Word Count: 1051
A/N: Vampire AU set in the Scent 'verse
Summary: Merlin is dismayed to find himself put in the service of the man who had sniffed his neck. He is even more dismayed to find that that man is the prince of Camelot.
Merlin has to confess that he isn't entirely sure what's going on right now. He's been living in a state of constant confusion since he first turned up in Camelot. He should have known that after that sniffing incident things were only going to get weirder – but he'd still been surprised when, this morning, Gaius had frowned at him and told him that the king had requested that he went to the great hall at once.
So that is how he found himself here, standing in the centre of the hall with the attention of more nobles than he's ever seen in his life all focused on him. Nerve-wracking, to be sure.
Even more nerve-wracking is the fact that Arthur, Neck Sniffer Extraordinaire, is standing beside the king's throne and watching him with an expression that suggests he is contemplating surging forward at any moment to indulge in a little more sniffing. Merlin struggles not to squirm under the intense attention – and that's just from one person. There are others in the room, lords and ladies and bloody kings, though Merlin will admit that they're not all watching him with the same hunger as Neck Sniffer.
"Are you certain?" King Uther asks the man at his side.
Ah. That's the other disturbing revelation of the day: Neck Sniffer is actually the prince of Camelot. The king's son and heir. Merlin had felt ready to start laughing when he'd first found out, before he'd quickly come to the realisation that Gaius was not laughing at all.
Now he finds himself in front of a royal family that are a lot stranger than he'd ever imagined they would be.
"Yes," Arthur says, answering his father though he doesn't look away from Merlin. At least his eyes are back to looking normal again; Merlin can almost convince himself that the inky blackness that had stared at him in the hallway yesterday was just a figment of his ridiculous imagination. "I'm absolutely certain, father."
The king nods and, with an expression that looks rather confused, turns to survey Merlin where he stands.
"Very well," he murmurs, with a vague wave of his hand. His voice has the same tone that Merlin has heard many times in his lifetime from his mother: the tone of a parent giving into a child's demands in order to escape endless nagging. "You may have him."
"He may what?" Merlin asks, eyes wide. They become even wider when he realises that that is no way to address his king. He fidgets uncomfortably on the spot and clears his throat, wishing that King Uther would stop looking at him like that – like he was a particularly unpleasant stain on the bathroom floor. "I mean to ask what is happening, your majesty?"
Slight improvement on the phrasing, but not by much.
Uther looks towards his son instead of deigning to answer Merlin; there's the faint twist of a smile on his lips. "Good luck," he says.
Arthur grins back at Uther, bright and threatening. Merlin feels the hairs on the back of his arms stand up without quite being able to explain why.
"Come on, then," Arthur says, marching forward to Merlin's side. He grips Merlin by the elbow – and Merlin is certain that the strength of his grasp is a little more than can be considered either polite or human. It's entirely possible that he'll have bruises on his arm tomorrow.
"'Come on then' what? Where? What's going on?"
Despite his questions, he's following along at Arthur's side as they leave the hall together. For a start, the grip on his arm is so firm that he hardly has a choice in the matter. Secondly, this is the prince of Camelot – even if he's rather weird and rather annoying, Merlin doesn't have much of a choice when it comes to following his wishes. Thirdly – and most importantly – he's intrigued as hell about how this is all going to play out.
"You," Arthur answers, "have just become my new manservant. You should be proud. It's a very important position."
"Your manservant?" Merlin says. He's certain his voice just squeaked. "Why?"
"Don't worry – it shouldn't be too difficult, even for you."
"I already have a job." They're walking down the stone corridors now, side by side. Arthur is walking a little closer to him than is really necessary, but he's a prince: maybe that's what princes do. Merlin's never met one before. "I'm working for Gaius. I can't work for you as well."
"Then we'll find another person to work for Gaius. He won't mind."
Arthur rolls his eyes at him. "It won't be hard. You just have to do as I ask – clean my armour, help me dress."
"Yet for some reason you can't do it yourself?"
Arthur's jaw clenches and he doesn't answer. He doesn't even glance at Merlin from the corner of his eye. Merlin looks down at his feet, scuffing along the floor.
"I don't think I'm the ideal person for the position," he says. He doesn't want to be a servant to a weird, sniffing prat. That's not what he came here for, and with his magic to be concealed he thinks that spending so much time near a royal would be simply taunting fate.
"I don't care," Arthur says carefully. They reach what Merlin assumes is his bedroom – it looks large enough for a prince when they enter it, in any case. "I want you where I can keep an eye on you."
Merlin's eyebrows rise: he can't fight the impression that there's something here that he's missing, something big and undoubtedly important – because Arthur doesn't know him. Arthur doesn't know anything about him.
But there's something there in his gaze, something dark and possessive and dangerous, that says that Arthur knows all that he needs to.
"What?" Merlin asks. Possibly a squeak. He does far too much squeaking in Camelot. "Why?"
"Because there's something different about you, Merlin," Arthur says – and that's a leer on his face. A leer or a smirk or something equally annoying. "And I'm going to work out what it is."
Merlin gulps, nods, and tries not to think about just how dangerous his life at Camelot has just become.