Arthur was used to Merlin not coming in for work.
It wasn't exactly uncommon for his servant to take a day off to do whatever at the tavern and show up late the next morning acting as though he had been through some kind of war. Arthur even planned for it now.
No, that wasn't surprising. What was surprising was that the servant in question was now being so brazen about missing work he had the nerve to walk around the castle while doing it.
"Merlin!" He called as he watched his servant nicking an apple from the kitchen. Merlin turned, immediately hiding the apple behind his back until he saw Arthur. It said something that the man instantly relaxed and pulled the apple back out as if he was more scared of being caught by the cook than the king. "Aren't you supposed to be doing something?" He asked, raising his eyebrows "...cleaning my chambers perhaps? My laundry? My armor?" He prompted.
"Gwen gave me the day off." Merlin said with a shrug "So not really, no."
"She - what?" Arthur blinked. Merlin shrugged. "Why did she give you a day off?"
"I asked her for one."
"Yeah." Merlin nodded "I get tomorrow off too."
"No, you do not." Arthur frowned at him. "Where is Guinevere? I know she did not give you two days off." He objected. Sure, Arthur knew his servant and wife had been friends but surely she wouldn't go around allowing Merlin to do whatever he wanted now that she was queen. Merlin's smile told him he might be mistaken.
"I'm here," A voice said and Arthur turned to find Gwen herself walking down the hallway, her purple skirts whirling around her like fire as she approached. "What is this?" She asked, looking from Merlin and Arthur in confusion. "Merlin I thought you were taking today off?" She asked, confirming Arthur's fear.
"And tomorrow." Merlin added helpfully, taking a bite of his apple.
"Tell me that isn't true." Arthur asked. Gwen crossed her arms.
"It is true." She said, voice rising with a hint of a warning "Is that a problem? I assume there are other servants in this castle to aid you." She added, brow raising in a way that would have made Gaius proud. Arthur paused - a little uncertain. On one hand, he hated dealing with other servants...But he also hated dealing with an angry Guinevere so really there was no winning here.
"Fine," He sighed, raising his hands up before he pointed at Merlin "But you aren't getting paid."
"I will pay him." Gwen interrupted. Arthur gaped at her.
"He isn't even working!"
"I will pay him." She repeated and scowled at Merlin "Stop enjoying this." She added and Merlin immediately wiped away his smile, giving her a somber expression. "Now, come on. We haven't talked in forever." She said, pulling at Merlin's arm. Arthur watched as she dragged him away, the two whispering lowly to one another as they went. Traitors. Sighing, he turned around only to find George standing behind him.
"Good morning sire," He said stoically with a small nod of his head "You have three appointments with the-"
Arthur was not looking forward to this.
Honestly, they might have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for Merlin's big mouth.
While Arthur was fairly certain his servant committed various forms of treason on a regular basis, his favorite seemed to be pointing out which nobles he didn't like and proceeding to explain everything he hated about them. Arthur had to step in a few times to keep him from being stabbed.
So when a passing servant mentioned the queen and Merlin had requested entrance to Lord Henry's chambers Arthur was...Concerned. He remembered Merlin had also mentioned several years prior that Gwen had also not been fond of Lord Henry which was another red flag that had Arthur practically sprinting into the room.
"I...What are you doing?" He asked as he opened the door to see Gwen and Merlin peeling the sheets of the bed back to dump what looked to be a bucket of worms on the mattress. Merlin jumped, dropping the bucket so it clanged loudly on the ground before he kicked it under the bed as if Arthur wouldn't notice it. Gwen straightened he dress, looking much more calm at being caught.
"I am the queen," She began, raising her chin ever so slightly. She folded her hands together in front of her which might have aided in her regal appearance if they weren't caked in mud "I do not have to answer that."
"Merlin, what were you doing?" He asked instead. Gwen held up a hand.
"I command you to keep quiet, Merlin." She said quickly. Merlin's mouth snapped shut with a nod. Arthur rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest as he tried to digest the situation.
"Well I am the king." He pointed out. Merlin looked over at Gwen. "And technically you are my personal servant which means you answer to me, not her." He said firmly. Merlin winced at that. Gwen cleared her throat, stepping forward before he could say anything more.
"Merlin found out that...Someone put worms in Lord Henry's bed. We came to rectify the situation." She said and Merlin immediately nodded in agreement.
"I saw you two do it!" Arthur objected. Merlin hummed.
"She is the queen, your majesty." He pointed out and pulled the sheets up over the worms carefully as Gwen started to exit.
"I am." She agreed, gesturing for Merlin to follow. Arthur would have found the whole thing a little amusing if he wasn't so alarmed by the situation and their stubbornness. Still, he wasn't entirely for sure what he could do. Was he supposed to throw his own wife in the dungeons? Of course not.
"No. No, you can't just say that to everything - Guinevere." He complained. "Merlin come clean this up!" He said and Merlin's face fell as he turned around. Before he could get to the bed, Gwen grabbed his arm.
"He isn't feeling well." She said. Merlin blinked at her.
"I'm not? Ow." He hissed when she hit his arm "I'm not feeling well." He amended.
"I'll take him to Gaius," Gwen said, patting his arm "Come on." She told the servant, leading him out of the room again. Arthur stood there for a couple minutes before another servant walked in, looking warily at the bed.
"Should I perhaps put Lord Henry in a different set of chambers?" He offered and Arthur sighed.
"No. He probably deserves it."
Arthur was a little confused as to why they were having a feast, but decided it was best not question it as listened to the cook rattle off the menu. He supposed it had been quite some time since they had a feast...And there were plenty of reasons to celebrate. He just had to pick one and roll with it.
"Thank you for putting this together," He said when Gwen strolled into their bedroom, humming to herself. She paused, tilting her head at her husband before giving him a bright smile. "It was really kind of you."
"You're not going to fuss about it?" She asked, walking over to him to kiss his cheek "I was a bit worried."
"Fuss? Over a feast? Never." Arthur reassured her, tapping her chin. Her smile widened, eyes sparkling as she grabbed his hands and squeezed tightly.
"Good," She said and let go, picking up a comb to run through her hair "You mustn't tell him though. I want it to be a surprise."
"Tell who?" He asked, brows coming together in confusion. Gwen continued brushing her hair, but not without fixing him a baffled look that told Arthur he was definitely missing an important detail about this feast.
