Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. T for language.
Summary: Arthur hits Merlin and is beside himself.
You're completely fed up with people disrespecting you and ignoring your word. You're a new king, yes, but that doesn't give people the right to act the way they are. They're rolling their eyes behind your back, scoffing at every word you say, every decision you make. They second guess you. They judge your wife. You are king, god damn it, and people better start treating you as such.
You, know that this doesn't excuse your actions, however you try to justify them.
You'll come up with excuses, later: you were tired. You were angry. He was just there, it just happened. You didn't mean to. You didn't plan to. It just sort of happened.
It was an accident.
But it wasn't, not really.
No, because the wave of unadulterated rage that hits you is real, it's nearly tangible. It thrums in your veins and your vision half clouds over with blood pounding in your eyes, half deaf with it pounding in your ears.
He notices your instantaneous change, however. He notices everything about you, but it doesn't click in his head fast enough. He can deduce somewhat about what might happen next, but you've never reacted like this before. You've never completely lost it like you're losing it right now. This is new territory.
You raise your clenched hand into the air and lunge forward, but he doesn't have enough sense to duck. This has never happened before. He's still calculating your next move, based off years of service, but this reaction isn't even on his list, so naturally, it never occurs to him. This is a new experience for you both.
Just before your fist meets flesh, you swear you notice an almost imperceptible shake of his head. He draws a conclusion that can't possibly be right, because this is you and this is him and this is something you don't do.
A direct hit. You feel your ring catch skin and pull, tearing a streak down the curved plane of his face. His head snaps to the side and he reels from the impact, he nearly goes sprawling across the floor. The tray he held is pulled from his grasp, food and dishes go flying. He's folded in half but still mostly upright. You step back and the fog has vaporized and what have you done oh god ohgod oh god.
The emotion is clear on his face, reflecting your own thoughts horror. He cups his face and when he removes his hand his fingers and painted with a thin strip of crimson. You look at your own fist like it's a separate entity, like your limb was acting of its own accord. A speck of red colors the silver of your ring. Oh, god.
His lip is bleeding, too, and is starting to swell.
"I––" What the fuck could you possibly say? "––I'm so sorry. Oh, god. Merlin––"
He feels his face gingerly and works his jaw. "It's alright," he says, wincing.
"No, it's not," you say, anger staining your voice. "It's really not. God, fuck. 'Alright' isn't even close."
"Arthur, I'm fine. It's just a scratch. You––you were angry, I understand––"
"You shouldn't have to fucking understand!I should be able to get angry without abusing people." You bury your face in your hands. "And you shouldn't be okay with this."
He just shrugs. Oh, that fucking prick.
"I've put up with a lot worse shit than getting punched in the face whilst in your service, sire. Poisoned, attacked by wild animals and bandits and evil sorcerers. This shit, it comes with the job."
You groan. Even injured, he doesn't shut up. "Well, now you can add 'pissed off kings' to that list."
"You say that like it wasn't there already."
You shoot him a look. He grins his fucking grin, effectively splitting his lip further. He stops immediately. You groan again, inwardly this time.
He stands there a moment, checking the scratch again, and turns, going to pick up the spilled food.
"What are you doing?" you demand.
He freezes with a goblet in his hand. "Cleaning...?"
You shake your head. Insufferable arse. You point to one of the chairs at the table. "Sit."
He blinks. "Arthur, it's fine, really––"
He doesn't argue further. You walk over to the basin in the corner of the room and pick up a rag beside it. You soak it a moment and wring out the excess water, your motions very deliberate, and bring it back to him. You take up the chair and scoot to be directly in front of him. You wish you had ice, or snow, to help with the swelling, but the cold months are still a few weeks off. You don't even have any of that salve Gaius gave you for bruises left.
He looks uncomfortable as you press the rag to his face. The scratch and lip have stopped bleeding. You gently remove the dried blood. He squirms a bit and refuses to meet your eye. You swallow sharply. Like this is any easier for you, you think. "Stop squirming." He ceases his wiggling.
