Evening, and happy Friday to all~ As promised, a little oneshot is next on the Update-Galore..
I know season five was a huge leap for the relationship between Arthur and Merlin. Arthur taking Merlin's advises and listening to him and so on... But however did Merlin convince Arthur to join him on the 'sneaking-around-after-suspicious-people-business'? So I thought, maybe Arthur needed a little convincing..
This is what my mind came up with~
Arthur cursed under his breath.
How could this happen? How did he miss it? He should have known. He should have realized something was wrong. He cursed himself while he held onto the man as Merlin tried to steady himself.
He should have noticed the winces; the awkward silence; the tense stares, but yet again, Arthur Pendragon has been blind. A blind fool. - He helped his own 'simpleminded fool' sit on a bench and he mercilessly started pulling the jacket off the servant, despite the dark-haired's weak yet persistent protesting against it.
"Fine? Fine?! Like hell you are fine, Merlin..!" He snapped at the man, so his manservant just hung his head dejectedly and let the king maneuver the jacket off of him; trying to be careful, but too upset to be cautious enough with his movements, drawing hisses and gasps from the young man. He just didn't care, all he could think about is how could he have missed the signs and just what could be hidden under the fabric of the servant's clothes. Worry made his heart drum in his throat.
"Arthur.. It's.. it's not.."
"Shut up, Merlin."
He didn't care what it looked like; the king of Camelot dragging the clothes off of his manservant in the middle of the night. No-one would see them, no-one in their right minds would come to the armory at this time of the night.. Except for them, because they just weren't in their right minds.. Arthur, for not noticing the signs and Merlin for .. doing Gods know what, walking around the corridors in such condition, not speaking up about it.
Arthurs' mind frantically searched his memories; looked for signs in the dark-haired's behavior from earlier that day, and thinking back he found them; one after the other. The signs were there! In fact they were so there, he wondered how it didn't all smack him in the face before.
How his queen smiled at the servant with an expectant air around her, masked with the image of sweetness and care everyone was used to from her, yet a double look made Arthur realize the smile was rather like a blade of a sharpened knife, than that sweetness he had fallen in love with. It was cold and gloating; it was fake and very un-Gwen-like. It was like honey-coated poison itself.
And Merlin.. more pale and more silent then usual; he didn't say a word. Of all the times of babbling and the king telling him to keep his mouth shut, now he choose to be quiet. The king didn't know what to make of it, but didn't voice it either. Merlin did glance at Guinevere with a sort of sadness and fear, yet still determined, but said nothing.
Well, no more. He will have none of it.
Merlin was pale and moved clumsy, but that in itself wasn't unusual; Arthur thought he was probably nursing a hangover, with the long absence before and everything. He winced and Gwen would stare at him as he served the royals their meals. And while Arthur was relieved to see his wife easing into the life of royalty and lessening on the mindset of a servant, it struck him a little odd how she treats Merlin, of all people.. They used to be friends after all, and now she was expecting him to serve her. She was the queen, but still, something about it felt… off. However Gwen grabbed onto his hand and flashed her sweet smile and in a glimpse Arthur was already far from suspicion, distracted by his beautiful wife. Besides, it was just Merlin..
But right now 'just Merlin' was sitting awkwardly and slightly trembling on a bench.
The armory wasn't the best lit places at this time, but it still revealed what Arthur needed to see: the bloody patches across his servants back, soaking his shirt.
And to think he wouldn't have even found out if he hadn't made the decision to take his sword down to the armory. - Gwen of course tried to protest against him leaving their bed, but Arthur felt he needed to have the sharp object out of his room, and wouldn't listen to his wife, even to the pleads of getting a servant to take it instead.
But Arthur was king, he could do whatever the hell he pleased, and upon spotting the servant in the armory he decided a little jest was in order for the late night strolling and greeted the man with a firm slap on the back, like he would with one of his knights, except that it didn't play out how he expected it would.
He jumped in terror, as instead of a startled yelp and a goofy grin, the effect was a painful scream and Merlin arched his back then his knees buckled and he fell, dropping the rag and the piece of armor he must have been polishing.
He was injured. It clicked.
"Merlin!" The king was next to him in an instant, but the man wasn't looking at him. "Merlin what's wrong?" he urged him, grabbing his shoulder and there was another hiss instead, the manservant still squeezing his eyes shut.
There was no way out of this one, and Merlin knew it. He tried to talk his way out of it, but a 'pulled muscle' wasn't an excuse the king was going to accept, as he pulled his servant on his feet, then near-tackled him to sit on a bench, and started to pull at his jacket frantically. Merlin tried to assure him, but he got silenced, and felt as touched by the blonde's concern as well as a little embarrassed about it. Thus it was revealed, what he's been hiding.
Arthur stared flabbergasted at the dark-soaked shirt, and it took a little time for his mind to snap out of the shock. His manservant has been flogged, then forced to resume duties, as if nothing has happened and without being tended to, and the simpleton – because he couldn't call him anything else at the moment – he didn't say anything. He didn't really need to see more, the drenched material was visual enough, but he still grabbed the bottom of the shirt and this time moving cautiously, he lifted it slightly; as far as it let him. Some of the gashes were still seeping with blood, others almost dried; he didn't want to force the material, not to cause more discomfort to the man.
"Tell me who it was, Merlin.." he said slowly and his voice wavered nearly as much as his hands trembled.
The servant shivered, but just shook his head. Clearly not up for arguing yet determined enough to not breathe a word. But it didn't take Arthur long to figure it out, and he felt blood leave his face when he did. There were only so many that could order a flogging in the court, and Merlin didn't have much to do with the other nobles of the court..
Arthur took a deep breath as he lowered the bloody shirt.
"It was Gwen, wasn't it..?"
