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A Dish Best Served Cold

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1 A Dish Best Served Cold on 6th April 2012, 16:15

The Friday Knights, Featuring Merlin Present:



Arthur's cousin Killhwch comes to Camelot and is presently knighted. This is a problem since the new "Sir K" is a bully, a liar, and secretly courting Lady Morgana on the side. At the same time, Arthur begins to collect a very deadly variety of lawn ornament. Can Merlin, Gwaine, and Leon put a stop to this revenge of the forest before Arthur ends up on the gnomes' dinner menu? And what has Galehaut so hot and bothered, anyway?


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2 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 7th April 2012, 04:44

Tables groaned with the weight of food, drink, and decoration that, under Galehaut’s watchful eye, had become rather more ornate than Gwaine’s original plan of daisy-in-a-pint-glass. Despite a misbehaving castle, errant round table, and the ineptitude of more than a few knights and a wizard at grasping the concept of “event planning”, the feast was going off without a hitch. It might have helped that Leon and Galehaut had both stepped in to mostly take control in the flurry of activity that was Arthur and Gwen coming back from their honeymoon. Arthur had certainly been of little assistance, since he’d been running around checking that everything was as he left it, although that was a surprisingly easy task. Gwaine and Leon had done a good job running the castle while he’d been off honeymooning, and there wasn’t much to fix. But he found better things to do than help organize the feast anyway.

So far, the feast was going off without a single hitch. It was going so well that Merlin was just waiting for something unexpected to happen. At any minute, he was sure, someone would just have to come running in to cause absolute uproar with the announcement that a troll had broke in and was running amok in the armory. But nothing happened. Everyone ate, and drank, and made merry. Then Arthur stood up to make a speech, and everyone hushed and turned to look at him. Even Gwaine stopped chattering at Percival and turned to listen.

Merlin stifled a yawn and stared across the hall. To the side and behind Arthur’s seat stood a short table with two weapons. Well, three, really, but two of them were a pair and so Merlin was counting them as one weapon. The crossbow, clearly a master’s work, was for Leon. The pair of short swords, again clearly crafted by a master, was for Gwaine. Arthur couldn’t just simply say ‘Thank you’ and hand them over, though. No, first he had to prose on at length about this, that, and the other thing. Not even half listening, Merlin heard a couple of ‘bequeath’s, a ‘portend’, some ‘wherefor’s, and a lot of other really formal words that Arthur only used when giving extensive speeches. Since he was clearly going to be talking for at least the next ten minutes, Merlin didn’t need to pay attention.

“…Merlin!” someone hissed, and he refocused, looking over at Arthur, who was glaring at him with the air of someone who has said his manservant’s name at least three times without being heard.

“Sorry, what?” he asked, while everyone stared.

“The crossbow, weren’t you paying any attention?” Arthur hissed under his breath, pretending to smile for the benefit of everyone else who couldn’t hear him getting annoyed with Merlin.

“Of course I was,” Merlin said, a little too innocently. The only response he got from Arthur was a roll of the eyes. As if the minor delay had been intended, Merlin picked up the crossbow, which he took first to Leon, who grinned and immediately started investigating it like a child with a new toy. Then he went back for the short swords, and took these down the table to Gwaine.

“He’s going to have you polishing his armor for the next twenty years,” Gwaine muttered as he took the swords.

“He said thirty, actually,” Merlin responded and returned to stand around looking responsible. But Arthur wasn’t done talking.

“And for accompanying the Queen and I on our honeymoon, as well as defending the camp against a truly giant elk beast that no doubt would have laid waste to everything were it not for his quick thinking, I bestow upon Merlin this,” and here Arthur pulled something out from under the table, “Golden mop.” To the laughter of all, he handed Merlin a very tacky, very gold-painted mop. Merlin, who told himself he’d known Arthur too long to not expect this, took it with a graciousness that was far too thorough to be serious or sincere. The king clapped him on the shoulder, still laughing at his own joke, and took something that Gwen, who was trying to mask a laugh behind a polite cough, handed him.

“You didn’t think I was serious, did you, Merlin? Honestly, where is your sense of humor?” Arthur asked as he ceased laughing, and handed over a knife, simply decorated, in a tooled scabbard on a sturdy belt. Merlin stared at it in confusion. “Go on, take it,” Arthur said, and set it in Merlin’s open hand.

“Er… thank you, Sire,” he responded, quite serious this time. Then Arthur clapped him on the shoulder again and grinned suddenly.

“Gwen said it should be a sword, but we can’t have you taking out half the army on accident,” he joked, completely spoiling the seriousness of the moment, and then turned and sat back down. On his other side, Gwen caught Merlin’s glance and looked briefly at the ceiling in amusement, then smiled as he stepped back from the table to look at the knife.


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3 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 9th April 2012, 04:17

“A double-action repeating crossbow with composite lath, a recovery spanning lever and ivory stock! How did you know?!”

Ignoring the sound of Gwaine’s palm hitting his face in exasperation, Leon hugged the new crossbow to his chest, and gave Merlin a hug too.

“Don’t mention it,” Merlin said, “I know you’ve had your sights set on a new one.”

Leon laughed and started fiddling about with the mechanisms. It didn’t take long at all to get used to the lever—one pull and he’d done what usually took him at least ten times longer before.

“Looks like you got short-changed, Leon!” Gwaine said, his new swords gleaming in his hands. But he was apparently dissatisfied that there were no mechanisms or gadgets associated with them like Leon had with his crossbow, and, feeling he needed to be doing *something* with them, took the opportunity to slice an apple in half with a hearty “Kah-cha!!”

“Stand and deliver!” Leon said with mock seriousness, and while Gwaine took a few fake swings at him with the swords Leon fired off a few nonexistent rounds of crossbow bolts at him, both of them adding their own realistic sound-effects.

“Pshoo! Pshoo!”

“Ha! Shing! Gotcha!”

“Gwaine, that’s enough!” said Arthur, to whom playing mock-war was a bit much, even at a feast. Leon quelled his giggles and lowered his crossbow obediently as Gwaine sheathed his swords.

“Why does he always yell at me?” Gwaine said petulantly.

“Well, it’s always you acting out, isn’t it?”

Gwaine sighed. “At least I’m building a reputation.” He suddenly smacked Leon in the chest with the back of his hand. “’Ey, is it time to—you know—“

“Everyone else is ready,” Merlin said in a low whisper.

“Let’s get to it then!”

They had the plan for what the Friday Knights were going to play weeks ago, and so the start of the program was business as usual. Gwaine opened up the evening with “Hello, I Love You” (a particularly fitting song for Gwaine, considering his developed preference for anything with two legs he met at the tavern). Leon sang a more rural song while he beat a fast rhythm on his lute, but during the fast verses of “I’ve just seen a face I can’t forget the time or place where we just met” and so on he tended to speed up—seeing Elaine in the audience made him almost unbearably nervous. Thankfully Lancelot and Galehaut, who had recently become the Friday Knight’s dynamic vocal duo, chimed in helpfully on the chorus and he managed to just get through it without his fingers falling off from the speed of it. The rest of the set went on all right, with Merlin helping to move instruments and directing backup musicians in the background. He stubbornly refused to help do anything more than the occasional cowbell for Galehaut when he sang, “I’m Burning for You.”

Except for the last song, which was the reason for the Friday Knights’ secrecy.

As they got ready for this last song, Leon’s mind flashed back to a few days ago, when the final program was being finalized. “I don’t know if ending with Percival’s song really has the right ring,” he said. “I think we need something a bit more personal—to show Arthur our loyalty.”

Leon couldn’t forget the grin that spread over Merlin’s face. “Oh—I’ve got something you can sing!”

“What?” Gwaine asked.

“That song that I always hum. I can’t think of the name, but you should see his face whenever I start to hum it accidentally, it’s priceless!”

“What, that song?” Leon laughed. “Come on, Merlin, that song’s for sweethearts!”

“It *is* about loyalty. And everyone knows it. Actually, I wouldn’t mind singing it myself…”

Well, with an offer like that, how could they refuse? The thought of seeing Arthur blush to his ear-tips with such a serenade was too much for any of them to pass up.

“Everyone ready?” Leon said, snapping back to the present as Merlin looked up and down the line of the Friday Knights. None of them played instruments on this song, playing back-up singers instead. They even choreographed a few moves, just to see the look on Arthur’s face.

The instruments came in, and as they did Merlin started to do his own dance moves. Merlin wouldn't be winning any dance competitions any time soon, but his ridiculous moves seemed to fit the song perfectly. a few members of the audience gave whoops of approval at this severely dated, but catchy, classic tune.

We’re no strangers to love,
You know the rules and so do I
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of,
You wouldn’t get this from any other guy
…!”

Arthur, who usually couldn’t be bothered with his Knights’ musical inclinations and had been staring out the window in boredom, sat up. “What? What’s that---?”

I just gotta tell you how I’m feeling, gotta make you understand!

Arthur pressed into the back of his chair as if he was being threatened with a sword. “Oh, God, no—”

Never gonna give you up!
Never gonna let you down!
Never gonna run around and desert you!
Never gonna make you cry
—“

“SILENCE!” Arthur shouted, and everyone including the musicians went silent just as Percival was belting out “Never gonna say goodbye!” before he realized and also shut his mouth.

“What was that?” Arthur demanded.

Merlin grinned. “You know—that song I’m always humming accidentally, and you always get it stuck in your head—“

“Yes, I can see that! Shut up, you lot!” Arthur said, suddenly turning on Leon and the other knights, who quickly tried to cover their laughter with coughs.

Merlin’s grin had faded. “Don’t you like it?”

“No!”

“Oh. Well, couldn’t we just--?”

“NO!”

“Ah. Right.”

The Friday Knights dispersed, somewhat more informally than they expected. Arthur was glaring at them, so no one dared give applause, but it was clear that behind her napkin Gwen was laughing her head off.

“What was all that about?” This came from Gaius, who caught Leon, Gwaine and Merlin on their way down from the stage they had been performing on.

“The princess is just sour, that’s all,” Gwaine said.

Leon laughed at Gaius’s disapproving expression. “Come on, Gaius, a little bit of fun never hurt anyone!”

Gaius raised an eyebrow. “Are you feeling alright, Leon?”

“It’s the ale,” Merlin said, jabbing Leon in the ribs.

“It’s the fact that he’s got a seat next to Lady Elaine!” Gwaine said with a grin.

Leon blushed. “Well—she just asked if I would like to join her—“

“—In bed!”

Before Leon could reply with a sufficiently witty comeback, or reply at all, the doors to the great hall were thrown open with an almost deafening crash.


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SG: Agent Double-Oh-Negative
Merlin: Sir Leon
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4 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 10th April 2012, 17:40

Maeglin

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"Hey, hey, heeeeyyy!"

Gwaine turned toward the doors, prepared, at worst, to draw his sword, or at best, to be annoyed--after all, he was the knight without whom the proverbial party did not start until he walked in--but found himself, upon clapping eyes on the visitor, pleasantly surprised.

"Kilhwch?" Arthur cried, and stood up.

Gwaine nodded at the newcomer, who flashed a smile and pointed in his direction before being crushed in a bear hug by the King, who had actually got up from his seat and rushed his cousin. The reunion was nothing short of precious, the two of them laughing and grinning and punching each other in the arm.

