See No Arthur, Hear No Arthur...
Summary: Arthur is cursed and becomes invisible to the whole of Camelot – no one can hear or see him, except, of course, for Merlin.
Timeline: Set in season 2
Spoilers: Up to and including season 2
A/N: I've had Merlin on the brain lately and I had this story planned out and ready to write last year but I just never got around to it. So now I'm finally writing it up. It's a short story, only my second Merlin fanfic, and will be about four or five chapters. I hope you enjoy it!
It was Merlin's fault really.
Or so Arthur was convincing himself as he woke to find his rooms lacking a certain manservant.
Lord Kenward and his son, something or other, had arrived the day before for a brief visit and so naturally, a feast had been held in their honour. As with all feasts, there was lots of drinking and eating and making small talk with the esteemed guests. It was boring and tedious and Lord Kenward's son – God, what was his name? – was more of a girl than Merlin was. And that was saying something as no one was more of a girl than Merlin, not even Morgana was.
Mind lost in thought, Arthur pulled himself up and detangled his body from the sheets on his bed before scrubbing a hand over his face to force away the last few remnants of sleep.
The only thing that could have possibly provided any entertainment for Arthur the night before would have been watching Merlin make a fool of himself. But the idiot had been coughing and spluttering all day so Arthur had dismissed him. After all, they wanted to impress Kenward and what's-his-face, not give them the plague.
And yet, inept as Merlin was, had he been there then maybe Arthur would have stood a chance when Kenward's son had tripped and taken Arthur with him. Because, apparently, as well as being more of a girl than Merlin, he was more of a klutz too. A klutz who had gotten his sleeve tangled with Arthur's crown – while it was still on his head! Oh, Morgana though the whole thing was hilarious and had proceeded to fawn over the damn brat for the rest of the night.
With a low growl, Arthur rubbed at the spot on his head that still ached after the incident. If anyone should have been fawned over, it should have been him. He was the one who had been injured after all. But no, Morgana had made it her sole purpose in life to annoy Arthur any chance she could.
The whole night had been one big disaster, he thought idly as he looked toward his discarded clothes, stained with wine. Merlin's replacement, who reminded Arthur a little of a horse, had spilled wine down Arthur's front. Merlin was a careless idiot but even he knew that would earn him a day or three in the stocks. Yet, Arthur had controlled his temper because Lord Kenward was an old friend of his father's and had come bearing gifts. What Arthur was meant to do with the unsightly medallion he had received, he had no idea because he certainly wasn't going to wear it after the damn feast.
He sighed and grabbed his trousers and a clean shirt, sparing a glance at his reflection in the window. He was perfectly visible, at least to himself. And yet, last night, it seemed as though he wasn't to others.
His goblet had been running dry and the servant that was meant to be serving him, the horse one, was, instead, wandering the hall with a forlorn and almost lost expression firmly in place. To make matters worse, it seemed every other servant had been intent on ignoring him for the rest of the evening also. He suspected it had something to do with Morgana. It was the type of childish, Morgana-ish thing she would do.
By the time he noticed it wasn't just the servants ignoring him but the knights, the guests and his father, he began to suspect magic. He had waved his hand in front of Sir Bedivere's face – twice – and suggested rather appalling things about Morgana several times without receiving a single reprimand from his father or even the slightest of sneers from Morgana.
It was well before the end of the feast that he excused himself, though he doubted anyone noticed him leave.
But standing there, pulling on his shirt and staring out across the ground below him – he didn't feel particularly see-through. Maybe it had all been a dream, a result of too much drink and too few sniping remarks from Merlin.
Now dressed, Arthur reached for his belt and was on with tightening it when the useless idiot burst through the doors, grinning madly as he managed to keep the sausages from rolling off the plate he was carrying.
"Well, it's about time," Arthur grumbled under his breath, taking a seat on his bed and dragging his boots toward him. Even though he was half convinced that Merlin would ignore him and give him the same treatment he had received last night, it had become second nature to taunt the servant.
Merlin said nothing and set the plate down on the table before moving to grab the half filled jug from beside Arthur's bed.
"And here's another one," Arthur growled out in frustration, pushing himself up from the bed to pace the floor before it.
"Good morning to you too, Sire," Merlin answered, and Arthur turned to see his manservant pause in his movements to quirk an eyebrow.
"Merlin?" Arthur asked, cautious.
Merlin frowned, confusion clear in his features and tone. "Yes, Arthur?"
"You can see me..."
At that, Merlin's lips twitched and his eyes lit up with amusement. "I should think so. No one could miss an ego as big as yours."
Arthur's own lips twitched, but not with amusement, a sardonic smile forming across them as he reached out to the table to grab a goblet placed there. In one swift movement, he sent it flying in Merlin's direction, the manservant only just managing to duck out of the way. It landed with clatter somewhere near Merlin's feet.
"Did anyone ever tell you," Merlin started, bending to pick the goblet up from the floor, "that you have a really bad tempter?"