And by the way Merlin picked his head up in a jolt, Arthur didn't really need more of an answer than that, despite it digging and clawing into his very soul.
"It.. wasn't Gwen.." He said sadly, and there was something in his words Arthur felt he doesn't understand; but it was something that will be dealt with later, other things taking priority now.
"Come on you, Gaius needs to look at those.." he said and pried the man up from the bench pulling an arm over his shoulder. The servant let out a pained moan.
"I can walk, you know.."
"Lets keep it that way."
They walked down the corridor, with only their footsteps' echoes following them.
"How many?" Arthur asked suddenly.
"Merlin.." He prompted threateningly.
"Ten." He mumbled. "Ten lashes.."
Arthur sucked in a breath between his teeth. "I'll need to have a serious talk with her."
"No! No, Arthur, you cant.." Merlin almost panicked, forcing them to stop to face the blonde.
"Wh..How can you say that..?!"
"Please.. just.. just trust me.."
Arthur looked at him in an appraising manner. The man just been ordered to be flogged by someone that theoretically was his friend, yet he doesn't want anything to be done about it. The king suddenly recalled his earlier worries about his manservant possibly having some mental affliction; but Merlin seemed lucid and almost frantic about it.
"Do you? Do you trust me Arthur?"
"How is that even a question?" The king wondered, realizing he spoke loud, but as he would have expected the man to tease him about it, the servant just looked at him; still with that pleading look, as if so much depended on his answer.
"Yes, Merlin I do." He eventually said, because, really, was there another answer to that? After all they've been through..
"Then.. come with me. Tomorrow night." Merlin breathed out, his teeth clattering slightly. And the king feared it. He feared that along with the answers he wanted, he will learn something he probably won't be happy about. He took a deep breath and nodded, "Alright." a part of him resigning to the idea that he won't get much sleep that night.
"Come on.." He said and led the man further.
"Do you know why he wants me to go with him tomorrow, Gaius?" The king asked not taking his eyes off the bandages that now stretched across his servant's back. The whole time he stood with his arms folded and watched as the physician worked; cleaning the wounds and putting some healing paste on them. Merlin was out cold by the time he finished. He was sitting reversed in a chair, slouched against the back and the armrest, his injured back exposed and reachable to the healer.
He had been agitated when they reached the physicians quarters, making Arthur swear he won't breathe a word to anyone; making up for the time spent in silence, he kept talking even after they managed to get the soaked shirt off of him and he sat down to endure the cleaning and bandaging. But the physician had him drink something disturbingly green, and Merlin soon slumped down like a sack of potatoes.
"I'm not sure, Sire. But if he did ask you, then it must be something important.." the physician said, tying off the ends of the bandage. Troublesome of a thought as it was, he was expecting something like this to happen, after all Morgana tried to poison his ward mere two days ago, and truth be told, no matter what and how convincing Merlin was saying he was feeling better, Gaius's trained eyes didn't miss the heavy breaths and need to stop for rest the young man displayed from time to time, when he thought no-one was watching; symptoms a man of his age shouldn't display unless there was something wrong. Merlin was still weak from the poison, even if he was on the way to recovery. Gaius's concoctions helped, but his body needed more time to regain his health. Time, that seemed like a luxury, with how fast things were happening around them. Nonetheless, Merlin needed to keep up in pace, and Gaius accepted that.
"And why can't I tell anyone? Not even Guinevere?" it was such a pointless question, Arthur thought the moment he voiced it. He had his suspicions, that nagging foreboding feeling, but he knew for certain, that what he will witness will break his heart.
"You know how Merlin is, Sire.." the elderly man turned towards his sovereign. "He will tell you when time comes." Arthur nodded, still deep in thoughts. "Now, could you help me move him to his bed?"
"Of course." Not calling the guards or any help, Arthur moved to help the physician himself.
"Come on, Merlin. Time to go to bed." The old man coaxed and the manservant woke up just enough to help the king and his guardian get him to his own cot, mumbling something on the way, muttering the occasional "ow", but he was fast asleep the moment his face touched the pillow. Arthur smiled to himself, wondering if the man looked like this when intoxicated; for a moment considering how he never actually seen him drunk, despite the many times the servant spent his day in the tavern.
"He knows what he's doing, sire. Despite appearances." Gaius said after he pulled the blanket over his ward; and Arthur felt a little embarrassed, for yet again doubting the man.
"I know.." He nodded.
Merlin's been right. Arthur was only happy it took him less time to believe him this time. Merlin knew of Morgana, he knew of Agravaine, Valiant, and who knows how many more. But fact remains, he knew. Somehow he just.. always knew. And painful as it was, Arthur decided to believe him; and woe was it painful to listen to the love of his life talk with Morgana.
He felt broken and angry; betrayed and furious; he pulled at his sword, wanting to charge and end it there and then, while his fury still lasted; because he knew once he will think more about it, he will crash and be crushed by that feeling of being betrayed, yet again, by someone so close to him. But then his manservant spoke again, urging him to hold back. Arthur looked at him in despair and pleading.
"We'll find a way to bring her back, Arthur. I promise." and heartbroken as he was, it suddenly was clear; Arthur now understood just why his manservant felt he had to show the secret meeting between the queen and the witch; because despite all his work and efforts, he still was a servant and his accusations were either brushed off or he got threatened for them; - perhaps even flogged for speaking out of line - yet his loyalty didn't waver and the king felt humbled and somehow hopeful; because this man had always given him hope, he realized.
Merlin knew, but he needed Arthur to believe him. - And Arthur believed him, because somehow Merlin always knew.
There you have it~ Hope you enjoyed the read, don't be shy to give feedback if you feel you need to say something!
Next up is update for "Dreams of Pale white Flames.." Thanks much~ and Enjoy the weekend!