Summary: Everyone has a nickname from the Prince, except Merlin. This doesn't make him happy.
Set around post season 2 pre season 3.
(however, there is a plot bump where I added excalibur in. technically, Arthur doesn't know about this epic weapon yet, but hey its fanfiction, right?)
P.S. Happy Belated Birthday, Colin Morgan! :D
Enjoy, hope you like and review : )
Merlin sighed, grabbing the Prince's breakfast tray in both hands and scuttling out of the castle's kitchens. Arthur would wake the whole castle up if he went on like this. The Prince's chambers weren't even anywhere near the kitchens and Merlin could hear every syllable of his name as clearly as Camelot's warning bells (thank goodness none of those were going off at the moment, he was already exhausted and it was only mid-morning).
"Coming!" He called cheerfully, hoping Arthur could hear as well as he could shout.
Apparently he couldn't, because a few minutes later, as Merlin juggled Arthur's tray in one hand and opened his chamber doors with the other, the Prince was sitting at his table with a very cross, impatient look on his face.
Uh oh. Merlin knew that look.
It was the Merlin, look.
Sure enough, Arthur merely glanced at the tray Merlin set down before starting his favourite rant. "Merlin," he said crossly. "The stocks are looking a tad bit lonely nowadays. Would you like to keep them company?"
No, Merlin wouldn't.
"Thought so," Arthur said cheerfully, before digging into his sausages.
"Not to fast now," Merlin countered, patting Arthur's arm cheekily before starting his chores. "We don't want the Prince of Camelot slowing down from unnecessary weight."
Arthur spluttered, and Merlin laughed. It seemed today was going to be a good one.
At least, Merlin hoped so. But something was still irking in the back of his mind.
"Mer," Gwen called out, and Merlin turned. He had been walking down one of the castle's many corridors, lost in his thoughts and only vaguely aware of Gwen walking behind him.
"Could you help me carry this bundle downstairs? Normally I wouldn't ask, but Morgana is getting ready for the dinner Uther is hosting for all the nobles this evening, and wanted all her dresses to be washed in preparation…you know, so she could choose one…"
Gwen chuckled at Merlin's dumbfounded look and patted him on the cheek as if he were a lost child. "It's alright, just girl talk."
"Hum," Merlin said intelligently, reaching over to help Gwen. "Of course I don't mind."
What he did mind, however, was what she had called him.
Mer. Gwen often called him that. And Merlin liked it, he really did. That was how he knew Gwen and he were becoming fast friends. Nicknames were good relationship markers.
So why didn't he get one from Arthur?
It wasn't as if Arthur was incapable of coming up with nicknames, either. Merlin would have understood if the prat (his own nickname for Arthur, although it didn't really count since Merlin couldn't call the Prince his rightful name in front of the general public) was just not the nickname type, but Merlin had heard him call his knights all sorts of oddities.
Arthur even had a nickname for Gwen, only used when Uther wasn't present, of course.
Merlin knew he was being silly, but it irked him that Arthur hadn't come up with anything yet, or attempted to change Merlin's name in any sort of affectionate way.
Unless 'idiot' counted, and Merlin decided it didn't. Only things that were true could count.
"Thanks, Mer!" Gwen repeated, oblivious to his internal turmoil. She kissed Merlin chastely on the cheek as they reached the lower floor of Camelot's castle and parted.
Merlin was tempted not to turn around, and let Arthur just stand there in the middle of the training field. He envisioned himself ignoring Arthur's calls until Merlin would twist around innocently, asking Arthur who the Prince was calling for since he was obviously Mer, Merri, Linny, Lin, anything but plain old, not-nicknamed Merlin.
But of course, Merlin didn't do any of those things. He liked to keep his head intact with his shoulders, thank you very much.
Arthur was cross again. "Merlin, where is my sword?"
Seriously? Merlin thought to himself, exasperated as he searched for Arthur's sword.
I went through all sorts of trouble making this sword with dragon's breath and you never bother placing it in its proper location…I should get a day off…
Well, technically the Great Dragon had breathed upon the sword, but Merlin had to request him to do so. The action in itself was fearsome enough for him to take at least a little credit of the sword's power.
"Merlin! Hurry it up!"
'Merlin' (whoever that is, Mer thought to himself), grumbled a bit before locating Arthur's sword on an abandoned bench.
"Here you are, sire," Mer said, putting as much insolence as he could behind the word.
"Right." Arthur strode off to begin drills with his knights, while Mer watched him go, wistfully.
After many boring, boring hours filled with sweaty knights and steel clangs of weapons, training finally ended.
"M!" Gwaine clapped Merlin on the shoulder, slipping his sword into his belt. "Join me for a drink at the tavern later?"
Merlin was getting seriously exasperated now. Did everyone have a nickname for him except Arthur?
He was half hoping Arthur would be somewhere nearby, overhearing this conversation, but the Prince was off doing the things princes do after rigorously training with their knights.
