A/N- This story probably doesn't have much meaning anymore. I wrote it between Arthur's Bane pt.2 and Death Song of Uther Pendragon. The situation I chose is self-exclamatory I think. Any questions, just ask. Reviews are Magical!
When Merlin woke to the first traces of daylight, his suspicion that he was intuned to Arthur's moods was strengthened. The king sat still in front of a dying fire, holding the gold triskelion cape-clasp that had been Mordred's.
Before going over to accompany him, Merlin remained in his bedding for a moment, taking note of the distant look in Arthur's eyes. It had been present since their company found this post abandoned yesterday evening. Despite that the missing knights seemed to have been taken prisoner, Arthur behaved as drearily as he might had they been killed. The only explanation for this reaction that Merlin could imagine was his master's special fondness toward the druid. Seeing him hold the clasp now surely confirmed that.
Lost in thought, Arthur didn't seem to notice Merlin's approach until the warlock sat down beside him. "You're really worried about him, aren't you?" Merlin asked in a whisper, so as not to break too harshly upon the king's thoughts.
Arthur took his time in responding, but when he did so, it was meeting his friend's eyes. "He spared both our lives and then saved mine," he said. "We have to find out what happened here. I owe him that much, if nothing else."
Merlin found his own gaze wandering with his thoughts. "And all of the knights?"
Looking back, he found that his lilt of inquiry had caused Arthur to frown. "Of course," the king stated with what may have been defense.
Hearing it, Merlin almost regretted his words, knowing they'd been misunderstood. He had every confidence that his master would risk an equal amount for any one of his men; partiality had no actual control. "I didn't mean that like it sounded," he told Arthur. "It's just that… you honestly care most about Mordred, don't you?"
Arthur pondered the question. "He's the youngest of my men. I am protective of him. And there's the other reason for my worry- I sent him on this patrol because our east border is the safest. Who could have captured a dozen knights of Camelot without incident?"
Merlin shook his head. Deep down, he couldn't be sure that Mordred didn't have something to do with the other eleven knights' disappearance.
"When you saved my life all those years ago, Merlin," Arthur said, "I think it was a similar bond that began."
Merlin allowed himself a smile. "I think your memory's going."
Arthur nudged him with a chuckle. By the time he spoke again, all humor had disappeared from his face. "What is it between you and him, Merlin?" At his servant's blank expression, Arthur sighed. "Come on. I'd have to be a fool not to notice it."
Yet Merlin had thought he hadn't. Proven wrong, however, he had no idea what to tell Arthur.
"You wanted me to kill him when he allowed us to escape," Arthur pointed out.
"He was one of the men who'd kidnapped us," Merlin answered, certain that Arthur could tell this wasn't his actual reason.
"He'd convinced Ragnor to spare our lives."
"I just don't understand why he's so special to you." It was only as Merlin shut his mouth that he realized how jealous he'd sounded. Maybe he was jealous to an extent, but his truest, deepest reason was one he couldn't easily explain to Arthur. "I'm not sure that we can trust him."
"He's a knight of Camelot," Arthur replied. "If you can't bring yourself to trust him, Merlin, then trust me."
"You know I trust you, Arthur. But what do we know about him?"
"I do talk to my knights, you know."
Merlin couldn't have said that Arthur wasn't taking the whole matter lightly. "And?" he pressed.
To Merlin's frustration, Arthur got that look in his eyes- the one that revealed that anything he would say was simply to humor his servant. "Mordred swore an oath of fealty, Merlin. You were there when he saved my life. I'm convinced of his loyalty. What I don't understand is why you think he's up to something."
The king was close to losing patience with his indirect manner. Merlin was careful to avoid provoking that, as he answered, "I'm not sure. …What else has he told you about himself?"
As Arthur sighed, Merlin could guess he was considering how it didn't really make any difference what opinion his servant should take upon the matter- yet, he again humored Merlin. "His parents died before he can remember. He was moved from camp to camp as he grew up, but he's been alone most of his life."
Merlin nodded. He'd taken this information for granted, but had never actually considered it. That Arthur should relate to Mordred's parentless raising and loneliness was only natural. "He confided this in you?"
Arthur returned his question with a searching stare. "Merlin-…" he started in an unusual voice.
"What?" Merlin asked, genuinely curious.
An accidentally patronizing smile grew on Arthur's face. "If you think for a second that he means more to me than you do-"
"No," Merlin said, his earnest tone doing nothing for his point. When Arthur raised his eyebrows, the warlock forced himself to grin back.
"Look," Arthur told him, laying an arm over his shoulders, "it's okay to admit to being jealous-"
Merlin shrugged his arm away. "I'm no such thing," he stated as Arthur laughed at his expense. Merlin shook his head but was able to join in.
The sun was well on its way to rising now. The rest of the camp would wake soon. As Arthur let out a deep breath, still holding the clasp in one hand, Merlin looked to see an expression every bit as troubled as before upon his weary face.
"Arthur?" he prompted gently. "Maybe you should try to get some sleep before we leave."
The king stared back at him. "I'll not rest until he's safe and sound."
Merlin felt he should have expected such an answer. Arthur's loyalty towards Mordred, as well as his worry for him, had little restriction. "And we will find him," Merlin assured his friend with a hand upon his shoulder. "We will."
Though it would be safer for you never to see him again.