AN: This is just a one-shot that's been stuck in my head for awhile. Some people seem to think that the knights are really all more devoted to Merlin than Arthur but I disagree but Merlin does seem to be the person that attracts them in, just Merlin's thoughts on that with a little angst thrown in! Enjoy!
It really was a stupid way to die, tied up in the woods, a gag over his mouth and a knife wound in his stomach. When it had first happened he hadn't been paying attention. He was tired, Gaius had needed some herbs and Arthur had an important meeting today so he had to get up especially early to make sure he'd be on time. Looked like he was going to be late now… actually looked like he was going to miss it entirely.
It had been something simple, a bandit, looking for money. When it had happened Merlin thought he would just wait until the man left and then call the great dragon like he had many times before, but then the man had gagged his mouth and tied up his hands, as though he could go anywhere as injured as he was.
Stupid bandits. He didn't even have any money on him. This was stupid, a stupid way to die. He was supposed to die defending Arthur or Camelot, supposed to die nobly, honorably. There was nothing honorable in this death. It was just a pointless murder. So the bandit tied him up and left and he was left to slowly bleed out, because the wound itself probably wouldn't have been fatal if he could have gotten the medical attention right away, but now that the bandit had tied him up he had sealed his fate, he was too weak to escape his bonds with magic or physical force and now he wouldn't be able to call the great dragon with his mouth gagged. It would have been kinder to just slit his throat.
No one would notice he was gone. Not for several hours at least. Then Gaius would wonder where he was, but he wouldn't say anything because if he did then he might be exposing some secret mission Merlin was on. He wouldn't risk that, not for at least another day. Other than Gaius, no one would miss him, well Arthur would, he would burst into Gaius' chambers and ask where his idiot servant was that was the reason he was late to his very important meeting and Gaius would tell him that Merlin had gone out picking herbs and probably got sidetracked and they would brush it off for a day. Then Merlin wouldn't return the next day either and Gaius would get worried but still not say anything. Arthur would continue to complain but he wouldn't bother assigning a new servant, he would just wait for Merlin to return. Maybe on the third day they would send out a search party and eventually find Merlin's dead body, tied up and stabbed his blood having long ago seeped into the ground and dried on the grass and his clothes, but that wouldn't be until tomorrow at least.
Merlin felt himself frown as he lay on the ground, staring up at the sky just beginning to lighten with the first rays of dawn. Surely someone would notice and be worried right? He had friends other than Gaius didn't he? There was Gwen. She had been his friend once upon a time, but she was Arthur's now and she was solely focused on him. He remembered when Arthur had casually mentioned that Gwen hadn't wanted him to come and rescue Merlin. That time when Merlin was injured and then separated from Arthur and captured by Morgana. Guinevere had tried to talk Arthur out of going, there was a time when she would have urged him to go but now she did not wish to risk the life of the man she loved for a mere servant. Now she was queen, her station far above Merlin's, she had other things to worry about than him. No, Guinevere was no longer Merlin's, she was Arthur's.
There was Gwaine. Gwaine had once called Merlin his only friend, when Merlin had requested his aid to save Arthur on that quest, he had come for Merlin, not for Arthur, but then he had pledged his oath to Arthur. Now he made fun and teased Merlin with the rest of the knights he called friends. Merlin knew that if he asked Gwaine to help him the man would jump up and help right away, probably more than anyone else, but it wasn't the same as it used to be. If Gwaine had to choose between Merlin and Arthur he would choose Arthur. There was no doubt in Merlin's mind that Gwaine wasn't his anymore, he was Arthur's.
He scrambled his brains, trying to find others. Percival and Elyan had always been Arthur's and Leon was definitely Arthur's. Lancelot had come to Camelot in order to swear fealty to Arthur but had ended up becoming a friend and confidant to Merlin as well. In a way Lancelot was his because he had sacrificed his life for Merlin's. Not for Arthur, but for Merlin, but then Morgana had twisted the knight to her own purposes… and he had ended his life as Morgana's.
