Arthur opened his eyes and sat up, his head clearer than it had been in some time. Gwen stirred next to him, and he moved gently so as not to wake her. His feeling of contentment left as quickly as it had come, as he recalled the event of the previous day. Arthur sighed. He hadn't seen Merlin since he had left them upon their return to Camelot, and, if truth be told, he was more than a little worried. The look on Merlin's face, when he had discovered that Arthur had not fully trusted him, still sent guilty shivers through his head, but he had no time to think on it further as a familiar triple knock sounded from the door.
Merlin stepped in, holding a breakfast tray.
"Sire." Merlin's voice was expressionless, but before Arthur could say anything, he caught sight of a small bulge under the sleeve of his shoulder. A bandage. He held his tongue until Merlin had settled the try down, then held out a hand to stop him from turning.
"Merlin… How are you feeling?"
"Well what do you want me to say Arthur?" His voice was low, so as not to wake Gwen, "That I don't mind fighting for you, battle after battle, enemy after enemy, all for you to say that it means nothing to you? Well I can't…"
"Of course it means something to me. It means a lot to me. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I didn't trust you completely before. But I do now. I should have from the start."
Merlin didn't meet his gaze, and finished placing the plates on the table, picking up the tray. He turned to go, but Arthur blocked his way.
"Arthur?" Gwen's voice stopped what he was going to say. "Merlin? What…" Merlin stepped around Arthur, bowing slightly to Gwen with a small grin,
"Morning…" Gwen's voice still held the dullness of sleep, but she still looked between the two, picking up that something had happened. Before she could comment, however, Merlin had virtually run across the room, and the door closed behind him with a small thud. Gwen turned to Arthur, her eyebrows raised,
"I think I've got a lot of work to do…"
"But he will listen. And it won't take long. That's what he does after all… Putting up with you is in his job description…"
Merlin closed the door, in Gaius' rooms, and leant against it, sighing. He turned to Alice, who had turned as he had come in,
"If I'd have known that dealing with an ass was in the job description…"
"Ah, you'll figure things out…" she said, a smile on her face. The smile widened when Gaius walked into the room, and Merlin shook his head at the boyish smile that Gaius responded with.
He had up to his room, feeling tired, and flopped down on the bed, not bothering to kick his boots off. He felt himself drifting off as soon as his head it the pillow.
A few hours later, and Merlin stirred to voices. Yawning, he sat up, and heard Gaius's voice.
"I'm afraid that the wound he sustained and the energy and magic he has spent since have taken more out of him that he is admitting."
"Yes… That is like him."
Merlin snapped awake properly, as he recognised Arthur's voice, and he got to his feet. Heading down the stairs, he was just in time to see Arthur's cape vanish around the corner as Gaius sat onto the bench.
"Gaius?" He asked, worried by the stillness of the old man. Gaius turned,
"Merlin… I didn't realise you were awake. You should sleep…"
"I've only just woken up… Heard your voices. What happened?"
"Arthur arrested Alice… He didn't have a choice I guess…"
Merlin's face hardened.
"Well then. Time for me to do what I always do. Make the idiot see sense."
"And how well does that normally work Merlin?"
"It will this time." Merlin's face was stubborn as he walked out. He head down the stairs and caught up with Arthur halfway down the staircase.
"Merlin... Gaius said you were sleeping…"
"Well, I was. Until I heard you idiots traipsing in and arresting someone you had no business arresting."
"I don't really have a choice. She escaped Camelot once…"
"Yes. And she came back… Do you want to know why?"
"Merlin… I can't do anything…"
"Yes you can. Anyway, your conscious will be clear because she only has a few weeks to live anyway." Merlin's voice had gone low, and he glanced up the stairs. "She came back because she wanted to do something good with what time she has left."
"She saved my life Arthur. She gave up enough energy to shorten her life even more… and if she hadn't, I wouldn't be here." He leaned against the wall, making Arthur stop his descent too. "I owe her my life Arthur. I have to do something… so I'm asking you. Let her go. She won't harm anybody. She was under a creatures control last time… she had no choice in what she was doing."
"She still did it…"
"And he never did any lasting damage…"
"Thanks to you I assume?"
"… That's beside the point. Arthur, she isn't going to hurt anyone. Trust me. Please…"
Arthur stood still, for several moments, then turned to Merlin, sighing.
"You can assure me of that?"
Merlin didn't hesitate before saying,
"Yes. Come on… look, I won't even take my birthday off this year…"
Arthur sighed, shaking his head.
"Very well. But I want a formal apology, and no complaining when I forget your birthday."
Merlin grinned, pulling Arthur into a hug.
"You got it."
Arthur pulled out of the hug, slightly bemused,
"So… I guess this means we're good…?" This caused Merlin to sigh, and then grin, shrugging.
