A/N: Hey Guys!
First of all let me say that I'm so very sorry I couldn't update sooner. Things at work have been crazy and I've been
swamped with trying to complete my other fic and realizing that I may have bitten off more than I can chew ( or this case type )
Updates will be slower going forward, I'll try to update at least once a week. So without further ado – here goes !
Enjoy and please
Chapter 10 – Of Untruthful Explanations, Brilliant Ideas and Panic
"C'mon Merlin, out with it, and I want the whole story. You knew from the beginning that there was something fishy about this whole thing.
How did you know? Why the heck didn't you say anything before?"
Arthur stood facing Merlin in his chambers. The enchanted Hauberk had been brought to Uther's attention and locked away in the room
where all other enchanted objects were kept. Uther had simply been told that the traders had attacked using enchanted armor but made a
mistake in putting on the wrong armor. Arthur, his knights, and on this occasion Merlin had taken control of the situation. The traders would
be questioned later.
Merlin took a deep breath before beginning his account. It wouldn't be the complete truth as with so many of his other explanations to Arthur
in the past. He toyed with the idea of telling Arthur that Gwain was responsible for the averting the entire disaster and that he was in fact here
in Camelot but then decided against it. It was one of the promises Gwain had extracted from Merlin before letting him go save Arthur on his own.
So he decided to bend the truth a little in a way that would still let Arthur know of Gwain's part in this particular rescue mission.
"It's all thanks to Gwain really" Merlin began unable to stop a rush warmth in his chest as he said the name.
"Gwain!" Arthur exclaimed incredulously. The man's name had been mentioned quite a few times this past week.
He waited curiously for Merlin to continue.
"Yes. He's the one who sent us a note with a warning about those traders. He was travelling and came across the traders and over
heard theirconversations for the plans of the armor. He wrote to Gaius and I, since he can't be here in Camelot. He explained exactly what
the armor woulddo. So I brought an extra suit of armor from the armory and switched the armors when you were supposed to try.
I'm sorry for not telling you earlier Arthur but you were determined to try the armor, this was the only way of proving it to you."
Arthur remained still as a statue while listening to Merlin's explanation. Merlin had been trying to warn him since the beginning of this whole fiasco.
He now understood the reason for Merlin's reluctance to the whole idea of buying the armor. The promise that Merlin had extracted from him
made sense too. He fixed an intense gaze on his manservant and best friend.
Once more like numerous other times Merlin had saved him, and this time it seems Gwain had also come to his aid. Arthur suddenly felt humbled in
the face of such devotion and loyalty. Once again he was floored by the faith that Merlin had in him, the sheer determination that he showed in
crucial moments when Arthur was faced with peril.
There were so many layers to Merlin and Arthur knew for a fact that he didn't know all of them. He would someday but till then he was grateful to
whatever gods had sent him Merlin in the first place.
Merlin started biting nervously on his lower lip and fidgeting under Arthur's piercing gaze. Thinking that the prince was angry for Merlin's deception he continued in a slightly panicked voice "Arthur I'm sorry! Believe me, I really truly am! But I couldn't risk you putting on the real thing. I'm sorry about deceiving you, but it was only so tha-"
"Merlin stop" Arthur spoke firmly.
Merlin fell silent waiting for Arthur to continue with apprehension.
"You really are the most clueless idiot Merlin!" Arthur said scoffing a little, and then smirked in his usual manner towards his manservant. Shaking
his head while looking him over Arthur spoke the next words quietly and sincerely "Thank You Merlin, once again I owe you a debt of gratitude" he
looked at Merlin with affection and trust shining in his china blue eyes.
Merlin smiled one his rare brilliant smiles. He couldn't come up with a suitably sharp retort to tease the prince and found strangely that in this moment
he didn't want to.
Arthur leaned against his window and looked out to the kingdom spread in front of him. He turned and spoke softly again "and I owe Gwain my life
once more, that's the third time."
"Well third time's charm they say" Merlin said happily.
"I need to find a way to repay him for all that he's done for me" mused Arthur pacing the room. He kept this up for some time always opening his
mouth to voice an idea and abruptly closing it accompanying a shake of his head with a muttered "no, that won't work"
"Er…try not to over work that head of your Sire, it can only take so much strain" Merlin voiced cheekily, eyes shining in amusement at Arthur's antics.
Arthur didn't even register the words solely focused on his one thought. Suddenly he whipped around and exclaimed in a loud voice while grinning.
"I've got it!" he exclaimed "Merlin! Pack the horses, we'll go find Gwain and I will give my thanks! We're leaving right now! "
Merlin tried to ignore the hammering of his heart at Arthur's words.
"What? Arthur, you're not serious"
Oh great! How do I get out of this one? Think Merlin think.
Arthur raised an eye brow in question, his expression screaming "Excuse me" and "What the hell!"
Merlin babbled on before the prince could get a word in edgewise.
"I mean of course it's great that you want to thank Gwain, terrific really…but, but you can't just leave right away!"
Arthur continued to look at Merlin as if he had sprouted two heads.
"What about your princely duties? The king will not be pleased and if he doesn't know where you are…remember what happened the last
time you did that? He'll send out search parties!
Arthur frowned slightly considering Merlin's words. It was true, Uther would send out search parties assuming the worst if Arthur left without
a word. Merlin paused watched his words sink in and continued in a coaxing tone.
"Why don't you make arrangements to be able to leave, get permission from the king, and then we can go in some days without the all the
knights of Camelot looking for us and dragging us back before we even find Gwain"
Please, please, please gods above let him see reason ….God I hate it when he gets brilliant ideas like this - Clot pole!