Which was why Leon turning pale and frowning had Gwaine very confused.

"Leon?" he hissed, elbowing the other knight. "What's wrong?"

Leon licked his lips. "It's...he...oh, God!"

Gwaine shook his head at the taller knight, determined to clarify what had his breeches in a bunch later. Now he stood and made his way over to the happy couple, along with Gwen and the rest of the knights.

"Gwaine! Percival, Lancelot, guys--I want you to meet my cousin: Kilhwch--Kilhwch, these are my Knights of the Round Table: Sir Gwaine, Sir Percival, Sir Lancelot, Sir Elyan, and Sir Galehaut."

"I've already had the pleasure," Gwaine said, holding up his hand to slow Arthur down as he offered the other for Kilhwch to shake. "How'd you find Camelot?"

"Oh, just as quaint as you said it would be," Kilhwch replied with a grin and a wink, shaking his hand heartily.

"Wait, how do you know each other?" Arthur demanded.

"Oh, Arthur," Kilhwch said, clapping his cousin on the back, "still haven't changed, 'eh? This guy cannot stand having secrets kept from him!" he laughed loudly and punched Arthur in the arm. The other knights joined in on the laughter.

Then Kilhwch caught sight of Queen Guinevere, who stood demurely in the background. "Helloooo, what have we here?" he asked, suddenly serious. He approached her, bowing low, and "My lady, my name is Kilhwch, son of Kilydd. Your servant," he said, kissing her hand.

Gwen nodded, strangely cool and aloof, and did not speak until Arthur approached. "This is my wife, Queen Guinevere. Gwen, Kilhwch is my cousin on my mother's side." Then he smiled broadly, back to being ecstatic. "My God, Kilhwch, I've missed you! How many years has it been? This calls for a celebration! What brings you here, cousin?"

"Well, Arthur, you know how it is, kicking around the castle the whole time, mother always nagging me to get out and seek my fortune, and, well, I thought, 'Let's go see how Arthur's doing!' and I get here and find out you're King, you're married to the most beautiful creature on earth, your knights are the finest in the land...Quite the setup you've got here!"

Arthur was practically bouncing. "That settles it! Merlin! Merlin, fetch me my sword--I must knight my cousin!"

Gwaine grinned broadly. It had been a long time since he had seen Arthur this happy. He couldn't figure out why Leon and Gwen especially looked a little put-out by Kilhwch's presence, and sent it away to be dealt with later when he'd not had quite so much mead and was intent on enjoying himself tonight.

"What's his name again?" Elyan whispered to him. "It's a bloody mouthful!"

Kilhwch turned and raised an eyebrow. Elyan blushed, not intending to be overheard. "Don't I know it!" he sighed, "It's 'Kilhwch.' Kill-hook, but like you're hawking up a loogie. It's a terrible name!"

Gwaine chuckled. "We could call you 'K'?"

"Oh, don't let Gwaine start," Lancelot grumbled. "He'd have everyone in the castle reduced to one-syllable names if given half a chance!"

But Arthur seemed to like this, too, or else it was already a nickname, for he had already produced a sword and was reciting, "I dub you Sir K, Knight of Camelot."

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5 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 13th April 2012, 02:37

Leon gulped, trying to stop himself from—what? Getting livid? Throwing “Sir K” out on his lying, cheating ass? Punching him senseless, right there in front of God and everyone?

“What’s wrong?” Merlin whispered as Arthur welcomed the beknighted K with another hearty slap on the back.

Leon sighed, hoping that would release some of his tension. “We were kids together,” Leon said through gritted teeth. “Well, I say together—Uther had me look after Arthur and—and *him*--“ But just saying that stirred up a host of memories that Leon had tried for the past ten of fifteen years to forget. The machinations of the pre-teen Arthur and his cousin had made Leon’s life hell for several miserable winters. The running off, the stealing, the stupid and dangerous pranks—

He turned to Merlin and took his shoulder. “Merlin, don’t trust him. He’s a lying, sadistic—“

“Sadistic? You wouldn’t be talking about me, would you?”

Leon stood very still as K approached with the all-too-familiar smarmy grin on his face, all the while thinking, Maybe he’s changed, maybe he’s finally learned to be decent. He barely forced a smile as K patted him on the shoulder.

“Leon, isn’t it?” K said. “Remember me? “How long has it been, Arthur?”

“Must have been fifteen years,” Leon managed.

“Fifteen years! Still running after Arthur, are you? Haha, I kid, I kid, but seriously, you’re hair’s getting a bit thin, don’t you think? But you were ancient all that time ago, anyway! How old are you, now?”

“Er—“

“Must be well-over thirty-five, by now, eh? Well, say no more, say no more, your secret’s safe with me.” He sighed. “Ah, seeing you brings back memories! Leon is a Camelot institution!” he smacked Leon in the chest. “Remember the time we put black boot polish on your brown shoes? And you went around blaming the servants!”

“Classic!” Arthur said as they fell into bouts of laughter.

“That—wasn’t funny—“ Leon said, “A servant got sacked….”

“…Priceless,” K said as he wiped a tear from his eye. “It’s good to see you, anyway, we’ll have to try sparring again sometime. Oh—by the way, your cloak’s on inside-out.”

Leon looked down, and blushed as he realized that, somehow, he had managed to spend the entire night with his cloak inside out. As he fixed it in a haze of livid rage and blushing embarrassment K wandered off to talk to Merlin, and one thought stuck in his mind: Well, he hasn’t changed a bit. How nice.


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6 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 16th April 2012, 01:11

With growing unease, Merlin stood nearby and listened to Sir K, who he wasn’t increasingly sure was actually tormenting Leon, and not merely kidding with him. He was finally convinced when K mentioned Leon’s receeding hairline. They all knew you just didn’t mention this kind of thing to Leon directly, even if it had become increasingly clear that his hairline did indeed seem to be getting further and further up his forehead every year- or so Merlin had been told, because he hadn’t really bothered noticing. In fact, as K continued badgering the eldest knight, Merlin was even happier to slip into the background unnoticed, hoping he’d remain that way and be able to sneak off without having words with Arthur’s cousin.

So it came as somewhat as a surprise as he was staring past Leon and saw a vague shimmer as the emblem on Leon’s cloak disappeared. Blinking, Merlin realized he could see the carefully sewn seams that never showed on the front of the knights’ cloaks, and realize that the cloak had turned itself inside out. At first he was panicked- had he accidentally done that? He’d been a little distrustful of his magic since that whole ordeal with the castle malfunctioning. That was when K mentioned to Leon that his cloak was turned inside out, without the blonde ever turning around. Merlin stopped wondering if he’d accidentally magicked Leon’s cloak to turn inside-out. It had, astonishingly, been K. Clearly Arthur didn’t know, or Merlin doubted he’d have been so happy to see his cousin.

Merlin looked sharply at K, but before he could do anything, Leon was huffily fixing the cloak and K was drawing him aside to chat with him. Merlin looked around, attempting to find something that needed doing, but everything was already being done.

“So! Merlin, is it? I’ve heard about you!” he said, grinning disarmingly. Merlin smiled back like a bewildered fawn.

“Er, yes?” he said, though whether this was an answer or a question was not exactly clear.

“Yes! You’re my cousin’s manservant, of course I’ve heard about you,” he said, putting a hand on Merlin’s shoulder so he couldn’t mumble an apology for being busy and run off. “I think we’re going to get along, Merlin,” he added.

“Er, why?” he asked, fearing that all these questions were not really making him sound very intelligent. He couldn’t think of any reason he’d want to be friends with this noble, who apparently thought it was hilarious to get servants fired. Also, Leon so rarely said a word against anyone (except maybe Gwaine) that Merlin reasoned Sir K had done something fairly awful to incite the other knight to such anger at the mere sight of him.

“Why, because,” here he looked around conspiratorily, and added a bit more quietly, “Because you do magic too, of course!” he said, and Merlin was taken aback. Luckily, when he was taken aback, he tended towards blank looks that could have been mistaken with either complete confusion or thoroughgoing stupidity, and he only paused a moment before blinking and stepping away from K.

“I… have no idea what you’re talking about, but you better not let the King find out, if you plan on sticking around for long,” he said, but Sir K only laughed, which was if anything even more unnerving than his friendly behavior. Merlin decidedly, belatedly, that he didn’t trust him as far as he could throw him- and that was without magic, since he probably could have chucked him right across the room with a spell if he had to.

“You’re not a good liar, Merlin, has no one ever told you that? Alright, then, whatever you say,” he chuckled and then stopped laughing, “But we both know better,” he said with a grin, and walked past Merlin back over towards Arthur, detouring by a table on the way, where a parcel Merlin didn’t think he’d noticed before was sitting. This he presented to Arthur, while Merlin skulked back to the table while trying to look like he wasn’t doing so. He would have liked to say something to Gwaine about the magic thing, or to Leon that he wholeheartedly agreed about K’s character flaws, but both of them were still standing with the king, so instead he went to bother Lancelot, who was going on at Galehaut about something, the two of them taking up the end of a table. When Merlin walked over, the ginger knight moved to the other side of the table next to Lancelot, and Merlin dropped onto the bench with a sigh. Lancelot finished what he’d been saying, and they both looked over at Merlin.

“Why, hello there, Merlin! How are you this evening?” Galehaut asked exuberantly, and then without pausing, went on, “We were just talking about-“

“About the crossbow and swords Arthur gave those two,” Lancelot interrupted, though the quick glance he threw in Gwen’s direction before gesturing with a nod at Leon and Gwaine fairly clearly betrayed what, or rather, who, they had actually been discussing. A little flicker of annoyance and dislike crossed Galehaut's face, but Merlin noticed only vaguely, watching K as Arthur opened the parcel to reveal a truly tacky little gnome with a red hat. It appeared to be made of stone or porcelain or something similar, and already Arthur was laughing and passing it around, clearly enamored. Not for the first time, Merlin wondered how it was that Arthur found such odd things to be inherently amusing.

“-a knife, didn’t he, Merlin?” Hearing his name, Merlin tried to remember what Lancelot had just been saying, and realized he’d been asking about the knife.

“What? Oh, yes. He said it would have been a sword, but he couldn’t have me taking out half the kingdom’s fighting forces on accident, or something,” Merlin answered with a grin. Next to him, Galehaut rolled his eyes at the comment as Gwen had done, and then grinned.

“Ah well, at least he remembered to give you something! Goodness knows you do enough work around this place!” Galehaut turned and looked at Arthur and the other knights, who were still admiring and laughing at the gnome statue, and his face took on an expression of both disgust and horror that made Lancelot also turn and look to see what had possibly caused that reaction.

“What in the world is that horribly tacky thing they’re so excited about?” Galehaut asked, and Merlin had to laugh at the absolute astonishment in both his voice and Lancelot’s slow, bemused headshake.

“That is Sir K’s wedding gift,” Merlin answered, “And I have no idea what’s so amusing about it.” Both knights shook their heads again in absolute bewilderment, but said nothing.


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7 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 17th April 2012, 16:17

Merlin was eventually called away to help with the clean-up as everyone started to head to bed for the evening, leaving Lancelot and Galehaut alone at the table, with a jug of wine still to finish. There was a bit of silence while Lancelot stared across the room.

“You ought to stop looking at Guinevere like that,” Galehaut said, seeing him staring. “Besides, I thought you were seeing Elaine.”

