Arthur groaned as he awoke; his head was killing him and as bits of the previous day's fighting came back to him, it only started to hurt more. There had been an army, he dimly remembered there being something of a magical threat… and then…
No. That couldn't be right.
But it was becoming clearer now, he could remember all of it. How the army had been failing, the strength of a magical army had been too great for them and then… a golden light, the army had been knocked backwards, he distinctly remembered seeing the man he had been locked in combat with seemingly explode into nothingness.
The army had turned and ran.
He had been dizzy by this point, his enemy had dealt him a blow to the head, but he turned to look up at the battlements and there was someone standing there, and then he had passed out.
All too conveniently.
But for that brief second beforehand, the man, the sorcerer who had just saved Camelot had looked a lot like…
"Let's have you lazy daisy!"
Arthur rubbed his head as he sat up to see the familiar face of his grinning servant.
"How long have I been out?" he asked.
"A day or so," Merlin replied, moving closer to the foot of his bed and laying a plate of food down.
Arthur regarded his manservant for a moment before asking, "What happened?"
Merlin started. "You don't remember sire?" and try as he might, Merlin could not conceal the frown of concern that made its way across his features.
"Bits of it. There was an army. A magical one."
"Yes, but Camelot is safe."
"A sorcerer saved us."
Merlin froze in the act of straightening the sheets, but quickly regained himself. "I didn't actually see the battle sire." There was a pause. "You'd better eat something," he raised one eyebrow. "After all, I know what you're like when you don't have your food, I can't say I've missed having things thrown at my head during the past few days and I'd-"
Arthur was not to be deterred. "The sorcerer." He said, cutting Merlin off. "I saw him."
Merlin's eyes widened. "Did you sire?" he asked carefully.
"Only briefly. He was up on the battlements, right before I passed out."
"Well you can't be sure, sire," Merlin was backing away. "I mean, let's face it sire you're not exactly famed for your observational skills at the best of times. Anyway I'd better go and inform everyone that you're awake. Gwen's been worried."
"Of course, only… Merlin?"
"For a second there, the sorcerer, he looked a lot like you."
Merlin stopped dead in his tracks.
"Of course," Arthur continued. " Had it been you, this would be a disastrous situation."
Merlin nodded, seemingly mute.
"I would have to tell my father of course."
"And find a new servant."
Merlin seemed to regain the use of his voice. "Well," he said, his voice full of false deliberation. "That might be inconvenient for you."
"Mmm," Arthur murmured in agreement. "It would be. Good servants are hard to come by. In fact," he said, as if a new thought had struck him. "I don't believe I've ever actually had one."
Merlin made a face, without having time to think whether this was a good idea or not, and said, "I should imagine most don't enjoy being verbally abused, used as a target and having pots thrown at them as much as I do."
"Which is another reason it couldn't have been you, as, if you were a sorcerer, I can't imagine why you would take this job."
"Well," said Merlin. "Exactly. I mean if I was a sorcerer, I suppose I would have taken over Camelot already."
"Probably true," said Arthur. "Although," he paused. "I suppose all sorcerers can't be evil."
Merlin concealed his intake of breath. "I suppose not. I mean," he hesitated, then made a decision - if Arthur had been dead set on turning him in, he would have done so already. "Hypothetically, if I were this sorcerer, then I suppose I would have been using magic to protect Camelot, not destroy it."
"Yes," said Arthur. "I suppose you would have." he paused. "Why would you have been doing that?"
"Well, I suppose I would have had a good reason."
"Maybe some sort of destiny?"
Arthur gave Merlin an appraising look as he remembered.
Oh? And how come you're so knowledgeable?
Oh. I read a book.
"That would be a reason."
"But, how can magic be a destiny?"
"Some people are born with magic."
Arthur raised his eyebrows. "Are they?"
There was a pause before Merlin continued, "Of course, it wouldn't just have been this one incident."
"No, I suppose not."
"I might have saved your life and Camelot a hundred times over."
"Might you have?"
"Well," Merlin smiled, "Hypothetically."
"Well of course hypothetically. Why would you do that? Surely not just some blind faith in destiny."
"Well," Merlin sighed. "Maybe if I hoped for a better time. Maybe if I thought you were going to be a great king."
One day you'll be a great king.
Because I trust in your destiny.
You have a choice, as to how you do it.
Arthur began to speak but then stopped, surprised to feel a lump forming in his throat. He swallowed, "Well, hypothetically, that might be a reason." he swallowed again. "Any other theories?"
"Not really. Although," Merlin hesitated. "It would be unfair, really, wouldn't it, not to mention suicidal, to go to Uther about a sorcerer who consistently has been loyal to you and Camelot?"
"I suppose. But I would be honour-bound."
"Even if he may be willing to give his life for yours?"
Arthur found himself momentarily unable to speak. "Well, that would complicate things."
"It might be a difficult decision."
Arthur regarded his servant, loyal, clumsy, idiotic Merlin. "Maybe," he said. "Or maybe not," he added softly, thinking of all those coincidences wherein his life had been saved with an explanation being offered by Merlin.
Merlin's intake of breath - in fear, this time - told Arthur that his words had been misinterpreted. And maybe that was just as well.
"It would certainly be inconvenient."
Merlin nodded, his lips set in a thin line.
"So," Arthur paused. "It's fortunate… that I can't really be sure of what I saw."
Merlin's expression relaxed into evident relief. "Of course. You're not the most observant."
"Quite- Wait, what is that supposed to mean?"
"Well sire, only that… had our hypothetical discussion been real, one might say you have a gift for missing what is directly under your nose."
Merlin shot a grin at Arthur as he left, and Arthur - left to contemplate the truth in Merlin's words - smiled.
Both would deny the conversation ever took place, and neither would mention it in the days that followed, or, indeed, for quite a while after that. But it didn't matter.
Oh dear, this is what happens when I'm avoiding coursework! I'm not really sure how good this is, but the plot bunny wouldn't leave me alone. This was originally meant to be a drabble, but something tells me it's a little too long for that now :) Oh well, I would really appreciate reviews.