A/N: I don't own Merlin.

This is my first fic, so I apologize for any errors. Please point them out and I will do my best to correct them. For the story: There will be whump and angst; but no slash, just bromance. It takes place between seasons 2 and 3.

The fire leapt higher and danced in an alluring way. The music seemed to fuel it, and he could no longer tell what he was thinking or doing. All that he saw was the fire, and all that he heard was the haunting music, filling his senses and dulling his thoughts. He could think of nothing else.

One Day Earlier

"MERLIN!" Arthur drew out the name as he shouted for his manservant.

"I'm coming, you don't have to yell that loud." Merlin said, miming popping his eardrums. "We're not all as deaf as certain royal prats."

"What did you say?" Arthur stopped walking to turn to Merlin, daring him to repeat himself.

"Exactly my point" Merlin pointed out with a grin on his face, then ducked around Arthur into the stables as he dodged the friendly punch aimed at his shoulder.

Arthur let out a sigh as he followed Merlin into the stables. He did give Merlin the perfect opening for that comeback, and was frustrated he did not have a comeback. "I need you to make sure that everything is ready for the hunt. You know it is not often my father comes with us and I do not want anything to mess this up. Understand?" He glared at Merlin as if Merlin was the 'anything' he had mentioned.

"I got it, I got it...I'll be careful. So I guess that means armor polished, food packed, hunting supplies gathered, the usual?" The sarcastic tone merlin had as he listed off the items made Arthur struggle not to laugh as he replied. "Don't forget mucking out the stables...I know it's your favorite chore, and I wouldn't want to deprive you of your enjoyment." Merlin's grin faltered for a minute, then reappeared. "True, it is better than some chores...at least it doesn't smell as bad as your laundry."

"Shut up, Merlin. I have to go meet my father now, I expect you to come up and help me get ready for dinner tonight with Morgana and my father."

"Yes, Sire." Merlin said with a grin playing around his eyes. He knew he had won this round of banter.

"Very good. I'll see you then." Arthur faintly returned the smile as he left the stables, letting Merlin turn with a sigh to his chores.

Dinner that night was uneventful, and the conversation flittered around crops, tournaments, and rumors of sorcery. The majority of the conversation though, was about the hunt the next day: which knights would attend, where the hunt would take place, and what time to leave. The usual details being all worked out, Arthur excused himself from the table, motioning for Merlin to follow him.

"Is everything ready for tomorrow?" Arthur asked as Merlin jogged to keep up with his long strides, "I want no mistakes. Sir Leon, Belfort, Montague, and Radgear will be accompanying us. Make sure you pack enough lunch for everyone. We should be back to the castle before nightfall, so no need to pack our sleeping rolls. I will ride Ignis tomorrow, make sure he is ready. Also, make –"

"Arthur, I know. We have been on how many hunts already? I will get everything ready. Ignis had new shoes applied this week, and he is in great condition. The tack is all ready…well, aImost all of it is ready, but I will finish it tonight." Merlin was glad he had already finished most of the things he had to do. Arthur was always nervous when the King was accompanying them. "I already talked to the kitchens about making lunches, and will pick them up in the morning, and the stable hands know to get the other horses ready. Everything will be fine." He finished saying this as they walked into Arthur's room, and Merlin began setting out his clothes for the night and the next day.

Arthur looked bothered by the interruption, but then sighed and sat heavily on the bed, running his hands through his hair. "Fine. You seem to actually be half-decent at your job today, I am glad to hear. Let's just hope it carries through tomorrow. I do not want to be late tomorrow morning, so make sure you wake me up before dawn." He finished off his sentence with a pointed glare, and Merlin straightened up from preparing the bed. "Of course, sire. Bright and early. Although, I assume if it is before dawn, it will not be so bright. I might have to come up with a different way to wake you up. Rise and shine will not work if not even the sun is shining. Up and at 'em, Lazy Daisy perhaps?"

"Merlin." Arthur growled,

"Of course, here I am rambling on when you need your beauty sleep. Will there be anything else, Sire?"

"No. Just be here on time, with everything ready."

"Of course, sire." Merlin bowed very deep as he left the room, sighed, and went toward the stables to finish preparing the tack before going to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.