“Elaine? No, that’s Leon.”

“No—the other Elaine. The one from the Lower Town.”

“Oh, that Elaine,” Lancelot said glumly. “I couldn’t remember her name. You know she’s the third one this month?”

Galehaut sighed, patting him on the back. “The right one will come along, Lance.”

“She already has, and she’s married another man,” said Lancelot. He took a big drink of wine and sighed. “I’d better get off to bed.” He glanced at Galehaut. “You’re a true friend.”

“Good friend, am I?” Galehaut giggled. “Thanks! You better hope I don’t start giving you gifts like that, though,” Galehaut said, indicating the gnome that was tucked under Arthur’s sleepy arm as Gwen gently led him out of the hall.

Lancelot stared across the room, and wrinkled his nose. “Didn’t that gnome have both of its hands behind its back?”

Galehaut raised an eyebrow, peering inside the now empty wine jug. “I think you’re letting that business with the castle go to your head.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” Lancelot said. He stood, and swayed on the spot. Luckily Galehaut was there to catch him.

“Alright?” Galehaut said from somewhere in the vicinity of his armpit.

“Fine,” Lancelot said gruffly.

“Mmhm. Come on, up you come, Sir Drinks-a-lot….”

“Hey, watch it, Hauttie, that's Gwaine's nickname….”

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8 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 19th April 2012, 05:19

Maeglin

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((WARNING: here there be explicit sexual frustration Razz ))

Her smile, like a shark, the wet curve of her lips asking, “Whatever shall we do to pass the time?”

She kissed him—the sensation at once like fire and ice. She bit him until he tasted his own blood, and he retaliated, tasting hers.

“Someone likes it rough?” Her green eyes sparkled, her lips swollen and red with blood. The chains bit into his wrists and her nails dug into his sides and when he hissed, she chuckled, low in her chest so that it sounded like a growl and…

He liked it.

It was monstrous! She was monstrous! He was monstrous! It made him sick with disgust, and God! that made it even better! This wasn’t his average everyday I’m-a-red-blooded-man and she’s-a-woman-with-needs kind of lust. He needed her hatred as much as she needed his, if the way she was going after him was any indication.

“I am glad I please you,” Gwaine commented, with a wry grin. Even here, even now, he found space for his pride to swell.

“I’ll wait until you deliver before I say you please me,” she replied, nipping at his ear, making him suck in a breath.

She unchained him from the wall, using magic to pin him to the bed. He, high as a kite on whatever sorcery she had bewitched him with, went quietly. But he couldn’t help wondering if he would have fought her even if she hadn’t drugged him.

Their bodies rippled, at once tender and violent, sultry and sweaty, needy and angry. Her nails were as sharp as her skin was smooth. Her bedsheets were satin. Her hair tickled where it fell about him. She smelled coppery: like hard things, metal and blood, except her hair smelled like roses. Everything about her was cold. Her eyes, her touch, everything: and in the heat of the moment all he wanted was to press every inch of himself to her, to warm her, or perhaps to cool himself…

Gwaine woke panting, drenched in sweat, his blankets kicked to the floor.

Among…other problems.

Why, oh, why on earth was he dreaming about Morgana? Was he remembering? Certainly he had missed something when she captured him and bewtiched him when they had infiltrated Tintagel, and God help him if he was remembering—but then again, maybe it would be worse if he was making all of this up.

Dawn was just breaking outside. Gwaine leapt out of bed, changed and dressed quickly. There were a few things he could see himself wanting to do right now, most of them fairly depraved, but at any rate sleep was not one of them!

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9 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 21st April 2012, 02:35

Leon didn’t have a very good night’s sleep either. He hadn’t had much good rest since he started semi-courting Elaine. That made the other knights howl with laughter when they heard it, and Leon would stammer that “he didn’t mean like that” and try to explain what he was…feeling? He didn’t have a lot of experience with feelings. His parents didn’t exactly encourage emotive exploration, and Leon had developed exactly three different feelings—the first was the normal one, the second was the angry one, the third was this sort of odd stomach-tightening one that usually happened to him when Camelot was in danger. It wasn’t fear, it was—concern. Or something.

Just sitting with Elaine for an hour or two during the Homecoming feast (that was about all her father would allow) made his heart beat fast and his hands itch and his ears burn. This feeling—if that’s what it was—put thoughts in his head that he couldn’t get out. It made him want to make love to her. It wasn’t as romantic a thought as Lancelot made it sound in his poems. It was a guttural feeling, raw and graphic. The movement of her lips (lips that could rival those of the most beautiful goddess) intensified the feeling, as he imagined those lips kissing him all over, his beard rubbing against her neck in a secluded corridor, as his hands squeezed her silk-clad breasts—

It always devolved like that, making Leon feel like an utter pillock.

…Okay, so there were four emotions he understood, then. Still—he was perfectly happy with his four emotions, he didn’t need another?

He got up early, only to find that Gwaine was already up, sitting in the armory with a jug of beer.

“When you say its five o’ clock somewhere, I didn’t think you meant five o’ clock in the morning,” Leon said.

Gwaine gave a grin, but it was forced. Leon figured it was just from the early hour—but why was he up, then?

“I know that look,” Gwaine said, as Leon sat down.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re lusting after someone.” Gwaine’s wicked grin told Leon he didn’t need to guess.

Leon blushed. “You can’t prove a thing.”

“Sure.”

They sat in silence for a bit. “…Is that what…” Leon gestured wildly, but how did you pantomime a feeling? “this is?”

Oh yeah. Trust me.”

Leon shook his head. “I can’t stop thinking about her when we’re apart, but then when we’re together I just fall to pieces.”

Gwaine laughed. “You’ve got it easy, mate.”

“What? How is this easy?”

“Because there’s hope for you. Oh, you’ll pussyfoot around it, but eventually she’ll probably ask you to marry her, or I’ll succeed in getting you pissed enough to pop the question, and then you’ll finally get laid and stop being a bloody constant annoyance!”

Clearly Leon had touched a nerve. “You shouldn’t talk about women that way. They’re a bit of an odd territory, I’ll grant you, but—“ he began, but Gwaine plowed on ahead.

“At least you’re not madly in lust with your worst enemy who’d just as soon eat your ballocks for breakfast as look at you—and I don’t mean in a good way! She just couldn’t keep her grabby hands to herself, and let me tell you, it clearly had been too long since her last meal by the time she sunk her claws into me! And now the vile woman put her ‘fluence on me! I’m still having these glorious dreams about her chaining me to her bed and doing awful, terrible, evil, disgusting, wonderful things to me! And I know I shouldn’t—and that only makes it me want it more!”

It seemed that Gwaine realized that he was shouting, and, for the first time, Leon saw him blush.

“…I was just saying I don’t really understand women,” Leon said.

Gwaine coughed. “Yeah?” He took a drink, hiding his face.

“What’s all that stuff about grabby hands?”

Gwaine looked up from his beer as if he just realized Leon was there. “Hmm? Oh, nothing.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Nnnope.”

“You sure?”

“Yes!” And with that Gwaine picked up his beer and left the armoury, leaving Leon even more confused than before.


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10 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 23rd April 2012, 05:59

Merlin yawned and looked at the plates sitting on the table in the kitchens, idly sidestepping as the cook walked behind him with a bread-laden baking stone intended for the oven. He’d gotten up slightly earlier than usual because, this being Gwen and Athur’s first "official" morning back from their honeymoon, and having not been able to make anything really decent tasting while he’d been accompanying them, he’d wanted to take them a really good breakfast. It wasn’t even that he’d had to get up much earlier than usual to accomplish it, but since he’d been up far, far too late the previous night at their welcome home banquet, he was feeling incredibly sleep deprived. And also hungry, because he hadn’t eaten yet either. His stomach growled, and he grabbed the plates to take them upstairs, because if he didn’t do so soon, he’d probably end up eating one himself. That probably wouldn’t go over well, although the mental image of Arthur’s face if he handed a half-empty plate to him and said, “I made you breakfast, but then I ate it,” did make him laugh.

He knocked before he entered, but the door was already slightly ajar and he heard three voices inside conversing, which made him pause for a moment before he remembered Arthur’s visiting cousin. Then he shrugged. If K wanted to get up early to chat with his cousin, that was fine, but Merlin wasn’t his manservant or his friend, so he wouldn’t be getting him breakfast.

“Arthur, I brought you and Gwen-“ he stopped suddenly, having turned from opening the door to see that Arthur and Gwen were already eating with K. They all looked up at him when he entered, and he stood foolishly holding the plates, wishing he could possibly hide them behind his back and spare himself the embarrassment. Clearly Arthur hadn’t been responsible for the breakfast. Merlin was pretty sure he hadn’t been in the kitchens in any of the years he’d known him, and besides… he’d been there the whole morning. Speaking of that, how had K snuck in and out without him noticing? Maybe he’d beaten him to the kitchens and left before Merlin had even showed up.

While he was standing there with what was probably a thoroughly stupid look on his face, K took the opportunity to speak up, and Merlin wondered if this hadn’t been a deliberate attempt to elbow in on his own duties. If it had, why couldn’t he have polished some bloody armor, and left Arthur and Gwen out of it? As much as Merlin dared, he gave K a withering look, but there was a limit to the angry faces you could make at the king’s cousins with the king sitting right there staring at you. Especially when said king had known you for long enough to know when you were making irritated faces.

“I’m sorry, Merlin, did no one in the kitchens tell you I’d already been in?” K asked with infuriating innocence. Merlin forced himself to smile, and shook his head. “Well, I’m sure they just forgot. Perhaps someone else would be glad of the food?” he asked, and Merlin looked at the plates he was still holding. Past them, he caught a glance of that hideous gnome K had brought with him. It was standing next to one of the legs of the bed, staring straight forward with a cheery ceramic gaze. Straight forward? Hadn’t it been looking off to the side last night? Merlin squinted at it, trying to remember, but he didn’t remember things well when annoyed.

“Oh, come now, Merlin, don’t be so sullen. It’s one less thing you have to worry about! Besides, now you have more time to go deal with the horses. We’ll be going on a hunt after K has met the knights at practice,” Arthur said, which was possibly the one thing he could have said to make this morning even worse. Of course Merlin’d have to go along, and he hated hunts. But Arthur wasn’t quite done talking. “And K is going to ride Diablo, since his horse is still tired. I’m sure Gwaine will let you borrow one of his horses,” he said, the icing on the cake. Merlin muttered something that sounded vaguely like, “Yes, sire,” and turned around to leave before anyone could say anything else. He went straight to the kitchens and dumped the food into a napkin to take to the practice field, where he was sure Gwaine or someone would eat it. He entered the armory to find that Gwaine was half-in, half-out of his armor, one whole sleeve of it sitting on the bench in front of him.

“Arthur and Gwen didn’t want this, so I thought you might like it,” Merlin said tiredly as he walked in, setting the tied up napkin next to the sleeve.

“Not right now, but if you leave it I’ll eat it,” he said around an end of one of the ribbons that tied the armor he was wearing together. Merlin’s reaction was more overreaction, and mistaking Gwaine’s statement for altogether not wanting the food, he threw both hands in the air with an annoyed growl and stalked back towards the door.