Merlin cringed at the memory. Lancelot was dead now, he wouldn't notice Merlin was gone anyway. He never really made friends with the servants, there were a few he respected and enjoyed working with but he couldn't call him his friends. He spent so much time with the knights and Arthur he didn't really have time for friends.
Merlin felt a sorrow take over him as he thought about this. Everything he did, even the friends he made, was for Arthur. Even when he found something that was his Arthur took it away.
Freya. Arthur had taken her away too.
Merlin shook his fuzzy head. He wouldn't think about that right now. He wanted to focus on the living, not the dead who he would be joining soon enough. How would they all react when they found out he was dead?
He honestly had no idea how Gaius would react. The man could be unpredictable, especially when it came to Merlin. Of course he would be sad, and maybe feel guilty for some stupid reason, but would he scream? Would he cry? Would he stand stoic and strong despite his bent posture? Merlin had no idea.
Gwen would cry, a few tears in front of people and then more racking sobs when she was alone with Arthur, clutched in his comforting arms.
Gwaine would get drunk… very drunk. Percival and Elyan, maybe even Leon, would drink with him in memory of Merlin, though not as much and then they would carry Gwaine home after he passed out.
That left Arthur. He was another person that Merlin wasn't sure what emotion to expect. He would stand strong, and calm though there would be a deep sadness to him. He wouldn't cry, he wouldn't, not for Merlin. He would give Merlin a proper burial and funeral, for that Merlin was thankful, he would probably up the patrols in the forest or try and hunt down the bandit that killed Merlin, there was a comfort in that too.
They would mourn for a few days and then they would all move on. In a week they would stop thinking about him every day. He was, after all, just a servant. It had been his job to serve and blend into the background, even with the commoners turned knights, they had at first welcomed him as an equal. When Morgana had taken over the castle all those years ago, before they had been knighted, they had even taken orders from Merlin who was forced to take charge while Arthur was injured, but slowly he slipped into obscurity.
Merlin laughed at that memory and then coughed terribly, the thought of the knights taking orders from him now was quite ludicrous. He knew that they respected him and he knew that they cared about him, but it was true, he wasn't on the same level they were anymore. He didn't sit at the round table, the table that was supposed to stand for equality but only to those who sat in it.
Merlin sighed, it was sad to think that you would be forgotten. Gaius would remember of course but no one else even knew of all that he had done. Would Gaius tell them? Merlin wasn't even sure if he wanted him too. Was it better to be remembered in a bad way, as someone who lied to his friends for years, or not at all?
Merlin sighed and coughed curling up on himself as much as he could while restrained. He had given everything to Arthur and really received nothing in return. He wouldn't even get to see the birth of Albion, or magic returned to the kingdom, that was to be his reward, above all else, and now he wouldn't even see it.
He opened his eyes and stared at the sky which was far too bright and cheery. How dare it be cheerful on the day of his death? Blackness began to creep in on the edges of his vision and he closed his eyes and pictured those people again.
He saw Arthur at the forefront of it all. Arthur might miss him the most, even more than Gaius. Merlin had spent more time with Arthur than anyone else, nearly all his waking hours were either with the king or doing something for him. Yes, Arthur might miss his presence more than anyone. He saw Gwen on the king's right, and Gwaine just next to her, and on the other side he saw Gaius, Percival and Elyan. He expected it to stop there but more people kept appearing, Leon, and servants and royals, other knights, Princess Mithian, Princess Elena, Queen Annis. Merlin couldn't understand why all these people were intruding on his dream and then something hit him.
Just because they were Arthur's friends didn't mean they couldn't be his too. He didn't know when it had become a contest, when they had to be his friend before they were Arthur's. It didn't even make sense, because in being his friend they would realize the thing he cared most about in the world was protecting Arthur, so it made sense that they would feel the same if they really cared about Merlin, and while Merlin had shared many of his friends with Arthur, he had also gained a lot of friends from Arthur. Princess Mithian, for example, she had always respected Merlin. She understood his relationship with Arthur and she had even sought out his approval when they were supposed to marry. If she did come and visit she would ask where he went. Queen Annis would inquire as well as to where "Arthur's fool" had gone, she would say fool fondly like she always did. Leon respected him as well. They both had an understanding and respect for one another based on both of their needs to protect and serve Arthur. Leon was his friend too.
