Dun, dun, dun! It is the poll winner! *Happy dance*

NO slash.

Disclaimer: Due to copyright laws we do not own Merlin...

Merlin was deceptively pleasant as he retrieved his master's breakfast. He listened patiently as the scullery servants chattered about last week's tournament. Their favorite battles. The most fantastic displays of skill. The prattling and giggling lasted at least five minutes before Merlin could finally escape.

Yes, fantastic tournament indeed. Fantastic that it was over.

Merlin always went paranoid during those tournaments. He had to scrutinize each competitor, make sure there were no would be assassins in the bunch. It seemed like someone was always using tournaments as an opportunity to kill Arthur. Always. Except this time. At least he thought—no—hoped so.

Something happened that unnerved him before the last fight. While adjusting Arthur's armor Merlin felt a shock of magic. He never pinpointed the source. It left as quickly as it came.

And so, he had spent the entire match looking out to protect Arthur. In vain Merlin waited for the finalist, Sir Ossaise, to do something dastardly. Arthur beat Sir So-and-So without so much as taking a hit. All by himself.

Now, of course, Merlin needed to figure out what that burst of magic was. Add that to his growing list of chores and responsibilities: Clean the leech tank, do Arthur's horrible laundry, polish the prat's armor, sharpen said prat's sword, collect herbs, clean up after the pigs known as visiting nobles, resist the urge to kill the guests of Camelot, find new ways to annoy Arthur, and—

"Argh!" Merlin growled.

Oh, yes. And find the time to mend his ruddy boots.

Arthur Pendragon was standing on top of his bed, sword drawn and poised to attack. He would find his assailant and—


Arthur whipped around to find a clearly clumsy and confused Merlin standing in the doorway.

"Check under the bed," Arthur commanded.

Merlin, however, stared with a gaping mouth as though Arthur had spontaneously grown an extra head. Honestly, did his servant have to be an idiot? The command had been perfectly reasonable. Whoever had attacked Arthur could be hiding under there.

"Now!" Arthur barked.

Merlin didn't move. "What are you doing?" he asked weakly.

Arthur rolled his eyes. "What does it look I'm doing, Merlin?"

"Making an idiot of yourself," Merlin mumbled.

"What was that?" Arthur asked testily.


The servant stepped over what should have been breakfast. He strode across the room, bent down, and looked.

"Wow," he said.


"It looks the same as last time I was under here."

Arthur resisted the urge to poke Merlin with the sword. And the urge to kick him. This wasn't a good angle for kicking.

After being forced to stare under the bed, Merlin hoped the joke was over. Much to his dismay, it wasn't. Arthur insisted on Merlin checking the wardrobe while the prat checked behind the screen.

Nothing in Arthur's wardrobe surprised Merlin. The only things in there were clothes. Clothes that Merlin cleaned and put away on a regular basis.

"Yes, it's fascinating to look at all your clothes," Merlin said sarcastically. "B—"

"Are you sure that all of them are there? Have you counted my shirts?"

Arthur looked angry. Was he still upset about that? How petty.

Several days ago, Merlin had managed to lose one of Arthur's shirts. Merlin didn't want to think about how many times he had retraced his steps. He had searched high and low in his and Gaius's chambers. He had frantically paced the corridor where a random man had knocked Merlin over and ran off. And he had been caught under Arthur's bed hunting for it. At that moment, Merlin had to confess. He hadn't intended on ever fessing up. But when one is caught muttering things like "Where is that blasted shirt," the truth is a bit difficult to conceal. Needless to say, Arthur hadn't been pleased. Merlin had been forced to listen to an incessant tirade of threats to make him pay for the shirt if it wasn't found.

Fortunately, Merlin had found the blasted thing a few days ago. It had been on one of Gaius's benches. Merlin had nearly sat on it right before going to bed one evening. The stupid shirt didn't even have the decency of being found in the hallway where he'd been knocked over!

So, Merlin informed Arthur and cleaned it. Then, yesterday he had never before been so insistent about what Arthur should wear. If Merlin had to go through so much trouble over that shirt, then dang it, it would be worn!

Now, Arthur had all his clothes. Yet he still seemed scarred about losing one of his many shirts. Merlin considered making some jibe about that, but decided against it.