“Oi! What’re you so cranky about?!” Gwaine half shouted indignantly to him as he changed his mind and, instead of shouldering the door open, looked for something to fix. Aggressively.

“NOTHING,” Merlin snapped, snatching up a nearby discarded arm guard that had broken in the middle of practice and endeavoring to repair it.



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11 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 23rd April 2012, 06:54

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"Put that down, Merlin, you're just going to break it," Gwaine snapped, leaving the shoulder-plate he was wrestling with to drop, swinging on it's hinge. He stalked over and snatched the bracer from Merlin's grasp.

"It's already broken," Merlin replied, snatching it back.

Gwaine, not really sure why he was so angry--well, of course he knew why, but why his freaky fantasy frustrations translated into being mad at Merlin for fiddling with a busted arm guard was beyond him--in fact, the whole scene was playing out like he was watching someone else do it--snatched the bracer back and cuffed Merlin in the back of the head. "Stop it, Merlin, my God, what's gotten into you this morning?"

"What's gotten into you?" Merlin shouted back. "You wake up on the wrong side of a hangover this morning? Or is this what you're always like when you're up before noon?"

"What the hell was that for?"

"I don't know! I brought you breakfast and you treat me like an idiot!"

"Maybe you are an idiot!"

"Takes one to know one!"

Gwaine advanced on Merlin, probably, in his current stupidly angry mood, about to do something truly idiotic like try to hurt his best friend whose lack of any kind of muscle mass belied the fact that he was actually a powerful sorcerer who could probably snap Gwaine's neck without any trouble. Just as he raised his hand, Gwaine saw Merlin's eyes sparkle gold, and perhaps in fear or perhaps realizing what he was about to do, he managed to rein in the retarded and his fist instead connected with the wall just to the side of Merlin's head.

Merlin flinched, the gold gone.

"I'm--" WHAM! "not--" BAM! "mad--" CRASH! "at--" WHACK! "you!" Gwaine gasped out as he repeatedly pounded his fist into the wall.

The good news was, this kept him from taking out his anger on the faultless Merlin. Also good, the pain in his hand and wrist now outweighed whatever might have been going on with his downstairs brain. It gave him something else to focus on, anyway, and perhaps even satisfied him, but he wasn't going to go there.

The bad news was--

"Holy fecking shite!"

Gwaine immediately turned away from Merlin, holding his wrist and fairly mangled hand. He didn't even want to look at it now. It was the same hand that not a week before had been shot clean through by--

Best not to think about her.

"Sorry!" Gwaine barked, like this was somehow Merlin's fault and it was painfully obvious he clearly hadn't actually worked anything out of his system and now Lancelot was going to kick his arse because he wasn't going to be doing anything with his right hand and--

Gwaine stalked out the door before he could do something else massively stupid.

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12 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 23rd April 2012, 22:13

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((Double-post! Whatcha gonna do?))

Gwaine skulked out of the armory, now wrestling with his plate mail one-handed and nursing a bruised ego. What was he doing, taking out his anger on poor, not-so-defenseless Merlin? Why was he angry? WHY WAS HE LETTING THIS GET TO HIM?

He had to get laid. Or completely pissed. Preferably both, preferably within an inch of his life.

"Ho, there, G!"

Gwaine looked up, trying not to bite Kilhwch's head off. "Morning, K," he growled.

"Hey, bro, need a hand?" K charged ahead, probably willfully not noticing Gwaine's foul mood. He set to screwing in the shoulder plate that had been giving Gwaine so much trouble, and then patted Gwaine on the back. "There we are. Hey! So! Training! Where is that again? Wait! Why don't you show me?"

Gwaine shrugged noncommittally.

"Everything all right, man? You look like you could use a drink!"

That at least got Gwaine's attention. "Is it that obvious?" he asked, smiling sheepishly.

K winked invitingly, and produced a flask. He looked around and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "Just between you and me, I may be in possession of the only bottle of agave spirits in all of Albion."

Gwaine took the flask, eyeing it like it was made of gold, diamonds, and sex. "You're kidding!"

"Try it!"

"Are you sure?" Gwaine looked around, too, now. "This has got to be worth more than..." he trailed off.

"The palace coffers?" K supplied helpfully.

"I was going to say Leon's virginity," Gwaine admitted.

K barked out a loud laugh that echoed down the hallway. "Ha! That's pretty funny--consider it stolen. And if that doesn't deserve a drink, nothing does! Might take the edge off that hand, there, too."

"It's fine," Gwaine grimaced--he still hadn't looked at his hand, as though maybe ignoring it would make the pain go away--and took a swig of the sharp, burning-sour-flavored liquid.

"God, that's good!" he said, once the euphoria had worn off, leaving behind a warmness and a sense that all was right with the world. K had also taken a drink and, so fortified, they made their way to the training grounds. Gwaine was almost jovial, having forgotten, for the moment, about his injured hand and his awkward dreams. "You're a good guy, K," Gwaine decided. "You liven the place up."

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13 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 25th April 2012, 00:03

“Well? Did you find him?”

“Now, don’t freak out, Leon…”

“I have every right to freak out. I know for a fact that Gwaine got up early this morning and yet he can still manage to be late for practice! How is that even possible? Anyway, I’m not freaking out.”

“Don’t worry,” Galehaut said. “In about ten minutes he’ll come around that corner with a bottle of some liver-pickling agent and ask what we were all waiting for.”

And in a few minutes Gwaine did, with K at his side. There was no bottle to be seen but as they approached Leon distinctly smelled some kind of sour alcohol…

“Morning, everyone!” K said with a grin. “Having a late start, eh, Léon?” It seriously bugged Leon that K was one of the few people to pronounce his name correctly, but he tried to ignore it. “No matter—Arthur wanted you to introduce me today, anyway.”

“Men, this is Sir Killhwch of Cornwall,” Leon said, making sure to give the name the correct inflection, which made more than one of the knights snicker. But Leon didn’t want to give K any more time for chit-chat, so that was all the introduction he was going to get. “Everyone form partners, we will be sparring with sword and shield today.”

The knights moved off and Leon started to follow them when K took him by the shoulder. “I hope you’re going to give your lady over there a better show than shield practice,” K said, with characteristic ease.

“What are you talking about?” Leon dropped down in front of one of the sword boxes and started to get things in order, hoping K would go away.

“Lady Elaine! Obviously!” He pointed at Elaine, who had taken up her usual spot near the front of the bleachers. “I introduced myself to her after you headed off last night. Really a sweet girl, I wouldn’t mind looking after her myself, if you know what I mean. ”

“No, I don’t,” Leon said, but as he said this K waved at her, and to Leon’s horror she actually smiled and waved back. God, did everyone like him…?

“Seriously, though,” K continued, “You’re going to give her the wrong idea about you.”

Leon tried to ignore him, pretending to be focused on getting the ties right on his scabbard.

“You shouldn’t be so uptight. She’s a woman—you’re a man. You’re supposed to rough her up. That’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Believe me, I can tell when a man is holding back.”

“Holding—what?”

“You never could do anything fun in moderation, could you? It’s alright, though—you don’t want to be pulling any punches in this department.” He turned and shouted at Elaine. “Don’t worry, my lady! He’ll soon show his teeth! Give him an inch and he’ll walk a mile!”

“Leon! Get these men organized! I want to be done in an hour!”

Leon turned at the sound of Arthur’s voice to see the young King approach and push in between him and K to get to the sword boxes. He was thankful for the excuse to get away, and stormed off through the crowd of knights as Arthur and K started chatting.

Gwaine reached out of the crowd and grabbed his arm. “Listen, Leon, I don’t think I’ll be training with shield today.”

Leon smelled more than wine on his breath. “What else have you been drinking?”

“Just something K had. Why?”

Leon looked down to see Gwaine rubbing his hand, which was quite swollen. “What happened to your hand?”

“Nothing, okay?” Gwaine said, looking angry, too. “Is there a problem?”

“Leon, you never told me where to put these extra shields,” Merlin said, appearing suddenly to tug at Leon’s elbow.

“Hold on,” Leon snapped, and turning back to Gwaine, said, “Look, if you can’t show up for training ready to, I don’t know, train…”

“I never said I wasn’t ready to train,” Gwaine said, his voice rising. “It’s nothing! I just punched a wall, that’s all! I didn’t expect a kind of Inquisition!”

Merlin’s tugging became more annoyed. “I’ve polished them once already, I’m not going to let them get dirty again—“

“Will you just stop for a second?” Leon barked.

“Well, you’re the one that’s freaking out!” Merlin snapped.

“I’M NOT FREAKING OUT--!”

“Whoa, now!” This came from, surprisingly Galehaut, who stepped forward and inserted himself in between the three of them as they turned to look. “What, what, what are you doing?”

Leon blushed, only now realizing how angry he got. Thankfully, Gwaine and Merlin looked embarrassed, too.

“We couldn’t blame that on an enchantment, could we?” Gwaine said after the awkward silence, which got a laugh from Merlin.

Galehaut just tsk-ed. “No. It’s just the typical masculine response to the introduction of new personalities into close quarters, combined with lack of sleep and a feeling of lack of appreciation.”

Leon, feeling he had better make up first, said, “Sorry.”

“Sorry.”

“Sorry.”

“Right,” Galehaut said, clapping his hands, “Who’s up for some calming stretches? Anyone?”

"Arthur might be," Merlin said, and to Leon's dismay he saw Arthur storming towards them. When he reached them he folded his arms, and cleared his throat.

"I'm sorry," Arthur said in his condescending sing-song voice as Leon looked down at his feet, "But are we having a training session with the Knights of the Round Table, who, need I remind you, I spoke very highly of last night? Because it almost looks like we're playing silly buggers!"

"Sorry, sir," Leon said quickly.

"I mean, really! I thought that I was going to have to pull you lot apart! If it wasn't for Galehaut--Galehaut, have I knighted you, yet?”

Merlin's mouth dropped open. Galehaut, for his part, turned as bright red as his hair. “Eh?”

"No, you haven't, sire," Leon said, grinning.

“Well, he deserves it. Goodness knows I wouldn't have jumped in there. Someone get my a real sword. Come on, we haven’t got all day. The hunting party will leave no later than noon!”

Leon shook his head in exasperation at Arthur's flippant manner, although Arthur had in reality given the matter a great deal of thought and was simply waiting for the right time. As Galehaut nervously kneeled before Arthur and Arthur had his fun lording it over the new knight, Leon's eyes met K’s again. He was grinning. “Aren’t you going to thank me for stirring them up for you, Hauttie?” he said as Sir Galehaut rose from the field.

Apparently K’s grin had the opposite effect on Galehaut that it did on Leon, because Galehaut only gave his characteristic laugh and walked off to the sword boxes with K, saying “You really shouldn’t rile them up so, you naughty person,” and proceeded to spar with him. But Galehaut could get on with anyone.

“Alright, Gwaine,” Leon said, putting K from his mind. “We’ll spar together. You’re ambidextrous, aren’t you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gwaine said, his manner getting hostile again.

“Nothing, just—”

“I’m joking, old man. I could beat you with both hands tied behind my back…”


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14 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 28th April 2012, 16:07

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As they finished training early and started saddling up for the hunt, Gwaine approached Merlin, head down, hands wringing, and obviously penitent.

"So..." Gwaine began.

Merlin laughed, held up a hand before he even began. "No, it's okay, Gwaine, I was at fault, too. I'm sorry."

