A tale of hurt and realisation.

It had been six months since Morgana disappeared. Six long months of helping Gaius heal the sick, getting more and more distant from Arthur. Merlin was sick at heart. He watched as Gwen and Arthur grew close realising what he had hid before, he loved Arthur and Arthur treated him like an idiot.

Tonight was the banquet to celebrate the victory over Morgana and her sister Morgause. Tonight the Knights would be cheered and Merlin would hide again in the background knowing no cheer at all. The only one who felt this was wrong was Lancelot who told Merlin in no uncertain terms that he was the bravest of them all.

"Merlin", said Arthur, "Where have you been, I need dressed and you're late, again"

"Sorry Sire, I've been helping Gaius prepare the medicine for the sick, but I'm here now", said a tired Merlin.

"Well, get on with it then," Arthur huffed, feeling self conscious that he had forgotten Merlin's extra duties since the return and the extra work meant less time with him. He didn't see Merlin much these days outside of breakfast, getting him dressed or getting him ready for bed. He missed their easy chat, and friendliness. They seemed so distant these days.

"It's going to be a big occasion tonight Merlin, I'm sorry you can't be thanked as well, but you know my father would never let me thank a servant," said Arthur with a sigh.

"It's all right Arthur, it's not as though I did anything, it was Lancelot that got the cup after all", replied Merlin.

Arthur turned to look at Merlin and said, "Don't forget Merlin you aren't to attend me tonight, but just enjoy the food like everyone else".

"I haven't forgotten, it's going to be nice not putting you to bed after a banquet for once", laughed Merlin.

"Alright, then dress me and that will be that", said Arthur.

There was an awkward silence now as Arthur didn't know how approach the subject of Gwen and how he believed Merlin did really help them that fateful day and should be thanked as much as the Knights. So nothing more was said and Merlin dressed Arthur and accompanied him to the Great Hall.

Merlin stood at the back and watched Arthur join Gwen at the top table. She was a lady now, since her brother Elyan was Knighted and she was being courted by Arthur. Arthur was Regent in all but name, as Uther never really recovered from Morgana's betrayal.

"Merlin" whispered Gaius, "I wasn't sure if you'd come".

"Oh, I came Gaius, I wouldn't miss Arthur's guard (as the Knights who had fought with him had been named) be celebrated", said Merlin.

"I know this is hard Merlin, but it won't always be this way. One day Arthur will know it was you", sighed the old man.

"I'm alright Gaius, really", replied Merlin. But in heart he thought it had just become harder as magic was reviled even more now.

Then a loud banging could be heard and Uther was helped to his feet.

"Lords, ladies and people of Camelot, today we come to celebrate the victory and freedom of our kingdom from the threat of magic once again, " roared Uther.

"Tonight we celebrate and cheer the men who helped free our kingdom. Firstly, Sir Leon, who has always been loyal to me. Stand up Sir Leon", asked Uther.

Leon, stood and the crowd clapped and cheered.

"Next will be our newest knights. Please stand as I call out your names, Sir Lancelot, Sir Gwaine, Sir Percival, and Sir Elyan all who have earned their right to be Knights for Camelot for their bravery and loyalty alone I commend them," cheered Uther.

The men stood and bowed, but as Lancelot bowed he sought Merlin out and looked unhappy to be taking such praise. Merlin always thought he was too noble for his own good.

"I must commend one last person, who has been my friend for many years. He stood with the Knights and I thank him. Gaius, please take my thanks".

Gaius stood bowed and said nothing. He looked at Merlin sighed again and retreated to the wall to stand with him.

"Now I must thank your Prince and my son, without whom I wouldn't be standing here today. Arthur I'm proud of you, please take the thanks of a grateful King and your father."

Arthur stood and the crowd cheered louder than all the rest, so did Merlin, who truly believed that Arthur would be a great King.

"Now Arthur has a few words to say" and Uther sat down heavily.

"I want to thank my Knights and the people of Camelot for their steadfast support in getting us to this day. But I want to thank one more person for their support and help in getting me through this," he turned and looked at Gwen. Merlin's heart sank and he fell against the wall.

He had hoped it was him he was talking about, but now he was sadder than ever, then next words would break his heart.

