Title: Rediscovering Magic: the sequel to Bearing Fruit
Genre: Romance, Adventure
Summary: The cosmos seek their revenge on Merlin for daring to manipulate the natural order. Rescue comes from an unexpected source and the sorcerer discovers why he never has to fear the gods of fate. *(This story will make even less sense if you have not read Bearing Fruit, which can be found by clicking my name at the top of the screen. Please read it before attempting this insanity.)
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin or Fable. Please don't hurt me.
Spoilers/Warnings: Mentions events from "Le Morte d'Arthur." Contains mpreg, but I tried to keep it classy. This story is nearly twice as long as Bearing Fruit, so I had that much more opportunity to make unforgivable mistakes.
Author's Notes: In some texts, Merlin's last name is Ambrosius or Emrys (depending on where the people were from), meaning "immortal". The Merlin in this story holds the latter title. Also, I borrowed the names of some locations and creatures from the video games Fable and Fable II. If you haven't played them, please treat yourself.
Dedications: To everyone who was so damn sweet and awesome with their comments for Bearing Fruit. I have thanked you all individually, but I wanted to say again how much your support meant to me. Forgive me for this sequel.
Reviews/critiques will make me sing and dance for you.
The blissful denial that they have to worry about anything more pressing than potential baby names and baby blanket patterns lasts until bed time.
Those first few hours had been the most liberating of Merlin's life. For once, he was free to unburden all those little secrets tied into his one big secret: using his magic to save Arthur countless times (Arthur snorts at this), the Great Dragon, their shared destinies, the events at the Isle of the Blessed, and how Merlin came to be in his present state of pregnant sorcerer.
It was a great deal for the prince to take in, but he withstood it all with his usual confident and indomitable spirit. His expression smoldered with hurt and anger at times, but a touch from Merlin and the tension seemed to abate as quickly as it'd come.
The trouble came when they retired for the night and Merlin started thinking to himself in the hushed darkness, obviously a dangerous pastime for him. Was this not exactly how the fruit bearing experiment had been set in motion in the first place?
Arthur begins to slip into the welcoming arms of sleep while Merlin stares unblinking at the shadow-shapes decorating the canopy above them.
"Neither," the sorcerer says suddenly, the volume of his voice contradicting the quietness of the night.
"What?" Arthur murmurs, only half listening. Either Merlin has been talking while the prince slept or this non-sequitur is just another example of his lover's semi-deranged thought process.
Merlin turns his head on the pillow and can just make out Arthur's face in the faint light. His brows have slightly more tension in them, but he hasn't even opened his eyes.
"Earlier, you asked me if this child is a prince or a princess. It is neither. Not when its 'mother' is who he is."
"What are you on about, Merlin?" Arthur grumbles, still not intrigued enough to come fully awake. He turns over to put his back to the sorcerer in a none-too-subtle hint.
Arthur is just starting to slide back into that sweet, mindless phase of sleep when something Merlin says jolts him completely alert, his entire body tense for combat.
"What did you say?"
"It will only be for the last three months…" Merlin trails off unhappily, preparing himself for Arthur's wrath.
"No. I want to hear you say it again. I want to hear you say how you want to leave me, take my child…"
"It has nothing to do with what I want!" Merlin bursts out, "You are the son of Uther Pendragon. I know you of all people can exercise reason over emotion."
"I never said things would be easy-"
"No. Easy would be never having to hide what I am in the first place without fear of ending up as grilled bits or having my head featured on a pike."
Merlin gentles at Arthur's distressed expression, reaching out to squeeze his taut bicep.
"I'll just leave Camelot for three months. Three little months. And I can have the baby and then-"
"And then what?" Arthur counters, irritated by the very suggestion of something so absurd, "You'll still be Merlin."
"I can return with the pretense that I rescued the child from bandits or I found it in the forests somewhere. It would be impossible to trace the accuracy of the story."
"So, it will be yours alone then? The child of a manservant."
"I won't have it raised as a commoner," Arthur insists in a way that is unbecoming of the prince that he is.
"You cannot pretend you're not who you are."
"I want this child to know his father. I want him to have a place in this kingdom."
"I appreciate that bit of romanticism," Merlin scorns, "But you're living a fool's dream."
