An: Hi everyone! This is a little something I wrote a while back, but never got around to publishing. I'm doing so now first to reassure you that I am still alive, and secondly, to confirm that yes, there should be a new chapter of Whispers On The Wind and Taken By The Storm soon. Hopefully.

I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for taking the time to read it.

Surprise: a coming upon unexpectedly; detecting in the act; taking unawares.

After living with Merlin for over half a decade, Gaius has learnt not to be surprised. The young farm boy should have been nothing else, but somehow he has become the prince's manservant, his advisor, his confidante. Every day, he saves someone's life and asks for nothing in return, even though Gaius knows how much it hurts him to have to hide who he is all the time.

It's because of this, he's learnt to accept that at times Merlin will act strangely and disappear sometimes. He knows that his ward won't tell him where he goes to, so he doesn't press for answers. After all, sometimes, it is better to be kept in the dark.

He remembers years ago, Merlin standing in his chambers, still left with some of his naivety, nervously twisting his hands.

"I may have caused a problem - although it wasn't entirely my doing."

"What now, Merlin?"

"Arthur's in love."

An eyebrow raised, follow by, "And how did you cause that?"

"That bit isn't my fault, the other bit is. Oh, I can't tell you about that bit."

"Clear as mud."

Gaius remembers fondly how he was still new to all of this gallivanting about, saving the world and the everyday mishaps of Merlin's magic. He's very much used to it now, because that memory is not one of the strangest he can remember. There's a dress, the stocks, a dragon and a sword forged for one person only out of its breath, the resurrected spirit of an evil sorcerer, Arthur masquerading as a peasant, Merlin cleaning the leech tank (goodness knows how strange that was), Arthur with donkey's ears and so much more.

So when Lancelot returns from the dead and Merlin begins to act strangely, he reads the signs. They sit at the table, eating broth, Gaius lost in his thoughts when Merlin smacks his lips.

"Mmm," he says, "the chicken is good."

It's a lead up, Gaius knows, to the problem or question that his young ward will inevitably put forwards.

"It's a nice broth."

Gaius goes to take another mouthful of soup, then deliberates for a moment over if it is wise to put hot liquid in his mouth before Merlin says what he wants to. No, he decides. He has passed that stage a long time ago.

So when Merlin opens his mouth once more and says, "What do you know about necromancy?" Gaius doesn't react.

He isn't surprised.