"Gwen, " said Arthur, "you have helped me through the last 6 months, and have been my best friend and I thank you. I wish to announce to you all that she has agreed to marry me and one day will be our queen."

Merlin fairly crumbled at this. The crowd cheered, and Gaius said, "Did you know Merlin?"

"No Gaius I didn't. Why would Arthur tell me anything these days," whispered a dejected Merlin.

"I'm going to go Gaius, I need time by myself. I'll see you later" and he all but ran out of the great hall.

Gaius watched him go, knowing full well that the distance with Arthur had done much to the boy's heart.

As the banquet was in full swing, and Arthur danced every dance with Gwen, only Lancelot came to look for Merlin.

"Where is he Gaius" asked Lancelot.

"He left after Arthur's speech. Can you go look for him, he didn't seem too happy and I think a friendly face might help", replied Gaius.

"How about two or three", came a shout from Gwaine , followed by Perceval who had grown fond of Merlin and the way Arthur had treated him lately hadn't set well with the Knight.

"We'll find him Gaius," said Lancelot, "don't worry" and the three Knights left in search of their quarry.

Merlin had left the castle and gone to a tavern in the lower town. Away from everyone to drown his sorrows. This was a bad idea because in the words of Gaius, one whiff of a barmaid's apron and Merlin would be drunk.

Three tankards later and he was about to be punched by an equally drunk but bigger man when the Knights found him.

"Merlin", shouted Gwaine. "Gone to a bar without me, I'm hurt." Merlin sniggered as his clothing was being gripped by very large man with his fist held back.

Lancelot and Percival had reached Merlin and pulled him away from the man. Gwaine said to Lancelot, "you take him home and we'll deal with him".

The next thing Merlin knew he was outside in Lancelot's arms to the sound of breaking furniture.

Merlin giggled, "He'll be having fun now"

"Yes I suppose he will enjoy that better than the banquet at the castle," replied Lancelot.

Merlin's brow furrowed and darkened at the reminder.

"I loved him you know Lancelot and he treats me like an idiot", sniffed the ever saddening figure of the crumpling warlock.

Merlin didn't have to say who as Lancelot already knew. "I know, I know how you feel Merlin. It's hard to watch someone you love move away and there's nothing you can do about it" sighed Lancelot.

"Sorrrrie Lancelot, I forgot about Gwen and you", his words slurred.

"I think I'm going to be sick" said Merlin and promptly was all over Lancelot.

"Come on Merlin let's get us both cleaned up and home", groaned an exasperated Lancelot as he now smelled worse than Merlin.

He put his arm under Merlin's shoulders and got him into the castle via the kitchens to Gaius's chamber.

Once their he stripped Merlin and put him into his cot. At that point Merlin woke up and whimpered, "Stay with me Lancelot, please".

Lancelot looked at the broken man and nodded he would.

He stripped his clothes and got in beside his broken friend and held him as Merlin cried himself to sleep. Here Merlin could be himself with his only true confidant. There was only so much he could say to Gaius

With the late night and the alcohol, Merlin slept in Lancelot's arms. Held by his friend, who knew how much of the woes and troubles of Camelot he had on his slim shoulders.

The next morning Arthur was up early. He decided to find Merlin and explain about last night. He hadn't see him at the banquet, and felt guilty about not looking for him. He did notice that 3 of his Knights were also missing, Lancelot, Gwaine and Perceval.

He made his way to Gaius's chambers seeing no one, he opened Merlin's door to see 2 naked torsos and Merlin in Lancelot's arms. The jealousy and rage he felt knocked him back as he slammed the door and ran out.

The noise woke Merlin and Lancelot.

"Nngh", said Merlin.

"What was that" whispered Lancelot.

"I don't know, but I suppose it was Gaius's way of telling me to get up and go to the training field", replied Merlin.

"Why are you here anyway Lancelot", asked Merlin. Alcohol giving him temporary amnesia.

"You were very drunk, almost got into a fight in the tavern and I took you home. You where sick on me, confessed your love for Arthur and asked me to stay", answered Lancelot softly.

"Oh my god", was all Merlin could say as the colour drained from his face. "I'm so sorry Lancelot. I was sick on you and I told you about Arthur. I am an idiot", moaned Merlin.

