Disclaimer: The characters and concepts aren't mine, and I am not profiting from them.

This is the first of my New Years' Project oneshots/poems. I'm going to attempt to post at least one piece a day from now until January 31st. It won't be just Merlin stuff, and a lot of it will be more cheerful than this; there's more information on my profile if you're curious.

Cajast: Thanks for betaing and encouraging! It means a lot. :)


"You should try being married sometime, Merlin," Arthur observes, lazily folding his arms behind his head and settling deeper into his pillow with a satisfied smirk.

"Oh?" Merlin busies himself with picking the King's trousers off the floor. The Queen, always more naturally industrious than her husband, is already up and performing her morning inspection of the castle and the town.

"I commend matrimony highly as an institution."

"Yes, Sire. Ermmm…"

"What?"

"Shirt?"

"Oh," Arthur squints at the ceiling for a moment, trying to recall, "…behind the chair. I think."

"Right." Merlin worms one long arm into the darkness behind the armchair and retrieves the crumpled garment.

"Oh, blast," he mutters, examining the damage.

"What?"

"Sire, this is your best formal shirt. It's silk. It won't stand...roughness."

"Roughness?"

"All the buttons are…mysteriously missing."

"They'll be around here someplace." Arthur smiles blissfully at some reminiscence to which Merlin, thankfully, is not privy.

Merlin shakes his head, somewhat amused but mostly exasperated.

"You'd think Gwen would have more consideration for good tailoring."

"She was a bit…distracted, Merlin." Arthur's smile reaches as yet untouched levels of smug.

Merlin rolls his eyes.

"As I was saying," Arthur begins again, tone obnoxiously cheerful, "A wife would be just the thing to settle you down."

"Me, Sire?" He grins in momentary self-deprecation, and Arthur laughs in response.

"Ahh, don't be so hard on yourself. There's bound to be some girl somewhere willing to tolerate you."

"I'm flattered by your kind words, Sire."

"I'm serious, Merlin. Marriage is a beautiful thing. To care for someone else before yourself…to have someone look after you…"

'Look after you…'

Merlin stiffens. Suddenly, he's not listening to Arthur at all. He's seeing candlelight shining on a fragile, beautiful face, and a low, earnest voice is saying 'I'm going to look after you, I promise.' He swallows hard, trying to choke back the memory.

She's been in his mind a lot these past few weeks. He's watched Arthur and Gwen settling into the rhythm of married life, and he'd be lying if he said that he hasn't wondered what it might have been like to fall asleep and awaken with Freya next to him, to hold her hand and feel his ring around her finger. He'd be lying if he said he doesn't like the idea very, very much. He'd be lying if he said that wishing it was possible doesn't hurt.

"There must be some girl who's caught your eye." Arthur is still confidently rambling on, not noticing the look on his manservant's face.

He's not sure he wants anyone else to catch his eye, now or maybe even ever. He's never met anyone quite like Freya, and he thinks that perhaps he never will (Morgana had a trace of the same spark, once, but she is dead to him as Freya can never be). One simple, soft-spoken, sweet-faced druid girl somehow managed to mark him more deeply in a few short days than any of the maidens in Ealdor or the lower town have managed over the course of years. It's been a year since his brief conversation with her reflection in a pool of water, but the memory still affects him more than the uncomfortable moment yesterday when that kitchen maid (the one Gwaine's so smitten with…What's her name? Carrlyn? Caralee? Car-something, he thinks) managed to land a kiss on him. No, he hasn't gotten over her yet, and at times he's not sure that he ever will.

Perhaps, all things considered, that's best; he's a man with a destiny and a secret. How many of the women in Camelot are capable of accepting the news that their sweetheart is a sorcerer? How can he ever marry without trusting his wife with that most central fact about himself? How can he ever father a child in the knowledge that his own magic became obvious in the cradle and that the laws of Camelot still technically permit the execution of any sorcerer? No. As matters stand, the "highly commended" institution is simply not an option.

"Merlin?" Arthur has finally noticed that Merlin isn't responding, "You don't look convinced. Do you just have a burning desire to live as a monk 'till the end of your days, or something?"

"Oh, no. I'm just past my prime, Sire," he says lightly, "I'm really, really happy for you and Gwen, but it's probably too late for an old man like me."

"Old?" Arthur is incredulous, "You're younger than I am, idiot. I know you are!"

"Only on the outside, Sire," Merlin says, and tries hard to make it sound like a joke.


Poor Merlin. :( Tomorrow I'll do something more cheerful, probably in the Doctor Who fandom. I hope you'll join me!

Please review if you enjoyed, or if there's some reason that you didn't enjoy and you think I can improve. It would mean a lot.