"No, I--I just had a--er, a bad night," Gwaine said, determined to see this through to the end, "and I really shouldn't have shouted. Or tried to punch you, anyway. You're a good friend, and you deserve better than that. I was completely out of line, and I hope you can forgive me..."

"Gwaine?"

"Yes?" Gwaine tried, innocently enough.

"You're only like this when you want something from me."

Gwaine's transformation was instant. The sad, pleading eyes turned suddenly playful, and he laughed. "Damn, Merlin! I'm normally quite good at pretending to be sorry!"

Leon, who overheard this outburst, whipped his head around and scolded, "GWAINE!"

"Sorry, Leon," Gwaine practically begged, lowering his head and eyes and everything until Leon, satisfied, turned back to being distracted by the Lady Elaine. "See?" he added quietly with a wink at Merlin.

"You're hopeless," Merlin giggled, shaking his head at Gwaine. "What is it you want?"

Now Gwaine really was embarassed. He held up his hand, suddenly giving new meaning to being 'caught red-handed.' Merlin actually gasped a little, which didn't make him feel any better.

"Gwaine, why didn't you show me this immediately? I didn't know you'd hurt it that bad!"

"Oh, come on," Gwaine tried, his grin fading, "it's not that bad. I cleaned off the cuts. It just needs a wrap."

"This is the hand Morgana shot, isn't it?"

"Mmmmmaybe?" Gwaine shifted his feet.

Merlin grumbled to himself, inspecting the damage.

"So can you fix it?" Gwaine asked. He wagged his eyebrows, hinting wildly.

Merlin played coy, or at least dumb. "Well, I can wrap it up for now, but you really should have Gaius look at it. It's probably broken!"

"No, Merlin," Gwaine said. "I mean....you know.... Can you...fix it?"

Merlin blinked.

"Christ, Merlin, do I have to spell it out?"

"Ohh!" Merlin squeaked, realizing he meant magic. "No, Gwaine, I can't!" He practically jumped back as he looked around guiltily.

"Oh, sure you can, come on," Gwaine hissed. "Nobody's looking."

Merlin shook his head, reclaiming Gwaine's hand and beginning to inspect it earnestly. In between Gwaine's hisses of pain, he explained in a low whisper, "Healing magic is incredibly hard to master, Gwaine. I simply can't do it most of the time. And I'm afraid if I tried I'd only make it worse. You can't just go around being reckless all the time and expect me to put you back together--"

"Ow! How did this become my fault?" Gwaine pouted.

"Yeah, right, because the wall totally started it," Merlin said, and with that, Gwaine deflated. There was silence as Merlin wrapped the injured limb. "So...do you need to talk about why--"

"No," Gwaine said hurriedly. Then, because he felt it was expected, though he figured he knew the answer: "Do you?"

"No!"

"Glad we got that cleared up, then," Gwaine smirked. He let his eyes wander to the gathering crowd. "Man, all these girls along to show off for and I'm crippled. Bugger this."

"Who's fault is that?" Merlin mock-scolded.

"Oh, yours," Gwaine said, but without malice. "Help me get the light saddle on Studly? That way if I have to let go of the reins I can--"

"Are you kidding, Gwaine?! I'm not going anywhere near that terror! Shouldn't you ride one of your...saner horses, since you'll be riding one-handed?"

"One-handed?"

Merlin was looking at him like he was stupid. "Yes. Do I need to put it in a sling to remind you?"

"What?"

"Gwaine, you broke your hand! You have to let it heal!"

"And, what, cock the crossbow with my teeth?"

Merlin looked at him, appalled, probably on multiple levels.

"I was kidding, Merlin. Don't be such a girl."



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15 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 1st May 2012, 04:28

All the horses were saddled, the dogs were milling about like confused ants at a disturbed ant mound, and the knights were trying to find their various and sundry hunting weapons. Merlin was staying out of the way, holding the reins of the placid Diablo, who was standing with a hind leg cocked and half-heartedly sniffing at a tuft of grass by Merlin’s feet. K was also muddling around looking for his weapons, and didn’t appear capable of leading a horse around with him without causing a minor wreck, so he’d left it to Merlin to make sure the black horse didn’t go wandering off.

“Ah, there you are, Merlin! What are you doing with Diablo? You’re supposed to be riding one of Gwaine’s horses,” Arthur said, stopping next to Merlin for a moment, “And I need you to find my spear, in case we see any boar,” he added. Merlin gave him a look that strongly implied he had a few words to say about the individual who should have been looking after Diablo, but instead he turned to another of the servants running around and asked the young boy to hold the reins so he could go find the blasted spear. It was right where it was supposed to be, of course, which was probably why Arthur hadn’t been able to find it.

As they were all finally about to mount up and head off to the forest, Gwaine came practically bounding up to Merlin, carrying the reins of a perpetually startled-looking little grey horse.

“Oh no. I’m not riding Willow! He’ll run off and throw me in the lake or something!” Merlin protested as Gwaine handed him the reins.

“Do you always complain this much, or is today a special occasion?” Gwaine asked, and when Merlin looked about to get angry all over again, held up both hands in mock-surrender. “Joking! I was only joking. Don’t worry, I won’t let Pussy Willow run off with you. Just stay by me and Studly Royale here, and you’ll be fine,” he said. The other horse in question was currently looking at Merlin with what he was convinced was a look of pure evil. But Gwaine only laughed and harassed Merlin until he swung into Willow’s saddle.

“I am going to die,” Merlin stated morosely, staring at the grey ears in front of him.

“What, and rob us all of your charming optimism and eternal good-naturedness? Banish the thought,” Gwaine joked. Since he was facing his own horse, about to drag himself one-handed into the saddle, he missed the tell-tale yellow eyes of his friend doing magic. He also missed the ever so slight stretch of the leather boots on his feet as they grew perhaps a whole size. But when he went to put his boot in the tall stirrup, he fumbled and nearly fell when Royale decided to step away at the last moment. Merlin laughed and said something smart that was lost under Arthur’s shout as they all moved out. Turning to catch up with the king, Merlin noticed that K had already taken up his usual place on the king’s right, and he fell back a few paces, looking crestfallen and wildly out of place until Leon rode up next to him.

“Arthur seems glad to see his cousin,” Merlin said, trying not to sound cranky. Leon looked forward at the pair of them and snorted softly.

“That makes one of us, then,” he said, and Merlin actually laughed, glad to hear someone else speaking less than enthusiastically about the new visitor.


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16 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 2nd May 2012, 05:08

It didn’t surprise Leon that Merlin didn’t like K either. K never liked servants, and he no doubt trod on Merlin’s toes in some way since he arrived.

Leon made some room to allow Gwaine to ride next to him and Merlin as they headed out to the forest, but Gwaine just gave them a wave and rode up to join K and Arthur at the front of the line instead, and, a moment later, they took up the hunt after a boar.

“Look at them,” Leon sighed to Merlin as he watched them. “They’re so chummy they could be related. Except Gwaine, of course.”

“I imagine K likes hunting as much as Arthur,” Merlin groaned. “It’ll be ages before we’re through.”

“Cheer up, Merlin!” Leon said, hefting his new crossbow onto his shoulder. “Here, I’ve got a riddle for you.

A serpent swam in a silver urn,
A golden bird did in its mouth abide.
The serpent drank the water, this in turn
killed the serpent, then the gold bird died
.”

“Geoff’s been helping you find these last ones, I’m sure of it,” Merlin said, still apparently determined to be cross despite his thoughtful expression. But for all of Merlin’s complaints he had guessed Leon’s last two riddles within a few minutes of the telling, and Leon recognized the look that Merlin got when he was close to working it out.

“While you’re thinking about that,” Leon said, eager to distract the young man from guessing the answer for a bit at least, “you can try out the crossbow.”

“What?” Merlin’s eyebrows shot up. “No! I mean, it’s yours! Besides, I don’t like hunting.”

“Merlin, have you even tried hunting before?”

“Uh, no! I’m a servant. I’m just supposed to whack the bushes with sticks and shout ‘hey-ho!’ and ‘wha-hey’ and other stupid sounding things that Arthur can come up with.”

“Well, you’ve got a horse to ride— you might try a shot or two and find you like it.”

“But—! None of you are wearing armor!”

“You’re not going to hit anyone,” Leon laughed. “Here, I think you’ll find this one’s easier to work with than others.”

As he handed the crossbow over to Merlin, he happened to glance back and see what he had already suspected—that Gwen and Elaine were riding directly behind him. Once Gwen announced that she would be joining the hunting party, a few other ladies also decided to come, among them being Elaine. He could hear them talking behind him, and didn’t want to interrupt.

Besides, he saw a pheasant hiding in a bush not twenty feet away!

“Here, Merlin, try to aim for that pheasant,” he whispered, trying to ignore the women as he pointed excitedly. Merlin furrowed his brow but decided to humor Leon and, once he managed to winch the first bolt into place, took aim.

“Like—like this?” he said uncertainly.

“Try to get the sights aligned,” Leon said with a grin. He loved teaching people, especially Merlin. It was kind of like a father-son bonding moment. “It might help to close one eye the first time. Get it against your shoulder there...there we go.”

As he reached over to show Merlin how to hold the crossbow properly he heard a gasp and glanced back to see Elaine looking at him with a concerned look on her face.

“You’ve dropped your reins!” she said, sounding worried.

Leon looked down. He was so used to steering his horses using leg pressure that he often dropped the reins without noticing. But he did notice that Elaine looked quite ill-at-ease atop her horse, though.

“It’s alright, my lady,” Merlin said with a grin. “Leon’s got it under control. He's very good with things in between his—“ he stopped, suddenly realizing he should stop talking, like, ten seconds ago. He turned back to the crossbow with overly-interested focus. “Anyway, is this how I hold it?”

Leon tried to ignore Elaine’s giggles, turned back to the task at hand. “Yes, you’ve got it. Steady…steady…now, there’s going to be a bit of a recoil, so hold firm, and just ease the trigger back.”

Merlin, who looked like he had both eyes closed, gave the trigger a squeeze. But he apparently wasn’t expecting the recoil to be quite so strong, and physically rocked back in the saddle as the crossbow bolt went into the bushes with a squawk and a frantic explosion of feathers.

“Good shot!” Leon said, punching the horrified Merlin on the shoulder. "You just grazed it. Quick, fire again--!"

"Wh-what? I hit it?!”

“Yes!” Leon said, trying to sound congratulatory though he was starting to feel uncertain as a look of abject horror appeared on Merlin’s face.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!” Merlin whined, the crossbow shaking in his hands.

Leon steadied his arm. “Come on, Merlin, put it out of its misery!”

Merlin whimpered an “I’m sorry!” and shot again. There was another squawk, another explosion of feathers—

“Leon its not dead yet!”

Leon gulped. He had never before seen a pheasant take two crossbow bolts like that! Now it was flopping around desperately, blood spattering everywhere.

“Now, it’s alright, Merlin—!“ Leon said urgently.

“No it’s not!” Merlin screamed as the pheasant flopped toward them, making Pussy Willow whinny. “LEON ITS COMING AT ME LEON HELP!!!”

Leon, realizing the situation was hopeless, grabbed the crossbow from Merlin, pulled Pussy Willow and Merlin behind him and his horse, and fired with one hand. Just once. The pheasant lay still at his horse’s feet, three crossbow bolts sticking out of it.

