That Stupid Boy

I finally broke my 500 word slump! Barely.

As in my other fic, crazy wonky timeline.

But now that means I feel this is a little long. And I'm unsure of the ending. So review and tell me what you think!

Merlin really was the worst servant Arthur had ever had.

Even though all his tasks got completed on time, and Arthur's armor was always shining and immaculate, and the bath water was always the perfect temperature, he somehow couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't Merlin's doing. Not really.

Merlin was always late, lazy, insolent, and far too familiar with his prince.

Though that last one was really Arthur's fault. He had come to view the boy as his friend. Goodness knows he couldn't see him as a servant: Merlin would have been fired long ago.

And Arthur didn't want to fire Merlin.

He told himself it was because they were friends, but that wasn't it.

Around Merlin, Arthur felt... safe. He felt like a normal person. More than that, he felt like he could trust Merlin with anything and the boy would accept him.

It wasn't love; the very idea was ridiculous. It was, just... Merlin was his. He was the one good thing in Arthur's life, the one thing that didn't care about his royalty, and Arthur was going to hold onto it.

And if Arthur had stopped looking at girls once he met Merlin, well, who would question him? He was the prince. The only one who would dare was his father, and Uther probably hadn't noticed.

But everyone else had, and Arthur knew what he had to do.

He had chosen Gwen for two reasons: she didn't love him (that Lancelot had stolen her heart long ago), and he thought it would send Merlin a message.

It hadn't escaped him when she and Merlin had started flirting, oh no. In fact, that was when Arthur realized he wasn't going to let Merlin go. Definitely not to a girl, a servant girl who wasn't worth his time.

So he started showing interest in Gwen, hoping Merlin would read the messages Arthur broadcast when he was around her: She's not worth it. You will not end up with her, or anyone if I can help it. You will not leave me.

But that boy, that stupid boy was happy for him! Too late, Arthur realized that Merlin had never loved Gwen. And that was why Arthur loved (no, not loved, appreciated) him. Merlin was so damn kind, it didn't matter to who.

And so Arthur and Gwen sank into a kind of mutual unhappiness, a constant state of pining. She for Lancelot, and Arthur for... well, he supposed Merlin. Sort of. Maybe.

He was so confused! And the one person he could talk to about it, the person who could help him muddle through his feelings (the person who he could hug and kiss and laugh with in the night... no), was the one person he couldn't talk to.

What would Arthur say? "Hey Merlin, I think I'm in love with you, never leave me"?

Not for the first time, he cursed the fact that he was to be king one day. That protocol and image dictated everything he did, that he could never act carelessly.

Maybe if he wasn't a prince, if he could do whatever he wanted... but Arthur didn't deal in ifs and maybes. He didn't have that luxury. He was a prince, and he had his image to think about.

And, no matter his possible feeling, being in love with his incompetant manservant was not a part of that image, and never could be.

So it was best that Arthur kept his confusion a secret, kept up this charade with Gwen. As long as he did, no one questioned, no one caught on.

(Not even Merlin, which somehow hurt him the most. If only Arthur didn't have to make the first move...)

Arthur went through his day, looking forward to his time with Merlin, their occasional contacts.

As long as no one knew about it, he could keep it a secret. As long as it stayed a secret, it could continue. And as long as it continued, Arthur could pretend he was happy.

He was the crown prince, and he had to act like one. He was given everything he needed, everything he might want.

Except what he really wanted: his stupid, insolent, gorgeous manservant.

That stupid boy! What had he done to him?