Arthur's face changes in the dark and the sorcerer's stomach clenches at the sight. Even the baby seems a little apprehensive.
He's gone too far and he knows it.
"I cannot hide this anymore," Merlin says in a mildly calmer tone. He doesn't want to hurt Arthur, but the fact that the prince refuses to grasp the severity of their situation angers him.
"People will start to figure things out. Gwen and Morgana already suspect. And, whenever I approach Gaius, he always starts talking to my stomach first before he can wrench himself away to look me in the eyes."
"I doubt they would betray you."
"And Uther?" Merlin confronts, not missing Arthur's slight flinch at the name, "What about when he starts to wonder why Arthur's manservant cannot get out of an armless chair or stand for more than fifteen minutes before his feet swell out of his boots?"
Arthur sobers at this.
"I'll deal with that if it comes."
"No!" Merlin nearly shouts, frustrated to his limits, "Not when so much is at stake. Your future. The baby's life. I won't risk it. When you are king, the truth will come out. Until then-"
"I forbid you to leave."
Arthur sounds threatening in a way that Merlin has never heard directed at him.
"You forbid me?" he sputters, incredulous. Arthur should know forbidding Merlin to do anything is like giving him a golden-edged invitation to disobey.
"You're making me feel like a desperate man, Merlin. I don't like it."
"So, I'm already your weakness, am I?"
"I didn't say that."
But Merlin thinks, what if I am? What if this baby is?
He contemplates briefly if this is part of that cascading chain of events he worried about after the death of Nimueh. He fears the Great Dragon would know something, but he still refuses to see the beast after he knowingly sacrificed Hunith for his own selfish gain.
"I must do this," he asserts again firmly despite the weight of these thoughts. Even if he has altered the future in some inexplicable way, it doesn't change the fact that this is their one chance at seeing this thing through to the end.
"How are you going to survive on your own for three months, swollen and addle-brained as you are?"
"I can take care of myself."
"And what about when it's time to deliver the baby? What will you do then? At least here, Gaius could-"
"I think this is out of Gaius' realm of expertise," Merlin shuts him down insolently.
"Either way," Arthur scowls, not allowing his irritation at being interrupted stop him from trying to convince the irrational sorcerer of the error of his thinking, "You have support here. A warm, clean place to sleep and bathe. Regular nutrition-"
"My head on a pike."
"I cannot protect you if I don't know where you are."
"You won't have to if I'm far enough out of Camelot's reach."
"Yes," the prince scoffs, "Because life is so civilized and safe outside of these walls."
"I'll be fine-"
"And what about me?" Arthur asks, letting the strangled hold on his vulnerability loosen just slightly, "I won't be fine. I'll be left wondering, fearing, doubting, losing my mind. Missing you like someone tore out half my soul."
Merlin stares at Arthur in the shy light of the moon. He knows they will never agree on this.
"You're strong, Arthur. It's one of the things I love most about you."
The prince opens his mouth to say more, but Merlin hushes him. He is suddenly very close and gentle.
"I don't want to fight," he whispers, pressing Arthur back onto the bed.
He knows one guaranteed way to distract his prince, at least temporarily.
He also knows part of the reason Arthur gives in so easily is because he thinks this argument is going to continue the following day. And the days after that, until it's finally resolved.
Hours pass and when Merlin is sure the other man is asleep, he presses a kiss over Arthur's heart and whispers so quietly that he doesn't wake him, but he hopes he can hear it in his dreams.
Arthur wakes to the sound of a meek feminine voice asking him very politely if it would be acceptable for him to wake up now as he is supposed to be training the knights this morning and he hasn't even had his breakfast yet.
Arthur open his eyes to see a servant girl whose name he cannot remember standing by his bed, her eyes lowered and hands clasped together tightly.
The prince glances over to his other side, afraid that fool Merlin has let them oversleep and get caught in bed together.
Besides his own nude body, the bed is empty.
Arthur pats at the rumpled blankets although no grown human male could be hiding in them. Especially not one as rotund as Merlin.
He looks back at the girl.
"Have you seen my manservant this morning?"