"No you're not, cause I had already guessed about Arthur Melin", replied Lancelot. "But I must go and change as the only clothes I have as covered in your sick and I need to be on the field in 10 minutes."

Merlin was mortified. He got up dressed and went to get clothes for Lancelot out of Lancelot's chambers, bringing them back to his.

Once dressed they made their way to the training field to find a furious Arthur staring at them as they approached.

Arthur was angry. When he left Merlin's room he ran to his and flung his empty breakfast tray at the wall, over turned his chair and roared like a wild beast. It was at this point Gwen came into the room and shouted at Arthur to calm down and tell her what was wrong.

"What 's wrong", he bellowed, "I've just found Merlin and Lancelot naked in Merlin's bed, that's what's wrong".

"I can't believe he would do that to me," growled Arthur.

"What do you mean, can't believe he would do that to you", Gwen looked at Arthur.

"What do you mean Merlin and Lancelot where naked in a bed", she roared as well, then she sat down hard on the only other upright chair.

Arthur heard her words and sat down, turning the chair back over again.

"What do you think it means Gwen, surely you aren't that naive. It means they've had sex. Merlin's in a relationship and not with me", he yelled. It was only then when he said it did he realise what he had said.

Gwen looked at him, and realised that she might not be first in Arthur's heart.

"You love him don't you, like I love Lancelot", she signed.

"What" Arthur said with a shout.

"You heard me Arthur. I love both you and Lancelot, you love Merlin, but do you love me as well!"

"I'm sorry Gwen, yes, I do love you. I've just realised I that I love Merlin as well, maybe more. That's why I've been pushing him away for the last six months. I do love you, but Merlin is...", he couldn't finish it off.

"What shall we do now, that we might have lost them both", moaned Gwen.

She was unsure of what to do next. They had just announced their engagement and now they realised they loved someone else better.

"I don't know Gwen, but I must go to the training field. I'm late and I need time to think."

"Arthur," said Gwen as she left the chamber, "don't do anything rash.

As Arthur entered the field he saw Merlin and Lancelot already there. His jealous rage grew again. He was angry and needed to take it out on someone.

"Right," he roared. "Get the horses we are doing quintain training today, Merlin you set it up.

Merlin looked at him. He never took part in the Knights training, but he didn't question it as he saw the cold hard look in Arthur's face. He sighed and made his way across the ground to help the other servants set up the quintain..

The Knights hadn't been expecting this and groaned, but the look on Arthur's face begged no reproach, even from Sir Leon.

Merlin got the quintain which consisted of a shield and dummy which was suspended from a swinging pole and set it in line of the path of the charging Knights and he moved to the side.

Arthur focused on that dummy. That dummy was Lancelot, in Merlin's arms. He let a roar of rage out him, kicked the horse as he charged. That's when everything went wrong. He hit the target alright, but with such force it swung out and spun back hitting the horse. Merlin didn't have time to move out of the way as the frightened and hurt animal moved and reared hitting him squarely on his body and head. Knocking him back with such a force that he dropped to the ground like a stone and was out cold. As everyone ran towards the crumpled figure and the rearing animal, Arthur managed to get his horse away from Merlin with the help of Perceval and Sir Leon.

Gwaine and Lancelot roared, "MERLIN" rushing towards his prone figure. They both ran fear in their eyes approaching Merlin still body, a small trickle of blood coming from his head wound. "What have you done", raged Gwaine at Arthur.

Arthur turned and jumped off his horse to see Merlin lifeless on the field, not believing he had let his jealousy come to this.

"NO, NO, NO!" he shouted out. "Perceval go to the castle tell Gaius what has happened," Arthur shouted the order. Perceval stood in shock for a moment, before running off towards the castle gates.

Gwaine picked Merlin up and lifted him onto his horse before Arthur could get a chance to go near him. Lancelot in hot pursuit with the rest of Arthurs guard. Arthur left on the field to wonder what had just happened.

As the approached the steps, Gwen and Gaius came running down the steps. "What happened Gwaine", said the frightened old man as he looked at the boy he saw as his son?

"It was Arthur, Arthur's horse got hit by the quintain, rearing in fright and hit Merlin," he said in bewilderment.

"Come bring him in and we will see what I can do".

The Knights followed as Arthur came behind them still in a stupor over what he had done.

