Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. T for language.
Merlin is not used to being idle.
He is used to sprinting around the castle and surrounding villages, doing errands for Gaius. He is collecting herbs before dawn, dropping off tonics throughout the citadel. He is used doing chores for Arthur, such as laundry and armor-cleaning and mucking out stables. Even in Ealdor he worked tirelessly in one way or another (although he was able to use magic to help him).
Merlin does not like this sudden stillness, this act of doing perfectly nothing. He likes a break now and again, yes, but remaining unmoving causes him to fidget; he needs to be doing something.
Despite his constant whining and claims of boredom, Gaius is steadfast.
"If you disrupt the healing process you will successfully mangle your wrist," he had firmly said. "If you intend to keep your job, you need the use of your wrist, Merlin. Just rest up for a few days."
It's been three days since he returned, he can't do this any more. His concussion is gone (well, at least the dry-heaves have stopped and the dizziness has worn off) and the pain in his arm has been reduced to a background throbbing, due to Gaius's foul tasting potion. Merlin is almost certain that he can find something to do that only involves the use of one wrist.
So, when Gaius leaves to do his midday rounds, Merlin slips out of bed. He doesn't see how he can change his shirt with his arm in a sling so he settles for changing into a new pair of breeches. He struggles with the fasteners on his boots for a few minutes, but manages to get those done up as well.
Laundry, he thinks, closing the door behind him. He can fold a few shirts with the use of just one arm, easily. It's simple, menial, and will keep him out of Gaius's hair for a few hours. Merlin picks up the prince's clean clothes from the laundresses, balancing the basket on his hip as he walks. He nearly loses his grip on it several times.
Arthur isn't in his room when Merlin enters. Merlin figures he's at a council meeting or training or something. He leaves the laundry behind in the room and goes down to the kitchens to pick up Arthur's lunch.
The member of the kitchen staff who hands him the plate looks at Merlin dubiously, as though he knows there is a little chance of the plate getting back to the prince intact. His eyes linger on the bandaged arm but he relinquishes the food anyway.
The staff member was right, of course. Merlin stumbles on the stairs and drops the plate, his eyes flashing gold just before it hits the floor. He quickly scoops it up and looks around wildly, but no one is around to see him. He continues back to the prince's room, heart pounding.
Arthur is waiting for him when he comes back. Posture straight, hands behind his back, he stands beside the table where the basket of clean clothes rests. Merlin starts when he sees him, breath catching in his throat and plate wobbling slightly in his grip.
"Merlin," Arthur says.
"Sire," Merlin inclines his head a bit.
"What exactly are you doing here?"
Merlin swallows. "Laundry?" If he had a free hand, he would use it to gesture. "I brought you lunch." The corners of his mouth quirk up slightly.
Arthur frowns. "I noticed." He continues. "Gaius said it was alright for you to work, then?"
"Lying would be a very poor choice."
"...Not exactly, no, he didn't."
"Then I'll ask again, since you do seem to be mentally deficient: what are you doing here?"
"I was bored," Merlin exclaims sharply. "I can't stand stand being inactive for too long. I get restless." He shifts where he stands as to prove a point. "It's been three days."
"I told you not to come back until you're healed."
"That could take months!" Merlin protests.
"Are you worried that I'll replace you?"
Merlin looks down. "Yeah, a bit," he admits. "I mean, I do happen to like my job."
"Yeah, believe it or not. I have no idea why. Perhaps I'm indeed going insane."
Arthur softens just a touch. "Broken bones are serious, you know," he lectures.
"Sit." Arthur points to a chair beside the table.
"My legs aren't broken."
Merlin places the plate of food on the opposite end of the table and takes a seat, pulling the basket of clothes closer to him. Arthur just shakes his head and drops into the other chair. He picks at his food and watches Merlin clumsily fold a pair of pants.
"I don't think I've ever met a servant who's ever wanted to go back to work. You are truly different, Merlin."
Merlin grins. "You have no idea."
Arthur gives him a bit of an odd look and Merlin drops his head, focusing on the clothes in front of him.
"What... er... any word on the sorcerer we encountered in the, ah, forest?"
Arthur chews. "Dead."
The prince nods. "Caught by patrol the day before yesterday. Was gonna take him back for a trial, but he had other plans." Arthur catches Merlin staring.
Merlin clears his throat. "I wasn't aware."
"I believe you were still unconscious at that point."
"Oh." Merlin fingers a patch of neat stitches on one of the prince's shirts. "Right."
"He was a sorcerer, Merlin. He used magic. He broke the law."
"Yes, I'm aware of the law, thank you, Arthur."
The prince looks closely at Merlin who appears to be engrossed in perfecting the folds on a shirt. His odd manservant who––and he would deny this––had been missed sorely in the past few days. Other servants served him, sure, but they were all void of personality, all "yes sire" and "no sire" and "I'll see to it immediately, sire". He was glad to have Merlin back.
"You're still useless."
Merlin sighs. "Yes, I know. There's not a lot to do that involves just the use of one arm."
"I suppose not."
"I'm a fast healer, though, don't you worry. I'll be back to polished the royal armor in no time."
Arthur picks apart a crust of bread with his fingertips. "You could keep me company until then."
"Sorry?" Merlin swears he's misheard.
Arthur tries to be casual about it. "I'm sure I could put you to work, doing something. If you strain yourself, though, Gaius will surely have both our heads. You can write, yes?"
"Did you injure your writing hand?"
Merlin shakes his head.
"You can be a scribe of sorts. I'm sure Geoffrey could use a bit of help, writing something down, or...something. You could ask him for a task and work up here." Arthur clears his throat. "If you want."
Merlin considers this, secretly pleased by the offer. "Yes," he accepts. "Alright."
"Then, when you're all healed up, I can teach you how to fall without snapping your limbs."
"Oh, Arthur. Is that really necessary?" And here Merlin thought the prince was being kind for once in his life.
Arthur grins. "Entirely so."
"You sadistic prat."
Arthur reaches over and lightly punches his good shoulder.
"Ow! ––You can't hit an injured man!"
"Really? Because I think I just did, Merlin."
"You're a royal arse, you know that, Arthur?"
"Keep talking, Merlin. You sure you want to keep your job?"
Merlin looks down, still grinning. "Thank you, Arthur."
"Yeah, alright. Don't go getting all girly on me. I'm sick of only having bootlickers for company. They can't take a joke."
"They're not the only ones."
Arthur narrows his eyes. "Keep talking, Merlin. Keep talking."
A/N: Wow! An update! (wow!) Two of them in two days, it's a halloween miracle.
Not much to say about this chapter. I'll be putting in an epilogue next and that'll be it for Merlin's poor wrist.
Thank you for sticking with this story, and thank you for reading! Feedback is much appreciated.