To be a friend.

Summary: Merlin's magic is revealed and Arthur has to mete out the punishment. But what happens when he does? The repercussions are not something that Arthur imagined.

Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin in any form or shape. The rights belong to BBC.

Arthur would never forget this moment in his life in the years to come. That moment when the illusion stripped away to reveal the ugly truth. The moment when friend became foe and reality became fake. The moment when his manservant, aide, confidant and dare he say friend turned out to be a sorcerer. Of all the things he had faced he had never once considered this possibility. How? How was this possible? Did the reality as he knew never even exist? Was nothing as he understood?

It was true that Merlin had revealed his magic to save him, but it did not change the fact that he was a sorcerer. The very worst one according to him as he had gained the trust of everyone in the palace and had not once bothered to reveal the truth. And now, even as the blasted man stood in front of him with fear and nervousness showing blatantly on his face Arthur felt nothing. He was in a vacuum one whose aftermath he knew would usher in a multitude of emotions.

"Arthur…please…let me explainplease" the traitor's voice sounded in the sudden silence and Arthur felt overwhelming hate rise up in him. How dare he? Had he not fooled him enough? And he knew with certainty what to do.

"No" his reply sounded cold and biting even to his own ears but it did not stop him."I don't need to listen to anything. You are hereby banished from Camelot upon fear of death on your return. You have until tomorrow to leave" he commanded and walked away from the offending room. He did not want to see the disapproval on his knights faces nor the tears on his sorcerer's face.

He did not want to hear cries of his pleas or the angry outbursts from Gwaine. He fled to his chambers and thankfully his wife did not attempt to pursue anything to do with his manservant at the moment. He was not sure what his reaction would have been if she had advocated his case at that point.

There was only one word resounding in his mind and heart, "betrayal" and he was so convinced of this fact that anything else was implausible. Merlin had been with him for five years now…plenty of time to have told him of his magic and yet he had not been straightforward. At least till Uther was alive it made a kind of twisted sense but what about when he became king? Was he, the king not trustworthy enough? And if his magic was truly benign what did he have to fear? Therefore magic was not benign and he was right to banish his frie…no servant. Yes servant…sorcerer…never friend.

Gwen had cast a sad look at her husband and quietly left for her rooms knowing that Arthur would need solitude this particular night. Besides, she was angry and knew that if she spoke to her husband now nothing good would come out of it. Yes, it had been a shock when Merlin had turned out to be a sorcerer but this was Merlin. The sweetest gentlest soul that she had ever met and what she was truly angry about was the fact that he had not been given even a chance to plead his case.

It had been scary but for just one horrible minute Arthur had become Uther and banished his best friend without giving him a chance to explain. She shook her head in frustration …Arthur and his ego was going to cost him the best relationship he had ever had. Even Arthur didn't realize just how much Merlin meant to him. Whether he chose to acknowledge his feelings or not, Gwen knew without a doubt that Arthur would be devastated and she was fearful of the fallout this decision would bring.

Merlin on the other hand felt nothing and everything as he stood transfixed in the great hall. He had failed and the failure was crushing him. He felt the weight of the last five years descend on him as he fell to his knees in the same spot he had been standing in the last many minutes.

He had given everything…his love...his life and desires for the sake of destiny and Arthur and for what? For this? He shrieked in his mind hoping that it was reaching Kilgarrah. Damn that great flying beast and his riddles. It had led him nowhere but to ruin and despair. He had come to Camelot leaving his home and now he was leaving this home to go god knows where. He could no longer see any other place as home. He was truly alone now and the thought terrified him.

He was dimly aware of the other knights approaching him, the foremost of who were Gwaine and Lancelot. God! was he going to explain? And yet there was nothing but acceptance on the knight's face and that destroyed Merlin further. He gave a small smile in Gwaine's direction and got to his feet, wiping the tears from his face. He had things to do, and first of all he had to see Gaius.

