Title: An Honour
Warnings/Spoilers: Up to and including 2x01 "The Curse of Cornelius Sigan"
Summary: Coda to 2x01.
“You know, Merlin, I almost missed you,” said Arthur cheerfully as Merlin brought him his evening meal.
As it was all-too-clearly a set-up for an insult, Merlin retorted, “Well, you might think about that next time you find a jewel-thief to replace me with,” in a bid to forestall him. Arthur looked momentarily taken aback, and then said airily, “Oh, I had my suspicions about Cedric all along. Just keeping you on your toes, Merlin.”
Merlin responded, “Yes, sire,” in a way that he hoped conveyed his total disbelief of Arthur’s statement, as he poured the prince’s wine. Arthur reached for his goblet, amusement in his eyes, but as he did so the movement obviously hurt him and he winced before he could stop himself.
“Let me-” began Merlin, reaching over to move the wine closer, as Arthur insisted, “Merlin, I’m fine,” with a great deal of firmness.
Merlin ignored him and moved the goblet closer anyway. “Do you need anything from Gaius?” he asked softly, resting his hand on Arthur’s shoulder for a brief second. He’d watched Arthur earlier in the day as he bestowed the knighthood, valiantly concealing the fact that every movement was giving him pain, being the prince his people and his father expected despite the disfiguring black eye. If Uther knew the effort his son was making he did not refer to it, although Morgana had stopped to say soft words to him and to press a highly unusual kiss to his cheek, and Gwen had exchanged concerned glances with Merlin.
“He’s given me something to help me sleep,” said Arthur, abandoning pretence for a moment.
Merlin nodded, and continued to look at him expectantly, but Arthur merely took a sip of wine and carried on with his meal.
As he moved around Arthur’s chambers that night extinguishing candles, Merlin eyed the mass of bandages and bruises that was Arthur’s torso. He thought of Arthur facing Sigan’s living gargoyle, split from his men and unaware that he had magical back-up. He thought of the moment he’d seen Arthur on the ground and feared the worst, and he thought of all the other times he’d seen Arthur fearlessly charge into battle, for his father and for Camelot, but also for Merlin and countless others and for his own sense of what was right. He thought of Arthur facing down magical beast after magical beast, armed, as far as he knew, with only his sword and his wits. He smiled at the man in the bed, although he couldn't see him in the darkness. Arthur served Camelot, and he served Arthur, and there was nothing that mattered to him more.
He paused at the door, and turned towards the bed. “Arthur,” he said softly. There was no reply, but Merlin continued regardless. “It is an honour.” As he closed the door quietly behind him, he wasn’t sure whether he hoped Arthur had been asleep, or whether he hoped Arthur had heard him.