"Come on, Merlin. Get up. You need to go to school."
Merlin groaned, opening his eyes tiredly. "I'm tired, Uncle Gaius. I don't want to go." He sat up abruptly when Gaius slapped his cheek; not hard, but it was enough to wake him up properly. "It's just going to be the same thing all over again," he argued as he got out of bed and shuffled over to the closet to find something to wear. "People aren't going to like me. I honestly don't see how my mother thought I was going to have a better life if she sent me away."
"She has faith in you, Merlin," came Gaius' cryptic answer, making Merlin roll his eyes as he pulled a T-shirt over his head.
Merlin had moved into town just a few days earlier. He'd had problems at school in his old town. It had never been anything to worry about, according to Merlin himself, but over the years, the bullying had gotten worse, and his mother had sent him away to live with his uncle Gaius for a while, hoping that things would get better if he got away for a while.
But Merlin didn't want to leave. At least he'd had a friend back in Ealdor. Here, he had nothing and no one. The only person he knew was Gaius, and he was pretty sure it was going to stay that way. People never liked him. In fact, they tended to do just the opposite.
He kept arguing all morning, even as Gaius was dropping him off at school. He'd wanted to take the bus, but Gaius insisted on driving him. If someone was going to bully him, he had said, the bus was the best place to do it. No teachers.
"Seriously, I don't think this is a good idea," Merlin complained as he still sat in the car, parked along the road, next to the school Merlin would be attending. "Even you know how it's going to be, Gaius. Nothing's going to change."
"It's only for half a year," the old man said in an attempt to comfort him. "Until things have calmed down back in Ealdor, and you can go to school without getting a black eye."
Merlin sighed loudly, sensing his loss. "She told you about that," he mumbled. "It's nothing I can't handle. I don't see why she had to send me here."
"If you can handle the problems you had back home, then I'm sure you can handle whatever happens to you here." Gaius smiled his mysterious smile, making Merlin groan as he was urged our of the car.
"Fine. But don't blame me if I come home with a broken nose."
"I'll pick you up at four," Gaius said, ignoring Merlin's words. "Or you can just call me if you want to go home. And by home, I don't mean Ealdor."
Merlin rolled his eyes as he flung his messenger bag over his shoulder. "I'll take the bus," he said shortly before slamming the car door shut after him and turning his back on Gaius.
Really, he couldn't understand the reason why he was there. If people disliked him in Ealdor, they would dislike him here. Not to mention, he was starting school in the middle of the semester. If his mother had hoped he would make friends, she should have sent him away a couple of months earlier. People transferring in the middle of the school year never made any friends. It was the golden rule of high school.
He had received his schedule and the code to his locker per e-mail, so all he had to do was dump the pile of books he was carrying in his bag into the locker and head for his first class: English literature.
Most of the seats were taken, and he had to sit in front of a really obnoxious blonde that kept throwing little pieces of paper at him. Not that it bothered him much, but the symphony of chuckles from the blonde and his friends that started when Merlin flinched even in the slightest, was starting to become annoying.
They became quiet, at last, when the teacher entered and started calling up the names of the students. However, when he loudly announced: "Merlin Emrys," and Merlin mumbled a faint yes, raising his hand, the annoying boy behind him began chuckling again.
"Merlin Emrys," Merlin heard him say. "Quite some name. When was he born, in the medieval ages? Maybe he's an elf!" The blonde and his friends laughed louder, and the voice that was by now very familiar to Merlin, shouted out: "Hey, everyone! We have an elf in our class! Just look at those ears of his!"
Merlin just started into his desk, trying to ignore the very irritating voice, as he heard the teacher clear his throat. "Not that this is any of my business, as I trust you to point out later," he said slowly, and Merlin could almost hear a frown in his voice. "But do you really think you have a say in the matter of names, Pendragon?"
Merlin almost smiled, but it was slowly wiped off his face when the voice behind him replied cheerfully: "Touché, teacher."
