A/N:

It's been a while since I attempted a Merlin fic but I've been reading Merlin fanfiction for ages. I'm kind of nervous about posting in a new fandom but I think this is decent enough to share. I hope! I guess this can be considered a tag to 4x08: Lamia.

Meant to be friendship and brotherly love but you can interpret it as whatever I suppose.

Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to BBC and Shine - not me.


Guinevere kissed Arthur with all her heart and was blushing and breathless when she stepped out of his embrace. She shyly met his heated gaze but stepped back when he advanced to pull her into his arms again.

"What is it? Is there something wrong?" Arthur frowned. He and Gwen seldom got the chance to be alone and be...passionate. There was nothing he would rather be doing than kissing his love. "Guinevere?"

"Arthur, I'd love to continue but..." she trailed off, flustered. "It was sweet of you to check on me. I truly appreciate your concern." The change of subject was abrupt and awkward.

"I'd do anything for you," Arthur murmured as he took Gwen's hand in his own. "Surely you must know that."

"I do," Gwen whispered, a soft smile gracing her face. "But have you checked on Merlin? I think that's more important, all things considered."

"Merlin?"

Arthur was flabbergasted. He thought that he and Gwen were having one of their romantic moments that he treasured so much. To bring up Merlin of all people would surely kill the mood. He was fond of the younger man, but couldn't understand how he belonged in their conversation.

Gwen wrung her hands together and nodded. "Yes, Merlin. I went through nothing compared to him. The knights gave both of us a hard time which of course wasn't their fault since their minds were not their own...but the fact remains that Merlin was treated awfully. He got the brunt of the poor treatment especially since he chose to defend me." Gwen's eyes were shining with concern and compassion. "You know how he gets, always sharing his opinion when he sees something unjust. He expressed his objections and - "

"And?" Arthur asked sharply, stiffening at the news.

Merlin had seemed fine when he had bumped into him earlier, joking about being saved by a girl and accepting Arthur's teasing with grace. But wasn't that just like him? To keep things to himself and hide the pain. He had done it before and it hadn't escaped Arthur's notice. It bothered him more than he cared to admit; the idea of his cheerful, animated manservant upset. Because when Merlin was deeply suffering, he never said so. He would whine about the weight of Arthur's armor and complain about mucking out the stables, but he'd never speak up when it actually counted.

Gwen sighed. "Just check on him if you get the chance," she suggested. "I think he's hurting and I'm not just talking about being pushed around and slammed into walls. It goes deeper than that. I know he's resilient, but I think the whole thing upset him. He considers the knights his dearest friends, so to have them treat him like dirt - " she broke off and shook her head. "I'm rambling but I'm sure you understand my point. I must go, there's much to be done. Sire." She bowed and scurried out the room, leaving Arthur to his troubled thoughts.

None of what Gwen had said was making sense to him. He knew the Lamia had controlled the minds of the knights and they had perhaps been unkind but...just how bad had it been? No one had given him details and truth be told, he hadn't bothered to ask, more concerned with rescuing his men. But Guinevere had said...pushed around? Slammed into walls? The thought of Sir Leon or Sir Gwaine or gods, Sir Percival manhandling Merlin was a horrifying thought. They were much stronger than the young man.

He rushed out of his room and made his way to Gaius' chambers, internally chastising himself for caring so much. Merlin could handle himself, after all. He was rather capable when he wasn't being a bumbling, clumsy fool.

Which was all the time.

Arthur sighed and walked faster, his concern growing and heart sinking. When it came to Merlin he wasn't one for showing deep emotion but...he had to make sure his friend was all right. Because although Arthur denied it in Merlin's presence and showed his affection by taunting him, nothing could change the fact that Merlin was dear to him. Merlin had wormed his way into his heart as one of his dearest friends and he couldn't deny that.

"Merlin," he called without preamble, bursting into Gaius' chambers.

"Gaius isn't here," Merlin said. He stood, alarmed at the expression of distress on Arthur's face. "Are you injured? Wait here, I'll go fetch - "

"I'm fine," Arthur cut him off with impatience. "I'm here because...it's been brought to my attention that..." he fumbled with his words and growled when Merlin didn't make any move to assist him. He was busy fixing the king with a bewildered state. "Oh for - "

Arthur crossed the space between them and twisted his arm around to slap Merlin's back lightly.

Merlin responded just the way Arthur knew he would. He winced and a flash of pain crossed his face before he could school his expression into something more neutral. "Ow, that hurt!" he glared at the king. "You complete and utter dollop head."

