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Near Death

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If I hadn't been so princely I would have jumped a foot when Merlin came dashing into the dining hall, practically ripping my goblet from my hand. I was about to ask him what the bloody hell he thought he was doing, grabbing my goblet from me, but all I got out was a quick, “Merlin-” before I was cut off. Merlin telling everyone in the hall that it was poisoned. The effect of those words were instant. Lord Bayard came forward, quickly pulling his sword from its sheath as he went. Spouting about he will not allow such an insult to go unchallenged. I internally scoffed here, someone who is insulted by the rambling accusation of a manservant obviously has some lordly issues that needed to be sorted out.

Besides thinking that, at the inappropriate time that it was, all I could think of was a way to get Merlin out of trouble. I didn't believe that my goblet had been poisoned. Lord Bayard would have to be an even bigger idiot than Merlin to try to poison me right after signing a pact of peace. I even doubted that any of his men would be that stupid either.

I could see father getting angry. If I could read his thoughts I'm sure they would be along the lines of, How dare this servant speak out of turn, and with such nonsense as this! It's probably a good thing I can't hear father's thoughts. That line of thinking always went against the grain of my thinking, though I would never let Merlin know that. Better to let him think I thought he was only good for mucking out my stables.

“On what grounds do you base this accusation?” Father asked harshly.

I came up with a brilliant plan after father said those words, with a quick, “I'll handle this” I walked up to Merlin, pulling him along side me. I told those assembled that Merlin had been at the Gin again. Of course he had to be drunk to say such a stupid thing.

Father wouldn't have it, however. He insisted to know how he knew it was poisoned and who told him about it. Of course Merlin gave the least helpful answers possible. Someone had told him they had seen my goblet laced with probably some deadly poison, but he wouldn't give their name. Damn Merlin and his steadfast loyalty. Does he not understand that his life is at stake here. If his accusation is proven to be wrong he'll be given to the men of Lord Bayard. Probably to be a play thing for them before they finally have enough mercy to kill the poor bastard.

Lord Bayard's voice cut through my thoughts. “I won't listen to this anymore,” he said. That seemed to move my father into action. He walked around the table where Merlin and I were standing. At his sharp command of, “pass me the goblet” I handed it over, watching his movements closely.

I got a sick sense of relief when I saw that Lord Bayard offered to test the poison for himself. Probably thinking as I had, knowing his men weren't stupid enough to attempt to kill me. Father on the other hand, had other ideas.

“No,” he said. “if it turns out to be poisoned, I want the pleasure of killing you myself.” He turned back towards Merlin and I. I knew that look in my father's eyes. Something unpleasant was about to come out of his mouth, and whatever it was I knew that it would be something life threatening to Merlin.

He gave the goblet to Merlin, “Here you drink it.”

My stomach dropped to the floor at that comment. Have Merlin drink it? “But if it's poisoned he'll die.”I said, trying to keep the unadulterated fear over my manservant's death out of my voice.

“Then we'll know he was telling the truth.” came my father's cold reply.

I vaguely heard Lord Bayard ask what would happen if the goblet proved not to be poisoned, but I didn't hear my father's reply. My brain stopped working after I thought of Merlin's possible near death. I knew that Gauis tried to talk my father into changing his mind, but knowing my father, he was unwavering in his decision. I looked at Merlin, seeing a determined glint in his eyes. No way in bloody hell is my manservant going to die drinking a poison meant for me! I thought ruefully.

“Merlin, apologize! This is a mistake! I'll drink it.” I said, reaching for the goblet, hoping beyond all hope that Merlin would give in for once and let me have my way on this one thing.

Of course, he didn't. “No, no, no, no, no. It's alright.” That determined glint was back again as he stared down Lord Bayard. He raised the goblet, gave a nod of acknowledgement to Lord Bayard and then turned towards me, cup still raised. He slowly lifted the cups closer to his lips and I had to use every ounce of willpower in my not to run up to him and smack the goblet away. I might have treated him worse than my horses, but Merlin had quickly become my friend, though I would never tell him that. I trusted him more than anyone I knew, and it physically hurt to think of him sacrificing his life for mine.

He locked his eyes onto mine, and I found myself caught in his stare. I couldn't look away if I wanted to, not that I did. If I was the last thing Merlin wanted to look at before he could possibly die than I would gladly grant that wish. I let some of my mask fall, hoping he could read my emotions in my eyes. Pure fear, anxiety, and dread were clearly visible in my eyes if he wanted to see them. Knowing that he would see those emotions for what they were, and he would hopefully understand what I meant by them. I saw his eyes brighten in understanding just as he lifted the goblet to his lips and took loud gulps from it.

I watched him, studied him, trying to see if any poison was taking affect as he lowered the goblet, still holding eye contact with me. Nothing was happening. I didn't know how long it would for the poison to affect Merlin in some way, but hope started to build in my chest as I saw that he was fine. That hope practically turned into a roaring fire when he said that my drink was fine.

The fire was quickly dowsed by my father, however, when he told Lord Bayard that Merlin was theirs. A new kind of fear took residence in my chest when I saw Lord Bayard eye Merlin with a twisted look, probably already planning how to make Merlin suffer. I turned to try to change father's mind as Bayard moved towards Merlin to 'take his prize'. Bayard didn't even have time to take one step towards Merlin, because not even five seconds after my father spoke those words, Merlin was clutching his throat, gasping and chocking for breath. I spun around quickly, staring at him in horror. His eyes locked once again with him, and I saw a grim acceptance, and a perverse sort of joy that he was able to save my life, even at the cost of his own. It was that look that made my heart stop, and made time seem to slow down. As if in slow motion, I watched as Merlin collapsed onto the floor with a soft thump.

I don't even remember moving, but the second he fell to the floor I was by his side. I had no idea what to do to help, but just being near him was enough for me. Gaius and Gwen were soon by my side as well. Gaius checking Merlin over while Gwen hovered around with concern. I didn't waste any time. I quickly hoisted Merlin up, draping him over my shoulders. I rushed with Gaius and Gwen to Gaius's chambers. Laying him down on the bed after being prompted to.

“Is he going to be alright?” I asked, the question nearly burning me with its desire to be asked. In my mind I was already chanting a please be alright, please be alright. Gaius seemed to avoid my question, just telling us that Merlin was burning up. Even I could tell you that. His overheated head had just be against my shoulder. It felt like it was scorching my skin with the intensity of the heat rolling off Merlin.

Gauis told Gwen and I that he couldn't even thinking of curing Merlin until he discovered what poison was being used. After looking at the goblet he saw that something was stuck in it. Now why hadn't any of us thought too look in a potentially poisoned cup for some kind of indicator like that. If we had I wouldn't have to be here, worried about Merlin. To try to get him off my mind, I studied the goblet that Gauis had just abandoned, while he looked though a think book, slamming it down on the table in his haste.

I walked over to him when he made a noise voicing his discovery. It was the Mortaeus flower petal that poisoned Merlin, and a leaf from the same plant would cure him. But I would have to go to a cave deep in the Balor Forest to get to it. The only thing that made me hesitate for a moment was a picture of a large serpent. “Doesn't seem friendly” I tried to say with more confidence than I felt.

“A Cockatrice. It guards the forest. It's venom is potent. A single drop would mean certain death.” Gaius explained. Of course, I thought bitterly, anything to do with Merlin has to be life threatening at some point. After taking one look at Merlin though, I felt terrible for even thinking that. I knew I would do anything to save him, he was, after all my one and only true friend.

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Of course, I thought to myself. According to Gauis few have survived looking for the Mortaeus Flower. Well, Merlin is worth it. “Sounds like fun.” I said with more confidence than I was really feeling.

“It's too dangerous!” Gauis told me, worry etched in his old, weathered, face.

“If I don't get it, what will happen to Merlin?” I ask, though I already know the answer.

“A slow and painful death. He may hold out for 4 maybe 5 days, but not much longer than that. Eventually he will die.” Gauis said. 4 or 5 days?! I thought incredulously. Of course something killing Merlin would give me such a short time frame. I already knew this wasn't going to be a walk in the park. It wasn't going to be like walking through a field of daisies or even the relatively safe hunting trips I was used to. From the looks of that Cockatrice, it was going to be one hell of a trip, most likely ending in my death, and sequentially Merlin's as well.

I mentally shook myself. No matter the costs I had to save Merlin. I couldn't let the possibility of death stop me from saving anyone, least of all my best friend. I looked down at Merlin, one last time, my azure eyes shining bright with determination and an emotion I didn't quite want to come to terms with just yet. I will save you, Merlin, you can count on that, I practically shouted at Merlin with my mind.

Finally being able to tear my eyes of my hurt friend, I stalked towards the throne room, knowing without a doubt, that was where my father would be holed up in.

“Father, I need to speak with you.” I told my father upon finding him, where I correctly assumed, in the throne room. He had been talking to come knights and other assembled soldiers about what to do with our recent guests turned prisoner.

“Fine,” my father said, with his characteristic brusqueness. “But you will while we walk. I need to see to the arrangements for our 'guests'”

“I am going to go to the Balor forest.” I said, right to the point.

“Whatever for, Arthur?” the innocence in his voice irking me.

“You know what for, Father.” I said, trying my damnedest to be respectful, but knowing I was losing that battle quickly.

“What's the use of having people taste your food for you, if you are going to get yourself killed anyway?” obviously knowing where I was going with my argument.

“I won't fail.” I said. Again I had to pretend my confidence, it has seemed to run off on me, along with Merlin's health... Damn that confidence and it skirting it's responsibility.

“You are my only son and heir. I can't risk losing you over some servant boy” The word servant seemed to be dripping with disgust, which in turn made me twitch almost visibly in distaste at my fathers words.

Grah! I screamed internally. “Why?” I asked my voice full of confrontation. That respect that I had been battling so hard to keep, now fully gone. It was apparently keeping my confidence company, “Because his life is worthless?”

