Merlin didn't really know what to expect when his friends gathered around the table of his mother's home for supper that first night in Ealdor, he didn't really care either. He was home with his mother again, eating her simple but homely food. That's all he cared about as she set a bowl in front of him.
"So," Arthur chuckled, looking from Hunith to Merlin with a smirk, "When do we get to hear about Merlin's childhood?"
Merlin's head snapped up, his eyes wide as he shook his head, suddenly very caring about this matter, "No, no, we are not going to do that...!"
"Come, Merlin," Morgana smiled, "Surely one or two won't hurt?"
"There are so many I could tell," Hunith smirked at her son, Merlin's eyebrows scrunching together with a hint of a denying smile. "Merlin was such a troublemaker, always getting into something. Many times I worried that one of the elders would try running him out of the village, especially after he fell a tree and nearly crushed Simmons..."
The humorous eyes of his friends staring at him caused Merlin to duck his head, quickly shoving his food in his mouth to avoid them and distract him from his heating cheeks.
"Even then Merlin was... Merlin," Arthur laughed with a slight shake of his head. "Why am I not surprised?"
Hunith watched with a fond smile, "I don't believe he will ever change."
"Ah!" Merlin looked up, fake hurt on his face as he tried to fight back a smile, "We're here not even a day and already my own mother has turned on me? Unbelievable!"
"Best not to fight it, Merlin," Gwen smiled before turning to Hunith again. "Please, go on and tell us a story."
They all ignored the boy's dramatic eye roll and sigh as his mother thought for a moment, "There are so many that I could tell, the trouble would be picking which to start with..."
"The more embarrassing the better," Arthur smirked, nudging Merlin's shoulder next to him. The younger boy couldn't stop his smile in response as he shook his head slightly, knowing that there was no way he'd actually be able to fight them.
Hunith nodded to herself as her smile grew, and Merlin felt dread build in him at the look. He had a feeling about what story she would pick... If he was right, he would never live it down.
"Once, when Merlin was about fourteen," She started and causing Merlin to groan because it was the story he suspected, "he disappeared for a few days. Now Merlin was always running off through the woods and caves with Will, so I didn't think much of it when he was gone for the majority of the day. But then I saw Will with his aunt helping with the laundry, with no sign of Merlin, I got worried. He didn't return that night, so the next morning most of the village went out to look for him. I was a complete mess for the two days it took to find him, absolutely worried out of my mind. There were so many bandits in the area then, I was so scared we'd find his body hidden under some leaves or whatnot."
Merlin ducked his head, avoiding the heat of his mother's stare and doing his best to hide his smile.
"When we stumble on a nomad camp... We find my son, in full nomad garb, wooing the chief's daughter. As it turned out, he and Will had planned to leave together to go to a port city and become sea men or something, but Will was delayed and Merlin was already caught up with the tribe that he couldn't come home. Merlin... was successful in his wooing, apparently, as the chief had already set a date for him and the girl to be wed."
A chorus of laughter broke out around the table, incredulous looks being tossed at Merlin as he shrugged slightly, a sheepish grin on his face. Hunith chuckled as she took a cloth from her apron and swatted at him, "Don't give that kind of look! It took many hours of negotiations to get you out of that marriage! Whatever you had done, the chief and his daughter did not want to release you!"
"Probably followed her around all day begging until they grew tired and finally caved," Arthur smirked, glancing at Merlin from the side as he took a drink from his cup; the younger male returned the smirk with a tilt of his head.
"Oh no, that method is reserved for you alone, Sire."
Arthur coughed as he forced himself to swallow, before his mouth opened in shock - though the corners were tilted up slightly. "Hey...!"
"I was much more romantic, actually," Merlin leaned slightly closer, his eyes squinting and mouth tight in a look that was exaggerated pity (the reason Merlin was pitying his Prince was a subject that Arthur did not want to discuss). "I gave her flowers and wrote poetry for her; the real test, though, was when I climbed to the top of a cliff to get a rare cowslip flower for her. After that, it was actually she that begged for me to take her hand."
"You were lucky not to fall," Morgana chuckled, her smile fond as she watched her friend. The look he gave her caused her to frown in confusion only for the mother and son to answer simultaneously:
"Oh, I did."
Merlin rubbed the back of his neck as he gave a small and nervous chuckle as he avoided his mother's eyes. "Right when I grabbed the flower, I slipped and... fell. On a rock. From very high up." He nodded slightly to himself, "I, uh... I broke my arm and a few ribs, and my head bled for a day. Thankfully, there was a skilled physician among the nomads that patched me right up so I'd be well enough for the wedding."
"After nearly dying to prove your love, the chief didn't want to let you go so easily." Hunith sighed, though a smile betrayed her exasperated voice. "But eventually we managed for the cost of one sheep... And soon Merlin was back in the village with triple chores for the next two weeks."
The group laughed lightly at the expense of Merlin, the boy nodding along good-naturedly as he ate. He honestly didn't really mind the telling of his adventures as a child, it was actually quite fun to hear it again and be able to see his friends laughing at it. But he knew his friends too well to know that this wouldn't be forgotten for a long while...
"It must have been hard to raise such a boy as Merlin," Arthur chuckled as he ate a piece of bread.
"Oh, before Merlin could even walk, he was getting himself into trouble!" Hunith gave a short laugh, "How many times did I have to rush to the physician in the citadel because he brought a pitcher or bowl down on himself?" She chuckled slightly and shook her head, "Let's not forget how many times he and Will would go exploring the woods on 'quests to save princesses' or 'fight off bandits' only to end up lost for two days and sending the whole town out to look for them... I'm surprised that they never did run into real bandits with how often they did that."
