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Assumptions Part 1/3



Title: Assumptions Part 1/3
Rating: R/NC-17
Warnings/Spoilers: For the show not really. Be warned though, this has not seen a beta and is my first fic in... an embarrassingly long time. Also first Merlin fic.  There will be a post script to come later. I want to flesh out the ending but I have lots of work to do and I needed to get this off. Not to mention the other stuff I was writing before this plot bunny ate my brain.
Summary: Everyone assumes Merlin knows what is going on. He really, really doesn't.



 


Retrospectively Merlin still found it difficult to believe he’d served almost a year in Camelot before he known of Great Aunt Agatha. It was, he’d once explained to Arthur, like knowing a certain place only by moonlight and then sighting it at noon. Then, Arthur had replied with a rather pointed glare, it was like knowing Merlin before knowing of his magic.

 

The day had begun, in Merlin’s opinion, in a rather pedestrian way considering what fate had been about to foist on them. Merlin had been unwillingly woken at dawn by an unsympathetic Gaius. Having dressed, eyes still half closed, and stumbled to the kitchens to fetch Prince Not-So-Charming-in-the-Morning’s breakfast Merlin had made his perilous way up the far too many flights of stairs that led to Arthur’s chambers. There had awaited Merlin the delightful task of chivvying his highness into a waking state. Merlin had managed to dodge both the boots that were flung at him in this process and Arthur had been bathed, dressed, fed and tipped out the door to poke sharp things at his knights in nearly record time.  

 

Merlin hadn’t been there when the messenger arrived but he’d heard that Uthur had turned pale. Upon finding that Great Aunt Agatha would very soon be arriving on Camelot’s doorstep a flurry of activity had broken out across the castle. Merlin had been conscripted into hanging dusty tapestries. As he looked at the unlikely proportioned grey unicorn poking a fleeing violet dragon in a vaguely suggestive way with its horn; Merlin wondered how Uthur could think this would improve the castle. Not that, in Merlin’s admittedly biased opinion, it would be possible to make Camelot anything less than grand but the dodgy unicorn tapestry, to say nothing of the eagle and the eel one, were awfully good attempts.

 

Upon the sighting of Great Aunt Agatha’s carriage the entire royal family descended to front steps of Camelot. Merlin was not entirely certain why; as this was definitely not the standard protocol for visiting nobility.

 

“Lady Pendlesnoot likes being greeted when she arrives,” Gwen whispered to Merlin from where they stood behind Arthur, Morgana and Uthur.

 

“So?” Merlin whispered back, “If Lord Hale had his way he’d walk around Camelot naked and you don’t see Uthur letting that happen.”

 

Gwen shuddered. “Gods be grateful. But you have to understand, Merlin, Lady Pendlesnoot is King Uthur and Prince Arthur’s only living family. She is given a certain amount of… leeway.”

 

“If you say so,” said Merlin doubtfully, not able to imagine an Uthur who was flexible about anything. Let alone the whims of an elderly relation.

 

Arthur then glared at Merlin over his shoulder. The message was clear, if Arthur wasn’t allowed to chit chat then neither was Merlin. Merlin glared right back. If Arthur really was destined to be some great and powerful king, then Merlin really couldn’t wait for him to grow out of his misery loves company stage. Sadly, this did effectively put an end to Merlin’s conversation. In spite of the fact Arthur’s glare was clearly directed at Merlin even the possibility of royal ire had Gwen falling into blushing silence. As Arthur smirked and turned back to his father Merlin renewed his vow to find an invisible magical pinching spell. Gaius had steadfastly refused to help Merlin in this endeavour, something about karma and all things coming back three fold. Merlin thought this was a load of bollocks. Or that karma needed a bit of a hurry along where Arthur was concerned. Merlin didn’t realise it but he was about to get his wish.

 

An enormous pink and ivory carriage drawn by four dappled grey horses pulled up in Camelot’s courtyard. All eyes were on the carriage as footmen in powder blue livery hopped down gracefully and held the door open.

 

“Great Aunt Agatha,” said Uthur stepping forwards and extending a hand.

 

A plump lavender covered arm emerged from the lacy pink drapes of the carriage. The plump pink hand attached to the arm took surprisingly firm hold of Uthur’s and then a rotund woman concealed nearly entirely by lavender silk, yellow lace and green feathers levered herself out of the carriage.

 

“Uthur Irving Percival Pendlesnoot Pendragon,” said Great Aunt Agatha cinching her arms around Uthur’s neck and drawing him in for a bone crushing hug, “it has been too long.”

 

Uthur emerged from the hug unscathed except for a few stray turquoise green feathers clinging determinedly to his person. Great Aunt Agatha had already moved on to the other members of the welcoming party.

 

“Is that my dearest Artie?” exclaimed Great Aunt Agatha. “And little Morgie?”

 

Merlin choked.

 

Hugs of similar strength were bestowed on Arthur and Morgana, who both emerged as Uthur had done, a little dazed and slightly feathered.

 

‘Artie?’ Merlin mouthed to Gwen, ‘Little Morgie?’

 

‘Don’t laugh,’ Gwen mouthed back, ‘Bad things happen to people who laugh.’

 

As Merlin looked around he saw the entire Pendragon household had straight, if pained, looks on their faces.

 

“Your dogs, Lady Pendlesnoot,” one of the footmen handed a pair of small fluffy dogs out of the carriage.

 

Great Aunt Agatha deposited one into Arthur’s arms and the second into Morgana’s. “Precious and Posey. Be careful they may be a little excited from the ride.”

 

 This proved an apt warning as the dog Arthur was holding, Precious Merlin later found out, was so excited he emptied his bladder down the front of Arthur’s favourite red shirt. The expression on Arthur’s face as it happened was certainly something to be savoured.