Gwain isn't even healed yet…how will I even smuggle him out of Camelot? I should've just told Arthur he's here.
"I say Merlin; you're actually on fire today. First with the sword and now this…you sure you won't collapse from the strain of not being an idiot"
Arthur smirked and Merlin just rolled his eyes.
"I'll go speak to my father. We'll leave in three to four days at the most. "
Phew. That was close.
Merlin got back to Gaius's chambers to find the old man coming out of his room. His face looked grim and Merlin felt
something cold clench in his chest. "What's the matter Gaius? Is Gwain all right? "
"Merlin, I wasn't expecting you back so soon…how did everything go? What happened to the traders? Come sit down and tell me all about it"
Gaius tried to distract Merlin by asking about the traders. Merlin saw the tactic for what it was but chose ignore the obvious for now.
"Everything went fine. The traders are locked up, the knights will be questioning them later, and the enchanted hauberk is under lock and key in
the castle. I saved Arthur arse per usual. He even thanked me! But now we have another problem Gaius!"
Gaius raised an eyebrow in question and Merlin continued.
"I gave Arthur a half baked truth about Gwain tipping us off about the armor through a message. Though now I feel I should've left Gwain
out of it completely. Arthur wants to go in search of Gwain to give his thanks in person! He wanted to leave right away. I've somehow
managed to convince him to delay this trip for a few days but…"
"What? O Merlin that's not good at all! Gwain's injuries haven't healed yet completely. Any further strain on him will only serve to cause more
damage at this point and it could be permanent." Gaius spoke worriedly.
"How am I ever supposed to dissuade Arthur? He won't give up until he's seen Gwain in person I know it!"
"Merlin if Arthur is determined to thank Gwain in person he will want to see the message and then start combing each town. He's the
best hunterin the realm; if he starts sniffing out Gwain's trail, it will eventually lead him back to Camelot!"
"O Lord Gaius, why didn't I think before I opened my big mouth? Arthur's like dog with a bone when he wants to get something done !
He won'tlet it go! He will skin me alive. I've already lied to him that Gwain isn't here! Oh this is such a mess! " Merlin sat down with his
head in his hands.
Gaius sighed heavily "Merlin you still have a few days to figure something out. Panicking like this isn't going to help.
I need to you to go pick some herbs for me. Gwain's injuries need to be treated and cleaned again."
Merlin raised his head quickly at Gaius's tone. "Gaius, you looked worried when I came in earlier…please tell me,
is Gwain alright?"
"Merlin I didn't want to worry you further but the infection in Gwain's wound has spread. It's causing delirium and high fever.
His strength ismeager as the body is using all energy to fight against the infection. I will need to drain the wound of the pustules,
which is going to be extremely painful."
Merlin had a feeling this wasn't all; he waited for Gaius to finish.
Gaius heaved a heavy sigh and spoke again "The road to recovery is going to be slow and he needs rest in a proper bed and three
meals a day along with regular medication and care. He cannot get that on the road living the way he lives. At the same time I fear we
cannot keep him hidden in the castle or in Camelot for much longer…I'm sorry Merlin but if Uther were to find out that we are harboring
a banished outlaw, it would end very badly both for us and Gwain"
Merlin's spirits sank at the news. It seemed like everything was conspiring against him and Gwain at the moment. How could he even
imagineletting him leave in this fragile state? Damn Uther and his decree!
If Gwain found out Merlin was in danger he would insist on leaving. He was just that loyal, foolish, and selfless. Gwain wouldn't look
after himself if he was left alone - he didn't know how. He would end up drinking in taverns, camping in the wilds, neglecting to change
his bandages or forgetting to take his draught and remain indifferent to his health.
After the night they had spent together Merlin wasn't letting Gwain out of his sights ever! He didn't think he'd be able to sleep at all
worrying about Gwain if he left. Merlin would pine for him and languish in his absence. Gods. Just the thought of being separated….
Gwain was his. No one and nothing was allowed to harm him. No way. Not ever again.
Merlin walked up the steps into his small bedroom and sat at Gwain's side. The man was asleep. He gently caressed his jaw and ran his fingers
across the side of Gwain's face. He dipped his face to drop a lingering kiss to Gwain's burning forehead and spoke softly "…I won't let anything
happen to you… just work on getting better…" leaning his forehead against Gwain's he spoke again "…I'll be back in a bit…just rest…" another
soft kiss was pressed to Gwain's temple and Merlin stood back gazing down at Gwain with his heart shining in his eyes.
Gaius watched the scene unfolding in his ward's room with mixed emotions. He wondered suddenly if his charge knew how much his face gave
away at that moment. He'd wondered about Merlin's feelings towards Gwain, but the tender display of affection didn't leave any room for doubt
in his mind. He turned his back on the two men and moved across the room discreetly.
Merlin would tell him when he felt ready to tell him. For now, he was happy for his adopted son. He had worried sometimes about Merlin's
closeness to Arthur; it would have led to nothing but heartbreak. He came to realize with time that it was a bond of friendship, a rare and
beautiful thing but never more than that. He trusted Gwain enough not to hurt Merlin in any way. He worried now for both Merlin and Gwain;
the road ahead wasn't going to be easy.
Merlin steeled himself against the rising swell of fear that he felt for his beloved. Gwain needed to be cared for and Merlin would move the
heavens to make sure he was tended to properly. He was going to make sure that Gwain was safe and looked after. He would figure it out
somehow. He always did.
"Don't worry Gaius. Gwain will be alright, I promised I wouldn't let any further harm come to him. I'll make sure that promise is kept. Which
herbs did you need? I'll go fetch them right now."
Gaius watched Merlin retreat with the same determined expression that he reserved for Arthur in danger.