Nobody knows, but Arthur had met the dragon that was chained under the castle once. Reaching an age where he was not fully considered boy nor man, he had defied his father's warnings and snuck into the underground passages, beyond the two guards that were pitifully easy to get past.
The dragon was magnificent and it seemed to be eyeing him with intense curiosity; then to his great surprise, it spoke with a voice that echoed and reverberated against the stones, "Greetings future king, I foresee tribulations ahead of you, but a new blood would help you and he shall be your other half." Arthur didn't take the declaration too well. The boy and the dragon exchanged more words having to do with, "You have no right to speak of destiny," and "Two sides of the same coin my arse"and"You deranged, ugly lizard, I hope you…" And somewhere in the conversation, the dragon lost its patience and sent Arthur, who was still yelling curses and insults, retreating with a fireball on his tail.
Six years later, on a cool night, while Arthur laid in his bed musing about the young man he met earlier in the day with dark hair, protruding ears, light blue eyes, and a rude mouth, he swore to himself that he heard a familiar voice echoing against the castle walls, "Merlin… Merlin… Merlin…"
Possibly the most powerful sorcerer and the worst liar ever to step foot into Camelot, Merlin is surprised that his head is still securely attached to his head and that his body isn't burned to a crisp when half of the village knows of his… ahem… magic.
Gaius knows because Merlin had saved him from a nasty fall, coincidentally saving his life. Morgana knows because she had heard the fire spell that Merlin had shouted out to kill the afanc in the underground caverns. Gwen knows because she had heard the chants that Merlin had muttered in his unconscious state while under the poison of the chalice. The servants of the castle know because, well, Merlin is a really bad liar and really bad at explaining why mops can move on their own. The villagers know because the servants love to gossip and can't seem to hold their liquor.
And Merlin knows that they all know due to a celebration at the harvest moon where the beer flowed, leading to loose tongues, crazy goats, drunken servants dancing on tables, Morgana's dress suddenly catching fire and Gwen using her own skirt to try and smother the flames, leaving both women half nude (courtesy of a drunk Merlin).
Needless to say, the event was hushed up and is the biggest secret the commoners keep from the royal family. (The next morning Arthur pretends that he doesn't notice when Morgana and Gwen give glares to the men, whistling and hooting in the Horse's Head Pub [that has a broken window and scorch marks] while Merlin tries to tuck his head into his neck scarf, turning into a most peculiar shade of scarlet because, well, he simply does not want to know.)
When King Uther pronounced Merlin to be a personal manservant of his son, he knew that neither boy would be pleased, but his gut feeling told him that the commoner, lowly and weak as he may be, if what the village rumors said was true, the only person, to date, to stand up to his son.
And god knows that Arthur needs to be taught a couple lessons in humility and modesty.
The secrets that he kept close to his heart were never revealed, not even after his death. He knew that Morgana was a seer, or at the very least, abnormal, since she was four when she had ran into his chambers crying about a sad dragon living underneath the castle. Rubbing her back and soothing her with calm words, he felt a small part of his heart blacken as his subconscious whispered, "hypocrite."
He has a suspicion that Arthur's new manservant is not as normal as he appeared to be because of three reasons. One was the biyearly visits to the dragon, which never stopped to inform him of 'Arthur's other half that will change Camelot and assist in bringing the kingdom into a new golden age'. Another was the coincidences, immense luck, and just plain strange events that happened around that commoner boy who always to save Arthur's life. Because of this, he turns a blind eye, convincing himself that he would only arrest the servant if and only if said servant stupidly conjures magic right in front of him. The final reason comes whenever he sees the relationship between the manservant and his son, one that underneath the bickering showed a strong bond that reminded him of his younger years, before the birth of his son and before Igraine, when Nimueh and he were close companions (lovers) that shared everything together, body, mind, and soul.
And so when Uther sees Merlin and Arthur walking side by side, exchanging jokes, bickering, and unintentionally holding hands, he finds himself with a heavy heart, dreaming of the bygone days when everything was just… right.
As a boy, despite his dear mother's warnings, Merlin had the habit, at the night of the full moon, to venture out into the woods beyond the borders. He would find a small clearing, not too big, not too small, and just stand there and breathe. The earth underneath him would warm his bare feet, the wind would blow against his hair and the trees would talk to him, a child destined for great things. The moon's light created surreal shadows from the leaves of the trees. His arms would lift and he would sway, jumping, running, twirling, dancing, believing for a few minutes, that he was something more than a small, common, village boy.