 

*

 

“Ah well, dogs will do as dogs will do,” said Great Aunt Agatha philosophically once she had been settled in the grandest of the castle’s guest bedrooms. “There is no need to fret, Artie, it’s not as though it was much of a loss. You need to be dressed in more striking colours anyway.”

 

“More striking than red?” asked Arthur glaring at the dogs.

 

“Exactly,” said Great Aunt Agatha seemingly missing the sarcasm by a good two counties, “I’m glad you seem to have inherited some of the Pendlesnoot taste. Sadly it seems to have bypassed your father entirely. Though Uthur I’m pleased to see you’ve hung the tapestries I sent you.”

 

She gestured to the leering satyr tapestry gracing the chamber wall. Merlin assumed it was by the same artist, and he used the term loosely, who had done the others. Surely there could not be two people able to produce such concentrated amounts of ugly.

 

Arthur wondered over to inspect the tapestry, not bothering to hide his grimace of distaste. “Your contributions to the castle are far too generous.”

 

Great Aunt Agatha gave a smile. Merlin was surprised to find himself familiar with that smile. It was eerie to see one of Arthur’s expressions in the face of a plump and elderly woman but, unless Merlin was much mistaken, it was the ‘you have mightily displeased me and I’m going to reward you with your worst nightmare and make it a gift you will have to thank me for’ smile. “Oh, Artie, there’s nothing too good for my only family. Particularly when I see so little of you.”

 

Great Aunt Agatha gave a mournful little sniff and Merlin watched amazed as the three least apologetic people he’d ever met seemed to shrink in on themselves in guilt.

 

“We’ve been meaning to visit,” said Morgana softly coming forward and putting an arm around Great Aunt Agatha’s shoulders.

 

“I have no doubt you have, Morgie,” replied Great Aunt Agatha drawing out a handkerchief and wiping the corner of one eye.

 

Arthur also came forward. “We are very glad you came.”

 

Merlin, who had witnessed Arthur torn between joy and panic when he first heard the news of relative’s impending arrival, knew that for the mixed truth it was. Watching Great Aunt Agatha cast a knowing look at Arthur; Merlin suddenly felt she had a pretty good idea of it too.

 

“Dearest Artie,” she said patting his cheek, “It matters not. The most important thing is that I am here now. And I come bearing gifts for my favourite Great Nephew.”

 

Merlin was surprised to see all the blood drain from Arthur’s face at those words.

 

“What?” croaked Arthur.

 

Uthur and Morgana were struggling to hide matching smirks.

 

“Oh yes,” affirmed Great Aunt Agatha gesturing to the footmen struggling to haul five massive trunks through the door. “I brought a few little things for all my family.”

 

At this both Morgana and Uthur’s smirks faded.

 

“Fernton will see the appropriate trunks are delivered to your rooms,” continued Great Aunt Agatha.

 

“An entire trunk?” asked Uthur with what, in another man, Merlin might have termed resignation.

 

“Yes,” said Great Aunt Agatha a steely tone creeping into her voice. “After all, Uthurkins, you were generous enough to give me that lovely, prosperous estate at the furthest edge of your kingdom. An entire trunk was the least I could do. Our dyers are some of the best in Albion. Such lovely bright colours.”

 

Uthur winced.

 

His Great Aunt smiled thinly, “The clothes on the very top are the ones I thought should be worn tonight.”

 

“Tonight?” exclaimed Morgana but she recovered herself enough to add, “Surely you are tired from your journey and would like to rest tonight, Lady Pendlesnoot.”

 

“Not a shrinking violet and I’ve been away far too long if you’ve forgotten that,” said Great Aunt Agatha. “Also fie on this Lady Pendlesnoot business; it’s Great Aunt Agatha to you, Morgie, as it’s always been. You’d best get used to saying it. This will be a good long visit.”  

 

“Gods save us,” Uthur muttered.

 

“What was that, Uthurkins?” asked Great Aunt Agatha sweetly.

 

“Nothing at all, Great Aunt.”

 

*

 

“You’re having fun with this,” Arthur accused.

 

Merlin didn’t look away from straightening the fuchsia and lime green robes he’d just helped Arthur into. “Would I, sire?”

 

The glare Arthur was giving him said the crown prince rather thought Merlin would.

 

Merlin hadn’t been the Official Taker of Princely Abuse (aka Arthur’s manservant) for long before he discovered Arthur’s chambers reflected Arthur’s tastes. Dark wood, luxurious furs and liberal use of Pendragon red combined to create a masculine sanctuary where Arthur retreated from the world at large. Or, as Merlin termed it, hide from Uthur and Morgana. Some people might have felt sorry for Arthur standing in the middle of his personal haven looking so out of place all the furniture seemed to lean away from him. That someone, however, would have to be someone other than Merlin; who had been the victim of the horribly feathered turban too often to feel anything other than quickly hidden glee at the sight of Arthur in his eyeball crawling, pink and green monstrosity.

 

“I hope you realise, Merlin, these robes,” Arthur raised his hands to smooth down the front of his robes but couldn’t bring himself to actually touch them, “were selected for me, at great expense, by Great Aunt Agatha. If I catch you laughing at my Great Aunt’s loving gift it will be to the stocks for you.”

 

The hope in Arthur’s tone as he uttered the last sentence was unmistakable.

 

“I wouldn’t dream of it, sire,” said Merlin in his best ‘no, not a magic user here’ voice.

 

And to be fair Merlin wouldn’t dream of laughing at the robes, which on their own were too much of an affront to good taste and the natural order of things to be funny. Arthur in the robes, on the other hand, well it would take more than a trip to the stocks to strip the joy of this sight from Merlin’s memory.