When Merlin didn't answer the taunt, Arthur ordered him to fix breakfast.

Arthur stared. He had eaten, dressed, and listed off Merlin's chores for the day. Only one order of business remained before he suited up for training. But there was a small problem. Arthur had already completed this task. He was sure of it. It couldn't have been more than ten minutes ago! That, and it was uncomfortable, in more than one way. Waking to a randomly throbbing toe was unpleasant to say the least. But that could be explained by perhaps an infection. And there was nothing embarrassing about it. This... Well, maybe it too could be an infection of some sort. All the same, this was worse than a throbbing toe.

"Arthur," Merlin broke the prince's reverie, "you don't need to be so shocked that I emptied the chamberpot."

Arthur forced himself to stop staring at the chamberpot. "Well, you are the laziest servant I've ever had," Arthur deflected.

Merlin, as he began helping Arthur into his armor, spoke, "But I do make sure your obsessions are taken care of. So you shouldn't have been worried about the chamberpot."

Arthur kept his voice level and calm, "I am not obsessed with the chamberpot."

"Really? I just thought, well, by the way you looked at it..."

"Merlin," Arthur warned.

"Fine," Merlin muttered. He stepped aside for a moment to retrieve the gauntlets. "We can talk about you feelings later," he added.

"No," Arthur grabbed the empty chamberpot. "I think we need to talk about your feelings!" He lobbed the pot at his servant.

As usual, Merlin dodged the projectile. He glared at the overgrown child. Of all things to throw! That thing was vile. When Arthur wasn't using it, he should leave it under the bed!

Arthur drew a breath and thrust it back out to calm himself. "Finish putting on my armor, Merlin."

Merlin wordlessly complied. He placed one of the gauntlets around the prince's wrist. As he began tightening the armor, Merlin accidentally pinched himself.

In that same moment, Arthur slightly jerked his arm away.

"Something wrong?" Merlin asked.

"Nothing," Arthur lied.

Arthur wondered if he was losing his mind.

Originally, Merlin was going to be on standby during training. But then, Arthur had thought better of it. His servant was better employed elsewhere.

Sir Ossaise was insufferably obnoxious. Therefore, Arthur didn't want to interact with him any more than was requisite. And seeing Sir Ossaise on the training field wasn't necessarily requisite.

Merlin had complained about having to serve Sir Ossaise. But Arthur didn't care. Especially after hearing comments like, "He's worse than you." Besides, doing at least a few chores for "honored" guests was one of the duties of the being the prince's manservant.

And it was the perfect distraction for Sir Ossaise. That man had a strange obsession with supervising a servant's work. Merlin scrubbing the floor for him would occupy the noble plenty.

Arthur began the usual rounds of training the knights. Thankfully the phantom desires to relieve himself were long gone.

Through training, none of the knights were doing anything quite up to par. A strange, raw, and painful sensation was creeping through his hands, fingers, and knees. Between those two things, the prince was growing increasingly frustrated and irritable. Some of his knights were becoming decorated with bruises. If he gave out any more bruises, some idiot might decide it should be a fashion statement.

Then Arthur's back started becoming sore. He couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. He had never felt like this during training. He wasn't going to give any indication of discomfort to the knights though. Arthur trained himself and the other knights even harder until—

"Argh!" Arthur bellowed involuntarily.

He had pulled a muscle.

Merlin scrubbed the floor of an occupied guest chamber. This particular noble, Sir Ossaise, felt the need to make a nuisance of himself. One of his pleasures was to continuously ask things like, "Aren't you finished yet?" He could never leave that issue alone for more than a minute. The moron refused to ever use his eyes to find the answer. And Merlin already knew from past experience that claiming to be done never helped. In fact, it meant more work and more begging for progress reports.

Merlin's current tactic was to ignore the visiting nobleman. That meant that his questions were punctuated with cries of, "Answer me!"

And Merlin continued to ignore the jerk. For someone so insistent, he really was terrible at the part about enforcing an order. His attempts at glowering and looking intimidating were more than a little pathetic. Too bad Merlin hadn't thought to pretend deafness from the beginning.

He reached his cloth toward the bucket—



The water was now everywhere.

Merlin uttered a cry of pain. As the servant gasped for breath, Sir Ossaise made some insensitive comment about stupid, useless servants.

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