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To stay or to go, that is the question

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"Where the hell am I?"

He woke with a knife to his throat. It wasn't something he liked very much. Normally, it was the early morning light streaming in through his windows that he woke to, Cockerels crowing, birds chirping. After so many years his natural body clock had him waking at the same time every day, no matter how late he had stayed up with a patient, or advising the king. The light hadn't quite made its way through the windows, and the cold metal against his neck had shocked him awake.

Gaius looked up at the face of the young woman the knights had brought in yesterday. Her eyes were wide with panic, but every other part of her seemed calm. Her underdress had slipped down her arm revealing a tattoo on her shoulder. It was a druid symbol with a cross through it. Gaius knew what that meant, and also knew that she could react very badly to being told where she was.

"You're in Camelot. King Arthur brought you here to ensure your recovery. I am the court physician, Gaius."

The young woman seemed satisfied with that answer, and stepped back, taking the knife with her. She placed it on one of the workbenches nearby, close enough that she could grab it again should a threat arise.

"When am I allowed to leave?" She asked. If it hadn't been for the king bringing her to Camelot, she would have just left straight away, with or without permission. But she had the feeling the king would want to talk to her first.

"Arthur wants to see you, make sure you're okay, but then you should be free to go." Gaius told her, stifling a sudden yawn.

"Okay." She nodded and started wandering around. "Sorry for waking you. I freaked out a bit. It's not fun waking up somewhere unfamiliar."

"I understand." Gaius told her, remembering a night not too long ago when he had been kidnapped by Morgana. "No harm done, at least."

"Mind if I read some books?" She asked, pointing to the staircase and the bookshelves up high. "And, are there some clothes I can borrow?"

"Go ahead and read any books you want. My ward Merlin has some clothes he wouldn't mind you wearing, I'm sure." Gaius told her. He looked back out the window and decided there was no point going back to sleep as his body would wake him very soon. So he got up and started going about his normal morning routine.

Following gaius's gesture, Kara wandered up the stairs and into Merlin's room. It didn't take her very long to find a set of clean clothes she could wear, however, merlin was much taller than her, and all his clothes were too big for her.

Merlin hadn't come home last night, unsurprisingly. Gaius was the only other person who knew about Merlin and Arthur's new relationship, mainly because he had been the one to push Merlin into confessing his feelings.

Gaius dressed, prepared breakfast for himself and the young woman (who's name was Kara, he found out), and then set about preparing the various remedies and draughts needing to be delivered to members of the court and knights. His first job was to deliver medicine to gwaine, who was almost fully recovered from the sweating sickness.

"Why do you have all these books on magical animals and artefacts? Magic has been banned in Camelot for nearly 30 years?" Kara asked, from where she stood reading one of gaius's many books.

"It's my job to know about all types of illnesses and sicknesses, any injuries or maladies that could befall a citizen of Camelot, including ones of magical origin." Gaius answered.

Kara nodded. "Fair enough."

The door opened and Merlin slunk in, looking both rested and very pleased with himself.

"Ah, good morning Merlin. I trust you had a pleasant night?" Gaius asked, a seemingly innocent look on his face, but a twinkle in his eyes.

Merlin rolled his eyes, but was unable to fight the smile that formed on his face. "I came to collect Kara. Arthur wants to see her."

"Once I've seen him am I allowed to leave?" Kara asked, making herself visible to Merlin.

Merlin nodded, but then narrowed his eyes. "Are those my clothes?"

Kara spun on the spot, showing off the way she had styled the too big shirt and too long trousers. Somehow, she had made it work, and looked fairly decent. She would ideally need better fitting clothes, though. "What, don't you like it?"

Merlin rolled his eyes and laughed. "We can stop by the laundry and pick you up some clothes there. I'm sure they wouldn't mind."

Kara crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "Really? They would have no problem with me stealing their clothes?"

"Borrowing." Merlin amended. "besides, I'm sure Arthur can lend you some money to replace that dress that was ruined. He has a lot of money."

"Why would the king of Camelot do anything for me?" Kara challenged, but Merlin could see fear in her eyes. Fear of being discovered, fear of being executed. Maybe Arthur was not his father, but he wasn't a friend of sorcerers.

"Because he offers help to all those in need." Merlin answered honestly and sincerely. "No matter their status."