That dollophead. See, Merlin had so many ingenious nicknames for Arthur. Why couldn't that clotpole reciprocate?
Merlin was so thoroughly perplexed and irritated he merely gave Gwaine a friendly shrug of his shoulders before leaving.
And if Merlin covered his ears when he left the training grounds, in order to block out the sounds of M! Is that a yes, or what? from Gwaine, well, it certainly wasn't because he didn't want to hear a nickname for him by someone else (and not Arthur), or anything of the sort.
Will had called Merlin 'Merri', one time, when they helped Hunith with her chores. And Will hadn't even been the affectionate type.
Hunith often shortened Merlin's name to Mer, just like Gwen did.
Heck, even Gaius called Merlin 'Merl' from time to time.
And of course, there was Gwaine, calling him 'M'. Merlin didn't even know how that had started. Probably when Gwaine was drunk and wasn't able to pronounce his name properly.
Merlin contemplated the odds of Arthur getting that drunk and being in Merlin's presence at the same time.
Then Merlin contemplated those odds along with the factor of magic.
No, Merlin chided himself, don't be silly. Even Arthur's nickname isn't worth risking exposing your magic. You might end up with several other nicknames, ones you probably wouldn't like.
Okay, so he would just have to wait until Arthur came round and nicknamed Merlin himself. Merlin could be patient, right?
The warlock in question scrunched his face up in a scowl. Arthur was not making this waiting scheme any easier by calling after him all the time.
Merlin looked up from where he had been polishing one of Arthur's boots on the floor of Arthur's grand chambers.
"Yes, your highness?"
They both knew there was more affection than obsequious respect behind the words.
Arthur grinned despite himself. "Taking a lovely long time with my boots over there. Anything particular on your mind?"
Merlin pretended to be in deep thought. He let a frown settle on his features, and furrowed his brow slightly.
Arthur's own, teasing smile dropped a bit. He hadn't actually thought anything was up.
"Merlin? What's wrong?"
Merlin dropped the washrag, and let Arthur's boot slip between his fingers and thud to the ground. He looked down, the picture of sad solemnity.
"Its…" he paused for dramatic affect. "It's nothing."
Arthur got up from his chair abruptly, and stared at Merlin (who tried very hard not to laugh) for a long minute, before striding over to where the boy sat and joining him on the hard, wooden floorboards.
"Merlin?" Arthur asked, and Merlin was half-amused at how easily the Prince had fallen for his ruse, and half-indignant at how he still hadn't let a nickname drop, even after all this fuss.
"It really is nothing," Merlin admitted in delight, letting a broad, sincere grin replaced his morose features.
Arthur's own countenance shifted from worried to indignant as Merlin's words soaked in.
"Merlin!" The sound was Arthur's usual disgruntled shout, but this time it was tinged with a little more affection as the future King of Camelot took his manservant into his arms for a rough noogie.
"Augh – Arthur – okay! I'm sorry!" Merlin gasped out, wiggling around in Arthur's grasp.
His captor let Merlin go with a last (you better be!) nudge to the head.
They chuckled together for a bit, nudging the chamber air aside to make room for their warm laughs.
"Arthur," Merlin questioned hesitantly, thinking it was either ask now and forever hold his peace, or go on for the rest of his days nickname-less from his friend.
"Yes, Merlin?" Arthur responded lazily, his eyes on the flames shuddering in the hearth at the other end of the chamber.
"Why…why haven't you ever given me a nickname?"
There, he had said it. And only when he said it did Merlin realize just how stupid it sounded. Perhaps he should be called 'idiot'.
Arthur glanced at Merlin with an odd look in his bright blue eyes.
"It's just…" Merlin decided to keep talking, because Arthur wasn't saying anything, and Merlin didn't want to know what that meant. "…you always dub your knights something queer and atypical. And Gwen also…well…" Merlin broke off, blushing. It wasn't that he had been eavesdropping, per se…but Arthur hadn't gone boldly flaunting intimate details about his relationship, either.
Merlin let his eyes wander back to Arthur's, which were still gazing at him with a strange, indefinable look.
Merlin was about to pretend like nothing happened and resume to his chores and please, please, please could they never mention this again, when Arthur broke the silence.
"I never gave you a nickname, Merlin, because I like your name just the way it is."
Merlin froze in the action of reaching for Arthur's discarded boots and snapped his head round to where Arthur sat, still looking at him with that strange expression on his face.
Really? Merlin wanted to say aloud. Honestly, truly? So you weren't trying to keep our friendship stunted, or waving it aside? He settled on repeating Arthur's words instead (every time he opened his mouth he seemed to make the term 'idiot' more and more deserving).
"You…like my name just the way it is?"
"Yes, Merlin, you daft, big-eared bumpkin. Just the way it is."
And, well, when Arthur put it like that, Merlin couldn't help but agree.