 

Arthur sensing something of this traitorous thought glared at Merlin once more for good measure.

 

*

 

That night Uthur sent three servants, five courtiers and two knights to the dungeons before he gave up. As it turned out not even Uther Pendragon, committer of the greatest magical genocide the world had ever known, could make a yellow velvet doublet with horizontal pink satin strips intimidating.

 

Uthur and Arthur sat at the high table exchanging matching looks of stoic misery over Great Aunt Agatha’s head. It was rare for father and son to be this united. Since Merlin had come to Camelot it had seemed mostly like Uthur decided and Arthur, often against his own judgement, fell into line. Tonight it seemed like a genuine meeting of minds and, when Morgana at last swept in, a genuine meeting of extreme jealousy.

 

Morgana approached the high table and curtsied before she moved to take her seat. The soft rustling of her favourite sapphire gown echoed loud in the suddenly quiet hall.

 

“Morgana,” said Uther with an overly toothy smile, “I see you are not wearing Great Aunt Agatha’s gift to you.”

 

“Yes,” said Morgana opening her lovely blue eyes as wide as they would go, “I do apologise, Great Aunt, but while I was in my chambers there was an unfortunate accident.”

 

“Do tell,” said Arthur. Merlin could see he was grinding his teeth.

 

“It was my fault,” Gwen volunteered quietly. “I feel so terrible. Milady wanted to wear her white shift beneath the yellow and orange overdress you so kindly gave her.”

 

Merlin didn’t pretend to know anything about fashion but he’d never seen Morgana wear anything either yellow or orange.

 

“There was a small stain at the hem which hadn’t been noticed,” continued Morgana, “and so I sent Gwen downstairs to get some bleach.”

 

“The laundresses were doing the linen for dinner tonight when I came down. I didn’t wish to inconvenience them so I filled a bucket with water poured in some bleach while I was in the laundry. As I carried the bucket back into milady’s chamber I tripped,” Gwen was now looking properly anguished. “I am so deeply sorry Lady Pendlesnoot.”

 

“Nay,” said Morgana, “the fault was mine. I moved a footstool in Gwen’s absence and she couldn’t see properly carrying the bucket.”

 

“Am I to take it,” said Great Aunt Agatha who was looking vastly amused, “that when your maid tripped the contents of the bucket landed almost entirely in the open trunk.”

 

“Sadly, yes,” said Morgana looking heartbroken.

 

Arthur’s face was contorted in something perilously like a snarl.

 

“Morgana,” said Uthur with barely restrained temper, “Great Aunt Agatha went to a considerable degree of trouble and if you think for one moment –”

 

Before Uthur could volunteer the castle seamstresses to recreate the wardrobe Morgana and Gwen had just destroyed Great Aunt Agatha spoke up.

 

“It’s perfectly alright, dear,” she said leaning across Uthur to pat Morgana’s hand. “Accidents do happen. And really it wasn’t your wardrobe I was worried about. You have written to me often enough of the balls in Camelot for me to know what an elegant young woman you are.”

 

“You are wonderfully understanding, Great Aunt Agatha,” said Morgana smiling in a way Merlin could only describe as smug.

 

Great Aunt Agatha continued, “It was more for Arthur and Uthur’s sake I had my presents made up and naturally I didn’t want you to feel left out.”

 

“Oh, I don’t,” Morgana assured her.

 

As neither Morgana nor Great Aunt Agatha seemed inclined to discuss the matter further Uthur then gave the signal for dinner to be served.

 

As the first course was served Merlin caught Gwen’s eye and mimed enthusiastic applause. Gwen grinned and dipped a curtsey. Seeing how unhappy Arthur looked Merlin almost wished he’d thought of it.

 

Then, as Merlin was clearing away the first course, Arthur leaned close to Merlin and whispered. “Morgana really has all the luck. Guinevere is by far your superior as a servant and has even contrived to make herself useful by accident. Why, for once, could not your known stupidity and clumsiness have worked for me?”

 

Merlin had then found he could quite easily bear Arthur’s misery. Enjoy it even.

 

*

 

Great Aunt Agatha, Merlin found, was like a streak of improbably good luck. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it did.

 

“Artie dearest,” cooed Great Aunt Agatha one morning as Arthur was leading practice with his knights. “You need to work on your left parry. I spent many years watching my Gilbert practice and he, if you remember was an excellent swordsman, so I know a weak left parry when I see one.”

 

Arthur slowly turned to look at his Great Aunt standing at the sidelines, resplendent in a gown of iron grey and canary yellow. “Thank you, Great Aunt Agatha. I’ll take that under consideration.”

 

“See that you do, Artie,” said Great Aunt Agatha, “I’m sure you’re very good, sweetness, but it never does to be over confident or to overlook your weaknesses. I remember when you were a very little boy, you were adorable Artie, if a little on the chubby side. We all warned you not to climb the kitchen trellis. But climb it you did and the whole thing came tumbling down. The most important thing was that you didn’t get hurt but it did teach you the necessity of listening to the judgement of others.”

 

Arthur’s smile hadn’t faltered but his grip on his sword was white knuckled.

 

“Then again,” Great Aunt Agatha gave her great nephew an appraising glance, “the incident should also have taught not to wear your pants too tight. Honestly Arthur do you want to split your britches straight down the centre again?”

 

By this point Merlin had stuffed the first two knuckles of his left hand into his mouth and was biting down hard. Sir Orn didn’t fair so well and a choked snickered escaped him.

 

Arthur maintained his smile until Great Aunt Agatha had left the training yard. Then he turned on his knights with a smile his manservant had grown to wary of. It was a testament to the fear instilled in the knights of Camelot that day no one but Merlin ever referred to Arthur as Prince Splitty Pants.