Gwen ran to him, knowing Arthur would feel terrible but she was angry that he might have killed her friend. But she took his hand and brought him into the castle before letting him know what she thought.

"Arthur I told you to not act rash, but it looks like you paid little to my warnings and now Merlin has paid the price, for your anger. I hope you are happy!" stated Gwen before she too turned and ran towards Gaius's chambers.

Arthur was slow to get there, but get their he did. What he saw before him struck him to the heart. Gwaine looked at him with teary and angry eyes with Lancelot beside him. They both had fear in their eyes as they watched Gaius. Gaius already had Merlin on the table his jacket and shirt off. They could see the hoof prints and cuts on his pale body and the matted blood from the head wound in his hair.

Gwaine saw Arthur coming through the door, looking away in anger before he said something that he would regret. Merlin wouldn't want that. Arthur didn't have anything to say, the Knights all looked at him with uncertain eyes and he for one couldn't look at them.

Gaius turned and almost shouted, "You must all leave me to work NOW. Gwen can you stay as I will need your help."

"Surely Gaius, I will stay", came the soft tones from a teary Gwen.

"Come on Lancelot, Gwaine", said the often quite Perceval, "Let's leave Gaius to his work; we will only be under his feet". Perceval knew that both men wanted to stay, but as he almost pushed them out the door their protests could be heard down the corridor. As they moved out the rest of the men bar Arthur left closing the door behind them.

Arthur slowly moved closer towards the table Merlin was one. Watching as Gaius move around Merlin, removing his clothing. Arthur stared at the marks made by his horse on Merlin's body. He reached out to touch, but withdrew his hand and clenched it into a fist.

"Arthur", said Gaius in a gentle tone. "You should go I will let you know in an hour or two what my conclusions are about Merlin, alright".

Arthur nodded, looked at Gwen who turned away and he left closing the door behind him, leaning heavily on it, all strength gone.

Arthur made his way out of the corridor, towards his rooms where he found Lancelot waiting for him. He stared but not surprised.

"Arthur, what happened today? You where careless, it's not like you, you looked at Merlin and me coming across the courtyard like you wanted murder us. Can you please explain how we now find ourselves unsure if Merlin will live or die," said Lancelot. The last part came out in a sob.

Arthur moved to the man and made him sit down. He sighed, looked up and turned towards the window, unsure if he could say it looking at Lancelot.

"I went looking for Merlin this morning as he was late. When I went to Gaius' chamber it was empty and I went into his room!" There Arthur paused, Lancelot's eyes widen and then Arthur continued. "I looked in and saw your naked bodies and Merlin in your arms. I admit I was jealous and angry beyond what I thought possible. I left, raging against Merlin for deceiving me. Over what I don't know as we aren't in a relationship. I met Gwen telling her what I had seen, how I felt. I left went to the field and you know what happened after that".

Lancelot was silent, exasperated, angry and suddenly aware of what was really going on in the heart of Arthur Pendragon.

"Arthur, Merlin and I aren't in a relationship. Merlin left the banquet after you made your announcement about Gwen and went and got very drunk in the tavern in the lower town. Gaius asked us to go look for him. We found him just as he was about to get beaten up. I took him home whilst Gwaine and Perceval shorted out the bully. Once outside, Merlin was promptly sick all over me," here he laughed, "You know he can't hold his liqueur and I took him home. When I got there, he was crying and upset asked me to stay and I did look after him, but that was all. As I was covered in vomit, I stripped off my outer clothing; Merlin's as well and held him whilst he cried himself to sleep. That what happened," finished a tired and weary Lancelot watched the shoulders of the Prince slump, turn round and he could see reddened eyes.

"What have I done Lancelot, to him and you? I do love Gwen, but it was only when I saw him smiling and asleep in your arms that I realised what I had lost before it began. I never told him I loved him and probably never would have except for what has happened. What will I do if he dies, Lancelot, what?" sobbed the Prince.

Lancelot got up from the table, walked Arthur putting a hand on his shoulder saying, "I don't know Arthur, but you have a pickle. You've just announced your engagement to Gwen. Told her you love Merlin and due to your anger he might never be the same again, or worse die. I don't think Gwen will forgive you if her friend dies. I know Gwaine will kill you and as for myself, well I'll not say anymore. I love Gwen, you know that Arthur. You have to make a decision that is fair to both of them." With that Lancelot, patted him and left.