"Merlin, of course."
"The feast is for Merlin?"
"It's his birthday!" Gwen said and turned to look at him "You didn't realize, did you?" She asked, disappointment lacing her tone.
Arthur actually had known it was Merlin's birthday. He had even gotten him a gift and given him the day off for the occasion - but hadn't made the connection that the impromptu feast his wife had issued connected with it. He considered pointing out that he couldn't just give a servant an entire feast. It looked bad on him and on the kingdom to see such favoritism. Not to mention the nobles would give Gwen a hard time about it. They had a hard enough time accepting her as queen already.
One the other hand... Thrusting Merlin in the middle of attention and watching him panic?
"We should hire someone to throw knives at him like they did for my birthday." He said with a stoic nod. Gwen rolled her eyes.
He had to wait for a three hours council meeting to end before he could say anything.
"My love," He finally said when the last advisor had exited the room and the door slammed shut behind him "Why are you hiding under a table?" He asked, pushing back his chair so he could peer under at where Gwen was sat, buried underneath her dress and hair mused from hitting her head on the table (Arthur had to hit the table every time it happened so nobody questioned where the noise came from).
"Arthur!" She said, sounding somewhat surprised he had noticed her despite the fact Arthur had accidentally kicked her a few times during the meeting. "How are you?"
"Hi Arthur." Another voice called. Well. He had not noticed Merlin was also hiding under the table, but there he was, poking his head out from behind Guinevere to wave merrily. Since neither of them had moved, Arthur decided it was probably time to shove aside his pride and join them underneath the table if he had any hope of figuring out what was going on.
"Why are you under the table?" He repeated and Gwen miserably pulled up her dress to reveal her foot. She didn't look injured, but upon further inspection Arthur realized it wasn't her foot she was showing him, but her shoe. He wasn't for sure how exactly but the back end of it had snapped off. He was no expert in fashion or shoes by any means but he figured it would be difficult to walk without that part. "Ah...You... No, I'm still confused." He decided.
"The stupid thing came off when I was getting ready for the meeting," She said miserably "And the council gives me such a hard time I knew they would use the shoe to show I can't be trusted with kingdom affairs." She grumbled, putting her chin in her hand. While it did sound a little ridiculous, Arthur realized she kind of had a point. The council was looking to criticize her in anyway - refusing to accept a maid as queen. He reached over to grab her hand, squeezing it as if the act could her strength to put up with all the simple minded fools around her.
"And why is Merlin here?" He added.
"Oh, I was there when the shoe broke. The plan was if anyone noticed her under the table I was going to pretend to have kidnapped her so she wouldn't have to explain the shoe thing." Merlin said brightly. Gwen sniffed.
"I didn't like that plan." She whispered but patted his arm anyways.
"I would rather be executed than watch them embarrass you." Merlin said solemnly. Arthur didn't doubt for a second that he was serious. The man seemed eager to die for just about any cause - especially when it came to his friends.
"Alright, well...Merlin go get her another pair of shoes and we'll wait here." He suggested only to be met with groaning.
"My lord, that is not a viable plan." They said at the same time. Arthur stared. Seriously? "We can't have the king and the queen under this table alone. If you're caught what would it look like?" Merlin sighed "Listen, the kingdom can think you're a weird exhibitionist creep, but we can't have Gwen uphold such a reputation."
"So you would rather stick to the kidnapping plan and potentially be executed if caught?" Arthur asked - just the clarify. Merlin nodded. "Alright, I will go get the shoes." He said and ducked out of the table. He really wished he could say this was the weirdest encounter he had this week.
"Get a patrol ready." Gwen said as she marched through the halls, eyes focused in front of her as she sent men scurrying in all directions. Arthur had been about to order the same thing, but honestly it looked like she had it under control. From beside her, a man grimaced - trying desperately to keep pace with the queen as she went.
"My, um, lady..." He began and Arthur narrowed his eyes a bit at the hesitation behind the title "A patrol for a servant? I understand you must, uh...Sympathize, but-"
Gwen stopped walking. The man almost kept going, but tripped in order to stay by her side.
"Sympathize?" She repeated, eyes flaring with hard anger. The man opened his mouth to respond but kept silent as her expression hardened "My king, could you tell me if you value Merlin as a member of this household?" She asked. Her eyes weren't on Arthur as she addressed him, instead drilling into the man with their faces inches from each other.
"I do." Arthur said. "He has saved my life numerous times and shown undoubted loyalty to me over the years." He added, leaving it at that. He wasn't about to try and explain his friendship with Merlin outside anyone who hadn't seen it themselves. Luckily, it seemed to be all Gwen needed for her rampage.
"Do you wish to go against the king's wishes?" She asked and there was a long pause before the man slowly shook his head. "Good. Now...Go get a patrol ready. And not because your king wishes it or because that servant is a loyal member of the court. Do it because I told you to and I am your fucking queen."
Arthur had to admit... This was kind of enjoyable. The man looked at him for a second - possibly hoping for the king to step in and resolve the matter, but he only smiled. The enjoyment was short lived though. As the man scurried away, practically falling over in his attempts to leave, Gwen's mask of anger fell and she put a hand to her face.
"Guinevere..." He said gently and she turned to latch onto him, burying her face into his chest "We are going to find him. I swear it."
"Morgana is gone." She said back, voice choked with tears "I can't lose him too. He's my friend." She whispered, hands tightening in Arthur's shirt. Her squeezed her back, trying his best not to let her emotions knock his out of check.
"I know," He muttered anyways "Mine too."
There was a brief pause.
"I'm going to punch that man." She added and Arthur gave a soft laugh.
"Okay," He agreed "Just wait until we get Merlin back so he can watch."
"Good idea." She said pulling back so she could wipe the tears away.
"I'm going to fight him."
"Me too. You know I love him, but he has been getting on my nerves..."
"Gwen, I love you, but he has been getting on my nerves much longer than he has been getting on your nerves."
Arthur cleared his throat, causing his wife and servant both to jump from where they were lounging in front of his fireplace, drinking wine of all the things. At nine in the morning. At one point, he might have argued that Merlin shouldn't be touching his wine, but knew those days were long behind him.