“There,” Leon said. “See? Hunting’s fun.”

Merlin was trembling from head to toe, and had gone as white as a sheet.

“Merlin!” Arthur’s voice called from up ahead. “We’ve spotted a hart—come on!”

Merlin gave Leon a look of terrified anguish and rode off miserably after Arthur. Leon tried to avoid Elaine’s look of concern as he urged his horse forward. But Merlin’s lost innocence was soon forgotten amidst the thrill of hunting something bigger than a pheasant. He tried to show off a little as they chased the deer down, weaving in between the trees and firing his crossbow with perfect precision at the quarry. Once everyone got back into formation and the reshuffling had settled down Leon found himself riding side-by-side with Elaine.

“That was fantastic!” she said. "I wish I could ride a horse like that!"

“It’s not hard, once you’ve gotten used to it,” Leon said. He indicated the straw-colored horse she was riding. “Is this one yours?”

“No, this is one of my father’s. I have another horse at home— more a pony, really— not so big as this one. Not that big is a bad thing.”

Leon wasn’t going to say anything, but at this he felt he he better say something to avoid that awkward silence. He coughed. “Has Lord Bernard chosen a day for your departure?”

“He says he would like to return to Ascolat by the end of the month.”

“This month?” Leon gulped. They had stayed longer than the other wedding guests, but there was no reason for them to leave so soon as that! He needed time to keep inadvertently meeting her and accidentally have an excuse to talk to her and—well, keep doing this kind of thing.

“Yes.” She grinned. “I shall have to enjoy your company while I can, I suppose.”

“Oi! I found something!”

“Excuse me,” Leon said, his heart beating a mile a minute. Feeling a bit more dashing than was proper, he urged his horse onward without picking up the reins, sending it charging forward with the other knights and with his crossbow held high.

But he could see no game when he thundered to the front of the party and pulled up beside Gwaine. Gwaine was pointing into a thicket.

“Another pheasant?” Leon guessed, taking aim.

“No, it’s shiny!” Gwaine said. He swung his leg over, but seemed to have difficulty getting his foot out of the stirrup so he could dismount, and was jerking hard at it. “It was—some kind of—reddish—thing—!”

“That’s odd— are you sure?”

“Yes! AH!”

Leon looked over just in time to see Gwaine, who had finally pulled his foot free, promptly fall over. Leon rolled his eyes as Gwaine pulled himself out of the grass and dismounted, approaching the bush with his crossbow ready to fire. Very gently he used the tip of the crossbow to brush a branch out of the way, then cringed as he heard Arthur squeal behind him, “Look! Another gnome!! Bring it here, Leon, let’s have a look at it!”



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17 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 6th May 2012, 05:39

Maeglin

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It took Gwaine a while to figure out that the problem with his boots was Merlin’s doing, but in his defense, it didn’t take him that long.

But even that his boots kept slipping off his feet when he was walking, and sticking in his stirrups when he was riding couldn’t ruin the thrill of the hunt. K was hilarious, and Arthur was even in an tolerable mood, and if Merlin and Leon were sulking in the back, well, that was their problem. It may even save him from getting Merlin back for the shoe thing—of course, little devil, he couldn’t do anything here, now, without causing any trouble. He could imagine it:

“Gwaine, why are you holding Merlin by his ankles upside-down over a stream?”

“He magicked my shoes bigger!”


Yeah, that would go over well. Even if they believed him--which they wouldn’t, they would laugh at him and say he shouldn’t joke about such a thing--and even if they did, well that would just get Merlin in trouble. Or, you know, dead.

And Gwaine didn’t want Merlin dead, he just wanted him to, you know, suffer a little bit.

So he waited.

Until then, he could deal with the shoe problem. It would be worth it. And anyway, things were going great. They’d got a few pheasants, a boar, and spotted a hart, even, though so far it had eluded them. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, glinting off something suspicious in the brush--

“Look, another gnome! Bring it here, Leon, let’s have a look at it!” Arthur cried, like a giddy child at Christmas. An intolerably stupid, giddy child.

“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” Gwaine said, realizing as he stepped toward Leon and the gnome that he’d quite left one of his boots stuck in his stirrup, but he ignored this small problem in favor of the bigger one: “I think we should leave it.”

“What? Why?” Arthur wondered, like he believed Gwaine was stupid. “And what on earth is wrong with your shoes? Did you accidentally put on Percival’s boots this morning?”

The knights laughed, and before Gwaine could reply, Percival pointed and laughed. “Look at him! He’s got tiny little hooves for feet! Comedy!” Elyan laughed loudly, and, so encouraged, Percival continued: “You know what they say about men with small feet…”

Gwaine’s voice broke through the sophomoric laughter. He knew how to deal with Percy:

“No, Perce, what do they say?” he prompted suggestively, and, sure enough, Percival blushed bright red to his ears at even the thought of having to say the word “penis.” Or “sock” or whatever the punchline to that stupid joke was.

Gwaine whipped his head around, hair flicking dramatically. “Leon, don’t touch that…thing!”

Arthur had now hopped off his horse and picked the gnome up. “Cor, look! This one has a tiny shovel!”

“Arthur…” Gwaine growled, but Arthur wasn’t listening, and Gwaine imagined that the conversation he wanted to have would go over about as well as an accusation about Merlin doing magic:

“These little buggers come to life when you’re not looking and eat your eyes out!”

“It’s made of stone, Gwaine, what are you talking about?”

“No--look--it’s only stone when you’re looking at it--I know it makes no sense, but it's true--"


“Oh, never mind!” Gwaine finally huffed, wrenching his boot from his stirrup and slipping it--too easily--on his foot. Behind him, Studly was just beginning to get frisky when Gwaine remembered to grab his reins, petting the titanic horse’s nose and cussing softly at him to calm him. “It’s just not my bloody day, is it, Stud?”

“What was all that about?” Leon had stepped up behind him, actually looking concerned, bless him.

“Oh, nothing,” Gwaine sighed. “Just if Arthur wakes up dead don’t come crying to me!”

“Dead? Gwaine, is the King in danger?”

“No. Yes. Maybe.”

“You seemed worried about--“ Leon grinned widely, “about the gnome statue--“

“It’s not a statue.”

Leon’s grin faded. “What?”

“It’s…” Gwaine sighed. “You won’t believe me,” he said, turning back to his horse to negotiate how he was going to wrest himself up there without losing his shoes and wondering if the hand-in-warm-water trick was punishment enough for Merlin…

Leon grabbed his elbow, turning him about. “I promise you I will try.”

He just looked so bloody sincere. It was refreshing, really. Gwaine shrugged, trying not to show how pleased Leon’s trust actually made him. “These may just be simple statues. But if they’re anything like the gnomes I saw in Saxony…well, they’re not statues. They turn into statues when you’re looking at them, but when you look away, they come to life…”

“That seems a little far-fetched, Gwaine.” Leon was clearly trying not to grin, and even though he was making a valiant effort, that was where Gwaine’s patience ran out. The foul mood returned, and he was pretty sure the little gnomey buggers could eat the lot of them before Gwaine would care right now. So he flashed Leon a condescending grin before turning back to his steed:

“Oh, I’m not worried,” Gwaine said. “They only have a taste for noble blood, see, so I’m safe!”

“Wait--they eat people?” Leon cried, as Gwaine pulled himself up into the saddle.

“Yup. Something about revenge of the forest--hunting their lands, cutting down trees--you know. That’s at least what I heard. Come on, now, Leon, don’t want to be left behind now, do we?” he said, and more letting Studly have free reign than urging him on, Gwaine tore off into the forest.

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18 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 7th May 2012, 20:17

“Revenge of the—what?”

But Gwaine was already thundering off. Leon sighed, mounted and rode off after Gwaine. He found him taking up position, waiting for Arthur to flush another deer towards them. Sir K, Merlin and Percival were spaced out equidistantly along the same line. Leon joined Gwaine at his position.

“Gwaine—when you say ‘revenge of the forest’—I mean, that’s just a peasant’s legend, isn’t it? That’s why they put those gnomes in their gardens.”

Gwaine shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. I hear that they’re supposed to protect crops from being pillaged by wandering knights.”

“Where did you hear about this?”

He gave Leon a sidelong glance. “I told you travel broadens the mind.”

“I believe you,” Leon said, who had never been outside of Albion in his life. He sat back in his saddle, and happened to glance down the line of knights and servants waiting for Arthur to arrive. They all looked pretty bored, except for Sir K. He seemed to be having loads of fun making his horse go in circles—wasn’t that the horse Merlin usually rode? Diablo?

“So, do we tell Arthur?” Gwaine asked, but Leon wasn’t paying attention. K had started hauling on Diablo’s reins while he was clearly raking his spurs along the horse’s sides. Didn’t he know that was just going to make the horse rear up?

Leon caught Merlin’s eye, who was watching K from his position about ten yards away farther down, looking like a kicked puppy. It was obvious that he was all too aware that K was being a bloody idiot to the horse, and it seemed to be upsetting him a great deal. But servants weren’t allowed to speak up about that sort of thing. If a knight or any noble wanted to be an ass , it was no servant’s place to say anything against it.

It was another noble’s place, though.

“Leon?” Gwaine said. “Something up?”

“Hang on a minute,” Leon said, and promptly rode over to K. But K was too busy struggling with the horse to notice him. “K, what are you doing?” he asked, trying to be polite and tactful as he lowered his voice.

“I’m trying to get it to rear,” K growled with no little annoyance. “If I can get this lump of a beast into the air just as the deer comes it’ll go right back into Arthur’s path and we’ll get a straight shot at it.”

“You should never force a horse to rear,” Leon said, hoping beyond all hope that K seriously did not know this fundamental concept.

K raised an eyebrow, looking at Leon as if he just told him that horses could speak English as well. “Really?” He flicked the reins as he wrapped them around his hands, causing Diablo to snort and paw at the ground in distress.

Come on, Leon, stand firm, he thought to himself. Don’t let him bully you… “I think you’re hurting its mouth by doing that,” he said. “Could you let the reins hang a bit looser?”

K cocked his head, and Leon felt himself balking under K’s gaze. “Leon, I appreciate your concern, but I think I know what I’m doing.” He pulled hard on the reins again. Merlin looked so upset that he was about to jump out of his saddle.

Leon reached out and grabbed Diablo’s reins.

K, who had expected the horse to go back instead of down, pitched forward. He looked at Leon with astonishment, as if Leon’s actions were completely uncalled-for. “Leon!” he said, eyebrows raised. “Are you trying to boss me?”

“Killhwch, please,” Leon said, trying to keep his nerve in the face of that K’s awful grin and hoping that he didn’t look as scared as he felt. He tried to stop K from doing something before, but K always served his revenge hot. They were grown men now, though. They weren’t kids anymore. “We aren’t kids anymore,” he said, just in case K had missed this important fact. “Just—leave off it, alright?”

But Leon didn’t even get half a second to hope that K would actually listen to him, because almost before he finished speaking K gave him a shove.

Leon scrambled to stay seated, and Diablo squealed as K dug the spurs into his sides and yanked back on the reins, finally forcing the horse into the air at just the right moment to fully unhorse him. Leon fell, hard and with a resounding crunch, into a large thorn bush.

