Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin.
Made for Immortality
The idea that everyone thought he was younger than Arthur never failed to make him laugh. He could understand the cause for confusion, but really—he was an old man compared to the rest of them. It was odd to think about, given his youthful appearance, but he was even older than Gaius. The old physician was still a young man to Merlin, if it were a mere comparison of years. Although, in spirit, he supposed the man was his elder; Merlin didn't doubt he'd be in as bad a mood continually as the court physician if he was stuck with rickety bones and wrinkled skin.
Aging was so overrated. And unnecessary. Really, all it did was get in the way.
Had Merlin had aged past twenty-five, he would have a beard down to his toes, hair just as long if he was lucky enough to keep it, and pink, toothless gums. It made him shudder just to think about it; how would he get anything done in that body? Fate had definitely thought ahead in stopping his aging.
The sun was peeking just over the horizon, bathing Camelot in a golden glaze. The sight never ceased to fill him with wonder. It really was a beautiful kingdom.
Stopping by the kitchens, Merlin retrieved the king's breakfast, charming the young ladies working in the kitchen with his (thankfully toothy) smile. They always blushed a bright red and gathered in a huddle when they saw him, chattering away excitedly. He shook his head, smiling; if only they knew just how old he really was.
Bounding up several staircases, grin still plastered on his face, he made his way up to Arthur's quarters. Not bothering to knock, he shouldered the door open. The platter filled with a ridiculous amount of food was balanced precariously on one hand, a small basket of laundry he'd picked up on the way there in the other. He was just glad he'd remembered it sooner rather than later. His memory was going in his old age.
Setting both loads down in their respective homes, Merlin opened the curtains with unecessary flourish. "Up and at 'em, your majesty!"
There was a groan. "Ten more minutes..." Arthur grabbed a pillow from the other, unused side of the bed, and put it over his face protectively. The sunlight changed the bed's hue just as it had the city.
Merlin rolled his eyes. "Come on, Arthur, time to get up. You'll be late—Lord... Macedonius? Was that his name?" He paused for a moment. "Yes, that was his name. He's coming this morning, remember?"
"Mmm... don't remind me." Arthur sighed. He flung the pillow back to the other side of the bed and ran his hands over his face.
"A little late for that. Get up, lest you want me to resort to another, far less pleasant method of getting you out of bed?" Merlin couldn't refrain from smirking; the memory only got sweeter by the day.
The effects were instantaneous. "You wouldn't dare!" Arthur sat straight up in bed, eyes widened and warily meeting Merlin's. He clearly had the exact same memory in mind.
"I did it once, who's to say I won't do it again?" Arthur threw his pillow at his manservant, of whom barely managed to avoid it. It bounced off the wall and fell harmlessly to the floor. Merlin picked it up and walked over to the bed, ushering Arthur out of it. "Looks like you're up now, anyway," Merlin said. ("Your observation skills astound me, Merlin," Arthur mumbled dryly. Merlin ignored him.) "Get your lazy ass up and out of bed and eat your breakfast so I can change your sheets."
Arthur grumbled something unintelligible beneath his breath, his eyes squinted against the bright sunlight. Merlin watched him as he almost had to feel his way to the drapes of the window. He dragged them closed and shuffled to the table. Arthur sat down heavily and let his head fall into his folded arms, an exhausted sigh escaping his lips.
Merlin noticed all this and shook his head before shifting back to his task. He fluffed the pillows and removed and replaced the sheets, thinking.
Kingship had been hard on Arthur. Barely a year into the job and he was losing precious hours of sleep to paperwork, stress, the looming threat of Morgana, and even more paperwork. There was more, of course, but those were the main issues. Merlin couldn't do much about it, much to his obvious displeasure and dismay. If he could, Merlin would gladly take over the duties of king if it meant Arthur would let himself get a full night's sleep. Young men needed their sleep.
He finished quickly and nudged Arthur back into the world of the living. After a few bleary blinks from the king, Merlin managed to keep him awake long enough to eat a bit of his breakfast. Dressing Arthur that morning was something akin to dressing an overgrown toddler right after a nap. His head kept nodding tiredly, an almost comic thing to witness. The dark circles under his blue eyes were noticeable from a mile away. Merlin frowned his concern, but otherwise said nothing.
Until, that is, the idiot almost impaled himself with his sharpened sword when Merlin handed it to him, meant to be strapped at his hip to complete the kingly attire. "Go back to bed, Arthur. Sleep for a bit; it'll do you good. I'm sure Lord What's-his-face will understand." Merlin's face was creased with growing concern, his brow furrowed in frustration. Of course the idiot wouldn't do it; since when did he listen to Merlin?
Arthur rolled his eyes at Merlin's phrasing. "Meeting Macedonius is very important—his serfs are said to be suffering, plagued by some sort of magical monster..." He sighed, massaging his temples. Merlin guessed he probably had a headache coming on; he made a mental note to bring him something from Gaius when he could. "I can't remember," he admitted, sighing. "I might be thinking of another lord."