"Merlin mate, what's going on? Princess can't possibly mean that. Fine you have magic but you are Merlin. Can't he see that?" Gwaine's puzzled tone had never been this serious and Merlin hated himself for putting it there. He paused before gesturing in Arthur's direction "well you would have to ask him that. I am afraid I don't have any answers for you and I don't have much time either. I am sorry Gwaine…sorrier than you can imagine. I wish there was time to explain everything but Arthur wants me out of here tomorrow" he said his voice threatening to break.

"You are not alone my friend, I will come with you" Gwaine's words almost unmade Merlin. How did he wind up with such a beautiful friend? Did he even deserve this? "No...Please. This is my destiny, yours is with Arthur. Please protect him when I am not there. He needs you" he begged knowing that Gwaine would follow him without a second thought.

"Then if not Gwaine at least let me go with you" Lancelot said and Merlin had to refuse again. "Please your lives are here, I can take care of myself" Merlin said softly reiterating "no, I mean it" when they were about to argue again. He then turned regretfully to his friends "Gaius…I need to tell him…pack…" he murmured feeling lost and numb as he rambled in despair.

"We will go to your chambers, come" the rejoinder came almost immediately as Lancelot took Merlin's arm and they walked to the old physician's chambers."What happened?" the old man asked taking in the tears on his ward's face and the paleness that had descended upon the young man. He knew with a look that the day of reckoning had arrived and he feared for the outcome.

"He knows Gaius. I had no choice…how else was I supposed to save him? I tried..I tried so hard but now it's all gone" Merlin's voice broke as Gaius stepped forward to gather him in a hug. "Oh! my boy! My poor young boy…what did Arthur say?" he asked afraid of the answer. Merlin's bleak look was alarming and Gaius had to struggle to calm his racing heart. Gaius was fairly certain that it was not an execution considering Merlin was not in the dungeons but he wanted to hear it aloud for his own peace of mind.

"He has banished me Gaius. What am I supposed to do now?" he asked sounding like a lost child instead of the powerful warlock he was. Gaius' heart broke for the young man before him. Nobody deserved to undergo pain like this and especially not Merlin. There was no one gentler of heart and he had given enough for the sake of destiny and for the sake of Arthur. No more he decided…no more. Merlin deserved to live his life in happiness far away from Camelot if needed.

"You live your life now…that's what you will do. You have sacrificed enough my child" he said even as Merlin protested. "I cannot be that selfish Gaius. Arthur cannot survive without me…you know that something or someone is out to kill every two days and that clot pole cannot do a thing on his own" he said with a wry grimace and a smile that was as fake as his words.

"Well that clot pole just has to manage. He has made his choice and you have to make yours now. It is time to live your life Merlin, not just be a shadow to Arthur's. Besides, you don't have a choice anymore except in where you will go. Have you thought about that? Do you even have a plan?" Gaius asked guiding Merlin to a chair. Merlin sat looking lost in thought until Gaius nudged him again "Merlin, what are you thinking?" he asked gently. Merlin rubbed his forehead and looked at his father figure in a daze "I am not sure Gaius. I will go to Ealdor for a while and I …need time to think" he said softly.

"That sounds we need to pack" Gaius said earning a look from Merlin. "Gaius, you mean I need to pack" he corrected but Gaius simply raised his eyebrow daring him to comment. Merlin however felt desperation claw inside him. He could not be the reason to affect so many lives and Gaius's life was here, in Camelot.

" Gaius no way. Your life is here; your life's work is here. Tell him Gwaine...tell him Lancelot" he protested turning to his friends. But Gaius stopped him "and yet I have no one here Merlin. You are the only one I see as family and my life has meaning with you. Please don't deny an old man this. You are the closest I have to a son" he said quietly causing Merlin to lapse into silence.

"Now I have to tell the king of my decision and I assume Sir Gwaine and Sir Lancelot will stay with you until I return" he said quirking an eyebrow at the knights. "We are not going anywhere Gaius" Gwaine reassured as Gaius strode to the king's chambers with new found determination. He was thankful that the king immediately accepted to see him and it was soon enough that he found himself standing in front of the young king.

"Sire" he announced himself and was faced with a weary and annoyed king. "If you are here to speak on behalf of Merlin I will ask you not to bother. My mind is quite made up" Arthur said his rage once again flaring at the betrayal and not just Merlin' had known and had kept it from him he was quite sure.