“No, because it's worth less than yours.” He said, stopping to turn and look at me.

“I can save him.” The determination again shining brightly in the face of my father's reluctance. I pleaded with my father. Asked him to let me take some men. Have them help me search for the antidote, thinking that if I had someone there to help look after me, he would be more willing to let me go.

It didn't matter though, as his answer was still a steadfast no. When I asked why he gave me the same old speech, about how he is the king, how when he dies Camelot will need a king. Well, sod Camelot, I thought, this is Merlin. My Camelot isn't even worth thinking about if Merlin wasn't going to be in the picture. That thought gave me pause, but seeing as I was in the middle of an argument with my father, I filed that away to consider at a later date, preferably a much, much later date.

“I will not let you lose your life on some fool's errand just to save a servant!” My father continued.

“It's not a fool's errand!” I spat back just as venomously. “Please, Father, he saved my life.” changing tact, trying to appeal to him as his son, whom he was supposed to love. “I can't stand by and watch him die.” I let some of the honest-to-goodness fear and sadness over that exact fate taint my words, hoping they would further sway my father's decision.

But alas, it was for not, for his come back was, “Then don't look. This boy won't be the last to die on your behalf.” That made me pause again. More would die because of me? I tried to come to terms with it, but my father continued to speak, leaving me reeling at his words. “You're going to be king, it's something you'll have to get used to.”

Anger flashed though me at those words, “I can't accept that.”

We then went back to our original argument. Him saying I can't go, me saying that he can't stop me.

“Dammit!” My father yelled, finally tired of arguing with me, “That's the end of it, you aren't leaving this castle tonight!” He then stalked off, leaving me alone in my thoughts.

Of course staying alone with my thoughts is something I hate to do. So I decided to stalk off as well, in the opposite direction of my father, heading for my room. I slammed the doors open, receiving an odd look or two from the guards posted at my door for 'my protection' which was a load of bullocks, seeing as they there were a few more guards there to make sure I followed my father's orders. I slammed my sword on the table, walking over to the fireplace, hoping the crackling flames could help me solve this problem with Merlin.

Merlin was someone I definitely shouldn't be thinking about too hard. The way I was acting, God, it was obvious to anyone who took the time to look that I was acting way more concerned than I should be for just a lowly manservant. It's just a good thing that I'm the prince, for the other servants never question me, and my father is always too busy with his kingly duties to contemplate our relationship. Not that we really had a relationship... more of a reluctant friendship, at least on my part, Merlin always seemed ready to be a true friend. I, on the other hand, never let him think he was more than a servant to me. If he did die, what would I do? I would never get to let him know that I really did value his friendship, that I cared about him above all others. Why is it that, until a person is in danger, you never want to tell them how you really feel. Well, I regret that now more than anything. If I can't save Merlin, then he'll die, if Merlin dies, I know my soul won't be able to be saved. It was a terrible and vicious circle.

Fortunately I was spared more of these dark thoughts by a not so welcome visitor. “Say what you will about the food, but you can't beat our feasts for entertainment.” Morgana said with a small smile on her face. In my opinion that type of humor was sorely misplaced at a time like this. What with Merlin's life hanging in the balance and all. I tried to suppress the anger I felt at her words, though it was extremely difficult.

“Morgana, sorry, I should have seen if you were alright.” I said, trying to seem like nothing was bothering me, but I couldn't bring myself to look at her, knowing that she would see the pain behind my eyes. Living in the same castle as her for about 10 years made her almost immune to my masks. She could almost always read me, much to my displeasure.

“Disappointed actually, I was looking forward to clumping a few over the head with a ladle.” she said walking over to me. Grudgingly I turned towards her, knowing that she would get suspicious if I continued to try to avoid her gaze.

Exasperation made me lash out at my surrogate sister. I scolded her, telling her the men could handle it and that she shouldn't get involved. Really, what was she thinking anyway. She thought that she could play swordsman anytime she liked, just because she, as she says, beat me when we were kids. But it was far from a fair win, I had just broken my arm, and I was still weak from the pain, plus I was only eleven... but that's besides the point.

“I already got the lecture from Uther.” She states, looking at me, expectantly.

“You aren't the only one.” I said, slowly walking away from her, regret stained my voice, no matter how hard I tried to keep it from doing so.

“Not that I listen to him. Sometimes you have to do what you think is right. And damn the consequences.” Morgana said in that infuriatingly superior tone of hers.

“You think I should go.” It wasn't a question, more of a statement. I knew I should go, but having her lecture me on that fact angered me. Though it was oddly helpful, hearing my earlier words come from another person, besides myself.

“It doesn't matter what I think.” She said, as if reading my thoughts.

Oh, how she could press every button I had! “If I don't come back, who will be the next king of Camelot.” I know that I just had this argument with my father. But hearing what I thought come from her, seemed to make it even more urgent that I leave for this quest. “There is more than just my life at stake.” I reminded her.

Of course her next retort was full of logic that I had come to treasure when I was in a spot of trouble. “And what king would Camelot want?” She asks, taking my sword from it's sheath, “One who risks his life for a servant, or one that does what his father tells him to do?” She then raised my sword in front of her, moving it closer to me, as if it would help me decide. I looked her in the eye, and we both knew what I would do. I took the sword from her, and thanked her. She smiled sweetly, thinking that she had won a big victory, and in a sense she had. She got me to admit that I shouldn't listen to my father, and reminded me that Merlin was worth saving even at the risk of my own life.

I nodded to her in farewell as she left my chambers, allowing me to get ready for my upcoming mission. I dressed quickly, because, contrary to what everyone, including Merlin, thinks, I can dress myself. And I quickly looked around for some armer.

I made a mental note of what I would need for this quest. I would need enough food and water to last me the long journey to Balor Forest and back. But I would have to travel light enough so the horse could travel faster. I found the lightest, yet still strong, armer that I had, quickly pulling it on and doing up all the fastenings. I looked out at the guards, who were silently watching the corridor outside my room. I walked past them, telling them that I was going to train for a bit outside. This wasn't totally unlike me, even though it was night, I was known for practicing around the clock. One of the many reasons, I was the best swordsman and all around killing machine in Camelot and in the surrounding areas as well.

As I made my way through the castle, I stole into the kitchens to get some provisions. Then I crept out into the night, making my way to the stables. After saddling my favorite, and quickest, horse, I made my way out of the castle. My last thought as I had my horse gallop away from the castle was, Hold in there Merlin, I'll be back soon. There's too many things I still need to tell you for you to die now.

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Nearing the drawbridge, I saw two guards. They both tried to block me from going on my way out of the grounds, but I had my horse plow through them. It was very liberating, when you think about it. A prince, acting like a common thief, running away in the dead of night. But it wasn't time for such romanticized thought. I wiped my mind of such trivial matters, and concentrated fully on the task at hand.

The longer I rode, the harder it was to keep thoughts of Merlin and everyone else out of my mind. I wondered how Merlin was doing, if the poison was making him suffer. I hoped that Gauis and Gwen made sure he was comfortable. I shouldn't worry, though. After all the times Gauis took care of me while I was sick, I knew he would be doing anything he could to try to alleviate any or all of Merlin's suffering.

One of the things that kept me riding through the night was the fact that the poisoner might still be in the castle. I wished that they were. The thoughts of what I would do to such a person kept me awake and occupied for a good chunk of the night. My thoughts ranged from public execution; proof that I am my father's son, I thought bitterly, leaving them in the dungeons until they withered away to nothing; which wasn't pleasant but not nearly painful enough for what they did, and torture; which I really didn't have the stomach for but it did hold some appeal. I could always leave them for my father to handle, which he was probably doing, if they were still there.

But then my thoughts moved on to Morgana and my father. They were probably arguing. And I would bet my best sword that it was about me. I can practically hear my father's rant about my leaving against his orders. I imagined Morgana staying calm, even in the face of my father's increasing anger. Can't be helped, I thought. Merlin is worth any punishment my father wants to give me.

Sooner than I thought possible, I had left the forest surrounding Camelot. I must have fallen asleep at some point during my musings because the last time I remember looking at any landscape I was still surrounded by trees, and now I was in an area like a valley, grass and short mountains as far as the eye could see. I decided to take a short break, let my horse rest for a bit, and graze. While the horse roamed around a bit, looking for the best pieces of grass, I ate my breakfast. Well, I guess you could call it breakfast, it was only bread and cheese. Not fit for a prince, but it served it's purpose.

After the short rest I got on my way again. By about midday, I reached a hill that overlooked the Balor Forest. I was making excellent time. I had made it to Balor in a day, so that meant Merlin still had at least three days left until the poison killed him. Seeing as it would take me a day to get back to Camelot, I had a full day to search for the cave that contained the Mortaeus flower.

Without wasting anymore time, I headed into the forest. It was much like the forest surrounding Camelot, but this one had a distinctively creepy feel about it. I wished I had Merlin with me, his presence, even if he couldn't do anything to help in times of need, was always comforting to me when we were scouting the forest or hunting. Maybe that is why Camelot's forest felt safer to me, because I always had Merlin there with me when I was in it. Without Merlin acting as my shining beacon, this forest felt dark, even with the sun shining brightly thought the leaves of the many trees.

I huffed at this. If I can't go into a simple forest without Merlin, how am I going to be King one day. Sure, I had always known that Merlin would be there for me, when I became king. But now, I couldn't be too sure. Even if I can't accept it, Father is right, more people will probably die in my place. I just never thought it would be someone I knew personally and who I really cared about. Now I was secretly hoping that Merlin would still be around when I'm king, like it was something I couldn't take for granted. Not only for his normally correct advice, but for his humor and laid back attitude. He can read me better than Morgana sometimes, which is strange, but in good way. It's as if, even though I don't let Merlin know I consider him a friend, he's gone out of his way to make sure I am his.

I chastised myself for letting my mind wander again. I got off my horse, letting it have a bit of a break, as I lead it through the forest. The sun might have been shining brightly though the leaves when I first entered the forest, but it wasn't anymore. Even though the forest wasn't thick with trees, the canopy was. It seemed the trees just spread from the top, it left very little room for the sun to penetrate. I kept walking, my foot steps seemed to echo throughout the forest on the thick debris. Oh, I found another reason for why this forest was creepier than the one at home. It seemed to collect fog in rather inconvenient places. Any low spot in the forest was filled to the brim with fog. It was rather disconcerting.

Just as I was thinking that this forest would slowly steal my sanity due to it's creepiness, I was suddenly ripped from my thoughts. I could hear a woman cry. Why in the hell would she be out here in this creepy forest? Granted, I'm not a woman, so I don't know much about their crying habits, but if I were, I wouldn't fancy a good cry in the middle of a forest infested with giant lizards that could probably eat me in one go.

I directed my horse in the direction that I thought the crying was coming from. I saw a pale woman in a shredded looking dark pink dress. She was sitting on a felled tree, snuffling about something or other. Her dark hair seemed to make her look even more pale as she sat cowering on her tree, not really looking at me as I tied my horse to a nearby tree.

As I walked over to her, to see if there was anything wrong with her, I greeted her. She seemed to cry harder upon hearing my voice. When I got closer to her, she seemed to withdraw inside her self, turning away from me, until I was standing right next to her. I crouched down near her, and she finally looked at me with amazingly blue eyes. “Are you alright?” I asked?

Instead of an answer, I saw her look over my right shoulder and scream at the same time I heard a roar coming from behind me. I spun around in time to see a large lizard cresting a nearby hill. Damn! Was probably my most coherent thought upon seeing that beast. Of course it had to be much larger than I thought it would be. I thought it would be the size of a dog, quick and lethal, not the size of my horse, and possibly just as quick and lethal as a smaller version.

I watched as it walked towards us. The Cockatrice kept on it's growling as it got closer. I spared the woman a quick glance, “Stay back,” I warned her. I started to walk towards the lizard, taking my sword out as I did. I quickly spun it around in my hand, the familiarity of such a move calming my nerves and hardened my resolve. The beast stopped about ten feet from me, sizing me up as it roared again at me. I steadied my grip on my sword as I prepared myself for it's strike.

It leaped at me and I lunged with my sword trying to stick it were I thought it's heart might be. It was quick, however, as I didn't even graze it. It kept coming at me, not close enough for me to actually land a blow, all I could do was lunge at it or do a wide sweeping arc motion to try to force the lizard away.

The lizard seemed to be getting angry as I continually blocked it's attempt at eating me. It reared back on it's hind legs and leap over me. I crouched down as it sailed over my head. I did an about-face as the beast turned about to face me. I did my ever familiar sword motion of swinging it around my body as I faced the lizard. Knowing this would be my chance I threw my blade at the lizard. I watched my sword soar through the air as it stuck the lizard right in between it's shoulder blades. The lizard fell to the ground in a sickening thump, my sword still embedded in it's underside.

I turned towards the woman from earlier. I had almost forgotten about her while I was fighting the Cockatrice. As I turned to see if she was alright, I saw her stand up and take a step away from me, clearly frightened by me now that she knew I'm a dangerous warrior. I started walking towards her, while reassuring her, “It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you.” Gesturing towards a bruise on her arm, I asked, “Who did that to you?”

I inwardly cringed when I heard it was her master who did it. That she had ran away from him. It made me think of Merlin, I hoped that I was never that cruel that I made him want to leave my side. “Please don't leave me,” she begged.

“I won't. I'm not going to.” I said, trying to comfort her.

“You can take me away from here?” Her face and eyes seemed to light up with hope.

Which made me feel guilty because I couldn't take her away, not yet. I told her so. “There is something I have to do first.”

We both looked at the caves that were right in front of us. Why the Cockatrice had to wait til I was already at my destination to attack me was beyond my comprehension. But now there was nothing to keep me from my goal. “Why have you come to the caves?” the woman asked.

“I'm looking for something. Can only be found here.” I told her as I untied my horse from it's tree.

“What is it?” She seemed like she wanted to help. But I didn't know if I should trust her. “I know this place, I can help you.”

I started walking towards her again, pulling my horse after me. I told her that I was looking for a flower, and it only grows inside the cave. It was very rare. I didn't think she'd know what I was talking about. But I guess it was worth a go. I could use all the help I could get.

“The Mortaeus flower? I know where they are.” She had a look about her that didn't sit right with me, but I couldn't really say why. So I decided to take her offer. It would be quicker, seeing as I didn't know where to look and I needed to get back to Merlin as quickly as possible. “I'll show you.” And with that we both started heading towards the cave.

We both lit some torches and made our way into the cave. She sure did seem to know where she was going. She didn't even hesitate when we came to a turn or deciding what tunnel to take. I paused to look around at one point. But all she did was look back at me and she kept going. So slowly but surely I followed her.

Soon we came to a part of the cave that looked like a cavern. It had a rock sticking out over a precipice. She pointed across the gaping hole in the floor to the other side of the cavern. “There they are.”

I walked over onto the over hang of rock, looking at the surrounding area to make sure it would hold my weight. After I was sure it looked sturdy I looked back at my guide. “Stay back from the edge. Don't worry, we'll be out of here soon.”

I turned away from her, walking onto the overhanging rock. I heard her mumbling nonsense as I walked. I chalked it up to the fact that she had just been beaten by her master and almost killed by a Cockatrice. I also heard what sounded like rocks sliding down the cavern walls, I thought it was just small rocks that I had caused to fall because of my weight. But then I heard her yelling something that sounded a bit too close to an incantation not to be. I spun around. “What are you doing?” I yelled.

She just kept yelling. And the ground I had thought of as stable started to wobble underneath me. Dropping my torch I tried to leap out to the other side of the hole. I barely caught it as the rock I had been standing on fell into the dark abyss of the cavern.

I heard the woman behind me speak, as I was dangling onto the rock for my life. “I expected so much more.” she sneered.

“Who are you?” I yelled back, trying to keep my grip on the rocks above me.

She pulled her hood down as if it would lend me some light to that question, but it didn't. She replied, “The last face you'll ever see.” Then she looked to my right, where we both heard a kind of hissing sound. I saw a huge spider crawl towards me, it seems as if the Balor Forest makes everything 50 times bigger than what it really should be. All I could think, as I saw it take a step towards me, was that Merlin better be worth this hell that he's putting me through, or I'll be sure he spends a week in the stocks for this torture.

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“Ah, looks like we have a visitor.” my ex-guide said, smiling at the giant arachnid crawling towards me.

For the love of Camelot! I thought, fear causing adrenaline to curse through my body. The spider was getting closer and trying to slide away with only my hands gripping the outcropping of rock isn't easy. Is this thing hissing at me?! I thought incredulously.

I watched the beastly spider come closer as I tried to think of a way to get out of this predicament. I gripped the rocks even harder as I let go with one hand, desperately reaching for my sword with the other. Hoping that I could hold on long enough the kill the eight-legged monstrosity I swung my sword at it. It kept back stepping making sure it didn't get within my reach.

I was actually kind of glad, somewhere in the back of my mind, that the woman who was playing a hand in my death was still around. With my torch gone, I would never be able to see this spider. I saw it prepare to take a leap towards me. I knew this was my chance. As it leapt at my head I took a huge swing at it, knocking it down into the dark abyss below me.

While I quickly and silently cheered myself for killing the beast I heard the woman speak behind me. “Very good.” She said, as I grabbed for the rock again. I threw my sword onto the rocks above me. “He won't be the last. I think I'll let his friends finish you off, Arthur Pendragon. It's not your destiny to die by my hand.” With that eloquent speech she turned and stalked out of the cavern.

I internally scoffed at her words. Though I didn't take the time to really worry about them. I wanted answers. “Who are you?” I yelled at her retreating form. Knowing she wasn't going to answer me, I turned my mind to my current problem. Which was getting up and not falling into the blackness below to join that spider.

It was bloody dark in this cave, without any torches. I could barely see the rock I was clinging to for dear life. Suddenly I saw this ball of blueish light rise up from below me. “Come on then!” I challenged, “What are you waiting for? Finish me off!” I watched as the glowing ball hovered around my head, never drifting too far from me.

The light gave me the incentive I needed. I gathered what strength I had left and hoisted myself onto the rocky ledge above me. I looked around me after I had positioned myself. Grabbing my sword I quickly sheathed it, looking for a way out of this hell of a cave.

The light was slowly drifting about my head still. I watched it for a second, until I saw it's light land on the Mortaeus Flowers. I took a step towards them as I heard another high pitched hiss. It was coming from below me. The light barely reached down that far, but I could see another spider ascending, coming towards me.

Ah, bullocks! Did I say one? I meant many, many more. Fear started to run through me again. It made my heart nearly beat out of my throat, I panted as my lungs begged for more air which was getting harder and harder to take in, and my veins were being flooded with a rush of adrenaline once more.

I looked up, knowing what I had to do. I started to climb the rock wall, glad that I was used to climbing things from my youth, when Morgana and I used to play outside. I scaled the wall with relative ease, constantly looking for hand holds.

I had reached level with the Mortaeus Flower. It was nearly within my grasp. I couldn't get any closer to it, for there were no hand holds near the plant itself. Which was totally predicable, why make something easy for me now?

I strained my reach hoping that I could get it if I just tried harder. I made the mistake of looking down, however. Because I could see even more spiders crawling up the wall to get to me. I didn't have time to make an exact count, but if I were to estimate I would say at least a hundred were making their way slowly but surely to me.

Panic nearly seizing me to take control, I made a last ditch stretch, trying desperately to grab the flowers before it was too late. Hoping I would get them before I had to leave them behind or forfeit my own life.

Luck seemed to be with me this time, because I was able to grab a hold of one of the flowers, ripping it away from it's brethren. I stuffed it into the pouch I had attached to my belt. I looked down once more, which only served to stoke the fire that was my fear. The large spiders were even closer to me now.

I started to make a frantic attempt to climb more up the wall. I couldn't get a hold of anything though. I kept slipping after I thought I had a sure grip. After ever failed attempt I would look back down to try to see the spiders' progress. To my increasing horror, they seemed to be going quicker, at least to my panic filled mind.

I savagely ripped my gloves off my hands with my teeth. I spit them out behind me, not caring where they would land. The light seemed to be staying with me. Guiding a way up and out of this dreadful cave. With it's dim light I was able to map out my progress, making sure I stayed ahead of the spiders that were hot on my trail.

I couldn't help myself from looking down every few seconds to see how close the spiders were getting. My heart nearly beat out of my chest when I saw how close they were. They were only about 10 to 15 feet below me now, and getting closer. I tried to stay calm, focusing on my climbing or I would fall into the inky blackness below me.

I knew I was nearing an opening when I could smell fresh air. I paused for one second, looking ahead of me, as I watched my little ball of light rush out of a hole in the ceiling. It revealed a view of the starry night sky. I looked below me one last time, watching the spiders climb after me before I rushed towards the hole.

I heaved myself out of the opening, sweat dripping down my face. I turned quickly, facing where I just came from. I quickly took my sword from it's sheath and looked around for a second, to make sure I was truly alone. After determining that I was indeed safe for now, I ran off to where I left my horse.

I quickly found my horse, untying it from the tree it was attached to. I hopped on it, nudging her sides to make her gallop faster. My body sagged against my mares neck, adrenaline finally leaving my system. I have never felt so drained in my life. A full day of training with the knights never made me feel this exhausted. I was spent, both physically, emotionally, and mentally. I didn't have time to rest however. I would get a few good hours of the sleep I so desperately needed on the trek back home, but not enough to cure me of the exhaustion caused by my hardships.

I directed my horse out of the forest and made sure she was heading in the direction of home before I let myself close my eyes and have my much needed rest. My muscles ached from all the climbing and a riding saddle is anything but comfortable, but I found myself drifting off very quickly.

I dreamed of Merlin. He was lying in a cot, covered in a blanket. Gauis was leaning over him, applying a wet towel to his brow. How I wished I could be the one to take care of him. It was my fault, after all that he was in this position. What I wouldn't do for us to be switched.

I could hear Merlin moaning about something. I knew it was just moans and groans of an ill man, but they had a very unknightly affect on me. I heard him moan my name, which sent shivers down my spine in a not unpleasant manner... ah, who was I kidding, it was bloody hot hearing it.

“Nngh, Arthur,” Merlin moaned louder this time, squiring a bit in his sleep induced by the poison. “Move, Arthur! Faster!”

Oh, bloody hell! If that wasn't the sexiest thing I've heard in my over twenty years of life. I felt myself getting hard at just the mere sound of Merlin moaning my name. I didn't think much of it in my dream, as I walked closer to Merlin. Gauis seemed to disappear and I couldn't seem to bring myself to care. I hovered closer to Merlin, kneeling down next to his bed side as he wiggled and moaned in his cot. Even though it was affecting me, I couldn't help but feel a bit bad for him. He was obviously in pain, his brow was covered in sweat and most of his moans sounded pain induced.

I leaned over him, pressing a chaste kiss to his forehead while grabbing his hand. “Don't worry, Merlin.” I told him giving his hand a gentle squeeze. “I'm hear for you now. I'll make sure you getting better soon.”

I saw Merlin lick his lips. Even when he was sleeping, that simple act was highly arousing. I couldn't help myself as I leaned forward, his breath ghosting over my face as I brought mine a few inches from his own.

Just as I felt my lips touch his, which sent fire down my spine and caused sparks to go off behind my eyelids, I jerked awake. I nearly fell off my horse in the process. Bugger! I thought to myself. This isn't good. I had woken up with a nearly painful hard on, sweat dripping down my now sore back. I was still sagging onto my horse. I quickly sat up, rubbing sleep from my eyes.

Riding a horse is hard enough in full armor, but it's even harder when that armor is made even more uncomfortable by a stiffness very much south. My thoughts rushed around my mind as I tried to think of a way to get rid of it. In the end imagining Morgana and my father together did the trick. Disgusted at my own thoughts I let my mind wander as I pushed my horse even faster, knowing I was getting closer to Camelot.

My mind drifted to my dream. It had started out innocent enough. I mean, Merlin was ill right now, so I was just dreaming about the current situation. But that does not explain why I was so affect by Merlin's moaning, or why I had felt compelled to kiss Merlin in my dream.

I had dreamt of Merlin before, normally in the platonic sense though. I never gave much thought to kissing Merlin. His lips did seem rather inviting though. They looked soft to the touch... No! I scolded myself sternly, now is not the time to consider my deeper feelings for Merlin. Even if they were becoming sort of obvious. It's not like I wouldn't disobey my father and risk my life for just anyone. Merlin was special, and it wasn't because he was my only true friend. It had to be something more.

Being so engrossed in my thoughts I didn't notice I had reached Camelot until I heard my horses hooves scraping against the stone covered streets. I straightened in my saddle, trying to look like the prince I was as I neared the Castle.

I faintly heard someone announce my arrival when I came closer to the drawbridge. Five guards walked towards me, blocking my way. “What are you doing? Let me pass.” I demanded the man who looked like he was in charge.

“I'm sorry, sire.” He said, while drawing his sword. “But you are under arrest, by order of the King.” He seemed almost apologetic about this.

I stared at him, my disbelief clear on my face. That bastard! How dare he have them arrest his own son! I didn't give them any fight though. My body still weak from what I had just went though. I walked with them in silence to the dungeons. I was familiar with them, having to go down there often enough because it was my princely duties, but I had never been down there for disobedience.

I walked into the cell, turning around when I heard them lock the door behind me. All I could do now was wait for father to come and see me. Hopefully I would be able to talk him into getting the plant to Merlin. If he refused I hoped that someone would come in his place, otherwise Merlin was sure to die.

Chapter Text

I wonder if I'm going to wear down the cell floor with all this pacing. Arthur thought sullenly. My father had still not shown up, and I'd been down there for at least ten minutes! Honestly, what better thing could the king have to do then punish his own son? Great! Now I'm turning bitter, this is wonderful.

I don't know how much I paced through the cell, enough to become very, very familiar with it's walls. More familiar than with my own room's. Though I've never been trapped in my room, maybe that made it different. Maybe it would be better if I had some comforts of my room in here...but that would be impossible for a punishment, plus I don't think my bed would fit in this cell, at least not if I wanted to continue my pacing...

I was suddenly jerked out of my seemingly random thoughts (psh, I always have a purpose to all my thoughts) by the sound of the door being slammed open. I gave a little start and a very unmanly squeak when I heard it, though I would personally torture anyone who would even dream of spreading that around. My surprise quickly turned to seething anger when I saw who was at the door.

It was my father, the saintly king himself. I had to force myself not to glower at my father. Doing something so stupid towards the king would not help my case at all. I tried my best to be civil as I looked at him. The first words out of his mouth made me forget that resolve, unfortunately. “You disobeyed me.” He said, his disdain clearly heard through his words.

“Of course I did, a man's life was at stake.” I told my father, making sure to look him in the eyes as I said this. “Don't let Merlin die for something I did.”

“Why do you care so much? The boy is just a servant.” My father asked me, looking at me questioningly.

For a quick moment, I panicked. Did my father know of my growing affections towards the young man? Did he suspect that there was something more than friendship between us. I tried to come up with a solid reason for why this situation bothered me more than any previously.

“He knew the danger he was putting himself in. He knew what would happen if he drank from the goblet but he did it anyway! He saved my life!” I took a quick breath, feeling a little flustered after my rant but knowing better than to show it. Feeling slightly proud that I came up with a good reason, I continued. “There's more.” I told my Father about the mysterious woman, how she knew I was there searching for the flower. “I don't think it was Bayard who tried to poison me.”

“Of course it was.” was my Father's instant argument. Inwardly I was boiling in my anger. It's fury probably would have equaled a tantrum children are known to throw. Outwardly I put up a mask, barely letting my anger be seen. Inhaling and exhaling deeply through my nose I reached into the pouch that I had been able to keep even after they arrested me. A spare part of my mind, that wasn't concentrating on a way to quickly and painfully harming my father, had time to think that I should make sure the guards knew to strip a prisoner of all their belongings before they were locked away.

Only breaking the eye contact I held with my father to look at the flower, I held it in front of me. “Gaius knows what to do with this. Put me in the stocks for a week, a month even! I don't care. Just make sure he gets this. I'm begging you”

I had never really begged before in my life. It was not something I was accustom to. But I would beg my whole life if it would save Merlin's. Looking pleadingly at my father I extended the Mortaeus Flower towards him. I sighed a little relieved when he took the plant from me. I stepped back, giving him room, hoping that he would leave soon and give the plant to Gaius.

I was horrified a second later however, when I watched my father's grip on the flower tighten. My eyes widened in a mixture of shock and hurt as I saw him crumple the flower in his fist. “You have to learn, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. I'll see you out in a week. Then you can find yourself another servant.” It was spoken with complete contempt. He dropped the flower right outside the cell door as if it were something diseased. He then stalked out of the dungeons, his cape flapping behind him as he went.

I watched him leave, anger and hatred rolling off me in waves. When I heard the door slam shut, I rushed over to it. Without any thoughts about how proper it would be, I dropped to the floor, desperately trying to reach for the now nearly crushed flowers. It was oddly reminiscent of the caves. Those damned flowers are always just barely within my reach, where I nearly have to pull my arm out of it's socket to finally get it.

I did get it, after much wiggling, panting, groaning, and huffing. My arm felt all tingly from being outstretched so far and my shoulder was throbbing from pushing it so hard into the wooded bars of my prison. But I had my prize so I forced myself not to think of the pain it caused me.

I leaned against the far wall of the cell, right across from the door. I knew that my arrival would have been announced by now. So it was very likely that Gwen and Gaius knew where I was at. I just hoped that they would find a way to get to the dungeons to retrieve the flower from me. I wasn't positive about how long Merlin had left, but the sooner they ended his sufferings the better. I didn't know how they would think up with a way to come see me. It was dangerous to do anything. But knowing them, they'd do it anyway, if it meant saving Merlin's life.

I didn't have long to wait. Though it might have taken me a better part of ten minutes to actually get the flower, it wasn't even another ten minutes before I heard someone approaching my cell. I could hear the jingling of keys and what appeared to be two sets of foot falls coming closer and closer to me. I looked up when I heard the guard unlock the door.

It was Gwen. I forced myself to act indifferent to her arrival, not even getting up. Realizing she had brought me a plate of food, I gestured to a nearby table with my eyes. “Sit it down over there.” I muttered, making my tone flat, trying not to betray my nerves.

I watched as Gwen looked around, looking between me, the guard, or just scanning the walls in general. After a few glances she finally moved towards the table, setting the plate down upon it. She backed away after placing it. Looking at me, as if she were waiting for a cue on what to do next.

Silently I pushed myself off my place on the floor. I stalked past Gwen, throwing a quick 'thank you' in her direction before I made my way over to the food. I picked up the plate and glanced at it. “Wait a minute.” I demanded. I sat the plate back down. “I couldn't possibly eat this, it's disgusting.” With that I turned away. Before I could flop on the thin mattress that would be my bed for the next week, I looked over my shoulder at Gwen. “The state it's in, I'm not sure if it's fit for anyone.” I tried to convey as much double meaning into that one sentence that I could without causing suspicion from the guard.

I watched Gwen reenter the cell, giving me a meaningful look before heading over to the food. I finally did flop down onto my bed as she picked the plate up. She gave me a quick, small smile while I tried to look like the disgruntled prince I was supposed to be. She looked back at the food and then ambled out of the cell.

As the door was closed and locked again I sagged against the wall. I hoped Gwen wouldn't come to any trouble while exiting the dungeon. If she got stopped by anyone this whole charade might be unveiled and I might find myself with a new cell mate. I was just about to relax when I heard a yell coming from one of the guards. “You! Wait!”

My heart jumped up in my throat for what felt like the millionth time since Merlin drank that poison. All I could think of was Gwen had been caught and Merlin would die because of it. I tried to strain my hearing so I would know what was said next. But all I could hear was some indistinguishable mutterings. Frustrated beyond belief I tried to listen even closer. The next thing I heard had my heart racing. “Stay where you are!” I hoped that was an order Gwen would not follow.

There was little I could do, but that didn't stop me from rushing to the door of my cell, and trying with all my might to see something, anything that would tell me what was happening. After about five minutes of silence, I drooped against the wall again, letting out a heavy sigh. If they hadn't caught her yet, then it was likely that she made it to Gauis and she would be safe. I doubt the guard would keep pursuing her. The dungeon guards tended to be lazy louts, that's why their job was to just stand around, keeping watch over the prisoners.

I didn't know how long it would take for the potion Gaius would need to make to work. But seeing as Gwen probably ran all the way to Gaius' chambers, I'm sure he had already started it. Hopefully Merlin was well enough to take it himself. I started to wonder how long it would take one of them to come down and tell me if it worked or not, if all the troubles I went though were worth it. I knew Gwen wouldn't be the one to tell me, she would fear the guards too much, Merlin would still be recovering by the time I was let out so it couldn't be him either. So that left Gaius. Maybe he would come up with a lie about needing to check to make sure I was staying healthy living in the dungeons getting the barest of food and comforts during my stay.

I didn't want my mind to settle on thoughts of Merlin for too long though, because they got me antsy and fidgety. That couldn't really be helped though, because it only took, on average, three minutes before I was worrying about Merlin again.

The week passed quickly, in a slow agonizing manner. It sped by because I was so worried about Merlin that I usually lost track of time. But it also seemed to take forever because all I had to do was sleep, eat, use the loo, and dream and worry about Merlin.

The dreams were the only good thing about the whole mess. Some were innocent. I would get out of this damned cell to find Merlin in wonderful health again, bouncing around like he usually does, prattling off about something or other. Some were semi-innocent. We wouldn't go farther than snogging, but it was still bloody hot. Others didn't even try to be innocent, they wouldn't have even been able to be disguised as innocent if they wanted. Those, though they might have seemed the funnest at the time, were really rather troublesome. There was no way I could know if I was actually moaning or shouting Merlin's name in ecstasy for the guards to hear and I had too much pride to ask one of them. I always woke up with a very big problem too and no good solution for it. It's not like I could have a good wank with the guards watching over my every move. Though the longer I was stuck in that cell the more appealing that idea became.

I couldn't wait for the date to be released so I could check up on Merlin, and try to do something about the problem I was having every night at least once. It seemed that even if I didn't dream about Merlin I was daydreaming about him. One would think, since daydreams are something that can be controlled I wouldn't focus all my time fantasizing about Merlin. But I couldn't really bring myself to care about all the time I spent thinking about him in that one week alone, nor could I bring myself to think about someone else either.

Around the fifth day of my solitary confinement, I spared a few minutes from my obsession with Merlin to considered Bayard and his man. I hoped that someone was able to convince father that they were innocent, as they obviously were. I don't know why father couldn't see it. I didn't want a war to break out between the two of us. It wouldn't do if I just saved Merlin's life for him to be killed by a raid or if he was sent out to fight himself. Thoughts of Bayard couldn't distract me long however, before too long I was back again to wondering about Merlin again.

Finally the day of my release had arrived. I didn't know when they would come and let me out, but I was anticipating it the whole day even most of the day before. I was shaken from another daydream about what Merlin and I would do once I was free when I heard the door unlock. My father and Morgana were there outside the door waiting for me. I stood up, walking slowly towards them. Morgana smiled at me, while Father seemed to almost grimace. “Come on,” he spoke to me, “your week is up.” With that one sentence my heart lifted and I gave them both a small smile before following them out of the dungeon while wondering when I would be able to sneak away and see Merlin.

Chapter Text

As it figures I wasn't allowed to go see Merlin just yet. Father wanted me to go with him to oversee the release of Bayard and his men. Though I wanted to just sneak away and see Merlin instead, I figured it would be better to obey my father this time.

As we made our way out of the dungeons Morgana started to whisper to me. “Merlin's alright, you know.”

I looked at her with a deadpan expression. “No, I didn't, I've sort of been locked up for a few days, makes me lose touch with my friends just a bit.” I replied sarcastically.

Morgana just huffed at me, turning away for a while as we walked. But she was never one to stay quiet for long. “Did you hear how Gaius talked Uther into letting Bayard and his men go?”

I rolled my eyes, and looked at her. “Yes, I did. It was all the walls would talk about, couldn't get them to shut up. Of course I didn't hear about it. I told you, guards aren't one to keep prisoners up to date.”

Morgana smiled at me, knowing that if I could be sarcastic like this, then I was still healthy, mentally and physically, from my stint in the dungeons. “Gaius is convinced that magic was used to make the poison stronger. So it couldn't have been Bayard or any of his men. It was a good thing that you came back so quickly because Merlin had nearly stopped breathing by the time Gwen got him the flower.” All this was said in hushed tones for Father was walking only slightly ahead of us.

“Really? I didn't know. I just wanted to get back as soon as possible. Imagine what would have happened if I had waited even longer before going.” I grimaced.

“But it's alright now. Gwen even told me that he's been able to get up and walk around already. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before he's the same old Merlin we're used to.” Morgana told me with a smile.

I smiled in return and we continued to follow father in silence. We made our way up many stairs and through many halls until we reached the outer wall walks. We made our way towards the castles exit so we could watch, from overhead, Bayard's convoy leave Camelot. We watched as the convoy made their way into the forest surrounding Camelot. As we watched, Morgana slid over to me saying, “Okay, the bragging beings. How did you manage it?”

“I'm not sure,” I said, my eyes not leaving the convey of men and horses. “All I do know is that I had help. Someone knew I was in trouble and sent a light to guide the way.” I knew Morgana was studying me, searching to see if I was keeping anything hidden. But I didn't know anymore than she did, I couldn't answer her unspoken questions of confusion.

“Who?” She asked softly.

I looked down at the wall we were standing at, examining it's rocky texture. “I don't know.” I confessed. “But whoever it was, I'm only here because of them.” My tone still solemn and serious.

“I'm glad you're back.” I finally looked up at her, after she said that. She just gave me a sad sort of smile and walked away, leaving me alone with my Father. Out of my peripheral vision, I could see my Father watching me, paying close attention to my posture and countenance.

“Arthur,” my father began, as he walked closer to me, “The woman you met in the forest, what did she tell you?”

I thought that rather odd, him asking about some random woman who left me for dead. But I answered his question anyway. I told him the truth, that she didn't say much, that she was too busy trying to get me killed. “Strange though.” I told my father, as I thought over the events of the last few days before my imprisonment.

“What is?” my Father immediately asked, his curiosity spiked.

“I was at her mercy.” I told him, finally making eye contact with my father. I had been staring at the trail that had been empty for a while now. I told him about how she could have finished me off herself, if she wanted. But how she didn't, saying it wasn't my destiny to die by her hand.

“You must have been scared.” My father hedged, looking at me with something akin to concern.

I just shrugged it off, “It had its moments.” I stated, as if Cockatrice and running away from giant spiders were nothing out of the ordinary for me. And when you think about it, they really aren't.

My father studied me for a moment, as if he were trying to gauge what he had to say next to how I was currently acting. He went on about how those who practice magic were evil. I didn't particularly agree with my father's assessment, but being only a prince it wasn't my place to argue. He told me that they seek out goodness, and try to destroy it. “Which is why she wanted you dead.”

I just stood there, watching my father. He seemed to be hiding something, but what, I couldn't tell. “She is evil.” He continued.

“You sound as if you know her.” I commented hoping to quell the curiosity that was taking hold of me.

“I do.” My father confessed, and it seemed he hung his head in shame. I must have been mistaken though, because he continued, “To know the heart of one sorcerer is to know them all.” Again I didn't agree, but how would I know. It's not as if I know any sorcerers.

My father's next statement made me swell with pride. “You did the right thing, even if you were disobeying me.” I couldn't keep the smile off my face as I heard that, and I saw a little returning smile on my father as well. He gripped my shoulder and turned as if he were thinking about leaving. “I am proud of you, Arthur. Never forget that.” He patted me once more on the shoulder, taking one last look at the forest before leaving.

All I could do was stand there for a few minutes, confused by my father's actions. He was proud of me, knew I did the right thing, yet still kept me locked up for a week. I could feel my anger start to boil inside me. Before it could take hold though, Merlin popped into my mind. I hadn't yet seen Merlin. With a bright smile, that disappeared once I was back around people, I headed for Gaius' chambers.

The door was open, so I made my way into the room without knocking. Gaius was up walking around, sorting some things on one of those desks of his. When Gaius saw me walk in he immediately looked at Merlin, I followed his gaze. Merlin was sitting at the table, eating, hunched over as if eternally exhausted and covered with a thick blanket.

My stomach did an almost unpleasant flip when I finally set my eyes on Merlin. Not seeing him for over a week was terrible and something I wasn't looking forward to anytime in the future. I tried to settle the nerves I had collected after realizing my feelings for my manservant. Putting on that cocky mask that Merlin was so used to seeing I made my way over to him. “Still alive then?”

Merlin glanced over his shoulder at me, and gave me a smile that made my heart skip a beat. I tried to force myself not to flush in his presence. He gave a quick laugh, “Um, yeah. Just about.” I couldn't keep the smile off my face as I saw him smile up at me. I walked closer, placing my hand on his chair, leaning closer to him. “I understand I have you to thank for that.” He made it sound almost like a question, as he looked up at me, a confused sort of warmth in his expression.

I made an exaggerated attempt at rolling my eyes. “Yeah, well, it was nothing.” I reassured, trying to play it off as if it weren't a big deal. I didn't really want to be thanked for saving him, I would always try saving him, even if it were dangerous for me. “A half decent servant is hard to come by.” I said, trying to force the smile and joking tone to stay out of my voice as I tried to stare at him in all seriousness. Before he turned away from me, I saw a smile on his face, and I congratulated myself on making him smile again. “I was only dropping by to make sure you were alright. Should you be back to work tomorrow?” I asked, hoping that he would be, I don't know if I could go another day without Merlin around with me.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, of course. Bright and early.” He told me as I walked away.

I was nearly to the door, berating myself for not coming up with a plan that would allow me to stay longer, when I was stopped. “Arthur!” Merlin called after me. I turned around to see him looking at me, his expression serious. “Thank you.” I swear I could see him pleading me to stay with his shining azure eyes.

I stared at him for a second. Just gazing into those eyes that were gazing with equal intensity into my own. “You too. Get some rest.” I let some of the concern and affection seep into my voice as I told him this. Taking one last lingering look into his eyes, I turned around and left the room.

I paused right outside the door not really wanting to be away from Merlin just yet, but knowing I couldn't say in the room any longer looking into his eyes, with Gaius watching over us, getting suspicious. I could hear Gaius walk over to Merlin, probably giving him something more to eat. I heard him speak, “Arthur may give you a hard time, but at heart he's a man of honor. Not many men would risk what he did for a servant.” I smiled at that, thanking Gaius in my mind for explaining my actions to Merlin.

“It all would have been for nothing, if you hadn't made the antidote.” I heard Merlin reply. I savored ever word he said, glad that I would be able to hear him speak once more.

I was about to leave after I heard Gaius instruct Merlin to finish his dinner, thinking that it would be the end of the conversation. But then I heard Merlin speak again, and I was rooted to the spot. “I still don't understand why she went to all that trouble framing Bayard. She could have just kept quiet and killed Arthur.”

That was a good question. Why didn't she just kill me herself. “Destroying Arthur and Camelot wasn't all she was after.” I leaned in even more curious now as I listened to Gaius speak. “She knew you would be forced to drink that wine. It was you, she wanted to kill.” Gaius emphasized you, making my stomach clench in worry. “It seems someone else knows you are destined for great things, Merlin.”

After hearing that I tore myself away from the wall, now ever more worried than before. I should have been able to bask in the glory of saving Merlin, in making sure he was safe. I shouldn't have to worry about some sorceress trying to take out my manservant for some bizarre reason. And it seemed that Merlin understood what that reason was. I wish I could go back in there and ask them what the bloody hell they were going on about. But I didn't think either of them would approve of my eavesdropping.

I made my way to my room, making a promise to myself that I would get to the bottom of this. I also made a promise to do something about this affection I held for my friend. If I didn't do something soon, I was liable to do something incredibly stupid in public. Tomorrow, I vowed, I would talk to him about this whole mess, tomorrow I would tell him about why I did all this for him, and I wouldn't let him distract me from either of my goals.

Chapter Text

“Merlin, I need to talk to you.” I began, looking Merlin straight in the eyes.

“Alright, Arthur, what do you need this time? Your armor polish, your sword sharpened, or do the stables need to be mucked out again?” Merlin said with a rarely heard venom. He was staring me down, with an ice that I had never seen before.

“Um...” I was floored by his unexpected coldness. I didn't really know what I did, or how to fix it. “No, Merlin. I just wanted to talk to you.” Hesitation swept through my body. Maybe this wasn't the time to have a heart-to-heart with Merlin.

His glare intensified as if he were studying me, probably looking for some indication for what I wanted to say. “Fine,” he said, his tone softening a bit. He sat down on the corner of my bed, having been over there making it. “Go ahead, I'm listening.”

Again, I hesitated. I didn't think I should go right out and tell him I liked him. It sounded so juvenile, like something Morgana and I would have done when we were ten. But I worried that if I said it in anything other than it's most simple form, Merlin wouldn't understand. It was hard for even me to understand. It wasn't everyday that a prince felt like he was falling in love with a servant. It happened even less if that servant were male.

I looked at him, seeing his brow furrow in suspicion at how long it was taking me to answer him. I tried steeling myself, trying to get rid of my nerves. I took a deep breath, taking a step towards Merlin, just wanting to be closer to the boy. “I'm glad you're alright.” I hedged, not wanting to get on the subject of affections just yet.

He threw a small, careless smile my way. That one little smile seemed to have a great effect on me. My palms instantly started to sweat and I could feel the begins of adrenaline cursing through my veins. “All thanks to you and Gaius. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for either of you.” His eyes seemed to light up with the first genuine warmth I had seen from him this morning. Maybe he thought I didn't care if he lived or died, maybe that was why he was so cold to me earlier.

His warmth to seeped into me almost instantly. I could feel it burning through my arms and legs, even to my fingers and toes. I felt alive from the warmth of his eyes and his smile and I began to realize how much I truly needed Merlin, in every sense of the word. My breath caught in my throat and I could feel my face flush as he continued to gaze in my direction, awaiting my response that I was currently unable to give. All I could do was give him a slightly nervous smile and nob in his direction.

He took that as a cue to continue. “I really am thankful to you, you know that right, Arthur?”

Again, all I could do was nod. I didn't think I would ever be able to speak again.

“But enough from me, you needed to talk to me. What do you need to say?”

I gave a light cough, hoping that would give me the ability to speak again. It seemed to help a bit, as did the glass of water I poured for myself before I turned back to look at Merlin. Maybe I would ask him about that sorceress first. I don't think I would live through talking about my feelings just yet.

I coughed again before I asked, “You know something about that sorceress who tried to poison me, don't you?” It wasn't my most eloquent form of interrogation, but I really couldn't think with Merlin in the same room as me.

He paused to think for a few seconds before answering, his voice laced with suspicion and hesitation. “All I know is that she tried to poison you and frame Lord Bayard for it.”

I glared at him, angry that he wouldn't trust me enough to tell me the truth. After seeing the glare I threw at him, he returned it full force. “Come on,” I accused, “Gaius told you she knew you would have to drink the goblet.”

Merlin's glare seemed to harden, “You were listening to Gaius and me after you left yesterday?”

“I was tired, a week in the dungeon will do that, you get unused to using your legs. I just stopped at the door to rest a bit.” I lied, hoping he would believe me.

Concern flashed across his face, momentarily, but was quickly replaced with disbelief. “Knowing you, you paced during your whole stay in the dungeons. Don't lie to me, Arthur.”

I don't know why, but I grew even more angry at his total lack of trust in me. I did just save his life, shouldn't that allow me a bit of trust from him? “I'm your prince, it's not your place to question me or my actions!”

That seemed to be the wrong thing to say, because it looked as if Merlin wanted to stab me with one of my own swords. “Oh, yes. You're royal, how could I forget. A royal prat that is!” Merlin's face was getting red in anger, I couldn't' help but think that the slight flush to his face looked very good on him. And my mind raced with thoughts of Merlin, naked, panting and flushed underneath me.

I shook my head, trying to rid myself of the images that were running rampant in my mind. This was not how I wanted this discussion to go, nowhere near it. I sighed, looking up into his eyes seeing a mixture of hurt, confusion, and frustration. I quickly looked back down, a feeling of guilt deep in my stomach.

“Alright, so it wasn't because I was tired. You happy?” I couldn't stand him being angry at me so soon after I finally got him back in my life. I risked my life to save his, now isn't the time to argue over a little thing like eavesdropping.

He looked at me, he gaze calculating. “What were you doing then?”

“I just wanted to make sure you were alright. I had just risked everything, had to stay a week in a dungeon not knowing if you were alive or dead, I just wanted to make sure you were alright. That it wasn't a figment of my imagination, that it wasn't some kind of dream or something like that. I think I earned that much. You're my best friend, Merlin. I didn't mean to over hear anything, I just wanted to hear you, listen...” I paused, drawing in a huge breath. My heart was racing and it felt as if my lungs couldn't get enough air. The whole time I was talking I had avoided looking at Merlin. I looked up at him now, desperately searching his eyes for any kind of understanding, for any kind of forgiveness that I wanted and needed.

What I saw made my heart soar. Merlin was smiling at me. His eyes, which had just been shining with anger, now shone like a bright sun, happiness glistening in them. I gave him an unsure smile in return. He stood up, taking a step towards me. “I didn't know I was your best friend.” Of course that was the only thing he was going to get from my speech. I didn't know if I should be disappointed or relieved that it was all he absorbed from it.

My smile grew a bit more certain, though, as I answered. “Of course, Merlin. You are at my side for most of the day, you know more about me than anyone else ever could, and I'd like to think I know you as well.”

His smile turned thoughtful, “What about the knights. I thought they were your friends. Plus you always order me about. That's hardly what a friend would do.”

I grimaced at the last part. No, I don't imagine that was how most people treated their friends. “I'm a prince, Merlin. Even if you weren't my servant it's not like we can have a normal friendship with my royalty hanging over our heads like a dead snake. As for the knights, they work under me.” My thoughts took a very naughty turn at those words (I wish Merlin worked under me...), but I forced myself to continue. “They are just comrades in arms. I don't really interact with them outside of training or the duties we share.”

Merlin seemed to be deciphering my words, seeking a hiding meaning, probably. It didn't appear as if he found any though, as he replied with a smile. “I always considered you a friend.”

“I know. I'm sorry that it took me so long to realize that myself.” I cast my head down in shame, but I jerked it back up when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“It's alright, Arthur. At least you are admitting it now.” He threw another smile in my direction. I stared into his eyes for a moment before turning my attention to the hand currently residing on my shoulder. That one little hand was having a huge impact on me. Warmth was spreading from the point of contact, racing down my spine and cascading through my body, reaching every inch of me. I felt a light tingling right where his hand touched me shoulder, and my nerves seemed to be set on fire when he rubbed my shoulder with his thumb before letting go. I could barely stop the whimper of lose that nearly bubbled out of my throat and I had to force myself not to pull of face of disappointment.

I tried to make myself think coherently. My mind had gone pleasantly blank after Merlin's touch. “There are a few other things that I realized while searching for the Mortaeus Flower.” I told Merlin. I had to suppress the longing that nearly wormed its way into my voice.

Merlin had settled on my bed again, almost looking as if he were making himself at home. But all I could think was how I wanted to see Merlin in my bed more often, it seemed to suit him very well. I couldn't help myself as I took a step closer to him. “Oh,” Merlin sounded tired, bored almost. “And what would those things be?” He looked up into my eyes, a mischievous glint in his own.

I took another step towards him, now I was standing right in front of him, not more than a foot away. I leaned down so we were eye level. I forced my cocky, princely act to the surface. That was the only thing that would get me to tell Merlin the truth without running away before hand. “My opinion of you, for one.”

“And what's your opinion of me?” Was it me, or was Merlin flirting back with me? He sounded innocent still, so I couldn't be too sure.

“This opinion.” I leaned in even further, pausing when I was a hair's breath away from his lips. I took a second to study his sapphire eyes, they shined at me brightly, looking even bluer up close,. Then I took the plunge, leaning in even further.

I connected my lips to Merlin's. He seemed to tense up, probably from shock. He wasn't responding to me, as I moved my lips softly against his. I didn't really expect him too. I probably just surprised the hell out of him, he would need a few moments to adjust. I was going to back up and give him time to process what was happening, but I found I couldn't. Once I had taken a taste of Merlin, I realized I wouldn't be able to live without it. Merlin's scent was overpowering me, and his taste was sending every nerve of my body on fire.

I wanted more, so much more, as much as Merlin would give me. But for now, I would settle for a better taste. I snuck my tongue out to lick the seam of Merlin's lips. He let out a soft gasp of surprise and I took that as a go-ahead. I dived into his mouth, looking for new areas to taste. Merlin still wasn't responding to me, and in the back of my mind I knew it wasn't a good sign. I wanted him to participate as well. I knew that it would be a thousand times better if he would take part in this kiss as well. So I let my tongue slide against Merlin's lightly, almost playfully. His tongue seemed to twitch against mine, wrapping around mine for a second before he tensed up even more and pushed me harshly away.

I couldn't keep the hurt out of my eyes as I looked at Merlin questioningly. He just looked back at me, his lips bruised, looking thoroughly ravished. What Merlin did next cut though me even more painfully. He turned from me and made his way to the door.

I couldn't let him leave just yet, so I grabbed his wrist. “Where are you going?” I asked nearly panicked.

“Away from you!” Merlin spat at me, looking at me with disgust. “Maybe it would be better if I went back home and stopped working for you, Arthur.”

The pain I felt now felt worse than any sword injury I might have received. I just stood there, gaping at Merlin. He wrenched his wrist away from me and took off down the corridor. I stood there, stupidly for a second, just staring at the place Merlin had just vacated, before I rushed out after him.

“Merlin! Come back! Let's talk about this.” I yelled after him, wishing that he would follow orders.

“No, Arthur! This love you feel is disgusting. And I don't want to be near you anymore!” I could barely hear Merlin yell this. It sounded almost as if he were already on the other side of the castle.

I had a stitch in my side and I couldn't breathe. I don't know if that was because of the running of the intense pain I felt from Merlin's rejection. Either way, I couldn't keep running. I stopped in an abandoned hallway, clutching my side and gasping for breath. I veered into a wall, sliding down it to collapse on the floor.

A sob tore through my throat as I settled into my resting place. Tears were running down my face, and I knew no way of stopping them. I just sat on the floor, my hands clutching at my sides, looking for some kind of anchor through my depression, but finding none. My body was shaking with the force of my sobs and my throat felt raw, as if I had been drinking sand.

I jerked upright, tears still running down my face, when I heard a voice. It sounded like Merlin. He was calling me name. Maybe he decided to come back and mock me. I didn't think I would be able to endure something like that. My soul already felt like it was split in two. One piece had belonged to Merlin now, and it would be with him always, even if he did reject me. I felt a hand on my shoulder but didn't even try to raise my head to see who it was. The hand started to shake me, and I could have sworn I heard Merlin calling my name again. I couldn't even begin to try to lift myself out of the sea that was my depression. It seemed like I would just drown in it instead.

The shaking grew more insistent though, and it felt as if someone were yelling my name, but I couldn't really hear over my own sobs and low mumbles of Merlin's name.

I jerked awake, gasping when I felt a hand slap my face. I blinked a few times, not really understanding what was happening or why my vision was so blurred. I reached my hand up to rub my eyes to realize I was indeed crying, just as I had in my dream. I looked around, searching for the owner of the hand that slapped me.

I saw Merlin next to me, a very worried look on his face. “Are you okay, Arthur.”

I couldn't help it, I sobbed again, fresh tears streaming down my face as I realized that it had all been a dream. Merlin hadn't rejected me. Not yet, I couldn't help but add pessimistically. I lunged myself at Merlin, clinging onto him around his waist as I continued to cry into his chest. A part of me thinking it was oddly toned for someone as skinny and gangly as Merlin.

Merlin let me hold him, switching between rubbing circles in my back and patting my shoulder as he murmured, “It's alright, it was just a dream. I'm here now. It's okay.”

After finally getting my sobs under control, I pulled back a bit out of Merlin's grasp, so I was able to look him in the eye. He gave me a small smile, concern still written all over his face. I returned his smile with a watery one of my own. Merlin reached up his hand and wiped the last of the tears off my face, using the soft padding of his thumb. A shiver traveled down my spine at the intimate touch. Once he lowered his hand, my tears now gone, I reached my own hands out to his face.

My heart pounded because of the warmth that I saw in his gaze, I saw a true affection for me in those cobalt blue eyes of his. I was practically sitting in Merlin's lap, but he didn't stop for a second in comforting me, he was still rubbing circles on my back. I knew right then and there that I loved this man. More than I had ever loved anything in my entire life, more than I would love anything in the future.

Holding his head softly in my hands, I looked deep in his eyes. “I love you, Merlin.” I told him, not caring if my dream would come true or not, as I leaned in, hoping that I would get at least one taste if he was really going to reject me after all.

Chapter Text

One could probably imagine my surprise when reality seemed to be the complete opposite of my dream. As I leaned in to finally kiss Merlin, he leaned in as well, meeting me halfway. As I felt his lips move against mine, I froze up with shock. Merlin was kissing me. He wasn't pushing me away or running as far from me as possible. He was actually kissing me.

Feeling me freeze up, Merlin backed away from me. He didn't go far, just enough where we would be able to comfortably look each other in the eye. Concern was clearly written on his face and I thought I saw a little bit of hurt in his eyes as well. “Arthur?” He sounded breathless, like he had just ran the whole length of the castle.

Upon hearing my name, I snapped out of my daze. Fire raced down my spine and I instantly fell in love with how my name sounded from a breathless Merlin. I felt myself panting for breath, whether it was from Merlin's kiss or because I was holding my breath from shock, I would never know.

I felt my face flush, embarrassed by my reaction to the kiss. I was a prince for Pete's sake, I shouldn't freeze up with a kiss, it should be programmed in my blood to be brilliant at it. I heard Merlin snort in laughter at my flushed face, which only caused it to get even redder. I averted my eyes, suddenly realizing that my bed sheets were much more interesting than I'd ever realized.

I didn't have much time to contemplate my new love for the sheets before I felt Merlin's hand on my chin, breaking my stare from the bed. He guided my face back up to his, making me looking into his eyes once more. “Arthur? What's wrong?”

His tone had lost its breathlessness, but I found that it didn't lose it's appeal. It still had the ability to send every nerve in my brain on fire. “It's nothing, sorry.” I mumbled, blushing once again. I really didn't know if he was asking about the kiss or the nightmare he had been comforting me from.

A sudden thought flowed unwelcome into my brain. What if Merlin had only kissed me to comfort me. He was the kind of person to do anything to make sure someone else was alright. What if he knew my intent and just played along. He probably didn't know any other way to comfort me, having never before seen me cry, let alone seek comfort in his lap. Which to my increasing embarrassment, I realized I was still in.

I made to move out of Merlin's lap, when I was stopped by a tightening grip around my waist. I looked up at Merlin questioningly. He just looked at me in concern, completely ignoring my unanswered question of why he wasn't letting me leave. “I know there is something wrong. I came into the room and you were crying,” my heart seemed to be breaking slowly. Of course all Merlin was worried about was why I was crying in my sleep. He wasn't worried about the kiss. A kiss he probably did only to aid in further discovery of what was wrong. “You tell me you love me and then you just tense up like that, when you leaned in to kiss me.” He continued after a short pause for breath.

“Uh...” my blush, having taken a now permanent residence on my face, flared up once more. “Yeah, about that... sorry. I didn't think you would actually respond back.”

Merlin gave a light laugh at that. “Respond back?” he asked me, raising his brow with something akin to a flirtation mischief in the action. “If I remember correctly I was the one doing all the work, and you were the one who wasn't responding back.”

I studied his eyes, slight horror at his words shining in my own. All I could see in his were amusement, joy, and something deeper and brighter and it made my pace quicken with it's intensity. It was a deep and unending lust, which was softened by a look of sheer love. It took my breath away as I drowned in those shimmering azure eyes.

Merlin smiled at me again, taking my hand in his own and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Come on, Arthur. Tell me what you dreamed about.”

I nearly sighed audibly in relief at the change in subject. But then I tensed once more, remembering my dream. Tears were threatening to escape once again. I burrowed my head into Merlin's chest and I told him about my dream. My voice was soft and mumbled because of his clothes but he got the gist of it.

The whole time I was telling him, he was rubbing my back. It felt like he was massaging all my troubles away. At times he would whisper little things in my ear. Things like, “I would never do that!” or “That's absolutely ghastly!” He gasped at all the right places. When I got the the part about him pushing me away and rejecting me, I chocked up once more. But I refused to let tears fall again. Merlin littered my jaw line with soft kisses that distracted me from my dream induced sadness. His feather light kisses were just a constant reminder of how I acted for our first kiss. Which made me hide my face once more and finish the tale in a very tiny voice.

When I was done telling him about the dream, he leaned me back slightly so he could have a good look at my face. He looked me dead in the eye. “Arthur, I would never leave you. I would never push you away.”

I couldn't keep the huge smile off my face. Of course, I was being silly. My Merlin would do what the dream Merlin did. He was too kind hearted for that. He shot a gleaming smile back in my direction. He really had no idea what his smiles did to me. I felt my breath catch at the pure joy radiating from his smile.

I felt myself leaning towards Merlin again, just wanting to be closer to my friend. He seemed to have the same idea and he leaned in towards me as well. We didn't kiss, I just wrapped my arms around him, burrowing into the crook of his neck. I inhaled deeply, getting drunk off his smell. He smelled of fresh rain, medical supplies made by Gauis, a bit like dust, and something that was uniquely Merlin. I couldn't get enough of it. He smelled absolutely delicious.

I had to take a taste. I took an experimental lick of the patch of skin right behind his ear. He tasted as delicious as he smelled. I heard Merlin moan in appreciation. I continued down, making a trail down his neck, licking, kissing, and sucking at random parts of exposed skin. Soon I reached that stupid bloody scarf that he never seems to be without. Growling in irritation, I ripped the scarf off him, making sure not to hurt him in my haste.

Before I could taste anymore of that addicting skin, Merlin grabbed my face, pulling it up level to his. His eyes were darken with lust, and I found myself loving that look on him. I threw a cocky grin in his direction, which caused him to roll his eyes at me. I didn't give him much time to scoff at my antics. I gripped his shirt, pulling him forward with a near brutal force. Our lips met once more, causing both of us to moan in want.

I was better prepared for this kiss. I responded to every move from Merlin, and he seemed to be doing the same for me. I knew that a simple kiss like this would never appease me. I wanted more. I wanted to taste more of Merlin. I tentatively ran my tongue along Merlin's lips, relishing in the silky smoothness. His lips were warm and full, just begging to be worshiped.

I decided to indulge them as I sucked on Merlin's bottom lip, nipping at it slightly before swiping my tongue over the abused area as if to apologize for any hurt I might have caused. I heard Merlin moan and gasp in turn. Taking advantage of his open mouth, I pushed my tongue inside.

I moaned at Merlin's taste. It was even better than his skin. I ran my tongue along his, and groaned in desire as he slid his tongue against mine. I had never felt so alive before. No amount of fawning girls could ever make me want to give up on this feeling. I had never felt such a high. Not even from hunting or fighting.

I felt Merlin sneak his hands into my shirt, ghosting his fingers over my stomach. It caused my muscles to jump in an altogether pleasant way. I reached up one of my own hands and slipped it into his hair, loving the feeling of his silkened strands running through my fingers. My other hand reach around behind him, pulling him closer up into me.

The kiss was started to become uncomfortable. I was sitting sideways in his lap and trying to get closer to him was hard, in more ways than one. I moved into a more comfortable position, still sitting in his lap, but now facing him, my legs straddling both sides of his waist. I pulled him flush against me, enjoying the warmth that was transferred to me in the process.

I ground down onto Merlin, wanting more of his body touching my own. It caused us to break apart, gasping for air. Merlin seemed to recover quicker as he attacked my neck, sucking at the junction where my shoulder met my neck. He pulled back slightly, looking deep in my eyes. It was almost disconcerting. It felt like he was looking into my very soul.

“I love you too, you know.” Merlin told me, scanning my face, trying to gauge my reaction.

I just gave him a small smile in return. “Yeah,” I said, reaching up and stroking his cheek lovingly. “I love you so much, Merlin. I think I would have died if I hadn't saved you in time.” I felt him tense up a bit, upon hearing me bring up the poisoning incident again. “The whole time I was searching I thought of you. Everything seemed darker without you around to be my shining light. I was constantly worrying if I would get back in time, or if you would be dead upon my return.”

“Arthur-” Merlin tried to cut in, but I wouldn't let him.

“When I got back and Father nearly destroyed the flower I thought I was going to die. No one told me if you were saved or not. No one came to tell me if I had been successful in getting back in time. I had to endure a week of emotional agony, thinking I'd have to live my life without you. I never want to feel like that again. I love you too much.”

I was gasping for breath after my little, overly-emotional rant. Merlin studied me for a moment before asking, “Are you finished now?”

Still not having enough breath to talk, I merely nodded. Merlin smiled slightly at me, once again causing my heart to beat erratically. “I'm really sorry you had to go through all that for me, Arthur-”

I cut him off, “I would do it again, for you.” I tell him in all honesty.

“Hey, now, it's my turn to talk. I believe you though. Hopefully it won't be needed. I never wanted to make you go through that. I just wanted to save your life, you mean the world to me, Arthur. And I can't imagine living my life without you anymore than you can imagine living yours.”

Merlin had been massaging my arms and legs as he was telling me all this. He reach a spot on my upper thigh that nearly made me cry out in pleasure, that or turn into a puddle of pleasured goop. All I could do was moan out a quick, “Oh god, Merlin.” But Merlin didn't give me any time to recover. He dug into that spot harder, making me groan, and bit down on my collar bone. The combination of them nearly made me scream. I knew in mere seconds I would be the aforementioned puddle if I didn't do something quick.

Luckily, or perhaps not so luckily, a knock could be heard from my door. Merlin leapt up, knocking me on the ground in his haste. Apparently he forgot that I had been residing on his lap, and if he stood up something of this sort would have to happen to me.

Merlin looked down at me, at first he seemed confused, which made me glare at him darkly. After a few seconds it seemed to dawn on him what really happened. An apologetic look crossed his face as he quickly reached down to help me up. He smiled weakly at me before he went to open the door. It was my father on the other side. For not the first time in my life, I was glad my father knocked now. He once walked in on me doing something that was only appropriate when done in the secrecy of ones own room. After that embarrassing episode Father has learned to knock at all times.

He looked both Arthur and I up and down. Taking in our disheveled appearance. I took stock of myself in a mirror hanging over my fireplace. My lips looked bruised and my shirt looked extremely wrinkled. Merlin was worse off however. His lips were equally bruised, but his hair was every which way, probably because I had run my fingers though it earlier. My father raised a brow in question, but it seemed he decided it was better not to ask.

“Um...” I tried desperately to alleviate the awkward silence that fell over us. “Did you need something, Sire?” I asked, hoping that my respectful tone would make him forget how we looked.

“You're needed in the training fields. Seems like a few knights are ready to be tested. You are to be at the field and ready within the hour.” my father told me before he left my room in a rush.

“Well that was awkward.” Merlin said, always stating the obvious.

I grinned at him wickedly. “Yes, but doesn't the risk of getting caught make it so much better.”

Merlin threw a pillow at me, laughing. “Go, test your knights.”

My grin turned a bit more cocky. “Like it will matter. No one will ever be able to beat me.”

“We'll see about that later.” His voice full of innuendos and promise, he added a wink on for good measure.

With that promise in mind, I made my way hastily toward the field. Already wishing that I could be back in Merlin's arms and finding out just how he planned on besting me.