"Yeah… It's not like I can stay mad forever…"
Alice had pulled him into a hug the moment the door had been opened, and Merlin had nearly been knocked off of his feet with the enthusiasm of it.
"Thank you Merlin… You shouldn't have done that though… What if…"
"What if what? What was I gonna do? Let you rot away in here?"
The formal apology had only taken place in front of Arthur, Merlin, Leon and Gwaine, and the two knights had been all for it, having been there when she was helping Merlin.
Merlin had shoved away Gaius' thanks, feeling awkward, and had escaped from the rooms, heading down to where Gwaine and Bedivere were on duty.
They had seemed very into a conversation about the druid woman that Bedivere had met, and Merlin had crept closer, listening it, until he was stood directly behind them.
"You know…" he said, making them both jump and turn, tumbling over themselves to try and draw their swords. Merlin couldn't continue, and fell against the wall, laughing at the panicked expressions on their faces. As they tried to scowl, he burst into a fresh round of laughter, which took a long time to fade, all the time, the two were glaring at him, trying not to laugh themselves. Merlin calmed down enough to finish what he was saying,
"You now, if you really like her, a word from me I probably a quite high commendation…"
Bedivere's face lit up so much that it was almost comical.
"Really…? I mean… but she's a druid… they probably have all kinds of… traditions and things…"
"Well… I was thinking of asking Arthur to head out there anyway… They were looking into the brotherhood, and we need to know all we can about them…"
"Then why did you come down here?" Gwaine asked,
"Well… Arthurs having lunch with Gwen… And you know what he can be like if he is interrupted…"
"Especially seeing as you pulled one hell of a job earlier with Alice," Gwaine added, "Nice going by the way. I like her. She's got… Pow…"
"Pow?" Bedivere and Merlin had spoken in unison, eyebrow raised. Gwaine just shrugged and Merlin shook his head.
"Alright then… Yeah. Anyway, I just wanted to come down and remind You, Gwaine, that I want no failed attempt at a party this year. I old Arthur I wouldn't take the day off, and I've no doubt he took it seriously…"
"What? But my party planning is great!"
"Last year, you got completely drunk, nearly burned down the tavern, got into three fights, lost one, not realising that it was Leon you were fighting, and ran up a tab so huge, I was left cleaning boots with you, again, every evening, for three weeks."
"Like I said. Great."
Bedivere had started laughing at the memory, and Gwaine seemed to be reminiscing about it. Merlin spotted Leon and Tristan heading over to take over their post, and shook his head at the bemused expressions on their faces.
"Don't ask…" he warned them, and head off, up into the castle.
He arrived just as two servants were clearing away the plates and dishes. He knocked on the door, and stepped inside, shuffling out of the way of one of the servants. The sudden dodge caused her to drop one of the plates, and Merlin reacted instinctively, using magic to send it back onto the pile.
"Thanks…" the girl said, smiling.
"No problem," Merlin grinned, moving out of the way for the other girl. Turning, he saw a strange expression on Arthur's face.
"Nothing… just that it's strange how normal that is…"
Gwen shrugged, grinning, and got up.
"I have to get going Arthur…" she said, moving around the table and giving him a kiss as he got to his feet, "I'll see you later. See ya Merlin…"
"'Okay Gwen…" he replied, and she left the room.
Arthur sat back down, and gestured for Merlin to do the same. Merlin sat next to him, slouching forward onto the table.
"Shouldn't you be resting?" Arthur asked, and Merlin raised an eyebrow.
"You listen to Gaius too much. I'm fine. Actually, I want to ask something…"
"Another something?" Arthurs solemn expression changed to a grin as Merlin's eyebrows rose, "Sure. What is it this time. You better not be changing your mind about your birthday…"
"Nope… though if you agree, there won't be much chance of that. I was thinking that we should visit the druids. We need to know more about the Brotherhood… Especially after… recent events."
Arthur considered this.
"You've got a point… But we can't leave Camelot for too long a stretch of time…"
"I was thinking a few days. Two days there, two back… Spend one there and set up camp before returning. Back inside of a week… We can always leave Gwaine here…"
"Because you don't want him doing some ridiculous birthday event?"
"… Maybe a little." Merlin admitted, grinning, and Arthur nodded slowly.
"I agree. We need to know more. Hopefully the druids will have more information. We can take a small group. Me, you, Tristan and Leon…"
"Actually, Maybe Bedivere instead of Leon… We need someone responsible here after all…"
Arthur glanced at him, showing he knew there was something more to it, but let it slide,
"Okay. The four of us?"
Arthur hesitated slightly, but nodded.
"Sure. Get everyone together. Well leave tomorrow morning."
Gwaine watched the small group ride out of the courtyard with an evil smile on his face. If Merlin thought this would get him out of a birthday celebration, he was wrong. Leon saw the look on his face and groaned, inwardly. This was going to be an interesting few days…