A/N: Hullo there :) Just a quick note before you read: If anyone is reading this who has read any of my other stories and wants to know when I shall be updating - I promise I'll try and update soon (there's a little note about updates on my profile, actually, but it's not very important...). I hope you like this, and I hope you think I got Arthur and Merlin okay. I don't always write them like this as characters, it's just that we all have those days, and Arthur can be so oblivious...
"I am absolutely exhausted!" the prince exclaims, throwing himself headlong onto the bed Merlin has only just finished making, instantly scattering half his plush red pillows across the floor.
"Mmm," his manservant mumbles half-heartedly in agreement.
"I really didn't think that Geoffrey was going to stop talking…" Arthur continues, and Merlin can tell from the tone of voice that he is rolling his eyes into his mattress.
"Mmmhmm," Merlin acquiesces, really only observing wide-eyed as Arthur's lazy hand is nearing the half-drunk goblet of wine sitting, left over from lunch, on the prince's bedside table.
"There I am: sitting, nodding and smiling and he just kept talking! I honestly thought it would never end! I thought I would die in that council meeting and my father would never notice!" Arthur makes his final dramatic exclamation and then sits up suddenly, swinging his hand out to the side in an emotive gesture, sending thick red liquid dribbling down half the freshly laundered sheets and trickling across the newly-scrubbed floors.
Arthur frowns angrily at the goblet, as if it did it itself and he is considering whether or not to call for the guards and have it thrown in the dungeons for its insolence.
Then he turns to Merlin, with that steely, flint-like glare glazed over his irises that just screams "this is your fault".
Merlin exhales sharply, forcing all of his tension deep down into his boots and squeezing his hands tightly together as he blinks a few times, just to focus himself.
Arthur taps a foot impatiently.
The word "Buffoon!" is just about to storm off his tongue and implode in Merlin's face, the warlock can tell, so he stays one step ahead of the prince, removes his neckerchief from around his neck with a swift tug that will no doubt leave a red rub as a reminder, and mops up his master's mess.
Arthur is wittering on endlessly about how much of an incompetent fool his manservant is, how he does very little to deserve the title of servant at all, how a trained pig could probably perform the tasks just as efficiently; he had been talking to Morgana the other day, and she had mentioned that pigs were actually highly intelligent creatures…
Merlin's fingers freeze mid-mop; he rewinds Arthur's speech, straining for any underlying malice.
What is Morgana's evil plan this time?
Has she poisoned a pig roast?
But then why would she be persuading him not to eat pig…?
Is she training an army of super-pigs to rise against Camelot?
Panic seizes Merlin's body as he flips through as many spells he can think of that ward off evil pigs, or perhaps that instantly roast pigs, or that temporarily subdue all livestock…
And then suddenly there is relief.
Everywhere, every ounce of Merlin sags with deep, rich, heavy relief.
How ridiculous! Morgana is not going to invade Camelot with pigs.
Walking skeletons, perhaps; but not pigs.
And then the relief morphs and warps into laughter. He finds himself chuckling in spite of himself, in spite of the bruises on his stomach from his latest fading battle wound.
Arthur clearly thinks he's mad.
The smile drops off Merlin's face, and his gaze falls back to the half-cleaned floor.
Arthur is incredulous.
Merlin already knows he doesn't want to hear what's coming, he can tell from that moronic inflection Arthur insists on using whenever he's annoyed. He resists the urge to roll his eyes.
"What's so funny?" Arthur is half-laughing now, but it has a malicious tinkle to it; it makes Merlin recall their first encounter, the rebel meets the bully.
"Nothing," Merlin mumbles, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the task in hand.
"I should think not," Merlin can hear the arrogant lilt in his voice that he knows from experience is almost invariably accompanied by him flicking his head back.
Arthur begins pacing.
Galumph… galumph… galumph…
"After all, there isn't anything funny about you being a lazy, incompetent fool who fails to even clean my chambers properly any day of the week, is there?"
There is some mumbled response from Merlin as he knocks the now empty goblet over again, clattering and clattering echoing painfully around in the silence.
"Oh… For heaven's sake! Honestly, Merlin… There are days when I wonder if you're part-man, part-rabbit! You have all the common sense of a goose!"
Arthur is laughing at his own wit now, and shaking his head.
An oomph and rippling as he collapses back into the mattress, and Merlin scuttles to his feet with the stained sheets gathered into his arms, looking up at Arthur through tired eyes, watching the door and waiting to be excused.
"And to have to endure that entire meeting after the training session I had earlier… The latest lot of nobles are so useless, Merlin, they make you look like a fearsome warrior! I don't see how I'm supposed to make knights out of them…"
"Indeed, Sire… May I be excused; I need to clean these sheets?"
Arthur looks up at Merlin from beneath a quirked eyebrow, and waves his hand, gesturing for the servant to leave, which he does so quickly Arthur briefly checks himself for some offensive odour.
Merlin never calls him that…
Usually it's clot pole, or dollop head or prat.
Arthur scratches the slight beard forming on his chin that he shall have his manservant shave off later and wonders…
Was it something he said?