Even in Camelot, he follows his rituals, heading out to the nearby meadow and letting himself go. He wakes up in the morning feeling tired but fresh and without fail; he delivers Arthur's breakfast with such a brilliant smile that Arthur can't help but returning the smile.
Arthur's sexual prowess is legendary in Camelot. He comes to the brothel nightly, or weekly, but never longer than a month. The men and women working there sigh amongst themselves of all the things the prince could do with his tongue. Oh sure Arthur has these official lovers but he never failed to return to the brothel.
That is until recently.
His disappearance from the building was most startling: the workers resolved to get to the bottom of this mystery. After a whole day of investigation, the employees of the whorehouse had finally had ended their search at a nearby bar, directly across their own workplace, where a young man by the name of Merlin was drowning his sorrows with a variety of alcoholic beverages muttering surprisingly coherently to the bemused barmaids that, "He had finally decided, after weeks of 'Merlin do this' and 'Merlin do that' that I should have a half-day off." After imitating the future king in a whiny and girlish tone, the man scrutinized his half finished glass with a squinted eye before throwing back the rest of the drink. The barmaids cooed at him and expressed their sympathy with pats on the back and tight hugs. He slipped out of his seat and stumbled out of the bar on a path straight to the castle, dangerously teetering to the side, muttering, "That Royal Prat."
The audience that he had left behind all exchanged glances and a secretive smile: there was an understanding.
Arthur knows that one day; he would have to take the mantle of the King and would be expected to bear an heir with one of the ladies from a noble lineage. He does love children, but the thought never the less fills him with dread because he knows that with the responsibilities of bearing children would come after marriage and marriage does not suit well for a person like him. Marriage means to tie down to a single woman who will be respected as queen, to a woman that only wanted to be with him because of his power. His father tells him that the right woman would come to him with time, but he now doubts his father's words. His interest in women as a whole has waned, to his own surprise.
The only consolation he has right now is the two words, 'One Day', which signifies that whatever nightmare he will have to put up with in the future, it's not now. Because of this revelation, he drags a protesting Merlin to every single hunt, enjoying life to the fittest.
Merlin despises those hunting days, where knights with much more skill than he does go off to participate to become a predator. He can't understand why Arthur insists on him coming along, sometimes bodily dragging him to the stables to prepare the horses. Most hunts end in a fresh kill despite all, ah, Merlin's misgivings, such as tripping over stones that seem to conspire against him, stepping on dried leaves the moment that the knights are readying their crossbows…
And every single hunt must end in some sort of bickering fest, today was a rather special day. Merlin had unwittingly led his horse into a bog and it took the better part of the day to calm the frantic horse enough to pull him out. It took seven men. "You have got to be the worst manservant to grace the lands."
"It's such a pity that I am your only manservant… sire." Merlin added the last word as an intentional afterthought, "And I still can't understand why you want me along your adventures, you know I ruin everything."
"I need someone to hold the hunting gear."
"Sire, there are these things called horses." His bottom feels like it had been rubbed raw and his back is sore and if he leans a bit to the right, it cracks, "Prat, you must enjoy seeing me embarrass myself day by day." He groans as he stretches.
"Merlin, you don't question a prince's orders." And the conversation ended. Merlin likes to think that there was more much said in the silences and pauses between them but then again, it might just be him.
Merlin is scarily good at sewing, better than most maids of the castle, even better than Gwen to her astonishment. Sometimes the maid and manservant would sit side by side with a needle in one hand and ripped clothing in another, and they would talk about their childhoods and their future aspirations.
Because of these sessions together, Gwen will be the one, for a very long time, to know more about Merlin than either Gaius or Arthur. She found out that he likes to eat strawberry pastries, that he can really hold his liquor, that he hopes to one day repay his mother for all the work she had done to take care of him, that he loves to read and write poetry and the works that bards usually come by to sing. The biggest shock was the fact that Merlin wasn't even attracted to girls, when pressed further; he admitted a slight attraction to Lancelot, who had left the kingdom the day before.
On the day of that admission, Morgana had joined them and when she heard, she made a noise that was a combination of a choke, snort, and cough.
Once a month, on a full moon, Arthur would get up from his bed and sneak into the nearby meadow. His ritual started when on a particular night of the full moon, he was feeling rather hungry and had headed off into the kitchens and was shocked when Merlin, of all people, walked by the hallway in front of him in a rush to get somewhere. Naturally, his curiosity had gotten the better of him as he followed in the shadows.
And he realized that what he was witnessing now was the real Merlin, underneath the sarcasm and the insulting remarks was a free spirit that can dance as one with his surroundings. From the shadows in the trees, he couldn't believe it; Merlin's daily clumsiness had floated away from him and for one night, the boy was graceful. The wind blew across the grass and hummed a tune that bled magic.
