Merlin woke up that morning with an uncomfortable feeling twisting within his gut. He remembered just two weeks when it was Percival's birthday and all the knights spent the whole day celebrating. Elyan and Leon both gave him a gift while Gwaine announced that a person becoming one year older was a perfect opportunity to drink- as if he truly needed an excuse to do such anyways. Even Guinevere joined in the fun, giving the knight an apple pie that she had ordered from the kitchen. An admiring lady of the court presented Percival with a bouquet of flowers, accompanied with a pretty smile and a blush. The day wasn't much different than a month beforehand when Leon's birthday was celebrated.
Today was Merlin's birthday. It wasn't that he particularly hoped for flowers or pies. He wasn't a knight, and in his eyes he was not even a hero. But it bothered him because growing older only reminded him that he was alone. It reminded him of days in his village with no father and no friends save for Will. It reminded him that both those people were now dead and no more than a shadow of the past. Birthdays reminded Merlin that although at times he was offered a kind word or a playful nudge, he wasn't anything. He wasn't someone that people fussed over or showered with happy wishes. In the end, he was no more than a servant in the corner of the dining hall, nursing a jug of wine. He was simply meant to be whatever Arthur needed to survive, and Merlin would forever have to be content to be such.
The morning of Merlin's birthday, he rose like he would any other day. After dressing, the warlock headed out of the room. Gaius was sitting at the table mixing some potions, causing an explosion of chaos on the old man's table. Merlin smiled. If not anything else, at least he had his mentor.
"Hullo Gaius!" He chirped. The physician looked up from his work and returned the smile.
"Good morning, Merlin. I'm busy working on a potion for Sir Ector- it would seem that he has caught a nasty virus. If you wish to eat something, I have some apples on the table." Gaius gestured his elbow towards a bowl. Merlin frowned.
"Right then, perhaps we'll do lunch or dinner then?" Gaius, who has resumed work on his potion, looked up again.
"What the devil are you talking about, Merlin? As I have just said, I am very busy."
"But-" the boy furrowed his brows. "Don't you know what today is?"
"What do you mean by that? It's simply Tuesday." Merlin felt his heart sink again. He wasn't exactly angry that Gaius had forgotten. After all, the virus that currently ailed Sir Ector was currently a rather viral one. Merlin nodded.
"Right, I only thought…."
"Thought what?" Merlin swallowed and shook his head.
"N- nothing. Um, have you gotten any word from my mother, then?" Gaius peered into a small vial and thought for a moment.
"No, although I can't imagine her having any particular reason to write. Merlin, is there something you want to tell me?" Again, Merlin shook his head. He told himself that it didn't matter anyways.
"No, nothing. I'll see you later, Gaius." With that, he left the room. The apples remained in their bowl, untouched.
"Good Morning, sire." Merlin announced as he entered Arthur's chambers. To his surprise, the king had gotten up without his assistance, and dressed as well. Merlin nodded to the tray in his hands. "I've brought breakfast!"
Arthur sat at a chair, putting a portion of coins into a leather wallet. Next to his feet sat one of his hunting bags.
"You are late again, Merlin." Arthur announced. "You should have been in here with that half an hour ago."
"Right, sorry. My mistake." The warlock said as he placed the tray down onto Arthur's table. "Are you planning to go out, then?" Arthur nodded.
"I need a few supplies for our hunt next week. Thought I would get a few things I need at the marketplace."
"Right. Eat up, and after I return the dishes to the kitchen we can go." Arthur shook his head.
"Not we, Merlin. I'm going alone." Merlin frowned.
"Why can't I come?"
"Because," Arthur said as he tucked the wallet into his bag "Someone didn't muck out the stables yesterday when I told him to. So you'll do that today instead."
"You didn't tell me to muck the stables!" Merlin cried. Arthur squinted his eyes and twisted his mouth in mock thought.
"Oh, let me think for a second…. Wait…. Yes, I'm pretty certain I did."
"You're making that up." Merlin responded. Arthur laughed.
"Have Gaius's potions been messing with your brain, Merlin? If so, some manual labor will do you good. You tend to the stables, and I the hunt. Alright?"