The small laugh from Merlin caught all of their attentions, the boy soon realizing his mistake as he quickly shook his head and held up a hand, "N-No, I didn't mean that- well, we did, but it wasn't bad! We weren't hurt seriously or anything! I just-" Quickly seeing that this was getting him nowhere, Merlin smiled brightly as he looked at Arthur and the girls, "Did you know that there was once a time when Will and I challenged each other to climb the tallest tree in the area and first one to the top would do the other's chores for a week? I would have won but the tree was half rotten at the top and I fell out of it and broke both my arm and leg, Will still claims he won though but he didn't and I'm not really helping my case, am I?"
Standing abruptly, Merlin gave a tight smile and slight nod, "I need to get some air."
"There's air in here, Merlin," Arthur chuckled, all the more ready to watch his servant cower under his mother's strong gaze.
"I don't want your air!"
Blinking in confusion, Arthur turned around to see Merlin quickly walking to the door and shouted after him, "What's wrong with my air?"
There was no response as the dark haired boy slipped outside and into the dark. It was quiet for a few seconds before Hunith sighed and slumped slightly in her seat, "Every time I think I know the worst of it, there's always something else that slips out..."
"What do you mean?" Gwen asked, her head tilting slightly in sympathetic curiosity.
Hunith took a deep breath as she looked at her guests, "Merlin is the sweetest and most selfless boy I've ever known... I really couldn't have asked for a better son. But he has the habit of hiding things and taking everything on himself, even when it doesn't have anything to do with him... He just loves to help people, always has. So when he has knowledge of something he thinks will upset someone, he'll keep it to himself - no matter how painful it is. Merlin is a horrible liar, but he can keep his mouth shut if he thinks it's serious. There are still things about him that I don't even know, things he won't tell me..."
Arthur, Gwen, and Morgana had no trouble believing her words, having seen proof of it themselves many times in the somewhat short time they had known him already. In all honestly, if Merlin hadn't been the way he was, it was doubtful that any of them would even be there right then.
"What about his father?"
The disapproving glare that Morgana shot at Arthur nearly had the prince flinching back, but he just furrowed his brows in question. What could be so bad about asking for Merlin dad?
"Merlin's farther... He left before Merlin was born; some... men had chased him out of the village." She took a breath and smiled sadly at her hands, "I always hoped that he would return after the men had left, but he never did. And some months later Merlin was born."
It was quiet in the group for a while, the friends taking in that information. While it was not that uncommon for children to be born without married parents, it was still frowned upon. Though their opinions of the boy wouldn't change, he was still their friend and they would still help him, the thought of everything he must have gone through growing up made them frown.
"He was an outcast...?" Gwen asked hesitantly, "Merlin?"
"Very much so, yes. That's one of the main reasons I sent him to Camelot. Merlin... he was getting into fights with the others too much, he and Will always sporting some new 'battle wound'. The older they got, the more I worried that the other village boys would do something much worse than they already had... Merlin doesn't hold his tongue well," Arthur snorted as he nodded in agreement with Hunith's words, "And his quick wit would often cause more trouble than he was prepared for. But in all his life, Merlin has never once backed out of a fight - especially if it somehow involved the people he cared for."
Glancing out a window, Morgana could see the silhouette of Merlin in the moonlight as he walked down the street. She smiled a bit as she watched him slowly wander, "Merlin is a very special person. I don't believe there's a kinder spirit in Camelot than him... or a dearer friend. He's already risked so much for us quite a few times already; not to mention his undying loyalty."
Gwen nodded in agreement, and even Arthur didn't speak against Morgana's words as Hunith looked over them with a smile.
"Words cannot describe how happy that makes me. Sending Merlin away was... the hardest thing I had to do in my life. The worry of a mother never goes away and becomes even more prominent when her child is not in her sights. But the one thing stronger than worry is a mother's love and hope... Here in Ealdor, he would have lived a simple life, a life that he was familiar with since birth. But this would have been his life until the end, and being a farmer... That's simply not Merlin at all." She gave a small chuckle as she looked out the window to her son's silhouette, "It was painful, but I sent Merlin away with the hope that he would make a better life for himself in Camelot with my brother."
Her eyes scanned over the small group of young adults at her table, her eyes watering in the dim candle light, "And he has... Seeing the three of you now proves that what I did was right. I know that my son is in good hands now, I can't thank you enough for that."
She bowed slightly, as much as she could in her seat, but Arthur waved her off. "Please... there's no need for that... It's not like we- wait..." The Prince blinked as his brows scrunched together. "Hang on, your brother? Gaius is your brother?"
The women all let out a laugh as Morgana smirked at him with a tilt of her head. "You didn't know that, Arthur? We thought it was common knowledge."
"It's not my fault Merlin hasn't told me!"
"Haven't told you what?" Merlin's voice asked, the boy just stepping back inside and clearly confused at hearing his name upon entry.
Arthur wheeled around with wide eyes, "Gaius is your uncle?"
"Oh, you didn't know?" Merlin chuckled as he went to take his seat again.
A/N: This fandom is taking over my life... I've only been here for about a week but I'm already halfway through getting a Merlin cosplay. I've also got a very long list of story ideas (most of which are Merlin whump... Seriously this poor boy... As if the series doesn't hurt him enough) that I hope to finish soon!
I also have 5 episodes left until I finish the series... I'm scared. I'll probably create a Modern AU once I finish everything... Lord knows this series will probably need some kind of fixing XD
Please, don't forget to leave a review!