AN: Wow I did not expect to get this done as quickly as I did, but I'm happy to be updating again so soon! I really like how this chapter turned out, there are a few added scenes as well as some added Merlin whump near the end though nothing too crazy. Enjoy!
Arthur barged into Merlin and Gaius' chambers in his nightclothes, only having bothered to pull on his boots and grab his crossbow before heading to find his idiot of a manservant.
"Where is that half-wit?" Arthur asked angrily as he caught sight of Gaius.
"Merlin?" The old man asked innocently.
"I've got no socks, no breeches, and an archery session to go to." Arthur complained angrily. "Merlin!" he called towards the back room.
"I thought he was with you, sire," Gaius protested.
"Don't try and cover for him," Arthur stated threateningly. He was not in the mood for Gaius and Merlin's games today.
"He didn't come home last night. I can't find him," Gaius said worriedly.
Arthur let his hand fall but not his anger.
"When you do, you can tell him he's the target," he paced quickly out the door letting it slam as he rushed back towards his chambers. Once there he threw the crossbow on his table and placed his hands on the back of a chair, taking deep breaths to try and calm himself down.
Finally he let out an angry yell pushing the chair to the ground, with a sweep of his hands he knocked the contents of the table to the ground, he went to his wardrobe and pulled out his clothes throwing them on the floor. The path of destruction followed him throughout the room as he threw one thing and then another on the floor.
A timid knock at the door had him spinning on his heel, a servant peeked his head inside. "My lord?" he asked looking at the destruction.
"Get out!" Arthur said loudly and angrily causing the servant to pull the door shut behind him quickly.
Arthur stood there a moment puffing air in and out of his chest before grabbing more things to continue his destructive parade.
His family was falling apart.
Arthur did not fall asleep till well into the night, just lay staring at the canopy of his bed. When he finally did fall asleep it felt more like he just blinked his eyes and suddenly it was day time. He awoke sluggishly, the light from the window piercing his eyes.
"What happened?" an incredulous voice asked.
Arthur blinked his eyes as he realized Merlin was standing in front of him, remembering the state he had left his room in Arthur tried to remain calm.
"What happened? I've had to make do without a servant, that's what happened." Arthur complained.
"I wasn't gone for that long." Merlin protested.
"Without my permission!" Arthur stated, still hardly moving from his bed.
"What if I was dying?" Merlin asked.
"I wouldn't be complaining!" Arthur protested. "But you're not, so where have you been?" he asked.
"I was dying." Merlin mumbled indignantly.
Arthur looked Merlin up and down but seeing no injury on him simply let out a frustrated huff.
"I don't have time for this." Arthur stated fighting with the covers to try and free himself from his bed. "The future of the kingdom rests upon my shoulders. Do you have any idea what that feels like?" he asked.
"Well-" Merlin started, but Arthur silenced him with a finger, he didn't have time for Merlin's jokes.
"Merlin, I should have you thrown in the dungeons, so what have you got to say for yourself?" he asked.
Merlin shook his head. "You've not had your breakfast this morning, have you?"
Arthur stared at him incredulously before standing up and grabbing the closest object he could find.
"I'll have you for breakfast!" he shouted.
"Oh, no wonder this place is such a mess!" Merlin protested as he dodged a chalice, not knowing how close he was to the truth.
He dodged a clay bowl which shattered on impact.
"Oh, yes, I can see you've got all the makings of a great king." Merlin stated sarcastically bowing in Arthur's direction even as he inched towards the doorway.
Arthur chucked his boot towards Merlin angrily, just barely missing him which seemed to be enough to finally chase Merlin from the room.
Arthur breathed a sigh of relief… somehow he felt a lot better.
Arthur knew he wasn't ready for this. He wasn't ready to lead this kingdom, not yet, he needed his father's guidance and wisdom. He didn't know what he was doing. He was preparing his kingdom for a siege and the counsel was questioning him on it. He felt in his heart that it was the right decision but with so many people doubting him he couldn't help doubting himself.
And Merlin wouldn't stop babbling.
"You did well in there. I mean it. I was impressed." Arthur was so glad that he had the respect of a servant…
Apparently he wasn't done babbling, "We're talking siege engines and battering rams and catapults," Merlin continued. "You made a tough decision… You're risking hundreds of-"
"You know what?" Arthur asked interrupting Merlin's babbling which really was just making him doubt himself more.
"What?" Merlin asked innocently.
"I'd really prefer it if you just kept quiet in these situations," Arthur stated tensely.
"I am just trying to help," Merlin said.
"Well, you're not." He knew it was harsh, he had meant to lighten the mood but his voice came out more bitter than he intended. He was still angry with Merlin for disappearing and now the idiot wouldn't shut up.
