"What are you doing?" Merlin came into Arthur's chambers to find him talking about love to the fire place, offering a bunch of bright flowers to the mantle piece.
"What? Nothing." He spun round juggling the flowers in his embarrassment.
Merlin nodded to the bouquet. "For Gwen I'm guessing?" Arthur glared before dashing across the room and pushing the door shut.
"Tell the whole castle don't you?" He snapped, but the glint in his eye and bright flush showed other feelings. His gaze stayed on the flowers for a few seconds before finally he sighed, wafting the down to his side in frustration.
"Merlin. Do you think she'd like them?"
"She's not got hey fever, because I know a lot of people have got something at the moment, and ….what if it's carried by bugs in these flowers?" He began shaking the bunch upside down "I don't want to make her sick, now Father's letting me leave the castle more often."
"Arthur." Merlin said. "They're fine. You'll be fine. She loved flowers."
"Right well then." He paused briefly before a smile spring to his face and he thrust the flowers into Merlin's chest. "Then you can take them. Tell her I'm thinking of her, and I should get away in the woods tomorrow morning."
"Yes um pick up some scarf on the way, she likes those, a colour she loves ermmmm…pink purple I think?"
Arthur glared. "Just hurry"
It wasn't the most practical weather for romantic gestures, the sun had long hidden behind black clouds and people were keen to leave the market while the still had the chance to do so dry.
Hastily he hurried past the stalls, shielding the delicate petals form the wind as best he could.
All around people were coughing, pale faces stared at him, and the cold weather wasn't helping with the new bug that was spreading around. Giaus had been none stop 24/7 rushing round to all the houses as inevitably the infection spread. It would only be a matter of time before he caught it himself, Merlin sighed. It wasn't much to worry about, Giaus had confirmed it was just irritating not life threatening but a number of workers would have a while off.
He thought back to Arthur's concern for Gwen, if not slightly over the top but sweet.
He couldn't help but feel proud that the Prince turned to him for advice in personal things such as this.
A roll of thunder quickened his pace.
"Merlin you'll catch your death!" Gwen rushed him inside through her doorway.
The sorcerer was glad to see a fire burning, already feeling its heat creep along his skin.
"What are those?"
"What?" Merlin followed Gwen's gaze to the flowers clenched in his hand, now dripping rather sadly to one sad. "Oh. These errrr, Arthur got these for you. They were beautiful" He added as she took them with a perplexed expression.
"They are beautiful Merlin, tell Arthur I love them."
"He also wanted me to tell you he was free to go to the woods tomorrow morning" The warlock grinned, raising his eyebrows at her pink cheeks.
"Oh I, I couldn't. I mean. Sir Leon…"
"Will be out with the first security party. He won't need you until the afternoon when he gets back. Besides, he doesn't mind, it's not like he's any pompous twit…"
"Remind me why you're here again."
"To arrange for your date"
"By badmouthing the other involved. And it's not a date!"
She turned away, pretending on focusing her attention towards placing the flowers neatly in a cup, pushing heads one way or another.
"What is it then?" Then when she refused to answer. "OK, what shall I tell him? Are you going to meet him or not? It's a regular thing between you two, what's the difference this time?"
She lowered her head and he felt the unnerving turns of his stomach that there was something he did not know about. "Gwen?"
"It's nothing it's just that…" She sighed, turning quickly to face him. "I'm pretty sure Sir Leon knows about us."
Merlin was unsure about how to get a perspective on this. At one hand the risk of anyone knowing their secret could be disastrous especially after what happened last time, on the other hand they could be fairly certain that they could trust Sir Leon.
"I don't, it's just, since I started working for hi he's been giving subtle hints."
"So he's known for a while" That was good, if he'd known for this long without taking action then he wasn't a threat. "He knows Arthur well, they're close friends, there's not much surprise to the idea that he'll be able to tell when The Prince in love"
"Love?" Gwen's eyes shot up immediately. Merlin tilted his head to one side, prompting her to stop hiding her feelings from him. He couldn't consider that the word itself could be too strong to use. "OK" She smiled back "I guess. I mean we do…"
"So tomorrow, you me and Arthur shall leave at 10 to look for herbs for Giuas."
The storm had become full force by dinner time, leaving Merlin to dash across the court with Arthur's food. He used a coat he found in Giaus' cupboard which he didn't think he'd seen the old healer wear that much. The sky lit up in sudden moments, a way that only nature can do at her most aggressive. The ferocity of it made Merlin feel uneasy.
"You had better appreciate this dinner!" Merlin exclaimed while impressively managing to balance the tray getting though the doorway, the handle digging painfully into his kidney.
"Arthur?" He searched the room until his eyes rested on the young Prince leaning heavily against his bed. His skin was a sickly pale and Merlin had the haunting feeling that he was being stared at by the dead. "Arthur?"
"Put the food on the table" He waved a hand unsteadily.
Merlin ditched the meal on the side, rushing to Arthur.
"I'm fine." Typical. Every time he says he's fine, as though it's programmed into him.
"No you're not. You're sick."
"I am not…" His eyes widened in a startled expression as his lips clenched next second Arthur was dashing across the room, bent over, to a bucket where he made gut rendering warph! Sounds. Merlin looked away pretending he couldn't hear the vociferous outburst. A whole minute later Arthur rocked backwards, resting his body again the wall. "Uuuargh!" He didn't look too dignified.
Merlin gave him a few minutes to get the world back into focus. "Better?"
Arthur just opened his eyes and starred, Merlin couldn't quiet tell if it was supposed to be an attempt at a glare or not.
"You were saying before…" He prompted.
"OK. I may be a tiny bit sick, but so is everyone." At least he sounded almost normal again. That may be true, but so far Merlin had never come across someone with this illness who through up, the most Giuas diagnosed was aches and pains and fatigue along with dizzy and the occasional fainting spell. An all to common virus which if anything people were glad this city got instead of whatever else there was going around. In Arthur's case it seemed worse. As lazy as Merlin could make Arthur out to be he knew that the Prince worked hard and pushed himself beyond what should be capable. Keeping with duties while the body is weak would only make things worse.
Arthur scrunched his face up again, and Merlin was ready to rush over with another bucket, but the Prince just leant his hand against the wall closing his eyes, the wave seemed to pass.
"What?" Merlin asked
"Get my Jacket. I need to go to the hall. My Father asked for me to come after dinner." He spoke this without opening his eyes, still evidently trying to hold off what ever it was which was coursing through him.
"Arthur? You can't…"
"I have to. It's not a question of can or can't, the latter cannot exist." He thrust an arm out. "Jacket Merlin!"