 

*

 

It had been three weeks since the advent of Great Aunt Agatha and the longest period without magical attack since Merlin had set foot in Camelot. Merlin was quietly convinced this was because the entire vengeful magical community had realised they couldn’t torture the Pendragon men half as well as Great Aunt Agatha.

 

A sort of equilibrium established itself and all might have continued this way until the end of Great Aunt Agatha’s visit. As with most catastrophic events in Camelot, Merlin found himself at the heart of it.

 

Morgana, in an act of pity, had walked Great Aunt Agatha the length and breadth of Camelot’s markets. The old lady had tottered back into the castle and had taken straight to her bed. Consequently the royal family was enjoying a quiet supper together. The meal was winding down and both Merlin and Gwen had snuck a sip or two of the exceptionally fine wine. Sadly for Merlin a few sips of wine were all it took.

 

“Great Aunt Agatha,” Merlin muttered to himself, “G. A. A., gaa, gah.”

 

“What are you on about, Merlin?” whispered Gwen. “And lower your voice!”

 

“Well, it’s just… Have you noticed that whenever we catch Uther and Arthur running away from Great Aunt Agatha – oi, Gwen, watch the elbows – have you noticed they’re always saying something like ‘Gaa, not again,’ or ‘Gaa, where’s she coming from,’ or if she catches up to them before they notice just ‘Gaa,’ in a sort of high pitched kind of way?” Merlin failed to notice at this point that Gwen had fallen completely silent as had the rest of the room. “Do you think they’re doing it deliberately - you know Great Aunt Agatha, G. A. A., Gaa - or is it just coincidence?”

 

Merlin looked up to see Gwen sidling away from him, looking somewhere between sympathetic and horror struck. A sort of quiet fell. Uther and Arthur were staring at Merlin with matching expressions of embarrassment fuelled fury, and when they did bookend expressions like that Merlin could clearly see the family resemblance. Morgana was hunched over her dinner plate shoulders shaking and when she raised her head briefly Merlin caught sight of tears of mirth streaming down her face.

 

“And when I said running away,” said Merlin’s mouth, once again engaging without his brain’s consent, “what I really meant was using a vast and superior strategic knowledge to escape dealing with unbeatable enemy. Not that I’m saying that either of you couldn’t beat her, she’s just a little old lady and you’re trained warriors, it’s just that you don’t seem to be able to beat her in the other sense of the word. You know without actually beating her, with sticks and the like. Not that I’m saying you couldn’t if you wanted to…”

 

Merlin trailed off. A certain level of incredulity had entered into both Uther and Arthur’s expressions. Like the time a sorcerer attacking Uther had accidentally magicked himself into a pig. A sort of how can something this stupid possibly exist kind of look.

 

“Do excuse me,” Morgana said standing abruptly and sending the feet of her wooden chair scraping over the stones, “Gwen.”

 

The guards standing by the door barely had time to get the door open as Morgana, Gwen fast on her heels, fled the room. The doors closed on the sound of near hysterical laughter. Leaving Merlin trapped with the last two people in the world he wanted to be alone with right at that moment.

 

“Um,” said Merlin and he didn’t think he needed to be the genius Gaius sometimes said he was to see where this was going, “I’m for the stocks, aren’t I?”

 

“Oh, yes,” said Uthur.

 

*

 

“Arthur looking for you,” said Gaius as Merlin stumbled in after his second day in the stocks.

 

Merlin mumbled something that was muffled by his shirt. This was probably for the best Gaius decided as, from the little he could understand, it seemed Merlin had just suggested the heir to the throne engage in illict sex with a barnyard animal. The vegetable stained shirt hit the ground.

 

“They broke out the potatoes today, Gaius,” Merlin whined as he picked another shirt up off the floor, sniffed it and turned back to Gaius now in full rant. “The potatoes! They hurt! I know, I may never prove it but I know, the potatoes were provided under Arthur’s orders. Thanks to that right royal prat I’m going to be black and blue tomorrow. Oh, stop flapping your eyebrows at me, he is a prat. And the stable boy was there, you remember the one who tried to get me drunk last feast day? I can’t believe he thought that would work! I was born in the country, not stupid, despite what Prince Splitty Pants would have you think. Whatever it is, Gaius, it can wait till I’m finished. Well, the stable boy – Gary? Greg? – whoever he is, has a really good arm as it turns out.”

 

A large gloved hand landed on Merlin’s bare shoulder. Merlin’s heart twisted in his chest as he recognised two things: firstly, it was indeed Prince Splitty Pant’s hand on Merlin’s shoulder and secondly, maybe Merlin was as stupid as stableboy thought because Merlin had said the whole thing with his back towards the wide open door.

 

“Um,” said Merlin as he turned to face Arthur. “Good afternoon, sire?”

 

“My father and I,” said Arthur baring an unfriendly amount of teeth, “after long discussion have decided what to do with you.”

 

“The stocks again?” guessed Merlin.

 

“Oh, no,” said Arthur.

 

*

 

“You are here to serve me?” asked Great Aunt Agatha sounding deeply suspicious. “You are Arthur’s personal manservant, are you not?”

 

“Yes,” Merlin said and the wilted a bit under her gaze, “milady.”

 

“What motivated, dearest Artie, to this unsolicited generosity?” asked Great Aunt Agatha with arsenic laced sweetness.

 

“His natural selflessness?” replied Merlin.

 

Great Aunt Agatha’s eyes narrowed.

 

Two hours later and Merlin was halfway through Precious and Posey’s third bath of the day, and for such little dogs they had surprisingly sharp teeth. In the little time Merlin had snatched to reflect on his answer, he was forced to admit he wouldn’t have believed him either.

 

*

 

“You made it,” said Great Aunt Agatha sounding surprised as she lifted the lid to check Merlin’s work. Steam wafted up from the tureen of piping hot chicken broth.

