A/N: Yay for bonus chapters! Okay, so this was a request from Lady of The Wind Dweller, who wanted a story where Merlin defends Arthur from Uther. I hope this is what you had in mind! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Surprisingly, I still don't own Merlin.
"Arthur, this is unacceptable!" boomed an enraged Uther. "I specifically forbade you from going to that village and you directly went against my orders!"
"Father, had I not gone, that village would have been overrun by bandits!" Arthur argued back.
Three days earlier, an absolute scarecrow of a man, covered in dust and dirt with straw colored hair and wearing farming clothes that hung off of his rail thin frame, had stumbled into Camelot and requested an audience with the king. A malicious group of bandits had been terrorizing his small village for weeks now and the man had implored Uther to send some knights to help them. The only problem was the village lied dangerously close to Camelot's border with the Kingdom of Caerleon, whose peace with Camelot was currently on shaky grounds.
Much to the poor farmer's devastation, Uther had declared that is was too risky to send any aid, a decision that was instantly argued against on Arthur's part. The king's stubbornness had won out in the end, however, and Arthur was told he was not to offer any sort of help to those people.
Of course, Arthur, being Arthur, had gone against his father's orders and snuck out that very night with Merlin in tow.
And now, three days, one dispatched group of bandits, and one rejoicing village later, Arthur stood in the center of the throne room, still smudged with dirt and ruffled looking from the fight with the bandits, being heatedly berated by his father.
"Be that as it may, Arthur, you still went against my orders and nearly got yourself killed! I cannot allow this to go unpunished."
"Father, if you would just listen, I-"
"I don't want to hear it, Arthur! You took an unnecessary risk. When you are king, you cannot go around risking your life for every peasant who walks into the castle asking for help. You need to learn to control your recklessness." Arthur opened his mouth to argue, but Uther held up a hand to silence him. "You will spend the night in the cells to think about what you've done and how you can mature enough to overcome your foolhardiness."
Uther waved his hand and the guards who had been standing by the door stepped forward, taking Arthur's arms. Arthur struggled a bit, more out of habit than any real attempt to escape, but he knew his efforts were futile. He was fully aware going into this that there would be consequences, and he was willing to accept them for the sake of helping his people.
Just as the guards were about to escort Arthur out of the hall, a voice rang out from the corner of the room.
The guards stopped and Arthur closed his eyes in frustration as Merlin stepped forward to stand before the king.
"No, hold on, Arthur," the servant cut his master off. Merlin took a calming breath before looking up to meet Uther's cold glare.
"What is the meaning of this, boy?" Uther asked in an exasperated tone. He was well used to the… unconventional actions of Arthur's manservant by now.
"With all due respect, my lord," Merlin began, keeping his tone steady. "the village is still within the borders of Camelot, making the people who live there your responsibility. Arthur was merely fulfilling his duty as prince by protecting the villagers." Merlin glanced back at Arthur, whose eyes had gone wide with surprise, and a small, but undeniably proud, smile turned up the corners of the servant's lips as he faced the king once more. "I was there. I saw the way the people looked at him when he left that village. He was their savior and their loyalty to you has now increased ten fold. I believe, in this case, the judgment you passed was wrong. Arthur was not acting out of recklessness or foolhardiness, but out of a deep devotion to his people. One that will make him a great king someday." Merlin squared his shoulders and concluded firmly, "Arthur was right to go."
Silence permeated the room as Merlin finished his speech. Uther just stared at the young man who had dared to speak out against him. Deep within himself, Uther knew the servant was right. Arthur's actions had benefited them in the end.
Usually, a servant would be, at the very least, flogged for speaking to the king in such a way, but somehow, Uther knew with this particular, quirky manservant, the rules were different. There was an unexplainable, yet extraordinary bond between the raven haired man and his son. Uther couldn't understand it, he wasn't even sure if he fully condoned it, but the friendship was undoubtedly there, and it was strong. The king knew if he were to punish Merlin too severely, Arthur's reaction would be… unpleasant.
Still, Uther could not allow this insubordination to go completely unpunished.
"I could have you flogged for speaking to me in such a way, boy." Uther finally declared.
"Father, no, please!" Arthur began urgently, fighting against the guards' hold in earnest now.