"Arthur," Gwen greeted from where they both were lying on the floor (ignoring the perfectly good armchairs behind them). Arthur was investing quite a bit of money in his wife's wardrobe considering she kept doing servant-like things in them and destroying whatever she had by mistake. "Darling, we're having some us time right now." She said, brushing a stray piece of hair from her eyes. Despite being on the floor, she looked very regal with her hair pulled back in some intricate design with jewels woven in. The image was ruined by the fact Merlin's legs were sprawled over her lap.
"You're talking about me." He pointed out. They both nodded. "I don't want to leave if you're going to talk about me." He added. Merlin shrugged.
"We can do it while you're here." He suggested. Gwen pointed at him as if he had somehow made a valid point. "Anyways, as I was saying-"
"I've grown up in Camelot. I've dealt with him much longer than you!"
"Lies! You never even talked to him until after I started working here...Which means I had more genuine interactions with him to be annoyed by than you."
"Ah, but I worked for Morgana who was also annoyed by Arthur and she would tell me about it so..." Gwen rose her glass in a sort of shrug that said 'I win'. Arthur was a little taken aback by how into this argument they were. As if he was actually tiresome to be around!
"Annoyed via Morgana does not count as being annoyed directly." Merlin argued, reaching over for the pitcher in between them to pour more wine in his glass.
Arthur got up. He actually didn't want to be here after all.
"Have you considered I'm the queen and that means I'm right?"
"Stop using that for every argument we have!"
"Gwen." Merlin greeted curtly as the queen entered the room. There was a long pause in which all the knights had who had been changing into the armor paused, waiting for her to say or do something. It seemed the queen was content to only glare at Merlin (who was pointedly ignoring her). Arthur thought about saying something, but at that moment Gwen crossed her arms and took a long breath.
"It's Mordred, isn't it? He's the one who is upsetting you."
"Oh my God, Gwen." Merlin groaned. Arthur, on the other hand, was a little baffled by the comment. Gwen hadn't been formally introduced to Mordred yet - though she knew Arthur planned on knighting him. Arthur had noticed some tension between his newest to-be knight and Merlin but he hadn't had a clue on how his wife picked that up. "I'm fine. Please." He said with an air of exasperation as he walked over to straighten some of Arthur's straps.
"No. He's upset you, I know it." She said and Arthur felt his concern rise at her certainty. Had Mordred done something? "What did he do?"
"Arthur will banish him." She said immediately "No, I'll do it myself. I can banish him."
Arthur considered objecting, but figured he should wait until he knew for certain what Mordred has done. Merlin groaned, taking a moment to bang his head against Arthur's shoulder in exasperation before looking over the king to glower at her.
"Nobody is banishing him." He said and Gwen scowled right back at him.
"I'm doing it. It's happening unless you tell me what he did." She warned, pointing a finger at him "You've been insufferable since his name was mentioned."
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be-" Merlin started, but she waved his apology away.
"I just don't like seeing you so unhappy," She frowned and took a step towards him "I'm on your side, Merlin. We're friends."
"I mean, maybe..." Merlin mulled over and winced at his own words as he processed them. Arthur turned to look at him in alarm, also sensing the danger.
"Maybe?" Gwen demanded "I've been your friend since you've arrived here! What do you mean maybe?" She asked. Before Merlin could answer the door opened, revealing a young man with dark hair wearing Camelot's crest. Gwen spun around, eyes widening.
"Get out." She ordered and the boy took a step back, mouth gaping a moment.
"I, uh, I was told I was to be knighted and wanted to meet-" He started, fidgeting under the queen's gaze. Arthur felt a stab of pity, but didn't intervene. At any rate, Gwen had already answered, hands placed on her hips as she took a step towards the knight with her chin jutted out.
"I know who you are." She said coldly. "Get...Out....Now." She repeated, eyes staring him down. The man swallowed before whirling out of the room. Arthur clicked his tongue, looking down at the ground. From behind him, he heard Merlin give a small laugh.
"Gwen," He began, voice lighter "I...Thank you." He said and the queen offered a weak smile. "I know you're on my side...I just didn't want to get you involved in anything." He started and looked towards the door "Also, that wasn't Mordred."
There was a pause.
"Oh no," Gwen whispered and Arthur nodded. "I...Oh dear." She frowned, looking over her shoulder to where the boy had disappeared. Merlin laughed.
"That was Sir Thomas. I was planning on knighting him as well." He said and Gwen bit her lip.
"I'll get him flowers." She decided, hitching up her skirts to exit the room. She paused "And then you'll tell me why you don't like Mordred." She added to Merlin. Another hint of exasperation crossed over Merlin's face, but it vanished after a few moments, softening ever so slightly.
"I'm glad you're my friend, Gwen." He said gently. Gwen grinned back before dashing after Thomas.
"So what the Hell did Mordred do?" Gwaine asked after a beat of silence.
Merlin was attaching a huge bag of gold onto a horse when Arthur decided it was time to intervene.
"Where did you get that?" He asked, but he already knew the answer.
"...and the horse?"
"What about the-"
"Gwen." Merlin interrupted. Arthur nodded. At this point, he wasn't sure why he even bothered to ask. He was pretty certain his wife was going to knight Merlin any day now. He looked Merlin up and down for a few moments before accepting it all with a sigh.
"As long as you get my armor to me tomorrow...I don't care." He finally said, turning away. Merlin cleared his throat.
"Gwen gave me tomorrow off."
"For the love of God."
"MERLIN!" Gwen called, sprinting towards them, skirts flying. "I HAVE A PIE!" She shouted. Sure enough, Arthur could make out the baked good in front of her as she jogged up, slightly out of breath. Merlin beamed, opening another satchel to put it with the other mountain of things on the horse. He wasn't even sure where Merlin was going which he felt was just unfair. "Tell your mother I said hello!"
Oh. Okay, made sense. Still. Arthur felt he should have been informed.
"I will," He smiled and threw a leg over the horse, rubbing the side of its neck. Arthur blinked, looking around. "Thanks for...Everything." He grinned. Arthur held up a hand.
"Who's going with you?" He asked. Merlin stared backed blankly. "You're not going to Ealdor alone. Especially with all..." He waved his hand up and down "Of that."
Gwen clicked her tongue.
"He has a point."
"Gwen!" Merlin objected "Your majesty, I'll be fine." He added hastily to Arthur. The king frowned before looking at his wife. She shook her head.
