A/N: So this chapter is a little bit different. I decided to delve into the different relationships that Arthur and Gwen have with Merlin and Morgana respectively. Also I think this is the last chapter I'll post before the episode on Saturday. After Saturday's episode I might write more depending on how the episode affects the story, because I'm a very stick-to-the-cannon kind of writer.
Anyway, as per usual, let me know what you think!
"Merlin!" Arthur shouted at him. "Shut! Up!"
"Yup…" Merlin was barely able to control his laughter long enough to cough out his response. "Sure thing, you two… finish, whatever it was I interrupted…"
"Merlin!" This time it was both Arthur and Gwen who shouted at him.
Arthur picked up the candlestick from the table beside the bed and launched it at Merlin. Merlin just managed to move his head out of the line of fire, but the candlestick still collided with his upper arm.
"Ow! That hurt!" Merlin had stopped laughing as he rubbed his arm.
"Good! Now listen. You are not to mention this to a soul, you understand? If you breath a word of this to anyone I'll- I'll-" Arthur paused to think of a strong enough threat "-I'll sack you!"
"Is that a promise?" Merlin teased back. Arthur picked up a pitcher of water and took aim. Merlin then quickly raised his hands in surrender. "Honestly, Arthur, you don't need to worry about me. I am a really good secret keeper!"
"Sure Merlin, I'll believe that when I see it. You couldn't keep a secret to save your life."
Merlin smiled but said nothing more.
"I have to go." Gwen said suddenly. "I'm already late to wake up Morgana!" She gave Arthur's arm a small squeeze as she walked past him, and left without saying a word to Merlin.
After Gwen left, Merlin walked over to the bed and began to turn down the covers. Arthur went to finish dressing. Minutes past in silence as Arthur emerged fully dressed and began to eat his breakfast. Finally, Merlin couldn't stand the silence any longer.
"Can I just say one thing?" Merlin walked over to where Arthur was still finishing his breakfast and sat down at the table. Arthur sighed.
"We're not doing what you think. We're just…sleeping." Arthur preempted what he thought would be Merlin's concern.
"That's…more than I needed to know." Merlin answered. "No, that's not my problem."
"Well, go on then. What is your problem?" Arthur prompted.
He was pretty sure that he didn't want to hear whatever it was Merlin was about to say, but he let his servant continue anyway. Much as he hated to admit it, Merlin had been known to dispense some valuable advice in the time they'd know each other, and he'd grown to desire Merlin's council.
"It's just… you need to be more careful, Arthur. What if it had been the King who walked into your chambers? I was talking to Tom, one of the pages, and he said he saw you alone with Gwen just yesterday afternoon. Word is beginning to spread already. It's only a matter of time before it reaches Uther. I'm worried about Gwen."
"And you think I'm not?" Arthur countered.
"No! That's not what I'm saying. But, have you thought about what might happen if the King did find out? He could sack her, banish her, he might even kill her."
Arthur was becoming agitated at Merlin's words, but he managed to keep his anger in check. Merlin was right that they were being reckless, and Arthur understood that Merlin was not trying to be insubordinate; he was trying to look after his friends. So, he managed to answer without raising his voice or lashing out.
"Merlin, I worry about that possibility every single day. Not a minute passes when I don't dread what might happen to Gwen if my father were to learn the truth. But it's complicated. I think it's too late us just pretend there's nothing between us. We did try, but…" Arthur wasn't sure how to phrase their need for one another. When they had attempted to avoid each other, they always inevitably ended up back together. It was like they were being drawn to one another. It was like fate. Luckily for Arthur, he didn't need to try and put his feelings into words, Merlin managed it for him.
"…but you're in love." He stated simply.
Arthur looked at Merlin for a moment and silently nodded.
Merlin nodded back, and that was it. He stood up and resumed cleaning Arthur's chambers. There was nothing more to say about; if love was involved, then all rationality went out the window.
Gwen rushed into Morgana's chambers carrying her breakfast, careful not to spill any of the water in the pitcher.
"My Lady," Gwen said hurriedly, "I'm so sorry I'm late –"
"Not at all, Gwen." Morgana replied in her falsely sweet voice.
Gwen's fingers were trembling as she helped Morgana into her dress. Being around Morgana was difficult these days. Her mistress had gone from being her closest friend to the person she feared most in the world in a matter of a single day. For the most part Gwen was able to keep her fear carefully in check, but she was rattled from having overslept and being caught by Merlin. As it was, her nerves were beginning to fray.
"Are you alright?" Morgana asked when Gwen spilled half the pitcher of water on the stone floor as she poured it into a glass.
"Y-Yes, I'm fine. Thank you." Gwen replied as she rushed to find a cloth to clean up the spilled liquid.
"Are you sure?" Morgana pressed.
"Yes. I'm just a little tired, my Lady, that's all."
"Nothing's troubling you, then? What about Arthur?" Gwen was glad she was already kneeling down to clean up the water, otherwise Morgana might have noticed the way that Gwen instinctively had to brace herself against the floor for fear of Arthur's safety.
"My Lady," Gwen stood up to face her mistress. "There is no longer anything between Arthur and myself."
Morgana's eyebrows raised in surprise. "Is that right? I thought you were quite in love."
Gwen couldn't stop the blush filling her cheeks, but she pressed on with the lie. "I will admit, my Lady, that there was a time when we shared feelings for one another, but we were both being foolish. Arthur has made it clear to me that he no longer has any interest in me."
"Gwen, I'm sorry. You must be very upset."
Morgana's voice sounded as though it was concerned, but Gwen could recognize the difference between her current false tones, and her tone in the past when she may once have cared for her servant's well-being.
"I admit I am a little upset, but I think it's for the best. It was only an infatuation, really."
Gwen plowed on in her lies. All she could do was hope that Morgana believed her. This was a dangerous game: if Morgana discovered that Gwen was lying, she would know that she no longer had Gwen's trust, in which case, Gwen would certainly be in a great deal of danger. But if Morgana believed her, then she would no longer try to use Gwen as leverage against Arthur. It was not her own safety that Gwen was concerned about, but what Arthur might do if he feared for her life.
"Well, I'm sorry that you're upset." Morgana said. Gwen said nothing as she made up Morgana's bed.
"If you've finished your breakfast I can take the dishes down to the kitchen for you."
"Yes, thank you Gwen."
Gwen took the dishes and exited the room as quickly as possible. More than anything else she was desperate to get out of her mistress' chambers. She felt ill with fear; something in Morgana's eyes had suggested to Gwen that she did not entirely believe her story about Arthur. But beyond the fear, Gwen deeply missed her old mistress. Time was that she would have been able to open up to Morgana about her love for Arthur and her concerns for their future. As it was, that time was gone, and she didn't think it would ever return. It was as though that version of Morgana had died while she was away last year. As Gwen walked down to the kitchens, she felt a few tears fall from her eyes as she mourned the loss of her best friend.
A/N: The general idea I wanted to get across is that while Arthur still has Merlin to lean on, Gwen is much more alone after she's found out about Morgana. I hope the juxtaposition came across.