“Whoa!” K said dramatically over Leon’s yelp, managing to force Diablo back down again just as Gwaine, Merlin and Elyan rushed forward.

“Sorry, I really don’t know what came over the horse,” K said. “It must have knocked him out of the saddle!”

“Leon, are you alright?” Merlin said, looking concerned.

Leon groaned, blinking back stars.

“Oi! You let the deer get away! What happened?” It was Arthur, who finally arrived and dismounted.

“Sorry, Arthur,” K said anxiously as he wrung his hands together. The display was enough to make Leon sick—thankfully, his expression was lost among the winces of pain. “The horse went mad! Leon was trying to help, bless him….Awfully sorry, Leon,” he said, turning on Leon with that devilish glint in his eye. “Here, let me help you up!”

But Leon didn’t exactly feel like getting out of the thorn bush, which, he knew full well, would only cause more thorns to pierce his armorless body. “I’m fine,” he grunted.

“Are you sure?” K said, reaching down. “Here, I’ll help you out—“

“No, don’t—!”

But K had already grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled, dragging Leon forcibly through the thorn bush. Since K was far too scrawny to actually pull Leon out the whole way, and Leon was desperately fighting him the whole way, K more rolled him out of the bush than lifted.

“Alright, there, Leon?” Arthur said as Leon slowly straightened. “It’s lucky that bush was there to—er—cushion your fall.”

Leon said nothing. He wondered if the fall hadn’t knocked a few of his ribs the wrong way. He rolled his shoulder to work out the pain, and winced.

“You know better than to grab another man’s horse like that!” Arthur continued. He sighed. “Well, get mounted, I suppose we’re finished for the day…”

“I’m alright, sire,” Leon said, brushing off his trousers. “You go on with the hunting, I’ll catch up.”

“You sure?” But it didn’t seem that Arthur needed much convincing to continue the hunt. He nodded and jumped back on his horse.

“Hope you’ll be joining us again soon, Leon,” K said, and patted Leon on the shoulder (embedding a few thorns even deeper into his skin) before he too remounted and to follow Arthur after the deer.


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19 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 13th May 2012, 01:16

Maeglin

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Gwaine was pretty sure he saw more of what had just transpired than Arthur or the others, mainly because he was, as was his habit, watching Merlin and Leon (which, yeah, yeah, whatever, so maybe he had a small protective streak, and which Kilhwch had maybe just rubbed the wrong way). Whatever had happened, it made Leon and Merlin frown and squirm and look not at all pleased.

And since Diablo and Llamrei were well-behaved horses...the only other variable was Sir K.

"What the hell was that?" Gwaine hissed, riding up next to K.

Kilhwch was the picture of guilt. And grinning widely. Damn him, if Gwaine didn't admire the man even now. He didn't even try denying it:

"Oh, I wasn't hurting the dumb beast," he laughed.

"I wasn't talking about the horse," Gwaine corrected, though he petted Diablo's nose soothingly, making a mental note to check his mouth later when he could get a good look at it.

"Neither was I!" K laughed.

And it was funny. And Gwaine was cheap. So he laughed, too.

"Seriously, man, just lay off. Leon doesn't need any help looking awkward, and Merlin gets enough stress from Arthur. Help me out, here."

"For you, Sir Gwaine, of course," K said, genuinely as far as Gwaine could tell. "After all I was only trying to get Leon to toughen up a little and--well, look what's going on over there!"

Gwaine turned to where K pointed:

"He's got his shirt off!" he yelped, trying not to bellow.

"Yes."

"And Elaine's there, helping him!"

"Yes."

"And...I think we should leave!" Suddenly Gwaine grabbed K's arm and guided both their horses away after Arthur and the others, who had moved on, in order to leave the two love-birds alone. K was laughing as Leon and Elaine disappeared behind them. "Why didn't I think of that? And you're right, Leon could use some toughening up. You really did know what you were doing, didn't you, K?" Gwaine grinned, clapping the other knight on the back.

"Sir Gwaine, I always know what I'm doing."

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20 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 14th May 2012, 05:27

It wasn’t that Merlin wasn’t happy that Leon had intervened and told K to stop being an ass to poor Diablo, but as the knight spurred the black horse forward with far more enthusiasm than necessary, forcing him to catch up with Arthur’s horse, Merlin realized it hadn’t actually helped much. He tried to follow close by, so at least he would know what injuries to check the horse for when they finally got home, but there was too much going on. Also, Pussy Willow was possibly the jumpiest horse on the face of the planet, shying at shadows and butterflies and birds, and Merlin was kept busy just trying to keep him with the others. As it was, he missed that they were all getting ahead of him until they’d all gone and were not entirely visible through the thick forest undergrowth.

“Hey! Hey wait!” he called out, urging the flighty horse forward. They had gone all of five feet forward when a pheasant, frightened out of hiding by all the previous passers-by, burst out of the bushes by Willow’s feet with a racket of clattering wings and shrieking. Willow took one look at the thing, decided it was a horse-eating dragon, and wheeled to the right with a squeal. Before Merlin could yank in enough rein to stop him, Willow took off in a blind panic, flying through the forest in such a mad rush that Merlin couldn’t do much but hold on and hope they wouldn’t be completely lost when the crazy horse stopped. He ducked a branch that threatened to hurl him right out of the saddle and decided being flicked in the face by coarse mane was probably better than having his eye put out by an errant twig- though only just.

Willow finally slowed down to a somewhat more sane canter, hopping a few small logs here and there, and then a trot, and finally wore himself out enough to walk. Merlin sat up, ran a hand absently down Willow’s neck, and looked around for some hint as to where they were. He might have recognized the place and, then again, he might not have. But the horse seemed to have decided on a direction, so Merlin let him wander, hoping he was heading home. Certainly there was neither sight nor sound of the hunt in the vicinity.

Merlin thought at first that the bright light from ahead of them was coming through a clearing. But as they stepped from trees into bare dirt, he realized it was actually the edge of a lake. No, wait, not a lake. The lake. The most important lake. He sat and watched it without moving for several breaths and then swung down, leaving Willow to wander about the edge of the forest looking for tasty things while he went forward and stood at the shore, the tips of his boots just barely touching the water that lapped against the rocky sand in little wavelets.


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21 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 14th May 2012, 05:42

Catching up was easier said than done. Leon was covered in thorns of various sizes and he didn’t much like the idea of trying to ignore them for the rest of the day. When Arthur, K and Gwaine rode off he carefully peeled off his tunic and his shirt, which were both filled with pricking, painful little barbs. He put them over Lamrei's saddle and started picking thorns out of his trousers as best he could—but they seemed to be everywhere, even in his socks! He had no idea how to get the ones on his back out…

“Are you alright?”

Leon turned, and saw that Elaine, alone, had ridden up to where he now stood pulling thorns out of his backside. He colored deeply, and was flabbergasted to find his naked chest blooming red as well. What is--? I don’t even--!

“I'm alright, thank you,” Leon said, trying for the casual approach.

This did not seem to deter Elaine, who slid off her horse. As she did so Leon grabbed his shirt and not-so-nonchalantly held it in front of his blushing chest.

“Elyan said you fell off your horse!”

“Hmm? Oh, yes. I did.”

She pursed her lips. “Are you sure you’re alright? You were riding a bit adventurously.” But before Leon could explain she gasped. “You’re covered in thorns!”

“I know,” Leon said. He tried to pick one out of his arm but it was one of those small fiddly ones. “I sort of—fell in a thorn bush.” The thorn broke off as he tried to pull it out.

“I’ve got some tweesers here,” she said, unearthing a pair of silver forceps from her purse. “How did you fall? Turn around, I’ll see if there’s any on your back.”

“Oh, it’s really—“

But Leon hardly knew how to refuse anyone anything, especially a woman. At a touch of her hand he turned round and let her run her hands over his naked back. Occasionally he felt a little pinch as she pulled thorn after thorn out of his back and sides, while he just concentrated on keeping still. He didn’t like it when women stood so close behind him. He didn't like the thought of them doing things back there. The last time someone did, it was Gwen, and he was wearing a dress. So he had reason to be uncomfortable. Also he was very ticklish.

Keep calm, he told himself, She’s just trying to be helpful. Don’t get excited.

He looked around to see if any of the other knights were within sight, but they had all continued with the hunt. It was down to him…and it was down to her.

As her fingers brushed against his spine he started thinking about that lovely little Elaine-centric dream again. Excitement, it seemed, would be difficult to stave off.



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22 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 14th May 2012, 06:16

The lake was apparently not in the mood to do anything terribly magical today. It was still- as still as it ever got, anyway, so not quite still enough for a mirror, but still enough to reflect the forest around it. He crossed his arms and glared at it for awhile, and then snatched a flat rock up from the ground and flung it as if to skip the rock across the surface of the water. It plunked in without even making an honest effort at skipping, and he kicked the shore in frustration. What, exactly, had he been expecting when he’d done that? Someone to catch it? Like the stupid sword? Yeah, right.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and wandered a short distance to crouch on his heels and continue staring out at the unperturbed water. There was a log sunk into the water just in front and next to him, an old iron ring embedded in it for tying up boats. There was no boat to tie up, anymore, because he’d burned it. He’d burned it because Freya’s body had been in it and that had seemed like the best way to handle things, so at least no one could find her body and connect it with the cat beast that had been terrorizing the city at the time. If that spell of his the other night had just worked!

There was a splash nearby and he looked up to see… that dolt horse wading into the lake with its tack on, which would probably ruin it and cause him endless amounts of work to put the leather back to rights. Annoyed at having his thoughts interrupted, Merlin stood and went after Willow, at first grumbling and then speaking louder and louder until he was half shouting.

“No, you clotpole, the shore is this way! Get out of there!” he practically wailed at Willow as he wandered further away, dropping his nose to drink water. Could he really not drink from the shore where it was dry? Was this whole hunting trip just some intricate plot to make his life difficult and obnoxious, or was he just having bad luck? “Fine! Stay in here, you stupid horse!” he said, throwing his arms into the air. He wasn’t following the horse any further out. As it was, the water had him drenched to the waist, and his boots, which he’d not thought to take off, were most definitely ruined. He gave the recalcitrant and vaguely confused-looking Willow one last glare for effect and turned to slog back to shore.

And found there was someone in the way.

And realized he knew her.

“…What?” This was just unfair, this trick his mind was playing on him. He stared, mouth agape like a fish out of water.

“Merlin?” the mind trick asked, taking a step towards him.

“F-“ he blinked, really hard, several times, rubbed his eyes, blinked some more, and then swallowed. “Freya?”


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23 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 14th May 2012, 06:47

“Elaine?”

Elaine had stopped pulling spines out and was apparently just standing behind him.

Leon yelped as Elaine’s fingers pressed into his side.

“Oh—Sorry!” Elaine said quickly. “Did I hurt you? I just thought you might have hurt a rib.”

“It’s fine!” Leon said, spinning around.

“You had the breath knocked out of you, I expect,” she said. She had a determined look in her eyes that Leon had no intention of disobeying. “Sit down against that tree to get the stress off of it, at least.”

“Perhaps I ought to return to Camelot,” Leon said quickly.

“At least take a rest for a moment,” she said, taking his hand. “You’ll feel better for it.”