"No. I'll get a horse." He said and gestured for one of the stableboys as Merlin spluttered. Gwen blew a kiss in his direction before going over to actually kiss Arthur.
"Have fun!" She called as Arthur led his horse over, calling other servants to go grab his things. Merlin scowled at him, eyes narrowed slightly.
"Why are you here?" He demanded, though the king knew he was just asking to annoy him. Either way, Arthur got the last laugh.
The whole thing was rather dramatic.
Arthur and Merlin were standing in front of one another in the empty throne room, silence enveloping them when the doors were flung open - loudly battering against the walls. Gwen walked in hair loose and billing behind her while still in her red gown that made her sort of a flowing fire as she looked at them and paused, giving a shaky breath before approaching them both.
"It was me." She announced, voice trembling slightly. Arthur blinked. "I made him do it. He has no fault."
Merlin stared, eyes moving from Arthur to gape at the queen. Her eyes were filled with tears but she only looked at Arthur, fear flickering over her face in a way he never - not in a million years - wanted to see on her face.
"You can't kill him. Not for my mistakes. I made him use magic to protect you. It was my idea. I made him." She repeated.
"No. Gwen-" Merlin started, alarm making his voice rise a bit higher "That is not true." He said, shaking his head "It is not-"
"It is." Gwen insisted, tears falling freely now. "Arthur, you know I love you...But you can't kill him. You can't." She said, voice breaking. Arthur could see her hands trembling by her side so he reached down to grab them.
"I'm not going to kill him." He said and tilted his head "And...Merlin has already told me everything. I know you weren't involved...Unless you are the Great Dragon in disguise." He added on lightly, though there was a wary note in his voice. He didn't really think his wife could transform into a dragon but also...It might explain a few things. Just a thought.
"Oh." She said and her shoulders slumped with relief "Oh..." She whispered again and turned her gaze to Merlin "Then what the Hell?" She shouted and hit Merlin's arm "Why didn't you tell me you had magic?" She shouted and hit his arm again. "We're the kind of friends that lie to each other?!" She demanded and would have tried to hit him again if Arthur hadn't pulled her away "Were you using it this whole time? Oh just wait until I get my hands on you. You lying son of-"
"You like my mother!" Merlin objected, cutting her off. Gwen pointed a finger at him.
"I WAS GOING TO SAY SOME WORDS ABOUT YOUR FATHER!" She shouted and Merlin winced.
"I AM VERY SORRY TO HEAR THAT AND I WILL BE HERE IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT LATER BUT I AM STILL ANGRY!" She yelled over Arthur's arm. "I can't believe you're a sorcerer and didn't tell me! And to use it to save Arthur's life? You make bad decisions under pressure, Merlin!"
"Gaius knew! He helped me and I think I did okay-"
"Yeah but you probably didn't process any of the trauma well and-"
"Okay," Arthur interrupted "You are somehow taking this much worse than I did." He said, rubbing his wife's back "We are all very shocked. Let's take a moment." He suggested and Gwen kept glowering at Merlin for a few minutes in silence.
"...did Lancelot know?" She finally asked. There was a long pause before Merlin nodded.
"When Arthur let's go of me I'm going to fight you."
Arthur wasn't sure why they did it. He never asked. Whatever the reason, he figured it was something that only they would understand.
"I don't get it," Leon asked as he watched Gwen and Merlin laughing as they folded clothes "Are they in disguise? I don't think anyone is fooled. Everyone knows what the queen and court sorcerer looks like." He said, narrowing his eyes a bit as if expecting them to turn around look like different people. As it was, Gwen and Merlin didn't seem to be in any disguise. They were simply in their old clothes. Arthur was a little shocked when he first learned Gwen kept her old maid's dress and Merlin his old tunic and scarves.
Still, the scene seemed to throw them back in time... To when he never noticed Gwen and Merlin was only a servant with a destiny nobody knew.
"Nobody can actually think they are real servants now." Leon continued, head tilted. Merlin tossed a shirt at Gwen's head and she gasped, dodging it before scooping it back up to throw it back.
"No..." Arthur agreed. If he was honest he sometimes wondered if they missed their lives before Arthur had dragged them up with stuff nobles and long meetings with too much food. Perhaps they missed the past. The thought made his stomach sink. He went to swallow the bitterness but at that moment Gwen turned and caught his eye - smiling widely.
"Your highness!" She called "Come join us. We can teach you how to fold." She laughed. Merlin turned to grin.
"You too, Leon. She's the queen...You have to listen." He added. Leon's eyes widened as if the idea of folding anything was terrifying and unheard of. Still, the man walked over with as much bravery as a knight of Camelot should. Arthur followed, ignoring Merlin levitating a pitcher of water to try and drop on their head. Gwen was telling him not to do it - but they all knew even if he did she wouldn't let him go to the stocks.
Maybe they weren't trying to live in the past...Maybe this was just how they knew each other best. Worn clothes and teasing Arthur. It was almost of a reminder of how much had changed over the years. He supposed he could understand that.
"Ta-da!" Leon said, holding up the newly folded shirt with an air of pride. Gwen and Merlin glanced at one another and Leon's face fell. "It's bad?"
"It is glorious."
"You should have seen Merlin first try to fold a shirt-"
"Hey! Have some respect. I'm the court sorcerer."
"Aw...I'm the queen."
He just hoped the rest of the kingdom was ready to put up with them as much as he was.
Boom. More Gwen and Merlin. Here ya go. TWO FICS IN ONE DAY - BAM!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Do not tell Guinevere about this." Arthur said, scowling at Merlin as he pointed a quill at him. Merlin was biting his lip - either to keep from arguing or laughing. Both were equally likely.
"...You know I'm going to tell her."
"No!" Arthur said, throwing the quill down at his desk "No, you're not because I'm telling you that you're not."
"But...You know I am."
"Merlin! I swear to...I will fire you. Do not test me."
Merlin looked at him. Arthur closed his eyes. He had made so many mistakes in life...And while he didn't think marrying Gwen or befriending Merlin was one of them...The pair as friends? He should have somehow prevented that from happening even if it was long before he cared for either. Somehow that was the reason for this awful insubordination and Arthur's total lack of control regarding anything that has to do with his servant.
"I'm going to tell her." Merlin decided and leaned down to pick up some of Arthur's clothes. He wanted to be enraged. To start shouting and screaming and ordering a beheading and all that. Instead he just felt defeated. Defeated and tired. The door opened and he looked over to his wife entering, crown slightly askew. Merlin snorted and dropped Arthur's laundry to fix it for her.