"Arthur." He meets your hand on his face with his, as if to tug the rag from your grasp. "I can tend to my own wounds." His hand is on yours. The pads of his fingertips are dry.
You both are looking right at each other, unwilling to break eye contact.
"I'm sorry for hitting you," you say without relinquishing the rag or looking away.
"I know," he says. "It's okay."
"It's really not."
"Okay," he agrees. "It's not. However. It happened. There's nothing more you can do."
"I shouldn't have hit you."
He's getting impatient now. "No," he says slowly. "You shouldn't have."
"I forgive you." He is successful in his task of removing your hand from his face, tugging at your fingers and taking the damp rag.
"What will you tell the others?" you ask, folding your hands in your lap as he cleans a bit of dried blood off his jawline. You suppose he could tell the truth, but then there'd be confrontation, and Gwen would be angry, and he'd have to explain himself, that he lost control of his emotions and 'losing control' is a really weak reason to hit one's manservant.
He shrugs. "Run-in with the ground."
"Does that work?"
You blink. "You tell me that all the time."
He freezes for a moment before resuming his cleaning. "I'm clumsy too, you know that."
"Well, are you actually clumsy, or just an incessant liar?" You furrow your brow, remembering all the times you noticed a stray bruise or bandage and the offhand comments you made about his balance or state of mind or sobriety.
Something clicks then. "So, you don't lie all the time? But you do lie? About your injuries? Is someone hurting you? Are you trying to them?"
He is visibly agitated now. "No, no, no. It's just––nothing. The usual occupational hazards, I mentioned them before. I'm not getting systematically abused or anything."
"Then why do you lie about it?"
He shrugs again. "You're king. It's none of your concern every time I stumble a bit, or singe my self getting your fire started? Or every time I get manhandled by the other knights or occasional noble?"
Your gaze is absolute and you want to interject that, yes, it is your concern when he gets hurt. He may be a useless manservant, but he's a precious friend.
Not that you'll tell him that, or anything.
"The latter, yes," you say. "How often do you get manhandled by visitors?"
"Not often! Arthur." He shakes his head. "I know you don't believe me, but I'm fully capable of taking care of myself." The rag is crumpled in his hand.
You snort. He shoots you a look.
"Really," he says with conviction. "It's fine. It's all fine."
You sigh and run a hand through your hair. It's very distressing to hear that your manservant––your friend––is getting hurt on the job, by visitors and knights, at that, and then lying about it.
"Okay," you say. "I believe you." You don't. "But if anything gets out of hand, for gods sake, Merlin, let me know, yeah? I'm the king, damn it all to hell, I'm not having anyone use my manservant as a battle puppet."
He opens his mouth to speak.
"Anyone but me, that is."
He closes his mouth and allows a small smile that wont aggravate his busted lip. "Okay," he says. "I'll let you know." He gets up to leave and looks like he wants to start cleaning again, but you wave him off.
"I'll get someone to take care of this, go see Gaius. You're dismissed for the night."
He blinks, pleasantly surprised. "Are you always this nice when you abuse your waitstaff?"
"Good night, my lord."
A/N: do you know how hard it is to find decent reference videos of people being punched in the face
it is pretty hard, let me tell ya
okay hi hello! this was meant to be a one shot but i? possibly have an idea for a part tWO oh geez but i don't know sigh this fic ended up a lot Nicer than i intended, i kind of like mean arthur i don't know help
but yeah part two is a possibility sorry merlin you're never gonna catch a break with me
! i was thinking of just making a collection of hurt/comfort oneshots instead of posting them individually?
would you (yes, you) prefer that? is that the preferred method of posting/reading oneshots pertaining to one genre? i would like your opinion on the matter very much
also hEY season five is turning out pretty good so far! maybe we'll even get a magic reveal! (collective laughter) yeah right
anyway thanks for reading! feedback and constructive criticism are both welcome and encouraged!