"That isn't fair!" Merlin spat. "Why should the king's manservant have to clean the stables? It's like you almost enjoy making me do stupid things because it's funny to you. Well it isn't funny to me, Arthur." The warlock finished with an annoyed huff. Arthur gazed at the man for a moment with a confused expression.
"Someone is in a bit of a mood today." He observed.
"Perhaps that's your fault." Merlin grumbled. "Besides, you shouldn't even go out without me." Arthur shook his head as he picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder.
"Two things- three, actually. One, I am not a child. Two, you are not my father, nor my mother. Three… what's three again? Oh yes, I'm the king of Camelot. I'll see you later Merlin, and make sure to do the stables correctly this time." Arthur headed towards the door and waved at the boy from behind his back. Merlin let out an angry shout after him, and grabbed the breakfast tray off the table.
It wasn't that he disliked birthdays, really, it was that he hated them.
First Merlin sulked while he walked, then he trudged. Finally, he was content to walk at a normal pace, screaming insults at Arthur and at himself inside his head. On his way to the stables, Guinevere passed the man. She almost didn't acknowledge him, and when she did it was as no more than an afterthought.
"Morning, Merlin." She greeted.
"Hello." Merlin answered, in a small voice. Gwen smiled and brushed past him, not lingering for conversation as she once would have. She was no longer a bumbling servant girl, or Merlin's best friend. She wasn't the shy girl who once kissed Merlin as an infatuated impulse. Whereas he was once a fellow servant and close companion, the sorcerer felt as if he was no longer one of Gwen's priorities. As time went on she drew away from him, looking to other things instead. Some people Merlin lost to death. He didn't know what made him lose Gwen.
The day was a long one, and it slowly nibbled away at Merlin's spirits. He felt trapped inside those stables, companion to no one save the horses. That was him alright. He kept Camelot alive and running behind the scenes, and all he was given in reward was a day alone with the animals. After a couple hours of work, Gwaine came into the stables. The knight grinned merrily, as he was always inclined to do.
"Merlin!" he exclaimed "I don't think we've really talked in a week or so. How have you been mate?" Merlin shrugged.
"I've been serving Arthur day in day out, if that's an answer." Gwaine let out a hearty laugh at this.
"I can't say that I envy you that. The princess is a bit of a pain at times." Merlin grinned, Gwaine's happy mood infectious.
"Oh yes. He actually thinks it's funny to have me do useless chores and such." Gwaine walked towards Merlin and clapped him on the back.
"Stay strong, my friend." He joked. "Anyways, I would stay and talk, but I'm a bit busy. I only came because I think I left one of my gloves in my saddle. Percival and I are seeing who can win a wrestling match. Of course I'll win. Percival may have muscles, but I have wit. And," Gwaine winked at this "Winner buys the loser a tankard of ale. I'll see you later, mate." Gwaine whistled and spun around.
"What about your glove?" Merlin called, but the knight was already gone. Merlin stood, staring at the empty doorway of the stable.
Remember when the only reason you helped Arthur find the trident was because of me? Remember when you disliked nobles, and weren't a knight, and we were equal? Remember when we were friends? Really friends?
Merlin blinked. As he did, a few tears pushed past his eyelids. At this point, he didn't even care if he cried. The warlock sank to his knees, eyes locked onto the ground. His chest tightened, and his breath escaped in gasps. He wasn't sure really if anyone remembered much of anything. Or perhaps they only didn't remember if it was Merlin that was involved.
By the time Merlin have finished with the stables it was time for Arthur's dinner. The cook handed him the food and Merlin noted that the prat had ordered an even bigger meal than usual. Oh yes, the king must have really worked up an appetite spending the day spending money at a marketplace. How fortunate he was that there was a whole kitchen ready to throw whatever he wanted right at him.
Merlin pushed his way into the king's chambers, not bothering with a hello. Arthur was reclining in his chair, and immediately noted the difference in his servant's demeanor. Arthur sat up straight as Merlin deposited the food onto the table a bit more harshly than was called for.