"I am sure Sire but it is not for Merlin I come to speak. I come to speak for myself" Gaius said getting the unfocussed attention of Arthur. "What? What do you want to speak about?" he asked but found himself quite unprepared for the answer. "I wish to be relieved of my duties Sire" Gaius's words were the last thing he would have guessed.

"Why? Is not everything to your satisfaction? If there is something you require I can arrange for it" Arthur burst out. Gaius was someone who had been there from the time he was born and Camelot castle without Gaius seemed a weird concept. He had been responsible for saving almost all of their lives at some point including his father and Arthur was not ready to let him go that easily. He was the best physician in all of Camelot and it would be their loss to let him go.

"I need to be with my ward Sire and I doubt that you can arrange it" Gaius said calm as ever even though his eyes pierced Arthur with accusation. Arthur felt the blow in his heart. It had all come to this and however much he had tried to separate himself from the events of the day it would not let him go. He had tried to separate himself from the hurt and pain and the confusion surrounding Merlin and it had just came back to haunt him.

"You do not know what you ask Gaius. You are asking me to host a sorcerer. Surely you know that nothing can come of it. Surely your love of Camelot and your allegiance to my father will tell you otherwise" Arthur said hoping that the note of pleading in his voice went unnoticed.

"Sire" Gaius paused before speaking "For twenty long years I served a king who did not know to differentiate between friend and foe. For twenty years I served a king who manipulated magic to his convenience, who was a hypocrite and used magic for himself while persecuting others for the same. For twenty years I served a man who buried his humanity along with his wife. I lost my love and my life in the service of a man who was so hideously selfish that he thought that only his love was real, only his family precious. I stood and watched children burn and scream at the side of a man who had long lost his ability to be wise and just.

And for twenty years I hoped his son would be more humane, more aware and more just. I hoped I would serve a man who would know friendship and love and value the same. But it is not so and I do not have it in me to lose more than I have already. I cannot wait another twenty years in the hope that Camelot has a fair ruler. I am tired Sire and worn.

I have only given to Camelot as has Merlin and neither of us have received anything good in return. He has lost more than anyone can imagine in his defense of you and all he has gotten in return is banishment. No Sire, Camelot holds nothing for me anymore and if you will be kind enough to permit us another extra day to leave it will be much appreciated. I do need to wrap up my affairs here".

"But…did Merlin ask you to do this?" Arthur asked even as his mind rejected the suggestion. Deep in his subconscious he knew that Merlin would never do anything like this. It was not Merlin but then the Merlin he knew was a funny, kind hearted clumsy servant with occasional words of wisdom. Not a powerful sorcerer who stood and batted aside a fireball as if it was nothing. This...this was unacceptable and Gaius gave a bitter laugh in reply.

"Not even your father can make me do what I do not want to do. And if you know Merlin at all Sire you would know that he would be trying to make me stay which is what he did. But you see I am my own conscience and I really cannot abandon him who is like a son to me. Especially, when he has been abandoned by the one who would not have lived if not for him."

Arthur's mind was spinning and all he wanted to do was sink into his bed and wake up to Merlin's voice in the morning and know that all this was only a nightmare. But life was rarely that convenient and therefore he was left grasping at straws. "Well then what makes you so sure that he is not evil? That he has not enchanted us all to believe that he is good?"

Gaius looked intently at Arthur and Arthur saw the intense disappointment that he had feared in Uther's eyes. For the first time he felt distinctly wrong footed and then felt shock rip through him when Gaius replied "I guess that would be when he drank poison to save you Sire or you see when he traded his life for yours when you were to die from the questing beast's bite. But since none of these qualify as good deeds in your heart I will refrain from mentioning the fact that he lost his father and his first true love for you. And if you don't mind Sire I do have some packing to do" he said turning his back and walking away from Arthur.

And Arthur was left floundering in his quagmire of a mind. Gaius's words had left him with a slew of emotions and memories that he could not stop. "I can take you apart with a blow" he had said eons ago and Merlin had replied "I can take you apart with less". Arthur now knew that he could have so why hadn't he? Because this was Merlin his mind whispered in it's depths.

