EDIT: It has come to our attention that there were some problems with the story. Namely that was confusing. Thankfully, Kitty O was nice enough us to give us some constructive criticism. For that, Kitty O gets a cookie :) We underlined the added section. This is to make it easy to find for those who've already read the story. Not for extra emphasis. If it's your first time reading this, ignore that it's underlined. If it's still confusing let us know. You don't have to be Kitty O to get a cookie.
Disclaimer: Just in case any of you are experiencing a sudden bout of ignorance (or severe mind addling), we still don't own Merlin.
This is the longest one-shot we've ever written. It's not like we've written very many one-shots. That is quite beside the point. We have nothing else to say in this note :p
Read, enjoy, review!
Merlin carried a tray of food toward Arthur's chambers. The prince would complain about being starved the moment he got back. Merlin, though he did want a few extra minutes of sleep, didn't want to deal with a grumpy, hungry prat.
Merlin still couldn't believe he wasn't on that hunting trip with Arthur. The prince never went hunting (or anywhere else for that matter) without his manservant. Especially not when it's an overnight trip.
Arthur would be fine. He had a small company of knights with him. But Merlin couldn't shake the uneasiness. Arthur never left without Merlin. And Arthur never specifically orchestrated events to prevent Merlin from coming.
No, Arthur hadn't smothered out Merlin's chance of going yesterday. Of course he hadn't. At least not on purpose. But Arthur's actions had been odd. And the circumstances... It was absurd. All of it. Yesterday didn't fit into Merlin's life. Arthur was generous. That somehow managed to last an entire morning before he resumed his usual, demanding, and overall prattish behavior. Then he suddenly became a bit apologetic. That didn't last more than a minute. Then he insisted on Merlin catering to Arthur's paranoia. And to top it off, he asked Merlin to do... should Merlin call it a favor? Or maybe a coddling of a strange new fear of... clean stables?
Yesterday, Arthur suggested that Merlin should take the morning off. (Merlin spilled water onto Arthur rather then into the goblet.) After Arthur called Merlin an idiot for repaying his kindness with wet clothes, Merlin asked why he was getting the morning off. He wasn't complaining. But why? Arthur said that he heard Gaius was extremely busy that morning. He wanted to let Merlin help his guardian instead that morning. However, Merlin was only getting the morning off, not the day. Merlin would come back to work by bringing Arthur's lunch. (The strangest part was that Gaius actually didn't need much help.)
So, Merlin took the morning off and returned to Arthur with lunch. Arthur then dictated that Merlin might have had the morning off but that didn't mean he could slack off for the rest of the day. There was a lot to do. It was an enormous list. Many of those things had to be done by the next morning.
But Merlin didn't get the chance to start any of his chores then. Arthur had to speak to his father in the council chamber. And Merlin had to stand by in case his highness needed something. If Merlin didn't know better, he would have thought Arthur didn't want his chores done.
After the long council meeting was over, Arthur ordered Merlin to stop being lazy and actually get some work done. Merlin had a lot of work to do. But first, Merlin had to prepare everything Arthur needed for hunting.
That was when Arthur revealed that he had decided to go on an overnight hunting trip with some knights. He had made this decision while Merlin was helping Gaius. However, Merlin couldn't come. Merlin had to finish his absurdly long list of chores. Too many of those chores had to be finished by the next morning.
Merlin didn't see Arthur off. Arthur had more important things for Merlin to do. Arthur asked (insisted, actually) that Merlin arrange for Lancelot to have a drinking game with Gwaine that night. He didn't care how Merlin did it, just that it was done. Lancelot just might try to steal Gwen's heart while Arthur was out of the picture. Merlin did as Arthur asked even though it was silly. And, Merlin completed Arthur's other all important parting demand. Merlin certainly did not muck out the stables.
