A/N: Takes place in an AU season 2 where the whole Arthur/Gwen thing never happened.


A Row in the Castle (Yet Again)

Merlin was heading for Arthur's quarters when he heard voices carrying faintly through the castle. As he went up the winding staircase, the voices grew louder, he could tell they were having a row. When at last he reached Arthur's hallway, he could hear every word being shouted as clearly as if they were next to his ear. Gwen was leaning against the wall at the end of the corridor, looking weary.

Merlin winced at a loud thump and then there was a bang followed by more shouting.

"They're at it again?" he said incredulously. "What happened now?"

Gwen seemed embarrassed by the question. "Arthur… said some untruths to Lord Reynard about Morgana."

"What kind of untruths?"

Morgana snarled inhumanly then Arthur cried out in pain, and they could hear him damning her existence.

Gwen was blushing uncomfortably now and stammered in reply. "H-he…well…he told Lord Reynard that the Lady Morgana would hardly be receptive of his affections b-because…well…oh dear…" She took a deep breath and rushed through the rest.

He looked at her in befuddlement. "What's so bad about all that?"

"No, Merlin," she protested. Her face was bright red now. "He meant she prefers women, to the exclusion of men...in all aspects. Do you understand?"

"Oh," he said. Then his eyes widened as the full meaning started to sink in. "OH." Then it really hit home. "OH!" he squeaked, his ears burning like Gwen's cheeks.

There was a thunderous sound of a door being slammed and then a crash as it was thrown open again. Merlin frowned, knowing that the poor door was probably hanging off its hinges by now.

"What would Arthur go and say such a thing for?"

"Jealousy, of course."

"Jealousy?" Merlin echoed with a laugh. "Why would Arthur be jealous of Morgana?"

Gwen gave him an exasperated look. "Not her! Lord Reynard! Because he wishes to court Morgana - really, Merlin."

"I don't see what that has to do with anything. Arthur obviously doesn't feel that way about her, just listen to them!"

"I wish your father had you thrown out with the bathwater so I wouldn't have to endure your insufferable arrogance day after day!"

"Oh, wretched you! Poor wretched Morgana! Has everything a person could want and is satisfied by nothing! I'm the one forced to suffer your endless sniping, always in my ear, do you never have anything better to do than whinge at me!"

Merlin gave a 'see?' look, but Gwen only rolled her eyes.

"Men," she sighed. "You're idiots."

"Hey!"

"Those two are so in love with each other they can hardly stand it."

Morgana called Arthur a particularly foul name and Gwen cringed.

"Sounds it," he said wryly.

"It's been two years since you've arrived in Camelot, Merlin. Surely you've realized by now the kind of relationship they have."

"If you mean a childish, bickering, endlessly rowing kind of relationship, then yes."

"They're frustrated," she explained slowly, as if to a child. "Both are too proud to admit their true feelings, neither wants to be the first. I think they're afraid of being hurt. They're so headstrong, intolerably stubborn, and absolutely perfect for each other, but I fear that is precisely what will keep them apart. I don't know how much longer they expect to drag this out. I shall be an old lady before they get together."

"Listen!"

As they waited, ears trained, the corridor was silent.

"Finally," he sighed. "I thought they'd ne-"

A loud shattering noise pierced the silence and Arthur let loose a stream of curses so filthy even Merlin was embarrassed.

"You were saying?" Gwen looked at him in amusement.

"Right. So your theory is that they're in there snarling like animals because they actually really like each other and want to be together?"

"Yes."

"But that's absurd."

"I know."

Thunderous footsteps came pounding up the stairs and rounded the corner. Merlin and Gwen stared at a squadron of guards who stared at them in return.

"Er…we heard…" the one in front tried unsurely.

Gwen and Merlin shook their heads in unison.

Arthur and Morgana's angry voices magnified off the stone walls.

Grumbling to each other, the guards relented and went back down the hall to return to their posts.

"Now they've got the whole castle listening in."

"Busybodies," Gwen sniffed disapprovingly. "They should all be used to it by now. It's hardly worth the gossip."

"There's gossip about Arthur and Morgana?"

Gwen shrugged. "I hope Uther doesn't hear about it. He always gives them such grief, which only worsens things."

"Oh! Shhh!"

Silence.

"Wait…"

Silence.

"Do y'think she killed him?" he whispered.

"Don't be silly," she whispered back. "Morgana would never…" Then she thought about it. "Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to check?"

"Erm, I don't think that's such a good idea. Gwen? Gwen!"

She was already at Arthur's door and Merlin ran to catch her. He didn't stop himself in time and collided with her which earned him a well placed elbow to the stomach.

"Oof!"

"Quiet!" she hissed.

Carefully, Gwen cracked the door open and at first they only saw the shattered remains of Arthur's vase strewn about on the floor. There were muffled sounds that were almost like someone groaning. She pushed it open further and that's when they saw them.

Arthur had Morgana pinned against the wall, locked in a passionate embrace. Morgana's legs were wrapped around his waist and Merlin shut his eyes trying not to see where Arthur's hands were.

Gwen nearly cried out, but he put his hand over her mouth and yanked her back into the hallway. They stared at each other wide eyed for a few long moments and then Merlin remembered to shut the door.

"Well…" he said, clapping his hands together awkwardly, "Guess you don't have to wait anymore."

"I-I can't believe it!" she squealed happily. "At last! Perhaps now the castle will be a bit quieter for it."

"We can only hope!" Merlin teased and looped Gwen's arm through his to lead her down the corridor. "Looks like you were right - we have the future Queen of Camelot in our midst."

"I thought the day would never come." She rested her head on his shoulder as they walked. "Morgana will be an extraordinary Queen, Camelot could hope for no one better."

"I think you would make an extraordinary Queen," he told her with a grin.

"Oh, no," she said, frowning. "Not I. Not ever."

She seemed so genuinely against the whole idea, and not just out of some sense of modesty, that Merlin was intrigued.

"Isn't it the fantasy? To be royalty? To have a kingdom, a castle, servants to do your bidding?" He added the last part tongue-in-cheek.

"That part I don't mind at all! But in order for me to be Queen, I would have to be Arthur's wife!"

She looked so disgusted by the idea that Merlin burst out laughing.

"He's not that bad, Gwen!"

"Imagining myself married to Arthur Pendragon is like you imagining yourself married to Gaius."

"ARGH!" he cried and shut his eyes tightly. "GOOD GOD! What on earth did I ever do to deserve such a horrifying mental image? You're a terrible person, just terrible."

Gwen giggled. "Then I see I've made my point."

"Fair enough." He gagged. "So if not Arthur, then who do you envision yourself marrying one day, Guinevere?"

She was quiet.

"Is he perhaps tall, dark haired, devastatingly handsome, fiercely devoted to honor and nobility, handy with a sword?"

She stopped walking and let her arm drop from his grasp.

"Anyone ever tell you, you talk too much, Merlin?"

She didn't sound unkind, just sad.

"Every day." He nodded. "I am Arthur's servant after all."

She tried to smile, but it didn't quite work.

"Gwen," he took her hands in his reassuringly, "I promise you, there will be a time after Arthur is made King where Camelot will be at peace and we will all be united and we will all have found happiness. It will happen."

A beautiful smile lit her face and she touched his cheek, wordlessly thanking him. He was pleased that he had been able to lift her spirits.

"Such hope in you, Merlin. I can only dare to hope with you."

They were just about to continue walking when they heard the faint but ever so familiar sounds of Arthur and Morgana shouting. They looked at each other.

"Well… happiness in a manner of speaking."