Leon couldn’t really think of an excuse. Anyway, he wanted to stay, and as a knight he'd never disobeyed a lady before. He thanked the Lord that at least he had gotten the spines out of his trousers.

“There. I’m sitting,” he said, still trying for petulant. “God knows a knight cannot displease a lady--I am at your command.”

She knelt beside him with a laugh. “You’re funny!”

Leon bridled at that. He wasn’t funny. No one thought he was that funny. Well, except for that troll—she thought he was hilaaaaarious.

He tried to sit still, as Elaine talked on and wrapped a wound on his hand with a green ribbon from her purse. The touch of her hands on his was very distracting, and he was trying in vain to follow her train of thought when she suddenly put her hand out to his face.

Leon shied away. “What?”

“You’ve got a stick in your hair.”

“Oh.” He reached up to get rid of it, but it was stuck in a tangle. Elaine put her hands on his fingers, and gently took over at working the stick out of his hair. He could feel her fingers immersing themselves in his blonde curls. With him sitting and her kneeling they were about the same height, and he looked into her lovely eyes as they concentrated on a point about five inches up from his own eyes—she was looking completely in the wrong place!

At about that moment a very assertive voice inside of him said, Time to take the field!...

“Stop squirming!”

“Sorry!” Leon said, and stopped trying to sit on his hands.

“Here, put your head down a bit,” she said, indicating that he should adjust his posture such that he was looking down her dress.

No! Society frowns upon this! Leon screamed inside, as Elaine took hold of his very red ears and gently turned his head downwards. He scrunched his eyes shut as she fiddled with the tangle.

"Merlin says you need someone to look after you," she said.

"Did he?"

“Mm. A very perceptive fellow, Merlin. There!” Elaine said, finally getting the stick out of his hair. "Now, just--try to relax." She smiled disarmingly at him as her hand lingered for a moment on his head, then slowly drifted down to his beard. Her thumb gently touched his lips.

OK, this is personal space that I feel is being somewhat violated, here--even if she is nice and pretty and I like her and I can't disobey a lady. I think I'd better just carefully lean back and--

But he had forgotten about the tree behind him, and the back of Leon's head gently hit bark as she leaned forward and kissed him.


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24 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 18th May 2012, 08:29

Any second now, Merlin was sure he was going to wake up and this would disappear, the lake and the horse and everything, because that was what it always did. It wasn’t that he had dreams about going back to the lake and finding Freya alive and well happened often, but he’d had enough of them to recognize them. And even though this was definitely missing something in that it’d started with a hunt… well, maybe he’d fallen asleep on his horse, or gotten knocked off when Willow took off through the forest. The second he moved, this would probably all fall apart, or Freya would disappear.

“Merlin, are you alright?” Freya asked, stepping toward him.

“I’m… dreaming?” he asked finally, when she stood about a foot in front of him. He could have reached out and touched her, but he was afraid if he did…

“I don’t think I’m a dream. Also, there’s a twig in your hair. What did you do, ride straight through the forest?” she asked. Which, admittedly, seemed like an odd thing for a dream to say. She reached up and stood on her toes to snag the twig from his hair, but unbalanced in the shallow water and tipped backwards. Without thinking, Merlin reached out and grabbed her hand before she could topple into the water and pulled her back to her feet.

“You’re not a dream!” he said in surprise, looking down at their hands. The utter shock in his voice startled a laugh from Freya, but she just shook her head. “I don’t understand. I thought it didn’t work…” he said, brows knitting into his standard look of puppy-like confusion and bewilderment. She waited patiently while he talked to himself, or maybe her, some more and then abruptly stopped talking in favor of just staring at her.

“What didn’t work?” she asked finally, because he didn’t seem to realize he’d stopped talking. He shook his head as if to clear it and then shrugged one shoulder dismissively, as if what he’d done was actually no big deal.

“Er… a spell. I thought maybe you were just… trapped somewhere. And if you were just trapped, it was supposed to free you,” he said, sort of half mumbling. She’d thought that might be the case, that a spell had hit her weeks ago and done this. It had been a shock suddenly finding herself well and truly aware of being in her own body, something of which she’d been only passing-aware for… she wasn’t even sure how long. And it wasn’t everyone in the world who could pull off such a spell, but she could think of at least one other than Merlin who could probably, if she wanted to, do such a thing. That would have been very bad. She didn’t want to owe Morgana anything, not in this life or the next or anywhere in between.

“That would be about two weeks ago?” she asked off-handedly, just to make sure she was correct, and Merlin nodded. “Why did you think it didn’t work?” she asked curiously, and he laughed, rolling his eyes and gesturing with the hand that still held her’s.

“The whole castle started going mad, and I thought it’d worked on the castle, not on you, or I’d found the wrong spell. And then we thought it was the round table, and it wasn’t, and then it turned out to be Lancelot’s doing, on accident. And by then I didn’t even want to think about it, because…” he shrugged. He’d avoided thinking about it because he just didn’t feel like dealing with it, all of it, all over again. “Because I just didn’t. But it worked! Are you okay? I mean… it didn’t do anything to you, did it?” he asked, suddenly looking very concerned. She smiled and shook her head. “No, nothing it wasn’t supposed to. I’m fine,” she said, and when he didn’t look entirely convinced, added, “I am! At least I don’t look like I rode straight through a hundred trees on the way here,” she said, and reached up to gently touch a cut that some badly-placed branch had left just under his eye. He smiled a little hesitantly.

“I missed you,” he said finally, when she stepped closer under pretense of getting a better look at the minor scrape. He didn’t even feel it anymore, just a strange sort of buzz he belatedly realized was the result of a druid’s minor healing spell. Freya didn’t step back, but looked from the cut to catch his eyes. She met him halfway as he went to kiss her, and when they both stopped, albeit somewhat reluctantly, Freya just stood there and leaned on him with her head against his chest, while he concentrated on not ruining the moment by toppling over, which would have been a problem for both of them, as his arms were wrapped very protectively around her shoulders. “I missed you too, when I could think real thoughts,” she answered after a minute. Merlin just grinned the sort of silly grin that any one of the knights definitely would have given him a seriously hard time over, had they seen it.

And then, as if on cue, one of the knights did ruin the perfect, absolutely peaceful moment but hollering a certain young warlock’s name through the forest at the top of his kingly lungs. Both Merlin and Freya jumped, looking hurriedly over to the shore of the lake as if expecting Arthur to be right there- as if that wouldn’t take explaining- and sighing in relief when he wasn’t.

“MERLIN! Where did you go?” the voice hollered again, sounding annoyed. Merlin shook his head.

“I’m sorry, but if he finds you…” he said, and Freya waved a hand to cut him off. They both knew that wouldn’t end well.

“You go, I’ll be alright here. You don’t want to annoy the prince,” she said. Merlin laughed.

“The king, now. No, I don’t. I’ll be back though, I promise. As soon as I can. You’re sure you’ll be okay here?” he asked, half-turning already to trudge back to shore. Freya nodded and made a shooing motion at him, following him to the very edge of the water.

“I’m not entirely defenseless, remember,” she said. He laughed and flailed around for Willow, who’d had enough of being out here all alone and was waiting none too patiently for his rider to come back so they could leave. As he dragged himself into the saddle, Merlin looked down and waved a silly little wave. “But… don’t go anywhere, alright?” he said, afraid that as soon as he left this would all disappear as if it never happened.

“Merlin, when I find you, you better have a very good reason for not being here!” Arthur shouted, coming closer, and Freya gave the eager Willow a slap on the rump to send him off. His hooves splashed twice in the shallow water and then they were again on dry land. As they entered the forest, Merlin turned in the saddle and looked back, relieved to see that Freya was still standing there, one hand raised in a wave. Then the forest filled in behind him and he sent Willow at a gallop to go find Arthur before the king made a more determined effort to find him.


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25 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 18th May 2012, 15:39

By rights, Leon should have been enjoying this. He loved being out in the forest, either riding or sitting against a tree like he was now, listening to the thrushes and robins and feeling the breeze ruffle his hair. He knew the forests so well that he could almost name every tree in Camelot. It was wonderful to feel the freedom of the wilderness around him--minstrels sang song after song about this sort of thing.

But he wasn’t really thinking about any of that, because Lady Elaine was kissing him. It had been years since he touched lips with a woman, and she really kissed him very wonderfully, gently tickling his jaw line so that he’d open his mouth a little more and pressing her nose into his cheek. But he couldn’t really pay attention to how much fun it was, either. He was arguing with the mysterious emotion that he didn’t understand—that little insane but insistent force inside him. It seemed to be originating from his trousers.

Yes! Yes! it shouted joyously, At least one of you isn’t botching it! Now that she’s made the first move this will go much easier. Just put your hands up on her waist, let her know that we’ll be taking it from here….

Taking what? Oh, no, we’re not taking anything!
His voice of reason exclaimed.

Why not?

There is a right time and a right place for everything and THIS IS NOT IT.

We’re sitting on the ground, alone in the middle of a forest. You’ve got your shirt off, and she’s kissing you. How is this not the right time? Trust me, this has 'pastoral scene' written all over it. Anyway, she's not objecting, is she?


He cursed this force's use of logic, and noticed that she had stopped kissing him. She was looking at him expectantly. “Relaxed?” she asked.

“Erm,” he said, swallowing hard. His words were getting re-routed somewhere on the way from his brain to his mouth. He pulled his knees up to his chest, hoping to disguise his arousal, but it only served to push Elaine closer to him.

“I think it is customary for the knight, once he has been given a kiss, to quickly claim another,” she said as her hands moved back, immersing themselves in his hair. She didn’t seem to be noticing his lower half at all.

“Erm.” Leon felt short of breath, and drank in the smell of the forest and the scent of citrus on her hair. She just slowly brushed her fingers over his neck, sending a rush of pleasure through him. His eyes flitted from her soft eyes to her lovely lips as they drew closer.

His hands drifted upwards of their own accord, and he felt the fabric of her dress under his wandering fingertips.

Elaine’s eyebrows shot up at his touch. What did he touch??

Leon turned bright red and finally managed to untangle his tongue.

“Sorry, sorry!” He flung himself away from her with such energy that his head knocked hard against the tree.

“Oh, no!” Elaine said as his head hit the tree. “Are you alright?”

Leon pushed her concerned hands away. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t’ve—! I’m an idiot!“

Elaine blinked at him in confusion. “What? No, you’re not! What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!—I just remembered, er, some patents of nobility I have to see to, and I’d better get back to Camelot and get them finished—thank you for your assistance, but I’m sure the others aren’t too far ahead, why don’t you catch up with them?”

“What are you…? Now, wait a moment!—”

But Leon ignored Elaine’s attempts to regain control of the situation and scrambled to his feet. He gave what could be construed in very impatient circles as a bow and, without another word, he jumped on his horse and rode as fast as he could back to Camelot. That emotion he didn’t understand was coursing hot and fast through his veins, that fantasy replaying in his mind and insisting on his undivided attention. But it was painfully obvious now that he didn’t understand it or know how to cope with it, and it made him so upset that he spurred Lamrei on even faster in an attempt to outrun its visceral throbbing.

Far behind his retreating horse’s thundering hoorbeats, Elaine watched him go in contrastive silence and stillness.

Then she shouted “Oh--shit!!” and kicked the tree.



Last edited by beeayy on 19th June 2012, 04:20; edited 1 time in total


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