 

Merlin was bent nearly double, sweating and gasping for air. But he was triumphant. He’d just proven that a man could make it from the kitchen, across the Great Hall, up the main stair case, up the servants’ staircase and into the first guest chamber carrying a tureen of hot soup in less than two minutes. Admittedly there’d been a small amount of magical assistance involved but only in containing the soup. Merlin’s legs had sadly done the rest.

 

“Anything else, milady?” asked Merlin as he edged towards the door.

 

For a moment he thought he’d make it.

 

“Why, yes, my little hawkling,” said Great Aunt Agatha and even though Merlin was almost too tired to move he still had trouble repressing a cringe, “I think I left my very favourite shawl at the jewel merchant’s stall earlier. Be a dear and fetch it for me?”

 

Struck nearly dumb with horror Merlin could only stare at her.

 

“The jewel merchant’s stall by the outer gate?” asked Merlin incredulously. “That’ll take me an hour!”

 

Great Aunt Agatha widened her eyes unconvincingly. “Is there some problem, my little hawkling?”

 

“The castle closes the portcullis in half an hour. I won’t make it back in time!”     

 

“But you’re so quick,” Great Aunt Agatha praised. “I have every faith in you. Off you go.”

 

Merlin’s legs were almost shaking with fatigue. They did not have another sprint in them. Even if Merlin’s legs had been up for it Merlin still wouldn’t have been able to make it back in time. Not with out a teleportation spell.

 

“Unless,” said Great Aunt Agatha slowly, “there was something else you need to do here? Perhaps something you need to tell me.”

 

Merlin’s disbelieving blue eyes locked with Lady Pendlesnoot’s grey ones. Great Aunt Agatha fluttered her eyelashes at him.

 

“My feet will be as the wind,” said Merlin as he turned to go.

 

At least, Merlin thought darkly, he now knew where the unadulterated evil in the Pendragon line had come from.

 

*

 

Having spent the night camped out in the stables of the Royal Rooster Merlin was feeling out of charity with the world. Merlin was tired, his back felt like a group of knights in full armour had been dancing on it and he was so hungry he could eat the ugly wall hangings. But, as Merlin attempted to brush the mildewing straw out of his hair, if he had to pick someone to pin his grievances on it would be Arthur. Gods only knew how many times Merlin had covered for Arthur. Yet Merlin had made one verbal slip up and Prince Heartless had thrown him to the wolves.

 

As Merlin stalked through the castle he decided enough was enough, he and Arthur needed to have a chat.

 

I will be calm, Merlin thought, I will be in control. I will not raise my voice or call him a hypocrite. I will make my case and not sprinkle dirt in his breakfast when we get back to normal.

 

In spite of Merlin’s inner peace his fist and Arthur’s door made violent contact.

 

The door opened. A fair faced youth with a mop of chestnut ringlets stuck his head out. Meadow green eyes widened with astonishment at the sight of Merlin.

 

“Who is it, Edgar?” asked Arthur.

 

“It’s Merlin, your highness,” said Edgar.

 

There were a few muffled thumps.

 

“Well by all means,” said Arthur, “let him in.”

 

Edgar stood aside to let Merlin through the door. Arthur was lounging in his favourite chair, the remains of his breakfast spread out in front of him. What drew Merlin’s attention was the second place set across from Arthur.

 

“Edgar and I were just breaking our fast,” said Arthur conversationally. Merlin glanced at his replacement and saw Edgar was blushing. “You look a right fright, Merlin. There’s still a bit left over. Help yourself.”

 

“I couldn’t,” said Merlin. “Not hungry.”

 

He didn’t say anything else.

 

“Right then,” said Arthur after a moment’s awkward silence. “Edgar, since we’re done, get these plates down to the kitchen.”

 

“Certainly sire,” said Edgar with a bow.

 

“Well?” said Arthur as the door swung shut.

 

“I have bathed her dogs. I have been up and down every stair case in this wretched castle at least three times a day. I have, and my eardrums may never recovered, listened to her sing. The final straw was spending last night stranded in lower Camelot looking for the ugliest shawl ever made.” Merlin brandished the apricot and red shawl trimmed with yellow feathers.

 

Arthur was not even attempting to hide his smile. “What do you expect me to do?”

 

“I need you,” said Merlin and frowned as Arthur started looking smug, “to save me from the ravening harpy masquerading as your relative.”

 

Arthur was now wearing a full blown smirk. “So you need me, eh, Merlin?”

 

“It’s not like that,” said Merlin through gritted teeth, “I need you to get over yourself and stop being such a prat.”

 

Arthur’s eyes lost some of their twinkle and he slouched even lower in his chair. “I’m surprised you want to come back, Merlin, if you think I’m such a prat.”

 

“You are,” said Merlin with a shrug, “a slow flesh eating disease to your Great Aunt’s fatal plague. You, I can live with.”

 

“A flesh eating disease, am I?” Arthur got up from his chair and stalked around to stand before Merlin. “Well, look around you. You aren’t exactly a grand prize. Since you left I have had a spotlessly clean chamber, warm untouched meals and blessed silence. Why would I want to risk my Great Aunt’s displeasure to resume your dubious services any sooner than I have to?”

 

“Well then, sire, forget I was ever here,” said Merlin as he stepped closer and got right in Arthur’s face. “On second thought your Great Aunt is looking better and better.”

 

“Well then,” Arthur snarled looming even closer, “it seems that we understand each other.”

 

They paused so close their breath seemed to tangle together in the air. Merlin could see the individual flecks of grey in Arthur’s eyes and smell the fresh bite of his soap. Arthur’s hands curled themselves into the curve of Merlin’s biceps, like the Prince wanted to draw Merlin even closer.