"No, sire. He didn't come down to the kitchens to get your breakfast. But, don't worry. I've brought it-"
Arthur springs out of the bed and rushes past the flinching servant girl. A hardwired respect for decorum forces him to pull on breeches, tunic and boots before he flees the room, heading straight for Merlin's and Gaius' accommodations.
He bursts into the main room, ignoring the physician's "My lord?" as he strides toward Merlin's private quarters.
He already knows he's not there, but the visual confirmation he receives when he pushes open the door hits him like a thousand poisoned arrows to the heart.
He stumbles against the frame, the cold dread seeping straight into his bone marrow and making him ache all over.
"My lord?" Gaius' gentle hands steady him and help him onto the workbench the physician had just quit.
Arthur forces himself to concentrate on his breathing, deliberately slowing and deepening it.
He will not cry.
He will not destroy every breakable thing in sight.
Gaius sets one of his concoctions for pain relief and a glass of water beside the stony prince and then wisely leaves the room.
Before that first dreadful day ends, both Gwen and Morgana approach him, the former timidly inquiring while the latter vehemently demanding.
The question is the same from both women.
Where is Merlin?
Pulling together his mask with every ounce of skill from his nobility training, Arthur responds he doesn't know in the same way he would say, "Yes, the weather is quite fine today."
When they start to voice their (well-grounded) concern for the sorcerer's well being and prompt him to reveal what he plans to do about the situation, Arthur gives them a practiced shrug.
"He wasn't that much of a servant, anyway."
They both turn away in disgust. Morgana does not bother hiding hers while Gwen tries, but is unsuccessful.
The look in her once admiring eyes feels like a fatal wound to Arthur.
Over supper that night with his father (in which Arthur doesn't taste a single morsel), the king demands to know what Arthur thinks is the right course of action for handling the gaining strength of the bandit camps near Witchwood.
Arthur hopes he gives some kind of coherent answer because he's not really listening to anything Uther says.
"I heard that idiot manservant of yours has run off."
Arthur's hands fist underneath the table, short nails digging welts into the skin of his palm.
"Yes," the prince says tonelessly, the mantra in his head keeping his face carefully impassive (it means nothing, it means nothing, it means nothing…)
"That ungrateful cur," Uther says just as tonelessly, "You should put a bounty on his head. It would be a good lesson to any other servants who think they are not bound by their duties to this kingdom."
The No! that immediately threatens to eject from Arthur's lips is swallowed down uneasily.
But, then he thinks, no wonder this man is king.
"You know, father… I think you're absolutely right."
The next morning, Arthur tells the knights to prepare to "visit" the bandit camp in Witchwood in a week's time.
The journey would take them far north, to the outer edges of Albion. Once there, Arthur would be able to easily find one of the many vagabond trading camps where any manner of hired murderers and mercenaries could be bought.
A place outside of Albion where they didn't know much about civility or nobility.
A place where they wouldn't recognize a desperate Prince Arthur of Camelot.
By the time he can set his plan into action, Arthur is as high strung as a tomcat thrown into a bucket of water.
In a week, all sorts of terrible things could have happened to Merlin and the baby already. And Arthur wouldn't even know until it was too late.
After they subdue the bandits in Witchwood (too easy), the prince tells the knights to head back to Camelot without him and he will catch up with them in about two days.
Before the protests can even form in their brains, Arthur makes it clear.
That's an order.
From Witchwood, he has barely ridden half a day northward before he stumbles upon a makeshift trading camp.
Changing out of his royal battle gear and reminding himself firmly that he does not rule over these people, Arthur tries to slip unnoticed into the camp (he's noticed) and blend in with the vagabonds (he doesn't). He starts asking around until he finds an old woman with the information he needs.
"I'm looking for a hunter, a mercenary. Someone who knows how to track a person through wilds and civilization alike. Someone who can immobilize him once found."
"Half the men here would be willing and able to do that for you," the crone wheezes, openly scrutinizing the stranger, "Provided you pay enough coin."
Arthur has heard this before.
"There's one other important… stipulation."
The woman eyes him warily. Something about the way he says this has her hackles up. Making someone like her who has seen and done unspeakable things uncomfortable is no small feat.
When the young man manages to look her in the eyes again, there is a depth of shame there that makes her think his tale would be one to hear over a fire with spiced ale.
"This mercenary. He has to know magic."
Please continue to the next part :)