"Gaius?" Merlin called as he entered the room. There was no reply. Merlin dumped his pack on the table and scanned for any clue as to where Gaius might have gone so early in the morning. Merlin couldn't see anything, so he quickly unpacked the herbs he had spent the last few days gathering.
It had been like a little holiday, just strolling around the countryside, stopping when he wanted to, eating when he wanted to, pausing at the villages to pick up supplies when he needed to. He was recognised by a few people, who dealt with him a little more respectfully because of his status as the prince's servant.
And thankfully, for five days, he had not had to deal with said prince. It was so boring. That was one thing that could be said about working for Arthur, it was never dull. Looking around again Merlin decided to go looking for the man in question, who was probably still in his rooms. Merlin could go and wake him up, bright and early, which he never did and Arthur complained about endlessly.
He strolled through the castle feeling quite happy with himself. If he had felt like it he could have pushed to get back last night, but he thought one more night would be nice, so he had stayed in a nearby cave, built up a huge fire and enjoyed a good night's sleep.
The castle was just stirring as he walked thought, a few servants passing along the corridors. Merlin smiled at them, and they all smiled back. As he reached the prince's door he paused. Someone had left Arthur's breakfast tray outside. Merlin frowned, even if Arthur was asleep they could have just put the tray on the table inside. Merlin shrugged, picked up the tray and then struggled to open the door.
It would have been easier, his mind decided in retrospect, to have unlatched the door before picking up the tray. Merlin rolled his eyes, looked around and whispered, his eyes flashing gold, and the door opened itself. Merlin grinned, pushed open the door. As he took no more than two steps into the room his jaw dropped, and remained hanging as he was doused with cold water.
"Perhaps that will wake…. Merlin!" Arthur yelped.
Merlin blinked at him, jaw still hanging as he looked at Arthur, and the jug he was holding, which he instantly whipped behind his back, looking a trifle guilty.
"Hi," Arthur said brightly, smiling. "You're back!"
"Yes," Merlin said, understanding the reason why someone had left the tray outside. He looked Arthur up and down, the prince had clearly just got out of bed, dressed in nothing but his underwear. "How's it been?"
That was enough to set Arthur off; he started to pace up and down, putting the jug down on the table with a crash as he did so.
"It's awful!" Arthur howled. "They keep waking me up at ungodly hours of the morning, and cleaning everything and fussing over me like…"
"Like a prince?" Merlin asked.
"Exactly!" Arthur shouted at him, turning to pace the other way. "And the tournament is next week and you should see my armour, it's so shiny! I'm going to look ridiculous!"
Merlin's eyebrows went up. These were all the things Arthur accused him of not doing, when he should be doing them. He wondered if he ought to go out and come back in again, just to be sure this was happening. Arthur stopped pacing, standing in the middle of the room.
"And no one will come in and make up the fire," he whined.
Arthur would have looked quite impressive stood there, despite the state of undress, if he wasn't pouting like a child, and shivering slightly, goosebumps rippling up and down his skin. Merlin blinked and snapped out of his shock.
"I'm not surprised if you are throwing water on them," Merlin said, shaking droplets off his right sleeve. "And if you're cold, get back into bed, you idiot!"
Arthur recoiled, eyes widening in shock, then he beamed at Merlin. "Okay."
Merlin watched him scramble back under the covers. He tried to reach the edge of the top throw up pull it back up but it was just out of his reach, however much he stretched. Merlin shook his head and went over to pull it up, tucking Arthur in a little. Arthur murmured happily and settled down.
"Right, I will go and dry off your breakfast, taking an inordinate amount of time over it, for what seems like no reason, and then I will make up the fire and find you something to wear. While you're getting dressed I will find a dirty cloth and go de-polish your armour, leaving it patchy looking and smeary, and to top it off, I'll even bash your sword against something just to make sure there are a few nicks and scratches on it."
"Can you muck out my horses as well?" Arthur asked.
Merlin suppressed the overwhelming urge to drop the tray he was still carrying onto Arthur's head and instead 'accidentally' dripped a bit of water on him.
With a grin Merlin turned and headed to the door, muttering an assortment of insults. He was almost there, when Arthur, who was stealthy without even thinking about it, barrelled into him, wrapping his arms around Merlin's shoulders and pressing against his back. Merlin almost dropped the tray. He couldn't fend Arthur off while he struggled to hold it, so he had to endure Arthur clinging onto him, his arms like steel bands, and his cheek resting against the back of Merlin's head.
"Never leave again."