Arthur would return shortly after Merlin brought breakfast to the prince's chambers. As he approached his destination, Merlin considered how he would force an explanation out of Arthur. When Merlin saw Arthur's door he raised his eyebrows in surprise. It was ever so slightly cracked open. Arthur must be back already. So much for sacrificing sleep to get the food there before his return. Merlin shoved the door open with his shoulder.
The room was trashed.
Papers, gold coins, clothes, armor, and a sundry of other objects littered the floor. The table was laying on its side. Chairs were scattered and knocked over. The drapes were down. A figure laid spreadeagled on the bed. Arthur was tangled in bed covers with a foot dangling off the side and sheet-covered head.
Merlin took a deep breath, "Arthur!" he barked.
Merlin stormed into the room, almost tripping over the screen. He shoved the door shut with his back.
His only response was a dismal moan.
Merlin's nose flared. "What happened!" he almost shouted.
All Merlin received was another dismal moan.
"Is this why you didn't want me to muck out your horses? So you could destroy your room without worrying about it staying that way? And stop moaning, Arthur. You sound like you've been binging instead of hunting."
Merlin picked his way to the bed. He dropped the food tray on the overturned nightstand. Merlin ripped the covers off the moaning lump.
"Gwaine!" Merlin exclaimed and dropped the bed covers. Gwaine's head lolled as he stared blearily at Merlin. "Wha— Why!" No, that was a stupid question. The answer was unlikely to be coherent. "How did you get in here?" Merlin rephrased.
"Dunno," Gwaine slurred. "Where is here?"
For a moment Merlin considering being sarcastic. Then he thought better of it. What would get a stronger reaction than the truth?
"Arthur's chamber," Merlin said.
Gwaine stared at Merlin uncomprehendingly then said, "Oh." The knight gazed about the room. "I didn't know Arthur's chambers could be so... messy."
Merlin clenched his jaw. "Neither did I," he said tersely.
"How is that possible?" Gwaine's head was throbbing. He could barely hear his own thoughts.
"Strange," Merlin said, "I was hoping you had some idea what happened."
Gwaine stared blankly for a moment. Then his eyes widened. He let out a small laugh, "I wonder what Arthur's face will be like when he sees what I've done to his room."
Merlin squared his jaw. Trying to keep his voice even, he replied, "I'm not. How am I going to explain this?" Merlin knew exactly how to handle Arthur's reaction. Merlin would exasperate the prince with stupid statements. But Gwaine didn't need to know that. Arthur will find this situation infuriating, but one way or another Merlin would be the one who would pay for it.
"Be a good friend and cover for me," Gwaine said. He wasn't sure why it crucial that Arthur didn't know. Frankly, the knight couldn't care less if the prince got angry with him.
"And say what?" Merlin stared at the ceiling. "Arthur has a knack for catching my lies." Merlin left out the fact that Arthur wasn't good at wheedling the truth out of Merlin. But if Merlin was going to cover for Gwaine, the knight had to realize how much trouble he was causing.
"I think you're underestimating yourself. Just tell him a mule got in," Gwaine suggested.
Merlin suppressed a smile. "Arthur would never buy that." But he could press the story until Arthur gave up. Merlin wouldn't point that out though. He'd already decided that he wanted to make Gwaine sweat about it.
"I bet you could convince him a mule got in," Gwaine pressed. "Though you might not be able to convince that Lancelot fellow." Gwaine didn't know why he mentioned that. He was now frantically mulling over the night before. All he could remember was having a drinking game with Lancelot and then trashing the chamber.
Merlin snorted. He was aware Lancelot thought he knew Merlin better than Arthur did. The truth was that Lancelot was simply willing to look at the facts. Arthur, on the other hand, could read Merlin's face and mood with almost shocking proficiency. (Lancelot had no where near that ability.) Arthur was only ever wrong about Merlin's behavior because the prince refused to ever believe his manservant had magic. And besides, what did Lancelot have to do with this anyway?
