Author's Note: This particular story starts about a couple of weeks after 4.04. If you haven't done so, please read the previous episodic stories by me prior to continuing with this one. The final scene of 4.04 is especially important to remember as you read on…

Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin. I do not own its characters.

"Blood is thicker than water" – by AudiRox

It's a crisp and clear morning as Arthur gets up from bed and walks over to the window. He opens it, looks up to the skies and takes a deep breath as he briefly closes his eyes. "What a beautiful morning," hethinks to himself. He looks down at the square and sees Gwen walking towards the main entrance of the castle. "Beautiful indeed." He observes as she takes her time to move towards the steps, greeting everyone around her with a sweet smile. This, in turn, makes a smile appear on his face. "She would make a wonderful queen," he thinks. As Gwen moves closer, she instinctively looks up and sees the prince looking at her. Arthur notices as the sweet smile she shared with the town moments ago gradually vanishes. Instead of gracing him with it, she subtly nods and walks quickly in the direction she was headed.

Just as the prince wonders why she had just been distant, the doors to his chambers open. Merlin, carrying the prince's morning meal, enters with a bright smile of his own.

"Good morning, sire!" he says as he sets the meal down on the table and looks up at his master.

Having no time for pleasantries, Arthur quickly turns and asks, "Merlin, have you spoken to Guinevere recently?"

Merlin thinks for a moment. "Yes, I saw her last evening." He tilts his head curiously, "Why do you ask?"

Arthur looks briefly out the window and back as his servant, "I feel as if we haven't talked in quite a while."

"Well, she is busy with the new school," the trusted servant reasons with his master.

Arthur nods, "Yes, of course. There is that."

Merlin chuckles curiously, "Why? What's worrying you?"

Arthur shakes his head, "Nothing. I just…" He sighs and decides to be frank. "It feels as though she has been avoiding me the past couple of weeks."

Merlin rolls his eyes, "Arthur, you do realize that not everything is about you, don't you?"

Arthur warningly shoots him a glance.

The young servant nods, "Yes, yes, I know I overstep my boundary every time I say such things, but really…" he sighs. "You have nothing to worry about. This is Gwen we're talking about. It's all just in your head."

Arthur doesn't know how, but Merlin does manage to ease his mind.

"I'm sure the school is taking a lot of her time."

Realizing he may be overreacting, Arthur gives in and nods. "You're right."

"Besides…"

Arthur looks up at his servant. "Besides what?"

"There are other things that need worrying about."

A confused expression appears on Arthur's face, "Like?"

Merlin all but gasps at Arthur's forgetfulness. "Lord Godwin? Princess Elena? They are to arrive today!"

Arthur suddenly realizes. "Oh! I completely forgot." He hurries to the other end of the chambers.

Merlin nods like an idiot. "What would you do without me?"

Arthur turns around and makes a face, "What are you going on about, Merlin? Help me get ready!"

Moments later, Arthur and Merlin are seen walking down the corridor.

"I can't believe father has invited them again so soon," says Arthur as he continues to walk.

Merlin follows closely behind, "Lord Godwin is a good friend of the king's."

"Rightly so, but I don't know if we're in any state to entertain so soon."

"The kingdom has fast recovered and this is exactly the type of distraction everyone, especially your father, needs." Merlin says.

Arthur opens his mouth to respond, but finds himself quickly distracted by the sight of Gwen, who unknowingly approaches them.

"Guinevere," says Arthur as she gets closer.

Gwen quickly looks up and sees Arthur in front of her. "Oh!" She looks at Merlin and then back at the prince. Not wanting to look directly into his eyes, she quickly looks down at her hands.

To give them a bit of privacy, Merlin walks around Arthur and stands a few steps beyond, but close enough to hear their exchange.

"You seem surprised to see me." Arthur says with a smile.

"I'm sorry, sire. I did not see you."

Arthur chuckles, "Sire?" He takes a step closer speaks softly, "Guinevere..."

Gwen subtly takes a step back and looks around. "There are people around us."

Merlin notices Gwen's peculiar mannerisms, and so he wonders what has changed.

Arthur sees a few people walking ahead, but not enough to prompt this reaction from Gwen.

"I see," he says and curiously looks down at her.

Realizing that her awkwardness is not at all subtle, she looks up at Arthur. "I'm sorry. It's just that I've been so busy with, you know… and haven't had a lot of time for myself."

"Of course," he says. But he isn't convinced.

They stand in silence for a couple of moments making it more awkward for Merlin to watch.

"You may have heard," continues Arthur. "Lord Godwin and Princess Elena are visiting us again."

"Yes, I heard," she looks back at her friend, "from Merlin."

Another awkward pause makes Arthur very uncomfortable. "Well then, I should be on my way. They should arrive soon."

"Yes, of course," smiles Gwen. "I should be getting back to work myself."

Before he can utter another word, Gwen curtsies and quickly walks around him, leaving both the prince and his servant watch her as she hurries down the corridor.

Arthur turns around and proceeds to walk the opposite way. As he passes his servant, who is still looking in Gwen's direction, "Do you still think it's in my head, Merlin?"

No, he does not. And so he briefly looks at Arthur as he passes him, but he can't help but look back in the opposite direction, wondering why his dear friend was so cold to the man who loves her.

ETA: Continue onto chapter 2...

End Notes: A short (short) teaser to hold you over until the meaty part. I hope you remember the episodes leading up to this one as they all play a vital role in the storyline as a whole. I'm sure some of you predicted something was wrong after the final scene of 4.04. But I hope you tune in again to find out how this story unfolds.

Once again, thank you so much for all the reviews. I really do appreciate them. Would love to hear from you again, so let me know your thoughts on what has happened so far.