"Merlin," said Arthur, holding his pillow out by one corner as far away from himself as possible, "perhaps you would like to explain this to me?"
Merlin glanced at the pillow, then back at Arthur. "What's wrong with it?"
"Do you think I'm blind, Merlin?"
"Um," said Merlin, gulping. "No, Arthur." He stared at the pillow miserably.
"You asked me to wash your sheets."
"Yes," said Arthur. "I did." He tapped a finger on his upper arm impatiently.
"It just kind of happened! I was washing them, and when I got them out of the water, they were... Well, you can see for yourself. I tried to rinse it out but nothing I did helped." He coughed. "I'm sorry," he added, like it was an afterthought.
"And, what, you were just hoping I wouldn't notice?" Arthur shook the pillow for good measure.
"Well, it is kind of dim in here," said Merlin, helplessly.
"Ah, perhaps you would like to change the candles for me, too?" said Arthur. "No, never mind, I have no desire for you to turn my candles pink."
"I think it's because of the red," said Merlin. "You have a lot of red." He indicated the room with wave of his hand.
"You are, without a doubt, the wor--" Arthur began.
"Worst servant you've ever had, yes, I get it, Arthur," Merlin finished for him. "If you find pink too offensive to sleep in I am more than happy to swap beds with you. Sire."
Arthur sighed. "Tomorrow you will wash them again, and if that doesn't work then you will go to the housekeeper and explain what happened and then go to my father and volunteer for a turn in the stocks. Is that clear?"
Merlin gulped. "Perfectly, sire."
The next day Arthur's sheets were more white than he had ever seen them in his life - so white they almost glowed - and the bed was made perfectly, not a crease in sight. Even the red of his other bedcoverings appeared to have grown brighter, or perhaps that was just an effect of the brand new candles.
Arthur sighed. "Merlin," he said, pointing at the bed.
Merlin jumped. "Yes?"
"Did you... swap my sheets for another set?" There was always the hope that Merlin had chosen the sensible path.
"No," said Merlin, not quite meeting his eyes. "I washed them again, like you asked."
Arthur had an urge to beat his head against the castle wall, tempered by a worrying sense of guilt. "Look, you can't just... You could be killed!"
Merlin stared at him, all wide-eyed innocence. "Sire?"
"You have to be more careful! What if somebody had seen you?"
"Seen me... washing your sheets?" he asked, looking at him as if Arthur was the one acting like an idiot.
Sometimes Arthur wondered if Merlin's obtuseness really wasn't just an act. "Never mind. Thank you for fixing my bed."
"You're welcome," said Merlin, still looking confused.
Arthur just hoped nobody had seen Merlin casting magic on the crown prince's bedclothes.