 

Ha, shake the living daylights out of me more like, Merlin thought.  

 

There was a gasp. Edgar was standing in the doorway wide eyed.

 

Merlin pulled himself away from Arthur.

 

“He’s all yours,” Merlin snapped as he stormed past Edgar. 

 

*

 

There past a few days of fraught silence between Arthur and Merlin. Arthur spent a lot of time walking about the castle one muscular princely arm about his new manservant’s shoulders. Merlin, when not running increasingly ridiculous errands for Great Aunt Agatha, spent a lot of feeding raw meat to Arthur’s pony sized dogs and looking up spells for painful muscle cramps and diarrhoea.

 

“I admire loyalty,” said Great Aunt Agatha as she, Merlin and the dogs navigated through the castle’s bustling courtyard. “It’s a too rare commodity today.”

 

Merlin nodded. He suspected Lady Pendlesnoot was feeling a little remorseful but like her great nephew she couldn’t just come out and say it.

 

“Arthur is special,” said Great Aunt Agatha. “He has the potential to be the best our line has ever produced. He’s changed for the better since I was last here and people whose opinions I value seem to think it’s largely because of you. They tell me great things about you. About the things you’ve done for him.”

 

Merlin said nothing and concentrated on preventing Precious and Posey from wrapping their leads around his ankles again.

 

Great Aunt Agatha raised a brow and remarked with something like approval, “Surprisingly discrete as well.”

 

“Great Aunt Agatha,” the subject of their conversation hailed from across the yard.

 

“Artie dearest,” said Great Aunt Agatha delighted as Arthur closed the distance and kissed her on the cheek,

 

Arthur flashed his roguish smile. “You’re looking particularly radiant today, best of my relations.”

 

“You charmer,” said Lady Pendlesnoot smiling fondly.

 

“Are you enjoying your morning walk?” asked Arthur as he fell into step on his Great Aunt’s other side.

 

He flashed Merlin an edged smile. Merlin debated the merits of tripping and magically inflicting himself with a crippling injury. It would almost certainly be less painful then whatever the prince had planned. Arthur had a tongue like a viper.  

 

“It has been most interesting,” said Great Aunt Agatha. “Merlin has been an excellent guide.”

 

Arthur laughed, “I’m surprised you can say that with a straight face, Great Aunt Agatha, after suffering through Merlin’s god awful service.”

 

Merlin’s gaze fell to the walkway and remained there.

 

“Artie,” said Great Aunt Agatha reproachfully.

 

“But then Merlin does have his entertaining moments,” Arthur continued. “I’ll have to show you what he looks like in his servant livery before you go. If you thought there was nothing he could do to make those ridiculous ears look worse you’d be wrong.”

 

Merlin’s hands clenched about the leashes.

 

“Arthur!” snapped Lady Pendlesnoot.
 

“Merlin,” said Arthur ignoring his Great Aunt and speaking to Merlin directly.

 

“Sire,” replied Merlin and it sound, as Merlin had meant it to, like a euphemism for pig droppings.

 

“My father and I have discussed what to do about your situation,” said Arthur.

 

“My situation?” asked Merlin with resignation. Arthur wouldn’t go away until he’d delivered his next punch line.

 

Great Aunt Agatha was glancing back and forth between them as though she was attending a play where she didn’t quite understand the language.

 

“Well, Edgar is clearly the superior manservant,” Arthur pointed out, “but you have done some small service for the house of Pendragon. We’ve decided to reinstate the role of court jester, just for you.”

 

“You are too kind, my liege,” said Merlin thought the words nearly choked him. “I’m sure you and Edgar will be very happy together.”

 

Arthur scowled and stalked off.

 

Great Aunt Agatha stared stunned at Arthur’s retreating back. “Merlin?”

 

“Yes, Lady Pendlesnoot?”

 

“Merlin,” she repeated and sounding so like Arthur Merlin couldn’t pretend not to understand.

 

Merlin sighed, “He’s not happy with me.”

 

“Obviously,” said Great Aunt Agatha dryly.

 

“He wanted me to know he wasn’t happy with me,” Merlin elaborated.

 

“Oh,” said Great Aunt Agatha, “How very Uthur of him! Does it happen often?”

 

“Occasionally,” said Merlin with a shrug. “He hadn’t done it for a while.”

 

Merlin had quietly hoped he’d outgrown it.

 

“It can’t be very healthy,” murmured Great Aunt Agatha.

 

Startled Merlin stared at her. Since Merlin had known the prince; Arthur’s reaction to any tender or volatile emotion seemed to land either firmly in the kingdom of overreaction or in the sea of denial. Arthur was many things (loyal, courageous, intelligent, eloquent, and generous) but Merlin wouldn’t call him emotionally healthy. Most of his pratliness, in Merlin’s opinion, stemmed from this problem.

 

Great Aunt Agatha turned sharp eyes on Merlin. “It must be hard to overlook sometimes.”

 

Merlin said with rueful fondness, “Arthur is worth forgiving.”

 

*

 

Only this time Arthur did not seem to want forgiveness. Merlin had expected a summons to Arthur’s chambers or for Arthur to make a seemingly incidental trip to Gaius’ rooms. But three days passed with none of the usual not-apologies being made.

 

Every time Merlin saw Arthur he was in the best of spirits, acting up with his knights and even worse Edgar was constantly with him. Favoured Edgar about whom the servants were beginning to whisper and who filled Merlin with such a gaping hate it was like being eaten up inside.

 

On the third night Great Aunt Agatha let him go early and Gwen dragged him into Morgana’s rooms. He’d been whisked across the castle and shoved into a chair before he could even ask what’s going on.

 

“You look shocking, Merlin,” said Morgana as she brought him a glass of wine.

