A/N: I don't remember if I've already said this or not, but this takes places after 2.09 "The Lady of the Lake" but before 2.11 "The Witch's Quickening." It doesn't really matter whether or not it's before or after "Sweet Dreams."
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin and I'm making no profit from this. That goes for this entire story.
There. Now I don't have to write it again. ^-^
Here's chapter two! Sorry it took so long… I hope you enjoy. =)
"Rise and shine, sire! There's a whole new day ahead of you!"
Arthur groaned as the sunlight fell onto his face, turning the back of his eyelids red. "Five more minutes," he muttered, rolling over in an attempt to block out the light. There was a moment of silence, and the prince was just rejoicing in being granted his wish, when he was suddenly and violently yanked from his blankets and onto the cold floor.
"Merlin!" he roared, rising. The boy was standing over him, holding the blankets, trying with little success to appear innocent. "You idiot!"
"You told me to get you up no matter what it took," Merlin said patiently, almost patronizingly, with a poorly concealed grin. "Remember?"
Arthur did, but he was not going to give Merlin the satisfaction of letting him know that. "Of course not." He grabbed for his blankets, determined to have those extra five minutes, but Merlin deftly sidestepped him, and the still half-asleep prince almost fell on his face.
Merlin made no attempt at hiding his amusement.
"You're going hunting today, remember? The kitchens need restocking."
That woke Arthur up.
"I am?" He felt fully awake now. He'd thought he had more mind-numbingly dull meetings with his father today.
"Yes," said Merlin, smirking at his alertness. He held out the blankets. "I suppose you can sleep for five more minutes, then."
Arthur rolled his eyes and shoved the blankets away. "Very funny, Merlin."
Merlin did indeed seem to find it funny, grinning that ridiculous smile of his as Arthur sat down to eat.
"Do you need anything?" the boy asked.
"Go pack for the trip," Arthur told him. "We won't be coming back until tomorrow."
Merlin nodded and made for the door, then suddenly stopped and said quietly, almost timidly, "Arthur?"
Arthur raised his head, surprised at the sudden change in manner. He covered it with a sigh and roll of his eyes. "What is it, Merlin?"
"Where are we going?"
The question took him aback. "The usual places, I suppose. The forest. That area. Why?"
Merlin shook his head, still seeming very subdued. "It doesn't matter."
And then he was gone, leaving his master shaking his head, wondering what had gotten into the young man.
"Arthur, why can't we take a break?" Merlin was whining, slumped on his horse. "It's hot, and we've been out here terrorizing innocent animals all day."
"Really, Merlin. You're such a girl. It's not that hot." Arthur was sweating profusely underneath his chain mail, actually, but he saw no need to encourage the servant's moaning.
"It is hot," said Merlin stubbornly. "And you're sweating too."
So much for that plan.
"Why can't we take a break?"
"We-" Arthur's words caught in his throat as they broke out of the trees and saw a beautiful lake glimmering in front of them.
The prince heard Merlin's breath catch beside him. The idiot was probably daydreaming about the beauty of the scene and the fish swimming in the lake having a nice day.
The lake was really quite breathtaking, and something about it drew Arthur. He was not quite sure what it was- the heat, perhaps, and the cool water the lake was sure to have, or the scenic backdrop, or the mist that hung over it, giving it an ethereal appearance. (1) Whatever it was, Arthur was suddenly possessed by a strong desire to take a swim.
"Alright, Merlin, have it your way," he announced, dismounting. "I can't have you passing out on me, after all. We'll take a break and go for a swim."
"What?" came Merlin's yelp. Arthur turned to the boy, surprised to see the look of horror on his face.
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
"What, I… Arthur, you can't swim there!"
"Why not?" countered the prince waspishly. The desire to swim there was almost overwhelming. He felt stifled by his chain mail and the heat, and knew the cool water would do him good.
"It's… magical. Gaius told me."
"What? Merlin, don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not!" cried the boy almost desperately as Arthur peeled his chainmail and shirt from his sticky skin. "Arthur, I'm serious! You could get killed."
Had Arthur not been so focused on swimming in the lake, he might have heeded Merlin's warning. But the desire to get in the water was overpowering, and he could think of little else.
"Arthur, you can't!" Merlin was wailing. At some point, Merlin had dismounted and was now standing beside Arthur, clinging onto his arm in an attempt to make him stay.
Arthur ignored the boy and made for the lake.
"Arthur!" Merlin cried desperately, digging his heels into the ground, trying to prevent Arthur from going into the water. But his skinny frame was no match for Arthur's strength, and he toppled over as Arthur forcefully pulled away and walked into the water.
The last thing he heard before submerging was Merlin screaming, "Arthur, no, don't!"
"You really are an idiot."
Merlin glared silently at his master, who was gloating on the other side of the campfire.
Secretly, Arthur was rather touched by how distressed the boy had seemed, but Merlin's ego was already big enough. The last thing he needed was for Arthur to puff him up even more. So he settled with teasing him. "Honestly, Merlin, you're such a girl's petticoat sometimes, you know? All upset because I was going to swim in a lake. I am capable of swimming, you know."
Merlin just sighed moodily and poked at the fire with a stick.
Arthur felt a twinge of guilt at seeing Merlin's face. Perhaps he shouldn't be so hard on the boy. After all, peasants could be quite superstitious. But then, how else was he going to learn? "The worst I received from the lake is a headache."
Merlin's head snapped up at that, his gaze meeting Arthur's. "You have a headache?"
Arthur would have rolled his eyes if it had not hurt so much. "Yes, Merlin. I'm not going to die."
Judging from the doleful expression on the boy's face, Merlin thought otherwise.
This time, Arthur decided it was worth the pain to roll his eyes. "Really, Merlin. Your concern is getting a bit ridiculous."
Merlin just frowned and looked back down at the stick in his hands.
Arthur sighed loudly. "Idiot," he muttered. Then, louder, "I'll take first watch. You don't look like you'd do a very good job of it at the moment."
The boy rolled his eyes, but did not protest, merely lying down on his bedroll.
Arthur felt a bit guilty for teasing the boy so much when he was obviously upset, but all he said was, "I'll wake you up in a few hours."
He settled down against a tree to watch. The night air was cool, despite the warm day, and the forest was alive with noise. He could hear crickets chirping, and an owl hooted somewhere in the distance. (2) The prince gave a contented sigh and slid farther down the tree, his eyes slowly starting to slide shut.
He snapped back awake. What was wrong with him? He could keep watch. Huffing, he made to sit up and get in a more uncomfortable position, hoping it would wake him up, but it was just so nice here, and he was so tired, and surely it wouldn't hurt just to rest a few minutes...
His eyes slid shut and he was out.
"Arthur! Arthur, wake up!"
Someone was shouting his name, telling him to wake up. Who was it? Arthur couldn't tell. He didn't particularly care. It was so pleasant and peaceful, why couldn't they just let him sleep?
"Arthur, you have to wake up!" It was almost a sob.
Maybe he should see what they wanted. They sounded upset. But no, it was so nice here. He was so comfortable. He'd see what it was later. Surely it could wait until later.
He let himself drift away again, far away, where Merlin's desperate cries could no longer reach him.
(1) In the show, the lake is not actually misty, but it is traditionally.
(2) Do they have crickets and owls in England? No idea. Let's just pretend they do. ;)
A/N: Yes, I am aware that that was a rather evil ending.
I'm also aware that this chapter could lead to lots of questions. Fear not, they shall be answered next chapter. =)
Did you guys like it? Hate it? Did I do Arthur alright? I'm always so nervous about writing him…
And fear not! The next chapter shall contain Balinor. =)