The teacher looked more than just a little irritated, but he went on with the class, and Merlin was content just paying attention. For almost as long as he could remember, school work had been how he kept his mind off everything else. He could just concentrate on a literary masterpiece or an especially challenging equation, and he'd sink into another world, where he didn't have to worry about what others thought of him.
He quickly became the new favourite student of all the teachers, considering how polite and well-mannered he was, adding to the fact that he knew the answer to almost every single question they asked. He had studied hard back in Ealdor. It wasn't as if he'd had anything better to do with his time, apart from the occasional movie night with his best friend Will.
What annoyed him, though, was that the person he soon learned was called Arthur Pendragon, was in every single one of his classes. By lunch time, he had gotten his own personal bully, that he could never get away from, considering they sat fairly close to each other in every class they had together. Which was every class.
By lunch time, he had also found out that Arthur Pendragon ruled the school. Literally. Everyone was afraid of him, and everyone did as he said, apart from the occasional strict comment from the teachers. But he never got in trouble, even though his actions through half of the school day would have been enough to get anyone else in detention for two weeks.
As Merlin sat down by a table in the cafeteria during lunch, he heard that voice again. "Emrys," it said loudly, slowly, as if tasting it. "Merlin." His fist name was said in the same way, and Merlin sighed, looking up from his meal to see Arthur Pendragon standing above him.
"What?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
"See, Merlin, this is my table," the blonde said, smiling in a rather odd way. "Now, everyone can make mistakes, so if you move now and see to that this never happens again, I might just let it slip my mind."
"Your table?" Merlin asked, sounding amused. Not even the boys in Ealdor had been this stuck-up. "I don't see your name on it, Pendragon."
Arthur leaned down, placing his hands on the table, his face only inches from Merlin's, radiating anger. "Move, Emrys. Now."
"Alright," Merlin said dully, picking up the tray of food as he got up. "As you wish, Your Highness." He made to walk past Arthur, but tripped over something, lost control of his movements, and ended up spilling his lunch all over Arthur's white shirt.
"Idiot!" the blonde exclaimed, lunging at him. Merlin ducked, but it didn't take more than a second before Arthur caught a hold of the front of his shirt, pulling him closer. "Do you have any idea what a shirt like this costs?" He took a pause, laughing bitterly. "Well, of course you don't. A peasant like yourself probably doesn't even know what silk is."
"Silk?" Merlin asked, failing to hold back a chuckle. This was probably why he always got in trouble, and the reason why everyone in Ealdor hated him. The exceptions were, of course, his mother and Will. "Really? Who even wears silk anymore?"
Arthur yanked violently at his shirt, making Merlin flinch. "You obviously don't. These stains are never going to wear off," he said melodramatically, gesturing to the tomato sauce staining his otherwise pearly white shirt. Merlin had to concentrate not to roll his eyes.
"Okay, okay," he said, holding his hands up. "I'll pay for it, and you can get a new one. How much did it cost?"
"Three hundred pounds," Arthur replied coldly.
Merlin choked. "Three hundred...?"
"It was custom-made." The expression on the blonde's face was cold and dead serious. "Though I expect you haven't got that kind of money."
"Well, you're right about that," Merlin muttered, swallowing.
"I'll tell you what," Arthur said, and the cold look in his eyes turned into a mischievous one. "You work for me for the rest of the school year. You follow me everywhere, do everything I ask you to, and you act like my servant in all other ways. And at the end of the year, I shall see if that is enough to pay off your debts."
Merlin was dumbstruck. He really couldn't believe the nerve of this guy. Who ever got this worked up over a shirt? But considering his current situation, he figured he was in no position to deny. So he nodded, mumbling a faint "Yes, sir," instinctively holding a hand up to his throat at Arthur let him go.
"Good," the blonde said, and for the first time, Merlin noticed that no one was looking at them, even though the cafeteria was full of people. As if this was something that happened every day. But considering Arthur's attitude, it wouldn't surprise Merlin if it did. Arthur probably had twenty other servants running around and obeying his every command. "Your first task will be to take notes for me in class while I go home to change. And make sure they teachers don't mark me as absent. I do have my servant there to take notes for me, after all."