 

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” replied Merlin with a shaky approximation of a laugh.

 

“But it is,” said Gwen looking earnest and worried as she perched on the arm of his chair. “You looked grey all day.”

 

“What’s happened between you and Arthur?” Morgana asked.

 

“Me and Arthur?” said Merlin. “What makes you think it’s something between me and Arthur?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Morgana rolling her eyes. “It could be that you’re miserable and he’s suddenly reverted to how he was before you arrived in Camelot. Even Uthur’s noticed. Or it could be the fact that Great Aunt Agatha told me.”

 

“Okay, fine,” Merlin said listlessly, “Arthur and I had a fight.”

 

“So fix it,” said Morgana gesturing impatiently as though the situation could be resolved as easily as the wave of a hand.

 

“I’ve tried,” said Merlin.

 

“Try harder,” snapped Morgana.

 

“Morgana,” said Gwen reproachfully laying a protective arm about Merlin shoulders.

 

“He’s got to fix this Gwen,” Morgana returned fiercely. “The stars will burn themselves to dust before Arthur gets his head out of his arse.”

 

Merlin laughed and slumped forward. “I can’t.”

 

“I’m sure you can,” said Gwen as she rubbed his back in soothing circles.

 

“No, I mean I already tried,” explained Merlin. “I went to see him this morning. He had Edgar turn me away.”

 

“Arthur had that obsequious, uppity, jumped up, little snot turn you away?” asked Morgana dangerously.

 

Merlin tried to summon the anger but just felt resigned. “It’s okay. It’s my own fault. I just wanted… presumed… oh, hell, I thought we were friends.”

 

“Oh, Merlin,” said Morgana as she threw her arms around him. “You weren’t wrong.”

 

The door was thrown open.

 

“Morgana! This is becoming intolerable -” Arthur’s unmistakable strident tones sounded strangled as he took in the sight before him.

 

Merlin knew he’d done nothing wrong. But, as Arthur’s baleful gaze fixed on him, sandwiched between Gwen and Morgana, Merlin found he felt rather guilty.

 

“You,” said Arthur menacingly.

 

“Arthur,” said Morgana eyes blazing as she marched up to the prince, “you are a cad.”

 

“Me?” said Arthur incensed.

 

“Gwen, get Merlin out of here,” ordered Morgana. “Arthur and I need to have a little chat.”  

 

*

 

At around midnight there was a soft knock on Merlin’s door. Merlin opened the door to find Arthur standing there, looking rather unsure of himself.

 

“Can I come in?” asked Arthur.

 

Wordlessly Merlin stood aside. Arthur stepped past him, wrinkled his nose at the piles of clothes littering the floor but didn’t speak.

 

“Well?” said Merlin at last.

 

“I owe you an apology,” said Arthur as he finally turned to face Merlin. “I have behaved poorly since you made it clear you did not want things to change between us. I am sorry, Merlin. I should not have taken my disappointment out on you. Had I taken the hint that night with Gaius we would have been spared this. Forgive me. I hope I have not damaged our friendship irreparably.”

 

The rush of relief was so profound Merlin almost couldn’t hear what Arthur was saying. It didn’t matter what the words were, Merlin thought, all that mattered was Arthur was here and he was saying them.

 

Arthur extended his hand. Merlin stepped past the outstretched hand, looped both his arms around the prince’s neck and drew him in. Arthur’s arms closed around Merlin almost convulsively, his hands fisting in the linen of Merlin’s nightshirt. Breath warmed Merlin’s neck and golden hair tickled the side of his face. Arthur sighed and all the tension drained out of his body.

 

“I was so worried,” Merlin whispered, “that things were going to be bad between us forever. I missed you.”

 

Arthur chuckled softly against the skin under Merlin’s ear, “How is it, Merlin, that even though you didn’t say anything I can still hear the ‘you prat’ you wanted to tack on the end?”

 

Merlin grinned widely, “It’s a gift.”

 

“If only you had more useful gifts,” said Arthur mockingly but as he looked at Merin his face tender, “like basic grooming.”

 

“Hey,” said Merlin, “I was sleeping.”

 

Blue eyes roamed up and down Merlin as though just noticing the state of him. Eyelids drooped and suddenly the open expression on the prince’s face turned pained and shuttered. Arthur stepped back abruptly. “You are wearing your nightshirt.”

 

Arthur seemed to expect a response to this observation.

 

“Yes?” said Merlin.

 

“I value your trust, Merlin,” said Arthur averting his gaze, “but do not make this unbearable for me. For the love of the Gods put some clothes on.”

 

Arthur had never seemed much concerned with propriety but it was hardly the strangest thing he’d asked Merlin to do. Merlin hastily pulled on a pair of pants.

 

“I’d hate to make your life difficult,” muttered Merlin as he did up the laces of his britches. “So what time do you want me tomorrow?”

 

“What?” asked Arthur voice oddly high.

 

Merlin rolled his eyes. “The usual time for your wake up call?”

 

“Oh,” said Arthur, “I think it would be best if you attended Great Aunt Agatha for the remainder of her visit.”

 

“What?” Merlin felt his heart roll over. “Why?”

 

“To give us a chance to re-establish our equilibrium,” said Arthur, “and to work out what to do with Edgar.”

 

“Edgar?” asked Merlin. “What about Edgar?”

 

As far as Merlin was concerned Edgar could be booted back into the same hole of insignificance he’d crawled out from.

 

“Edgar,” said Arthur carefully, “has his uses. For the duties you are not… For the ones you find distasteful.”

 

“Cleaning you chamber pot?” asked Merlin bewildered.

 

Arthur’s face hardened. “Do not joke, Merlin.”

 

“I’m not joking,” said Merlin.