Merlin sighed happily as he stared at all his friends looking at him and giving him their support underneath his eyelids. He had gained far more than he thought since arriving in Camelot and serving Arthur. He had once told Arthur that he left Ealdor because he didn't fit in, but he wasn't sure if Camelot was a place he did, now looking at all his friends he could see the spot right next to Arthur where he was supposed to be standing, he ached to join them because this was a place where he fit in, even if he couldn't reveal his magic, it was a place where he was respected and loved.
Tears ran down his cheeks and a sob escaped the gag in his mouth. He didn't want to leave them, he wanted to stay and protect them but the darkness was seeping further and further across his vision.
Slowly one by one they all disappeared, until it was only Arthur standing there. At this point Merlin was completely lost, he didn't know if his eyes were open or closed, Arthur's face looked sad and angry. His mouth was moving but Merlin couldn't hear the words. He wished he could have said goodbye.
"Arthur, I'm glad you have our friends to protect you now that I'm leaving." He didn't remember the gag being taken away from his mouth so he assumed he must be completely dreaming by this point, the statement was true. He didn't have to be worried because they would all take care of Arthur, that made it all worth it. Arthur was trying to say something again and Merlin strained his ears to hear, there was a pop and suddenly sound filtered in loudly.
"—idiot, Merlin, you're not going anywhere." Arthur's voice suddenly broke through the fog strongly. Merlin gasped, reality coming back in a flash. Arthur was crouched in front of him staring at him, before he really let Merlin process this information he pulled the man to his feet and draped his arm over his shoulders.
"What… how?" He asked as Arthur started to walk, half dragging a confused Merlin along. At some point Merlin realized that he wasn't tied up anymore but they had already been walking for quite some time at that point.
Arthur grumbled. "When you didn't wake me up on time this morning Gwen got worried and asked Gwaine where you were. Gwaine had cut his hand during an early morning training session and gone to Gaius. When he noticed you weren't there he asked Gaius, who told Gwaine that you were going herb picking this morning. So Gwaine told Gwen and Gwen pestered me to send someone to check on you. I told her I'd go find you myself so I could kill you when I did, seeing as I already missed my meeting, but when I found you it seems someone had already tried to do that job."
Merlin reached a hand down to touch his stomach and found a wad of bandages. "Oh." Merlin said, but he sounded surprised. "I didn't think anyone would notice I was gone." He mumbled.
Arthur mumbled something under his breath and then said. "They're your friends Merlin, of course they would notice you're gone. How much of an idiot can you be?"
Merlin stumbled along, but despite the pain he felt with each jolting step he couldn't help the dopey smile that spread across his face, Arthur noticed and gave him a worried glare. "They're our friends." He corrected still smiling, Arthur's frown just deepened and Merlin laughed which was a bad idea because it hurt a lot. "You were worried about me too." He accused.
Arthur huffed. "Was not."
Merlin sniggered and stumbled. "I do have friends." He said happily. Arthur just continued to give him a strange look. Merlin looked back at him. "It's nice… having friends… don't you think?" He asked. Arthur couldn't help but laugh a little.
"Whatever you say, Merlin." Arthur said. "Let's get you home."
Merlin nodded. Home. Where he fit in, finally he had found a place where he fit in.
AN: It's funny how you can start with a simple idea and it can turn into a pretty good story :)! This started with just the fact that many of Merlin's friends ended up becoming Arthur's and blossomed into a story about Merlin fitting in. Thought it was pretty cool how it turned out and I'm happy with the results! Leave a review and let me know how I did… please tell me if the characters were OOC. That's something I'm trying to work on, that and dialogue, I've never been too good at writing dialogue in the past, something else I'm working on.
Thanks for reading!