"I know you don't mean that you're just worried." Darn Merlin for always seeing right through him. "But you don't need to be." Merlin encouraged. Arthur stared at him waiting for him to continue. "Look what we've got."
Arthur gave him an incredulous look. "What?" he asked.
"You…" Merlin started, "And me…"
Arthur almost rolled his eyes, why did it seem sometimes that Merlin forgot that Arthur didn't know about his magic… or at least that he didn't know that Arthur knew about his magic.
"Merlin, what exactly are you going to do?" he asked.
"I'm going to be at your side, like I always am," Merlin assured, "Protecting you."
The man was officially going crazy and Arthur didn't have time to deal with this at the moment.
"God help me." Arthur muttered before turning and continuing his long walk to the training grounds.
Arthur was certain Merlin was going crazy. He had been acting weird ever since he returned. Collecting "provisions" and trying to feed Arthur pickled eggs. Fortunately, at the moment, Arthur had bigger things to worry about than Merlin's strange behavior. They were preparing for a siege after all, but it certainly wasn't helping matters.
Still Merlin was as dedicated and hard working as the rest of them and Arthur appreciated that greatly and he hardly ever left Arthur's side whenever he wasn't working hard, even when Arthur stood up on the wall looking down at the army that was about to attack them, Merlin did not leave.
The battle was about to begin, his soldiers were preparing, Merlin was helping him put his armor on. They were both glancing at the window when Merlin's hand slipped pulling the gauntlet a little tighter than it should be.
"Sorry," Merlin murmured.
"It's not like you to get nervous, is it, Merlin?" Arthur asked teasingly. He could really go for some lighthearted humor right now, it might be there last chance to do this.
Merlin though was not in a lighthearted mood.
"I'm not nervous," he stated confidently.
"No?" Arthur asked.
Merlin shook his head. "Because I trust in your destiny." Where did that come from?
"Have you been on the cider?" Arthur asked. It seemed like a legitimate question considering how Merlin had been acting.
Merlin remained serious, however. "It is your fate, to be the greatest king Camelot has ever known. Your victory today will be remembered by every age till the end of time."
Arthur tried to work out if Merlin was joking or just crazy but he saw only seriousness and faith in Merlin's eyes as he took his sword from him. "Just trust in yourself." Merlin encouraged.
Arthur knew Merlin had been watching him all day, he had seen him with his father, seen the doubt in his eyes as he prepared his city and his kingdom for the siege. He knew Arthur's doubts and the pure faith in Merlin's eyes gave Arthur strength almost more than anything else he had said. He was surprised his servant was that intuitive.
"There are times, Merlin, when you display a sort of…" Arthur trailed off, not being able to find the right word, "I don't know what it is," he stated thinking.
"I don't want to say-" no… he couldn't say that word… "It's not wisdom."
Merlin smiled and shook his head disbelievingly, looking down at the table quietly. Arthur knew he had to say it.
"But, yes, that's what it is."
Merlin's smile grew and looked pleased… too pleased.
"Don't look so pleased, the rest of the time you're a complete idiot." Arthur stated, this emotion stuff was too much for him, he'd rather face the siege, but as he went out he felt his confidence return, revealing itself in his stance and strong battle cry.
His men felt it and their doubts melted away, they would win this battle.
Throughout the battle Merlin kept up his position at Arthur's side, but every once in a while he would disappear for a few moments, most of the time it wasn't a problem and often Arthur wouldn't notice Merlin had been gone until he was back. One of the times was at the heart of the siege, Uther appeared out of nowhere and Merlin was nowhere to be seen.
As Arthur dragged his father away from the front line, calling for a retreat, he caught a glimpse of Merlin down the road. He saw Merlin saying something and felt a heat flare up his back, when he turned to glance behind him a wall of fire blocked their enemies from pursuing them. Arthur assumed that Merlin was to thank for that, not that he would be able to thank him.
Arthur turned his attention back to his father, leading him the well to lean on while he tended to the bolt in his father's leg.
"You must get back to the battle, we're losing the lower town," Uther urged.
"It's already lost, Father," Arthur told him.
"And the citadel?" Uther asked.
"Safe for now." Arthur stated confidently.
"It must stay that way."
Arthur turned to his father and mustered as much confidence and authority into his voice as possible.
"You have to trust me, Father. I know what I'm doing." Arthur had wished for his father's guidance all day, but now he had made his decisions and it was his responsibility to see them through. Pulling the bolt from Uther's leg Arthur handed his father over to Merlin, knowing that his manservant would see him safely to Gaius.
