Note: I do not own Merlin, Arthurian mythology, or any of their characters. Spoilers for The Coming of Arthur.
"Merlin," The Prince said such a stern tone that the sorcerer immediately looked up from his book, "we need to talk."
"About what?" Merlin asked, ready for anything except what followed.
"I'm firing you." Arthur answered, his voice never changing tone.
Merlin gave a humorless chuckle, "You're joking right?"
Merlin racked his brains. In the past few weeks he had helped Arthur take the kingdom back from Morgana and Morgause, saved the Prince's life at least twice in ways that even Arthur knew about (and several times that his master didn't), and helped Arthur put the kingdom together again. What possible reason could the Prince have for firing him?
"Come on, Arthur." Merlin said nervously. "This isn't funny!"
"I know it's not." Arthur replied, his expression remaining grave. "Because of this I shall have to find a new manservant that I can trust, get to-"
"You can trust me!" The sorcerer exclaimed. "Don't you know that by now?"
"No, Merlin, obviously I can't." Arthur replied coldly. "This week you were late to work every single day, my food was cold three times-"
"Don't interrupt, Merlin!" Arthur warned before continuing. "Twice I had to have you repolish my armor, last Monday you scared away that deer on the hunting trip, and whenever I use you as a target, you shy away from the arrows."
"That's it? You're firing me because-"
"It?" Arthur growled. "The whole point of a manservant is to serve and you have proved yourself incapable of doing that. You are without doubt the worst manservant I've ever had." Merlin flinched. "Therefore, I release you from your duties, do you understand?"
"What do you call risking my life for you and saving your life multiple times, you prat?" Merlin whispered.
Arthur's mouth twitched. "I call it being a friend, not a servant."
"Please, Arthur, just give me another chance!"
"My mind is made up, Merlin." Arthur sighed. "Do you understand?"
"Do you understand?" Arthur interrupted.
"Yes, sire." Merlin whispered, the fight gone out of him. Clearly he wasn't going to change Arthur's mind.
"Good. Now, I've gotten you a new job. You will begin immediately." God, didn't he even get to choose whether to accept it or not?
"What is it?" Merlin asked dejectedly looking at his feet.
"Well, it's actually not that different from your old job." Arthur answered. "You are my new Royal Companion."
"What?" Merlin jerked his head up in surprise to see that the Prince was now smiling and trying hard not to laugh.
"I said don't interrupt, Merlin!" Arthur's voice was back to the lofty but kinder tone Merlin was used to. "Your duties are to be at my chambers when you usually are and join me in whatever activities I choose to do. If I go on a quest or a hunting expedition, you are to go too. Keep me in check and call me a prat when I'm acting like one. But you don't need to mop the floors or clean my armor, or anything like that. In short, you are to do nothing but spend everyday with me doing whatever I do. Shouldn't be too much of an adjustment."
"Wh- so, I'm not fired?" Merlin asked, hopefully.
"Oh, no, you are. As a manservant. Not as a friend." Arthur walked forward and draped an arm over Merlin's shoulder. "I told you once we couldn't be friends because I'm a Prince. Now it's your job to be my friend."
"I don't know," Merlin smiled, "seems pretty tough work to me. Who would went to spend every waking moment with you?"
"You don't have a choice, Merlin." Arthur said in a voice that was meant to be stern but came out laughing. "Either you be my friend or I throw you in the stocks."