A sneer took hold of Arthur's features and he reached out to the table once more, his fingers tightening around a candlestick. Before he could take aim and throw the heavy object in Merlin's direction though, a knock echoed through his room and drew his attention away from the violence on his mind.
"Sire!" a voice called out and Arthur let go of the candlestick, using his hand instead to motion for Merlin to open to door.
For all his backtalk and witless remarks, Merlin didn't argue and did as he was told. He opened the door and beckoned the knight into the room. Sir Leon, one of Arthur's most trustworthy knights. He entered the room and came to a stop several feet away from the door, his gaze roaming idly around about the place.
"Yes?" Arthur asked, raising an expectant eyebrow at the knight.
But instead of answering him, Sir Leon frowned and turned his attention toward Merlin. "Where is Prince Arthur?"
"He's..." Merlin started, his eyes flickering between Leon and Arthur, a light frown tugging at his lips as his brow burrowed. His hand stilled, halfway between motioning toward Arthur and from falling to his side. "He's gone out..."
Leon raised both his eyebrows, awaiting Merlin to go on and when the servant didn't, he enquired further. "Where to?"
Tight lipped, Merlin shook his head and offered up a shrug.
"When he returns, please inform him that the king requests his presence in the council room," Leon continued on.
Merlin nodded and Leon let go of a sigh. After taking in the room with his eyes once more, he turned and made his leave. Merlin followed and closed the door behind him before turning to Arthur and hitching a thumb over his shoulder.
"What was that about?" he asked, taking a step forward.
"That is precisely what I would like to know," Arthur answered, his own brow burrowed, suspicious as he moved away from the table. His eyes remained on the door as he began to wonder.
"He looked right through you!" Merlin continued.
Cocking his head to the side, Arthur raised an eyebrow at Merlin. "Yes, thank you, Merlin, I hadn't quite noticed that."
"And you're not even a tiny bit concerned that he was acting as if he couldn't see you?"
"Of course, I am, Merlin. Just because I'm not blathering on about it like you doesn't mean I'm not." Arthur shook his head and moved to grab his coat. "It's just like last night."
"Last night?" Merlin's eyes narrowed on Arthur, questioning.
"Yes, last night, Merlin. The feast. The one you failed to attend because you were too busy trying to bring down the kingdom with that plague of yours."
Lips screwing up, Merlin's narrowed eyes weren't so much questioning anymore as they were a glare. "And here I thought you gave me the night off because you cared. But nooo, you just gave me it off so you could complain about it now, didn't you?"
Arthur didn't answer. He merely rolled his eyes and pulled his coat on. Continuing in his silence, he moved to his bedroom door and heard Merlin's footsteps follow as he continued out into the halls.
"Where are you going?" the servant questioned.
"Where do you think I'm going?" Arthur asked in return. "My father requests my presence."
"And you're going?"
"Merlin, you may know nothing of following orders but I do. When the king makes an order, his knights must follow that order. I must. Even if that order is simply to make myself present in the council chambers."
Merlin trailing behind, Arthur continued on, rounding a corner and bumping into the servant girl just beyond. She stumbled and the sheets she carried were dropped to the floor. But Arthur received no glare, no usual apology for clumsiness. He received nothing. Merlin, however, despite bending down and picking up the sheets for the girl, received both a glare and an angered 'humph' before she scuttled away again.
"You don't find that strange?" Merlin asked, catching up with Arthur and coming to walk beside him, matching his lengthy strides.
"I don't find what strange, Merlin?" Arthur asked in return, voice dry, bored.
"That servant, she didn't so much as glance at you."
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "What are you getting at Merlin?"
"First Sir Leon, now her..." But Merlin's voice trailed off as they approached the doors to the council chamber.
Arthur came to a stop just in front of the doors and waited for the guards to open them. One stood either side, staring straight ahead, neither making any attempt to move. Arthur cleared his throat. Still they didn't move. So he cleared it again, louder and more impatient. Then Merlin slid up to stand beside him and cleared his throat.
"I have a message for the king, regarding Prince Arthur," Merlin announced.
The guards looked to him with wary eyes but motioned for him to go on ahead. As Arthur followed him through the doors and into the room, he had to admit, he was becoming increasingly frustrated by the whole thing. But Merlin could see him. Merlin could hear him. Which meant, it was only the incompetent that could.
The pair came to a stop short of Uther and Arthur took another step forward, studying his father's features. The king paid him no attention, his eyes focused on Merlin, an eyebrow raised in question.
"What is it, Boy?" Uther asked.
Merlin looked to Arthur then back to Uther, his mouth opening and closing uselessly.
"Well, speak up," Uther demanded, "What of my son?"
"He's gone hunting!" Merlin answered after a moment's hesitation, a strained smile forming on his face. "Yep, hunting. He could be gone for several days."
"Yes," Merlin answered, faltering only a little, "he said... he said he wanted the honour of catching a prize stag himself."
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Do you really think my father, the King of Camelot, is going to believe that?"
"Right in the middle of Lord Kenward's visit?" Uther went on to ask.