And when morning comes, when his manservant gives him the most breathtaking smile, he can't help but smile back, imagining that just the two of them shared a secret that no one else knows.
Contrary to popular belief, Arthur isn't stupid. Before Merlin was officially his manservant, on that day where the witch attempted to assassinate him while he was under an enchanted sleep, he, perceptive as he was, noticed that Merlin had no cobwebs covering his frame. He had brushed it off as a strange occurrence.
When he was fighting Sir Valiant he noticed the fear in his opponent's eyes when the two serpents slithered out of the shield and his cry, "What are you doing? I haven't summoned you yet!" Which, according to logic, meant that someone else did and his mind immediately jumped to his weak, black haired, blue eyed, manservant.
Honestly, the clues kept jumping at him with such force that it was impossible to not make the assumption that Merlin can do magic. The fire from the torch that he held that killed the monster that was poisoning Camelot's water supply was definitely helped by magic. The light that guided him through the caves to the flower was magic. And all these happenings had come once Merlin had arrived into his life.
Contrary to popular belief, Arthur isn't stupid. He's waiting for the right moment for his manservant to reveal his secret, perhaps in the middle of a heroic battle or deed after Merlin has done something extraordinary like control the skies or summon an element or move heavy boulders, and when that happens, he will smile and assure him that of course, Arthur would always keep his secret.
The relationship between Morgana and Arthur is one that still puzzles every castle servant besides Gwen and Merlin. The animosity between the two of them is absolutely legendary and yet, between the subtle insults and power plays, life goes on quite normally. But to Gwen and Merlin, they resemble siblings who cover-up their care for one another behind bantering and because of this knowledge, both servants hide their snorts of laughter behind their hands.
If only they knew how right they were. Because of her seer abilities Morgana was destined to one day go mad and to play a key role in the downfall of Camelot. She knows of this and she accepts it with reluctance and grief, but for now, she witnesses the future, of a boy by the name of Mordred, of her own, of Gwen's, of Arthur's, and of Merlin's. She sees a relationship between Arthur and Merlin so pure and so close that the beauty of it makes her cry. And when she sees their happy lives folding in front of her in contrast to her own shameful end, she smiles bitterly, and resolves to do the best she can to make their happy future work.
By the end of the first year of Merlin's service to the prince there had been many daily chores, routines, and obligations. Arthur now demanded that Merlin come with him everywhere- hunts, courts, celebrations, feasts; in fact, Merlin's counting the days till Arthur suddenly decides to move his bed from Gaius's upstairs spare bedroom into his own chambers. To put it bluntly, they're inseparable.
Slowly, whispers through the kingdom, beyond Camelot, travel through the distant villages about two young men, side by side, "They're coming: Prince Arthur and his faithful servant, Merlin. They will change the world."
Officially, the first time Arthur 'learned' that Merlin was a sorcerer was wholly anti-climatic. He had tried to find his manservant around the castles to prepare for training and he had barged into Merlin's room without knocking. The boy, who had his back to the door, was drinking a medicine brew from a small cup, perhaps only half awake, but that wasn't what caught the crowned prince's attention.
It was the floating bowl soup that just innocently hung there next to Merlin's head, slowly spinning.
Of course the moment Arthur announced his presence; the bowl had fallen down, spilling perfectly good soup all over the table. Alas it was too late, Arthur had seen. Merlin slowly turned his head around and stared at the newcomer with an expression that screamed of silent terror. Arthur had frozen in mid-step, mentally wishing that the moment of the revealing of Merlin's magic had been more epic.
But he decided to take what he can get, and instead pulled himself together and blandly stated to his manservant, like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened, "I did not see that. Come down to the training grounds in your armor. Don't keep me waiting." And he shut the door behind him, all the while grinning in his mind because the open mouth gape that Merlin wore was worth it.
Arthur and Lancelot would have been good companions, would have bonded because of their mutual love for sword fighting and their moralistic tendencies. But they aren't because the first time Arthur spotted Lancelot; the would-be knight was standing alarmingly close to Merlin and that didn't suit the prince very well. To Arthur, they looked to be close companions, proven when Merlin personally introduced him to Lancelot, before leaving and giving the dark haired fighter a small pat on the back. The gesture of goodwill burned a small flame into Arthur's chest that would not be squashed and his ensuring mock battle with the other man was brutal and lightening quick. But to Arthur's amazement, Lancelot held his own.