Merlin frowned in sympathy. Arthur couldn't have been feeling well if he was admitting mistakes. "This lord can wait, Arthur." Merlin said firmly. "I'll go and tell them you're not feeling well, then bring up something for that headache of yours."
Arthur opened his mouth to argue, but Merlin's glare silenced him. Nodding wearily, he said, "Tell Uncle he'll be in charge for the day." Merlin nodded obediently and helped Arthur remove the belt holding his blade. Setting it on the table in the corner, he watched the king fall forward and onto the bed with a soft oomph. It didn't take long at all for him to start snoring. Merlin smiled fondly at the sight. Exiting the room, he shut the door slowly and as quietly as possible.
Looking out the windows after leaving the king's quarters told him the lord was due to arrive at any moment. Merlin quickened his pace, trying not to trip over his own feet all the way. Agravaine would be awaiting Lord Macedonius in the castle courtyard; there was no time to let him know of Arthur's absence beforehand. For the first time in years, Merlin wished he'd gotten up on time.
Alright, not really. Old people were supposed to need their sleep, lots more than the young men and women running the castle. According to Gaius, anyway—it was the man's excuse for getting Merlin to do most of the manual labor and gathering of herbs. He'd had to refrain from saying that had that statement been accurate, Gaius should be the one out getting medicinal plants and such. Not that he'd mean that anymore than as just a witty comeback. Gaius was much too old (for someone who was not Merlin) to be doing such things now.
Merlin shook himself out of his thoughts upon reaching the doors to the courtyard. Pressing an ear to the aging wood, he deduced that the lord had not yet arrived. Things were silent, with the exception of impatient shuffling and whispers of gossip. Pushing open the door only slightly, Merlin slipped past and into the open, gaining many stares. Given that most grumbled and looked back to the courtyard gates, Merlin assumed they had thought he was the king, not the king's useless manservant.
Lord Agravaine de Bois was the only one to hold his gaze on Merlin. Hurrying over to the man, he bowed his head in respect and said, "My lord, his majesty is not feeling well this morning—he asks that you take his duties for today, including greeting the Lord Macedonius."
That had to be the most respectful thing he'd said to anyone. Agravaine's startled face only helped to support that observation. "Yes—yes, of course. Do tell Arthur I hope he feels better soon, and not to worry; I'll be sure to keep Camelot running until he is well enough to return." He smiled at Merlin, a gesture he did not return. It was a feral smirk, one of the many things about Agravaine that... well, aggravated him. He stifled his laughter at the small joke.
"Thank you, my lord. I'll be sure to give Arthur your message." He started to turn to the door, but stopped when a knight riding a stark white horse rode into the courtyard. His shout of, "The Lord Macedonius is here!" caught Merlin's attention. Right at the door, his hand on its handle, Merlin slipped back inside. He didn't close the door, though, keeping it open just enough to have a decent view of the yard.
Horses with foreign knights and a man and woman dressed regally atop them flooded in through the gates. Agravaine visibly prepared himself to step down the flight of stairs to greet the lord and his lady. Merlin's eyes skimmed the crowd of men curiously. He wasn't sure why, but there was something... familiar about one of them. Maybe more—he wasn't sure. It was like his magic was pointing out something he couldn't spot himself. He knew it was there (there was no mistaking what his magic was trying to tell him; it was riling up inside of him like angry ocean waves, needing to get his attention), he just needed a little nudge in the right direction to who his magic had identified.
The man and woman dismounted their horses once close enough to the greeting party. Lord Agravaine walked down the marble steps, his boots clacking against it, his arm held out in a display of friendship. "Ah, Lord Macedonius, it is good to see you again." His grin looked faked even from where Merlin stood, meters away. They shook hands. Merlin leaned forward subconsciously, trying to hear more of the conversation.
Lord Macedonius smiled politely back. "It is good to see you as well, Agravaine." His magic lurched inside of him; it was the visiting lord his magic was trying to pinpoint. The man's features were fuzzy and indistinguishable from so far away—had he not know the man's name, he could have been anyone.
After giving his mandatory welcomes to the lord and lady, Agravaine and Macedonius slowly made their way up the stairs, shaking hands and exchanging words with the other members of the court. "Gwella gweledigaeth," he whispered, blue eyes glowing gold. It was a spell he'd created years ago, allowing his vision to enhance dramatically. It was very useful when snooping around in other people's business, something Merlin tended to do much too often.
The once-blurred face of Lord Macedonius sharpened, and it hit Merlin like Arthur's blade during training. The man's skin was wrinkled, but his green eyes sparkled just as bright as when they'd first met. His black hair was peppered with white. He couldn't believe he hadn't seen it sooner.
He knew this man. He knew this man very, very well. Memories he'd stored in the back of his mind years ago suddenly made themselves known again. Merlin's mouth fell open, just slightly, on its own accord. His eyes widened owlishly.
After all, it wasn't often Merlin ran into a former student.
There's only a rough plot right now, and I am more than up for suggestions. What would you like to see me put these two through? Ideas for the reveal(s)? Drop me a review, let me know what you thought of the chapter and what you'd like to see in future updates. :)