"As I suspected!" Arthur sounded triumphant before remembering the situation didn't call for it.

"And you call me the idiot," Merlin grumbled. "You're not making any sense, sire."

"Lift your tunic," Arthur ordered.

Merlin paled and his eyes widened with fear. "No, I don't think - "

"Now."

Merlin frowned deeply and carefully pulled tunic over his head, biting back a moan when his sore back muscles protested. Arthur noticed his pain and swallowed hard, moving so he was behind Merlin.

The sight he saw was most unpleasant.

Merlin's back was badly bruised, certain portions covered in shades of blue and black. He whimpered, more out of shame than pain. Arthur hesitantly placed a little pressure on his servant's back and felt his stomach churn when Merlin flinched.

"You were tossed about," Arthur muttered. "More than once."

Merlin nodded his affirmation. "Go on then," he grunted. "Tell me what a girl I am for feeling the sting."

Arthur looked up, horrified. "Merlin, no," he breathed. "Gods, no. I wouldn't - " he broke off, frustrated. Why was it that this conversation left him so lost for words? He never struggled so much. "You were injured protecting Guinevere and standing up for what was right. There is no shame in that. You are allowed to express your pain without it reflecting on your manhood."

"Well thanks for the permission then," Merlin let out a weak chuckle, recognizing Arthur's sincere concern.

Arthur sighed and moved towards the row of shelves. "Tell me what will help."

"Second shelf, third potion from the right. And then...fourth shelf, fifth ointment from the left." Arthur handed the first one to Merlin who downed a few swallows in one gulp, wrinkling his nose. "It's for the pain."

"And what's this?"

"That's for the bruises, also kind of for pain. It's to soothe the ache and help the muscles relax."

"But you can't reach your back by yourself," Arthur pointed out.

Merlin didn't meet his intense gaze. "Don't worry, sire, Gaius will return soon. He can help."

"There's no telling when he'll back," Arthur said sharply. "Don't be ridiculous. I can do it."

Merlin looked like he wanted to protest more but gods, it hurt. Instead, he lay on his stomach on the table and waited, willing the tension to leave the room.

Sensing his discomfort, Arthur grinned. "Don't be such a girl, Merlin. You've tended to my wounds plenty of times. I can return the favor without it being strange."

Merlin was grateful for the banter. "Let's see it then," he shot back.

Arthur skillfully worked the salve in, pressing into Merlin's aching muscles with his thumbs. He was careful to find the balance between applying pressure and being gentle with the bruises. He did his best to avoid the scattered marks and focus on dulling the general ache. Merlin moaned, half out of pain and half out of relief. Arthur continued to knead Merlin's back, trying to ignore the fact that the roles were reversed. With each touch, Merlin seemed to relax a little more, until he was completely loose and limp on the table.

"All done," Arthur muttered a few minutes later.

Merlin sat up reluctantly, his face visibly less tense. "It feels a lot better," he said honestly. "You didn't have to do that so thanks. It was kind."

"Ha, I suppose it was," Arthur said lightly, pleased with himself. "Look at me. Doing something nice for you. Who knew the day would come?"

"Indeed," Merlin mused.

Arthur sighed upon remembering he still hadn't said the things he intended to. "Listen, Merlin. Guinevere told me what happened. I wasn't aware that...I didn't know...what occurred should not have," he finally finished.

"Listen, Arthur, I - "

"No, Merlin," he interrupted. "I had not realized the situation was severe. I was told that the knights were harsh but I did not imagine them to be...cruel. The fact that you were injured..." Arthur stared pointedly at Merlin's back. "...it's truly not acceptable. And I wanted to let you know how displeased I am." He cleared his throat. "No one should suffer abuse...especially you."

Merlin smiled, touched. "It's almost like you care about me, sire."

"Almost," Arthur winked at his friend, grateful for the lightening of the mood. But he sobered before continuing. "But rest assured, once my men recover, they will be ordered to apologize. And if you feel like they should be punished, then you may so. It will be done."

Merlin looked surprised. "Me? But I'm just a servant."

"You know you're much more than that," Arthur said gruffly, clearly uncomfortable at expressing this.

Of course, Merlin knew that. Arthur didn't have to fumble to put it into words because Merlin knew. Their bond was one so string that it didn't require words.

But all the same, it was nice to hear.

Arthur gave Merlin the rest of the day off and Merlin had his signature goofy grin plastered to his face for the rest of the afternoon.

And just this once, Arthur didn't tease him for it.


A/N:

Just a little random oneshot/addition to 4x08. Reviews and feedback are greatly appreciated - it would mean a lot to me :)