He keeps telling himself, it is definitely not jealousy. Princes don't get jealous (and he ignores a different flame that warms his heart that night when Merlin sent him a small smile across the table).
Once upon a time, Morgana was walking to Arthur's quarters and the door was slightly hinged open, she paused in mid-step, curiosity getting the better of her, and listened.
"Sire, I really don't think this is part of my duties…"
"Quiet Merlin, it's been a tiring day for me and it's time I get to relax." There was some shuffling noises and footsteps.
"But there are others in this castle who are..."
One could hear the smirk in Arthur's voice, "Yes but you are very good at this sort of thing, now get to work."
The voice was petulant. "It was your own fault for sparring with all-."
"Shush." There was a few moments of silence, "Ahh that's it, a bit more to the right and…" There was a small sigh of bliss followed by a low moan of pleasure, "Harder… harder..."
Unable to wait any longer, Morgana kicked the door open and found Arthur sitting on a stool and Merlin standing behind him, rubbing a cooling balm into his back. Both men looked up at the entrance, Arthur with an irritated face and Merlin with one that was full of consternation. "Usually one would announce their arrival with a knock, Morgana." Arthur cocked his head and said, with a small glint in his eyes, "State your purpose."
Needless to say, it was highly awkward. For the first time in ten years, Morgana found herself lost for words, "I thought… oh." Another moment of awkward silence, somewhere along the way, both men understood her thoughts. Merlin turned red and started a small coughing fit and Arthur's lips curled into a smirk. She left the room without saying anything, trying to regain the scattered remains of her dignity; a small part of her couldn't help but feel a slight disappointment.
On a night under the full moon, Arthur and Merlin were laying side by side on the open grass fields, a full week after the 'bowl incident'. The prince looked up at the moon and wondered what sort of magic rituals could be done on this night. The legends spoke of sorcerers summoning monsters of power, of magicians chanting spells to level a kingdom. He sneaked a small glance at his dark haired companion, who was dozing off, having tired himself out with his monthly dance, and shook his head: it's nigh impossible to imagine Merlin to be within the ranks of those who his father spoke evil about. Merlin is too naïve, too innocent to even contemplate of using his powers for his own ambitions, if he had any that is.
Good thing too or Arthur would have, at their first meeting, been turned into a cow before one could say, "Yes my liege."
The prince rolls onto his side and spend a few seconds observing his sleeping companion, the smooth, pale skin, the long eyelashes, the soft lips; he swallowed. "Psst, Merlin," and hissed, nudging the other with a small push to the side.
Merlin groaned and turned his head to gaze sleepily at Arthur, blinking his eyes, "Yes, Arthur?"
He said his name, not sire, not prat, just Arthur, like an equal. Arthur tilted his head and thought of the times they spent together. He liked to think that they were best friends… and maybe something more. His thoughts lead him to think of the secret that Merlin had tried to keep from him, magic, "Do you trust me?"
A beat of silence, the expression on Merlin's sleepy face could be read as, 'What sort of question is that?' but he only said, "Yes."
"Do you trust me to keep you safe?" 'I won't tell father, I'll protect you.'
"Yes," spoken without hesitation; an eyebrow delicately rose in confusion.
He rolled back to stare at the stars, feeling Merlin's puzzled look. "Good." He pretended to be lost in his own thoughts and after a few minutes of comfortable silence and some shuffling of positions, Merlin went back to sleep.
Arthur gets drunk constantly and in the end, it's up to Merlin to drag the prince back into his bedchamber to sober up. This night was the same as all the others; Merlin heaved a sigh as he adjusted Arthur's arm looped around his shoulders and prepared himself for the trek to the halls. The prince, as everybody knows, is a friendly drunk, much more talkative and loose tongued than usual. While inebriated, Arthur seems to favor more physical contact and has a greater fascination with Merlin's neck and-
"Your ears are funny Merlin."
"Donnya worry Merlin, when I'm king, I'm gonna make magic legal 'n save you…"
"This morning, Morgana passed by and talked to me 'bout you, something about your preferences. I told her, 'What am I suppose to do about that?' and she just smiled, like a cat with a mouth in its paws. I'm ok with this information, perfectly fine really. Absolutely happy."
"Y'know if you wipe that idiotic look off yer face, yes that one that you have right now, you might be considered actually quite appealing. But then again, it does give you an innocent look, yeah. My knights don't understand and sometimes I have to beat it into them during training to get them to learn."
"Your mine Merlin. Mine."
The mornings after, Arthur never asked what he said and Merlin never mentioned the incident. It's much better that way. Though sometimes, he wonders if Arthur ever remembers.