And then there were the many incidents in it's wake. Really...which servant would drink poison to save his master? Why had Merlin played with his life like that? Had he known he would survive? No.. He knew from Gwen that if he had not got the Morteus flower Merlin would have died. And his mind replayed the blue light that had guided him from the cave and the warmth he had felt. It had felt like a guardian angel and who else could it have been except for Merlin. He could see no other magic user who would have cared for him.

What had Gaius meant that Merlin had traded his life for Arthur's? Unbidden, Merlin's words from that day came to the fore "promise me this if you get another servant don't get a bootlicker...I am happy to be your servant till the day I die". Arthur had wondered what came over his servant on that day but now in the light of Gaius's words they had a different meaning altogether. A wave of raw guilt slammed into him at the realization of what Merlin had done for him. He had been ready to die for him again and again and what had Arthur done? He had banished him…upon fear of death…his words came back to haunt him with an accompanying wave of regret.

He had condemned his loyal servant at the first chance he got and did he wonder why Merlin had not told him? Self loathing rose up strong and vicious at what he had done. What else had Gaius told him? Lost his love? Lost his father? Dear god…what else did he not know? How could he have missed all this when Merlin had been at his side on all the days? How oblivious was he? Or how uncaring…his conscience pointed out.

Overcome with memories and emotions he failed to notice the footsteps until they were almost upon him. He raised his head to see Gwaine and Lancelot in front of him. He should have expected these two and yet he did not want to face them now. He had no defense; he deserved every bit of hate and anger that was directed at him from their very pores.

"Sire" Gwaine never called him that and Arthur cringed. What now? He wondered as his hand went to his sword almost unconsciously. Outwardly he strived to sound calm "Yes?" he enquired but it seemed that this day was destined to bring him to his knees repeatedly. The knights deliberately removed their swords and sunk to their knees in front of him. They lifted the swords to him in obeisance and Arthur was unprepared for the words that came next.

"It has been a great honor serving you Sire but I came to Camelot not for you. If not for Merlin I would never have come here and now it is time for me to repay the friendship he showed me" Gwaine said in the most solemn tone that Arthur had ever heard and he realized that the man could sound noble when he wanted to. He was however stuck for a reply and was thankful for the brief reprieve he received by way of Lancelot who spoke next.

"You too Lancelot?" he whispered as Lancelot spoke "Sire forgive me. I knew the truth much earlier. I know it counts as treason and I will accept any punishment you give me but can I request that I be banished too?"

Arthur stood stunned and there was possibly any number of things he could have said but instead what came out was "when did you find out? Did Merlin tell you?" he asked and refused to accept that it was jealousy that he was feeling." Lancelot looked down from his kneeling position "it was Merlin who killed the griffin Sire, not me. Merlin never told me about his magic. I simply heard him when he killed the griffin and he could not deny it when I confronted him with it. As far as I know I don't think he has told anyone about it and I really don't blame him for it. I would probably do the same if I was in Uther Pendragon's court"

"And what else?" Arthur asked now determined to find out everything but Lancelot remained silent. "There were countless times he saved us Sire including the fire that helped you rescue me and your wife from the slave traders" he added quietly.

"And now, what? You will go with him?" Arthur asked incredulously not able to believe that he was losing two of his finest knights along with his physician. He had been truly blind he realized in hindsight. Merlin had been such a presence in everyone's life he acknowledged quietly.

"Yes my lord, I do believe we will go with him. We cannot abandon him when he has been there for us at every step. I am pretty sure he has saved my life quite a few times" Lancelot said with a smile speaking for the both of them.

"No, no one will be going anywhere. I need to think and maybe reconsider a few things and for that I need time. I suggest you retire for the night and we will speak of this tomorrow" Arthur spoke with finality and was gratified to see that his knights did not argue the point. They got to their feet and silently reclaimed their swords before bowing and making their way out of the chambers. And Arthur was once again left alone to ponder over the confusing events of the day.

Author notes: This will be a short story perhaps about two or three chapters with quick updates. I hope it appeals to you and do read and .