Merlin and Gwaine walked down the stone corridor in the castles royal quarters, both silently lost in their own thoughts. Old habits were hard to break and Merlin nervously chewed on the sides of his fingernails. Suddenly the dark haired young man did a quick about face, "this is a bad idea!"
Gwaine grabbed Merlin's arm and spun him back around, bringing them both to halt face to face. "Maybe, but you know how I like playing the odds," the scruffy looking knight said with a grin. "I'll be right there with ya, and the horses are ready if we need to make a break for it. Just jump out the window and we'll be on our way out of this place." During the trip back to Camelot the knight finally convinced Merlin that Arthur, of all the people in the kingdom, deserved to hear the truth about his servant. "Uther is no longer in power, and the Princess hasn't killed anyone JUST for magic… yet. Hey, wasn't it you who convinced me that Arthur was a great guy and I should give him a chance? Now it's my turn to return the favor! It's not like he'll throw you in the stocks for this right?"
Glaring at the knight with a look of sarcastic disbelief, "Maybe not for the magic, but he'll certainly find other reasons, I'm sure!" Merlin finally sighed and allowed his companion to lead him on to the King's chambers. Once there, it took the wizard a few false starts before he finally knocked lightly on the door. "Well, looks like he's not in, guess we'll come back later." He spoke quickly and attempted to run again, only to have Gwaine grab the back of his collar just as the door opened.
"Ah, finally," Arthur spoke curtly, "come inside." The King turned, expecting the two men to follow after. They came in cautiously trailing Arthur to his desk on the other side of his quarters. Gwaine guided Merlin to one of the seats, and then took the other chair for himself. He patted his friend on the arm in a gesture of support. Once Arthur took his own seat he looked over them both, his eyes carefully guarding his thoughts. "So, Merlin, are you ready to tell me what's been going on with you? And why the hell you would leave me alone with a room full of nobles at a feast?"
"Well, sire, if you're giving me a choice then… not really?" He gave Arthur a hopeful grin, "I could just get back to my duties and tell you another time, if it's all the same to you." Gwaine's look, more than Arthur's kept the warlock in his seat. A heavy sigh and his gaze fell to the floor, Merlin knew, despite his own desire and fear; the time to come clean with the king was at hand.
The three men sat in silence for a few long moments. Gwaine's eyes darting between the King and his servant; Arthur studying the raven-haired young man, and Merlin staring at his own feet, his fingers toying with a silver ring in his pocket. Freya made him promise to keep it with him, always, to remind him that when there seemed to be nothing else, she would be with him. Finally, the warlock nodded to himself and spoke in a voice barely above a whisper, "I have magic."
"Not this again, Merlin. Seriously, you have magic?" The King inquired raising his chin slightly. "No, it couldn't be that you ran off to meet a girl or something simple and ordinary like that, could it now?"
"Oh will you come off it and just believe me for once you arrogant prick! Yes, there was a girl, but that's not the point! What I mean is, I can do magic. I was born with magic, and I have been using it for years to try and keep you… and everyone in Camelot safe." Merlin blurted out finally. Blue eyes met hazel, pleading silently for forgiveness and acceptance.
Arthur sat back in his chair, studying his manservant for a moment before glancing out the window. A heavy sigh through pursed lips escaped the King, "I know."
"What?!" Both Gwaine and Merlin exclaimed simultaneously. The young warlock nearly bolted out of his seat, "What the hell do you mean 'you know'?" He demanded.
"Don't be such a simpleton, this is MY kingdom, and I know everything that goes on here." The look on his servant's face was priceless! Arthur grinned and gave a soft chuckle. "What I mean is- I have known since you burst into the council chamber proclaiming that it was you who healed Gwen's father with magic years ago. I may be a 'clot-pole' and a 'dollop-head' much of the time, but I also do pay attention to what happens around me. As I have said before you are horrible at keeping secrets, Merlin."
