Arthur barged into his manservant's tiny room. The door slammed shut waking him up. Merlin sat up and rubbed his eyes. Sunlight streamed in from a small window, giving him a halo-like glow. Merlin's hair was rumpled and his shirt was slung sideways on his slim frame, revealing a pale bare shoulder.
The prince's breath caught in his throat as his eyes beheld his servant. Arthur swallowed hard and forced himself to turn away.
"For god's sake Merlin, get up and put some clothes on," he snapped tersely. Arthur spun on his heel and marched out.
Still groggy from sleep, Merlin shrugged and got to his feet slowly to get dressed.
Outside, in Gaius' workspace, Arthur sat down slowly onto a rough wooden bench. His face was still slightly flushed and his heartbeat racing. Why was he reacting this way? He didn't care about Merlin, he's just a servant. Why did he get a tingly feeling inside when his manservant smiled impishly or fixed him with that blue stare? For a moment, Arthur had wanted to reach out and touch Merlin, to protect him from harm. His manservant had looked so innocent, so frail. He never wanted anybody to lay even a finger on Merlin because-
"He's mine," Arthur whispered out loud.
The prince whipped his head around to find his manservant entering the larger room. He yawned, his mouth forming a perfect 'o'. Then Merlin busied himself with consuming the unappetizing gray glop that Gaius considered porridge.
"Nothing that you'd understand."
Used to this air of superiority, Merlin continued mechanically eating his breakfast.
Arthur mentally shook himself. There was nothing and would never be anything between him and Merlin. He couldn't believe the nerve of that idiot, damn him for looking so appealing. What he needed was some space, a break from his manservant to clear his mind and hopefully get Merlin out of it. It was unbelievable how often he had been running through Arthur's mind every waking moment.
"Merlin I need to talk to you."
Arthur knew that if he met those clear sapphire eyes, his resolve would be crushed. So the prince kept his vision glued to a knot in the wood of the bench he was perched on.
"I won't be needing a manservant for the next few weeks. Therefore, I am giving you an indefinite holiday."
"Are you dismissing me?" Merlin demanded.
"I swear I won't be late again-"
"I can get along fine without you." Arthur winced. He hadn't meant for it to come out so harsh.
"But- I- "
The prince could just picture in his mind's eye Merlin spluttering indignantly. Dark brows raised, bow-shaped lips slightly parted in confusion, pale head cocked slightly to the side. Arthur felt his will faltering but pushed on.
"You could help out Guinevere for a while and spend more time with Gaius. I can manage myself."
"Yes Arth- yes my lord. " That stung. Arthur knew Merlin had never bothered with formalities before. "Since you don't seem to need me anymore, I will go find a master who does," he snapped.
The servant stalked out, leaving the prince alone with his thoughts.
What had he just done? Arthur couldn't believe himself and was beginning to regret his actions. He swore he would never harm his manservant but Merlin must be hurting inside from being sent away like that. Merlin must hate me right now.