"Unless they have magic." Kara countered.

Merlin had the decency to look sheepish at her comment. "yes. I'm working on that."

"yeah right. Arthur's never going to change his stance on magic." Kara laughed. "Come on. Let's go see him so I can get out of here."

Sighing, Merlin led the way to Arthur's chambers. Surprising Kara, Merlin didn't knock before he entered. Arthur was sat behind his desk, but didn't look up as Merlin entered, perhaps knowing that the only person who entered without knocking was his manservant.

"Arthur, I've brought Kara."

Again, Kara was surprised at the informality of which Merlin addressed his king. Surely that wasn't allowed?

Arthur looked up and smiled though, getting out of his chair and wandering towards Kara. "Yes, hello Kara. I trust you're feeling better?"

"Much better, thank you sure." Kara answered, clasping her hands behind her back. She felt very awkward making eye contact with the king.

"Please. Call me Arthur."

"....okay?"

Merlin laughed, and left Kara's side, going over to the bed and tucking in stray corners of the covers. He was used to seeing the confused expression on people's faces when Arthur told them to do away with the formalities.

"Where are you from? How did you end up being attacked by those men?" Arthur asked, pulling a chair out for her.

Kara sat down in it, timidly, confused with Arthur's actions. She had always been told Arthur, much like his father, was a tyrant. The Arthur stood before her, didn't seem much of a tyrant. "Well, I've just come of age, and felt I'd outgrown my little village, so I decided to leave and find my own place in the world. But those men ambushed me. Luckily, you were there before anything could happen."

"That's terrible." Arthur frowned. "I must send out some more patrols. Too many people are getting attacked by these thugs."

Kara nodded, feeling awkward.

"Tell me one thing. How come you know how to fight?"

Kara suddenly felt very defensive ."What, do you have a problem with women fighting?"

"A problem? No! I think it's wonderful!" Arthur laughed. "I actually wish more women would learn to sword fight."

Kara's eyebrows hit the ceiling. "You do?"

"Yeah. I think the world would be a better place if more women took charge."

Merlin coughed. "Morgana."

Arthur glared daggers at his manservant. "Well, not like that."

Kara smiled, seeing the way the two interact. At first she had been shocked, confused at how relaxed they are, and feeling rather awkward. But now, she finds it quite endearing. The king of Camelot isn't as bad as the stories tell.

"So why don't you train more women?" Kara asked.

Arthur sighed. "as much as I'd like to, I think very few women would actually sign up for training, especially with the Knights. The Knights are kind, and considerate, on the whole, but they are still intimidating when coming at you with a sword."

"Pfft. Yeah right. I bet I could beat some of them no problem." Kara said, slouching back in her chair.

Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Really? Most of my Knights have been training for years."

"And you think I haven't?" Kara shrugged.

Merlin smiled at her, and nudged Arthur's shoulder. "It'll be a good test. Your Knights will have to fight women every now and then. Remember Isolde, Gwen? The men they fought were probably put off fighting a woman. And if Morgana ever comes at the knight, they can't let their feelings get the better of them."

Kara smiled and Arthur nodded.

"Okay. Well, I've got a training session later today. Come along, and we can see who's better."

Kara nodded. She was desperate to get out of Camelot, but she was also curious to know what the Knights of Camelot would do against her.

"Where did you learn to fight?" Merlin asked, sitting down opposite Kara.

Kara shrugged. "my village was always at risk of being raided at any time. I needed to learn to defend myself as soon as I was strong enough to hold a weapon. I was very good at throwing knives when I was younger, but I think I've probably lost most of my skill."

Arthur smiled. Kara could almost see the cogs turning in his head, as he thought up ways he could test her skill.

"Well, Merlin, I guess you should take Kara to find some more suitable clothes." Arthur ordered, getting up from his chair.

"Why me?"

"Because unless she suddenly knows how to get to the lower town, she's going to need a guide." Arthur said, holding Merlin by the shoulders and moving him towards the door.

"I don't have any money." Kara said, her face blushing as she revealed how little she had.

"That's fine. Merlin can pay." Arthur teased.

Merlin rolled his eyes, knowing Arthur would pay him back. And if he didn't, Merlin knew where the king kept his gold. "Come on Kara. Let's go shopping.