Merlin fell back in his chair his mind digesting the revelation that the man he had tried the hardest to keep his secret from had known for years. "Why then, did you let me think I was keeping it from you, you prat?"
Folding his hands together on the desk, Arthur leaned forward, "To see just how long you could hold out, you idiot." The two men glared at each other for a few moments. Arthur was the first to blink. when the King spoke again, his voice held a more serious tone. "First, I suppose it was because of my father. Then so many things have happened since his death, I just never really took time to process what this could mean to our situation. Now, however, I will have to deal with this."
"Couldn't we just keep it secret, like you both, obviously, have?" Gwaine spoke up finally.
"Unfortunately, no," Arthur replied, Merlin shook his head silently agreeing with the King. "Things are going to need to change in Camelot, for the moment we will try to keep this between us; however, I know it won't stay that way for long." He stood up and walked over to the window, looking out on the castle yard below. "Gwaine, leave us please," Arthur said in a voice that offered no room for argument.
The scruffy knight looked at his friend, wanting to help protect him. Merlin smiled weakly and nodded towards the door. Gwaine stood, giving a short bow to the King before reluctantly leaving. He would have to let the two sort it out for themselves. "Holler if you need me, Merlin. Remember, I have the horses already waiting outside."
Gwaine was pacing outside the King's chambers. He was ready for a drink and some sleep, the last two days had been filled with a hard ride to catch up to his friend then a battle against some awnry bug men, followed by an overload of information that was sure to be the death of him on the ride back to Camelot.
"I think you should tell him"
"No, I don't think so."
"Yes, you need to."
"He deserves to know"
"Not a good enough reason."
"You deserve to be free of the burden, mate. Maybe he'll make you an honorary knight?"
"HA! That'll be the day."
"Ok, so that was a stretch, I admit."
"I'm not ready yet."
"You're more ready than you think. So just tell him."
Merlin glared at his best friend, allowing a slight glow to enter his eyes as a threat. The knight snickered and continued on.
"If you don't, I'll run up a tab in every tavern from here to Lot's kingdom and give them your name!"
"You bloody well do that as it is!"
"Well, I can't argue with that. I still think the Princess would do well to hear it from you."
"If I say 'I'll think about it' will you come off it already?"
"It's a step in the right direction but, nope."
And thus continued the conversation for nearly the entire ride back to the city between the two friends.
By the time they reached the gates, Gwaine had accomplished the impossible. He escorted Merlin to the King's chambers and after a few minutes of tense conversation, was ordered to leave. Now he found himself worrying like a mother hen over the fate of his companion behind the door. Questioning his own actions of pushing Merlin to speak with Arthur.
"I heard you had returned," Gwen stated as she approached the royal chambers. "Did you manage to find my husband's wayward servant?"
"I did, my Lady," Gwaine offered the queen a bow.
Laughing, the former maid waved his courtesy off, "I don't believe I will ever get used to that."
"My mother never did," he replied without thinking.
The queen looked at him curiously, "You've never spoken of your mother before. She was a Lady?"
Gwaine berated himself for mentioning it. He played his cards close to the vest when it came to questions about his family. Luckily for him, he was saved from any further inquiry when the door opened and a dumbstruck looking Merlin appeared. He closed the door behind him, pure shock written all over his face. "I've been sacked!" He stated upon seeing the questioning looks of his two best friends. Slowly he began walking down the hall heading to his chambers, leaving the two there staring in his wake.
"I'm going to go speak with my husband." Guinevere stated determination and a hint of anger crossing her face.
"Right, I'll go after Merlin." Gwaine nodded.
Gwen knocked lightly on the door to Gaius's chambers. The door already slightly ajar, she pushed it open to find the core of Arthur's knights scattered and hovering in the room. Word got around fast about Merlin being fired as the King's manservant, no one except George seemed overly happy about the news. Merlin sat at the table, his head down and face covered. He refused to tell anyone else what had transpired. They grilled Gwaine, who simply shrugged and kept his mouth shut.
