Author's Note: I thought it was about time to expand my horizons a little bit. Here's a little drabble, since it's my first time writing for the Merlin fandom. And as a fan of the original Arthurian legends, I recommend it. Historical accuracies be damned (ignoring the fact that there's more than three drastically different accounts of the story of Arthur), it's a really great show. I hope they do a lot more with character dynamic in the coming seasons, since it's mostly been action spam and background building so far.

Here we go.

He had given up so much in the name of destiny.

He abandoned his dignity and became a servant so that he might always be at Arthur's side to protect him from the dangers he never suspected. He surrendered his time to Arthur's whims and chores: mucking the horses, acting as a moving target. He endured the sarcasm, the berating, the lectures, the arrogance and the condescension with minimal complaint (although the snarky retort could not always go unsaid). He sat in the stocks for his prince, his destiny. He never expected a thank you. He abandoned appreciation the day he accepted the destiny set to him by the last great dragon, the one who Merlin thought now wasn't so great.

He had given up so much.

Some days, it didn't seem like much. He still had friendships and leisure. He had Gaius.

But for all that he did, he still had not earned Arthur's trust. He had not earned his friendship or camaraderie. Arthur still hesitated to believe Merlin's word – and refused to apologize when he later discovered the truth.

Merlin had sacrificed ego, pride; although, were those really sacrifices? Compliments were rare. And while Gwen insisted that just made them all the more powerful and important when they were delivered, Merlin often turned in each night feeling deflated and tired from more than just his chores.

He had been a free man before meeting Arthur. And while he technically had all the same rights as any other man living in Camelot, being the servant to a prince was almost like being enslaved by the prince. His movement had to be accounted for; his personal moments had to be stolen away. He missed the ease with which he had moved back home. He missed looking into the eyes of the men of the village and knowing that, regardless of age, they were equals. Equality with Arthur was impossible. Had Merlin expected different? Arthur was destined to bring about great changes to Camelot. Merlin was always being reminded of what a great king he would one day be, if only Merlin could keep him alive long enough for that day to come.

But sometimes, it was hard to see the great king that would come from the spoiled First Knight to whom Merlin waited on from morning to night. They called it an honor. He had another word for it, one Gaius wouldn't approve of.

But, as bitter as he sometimes felt towards Arthur and everything he represented – royalty, destiny, ignorance, danger – he could handle it. At the end of the day, he had chosen to cooperate with the dragon's words. He had chosen not to let Arthur die. He tried to help him even when it wasn't asked of him; he manipulated the battle grounds from the shadows, appearing useless and frail even as he wove his magic into the scene and influenced the outcome. Usually for better, occasionally for worse. Without thanks, without praise. Because that was the path he chose to follow when he found the great dragon beneath Camelot.

And then there was Guinevere.

Arthur didn't know about their kiss, the one they shared in a moment of frenzied passion after Merlin had been brought back from the brink of death. She never spoke of it again, and nor did she. They spoke in exchanged glances, sly smiles, a secret code. Back when she wouldn't defend him when Merlin complained that he was a bully and a jerk. Back when it was Merlin she ran to for help, for aid, for comfort. Back when Merlin thought that maybe, just maybe, he hadn't only found a friend in Guinevere.

But Arthur couldn't just have his destiny. He couldn't have his friendship, his help, his servitude. He had to have Gwen too.

And Merlin would let him, because Gwen believed in Arthur's future as much as Merlin had to. Because Gwen was good and strong and loving and was the only one who could shake Arthur out of his stubborn ways and make him see the path to change. She was the only way the new order could come to rise.

But why, why did it always have to be him that gave everything away?

What would be left of him when he'd seen his destiny through? A shell of an old man like the one he'd seen in the potion, one with nothing to call his own because everything had been given away in the name of Arthur's future reign.

Why did destiny demand so much?