Chapter One: Arthur

The first time Merlin met Arthur Pendragon, he hated him.

This wasn't one of those times where, when looked back upon after the years have had time to soften the feelings of their first and second meetings, he would change 'hated' to 'dislike', because 'hate' seemed like too strong a word; no, his first impression of Arthur was of a spoiled brat that was using the fact that he was the King's son to bully a poor servant and Merlin had always hated people like that... so, his first impression of Arthur made him immediately hate the man.

Hearing he was suppose to help and serve the prat from the Great Dragon later on really wasn't one of his favorite memories-to begin with-either... Now, it just made him chuckle a little at how viciously he refuted the Dragon's claim that they were 'two sides of the same coin' and that together they would create the great land of Albion... At that moment, all Merlin could think about was creating a big enough lump on Arthur head that the arse had trouble sleeping because of it.

Saving Arthur from Molly Jenkins later had been automatic-just because he hated the guy didn't mean that he wanted the prat killed in front of him-and for a second Merlin thought that maybe he wouldn't have to deal with Arthur after that; he did what he was suppose to, he saved him, and maybe now he could just focus on learning about his magic and keeping out of trouble... All of his hopes were dashed as soon as the King pronounces him Arthur's manservant and the only thing that keeps him from using magic right there to hit the King upside the head and kill himself is the fact that Arthur looks just as upset about the 'reward' as he does.

Turns out that his first impression of Arthur is true to form; the Prince acts as much a prat in private as in public, gives Merlin a close-to-impossible list of chores to do, adding on more whenever the mood struck him, and the lecture from Gaius that Arthur is under his own kind of stress makes Merlin almost snort in disbelief. What kind of stress could a Prince-a man royal enough to get nearly anything he could ever want and not have to answer to any consequences for it-possibly have?

When he finds out about Valiant and the fact that he's using sorcery to win, Merlin is shocked that the man would do something so suicidal in Camelot when every time he has to use his own magic sends a cold shiver down his neck at how close he is to losing it. Upon telling Arthur and having the Prince of Camelot believe him, a mere servant, shocks him so much that it feels like his heart is going to explode for the few seconds it lasts before the fact that he is a mere servant and therefore has as much clout as a lump of dirt gets shoved in his face, angering Arthur in the process which causes him to fire Merlin from his job.

After all this time, Merlin still isn't sure what makes him still help Arthur; he could claim he was acting out what Killgarrah called his 'destiny', could claim that while Arthur was still a prat, he was his Prince and Merlin couldn't let an assassination attempt go by unnoticed, but none of those reasons sound right or really fit to what Merlin was feeling in during those mad hours he was practicing that spell over and over until he finally got it down and the dog came to life... It was more that he had to protect Arthur, prove that he wasn't a liar, and make sure the man that drove him crazy every single day lived to drive him crazy tomorrow.

It was a confusing feeling, one he really couldn't describe, even now that he's had time to think it over...

The years that follow that have them growing into a... well, it isn't a friendship as normal people would define it-Arthur's father would probably skin Merlin alive if he ever heard the hidden sorcerer refer to Arthur as his 'friend'-but it as close as they can possibly get with all the class issues and hidden secrets piled up between them. There are times when one or the other makes a reference to the fact that, if Arthur wasn't a Prince or if Merlin wasn't a servant, the two of them would be friends and that gives Merlin hope that when he finally pulls the last of the secrets dividing them down, Arthur really will consider them equal and not freak out too badly when he finds out that he's been harboring a sorcerer for close to seven years...

It's strange how his thoughts can go from hating the man to having his opinion matter over what everyone else might think...

Even if that man is Arthur.

-0-0-0-

A/N: Unfortunately, this is not an update for Knights and Ladies, or any of the other works that are clogging up my computer, demanding to be written. It would be funny how every time I want to write something, everything else in creation pops in my head or RL keeps me from writing if it didn't piss me off so much... Hopefully, this will keep the plot bunnies away and let me work on the multitude of stories vising for my attention...

As always, please read and review!