"But," the king stated, holding up a hand to silence his struggling son. "because of his apparent loyalty and dedication to this kingdom, I will lighten the punishment." It's hard to say whose relief was greater, Arthur's or Merlin's. "He will also spend the night in the cells." With a wave of Uther's hand, the two men were taken away.
As both Merlin and Arthur were led out of the throne room and towards the cells, all the prince could do was silently gawk at his manservant. The man had just stood up for Arthur to the king. Merlin had always shown unwavering loyalty in the past, but sometimes the sheer strength of his dedication to Arthur caught the blonde off guard. It was an extraordinary thought: to have someone who was more than willing to risk life and limb for him. Arthur momentarily wondered if this was what it felt like to have a brother.
After being led through numerous halls and down multiple stairs, the small group reached the cells. Arthur and Merlin were both put into the same cell, seeing as neither of them was a real threat and this whole thing was a formality more than anything else.
Once the barred door creaked closed, both servant and master sat shoulder to shoulder, leaning against the back wall.
Neither of them said anything for a while, both staring straight ahead, waiting for the other to speak first. Finally, it was Merlin who broke the silence.
"I meant what I said, you know." Arthur looked over at the younger man, but Merlin just continued to stare straight ahead. "You were right to aid that village. It was what any great king would have done." Merlin finally met Arthur's gaze with a smile. "I'm proud of you."
Oddly enough, Arthur got a greater feeling of pride upon receiving praise from Merlin than he ever had from his father or the other knights. Merlin's praise was so full of conviction and assurance, with no false, sugary coating to just get on his good side, it almost made Arthur lightheaded.
"Thank you, Merlin." Arthur replied after a beat. "I'm… well, um… I'm proud of you, too."
Now it was Merlin's turn to stare at the older man in surprise. "You are? For what?"
"For what?" Arthur asked incredulously. "Merlin, you just defended me from the king. My father wasn't exaggerating when he said you could be flogged for doing that." the prince shuttered at the thought of Merlin receiving that sort of punishment, but continued on. "It was an incredibly idiotic thing to do." When Merlin flinched slightly at the harsh comment, Arthur's voice took on a quiet, soft tone. "But it was also extremely brave."
Merlin smiled and ducked his head, causing Arthur to also smile at his servant's customary humble and shy response to praise.
The two men then sat in a comfortable silence. After several minutes, a chilled autumn breeze blew in through the barred window. Merlin, who had lost his jacket in the fight in the village, shivered and pulled his knees up to his chest.
Arthur looked over at the younger man, taking in the thinness of his shirt and how he was clutching his knees in a vain attempt to stop his shaking, and almost without thinking, made a decision.
Huffing a sigh at his servant's lack to properly take care of himself (even if Merlin losing his jacket had been the fault of one of the bandits, not the servant himself), Arthur leaned forward and tugged off his own coat.
Merlin was absentmindedly staring ahead, trying to remember how long Gaius said hypothermia takes to set in, when something- a blessedly warm something- was draped across his shoulders. Reaching up, Merlin instantly recognized the fabric of Arthur's coat.
"I appreciate it, Arthur," Merlin began to pull off the coat. "but then you'll get cold."
"Just shut up and wear the coat, Merlin. My shirt is much thicker than yours. I'll be fine."
Merlin stared skeptically at the prince for a moment more, but the coat really was warm and it smelled of fresh linens and grass, a comforting sent he had always associated with Arthur, so Merlin finally gave in, shoving his arms though the sleeves and pulling the coat tighter around him.
When Arthur saw the shivers cease and mumbled a satisfied "that's better", a soft smile graced Merlin's face.
Yes, Arthur would make a wonderful king someday, Merlin was sure of it. And he would continue to defend Arthur, from friend and foe alike, until the very end.
A/N: Well, I hope that was satisfying! Thanks for all the favorites/follows/reviews! They really brighten up my day! And a thanks to Lady of The Wind Dweller for the prompt. I really enjoyed writing it!
Oh, and by the way, I have no idea if the Kingdom of Caerleon was mentioned in an episode, but if it was and Camelot and them are actually good allies… let's just pretend that for a little while there, they weren't. ;)