"It never stays on right!" She complained when Merlin backed away. "And I still can't find my bracelet." She grumbled, rubbing her wrist. Arthur looked at Merlin. Merlin only shrugged at him before turning back to Gwen.
"Arthur broke it."
"You're fired." He announced. Really, if he had any sort of foresight he would have known to wait until Gwen left to say that. As it was, she was staring at Arthur as if he had grown a rather nasty second head.
"You broke my bracelet?" She demanded and turned to Merlin "You're not fired. You're promoted." She sniffed "How did he break it? Elyan gave that to me!" She added as if Arthur wasn't aware that it held sentimental value. He didn't see why Elyan couldn't just go off and make her another one. A nicer one hopefully because this previous one was ridiculous. He supposed he couldn't be that harsh. The story was that as kids Gwen and Elyan were learning how to blacksmith and a ten-year-old Elyan made his sister a bracelet instead of a sword. Cute. But also, Arthur was going to die for breaking it.
"He accidentally knocked it into a fire...Then he panicked and got it out of the fire and dropped it. Then it shattered." Merlin reported dutifully because he was awful and loved Gwen more than Arthur apparently. Gwen turned to her husband (who he suspected also loved Merlin more than him). "He also told me not to tell you because he was planning on getting someone else to make one that looks the same and say he found it himself."
"That was unnecessary to add. Now you're just being nasty." Arthur muttered "Guinevere, I-"
Gwen took a sock from Merlin's arms and threw it at him.
"Merlin, come on." She said, taking the clothes from his arms to throw them back on the ground "We're going to the market. You are not invited." She added as if Arthur had any interest in going to the market. Perhaps she realized this because she went silent for a moment before adding "And we're also going to get dinner so you can eat by yourself."
"Oh, I didn't bring any money-" Merlin started but was cut off by Gwen shaking her head.
"You're not paying for anything." She whispered, flicking him. Merlin blinked a little before realization dawned on him and he nodded.
"Fine," Arthur grumbled, holding up his hand in surrender "But could you at least bring me back-"
"No. Nothing for you. Merlin, you can have whatever you want. I'll get it for you." Gwen said, scowling over her shoulder "Love you, Arthur."
"If you really loved me-"
"Merlin," He tried and gestured to where Gwen was trying to pull the servant out the door. "Could you please be helpful?" He asked and Merlin did look a little guilty as he looked back at where Gwen was still glowering. "You always take her side." He added just because he knew the man well and was certain it would break him.
"...It was an accident." Merlin told her. Gwen rose her eyebrows. "And he did feel very badly."
Silence. Arthur wondered if he should be upset that if he had made these points that Gwen wouldn't have bothered to listen. Now, she seemed to be mulling it over very carefully before crossing her arms over her chest.
"What do you want from the market?"
Now, he would have never believed anything in the history of ever that anything had (or would) romantically happen between Gwen and Merlin. It just wasn't scientifically possible. It wasn't even magically possible.
So you could imagine his surprise when he awoke to find his wife missing from their bed and his investigation had led to her alone in a room with Merlin. Granted, they were both fully clothed and a respectable distance from one another but...Who visited someone in the dead of the night?
"Are you ready?" Merlin asked and Gwen gave a very slow nod. Arthur leaned in a little from where he was spying, bewildered by what was happening. "And you're sure you don't want to tell Arthur?" He added. Oh God. Holy - what? They were sleeping together! This would honestly be the biggest betrayal of Arthur's life. He could feel his heart pre-breaking as Gwen sighed, tilting her head up at the ceiling.
"Yes. He wouldn't understand." She said glumly "I'm surprised nobody had figured it out yet..." She trailed off. Arthur was considering bursting in when Merlin brought out a book and slammed it between them. "I'm still confused on how you know how."
"Well...Gaius knows how to read. I'm assuming he taught my mother and she taught me." He told her and flipped it open. "Come on. It isn't too bad. A bit more practice and the nobles won't have anything to mock you for." He smiled, nudging her.
"I am a noble now." She said, wrinkling her nose.
"I know...I'm sorry."
"Merlin!" She snorted and pulled the book closer "I didn't think reading and writing would be so important to being queen." She grumbled "Morgana tried to teach me once... So I could help her order dresses or something. It was a long time ago." She mused and flicked through the pages. Arthur blinked.
...right. God, he was such an idiot. Gwen had been a servant. Obviously she wouldn't have skills reserved for nobles. Guilt tugged at him. For all his determination to shield her from criticism among his advisors, he hadn't thought to actually teach her anything about being queen. It seemed so obvious now. Grimacing, he went to back up only to accidentally kick a bucket next the the room.
Gwen and Merlin spun to where he was now very clearly standing in the doorway. There was a pause as they looked at one another before Gwen grabbed the book and flung it over her shoulder as if he might not notice it.
"...Hello, my love." She said innocently "What are you doing here?"
"Um," He said and clicked his tongue "I'm...I don't have to answer that. What are you doing here?"
"I...am the queen," Gwen nodded to him nervously "So I also don't have to answer that."
"You two are truly made for one another." Merlin informed them dryly. He leaned over to pick up the book but Gwen kicked him. "Ow!"
Deciding it was best to just come clean, he walked inside the room and took a seat across from them. Merlin sat up, rubbing his arm with a scowl at Gwen. The queen in question was currently looking at Arthur with raw determination.
"I'm sorry," He started and looked down at his hands "I didn't think about...Some of the logistical things when marrying you." He admitted and Gwen gave a weak smile. "I just wanted to be with you so badly I hadn't realized what kind of life I would be throwing you into." He explained. Gwen looked at him for a couple moments. He wondered if he should explain he had heard their entire conversation until she nodded.
"I was aware of what would be expected of me," Gwen said and leaned over to grab his hand. Merlin sighed. "I just...Was worried you would feel like you made a mistake if I told you how much I didn't know about...Well, really anything royalty related. I still am trying to catch up on learning the trade routes and tax rates and...All of it." She said, sounding overwhelmed by the mere mention of them.
"You know, most queens don't bother getting involved in such affairs."
"I want to help you."
He loved her so much it wasn't even fair. Merlin rolled his eyes.