While dining at the banquet, Gaius noticed the looks that Arthur gave Merlin from time to time, ones that were filled with appreciation, respect, and longing. The young sorcerer remained oblivious to the glances but returned none-the-less them- wistfulness, happiness. The old healer understood the strange dance between the two young men. Merlin was too scared to make the first move. Arthur was scared that he might scare his manservant with his actions. A small smile tugged at the aged man's lips; this was, he marveled, one of the purest forms of love. There was no lust of the flesh, just a simple wanting to be together and to convey it to one another. He was not sure if both males were aware of this fact and wondered if any other person of the royal court noticed: a small glance around told him that they did not.
Uther once had Gaius sit down in an armchair across from him and summoned some wine from the castle cellars. Nursing a small drink, the king muttered that he was not as blind like the other people to notice his son's less than private life. Of course Uther objected to their relationship. His son was the future king and Merlin was a mere servant. Arthur was a man, expected to marry and have heirs to the throne and there was no way Merlin can fulfill that duty. Gaius could not refute or inject his own opinions, but only silently listened. Both aged men steered clear of any mention of sorcery.
And yet, the king admitted that he can't do anything, or won't do anything. There were no reasons behind his lack of action, but Gaius suspected that Uther saw himself and Nimueh reflected from his son and the manservant. So many years pass and the memories still hurt.
It wasn't until his trail through the Labyrinth of Gedref that Arthur knew for sure that he had fallen in love with Merlin. The emotions that had spread into his chest when he realized that his manservant, no, dearest friend, had disobeyed him and had followed him into the maze were raging furiously- shock, rage, fury… fear, respect… love…
At his understanding of the last emotion that filled him, Arthur had taken the two goblets, combined the liquid and drank the whole thing. Then, the wait for death to take over, he inwardly smiled when he heard Merlin's frantic voice, 'he really cares for me.'
Of course, the whole moment was ruined once he woke up and realized that he had drunk only a strong sleeping draught.
The next few days, the crowned prince was unsure of how to act. Should he pretend that he never had that revelation? Should he pursue his interests and show his intent? He had never shown any interests in men before in court, most of the experience he had with his own gender originated from the brothel. It's a risky move to take and father would surely disapprove, but, his father had been turning a blind eye at the recent awkward attempts he makes to try and 'court' the man, more insults, more touching, more compassion. Yet Merlin was oblivious through the whole process. It's humiliating. ("Sire, do you have a fever?")
Morgana is snickering unlady-like behind her hand and Gwen is giving him sympathetic glances while passing him in the corridors.
Currently, he was sitting on his chair, hands massaging his temples, willing himself not to suddenly push his manservant onto the bed and ravish him, right then and there. He stared at his hands; Merlin was in front of him, humming a small tune while straightening the sheets. His fists tightened- that's it, his patience is eating away, he must make a move before he goes insane.
It all came out of nowhere for Merlin. One moment he was tidying up the bed under the careful scrutiny of the owner of said bed, the next moment he heard the noise of the wooden chair being pushed back behind him. He turned around, frowning, "Sire?"
Arthur stood up and ran a hand through his hair, his face taking on a determined look. He strolled over to Merlin and grabbed his shoulders and pulled. A brief pause, as if waiting for Merlin to pull away, (but he didn't,) before Arthur brushed his lips against Merlin's, tenderly, lovingly.
Arthur reached up to cup Merlin's cheek, touching the pink lips with his thumb.
Merlin's eyes were glazed but he smiled gently back all the same.
Mentally breathing a sigh of relief, Arthur took it as a sign to continue.
"I love you, Merlin; promise me that you won't leave me."
"Never Arthur. I'll stay by your side, always."
Author's Notes- I don't own Merlin.
(Oh my god, I've just read 'Without him' by Orchid Star… I cried- that story is so sad...)
A friend introduced me to Merlin and since then, I have joined the Arthur/Merlin fandom. I mean- the producers were obviously trying to make this TV series have heterosexual pairings. They try, they really try and had made an extreme effort to hook up Morgana and Arthur together as a couple, and I respect that, but it's not working. There are so many homosexual moments between Merlin and Arthur (my imagination does tend to run fast and quick but the fact that my imagination didn't really even try), especially the episode with the unicorn (does that mean, according to legend, that Merlin is a virgin…?), that scene on the beach where the two guys are staring at each other's eyes. And it doesn't help to try and keep the pairings Morgana/Arthur when you have the dragon at almost every episode saying to Merlin, "You complete one another," and "You share the same destiny," and "You are two halves of the same coin, you can not hate each other." God, the innuendos are just… there.