Merlin nodded, hearing himself mumble: "Yes, Arthur."
"And don't call me by my first name, Emrys." Arthur had a deadly look in his eyes, which were a beautiful shade of dark blue.
As Arthur left, Merlin glanced nervously around him, and left the cafeteria, heading for his and Arthur's next class, even if there was still time left of lunch break. He might as well catch up on some studying, if he was going to spend all his time from now on being the blonde's servant.
The teacher was in the classroom when he got there. She was fairly young, with dark skin and black, curly hair. When Merlin entered, she looked up at him with a smile. "You must be Merlin Emrys, the young genius that all the teachers are talking about," she said, smiling softly.
"Yes, ma'am," Merlin said quietly, moving to find a seat.
"That one in the front is available," the young woman said, pointing towards one of the desks. "In the corner. You'll have to sit next to Arthur Pendragon, though, but I suppose no one has ever died from being close to him and his cockiness."
"I think I might," Merlin groaned as he dumped down in his chair. "By the way, he asked me to tell you not to mark him as absent. He went home to change shirts after I accidentally spilt tomato sauce on it."
The teacher laughed heartily. "Oh, my," she said, chuckling. "I bet he's fairly pissed about that."
"Well, yes," Merlin replied, for a brief second wondering why he was talking to a teacher. "Apparently, I have to be his servant for the rest of the year."
"He must really dislike you, then," the woman concluded as she sat down next to Merlin. "But don't worry about it, he's not going to kill you, even if he might seem like it. Arthur likes to scare people, but he's not half as intimidating as he likes to pretend he is."
"You seem to know him very well," Merlin commented.
"I know his sister," the teacher replied, still smiling softly. "She is far less spoilt and stuck-up, in case you were wondering. By the way, my name is Guinevere du Lac. You might call me Gwen."
Merlin smiled faintly. "If you don't mind me asking, Gwen, how old are you?"
"I'm twenty," she replied, still smiling that awfully cheerful smile. "Young for a teacher, I know, but I graduated early from high school, and I just became a teacher this year." She looked carefully at Merlin, as if measuring him, before she spoke again: "If you ever need a friend, or someone to hear embarrassing stories about Arthur from, I'm here, Merlin. You look like you could need a friend."
"You know most students aren't best friends with their teachers, right?" Merlin joked, finally smiling as well.
"I know." Gwen shrugged her shoulders. "But you're not most students. Showing up in class a whole fifteen minutes before the lesson begins is proof enough of that."
Merlin grinned mischievously. He liked Gwen. She was relaxed and easy-going, even though he might find it awkward being friends with her, considering she was his teacher. "I might just take you up on that offer of embarrassing stories," he said, and Gwen laughed, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I guessed you would. It's probably going to be easier to deal with being his servant if you have some rather funny situations to put him into."
They sat and talked until right before the bell rang, when Gwen returned to her place in front of the whiteboard, reading through some notes, and Merlin started reading the chapter he assumed they would be studying for the time being.
When the other students entered the classroom, they gave Merlin weird looks, but he ignored them, paying attention as Gwen began talking about England during the medieval ages. He got caught up in the way she talked about it, and in taking notes, and he didn't notice until the end of the lesson that Arthur was back, and had resumed his place next to him.
"You really are a nerd, Emrys," the blonde stated as they walked out of the classroom together, but never looking at him. "Too caught up in your studying to see that your master walks through the door and sits down next to you."
"Yes, sire." Merlin had meant it as a joke, what with Arthur being so obsessed with his 'medieval' name and everything, but it didn't seem that the blonde understood the joke.
"Sire?" he said, sounding amused. "Old-fashioned. I quite like it, actually. You may continue to call me that, Emrys."
The rest of the day went by slowly. Arthur seemed intent on tormenting Merlin. He even got the dark-haired boy to tie his shoelaces for him. But however awkward, Merlin quickly grew into the role of Arthur's servant. He was good at doing what he was told. Not that he was a follower or a push-over, but when one had nothing to do, it was sometimes easier to be told what to do, how to act, and what to think.