Gwaine's eyes narrowed mischievously "You don't think so." His eyes suddenly lit up. "Let's wager on it!"
"I wager that you can convince Arthur that a mule got in here," Gwaine challenged excitedly, "But you can't convince Lancelot the same."
Merlin considered declining. Then he realized the opportunity was too good to pass up.
"Deal," Merlin agreed and then added, "But if I win you have to fess up."
"If I win you have to pay me ten gold coins."
"I can't afford that, Gwaine."
"But it needs to be fair," Gwaine protested.
Merlin tilted his head. "How about this: If I convince Arthur you get a cover story. If I don't you have to admit to this," Merlin indicated the room. "If I convince Lancelot you pay me a gold coin. If not, I pay you a coin."
Gwaine nodded. "I need to be there when you do. I'll get Lancelot."
Gwaine rushed out (nearly face planting a few times) to find Lancelot. Merlin quickly followed and closed the door behind his friend. He muttered a spell that swept the gold coins into Arthur's chest. Merlin then pushed the chest back under the bed.
Gwaine returned a few moments later with a dazed Lancelot in tow.
"That was fast," Merlin remarked.
"He was asleep in the hall!" Gwaine announced cheerfully.
Lancelot winced, "Why are you announcing that to everyone?"
"Don't get so excited. You were probably seen by every patrol in the castle," Gwaine retorted good naturedly.
Lancelot groaned irritably. He stared about the room aimlessly. Lancelot furrowed his brow, "What happened in here?"
"A mule got in," Merlin replied matter-of-factly. At first, Merlin had thought he'd be paying Gwaine a coin. But now Merlin thought he might actually win both halves of the bet. He almost felt ashamed for taking advantage Lancelot's addled state. Almost. Gwaine was the one who proposed the bet. If he was foolish enough to hand this part of the wager on a platter, so be it.
"Really?" Lancelot sounded mildly interested. "Do you know how?" His voice was void of any skepticism.
"Don't know," Merlin said casually, "It was just in here when I arrived."
Lancelot nodded. His head pounded. It drummed to loud for him to even wonder how a mule could have possibly gotten inside the citadel. Much less the prince's private chambers.
Gwaine opened his mouth to lament his loss. Before he could say anything, Arthur walked in.
The prince's jaw dropped in fury. Arthur had never before seen his room in such disarray. It hadn't been this bad even when the goblin went through it.
"You better have a very good explanation for this, Merlin," Arthur said coldly.
"I do!" Merlin replied bouncily, "A mule got in!"
"Interesting," Arthur's voice subtly brimmed with danger, "What a talented mule."
Gwaine's heart lifted. It looked as though he might win this part of the bet-until Arthur examined the lock.
"I've never heard of a mule that could pick locks," Arthur commented, pointing at the lock. Gwaine's heart sank. There were knife scratches all over it.
"Where is this magical mule now?" Arthur continued. He pointed across the room, "I've never heard of a mule being able to overturn a table like that. It even managed to do it without shattering any chairs."
"I don't know. I wasn't here when it happened," Merlin said.
Arthur strode across his room, nearly tripping with every step while inspecting the damage. Arthur lifted his drapes.
"They're not ripped," he noted. "I wonder how it managed to leave the rod on the wall and get the cloth down... intact. Why aren't they ripped, Merlin?"
"Would you like them ripped, sire?" Merlin quipped.
"Merlin," Arthur demanded slowly, "What happened!"
"A troublesome mule got in," Gwaine supplied. "I saw it with my own eyes."
Merlin shot Gwaine a filthy look. The bet was to see if Merlin could trick Arthur. Not if Gwaine could.
Arthur whirled around to face Gwaine. The prince's eyes narrowed in suspicion, "Why are you in here?" he asked, indicating to both Gwaine and Lancelot. In response, Lancelot merely shrugged. Arthur turned his full attention to Gwaine, "What did you talk Merlin into?"