Arthur motioned toward his father, his eyes on Merlin, eyebrows raised to say 'I told you so' but what he actually said was simply, "See."
"It's to be a gift!" Merlin continued, undeterred. "For the Lord and his son."
"A gift, Merlin?" Arthur questioned, shaking his head. "You might as well have told him I was out picking flowers for Morgana. He might have believed you more."
Uther remained silent for a moment though, a light frown tugging at his lips as his brow pulled down at the centre. Then he nodded. "Very well," he answered, waving a dismissive hand toward Merlin, his gaze returning to the papers in front of him. "You may return to your duties."
Merlin bowed his head and turned on the spot to head toward the doors. It took Arthur a moment to catch up, still staring slightly slack jawed at his father and wondering just why he believed such a ridiculous lie. When he made it back out into the halls, following Merlin until he stopped out of earshot of the guards, he let go of an irritated growl.
"Why in the heavens, Merlin," Arthur started, stopping in his tracks and turning on his manservant, "did you tell him that?"
"In case you hadn't noticed, Sire," Merlin answered, "you're invisible. I had to tell him something!"
"How can I be invisible? You can see me!"
A small smile twitched at Merlin's lips, his eyes roaming the halls but focusing on nothing in particular. "Maybe I can't see you," he teased. "Maybe you're just a figment of my imagination brought on by my 'plague'."
Arthur glared at him, hard. "The only ailment you have, Merlin, is one of the mind and that has nothing to do with the fact that nobody else can see me. So obviously, everyone else has fallen under some kind of spell that prevents them from seeing or hearing me. Somehow, you evaded the spell and so you're unaffected."
Merlin raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "Yes, obviously it's everyone else that's affected."
"Well, do you have a better idea?"
"Yes, actually!" Merlin answered, cheery and bright as he span on his heel and began to walk away.
Arthur trailed after him. "And?"
"And I'm going to talk to Gaius." Then Merlin paused, both in speech and in movement. When he regarded Arthur, it was with hesitation. "You should probably go to your rooms and stay out of trouble."
"Is that an order, Merlin?" Arthur mocked in return, raising an eyebrow at his servant.
"No," Merlin answered, but he was already moving away again, leaving Arthur to stand alone in the halls, "more like a suggestion."
It took Arthur mere moments to decide to follow.
Merlin all but ran the whole way to Gaius' chambers. It was still early enough for the halls to be empty which allowed Merlin to move quickly without knocking anyone over, though there was the servant girl he nearly sent flying after turning a corner a little too fast. But she regained her balance, glared at him, and he rushed away again. He guessed it must have been the same one Arthur had knocked earlier by the severity of her glare.
"Gaius!" he called, throwing the door open and pushing himself into the old physician's room. His gaze found Gaius immediately, the man hunched over a table attending to some herbs. "We have a problem."
Gaius let go of a long breath and turned away from his herbs to consider Merlin, his features weary. "What now, Merlin?"
"Arthur is invisible..." Merlin answered before pausing to consider his next words carefully, tossing and turning several over in his mind before deciding on the right ones. "Only, he's not. I can still see him, it's just no one else can."
Gaius pushed out another breath, his shoulders slumping. "What have you done this time?"
Merlin opened his mouth and closed it again before moving further into the room toward Gaius. "You know, I should be offended by that. I haven't done anything."
"Yet," came a voice from the doorway, an arrogant, full of itself type of voice. "I swear, one of these days I expect your incompetence will be the thing to get me killed."
Merlin swung toward the voice, finding himself face to face with Arthur. "I'll have you know, if it wasn't for me, you would have been dead long back."
"I doubt I would have died from a lack of clean socks, Merlin," Arthur answered, moving further into the room until he came to rest on the corner of a table, staring out across at Merlin.
Merlin just grumbled under his breath but didn't rise to the bait. "Why are you here? Why didn't you go back to your room?"
"I'm not ill, Merlin, so I hardly think I need to be confined to my room and as it seems you're the only one who can see me, it appears you're stuck with me."
"Merlin?" Gaius asked, tone cautious. His voice drew Merlin's attention back to him and the look of worry and curiosity on the old man's face.
Merlin sighed and motioned both arms toward Arthur. "See?"
"No, Merlin," Gauis answered, "I'm afraid I do not see."
To that, Merlin pointed toward Gaius, triumphant. "Exactly. No one can."
Gaius' gaze came to rest upon the spot Arthur inhabited but it didn't remain still, constantly roaming the table as if trying to find something, as if trying to locate Arthur himself. "If what you say is true, then there can be only one explanation – magic. For now, we must keep this quiet. If anyone were to find out, there would surely be panic and suspicion."
"Not exactly the impression we were hoping to give Lord Kenward and his son," Arthur supplied.
Merlin opened his mouth and closed it again before deciding on what to say. "You mean I have to put up with him following me around until we figure this out?"
"Is that a problem, Merlin?" Arthur asked, false smile in place as he raised his eyebrow.
Merlin offered up his own false smile. "No, Sire, not at all."
Thank you for reading! More to come soon...