"Merlin, are you all right?" Gwen asked coming into the room without an invitation. She sat down on the bench next to dark-haired man. "Arthur wouldn't tell me what happened, whatever did you do to get fired? If it's about yesterday, I'm sure that if you tell him why and give him some time, Arthur will come to his senses."
"It's alright, I'm not really that upset by it." He finally raised his head looking first at Gaius, then Gwaine and shrugged with a hint of a grin, "It could have been much worse."
Gwaine snorted down a laugh and nodded his head in full agreement. Gaius clicked his tongue disapprovingly. Although, he hadn't a clue as to what transpired between the young men over the past few days, knowing his young apprentice as he did and the power he held, it could have been anything. Merlin could feel his mentor's stare, and knew that if the others weren't hovering so close, a good stern lecture would have ensued.
"I don't suppose it would do any good, as your queen to order you to tell me what this is all about?" Gwen scolded the men.
"Sorry, your highness, orders from his royal pompous ass and all that." Gwaine winked with a grin.
Arthur chose this moment to burst through the door, "What the hell have you two been telling people?" He demanded glaring at Gwaine and Merlin.
They looked at each other confused then both stared back at the king, "Nothing." Merlin protested his innocence, completely unsure of what the King was referring to.
"And how did they all find out?" He motioned to the other knights in the room.
"I heard it from Elyan," Percival offered.
"I found out from Leon," Elyan stated, looking perplexed.
Arthur's eyes went to his oldest knight, "And where did you hear it?"
Leon gulped visibly, "I was in the kitchens talking with one of the maids who said she heard it from George."
A collective groan emanated from the room as everyone there put together the missing piece. Except Merlin who seemed to be coming out of his shocked state, completely amused that it wasn't his fault.
The king growled through clenched teeth, "That man is not getting your job." He took a deep long breath attempting to regain his composure, "Merlin, come here. You understand the reason I can no longer employ you as my manservant right?" Arthur whispered guardedly.
"Uh...sure, maybe," he started, his head bobbing back and forth as he thought about it, "Well, um, no, not really."
Arthur bit his bottom lip grumbling about the 'idiot'. "Merlin, you are going to be far too busy to attend to my needs. I am charging you with studying all you can from Gaius and whomever you see fit. I trust you, Merlin, as much as I trust everyone in this room, perhaps even more so. Gaius is not going to be around forever, and I will need someone versed in things like magical creatures, items, those who use magic, and history of the kingdom to help advise me in the coming years. I want that to be you, Merlin."
Merlin's eyes locked on Arthur's as it all began to make sense. The man born deep in the warlock's soul the previous night on the lake stood in his place now, at least for the moment. "What? You couldn't have just said that from the beginning, now could you! Instead I get 'Merlin, you obviously don't have time for me, so I'm just going to sack you." He spat crossly, a hint of laughter in touching his blue eyes.
"I've warned you, that's my word!"
"Fine…" The King thought for a moment, his eyes narrowing and a mischievous grin cutting across his face, "Arthur."
Merlin's eyes went wide, his jaw dropping as he feigned hurt from the insult, "That was low… and also my word."
"Well at least they've returned to some semblance of normalcy," muttered Gaius to the others on opposite side of the room.
A/N: First off a big thank you to all who have read and reviewed, followed, Favorited Knowing that this story was appreciated makes it worth so much more than just the joy I feel from writing it. I know it was sort of short, however it is just my first jump back into writing and I wanted to keep it fairly simple.
I have 2 different epilogues written that can be teasers to a sequel. I will post one of them when I get closer to posting the next story... and I figure out which way I want to go first.
Editing note: my spelling of Gaius and Shidhe slipped in the middle of the story - I will be going in and correcting them at a later date.
So... no to decide do I want plot A - which stays in Merlin-verse, plot B - which also stays in Merlin-verse, or plot C which is a crossover? hmm guess you will all have to just wait and see :-)
Thanks again for reading!