Arthur sat in his rooms pondering all that had happened wishing the hours would pass quicker. At some point a servant came to the door saying Gaius wanted to see him. Arthur ran past the servant almost knocking him over in his hast. Once outside the door, he stopped, went to knock, hesitated but finally took up the nerve, did and walked in.

What he saw before his eyes made his heart jump for joy. Merlin was awake, bandaged, and moved to a cot.

"Oh thank God, I thought I'd killed you," he cried running and kneeling beside Merlin placing his hands on Merlin's still deathly pale figure of his manservant.

"It will take a lot more than your prattish ways to kill me", crocked a tired and hoarse Merlin. Gaius and Gwen looked on, and Gwen spook first. "Arthur I have to go, but can I have word outside first". "Of course Gwen", replied Arthur.

They went outside, and Gwen was sharp, she stated, "You've got to tell him how you feel. What we are doing is wrong Arthur for you and for me. We will end our relationship. I will try and make it up to Lancelot, if I can and you to Merlin, alright". Arthur open mouthed nodded and Gwen left. He stood looking after her and went back into the room.

"Arthur, Merlin has a few broken ribs, a lot of deep cuts which will need to be cleaned and tended to for quite a while. But thank heavens he has a very hard skull otherwise he would be dead. The head wound may cause concussion and he will need to be watched in case there is any underlying injuries for the next day. You can never tell with head wounds, but the cuts itself will leave a scar but it will heal in time", said a most relieved physician.

"Thank you Gaius, for all of this", said Arthur talking to Gaius, but looking at Merlin, covered in bandages and salve.

"Now if you will excuse me I have somewhere to be", said a very knowing Gaius and left the room quickly.

Arthur was silent. He didn't know what to say. He went for a stool and it was then he coughed and spoke.

"Merlin I must say this so don't speak. I came the morning and saw you in bed with Lancelot. I admit I was jealous, and angry. Angry at you both and angry at myself for not saying this, I love you". Merlin's eyes widened. He gwaped and closed his mouth again.

"Lancelot told me there was nothing going on between you, but made me promise to tell you. He is an honourable man and I couldn't refuse him. I've told Gwen, and she has admitted her feelings for Lancelot haven't gone away. So our engagement is off. I'm at your feet now Merlin. Please tell me if my feelings are returned or rejected!" said an earnest Arthur.

Merlin was speechless. He couldn't believe what had happened in the space of a day. He looked at Arthur, grasped his hands and said, "Yes, I do love you. " Arthur's face brightened and he tightened his hold on Merlin. "But, Arthur you still need to marry, we can't have a normal relationship, like husband and wife", he croaked in pain as he tried to move.

"I don't care about that Merlin, we will work something out. I love you, you love me. Gwen loves Lancelot and he her. We will have the here and now, and worry about the rest tomorrow. My carelessness and anger, pushing my emotions and you away almost cost you your life. I'm not doing that anymore. You are everything to me, "explained an earnest Arthur as he leaned forward to kiss Merlin.

This was their first kiss. Soft and tender. Arthur felt the dryness of Merlin's chapped lips under his but he wouldn't have swapped them for anyone. He swiped his tongue across Merlin's dry lips pressing for entry and Merlin moaned and gasped at this. Arthur thrust his tongue in and deepened the kiss.

This time Merlin moaned because he was in pain and Arthur hastily moved back, "Did I hurt you? Are you alright?"

"I'll be fine Arthur", whispered Merlin. "Just tired".

He leaned to kiss again, not hearing the door open. It was Gaius, Gwaine and Lancelot. They stared, smiled at each other and quietly left the pair to themselves. Unwilling to burst the bubble of happiness that was in the room. "About time the Princess got his act together and realised he loved Merlin. He was always a possessive prat", laughed a relieved Gwaine as the men left the happy couple alone for now away from the world. "Guard, no-one is to enter into that chamber unless the Prince or Gaius says so," said Lancelot looking at Gaius who nodded. The two new lovers where left to discuss their feelings whilst the onlookers moved away. What ever happened next at least they had each other. With that they could take on the world, including monsters, Morgana and the undead.