"Besides," She added brightly "Merlin is a great teacher!"
"Merlin is teaching you...Everything?"
"You do realize I do everything for you?" Merlin cut in dryly. "I write your bloody speeches. Help to figure out who you should be making alliances with. Give your orders to the guards about gold distribution-"
"Surely, there is someone more qualified?" Arthur continued, ignoring him. "Merlin isn't involved in those things."
"I mean, I shouldn't be but you make me anyways so-"
"I'm keeping Merlin." Gwen said stubbornly. "Even if he doesn't know what he's doing."
"Gwen!" Merlin gaped at her "You said you wouldn't team up against me! It's supposed to be us against him!" He argued and Gwen gave a small shrug at that.
"He's right..." She told her husband and Merlin gave a small sigh of relief "Arthur, you really should give him more credit." She added and Merlin nodded with a smirk. Arthur rolled his eyes. One day...One day he would win his wife over from Merlin. He swore it.
Arthur was supposed to be out hunting. As it was, the bad weather had driven him off, leaving him wet and stomping through the castle with a scowl towards the kitchen. He doubted he would be able to find Merlin to fetch him something so it would seem he had to collect his own meal.
"Oh...I am so sorry, sire." The cook frowned at him "We're fresh out."
"Of...um, food." She told him and Arthur stared "We're getting a new stock tonight and you weren't supposed be back until tomorrow so when they asked..." She trailed off. Arthur closed his eyes. Someone had apparently taken all the food from the kitchen. He bloody wondered who these two demons could be.
"....hi Arthur." Merlin greeted when he walked into his room and yep. There was the entire kitchen stock. Gwen was dressed in her old serving dress, peering over a stack of pies on Arthur's table to wave at him.
"I thought you weren't back until tomorrow!" She yelled as if the pies somehow muted her. Merlin grabbed a few chickens and held them close. He glared at the king like he might try to steal them. "Merlin and I are having a celebration." She added as an explanation. Merlin also grabbed a few dumplings to add to his hoard.
"A celebration of what?" He asked warily, looking at the abundance of food surrounding them.
"Of you being gone." Merlin said, continuing to move food from Arthur's reach. Gwen looked at him. "Kidding. We're celebrating our anniversary!"
...seriously? Their what?
"Your anniversary? Did I miss the wedding?" He asked dryly and Gwen scowled over the roasted pig and pointed a fork at him.
"Our friendship is an important day! I remember it like it was yesterday..." She said, putting a hand over her heart "Merlin in the stocks."
"Because of Arthur." Merlin threw in dryly, still coveting food.
"Getting food thrown at him."
"Because of Arthur."
"You chasing him through town with a mace."
"Because your husband is the worst."
"You started that fight on your own." Arthur said and when he tried to reach for some eggs was stopped by Merlin almost catapulting himself over the table to steal it.
"I did not," He argued with a glare "I was minding my own business when you were around whining about knee walking." He grumbled. Arthur shrugged. He still thought it was clever. At any rate, Arthur was convinced he should be included. After all, it sounded like it was his actions to led to this diabolical friendship. He went to sit down and was immediately stared down by the pair, both wearing identical expression of incredulous outrage.
"...What?" He asked and frowned "Technically if your friendship started the day Merlin was first put into the stocks than it means it is also my friendship anniversary with Merlin since that was the day we met." He reasoned "So I can get food."
"No, no." Gwen argued, pulling back an apple from his grasp "Merlin and I were friends since we met. You two didn't like each other at first."
"She's right," Merlin nodded "I'm not even sure I like you now."
Gwen looked at him again and Merlin gave a bright smile. She continued staring until he rolled his eyes, giving Arthur an exasperated look.
"...fine. We're friends." He said and wrinkled his nose "But it wasn't until like...A month later. Maybe two months. Maybe a year."
"You drank poison for him almost immediately." Gwen told him. Arthur pointed to her. That was true - and he had gone out and gotten Merlin the antidote despite all odds which proved his friendship. Meaning that he should be included in this impromptu feast. Merlin looked Arthur dead in the eyes.
Arthur didn't think he deserved this.
"Fine - but I would like to argue it was two years exactly from the day you two became friends which means it is the same day so I can eat this food." He told them. He wasn't sure why he was humoring this as a debate. This was his food. From his castle. In his kingdom. Gwen and Merlin looked at one another. After about two minutes of a silent conversation that he didn't bother to try and interpret the pair nodded.
"You can join...but no pies." Gwen told him and when Arthur opened his mouth to argue, pointed at him again. "No pies. Pies are for people who immediately become friends within the day." She told him and high fived Merlin.
Whatever. At least he got some food.
That was until the doors burst open to reveal Gwaine.
”Oh, come on.” The knight complained “Who invited Arthur to our friendship anniversary?”
"...your servant and your queen are, um." The lord began and paused "Quite the pair."
Arthur was assuming he meant that Merlin and Gwen had ignored most of the feast and traditional mingling of nobles to instead try to out gamble one another as if his dining room was a tavern. He wasn't sure what the most offensive part of any of it was. That the queen was ignoring the upper class? That she gambling (an activity frowned upon women and especially noble women)? Or that Merlin (a lowly peasant) was not letting her win and gleefully taking Arthur's money right in front of him.
"Yes," He agreed "I'm never bored."
Gwen started swearing when Merlin won again and Arthur had to bite back a smile as he felt the room shift in discomfort. Obviously, Gwen realized her mistake and turned bright red. For the most part she was pretty sweet tempered. Running around cursing and breaking things was more of Arthur's forte but Merlin tended to bring out the worst in her.
"Um...She is very pretty." The lord continued, eyes baffled "And am I right to assume she was a distant relative of a duke...?"
"No, no. All peasant." Arthur informed him. "The daughter of a blacksmith and a maid who were also the children of a blacksmith and a maid...Before her and her brother came along the family tended to keep to their trades." He explained. The lord stared for a moment before seemingly abandoning his quest to understand Gwen before moving onto Merlin.
"The boy is quite cheeky - most certainly comes from nobility. No doubt a bastard of a nobleman you would like to get on your side, hm?"
"I'm not quite sure. He never met his father. His mother is a farmer." Arthur told him, taking another sip of wine. He rather enjoyed these games. At first they had been incredibly uncomfortable and Arthur was left questioning himself each time. Now? He looked forward to the baffling looks of confusion others would get whenever they saw Gwen and Merlin together - wreaking whatever havoc they could.