Despite seeing Gaius' car when he left school for the day, carrying Arthur's books as well as his own, Merlin stepped into the bus that was driving in the direction of his new home. Unfortunately, Arthur was on that same bus, and so, he had to go through another twenty minutes of being Arthur Pendragon's servant, before he could get off the bus and go home.
The day had gone fairly well, though, even though he had just lost his freedom to a stuck-up rich guy. But it could have been worse. He could have been forced to wear a school uniform. He could have had his head shoved into the toilet. He could have come home with a fractured cheek bone and three cracked ribs. But that hadn't happened, had it? And since Arthur seemed to be the only one in a position for bullying at the school, he didn't believe things were going to get much worse, unless he did something to upset his new master, of course.
"You seem to be carrying a lot more books than just your own," Gaius pointed out at dinner, when Merlin had to remove his books from the kitchen table to make room for eating. He had been doing homework ever since he got back from school, and was probably going to have to continue until late in the evening.
"What do you mean?" Merlin asked innocently, taking a large gulp of water, trying to will away the feeling of Gaius' suspecting glance.
"I mean that the homework you are doing doesn't seem to be yours. Well, not only yours, at least."
Merlin shrugged, trying to make it sound like doing someone else's homework. "I'm just doing a math assignment for Arthur," he said calmly. "And an English report. And I'm noting down the point of highest importance from the chapter we're working on in history, so he won't have to read all of it."
"I know that your mother wanted you to make friends, but I don't believe she meant of this kind." Gaius shook his head, sighing. "You seem like quite a moron, Merlin, so I'm afraid I have to ask. You do know when someone is taking advantage of you, do you not?"
"Arthur isn't my friend," Merlin said, laughing at the pure idea of it. There was no one he would hate to be friends with more than Arthur Pendragon. He'd rather sleep with Darren King, the worst bully in Ealdor, and that was saying quite a lot, considering Merlin had been sent to the nurse's office on a daily basis for the past two years due to Darren. "I'm just doing his homework so he won't squash me like a bug for accidentally getting his shirt dirty."
Gaius raised an eyebrow, and Merlin tried to ignore it, focusing on the food on his plate. Salad. He hadn't even noticed what it was before. "This Arthur you are talking about wouldn't happen to be Arthur Pendragon, would he?"
"How did you know?" Merlin asked, choking on his food.
"Everyone knows the Pendragon family," Gaius replied lowly. "Arthur's father, Uther, is one of my clients." It occurred to Merlin that he didn't know what Gaius did for a living, but as long as he provided the youth with food and a place to sleep, he couldn't really be bothered. Knowing Gaius, it was probably something complicated and scientific that Merlin wouldn't understand anyway.
"Yeah, well, it doesn't matter now, does it?" he said, trying to sound indifferent. "Arthur made me his personal servant, and I have to follow him around school carrying his books and call him sire." Merlin rolled his eyes. "See, I told you something like this would happen."
They finished their dinner in silence, and Merlin did the dishes before continuing doing Arthur's homework. He finished the math assignment and the notes for history class, but barely got started on the English report before Gaius sent him to bed and told him to finish the rest of the homework another day.
So Merlin sat in his bed, finishing his own homework, until three in the morning, before finally going to sleep. Most of it wasn't so bad, though, considering he had done the exact same tasks for Arthur just a few hours earlier, but he had to keep their assignments different from each other, or they would be accused of cheating.
When he finally lay down to sleep, he was exhausted, and fell asleep in a matter of seconds.
My first Merlin fanfic! I just love that series... And I'm a complete sucker for Colin Morgan. And Bradley James (even though he's old). Go Colin and Bradley! Go Merlin! Yay!
Anyway, I hope that you all liked this! Of course it's turning into a Arthur/Merlin fic somewhere along the way... I have the scenario all planned out. I just need to figure out how exactly they are going to get to that point. Oh, and please review! Arthur and Merlin love reviewers!