"You must rest. When you're well again, you'll still have a kingdom. I promise you that!" He pushed Merlin towards his father and ran back to the front lines. Merlin's words of faith ringing in his head.
Merlin disappeared for some time after that. Arthur kept expecting to turn around and see him standing there once again, but the servant was nowhere to be seen. Just when Arthur was beginning to worry he spotted him in the courtyard coming out of the castle of all places.
"Merlin!" he called. "Where the hell have you been?" he asked.
"Nowhere!" Merlin stated causing Arthur to roll his eyes. Merlin really was the worst at making excuses.
"You're starting to make a habit of this. What's your excuse this time?" Arthur asked hoping for something a little better than 'nowhere.'
Merlin just stared blankly at him. "Come on, Merlin. You can do better than that," he prodded, but Merlin was no longer looking at Arthur but staring past him. Breathless and seemingly at a loss for words Merlin held up his hand and pointed at something behind Arthur. He really didn't want to turn around.
What he saw when he did surprised him more than anything Merlin could have done or said. Walking towards him were three skeletons… SKELETONS! With swords! And not even Merlin seemed to know what to do with them.
When Arthur managed to get away from the invincible warrior he saw Merlin smacking at a skeleton arm that was crawling toward him like a spider. The skeleton somehow managed to get the sword from Merlin's hand. Merlin jumped to his feet as the hand swiped at his ankles with the sword. Arthur rolled his eyes and hit the hand with the edge of his sword sending it flying in the other direction.
"Come on, you idiot." Arthur stated grabbing Merlin by the neck of his jacket and dragging him towards the citadel.
They stopped on the stairs when they realized the skeletons were pursuing them. "You need to warn Gaius, tell him to seal off the hospital!" Arthur ordered turning to hold of the skeletons.
When he didn't hear footsteps behind him he turned to glare at his manservant who stood there staring at the doorway in shock.
"Merlin, do as I say!" he shouted. This seemed to jolt Merlin into action.
When he finally found his way back to the citadel Merlin was again nowhere to be seen, but the hospital was in the process of being sealed so he must have passed the message onto Gaius. Arthur also noticed that Morgana was nowhere to be seen and the situation was only getting bleaker and bleaker. They had nowhere to run and his men were literally falling left and right.
There was no escape.
Arthur was exhausted. He wasn't sure why he was even fighting anymore. No matter how he attacked this skeleton creature it kept on fighting back. Soon he would lose energy and the skeleton would cut him down.
Just when he had lost all hope he lifted his sword for one final mighty swing at the skeleton but it crumpled to a pile of bones in front of him, the sword hitting the ground with a clang. Not really understanding what had happened but thanking God for whatever it was he ran towards the front line.
Leon had rallied the troops and pressed Cenred's army back and out of the lower town. Within an hour Cenred's army had retreated, riding into the rising sun. The army of Camelot let out a mighty cheer and Arthur laughed in relief.
Returning to the citadel he looked around eagerly for Merlin but the boy was still nowhere to be seen.
"Arthur!" he heard Morgana's voice call form beside Uther. "I need to tell you something."
Arthur glanced around one more time for Merlin but not seeing him headed over towards Morgana and his father.
"What is it?" he asked.
Uther was smiling broadly. "Morgana has thwarted our traitor," he stated.
Arthur inspected Morgana closer, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. In her hands she held a staff that was broken in two, she held it up for him to see.
"The traitor attempted to use this to summon an army of the dead. When I found it I cut it down with my sword. I believe that is when the army collapsed."
Arthur's eyes widened as he stared almost fearfully at the staff. "That is what summoned them?" he asked.
Morgana inspected the staff. "I believe so. It was in the catacombs."
Arthur frowned. "What made you think to go down there?" he asked.
Morgana frowned for a moment as though thinking of an answer. "Merlin. He told me of the army and I thought since that was wear most of our dead were buried that must be the heart of it."
"Have you seen Merlin?" he asked glancing around again, he looked back just in time to see a flash of something in her eyes, he wasn't sure what it was but it scared him for a moment.
She opened her mouth to respond when Uther interrupted. "This act of bravery must not go unnoticed," he stated turning to Arthur. "Gather the knights and nobles in the throne room at midday and we will celebrate this victory."
Arthur nodded, wanting to ask Morgana more about Merlin but knowing his father would look on it with bad taste. He turned back and finally caught a glimpse of Merlin entering the hospital.
He was walking slowly, like his feet were made of lead, but Arthur was too glad to see him to care that much.
"Merlin!" he shouted and Merlin's head shot up to meet his gaze. "It's over, we've won!" Arthur exclaimed approaching Merlin quickly.