"He gets away with so much." the lord told him, aghast.
"Ah, well. I've always been rather fond of him - don't tell him I said that. But now I have no choice. He's my wife's best friend." Arthur shrugged. The lord stared. Arthur looked pleasantly back at him.
"You are...A rather unorthodox king, sire." Came an uncertain response. Before Arthur could comment to that, Gwen slid beside him, face flushed and eyes bright as she attempted to straighten her dress. Merlin was jumping over the table to get a jug of wine, no doubt realizing Arthur would be close to finishing his goblet by now. It was amazing how fast they could slip into their appointed roles when they realized whatever childish activity they had partaken in had gone slightly too long.
"Lord Eddington." Gwen greeted with a polite nod of the head, offering her hand. Eddington grimaced slightly but leaned forward to kiss it. "I am pleased you have made your way to Camelot so quickly. I trust the journey was pleasant?" She asked. Merlin was there seconds later, refilling both of their glasses before turning to Lord Eddington to ask if he also needed more. Arthur watched the whiplash Eddington was going through at the sudden change of demeanor.
"It was a little...bumpy quite honestly. With the riots and such. I'm sure you would know about that though." He added and Arthur nodded to himself. His work was done. Gwen had already straighten slightly, sensing the test. Merlin must have noticed to because his eyes flicked Eddington up and down for a moment as if sizing him up before going back to serving.
"You'll have to be more specific, I'm afraid. Camelot is quite large...Though I can assume since you passed by Vaniria that would be the area you are referring to?" She asked and didn't wait for an answer before she continued "There has been quite an upset over Arthur's new tolerance of the druid people. Understandable since they are so close to known druid camps and...Well, obviously Uther's rule was quite different." She told him, giving a small smile before sipping her wine. "If I'm not mistaken, Lord Eddington...You were a trusted advisor to Uther in the past, were you not? I do hope my presence isn't make you uncomfortable since you helped orchestrate Arthur's proposed marriage to the Princess Elena."
Arthur didn't know how on Earth Merlin could hear, but he saw him laugh into an empty cup of cider.
"Oh, um...I didn't...I didn't mean any offense, my lady."
"Nonsense," Gwen smiled brightly "I think the offense is that you expected me not to notice the fact you've been having your servants spying on me and my husband all week to report back to Cenred."
Arthur took another sip of wine. Eddington went white.
"You dare think I would ally myself with such a man? After all my loyal years to Uther?" He demanded and Gwen rose her eyebrows. Around them, others were beginning to watch with open curiosity, leaning in to listen. Merlin bounced around, refilling their goblets and directing the people who hadn't noticed the outburst to look their way.
"I didn't mean any offense, my lord." Gwen clicked her tongue almost mockingly "It's just that I happen to still be friends with a few servants who are far more loyal to me than yours are to you."
Eddington immediately turned to where Merlin was standing. He grinned back and waved merrily before tapping one of the guards and pointing towards them. The hall murmured amongst one another.
"Lord Eddington," Arthur started "I have reason to believe you have been consorting with King Cenred and plotting harm to your king. I am arresting you of treason to which you will defend yourself in a trial in two days time. Until then you will be most welcomed to my dungeons." He announced. The hall hushed with shock as Eddington began to sputter indignantly, not even fighting against the guards. The rest of the room gave whispers of outrage while some seemed to faint at the sudden change in atmosphere.
"You-" He began but was interrupted by Merlin spilling wine all over him.
"So sorry. I'm terribly clumsy." He shook his head. Everyone went silent as Eddington was dragged away, the man yelling his innocence and outrage. After a few more minutes of awkward silence the crowd began to mingle again. Merlin beamed and turned to Gwen. "You sounded great!"
"Oh good," She sighed, putting a hand over her chest in relief "I didn't want it to look like I was trying too much."
"No! It was perfect. Like...authoritative and kind of annoyed. Perfect mix. The servant comment was a nice touch." He told her and Gwen grinned. Arthur rolled his eyes only to realize he probably shouldn't have done that because both Gwen and Merlin turned to him.
"And that was a fantastic sentence!"
"Very kingly. I felt afraid. Great job."
"Both of you leave me alone."
There was a girl.
Arthur was both amused and horrified all at once.
Amused because...There was a girl. He had dreamed of this moment for years. As a servant, Merlin had been able to keep his romantic life hidden from him. Now? Well, he was court sorcerer. It was a bit hard to court someone in secret when you were constantly under the public eye. And Arthur was going to enjoy taunting him without mercy and would pay money just to see how flustered Merlin got around this woman. It was going to be great.
But also...There was a girl.
Which led to the horrified bit. There were several layers of horror to learning Merlin was courting someone. First was (and this was just a minor thing, really) that he might be allotting time to her and, well, he had a job to do obviously. It was a lot for him to fulfill his duties, spend time with Arthur, and court someone. If Merlin couldn't accommodate that then one of them had to go and Arthur was not intending it to be him. The second pressing matter was...Well, Gwen.
"What does she look like? Is she kind? Have I met her? Has Arthur met her? Is she another servant? Oh, if it is that Layla girl I swear Merlin..."
"It isn't Layla." Merlin groaned, bright red from where he was sitting across from them at the table in Arthur and Gwen's chambers. "Listen. Gwen. I need you to please remain calm when I tell you who it is." He paused and narrowed his eyes at Arthur "You too." He added with a scowl. Arthur rolled his eyes. Please. As if he truly cared who it was. His only requirement at this point was that she wasn't evil.
Oh God. What if she was evil?
"So we know her then?" Gwen asked, looking overwhelmed by everything "Please tell me it is not Morgana. If it is Morgana I cannot tell you how upset I will be."
"Wha-? No! I'm not courting Morgana!" Merlin said, shaking his head "Why would you even...? Nevermind." He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's Mithian. Please. Just..." He held up a hand when Gwen's mouth popped open "Remain calm."
"You're courting Mithian?" Arthur demanded and Merlin closed his eyes "You...I don't know if I like this." He frowned "I mean, she is very lovely."
"Sweet. Beautiful." Gwen added with a nod. Merlin put a hand over his face.
"Brave and likeable." Arthur agreed "Kind. She'll make a fine ruler one day."