Gwaine was taken aback. "I didn't talk him into anything," Gwaine lied defensively.
"Merlin, what really happened?" Arthur turned away from Gwaine. The prince could trust that knight in battle, but not here.
"I already told you," Merlin replied innocently, "A mule got in."
"Fine! I did it!" Gwaine shouted. He pulled out a gold coin and tripped his way to Merlin. "You win, Merlin."
"What?" Arthur wondered how and what he could have missed that would explain this.
Merlin laughed, "Gwaine and I had a bet on whether I could convince you and Lancelot that a mule got in. A cover story for Gwaine if I tricked you. And a gold coin for me if I tricked Lancelot."
"Wait, a mule didn't get in?" Lancelot asked suddenly. His head pounded mercilessly. Getting woken up was bad enough. But getting woken up just to get lied to? That was just rude. Especially since his head pounded even harder whenever someone spoke. "Why did you lie to me, Merlin?"
Arthur raised his eyebrows, "Well, speaking of wagers, Lancelot... Merlin, where were you last night?"
"Um, doing chores?" Merlin answered in confusion.
"There you have it, Lancelot. I was alone," Arthur announced.
Lancelot's eyes widened.
"You were alone?" Merlin asked angrily. He suddenly realized why Arthur didn't want the stables cleaned. Arthur had made some sort of bet with Lancelot. Merlin supposed that the loser must have to clean the stables. However, Merlin wasn't sure why Arthur would make a bet about spending a night in the woods alone. The prat was more than capable of that (assuming that he wasn't attacked by a sorcerer). But that would hardly count for anything towards Arthur's need to prove his bravery (unless this was a new tournament that Merlin had never heard of). It must have been Lancelot's idea. It was pity that Merlin didn't know about the wager. He would've made sure Arthur lost. The idea of the prince being forced to clean out those nasty stables was amazing. The manservant decided it was time for a little revenge. "Oh, by the way, I cleaned the stables this morning."
"What?" Arthur asked in surprise.
"You could eat dinner in there if you wanted," Merlin smiled impishly.
"Merlin! I specifically told you not to muck out the horses."
"I thought it was a silly request. Why would you want the stables dirty? Isn't that bad for the horses?"
Lancelot suddenly started walking out of the room.
"Where do you think you're going?" Arthur demanded.
"Stop yelling," Lancelot ordered pathetically. "It hurts." He stumbled out the door, clutching his head.
"I think I best be going too," Gwaine attempted to slip away.
"No, you're helping Merlin clean this up," Arthur ordered.
"I've got to talk to Lancelot," Gwaine justified.
"Then you come back immediately."
Gwaine nodded and left.
"Merlin, did you let Gwaine tear apart my room for a bet?" Arthur asked incredulously.
"So that I could do even more work. I'm not that stupid, Arthur," Merlin retorted. "He was asleep on your bed when I walked in."
"You're changing those sheets now," Arthur said imperiously with an undercurrent of disgust.
"This is all your fault, you know?" Merlin asserted as he grabbed the bed covers.
"You're the one who wanted Gwaine and Lancelot to have a drinking game."
"Shut up, Merlin."
"How much do you want to bet they're exchanging winnings now?"
"Lancelot," Gwaine called.
"Stop yelling," Lancelot complained.
"Oh, don't be such a baby. Do you know why I was trashing Arthur's chambers last night? I only remember drinking with you before that."
"No. Do you know why I was sleeping in the hall?"
"Because you like the hall?"
Little did either knight know, Lancelot had just won a wager. Gwaine could not get away with destroying Arthur's chambers.
Hope you liked it! Please review and tell us what you think. :) Will the smiley face charm you into reviewing?
BTW, neither of us have any personal experience with drinking. So if anything about the hangovers is off, feel free to tell us. What we wrote is based on what we've heard and Fern's headaches. Thanks for telling the world I have headaches. No problem. It's not that big of a deal anyway.