A/N: If any of you happen to be wondering, Merlin does, in fact, seem to wear all his clothes to bed. But for the sake of the oneshot, he takes off his shirt like Arthur does. That would keep it clean longer anyway.
This is for DarkAngel2112, whose story "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" inspired this. She's a good writer and reader, and I thank her.
A Merlin Fanfic by Kitty O
Waking up was always a surprise.
Of course, he always knew that he would wake up—usually. One day, maybe he wouldn't get up at all, but then he'd be dead. He had to die eventually; he knew that. But not now, because he had prats to reform and protect and armor to scrub.
The point was that within his realm of experience so far, he'd always woken up.
It was a surprise because he never knew what would be there when he awoke. Would there be screams and attacks and evil sorcerers? Would there be a prince demanding he wake up? Would he be late, early? Tired or chipper, happy or sad?
It was almost like an adventure.
Merlin's eyes cracked open. There were only the faintest streams of light coming through his window. He was early. The room he had in the back of the physician's chambers was completely silent. So there were no attacks this morning. He sat up, yawning. He was tired, but nothing horrible. He wouldn't argue with five extra minutes, of course, but it was time to get up and he knew it.
No more sleeping for the warlock.
Merlin flipped the thin covering from his shoulders, feeling the early-morning chill on his bare chest. He stretched, rubbed his eyes, smacked his lips—the regular morning routine.
After a moment he decided that he'd better get up – wouldn't Arthur be shocked to see him early? Not that he was ever late – and get ready.
Merlin reached down to grab his shirt from the floor (Now why did he always leave it there?), but froze.
Well, that was odd.
He'd never seen that before.
Surrounding his wrist was a faint, white line, placed right where arm meets hand. It was a scar. Why did he have a scar there? He couldn't remember. He brought the offending appendage up to his face and studied it, casting his mind back. His first thought was of being manhandled, guards surrounding him, thick metal clicking around his wrists…
Merlin swiftly checked the other wrist and found, to his surprise, that there was a scar around it too. Remembering the last time he'd been arrested – was that the episode with the goblin? – he knew that the cuffs had cut into his wrists. But just a little. It shouldn't have scarred.
And then he remembered that, the time before that, the shackles had also cut his wrist. And the time before that. Not to mention the times he'd been placed in the stocks, which always left raw red stripes. His wrists were continually being scraped, now that he thought about it.
After a while, his body had just refused to heal completely, apparently. He didn't blame it.
For a minute he sat there and contemplated his wrists, turning them and studying the lines. He hadn't realized that he had gathered physical scars from his time in Camelot.
Curious, the warlock looked at his upper arm.
A white line stretched across it, paler even then his normal pasty complexion. What had Arthur said when he received it?
"Ah, your first battle wound."
Arthur had been wrong about that, he suddenly realized, twisting to get a look at his back. It was covered in several little white lines—all that remained of a mace fight between the Prince of Camelot and his soon-to-be manservant. Merlin had fallen over a lot then, but it had still been a battle. And these had still been wounds.
That wasn't all that decorated his back.
The small, red streak that he could barely see on the side of his lower back brought back memories. Not nice memories, but the clank of magical chains, the furious hissing of the dreaded scorpion creatures as they surrounded a helpless victim. Pain and worry. Nasty memories.
Merlin had never known before this morning, but he was covered in scars all over his body.
Oh, well, they say that women like scars. Apparently they're manly.
He would have to ask Gwen about that one.
Merlin glanced at the window again, saw that he would be late if he dawdled much longer, and finally grabbed his shirt. Slipping it on over his head, he noticed for the first time that the coarse fabric caught on the skin of his back. He had to get to Arthur quickly before the prince decided to throw something or dump water over his head or whatever else he did to show his annoyance.
Arthur had no business being annoyed. He had no idea how much Merlin did for him; he didn't appreciate his manservant and personal secret warlock.
Merlin felt uncharacteristic anger grow up in him as he stood and headed off to work. One day, Arthur would know. He would see just how much Merlin did for him, suffered for him, how hard he worked to keep the prince safe. He would see the amount of power Merlin had.
Arthur better not arrest him then. The prince wouldn't dare execute him. And he had better say 'thank you'. Prince Arthur of Camelot had just better thank Merlin when that day came, or the warlock would be forced to punch his ungrateful friend right in the nose.
Even if he split his knuckles on the Prince's face, it would just be another little white scar that he got on account of Arthur. It was the story of his life.