The Drunken Truth

Arthur can't figure out what is wrong with Merlin, but he fears his servant may be spending too much time in the tavern. Episode coda to "The Last Dragonlord."

By Emiliana Keladry

Author's note: I just felt that there needed to be a little more mourning after the death of Balinor and it is mentioned several times that Merlin should be kept away from large quantities of alcohol. So, I wrote this. There are two parts to it. I hope that you like and review!

Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to BBC, not me.

Part 1

"Where is Merlin?" Prince Arthur Pendragon of Camelot exclaimed, bursting into the court physician's rooms. "He's extremely late."

There was no answer. Surprisingly, the room was empty of both Gaius and Merlin. A few bottles were tipped over and paper was blown around the room, creating the illusion that something was amiss. Arthur picked up a few of the papers and set them down on the table. The wind picked up, scattering them again. The prince could see that the door to the small room that Merlin used as a bedroom was open. He slowly entered the room, seeing the young man's blankets were pulled tight around the mattress and it didn't appear that anyone had slept in the bed recently. There was a pair of dirty breeches on the floor, along with a small pile of neckerchiefs by the bed. It was most definitely Merlin's room. There was a book sticking out from underneath the pillow. He reached for it, but quickly drew back. Arthur hadn't realized that the wind had blown the main door closed behind him as he heard it opening again. Gaius was speaking to someone in a hushed voice. Arthur emerged from the room and witnessed a sight that he'd never seen before. Merlin was leaning heavily on Gaius, his face was pale and his eyes were almost rolling back in his head, dark lines were beneath his eyes as if he'd not gotten any sleep.

"I think… I'm gonna be sick," Merlin mumbled as Arthur walked down the stairs.

Gaius looked up at Arthur, but didn't have a chance to say anything before quickly grabbing a bucket as Merlin fell to his knees and retched. Arthur wasn't sure if he should say anything, feeling uncomfortable at witnessing this scene. Merlin looked up, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. Gaius helped him stand up and move over to the patient bed.

"What's wrong with him?" Arthur asked.

"Nothing serious, sire. I'll take care of him."

"My head… hurts," Merlin whispered from the bed.

Gaius motioned towards the door and went to sit down next to his ward. Merlin looked at him, not even noticing that the prince had been in the room. Arthur listened to them talk as he silently left the room.

"I don't feel so well," he heard Merlin say.

"I'm sure that you don't feel well. Don't worry, I'm right here, Merlin." Gaius sounded concerned.

Arthur heard Merlin throwing up again as he left the room, pulling the door closed behind him. What on Earth was wrong with Merlin? He returned to his chambers to continue with the day. He stopped by the kitchens and found another servant to tend to him while Merlin was ill. The poor boy dropped his breakfast twice and spilled his orange juice on his boots, getting them all sticky. It was going to be a long day.

After an excruciatingly long meeting with the council, Arthur felt like he needed a rest. The kingdom was still recovering from the Great Dragon's attack and it took a lot. Several of the neighboring kingdoms were trying to take advantage of the weakened realm, sending little scouting parties to attack the small outlying villages. Uther also wanted to begin the search for Morgana. Arthur went to put on his armor for training. Merlin still wasn't back and the servant boy was waiting with his armor. He considered taking a few minutes to go see how the man was feeling, but he didn't have the time. Sir Leon knocked on the door.

"We are ready for you, Sire," he stated.

"I'll be there in a minute."

Leon took a quick glance around the room and saw the terrified young boy. "Where's Merlin?"

"He's apparently not feeling well today."

Leon frowned. "I'm not surprised."

"What? You know what happened to Merlin?" Arthur inquired.

"No, Sire. I just heard Gaius telling someone that the poor guy was sick all last night."

It was a lie and Arthur could tell that his knight was keeping something from him, but he didn't know what. The sound the servant boy dropping his armor to the floor jarred his attention. Arthur rubbed his forehead. This was going to be a long afternoon.

Practice was horrible. The servant boy kept dropping his weapons and didn't move the targets quickly enough. It was incredibly frustrating! Some of the other knights chuckled as the boy picked up the target, dropping it on his foot and crying out. Arthur put his head in his hands. He actually missed Merlin; at least he wasn't so clumsy. Merlin was probably having a better day than him.

"I got it!" Merlin's voice called out.

Arthur watched as Merlin picked up the target and adjusted it, moving the servant boy out of the way. The prince motioned for the other knights to take a few minutes as he approached his servant. The little boy ran away, seeing the knight approach. Merlin avoided his master's gaze. Arthur could still see the pale skin and bags beneath his eyes.

"For goodness sake, Merlin, you should be in bed. You look terrible."

"I'm fine, sorry about this morning, sire. I am much better now," Merlin lied.

"Merlin, you can't lie to me. You should go home and to bed," Arthur hissed.

"I'm fine."

Arthur didn't want to fight his servant right now. He was too tired. Merlin quickly went to work and Arthur joined the knights, going back to their training. Once it was finished, the prince observed Merlin rubbing his forehead as he cleaned up and put away the materials. Sir Leon approached him and they had a short conversation that he couldn't hear from the distance. The two were definitely keeping something from Arthur. Merlin took his things back to Arthur's chambers and went to fetch his dinner. Arthur waited at the table, not knowing what to do about his servant. Merlin came back with his dinner, putting the plate on the table and standing beside the door.

"Do you need anything else?" Merlin asked.

"No, this is good."

The prince ate his dinner in silence and watched his friend out of the corner of his eyes. Merlin was exhausted. And his skin was still pale.

"Merlin, what is wrong with you?" Arthur asked, hearing the venom in his voice. He quickly changed his tone. "You've been off today."

