be so flippant if he weren't?"
A proud smile curled on Arthur's lips "Excellent! Is he well enough for visitors?"
"Yes but you aren't going to see him right now."
"What! Of course I am." He pushed passed her.
"Uther wants to see you." The words stopped him dead in his tracks. "He's letting Bayard go and he wants you there." Morgana moved to Arthur's side and gently wrapped her hands around his arm. "You've angered him enough for one day. It wouldn't do either of you any good to anger him further."
Arthur sighed and lowered his head. He knew she was right but part of him truly didn't care. None the less he decided it was a good idea to humor his father for the time being. So, off he went to watch the blue caravan of Beyard's men saunter away towards the forest trail that would lead them home. He gazed upon them with anxious eyes wishing that there were just a few less people. How long he was meant to endure his father's company, the prince didn't know but he was uncertain if he could last another moment. Even when he listened about the sorceress he had met it was only because she was a threat to both himself and Merlin. Arthur had the sense that his father was hiding something but it hardly mattered at the moment. When Uther suddenly expressed the pride he held for his son, it was enough to lessen the disdain Arthur had been feeling to a mere fraction of its former intensity. But the prince still yearned to finish the charade of obedient son and be gone from his father's presence. There was still something he needed to do.
When the caravan was blessedly out of sight the two men made their way to the corridor in silence. Arthur watched his father turn the corner down the hall and then bolted in the other direction. He knew what Morgana had told him but he still lacked proof. Still lacked the visual conformation he so desperately needed to show himself that he had not failed. That Merlin was indeed alive.
He ran through the courtyard, not caring who saw him. He didn't stop until he reached Gaius' flat and then suddenly lacked the ability to move. The door was open but Arthur just couldn't quite force himself to look through yet. Could Morgana have been wrong? Would she lie about such a thing? So help him, if that were the case he would have her locked in the coldest, darkest dungeon cell they had. Well, he though, it does me little good to stand here.
Taking a deep breath, Arthur braced himself and stepped into the threshold of the humble lodgings of his manservant. Relief flooded him as he gazed at the sight that lay within. Merlin's back was facing him, showing a full view of that raven black hair that the prince had come to recognize so well. Draped in a blanket Merlin looked much younger to Arthur's eyes but hardly the worse for wear. Even when he turned, though still somewhat pale, he was all smiles as per usual. The brightness in his face struck Arthur, as though he had seen it somewhere before.
He made a few offhand comments about decent servants all the while trying to hide the immense joy he felt. He didn't know when he became so attached to his friend but Arthur was glad of it. Though his remark of gratitude wasn't straightforward ("you too" could hardly be considered a thank you in any form of respectable circle) he was grateful beyond words for the loyalty Merlin had shown and even more so for Merlin's understanding of the awkwardness he felt at expressing it.
Arthur left then and made it about five paces before he was forced to stop and brace himself against one of the stone columns. Not only was he struck by a wave of varying emotions, the foremost being relief, he was also hit with a sudden realization. The light that had guided him out of the caves and the brightness in Merlin's face were one in the same. It was impossible to deny it and yet at the same time Arthur had a hard time believing that his scrawny manservant had that kind of power. And he was using it to protect Arthur. His father had been wrong. There was no way on earth that that light had been evil and he would defy his father a hundred times over if it meant he could preserve it. After all he did owe Merlin his life. Twice.
With his mind made up Arthur straightened himself and headed back to the castle. Glad he had settled that matter he still had a guard he needed to thank for his earlier kindness. The man had no idea the magnitude of what he had done for the prince but Arthur was certain he would do his best to show it.