"Your dinner, sire." He muttered. Arthur looked at the food and frowned.
"Merlin, I- were you... crying?"
"No." He swiftly answered.
"Your eyes are red, Merlin. I know when someone's been crying." Merlin rolled his eyes.
"I'm sure it doesn't matter much to you, sire. If it would make you more comfortable, I can polish your armour while you feast upon your abnormally large dinner." Arthur drew his eyebrows together.
"No…." He said quietly. "No Merlin, you're fine. Just grab my hunting bag off the floor, would you? I need to sharpen the dagger I just bought." Merlin swept the leather bag from the ground and dropped it unceremoniously into Arthur's lap. Arthur pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.
"Oh sit down Merlin, would you? Relax a bit." Almost relieved, Merlin sank down in the seat across from Arthur. He stared down at the wood of the table, setting his attention on the ridges of the wood.
"Merlin." Arthur said. The servant's head snapped up in time to see the king produce a pair of fine, leather boots from the hunting bag. Arthur held them out towards Merlin, his eyes gleaming in excitement that his features otherwise attempted to hide. "They're for you." He announced. Merlin blinked.
"The boots." Arthur said. Yes, the boots. The ones that looked to be as expensive as the footwear of, well, a king. "That's actually why I went out today, to get them for you. It is your birthday, isn't it?" Merlin's eyes widened.
"I didn't- I didn't think anyone remembered." He stammered. Arthur gave a small smile.
"Well I'm not anyone. Take the boots, would you?" Carefully, the warlock took the gift into his hands. The leather was soft against his skin, and sewn in the latest fashion. Not to mention that they were sturdy, meant to be long lasting. Merlin stared at them in awe. These treasures were no doubt more expensive than anything he owned, or anything that he could ever afford. Breathlessly, Merlin ran his hands over them. Arthur cleared his throat, somewhat awkwardly.
"I just thought, well, you've had the same pair since you came here years ago, and well really, you deserve something nice every once in a while." Arthur bit down on his lip. "I don't really ever mean to be cruel to you, Merlin. As time has gone by I've watched you grow sadder and sadder, and at times I feel as if it's my fault. Perhaps you would have had a happy life had you never had to serve me." Merlin's eyes still lingered on the boots, and he shook his head.
"No Arthur, never. I was born to serve you." Arthur made a face.
"You say the strangest things sometimes, Merlin. Also, I'll have you know that I had them make a- what did you say?- abnormally large dinner, because I knew it was your birthday. I had thought that we could eat together tonight, if you aren't still angry from earlier." Merlin looked up at Arthur and smiled.
He had once had those who were close, those such as Will and Freya who no longer lived. He had those like Gwen, once friendly servants, withdraw their affections. Some, like Morgana, who had once aided him in noble ventures yet turned to a different path in life. Gwaine may make new friends, and Gaius may forgot, but Arthur…. Arthur was forever Arthur, and with him no one else mattered. Arthur was Merlin's destiny, and if he cared, then perhaps everything was alright. Carefully, Merlin placed the boots onto the ground and gazed hungrily at the feast before him.
"You're not joking then?" He asked.
"No, Merlin. Now if you don't eat, I will. I'm starving." Merlin laughed as he reached for the dish of strawberries. Arthur smiled, content.
"You aren't going to cry anymore now, are you Merlin?" The servant shook his head happily.
"No Arthur, not anymore."
Author's note: I don't own Merlin or BBC or whatnot. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I sort of wrote this because I feel like a lot of characters really did forget about Merlin as time went on. I miss season one Gwen a lot, and Gwaine became closer to the knights than to Merlin. And can we talk about Morgana in Servant of Two Masters? "Arthur seems strangely fond of the boy." Really Morgana? SEEMS? Like, what, you weren't there when you used to go on adventures together? You don't remember saving Merlin's village and little druid boys? No? Anyways, I'm gonna cool down now. One more things though, I make Merlin and Arthur say each other's names a lot. I could just delete some of it, but nope. Not gonna happen. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed to bromance. Please favorite and review! :-) Tell me if you would like some more one shots.