"Sorry, sire. I'm fine."

Arthur groaned, standing up.

"Bed, go Merlin. I can put myself to bed. I'll see you in the morning."

Merlin nodded, not saying another word. He left. That was unusual for Merlin; he normally made some rude comment about his prat-ness going to sleep well. He didn't even take the plate back to the kitchens. Arthur groaned, removing his shirt and heading to bed. There was nothing else that he really needed to do tonight. He lay in bed, looking out at the stars glittering in the night sky.

Merlin was a mystery. He'd been acting strange since the dragon had been released. It was almost as if he felt guilty for it. Then there was the situation with the dragonlord. Merlin was clearly upset by his death, but Arthur didn't know why. Balinor was rude and unkind, though Merlin had got along with him quite well. They had talked that night after he fell asleep. He could hear them murmuring, but hadn't caught what they were saying. Merlin was happy the next morning, until the attack.

Also, the boy hadn't been injured by the dragon. Arthur first thought that he'd been hurt when Merlin just stood there, but he turned with a smile on his face, informing him that he'd dealt the dragon a mortal blow. It was strange.

Arthur rolled over in his bed, trying to force the memories from his mind. It could wait until tomorrow.

Sir Leon sat down at the tavern table with his mug of mead, listening to the joyous laughter and talk around him. Sir Graham and Sir Gilder were with him, talking about the poor servant boy that was probably having nightmares about upsetting his highness and spilling his juice on the prince's boots. Arthur would probably smell like sour orange juice in the morning. The tavern was fuller than previous nights. Some of the locals were finally emerging from their houses again, finding safety in drinking with the knights. Leon smiled, enjoying getting a chance to relax, though he was still a little troubled about what he had seen the day before.

"Another one!" a familiar voice shouted.

It was hard to tell who it was over the sound of the men laughing, but Leon definitely knew this person and he wasn't used to hearing their voice in a tavern.

"I think you've had enough for tonight," the bartender was firm, but kind to the speaker.

"I've… not… has enough, just four mugs… delicious!" the voice slurred.

Oh no. Leon slowly turned around and tried to see the person through the crowd. He stood up and moved towards the bar counter. Merlin was holding up his glass, but his hands were shaking as he tried to remain upright. Some of the mead has spilled onto his neckerchief. There was a smudge of dirt across his forehead as if he'd wiped his unclean hand across his brow. The bartender frowned as Merlin.

"Merlin, you don't want me to go get Gaius again," the man said; his voice barely above a whisper.

"Merlin?" Leon spoke.

The young warlock looked over in the knight's direction and it only took one look. The prince's servant was drunk. He'd seen Merlin on extending hunting trips where Arthur had given him a few sips and it made Merlin quite tipsy. The poor guy had had four mugs of Camelot's finest mead. He was wasted. Leon steadied him as he about fell off his stool.

"Sir Leon… fancy me seeing you here!" Merlin announced.

"I think it's time to get you home, Merlin," Leon stated. "Maybe you should give it up for tonight."

Sir Graham and Sir Gilder noticed his conversation and stood up, coming to stand next to their comrade. It wasn't good to have the prince's servant drunk in the tavern.

"Leaning… I mean… Leon… you're such a good friend!" Merlin stumbled and the knight quickly steadied him before he hit his head on the counter.

"Let's get you home, Merlin," Sir Graham added.

"My dad… would have really liked you… good man," the warlock mumbled.

Leon frowned. Had Merlin's dad died recently? He'd never heard any mention of his father, not even when his mother came to ask for protection for their village. His father's death would explain Merlin's sudden taste for mead and in large quantities. He was upset. Arthur probably didn't even know.

"A day… that's all I got with him. Now he's dead. Dead!"

Merlin stumbled again, but this time Leon didn't catch him in time. The group in the tavern cheered as the young man fell to the floor and Sir Leon quickly knelt to help him up. He couldn't seem to get his balance, so the knight threw Merlin's arm over his shoulder. He told the other two knights that they could stay and he would make sure that Merlin made it home alright. The walk through the lower town wasn't exactly quiet; Merlin was mumbling under his breath about something. Leon didn't say anything when he collapsed a few minutes later, unable to walk any further. Leon didn't feel any shame about picking up the servant, noting that he didn't weigh enough and needed to eat more. Since it was late, he didn't see anyone until he reached Gaius's room. He knocked on the door, glancing down at Merlin's face as he remained silent. Gaius quickly opened the door.

"Merlin!" the physician exclaimed. "Sir Leon, please come in. I was just about to go looking for him again."

Leon carried Merlin across the threshold and upstairs to his bedroom, laying him gently down as Gaius pulled the blankets back, and then covered him up.

"How much did he drink?" Gaius asked.

"Too much, he'll probably be sick later."

The older man nodded. The two walked back into the main room, leaving mumbling Merlin to himself. Leon glanced back at the open door, clearly worried about the young man.

"Is it true what Merlin said?" the knight inquired.

"What did he say?"

"He told me that his father died and I am guessing recently, which would explain his behavior. He was mumbling about it as we walked home."

Gaius paused for a moment before answering. "Sadly, yes. He just received word of his father's death and it has upset him quite a bit. Thank you for bringing him home."

"You're welcome. If Merlin needs anyone to talk to, he's welcome to speak with me. My father died not long ago and I know what it is like to lose a father that you barely knew."

"I will let him know."

Gaius let him to the door. Sir Leon paused for a moment before leaving them alone.

"I won't say anything to Prince Arthur, but Merlin should be careful. Servants have been fired for getting drunk and making a fool of themselves. He probably needs to drink less."

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