The boy gave a small but toothy grin, his hand resting against the wall. Arthur clasped him on the shoulder laughing but the smile was quickly replaced with a frown of concern as Merlin took a step forward and stumbled.
Arthur caught him by the elbow. "What's wrong?" he asked grabbing Merlin's arm tightly eliciting a groan. "Are you injured?" he asked urgently scanning Merlin for any injuries. Despite Merlin's complaining Arthur could pretty much always tell when something was actually wrong… usually it was when Merlin went silent.
"I'm fine." Merlin muttered. "I just need to sit down." Arthur led him the few steps to a cot. Merlin sat down and placed his head in his hands.
"I'll get Gaius," he stated, somewhat worried when Merlin didn't protest.
Arthur returned a few moments later with the physician.
"What's wrong, lad?" The physician asked.
"I'm just tired." Merlin stated but gave the physician a pointed and mysterious look that Arthur didn't miss.
Gaius leaned away and glanced Arthur before turning his attention back to Merlin. Arthur was able to take the hint and moved away to check on some of his injured knights. Gaius approached him a few minutes later.
"Is he alright?" Arthur asked.
Gaius sighed and nodded. "He'll be fine with some food and rest. We're all exhausted," he stated.
"Does this have something to do with his disappearance?" Arthur asked.
Gaius hesitated before responding. "Possibly," he stated cryptically.
Arthur sighed, realizing that he wasn't going to get any more information out of the old man. Both Merlin and Gaius were hiding Merlin's magic, of that Arthur was sure, and Merlin wasn't going to do anything to compromise the safety of his ward's secret.
"Thank you, Gaius." Arthur stated tiredly, not asking any other questions. Merlin was sitting on the cot with his back to the wall, his eyes closed as he chewed on some food. As he lifted the piece of bread to his mouth his sleeve slipped down revealing a large purplish bruise that made Arthur wince.
Whether it was from the battle or something that happened the days of his disappearance Arthur probably would never know, but he did know for sure that if he tried to confront Merlin he would only receive a poorly constructed lie, and he was too tired to deal with that right now.
He glanced at Merlin one more time before leaving the hospital to attend to the happenings outside the castle. There were still fires to put out and barricades that needed to be rebuilt immediately. The battle was over but there was still a lot of work to be done.
"Merlin!" Arthur shouted throwing the door to Merlin and Gaius' chambers open, seeing his manservant sitting and eating dinner. Merlin had been resting the majority of the day other than the one meeting in the council chambers. "Get your lazy backside out here." Arthur ordered.
Merlin smirked at Gaius and mumbled something before standing to follow his master out the door.
"What can I do for you, sire?" Merlin asked.
Arthur honestly wasn't sure what he had wanted Merlin to do, after the recognition of Morgana in the throne room Merlin had been extremely quiet. It wasn't like Merlin, at least not like the Merlin that Arthur knew. He had waited a year to see that spark back in Merlin's eyes and he just wanted to see if it was missing again or if it was back to stay.
"The lower town is still in shambles, we need all the hands we can get to help put out the remaining fires and rebuild things of necessity." That was actually true.
Merlin nodded, not even complaining despite the fact that Arthur knew he was still exhausted.
Arthur looked him up and down. "Can you handle that?" he asked half teasing and half earnest.
Merlin smirked at him. "Of course, sire," he stated sounding amused at Arthur's concern.
Arthur stopped walking to study the younger man. Merlin stopped as well, watching Arthur suspiciously.
"Are you alright, sire?" Merlin asked.
Arthur blinked. "Of course," he stated, clearing his throat before continuing his fast paced walk towards the lower town. "I'm not a wimp like you, Merlin."
"And I'm not a dollop-head like you, sire." Merlin said cheerily.
Arthur glanced back at Merlin, the happy smirk still on his manservant's face.
"I am not a dollop-head." Arthur said grumpily but as he turned his eyes forward he couldn't help the slight smile that came to his lips. Despite how hard he had tried to bring his family back together he got the strange feeling that everything was about to change, but one thing that would never really change was Merlin.
AN: So I added in some Arthur angst which is why his chambers were in such shambles when Merlin returned. I really liked that scene actually and then some Merlin whump near the end just because I felt like he went through a lot and he deserved some recognition for that.
This episode was a really big one for Arthur, you saw him doubting himself the whole episode and then with those few encouraging words from Merlin his whole perspective switched around to the point where he told his father "I know what I'm doing." After wishing for his father's guidance the whole time he finally rejected it and made his own decision. Like I said a HUGE episode for Arthur's character development and I really enjoyed adding my own ideas to it.
Hope you enjoyed the story, as always leave a review!