"But no. We can't have that. She's Rodor's only heir. What if he expects you to rule his lands?"
"Absolutely not. You might have to leave Camelot."
"Oh, heavens no." Gwen said putting a hand over her heart. Merlin stared at them both for a long time.
"This was...More of an announcement. Not me asking permission." He finally said. Gwen crossed her arms over her chest. "I really doubt we'll have to worry about any of that for some time. I'm not leaving." He added but Gwen seemed unappeased. "I just didn't want you wondering why we'll be spending so much time together is all."
"I can forbid it." Gwen told him firmly and glared "I am the queen." There was a pause "Oh, but I would never do that. I just want you to be happy and-"
"Gwen." Merlin interrupted a little desperately "Please don't cry."
"I'm sorry," Gwen sniffed, putting a hand over her eyes "I haven't slept in forever because I was working on that treaty with Lot's kingdom so I'm just so emotional and now you're getting married and leaving forever with Mithian to be king someplace else and I will miss you so much."
"Arthur...Arthur help." Merlin whispered "Why hasn't she slept in so long? Gwen, I'm not getting married and definitely not going to be king of anything. It's just...Okay. Fine. It's over."
"Now you'll be sad and alone forever." Gwen whispered "No, you can't do that Merlin. You deserve to be so happy."
"Arthur do something!" Merlin tried again. Arthur just rubbed her back. He hadn't really known how long she had been working on that treaty until it was too late. He'd been scouting all week and by the time he had gotten back, Gwen was pretty much sleep deprived and thriving off of four glasses of mead. He hadn't told Merlin that since...Well. He sometimes enjoyed the chaos when he wasn't in the middle of it.
"...okay." Gwen took a deep breath. "I'm fine."
Merlin didn't look at all convinced but nodded anyways.
"Alright..." He said warily "Good. I don't want you freaking out." He said cautiously. Gwen sighed.
"I know. I just. It's so strange to think that I'm married and you and Mithian are together and..." She took another deep breath "Remember when you first came to Camelot? Ugh. I had such a crush on you back then. Ridiculous." She grumbled and Arthur blinked. Wait.
"...you what?" He asked. "On Merlin?"
"Oh, don't worry." Gwen said, dabbing her eyes. "It never led to much. He didn't even kiss me back."
"Why are you still mad about that?" Merlin complained "I had just risen from the dead. I didn't know what was going on."
"I know it was because I was a bad kisser, Merlin. Just tell me the truth."
"Arthur said you're a great kisser. Isn't that all that matters?"
"You did think I was bad!"
No. No, no, no. Wait. Stop. Were they just going to gloss over this? Uh uh. Nope.
"I'm sorry," He interrupted "I just...Need a moment of clarification. My wife kissed my court sorcerer?" He asked. Gwen and Merlin paused before breaking down into giggles that did not alleviate his rapidly rising concern.
"I mean, we hadn't even officially met yet, Arthur." Gwen told him "And afterwards it was clear we were better off as friends. Apparently, Merlin likes pretty highborn women." She added with a smirk. Merlin opened his mouth, looking deeply offended.
"I do not! I mean, I like this one but-"
"Uh huh," Gwen smirked, leaning back in her chair with her arms crossed over her chest "Keep going."
"So...You... You put your mouth...On his mouth? Am I understanding this correctly?" Arthur asked "Your...lips touched?" He asked gesturing between the two of them. "Am I the only one who didn't know this information?"
"Um...I mean, I'm not sure how me and Gwen wouldn't know so...Yeah. You were the only who didn't know. Oh, and I guess Gaius knows too. He was there."
"You kissed in front of Gaius? Oh God. Disgusting." Arthur said, wrinkling his nose in distase "I...But how long was it?"
"A second." Gwen shrugged.
"An hour." Merlin told him blandly and Gwen gave him a look. "Joking. It was a second. But she did say I was a better kisser."
"That's such a lie." Gwen snorted "How would I even know? You didn't kiss me back."
"Pettiness isn't a good trait for a queen, Gwen."
"So during this second," Arthur continued, raising his hands to interrupt and they both groaned "Where were your hands?"
"Folded in prayer." Merlin told him and Gwen snorted "Arthur, I promise it isn't a big deal-"
"You got to kiss my wife before I did!" Arthur grumbled "That isn't fair...You didn't even kiss her back! Unappreciative." He frowned and pointed at Merlin with narrowed eyes "Not that you should be appreciating it. Don't you dare go appreciating anything..."
"Wait a second-"
"This is ridiculous!" Arthur continued "I worked very hard to earn the right to kiss her and you did it first? I thought you were a man of honor!"
"Did you miss the part where I had just come back from the dead and didn't know what was happening? Yell at Gwen!" Merlin whined, gesturing to the queen. Arthur turned to her, scowling for a moment. Gwen looked back. There were a few beats of silence.
"...I think you're a great kisser, Guinevere." Arthur finally said and she beamed, pecking the side of his cheek. From the table, Merlin made a noise of defeat.
"This is why I fell in love with him and not you." Gwen told him and Merlin looked up to shake his head "Anyways, when do I get badger Mithian?"
"Leave her alone, oh my God."
"So," Arthur said, tapping a hand on the table to regain their attention "When this theoretical kiss happened-"
"Why is it theoretical now? You've broken him, Gwen." Merlin sighed and Arthur buried his face in his hands, musing his hair so it stuck up in a million different directions as he seemingly attempted to swallow all of the information he had been handed. He gripped the sides of his head, staring bleakly into the flames on the other side of the room. Gwen patted his shoulder.
"I need the facts..." He whispered "I just need the facts, damnit!"
"You have them!"
"What have I done wrong?"
"Nothing," Gwen frowned "Arthur...We didn't know each other."
"However," Merlin said, holding up a hand "Maybe if you weren't such a prat in the beginning she would have noticed you sooner instead of kissing the first nice guy she met." He shrugged. Gwen buried her face in her hands, perhaps sensing there was no coming back from that comment. From beside her, Arthur made a choking sound.
"Dear God...What have I done?"
They aren't my OTP or anything but I always thought Mithian and Merlin would low key be a cute couple who could flex on everyone.
Also, ignore the scientific inaccuracy of Gwen's bracelet breaking. I am tired and worn and realizing now I was thinking of glass and not metal when I wrote that...but alas, I am too lazy to change it.