In other words I felt a little sorry for Merlin in ep 4, since he never seemed to get any food, or consideration and I decided to sort the knights out. Although this is not necessarily set in that episode. Lancelot is absent though, 'cos he'd make sure Merlin got his dinner...
Merlin came back carrying the water skins and he stopped dead, glaring at Gwaine, who suddenly seemed to turn at the red hot stare.
"That was my dinner you've just eaten."
"Well, I just found it, there's more still in the pot," Gwaine said, he turned and looked around. The pot was no longer over the fire, instead Percival was digging his spoon into it. He looked up and clutched the cooking pot, eyes widening as his gaze drifted down into it.
"Great," Merlin said.
"Well, I'm sure you can find something," Arthur said. "You shouldn't hide it, you know Gwaine will always be nosy."
"Yeah, like you were this morning, Sire, eating my breakfast, and Leon was yesterday eating my dinner and Percival was yesterday eating my breakfast and my dinner the night before. In fact, aside from the two apples I got each lunchtime I haven't eaten since breakfast two days ago!"
"Merlin, I think we need more firewood," Leon said, oblivious to the conversation as he poked the fire.
"Do you really?"
Leon looked up, eyes almost innocent. "Yes."
Merlin reached down and picked up a nearby branch, it was only a short thing, but it did the job as he suddenly hurled it; anger, and a little magic, put his aim spot on, so it hit Leon right between the eyes. It sent him abruptly off the log he was using as a seat onto his backside.
"Get up and get it yourself!" Merlin hollered. "For heaven's sake are you that incompetent!"
"NO!" Merlin bellowed cutting Gwaine off before could get started. "You can't just eat my food, expect me to clear up after you, get firewood and then…" Merlin gestured. "I have to hide my own share, and you don't even have the decency to think why! Just do it all yourself!"
Merlin turned and disappeared off into the forest. He would do something he would regret if he stayed. The rest of them looked around. Gwaine looked down at the bowl, which he had rooted out by Merlin's pack, looking for something else. He stepped back slowly before carefully putting down the bowl and backing up, moving away from it as if it might also suddenly start yelling at him. Percival put the cooking pot down, in the direction of the fire, easing away from it in the same way, chewing on his lower lip before he looked around at the others. Both of them clearly trying to extract themselves from the crime.
"We do need more wood," Elyan said.
They all looked around again, avoiding each others gaze but then each set of eyes, carefully, and slowly, turned in Arthur's direction. Arthur looked back, trying to purvey an air of innocence.
"He never said anything to me."
"He's your servant," Leon said.
"Didn't you notice?" Gwaine asked.
"You're his friend," Percival said to Gwaine.
"And what the hell are you?" Gwaine asked.
"Guys, maybe we should get the firewood," Elyan said.
The knights mumbled.
"Perhaps we should wash up too."
"Well done, Percival," Gwaine said, yelping as he was grabbed by his hair.
"You can help."
"How does Merlin do this?" Leon asked as he tried to get the fire going. "Elyan you're a blacksmith, make fire."
"How do you clean these things?" Percival asked.
"I just thought we licked them out," Gwaine said.
"Do you do that to your socks?" Leon asked him, to much swearing by Gwaine.
"Guys," Elyan said, looking around into the dark. "Shouldn't Merlin have come back by now?"
"Yes, Merlin!" Arthur yelled. They all paused and there was no answer.
"Take a torch and spread out, we need to find him."
With varying degrees of success they found a way to light torches and then headed out. Percival found him, swiftly, because Merlin hadn't gone far. He was tucked up in the hollow made by the roots of a tree, sleeping. Percival whistled to draw the others, and as Elyan was the first to show up he handed him the torch he was holding, so he could pick Merlin up. He didn't even stir as Percival slid an arm around his back and the other under his legs to lift Merlin off the ground.
"Is he all right?" Arthur asked, running up.
"Sleeping," Percival said, tucking a sleeping Merlin to his chest. Arthur watched that and frowned.
"Bring him back then, where's his bed roll?"
Reaching the camp they found it a little away from the fire, because they had set their own out and it made no room for Merlin. Arthur was the fastest of them, he yanked his bedroll clear and gathered up Merlin's.
"Put him here, I'm fine there," Arthur said gallantly, smoothing out his bedding and then poking it. "There wasn't a lump there before, how does Merlin do this?" Arthur asked dragging the sheets about to spread out Merlin's bedroll. Percival knelt down and deposited Merlin, who didn't even stir. Arthur tucked the bedding around him, and Elyan asked.
"Did he get anything to eat?"
"Maybe we should do breakfast," Percival said.
Merlin opened his eyes, and looked at the fire. He felt warm, he felt fine and he was quite sure he hadn't come back of his own accord. Surely Arthur hadn't knocked him out. Merlin blinked again and said.
"Do it like that and you'll burn it."
"Like what?" Percival asked, Gwaine punched his arm, which made no impression.
"Onto a hot pan like that, take it off the heat, hang on," Merlin pushed away the bedding and sat up, yawning and rubbing his eyes.
"We can do it!" Gwaine said almost reaching out and then pausing. Considering the bandage on his hand Merlin guessed that Gwaine had already learnt that lesson.
"I can do it," Percival said calmly, using a cloth to remove the pan and he put it down, holding up the strip of meat. "Now?"
"No, it will still burn," Merlin said sitting up. He reached out and put his hand over the pan, waiting a moment. "Now, and slowly reintroduce it to the heat."
"How do you do that?" Percival asked.
"Better firewood would help," Merlin said.
"I brought some more, is it not right?" Leon asked dumping the wood.
"It's damp, and you need some thick bits of wood to make it smoulder and last. Look I can do it."
"No you can't."
"Don't be an idiot Arthur, yes I can."
"You passed out last night."
"I don't remember I was tired."
"So, we can do this."
"NO, you can't. Take that off the heat again! That wood is never going to work! And, who the hell cleaned this?"
Eyes swivelled in Percival's direction.
"I tried rubbing at it."
"Put a bit of salt in, let it soak, that will help lift it," Merlin said. "For heavens sake, let me clean that before it becomes unsalvageable."
Percival handed it over. "Sorry, I didn't mean to."
"I brought water," Arthur said holding out the waterskin.
"At least you can't go far wrong with that," Merlin said opening the top and then asking. "And you've all washed in the stream this morning."
"Yes," Arthur said. Merlin glared up at him.
"Then it's a good idea to collect water to drink up-stream of that area, not down from it. Do you not know these basics? Since we have a lifetime of military experience," Merlin said, looking at Arthur, then he glanced at Gwaine. "Or used to travelling around the place, or just…" he looked around the rest of them. "Common sense?"
"Erm, we're not idiots," Elyan said.
"But we're sorry, and we're trying to make you breakfast," Gwaine said.
"Badly," Percival confessed looking at the cooking meat.
Merlin struggled out of his bedding. "Oh come on, I don't mind doing it, I would just like to get my own food at the end of the day, instead of you lot being…"
"Rude?" Leon offered.
"Greedy?" Percival said, nudging Gwaine.
"Rubbish at making fires," Elyan asked, sounding rather baffled.
"Inconsiderate, I think, is the word," Arthur said.
Merlin turned to glare at him. "Inconsiderate…" Merlin mused, hanging on the word, until Arthur backed it up, sounding rather resigned as he confessed to it.