 

“It isn’t what I want either,” snapped Arthur, “but it is the way it will have to be. Good night, Merlin.”

 

Before Merlin could say another word Arthur was out the door and striding through Gaius room back towards the castle.

Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
ladyannikaa
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:28 am (UTC)
oooo Like this a lot!!
wrtrs_blck
Jun. 30th, 2009 01:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
mithrel
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:31 am (UTC)
*glee* I love this! The "Gaa" part had me laughing so hard my sides hurt. Also, yay for devious and kickass Morgana! Although I personally would have used a stronger word than "cad" for Arthur (I'm assuming) sleeping with someone who wasn't Merlin. Bad Arthur! There are some errors, but nothing major, and a read-through could probably fix them. Heck, I'd be willing to do it, if you liked.

Also, was Aunt Agatha an allusion to Wodehouse?
wrtrs_blck
Jun. 30th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
You would? That would be fantastic. I'm completely swamped at work and also pretty hopeless at proof reading my own stuff.

I'm embarrassed to admit the Aunt Agatha thing was subconscious. I love Wodehouse when I was a child and when I was searching for a name for a meddling elderly aunt the name Agatha instantly sprung to mind. I was actually wondering where it came from - then I went Bertie!!!

sheneya
Jun. 30th, 2009 06:52 am (UTC)
Great story, quick warning though, the arthurmerlin com has a one post a day policy, so your other two chapters may be deleted and told to be reposted the next day.
wrtrs_blck
Jun. 30th, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, I found that out. I'm rather mortified and have now fixed it. Serves me right for rushing!
sheneya
Jun. 30th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
Don't worry, I had the same problem when I started posting, I still have trouble with the only five a week part, I keep miscalculating how many I've done.
mossylawn
Jun. 30th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
Oh this is so precious!! I could not wait to get back from work to read it and here I am. I love Terry Pratchett-y feel of it and both repressed!Arthur and plotting!girls.
G.A.A is just amazing and she reminds me so much of my own clearly colour blind great aunt ha ha.

You might want to change Uthur to Uther though.
elychari
Jul. 1st, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
wonderful story. although i feel that there seems to be a missing part of the story when did arthur thought merlin was rejecting him. otherwise, the flow of the story is very good.
screamingchair
Jul. 1st, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Where are next two parts?! I'm shaking and my heart is beating definitely too fast - I'm so excited! I want to know what happens next! Please, please, please! Let me know, let me know! xDDD

I love the last part especially. Not the Arthur-Merlin talk, although I loved the beginning with hugs and everything, but then Arthur started talking bad things and I stopped liking it. But the scenes before that! When Great Aunt Agatha really started to talk with Merlin and when Morgana and Gwen stood up to Arthur to protect him - they were marvelous.

I wait for great union between Great Aunt Agatha and Merlin posiblly with Morgana and Gwen involved.
screamingchair
Jul. 1st, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Ohh, there is second part. Thank god, else I would have gotten taken to the asylum from the nerves.
necro_omen13
Jul. 10th, 2009 11:56 am (UTC)
*got to the bit about "Prince Splitty Pants" and couldn't go on because she was laughing too hard*
smoonyc
Oct. 22nd, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Oooh this is wonderful! I kind of love G.A.A! LOLOL
(Deleted comment)
emeraldsword
Apr. 23rd, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
I really like this - second time through and Aunt Agatha still kills me! Something you might want to consider is linking this part directly to part 2 though, just to make it super-easy for your readers. *goes to hunt for part 2*
cabernet_shiraz
Jun. 24th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
“You are,” said Merlin with a shrug, “a slow flesh eating disease to your Great Aunt’s fatal plague. You, I can live with.”

I somehow spit on my monitor. XDD
emletta
Aug. 18th, 2010 07:01 am (UTC)
Gaa! i love this so much! It just cracked me up! bless great aunt agatha! I wish she would come on the show and sort them all out! prince splitty pants! (I laughed my ass off), gwen 'accidentally' ruining morgana's presents! (giggled like a maniac!) uther sending everyone who laughed to the dungeon!(cracked me up) merlins tipsy little speech about how they kept running away from GAA (I nearly died of laughing!)
just brilliant! you are a comic genuis!
(Anonymous)
Nov. 14th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
Hillarious! i LOVE aUNT aGATHA AND HER uther and arthur torture. poor merlin, arthur is too much sometime
(Anonymous)
Jan. 6th, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)
Cheer get hall narrowed olph dreaded which leads fed the monarchs.
In the seventh heaven Fresh Year[url=http://sdjfh.in/flexpen/],[/url] everybody under the sun! :)
siennis
Feb. 24th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC)
Oohhh I'm excited!

Waaait... is... is Arthur sleeping with Edgar?! >:O NO! NO NO NO!!

>>:(
junnights
May. 13th, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
:)
I've just read this fic and I truly enjoyed it:) just one thing - have you figured out tagging yet? its such an easy thing... that will, as you post, give you a system it will be easy to look back on. Simple things as fandoms, chaptered stories++ will make a lot of difference... (as long as the system is simple that is)... :) please keep up the good work and post something more soonish...:) (with tags...)
luvsbitca
Mar. 29th, 2012 12:03 pm (UTC)
I love that Merlin has no freaking idea what Arthur is talking about. I adore Great Aunt Agatha can we keep her? I think someone could play her on the show and it would be brilliant. :)
Thanks for sharing.
ms_worplesdon
Jun. 12th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Uh, yeah. So I couldn't come across this and not shout HELL YES. Off to read the rest and I love your take on Aunt Agatha here. ^__^
veneyadiva01
Oct. 22nd, 2013 02:09 pm (UTC)
Loved it!!
(no subject) - heigeruis - Nov. 13th, 2014 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )