“I don’t care if he does have my ears, I’m not the father!” Merlin protested as Gwen and Morgana cooed over the baby and Arthur just looked smug and amused. “A scribbled name on a scrap of paper doesn’t make a lie of my own experiences.”
“I don’t know, Merlin,” Arthur said. “No one knows what you get up to away from Camelot.”
“Very little,” Merlin mumbled. “What am I supposed to even do with a child?”
“Feed it, tend it, raise it?” suggested Gwen. “We need to find a wet nurse, by the way. This child is too young to eat anything more than milk yet.”
“A wet nurse! Good! That’s far more productive than trying to pin fatherhood on me.”
“He really does have your ears,” said Morgana and the girls exchanged glances as Merlin sputtered.
“There is no way short of a miracle that I am the father of that child!”
“How can you be certain?” said Arthur, using his “I am the voice of calm” tone.
“Because I’ve never –” Merlin stopped and flushed scarlet. Both the girls were watching him again, Gwen with understanding, Morgana as if she didn’t know how this sentence ended. He said, “Because I’ve only been with one person that way.”
Arthur’s mouth fell open.
“I think that’s very admirable,” said Gwen and Merlin managed a grateful smile. “It’s far better than bragging of your conquests.”
“I do not brag,” Arthur muttered.
“Of course you don’t,” Gwen soothed him. “You just make sure everyone knows.” She gathered up the child, his blankets, and the basket he had arrived in. “My lady, it’s late and I need to find a wet nurse.”
“Of course,” said Morgana, “far later than is proper, too.” She stopped at Merlin’s side and patted his arm, though if she meant it in solidarity – the virginity of a noblewoman was as much a commodity as her dowry – or sympathy, he wasn’t certain, and then both women left Arthur’s chamber.
As soon as the door shut Arthur said, “You have not only been with me.”
Merlin just looked at him as mildly as he could.
“You should have said,” Arthur said.
“I never said stop,” Merlin said. “Nothing else matters.”
“No one,” said Arthur. “No lad, no lass, just me.”
“Just you,” said Merlin. “So there is no way that child could be mine, no matter what his mother might believe.”
“I wonder if someone is wandering the countryside, claiming to be you.”
“It would be very strange if there were. I don’t know what purpose it would serve.”
“Aside from flooding Camelot with fatherless babies? Very little.” Arthur was still looking at him as if Merlin had sprouted wings.
“I didn’t bring it up before because I knew you would react this way,” Merlin said. “I knew you’d look at me differently.”
“You were a virgin until me. Of course I’m looking at you differently. And I still think the baby has your ears.”
Merlin covered them with his hands. “All babies have my ears. Please dismiss me.”
“Good night, Merlin,” Arthur said, and then said, “Merlin,” and Merlin stopped. Arthur said slowly, “I admit to hoping the child was yours. I found the thought comforting.”
“Comforting,” Merlin said. “Why?”
Arthur picked up a cup from his table. “Someday I must marry and produce an heir,” he said, sounding none too pleased at the prospect. “And I found it comforting to think that your child might look after mine, as you do me.”
Merlin looked at him a moment. He said, “Good night, Arthur,” and left his chambers.
Mirrored from MissLucyJane.com.